a magazine of literature and art
a publication of Rowan Universityâ€™s master of arts in writing graduate program
The staff of Glassworks magazine would like to thank:
Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program
Rowan University’s Writing Arts Department
The Glassworks advisory board: Jeffrey Maxson, Jennifer Courtney,
Drew Kopp, Bill Wolff, Martin Itzkowitz Cover art: “Tonic Blue” by Leila A Fortier To see more of this artist, vistit www.leilafortier.com __________________________________________________________ Glassworks is available both digitally and in print. See our website for details: www.RowanGlassworks.org _________________________________________________________
Glassworks accepts poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art, photography, short video/film & audio relevant to literature. See submission guidelines for more information: www.RowanGlassworks.org ________________________________________________________ Glassworks is a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Writing Program. Correspondences can be sent to: Glassworks c/o Ron Block 205 Hawthorn Hall Rowan University Glassboro, NJ 08028 E-mail: GlassworksMagazine@gmail.com Copyright © 2012 Glassworks
Glassworks maintains First Serial Rights for publication in our journal and Electronic Rights for reproduction of works in Glassworks and/or Glassworks-affiliated materials. All other rights remain with the artist.
glassworks Issue Two
Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program Rowan University
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Ron Block MANAGING EDITOR Manda Frederick EDITORIAL BOARD ISSUE TWO Carla Spataro Tom Winkelspecht Laura Casey Lopez Aileen Bachant Sam Dodge Sharada Krishnamurthy Rebecca Force Krystal L. Wright Meghan Oâ€™Donnell Alexa Mantell Mary Chrapliwy Jessica Landolfi
EDITORIAL Consultants Design/Copy Karen Holloway Julianna Lopez Lauren Covaci Frankie Anderson-Harris Myra Schiffmann Diana Riker Tamikka Malloy Laura Parise Joseph Mcgee Josh Hoftiezer
TABLE OF CONTENTS Poetry Lisa Shannon, “An Evening After Dying”……………………………....………………………………………………….1 Carol Berg, “I Stand Here in Awe of Your Wings”……………………........…………………………………………...…26 Lisa Shannon, “The Firefly”…………………………………….................…………………………………………………38 Gary Beck, “Death of a Stranger”……………………………………………....…………………………………………39 Jeffrey Haynes, “Scene of the Accident”…………………..…………..............………………………………………47-48 Richard Luftig, “Halley’s Comment”……………………………………...……………………………………………49-50 Richard Luftig, “Abandoned Drive In”……………………………..............……………………………………………51
Fiction Paul Lisicky, “Very Good”……………………………………............................…………………………………………….2 Diane Vanaskie Mulligan, “First, a Cage”…………………......…………....……………………………………………9-16 Calla Devlin, “The Pearl Divers”………………………………………….……………………………………………17-24 Marlon S. Hollis, “Loyal American”………………..………………................…………………………………………27-36 Toni M. Todd, “Princess”……………………......…………………….........……………………………………………40-46 John Gifford, “Winston Green”…………………………….................………………………………………………52-63
Nonfiction Chris Hardwick, “Once Your Go Red....Hey Wait, Nobody Goes Red”……………………........…………………….3-8
Art Leila A. Fortier, “Painting Emotion”…………………………………………..……………………………………………25 Leila A. Fortier, “Tonic Blue”……………………………………………...………………………………………………37
Index Contributors’ Biographies.....................................................................................................................................................................64-65
An Evening after DyingÂ Lisa Shannon When all the colors of the world have dripped and streaked down the walls, clinging to the dust you keep meaning to clean and your neighbors visit, bringing quiches and casseroles to tell you theyâ€™re sorry and to sneak a peek at the portraits on your wall and you wonder why they all seem so stiff and solid when colors are seeping and staining your carpet and you look at everything like a mother and a maid worn out and tired after years of cleaning other peopleâ€™s messes and now all you want is to find a broom, and a mop and something to wipe down the walls and bring everything back to order when all the colors of the world tell you things will never be the same
Very Good Paul Lisicky Very Good will not do for her. A plate of pudding; pajamas slipped into on a winter night: those are Very Good, but not writing. Very Good is never writing, not if she has a hand in it. But Very Good was how the reader responded to her stories, and though she knows too well the costs of wanting, she goes through the next hour with her shoulders slumped and her arms folded down at her waist. The very notion of Very Good: Very Good doesn’t get its pants dirty. Very Good doesn’t take its pants down, or even off. It’s always hiking them up too high, and when she wants it to roll around in bed with her, it sits on the other side of the room, with pleasant smile and peppermint breath, and keeps her up all night with the books it had been meaning to write if only it had had the time. As if all she had were time and a life in which the sentences came at her like kisses, or hard little fucks. She should put it out of its misery, that Very Good. She should shoot Very Good in the foot, or yank that foot out of its mouth. But Very Good does not feel enough to feel misery. Very Good is too concerned for its own safety to take note of the sweat, the shit, and the tears. And on the other side of the city, her reader sits with the writer’s pages opened upon his lap. Now he thinks he should have told her the truth: that her stories held him down when he thought he’d rise up off the earth. And when we went back to the book and reread a passage about snow, he felt it as if it were his snow, but better, burning the sleeping parts of him awake. But did he tell her that? No. He knows down deep the costs of wanting, the hothouse word that chills the plant at the root. Very Good is plenty and exact and oh-so-still in the face of what he loves.
Meanwhile, across the city, the writer throws forks at the two sheets of paper she’s taped to the kitchen wall. And a Very Good wind is lost inside the spaces between words.
Once you go red… Hey Wait, nobody goes red: My Time as a Ginger
The key moment came during one night in mid-March. I
in my house. Since we have never lodged Royalty, I grew
It was during Mr. Powell’s US History class that I decided to make my move. The 8thgrade dance was only weeks away, and I still did not have a date. I had been asked by a few girls that I certainly would consider satisfactory, but I was in no mood for an above average date. I was striving for the gold standard, Donna Recchia. In the presence of Donna Recchia, it was socially acceptable to openly have your tongue out. It was the body’s natural reaction to be in the presence of such beauty. Her fair complexion highlighted her rosy cheeks. Her emerald eyes made me understand why Dorothy wanted to get to Oz. She had a heavenly face and devilish curves. She was my dream girl. I devised a plan in the beginning of the year on how to approach her. I started off small. I ran for student council, in which she presided. I made an impassioned speech in one of the first meetings, advocating the need for a lower price for cafeteria French fries. This won over my fellow future leaders of the world, including Donna. She poked me on the elbow and said, “Great speech!”, which prompted me to mumble something about this is how revolutions start. Now that we were on the touching level of acquaintanceship, I played around with different greetings. Several attempts did not pay off dividends. I learned that the two-handed finger point across the hall equaled a confused stare and that “What’s up, player?” would be returned with a laugh in your face. The enthusiastic wave would draw a smile, but I wasn’t sure if it was genuine, or if she was trying to be polite because she thought I was mildly retarded.
was sitting on the couch awaiting the number one video on MTV’s TRL when my dad said I had a visitor. I walked over to the door and there she was. Donna Recchia was embarrassed about having such an esteemed guest at my humble residence. Sensing my nervousness, she told me that she was having trouble with history and needed my help. History has always been a strong point for me. I memorized the Presidents and Vice-Presidents, in order, when I was in first grade and knew what year the nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta when the rest of my classmates still didn’t know who Christopher Columbus was. I told her that I could be her knight in shining armor, and she giggled in a similar manner to that of the ecstatic wave. I deducted from this action that she most likely did not consider me mildly retarded, as that would be counterintuitive; she was in my house because of my intellect. Midway through my lecture on the Truman Plan, she told me that she thought I was really funny. I thought that this was a signal of some sorts, but I could not be sure. Unfortunately, I suffered (and still suffer) from a condition that prevented me from understanding anything a girl says. I could pick up on Faulkner’s stream of consciousness in The Sound and the Fury or comprehend Hume’s bundle theory on the personal self, but I have not learned that when you pick up your girlfriend from a hair salon, she expects you to compliment her on her hair (or at least realize that she got a haircut). What made things worse was that when leaving, she gave me the one arm lean out hug. There are three types of hugs. The first is the bear hug. The bear hug is where you wrap both arms around a person and squeeze. Picking up the person is optional, but recommended if possible. The second hug is the two-arm friend/immediate family/ married hug. In this instance, you hug the person with both arms, but don’t get overly emotional or excited
because you have done this before. It is the default
Not a bad opener. It’s a question meant for an enthusiastic
hug for those to whom you are close. Then there is
agreement. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sure,
the third, and most ambiguous hug. The one-arm lean
out hug. The one-arm lean out hug could have several meanings. It could be a pity hug. You know that you are
Not exactly the answer I was looking for. OK, you can
in a hug situation and are obligated to do it, so you hug
rebound. Just swoop in there quick like a hawk and go
the person in a position where you are actually making as
for the kill.
little contact with that person as possible. This is the hug usually reserved for weird uncles. There could, however,
“Well, I’ve enjoyed the time we have spent together and
be a more auspicious reasoning for the hug. The person
think we could have fun at next month’s dance. Our
you are hugging is someone that you like, and you are very
friends could go together with us. We can get a limo
awkward around them. You wish to get to the two-arm
and then go to a party or something afterwards. And
friend/immediate family/married hug, but it is still early
I promise that I will not bring out the funky white boy
in the courtship. Since I had watched a few Meg Ryan
dance moves. What do you say, are you in?”
and John Cusack movies recently, I was convinced that
Solid reasoning. You’re a shoo-in.
love was real and miracles really did come true. Her smile receded and she pressed her lips together as I approached her from the hallway adjacent to the
if she was in deep in thought. I wasn’t sure if she was
gymnasium. We usually passed each other as my locker
considering the matter or if she was thinking of the right
was next to the equipment room and she was on her to
thing to say to let me down easy.
way to P.E. Walking with my chest held high and a Jack Palance-like swagger, I was going to win my dame over. “Chris, I like you but…” But!!! “…I can’t go to the dance This was not the nervous, ecstatic-waving Chris. This was
with a ginger.”
a cool, confident Chris who knew what he wanted and was going to get it. Donna saw me coming and smiled.
I am a redhead. Although once considered just a way of showing that God has a sense of humor, the science of
“Hey Chris, I just wanted to thank you again for all of
red hair is relatively simple. Within my hair, there is far
more of the pigment pheomelanin than the dark pigment eumelanin. There are two copies of recessive genes
“It was really no problem,” I said in a voice two octaves
on chromosome MC1R in my DNA. This causes it to
mutate. The result is hair that can range anywhere from red-orange and strawberry blond to copper or auburn.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you around.”
Redheads account for approximately 1 to 2 percent of the world’s population. They tend to be found most in
It was now or never.
Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, and the United
“Well there is one thing that I wanted to ask you. We had
being angry and morally degenerate. In the Malleus
fun the other day, right? And have gotten to know each other a little bit.”
States. Historically, redheads have been associated with Maleficarum, a treatise on witches published by the Catholic Church, red hair and green eyes meant that there was a good possibility that the person was a witch,
werewolf, or vampire. In modern times, Carrot-Top,
bullying sins by giving her a Tommy of her own. Unable
Danny Bonaduce, and the husky kid from the movie, The
to take the shame of having to love such a hideous and
Sandlot, have not help our cause. The other interesting
strange creature, she screamed like Fay Wray when she
thing about red hair is that the electron configuration
sees King Kong for the first time and began to sob.
in the atoms of red hair produce a magnetic field that attracts school yard bullies from within a five-mile radius.
I had mostly forgotten these horrific schoolyard atrocities
“Your hair is pretty. It makes you special,” my mom
and believed that I was now living in a mature eighth
would say after I would come home with glue in my hair
grade society that didn’t discriminate due to a person’s
from Steve Lesser, a particularly devious fifth grader who
low-dark pigment rate. I knew now that this was not the
saw me one day in the cafeteria and thanked Santa for
case. There were two roads that I could take. I could
giving him another matchstick to pound.
continue to live my life as a Ronald McDonald look-alike and never reach the echelon of Donna Recchia, or I
However, what Mom did not mention when she was
could try something a little rash and dangerous…I could
singing my praise was that she cried when I was born. dye my hair. She did not cry because she was in pain or filled with joy as she felt like she had given birth to an angel; No, she
Being a fourteen year old who felt that his best years
cried because her child had red hair.
were still ahead of him, I decided on the latter. Now the question was whether I should go dark or light. In
“Is that blood?” she asked the doctor after seeing me for
order to make the best possible decision, I took two self-
the first time.
portraits. I colored one Chris with black marker and the other with white-out. I was still unsure, so I ventured
“No, Mrs. Hardwick, that’s your hair. Your son has red
off and asked strangers which one they liked better. I
couldn’t ask friends or family because they could not be trusted. I asked my dad to drop me off at the mall, so I
Mom knew that this was the world’s way of evening things
could gain some real empirical data. Some liked the dark,
out. When she was a child, there was this kid in school
some liked the white, and most just gave me that same
named Tommy. Tommy was a normal everyday kid
slight smile that made me question whether or not they
except that he suffered from red hair, too. Mom would
thought I was mildly retarded. When I got home, I tallied
see Tommy everyday and make fun of him. She would do
up the votes. Twelve for black, fourteen for white. It
the standard stuff like give him wedgies, mock him with
appeared white won. After careful deliberation, I decided
names, and shoot spitballs at his nose. However, Mom
that this was probably the right way to go anyway because
was in the Steve Lesser School of Bullying and took it
I have translucent eyebrows, and the black hair would
to a new level with poor Tommy. She would often put
look even more fake. Also, it was a strange time, and
pudding down his shirt or leave a frog in his locker. One
bleach blonde hair was all the craze. This started with the
time, she pants-ed him in the middle of the third grade
emergence of Eminem and would trickle down the trend
spelling bee. Unfortunately for Tommy, the pants were
ladder, going from other main stream artists, to cover
not the only thing that fell. While it’s unlikely that Tommy
artists, then groupies, then poseurs who wanted to sleep
had gone through puberty, there is still a chance that this
with the groupies, and would keep going down until it
is where the term “fire-crotch” originated. At any rate,
reached a suspected mildly-retarded, freckled face carrot
Mom believed that God was making her atone for her
top in New Jersey.
I didn’t tell my parents about my decision. I suspected
redheads do not fit in and are seen as either goofy or
that they wouldn’t understand it and would forbid the
quick-tempered. Female redheads, on the other hand,
entire operation. Dad was a no-nonsense type of guy
are seen as beautiful and sultry. This began when the
when it came to appearance. I wanted a rat tail when
Renaissance painter, Sandro Botticelli, painted the Birth
I was seven. I tried to explain that I should be able to
of Venus and made the goddess a ginger. Queen
express myself, and he told me I could express myself by
Elizabeth I made every English woman want to be a
mowing the lawn. That was actually Dad’s answer to any
redhead and today, redheads like Christina Hendrickson,
argument. Mom would tell me that my hair was beautiful,
Julia Roberts, Julianne Moore, Marcia Cross, and Nicole
but again, that was only because she wanted to keep God
Kidman have ensured that female gingers will continue to
happy. I would have to do this off the grid.
be sought after and envied for their beauty. For the male pumpkinheads, we have Opie. Also, most male gingers
I walked into the Sally Beauty Supply store and scoured
do not find female gingers attractive, because any sort
the aisles. Judy, a Sally’s team member, walked over a
of romantic relationship feels incestuous, and if there is
little perplexed by my presence in her store. Sally’s is a
a marriage, procreation is out because of the chance of
specialty supply store for many barber shops and salons. producing another male ginger, which nobody wants. Therefore, most of the clientele consists of professionals “I don’t know. I just want to try it. I think it‘s time for a who know what they are doing. I was the complete
change,” I said, unprepared for an inquisition.
opposite of this. I tried to cut my hair once out of protest, but that did not work out so well. I did not have
“Well, let me show you where they are,” Judy said ushering
steady hands – which is essential for a stylist, surgeon,
me a few aisles over in a hasty manner that suggested
and a member for the bomb squad – so when I was done
that she wanted to get me out so that she could return to
shearing, my hair contained a few divots. Mom decreed
watching General Hospital.
that I look like a golf ball. Dad stroked his beard, and said that he was taking me to the barber to shave it off
Judy told me that I should try to use a weaker bleach
and said since I was in such a cutting mood, I could go
formula because my hair had to get used to the chemicals
take a shot at the lawn.
before I went too light. She did not understand the dire urgency of the situation.
“Gamestop is next door, you know,” said Judy, convinced that this was the only sane reason why I would be in the
“Give me the hard stuff,” I said.
pedicure lotion section of her store. When I got back to my house, I was happy to find that “Oh, no. I know exactly where I am. I’m here to bleach
nobody was home. I scurried upstairs to see what I was
working with. The instructions were written in such a technical fashion, I felt like I was building a deck. I
Judy studied me for a moment to see what I was all about.
had to mix all of the ingredients in a dish and make sure that I wore gloves. Apparently, direct contact with the
“Why would you want to color your hair? Women come
concoction could cause the skin to blister and peel right
in here all of the time and ask for that color.”
off. Also, it said that if I felt a tingling sensation on my scalp, I should wash my head immediately as there is a
This is a sore subject for any male redhead. Male
good chance my hair could fall out. There was also a
warning that said if I got it my eye, I would have to wash
however, she was really into the movie, and I had no
my eyes and, as a precautionary measure, have someone
opening. Finally, towards the end of the movie, I found
take me to the emergency room. Somehow, this did little
my chance. It was the part where Arnold tells Jamie Lee
to deter me from using the product and only reinforced
Curtis to “Come Here!” pulls her in, and gives her the
my excitement because I felt that something with this
triumphant hero kiss. I looked over at the girl, and she
many caution flags had to be potent enough to take care
asked me what was wrong, as I was now visibly sweating.
of that pesky pheomelanin. “Arnold inspired me.” I brewed the balm and applied it evenly onto my head. The first thing that I noticed was that blue gunk stunk. I
rectified this problem by putting a clothes pin on my nose, thereby, losing olfactory sensibility. As I sat there naked,
“Arnold. He inspired me.”
I contemplated my new life as a normal person. I would have to buy new clothes that highlighted my Zack Morris
And with that, I reached over and made my move.
surfer-boy look. Every other word would be “dude”,
Unfortunately for me, her mouth was nowhere near a
and I would have to adopt some Eastern philosophy
kissing position as she was too busy laughing hysterically
like Shinto to embody my new carefree attitude. Donna
at my pitiful line. She would later kiss me out of pity, but
Recchia would come to me and ask me if she could be
I don’t think she was feeling too romantic as she kept
my date, but by then, I would be well past her in the
looking over at the clock. Still this notwithstanding, I felt
Williamstown Middle School social ladder, and she would
that I shouldn’t take the chance of being mismatched in
be forced instead to go with the second chair trombone
case some sort of miracle happened, or I got pants-ed
player with the acne problem. Pondering this new life, it
occurred to me that I forgot one thing. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but an hour A question that a ginger will hear often in his or her
later, I found myself on the cold leather bench of Dr.
lifetime is whether the carpet matches the drapes. I didn’t
Malacka’s office. My hair, now white, was fashioned in
think that I could be taken seriously as a blond if I wasn’t
an Andrew Jackson-like poof. As I was screaming in pain
matching. Now, I didn’t think that I would be exposing
from the devil’s formula on my groin area, I completely
that area to a girl anytime soon. I was only fourteen and
forgot about my tingling scalp. I was able to salvage my
my skills in negotiating any sort of sexual act were not
hair, but my scalp was now beat read, and with the red
very seasoned. I wouldn’t get my first kiss for another
and white, a tall Brit could probably look down and see a
year, but that did not go as I had hoped either. A girl
striking resemblance of the top of my head to the English
I had taken on a few dates agreed to watch a movie
national flag. When Mom got home, she took one look at
over my house. I Febreezed my room and removed my
me and said, “What the Hell did you do?” even though I
childhood cabbage doll, as Bobby did not convey the
think she was secretly pleased that she no longer had to
type of romantic setting I wished. The only area where
pretend to be nice to me. I made something up about
I went wrong was the movie selection. I decided on the
losing my hearing, and she drove me to Malacka’s.
Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick “True Lies” because I thought that the girl would get tired of the movie and
When Malacka walked in, he didn’t notice the sudden hair
just make out with me out of boredom. To my avail,
change. Dr. James Malacka was an old-school doctor who
did not use any modern medical equipment. Stethoscope
step child jokes and know every nickname from Ariel
in hand, he did the examination and diagnosis in less than
to Peppermint Patty. Still, we have endured and will
10 minutes. His efficiency, however, did not allow for
continue to do so even if there are reports that we could
much variety, because every visit to Dr. Malacka was the
eventually become extinct. To all gingers out there, I say
result of an upper-respiratory infection. Nausea. Upper-
keep up the good fight and wear a hat before you mess
respiratory infection. Dizziness and a burning sensation
with reduced price bleach kits. Oh yeah, I almost forgot.
when peeing. Sounds like you have an upper-respiratory
This story does have a happy ending. My hair eventually
infection. Broken leg. URI, baby. He was a godsend for
grew lighter into a color where I could pass as a blond and
someone like me, who liked to fake illnesses so I didn’t
Donna got fat.
have to school and needed a doctor’s note, but I would not have recommended him to anyone who was serious about their health. Anyway, Dr. Malacka asked me what the problem was and I told him everything. I spilled my guts about Donna, how I hated being a ginger, how I bought this stuff that was probably originally used to melt down steel to color my hair, and how I now had a big problem. He took in all of the information, not looking up once up from his chart, and asked me to see the problem. When I lowered my drawers, I thought I saw his stone face flinch for a second. My groin area was now blistering and spots of blood could be seen. I no longer had the need for a matching carpet because that was stripped clean off. Dr. Malacka, true to his nature, looked everything over and wrote something down on his prescription pad. “Ok, Chris. Well, the good news is that there is no sign of infection. Still, I would cease from performing any more experiments on yourself. I’m going to prescribe a cream that should soothe the skin, and it should heal within seven to ten days. Oh, and I threw in something for that upper-respiratory infection, as well.” After that experience, I decided that some things were worse than being a ginger. I learned that there were some good things about being a redhead. Your hair doesn’t gray and…well, I’ll think of some other stuff later. It’s rough being a ginger, but it does make you tough. My fiery brethren and I have heard all of the red-headed
First, a Cage
“You do understand that it’ll be years before we have even
Diane Vanaskie Mulligan
and toddlers don’t eat grown up food. Anyway, I’m not
As soon as Sue opened the door, she smelled the pot roast. She stood in the mudroom for a moment listening to the kitchen noises. He’s making garlic mashed potatoes, she thought, as she heard the electric beaters whir. When the whirring stopped, she could hear Jim whistling. “He’s so happy,” she muttered. I hate my job; I hate this town; and for once, I’d like a say in what we eat for dinner. But Jim, he’s happy, she thought. Sitting on the bench, she began to take off her slush-covered boots. “Is that you, Dovey?” Jim called. She could picture him scooping the potatoes from the pot to a serving dish, setting the table, lighting the candles. It’s Tuesday night. Does every night have to be like Sunday dinner? She thought. “Yep, I’m home,” she answered.
one child who eats the same meal we eat, right? Babies pregnant yet. Trying to have a baby and having a baby aren’t the same thing.” Jim continued without acknowledging Sue’s comment. “What do you think about having Christmas here this year instead of with your parents? I think we should start to develop our own family traditions.” “It’s just me and you, Jim. A family of two. Besides, we have a tradition – we go to my parents’ house. We’ve gone for the past four years.” “We’ll invite them here. Your mom might like being freed from the duties of hostess. We…” “We’re not talking about this now. Can we just eat?” Sue grabbed her knife and hacked at the tender, juicy slice of roast Jim had served her. * * *
“Dinner’s on the table. You’re later than I expected,” Jim said, appearing the doorway. Sue faked a smile. “Traffic.” She shrugged. “I’ll just wash my hands and then we can eat.” “You’ll have to tell me what you think,” Jim said, carving the roast. “It’s a new recipe. I got it from the Food Network website.” “Been trying a lot of new recipes lately,” Sue commented as Jim handed her a plate with a hefty serving of meat and potatoes. “No salad tonight?” “Just imagine when we’re sitting down to dinner with our kids. I remember my mom’s shepherd’s pie, homemade lasagna. I want to feed our kids homemade dinners, too.”
Jim slipped under the covers next to Sue. She scooted over more to her edge of the bed without looking up from the book she was reading. Jim nudged closer, placing his head on her shoulder as best he could without her cooperation. He slid one of his legs across hers. Slowly, Sue put the book on the nightstand and rolled onto her side to face him. “I’m sorry about the Christmas thing, Love-Dove,” Jim said. “Yeah.” “I love you.” Sue said nothing. She closed her eyes and took a few deep
“I’ll be fine,” she said, “Just leave me alone.”
* * *
Sue drew a bath, filling the small bathroom with steam. By the time she settled into the hot, soapy water, she had
“I love you.”
stopped crying, but she didn’t feel better. She stared at her toes, which stuck out above the edge of the water.
“I know, Jim.”
She wished she felt something—anything would be better than the vast nothingness that had settled inside her.
“I love you.” He’s happy, she thought. He has everything he wants Sue turned away from Jim. He curled up against her back,
and he’s happy. The thought drifted through her mind,
pulling her tight to his body. He murmured the words
leaving too quickly, leaving behind the sense of emptiness
again into her neck and then into her hair.
as it faded. She lay there looking at the soap scum on the shower wall and the mildew just beginning to blossom on
“At work today Sam had pictures of his new baby girl. I
the ceiling and around the edges of the bathtub.
kept looking at them thinking how great it will be when we have a baby of our own. Just think, Dove…”
Jim would clean it, she knew. She wished he wouldn’t. The first and third weekends of the month—bathrooms.
“You know what I was thinking about at work today?”
Every other Friday—the hardwood floors. Wednesday nights—white laundry. Thursday night—colors. No one
who cleans so much can be happy, Sue thought.
“How I hate my job. How I’m wasting my life. How I
She shivered and noticed that the water was cold. She
have no idea what to do with myself.” “But we have a good life. Work isn’t everything, and we have a good life.” “I feel drained, tired, old. I don’t know what to do.” “I like our life, my little Love-Dove. I’m happy.” Some consolation, Sue thought. She could feel Jim’s hand on her back, and she wanted get away from him. “Lovey? Sue?” Jim said, as she untangled herself from the sheets and blankets.
stood and hastily wrapped a towel around herself. Wiping steam from the window, she looked out to see snow falling. I wish I were somewhere else, she thought. It was 2:30 in the morning, but she couldn’t bear the thought of going to bed, so she put water on for tea. She flipped through the junk mail on the counter as she waited for the water boil. The AAA newsletter caught her eye—cheap flights to France. France would be perfect. She’d gone once before, in college, for a semester. That poem, the one she’d memorized for pronunciation class, how did it go? Peindre d’abord une cage / avec une porte ouverte. That was it. First paint a cage with an open
door. But what was the rest? Sue forgot her tea and crept
the months on her fingers – fourteen months. Fourteen
into the study. Where had Jim put the French books? Sue
months since her last cigarette. Fourteen months since
had refused to let him get rid of them even though she
she’d caved in to Jim’s nagging and whining, his clippings
never spoke French now and had no real use for them.
from the newspaper about good health and the little glib
When at last she found the book, she could have cried
comments any time he could sneak one in. She’d never
as her eyes scanned unfamiliar words. I used to know all
been a heavy smoker. At most, she’d smoked five a
of them, she thought, desperately scanning the first lines
cigarettes a day, maybe more if she went out to a bar, but
of each poem for phrases she could recognize. Finally,
that happened so rarely. Even back then, at least half of
her eyes landed on the verses she knew, and as she read
Jim’s arguments had to do with having a baby: Think of
past them into the world of the poem, she relaxed as she
how hard it will be to deal with the emotions of pregnancy
realized she could understand it. She hadn’t forgotten
when you also have to overcome your addiction, he’d tell
everything. She remembered the poem.
her. They hadn’t even been married yet. Engaged, but not wed. Even then, she thought, he was already caging me in.
She folded over the corner of the page and brought the book back to the living room, where her tea sat, now
And coffee. She breathed deeply the aroma of the rich
cold, on the coffee table. She glanced at the clock, 3:30.
drink from the Styrofoam cup. Even the old, burnt,
She tiptoed into the bedroom, grabbed clothes from the
cheap convenience store coffee smelled like heaven to
closet, and found a brush and hair-clip on the dresser.
her. Three weeks, two days, and about eight hours since
She readied herself in the dark, and then, without leaving
her last cup of coffee. Her college friends would never
a note, she took the book and headed out into the cold,
believe it. Not Sue, Sue also known as “Caf,” short for
caffeine, the substance that she credited with her success in college. Well, she’d lost touch with them now anyway. * * * Last she’d heard Anna wasn’t gay anymore, Ellen had
Snow covered the road. Sue could make out the tracks of
moved to Vermont to marry her partner, and Jenny was
the few cars that had traveled through the whitewashed
supporting her lazy boyfriend who couldn’t seem to find
night before her. She drove slowly, carefully, both hands
a job no matter how little he looked. The last time she’d
on the wheel. The highway is probably clear, she thought,
heard from any of them was April when they’d wanted to
but she drove past the on-ramp. She was in no rush; the
know if she’d be going to reunion. She hadn’t gone; Jim
back roads would do.
had some event for work and wanted her to be there.
It was about 5:30 when she approached the campus. She
The sky had begun to brighten through the cover of
didn’t want to roam around in the dark or even sit in her
lingering clouds. Sue parked next to the student center,
car and wait for sunrise; public safety would probably
stuffed her cigarettes and lighter into her coat pocket,
notice and interrogate her. Instead, she stopped at a
and set out. It was too early for any of the students to
convenience store, grabbed a pack of Marlboro lights, a
be moving yet, but the sidewalks had been shoveled. She
lighter, and a coffee.
decided to circle the campus first and then head around the lake.
The first drag of a cigarette made her head spin. How long has it been? She wondered. She counted back through
Walking past the dorm where she’d lived as a sophomore,
Sue remembered how much of that year she’d spent
quelque chose de beau
wishing she’d gone to a big party school like all of her
quelque chose d’utile
high school friends. They’d send E-mails about formal
parties thrown by fraternities and they’d describe their varsity boyfriends. Funny, she thought, in my mind this is
Yes, Sue thought, that’s how I got here. Jim painted lovely
the happiest home I ever had, but I spent so much of my
pictures for me of a happy home where we could live
time here wishing I were somewhere else. She shook her
out our lives amid pretty things, with simple days, and
head and hugged her coat around her midsection.
beautiful nights, and we’d have everything we ever needed, but I see now; the home is just a cage. She read on,
Sue watched as the early risers walked to eight o’clock
looking up a few forgotten words, feeling as if the poet
classes. They looked tired, but they moved with purpose.
wrote the metaphor with her in mind. Jim, like the painter
Watching them, Sue remembered the book. She had some
hoping to make a portrait of a bird, created a beautiful,
studies of her own to pursue. She went back to the car to
fictional world, and then without ever pushing, prodding,
grab the book and her journal. She’d call into work, too,
or pressuring her, he had waited for her to swoop into
she decided. She’d say a family emergency had taken her
the world so that he could trap her there forever. Yes, Sue
out of town.
thought, I fell for it all, but the portrait is no good – Si l’oiseau ne chante pas / c’est mauvais signe / signe que * * *
le tableau est mauvais – because I am the bird, and I am not singing.
The screen on her cell phone flashed “Four New Messages.” Scrolling through the call log she saw three
Sue closed the book and took her coffee to the counter for
from Jim, all within the past hour, and one from her mom,
a refill. I should go back to France, she thought. I could
missed only by about five minutes. Later, Sue thought,
teach English there. The problem she’d had in France had
dialing the office. No one answered, so she didn’t have to
been communication. She knew French grammar and
develop her lie. She left a hasty message and turned off
vocabulary and she could speak with an accent sufficient
to set her apart from the average American tourist, but she never quite understood the nuances. Thinking about
In the coffee shop across the street from the college, Sue ordered a croissant and a cappuccino and selected a table next to the window. She turned the dog-eared page and read, again, the poem by Jacques Prévert, with its benign title, “Pour Faire Le Portrait D’un Oiseau” – “To Paint the Portrait of a Bird.” The poet described the steps one
the poem again, she could not be sure she knew what metaphor Prévert intended. Caging a bird is a negative image, she reasoned. Beginning as the poem does, with a cage, the poem must not be a happy poem about creating a work of art, as its title suggests. The ending confused her, though; as the poem moves towards closure, Prévert
must take to paint a bird,
presents two possibilities: The bird does not sing, so
Peindre d’abord une cage
can pluck one of the feathers of the bird and write his
avec une porte ouverte peindre ensuite quelque chose de joli quelque chose de simple
the portrait is bad; or, the bird sings, so the painter name on the portrait. Too ambiguous, Sue thought, the bird singings seems good, but plucking its feather seems bad. Theportrait turning out well seems good, but the final line—“et vous écrivez votre nom dans un coin du
tableau”—and you write your name in the corner of the
painting—seems sinister. Sue looked down at her own hand and realized that in the “Are you in Professor Sirodot’s class?”
night when she’d dressed to leave, she hadn’t put on her wedding band and engagement ring. They were at home, sitting on her dresser. She looked up at the girl and she
Sue looked up with a start. A girl stood at the corner of
shook her head.
her table, smiling. “Oh, you were asking me?” Sue asked surprised. Then quickly she added, “No.”
“Oh, geez. I’m so stupid. You’d think after three years here I’d know better than to ask. I mean, for all I know,
“Oh, she always makes her students read Prévert.” The
you’re gay or whatever. I hope I didn’t offend you.” The
girl shrugged. “Are you a firstie?”
Sue laughed. “An alum, actually.”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Oh. That’s cool. You look young.”
The girl shrugged and laughed again.
Sue nodded. Neither of them knew what to say. Then Sue
“Well, good luck with your senior year and the wedding
noticed a ring glittering on the girl’s left hand. “Are you a
plans and everything,” Sue said, hoping to end the
senior?” Sue asked.
“Yep, a senior. Go class of 2001.”
“Thanks! I guess I’ll let you get back to your stuff, there,” the girl said.
“So is that an engagement ring on your finger?” As the girl walked away, Sue stretched out her unadorned The girl blushed. “Yeah, I just got engaged a few weeks
fingers. She put those rings on every morning as soon as
ago.” She held out her hand for Sue to look at the ring.
she got out of the shower and kept them on all day until she laid down to go to bed at night. She couldn’t believe
Sue offered a tight-lipped smile and nodded again.
she’d left without them.
“We’re having the ceremony a month after graduation. I
Sue thought about the giggly, goofy girl. She had seemed
have so much do it. It’s crazy.”
young for a senior, and awkward. Her fiancé is probably the only guy she’s slept with, Sue thought. So bubbly and
excited; was I ever that way?
“Yeah, I know. Everyone thinks we’re nuts. But we’ve
Jim proposed to Sue on the one-year anniversary of their
been together since high school, and he’s a year older than
first date. He was the first guy she’d ever dated who hadn’t
me, so he’s already out of school and working and stuff.
been totally dysfunctional. He wasn’t an alcoholic, or a
We’re pretty anxious to just get it done. What about you?
pothead, or a womanizer, or even a mild hypochondriac.
He was an assistant professor of plant biology seven-
“Oh, please, Sue. People don’t take off in the middle of
years her senior, and he loved her and wanted to have a
the night when they don’t know.”
family with her. It seemed like a good offer; better than living alone forever, better than the singles scene, better
“Well, it’s complicated.”
than waiting for someone better who might never come along. Did I ever really mind being alone so much? Sue
“Life is. Always has been. So what is it? Jim said you had a
fight about the plans for Christmas. Is that it?” * * *
It was afternoon before Sue checked her messages.
“If that were it, life would be simple. I don’t know, mom.” “You said that already. Now, I have to ask you a question, and you need to answer me honestly. Are you cheating
7:08 a.m. “Hey, Dove. I was pretty surprised to wake up
to an empty bed this morning. I don’t know what’s up, but call me back.”
7:22 a.m. “Love-dove, please call me when you get this. I
don’t know where you are and I’ll go crazy trying to work all day not knowing.”
“God, no. Don’t you know me at all?”
7:49 a.m. “Lovey, please call me back. I know you’re there.
“Good. Then go home. The boy is out of his mind with
The phone is turned on. Please call, Sue.”
worry. If he could make the police take up a search, he would, but you haven’t been missing long enough. If you
7:56 a.m. “Sue, it’s mom. Jim just called. Please call him.
love him, go home.”
Or call me. Or go home. We’re worried.” “Yeah, ok, mom.” 11:49 a.m. “Hi, Sue. It’s me again. My morning lab just finished up so I drove right home in case you were here,
“Call me tomorrow when you’ve had some rest and you’re
but you’re not. Dovey, we really need to talk. Whatever is
making some sense.”
going on, we can deal with it, but you have to come home. Or at least call. I don’t even know what’s broken, so how
Sue walked back up towards the lake, brushed the thin
can I fix it if you don’t talk to me?”
layer of snow from a bench, and sat down. The sky was gray and fog was beginning to thicken over the water
She called her mom first.
and in the low parts of campus. She sat for a moment, preparing herself for what Jim might have to say when
“Well, praise the Lord,” her mom said sarcastically when
she called. He picked up the phone on the first ring.
she heard Sue’s voice. “What’s the matter, Sugar?” “Lovey?” “I don’t know, mom,” Sue said, lighting a cigarette.
“What if I were your boss?” Sue asked.
“No, that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that I do think about the future a lot, but that doesn’t mean that the
“Where are you? Do you need me to come get you?”
present doesn’t matter. Right now, well maybe not right this minute, I’m happy, with you and our life. I think you
could be too, if you let yourself.”
“Will you come home?”
“Yeah, right, if I let myself fit your little picture of the perfect world, right? If I stop smoking and stop drinking
Sue took a deep breath. “Jim, I’m not happy.”
coffee and come home on time every night and have lots of babies. But I don’t fit, Jim. I thought I could fit, but I
“What do you need? What can I do?” Jim sounded
desperate. “My picture? And smoking? What are you talking about? “I don’t know, Jim. You’re just so obsessed with the future. I mean, last night, I told you how unhappy I am, and you just wanted to talk about babies.” Sue could feel anger welling inside of her, and she was relieved, so she
Anyone will agree it’s good you quit. And the coffee thing, it’s just your health. I care about you and want us to live together for a long time. I thought that was our picture, not my picture.” Jim said.
continued, “And, I mean, we aren’t even pregnant yet. And I want to have a real career, Jim! How I am supposed
Sue was a silent. She lit a cigarette.
to figure out what I want when all you can talk about is babies?”
After a few minutes, Jim asked, “Sue, what would make you happy right now?”
“Are we talking about having a family or about your career?”
“Oh, God, Jim, please don’t start playing pop-psychologist with me.”
“Damn it, Jim.” “Sue, whatever you want to do right now, whether you “What? I…”
come home or stay where you are or whatever, is fine with me, but I want you to think about it. What would make
“You’re always changing the subject.”
you happy right now?”
“Sue, you aren’t making sense. One minute you’re telling
Sue said nothing.
me how my obsession with our future is the problem, the next you’re telling me how you want a career, and
“Do you want me to hang up?” Jim asked.
honestly I’m confused. And the thing is, I’m happy.” “No.”Sue sat still and straight, her feet flat on the ground, “Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re happy. Always happy. Who
with the phone to her ear, without saying a word. She
cares if I’m happy as long as you are happy!”
could hear Jim breathing on the other end. She watched some ducks gliding across the cold, black water of the
lake. What a life, she thought, and then, Why don’t the ducks go somewhere warm for the winter? And then she realized it was Holden Caufield who looked for ducks and she wondered if she’d ever had an original thought in her life. Sue imagined her drive home, miles of slick highway. Her car skidding into a jersey barrier. She didn’t have the guts. And anyway, it might turn out all wrong, like in Ethan Frome, and she’d be an invalid for the rest of her life. She imagined driving to the airport and getting on a plane to France. She could rent ademi-pension in Paris. Well, I’d at least have to go home to pack and get my passport, she thought. No one will scold me for smoking in Paris, she thought then, lighting the last one from the pack. By the time Sue spoke again, her hand was freezing from holding phone in the cold air so long. “I don’t know why I can’t be happy, Jim,” she said finally. “Come home, Dovey. Are you OK to drive?” “I’m fine. I’ll get some coffee.” “I can come get you.” “I’ll be home in an hour,” Sue answered and she stomped out the end of her cigarette. “Sue, I love you.” “I know, Jim.”
The Pearl Divers Calla Devlin The morning after my sister arrived, we woke to the first freeze. The pond was solid and the top layer of
“Listen to that sound,” I said. “Like everything’s shattering.” She squinted as though that would turn up the volume. “I don’t hear anything except for that damn bird chirping like a madwoman.”
the river had iced over. Armed with parkas, scarves, and hot chocolate, we went out to Eagle’s Rock to look at
“You’re not listening. Try harder.”
the frozen falls and exactly how red the leaves remained. I wanted to show her my new home, a place that held
She met my eyes. “It’s all in your head.”
seasons unlike our childhood California. * * *
We parked my old Subaru on the side of the road, flanked by huge evergreens.
After a trip to the market, I carried a brown paper bag “Careful, April,” I said. “The ground’s covered in ice.”
full of vegetables and felt the moisture seep through the bottom of the bag. It formed small beads of water in
We took turns hobbling our way down the path. “The
the lines of my palm. I walked home slowly in order to
leaves look like they’re on fire,” she said.
delay my return to April. Usually, I strolled for a couple of hours a day, but my sister’s visit thwarted my walk.
I nodded. The trees were gorgeous but I concentrated on
I had grown accustomed to living alone and I made an
the sound of what seemed like the world cracking open.
The undercurrent had propelled huge shards of ice into the air. It resembled broken glass, but a more powerful
I couldn’t erase the noise from Eagle’s Rock, the crackle
sound accompanied it. “Look at the water moving under
that ice made when mixed with warm liquid. It rang in my
the ice,” I said. “It’s white on top, but look at the blue
ears so loudly my teeth hurt. When I reached home, April
underneath.” April extended her leg and tapped the thin
was spread out reading one of her magazines.
layer of ice with her foot. She did this every third or fourth step.
“Hi,” she said and then kept reading.
“You might find a weak spot and fall in,” I warned.
I shut the door with my hip and walked into the kitchen. April’s bare feet slapped the wood floor as she entered the
“You’re too cautious.”
kitchen. “Want any help?”
I followed her as we made our way to the falls, petrified in
I shook my head.
ice. If I focused hard enough, I swore I could hear water trying to break free, struggling to burst out of its ice
“I brought you fruit.” She lived in a small Southern
prison. Part of me wanted to jump in and crash through
California city with grove after grove of citrus trees.
The orange blossoms were intoxicating and were April’s livelihood. As a botanist, she studied the navel,
the satsuma, the mandarin. She traveled to Greece for
conferences and kept files of slides that illustrated the different varieties of the sweet fruit.
“Dad? When was the last time you talked to him?” I asked.
She disappeared for a moment and then returned, arms
“Before he went to Chile.”
strained by a heavy crate. “Happy housewarming.” Our father was a surveyor for an oil company. He left “Thanks,” I said. “Do you want to put some in the
my mother when April and I were in junior high. He’d
traveled ever since. “I can’t remember the last time I talked to him,” I said. “Maybe when he was in Alaska?”
“Sure,” she said as she opened the box. “That’s why he’s worried. I still don’t get all of this,” she “Give me a couple for the salad.”
said and she swung her arm across the almost empty room. “You quit a good job and left all your stuff. And
April tossed two weathered satsumas my way. I shook
your family. You’d never even been to Portland before.”
water from the lettuce and tore the leaves into smaller pieces. After filling a bowl halfway, I peeled the oranges,
“That’s not true. I was here for a trade show last year. I
separated the slices, and placed them on the bed of
fell in love with it.”
lettuce. I loved the scent of the rind: light and faint. I added sunflower seeds and yogurt with lemon juice. We
“Well, you never told me about loving Portland until you
carried our late lunch to the living room.
said you were moving here.” April stabbed a piece of lettuce and crunched it between her teeth.
April made room for me on the couch. “I never talked as much as you.” “You shouldn’t have left all that furniture in California,” she said.
She continued as though she hadn’t heard me. I knew she had though because her eyes flashed.
“It’s easier this way. I’ll buy new stuff when I see something I like. There’s no hurry. I have the couch and
“You’ve barely called Mom since you left. You’ve become
a total hermit and you’ve been talking about hearing voices or sounds or whatever in your head. A lot like when you
“Are you still looking for work?”
were in college, which isn’t good. You know, most people get diagnosed with schizophrenia in their twenties.”
“I’m getting by.” The lettuce adopted the sweet flavor of the fruit as I mixed them in my mouth. I noticed the
“That’s ridiculous. You think I have schizophrenia because
clouds drawing together and guessed that it would rain
I moved away from home? You went to college and then
soon. Maybe an ice storm.
grad school and never moved back. What does that make you? A sociopath?”
“We’re worried about you,” she said. “Mom and me. Even
“We think you should come home for a visit. You can
she knew I would break down sooner or later.
fly back with me. You’ve been spending too much time alone. Have you even met anyone here?”
“Good. Mom says there’s a beautiful Japanese garden here. Have you been?”
“Not really.” I shuddered. “No.” “This is extreme, don’t you think? Come back with me.” “Mom wants us to go and take some pictures. Do you “Mom won’t even notice I’m there.”
think they have a gift shop?”
“Bullshit. This was her idea.”
“Why would a garden have a gift shop?” I huffed. “It’s too late to go. Guess you don’t get to see that much of
I met April’s eyes. “Really?” Parenting was never high on
my new city after all.”
our mother’s list, too busy with classes and meditation to be bothered by a needy daughter. April, the older self
“Maybe next time Mom will come too.” April settled into
sufficient one, received the most attention simply because
the couch, her long legs dangled over the overstuffed
she asked for it.
cushion. She picked up her magazine and started to read. “You should pack, Lotus. We have an early flight.”
“Yes, really. Come home for a visit. Mom misses you.” “Don’t call me that,” I said as I left the room. I shrugged as I finished my salad. I knew something was wrong with me. That was why I came to Portland in the
* * *
first place—to determine if it was me or if it was me when I was at home.
My mother never traveled to Japan; however, this did not hinder her obsession with Japanese culture. Like most
April rose from the couch to fetch her backpack. She dug
colonialists, my mother’s limited vision of the world
around until she pulled out an envelope. “Here,” she said,
collapsed upon discovering a new country. For Columbus
pressing the paper into my hand.
it was the Americas; for my mother it was Japan.
I pulled out two airline tickets, one for each of us.
Her preoccupation was responsible for my nickname, Lotus, given to me when I was ten. I seemed to disappear
“Mom paid for them. See, she wants you to visit.”
with my birth name, Elise, and became a souvenir. For each birthday I received a ceramic lotus flower. Nothing
“My ticket is one way.”
else. Not a Barbie or a coveted American Girl doll. The surprise was in the color of the glaze.
“Mom will buy you another one when you’re ready to come back to Portland. Settled?”
My flowers sat in a cherry wood and glass case in my bedroom. The carefully arranged lotuses bloomed on
“I guess,” I said. April’s campaigning was relentless and
four shelves. Her obsession had started with her uncle. He
spent time in Japan during the Korean War, and returned
movies. After only six months away, San Diego didn’t feel
home with gifts, several decorative fans and scrolls for my
like home anymore. This was my mother’s territory. Here,
mother. She found the metallic shine of the gold and the
she swam and studied Zen.
tiny black lines lovely. They were beyond any beauty she had ever known.
I watched other passengers arrive at the airport, several of them wearing Sea World t-shirts. Despite her
Turning on my dim lights, I struggled with the suitcase
preoccupation with all things transcendental, April and
in my closet, swinging it off the top shelf with too much
I could always talk Mom into a trip to Sea World. By
force. My luggage collided with the wood case, and the
seventh grade, we were taking weekly visits to see Shamu,
lotus flowers sailed across the shelves, crashing against
the great killer whale. April and I loved the theatrics as
the glass. My head filled with a shattering sound, higher
the trainer straddled the big monster. Its black and white
pitched than the morning’s cracking ice. I squeezed my
markings made the whale dynamic, more appealing than
eyes shut and then heard April.
the steel gray sharks.
She rushed in. “Everything okay?”
The pearl divers were my mother’s mermaids, always visiting them before bringing our day to a close. Small,
“I dropped the suitcase.”
graceful women held their breath underwater for what seemed like forever. Surrounded by bonsai trees, the
“Oh my god,” she said when she knelt before the damage.
pearls and oysters were vivid at the bottom of the pool. My mother would tell us about the pearl divers in Japan
The lotus flowers settled in a chipped heap. Most were
and their ability to dive to the depths of the ocean. At
broken and the remaining ones were missing petals. Dusty
home, she would pull out articles and books on the divers,
scraps of porcelain covered each shelf.
pictures and calculations of how long the women could hold their breath. She lined her walls with sketches of
April turned and glowered at me. “This is going to break
Mom’s heart. You never appreciated these. You were so When we were young, my mother wanted to buy us all
lucky to get them.”
matching pearl necklaces. My father protested the cost. I nodded and swept the debris into the wastebasket.
Soon, we had our pearls and my father moved out.
“Aren’t you going to see if you can salvage any of them?”
I remembered this as April and I waited for our luggage.
I looked at my sister’s disapproving expression. “They’re
green suitcase. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to
broken. It’s best to throw them out.” * * * San Diego had an old-fashioned airport, the kind where you have to walk down stairs onto the tarmac like in old
Black bags circled round and round and I waited for my see my mother. I couldn’t remember the last time she had touched me. Now she raised her hand to my hair and stroked my unruly curls. “I’m so glad you came.” Hesitantly, I hugged her, but as soon as I was comfortable,
she withdrew. “Isn’t that your bag?” she asked.
“April said you were acting like this.”
I spotted my suitcase and pulled it off the conveyer belt.
“Argumentative. Strange. Not at all like yourself. I think we should consider medication for these sounds you’re
We followed our mother to the car. “April, please sit in
hearing in your head. It worked last time.”
the back.” I closed my eyes until we reached Del Mar, opening them As we drove north to April’s house, my sister rattled off
when I heard my mother set the emergency brake. The
her plans. Her latest boyfriend shared her enthusiasm for
house looked the same: shady and low with a manicured
travel and the outdoors. They intended to ride motorcycles
garden. In the Northwest, it would have been considered
in the sand dunes.
When my mother asked if I was seeing anyone, April
“You can manage your luggage?”
answered for me. “Of course not. It’s like she’s live in a Zen Center up there.”
I nodded and yanked my suitcase from the trunk. I dragged my gear into my old room. My bed had been
“That’s a good idea,” Mom said.
replaced by an unsubstantial futon. I felt overgrown and clumsy.
“What?” I asked. I found her in the kitchen as she swished a wooden spoon “The Zen Center. Let’s spend the afternoon there.”
in a large pot. “In the mood for some miso?”
I nodded, knowing it would be pointless to disagree. Soon,
I shrugged. “Don’t you have pasta or something? Maybe
we reached April’s house and she bounced out of the car,
we could go out for Indian.”
and, with a quick wave, disappeared into the house. “Miso is healthier. I have chicken too.” Once we returned to the highway, Mom covered my hand with hers. “April told me about your accident. All of them
I glanced at the table. Teriyaki chicken rested on beds of
rice. My mother spooned the soup into large bowls and sprinkled a garnish of green onion.
“Yes.” She joined me at the table and we drank our soup in “We’ll have to rebuild your collection.”
silence. When it was time to eat the chicken, I looked at my chopsticks. “I’m going to get a fork,” I said.
“No, Mom, it was your collection. Maybe you could get me a sweater this year.”
“You’ve forgotten how to use chopsticks?”
“Good meditation, Mom?” I asked, fishing to explain her
“I prefer a fork.”
change in demeanor. “Is this some kind of delayed adolescent rebellion? Fine. You know where they are.”
“You could say that. I have a plan for us. Something sure to change your attitude.”
* * * “What’s that?” We made our way to the Zen Center in silence, allowing for the cracking sounds of Eagle’s Rock to return to my
“Sea World,” she said. “We haven’t gone in years.”
head. My mother parked the car and I followed her into the building. We claimed the two of the three empty mats
on the floor. Five other people, all middle aged, populated the room. We sat with straight spines, folded legs, and
“I’m not.” She took my hand like a dog on a leash and
closed eyes. The scent of incense surrounded us.
walked me to the car.
Once our breathing settled into a matched rhythm, I
She kept her smile as we drove. Eventually my tense
peeked at my mother. She looked as she always did:
muscles relaxed and I was able to look at her, to force a
contained and rigid. She exhibited the best posture in the
smile, to try to be her daughter again. Once we reached
room with an erect back and limber joints. Her serious
our destination it took forty-five minutes to find a parking
expression conveyed her dogma—she looked as though
her mind were empty of ego and desire. When it came to me, I saw her master her detachment, her lack of
Shamu the Killer Whale wasn’t as thrilling, but I
discovered the beauty of coral, my eyes scanning all of the information I could absorb about the reefs. Mom
The longer I sat, the louder the shattering sound. I closed
lingered with me, reading each sign at my side.
my eyes again, expecting to recall the ice and frozen falls. I saw the glass case instead, the shards mixed with the
“You hungry?” She asked.
broken lotus petals. My eyes snapped open as my unease increased. The room was cold and lonely and sitting next
I feared we would leave to find some sushi restaurant
to my mother, who appeared as taut as a blossom before
and was surprised when she suggested eating there. We
bloom, made me shiver. After a few moments, I closed my
wandered until coming across one of the park’s cafes,
eyes again and felt ignored. I spent the rest of the hour
and we ordered fish and chips and drank pink lemonade.
struggling to quiet my mind as I imagined my mother’s
Then she suggested a visit to the pearl divers.
insisting words: Be calm. Sit still. Clear your mind. Don’t embarrass me. Finally, the meditation session ended and my mother approached me with an alien openness. She stroked my shoulder and guided me outside. Her face broke into an unfamiliar smile.
My mother’s face was animated as she paid a diver to scoop up an oyster from the bottom of the pool. She handed it to me after cracking open the shell. A black pearl. She beckoned over another diver and said, “Find me another one, black like this.”
“How will she know which are black?”
returned to the far reaches of my body. My fingers and toes tingled. I occupied my skin.
“They know. The shells are marked.” Mom turned to me, and, impossibly, her smile broadened. As directed, the diver emerged with another shell
“This is the most impressive thing about the Japanese.”
containing another shining black pearl. “I’ll have the
Her speech was quick, as was her movement. Her car
jeweler make a pair of earrings. Think of them as a small
door flung open and she jogged around the front of the
replacement for the ceramic lotuses.”
car and faced me. I rolled down the window.
“Thank you, Mom.”
“What are you doing? Mom, get back in the car. Please.” “Come with me and look at this view.”
“For what?” Her eyes shined bright and her cheeks blushed from the sun. She never looked more Irish than
“The view makes me want to throw up. You know that.”
after an afternoon outdoors. Her freckles had taken on a deep brown and rose to the surface of her skin. Like her
She reached in and held my hand, tugging hard. “You
affection, they came out of hiding.
“For this afternoon.” I surprised myself by missing this
“Need what?” I looked at her face, met her eyes, and my
kind of time together.
heart raced like a bird trapped indoors.
She smiled but didn’t say anything. We found the car and
“I said come out. Now.”
drove out of the parking lot. When we reached the fork in the freeway, she turned away from home and headed
I hated her indecipherable hold on me. I climbed out of
for the peninsula. We drove on the Coronado Bay Bridge,
the car and my head swelled. Tears came to my eyes. She
a soaring bridge with a low guard rail at such a staggering
clung to my hand and pulled me to the railing.
height. It always scared me and when I was little, I’d have to close my eyes as we drove over it or I’d be thrown
“In Japan, pearl divers can jump from this height.”
into a complete panic. And that panic returned when my mother she pulled over at the highest point of the bridge.
“Jesus, Mom. What are you talking about? Let’s get back in the car.”
“What’s wrong with the car?” She shook her head. I started really crying then, tears and “Nothing. I thought this would be a good place to talk.”
nose running in panic. Cars raced past us.
“On the top of the bridge that terrifies me? What the hell
“Why did you run away? Do you want to die, is that it?
are you doing?” I looked out the window at the expanse
Suicidal? If that’s the case, jump. I’ll be right here watching
of the bay and my head with vertigo. It was the first time
you. I’ll be inside you as you go. Or you can come home
I truly felt my body since moving away. It was though
with me for good. We’ll have you see a doctor.”
my numbness had worn off; it was though feeling had
I didn’t think I could feel more panic, but I did. The
image that bore little resemblance to reality. No one
shock wore off and there we were hovering above the
could explain my mother’s motives – her obsession with
city. I cried more.
everything Japanese or her ultimatum on the bridge. As we pulled up to her house, my limbs still shook, but they
“Please, Mom. Let’s get back in the car.” “Good, Lotus. I knew the shock would awaken you.” She looked straight at me, her eyes never straying, her clear blue eyes focusing intently. She held out her hand to me. I looked at her and then back at the car. I thought of my small house in Portland and of the deep isolation I had felt in the months leading up to my move, and then the isolation of living alone. I could end all of this now, in this moment. I took her hand. “Let’s get in the car,” she said. I stumbled inside. Every muscle in my body trembled, including my voice when I said, “If I’m moving back, I need you to call me by my name, Elise. Don’t ever call me ‘Lotus’ again.” My tears continued and my hands shook. When I looked at her, she assumed her meditation pose – perfect posture and expressionless face. Her mouth set in a firm line. While I was careening from “my awakening,” my mother had gone back to Japan. We drove back in silence, both choosing not to speak. My mother held the black pearls, my Sea World souvenir, and squeezed them in her hand. I could hear them hitting each other in her palm, a dull and grinding sound. The lotus flowers had made a clearer note, more pure than the ice at Eagle’s Rock. My eyes strayed from the road to her profile and I remembered my last conversation with my father as he left. He told me that people who collected things, whether books or spoons or silver dollars, ultimately were empty. He apologized for not being enough to fill my mother, explaining that one person, one husband, could not do the job. Neither could her children. My mother needed a country to fill her, a flat, one-dimensional
were strong enough to walk me through the door.
Leila A. Fortier Painting Emotion glassworks 25
I Stand Here In Awe of Your Wings Carol Berg Having fasted for five days I stretch—arms and legs upside-down Vs—a flushed pentangle, momentarily musing about Da Vinci’s model and how tiring the taut hamstrings felt being caressed over and over by his pencil and having drunk only broth the color of wheat stalks pierced by the sharp knife of August’s hungry sun and my breath filling my body like water from a river flowing alongside a winding Vermont road in October when leaves take on the color of blood and burn in my mind’s mouth…. standing here, amidst my child’s strewn confetti of legos (the word logos swirling in my mouth) & dinosaurs the hummingbird comes in awhirl of music and its wings beating a song my fingers itch to strum on some string and the green of its green is vertiginous, shifts and vibrates its green having caught fire and you peer at me through the window, your hover like some perfect form of questioning and we look at each other then you dip to rest at the feeder sipping at the nectar and we are both eating and then flying away.
held within it the accusation that any Japanese, Issei or
Marlon S. Hollis
of America, passing on the dream to Saigo as though it
Nisei, were not American. Yet, Ito believed the promise was a birthright greater than land, title or money.
Things seemed to be getting better. Shimoseki Saigo heard
of very few Japanese being detained on any of the islands. Some things remained traditional. When Ito died, Saigo’s He was glad that he and Akiko were not on the mainland. elder brother received the farm. Saigo and Akiko left for He looked outside at the street. He heard Akiko murmur something and stir under the sheets. A green car drove by, inside was a Nisei family from down the street. The
California. He did not know Akiko well before they were
married, their marriage having been arranged when they were children.
husband wore a white shirt, jacket and tie, while the wife and daughter sported powder blue American dresses. He
Saigo worked hard in Hawaii. Eventually they were able
must be sweating profusely underneath all that, hoping
to afford a two-bedroom house on the big island. He
not to be noticed as Japanese, Saigo thought. Do clothes
even volunteered for the Hawaii Territorial Guard, but
make the man? Could they make a white American out
they turned him down because he had flat feet. Many
of a Japanese one? The wrong clothes made a Japanese
Japanese Americans were in the Hawaii Guard. He
man. Nearly everyone feared wearing traditional Japanese
remembered seeing the young Japanese man, wearing a U.
attire since the attack on Pearl Harbor.
S. Army uniform, and standing in front of the shoe store. Wasn’t he loyal? Hadn’t he proved his loyalty by joining
Akiko muttered something. He was sure it was Japanese. the Guard? Born of his mother’s pain and his father’s Saigo turned his head slightly, and replied loud enough dreams, was Saigo not American? Wasn’t working hard for it to sink into her stubborn head, “English!” Born in California, moving to Hawaii to get a fresh start, Saigo considered himself a loyal American. His father, Shimoseki Ito, never let him forget that he was an American now. He was part of the Nisei, or American born Japanese. His father would never completely rid himself of the ghost of Japan, forever to be Issei, or foreign-born Japanese. The United States was the land of opportunity, democracy and freedom. Saigo believed his father’s dream. He worked hard on his father’s farm in California. Despite the Great Depression they, like many Japanese in California, survived and some did well. Of course, that accomplishment was not appreciated by the neighboring white farmers, who also resented the Japanese farmers buying their land at reduced prices. Their resentment
and obeying the laws enough to earn him the rights of citizenship?
Turning from the window, he looked at Akiko for a moment. Sitting on the side of the bed, she stared at him with wide brown eyes. Neither of them had any answers. He followed her with his eyes as she got up and went into the bathroom. He caught himself studying her petite body, her worn but handsome face, and long black hair flowing down the back of her nightgown. He’d seen her a million times before, since being married. Why did it seem so important now to memorize her every feature? He left the bedroom, and went down the short hallway and entered the kitchen. He sat down at the table and waited. Akiko entered wearing a red and white checkered blouse, and a blue knee-length skirt. She opened the cupboard and took out two bowls, setting one in front of Saigo
and the other at the opposite end. From the silverware
Kwantung Army. He was doing it for them.”
drawer, she grabbed two pairs of chopsticks and set them out on the table. Saigo took his pair. She opened the
“I don’t see the difference,” said Saigo. “And I doubt the
icebox and pulled out a large bowl of cold rice. Setting it
Navy will either. Besides they’re not taking a lot of us to
on the table, she sat down. Saigo stabbed the rice mound
the camp, only the troublemakers…like Yuken.”
with his chopsticks and pushed off a portion into his bowl. As he ate, she repeated the regimen. She took
“There must be an awful lot of troublemakers on the
mainland then,” replied Akiko. “Including Isoroku.”
Pausing, she asked, “Do you think Isoroku is all right?”
“Stop it!” said Saigo, standing. “I don’t want to hear another word!”
“Yes,” said Saigo, matter-of-factly. Akiko lowered her eyes. “I worry about you. I’m worried “What about my parents?” she asked, growing more
that they’ll come and take you away…to Sand Island or
insistent. “And little Susan, she only two years old.”
“They’re fine,” said Saigo. “They’re just trying to weed
Saigo sat down in the chair adjacent to her. “Why do you
out those Japanese who might betray us to Japan. My
think they will come after me?” he asked, more softly.
father raised American sons. Once they realize how loyal
“I’ve done nothing.”
Isoroku is, they’ll let him, and his family return home to California.”
“But you go to meet with the priest,” said Akiko, looking at him. “Togo Ito did nothing more than that, and he’s
“They hate us,” said Akiko, darkly.
“Every one’s a little crazy after the attack, but common
“I see the Buddhist priest for blessing,” said Saigo. “How
sense will prevail.”
can that hurt the country?”
“More people disappeared last week,” said Akiko. “I
“I don’t know. I only know Togo-san and others are
heard that two men in Navy uniforms took poor Yuken
away last week, probably to that place. You know, Sand Island?”
He took her hands in his. Her hands were ice-cold. “Don’t worry. As long as we follow the law, we’ll be fine.
Saigo finished his bowl of rice, and leaned back in his
I’ve never owned a weapon. I make sure we are in before
chair. “Yuken was a troublemaker. I always said he
curfew. I even…registered us.”
would undo himself by donating money to the Japan war relief fund. Imagine giving money to aid Japan in their
“As aliens,” said Akiko. “I was born in San Francisco, but
I’m not an American…at least not anymore.”
“He’s Issei,” said Akiko. “He has family and friends in the
“We’re Nisei,” said Saigo, releasing her hands. “No
different than the Germans born here.”
“Maybe Montana won’t be so bad…or Utah,” said Akiko, thoughtfully.
“How many Germans do you hear of that are in the camps on the mainland, with their property taken away
Saigo smiled. “When we’re there maybe we’ll go to
and suspected of being enemies?” asked Akiko. “You
Washington and ask Roosevelt, ‘Mr. President what were
believe in this dream about America that’s not true for us
you thinking? You should be proud to have us Japanese
any more. I believed it once, but I’ve seen and heard too
in your country. After all we are the best humans beings
much to believe that the whites will accept us as equal.
on the planet. Just ask anyone from China.’”
Hard work doesn’t matter, only that we are not white
Akiko jumped at the sound of a firm knock at the door.
matters to them. Now, because of what Japan did, a place
Saigo’s stomach turned cold. He went to the front door.
I’ve never even seen, I am an enemy of the place I once
He turned slightly to see Akiko a little ways behind him.
He opened the door.
“We are not enemies,” said Saigo. “This is our home. I
A man in a beige navy uniform and another man in slacks,
white shirt and blue tie, holding a black jacket over his arm stared back at Saigo. Two helmeted Marines each
“That doesn’t matter.”
with a sidearm, waited next to a jeep.
“General Emmons won’t put us in camps or send us to
“I’m with the FBI,” said the jacket man. “This is
the mainland,” insisted Saigo. “He can’t afford to do so. Commander Shelby.” We’re safer in Hawaii.” “United States Navy,” added Shelby. “Why do you want me to speak only English, if we’re safe here?” she asked in Japanese.
Saigo again looked back at Akiko. Her eyes were big, her face white. When he turned his head back, the jacket man
Saigo sighed. “So, that we remain safe.”
flashed a badge of some sort in his face.
“What if we’re not?”
“Mr. Shimoseki, we’d like you to come with us,” said the jacket man. “We have a few questions.”
“There’s nowhere else to go,” said Saigo. “We can’t go to Japan. We’re just as much outsiders as any other American
Saigo heard a soft thump behind him. He turned. Akiko
to them. Besides, we’re under martial law we can’t escape. had collapsed. No. If we play by the rules we’ll be all right.” * * * Akiko stood and gathered the bowls, placed them in the sink and returned the less than half full rice bowl to the
Saigo had never been on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base
before. He couldn’t see much in the back of the covered Army truck. He received his first picture of
the devastation of the Japanese attack when the truck
long. We Japanese were too valuable, and there were too
stopped and the two Marine guards sitting on either side
many of us here.
of him helped him down on to a small dock. The guards deposited him next to a group of five Japanese men.
As the boat moved away from the dock, he saw an island in the middle of the harbor, and the smooth gray hull of
“Awright, get ‘em on the boat!” said a Marine corporal
a large capsized ship beside it.
onboard what seemed to Saigo either a large boat or a small ship. He didn’t recognize any of the men standing
Saigo turned towards one of the Marines and asked,
beside him. Six sailors walked by them, casting hateful
“What ship is that?”
looks at them. The Marine guards maintained their steely gaze upon them. Saigo feared that if the sailors had
The Marine didn’t answer right away. His emotionless
decided to express their hatred against them violently,
mask melted, and revealed not anger but sadness. “That’s
the Marines wouldn’t interfere. Saigo didn’t know how
the Oklahoma,” said the Marine.
many of the sailors’ comrades were killed, but at that
“I’m sorry,” said Saigo.
moment, the burden of their loss fell upon him and the other five Japanese men on the dock. Saigo knew this
“What do you have to be sorry about?” asked the
kind of hate intimately. He saw it in California, in the
Marine. Saigo heard the accusatory tone in his voice.
eyes of white farmers resentful of the successes of his
“Just keep your mouth shut. You’ll be talking soon
people as they bought up prized farmland. Though it
was only a small portion of the available good land, it was the fact that a people who weren’t white bought the
* * *
land. Saigo saw little difference here in Pearl Harbor in the glare of those sailors. It was not the Germans or
Sand Island Detention Facility was located in Honolulu the Italians who bombed Pearl Harbor, but the Japanese. Harbor. When the truck carrying Saigo and the five other Japanese bombs sank Anglo-American ships, and that Japanese entered the main gate of the facility, he saw out was intolerable to many whites. Saigo feared for Japan,
in that he understood racism would cause America to give little quarter in their prosecution of the war. Being an American he too deplored the loss of American life, and regretted that the Japanese thought they needed to attack the United States in such an underhanded way. Yet, thinking about the hateful white farmers he also felt a secret satisfaction in seeing whites bested by Asians. As the Marines escorted them aboard the craft, Saigo wondered when he would see Akiko again. What if the government didn’t like his answers and locked him away? He heard of only a few hundred Japanese being kept at Sand Island. He figured Emmons wouldn’t allow him and the other Japanese on Hawaii to be questioned for
the back a guard closing the chain link gate behind them. Glimpses of various buildings under construction came into view. On the bench opposite him, Ishiwara Ryu calmly stared at him. The valiant man seemed resigned to the worst. As they neared the end of their journey, Saigo’s faith in America wavered. He wondered how hard the questioning would be. Would they brand him as a traitor to his country, or was this just a formality, a sentence before the trial? He looked at Ryu. On the boat, Ryu told him that he worked in the Japanese consulate. Ryu was a thin, small man, perhaps in his late
fifties. His black hair was salted with white.
The door opened and a man entered and sat down. The man set a clipboard containing some sort of document
“What did you do there?” asked Saigo in Japanese.
on the table.
Ryu looked at the Marine guards. They looked on, but
“I’m Sergeant Richards,” said the man. Richards barely
appeared disinterested in their conversation. “I teach
glanced at Saigo as he checked off his form. “Can you
Japanese,” said Ryu.
“And that’s a crime?” asked Saigo, glancing at the guard.
Ryu chuckled. “It is now. Besides, I am the enemy now. Without looking up, Richards, said, “Speak up please. Can you speak and understand English?” I’m loyal to the Emperor.” “What about the others?” asked Saigo.
“Yes,” said Saigo.
“I don’t know them very well,” replied Ryu. “But I’ve seen
all of them in the consulate at one time or another. So, what have you done to become our honored companion?”
“I don’t know,” said Saigo. “I’ve never done anything
“Spell that please.”
disloyal to my country.” Saigo spelled his name so fast that Richards asked him to “Your flesh is the mark of your guilt,” said Ryu. “We’re
spell it again.
all Japanese. No matter what you think you are, that’s what you’ll always be.” * * *
“Occupation,” asked Richards. “I’m a farmer.”
Saigo never saw Ryu or the other five Japanese again. “Married?” The interrogation room consisted of basic white walls, no windows, bathed in hot, yellow incandescent lighting. Saigo reluctantly said yes. Had he just betrayed Akiko? The guards seated him at a three foot squared table in He wondered. “She hasn’t done anything.” the middle of the room. There was another chair on the opposite end. A small oscillating fan above the doors
“Her name?” asked Richards.
struggled to provide the only air flow in the room. The blades were off balance, producing a vibration. Like
“Akiko,” said Saigo.
white noise it agitated Saigo so much that he had to clasp his hands together to keep them from shaking.
“Do you have any health problems we should be aware of ?” asked Richards.
and mashed potatoes were his fare. The chicken was
overcooked, however, and tough. At least the chicken “Medical problems,” said Richards. “Anything we should
tasted like chicken. Every last bit of flavor had been
be aware of ?”
leeched from the mashed potatoes.
The door opened and Commander Shelby and the FBI agent who picked him up entered. A Marine guard followed in behind, carrying a chair. He set the chair
adjacent to Saigo and left. Shelby sat down opposite him and the agent sat in the other chair. The FBI agent
plopped a folder on the table. “Do you have any other relatives currently in Hawaii?” An insincere smile waxed across Shelby’s mouth. “I hope “No,” replied Saigo. This line of questioning made
the fried chicken wasn’t too dry for you, Mr. Shimoseki,”
him very uncomfortable, and his no came very slowly. said Shelby. Richards took note of this and glanced up at him. Saigo merely nodded. “What about on the mainland?” asked Richards. “I’m Special Agent Lerner,” said the FBI Agent, opening the folder. “Can you tell us the whereabouts of Tanaka
Saigo replied, “No.”
Kusumoto on the evening of December 6, 1941?”
Richards continued to scrawl, flipping through pages of forms on his clipboard. Saigo couldn’t take this any longer. “What did I do?” he
“I don’t know,” said Saigo, perplexed. “I ask him for blessing on my crops. I don’t know.”
asked. “Why won’t you tell me?”
“When you went to him for…blessing, did you see
Richards stopped writing and coldly scrutinized him. He
stood up, clipboard in hand, and rapped the door once. A
anything?” asked Agent Lerner. “Like a radio, pictures or
guard opened it and Richards was gone.
“Yes, radio!” said Saigo. “He likes Benny Goodman.”
Saigo felt optimistic. “That was it?” he thought. “That
Shelby gave Agent Lerner a bemused grin.
wasn’t so bad. Maybe it was all a mistake. He could be home with Akiko before nightfall!” * * * Evening apparently had arrived, as Saigo had been served two meals since his arrival. For dinner, chicken
“I mean a radio transmitter,” said Agent Lerner. Saigo shook his head. “No.” “Any cameras?” asked Special Agent Lerner.
Again Saigo shook his head.
Saigo read, “Statement of United States Citizenship of Japanese Ancestry.”
“I told Agent Lerner that your record indicates that you’re loyal,” said Shelby.
“What is this?” asked Saigo.
“Are you aware that Tanaka Kusumoto was found dead
“Just a few questions, nothing to worry about,” said
at 12 midnight of December 7, 1941, hours before the
attack?” asked Agent Lerner. “He had two bullet holes, one in the back of the head the other in his back.”
“Can I go home then?” asked Saigo.
“Can you tell us anything about this, Mr. Shimoseki?”
“Let’s take this one step at a time, shall we,” said Shelby.
“Fill it out and we’ll be back.”
“Was he an agent for the Imperial Government of Japan?”
Shelby and Agent Lerner left the room. Saigo stared at
asked Agent Lerner. “Was he murdered because of what
the form for a moment, and then slowly began to fill it
he knew about Japanese intelligence efforts in Hawaii?”
out. Two hours later Commander Shelby and Lerner returned.
“I don’t know,” said Saigo. “Okay, Mr. Shimoseki, thank you,” said Lerner, placing “You don’t seem to know a whole lot, do you?” asked
the form inside the folder. “Would you like something to
Agent Lerner, derisively. “Did you kill Tanaka?”
drink, water, perhaps?”
“Why did you lie about your brother and his family on the
Lerner got up and knocked on the door. The guard
mainland?” asked Agent Lerner.
opened it. “Would you get Mr. Shimoseki a glass of water, please?”
“I…” “Can I go home now?” asked Saigo. “I said yes on the “That’s enough, Agent Lerner,” said Shelby. “Clearly
paper. I swore allegiance to the United States.”
there are some issues to be resolved, but I think Mr. Shimoseki just wants to do the right thing.”
Commander Shelby leaned back in chair, and placed his hands behind his head. His face was emotionless. “Was
Shelby leaned forward and reached for the folder on the
Tanaka an agent for the Imperial Government of Japan?
table. After turning over three pages, he placed a form in
Was he murdered because of what he knew about Japanese
front of Saigo. “If you will just fill this out, I think that
intelligence efforts in Hawaii? Did you kill him?”
we can move forward by convincing people that you just want to do the right thing.”
Saigo, his throat parched, couldn’t swallow. “No.”
The guard returned with a glass of water. Lerner took it
about it,” said Commander Shelby. Staring with intense
from him and set it down on the table.
hostility at Saigo, he said, “How about it, Jap, think a night’s peace and quiet here will help your cooperation?”
“No to which question?” demanded Commander Shelby. Lerner dropped his cigarette on the floor and tapped his “Take it easy, he filled out the questionnaire,” said Lerner. foot on it to put it out. He took the glass of water and “He’s a loyal American. I’m sure he just wants to do the swigged the whole thing down. Closing the folder, he right thing.”
stood. “We’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Shimoseki,” he said and off they both flew through the door.
“I don’t know what you want,” said Saigo. “I don’t know anything.”
It’s all a dream, a horrible nightmare, thought Saigo. Poor Tanaka. Why would anyone want to kill such a kind, old
“Mr. Shimoseki, I want to help you, but you have to give
man? Why would they think that he had anything to do
me something in return. Give me anything, a map, a piece
with it? Come to think of it where was his lawyer? He
of odd equipment, a diary,” said Lerner.
tried to swallow but his mouth was still dry. He looked at the empty glass on the table. Should he knock and
“Maybe the woman saw something,” said Commander
ask the guard for another glass? Were they going to take
him to a place to sleep? His belief in the decency of his native land, wavered and for the first time, he wondered
Lerner opened the folder on the table a perused a few
whether he would leave alive. He shivered. What would
talk to her?”
relocation centers. Maybe he should tell them whatever
Saigo’s eyes widened. “She knows nothing.”
course confessing to having anything to do with a murder
pages. “Ak-e-ko? Was that her at your house? She’s pretty. happen to Akiko? They didn’t have relatives in Hawaii Do you think she might be able to tell us something if we to take care of her, and those on the mainland were in
“Are you sure?” asked Commander Shelby.After a long, arduous pause, during which Saigo stared thirstily at the glass of water on the table; Lerner took out a pack of cigarettes. Offering the pack to Saigo, he asked, “Lucky Strike?” Saigo shook his head. Lerner took one from the pack and lit it. After a long draw, he said, “Well, Mr. Shimoseki, your memory doesn’t seem to be working at all today.” “Maybe we should give him some more time to think
they like, a lie, so maybe they would let him go home. Of probably wasn’t the shortest route home. A wonderful idea struck him. It was a murder case, he told himself. It has nothing to do with being Japanese. After all General Emmons said that the Japanese on Hawaii weren’t going to be put in camps. A few hours passed, or so it seemed, and the lights went out. Saigo felt his way to one of the corners of the room and lay on the floor. * * * Saigo shielded his eyes from the hot incandescent lighting. His head ached. The morning or at least he thought it was morning, came not too soon. Not that he slept much during the night. He couldn’t stop thinking about Akiko. What would happen to her if he died or was sent to the
The guard opened the door and Commander Shelby
Commander Shelby stared at him, perhaps startled by
entered, his face not kind, but appearing slightly less
Saigo’s vehemence. He must be a married man, thought
hostile. He sat down at the table.
Saigo. Commander Shelby put his cigarette out on the table.
“Mr. Shimoseki, if you don’t mind getting up off the floor,” he said. Observing Saigo as he complied, he took
“She can accompany you,” said Shelby, simply.
out a pack of cigarettes from his pants pocket. After lighting up he placed the pack on the table. Indicating the
“No,” said Saigo.
chair at the opposite end, he said, “Please, sit.” “She’s already agreed,” said Shelby. “Didn’t anyone tell Saigo sat down, staring warily at him.
you? She’s here already.”
“Smoke?” asked Commander Shelby. Saigo shook his
Rage grew in his heart at his own impotence. “I want to
head. “Have they fed you?” Saigo straightened, trying
see her,” said Saigo.
to recover his dignity. “We’ll get you some breakfast, in a minute. First I have some good news.”
Commander Shelby stood. “Sure. Off the record, I really thought you did kill him. I thought you were a
Saigo looked at him intently.
spy.” He opened the door, revealing Akiko standing in the doorway. “You have five minutes. Someone will take
Commander Shelby seemed to be enjoying himself,
you to the mess hall. You both have a plane to catch.”
puffing clouds of smoke. “The local cops found out who murdered Tanaka Kusumoto. Turns out it was a bunch
As Commander Shelby exited, Akiko rushed towards
of white men. He apparently came across them raping a
Saigo, fear, mixed with concern for him in her eyes. They
Jap girl that night, and they killed him.”
held each other. For that brief moment he could imagine they were home, she was safe, and the nightmare was over.
Why was he pretending to be nice? Thought Saigo. “When can I home?” asked Saigo.
“Saigo?” said Akiko, tentatively.
“Well, you see, that still doesn’t do anything for the
“I don’t want you here,” said Saigo.
investigation of his connections to Japan, and your connection to him,” said Commander Shelby. “I’m afraid
“The bank foreclosed on our farm, everything is gone,”
we’ll have to recommend that you be relocated to the
said Akiko, starting to cry.
mainland.” “You can’t go with me,” he reiterated. Of course he Suddenly, all his fears for Akiko opened upon his mind
heard her statement, but he couldn’t bring himself to
like a thunderstorm. “No, please, don’t take me from
acknowledge it, as if doing so would make it true. “It
my wife!” said Saigo. Then, he added, “What about my
might not be safe.”
“What does it matter, as long as we are together,” said Akiko. With a risen fierceness, she added, “We go together.” Saigo held her tightly, and cried. “Why is this happening to me? I would never do anything to hurt America. I love my country.” “Even now?” asked Akiko. “It’s my home,” said Saigo. Akiko, crying herself, kissed his teary face. “Foolish man.” The guard opened the door. “Time’s up. Let’s go.” * * * Saigo followed Akiko across the gangplank. They joined 40 other Japanese standing on deck. Three Marines with carbines herded them below. Inside it was stifling. Saigo decided not to loosen his tie. He remembered the man he saw driving his family in the green car, thinking he must be very hot underneath his suit. The clothes didn’t make a man, he thought, nor did the most perfect English, only the color of his skin mattered. I’m still an American, he said to himself. A Navy man in a beige uniform directed him and Akiko into a cabin and closed the door. He squeezed her hand then went to have a look out the porthole, his last look at Hawaii. He told it bitterly, “Thanks for the new start”.
Leila A. Fortier Tonic Blue glassworks 37
The Firefly Lisa Shannon I remember the flicker of the firefly as it dimmed inside the jar its wings flapping, body bumping into glass in fits of trying to break free how I held the jar in my hands trying to wrap my fingers around trying to get a firm grasp on the life before me so small – my hands and the creature – and yet so capable of living and dying and trying to understand the two I sat cross-legged in the yard folding ankle over knee turning the jar round and round as if to confuse my firefly friend a child’s version of the executioner’s blindfold, masking the eyes making it difficult for the damned to catch a flash before the final flicker, flicker, spark, and then the dark, the dark, the dark
Death of a Stranger Gary Beck A body fell upon a city street. A thousand brothers saw it die. They watched in incredulous awe in the shadows of gravestone buildings and feasted their eyes while maggots crept the streets. Then they walked away, unmournful.
into us, and the semi-circle, in reflex, took a collective
Toni M. Todd
downward toward a small bundle, cradled in his thick
The day began warm and green, a faint, three-quarter moon hanging still and white against the morning blue. The newsroom was quiet but for the faint tic ticking of fingertips on keyboards. It was still early when the police scanner crackled to life. What better way to get a jump on chasing those ambulances, says Keith, our editor. This particular squeal caught our attention; a possible 187. Homicide. We’d never heard of one in Richardson Park. The numbers hung in the stuffy newsroom, not unlike the stink of Keith’s daily liverwurst. Three sheriff ’s vehicles had been dispatched to the Piñon National Forest campground, eleven miles east of town. I slammed down a final, tepid gulp of coffee and banged down the mug. “I’m on it,” I said, grabbed up my camera and pad, jammed a pen behind my ear and sped to catch up to the sirens. When I arrived at the campground, three squad cars were parked in haphazard fashion, their doors open. A cacophony of dings warned that keys still dangled from ignitions. I closed each one with a gentle click. Joe Franklin, the county coroner, was there somewhere. His car was an easy mark, the long, black hearse, so shiny you could comb your hair and check your teeth in the reflection, its chrome accents glinting in the sun. I left my battered, green Subaru in the mix to trot 50 yards to the campsite, a scattering of tent pads and RV hookups. Campers mingled with officers in a tight, semicircle around the outhouse. Nobody spoke. A dagger of silence pierced the natural chatter of the forest. Pine needles muffled human fidgets and footfalls. Birds respected a self-imposed no-fly-zone over the solemn scene. We stared at the small, rustic structure. The door to the latrine squeaked open. A stench slammed
step back. Sheriff Brad emerged, his face focused arms. A streamer of toilet paper fluttered outward from his elbow as he walked. He sang, “Hush, little baby, don’t you cry…” His stride was measured, slow. Once he was past, two officers snapped to, and rushed to the privy. The pair of them strained to hoist Joe from the shit hole. Within hours, the story took shape. A woman had given birth into the pit. The baby was dead, it’s umbilical chord still attached. “The weight of a baby falling would not be enough to sever it,” Joe said. “Someone had to have cut it. They’re tough, like cable wire.” Autopsy results would reveal whether or not the infant was still-born or alive when she landed in the fecal muck. She. A girl. “They peeled outa here,” the campground host said of a young couple that had fled the scene not half an hour before a twelve-year-old boy reported seeing something “weird” down the hole. Kids always look down the hole. The couple, driving a sagging, rusted-out LTD, was apprehended along highway 72, not 30 miles from town. A generous supply of crystal methamphetamine was found in the glove box. Tulare Grayson. Francine DeWithers. * * * The day before, I had interviewed the sheriff for a feature I was contemplating for The Watch. I’d grown bored with the usual, dry goings on of the school board, the humdrum of the planning commission, making something out of nothing in features about the new exchange student in town from Bulgaria or the retired high school janitor octogenarian. So I’d conjured the notion of an in-depth piece to outline the changing socioeconomic make up of our town, and the patterns of crime associated with that. It sounded smart and lofty, so Keith was all over it.
Sheriff Brad had become a friend, a relationship that had
out, right? Or is there never such a thing as off the record
grown symbiotic over the years, him feeding me stand-out
quotes for stories, and me showcasing his department in the most positive light possible while still posturing The
“That is the job, Sheriff, to write everything down.”
Watch as objective. Brad ran a squeaky clean operation, so this wasn’t a breach of my professional standards.
“Ah, but not everything’s news, is it?”
Brad sat that morning in his too-small chair, facing me
“It is if the Sheriff says it,” I said. Brad grinned and bent
across the vast expanse of grey metal, empty but for the
to pet Roofus.
giant day-planner lying flat and a graduation photo of his son Matt. Matt was married now, living in Denver.
“What about Will Markham?” I asked, harkening back to
The photo of his wife Sharon was gone, three years now,
my original question. “A meth lab in his kitchen, a stash
replaced by a framed portrait of the new love of Brad’s
of stolen electronics ripped off from every house on the
life, Roofus. The retriever was there too, in the fur, curled
on a cushy, circular, monogrammed bed, next to Brad’s desk. For several months after my own marriage fell apart,
Will’s five-year-old son had been playing with toxic legos
a year after Sharon’s departure, Brad brought Roofus to
on the poison carpet when deputies burst in. It had been
visit me regularly at The Watch. We’d stroll over to The
the worst thing to ever to happen in Richardson Park.
Java Hut for coffee, and he’d asked if I could walk the dog that afternoon, insisting he was swamped.
“He lived two doors down from you. He went to school with Matt.”
Brad’s chair wailed a desperate cry for WD-40 under the man’s girth. Not that Sheriff Brad was a fat man. He
“It is unsettling when we know them, yes,” he said. “Anyone
was substantial, square. Gun holstered at his side, he sat,
can turn if their circumstances become desperate. I’m not
broad hands flat on redwood thighs, square head with
saying that excuses the behavior. I feel satisfied to have
a square jaw atop a square physique. Even his hair was
gotten that little boy to safety, and his father into some
square. Cop hair. If you didn’t know him and saw this
new, state-sponsored lodging.” His hands rested flat on
man at the market pulling down a can of chicken noodle,
the desk. “We’re just like anyplace else, Stacy. Richardson
wearing bermuda shorts with a panama hat, you’d say, “I
Park has all the same troubles as the big city.”
bet that guy’s a cop. I craved to quibble. Sure, Richardson Park had its “Does it ever get to you?” I asked.
problems, but it still bore a closer resemblance to Mayberry than Chicago.
“No,” he said. “You may not fully comprehend this * * *
Stacy, but I can relate to the criminal mind. Most good police officers can. The truth is, if we weren’t in law enforcement, many of us would be criminals.”
I looked at the mug shots. I went to the jail. Had I seen Francine at the market? Was Tulare a regular at the
He watched as my pen wiggled across the pad. “Do you
hardware store? He had claimed he didn’t know she was
have to write everything down? You’ll leave that last bit
grass dewy and soft underfoot, headstones blinding white “Look at her, man,” he said.
in the sun, two dozen townspeople, several deputies and sheriff Brad himself gathered at a small, temporary
“He’d leave me if he knew,” she’d said, a strand of black
marker at the cemetery.
hair hanging down the middle of her face, plump fingers playing her own thick thighs like a keyboard.
Brad delivered the graveside eulogy. “Princess, you were never held in the arms of loving parents, never heard a
“Dump me like the trash.”
lullaby, never enjoyed a breath of fresh, clean air. A tiny girl, new to this world, who never got a chance to lose her
Francine was 23 years old, no child by anyone’s definition.
front teeth or get her ears pierced or go to the prom.” His
She hid the pregnancy from everyone with the same big
voice cracked. Brad began to sob, great shoulders rising
shirts she always wore. Nobody suspected, she was sure.
and falling in waves of grief. We all stood, still as the headstones. One by one, they moved toward him. Pricilla
“He would take my fucking crank away. Not that I need
Macintosh, the elementary school principal, took his
it, but Jesus Christ, I’m starving. Can you get me some
hand. Deputies approached to pat his back, squeeze an
arm, hang their heads and walk away. Brad’s head bowed, dress hat flat on his head, eyes clenched shut, his uniform
They sat separate and alone in their respective cells
crisp, the badge polished and shiny. I pointed the camera
for a week at the Richardson Park jail. They were then
and clicked. He raised his face to the sun, heaved a great
transported to a larger, high security facility to await trial.
sigh and opened his eyes. “Thanks so much for coming
On that day, it felt like a caustic cloud had been lifted
today,” he said, then turned and walked to his car.
from our town. * * * Francine had attended Richardson Park Elementary. She’d left town at 13, but had returned with Tulare last
Most people didn’t notice the changes over the next few
winter. She had worked for a few weeks at the hay cubing
weeks, but in time, stories of Brad’s bizarre behavior
plant, but nobody there remembered her. Tulare was
from Oklahoma City. He’d held odd jobs around town as a day laborer, mostly cleanup on construction sites. He
“He’s like, errrrrrch right in the middle of the street,”
hadn’t made any friends, either. They’d lived at the hostel
said Tiffany, our ad-proof delivery girl. She had burst in
at first, then the Glennarm Apartments and, with the start
through the door of the newsroom.
of summer, moved to the forest, changing campgrounds every two weeks. They had stood with us in the grocery
“The lights are flashing, and everybody’s like, staring. He
aisle, picked up general delivery at the post office, waived
flings open the door. Booinggg! Like that. He flies out of
us through at the four way stop, sold meth to our kids.
the car and stomps toward me and I mean, it was totally
They were our neighbors, drug dealers and murderers.
Members of several local churches organized a funeral
She was a modern-day Olive Oyl conducting the
for the infant, whose name was recorded in the county
symphony. Her skinny arms flailed. Her lip ring wiggled.
records as Jane Doe. Early one brilliant Tuesday morning,
“He goes, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ and grabs me by
“It’s proactive police work,” he told me once. “Be a friend.
the shoulders and shakes. And I’m like, ‘what the fuck’s
Earn their respect. Let them know you’re a human being.”
wrong with you? Sorry, I mean, I shouldn’t swear but I’m
A human being who never drinks anything stronger than
thinking like, what’s wrong with you? But I don’t say that
a draft sarsaparilla. He would choose a group, pull up
‘cause I’m like, ready to pee my pants. So he yanks my
a chair, smile, listen and nod. Then Brad would excuse
arm, and it hurts, and he drags me over to the sidewalk.
himself, rise and make his rounds, a frosty mug clutched
I can’t believe he got all up in my face like that.” Tears
in his mitt. He’d stop at each table to remind patrons
streamed along her peachy cheeks.
they should designate a sober driver, walk home, or call Tony’s Taxi for a free Friday night ride, courtesy of the
“It’s nothing against you, Tiff,” I said, reaching high to
Richardson Park Sheriff ’s Department.
give her a hug. “I’m sure he was just concerned for your safety. You shouldn’t jaywalk, you know.”
“It’s a program I started, you know, Stacy. DUI’s are down 60 percent over the past five years.”
Keith shook his head. “Don’t give the man any ammunition to shoot you,” he said. “Crosswalk, young lady.” He raised
The Clap, as it was known, was plain wrapped, with dingy
his bushy editor eyebrows as he returned to the page in
windows, chipped formica tables and folding metal chairs,
front of him, and I could see he wasn’t reading at all, but
torn naugahyde stools along the graffiti-scratched bar.
wondering, like I was, like Tiffany was; what was wrong?
The floor was always sticky. Austere and dim, it’s primary
Two months passed. Richardson Park was quiet but for
light source was an old Hamm’s sign, from the land of
the usual petty thefts, domestic disputes and random
sky blue waters, complete with a neon, flowing waterfall.
vandalism. We had all but forgotten about the baby in the outhouse when the verdict came. It was a Tuesday.
Ferris Jacobson was a regular at The Clap. Mid-thirties and coiffed, he was a successful construction contractor
Francine’s lawyer had pled the charge down to negligent
with cash to burn. There was always a girl on his arm,
homicide. She was sentenced to two years incarceration,
sometimes blonde, sometimes brunette, often new to
with credit for time served. Ten years probation.
town and therefore new to the ways of Ferris. Ferris was
Mandatory drug counseling. Letters poured into the
a paradox, an abrasive cad, yet one who made frequent
paper condemning the leniency of the sentence.
and generous contributions to local charities. Crass and ridiculous, he was impossible to hate.
That Friday, my colleagues and I from The Watch did what we always do after a week of covering the news
The town had been abuzz all week with talk of the
in Richardson Park. We drank, ate fried foods that we
sentencing, that abhorrent incident reborn in the news.
convinced ourselves were vegetables and discussed the week’s events. The four of us, Keith, Joey our sports writer,
“Disappointed,” Brad had said, with no thoughtful squint,
Nancy the Associate Editor and Stewie, who handles all
no ponderous upward gaze, no pointed gesture. I’d met
our advertising plus phones and coffee, meandered the
him in the hallway at the station that morning.
two blocks from our office to The Clapboard Tavern. “That’s it?” Sheriff Brad was known to stop in most Fridays, so his appearance that night was not unusual.
He turned, walked back to his office and closed the door.
Faster than a rattler’s strike, Brad grabs the back of Ferris’ * * *
hair and slams his face down onto the table. Blood gushes from Ferris’ nose and split lip to mix with spilled beer.
Back at the Clap, here’s the scene: Sheriff Brad sits tucked into a gaggle of flannel shirts, steel toed boots, cowboy
“You’d better call the cops,” Brad says and, places his mug
and baseball caps, a crisp white shirt and a skirt or two,
on the table next to Ferris’ head and strode out of the bar.
stubble and beer foam mustaches, nail bangers, tradesmen,
I grab my notepad.
accountants, a bread truck driver, copier repair guy. * * * Ferris is parked at an adjacent table. His voice rises above the natural clatter and rumble of the place. My news-
Even with a broken nose and two stitches in his lower
wonk compatriots and I sit at a small booth in the corner.
lip, Ferris refused to press charges, so long as Sheriff Brad apologized and paid for a new shirt. The shirt was
We produce no paper on Saturday, and most of what will
delivered a few days later with a note. I’m not sorry.
go into the ad-fat edition on Sunday is already in, with the exception of any big, breaking news that might occur
Anyone can turn if their circumstances become desperate
over the weekend. The place is jammed. Ferris, in his own
enough, Stacy. Messages to Brad’s home phone and office
special response to the news of Francine’s sentencing,
went unanswered over the weekend. As an eyewitness, I
launches into a vociferous litany of dead baby jokes. How
was compelled to write the story. Keith ran it on the front
do you make a dead baby float? A quart of ice cream and
page Sunday morning. The following Monday, he called
two scoops of dead baby.
Brad stands, his chair stuttering across the pitted linoleum.
“It’s about time,” I said. “Where are you?”
The room is hushed but for Ferris and his clueless posse, Ferris enamored with the sound of his own voice, the bunch of them blathering and laughing on, too loud to notice the hush that’s developed around them. Men and women at the bar twist to see what’s up. Those at tables like ours fall silent, mouths agape, waiting. Brad approaches Ferris with the calm presence of a priest, placing his hand on the man’s shoulder, as if blessing a child. The laughter thins. “Ah Sheriff, no offense. It’s just a joke. All in good fun, right?” “Yeah, he don’t mean nothin’ by it, Sheriff,” says another guy. Brad smiles down at Ferris. Everybody smiles. Nervous, relieved glances pass around the table and throughout the bar. One man stifles a snicker. Then, bam!
“I’ve decided to take some time off. If you have any questions or need comments, see Elaine. She’ll be filling in as undersheriff. Nice story, Stacy. You might have given me some slack on the apology.” “I do my job. Where are you going? “I can’t say,” he said. “Would you mind taking care of Roofus while I’m away? I left a key in the flower pot on the porch.” “Sure,” I said. Brad’s house sat empty. A standing floor lamp still glows in the corner of the living room. You can see it through
the drapes of the front window behind the broad front
That morning, small brown-wrapped packages of cash,
porch. I brought Roofus to my place that night, but left
presumed to have been taken from the house, had been
the light on at Brad’s.
left on the doorsteps of every neighbor within a two block radius. Residents reported seeing an unfamiliar man
Two months passed. It was a wintery Tuesday, misty and
running from porches just before dawn. He was described
bleak. The phone rang at my desk.
as a large, white man. “It was still pretty dark out,” said one witness, “but he looked like a cop.”
“How’s my dog, Stacy?” Two weeks later, the Associated Press wire reported a “Fine. How are you?” I could hear traffic in the
home invasion in Carmel, California. A Salvadore Dali
background, cars, horns, people, the hydraulic gasp of a
lithograph had been stolen, straight off the wall, along
with several Rolex watches and a dozen Armani suits. The owner of the house had been indicted for fraud, accused
“It’s hard to say,” he said.
of bilking unsuspecting seniors of millions, but his highprofile lawyer had gotten him an acquittal on a procedural
“When will you be back?”
technicality. The homeowner had been away on his yacht
“Thanks for watching my boy, huh?”
only witness, found padlocked, but unharmed, inside the
The sudden click made me jump. * * * Spring had begun to nudge winter away. Nobody had seen or heard from Sheriff Brad Tensel, but rumors flourished. He’d left the country and moved to Bolivia or Argentina. He’d gone north, holed up in some cabin deep in the woods of Northern Canada. He had committed himself to a mental hospital in California. I’d just finished a long walk with Roofus, sunk into my favorite chair and flipped on the news, poised to savor a microwave tray of Swanson’s. “It’s a twisted, Robin Hood’s tale,” said the reporter. Someone had broken into a suspected drug house in Denver, shot up the place, stole money and guns, then left the dealers in a heap of carnage, bodies draped and bleeding over the busted bales of heroin and cocaine.
when the robbery occurred. The housekeeper was the pool house. “He was a real gentleman,” she said. “He gave me snacks and water and said someone would be along soon to let me go.” A week later, a follow-up story told of the swindlers’ victims receiving envelopes with no return address, stuffed with cash. So did the housekeeper. Days after the Denver incident, I received a postcard with no note, only a signature; Yours, Jimmy Boyle. It was postmarked from the Mile High City, a photo of the Rocky Mountains, pink with dusky light, the city spread and twinkling in the foreground. I slipped it under my desk calendar. A few weeks later, another postcard arrived. All the best, Harry Callahan. This one bore a lovely photo of a Big Sur sunset. A third, lady liberty as its subject, arrived from New York; Your pals, Frank Serpico and Travis Bickle. It was nearly summer again, almost a year since the funeral of Princess Doe. Elaine had been elected sheriff. It was a Tuesday when we received word over the wire. Tulare had
again been arrested, this time in Tucson for distribution
“You win,” I said, stood and grabbed his leash. “Let’s go
of a controlled substance near a school. When I checked
to see where he was being held, I learned of his release on bail, a hefty bond posted by Francine. I hammered out
* * *
the basics for our Wednesday morning edition. Days later, the LTD was discovered abandoned at the “Thanks for the heads up, Stacy.” It was a familiar voice
sewage treatment plant just outside Casa Grande, Arizona.
on my machine, there when I returned to the office from
Francine and Tulare were found, too, their bodies bloated
lunch the next afternoon. “You were always great about
and floating in the sludge, faces crispy in the desert sun.
following up. The consummate professional. Hey, the
The swirling slurry bumped them, over and over, against
reason I called is to tell you that Roofus has a tendency
the intake pipes that lead to the filters.
toward clogged anal glands. You probably know that by now, him being a scooter and all. He likes when you rub his tummy with your toes. I miss that goofy mutt. I miss you, too. Anyway, have a nice life.”Roofus was my only companion in the newsroom that evening. I pulled out the post cards and re-read each one, holding them under the desk light, staring at the images, flipping them to follow the flow of the handwriting. It would be a sensational story. I began to type. A recent string of unsolved, vigilante… The dog stood, his tail thumping against the metal side of the desk. My fingers paused. “I do my job, Roofus.” He rested a soft paw on my knee and stared with pleading brown eyes. “I should at least call Eileen.” I placed a hand on the phone. Roofus whimpered and rested his chin on my thigh. I shut down the computer without saving. Picking up the cards one by one, I tore each one to small bits and buried the confetti in the bottom of my trash can.
Scene of the Accident Jeffrey Haynes We met as late-night drivers, drunk-bodied and slurring, heavy vowels tangling from our tongues as we lingered through the lines, headlights hiding on the horizon. We collided under a blanket of black stars, soft skin sketched in skidmarks of brake grease and rubbered burns; the crumpled face of a motor block grizzled with safety glass, belt fan trilling in tune to the greysongs of grasshoppers. If we had been lovers, the sky would have been lit by something other than the lamplight of a paramedicâ€™s siren; under different circumstances would we have swapped blood. Our lungs emptied slow and you felt in your flesh the cause and effect of connection: how you should always count yourself lucky. Lucky to know you once wished for the warmth of hands held in the melt
of your thighs; the taste of your breasts matted against a manâ€™s mouth; how heaven was held in the cross, holiness, in the crux of your hips. And how the curves of the road could remind you of yourself.
Halley’s Comment Richard Luftig Lets start with the name. It’s Hal as in Gal not Hail as in Jail, and if I’d known all the problems I’d have named it Barney or Dino, anything but after me. But I digress. The worst, I guess, is when I told of the tail, you know, those harmless streams of dust and gas that wouldn’t hurt a fly (if a fly could survive the vacuum of space) but which make you all nuts, predicting the Second Coming, the End of the World, a pennant for the Chicago Cubs. The whole stupid business has you spooked like a sun gone dark, or a second moon poking over New Zealand, has you praying with a gravity greater than yourselves. Just don’t blame me for this brief punctuation in space, this comma that causes you to pause or reflect upon any old infinity you choose. I offer to you a universe of reasons why I cede my claim, take back my name and wash my cosmic hands of the whole business, stressing in no uncertain terms that it’s yours to call what you will.
But please hurry, time as Einstein claimed may be relative but its always of the essence. After all, seventy-six years will be here faster than you think.
Abandoned Drive In Richard Luftig At sixteen, we would wait all day for darkness then drive to the edge of town, park and watch for the flickers on the screen, listen to the pop and crackles through the speakers hanging from the windows, and watch the ads for soda, candy, coming attractions. Later, weâ€™d slump down in the seats with only the blue glow of the dashboard, the red tips of forbidden cigarettes for illumination, the windshield fogging to hide windfall kisses, thinking weâ€™d live forever, taking our chances on the sweet dangers of happy endings.
a train driver – and a department head at Wake Forest
and all. Lucky bastard. He told me I could stay with him
Six beers, two shots of bourbon, a boilermaker, and I’m not even 18. Tonight I’m at the bar, watching, learning. This place is the only one in town that touts itself as a real Irish pub, but I don’t see anyone drinking Guinness; only diluted light beer. Laurence and Nathan are arguing about who has the better watch. Laurence has a Rolex – a gift from his parents on his 18th birthday. I hear him say that he was ready to move up to the best, which elicits a predictable response from Nathan, who’s wearing a Tag-Heuer. “It might not have the reputation of a Rolex, but look at the aesthetics,” he says. The bartender takes a look, lifts his eyebrows and nods. I’m down on the end of the bar, sipping my beer when Nathan turns and hits me up about my timepiece. “It’s a Timex,” I tell him. “An Ironman.” Without saying anything, Nathan nods his head. Laurence and the bartender turn away and for a moment, my Timex is hanging in the balance. “I do a lot of running,” I say. I left home two hours ago and I’m wondering how long it’ll be before I go back, if I go back at all. Got into it with my step-dad tonight. He yelled and cussed me like always. Said the school called him again. Told him I cut class. Mom hasn’t found out just yet. She works a second job now, nights at the hospital, ever since the Cherokee was repossessed last month. She’s the lucky one though. Doesn’t have to sit around the house with Leroy. My rich friend Laurence, the one I cut class with, picked me up this evening in his new Mustang. He’s got his own car. His dad’s some kind of engineer – a scientist, not
University here in Durham, North Carolina. Big house tonight and I’m taking him up on it. My parents don’t know this just yet. Leroy’ll be mad as hell when he finds out. But I’m leaving home, sure as hell. No way I’m going back to that house tonight. I’ve still got bruises from the last time I skipped. Now Laurence is talking with the bartender about the academy he attended up north, a place called Deerfield. It sounds like a place with old buildings, ones with ivy growing all over the walls, where the students wear sport coats and slacks to class. Laurence would certainly fit in. He never wears jeans. The bartender, a guy with a blonde ponytail, whose name I imagine to be Sven, has heard of the academy. Maybe he went to one just like it. Maybe he drinks Chablis at lunch and wears a sleeping cap to bed at night. He sure stands out in this bar, black turtleneck and all. I wonder if he likes sushi. “Mom’s from Massachusetts,” says Laurence. “We just moved here last month.” His voice, loud and boisterous as it is, is such that it makes him sound confident. Confident, maybe, that the credit cards in his wallet, which really belong to his parents, carry a higher spending limit than those of anyone else in the bar. They probably do. The bar is filled with college students, sipping diluted beer and raving, I’m sure, about the things their parent’s money has allowed them to have, places it’s allowed them to go. “What do your parents do?” asks Sven. As he wipes the varnished bar, I notice the sleazy gold bracelet jingling on his wrist. “Dad’s an engineering professor,” says Laurence.
This response lands us a free shot. Lucky me.
Laurence’s Mustang. Laurence (actually, his father) has given good ol’ Sven a generous tip so that he’ll be able to
Nathan, who is right there with Laurence as far as money
drink here again, unquestioned about his age. The green
is concerned, is sipping Bud Light and listening. He laughs
thread fixes everything.
at Laurence’s comments, nods his head understandingly. Nathan doesn’t have to imagine, wonder or pretend. His
Though I am taller than Nathan, I am somehow relegated
parents, one a lawyer, the other a state senator, bought
to the back seat. Maybe I relegate myself; I’m not really
him a Bronco. He’s got it made. He’s never had to watch
sure. Somehow, the back seat just seems the right place
two unshaven fat men drive off in a new car his parents
couldn’t pay for. These things do not exist for him. Like Laurence, he lives in an insular world where loose ends
It has started to snow. The streets are turning white as
are mended with the thread of green bills, or plastic,
the small flakes fall in and muster, invading our world like
which proclaims the availability of many such green bills.
a strange, alien army. Laurence and Nathan are laughing between themselves, the last beer having put them into
But tonight, none of this matters because we’re drinking
their groove. The Mustang, which is all engine, grumbles
and everything is all right.
as we drive down the street, begging to be driven hard.
The bartender, who wears wire hoop earrings in both
We pull up to a deserted four-way stop, the snow falling
ears, asks if we’d like another round before closing.
harder now, flakes as big as fifty-cent pieces in the headlights. Except for the tracks of a few cars before us,
My head is warm and spinning inside, subconsciously
the road is all white. Laurence pops the clutch and the
moving to the rhythm of the REM song blaring from the
Mustang, true to its name, rears and spins like an enraged
speakers. Irish pub, my ass.
I feel like I could fall from the barstool at any moment,
We’re spinning in the intersection, doing doughnuts,
down onto the tiled floor, revealing my lack of money,
tachometer about to explode. For some reason I think
exposing my young age, blowing my cover. I could really
of my brother, David, who’s gone off to the service. He
care less about another round, but since Laurence says
gave me some advice once. Said to keep a low profile,
that his dad is paying for it, I take the bottle placed before
that it’ll keep me out of trouble. Well, right now our
me and drink.
profile is about as low as King Kong’s nose. I wonder if David was speaking from experience.
Until I’m pretty damned drunk. Left home and I’m not coming back, I think. Staying with Laurence tonight, at
Hunkered down in back, I grip the headrest of the
his big house, where the street address has only two digits. driver’s seat with both hands and hold on. Suddenly the Everything will be fine. Tomorrow…well, we don’t have car finds a bit of traction and we lurch forward through to think about tomorrow right now. There’s beer to
the intersection before Laurence’s heavy foot causes us
drink. So I drink.
to fishtail back and forth across the white road. He and Nathan explode into laughter and I wonder why we let
We finish our beer, pull on our coats and file outside to
Now, the back end comes around and we’re sliding
We climb out of the car and instantly the snow peppers
sideways across the road. Off the road. Into a field.
our hair and shoulders. It’s nose-burning cold and only the tallest of the weeds are protruding through the
The Mustang hits a ditch, knocking it unconscious as
accumulating white blanket. The tracks, which so clearly
it careens sideways through the field. Snow and pieces
tell our story, are visible out in the street. They remind me
of plastic fly into the air. I can hear the frozen grass
of childish scribble, scrawled by inept and inexperienced
raking the underside of the car as we plow through the
hands. Despite my night of drinking, I feel very sober
field, out of control. I can feel it through my running
now, my heart still thudding from the saddle-bronc event.
shoes. Laurence laughs like the devil, steering in vain, as we bounce this way and that, sliding through the snow in
As I bend down to investigate the exhaust pipes, headlights
a field where the car was not designed to go. I’m growing
appear from the road. A car crawls to the point where our
delirious from adrenaline. What seems like two or three
tracks leave the pavement, snow crunching beneath its
minutes of daring automobile handling has actually been
tires. The car, which is black and white, stops. Flashing
only a few seconds of idiocy.
red and blue lights come on. Suddenly, everything turns yellow.
The car comes to a sudden stop, frozen in time. The Mustang’s last wind, blue-gray in color, floats across the
“Shit,” I say. “This is all we need.” I stand, my body as
air, integrating into the snowflakes in the headlights. We’re
rigid as a dead cedar. I want to run.
sitting in the middle of a white field, which is bordered on one side by an apartment complex and on two sides by
“You were driving!” yells Laurence. He throws the keys
quiet, deserted roads. Laurence and Nathan are laughing
their asses off; my heart is racing. I try and figure out how we’re going to get out of here. We’ve got to get out fast. “Not me man! It was you!” says Nathan. Why are they laughing? They go back and forth, laughing and tackling each other, The exhaust hangs in the headlights like a fog, like smoke
rolling around in the snow. They seem oblivious to the
from a professor’s pipe, pollution somehow disguised by
cop who is walking our way. The officer approaches me,
nods and says good morning, asks who was driving and what happened.
“Car won’t start,” says Laurence, still giggling. He laughs as though he has easily accomplished a great feat.
“Him, the one making the snowball,” I say, surprised that the cop is so polite. “I really don’t know what he did.”
“Pipes are buried,” I say. If there’s one thing I know about, it’s how to get a disabled car back onto the road. The officer, apparently of Mexican descent – small, Many times I’ve had to dig my parent’s pickup out of a dark, wiry, black mustache – proceeds calmly toward ditch, out of the ruts of a muddy driveway connecting the other two. I can smell his cologne of soberness and a dirt road to a house we used to rent. My nerves keep
responsibility in the cold air. Standing next to the disabled
me looking over my shoulder toward the street. If Leroy
car, contemplating my own fate, I watch as he questions
could only see this, I think. He’d really freak. “Let’s see
Laurel & Hardy.
if we can dig them out.”
After a brief interrogation, he handcuffs the two,
I’m in the back seat of the cruiser now, giving the officer
apparently unimpressed by their act. He walks them to
directions to my home. The snow is falling faster, harder,
the street, where another cruiser has just arrived. I follow
fuller. The car creeps through town, a tired, sluggish
in tow, wondering if I’m going to jail tonight, wondering
voice erupting sporadically on the CB. Again, I wonder
where I’ll get bail money, listening as Laurence cusses the
about the officer.
cop. Does he have family in Mexico? Is he happy that he’s “Man, I wasn’t driving!” he yells. “Leggo my arm, you
here and not there? I wonder if he’s better off for leaving
sumbitch! Jimmy, you were driving, right? Tell him. them to come here. Has he made a better life for himself ? You’re sober.” I’m sure he has. I say nothing. For a moment, the many things separating Laurence and me seem multiplied. And for just an instant,
“Turn right. Here,” I say. I point to the neighborhood’s
I don’t mind.
entrance, where houses peek out at us from behind a tall brick wall. They are giant, elegant homes, some with
Laurence and Nathan are now in the back seat of the
lights on, shining through plantation shutters or stained
second cruiser, handcuffed, reminding me of circus
glass. We enter the neighborhood and follow the winding
clowns in a Volkswagon, headed downtown to try their
street until I tell him to stop in front of a large English
show. If it were me I’d be shitting bricks, but all they do
Tudor, a BMW 7-series parked out front, sleeping beneath
is laugh, their arms immobile. I’m wondering if I’ll be
a white quilt. I pull on the door handle but it’s locked.
The officer gets out, comes around to my door.
The officer walks over and says he’ll give me a ride home.
“Thanks for the ride,” I say, as he opens the door.
Home, I think. What home?
“No problem. Stay out of trouble, young man,” he says.
“Where you leeve, young man?” he asks me. I notice the
I walk up to the house as the officer drives away,
small gold name badge on his uniform. It says GARCIA,
pretending to search my pocket for a key. Then he’s gone
which explains the accent. I hesitate, wondering instead
and the neighborhood is quiet, the houses settled like
about him, thinking that we probably have a lot in common. sleeping giants in the snow. It’s 3:00 am. For some reason, I suddenly feel more connected to him than my two buddies. “Where you leeve?”
The snow is falling like silent rain. Snowflakes, half as big as my fist, fall through the cold night, feeling fresh and
“Oh, over that way,” I say, pointing. “Across town.”
new, cleaning the air as they go. As it accumulates, the snow blurs the memory of my recent exploits. The bar,
I can hear Laurence yelling from the second cruiser. the drinking and car rodeo now seem like distant events “Hey amigo! How about some cerveza!” he says. He and buried back in the haze of summer’s heat. I realize that Nathan explode into laughter.
it will all melt very soon, but for now it’s thick, soft and deep.
I walk away from the house and down a path I determine
tucked into a pair of elephant-hide cowboy boots.
to be the sidewalk. The snow distorts my sense of direction, my judgement, causing me to wonder how
“Where the fuck you been, boy?” he asks. His breath hits
far down my next step will take me. The falling snow
me with the kind of force you get when you dump water
reminds me of a curtain and I don’t know what’s on the
into hydrochloric acid. “I say where you been?”
other side. “Staying with friends,” I tell him. I rub the residue from I round the corner and stop in front of a mansion. There
my dreams out of my eyes. Right away I know that I can’t
are no cars in the driveway, though it could easily hold
stay here and I sense that change is imminent. Something
six or seven. I stand and admire the enormous house,
has to give.
imagining what it would be like to unlock the door and go upstairs to a warm bed. The house number is visible
“Staying with friends? Well that’s real nice,” he says.
over the front door. It says 17. I wonder about the food
His voice is like a bull nettle in the foot and his grizzly
in the refrigerator, imagine a fire roaring in the fireplace,
whiskers remind me of cactus thorns. There’s a freeway
smelling warm and woodsy. For a moment I think I hear
inside my body and I can feel vehicles buzzing from top
the phone ringing inside the house. Then I recognize the
to bottom, carrying blood to my arms, legs. My heart
noise as car brakes, squeaking from somewhere beyond
is straining to keep traffic flowing. “Well your brother’s
the tall brick wall in the outside world. The squeaking
joined the Marines!” he yells.
stops and it is quiet again. “Yeah.” I consider going up to the house and ringing the doorbell, but decide against it. The phone will be ringing soon
“They’re working his ass off every day. He dudn’t have
enough, and besides, I wasn’t driving. I have other friends
time to go and stay with friends.”
who live just around the corner. Surely I can stay with one of them and forget about tomorrow for now. It bothers
I pull on my shoes just as he moves over to my bed. He
me to think that tomorrow is already today.
pokes my head with a stiff finger.
I leave the house, plowing through the snow, which is now
“Don’t touch me,” I tell him.
over my ankles. It feels like I’m walking across a balance beam, one that is growing more and more slippery with each step.
“Boy, I’m getting pretty sick of your act. Coming around here like you own the place, playing hooky and all this bullshit. Fishing all the time.” I stand up and feel the dry
I stay gone for two days, come back home one evening
knot in my throat. I’m nearly as tall as Leroy, though he
when mom’s at work, Leroy out at the bars. I watch
has me by a few pounds. If he was sober I might take a
TV for a while then eat a sandwich and turn in early,
swing at him, but when he drinks he gets this look in his
wondering what I’ll say when interrogated tomorrow.
eyes. Sometimes I think he’d like to kill me. “I want you to get out there and run,” he says.
I wake to what sounds like a bowling ball crashing into my door. The door flies open and there’s Leroy, a straw hat big enough to sail with on his head, his lanky body a mast
I walk around him, open the front door and go outside.
Leroy’s right behind me. It’s a cold morning but I don’t
it for me. I feel my mouth go dry, my stomach fall to my
feel it. I jog away from the house, feeling him a few paces
feet. I try to conceal my shaking hands by placing them
behind, hearing the quick CLOP CLOP of his boot heels
on my knees.
on the sidewalk, where the snow has already melted. But I wasn’t driving, I tell myself. “You better run, boy!” he yells. “Run, run. You’re brother’s a Marine! You better run and keep running! Rob rubs his hands together, interlocks the fingers. “Now Run til your goddam legs fall off!” I understand that you weren’t drinking that night. Is that right?” I hear his words growing distant behind me, and I run, not knowing where I’m going, what I’m going to do.
“Well, I had a few.”
About a week later I’m over at Laurence’s watching
“I see,” he says. “Laurence got himself in over his head.
television when his dad walks in and asks to speak to me
He and that other boy. What’s his name?”
in private. He’s a short, graceful man with smooth, white skin and gray hair. He leads me into his office, slides the
wooden door shut and asks me if I’d like to do a favor for him and Laurence.
“Right,” he says, looking down at the floor. “Senator’s son.”
“I know he thinks a lot of you,” he tells me. “We’d both be grateful if you’d help us out with this mess he got into
I don’t mind Rob; he seems like a good guy. He’s taken
last week.” He adjusts his sport coat and falls silent, looks
me golfing, says that I’m his kind of man because I’m
me in the eye. I sense that it’s my turn to say something.
happy shooting thirty over par. Once, I fished the San Juan River with him and Laurence. Rob loaned me a
“Yeah. Sure, I’d be glad to, sir,” I tell him. “But what can
fly rod to use since I don’t own one. Nice one, too. A
Winston, I think. Pretty emerald green color with shiny nickel-silver fittings, an action as smooth as butter. But
“Oh, you don’t have to call me sir. Just call me Rob,” he
I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t just leave, tell him
says, grinning. He walks over to his desk and opens the
I have to go home. Maybe I can just tell him that I need
top drawer. On the wall behind him are framed diplomas
to think about it. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.
from universities I’ll never be able to attend. I suppose Laurence will have his choice of schools.
“Jimmy, do you plan to go to college after high school?” he asks.
“Well, the attorney sent this form,” says Rob. “It’s an affidavit saying that you were driving the car on the night
“I don’t know. I’d like to, but I’m thinking about joining
of the accident.”
the service. My brother joined the Marines and he’s got a pretty good deal. They’re going to pay for his college
He looks up at me as though I’d be signing a letter of
when he gets out.”
intent with a university, as though there is something in
“Well the military is a fine experience for a young man,”
and the maid peeks her head inside.
he says, crossing his arms, leaning back on the desk. “Mister Lucas, you have a telephone call downstairs. A “Were you in the service?” I ask.
He looks at me, then down at the floor, shakes his head. “Not now, Jenny,” he says. “Take a message, would you?” “No, I couldn’t get in,” he says, lifting his eyebrows. Jenny nods, slides the door shut. Rob opens a large black I can see him straining to put a grin on his face.
book, scribbles something inside. I look down at my old Nikes, which hadn’t looked too badly until now. Now,
“Flat feet. Even the soda bottles wouldn’t have helped
standing on the shiny wooden floor, they seem dingy, old.
me.” He laughs, stands and places his hands in his pockets. Maybe it’s the lighting. “Well, Laurence is planning on applying to some of the
I hear a sharp tearing sound and watch as Rob places the
Ivy League schools. This would really help him out. Tell
affidavit inside an envelope, seals it shut. He walks over
you the truth, it’d help all of us. That way he could get his
and hands me the envelope.
driver’s license back, and you wouldn’t be in any trouble since you weren’t intoxicated.”I nod my head, feign deep
“Here you are, Jimmy,” he says. “Now take your time and
think it over. Just let me know whatever you decide. If you’d like to have an attorney go over it with you, then let
“Now I don’t want you to think that this obligates you in
me know. I’d be happy to find you one.” He adjusts his
any way to the damage to the car. It doesn’t, so don’t you
sport coat, looks at his watch. “And don’t worry about
worry about that. We’ll take care of the car.”
the fees. I’ll take care of that too.”
“Oh, I’m not worried about that,” I tell him, though the
thought had crossed my mind. “Thank you, Jimmy,” he says, slapping me on the back. “Tell you what, Jimmy,” he says, moving back around
“We appreciate you helping us out. Maybe we can all get
behind the desk. “Why don’t you take a few days and
together and go out to the San Juan again sometime.”
think it over. I don’t want you to do anything that isn’t right for you. You see?” he asks, grinning at me.
“Yeah, that’d be nice,” I say.
“Say, have you been up to the fly shop lately?” he asks. “They’ve got those new Abel reels in, and boy they’re
“I’ll just give you this affidavit and you can take it home,
look it over, whatever. You can even have an attorney go over it with you if you’d like.”
“Uh, no. I haven’t been over there in a long time.”
There’s a knock at the door. The wooden slab slides open
“Well you ought to look at them, Jimmy. You know what
I say. Buy an Abel and you’ve got it for life.”
“Did you leave me any gas?” she asks.
Why is he telling me about Abel reels? I wonder. I can’t
“Yeah, there’s plenty. Where’s Leroy?”
afford one of those. They’re four or five hundred dollars, at least. “Well, I might do that. I’ll get back to you about this.” “Just let me know, Jimmy. And thanks again.” “No problem,” I tell him, though I haven’t yet decided to help anyone. I guess, first of all, I have to help myself. I have a lot of thinking to do. Rob leads me out of the office, down to the den where
“I don’t know. Probably finishing those cabinets,” she says. I plop down in the recliner across from mom. “Probably finishing off a bottle,” I say. “Jimmy, that’s not nice. You shouldn’t talk about him that way.” “Well, it’s the truth,” I say. “You should’ve seen him the
other morning, all drunk and telling me to go run because Laurence is eating nachos in front of the television. David’s in the Marines.” He doesn’t seem too concerned about anything at the moment, except eating. I wonder if he knows about his dad’s plan. “Want some nachos?” he asks, rolling the food around in
The filing stops; mom looks up at me. “He’s under a lot of stress right now with his blood pressure and everything. You shouldn’t be so hard on him.”
“I’m hard on him?”
“No, I need to get home. I’ve got some things to do.”
“I saw the envelope in your pocket,” she says, ignoring me. “Are you in any trouble?”
“Cool. See you around, Jimmy.” “No, I’m not in trouble. Letter from David,” I tell her. “Later Laurence.”
I stand and walk into my room. “I think I’ll go read it.”
I walk out to the street and hop into my mom’s old
“Tell me what he says. Is he all right?
Cutlass, fire it up. It leaks oil a little so I always park out in the street. Driving off, I wonder how many droplets have splattered on the pavement. When I get home mom’s sitting in front of the television filing her nails, hair in curlers. She has to work tonight. I slide the envelope into my back pocket. “Hey, Mom.”
“Yeah, I think so. I’ll let you know how he is.” “I won’t be home until late tonight. You’ll have to find something to eat.” I lie down on the bed, take out the envelope and rip it open. Inside is the folded affidavit. I take it out, open it up and a smaller, rectangular slip falls out. It’s a check
for $1,000, which makes my heart skip a beat, my mouth
hand. The Abel reminds me of a shiny new Cadillac.
go dry. “That’s a sweet reel,” I tell him, handing it back, reaching I look over the affidavit, its legal jargon, noticing the
blank space at the bottom for my signature. All it takes is my signature, I think. I feel strangely like a businessman,
“What kind of rod you gonna put it with?” he asks.
or some entrepreneur that exchanges a commodity for cash. But what commodity am I exchanging?
“Well, I don’t know. I guess I need to get a new rod first.”
I return the papers and check into the envelope, slide it
“What kind of rod you been using?”
under my pillow and close my eyes. Later, I hear the front door open and shut, then the car starting and driving
What was that rod I used on the San Juan? I ask myself.
away. Sometime later I doze off.
A Winston? Yeah, that’s it.
Next day I borrow Mom’s car and drive over to the fly
“Been using a Winston, but…”
shop. “Oh, dude. We’ve got Winstons. Prettiest fly rods in the “Hey, what’s happening?” says the guy behind the counter. world. Just got some new ones in yesterday.” We walk He’s got a hook in a vise, winding thread, palmering a over to the rod rack. The guy slips one off the rack, hackle, cementing – building a fly. I’ve seen Laurence’s hands me the cork. “Here you go, dude. Check that out.” dad do it. “Looking for anything particular?” I take the rod, whip the tip back and forth the way my “No, I heard about your new Abels. Thought I’d come
dad used to do with spinning rods in department stores.
take a look.”
That’s all I ever remember him doing, and doing so seemed to tell him everything he needed to know about
“Oh, man,” he says, standing. He comes around the
the rod. I whip the rod again, but I’m still lost.
counter and leads me to the reels. “Have you used one of these babies?”
On the wall, I notice a poster for Winston Fly rods. In the foreground is a shiny green Winston, while a cluster
of nondescript brown, blue and red fly rods appear in the background, slightly out of focus. The caption
“Here,” he says, removing the rubber rings holding the
says If fishing with reds and browns makes you blue, try
reel to the little stand. He spins the handle once and slaps
a Winston and make your friends green with envy.
the shiny black reel into my hand. “Feel that. That’s precision machining, baby. Abel’s the best.”
“Winston is the only fly rod that has its own proprietary color,” says the clerk. “Winston green. Did you know
I take the reel, spin the handle, hear the gear clicking, feel
its smooth purring on my palm. I look up at the other reels on the shelf, but they don’t look like the one in my
“No, but you’re right. It’s pretty.”
“The best,” he says. “Now that’s a six weight there. What
“Yeah, man. Winstons are known for their feel,” he says.
weight you normally use?” I don’t know the difference, but the Winston just sounds “Oh, I don’t know. Five, six.”
better. Hell, if it’s smoother, it has to be better. I return the compromise to the rack, pick up the Winston again.
“Oh, well, we’re out of fives right now. That’s a good all-around trout rod, though. I can order you one if you
“Now that six is a good rod, but if I was going to buy a
new trout rod I’d go with a five,” he says. “Five’s a good bet.”
Just then the phone rings from the counter. “Yeah, I think that’s what I’ve been using,” I tell him, “Excuse me, dude,” says the fly guy. He walks over to the
remembering the rod I’d borrowed.
counter, picks up the phone. I place the rod back into the rack, pick up a few others, inspect the price tags. Right
“You put it with that Abel I showed you and you’d have
away I notice that I’m not going to be able to afford a
a sweet rig. Top notch.”
new Winston if I want the Abel reel. I feel a compromise coming on.
I nod my head, contemplate. If I order the rod, that would give me a week or so to get the extra money I’d need for
I pick up another rod, this one half the price of the
the reel, I think. Besides, I’ve still got a hundred or so in
Winstons. I whip the tip back and forth, which tells me
savings. I reach into my pocket, feel the satisfaction of
nothing, but for some reason I like the rod. The fly guy
the neatly folded check.
hangs up the phone, returns. “Well, could you order me that five weight?” I ask. “Oh, now that’s a sweet rod, dude. Not quite as good as a Winston, but it’s a nice rod that’ll do the job. Lifetime
“Yeah, dude. I’ll do it right now. Probably be here by
Friday,” he says. “You want me to call you when it comes in?”
“I guess it’d be a good compromise,” I say, the word somehow like poison on the end of my tongue, especially
“Yeah, that’d be fine.”
since I have a thousand-dollar check in my pocket. “Tell you what, you buy the rod and the reel and we’ll give “You wanna cast that baby?” he asks. “You know you
you free line and backing. Free casting lesson, too.”
should always cast before you buy. That way you find out if the rod suits your casting style. That one there’s a
Sold, I think. Again I’m feeling like quite the entrepreneur.
little bit fast for me. The Winstons are a little slower and
Working deals and all.
smoother.” I give the guy my phone number and leave the store. “No kidding?” When I get home I’m relieved to find the house empty,
everyone gone. I pull out a bag of chips, flip on the TV
of proof does he need to provide? And to whom would
and think about my new rod. A Winston, I think. I can’t
he provide it?
believe I’m getting a new Winston. I don’t feel like another lecture from Leroy, so I take my Family dinners aren’t too common at my house. Since
plate into the kitchen, rinse it off and place it into the
mom and dad split up I bet we haven’t had ten of them,
dishwasher. As I do I hear the nightly news brief on
and that’s been five years ago. But every once in a while
television, the announcer saying that one of the Kennedy
mom’ll have the night off and she’ll make fried chicken or
grandchildren has gotten himself into some kind of
meatloaf, and we’ll all sit down and eat together.
Well, one night we’re sitting at the table eating dinner,
“That figures,” says Leroy. “But it’s not going to make a
watching the news. Leroy’s there, too. He’s tolerable only
damn bit of difference. He’s a Kennedy. You watch, he’s
because he hasn’t been drinking. Doctor gave him some
going to get off just because of who he is.”
sort of new blood pressure medicine, says he’s supposed to get back on the wagon and stay off the sauce.
“Dinner was good, Mom,” I tell her. She smiles without looking at me. Her eyes are still focused on the television.
But what makes our family dinners so different from most peoples’ (besides the fact that they only happen about
I go into my room and shut the door, thinking of the
twice a year) is that we don’t talk much. Mom doesn’t
Marine commercial, the announcement about the
know that I’ve ordered a new fly rod that costs more
Kennedy grandson. I pull out the affidavit that I’m
than she makes in a week. Leroy knows less than Mom,
supposed to sign, look it over, think about it long and
which isn’t any big deal because he’s not my real dad. Just
hard. I lie back on my bed, arms crossed behind my
a fill-in, an imposter. Basically, we just go through the
head, staring up at the ceiling. I listen to the sounds of
motions. It seems to keep Mom happy, so I guess that’s
our house winding down for the evening – Mom clearing
why we do it.
the table, water running through the pipes as Leroy takes a shower, sitcoms coming and going on television, the
On television, there’s an advertisement for the Marine
phone ringing once.
Corps. The few, the proud, they say. If you have what it takes, maybe you can be one of us.
I’m still awake at midnight, thinking about the affidavit, about my commodity that I’m to exchange for, what? A
Mom watches intently, chewing her food. “Maybe we’ll
new fly rod?
see David on one of those commercials some day,” she says. “Wouldn’t that be something?”
No, a Winston fly rod, I tell myself. The best. And maybe a new Abel reel if I play it right. All I have to do is sign
“I doubt it,” says Leroy. “They’re looking for a certain
my name. The thought is so exciting that I can’t sleep.
kind of person for those commercials. Just because he’s a Marine doesn’t mean they’re going to let him do a
For a moment, I wonder what my brother David would
commercial. He’s gotta prove himself.”
do. Then it occurs to me that he’s already done it: he has left home and gone out into the world to make something
Prove himself, I think. How would he do that? What sort
of himself, to prove himself.
At 4 a.m. I finally decide to do what I’ve been putting off. I get up out of bed, flick on the light, grab a pen, an envelope and the affidavit. When I’m finished I stamp the envelope and address it. Before sealing it I take the check from my pocket, tear it in half and stuff this into the envelope. I walk out in the dark, cold night, drop it into the mailbox and raise the flag. It is clear to me that I’m going to have to earn my own stripes in this life. No freebies for me. I also realize that this may be the only time I ever agree with Leroy, or admit that he’s got a good point.
Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. Among other noteworthy publications, his chapbook Remembrance was published by Origami Condom Press. A collection of his poetry Days of Destruction was published by Skive Press. Another collection, Expectations, was published by Rogue Scholars press. His novel Dark Strains will be published by Post Mortem Press. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway and toured colleges and outdoor performance venues. His poetry has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City. Carol Berg has poems forthcoming or in Artifice, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Pebble Lake Review, Rhino, qarrtsiluni, blossombones, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Stonecoast and an MA in English Literature Calla Devlin has had short stories published in anthologies and literary journals, including The MacGuffin, Wilderness House Literary Review, Work: A literary Journal, Watchword, Five Fingers Review, Visions, Square Lake, Harrington Fiction Quarterly, the New College Chapbook Series, among others. Calla’s story “Borderlines” won honorable mention as one of the year’s most notable publications in Dave Egger’s Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003 and her story “Bird’s Milk” was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s 2009 fiction competition. Most recently, she was included in two anthologies, Lost on Purpose: Women in the City and Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond. Currently, she is putting the finishing touches on a novel and her agent, Faye Bender, plans to submit it to publishers later this year. She currently lives in Iowa. John Gifford is a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, John Gifford currently writes for four journals; Sugar Mule, The NE’ER-DO-WELL, Milk Money, and the anthology, Battle Runes: Writings on War. Chris Hardwick is graduate student at Rowan University. When not writing exquisite prose, he is most likely watching some pretentious indie film or playing FIFA 2010. Chris lives in South Jersey with his obese Siamese cat, Pepe. Jeffrey Haynes is a fiction writer from Illinois. Marlon S. Hollis is a Rowan University graduate with a BA in history, and a J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law-Camden. He enjoys reading, writing, and watching Netflix® movie rentals in his spare time. Paul Lisicky is the author of Lawnboy, Famous Builder. The New York resident is awaiting a new work to be released in the coming year. He teaches at NYU and for the Fairfield University MFA program. Richard Luftig is a professor of education psychology and special education at Miami University in Ohio. He is a recipient of the Cincinnati Post-Corbett Foundation Award for Literature and Semi-Finalist for the Emily Dickinson Society Award. Richard’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States and internationally in Japan, Canada, Australia, Europe, Thailand, China, and India.
Diane Vanaskie Mulligan is a high school English teacher living in Worcester, MA. She is also the assistant managing editor of The Worcester Review and the director of the Betty Curtis Worcester County Young Writers’ Conference. Her work has appeared in English Journal, Her Mark 2008, and The Ballard Street Poetry Journal, among others. Her blog is www.dvmulligan.blogspot.com. Lisa Shannon received her degree from Rowan’s graduate Writing Program in 2006. Since then, she moved to New York City and completed an MA in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. Toni M. Todd’s story “Cost-U-Less” appeared in the Spring 2010 edition of Green Mountains Review, and “Lucky Duck” in the fall 2010 edition of Sheepshead Review. Additional publishing credits include 49 Writers, Hawaii Island Journal and Gunnison Country Times. Toni holds a BS in Business Administration from CSU Northridge and the MS in Mass Communications from University of Denver and will receive the MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage during summer, 2011. She lives with her husband and a menagerie of adopted dogs and cats near Volcano Village, Hawaii.
CONTRIBUTORS Lisa Shannon Carol Berg Gary Beck Jeffrey Haynes Richard Luftig Chris Hardwick Paul Lisicky Diane VanaskieMulligan Calla Devlin Marlon S. Hollis Toni M. Todd John Gifford
Leila A. Fortier is a writer, artist, poet, and photographer currently residing on the remote island of Okinawa Japan. Her rich interplay of mixed mediums from macro photography, to oils, acrylics, water colors, pastels, and digital applications, are then layered and arranged to invoke the viewer into raw, emotional experience. Her restlessness is expressed in her passion to make manifest the formless in what she calls Painting Emotion. Her work has been featured in tandem with her poetic works, published in numerous literary magazines, journals, and reviews both in print and online. She has been selected to appear as the cover or featured artist of many virtual galleries and publications including Diverse Voices Quarterly, Cave Moon Press, Pink Panther Magazine,Tuck Magazine, Phantom Kangaroo,The River Journal, Zouch Magazine, and Moon Milk Review to name a few.
Issue 2: A Magazine of literature, new media, and art.