The Garnet 2012
Tyler Heslop â€™12 Editor in Chief
Hampden-Sydney College Spring 2012
Garnet Volume 121
The Literary Magazine of Hampden-Sydney College (Continuing the Hampden-Sydney Magazine, founded in 1859) TYLER HESLOP ’12, Editor DR. RICHARD MCCLINTOCK, Advisor Covers: Mikey Riva © 2012 by the Board of Publications of Hampden-Sydney College While individual authors retain all rights to works published herein, reproduction of this magazine, in whole or part, is strictly prohibited. A student-produced journal of literature and the arts, Garnet is published annually by the Board of Publications of Hampden-Sydney College, a non-profit organization.
All correspondence should be addressed to: Garnet Post Office Box 655 Hampden-Sydney College Hampden-Sydney, Virginia 23943-0655 Copies of the Garnet are available on request. Contributions and gifts to Garnet are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Manuscripts are submitted at the author’s risk and are not guaranteed to be returned. Those risks are significantly decreased if you opt to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
I. POETRY Christopher Griggs Craving...........................................................................................................................7 Phylogeny........................................................................................................................8 Walter McCoy The Land is Full of BlessĂ¨d Cursed.....................................................................................9 Love, My Painful Choice................................................................................................10 Karlton Davis Face the Facts.................................................................................................................12 Tongue Tied Chuck.........................................................................................................13 Thomas Browne Senses in Sunlight...........................................................................................................14 Permeations in Mid-August.............................................................................................16 Feint.............................................................................................................................19 Will Hudson There Will Never be a Time More Opportune....................................................................20 Just a Living Legacy.......................................................................................................21 Adam Turner Curtains Please..............................................................................................................22 Tyler Heslop Locket..............................................................................................................................23 II. FICTION Walter McCoy The Beast.......................................................................................................................25 Shh................................................................................................................................34 Christopher Griggs Vivarium.......................................................................................................................27 Jake Pierce The Woman in the Yellow Dress.......................................................................................37 Meade Edmunds Conflicted........................................................................................................................46 Turner Blake Brown-Eyed Girl............................................................................................................50
Thomas Browne The Layover.....................................................................................................................55 III. ESSAY Ian Giles With Filial Affection, Appreciation, and Respect..............................................................41 IV. ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY Everton Batista Untitled.............................................................................................................................6 Verna Kale In Darlington Heights.....................................................................................................11 Jay Brandt Sunny Forest..................................................................................................................17 William Kitchin Untitled...........................................................................................................................15 Mark Poydence Heinz 57.......................................................................................................................18 Charles Wysor Untitled.........................................................................................................................24 Untitled.........................................................................................................................26 Untitled.........................................................................................................................63 Patrick Crandol Lightmen.......................................................................................................................33 Goofball.........................................................................................................................40 Mikey Riva Untitled...........................................................................................................................35 Luck.......................................................................................................................... 44, 45 Daniel Franck Untitled...........................................................................................................................36 Barett Keeler Untitled...........................................................................................................................54
EDITOR’S NOTE It has been an honor and a pleasure reviewing the work of my peers this year. Working on this magazine has served as a constant reminder of the creative talent of the students at this college. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to know and work with the writers and artists featured in the pages of this great Hampden-Sydney tradition. I’d like to thank all who have helped me construct this magazine, especially Dr. Richard McClintock. Without his help, this project would only have been a dream. There’s an old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” From my experiences this year I’ve learned that it takes a community to construct a project like this, and I can think of no place with a better sense of community than Hampden-Sydney. It has been a privilege to work on this magazine, and I hope you enjoy the wonderful work that our community has put into this project. Tyler Mackenzie Heslop Class of 2012 Editor of The Garnet, 2012
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Untitled, Everton Batista
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CHR IS TOPH ER GR IG GS Craving Hearing the fridge shift its wings (settling) snow Is envious—I can be colder, electric. I can be your friend, midnight snacker. I can be the blanket on your shoulders. I can be your consolation, when The fridge is empty, and your stomach is A heart you can feel, suspended under your ribs. I could be drifting through the window, if you Open it. I’ve watched long enough to know Your desires, and if I could, if you’d let me, I’d melt on your cheek, softly stinging, loving Your heat, spreading over your face, meeting You, forehead to forehead, my sweetheart, if Only in that quick eternity.
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CHR IS TOPH ER GR IG GS Phylogeny Sea stars reach through years and years, boldly Asserting their kinship—calcite skeleton, Water vascular system, tube feet, Radial symmetry: division. We feel the aquatic pulse and listen, hoping To hear a history lesson. The gulf Is only a gulf, we are great travelers. If starfish can accept us, then why shouldn’t we Carve up our hearts for Thanksgiving. Sharing Ourselves: Samantha, Lonny, Cheryl, William. Please come back. I know I was bad, the least Among us, I never thought—I never dreamed, I never dreamed. When I said what I said, Those things, forget them.
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WA LT ER Mc COY The Land is Full of Blessèd Cursed The land is full of blessèd cursed— Around you, they all stop and stare— To walk among the cursèd blessed. In choral lines they stand rehearsed And swallow up the putrid air. The land is full of blessèd cursed. Their lives are lived unholy worst; No tortured soul would ever dare To walk among these cursèd blessed. Irresolute they stand submersed Beneath the gloomy parish lair: The land is full of blessèd cursed. In Sanctuary they are nursed, Told holy things, and never care To walk among the cursèd blessed. Now turn around and stand reversed; There is a truth by which they swear: The land is full of blessèd cursed To walk among the cursèd blessed.
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WA LT ER Mc COY Love, My Painful Choice Jessie Of all the time that I did spend with you Those days, I only felt the pain of such Awfully outstanding misery and The pain that comes with your maltreatment; your Attempts to advance your own self-loving. Three times I was told that all would be well; Three times I was treated with hostile blows: The blows to my face, with anger you struck; The blows to my brain, with words you lashed out; And striking my heart, took passion its turn ’Til all I had left: my heart, yours to yearn. But rather than repair that which you broke, Instead you dismissed me for the third time, Leaving me broken during the Yuletides; Unfulfilled promises: your gift to me. As a result, I turned right to my friends And shared with them the plagued tormented thoughts That drowned out hope and dreams for a better life. They traded those scares and gave life new light; Gave me new visions, new sources of joy. I spent a year without your influence, But then out of the blue, I got your post, Opened your letter, read over your words, Then realized I was faced with a choice: Take you back, or forget you forever? Afraid of you, I am, my love, because Of all the pain inflicted, of those pains Still felt, still haunting, still awakening From nightmares of your dominating fist. So I would safer live without your form Of hateful love, malice, and spiteful words. Yet still I love you, all bruises aside, And so, to take you back could mean, for me, That happiness I only feel with you. Yet with that joy there comes a price to pay: Exchanging friendship of my fellow souls That happiness I only feel with you. Yet with that joy there comes a price to pay: Exchanging friendship of my fellow souls
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For fragile love, so shaky in effect. Aye, no. My choice is clear. My fear is strong— Much stronger than my love of your abuse. So goodbye, my sweet fellow. I cannot, For fear—maltrust—choose you over my friends.
In Darlington Heights, Verna Kale
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K A R LTON DAV IS Face the Facts The body that youâ€™re in is only your skin the thoughts you think only come from within the family you love will be there until the end but the world we live in is full of sin. Face the fact that no one is perfect the quicker you understand that the quicker you learn it. Listen to this info you can use it or burn it Perfection is obtainable and IÂ plan to earn it
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K A R LTON DAV IS Tongue Tied Chuck Deflated balloons inflated platoons stupid buffoons lucrative doubloons delicious mushrooms pink tutus? Green pickles endless trickles from the fountain of youth. Pickled peppers studious steppers referring a ruckus all around. The ruckus thatâ€™s a muck Was created by a studious stepper named Chuck. Chomping green pickles like an endless trickle searching for The fountain of youth
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T HOM A S BROW NE Senses in Sunlight I I have heard something stir in quiet winds – sounds quite like a whisper from some forgotten friend II Vultures flock to fields where animals stalk forest prey with yellow eyes fixed – the concrete sky looks like rain in the distance III I smell something rotting deep within the wood – bears scratching trees for honey but there are no trees no honey no bees only disease where life once stood IV I feel the wind beneath me – how long have I fallen to an earth of so benighted a company – the sun rises with the surf V I am thirsty for rain – it has been far too long since thunder clapped against the horizon and the berries were caked with blue dew drops
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T HOM A S BROW NE Permeations in Mid-August
The quiet seasons with rain-laden heat ill-ease with the winds, and so all breeze has ceased to cool a head beaded with the dew of an endless summer â€“ a quietness ensues just before the storm, and you can hear the sap expand, contract, and permeate through the veined willow trees that sway in the August night.
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Sunny Forest, Jay Brandt
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Heinz 57, Mark Poydence
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T HOM A S BROW NE Feint He composed those lines within his head, the slow arcing swing of thought electric. A formula rehearsed, as of body language speaking through gesticulation, pacing to and fro and to again; a ritual for the dead. Awaken passions! The Ancient’s call, clapping commands – that steady and rolling demand of nature, feigning thought, feigning reason – the façade of a storm mounting (cloud upon cloud) coming to a head – a climactic scream, a natural exhalation. He can read the coded language of the birds; the sparrow cries, the nightjar chirrs. A fluttering of words to mimic anxious wings – the piecing together of feathered images, (feathered black) as he, with piercing eyes held fast, couples together memories of past endeavors, only to find an imagination exhausted.
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W I LL H U DSON There Will Never be a Time More Opportune Your tears a Judas to your strength As sad as a grey field at the touch of winter Bare black branches shiver In the wind, the grass— already some color Other than summer (I suppose Nature has fashion sense too)—creeps close To the earth. Finding protection intimate To the ground, like lovers in spring wrapped in White sheets cling in the wee hours of the cool Open-window mornings; believing closeness Is the same as security. I suppose that may be why You began to cry. I saw the realization of loss flash in your tangled heart through your empty eyes. I’m sorry to hear she’s breathing for one. You had good intention of being a dad, a hope That you could restore your father’s wrong— Leaving you and your mom for cocaine years At a beach, while you were at home, your age Excusing never thinking maybe it was he, not you, who was wrong. But didn’t you learn that hope is a thing with feathers, and that fathers will fly? And when they do there is nothing left but the “I.” And then what, my friend? An early violet wildflower, bloomed by the brown Frozen lake in a sea of dead wheat, shaking in the cold. More alone than you’ve ever been in the word forever.
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W I LL H U DSON Just a Living Legacy Looking out from our Breakfast nook’s window pane I see the December snow in free fall. It covers the fields and the silver tin roofs Of the red peeling barns that we should Repaint, but function and aesthetic aren’t Always the same you say. Mom wants New barns, and that makes you smile. Her farm is a page of Southern Living And yours is just the beauty of creation. The snow drifts to blanket the ground, And Lendi, our miniature beagle, begins To play and chase the snowflakes—she Always had that ambition of grandeur. Seeing the snow makes me think of you. It makes me wonder why I talk to you Still, or why I give you present tense in My writing and speech. Each of us is supposed to be a snowflake Strong and unique, so what happens when We lose what made us? Do we lose our strength? Snowflakes melt into shallow pools And are nothing more than water, A fate even specialness can’t escape.
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A DA M T U R NER Curtains Please The dancers prance around the stage, while the orchestra plays its showy tune. The audience basks in the showy performance, and I watch in agony. We all witness the final act, but all are too blind to see it. The dancers collapse and all die off, the beautiful tune is left an echo. The audience is stuck in their place, and I am stuck in mine. The dancers are people same as you. Come Judgement day they’ll be judged the same too. The orchestra’s the sounds that all humanity creates and the echo is what’s left when all of it’s gone. The audience is the witnesses to the act; they are helpless to help those that are judged. And I am the prophesier, for I see the end.
The world is a theater and everyone’s a player. Let’s see what you can perform before the final act rolls. Everyone’s stuck with the same fate; now let’s see the difference. Now I say, Curtains Please.
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T Y LER H ESL OP Locket The midnight misogynist makes another drink During the darkness before dawn Fighting for forgiveness, forgetting his crimes. Stumbling slightly, sidestepping shattered Pieces of the polished porcelain vase Which his wife struck him with He hopes he has her heart hidden Still, somewhere safe, to save Or bribe his bride back to bed.
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Untitled, Charles Wysor
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WA LT ER Mc COY The Beast There is a beast in Aiden’s house. Its presence arouses fear in his family. From his room, Aiden hears the shrieks and screams as they try to make their escape. The heat in the room is incredible. Through his open door, Aiden sees the creature burn its path up the stairs. They cannot escape it. It is a beast of smoke and flame. It roars at its prey, and flashes its mane of black and red. Yet despite the intensity, a chill runs through Aiden as he recalls the day. It had been quite a while since he had seen his street. The brisk winter day was icy on his bare arms. Aiden had hitched a ride back home in the bed of a truck that contained only a weed-eater, a red plastic gas can, and himself. Night was in full effect when the truck pulled onto his suburban street. Aiden signaled the driver where to stop, and then walked up to his house. The windows were all darkened; his family must have fallen asleep hours ago, ready to wake early for presents. What a surprise his parents had in store for them when they would wake to find that he had returned! He plucked the key from above the door jamb and stepped inside. The lights from the Christmas tree twinkled bright in the darkness of the house. Aiden stepped around the presents placed under the tree. None for him, of course. Who would’ve expected him back, after all? He made his way up the stairs and listened at his parents’ door. The soft snores proved their slumber. Aiden continued toward his sister’s room. Sweet Emily. He missed her most, and would always miss her most. He placed a hand on her door, and kissed the hand. A tear fell to the floor with a splash as Aiden stepped away. His trail marked, he descended the stairs to his room. The memories fade away as Aiden traces his sight through the black smoke filling his old home. The beast had already done damage. The tree blazes brighter than before and the presents beneath it add to the ember glow. Sweat drips down Aiden’s brow as he looks around. His life is burning around him. The beast rakes its burning claws across the walls and the symbols of his youth—his posters, paintings, photographs—they burn in the beast’s rage. Having seen enough, Aiden makes to leave, but comes face-to-face with the beast, itself, blocking his exit. The shadow monster became, in Aiden’s mind, his father from the year before. He remembered the way he had stood there, quaking in fear, as his dad yelled at him in the door’s frame. His mother watched, from behind, and his sister, sweet Emily, had been crying at his father to leave Aiden alone. The cat had been cold, Aiden argued. It was freezing! But his father rejected his argument. The cat had perished because of Aiden, true, but he was only trying to help. He reasoned that fire warmed the family, and therefore fire would warm the cat. But his father was greedy, and punished him for trying to share the family’s warmth. By his father’s rule, only the family could live. And since he tried to break the rule, they sent Aiden away. And now he is back, but the beast had followed him. Its fiery feline eyes gaze at him as it creeps forward. Aiden stays still and calm as it brushes against his leg. The beast reaches up and licks Aiden’s left hand, scorching skin and bone. There was no pain greater though than the pain from his father’s betrayal. So Aiden stands with his beast, satisfied in revenge. The white gown from the ward burns fast on his body until it catches fire to the red gas can still in Aiden’s right hand.
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Untitled, Charles Wysor
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CHR IS TOPH ER GR IG GS Vivarium The plastic plant undulated in the water. The goldfish bumped into it. All six of them. Laney watched them swim, like enlarged, orange atoms ricocheting off the aquarium walls. She was sitting in a rocking chair. The wood was split; the woven seat had stray binding. Each fish had a name once, but she’d forgotten them. Her face reflected something like worry. It’s the same face she wore before crying. But she wasn’t crying. She was counting. Quiet. You could tell by the tiny nods, the darting eyes. Accounting for the random movement. She savored the details like the death-row inmate savors his last meal. Laney was twenty-three. Her house had ten rooms. She was five feet tall. Every room was empty, save for her and the fish. She grabbed a notebook and started to draw them. Simple designs: triangular fins, oval bodies, smiley faces, dots for eyes, with no pretense of three-dimensionality. Every few seconds she would lick the end of her pencil, and she couldn’t help but wonder that her DNA would be a part of the page for a while—before it degraded, before all the nucleotides became unrecognizable. She was utterly relaxed, and the only way she could feel time pass was if she watched the fish for too long. They made her aware. Otherwise, it left her unmarked and unfelt. Her skin was smooth and ageless. Her curly blond hair huddled close to her scalp as if it was afraid of someone ripping it out by the root. She wore a light summer dress, which clung and caught at places on her thin body. The pattern was magnolias, magnolias upon magnolias, lavender buds popping into blossom. Wet the pencil. Sketch some flora for the fish to dart behind. She sighed. “Where’s Vick? He was supposed to be here by now.” The light through the blinds was coloring towards sunset, and Vick should have been there by three. He was supposed to bring her books from the library. She couldn’t get them. Frustrated, she threw the notebook aside and started floating through the hollow rooms. She was like the fish. Vick had brought her the fish a year ago. Originally there were ten, and now there were six. She watched him wash the gravel for the bottom, place the plastic plant, pour gallons and gallons into the tank. Treat the tap water. Plug in the filter. Float the plastic bag in the water, so the two waters would become the same temperature. He said they couldn’t shock the fish. They were delicate. Like Laney was and Vick wasn’t. He was late. She bounced off the walls. The furniture in the house was limited. Most of it was taken away when her parents died five years ago. Empty, blanched squares were scattered all over the walls in every room. Her parents had loved pictures, but she had stacked all of them up and kept them in the attic. She preferred blankness. Her bedroom was where the fish were; the tank was on a long table by the door, and her bed was directly across from it. At night, when the sodium light from the street came through the blinds, she could look from her pillow and see the fish glint in the water. She wondered how they never slept. Could they move and sleep? How? Her days were mostly the same. She never left the house. She slept till late in the morning, waking in a daze. She was an insomniac, despite herself. It wasn’t like she didn’t
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try to maintain the sleeping pattern of a normal adult. Most nights, she watched the fish sparkle into the early morning, with her covers pinning her like sheets of lead. Her agony was in the trying. But she wanted to be normal, so she tried. Which is why she began opening the front door. Noon approaching, she’d pad barefoot downstairs. Ten seconds of staring at the brass knob. Ten seconds to turn it. Then, open it as quickly as possible. The screen door always heaved slightly when she swung the wooden one. Ten seconds of gazing out into the street, the greens and browns of the pine trees blurred by the screen. The cars whooshing left or right. “Vick, I’m going to kill you.” Laney found a perch at the dining room table. She dangled her legs off the side. The finished tabletop felt like ice against her ass. The discovery was happy because it was like Hades in the house, but she liked the stillness and didn’t want to crank the AC and ruin it. From her vantage point, she could watch the front door in the living room. It was closed. She willed it to open. She tried to conjure Vick with wishing, but all she got was a darkening house and a shut door. Come the hell on, you bastard. I’m dying here. I might as well be a ghost. Vick. When Vick was late, which was often, Laney liked to talk to the fish. She felt there was something to speaking, something to communicating with living creatures. She didn’t want to let go of that. Vick never stayed long enough to satisfy her desire. He dropped off her groceries, her books, odds and ends. But he rarely stayed to talk. In the flurry of his visit, she was mindless, always surprised by his sudden and brief presence. He often accused her of losing touch. Losing touch with what? He was just too fast for her, and she only had time to wonder what his life was like outside. Vick was her last cousin in the area, the only relative she had seen since her parents died. Vick was a computer technician, and he always had on a smooth Oxford shirt, every shade of dull there was. But she found his blandness endearing. He sported a mustache; he was like a tornado to her—all speed and turning and then gone. Laney stood back in front of the tank, hunched over, nose pressed to the glass. Her entire vision was filled with water and fish. She could make out the individual scales, coating their svelte bodies. She watched their mouths move, silently, wetly responding to her words. “How long do you think he’ll be? Why do y’all think he’s late? Maybe he’s hurt.” Bloop, bloop, bloop. Mouths steady as heartbeats. “Maybe I should sleep? I’ll wake up when he gets here.” If she paused, with the AC off, standing very still, she could feel the throbbing in her breast. Thud. It was like feeling the earth move under her. The twilight was turning to another nighttime; Laney slipped out of her flimsy dress and examined her body in the semi-darkness. Her breasts in their bra, her basic panties. But she didn’t think. She didn’t contemplate the swells. She merely stopped, before she slithered into her bed, between the sheets with practiced ease. The bed was always ready for her, ready to swallow her up for another stretch of hours. Her electricity bill was small. She sometimes turned on a lamp in the living room to read after dark, but she mostly just used natural light. She navigated the house at night through sheer muscle memory. Feeling the last step before she stepped it. Grasping the invisible refrigerator door. Knowing where the table floated like an island in the blue-
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carpeted dining room. Bruises had taught her the routes. She fell asleep eventually, watching the goldfish. “Wake up, Laney.” Her eyes shuttered open. Like starting a lawnmower or chainsaw. Vick was standing over her with a plastic bag in his right hand; his shirt was the color of a robin’s egg. His mustache had a way of hiding the wavelength of his mouth, so it was hard to tell what mood he was in; she had to rely on his eyebrows. His eyebrows were arching high, like jungle cats about to strike. “Hi, Vick. Where have you been? I waited all afternoon.” “Sorry. I couldn’t help it.” He pulled up the rocking chair and sat a few feet from Laney. His hands laced together to make a triangle, and he hunched over to speak to her. The plastic bag was still wrapped around his palm. It dangled slowly. “Are those my books?” “Listen. Laney. I have some news. I don’t think I’ll be able to come by as much for a while. Oh, yeah. Here you go.” Laney pulled the bag under the covers with her. She could feel the sharp corners of the hardbacks poking her stomach. “What?” “What?” “What do you mean what? What the hell, Vick? What’s happening?” Vick slumped back in the chair, and it rocked gently. His hands spidered all over his face. He was making sounds, or cooing, or sobbing. Laney couldn’t tell. “Listen to me. Liz kicked me out, okay? Okay? I was working for her father, and he fired me, too. I just won’t have time to come over here as often. I can’t keep myself together and tend to you all the time.” “Vick, tell me what happened. What did you do?” The covers tightened around Laney. She tried not to move too much because the plastic crinkled rudely. She cringed every time she heard the bag, but she couldn’t get out of bed, and she couldn’t get rid of the library books. The sheets and quilt only halfway muffled the sound. What is going to happen to her? Don’t be so selfish. Vick is in a bind. This man has done so much for her. This man is all she has left in the world. And she knew she was right. Vick was her everything, even if he was a tornado and only something beautiful from far away. Laney made her fish-counting face, but this time she was crying. She was the one sobbing. Vick reached for her shoulder. His mustache was perfectly horizontal, and his mouth was a levee bulging against the flood inside his head. His fingers dug into her shoulder. “It’s your fault, Laney. Liz and I couldn’t find a middle ground with you. She gave me an ultimatum, but I fucked it all up. Because I can’t take care of you without her. I am screwed either way. Damn it!” Vick got up and hurled the rocking chair into the blank wall. Laney dunked her head under the blankets, under the pillow, trying to drown out the storm of Vick’s voice, his violence. She could hear the wood splitting, the clatter against the wall, Vick’s yelling. The noises were edgeless; they soaked through to her. Vick ripped the covers off of her, and she
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scrunched to hide herself. Her sobs lumped together into a solid, low wail. “What do you want me to do? What? Vick!” “Nothing. You can’t do a fucking thing. You’re a freak.” Laney peeked out through a narrow slit between her knees. The fish were smoothly orbiting the plastic plant nucleus. She shut her eyes. She felt her knobby knees in the crooks of her arms. Vick didn’t say another word. He walked over to the side of the room, where the pieces of the rocking chair had scattered, and used his foot to nudge them into a pile together. She watched him look at the pile. He left the room, and Laney strained to hear his dress shoes making the steps sigh. The door slammed, but it wasn’t a mad slam. It was the kind of slam that’s an accident. Like when the door closes easier than usual and you’re not sure why, except you know it has something to do with the weather. She was chilly, half-naked on her bedspread. The covers were like a frozen waterfall, if she’d been feeling imaginative. Laney saw a lot in a little. She was the space she occupied. The goldfish were flashing in their tank. Laney felt a secret weight lift. She was afraid Vick might have busted the tank. She counted to ten and counted the fish. Six. God please do something to me. Do something about me. Blow my house down on top of me. It wouldn’t be that hard. I’m asking. I’m telling. No, I’m only asking. Vick. Laney stood up in her dark room. The fish were almost imperceptible at this hour. The darkest before the lamp started oozing through the blinds. She never liked to be up for this hour. She wasn’t afraid of the dark. No, it wasn’t the dark. She went downstairs and opened the front door. Headlights strobed through the woods by the road, between the spindly tree trunks and limbs. What kept her in the house? The threshold framed her, and she was very conscious of the vicinity of the porch. The smooth cement glowed faintly in the twilight. Her bare feet, the porch, both glowing. The screen door rattled lightly because of the breeze. That breeze sieved through the screen and touched Laney all over gently. She hugged the invisible wind, imagining that she was actually pulling it close, embracing it, and letting it know how much she appreciated the affection. “Thank you.” The words came as easily as the ones she shared with the fish. She had had a phone line up until recently. Vick had disconnected it. She had been calling random numbers, trying to talk to people. She enjoyed the freedom. She could pretend anything she liked on the phone. Sometimes they spoke a different language, and she didn’t even have to worry about what she was saying. They didn’t understand. Most people hung up, but you could get a conversation sparked with perseverance. Something was crying next to the porch. It began as gurgling and morphed into something shriller, piercing. Count to ten. Count to ten, ten times. Listen to what you know is a baby. Ten times ten, ten times. It is a baby, Laney. Laney, go help the baby. It’s bawling its little eyes out, on the ground? Next to the porch? Why? What would the reason matter, idiot? Her head was a leaf-strewn swimming pool as she touched the cement of the porch with her big toe. The chill of it climbed the ladder of axons to her brain, and she was scared. But the crying was still happening, sometimes the sound of tree branches scratching the window, sometimes the sound of a clogged drain finally becoming unclogged. First a big toe, then the rest of the little pigs; Laney felt her arch drop, the heel, the other heel. The screen door slapped shut behind her, and she was outside for the
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first time in five years. The last time she was outdoors was for the funeral of her parents, who were buried in a hilly cemetery across the street from the Presbyterian Church, the one she dimly remembered going to until she was around thirteen. It was a nice day, but it wasn’t when you weren’t looking at the sky. The world outside the house was so much clearer without a metal screen intervening. The sound was louder. The breeze still held her, floated her. She got on her hands and knees and crawled toward the edge of the porch; the edge was a neat row of bricks the color of dried blood. Bare knees scraped like sandpaper along the smooth surface of the porch. Laney’s dense curls fell around her eyes. The sound was clawing into her ears now. She took a deep breath. She took another. Her cobalt eyes shone, fording the brick edge. Below her, two tabby cats were wrestling. They were fighting hard. One was mostly white, with tawny blotches, and the other was black. The black one’s bottom-left canine pierced the other’s right ear. They could have been hugging, with their paws, if they weren’t making those sounds. Also, it’s rare to hug and bite another’s ear. There was no baby. “Damn cats.” Laney spat at the mass of fighting cat. She spat until her supply of saliva was depleted, and then she cursed them for making her mouth dry, as they writhed on, oblivious to the loogies on their backs. In her anger, she had forgotten where she was, what she was doing. The leash of agoraphobia tightened around her neck, pulling her back, back into the house where she belonged, where it was safe, where there were no brawling cats that sounded like babies crying. She got off her knees and stood on the porch. It had gotten late on her. The venture outside had elapsed like a melting ice cube, slow and something no one would have liked to watch. It was now completely dark, and the sodium streetlamp glowed across the street, and the light barely reached the front steps. Laney was still mostly nude. But there was no one to see her. She had escaped to no particular welcome. She would have accepted lasciviousness, if anyone would offer it. For a moment, as she thought of these things, the leash was forgotten. It was a strange situation. To recall her virginity, her loneliness, even while the breeze ignored the porous material of her bra and panties. It touched her, as no human being ever had, at least since she was a child when it didn’t matter. She hadn’t had an orgasm in three years. Masturbation had fallen to the wayside, as she retreated into her housebound life. Laney made one last assessment of the neighborhood before she opened the screen door and went back inside. The light outside ruined her night vision for a few minutes, but she found her way like always to her room and hungry bedding. She thought about how much she drooled in her sleep. She thought about how birds make nests out of spit and twigs. She lacked the twigs, but maybe sheets and drool would do. She breathed through her mouth and felt her cottonmouth worsen. Her tongue felt bumpy and swollen. She counted to ten, ten times. On her side, she could see the familiar goldfish, the orange of the electrified sodium through the blinds glancing off the dull orange of the fish. She made sure there were six of them still, or at least she tried. It was difficult to parse the individuals out in the dark. * * * It was one in the morning and Vick was driving through a storm. He stopped under the canopy of an abandoned gas station. He was twenty miles out of town. The Focus
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quit humming with the rain; the humming kept up a few yards away, pelting the smooth cement. The bad weather made Vick nervous. He had had many accidents. Once he cracked three ribs when he ran off the road during a blizzard. The front end had hit the bottom of the ditch, and the airbag exploded into his torso. Since then, he liked to wait on the weather. He had visions of the sun reaching a stout arm into the clouds and sweeping them away like big, dry crumbs on the dining room table. Waiting was difficult, if necessary. He had to be alone with himself, him and the rain, him and the empty shell of a gas station. He couldn’t even turn on the radio for very long; he was paranoid about the car’s battery. Both were on the cusp of being too old, the car and the battery. Where was he going? All of his things were in a few suitcases in the backseat and the trunk. After he left Laney earlier, he had visited his wife to have a last talk. It was, in his mind, his last chance to fix the problem, but Liz wasn’t having it. Too much had been said. They couldn’t retread the years and move another way. He had to relieve himself. The downpour hissed a few feet away. Vick appraised the trash in the receptacle of the driver’s side door. Three empty water bottles. He grabbed one and twisted off the cap and unzipped his fly. He tried to make himself flush with the bottle opening. The release was amazing. He got lost in the feeling and accidentally jerked to the left. His urine splashed the upholstery of the passenger seat and dribbled onto his pant leg. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Vick zipped his pants back up and rolled the window down; he chucked the bottle of piss out the window, and it skidded out into the rain. He couldn’t even see it for the rain. He grabbed a box of Kleenex from the backseat and started to dab the spots on the passenger seat. He wasn’t doing much good. He spat on the wad of tissues and rubbed harder and harder. Little flecks of tissue spread where he rubbed. Vick grabbed more tissues to get the residue from the first tissues. Eventually he was dabbing his eyes. He cranked the seat back and lay on his side, looking out the window, where he couldn’t see through the rain. “I’ve got to start fresh.” The rain rained.
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Lightmen, Patrick Crandol
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WA LT ER Mc COY Shh “Shh. Shh.” A boy plays about in the shallows. He collects shells that wash up on shore. He is a child who knows only the simple matters of life. He knows that, soon, these long weeks of summer will end and he will return to his arithmetic and writing. But for these short few weeks left, the world is his. His mother, a younger woman herself, sits watching this boy. It had been many years, many years indeed, since she had come to this place. As a child, she visited often; she stood, herself, upon the shore, soaking in the summer’s last rays of shine. But she sits restless now. She looks at her son in the sun and wonders how long the shells and shore will keep his focus. The respite they traveled on was now a week past, and this day is the first spent basking above the warm sand. The boy’s focus has, to mother’s dismay, been away. He longed for boardwalks and pizza, for arcades and movies. The area sure has blown up since the mother was here as a child. She recalls with a sigh the “Shh, shh” of the breaking waves. In those days, the beach was empty. There were no boardwalks or pizza, no arcades or movies. There was a beach though, which lay unspoiled along the coast, and on it she and her parents could rest in peace. But now they rest in peace, and she sees her son in the shallows. She has grown up, and so has the beach. Now there are people everywhere. They’ve heard of the beauty, and come to take as much as they can. Along the beach there now winds a road littered with various shops and restaurants. The peace is gone. The boy, of course, knows nothing about the past. He sees the beach now for what it is. He enjoys it just as much as his mother had in the past, for he has no memory with which he can compare. It can be said, though, that when he returns here with his son, he will, likewise, miss the older days. These days he lives now will be the best he ever has, for with growth comes death. When everything around him changes, it is the boy’s memories that will keep him unhappy of the differences. The seashells are now collected. “Shh. Shh.” It’s time to move along.
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Untitled, Mikey Riva
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Untitled, Daniel Franck
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JA K E PIERCE The Woman in the Yellow Dress Jerry and Stella had come back that night yelling and cheering. Jerry had just pitched great and he looked like he was walking on clouds. Stella was holding his hand and kept kissing the side of his face as they were yelling. My mom and dad who were still alive and with us at the time thought that my brother could walk on water. My mother ran up to Jerry and gave him a big hug, saying, “Congratulations, baby!” My father walked up to my brother after my mom was done hugging him and stuck out his hand. “I’m very proud of you son, what a game.” Jerry and Stella soon left and the night streamlined into the last memory I have of Jerry, in the hospital on his back, in bed, out of consciousness. Stella had taken his glove because she thought he would’ve wanted her to have it after he died. She thought there was no way in hell that Jerry would want me to have it. What a crock. When she was sitting next to Jerry in the hospital I stole her keys out of her purse and ran outside to her car and stole the glove back. That’s the last I saw of Stella. She was the type of girl that if there wasn’t anything left in it for her she wouldn’t stick around to help out. I could never figure out why people didn’t like me as much as Jerry. He had everybody there for him all the time. Sure I was his brother but our relationship was never as good as his was with his buddies. All-American baseball star with a 4.0 GPA and a convertible? He was the man. I turned my head and looked into the Hannigan’s just a few feet away from my bench. A girl, a gorgeous girl, walked towards a rack of clothing. She was wearing a bright yellow dress. In her right hand she was carrying a tan Chanel handbag, clearly outdated, but she could still make the damn thing look brand new. Of course, there would be no way she would want to carry on a conversation with me, a security guard. It didn’t matter, I wanted to talk and she could at least listen. I stood up and walked toward her, having no idea what I would say. As I came closer, she lifted an expensive red scarf off of the display and slipped it in her bag. I stopped in my tracks and watched as she left the department. Her black heels clicked away. She smiled as others passed by. She was confident, something rare in the women I’d known. I kept myself at a distance, as her pace quickened and her long legs flashed down past the racks of purses and handbags. A boy was walking next to her, her son, I guessed, was holding her hand. He turned around and looked up at me, melted vanilla ice cream trickling down his chin. His green eyes held me, trying to tell me something. It felt as if he stared into my soul. I backed out of the gaze and looked at his mother. She reminded me of my mother in a way, before she left her life for a bottle. She had been beautiful and lovely. She would walk me to the park. Holding my hand as the scarf thief held her son’s. It wasn’t until my dad bailed out on us that my mother became clouded and detached. I never knew him, so it didn’t matter to me, but it mattered to my mother. Their story made me angry. The woman was now annoyed with her son, who was tugging violently on her dress. “Mom! Can I pleeeasseee go in there?!” he began to jump up and down. I looked to the right and saw “Tinker Town” in multi-colored building block letters above the department. A miniature train made laps around the blocks, turning into a dark hole and then reappearing out the other end, emitting a loud steam engine “CHOO-
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CHOO” as it went. The boy was entranced by the train, his eyes widened. He turned back and whined. “Mooooooom!” he was jumping very high now. The woman looked into the store. She looked down at her son as if she were about to give him an answer, but hesitated. She looked into the store one more time and then back down to the boy. “Sure sweetheart. Whatever.” I stood just outside the shop leaning against a fake LEGO building and watched them move through the store. It was typical, the woman letting her son run around the store, alone. I had to move into the store to make sure the woman wouldn’t get out of my sight. The ceiling had toy planes and space ships hanging down on thin wires. A plastic jungle tree was what stood between me and the woman. Large stuffed animals were held in place on the vines of the tree. I took a step. I had just squashed a panda bear that had fallen off of the tree. The little girl playing with him was not pleased. “WAHHHH!” she cried, “He stepped on PO, mommy he stepped on PO.” I got the hell out of there and ran to the other side of the department. I was now in some kind of play construction site in the store. There were labeled plastic toy hammers and drills lying everywhere. The store hadn’t been cleaned yet but was going to close soon. Next to the tools were large toy trucks that kids could roll around on the floor. The woman walked into the site now with the boy and looked down at one of the tools and then turned to the trucks. The boy immediately sprinted over to the trucks. “Can I have this!?” the boy squatted down to play. I put my body in the corner behind a stand of toy helmets. She hunched over and picked up one of toy trucks. She glanced at the price tag. She looked around and then ripped it off so fast that I hardly saw it. “Sure sweetie.” The toy truck reminded me of Sir Lancelot, my little knight action figure. Sir Lancelot rode on a black horse that had vapor shooting out of its nose. Lancelot and I went on plenty of adventures together, I would carry him around the house and have him jump over tables, chairs, anything. My dad, before he left, thought that playing this game was stupid, so one day he took Lancelot from me and lifted him high into the air so I could not reach. “Why are you crying over this stupid knight? Are you a little girl or what?” His hand began to shake in the air. I remember the tears dripping down my face. He would do things like this when he was drunk. The woman tried to take the truck back to the cashier in exchange for money. She complained that one of the wheels had broken and it wasn’t rolling straight. The cashier checked the truck and wouldn’t give her a refund back for it. So the woman stormed out of the store, dragging the impatient and crying boy with her. Further down the hall, the thief ’s heels furiously clicking away, Slade smoothly approached. Slade’s uniform was ironed and pressed, so crisp his pleats could slice bread. His hair perfectly brushed and parted to the side. A pair of aviators dangled down the center of his collar and rested next to the ball point pen in his left shirt pocket. His shiny boots thudded as he spoke, “Miss, where do you think you’re headed?”
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“Is something wrong, Officer?” “I’m still allowed to arrest you, even if you’re cute. I saw what you did back there, that red scarf. Do I look stupid to you?” His feet rocked back and forth. He seemed excited to get off such an authoritative remark. I didn’t think that Slade had seen her steal. “No, you don’t, Officer.” Her voice trembling. Slade had always been a jerk, playing stupid middle school jokes. My first day on the job he made a radio call saying that somebody was stealing gumballs from the candy store. I ran to help, and what did I get for my trouble? The whole security department pointing and laughing at my face. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She started to fidget with her fingers. “C’mon, sweetheart, just let me take you out ONE time and I’ll forget what I saw.” The little boy began to whine. Slade reminded me of Jerry in some ways. Slade was getting pissed the woman wouldn’t go out with him. When I was ten, Jerry would always give me crap about this girl who lived next door. She had just moved in from some foreign country, I can’t remember. I can remember seeing her trying to lift this big, heavy box. So I ran across the street just as she was about to drop it and helped her carry it inside. Jerry was playing catch with his friends in our front yard and kept yelling. “Awww, Charlie’s helping the lil’ new girl move in.” His buddies rolling around on the grass laughing. The new girl didn’t hear them yelling; I don’t know how she didn’t. We never exchanged words, just looked at each other. All of the sudden, a baseball whizzed through the air and beaned me in the side of the head. I went down, hard. I was so embarrassed that I was crying. Jerry and his friends just kept laughing and laughing. I picked up the ball, tears blinding me, and hurled it at Jerry. The ball flew through the air, but landed no more than thirty feet in front of me and Jerry still stood unharmed, laughing and laughing away. I could feel the sting of that beanball when I looked at Slade talking to this woman. Slade was looking down to this woman just as Jerry looked down to me. The ball whizzing through the air. This wasn’t going to happen; I wasn’t going to be hit by the baseball this time. “I’ve already taken care of this situation, Slade. She told me the scarf is a gift for her aunt. Her aunt is shopping somewhere in the department up on the second floor.” “That’s right! She is,” the woman added, seeming to feel a sense of security. “You know, Slade, I don’t think Mr. Jones would appreciate you hitting on customers. Don’t you think?” My chest puffed out and my stomach tucked in. There was no way Mr. Jones would put up with Slade’s sweet talk that he knew how to use so well. “Oh . . . ” Slade backed away. Slade turned and stomped off. The boy stopped crying. He looked at me again, goofy and cute. His mother looked down at him. “Hun, you’ve got ice cream all over your face. Hold still.” She reached into her handbag and pulled out some tissue paper. When she finished drying her son’s face I could see she wasn’t wearing a ring. “Well, I’m not sure how I should thank you,” She didn’t smile.
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I didn’t answer. She looked at me, just as the girl next door had looked at me that day when I tried to kill my brother with a baseball. I felt important. The woman’s heels clicked away. “Helloooo . . . ?” “There’s really no need to thank me. That guy’s a jerk. “ She laughed and flipped her dark hair to the side. I felt courage, anger, something bubble up. I wanted to ask for her name. She stared at me. I could tell she felt uncomfortable. Her son’s grin was still fixed on me. She took a deep breath. She walked off, her heels hitting against the floor. She had the scarf, but I couldn’t see it.
Goofball, Patrick Crandol
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I A N GI LES With Filial Affection, Appreciation, and Respect A skull rests on top of many bones against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Richmond. Above the skull is written “Hampden-Sydney College: Lecture on Surgery.” It is a ticket: an entrance ticket to a course required of prospective physicians studying in 1845. The ticket is to Dr. Augustus Warner’s course in surgery at the Hampden-Sydney Medical Department in Richmond. An image of the ticket appears within John Luster Brinkley’s On This Hill: A Narrative History of Hampden-Sydney College. Using the former Union Hotel, the trustees of the College established a medical department to compete with northern medical schools. A quick restoration of the old hotel left a non-aseptic feel to this new—but ramshackle—hospital. Scenes from cheap horror movies come to mind if we contemplate this nineteenth-century hotel turned medical “slasher house” which became the premier education spot for aspiring physicians in Virginia until the school moved into its permanent home in Richmond’s Egyptian Building in 1845. Over 150 years later, the only constant is the location. Brand-new buildings have since replaced that hotel. Today, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine is the oldest and longest continually operating medical school in Virginia—and one without any affiliation with Hampden-Sydney College. Touring the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in 2010, I first saw a plaque on the walls of Sanger Hall, the main administrative building on the medical campus that houses the admissions office and entry-level laboratories. On the plaque are the crests of two schools: The Medical College of Virginia (now VCU School of Medicine) and Hampden-Sydney College. The plaque acknowledges the former relationship between the two schools with the statement “The Medical College of Virginia salutes its mother institution with filial affection, appreciation, and respect.” The same plaque is found on Hampden-Sydney College’s campus, almost hidden in Graham Hall. The split between the two schools occurred in 1854, only seventeen years after the founding of the Medical Department. Almost every Hampden-Sydney pre-medical student knows that the VCU School of Medicine has ties to our College, but not many know the story of the split (as told by Brinkley). The story of the split tells a different tale from that of the plaques—not one the words affection, appreciation, and respect would easily describe. When Dr. John W. Draper laid the foundations of the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College in 1837, the Board of Trustees adopted its own set of regulations to govern the department. The Board stated in those regulations that every personnel vacancy at the Medical Department would be filled with candidates selected by members of the trustees and by the President of the College. Though Richmond is almost seventy miles northeast of the Hampden-Sydney campus, the medical department was governed by the same rules and regulations as the other academic departments. The medical faculty had no “voice or vote” in any affairs of the College. Along with the lack of input from the medical faculty, the attrition rate among students was very high. Only one fourth to one third of students who enrolled actually earned degrees. In 1853, the quiet disagreements between the College and its Medical Department exploded into brash opposition. The President and trustees of the College named
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Dr. Goodridge Wilson to replace a dying Dr. Lewis Chamberlayne as the Medical Department’s professor of anatomy and physiology. Though the medical faculty recommended Dr. Martin A. Scott for the position, the Board overruled the recommendation. The medical faculty at that point publicly stated that the appointment was unjust and directly contradicted the agreements between the medical faculty and the Board of Trustees. The medical faculty did not recognize Dr. Wilson as a professor in their department, and because of this disagreement “separation [was] thus forced.” The Hampden-Sydney College Trustees released a statement asserting that the Medical Department brought them “neither profit nor honor”—cleverly selected by Brinkley for the name of this section in his narrative history—and abolished it entirely. The faculty of the now defunct department immediately founded an independent institution known as the Medical College of Virginia. In 1968, MCV paired with the Richmond Professional Institute to become the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. According to Brinkley, the wounds of the split between HampdenSydney College and its medical department healed, and the Medical College to this day remains a magnet for Hampden-Sydney medical students. After learning the story behind the split, I was left to wonder how and why the healing between the schools took place. The Medical Department was abandoned by the College because it brought “neither profit nor honor,” but 108 years later the Medical College “salutes its mother institution with filial affection, appreciation, and respect” by placing one plaque in Sanger Hall in Richmond and its twin in Graham Hall at HampdenSydney. Obviously, 108 years is a long time for both sides to forget the conflicts of the past, and anyone intimately involved with the situation in 1854 was not living at the time of the hanging of those plaques. But the reconciliation that those plaques are meant to represent still left me questioning the split. How could an aspiring physician from HampdenSydney College attend VCU School of Medicine without betraying Hampden-Sydney College’s nineteenth-century standards? Paradoxically, I can see how healing between two institutions can come with their separation. The Medical College of Virginia and Hampden-Sydney College both existed harmoniously and cooperatively while separated, but bitterly while completely affiliated. When looking around the country at other medical schools that are supposedly affiliated with larger universities, I found that “affiliation” is often in name only. Schools like the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and even the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine all function separately from their respective undergraduate institutions. Differing campus locations and different campus administration are but a few of the disjunctions between medical schools and the undergraduate universities that they are named after. Dr. Healy of present-day VCU School of Dentistry states that professional healthcare schools cannot exist on their own. In order to be founded and claim state support and licensure, they must have some tie to a large undergraduate university. This tie must be present because of the money, materials, and access to research experiences that can be presented to the school’s students. The Dean of the medical department serves the solitary leadership role and reports to the President of the university. Professional healthcare schools are therefore able to make their own decisions and implement their own policies separate from the undergraduate institutions for which they are named. This serves to foster good relations
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between the schools. I can see why the faculty of the Medical Department wanted to select its own faculty: they did not believe that the members of the Hampden-Sydney College Board of Trustees had proper qualifications. They did not want academics choosing physician/trainers. How would they know whom to choose? On the other hand, the Board felt that with the College’s name associated with the Medical Department, it needed to be regulated to the standards of the campus in Prince Edward County. Though conflicting and determined in their methods, both institutions prioritized patient care and physician training. Because the two sides differed significantly on the best way to fulfill these obligations, the parting of ways was best for both schools. The two schools exist today, separately, but a tie (though small) still exists between them. Hampden-Sydney students pursuing health sciences often choose Virginia Commonwealth University for medical, pharmacy, and dental schools as well as for advanced research. I am currently participating in a B.S./M.D. Program established in 2008 between the two schools that grants guaranteed acceptance to two Hampden-Sydney graduates of each class. Though the schools are not completely affiliated, I can sense kind feelings through the hearts of the Virginia Commonwealth University administration—feelings of filial affection, appreciation, and respect—through this program that they have established through Hampden-Sydney.
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Luck, Mikey Riva
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Luck, Mikey Riva
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M E A DE EDM U N DS Conflicted Josh gently laid his head onto Mary’s lap and stroked the blonde, curly hair of their sevenmonth-old daughter May as she giggled and reeled out of innocent curiosity. She would stop momentarily to take in her surroundings, as if seeing the world for the first time, before smiling back up at him and continuing her jitter in an attempt to escape. Mary swiftly but softly gave him a tap to the top of his head and rolled her eyes. “Joshua, if you keep doing that she’s going to be laughing for the rest of her life. Come here, baby,” she said as she gracefully swept May up into her arms and stood up. She walked across the living room and glanced down at the bags neatly packed with the essentials for her and May’s trip to her parents’ place in Charleston for the week. Josh wanted to go, but couldn’t get off his shifts for the week as a mechanic in town; the recent recession put a hold on any idea of time off. Mary started to say out loud the items in each bag, as if reassuring May she wasn’t going to let her down. “Bottles, check. Diapers, che— you know if you keep doing that I’m going to forget something,” she replied as he stood behind her kissing her neck. She put May down and without notice, jumped up and straddled him around the waist and chuckled, “You sure you can make it here alone for a week? No parties and I expect you to be in bed by ten every night, except when you’re out chasing bad guys,” smiling down on him holding the childish grin he had seen so many times before. “Yes dear, anything you say,” returning the same sarcastic grin, only to be squeezed by her legs now locked behind him until he gave in. “You win, you win, your highness.” Satisfied, she released her grip and dropped to the floor. As she grabbed the first two bags and headed for the door, she turned and added, “And don’t forget to take your medication.” Josh returned to the house and grabbed a cold one from the fridge, walked to the living room and slumped down forever into their soft, badly broken-in Lazy boy recliner. As much as Josh loved Mary, he looked forward to nights where he could collect his thoughts alone; his mind almost seemed to get ahead of him sometimes. He flipped through the channels and stopped on a rerun of an old “Saved By the Bell” episode he used to be fond of as a kid. Screech came up on screen and chimed in, “I heard Donald say that to Huey, Dewey, and Louie,” followed by Zach, “and you’re screwy.” The audience burst out laughing as he chuckled to himself at how simple-minded he had been as a kid. When he got up to get another beer, he walked by the picture of Mary singing to May just home from the hospital. Her voice—so sweet and calming—was one of the main reasons he married the girl. Even in Josh’s darkest hours, it stood as his light; all anger and quarreling lost to the beauty, as if his life felt in control. He saw the dresser by the kitchen counter from the corner of his eye and remembered the letters from his best friend in high school, Nate, sent to him over the last couple years while Nate was serving in Iraq. Josh had stashed them in the bottom drawer as each one came in—Mary wasn’t too fond of Nate from the stories Josh had let slip one night when they were drinking. Nate was never a quiet kid, always enjoying taking risks whenever the opportunity presented itself. He was six-three and muscular, but never really got into sports because he said he had better things to do. Those better things almost always involved girls; he was a lady-killer, always riding around town with a girl on the back of his 1340cc Evolution
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motorcycle while they clung on for dear life. Nate was the risk-taker of the group while Josh served as the voice of reason. Josh always planned to settle down early; he loved the idea of a wife and kids right out of high school, but Nate had bigger plans. High school horseplay and girls soon became boring for him; he needed the ultimate thrill to curb his never-ending mischief: war. Nate enlisted the day he turned eighteen, left for training, and was soon shipped out to Iraq as an infantryman of the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment. Nate had sent Josh letters every so often while in Iraq, but Josh quickly hid them from Mary to read at a later time. All alone tonight, he could finally catch up. Each letter began with the usual smartass comments and recollection of old tricks, like when they used to hide Old Man Murfey’s highly prized Miniature Schnauzer on his roof and watched as the old man hobbled around the outside of his house cursing them in his raspy, decrepit voice they heard so often. Josh flipped through until he came to the most recent letter on the bottom of the stack; it had come in about two weeks ago and caught him by surprise at how perverse it was. Nate wrote of the glory of war: the necessity for conflict in life. “The world,” he wrote, “is coming to an end, my friend. Life is a mind game, for the mind controls us; we do not control it. Cormac McCarthy once wrote, ‘A man’s at odds to know his mind because his mind is aught he has to know it with,’ and I believe it. War brings that out of you, man. I hear things at night and wonder if its real. I’m no longer afraid of what’s out there. It’s me I’m afraid of—of what I’m capable of creating.” Josh thought about those last lines as he dozed off, listening to the comforting voice of Zach in the background. He found himself staring down at hands that were covered in blisters and cracks that no longer bled from the thin layer of brown mud that sufficed as a bandage; hands that had symbolized all morality lost in the world; not the hands of a mechanic, but the hands of a slave; hands that were somehow his own. He heard whispers around him, but couldn’t understand who or where they were coming from. They sneered, “You’re nothing! Give up. He’s already won because he’s better than you. You’re a lost soul in a lost world.” The snickering built up, ringing off the walls around him, echoing, into a screech of blurred chaos. He screamed in pain, “Stop, please stop. I have life left to live.” Silence. An unblemished, glowing white hand wrapped around his shoulder lightly, but with a firm enough grip that provided him with an odd feeling of comfort. He looked up to find Nate looking down on him, smiling with the same childish grin and saying, “I’m with you now, don’t worry. Like old times man, like old times. I’m back for good now.” He awoke covered in sweat lying on the floor of the living room. Josh felt drained, mentally exhausted from the nightmare that just crushed him. The room stood still, but he still felt claustrophobic, as if the walls still spoke and were judging him. He lifted his wrist to check his watch and noticed his hand was his own, unscarred and natural. His watch read ten past nine. “Shit, I need to call Mary,” he thought out loud, but his body groaned and ached when he shifted his weight and got up. And then he felt it. That same familiar hand grasped his right shoulder. He jerked around to see the same shaggy brown-haired, blue-eyed, young-looking Nate that left four years ago standing in front of him, as if his stint in Iraq had never happened. Nate smiled and smirked, “Excited to see me, big guy?” Josh threw out his arms and grabbed him, embraced him, and kept spilling
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out random questions that had no meaning. “How? When? Where?” Nate embraced Josh and then held him back so they saw each other face-to-face and said, “It’s good to be back, man. I’ll tell ya all about it tomorrow. I know I’ve surprised you, but do you think I can crash here for the night?” Josh collected himself and returned to his normal cheeky self, “Of course, as long as you brush your teeth. Did they just feed you dog crap over there?” He threw Josh a quick punch to the arm before vaulting onto the couch. “Shut up, get your ass upstairs and call your woman if you got one.” Josh went to return the favor of the jab Nate had sent his way, but thought better of it. He smirked back, “I do have a wife and she’s a babe. Maybe one day you’ll see the light and we can get you hitched,” as he walked up the stairs to his room. Josh grabbed a pair of red briefs out of the dresser, and got under the covers before reaching across the bed to the nightstand where the phone sat. As he dialed, he buried his head in Mary’s pillow next to him and took in her familiar scent; even after only a night he missed the girl. Her tired, but beautiful voice came on the other line. “Hello? Josh, it’s about time you called me.” “I’m sorry, babe. I fell asleep on the couch.” “It’s OK. Is everything all right at—” He almost forgot, but suddenly chimed in, “Mary, you won’t believe it, but guess what! Nate finally came home and needed a place to stay for tonight!” There was a pause at the other end of the line, before he heard a light but distinct whimper, as if gasping for air. “Josh, don’t leave the house. I’m on my way back now. Please, I’m begging you, stay up in the room and don’t go downstairs and see Nate. Oh my God.” He was confused, but as he tried to respond the line went dead. Before he could fall asleep he heard a slam down in the kitchen. He quickly threw on shorts and moved downstairs. Nate was leaning up against the front door, holding his left side as blood gushed out from in between his fingers and dripped to the floor. Josh stumbled towards him and reached out for his side. “What the hell happened!” “I . . . I . . . I don’t know. I need to go.” As Josh slung Nate’s arm over his shoulder, Nate winced in pain and yelled out a moan of agony. “I know man, I’m sorry. I can get us to the hospital quicker in my car than if we waited for an ambulance.” They hoppled across the lawn to the passenger side of his car and he helped Nate in as quickly as possible. “Josh, I need to leave! Don’t take me to the hospital!” “We’ll be there in a minute. Hold in there man!” Josh ripped the gear in drive and peeled out of the driveway. Nate’s bleeding began to quicken, as a small pool began to form on the bottom of the floor. Josh quickly pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed 911. “This is 911; state your emergency.” “My name is Josh Hartford. I’m on my way to Saint Mary’s hospital with a friend who has been shot in his upper left side. His name is Nathaniel Rogers.” There was a pause in the line, before the woman’s voice hesitantly replied, “Sir, please pull over immediately and wait for assistance. You’re wife has already called and we have a squad
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heading in your direction.” “What? I haven’t talked to my wife since he was shot. He will die if I don’t keep going!” She began to reply, but Josh threw the phone across the car. “Damn it, don’t worry Nate. I’m going on.” As the word “on” left his lips, the passenger side door flew open; Josh reached out but Nate’s shirt tore from his grip and Nate rolled out onto the asphalt below going 80 mph. Stunned for a split second, Josh continued on before ripping the emergency brake up and turning around. Nate lay motionless on the road before him. As he threw open his car door, Josh saw Nate’s head jerk around and scream, “You don’t understand! I can’t go there! They’ll keep us forever!” He contorted his body back to normal and threw himself up from the pavement. He crouched for a second, only to jerk up and dash towards the woods surrounding the side of the road. Josh followed after, but Nate’s training had paid off as he quickly gained distance away from him. And then Josh was alone. He walked, each step cracking the leaves beneath his feet and echoing off the surrounding canopy. His own heart pounding, as if his chest were a drum that beat to the night and to the darkness that surrounded and engulfed him. He never felt so alone and cold. A faint chuckle came from behind and the words dripped from the leaves above and covered him; “You thought you were different, Josh. You kicked me out of your life and ignored my letters, but now we’re together again. Mary says I’m not good for you; look at us! We’re unstoppable. You thought I was back from war, but the war has just begun. We are all conflicted—at war with our thoughts, our decisions, and our beliefs. How can you trust Mary if you can’t trust yourself? The mind is a terrible thing to waste and you have a gift: the gift of creation. You are a God among men and you suppress it; you let them control you. How can a gift be useful if the gifted denies it? You have the capability to be uncontained and I can’t let you deny me my rights.” One last screeching howl came from the woods before the night returned to a state of pure serenity. An hour later, Mary pulled into the driveway and slammed the brakes. What little hope she had left was lost when she came to the front door. She found the front door open and ripped from the hinges. Inside, the living room was wrecked: old newspapers were scattered across the floor with headlines following the war. Frantically, she raced to the garage door and threw it open to find Josh’s car missing, but his old 1340cc Evolution motorcycle still sitting in the corner covered in dust from disuse over the years. When she returned to the kitchen, she found Josh’s pills scattered across the floor. She knew he hated the medication, but thought he had learned the necessity of it. As she picked them up, she realized he had neglected to take them for the past week. As tears streamed down her face, she looked over and sitting on the counter was a note. As she read it, she slumped to the floor in overwhelming pain: Mary, I’ve gone to War. Nate and I will always love you. Keep on singin’ baby, keep on singin’. Love always, Josh
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T U R NER BL A K E Brown-Eyed Girl They kissed and said goodbye. He knew she really wanted to leave. After helping with the bags, he watched Veronica disappear into the train car. It would carry her across the country to that place she was so eager to be. As the train began to pull away, he looked for her, but didn’t see her. Red watched the train disappear down the tracks. Looking west, he saw his shadow stretched to the other side of the platform where dew still hung from blades of grass in the shadow of the overhang. This time she had gone to hike a mountain range in Arizona with an outdoors program. Veronica was never happy with Virginia though there were hundreds of miles of trail to hike. She had been bored with Lake Erie. The beaches of Wrightsville had lost their gleam. It was one thing Red really didn’t understand. She was in love with the world, but couldn’t be somewhere long enough to fall in love and stay. He thought it was because her family moved around. Another adventure was never too far off. Red was different. His family had been in Dapperton for two centuries. Because of his dad’s executive job, Red never had lived away from the river, athletic fields, country club, and Flemish-bond brick houses at the ends of long driveways. Red never could get tired of such a home. Where else would he have lived? By now, Red was the only person still on the platform, so he turned and walked through the station to his BMW with his hands in his pockets. Unlocking his car door, it still smelled of her. Red slammed the door as to not be wasteful of her fragrance. Fresh nostalgia filled his mind. Red held it a while before taking another breath. He sweated as he drove to his last final exam. The car was hot, but the exam, easy. It was on slavery in the South. The thought of slavery made Red’s left hand motion towards the window buttons on the door, but he was quick to stop himself. He could still smell Veronica. Entering the parking lot, Red didn’t slow down as he passed through the brick gates of St. James Episcopal School—not even for the irritating speed bump. His exam was about to begin. The lot wasn’t half full, but he still parked in the space reserved for the Headmaster. Taking one last breath before heading inside, Red slammed the door. Running into Room 302, Red found nobody was there. Puzzled, he looked around at the hickory bookcases surrounding the classroom and ran down the hall towards the faculty lounge, but no one was there either. Red walked back into Room 302 and saw writing on the board: No exam. Red couldn’t believe it. Summer was starting and he was free. Walking back out to his car, Red’s loafers clapped echoes. He could smell fresh-cut grass from the athletic fields. Checking his phone, Red noticed Chuck had called and left him a text about the cancelled exam. He also had left a voicemail, but Red never listened to those. Red was pumped for summer, but he still had to go through graduation in three days. It was those three days the Headmaster, Mr. Welmore, always warned the seniors about because somebody always got into so much trouble with the school between the last exam and graduation that he couldn’t walk at graduation. All the seniors expected it to happen, but no one wanted to be that guy. The warning was well noted, even though it didn’t keep anyone from celebrating. Who wouldn’t after going to such a structured allboys private school for thirteen years?
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Driving to Chuck’s place, Red passed Mr. Welmore’s house a few blocks from school. The gas lantern and the left brick column at his driveway were still damaged from the previous weekend’s booze-cruising wreck. As Red passed, Mr. Welmore looked up from his hedges. Red pitched his recently lit cigarette out the window, but a moment later he could hear Wilmore yell, “THIS IS YOUR SECOND WARNING!” behind him. Pulling up to Chuck’s house a minute later, Red saw there were a few cars parked outside. David’s was there. William’s Land Rover sat on the curb with Christopher’s Tahoe behind it. Parking in front of David’s Suburban. Red cracked the windows and worked to get his left sandal on as he walked around to the back gate where the pool house was. It was bigger than Red’s, but Red’s pool house was older—it was built by his great-grandfather in the 1930s. Opening the wrought-iron gate and stepping under the sun-washed brick archway, Red could see down the terrace colonnade to the pool. The vines wrapping the colonnade were in bloom. It smelled of summer. A bunch of the girls were there, and as soon as Red walked down they ran over and began pelting him with all sorts of stupid, standard airhead questions like “Oh my God, do you miss Veronica yet?” Of course he did, but he wasn’t about to have a Q and A session. Walking past them with a smile that said “of course I do,” Red walked into Anne, Veronica’s best friend, who gave him a hug. “Don’t worry” she smiled, “it just means we will have a ton of time to hang out . . . I mean, miss her . . . together.” Red smiled back, slightly guilty. Partly because he knew what she was saying, and also because he had always had a thing for Anne. “Oh yeah, tons of time.” Anne’s brown eyes kept his until she smiled, turned, and walked off in her yellow bikini. Red took a breath, snagged a beer, and walked up to the fire-pit that held the rest of the beer and ice where the guys were smoking and laughing. He sat down as Christopher was in the middle of explaining what happened the night before. “ . . . so Chuck and I run back to my house—cops all over the place—with the beer and grab my mom’s Suburban to pick everyone up, but as we are pulling out of my driveway, a cop goes by and stops, but, of course, I gun it and turn down the alley behind David’s house. Then, as everyone is piling in and the cops in the backyard are yelling at us to stop, the fucking pig in the cruiser passes the alley and doesn’t even see us and I fly out of there, easy as a bird, and drunk as hell!” Everyone laughed and flicked the ashes off their cigarettes. “Wait, tell me again what happened last night?” Red asked as he took a big swig from the can. “Well,” Christopher began, “David’s rager got busted last night, but of course you didn’t know that because you were off with your hippie girlfriend watching some PBS Nature special. You missed out, fag.” Red flicked him off. “I went out with her last night—she left this morning to go on her trip out West. Plus, we had an exam today and you, of us all, are the one who may not graduate, with honors. I’m sure the Ivy League is going to be happy about that.” Christopher rolled his eyes. “Who cares what Princeton thinks? I’m a third generation legacy there and my grand-
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father is a trustee. They can’t touch me.” “Shut up—both of you!” Chuck shot in. “Red has a good point. We are close to graduation. We can’t screw up what we have all ached thirteen years for.” That’s why Red had always been best friends with Chuck. He understood Red. It’s what came from playing on the same lacrosse team since they could run with a stick. Well, that, and how their dads had known each other since they were kids, too. As everyone sat and talked about last night, Red thought about Veronica. She could have stayed, but wouldn’t. Was some mountain range out in the desert better than Virginia with him there? Lost in thought, Red almost didn’t see David’s cigarette until it touched his hand. “All right,” William turned, “let’s try it again, but at my house tonight.” “Yeah, and maybe even he will be there,” Christopher jeered, motioning towards Red. “Shut up.” Red flicked his cigarette. Later that day as the sun was dipping behind Windsor Theater, after everyone had left Chuck’s, Red met up with the guys to get beer. Their usual meeting place, hangout, and hideout was an old parking lot surrounded with giant oaks and littered with beer cans that was partly hidden behind a 7-11, a string of high-end shops, and the Hampton Men’s Club. The place hadn’t changed since Red’s and Chuck’s dads graduated from St. James. Because none of them was twenty-one yet, a few had fake I.D.s which had been bought, or passed down. Though this was where the guys always gathered, the 7-11 never had been a place to buy beer. The owner and clerk, Tony, had watched the boys walk through his doors since they were in middle school. Because of this history, the boys always bought from the more easily deceived foreign couple who owned the Quik-N-Buy down the street and could barely speak English. After Red got his case from David, he and Chuck drove off to drink somewhere better. While everyone else liked to drink in the parking lot, Red and Chuck liked to start their nights off by driving down the old cobblestoned road behind the country club to the back nine. There, sitting out on the silent hills of the golf course, the two would watch the day turn into night. The golf course was Red and Chuck’s true hangout. It let them get away without leaving the four square miles they had grown up in. As they got out and walked over to the tenth hole’s tee box, Chuck turned to Red, “So, you . . . good?” Pulling a joint out of his shirt pocket, Red looked out at the tall pines. “Yeah, I’m fine. Don’t even know if it would have lasted through this summer. We would have been nine states apart anyways in the fall with her going out west to Berkeley. That would suck.” Chuck nodded. “Yep . . . sure would.” After a few minutes of smoking and coughing, Chuck turned again. “So, are you gonna make a move on Anne?” “Probably not. She is nice.” From where they sat, Red could see a couple holding hands and walking their dog down by the fifteenth hole. The sound of the swing band playing on the Club’s lit veranda drifted through the warm air and down onto the golf course. Red smiled. This was where
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he belonged. With the sun down and the lights from the Club spreading dimly out over the stretching fairways, the two friends threw their empty cans into the woods and got back into Red’s car. Turning down the Grateful Dead, Chuck answered his phone. It was Christopher. The volume on the phone was up enough for Red to hear. “We need another two packs of cigs.” “Yeah, no problem.” Chuck nodded and hung up, “Well, you heard the man.” Turning left onto Dover, and then right into the 7-11, Red parked and turned his head as Chuck got out. Something caught his attention. On the other side of the parking lot, Anne’s SUV sat with Anne in the front. Red walked over. Anne’s dirty-blond hair fell against the door as she leaned out the window. “Hey” Anne smiled, “you doing anything tonight?” Red straightened his slouch. “Uhh . . . yeah. We are all going over to William’s house. His parents left for Italy yesterday.” Anne nodded. “Sounds good. I need to go get some wine and pick up a few of the girls, but I’ll be over later.” A few quiet moments passed as a soft breeze spread across the parking lot. Someone came out of the 7-11. “This will be fun! We can hang out together.” Red grinned. “Yeah. Can’t wait. It’ll be good for everyone to get together.” As if everyone didn’t get together every weekend. Getting into his car, Red laid his head back on the headrest and lit up a cig. Chuck opened a beer. “Yeah, and we all know what that means.” Red knew what it meant, but wasn’t sure if he wanted it to mean anything. Getting to William’s house, Red dropped off Chuck and the beer before parking a few houses down. His shirt stuck to his back. He couldn’t wait to get inside. After walking around to the side door, Red sat down on the timeworn brick steps. A phone call on a patio nearby shifted tone. His buzz was wearing off, and it was almost ten o’clock. Normally, he would feel the need to keep the buzz going, but tonight was different. His thoughts were pulling him two different ways. Should he go see Anne though Veronica had only left this morning? Sitting there, Red could hear the music getting louder. Someone had turned on Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl.” With the crescent moon rising above the slate rooftop of the house across the street, Red put out his cigarette. He then stood, turned, and walked inside—his hands resting in his pockets.
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Untitled, Barrett Keeler
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T HOM A S BROW NE The Layover The air tasted sweeter than usual. There was a fog dimming the lights along the street, casting bluish shadows throughout the room. It was night. We had been sitting in the apartment for about fifteen minutes, and the tension between us could be cut with a knife. I was in Sofie’s room for the first time since she moved to Berlin. I hadn’t seen her in two and a half years. I was worried that she had changed but she still had that deep dark brown hair and those eyes that could petrify a man. She still had that same air about her, as if nothing in the world mattered. We had just spent the past hour jumping from one bus to another on our way back from the airport. I had changed my ticket so that I could stop in Berlin before returning to America. I had known Sofie for about a year before she moved back to Berlin. I had the opportunity to study for a semester in Scotland, and figured I could schedule a layover in Germany and see Sofie once again. We had been roaming the streets with my two bags of luggage struggling against the freezing wind. Her house was a fifteen-minute walk from the bus stop and it seemed like we would never get there. I tried to start some kind of conversation, but it seemed like things were a bit awkward between us. I wasn’t sure what to say, should I ask her how she’s been? How are you supposed to answer that after a period of two years? I decided that it was best to take in the feel of the new city and to just smile at her when she looked at me. We finally made it into the cold of her home – we lit the old kitchen furnace for warmth. I laughed as I followed her into the side room, the walls were painted a pale yellow, and the shadows that danced on them seemed to have a life of their own. “What do you want to do?” she asked me, biting her lower lip. She had curled up on her twin bed, looking back at me, smiling. “I don’t know – I’m getting kind of hungry.” “We could go for some Italian, my friend and I just found this place a few bus stops away,” she said. I really did not want to leave the apartment. Sure I was hungry, but I hadn’t seen her in two years, I hadn’t touched her in two years. I had missed her. And now we had to play to formalities, a dinner, catching up out in some loud bar as if it were the first time we’d met. We had always led different lives; she didn’t care about a thing in the world. That was part of her charm. We decided to smoke a cigarette and have a glass of tea before leaving. I took a second to distribute my leaf evenly through the paper, rolled it between my thumb and forefinger so as to clump the tobacco together, and then sealed it with one lick. A perfectly rolled cigarette. I laughed, as I looked over at hers – fat, bulging in the middle, far too much tobacco thrown into too small a paper. The sides ripped and bits were dropping into the teacup below her. It looked like a misshapen sweet potato. After licking and lighting her cigarette she began to pour the tea. She poured the tea carelessly. It seemed deliberate that she spill half the pot onto the pile of papers beside her, then carelessly sweep the wet papers onto the floor. Deliberately. Laughing, she asked if I wanted sugar, and then proceeded to let me know that she didn’t take sugar in her tea, so she didn’t have any to give. She stirred it anyway, excessively, so that tea spilled all down the sides of the cup,
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steaming in pools on the scratched oak table. We talked for a time about her roommate Claude, who was some forty-year-old homosexual make-up artist I was glad not to have to meet because he’s apparently overly flamboyant and doesn’t speak a word of English, and they’d likely be joking in German during my whole stay. But he was the one who designed the house, and I’ll admit that he had done a damn fine job. I respected the little accents of color that touched each room of the house. The blue hand-painted sparrows around the hall window, the deep red of the kitchen, the Kelly green of the bathroom. Everything had that old artistic feel to it. The porcelain clawed-foot bathtub, the hot and cold water taps that were written in French. But I was glad that we had the apartment to ourselves. Strangers were the last thing I felt like dealing with. I just wanted to crawl beneath her sheets and resume where we’d left off – but that wasn’t there anymore, when I hugged her at the airport something felt off, or just distant. Maybe I’ve changed in some way, maybe things are different, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I longed to touch her, to watch the light cast blue shadows on her pale body. I didn’t have any appetite for tea. “Let’s go out to dinner,” she said after a long pause left us staring into one another. “How far of a walk is it?” I asked. I wanted to change out of my boots because my feet had begun to sweat; her room had gotten hot quick. “A few stops on the underground, shouldn’t take long, we’re going to where I used to live – it’s the seedy part of Berlin, with all the drunks and good bars, that’s where all the fun is.” I laughed and put on a pair of canvas shoes that were ten times lighter and more comfortable then my boots. I forgot my jacket. We left the room. THUD. She gasped as I shut the door. “What?” I asked. “I don’t have my keys.” She went off on a short spout, cursing in German, looking to the ground and then the sky, but she never met me in the eyes – I watched her, mortified that I had just locked us out at seven o’clock in the evening. “Can your roommate come and open it?” “He’s in Heidelberg till three tomorrow, shit . . . I’ll give him a call.” I could see the stress in her eyes but for some reason she looked calmed by the fact that we weren’t going to be able to get back into her room. That was all I could think about. No, I didn’t really want to go out to some sketchy Italian restaurant. If anything I wanted an ice cold beer, but even more than that, a warm bed to share – what once seemed so close now seemed so far away, locked, behind her blue-black door. She was spouting off in German to her roommate and I could hear his nervous laughter when she told him what had happened. No, there was no spare. No friendly neighbor to come to the rescue and reveal the hidden key. A locksmith would charge one hundred and fifty euros to come to this part of town this late at night. That certainly wasn’t going to happen. She looked up at me, sitting there on the stairs, the green painted walls chipping off in green flakes, and laughed. “It figures that this would happen to us,” she said smiling. “I guess we’re going out tonight.”
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“Sounds good to me. But where are we going to sleep? My flight leaves at six tomorrow night and all of my things are in your room.” “We’ll find a hostel somewhere. It’ll be fun, although it was a bad move to forget your jacket – but like I said, now we just get to go explore Berlin. I haven’t seen this section very well. I’ve been meaning to go searching for some good bars.” “Well, I can certainly help with that.” We started walking down the five flights of stairs. I was wearing only a sweater in the midst of Berlin in January and I could feel the chill of the wind as soon as we approached the large wooden door at the end of the entrance hall. I remember it being gold, with a picture of an eye carved into it, viciously. As soon as we walked out into the cold night air I realized how unbearably cold it was. Snow was everywhere, but not that kind of snow that you see out your window on Christmas morning; this was city snow, browned and muddied by people trudging to destinations, from dogs relieving themselves without an owner to clean up after them, from all the homeless men who look like hard times have fallen on them, the snow around them covered in cigarette butts and the cardboard boxes where they have curled up and slept and slept and slept the cold away. Graffiti screams along the walls – it’s much more detailed than what I’m used to. It looks as if it has been frozen onto the wall by the western winds. But the sheer detail of it all, it’s enough to fill a book of art; an entire city turned into an art museum. The pictures along the walls were not just gang tags or hastily scribbled curse words or slanders; these pictures were symbols of a society that is geared toward creating something beautiful out of all the monotony of the city’s drab apartment complexes and skyscrapers. One had a man with a spider crawling out of his mouth, and it took up the entire side of a building, must have been one hundred feet tall. Towering monuments to all this talent made me appreciate the silence Sofie and I shared walking through the city streets. It’s so cold outside, and I have to watch out for all the puddles and patches of ice that fill the potholed sidewalk. Sofie walks ahead of me, stomping her feet in puddles and kicking up slush as if it were accidental. But was it accidental? No, of course not. To be that carefree is extraordinary. To actually not care if your shoes soak through with ice-cold water and leave you wandering the streets with frozen feet. It was the little things like this that irritated me, splashing mud on anyone within her radius. But that was always something that got to me. It was part of her charm, her character. And without that I don’t know if we would have ever been anything. We took the train down four stops, then walked to the top of the platform and waited for another train. I had no idea where we were going – it would’ve been a good idea to have paid attention to our surroundings, so that if we got separated I wouldn’t be lost and alone in Berlin, but I didn’t – I reveled in the prospect of getting lost. I just sat there on the train, trying to figure out whether I should wrap my arm around her. I did. She smiled. The train stopped and we got off, I passed some old man’s massive St. Bernard and remember seeing the icicles that had formed on the dog’s knotted fur. We kept walking in silence. I tried to think of something to say, but everything sounded vain and artificial, so I kept quiet. I didn’t mind the silence, and I don’t think she did either. I was busy taking in the graffiti-ridden landscape; it was hard to think of anything else when you’re
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that cold. We passed dark alleys with food stands at their entrance. We laughed at one of the little side restaurants called “Tom’s Frites.” We stopped for a moment, then decided French fries and beer would be a better late-night snack than a dinner, so we kept walking. When we finally got to the Italian restaurant, it was a quaint family run joint. I fully expected some kind of actual restaurant, but this was more of a hole in the wall, with a small dreary kitchen, ugly white tile floors, and a creaky wooden awning that acted as a roof. Thick plastic sheets had been lowered on the sides, enclosing the sitting area, and warming the whole restaurant with the heat from the kitchen. We ate in silence. I had forgotten how little we had in common. How long it took her to open up to any conversation. It had always bothered me, especially when I sat there trying to speak about anything that would fill the silence. We talked about art, for a moment, before she cast the topic aside as if it were unworthy. “I don’t care about art. There is so much else out there.” She smiled when she looked back at me. “That’s such bullshit, you of all people appreciate art. You just don’t appreciate the assholes who call themselves artists, but don’t produce anything worth a damn, or the people who dress in what they think to be the costume of an artist.” I pointed to a couple dressed all to the nines in pseudo-intellectual attire; the man with a top hat and bright gold glasses, the woman with long red gloves, and a face that was slightly tilted upward, revealing a large nose that had a fat gold stud stuck through it. It was the way they carried themselves, pompously, as if the top hat were some crown of artistry. “It’s those people that establish stereotypes, that feel like they have to wear their character on the sleeve of their fringed jacket. Real artists don’t become products of cliché.” “Oh, well, I just don’t really care about any of it.” “Well, what do you care about?” “Oh, I don’t know, nothing really – I know it’s horrible, but I really don’t.” “I mean, what do you do with your time? There has to be something that fills the day, that gives you some kind of satisfaction.” “I mean, I like things, just nothing enough to dedicate my life to it – like all those artists, I would hate myself if all I did was wake up and paint all day . . . ” “It would be better than working in a cubicle.” “Yes, maybe . . . depends. How’s your pasta?” She changed the topic, and I could see the disinterest behind her eyes. Why had it been so long since we last talked, really talked? It’s so weird how we can talk through e-mail so easily, but as soon as we’re face to face there is nothing that we can say to each other. “It’s great. The beer’s especially delicious, one of the perks of Berlin. So, when are you going to school? Have you gotten in yet?” “Ugh, barely, I forgot to send my application, so I’m not going to enroll this semester, but I will be for next which is good, because I love Berlin. I never want to leave.” “It’s nice that you found somewhere you love, I don’t think I could bear living anywhere for more than three years.” “Well, my dad was from Berlin, so I’ve always come here over the summers and winters, it’s just so perfect here – especially in the summer, I don’t know what you were thinking coming in the winter.”
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“How is your dad, by the way? Is he still living here in Berlin?” She looked back at me incredulously. “My dad’s dead.” It had been too long. I was beginning to forget her. The silence that ensued marked a distance between us that we tried to ignore. It was all right to forget little things, like her mother’s maiden name or something like that, but to forget a death as serious as her father’s was unacceptable. I remember when I first asked about her father, it was worse, being only three months after he had been lowered into the ground. I remember seeing her eyes swell and redden, and I remember her shaking fingers as she lit a cigarette. Her loss was strengthened by our loss of communication, the distance between us, the distance between the subject, the distance between life and death—it all came to a head in the form of icy tension. What do you say to that? Sorry? Does sorry really mean anything when someone has forgotten something like that? Does sorry mean anything when it comes from a stranger to the deceased? “I’m sorry . . . I haven’t slept in . . . um, where should we go after this?” I tried to sound natural, acting as if my topic change did not completely disregard the weight of the topic beforehand. “It’s fine,” she laughed it off, “I don’t know. Lets just walk in that general direction. There’s a hostel down the road. It’s far but there are bars up ahead, and it’s not like we need to hurry, is it? I mean, we can just take the underground if we need to.” She laughed. “What’s the name of the hostel?” “Circus-Freak. The last time I went there it was full of Australians screaming at each other over some shitty Aussie Indie band. Their music was god-awful, but they were nice, very loud, but nice.” I loved that about her. For one, it was her taste in music, none of that whining stuff that fills the ears of so many homes nowadays. She listened to Zappa, Waits, and Reed. But for a girl who listened to music with such thrust, she didn’t care about anything. And I liked that about her too: she just walked through the world to walk, and would stop wherever she felt it was a good place to stop. I tried to pay for her food but she wouldn’t let me. In fact, she insisted that she pay for me, but that certainly wasn’t going to happen. I figured it was fine since I would be buying the drinks in a moment, and I really just wanted to get back out to see Berlin. I was only going to be there for a day, and I wanted to make sure that I did as much as I could. Not that I really wanted to do much, except to see her again, but I did want to see the general culture of the city, which I had heard was pretty wild, and I only had one night to do it. We continued to walk down the streets; Sophie still stepping in the water puddles that had gathered from the drainage pipes. I remember realizing that my feet had gone numb, the only feeling being an eerie sort of pressure. We had only been outside for about five minutes, but my shoes were soaked and did little to block the chill of January. It seemed like she was just walking, walking with no particular goal other than to step in every puddle she saw, so I asked her if she wanted to go into a bar that was about twenty feet ahead of us. She nodded and we walked inside. It was a pretty cool atmosphere. Several layers of black curtains blocked the entrance
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hall, so that you had to walk for a few feet before entering the actual bar. I remember pushing back the curtains and feeling the heavy cloth vibrate with the bass guitar inside. The bar itself was an old 1940’s house, shell-shocked from the World War. All the interior walls were knocked down, and a bar was set right in the middle. The entire bar, the ceiling, stools, radiator, floor, everything, was spray-painted gold. It gave off a vibe of seedy elegance. Or maybe decadence is the more appropriate word. There were a few tables, all gold of course, with a variety of different types of chairs. The place was packed with people standing and sitting alike, but there was one table in the corner of the room that was vacant. We sat next to one another in a set of old blue cinema chairs that looked as if they had been taken out of some cinema that had been bombed in the war. The couple sitting at the table across from us had a set of antique racing bucket seats that were propped up on large wooden boxes, painted gold. The couple were laughing and rambling in German, and seemed happy. “You want a drink?” I asked as I turned to Sofie. “Sure, what are you having?” “Warsteiner.” “What?” She laughed. “Beer, Warsteiner is the brand.” “Yeah, get me one of those, please.” She added, smiling coyly. I went up to the bar and realized that I might have to knock one or two people out before being able to place an order. Three German guys, of average height and build, were yelling at the top of their lungs at anyone who bumped into them – which was everyone at that point because the place was so crowded and everyone was trying to get a drink. I slid through the crowd and managed to get to the bar without getting in bad with any part of the mob that was slowly forming. I yelled out for two beers to the bartender, and realizing that I was speaking English in a foreign country I suddenly became embarrassed at my situation. The bartender wouldn’t serve me. I kept waving him over but every single person who called out to him would get service. I saw one couple get two drinks before I received one. I finally got his attention and ordered the beers. I think he may have charged me extra but I didn’t care because the whole experience was such a hassle. I got back to the table and told Sofie the story. She laughed hysterically, then wrapped her arm around mine and put her head on my shoulder, still convulsing with giggles. It had been a long time since I had felt her this close before. She felt closer than ever – I think it was her laughter, it sounded so unfiltered – raw, and unfiltered. It was a loud kind of laughter, loud enough that people from the other tables would turn and look at us; but then they would see us, and they would see her, and hear her, and then they would begin to laugh too. I sipped on my beer with a grin spread wide across my face. We left the bar after about two hours of lounging in the cinema chairs. She was excited to show me this bar where she wanted to work. She said that it was only about a ten-minute walk from the Tom’s Frites stand. We stopped and ordered some fries. They were delicious and they made the walk much more bearable. We got to the bar and went in. She explained to me that the bar was owned by a colony of artists that owned the land behind the bar, and had since transformed the area
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into a hubbub of artists, mainly sculptors who worked exclusively with scrap metal. We walked into the bar and I couldn’t help but smile. There was a ten-foot metal sculpture of a dragon, and they had hooked up a flamethrower so that every time a new customer came in the bar the dragon would shoot out an eight-foot flame that heated the room instantly. The cast of characters in the bar varied from vicious looking punks to old men and women who looked as if they had just driven there from church. It made us laugh and provided us with some great people-watching. The dragon shot out fire again, and the way the light played off Sofie’s eyes exhilarated me. I wanted to get to the hostel; I couldn’t wait to have her alone, away from all of these crowds of people. We talked and drank for about an hour before we decided to explore the art workshops in the alley behind the bar. Everything was wet, and there were puddles as wide as six feet that Sofie walked through aimlessly. I could barely stand the cold anymore, so I walked into the first shop I saw. There were three men sitting around a fire, drinking. There were bits of sharp scrap metal scattered all around the store, and I treaded carefully for fear of losing a finger. Massive saws and blowtorches were propped up against the walls. The men looked over at me. “American? Everything is for sale, enjoy.” I hadn’t said a word, how on earth would he know that I was American? Sofie came up behind me and grabbed my hand. “We should probably go, it’s getting close to two and we still need to make sure we have a place to sleep.” I agreed and walked out with her, still puzzled by my encounter with the three drunken sculptors. We made it to the hostel pretty fast; I could hardly stand the cold any longer. We pushed open a large twelve-foot blue door and walked inside. Everything was silent except for the faint thumping noise from the bar down below. We had to walk about fifty feet down the hall before turning up a set of stairs that led to the reception. A younger-looking woman sat behind the counter smoking a cigarette. She had bright blue eyes and blonde dreadlocks that for some reason or another made her look like a goddess. Like some kind of beautiful Medusa. I had learned my lesson at the bar and so let Sofie speak to the receptionist. I gave her the money and she went off, speaking fluent German beautifully. People have always said that they think German an ugly language, but I disagree; it all depends on how it is spoken, and by whom. The way it rolled off Sofie’s tongue was like honey dripping from a ladle. That was what it sounded like, honey. I was surprised to learn that we had gotten one of the smaller rooms. We would still have to share with other people staying in the hostel, but there were only six of them as opposed to the ten I had expected. I just hoped that they weren’t back asleep yet. We walked up the stairs a few floors then made our way to room C6. The room had high ceilings and had three bunk beds each positioned against the wall. All of the bottom bunks were taken, and the two that were left were across the room from each other. I looked at Sofie and smiled. “We made it. Looks like we won’t be sleeping with the bums tonight.” I laughed.
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“I know, I’m almost disappointed, that probably would’ve been a better story. I’m just glad to be warm and indoors.” She smiled at me, turning away coyly. I walked toward her and wrapped my arms around her. She put her arms around my neck and she was so close to me that I could see the tiny wrinkles on her lips, still cracked from the harsh January winds. I turned around as I heard a key turning at the door. A tall bearded Australian came through the doorway with a beer in one hand and a kebab in the other. He looked about our age, but the beard and his nappy dreadlocks made him look dirty and older than he must’ve been. “ ’ello, mate, how’s the noight treatin’ you two strangers, eh?” “Doin’ all right man, just checked in.” I replied, trying to be friendly. “Oh, alroight, well just so you know, definitely lock up the doors at noight ’cause there have been a series of thefts lately. Yeah, m’bloke got his luggage slashed and all his valuables stolen. They just tossed his clothes all about the room. So just remember to lock it up.” He raised his glass. “Will do, man, thanks for the heads up.” He nodded and walked back out of the room singing some Australian rugby song. Sofie went to the restroom, and I made our beds with the sheets the receptionist had given us. She must’ve forgotten to give us the comforter, because we only had one, so now I was looking forward to a night sleeping next to the window with nothing more than a sweater and a paper-thin blanket. I curled underneath it anyway, to try to get warm. When Sofie came back in she turned off the lights. She walked over to me and took off her shirt and crawled underneath my covers, putting her head on my chest. “Sorry it’s so cold, the receptionist forgot to give me a comforter.” “You’re plenty warm enough, I’m not cold.” And with that we kissed. For ages it seemed like we kissed. Wrapped in each others’ arms beneath the pale blue of the Berlin moon. I knew now why I had come here. It was to be with her, to experience the freedom of a day with her. I had forgotten what we had had. The tension that could be cut with a knife had been cut to pieces at the touch of her lips. Our breath smelled like potatoes, cigarettes, and beer; and our bodies moved as if in a dance with each other. I was entranced. I didn’t care whether I would be leaving the next day. In fact, I wanted to stay right here, in this hostel with her for as long as I could. She lay beside me, breathing heavily, and turned to look at me with teary eyes. I saw in her eyes a reflection of what I was thinking. She looked trapped for a moment, and we were trapped, trapped in each other, but only for short time. It was worth it. Coming here, seeing her again, feeling what it was like to give yourself wholly to another. Complete happiness. Momentary happiness. There is always the reminder that happiness is fleeting, but I don’t care tonight; I will remember this forever. Clouds fill the sky and it begins to snow. It’s about four in the morning and none of our roommates have showed up. We watch as the snow blankets the outside city, white. It looks like a Christmas snow, clean, fresh, renewed. I hold her close to me as she dozes off to sleep. I stay awake, watching the snowfall, wanting to savor this moment before it is ruined by the bustle of the outside world. I know everything will work out the following day. We’ll get back into her apartment, I’ll get my bags, we’ll kiss, she’ll get me to the airport, we’ll kiss and then she’ll leave. And then I’ll leave. But I don’t want to think
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of any of that. Everything works out, in the end, in some fashion. The moon casts blue shadows on our bodies and IÂ realize that this is all IÂ wanted out of Berlin, nothing more, just her image intertwined with mine and cast blue in the dying night.
Untitled, Charles Wysor
Garnet: A Historical Note Volume I, number 1 of the Hampden-Sidney Magazine [N.B.: The spelling of the College’s name with a “y” was not regularized until 1928] appeared in January 1859, as the joint monthly effort of the Union and Philanthropic Literary Societies. Each society provided half the members of the editorial board; of the first volume’s eight editors, five served in the Confederate Army in the War that rudely interrupted publication after the March 1861 issue. In the first two volumes, over half the contributions were solicited from alumni and friends of the College. Henry Read McIlwaine (class of 1885; professor of English and Librarian, 1893-1907; later State Librarian of Virginia) revived the Magazine, under the literary societies’ patronage, in 1884 as a primarily student organ, although alumni furnished about a fourth of the material. In this still more or less monthly incarnation, the Magazine published not only essays, stories, reviews, texts of speeches, poetry, and jokes, but also community (including Union Theological Seminary) and alumni news, since the Tiger (established 1919) and the Record of the Hampden-Sydney Alumni Association (1926) had not yet assumed those functions. In 1894, after the beginning of intercollegiate football and baseball, an Athletics section was added. For some years the College World and Exchanges sections reported, often gleefully or censoriously, what students were doing in other colleges and saying in their periodicals. In the 1920s and 1930s the Magazine gradually became more literary and historical in character and less frequent in appearance (officially it was a quarterly); by the early 1930s it was also independent of the increasingly moribund (and later merged) literary societies. Having taken the name Garnette in 1937, it ceased publication, again because of war, in 1943. After World War II, attempts to revive it, with the re-spelled name Garnet, were short-lived until 1952, when Henry William Hoffman ’49, then on the faculty, spurred its renewal, under the original name, as a semi-annual; Sigma Upsilon (the now-defunct literary honorary fraternity) provided the editors. Having faltered somewhat as Sigma Upsilon faded away, and because of the scarcity of student contributors (a complaint of editors since the 1880s), it received new impetus in 1967 as an independent entity under the Board of Publications as an annual, with its current name. Art, including photography, then became a regular department, although illustrations had appeared since 1892. During the 1930s the Magazine adopted as one of the several mottoes it has had “The Lasting Word of the Students.” In fact, without so intending, since 1859 the editors have obliged us by creating a priceless documentary history of student attitudes, concerns, tastes, and accomplishments. —John Luster Brinkley ’59
Creative writing by Hampden-Sydney students