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3 1 0 2 2- ue 1 0 r 2 ry Iss e t n Wi iversa Ann

on i t c y i f on oetr P & n

2011

FROM THE DEPTHS

Wint er

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A Pub Haun lication ted W o aters P f ress

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Reel One

FROM THE DEPTH

S

Snapshots from a A Life Less Ordina ry


Copyright © 2012 HAUNTED WATERS PRESS. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this periodical may be reproduced or used in any form; printed, electronic or mechanical, without the express permission of the publisher. The only exceptions are by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review, and to the contributing author to whom all rights to individual works revert back to the author ninety days following publication. From the Depths is a quarterly publication of Haunted Waters Press. Cover design by Susan Warren Utley © 2012. Works contained herein are works of fiction. Characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any actual places, events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Printed and published in the United States of America. First Printing: December 2012 For more information please visit: http://www.hauntedwaterspress.com Or email us at: editor@hauntedwaterspress.com From the Depths is a quarterly literary journal released in the months of March, June, September, and December in digital format, and periodically in print form. All submissions should be sent through our online submission manager. Please visit the Haunted Waters Press website to review our submission guidelines. This publication is made possible through the hard work and dedication of the contributing editorial staff who give their time so generously. Funding and support for Haunted Waters Press provided by The Man. Thank you for encouraging us to follow our dreams.


Susan Warren Utley Savannah Renée Warren PENNY FICTION EDITOR Penny Dreadful CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Donna Parkman Rebekah Postupak FEATURES EDITOR Savannah Renée Warren DESIGN & LAYOUT Susan Warren Utley CREATIVE Alec Spidalieri Debby Warren-Manning


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Snapshots from a A LIfe Less Ordinary 30 Kate LaDew A Room Made of Windows

5 C on tribu 2 tor P ages Cred 5 4 its & Perm issio 5 5 HWP ns Ope n Ca lls

FROM THE DEPTHS

L o n R 26 Tw icha o r T ic dso k e ts n

de n o g L a y L Thin n n Da amp Sw

Rob 8 46 ar ert The Ag n e a R ubb Earle Sus l Bridg er M tee S ask e Th Reel One Fiction

14 en M.B. Bak ce rke’s Dan Thom Yo

38 Robin Masul lo Evenin g Edit ion

rs 6 dito E e m th o r f ter 23 r view Let nte or I h t 36 ion Au ct y Fi n n Pe


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Art My Heife Fat tz her 49 ’s S car An s ne Br i Do wnp tting our Ol e s on Ad e Th la Fin eP ow e er o fa Bo ok

Creative Nonfiction

Poetry

Jas bac on St 12 M k whenocks ar Wh y Sha a It W t I Di nley as n d W ’t E ith M H 24 eathe nough y Hand em otio r Kwo los l nle t s s ek


Dear Reader, Welcome to the anniversary issue of From the Depths. As we enter our second year of publication, the release of our fifth issue marks a turning point for the journal, as well as Haunted Waters Press. Four seasons have passed since we embarked on this journey with a penciled list of goals and a loose timeline that served as a business plan. With each issue, we have grown and our goals and plans for the journal and the press have evolved. Within these pages, we commemorate the successes of our first year in publication with hints from the past. We also celebrate the upcoming seasons of change with a glimpse into the future of the journal.

too se rious

In this issue we pay tribute to A Life Less Ordinary, the very idea that inspired the creation of Haunted Waters Press. Once again we thank you for joining us on this extraordinary journey. Enjoy.

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Best regards, Susan Warren Utley Savannah RenĂŠe Warren Editors, Haunted Waters Press


change 437


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ld Horace Miner was the key guy in the neighborhood by virtue of the fact that he was always outside tending his property. In the summer he mowed. In the fall he raked. In the winter he shoveled. In the spring he dug, planted, and mulched. He had an old blue F-150 pickup, a Tidewater Virginia accent and was built like a marsh bird—with such huge feet he could walk on anything and not sink in. He also was bald and didn’t have a lot of blood left in his face. But even if he seemed omnipresent, entangling us all in his spell, he didn’t deserve being mocked. I’m sure Barry Mink would more than agree with that now. Wouldn’t everyone live like Horace, given the chance? The kids in the neighborhood certainly did their best, climbing trees and taunting the twilight as long as their parents would permit, leaving Horace alone to burn after dark. You could hear him out there doing his incessant little things long after the rest of us were trapped in front of our computers and TVs, annihilating our boredom with cabernet.

thing forever. Something foreign to both must intercede to hold them together, couple them, manage the argument, if you will. That was Barry’s key concept: a seal does its job by arguing out of both sides of its mouth. In this sense, it’s the indispensable liar; only when it loses the argument do things fly apart. In his basement study there was a large photo of the space shuttle Challenger blowing apart: The Oring seal lost the argument. Barry captioned it, “‘SEE?’”

Barry’s specialty before retiring from the Air Force had been sophisticated seals. That’s where this began. To listen to him seals were the essence of existence, the ultimate safety device, the glue in time/space between life and death. His principle was simple: one thing never loves another

Theory number one: Barry felt a certain spleen toward Horace. It galled him to see Horace standing in the elements exposed and wearing away like an old gravestone so that you could barely read the features on his face anymore. Barry believed that as you aged, you must adapt,

After Barry “retired,” he bought a novelty rubber company—balloons, comic condoms, masks—and tinkered away, expanding the line to include rubber boats, inflatable lawn furniture, and even rubber playgrounds and driveways. His bouncy driveway was a favorite hangout for neighborhood skateboarders who couldn’t go fast on it but never got hurt there, either. He had all this stuff made in China and became rich, but he stayed put in the neighborhood. He just couldn’t seem to persuade his wife Ruth that they ought to move up higher in the baronial Potomac Hills with grand views of our nation’s capital.


find new pursuits, permit something antic in yourself to run free. And he disliked the threatening smallness of Ruth’s relationship with Horace’s wife, Anne-Marie. They were kitchen-table sisters who talked about their ailments all morning long. Anne-Marie would rather do that than go to China with Barry and eat fried snake or relocate a half-mile up the ridge to a general’s style home that colonel Barry could now more than afford. Barry could see that AnneMarie was the new seal in Ruth’s life. Whenever he passed Horace, keeping watch on nature and time, it made him mad: he’d lost the argument in his marriage; Horace was the living symbol of the big lie that love lasts forever and grows bigger and freer the richer you get. Theory number two (which gives Barry more credit): Barry cherished old Horace. Horace was the last seal, and Barry knew it. He stood in the space between life and death and raked it together. He tended it with his clippers. He was more than picturesque in his long blue denim barn coat and blue watch cap. He was Vulcan: he cured existence with flames. Nothing smelled better than those little fires Horace built in the fall to clear off the leaves the county trucks left in the gutter, providing a colorful dot of embers at nightfall where Barry, George Stepanski, Curt Garson and I would come over to chat and pass around a little flask of cheer Horace always kept in one of his big pockets. Just like in the ghetto. Just like in the Middle Ages in the castle keep. And Barry liked that, this theory says. Barry recognized that Horace’s fires were the last living seal of trembling time telling us this was our place forever. These, then, are two plausible interpretations. You may think of others based on what Barry did and then what Anne-Marie Miner did—Anne-Marie who had the last word and may have felt ambivalent about it herself. Halloween came, you see, and O! what a perfect setting it was. Dark early, not too much traffic, kids everywhere who wanted something to happen, longing for events, omens, images more interesting and real than they found on TV or the Internet. I certainly felt that way as I prepared to welcome their theater in my doorway. What a wonderful thing, I thought: a long, colorful passage into the night of winter on the eve of the Day of the Dead. With trays full of my own favorite candies in the front hall, I lit candles in the window and poured my cabernet. Then it, the macabre, began to happen. The first child who came to my door took my breath away. Then came two more, wearing the same mask as the first. So did two of the next three children, and four of the next five. The masks were ghastly rubber things like the Bush and Clinton masks you can buy from the vendors down on Constitution Avenue near the Mall. These masks, however, had an unpresidential set of drippy features. The forehead

was high and pale, bloodless. The eyebrows were frosty. The nose was broken-beaked, the mouth was tiny, the chin not too strong. It was a rubber mask of Horace Miner. Barry had them made in one of his factories in China, and he gave one to every kid who came to his door. Soon the sidewalks and streets were full of children, and even adults, wearing Horace Miner masks. If you went out with your flashlight, which I and others did, you saw him everywhere—between houses, edging along shrubs, leaning against cars, sitting on curbs and ringing doorbells. Horace Miner, Horace Miner, Horace Miner…. Horror is not being able to tell things apart; it is the possibility of one indivisible, inscrutable meaning concentrating on its secret purposes. That’s why alien movies have so much power—because the aliens all look alike.

If you went out with your flashlight, which I and others did, you saw him everywhere—between houses, edging along shrubs, leaning against cars, sitting on curbs and ringing doorbells. Horace Miner, Horace Miner, Horace Miner… What did Horace think? He stood in his doorway, a bag of candy in his hand, and laughed and laughed. “Boo!” he and the kids would say to each other. Or, “Do I know you?” Or, “Haven’t I seen you before?” Or, “Wow, what an awful looking creature this is!” It was one of those crescendo jokes that never seem to peak. Ruth Mink was mad as hell. Not funny. What had her awful husband done? You could see her in the living room with Anne-Marie, not exactly consoling her, but not able to look out at the kids, either. Then along came Barry wearing one of the masks. He offered me one. I held it in my hand as I watched him go up to Horace and give him one, too. Horace pulled it on in a flash. Amazing. No one looked better than Horace with a Horace mask on. He’d been born to wear a Horace mask. Ruth snapped at Barry to get out when he came in with masks for her and Anne-Marie to don, so he scooted down the porch stairs and almost fell. Horace caught him. The two of them stood there shrieking like banshees behind their masks. Then they pointed at me and one of them—I’m not sure which—cried, “Put it on! Put it on!” So I did. The three of us joined arms and began to walk up and down the neighborhood streets, admiring all the little Horaces

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The Rubber Mask by Robert Earle

everywhere, so many Horaces you couldn’t count them all, some carrying Horace rakes they’d rummaged out of their parents’ garage, others wearing blue Horace watch caps like the real McCoy or swimming along in baggy Horace barn coats borrowed from the hook by the kitchen door. Horace died of a heart attack later that night. This is not a false headline. I said the macabre had begun to happen. Now you’ll see. The ambulance came and went in about five minutes. It was one in the morning. Ruth and Barry Mink got there to help before I did. Curt Garson and George and Cynthia Stepanski came, too, but all we could do was stand there and watch as the litter—they were still working on Horace—was shoved into the back of the orange and white van and Anne-Marie climbed in and the van pulled away. Ruth and Barry ran to get in their car and follow. Cynthia offered Curt and me coffee, but we declined. Who wanted to be awake? Poor guy. I’m sure they, like me, turned out the lights seeing his face and expected to see it etched on the sun as it came up over the horizon with the dawn. It didn’t. Not quite. Most of us got up quite early wondering what to do—go knock? Before six? A few of us did. Living right next to Horace and Anne-Marie, I was one of them. Barry Mink answered the door. “Horace is gone,” he said. “Ruth’s in the bedroom helping Anne-Marie settle down.” Then he broke into a sob. Old men don’t do this well. It’s as startling as hearing a piece of wood laugh or a rock cough. “I feel so bad!” he wailed. I grabbed the old colonel and hugged him. He was impossible to console. “Those fucking masks! Why did I have to think up those fucking masks?” Since I had no good answer to that question, I kept my mouth shut, got him some coffee from Anne-Marie’s kitchen and then went out to bring in the Washington Post from the front lawn. That is when I saw the first mask lying there. It looked like a real piece of skin. I quickly picked it up and stuffed it in my pocket, thinking it must have been dropped there the night before. Then Cynthia Stepanski came by. She took me aside and pointed to her own coat pocket. “I found one out on the lawn just a minute ago,” she said. “What if Anne-Marie were to look out there?” “I didn’t see that one,” I said. “My God, we’d better check the whole neighborhood.” Just then a heavy voice came rolling down the hallway like a giant bowling ball, a widow’s voice—Anne-Marie’s voice. “Barry,” she called, “you collect those masks and you burn them. Do you hear me? You burn them!”

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Barry’s teeth clattered against his coffee cup before he could put it down. Anne-Marie’s instruction really got us moving. There wasn’t any real sunrise that morning. There were clouds above; a cold wet dew cloaked the ground below. If the trees watched us, they saw only dark shapes as Barry, Cynthia, and I scanned lawns and bushes and knocked on doors. The masks came out of the doors without our asking, often just a hand clutching that sad flap of rubber appeared, mutely begging us to take it away. There had been twentyfive masks, Barry said. We got them all, including the two we found on Horace’s lawn. “Now what?” Barry asked, leaning against Horace’s blue F-150. The creases in his face were so deep and red they must have ached. The lingering darkness hung upon us more like the collapse of eternal night than the break of day. “Now we get Horace’s rakes, and we rake up some leaves and those candy wrappers and we make a pile,” Cynthia said, “and we burn the masks right here by the curb.” “Just the way Horace did?” Barry asked. “Just the way Horace did,” Cynthia said, seeming to relay, telepathically, exactly what Anne-Marie’s eyes were telling her from where she stood beside Ruth Mink up on the porch.

“Barry,” she called, “you collect those masks and you burn them. Do you hear me? You burn them!” I don’t know to this day what Horace’s mask was keeping in or keeping out. I don’t know how it sealed his life or death or what it sealed it to. I don’t know if anyone else did, either, or if it put Anne-Marie in a mind to grieve, forgive, or condemn. But people came out anyway from where they, like Anne-Marie and Ruth, had been watching. No doubt they knew exactly what we were going to do— kids ready for school, parents ready for work, lunch bags and briefcases and knapsacks in hand, expressions on their faces as drained and still as Horace’s mask. Twenty-five scraps of twisted face lying there in a pyre. Some lawnmower gas. A match…flames. We all looked down while the small pile of rubber, leaves and paper burned and melted, turning white and gray and black. Then we gave ourselves, standing in our rough large circle, one of those mysterious looks that philosophers say are true and that no one, certainly not me, can explain.


We spit seeds drink warm RC over mountain fires aim rage at passing pickups. Country rain awakening the old sedentary road leading to the cemetery behind Cella's store. That twice burnt down under mysterious circumstances. Down the street a piece is Mr. Freeman's place. Thick headed hero with medals he breaks out when the whiskey gets warm he waits for it. We wait for it and admit we can't know what it means but stories feel good to us.

Back then.

back when

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You danced around the barbed wire fences that cornered your life, like a harlequin, laughing, colorful, boasting, loving. Your life was like crystal energy, it brought out the best and the worst in yourself. You were radiant, lit by a fire that could not be extinguished. You suffered the anguish of one who was never loved from first breath, yet you somehow found your way to love but it wasn't enough. and then there came a pause, and everything went dark. When the birds flock to the fire escape outside the apartment where you lived they sense something is wrong and they fly away, chattering in birdspeak.

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I don't know what i did with my hand. Is it on my face? Is it in my pocket? You appeared on the street, as you always did, just popped up. You took my hand and shook it. "Where did you find my hand?" I asked. "It was placed over your heart. I thought maybe something happened and you were praying." James said. I gave you my hand and you placed it over your heart and we parted in peace.

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W

e were all damaged in some subtle way, so they rented an abandoned room on the topmost floor of the Fundamentalist Church where the ceilings angled in line with the roof and where we all learned to duck and cower at all the right moments. It was a big church, a church with a chapel and a cafeteria and a chattering little preschool on the first floor, and the congregation believed it was fulfilling its divine and charitable duty by offering us this unused room. It was a wide room, wide open and perfectly square, an attic space made for storing dusty discarded things, the floor unvarnished with scratches and splinters and dings, the walls a fading dingy white. They moved us up there so we could be away from the other teenagers who were going about their regular days at the regular public high school just down the street. The church itself was a fortress made from huge blocks of chiseled white granite, and up on the very topmost floor our only window was a gigantic stained glass circle with radiating panes of yellow, blue, and rose, the centermost point being the only section with clear eyed, see through glass. We were like scruffy pigeons up there,

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perched high above our miniature city where we could watch the tiny lives of our neighbors down below, a small covey of us in a separate world that was entirely and exclusively our own. There were never more than thirty of us at any given time. Only five in my entire graduating class, and among those five, only two are still living today. We ranged between the ages of twelve and eighteen, and the object, of course, was to eventually move on, to transition into the regular school, to somehow eventually graduate as slightly more welladjusted potential adults, so that we too could participate in the regular world. At the end of each school year the oldest ones moved on, officially legal at the age of eighteen, and we anxiously waited to hear how they had fared, though sometimes we didn’t hear anything, heard there was nothing to be heard, and we all knew what that meant. We collected abandoned school desks that we found here and there, some of them donated, some pulled from the trash, some wooden and some metal, some single seaters and some with long lean benches that could seat two or three, and we did all of our school work on mismatched


sheets of paper that were still perfectly clean and usable on one side. We assembled our desks in face-to-face clusters, and we did our best to listen and learn and pay attention to our teachers, all of them ambitious young graduates with shiny new education degrees who lab-tested us with the latest pedagogical innovations, the Summerhill approach, the ideas of Steiner and hooks and Freire, determined to help us thrive and grow like undiscovered blossoming weeds. But mostly we dug our ink pens into our desk tops, scarred them with maddening zigzagging nonsense lines, traced the winding veins of wood so relentlessly that they eventually cut wide open. We were all different, of course, all of us ultimately broken in different ways and to varying degrees, but essentially the core of our souls were the same; damaged, dark, black like sludge. Some of us had excuses, overworked and/or abusive parents, general overall neglect, years of transiency and debilitating poverty, long fingered fathers or uncles or neighbors or cousins, but most of us couldn’t explain ourselves; we just were the way we were, children with dark, dark simmering souls and dark, dark shattered eyes. There was Chuck, a minstrel faced black boy who did nothing but smile, one smile heartbreakingly sincere, the other full of a certain madness with gleaming white teeth. Chuck only spoke five words the entire two years he attended our school so we learned to read the difference in his bi-polar smiles. He was tall and lean and he kept his afro cut in a Mohawk six inches high and perfectly flat on top with a dyed purple X that went from front to back as if his brain itself were the target, as if he were advertising the perfect route to his damaged and diminished soul. Every day at lunch Chuck and I would race across the field, across the road, down the muddy ravine to the railroad tracks where I would re-fuel on a single string of Marlboros while Chuck would suck down a ratty peanut butter sandwich on white, the ball of glutinous dough swirling from one cheek to the next. When the train blared its horn at exactly twelve fifteen every lunch period, Chuck and I would hold hands in excited anticipation, each time an inch or two closer to the tracks, eventually so close we could feel the whoosh of speed on our clothes, the hem of our t-shirts waving in the vortex, our fingers clenched tight with the slightest pull toward leaping and then clenched with the slightest tug back.

I look at my son in the passenger seat. He’s slumped so far down that the top of his head is parallel with my shoulder. His hair is shiny, so fiercely black it gleams with a subtle tint of blue; a sloppy shag of bangs sweeps across his eyes

in an arcing curve; a zigzagging haphazard line somehow conveys some vague sense of a part on the far left side. His arms are so tightly wrapped around his chest that his shoulder muscles bulge; his long skinny arms somehow transformed, suddenly big despite a complete lack of exercise, his hands the size of dinner plates. He stares intently out the passenger side window and I know in his head he’s humming a mantra, something like shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, or maybe even something worse, anything to block out the sound of my words so that my story can’t enter his ears. He claims I have no idea, that I could never understand. I’m telling him this story for a reason, although truth be told I’m not entirely sure at this exact moment what that particular reason might be, so of course the only thing I can do is go on.

There were the car crashes, the accidental overdoses, the livers and kidneys that gradually failed, but all of that came later. For a while we just were, alive and stymied in our little bitty school. Some suggested we were special, too tender hearted for this brutal natured world, others believed we were the evil opposite, too cold and too numb, too jaded and too disconnected, little connivers who somehow, for some unfathomable reason, didn’t turn out quite right. We knew we were all destined for tragedy, it hovered around us with its mocking threat, and so we lived accelerated lives, edgy lives full of heightened intensity, electric lives that made us lethal.

For a while we just were, alive and stymied in our little bitty school. We envied the well adjusted kids down the street, their seeming complicity for the sake of a safe and normal life, the strivers and accomplishers, the cheerleaders and the AP bound, the bully jocks and the debate team captains, all of them made of more solid stuff, buffered somehow in a way that we were not. We envied them but we also knew they dwelled in some other realm, on some unreachable plane, that their reality seemed padded and artificial in comparison to the raw and gritty nature of our own, that there was nothing to do but keep swallowing our jealousy, to stomach that aggravating lump that always seemed to be hovering midway in our throats. We were strange in every possible way, off kilter, cockeyed, dysfunctional misfits, freaks and outsiders, the malfunctioning souls who would never quite

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Thom Yorke’s Dance by M.B. Baken

fit in. There was no place in our city for teenagers like us so we were grateful for our little haven on the topmost floor. There were the Kinderfather twins, Karrie and Ken, and then eventually their younger siblings Kayla and Kurt, all of them surviving together in their own cheap apartment down by the tracks, their mother’s fourth husband somehow worse than her third. The Kinderfathers worked in shifts after school, stole bits of food from their workplace walkins, jugs of beer from un-tended taps, toilet paper and soap from bathrooms and cleaning carts, pens, and cigarettes, and random pieces of mismatched silverware, never too much, and all of it unofficially re-compensated through their extraordinary diligence and hard work. The Kinderfathers were children born from pure German stock, blonde and blue eyed, muscly and lean, little adultrens or childradults who seemed to be made for efficiency and hard labor. They were children who spent once a month Fridays cashing their tiny paychecks at the bank, children who tried to be conscientious about paying their bills, children who paid taxes, children who didn’t go to bed until long after the kitchen was thoroughly cleaned and closed. Because there were so few of us we hung together like a gang, a posse, a roving and slightly menacing band of thieves. There was me, and Chuck, and the Kinderfather siblings, and Barbra, and then, of course, there was D.T. To each other we were like a surrogate family, a tribe of likeminded souls, so even after school when our actual families braced themselves for our eventual return to our various actual homes, we preferred our own company and more often lingered in front of the church, or re-converged in the field across the street, spent our days wasting entire afternoons just lollygagging and smoking, but always together, always one with another.

thin sheets of mirrored glass, the glass obsessively dusted and glistening and fragile in the constantly reflected light. The only shock of real color throughout the entire house was a randomly tossed crocheted checkerboard afghan, its intersecting squares of neon green, and red, and yellow somehow terrifying with its five inch fringe. When Barb was nine years old she tied her Labrador retriever to the metal leg of her trampoline, bounced up and down as the dog ran in circles around her, lap after lap after bounce after lap until a well worn track had been pounded into the ground, until the Lab had no more slack, until it strangled itself right before her giggling eyes. Then there was the kitten Barb rescued from the sewer drain, already sickly and off kilter, which she kept confined in a homemade pyramid shaped box to generate so-called healing karma. When she finally set the kitten free it walked in a series of ineffective loops to its food bowl, always leaning leftward, around and around and around, the journey itself a futile event that Barb found hysterically funny. After awhile we avoided Barb’s house, its aura of threat, those fragile figurines, her hovering father and mousy mother, and toward the end we even avoided Barb herself; but at first we thought she was fascinating, an anomaly. And then we learned.

Because there were so few of us we hung together like a gang, a posse, a roving and slightly menacing band of thieves. There was Barbra, tiny and blonde, her hair a splash of baby chick yellow that swept like a horse’s tail across her butt, on the surface a real live Barbie doll, plastic and coquettish and sweet, beneath the surface a nonchalant evil, seemingly indiscriminate and baffling to us all. Her parents lived in a quiet cul-de-sac in a meandering suburb with no sidewalks; the houses all matching split-level Brady Bunch style; inside the cardboard walls so thin you could hear the non-stop heartbeat of pendulum clocks. Each room housed hundreds of tiny glass figurines, all of them animals, all of them obsessively arranged by species on shelves made of

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This is the third time this quarter I’ve had to pick my son up from detention. It’s never anything major; one time it was too many third hour tardies because each time he tried to retrieve his math book the two bully jocks on each side of his locker flung their doors open at the exact same time, forcing my son into a locker door trap that was humiliating and mildly terrifying, so my son opted to wait until the bullyboys had moved along. Of course they didn’t, of


course they chatted and milled about until the bell rang through the halls and the halls were completely emptied and the only set of footsteps tap tapping through them was the stern faced hall monitor with his fine tipped stub of a pencil and his pocket sized tardy slip pad. Another time it was P.E. Desperate to avoid the total degradation of a lackey football kick, my son opted to let the others cut in front of him in the line up, back and back and back so that he never reached the front of the line, class after class, until the Phys. Ed. teacher finally figured him out. He was always complimented in detention, always received a pat on the back or a smiling thank you for cleaning the boards so well, for scrubbing the graffittied desks with their ballpoint doodles of body parts and heart to heart names, and in a certain way I think he liked the quiet. My son savors the quiet, can spend entire mornings just staring out the window thinking his thoughts; but it’s either absolute quiet or raging, full volume music, anything to eliminate the exchange of person-to-person words. Ever since I picked him up from school he’s been spinning the Radiohead CD on the graphite tip of his pencil, waiting for me to finish my say so he can finally plug the CD into the player and disappear into the same music he’s heard a million times before, the reflection of his self perception, the music that speaks to him in a way that I no longer can.

And then there was D.T., and I think this is where I’m going, I think I’m trying to get to D.T. Like my son I had a tendency to cower in corners, to be nothing more than a shadow, to hide around the peripheries with no need or interest or inclination to ever step forward and join in. I spent my days reading beneath the radiating window by myself, often stared through the tinted radiating panes at the filtered world outside, occasionally felt momentarily electrified by the sudden sting of cheek to frozen glass. Each afternoon at exactly three fifteen, D.T. would come up to the window to count off the regular kids as they walked across the field to go home. Our own school was likewise winding down for the day but we tended to hang about, to tidy our desks, to fill our backpacks with exaggerated concern, to stand near the exit doors rewrapping our scarves or re-tying our shoes, anything to delay the inevitable return to that other outside world. I was one of the worst of the lingerers, reluctant to confront the regular world, preferring to remain as long as possible in my special little womb-room at the church. “That one,” D.T. would whisper, his breath de-icing a circle on the O. “That one.” Sometimes his finger would lightly tap the glass, a tiny trail of thawing condensation like dripping tears in the wake of his touch. D.T. always hovered too close to my personal space, as if I was completely invisible, nothing

more than a cowering pile of dust motes too afraid to rise up and swirl. He crowded me with his arms and his elbows and his breath, with his heat and his lingering scent. One day he seemed particularly agitated, bounced from foot to foot like an amateur boxer until one of his dancing feet stepped directly on my resting hand. He didn’t even notice, just kept pointing and tapping and whispering and bouncing and grinding my hand with his constantly shifting weight. I tried to endure the deadening pain, tried to mentally eliminate his very presence, but finally had to force his foot by twisting and yanking my hand, causing him to stumble and shift in an effort to regain his balance. He fleetingly glanced at the swelling imprint of his foot on my hand, a pissy schoolboy look with rubber lips of disdain. He didn’t apologize, just stepped aside, my invisibility instantly reconfirmed. Another day D.T. sauntered up at exactly three fifteen and grabbed my hand. He swiped a shiny razor blade across my wrist, the swipe so fast the very notion of flinch or resist never even had time to register, swiped so fast that at first there was nothing, no pain, no blood, no evidence, as if nothing had even happened. I stared at my wrist while D.T. stared at my eyes, a childish challenge, and then my wrist started to open up like two delicate lips on the verge of a sigh. I felt the slightest little sting as the slice opened and opened until it was half an inch deep, the blood blooming forth and circling. D.T. vised his fingers below the wound like a makeshift tourniquet, his grip tight and constricting, then ripped and pleated a bottom strip from his t-shirt to dab at the accumulating flow. We stood like that beneath the round radiating window and stared at the muted winter light, D.T. holding my arm upright at the elbow. We stood there and stared and said nothing until eventually my hand started to tingle from his touch, until the radiating window started to pulse and wobble each time my heart hit the beat.

My son looks at me. This is the first time he’s looked at me eye to eye ever since I picked him up from detention. He’s got a smirk on his face, a slight smile, and he holds my eyes on his for a fleeting moment. My son and I have the same eyes, big black bulging orbs surrounded by deep sockets and heavy lids and thick black arching eyebrows. We have sad eyes, grave eyes, glassy eyes that are sometimes frightening to look into. We hide them from everyone, the mailman, the dog, my other two children, his brother and sister, my husband, his father. We hide them in shame and fear because people for some reason are drawn to lock on to them, to foolishly let

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Thom Yorke’s Dance by M.B. Baken

themselves fall in, to tunnel into us where we don’t want them to go. Our eyes are constantly evasive. We tend to stare a little too long at the safety of solid inessential objects, a brick wall in the near distant background, an impenetrable stand of trees, the random stuff that hovers on the periphery, as if we can see some type of hidden world just outside the frame of our vision, some essential something that exists behind or beyond or within, as if that other world constantly compels us, distracts us from the world typical eyes typically see.

beneath him. It was all about danger, these physical feats, these leaps and dives; it was all about how much danger he could endure, how far he could go, how expendable and unnecessary his physical body, his life itself, really was. Yet each time he challenged his body beyond its anticipated limits, each time he somehow outwitted a definite and welldeserved sentence of death, he found himself begging for the next slightly greater danger, danger itself being his personal muse, a tempting seductress who kept leading him on.

My son says “Not.” Just the one word. Meaning this story is not. Meaning this is not a true story; meaning this story is not sense, this is nonsense. This is not the way life is. He means “not” as in no more, as in stop torturing me with your verbal self -indulgence. But I simply say, “There’s more.” And so I go on.

It was like an awakening; my life before D.T. cut me open and then my life after, the after being full of jolting electrotingling moments while the before is hardly any memory at all.

One day D.T. didn’t show up at the window at three fifteen. I should have been relieved, should have been grateful to continue my reading undisturbed, but when I tried to settle my book on my knees, I felt the continuing throb in my wrist, and when I turned my wrist upward as if in supplication, I felt a searing sting, as if my hand were inadequately attached with a rusty unoiled hinge. My awareness of the wound had gradually increased, and still, to this day, there are certain moments when it continues to hurt all over again, like a phantom pain reminding me of D.T. It hurt to flex my wrist back and forth, hurt to accidentally scuff it against my hip or the straps on my backpack; when I held it suspended upright in mid-air it tended to pulse and throb, so I stood and gripped my arm below the wound, the only successful comfort. The harder I squeezed the more the throbbing sensation seemed to cease.

D.T. had golden curls, muscles like undulating hills, a pair of mismatched eyes, one blue and one green. His birth mother was a drug addicted prostitute but he was adopted early by a well meaning single mom who was slightly unsettled by how all consuming a small boy can be, especially a boy like D.T. He was semi-feral, a wild child, a gypsy natured boy who relentlessly ditched his shoes each first day of March so the frozen ground would keep his feet moving, would keep them reaching for mid-air. He could run and run and run, needed to run, was always in a state of excessive physical training, climbed trees like a cat but always more so, waving triumphantly from heights no sane cat would ever dare, up where the branches were too danger thin and bendy. He leapt great distances across yawping divides, his feet drumming the ground from ever-increasing heights, pulled himself up onto rooftops with the sheer strength of his arms, his legs dangling like metronome beats

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Outside the center of the radiating window I saw the regular kids as they crossed the field to go home, and then I saw D.T. hiding behind a wide oak tree that stood in the near center of the field, his body peeping and then hiding and then peeping and hiding again, like one of those inflatable punching bags that totter to and fro, their bottoms anchored with the weight of water or sand. Three tall boys still wearing their football jerseys walked past, their chests thrust so far forward they looked as if they were being pulled by an invisible string. Suddenly D.T. leapt out. He was half their size, his head jabbing left and right, his bare feet dancing a fake boxer’s jig. The jocks responded with a full body laugh, their chests tilted near horizontal, their full volume bellowing HA, HA, HA easily penetrating the thin hand blown glass of the radiating window. The other kids immediately hovered and stared and quickly assembled in an enveloping circle. D.T. did his ridiculous jig, left foot, then right. He taunted them, jabbed closer and closer, one face and then boing, boing the next face, and then boing, boing the next. Finally one of the boys swatted D.T. to the


ground, a single slam, a blow that swung from the side and hit him mid-spine, a blow that left him windless and sputtering on the ground. After an exaggerated back kick for good measure, the crowd dispersed and walked on. D.T. lay in the grass, his chest heaving for air. Eventually a new wave of regular kids walked past, and D.T. immediately jumped up and started to jab at an entirely fresh set of boys. Once again he jigged and swung in an ever-narrowing circle, his fists never meeting actual flesh, only air, like a relentlessly aggravating gnat, and once again he was knocked down in a single walloping blow. Over and over he got back up and over and over he went down; by four o-clock his nose had been bloodied, his arms had been pinned and crushed, his body had been kicked and stomped and thumped, his face a single smear of blood and dirt and snot. Finally he lay on his back, victorious. The regular kids had all gone home; the field was completely empty except for D.T., his eyes swollen shut, a tiny little smirk on his face.

It was like an awakening; my life before D.T. cut me open and then my life after... One day at lunch Chuck handed me a piece of paper that was folded into a tiny little square. It was like a Chinese box, one square revealing another slightly bigger square and on and on. We were at the railroad tracks as usual so I had to purse my cigarette between my lips, the wind blowing the trailing smoke into snakelike spirals above my head, while Chuck watched me unfold and unfold as he chewed his peanut butter sandwich, swishing it from cheek to cheek. He had a slightly different smile that day, slightly mischievous, slightly proud. When I finally unfolded the piece of paper I could see it was an official print out from the regular school, a schedule of classes for the upcoming school year: Industrial Arts, Remedial Math, Remedial English, P.E. Chuck swallowed. “I’m ready,” he whispered. His voice was lovely, deep, a slight scratchiness that gave it grip, a melodious, tempered, and elegant sound. This was in the spring of our sophomore year. I felt the immediate and unexpected sting of tears in my eyes, felt a red-hot wave of anger, felt panic and fear and jealousy and betrayal, but most of all I felt dismissal. I stood up without planning to do so and willed my legs to simply walk away, to exit the scene, to erase the very existence of Chuck from my mind. Fine, I thought. Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine. In the near distance I could hear the chugga chugga of the train, and I knew soon enough it would appear from around the blinding bend. Suddenly the wind reversed its course and a

whip of cigarette smoke burned into my nose and eyes. Blinded, I couldn’t move, could only rub at the sting. By the time I regained my vision I could clearly make out the grille of the train surging toward us at maximum speed, could see the engineer as he flapped his arm up and down through the small rectangular windshield. But we didn’t budge. We didn’t budge even when we could feel the intensifying vibration of the tracks, could feel the quiet chatter of our teeth. I didn’t look at Chuck; I looked at the curving face of the train, it’s laughing headlight eyes. Then we heard the whistle, that shocking, terrifying sound, one blast, and then two blasts, and then a third blast, the train suddenly so close we could hear the initial scree of pressed on brakes. Chuck grabbed my hand and pulled hard but this time I didn’t want to give in. I made him heave me with all of my weight; hung the weight of my body down toward the tracks. I made Chuck save me with all of his might because I had to be convinced that he would. That he could. He held me close for the very last time as the train whooshed past, and to this day the engineer’s face continues to glare at me like a message smeared across the sky. “Come with me,” Chuck said. But I said, “I can’t.”

Why couldn’t I go? I ask my son, but he rolls his eyes because he’s still not entirely sure if this is a made up story or not, and if it’s a fake, a fairytale, an imaginary narrative that will eventually come pre-bundled with a pre-packaged moral then the truth is he really doesn’t give a damn. Stay or go, what does it matter to him? I pull up to the scruffy remains of a neglected baseball field; park the car so we’re staring straight through the back up fence behind home plate. My son’s exasperated sigh swirls tornadically through the confines of our car so I roll down the windows and watch it ripple across the field through the grass, a final whoosh at the far outfield that causes the bordering trees to shudder their leaves. He knows this means he’s in for the long haul, knows I won’t be taking him home any time too soon. He repositions himself a little deeper in the passenger seat, stretches out his long boy-man legs so that his feet are resting on the dash. “Go on,” he says, flicking his hand in the air, a single flicking gesture that suggests he’s sweeping something from his field of vision, a fluff of pollen, a fly, a floating tangible thought that can simply be encouraged out the window. He’s entertaining me at this point and so I know we’ve turned a necessary corner.

19


Thom Yorke’s Dance by M.B. Baken

At some point I discovered a certain pleasure in photography, in the luxury of being able to watch while simultaneously hiding behind a lens, the privilege of framing the world as I saw fit, eliminating everything I deemed extraneous. I liked the long lonely hours in the dark room where the quiet was so gloriously complete. For hours at a time the only sound to enter my ears was the little lap of liquid as I swished the photographic paper back and forth in a succession of developing fluids, the subtle hum of the safe light casting a diffused darkness of velvet red. I was particularly fond of taking portraits; super close-up shots of faces and eyes, the unexpected expression of a private reverie. I liked to watch the image as it gradually transformed from a hazy wash of greys to something distinct and precise as if clarity itself were gradually emerging through a dense and impenetrable fog.

I wanted to buy a macro zoom lens for my camera so that summer I took a job cleaning old lady houses with Karrie to earn some extra cash. We typically cleaned two houses per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and once we had our routine figured out the job really wasn’t all that bad. Midsummer Barb announced she wanted in, I think she was jealous that me and Karrie were spending more of our time together than we were with her, even though that time was spent cleaning and working. This meant Karrie and I had to take a cut in pay, but it also meant we could work faster, so that eventually we were cleaning three houses a day. One of our “clients”, Mrs. Ferguson, was an obsessive collector of frogs. Frogs hid under her bushes and circled the trunks of her trees; frogs led up her walkway and to her front door. Inside, frogs covered the kitchen counters, the bookshelves, the windowsills; any and every available surface was spotted with frogs. There were green frogs, and brown frogs, and ceramic frogs, and porcelain frogs, and frogs carved from stone. There were big frogs and little frogs and teeny tiny frogs, so that in order to clean Mrs. Ferguson’s house it was necessary to pick up each of these frogs, to quickly dust them, and dust beneath them, and then to quickly put them back where they belonged. One day Karrie’s car wasn’t working so Barb volunteered to drive. Barb drove a pale blue Volkswagen Beetle that sputtered up and down and around our town. When Karrie and I got into Barb’s car that morning her dashboard was completely covered with pocketed frogs; she had glued them to the interior ceiling and walls, porcelain frogs, and ceramic frogs, and tiny frogs made of iron.

There were green frogs, and brown frogs, and ceramic frogs, and porcelain frogs, and frogs carved from stone. Before the end of the school year, when the ground beneath our feet was still slightly frozen, we shaved Chuck out in the center of the field. We sat him on a rickety wooden chair, wrapped the requisite towel around his shoulders, striped an electric razor across his head. When we were finished Chuck seemed transformed, a suddenly handsome boy, his head now nearly naked except for the slightest little down of baby fuzz that drew attention to his strong jaw and lovely ears, his smile a little awkward, a little demure, a little shy. For days the ground was littered with melting patches of snow and tiny afro curls, some of them still lightly tinged with purple, a windswept pile of commas and question marks that looked from a distance like a garden of newborn crocuses in bloom.

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My son had become a “security risk”. This meant a twoday suspension, which ultimately meant we got to spend a long weekend together. We had plenty of time to kill so I saw no reason to hurry with taking him back home. The truth was I knew as soon as we walked through our front door that he would disappear in his room, that the most time I’d get to spend with him was the few minutes here and there when he popped into the kitchen in search of food. But for now he was trapped with me in the car, my little captive. I had this idea in my mind of what I was leading up to, of what the grand finale to my long meandering preface would be, but I still didn’t feel as if I had arrived, as if I had


earned my idea. In the end I’m not really sure what I was trying to do, to make a connection, of course, but I’m not sure why I felt I had to do it in this roundabout way. Was I trying to convince my son that my empathy for his situation was real? Was I trying to usurp his adolescent awkwardness? Was I still trying to exorcise my own? All I know is that it was taking much longer than I had anticipated, that he was getting restless, that there was still the absolutely real possibility that at any moment he could just open up his car door and walk home.

The next fall when we all returned to our little tiny school for the new school year, D.T. wasn’t there. A few weeks into the school year we received a postcard from Big Bend National Park Headquarters with D.T.’s signature scrawled across the bottom, and then, about two weeks later, D.T. himself suddenly appeared. He had lost a lot of weight, his body was thin, his muscles long and wiry, his skin a deep sun soaked brown, his hair completely shaved, bleached, translucent. He had set out one morning on his bike, rode to the end of the block, then to the park, then went south, and a little bit west, and then all the way across the Midwest until he arrived in Texas, and then all the way across Texas until he had to stop when he reached the Rio Grande. He sat on the riverbank for an entire day, and then, when the moon came up dim and tiny, he stripped down to his underwear and swam across the river to Mexico, where he claimed it really wasn’t all that different, life on the other side, the landscape still flat and dry and sandy, the moon the same degree of dim, the night the same depth of darkness. He felt like a fool wandering around in his wet underwear, but at the same time he swore that he felt like a god, as if he had crossed an invisible yet necessary line, as if the dangers he had traversed had placed him on a completely separate yet parallel plane, as if the reality he had always taken for granted was suddenly infinitely more varied and complex. He also came home with a new love for mind-altering experiences. A brief peyote episode conveniently translated into a love for psilocybin in our slightly more humid climate, which quickly segued into the more frugal art of kitchen made synthetics, which ultimately led to D.T.’s final love affair, the dream date of no return, his last and glorious defeat, an extravagant binge with intravenous hallucinogens, heroin, of course, the ever reigning queen. We all tripped along behind him like happy baby ducks, the lure of being completely fucked up a delicious way to distinguish our individual dysfunctions, each of us to our own varying degrees, but all of us grateful to finally have a real justification for why we were different, a something that eventually helped us forget that we had been different all along, that the crutch and the cause had at one time been

two entirely different things. The Kinderfather apartment became the party pad as one night inevitably led into two nights with the trip and the recovery combined, and when the trips became longer, became in fact the best means for completely circumventing the recovery, it seemed easier to simply stay put, to barely move for that matter, until the bathroom sink became littered with random smears of multi-colored toothpaste, a rainbow collection of shared toothbrushes, the living room a carpet of dingy socks, a mosaic of communal neglect. I was saved by my shyness, by my need to be alone. I loved the drugs, the titillating surge, was good for twelve, sometimes twenty four, sometimes forty eight hours on the binge, but eventually I needed to be alone, to detach, to rejuvenate in the quiet of my own private mind. I was the one who eventually ventured outside, who found myself squinting in the sunlight, who, like an earlier version of D.T., somehow found myself wandering first to the end of the block, then to the park, then somehow a little bit south and a little bit west, the outside world and the walk and the glorious sunlight a drug of its own, a gradual detox, until I found myself standing in front of my parent’s home. I never moved into the Kinderfather apartment; I stayed in my parent’s house, and eventually locked myself away in my room.

My son decided to deal with the locker bullies by simply disappearing. He didn’t show up for his second hour class, didn’t show up for his third hour class, and when he didn’t show up for his fourth hour class he became a “security” issue. I was called at work and the school was understandably upset, understandably concerned and unnerved. I checked the house, the park, the typical downtown teenage hangouts, and then I got a call from the

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Thom Yorke’s Dance by M.B. Baken

school informing me that my son was found standing in line with his friends, waiting for the bus to take him home. I slip the Radiohead CD into the slot and my son and I stare out the windshield and listen. I don’t know what my point is; I don’t have a point. I want to say things like it’s okay to be different, like we’re all pretty weird, like life goes on or it doesn’t. In D.T.’s case, of course, it didn’t, or it did for a while and then it came to an abrupt and long expected end, a gradually deteriorating overdose until his body stank with internal rot, with unfulfilled need and the anxiety of yearning for more, until his body was one day discovered beneath some rubble in an abandoned building in Edmonton, Canada, his cremated bones arriving by mail in a brown paper bag wrapped package. Barb? Imagine the frog filled Volkswagen plunging off a cliff, a final reckoning with her unexplainable self, a light blue angel floating through the air, the fatal head puncture of a ceiling full of frogs. But more likely there’s the rumored truth, a fiftydollar a trick prostitute, a tragic mascara-smeared doll, her legs and arms a book full of bruises. I know I should be telling my son that this all serves as some kind of lesson, like don’t do drugs, or don’t take things too far, or don’t wander too far outside of the norm. But I don’t believe any of it. D.T. haunts me like a vivid memory I just can’t shake. I can’t shake him. He hovers around me, invades my space, leaves me searching for the source of his lingering smell. Why are we here? The answer of course is silence, a nothing, an absolutely intangible response that would probably be too bleak and empty to endure, and nobody understands that better than an adolescent, but of course we’re also here for what little there is, even if, in the end, that also amounts to nothing, and nobody understands that better than a mother. I want to say live, emerge, live intensely. I want to say seek the edge, go for the plunge. I want to say don’t cower and hide, be who you are, embrace what you have. I want to say something apt, something wise, something fruitful, something my son could actually hold like a tiny pebble in his fist, something solid and hard that won’t shift and liquidate when held under a scrutinizing light. But I have nothing.

So many tears, our sadness a real and palpable thing, a pebble we hold in our throats. I smile, and laugh, and dance.

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So here’s what I do. I turn up the CD. I blast it. I send Thom Yorke singing into the void, into the great and glorious nothing. I get out of the car, and I stand there for a minute while I work up my nerve. I can hear the music in the background, that gut wrenching wail, that squint eyed vision, that cowering angst that has never left me, that will never leave me, and if I listen I can call it all back up. I can

conjure D.T., and Chuck, and Barb, and Karrie, and my self, my true un-artificial self, my dark, dark soul, and I can let that hovering poison transform me, let it trickle from my lips in snakelike swirls. First an arm swim through the air, a fetal movement that reaches through the muck, an undulating wavering gesture, a clap, clap, a twisting, a clutch, a writhing nonsense dance that simultaneously conjures and defies the darkness. My son watches me through the windshield. He covers his eyes as if he has seen me naked, but of course I’m outside of the car, in the public view, and the odds of being seen by some passing stranger in the adolescent mind are humiliatingly and extraordinarily great. All eyes are watching. They hover above us. Those eyes. My son clutches his fists and presses them against his own eyes, but the tears can’t be restrained. So many tears, our sadness a real and palpable thing, a pebble we hold in our throats. I smile, and laugh, and dance. I cry with him. We have crossed the river, he and I, we have crossed the Rio Grande, and we will have to learn how to live on the parallel plane. The car door swings open. Stop, he pleads. Join me, I say. I am conjuring, I am dancing and I am willing D.T. to come back, and I am conjuring all the dead souls, the lost souls, the ones who got away, the ones we let go. I am swirling the universe and all of its nonsense like a carnival barker swirls cotton candy on a stick. It doesn’t matter I say, none of it does. It does, my son says. Join me, I say. And he says he can’t. He just can’t.


A conversation with author of Thom Yorke’s Dance What inspired you to write Thom Yorke’s Dance? When my fourteen-year-old son showed me the video of Thom Yorke’s “Lotus Flower” dance, my bottled-up adolescent sadness re-emerged, as if Yorke were a conjurer pulling that darkness back up to the surface. It was all still there, barely hidden, and I suddenly felt as if I had lost myself. My son and I both have dark, quiet souls, and no matter how hard we try, we never really get it, never really fit right in. We spend our days in a stymied state of bafflement, of understated shock that the world continues to somehow function as it does. I wrote this story for him, and for Thom Yorke, and for all the other misfits who quietly slip by.

Where do you find yourself writing the most? I have a small desk in the corner of my bedroom where I write most often. But I also “write” a lot inside my head, while I’m teaching, or driving, or waiting for my kids to get out of school. What words do you live by? Do you have a personal motto? I guess my personal motto would be to “cultivate kindness.” I believe we need to help each other, to constantly do what we can. Where can we find other works from M. Baken? I haven’t published very much, so finding other works might be a challenge. My big goal in 2013 is to be more diligent about submitting the accumulating pile of writing on my desk.

Where do you find your ideas and inspiration? My ideas and inspiration come to me at random times, and I have learned to wait, as Kafka says, to be acutely open to those tiny details that somehow, unaccountably, What’s next? Do you have any writing projects on the horizon? begin to connect to other tiny details, until gradually I Yes. I have a novella/novel that I have been sending have the germ of a beginning. out, but I’m beginning to think it may need another Are there any authors who have influenced your revision (or two). I’m also working on several short writing? stories at the same time. It’s important for me to put my I am crazy for Virginia Woolf, Alice Munro, Mary work aside for a little while, to let it settle until I can reSwann, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, and Marilynne see what it needs. Robinson. My list could go on and on but I would love to someday write something that could approximate the If you could share any advice for aspiring writers, what would it be? extraordinary caliber of these writers. It sounds cliché, but I think the most important advice I What are you reading right now? have for aspiring writers is to read a lot, both as a reader Right now I’m re-reading Revolutionary Road, by and as a writer. I also try to encourage my students to be Richard Yates, which is a book I have already read two playful with their writing, even in college composition, times before. I tend to re-read books I love because I’m to try new ideas and new ways of composing, to push constantly trying to figure out how the author achieved the boundaries of what a story, a character, a his or her effect. Revolutionary Road is an incredibly description, a detail, etc. can do. powerful book and this time around I’m thinking a lot about Yates’s use of pacing, the way he unravels the marriage bit by bit.  How long have you been writing? I have been writing, off and on, my entire life. What is your writing day like? I fantasize about having a structured writing day, but I am an instructor of composition, a full-time student, and a mother of three children. My writing day is sporadic, disjointed, and discontinuous. I definitely write better first thing in the morning.

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how is it that the choices are so undefined, unrefined in this game of black and white? clear and solid the path should be – advance with a clunk or retreat with a slide how is it that vision is blurring? grey has fogged here in a haze of there swirling down paths of up melding to shadow reveal glimpses of light and definition to dark only to be quickly hidden as shown in day twine night tendrils of clammy uncertainty round fingers of blackness in falling through the gate of erratic heart breathe! try not to lose yourself in this game dangerous don’t get too wrapped up in unreality or strategy just go make missteps and trip over your own iambic pentameter and have that consuming kiss in between consonants but whatever you do, go

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in the cool dark nite, lit only by the moon, you sit on the isle. nothing but the lone caw of a forsaken loon marks the passage of time. you say that you feel no emotion. that years ago it was lost. lies. i can see in your face, your jaw is set. you are prepared to be smote with words just like a stone. and, you are afraid that feeling would require motion. better that, though, than to find you on the cold limestone in a few years, arteries slit from the pain of holding it all in. stop tying your own noose. so here, take hold. i’ll lend you mine. together, we’ll face the world, melt our hearts as one. mite by mite, mote by mote, we’ll walk life’s miles, lit by the silent strength of feeling. listen. we are steel.

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e had practiced his invitation in front of his dresser mirror every morning for five days in a row; saved enough from his after-school job at the local Bun ’n’ Burger to rent a tux (powder blue, ruffled shirt, patent-leather shoes – the whole package was waiting for him at Garden City Mall’s Friar Tux shop), and, most important of all, he’d just bought the tickets. He was committed to a course of action he could not back away from if he’d wanted. It was now or never. Gerald had to ask Diana Goodman to the Senior Prom before losing his nerve completely. They were friends, after a fashion. They’d been in the Spring Play and had gotten on well enough, but never became close – not as close as he would have liked, anyway. Maybe an evening of dining and dancing and socializing would be the opportunity to change that. Why not? Stranger things have happened, he thought. Anyone else would have been hard-pressed to think of anything stranger than Gerald escorting Diana to anything other than her locker after school. Gerald was undeterred by reality, however. Everyone else had already taken it as a given that Diana was from, say, a lofty social stratum – studying French at a nearby private college while her classmates were still struggling through their senior year, visiting France every summer for the past three years, having a father who was a college professor (at the school where she studied French, in fact), and bearing an almost regal air that no one questioned or criticized. What practically anyone with a modicum of perception would have questioned was the likelihood of Gerald being able to whisk her off on a night of wild – or even moderately energetic – abandon. It wasn’t even remotely apparent to Gerald, however, that he and she inhabited different worlds. Yet, she was a senior like everyone else and, like everyone else, took her lunch in the open-air (she referred to it

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facetiously as al fresco) cafeteria area on campus. As nonchalantly as possible, Gerald sat down next to her, plopping his burrito and soda in front of him. She was already eating something she brought from home in a Tupperware container. “Well, fancy meeting you here,” he said, trying to affect an air of casual confidence. “Or should I say, ‘bonjour, comment vas-tu’?” “Ça va bien, merci. Et toi?” “Um, fine thanks,” he said, abandoning any pretense of knowing French, realizing that he’d be left in the dust and looking very foolish very soon. He made an effort to keep up a steady flow of chit-chat on the usual mundane topics – the weather, school, drama, how much fun he had doing the play – while trying to gauge her responses. Friendly, warm, maybe even receptive. With surprisingly little effort, he was able to steer the conversation from extracurricular activities to social events, like the dance coming up. “So, Diana, we get along pretty well, don’t you think?” he ventured. “Sure.” She appeared to sense a shift in the tone of the conversation. Rather than elaborate on his comment, she seemed to wait to hear where he was going. “Well, I was thinking … that is, I never see you with anyone – you know, like a boyfriend or something – and I thought that, if you haven’t already been asked, maybe you’d want to go to the Prom … we could, I mean. That is, I’d like to take you … if you haven’t already been asked.” If his speech had been physical action, he’d have made the Three Stooges look like ballet dancers. As he spoke, he noticed minute, barely perceptible changes in her attitude. A forkful of something-de-foie-something fell back into her Tupperware, and she left it there.


“Um, well…” It was the first time he’d ever heard her say “um, well…”; she was usually as articulate as the Queen of England. Now, however, she was a high school senior. “Gosh, it’s very sweet of you to ask, but …” At this point, he began to tune her out; he already knew the speech – the “just good friends” speech – having heard it often enough by now from various other would-be dates. He believed girls learned it in some special class in junior high. The phrase “just good friends” by now had begun to take on an aspect of “I hope I never see you again.” She ended her version with her own personal tagline, “…but thank you so much for asking. And yes, as it happens, I am going with someone else, someone I’ve been dating from college. But I know you’ll find someone to go with.” They always knew he’d find someone to go with. They were always wrong. He told her he understood, just wanted to venture the possibility, just in case … tried to be as casual as you please, no big deal. They finished lunch with more of the usual senior small talk – what’s left of the rest of the year, after-graduation plans, and so on. Whatever. She excused herself and got up to leave. Afternoon classes would be starting soon, and he still had a half-eaten, machine-vended burrito in his hand and two Prom tickets in his pocket. They say that everyone has perfect 20/20 hindsight, but on some unconscious level he had known all along. It’s optimism like mine, he now admitted, that causes people to bet – and lose – thousands of dollars on long shots at the racetrack. Somewhere in his mind, there was a dusty broom closet with a few scraps of knowledge that said, “Whatta you, nuts?!” He had to agree with the broom closet. In the great banquet of life, her family and his were on different menus; in fact, they were in different eating establishments altogether. Her family was Canard a l’Orange, with Marinated Mushrooms, Wild Rice, a bottle of Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild, and Baked Alaska for dessert, and was served at an upscale restaurant called something like Le Café near the L.A. Music Center; his family was a chickenfried steak, a glass of Dr Pepper and a cup of Jello and Cool Whip for dessert, served at a nondescript diner on Route 15 where a juke box in the corner plays scratched-up countrywestern records. Tumbleweeds roll through the parking lot and gather at the fence, as if waiting to be freed.

The old man sat on the floor in the middle of his garage, surrounded by miscellaneous bits and pieces of his past. The scraps of paper, trinkets, memorabilia and various other artifacts (he smiled, seeing an old calendar, themed Castles of Europe, courtesy of some now-bankrupt airline) stimulated a kaleidoscope of images and memories –

college, a trip to Europe, a drive up the California coast with a friend who long ago disappeared into the mists of memory, his first car, high school – all these totems of the foggy past sprang into the vivid now in the form of papers, diaries, photos and a crumpled envelope. What would appear to be a mess to anyone walking up and discovering the scene was to him a three-dimensional diary, graphic representations of key points in his life, many halfremembered or completely forgotten. Cleaning up and putting things back together should have been the order of the moment, but something held him still.

The phrase “just good friends” by now had begun to take on an aspect of “I hope I never see you again.” Normally, he would have cleaned the mess up almost as soon as it was created, but these days he was less bothered than he used to be about clutter, about the daily details of life. It was all he could do to work up the self-discipline to pay his bills on time, have his car maintained, pay attention to his lesson plan and grade papers; in fact, his friends had started to wonder how he managed to show up for work at all. He’d stopped shaving, said he’d decided to grow a beard. He’d hired a neighbor kid to mow and water his lawn, take the trash cans out to the curb on Sunday evenings – his new hireling wouldn’t know how many more empty brandy bottles they contained than they used to. So, the man’s recently acquired apathy began to take a different turn as he fell into a pit of reminiscence. His contemplation had been prompted by a chance discovery of an envelope he could have sworn he had thrown out long ago. It came back into his life when an old box fell from the rafters of his garage during a long-overdue cleaning. He had always told his wife that “next weekend” he would definitely clean out the decrepit old shed. (It couldn’t in all honesty be considered a garage; due to the accumulation of books, magazines and sundry other items too important to throw away, but too insignificant to have any real use, there had never been enough room to house any vehicle larger than the lawn mower stashed in a remote corner.) “Next weekend” had finally arrived. The envelope cracked and crackled as he opened it and extracted the two useless pieces of pasteboard. They had, at one time, been the keys to all his happiness – or so he had thought for a while, way back when. He couldn’t begin to think why on earth he had saved them; what purpose could they serve now? He didn’t bother to reconstruct the sequence of events that had caused the old cedar cigar box to crash onto the floor,

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Two Tickets by Lon Richardson

scattering its contents every which way. The noise alone nearly threw him into a state of shock; the sight of a business-sized envelope distracted him even further. After forty years of marriage, he had forgotten about most of the mementoes that, in his youth, loomed large in his psyche, heavily freighted with significance. He and his wife had accumulated enough meaningful knick-knacks and bric-abrac to stock a small antique store; as a result, the souvenirs of his adolescence and bachelorhood faded into oblivion, tucked away into the cobweb-curtained recesses of his shed. Now, gravity – and possibly clumsiness – brought the Past crashing into the Present, memories of single life contrasting vividly with scenes of wedded contentment.

He had been in his late twenties when he met Constance in a used-book store. He was looking for a book by Stephen Jay Gould, she for a work of fiction by Carl Sagan. The store clerk, a recent high-school graduate, knew only that Sagan was a science writer, and so had directed her to the wrong section of the store. Both were backing toward each other, their heads bent sideways at the usual book-browser’s angle. “Oh, god, I’m sorry!” she exclaimed. “No, I’m sorry … I should have been – I mean, I was …” he spluttered to a stop, not sure how to recover. “I’m looking for Stephen Jay Gould ... I mean, a book of his.” His embarrassment became more acute with each utterance, yet somehow he thought he could he could rescue himself with more explanation. “He’s a paleontologist who writes a lot of books about biology and evolution…” He rambled on for a minute or so, then abruptly stopped. “Am I talking too much?”

She laughed. “No, but I think I know all I need to know about Stephen Whoever. I’m looking for a book called ‘Contact,’ by – ” “Carl Sagan. I’ve read it. It’s a good book, but it’s fiction. Not that fiction is bad, but … I mean, it’s not here, it’s …” “Why don’t you show me where it is? It might be easier.” He liked the way she smiled at his seeming lack of familiarity with the art of conversation. There came more chance meetings in the bookstore, which turned into the occasional rendezvous at the campus coffee shop, which in turn evolved into dinners, then dinners and concerts, movies, parties with mutual friends, spending time at each other’s apartment. They soon reached that comfortable stage in which each could finish the sentences of the other. It was as if their conversations were verbal jigsaw puzzles that only they, working as a team, could piece together. At times, a seemingly vague reference by one was completely understood by the other. “Remember that time we saw that man with the guitar…?” “Oh, yes … in the park. And he was playing…” “Some classical piece …” “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Yes, it’s one of…” “… your mother’s favorite pieces. Right. Well…” and so on. Eventually, the two apartments became one. Married life had suited him like nothing else he had ever known. After several years of bachelorhood, his newly found domesticity gave him the incentive to focus on his career more seriously, and he soon obtained a tenured professorship at a local state university. Constance had just embarked on her career as a writer, having recently sold a short story to a literary magazine that had a small readership but a sizable reputation for publishing quality fiction. Neither could have been described as spectacularly successful, but eventually they did well enough to be comfortable, travel for a few weeks each year – England, France, Germany – and purchase a small house near the university. Frogs, bugs, assorted animals and wildlife – these he understood thoroughly and deeply; half a lifetime of study, publishing and teaching had made him a veritable walking encyclopedia of meaningful minutiae concerning natural history, but he was practically a village idiot when it came to humans. He had always felt as if he were different from those around him, as if he were a Volkswagen in a parking lot full of Ferraris – especially when it came to women. His

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“For those times that I’m not with you.” bargaining, depression … and acceptance. He got up from the floor and glanced at the calendar and remembered that tomorrow he was to give yet another lecture on cellular mitosis to a lecture hall full of young, not-so-eager freshmen, at least half of whom thought DNA was a vitamin. He entered his kitchen and sat down at the table. He took the tickets out of the envelope – Senior Prom, Central High School – and set them next to his writing pad. He glanced for a moment at the place where his wife used to sit. “For those times that I’m not with you,” he murmured. He smiled as he began to write: Dear Diana, Thank you for saying ‘no’ so long ago. I’d like to tell you about the young lady who said ‘yes’….”

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There was no one specific point, no particular instance to pinpoint exactly when it started … only a slowly dawning realization that something might be wrong, that maybe she should see someone. Yes, she had known what to do and what to say at any given moment, except this one. Sitting in front of the mahogany desk, facing a wall of diplomas, certificates of membership, he staring at her, searching his mind for the right thing to say; she staring straight ahead, no change in her expression except the gradual glistening of her eyes – no rueful smile, no gasp of disbelief. She seemed to have already known. The droning professional voice attempted warmth when it hit such conversational speed bumps as “inoperable … no viable treatment … palliative care.” The much-anticipated “golden years” telescoped down into a few weeks of denial, anger,

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“It’s pretty much the same, either way, sweetheart. In any case, I’ve done as much of that as I care to. Remember, I was the oldest of five children. Since both my parents worked, I pretty much raised my brothers and sisters half the time. That was enough for me.” He allowed himself to believe her.

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“Look, Gerry, there are plenty of ways we can make our contribution to the world. You’re a teacher … you’ll make your impact on hundreds of young people, much more than the two or three we might have had …” and she continued,

se

There had been no children – that is, there would have been, but for the after-effects of a case of mumps Gerald had suffered through as an adolescent.

“You’re trying too hard … like you’re trying to convince yourself instead of me. I mean, if you want to be a mother, or have kids –”

r P OO r omL

He looked over at her; she was still smiling at him. “You’re so cute,” she said, turning back to the scenery passing by. He had to laugh.

nin A Y ete e

“You mean like, ‘Dear Sir or Madam, I’d like to take a double-barreled shotgun and jam it down the throats of every DJ at your station and let ’er rip. Who wants to listen to them, anyway?’ Something like that?”

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“No one. Just set it aside. Then, every time you get irate at how your songs are being ruined, you can think about what you’ve written. Maybe it’ll help you calm down … you know, for those times that I’m not with you.” She turned a thousand-watt smile toward him.

o’

“And mail it to whom? The station owner? The program director?”

n h und re

“I’m not being sarcastic. I’m serious. This evening, when we get home, sit down, collect your thoughts and write down everything you’d like to tell them, as coherently and intelligently and as logically as possible.” She let the wind catch her hand and push it back, and she let it rest at the top of the door. “It’s a good way to vent.”

in

“Your sarcasm doesn’t help much either.”

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“Why don’t you write them a letter? Shouting at the radio doesn’t seem to help.”

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e ninete than all of marriage, that she’d rather be with him childless with anyone else and tending a houseful of offspring. They ng eni v e were sitting in front of the gas fireplace of their new thome. he in early ka cool The flames lapped around the cement logsloon c o’c against the wall spring evening, sending flickering shadows n e v e s behind them. His brow furrowed. d s ixty two

“Those bastards!” he exclaimed. “They always ruin songs. They talk through the intro at the start of the song, and then have the gall to stop playing it before it’s over. Somebody ought to take a bazooka and blast that station into rubble.” He fumed for a moment more, then, instead of letting him rave on without offering any comment of her own, this time she interrupted his tirade.

wo A Y undred sixty t M reassuring him that parenthood was not the be-all andn endh

ev e n in g

A summer day … a few clouds on the horizon, but blue skies overhead, light traffic on the road as they drove to her mother’s house: The radio was on, music was playing (one of his favorite Beatle songs, in fact) when the DJ abruptly cut off the song at least 30 seconds before it was actually finished. He could not abide this. An amateur musician, he resented the fact that some people actually got paid to perform what he called “sonic vandalism.” Usually, he would try to be patient, letting two or three songs go by before he finally let go.

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wife, somehow, had not only loved him, but understood him, knew when to take him seriously and when to humor him.

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e’s starting to worry now, just a little, that the people he loves the most, the ones he can’t remember not having, won’t be here forever.  It isn’t a revelation, a brand new, packaged in plastic thought, but it’s the most afraid Billy’s ever been. He calls his parents a lot, in class, at lunch, when he gets off work.  In the middle of the night, he waits to hear his father’s voice on the answering machine, an old hunk of plastic from before Billy was born, a cassette recording everything he says that doesn’t matter, strips of his voice looping around themselves. He writes things down now.  He wishes he’d carried a tape recorder when he was little, strapped to his ankle, a wire under his shirt.  There’s so much his parents have said.  Most of what Billy’s parents told him dropped like liquid into his memory, colored the ground and were forgotten.  Retracing his steps, Billy catches markings, footprints cool and vivid, but without their luster, like dried blood.  His entire mind is a crime scene, clues and evidence, roped off with yellow, and he can’t find the little boy he once was to tell him what it means. Billy asks his parents to call his voice mail and talk, just talk.  He’s considered buying a machine like theirs, something that won’t beep after two minutes.  He prompts,

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says: “Remember when?”  “What happened after?”  “Why did this?” Billy knows there are things inside, deep, skimming along the surface of his muscles, put thereby his parents.  There are things he’s certain of, like the simple existence of God apart from what any book or men in expensive robes scare you into believing, the difference between driving lost and driving looking, and what arms feel like after you’ve climbed a tree.  There are things he knows are true but can’t quite believe, fish dangling lanterns in the darkest dark, saints healing with their fingertips, a universe that hasn’t stopped expanding.  His father picking him up, holding him like air, “the sky is a big mirror, reflecting oceans,” and Billy still looks for sharks in the sky. Billy supposes it was early on, before kindergarten and after he could write his name without tracing, that he knew, without a doubt, he wanted these two people always.  His mother washing dishes because his father wanted a country house.  His father with his hands under Billy’s arms, spinning him like the cartoon whirlwind they’d just seen on TV.  Billy is leaning his head back, his hair pressed against his father’s chest, the warm, earthy smell that would always make Billy think of him washing over his face like a blanket. Billy’s legs are almost parallel to the ground,


velcroed shoes strapped soundly, such a kid that he needed a step stool to wash his hands. His mother calls about a bird outside, bluer than Billy’s eyes, and his father looks up, stumbling. Billy’s mother’s voice, soft and pure, could always make him stumble.  Billy’s feet veer towards the ground, ankles scraping the floor and his father’s hands drag across him, desperate, leaving bruises on his ribs he’d find days later.  Billy is upended and righted in the same motion, his father’s knees hitting the floor, arms under his neck and thighs, cradled like the girls in fancy dresses in the black and white movies his mother watches, light and helpless.  His father is shaking Billy, breathing his name and Billy rolls his head towards him, hair spiked across his eyes.  His mother is beside them in an instant, a dishcloth in her hands. “What’s all the commotion?” His father tells, in a voice more shaky than he wants, about their little boy and what almost was and his mother moves her hand to her head.  “If Jesus came down from heaven,” she laughed.  “I’d be in the bathroom.”  Her smile is one of force, so truly meant, its very presence demanding all wrongs to be righted, all disasters avoided, a strength to save and make anything okay again.  Billy watches them, the little tears in their mouths, the blinks of their lashes, telling him he was rescued, snatched from harm.  He thinks without effort, they loved me the moment I was alive.

When he thinks about it now, he wonders if he made it up, if he was capable of understanding any of it; a kid with carpet burns on his elbows, dinosaur sheets, spiders for pets, but his mother’s hands, still wet, firm and insistent under Billy’s chin, soap sliding down his collar, his father’s weight around him, holding him above the ground like something precious; he understood more then than now, he decides.  He knew what he’s forgotten. Billy’s still watching his parents, twenty years from when he figured them out.  He comes home on weekends and plays the messages, looking for clues. “I remember this.”  “I never knew.”  “When did you tell me?”  He’s found his own history project, one that started before he realized and one he won’t ever finish.  His mother and father smile at him, smile like they always have.  His mother is tilting her head back and laughing, soft and pure, and his father looks at Billy like he’s out of breath.  He makes Billy remember jack-o-lanterns on Halloween, a light in the middle of his father, flickering in his eyes.  Billy is more happy now than worried, but he knows what he’ll lose.  What will have existed and disappeared when he can’t call and say, “Talk.  Just talk.”  He’ll wake up every day with a bright, empty place inside him, like a room made of windows.

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A

s he clings to the jagged edges of the icy hole, Bill feels his new snowshoes dangling like great heavy plates at the end of his legs. The snowshoes arrive as a Christmas gift only two days ago. The pond is no more than a swamp stranded in the hydroelectric easement behind the subdivision. As he drops, he expects to fall only as deep as his knees. There is time to feel disgust at having to trudge home, humiliated, cold, the snowshoes ruined, mucky, and wet. Instead, the descent is absolute. He flounders, his fingers clawing at the ice trying to keep his head above water. His elbows dig in like blunt talons; his hands already too cold to do the job. Bill has never wandered down here before today. The sign that marks the trail names the area Wyndham Park. There is a path which weaves around the weeds, over a hummock, and back down behind the high school. In the summer there are wild calla lilies, cattails, and woodsy little owls which haunt the slough like spooky trolls. The path is never paved because, during the summer, when the lilies bloom and the

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owls call, and the cattails sough in the breeze, the hollow simply screams with mosquitoes, mites, and the unpleasant stagnant punk which rises in gassy bursts from the bog. Bill smells it now, steaming up through the hole he has made in the ice. No one thinks of dying, especially not like this. Perhaps at the end of a long life, or in the ambulance with sirens howling about your head on the way to the hospital after a terrible crash. But not like this, alone in the dark – and especially not during the holidays with family waiting at home. Eight minutes. He reads it somewhere. Maybe he has heard it in a movie. Eight minutes is how long you can expect to survive in icy waters before you die of hypothermia or before the madness and pain draw you under. The only other Christmas present he receives – this one from his wife – is a wristwatch. As he opens the small package, she explains how she has paid extra for one that is shock and waterproof. Today, the device has endured both


and the cheery green glow shines up at him. At least two minutes already gone. Bill struggles himself into an exhausted wheeze. Clearly, he thinks, I am not getting out of this one. Sharon is back at the house clearing dishes from dinner and entertaining Ryan, their wayward son. Ryan, an English teacher, has made a special trip back from South Korea for the holidays with his new girlfriend, a woman apparently named Anne Young. Bill isn’t sure about the name. That is how the introduction sounds to Bill, and over the past few days he mumbles her name rather than saying it outright in case he gets it wrong and offends. For Bill, it seems as though he and his neighbor Gary have spent the entire summer talking about Christmas. Both want ATVs. They discuss various models as they hose down their shared driveway. Gary fixates on the Manticore, a monstrous machine that would best a car on a quarter-mile dirt track. Bill would be happy with a smaller model, just something big enough to tootle through the hydro easement. Gary is determined that he will get the one he wants, even if he has to buy the thing himself. Bill admits that his best chance is to leave hints for his wife. As autumn casts her leaves before winter, Bill clips pictures out of a flyer and tucks them beside Sharon’s coffee on the kitchen table. He hasn’t seen Gary in a month, since the cold shut them both in. For a week now, Gary’s car has been parked in the driveway rather than in the small garage. Bill thinks that Sharon, clever as she is, has negotiated a hiding place for his Christmas present. When he wakes on Christmas morning, Bill stands at the front door in his pajamas and boots, coffee in hand, waiting for the others to wake. He stares at the empty driveway, anticipating. Instead of leading him outdoors, Sharon beckons him to the tree in the front room. The little box is blue, and that is supposed to mean something about the quality. The dandy new wristwatch is inscribed with love from Sharon. He kisses her dryly. Ryan doesn’t wrap the snowshoes in anything more exciting than a Walmart bag. Still the gift is a big step for a son who left home as an angry young man. When Bill asks if Ryan is going to settle down and move closer to home, Christmas disintegrates into a tense and silent breakfast.

Four minutes. It might be all he has left. Bill wonders how to use his remaining time in some useful activity. He might call out. The house is just there beyond the trees. He can see light spilling from the back window. Ryan, Sharon, or even Anne Young might pass by and hear him calling from the darkness of the swamp like some old monster lost out on the

moor. But the snow has a way of culling the sound. Bill marvels at how the gasping sounds cling to his face. “Listen, Buddy,” Gary says. “Anytime you wanna ride it, she’s yours. You don’t need to ask.” Bill watches Gary circling the ATV. The shimmering machine roars hungrily. Bill believes that there never will come a time when he will cross the driveway and knock on Gary’s door and ask for the keys. Bill thinks he should have bought himself his own ATV. “She got it for you, eh?” “You betcha,” Gary says. “You know, Buddy,” He halts his tour around the bike and wraps a big arm around Bill’s shoulder too amicably. “I knew she would. Didn’t I tell you so?” Gary squeezes him and it hurts. Bill pulls away from the man who smells too early of eggnog and rum. When Gary circles the machine again, Bill realizes that his neighbor is afraid of climbing into the wide seat. There are three more nervous tours around the vehicle. Gary points out the fuel tank, the splashguards, and even comments on the nubby tires. Bill thinks that Gary’s wife might just as readily have gift-wrapped an eighteen year-old girl. The man is all eyes and no action. “I don’t know where I’ll ride it.” “You should try the pond,” Bill says. There’s a trail back there. Nobody uses it. I don’t know why you couldn’t ride this thing back there.” “Hey, that’s just the place.” Gary’s face lights up. “The snow is not too deep yet. And the pond is frozen.” “You want to take it for a ride? I mean, after I’ve tried it?” “No, I’m fine. I got the snowshoes.” Bill can’t help smiling. He thinks of the eighteen year-old and the ATV in the same thought. Gary will never saddle either horse. “I got snowshoes,” he repeats.

Eight minutes. He reads it somewhere. Maybe he has heard it in a movie. His elbows and bare fists strain to keep him at least partway out of the water. As the last light of day cuts down the horizon, Bill watches a small shadow race to catch a falling leaf. Through the prism of a single drop of ice clinging to a branch, Bill watches the light turn green, and then blue, and then purple. He thinks that purple might be the color of his toes. The cold begins to bite each one of them off. Purple. Even in the muffled silence of the swamp, God might hear him shouting out in sharp, desperate breaths. He has need of a bigger miracle than God might visit upon a lonely ogre stranded in a stinking bog. Broken

33


Swamp Thing by Danny Lalonde

pieces of ice float around him collecting frosty little stars at their edges. Bill draws in a staccato of tight breaths and hauls his leg up impossibly against the weight of his wet clothes and cold, aching muscles. He manages to slide one snowshoe up out of the water and unto the ice. The ragged edge snaps like an old dry bone and his leg rolls back into the water while a large chunk of ice summersaults beside him growing the hole. It is the last energy he has. This should be over, he thinks, and soon the tremendous weight of the cold will sink me into the sediment. In his mind, Sharon is drying a plate, standing in the back hallway where she has wandered to look for him. Like a faithful dog, she waits for the back door to open, for him to return. She reaches for the knob and wonders if Bill is playing a prank. Bill imagines Ryan as he considerately lifts himself from the sofa, abandoning the game console that has cost Bill three hundred dollars, but which seemed a necessary gift for a prodigal son. He thinks of Ryan hurrying to cradle his mother who erupts into a sudden panic. “There, there, mother,” Ryan whispers. “Dad’s enjoying the mild evening. That’s all. Nothing to worry about.” Bill finds tears despite the painful shivers crushing his body. It will be Ryan who wanders out into the cold later wearing borrowed boots from the back closet. It will be Ryan who recognizes the mound in the middle of the pond and flies back across the yard to call for help. It will be Ryan who will not recover from this. It doesn’t seem fair.

Over turkey and cranberries, Anne Young sets out four thimble-sized glasses and fills each one with a hearty liquid the deep crimson color of blood. Anne slides a brimming thimble across the tablecloth, and her long fingers touch his with a shock. He feels the warmth and strange energy of her fingertips across the linen. When each of them has a drink, she raises hers and announces “Gonna Pay” and empties her glass. Bill isn’t sure he has heard it right, but he lifts his glass and answers merrily, “Gonna Pay you too!”

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From the look in Ryan’s dark eyes Bill knows that he has said it wrong. Anne Young is smiling at him, but it isn’t real. It is a smile to placate, a smile to apologize for assuming too much, or trying too hard. The liquid fills him with such heat that Bill is certain he has been poisoned, like Claudius, or Nero: tyrants at their bitter end. When the heat grows, and even Ryan is hacking from the choking grip of the wine, Bill relaxes a little. Still, Sharon and Anne Young sit across the table, watching the two men with hungry and unsettling curiosity. Bill had really not meant to protest, but South Korea is so far away. There are teaching jobs all over the place, even here in town. But, South Korea? And Sharon had done nothing to stop him. That is the thing, isn’t it? She just let him go, and then someone was gonna pay. That is how this works: everyone does what they want, but eventually everything has a cost. Someone always pays. Bill slides his empty thimble across the table hoping for a refill. Anne Young’s smile wavers, and Bill pulls his hand back across and tucks it under his leg.

He pays now, with terrible, paralyzing cold. Bill is barely able to gulp little breaths, his fingernails bent back bloody against the ice; an itch drills into his spine which he can neither reach nor scratch. Around him, the swamp groans. It sounds like settling, but it could be waking up. A silence follows and then another loud percussion hammers across the ice. In this version of things, he tells Sharon that he’ll be home before dark. He can’t remember if this is true. In another twenty minutes she will ask Ryan to go looking. In another twenty minutes, Bill thinks, I will be a looming hulk slumped on the edge here. If Ryan puts her off, clinging as he might to the new video games, it will be an hour before the boy gets up to pee and maybe then attend to his mother. In that time, Sharon might try to distract her worry with a book or a magazine. In this version, Sharon might still call out, tentatively, wondering where he has gone. It is a quiet enough night that he might hear her the first time if she calls out right now. But he doesn’t have the


breath to call back to her. His lungs feel all shrunken and tired, worn out from gulping for air. Not like this. Not at the holidays. It doesn’t seem fair. There might only be a few minutes. And then what? What is death exactly when it comes like this, in closing increments? Bands of darkness begin twisting around his periphery, stars exploding where stars have never appeared in the suburb before. Death is probably like birth – just a thing that happens; a sliding from one realm to another. A small change. Slipping from here to there. No protest, no complaint. That is all it is. Just a slipping. Slight, apologetic, yet sincere.

Ryan is standing there in the doorway. Bill pulls him into a hug, awkwardly, and he wants to keep holding on, to never let go, to dig his fingers in and just hold on. But Bill feels how embarrassing his affection is for Ryan and quickly releases. Then Anne Young is there in the doorway and before this strange witness to his selfish love, the shame is worse.

There are no tears left. All he can manage is a few staggered breaths through his nostrils. He catches puffs of steam escaping, sloughing off the bit of heat still left. The last thing he needs right now is this relentless wristwatch to count down the moments. Sharon never could get things right. She is always saying the wrong thing, intimating something other than what needs to be said. She let Ryan go and bought me a stupid wristwatch instead of an ATV. And Ryan wants me to lose weight – that is what the message is in the snowshoes. I am too heavy for him. Too heavy probably for Sharon. There are no more shivers. No aches. Bill feels comfortable in his wretched pool, a lumbering giant. I’m too heavy for this life. Bill strains to see the wristwatch, tries to find the second hand, but the light sputters like an old motel sign, like a dying firefly. He sees the time. One minute. Only one minute left. But it hasn’t been eight

minutes, has it? Not according to the wristwatch. Twentyseven minutes have dragged by. Sharon is resting on the couch, her feet tucked under her son’s leg for warmth. They are laughing together watching Ryan play video games. Laughing. Anne Young is making some sort of tea to warm them up against the cooling of the night. Bill imagines her in the kitchen. She is wearing his slippers. The ones Sharon gave him last year for Christmas.

Death is probably like birth – just a thing that happens; a sliding from one realm to another. Suddenly, from across the swamp, Bill hears a rumbling that is ominous and familiar. The twin headlights of Gary’s Manticore pitch across the embankment which slopes into the cattails, lilies, and then down to the ice. The machine lurches on the crest. There is a pause, and Bill is blinded by the intense whiteness of the light. The engine stills a moment. The lights dim and blink as though struck by sudden recognition. Gary’s voice rises across the bog: “Hold on, Buddy, I’m coming.” It is the voice of God calling from His chariot of fire. Bill would like to answer, would like to tell him to stop where he is, to go home and get help. Bill would like to call to his idiot neighbor to tell him not to bother, that his family has forgotten him already, I’m gonna pay, gonna pay, it’s okay, go away, but the engine roars back to life and the light bounces quickly toward him. Then, suddenly, the whole mess dips horribly and the entire wreck is swallowed, choking, sputtering below the ice. Meters from Bill a great dark mass remains and Gary is thrashing, howling into the night like a harpy, and all around the swamp, kitchen lights are glowing on. Bill can see Gary more clearly now, can see that he is too heavy for the minutes clawing at him, can see the blueness of his eyes. Bill tries to cup another puff of air into his lungs. He tries to whisper across the chasm for Gary to stop. Eight more minutes together and then all of this will be over.

35


penny

fiction

edited by Penny Dreadful

oh Penny!

Winter’s relentless. Water scarce, of course. No snow, no sleet. Sleep is difficult; delirium persistent. It’s difficult to sift through the mirages; their faces, bodies on streets, some finale. I see it in my dreams--The End-walking forth to meet me. I hear its feet quickening upon the plains. Alexander Nash Layman

On the bus one day Aaron met a beautiful woman. They talked a while. She smiled. Aaron smiled too, and gave her his number. She got off at the stop before his. He turned to wave and watched her rip his number up as the bus lurched away. Clare Kirwan

Sitting on the edge of the fountain, he rested his hand on the cardboard box. Reference books, an engraved clock, personal notes and three framed photographs neatly fitting into the small space. He had left the name plate, sitting alone on the expanse of desk no longer his own. Beth Mathison

go back She slept on the banks of rivers crossed by Caesar and centurions, finally looking as emaciated as she felt. Empty journals in her satchel and only a handful of words to put into them. The stars are all the same here, and no one misses me under this sky either.

36

Jared Devitt


They all came to see him when it was time to go. A gentle hand, quiet words of calm thoughts and once in a while he could feel a teardrop fall upon him. His breath was slowing and it was almost time. With one last bark, he peacefully drifted away. Shauna Klein

“Wait up!” He called behind me. Panting. Exhausted. Feet kicking up dust on the gravel road. I pedaled faster. Grinning widely. Glancing over my shoulder. I saw him slow, giving up. I waited on the porch, well into the dark. The hours passed by. To this day I wonder. Guilt stricken.

I have stared into the pond for days now. I beg the wind to blow, so the ripples on the water would disfigure my face. I can’t stand to look at myself anymore, knowing what I know. She was dead, and I did it. A cold, callous and unsolved murder. Ronald Morris

The skyline glimmered under the afternoon sun, sparkling and alive under the first hint of dusk’s lengthening shadows. He took a deep breath and stared out at the city that had given birth to him, filling his lungs with crisp autumn air, and stepped off the ledge. Meredith Foster

Virginia Moore

rearview mirror

He composed his first concerto at fortyseven; his second six weeks later. Making up for lost time, he said, laughing. At fifty-five he learned craps. He played hard and without regret. Painting came at sixty: landscapes in gloriously vibrant greens and blues. Vegetative state, they said, heads shaking. As if. Rebekah Postupak

His smile was fake, asking my name with a handshake. Like we’d never met before, this coward and I. As if his secret was not on my tongue. Danielle Laporta

37


S

ummer, 1969

Mom’s 1964 Buick Electra glided along the dirt road like a big, blue ocean liner at sea. The radio, tuned to KWBB Wichita’s Hot Top 40! playing this week’s number five song, “Build Me Up, Buttercup” by The Foundations. Randi DiCenzo and her mother, May, sang along, taking turns on the chorus. Roll, band, toss. Roll, band, toss. She repeated the motion automatically – deftly rolling both sides of the evening paper into the middle, forming a tight cylinder, then she held it closed in her left hand and rolled the stout, red rubber band down to the cylinder’s midpoint, releasing the band with a satisfying pop. Randi tossed it onto the growing pile between her Keds. Having a rural route had given the young teen time to build up a sizable arsenal. Number sixteen, “Crimson and Clover,” by Tommy James and The Shondells played as they approached a row of a half-dozen blue boxes

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emblazoned on the side with the newspaper’s logo. Those were just a quick shove in and go, although sometimes May pulled up too closely or too far away and Randi had to adapt quickly. As the car slowed, the cloud of dust which had followed them out of town, caught up with them. May waited until it settled before depressing the switch on her armrest and lowered the passenger window. Four boxes on the right, then one over the roof toss landed at the Connelly place somewhere amidst the bikes and toys littering their trailer’s yard. “They’re Roman Catholics, honey.” May had explained. “That’s why they have eight kids. They believe God wants them to.” “Do you think he wants ‘em to have six stupid, muddy hound dogs crawling all over the county, too?” Randi had asked. “Maybe, dear.” May always said with a wink. “But mostly I think Mr. Connelly wants those dogs so he can go away hunting as often as possible.” Mr. Connelly probably had a lot of reasons for running away from home. He wasn’t the only one.


Karl walked into the milking barn. He was in what passed for a decent mood these days. When he heard Glen Campbell’s “Galveston” on the transistor radio he left on for “the girls,” he turned it up and croaked his way through the parts he knew.

Long, long time ago…hardly worth thinking about. Except sometimes this daughter of hers, this tomboy, wanted to know how it was, what the family was like–the one she’d never met–the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The people she looked like, with olive skin and dark hair. They were all back east with Dad. Randi’s dad. Back in New York rooting for… she wasn’t sure…but there wasn’t anyone here worth rooting for. Here it was just May and Randi and for the last seven years, the stepdad. Rah!

Fat, sausage fingers crushed the cherry of his unfiltered Camel as he spat bits of tobacco from his tongue. He took the top off the short, squat bottle and rubbed the soothing Corn Huskers Lotion over his cracked hands. Karl squatted under Rita, or Rita Hayworth--he had named them all for pretty actresses--and placed his warmed hands outspread on either side of her swollen udder. While he crooned about an ocean he knew he’d never see, he slowly rolled his fingers inward until two teats were enclosed and pulled firmly in a fluid motion from top to bottom. First left, then right, squirts hit the cold, galvanized steel bucket like raindrops on a windowpane.

She sang along to the radio, Elvis pleading, “we can’t go on this way” and slowed her movements almost imperceptibly.

Sometimes he could squirt along to the beat as he serenaded Annette and Ann-Margaret and Sophia, the docile females who patiently waited for him. Hell, thought Karl, he might not be king of his castle, but here he was…what was it LBJ called that Pol Pot? A despot…here in his milking barn he was a much-loved despot!

Inside the farmhouse, the smell of flour-drenched chicken fried in Crisco filled the kitchen. Everything bright, lemon yellow, just the way she’d asked him for it all those years ago. Yellow dishcloths, teapot, walls, and Mary’s favorite, the yellow Formica-topped table with matching yellow and chrome chairs.

After a brief news report – the cost of a first-class stamp was going up to 6¢! – KCOW’s Cowboy Country Countdown continued with number 18, “crossing over to number 26 on the pop charts!” Like that’s a good thing? Karl thought aloud as “Suspicious Minds” began. More money for the King, he reckoned, but what could those longhaired, pinko hippies know about Presley, for God’s sake? Rita kicked hard and made him aware he’d yanked her roughly in his irritation. He patted her flank and went back to work on the next two teats. Now, this was a song he could really appreciate.

This was her little piece of sunshine, she thought, and patted her swelled belly. She could imagine cooking with her someday, right here, if she was a girl. Or pouring iced tea from a big, yellow pitcher for a thirsty boy just in from helping Dad with chores. Either one was fine with her, just as long as it was healthy.

For Randi the real fun came when she got to launch one right over the roof of the big, blue boat. She’d watch it arch mid-way in its trajectory, then spiral down with a satisfying thump. Displaced road dust puffed up as it hit its mark. Her timing had to be perfect for those, right in sync with May’s driving. They always cheered those hits as if they had just seen Mantle hit a homer. Back in New York, May had been a Dodger fan, her dad and one brother rooted for the Giants and her older brother was the Yankees fan.

The first two had been so hard on her, losing the one just after they were married, then the other four years later. It had all been so bad since then. This had to be God’s way of telling her it was all going to be okay. She sang along to the radio, Elvis pleading, “we can’t go on this way” and slowed her movements almost imperceptibly. No, no suspicions here. Sure, Karl looked at pretty girls, but that was all, she thought, as she set his place on the yellow Formica top. He was what her dear mama would have called a good provider. His tastes were simple, his opinions were set in stone, and he didn’t seem to need much to be content. He liked everything to be the same… everyday. Theirs had never been a passionate marriage, but ever since her mama and papa had died in the car crash during their senior year, he’d been there for her. The only thing he had ever really asked her for was a son. Maybe this time she would be able to give him what would truly make him happy.

39


Evening Edition by Robin Masullo

The banker had come home to his wife bearing a bottle of champagne and a bouquet of flowers. He had good news and there was no one he would rather celebrate it with. In between songs, Karl told “the girls” the same old stories. How he’d been the big man in high school, four years as “the finest pair of hands this county’s seen on a young quarterback in many years.” That was his favorite quote from the sports editor at The Wichita Eagle and Beacon. She’d liked him then, all the girls had. And he’d had lots of pals. Good guys who covered for him at practice when he’d had too much fun the night before, brainiacs who wrote papers for him, even teachers who gave him a wink when they laid a high-scoring exam on his desk. He was gonna ride a scholarship all the way, play for the Jayhawks, get a throwaway degree, then travel the world and make his fortune. But it all turned to shit. The situation in Korea was looking grim for our side and MacArthur had needed brave, young men who could think fast on their feet. The day after graduation, his dad had driven him to Wichita to enlist. By the time the Armistice was signed in July of 1953, he was back home putting together jigsaw puzzles in a VA hospital rec room. “Combat stress,” the docs called it. Getting “back to normal” would be the best medicine, they told his family. And she’d been there waiting for him. Within a year, she was pregnant and they were married and living on his folk’s farm. His farm. Used to feel pride when he said that. Not anymore. Not since the stroke had left Dad useless the last 6 years and Mom not much better. They stayed in an old Airstream trailer out past the barn now. He’d never even wanted this damned dump and now, every year, he had to crawl to that banker, begging him for operating loans. He’d fought for his damned country. There were boys over in Nam getting killed everyday. For this? So some fancy college degree in a pressed suit could decide whether he was a good investment? Teeth grinding with anger, Karl yanked on Rita, almost got himself kicked. He hated that man, Stanton. The wife had had a crush on him back in school. Two years older than Karl. She still looked at him that way,–the banker–like she had back then. Before she got stuck with him.

40

Normally, Douglas Stanton didn’t drink much, a couple of beers at the bank’s annual family BBQ maybe, but tonight was special so he’d stopped by the package store on the way home. Wally mainly sold beer and hard liquor, but he’d had a nice bottle of bubbly in a back cooler. Powering the black, ’69 Cadillac down the highway, Doug imagined the look on Cindy’s beautiful face when he told her the news. He’d build up to it slowly, the phone call summoning him to the main office building, the fancy lunch with “the old man,” and then finally, the offer they’d been waiting so long for. She’d laugh at the boss calling her “the little woman” when he’d told Doug to leave an hour early to surprise her. Not that Cindy was one of those sign-waving women’s rights gals–she liked being Mrs. Doug Stanton, taking care of their immaculate red brick ranch home. And now that their future with the bank was secure, maybe they could call Jack over at the county adoption service and tell him they were ready to make their little family perfect. As he took the exit for their brand new subdivision, The Fifth Dimension sang “Up, Up and Away.” Doug cranked up the radio and sang along. June 12, 1969 was a day he would never forget.

Randi tried to compose herself, but breathing was hard. Thinking was harder. Dust the color of leather swirled as May slammed on the Buick’s brakes, instinctively throwing out her right arm to keep her daughter from flying through the windshield. Snapping off the radio she demanded, “He did what?” Randi tried to compose herself, but breathing was hard. Thinking was harder. Remembering it all, every disgusting, confusing moment. She’d been thinking about it every day since it had happened. Planning how she’d tell Mom. But it hadn’t worked out that way. Instead, she’d just blurted it out, trying to talk fast so it’d be over sooner. But Mom insisted on hearing every detail. How he’d pulled over right on the route, just past the dairy farm. Offering her a back rub, telling her that her shoulders must hurt from throwing papers. Telling her it would be easier if she got out of the car and leaned on the hood. It was gross, she told Mom, feeling him touch her like that. Choking and sobbing, she told her how he’d gotten close–too close, there in the predawn blackness. Pressing himself against her butt. She waited for Mom to correct her, to tell her to say “buttocks” or “rear end” instead, but she did not. She just sat staring, frozen by the sound of Randi’s terrified voice, horrified by her words.


It had been during those three days Mom had spent in bed with a migraine last week, she explained. She’d smelled the whiskey on his hot breath. He must have brought it in the thermos. He’d stopped when headlights had flashed in the distance, coming their way. Made some strange noise, as if he’d just been startled in the middle of a nap. He’d only said one thing the rest of the morning, telling her she could listen to any radio station she wanted. Mom shoved the car into drive and churned up the dirt road making a U-turn and speeding for home, her jaw set, her eyes focused with dark rage. Randi stared at the pile of rolled papers through her tears, wondering what all those people would think when they came home and looked for their evening news.

His head was on fire now, temples pounding with the frenzied drumbeat he’d heard ever since he’d marched south of the 38th parallel. Karl finished the evening milking. He had also polished off the pint he kept in the barn. Stomping into the kitchen, he heard The Fifth Dimension singing some stupid song about their beautiful balloon. One sharp look and Mary snapped off the radio. Fifteen minutes later, he’d finished eating the meat and potatoes dinner he demanded nightly and now sat slouched in the La-Z-Boy, TV Guide in hand. Maybe he’d watch The Jim Nabors Hour until The High Chaparral came on. This time of year they were all reruns anyway. The Guide said Gunsmoke was “running out of steam” after over eleven years. Hell, so was he! It was still better than that hippie-fairy Laugh-In crap, although he secretly liked their half-naked, dumb girl dancers. But mostly he liked the westerns with real men, horses and guns. Slowly, the bottle of Wild Turkey on the TV tray emptied. Then faster, barely pausing in the hefty glass tumbler before siding down his throat. By the time High Chaparral went off the air, he’d already forgotten tonight’s plot. It was always the same anyway. Family of men living by themselves, except for Dad’s Mexican wife. Or was she Indian? No difference. They were all just good for two things: cookin’ dinner and screwing, just like his. And now that she was pregnant, all he got was dinner. He had awakened covered in a cold sweat. Instinctively, he reached for the tumbler. Hands shaking, he gulped it. Belching fried chicken, he wiped his mouth, put down his glass. His head was on fire now, temples pounding with the

frenzied drumbeat he’d heard ever since he’d marched south of the 38th parallel. Bleary-eyed he stumbled to the kitchen where Mary sat, dishes done, reading one of her housewife magazines. Neatly tearing a square of paper from the page, she looked up at him with those clear, blue eyes. A yellow radio perched on the yellow kitchen counter quietly played Three Dog Night’s “One.” She didn’t suffer long. The first blow, a backhand, had knocked her out of her chair. The second had rendered her unconscious. Then his huge Norwegian hands, strong from decades of milking Holsteins, cut off her airway and crushed the hyoid instantly. She no longer had a wide-eyed look of puzzlement on her face when he released her to fall to the Formica table top with a heavy thump. Karl’s eyes flew open at the sound. Startled by what he saw, his arms spread wide, alien, white hands turning pink as blood rushed to his pinched, mottled fingers. Gasping, he turned and wrenched open the wooden screen door, just in time to heave whiskey and the remnants of dinner all over the concrete steps. “What have I done?” he whispered. And then louder and then, louder, still, willing away the sight now permanently fixed in his brain’s vision. With a shudder, he collapsed. A small smile crept across his mouth, the corners of it twitching nervously. “It’s almost over,” he thought. Rising, he slowly trudged toward the barn.

S

ummer, 1989

Randi drove down the dirt road listening to a cassette tape of Sly and the Family Stone’s greatest hits. Bopping her head to “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” she couldn’t help but be in a good mood, even though she knew the interview had been painful for Maria. God, how long had it been? Sixteen, seventeen years? Almost three more years she’d stuck it out--him drinking and trying to corner her, Mom not believing it was happening--or pretending not to know. She’d heard so many stories just like her own over the years, had even written some of them for the paper. Some of her best friends now were girls she’d first met when she’d finally run away. Kansas City had been such a big, ugly city back then. But they had all helped each other out, crashing five or six in tiny apartments meant for one. And most of them had made it. Grown up, found love, had decent lives now. Look at her--put herself through college with part-time jobs and loans she’d be paying on when she was an old lady, but at 33 years old, she was a respected reporter for the Kansas City Star, living the yuppie lifestyle in the big city. Maria Stanton’s story might be her best so far. Maybe even an award-winner. Orphaned when her father had

41


Evening Edition by Robin Masullo

murdered her mother and then shot himself, her only living relatives the paternal grandparents, too ill to take the little preemie. Adopted by a loving, well-to-do banker and his wife. This was Randi’s kind of story. Now the girl was a seemingly normal, well-adjusted, 20-year-old college student. When Randi had first driven up to the long deserted dairy farm, she’d worried that this was a bad idea, meeting Maria, literally at the scene of the crime. However, as they walked slowly around the property and the interview progressed, she had been impressed by the young woman’s intellect and charm. Given the circumstances of her life, she had every reason to be bitter and angry or withdrawn and timid. Yet she seemed to find a great many reasons to be happy. She spoke in glowing terms of her parents, the Stantons. The cynic in Randi wondered if she’d idealized them as her saviors. Or were there simply people on this earth who were that kind, compassionate and loving? For obvious reasons, when the tall, blonde woman before her spoke of her biological parents, her face betrayed a myriad of emotions. From fear, hatred, confusion, even outright revulsion, to a sadness softened, doubtless, each time she looked in a mirror. For there was no doubting who her mother was. Randi had acquired several old Polaroids and yearbook photos to run with the finished feature. In just a few years, when Maria reached the age her mother had been at the time of her death, the resemblance would make them appear virtual twins. It would have been too dangerous to enter the boarded up farmhouse, back door hanging by one rusty hinge. And the barn had been razed years earlier. So they’d stood at the entrance of the long,gravel drive beside a rusted mailbox that still read “Rhineheart” in faded yellow paint. A blue plastic newspaper tube hung below, held by a single rusted screw. She had told Randi the sheriff’s department had been able to release some of the physical evidence to her when she’d turned eighteen. Nothing much. Apparently her mom hadn’t owned much jewelry and most of it was poor quality. Her engagement and wedding rings filled Maria with pain, but she thought she’d keep them. And, the oddest thing–a piece of a magazine article the coroner had found clutched in her mother’s hand. The magazine, Good Housekeeping’s April 1969 issue, had been found in the trashed kitchen. “Can you tell what it is? What it says?” Randi asked, flipping another page in her long, thin reporter’s notebook. “Got it right here.” Maria responded, pulling a Ziploc bag from her backpack. As they both read the yellowed scrap of paper from so long ago, she explained that it had come from an inspirational story authored by a woman encouraging other women to “Be The Best You That You Can Be.” It

42

read, “Live a rich, luscious life of fulfilled desires and satiated dreams.” “Crazy, huh? I guess it was what she wanted for herself,” Maria said sadly, still gazing at the contents of the plastic bag. “I think it’s what she wanted for you,” Randi replied. “It’s what you deserve.” Driving back to civilization, Randi couldn’t help but wonder what she had been doing that hot, dry evening back in June of 1969. “Who knows?” she shrugged. Grinning, she cranked up “Everyday People” and sang along as she turned onto the highway and headed for home.

“So they’d stood at the entrance to the long, gravel drive, beside a rusted mailbox that still read Rhineheart in faded yellow paint. A blue plastic newspaper tube hung below, held by a single rusted screw.”

Rhi

neh ear

t

Evening Edition


there’s an atomic clock ticking by my record player table it’s able to recalculate itself, blinking at the same rate as the world, accurate to infinity, dropping down to the hundredth of any given second, cooling atoms to absolute zero, measuring clouds of fountains, atoms tossed into the air by lasers, all this sits by my record player table I watch the thick vinyl turn, looping out sounds that will be stored in my brain for eternity while everything else trickles through my heart like rain they say ted williams could read the label of a spinning record from 60 feet away I wonder if he counted the stitches on every baseball, one by one or twos or fives, flying towards him in wavering lines, atoms are weightless in the toss, invisible to any human eye would ted have caught them with his bat, sent them over that great green wall in splatters? does it matter if we’re all one second off? when it’s finally time to die will we raise our hands into the air, grasping at something we’re told is there but have never seen? one eye on that atomic clock, the other blinking with the rhythm of our slowing heart give me my last second back, we’ll shout at God you owe it to me after all this living

43


My father’s scars were carved

His shattered nerves

So deeply in his back and arms

Never quite recovered.

They formed

When he ordered from a menu

An unforgiving landscape

His upper lip began to quiver.

Of pitted valleys

He foresaw a fatal injury

And dried up river beds.

In every cut and scrape We suffered.

I gazed in fascination

A phone call in the night

As he shaved,

Presaged almost certain death.

Wondering if they still hurt. When he wasn’t home,

Still, he managed to survive.

I removed the purple heart

His left hand wasn’t any good

From its velvet-lined box

But with his right he drew for us

And pinning it on my chest,

Fabulous winged horses

Tried to imagine the war.

With pipes in their mouths. He played the violin so badly,

He was the sole survivor

It became a form of punishment.

Of his whole platoon.

We spent Sundays at the beach,

A German officer at Mont Casino

Eating sandy tuna sandwiches

Had kicked him in the head

And riding on his stomach

And left him there for dead.

In the surf.

He had begged a passing convoy To finish him off, But they had carried him To hospital instead And one year later I was born.

44


It was my mother’s illness

The war and mother’s death.

Which sucked all joy

Those were the twin disasters

Out of his life

Of my father’s life.

And left him gasping

The ones which left the scars

Like a fish on the dock.

That never really healed.

By the time they carried Her jaundiced body Down the stairs and out the door, You could say the cancer Had consumed him too. He forbade us to whistle, He forbade us to laugh, And though he always Blamed the onions Or a cinder in his eye, For forty years His eyes teared up At the mention of her name.

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W

hen I was in my early twenties, living frugally on my own in New York, I would, on occasion and out of familial obligation, leave the city to visit my Czech grandmother, who lived in a small town on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, a two-hour bus ride from the Port Authority bus station in Manhattan. For me, at that point in my life, visiting her was a sacrifice of precious weekend socializing with my friends, after the weekday slog of a poorly paid entry-level job at one of New York’s storied book publishers. But I was her only grandchild, and my father, her only son, had died when I was ten. We were a disappearing family, and I felt somehow responsible to my grandmother for holding our family’s place on earth. So, on a Friday evening in late July, I steeled myself for one of these visits, and when I arrived at her house the screen door was closed but not locked, the barn-red paint on the frame, lightly flaking. I pressed my nose against the screen and smelled roasting meat. An old metal fan swiveled and buzzed on top of the refrigerator, blowing a thick breeze. “Grandma?” I hesitated as I entered the house. I was sweaty from lugging my overnight bag from the bus stop in Port Jervis, which was across the river. If I closed my eyes, I could have slipped through the years and heard my father’s short laugh, like a cough, on a Sunday afternoon at the kitchen table. I knew that my

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grandmother often walked to the Port Jervis cemetery where he was buried, crossing the steel bridge from Pennsylvania into New York, in her sturdy black shoes and gray wool cardigan, which she wore no matter how hot it was. Maybe she wasn’t back yet. Or, she could have died that afternoon in one of the small rooms with the shades pulled down, and this is how the moment would have been -- lingering, solitary and thick with summer. And for a moment, I wished irrationally that she had just disappeared, that I was free of her, but she materialized in the doorway between the hot kitchen and small dining room, wearing a familiar dark, sleeveless dress. “I didn’t hear you come in, Sabina.” “I just got here. The door was open.” “Such a long time since I’ve seen you, Sabina.” It was what she always said, and, before the visit had even begun, I was caught, as I always was, under the weight of feeling that my visit was futile in the context of her otherwise leaden life. I knew I was a poor substitute for my father, who had carried her dreams. “You can put your bag upstairs. Such a nice suit you’re wearing.” It was a dove-gray linen suit with a pencil skirt and padded shoulders in the jacket. I had recently bought it on


sale at Macy’s. “Maybe I’ll change. I came right from work.” I climbed the steep, narrow stairs and wondered, not for the first time, how those frail, age-spotted legs managed in that house. Airless heat pressed through the attic and lodged on the top floor. There were three small, lowceilinged bedrooms upstairs. When I visited, I slept in the narrow bed in what had been my father’s room when he was a boy. I hung my limp suit on one of the crowd of bent wire hangers in the empty closet that smelled of camphor. Downstairs in the kitchen, the late sun smacked against the drawn, plastic window shade above the marbled Formica tabletop, now laden with roast pork and dumplings. My grandmother was slight and diabetic and ate small, measured portions. “Such a long time, Sabina.” I apologized and said something about being busy with work. “How is your mother?” “She’s fine. They just moved into a new house.” I’d visited my mother and stepfather the previous weekend, but didn’t mention that I had. “A new house. She must be happy being married again.” I said I thought she was, although in truth, I had few nuanced concerns about my mother’s happiness one way or another, though I was glad she had recently remarried. After my father died, she had raised and supported me on her own for half my life, which included putting me through a small and expensive New England college, by working in a bank in New Jersey, near where we lived in the brick and cement garden apartment we’d moved into after his death. I ate too many of my grandmother’s homemade dumplings, and my bare thighs stuck to the vinyl seat of the metal-framed chair. I was anxious to escape to the living room to watch television, but shortly after refusing my help with the dishes, my grandmother followed me into the cooler, silent room with its drawn shades. I sat in the armchair near the window and lifted the shade. The small house next door looked dark and empty. “How is your job, Sabina?” “It’s all right.” It was my first job out of college. “You write some of the books?” “I don’t write anything, Grandma.” “I read one of your books.” “I told you, Grandma, I don’t write the books.” “No, no, I read the book you left here last time.” I didn’t remember. “The book about the Russian lady. Karenina.” She pronounced it elegantly in her Czech accent.

“Did you like it?” “It was a good story, but very sad. She was rich. She had everything. Why did she have to jump in front of a train?” My father hadn’t jumped in front of a train. He had fought with all his strength against the cancer raging through his blood, and I knew that my grandmother couldn’t forgive someone who chose death when they were physically healthy. She couldn’t conceive of a burden too heavy to carry that wasn’t materially embodied.

When I visited, I slept in the narrow bed in what had been my father’s room when he was a boy. I slept late that Saturday morning. My grandmother never woke me when I visited. She just let me sleep and then commented on how tired I must be to sleep so long. Drinking her sharp, percolated coffee in the kitchen, which, beyond the coffee, smelled of yeast bread and musty wood, I tried to keep the day moving by telling her other people’s stories and anecdotes, embellished for comic effect. But neither of us was naturally talkative, and we didn’t share an easy sense of humor, so the stories stuttered to abrupt endings between us. “You have a lot of friends, Sabina.” Her eyes were tearing, although she wasn’t crying or laughing. She wiped the tears away with a crumpled tissue she kept tucked in the cuff of her sweater and said, “You make your own life.” I said I guess I did, but felt somehow accused rather than encouraged by this remark. I said I liked my job, but that I had to sometimes work on weekends, which wasn’t true, but I wanted her to know that I wasn’t just busy having fun all the time. I asked about her neighbor, Janet, who lived across the street. Janet was a nursery school teacher and was ten years older than I was. She was married to Vince, a car mechanic. They had no children, though not for lack of trying, I knew from previous and meandering conversations with Janet, who would swoop in on me in her oversized, garrulous way, usually in the middle of the sidewalk-less street. She would proclaim to me how much she loved my grandmother and how lucky I was to have her around – she and Vince had no nearby relatives. At the time, I could reluctantly appreciate that Janet’s watching out for my grandmother, by driving her places she needed to go and fixing things she needed fixed, was commendable. But Janet’s genuine and unencumbered affection in doing so only increased my sense that I fell short of what my grandmother expected from a granddaughter.

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The Steel Bridge by Susan Agar

Janet and Vince were away that weekend, at her sister’s wedding in Upstate New York. “She told me they won’t be here to take me to Mass tomorrow morning.” Hearing this, I thought my grandmother would ask me to walk with her to church, which was across the river and adjacent to the cemetery, but she didn’t. I said that I had brought my bathing suit, and since it was so hot, I thought I’d walk to the town beach and go swimming. “You shouldn’t go by yourself, Sabina. There are troublemakers on the beach sometimes.” So, that complacently warm afternoon, I swam in the river while my grandmother sat on a rock on the edge of the grassy beach, clutching a starched, frayed towel, which I thought must have been as old as my father would have been. She was the only person in sight wearing long sleeves and shoes, the only person over seventy anywhere near the water. The town teenagers were horsing around in a group, listening to Bruce Springsteen on a boom box, but they mostly kept to themselves. They certainly ignored me and barely took in my grandmother, who watched eagleeyed as I swam. I was a strong swimmer, as I knew my father had been and my grandmother was not, and I daydreamed with each long-armed stroke about crossing or joining the ribbon of swift currents in this narrow, anonymous stretch of the Delaware and escaping far away up or downstream or even just to the opposite bank. But this dream was too pale to sustain me swimming alone in the river like that for too long, and I felt sorry for my grandmother, sitting there watching over me in her dark clothes in the heat of the day.

You don’t need me anymore, was what I wanted to tell her. But, “I’ll try to come again soon,” was what I said.

Still, I woke early on Sunday and excused myself from joining her at church, even though she hadn’t asked me to go with her. I said I had to catch a late morning bus, that I was meeting some friends for an early dinner that evening in the city, even though I wasn’t. My grandmother didn’t protest that I wouldn’t even stay for lunch. Instead, she gave me a sandwich to eat on the bus and walked with me to her side of the bridge. “Don’t wait so long next time, Sabina.” Please, Grandma, please. You have Janet. You don’t need me anymore, was what I wanted to tell her. But, “I’ll try to come again soon,” was what I said. I shifted my overnight bag from one shoulder to the other and kissed her goodbye, my bright lipstick leaving a garish trace on the fading skin of her cheek, as I crossed the bridge from the Pennsylvania to the New York side of the river. My grandmother died four months later, in the dim days of a leafless, rainy November. I was supposed to visit again on Thanksgiving, but she died before that, alone in her house. Inevitably, it was Janet the neighbor, delivering groceries she had promised to buy earlier that day, who found my grandmother, seemingly asleep, in a chair in the living room with the shades pulled down. When she didn’t wake up, it was Vince who called for an ambulance, but my grandmother was already gone. Janet then called my mother, who then called me before making all the arrangements for the funeral and the sale of my grandmother’s house and possessions. When my mother asked, I said I didn’t want to keep anything from my grandmother’s house, using my cramped New York living arrangements as an excuse. When she died, I no longer had to shoulder my grandmother’s grief for my father. I was finally able to carry the weight of my own. And I do not regret that I have no material memento of her, because, even after all this time, if I close my eyes, I see her climbing the steep stairs of her house, gripping the narrow rail. I see her crossing the bridge on her frail legs, from one side of that narrow stretch of the Delaware River to the other, to visit my father’s grave. I smell the food she cooked, recipes that she carried across the ocean from her Czech homeland, and I hear my father’s Sunday-afternoon laugh at the kitchen table. This is what I have kept of her, of my father, images that resonate more clearly than any dusty photo or souvenir, indestructible images that are free of the guilt I once felt in her presence. They are my irreconcilable inheritance -these words, these shades.

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When the rains finally came, I was waiting. When the sky cracked open, I lifted my face to the bruisy clouds. When the winds rushed through the silver birches, the birds fell silent. When the lightning clove the darkness, I closed my eyes. When the storm washed the dry grass, it grew full and green beneath my bare feet. When the water, drop by drop, filled my cupped hands, I lifted them to my lips and drank.

water

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I

looked down at the minuscule hand that was jabbing the corner of a hardcover picture book into my abdomen. I stared at my kindergarten buddy’s hopeful face and took the book from him warily. We sat down in a corner of the classroom and he lifted his legs to his chest, resting his chin on his knees anticipating the beginning of a story. I looked from the book to his expectant eyes and then back again. I finally cracked open the cover of the book and started to tell him a story. Yes, I told him a story, but I did not read him one. It was the fourth grade and every month our class met with our kindergarten buddies to read to them. Every month I made up my own new story to hide the fact that I couldn’t read. It was that same year that I was diagnosed with a learning difference. They called it slow processing speed, telling me it takes my mind longer to understand new information. It wasn’t until the end of that year when I finally learned how to read. That said, I didn’t particularly like reading. In fact, I despised it. I remember dreading the days where our class would take turns reading the textbook out loud, bracing myself for the laughter that was bound to come when my turn came around. I stuttered and stumbled over my words, often repeating the same lines over again. I can’t remember the amount of times that I heard “Just sound it out.” It wasn’t until eighth grade when I stumbled upon the book that would change my life. My mother gave it to me; she said it was her favorite book when she was my age. It was called A Tree Grows and Brooklyn and it was written by Betty Smith. It sat on my shelf for a while, alone, no other books

accompanying it. Until one day, I decided to pick it up. I don’t remember what compelled me to come back to this book. I might have been bored, I might have been frustrated by my poor reading skills, but I opened the front cover, took in the smell of printed pages, and started to read. I didn’t stop. I fell in love with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It was so easy for me to relate to the protagonist; it was as if she knew exactly how I was feeling and what I was going through. Every spare moment I was reading that book. It felt as if a hand had sprung out of the pages and pulled me in, enveloping me in this new world. It took me about six months to finish A Tree Grows in Brooklyn but when I was finished, and closed the cover and clutched the book in my hands, a sorrowful feeling came over me. There were no more pages to turn; no more story to devour. It was in that moment that I knew that I needed more books, more tales to dive into, more adventures to explore. From that day on, reading has morphed into something that is so essential to my life. It is my passion; it is what makes me tick. Reading used to be my most arduous and avoided activity, but now it is the thing that shapes my life. If I have had a bad day at school or am under a lot of stress, nothing calms me more than slipping into a good book. I am still a slow reader and sometimes reading can still be a challenge, but all of that struggle pales in comparison to the amount of joy that I get from a book. I keep almost all of the books that I have read on my bookshelf. I don’t organize them by authors’ last name or by genre. But I put them on the shelf in the order that I have read them. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the first. 591 others follow.


in order of appearance

Robert Earle The Rubber Mask Robert Earle has published dozens of short stories in literary journals across the U.S. and Canada. He also has published two novels, The Way Home and The Man Clothed in Linen, and a nonfiction account of a year he spent in Iraq, Nights in the Pink Motel. For more, go to robertearle@wordpress.com.

Jason Stocks back when Jason Stocks was born in Arkansas and raised in Mississippi. His poetry reflects a deep connection to these lands and peoples. Presently he lives in Florida and divides his time between his home there and the Andes of Colombia. Mary Shanley What I Did With My Hand & It Wasn’t Enough Mary Shanley, poet and writer of two books: Hobo Code Poems and Mott Street Stories and Las Vegas Stories. She is published online at: Poydras Review, Mr. Beller's Neighborhod, Anak Sastra Journal, Underground Voices, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Chuffed Books U.K., Prompt Literary Journal, Blue Lake Review, StepAway Magazine, Shangra-la Shack, Gloom Cupboard, Haunted Waters. M.B. Baken Thom Yorke’s Dance Mary Baken received her MFA at the University of Arkansas and is currently pursuing an MA at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. She is the mother of three wonderful children. This story is dedicated to her best friend and nemesis, Susan Perabo. Thom Yorke’s Dance is a Haunted Waters Press 2013 Pushcart Prize Nominee and the editorial staff selection for the Winter 2012 Editor’s Choice Award. Heather Kwolek lost & emotionless Heather Kwolek, of Winchester, VA, is a graduate of John Handley High School who is excited to be heading to college in a year. She’s always loved to write, but this is an exhilarating first for her - being published in a literary magazine! She plans to continue writing well into the future, with the wonderful love and support of all of her friends and family.

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Lon Richardson Two Tickets After slogging away at various editor’s desks in journalism for 15 years, Lon Richardson was a computer programmer and website manager, until finally becoming a technical writer, a position he’s held for nearly a decade. Born in England, he grew up in Colorado, finishing his adolescence in California. Lon spent five years in the U.S. Air Force, leaving with the intention of becoming either a musician or a writer. His lovely wife, Ginger, has been his encouraging muse for the 23 years they’ve been together. Kate LaDew A Room Made of Windows there's an atomic clock ticking by my record player table Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art. Danny LaLonde Swamp Thing Danny Lalonde’s work has appeared twice in Queen’s Quarterly (Spring, 2011/Winter, 2012), also in Postscripts to Darkness 2. His first published story, Harvest, is anthologized in Helen Humphreys's collection, Writing at Wintergreen. Danny is a writer and educator who lives with his family on a hobby farm in Sunbury, Ontario, Canada. He has snowshoes and an ATV. Robin Masullo Evening Edition Robin worked as a reporter/stringer in her teens, was published in feminist and politically activist newsletters, alternative papers, etc. in her twenties. After writing just for herself and therapy for the last decade, she is now actively writing and submitting again. She lives in Eugene, OR with her domestic partner of 16 years, two cats and one very smart mini-aussie. Art Heifetz My Father’s Scars Retired from a career in insurance, he is currently teaching refugees English and writing poetry, which drives his beautiful Nicaraguan wife crazy, although many of the poems were originally written for her. Over thirty have been published so far in the U.S., Israel and Australia.


Susan Agar The Steel Bridge Before recently moving to New York, Susan Agar was the Program Coordinator at Musehouse: A Center for the Literary Arts in Philadelphia, where she taught a grief and loss writing workshop. She is also a contributor to the KGB Bar Lit Magazine. Anne Britting Oleson Downpour Anne Britting Oleson has been published widely in the US, UK and Canada. She earned her MFA at the Stonecoast program of USM. She has published two chapbooks, The Church of St. Materiana (2007) and The Beauty of It (2010). Another book, Counting the Days, is scheduled for release next year. Anne’s poem Coven was featured in the Fall 2012 issue of From the Depths. Adela Fine The Power of a Book Adela Fine is currently in her first year at Wesleyan University.She loves to read and write and is thinking about becoming an English major. Her favorite book is still A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

edited by Penny Dreadful

Shauna Klein has five children – three dogs, one cat, two birds – the birds are invisible. Ron Morris, an unknown but enthusiastic author, writes and directs independent films about country western singers. Virginia Moore sings show tunes on her way to work as an undertaker. She enjoys a captive audience. Meredith Foster has seen the same band live fourteen times and counting. All winnings from this contest go to the Alexander Nash Layman Adamantium transplant fund. Clare Kiran is living her life backwards. She will receive her acceptance letter next week. Beth Mathison was once a grocery store sample girl. She shudders at the thought. Rebekah Postupak would not, if given the chance, enjoy jumping in a jello pool. (Yes she would.) Jared Devitt is an ambulatory bag of carbon-based chemicals supported by black coffee-based diet. Danielle LaPorta has a psychological allergy to people. 53


Cover art and design by Susan Warren Utley. Cover fonts include Avenir Next Condensed and Papyrus. Additional fonts used throughout the issue include Times New Roman, Mom’s Typewriter, The King & Queen’s Font, James Fajardo, and uncletypewriter. Artwork created in ArtRage Studio Pro from Ambient Design. Additional artwork created in Sketch Club and TypeDrawing for iPad. Artistic image manipulation on PostworkShop from Xycod and Color Splash Studio from MacPhun LLC. Layout completed in Pages from Apple. From the Depths is created on a Mac.

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Artwork created for this issue made possible by the generous donation of photographs, derivative works of photographs, original artwork, and artistic tools which exist within the public domain either by gift, copyright expiration, or made available by their authors under Creative Commons License. We at Haunted Waters Press would like to acknowledge and thank the original creators, artists, and photographers, for without their contributions, this issue would be incomplete. Special acknowledgment and thanks goes out to morgueFile.com, Wikipedia Commons, DeviantArt and their contributors. While attribution is not required by all, we would like to acknowledge the following contributors and their works: Generous donations and “free to use” images and template: Crafty Dogma. “Textures-Free to use.” Vintage photo negative texture, Glass negative texture, Vintage photo corners, Contact sheet texture. 2012. Via Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/craftydogma/sets/ 72157619885615445/. Images appear on pages 1, 2, 4-7, 36-37, 50-51, 56. Green, Heather. “Grunge Polaroid.” Via Heather Green Photography, http://heathergreenblog.com. Pages 5, 12,13, 46. Nelson, Linda. “Photo Frames and Slide Mounts.” Via Pixelberrypie Digital Goodness, http:// pixelberrypie.com. Frames appear on pages 3, 7, 11, 14-22, 26, 28, 30, 38, 42-43, 48, 53. Photoshop Brush Sets and ArtRage Tools provided by: mcbadshoes. "Watercolor Brushes by mcbadshoes." Via DeviantArt, http://mcbadshoes.deviantart.com/. Pages 2-3, 50-51, and splattered throughout. W., Peter. "Ink Splatter Brushes." Via ArtRage Community, http://www2.ambientdesign.com/forums/ showthread.php?19875-Ink-splatter-stencils. Pages 2-3, 50-51, and splattered throughout. Neverhurtno1. "Frog Brushes." Via DeviantArt, http://neverhurtno1.deviantart.com/. Pages 15-23. Nelson, Linda. “Swirling Snow.” Via Pixelberrypie Digital Goodness,http://pixelberrypie.com. Page 32-35. Ellysraiquer. “Splashing Water.” Via Brusheezy, http://www.brusheezy.com/members/ellysraiquer. Page 49. Generous contributors and their works via morgueFile.com in order of appearance: dorne. “Frame2.” http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/747415. Page 3. mjas. “Pigeon.” http://morguefile.com/archive/display/21474. Pages 5, 12. click. “Barbed Wire.” http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/15813. Pages 12-13. carygrant. "Hand." http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/201595. Pages 13, 53. ximenez. "Street." http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/26744. Page 14. bullboy. "Church." http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/37873. Page 14. jeltovski. "Sneakers." http://morguefile.com/archive/display/217217. Page 18. sullivan. “Spritze 2.” http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/152425. Page 21. iamagoo. “dance” http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/38414. Page 22. Alvimamnn, "Phone." http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/207998. Page 30. mantasmagorical. “Sany1283.” http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/532297. Page 30. jschumacher. "Cows." http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/758032. Page 38. MUmland. "Mailbox." http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/186124. Page 42. kantor. "Pitched Ball." http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/209529. Page 43. mconnors. "Baseball." http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/3887. Page 43.


Public domain images via Wikipedia Commons in order of appearance: Norton, Boyd. "Decker's Post Office and General Store." 1973. Photograph. Via Wikipedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DECKER%27S_POST_OFFICE_AND_GENERAL_STORE__NARA_-_549196.jpg. Page 11. St. Gil, Marc. “Group of teenagers in the town of Leakey, Texas, near San Antonio.” 1973 Photograph, NARA. Via Wikipedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:GROUP_OF_TEENAGERS_IN_THE_TOWN_OF_LEAKEY,_TEXAS,_NEAR_SAN_ANTONIO__NARA_-_554898.jpg. Page 16. Risvold, Floyd. "Bixby Creek Bridge." 1932. Photograph. United States Coast & Geodetic Survey. Via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bixby_Creek_Bridge_1932..jpg. Page 28. Fitz-Patrick, William. "Ford A9138 NLGRF Photo Contact Sheet." 1976. Photograph of contact sheet Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and NARA. Via Wikimedia Commons, http:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ford_A9138_NLGRF_photo_contact_sheet.jpg. Pages 36-37. Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution: Bernhard, Hans (Schnobby). “Brushes 2.” 2012. Photograph. CC-BY-SA-3.0. Via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brushes_2.jpg (accessed December 15, 2012). Derivative works appear on pages 2, 31, 45, 53. Dayvroy. "Alongside the Pacific Coast Highway, California Route 1, sits a BMW R 1200 GS." 2010. Photograph (own work). CC-BY-SA-3.0. Via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:CaliforniaRoute1BMW.JPG. Page 26. Case, Daniel. "Port Jervis-Matamoras Bridge." 2007. Photograph stitched panorama created from two images, both taken from the Port Jervis side by Danial Case. CC-BY-SA-3.0. Via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Port_Jervis-Matamoras_Bridge.jpg. Pages 46-47. Tomascastelazo. "Walking Woman." 2010. Photograph. CC-BY-SA-3.0. Via Wikimedia Commons, http:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Walking_woman_in_black_and_white.jpg. (accessed December 15, 2012) Page 48.

From the Depths: Winter Issue 2012 Theme: Tributes Publication Date: March 2013 Deadline: February 28, 2013 The Spring 2013 issue of From the Depths will feature works whose stories pay tribute to someone who has touched the life of another. Think passionate testimonials to lovers, loved ones, friends and companions; or a simple acknowledgment of a teacher, neighbor, pastor or stranger. Share stories of extraordinary sacrifice, a life saved, or one small act with life altering consequences. Stretch the boundaries with faithful pets, places of the heart, or trinkets passed down through generations.  As always, we seek writing that comes from the heart creating an emotional connection with our readers and poetry that is clear, meaningful and accessible. We look forward to reading your work! Penny Fiction: A Flash Fiction Writing Competition In honor of Hemingway’s original six word story, Haunted Waters Press editor, Penny Dreadful, is selecting exceptionally small works of flash fiction to be showcased in Penny Fiction, a regular feature of the literary journal, From the Depths.  Extra points will be awarded for entries with a connection to the Spring 2013 theme, and for those writers who adhere to the rules. Not really. There are no points. Email your 6 word entry to pennyfiction@hauntedwaterspress.com. Include one interesting fact about yourself in 13 words or less. Make it good or Penny will get out her ever feared red pen and make you appear more interesting. Online Literary Content Ideal for writers who prefer not to be bound by theme based submissions, we continue to accept works of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry for our online literary content. Works submitted here will be always be considered for upcoming issues of From the Depths. For more details & submission links please visit Haunted Waters Press Submissions.

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From the Depths is a publication of HAUNTED WATERS PRESS For more information please visit: http://www.hauntedwaterspress.com Or email us at: info@hauntedwaterspress.com

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FROM THE DEPTHS


From the Depths, Winter 2012-2013 : A Literary Journal