GREEN BLOTTER Staff Editors-in-Chief Kammi Trout ‘15 Nikki Wilhelm ‘15 Art Editor Dave Yasenchak ‘13 Fiction Editor Melissa Pavone ‘14 Assistant Fiction Editors Rebecca Barnard ‘14 Sara Urner ‘16 Poetry Editor Ian Repko ‘13 Assistant Poetry Editors Alex Beard ‘14 Mike Cripps ‘14 Carli Weldon ‘14 Advisor Elizabeth Gonzalez i
Green Blotter is produced by the Green Blotter Literary Society of Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pennsylvania. Submissions are accepted from October through February. Green Blotter is published yearly in a print magazine. For more information and submission guidelines, please visit www.lvc.edu/greenblotter
Rats Tricks Legumes Daniel Riddle Rodriguez 1 Jim Zwerg Marissa Ingeno 12 Dusty Holy Water Adam Uhrig 13 Windows at Rittenhouse Evan Laudenslager 14 Farmland Education Adam Uhrig 15 Reeds/Pool House Evan Laudenslager 16 On Nudity Derek Graf 17 Blue Dress Amanda Hoffman 18 Summer in the City Brandi Gaspard 19 Untitled Billy Gartrell 22 Clock John DiCocco 23 Same Wheelchair, Different Spot John DiCocco 24 Hands John DiCocco 25 Trays John DiCocco 26 Running Man Amber Koneval 27 Shadows Evan Laudenslager 28 Monkey Amber Koneval 29 Untitled Billy Gartrell 30 Eye of God Sam Hershey 31 Shed Evan Laudenslager 36 Tree Burial Melinda Dubbs 37 Untitled Billy Gartrell 40 Fine, Thanks, and You? A.K. Sartor 41 Wilderness A.K. Sartor 42 iii
Untitled Billy Gartrell 43 Our Last Days as Children Nathaniel Heely 44 White Rabbit Phil McKee 46 Contributors 47
Dear Readers, Sylvia Plath once said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Self-doubt has a way of clinging to writers that causes writer’s block to ensue, to make the chances of being published seem like a shot in the dark. It’s definitely one of the hardest things to overcome, to get the mind out of the place where the delete button is the only button being pushed until the sheet is bare. It encourages the stereotypical vision of a writer’s desk, crumbled bits of paper everywhere, broken pens lying on a blank piece of paper in the middle of the table, and the writer stressed and about to pull their hair out. It’s just one of the many roadblocks that come along in any creative journey. I like to imagine that many of the writers of the past, such as Sylvia Plath and Leo Tolstoy, paused in the midst of a poem or a short story and thought, “What am I writing?” I also like to think of Picasso pausing before one of his paintings, his head tilted with his paintbrush falling slack between his fingers and trying to figure out what he had painted. Overcoming self-doubt is probably one of the hardest things that a writer has to face. At times, the world seems so bright, the possibility of publishing right at their fingertips. Then they go back to what they just wrote, read through it, and feel their stomach drop. After that moment, it’s back to the beginning, where the writer’s block keeps them from moving onward. Eventually, that feeling goes away and what comes after it is purely magical. It was the same way with the Green Blotter when Nikki and I first discussed pursuing it. At times, it seemed like something we couldn’t possibly create again. It seems like such a long time since we talked about everything that the Green Blotter could lead to and writing an editor’s note did not seem to fall in the realm of possibility. After spending months trying to create the Green Blotter that we each saw in our heads, it’s finally done. A lot of thanks are owed, especially to Betsy Gonzalez who has advised us in this incredibly amazing journey to publishing our first literary magazine. Thanks are also owed to my co-editor-in-chief, Nikki Wilhelm, because without her, this v
would have just been an opportunity I most likely would have wasted. Also, thank you to each of the editors who helped sort through the submissions and offered their insight. And a big thanks to my parents for always encouraging me no matter what and constantly pushing me. Overcoming self-doubt is just the beginning of something amazing. As writers and artists, we want to show the world that literature and art has its value. We want to have the world at our fingertips. The Green Blotter has provided this to me. It has proved that there are people out there with the same hopes and dreams, many of whom have overcome whatever it was that was holding them back from writing that story or poem or snapping that perfect photograph. They’ve also proved that hard work certainly pays off. Kammi Trout ‘15 Co-Editor-in-Chief
Dear Reader, So, this is it. After months of uncertainty and confusion, we managed to piece together a publication devoted to undergraduate students. Let me tell you, it’s no easy task building a lit magazine from essentially nothing. The literary gods must have been in our favor. At the start of fall semester, Kammi and I decided it was time to resurrect Green Blotter. Again. This poor magazine has been picked up and dropped more often than Tom Cruise’s cultural relevance. We asked around and were finally directed to Betsy Gonzalez, our encouraging and wonderful advisor. Seriously, she’s awesome. Betsy helped us get things rolling, and eventually we assembled a modest crew of literature and art enthusiasts. I’m not sure if any of us realized how much work is involved with publishing a lit magazine. I certainly didn’t. Sure, I knew it would take some time, but I didn’t expect the work to smack me in the face all at once. By March it was agonizingly clear that I’d wasted too much of my free time zoning out and watching Netflix. Oh, Netflix. Forever my greatest downfall. Watching Twin Peaks was fun, but it didn’t prepare me for the inevitable deluge. Reading submissions is the fun part, but there’s so much more to the job than playing God and deciding who is worthy of acceptance. We had to send out rejections, too. It’s difficult and uncomfortable and altogether a bummer. Because, really, who are we to determine what embodies true talent? There was a lot of second-guessing involved, but I’m proud of our final decisions, and I’ll stand by them. Once we got through that struggle, we needed to finalize the layout. That part wasn’t so bad, but then it was time to proofread. And proofread. And then proofread some more. I swear, there had better not be any typos, but if there are, all I can say is, to err is human. From there we were basically finished. We sent it to the printer and prayed it would turn out as great as we imagined. My advice to anyone in this position? Stay organized and don’t procrastinate. I
don’t know what I expected, but this isn’t Cinderella, and little cartoon mice won’t do all the work for you. It’s hard and some days you’ll wonder if it’s even worth it. Spoiler alert: it is. It’s so worth it. Sure, I have a sense of accomplishment, but it’s more than that. Every person featured in Green Blotter deserves to be here. It’s rough out there for undergrads who want to get published, and our goal is to help them get there. All I ask of you, reader, is to take your time. Don’t just skim the stories. Don’t just glance at the pictures. This is somebody’s work. Somebody sat down and created something worthwhile, and it deserves your attention and appreciation. To wrap up, I just want to say thanks to a bunch of great people. I know, I know. This section always comes off with a gooey, trite tone, but I promise nothing but sincerity. I’ll start with the obligatory shout-out to my parents—just kidding! They’re the best, and they know it. Kammi gets the biggest hug in the world, not only for being an awesome co-editor, but also my absolute best friend. I want to thank Betsy for guiding us and wanting this to happen as much as we did. I’m grateful for all the other editors who stuck it out, even though we were often directionless and disorganized. I give props to everyone who took a chance and submitted. And, of course, to all of you readers—thanks for caring. It means a lot. Nikki Wilhelm ‘15 Co-Editor-in-Chief
Rats Tricks Legumes Daniel Riddle Rodriguez Pop hates the scabs, says they wouldn’t know a good thing if it slapped them with a sack of pussy. Right in the their cock smoking faces, says Pop. It’s picket season and Pop is flying the giant rat. I ride shotgun to work the pump, keep coffee for the cowboys—make sure they get it how they take it. It’s just the ignorance, Jim says. Jim is one of the cowboys; he sidearms Johnny Walker but knows how to pitch a wrench. If they only knew, he says, knocks back his Walker coffee, knuckles me for more. No shitting, says Pop. It’s thanks to us they have a weekend. I thought that was ‘cause of Jesus, I say. Jackshit Jesus, Pop says. He’s still a scab carpenter, savior or no. Jim looks wistful, says, If they only knew. Just work the pump, says Pop. We gotta beat the pour. The two-gate system nipped balls from the picket line. Union busters make it so open shops can cross gate two while trade guys mill around gate one, shredding paper signs and frothing on their steel-toes, aiming bullhorns like pistols. Most scabs sling Spanish curses through the chain-link; the brave ones sling food; the really brave ones don’t miss. The cowboys riddled with putos and cobbed corn. But on pour day we get our balls back. We put pressure to the polyvinyl rat until his eyes bulge thirty feet high, and the white collars cup their eyes against their office windows, face the whiskers. Sometimes the boys fit him with a bandana, old bed sheets daisy-chained and dyed red, something like a setting tone, to hearken the beast days when life was cheaper and sidearms were literal. When the cock smokers got hit with worse things than muff. 1
The good old days, Jim says now, makes a face like he’s been missing some. I nod but keep cutting foam, and cast glances at Pop, who’s swilling scotch now, too, and flinging cigarette butts to the gutter, whipping the meeker boys—apprentices and newly vested journeymen—into bravehearts. What do we want? he says. When do we want it? The foam is for the cheese. The cheese is Pop’s brainchild. He has one every strike, wakes me up with a boot to the box spring and Eureka! on his lips. He used to wake Mom this way until she decided to do her waking elsewhere, left him a Dear John, said it was she not he; but when I’m scrubbing sheets free of tread stains or carving cheese wheels for a rubber rodent, I’m pretty sure it’s he. It may not trump the sanctity of marriage, but I get it. Scabby needs a prop, Pop said. Get up and make a Jarlsberg. Boot. Box spring. Eureka.
helps with the cheese. I’ll make some holes, he says, burning burrows into the foam with his cigarette. He tracks his Zippo along the edges to prompt a little pigment. The Teamsters are going to shit, he says. They love weekends and hate scabs like your pop does. Me, I don’t hate the scabs. I can see both sides of a thing. Mr. Morris, my guidance counselor, said it’s a sign of intelligence. Sitting in a dimpled-leather rolling chair, wearing an Einstein tee shirt, he stabbed blueberries with an oyster fork and narrowed down the future. So you’re saying I’m intelligent, I said. There are open doors, he said. Limitless horizon.
Kelly says Jarlsberg is Swiss cheese made by Norwegians. Kelly is Jim’s son; he rides shotgun, too, but doesn’t give a fuck about a bunch of shitkickers. You have no idea how many fucks I don’t give, Kelly would say. Our dads are like brothers because they’ve been threading steel for two decades, and perambulated drunk from the same pubs, sprayed their wives with chromosomes while the stars aligned. Swapped It’s A Boy cigars. They’re shareholders of an ethos: the world’s a feudal system; if you’re not vested then you carry tools and your chin is made for scraping. Kelly and I are brothers because our chromosomes made Ys and our chins match scrape for scrape. Plus we have no mothers. His didn’t bother with a Dear Anybody, just one day up and vanished. poof It’s not that I miss her, he said once. She left before I could even barely read. I told him he could barely read still—just to fill the silence. Read this, he said, gave me his finger to browse. So these days I let my brother do the filling. That’s the quid. The pro quo, he
Not that many doors. Before Einstein it was turtlenecks and blue jeans, Steve Jobs couture. Same litmus, though. All seniors take it, this door-closing test. Passed around during free period, the blackened bubbles are read by a computer that decides tomorrow. Congratulations Mr. So and So, of the world’s many things, you are suited for, like, three. Someone has to drive the bus, Mr. Morris would say. A lucky few get to own it. He looked at me, then lanced a wayward berry. No, not that lucky. My computer said option one: philosopher. I didn’t know option ones still existed. They’re certainly an endangered species, Morris said. But option two requires a special drivers license. Who the fuck is Mr. Morris? Jim says now. Tell him my paycheck could cut his check a check. Jim’s a dying breed of option one. How does that work exactly? I say. I mean, who does the signing? Or the cashing even?
This does, Jim says, gives me the finger. You got it? Got it, I say.
Paring knife, lemon, chili. Bonzai.
Outside the picket line a migrant woman with a pushcart offers mango and the chance to pay for it—a straw basket, a shallow pool of copper and grubby ones, but I know she keeps cash in a nest of adipose tissue, due south. She knows I know it, makes a face she brought from home, a country still in its beast days. Don’t try it, it says. I’ll only try the mango, I say. She pares the skin and sprinkles the fruit with lemon, some chili powder. Mango on a stick like a cool-orange bonsai. She pumps quarters from her waist and wants to know why a rat. The rubber rat banks back and forth with the breeze, its handkerchief playing at a large red windsock. Because they’re ignorant, I say, gesturing my mango stick the gesture of either stupid or crazy. A set of barrel rolls about the lobes. Stupid. Crazy. Either way, I gesture. Oh, no, she says. Ratas are cleber. You take my words for it. If you take her words for it Pushcart will tell you she kept them as pets. The ratas. As a kid. Taught them peanut tricks: shell-shucking, peanut butter from a spoon, the palm. That is cleber, I say. What’s clever? says Kelly. Rats, tricks, legumes. What about cheese? No, Pushcart says. They donnat eat the sheeze. Take her words for it, I say. What about her mangoes? he says, gestures a palmfull of chestfruit. She’s back on the quarter pump.
Pop remembers Jim’s good days. They joined the UA in the same year, when unionism was synonymous with lion’s share, and selective hiring kept the lions white. Training was hands on. The slow-moving apprentice a target for screwed elbows, threaded nipples; it’s how Jim learned to pitch his wrench, put enough English on it to unhat an apprentice without turning his lights all the way out. The good old boys are all the same: an entire generation of men who speak with their hands and wear blue collars like millstones—yoked masons and silent rebar twisters. Men who pass rough hands on to their XY progeny. Kelly has rough hands so he drew a penis on his Scantron, a few darkened bubbles for seminal fluid. Mr. Morris says our friendship has a shelf life. Kelly’s doors lead to places where they’ll stuff a swab in his mouth, smear ink on his phalanges, store DNA twists for the subsequent trial, the discovery. Places where they take your shoelaces just in case. He’s looking for a corroborating witness, Mr. Morris said. Someone to lie with a hand on King James. If Kelly had fucks to give he’d probably be a Morris, too. Only to subvert the system, he’d say. All those little minds molded in my image. Can’t you imagine? I say I can’t even though I can. So help me God, the little minds say. But since he’s fuck deficient Kelly spends most days trying to subvert the future. I’m playing at his alibi—at least until our expiration date.
Now the cheese is finished. Scabby the rat holds it to his chest and waits for the cement truck rumble. Pop wants to know what’s taking them so fucking long. What’s taking them so fucking long? he says. Teamsters are tough—not crazy tough like the beam-walkers, or leather boot tough like the laborers, back-breakers with brine-soaked skin, but they maintain their strength in numbers. And they never cross a picket line. The union busters add a second
gate; we stand in front of it, and the Teamsters park their rigs and let the concrete churn until the general contractor says Uncle. They always do, usually before the dirt cakes the mud flaps. Pop is relying on that Teamster muscle, that trouser swell of balls. He’s down to a tank top now. Jim beside him, a lit cigarette dangling. They’ve got white-knuckle grips on the fence, their eyes framed by the links. Okay, Jose, says Pop. I see you you little rat. The rats stare back, flexing their wifebeater tans and spitting between their boots. Everybody hating everybody, and everybody pissing in the dirt, trying to spot measure the distance. All I do is pray for rain. Or a stiff wind, blow the piss back at them. One of the meek hooks me at the elbow. You’re the big man’s son, he says. Little big man. He points to the back of Pop’s back. What’s he really like? Mostly really like this, I say. I spend a lot of mornings working on brainchildren, skipping class—doubling down on option two, adding color to my collar. Kelly skips too but bones up his reading. We sit around the bedroom cracking schoolbook spines. Kelly likes to break the backs. Who’re you going to read to when I’m not around? I said once, projecting indifference. I don’t even know what that means, he said, projecting the same. Besides, when are you not around? Fuck off, I said. I’ve got doors. Horizons. I like the hardbacks best, he said, dislocating one. Later he brought his other books, read aloud the stuff that wasn’t assigned in school. Real life shit, he said. The suffer long and die longer stuff. Did you know that tuberculosis ravaged the cradle of civilization, like, four thousand years ago? he said. The Egyptians and Greeks, their children, all manner of Fertile Crescent critter wiped out. 6
Then there was the plague, the black one, one in three pockets posied. Have you seen what an Agent Orange baby looks like? he said. Look, I brought pictures. All those inflated skulls and pop-out peepers I can’t unsee. Those were somebody’s good old days, I said, trying to blink away plague. Not his, he said, flashed Vietcong critter. Those Betty Davis eyes. Other philosophers take note: the weekend thing, it really was Jesus, or at least his followers, disciples of disciples—the blue-collared sons of Abraham wanting to keep holy the holy day. Then it was Orthodox Jews observing Shabbos. We get hammered on Rolling Rock and lip gristle from ribs because our savior—in his wisdom—makes allowances. Thank him, even if the jackshit hammered cogs without a collective bargaining agreement. He’s also a statutory rapist, Kelly says, sitting on the curb like a dustbowl farmer, overall’d and waiting for action. God is the world’s first registered sex offender, he says. I won’t even mention the whole sex-with-the-mom thing. At least he had a mom, I say. Touché, Kelly says, chomps mango and spits. The picket line is thick with drink. The boys have ditched the bullhorns for hand tools. Pop handed them out. Jim showed them how to brandish. Pop looks like Patton in Carhartt work pants. He hands each of the cowboys a wrench: monkey wrench, pipe wrench, hammer wrench, all the wrenches. He says to them, Ask not what your union can do for you. . . I think: God needs to report now. The general contractor cancelled the pour. Rescheduled it really. Sometime between the second gate and the Jarlsberg, the clever rat made the picket line obsolete. 7
Now he wants to negotiate with a scattershot gaggle of disgraced cowhands, drunk, looking to nip the horn. He comes out the trailer, hat in hand, a white flag look on his face. Another peanut trick. Unless you’re coming to tell me you’re shit-canning the vatos, you’re wasting your fucking time, says Pop. The general’s wasting his fucking time. There actually seems to be more vatos, a multitude of vatos, a vato plethora scheming on our flank. I scan the crowd, wondering which one of them is their Pop. Their Jim and Kelly. Which one of them is relegated to the props? Insults are exchanged, allusions to butt fucking, throat fucking, fist fucking, the entire fucking spectrum. The general promises to return with the law, that he’ll have you assholes in cages. I visualize the metaphor, a drunk tank full of belligerent sphincters blowing shit over a phone call, their confiscated shoelaces. The assholes boo, belt him with soda cans that crack their heads on the shale and spin. Some of the little assholes roar and drag their wrenches across the fence like prison cups. Finally, Kelly says, some action. Looks like we won’t have a choice. How about inaction, I say. As a choice? Yeah. That sounds a lot like faggotry, says Kelly. Or a lot like Morris. Probably both. Fuck off, I say. Read this. Pop waves me over, tucks me into his armpit. Have a bit to cure what ails you, he says, giving me the Johnny treatment. I’m not ailing, I say, taking it It’ll put hair on your chest, he says, spilling some on the hair on his chest. Your balls, too. We don’t have any balls. Pop says give it a minute. It may be the alcohol or whatever, but the cowboys are hugging. Slapping base 8
ball slaps to the ass cheeks. It’s probably the alcohol. Pop takes me by the chin. Why didn’t you throw anything? Like what? Like anything. He’s not even a scab, Pop. He hired them, says Pop. They’re cheap help, I say. Birds of a feather. Nobody wants to trowel pavement, Pop. He made his bed. What? He has to lay down sometime. Pop gestures like that time is now. Do the right thing here and help tip the gate. From the bottom up. No, not like that, Jackshit. Like this. Kelly and I stand together and watch them tip the gate. The scabs on the other side tipping back. Everybody still hating everybody, and trying to heave the posts from their concrete beds. This is like one big rumble in a movie about rumbling, says Kelly. One of the cowboys catches a finishing trowel to the forehead and goes down. His apprentice falls with him. The cowboys return with a volley of monkey wrenches. With this, the first exchange across the bow, the gate finally gives and the cowboys spill over. The scabs spill on the spill. When people really fight, it can look a lot like fucking if you stand back far enough, with all the grunting and pulling and the mishmash of blooming flesh, the tears. Kelly and I aren’t that far back so it looks a lot like rape. The No means No kind. 9
I think this is it, I say. What’s it? I think I’m done with this. The fight? Striking, pickets, the union. Cheese. You’re on strike from striking? Indefinitely. Boycotting the boycott. Yeah. What about your pop? Kelly says. I think I’m boycotting him, too. Are you going to your Mom’s? I look at the dog pile of tradesmen and scabs. I see Jim surfing the pile, scalping scalps, trying to bring back the asbestos days. I see Pop and he sees me. He says, We’re winning! Are you going to finish school? The general has a pile driver pinned beneath the bulk of him, one of the soda throwers. Take this you bitch, he screams, giving some of this to you, bitch. I’m going to look for fewer options, I say. Fewer than two? I show him my hands, make claws. These are endangered, I say. I’m not sure what that even means, Kelly says. It means I’m crossing that picket. I pick a battered hardhat from the dirt, fix it on my head. I walk toward all the scabs and sparkies and wharfies, the tin-knockers and turd-herders, toward all the solder-splashers, the men who put wrenches to steel and use bare flesh to holdback, toward that pile of wifeless November nobodies. Show them the stuff that decides tomorrow. I picture my mother watching me walk towards the line from wherever it is she watches things, maybe with the white-collars, her hands cupping glass, making fog with 10
her nostrils. Kelly’s mom is with her. I’ll show them the way to fix a thing is to walk towards it. Show them the other side of a thing. Kelly should walk with me. You don’t need too many fucks to subvert the system, be a philosopher too. I can loan him a few. I turn around to tell him this, but the cruisers are already pulling up, blue and reds flashing, bullhorn feedback. Guns. All right you assholes, freeze. The assholes do.
Dusty Holy Water Adam Uhrig I could hear my father in the entryway with the pewter canister vacuum He could not hear me sprinting laps, from the altar, down the aisle The pews, a rosewood and pea-green blur still smelled of the bitter old ladies with perfume as dark as stained wood and prickly with stern disappointment My one job was to refill the holy water cup. Its faux-glass walls were foggy from years of evaporating tap water Instead, unsupervised, I went for the forbidden relic The organ Jim Zwerg Marissa Ingeno 12
Kicking at the petals, I could hear each one hiss in irritation at my curiosity 13
Farmland Education Adam Uhrig Porn magazines, moist and warped from this morningâ€™s dew, hidden inside a broken-down tractor. There, in that vast and stony field, our fingers, smelling of earth and sticky from milkweed, cautiously turned each page in silent awe.
Windows at Rittenhouse Evan Laudenslager
On Nudity Derek Graf The human body is a miracle, a horrible, horrible miracle! -Nathaniel Hunt Weâ€™re a handful of glass beads. The stars glare at us with envy. Our skin is a blanket, woolen and hungry. Golden and brave, though the streets are crazy, we leg it. Weâ€™re Adam, Eve, and the worm wrapped about the fig tree. This planet is wild, and love, we think, has a strange face indeed.
Reeds/Pool House Evan Laudenslager 16
Summer in the City Brandi Gaspard
Blue Dress Amanda Hoffman 18
We were both dealing with a lot of things that summer. There were the physical things, like: 1) how your missing left hand made you hide in long sleeves, even though they stuck to your skin so heavily in this southern heat. This wasn’t too much of an issue, though, because we spent most of our time sleeping, or watching your collection of tapes. The blinds were always closed. 2) how my own hand lacked any sense of tact, even with the best intentions in mind. The first time we shared sleep, I could tell that you were uncomfortable by the way you forced your breathing to be still, and quiet, and so I traced my fingers down your arm to make you feel better. But it was late, and dark, and I moved too close to what we didn’t want to acknowledge as gone, and I felt your chest sink. So I asked if we should switch sides. I would sleep closest to the wall that summer. 3) how after that night, you always walked right by my left side. I couldn’t bring myself to ask what happened to make you feel that way. Or what happened that left you without a hand in the first place. All I knew was what I could see—your left side always strived for the shadows. 4) how we both got to the point where, if we could drag ourselves out of bed, neither of us would leave without sunglasses. Yours were a veil to avoid accidental eye contact with others. They saved you from becoming a public display of biological abnormality, and they saved others from the sympathy they might feel obliged to give if the long sleeves and slouched posture weren’t enough to distract from the absent. 19
Mine were there to uphold the idea that there was something worth obscuring behind those dark lenses, when really, all I could say about myself is that I couldn’t bear the sun. 5) how we had to find ways to keep this overbearing sun and the city’s decaying buildings out of view from our apartment windows. The unavoidable daylight illuminated the city’s failures and their reflections still creeped through the cracks, no matter how hard we pulled on the cords of the blinds Downtown kept decayed buildings as keepsakes of what could have been, but never was. These rotting mementos and trash-lined streets were flaunted by the city to give the illusion of big city living at a discounted price. Sometimes, the city would sense that people were catching on to this construction, so they’d make improvements to keep the disillusion at bay. Last year, they paved the streets with new, antiquated cobblestone, but they tried too hard, and so the roads became too rough to pass. They installed giant signs with flashing letters that signal: it will not be easy. We did what we could to hide from this glare of orange, along with the glare of the sun and the surrounding buildings, with layered sheets nailed above the window frames and a cool climate we could keep through adjustments of the thermostat. And then there were things that couldn’t be cured with dark shades or cloths or the cold, such as: 1) how the city’s weight smothered us in a way much like gravity, always there, but only noticed in rare moments of consciousness, like when we would walk to the corner store to pick up cigarettes and sweet tea and the only other people we saw were the nine-to-five suits rushing to return from their lunch break and the vagabonds resting in the central plaza. 2) how we didn’t want to be conscious, to be reminded that we had nowhere else to go.
So we mostly spent our days inside of those blanket-pinned windows, filling ourselves with smoke and sleep to blur the movement of time and to blot out the city’s black hole ambience. There wasn’t much said in between exhales and yawns. 3) how we grew tired of nothing, and on those days we desired something, we’d wait until the sun lowered to leave our shrouded living behind. It was at night when downtown seemed most alive. Even fewer bodies wandered the streets in the absence of sunlight, but with the city’s upheld promise of hollow metropolis reveries, every building that remained lifeless by day was revived by the grace of glowing neon at the onset of darkness. Their skeletal infrastructures were outlined in cool-tinted glows of blues and greens. The warmer colors were reserved for the bridge, the only entrance and exit to the urban corrosion. The florescence read: THE DARING NEW CITY. We would walk to the center of the bridge and lie beneath the sign and stare until we could see the neon saying with eyes shut. These nighttime walks to the bridge were the only time you’d let me stay at your left side. In the afterglow of this expired city, we didn’t need sheets to keep the light out. Or dark shades to shield from the sun. Or long sleeves to cover what was missing. Or smoke to distort our dwindling time. 4) How some things are better left unsaid.
Untitled Billy Gartrell
Clock John DiCocco
Same Wheelchair, Different Spot John DiCocco
Hands John DiCocco
Running Man Amber Koneval Funny Most of my memories are of the back of your head Hair bounding with your stride silver slivers flashing in your ears like the corner of the smile I always just missed Like a fox too curious to catch My feet run your way tiptoeing on your shadow You donâ€™t fit inside my corners but youâ€™re never quite outside my reach Trays John DiCocco
I fell in love with the sight of your heels
Monkey Amber Koneval I have loved many men before you and will love many men besides but your shoulders ah I could never love any shoulders more than yours their gentle slope, like mountains of sand so softly buffed and hung on paper smooth and pored resilient to touch, but ohhow fragile to watch I have loved many men before you and will love many more besides but your shoulders your shoulders, dear Shadows Evan Laudenslager 28
their bones hold up the sky 29
Eye of God Sam Hershey
Untitled Billy Gartrell
I had to remember to breathe away from my scope. Each exhale sent up a frosted cloud of air that would block my vision of the target area. Each second that I had to wait as the scope defogged was agonizingly long. The moisture from my breath rusted the metal. It had taken me months to scavenge up a decent scope. Finding a replacement would be next to impossible. Rust was only part of my worries. The tiny breath clouds could give away my position if I exhaled near the crumbling window. I was on the third floor of a ruined office building or I assumed it used to be an office building. Any furnishings had rotted or been swallowed up by the encroaching plant life. The majority of the inner walls were crumbling. Reaching my lofty perch had been treacherous. A misstep could have sent me falling through the floor. A fall like that could easily break a bone--a death sentence this far out in the wastelands. I checked my sights again, surveying the rubble-strewn courtyard where my trap was set. I had been hired by TigerCorp to keep scavengers, bandits and other ilk away from their fortress-like base of operations. The base was the only complex in the area with electricity and a water filtration system. I was miles from the concrete walls and booby traps of the TigerCorp compound. I felt that expanding the kill zone out this far was ridiculous, but the people who make the rules are the people that pay. I was jerked out of my reflective mood by the tiniest movement in my scope. I zeroed in on the spot and slowed my breathing in case I needed to take a quick shot. My bait was a small crate of supplies, clearly marked with the bright orange TC logo, sitting in the open with a limp parachute attached. I had tried to make it look like a misplaced airdrop of food and medicine to a TigerCorp force operating in the wastelands. Even with my labored attempts to create a realistic situation, it still looked too good to be true. Only the desperate or a fool would attempt to take the bait. I counted off seconds in my head. At fifteen I decided it must have been something blowing in the wind that had caught my 31
eye. I backed off my sights to get a view of the entire courtyard. Nothing. While I slowly scanned the landscape with a trained eye, I reached in the front of my shirt and took hold of the small metal cross hanging around my neck. I felt the worn metal between my fingers out of habit. It felt surprisingly warm, having retained much of my body heat. Very few people followed the old Christian Faith these days. Or any faith. I was a rarity. I still had not found a Bible. I kissed the cross without taking my eyes off the courtyard, and tucked it back into my shirt quickly as I spotted two people walking toward the trap from far in the distance. Time to work. They looked like members of a bandit gang by their clothing, faces covered with bandanas, pistols swinging on their hips like modern cowboys.They walked with a cool boldness out in the open. The bandits made their living preying on the weak, and they were a notoriously cruel bunch. I had no qualms about dispatching their kind. They were still too far out of range, and taking out both before the second could run for cover would require absolute accuracy. They had not seen the crate yet, as they were still talking to each other casually. They must be on some sort of patrol. If one of the bandit gangs were moving in on TigerCorp’s territory, the information would be worth a large reward. It would also give me plenty of work. Now that they were closer, I could make out the bandits’ faces in my scope. One was wearing goggles, which combined with the bandana over his mouth completely obscured his facial features. The other wore a camouflage knit hat pulled down low and a tattered, dirty scarf. Only his eyes were left showing. They stopped suddenly, looking around warily, fingers tickling the worn metal of their handguns. I was too far away to have alerted the duo, so I zoomed out to see what had spooked them. From my high vantage point I quickly spotted the cause. A teenage girl was crouched behind a wall a mere foot from the crate. I silently cursed myself for not keeping a better eye on my surroundings. I could see the fear on her face. Clearly, she wasn’t sure where the bandits were. I surveyed the situation and tried to predict possible outcomes. If she ran away from the crate, to the right, she would have some cover in the form of concrete walls and
overgrowth. That path would give her a reasonable chance of escaping. If she went to the left, she would run directly in front of the bandits. I saw her body tense slightly as she prepared to bolt for her life. “Go right.” I whispered into the barrel of my rifle. She went left. She must have been starving because she ran directly to the crate and grabbed a bag of rations before trying to turn around and run back. The bandits were too quick. The one with the goggles threw a bola at her legs and it sent her crashing face first into the cracked pavement. It wasn’t until the two bandits had begun to swagger up to the girl that I realized my dilemma. TigerCorp had a strict policy about allowing mercenaries to use supplies as bait: “You bring back all of it, or we kill you.” Food and medicine were the new gold and silver, and there was no way to prove that freelancers, like myself, didn’t stash the supplies in some hideaway in the wastelands. If I shot the bandits, the girl would run away with the rations and I wouldn’t be able to return to TigerCorp. I was running out of time to make my decision. “Goggles” now had his dusty leather boot pressed into the back of the girl’s neck, pinning her to the ground, as “Camo” was looking through the other contents of the crate. My orders had been crystal clear. Kill anyone on sight not affiliated with TigerCorp. “Sometimes it just isn’t your day, kiddo,” I whispered to myself as I tried to choke down the bile rising up my throat. I focused in on the girl. It seemed impossibly cruel to kill her attackers, only to dash her hope for life with a bullet to the brain pan. I checked the wind. It was light, if there was any at all. I had already measured the distance to the crate so my sights were zeroed in. “Now, slow your breathing and start timing your heart rate,” I told myself. I could see my cross hairs jump slightly over her back with each beat of my heart. Slowly and steadily I squeezed the trigger. In theory you shouldn’t know when the gun will fire, but I was familiar with the weapon and could place the release point between heartbeats. Just as I finished squeezing the trigger my scope flashed gray and my aim dipped wildly. BANG. The sound of the shot echoed off the ruined city blocks for miles.
I sucked in my breath in shock and jerked my head back. Sitting on the barrel of my thirty-aught-six rifle, completely undisturbed by the mini explosion that had just gone off under its feet, was a little gray dove. I gawked stupidly at it, and it cocked its small head slightly and stared right back at me, blinking. The bird then hopped down to the windowsill, looked me in the eye once more and flew away. I snapped back to the scene in front of me, as I heard shouted curses from the bandits below. I loaded a new round and looked down my sights to see Camo scrambling to find cover and Goggles crouched low over the girl, blindly taking shots at the building. I wasn’t concerned, it would have taken an act of God for him to randomly hit me from this distance, without knowing which window I was in. I think we had already gotten our dose of divine intervention for the day. I zeroed in on Goggles’ concealed face. Calm, Breathe, Squeeze. BANG. Clean through the left eye piece and I even managed to keep the brains off the girl. Instead they painted a gory abstract on the wall behind them. I swung over to the left to see what Camo would decide to do. He would have to bolt. If he went to the left he might have a chance to get out of my field of view. If he went right, there was lots of cover, but he would have to cross the road. I would down him before then. I smiled at the irony. “Go right.” Right he went, shooting wildly without even looking. Calm, Breathe, Squeeze. BANG. He crashed to the ground in a heap. I had hit him directly in the torso. No movement. The girl was up now, having untangled the ropes around her ankles. She moved like a rabbit, quickly snatching up the rations and one of the dropped pistols. She started to run off, but came timidly to a halt. She looked up in my direction and awkwardly snapped to attention and saluted toward her hidden savior. If only she knew
what I had almost done. I stood up, letting my rifle hang off my hip by its sling. I threw a casual salute back toward her, as she ran off in the other direction. I whispered to the air, “Good luck, kiddo. I don’t know about angels, but someone must be watching your back.” As I started to pack up my gear I mumbled to myself, “Now let’s hope someone is watching mine.”
Tree Burial Melinda Dubbs Amitabha I set the child into a bowl of warm water sponging away blood, white waxy slime inside his wrinkles. Water rushes into his parted mouth as I rub him with salt, preserved flesh. I rinse him to the echo of handbells, stuttered prayers from the next room.
Shed Evan Laudenslager
I wrap him in wool blankets, rolling his body tight along the edges, wrap twine around his ankles, and neck. I rest the body in a basket, begin my hike, as the men seize the women collapsing at my sight. Om Mani Peme Hum.
onto frozen ground. Wooden cases and bins ornaments on naked trees.
At the tree line, we rest. I chafe my face with gloves, scratching for warmth, blood, another color in this tundra than this yellow basket warming the snow beneath. I strap the basket to my back and climb a low tree. It weighs heavy now, jostling against each branch. Nausea fills my throat and I rush to tie it onto a limb. The rope slips through gloves and he falls. All I see is red as a fumble to him, collapsing into the wood. The air in my nose hurts, legs supple, but I rise. I crawl back into tree arms and tie him against a limb with the others. I fly. I donâ€™t look back but a shadow descends 38
Fine, Thanks, And You? A.K. Sartor I step out into the blaring rays of the sun, Flesh sizzling on a still-living corpse. Smiling voices trace around the crevices of my ears, Glinting teeth releasing tales of homework and parties. Faces float by, smothered in makeup and laughter I trudge along, a stranger to their world. A question pushes its way into my eardrums How am I doing, it wants to know. I squint through blurred lines and melted objects Sounds echo from the distance, words all hidden Am I even here to be doing at all? How was my day? The pestering persists. I toss my hair, shaking off the soil settled on top, Evidence of a head buried deep in its own grave Thoughts resting where the body wonâ€™t.
Untitled Billy Gartrell
Everything goes around, around, around Like that teacup I rode on when I was six Yet, once again all I can do is Spew out everything inside of me With such violent force that I find myself Collapsed, alone on the ground, Stomach heaving and brain forever spinning. 41
Wilderness A.K. Sartor Sand blows in the form of Disintegrated litter and fallen scraps. Streetlights are the only stars in sight, Harsh metal trees growing from the ground Stretching out leaves of wire and light. In and out ebbs the tide of passing cars, Bordering a cavern of deserted buildings Waiting to be explored and intruded with Sneakers on pavement or tires on asphalt. Briefly, I turn back to the meadow, soft flowers Surrounded by mountainous buildings. This is not the place where my heart sings. I must stray away from the calm fields and Wander into the outcroppings of rock and cement, Forever swimming in oceans rather than rivers.
Untitled Billy Gartrell
It happened while I was in the bathroom. Epiphanies never take place somewhere sexy. I mean, I’m sure there’s some psychoanalytical type of reason about how we’re most ourselves in the bathroom and it’s probably got a whole lot to do with the fact that we’re excreting and letting things go that have been pent up or letting go and washing off grit that’s been on our body and teeth all day or maybe we just remember ourselves as children in the bathroom because the bathroom is kind of a timeless place and being a child involved a lot of inhibition. But it wasn’t any of these things I was actually doing, I was actually looking for a sponge because the one I was using in the kitchen area was so flecked with a frosting of egglike substance dropping off like a ripe fruit. Not peeling, but dropping with tiny audible splats on the aluminum of the sink. It was then, when I was bending down underneath the bathroom sink, that I noticed the condom that Erin and I had used the night before—I always remember it as a Trojan even though there’s no way it was, so what does that tell you about how marketing controls my life? Can’t tell you what brand it was because the only brands I knew besides Trojan and probably Durex were dollar and cent signs. I don’t think either of us had really developed a predilection for what condoms were good and bad. I’m sure that says something about the two of us or about the marketed mind as a whole and how if you haven’t really been exposed or had a partner exposed to a preferred kind of material or latex pattern that feels best on their genitals then it’s something that doesn’t even appear on your radar. Wasn’t like I had had copious amounts of sex. Erin was only my second and I was her first and no I don’t really feel bad about being “one away” from her, nor do I feel bad that I probably could have gotten way more ass before her because the sex I was having seemed way more important than sex I might have in the future. I’ve learned that I’m often in the minority of this subject. But anyways I was right there looking at the condom, filled with my cum, now
the temperature of the laminate tile floor—mind you this was November and our apart ment complex was horrendously bad when it came to heat distribution throughout the units. The heating came out of our first-floor ceiling and on the floor of the second story so naturally it all rose and even though the place wasn’t even a thousand square feet, it took fucking forever to warm up, and it didn’t help that the whole place had hardwood floors. So anyway the condom’s right there in the wastebasket next to the tile shining like quartz and I lift it up to inspect my excrement—again probably something else you can read into, and how what we excrete is a kind of our artistic creation and by that modicum are children are really just some big piece of art. And yeah, I pick it up and just kind of spin it, not really freaked out because it’s my own cum, and I feel the weight of it sagging, then let it drop with a splat onto the bottom of the trash container completely forgetting the sponge I was sent in there for. Just like that I walk out of the bathroom and look at my girlfriend in there on the bed, bundled up in wool socks, sweatpants and a hoodie because of the god-awful aforementioned heat distribution and I just stand there looking at her waiting for her to look up from her laptop at me and I just say the words as they crystallize in my brain: I want to marry you. I say it now and it sounds stupid, almost juvenile. I mean I was practically a baby when I said that and you don’t just grant whatever wish a baby asks of you. You look at him/her with an air of parental condescension and tell him no, that he/she just can’t have that right now and that he/she is going to have to learn how to be patient. But she just looks at me and says Okay I’ll marry you like she’s been waiting all six weeks of the relationship and now I’ve finally, at last asked her like what the fuck took me so long. At the time I felt ashamed that I hadn’t known sooner. But I guess that’s what’s so great about epiphanies. They just happen and the words and recognition follow. Maybe it was my seeing the bag of cold wet unchildren in the trash can and all the other places that it could or should end up, or maybe it had something to do with excrement and just letting go and something in my brain was therefore unblocked. But it was like the most obvious thing in the world. And I asked her if she had any plans later that day and she said nothing that she couldn’t hold off so we went down to the courthouse and got a marriage license. It was a good day. One of my favorites really.
Our Last Days as Children Nathaniel Heely
John DiCocco is a sophomore BA music major at Lebanon Valley College. He is from the Philadelphia area and has been photographing for about two years. His main subjects and compositions consist of abandoned buildings. This includes mental hospitals, factories, subway tunnels and anything that has been left and forgotten. He has been up and down the east coast to visit such abandonments and to capture what most people don’t get to see. Melinda Dubbs hails from Fishers, Indiana and is a senior finishing a BA in English and psychology at Indiana University Bloomington. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tipton Poetry Journal, zaum, Crossed Out Fiction, Backbone Press, and Nanoism, among others. Her poem “Indiana Night” placed first in the 2012 Melba Geoffroy Poetry Contest.
White Rabbit Fill McKee
Billy Gartrell is a sophomore digital communications student at Lebanon Valley College. Billy has not been published before, and he is honored to be a part this Green Blotter publication. Brandi Gaspard is currently a senior in the English program at the University of North Florida. This is her first time being published. She has an affinity for all things black, she suffers from a severe case of wanderlust, and she believes Coke trumps Pepsi any day of the week. Derek Graf is a creative writing major in his senior year at the University of South Florida. His poems have appeared in Sphere Literary Magazine, Poydras Review, and Blast Furnace Press, and are forthcoming in The Prompt Literary Magazine and Emerge Literary Journal. In August of this year he will begin working on his MFA at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Nathaniel Heely is a senior English/creative writing major at the University of Arkansas. His work has been featured at theNewerYork!, Used Gravitrons, Workers Writes and others. Samuel Hershey is a senior from Penn State Harrisburg. He will be graduating with a major in English and a minor in writing. His work has been published in From the Fallout Shelter and Jukepop Serials. He loves soccer, guinea pigs, and sci-fi. Amanda J. Hoffman is graduating in May 2013 with her degree in studio art from Messiah College. She combines fabric, thread, and paint to create images highlighting the inherent characteristics that the material and subject share. Amanda also makes functional ceramics, enjoying the relational aspect of creating a usable piece of art. Marissa Ingeno is a junior at Lebanon Valley College majoring in physical therapy. Amber Koneval is a first semester senior at Regis University in Colorado, double majoring in English and religious studies. She has been published in over twenty literary journals to date both print and online. Her first collection, “Drunk Dialing the Divine,” was published through eLectio publishing in November of 2012. She fully intends to take over the world via verse, hopefully in time to be too busy to become a cat lady.
Fill (Phil) McKee is a fourth-year mechanical engineering student studying at RIT in Rochester, NY. His artistic mindset is very different from that of his daily persona. Normal day-to-day Phil McKee often socializes, stays active, and abides by the rules of normality. When it comes to creating art and existing momentarily as Fill, the social bounds of acceptable sanity and the confides of what art should be are broken down for the sake of creating unique art. Ultimately, his subconscious and nearly effortless release of emotions onto paper allows for creating a seamless blend between the physical artwork and his mind. The ability to share these emotions with others is, in the end, what his art is about. Daniel Riddle Rodriguez’s real name is Daniel Riddle Rodriguez. He is a part-time student at Chabot College in California, and a full-time construction worker everywhere else. He is an English major, of course. His previous publications include Monkeybicycle and Danse Macabre. He doesn’t believe in god, but if he did, god would look a lot like Amy Hempel--only less godly. He is thrilled to be here. A.K. Sartor is currently a senior at Lee University, studying anthropology and English. She has been published in the Lee Review and presented at the Sigma Tau Delta and Ollie J. Lee symposiums. After graduation, she hopes to continue her education, travel, and write, not necessarily in that order. Her other life goal is to own a typewriter.
Evan Laudenslager is a student of visual studies in his junior year at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. In making his work, he endeavors to shift his focus from seeing to the process of seeing, to become more aware and involved in the visual world around him. Photography allows him to record what he finds intriguing and create images that he hopes changes something in the viewer. Making photographs has become not only enticing but essential.
Adam Uhrig lives in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, where he attends Lake Superior State University as an literature major with a minor in creative writing. Recent work has appeared in Border Crossing.