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TABLE OF CONTENTS Prose: Lucky Saturday 4-9 by Alexandra Koelbl Lessons in Science 11-15 by Alex Wessel The Fall of Roman Tesla 16-21 by Tommy Partl Essay: Little Boys written by 23-33 Poems: Two Best Friends on a Dock 34 God On My Side 35 Learning French 36 by Lauren Hodowicz On Rain or Under It 37 by Sean Reichard Gutter Tears 38 by William Psilos Picture Taking at Dusk on Highway 60 39 by Phillip Balistriere Flavors and Boxes 40 by Zachary Dubey Artists Featured in Issue: Callie Mangan Paula Helmstedt Stephen Conrad Jennika Bastian Sarah Miller Matthew Magnusson Margaret Petri
Art work featured on Cover: Anxiety by Callie Mangan Charcoal, graphite, chalk pastel 18’’x24’’ On this page: Dreams by Callie Mangan Graphite, white acrylic, gold spray, chalk pastel 24’’ x 36’’
Lucky Saturday by Alexandra Koelbl
Ace sits on the toilet lid reading the classifieds. He sucks on the end of his last Astra cigarette because he doesn’t want to light up in front of his five year old daughter Amelia. His wife, Rebecca, and daughter are taking their ritualistic Saturday night bath together. Ace peers over the top of the paper at Rebecca and remembers the first night he saw her freckled body naked. Blue neon light had bathed her in its glow from outside the window of the Blue Moon Resort in Las Vegas ten years ago. Now, the only blue he can see are the faint veins of her wrists and the bags under her amber eyes. An ad for a parking garage cashier catches his eye because of the decent hourly wage. It isn’t as good as the construction job he had held previously, but it’s something. He circles the job description with a blue pen he got free from Guarantee Bank. Ace scratches his blond chin stubble and sniffs. The humidity from the bath paints red splotches on his rough cheeks and dampens the newspaper. Newsprint blackens his fingers like cigarette ashes, so
Ace fingerprints the toilet tank behind him. “I hope you’re going to clean that.” Rebecca doesn’t look up from scrubbing Amelia’s hair. The suds run down the little girl’s back into the steaming water. Bubble bath is a luxury, too expensive even for their daughter. “Don’t worry. It’s so humid in here it will just wash off on its own.” “Very funny.” Rebecca rolls her eyes at him while beginning to lather her red hair. “Have you found anything promising?” Ace sighs and takes the cigarette out of his mouth, setting it on the countertop. “Not really. The only job I found was for a parking garage cashier.” “Well, with all that cement, it shouldn’t be too much different than your last job.” She places her hand over her mouth to hide her smile. “That’s it!” Ace kneels by the side of the tub and splashes his wife with bath water. Water droplets catch the light of the bare light bulb above them, glistening like liquid crystal in air that vibrates with laughter.
*** Ace believes the reason he got fired was for knocking over a milk carton of urine from the seventeenth floor scaffolding of a building restoration. He remembered the accident while taking a lunch break one month ago, the day before he was let go. The workers wiped sweat from their brows which had pooled in white hard hats. Harnesses remained strapped around their waists because they held what every worker needed: band-aids, boxes of cigarettes, and Zippo lighters. A boombox on the scaffolding they were sitting on played Johnny Cash and a box fan blew hot, September air at them. “I hear the supervisor’s gonna cut some jobs
It happened when Ace and Smith were assigned to chip off pigeon feces from the façade of the old Pabst Building. Ace was just about to turn and clean his chisel when he accidentally kicked the half full gallon of piss off the scaffolding. Liquid rose from the uncovered top in slow motion, falling down seventeen stories. It crashed on the sidewalk where the supervisor was stationed, splashing him as the carton impacted. “I couldn’t get fired from that. It was an accident, nothing more.” Big Pete closed his Zippo and wiped his brow as the lunch whistle announced the end of break. Ace was fired at the end of the next day with no
pretty soon.” Jackson wrapped the tips of his fingers with bandages while he worried. “Ya, we know. Ever’day ya say the same thin’, but nothin’s gonna happen.” Big Pete took a final drag from his cigarette and dropped it. The ember continued to glow as it drifted down and landed among the other cigarette butts. He flipped his lighter and watched the yellow-blue flame that danced on his fluorescent yellow uniform t-shirt. Ace sat beside these two, eating a turkey sandwich made by Rebecca that morning. The food stamps supplemented the family’s income, so Rebecca was able to buy deli meat that week. “Who knows? Maybe the economy will pick up and we can stop talking about it.” He didn’t like being reminded of the fragility of his job. Jackson finished with his bandages and put his leather glove back on. “You should be the one who’s worried, Ace. Remember the incident with Smith?” Smith had a chin hid in the sagging folds of his cheeks and a phobia of using the Porta-John. Or maybe Smith was just too lazy to climb down to street level to relieve himself. Ace told this to Amelia one night and she imagined Smith lived among the scaffolding, forever in the smoggy, city air like a pigeon. To combat this quirk, Smith had taken to carry an empty milk carton to pee in. He would hold the handle with burned and calloused fingers to his crotch when he thought no one was looking. As the day lengthened, the carton’s contents changed from light yellow to dark amber. The other workers noticed and left Smith alone.
explanation. He remembered walking out of the office trailer and seeing Smith perched atop the scaffolding with a new milk carton. He imagined Smith remaining there until twilight, climbing to the top and looking over Milwaukee, watching Lake Michigan disappear into the black sky. Forever in the air. --Ace comes down the steps after putting Amelia to bed and lights up. The living room is small and lived in with a hand-me-down couch from Goodwill that has cigarette burns on the arms. Rebecca sits on the ground chewing on a piece of red hair in her underwear and camisole. A pile of bills are scattered in front of her. “Is Amelia finally asleep?” Rebecca looks up at him standing on the bottom step. Ace blows out a cloud of Astra smoke which tastes like leather and leaves a film on his tongue. “Yea, I made sure.” He crosses the room and sinks in the couch. “How are the bills coming? Are we good for the month?” Ace sucks in which burns the back of his throat. “It’s hard to tell. I keep going over our bank statements trying to find some extra money, but there’s not a single penny.” She sighs and stretches her arms over her head, lifting the camisole so Ace can see a sliver of skin above her panty line. “We’re okay for now, but with you still looking for a full time job, I might need to take on a second one.” Rebecca picks up the air conditioning bill which must have been low because it hadn’t been turned on all
summer. Her toes stretch out almost touching one of the numerous pee stains on the beige carpet. The family used to have a husky named Wilbur after Charlotte’s Web because Amelia liked it. But when the family started welfare, they had to give him away. Ace feels the warm breeze coming from the open window which only shows the aluminum siding of the house two yards away. It helps to remove the smell of the nail polish that Rebecca is using. She always buys clear polish. But in Las Vegas, Ace remembers her bright red nail polish on her freckled hand, resting on a face card while playing blackjack. She wore a dress that matched her polish and lipstick she planned on returning when she got home to Wisconsin. The tag was still attached and tucked into the back. Her laughter like a fork against fine china was what drew Ace toward her table that night and lose a handful of money. It seemed their relationship started out based on gambling. Going to bet on dogs at the Dairyland Greyhound Park were dates to them. After losing most of their money, the two would drive to the nearest 7-Eleven and buy Little Debbie Swedish cake rolls. They would eat them in the Red Lobster parking lot. It was always easier for Ace to imagine winning the lottery rather than saving money. He would stay up late after marrying Rebecca and play online blackjack, losing hundreds at a time. Those were the nights he’d sleep on the cigarette burned couch with his grandmother’s tattered afghan. This lasted until his gambling habits lost half their income and placed the family on welfare. A small gasp from Rebecca breaks his reverie. The nail polish bottle had tipped over on the bumpy carpet and oozed over the bills, magnifying the amounts. “Grab the bottle, Rebecca!” Ace gathers the soiled bills which the polish is hardening over. The bottle is empty, but Rebecca still doesn’t move. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened. I guess I thought if the bills were ruined, it would be like they never existed.” She looks up at the blank wall which has a dirt silhouette of a bird cage from the tenants before them. A silhouette like prison bars. Moving in, they realized a stray
budgie had flown free and lodged in the upper beams of the attic. Its chirps became the Michelson’s alarm clock in the early morning. One day, they didn’t wake up early and realized they couldn’t hear it anymore. It was gone. “Now they’re laminated — like they’re being preserved.” -- The next morning, Rebecca sits at the kitchen table, filling out an application for a local café within walking distance. It distracts her from the report she needs to fill for welfare on the family’s financial circumstances. She fumbles with her napkin while starring at the coffee ring on the wooden table. She’d be able to keep her job as a law firm receptionist and work evenings at the café. “Mommy, mommy, watch me!” Amelia runs around the table with arms outstretched like an airplane. She wears goggles taken from Ace’s work bench to mimic old time pilots when flying was new. Ever since Amelia learned about Amelia Earhart from Ace when she was four, she hadn’t stopped pretending to fly. They didn’t tell her Amelia had gone missing trying to circumnavigate the globe. Amelia wasn’t named after Amelia Earhart, but after Rebecca’s mother. There wasn’t any particular reason why they decided to name her that. Rebecca thought it sounded nice to be named after a grandmother. Amelia runs around and around the table, slapping her hand against the back door that has Easter window clingers across it. A few months back, there were no clingers. While Amelia watched the sky with arms stretched to either side, she had crashed right through the glass. She had to get stitches last spring. Now, each time she nears the back door, she places her hand before her to make sure. Rebecca grabs Amelia during her eighth round, tickling the child’s bare feet and laughing along with her. “Daddy said that he would take me to Oshkosh to see the planes!” Rebecca sets Amelia down. “Really? Why don’t you show me how the airplanes fly?” She continues to swirl around her mother with arms outstretched and freckled like Rebecca’s. Rebecca remembers Ace’s promise. The Oshkosh EAA Air Show is one of the biggest aviation shows in the world. Pilots from all over the world come and perform
Guide Jannika Bastian, Acrylic on Paper, 36’’ x 36’’ acrobatics, flying overhead by the thousands in formations like Canadian geese. Rebecca believes Ace never wants to disappoint Amelia, but she doesn’t want to get her daughter’s hopes up. A gagging, choking sound comes from the living room. Rebecca races to see if Amelia is okay. Amelia is on the carpet, convulsing with her blue eyes wide open. Her arms and legs fly around her like propellers as she rolls from side to side. “Oh God!” Rebecca kneels beside her daughter, watching foam cover Amelia’s peach colored lips. She places a hand close to her mouth and doesn’t feel any breath. “Ace! Ace! Help!” While tears run down her cheeks, Rebecca reaches for the phone with Amelia convulsing uncontrollably, cradled in her other arm. -- Rebecca comes home smelling like coffee. Her newest job keeps her away late at night. Amelia had experienced a grand mal seizure. A brochure on the bedside table defines it as an abnormality
in the brain which causes involuntary muscle spasms. All Ace can think about is how it looks like a brochure detailing a luxury cruise. The menial language is insulting in its simplicity. He waits while Rebecca crawls into bed with work clothes sprawled across the floor. Bussing tables at a local café perfumed her hair with coffee grounds. He heard Rebecca next door, humming a lullaby she used to sing when Amelia was born. The walls muffled the tune to a whisper. Her back faces him with the bony outlines of her spine jutting out from her curled position. Rebecca’s breath slows as she turns to face him. Her smile tries to mask the tear stained trails running down her cheeks. It had been weeks since they had been intimate and Amelia had been well, searching for planes in the clouds. Ace brushes a lock of hair from Rebecca’s bare shoulder and kisses the freckled skin beneath. “I want to go back.” Rebecca pinches her nose. “Back to where?” “Back to our Saturday night baths.”
Prose “You know we can’t.” “I know.” “Did you mail the wel—” Ace places a finger on his lips. He hears a noise from Amelia’s room. Ace and Rebecca have learned squeaks from the bed mean a seizure. But Ace supposes Amelia simply turned in her sleep. “— the welfare report?” “Yes. Will it be enough? The help I mean?” “I don’t know.” “Just tell me yes,” Rebecca whispers. “Why?” “A lie would help me sleep.” “Well then, yes.” “But now I know you’re lying.” “What do you want me to say?”
pea sized crystal balls which refract lamplight. Every twitch of Amelia makes Rebecca flinch, waiting for an attack. She remembers the doctor’s pamphlet. Don’t do anything. Don’t place anything in their mouth. Let them ride it out. There is nothing you can do. But Rebecca has to do something, so she closes the drapes to block flashing ambulance lights. She read somewhere that flashing lights cause seizures. Before Ace left, the family had sat on either side of the bed, eating rubberized turkey and browning corn kernels while Amelia slept. Dinner came on paper plates. Ace left most of his meal untouched. Rebecca notices bones where there used to be cheek and how she needs to wear a belt when she didn’t have to before. Rebecca brushes another lock of straw blonde
hair from Amelia’s face and gently holds her hand which grasps at covers. She refuses to leave her daughter’s side like she did her first child. The one Ace doesn’t know about, before she even knew Ace, and before she knew a girl could get pregnant her first time. Before she knew a baby could come out in pieces, and before she knew if it was a boy or a girl.
“Nothing.” Rebecca kisses him softly and stares at the crack on the ceiling. Ace rises from bed and walks over to the window which looks over a city bus stop. The engine roars are soothing like the sound of crashing waves. A crack in the window lets in a humid breeze, making his boxers cling to his legs with sweat. If he looks really close sideways to the window, Ace can see the Milwaukee skyline almost close enough to reach out and touch. A half-moon rises above the Marquette Interchange. Looping tangles of freeway, chaos. The doctors said sometimes brain surgery would be necessary in situations like hers. He had just been hired as a parking garage cashier, but hadn’t been able to tell Rebecca. Not that he wanted to anyway. His small contribution wouldn’t put a dent in their debt. Ace wonders how they will be able to keep up with the payments and wonders about Amelia’s mortality. He sees pigeons flying to roost in the beams below the interchange. Maybe an escaped budgie can fly up there too. -- Ace left Amelia’s room. The door closed quietly behind him. Rebecca sighs and brushes a lock of hair from Amelia’s face like her mother used to do when she was ill. Rebecca wants to be like her mom, to stay at home. Rebecca opens the orange tube and fills her palm with pills like
During summers when Rebecca was young, her family would visit her grandparent’s farm two hours away. It was a ritual to stay for the weekend with her cousins, sleeping in the hay loft with steps to climb to the roof. On hot days, she remembered going to the corner market that sold farm fresh eggs and had air conditioning. She always admired her cousin Marc who gave her piggy back rides through the wheat fields and called Hawaiian Punch “Whama Jama Juice.” He was two years older than her, and as Rebecca grew up her feelings for Marc changed. A blush would bloom across her cheeks whenever he came in the house shirtless from the river bend. A tingling feeling would start below her belly button, so Rebecca would make excuses the leave the room. She felt silly following Marc through the fields that weekend after her fifteenth birthday. A yellow shed stood on the outskirts of the property and blended in with the golden wheat. From behind this, Rebecca watched Marc chew straw. A fluff of cotton flew into her nose and she sneezed.
Prose Marc turned and smiled with big teeth like an Arabian horse. Rebecca sucked in her breath and slid down the side of the shed. Her palms clung to her dirty kneecaps. Marc sat down beside her, watching her profile stare at the ground soft with layers of dead wheat and pussy willows. The late afternoon sun blinded Rebecca, but she could still see cotton blowing in the poles of light. “You look very pretty, Becky.” Marc was the only one who called her by a nickname. It was their thing, only theirs. He leaned and touched his lips softly to hers which trembled, tasting like the wheat he chewed and buttermilk from lunch. A spinning feeling overcame her as she wrapped her arms around his neck as he guided her down. Wheat tangled in her hair.
25 18 32 46 11 22. Ace knew the chances of winning were slim, but he promised to only buy one when the winnings were high. He rolls it into a ball and throws it on the street. He didn’t win. Buses and cars speed past him, blending and blurring with traffic lights like water colors. A glint catches his eye, so he bends down and picks up a quarter with the state of Idaho printed on the back. He quickly pockets it. Ace breathes deeply from his last cigarette as he nears the parking structure and stomps on the butt to kill the embers. A cold wind blows into the garage where orange and yellow directional signs are battered from collisions. A few cars remain parked after rush hour. He comes up to the window, resting both elbows on the sill. A woman with dark skin sits in a chair drinking
Rebecca remembered a sharp pain, followed by pleasure that pulsated below her belly button. But most vividly, she remembered watching an airplane, hearing it roar across the country and dart in and out and in the clouds. Two months later, Rebecca had a terrible cramping sensation and locked herself in the bathroom. Doubled over on the toilet, she passed large blood clots. Sweat pooled under her nose in what her mother called an angel mark. Grabbing Tylenol from the countertop and swallowing the pills dry, Rebecca had a sudden rush of stomach muscles pushing down. She had passed a rather large blood clot that broke into pieces upon the porcelain. The pains in her abdomen slowly became less intense. Tears threatened to spill over from the pain relief, but also from the realization of her miscarriage. Something so easily broken into pieces.
from a Thermos and reading a Nicholas Sparks romance novel from the library. The small space holds a grey box of a cash register and a phone with a cord with emergency numbers taped to the front. A boombox plays jazz, mixing with the tick from the clock above the register. “May I help you?” She snaps her gum as she talks. “I’m here to start my shift.” “Oh good, my name is Tanya. And you must be —.” She folds the corner of the page she is on and looks at the work schedule taped to the window. “— Ace, right?” “Yup.” Tanya grabs her coat from a metal hook behind her. “You know what to do?” “I went to a training session the other night. Seems simple enough.” “Good.” She collects her belongings in her purse and leaves the door open for him. “Don’t forget to lock up when you’re done, alright? You’re the last shift of the night.” Ace nods as he enters the cramped space and sits in a rolling chair that sags under his weight. “Ace, huh? You must be a pretty lucky man with a name like that. What you doing with a job like this?” She points at his grey work shirt with her book. He fumbles with the quarter in his pocket, running his fingers over the ridges. “I’m not as lucky as you think.” He can still hear the gum pop as she walks around the corner, out of sight.
Amelia had to make it. The first one was an accident she never revealed to anyone. That baby had been hers and hers alone. Rebecca won’t leave her living daughter whose heart still beats and whose love of airplanes reminds her of incest. -- Ace walks on Milwaukee sidewalks that smell of yeast. The Pabst Building in front of him is still half covered in latticed scaffolding. He removes a crumpled Wisconsin Powerball lottery ticket out of his back pocket:
Prose The corners of the cement structure collect straw wrappers and expired parking tickets. Ace smells gas and car exhaust within the booth, so he opens the window wider. He unfolds a brochure from his back pocket that he has been saving. It lists the events of the EAA Air Show he wants to take Amelia to. He had seen the pamphlet at the local grocery store. He imagines Amelia sitting on his shoulders, pointing at the sky as planes fly in loops over their heads. The roar of propellers would buffet the air, so Amelia would cling to his neck. He would be a dad who could save her. He opens the brochure completely and begins folding it into a paper airplane while he thinks of Amelia Earhart disappearing somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Ace shoots the plane out the little open window, watching it sail on across parking spaces faded from neglect. It crashes into a cement wall, crumpling the pointed top, and lands on the oil stained ground next to an empty beer can. A car pulls up that has rust patches the color of Rebecca’s hair. The man driving holds out the ticket with calloused fingers swelled with arthritis. The man reminds Ace of Smith.
Field by Stephen Conrad
“Go on ahead. No need to pay tonight.” The man withdraws his hand slowly. “Are you sure?” “Completely.” He presses the button next to the register which raises the gate. “Have a good night, sir.” “Same to you.” The man drives off with the wrong directional blinking. Ace waves through the rest of the cars that night. He knows the money made at this part-time job would amount to nothing in the end. The boombox turns to static as Ace remembers a budgie nested below a highway, and a man named Smith, and bills laminated in nail polish. It is hard to remember watching his girls take a bath a few weeks before.
Lessons in Science by Alex Wessel
I spend Friday night toiling in a windowless laboratory on the far west side of campus, isolated from the liveliness of house parties and the downtown bar scene. I begin the eight-hour-long Western blotting procedure now because, like any undergraduate scientist, I find it difficult to block off eight hours during the week. During breaks in the protocol, my mind sinks within a labyrinth of signaling pathways and heap of PubMed literature searches related to my research. A puddle of toxic reagents that I spill during transblotting allows me to stop thinking and just mop. I arrive at the final step of the procedure after midnight and stand in the dark room, anxiously waiting for my film to develop. My sanity rests upon the presence of a tiny black band on the film that verifies whether the experiment actually worked this time. The timer buzzes after five long minutes and I hold the transparent film up to the infrared light, squinting in search of the band. It isn’t there. Beginnings My interest in science actually began in high school after my mother convinced me to take the honors section of introductory biology freshman year. I felt uneasy about taking an advanced route because science classes in middle school failed to pique my curiosity remarkably. Nonetheless, I enrolled in honors because I prided myself upon overachievement and supposed that a new teacher could illuminate science. Due to either superb instruction or perhaps an intrinsic aptitude, introductory biology enthralled me. After biology came chemistry, and after chemistry came advanced biology and finally physics. I read each textbook from cover to back and completed all of the extra credit. I became a true science-enthusiast (i.e., nerd) and walked out of high school with the Distinguished Science Student Award (i.e., Teacher’s Pet Award). Stepping into college, I found science interesting merely by its promise to explain the world around me. My first-year general chemistry professors finally substantiated global warming for me by explaining it at the molecular level. Biology coursework later uncovered the genetic and viral etiologies of cancer and the putative mechanisms for evolution. The campus abounded with scientific investigation, teemed with brilliant minds, and scored big with technological innovation. Science seemed like the ultimate source of truth and knowledge in the world. I looked forward to the ability to utilize science in every aspect of my life and vaunted, “What could science not accomplish?”
*** Brain-dead and lethargic, I step out into the silent 2 a.m. air and walk to the bus stop. I try to overlook the fact that I spent the last eight hours cooped up for nothing — and that the same thing happened not once, but twice before. It will take a few weeks of cell culturing in order to culminate on a Western blot again, but I try to evade this thought too. I sit beneath the terbium- and europium-doped fluorescent bulbs on the bus and stare into space, not really thinking of anything. For a moment I accidentally think about my research, and I lose all faith in science. It never gives me the results that I want. My mind drifts back into space because my neurons are shot for the night. I brush my teeth when I get home and then crawl into bed around the same time that the Friday night hubbub dies down. Attachment The first struggles that I encountered in science actually dealt more with college than with the field itself. Like everyone else, I wrestled with procrastination and partook in the ill-famed exam cramming. Late hours in the library were spent grasping quantum mechanics and memorizing the glycolytic pathway. Atomic forces, macromolecular structures, cell signaling, and physiological processes started to unravel their complexity before me. Sometimes the late hours turned into later hours and the details no longer seemed that interesting. At these times, I actually felt like the lackluster science nerd. Luckily, the cramming sessions were only a small portion of my journey through science. Contrary to popular belief, science comprises a lot more than just dense facts and daunting equations. Actually, most of science pertains not to existing knowledge, but to a process of discovery. When Gregor Mendel first described patterns of inheritance (now termed “Mendelian genetics”) in his pea plant experiments, scientists knew nothing about the molecular nature of DNA. In fact, they did not even know of the existence of the “genetic material” (i.e., DNA). How, then, did Mendel theorize about the intricate process of inheritance one hundred years before Watson and Crick characterized the legendary double helix? Indeed, he planned pea crossbreeding experiments in accordance with the scientific method. However, he also had to implement a great deal of creativity in abstracting the genetic material. Without any knowledge of chromosomes, genes, or alleles, he identified inheritance patterns that we now attribute to molecular mechanisms of DNA. Ingenuity allowed him to circumvent his lack of knowledge and create a new way of explaining the world. My upper-level coursework similarly emphasizes
Prose the gaps in our scientific knowledge and focuses on how scientists venture into uncharted territory. I recognize ingenuity within all of my scientist role models, who seem to enjoy science not just for its content, but also for their role in exploring the unknown. When I bring new data to my own research mentor, I can see her excitement in the way she inspects the CT values from the qPCR amplification curves. I see it in her determination to construct a new model for the TLR4 signaling pathway on the spot — no matter how impulsively — and in her smile as she looks back to the CT values. She is a science nerd, I guess, but definitely not lackluster or boring. Scientists are among the most creative and interesting people that I know. So, while the complicated details and equations often intrigue me, the excitement of discovery keeps me attached to science. *** I wake up the next morning and am reluctant to return to the drawing board once again. I will need to delve back into the scientific literature to help explain what went wrong last night. I will need to design an altered experiment, spend several weeks performing it, suffer through another Western blot, and then look for the tiny black band again. All of this rational thinking scares me. What if the band isn´t there again? I’ve spent months dissecting the same biological question and I´m still at a loss for an answer to it. Does HSP60 signal through TLR4 at the plasma membrane, or following endocytosis through the TRAM-TRIF pathway? Perseverance Scientists are often pinned as truth seekers, or perhaps neurotics who only find solace in structure and the concrete. Beyond the impressively technical jargon and the daunting concepts lay a straightforward idea: the scientific method. Develop a question, gather all necessary information, formulate a hypothesis, design a reproducible experiment, collect the data, and synthesize logical conclusions. This is scientific method as found in textbooks, except it never works that way. Scientists grapple with the scientific method on a daily basis, but not in the way that undergraduates do in general chemistry laboratory. Most introductory lab courses arrange for a hypothesis-driven protocol that culminates in a specific result (provided proper technique) and therefore encourage students to think along these inflexible lines. They become obsessed with the correct result and lose sight of the process by which we learn from science. In reality, science is just as much about identifying the wrong answers as it is the right ones. Scientists assay multiple hypotheses before, if ever, aspiring to characterize a specific truth.
In fact, most introductory level lab courses are merely ways of reinforcing course content and speak nothing about the everyday lives of real scientists. In my four years of research experience, I never once encountered a situation where the results of an experiment exactly paralleled my hypothesis. Much more frequently, results prove to be exactly opposite of the original prediction. My research mentor and I once postulated a certain treatment would induce our cells to increase the amount of a certain protein on the cell membrane. After scanning the cell surface, we found that the treatment actually diminished the protein’s quantity. We turned to the scientific literature and additional experimentation in order to explain the inconsistency between our expected and observed results. Flexibility in the scientific method, rather than rigidity, characterizes the work of scientists. Experiments usually lead scientists to formulate alternate hypothesis rather than immediate conclusions. Knowledge, ingenuity, and creativity help them to reroute to earlier steps of the scientific method (which perhaps should be called the “scientific cycle”). However, what happens when even the most perspicacious scientist fails time and time again? Do they concede defeat? Actually, a lack of funding may be a good reason to give up, but scientists normally endure the hard times. Perseverance, I have learned, is the poorly stressed proviso of the scientific method. Scientists seem to encounter drastically more impediments and setbacks than answers. No immediate truth, structure, or concrete notion awaits the scientific researcher. Nevertheless, successive trial and error can at least illuminate all of the ways that an experiment doesn’t work. To persevere in science is to remain optimistic while continuing to work toward the answer. Sometimes serendipity plays a role in creating answers though, too. Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered mold-derived antibiotics when he was studying the influenza virus on a bacterial culture plate. His research was completely unrelated to the Penicillium species that produces the antibiotic penicillin. Now, antibiotics play an invaluable role in stemming infectious disease and improving quality of life. Though I have a minute statistical probability of encountering a similar discovery, I think of Fleming when my research never seems to go my way. Louis Pasteur, a famed chemist and microbiologist, once asserted, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” In biology, scientists rigorously study their system of research. They deserve to stumble upon discovery at some point, whether serendipitously or not. *** By Sunday, I start coming to terms with the outcome of Friday night’s experiment. Though disinclined, I admit to losing yet another battle with science and begin to approach my question again. I eventually find an
Prose article in Nature Immunology that demonstrates serum to interfere with endocytosis of HSP60. Perhaps this is my problem! Perhaps I need to use serum-free media in order to observe the TRAM-TRIF pathway and finally see my band on the Western blot! I immediately text my research mentor and have her read the article. She congratulates me for finding a potential solution and encourages me to investigate it further. Later in the day, I have restored some confidence in science. I turn on CNN as I simultaneously cook dinner, plug into Facebook, and chat with my roommate — a multitasking ritual of mine. From across the room, CNN starts to replay a clip from last night’s Republican debate. I hear Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann vehemently rebuke her opponent Rick Perry for mandating the vaccination of young girls in Texas against HPV. She continues to express her concern, citing the case of a woman whose child allegedly suffered from mental retardation following vaccination. I scoff to my roommate, upset at the outrageous disregard for science. Does she not understand how vaccines work? How could someone have such little knowledge of science as to take stock in an anecdotal (and probably unreliable) piece of evidence? Assimilation
Japanese Gardens Sarah Miller Photo
Sometimes, when I spend weeks engrossed in my research and countless hours in the lab, everyday life seems to happen amid convoluted cell signaling pathways. At the lab, I adhere to knowledge, logic, and objectivity in order to help me to sort through these pathways. When I step outside of the lab, my mind tends to perpetuate this type of thinking. Logic helps me to make decisions for the future, while objectivity keeps me from being too judgmental. In other situations, though, I find it difficult to apply a scientific mindset. When I first entered college, I was a bit overconfident in the power of science to accomplish or explain anything in the world. This arrogance, however, diminished when I endeavored to apply science outside of the classroom and laboratory. For instance, I once naively attempted to validate my atheistic beliefs using scientific evidence. Though zealous, I found my knowledge of science fruitless in disproving the existence of God. It didn’t seem possible. I was not about to believe blindly in something that lacked any sort of verifiable proof. Yet, I found such conviction in my own disbelief — or rather, belief in God’s nonexistence. I could not assimilate my scientific mindset with a desire to label myself as an atheist. Later in college, amid a class digression, a microbial genetics professor of mine spoke on scientific philosophy. He asserted the seemingly simple notion that science and belief are two completely separate entities. The notion
Prose spurred me to cogitate after class and directed me to the real source of all of life’s answers: Google. I unearthed an interview with the well-known Stephen Hawking in which he stated, “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.” Regardless of whether science will “win,” I was struck by how these two men, both of whom I regarded highly, differentiated science and belief. While dogma and faith reigned over belief, testable questions and careful experimentation defined the nature of science. Before my college studies, I had not acknowledged that certain ideas were beyond the limits of scientific verification. As there was no real way to test the existence or nonexistence of God through empirical means, I abandoned my quest to disprove Him. Instead of adopting a belief, I conceded that I did not know the truth. I assimilated my scientific thinking with my everyday life by deciding to take a more humble approach. I find this approach particularly difficult when I watch CNN after a long day or read politics on The New York Times website. I see too many stories backed by faulty “scientific evidence” or based upon illogical rational. Journalists often approach empirical data in a misinformed and, at times, manipulative manner. They garble the information they gather from scientists, asserting that scientific studies “show” something to damage the environment or to decrease our chances of developing cancer. They utilize selected pieces of evidence to induce widespread fear in one thing and hope in another. At a recent Republican Presidential debate, Michele Bachmann did just that in order to raise fear in the HPV vaccine and in her political opponent. What journalists and politicians fail to explain is the process by which scientists accumulate data and formulate conclusions based on evidence. An understanding of these aspects of science would render many flashy news stories much less stirring and many neglected findings more compelling. For instance, Bachmann could have mentioned that clinical trials of the HPV vaccine demonstrated nearly 100% efficacy in preventing cervical cancer related to HPV and 90% efficacy in preventing genital warts (CDC 2011). She also could have mentioned that no scientific publication records a case of mental retardation caused by the HPV vaccine. Even more, she could have mentioned that these clinical trials included 20,000 subjects to test the HPV vaccine. In the laboratory, scientists endeavor to remain
value-free despite its challenges. However, this allegiance to objectivity proves exceedingly cumbersome in public policy making, where values, not evidence, drive debate toward a single policy decision. A reliance upon values leads to poor implementation of scientific information, as exemplified by Michele Bachmann’s use of an emotional anecdote to admonish against the HPV vaccine. Scientists, like everyone, also hold opinions on issues like the ethics of enforced vaccination or the existence of God. These political opinions are different from scientific opinions, however. Scientific opinions are based upon accumulated evidence and not subjective popularity. A scientist may personally value the right to opt out of vaccination, even though scientific opinion upholds both the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Over time, I have learned to accept the ideological differences between science and politics. Science cannot justify every political decision or debunk every personal belief. Part of my role as a scientist will be to educate others about the scientific process so that we can make informed decisions in society. *** Following Monday classes, I step into the lab with a renewed confidence in and duty to science. My last experiment (and the last three) failed, but I take pride in my ability to carry on. Rational answers are out there and I endeavor to reach them. The evidence I accumulate in the process may not be exactly what I originally intended, but at least it will elucidate something in the world. I start to sterilize the fume hood so that I can start my cell culture and run another Western blot. Appreciation During high school and college, I developed a strong attachment to science. The content initially caught my interest, but the ongoing process of discovery — setbacks and all — is what enlivens me. Even still, I am not without my moments of doubt. Sometimes the setbacks in my research eat at my self-esteem as a scientist and run me down emotionally. Regardless of whether I complain about late nights in the lab or sloth pace progress, though, it is important to note that these feelings are transient. Truthfully, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to work in science. I often cannot get all of the answers that I want, but I appreciate science for what it is — a process of learning about the world. Maybe one day, as a scientist in academia, I will be able to lead other young minds down a path of discovery and maturation through science.
Prose An Anecdote After a long, eminent career as a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking sits in an interview with Diane Sawyer. Severely disabled by a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, he responds to questions through a speech synthesizer that translates pulses from his right cheek — the only muscle in his body saved from paralysis — into sentences. He manages to communicate complex ideas regarding the universe and the possibility of extraterrestrial life despite years of relentless damage to his nervous system. Though science has failed to devise a treatment or cure for his terminal illness, he continues to be a steadfast believer in his discipline. “Science will win,” he asserts, “because it works.” How can this man uphold such unwavering confidence when science clearly failed him? Subjectively, Hawking should feel discontent with science as he struggles to respond to Sawyer’s questions. Objectively, he could consider technological advancements procured by scientists, such as the NeoSpeech VoiceText that he uses to conduct the interview. In addition, he could take stock of the medical innovations that saved his life when he came down with severe pneumonia in 1985. A trained and principled scientist, Hawking elects to take the latter line of thinking. He recognizes the triumphs of science outweigh his personal disappointment and advocates for science. Bibliography David L. Faigman, Legal Alchemy: The Use and Misuse of Science in the Law (New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1999). “HPV Vaccine Information for Clinicians—Fact Sheet,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified March 22, 2012, http:// www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/. Ki M. Huessner, “Stephen Hawking on Religion: ‘Science Will Win’,” ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, June 7, 2010, abcnews. go.com/wn. Roger A. Pielke, “When scientists politicize science: making sense of controversy over The Skeptical Environmentalist,” Environmental Science and Policy 7 (2004): 405-417. William F. McComas, “Ten myths of science: Reexamining what we think we know,” School Science & Mathematics 96 (1996): 10-24.
Dead Paula Helmstedt Pencil on Paper 8.5’’ x 11.5’’
The Fall of Roman Tesla by Tommy Partl Roman Tesla’s clammy fingers reached out from the bed and clasped the boy’s chin. His fingertips wandered around the chin, as if they were searching for something. The boy gave him a detached stare. The withered old man met those eyes and knew that stare would serve the boy well in this slum. “You.” Roman’s voice was rough and faint. Dozens of gray tubes punctured Roman’s body, pumping fluid into his body at intervals. Each pump created a sickening sucking sound that beat a rhythm into the boy’s ears. “My magnum opus. The only thing I made that worked.” Roman’s bony fingers moved from the boy’s chin to a panel beside the bed. The panel held a dozen buttons and switches, but the closest to the bed was a tiny, black button. Roman firmly pressed it. The fluid halted. Roman’s eyes became glassy. A tear left a wet strand down the boy’s cheek. Another fell. He let out a groan, his last vestige of self-restraint buckled, and he wept. His vision blurred. His nose became soggy. He couldn’t say anything. Every time a word appeared in his mind and surged toward his lips, it was beaten away by a fit of sobs. He desperately wanted to ask, “Why?” but it was already pointless — the answer had drifted away with Roman. He knew that he would never know. He didn’t understand why Roman had cut himself off from the conglomeration of machines that surrounded him like a gray, grieving, cubicle family. The machines could have kept him alive for years, years of the boy sitting crouched on the floor while Roman loomed over him, telling him stories, years of Roman twanging the wires to make music for the boy to listen to, years of Roman tasting every dish the boy prepared for him, savoring every spice and salt, years of Roman and the boy sitting
there in silence, Roman in the bed, the boy on the floor, and no words but the ones shared silently between them. The boy raised his fists and beat against the buzzing black box beside the bed that showed a static, horizontal green line. He then halfheartedly turned his frustration to the old man’s body, gently slugging his fist into the man’s side. Roman had told him that he had matured, that he could live by himself now, for that is how everyone lives in the end. So the old man died with no fears for the boy, who had millions of fears for himself. The boy left the body and exited the bedroom, entering the stockroom of the electronics store. Old machines, their paint faded into dull beige, were precariously stacked only a breath from collapse. They had dusty, black screens and flimsy plastic buttons. They were called microwaves, DVD players, and VHS players. He knew their function, but he had never seen them used. They were just hunks of metal and plastic to him. He heard the buzz of Tesla’s dying life support machines. The buzzing sound followed him as he passed through the storeroom, into the storefront, and the through the doors to the street. He sat on the street curb with his head buried in his arms. Above him, the store’s name glowed in bright-orange neon tubes over a faded, black sign. Spots of rust defaced the sign like scabs. “Roman Tesla’s Antique Electronics.” He watched the stars above him. Millions of lives floated in the abyss among the glowing stars. Arrays of windows and metal antennae penetrated the sky. The spacescrapers rose around him, forcing him to acknowledge his insignificance. These were steel gods, the monuments to human ambition. He was but a sack of blood and water that would die out in the crevices between these deities. His mind drifted into his memories. He clutched onto them and grasped them desperately. * “Synthetic human. You know what that means?” Once, the old man Roman Tesla had been a robust, young man. His beard was trimmed into a circle around his chin and above his lip. His muscles were thick and round, bulging against the fabric of his shirt. His hair was disheveled, as if the constant activity in his brain had ruffled it around.
Prose “Well, of course you do. The database inside your brain has probably already uploaded a dozen definitions, even translated the phrase into several languages by now. But I want you to comprehend the implications for myself. You are my magnum opus. I was expelled from the Oxford Science Academy because they thought it wasn’t possible — a seamless combination of machine and man. Your brain has the swift decision-making of a computer processor. Your muscles can react faster than human instinct. You are, in every way, superior to a human. Yet you are one, of course.” Tesla paced around the storeroom, rubbing his hands together nervously. “Your temporary label will be R.T. — my initials. When your personality starts to develop
What’s the derivative of x to the twenty-seventh power plus x to the third plus x to the three-hundred-first plus x to the fifth?” “Twenty-seven x to the twenty-sixth power plus three x to the second plus three hundred one x to the three-hundredth power plus five x to the fourth,” the boy, R.T., instantly replied. “Excellent. What’s the seventh most populated city on Mars?” “New Sydney.” “Brilliant! How are you feeling?” The boy responded with a blank stare. “Your emotion? Are you happy?”
more, I’ll choose a better name. Let’s run a few diagnostics.
Potential by Jennika Bastian, Acrylic on Canvas, 36’’ x 48’’
The boy responded with a blank stare.
Prose The glimmer died in Roman’s eyes. * The boy rose from the curb and took off down the crumpling cement sidewalk. His fingers dug into his palms. His breath was heavy. The spacescrapers bathed the ground level in shadows, keeping it in almost perpetual night. He passed neon signs tempting him to buy cigarettes and alcohol. The streets were abandoned, save for a lone cat digging through a pile of soggy trash bags. Most shop windows were cracked. Down here, at the foot of this vertically based society, the stones in the houses were disintegrating, and the iron was rusted. His steps were swift and firm. He crushed roaches beneath his worn shoes. Walkways traversed the spaces between build-
The younger brother flinched, releasing a sharp breath to accompany the needle’s buzzing. “Calm down,” said the muscular, elder brother. “Don’t show emotion.” The younger brother gritted his teeth and nodded. The girl scoffed. * “It seems like your emotions have yet to develop.” Roman chewed on his right thumbnail. “Perhaps your synapses haven’t grown in yet. Maybe a serotonin pill could help. How are your levels of neurotransmitters?” The boy replied, “All neurotransmitters are firing at optimal standards.” “Then why don’t you react!” Roman screamed into
ings. When he stared up at them, they looked like the interwoven branches of a forest canopy. The walkways nearest to the surface were weakening, and they bellowed as the wind shook them. When he passed beneath a walkway, he was submerged in complete darkness. At periodic intervals, narrow alleyways formed ravines between the massive bulks of iron. Down one of these alleyways, three men and a girl congregated around a porch under a faint streetlight. The youngest man sat on his knees as he held out his forearm to a bearded man, who sat on the porch. The bearded man carefully traced a needle over the young man’s arm. As it tattooed the skin, the needle issued a sharp buzz. The young man’s elder brother stood beside him, watching him with a brotherly, yet threatening, stare. A twelve-year-old girl sat on the porch beside the tattoo artist. She wore a leather jacket two sizes too big. It swallowed her arms and was the gray color of armor. Mud caked it, and tears exposed the white lining beneath the leather. A dozen burgundy patches held her jeans together. Holes in her shoes exposed her smallest toes. She rested her cheek on her fist while the finger of her other hand wound around the lip of a liquor bottle. She found the whole ceremony surrounding the tattoo completely dull. It reminded her of little boys pretending to be brave knights while waving around cardboard swords. But there was nobody else to be around, so she was around them. The drone of the tattoo needle stung her ears.
the boy’s face, but elicited no flinch or wince. Roman chewed on his right thumbnail, biting it in a consistent rhythm. “Perhaps you need a psychological event of some sort — an overwhelming feeling — that will induce … something … create … Oh God, I don’t know.” ` * The boy approached the porch. His footsteps made no sound. Shadows concealed him. His fingers dug deeper into his palms, and his breath quickened. “There.” The man with the needle lifted it from the younger brother’s forearm. He clicked off the tattoo machine, and the buzzing ceased, replaced with the lost sirens and foreign noises of the night. The younger brother admired the tattoo — a burning cross — and looked to his brother. His brother patted him on the shoulder. “You’re in now. Welcome to the Heathens.” The young man stared at the tattoo in awe. The girl handed him the half-full bottle of liquor. “Have a drink.” The younger brother grinned and pressed the bottle to his lips. A drop tickled his tongue, but at that moment, the boy leaped from the shadows. He punched the younger brother in the ribs. The younger brother coughed, dropped the bottle — which shattered on the concrete — and stumbled. The elder brother lunged for the boy, who deftly dodged the punch and sent one of his own into the elder
Prose brother’s stomach. The boy sent an uppercut into the elder brother’s chin, knocking him to the pavement. The tattoo artist came at the boy, swiping the tattoo needle, but the boy caught the artist’s wrist and swiftly twisted it, forcing the artist to drop the needle with a scream. The boy planted his fist into the tattoo artist’s face. The tattoo artist collapsed to the porch, and his head bounced on a step’s edge. The boy stood over the unconscious tattoo artist, who was sprawled out over the trio of stairs. He bludgeoned the artist’s stomach with his foot. The elder brother rose and escaped to the alley’s mouth, dragging the little brother with him. The girl watched the boy for a moment, but then scurried into the shadows.
Roman slammed his fist upon the table, rattling the spoons and their bowls. Drops of steaming soup splattered onto his arm. “I’ve given you thought, but I’ve neglected to give you life. Why should I bother even giving you a name? You would find no pride or shame in your individuality.” * The boy travelled into a centuries old, forsaken neighborhood. Here, neglect had left the houses and streets uninhabitable. Piles of gravel sat in the streets with sharp pieces of metal jutting out from the stones. The houses had collapsed or looked as if they were on the brink of crumbling. Their windowpanes were gone or shattered. Any paint had chipped apart, and dirt had washed over them so that their original color was indis-
The boy left the alley when his foot became sore from smacking the tattoo artist’s ribs. He exhaled. He was not relieved. All he had gained was a tired foot. He continued his wandering. His vision had become blurred with tears. He wiped his eyes, but it was to no avail. He crunched an aluminum can beneath his foot and grunted. * Roman ranted at the kitchen table. “The world can be so cruel. My youth was spent being ridiculed, for nothing more than being more intelligent than everyone else. It was all just jealousy. I enter Academia, and-and I think, ‘Here I belong.’ Here, everyone is like me — brilliant and visionary. Yet they shunned me just like the rest. They called me a fool. What purpose could it have?’ they asked me. There are so many. Most days I can’t even leave the store. I prefer my work to people.” The boy remained still, methodically drinking his soup across the table. “Do you understand what I’m saying? What I mean?” The boy lifted a spoon carrying red soup to his lips and sucked it dry. “Sadness? Loneliness? Depression?” The boy looked at Roman as if he realized what he was saying. “Sadness, noun. The condition or quality of being sad. First written record circa 1333 by William Shoreham in ‘Poems.’ ‘For eres-’”
cernible. They were all black. Walkways crisscrossed the sky so much that only thin triangles of starlight shot down to the surface. It was a buried district, a place forgotten by those above it. Only the desolate homeless lived here, hiding in the shadows, living off rats cooked on anemic fires. The boy found a single, desolate wall of smooth, beige brick. Cracks cut through its surface. Spots of a dark liquid were sprayed over its bottom. Nature, in the form of ivy, had crawled up one side of it. The boy stared at the blank slate of beige cement. * “You’re wearing an eradicator,” the boy said. He analyzed Roman and the plastic, steel-colored tube that jutted out from between his ribs. The tube was connected to a sleek metal cube atop a cupboard, and a liquid traveled through the tube in a quick stream. “Meant to eliminate cancerous cells in the body, specifically your right lung.” * With a roar, the boy struck his fist into the wall. His knuckles’ skin cracked open and his blood smeared the cement. * “Indeed.” Tesla nodded. He was weary. “The air pollution on the lower level is thick. Hence, I don’t venture outside. This machine should keep the cancerous cells at bay.” *
Prose The boy struck the wall with his other fist. His knuckles stung. * “Unfortunately, until I find a tumor in another part of my body, there’s no telling if the mutation has spread through my bloodstream. But I built this machine well. I know it’s flawless. Well, I can’t step outside with this tube leashing me to the eradicator, but I’ve done without sunlight for a long time.” He glanced to the boy and tried, not well, to hide his sigh and mutter of, “I’ve been without a lot for a long time.” * The boy struck the wall furiously, mashing his bones and skin against the relentless surface.
The girl’s eyes lit with excitement. “Got any ideas?” He looked to the wall, where faint blots of his blood had dried. “Yes.” * The withered man, Roman Tesla, lay on his bed attached to a web of wires. He was so pale. Only bits of his skin were exposed. The rest was covered by tubes. The boy checked the dials and the monitors of the life support machines, all of which were operating efficiently. At this stable rate, Roman could live for years. But there was something about the man’s emaciated visage that stirred something within the boy. Without full comprehension of his actions, he drew,
* The cancer spread due to a malfunction in the eradicator. Roman found another tumor in his left lung. He attached another tube into his left side. Gradually, his muscles withered, and he inserted more tubes into his body. Eventually, he became too feeble to stand. He lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. * The boy screamed out with each strike, each one progressively less intense as his breath escaped him. The sound filled the rubble and debris, echoing off the abandoned iron. His strength wasted, the boy backed away. He wiped tears from his cheek. Smears of blood replaced them. He heard the crackling of footsteps against stones, but remained still, staring at the wall. The stones’ crackling ceased, and he waited for a threat. “You’re pretty loud,” said a scratchy, feminine voice. “You roar a lot. What is your name, Rory?” He looked at her. She was the girl who had accompanied the Heathens. She smiled, but stood defensively. “Sure,” he replied. His throat was dry. “It’s not smart to be loud here. Better to be quiet.” She paused for a moment. From her pocket, she drew out a lighter. “You wanna burn something? You look like you need to burn something.” The boy’s breath heaved his chest. “Yes.”
in white frosting, a smiling face on Roman’s daily chocolate muffin. He presented it to the man’s bedside along with orange juice, scrambled eggs, and an apple. When Roman saw on the chocolate muffin, his heart monitor buzzed faster. A wiry arm clutched the muffin, and he examined it. He turned to the boy, who was staring at the rusted floor. A glimmer shone in Roman’s eye as he took a feeble bite of the muffin. * The orange lights that spelled “Roman Tesla’s Antique Electronics” flickered rapidly. It was painful to stare at. There, within those feeble walls, the boy had been created, he had lived, and now, for the first time outside of them, he found nowhere to go but back inside of them. He had no road to walk or place to find. He only had the threshold of the door before him. “I need the lighter.” “G-lite 5.” She handed him it. “Press the first button to pour gasoline, hit the second to start a fire.” The boy, lighter clenched in his hand, stepped into the store. “My name’s Sara, by the way,” he heard behind him, but he didn’t turn to look back. He heard a buzz come from beyond the storeroom. It had kept sounding while he was gone, and now, it kept going on and going on. It would never end. It would just keep its flat sound in his ears as long as he would let it. He hit the first button, spraying gasoline in bursts along the floor and over the electronics. The boy shoved the second button, and a spark became a fire, which merged with the gas, and became
Prose an inferno. Fire engulfed the whole room and spread to the hallway. The boy felt the heat pulse against his skin. Metal croaked and wood creaked. Smoke made the boy cough a little, but the purifiers in his lungs filtered it out. Sweat trickled down his brow. He exhaled and felt himself merge with the fire. The beautiful, elegant dancing flames. Orange, bright, yellow, alive. * “A bedtime story.” Tesla was still a picture of masculine health. His muscles threatened from beneath his shirt, yet felt so soft in an embrace. “A bedtime story?” the boy comprehended the definition, but couldn’t find a use for it in the current situation. “Even you need to rest. Even if it is just for a few
The boy felt his arm move without his consent, and suddenly, he was stumbling backward. He felt the heat swirl around him, and a gust of cold autumn wind blew away the heat. Sara held him by the sleeve, while her other hand held her knee as she wheezed. He examined her, as if trying to understand her. He turned around and stepped back towards the store’s entrance. The girl grabbed his wrist and tugged him toward her. “What’s wrong with you?” “My creator is gone. I die with him. I was never given a purpose. I’m useless.” “So am I, but I’m not jumping into a fire!” The boy looked at her. There was a desperation in her eyes that he didn’t comprehend.
hours. It allows your processors to deeply evaluate the day’s events. Plus, there are certain safeties in sleep.” “Such as?” “Such as dreams. In dreams we can have whatever we want.” Roman tucked the boy into a tiny bed set beside his own, cramped between stacks of old machines. He pulled a leather bound book from his bookcase and flipped through the crackling pages, which held pouches filled with scuffed discs. “Do you have a preference?” Roman asked. The boy didn’t answer, so Roman searched through the book. The boy caught a title on one of the rapidly passing discs. “Pinocchio.” “Not Pinocchio. Definitely not.” “Why not?” “I’ve heard it too many times.” Roman stopped after searching through another set of pages. “Here’s a good one. It’s called Beauty and the Beast. It’s a story about love. I enjoy it. In fact, sometimes I wish I was in it.” The boy nodded with interest, and Roman inserted the disc into a slot on a bulky television. Above the slot, the black screen flickered with light. The boy watched the story until his heavy eyelids slid shut. Once the movie ended, Roman turned off the television and went to sleep with a weary grin. Beside him, the boy slept with his lips, in the most minuscule way, curving upward. *
He asked her, “Who are you?” “I don’t really know. I call myself Sara.” The boy nodded. She asked him, “Who are you?” “Rory, I guess.” She laughed. “Well, Rory, where’s your home? You got a place to stay?” “I just burned it.” “That’s okay. I know a low-hanging walkway. It’s practically a roof.”
Pandora Complex by Callie Mangan, Etching, 13’’ x 36’’
“Turn that shit down, Junior!” Momma shrieks from the living room. He’s upstairs stomping around to that damn music of his. I can imagine her squeezing her hands over her ears, scrunching up her face so that cracks start to form in her makeup. Momma doesn’t like noise when she’s coming off a binge, and this last one was a doozy. She finally came home last night, and she’s been passed out face down on the couch with that fucker Billy ever since. The two of them piled on top of each other like old clothes, reeking of booze and soaked in dust, light bulbs crushed in their pockets like fallen stars. “You best turn that shit down before I whoop you, boy!” This is the first I’ve heard from Billy since they arrived. I suppose part of me imagined he might be dead down there, and I can’t say I was too upset by the fact. Billy’s a real catch, Momma says, “The Tom Cruise of the Yuma Tweaker Community.” “That’s not saying much,” I always tell her. “One day you’ll love a man, and you’ll see,” is all she can ever reply. The way she says it pisses me off, not to mention the fact that she doesn’t love Billy, she loves a freshly packed pipe and somebody to keep her ass off the streets. “I dare you to come whoop me in my father’s house, old man!” Junior screams back. At 16, he’s so earnest in his rebellion; I almost respect him for it. When you’re that age you are angry but starry-eyed, you still believe that if you scream loud enough someone will hear you. You haven’t yet learned to keep walking with the thistles in your feet, to only pick your wounds and think the dark, hateful thoughts when you are alone and it is quiet and you have a nice strong whiskey to chase the pain.
“I’m comin’ up there, you little piece of shit!” I hear Billy’s giant lumbering frame on the creaky floor of the living room. Fuck. I shove my makeup in its Ziploc baggie and throw on a sweatshirt. I take the rubber band off the doorknob holding the bathroom door shut and go into Junior’s room. He’s all fresh-faced zeal, dancing in his leather boots beneath the giant poster of a swastika against a background of red. I brush right by him and make my way to the stereo, turn the dial way down.
“What the fuck, Missy? I was listening to that.”
“That angry shit won’t do you any good, J.R. And what did I tell you about growing back your hair? Girls aren’t gonna want no skinhead.” He scoffs at me. I’ll never understand the depths of his rage. He takes a closer look at me, noticing the glitter on my eyelids and my painted lips.
“You still working for that nigger?”
“That’s none of your damn business.”
“Whore.” “Go fuck yourself, Junior. You go ahead and call me a whore when you’re eating the food I bought for us.” This shuts him up good and for a moment he is just a sad little boy. “What the hell is going on up there?” Billy shouts from the bottom of the stairs. “You get out of this fuckin’ house, you dirty ass junky!” I clap my hand over Junior’s mouth. now.”
“Nothing, Billy, you just go lie yourself down
“Fucking kids,” he mutters. “Quiet,” I hiss at Junior.
ESSAY I grab my keys and just I close the door behind me I hear Billy wail, “Missy!! Don’t forget beer!”
strapped to my leg. I am powerful and full of secrets.
Juicy’s is only a few miles away, off of 95 near the air force base. Back when Ray’s momma opened it, it was the only place the Marines like my Dad could come for a lap dance and a real drink. Now there are lots of places, especially when you get out on the highway, igniting the desert night with their neon signs. Ray’s standing outside when I pull in, smoking a cigarette.
I go backstage and put on my pink thong and the matching pink bra. It’s hot pink, slutty pink, with crystals. I always wonder why we even bother with these things when we’re just going to take them off in a few minutes. “It’s all about the reveal,” Ray always says, and I’ve found it to be true. Men always go crazy for what they don’t have; what they can’t see is just as important as what they can. You gotta really tease them, fuck with them, make them crazy. That’s why they’re here and not at home fucking their wives.
“You best get your ass inside, girl! Showtime in 10.” Ray is big and tall and black, but he’s more like the big black grandmother you never had than the kind of tough
“Daaaaamn. Someone’s looking bangin’ tonight.” It’s Miss P, a dyke and a tweaker in her 30s who dances with me at the club. She knows Momma so she’s taken it
guy you’d think would be running one of these places. He’s loving and full of advice and cushy with fat. “Aww, calm down, Ray. You know I’m a pro.” “Whatever you say, Jinx.” He calls me Jinx, and so do the other girls here, and the guys who come to see me. Ray gave me the name when he found me, he said I was just like a scruffy black cat darting in front of car. He swore then and there that he had to take me into the club or face seven years of bad luck. At first Ray was just going to have me cleaning toilets and doing chores, but he said that when he took me in out of the dust, brushed me off, and gave me some food he realized that I had exactly what men like to see. I go straight to the bar when I get in, as always and Marlo pours me a nice stiff whiskey. I like to watch the men before I get out there, still in my street clothes, like an undercover cop or something. There’s a fair amount of the regular old guys, poor wrinkled souls here for the winter, some Mexicans, a few teenage pervs, and some truckers. Tonight, besides the regular crew, I notice a group of young guys, too scrubbed clean to be from here, drinking martinis. I don’t know anyone who drinks martinis besides James Bond. I decide that tonight, I am a Bond girl – a goddess risen from the ocean with my hunting knife
upon herself to look after me at Juicy’s. “I’d tap it.” Lala smacks my ass. Lala’s a lost girl Miss P found sleeping down in the ruins of the old prison, and her girlfriend. While Miss P is all red hair and white skin and big boobs lolling around, Lala is narrow and black and quiet, for the most part, though less so since she came here. Miss P’s more of the girly sort of dyke and Lala’s more butch. She corn-rows her hair like Allan Iverson and wears boys basketball shorts. Lala doesn’t dance; she does the cleaning I was originally supposed to do, and she gets shit for Miss P and the other girls. The two of them are pretty bad speed freaks but they’ve both had my back with Ray, and when the guys get too handsy. When I first met Miss P, I asked her how come she dances if she doesn’t like men. Miss P said, “Dancing got nothing to do with liking dick. In fact, every time I go out there I thank Jesus I don’t have to rely on any of them perverts.” I remember her words as I step on stage and wait for my music to start. I look out at them. Perverts. They’re all eyeing me with that look – like they’re about to sink their teeth into the best Whopper they ever tasted. I think about their wives and girlfriends at home doing the dishes and putting their children to bed. I want to tell them how the men look at me. To show them the men they love watching me as I take the glittery bra off slowly and slide
ESSAY up and down the pole. I am a Bond girl. I am a fantasy. Tonight the young, clean-cut guys are especially hungry. I can’t figure them out. They look like missionaries or college kids or something idealistic. When I show them my tits they take sideways looks at each other and grin like schoolboys. I have nice tits. There’s one with a Will Ferrell face and long arms and legs. He looks uncomfortable, too big for the chair he’s sitting in. He’s kind of dopey-looking but kind of sexy just the same, like your friend’s big brother kind of sexy. I take off my panties and his face turns bright red, like he’s never seen pussy before. His Eastern European-looking friend tosses a 20 on the stage. “Give my friend here a lap dance.” He pats the dopey one on the shoulder. I grab the money and scowl at him. I climb on top of Dopey and shove my tits in his face, grind against him hard. He’s staring at up at me like I hold the answers to all the world’s great mysteries. “You’re real beautiful,” he says. I smile. He’s nothing but a little boy inside of this giant body. “What’s your name, honey?” I turn around and start rubbing my ass against him. Gross. He has a boner, but I decide not to hold it against him. I’m feeling charitable tonight. “I’m Cody. What’s your name?” His voice is sweet and low with a Southern accent, the kind you can imagine high school girls going crazy over. I imagine him in another life, opening doors for girls, arriving at his prom date’s door with a bouquet of flowers. “Call me Jinx.” I get off of him and give him a wink. He looks like he just got kicked in the balls. ***
After my shift, I go outside to smoke a cigarette while Lala and Miss P get loaded. Drugs disgust me because of Momma, but as I watch them blow out huge white billows of smoke and smell the chemical burn of the shit I can’t help but envy their peace. I know better than anyone that the life of a drug addict is shit. But goddamnit if it’s not simple when happiness is a little glass pipe filled with crystal. “You know who that tall boy is, right?” Miss P. looks at me mischievously. “What tall boy?” I pretend not to know what she’s talking about.
“The one I saw you dancing all over.” I turn red.
Me and the girls are bonded together by our mutual hatred of the men who come to see us. To us they are faceless, meaningless shapes sitting in the dark; their bodies are inanimate as the polls we dance on. We could never admit to them being anything more than perverts, assholes. We look at them the way they look at us, as objects to be used. “Ya, you really gave that fool the girlfriend experience.” Lala laughs the high-pitched crazy laugh of someone high. “He looked kinda sweet, you know, in that stupid kinda way. I don’t know … seemed like his first time so I wanted to give him the full-blown.” “Those fellas play for the Tucson Padres. They’re down here training. Your boy’s the new pitcher,” Miss P says excitedly.
“I never heard of no Tucson Padres,” scoffs Lala.
“Minor League team. Only reason I know is ‘cause Ray gave us some big speech about a team coming in tonight,” Miss P tells us. teases.
“Looks like Jinxy done got herself a baller,” Lala
ESSAY “Oh, will you shut up?” I shove her playfully. But my mind is reeling. I imagine him out there on the field, shielding his eyes from the blinding sun as he winds up and hurls a gopher ball at the plate at the speed of light. All I know of baseball I learned from when Dad used to sit me on his lap and we’d watch the Diamondbacks. I’d lean back against his chest and he’d explain to me what all the moves meant. He always smelled like a mixture of tobacco and sweat. I haven’t watched baseball in years and I’m sure I’d struggle to understand what the hell is going on if I did, but I can still smell him and hear the muffled sound of his voice mingled with the T.V. announcer: “Now that’s what you call a tater, Missy Ann.” “Fuckin’ A, I gotta get home.” I throw my cigarette on the ground and stub it out violently. “How’s that momma of yours doing?” Miss P. asks me this every week. I’m not sure why she does, because she knows better than anyone what the answer will always be. “Oh you know, she’s doing what she do.” I grimace. Juicy’s always feels like a separate universe from home, and it bugs me to think of Momma. She’s probably still asleep on the couch, she and Billy coiled around each other like snakes, trying to drown out the ache. “Oh look, it’s your boy, Jinx!” Lala doesn’t understand subtlety. Or manners. She really does turn into a loud mouth when she’s spun. I turn to see Dopey and his friends walking out the door. Seeing him standing up, I’m surprised by how big he is. He must be almost 6’9” or 6’10”. His friends are all wasted and they’ve got their arms draped over each other. Funny how men get all gay for each other when they drink. Even when they’re drinking in a titty bar. He turns and looks at me, straight in the eye. I hadn’t noticed that his eyes are blue and clear, like a cloudless sky. I look down at my shoes. I feel like one of those high school dumbasses he probably has falling all over him. When I look up, he’s
walking toward me. Lala and Miss P can barely contain their giggles.
“Hey, yourself.” I meet his gaze, clenching my knuckles to steady myself. “So I’m new in town and I reckon you could show me around.” He smiles at me, and it’s a big smile, big and unafraid. I can see now he’s no rookie, he’s a heartbreaker and this ain’t his first rodeo. But there’s still something about him – maybe it’s the straw colored hair or the way his eyes are so clear and so blue that still makes him look like a giant child. “You usually ask strippers to be your tour guide?” I give him my smile, a smile that is 100 times more devious that he will ever be. Lala and Miss P explode into laughter. “No, uh, this would actually be the first time.” There’s something very earnest in the way he says this; he reminds me of a Southern preacher. “Alright then, pick me up tomorrow at 8, and I’ll show you what Yuma’s all about.” When I talk to him there’s part of me that just wants to cut the bullshit and ditch this stripper act, talk him like I’m just a girl he met at a bar, but I don’t dare.
“Where will I find you?”
“I’ll be here.”
“Alright then. Goodnight ladies.” He nods and rejoins his friends, who are all giving him shit. Lila and Miss P are still cracking up. I’m not sure when they’ll recover from this one. “Oh stop it, you two. Worst thing, I’ll get a dinner and some drinks out of it.”
“You gonna charge him for his time?” Miss P is
always the voice of pragmatism. “Oh, I don’t know. For some reason I feel like he doesn’t want the usual treatment. Like he actually needs someone to show him around.”
“Oh, girl you got stars in your eyes,” Lala says.
“Oh, please, I know they all full of shit like my fucking father who ran away and Billy who beats on my Momma.” Yeah, I know how to shut them up. “Well shit, girl. Big boy like that probably has a big dick,” Miss P shrugs and we all laugh our asses off. *** When I get home, Momma and Billy are still passed out. Which is good, because I forgot Billy’s beer and he’d throw a conniption fit if he weren’t comatose. Junior’s out with his friends, probably getting drunk and robbing convenience stores. The quiet in the house is strange. I pour myself a Jack on the rocks and lean against the bathroom sink, staring into the mirror. My muscles ache from dancing and sliding and grinding and my makeup is smeared. I pull my black hair back in a ponytail and exhale the weight of the night. “You’re real beautiful,” he said, staring up at me with little-boy eyes. His voice is murky water swishing in my head as I fall into a deep alcohol-induced sleep. My head is warm and achy when I wake up to Junior and Momma screaming. I down the remnants of last night’s Jack on the rocks and get out of bed. The ice has all melted so it tastes like whiskey-flavored water. “Billy, please, he’s just a boy. He didn’t mean nothing by it!” Momma is sobbing in the corner of the living room. Billy’s got Junior by his throat, pinning him to the couch. “You rat bastard, filthy fuckin’ son of bitch, you lay hands on my Momma again and I’ll slit your throat.”
Jolted out of my morning fog, I feel like I’ve woken up in a theater. All is dark except for the tragedy playing out before my eyes. I watch it from behind opera glasses. “Listen up, you little skinhead fuck, things are gonna be different around here from now on. No more of this bullshit.” I watch his arm swing back and hit Junior square in the nose. The sound of crunched cartilage and droplets of blood fly from his face. Momma’s curled into a ball, rocking back and forth. “You gonna hit me? Hit me again!! HIT ME AGAIN, YOU FUCKIN’ PUSSY!” Junior’s voice rips from his throat, a mixture of screaming and crying. Something happens. The glass in front of my eyes shatters and I realize I’ve just been standing there in my bathrobe. “STOP IT, YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!” I launch myself onto Billy’s back just as he’s about to take another swing at Junior. I dig my acrylic nails in deep. “Get off me, you little cunt!” He swings back and forth, like a great beast trying to shake a horsefly from its back. Junior gets up and I see his nose is completely busted. His whole face is covered in blood and snot and tears, but he’s got the devil in his eyes. I’m still holding onto Billy’s back for dear life when I see Junior deliver a monster kick to Billy’s balls. Billy collapses and I land on my back hard on the living room floor. I’m not sure how long we all lay there for, Billy curled up in a ball moaning, Junior slumped against the wall, exhausted from the force of his own kick, Momma still crying. I wonder if she saw what happened or if she just covered her eyes and listened to the sound of us. Billy’s moans start to quiet and Momma’s sobs turn to whimpers. She finally sits up and just stares into space for
a while, until Billy gathers the strength to stand and grabs her by the hand, saying:
“Let’s get on out of here, Marlene. Get us a fix.” ***
Cody drives up in a Chevy Tahoe, 2 minutes early, but I have already been there for 20 minutes. After Momma and Billy left there was just too much silence in the house. We sat there on the floor looking at each other for a while, but there was nothing to say. Junior took off with his friends, and I got dressed and left as fast I could. I put on my jeans, the ones that hug my ass, but in a nice way not a skeezy way, and my T-shirt that says “California is for Lovers.” It hugs my tits in a similar way and shows a sliver of my belly. I kept my makeup to just some mascara and lip-gloss. I looked in the mirror, satisfied. The effect was very girl next door. He gets out of the car and opens the door for me. It’s almost too predictable and part of me wants to make fun of him for it, but I don’t.
“Anyways, where to first, captain?” He looks at me with twinkling eyes. He reminds me of a kid on the first day of school. “Well, Yuma may not be Malibu, but we’ve got our own shit going on.” I give him my Jinx smile, but I can’t keep it up. “To the north at once, mate!” I put my hand on my hip and point.
“Aye aye!” He salutes me and starts the engine.
We go far that day. First we go up to Castle Dome, run through the streets, past deserted storefronts that look straight out of a John Wayne movie. He pretends to be a swash-buckling cowboy, bending his knees and hooking his fingers in his belt loops and walking all bowlegged, and I’m the dainty pioneer woman, tying my sweater around my head like a bonnet and batting my eyelashes. Then I take him to the old prison. We wander the low cobblestone buildings and stare into darkness behind iron bars.
“You look nice … in your clothes.” He’s so awkward, I burst out laughing.
“They used to call this place the Hell Hole,” I tell him. “It was one of the toughest prisons in the country ‘cause it’s out here in the Sonoran desert. Cold as fuck in the winter, burning hot in the summer.”
“You like nice in your clothes too, hun.”
“Juvie for a month for jacking booze from Rite Aid when I was fourteen. No hard time though. You?” I ask him even though I’m pretty sure this is as close to a correctional facility as this boy has ever gotten.
“Oh. Yeah. Friend got it for me.”
“I grew up in California. Malibu.”
“It’s beautiful there.” He stares out into space for a little while, lost in dreams of fancy houses and sunsets over the Pacific no doubt.
“You ever been to prison?” he asks me.
“I got put in the drunk tank once. Got pulled over for a DUI.”
“Dumbass.” I smile at him.
I show him solitary confinement. It’s a dungeon with the words “Dark Cell” above it. There’s a narrow doorway into what seems like miles and miles of darkness. “This is where they would send the fuck-ups. No
light and no human contact except for getting your food tray for like weeks and weeks.” “I’d rather die,” he says, quietly. “You’d probably get used it to after a few days,” I reply. We cut across the grounds until we reach an empty spot overlooking the banks of the Colorado. Everything is dry and brown, but at the river’s mouth there are trees that bloom lush and unapologetic. We sit down in the sand. He fiddles with dead sticks.
into the driveway, he gives me a kiss on the cheek. I’m grateful Ray or Miss P or Lala isn’t outside. “Thanks for showing me around, Jinx.” He brushes a piece of hair away from my face and tucks it behind my ear like guys do in the movies. I can see it in his eyes that he wants to kiss me. “Anytime. I’ll see you soon, hun.” I turn away smiling and get out of the Tahoe. “You take care of yourself now,” he shouts after me.
“So why do you do it?” he asks me. “Do what?” I reply, even though I know what he means. “You know, take your clothes off.” I laugh. It seems so obvious. “For the money, why else?” He nods and I see him mulling this over. When we finally get back on the highway the sun is starting to dip below the Gila Mountains. “Where do you live? I should probably take you home now, huh?” He says it like an older brother or a dad might, in a protective, “it’s past your bedtime” kind of a way, not like he’s trying to get rid of me.
*** On my drive home, I put on Sheryl Crow and turn it up loud. I roll down the windows of Dad’s old Bronco and drag my fingers through the hot air. But as soon as I pull into the driveway I know something is wrong. The afternoon’s cacophony has faded into absolute silence. At first I don’t even see him sitting there when I walk in the door. Junior’s sprawled on the couch looking like a fucking zombie, his gangly legs and arms spread out like he’s melting into it. There’s a fifth of vodka in his hand and he’s staring at a crack in the wall like he might seal it up with his eyes. It has been a long time since I have seen him this still. “Hey, you. Seen a ghost or somethin’?” I walk over and give him a nudge.
“Just take me back to the club.”
“You gonna dance now?”
“Nah, I’m meeting a friend.” We don’t say anything for the rest of the drive. But when we’re about 5 minutes from the club he puts his hand on my leg. He gives it a squeeze and then rubs his hand back and forth twice, not like he’s trying to get me off, but like the way you might pet a dog. When we pull
“Momma.” Tears rush from his eyes. “What?” I almost scream it. “What do you mean, gone?” “The bitch is dead!” It’s a scream-cry, like the sound he made when Billy’s fist collided with his nose.
“But I don’t understand! She was here – she was here like a few hours ago!” My head starts to spin and I drop into a crouch for fear I might fall over. The dirty carpet is a kaleidoscope and I grasp at the fibers. “I went to find her,” the words tumble out of him. “After they left. I didn’t want her with that piece of shit. I went down to the parking lot behind the K-Mart where all them dirty tweakers hang out.” “Oh fuck, Junior! What did you do? What the fuck did you do?” Now I’m the one screaming. I grab him by his hoodie and shake him. “I didn’t do nothin’! He shoves me. “She was dead when I got there. They had her lied out in the middle and they were all dancing around her body like some kind of sick hobo funeral. That fucker Billy had already hit the road.” I sit down. “What happened?” My throat is raw and it comes out like a whisper. “Did he kill her?” The things I’m gonna do to that Billy if he killed my Momma. I hope he appreciates his balls because he’s not going to have them for much longer. “One shot too many, they told me. He fixed her up with a monster hit. She said she wanted to see stars. Her heart couldn’t take it.” *** Epilogue We sit there for a few more hours taking swigs off the bottle before we wordlessly start shoving our stuff into duffels. I pack T-shirts, some leggings, my Chucks, an old sweatshirt, and the rest of Momma’s carton of Marlboro Reds. Junior wants to take his Nazi poster but I tell him hell no, and he’s too tired to fight me. It’s past midnight when we get in the Bronco. As I pull onto the highway, the rush of cement under our wheels reminds me of the friction of Cody’s touch. I
imagine him going into Juicy’s to find me, to ask if I want to go for a ride in the Tahoe, or go sit by the river again, and Miss P telling him that I’m gone, gone without a word. “Where we goin’, sis?” Junior’s question jerks me back to reality. “I dunno,” I say, “maybe west. How about California?”
Piece featured pages 26-27: Genie’s Father by Matthew Magnusson Woodcut, 22’’ x 30’’ Opposite Page: Flows by Paula Helmstedt Mixed Media, 24’’x36’’
Two Best Friends on a Dock by Laruren Hodkiewicz
There were cool pockets of shade next to our swampy stoop. I ran my bare toes on the grainy wood, its gray strands crisp from July heat. I remember the glimmer in your teeth, their carnivorous sparkle. It leaked through your outsides, seeping from your eyes, your golden curls, your meaty hands. You were a sheath of magnetic hope. I sated your fleshy thoughts as I ran down the planks, skin simmering in the sunlight. You watched my shoulder blades expand and fold, watched me lay back on my elbows, hair thinly veiling my shoulders. I wore your temptress’ costume as I tilted my chin back and challenged your stare, the powerless pet I’d come to love. I knew you couldn’t notice the flecks of pond scum floating past, the murky film of guilt and need that blanketed our lake. I knew you thought the whole thing was romantic, some traditionally savage indulgence that caused you to wet your lips and beg for permission. You dragged the mud with you in thick prints, lake water seeping through wooden seams with each heavy step.
Brothers by Matthew Magnusson Mix Medium 42’’x42’’
God on My Side
by Lauren Hodkiewicz
If you would have asked me then, I’d have said that I had God on my side. You know, not on the brain or in the gut, or on the inner palms, but on the side. Like, no, thanks, I’ll just have some God on the side, if you know what I mean. Put God in a little tray next to the steamed carrots and the complimentary coleslaw. God on the side is good with some pulled purity, with some steamed guilt and savagery, with some Saved stew. Are you Saved? Nah, man, not today. Thanks, though. Save me later. Save me now. Get Saved today! Pay for heaven tomorrow! I’ll just get Saved tomorrow. For now, I’m hideand-go-seeking around Jesus, asking Mary to take my cover and hide me in her virgin blue cape. She’s the Virgin Mary, you know, the Big One. The Virgin title is not something to take lightly. I used to parade my virgin rights around the playground, yelling, “I’m a Virgin, too!” and wearing my holy badge of honor. Honor thy sister and thy brother; honor thy verse by kneeling and standing and chanting to the perfume of the old and wise. Incense makes me gag. We used to say Tony was the lucky one for passing out during the Stations of the Cross. It’s like an assembly line: Christ gets Condemned, Christ gets Hung on the Cross, Christ Dies, Christ is Risen. Then silence. We’ll start again next Friday, with our guardian angels on our necks and Satan whispering heretics into our ears that cause us to giggle and hide our eyes in our palms, deep in prayer. In prayer, I had God on my side. The scoreboard was all, God: One, Devil: Zero, because God would always win out in the end if you said so in your mind. God was on my side.
Learning French by Lauren Hodkiewicz
We respond with sounds. A means uh; E means a. This is the language lab. This is where we learn the difference between avec and sans. I know where I stand. I rub my fingers together, making my fortune. You can be one of them if you swallow your bones and eat frog, bathe in Van Gogh, and under-appreciate spaghetti. Be a blue jay, but don’t be a cock. Don’t push your travel in their face, like look at where I’m from. They hate your jeans and your muffin-top, even if denim is antique and really a city in France, really theirs. If you have to ask, you’re not dans. You’re not nasal enough for their thought, not intellectual enough for their vertu. This is what you’ve been told on TVs, channeling your prescripted view. We respond with ideas. A French heart is vieux, but not dead and awry. Stripped of self loathing, but sprinkled with glitz.
Nausea by Matthew Magnusson Mix Medium 36’’x48’’
On Rain or Under It by Sean Reichard
There should be, when it rains, when the rain, flowing treble, slick over green grey, yellow purple, red blue tan, gold and silver, all the modern creviced sconces over everything terrestrial there should be, for all of us, a snap of remembrance, of a scene we’ve played out, since time immemorial, before London Fog and oilskin, before memory was silver print or Renaissance paint or church murals codified on Christ or even the scrawlings of a cave wall when our dim receding ancestors played a game called: “Fuck fuck fuck, water’s falling from the sky!” The point is: nobody ever saw this world coming.
Gutter Tears by William Psilos
The gun’s in the rainspout with the wet leaves, dry heaves, and little trees growing. The water flows down the wall, dripping without slowing. The gray color of the sky does not suggest for whom or by or give a sense of why or stand a chance at night. We are made of the bones of houses past and trees and leaves and grass. The bones in the stones and rocks and wood outside they murmur, “Atone, atone, be good,” and ringing and peals and petals of flowers the summer ends in hours. We are made of the bones of pain before beautiful poison mushrooms grow on things we adore.
Forming by Jennika Bastian, Acrylic on Paper, 36’’ x 48’’
Picture Taking at Dusk on Highway 60
by Phillip Balistriere
The sun hovers above the tree line behind me, casting off a shadow that stretches my body out into the shape of the tall, lean man I always wanted to be. One that is towering over the roadside gravel and reaching across a weed filled ditch, and wandering off into a golden cornfield. Chichuck The camera shutter snaps shut and springs open, playing catch and release with the scenery and I look down at the image on the LCD screen, smeared with finger prints and dots from where my nose has pressed against it every time I look through the view finder. “Nope.” I delete the image. The color is too bright and there’s a hint of orange in the atmosphere that isn’t being picked up in the photo. I swap out filters, speed up the shudder, and try again. Chichuck “Still not right.” A semi blows past and the shockwave produced in its wake shakes my car and bends the tall grass forward, as if every stalk is reaching out for it, hoping to catch a ride. I turn my head away and cover it with my free hand, trying to shield my face from airborne dust and grains of sand. Distant in the southeast, storm clouds dump water far beyond the field of corn and I focus in on them, again trying to capture exactly what I see. Dark grays, with hints of yellow, orange, and light blues. Maybe I’ll get lucky and catch the blinding white of a lightning bolt lashing the earth as it breaks free from the sky. Chichuck “Damn it.” I make more adjustments with lenses, light, speed, filters, and continue on, but none of the images are worth keeping. Nothing captures the moment. What I can see is never what I want.
Flavors and Boxes By Zachary Dubey Sitting in an arena, I observe a contest. Between two teams, a “friendly” competition. I notice, however, something peculiar: One team is of ignorance (Conscious or unconscious, it is all the same it is all a problem still) The other acceptance. We entered carrying high expectations. As we are maliciously attacked, we hold our ground and stick to our creeds. I wonder about these ill-willed profanities thrust at my being — why must my kin be ridiculed? Am I not your favorite flavor of humanity? Do you not like the notions I embrace, or my manufacturing, my texture? My upbringing, my creed, my socioeconomic status, my claim to freedom from ignorance — Ah! That’s the rub. We are all human, but you plague us with your boxes: to categorize us by “type”
of human. This one is a bit too. Too dark to be in this box. There is no room for one box, one humanity, united. Are we not human? Have we not forty-six little packets of evidence in each cell that shows we are One species? One world. Granted there are the select few who do not like these boxes, and would wish to set fire to these limiting prisons. As the boxes burn, the souls of humans finally meet. The World feels warmer this way. Do not discredit the plea of my reality. Once we realize that there are real lies in this forbidding world, we can change — Metamorphosis — into a World that transcends barriers and taxing thoughts. I wonder. How doe we eradicate the ignorant gene that has been passed down from generation to generation, building in its superficiality? Building in its severity? There must be room for one box, One humanity, United.
Handcuffs by Margaret Petri, Sterling Silver wiht internal zinc mechanism, 5’’x2’’
Special Thanks Illumination would like to extend a special thank you to John D. Wiley, and to the Lemuel R. and Norma B. Boulware Estate for setting up the Boulware Fund, which funds Illumination each year. Illumination would also like to thank the following people: Jenny Klaila, Vicki Tobais, Andrew Gough, Eliot Finkelstein, Kelli Keclik, Adam Blackbourn, Gary Sandefur, The Font Bureau, Inc., Pamela Oâ€™Donnell, Tom Garver, Elisabeth Owens, Mary Rouse, Jim Jacobson, Ken Frazier, Carrie Kruse, Ron Wallace, Heather Heggemeier and Jim Rogers.
This issue features: Alex Wessel, Alexandra Koelbl, Alexandra Dew, Tommy Partyl, William Psilos, Lauren Hodkiewicz, Zachary Dubey, Sean Reic...
Published on Dec 18, 2012
This issue features: Alex Wessel, Alexandra Koelbl, Alexandra Dew, Tommy Partyl, William Psilos, Lauren Hodkiewicz, Zachary Dubey, Sean Reic...