Pensworth Spring 2016
Pensworth: A Journal of Alumni and Student Writing and Art
New Series No. 13 Spring 2016
Edited by Becky Branham, Student Editor Katelyn Dunne, Student Editor Michael Prewitt, Student Editor Cristy Hall, Faculty Advisor Jamey Temple, Faculty Advisor and Managing Editor
sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta and the English Department University of the Cumberlands
Editors’ Note Pensworth appears annually in the spring. Alumni and students of University of the Cumberlands may submit work for consideration for the next issue by the last Thursday before Christmas break. Submit original poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, photography, and artwork online at www.ucumberlands.edu/pensworth. Visit the website for details on how to submit your work. Since its first issue in 1985, its revival in a “New Series” in 2003, and its current online format, Pensworth has provided an outlet for alumni and students’ creative work, and our thanks go to all who have submitted work to the journal. We believe the current issue once again shows an impressive array of talents. We are proud to publish in this issue the winning manuscript of the University of the Cumberlands annual Creative Writing Award, sponsored by the English Department. Submissions for the Creative Writing Award are accepted in late March and early April. Contact the English Department for submission guidelines. We are also pleased to present the winning piece of University of the Cumberlands annual The Next Generation Creative Writing Award for local eighth grade and high school students. To learn more about this contest, visit www.ucumberlands.edu/pensworth/contests. php.
Front Cover: Bethany Younts, photograph, “The Grass Withers”
Contents Spring 2016
What is the Wind?, Kirstin Handshoe......................................................1 Beginnings, Andee Schuck....................................................................... 3 Father: noun, Barbara Hamilton............................................................. 4 Vincent the Vilest, Mythcah Godsey....................................................... 5 Violet the Violent, Mythcah Godsey........................................................ 6 November, Emily Vander Ark.................................................................. 7 Snow, Andee Schuck................................................................................. 8 Purpose, Mythcah Godsey....................................................................... 9 Days of Wonder, Barbara Hamilton...................................................... 10 My Mind, Rebecca Branham.................................................................. 11
Fiction The Glass Case, Julia Higginbotham......................................................12
Creative Nonfiction Boy at the Tavern Door, David Farmer................................................ 17 Daddyâ€™s Worms, Katelyn Dunne .......................................................... 21 Finally, Barbara Hamilton..................................................................... 22 The Train Stop, Kevin Smith.................................................................. 23 A Gift, Restored, Jolina Petersheim....................................................... 25 Where are they now? An Interview with Jolina Petersheim............... 27
The 2015 Creative Writing Award Winner Morning Slugs, Katelyn Dunne..............................................................30
The 2015 Next Generation Creative Writing Award Winner The Love of a Father, Lorrie Moore....................................................... 37
What is the Wind that blows over the oceans, over the hills, over the flat, dry lands at the edges of the Earth what is the wind, but a force to chill warm Summer days? a nuisance to streak ladiesâ€™ hair about their faces? perhaps itâ€™s only purpose to rustle dry leaves left on empty sidewalks what is the wind, a tangible form of inspiration, awaking thoughts out of slumbering hibernation, to release the heart from idle damnation, or is it the butcher at his slab, cutting, ripping, gnawing through meat, nicking bone callously, to tenderize the choice and discard the tough, sweaty hands working with a sigh and a huff what is the wind, the dasher of hopes or usher of dreams? does it pardon guilty souls with a siren caress, 1
Kirstin Handshoe What is the wind
coaxing tired spirits out of their distress, and existing as nothing more, but nothing less does it chill, like the future or burn, like the past? does it stitch an old wound, or slice a new gash? does it carry prayers of the dead, the ghosts who remained devout, transforming what was once only a dying whisper, into a deafening shout but maybe wind only stirs to question our humanity, silently inquiring the purpose, of the never-ending calamity
Kirstin Handshoe, What is the wind
cold and the climb out of bed can be so hard, but
wise man once told me that with every
beautiful sunrise, is also the beginning of a new world.
Beginnings, Andee Schuck
Father: noun (11.21.44 ~ 5.21.07) 1. First hero to the heart of a daddy’s girl esp. to me 2. Old Spice mixed with Beechnut tobacco and stronger with Ancient Age. / 100-proof sweet tenderness mingled with rage, / & later…regret. / From Daddy’s lap of tranquility to the cognitive dissonance created with every bang of the soupspoon. / 3. Abba Father strongly supplants, / permeating life’s particles until / salty tears taste and tumble. / I cry, heaving and shrieking / I cry out/ O God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Barbara Hamilton, Father: noun
two poems by Mythcah Godsey
Vincent the Vilest I play my violin with my feather quill pen dipping my tunes in your ink felty tips of gratitude ambiance everywhere on downy notes putting you to sleep putting me to sleep finally on time for once
Mythcah Godsey, Vincent the Vilest
Violet the Violent You are a stringed ensemble sounding off at once with its ethereal sound and concise accents stirring panic the good kind inside somewhere past cluttered clefts that get knotty and strung out lulling me awake and ready
Mythcah Godsey, Violet the Violent
November Old Catholic classroom, no longer warm from yesterdayâ€™s sunshine, but chilly and gray like my cable knit sweater. The smelly dust of old chalk and years filters beside the blackboard affixed to the wall long before, now disused. Students roam florescent halls to peek inside open doors then leave, embarrassed. Yellow trees embrace the building, muffling the sound of exhaust. I lick my lips, mouth dry from so much conversation.
Emily VanderArk, November
Snow falling making sidewalks glitter like diamonds in the light. Wind blowing growing wicked in relentless temperament and height. Breath crisp frosted lifting skyward in uncontrolled and lovely highs. Snow melting reminding me good things never last. Andee Schuck, Snow
Purpose I am the Bullet Ant taken over by Cordyceps put me in your Petri dish scrutinize and dissect me fully watch me squirm with confusion no longer my own You will find me latched at the top of your Inuksuk waiting for fungus to erupt from my head Finally I have value
Mythcah Godsey, Purpose
Days of Wonder Chalky toes stump into plush carpets of verdant green grasses as serene stillness gives space to wonder under an ocean of blue skies. Cotton-candy clouds take their time today to parade exotic animals on display. Animal cracker shapes spin and soar in scenes surreal. Giraffes jump to the ground and land on a clover, then, onto the next one over until overgrown fencerows festooned with flowers are chomped by puffs of cotton come to earth, bleating through the hours.
Barbara Hamilton, Days of Wonder
My Mind Is like tetris. Chunks and shards of data F A L L From my ears and eyes, waiting while my brain bounces backandforth backandforth reaching out with tiny hands to Snatch it all up. Place the fragments comfortably together. Little boxes that line up just rightâ€Ś Sometimes Those little spindly legs of my brain get tired Chasing after shards of information. The bits of evidence begin to fall faster Pile up. Precariously hazardously unstably aboutâ€Ś Then The right piece comes along. And just in time my brain dances onto the scene. The fixations of my mind are seized and fitted until everything is as translucent as it was before.
Rebecca Branham, My Mind
the glass case
GLASS .Press your hand up, touch the forbidden numbness if you dare. My sincerest apology for the inconvenience I have delivered upon you; this “numbness” has no definition. I can only elaborate through the experience of the box I have on my own. However, this pressing “sin” is often muffled and seemingly cured by a pop of a daily pill. AWARENESS .You’re in a glass box. Breathe in and out, don’t let the claustrophobia set in my dear. What’s that sensation? Is that the tip of your nose begging to be scratched? Or is it a bug eating his way through the surface of the soft tissue? Wouldn’t you like to reach up and run your silver fingernails over the agonizing annoyance? Aren’t the primal parts of your brain begging your eyes to let you, at least, watch this magnificent feast? Regardless of the answers, the box doesn’t care. Don’t be so ludicrous and metaphorical; a box is simply a box. Boxes don’t have brains, or parts, or hearts, or the “feelings,” or the “emotions.” Boxes simply take what is inside of them to be what they actually are, a container. THE FILM .Your warm, nervous breath fogs up the surface. It creates a white film on the invisible boundary making it laugh back in your face. Who is the fairest now? They forget that in all the other stories. They explain that her delicate lashes are closed shut; however, they use that version so they don’t scare the children. In truth, she is encased fully comatose, completely aware, yet is unable to move even a twitch of her little, piggy toes. .The film says, “You do not deserve to see. You are not clever enough, your Julia Higginbotham, The Glass Case
ideas are unoriginal. Your waist is not tempting enough to me, nor anyone else for that matter. Look how frail you are with your breathing in and out.” Eventually that will kill you; you’ll just run out of air. “My life is so short lived though!” You’ll bargain with death best you can, “At least let me die tragically! I want to die a death much more complex and heroic, not so… quiet.” .A salty hotness rises in your eyes, the film is right. Your weakness is so trivial that your own juvenile eyes refuse to let you see. .The white, muggy film challenges, “Come on, baby, don’t you want to put up a fight? Don’t you want to see what the world holds for you?” THE BUG .You take another breath; you know there is no use, and there is no escape. The bug on the end of your nose is now full of your oily, wet flesh. He lies back
You take another breath; you know there is no use, and there is no escape.
and helps lift his own leg up over the other, crossing them like a true gentleman. He slowly rises up his hairy chin and howls wildly at the moon. .“What a fine dinner.” He hums to himself, “What luck it is for me to feast on such a divine meal.” This bug has had many different meals in his lifetime; after all, he is a ripe old age for such a creature. He is named after a long line of dung beetles or scrawny
ants, or any other curse that may come to mind. This bug is the very snake that slithered through Eden to reason with Eve about produce. .“Seeing you there makes me so very hungry, give me a bite of that young curve,” the bug suggests, and then demands. .You wrinkle your nose up trying to move it away from his grinning teeth. Your arms are stuck down to your sides; this glass box won’t permit movement. .That is the thing about bugs, they are always starving for something more. They crawl, and creep, and scamper about the place, dark or light. In the floor of the woods little Gretel cringes with fear at the mosquito’s needle, the spider’s
Julia Higginbotham, The Glass Case
long and hairy legs, and the larvae’s thousand teeth smiling round and wide. All the while Hansel runs up to his poor sister with any bug in cupped hands, “Look what I found!” PROTECTION .“Maybe you shouldn’t provoke the bugs,” as though it is really your fault, “There are precautions you can take to prevent them, you know? Wear long sleeves and cover your ankles, don’t play in the woods or go out at night, and invest in a bottle of Ode De Buggs bugspray to carry at all times.” .Yet this friendly fiend is what now has your royal, red blood dripping from his bearded lips. Three drops fall down to stain the white, cotton dress. No need to cry dear child, this little creature only needed your flesh momentarily, he promises to return it. This won’t be the last; this fat fellow will be hungry again soon. When your dear friend the bug gorges himself to death you will only have momentary relief. The others will find their way into the glass case the same way the last one did. .One will follow the next, and then the next, and then they will wolf down your porcelain skin. They gormandize that first thin layer, oh what’s it called? Then they will swim through the hot streams of red and fill your long, golden hair that was bleached from the tower’s sunlight. They will wiggle their bodies into the flesh of your muscles, tearing the veins away from the bones. The hollows underneath your eyes will sink lower and lower until the crawling movements of creatures underneath the thin layer of skin will be able to be clearly seen. .Oh! The conversations they will have in the dark, damp area. “This one isn’t near as tasty as the one I had last week.” THE CASE .How does one end up in the box? No one really knows, you just wake up in the box. Maybe you are the promised firstborn child to an unpronounceable name. You could’ve been dancing with your eleven sisters the night before, until the solider ruined the great fun. Then you see a flash of memory of seven little circus midgets, with beards and spandex. No! That definitely can’t be how you got Julia Higginbotham, The Glass Case
in this state, so you continue to whistle in your head through the possibilities. All that matters is that it is the people put you there did it, “For your own good.” They force fed you the apple, pricked your finger with the spindle, slipped off your glass slippers from your feet to keep you from running away, and lowered you inside. It doesn’t matter what is outside of the circumstances of this glass, this is your dim, gray world now. THE AWAKENING The white film dissipates and the bugs scurry away. Your chest rises and falls with each breath and the dust of fresh fallen snow sweeps across your face. There are eyes everywhere, ready to eat you up. This darling with side swooped hair is kneeling beside your precious box. What is this? Is this death? You didn’t expect the death angel’s eyes to be so far apart on his head. You also didn’t expect his wide, green grin to stretch ear to ear. You are taken aback by the fact that once he settles upright he belches so gracefully, it almost sounds like a reptilian gesture. .He opens his mouth about to speak the spell that seals your fate; that’s when you sit up. You reach your long, wicked finger out and press it against his parting lips. You shake your hair down over your shoulders, now silvery gray from time in the box. One hundred years will do these things to the human body. You swing your legs over this bed and reach your arms up high, pressing the zapping magic through your fingertips. A quick, lazy yawn and a shimmy of your bust and your eyes are clear of the audience once standing before you. Up on your tip toes you go, a little wiggly at finding your new legs. You put one leg in front of the other, a newfound grace that courses through your veins, making you grin. ........................................................... The dark shadows ahead carry immeasurable promises of what the future may hold. You
Julia Higginbotham, The Glass Case
never find your happily ever after, and that makes you happy for ever more. Your possibilities are ever changing, and in the woods you will spend the rest of your days. The story is yours to make with the supplies you have. A drop of this, a pinch of that, a bit of doubt, a spell of depression, a spark of tragedy, a dab of ambition, a hint of romance, and dash of rebellion, drop it all into the big black pot. It’s a celebratory brew for shattering the glass and waking up to life. The furry animals rise up their assorted tea cups and the fairies raise their dainty cupped palms. Here’s to you for not only surviving, but for creating an unyielding story. Here’s to the witch that is in us all.
Julia Higginbotham, The Glass Case
Boy at the Tavern Door David Farmer
t had been many years ago on a bright summer morning that we had parked in the large graveled parking lot of The Big Owl Tavern. My father had gone inside to drink and I had remained in the car to read comic books and eat a Hershey bar. I had not noticed the small boy sitting on the wide steps of the tavern until he jumped up and smiling broadly, raised a hand high in greeting as he walked quickly to my window of the car with the quick steps of one greeting an expected guest. I recall little of his appearance except that he was pale, thin, and about my own age of nine or ten and wore a too large soiled tan cap—a man’s cap—that came down to his eyebrows when he tilted his head back to talk. And talk he did; a real chatter of which I remember only a few words but they were words that even then had piqued a glimmer of interest within my mainly indifferent awareness. While alluding to some event he had either recently experienced or now anticipated, the boy had said parenthetically and with some emphasis, “…..but not with these people I’m living with now…” That he had lived with other “people” and was now living with different “people” was to me somehow suggestive of a life possibly of excitement and unusual experiences; a life somehow apart from the ordinary restrictions, disciplines and boredom of a boy in a traditional family. In my youthful shy self-absorption and reticence, I’m certain I had not in any manner reciprocated to his word fueled overtures of friendship, as I then much preferred my own company to others and would have said nothing to encourage his presence or elabora-
David Farmer, Boy at the Tavern Door
tion of any part of his narration. I did not then have the empathy for or curiosity about others and it was probably my obvious indifference to his prattle that soon caused the boy, maybe tiring under the summer sun, to end his chatter and return to the tavern steps, sit, and stare into the piney woods across the road. It would certainly not have been my nature to invite him into the car to share a square of Hershey and read a comic book as we waited for our individual departures. I distinctly recall the boy sitting on the tavern steps as we drove away, because as my father had turned the car to leave we saw the boy raise a skinny arm high in a wave of farewell, smiling wide as if our brief association had been one of mutual enjoyment. I doubt my own response had been no more than a puzzled stare. My father had given a quick wave in It would certainly return, smiled bemusedly around his ciganot have been my rette and said in a jovial tone, “Who’s your nature to invite him buddy?” into the car to share To which I do recall that I dully replied, a square of Hershey “He ain’t my buddy.” and read a comic As I came upon the remnants of The book as we waited Big Owl those few remembered words spofor our individual ken variously by the three of us formed a departures. bittersweet recollection of that day and the boy waiting at the tavern door. As I pulled my car onto the trash filled area around the shell of The Big Owl, in my free form thoughts the image of the boy who had been sitting on the steps was most vivid. He had seemed so peculiar and inappropriately cheerful at the time, wanting of some affiliation, and now, after my years of accumulated insights and experience, he had become even more of an enigma as I sat parked at the site of our meeting. Large fragments of the dull grey steps where he had sat were visible within the weeds. A jumble of old tires, cans, bottles, and broken furniture extended far into the thick bramble behind the structure. It was summer. Fat green flies buzzed at the car windows. To avoid interstate monotony, I had been driving towards the hometown of my childhood on an old winding road that decades earlier had been a main route though the mountains. Time and I-75 had reduced the road of population and activity and all along the buckled blacktop there remained abandoned country stores, garages, cafes, and other decrepit structures of former commerce that gave David Farmer, Boy at the Tavern Door
evidence of man’s past activities. To one who had experienced them in life these ramshackle ruins with faded signage were living documents, haunting in their evocations of human habitation and presence. Certain voices, long forgotten, were vividly recalled unbidden as I cruised by the shambles of an old restaurant or gas station visited in my youth. Thus it had been in such a ruminative state that I had unexpectedly came upon and stopped at the old tavern and began to think of those Saturday mornings with my father and that particular morning and the voluble boy with a large cap. So overgrown was the roadside that the old tavern appeared as an organic part of the woodlands, as if having grown up from the soil as part of the surrounding foliage. Within the tangle of vines, limbs, and briars that girdled the dirty white walls of the place, there was the large, faded, cartoonish black painted image of a big owl, it’s large exaggerated black eyes seemingly staring through the vines towards the road, all of which gave a sinister forbidding aspect to the scene. Bullet holes dotted the picture of the fat owl. Blackbirds and wrens picked and flapped among the freshest of the garbage dumped along the crumbling walls. It had become an almost Saturday morning ritual for my father and me to drive to The Big Owl Tavern. In town we would stop at the drug store, he would give me a quarter, I would buy comic books and a Hershey bar, then there would be about a twenty-mile drive in the country to The Big Owl where I sat in the car nibbling the candy bar, reading comic books and waiting. The noise of profane rowdiness and country music came through the opened windows if a large crowd were within the tavern, as there often was, even before noon. I had rather enjoyed those somewhat covert interludes alone with my usually remote father who was always more jovial and talkative on the drive home. Though even then I suspected my companionship was mainly an attempted foil to mother’s abiding resentment at his usual commencement of a weekend of intemperance rather than an effort at some paternal bonding. Now decades later, parked among the shards and rubble of the former parking lot, I idly mused on those trips to the tavern and my meeting the boy in the brown cap. And inspired by the isolation of the moment and sense of passing time, I wondered what had been his life. He had been so inappropriately innocent and friendly. And what of his vague reference to “…these people I’m living with now.”? that had briefly caught
David Farmer, Boy at the Tavern Door
my interest and left so much unsaid, intimating for him a life different from that lived by other boys. Who were “these people”—a “people” that would leave a child sitting alone outside a beer joint and, given the likely duration of his wait, a child who would likely have a precipitous departure in a car driven probably by someone drunk? Why was he no longer living with the former “people”? Was there some defect of character or unusual circumstance requiring a change of “people”? Had there been a series of “people”? Were there to be more “people”? Had he a choice of “people”? Were there no parents? And so on. Now informed by time’s passage about the vagaries of humankind and the precariousness of living and my too often speculative thoughts of the past, I wondered as to the life far forward of that boy who sat on the tavern steps. His life had not been happy, of that I was almost certain. I suspected it had been an eventual childhood where he did not again smile so much or talk with such innocent enthusiasm to strangers as he had that day standing at the car window. I considered it probably a life later fraught with anxiety, fear, stress, disappointments, and disillusionments and maybe abandonment. And loneliness. I was almost certain that had been his future. Because I had a very good idea of a young boy’s future when his “people” start drinking before noon.
David Farmer, Boy at the Tavern Door
Daddy’s Worms My dad keeps a worm farm in the basement. He hides them from my mom under the dusty pinball machine. She doesn’t like clutter. He went on Craigslist to buy a special worm-growing box, and he blends the black trapezoidal trough in with the other paper boxes banished amongst the cold tile floor in an unvisited, underground dungeon. He says they’re for composting, that they’ll make the soil richer so he can be the backyard farmer he’d always dreamed of being. But he never uses any of their castings. They accumulate in the bottom tray of their holder, they’re never removed. Abandoned. Now he’s breeding catfish.
Katelyn Dunne, Daddy’s Worms
Finally Barbara Hamilton I’m sorry about that time I didn’t open my mouth. I’m sorry that it took so long for you to open yours. A lifetime of chaos and pain that you tried to drown in an Ancient Age half-pint that turned into a pint until it was a regular fifth. Glug-glug, and the amber liquid would go down rough and your rage would come out twice as rugged. That’s when you’d explode all over the house, mostly at mom, but in my vicinity. What’s the matter? That’s when you erupted at her. You call this gravy? What is this slop? You expect me to eat this? I can’t believe you still don’t know how to cook after all these years. You’d throw the spoon across the room with a string of slurred curses mingled in between the grey splatter left all over the walls: And I’m the one who was always left to clean up the mess you made. I’m sorry, I said, and I said it again and again, and we’d continue on with the charade that we were one happy family who had normal meals together. We’d go out and you’d go across the double yellow lines off and on, until you loudly stumbled through the restaurant doors, me leading the way for you to a chair so others wouldn’t notice any more than necessary until I would apologize for getting in your way to the table, and I would apologize that they didn’t have the type of steak you wanted, and I would apologize that it was country fried, but they did have the gravy you liked, remember? Then I would apologize for the way the lights were directed toward the table, and I’d say sorry that we had come to this restaurant, I’d say so sorry, but didn’t you remember we came here because it was my favorite, though not really, until here we are now after all—you don’t remember about that lifetime of words, finding these words you say you always wanted to say. I’m sorry; I knew you had those words all this time. Right there; just below the surface, ready to boil over out of your white-hot heart. I’m sorry it took me so long to say something to you not knowing it would be your last time to finally say something to me. Barbara Hamilton, Finally
Kevin Smith, The Train Stop
essay and photograph by
Train Stop The slow Soviet-era train approached another small community in the steppes of Central Asia. The small mud-brick and stash houses were situated in the dry and barren ground, amidst a few people walking alongside a donkey pulling a cart. As the train approached the platform, people were already eager in place, ready to sell to us hard boiled eggs, cooked potatoes, or even bundles of wood for the train attendants who would use them to heat water for tea. Ours was one of only two trains that traveled along this route each day. At this station, we had only a two minute stop. It left little time for all the people who lined up to sell what they had. Most people on the train didnâ€™t even bother getting off the train for such a short stop. I imagined the lady I saw, who might have spent most of her morning peeling and cooking her potatoes, even adding her favorite seasoning. I wondered if she might have even prayed and asked God to help her sell something today. And just in that moment, as the conductor blew his whistle and the train slowly started away, I noticed that no one had come off the train where she stood. For a brief moment as she began to walk perhaps home along the platform with her friends, I saw the disappointment in her face. She hadnâ€™t sold anything this train. Maybe next time â€” maybe the next train.
Kevin Smith, The Train Stop
A Gift, It started out, as in all things in this present age, with a YouTube video. I was folding a pile of whites when my husband beckoned me over to his computer and said, “I’d like to do this one day.” A woman was turning a watermelon into a cake, covering the chilled fruit with a scrim of icing and festooning the top with fresh berries and chocolate sprinkles. Of course, this made us hungry for watermelon. I said, “There’s some in the garden.” “They’re probably not ready yet.” “We could check.” Salivating, we stared at the video and then got up and put on our shoes. My husband used the light on his phone to guide us across the wet yard, but the stars were so clear overhead that they shone like miniature beacons. In the garden, we worked our way around the sprawling vines, touching the dark-green skin of the round sugar babies, the striped, oblong North Carolinas, the other varieties whose names we forgot to jot down on the pieces of wood wedged down into the soil next to the plants. We selected the largest North Carolina. My husband twisted it off the vine and then dropped it. The fruit tumbled downhill, and we laughed like teenagers—carefree and intoxicated by the promise of a simple wish, fulfilled. He gathered the watermelon again, and we trudged back up to the farmhouse. Everything dark and silent, our girls asleep. We kicked off our muddy shoes at the door and walked into the kitchen. My husband withdrew a knife from the stand and sank it into the rind. It didn’t split with a satisfying pop. Instead, the watermelon gradually broke open, and we could see the soft pink flesh stippled with black seeds. We smiled at each other as the sticky juice covered the countertop. I took half of the
Jolina Petersheim, A Gift Restored
Restored Jolina Petersheim watermelon and used a spoon to eat the heart. He took a spoon and ate the heart out of his. It wasnâ€™t ripe. It was barely even sweet. But it didnâ€™t matter. The magic wasnâ€™t in the acquiring but in that moment. That togetherness. Each second, each minute, each hour was a gift that death almost stole from us, and from our girls, and so cherished all the more for its sacred restoration. Standing there, I recalled similar moments this summer: when my husband called me outside to help him chase night-crawlers for his trout fishing trip. How they shot across the ground like lightning when the flashlight beam landed on their slithering, silver-pink backs. How the mud clung to my boots and patterned the hem of my prairie skirt. I recalled the night when we walked across the farm, and my husband showed me the projects he had accomplished: new barn boards, a chicken-butchering station, the raised beds of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, the wall cut into the earth for our greenhouse, the wildflowers growing out of the pillow of moldering hay, and how their vibrant faces were turned up toward the waxing moon. In the kitchen, my husband and I wiped the juice from our mouths, and I gathered the watermelon pieces and stacked them against my chest. I put on my shoes again, crossed the yard, and walked down to the chicken coop. I opened the gate and set the watermelon in the run, a treat for my ornery chickens in the morning. And then I walked back up to the darkened farmhouse, where my two young daughters were sleeping and my husband would sleep soon, next to me. My eyes brimmed with gratitude, and I prayed that I would hold each moment in my hands and in my heart, never forgetting, always remembering, that each second is a gift, restored, pouring through the hourglass of this blessed, fleeting life.
Jolina Petersheim, A Gift Restored
Where are they now? Every year we hear about how our past contributors continue to impact the literary world. As much as we share in their joy, we thought our readers would like to hear more about these contributions, too. In this first installment, we interviewed Jolina Petersheim, a 2008 University of the Cumberlands graduate who double majored in Communication Arts and English with a creative writing emphasis. Jolina’s debut novel The Outcast became a Christian fiction bestseller. She now lives with her husband and two daughters in the “Driftless Region of Wisconsin on a grid-tie solar-powered farm…to get back to our Plain roots by living simply.” Since you first published in Pensworth and graduated from UC, what have you done to continue your writing? My debut, The Outcast, a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter set in an Old Order Mennonite community in Tennessee, was published through Tyndale House on June 1, 2013. I’ve since published The Midwife, released on June 1, 2014, and the first installment in a series, The Alliance, will release on June 1, 2016; this story asks the question: Would you sacrifice your beliefs to protect your family? Tell us about a current project. I am currently working on the sequel to The Alliance, The Divide, which is due to my publisher on April 1, so I’ve been putting in some later nights, but there’s nothing like the rush of becoming fully engrossed in a story world. I love it!
Where are they now?
What’s the biggest difference between your writing process in college and now? Well, the biggest difference, I would have to say, is working around the demands of my precious and spunky fouryear-old and eighteen-month-old daughters, but I was a resident assistant in Gillespie for three years in college, so I became accustomed to working around the demands of others (ie: trying to write short stories or papers in the office). Such environments force you to tap into the story when you get the chance rather than waiting for a muse. So I’m grateful for that training ground. Have any of your fellow UC peers read your work post-college? Actually, three of my English buddies, Carl and Susie Roberts and Chris Peters, read my second novel and gave me some incredible feedback. As of now, that novel isn’t published, along with the novel preceding it, but that experience (again, working around the hours I was putting into our family’s outlet grocery store) were invaluable. How have those connections helped your process? Since I’m a very social creature, I enjoy knowing I’m not alone in the very solitary process of writing.
Where Are They Now?
Why do you think some writers find success and others do not? Again, I think it goes back to working when you get the chance rather than waiting for inspiration. Honestly, I’m not always inspired when I begin writing (like last night, when I was tired and just wanted to go to bed with a book), but when I press through, and keep my backside in the chair, eventually the inspiration comes. What has helped you the most? Looking at every little job/experience I’ve had as research: working at a local newspaper in high school, waitressing, running a produce stand, running our grocery store with my husband. It wasn’t always easy, because I wasn’t always able to work in my “area of expertise,” but after I started viewing customers like characters and interactions around me like stories, I found that the creative juices started flowing. It’s really all about having a good attitude and pressing through even during the times when you don’t feel like it. Persevere, my writing friends! What advice can you give to young writers? Read! Read everything you can get your hands on--both the good and the bad (the latter teaches you what not to do). Listen! Listen to the swirl of conversations and to audiobooks. (I listen to audiobooks all the time now that I can’t read as much as I used to, and the language and the stories give me inspiration and remind me why I love my job.) Learn! Never feel like you’ve reached your peak as a writer. Writing is a craft that can’t be fully honed. That’s why it’s addicting! Where can readers follow you? Facebook/twitter/blog, etc.? Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jolinapetersheimauthor/ Twitter: Jolina_Joy Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6803052.Jolina_Petersheim Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/JolinaPetersheim/ Website: http://www.jolinapetersheim.com/
Where Are They Now?
2015 Creative Writing Award Winner, Short Fiction
Morning Slugs Hi, my name’s Alison. I’m only eleven years old. And I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if time will move forward. The day started out normal, just another car ride. We were going to see Daddy. I was tracing the pattern of the teardrops of rain as they cascaded down the car’s window. All I wanted to do was see which one won the race. I guess I was humming to myself because Mommy told me to knock it off, she was trying to concentrate. It was my favorite song. Her and my Daddy would sing it to me when I was little and there was a thunderstorm. It made me not afraid. I pleaded with her to sing with me. It’s raining, it’s pouring. The old man is snoring. I don’t remember if she did or not. It’s funny how one minute everything could be so perfect. Safe and warm and comfortable. Protected. And then the next feel so alone. Unwanted. I only wanted her to sing with me. I don’t know what I did wrong, but I didn’t have time to think about it. I was too busy falling endlessly into the crystal sheddings of the skies. Mommy had told me that I could sit up front with her. Shotgun. She said I could be a big girl, as long as I let her drive through the rain. I guess she made a mistake. It’s funny how time has a way of turning into a bowl of jell-o. The world becomes monotone, the colors all blend together, meshing into one single, slimy creation. You become suspended, lost. Irretrievable. But you don’t care. You’re in a wonderland. The ordinary is given a dash of splendor, a pinch of madness. Time just doesn’t move. It’s the best. I can see Mommy slumped over at the wheel. Her white lacy dress that used to beat like a hummingbird’s wings with each summer breeze is now caged in a nest of red. It’s preventing her from flying away, like she would always do when Katelyn Dunne, Morning Slugs
she had to be the strong one. But I guess that isn’t now. She’s drowning. I wish I could save her. I guess I’m not the strong one either. We were supposed to surprise Daddy today. We were barreling down I-75. We needed to beat the storm, Mommy said. I really think she just wanted rid of me. But I didn’t mind. I just wanted to see Daddy, finally. “Ali!” he would call to me, beckoning me forward, even though he already saw me rushing towards him, arms open as wide as the skies. “Daddy!” I would say, leaping onto him like I was half-frog. “I missed you, baby girl, I missed you!” I would nuzzle up into his neck, my warm breath stinging against his woody aftershave. “I missed you, too.” Mommy would be scowling behind me, making sure I never saw. But she never hid correctly. I always saw her reflection through Daddy’s nerdy glasses. Mommy was always mad that Daddy had chosen his job above us. She loved him. And he gave us up. It was weird not having him at home. But I didn’t mind. I knew he still loved me. And I still loved him. He was following his heart, and I wanted him to, just like he always wanted me to do. “How’re you doing, Ali?” he’d say, setting me down, his hands on my hips as he knelt next to me. “Brilliant!” The smile on my face would put the Georgia stars to shame, that’s what he always told me. He didn’t know that I knew he was quoting Taylor Swift, that was my hilarious little secret. Too bad none of this would ever happen. Each drop of rain seems to come by itself. Drip, drip, drip. They don’t stop falling. Mommy groans. Her mouth is trying to form words, her lips moving in synch with the raindrops, but I’m too far away to hear her whispered plea. I hope she’s saying, “Alison, sweetheart, please be safe. I love you.” But I don’t know. All I can think of is Daddy. I miss him. I haven’t seen him in what seems like forever. Mommy and I were coming to see him all the way from Michigan. I was really excited. He always, always, always has the most spectacular thing planned for my birthday, even though he always, always, always pretends that he forgets I’m turning one year older each and every fall. “Ali,” he’d say. “Yes?” “What are you doing here? Just coming to surprise your old man out of the blue?” “Daddy,” I’d put extra emphasis on the Y and roll my eyes, “you know why I’m here!” When I was younger, I’d put my hands on my hips in a mock scold, just as Mommy did. I’d tilt my head down, lips pouted, a ‘stop pretending, you silly
Katelyn Dunne, Morning Slugs
goose,’ splattered across my face. “Oh, I do?” he’d play along. “Yes!” “Let me guess then, hmmm.” I loved when he’d play these games with me, even now that I know he’s only playing. “The clock’s ticking!” Another thing Mommy would always tell me. I had a habit of always running late for school. And everything. “Okay, okay. Is it Christmas?” “No!” I’d squeal. “You’re silly!” “Is it St. Patrick’s Day?” I’d tell him ‘no’ with my eyes. “Okay, is it Thanksgiving?” “You skipped over it!” “Hmmm, okay. So it’s between St. Paddy’s Day and Thanksgiving. Let’s see,” he’d say, “I know what it is! Fourth of July!” His voice would jump with triumph, his eyebrows hopping almost to the place where his gold curls once touched, before his hair started running up his head exposing a slimy sheen. “Daddy,” I’d always say like I was tired of his game. I never was though. “Oh, alright, alright,” he’d always give in, “it’s your birthday! That’s why you’ve graced me with your wonderful presence.” He’d have a gentle smile that would leap across his cheeks. He’d run his hand through his balding, tousled head of hair. His normally-hard emerald eyes would crinkle at the sides, like the skin of a croaking toad. The sirens are getting closer. The rain keeps tumbling down around me. It’s beginning to pool, just like Mommy’s blood. It’s creating puddles. When one drop falls into the pond, it ripples. Circle after circle after circle. One after another after another. They never stop. They keep adding and adding and adding. An endless cycle. Crimson and crystal. I keep waiting for the red and blue flashes to appear. I keep waiting for help to come. I know Mommy needs it. I know in her head she’s repeating, “Alison, come help me, Alison. Help me. Alison, help me.” But there’s nothing I can do. I’m stuck here. I can’t move. There’s glass everywhere. The windshield broke my fall, but it also broke me. I don’t know if I’ll get to see Daddy tomorrow. Mommy and I are somewhere in Kentucky. The road is winding, we’re lost. I’m lost. A storm is coming. And we were getting so close, too. Just a couple more states then I would get to see my Daddy. I miss him. I just want this rain to be over. I’m tired of the pitter and the patter of the drops. I just want the sun to come, I just want the sun. The sun and Daddy, the sun and Daddy. When will they come? Katelyn Dunne, Morning Slugs
Mommy was going too fast. She was speeding. I don’t think she knew I realized, that I’d always realized. Mommy was excited. We were trying to beat the storm, Mommy kept telling me. And then boom! All I knew was water. The paramedics are here. The tires of their white rectangle trucks had splashed a cascade of water on me. I’m in the street. I don’t hear Mommy sobbing anymore. I wonder what happened. “Ali? Alison, honey, sweetheart. What happened to your eye?” “Oh, I was just being clumsy again,” I’d smile it off. That’s how Mommy always told me to respond when someone asked. Especially when Daddy asked. “You said that last time, Ali. What’s wrong?” His eyebrows would come together like a caterpillar and creases that looked like a bunch of twigs would drown his forehead. “Nothing, Daddy! I’m fine. Promise. Can I have another hug?” It was routine. He’d always say, okay. And we’d go on our merry way. If only he knew. “You’re going to be alright, baby girl, you’re going to be alright.” The paramedic had short black hair that formed curls around her face. It was dripping with water. Her almond skin matched her almond eyes, both shimmered with wetness. She had way too much purple eye shadow on, it made her look like Barney the Dinosaur, especially since her eyeliner was green. Like emeralds. Like Daddy’s. I miss him. I remember the time Daddy told me about how he met Mommy. They met in Paradise. By Fate. They were both on a trip to Chicago. It was at some ecoconvention where they first laid eyes on each other. Mommy with her poofed up orange afro and purple pantsuit, Daddy with his green hippie headband that held his curls back and revealed his similarly colored eyes. They were both supporters of incorporating The Plant into the lives of Chicagoans. Something about aquaponics. Fish and plants, so ingenious. It was really radical at the time. But now it’s changing lives of people everywhere. They stayed in Chicago until they got married. That’s where I was born. We stayed there until Daddy’s radical ideas became too radical. He wanted to start his own hardware store, Henry’s Hammers. He was Mr. Fix-It. But Mommy said it wouldn’t pay the bills, that he was too old to start all over. Mommy tells me they fought all the time. I don’t remember it though. I was too little. Mommy’d always have a big bouquet of chrysanthemums waiting for me the next day anytime she ‘got carried away,’ as she called it. They were always so beautiful, so precious. They were the brightest yellow in the world, more so than the sun. Undestroyed. I don’t remember much. There was a clank, crash, crunch! and then the world became silent. I felt the rain. Everything was dark. Dark and wet. Wet and dark. I don’t know where the car went. All I see are pieces. The cold pavement around me
Katelyn Dunne, Morning Slugs
is drenched in blood. Is it mine? Mommy took me to Michigan after her and Daddy split up. That’s when she started hitting me. I guess she was taking her anger out on me. I was okay with it, though. I still had Daddy to love me. And she was happy. So I sucked it up, like she would always tell me to do if I started to cry. I just missed my Daddy. Daddy stayed in Chicago helping with The Plant for a few years. Then he moved to Georgia. We started the cross-country birthday visits when I turned six, when I started asking where Daddy went. I think Mommy felt bad for me. I wasn’t happy with just her love. I wanted more. I hope she didn’t think I was being selfish. I don’t think Mommy would like that I remember Daddy telling me their story. She was always jealous of our love. I was his girl. He left so long ago. I must have been three, maybe four. She holds I felt the rain. Everything grudges. She always has. But Mommy was dark. Dark and wet. isn’t Mommy right now. She’s different. Wet and dark. I don’t She’s flooded with people trying to yank know where the car went. her out of the car. They had to use the giant cutters that you only ever see on All I see are pieces. The TV on the doors. She was trapped pretty cold pavement around good. I don’t think they’ll ever get her me is drenched in blood. out. I think she’s gone for good. Is it mine? The last time I saw my Daddy he was acting strange. He was wearing warts of worry, that’s what he’d always say to me when I wasn’t smiling from ear to ear. “How would you like to stay with me from now on?” He whispered into my ear, concern drenching him. “What?” My blood ran cold. “Yeah, baby girl, it will be fun! Just you and me. We’d be happy. What do you think? Sound like a plan?” He was smiling so brightly, his hands on my shoulders. I pulled away from his grasp. “You didn’t tell mommy yet? Did you? Did you?” “No, honey,” he reached out and moved the hair off of my right cheek, his thumb gently grazing past the moon-shaped scar that ran from the side of my eye, “not yet. I—” “Good!” I ran back to Mommy, fighting back tears. “Let’s go home,” I told her. She smirked. The nice Daddy-looking lady is standing over me. They keep Katelyn Dunne, Morning Slugs
saying I need more blood. Apparently it won’t stop pouring out of me. But doesn’t my blood know that I need it? Won’t it stay with me? Why doesn’t it love me enough to stay? Well at least it isn’t getting into my eyes anymore, the nice lady dressed as Barney is making sure it doesn’t. I’m glad she is. The blood stings. The rain isn’t getting on me either anymore. They put me inside the ambulance. I guess I started crying for Mommy because they turned me so I could look out at the car. Or at least what was left of it. Mangled metal. I bet it would have been on fire if it wasn’t raining so bad. It would have been pretty, too. The flames would have matched the blood. Time just seems to stop. I don’t remember much. I don’t know much. I’m only eleven years old, after all. All I can focus on is the lady’s hand stroking my matted hair cooing, “it’s going to be alright, baby girl, it’s going to be alright. Baby girl, it’s going to be alright. It’s going to be alright.” I wish she would stop that. It just makes me think of Daddy. And I know Daddy isn’t here. He doesn’t even know we’re coming. We were going to surprise him. My birthday isn’t until November. It’s only July third. We were surprising him. I always wanted to spend Independence Day with him. He had always guessed the Fourth of July when he pretended to forget my birthday. So that’s what we were visiting him for this time. A true surprise. He was going to be so happy. If only we were going to make it. I was his miracle child, that’s what he’d always told me. He told me that him and Mommy tried to give me a little baby brother. I wasn’t what Mommy had wanted. But that it never worked, that they were too old. Even I wasn’t supposed to be here. But that’s why Daddy loved me so much. I was special. Irreplaceable. The rain won’t stop. It keeps accumulating, just like the mess in my room, as Mommy would always tell me. Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle, it seems to scream. But it’s not a drizzle. It’s a storm. It drenched me. But I’m safe now, at least I think, at least that’s what my new Daddy keeps cooing into my ear. But Mommy’s not. She’s still covered. Crimson and crystal, crimson and crystal. That’s the only colors I know. “Alison Newhart! Get your butt over here!” Mommy squawked at me. She had just walked in the door, home from work. She found my daffodil from Daddy. I crawled over to her from where I was watching TV. “Y-yes Mommy?” “I won’t hurt you, you know that. I love you, I love you,” she cooed. Her eyes were like beads. She crouched down next to me and started stroking my hair. “See? Not so bad, is it? To have your Mommy love you?” I was still shivering. The tears streamed down my face. They drowned the scars. They’re wheeling Mommy away now. They finally got her out of the car. I hope the jaws gave her life. They have her on a stretcher. It’s like the one I’m on, but she’s covered up. She must be cold. I know I am. Soaked to the bone. “Why won’t you let me love you, Alison? I just want to love you, that’s all I ever wanted. Why don’t you understand?” Her hand had slowly slid from its place
Katelyn Dunne, Morning Slugs
atop my head onto my cheek. Her caresses were a seduction, like a predator captivating its prey. But I know how she is. Her hand fell away. But it always comes back. The water makes it impossible for anything to breathe. Everything is flooded. Nothing can survive. It’s like a swimming pool. It’s magical. Everything is doused. Like God was trying to put out a fire. I don’t know a single thing that is dry in all of this. But I bet Daddy’s staring at the stars tonight. I hope this storm hasn’t reached him yet. He likes it when it’s peaceful. He gets lonely, he never says it, but I know. So I hope the stars are out in Georgia to keep him company. I hope he stays as far away from Kentucky as possible. I don’t want him to be drenched, too. I want him safe. Safe in the light of the stars. Time still hasn’t righted itself. It’s still jell-o. Suspended, stagnant. Frozen. The storm, though, causes the jell-o to melt. Only a puddle of brokenness is left. Only I’m left. The thunder booms. It shakes. The daffodils on the side of the road are trapped in the flood. They can’t escape. Their beauty and strength are lost. For good. They’re broken. The sky hasn’t stopped leaking water yet. It hasn’t stopped crying. When will the rain go away? It’s like a jungle waterfall. It cloaks the flashing of the red and blue lights. It all starts to fade into darkness. I guess my old man is still snoring. Rain, rain, go away. I feel so bad for the slugs that the rain drowns.
Katelyn Dunne, Morning Slugs
2015-16 Next Generation Creative Writing Award
Short Fiction by Winner Lorrie Moore, East Ridge High School
The Love of a Father Thomas
stepped out of his rusted Ford truck and lit a cigarette. He stroked his salt and pepper beard as he surveyed his surroundings. He closed his eyes, listening to the wind whistling through the pines and the red robins singing their chipper songs. The rhythmic tapping of the woodpeckers rang through the hollow wooded valley. Thomas opened his eyes and exhaled a cloud of white smoke. He watched the haze dissipate into the late afternoon sky. The stone cottage which stood in front of him had been in his family for generations. Thomas had moved to the secluded cabin with his soon-to-be wife Sara in the summer of 1985. He was 32. She was 28. They were happy. For 14 years Thomas would come home, blackened by coal dust, beads of sweat dripping from his brow. Sara would greet him at the door every day, without fail. She would wipe his mouth and welcome him home with a kiss. They would make dinner together, always making sure to include Sara's favorite rolls. They would use the rest of their day to relax on the dock with their feet in the water and to laugh. Thomas could see his prize deer heads mounted on the wall through the window. A column of grey smoke bellowed from the chimney. He was almost at peace until he saw the wooden canoe floating gently on the placid lake. His stomach tied in knots. He took a final draw from his cigarette and threw it to the dirt below. He ascended the steps to his cottage. Lorrie Moore, The Love of a Father
The cottage was an older fashion, which made it charming. It was rustic in a sense. The walls displayed years of hunting and trapping. Elk heads and bass fish were on display across from the front entrance. Hand knitted quilts were draped over the floral couch. The center piece was a rug in the middle of the room with a warm color scheme and intricate patterns; it splayed across the floor, stifling the creaking of the wooden rocking chair that set upon it. Pictures of Sara and Thomas from their wedding day adorned every wall. Thomas remembered the daisies that were weaved throughout her hair that day. They lived two happy decades in marriage before they began to talk about having a child. In the summer of 2005, Sara became pregnant with their first, and last, child. Thomas and Sara were thrilled beyond belief. Sara refused to know the gender before birth. When Sara was in her last trimester, she began losing blood. Thomas rushed her to the hospital, attempting to stay calm for Sara. He didn't succeed. She faded in and out of consciousness as he raced down the dusty road that lead to the city. Thomas shouted at her in an attempt to keep her awake. It was in vain. It was too late by the time they arrived to the hospital. Sara's lifeless body was rushed to the operating room for an emergency c-section. Thomas's daughter was born, alive and healthy. She was his miracle. Thomas's miracle was born on a cold January day into a world of snowflakes and gray. She was only 43 centimeters long and 5.7 pounds, but she was the perfect size to fit into his heart. Her skin was blotchy and her eyes were crusty. Thomas found her perfect. He took her minuscule hand into his and he felt a wave of emotions overtake him. His chest swelled with love. He knew in an instant he would name her Marie. Marie grew older. Her hair was the color of sunrise. When her brown eyes caught in the sunlight they became something otherworldly; flakes of gold danced around her pupils, turning her eyes into warm coco on a winter day. Her teeth were crooked and uneven, a quirk which added to her beauty. Freckles dotted her chubby cheeks. She looked just like her mother. Thomas shook the memories from his head and came back to the present, back to the problem before him. Marie came home weeping again that day. Her golden locks were matted with the blood from her busted nose. Her eye was so swollen Thomas could only see one beautiful brown orb. That was the final straw. Thomas would no longer allow his daughter to return home in this state. That was the last time Marie would cry against her father's shoulder. He was going to do what he had contemplated. He made his decision.
Lorrie Moore, The Love of a Father
Thomas wanted Marie to know that if anyone loved her, it was him. Her happiness and wellbeing was his priority. He would do anything to ensure her future. Thomas loved Marie more than life itself. He would kill for her. She was his whole world. After losing Sara, Marie had become Thomas's only reason for living. Ever since the day she was born his determination to make Marie happy remained, unwavering. He couldn't stand to see her in pain. Thomas couldn't stand to see Marie cry after school. He could no longer listen to her sweet voice repeat the cruel things she had been called that day. Every bruise he found upon her skin was like a shot to his heart. He hated the children that bullied his daughter. He hated the teachers that allowed it to continue. Most of all, Thomas hated Marie's constant sadness. She was far too young to know so much pain. Her heart was far too kind to be shattered so often. Thomas wanted to see Marie happy but nothing seemed to work. No toy, no game, nor song made her happy. He knew no other way to take away her pain. Thomas knew what he had to do and he was filled with dread. He felt numb and empty. He was sitting in front of the fire when the grandfather clock struck eight o'clock. He realized he could no longer delay the inevitable. The longer he waited the harder it would be. For a moment he sat, tracing the line work of the carpet. He began to sob. Thomas never wanted to hurt Marie. He never wanted to put her through more pain than he must. Later that night, after Marie had taken a bath, Thomas pushed a brush through her wet curls. Tears fell from his gray beard and to the wooden floor below. Before he tucked her into bed he hugged her for what felt like an eternity. He only let go when he realized she had fallen asleep listening to his heartbeat. He wondered if she could hear it breaking. After tucking her in, he watched his daughter sleep. He took in her face, memorizing every detail, looking at her the same way he looked at her the day she was born. Her chest would rise and fall with every breath. She only looked content when she slept. He didn't know how he would take his daughter's life. He had tried his best not to think about it. He only did what his first instinct told him to do. His hands wrapped around her thin neck, squeezing. To Thomas's horror, Marie's eyes flew open in shock. She gripped his hands in an attempt to remove them. She tried her best to gasp for air. Thomas heard crunching noises. He released a scream similar to that of a wild animal. He did not weaken his grip. His screams didn't mask the sound of snapping bones, like snapping tree limbs. After the flailing slowed, Thomas couldn't help but to look at her. Popped Lorrie Moore, The Love of a Father
blood vessels had turned her eyes a shade of rose. Marie's skin was the color of fresh cream and her thin lips were a light purple. He thought of how happy she was now that she was free from her pain. Thomas began to speculate what it meant to lose your humanity. He wondered what social standard had to be violated in order to be considered a monster. He decided losing his humanity was easy when it was for the sake of his daughter. Thomas began to laugh, scream, and cry all at once. He felt immense happiness but he also felt a sorrow that rattled him to his core. Yes, Thomas ached. He firmly believed his heart began to no longer beat that day. She was no longer with him but her heart was no longer filled with misery. He didn't care about his happiness, only Marie's. The material of her pajamas matched her lips. By this time, her hair had dried and looked slightly oily. Her eyelids were crusted over with a heavy layer of green matter and the tender flesh that covered her cheeks had begun to sink into her skull. Thomas still found her beautiful. He picked up her small form and carried her to the canoe floating outside. Her head and arms hung limply towards the dirt. Her mouth hung wide open. Thomas thought she looked nothing like him. That's why I adored her so, he thought. She felt heavier than he remembered. Thomas laid Marie into the boat. The water rippled and shimmered in the moonlight. Thomas pushed her bloodshot eyes closed. He walked to his truck and grabbed a red plastic jug filled with gasoline. He poured a generous amount of fuel over his daughter. Her hair reeked of gasoline instead of fruity shampoo. Before he threw in his Zippo, he kneeled down and kissed his dear Marie on the forehead. The kiss tasted the way a gas station smelled. Then he pushed the boat away with his booted foot and watched his reason for living go up in flames. The smell of scorched flesh was awful. It smelled sweet but acrid. It was so pungent it was almost a taste, one that would linger in your mouth a few days after. He watched his daughter's body shrivel and turn the color of coal. Thomas thought of all the tears Marie would never shed. He thought of all the pain she wouldn't have to endure. He knew she was with Jesus. He knew The Father could take care of his child better than he ever could. Thomas felt a release, like a weight was lifted from his shoulders. He would no longer have to worry if his daughter was okay. He watched the boat drift over the water, the light from the fire illuminated the trees surrounding the lake. Smoke drifted into the air. Thomas watched until the boat began to break into pieces and sink into the water. The water was still, as if nothing had ever disturbed it.
Lorrie Moore, The Love of a Father
Contributors Rebecca Branham, Graduate Student Katelyn Dunne, Junior David Farmer, Alumnus Mythcah Godsey, Alumna Barabara Hamilton, Graduate Student Kirstin Handshoe, Junior Julia Higginbotham, Sophomore Lorrie Moore, HS Student Jolina Petersheim, Alumna Andee Schuck, Senior Kevin Smith Alumnus Emily Vander Ark, Alumna Bethany Younts, Senior