Page 1

the creative

writing issue

August 2011

Editor Jessica Ross Contributors Meredyth Herdener William Matthew McCarter Elizabeth Preston James Schifflin Robin Schifflin Special thanks to University of Nevada, Reno Writing Center Ashley Hennefer

A Letter

from the

Editor Hey everyone, Welcome to the first ever issue of the UNR Stellaria! I’m very excited to be working on this magazine; it’s the first time I’ve ever undertaken this sort of project, and it has been thrilling every step of the way. The idea for this magazine started as a conversation between some of the Writing Center tutors. We wondered why there were plenty of outlets to showcase creative writing, such as the Brushfire, but none to display students’ academic work. Thus, the Stellaria was born. We plan to release online issues every month, with one print issue per semester and one creative writing issue per semester. This month’s issue is our creative writing issue. Over the summer, the Writing Center established the Summer Writing Project: each week, we posted a new writing prompt, and students were encouraged to submit their responses to the Stellaria for this first issue. Several of the stories in this issue were submitted for the Summer Writing Project. If you’d like to know a little bit about me (you definitely would), I am currently an English major with a Linguistics specialization, as well as a tutor at the Writing Center. I love reading, writing, playing the piano, and archery…archering? Archering. In my spare time, I tame dinosaurs and teach them valuable skills so that they can become productive members of society. I also love sushi. I’d like to thank everyone who supported this idea, as well as all the contributors who’ve submitted work for this magazine. I’d also like to thank Robin Schifflin for helping me with the design and helping me to keep my sanity throughout this project. I hope you enjoy this issue!

Jessica Ross

Editor/Dinosaur Hypnotist/Writing Consultant

Jealousy by Meredyth Herdener

Jealousy is the acrid smell when you burn your hair It’s the smell of rotting leaves in a barely wet stream It’s the too sweet smell of overpowering perfume Resentment is the smell of a musty room, long unclean It’s the smell of the overused and moldy dishrag It is the smell of unwashed bodies on a crowded bus on a hot summer day Mistrust is the smell of pennies before you puke It’s the smell of someone who has had too much to drink It’s the smell of sulfur from the processing plant two blocks down Bitterness is the smell of burned cookies left too long in the oven It’s the smell of a dusty book for years untouched, unread It’s the smell of ammonia on concrete floors It’s the smell you left behind that I can’t wash from the walls

Summer Writing Project: Describe what you feel right now using your sense of smell. If you feel frustrated, write about what your frustration smells like. Use vivid words. Don’t skimp on adjectives.


by Robin Schifflin

“Now, Sarah,” the principal said over his large mahogony desk. “I just want you to help me to understand what happened today on the playground. You’re not in trouble, mind you. I just want to understand what happened to the Anderson boy.” The girl with the pink ribbon sighed, knowing he wouldn’t believe the truth. “Matt tripped and fell and hit his head.” “Your teacher said you threw a lunchbox at his head.” “And then he fell! And I only threw it because of the leprechauns!” “I’m sorry?” the principal asked. “Did...did you say ‘leprechauns?’” The girl nodded. “...Maybe you’d better start from the beginning.” The girl’s sigh was even more pronounced this time. “I already told this story to everyone!” “Humor me.” She rolled her eyes. “I was looking for some paperclips because I drew some pictures and I wanted to staple them together but my mom says I’m not allowed to use a stapler because it could hurt someone so I was holding my drawings when I went onto the playground and then the wind picked up and blew one of my drawings away so I chased after it but then a leprechaun came up and grabbed it and ran away towards the swings and MATT SAW IT and started running away but the leprechaun jumped on his head so I had to throw my lunch box at it but it hit Matt in the head by accident and he turned around but he was still trying to run and he tripped and hit his head and the leprechaun ran away and now I’ll never get my drawing back because I didn’t have any paper clips!” The principal blinked. He cleared his throat. He shuffled some papers on his desk. “Well, then.” He handed her a paperclip. “Don’t, uh...don’t let it happen again.” The girl jumped up from her seat and snatched the paperclip from his hand. “Thank you, Mr. Principal!” she sang as she skipped out the door. The principal shook his head as she left. “Always those darn leprechauns,” he muttered.


by Robin Schifflin

“Excuse me, miss,” the boy said as he jogged up to me. “Can you help me read my class card? I can’t figure out where to go.” “What the hell is a class card?” I asked as he handed it to me. “ mean your schedule?” “Yes, sorry, everything here is different to me,” he apologized. “I’m a foreign exchange student.” “Oh, cool! Your accent is hardly noticeable! Where are you from?” “From...far away,” he said. “Can you help me read this?” I raised an eyebrow. “...Sure,” I said. “Looks like...your next class is Biology with Professor Ross. Mine, too. I can show you where it is.” “Will they require a blood sample? My last biology class did blood typing and I’m opposed to letting blood out of my body.” “, I really think they won’t. Probably just show her your schedule and you’ll be in the class.” “Excellent! What will we be learning today?” “I...the teacher will say, when we go in. Like, there will be a picture of a leaf and she’ll ask what kind of leaf it is and then we’ll learn about leaves. That’s basically all that happens in Biology.” “Wonderful! I’m ecstatic to be taking this class with you. You’re very beautiful.” “What? Why are you so...what is your name?” “Edward Cu-” “Nope. Not doing it. Nuh uh. Now I need to go to the principal’s office and transfer classes. It was really nice meeting you, though. Just a treat, honestly.” I glanced over my shoulder as I walked away. He was looking longingly at me; a beam of sunlight parted the cloud cover and sparkled on his skin. I shuddered and walked faster.

Like A Boss

by Robin Schifflin

I looked around the room. First at the typewriter overturned on the floor, a sheet of carbon paper now crumpled in its roller. The filing cabinet had a dent in it approximately the size of and shape of a person’s head. I looked to the clerk, crouching beneath the desk and defensively clutching a hole puncher. I looked to the janitor, leaning against the doorframe and casually twirling the broken mop handle. Several papers were scattered about the desk, now soggy and stained from the spilled coffee. The mug itself lay shattered on the carpet. I sighed. “Guys, listen. I asked you not to bother me while I was working in there. I was in the middle of a very important meeting and the last thing I needed was to be disturbed. But you-” I glanced at the clerk, who squeaked and ducked farther under the desk. “Had to interrupt with a question about where to file some stupid documents, and you-” I looked over at the janitor, who rolled his eyes. “Had to come asking for money to replace your mop. And this upsets me. But I consider myself to be a reasonable man. So I’m giving you both a second chance.” I looked from the janitor to the broken coffee mug. “There’s a mess for you to clean up.” I pointed from the clerk to the soggy papers on the desk. “And it looks like you have to retype some files. When you’re done,” I nodded toward the filing cabinet. “Use your judgment. I trust you to put them in the most logical place. Now, I’m going back to my meeting. Don’t bother me again.” I straightened my tie, turned, and walked back into my empty office. I smiled. Messing with the new employee was always fun.

Summer Writing Project: Below are 3 sets of words. Use all the words in each set to write mini-stories in 300 words or less: Set 1: paper clips, principal, lunchbox, swing, girl with a pink ribbon Set 2: biology, class card, foreign student, leaf, blood sample Set 3: typewriter, filing cabinet, puncher, clerk, carbon paper, janitor

g n i g n lle



p m a h C

by Elizabeth Preston

The room swelled with excitement and anticipation. The high school teams congregated together, and their collared-shirt uniforms made a sea of multicolored splotches. Sparks kids stained the back of the bowling alley magenta. The Wooster team made the snack area bleed red. Hug students caused the far corner of the alley to look like a dense forest. My Manogue teammates and I shimmered in green and gold near the oily, wooden lanes. But as the various schools talked and strategized with one another, everyone kept an eye on a specific part of our adolescent rainbow -- the deep ocean blue of the Carson bowlers. We were in Carson’s alley, their home turf. Being the best, no advantage was needed, but their smug smiles displayed the joy of being able to beat an opponent in a home match. They were playing the second-best (and only other undefeated) team in northern Nevada, and this only sweetened the anticipated victory for them. But it was known that there would be a fight for the top. They knew that the Manogue team would not go down with a simple whimper. “We’re going to get killed,” Jake whimpered as he ran his hand through his thick, blonde hair. So much for putting up a fight. “Don’t be so pessimistic,” I chided. I craned my neck to look up at Jake. “We could pull off a miracle.” “Yeah right.” “I wish that we could just bowl and not do this stupid competition thing,” Allie chimed in. “This isn’t basketball or football, so why should the competition be structured that way?” “’Cause it’s fun.” Jake gave a depressing giggle. “It’s only fun when you don’t lose.”

Our conversation was ended by the team captain, Joey, handing us the sheet that declared whom he had paired each player with and what each bowler’s average was. “Jake, you should be able to beat this guy,” Joey pointed to the name on the yellow sheet. “Allie...just...try your best. Lizzie, good luck.” I looked at the piece of paper in my hand. “Whoa, Joey, I can’t beat this guy.” “Sure you can,” he said as he reassuringly patted my shoulder. “No, really Joey, I can’t. My average is 162; his is 215. I don’t stand a chance.” “Come on, be positive! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you beat their team captain?” His pockmarked face upturned into a grin. “ captain?” I stuttered. But my words had fallen on deaf ears, and Joey hopped on to do some other team captain duty. All I could do was silently curse Joey for making me the team’s sacrificial lamb. Jake looked over my shoulder at the paper, shook his head, and made a “tsk, tsk” sound. “Come on, we’re on lane 21,” I said, nervously grabbing my bowling bag. We reached the lane and saw our Carson opponents already settled and waiting to pound us into the ground. I didn’t need to ask which one was the team captain, but I did anyway. “You’re Travis, right?” “Yeah.” I held out my hand towards him, and he stood up. He was about 6’2” and had dark brown hair and eyes. Overall, he was quite dashing. “Well, we’re bowling against each other today. Good luck,” I stated, trying to appear unflustered. He shook my hand. “Uh, you too,” he said a bit confused, perhaps bewildered as to why his opponent would be nice to him. A female’s rather unusually deep, booming voice overcame the alley: “Bowlers, practice will now begin.” I turned to Travis to ask if he would like to go first, but he was already on the lane, ready to obliterate pins. I knew that I was in trouble when he threw that first ball. Something clicked in him. He glared at those pins with an intensity and look that can only be described as vengeful. You could tell that he saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing, but the bowling ball rolling off of his fingers onto the oiled wood. It traveled down the lane in a perfect parabolic track that pounded into the pocket. The pins exploded, making the end of the lane look like the inside of a popcorn machine. Travis was a beautiful bowler. I wobblingly took my place at the line. My ball felt heavier than usual. I took my four steps and let go of the ball. It made a loud “boom” and bounced before making its way to knocking down only five pins. My shoulders slumped, and I couldn’t help but stare at the lane and hope that I didn’t make a dent in the wooden alley. “That’s okay. It’s only the first ball,” Allie soothed as she walked up to the adjacent lane to practice. I nodded with a forced smile. When my ball returned, I tried for the spare, but the gutter sucked my ball into its black abyss. It was going to be a long game. The testosterone-laced female voice of earlier came back onto the loudspeaker system: “Bowlers, competition will now begin.”

Travi s was up fir and I st, watc hed a he ca s lmly t ook t the li o ne onc e aga Strik in. e.

Travis was up first, and I watched as he calmly took to the line once again. Strike. I got up from my seat and walked towards the ball return. Travis and I passed each other, and while I looked up at him, he looked straight ahead, a competitor’s concentration chiseled onto his face. It was then that something snapped in me. Here was this young man, who was calm and unafraid of me; and there I was, literally shaking so hard that it was difficult to put my fingers into the holes of my ball. I knew that I was a good bowler -- the third best on my team, in fact. I knew that I was a good competitor. I knew that I had managed to remain undefeated in the season’s prior six matches. The corners of my mouth raised up in a slight smile -- I knew that he should be afraid of me. It was true that Travis’s bowling average was better than mine and that he was a senior while I was just a sophomore. Victory may be inevitably his. Still, I was determined to give him a run for his money. I walked up to my spot with square shoulders, sturdy hands, and confidence. I reared the ball back, and brought it smoothly in front of me as I took my four steps. The ball left my hand as an extension of my own body. It landed quietly on the lane and traveled in a perfect hook into the pocket. The pins exploded, and the sounds of Jake’s and Allie’s voices and clapping hands filled my ears. Jake held up his hand for a high five: “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” “Nice one, Lizzie!” Allie beamed. “Thanks,” I said, slapping Jake’s hand. Looking over at Travis, there seemed to be a twinge of concern in his face as his eyebrows moved skyward ever so slightly. “Your move,” I inwardly smiled. The game continued to follow the pattern of Travis striking and then me striking; Travis sparing, me sparing. Travis getting a double, me getting a double. By the fifth frame, I could tell from Travis’s fidgeting that I at least had his attention. Perhaps there was a chink in his invincible armor. However, in the seventh frame, I descended back to terra firma.

I threw the ball like I had the whole game, and while the end of the lane did explode in white shrapnel, the dreaded ten pin stood, mocking me. On the second ball, I could hear it laughing when I missed. Travis, like a true competitor, took advantage of the opening and picked up his split. After that, try as I might, there was no catching up to him. I finished my remaining frames with three spares and a strike, while Travis concluded his stellar game with a strike, a spare, and then a turkey in the tenth frame. The end result: Travis 236, Lizzie 207. I lost the last two games as well: 203 to 182, 212 to 198. Yet, despite these defeats, I felt a sense of contentment as I watched Travis’s shoulders slump as he exhaled the tension he had been holding during those three games. Besides, I had exceeded my own expectations. I had just bowled a 587 series -- my best ever during a competition. Later, after Carson had been announced as the winner of the match, Travis tapped on my shoulder. “Good game,” he reached out his hand and smiled (the first smile I had ever seen from him). I shook his hand. “You too.” “You know, you had me worried there for a while.” I gave a slight giggle. “Well, I may not have pulled through with a Hoosiers, but I think I at least did Rocky proud by going the distance with you.” He actually laughed.

lled u p ve ut a b h , t s no er i y s a o o ky m c H I o a , l R l h “We gh wit ast did tance le ou dis t e a h thr kI gt n n i i h o It yg b d prou you.” h wit


by Robin Schifflin

UNCIAL: [uhn-kahy-ul] (n) A type of dial whose relationship to another dial is that of its parent’s brother; an “uncle dial” GRAVURE: [grah-vyoor] (n) A device employed on mondern space stations to simulate and manipulate gravity without requiring the space station to rotate. SYNONYMS: GRAVMOTRON COMMENSALISM: [kuh-men-suhl-ism] (n) A political ideology in which a government is created, govering begins or commences, and then everyone leaves to get drunk, assuming they’ll finish later. PATEN: [puh-ten] (n) A sound effect used in comics when the blow struck is the tenth in a series of such hits. RELATED: KAPOW, SKABOOSH, PATWENTY SOLVOLYSIS: [sol-vol-uh-sis] (n) The process by which a problem is solved and then needlessly analyzed afterwards for time periods ranging from minutes to centuries. Most often utilized by political commentators. VERNIER: [vur-nee-er] (adv) When two works are compared, used to denote which is more reminiscent of author Jules Verne. OCTOROON: [ok-tuh-roon] (n) An eight-sided gold coin; the standard unit of currency in Arachnia from the 12th century AD until the 17th PUNGLE: [puhng-guhl] (v) To use a pun incorrectly or to create a nonsensical pun. RESERPINE: [ree-ser-pahyn] (v) To change an item into a snake or serpent after it has already been transformed from that form; used in the bible by Moses. THISTLEDOWN: [this-uhl-doun] (n) The soft underthorns of a thistle bush used to stuff pillows and blankets of people you hate.

Summer Writing Project: The dictionary atop your shelf has more than 200,000 words defined. Why don’t you blow off some of the dust on its cover and randomly pick out 10 words? Don’t look at the means; just concentrate on the words. Write down your chosen words on a blank sheet of paper. Now, you’re going to have fun creating meanings for those words. What do the words make you think of? What do you think they should mean?


Under the Bed

by Robin Schifflin

From: To: Subject: Information Request To Whom It May Concern: With regards to your advertisement, would you please send me a list of your services and prices? My daughter tends to run around the house at night after everyone’s gone to bed; I worry she may hurt herself. My mother highly recommended hiring a Monster Under the Bed, having had great success with one when I was a child. I would also like to know whether your prices include the cost of food, or whether I’m required to provide that myself. Sincerely, Robyn Roberts

From: To: Subject: RE: Information Request Ms. Roberts, Thank you for contacting our company! Attached is a list of the services and prices we offer at Monsters Under the Bed, Inc. If you choose to use our services, feel free to contact us with information regarding your child’s specific habits and we will happily match her with one of our best Monsters. Also please note that our prices are inclusive; your Monster’s food will be provided by our company. Best Regards, Michele Arrons Manager, Human Resources

From: To: Subject: RE: Information Request Ms. Arrons, Your prices seem quite reasonable, and I would love to hire your company. My daughter, Shawna, is four years old, and simply refuses to stay in bed. Once we’ve put her to bed and gone to bed ourselves, she sneaks out of her room and explores the house. Once she even tried to go outside (naturally we always lock the door and place a doorknob cover over it to prevent her from opening it)! I’ve tried telling her scary stories about boogeymen and things that go bump in the night to keep her from wandering, but nothing seems to frighten her. I’ve even told her that the floor would turn to quicksand and suck her in if she walked on it after bedtime, but she called my bluff. I’m literally at my wit’s end; I need her to stay in bed! I certainly hope your monsters are up to the challenge! One question regarding the monster’s food: what exactly does it eat? Naturally I want my daughter to be safe, and putting her in a room with something that likes to snack on little girls goes against my nurturing instinct. Sincerely, Robyn Roberts

From: To: Subject: RE: Information Request Ms. Roberts, We are so pleased you have chosen to use our services! We here at MUtB understand the stress a parent goes through when their child simply won’t stay in bed at night. Naturally you want to keep them safe and out of harm’s way, and our Monsters are ideal for the job. They’re taught to instill maximum fear with minimal contact, and have been trained with your child’s health and well-being in mind. Parents with children as old as 13 have used our services with astounding success. Based on the information provided about your daughter, I believe I have found the perfect Monster for you! His name is Georg, and he has been an employee of this company for well over 75 years. He has terrified countless adventurous clients, and will be the ideal Monster to prevent your daughter from leaving her bed. Additionally, Georg is a strict vegetarian and a consummate professional; I can assure you that he will not physically harm your daughter in any way. As our Monsters are nocturnal and can in fact be harmed by exposure to sunlight, an appointment will be made for a trained Monster Technician to deliver Georg to your home upon receipt of your first payment. He or she will ensure that the bed environment is suitable and will provide you with your first month’s food supply. He or she will also answer any questions you may have at the time. Best regards, Michele Arrons Manager, Human Resources MUtB, Inc.

From: To: Subject: Georg? Ms. Arrons, Your Monster Technician came to our house three nights ago to deliver Georg. He seemed quite comfortable to move in, and I was thrilled not to see Shawna wandering around the house that night. However, over the two nights since, Shawna has been resuming her nightly habits with absolutely no hesitancy. When I checked under the bed for Georg this evening just before putting Shawna to bed, I saw him huddled in the back corner, sleeping. I am, frankly, appalled at this level of unprofessionalism. I would like either a new Monster or a full refund. Thank you, Robyn Roberts

From: To: Subject: RE: Georg? Ms. Roberts, I apologize for any inconvenience we have caused you. We have sent a technician to ascertain the problem. Best regards, Michele Arrons Manager, Human Resources MUtB, Inc. From: humanreso urces@mutb-inc. com To: rmroberts@te Subject: RE: Georg ? Ms. Roberts, We regret to inform you that your daug hter is a Monster manifests only on Hunter. This is a ra ce in every other ge re medical condit ne ration. Georg is in our medical facilit ion; it critical condition ies. We cannot, un and is currently at fortunately, provid have returned your one of e you with a subs payment, less secu titute Monster at rity deposit. With regards to yo this time and ur child’s continue d exploring, we re Best regards, commend installin g more locks on yo ur doors. Michele Arrons Manager, Human Resources MUtB, Inc.

Piankashaw by William Matthew McCarter

“You touch that dial, my country cousins, and I’ll never speak to you again. Right here, right now, on good ole’ KREB is where you’ll hear the best, the latest, and the greatest country music. Right here, in the Parkland… That’s right, here in the Lord’s own playground where the greatest American people call home. Now, you just relax and sit a spell and drink your morning coffee with ole Joe Bob and I’ll play your favorite country hits all the way to high noon.” Gram had always gotten up at first light. Uncle Fred and Aunt Jean, our neighbors, had chickens and if you weren’t dead to the world and a heavy sleeper like me, you couldn’t miss the caterwauling of Ole Chanticleer. Several years ago, it must have been decades by now, Malcolm Crowell, a local artist, told Uncle Fred that Chanticleer was French for “Rooster.” I expect Uncle Fred must have had dozens of Chanticleers by now, but that’s what he named all his roosters. Every morning, Gram woke up with Ole Chanticleer, went into the kitchen and made a fresh pot of Folgers. As the coffee was brewing, she would reach over to the Sears and Roebuck radio that was hanging on the wall and turn on KREB. Every morning that I woke up in this old house, the sound of country music and the smell of fresh coffee filled the air. Gram made sure of that. This morning, the country music and the fresh brewed coffee pulled me out of bed much earlier than I had planned. I was still tired from my trip, but, for the moment, neither Gram nor KREB – “Rebel 93”- would let me sleep. “Good morning, Gram,” I said as I walked across the kitchen floor with a familiar mindless motion and sat down at the end of the kitchen table in my chair. Even though I had been gone a long time – much too long – the old house still had an air of familiarity to me. It should – I lived there ever since I could remember - until I left the Piankashaw Valley several years back – I guess I was here for nearly 20 years and the chair I was sitting in had been my chair for at least that long. Before that, it was my father’s chair when he lived here. For a moment, it felt almost as if I had never left home – as if I never left the Piankashaw Valley – as Gram and I quietly sipped our coffee and listened to KREB.

“Now, my country cousins…Dewey, your good neighbor and mine… a man that you can trust on a beautiful winter day like today and still track down tomorrow… a man that you can look in the eye and shake his hand, knowing full well that his word is his bond, is none other than the manager of the Parkland’s very own Parthenon Manufactured Homes in the US of A. You will find these beautiful Greek revival inspired manufactured homes all across this great land of ours – from sea to shining sea and anyone with a few acres of land and a low down payment can get one of these high quality manufactured homes and start your very own family of Cartwrights – have your very own Ponderosa – right here in the Parkland, the Lord’s own playground and KREB Rebel 93 will be broadcasting right here, right now, on this wonderful winter day live at the Parthenon Manufactured Homes lot where all of their wonderful models are on display, conveniently located just off of Highway 67 at the Piankashaw Valley Exit. Dewey will be here all day at Parthenon Manufactured Homes working hard to make sure that any of KREB Rebel 93’s loyal listeners can soon own the home of their dreams.” I had completely forgotten how obnoxiously over the top the locals were with their commercials. When I was in junior high, our Little League sponsor was Tim Thompson Bail Bonds. I can still hear the voice over on the radio commercials saying, “Remember our motto, we’ll get to you before your cell mate does.” Or… Pearson’s Plumbing and Septic Tank Service. Old Man Pearson had Malcolm Crowell, a local artist, paint “We love taking crap from our customers,” on the back of his service trucks. Well, I guess you could say they were memorable and I guess that is the whole point of advertising in the first place. I hadn’t forgotten about Tim Thompson or Ole Man Pearson after all this time and I’m sure that if Joe Bob keeps it up, it will be awhile before I stop thinking about Parthenon Manufactured Homes. I almost want to drive over there and see just how their architect managed to create a Greek Revival house trailer. “You want a piece of this cake,” Gram asked as she sliced off a piece of coffee cake and put it into a paper plate. “No,” I replied, all the time thinking to myself what I really want is to just go back to bed and sleep for days. It took more than a decade for me to finally get back home and now I am finally here. Sleep would be best, but how could I sleep? Did Odysseus sleep when he finally returned to Ithaca? The clock said it was almost six, but it seemed later than that. I had been working up north in rural Michigan and had gotten used to Eastern Standard Time – the 11 o’clock news, late nights with John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher after midnight on HBO – Hell’s Own Box Office. Last summer, I went to visit an old friend who lives in Mississippi. After a few days with Moonlight and Magnolias, I realized that Escanaba in da Moonlight just wasn’t really my thing, even if I did like deer hunting. Two days ago, as the late afternoon sun was sliding into Lake Michigan, I drove all the way from what the locals in Michigan called Up North to Southern Illinois. As that same sun rose from the Illinois plains into the windshield of my Chevrolet, I saw a giant white cross along the interstate burning in the sky ahead of me. A few more exits, a Waffle House. I had now officially entered the land of Jesus and Grits and that was close enough to home for me to lay my weary head down on the faux pillow of a Motel 6 and turn off the light that Tom Bodette had left on for me.

“The doors of these magnificent display homes are wide open for your inspection, so come on down and set a spell. We’ve got Bobby Lee, our chef, offering free chicken and dumplings, hot coffee, and soft drinks in the kitchen of one of our many choice homes. Dewey and the fine folks here at KREB Rebel 93 are waiting for you and your entire family to come visit us here at Parthenon Manufactured Homes just off of Highway 67 at the Piankashaw Valley Exit. Isn’t that right Dewey? ” “That’s right, Joe Bob. We want to make sure that our neighbors – the finest folks in the whole US of A - enjoy their experience here at Parthenon Manufactured Homes. We even got Wayne Crockett to come out here and play some fine country music on his acoustic guitar inside the living room of one of our many deluxe units - right next to the Christmas tree and the faux fireplace. When folks come to see us here just off Highway 67, they will see the largest selection of manufactured homes you will ever find anywhere in Southeast Missouri. “ It was past dark when I made the wide right turn into Gram’s driveway, turned the car around in front of the old tin covered garage and parked in front of her old clapboard house – now equipped with vinyl siding – that I had called home for nearly twenty years and no matter where the winds had taken me, still referred to it as home. After Gram went to bed, I sat up in the kitchen drinking whiskey. Boss, the family dog, was lying at my feet with his jowls resting gently on the linoleum that Gram had finally managed to get installed in the kitchen. It had been carpeted throughout my tenure at the old place – not just any carpet – but the commercial grade bank carpeting. I imagine that my grandpa had recycled it from an old bank in the city of St. Louis. Most of the “home improvements” around the old place happened as the result of one of the Jones or Wilson boys from Snow Hollow tearing down a building in the city of St. Louis. White flight and urban decay had helped my grandparents turn the old place into a three bedroom house complete with picture windows in the living room. They added the picture windows, the kitchen, and the back porch sometime in the mid-60’s and a toilet, shower, and the indoor plumbing that comes along with it back in ’73. My grandfather had been gone for twenty-five years this coming January. I imagined that he would have liked the new linoleum. Before I knew it, the old clock that still hung above the kitchen window by the sink just above the fluorescent light that flickered, pulsing almost like the flames of the fire in an old woodstove , said it was after midnight – one am eastern time – I finished my whiskey and then walked down the hall toward my bedroom – my old bedroom – my uncle’s bedroom before me. “Now, Joe Bob, I’ve got to tell you that we’ve got everything from our Olympus line on down to the Argonaut, a special mobile unit that was specifically designed to be cost competitive with more well known recreational mobile homes like the Terraplane. So, if you are one of those adventurous types, you might want to see the world in the Argonaut. One of my favorites is the Acropolis model. It has everything that a family needs and then some. In fact, if you come down to Parthenon today and purchase one of our Acropolis models, we will throw in a redwood deck and a Jacuzzi tub. For those of you who want to live the simple life and don’t need all of the amenities that many of our models offer, I would encourage you to check out the Spartan model. It is a simple and practical home for the simple and practical family. Even if you don’t have land, we can still help you. We have several acres of land

and can sell you that land to go along with your new Parthenon Manufactured Home. Imagine, your very own Greek Revival inspired Manufactured Home sitting smack dab in the middle of the Lord’s own playground – right here in the Parkland. “Now folks, I can testify to what my friend, Dewey, is telling all you all out there. And Dewey is working hard to help you folks make your holiday dreams come true. He can still get you in one of these homes so that you can bring your family to a Parthenon Manufactured Home for the holidays. And while you are on your way down here, I want you to enjoy listening to this country classic from Hank Williams Jr. Before Ole Hank could make it through “Dixie On My Mind,” Mike Murray, KREB’s news reporter, interrupted the regularly scheduled programming: “Breaking News in the Parkland – Authorities do not yet know how it happened, but American Electric’s Dam at the Piankashaw Reservoir failed earlier this morning, flooding the lower Piankashaw River Valley and damaging a house by Piankashaw State Park. Initial reports were that there were a number of people missing, but the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that all of the missing people have been found and they are in serious condition at The Piankashaw County Hospital.”

If I were OB1 Kenobi, I could say that I felt a strong disturbance in the force, but this was not Star Wars and I was no Jedi. This was my home – The Piankashaw Valley... If I were OB1 Kenobi, I could say that I felt a strong disturbance in the force, but this was not Star Wars and I was no Jedi. This was my home – The Piankashaw Valley – and I felt – no almost knew – that somehow, someway, American Electric was responsible for this and had been negligent in some way. Some might say that I was quick to judgment but I understood how these corporations thought about us poor white trash. I can still remember watching my friend, Bubba, putting his father in the ground. He lived to the ripe old age of forty-five, had worked at the lead smelter ever since he got out of the Army… did two tours in ‘Nam and the Vietcong didn’t get him, but in the end, the lead from the smelter did. Or what about the Hamlet Chicken Plant Disaster from back in the 90’s. The owners of the plant chained the emergency exit doors shut to keep their employees from leisurely walking outside to have a smoke. Early one morning a fire broke out because of faulty wiring and twenty-five people were killed because the emergency exit doors were chained shut… just to keep people from smoking cigarettes. In the name of corporate profits, safety inspections were not performed and the owner of the plant was eventually sentenced to twenty years in prison. Now, I imagine that the Piankashaw Valley would be devastated by the hubris of corporate capitalism as well and nature would have her way with us. “The Piankashaw Rural Fire Department, a state certified search and rescue team, went to the area this morning. Piankashaw’s fire chief, William Tanner, said, “Chances are we will assist with the evacuation. Once the water has moved through we will search for any survivors.”

“Big Daddy worked on that dam,” I said over the top of the voices on the radio. Big Daddy – That’s what everyone called my grandpa. I never really understood exactly why they called him Big Daddy. I suppose it was simply because he was a big man. He was well over six feet tall, seemed like he was three feet wide and weighed more than two hundred fifty pounds in his prime. He looked like a giant to me… but I guess everyone looks like a giant when you are a little kid. I never knew anyone in our family to be Tennessee Williams fans or anything… and I was the bookish one anyway… a “word nerd” is what my cousin calls me… I am probably the only one of us that would even notice the significance of the name Big Daddy. Big Daddy didn’t look anything like Burl Ives so I don’t imagine anyone getting it from the film adaptation either. In fact, Ole Burl was called “Big Daddy” because of his immense wealth and position in the community… He was like the Colonel Sanders of Mississippi. Grandpa never had any money or wealth… no one in our family did.

He looked like a giant to me… but I guess everyone looks like a giant when you are a little kid. “That was when we first moved down here,” Gram said, “Great grandma was sick and we came back here from California to see her. Aunt Dee and Uncle Buck lived down on the old highway and we stopped by to see them on the way back to St. Louis. It was late springtime then” … late springtime, greener than green, with a hint of honeysuckle in the air, I had felt it myself… driving south on highway 67. There comes a point where you top the hill and begin to come down into one of the first valleys in the Parkland and you can roll your window down and smell the difference. The air changes… everything changes… it’s where the suburbs and bedroom communities of the city ends and the real country living begins. “Your grandpa said ‘I imagine this must look a whole lot like Ireland.’ He was always talking that Irish stuff that he got from Grandpa Patrick – stuff that ole Patrick probably picked up from the Kerry Patch there in North St. Louis.” Gram never liked Grandpa Patrick. The stories that I heard growing up painted him out to be somewhere between charming and a lothario, and I don’t know how much truth there was to any of these stories, but Gram was much too practical to like Grandpa Patrick. She didn’t see much sense in Patrick filling up his kid’s heads with stories of Chu Chulain and Irish folklore. Gram would tell you flat out that he should have been filling them up with bread and milk. He should have been filling up those hungry bellies with food. But, I do remember Big Daddy telling me one time that when you ain’t got nothin’ and he meant nothin’, when your down ,and I mean really down – when the world has beaten you senseless and every little hint of promise has been bled out of you – you need a story to tell and at least Patrick gave him that. “I don’t know if any of that Kerry Patch stuff was true or not, but Patrick liked to bullshit about it,” Gram chimed in, as she stirred a spoonful of instant coffee creamer into her second cup of coffee. And Big Daddy liked to bullshit about it, too. Growing up, I had heard him talk about our families past. I had heard about the Kerry Patch, the Teamsters Union, the War, and our ultimately settling down here in the Piankashaw Valley.

“We rented this old house at first,” Gram said, “then the old coot, I forget his name, came by for the rent one day. ...”

“We rented this old house at first,” Gram said, “then the old coot, I forget his name, came by for the rent one day. He lived way off over in Osage County somewhere. When we paid him the rent, he said, ‘why don’t you all just buy this old place?’ We ain’t never owned nothin’ our whole life, but for 20 dollars a month, we owned this house right here.” “We are now receiving reports that there is six to eight inches of water going over the dam on the lower Piankashaw. Logan Creek is starting to flood and evacuations are underway. We are forecasting that the Piankashaw River will crest at twenty feet at Highway K. The flood stage is eight feet and the record is nineteen feet. Circle Drive in Pine Bluff is starting to flood and a flash flood warning for Piankashaw County has been issued.” “For those of you who are just tuning in the Piankashaw Dam failed at 5:32am this morning. Within fifteen minutes, a Missouri Department of Transportation engineer was on site. Currently, N highway and K highway are shut down so that the road department can clear the mud and debris left on the road after the flood waters rush through. A team of investigators from American Electric and government agencies are currently assessing the situation. So far, no official word is available on that, but Thomas Rice, a spokesman for American Electric, stressed there was no evidence of equipment failure or foul play. It was just last year that the company repaired the liner in the upper reservoir to stop leaks, but Rice says there is no information yet as to whether that had something to do with the breach.” “Senator Moses, on his way to Jefferson City this morning, said he would be meeting with the governor concerning the dam breakage.” “We are still evaluating the situation at this point” Moses said, “I was on the phone with the Governor just after the dam broke, and he said the Missouri State Department of Transportation and various other governmental agencies would be responding to the crisis. Before we respond in any other way, we need Piankashaw County to tell us what they need.” Senator Moses was doing everything he could to appear competent. Ever since I left the Piankashaw Valley, I carried a subscription to The Piankashaw Journal – our weekly newspaper. We have been plagued by political corruption for the last several years. It all got started when the newspaper broke the story that the Mayor of Piankashaw Valley had been using city workers to maintain his yard and plow up his garden. Everyone thought that was a scandal until they found out that The Presiding County Commissioner was working for a hospital management company and that same company got the contract to administer our county hospital. Our State Representative, Brad Thomlinson, did him one better by running over David Marler on New Year’s Eve.

Not only did he run over poor Dave, but also tried to cover it up by doing a Chinese Fire Drill with his wife in the Piankashaw Valley School parking lot. When they got around to calling the police, they told the sheriff that she was driving and no one bothered to administer a drunk driving test to ole Brad. The Thomlinson’s might have gotten away with it, too, except that when Brad was on the school board, (his political springboard to being our State Representative), he made them put in a bunch of surveillance cameras to try and catch high school kids smoking pot in the parking lot. In a comical act of divine justice or karma or whatever you choose to call it, Brad pulled right in front of one of these surveillance cameras when he did that Chinese Fire Drill. Needless to say, he decided to retire from the legislature and not run for another term. He was succeeded by Janet Tucker. It seemed like Janet was bringing a little dignity back to the office until she went to Judge Mack and got a restraining order against her husband for domestic violence. After that, he filed for the Republican nomination for her seat in the legislature and it was Tucker vs. Tucker in the election. They aired out all their dirty laundry in the community and it was a vicious campaign – so vicious that no one really wanted to elect either one of them dogcatcher but had to vote for somebody. In the end, she won another term, but I think it was mainly because of all the old Roosevelt Democrats who lived in the valley. I doubt that she’ll win another term after Tucker vs. Tucker, but you never know… stranger things have happened. “The Piankashaw Reservoir was a 450 million dollar engineering feat built in the 1960’s with the help of government funding. It was the largest pumped storage plant in North America when it came online in 1963. We will keep you posted for all the news about the Piankashaw Dam failure.” Big Daddy worked on that dam. Uncle Buck told him about the job when Big Daddy and Gram got back from California. My other grandpa, Pate, also worked on the dam. That was what brought him up here from Texas. In fact, my parents would never have met if it hadn’t been for that dam. I would never have existed if it wouldn’t have been for that dam. Big Daddy is gone now (up on St. Agnes Hill) and so is Pate. The Piankashaw Reservoir – my fate spun by the nous – the first cause of my existence - is also gone. But I’m still here – the unintended consequence of a modern invention that has crumbled under the pressure of millions of gallons of water… washed away like a sandcastle in the late afternoon tide. “Back in ’63, I guess it was…well, it had to be ’63 because that’s when I went to work on the dam and that was the first time we all went hunting out on Marble Creek, “ Big Daddy began as we descended from the tip top of Sataunqua Mountain, coming back from deer camp. I wasn’t old enough to hunt back then, but I suppose Big Daddy took me to toughen me up a little bit, to get me ready for when I was old enough. “Me the boys were driving back from deer camp in Ole Blue and decided to stop by Connelly’s Station and fill up with gas.” I had heard both my dad and Big Daddy talk about Ole Blue for years. Ole Blue was a 49 Chevy Carry All Suburban that had served our family well for the many years that Big Daddy had it and thus gets to live on in all of our memories long after it went to the scrap heap of history. “Uncle Jim Connelly retired from the railroad and opened up a service station down at the bottom of the hill right where Ole Butch has his place now. All the old timers would hang out there during deer season so they could see all the deer kills coming out of the woods. That was the first time I heard anyone tell of the old Indian legend of Weyatonqua. Ole Jim loved to tell the story about Sataunqua, the Piankashaw Indian Chief, and his daughter, Weyatonqua. The big ole mountain that we just came off of is named after him and that big old waterfall down there by the Devil’s Tollgate is named after Weyatonqua.”

I sat quietly in the seat, taking in each word. I loved riding around in Big Daddy’s old red Chevy. He would always tell me stories while we were riding around. Sometimes, he would take the long way back home just so he would have time to finish one of them. “Ole Jim used to say that long before the white man came here to the Piankashaw River Valley, this land that we now live in was the hunting ground of the Piankashaw Indian tribe.” As I carefully listened to him talk, I reflected on his words, thinking to myself I guess that’s why we call it the Piankashaw River. “The Piankashaw tribe had a very famous chieftain named Sataunqua and Ole Jim’s eyes would light up as he told about what a wise ruler he was. Ole Jim would say that even though there were larger tribes like the Cherokee or the neighboring Osage, Sataunqua, through his great wisdom, was able to hold his territory in spite of the land being invaded by the larger tribes. Because of Sataunqua, the Piankashaw lived in peace in the valley where they hunted and fished and raised a little corn in the summertime. In the winter, they would move east to the limestone bluffs along the Mississippi and stay there until the warm weather of springtime brought them back here.” I suppose they weren’t that much different than many of the folks who live here now. We all still like to hunt, fish, keep a garden… and there aint much to do here either, so we spend our winters off up in the city, working, commuting back and forth, trying to earn enough money – to earn enough freedom – to just come back here and hunt and fish and keep a garden. “All of the warriors of the Piankashaw desired the beautiful Weyatonqua and were constantly trying to win both her affections and the blessing of their Chief,” Big Daddy continued, as I sat in the truck, barely old enough to look out of the side window and see the barren landscape of late Fall – the countless numbers of oaks, sycamores, hickorys, maples and poplars. The leaves on the trees were gone now and the mountain was void of color, except for the occasional cedar or pine standing tall and green far off in the distance. “However,” Big Daddy continued, “Weyatonqua met a young Osage warrior in the woods and lost her heart to him.” I suppose Ole Jim was trying to set up some kind of Romeo and Juliet thing here. Forbidden love always makes for a good story, but did the Piankashaw actually have forbidden love? “For a long time, the young brave met up with Weyatonqua in the woods and was secretly sparkin’ on her. One day, a band of Piankashaw warriors discovered her in the arms of the young Osage and they captured him and took him back to the village. Sataunqua was so angry about his daughter taking up with an Osage warrior that he condemned him to death on the spot.” The first time I heard this story, there in the red truck coming back from deer camp, I was mesmerized by the tale. Big Daddy just stared at the road as he drove us through Piankashaw proper toward our home out in Snow Hollow. “The Osage warrior was executed on the slopes of Sataunqua Mountain. The young warrior was tossed down a succession of steps that time and erosion had carved into the mountainside, thrown from step to step with the spears of the Piankashaw warriors until his lifeless body finally landed into the valley below. Weyatonqua was grief stricken, having just watched her lover’s execution. Some of the tribal women had been restraining Weyatonqua, but the grief stricken maiden broke loose from the women and threw herself to her death, tumbling one by one, down the same steps that her lover had just been tossed, finally resting on the floor of the valley next to the young Osage warrior.” Big Daddy paused and I looked him with sad eyes that first time that I heard the story. Looking back, I imagine that ole Jim must have been telling a Greek legend or something from Ovid, I couldn’t remember which. And, maybe a little bit of Shakespeare thrown in for good measure. “Then ole Jim told me,” Big Daddy continued, “Weyatonqua’s death so displeased their god that the earth trembled and shook until a stream of water poured out of the earth and flowed down the rock steps,

washing away the blood. The place is still known as Weyatonqua Falls and along that north side of the mountain, even today, there are little flowers with crimson blossoms and the Piankashaw believed that they got their color from this ancient tragedy.” I can’t remember exactly when I stopped believing Big Daddy’s stories – it was sometime after the Easter Bunny, the Birthday Bird, and Santa Claus, but sometime before I stopped watching the cartoons on Saturday morning. However, I remember looking at Big Daddy that day, just as he pulled into the driveway of our home in Snow Hollow. “Is that true?” I asked. Up until that point, I believed Big Daddy’s tales of Chu Chulain and all of that Kerry Patch stuff that Gram said that Grandpa Patrick shouldn’t have been filling him with in the first place, but there was something in this tall tale that seemed a little bit too tall for even a little kid. Either that or even then, as a child who was too young to hunt, too young to even fully see out of the side window of Big Daddy’s old truck, I was already a skeptic – a pessimist before having a reason to be pessimistic – jaded before having the experience that jades. Big Daddy looked at me, his blue eyes seemed to stare right through me, and said, “Well, the county you live in is named Piankashaw, after the tribe; the valley where you live is named Piankashaw after the tribe, the town where you get your groceries from is named Piankashaw Valley, after the tribe, and the school that you go to is Piankashaw Valley, after the tribe. I guess the story is true enough…. Or at least it was for the folks who named this place and that lives in it. It’s a folk tale, but that’s not a lie. If it was a lie… well, then it all might as well be a lie, and no one wants to be living a lie… so it might as well be true.” “Now,” he said as he opened the door to his old red truck, “let’s go on in the house. I bet your grandma has a pot of hot coffee for me.” Twenty years after Big Daddy had been gone, twenty years after he had been buried up on St. Agnes Hill, I think I finally understood. These stories need to be true and if we didn’t have them, we would have made them up anyway. One thing still puzzles me though – There are no Piankashaws living in Piankashaw County, there is no more iron up in Iron Mountain, the loggers have pretty much wiped out all of the pine trees in Pine Bluff. Why do we name places and then wipe out the very things that gave them their names in the first place? Why is it that after a while, the only thing that remains of what once was can only be found on a county line or city limits sign? “Mike Murray, reporting for KREB, and now, back to you Joe Bob.” “I sure hope all them people down there on the lower end of the river are going to be alright,” Gram said as she walked over to the counter, picked the percolator off the stove and asked, “You want some more coffee?”

These stories need to be true and if we didn’t have them, we would have made them up anyway.

It’s Finally Over

by James Schifflin

“It’s finally over” So blind, now ill-fated Though you should know better “You just had to say it.”

Summer Writing Project: List down all the clichés you can think of, then choose one you’re most familiar with, or the one that strikes your fancy. Make that the first line of your poem. You can take the cliché literally or figuratively.


by Robin Schifflin

“Here,” he said, offering me the small, white pill. I bit my lip. “You’re positive this will work?” He scowled, as though offended. “Dude, have I ever let you down before?” “Yes. Many times.” “Okay, fine, but this time I’m telling the truth. Take this pill and stand over there. It’s gonna be awesome.” Still I hesitated. “How long does it last?” I asked. “Like half an hour. It should hit you within about a minute.” “Will I feel any different?” “When I tried it, my fingertips tingled for like the first five minutes. No biggie. You won’t hallucinate or anything.” “Promise?” Another hurt look. “Dude!” Hesitantly, I picked up the pill and held it in my hand. “It looks like aspirin.” “It’s not aspirin.” I sniffed it. “How did you get these, anyway?” He grinned. “My big brother was a research assistant for the guy who invented them. Managed to steal like 10 of the prototypes before they caught him. I think he was gonna sell them, but the cops found him and seized it before he could. He didn’t know I stole a few from him.” “Are you sure you didn’t steal some of his aspirin by mistake?” He snatched the pill from my hand. “Fine, whatever, I’m done. I really thought you were gonna be with me on this, but it’s cool, whatever. I’ll find someone else.” I hated his stupid mopey act. And I really did want to try this thing. I reached for his arm. “No, wait, stop, I’ll do it,” I mumbled. He grinned. “I knew you’d come around! Now take this and go stand over there.” I sighed as I took it from his hand again. “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, right?” He laughed. I swallowed the pill. I walked a few yards, close enough that he would still have a clear shot. I stood in front of a huge oak tree, figuring I could use it to catch my balance if I started to fall. My fingers were already tingling.

He raised the gun. “Ready?” he called. I nodded. He raised the gun, squinted, aimed. I closed my eyes. I didn’t hear the shot. But I felt the pain as the bullet ripped through my chest. I flew backwards, felt my skull crack against the tree. I was acutely aware of my body as it crumpled to the ground. Every nerve ending burned. Then, gradually, the pain in my chest receded. I groaned. I felt someone pull me to my feet. Slowly, incredulously, I opened my eyes. He was grinning like a maniac. “Wasn’t that AWESOME??” he exclaimed. I stared at myself. My shirt had two holes, one in front, one in back. Both bloody. I felt my chest. Whole, no hole. My heart was beating about 11 times faster than it usually did, but I imagine that’s normal for someone who’s just been shot. I felt the back of my head. My hair was sticky with blood, but there was no pain, no cut, no cracked skull. I looked at him. “I almost didn’t believe you.” He smiled. “You wouldn’t have done that if you didn’t believe me. So, you’re in, right? I’ve got two of these left; I figure if I hide them at your place, the cops won’t find them even if they come back to search the house.” I still could hardly believe what had happened. Slowly I nodded. “We can hide all the stuff at my place. If they search your house and find ski masks and guns hidden in your room, probably you’d still get brought in.” He nodded enthusiastically. “That’s why you’re the smart one! You can drive if I get you a car, right?” “I have my learner’s permit.” “Good enough! We’ll hit the bank tomorrow.” I grinned. “Sounds like a plan.”

“I almost didn’t believe you.”

Contributor bios McCarter My name is William Matthew McCarter and I am a writer and a college professor from Southeast Missouri. After completing the PhD at The University of Texas-Arlington, I have been busy writing and publishing work that brings attention to my native rural America. I have recently published academic work in The Sociological Imagination and will be publishing “Fordism and Literacy: Where the Tin Lizzy Took Us” in Fastcapitalism in the summer of 2011. I have also recently been chosen to publish a chapter in the book American History through American Sports tentatively titled “The Tobacco Spittin’, Moonshine Runnin’ History of Early NASCAR.” I have also recently published a short story, “On the Road in ’94,” in A Few Good Lines and some poetry in Kritya. The June edition of The Taj Mahal Review contains an essay titled “America’s Bread and Circuses” and a short story called “Lex Talionis.” In addition, my first academic book, “Homo Redneckus: On Being Not Qwhite in America” will be published in 2012.

Preston Elizabeth Preston is a freelance writer. She has been published in The Storyteller. When not furiously pouring stories into the keys of her pink laptop, Elizabeth enjoys reading, fishing, baking, and, of course, bowling.

Schifflin Robin Schifflin is an English major at UNR. She has recently decided she wants to be an accountant, because DEGREES CAN’T TELL HER WHAT TO DO. She loves writing and mathing, and her hobbies include contemplating the end of the universe, cooking, being tall, and making up words. She’s a little bit crazy, if you catch our drift. James Schifflin is a UNLV graduate who has inexplicably decided to grace you with his presence. He has a BSBA in Economics, a puppy, terrifyingly vague career aspirations, and writes in the third person.


This is the creative writing issue of the Stellaria. This is also the first ever issue.

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