Red Weather is the literary and art magazine of Hamilton College. Our publication is dedicated to showcasing the diverse creative talent of the Hamilton community that varies in genre, theme, and style. A publisher of poetry, prose, and art, Red Weather seeks to embolden the Hamilton campus with creative work that challenges accepted modes of expression and experiments with language. ÂŠ 2013 Red Weather
The houses are haunted By white night-gowns. None are green, Or purple with green rings, Or green with yellow rings, Or yellow with blue rings. None of them are strange, With socks of lace And bearded ceintures. People are not going To dream of baboons and periwinkles. Only, here and there, an old sailor Drunk and asleep in his boots, Catches tigers In red weather.
f a l l 2013
editor-in-chief Kina Viola ‘14
poetry editorial board
Sarah Sgro ‘14 Katherine Cieplicki ‘16, Adam Evertz ‘17 , Katherine Fuzesi ‘17, Lana Gura ‘16, Rory Keating ‘14, , Hanna Kingston ‘15, Jenna Langbaum ‘15, Ariana Levi ‘15, Nathan Livingston ‘14, Daniel Lustberg ‘14, Emma Reynolds ‘17, Mary Rice ‘15, Clare Rock ‘16
prose editorial board
Will Newman ‘14 Luke Ballmer ‘17, Zoë Bodzas ‘16, Shannon Cuthbert ‘14, Sarah Destin ‘14, Matthew Hennigar ‘14, Lisa Labate ‘14, Emma Laperruque ‘14, Lily Marks ‘15, Connor Miyamoto ‘15, Katie Murphy ‘16, Nick Pappageorge ‘14, Samantha Rosen ‘17, John Rufo ‘16, Andy Schnacky ‘14
art editorial board
Carrie Rudd ‘16 Nikole Bonacorsi ‘16, Luke Gernert ‘16, Sean D. Henry-Smith ‘15, Jasper Nash ‘16, Leah Parker ‘17, Zoe Tessler ‘16, Kathryn Wall ‘16
Katie Murphy ‘16, Sarah Sgro ‘14
cover art & motifs
where stillness starts Kim Wang ‘14
table of contents prose he knew well the story... seeing red ice a fist of flowers scandal in stamford s.o.s.
John Rufo ’16 Lily Marks ’15 Anna Jastrzembski ‘14 Jenna Langbaum ‘15 Matthew Hennigar ‘14 Peter Bresnan ‘15
4 8 10 20 36 42
poetry humiliate the heat something song of 4 a.m. all things considered somehow that time my backspace... a-z the utica train station
Adam Evertz ‘17 Nathaniel Lanman ‘15 Danny Lustberg ‘14 Jenna Langbaum ’15 Lucas Philips ‘16 John Rufo ‘16 Kelsey Wise ‘14
7 19 35 55 53 57 59
art untitled obliterate insomnia self portrait plate men observing kate miccuci
Halimah Schmidt ‘16 Victoria Lin ‘15 Charlotte Simons ‘16 Zoe Tessler ‘16 Leah Parker ‘17 Alison Ritacco ‘14 Lily Johnston ‘16
6 13 18 34 41 54 56
a note from the editors
he knew well the story was so much malarkey John Rufo
I went to the blind man’s house to listen to records with him. I used to read to him. He doesn’t like books anymore, doesn’t care about the news or whatever is outside his window. He wore white shirts that were too tight and tubes ran out his nose. I held his hand while we listened to Benny Goodman. He didn’t say anything at first, just clasped my hand as we sat there quietly. Sometimes the chirps of the birds outside interspersed with the dusty jazz bombast, though their own improvisations didn’t quite hold up to Gene Krupa violently pounding the toms. The old man’s house was once at the end of the road, but now they’re building it up so the road will keep going. A cleanly clipped development is starting to emerge. Though my blind man doesn’t talk much, one day he asked what all of the construction noise is about, what are they building. I told him that they are building an ark because another Flood is coming, because to Hell with what God promised, we’re a bunch of bastards who deserve to be drowned. He liked this and laughed, wheezing for a while, for too long, making the silence afterward a little uncomfortable for the both of us. If he asked me to kiss him I would have obliged, but instead we sat there as the summer wind whispered and the ice in our drinks softly rattled and spun. This blind man did not really exist. I wish he did. It had been a summer spent in the library, scanning books in and out. I saw an old man once with tubes running out his nose. He asked me about the adult videos. I told him we did not loan out adult videos. As he shuffled away I knew that he was the blind man I imagined, even if his blindness prevented him from enjoying the content of the adult videos. He wanted me to read him Madame Bovary because he heard it was dirty, a filthy novel. He didn’t request it; I simply assumed that he wanted to read some Flaubert and that this was his reason. I read it to him and he fell asleep during the first few pages. When he woke up I told him that I made some eggs. He said all right and then said 4
I don’t think I like this French book anymore. I nodded and said yes, it’s not quite as dirty as one might expect it to be. No, he replied. I don’t mind that it’s not that filthy. I like clean things too. I liked the comics when I could read them. And then he told me that he wasn’t always blind, that his eyesight had simply got the best of him in the last decade or so, and now everything was just too dim for comfort, like someone kept turning off the lights in different rooms of the house and finally only a single bulb burned in the attic. He leaned in close to me and I could see the pricks of sweat on his forehead and feel the cool bump of his nose. The gummy, ugly mouth which said one day the whole house will burn down. Then he cackled and gripped his knees tightly. He’s not a bad man, I decided. When he talks a little more. Though he’s a bit sweaty. He refused to have air conditioning in his house, which made that summer a bleak affair. I like, he mentioned. To feel a little sticky. I began to laugh, but he said this with a dour look on his face. As if someone had died. Someone died in this room, he whispered. On a day just like today. He was still solemn, but then he erupted in laughter and the china in the cabinet shook, laughing along with him, the house a groaning mirror that imagined him above a grubby white sink where he washed himself long ago. When I laugh, the house does not laugh along – his laughs are the laughs of a giant, the mighty guffaws of a fairytale overman who roams around Germany with a sack full of bones, his own, the ones he first died with and now carries as a reminder of his first mortality, and, of course, to remind the little children with no-shoes but plenty of Panzerschrecks of their own imminent fate. The children stay indoors these days, even when the sun beckons them to play. It is here, in Kassel, that the giant sleeps and waits in the night, picking at himself until the bombs sail through the crisp air of October, 1943. He has no political affiliation and does not intend to do anything about the war, but the war has decided to do something with him. He does not stand for it, so he treks to the basalt steps of Northern Ireland. And, because of the war, because of the sea, because of love, because of you, he laughs and the laugh leaps into the air like a shining fish then plunging back into the black sea, growing deep in feet and getting caught by my old man when he was a young man, who ate him, and sat with me and laughed the laugh of that fish, of that giant, of that lonely town receiving bombs in its lap like a child stung fresh by a bee.
untitled Halimah Schmidt Mixed Media
humiliate the heat Adam Evertz
nothing stands still but he believed in an endless summertime enough for rose gold and peaches, girls whose laughs are like lighters flashing in the dark-Orange, like the leaves will be. In retrospect, the myth was always tainted. August held him between blonde fingertips, shuddering at high noonWhile he was busy fumbling, summer spit up blood and died an ivory death. let the wild-haired girls, and boys with gliding paper airplane laughs, take the narrow pathIâ€™m headed for the corn field 7
seeing red Lily Marks
When the world got tired of us it started leeching things away. The colors were first, and the first color was red. We all acted so betrayed when we started to notice it, like victims of a universal tragedy. But at first it wasn’t such a big deal. We didn’t care about the paler skin, or the oranges that turned closer to yellow each morning. The phenomenon was so gradual that it didn’t even get any national attention until people started to notice how watery our blood looked. That was a real laugh though. Scientists and conspiracy theorists alike went gaga over the “blood thinning epidemic”. It turns out it was just a shortage of the color red. For two months, all reds became pink. I actually found this quite nice. The pale pink lips and inner eyelids and roses and flames... but then one day we all woke up around the sunrise with a sudden searing feeling. It was a sudden pain - not quite as excruciating as today’s history books describe it but certainly uncomfortable. It was like having something torn from you, like the shock of a hair being ripped out by the root. Except it was beneath the skin, and it was everywhere, every part of every body at once. Our scalps were searing, our livers were searing, our kneecaps were searing. Likely the room around us was searing too - the objects just couldn’t express it. Unable to sleep through such strange pain, we crawled to our windows. Outside we saw it - the tips of yellow bleeding into the nighttime blue. Without the familiar hues of red, orange, and pink, the only thing left of sunrise was a solid yellow band across the sky. As we stared we stopped searing, and the longer we stared the quicker we readjusted to this new yellow-blue reality. For a few days we were all strangers. Before, we didn’t realize what red was for us. How it was everywhere, everything. We didn’t realize that you couldn’t make brown without red. We never even saw the specks of red pressing against the surface of the greenest eyes. And we never knew that behind every red there was actually something else. That other color is what we see now. Now what we have is yellow and blue but together they make green and a whole lot of other colors too. The leeching of red wasn’t a loss so much as it was a shift. But shifts happen all the time and no one really 8
notices. The ground spins and when we breathe the air moves and when we sign our names it’s different every time. Even after all this talk of the color we took for granted, no one talks about things like that. These days we don’t really remember what red was at all. We all say we can still picture it but we’re all liars.
We’re looking for something salvageable. Good shape, no dents, easy to clean up. The clients need a re-sell by Monday, so we’ve got no time to waste. Every one of Frank’s boys knows these words by heart, so often are they recited in one iteration or another. They punctuate the air as a calloused hand grabs the scruff of a neck and hoists it out of bed, shaking off any lingering remnants of sleep. Or else they’re said in departure after he surreptitiously slips a five dollar bill into your hand, saying it’s for cigarettes at the 7-Eleven. No matter what context Frank always cuts in, wanting this or that, and paying no mind to the delicate equilibrium he might upset in the process. It’s about to happen today, another disruption by this pot-bellied general as he dictates the week’s first assignment. Today Frank is alive. He smokes a cigarette without using any hands, a skill acquired after living through so many sub-zero winters. He’s about to speak, but for whatever reason decides to hang back a moment and watch the scene before him. I notice him from the corner of my eye and try to imagine what he sees. Two figures showing the first gangly signs of adolescence wordlessly engage in a game of one on one. It is approximately nine in the morning, the dull winter light turns everything the color of tin and a light snow begins to fall. The two boys, for one can’t quite yet call them men, use a basketball hoop in front of an auto repair shop. Outside the game their limbs are still trying to make sense of themselves. Shoulders hunch while adjusting to this newfound height. But for now they exhibit a quiet intensity as they sway back and forth in a complex dance, arms pumping and necks bowing in a choreographed rhythm. This is Danny and I, we play basketball here every morning. Frank observes us for another minute or two before he calls, “Get over here. I need you to go down to the yard and grab us a couple catalytic converters. Drop ‘em off at Dempsey’s and then swing by Pete’s to pick up today’s load. Al, you’re gonna stop by the garage and move rims. Danny meet me back here. ” 10
The game stops and we look over at Frank, absorbing his instructions. Danny is the taller one, six feet and pale with white-blonde hair nearly the same color as his skin. He blows on his fingers and nods to himself, already mapping out today’s route in his head. Myself, shorter and darker, is used to getting sent to the garage while Frank and Danny fraternize behind a desk. The logistics of petty crime involves a lot of paperwork. I don’t think I’d understand it much, so I don’t mind being out of the loop. But I can’t shake the feeling that Frank and Danny do a lot more than myself and the rest of the boys know about. As long as I can remember Danny’s been the confidante. He emerged out of nowhere, already perfectly groomed for joining our ranks only a few months after I enlisted into service. He’s the only one to ever accompany Frank on a drop-off. “How many converters you want,” I say. “However many you can get in an hour,” is the reply, Frank’s back turned away from us and already receding in the distance. We watch him go until he disappears around the corner, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke in his wake. “What are you working on in the shop today,” I ask. Danny shrugs. “Don’t know, Frank didn’t tell me. Only said he’s got a friend in town and to meet him back here before six. Seemed nervous.” I’ve never seen any of Frank’s “friends,” and can only assume Danny is sinking deeper into the invisible network, burrowing roots into Frank’s conglomerate across his town, his city. We turn up our collars against the wind and grab our bicycles from the shop. We keep to the side of the road as we pedal towards the junkyard, taking care that our tires don’t skid on the ice. • I remember the first day Frank found me, plucked me out of a crowd of ten or twenty other grimy kids outside the New Life Shelter on Third Avenue. He said he chose me because I looked like I’d been around more than the other boys had. Lived a little more, seen more. Which was true, in part --- but I think it’s because he knew I didn’t come with anyone else. Those other snot-nosed, lice filled kids were mostly clinging to mothers, whereas I was dumped soon as I could talk. Frank takes in the discarded souls of the city and turns them into his boys, his foot soldiers. Exceedingly loyal malcontents so long as he buys them hamburgers and cigarettes and gives them a place to sleep. For this we do anything he asks. We’re an amateur moving crew, clearing out huge ware11
houses in an hour. We are dismantlers, scavengers, escort drivers, bus boys hired out to restaurants for only a day or two. Frank is the head and we are the limbs in our makeshift body politic. The past few months Danny and I have been working on the East end of town while the others stay in the West, so we haven’t seen much of them. I wonder what they’re doing while Danny and I pull into the yard, it’s rusted contents half hidden by last night’s snow. I wonder if they, too will be meeting Frank’s friend later while I ply apart tire rims. I push these thoughts aside. Danny and I pull out our tools and get to work. • Around 7 o’ clock I finish up at the garage, wiping sweat from my brow with swollen fingertips. I air out my shirt, trying to cool off so my hair won’t freeze into icicles once I step outside. Layers shed hours before are put on once more, barriers built against the unrelenting winter. It’s completely dark by the time I leave. The snow falls in a quiet, steady pace. It’s too heavy to ride through so I walk my bike back to the shop, where I expect to find Frank and Danny bowed over paperwork with long extinguished cigarettes hanging off their lips. As I pull up I see that the place looks dark and assume they’re still out with the unknown party. I decide to wait around until they come back, telling myself it’s because I need to log my hours while knowing it’s out of resentment. I lock up my bike and rummage in my pockets for a match, lighting a cigarette and trying to smoke like Frank. I do this three more times and the shop remains closed. The doors are locked and I’m starting to feel the cold seep through my boots, so I head to the 7-Eleven for coffee and a sandwich, sure that Frank and Danny will return before I come back. It’s nearing ten and the shop is still silent. I think about calling someone, but I don’t know who. Maybe they went for a drink at Dempsey’s and lost track of time. I sift through the possibilities when suddenly I hear a phone ring, it’s muffled cry coming from inside the shop. I stand there, knowing I can’t answer but feeling sure that Frank locked up the place on accident and he’s calling now to say they’ll be back soon. The phone stops and I settle back into silence, craning my neck every few seconds looking for the flash of tail lights. The minutes tick slowly by and still I am alone. Danny’s words float back to me now, the ones I’d ignored this morning. “Seemed nervous.” They had no resonance then, but now it’s all I can think about. I’m about to head over to Dempsey’s and ask around when someone’s calling 12
Victoria Lin Analog Photograph
again, I hear the ringing more loudly this time and realize it’s not coming from inside. It’s emitting from a pay phone a block down the street. I sprint towards it, an uneasiness growing inside me as I force my stiff legs to propel forward. “Frank,” I say, smashing into the receiver. There’s a pause. I hear noise in the background. The creaking of a chair maybe, something heavy being dragged across a floor. A man coughs, and then, “Ally, I need you to do something for me.” “Yeah anything, what is it,” I say while trying to catch my breath, relieved to hear Frank at the end of the line. “Listen. I need you to go down to the train depot in thirty minutes. I need you to walk there, ok? Once you get there you should see a car, should be the only one in the lot. You need to get in and start it, ok Ally, can you do that?” His voice sounds different, its usual vibrancy reduced to a dull murmur, like he has a cold. I can hear him wheezing as he waits for my answer. I tell him I can do it and ask if there’s anything else. “Yes. You’re gonna get in and drive towards I-94, take the left onto highway 2 and go til you see the lake. Then you’re gonna turn off your lights and drive about a mile in, you understand? Make sure you go slow so the wheels don’t spin out.” “Wait, I...you want me to drive onto the lake? Is it...but how? Are you sure it’s frozen?” “Of course it’s fucking frozen, it’s fucking January. Go slow so the wheels don’t spin out.” “But what do I do once I get there.” “You wait.” “Frank, is Danny with you,” I ask, but before the words are out the line is already dead. • Sure enough, I get to the depot and see a single car waiting, illuminated by the streetlamp. The engine sticks as I turn the key, as if the car hasn’t been driven all winter. I pull out of the lot, too cold to think straight, too confused to try and make sense of what’s happening. Over and over Danny’s words echo in my head: Seemed nervous. The drive takes maybe forty minutes. I see the lake coming into view, snowflakes catch the light as they reflect off it’s glassy surface. 14
I look for an opening with the least decline and slowly edge the vehicle out onto the ice. The car lurches forward and starts to spin, breaks rendered useless after leaving concrete. All I see is black as the car continues it’s rotating trajectory. I cry out and grip the steering wheel, sliding the gears into neutral to regain some semblance of control. Eventually the car stops spinning, and I’m able to move it along at a crawling pace. I remember to switch off the lights and look at the vast stretch of blue in front of me. Gray ice means it’s melting. Ice that’s white to opaque is often porous, full of air pockets as water-saturated snow freezes over top and forms thin layers. Blue ice is what you need to look for. It’s high density, solid. In order for me to stay alive the ice below must be at least a foot thick. The dashboard tells me it’s after midnight. I stop the car to listen for the hollow sound of ice splintering, for footsteps, for voices, anything. Nothing is returned, so I look around the car for the first time to see what can be deduced. An empty book of matches advertising a restaurant in New York is wedged between the seats. The glove compartment empty, the back seat empty. I’m afraid I’ll miss something over the hum of the engine so I keep it off, even though the cold is next to unbearable. An hour goes by. I try and light another cigarette, but numb hands ensure that I drop one match after the other. One falls to my feet and just as I bend to pick it up I see something moving in front of me. Three shuffling figures emerge from the darkness. They move closer and I can see that one of them is Danny, his snowy hair reflecting the moonlight makes him stick out before the others. He’s carrying something, though I can’t make out what. Next to him, there’s no mistaking it: Frank. The third figure remains obscured, a scarf wrapped tightly around the lower half of his face. He stands a foot taller than the rest. They stop in front of the car and I now see that Danny is carrying a pick axe. His entire face is red and chapped. They look at me, silhouetted against the night sky. In the darkness I can’t tell if Frank is smiling or grimacing. They walk around the car and I get out, unsure if it’s the right thing to do. Without looking at me Frank says, “Pop the trunk.” He reaches into the trunk and pulls out a large bag, staggering backwards from the weight. The third figure reaches an arm down and grabs the end of it, hoisting it upwards to relieve the load. All three start to walk, and not knowing what else to do I follow them. We go about thirty paces until Danny kneels down and begins to clear a small area of snow. I see him push 15
aside a large piece of cardboard, exposing a hole in the ice about two feet wide. Beneath it the water rests like a black void, flowing silently beneath our feet. No one says a word, the only sound comes from Frank as he wheezes and drags his end of the bag. As I move closer I see that it’s covered in stains, though I’m unable to tell whether or not they’re fresh. Frank and the stranger drop the bag on the ground and Frank looks at him expectantly. Both his head and mouth are covered, his eyes glowing like disembodied orbs. “Go ahead,” he says through his scarf. Using what must be his last bit of strength Frank tries to force the bag through the hole, which isn’t quite large enough to accommodate its contents. I see movement from inside. However, before I can confirm, it’s gone. Only a faint splash is heard as it slips below the frozen surface. Frank is bent over panting. I try to engage Danny but he holds the pick axe behind his shoulders and refuses to look up from the ground. Slowly the third figure turns to leave, and the others follow suit. I start to go as well when Frank turns around and says “No. You can’t follow us, Al. Not tonight.” “But, Frank...” I trail off as he shakes his head. The stranger turns and says, “Leave the car.” “How am I supposed to get back?” “I’m sorry,” Frank says, “but you have to leave the car.” He reaches out and grabs my shoulder, giving it a slight squeeze with his gloved hand. Frank turns and the three of them walk away from me. I watch their backs recede until they’re once more swallowed up by darkness, and I am alone. • It takes me three hours to get back to town on foot, the sun is out by the time I see the road. My appendages are swollen and purple. I make out the shape of the 7-Eleven, where I proceed to stumble through its doors and into the bathroom. Here I collapse on the floor and fall into a fitful sleep. Two days later I am unsurprised to find the auto repair shop still locked and empty. I return multiple times a day, for multiple weeks, only to be greeted by the same result. Once I think I hear the phone ringing, but it stops before I’m close enough to be sure. I reach out to the boys across town, the bartenders, waiters, and clerks who I know must have served Frank at one time or another. All of them tell me the same thing, that he’ll turn up eventually. It’s just like Frank to disappear for awhile until you start 16
to forget, only to have him return like nothing’s changed. I ask the boys in the East if they’ve seen Danny and they all say no. It’s springtime now and the ice is starting to melt. I’ve stopped going to the repair shop so much, and have even taken up a job as a line cook for a replacement income. The net on the basketball hoop has begun to sag. Today Frank might be alive. I smoke a cigarette without using any hands.
Charlotte Simons Oil Painting
something song of four a.m. Nathaniel Lanman
song of something sleepless and eager, something six-eightish. a pulse waltz. a lullaby for lucid ruminations, under which this room sways blue with fifths, washes over white with fingers, white with eyelids and ears. my throat is a red cellar where i chain my ghosts. her mouthâ€”i do not know. we unfurl and return, golden brown with sleep. this is sleep: holding out for something to share silently between the bars and the walls and the teeth of the gentle beast. we shed something dreamless, something meager as flesh and feeling, as our spines, drenched to their roots. she sings something and i listen. something warm fills her frame. something deathless and urgent as each hammer and its string, coiled and taut and brilliant, and the bulb moans wicked with gleam, and her song is something calculable, though only under a chaos wire and wood. something snores in the lint pocket of my chest, sleeping to flee the spectral something of her palms and the something of her wrists, the something of her voiceâ€” for that is the something that hums in my brain and blood, that brings me rest on her neck, listening, living in the lilt of her shoulder as she draws the song from its bed. 19
a fist of flowers
“I can’t believe they sell flowers at 711,” you said smiling at the heap of dyed petals wrapped in periwinkle cellophane. I left my post at the gum rack and walked towards you. The brightest collage of magenta, yellow, cobalt, and orange bouquets peered up at me. “They are so bright. It’s kind of beautiful, I think.” My fingers rubbed over the petal’s seemingly painted surface. “It’s almost hard to look at.” I turned my head away towards yours. I could tell you had been thinking about me. Your scruffy face tilted a little to the right and your eyes softened. You grabbed my hands then my shoulders and rocked me from side to side. I felt bits of glass explode in my stomach. “Aren’t we here for slurpees anyway?” You said breaking away. Before I answered, you looked over to the cashier lost in a magazine, and dunked your entire head under the cheery cola slurpee dispenser. I laughed into my denim sleeve until I joined you under cherry lime, the sweetness almost crushed me. Eventually, we deposited the slushy mix into cups and left. October air smoked into my lungs. We moved slowly through the city streets, winding in and out of others. You grabbed my hand without looking. Your hand was cold and wet from holding the slurpee, so cold and wet I almost couldn’t hold it but I did. We walked down Park Avenue for ages and ages, the brittle wind coursing through the crevices of our hands interlocked. We reached the steps of Union Square, near the station of crates with chess boards abandoned for the night by their day-time players. The bustle of Union Square was stagnant in the face of night. We sauntered near the dome of the subway station. You smirked; hands fidgeted in your pocket until you pulled out a single orange flower. “I got this for you, well rather stole this for you, you, my orange flower.” You were proud. You slow danced with the flower goofily. I couldn’t help but gleam at your tan face. When you came back to my step, I grabbed your jacket collar and the orange flower and pulled you close. There was a moment just when the skin on our noses skimmed ever so slightly, the 20
pre kiss; my very favorite part. Our eyes fixed and fell. But then we kissed and kissed on the stone steps and cherry lime and cherry cola and all things cherry flushed over my face and into my heart staining it crimson red. “I want to take you somewhere.” Your eyes brightened and beamed above mine. We walked into the subway terminal and boarded the L train to 8th Avenue. On the subway, we played our favorite game, making up elaborate stories about the people near us. You had your eyes on a thin boy in a tan plaid shirt and loafers. “That right there is Mark, graduated third in his class at MIT, second to his twin brother Marcus, and first to his ex-girlfriend Marcy. Now Mark is running away from the constraints of competition to live a quaint life in residential Brooklyn discovering the science behind the perfect pumpkin muffin.” “Why pumpkin muffin?” I asked. “He looks a little like a pumpkin.” You answered, grinning. Finally, we transferred to the C train and after three stops we arrived at the mysterious location. “Come on, we’re almost there.” I recognized the building as your older brother, Peter’s apartment. “We’re going to see Peter?” “We are going on the roof.” The moment we entered the roof I was overcome. There was light everywhere; dusting off windows and streetlamps, and off the crisp dirty stars stark against the canvas of night. “This way Mia Bia” you said and led me to the farthest corner from the door. There was an enormous concave circle surrounded by a fence, lit by hundreds of twinkle lights woven into the wires of the fence. “What’s this?” My eyes were thirsty for this empty space. “Come in with me.” We slinked down into the cool, smooth surface and I realize it is an empty swimming pool. “Peter and I added the lights. Isn’t it amazing?” I was hundreds of feet above the world, lying in a bed of stars. I didn’t answer with words. We kissed and kissed pierced by light and the surge crossing between mouths and bodies. I was 18 but ageless. You stared at me, hard. “Mia, I…” you paused and breathed. “You are my first, my best, my only. I love you.” It all felt so dramatic. But my heart swam. “I love you too, more than I know how,” I answered. My voice wobbled. 21
Later that night, we walked to your apartment like we had so many times before. You lived exactly twenty blocks away from me, on 76th and Central Park West, “practically long distance” you used to say. You lived exactly one block from the movie theater where we met in middle school and three blocks from the diner where we ran into each other so many years later; last March. We drank vanilla milkshakes and talked all night in that sacred high school way. At your apartment, we drank red wine in your bed like we had so many times before. We gazed up at your neon plastic stars and counted them drunkenly like we had so many times before. But this time, our island was crowded with words; with the kind of words I would knot and then re-knot over again in my head. Our bodies moved, curling in and out and up and over and over. There was silence and sparks and sweat. It was Thanksgiving and I was locked in my bathroom. Somewhere in between cheese and crackers and the first round of mashed potatoes, my heart gave out. I had to know. My entire extended family was sitting at the folding table my mother rented for the occasion. The smell of gravy and steamed vegetables lingered in my nose as I perched over the toilet. I could hear my mother fiddling about the kitchen in her red apron; clacking at pans and machines she barely could barely use. “Kiss the cook” was written in white cursive down her torso next to a giant mustached face of a cartoon chef. I always thought her apron looked so dumb. Right now, I longed to bury my head in that thick red canvas smock. Instead, my head was bent over my knees. Two lines again. This was the third test. This was the third series of two lines. I gripped the white plastic stick, my brain fizzing with the shake of my arms and knees. I wanted to rip through my skin and fly out. I knew I needed to tell you, to drop our snow globe on it’s head. I knew I needed to. But it was you. You. You would be terrified. You would cover your face and close your mouth. You would not speak to me. And then you would. You wrap all the right words in your blue fleece blanket and we’d count the plastic stars on your ceiling. I know you would. But what if you didn’t? What if this, this swollen problem broke us and even worse broke you? I sank on to the white bath mat. There was a knock at the door. “Mia!!!! Your grandparents want to talk about Dartmouth. Can you please get out of there already?” I heard my mother huff away cursing at her angst ridden teenage daughter. I pressed my hands over my thick eye22
lids and then washed them under lukewarm water. The three white sticks flushed down the toilet as I left to talk to my grandparents about my future. As I walked out, I could hear the toilet crunch and clog. I knew the worst part would be facing my doorman, George. And I was right. “Where oh where is my Mia Bia going?” He has sung at me since I was six. George, in the stiffest suit with a line of gold buttons about to burst over his rotund stomach. George, who hung up stacks of my construction paper drawings of gardens and whales and Christmas trees in our marble lobby. George, who helped me stagger into the elevator after my first time drinking vodka when I was 15, four shots in. George whose black eyes were more familiar than the father I’ve never met. George, the one that I love and hate to face. It was no different that December morning. He was humming and pacing. “Blue Christmas, Mia Bia. By my beloved King Presley. What a song.” My insides churned and clunked. I was biting back tears, literally my teeth ripped at the sides of my mouth. “And where oh where is my Mia Bia going?” “Ice cream, George. I don’t feel so good.” I pushed open the door leaving his mouth full of questions. The air outside clawed at my skin. This was December without the twinkle-lights and felt letters of Christmas. It was the coldest I had felt in a very long time. Central Park West was covered in wool and down. I was wearing my mother’s spandex bell-bottoms, my stepfather’s giant parka and my dumb pink rain boots. The curvy greenery of Central Park leaned up and over my horizon line. I wanted snow to settle over me and slush me to sleep. I was silent, trying very hard to focus on nothing so that nothing would be associated with this day. I decided to walk there. I had 70 blocks to make decisions, to stop walking, to turn back towards George and the elevator with the broken 6 button and my mother’s cream bed. But then what would happen after tomorrow? After a whole lot more of tomorrows? My cheeks sighed out under the salty syrup pouring. I put on headphones and listened to classical music on the lowest volume, while turning over a wad of bills in my pocket. “Where are you Mi?” read my phone. Tears globbed out like clay. My ankles shook violently as I ambled on. I arrived five minutes before my appointment, the appointment I cancelled three times already. I sat in a beige plastic chair facing a pamphlet 23
on Syphilis. There was a teenage girl in a pink turtleneck and a blonde ponytail, her arms wrapped around her chest. Next to her was a teenage boy in a blue button down and a wavy bowl cut anxiously reaching out to console her. I wondered how these two people ended up on a Syphilis pamphlet. I wondered how I ended up here. I wrote words on a clipboard, like my mom used me at the peditrician’s. I couldn’t think about my mom. Right now, she was not here. She was in Tuscany with my stepfather. She left me $500 for the week and the hotel phone number. She came in my room and kissed my forehead before her flight. “I love you Mia Bia. If you need anything call up George. See, I can be the cool Mom letting you have the apartment.” She smiled heartily to herself, thinking she had fulfilled her “good mom” quota. She was a “good mom” because she left me money and a seventy five year old doorman. I envisioned her in Tuscany, decked in her oversized sun hat, sipping on sangria, hand and hand with Tim. Tim, who I had known for six years but hadn’t spent more than an hour alone with. He married my mother in the spring after my twelfth birthday. I had braces, a bob haircut and a champagne floor length maid of honor gown. I had never been so angry. I remember my mother stepping into her enormous gown, looking wide eyed at me for my approval. “My Mia, I have found you a father, better than your real one could’ve ever been.” I wanted to stomp my ugly champagne kitten heels into her precious gown and scream that she couldn’t create a father, that I had a real one and that she had made him leave. But instead I was silent as I puffed out the bottom of her dress. In reality, I knew it was me who made him leave. Me, barely ten pounds, bundled in bright pink that he couldn’t and wouldn’t bear. What would my mother say if she knew what I was doing right now? She would smack me across the face, tell me it was the “right move,” hold my hand until her 5 pm cocktail with Tim, and then set up an appointment with Dr. Goldstein, the therapist to the Upper West side. We would never speak of it again. She would still call me “honey bear” and bring me to Barney’s on my birthday. She would still look at you as the hero to her sullen daughter because of your dad’s position at Goldman Sachs. I sat next to a very young girl and a very young boy, no older than fifteen. They were both sobbing violently. He clutched on to her cheetahgloved hand as her mascara sloppily trudged down pink cheeks. He wiped 24
her face over and over again, his hands blackened and wet. “Shhh baby shhh” he said through his own sobs. My own mascara drooled out of silent sobs. I wished you were sitting with me. I wished you were calling me baby even though you never had before. I wished your tan hands were over my own. I buried my face in my lap. A nurse named Janice called my name. She looked so kind, her eyes brown and freckled. She wore pale pink scrubs and held my hand when I finally stood up. She smelled like baby powder and daisies and sweat. “You okay Mia?” I shook my head but walked down the hallway. Janice recited medical terms, directions, warnings, but I couldn’t hear her. She secured a plastic hospital bracelet on my wrist. My ears felt clogged with fluid. I longed for Janice to comb my hair, to dress me in flannel pajamas, to give me tea and Advil and a backrub. Janice squeezed my hand before she left, “Mia I hope everything works out.” My brain buried into silence. I thought of science, chemical liquids crawling under organs colored pink and brown. I thought of the bends in bones compiled and stored in flesh, the bits of cartilage piled in the ear, and towers of atoms of memories captured under my powdered skull. I could feel myself exiting, hovering slightly above this sterile scene. The doctor knocked and entered. He had a baldhead and a fat face. His name was Dr. Reid and I wanted to forget the name instantly. He explained what would happen slowly and surely. I did not listen. I remained still and concentrated on holding back tears. I raised my kneecaps. There were blue gloves and a quiet. My body felt like a giant stone. I did not cry. I did not move, just deafening quiet in my skull and my heart corroding, crimson red rusting off and off. I took a cab home, staring bleakly at the 2nd Avenue evening. I closed my eyes for seventy blocks The driver did not speak one word. I did not cry. I did not move. When I arrived home, George was waiting for me. “Mia Bia where oh where have you been?” He asked, almost nervously. All I did was hug him and cry, violently into his three piece suit. He hugged me back. I told him I had a bad day and that I needed to go to sleep. He pulled away, his eyes watery and full. I ripped off the hospital bracelet and the giant parka in the elevator. In the empty apartment, I went straight for my mother’s room. I spread across her white bed in my jeans and boots, staining muddy snow all over her precious bedspread, wishing she were here for once and shut off the light, tucked myself in, and went to sleep. You came over in the middle of the night after you hadn’t heard 25
from me all day. I wondered what George told you when I walked in. Years, later I assumed that somehow George figured out what happened. He always seemed to have a way of knowing. You crawled into bed with me. “Miaaaaaaa, wake up. Are you okay?” “I don’t feel well. I feel very sick.” I curled into your body. My heart sighed with relief to feel your skin. “Your face feels so hot. Do you have a fever? I was worried when you didn’t answer.” You propped my head to look at me. “I think so. Will you stay?” I reached for you to come closer. “Yeah of course.” You kissed my forehead. Then you stood up to take off your shoes. You got me a glass of water from the kitchen. Then you came back into the bed. “I love you ya know” you said as you stroked my hair. “Even if you are sick and won’t kiss me.” I shook my head. You laughed lightly. I couldn’t hold it anymore. The tears rang out into the darkness. You did not see. You were wide- awake. As long as I couldn’t see your eyes, I could lie with you. “How can I make you feel better?” I didn’t answer. Then you started to sing. First you sang Iron and Wine because you knew I loved them. You sang bits of “Trapeze Swinger,” and I felt so calm I couldn’t move. Then you sang Bob Dylan because you knew all of the words. Should I leave them by your gate Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait? The next morning you left early. Eventually I pulled myself out of bed. I wore one of my stepfather’s giant cashmere sweaters. I did not eat or wash my face. I had an idea. Thankfully, George did not work on Sunday mornings I thought, as I charged through the lobby avoiding human interaction. I walked six blocks east. Between two brick apartment buildings there it was. Our three-walled courtyard of grass, not quite well kept enough to be a garden. You and I stumbled upon this spot in March, when we were just beginning. “Mia look at this. It’s really pretty.” If I had stumbled across it myself, I would have thought it was a clump of weeds and a wire bench. I would have walked right by it. “With the bricks and the bench. It needs flowers though.” Once the idea was in your head you couldn’t get it out. You returned every day or so with seeds and plants and mulch and everything I knew nothing about. My mother wouldn’t keep so much as a houseplant in our apartment. You researched what flowers would grow in the summer, in the 26
city. When August came, it was incredible. It was brimming with life and color, tall grasses, peonies, azaleas, lilies, etc. I spent my summer there with you. Slow dancing under peachy summer nights with a boom box and seven dollar wine. Lying on the wire bench, talking about the same silly things. “Lets live in this shadow box,” you used to say and kiss my eyes. That morning in December the greenery was faded and crusted. I ran my hands over the dead leaves. The world was so cold. I went over to a corner of this sacred space. I brushed away a spot of dirt and gathered stones and sticks. I arranged the stones in a heart. It wasn’t much. But it was something. I didn’t have anything to bury. All I had was this memory, haunting the surface. There were three weeks of pushing you, further and further and out. I couldn’t have anticipated how hard it was to see you. You came over every day after school as usual. I would tell you I needed to sleep, that I thought I was very sick and that you couldn’t kiss me or touch me at all. My skin lost all fiber of feeling. I couldn’t look at your face. I wanted so much not to ruin it, but I knew it had already happened. I was soiled in secret. You would sleep next to me in the afternoons. Then you would go home for dinner and call me until we fell asleep. My mother finally returned from Europe and it was easy to avoid her. Our apartment was a traffic jam of tinsel and garland and Santa puppets and yet, Christmas came without any sound. I slept through half of Christmas day. You came over in the evening with a CD of Christmas songs and a giant piece of mistletoe taped to the front. “So you have to kiss me,” you said sadly. I kissed your cheek. You sat with me on the living room couch until midnight, until it was no longer Christmas. I pretended to be asleep so you would leave. You tried to make plans; we went to the Central Park Zoo three times. I stared at the penguins waddling about in their formal wear. They were normally my favorite but I told you I thought they looked grimy and unhappy. You tried not to start a fight. Until one day you did. “Mia, are we going to talk about what’s going on?” It was a Wednesday in January. “I’m trying here but I can’t go on like this forever. I am a person and I need you to talk to me. What is happening with you? ” We were standing on the stoop outside my building, it was so dark. The night was ice. I felt myself shrivel. This was the inevitable moment I knew would come. I conjured words; tired, overdone, and ugly. “I don’t love you, Max. I don’t need you. I don’t want you. It’s not 27
happy anymore.” “That’s it?” You answered quietly. I knew you were expecting me not to be honest. You folded your hands and crinkled your face. Our eyes caught for the last time. “I will love you always and always. You are the first, the best, the only.” You kissed me, hard. I pulled away. I ran inside my building. And that was the end of you and me. • I am on my third Jack and coke. Warmness putters through my veins wrapping my cold December skin. Sitting at the counter in my navy blazer and my patent leather purse, I am exhausted. I am only on my third week at my mother at the gallery and I already feel like I need to lie down. I told myself I deserve one drink. Today out of all days. I deserve one drink. I try to order my fourth, searching for the bartender. “What can I get for you” he asks and looks up. His eyes are round, large, and hazel. I lean in closer to the counter to tell him my order. I can smell faint marijuana and aftershave on his neck. He looks a little older than me, not quite handsome but I like his hair. His hair is curly, jet black and falls wildly. “Jack and coke.” I say slowly and his eyes dart in and out of my focus, lips part revealing jagged teeth and a lopsided smile. I can tell he feels me staring and I am staring. I realize I must be drunk. I can feel tears beginning to clog the edge of my throat. But I swallow them. “My favorite too,” he says as he puts the drink in front of me. “Mia” I say offering out my hand. “Ray,” he shakes my hand, his palms clammy and thin. “How old are you?” he asks as he wipes off the beer tap, not looking up. “Twenty three.” He shakes his head and turns away. “But you look so young.” He grins and I move to the stool across from him “I feel like I’m 100.” Three hours later, we are standing outside his apartment in Brooklyn. One cigarette dangling in his ear and one on his lips, sewing toxic ribbons around my face. “Mia, Mia,” he repeats my name. His tipsy eyes twinkle. “Mia Bia.” I think of George who no longer works in my old building, who now needs a cane to walk. I think of my marble lobby and the creaking elevator and the broken 6 button. I think of all my Decembers so long ago, 28
the build and the break. I imagine memories like stones crashing the windows of my face. I light one for myself, the tiny fire tightening my lungs. Half a cigarette later, it starts to snow ever so slightly, the whitest rain coating our silence. Ray tells me about the first time he saw snow when he was six. He tells me about his powder blue jacket and his dog, Ruffles chasing his tail in a heap of snow. All of these details amount in a pile in my brain. A pile I will never revisit. When the snow picks up a little, he leads me inside his studio apartment. There are two red roosters over his small kitchen counter. There is a bed with black sheets and a ripped leather couch and a giant bass resting in the corner. We sit at the edge of the black bed. Quiet consumes the space between our hips. I wonder how his body will look up over my ribs. He goes over to his laptop on a black plastic nightstand and turns on a husky folk band. “They sound like Dylan don’t they?” I nod a little. I don’t want to think about it but I can’t help it. I can almost trace your thin smooth ribs heaving as you sang, Should I leave them by your gate, Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait? All those years ago. “What’s with the bass?” I ask changing the subject. He tells me about his band, “The Soulful Pyros” and about his crazy friend Richie, the singer from Cincinnati. Some part of me is cringing. Another is crying. The rest of me waits to be undressed. Eventually, Ray looks into my eyes with sudden seriousness. We start to kiss, his coarse tongue pummeling into my own. “Won’t you be my angel tonight, lamby?” He unbuttons the final button of his shirt. Then it happens. His body unfurls over mine, the small of my back rubbed on coldest cotton sheets. The whole experience lasts a little over ten minutes according to the neon numbers of his alarm clock blinking on the kitchen counter. I wonder who was the first person he said he loved. I wonder if she loved him back. He sits, straightening up his spine. “Oh,” he whispers, He says “lamby” again and again. Then he looks at me with sad eyes and a three seconds of scripted silence. I don’t want to be called lamby or exist in this post coital cave. He slides a cigarette from his nightstand into his mouth and begins rambling, explaining how heaven is a vacuum of orgasms and jazz. I stare at the square alarm clock on the kitchen counter, lying in this strangeness of two strangers. 29
“I want a pipe and a pretty daughter,” he says and it’s 3:03. The room is damp in darkness. I almost feel like we aren’t living, that this strange sorrowful meeting won’t be held for or against me. I want to tell him I have never done this, that I was pure and holy and clean before this. I want to scare him. But I decide not to. “Goodnight lamby” he says wrapping fleshy limbs under mine. I am limp and tired. By 5:37 I am outside on the stoop staring at the cigarette butts from before. I don’t think about where I am going, I just go. I feel incredibly young walking alone at this strange time of day. I think about you, you, five years and the first one is still biting. I think about the greenery of your eyes, about all of our firsts, flashes of skin, about all your voicemails from years after pleading for words. I didn’t answer once. I couldn’t. And all those nights you came to my building pleading to George. It broke his heart but I told him not to let you up. And finally the last time, two years later, he did. I heard you through my door, “Mia…come on…I really need you. I need to talk to you…this is serious. ” The subway is almost empty. Where are you? A few men in slacks and suits stand next to me, their eyes fixed forward. I emerge out of the terminal and fill my lungs with a rush of cold. I button my blazer and hold my hands together. I walk four blocks, avoiding puddles and people. I arrive at our garden. I almost keep walking but I don’t want to; this year I want to see it. I stare at the tiny metal bench, almost entirely rusted and very wet. I trudge around gripping at the weathered bricks of the three walls. I can imagine the raucous wild flowers in the summer, the thin vines that normally clutch on to the brick. I walk towards the furthest corner bracing myself for the stones I constructed all those years ago, and then I see it. A small bouquet wrapped in periwinkle cellophane bright against the layer of white snow. There isn’t any snow on the bouquet. My heart dips as my head peers over the wrapping. Five orange flowers.
You might be surprised— you never knew where to find the beginning,
from the editors
You’ve been at it for an hour maybe, or a minute. Even years. Or you just picked up a magazine from the table in front of you, lifted it to eye-level, flipped through. Perhaps you’re looking for a legend—this is not one / there are only ones / no one tells one how to lift these pages—what words to read or which pictures to touch. Let’s make a list
You are up to your neck in color and its absence. You are filling it in. You are drawing the map. 32
but you’ve already started. Don’t fret. This is how all journeys begin: lying down like surface itself; face-up perhaps waking up walking waking up already in movement; jumping up down it’s up your arms hands fingers ranting.
of where we possibly came from: the suburbs where construction builds the road on and on, a color, a season, a temperature, a sea of watercolor fish, a train station in a once-great industrial city.
The only true lines are the wrinkles on your soles.
So onward you go. 33
Zoe Tessler Acrylic
all things considered Danny Lustberg
Dear philosophers, I get sad when I think. â€”Charles Simic Consider the language we use to design and describe, our system of symbols and syllables like small explosions. Consider the words we need to name and tame the world, a series of shadow-puppets on the walls of the cave. Next, consider what is whole and what is divided. Take, for example, the soulâ€” a paper lantern in a windstorm. Take the body, marred by its graffiti of years. Take aspirin. Or else, try imagining a color that no one has seen before. See how far you get. Try tracing the edges of impossible objects. Try filling a hotel with an infinite number of rooms. Try deep breathing. Try something stronger than aspirin. Consider our species, suspended somewhere between apes and angels. Think of the twisted ladder which we climb towards our own assembly. Think of the vast indifference of sunsets and extinctions, the mineral patience of stone. Consider our feeble grasps at the algorithms chalked in white against the blackboard of the evening sky. Consider eternity and oceans. Consider the absolute privacy of space, an iron cell that holds no air. Consider the futility of dream catchers, and then consider the usefulness of sleeping pills. Consider if the stars are even watching. Consider why we call it nightfall, as though darkness were a curtain that might lower any minute. 35
in stamford Matthew Hennigar
Based on the Incan myth of Cavillace
3pm on ABC and our host Maury Povich smiling with all invisible hands clapping daytime thunderous for guest entering stage right – sufferin’ succotash, it’s a woman, smiling sheepish, leggin’ to couch1 , sitting, etc. Her name is Camille Wonderbread, and she’s the Assistant Director at the Taunton Animal Shelter in Taunton, Massachusetts. But we haven’t invited her for that, now, have we? Nonetheless (after pleasantries) Maury, “So, why work at an animal shelter?” “Well, I… uhhh – ” a little nervous laughter, “ – I’m sorry. It’s just – I’m not used to talking about myself, you see.” Maury quips, “Let alone on Live TV.” Invisible mouths chuckling. Fixing her skirt, also chuckles, “Yea, no, I’m obviously no movie star, so…” a smile, “But yea, I just… love animals, I guess. Ever since I was little.” “We’ve had penguins on the show, you know. One of ‘em bit a guest – it was just a kid, actually.” Wonderstruck Wonderbread, aloof yet concentrating, her face crunched, “… Why animals, though? Well, Maury, the thing about animals, the thing about animals is…” mouth opening an epiphany sliver, “Are you happy with your new studio here in Connecticut, Maury?” Pause. “Of course. The people are very…” Interrupting, “You don’t miss New York at all, I’m sure. And you know why?” slight leaning forward grinning, “It’s the animals. People need 1 Macy’s Spring 2013 line: Obese Beige Sofa, 88”W x 35”D x 29”H Orig. $899.00 Now: $699.00 36
animals. They really do. But there aren’t any in the city, Maury – any wild animals, that is. And that’s just not right. Because Maury, there’s a primal, atavistic side to all of us, and…” “Camille, excuse me…” She’s a little, uhh, hot and bothered, “Oh, yes – I’m, I’m sorry about that. I just… get carried away, you know.” “That’s quite alright,” Maury Mona Lisa Smile, “But your child…” Composing herself: “Yes, of course” the skirt, again, and hair. Maury, to crew: “Let’s bring out little Sirius, shall we?” And once again we get those invisible hands clapping as… Enter toddler stage left, led by delighted male intern – delighted since the 2 year old is so adorable and cute and all, the tiny hand fragile in his grown-up hand, which is almost too much to handle as toddler abandons stranger and waddles to mother, who greets her boy with all expected kisses smiles of course audience just dying at this point, and even Maury – though a jaded New Yorker – can’t help but wipe a tear from his eye, managing to say, “You’re a Harry Potter fan, I’m guessing?” “No.” “… and the father…” Camille locks eyes with Maury: “Well, that’s why we’re here, isn’t it?” Startled, “Yes, it is,” Maury crossing his legs, “But we don’t have an average Paternity Test show today, folks. And you’re quite comfortable with this, Camille,” her nonchalant nod, “Would you tell the audience what’s so special about today’s program?” “Most of them already know why it’s so special, Maury. After all, most of them fucked me already.” Our perspective, for a moment, is the camera. Business casual audience repulsed, outraged all at words unflattering, yet quite quiet considering how this scene unfolds so scandalously, salaciously – yet, Despite it all, Maury grins, “Watch the language, now.” Camille: “Isn’t that, like, a little unnecessary at this point?” “I…” Maury surrendering to the truth, “I guess it is…” consequently, a little lost, “And… today, at Camille’s behest, the paternity test won’t involve bloodwork.” “Why would I need it? Sirius’ father is in this room. My child can find his father himself.” “He doesn’t have to,” audience front row a man stands, “That’s my son.” 37
People gasp, they speak in hurried, hushed voices, and it sounds like: wuhwuhwuhwuhwuhwuhuhhh. Again Wonderbread wonderstruck – but quick caution: “What makes you so certain?” “He looks just like me” the man adopting that voice-only-for-toddlers-or-dogs-if-you-want-it-to-come-to-you while stepping from audience with arms open smiling, “CIUUMMM TO DADDY – CIUM ON, BOY.” Mom lets Son free to stand on his own. He stares looking dumb at this man, eyes empty as the grown-up continues, “CIUM ON, NOW. CIUUUMMMM ‘ERE.” One step, then another, and now he’s movin’ alright, wow, straight for the man making ludicrous noises (anticipating oh my god wait for it) WHEEHNNNN… … The man catches something strange in the toddler’s eyes – something, well, not right – and he’s repulsed, staggering heelward horrified, the child slobbering waddling eyes wandering, but THENNNNN…. …. Sirius doesn’t give a fuck about the man, galumphing past the newly crestfallen figure (making new noises equally ludicrous: crying) because the toddler sees his real father. Each eye watching Sirius go into audience up bleachers cutting left along an aisle now past grown-up legs until embracing – wait, what is that? Hold on. Nooo… what? It’s Baron von Lebensraum, the gorgeous German Shepherd. Camille is overjoyed2 , running up to join her family. As for the audience, well… they’re freaking out. And Maury, the poor guy, has taken freaking out to a whole new level: he’s turned into a rock3 . That’ll happen, of course: he was getting on in age, you know, so it was his Rock Time, and his show is kind of a joke right meow, anyway. 2 She had hoped and prayed (no joke, prayed) that the Baron was the father. She had wanted it ever since they first made love in Kennel E, on that enchanted evening when von Lebensraum held her in his paws and told her, “grrrrrrrrr, mgrrrrrrr, mgrRRAWWLllgrrrr.” And the most romantic part is, she doesn’t know a thing about his noble blood, or the von Lebensraum fortune, or the opulent family estate on Lake Geneva (though the manor is dog-sized, of course, so renovations will be necessary), where the wedding shall be held. But she’ll learn about all that after the narrative. 3 Like, a life-size statue. Not just a little rock, or pebble (to clarify, cause I care). 38
But there’s something beautiful here, if you look for it. See the family: Sirius, Camille, and von Lebensraum. The father, stoked, is licking alternatively his son and lover, long pink tongue rough along both their faces. Oh, ask Camille: there’s nothing quite like a kiss from a Baron. But she won’t tell you about it. For her, there is no need for words. Not anymore. Camille and her family are beyond words – beyond the word love, even. If they could, the family would stay here forever, expressing their love, shamelessly… But they are not beyond judgment. And every face in the studio is judging. Keep in mind: this is not a love triangle, but rather something approaching a love hexadecagon – more than that, in fact. Camille’s lovers are a constellation around the family. An angry, seething constellation4 . The room has been quiet for awhile. The only sound: pluapluapluapluap (that dog kiss sloppy sound). So yea: it’s pretty damn awkward. The soon-to-be von Lebensraums, finally, notice the rest of the room. Maury is still onstage, and still a rock. Normally, this would be quite an arresting spectacle. But audience members and crew for the show are more repulsed by the bestiality. Camille is ashamed, it’s true. Nonetheless, she slowly, deliberately fixes her hair, adjusts her skirt, and wipes Baron saliva off her cheek. This takes some time, but Camille handles herself with consummate grace. Then, like the Baroness she will soon become, Camille leads her family out of the studio. It is a quiet, dignified procession. Camille lifts her chin, leading her soon-to-be husband. Sirius is riding his noble father like a small horse. The only sound is the couple’s footsteps: six legs going down the bleachers, past the stage, and out the door… Into the deserted streets of Stamford, Connecticut. It’s the middle of the afternoon, so everyone is still at work (or standing dumbfounded in the studio, still as stone). Camille is flustered, but she’s never been happier. Looking down at her family, she says, “Well, where do we go from here?” There is so much that Baron von Lebensraum wants to say… oh, if only he weren’t a dog. But all he can do is look up at her, with those oldworld eyes of his, and try his best to smile. Sirius is smiling, too. For Camille, it’s so obvious now: they have the same smile. The Baron, seeing Camille’s epiphany, says, “RUFF.” Sirius, understanding, looks up to his mother and translates. It’s his first word: “Ghaneva.” 4
Fornax, perhaps. 39
“Yes,” Camille says, brimming with confidence, the wild world stretched before her like a burrito, full of possibilities… “Geneva.”
Leah Parker Digital Photograph
s. Peter Bresnan
I. All of this strangeness began on a sweltering Sunday in July. It was after Mass, at the home of Margie Willson, where a number of pastor Phillip’s female parishioners had decided to congregate with the intention of hammering out a few details regarding the pancake fundraiser that was to take place next month. It was there that Sybil Fillen, holding a sweating glass of iced tea in her hands, chose to confide in Margie that she’d been visited by the King in the night. Sybil and Margie stood alone in the kitchen together. The muffled voices of the other women could be heard through the living room partition. There was a burst of laughter, which caused both Sybil and Margie to start, but then things grew quiet once more. Apparently, late on Friday night, Sybil awoke to find an unearthly thunderstorm raging outside of her window and a ghostly figure dressed in white standing at the foot of her bed. At first she cried out in terror for her husband, Charles Fillen, who’d died under mysterious circumstances on a business trip to Chicago fifteen years earlier. Naturally he couldn’t come to his wife’s assistance. So Sybil soon began to shriek indiscriminately, crying out for someone, anyone, to call the police as she curled into a ball against the headboard and covered her face with her hands. But soon the figure raised his hands and Sybil fell silent for some reason she couldn’t explain. “I’m here,” said the figure. “Don’t be frightened.” And all of a sudden she wasn’t. His words were like streams of cool water dripping down her temples and shoulders. “Follow me, Sybil,” he said, “and I will show you what is soon to come. It is the end of the Old Earth.” The walls of her bedroom proceeded to fall away, and the thunderstorm which before had raged outside her window now raged all around her. Liquid fire poured down from the coal-black clouds and swallowed the earth and the oceans and the mountains until there was absolutely nothing 42
left but a wild emptiness filled with black black smoke, and everything— every manmade wonder, everything that the human race had worked for millennia to create—had been obliterated in an instant. The din of pained screaming had replaced the orderly winds, and it whipped Sybil’s hair and her nightgown around her like a white flag. Then she felt the ground disappear beneath her feet and she began to fall. She spiraled down through bitter darkness, while all around her there spiraled down millions and millions of stars, which leaked white light like milk out of their round cracked orbs. Then she saw the dead (who, when the story was first told, still remained nameless)—the unrepentant dead dying their second deaths, falling down on every side, falling toward the bottom of the bottomless pit and screaming for mercy. The sight of such great suffering made her sob, and she soon began to cry out: “Take me instead! Let them live in heaven, and take me in their place!” Here the details of the story are shrouded in fog, either because Sybil’s speech became too fragmented and interposed with fits of sobbing to be properly understood, or because the details were judged by someone, somewhere along the line, to be irrelevant. The important thing is this: the next morning, Sybil awoke to find her bedroom and the earth mostly in tact, and the sun still hanging in the sky. However, there were a fewkey differences: her bedroom window was wide open, and the rose-patterned curtains to either side of it rustled and whipped in the calm morning breeze. Furthermore, the bedroom itself was in a state of disarray. The tall reading lamp that usually stood in the far-right corner of the room had fallen to the ground, and its bulb had shattered into a thousand little pieces. Also broken were an alarm clock and a framed photograph of Sybil’s husband Charles, both of which had been sitting on the bedside table before she’d gone to sleep. Both of these objects were now found hurled across the room, to the left of the open window. The face of the picture frame was cracked. The alarm clock had stopped ticking, and on its face was displayed the exact hour and minute at which it had been broken: 12:25 A.M. Margie tried to calm Sybil down by putting her hands on Sybil’s shoulders, but she was powerless to stop the tears that ran down poor old Sybil’s cheeks. The elderly woman seemed to lose control of her body. She began to shake, and in a hoarse whisper she repeated the number over and over again: twelve twenty-five, twelve twenty-five, twelve twenty-five… 43
By now a few of the other parishioners had noticed their hostess’ absence, and upon entering the kitchen discovered this pitiful scene. It’s impossible to say what would have happened, if anything, if Sybil hadn’t said a word to anybody on that sultry July day, but it doesn’t really matter. As the reader knows perfect well, there exists only one road upon which we may travel, and as vividly as we might be able to imagine other roads, other courses or exits or escapes or intersections, the truth of the matter is that we will never find another way or another path, and that there is nothing we can possibly do to halt the strange and inexorable hurdling of our lives toward an inevitable conclusion. And although Sybil must have seen the horde of women quickly gathering at the entrance to Margie Willson’s kitchen, she did not check herself. Instead, she allowed her tears to flow and her body to shake and shiver, and instead of growing silent with embarrassment, she allowed her voice to grow louder and louder as she made her tearful prophecy. “Twelve twenty-five. Twelve twenty-five. December twenty-fifth, That is the day that is the day the world will end. Twelve twenty-five, that is when the King will be born again.” II. There was a short period, perhaps two or three weeks, when nothing appeared to happen. Finally, someone noticed that Sybil and the Willson clan, as well as a smattering of other families, had stopped coming to Sunday services at Ministers of Light. Franny Fredrickson, a short rotund woman who always walked very quickly despite the comic shortness of her legs, and whose face seemed permanently shaped into an expression of extreme nervous agitation, approached pastor Phillips after his sermon on the first Sunday in August, and asked him in a commanding voice if he knew anything about the parishioners who’d vanished. Pastor Phillips, normally an honest and warm-hearted man, grew cold at Franny’s question. His fleshy cheeks suddenly dropped and his gentle smile turned into a puckered grimace, as though he’d just bitten into something soft and unpleasant. At the same time, his eyes seemed to light up with knowledge, but his wrinkled lips said: “If you are concerned about a fellow member of the congregation, I suggest that you pay this person a visit and express your concern yourself.” So the indefatigable Franny did precisely this. She, along with a small group of concerned citizens (none of whom had been present at Margie Willson’s house for the intended pancake-breakfast discussion in July) de44
cided to pay visits to the homes of all those who’d stopped coming to Mass. Huddled together, the heels of their modest church shoes clicking pleasantly against the sidewalk, the little clump of concerned citizens navigated their way through the web of streets that made up suburban Amos, slowing every once in a while to turn into a driveway and, then stopping, to knock on the front door and wait patiently for an answer. But every time was the same. After waiting for a minute or so they would knock again, or ring the doorbell if there was one (they never rang the bell on the first attempt; they considered a very aggressive gesture). After another minute, one member of the group would shield her eyes with her hands and peer through the darkened windows that stood on either side of the door. She would then report back to the group that it appeared that no one was home. After the second or third repetition of this experience, of knocking on the front door and finding that nobody was home, Franny expressed a thought which was to be expressed repeatedly over the following months by various parties, and even more often left unspoken. “Something strange is going on here.” When they rang the buzzer to Sybil Fillen’s third floor apartment, number 14, in a complex on Back O’ Beyond, there received no answer. They pressed the buzzer once more and then gave up. Next they came to Margie Willson’s house, and immediately they knew that someone would answer the door. The driveway and the adjoining street were lined with cars, and although the shades on the front windows were drawn, Franny and the other concerned citizens could clearly hear the sound of voices coming through the thick wooden front door. Slightly stunned, but staunch in her purpose, Franny stepped forward and firmly knocked on the door. The inside of the house suddenly grew silent. There was some audible whispering and shuffling of feet, and just as Franny reached out her hand to ring the bell, the door was opened. Margie herself stood in the threshold. Franny noticed that her eyes had grown brighter and her skin more pallid since the last time she’d seen her. After explaining in a pleasant voice the reason for their visit, Franny stood back and waited for Margie to respond. But Margie, with uncharacteristic bluntness, said only: “We are not members of that church anymore.” She went on to explain in mostly ambiguous terms that she and the others (presumably those who’d been talking before Franny knocked on the 45
door, and who were standing just out of Franny’s line of sight in Margie’s living room) had decided that pastor Phillips was not, and had never been, looking out for their best interests. “But Marge,” said Franny anxiously, “what could pastor Phillips have possibly done that was so unforgivable?” Margie explained that pastor Phillips was not a holy man, but had been revealed to be one of those would die a second death and descend into the lake of fire. Franny was slightly confused by some of what Margie’s said, but, afraid of offending her, decided not to ask any questions. “Oh Marge,” she said instead, “how could you say that? You know that pastor Phillips is a good-hearted man of God. We’ve been attending his sermons since we were schoolgirls!” Margie calmly explained that pastor Phillips was a liar and a heathen. In this opinion, she said, she was immovable. “But why Marge? You must tell me! What in the world has happened? As your dear friend I beg you to tell me.” Margie said that she could explain everything, but not standing there in the doorway. She invited Franny and the other concerned citizens to come inside. “Oh, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea Marge.” But Margie insisted that the group come inside. Then, she promised, everything would be explained. Her eyes were wide and wet with sincerity. Franny, looking around nervously, finally said “Alright” and walked inside, followed cautiously by the others. The door was then shut behind them. The next Sunday, Franny Fredrickson and her retinue were missing from church. If anyone had bothered to go looking for them, he or she would have found that no one was home to answer their doors. But nobody did go looking for them. By now the story of Sybil’s vision had made its rounds through the congregation, and rumors of the formation of a new church had already started to simmer. Karl Shepard, a perceptive forty-four year old man in a white-and-red bowtie, counted the empty pews with his index finger, and then leaned over to his wife and whispered profoundly into her ear: “Something strange is going on here.” III. By the beginning of September, the group had begun to preach out in the 46
open. On any given day of the week one could find them (sometimes just two or three persons, on Sundays upwards of thirty) standing on the streetcorner at the intersection of Highway 89A and Avenida de las Piedras, just three blocks from pastor Phillip’s church. Among those most dedicated to the cause were Margie Willson, her husband Matthew Willson, Franny Fredrickson, her husband Bill Fredrickson, their two children Joy (ten) and Tommy (eight), and of course Sybil Fillen, who was rarely known to speak herself, or even to stand where she could be seen by passersby in their cars, but around whom everything seemed to revolve. They called themselves “The Church of the New Revelation.” In general the children would hold up signs filled with declamatory phrases (“Free Yourself from Blindness! The New Earth is Upon Us!”) while the adults proselytized and handed out freshly printed copies of Sybil’s newly written gospel. (They preach. They foretell the coming of a new world, where unexpected tragedy will never strike, and where every man may live forever with those whom he loves. The Church begins to label certain members of the local community as “the unfaithful” (i.e. those “unrepentant dead” whom Sybil saw in her midnight vision), which causes a great scandal. The Church slowly grows in size. They gather on the same street corner every day to sing and to evangelize (“Save our souls dear Lord, save our souls!” they sing). As the group grows, certain parts of the city are abandoned, although there is no loss of order; nearly everything functions as it normal does. Soon the group begins to meet with some opposition. One furious woman named Rosemary Quinn-Jones observes with pointed indignation: “Just being louder doesn’t make you any more righteous.” Mayor Koloch’s office receives a deluge of complaints. The mayor promises quick and decisive action to return order to the city.) The next day at the crack of dawn, two squad cars containing four police officers drove up and parked along the side of Avenida de las Piedras. The officers got out of their cruisers and ambled slowly to the infamous streetcorner, where a man on a milk crate was giving a sermon to a crowd of fifty or so. One of the officers noticed that, every time the man giving the sermon said a particular word (the sounds of morning traffic on Highway 89A made it difficult to discern precisely which word it was), every listener lowered his or her head and made an unusual sign on his or her chest. The officers stood totally unnoticed for a few seconds before one officer called 47
out: “Excuse me!” But no one seemed to hear him. He repeated himself, more loudly this time. “Excuse me, sir!” Still no one seemed to hear the officer. Not even one set of eyes turned to see where the voice had come from. The man on the milk crate continued to preach, accompanying his words with a few wild, pugnacious hand gestures. “Excuse me, folks, I’m afraid you’re all going to have to clear out...” The officer faltered. “You’re loitering and causing a public disturbance…I’m sorry, but you’ll all have to go home…” But the group gave no ostensible response. Two of the other officers went over to the mass of people and began tapping certain individuals on the shoulder and decorously informing them that they would have to move their meeting somewhere else. But even then no member of the crowd seemed to notice the presence of the officers. Their eyes remained fixed on the man who was speaking on top of the milk crate. They nodded and smiled when they agreed with what he said, they made that unfamiliar sign on their chests whenever he said that particular word (“Simple”? “Sample”?), but they would not respond when one of the police officers tapped them on the shoulder. The officers stepped back from the group and stood with their hands on their belts for a minute or so. Then they walked back to their squad cars and drove away. The police never returned, and no further attempts were made by the city to respond to the urgent complaints of its citizens. IV. On the twenty-eighth day of November, two extraordinary things happened—extraordinary in that even to this day they lack a proper explanation. To understand the first and less tragic event, the reader must first recognize the realities of Amos’ unfortunate geographical location. Although extremely isolated and surrounded by desert plains on all four sides, the city still sees a reasonable amount of commercial traffic, as Highway 89A offers the state’s northwestern quarter its only access to the capitol city. On an average day one might see between ten and fifteen 18-wheelers roll down 48
the steep, eroded bowl that cradles Amos in its center, only to reappear ten minutes later on the other side of the bowl and drive away into the horizon, unscathed. It seems to be the case that on November 28th, at around 5:15 P.M., just as the sun was setting amidst a greasy pool of red light, one particular semi-trailer truck, operated by Alfred Montag, a veteran driver with nearly thirty years of experience, husband of Mary Montag, and father of two teenage sons, carrying a routine load of office supplies (mainly paper and printer cartridges) to the capital city—it seems that this very truck, at approximately 5:15 P.M., began to malfunction. More specifically, just as Alfred Montag’s truck began the short, steep descent into the city of Amos, the vehicle’s hydraulic breaks stopped working. One can reasonably assume that, upon discovering that his vehicle had begun a descent which he could not halt, Alfred Montag grew uneasy. He must have felt many emotions during those terrible seconds, emotions of which we have no record. Perhaps he cried out in vain for help when he discovered that the emergency brake, too, did not respond to his presumably desperate tugs. Or perhaps he was a quiet, stoic man who clearly foresaw the future through his red-tinted windshield and chose to spend his final moments in silent prayer. All that is certain is that, at approximately 5:15 P.M. on Wednesday, November 28th, a semi-trailer truck carrying a cargo of office supplies sped past the city limits at one hundred and sixty-five miles per hour, and after running a number of smaller vehicles off the highway, proceeded to fly off the road when three of the vehicle’s front-right tires exploded, causing the vehicle to topple to one side and slide over the concrete sidewalk, overturning a number of cars and then plowing straight through the plate-glass windows of one of Amos’ many downtown shopping centers. With the truck’s front end acting as a pivot, the posterior mass, having already penetrated the storefront, proceeded to swing through two separate load-bearing walls, causing a good portion of the shopping center’s roof to collapse as the wayward vehicle dragged piles of merchandise and, yes, unsuspecting customers beneath its enormous weight. The air was quickly veiled with the white spectral fog of battered plaster and the sun was quickly blotted out. At first no sound was distinct from another. The falling and shattering of glass and the ear-piercing squealing of the vehicle’s metal hubcaps being trailed across the concrete sidewalk and the snapping and spitting of severed electrical wires and the frenzied screaming and moaning of those poor souls who’d been crushed beneath the vehicle’s weight—it all came 49
together as one indistinguishable howl. It was only once the truck had come to a stop after its short but destructive rampage through a bargain shoe outlet and two separate unisex clothing boutiques, that individual noises could once again be distinguished. After a few minutes everything grew silent except for the wailing of those people who were blinded by debris and who were bleeding and who needed help. Eventually these cries were joined by the wails of approaching ambulances and firetrucks and police cruisers, but by then the dust had settled and the red sun had reappeared. In total twelve were killed, including Mr. Alfred Montag, the driver. Eight of these died at the scene. Their bodies were found utterly mangled and broken, like children’s toys that had been chewed up by the household dog. The other four were transported to the Burnham Memorial Hospital in critical condition and died shortly thereafter from their injuries. Six additional individuals received minor injuries, but were quickly stabilized by medical technicians. It was a terrible tragedy. And it would have remained that way, too, nothing more than a terrible tragedy, had not, at 5:19 P.M. on November 28th, two fire trucks already en-route to the site of the semi-trailer truck collision, been rerouted by Amos dispatch to the suburbs, to an apartment complex on Back O’ Beyond Drive, where a fire was blazing on the third floor. I believe that my reader can guess whose apartment this was, so I will spare you the dramatics. And I need not tell you that, once the blaze had been extinguished (thankfully no other part of the building suffered any significant damage), no body was found among the charred remains of apartment 14. At first there was hope that the single inhabitant of the apartment hadn’t been home at the time of the fire, but one of the neighbors (resident of apartment 6) gloomily informed the police that she’d heard resident 14 slowly and arduously climb the stairs to her third-floor apartment at approximately 3:00 P.M. that same afternoon, and that she’d heard no other noises until the fire alarm had sounded at 5:17 P.M. The police were at a loss, and eventually had no choice but to declare resident 14 deceased. Oh inevitability! On November 29th, twenty-six days before the predicted End of Days, everything that had not already happened happened. Over the course of a week or so, all those who had scoffed at the Church of the New Revelation, those very people who’d filed complaints and petitions with the mayor’s office, those who had remained stubbornly faithful to their respec50
tive churches and denominations, were almost immediately converted. The only person I can think of who didn’t convert was Mayor Koloch, who, once he caught a whiff of what was to come, promptly disappeared, along with his staff and their families. Eventually, someone decided to break down the town hall’s locked doors and found that the building was totally abandoned. Every file cabinet was found to be empty, all records having vanished along with the city’s democratically elected leader. The sound of wailing voices, which had once been isolated, now inundated every block and every streetcorner. Follow me, reader, follow me and I’ll show you. Listen how they speak. It is the language of angels. Listen how they sing, how they praise the glorious name Sybil Fillen, their fallen prophet, their martyr. See that orange glow hanging above that building there? Yes, that’s fire. They’re burning down pastor Phillips’ church. He was named as one of those who would die a second death. We did all we could to save him, but he would not convert, so we did what needed to be done. It couldn’t have been any other way. Over there, see that circle of people? See that woman standing on the milk crate in the center, sobbing into her hands and wailing? That’s Rosemary Quinn-Jones, another one of those fallen ones named by the prophet Sybil. She’s stubborn. But believe me, she’ll be saved. One way or another, her soul will be saved. See there, and there too, how all the stores and shops are abandoned? None of it matters anymore, money or clothes or possessions. Soon we shall be torn from this world and be judged only by our deeds. This is a place where a person is judged only by their sins and their actions and nothing else. This is heaven, you’ll see. Listen. All around us, listen how they count down the days, the days until the King is reborn. Let us sing with them. Let us sing and celebrate the end of this terrible world. V. The evening of December 24th was cold. Breath rose from every mouth like smoke from one great chimney. It was cold, but at least the sky was clear, and all the heavenly bodies burned with enormous, distant fire. The denizens of Amos had to wrap blankets around their shoulders to keep themselves warm. At around 10:30 P.M. they began to climb in packs up the sides of the basin that imprisoned Amos in its center. An unspoken agreement had been reached that they would (in a mildly symbolic gesture) drag themselves out of their earthly pit and await the coming of the Lord at the city’s highest point. It was also understood that at 12:25 A.M., Amos (already 51
the ruin of a former city) would finally be obliterated by the falling stars, and that those who were still left inside the city would be obliterated with it. It was cold, but through the darkened air one could see smiling faces, wet eyes gleaming in starlight. The crowd amassed at the top of the basin quickly expanded, and soon the nocturnal silence was replaced by the sound of eager whispering and quiet singing. At one point, the entire group began to sing a hymn together. It began with just a few voices, but quickly spread until the entire mass of people was singing together in harmony. Their singing was so boisterous and loud that it shook the dust from the ground of the surrounding desertscape. When the song was over, the dust settled and everything grew silent once again. Here it is. But the reader has surely known what would happen from the very first sentence. Margie Willson had brought the clock from her bedside table, and at regular intervals she would call out the current time, as well as the minutes remaining until 12:25 A.M. In response to every announcement there was cheering and prayer and sobbing. They had waited for so long, and at last they would be rewarded for their patience. They praised Sybil Fillen’s name and made that unrecognizable sign on their chests. “11:45! Forty minutes left!” “12:00! Twenty-five minutes left!” “12:15! Ten minutes remaining!” “12:20! Five minutes remaining!” And then at last the fateful hour struck. I must say one more thing before our story ends: the tale I’ve just recounted is not populated with idiots. Nor with clowns or fools. The characters are not credulous nor are they gullible. They are not fanatics, they are not wicked, they are not sinners, they are not misguided, and most importantly they are not bad people. They are simply free: free to imagine other roads when in reality they are trapped on a single path, forever hurdling toward an inevitable conclusion. The clock gripped in Margie Willson’s old hands ticked on and on. And alongside the white smoke-like breath of countless shivering lips, rose the sound of hunger, the sound of angry empty stomachs that would never be sated, never be filled.
that time my backspace key wasn’t working Everything was a statement speech with no return without refinement or restraint like this Alabama rain like our stinking rotting humid house, it was without elegance or polish and without the l or v, broken too like a rare apraxia of speech. I was not freed by marbles held in my macbook mouth twisting my digital tongue making words I couldn’t recognize like in that dream where you are talking and in your voice you know it isn’t you and they aren’t your thoughts and there’s someone else inside making you a fool and shirtless on a Mobile morning but it’s me and still I strike the keys like on a dead piano with its broken clicks of ivory as I rant from the doorway saying things I can never take back.
Alison Ritacco Digital Photograph
somehow Jenna Langbaum
my teen stars seep out more fragrant and rich under diary skin, under pages of peachy nights under the molten moon pulping over us, two clean teetering porcelain puppets. Somehow the clunky letters carved into trunks and trundles have succumb to a scrape and a scrub. And our tangy sweet tart hearts are sucked and small. Promises are no longer shackled to pinkies and piggy banks but now are pried out of pink drinks and morning breath banter. somehow my teen stars have combusted under the candles and terror of 20. Twenty tooth picked tongues that lunge and punch and lick. Twenty tiles tucked under vomit. Twenty tank tops taken off by Twenty hands that try to choke the teen-ness. Twenty minutes on this tan seat typing out less than twenty characters to you, my tattered triumph here lies the formality of birthday texts. of answering and re-answering to affirm each otherâ€™s Twenty years. here lies two dead hearts temporarily restored in red Teflon cages. here lies the dead bolt and the two white words the date tackled out of me. Me. I feel cobalt blue without you I say to no one as I put the key in the ignition on my way to the gym.
kate miccuci 56
Lily Johnston Acrylic
z John Rufo
The movement of (a) mom’s hand across (b) dad’s face in the kitchen, after discussing her sickness. (c) I saw each bloom into the next, like cancelled arrangements from (d) her brother, who writes for (e) The New York Times, but “(f) that piece of info I’ll (g) chat you later and clue you in.” (h) is the little hot handle on the sink, below the bathroom mirror, a letter (I) turned, washing my hands to forget all the names, soaking in soap like (J), my first initial, though initially it was (K) until we put my mother away and I e(l)ected for another name, a letter unlike hers on the page. We ate (M)&M’s on the car ride home after visiting her in the hospital, pressing the elevator buttons was always such a riot. A(n)yway, it was (o)kay to feel how we felt, said dad and (p)ieces of me felt the same, but the arrangements of us looked (q)uter in photos from before, with a(r)guments halted to hold a firm smile in place. E(s)trogen seeped into my body as mom looked more withered and traced. I remember the day, to a (T), the day I began feeling ghostly, mom’s thin cursive and I looking the same. I could decipher words, (u)sually, until they became abstractions, (v)s, (x)s and (y)s, an incomplete language eventually found in The New York Times, letters I didn’t recognize, a name no longer mine, face twisted because 57
I can’t find a word for (z) yet besides (z). Maybe that’s why it comes last, because what “lasts” doesn’t need a last letter at all, the everlasting last words sprouting from our unmarked tongues will not be hung together with letters bunked like schoolboys at a sleep-away camp, with (z) out in the woods smoking our ashes or dead, or both, lone character beneath dark leaves, the trees weaving in and out of moonlight, disguised until this last unmasking, an alphabet incantation.
the utica train station Kelsey Wise
You have irises a thin coat of rust on the steel of a train car-the ones that cradle the Erie, exhale plumes of smoke into the raw air of an Oneida November. Inside the station, we cry. But it is drowned out by the resonating vacuum of the janitor. White noise is crawling up the Romanesque columns. The security guard picks at his cuticles and thinks of the sex he had late last night, pink finger nails that dug into his shoulder blades-Anything to distract himself from the kids curled up in a tangled mass of arms on the cold wooden bench, 59
clutching desperate handfuls of each other. A homeless man is fast asleep on the marble floor, bathed in honey light dripping from the ceiling-the only gold heâ€™s ever had. Weâ€™re crumbling like the bricks of the GE factory down the road. To dust.