Lions-on-Line (Print Edition)
Sunrise on the Mount by Drew Kidd
Fall Issue 2015
Table of Contents Sunrise on the Mount, Photograph by Drew Kidd……………………………..Cover “Whisper,” Poem by Mimi Daria……………………………………………………5 “I Wouldn’t Change a Thing,” Essay by Zachary McCoy………………………….6 “Thoughts on ‘The Golden Record’ (5/27/2015), Poem by Kathi Boland………….9 “Not Everyone Can Be Zeus,” Fiction by Brittany Hein…………………………..10 “What You Learn at Parties,” Poem by Zachary McCoy………………………….13 Mystic Beauty, Artwork by Gregory Brugger……………………………………...15 “A Strange Morning in Williamsburg,” Fiction by Carolyn Kesterman…………..16 “Inhale,” Poem by Zachary McCoy………………………………………………..18 “Nartker Studio,” Essay by Hannah Nartker………………………………………19 “Horses Are Terrible People,” Poem by Zachary McCoy…………………………24 “What I’m Told…,” Poem by Christina Lackey…………………………………..26 “Expired,” Poem by Andrea Elchynski……………………………………………27 “The Cookie Snatcher,” Fiction by Megan Simmermeyer………………………...28 “The House that Sits on Top of the Hill,” Poem by Andrea Elchynski……………32 “Pictures,” Essay by Megan Moore………………………………………………..33 “Penny-Bought Tickets,” Fiction by Carolyn Kesterman………………………….35
Whisper Poem by Mimi Daria You have to know if I could have stayed I would have And I know itâ€™s unnatural But I canâ€™t be your mom And I have no desire to love your children This country, so very different I held in my imagination a land of great wealth Instead, a simple dwelling You have to know that your father promised a better life Than Korea But I did not leave what I know To be of the working class The love for my children does not compare to The love of my country For my country does not keep me up at night with her crying Rather, it whispers my name, calling me home
I Wouldn’t Change a Thing Essay by Zachary McCoy There are a lot of times in my life where I thought “this is the moment that changes me irrevocably” and more often than not I am wrong. I have always been the type of person to accept things the way they are. Acceptance, in this case, is not synonymous with happy with, nevertheless I have a tendency to see and to understand what is in front of me. There are, of course, exceptions. It’s easy for me to pinpoint when everything I believed about myself and the world around me really changed. It did not happen gradually but as if it were a train hitting a small unsuspecting compact car that took too long to get across the tracks. It was a summer night, right before the start of school, about a year ago in August. I was lying in bed with my then girlfriend when I received several texts from a recent ex, a girl to whom I’d proposed a month before we broke up. Her texts were a litany of self-doubt and deprecation. A series of apologies that surmised in the conclusion that she was going to end her life right then. In fact, she had already swallowed the pills. I used to believe in an individuals’ ability to choose what they want to do with their own life. I quickly told my girlfriend what was happening, that I had to go, that I would be back, and that I loved her. All of which were true. After a frenzied drive, and lots of phone calls, I found my ex on her front porch, reeking of whiskey, sobbing openly, and digesting poison. I asked her if she had thrown up. She hadn’t. I forced my fingers down her throat persuading her stomach to empty its contents. There went another one of my beliefs: try not to make other people sick. I took her to her bathroom, still trying to coax even a single pill to regurgitate and failing miserably. Eventually, I ran up to her parents’ bedroom, waking them both, trying to hide the panic in my voice as I told them their daughter was committing suicide while they slept. While her parents rushed to her side, I stood in the doorway of the bathroom, half in the light from the lights above the sink, half in the darkness of a hallway. And I thought about how I’d proposed to her. I thought about what she meant to me. And I mostly thought about how things were going to change. When I think back to before I met my ex, I think mostly about Thoreau. Thoreau once proclaimed that it was his ideal to live deliberately. That life is not meant to simply pass one by and not be taken in and enjoyed. I loved Thoreau. He made a lot of sense to me. I think, still to this day, transcendentalism is a big part of my life. I think that the world is more than what you can own, or how far you can travel in miles. It is more about being able to know every leaf of the tree outside 6
your friend’s house. It is about understanding that while the farmer owns the pasture, he can never own the view. I really thought everyone could live like that. That, life could be lived deliberately by everyone and that people could know themselves and the things around them intimately. But I was mistaken. I forgot about mental illness, about depression, about the weighty nature of life and how fundamentally to be alive is to suffer. I remembered that as my ex’s parents buckled her up in the back of their van. As she was buckled in, about to go to the hospital, she said “Zach, if we don’t get back together, I will literally die. I can’t live without you. I don’t want to live without you. Promise me we will get back together. Do you promise?” And I did. I promised. Promises, were important to me. I realize now that some are still worth keeping, but that mostly they are meant to live the same way loyalty and honor lives, in the ether of human values. I honestly think that I would still keep the promise I made knowing what would happen next, but because of what did happen my values changed. I try not to make promises anymore. I try and make sure I don’t have to. Instead of waiting for something in the future I simply suggest that we should do what could be promised for later right in the moment. I think that it works better, that it leaves less to screw up eventually. I really wish this story had a happy ending. Or at least one where I looked less like a jerk. I dated my then girlfriend for a month or so longer, all while my ex and I talked about getting back together. How things would change this time. I eventually cheated on my girlfriend, multiple times, with my ex. This is a fact that no one knows except myself, and whoever reads this. I did all of this, not because I really fell back in love with my ex, or because I wanted out of my relationship with my girlfriend. I did it because I was afraid. I did it because of what I thought my ex would do to herself. I did it because I felt responsible to save another person’s life. Of course, I would come to realize what the real problem was. After a six month stint back with my ex she cheated on me, twice, with two different girls. She had realized her sexuality, something I do not blame her for. I was just on the end of the realization that is often not heard about. The guy or gal who has to keep going, wondering if what we did made them not like the sex we are (as silly as it is to think) and more often than not feeling as though there was literally nothing we could have done. No change we could have made. To try and make the person we love, love us back the same way. So my beliefs changed that night. In a lot of ways. I stopped being as transcendental and more nihilistic. I felt that life, morality, and most everything was meaningless. Not in a negative way mind you, I just started to look at how 7
absolutely absurd the everyday really is. I have always enjoyed laughter, and I still do. I laugh and poke fun at myself, my situation, and the world around me. I think it is beautiful the ways in which people find meaning, explanations, or religion in their lives. I think that takes a kind of strength I no longer possess. I know that it sounds defeatist. That I simply gave up. But really, I gave in. I study a lot of Buddhism. I like the idea of the Middle Way, that life is meant to be flowed through. I donâ€™t need to feel as though I need to blaze a trail. I tend to enjoy the little things in life. I also think back fondly of the good times I have had with all people, including my exâ€™s. I have learned to accept all of the bad, and try my best to let it stay as it was. A lot of people try and fix their pasts, or allow things to slip away into the veil of memory as something that happened but it is fine now. Those things that have hurt me, I let them still hurt me. I suppose that this story, is not the best story to describe who I am now. It is just the only one that I can remember that changed who I was. I was no longer a kid, believing in things that I believed in. I finally saw the world for the complicated, beautiful, tragic, absurd, amazing place that it is. I wouldnâ€™t change a thing.
Thoughts on “The Golden Record” (5/27/2015) Poem by Kathi Boland Thunder crashing over the frequency – what key is that? What would cause me to think that bubbles bursting in air is a good sound? But rain falling through the storm, Washing, moving away is beautiful for me. Crashing clouds with their thunderheads Cause everything to run for cover. But afterward, the crickets chirp and chickadees shrill their birdsongs. The frogs bellow in their marshy treetops calling for a mate As hyenas laugh at the possibility of actually finding that mate. Creation sings and screams and buzzes their way to life and death; The humming, beating heartbeat claps along With the rhythm of living and dying. Life goes on around the dying, never straying, never moving. A woodpecker’s incessant drumbeat heats up the inside of a dying tree As dizzying fast bugs crawl up and away, Rolling over the tracks laid down generation after generation. Living, dying, being non-existent, it all burns up in the end and yet… We search, we continue to search for the way for life to go on, Kissing and mating and re-creating ourselves over and over again. Inside we hope for a better life (why else do we procreate?) even, When all around, we see decay, pollution, dismay and discouragement. Another life is born, another hope for the universe; A greater possibility.
Not Everyone Can Be Zeus Fiction by Brittany Hein “Um, guys? We may have a problem with an Elvis impersonator,” Phil called out to his fellow employees in the kitchen of their small family-run restaurant. The voice of “Elvis” became louder each second. “Fine, you don’t want me to be Elvis,” the young impersonator said, “I can work with that.” The man then proceeded to imitate Haddaway, singing “What is Love.” When Phil left the dining area to go to the kitchen for assistance, the impersonator was performing to a pair of teenaged girls sitting in a booth. They looked extremely chagrined, which must have been the reason for the change of tune. Phil had contemplated intervening earlier because he found one of the girls attractive, but thought it would be best if someone older than fifteen handled the situation. Perhaps he would intervene next time. Although how often does an Elvis impersonator come to the Olympus Restaurant? The owner of the Olympus, Georgios, an aging man of deep Greek heritage which he loved to discuss, came forward from overseeing his famous chili. “Don’t worry, my boy. I will take care of him,” Georgios said. “It will be a piece of baklava.” Phil was used to his boss’ change of idioms, or anything really, to become Greek. He followed Georgios out of the kitchen and through the narrow hallway which led out to the dining area. In the dining room they wound their way through the tables to where Elvis was still singing to the two girls. The room had copies of renowned Grecian art nailed to the walls, and joining their company were some newspaper clippings about famous politicians visiting the Olympus. These clippings included a picture of the famous person with Georgios, who held his prized lyre in an identical position each time. Phil’s interview for his job consisted of playing a song on the lyre. Those guitar lessons mildly payed off. “What is love—baby don’t hurt me,” sang the impersonator when he beheld Georgios and Phil approaching him. The impersonator wore a white outfit embellished with red and blue studded diamonds designed into patters, white shoes, and to complete the look, a crimson lei. Georgios’ tall stature equaled the Elvis impersonator and Georgios, being Georgios, spoke to the impersonator like he was a son. “No no, my boy,” Georgios said, patting Elvis on the side of his face, “I will not hurt you. I just want to talk.” Phil remained close to them in case anything should happen; not that the impersonator appeared to be one to physically fight, but the old man could be as vicious as the Minotaur. 10
“We talk over there,” Georgios said, and motioned toward a booth that was past the one the two girls were sitting in. Phil wasn’t sure whether to be bewildered or embarrassed when they passed the girls and Georgios stopped to address one of them. “Ah! Helen of Troy! You are so beautiful! You have heard the ancient Greek story of Helen?” Phil noted the discomfort of the girl’s friend who was not receiving praise for her beauty. “You have good friend,” Georgios said to nonHelen of Troy. Elvis fixed his hair with a comb. Phil hoped his own hair gel held its impressive spike as well as the label said it would. After reiterating half of the story of Helen of Troy, Georgios suddenly remembered the task at hand. “Ah yes, Elvees. Come, come. I will come back, Helen!” Phil attempted to give the girl an apologetic look, but she purposefully didn’t look. Non-Helen met Phil’s gaze and slightly shrugged her shoulders. Phil followed Georgios and the impersonator as they moved to a booth toward the back of the restaurant. Adjacent to the line of booths along the wall, there was a bar with single stools. Phil oriented himself on a stool across from the booth Georgios and Elvis were sitting, making sure he would not lose visual on Helen. More or less, Georgios asked Elvis why he chooses to live his day as someone else. There was something mentioned about how people have many layers like baklava. “Okay, so when I’m Elvis—or anyone—I don’t have to worry about being,” Elvis messed with the lei he had around his neck, “stupid. My dad would always tell me I was. I have no talent except for looking and sounding like Elvis.” Phil preferred to think he was as talented and hot as he thought he was. He did work out every day. He flexed his biceps for good measure. Yep, still a bulge. Georgios continued bestowing his wisdom. “My boy, not everyone can be Zeus. Some are burdened with ugly. Look at Helen’s friend. But Helen is her friend not because of beauty. Inside, she is Athena. A smart, strong warrior. When she like herself, others like her too. If she pretended to be Helen, no one would love her,” Georgios said. “Give me this evil leaf,” he said, and pointed to the lei. “Makes you like a dryad!” Georgios whisked the lei off of Elvis’ head. Phil had witnessed a few glimmers of Georgios’ relevant wisdom before, and from examining Elvis’ facial expressions, Phil saw Elvis glimpse it too. “Now, what is your real name, my boy?” Georgios said. Because Georgios believed anything not Greek was heresy, Phil hoped to God, or maybe he should say gods, the impersonator’s name was Greek in some way. It was lucky for Phil that there was a monarch named Philip who preceded Alexander the Great.
“Adam,” the impersonator said. Not good. Helen and Athena rose to leave, and Phil noticed straightaway; and so did Georgios, who had some unnatural dominance when he was in his own restaurant. “Goodbye, Helen!” Georgios proclaimed, and then turned to engage some other customers sitting at some tables close by. Phil restrained himself from rolling his eyes for what he knew was going to come out of Georgios’ mouth. “That is my granddaughter! A beautiful Greek woman!” With an irritated air about her, Helen went out the exit with her phone in her face. Non-Helen/Athena had the courtesy to wave goodbye. Phil thought that he liked Athena better. But Helen’s departure did save Adam from an old-fashioned form of torture of Georgios’ conjuring, because his name was entirely not Greek. “Sorry, my boy. What was your name?” Phil shook his head in a way that spoke, no way, man, and motioned plunging a sword into his heart. “A—res,” Adam said. “You have excellent name! Now, just be yourself my boy. Just like Philip here,” Georgios said, and waved his hand toward Phil’s vicinity. “You, and everyone, will like it better,” he finished, and clamped Adam on the shoulder. Phil could see Adam laughing inwardly. Adam made his way to the exit with no Elvislike moves. A woman wearing a chic red dress entered soon after Adam left. “Ah! Aphrodite!” Georgios said, dashing toward her. He threw the red lei he still had clenched in his hand behind him. Phil rose from the stool and picked up the fallen lei. He hoped Georgios wouldn’t offer to play the woman a song on the lyre. Georgios’ brief glimpse of being a truly wise old man was gone, once again.
What You Learn at Parties Poem by Zachary McCoy Your friends are growing up way too fast on a mad dash for cash from house shows. Fifteen bucks to get in and get a little closer to death. For us kids who don’t know any other way to live living hard is our alternative.
Bronson said there are three rules to being a thief: 1. Never steal from someone you know. 2. Never take from someone who can’t afford it. 3. Never steal what you have money to buy. An honorable thief is still a thief. Upon graduating college the biggest accomplishment in some girl’s life is that if she takes another shot she will officially be the drunkest she’s ever been. She says “I’m stoked on it.” Which is more words than she’s said about graduating.
Hey can I ask you a question? Will you promise not to get mad? They said I couldn’t smoke on the roof, but I know you don’t really care right? Bitch you’re drunk. If you fall off I’m screwed. Oh, well I thought you wouldn’t care. Trust me I do.
If the cops come and ask This is all for charity. We aren’t charging to get in We are taking donations. If they ask what for Just tell them it’s for cancer. We think it’s been getting a bad rep lately. I mean after all cancer kills pedophiles right?
She moves in on the one person you don’t want her to. Because all you can think about is how it’s supposed to be you That she finally makes her move on. And when you realize the liquor in your cup has been gone It’s time to go and get another one. When you look up they’re sitting there. That is when you look at the brown leather chair You were supposed to be sleeping on tonight And you realize the things you learn at parties aren’t the ones you want to learn that night.
Mystic Beauty by Gregory Brugger
A Strange Morning in Williamsburg Fiction by Carolyn Kesterman Thomas Jefferson woke up with a slightly throbbing head and a fiercely aching back. He vaguely recalled that he had been sharing a bottle of Madeira with some friends the night before in the Raleigh Tavern. As he regained his consciousness more, he realized the reason for the pain in his back: he was lying on the floor. He winced and opened his eyes to morning light and the underside of a large walnut table. Deeply embarrassed, he rolled out from underneath the table and scrambled to his feet, smoothing his coat. He was relieved to see that he was alone, but a hearty array of food on the table told him that someone had clearly been there earlier. He reached down to take a piece of bread to break his fast and hopefully his embarrassment, but as he touched the food, he was shocked to find that it was hard and made of a strange substance. He looked at the rest of the food and only then realized that it was a dinner meal on the table, very odd for the time of day. Turning around only added to his confusion as he saw a horizontal metal pole barricading the part of the room he was standing in with the side containing the doors. “This is terribly peculiar,” he said aloud, conflicted with fear and curiosity. He climbed over the pole and walked cautiously through the rooms, but no one was to be found. He could hear voices coming from outside, though, so he made his way to the front door and stepped outside. He was confronted with a sight much more peculiar than the tavern. The town had been changed. Buildings were much the same, but the dirt of the street was now a dark gray stone with no beginnings or ends down the length of it. And the people! Mixed among the people of proper common dress were people dressed in extremely minimal cloth! Men and women alike bared their entire arms and legs without any shame as though this was an everyday occurrence! Thomas put his head in his hands for a moment and rubbed his temples. “The wine must still be affecting me,” he admitted to himself. He was just about to go back into the tavern and rest some more when he heard someone say his name. “Girls, go stand next to Thomas Jefferson! Let me get a picture,” a woman said, and two young girls in that same odd clothing shyly ran up to him and turned to face who he assumed to be their mother. She held up a box and tapped it once before smiling hugely and thanking him. “We’re going to hear you speak later at the Governor’s Palace,” she said, pointing to a colorful pamphlet. 16
“Oh? Oh, yes,” he said, not wanting her to know that he could not remember a speaking engagement for that day. “Say, may I take a look at that?” he asked. She told him that he could keep it, and after thanking her politely, he sat down at a bench to look at the pamphlet. He scoffed when he read the words “Colonial Williamsburg” on its cover. “They’re just throwing it in our faces, now! Simply ‘colonies,’” he muttered. He opened it up and found a page listing the day’s activities. Indeed, it stated that one could go to hear him speak on “why we should be independent of England’s rule.” Although he was elated to know that he had picked such an enthralling topic to speak on, he began to panic since he had not planned anything and was to speak in only thirty minutes! He quickly found a small pencil in his pocket and scribbled out some notes on the margins of the pamphlet. After making sufficient notes, he swiftly walked to the Governor’s Palace, questioning the location but too concerned with the speech. Upon arrival, he saw a sight that confused him more than anything else he had seen that day. In front of the palace speaking with a fair number of people was a man dressed and groomed in his likeness, telling Thomas’ own thoughts as though they were his, as though he was Thomas Jefferson. The imposter saw him in the crowd of faces and his brow furrowed for a moment before he slowly broke out into a smile.
Inhale Poem by Zachary McCoy I want to inhale you like smoke hold you in my lungs and let you grow like cancer.
Nartker Studio Essay by Hannah Nartker Artistic Expression. It is something that many talk about, but do not fully understand its meaning and potential. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where the ability to be expressive through art was fully available to me. I was lucky enough to have a grandpa who was an exceptional artist and as I have heard, an even greater man. His name was John Nartker and he was a father, husband, and art teacher at the College of Mount Saint Joseph. Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to have spent much time with my grandpa Nartker because he passed away when I was a year and a half. However, he still lives on through his work and when I was young I used to feel his presence every time I would walk into his art studio that was located in the basement of my grandparents’ home. After my grandpa passed my grandma took over the studio and carried on his legacy. She continued to use his designs and showcase the work through art shows that were often located within the house and art studio. She continued his designs using my grandpa’s molds and forms which consisted of nature and natural elements infused with the inspiration from his years studying over in Japan. My grandma even started to develop her own style with the infusion of my grandpa’s style. My grandma not only became the studio’s new artist after my grandpa passed, but she also assumed the leadership role of the family. But, even though my grandpa was gone physically, with her help he was and will never be forgotten. She became another inspiration of artistic influence in my life. My grandma Nartker’s house was located right on Robben Lane, a few houses down from St. Dominic School and Parish. I went down that street almost every day during my pre-preschool years through kindergarten because my grandma Nartker was my babysitter. My grandma babysat me because both of my parents worked. I loved to spend time with my grandma, and every day was the opportunity for a new adventure and ability to perfect my artistic ability. My grandma Nartker was and continues to be one of my best friends. I could tell her anything and our relationship was something special. It developed with love, but grew with time as our memories made together became countless. I remember the excitement I felt every morning bright and early wondering what the day would hold before me. My dad or mom would kiss my forehead and drop me off at the two-storied house. As I walked up the short pathway to the porch my grandma would always be waiting with a warm hug and a smile. As I walked into her embrace the sweet smell of her perfume and various smells of backing warmed my heart and caused me to smile. Once I was in the front room of the house, the aroma of cinnamon toast, eggs, and bacon 19
overwhelmed my sense of smell and made my stomach growl. After breakfast was finished and I helped clean up the kitchen the day would be filled with a variety of activities. We would play games, dolls, and watched Shirley Temple Movies, and soap operas while dipping our lolli-pops into cups of water. Many times in the late morning we would sit together on the comfy couch that sat in the middle of the sprawling living room. I would sit close to my grandma as we talked about a variety of topics ranging from cooking to her childhood memories. I was mesmerized and craved the stories she had to share. But, as our conversations continued my grandma would ask, “Do you want to hear a story about grandpa?” and always I answered with an enthusiastic “Yes!” I learned about his childhood, how they met, and their earlier years of marriage when my dad and uncles were born. I laughed and smiled as she passionately told the story like it just happened yesterday. At these moments it almost felt that I was transported back in time. After lunch, which usually consisted of the best grilled cheese or cheese noodles, Kool-Aid and after my daily nap was finished, I was ready to go down into the studio. Once, I was awake from my nap and regained consciousness, I would immediately ask, “Grandma, can we go down into the art studio to work with the clay?” And as always her response would be, “Of course we can.” My grandma would open up the old worn door and turn on the light and make her way to a world of art. As I trailed behind her I remember my eyes dancing from picture to picture of my grandpa’s artistic success. I had seen these images, awards, and diplomas so many times, but every time I crossed over the threshold to my grandpa’s and now my grandma’s studio I was transported to a different world. I would always notice something new about these pictures and every time I would see them I would grin from ear to ear. There was one image of him in particular that stood out to me. It was my grandfather with the life-size chess piece set he made out of clay with his own design. This chess set was in the Guinness Book of World Records and I always felt a sense of pride when I saw the faded picture hanging perfectly on the wall with many of his accomplishments. Once I made it to the bottom of the stairs, the studio was at my disposal as it unfolded before me. The basement consisted of two separate rooms. The one to the right held all of the prints and artwork my grandpa had made before he passed. There was print after print all packed away in neat racks that were easily viewed. I would skim the pictures as my fingers traced over picture after picture. The pictures were in no particular order, but the variety was immense. The prints would consist of his birds, deer, fish, and other nature scenes that I loved deeply. The room also had large paintings on some of the walls. I remember sometimes I would place my fingers 20
ever so gently on the prints to feel the bumpy areas of his paint strokes that were used to create texture. The room was also filled with extra paints, glazes, and any art supply you could think of. To the left however, that is where the art came to life. His original workbench was there, his small spinning-wheel, kiln, another work table, and even a treadmill that I occasionally played on. When we entered the room to the left my grandma and I would take the clay and begin to flatten it out into pancakes. I remember the smell of the clay as it filled the air. We would throw, toss, and pound the clay onto the table until it was tender enough to use. From there I would hop onto my grandpaâ€™s old stool and work right where he used to. I was surrounded by all kinds of different carving, cutting, and designing tools. All available at my disposal. My grandpaâ€™s cane that he used in the early stages of his disease of supranuclear palsy sat right next to me on the work bench. During the time my grandpa was sick he suffered greatly from his disease. However, he never gave up hope and he never gave up his love for art or his family. He saw the importance of life and the importance of living every day to the fullest right down till his last breath. Right next to his cane was a picture he painted of a little Japanese girl while he was studying in Japan. To me this picture truly showed what my grandpa loved. He loved painting, art, the Japanese culture, and spreading his talent to others in the hopes of inspiring them. These were a few of the items that inspired me as I worked. Some days as I worked my grandma would sit down there and play with the clay also. She would show me different techniques or how to use the tools. But, other days she would let me work freely checking on me between laundry loads and other housekeeping chores. Sometimes as I sat there I would be too overwhelmed or excited to even know what I wanted to create. But, other times I knew exactly what I wanted to do. On the days I was brainstorming and had no particular idea in mind, I would fiddle with the clay trying different tools or techniques to design the clay into different shapes and molds. But, when I was inspired and knew what I wanted my hands almost seemed to have a mind if their own. They would work tediously and carefully in order to accurately make the object I desired. Some days I would be so proud of my work, but other times I would get frustrated and would have to start over. If there was a piece I really was proud of, only then would it be fired. But, what amazed me was the idea that my thoughts became tangible objects within minutes to hours. On the days when I had something that was ready to be painted I can remember looking at the shelves and shelves containing the numerous colors. Any color you wanted was located in the art studio, from deep blues to vivid pinks and every color in-between. There were even glazes and paints that added texture to the 21
pieces of art. I can remember distinctively that I prepared myself to paint by putting on my paint stained apron that was stained from many of my previous projects. As I put on my apron my grandma would begin to uncap the paints. I remember the smell of the fumes escaping from the small jars as each color popped to life. I remember taking my time, brush stroke after brush stroke as the piece of art came to life with the addition of color. Then after a few more touches and sometimes two more kiln cycles, my artwork would come to life. On the days that my dad would pick me up on his way home from work he would stay and help pound out huge slabs of fresh clay. Some of these times I would continue working and the sound of pounding clay was almost soothing and would eventually fade into background noise as my creative mind worked. As I grew older my continued love for the studio and working with the art supplies only grew. After my brother was born, I had a new sense of purpose. I was to be the teacher instead of the pupil. I was six years old when my brother was born and I could not wait to show him the beauty of art and ceramics. Even at a young age of four or five my brother quickly developed a passion for ceramics and designing. He particularly loved creating animals out of the clay. I could not help but think his inspiration and love for animals grew from the natural style of our grandpa and his personal love for nature. He would make little animal figurines out of the clay in the most intricate of ways. They were little works of art and I was always in awe of his talent even at such a young age. Not only did my grandparents inspire my art, but my brother did also. When my family and I would go over on weekends for either dinner, birthdays, or small gatherings, my brother would ask. â€œHannie can we pleaseeeee go down into the basement, I want to play?â€? and I would simply smile and nod my head yes as we escaped down into the studio. He would look at all the pictures, paintings, and artwork the same way I did at his age with wonder and excitement in his eyes. He would take my hand as he took slow steps down the stairs in his little Spiderman slippers. My grandma knew we would go down into the basement when we visited, so she always had a small bag of clay waiting to be sculpted. Everyone in my family knew we went down into the studio and at times our parents or my grandma would join us for a half an hour or so as they watched us work the clay. Those moments spent with my grandma and then brother down in the studio were precious to me. I would sit next to my brother on a separate stool as we talked, laughed, and concentrated on our works. We helped each other with techniques, we shared the tools, and gave each other ideas. One time in particular stands out in my mind. It was the peak of the fall season and I was about twelve or thirteen and my brother was about six or seven and we were spending a Saturday over at my 22
grandmaâ€™s. We were really excited and we were talking about Halloween coming up. When we ventured into the basement we saw that my grandma had made a tree that looked quite spooky with an owl in the trunk, a pumpkin on the ground, and a ghost in the background. My brother and I looked at each other and he said, â€œI want to make that!â€? and I quickly concurred. We told our grandma who laughed and told us how she made the basic structure of the haunted tree. We took her advice in building the structure, but we added our own ideas for the other elements of the piece of art. In a matter of a couple of hours we had two works of art that are still displayed in our house today. Many times we both would decide on a particular topic and we would individually create a piece based on our perspective. We would then show each other and we would both be in awe over the way we each depicted the topic. The memories made down in the studio with my brother are some of the memories I keep closest to my heart. Even as I aged from an imaginative little girl to a fun-loving teenager my love for the art studio never left. I continued to seize every opportunity I was given to work in the studio until my grandma moved to a smaller home due to her age. Even at the new home she continued to work on art in the honor of my grandpa. But, unfortunately as I transferred from grade school to high school and so on I did not have as much time to spend in the new studio due to school and work stressors. But, my heart will always belong to the original Nartker Studio and the time I got to spend with my grandma in a physical sense and with my grandpa in a spiritual one. Growing up I knew I was fortunate with the family I was given and the life I was able to lead. Even though I did not get the chance to really know my grandpa, the legacy he left behind shows me who he was as an artist and as a person. I was very young when he passed, but I always felt a connection down in his art studio and with his artwork. After my grandpa passed my grandma continued his legacy until she too, could no longer. Presently, her health has also declined, but every time I see her, she always reminds me of the memories we had in the studio and the love she and my grandfather had for me. Now that my grandma has since moved and I am no longer able to return to the original studio I have found the same sense of peace and comfort in looking at the artwork that fills my home.
Horses are Terrible People Poem by Zachary McCoy If kissing you sends me to hell At least I’ll burn smiling. The way your fingers wrapped Around my hair and your legs Around my hips Made me think you wanted to engulf me In those infernal fires of passion that Are sending me to hell. Two years was too long to wait I see that now. Waiting like this should not exist Between two good friends like us. To have your lips pressed against mine Your small tongue darting like Some small seductive lizard around my mouth. The way you half whispered half moaned in my ear about the size of my dick And wanting me for all these years Haunts me like an echo Of thoughts I dared not think Though were always there in my mind. If it weren’t for my emotional unavailability And your relationship status with another man I’d have you again and again. I’d know you for more than two years I’d know you in a biblical sense as much as I could. I wish I weren’t so broken I wish I could blame the bed sheets for being too soft I wish I could blame Evil Dead for being such a romantic movie Or blame your boyfriend for being way too perfect Or for the elephant that’s been sitting in the same room as us Since another girl broke my heart a year ago And we watched Troll 2 and I leaned too close And felt fire scorch my soul. But I blame myself for kissing you despite all my best intentions Of remaining a good person and a good friend. 24
But if that kiss sends me to hell I’ll go happily. I’ve tasted fire in your lips And I’ll gladly burn again And again.
What I’m Told… Poem by Christina Lackey I’m from the creaking screen door, from the fresh cut grass and sweaty forehead. I’m from the gasoline and motor oil, from the fresh coat of paint and new tires. I’m from throwing temper tantrums, from the It’s mine! and Not fair! I’m from the windowsill and rushing salt waters, from the He’ll be here this time! and Why doesn’t he love me? I’m from warm cinnamon pancakes and crispy bacon, from the grandma feel better hugs. I’m from monkey bars and tire swings, from water balloons and imaginary worlds. I’m from the steal and run, from kicked up dust and base runners. I’m from forced faith and private education, from maximum insecurity and uniforms. I’m from Spiderman birthday cake, party hats and icing covered nose. From the hands of my brother too late for the collision, the pedal of my neighbor deciding my fate. Headlights closing in on my being, darkness come and memories gone. I am from those stories – told as I lay in the hospital bed – too late to look both ways.
Expired Poem by Andrea Elchynski The power was condescending Nothing imaginable It gave him hope And fear What was happening to him? He found it in his dadâ€™s closet Tucked beneath the tattered shirts and hole-filled blue jeans He held it in his hands ever so carefully Observing it with ease Thatâ€™s when the power arose He had never felt such violence and hate for the world Yearning to pounce on the trigger almost instantaneously He dropped it with trepidation and shock But then told himself to man up And get it together He then took it for a walk Wrapping his clammy fingers around it in his pocket They walked to the bridge that looked over the whole city It was such a peaceful place Where the sun glistened perfectly on the cool river ripples He sat and thought They talked for a while Almost too long Long enough for them to part ways And slowly slip from the clammy hold that was keeping them alive 27
The Cookie Snatcher Fiction by Megan Simmermeyer You tiptoe down the stairs. The sky is dark, the world dipped in crystal light. Tonight is the night you will finally catch the elusive Cookie Snatcher. As you creep around the corner, the Christmas tree winks in the darkness, an island of comfort. You know with Christmas three days away, you have to catch the Cookie Snatcher because what will Santa eat if all the cookies are snatched? Beneath your foot, the last step groans in agreement—this Cookie Snatcher has to be stopped. In the kitchen, you lurk beneath the table, propped against the hard chairs to keep from falling asleep. But your ten year old eyelids are so heavy. You blink for a minute and sunlight rushes into the room. Night has dissipated, and the sun reveals the Cookie Snatcher has struck again. Crumbs spill from the overturned snowmanshaped cookie jar, and bitten cookies litter the stove top. Mommy won’t be pleased to see the cookie jar empty after she worked all afternoon to fill it. Still, you follow the trail of crumbs to the sliding glass doors that lead to the porch. Chocolate smears the glass, and M&M’s litter the carpet. The Snatcher squatted here, you think as you stoop to examine the evidence. Paw prints, larger than a dog’s but smaller than a bear’s, disrupt the trail, and you snort in annoyance. Then, you grab your boots and your coat. Outside the wind grabs at you, and the snow pulls you down. Everything is heavy and white, but you are determined to find the Cookie Snatcher. A trail of crumbs leads you through the fresh snow, and it stops at your grandpa’s shed next door. You have always hated this shed. It’s too dark, too low, too frightening. When you were smaller, your cousin Freddie locked you inside. You can’t come out, he said, until you say “uncle.” You screamed “uncle” until your lungs gave out and your knees hit the floor, but Freddie had left. He never saw the things twitching in the corners or heard the wet, slipping sounds echoing against the ceiling. Now, Grandpa has a padlock on the door, but it’s broken, the dull metal swinging in the nervous wind. But the crumbs and odd footprints lead to the shed, and you know you have to go inside. Reaching for the handle, you pull the door open, your mind already shivering in anxious anticipation. Every cell of you protests against opening that door, every ounce of your heart urges you to flee, and even your courage deserts you. But you have to open that door. Until you hear your mother screaming for you to “get back inside this instant!” Your whole body relaxes, and the urge that you had to pee vanishes. The 28
Cookie Snatcher can wait because you smell cinnamon toast and hot chocolate. Abandoning the shed, you fly home. -------------The Cookie Snatcher has struck again. With two days before Christmas, your heart is beginning to race. This thief of cookies must be stopped, and you follow the trail of cookie crumbs to the shed once more. As you stare at the worn strips of wood that have been nailed together for a door, you contemplate Mommy’s anger. When you returned home yesterday, she yelled and seethed at you. You swore you didn’t steal the cookies, but Mommy thought you were a liar. She told you it was a sin to lie, that Jesus would be ashamed. But you knew the truth—the Cookie Snatcher had struck, and you had to take the blame. For almost a week you had been punished for the Snatcher’s crimes, and wild accusations soared through the air to land on your innocent ears. No protests or small cookie crumb trails could save you, so you had to find the Snatcher and make him confess. Even so, fear of the shed shivers through your frame, and you gulp six, seven, eight times before pressing gloved hands to the old wood. The lock tumbles into the snow, hits a rock, and startles you away from the shed. You have to wipe your hands against your coat and dance in a circle until your nerves calm. Steel yourself, clench your teeth—you push into the darkness of the shed. You hear the rustling first. Soft like a blanket being pulled over sheets. In the dim light provided by the overcast sky, you shuffle out of the wind and hunch your shoulders. Freddie’s taunting voice fills your mind, and you shiver in panic. What if the Cookie Snatcher locks you in here? It could be days before someone finds you. You might be frozen like a Popsicle by then. Or what if the Snatcher eats you? Nibbles off your fingers, toes, nose, ears? The fear expands inside you, swelling until it clogs your throat and stops up your ears. You can’t swallow or hear. Everything is dulled, even the grumbling wind outside has gone mute. But you can still see, and you see it move at the back of the shed. Dry, scaled skin covers a long thin body. Coils of it wind about an old hoe, and you step back because you know what you see can’t be true. It is winter, well below freezing, but the snake regards you with a glare. A forked tongue tastes the air, catches your fear and sucks it into a lipless mouth. You and the snake stare at each other, and vaguely, you wonder what kind of snake it is. Bands of red, yellow, and white alternate along the body that disappears into the shadows, but you can’t remember the rhyme to tell if a snake is poisonous or not. Is it red on black, stay back, Jack? Or is it red and yellow make you a dead fellow? Your knees shake and you want to sprint away. You want to return to the warmth of your home, curl your hands around hot chocolate, and tell your mom about the Cookie Snatcher. But you 29
can’t because the snake has caught you in its grip. Its cold eyes bore you into place tighter than if bolts had been anchored through your feet straight to the floor. Only when the creature blinks do you flee. You flee through the snow, through the back door, up the stairs, and into your bed. You burrow beneath the covers and don’t reappear until Mom shouts that lunch is ready. -------------Christmas Eve has arrived, and you have to stop the Cookie Snatcher tonight before Santa arrives. You estimate there are two hours left for you to stop the Snatcher—two hours until Christmas arrives in earnest. If you fail, the cookies will be gone, and Santa will skip your house. You sit behind your bedroom door waiting for your parents to creep into bed. When silence falls and the hall light darkens, you slip downstairs. Your family members are not night people, they prefer to turn in early and rise earlier, and for this small blessing, you are thankful. They have made your mission possible, and you set about your task with renewed vigor. First you creep to the living room where the tree is lit, keeping silent vigil in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Presents from your parents for you and your sisters are stacked high by the window, and Santa’s milk and cookies offering waits on the coffee table. For now, they are untouched, so you creep back to the stairs to wait in the half-light of the living room. As you sit on the bottom step, obscured from the living room by the thick railings of the staircase, you hear the clicks. Three sharp taps and a thump, as if a beast’s fourth leg ended in wood rather than claws. It’s in the kitchen behind you, and as you turn, you catch a glimpse of a bushy tail. Laughing, you turn back to the tree. Just the cat, you think, amused by your own stupidity. But your eyes widen, and your heart stops because you don’t have a cat. Mr. Jinx died last year before Christmas. Which means something is inside the house. Something with claws and a fluffy tail, but what is its fourth limb that thumps like a peg leg? And why didn’t the mysterious forth limb appear in the snow? You swallow slowly as if afraid to choke on your tongue. Really you want to flee up the stairs and forget the Cookie Snatcher. You want to burrow beneath your covers, the only protections against the monsters of childhood, but who will save Santa’s cookies? With courage equivalent to the greatest heroes of the world, you turn to the kitchen. Tonight’s moon is hiding behind clouds, and you wish you could hide with it because you don’t want to see what’s in the kitchen. You also don’t want to know what makes the crash the moment you turn. With shaky fingers, you switch on the flashlight you carried from your room and you inch its beam into the room. First it lights the legs of chairs, then the squares of tile set before the stove, and lastly the countertop. 30
Spilled cookies roll over the counter, some still in motion, and you catch movement at the edge of the light beam. You swing the light toward the Cookie Snatcher, but it evades you. Over the stove, across the sink, through the stacks of dishes, down to the floor, and it’s racing toward you. You bring the flashlight up as a tall, thin creature rears before you. Impossibly spindly legs and a long furry tail distinguish this creature that regards you with a cookie-filled mouth. It swallows and bares sharp, shark-like teeth. Chocolate stains them, and you notice an M&M wedged between its front teeth. If you weren’t terrified, you would had laughed, but the Cookie Snatcher is more terrifying that you imagined because long, narrow claws tip spindly fingers, and joints bent backward connect awkward limbs. It is all bones and flesh with flaps of skin hanging from its stomach. Does it expand like a balloon? you wonder. When its stomach is big and round, would it pop just as easily? It raises its front paws and grips your shoulders. The claws sink through your t-shirt, and you fill your lungs with a scream. You would have screamed, too—screamed louder than every little girl in the world, louder than police sirens and air horns, and everyone would have heard you. They would have heard you in the next town over, maybe even in Japan. But you don’t scream—you can’t—because the Cookie Snatcher swallows you whole.
The House that Sits on the Top of the Hill Poem by Andrea Elchynski The house that sits on the top of the hill Sits with its mustard chipped paint That hasnâ€™t been touched in decades You can see the red faded brick screaming out Gasping for air from the syrupy paint That has swallowed it from the inside out Untouched and untold Its story has not been written But inscribed in the lumber Sinking deeper with every step The children dare to climb On November Eve The concrete Hidden and sealed with the sweat of the satanic couple Who layered the house with the scathing unresolved Every layer of the house Gets deeper and deeper with the secrets and value That will never be known It is a mystery As to what has happened To the house that sits on the top of the hill With the slaughtered burnt bushes And the monstrous venom grass That protects the house From the streetlight that tries to extract the shadows from within 32
Pictures Essay by Megan Moore I was starting to get over my accident. It had been two months and my pelvis was still broken, I still couldn't make it to the bathroom on my own, but I had stopped having nightmares about the blood and glass that had covered my body. The images of my little red car crushed by that truck, me crushed by that truck, were finally gone. I sat in the living room with my mother. She recognized the noise as a crash and ran to the window, then out the door. I limped the three steps to the window to see a car had driven through a lane of traffic and through our next door neighbor's rock wall. We could see the picture perfectly framed by our living room window: a small black car in pieces among the rocks. He was still in the car when they started taking pictures of him. The paramedics hadn't arrived. No one knew if he was hurt. His car was crushed, he could have been, too. I had to call 911 because no one else was, they all cradled their phones, but no one was dialing. Everyone was snapping pictures, neighbors, people in cars that had pulled over just to see, just to steal a piece of the accident for themselves. These people were taking pieces of his trauma, shards of glass, debris from the crash by taking photos, all without his permission. It took my breath away to think of the pictures that may have been taken of me. I had blacked out until the paramedics made it to the scene. That could have taken up to ten minutes. Ten minutes of a road blocked by my car, ten minutes of men and women stopping to look, to take pictures of me, passed out and bloodied behind the wheel. I started screaming before I even opened the window. "Stop! Stop! Stop taking pictures!" The group of onlookers stopped and stared at me for the fifteen seconds before the police pulled in with their sirens blazing. I collapsed on the floor, unable to hold myself up any longer without my crutches. I may have been able to wipe away those shattered pictures from my dreams, but it was all too possible that they still lived in cell phones of those who may have driven 33
by. They still lived in the memories of those people who were sent the proof of my wreckage. They still lived.
Penny-Bought Tickets Fiction by Carolyn Kesterman Working as an usher at Music Hall has been one of the best experiences of my life. Every night, I get the chance to see amazing performances by world-famous actors, singers, and dancers. It would be completely impossible to see everything that I do if I didn’t work here, because within the course of only a year, a person can see around fifty different performances multiple times. I wouldn’t trade one second of any of the hundreds of shows I’ve watched for anything. Well, almost anything. As amazing as the performances are, seeing them isn’t my favorite part of working here. My favorite part is seeing the people. A million people have touched me as I’ve shown them to their seats and connected with them for a small fraction of time, and I’ve had the privilege of witnessing a passion on their faces as they anticipate seeing and hearing something that means a great deal to them. When the lights are turned down and the curtains go up, I get to watch raw emotions of an immense range dance across a room full of faces. That passion is something that their friends rarely even see. But I do. Now, a lot of my co-workers enjoy seeing the wealthy people who are blessed with the ability to constantly be at the theater, and while I do enjoy seeing their fancy clothes and overhearing stories that give insights into their glittery world, another group of people intrigues me more. They are the people who are at the theater by saved pennies, the people going through hard times – and often hard lives – who may only get to see the art that they love once every ten years. When I finally have my fill of Carmen’s cheating heart or the breathtaking pas de deux from The Nutcracker, they will bring me back to work each evening. The first week of my job, I was pulled out of my nervousness and confusion for a moment as I noticed an elderly woman in a floor-length gown dating at least thirty years old and slightly yellowed opera gloves. I asked her if I could help her find her seat, thinking she was simply a grande dame from the East side, but as I took her to her seat, she told me in a heavy accent how she had seen La Traviata many times when she was a wealthy woman in Italy, and how her son had saved enough money for a ticket for her when he saw the billboard advertisement for it, knowing it was her favorite. How she had gone from a wealthy woman in Italy to an American with financial difficulties I did not know, but my curiosity was overshadowed when I saw the huge smile on her face as the lights died down and the familiar sound of the orchestra tuning filled the theater. 35
Another time, a middle-aged couple in their best clothes that only came across as casual shuffled through the door I stand at, their eyes wide and their steps hesitant but yearning. One of my co-workers who passes out programs offered one to them, and the woman flinched and said they couldn’t afford one. When told that they were free, she took one in surprise. I asked if I could help them find their seats, and that seemed to overwhelm her even more. As I took them to their seats, I heard her voice behind me telling her husband that the show couldn’t be better than the service they were receiving. I made a point of looking at them a few times during the play, and was pleased to see that the performance had astounded them ten times more than their entrance. Over time, I’ve gotten very good at spotting the people who are there by saved pennies. Body language can show familiarity and ease, clothing flaunts money, and speech reveals the level of education able to be afforded. But not all the time. The best experience I ever had at Music Hall took place the night I met Gavin the pianist. He wore a tailored tuxedo with his textured hair nicely groomed, speaking to me in perfect English as he walked to his seat with proper posture. He asked if I had seen the ballet the evening before, then asked if a particular ballerina had danced the lead. I asked what she looked like, and when he pointed her out on the program’s artistic cover, I nodded. He looked pensive. I asked why he wanted to know, and he said that he was hoping to see the ballet on a night that she was dancing because he used to play the piano for her and loved how she felt the music. He hastily said that he had once been a professional pianist with the New York Philharmonic. When I asked what company he was with now, he said that he was a janitor at a local school. I didn’t know what to say. Only that I hoped he enjoyed the show. I finally breathed a sigh of relief when his ballerina came out on stage as Giselle. As I looked over at him, I saw the glimmer of a tear run down his face. In that moment, I remembered all the faces I had seen such powerful emotions on, and the struggling-to-beat hearts that resided in many of them. How many times had I thought, just for a moment, of taking them by the hand and dragging them through employee doors until they stood at the feet of a conductor that had made them feel more alive than they had in years? The number was the same as the amount of times I had abandoned the notion a second later. But as I saw Gavin suddenly press his fist into his mouth to cover a sob as his ballerina began to fling herself around the stage to the sounds of Giselle’s famous mad scene, I made up my mind. After the last rose had been thrown at the dancers’ feet and the stampede out the doors began, I kept darting my eyes back to Gavin, who was wisely sitting in his seat still to avoid the rush. As the crowds thinned out, he stood and started up the 36
aisle with feet reluctant to leave. I caught his arm as he went past me, and he turned with a wary face. I asked him if he would like to go to the Green Room, where the performers meet select audience members after the shows. He told me again that he was a janitor, not a musician, not anymore. I felt shy as all get-out but pressed the matter further, telling him that he wasnâ€™t the only audience member that had to save money to get a ticket to something they cared about, and that surely his ballerina would appreciate how he still had passion for the arts. As I stood in the shadows of a box seat watching a poor man play Debussy for a prima ballerina, I felt, for a moment, a small shard of regret for not having introduced others from difficult means to performers. I wished that I could have made everyoneâ€™s performances so memorable. I looked out at the 3,500 empty red velvet seats facing me and straightened as I realized that by directing people to those seats, I had given them a memorable moment. I had given them the opportunity to see something amazing, and what better to do than that? I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my coat contentedly and walked away to the sound of a piano being played by a man who now knew that he was not alone.
Submission Details Initiated in January 2005, Lions-on-Line is a literary collection of works by Mount St. Joseph University students and alumni, published online with the cooperation of the English Department. Lions-on-Line is published online twice yearly, during the fall and spring semesters. When our budget allows, Lions-on-Line goes “in print”. We take submissions during all twelve months of the year. If you are currently a student or a graduate of Mount St. Joseph University and you would like to see your work published, you may submit your work to LOL simply by emailing poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction or digital artwork to LOL@mail.msj.edu. For full submission guidelines, consult our website. Lions-on-Line is always looking for new staff members! If you’re interested in joining Lions-on-Line, please contact the faculty advisor, Elizabeth Taryn Mason, Ph.D. at the following email address: email@example.com.
Editors and Staff Poetry Editor: Fiction Editor: Creative Nonfiction Editor/ Treasurer: Art Editor:
Megan Moore Shelby Davis
Kathi Boland Andrea Elchynski Penelope Epple Tim Schrenk Josh Zeller
Elizabeth Taryn Mason, Ph.D.
Megan Simmermeyer Molly Ehrnschwender