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V E N T U R E Online FR ESH

TH E

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VER MA SIT NW YO R IT I F NG MAG MISSISS AZINE IPPI

VO LU ME 5 FAL L

2011


Venture Online Table of Contents

Poetry Tears from Auschwitz..............................4 Lauren Oelze, Nashville, IL How Long Must I Carry This Staff?......9 Gabriel Wilson, Gulfport, MS Half Moon Cay .....................................10 Ashley Wellen, Highland, IL Extra $20 for a Name ...........................19 Author Bryant, Jackson, MS Glorious Destruction.............................19 Daniel Conrad, Brandon, MS Grandma’s Legacy ................................19 Chase Melch, Fort Worth, TX Speak, Wisdom ......................................28 Matthew Fernandez, Vancleave, MS We Seek and Find Nothing...................33 Matthew Fernandez, Vancleave, MS I Ask Only..............................................37 Matthew Fernandez, Vancleave, MS Wire........................................................38 Taylor Mitchell, Jackson, MS Southern Harp ......................................38 Taylor Mitchell, Jackson, MS

Prose 57 Kinds...................................................1 Carter Moylan, Miami, FL Directions ................................................3 Suman Ali, Memphis, TN The Liberation Sparrows ........................5 Jennifer Walzel, Round Rock, TX

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Goodbye Matthew ...................................6 Leanna Tholl, Water Valley, MS Don’t Cry, Baby.......................................7 Hayley Hampton, Sulligent, AL Texas Boy...............................................11 KayLynn Rehberger, Highland, IL Belize: A Privileged Country ................13 Cameron Gaines, Austin, TX Have You Ever Been in Hell?...............15 Hyojung Sarah Choi, Daegu, Korea Desperation ...........................................17 Nina Farris, New Orleans, LA My Sky Your Sky ...................................20 Jeffrey Farragut, Philadelphia, PA The Grace ..............................................21 Katherine Baggett, Ocean Springs, MS The Trap ................................................22 Ashley Wellen, Highland, IL What it Took ..........................................23 Jami Steen, Moselle, MS Soap .......................................................25 Matthew Stein, Kansas City, KS Horse and the Boy ................................29 Kaleb Rowland, Orlando, FL Snow White and the Bitchy Giant ........31 Devren Bryant, Euless TX My Forehead as a Welcome Mat ..........34 Christina Wurm, Mandeville, LA It’s Not Always About Giving ...............39 Di’Shaliek Wright, Alpharetta, GA

Volume 5 - Fall 2011

Art Alyssa Miller, Tupelo, MS ................Cover, 4, Autumn Smith, ......................ii, 9, 10, 28, 32, Oxford, MS Kate Satimore, Carriere, MS ..................3, 19, Brianna Gray, Belden, MS..................5, 8, 27, Carter Moylan, Miami, FL ...........................6, Jeffrey Farragut, Philadelphia, PA...14, 30, 40, Matthew Fernandez, Vancleave, MS ....16, 37, Jessica Foshee, Byhalia, MS.................18, 38, Suman Ali, Memphis, TN.....................20, 22, Ashley Wellen, Highland, IL ......................21, Maria Dahmash, Madison, MS...................24, Leanna Tholl, Water Valley, MS .................33, Keaton Cooke, Mandeville, LA ..................36,

Volunteer Readers • Griff Brownlee • Wendy Buffington • Emily Cooley • Ann Fisher-Wirth

• Jane Gardner • Amy Mark • Daniel Von Holten

Student Readers: • Andrew Anderson • Steven Anderson • Jeffrey Farragut

• Brianna Gray • Ha Nguyen • Mary Todd • Cindy Tran

Student Editor: Cindy Tran Student Art Editor: Steven Anderson Editor: Milly West Designer: Larry Agostinelli


From the Editor Now in our fifth semester of publication, Venture Online has “taken off.” I say this because until now we have never had more than 50 entries of poetry and prose to be considered for publication, but this year, we had over 80! There were a wonderful group of teachers that really promoted the opportunity Venture offers, and without them we would not have had such a large number of entries from which to choose. I worked this year with a team of student editors who were the first “judges” in the selection of prose and poetry for this issue. Those students, formerly published in Venture, met with me once a week and each one of them read every story and every poem, and together they decided yes, no, or maybe. Some entries received resounding yes votes but others were talked over and sent to faculty readers for their opinions. With the votes of both my student editors and our faculty volunteers, we have been through what has turned out to be a very difficult selection process. The range and scope of this edition surprises me. We have some memoirs, often refined from class assignments, some poetry–some inspired by art, others inspired by memory or loss, but we also have some longer pieces that go beyond memoir to short stories, some based in life experience, some imagined. Many students submitted artwork whether they submitted writing or not. Gifts abound. You will find sweetness, adventure, humor, reflection, and resolve as you turn these pages and read what these students have written. Every one of us will look on these poems and stories as amazing, and when we do, let's remember that there were a lot more entries that didn't quite make it. I want to give special thanks to my assistant editor Cindy Tran who worked diligently through every step. Cindy’s poem was published last year, and this year she wanted to stay involved. From our first meeting this semester, she has shown her ability to speak honestly and compassionately about every entry. Thanks to Bob Cummings, director of the Center for Writing and Rhetoric, for his continued support of Venture. At his suggestion, we made the magazine more “student-run,” giving our former writers

Autumn Smith, Limo on a Mississippi Road

an opportunity to see the other side of publication—selection and editing. Amy Mark and the Mystic Krewe of Mykarma (MKM) donates a prize to the best work in prose, poetry, and art! A big thank you goes to Tim Angle at the Division of Outreach for his continued support of Venture, and to Janey Ginn and the Outreach creative team for their vision and expertise. Our designer, Larry Agostinelli, is the creative talent behind every issue and always takes a thoughtful interest in presenting the students’ work in a first-rate manner. Deborah Freeland puts Venture on the web each year and is in charge of the launch day presentation. What an amazing group of people! I also thank the wonderful and talented people at University Printing Services. I work each year with Gay Eubanks who manages to expedite our printing job and get it to the “launch” just in time. And finally, to Glenn Schove, undeniably the most energetic and resourceful soul at CWR, goes heartfelt gratitude for her help each year with the launch party (and everything else). Sincerely, Milly West, editor Venture Online can be found on the English, CWR, and Outreach sites at Ole Miss. http://issuu.com/literary_visual_art/docs/venture_vol1 http://issuu.com/literary_visual_art/docs/venture_vol2 http://issuu.com/literary_visual_art/docs/venture_vol3 http://issuu.com/literary_visual_art/docs/venture_vol4 http://issuu.com/literary_visual_art/docs/venture_vol5

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57 Kinds by Carter Moylan The first time I went to see my therapist for anxiety, I was with my mom. He asked us sorts of things like, “Does anybody in your family have characteristics of anxiety problems?” and “Is there a lot of pressure in the household?” But the answer was no; truthfully there wasn’t any history of anxiety, and my parents never put any pressure on me to perform or to be obsessive with succeeding. Since neither of these things was true, he decided the problems were mental and my own, so he wanted me to come back to therapy for a few weeks and see how far we got. Even though my original need was to rid myself of anxiety that would cause me to have breakdowns in the middle of tests and impair my ability to do basically anything at all, it was the second to last session about self-esteem and depression that I will remember for the rest of my life. I remember knowing that it wasn’t something to be embarrassed about, but I still didn’t want to tell anybody. I was afraid some people would not want to be around me if they knew I went to therapy. That they would say, “That kid goes to therapy. He’s got something wrong with him.” But I kept going back because I needed to get my problems fixed or else I didn’t know how long I could function as a healthy person. My therapist and I would learn something new every visit. I learned that everything isn’t always a big deal and

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the worst possible thing will not always happen, but even if it does, so what? He learned things about me. Self-esteem, over self-consciousness, and depression were all encompassed in our new therapy sessions. Our questions kept changing yet our routine would always stay the same. He would give me two ovals to hold in my hands. They would alternately vibrate, which he said was to imitate my brain activity while I’m dreaming. While holding the vibrating ovals, I would close my eyes and think about a problem I have. He would tell me to think about a situation in which I would have anxiety and just think about what I would think normally. So I thought about driving home at night and thinking things like, “What if when I get home my house has burned down?” Then he would tell me to repeat my thoughts out loud and he would talk to me about what I was thinking and assure me those things wouldn’t happen, and if they did, so what? People can fix things. Looking around his office, I noticed his war medals, his degrees, as well as the amount of cigars he smokes from the ten or so boxes he had lying scattered around his small office. Degrees from multiple colleges and naval medals were not something someone would expect to see in the office of this man if you saw him on the street. Standing at five foot six, which is pretty generous, he was direct and a very uncompromising individual when it came to what he wanted me to tell him, which was sometimes awkward for me since I am so intro-


verted and often soft spoken. Even though his tone was harsh, he gave me one of the most beautiful and simple assurances that I have ever heard. I was talking about one of my main insecurities– playing bass. I’ve been in two non-classical bands in my life both with very popular people who are very talented and whom I consider friends. One night after one of our shows, my singer was with his girls being congratulated, and my drummer was with his girlfriend, also being congratulated by a clustered, sweaty mass of people. My lead guitarist was going to a party to get wasted, basically what he did every night, and there I was sitting in silence with the rhythm guitarist who is also one of my closest friends. Why was there no mass of people around me, why were there no girls, why was there no party? These questions went round and round in my head. It had nothing to do with my friends because I have the greatest and most supportive friends in the world, but when you have self-esteem problems, it doesn’t matter. I couldn’t answer the questions, so I just looked at my friend and asked if he wanted to go eat. We left with no glory and no congratulations except from the people we happened to see walking out of the venue. Everyone loves singers, it’s the sexy part of the band, and everyone loves our drummer because he was Mr. Warrior (the equivalent to a high school Mr. Universe), and I couldn’t stop thinking that no one would ever enjoy me being me because I was too boring.

Yet, without waiting for me to finish, my therapist crossed his short little legs and put his finger on his mustache and told me, “That’s why Heinz makes fifty seven kinds.” He told me not to worry about the imperfections, not to care if what you love doing isn’t what everyone else does, because basically it wouldn’t exist if someone didn’t love it enough to bring it into existence, and that it wouldn’t have maintained existence if nobody loved it afterwards. After our session, I was thinking to myself that I knew this was probably a commonly used phrase. I didn’t care. I had never heard it before. I couldn’t take my mind off those seven words. Sitting in my car on that hot and humid Miami afternoon, I knew that day would be with me forever. I haven’t missed an opportunity since then to tell someone who may be feeling the same way about the words of the short, aging, and tough therapist. I can’t help but smile when I hear those words in my head, loud and clear, ringing with beauty and elegance, and with purpose—the beauty to change my reality, the purpose to bring myself to life. He gave me something to hold onto until I die, or at least until Heinz goes out of business and I find a new condiment company to tell my grandchildren about. Editor’s note: Although Heinz had more than 60 products in 1892, the number 57 was chosen because the numbers “5” and “7” held special significance to Henry J. Heinz. The number “5” was Henry Heinz’s lucky number; the number “7” was his wife’s lucky number. (Wikipedia)

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Directions by Suman Ali My world is a scatter plot, and there is no line of best fit. Though I have lived in Cleveland and Chicago, I come distinctively from the South, and Memphis, Tennessee, is my home. As one of my teachers once said, in a thick Southern accent, “We’re in the midst of the Bible Belt! Heck, it should be called the Conservative Belt!” I am an 18 year-old Indian Muslim living in America, and being as Liberal as I can be, my community is my foil. Frankly, I think my community has molded me to be a multi-perspective person; I cannot say that some of the Southern values I have encountered have not affected or altered my perceptions, ideas, and affinities. For instance, I cannot part with country-style food. “I love me some mashed ‘potaters’ and fried chicken,” I would say in a fake accent. I try not to be caustic, but, aside from food, most of the values of the South have clashed with mine. I believe that this has destined me to become a different person, one who seeks knowledge by breaking beyond the confines of her origin. The debatably greatest philosopher Aristotle once said, “All men by nature desire knowledge.” I desire to know more about things that fascinate me. I am curious about all the Islamic history and traditions I have not yet been taught in religious education classes or school. Being a Muslim student living in America

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at the time of religious discrimination, I have to know my background to face any fallacies with a strong and amiable mindset. I continue to learn about my own heritage and the experiences of my Pakistani ancestors. I have been brought up in my Muslim culture and try to understand the harshness of the world around me. Generally, my dreams have always been about cultural enrichment and I plan to continue this adventure throughout my life. As I have mentioned, my world has thus far been a scatter plot with no pattern. I wish to align these points in the future and hopefully they will point me in a positive direction.

Kate Satimore, Spider Web


Tears from Auschwitz by Lauren Oelze I remember the warm and sunny springs back home As I’m here cold and hungry while digging in your loam I’m digging in this earth because you said I have to I have to bury the dead of my race because our existence has come due So let me cry one last tear You make me look in the eyes of dead relatives, see their fear You took their lives and you’re stealing mine But somehow, you think that’s completely fine

I don’t know which because I still have hope I hope one day I can learn to cope So I can survive and live again, be free So I can let the world see What kind of horror and destruction happened here How the termination of my people was so near There are very few of us left But we will do our best To be once again the great people we were If we unite and be strong, we can do it I’m sure But staying united and strong will be hard Because I was just shot and killed by a Nazi guard.

So let me cry one last tear For all the moments you stole when you brought me here For all the times I could’ve laughed, instead I cry I cry because I’m scared to die I don’t know what’s worse Being here under this curse Where I’m beaten and abused all day And not a person here who sees it my way Or would I rather go down into the chamber To escape this terror and agonizing labor Artist’s note: This is the park where The Wall ran through East and West Berlin. This image represents togetherness.

Alyssa Miller, Togetherness

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The Liberation Sparrows by Jennifer Walzel In 1974 Walter Anderson painted a single sparrow - 75 years later a young girl responds to that painting.

This bird, like me, stands plain, free from unnatural color and composition, just off center, staring at a blank canvas. Sitting alone, the bird stares, small and fragile. When my parents had finally finished helping me build my new nest, they left. A fully grown girl stood free, alone for the first time, liberated from the confinements of her home. Surrounded by new people and a new place, I am given a blank canvas, and what to put on it is entirely my decision. I look to other canvases in the museum, already bright with color! They are peacocks and I am a sparrow. I look toward my canvas with longing in my heart to put something meaningful and bright in the center, something that will define me as being more than the tiny bird in the corner. How can it be so easy for others?

Poem in response to Walter Anderson’s painting “White-Throat Sparrow” c. 1934, on view University Museum 2011 courtesy Walter Anderson Museum of Art

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Brianna Gray, Bird


Goodbye Matthew by Leanna Tholl I find myself slowly gliding up the staircase at Matt’s house. I know it’s his house, but everything is different. What was once a banister is now open? The cream wall on the left has turned to dull grey. There are words everywhere. I just can’t figure them out. As I climb I’m wondering what it means. What are these words? I can’t make out what they are saying. At the top of the staircase something seems different. I’m in a spacious room that’s unfamiliar. I know this can’t be right; his house had a hall that separated two rooms. His sister’s on the left and his on the right. I think there was a bathroom in between. Not an empty room! The walls still look strange to me. They are grey. Then I realize they aren’t finished. It looks almost like the inside of an old building with tiny boards plastered together and nothing to cover the interior studs. They are open and non-plastered. As I continue to walk into the open room some of the words are becoming clearer. It looks like a note. Someone has written a letter all over the walls. I turn to my right and walk to the next room. The only object in there is a standing full-length oval mirror. I am suddenly frightened as I see a shadow pass behind me in the mirror. I turn, but nothing is there. My heart sinks with fear and I bolt for the door. Then I hear a laugh, a very familiar laugh. He quickly grabs my arms and stops me in my tracks. As I’m pulling away in fear he quickly says, “Stop, Stop. It’s o.k. I’m here. I’m so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to do it.” What do you mean, you didn’t mean to do it, I ask? At this point I’m crying in Matt’s arms, confused with what was happening.

Carter Moylan, Parkour

I knew he was gone and shouldn’t be here at this moment. I shouldn’t even be there at his house. Especially now that he had died! Yes, he died, I thought to myself. I went to the funeral. I cried for days. I cried until there were no tears left to fall from my eyes. How could he be here by my side, I thought, puzzled. But I was there in his home and he was standing holding me again. He continued to tell me he was o.k. and that it wasn’t supposed to happen. Before we walked out of the room he told me he loved me and that it’s o.k. He repeated, “I’m o.k.” We walked down the stairs hand in hand. The whole conversation felt so real. He was right next to me. I couldn’t be dreaming–it was just too real. We walked towards the stairs to leave. But I froze for a moment, at the bottom of the stairs stood the girl who stole him from me. My Matt, my friend, My Love! She stole my heart. Anger welled inside me and I went down the stairs after her. I could feel the dream setting in. I chased her out the door pushing her to the ground. The entire time I could hear his laugh. I quickly turned and embraced him one last time. He kissed me like before. Before the hurt, before he broke my heart. It felt good and right, but it only lasted a moment and then it was gone. As I woke, my heart raced and I was suddenly crying. I wasn’t crying out of grief or pain. I finally was crying out of relief. I felt at peace for the first time in months. I felt like he knew I needed that closure. I needed to know he really cared for me and that he didn’t kill himself on purpose! It was an accident, and he was at peace.

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Don’t Cry, Baby by Hayley Hampton Breathe. I told myself. Just breathe. I had not yet come into the dimly lit room with the rest of my family. It was our time to privately mourn for the dead. I had promised myself to show no emotion. I could not let myself break, or there would be nothing to make me whole again. However, when I saw the open casket and the sharp outline of the body within, I froze on the spot. The tears were coming. “Hayley? Are you going to come see Nana?” My dad peered back at me. He had noticed my hesitance and was looking at me nervously. Even though I had been told that my grandmother had passed, even though I had seen the relentless crying and heard the bitter wailing of her daughters, part of me still believed that she was still alive. If I went into that lonely room, it would all become real. She would be dead, and my heart would break. “Hayley?” my dad called for me again. He came to me in the hallway and put his big, brown hands on my shoulders. “Could I be alone with her Dad?” I whispered shakily. “Just for a minute?” He studied me with his kind, dark eyes. At first I saw concern in them, and I was afraid that he would say no, but he surprised me this time. “Just for a minute,” he said firmly, but not unkindly. After my Dad ushered out the women and my cousins, I managed to ease through the door. The carpet was thick and muffled each step I took. The air was cool and crisp here, even though I expected the stench of death. Light shown down from a high window, and I heard a mourning dove outside. Everything was peaceful.

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I began to relax, and got a better grip on my emotions. I fingered the crucifix around my neck for strength and moved near enough to the polished casket to touch her. I refused to look at her face, afraid that I would find it contorted with pain from the monstrous disease that had taken her. On September 25, 2008, Nana passed away from cervical cancer. I should have known that something was amiss when she had stopped dancing. I ran my hand down the silky skirt of her dress. They had dressed her in soft yellow, the color of the roses that bloomed in her yard year after year. My cousins and I would play and dance around that lovely rose bush, pulling off the golden blooms and putting them in our hair. Nana would burst from the house in her night slip and curlers and chase us around the yard with the dusty old broom she reserved for just beatings. I laughed to myself, a small sound breaking through the silence. I stroked her neatly folded hands. Those hands had carried the world, and wiped away my tears. Those hands were such frail and wrinkled things, but they had been welcome against my cheek. I closed my eyes and wished that those times were mine again. Then I noticed a change in the air. What was that smell? It was flowery, pungent, and familiar. I opened my eyes and saw that in the corner of the room, where light did not touch, was an elegantly carved, wooden table, and on top, held down by an antique vase, were three incense sticks. Nana had loved incense. I closed my eyes again and let myself get lost in the memory. I could hear old-time Gospel in the background, coming from Nana’s old bedroom. She always kept the house dark during the day, with only “God’s light” coming through the floral curtains. I could see her bobbing her oily curls and


twisting to the rhythm of the music. It was like her spirit was on fire. She twirled through the wisps of incense that she kept burning all day. Around the house, she rarely wore anything but a slip and house shoes. “Yea Lord! Yea Lord!” she would call out in a rapturous fit. She would clap her hands and speak in tongues. I would just sit and stare in awe, careful not to disturb her swaying. I often laughed at such ridiculousness, but looking back now, it is not ridiculous in the least. Nana had thrown away all order and praised the God she believed in. My life had always been about order. I was nothing like my golden Nana who loved and danced with joyous abandon. I was reasonable. I resisted emotion, and she had loved me. “Smile, Love boat! Show that I have a pretty granddaughter,” she would say. I did smile, my biggest smile, and she would give me a piece of Werther’s candy and a kiss. I couldn’t take it anymore! I opened my eyes and just gazed at her face. There was no pain etched in the many creases I saw. Instead, there was a kind of peace, pure and lovely. I gently traced those Indian features with the tips of my fingers. My lower lip quivered, and my eyes started to burn. Oh how I loved this woman! She had always been good to me. Seeing her blissful smile brought back one more memory. I had been crying one day because my momma had hurt my feelings terribly. Nana had just held me. “Don’t cry, Baby,” she said, and kissed me. “Nana loves you and she’ll always be here for you.” I had been angry and hurt when I had been told that my Nana had died. Did I not have the right to know what was wrong, that she was sick? Could I have not at least

Brianna Gray, Flower

seen her once more? I looked around the room. The dark, painted walls were bare, except for one picture that had somehow escaped my attention. It was a painting of Jesus smiling down gently at his accusers from the cross. No hate was in his eyes. I knew then that I could not be angry at my family or Nana for hiding the illness from me. They had only wanted what was best, and they were hurting just as much as I was. I bent down and kissed her on the forehead. Her skin was hard and cold, but all of my anger had gone, and my soul was finally at peace. I let myself cry. “You ready. Hun?” my dad asked from the doorway. I quickly wiped those tears away, resolving to cry no more. I was ready. I mean I truly was ready, ready to love with abandon, ready to dance without a care. Peace had finally found me. I smiled at my dear grandmother one last time, knowing that this was not goodbye by any means. Someday I would see my Nana again. We would dance together. There was no need to cry.

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How Long Must I Carry This Staff? by Gabriel Wilson Ride sure and steady, ride tried and true Have no regrets. Will tomorrow have you? We all have an end, some far, some near Don’t think too much. Stay calm and steer For the future is now the past and the present eagerly fleeting Tomorrow is soon amongst us Shall you wake up sleeping? We all have a journey, each one of our own But that doesn’t mean we face it alone Live sure and steady, live tried and true Wake up alive, and let tomorrow have you.

Poem in response to Walter Anderson’s painting “Don Quixote” c. 1936, on view University Museum 2011 courtesy Walter Anderson Museum of Art

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Autumn Smith, A Nagata & Grandfather (drawing)


Half Moon Cay by Ashley Wellen Inspired by: Horn Island Triptych by Walter Anderson We strolled along Toes sinking in the sand Hands intertwined Admirers We walked on to explore Stopping to search for shells A piece of the island to take with us Collectors We moved along Pushing each other further Barefoot on hot prickly rocks Daredevils We lay down Turquoise water tickling our toes Hands intertwined Lovers

Autumn Smith, Waterfall

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Texas Boy by

dating someone new. She was crushed, but soon resigned. Yet another male left her sitting dry and alone, like a plant KayLynn Rehberger in the desert. She decided to go as far away from Tom as Chelsie Marie Schneider was born in the small town of possible by going to a college in the South. She applied to Highland, Illinois. Being the youngest of the three children, many, but fell in love with the University of Mississippi, Ole Miss. The seclusion of the breath-taking, historic town Chelsie received most of the attention in her home. At the gave Chelsie a sense of hometown comfort, all the while age of three, her parents separated. giving her access to people that came from a completely A year after the divorce, Chelsie’s father married the maid who cleaned her parents’ home prior to their divorce. different culture. But, even in beautiful surroundings, danger can lurk in the shadows, staying hidden beyond the surface. She was devastated. Not only did this marriage affect Chelsie came to Ole Miss not knowing one soul or havChelsie emotionally, but it also affected her socially. Her ing one idea about the South. That anxiety did not keep her perspective of men changed in a negative way, including from the decision to get out in the world and meet new people. her ability to trust and love. She was taught many lessons Being anxious to begin a brand new chapter in her life, she from the people that were a part of her life. Those who quickly made friends with the girls on her dorm room floor. failed her made her more independent. Those who loved All of the girls on her floor constantly talked about recruither helped when self-assurance was not enough. Chelsie kept her days occupied by juggling school, work, ment, or in other words “rush” to join a sorority. Feeling secluded, she decided to apply for fall recruitment just like friends, and cheerleading. Free time was non-existent in most freshman girls on campus. Going into rush without her life, and keeping busy meant she did not have to deal understanding the extent of how serious Greek life was at with her father and his new wife. She had many friends in Ole Miss, Chelsie felt like a goose in a pool of swans. high school, but she stayed far away from boys. Though After several Gamma Chi meetings, rush week had boys tried to ask her on dates, Chelsie never gave in. That finally arrived. The week was a blur that Chelsie never was until she met Tom Williams. wanted to think about again. When she received her invitaAfter several dates, Tom became the only man that Chelsie could open up to and trust. He changed the way she tion to Phi Mu on bid-day, she ran to Sorority Row as fast saw men and how she felt about her father. The couple was as a cheetah, leaving all of the other running girls in the dust. All that went through her head were visions of swaps, date inseparable for two years, up until it was time for college. Tom was on a soccer scholarship at McKendree, a near- parties, and all of her new sisters. She became acquainted by private college. His being from Liverpool England, aside with ninety five freshman “Phis” all in the same confused, anxious position as she was. from his general good manners, opened her eyes to what After receiving her bid day welcome, the Phi director the world had to offer. Chelsie thought they were going to informed all of the new girls that their first official swap was be together forever. To Chelsie, every moment with Tom the coming Tuesday. Chelsie had only two days to gather was like a movie scene that she could not stop watching. outfits for the theme of the swap, which was Talladega But the movie was about to have a very bad ending. Nights. For the next two days, Chelsie could barely conUnfortunately, the relationship with Tom did not work out. He gave her the impression that he did not want a long- centrate on anything as she tried to contain her excitement. distance relationship. Soon after the split, however, he was When Tuesday finally arrived, after what felt like ages, she

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had butterflies so badly that she could barely stand. A fellow pledge, Ashleigh, invited Chelsie to come to her dorm room to get ready for the swap. Being excited to get to know her new sisters, she immediately accepted Ashleigh’s invitation. The girls a good two hours to get ready and then headed to the house to catch the bus to the Levee, a local bar. It was a Phi Mu and Kappa Sig swap. Just when everything seemed to be falling into place, Chelsie was about to meet her downfall of the year, a Kappa Sig named Derek Bethel. Derek was a southern boy from Houston, Texas. Chelsie fell for his southern charm immediately. Right off the bat, the two of them started dating on a regular basis, hardly ever spending a moment apart. As the relationship became more serious, Derek’s true personality came out. He went from being nice and easy-going to controlling and aggressive. His behavior was severe to the point where he would not allow Chelsie to go home on holidays. Derek wanted to be able to control her every move, but that would not be possible if he was not around her. So, he would take her to Texas with him where he could constantly keep an eye on her. Fights began to break out between the two constantly. He would not even allow Chelsie to go eat at the Phi Mu house with her sisters because he was insecure about her being away from him. Because of this, she lost many friends and opportunities to get acquainted with her sisters. The year ended badly with cops being involved in more than one situation. As summer approached and school was beginning to wind down, Derek began to act more like the person Chelsie first met and knew. She, of course, fell for it and believed he had truly changed. They agreed to wait until school started back to see if they wanted to continue their relationship, but in the mean time call and see each other over summer break. Chelsie said goodbye to him without thinking that would be the last time she would speak to him. When she

went back home to Illinois, not once did she receive a phone call from Derek. Chelsie loved her summer all the more because she was happy to be reunited with her friends and family after not being able to see them for most of the year. Chelsie realized that boys can be many things, whether good or bad, but family is forever. August had finally approached and school was just around the corner. Chelsie Schneider packed all of her belongings and said her goodbyes as she began her journey back down to Mississippi for her second year of college at Ole Miss. Knowing what mistakes to avoid, she was ready to make the best of her time at Ole Miss. Although Chelsie did not always have this outlook about her present time-being, or her future, every event, obstacle, and person in her life helped and educated her. With people dropping in and out of her life, Chelsie’s entire life has been altered not just once, but several times. Tom may have left her broken and alone, but he taught her to always go for what she wanted and to keep pushing until she achieved her goals. Derek, made her realize that people can put on fronts and change frequently. In exchange for the horrible year, she learned not to give up her time and work ethic for any boy. She realized that men come and go and if women let them get in their way, they will be stuck holding the extra baggage the men leave behind. It is strange how one person, or experience can have a lasting impact on someone’s life, changing it for the good, or even the bad. Every mistake can have a life-long lesson in store; it is just a matter of how people take it. Despite her experiences, Chelsie gained courage to stand alone and continued to be optimistic. Correct judgment of a person sometimes comes through being hurt and learning from the ones before. Even if one’s judgment is accurate, goals and achievements should always come first. Chelsie now knows there are no limits in life; people get out what they put in. Most importantly, Chelsie learned to be herself.

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Belize: A Privileged Country by Cameron Gaines Walking through the tropical Belizean jungle, past extraterrestrial looking vegetation, under rotting rope-bound bridges swinging treacherously sixty yards overhead, only to swim up into a cave infamous for swallowing up clueless tourists, I asked myself, “How did I ever get into this situation?” Well the answer can be put quite simply. I volunteered. Two of my best friends and I had decided that rather than to merely amuse ourselves with a summer vacation like so many of today’s privileged persons, we would experience an exotic locale with the intent of bettering the impoverished community around us. Upon arrival I was struck with a nostalgic feeling that would slowly evolve into a strong sense of familiarity. The purpose of the mission trip, organized by a Cajun minister named Jody, was to help the native Belizeans build an orphanage under the direction of a local man we would grow to both respect and admire. This man was a drug lord’s brother and right-hand man turned minister following a near death experience. He found God as he stood alone and bloody, the sole survivor of a botched drug deal. Hoping to right his wrongs and give back to the people, his people, that had been terrorized and even further devastated by the corruption to which he contributed, he formed the “Laugh Out Loud Ministry.” The years studying to become a minister in the United States gave Jody a multicultural advantage over the others. Under his direction, we learned the Belizean customs which required different actions and processes; whether it

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was a simple greeting or a different method in the orphanage’s construction. We would have never been able to relate and interact with such success if it weren’t for Jody. Building the orphanage consumed the majority of our time, but every few days we would take a break to explore a majestic venue of the beautiful country. On one such day I began to realize my attraction partly resided in the similarities Belize bears to Bermuda, my birthplace and home for six years. Many of the buildings had the same architectural style, favored a bright and fruity color pallet, were surrounded by an abundance of similar species of tropical plant life, and housed accommodating people along the ocean. After an hour long drive on a bumpy rock road in a cramped van without air conditioning, we finally arrived at Blue Creek. Upon arrival, the entire village became mobile. Mothers and their children lined the stretch between the road and river with blankets to showcase the numerous handcrafted goods that would need to sell to supply their secluded lifestyle. A guide was required to be allowed past this point, so we recruited a machete-wielding local to lead our trek. Every few steps we would see a spiky looking plant or oversized bug to which our guide would aim his blade and state, “death” or “killer” in a heavy accent. Eventually, we reached a series of newer looking wooden cabins, a rare sight in even the more-populated areas. Our guide must have intercepted our curious gazes and began to sound out a word as he pointed to two intelligent looking Caucasians sitting on one of the porches. “Arch-ae-olo-gy.” We were later informed that different teams of archaeologists had long been studying the Mayan civilization that had resided where we stood over 1000


years ago. However, by this time we were preoccupied; someone had disturbed a hive of freakish Belizean bees. We scattered. My friends and I ran straight off of the crude wooden platform overlooking the river and shared an experience with the Mayans as we were immersed in the crystal clear waters that once served as an essential resource to their lifestyle. The guide sat on the bank of the river and laughed at us. He must have been capable of identifying many of the insects, because Belize has been known to have had “killer bees.” It was at this time that I had a shocking revelation. We wrongly pitied these people. Coming into their homes and facing their way of life only to feel sorry for them was disrespectful. In their eyes, we were there for them to show us the realities of a more natural life, a tightly-knit interdependent community, and the misconceptions around other cultures. Prior to my interactions and friendships with the Belizean people, I failed to see the advantages along with disadvantages that inspired the undeserved pity. These “disadvantages” were considered by them only to be the normal obstacles of their day to day life, injecting a blend of strength and courage that contributes to their unique culture and is apparent in each and every Belizean citizen. I used to think that such people envied the lives of Americans, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sensing my disillusionment, one man stated that a simple life such as his would always be preferable over ours. He told me that the structure of our society is undesirable to many people of the world as it brings about many complications and inspires corruption in empowered figures.

Jeffrey Farragut, Curious Child

My arrogance was exposed, as a few weeks entirely flipped my perception of the world and its people. Returning to America now seemed to be the true definition of seclusion: a guarded and sheltered life in which people can see only what they choose to see. In such seclusion, many of us subconsciously absorb propaganda and the misleading opinions of others, leading us down an unfortunate path that can only result in a generally naïve society with a skewed apprehension that stereotypes the unfamiliar.

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Have You Ever Been in Hell? by Hyojung Sarah Choi I was seated on the train, waiting for my destination. Like a normal day, I anticipated how I could enjoy downtown with my best friends. Finally, there was an announcement to let people know the station name. All of sudden, somebody started to notice something was happening, but I didn’t care about it because that was my time to get off the train. I stood up and got ready for the gate to open. At that time, the train became foggy with smoke. Someone yelled, “Fire!!” Everybody stood up and packed in front of the door to get out, and I was pulled back. The train was stopped and the door was opened. I grabbed someone’s coat, but he shook off my hand. I just stood behind the others, waiting to get off the train. That’s why I don’t like getting surrounded by people. But that was the wrong decision. While others got off the train, the lights went off in the train and in the station. Finally, I got off the train. I could not help but lose my way. I had to go two more floors up to get out of the station. It was a dark and urgent circumstance, and all I could do was stand at the corner of the station while inhaling disgusting gases and ash. The train for the other direction went to the station and stopped. Because of the wind from the other train, the fire got bigger. I wished the lights would come on again. I could hear fearful screams from the second train. It was

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being swallowed by terrifying fires. Everybody punched the door and cried. I could hear people shouting to help them, and there was nothing I could do. That was Hell. Sticking to the wall, I tried to find where stairs were. Black smoke passed over my head. I could barely walk. Whenever I inhaled, the breath of death entered through my nose and mouth. I coughed harshly over and over again. Struggling to climb the stairs seemed like scrambling toward the stairs of heaven. “So, this is how I am going to die,” I thought. Moreover, I was rushed with ideas. “Though I am only an elementary school student, there is a possibility of death. What is dying? It’s too painful. I never expected this kind of death. I want to see my mom. My father is not here. He promised that he would protect me no matter what happens. I should have begged her to buy me a cellphone, so I could call her now. I want to stop breathing. It tastes too awful. My friends are going to wait for me until I do not appear. How will my friends feel when they see my name through the news screen as a victim of this fire? What if my body cannot be identified? How will they know who I am? Why can I not see the panorama of my life? Others assured me that people see their lives shortly before dying. I want to go up. I want to live. I hoped this is just a dream, just a bad nightmare.” Following the wall, I could finally reach the stairs. However, the more I struggled to go up, the more I


felt like I was losing my balance. Suddenly, I could not find any reason to live. I would rather stop breathing than stay in this state. I was not afraid of dying at this point, I welcomed it. If this is the way I disappeared, I wanted to make it quick. I lay down comfortably at the stairs and got ready to finish my life. I took deep breaths to speed up my process of dying. Tough cough again. I tried to sleep on the hard, dizzy and dark concrete stairs. When I opened my eyes, my mother cried beside me, and I was laid not on the stair but a soft, cozy and white bed. I could not move my body, but I could think. I lived. Later I thought that I had been strange. How I could give up on my life so easily? I don’t know why, even now. Maybe I did not have any ambition in my life, no regrets for the way I lived it, or just did not know what dying was because I was too young. If I were an adult or a more mature person at that time, I would have tried to escape from that station. At the hospital I saw much news and many articles about the fire. It was recorded as the world’s second largest fire at the station. The cause of that fire was one person who has a mental disease who commits the arson just because he did not want to die alone. It took about 200 people’s lives, but the criminal lived. Another reason the damage was bigger was the driver of the second train. He was too surprised to turn off the master key of the train which could have con-

Matthew Fernandez, Fresh Air

trolled the door. Because of that, a majority of the passengers on the second train passed away. I was lucky to be a person who could live through such a huge fire. After that time, I seriously thought about why I lived and realized how foolish I was. I decided to consider everyday as the last day of my life. Now I have an ultimate dream about my future and have lots of things I want to achieve during my life. Everybody passes through their days without such kinds of trouble. They sometimes forget how important life is, how breathing fresh air is a magnificent experience and how their parents and friends are precious. As a person who passed through an urgent situation, I wish others would know that we are not too young to die. We should live by doing our best at every moment if we do not want to regret the way we lived our lives, so that when we go to the sky, we are at peace.

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Desperation by Nina Farris Being the typical teenager, I was never appreciative of the life I had. I was born in a loving family with their priorities set right. I was lucky because I graduated from one of the highest ranked schools in the country, Isidore Newman School. However, being at Newman I found out that the people around me were, let’s just say, well off. I began to demand more expensive belongings. All I wanted was to blend in with all my friends. I eventually grew into a materialistic girl who only cared about how much I could spend. It was during this time that I constantly fought with my family. They did not understand how important “fitting in” was to me. Sooner rather than later, my life changed. I am from New Orleans, and in 2005 I had the terrifyingly direct experience of Hurricane Katrina, a categoryfive storm. My family decided to seek shelter with my grandfather at Baptist Memorial Hospital where he has an OBGYN practice. Upon arriving at the hospital we began to unpack, and not knowing how long we would be there, began to make ourselves more comfortable. Since I had every belonging with me, I had to unpack and settle in to my room of torture. With my father, mother, grandfather, older sister, and a few of my grandfather’s nurses, I prepared for what would turn out to be a life-changing experience. I honestly did not know where to begin. My father was the only one who knew that the city would never be same. So being thirteen and the materialistic girl that I was, I decided to pack my entire wardrobe. I somehow fit every single piece of my clothing into two suitcases. Since I had never had the feeling of loss, the only thought I could understand was how I had to show off how materialistic I was. When we arrived in the hospital, I was still focused on

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my possessions and how I looked. I never thought that in three days all of my priorities would change for the better. After the storm passed over the city, my family and I went to look at our home. It was Monday afternoon and our house was completely intact. Dodging tree limbs and excess water in the road, we found that the damage was relatively minor, nothing a few small repairs could not fix. When night fell, we decided to stay at my grandmother’s home. Thinking that the next day would be like any other regular day, we stayed up late laughing and telling stories. On Tuesday morning, I heard my father’s fast and loud footsteps, not his usual groggy morning shuffle. When my mother came into my room to wake me, I looked into her eyes and saw a sense of worry typically reserved for crisis situations. This look was reserved for those nightmares that children my age wake up from crying, but my nightmare had just begun. After studying her worried face, my mother calmly told me, “Nina, Nina baby, we have to get up. The levees have broken, and we have to get out of the city.” My sister and I gathered our belongings and went to the car. We rushed to the hospital where we would pick up my grandfather and leave town. Once we got there, we realized that he was convinced everything would be fine. He insisted that the hospital had food, running water, generators, and a place to sleep. So we stayed. By Wednesday, we were trapped in the hospital. The generators had flooded since they were in the basement. Our food supply was now down to one meal a day served in a Styrofoam cup. Fearful of what was happening outside, we locked ourselves in my grandfather’s office listening to the droning noise of helicopters landing and taking off with patients in critical condition. We also watched as looters and addicts tried to get into the hospital for the supplies and drugs that were scarce.


On Thursday, we had no running water or generators and only a half of a cup of food. The still, hot air that pressed against our bodies made the seconds feel like hours. After realizing the only way to live was to leave the hospital, we decided that today was the day to get somewhere safe. We packed our necessities and consolidated our belongings. When we walked downstairs into the lobby, we were met with the smell of death and desperate people begging for help. The people around me were desperate. They were desperate for life. There was a moment when I looked into a woman’s eyes and realized that the world we live in is not about the accessories, it is about the simple things like love, forgiveness, and caring. The people here needed help. There were children who had not lived their lives yet, and they knew that this was going to be their end. As we reached the broken window that we had to climb through, we saw men and women writing social security and credit card numbers on their bodies so if they died they could be identified. A boat carried us out of the hospital and up a couple of blocks to dry land. There we piled into a hardware van and were brought by a police officer to the interstate. At this point in our journey, we had no certainty of what was going on, where we should go, or if we were safe. All we knew was how devastation felt and how confusion could lead to desperation. Then an angel appeared before my family. He was dressed in green cargo pants and wearing a purple and gold LSU shirt. He came just to rescue us from this disaster. The four of us piled into his black Suburban, and he drove us to a fast-food restaurant in Baton Rouge for our first full meal in days. He then brought us to a relative’s house nearby where we lived for three months, sleeping on couches and an inflatable mattress. When we returned to our one-story house in New Orleans, we found that two and half feet of

Jessica Foshee, Curled Ribbon

water had destroyed most of our belongings. I began to rethink my life. I still have everyone I love with me. My most haunting memory is that of hundreds of men and women in the hospital who had nothing but hope and the desire to wake up the next morning and have everything be okay. Certainly I am not done learning, but part of me is glad that I learned to evaluate my priorities. Today, I am the one who will cherish friends, family, and memories. The only thing that we will leave this earth with is our memories. So I will make them all with the ones I love. Overall, this experience makes me want to be someone better, work harder, and realize all of my potential. It has changed my perspective about my life and the way I choose to live it.

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Extra $20 for a Name by Author Bryant Ole Miss roses are $40 their violets are the same too man I love Ole Miss overly priced items that I do

“One thing that’s been consistent throughout my life is the images I draw from. The dark side of man, the glorious side of nature, and the destruction of both.”John Alexander.

Glorious Destruction by Daniel Conrad Angry little fish, Better on a dish Cut out the teeth, They taste so rich. The dark side of me, The glorious side of you When you’re on my plate Destruction only comes when we meet Inspired by Angry Little Fish, a painting by John Alexander, on exhibit, University Museum, fall 2011

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Grandma’s Legacy by Chase Melch Grandma’s cooking was the absolute best Her soul is peacefully laid to rest. Her recipes remain in our culinary books Enlightening the remaining family cooks Eggplant, salmon, to focaccia bread She gladly created anything we said We’d all sit and wait at the dinner table While she checked baseball scores on cable Thanks was given, then we began to eat Grandma, your presence was the best treat

Kate Satimore, Pale Pink Rose


My Sky Your Sky by Jeffrey Farragut If everyone’s ocean is blue then why aren’t we all swimming together? What makes us swim together? Is it what we doubt, what we fear, what antagonizes us? Is your ocean blue like everyone else’s? Everyone’s sky is blue. Some peoples’ sky has a few clouds or a bit of gray, maybe purple or red for a rising or a setting. But everyone has the same color skies at different times. My sky is whatever color I want it to be. It is green, with brown and tan clouds. The lightning is neon pink. The sand is red and my ocean is purple. Why? I have been lost, troubled, confused trying to find a blue sky and blue ocean. You are born. Children’s lives are whatever color they want them to be. Then the child grows up and someone tells them their ocean has to be blue–brought and let down to blunt practicality. Seeing the blue sky they feel defeated. Their any-colored lives are brought to a stop because, look, the sky is blue. Now wandering in this structured land, coping with what seems to be reality, they upsettingly pass on this literal information. Their sky may look blue but something stirs inside. If they come to asking themselves why, it is only to find out they do not know. A subconscious stir for an orange ocean, they feel it, but they can’t even imagine it or put it into words. Their boats float aimlessly with convinced purpose. Yet they absorb rays of sun, Suman Ali, Above the Clouds

weather storms, and are among whales, sharks, and things they don’t even know they don’t even know. You can become obsessed with washing your boat. You can learn the best ways to keep it clean. Thinking about what could dirty it and then deciding on whatever it may be will be worth the cleaning. Then you stop cleaning the dirt. That “negative” thing is the reason why we prosper. We realize the only bad thing about it is thinking it is bad. Why? Because the other unsure fish think it is so. Realize we act out because of what scares us. Well, then where else is there to go? We have to come to embrace and prosper in the dirt. Loving, questioning, appreciating, and being what scares us. I hope for everyone to discover what they feel, to realize why, and to ultimately find the color of their ocean and sky.

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The Grace by Katherine Baggett Inspired by Walter Anderson’s Paintings When I was a little girl, my father bought a sailboat. We cleaned and repainted the boat together, slicking white paint over the old name and coming up with possible new names. “The Princess!” I shouted. My father laughed, politely declining my suggestion. “How about ‘The Grace’?” he asked. Grace is my middle name, and he and my mother called me Gracie Girl. I smiled, and thus the Sunday boating ritual was born. My favorite thing was to sit at the very front of the boat as we glided through the bayou. My toes would skim the water, and as I close my eyes now, I can see the cattails and feel the salty breeze on my face. I am pondering the painting “Reflections in a Bullrush Pond” as I write, noticing how it depicts the ripples in the water perfectly; I can see the way the water separated as the boat sailed through the bayou. The watercolor cattails look almost the same as the ones I would reach out to touch as the boat moved along. Finally, we would reach the mouth of the bayou and exit into the ocean, passing buoys, channel markers, and crab traps. The destination was Horn Island, which was about an hour’s sail. To a little girl this hour seemed like forever, but upon reaching the island, all time was forgotten. The water sparkled in the sun, and unlike in the bayou, my water shoes were visible under the surface as I slid

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my feet through the sand–a technique common to water folk wanting to avoid stingrays lurking about. As I walk along in the gallery, the painting “Horn Island at Sunset” reminds me of the nights spent at the island. My family and I would often camp out, and the painted sunset looks just as I remember it. Though nowadays, not so many trees remain–a shame. The light blue of the sand in the painting matches the color of the sand when the sun begins to sink behind the trees, as opposed to the blinding white during the day. I loved to bury my feet in that cool blue sand and feel the grains in between my toes. Looking at the icy, aqua blue used to paint the sand makes the memory of the sensation all the more cold. I now have been in the museum for an hour and a half, walking from painting to painting, contemplating each one, and closing my eyes to relive a fond memory. Passersby come and go, but I remain–alone in the museum and left to my thoughts. As I look around the room I can feel the adoration for the grace of nature shared by two people generations apart.

Ashley Wellen, Rocky Beach


The Trap by Ashley Wellen Golf is a sport with many rules. In fact there are so many rules that even the most experienced golfers still carry a rulebook in their bag. Ashley was a young girl who did not even crack open the rulebook before her first tournament; she had better ways to spend her time. However, the rulebook may have saved her from embarrassment if she had only read through it. Ashley was about eight when her dad took her golfing for the first time. She had a great time whacking away at the ball, not caring if she missed but with the goal in mind of getting the ball in the hole. She had fun at junior golf where her score did not matter, but her first golf tournament soon changed Ashley’s mindset. Golf became another challenge. She did not know many rules, but she knew one thing: her “lucky seven iron” would come to the rescue if all other clubs failed. Nothing seemed to be going right the day of the golf tournament, but Ashley just kept on going. One hole she landed in a huge sand trap, something which Ashley had never encountered before. She swung, and her ball did not make it out of the trap. She rested her club in the sand, swung again, but her ball was still lying there. After about five more tries, she finally hit the ball out. Ashley was golfing with her friend and eventual competitor, Megan Jakel, that day. Megan explained to Ashley that resting a club head in the sand

Suman Ali, Hot Fries

was called grounding the club. A rule states that players must take a penalty stroke if they ground their club before hitting the ball in a sand trap. Each time Ashley had swung the club it had actually counted as two strokes. Ashley never forgot the sand trap rule after that game. She ended up scoring an eighty-eight on only nine holes. Par on most golf courses is thirty six. Needless to say, Ashley read the rulebook after that day.

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What it Took by Jami Steen I stood 5’4” gawking at my awkward stance in the mirror. The mirror, its decorative butterflies, flowers, and bumblebees vandalized by a rogue twelve year old tomboy, strongly resonated my total and complete lack of care in my appearance. I stood awkwardly because I couldn’t actually fit in the mirror even if I stood on the complete opposite side of the room, but I didn’t care. I never really spent a lot of time in that mirror. I knew what I looked like, so examining myself for hours like my weird older sisters never tickled my fancy. First and final self examination: ponytail (no hair in face), check; Disneyworld t-shirt (Animal Kingdom of course), check; favorite Kelly green Umbros, check; Nike socks, check; Converse, always-ready for school. At school the popular girls liked me because I took control in class projects and pegged the boys with the various objects they flirtatiously launched at the cuties who donned lip gloss and clear jelly sandals. The nerds liked me because I was easy to talk to and would duel with them at lunch when the cafeteria wasn’t serving my preference that day. The boys liked me because I provided real competition in P.E. races, and I could talk any teacher out of weekend homework. The people that didn’t fall into a certain elementary community liked me because I was one of them. Life was routine: Wake up, brush teeth–Mom will you put my hair in a ponytail?–no Mom, Idontwanna-

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wearlipgloss, t-shirt, Umbros, Converse, school, friends, home, basketball, sleep. Life was simple. Life was good. It was a Thursday. God sat me in the corner and designated me to playing Pokemon, despite the fact the cafeteria was serving cheeseburgers–my favorite. Everyone looked up at the kid coming through the ketchup and pickle stained door. Who was this rebel without a cause walking into the cafeteria flying solo? He didn’t walk with his class? Where was his teacher? Did I care? Nope. He was sporting a Sooners t-shirt, cargo shorts, and the freshest Nike sneaks I had ever seen. A real god walking into my cafeteria, into my life. Out of all the lip glossed fools that didn’t know how to put on their make-up quite right, all the naturally beautiful quiet and probably musically talented girls, all the older girls that wore bras that didn’t have Barbie cheesing across their chests, he looked at me. Me, the fool with my extra “I don’t care-ish” hairdo that day (Thursdays were P.E. days), the weirdo holding a card with a loud yellow Pikachu on the front, the nerd with Rolling Stones lyrics scribbled on my converses. Jesus. Where was my mom with that lip gloss when I needed her? Wait what? NEEDED my mom? NEEDED lipgloss? Mind: blown. I reached into my backpack for some classic cherry Chapstick. That’d have to do for now. “Hey, is anyone sitting here?” “Seat’s all yours.” Oh God, this dude was too much to handle. I was instantly head-over-heels.


“Name’s Ryan. I just moved here from Oklahoma.” “That’s cool. I’ve been here all my life. Oh, and I’m Jami.” “Well Jami, let’s socialize.” I let out a laugh, and the rest is history. My life, all kidding aside, was changed forever. When I woke up the next morning I established a new routine: I sat in front of my mirror, brushed the tangles out of my long blonde hair, and let the board straight locks roll off my shoulders. I opted for shorts with a zipper and pockets and superfluous things like that. I chose a blue t-shirt, a t-shirt, yes, but a chosen one as opposed to whichever shirt was next in the pile of t-shirts in my drawers. I donned my Converses; no way was I ditching THOSE guys on the biggest day of my life. I walked into Mom’s room for approval. When she saw this new person, this girl, she almost wept. She suggested I pinned my hair back because “It’s a shame to hide a face like yours.” With that done, I asked Mom for some lip gloss, preferably nothing too obvious and something that tasted good. She knew which tube to choose automatically, almost as if she had been waiting on me to ask. That day at school, I asked Ryan to be my boyfriend– a little backwards, yes, but then again I never really did anything the way that everyone else did. I guess Ryan dug the fact that I didn’t care, or maybe he dug the fact that he made me care. Either way, he checked yes on the bottom of that piece of notebook paper, and that was more than satisfactory to me. Maria Dahmash, Flowers (watercolor and ink)

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Soap by Matthew Stein John never really thought about moving away from home. Things were neatly arranged into place for him. From birth to high school, he spent the entirety of his life in that small, quaint suburb in Iowa. Now he was moving to New York City to live with his mom’s brother and attend a local university. The name of the university didn’t matter–he didn’t care. His major didn’t matter, nor did his home. His parents decided based on a combination of factors, and with the scholarships and the free rent (he’d be staying with his uncle), New York was determined the best option. His parents walked him through a dozen applications, places he can’t even remember now. For a school year they studied intensely any available resources to better aid their decision. They examined hundreds of university reviews, teacher reviews, student reviews, newspaper articles, and national rankings. Occasionally, John would be consulted by his parents on trivial matters from where he would want to live or what he wanted to do. However, these sessions only frustrated his parents by John’s general disinterest. Senior year concluded long after their college search, and John knew where he was going to college many months before other students even started to look. His parents proudly purchased and placed the university’s logo on the car, fridge, and any other blank templates itching to be filled. They filled their closets with various school hats, t-shirts, sweatpants, and other attire. Every niche of school gear was filled and it looked as if John was an alumnus before he even started his freshman year. The day he left for the airport went smoothly. His belongings had been packed days in advance, tightly outfitted with everything he needed, from school books to nail

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clippers. Before he left for his plane, he hugged his parents. “Good luck son. Work hard. Remember why you’re going to college,” his dad stated mid-hug. “Don’t forget to call us when you arrive, honey,” reminded his mom. John silently nodded to both mandates, and trotted off to his flight. Before he stepped into the crowd of the line, he turned to give a final wave to his parents, but they had walked away. He sighed and turned back around to face his new life, clutching a ticket and a bag in his hands. John had never met his uncle, nor had he heard many stories. All he knew was that his uncle David was a pharmacist–like both his parents–living in NYC. The living arrangement worked well, considering the proximity of his uncle’s apartment to the college and the fact John was studying Pharmacy–just like his parents. After the flight, John took a cab to his uncle’s address. The uncomfortable plane ride in coach didn’t allow him much sleep, and he found the warm cab cozy enough to drift into a nap. He awoke to a rough hand shaking his shoulder. “Hey buddy. We’re here,” grunted the cabbie. John sleepily fumbled for his wallet and paid him. Stepping onto the concrete next to the bags the cabbie already brought outside, he stretched and gazed at his new neighborhood. It was surprisingly up-scale, with semi-new apartments nicely crammed into an organized row. Small patches of grass and trees decorated the sidewalks encircling the buildings. John picked up his bags and headed to his uncle’s apartment. He approached the apartment and ringed up apartment number 21. A short ten seconds later, he was greeted by a voice that he assumed to be his uncle: “Hello, what can I do for ya?” asked the voice. “Uhhh. It’s me, John…” timidly replied John. “OHH JOHN! What a surprise! Come on up!” said his


enthused uncle. The front door buzzed and let him through, and John climbed upstairs to reach room 21’s door. The door was already slightly open, so John cautiously crept inside, announcing his arrival: “Hello…? Uncle Dave?” John broadcasted through the dark apartment. Flipping a nearby light switch, John saw the nowilluminated apartment was filled with dozens of unmarked boxes. Piles of soap were littered around, but despite this clutter, the rooms seemed appropriately clean. Dropping his heavy bags and sidestepping boxes, John slowly treaded the crowded hallway. Turning the corner on the first room, he was greeted by a huge figure charging at him full speed “WOOO JOHN! What is up, my man??” shouted the large man, tackling and hurling him to the ground. “WHAT THE HELL UNCLE DAVE!??,” John moaned, his body crushed by the weight and embrace of his uncle. Uncle Dave pealed out in laughter, rolling off John onto the floor. Stunned, John remained motionless on the ground rubbing his assaulted shoulder. “What is wrong with you?!?” angrily interjected John, his plea muffled by his uncle’s obnoxious laughter. “Hahaha, just having a little bit of fun, John,” Dave explained, grinning from ear to ear, “so, how was the flight?” “Long,” grumbled John, climbing onto his feet. “What’s with all the soap and boxes?” “Oh, you don’t know anything about me, do you?” asked Dave, still grinning. “No… nothing at all,” John replied, feeling uneasy. What kind of nut-job am I staying with? John wondered. “That’s okay, you’ll learn quick,” Dave proclaimed, and then with an enigmatic wink, “The soap is just something I do on the side. I make it myself and sell it at the farmer’s market.”

“Interesting…” droned John. He’s just another boring pharmacist, John thought. “Yeah. Very. Now enough chatter, grab one of those small soap boxes, and follow me, we’re going to be late,” directed Dave, hopping to his feet, grabbing his jacket and a soap box. “Uh, shouldn’t I unpack my bags and get settled in first?” interjected John. “Nope! Hurry up. Also, bring a sweatshirt,” said Dave, throwing John a soap box and walking toward the door. “A sweatshirt? It’s 75 degrees outside. I think I’ll survive,” laughed John, catching the box. “Bring it,” ordered Dave, his tone much more serious this time. “Uhh… okay,” replied John, scavenging a sweatshirt from his bags. They left the apartment as quickly as John had come, hopped on Dave’s motorcycle parked on the street, and without hesitation, sped away. They drove for 15 minutes by many buildings, vacant and filled. They finally stopped at a random burger joint. “Its midnight, Dave, this place is closed,” complained the confused John, stating the obvious. “I know, I know. Put on your sweatshirt now,” dictated Dave. Tired and hungry, John complied, wanting to get whatever they were doing over with. Putting on his sweatshirt, he followed his uncle to the dimly lit building. To John’s surprise, Dave quickly whipped out a spray can, and earnestly converted the brick wall to his personal canvas. John watched with awe as he painted in big, ugly, red letters “ANIMALS SUFFER PAIN TOO”. “What the fuck are you doing, Dave??? Are you crazy?!?” whispered John, his voice shaking with nervous excitement.

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“Shut-up and hand me your soap,” laughed Dave, obviously enjoying the moment. John slowly handed over his box in confusion, and watched Dave quickly unwrap both boxes to reveal two more bright red boxes, each with a fuse sticking out. He grinned and paused for a moment, as if admiring his work, and then took out a lighter. “John, listen to me. I’m going to light this, and you’re going to throw this as hard as you can through that window, then run like hell,” told Dave, seriously staring at John, “Ready?” “What…?” John gulped, “You can’t be serious!” “Good enough answer,” laughed Dave, lighting one fuse, then the other, and tossing one to John. “Oh shit!” hollered John, frantically stepping back. A rush of adrenalin flooded through John as he caught the hefty piece of dynamite. He stared at the fuse and knew he had to get rid of this bomb fast. Where to get rid of it, he didn’t have much time to decide. John hurled the heavy explosive at the defenseless restaurant, shattering the glass as Dave threw in his afterwards. Alarms started screaming, and John followed Dave to his motorcycle, where they hurriedly hopped on. Speeding away from the building, John shuddered as two large booms echoed in succession. Turning around he fixed his gaze on the restaurant consumed in flames and smoke. John could hardly believe what he just witnessed–or more accurately, what he just did. All he knew is he felt something pumping through his body that he has never felt before. Driving along the dark road, he heard his uncle bellow against the wind: “We are environmentalists!!!” The rest of the ride home was a blur for John. Immediately after that fateful throw, he entered a state of introspection. Dozens of questions raced through his mind:

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What did I do? What am I doing? Did I really just do that? Why do I feel so alive? Who am I? The last question stuck and took precedence above all others. Who am I? He had no answer. For years he had little ambition and direction in his life, but in just a few hours he changed directions rather quickly. He only had a hazy understanding on why they bombed that restaurant. John remembered Dave mentioning something about animal abuse and pollution on the ride back to his apartment. However, John was not yet forming any concrete opinions on the subject. John was enlightened for a very different reason that night. When Dave tossed him that block of dynamite, John–not his parents, not his teachers, and not anybody else–made the choice to hurl it as hard as he could. He made the decision. This alone planted a seed inside of him–a burning desire for more. John could feel it was only the beginning.

Author’s note: This is only the first chapter of an incomplete story. John’s adventures have only just begun.

Brianna Gray, Blurry Graffiti Heart


Speak, Wisdom by Matthew Fernandez Ancient being now dimly audible upon the dry lands of today– Your voice is raspy, lifting only to coat the grass once more in faint dew. Give your final discourse imparted to you by the Grandfather, the Grandmother, And Greats of the dawns of yesterday that are forever whispering, however faintly, to those Who remain with open ears With open hearts The keeper, the wind, spreads the seeds of your history upon the growing storms Within currents of today’s wrathful ocean. But, waning wisdom, do not linger in the shadows of the past– do not tarry into the once Open fields, now a woeful plain outstretched with mounds of vomited steel. Sing upon the stilled silence–follow your path into the remains–give your presence, your Undying voice to those who still linger to listen. Find, dear Peace, your way back into the hearts of the people who boldly stood and Dishonored your name. Swiftly, lovingly flow into the eyelet of hope that endures and light the darkened path of Tomorrow’s uncertain forthcoming. Bring us grace, and love, and understanding–mostly, understanding. Autumn Smith, Watchful Presence

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Horse and the Boy by Kaleb Rowland A young boy rode his father’s horse on a hot, summer evening. The boy was riding alone for the first time. He was nervous, as the horse was much bigger than himself. The sun was sinking slowly but surely, and the father yelled at the boy to take the horse back to the barn. The boy pulled the reins to the left with confidence, but as the barn came into view, his confidence was lost. The horse began to sprint very quickly. The boy felt himself losing control and soon found the earth rising rapidly towards his face. He stuck out his arms to catch himself, and heard a sickening pop. His wrist dangled limply. The father of the boy ran to the scene. As he grew closer, and the boy’s cries grew louder, he noticed the limp wrist. A screen door slammed in the distance and two older people emerged from the house. The horse had found its’ home, and was currently standing in the barn in an impatient sort of way, like it couldn’t wait to be rid of the saddle which weighed it down. The boy hadn’t moved much, and was still clutching his arm rather tenderly. “What did you do this time, son?” “It wasn’t my fault!” the boy cried between sobs. The boys’ grandparents arrived shortly to assess the situation. The grandmother looked very distraught, but took over immediately. “Grab him, Doug and - CAREFUL! - bring him to the house. Go to tend to the horse Grandpa,” she forcefully ordered. With Grandma in tow, and son in his arms, the father marched his still wailing son back up the hill towards the

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house. The old bulldog Buck met them at the door with a somber look. He shuffled aside to make room for the group, and wandered back to his own house under the tree. The father gently placed his son on the edge of the dining room table, and the grandma flipped the switch to spread light on the injury. “Might be sprained,” the father said hopefully. Grandma did not reply. The boy’s cries had slightly lessened as a bag of ice was placed ever so gently onto his wrist. Grandma had dealt with these types of injuries before. She quickly and cleverly made a make-shift splint to wrap around the damaged arm for when the swelling went down. She found athletic tape to wrap it tightly and create a temporary cast. Over the course of a half an hour, the boys’ arm looked as though he had been tended to by an expert nurse, which his grandmother was. Soon the grandfather returned with a tired look on his face. After a brief explanation of the trouble he had to go through to calm the animal down, he asked how his grandson was. “Is it broken?” he asked. “Could be,” Grandma replied. After a few Tylenol, and during the course of his expert examination, the boy had grown silent. It still hurt, but if he held his arm just right, the pain could be slightly reduced. He had never broken any bones before. This was all new and foreign to him, but he liked the attention. It would be a good story after all. The boy kept still that night in bed. He dared not toss or turn for fear of pain from his injury. As he lay in bed before his dreams took him, he thought about how angry his mother would be tomorrow when she found out. He


knew she would be livid. He knew she would yell. He was scared, but tried not to dwell too long on the situation. He also knew that he would have to ride that horse again, someday. Soon he was awake again. He moved too quickly and pain from his wrist shocked and reminded him of the previous day’s ordeals. He moved much more cautiously after that. The day seemed to crawl by ever so slowly. As our Buick pulled up to the designated meeting area, he noticed his mother had not yet arrived. She soon pulled in though and parked her Toyota truck in the adjacent space. As the boy and his father got out of the car, the mother did the same. With a look of shock and a shriek, she rushed to the boy like an angry mother bird tending to her chick. “WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM DOUG?!? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? TELL ME AT ONCE!” exclaimed the mom. “He fell off my horse and landed wrong on his wrist. We did the best we could with what we had. He might need to go to the hospital now, though,” said the father in a gruff manner. With a few choice words and accusations, the mother grabbed her son’s belongings and ushered him into her tiny, grey truck. The car ride was unbearable for the young, tired boy. The mother yelled and fussed continually until they had reached the hospital. After a very tedious wait, a kind, elderly doctor confirmed that the wrist was actually broken. A cast would be needed to straighten the bone. He allowed the boy to pick which color the cast would be. The boy picked green, the mother’s favorite color. The cast would be removed in six to eight weeks depending on how his wrist healed. The boy was amazed

Jeffrey Farragut, Horizon

at how long he would have to wear the monstrosity, and even more shocked at the fact that he could not get it wet. The cast was set, and with a few words of thanks the boy and the mother left. Three months later, the boy sat on the same horse in the same pasture. He had never been more scared in his life. The father stood watch a few yards away, ready to jump to the rescue should anything go wrong. The boy handled the horse tentatively at first. After a few minutes of slowly walking around the pasture, confidence flowed through him, and the horse began to trot. Soon it was galloping around the pasture at high speed; whizzing past cows and trees. The boy felt exhilarated. As the sun sank lower in the cool sky, he turned the horse back towards home. The boy could feel the horse grow excited and ready. He did not let the horse control the situation this time. He slowly guided the horse back to the stable. He dismounted and jumped for joy.

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Snow White and the Bitchy Giant by Devren Bryant I sat in the darkness of my room turned animal habitat and blankly stared into the incandescent light of the computer. “What can I do?” I pondered, “What can I write about? There must be someone in my life that has inspired me. Do I really live my life so unattached from others that I haven’t let anyone in?” I continued to stare into the light, at the empty space where a writing assignment that was due the next day should be. “Come on! I know that someone has inspired me, has reinvented my world, and has changed my life for the better. I know I couldn’t live without someone; now who is it!” A text message shocked me out of reverie. “Hay, wanna hang out?” It was my best friend, Cayley. A thought skirted across my mind like a water spider crossing a river. She hadn’t always been my best friend. In fact, I used to hate her. I didn’t really know all that much about her, but I’m the kind of person who just assumes things about people. She was a Jesus-loving, crumpet-eating, snooty-nosed freak who just couldn’t get enough of talking about herself and her relationship with God. I avoided her as if she were a leper. We were like the two faces of a penny, always in the same place, but never seeing the other. The only way we could ever be friends is if the heavens themselves brought us together. They did. It happened at theatre camp on talent show day. No one had actually come up with anything to do, yet everyone had to perform. I played it safe and did a Monty Python skit, sophisticated yet simple. And then Cayley walked up to the stage. The pale, florescent lights did nothing for her complexion. Her brown hair was boring, and her dress hung loosely on her body making her look fat. Then she cued up her music, Once on This Island. “Ugh,” I scoffed to one of

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my friends, “This is going to suck.” And then she started. The walls I had built around her were pelted with every sweet note. I no longer felt any animosity towards her. Her skin glowed in the soft light, her hair fell gracefully at her shoulders, not even Tim Gunn* could have styled her more beautifully. When she sung the last note, I made it a point to sprint out of my chair towards her. “I didn’t know you could sing!” And then, a beautiful friendship began. “No,” I procrastinated, “I have to finish this stupid writing assignment. Sorry,” I texted my reply. I put on some music to help inspire me. A show tune could be just the muse I need, I thought to myself. I fiddled with my iPod and queued up the first showtune I could find. Kiss Me Too Fiercely, Hold Me Too Tight. The music swelled when Idina Menzel* started to sing with Fiyero. I was transported me to another place, and then another place. “I don’t want to go home,” I explained, as Cayley and I pulled into the drive way of my apartment complex. She agreed with my sentiment. So, instead of getting out of the car, we hooked her iPod to the car radio and started jamming in the driveway. After around 15 minutes of dance music, “As Long as You’re Mine” from the musical Wicked came on. We both grew solemn after the words took root. I’ve longed for a moment described in the song my entire life. I’ve longed for a special someone to kiss me too fiercely and hold me too tight. I looked towards Cayley and saw that, not only her face, but her soul matched mine. She asked why I was sad. In my melancholy, I couldn’t comprehend what she said, but I felt the warmth in her voice. She cared about me. She wanted me to feel safe. I wanted to give the same to her. And then, I let out all of my tension. I told her everything I had wanted to express since I was little. I explained how my parents didn’t understand how I felt small and ugly, how nothing had ever mattered to me because I didn’t matter to the world. I don’t know


why I let loose. I usually just hold on to everything. Who am I to decide that my angst matters more than the next person’s? But in that moment, she wasn’t just a person; she was a friend, my best friend. I hadn’t had a best friend since I was in the 3rd grade. “Well, if showtunes won’t help, what will? I’ve got to finish this assignment tonight!” I furiously started typing random letters. I hoped that maybe my figures would inspire themselves. “Write, my pets! Write like the wind!” “Oh goodness, the wind is real nippy today” “Well, maybe if you had on more than just underwear,” Cayley retorted. It was Halloween, and Cayley and I were on our way to block party, a Halloween party that was really just an excuse to parade around with no clothes on. “Says the girl who looks like a slutty Snow White,” I retaliated. “I’m Alice from Alice in Wonderland!” “More like Alice in Slutty-Land!” Our friendship had evolved to the point where insults were nothing more than different ways of saying “I love you.” We strolled up and down the crowded streets, amazed by the wondrous Drag Queens and moved to tears by the sweet melodies the DJs were spewing from their speakers. I was having the time of my life. The air was heavy with fun, glitter and, smoke. Smoke… Cayley is asthmatic. I looked back expecting to see a brownhaired girl in a poofy, powder blue dress and stripper heels passed out. She was still on her feet, but woozy. I went into mission mode. I had to get her away from the smoke into fresh air. I don’t know how many Drag Queens and half

naked men I knocked over that night, but Cayley’s safety came first. When I finally got her to what I considered a safe haven, I looked back to make sure she hadn’t died. She just stared at me. “You know, I was perfectly fine right…?” “Oh, really,” I mumbled. In my mind, she was dying, but, then again, I have a very active imagination. “But, thank you for taking care of me.” She said as she kissed me on the cheek. “Well, okay, but I really want to hang out today,” Cayley responded. I sensed the let-down behind her words and began to think. Why is she so sad? It isn’t like I don’t see her every day. Am I really that important to her? Is she really that important to me? “Just give me two seconds. I’ve just been inspired. This paper will be a cinch to write.” I set my phone down and touched my fingers to the keys. An explosion of letters melded into words, and the words into sentences, and the sentences into paragraphs. I guess it’s true what they say– it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. In searching for the perfect person to write about, the person who had changed my life for good, I forgot about the person who meant the most to me. “Finished,” I said triumphantly, “but it needs a title.” I thought about all the good times we had. “How about the Snow White and the Bitchy Giant?” I laughed and sent the paper in.

*Timothy M. “Tim” Gunn is an American fashion consultant and television personality. He was on the faculty of Parsons New School for Design from 1982 to 2007. He is well-known as on-air mentor to designers on the reality television program Project Runway. (Wikipedia) *Idina Kim Menzel is an American actress, singer and songwriter. She is widely known for originating the roles of Maureen in Rent and Elphaba in Wicked. (Wikipedia)

Autumn Smith, Woman with Umbrella (drawing)

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We Seek and Find Nothing by Matthew Fernandez Time falls in patches of snow And in raindrops that plummet downward To fill the sea. Fading as quick as a current, Seething and forceful, It runs a landscape’s length. Seconds flying among the fowl And hours running along as we scurry, From place to place. We go nowhere.

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Leanna Tholl, After the Snow


My Forehead as a Welcome Mat by Christina Wurm What do a widow, a creep, and a mental patient have in common? They all like sharing their problems with me while I’m working. The day began like any other. I woke to my alarm at 5 a.m. My hair was a nappy mess, I had huge, dark circles under my eyes (so of course I wore my glasses), my uniform was wrinkled because I hadn’t washed it from the day before, and I was running late as usual. However, I flew down the interstate and surprisingly arrived on time at the grocery store hell-hole where I worked. The first few hours of my shift passed as slow as molasses. With an overwhelming scent of cleaner and a temperature cold enough to induce hypothermia, I stood around at my podium just waiting for business to pick up. After three hours, around nine in the morning, a woman, probably in her late sixties with medium length silvery-grey hair and very high-wasted pants, came through self-check. I was a self-check attendant, meaning I was literally paid to stand up at a podium and be at the public’s beck and call whenever someone needed help. Anyway, this lady came up to one of the self-check machines and started her transaction. At first, I thought “Hey, she’s not doing too shabby for someone of her age, but we’ll just see.” Not five minutes after having that thought, she pressed the dreaded “Assistance” button and the stupid pre-programmed machine announced in the most annoying voice possible,

“Please stand by, help is on the way.” In my usual lackadaisical manner, I strolled over to the woman calmly asking her to tell me what was wrong. I don’t remember exactly what she needed help with now, but I do remember it being a relatively easy problem to fix. I told her what she needed to do to further avoid the problem, and then walked back to my station to continue doodling. See, I had started drawing random lines and shapes and then filling in the remaining white space with tiny dots but just as soon as I got back to my podium, I heard, “Please stand by, help is on the way.” I put my pen down, turned right around and walked back to the same woman asking again what had happened. Again, the problem was a relatively easy one to fix, so I fixed it and went on my way. Soon after this, she completed her transaction and walked up to the podium, and at this point, I thought to myself, “Good God, what else could she possibly need?” Just as I turned around she began saying, “Sweetie, thank you so much for all of your help. I really appreciate it. I know I’m getting up there in years but I sincerely appreciate you not treating me like an idiot.” “No problem,” I said, and nervously laughed a bit trying to indicate that it really was no big deal, as the lady continued and said, “Really sweetie, I mean it, I sincerely appreciate it, you know, my husband passed away recently and without him, I’ve been kind of a mess. I can’t think straight–it’s almost like I still rely on him to help me remember things and it’s just a hard habit to break.” In an effort to not be rude, I replied with something really corny to the effect of, “Well, I’m so sorry, that’s

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really hard, but it’ll get easier.” After that, she proceeded to talk about the deceased man for a good ten minutes, then hugged me, and finally left. Now I probably sound like a horribly insensitive person, but the truth is, I was tired, cranky, and just trying to do my job. My job description did not include free counseling. Little did I know what was in store for me the rest of the day. Not an hour after the older woman left, a man that rocked the grunge look, came into the store. His shirt was stained and filled with holes. He was overweight, and he headed straight to the service desk. I was chatting with my friend who worked behind the counter. The man had come to make a Western Union money transfer. So he passed me to grab a form and he said, “I like your glasses.” “Thanks,” I said casually as I watched him return to the service counter to fill it out. “No, really, I like your glasses,” he persisted. Having not even finished filling out his name on the form, he began saying,” So you know, I just broke off a nine month engagement with my fiancé.” Partly out of shock and lack of anything else to say, I responded, “Why?” and not as soon as the word left my mouth I regretted asking. At that moment, he quit filling out his form, leaned against the counter, intently looked at me and began delving into the world’s most disturbing tale of their engagement. He explained how he had tried to please his beautiful, tall, blonde bride-to-be, by lending her his car whenever she wanted, and how trouble began when she totaled the car in an accident. He continued by saying he even bought her another car after that incident, with the only request that she not drive it

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until he figured out the new insurance policy. Well, ignoring his wish completely, she took the car and got into another wreck and totaled that car too, only this time with his son in the car. He couldn’t forgive that. He used that as a transition to tell my friend and me how he had buried another one of his sons the year before, and how he couldn’t be with someone who put his other son in any kind of danger, because he couldn’t stand to bury his other child. He paused after telling us this, filled out a small section of his form, and then continued with the story. “When she got home, I sat her down to discuss what had happened and how much it upset me and everything, and she didn’t seem to care as much as she should have. So I got upset and started yelling, and before I knew it that crazy B**** was trying to stab me with a kitchen knife.” He said it so plainly it scared me. “Look, here’s the scar,” he said as he showed us the scar on his hand. He took another eerie pause to fill out a couple more lines on his form. Now, here’s where I completely lost my cool. He looked up at me from the form and said, “You know, you sorta look like her, my fiancé…. you’re tall like her, blonde like her, and sh*t, she had glasses just like that too.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I reminded him of her? Good God, and with that, my friend saw how trapped I was in this uncomfortable situation and came up with an excuse for me to walk away. After hearing this man’s story, I admit I again felt horrible for not taking interest in his problems, but I just couldn’t bring myself to sympathize for him when I was so creeped out. So I left for a short break


to process what had just happened. Once I returned from my much needed ten-minute break, I saw that the man had left and so I continued to doodle at my podium–this time little beach scenes with palm trees and sunshine because the beach is my happy place. I was oblivious to the world until this young man approached me with a pack of cigarettes. He was tall and lean, with dark hair and scruff–not bad looking if I say so myself. But anyway, I checked him out, and not five minutes after the transaction had been completed, he approached me a second time asking if he could get a refund for the cigarettes. “You see,” he said, “I didn’t see those pillows over there and I don’t have enough money to purchase both.” With a puzzled expression, I told him “Sure,” he could get his money back at the customer service center. With nothing better to do, I watched him as he walked over, picked out a pillow, then return to the customer service center to make the exchange. “Can I ask who the pillow is for?” I asked absentmindedly as he was waiting. “It’s for this girl back at Green Brier. I think she’ll like it.” I gave him a blank stare to indicate to him that I had no idea what Green Brier was. “It’s a place for people who try to kill themselves,” he paused, “That’s why I don’t have shoelaces…” At that moment I could feel the shocked expression crossing my face, but I couldn’t do anything to stop it, and after a long silence between us, I finally mustered up enough gusto to say, “Oh, well, I think she’ll like the pillow!!” He forced a quick, but sincere smile at me, then left.

Keaton Cooke, Stones and Spray Paint

I’ve had a lot of time to think about the events of that day, and I’ve come to realize that it’s no accident why it stands out so vividly. I learned something–and that’s no matter how bad I thought my day was going, from waking up at five in the morning, to having to stand up for eight hours straight, I never fully grasped just how much worse other people’s lives could be. I had been so self-centered I never even considered that the reason they were telling me their problems in the first place was because they had no one else–and I think that hit me the hardest. Since that day, though, I can say that two things about me have changed significantly. One, I always take a sincere interest in others’ well-being, and two, I never talk about my problems to anyone for fear they will be used in a memoir like mine.

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I Ask Only by Matthew Fernandez Accept me. I ask of you. Bear my presence to you also But change nothing. Do not mold me in your readily sculpting hands, I am already made. I am in no need of revival Grace, I hold-not given from you. Nor stolen. I do ask for acceptance. I ask for love. And you give it not. I am made.

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Matthew Fernandez, The Circles That Tell


Wires by

Southern Harp by

Taylor Mitchell

Taylor Mitchell

There is something broken in me I pull the skin off my bones every night And slip the shadows on over my skeleton

You left me in the jaws of my mother’s house

To dance with the doors in your head That sway as your father comes and goes And that slam when his knuckles turn white

That lulls the dark night to sleep

Singing with the voice of a drowning organ But you will always be my southern harp

When his face burns hot with stolen stars That glow as their hands reach toward the sky Where their father smolders in his deep sleep The dead god of earth burns ever brighter Tangled in wires that angels used to tie him down And covered in the ash of our aching hearts

Jessica Foshee, Upward Bound

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It’s Not Always About Giving by Di’Shaliek Wright As Christmas was approaching, I would be filling up my wish list with everything I could think of, from the cutest purse to the most expensive electronics out there. Knowing that my mom is a single parent of two, my sister, thirteen, and I, seventeen, would be asking her for everything; nevertheless, every Christmas our green tree smothered with gold ornaments and white lights would be filled with gifts with every single thing that we asked for, but this Christmas was different. As usual, I made a long list, and day after day I saw my mom running in the house with bags. As the days past I marked my calendar–seven more days, five, three, two, one–until Christmas. On the night of Christmas Eve, we get to open up only one present. When I looked under the tree, there were still no gifts. So I thought to myself, well maybe Mom is just going to put the gifts under the tree tonight while we’re sleeping so we can open them up all at once in the morning. I rushed to bed that night so the morning would be here in no time. As Christmas joy and happiness filled the air, I rushed to the corner of the living room where the tree stood at its ground to find an empty tree with no presents under it. I was so shocked and felt my heart sink. “Mom, where are my gifts?!” I snapped. “I have a surprise for you and Alisha.” She said calmly and smiled.

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I was so excited again, thinking about all the things the surprise could be. Could it be a car? Or maybe we were just going to pick someone up from the airport. Once I got in the car I saw all the bags of gifts sitting in the backseat. “Mom, where are we going?” “You’ll see; it’s a surprise.” She repeated once more. I didn’t know what to feel. Should I be excited or scared to find out what it was going to be? Glancing at the radio, 30 minutes had flown by. Our red 2010 Chrysler Sebring car pulled up to a small, red-brick building. It had a little sign that said “Temple Night Shelter for the Homeless.” At this point, I was so pissed; I kept thinking to myself why are we here out of all places? As we got out of the car, mom told us to get the bags of gifts out of the backseat. I automatically knew just what she was thinking of as a surprise. She was going to give all of our presents away to the homeless. I felt my stomach twisting and my throat aching; I wanted to cry. A lady who wore a bright red sweater with a white scarf, and green slacks came out to greet us. “Hey! Thanks for coming; I’m so glad that you decided to come to donate gifts to the shelter,” she said with a warming smile on her face. My jaw dropped, my stomach and throat ached even more. “Mom, are you serious? You’re giving all of our gifts to some people at the shelter?!” I said stubbornly. “Yes, because kids like you are so ungrateful for


the things that you already have.” Her voice was growing louder. “You have a roof over your head, and a place to call your home. You have food and water, and most importantly you have your family. You don’t need gifts to live each and every day. It’s not always about getting; it’s about giving. Stop being so selfish.” I just stood in silence, shocked and surprised at the words that had just flown into my ears. I could feel my throat aching once more; feeling like it was going to explode. Then a stream of wetness flew down my cheeks. I strolled in the building carrying what seemed to be everything I wanted. My feet stood still on the wooded floor inside the door. Being smothered with the air that was so thin and plain, that carried sorrow and guilt, pain and anger, it took my breath away. It felt different than how it was outside where there was the joy of Christmas flowing in the air. I walked into a big room where all the people were waiting. There was a white table already set up in the front where we were to place all the gifts. Walking over, staring at all their faces, I began to feel bad and sorry for them. They didn’t have much, and this is what they called their “home.” “Alright, everyone!” a worker yelled. “This is the family that I mentioned before that is donating gifts and will be helping to make Christmas dinner tonight for you all. So now everyone, please get ready to receive you presents!” We took all of the presents out of the bags and Jeffrey Farragut, Child at Play

began to hand them out. As soon as everyone received a present, they all started to tear the wrapping paper off. My Ed Hardy sneakers were given to a woman, and my sisters’ American Girl doll was given to her daughter. A black and white Baby Phat coat was given to an elderly woman and my sisters’ new iPod touch, that had dozens of music and games already placed on it, was handed to a teenager that was about my age. I thought about crying again but not a single tear came running down my cheeks. What I felt was this good feeling. As we were handing out the gifts, the people were happy and smiling. The air was becoming full again. The school bell rang for the first time the second semester; everyone was talking about what they received for Christmas. “Hey, what did you get for Christmas?” My best friend asked. “Nothing, I already have everything need. I have my family.”

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Editor: Milly West Assistant Editor: Cindy Tran Designer: Larry Agostinelli Photo: Alyssa Miller, Reichstag (Germany)

Venture Online vol5  
Venture Online vol5  

Freshman literary magazine published by the The Center for Writing and Rhetoric in conjunction with the Division of Outreach, at the Univers...

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