Salal Review The
Volume 9: Spring 2009
The Salal Review
Lower Columbia College Longview, Washington Volume 9: Spring 2009
Marie Wise “Rhody”
Salal Editors: Joshua Larson Amber Lemiere Lauren Mason Debi Meyers Jonathan Mintz Noell Olsen Nicolai Salkovics Heather Shulke Maxx Weston
Salal Staff: Dylan Bass Warren Cook Jennifer Dunn Nick Hill Danielle Papalardo Danielle Shulke
Faculty Advisor: Joseph Green
The Salal Review
Lower Columbia College PO Box 3010 1600 Maple St. Longview, WA 98632
Call For Submissions The Salal Review is an annual publication of Lower Columbia College with the mission of involving student editors in the presentation of the best work available from the writers, poets, and artists of the Lower Columbia Region. To submit written work for consideration, send no more than five poems or two prose pieces, either by U.S. mail, with a stamped, self-addressed reply envelope, or by email attachment (MS Word or RTF) during the month of October 2009. For artwork, submit up to five pieces, either on paper or by e-mail attachment, during the month of January 2010. We will accept color submissions; however, black and white work is preferred. We cannot be responsible for one-of-a-kind originals, so please send clean copies. Digital images may be sent on CD or by email, but must be high-resolution jpeg files (SHQ or HQ). Please include a brief biographical note describing your connection to the Lower Columbia Region. To answer further questions regarding submissions, to receive a copy of The Salal Review, or to arrange a sponsorship donation, call us at (360) 442-2632 or contact us by email at email@example.com. Mail submissions or donations to The Salal Review, Lower Columbia College, P.O. Box 3010, 1600 Maple Street, Longview, WA 98632.
Poetry Carolyn Caines
It Is Solved by Walking
Natalie N. Hall
Kara Huffman Hamilton
This Vision of March
Profile of a Thin Woman
Wings of Spring
The Worldâ€™s Fair
Prose Beverlee Ruhland
Would You Rather
Art Aaron Andersen Katie M. Berggren
Milk and Honey
Girl on the Bus
Judy Vander Maten
Grist Mill of Cedar Creek, WA 29
Advice from the Advisor Whenever I think about the way I came to be teaching at Lower Columbia College, I quietly thank Judith Irwin. I was hired on a temporary contract in January 1986, and as I saw it, I had just two quarters to show that I could contribute something to the college. During my first day on campus, Judith recruited me to help with A Poetry Event, an annual weekend of poetry workshops, readings, and general celebration scheduled for the end of January. Judith had organized the first Poetry Event several years earlier, and it had become something of an institution—a real event—not just for the college, but for poets all around the Northwest. Later that quarter, Judith invited me to join her in advising Nascent, the college’s magazine of student literature and art. Nascent, too, was something that Judith had started, something that already had a following of its own. What I didn’t know just then was that helping Judith with A Poetry Event and Nascent would mean that I was taking responsibility for carrying those worthy projects forward. Judith was just that kind of organizer. When the Washington Community College Humanities Association, WCCHA, held their annual conference in Seattle that winter, Judith suggested that I ought to attend it. Perhaps we could carpool. Perhaps I could drive. It was rainy that weekend in Seattle, and as we walked along the downtown sidewalk, Judith gently moved me to the outside, the curbside, saying, “A gentleman always shields his partner.” She was just that kind of teacher. More importantly, without my noticing Judith gave me a role in the English Department. By fall quarter, I had a tenure-track appointment, and along with advising the arts magazine and organizing the winter poetry celebration, I was teaching Judith’s creative writing classes. After twenty-seven years at LCC, Judith retired in 1988, but her influence carries on. Without Nascent, we would have had no working model for The Salal Review. Without A Poetry Event, there would have been no precedent for Northwest Voices. Without Judith, well, there’s no telling what I would be doing right now. Living in Seattle, in her eighties, Judith continues to write poetry—or more accurately, not just to write it, but to work at it. This year she sent Salal a terrific series of poems taken from her neighborhood walks; two of them appear in these pages. As long as I’ve known Judith, I have admired her poems, but this new work shows that she’s still pushing into new territory. That’s something else to admire. Out of that admiration, out of long appreciation, out of simple gratitude, I asked the Salal editors to dedicate this year’s issue to Judith Irwin. I didn’t have to persuade them; they know “the real deal” when they see it. Judith will, of course, be embarrassed when she reads
this. She’s just that kind of person. Every year I’m surprised at the quality of writing and art from our contributors, but this past fall, when Salal #8 won the WCCHA award for Best Community College Literary/Arts Magazine of the Year in the low-budget category, one of the judges sent a note saying “Your magazine is seriously beautiful, thoughtfully designed, and includes lovely pieces of writing.” She also said Salal was her favorite entry, even among the magazines with much better funding. If I’m any judge at all, this year’s magazine, Salal #9, is at least as good—perhaps better. I cannot say what is in store for The Salal Review. These are difficult times for Lower Columbia College, a situation made starkly clear by recent reductions in staff. Two people who have lost their jobs at LCC are old friends of Salal. As the college’s graphic artist, Carole Jordan gave us valuable assistance with design and page lay-out; and Dan Johnson, the Student Activities Director, supported the magazine in more ways than I can count. I hope Salal can continue to thrive without them; that’s hard to imagine. More than anything else, Salal depends on good work from our contributors. This year we received nearly 200 written submissions and practically as many pieces of art. Having more submissions doesn’t necessarily make the selection task easier. While it gives us more to choose from, it also means that we have to reject an awful lot of good pieces. If you are among the many whose work we did not accept this year, don’t give up. Try us again. Try something new. Think of Judith Irwin, taking a series of new poems into unexplored territory. Let her be a role model for this fragile endeavor. She writes because that’s what she does. She sends the poems out, knowing they may never find a home. She carries on; she’s just that kind of poet.
Profile of a Thin Woman Wherever the lady goes, she looks for an easy chair or a padded daveno. She knows that dim light is never rude, nor is the silent shoulder of solitude. Oh yes, there are tricks—if it really matters—such as heavy-knit sweaters and skirts fat with gathers. For safety’s sake, she always stands sideways in a high wind. Watch her devour apple fritters, donuts and holes; a bit of cleavage becomes her goal. When asked to be seated she finds a cushy place, but her bones ease down like a tangle of coat-hangers struggling for grace. As years lap at her fragile stance, she puffs up a new self with a promise as big as her fear: never to suffocate in a hug, or to stand too long in the shower and totally disappear.
Girl on the Bus
Katie M. Berggren
Milk and Honey
Natalie N. Hall
Stars I grab at stars, sweep my hand across the heavens, hanging onto chunks of hope that cut my palms.â€Ż Carefully, eagerly, I pry open my fingers and find I have captured . . . only slivers of darkness.
Going Places In her sixteen years, Addie Stein had learned proper timing for treading softly. Today required such cautious steps around her mother. “I don’t care how hard up we are, Oliver. I will not have a German set foot on this property!” Bertha Stein slammed the lid onto a pot of boiling potatoes. “We are being invaded … right here in Fort Collins. Of all places, you’d think Colorado would be far enough away from Krauts and Nips.” Addie spooned flour into a cup and added cream, stirred. When 1945 began, she had hoped for better things, but in March a balloon carrying incendiary devices had landed and exploded on a nearby farm. It liked to have scared the peewaddens out of all Larimer County. When she was sure there were no lumps, Addie poured the white sauce into a skillet of fried-chicken drippings and swirled the two together. As soon as the mixture thickened, she added more cream. They’d learned the Japanese had launched at least 9,000 such balloons the previous November, hoping to create fires and chip away American morale. All it had served to do was ignite the anger of U.S. citizens. Mother fumed. But not just about that. This morning after a breakfast of bacon and eggs, Addie’s father had announced he would take advantage of the nearly 700 German POWs being brought in to help with sugar beet crops. “Prisoners’ll be here May 15th,” he said, then walked out the door. Addie knew that in the week between then and now, there would be no peace in the house. Even though her mother had put in her two cents’ worth, Addie knew it didn’t amount to much. She smiled at the pun but just as quickly frowned at the result. Women around these parts had never had any say. That’s not exactly true, she thought. Last September the people of Colorado adopted a constitutional amendment providing for women to serve on juries. Even if she wasn’t old enough to vote, the prospect of someday having a voice on a jury excited her. “Soon as our men are home from war, women won’t need to fill in. Things’ll get back to the way they should be,” Addie’s father had said. Addie hoped he was wrong. She yearned for change. Although never having been more than twenty-five miles from the farm, one day, she knew, she would dare to venture out, go places—perhaps even cross the State Line. The gravy bubbled. Addie picked up a potholder and scooted the skillet off the firebox chamber onto the stove’s side-shelf, and absently wiped her hands on her apron. Seated, Father waited to be served. Addie was struck by a sudden awareness of the stark contrast of his rough, sun-baked hands against the smooth, baked-white
enamel of the kitchen tabletop. At once, she felt sorry for him. He worked hard to provide for her and her mother. If only he weren’t so pig-headed. But maybe that’s what helped him endure drought, hail storms, tornadoes, grasshoppers, and an angry wife. Addie tried hard to win his approval—even if he never noticed. “Jerrys dirty their hands killing Jews, they can damned well put their filthy mitts to good use on a Jew’s farm. Way I look at it.” Oliver grabbed a fork in one hand, a knife in the other, signaling end of discussion. Addie’s mother clamped her mouth into a flat line. Father had spoken, and Addie knew any more from Mother would only incite him further. ***** Straining under the weight, Addie carried two buckets of water to the field. Carefully setting the pails down, she dipped from one and filled a tin cup. She offered it to a German soldier. As he stood up from thinning beet plants, sweat poured off his forehead. “Danke schön.” His eyes—sky-blue, searching eyes—met hers. Instantly, she scanned the field for her father. Her stomach relaxed when she saw him scrutinizing rows with his back to her. She knew he was too busy counting heads, still nervous because this morning’s truck had simply rolled up and dumped off twenty-one Nazis. The driver told her father they couldn’t spare a guard but assured him POWs were carefully screened on the East Coast before being sent West. Big-time Nazis had already been weeded out. “These prisoners won’t be a problem. They’re relieved to be alive and are glad to be working in fresh air as opposed to being locked up,” the driver had assured Father. Nonetheless, Addie remembered her parents’ admonition not to talk to the enemy. She did not look again at the soldier’s face but snatched the cup from his hand and moved quickly to the next man who was bent down pulling up roots. She could feel a gaze fixed upon her. Eyes of a man who had killed. Killed her father’s people in Europe. “You’re a Jew,” her father had said on more than one occasion. “Never forget your heritage.” You are French. Her mother’s constant reminding rang in her head. You have royal blood in your veins. From what Addie had learned in World History, having a French king in her lineage wasn’t something to brag about. All Addie knew for certain was that she was a farmer’s daughter. And if her father had his way, she would become a farmer’s wife. Father had his eye on his friend’s son. Benjamin Rosen was eighteen and one of the hardest workers this side of the Rockies. Addie’s mother liked the prospects because
Mrs. Rosen was also French. “At least this will keep your bloodlines as pure as they can be at this point.” Mother’s words had a way of staying put in Addie’s head, perhaps because there was always more behind them. And you, Mother, would salvage what you could under the circumstances. Rebellion simmered in Addie’s veins. She laughed at the image of her blood boiling. On second thought, maybe it was the unusually hot May day that burned through her skin. Whichever, she knew she had this summer plus next year—her senior year of high school—to make sense of her life. How could she please her father, appease her mother, and do what she wanted? I don’t have to figure it out right now, she reasoned, her back and arms aching from yet another trip from the well to the field with heavy buckets of water. Shielding her eyes from the sun, she studied its position in the sky. She must hurry back to start the noon dinner, which meant another trip to the coal bin. Inside the shed, she shoveled coal into a scuttle before hauling it, banging against her leg, to the kitchen. At the stove, she inserted the iron lifter into the thick black plate to open the hole for the fuel. Good. Still embers from breakfast. She hated it when the fire died and she had to start from scratch. It took too long. Dinner was to be served promptly at noon. Supper at six. She mustn’t delay her father from his work. How many times had she heard “I have mouths to feed”? That meant Addie had mouths to feed. Today many more than she’d ever had. Twenty-three in all. Two Steins and twenty-one Germans. Her mother would not sup with the enemy; refused to be a part of this absurd situation. Despite her father’s blustery wrath, her mother had packed up and caught a ride to Loveland. In spite of her mother’s rampages, Addie had never before known her to go to Grandmother’s as a result of an argument with Father. Secretly, Addie admired her for standing up to Father. Yet, that meant the burden fell to Addie. She hadn’t had to fix extra breakfasts this morning because the Germans had arrived at seven. Tonight the prisoners would sleep in the hayloft, so that meant three meals tomorrow. She would have to get up at four, a full hour before Father rose to milk Bessie and Nellie. Now almost noon, she’d been pumping water into the sink, cleaning, peeling, and baking for several hours, and she was already tired. What will I be like at the end of the week? A knock at the kitchen screendoor jarred her from speculation. The face of the enemy with the searching blue eyes peered through the screen. “Herr Stein tell me help … mit … tables.” Addie’s mouth went dry. She was angry at the intrusion—and at the leap of her
heart. Without a word, she untied her apron and slammed out the door. In a huff, she arrived at the tool shed where she pointed to sawhorses, three long planks, then to a shady spot at the side of the barnyard under a mammoth oak tree. While the soldier set up makeshift tables, Addie upended buckets. She instructed the war prisoner to lay boards across them. Now, twelve-inch-wide lumber provided seating. It would be a tight fit, but they were the enemy. Addie was sure they hadn’t given even this much kindness to their victims. Nazis probably didn’t serve their POWs three times a day. From the corner of her eye, she noticed her father watching from the edge of the field. Glad she hadn’t looked at or talked to the young German, she hurried toward the house. Standing on the porch where her father could still see her, she gestured inside, ordering the soldier to carry the kitchen table outside for a serving station. “Fritz.” Startled, Addie whirled around. “Fritz,” the German repeated, pointing to himself. Addie felt her face flush. “Take these out and set them on the table.” She made a sweeping gesture to glasses, cups, and silverware, plus roaster pans on the tall blackand-silver-plated cook stove. As well, she motioned to the mish-mash of dishes stacked on the counter. Nothing matched. She had extracted every possible eating platter from the kitchen cabinets and had come up with only eighteen plates. Chipped, cracked, and otherwise. The rest of the prisoners would have to eat from pie tins. With his arms full, Fritz backed through the screen onto the porch. Addie ran from the room. Before her bedroom mirror, she was mortified at the coal dust streaked across her cheek. She poured water from a pitcher into a bowl. Splashing her face, Addie was able to cool the heat of the moment. After rearranging her hair into a bun at the nape of her neck, she returned to the kitchen. With a glance out the window, she saw the error of her ways. Men stood around the crude temporary table and benches—waiting. “Addie! Addie! We haven’t got all day.” Even from the house she could see that vein protruding on her father’s forehead. She checked to make sure Fritz had carried out all three pots of roast beef and potatoes and the kettle of gravy. Hurriedly, Addie took her place behind the serving table. As the men approached, she dispensed either a spoon or fork to each. They could not have both. Nor could they have milk for this meal. Water would have to do. By the end of the week, there would be no more of last year’s potato crop. Her mother would be furious.
Fritz reached toward her hand for his spoon. Instinctively, Addie pulled back. Her stomach somersaulted at her reaction. She had already offered silverware to the other prisoners. Fritz was no different than any of them. She was irritated at the irritation this one German stirred within her. At once, her father was at her side. “There a problem here?” He drilled a gaze into the Nazi. “No, Father.” Blood thrummed in Addie’s ears. “It’s just that this spoon is dirty.” She snatched up the hem of her apron and thumbed the tableware. Grabbing the utensil from her, Father thrust it into Fritz’s chest. “Dirty is as dirty does. Only reason I’m feeding you is to get work out of you. Now move along.” Her father shoved Fritz forward and glared at her. Again, Addie felt heat rise to her face. Only this time it felt different—like shame. Fritz hadn’t done anything wrong. At least not today. She was confused. Why should she want to defend an enemy? More than once during dinner, Addie felt Fritz’s eyes studying her. When certain he wasn’t looking, she stole glances at him. At supper it was the same. Lying awake in bed at the end of the long day, Addie pictured the German’s countenance. His eyes seemed kind. Surely he had never killed. His smile offered warmth. His movements were helpful and gentle, not threatening. Rolling over, she squeezed her eyes shut against the image. She mustn’t think untrue things. He was the enemy and a prisoner of war because he had killed defenseless Jews. Some even talked of women and children being killed. “Gassed,” they’d said. Addie turned over again, away from things her mind refused to believe. She slept fitfully. When the alarm rang its tinny clamor at four in the morning and stuttered to its final clang, Addie’s head felt thick, and her arms and legs as heavy as her mother’s brim-full cream cans. She forced herself to rise and dress quickly. Even though yesterday had been hot, this morning’s air chilled her skin through her thin, gingham dress. She threw on an old sweater and dashed to the outhouse. Finished there, she quickened her steps in the dark toward the coal shed. The scuttle filled, she latched the door shut and headed for the house. A noise to the right startled her. “Help … you.” The voice was familiar, yet alarming. “Please.” A hand reached out of the darkness, took hold of the pail and lifted it from her. Afraid to linger, Addie hastened toward light peeking from the back door. Fritz followed her into the kitchen and immediately set about scooping clinkers
from the cast-iron stove. Still frightened, now because of what her father would say or do, Addie grabbed a pot, lowered it into the sink basin and pumped water for all she was worth. Which, if her father caught them together, wouldn’t be worth much. Her heart raced past her thoughts. She had to get the German out of her kitchen. Now. “Out!” She pointed to the screen door. Fritz smiled, bowed, and left. Minutes later, when her nerves were not so frayed, Addie wondered why Father didn’t obey her mother as willingly. See, Mother. That’s how it’s done. You’ve just got to be more forceful. Addie laughed. ***** After breakfast, Father pulled Fritz aside. Looking out the window from the kitchen sink, Addie stiffened with fear. When Father turned and marched toward the house, she stopped breathing. Inside the back door, Father halted, clamped his arms across his coveralls. Swallowing to unstick her tongue from the roof of her mouth, Addie willed herself to draw air. “That Nazi’s only one can speak English. He gets the other prisoners set up, he’s to come back here and help.” Father screwed his index finger into his ear. “Can’t be wasting time waiting around for grub.” He scraped brown wax from beneath his nail. “Can’t abide not having bread, either.” He bore an admonishing glare. “You know that.” Addie did know but she simply hadn’t had time to bake. “Will biscuits do?” “This time. Tomorrow, better be bread on the table.” He tromped off. Small clumps of dirt dislodged from the treads of his boots, leaving a trail in his wake. Grabbing a straw broom, Addie held her tongue while she swept the kitchen’s uneven oak floor with maddening strokes. She wasn’t sure what made her the angriest—having to get up even earlier in the morning to start the bread’s yeast action, listening to her father talk to her the same way he treated her mother, or being assigned a man … their enemy no less … to get in her way. ***** By the time she finished washing breakfast dishes, Fritz was on his way back from the field. She watched him stride with confidence, his broad shoulders and strong legs making him look older than she had first guessed. Twenty maybe. As he neared, Addie’s heart beat faster. She tried to take her eyes off his face. Handsome—unlike the local men. Kind eyes—the likes of which she’d never seen. At the door he rapped lightly with his knuckles, even though she was sure he
saw her at the sink only six feet away. How in the world am I going to get through this? As he stepped inside, she nodded to a gunnysack in the corner. “You can start by peeling the potatoes.” Fritz nodded in return, then surprised her with a question as he hoisted the burlap onto the table. “How many years you have?” “Years?” “Seventeen.” He tapped fingers on his chest. “You?” Addie blinked. Surely he wasn’t saying he was only seventeen. “You mean how old am I?” “Yah.” “Sixteen.” She laid a paring knife beside potatoes spilling from the sack. Is it safe to give him a weapon? She eyed a butcher knife on the counter. Shaking off the possibilities, Addie argued, “You aren’t seventeen.” “Yah. Seventeen.” He held up all ten fingers, folded them into his palms, then raised five fingers on one hand and two on the other. “Ten und seven.” “How many men have you killed?” The moment the words came out of her mouth, Addie tensed at the question. Maybe that’s what had been bothering her. She had to know. “Me … nein kill.” “Nine?” The answer, like a dagger, penetrated her gut. She staggered backwards, gripped the counter’s edge. “Nein kill.” Fritz shook his head while holding up both hands, fingertips circled to meet each thumb. Swallowing a musket-ball-sized lump in her throat, Addie grasped for the truth. “Zero? None?” “Yah, iss so.” Blood rushed to her face in relief. “Dis farm, like mine.” Fritz gestured out the window. “You live on a farm?” “Yah. In Germany.” “What do you grow?” “Many sings.” “Sings, huh? Like songs? You grow songs.” Addie laughed at the thought of music sprouting out of the ground. “Nein. Sings.” Fritz thrust his tongue to the top of his teeth and forced a thick “th”. Still, it came out “Sthings.”
Addie giggled at the effort but stopped herself short, lest she silence him. She wanted to know more. How many in his family? What he hoped to do after the war? Did he have a girlfriend back home? At that question, Addie checked herself. Why should she care if he had a girlfriend? But already, she knew, her emotions were sneaking down a forbidden path. The morning flew by as Fritz told of his little sister and how she loved to follow him around. He spoke of his dog—no, not a German shepherd—named, as best as Addie could translate, Brownie. Tears filled Fritz’s eyes as he talked of his Oma and Opa. At this, Fritz shifted the conversation back to Addie. She was glad of it, for she could hardly stand the sadness in his face. Soon, they were laughing over his attempts to teach her a song and at her efforts at pronunciation. The kitchen filled with gaiety, something Addie had never seen nor heard visit this room. She had not known such companionship. At the end of the day, after two cooking sessions with Fritz, she glowed from the energy surging within her. Although far from tired, she could hardly wait to go to bed so morning would hurry and arrive. ***** Scurrying about the kitchen, Addie glanced again and again out the window into the dim light of dawn. Where was Fritz? Had she said or done something to put him off? At the thought, her stomach rolled. Running every minute of yesterday through her mind, Addie examined and re-examined where she might have messed up. The screen door squeaked. Her stomach flipped. Fritz brushed by, barely touching her arm. Electricity charged through her. Had he meant to touch her? Maybe … an accident. Regardless, the effect was the same. “You’re late.” Instantly, she regretted her words. She hated sounding like her mother or father. “Sleep much.” Fritz rubbed his eyes. A sigh escaped Addie’s lips. The morning sped by. The afternoon went even faster. Addie wanted to stop time—to hold it in her hands and tuck these once-in-a-lifetime moments away in her heart. Throughout the next week, every day enchanted Addie and thrilled, yet tormented her. For the first time in her life she actually came alive. Is this what it’s like to be in love? If so, she doubted her mother had ever been there. But her mother would be here—soon. Watching the sugar beet fields draw near to proper thinning, Addie dreaded the inevitable. Her chest grew heavy, as if a stone slab pressed down upon her heart.
It was hard to carry out daily tasks through tears swamping her eyes. After tomorrow, she would never see Fritz again. She didn’t know what dying was like, but it had to be easier than this. Tomorrow meant goodbye forever. Lying in bed listening to blood thrum in her ears, Addie heard someone at her open window. Fritz whispered for her to join him. She grabbed her robe and crawled out into his arms. They stole away to the haystack on the other side of the barn. A crescent moon and the Milky Way dimly lit and webbed the sky. Am I dreaming? Nested in the hay, Fritz gently pressed his lips to hers. The unfamiliar kiss sent conflicting responses whirling through her mind and body. She drew back, ever so slightly. He touched her cheek with the back of his hand and leaned his face into hers. His warm breath caressed her forehead. Tilting her lips upward to meet his, she kissed him back. The exhilaration of it lifted her to startling heights. His fingers tangled in her hair. This was nothing like Benjamin’s awkward fumbling after the town social. Fritz bracketed her face between his hands, kissed each eye and the tip of her nose. His right hand trailed along her cheek, neck, then skimmed her bare shoulder under her robe. Addie sucked in her breath, pulled back. As if discerning her innocence, Fritz turned his face toward the sky, yet continued to hold her close. His embrace, rather than imprisoning, freed Addie to trust him. She heard his heavy sigh, sensed his will for self-discipline. She was less confident in her own capacity for self-control for Fritz had ignited an unfamiliar burning within her. Her body trembled with an ache that yearned for him to touch her again. She waited for one of them to make the next move. Silence and stillness filled their time and space. Finally, turning from the tug toward forbidden territory, Addie nestled her head against Fritz’s chest and listened to the wild beating of his heart. Hers raced in rhythm. Tears of joy mingled with those of sorrow. His embraces would have to be enough to last her a lifetime. They talked far into the night. At last, she fell asleep snuggled into the crook of his warm body. ***** Just before dawn, Addie crept back into the house, went to her bedroom to dress and to fix her hair, then to the kitchen to prepare the final breakfast. The army truck would arrive at seven o’clock to take the prisoners to the next county.
As the rising sun spilled orange across the eastern skyline, Addie heard a vehicle door slam. Her mouth went dry. The transport was too early! She would not have this one last morning with Fritz. She found it difficult to breathe as she watched the Germans pile into the back of the army truck. Finally, filling her lungs with air, she sneaked out the back door and ran along the fence line to the other side of the barn. There, she clambered up the wood ladder into the hayloft. Peering out the loft window, she searched frantically for Fritz’s face among the mass of bodies as the vehicle crept out of the barnyard and rolled down the dusty driveway. She had to see him one more time. She must imbed his face in her mind forever. A hand rose into the air in the middle of the troop. Fritz waved. He sees me! Addie lifted her hand. Suddenly, in the yard below, her father turned to look up at the opening in the loft door. Addie ducked and fell back onto the hard floor. Pain shot through her body. But the loss of her once-in-a-lifetime love hurt far greater than the throbbing from her fall. She crawled to where she imagined Fritz had slept in the hay and wept uncontrollably, yet silently. She would not allow her father any portion of what she and Fritz shared. For the next hour, Addie poured out her grief. Finally exhausted, she made her way down from the loft and out of the barn to the well. She pumped cold water into her hands and washed her face. The cool liquid soothed the stinging in her eyes. In the field beyond the barbed wire fence, Addie saw her father tinkering with his tractor. Thankful for the solitude, she trudged to the house. Despite despair, she set to work in the kitchen. “I see you got along just fine without me.” Startled, Addie swung around to see her mother at the door examining the piles of clean dishes lining the countertop. “We managed.” “We?” Her mother raised an eyebrow. Immediately, Addie knew her mother would know the “we” would not have included her father—not in the kitchen, anyway. “One of the prisoners helped me.” Addie’s mother snorted disgust as she plunked her suitcase on the floor. “He was nice.” Addie felt conflicted. She did not want her love for Fritz to be a secret, for then it would be as if it never were. Still, to share it would allow her mother to soil it. Although her back was turned, Addie sensed her mother studying her. Addie picked up the paring knife, began peeling a potato. Fritz had liked her hash browns. His eyes had wrinkled into smiles at first taste. She hummed the song he’d taught her. “Where did you learn that tune?”
“From a farmer who grows songs.” “What?” “How was Grandma’s?” “Same as ever.” “The man that helped me in the kitchen …” Addie drew a breath of courage. “You mean the German prisoner?” Addie ignored her mother’s inability to understand that Fritz was more than that. “He never killed anybody.” “Is that what he told you?” Her mother raised that eyebrow Addie had come to recognize as reprehension. Addie closed her eyes, picturing Fritz, that teasing twinkle in his eyes. From the place where she’d stored memories, she plucked an image of him—serious and sincere. Basking in the recollection, Addie mentally left the kitchen, if only for the moment. Wrenched from her reverie by her mother’s sharp voice, Addie’s mind scrambled to hold on to the fading image. “He didn’t try anything with you, did he?” Smiling, Addie picked up another potato. “It’s not what you think.” “Men want only one thing.” Addie wondered if her mother could ever comprehend a relationship based upon friendship and mutual respect. “A man can do what’s best for the one he loves,” she said just above a whisper. “Don’t you for one second believe that, Adeline Stein!” At that moment, Addie knew, she had gone places her mother would never go.
Morning Ritual In the wee hours of the morning she silently slips through the sleeping household, wrapped in plush robe, crossword puzzle book tucked under one arm. She turns on a small hooded light at the kitchen table and begins assembling ingredients for the ritual. The only other light breaking the comfortable dimness is a momentary beam from the opening refrigerator door. With deft hands she begins the precise motions, found to produce the best results after long practice, distilled down to the utmost economy. Her mind most probably ticking off the concerns of the day, she unconsciously measures out the rich dark powder, adding only enough sugar and milk to form the bittersweet chocolate paste. The milk heated to scalding is added next as two pieces of toast, just the right shade of crusty brown pop up in the toaster ready for a light spread of butter. She settles down at the table, arranging her robe around her, and places her book folded to the current puzzle under the lamp next to cup and saucer, her thoughts turning to possible five letter words for number 5 down. Plucking off the pen attached to hold the place, she thoughtfully writes in her choice. She sips her steaming mug of chocolate quickly; she likes it hot, and nibbles her toast. The cat that somehow appears in her lap accepts a piece that she breaks off for it absent mindedly; sometimes she dunks the bit to soften it in the rich brew that is her favorite. Both humming in their own way, the woman and the cat seem to radiate contentment, a small oasis of timelessness, before the rush of activity as the family awakes. This is the vision I see of my mother so often in my minds eye; my memory of those special times I left my nest of blankets and was invited to partake in the morning ceremony. She could precisely alter her instinctive measurements to accommodate we two. While we cupped our hands around our warm mugs, sometimes we abandoned the silent companionable activities of reading or the solving of puzzles for quiet intimate conversations. We spoke of all things sublime to ridiculous, as if gleaning through the night time sweepings of our mental rooms, giving voice to the cobwebby thoughtsâ€”part dreaming, part wandering speculations. The bitter hot tang of the chocolate seemed to complement the buttered toast and I would follow her lead, dipping, then biting off the softened portions. I never have been
a dunker, before or since, but somehow this was part of the whole experience and the blended tastes are still a distinct memory. She prided herself on making cocoa from “scratch.” The process needed a certain finesse that is not common now. How many young cooks know what scalded milk is? These days when I visit she sits with hands folded in her lap and tries to focus on what I am saying. The lines of her face show the passage of time but the deep dark brown of her hair still hints at the beauty she once was. I try to chat cheerily about family doings. After a few moments her eyes stray to the floor and one hand lifts to point at a space in front of her. “See how those machines are working now. I need to go home to fix supper for my husband.” She rises and walks away without a backward glance only to stop a short distance away and begin to examine a blank spot on the wall. I decide to resist following her, forcing her attention to me once again. It distresses her to entertain a stranger. Her caretakers let me out the locked door. They smile and tell me she is doing well. I hope that somewhere in her mind she still finds quiet tranquility in a morning ritual even if it is in a world I can no longer share.
This Vision of March Beneath the cold, broken March sky, maples and elms finally yield the bouquets of brown leaves they have held since autumn, skeletal hands releasing the old to make bud-room for this year’s growth. Millwood does not easily abide change, content with things as they have been, as constant as the paper mill’s whistle at seven, at noon, at quarter to four. Yes, the Sugar Bowl Café has become a yoga studio, and the doctor’s office a taxidermist, but otherwise the few brick buildings are the same dingy red-brown as in my childhood. I asked my mother about her seventy years on the edge of town: What notable has happened here, among our neighbors? A suicide, divorces, a pregnant teen, when such were unspoken save behind lace curtains. Once the derailment of a train bringing pulp logs to the mill, and a fire in the log dump. The only real scandal erupted when it was discovered that two tenors in the Presbyterian choir were gay. With a new pastor and new tenors, Millwood was soon back in its routine— Logs in, paper out, people married, people born, people dying. Snow sometimes early as October, or late as May.
Grist Mill of Cedar Creek, WA
Interlaken Street # 6 A hummingbird arrives. Magically She hovers, suspended in air and turns An eye to me, then satisfied she sips The sugared water, darting a slender beak In and out, in and out, then turns To perch a second time at the red feeder. She must know I am watching for she stops, Comes to my window and tap, tap, tap, She seems to thank me, darts, and is offâ€” A flash of dark arching the air and slips Unseen behind a workman. Yet he turns, Hearing, perhaps, a sweet zipper sound go past.
Interlaken Street #9 I do not say the world mirrors me, Only that mothâ€™s blue-eyed beauty stays me, Shifts its flight so we do not collide; And wind, finding me in its windy way, Moves aside, and gently cools my skin And shakes the leaves on a horse chestnut tree, Which is no proof of anything, unless Inside I feel something of moth, air, and leaves, Like a freshening have touched me, prompted These words penned on paper, and I feel A blue entrancing insight stop my breathing, Shift my being to receive what was not me.
The Box Elder It was old when we were young, nurtured by earth and sky, dressing and undressing with the seasons. In winter its nakedness silhouetted against gray skies. Patient and forgiving, it bore the abuse of children, silently teaching. Now we are old and it is young. We write of lessons learned and it awaits another generation.
Nothing Pretty After midnight and only three couples on the dance floor. The steel drum band, lively all night, plays it soft and slow now, winding down, as couples dance a last dance and the regulars suck survival from melting ice cubes before heading off to cold beds. There’s hope for the young, but for those of a certain age, the shadowed dark is a good thing— never mind the indiscretions, the half-truths, outright lies. If you turned up the lights you’d see the raw life in tired, sad eyes, emotion, unrehearsed, suddenly flung into the room like a wet cat. Nothing pretty.
Judy Vander Maten
Would You Rather Our Dad tended to be philosophical when he played “Would you rather?” Thomas, would you rather be thunder or lightning? snow or fire? a question mark or a period? red or yellow? Mom never played. She even refused to answer easy questions like “Would you rather kiss Robert Redford or Steve McQueen?” She’d shake her head, smile at my Dad, but always claim she just liked to listen. Even though it’s been a year since we’ve seen our parents, I still play my own version. “Would you rather I kick your ass or you hurry it up?” I say, and Dustin stops to ponder this before he realizes I’m not kidding around. “Hurry it up?” “Move,” I say, and he does. He has to. I’m all he has anymore. It’s seven a.m. and we’ve got four hours of water-patrol ahead of us. While Dustin gets dressed, I toss his used body-wipe in the bin and head outside to wait. At least he’s stopped asking to take showers. When Dustin comes out of the house his “Officer of Sustainability” jacket is zipped up to his nose. The logo, a big drop of blue water wearing hand-cuffs, covers his entire eight-year-old torso. “Let’s do this,” he says and struts off ahead of me, ticket-book at the ready. Six months now and no rain. Last year the average rainfall was a whopping six inches, just enough to keep the hinges of the world oiled. Still, it’s a slow day. We walk, without incident, for a solid hour before being heckled by a Leftover sitting on a cardboard box, a liter of brown-colored water at his feet. “Hey, I think I hear somebody watering their lawn! You better go arrest them!” Dustin has his pen out before the guy even finishes his sentence, but I grab him by the collar before he can cross the street. “Forget it.” “But that water-bottle, he’s worth at least half a gallon.” “We’ve got plenty without him, Dustin. This isn’t a game.” “But what if Mom and Dad don’t come back. What if they stop giving us extrarations. Then what?” “Then we get by like everybody else.” Dustin puts his ticket-book back inside his jacket, sticks the pen behind his ear and contents himself by taking a long, unnecessary drink. He wipes his mouth on his sleeve, says, “When are they coming back?” “When they finish their research in the Amazon and figure this mess out. We’ve gone through this how many times?” “A million.”
“C’mon,” I say. “Let’s go find some electricity-pirates. That’ll make you feel better.” It doesn’t take long before we spot some lights peeking out from a curtained basement. We knock on the door and, sure enough, the lights go out. A woman opens the door, forty something, still wearing her bathrobe. “Hi, ma’am. We’re with the Sustainability Unit. Would you mind if we came in, took a look around?” I know the look she’s giving me. Our dog used to do the same thing after he peed in the house. “Of course,” she says. “And who’s this little cutie-pie?” She doesn’t know it yet, but she just earned herself an extra ticket. “This is Officer Dustin,” I say and give her a look which she interprets perfectly. “Oh, you’ll have to forgive me. It’s just that I haven’t seen such a handsome officer before.” Dustin is having none of it. “The basement?” I shrug and she leads us down the hallway. On the way, I peek my head into her bathroom, note the tube running from her Recycler into a hole in the tiled floor. She must have just gone because the thing is still agitating, filtering out the urine, turning it into clear drops of water to be used for laundry, dishes. On the side of the 5 gallon plastic jug, in big black letters, it says, “Do Not Drink.” The basement holds the usual violations: hydroponics, a sprinkler, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes. The only surprise is the row of Dragon Lilies. “Dragon Lilies were his favorite. My husband’s I mean,” the woman explains. “He died last year. I share with others when I have enough. Please, you have to understand,” she says and I want to grab her hand, put my arm around her, sit down and have a nice big salad, eat every last morsel of evidence with her and tell her she has no idea how much I do understand. “I still have to write you up for this. They’ll probably just garnish a few liters, put you on water probation for a year. It won’t be so bad.” “Not so bad?” she starts to say, but stops when she notices Dustin scribbling away. “Let me see,” I say and take the pad from him. “Fourteen violations,” Dustin says. “And that’s not counting the fan you have on upstairs.” “Officer Dustin,” I say. “Can you go outside and check the perimeters, make sure we didn’t miss anything?”
“Gotcha,” he says and actually goes so far as to hitch up his pants. “I’m already getting by on less than most do,” the woman begins, her hand rubbing her neck, the robe parting just a touch. “Isn’t there something we can work out, some sort of community service I could perform...” I take a step back, cough some of the color back into my face. “Here,” I say and hand her two of the tickets. “Just pay these and dismantle the greenhouse, okay?” Her eyes go all soft and big and I hurry out the front door before she can get to me. As we head down the street, Dustin glares at me, asks, “How many?” “Fourteen,” I say. “Nice work, D.” * * * * * After our shift, me and Dustin get cleaned up for our date. Jerusha’s asked me to bring D, said she had a surprise for us, but she’s a bootlegger—someone who makes un-recycled water at home and sells it on the black market—and I don’t know how he’s going to take it. She only lives a few blocks away, but by the time we manage to get there the house is dark, her parents long asleep. They’re the opposite of Jerusha: obedient, scared, good citizens. “Home illegal home,” she says, waiting for us by the garage behind her house. “You live out here?” Dustin asks. She doesn’t answer, just unlocks the padlock and does a clean-and-jerk with the garage door. With a flip of a switch we’re doused in red light. A king-size bed with satin sheets sits in the middle of the garage. “Whaddya think, boys?” Dustin immediately goes for the bed. “This rules!” He points to a second story loft with bed sheets hanging from the ceiling. That must be where she hides her paraphernalia, her water-making lab. “What’s up there? Can we go up there?” “That’s my secret place, Dustin. Sorry.” I haven’t turned her in yet. There’s my being head over heels in love with her, but also the fact that she knows where my Mom and Dad are. It works out well, a blackmail made in heaven since I can’t imagine being chained to anything sexier than Jerusha’s lips. Would you rather get laid or … “Mind your own business, Dustin,” I say. “Or you won’t get to see the surprise.” “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” he yells, jumping up and down on the bed. “First you have to promise not to tell anyone. Can you keep a secret, Dustin?” “I can keep a secret.”
“I thought so. How about you, Thomas?” “I don’t have much choice, do I?” “No, I suppose you don’t,” Jerusha says and scrambles up the stairs to the loft. “Do you think she has water-guns?” Dustin asks. “I wouldn’t be surprised.” “That would be so cool!” “No, it wouldn’t,” I say. Water pistols are one of the ten Unforgivables, but Dustin doesn’t take his work home with him. Once the jacket comes off, he’s one-hundred-percent kid again. “You know we can’t tell anybody about this, right? We’d both get in big, big trouble.” Dustin plops down on the bed, says, “Don’t be such a wet rag, Thomas.” “You don’t even know what that means.” “Do too!” Jerusha is standing at the top of the stairs, her jeans replaced by a pair of bulky flannel pajamas. “Thomas, can you give me a hand with this?” She’s holding something wrapped in a white bed sheet. I climb half-way up the stairs, grab the thing and walk it down. “Ready?” Jerusha says once we stand it up. She doesn’t wait for an answer before whipping the sheet off. “Ta-da!” “Wow!” Dustin says, standing on the bed again. “What is it?” “This, Dustin, is a projector. It’s what people used to play movies on.” Another Unforgivable. Anyone caught possessing movies of any kind will automatically be placed in an Un-concentration Camp. I remember the DVD burnings held on the weekends, the free liters of water passed out for every ten movies burned. No longer would we gorge ourselves on distraction, no longer would we amuse ourselves into submission. “Where did you get that thing?” I say, not quite wanting to hear the answer. “Here, make yourself useful and hang this on the wall.” Jerusha hands me a white bed-sheet and a handful of tacks. As she goes about threading the film, Dustin puts his hands on his lap, morphs into good-little-boy. When the images from Star Wars start jumping on the wall, Dustin’s mouth doesn’t seem able to close. Satisfied that Dustin is sewn to the end of the bed, Jerusha fluffs a few pillows, then nods toward the ladder. “Dustin, honey, I need to go upstairs with your brother for awhile. You okay down here?” “Yeah, okay, whatever,” he says. I’m worried he’s going to drool all over her sheets.
“Give me a minute,” Jerusha says before she cranks up the volume and disappears up the ladder. I count out two long minutes in my head, then follow after her. When I part the bed sheets at the top of the ladder, Jerusha is standing next to a clawfoot bathtub filled with soapy water, the steam slowly rising, a blue towel wrapped around her. “You can’t just…” “I can Thomas, you should know that by now.” She lifts her leg up, the towel opening up along her thighs in a V as she dips her toes in. “When’s the last time you had a real bath?” Number One on the list of Unforgivables. I can’t speak. My tongue’s deserted me. Would you rather watch R2D2 or take a bath with Jerusha? “Five years ago, freshman year of high school,” she says. “Am I right?” “Yeah, I guess.” “Well, what are you waiting for?” “Where did you get all the water?” “Take your clothes off and I’ll explain.” Jerusha drops the towel to the floor, starts coming toward me and I back away, worried about Dustin. “We’re just taking a bath, Thomas. What do you think’s going to happen here?” The smile widens. “He can’t hear us anyway.” I undress, sit down in the tub, barricade my knees against my chest as the water envelopes me like smoke. It feels pornographic, so pure it’s dirty. An entire tub full of water hot enough to turn my legs a deep pink. “Now relax.” Jerusha takes her hand, tugs at one of my feet so that my leg slides down along her thighs. “That’s better.” Her hair is spread out against the back of the tub like a shiny black fan and I can’t stop staring. “Feels good, don’t you think?” “Yes,” I say, my voice quivering more than the water. Jerusha leans forward, places her mouth against my knee, gives it a soft bite and the world pulses and pounds in my ears as she lays back with this pleased look on her face. My eyes are closed, the water almost cool by the time we speak again. “I guess now you’re a Violator, too.” I open my eyes to find Jerusha smiling that illegal smile of hers. “If Dustin wasn’t here,” I start to say. “I’d violate more than just…” “Oh God, I forgot about him,” Jerusha says, and pulls herself out of the water, starts drying herself with one foot on the rim on the tub, giving me an eye-full.
“You like that?” she says and drapes the towel over my head. “Be a good boy and maybe you’ll get some tomorrow.” With that she climbs back into her pajamas and heads down to Dustin. I dry myself with Jerusha’s towel, rub her smell as deeply as I can into my own skin before putting my crusty clothes back on. I’d been so preoccupied with Jerusha that I haven’t had time to really look at her water-brewing system. I’ve seen them before, but this one is especially tricked out. There’s a car battery on the floor, jumper cables hooked up to an iron rod that leads to a small skylight in the roof. Aluminum foil covers the bottom of the skylight and plastic tubing drips down like an IV into a 5 gallon barrel. It must have taken her a month to get enough water for just the one bath. I feel honored almost to the point of tears. When I go downstairs, the film is flapping away on the reel, Dustin fast asleep on the end of the bed. Jerusha turns the machine off, covers Dustin with a blanket and pats the bed for me to climb in. I fall asleep with my arm around her, her back arched into my chest as I dream of flash floods, thunder and lightning, showers, tsunamis. * * * * * When I wake up, it isn’t to the sound of rain tap-dancing on the roof, it’s to Dustin’s voice. He’s sitting beside Jerusha on the bed, studying a map. “We’re going on a camping trip! Guess where, Thomas.” “Prison?” “No. We’re going to a lake!” Jerusha hands me the map, her finger pointing to a place up in the mountains. “It’s hard to get to, which is why the government doesn’t know about it. It’s hidden away, fed by mountain run-off.” “I don’t know.” This time it’s Dustin. “Thomas, don’t be such…” “A wet rag. I know.” “A pussy,” he says, and immediately scoots away from me. “I want to go.” “And how are we going to get there?” Jerusha tosses a set of keys at me. “My parents lent me their car.” “Do they know they lent you their car?” Jerusha’s parents think she’s an angel, living out in the garage so she can remain close to them. The fact that they’re being used as a cover has, I’m sure, never even occurred to them. “C’mon,” Jerusha says. “The sooner we leave the better chance we have of finding it.”
“You haven’t been there before?” “That’s the fun part, dummy.” “Yeah dummy,” Dustin says and grabs the keys from me. “I’ll drive. Let’s go.” * * * * * We take the highway out towards the coast, the mountains bare, most of the trees felled long ago. “It looks like a sick dog,” Dustin says from the back seat. “What does, honey?” Jerusha says. “The mountains. Like our old dog did after surgery, after they shaved his butt.” It’s exactly what it looks like. The back-side of a very large, very sick animal. I try to change the subject using Dad’s old fail-safe. “Dustin, would you rather be an eagle or a salmon?” “There are no salmon.” “Pick one.” “A tiger.” “Dustin. Eagle or salmon?” “Fine. Eagle. My turn.” Dustin puts on his serious face, scrunching it up like a raison. “Jerusha, would you rather be a fart coming out of my butt or Thomas’ butt?” Jerusha turns around in her seat, completely un-ruffled. “Definitely your butt, Dustin. Hands down.” “Gross!” he says and rolls over on the back seat, his hands covering his face. “My turn,” Jerusha says. “Dustin, would you rather be a water-cop or a Leftover?” I can hear a humming in the back seat that’s threatening to spill over into laughter. “Mmmmm…a rain-maker!” Dustin says. “See what you’ve done,” I say, but Jerusha’s already reaching over the back seat, tickling Dustin. At this rate, he’s never going to want to go back to work. “Pee break,” I say and pull the car over. “What, no recycler?” Jerusha says from her open window. “Isn’t that illegal or something?” Before I can answer, she rolls her window up. I go against one of the few remaining Alaskan blue cedars still looming along the roadside. Beyond that there’s what’s left of a river: a sluice of dried mud. The bright green moss on the cedar branches is now brown and dried out, the limbs of the tree like the hairy legs of an old tarantula. When I get back in the car, the laughter’s long gone. “What?” I say.
“Look,” Jerusha says and nods at the windshield. At first I look right past it, notice only the naked tree stumps along the highway. Then I see it. A solitary drop of water on the windshield. I’m about to ask Jerusha if she’s up to something, but the look on her face tells me she’s beyond serious. She cranes her neck under the glass, peers up into the sky. “You see it now?” Above us, there’s a cloud. Just one, but a big one. The rest of the sky is all blue and sun. “Maybe it’s bird shit,” I say. “Clear bird shit?” “You guys think it’s rain?” Dustin says, pronouncing ‘rain’ like somebody from old times might “God” or “Elvis”. “No Dustin,” I say. “It’s a drop of water. That’s all.” I put the key in the ignition. “How much further to this lake?” “What. Is. Your. Problem?” Jerusha reaches over, rips the keys out and dangles them in front of my face. “Dustin and I are going to investigate, aren’t we Dustin?” Dustin scrambles out of the car and onto the hood, props his elbows on the windshield. “You’re probably right that it’s nothing,” Jerusha says. “But what’s the harm in…” “Dustin is the harm,” I say quietly. “I don’t want to get his hopes up.” “Hope’s not such a bad thing.” “Depends on who’s doing the hoping.” The words are barely out of my mouth when I see Dustin lick the windshield. “No harm, huh” I say, and we hear a muffled, “Tastes like rain!” “Great,” I say and Jerusha rolls her eyes at me, gets out of the car and starts spinning around with her arms raised up to the sky like she’s Fred Astaire in Singing In the Rain. Dustin sprawls down flat on the hood, watches as she goes into a mock raindance, her chest jutting in and out, her elbows pushed back like a chicken’s. Dustin starts chanting, “Rain, rain, rain!” and hops down off the car so he can shadow behind Jerusha. I’m witnessing an ancient culture, a shaman possessed by the Gods of rain, as Jerusha goes into an impromptu prayer. “Oh, Mother of water, we thank you for this sign of your glory. We know you are up there. We know you are watching. We are good, humble people deserving your sweet nourishment. We beg of you, let your bounty fall and cleanse our parched souls!” When I look up into the blank face of the sky, I almost expect to feel something on my cheeks, but like always, there’s nothing. “Bravo,” I say and Dustin and Jerusha look confused, like maybe they thought
the dance would actually work. “Can we go now?” They both give one last disappointed look up into the summer sky, then get back in the car, the colossal wind turbines spinning away indifferently along the mountain ridges as we continue our drive in silence. Would you rather die from thirst or drown? It’s Jerusha who finally speaks up. “Turn right after the guard rail.” I slow down, take the turn which leads to a dirt road and we make it maybe a hundred yards before coming to a large gate. “What now?” I say, and Jerusha gets out of the car without a word. Me and Dustin watch as she scratches around in the dirt at the base of a nearby stump, finds a key, and unlocks the gate. “I told you Leftovers weren’t all bad,” she says when she gets back in the car. “You ever been skinny-dipping, Dustin?” “What’s that?” “You’ll see.” The closer we get, the more excited Dustin gets. He’s like a dog who knows it’s going to the park. This lake better exist or he’s going to tear up the interior of the car. We make it up one last incline and park the now wheezing car under a massive dead cedar. With all these giant specters grave-yarding the land, the few remaining plants look like sprigs of parsley ornamenting an already devoured plate. “We just follow this trail here and bang, there’s our lake,” Jerusha says and Dustin wastes no time, darts off ahead of us. “No running!” I call after him. “I’m not,” he yells and slows into a trot. Me and Jerusha have barely started walking when she turns to me and says, “Have you told him what happened yet?” “What happened when?” “To your parents,” she says and gives me a look I haven’t seen before. “No, I haven’t.” “He still thinks they’re away doing research?” “Uh-huh.” “And you’re okay with that?” I say nothing and we walk on, every now and then catching glimpses of Dustin up ahead. I haven’t seen him this happy in a long time. “The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be for him to understand why they did it. And more importantly, why you didn’t tell him.” “What exactly am I supposed to say? Mom and Dad killed themselves so we’d
get their water rations? Oh, and by the way, Dustin, they’re buried in our basement. You walk over them every day.” “No, I want you to tell him what love means,” she says. “How you found them holding each other.” Would you rather I lie or tell the truth? “I can’t do it,” I say. “Then I’ll do it.” “No. You won’t.” “He trusts me. It’ll be like removing a band-aid.” “It’ll be like removing a heart.” “I’m sorry,” she says in a beautifully small voice. “I just want to help.” Maybe she’s right. I honestly don’t know anymore. Jerusha loops her arm through mine like we’re on a Sunday stroll through the park, like we’re not searching for a forbidden lake, not about to change a kid’s life. “I found it! I found it!” Dustin is leaping up and down ahead of us, pointing to what must be the lake below him. I have to admit that I didn’t expect to find it, and, now that we have, I get instant goose-bumps. Jerusha unhooks her arm from mine and we both start running toward him. There is a moment of silence as the three of us stand on top of a ridge looking down at one of the paltriest looking lakes I’ve ever seen. It’s a sad excuse for a lake, but it’s ours just the same. “Last one in is a rotten egg,” Jerusha says and crabs her way down the slope. Dustin doesn’t move. “C’mon, D,” I say. “I’ll help you down.” Big mistake. “I don’t need your help,” he says and to prove it he climbs past me, slips and ends up going down the slope on his butt. My heart stops, but he’s fine, pops right up when he reaches the bottom. “Rotten egg! Rotten egg!” he yells, pointing up at me. I would be a million rotten eggs for the view I’m getting now of Jerusha stripping along the edge of the water. Dustin, too, stops his yelling when he sees the miracle happening only feet away from him. The tan lines. I hadn’t noticed them as much this morning, but now, in the light of day, they stand out. She puts her feet together along the edge before diving in and taking it all away from us. I scrabble down and almost bump into Dustin. He’s still transfixed, like he’s not sure if he’s dreaming or not.
“C’mon you two! I won’t look if you’re shy!” Jerusha says and turns her back on us. “Can Thomas go skinny-dipping, too?” Dustin says. “Of course he can, why not?” “Because he’s not skinny!” I have my pants off just as he’s saying this. “He’s skinny enough,” Jerusha says. “Thanks, Dustin. Nice one,” I say and jump into the water before Jerusha has a chance to turn back around. It doesn’t occur to me that Dustin has no idea how to swim until I notice him sitting on the bank, underwear still on, legs dangling in the water. Jerusha realizes the problem and coaxes him in the water by placing his lucky arms around her neck, his legs kicking behind him, his face crammed in between her breasts. I have the ridiculous thought he’s faking the entire thing. * * * * * I’m not asleep, but not exactly awake either, when I hear the sound of an animal whimpering. Like something small caught in a trap. Before I can focus my eyes, I understand. I can see Dustin cradled in Jerusha’s arms, his head against her shoulder, his back broken with sobs. I’m stuck there, my back pinned to the ground. It feels like I have a boulder lying on top of me. When I try to get up my stomach muscles are useless. I have to roll over on my side and push myself up with my arms. When I make it over to them, Jerusha is cradling Dustin’s head in her lovely arms. “C’mon you two,” I say lamely. “We need to get on the road or we’ll never make it back before curfew.” There’s no argument from them. Whatever fantasy we may have found here in the woods has turned into something else: a place Dustin will go back to for the rest of his life when he thinks of his childhood. Or the end of it. We’re on the road maybe ten minutes before I hear Dustin snoring in the backseat, the tears having left him exhausted. On the radio the announcer reads off a list of recent Violators. I turn it off. “I’m sorry,” Jerusha says in that small voice again. “Maybe you were right.” “Too late now,” I say and realize it sounds more judgmental than I intend it to. “I’m just glad it’s over.” But I know it’s not. Not even close. “He’s going to want to see the basement.”
“I’ll have to explain how Dad did it,” I say and I can see the egg timer he used, the pit, their bed and the glass housing he surrounded it with. “Tell him they weren’t in any pain. He should know that.” “I will,” I say. “It was the right thing to do,” Jerusha says, and the conviction in her voice is almost enough to make me believe it. At some point Dustin stops snoring and all I can think of is what he might be dreaming. I’m half-expecting him to wake up screaming when Jerusha reaches over, squeezes my hand, but neither of say a word. Instead, I stop the car in the middle of the road and we watch as rain pelts the windshield, the highway. Dustin wakes up, probably more so because of the car stopping, and hangs his head over the front seat. We are mesmerized, speechless, frightened. Dustin is the first to speak. “It was a waste then,” he says in a voice that shouldn’t belong to a child. Would your rather be safe or sorry? There isn’t an answer anybody in the world can give him, so I turn the windshield wipers on, start driving through what may turn out to be the biggest downpour we’ve had in years. I can see my parents climbing into that pit as the windshield turns into the glass of their coffin, the winding road their bodies spooning around each other one last time.
Hospice Advice I watch Dad as he adjusts his suspender, opening the clip, inspecting the teeth, the latch; the man in the La-Z-Boy, 90, still reads the financials tells Leann to change the channel, too much kissing on a soap opera. Another man has 3 button down shirts on. The comfort aide who likes the soap channel prepares to add a sweater. The only sounds are a TV ad for skin moisturizer and everyone seems to ignore it.
Hospice Letter So it makes sense Dad cut up my poem and rearranged the words. I liked the repeated thes so the spoon sputters and the heart always enclosed somewhere seems to pulse with its new syntax.
Deborah Brink WĂśhrmann
The Worldâ€™s Fair We thought it a matter of birth not a right but genetics mood personality subduction zone that a bad man is bad. Yet now we know buildings fall walls a brain changes. A Stassi officer lets Georg go free sacrifices so the writer can tell the story truth he learns:
so many people die (self-murder, they called it!) when they can no longer dance
Wings of Spring Sweet nectar invitations bottled and adorned in red, guests arrive sporting flashy, ruby neckties and glistening emerald tuxedoes. Arrivals, departures dancing vane of feathers, swoops and dives, lost energy relies on frequent refueling. For brief moments they cease the aerial show as if needing to catch their breath or locate a flight pattern, or simply pose like miniature neon signs. Then, in a slingshot launch they take flight leaving behind the familiar humming sound of spring.
It Is Solved by Walking St. Augustine said, his rough, brown robes collecting bits of dusty wisdom stirred up from the earth by his worn, leather sandals. I imagine him casting his arms to the wind, breathing in fresh insight from bee-fertile field and sage instructions from purple-lipped mountains. How many steps would be required to solve even a small difficulty? Like prayer beads, pebbles underfoot mark the path toward resolution, but no one can say when it will arrive. It is solved by walking, when the mind, refreshed and at rest with creation, nets the flitting solution like a blue butterfly in flight.
Kara Huffman Hamilton
Cleavage two breasts nesting side by side sexy soft sensuous two mounds of warmth nestled together snuggling like puppies white and pink roses and cream wholesome comforting now just one remains dumb luck clean cut cancer
Judy Vander Maten
Contributors Aaron Andersen says, describing his photograph in this issue of Salal, “This piano is the very rare Bösendorfer Imperial, housed at LCC’s Rose Center of the Arts. While working in the building as well as around this magnificent piano, I have captured some very special and intimate images of it.” Katie M. Berggren’s current work stylizes intimate daily moments of life—grabs hold of the tactile and visible affection between mother and child. The new paintings evoke light and texture—playing with how two or more confident figures can fold, bond and tuck together within a whimsical atmosphere of energy and sparkle. An unquenchable passion for process, progress and creation requires that she paint daily in her Kalama Washington studio, consulting her sketchpad and ipod for inspiration and motivation. Carolyn Caines is a third-generation resident of the Longview-Kelso area. She is a retired teacher who has had more than 100 poems published. Her alter ego is a teenager who writes for devozine magazine. Ray Cooper says, “Celebrate the Humanities!” He teaches Art at LCC, and he just may be the quickest draw in town—with a stick of charcoal, at any rate. Natalie N. Hall says, “It has been a life-long dream of mine to become a published poet; it is an honor to be chosen for this distinction. To The Salal Review and LCC, I wish to give a heartfelt thank you for this opportunity.” Jim Hanlen is still keeping in contact with active volcanoes in the Pacific Rim, Mt. St. Helens in 1980-1993, Mt. Shishaldin and Mt. Redoubt (100 miles from Anchorage) 1994 to present. Brian Harrison, an archeologist from Astoria, Oregon, has spent many years collecting evidence of the legendary proto-Sousaphone, long suspected to have been the foundation for preColumbian courtship songs. Finally this winter he admitted, “This search has really hit a low note. We may have been looking all along for the didgeridoo that didn’t.” Happily for Salal readers, Brian also writes poems. Janice Haupt says, “First there is the pride of having one’s work selected for Salal. Then, there is the realization that this magazine is the perfect display for this unique part of our country. I don’t get tired of either one of these thoughts.”
Kara Huffman Hamilton says, “Thinking of my cleavage lost to breast cancer, ‘warm’ was a term that came to mind. I would read in bed at night, on my side. Looking down, I could see my two breasts together, it was somehow comforting. Like puppies snuggling. Joe Green’s Creative Writing class gave me a creative outlet for unexpressed feeling. I am thankful for LCC in our community.” Judith Irwin taught English at LCC from 1961 to 1988. She was probably the first to teach a creative writing course that included poetry at LCC. She also introduced annual community poetry contests for young writers and adults, in cooperation with The Daily News, and she gave Lower Columbia College a presence around the state through her involvement with the Washington Poets Association and The Washington Community College Humanities Association. Now living in Seattle, she continues to write and record her poems. Jenica Lemmons sees family connections in her photograph for this issue of Salal. She took this picture of her daughter last spring before the old bus was hauled to a junkyard. Her grandfather, who passed away eight years ago, used to drive a school bus Daniel Kruse moved to Longview from Virginia. A Running Start student at LCC, he plans to transfer to UW or WSU to pursue a degree in graphic design. Patrick Kubin is a lawyer and mediator. In addition to two courtroom thrillers, he has written many short stories, some of which have appeared in earlier issues of Salal. He lives with his wife and four children, and he finds inspiration in his work, travel, and photography. Lorraine Merrin says,”Stories and their spirits come to me, and beg me to tell me their tales. I do my best but I’m only mortal. I can only hope to get it right.” Gary Meyer teaches in the Department of Language and Literature at LCC. He describes his photograph in this issue of Salal as “A lucky shot one day at Mutrah, Oman.” Chalet Rigdon says, “I have lived in this area for the past 19 years. I have a strong passion for photography, both in black & white and in color. I believe a photo can tell a story, set a mood, convey a message. The Grist Mill brings us back to a simpler time.”
Sam Ronnie recently celebrated his ninetieth birthday with a reception at Longview’s historic Monticello Hotel. He is a voracious reader and dedicated lover of the arts. Beverlee Ruhland was born and raised in Longview. An LCC graduate with a B.S. and M.S. in Biology from PSU, she says she “discovered joy in writing late in life, finding subjects from life and imagination.” Jan Sebastian is a former LCC student who enjoys writing and photography. She resides in Cowlitz Country on five acres with her partner and her partner and their children. Wings of Spring, her first published poem, is dedicated to her mother, Barbara, who faithfully feeds and enjoys nature’s birds. MaryEllen Stone says, “Going Places” is part of my Innocent Voices—Children of the 1940s short story collection. I invite readers to visit my website: www.maryellenstone.com.” Judy Vander Maten, from Cathlamet, WA has been a photography instructor at LCC since 1995 and regularly exhibits work in several Lower Columbia galleries. She is an avid fan of the Columbia River, which she explores by land and water, with camera. Marie Wise has painted rhododendrons for many years and loves spreading great gooey gobs of paint around on a canvas, no matter the subject. She believes painting brings out her softer side and hopes to keep doing it forever. Deborah Brink Wöhrmann says, “Besides reading The Salal Review, I teach at the college, live in the community, travel when I can, and encourage the restless to begin their day with a poem.” She and her husband, Ludger, recemtly bought kayaks to escape their cat, Sattva, who has them rather well-trained. Linda Zandi is a full-time student at LCC who enjoys taking pictures of her three cats and her dog. Her photograph in this issue of Salal captures her cat Emma. James Zerndt teaches ESL at Lower Columbia College to an amazing group of students. He recently won Honorable Mention in the Atlantic Monthly’s 2008 fiction contest. His poetry has also appeared in The Oregonian Newspaper and The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his extemely patient girlfriend.
Sponsors Charolette Conklin Jim Franz & Alexis Khoury Marquita Green Janice Haupt Lynn Lawrence Jim & Chris McLaughlin Wayne & Emma Muzzy Harold Reeves To be among the sponsors listed in the next issue, make a tax-deductable donation of $10, $25, $50, or more to: LCC Foundation: The Salal Review.
Acknowledgments The editors wish to thank the Associated Students of Lower Columbia College and the LCC Foundation for continuing to fund and support The Salal Review, the LCC Office of Instruction and Department of Language & Literature for supporting the Magazine Publication course that makes Salal possible, the LCC Publications and Purchasing offices for their invaluable assistance, Coprintco for their help with layout and their care and skill in printing the pages, The Peasandcues Press for making its hand bindery equipment available, and our individual sponsors for their encouragement and financial support.
Aaron Andersen Katie M. Berggren Carolyn Caines Ray Cooper Natalie N. Hall Jim Hanlen Kara Huffman Hamilton Brian Harrison Janice Haupt Judith Irwin Patrick Kubin Daniel Kruse
Jenica Lemmons Judy Vander Maten Lorraine Merrin Gary Meyer Chalet Rigdon Beverlee Ruhland Sam Ronnie Jan Sebastian MaryEllen Stone Marie Wise D e b o r a h B r i n k Wรถhrmann Linda Zandi James Zerndt
The Salal Review, award winning literary and arts magazine of Lower Columbia College.