c r a
Aimly Sirisarnsombat Jennifer Says Good-Bye
Cnidarian Musings Tempest Prelude
7 10 10
Annam Raza Hao J. Tam
Sherry Diep The Fallen
Another Wasted Day On a Wednesday Night new years eve
9 9 11
What If I was walking down the spiral of conciousness
The mother of all black holes 13
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte
Bounty Hunter School
An Excerpt from my Teaching Journal
Daniel Hernadez Allison Quach 2
Adrian Phillips “Meta-Paranoia”
Michelle Currier Untitled Untitled
6 14 20
and Josephy Schenkel and James Feng
“Pierce” “The Origin of Things”
Comics by Khanh Nguyen
Monica Csikesz No Shadow A Confession
Cover Art by Daniel Hernandez Sun God-inspired layout graphics by Rosa Cho
“The publication may have been funded in part or in whole by funds allocated by the ASUCSD. However, the views expressed in this publication are solely those of Mania Magazine, its principal members and the authors of the content of this publication. While the publisher of this publication is a registered student organization at UC San Diego, the content, opinions, statements and views expressed in this or any other publication Q and/or distributed by Mania Magazine are not endorsed by and do not represent the views, opinions, policies, or positions of the ASUCSD, GSAUCSD, UC San Diego, the University of California and the Regents or their officers, employees, or agents. The publisher of this publication bears and assumes the full responsibility and liability for the content of this publication.”
Thank you for picking up Mania’s Winter/Spring (or WISP) issue of 2013! Whether you’re a first time reader or returning fan, we’ve got a lot of great stuff for you in this issue. Mania has had a pretty tough school year. Between funding problems and a change of regimes (we miss you Steve!), we haven’t been able to print Mania until now. Through these trials, I’ve come to think of mania as reborn from the ashes of the last couple quarters of this school year. What is dead will rise, and in that vein, WISP 2013 is themed, however abstractly, after Sun God, one of UCSD’s most well-known, unofficial mascots. Like a phoenix coming alive, the Sun God represents a new day, a new start, and new opportunities on the horizon. Over the last couple years, Mania has made a transition from a more an arts and culture magazine to a literary magazine. When I first picked up an issue, I was amazed at the talent and creativity that UCSD has to offer. It’s exciting to bring to you the short stories, poetry, and art within these hallowed pages, a variety of work from people from all walks of life. I hope you are as moved as I am when you look through this portfolio of talent that UCSD has to offer. So pick up this issue of Mania Magazine, WISP 2013, and don’t forget to pass it along when you’re done. If you like what you see, don’t forget to join us to make the next great issue! With Love,
this convexity has cursed the s!eep. once i wanted to gift my womb now i, pregnant with fame, consume empty. lucky for me dexedrine negates intake. once i dreamt of making love now i lack for taking love lucky for me barbiturates gift the s!eep. the awareness of the squares of this body long transcended rectangles now soft corners making three-dimensions conscious. perfect? am i when i stir the yearn in the hands that take. what i would do to hide from the know of this hide and how it blows the egos of those who wish to scratch away the lottery-ticket sheen of the perfect? skin blinking insomnia in. the more they receive my give the more they win. in losing the perfect? give i lose all in filling the alive. this concavity has cursed the awake. iâ€™d rather trade the empty for the dead.
*Jennifer: character in the 1966 novel Valley of the Dolls
I. The clear blue water Distorts around a shadow Living gelatin II. A starving leather back turtle Snaps at the floating bulb of white Hopeful, expectant-Stinging tentacles rendered ineffective; But instead of insubstantial nutritious jelly It encounters long chain polymers A plastic bag? Too late: imminent asphyxiation Unintentional Mertensian mimicry III. Stinging medusa Aurelia aurita Lunar Translucence IV. An adult jellyfish is in the form of a medusa, from the Greek medomai/ Μέδουσα — “guardian, protectress” It’s based on the mythological Medusa: vicious, misunderstood Medusa, with death in her eyes and snakes tentacling out of her scalp, the protectress raped by Poseidon in her own goddess’ temple. V. An open umbrella Frilly innards spilling out Dead ribbons streaming VI. Sinking lower into the bathtub, I tip my head back, Feeling the weight of my hair unfurl My thoughts coalesce as The dark of my curls Twirl beneath my mind.
VII. Curled into themselves Spears shyly hidden in Trailing tentacles VIII. Imagine your bones deliquescing, Your flesh liquefying into a suspension, Your head melting into your shoulders Your arms and legs stream away, A feeling of weightlessness, Slipping into a wide expanse of azure nothingness. IX. Squished under my foot The salty amorphous ooze Dissolves into sand X. He pulled the remains of the tentacle off his forearm, the pink exposed flesh already beginning to pucker. The dead jellyfish was tattooed across it now, its life traceable in the tendrils now intertwining with his veins. Slightly disgusted by the idea of what he was about to do, he nonetheless appreciated how the burn of the microscopic nematocysts overpowered his thoughts. His heart still hurt. Imagine if those wounds could be fixed with some pee—now, wouldn’t that be nice? XI. Giant jellyfish Bloom on oceanic tides Soft benign tumors XII. Jellyfish. Jelly(fish): in a jar? A jar of fish jelly, smeared onto bread Chunks of tentacles, chunky peanut butter: Peanut butter and Jelly(fish) Jellyfish.
Quiet whispers become loud echoes. Quick glances become a prolonged stare. Indifferent shrugs become anticipated answers. Hurried steps become slower strides. Fleeting thoughts become constant daydreams. And thus, I have loved.
Huddled by the portable heater Beneath the flickering fluorescent lights Which scatter shadows silently across our still bodies We drink alone Together
Stomach swirling like a toilet bowl. Flushing down chunks of ash from throatchoked wine bottles. Suspicious eyes peep through blinds, sly as the neon flamingo that tip-toes fields of fluorescent glass and flashes DĂŠjĂ Entendu on the living room wall. Bubbling river bed blanketed by freshly soiled snow. Back seat begging for liquid honey gold. Buzzing
Midnight winds pound against the walls Rustling leaves and shaking our cores A single spider survives in a webbed graveyard Surrounded by ancestral skeletal remains Finding itself Among lost friends Puddled about us Whiskey bottles and burnt cigarette stubs There is a perfect lipstick stain on the side of your glass In three hours we will be gone With our stomachs full And the bottle empty
steadily through shifting glass aisles trying to get a handle on the slowly sinking wasted day.
dunes, Feet sinking into t e darkling deser wandering in th ently lost quietly despond y slowly time whispers b er my thoughts: blank stormy pap n o ly w o sl g in embers burn unfurl, ignite smoking edges ream drenched in a d arched skin life trapped in p on pleural space weighing down rough veins wildly rippling th s dance monsoon wind
In velvet darkness Floating You feel yourself Coalesce Molecules pulling close A pinprick: a lonely molte n point Begins to expand You feel yourself Beginning Waves of light whispering against the sand Plunge headfirst into the water The velvet turning to liquid turning to air Stars cluster around you, inside you Shards of the sun catch in your hair Empyrean ribbons conden se, clouds of dew Astral attar, blooming ho tter You feel yourself Breathe Infinitely exquisitely tenu ous In gossamer nebulae Floating You feel yourself Crystallize You are the cosmos
heeeyyyy She is rubbing my chest lower and lower under a blanket new year’s eve in a room full of people while the air bubbles and buzzes and the bottles break and burst and the foam fizzes and spurts let’s find a room she probes further a brick has more guile and is easier laid I float right through the champagne cloud the new year is sparkling sweet and I don’t mind the aftertaste
What if I’m scared? What if I love you? What if i don’t know who to be at all? What if we’re wrong? What if we argue? What if you leave me outright? What if your scent just doesn’t make sense? What if you’re alien to me? What if we keep tumbling around in this world? And forget completely to be free?
I was walking down the downward spiral of consciousness when I met these two guards (some call them “reasons”) who were walking up to meet me The guards they kind of laughed at me, Didn’t even try to stop me, they knew I’d stop alone Hadn’t passed by but a few feet, something felt off, I called back to my partner, it was urgent, she agreed She called back to me “We live in a dream,” she said, our existence is a website, our existence is a cell phone, and sometimes it gets rerouted to another, derailed to another Once it happens we’re lost, Once it happens it’s lost We ran back up she dropped her luggage on the floor, The guards were gone, nowhere to be seen Suddenly neither was she I popped my head into a room Where heroin junkies were piled up on the floor Now Bedouin women gathered around a television I looked through to the window saw that it was me I asked them if they’d seen my friend They giggled at me, a faux pas it would seem Backed out of the room, this has to end now Back up through to the spiral of dreams
The place they live in, the glass-walled Palace where the soggy weightlifters dangle Their stiff, dilated manhood, their balls Of sweat glowing like scales Of salmon freshly caught in the jaw Of a famished grizzly bear drooling For the conquered flesh, thrive on the jilted Gawkers from the backwater of forgotten Defeats, from which tempered madness Stirs to life the allegorical Men, calls to arms a burning Forest of faceless rebels With the audacity of the blind Marching like ghosts on water, Against the cultivated violence And synthesized faith, recycled Dreams and watertight absurdity, And all that which procreate Like grass and weeds on a steppe Colonizing in expedient peace.
Can you analyze it all, herr doctor? From the house of glowworm cave Where the defectors lilt in abandon, Improvised lullabies to crows and bats, To the island of bones and fire, Where the first descendants of pardoned Hate wrap their baby fingers round Their necks, lest they forget, During the last descent into the fall, The use of their claws and breath. Far away so close are the wings of eternal Somersault, the crack of the second Crush, or the glows and bangs of all The ends that were either premature Or delayed. When we come, You will finally be gone and know What we are, after what we have done Before a world of redressed time, Until you make up no reason to yank us Out of the mother of all black holes.
1RWH6RPHLPDJHVLQWKLVJDOOHU\KDYHEHHQFRQYHUWHGIURPFRORUIRUSULQW 9LVLWXVDWLVVXXFRPPDQLD_magazine_ucsd to see this issue in color!
Khanh Nguyen is a Visual Arts major in his senior year at UCSD. He has been making comics for the Guardian for over a year. You can find more of his comics at www.facebook.com/Kncomics
he sky is healing. Purple bruise of wakeful sleep submits to dawn’s baby fingers twisting. Ravaging grey abyss, pollution dissipates, plagues thoughts of last summer. Something in blood is beating – raw, ashy, angry submission. Letting the past melt into wisps calm, troubled by memory. Pressing the body into tight corners, irreversible occasion turned and tossed. Plunk into a lake. Watching those creatures grapple in slime inescapable from view. Rising out of the muck, amphibious determination climbing, infecting. Wanting
to win. a
Twisted back swollen flesh needing pain
to heal. Self-made woman clicks vertebrae back into place, still swollen but yielding
“I forgive you,” she whispers to no one.
ron willow leaves, dancing in the storm You can never live without ever questioning “Why?” “How so?” “What is it?” The flames are licking my heels and playfully envelope my entire body in sheets of smoke, stinging my eyes with their choking intensity Burning away the doubt There are only raw memories Burning away the raw memories There are only a handful of thoughts Burning away the thoughts, mind-words Pictures only remain And when I am reduced to ashes and dust I will become only a substance, free-floating and wandering If you suddenly feel something inside your eyes And tears come forth to wash it out
h God, I am sorry for my sins. In choosing to do wrong And failing to do good... I ask that my sins be forgiven. “My child, when was the last time you have made a confession?” I cannot say Father, for I have had many faiths, each with their own definition of sin and forgiveness, righteousness and heresy. At first, I was a Catholic. But over time, I doubted whether this faith was able to absolve my soul. For every false word uttered, Every thought that stained the purity of my mind and flesh, I became increasingly overwhelmed with guilt. It seemed that even before the act is committed, I have already sinned in my heart. So, in order to rid myself of the sin and guilt, I tore myself away from this religion and turned to other faiths. As a Protestant, I thought I could be saved and remain happy with myself and everyone. But I became jaded. So, once again, I changed to another faith; A series of theologies to philosophies, Rewordings, reinterpretations, literal translations; Orthodox, Mormon, Evangelist, Sectarian Brief moments of joy quickly replaced by unanswered questions Then I began to wander. I have travelled to Mecca in a pilgrimage, carrying only a handful of clothes and my grief. I have visited Buddhist monks in Asia in order to gain an authentic understanding of their scriptures, their inner peace. I have knelt and prayed in lavish temples of multiple gods and goddesses for my wishes and blessing to be answered. And what have I learned? I am a lost individual, seeking purpose. Yet I am not so easily pleased with what I have, with what I’ve gained. I have lived for hundreds of years, seeking forgiveness for my rent and weary soul. So now, I’ve come back. I simply want to return to my father’s house.
he priest found the boy sitting in the front pew. At first, T he thought the boy was deep in prayer. His head was bent low, still and silent. Then the priest noticed a trail of bruis-
es on his arms. Concern for the boy prompted him to speak. “Welcome,” said the priest. “Can I help you?” His furrowed eyebrows brushed the top of his horn-rimmed glasses. The boy kept his head down. He shook his head in slow determination, refusing to look up. After a few moments, the boy lifted his head to reveal bloodshot eyes. Deep purple bags hung on his young freckled face. “What’s your name?” the priest said. The priest had helped troubled youths before. Every third Sunday of the month, he visited jails and juvenile delinquent halls to speak with troubled young adults about God. “I want to believe,” the boy said. “I… I want to believe, sir, I do. I… I like reading the Bible when I feel scared or lonely.” A few matches fell out of his back pocket as he removed a small, tattered book to show the priest. The boy was skinny. His flannel shirt was torn and stained. He was breathing hard, mouthopen, eyes cracked red and dry. “Son, where do you come from? What’s your name?” The old man waited patiently for the boy to respond. His hands lightly touched the boy’s shoulder. “Name’s Jesse,” he said. “Where’s your family, Jesse?” the priest prompted. The boy looked up at him with hard eyes. “Thing is, I don’t have a family anymore.” The priest drew up a chair beside him. He waited for an explanation. “You must have come from somewhere. Does your father know you’re here?” y father – ” the boy sputtered. He wiped his nose on “M his sleeve. “He doesn’t believe in God. He doesn’t believe in anything worth believing in,” the boy said, his voice
cracking. He sat still for a minute and stared out the window. The sun was breaking in the steel grey sky. “Something happened back at home. Something bad,” he said quietly. “I’d be dead now if… if I hadn’t…”
esse, get your ass over here! We gonn’ do some shootin’. Show me what kinda man you are,” said the father. He popped the tops on two cans of warm beer and let them froth over. He handed one to his son, and then pulled out two rifles. “I wanna see you finish that before the damn sun sets so we can get started. Go on, keep drinkin’ and then put it on the fence.” Jesse’s face was turning pink, but he forced the warm liquid down. “Tha’s right, now go get two more. Hurry up, you little pussy.” Jesse ran to the shed as fast as he could; his dirty blond hair was rusty against the reddening sky. “Took you long enough,” the father smirked. He chugged
the can in less than a minute as Jesse waited. “Go and get me another,” he said. “We need plenty of targets ’cause you’ll be missin’ ’em left and right.” Jesse felt hazy. His stomach tightened in knots like crunched metal. Eleven cans lined the fence by the time the sun was setting. “Hold the gun against your shoulder, boy.” Jesse was struggling against the weight of the gun and the warm alcoholic tingle spreading from his chest to his fingertips. They were facing the fence; his father was standing behind him. “Spread your legs apart, and hold still. Put your finger on the trigger.” Jesse’s hairline collected beads of sweat; his hands were shaking. When he wiped his left hand on his jeans, he lost his balance and the gun slipped. A smoking crater gaped in the earth where his foot had been a few seconds before. The force of the blast propelled him backwards. “What d’you do that for? You dumb fuck!” the father bellowed. Jesse kept quiet and picked up the hot gun. “Frank! What the hell are you doing?” a woman screamed from the kitchen window. “Maggie, he’s fifteen years old. Leave us alone, and get back in the house,” Frank yelled. Maggie ran outside in her bare feet. She wept into Jesse’s hair – he couldn’t stop a few tears from dripping down his cheeks. “What, you’re crying now? You need your mommy? Poor baby,” Frank spat. Jesse could feel his father’s hot breath on his face. Frank turned to Maggie slowly. “Maggie, get back inside the house.” His voice was steady and controlled, a rage-prickled calm. “Don’t touch him, Frank. Don’t do anything you’ll regret,” Maggie was in the dirt, tired. For sixteen years, she had done what he told her to do, and now there was no way out. Shadows were settling into his stony sockets as the sky deepened to a bruised purple, soon to be swallowed by blackness. Under a star-laden sky, Jesse stirred in the dirt. Moths were gathering around the lantern on the front porch. He could make out the outline of a large figure moving – Frank carrying his limp mother into the house. hat’s what I saw. I remember that much,” Jesse said. “T “Why did you come here?” the priest said. “Did you consider telling the police?”
“I can’t. I won’t go. I can’t go back home. The police won’t believe me, and they’ll send me back.” “But how do you – ” “They’ve sent me back before.” Jesse blinked hard and swallowed. “I ran away a couple of times, but they just bring me home. They don’t ask questions. The old man gets real mad when I get back.” “I see,” the priest said. “You’re safe here. You are welcome to stay for as long as you like.” He folded and unfolded his liver-spotted hands. “Son?”
The boy was shivering in his seat. His chest was jerking back and forth; his neck hung limply. He was staring straight through distant eyes. “Jesse!” the priest said. Shoving aside his chair, he made the boy sit forward with his head in his lap. The boy convulsed in sobbing hiccups until quiet took him. et your fucking hands off her.” “G “Get back, boy. You gonn’ watch this time, and then – ” “And then what? Don’t you dare touch her, or I’m gonn’ –”
“What you tryin’ to say, boy? Quit your damn stutterin’. You gonn’ kill me, huh? You gonn’ kill me? You goddamn son-of-a-bitch!” A gunshot went off somewhere in Jesse’s mind, and the screaming fell silent in the swelling darkness. he boy leaned over in his chair and vomited. The priest T laid his hands on the boy’s forehead and whispered a prayer. “The Lord will guide and protect you, son. The Lord
will always love you,” he said. “Do you really believe that? God’s going to love and protect me? I’m not so sure I still believe,” the boy stuttered. “How can I?” “I like to think that if you believe in God and believe in yourself, good things will come,” the priest said. Jesse was shaking. He wiped vomit from his mouth and then spit on the cool red tiles. His eyes were shifting back and forth as he folded and unfolded his hands. His voice was tinged with a smothered roughness like the burnt end of a cigarette. “Sometimes, I can’t help thinking that God can’t save anyone,” Jesse said. “God didn’t save my mother.” His eyes were stony and unforgiving. “Didn’t save my father neither.” A fly was crawling up the slippery windows. It thrust itself against the glass – a natural response to believing open space exists on the other side of a frame. The room was drenched in stifling heat, compressing lungs from functioning properly. Heat waves in ripples lapped against the gold-coated pieces on the altar. The priest squeezed the inner corners of his eyes together. “What do you mean?” he said. Jesse stared at the cracks in between the red tiles on the ground. He shifted his gaze towards the window. “When I was little, my father told me about a kind of fire bird,” he said. “Do you think that they are real?” The priest felt troubled, and he shifted in his seat. He looked at Jesse curiously and waited a moment before responding. “That’s an interesting thing to think about. They are imaginary creatures that are believed to live a long time, and then burn to dust. A new bird, the phoenix, arises from its predecessor’s ashes. Can you tell me – do they have something to do with your father?” Jesse was staring at a hawk circling the sky; he did not break his concentration. “I asked you if you think they’re real,” he said quietly. The priest frowned slightly in resignation. “Well, they’re make-believe. But make-believe stories are meant to teach us a lesson. Tell me what happened that night.” A mosquito hawk was circling a lantern outside in the purpling sky. The insect thudded against the glass lantern in its desperation to get to the flickering light inside. “Poor bastard can’t help it,” said Jesse.
irt-covered and convulsing, Jesse licked his lips to taste the D metallic blood caking underneath his nose. Jesse struggled to lift his head to see the light flooding the front porch.
A mosquito circled the lantern by the door. A faint sound of hammering tinkled through the broken, green shutters. And then boots scuffing. Frank came outside wearing a clean, white wife-beater. “Son, it’s about time you and I had that talk,” he said. Jesse winced uncontrollably. “The talk about how to be a man – now part of that’s about how to treat women, you know, very important,” he said, waving his hands. Frank walked forward in slow, calculated steps. The gravel gave way to an easy crunch under his feet. Jesse squirmed on the ground and pushed himself closer to the fence. Frank squat down and started playing with a lighter. “You see, son, women are always crying about wanting respect. Women are always saying ‘No.’ No this, no that – no sex tonight.” He casually picked up some sticks on the ground and placed them in a little pile. “But see, they never mean it when they tell you ‘no.’” He lit the sticks on fire and watched them burn orange hot. Frank leaned down close to Jesse’s face and rocked on his ankles. “You ever made love to a woman, boy?” Jesse looked into his father’s eyes when he said this. The word “love” gave Jesse a jolt in his stomach. He wanted to vomit after hearing a word like that come out of his dirty mouth, reeking with profanity and booze. Laughing, Frank got up and walked to the front porch. He picked up a brand and tossed the iron B into the flaming patch of earth. “You ever bone anyone, kiddo?” He laughed even harder as Jesse’s fingers coiled into a tight fist. Jesse’s throat was so dry from crying, he could barely speak. “Shut up,” he said, his voice cracking. He could feel his face burning. “Shut up, shut up,” Frank taunted in a high-pitched voice. Jesse rolled over on his side. His legs shook with the weight of lifting his body against the splintery fence poles. Jesse staggered forward. “What do you think you’re gonn’ do, huh?” Frank asked. “A little chicken shit like you can’t do nothin’ to me.” “I don’t like what you say about girls,” Jesse said. “I don’t like the way you talk to my mother.” He spit on his father’s shoes. Frank didn’t flinch. “How come you’re a little faggot, huh?” he said. “Thank Jesus you ain’t my kid.” “What do you mean?” said Jesse. “Oh you think that sweet lady in there is your mother?” Frank said, looking towards the house. “Nah, you’re mother’s a damn whore. Maggie’s sister’s a hooker, and when she O.D.’d on coke, Maggie made me keep you.” Frank chewed on his lip. “But when I go, you ain’t gettin’ a damn thing from me.” Jesse breathed in and out slowly; a wave of relief washed over him. “Why are you smiling, son?” Frank said. Jesse kept his head down, but he couldn’t stop the corners of his lips from curling upward. Thrust into blackness. When Jesse woke, he sitting in a soiled patch of earth leaning against the fence. Splinters dug deep into his back, and bruises trailed down his arms like a strand of tattoos. Frank was sitting across from him on a chair
with a beer in his hand. The fire was still burning and the B was glowing red. Frank was watching Jesse closely. “Oh good, you finally waked up,” he said. “I wanted to show you something.” Frank pulled out a few documents from his pocket. “This is your social security card,” he said as he dropped it into the fire. “Here’s your birth certificate, insurance coverage, and all your medical documents.” The edges of paper crisped to a curling black with orange embers advancing on the center of the page. Smoke drifted up into Jesse’s eyes. “Look at that, whaddy’a know?” said Frank. “Well, it’s like you never existed. So then I guess no one’s gonn’ miss you if you went missing. At least not on paper. No one’s gonn’ be lookin’ for you, and that’s good ‘cause no one’s gonn’ find you.” Jesse looked down at his crumpled body. Get away, he thought. Must get away. He used his back to shimmy up the fence pole to a standing position. His eyes were clear and determined. “Go on, let’s see you get up,” Frank said. He sipped his beer and watched Jesse struggle as if he were watching a program on television. Jesse inched his way to the base of the fire, limping. Frank started to bend over in his seat, reaching for the brand. With one fluid movement, Jesse kicked the ashy embers into his father’s face. “Sonof-a-bitch!” he said. Frank sat there, rubbing his eyes. Jesse grappled in the dirt to reach the wooden end of the flaming rod. Frank was still weeping behind red, puckered eyelids. “I guess you’re half right. No one’s going to miss me if I go missing, but you’ll never find me,” said Jesse. Jesse ripped open the front of his father’s shirt, and picked up the brand. It was a delicate B for a last name that belonged to Frank, not Jesse. A list of words beginning with B ran through Jesse’s head as he placed the searing letter over Frank’s heart. Frank squealed like a dying pig, but Jesse’s grip was firm and unyielding. He waited until he could find the right word to define this man. “You’re no man, Frank. You’re a beast,” he said as he lifted the brand from the puckering flesh. Jesse moved as quickly and as quietly as his limp leg would carry him to the edge of the woods. Frank was screaming in the distance. Jesse could hardly hear the yelling over the sound of his pounding heart; his lungs were burning in his chest. He found shelter in the shadow of an evergreen. Jesse knew that he couldn’t outrun him tonight. He hoped that Frank wouldn’t recover before morning. Several hours passed before Jesse woke to the fiery tint of dawn breaking against his closed eyelids. Shaken, he needed a moment to realize where he was, and what had happened. I’m alive, thought Jesse. He didn’t find me. Jesse knew what he had to do. Black embers littered the front yard. From a safe distance, Jesse
could see a tipped chair, but there was no one else in sight. The front porch steps whined under his feet. There were cans of gasoline in the shed behind the house, and matches in the kitchen drawer. Jesse noticed the ashy streaks smeared across the front door as he turned the brass knob carefully. He concentrated on the creaks in the floorboards to prevent the tension in his mind from igniting. A foul odor hung in the air – tobacco mixed with booze and Lysol. Jesse stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Frank stretched out on the sofa; he was sound asleep with a bag of frozen vegetables covering his face. His dirty hands lay across his chest moving up and down with deep, even snores. Jesse moved quickly into the bedroom, but Maggie wasn’t there. The bathroom left no sign of a struggle; there were brooms and a few mops in the closets, but no Maggie. Maybe she got away, Jesse thought. He pocketed the matches from the kitchen drawer, and tiptoed to the front door. When he walked to the back of the shed, he saw the shovel leaning against the door. Jesse tripped in a patch of freshly dug earth. When his face hit the ground, it hit hard. His eyes were tearing as he ripped the lid off the gasoline can. Frank didn’t stir as the sound of liquid smacked against the hardwood. Jesse struggled to lift the can, but he managed to coat the floors of every room. He took a moment to observe the shambles of his childhood – the television screen slightly cracked from one of Frank’s drunken rages, the rugs stained with beer, issues of Beach Body scattered on the floor. “Dear God,” whispered Jesse. “Help me to be strong.” He couldn’t keep a grip on the match. His hands were swollen and shaky. He was standing in the open doorway, and finally lit a match. Flames roared over the floors and climbed up the walls moments after he let the match fall. ran for my life,” said Jesse. “And I wound up here.” “I The priest was quiet for a few minutes. “I don’t know what to say,” he said.
“You can’t tell anyone, can you?” said Jesse. “You can’t go to the police.” “No,” said the priest. “This is between you and God. Do you feel remorse for what you have done?” “I had to do it,” said Jesse. “That man needed a new soul. I did what I had to do. The phoenix – ” Jesse paused and looked at the priest. “I want to stay here, sir. I can earn my keep, but I believe I did the right thing.” “You could have gone to the police, you could have chosen to act differently,” he said. “I found sanctuary with God, so I went to the place where God is supposed to be,” Jesse said. “Is God in your heart?” the priest asked. “I think so,” said Jesse. Jesse held out his hand for the priest, who hesitated to accept. He looked up beyond the rafters of the old church. He placed his hand in Jesse’s. A compromise. Night was folding over the landscape. Outside the window, they could hear the soft thudding of an insect desperately trying to get to the light.
When Linda and I arrived to Naples, a fellow traveler suggested we visit Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte. We wished to see the Caravaggio paintings, so we hurried along the cobblestone streets in search of the museum.
ool, damp air flooded the room. The hardwood floors C creaked underneath the weight of decades of visitors quietly shuffling by, pausing at each work of art to admire it
before moving along. We wandered through the open areas, waiting for our opportunity to visit the baroque section that contained the Caravaggio work. I especially wanted to see his painting The Flagellation of Christ, in which he illustrates his vision of the torture of Christ before crucifixion. We busied ourselves with pre-Renaissance depictions of the supernatural. Heavenly births, divine conquests, and resurrections were commonplace within these walls. Pale-skinned saints stared back at us, their elongated bodies seemed to be pasted on top of the surroundings, settings of impossible and illogical structures. The time came for them to open the other wing of the museum so we crowded near the entrance with the other forty patrons. A museum docent arrived to open the door and everyone flooded into the room, sticking and clinging to each painting like molasses. They fought against the flow of people behind them for one more glance before they creaked across the floor to the next work of art. I took Linda by the hand and led her out past the crowd to address the docent. “Can we leave the group to go see the rest of the paintings and then come back to see these paintings?” I asked him in English. He answered me with a blank stare, as if he thought I was speaking to someone else. I rephrased the question, this time in broken Italian, filling in the gaps of my vocabulary with some Spanish. I thought that since Spanish was a foreign language that I could speak, it should carry over to all countries foreign to me. He replied with a series of words that I couldn’t understand, but took to mean as, “Yes, go right ahead.” Linda and I began to race each other through the exhibit, weaving through clumps of art enthusiasts, trying to choose the easiest route and leave the other caught up in the congestion of the gallery. I was keeping pace with Linda until she headed off through the left passageway between rooms while I went right. I came through the doorway, and I could see that Linda’s path should have brought her to the same room, but she was nowhere in sight. I quickened my pace, passing sculptures and landscapes alike, the floor creaking faster and faster with my ever-increasing speed. I followed the corridor through several turns, confident that I would catch a glimpse of her turning the corner at any moment, yet with each turn I was confronted with another empty room. The layout of the exhibited crated an illusion of choice, but regardless of which doorway I passed through, I was still following what had to have been Linda’s path. I cut around a corner, walking as fast as I could at this point, and found myself in a very large hallway. It stretched for what seemed to be fifty meters, and on either side were enormous still life paintings that climbed upwards to the high ceiling. One painting depicted heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables; pears with elegant curves, apples exploding with cadmium
reds and yellows, grapes so translucent you could practically see through them, large and ornate squash, ruffled heads of lettuce showing each individual crinkle on the leaves. Directly across from this was a painting of meat piled high, dead pheasants with their necks dangling limply, cuts of red meat stewing in a pool of blood, a lamb’s head with the skin peeled off--its eyes staring unblinkingly at me as I observed it. All of these paintings were bordered with ornately crafted frames of carved wood and gold leaf that added at least another foot to their dimensions. I had always been intrigued by still life, the idea that all forms of beauty could be found within a bowl of fruit, or a collection of items carefully placed. However it wasn’t until I saw these masterpieces that I ever came close to being able to see what the great artists saw hundreds of years ago when they set out to capture an image of life. Here I was, surrounded by these massive cuts of meat, pitchers of wine, and candelabras, all reproduced in a way so that while I stared into the detailed brush strokes I was able to see the reflection of divine craftsmanship in every mundane or minute thing. Every object that I had once viewed as ordinary or dull was on display here, the centerpiece of its own work of art. Remembering my pursuit of Linda, I pulled myself away from these masterpieces to find her and lead her back to this hallway, so that we could share my newfound understanding that was hidden here in this corner of the museum. I finally found her, several rooms later, at the end of the exhibit, “What took you so long?” she inquired. “What do you mean?” I replied, “I was just footsteps behind you the entire way, I’m sure of it. You must’ve sprinted the entire way, huh?” “No, not really. I’ve been waiting here for you for close to twenty minutes,” she answered. Just at that moment the amorphous clump of other museum visitors began to funnel into this last room. “Let’s go back through the exhibit before everyone gets over here,” I said staring at the mass of slow-moving individuals entering the room, “I want to go look at those enormous still lifesagain.” “What still lifes?” Linda asked. “The giant ones of all the fruits and dead animals and food. They were in that big hallway, you couldn’t have missed them,” I said. “I don’t remember any giant still lifes,” she said. “That’s probably because you ran through it too fast,” I suggested and began to walk back through the doorway. “I wasn’t running,” she said following me, “I looked at most of the paintings along the way.” I stepped into the next room and found my path being blocked by the docent. He gestured for me to turn around and head for the exit. “I just wanted to go back to the—” I began. “Please,” the docent said, continuing to gesture to the exit of the exhibit. “But you said—”
“Please,” he repeated sternly, his palm outstretched pointing in the direction of the exit. Defeated, I turned around and resolved that we would stay for another hour so that we could come through the exhibit during the last opening and I could show Linda the still lifes in their full glory on display in that hallway. The hour passed slowly. We saw the Caravaggio section, but it fell flat in comparison to the depths I had seen in the paintings of fruits and animals. His Flagellation of Christ was just a cheap attempt at displaying the divine, as were all the other religious paintings that littered the space around us. My stomach churned at the sight of each new painting. Their false sense of depth and inaccurate representation of space illustrated to me their lack of truth. These paintings felt contrived, and unnatural. They were without grace, and I could not stand to look at them for more than a minute at most. I let my vision blur and followed Linda as she took in the artwork, unaware of what true craftsmanship looked like. All the saints in the museum combined didn’t compare to the infinity that was held within one of the perfectly spherical grapes that I had seen before. “They’re opening up the modern art wing; do you want to go see that?” Linda asked me. We were sitting on a bench with our backs against the wall, counting the minutes. My neck hung limp with dejection, like the pheasants from the painting. “No,” I snapped turning my head towards her, “I just want to wait here until they open this section again.” With that I let my chin sink down to my chest once more. I found myself growing tense and irritable with the passing of each minute. I needed to be back in that hallway. Finally the time came to crowd around the entrance to the exhibit once more. I pushed our way to the front, and as they opened the door I hurried through, pulling at Linda’s hand, urging her forward. I retraced my path, turning left, left again, right, left, and then right, the wood moaning underneath our footsteps. We turned the last corner and there was the final room of the exhibit as well as the exit. “Wait, how did we end up here? I must’ve made a wrong turn. Follow me,” I said as I led Linda back through the turns we had made, looking for other passages that would lead to the grand hallway. We followed our path back to the entrance, where we found the rest of the group slowly digesting the dull paintings that cluttered the walls there. Again we went forward, turning left, left, right, left and then right and found ourselves at the exit once more. “But before I went through at least twice as many doorways...” I trailed off, staring down at the floor. In the back of my throat I could feel a thickness building that I hadn’t felt since I was a child and would find myself choked with emotion. It was a feeling so powerful that I used to be unable to express it through any means whatsoever and would often find myself hyperventilating from trying to force tears that wouldn’t come. I feared that I would never find this hallway
again and would never see those colors again. I feared more that I’d loose my sense of wonder, that I’d remain forever jaded from my brief encounter with the divine, that nothing would ever satisfy the unknown desires of my innermost workings like those paintings had. I needed to find that hallway. “Why don’t we try asking the docent?” Linda suggested. “I don’t think we really understood each other last time, but I guess we could try,” I replied and started in the direction of the group. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears, and I wiped perspiration from my forehead as I approached the docent. The tension inside me had been building steadily since we entered the exhibit again. “Can you tell me how to find the hallway with the still lifes?” I asked, speaking loud and slow, thinking that this manner of speech would somehow make him understand me better. This time he understood that I was speaking to him, but his confused look told me to try again. I rephrased it in a more simple manner and used the words in Italian that I knew to mean, “where is,” then filled in the rest with Spanish. “Something, something something Caravaggio? Something something something terzo piano,” the docent replied smiling. “No, no Caravaggio. Dove é il cuarto de pinturas de frutas e animales?” I asked, stitching together as many languages as I could. He replied with something that I understood as either, we don’t have any paintings of fruits and animals, or, I’m sorry, I have no idea what you are trying to say. With that he began to move forward, corralling the group, and herding them onwards through the exhibit. I darted ahead, intent on finding the hallway before we would be forced out of the museum at closing time. We traveled back and forth between the group and the exit, checking every corner of every room in hope of finding the original door that had led me to that corridor. With each trip I grew more and more frantic, I could hear the docent closing in on us. I navigated through the rooms and found myself at the exit again. As I turned around to head back out in search of the hallway I saw the docent enter the room looking at his watch. I tried to walk past him, but he simply extended his palm toward the exit and in a very flat tone said, “Please.” As we left the museum, the floor creaked and groaned in sympathy of my plight. I had entered into something sacred, I had been granted a moment of revelation, but had been denied access when I tried to return. Never again would I stand face to face with the unfaltering stare of that bloody lamb’s head, nor would my eye trace the graceful edges of the pears. It was dusk now, but the heat from the sun still lingered in the quiet breeze. The park was empty save for the few visitors that were leaving the museum as well; they expanded outwards in all directions, inaudibly mumbling to one another. We walked aimlessly towards a small cluster of palm trees, Linda moving slightly behind me, discouraged by my solemn mood. I sat down on a park bench and began to weep.
Rex had spent more than a quarter of his life in military and law enforcement before becoming a bounty hunter. He was kind enough to let me sit in on his bounty hunter school to see what it was like. I thought to myself, ‘What kind of world am I stepping into?’
n a Friday morning, I arrived at a large cube-shaped building surrounded by the dusty lands of Riverside and its scattered lush patches of green vegetation. I entered this building and my first day of bounty hunter training. I met Rex and he introduced me to his classroom. When I first entered this room, I saw a wooden floor, natural light streaming through three windows, dusty cubicle desks clumped together in the middle of the room, and a small group of people gathered together. Many of them weren’t even Rex’s students, simply other occupants of the office building there to watch Rex’s bounty hunter class. On the sidelines stood Raymond, a heavy-set Asian man wearing glasses and enthusiastically holding onto a video camera, one finger clearly swollen. Raymond’s camera was pointed at his longtime friend Joss at the center of the room. Joss was a large man with a bald head and cheeks that jiggled when he laughed. But he wasn’t laughing as he stood there, two men holding onto his arms. Joss weighed about three hundred and fifty-five pounds, more than both of them men combined. Yet he would soon be relying on these two men to carry him. Why? Because Rex, the class instructor, was aiming at him with an X26, an electronic control device colloquially known as a taser. The air was tense. A bright red dot moved across Joss’s black T-shirt. The X26 was ready to fire and release enough electricity that it has been known to take down a full sized bull. As soon as he was sure Joss was ready, Rex gave a warning shout: “Taser! Taser! Taser!” Rex pressed hard on the device’s sturdy trigger. In a third of a second, a small amount of nitrogen exploded in the taser’s cartridge, a loud snap echoed inside the room as the blast doors from the device’s cartridge flew open, and two probes, each pointed with piercing half inch barbs carrying 50,000 volts, streamed from the cartridge through the air, and drove into Joss’s flesh. Joss’s whole body started to vibrate as his muscles stiffened. He later said that he could not hear the spectators, merely the continuous crackling sounds from the X26. To Joss, the taser made a rhythmic hum, but it was in no way comforting as the device directed every one of his muscles to constrict. The taser is a persuader. It’s extremely capable of telling people to lose control of their body as it pushes 1,500 volts through its target. The taser affected Joss for a total of five seconds. Five seconds may not seem that long, but it is. Time stretches when you are under the influence of a taser. You realize you are utterly helpless to the point that you can’t manage a single breath and every part of your body becomes an enemy. Your sense of touch betrays you; excruci-
ating pain swallows you. Before Joss was tased, he had been a three hundred and fifty-five pound brick wall, but now he was a three hundred and fifty-five pound feather in the arms of two men who easily guided him to the floor. For a bounty hunter, it would have been an ample time to handcuff him. The first day for my bounty hunting experience was Taser Friday, learning about electronic control devices and their role in law enforcement as well as the capabilities and dangers of tasers. Following Joss’s bravery to experience a ride with lighting, I talked to him about what it was like to be struck by the taser’s electric fangs. Joss described it as playing hide-and-go-seek by yourself. I’d add that your body hides from you in a rampant chaos of pain and helplessness, while your mind, conscious and full of unhindered thoughts, looks for your body to attain even a single breath. I know this because Rex was kind enough to tase me too. With such torment involved, someone might wonder why even go through the pain? Bounty hunters often use tasers, and it seems irrational that they would have to fear being hit by one. Joss is training to be a bounty hunter, not a future arrestee. Why did Joss give his consent to being shocked? Well, in Joss’s future career, danger will lurk in many dark corners, not only from people Joss will chase, but also from possible mistakes, which can be equally dangerous. By being tased, Joss developed a better understanding of what it means to use a taser in the field, and the dangers involved for the victim. This is important because of the many misconceptions about tasers. In California, tasers are easy to access if you are 18 or older. A permit isn’t even required. This is because tasers are considered a self-defense device, not a firearm. However, these facts should not give the impression that tasers are harmless, nor should the ease of its accessibility belittle its complex and dangerous nature. People that underestimate the potential damage and harm that can be caused by these devices often misuse tasers, which results in serious consequences. A police officer’s badge does not shield or exclude them from this simple truth. Neither does being a bounty hunter.
n a warm, sunny afternoon in September of 2011, a small young woman by the name of Danielle ran away from the police, handcuffs still clasped behind her back. An officer of hefty weight followed her as she swung the front doors of the police department wide open. The officer was less than two feet behind her – less than an arm’s length away. He could have easily reached out his arm to grab the girl, but he didn’t; instead the officer reached for the taser
at his belt, slowed his pace, and tased Danielle in the back. While running, Danielle was instantly stunned and lost control of her body. A camera from a police vehicle caught the whole scene on tape from two car lengths away. Despite the sound of a door creaking closed in the background and the crackle from the ECD, the audio part of the camera recorded the distinct thump of the woman’s head and skull colliding against an asphalt parking lot. Danielle has been in a coma ever since. And what was her crime? She had driven with a suspended driver’s license and fled from the scene of a traffic accident. Her mother said, “[Danielle] was no angel, but she didn’t deserve what happened to her.” For reasons like these, bounty hunters like Joss seek training for their field. There are many opportunities for a bounty hunter to make a successful bust, but there are many more opportunities for them to make a mistake that can cause serious harm to others and themselves. A taser is a valuable tool when apprehending people in their job, but it can also be a two-headed snake that poisons their future. Many people who possess a taser are unaware of the violent impacts that these devices can cause to a person. But not Joss. If Joss tases someone, he now understands the intensity of the matter instead of treating the moment with entertainment value. After Joss was shocked, he told me that he was glad that he enrolled in Rex’s course on electronic control devices. “Before I got hit by an ECD, I imagined shocking arrestees for the fun of it. I wanted them to resist. I thought I be like...Yeah take that, and that,” Joss said in a playful manner, pushing his hands demonstratively towards the floor, pretending that there was an arrestee below him and an active taser in his hand. “Yeah keep struggling.” “But now,” Joss said, his tone growing serious. “I wouldn’t want anyone to go through that experience, unless they had to.” Rex said that using a taser is right below using a gun on the Useof-Force Continuum, a set of guidelines for how much force to use in certain situations. “While the levels of force in the Force Continuum do not have to go in order, the levels of force used must be in proportion to resistance with an emphasis on overcoming said resistance,” Rex explained. Bounty Hunters are encouraged to search for training in their field for these types of reasons so they will not tread over these types of problems in the future. However, using their equipment in the field properly is just one of the many valuable lessons to learn at bounty hunter training facility.
angers will arise in a bounty hunter’s life in a variety of forms. One of the most terrifying is when a bounty hunter’s family is involved. In Rex’s class, he teaches his students the importance of an alias and treating the people they capture with respect. This is an important lesson since there are stories in which bounty hunters rob arrestees, or arrestees show up at the homes of their bounty hunter, seeking revenge. Rex himself once had his identity revealed by a company he worked with, and an arrestee showed up at his home and threatened his family. I would talk more about the wild and tense circumstance of Rex’s identity being revealed, how he evaded a horrible fate, and helped lead to an arrestee’s incarceration, but repeating that adventure in a magazine might put Rex in an unnecessary risk.
What I will say for now is that Rex tells dozens of stories like the one above to students in his class and in his book Modern Bounty Hunting. These stories are meant to keep his students alive, out of trouble, and focused on how to get paid. Bounty hunting can be a lucrative business, but caution is a must in their field; hazards reside in the job in a constant continuum from the people they chase, the mistakes that can take place, and even from the same source that gives a bounty hunter the authority to chase, the law. A mistake for a bounty hunter in a hostile situation can produce concern for someone’s life, and one mistake under the weight of the law can mean the loss of freedom. Considering the number of laws established and paperwork required in order to make an arrest, it can be fairly easy for a bounty hunter to commit a felony when not fully conscious of their actions and the arrestee’s legal rights. Fortunately schools such as Rex’s exist to alleviate these problems. The lessons that Rex teaches bring awareness to the hazards of the chase. Hazards come in the many forms, including the law, pedestrians, and physical safety. These dangers are constants on and off the clock. Considering these inherent dangers, it seems unsettling that someone would take on this career, toxic even. With this in mind, I asked Rex why he continued bounty hunting, despite all the dangers in this line of work. “Bounty hunting is not a calling; it is a small business,” Rex replied. “The thing about small business is that it is part art, part science, A TON OF HARD WORK, being at the right place at the right time, and being able to spot niches in the market place that you can capitalize on, being the first one in and the first one out.” Thinking about Rex’s comment and the risks that Rex has to take as a bounty hunter, I thought something the author Arthur Golden once said: “If a mind has doubt it cannot focus on victory.” I mentioned this to Rex, curious if he – as an accomplished bounty hunter, martial artist, bail bondsman, instructor, entrepreneur, writer, and private investigator – ever doubted himself. Rex disagreed with the quote. “You have to have doubt, especially if you’re going through a door. You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Rex said. “If you go into something knowing what you are going into, where is the challenge in that?”
fter the interview, Rex and I parted ways, yet the valuable knowledge that he bestowed upon me still remains. Even though the vision I have of my future bends far from the life of a bounty hunter, different aspects of what Rex taught me during one long weekend can be applied to practically any career. That is because the principles of success can be applied to any career. Considering all that Rex has presented to me, I figure bounty hunting has its risk. But so does everything else when one hunts for success—when facing the unknown, when wanting to be innovative and independent, when wanting to create jobs outside of those society labels acceptable. In bounty hunting school people learn how to become successful bounty hunters. I learned what it means to be successful. To be successful, you need to be prepared to face failure. You have to take risks. Success takes hard work in the face of doubt. As Rex puts it, “One has to pay their dues. You can’t just start at the top. You have to start from the bottom.”
y boob hurts,” Ashley said to me. This was the kind of problem my bachelor’s degree had prepared me for. Standing at a tiny three foot-five inches, Ashley was one of my third grade students. Dimpled-faced and adorably miniature, Ashley was a measly eight-year-old. Though recent studies have described the onset of puberty appearing much earlier in the younger generation, a quick glance to Ashley’s chest area could indicate the physiological absence the supposed boob. There was an obvious problem in this scenario. Ashley was a boy and therefore physically bereft of the mammary glands necessary to suckle his young as well as the nether regions responsible for childbirth. However, one may argue that there is a rising appearance of a distinct class of breasticles, known in the vernacular as man boobs. Genetics aside, thankfully Ashley had not yet developed the physique necessary for having such appendages - though I may interject that the acquisition of male boobliness is occurring in the younger demographic at a much more rapid pace than in recent decades. Being confronted with Ashley’s boob pain was an awkward situation made even more awkward by my silence.
Chest pain is a red flag symptom in any emergency situation usually indicating something more sinister lurking underneath the surface like a spontaneous pneumothorax or a pulmonary embolism. EMT class taught me that. After surveying the playground during recess, I had a sound explanation for why Ashley felt the way he did. It is peculiar the way children play games. How they come up with strange activities and strategize against each other as pirates, robbers, and other players who sound more terrible than what they really are (eight-year-olds with bright yellow t-shirts). Even more interesting is how their personalities align with their chosen activity. The playground is the perfect example. The blacktop runs rampant with personality. Take for instance, the act of catching a kickball. Common yet subtle movements separated by vastly different technique characterize the way my students catch without exception. Some catch with bent knees, arched backs, and eyes toward the sky. Others with quick reflexes, legs slightly apart, and hands tensed. Even some not yet seasoned in the dirt diamond make a brave effort to play only to abandon their position halfway through when sure and imminent Death by Kickball is upon them. As I suspected, Ashley invited the ball into his arms whenever he played kicked ball. With hands up stretched, arms wide, and a smile etching across his face, he positioned himself underneath the widening circular shadow headed towards the earth. With a thump indicating the contact of the ball to his chest, Ashley locked his arms together in what can only be described as a bear hug. Three outs and the teams change position. That is certainly one way to catch and hold, I thought.
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