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MONTAGE FALL 2008 STAFF EDITORIAL OFFICERS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Jeff Brandt PROSE EDITOR: Kevin Smith ASSISTANT: Justin Taylor POETRY EDITOR: Rafael Ibay ASSISTANT: Alanna Hickey LAYOUT EDITOR: Henry Del Rosario ASSISTANT: Brittany Serenbetz WEB EDITOR: Kelley Christensen ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS TREASURER: Sarah Phillips ADVERTISING & EVENTS COORDINA COORDINATOR: Jen Denne SECRETARY: Chris Magiet EDITORIAL STAFF Jenele Anderson, Derek Beigh, Lizzie Blaine, Mathieu Brown, Maggie Carrigan, Sarah Cason, Megan Cavitt, Sunanna Chand, Eli Chen, Kelley Christensen, Jason Cruz, Henry Del Rosario, Jen Denne, Chelsea Fiddyment, Jeff Girten, Sarah Glover, Sarah Gorr, Ethan Graham, Ellen Guirl, Stacy Haynes, Jacob Heppner, Ann Holland, Kevin Hsia, Sarah Hyon, Samantha Imburgia, Shannon Jilek, Candace Johnson, Kate Kinsella, Dan Klen, Andrew Krok, Paige Krzysko, Miles Lincoln, Tim Lo, Chris Magiet, Lauren Mangurten, Adam Mann, Mary McCormack, Hossain Mesbah, Katie O’Brian, Mary O’Brien, Sarah Phillips, Ariel Robinson, Raissa Rocha, Meghan Ryan, Brittany Serenbetz, Melissa Steiner, Rachel Storm, Justin Taylor, Natalie Thompson, Brianna Walker, Kyna Xu

MONTAGE is a periodical of creative writing and visual art, edited and designed by students of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The journal’s goal is to publish the finest creative work that this school has to offer. We strive to recognize talented undergrads and to foster artistic creativity on campus. In the past, Montage focused mostly on short stories and poetry. This year, however, we want to become a more inclusive arts journal, featuring photography and more creative graphic design. We have adopted this magazine format to better explore those possibilities. Enjoy!


TABLE OF CON T E N T S BRIANNA WALKER

six:fifteen

2

dusting for prints.

2

Palindrome of an Imagined Day

3

BRIANNA WALKER KELLY LAXGANG

JEFF BRANDT

ONE NIGHT AT KAM’S

JEFF BRANDT

Haight Street

4 7

STACY HAYNES

Equinox

9

HENRY DEL ROSARIO

tree light

9

ANDREW KROK PRIYA GANDHI

Foresight 10

On The Thar Desert 11

PRIYA GANDHI NATALIE THOMPSON

Street Corners 12

DEREK BEIGH ANNA HOLLAND RACHEL STORM

Pearls 11

Epiphany 12

Cecil Adams Says 13

Cotacachi “Lake with a Breast” 15 DAN KLEN DAN KLEN

Passage 16 Cliffside 18


six : fifteen kick me quickly touch my lips in a criss-cross kiss

Brianna Walker

coltrane’s cocaine, kick start sick cells. strained cranium, pained cranium, coffee cult culture. kick me quickly. criss-cross kiss me, caffeine queen in a quarrel with a comforter. oh, loquatius curvacious cup. you can kick me(do it quickly) but in the new and brilliant light touch my lips in a criss-cross kiss

dusting for prints . i snatched ten jolly ranchers from ms. quinn’s desk in third grade. joey hader (cootie king) did time for the crime in the corner as i celebrated in secret blue raspberry bliss. i stole a kiss under a bittersweet streetlight late last july, then faked a family party because i’m just not that into him. four a.m: immature boys and flimsy crushes. on the phone again, we pretend the night won’t end, and that eight o’clock will bring no english test. and yes, my keys are missing once more, and no i don’t floss, cross at the light, or separate the whites (unless they’re mine). i overexaggerate, misunderstate, and speaking of words-that-aren’t-real, i confess to the occasional irregardless. so go ahead, call the (word) police. i just might plead the fifth because i know i’m guilty, and i swear i’ve changed, but i still don’t want this on my record.

2 MONTAGE


Kelly Laxgang Day imagined an ebony silhouette starlit: the painting of dreams. Light boasting art. Canvases upon canvases across black Galleries. Black across canvases upon canvasesArt boasting light. Dreams of painting the starlit silhouette ebony. An imagined day.

MONTAGE 3


ONE NIGHT AT KAM’S: JEFF BRANDT

YES, THIS STORY REALLY IS TITLED ONE NIGHT AT KAM’S, IN ALL CAPS. THAT LAST SENTENCE IS PART OF THE TITLE, AND SO IS THIS ONE. AND THIS ONE. I “Fuck this,” she says, and she stands up and kicks back and connects. The oversized highchair smacks backwards. A squeak echoes hard and clear as she skids her heel on the white quartz floor. The echo hits her in the face like a cold wet rag. She wipes her damp face with the sleeve of her undone straightjacket, but only smears the liquid, not even sure anymore if the moisture is the sweat dripping off her hands and oozing out her pores or the condensation of her yawp enveloping her at all angles. She tells herself it doesn’t matter one way or another — but that’s a lie too. She tells herself thousands of others feel the same way, but, now ripping off the shirt, she feels no consolation. She can’t win. Not at his game. “Fuck you,” she mumbles to the white walls. They don’t care. They keep closing in at a glacier’s pace. “I’m not wrong. You’re wrong.” Glaciers, she thinks. That sounds right. Glaciers plow the landscape; they flatten the valleys — crush them under unspeakable pressure. If I stay in this room, I, too, will be flattened. “I am convicted.” She sighs. “I mean, I have conviction.” This she says with her eyes to the ground. She whips out her knife again and paces. To and fro and back and forth and side-to-side. She ambles, she traverses, she storms, she lumbers. None of these walks help her think. Of course I can’t think, she thinks. She stares at the walls. I’ve learned I can’t think for myself. I’ve learned to take orders from . . . well, from him. The man with eyeglasses but no eyes peers down at her from behind the glass window set forty feet high in the west wall. He sits with his arms crossed. When he speaks, he vomits the rumbling voices of smug men. But right now he says nothing. He’s already said enough. He has no eyes. He doesn’t see. He knows. “Fuck it,” she says. She snatches a handful of hair and saws it off. She grabs thick, luxurious handful after handful and separates it from herself with sharp metal. Biting her lower lip and wincing, she convulses and shakes out the loose strands. I’m a person, she thinks. He should appreciate me not as an object for his penetration but as a person, but he won’t, and that’s why I’m going. She flips the knife in her hand and stabs down into the stone floor with the might of a Greek titan. She is as strong as any man who ever lived. The twelve inch blade rests halfway in the quartz. “This is my mark. I’ve made it, and now I’m leaving.” She turns her back to him and walks toward the door — the door that has always been unlocked but she never thought she would need to use. She thought she could live within the rules of the room. One foot away from leaving, the door swings open for her. She 4 MONTAGE


furrows her brow, combs through her downy and uneven hair. Turns back, tilts her chin up. Her head is a camera, her eyes lenses. She tilts up, pans right, and zooms in on his face. He smiles. His colorless lips are horizontal, expressionless, not different than before when he was not smiling, but he is smiling nonetheless. Nonetheless he smiles at her knowingly. She sees this and realizes she will not win by leaving. At least not in his mind. In his mind he has won by making her want to leave. He thinks her leaving proves what he knows: she is not fit to meddle in man’s work; she’s leaving the office to go back home to cook his food in the kitchen and iron his collared shirts and slacks in the laundry room. “You’re wrong,” she says to him. Her eyes lock on his lack of eyes and she says: “I haven’t lost your game. I’ve quit yours to start my own. This room, this fucking room, this clean white room where both silence and sound deafens me, this room is a glacier, and it will melt someday.” His grin spreads wider without him even moving his lips. “You don’t see and you don’t think. You only know.” She sees her own reflection in his glasses. “I’m done with your knowledge. Finished. I will never know because I think, and I think that is the only right way.” He knows she is wrong. “I think that’s right,” she says, “but I’ll never know. And I never intend to know. I’ll leave knowing to you.” He doesn’t even blink. How can he? He doesn’t have eyes. II “Mmmm,” says the driver. A cloud of smoke swirls around him. He wears a brown leather jacket, strategically torn jeans, and aviator sunglasses rimmed with gold frames. In the driver seat of his car, navigating the snaky country highway, he is an ethereal being. He is a cherub in the heavens, no less than two thousand meters above ground. He’d like to think he feels that good. He rubs the frayed right knee of his jeans. It feels good, like money. He loves himself. “Mmm.” “What are you ‘mmming’ about?” says his friend in the front passenger seat. “You act like you’re eating when you smoke.” “Mmm,” says the driver, who takes another hearty drag, looks right, and blows it all in his friend’s face. “I’m sorry, bra. Parliaments are delicious.” “That so? I gotta disagree with you there, mein Freund. I think they smell like shit. Like dirt, actually. Like burnt dirt, or something.” “Burnt dirt?” “Yeah, I think so.” “You can’t burn dirt,” says the driver. “Can you?” “Well,” says his friend. “I don’t really know. Maybe you can. Probably not, though. What I mean is it has a smell that reminds me of dirt but also of burnt stuff.” “What kinda burnt stuff?” “I dunno. Just the usual kind of burnt stuff. Leaves, paper, chemicals.” “Yeah, well, all of those things are in all cigarettes.” “Shit,” says the passenger. He scratches his head, leans back in his seat. “I guess that’s true. Well I guess Parliaments just smell earthy, like a rotting compost heap. But also, you know, has the usual cigarette smoke smell, too.” “Then why didn’t you just say that?” “Dude,” says the passenger. “What?” says the driver. “You just missed the turn. Pay attention to the road. Quit looking at me.” “I’m sorry,” says the driver. He steers the car left, into a long gravel driveway. He glances back at the road, reverses, and shoots forward back toward the turn. His cigarette is only half-smoked, and he feels good. “I like to look at people when I talk to them. My career counselor told me looking at people when they talk shows more interest and proves that I’m paying attention to what they’re saying.” “Fuck your career counselor. You’re driving.” “Fine, fine,” he says. He doesn’t want to argue. He wants to get to the camp site, pop open a longneck and smoke Parliaments by the fireside. Wants a crack at the leggy bleach blonde with an attitude. He’s heard a lot of stories about her. He heard the other day that she got a tongue piercing, and he wonders if she knows how to use it. She’s a friend of a friend, and he knows she’ll be there. She’s been cheeky with him in the past, very quick to belittle him in a playful kind of way. He’d tease her about being blonde; she’d tease him about his small hands, his little baby bear paws, and say that his small hands indicate his smallness in other places. They’d both laugh.

MONTAGE 5


I’ll prove her wrong tonight, he assures himself. If not tonight, then at some point this weekend. I don’t just think it. I know it. I’m fuckin Super Fly. I’m the Fonz. I’m James Bond, and I’m about to conduct a spy mission on her naked body, and I’ll report back with confidential information and top-secret photos for MI6. For a moment, he imagines himself a few hours in the future after the prolonged bout of rough, earthshaking sex. He’ll light up a cig under the heavens. Nothing between him and the Almighty but a wisp of smoke and space. No dull gray skyscrapers blocking his view. No parents to distract him, yipping at him to at least do some chores if he’s going to live in their house. He’ll point with his left hand to the shooting stars, his right hand caressing her shoulder, the moving down her side and over her breast. He’ll time it just right so that he blows a smoke ring just as he passes over her nipple. His aspirations almost always involve smoking. III “Are you in your own little world over there?” says the passenger. He rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “You just missed the turn. Again. How can you miss the same turn twice? Right after I pointed it out, even?” “My bad, broseph,” says the driver. “I’m thinking about how fuckin sweet it’s gonna be tonight. Shit’s gonna be so cash.” He yanks the wheel counter-clockwise and angles into another rocky driveway. A breeze picks up outside and a sheet of dust from the driveway coats the car. Damn these farmers, he thinks. Why can’t they pave— “That’s enough,” says the passenger. “Do you realize how cliché you are?” “What? Where’d that come from? And what the fuck’s that supposed to mean?” The driver puts the car in park and looks at the passenger, startled and googly-eyed. “That’s so typical of you, man. We’re driving somewhere and all you can think about is how tonight will end up with you and that girl. You’re objectifying her in your mind to the point where she isn’t a person, but a head of blonde hair, a pierced tongue, a pair of tits, and a vagina.” “Whoa. How’d you know that?” “Let’s cut the bullshit,” says the passenger. “We’re not real people.” “In what sense?” “In the sense that we’re two characters in a short story. And you’re a very typical one.” “And how do you figure that?” “Well, we could probably start with the beginning of our scene. You’re smoking and you felt the need to call out the name brand — PARLIAMENTS — like we’re in an advertisement instead of a piece of literature. Do you know what percent of all college students’ writing have cigarette smoking in them?” “No. You tell me.” “I haven’t a fucking clue, but it’s higher than it ought to be.” A good ol’ boy wearing a trucker hat, a flannel shirt, and steel-toed boots taps on the car window with yellowed fingernails. The driver rolls it down and slaps on an ‘everything’s OK’ pseudo-smile. “Can I help you fellas? I seen you been out here in my driveway fer bout five minutes’n I figured maybe I oughta offer you some help, if you needed some. Need some directions?” “I apologize, sir,” says the driver. “My friend and I were just . . . um . . . discussing whether I was supposed to turn at the last stop sign or keep going straight down this road.” “He’s full of shit,” says the passenger. “We were discussing why he sucks as a character in this story.”

“He’ll light up a cig under the heavens. Nothing between him and the Almighty but a wisp of smoke and space.” “Shut up man,” says the driver. “You’re ruining the realism and believability we had going there. I was letting the narrator describe my desire to get with this one chick, but hinting that I had some kind of deeper yearning with the whole talk of ‘getting close to the Almighty.’ I was starting off as a very shallow fratboy-esque character who calls his friends ‘bra’ and ‘broseph’ and thinks more with his penis than his brain, but was going to build on that with some three-dimensionality and complexity later on, in the process building sympathy for me with the reading audience. Looks like you fucked all that up, didn’t you, asshole?” The driver pauses for a moment, looks around.

6 MONTAGE


haight street Jeff Brandt

“Hey, where’d the farmer guy go?” he asks. “He was about to charm us with his regional accent and the lively glint in his ancient gray-blue eyes. He was going to introduce a major plot point in this story by giving us a piece of country wisdom that ends up resonating in the end. He’s the salt-of-the-earth bumpkin/sage.” “He disappeared because he’s not important in this story anymore,” says the passenger. “I shattered the illusion for the readers and gave the story a metafictional self-awareness that kind of demands we focus on our conversation and not him.” “Yes you did. And that’s no fun.” “In fact all our physical surroundings disappeared, including our bodies, and it’s just you and me talking to each other in a vacuum outside of space and time.” “How’d that happen?” “I dunno. I guess the author decided to experiment with the form of the short story.” “There’s only so much room for experimentation, man. There are rules, and you have to learn them before you break them, and you definitely can’t break them all at the same time because that shows you don’t know them. Like, I bet right now people are getting confused about which one of us is which because number one, we don’t have real names, and number two, the narrator is not even referring to us as ‘the driver’ and ‘the passenger’ anymore. “Hey you up there writing! Quit that shit! We need some more conflict to progress the story arc. Let’s go back to where we were and cut this part in revision. I know I was sure as hell looking forward to meeting up with the bleach blonde and either fucking her and feeling empty, trying to get with her and failing miserably and feeling empty, or shying away from even talking to her and revealing myself to be a big wimp after all the pats on the back I gave myself about being a badass.” “And feeling empty, right?” “Right. Emptiness is a pretty popular theme in contemporary fiction, you know. Modernity is like th—” STOP USING OVERGENERALIZING TERMS LIKE “MODERNITY.” EVERY CENTURY FELT MODERN TO THE PEOPLE WHO LIVED IN IT. ALSO, I DON’T THINK WE SHOULD AUTOMATICALLY ASSUME THAT ALL STORIES NEED TO ARC. THIS IS FICTION AFTER ALL. IT’S NOT REALITY. IT’S ART. AND IF I WANTED IT TO CONVEY PURE REALITY, THEN PURE REALITY WOULD SUFFICE, AND I WOULD NOT HAVE TO WRITE STORIES ABOUT EVENTS THAT NEVER HAPPENED. I THINK FICTION SHOULD BE WHATEVER IT WANTS TO BE AND THERE SHOULD BE, IN ESSENCE, NO RULES. “Who’s that talking?” MONTAGE 7


“That’s the author. Or is it the narrator? I can’t really tell.” EVERYTHING IN THIS WHOLE STORY IS THE AUTHOR. “Touché.” “This is the driver speaking. I still think it’s just unreliable narration. Except from a third person perspective. Isn’t unreliable narration traditionally reserved for first person stories? You’re not supposed to—” I’M TIRED OF TRYING TO FIT A CERTAIN MOLD AND DOING WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO. I WANT TO WRITE WITHOUT BOUNDARIES OF TRADITION. “Well that’s too fuckin bad for you. You can’t escape tradition. There’s simply no room for people like you in mainstream media. Maybe you’ll get pieces published here and there, win some obscure awards in fruity places like France, get a novel printed by an experimental press that will go under in 10 years or less. But you’ll never make a living from writing. Not unless you want to live in a twostory stapled-together cardboard box.” FINE WITH ME. I’M LEAVING THE ROOM WITH MUNDANE WHITE WALLS AND BUILDING MY OWN. I REFUSE TO BE CRUSHED WITH RULES. I WILL NOT BE FLATTENED BY THE BANE OF TRYING TO WRITE CREATIVELY BY SOMEONE ELSE’S STANDARDS. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT ANYONE CAN KNOW THE RIGHT WAY TO WRITE; ONE CAN ONLY THINK OF A WAY THAT INTERESTS HIM OR HER. IT’S EASY TO MAKE FUN OF UNCHALLENGING STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE’S DRUNKEN ADVENTURES AT CAMPUS BARS, BUT IN A WAY, ANY STORY THAT POSES NO CHALLENGE TO THE “RULES” AND NEVER EXPERIMENTS MIGHT AS WELL BE ABOUT DRINKING AT KAM’S. “Did he just reference Part I and the title?” “I’m pretty sure he just did. Maybe this isn’t the author but that girl character speaking.” “I was wondering when that was going to get brought up again. I wasn’t sure if the author was going to make it into some kind of frame story where that girl character comes back or not. Regardless, I’d say the guy writing this is just being difficult for the sake of being difficult. And anyway, how can anyone know if the writing is good if there are no standards? There has to be a way to measure goodness.” OBJECTIVITY IS A MYTH. NO WRITING IS INHERENTLY GOOD OR BAD UNTIL SOMEONE INTERPRETS IT. IT’S UP TO THE READER TO DECIDE WHETHER AN AUTHOR’S WRITING DOES OR DOESN’T “WORK” AND WHAT IT MEANS. “OK . . . So from now on you’re just going to write stories about stories?” NO, NOT ALWAYS. MAYBE NEVER AGAIN. “I guess I can deal with that. So can we go back to the plot of Part II and let me meet up with the blonde and then contemplate the universe while looking at the stars and smoking my Parliaments?” NAH. MAYBE NEXT TIME. “Are you at least going to close up with some cool descriptions of me? I have nice hair and striking features. I’d be glad to describe myself in detail if the narrator wants to take a nap. I mean, you can’t just end the story like this. You need an ending that feels believable in the context of the story. It can’t be too abrupt, and should close the story down somewhat while remaining sort of vague, leaving an open interpretation for readers to continue the story in their heads even though there are no more words on the page. You really can’t end a story with this much pure dialogue.” OH YEAH? I THINK I CAN. “Prove it, you subversive bastard.” OK.

8 MONTAGE


Equinox Stacy Haynes

Shaving blades of grass from their home in the ground, I cradle the remnants of summer in my hands. Red flares fire from the trees without a sound; leaves drop in the air like hourglass sand. Changing scenery, mood ring from Persephone. Green foliage begins to die and bleed, now red depletes the blushing color from my cheek as November sends the sleepy sun to bed. But it will always wake up, yawning life into flower buds and melting icicles. The sun’s gleaming rays become a surgeon’s knife that removes the wound of frost from bicycles. Summer leaves die and new ones grow in place. The world runs in circles, no end to the race.

tree light Henry Del Rosario MONTAGE 9


Some days, I sit and wonder what it would be like to be a box. Not any old box, but one that traverses the country, end to end, carrying something undoubtedly important not to you or me, but to someone. Sure, the box begins life unassumingly, a corrugated caricature of those before it, edges perfectly aligned, half a foot of protective tape to keep the intended items in, the unwanted things out. This box is white, but others may be the old brown archetype of what everyone thinks a box looks like. Being able to see the country, Oregon to Florida, forests reaching for the sky, fields stretching from sunrise to sunset, baseball parks and high school football stadiums, traveling past traffic jams, children on their way to the playground, fathers going out for a gallon of milk, the twentysomething with a pissed off cigarette between his lips. But the traveling gets old and it wears on the box, waiting in depot after depot to find out where it goes next. Stacked amongst the other boxes, some white, some brown, all with that same sense of adventure. Every box looking for their piece of the pie, their destination, where they get to open up and show the world their treasures. Some are lost along the way, addresses scribbled in pencil, fading away in the dim fluorescence of a warehouse. Some are lost to poor handling, those fragile lives destroyed by a twentysomething with a pissed off cigarette between his lips. This is where a box is no longer a box, but a bent and broken example of what can happen to even the strongest sides. Many boxes are lucky to reach their destinations, with only the dents and dings of experience to mar their good looks. Upon arrival, the box is opened, the half a foot of protective tape peeled back, the pearls removed, and the box forgotten. Flattened out and recycled, one box to die to become another box, maybe white, maybe brown.

10 MONTAGE

Foresight

Andrew Krok


Pearls

Priya

Gandhi

MONTAGE 11

on the Thar Desert


Street Corners

Natalie Thompson

The oak of the trees with its depleting leaves has perched birds waiting to offend pedestrians.

Epiphany Derek Beigh

Monotony. Contemplation. Interruption– Exaltation! Eervescence! Possibility! Enlightenment? Metamorphosis? Realization: Repetition. Disappointment . . . Reality.

12 MONTAGE


Cecil Adams Says

Ann Holland

Shit. Shit Goddamn. Before she’s even opened her eyes. Shit Goddamn. What the fuck. She’s awake but she makes no move to acknowledge it. Until finally she rolls over onto—is it a bed? No, a floor and gets up, gripping the edge of a table for support. The palm of her hand is still raw from sleep and the wood cuts into it with a sore pressure like wriggling a loose tooth, like picking at a shredded thumb cuticle. What color was she wearing last night? Green? No, no. Why the hell can’t she remember? Probably . . . there. In a heap across the room. She struggles and stumbles over the man she’d been sleeping next to; the bastard had cocooned himself in all the blankets. It’s not even a proper living room. The couch is a deflated futon; the table old, secondhand, actually missing a leg and sloping at a steep diagonal to meet sparse and gritty carpeting. Maybe it used to be white, or one of those mild shades of beige or cream. Her head cocks, her mind wanders. Her shirt (blue) dangles from a fingertip. Shaking out of her reverie she slips on her top and looks down. Flexing her hand she notes a pinkish indent from the table running in a line across her palm. The focus shifts a little higher. There’s something . . . too much jiggle. “My bra,” she whispers, scanning the room over again. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. Like a mantra she curses again and again in her head, even going so far as to mouth the words (her teeth grazing her bottom lip with each silent F a sensual sight, to be sure) as she picks her way back across the room. Back to that guy, between the furniture, passed out with the cup of a black bra draped over one heel and the strap tangled around the ankle. With a clear flash of nipple, she bends to try and unwind it from his foot without disturbing it. He shifts and she freezes, mouth just slightly agape in a gorgeous little O, then pulls it the rest of the way up. The lacy strap hangs in the crook of her arm like a handbag. Tiptoeing over grubby mounds and empty lighters, she’s almost made it to the door when, “Hey, baby, leaving so soon?” “It’s Lily,” she says and slams the door. So then

It’s too early for there to be any color in the stairwell; everything’s tinged gray, including her face. She slumps against the door, slouching her shoulders and dropping her head back. Instantly she flinches a bit as her bare skin grazes the door’s cold exterior. Sucking in an exaggerated breath, she rummages in the back pocket of her jeans, feeling for the familiar box. Nudging out a little paper cylinder, she finally rests the cigarette between the lips of a mouth which can only be described as exquisite, and lights it with a dollar store lighter whose orange flame doubly serves to add depth and shadow to the outlines of her lips, chin, and jaw. The sharp intake of breath and the rising curve of smoke against her skin are enough to weaken anyone’s knees, and the slow, drawn release would drive that weak-kneed personage to distraction. The faded rim of lipstick framing her mouth leaves its mark around the filter, and I am knocked flat.  How do you identify an authentic snuff film? Maybe it’s more pertinent to ask how to obtain one first. With nothing in hand there is no determining of “real” or “fake” anyway. How easily is an audience fooled? And how many have seen blood a sufficient amount of times to be able to pick up, with expertise, on the most minute details that may indicate actual bloodshed? • Does a stab wound gush or leak? • What precise shade of blue flushes a strangled victim? • At what velocity will blood release itself if an artery is hit? Etc, etc. And from these questions spring specifics: • Where on the body was the victim stabbed? • How were they strangled? Rope, bare hands, a belt? • How tight was the device pulled? • What punctured the artery? • At what angle did it enter? Not to mention various more exotic concoctions for death.  The walk back to her apartment isn’t as long as it sometimes

MONTAGE 13


is. The only people out at this hour look as though they’ve melted, her numb, half-drunken counterparts ejected out of bars and strange apartments too early for hospitality. Lily is just as melted as the rest of them, hair matted to one side and her jeans starting to bag around her ass. The sidewalks are cracked and her heels catch in the chinks from time to time so that she stumbles forward, almost but not quite running herself into the ground. Straight five blocks, a left onto a side street. Her head is bowed and her pace slows; her legs are sore. It’s too chilly for her bare arms so she crosses them in front of her. Few people pass, and those that do keep their eyes fixed on the ground (and yet — furtive glances from the corners of eyes and the slight tilting of heads show that she is not exactly going unnoticed. Because even saggy-jeaned her butt has a certain roundness to it, and her slow gait has a hip swing that cannot be unintentional) ignoring like Lily the smell of garbage that occasionally floats up from iron colored gutters. Everything else looks like stone in this light: the sky, the sidewalk, the nape of her neck (exposed as a slight breeze whisks hair out of the way), a crushed beer can, a sheaf of paper napkins scattered by the same slight breeze. And as this stony façade is just fading with the changing light, Lily arrives home: shabby, brown building, first floor. No patio, no sliding glass doors, no round charcoal grill or wicker chairs. Her stride lengthens at the last stretch in anticipation maybe of being inside, maybe of being home. So then She opens the door, letting it close behind her and simply dropping her keys in the entryway. She pulls off her jeans and sinks on the couch in dirty underwear and shirt, too tired to look, but is there Excedrin in the cabinet? Maybe. The couch is somehow fakedamask fancy, like something a duchess would have once lounged on. Or more likely, a model posing for a painting, peering coyly over her silken shoulder at the artist- nude, curved, and white. Still it remains modern, a poor reproduction: pink, stiff, frayed, the sheen in the upholstery an accomplishment of its cheapness. Here Lily drops: duchess, muse, as pinkly frayed and as modernly reproduced as her choice of furniture. And as its backdrop, a bookcase intermittently filled not with books, but with various cheap looking videos and a random assortment of knick knacks that look as though they have nowhere else to go. After ten minutes of blank staring at the broken TV, Lily gets up, running her fingertips along various surfaces from the living room to the bathroom, and leans over close to the mirror. She begins to paw at her faults, like any girl. She picks at a flap of dried skin on her bottom lip, God I really need to start using more chap stick and oh, fuck, I forgot the Excedrin, then pulls away from the mirror and stands clueless in front of the medicine cabinet that hangs over the toilet. She sweeps her hands through moisturizer, a large, purple box of Equate tampons, and knocks

14 MONTAGE

her toothbrush to the floor, then bangs open and closed several drawers. To the bedroom where there is no sign of it on the nightstand, just empty boxes of Marlboro 27’s and a glass of dead water. Fuckf uckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck, she sinks on the bed and gives up. “Damn,” quiet, spoken to no one.  Where, then, if the first obstacle of seeing something truly authentic is actually finding it, do you start your snuff film search? “The internet,” the informed reader will surely scoff. And yes, the internet may indeed be a viable source for searching out pixels of certain blood and lust, but there is always the bother of the reliable source. Forays into early online research in junior high were always accompanied by speeches on using the internet responsibly. The computer lab would be reserved for the class period, and a teacher or librarian would stand at the front, lecturing to rows of bored students seated in front of outdated PCs trying to play computer games without getting caught. “Anyone can put anything up online, so you should always double-check your information,” they’d say. “Look for dot-gov’s and dot-edu’s.” But to the best of my knowledge, no websites ending in respectable dot-anythings would ever contain a snuff film. The sheer improbability of a government funded website airing anything of erotic value, even for educational purposes (“FACT FROM FICTION IN PORNOGRAPHY”) is an idea on level with unicorns, the Loch Ness monster, and other like mythical creatures. Maybe part of the fun is that uncertainty. The imbalance of power caused by a lie, the authority and control that is established on one end at the expense of another, has always had pornographic appeal, but for the discerning audience, reality is imperative to enjoyment. After all, any man or woman at the brink of the pornographic snuff film’s curious and particular orgasm deserves to know that their release of body fluid will be matched by a reddened climax of equal honesty.  Lily is used to the fascination of strangers, men and women both, while grocery shopping and walking home, at movies and restaurants and on various tired errands. She pretends not to notice, as do they. It’s part of a dance she plays with the public, flaunting herself almost discreetly, and then letting them have it all when the moment is right. This afternoon she roams the internet, all wholly disreputable sites, and smokes in bed, looking for honest blood lust. So then


She leaves only once, to buy a few packs of cigarettes from the convenience store on the corner. The attendant, whose nametag says Bill, knows her well enough to call her by name and have her cigarettes ready at the grubby register before she’s even reached it. “Hey, Lily, how are you?” “Fine, thanks.” She clutches the pack like they’ll be lost if she doesn’t keep a tight enough hold on them, receives her change (a few pennies), and leaves. Back down the block (and more furtive glances from passersby: glide, pirouette, leap, and bow), back to the inside, back out of sight. So then She hasn’t cleaned up around the place for weeks, and a layer of dust lays undisturbed over the coffee table and its scattered residents. She leans over to pick some of it up, to do something with it, but the phone rings, startles her, what the fuck do they want? want Calls like this are not uncommon. The bookshelf behind her couch displays a collection of low budget pornographies

Cotacachi “Lake with a Breast”

Rachel Storm

featuring her body on the cover in all variety of poses, the photography cheap, breasts and thighs inexpertly airbrushed (though I can attest to the fact that the airbrushing is entirely unnecessary), and titles splashed over Lily and her fellow actors’ nude bodies in bold letters. “Busty Cops 2.” “Satanic Sickies.” “Nashville Pussy.” And phone calls (received between trying to clean and searching for an opportunity) come every few weeks with an offer to appear in yet another. She always agrees, and they keep calling. Lily’s appeal is universal. Soccer moms and frat boys alike have gawked, have probably rented one of her videos. With a darker tan and bigger tits she could be the next Jenna Jameson, fucking for millions of dollars on the screens of suburbia’s TVs. The phone rings. —“Tuesday? That should be okay. Can I get back to you though? I want to make sure.” Lily hangs up the phone, still looking for an opportunity, for a knife, for a rope, for a camera, or a way to be remembered, not seeing that the first step has already been taken. That she’s already been found.

MONTAGE 15


 The snuff film, as defined by the website www. urbandictionary.com, is as follows: urbandictionary.com 1. A tape where the planned killing or murder of someone is recorded. 2. A film where the actual killing, “snuffing” of the main actor is recorded. And the various definitions continue on down the page, each refuting the other. Some self-proclaimed experts on this very same website debate whether or not a snuff film has to be made for the enjoyment of its viewer, but for our purposes, the premeditated murder of a victim on film will suffice. Supposedly, snuff films are a myth, an urban legend. An authentic one has never been found, just clever fakes and almosts: Take, for example, Myra Hindley, who in 1963 lost a glove. She pulled up in a borrowed van next to Pauline Reade who was walking down the street and asked for her help. Pauline was sixteen. Her favorite songs (that year) were “Baby It’s You” by the Beatles and “The Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto. Myra offered pop records as an incentive and Pauline got in the van. That year and all the way into 1967 children in the industrial English city of Manchester began to disappear. They ended up in the surrounding moors between Lancashire and Yorkshire counties buried in various shallow graves. Ian Brady, Myra’s lover, had actually chosen Pauline (their very first victim) and committed the physical murder. Myra had merely assisted. After Pauline, they again lured someone to a different van (but this time Ian called him over, convinced him to get in): a little boy. John Kilbride was raped and then thrust into a shallow grave, much like Pauline had been. But it is the pair’s fourth victim, Lesley Anne Downey, who concerns me the most. It is curious that while Ian was the more active participant of the two, Myra is the infamous figure. She is the source of all detailed information surrounding the murders, having confessed some twenty years later. Of Lesley Anne, on nearly seventeen hours of taped confession, Myra said, “She went with us like a lamb to the slaughter.” Apart from Myra’s personal recollections, there remains one other piece of lasting evidence. Another tape. Lesley Anne was abducted at a Christmas fair. Ian Brady took nude pictures of the ten year old, eventually moving on to rape and torture. The existing audio tape of Lesley Anne records her screams and pleadings. At one point she calls out for her mother, and in her terror she screams over and over again that she is sorry, she is sorry (though for what, I cannot say). Playing in the background as an undertone to her suffering is “Little Drummer Boy.” But curiously enough, the tape ends before any experienced listener could discern something of a last breath. Lesley Anne

16 MONTAGE

Passage Dan Klen

“Playing in the background as an undertone to her suffering is ‘Little Drummer Boy.’ ”


came close to a snuff cassette. And even though the endeavor didn’t succeed, even though Lesley Anne’s death isn’t set in historical stone on a modern reviewing device, it is still Lesley Anne Downey and Myra Hindley who are remembered, who are recognized. When the Smiths wrote a song entitled “Suffer Little Children” about the moors murders, it is Hindley who the song centers on, not Brady, and once again Myra’s story is preserved on tape. This physical and technological preservation is for both the deciding factor of their notability.  Her need to be seen has escalated. My attentions are no longer enough. Most of her time is devoted to her search for permanence and infamy, for an ultimate sense of intimacy with the void, the faceless public. Her smoking habit has worsened, is constant. One pack a day, two packs a day, the empty boxes littering the unkempt apartment and filling her bedroom’s wastebasket. It shouldn’t be so difficult. “Goddamnit.” She keeps looking and as the light gets dimmer, she squints more and more (the cigarettes will cause wrinkles, the squinting will degenerate her eyesight. That is, if she ever gets there, which she is determined not to do, to have control over such things). So then She emerges at night and slides through the door, her top green and low-cut. The world and I continue to stare. Even haggard with frustration she is exquisite. She has lost weight. Her cheeks are thinner, her bone structure more apparent than it once was. She scoops up her hair and her back muscles shift beneath the skin as she does so. When lighting her cigarette she is careless and offhanded. Her butt has lost some of its roundness, and her collarbones press gently against her skin creating lovely, shallow little shelves. The only thing that has not shifted and changed over the last few weeks is her mouth, which is still as sweet as it ever was. Her lips remain full, although never to the point of vulgarity, but there is a tense element to their shape now. She feels, without question, the necessity to go out and be seen. She chooses her destination arbitrarily. Upon arriving, she leans over the bar, arches her back just a bit, and crosses her arms on its surface, still squinting from habit. She doesn’t go unnoticed for long, and I can see the bartender’s eyes drift to the tits pushing over her top, tan lines showing just slightly. “What can I get you, sweetie?” “A Corona.” So then She wakes up, disoriented. She sits up, and her back cracks on the way. Someone in the apartment next door is playing music a little too loudly and it drifts through the walls, the lyrics just catching at her ear (“Edward, see those alluring lights . . .

Tonight will be your very last night…”). I’m patiently waiting outside, but I can feel from here her dissatisfaction. This is no longer what she wants; this is not enough. She scans the room for her possessions — God this headache — and rubs her forehead. He never wakes, never notices her leave. Back outside again into the stony early morning light, back to her long walk home.  We met for the first time at a party, but already I knew who she was. I’d been tipped off after months of hanging on his coattails, waiting for something to rub off on me. This was his treat, my moment, and I was guided to this place in order to make an appearance and find things out. When I got there she was already drunk, the center of carnal attention. Men stared over their drinks and tried to get up the courage to go over and chat her up, but she was nearly impossible. Easy but unattainable, a sexual conundrum. She was drinking what I assumed was a vodka on the rocks, a drink so clear I could see the outline of her fingers and the soft pinkish shading of the skin, slightly disfigured by the ice clinking around and melting slowly to the heat and rhythm of her hand. She looked frazzled, or maybe just slightly off. Her hair was messy like she’d been screwing around in the bedroom only minutes before, and I could see why she’d been chosen. Every stare made her eyes glow a little brighter; the signs of her knowing were subtle. She left with someone, a completely indistinguishable man, chosen not because of his outstanding physical form or winning personality, but because he happened to be there when she decided what she wanted.  There is a very elementary purpose and principle behind the snuff film for both its participant (willing or unwilling) and its potential viewer. The film’s creator does not play such an important role, despite his or her visions of grandeur, of playing God. The private snuff film is still legitimate, but it is something else altogether from one that is meant to be shared. That intention alone adds weight to its existence and presses it into the world’s fabric. The process is fascinating, the blood spilling from skin, the screaming and cutting away of flesh. It is impossible to look away. But it’s undeniable that the focus in all of this is the receiver of pain, not the inflictor. The creator could be a shadow, but the victim must be fleshy and real and captivating (and she always is). It is not the act of killing that makes the lasting impression, but the act of dying. It is this one moment shared between the ragged, warm corpse and the gasping audience that is most intimate thing possible. It is the best way to be revealed and shared to any public, no matter how small and questionable it may be. That minute, secret public is the most privileged, and the victim, ravaged and spread open in every way, has assured

MONTAGE 17


permanence for herself. Lily is searching for permanence, and it is this fact, and this fact alone that draws me to her. I too am waiting for her opportunity.  She walks in late, swinging open the door of Freddie’s like this is it. It’s a Tuesday night but it’s more crowded than you’d ’ ’d think. She makes barely a stir when she enters, so she shoots a coy glance at some blonde, country club college kid with a “What’s wrong, baby? Don’t you like what you see?” expression on her face. Begging him to pay attention. She loses interest, switches focus back to the issue at hand and scans the room for him, hoping she’ll know when she sees. He glances in my direction and nods his approval, and then she sees him. She focuses on his upright figure at a table near the back, and walks straight over with not a flicker on her stone face. She sits down and pulls out her cigarettes. He is chivalrous, almost overly so, and before Lily has even gotten a chance to think about doing it herself, he lights the smoke for her, catching a good look at her in the flame. He’s even ordered her a drink, though late as she is it’s probably stale and watery by now. His occupation with her is immediate, as though the indistinctness of her features in between the smoke and dim lighting are a puzzle. He tries to figure her out, but things keep

18 MONTAGE

drifting in his way, veiling her cheeks, her eyes, her neck, and the thumps of bass and conversation (the heartbeat of distracted drunks) drown out her voice entirely. She is the right one, and it’s all over his face. He can see it in her: the desire, the perfection, the scent she’s giving off. So then She looks carefully in the mirror, though this afternoon it’s more of an assessment than a vanity. In the morning she had finally opened her blinds, and by the afternoon the sun is so invasive that it ousts every flaw of the apartment, of her face. The mirror seems sharper somehow, and her refection in it flat like paper. The dust, excited to have an opportunity to make itself known, flaunts its gray motes on every surface and floats into bars of light coming through the window. She checks the calendar just to make sure she knows when they’re meeting again, glad to finally have some kind of purpose. It’s, oh shit, Wednesday and she has nothing ready so she goes back to making sure everything is perfect. He’s coming to her place this time, and there’s something different about him from all the others — she can tell. It’s in the way he looks at her, his demeanor, something that shows he’s going to give her what she wants. He closes in on her door like a vulture, and I can feel how anxious she is behind those walls. She breathes heavily then

Cliffside Dan Klen


has to sit down to calm her nerves. When he knocks she jumps and flies to the door. Her nerves excite him; the crack between them is almost palpable when she answers. He stands close to her and then follows her in. I am shut out.  Tonight has been set aside for revealing his true purposes to Lily. The introduction of this news is delicate business, but he has never found someone so promising. Finding out the willingness of the victim can only be done by intuition. The propositionist must feel her out, lean in close to hear her heartbeat. He must then bring his mouth to her ear and thus softly graze it with a smooth whisper of just the right words. Nothing else will do. And from her reaction to this he can see if she is ready. If she stiffens but doesn’t panic, if she leans further in, the way her lips move, the exact rate of her breathing, the tilt of her head . . . the minute details are the most telling, and any one factor that is thrown off balance can stop the endeavor altogether. Once he has assessed the situation, he will politely rise from the couch and bow an apologetic departure to the door. He defers her expressions of concern and she is worried that she has done something wrong. It quickly goes from an intimate setting to a formal one. He will duck out the door graciously and stop on a corner a block or two away and begin making the arrangements in his head  Lily crosses her arms in front of her and stares at the door, waiting for him to come back. She’s sure there’s something she’s missed. She sits back down on the couch and stares blankly at the floor. Lost her chance. What just happened? She hears his whisper again, closes her eyes and imagines the words flooding back over her. “It will be however you want— “To be penetrated absolutely— “And your skin will break— She shivers and pulls a blanket up over her shoulders, feels the opportunity slip out of her hands. She almost physically crumbles on the spot and can still feel his breath in her ear, keeps replaying the offer over and over in her mind. She has done something wrong. She goes into her bedroom and throwing the blanket on the floor, begins to get undressed. She pulls her shirt smoothly over her head and as her nipples harden, goose bumps spread over her arms and chest and stomach. She unbuttons her jeans and crawls between the wrinkled sheets in her underwear, unable to fall asleep for hours. When she finally does manage it, she moans with wet dreams and disappointment.

when everything is ready . . .  The phones rings; Lily jumps to it. So then There is an extra bounce in her step. There is a certainty in her movements that has been missing. She grins and lights a cigarette, moves on her way. Her shoulders are thrown back and all traces of fear and worry are gone. She is still too thin, but her face has the fullness of satisfaction: wide smile, coy eyes. She must come now, he has told her, and so she obeys.  When she arrives, he’s sitting in a chair in the corner of a wide basement room; she stands in the center. The lighting is dim; her props are nothing but a chair and a small bed just next to where she is standing. She performs a striptease she has done a thousand times, pulling this then that off to reveal one by one another piece of her flesh. Smooth thighs, the V of her cunt thinly covered by lace, the light press of her hipbones against the skin. Her stomach is flat but not muscular, and when her arms reach above her head to remove her shirt (black), her ribs slightly ripple through, and then disappear again as the skin’s strain is released. She leaves her underwear on, bra and underwear both minimal and lacey. This done, she sits on the edge of the bed and crosses her legs. He rises and steps toward her (my breath quickens, is gasping and uneven) with a silver kitchen knife in his right hand. The handle is black plastic and he clutches it severely, looking at Lily almost sentimentally as she bites her lip, not-quite nude on the bed. He leans over her, then pulls her up and smells her hair at the forehead. He licks her neck, all the while grazing his hands over her body. He fingers her nipple lightly, feels it harden, then caresses her stomach, down to where he slides his fingers just past the boundaries of her underwear. She stays very still, shaking just slightly, and lets him touch her. In one motion he brings up the knife, and when her eyes open wide to realize the one element missing, what should be there to secure her infamy but isn’t, he cuts her flesh, slitting her open at the waist. Her eyes are wide now, but when he drops to his knees and tongues the blood seeping slowly from her side, she makes no move to resist. Cue lights, end scene.

 The next stage in proceedings is crucial. She must wait; it must feel slow and excruciating. He will not call for days. No contact must be made while arrangements are being settled, but

MONTAGE 19


CONTRIBUTORS Derek Beigh is a creative writing major who intends to proceed to law school, provided he can’t find a steady writing gig and ends up living in a box. As a junior transfer from Kankakee Community College, he’s thrilled to finally be in a place where things like Montage exist, but is slowly realizing he’s still in college regardless. Shame, that.

Jeff Brandt is a senior in Creative Writing from Alton, Illinois, doubleminoring in English and Cinema Studies. He is Montage’s editor-in-chief and also writes film reviews and features for buzz magazine. He would like to assure you that the Montage staff picked his story and photo fair and square, in case you were wondering. the lights off.

Henry Del Rosario is

a a junior in Molecular & Cellular Biology and English. He is interested in everything humans were created to create. He is fascinated by growth. His favorite sound? The sound of a tall glass of water being gently laid down on black marble at night with

Stacy Haynes is Ann Holland is a senior a sophomore from in English and Creative in Mechanical Engineering Lexington, Kentucky Writing. She loves the way with a minor in German. currently studying World it feels to color with new, When she’s not buried by Literature. She enjoys sharp crayons, and her her school books she’s bubble tea, strobe lights, favorite book is Charlie and probably skiing, cooking, and the poetry of Pablo the Chocolate Factory. She was yearning for a glass of Neruda. She also likes going to go to the Tashi Kristallweizen or devouring speaking in various accents Station and pick up some another bar of Ritter Sport and going on late night power converters, but her chocolate. After graduation drives. In the future, she uncle made her stay back she has plans of saving the plans to go to Italy and direct a film. and clean their new droids. world through renewable energy. Priya Gandhi is a senior

Dan Klen is a freshman

in Aerospace Engineering. He is originally from Naperville, IL and his favorite band is Death Cab for Cutie. He keeps himself busy with writing and photography as much as humanly possible.

Rachel Storm is a senior

Andrew

Krok was so Kelly Laxgang is a satisfied with his senior year freshman studying as an English major that elementary education. She he decided to do it twice! has been writing poetry Hailing from, and often for about five years now returning to, the suburban and has grown to really Chicagoland area, Andrew appreciate the power of spends his spare time stuck words. She says that her in traffic, swearing and greatest inspiration and creating new-fangled rude support has come from her gestures. Despite myriad wonderful grandma and technological innovations, best friend Kevin; she can’t he’ll always insist that Mario Kart 64 is the greatest thank them enough for the interest they have shown game ever. in her work.

Natalie Thompson is a in international studies junior in the college of and transnational gender Applied Health Sciences. studies. She writes poetry, As a resident of Chicago’s flirts with photography, and Southside, she is equipped brings a feminist lens to the with quick wit and a desire buzz / the217.com. When to touch anything shiny. she isn’t exploring the She is also the fifth born aforementioned activities, of six children, one of five she can be found pulling aunties and the only one objects out of dumpsters in her family who can’t or luring the cats at the humane society into her lap. properly pronounce the word “spaghetti.” Tower. She lives in Urbana with her partner, Michael and their cat, Oskar.

Brianna

Walker is a freshman who likes drinking coffee and receiving mail. She dislikes not drinking coffee and Wednesdays. And Chemistry. She hails from Northwest Chicago. Not actual Chicago, but close enough that it should count. She has never been to the top of the Sears


THANKS and Gratitude We would like to thank all those who donated funds to Montage. Without the help of these individuals, this journal would not exist.. W We are honored to be indebted to: Richard Powers • Creative Writing Department • Student Organization Resource Fee • Jane and Dennis Brandt • Claire Billing

If you would like to help the journal continue its important work in recognizing up-andcoming literary and visual artists, please mail your check written out to “Montage” and sent to: Montage Literary Arts Journal University of Illinois Department of English 608 South Wright Street Urbana, IL 61801

SUBMIT ProsePoetryArt If you are interested in contacting us or submitting your work email us at: montagejournal@gmail.com You can also reach us at our website which has more information about us, past zines, and current news: http://www.uiuc.edu/ro/montage

Literary Arts JOURNAL MONTAGE is a Registered Student Organization of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. As such, Montage does not discriminate on the basis of the author’s race, nation of origin, sexual preference, sexual orientation, religion, age, morality, or political beliefs. We will not reject work purely on the basis of any of these criteria.


MONTAGE l i t e r a r y

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DEREK BEIGH JEFF BRANDT HENRY DEL ROSARIO PRIYA GANDHI STACY HAYNES ANN HOLLAND DAN KLEN ANDREW KROK KELLY LAXGANG RACHEL STORM NATALIE THOMPSON BRIANNA WALKER


Montage | Issue #3.2