MONTAGE A RT S
J O U R N A L
Ricardo Plaza and Joshua Leone
Poetry Editor Ricardo Plaza
Prose & Drama Editor Joshua Leone
Editorial Assistants Rose Aubrey, Shelly Chang, Jenna Kurtzweil, Vivienne Henning, Casey Mulvany, Laura Murphy, Sean Ryan, Jennifer Shi, Jesse Tamayo, Laura Tanase Faculty Advisor John Rubins
Shelly Chang, Jenna Kurtzweil, Vivienne Henning, Joshua Leone, Laura Murphy, Ricardo Plaza, Sean Ryan
“A Fabric Rugose” by Ana V. Fleming
Copyright © 2017 Montage Arts Journal. All Rights Reserved.
Montage Arts Journal is a literary arts magazine created by undergraduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Visit montagejournal.tumblr.com for submission guidelines.
MONTAGE A RT S
J O U R N A L
CONTENTS SOHYUN KIM | Leafless page 6
ERIN THRELKELD | My Diaspora page 7
BRIAN ROBINSON | Hard Wood page 8
LUKE COMBS MISIAK | The Board page 9
ANDY MILES | Blue page 10
LUKE COMBS MISIAK | Forget Me, Before You Love Me. page 11
ANA V. FLEMING | A Production, Life and I, the Fool page 12
MARIANA PATINO | Cognizance page 13
DAVID MARCUS | Demby the slave no more page 14
ANA V. FLEMING | The Eternal Green page 16
CAROLYN AIELLO | Pariyamon page 17
SOHYUN KIM | Kaitlyn page 18
AGATHA MIODOWSKI | The Oblation page 19
ROBYN STEINMETZ | Desert page 20
AIDEN BAKER | La Oveja Negra page 21
DAVID MARCUS | Poem for Mother and Lost Souls page 24
ROBYN STEINMETZ | Koi Pond page 26
ANDY MILES | Foxtrot page 27
AGATHA MIODOWSKI | Bleed page 28
ANDY MILES | Tube Anemones page 29
DAN LEVIN | An Ass Among the Aisles: A Play in One Scene page 30
SKYLAR CHISM | Flowers page 37
ELLI WILLS| Count Down page 38
SKYLAR CHISM | U of I Dream Streets page 45
CURT KUPFERSCHMID | The Roof page 46
LAYNE KNOCHE | Grandpa’s Moonshine page 48
JESSICA BERBEY | Cigarette Man page 49
AIDEN BAKER | Thursday Night’s At Murphy’s page 50
ERIK WESSEL | Shore page 51
KRITI SHARMA | just a thought page 52
JULIA RUSH | butter page 54
ANA V. FLEMING | A Fabric Rugose page 55
ZOE MOERSCH | Hellagrammites page 57
JENNA BEEBE | All the Time in the World page 61
ERIK WESSEL | Luminescence page 66
BRIAN ROBINSON | The World is Going to End page 67
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS page 74
Leafless by Sohyun Kim
Erin Threlkeld A humming bird draws nectars my thoughts. Do you ask for birth of infinite creativity? The ejection of memories rotted like garbage? I am defined by their contents, yet they sedate me. Let the nectar flow freely, it will water my language. Humming bird be my liaison to the four corners. Disperse the nectar to babes I suckle. Milk unto babes water unto flowers. Breath breathed into my lungs, in one out the other. Mother Eve whispered into your ear and nectar flowed from trees. Father cries from the Heavens and lays the earth with sap. When the sun and moon lay down to die. Nectar, entomb them. Seedlings will sprout to kingdom come. A second conclusion for families. Breath sails into their nostrils. Dry bones reconnecting. Seas jumping backwards. Nectar is the substitute teacher. Dark and Light.
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Hey. HEY. Look at me when I’m talking to you. Straighten up. You think you got what it takes to survive out here? Huh? I hope to God you do. Fall in line, recruits. Today is a very important day. We’ve just had a heavy rainfall and some wind, which means there’s a lot of new faces out there. People blown in from all the way up the hill. I see some birch out there, a lot of maple, and even a pine or two in the back. As always, we have a good supply from the big mamma up here—a whole bunch of youngin’s falling straight down into our laps. And they have to be ready! Ready, you hear me? That’s why we’re here. Listen, I’ve been there before. I was like you all once. A young sapling, eager to start my life out on a limb. I thought I’d be high in the boughs forever, eating up all the sunlight I could and making some nice chloroplast. My grandmother told me I could be anything I wanted to be. “Sonny,” she said, “you just make yourself nice and tall and before you know it you’ll be sprouting up like a hot pepper sandwich on a sweet Louisiana night. All them lassies will be hollering, ‘There’s Johhny Oak! Oowee, lookin’ fine, Johnny boy!’” She was a fine old thing. But then reality hit me—the Big Storm of July. Y’all remember that. Damn near lost the whole tree. Me and all my friends and family came tumbling down. Most of us didn’t make it. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that night… But that’s all behind me now, and we need to get you trained. See, you’re all supposed live a long damn time. Attached to the Great One, all of us can live decades, sometimes much longer. But now that we’ve separated, we need to face the facts. We’ve only got weeks; a few months, tops. I’m an old timer—I’ve been off the Source for four weeks. My days are numbered. That’s why y’all gotta listen close, hear what I have to say. There are many fates that can befall us, and we all need to be prepared to handle them to the fullest. Imagine a young child comes up looking for a sword. What are you supposed to do then? Yes, you in the back? No, you don’t splinter off into shrapnel. You stand strong, goddamn it! You make yourself long and tall; straighten up your back and flex those abdominals. If a kid needs a sword, by God you are going to be the best damn sword the world has ever seen. What if they need to start fire? Yes, you there, what do you think! Exactly! This guy’s got it! You burn, folks. You burn like you’ve never burned before. None of that spit-crackling type stuff—we don’t want any sparks or pops. You face the end with pride, people—you go out in a flame. And finally, what if you ain’t got no human interaction—you just sit there until the worms and the fungus overtakes you. In that case, by golly you decompose like a mother fucking champ. You give the soil the best goddamn nutrients you can. So when you are repurposed and turned into some other plant, by George you rise like the big dipper on a sweet summer night. Hell, look at me everyone. I’ve already got some lichens growin’ down my backside. I don’t even know what kinda fungus I got on my face. And I’m givin’ it to ‘em real good—letting those fungi eat me all up real nice. Alright, that’s enough for today. You like my little shtick? Hah! Get it, cause you’re all…? Never mind. Stand tall everyone, we got a great day ahead of us.
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Luke Coombs Misiak
You step up, Feet apart. Look left, Look Right. Take a deeeeeeeeeeeep breath. You’re up here, because you wanted to be. Not because you have to. Pressure is genuinely applied by you, And a bit by others, As they came before you, left you warm and cold s p l a t t e r e d, droplets. This pool isn’t theirs or yours. You can own this dive, bellyflop, speech, life, or death. Let’s hope not the latter, get this kid the ladder.
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Blue by Andy Miles
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Forget Me, Before You Love Me.
Luke Coombs Misiak
The petals fell from her teeth, Seeping past the gums endlessly like her lies. I, the sullen old man across the living room, Stare meticulously at her chuckling away. I cry and wheeze until Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m caressed, by a starlet in black as sweet as slumber. No liquor could change me this easy, I think, but almost any women could and would.
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A Production, Life, and I, the Fool by Ana V. Fleming
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Cognizance by Mariana Patino
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Demby the slave no more
Sirens sirens always blaring in a hurry green sirens blue sirens red sirens they never have time to talk. i was reading the autobiography of Frederick Douglass the other day and he wrote of a slave named Demby. Demby was furiously whipped by an overseer whipped and skin-scorched so severely that he ran and jumped into a nearby pond to cool his searing flesh. now the overseer walked over to the pond where Demby was shivering halted at the edge of the pond tipped his hat and spit. and he said now Demby iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m going to count to three and i want you out of that pond. and he drew his revolver and raised it in the air and lowered it to his face. aiming straight at Demby. Demby shivered in the burning cold but he didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t say a word and his eyes were white as the shining moon. one.
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“his mangled body sunk out of sight, and blood and brains marked the water where he stood.” I think about Demby and what he must have thought about while he was on the other end of that barrel. while that gun was staring him straight in his eyes. now when i first read it i couldn’t believe Demby’s choice. i thought he was scared frightened stiff, too scared to move. but i was wrong. Demby was courageous Demby was heroic he was an artist. he knew exactly what he was doing. “a thrill of horror flashed through every soul on that plantation.”
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The Eternal Green by Ana V. Fleming Montage | 16
Silver wind chimes shimmer with reflections of earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s afternoon light. A sweet, salty breeze crawls through the branches and the underbrush, whispering songs to sprouts. Soft magic is afoot. In backyard gardens, ivory petals open and beckon. The dance of honeybees fills the air. She hums, the hem of her skirt painting the pebbles that she passes on her way to the beach. She is leaving to drink the sea. It rushes ashore to greet her. Beneath the sun, with her toes buried in sand, she sips the elixir of eternal life.
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Kaitlyn by Sohyun Kim
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I prayed for a long time to be dead. Not a real death, where the ground swallows your body and people care for a while until they don’t and they leave you to the business of being dead. No, not that. I longed for a different kind of death, one that only I would know about. One that would stagnate my soul and fill my mouth with ash, a death to hold me close by the fire on a cold winter’s day and read to me verses from books I would never touch. A death to kiss my bright, shining lips and make them cold and wicked. I so wish to stand there apart pushing words through the cracks in my ivory veneers, watching as they fall to the floor, empty and silent. Where is this death who is kind, who understands that the absence of everything is far better than a life that cannot possibly love you the way you have loved it. And when Death finally comes, to take my body he will know me by name. He’ll take me by the hand and say Don’t I know you? And I’ll say yes. We’ve met many times before.
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Desert by Robyn Steinmetz
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La Oveja Negra
The tequila was wearing off. Slowly, at first—4 a.m. and the last traces were still alive in my blood, dancing in my head, a delusional happy. A synthetic sense that things were okay, that I was okay, had settled in—soon to dissolve into a headache, vomit, regret. But for now, I was content, walking in that surreal space between late night and early dawn. Content, stumbling through the twisted body of Barcelona, wrapped in the arm of some local Catalonian. A generic twenty-something, foreign to me and therefore attractive. We met at a bar—L’Ovella Negra, The Black Sheep. He didn’t speak English. I liked that. Earlier that night, my roommate suggested the bar, so we went: underdressed and unprepared, the only Americans in sight. “Sangria?” “Sangria.” We drank while salsa dancers flitted around us, their movements sensual, sharp yet fluid. Effortless beauty. Watching them, I suddenly became hyper-aware of my Americanness. Awkward. Out of place. I was too loud, too messy, occupied too much space. Somewhere between our first couple of glasses, my roommate drifted away, off to go flirt or fuck or do something fun. I downed my wine, watching the dancers, waiting for alcohol to shave the edge off the anxiety. Eventually, I gained the courage to stand and slide over to another table. “Puedo sentarme?” My accent was sharp, but they allowed me into their circle. Most of the group spoke English, talking to me in my own tongue. One remained silent; I took an interest to him. He wasn’t particularly sexy or special despite being well dressed—which I had come to find most Spaniards typically are. He was just average, okay-looking. But, for whatever reason—probably his indifference—I wanted him to like me. I tried to talk, but my Spanish was slow, clunky, ugly. So I ordered a shot, sloppily lapping at the salt and shoving the liquor down, chomping on the lime, sucking insour and pulp. With lime in my teeth and tequila drool, I gained some semblance of confidence. For some reason—despite my awkward posture, my complete lack of coordination—I decided to ask him to dance. “Quieres bailar?” “Realmente no. Odio bailar.” He hates dancing. Thank god. I laughed, relieved. I hadn’t actually envisioned entering that dance floor. In the waves of experienced dancers, I would’ve stuck out like a drowning cow. I told him this; he didn’t laugh. But he stayed. Over tequila and sangria, we talked about nothing, my slurred Spanish insufficient to articulate anything worth talking about. I didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about birth or death or cruel, crippling loneliness. So I drank. The table’s dull conversation—generic “Where are you from?” (North of Chicago) “How old are you?” (19)— was painful. Normally, in these situations, I
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avoid anxiety by becoming an actress. I like to fuck with people, feed them lies— “What brought you to Spain?” (Business). “What business?” (Porn). The possibilities would have been endless—if not for my limited linguistic skills. So, in Spanish, I stuck to script, to self, and the nameless, non-English speaker remained indifferent. With alcohol and time, the conversation took a dive into stranger, peculiar things: things that actually interested me, though I often had to ask for translations. Something about a bukakke in Dubrovnik, a topic that finally piqued my interest, must have triggered the non-English native to turn my way. “Quieres fumar?” he asked: Did I want to smoke? “Tienes pitis?” I asked: You have cigarettes? “Un porro.” A joint. Score. My host brother, an artist and Tyler the Creator fan, had provided me a guide to slang: how to say things like “dope” and “do you have weed?” In theory, this could have made me cool. In reality, I was still a dumbass American. But despite my inability to roll my own cigs or eloquently speak, I was somehow special, solicited, chosen to share this joint. So we left the bar. Lighting up, he didn’t say much, offering drags and letting us wander. Most of the night was spent this way, walking and smoking, smoking and walking, stumbling stoned through stone streets and stone buildings spinning and spinning, all the same. Until, rising from nowhere, I discovered an architectural orgasm, an unbelievable temple so beautiful it left me frozen, reverent at its feet. Looking up at Barcelona’s basilica, the behemoth of gothic fantasy, I forgot everything, including the man on my arm, including myself—completely caught in the sublime selflessness of La Sagrada Familía. The basilica itself is the birth-child of Barcelona’s most beloved architect, Antoni Gaudí. His style stands out; his buildings scream on the street, commanding attention.“Look at me,” his work demands. And people do. Not just tourists but attorneys, tailors. The average Catalonian will stop in the streets, willing to block human traffic, grabbed by Gaudi, a man whose craft stops the clock and, if only for a moment, permits you to pause, breathe, admire art. Somehow, I was pulled away from La Sagrada—though my thoughts were still wandering up, winding through elegant stone spires. We walked while my thoughts drifted to unfinished heights. He began to kiss me, his hands exploring my body as I explored the Cathedral. His tongue down my throat, I thought of what I knew of La Sagrada. Construction began in the 19th century, under Gaudi’s eccentric eye. Forty years and an unfinished Cathedral later, he was hit by a tram. Dead. Gone. His pride, his child: incomplete. And to this day, 132 years after construction commenced, Gaudí’s gothic dream remains unfinished. “¿Aqui?” Here? “¿Por qué no?” Why not? “¿Por qué no en la casa?” Why not in the house? “Vivo con mi madre.” He lives with his mom. A fact that, though culturally acceptable in Spain, made him seem more pathetic. I don’t remember his face, just a bad taste in my mouth. As things got rough, I kept my mind on the pillars, surreal, thinking of
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Gaudí, the tram, the unfinished beauty of La Sagrada—thinking of these things while being fucked only four blocks away. I kept my eyes on the edifice, still lit well into early morning. Illuminated as if to assert its dominance over the skyline. The sex was lazy, unexceptional, diluted by the sheer mammoth beauty looming above. Why I let this Catalonian screw me on the streets had more to do with an insecure boredom than an actual sex drive. My libido had fled long before then, making room for a familiar, slovenly depression to settle in. A depression I so delusionally thought I could abandon, could save up and leave like an unwanted family pet. Left to live with my mother in Northbrook, Illinois while I wandered old European streets. How delusional I was—thinking my depression would wait diligently at home, starving, dying maybe—and I’d be free to flit around and study art. This family pet, Depression, had survived generations on my mother’s side: experimented on, sometimes fat, sometimes shrunk, never leaving, not for long. Plumping up with alcohol, emaciated by therapy. Sometimes I wouldn’t see him for months, but then he’d be on the porch, clamoring back for love. The man dropped me off near the Metro, and it was then, getting lost beneath the surface of the city, rushing and surging in early morning train cars, that I became undeniably aware of my depression, perched on my shoulder like the inescapable pest he is. He must have snuck into my bag, trailed along. What a little douche. Among the businessmen, the committed, bureaucratic types, all suited, fresh, I must have looked like a joke. A piece of trash, maybe. I still wonder what they thought of me: a half-awake, hungover American, lost and alone.
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Poem for mother and lost souls
But as we sit here on early dark cold nights at wooden desks over papers that in spite of all our desperation are just papers under yellow desk lamps that now seem more warm than ever working next to windows but trying our hardest not to look through them listening to Rachmaninov we sometimes have those quiet moments when we hear something so beautiful that we remember that we know we’ve done us wrong and that hiding ourselves behind the hollow protection of a practical lack of courage that at least seemed warmer than the outside but was too cold after all. we’re left shivering around this old and ash clad fire with our faint and sorrowful shadows cast on the wall never growing as epic as we had planned for them. but i didn’t care. i only want to be warm. the shadow never offered me any kind words but at least he could dance all up and down the walls. sometimes you hear something and you’re not cold anymore. and you’re not warm. you’re not there. soon if you’re not careful
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there will be no more of you in you. i believe we should write cursive because it is beautiful.
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Koi Pond by Robyn Steinmetz
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Foxtrot by Andy Miles
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What I want most is that which cannot be found by searching. In its purest form it finds you, when you’re sleeping or drowning or drowning in sleep it lays down next to you, smells the smells that make you you and reaches into your pocket to find your bleeding heart, so bloody and messy and wild. A heart that’s spun wild tales, run around in the rain, fallen down many times and dared someone to catch her, only to hit the ground staring into the dark as it rises and dips down like a buoy on some vast unbreakable surface. Bleeding Waiting while Hope finds her way behind her and picks her up again, reminding her that she won’t be around forever. After all she has her own life Kids A family. They need her too. So she finds her way to her bed and lays down alone, a bleeding heart in a pocket, waiting for something that cannot be found. Waiting for someone to smell her smells and bleed with her.
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Tube Anemones by Andy Miles
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An Ass Among the Aisles: A Play in One Scene
List of Roles HAMLET: An Angsty Danish Prince MACBETH: A Formerly Maniacal Scottish King ROMEO: The Quirky Husband of JULIET JULIET: The Understanding Wife of ROMEO OFELIA: The Jaded Love Interest of HAMLET SHYLOCK: A Highly Principled Venetian Jew TITUS: A World Weary Roman General AARON: A Sociopathic Goth Moor with Curious Motivation A large thrust stage outfitted with an array of stocked metal shelves, creating two aisles and a smaller area with a checkout counter. If possible, fluorescent lights hang above, providing both a dull glow and pronounced hum. The effect is meant to mimic a warehouse club store. A banner hangs over the stage, declaring, “ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO SHOP HERE.” Audience is encouraged to stand and move around accordingly to follow the action. Enter MACBETH, attired as a greeter in subdued but vivid colors. MACBETH Curse them that led me so far astray, For this fate is worse than death. I made errors in judgment, yes, But to suffer the bastardized vocation of Charon Stands far below my station. Perhaps it is far above. Should I rejoice at this? Nay, ‘tis punishment of the highest degree. Enter HAMLET attired in black denim from head to toe. He is out of place. HAMLET I was told to show you this. [Presents a card] [Aside] Here will I procure the elements of my escape. MACBETH Indeed. Welcome to Costco. [Aside] This one is rather fresh. HAMLET I wish to purchase a shelving unit, The tallest available. I shall also require several feet of rope.
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MACBETH [Aside] His lack of caution mirrors that of my past. I must deflect. Come sir, we do not supply such wares here. HAMLET But your establishment employs shelves. Everywhere! How can you not vend them as well?
[Pauses, gestures at the entire stage]
MACBETH I but work here. [Sighs] Such decisions are above my grade of compensation. HAMLET [Takes cart] A ladder then. Have you any of those? MACBETH Perhaps, but a ladder has very little To do with a shelving unit and rope. Why dost thou desire it so? HAMLET It is no business of yours. As you said, you â&#x20AC;&#x153;but work here.â&#x20AC;? MACBETH [Aside] Damn. He may well have me. Sir, if I am to direct you to the proper ladder, You must provide due intelligence. HAMLET Most unfair greeter, I must away, with or without your assistance. You have not the means to block my path, For we are all dead, And no violence can be used, As it will facilitate no useful end. [Aside] I pray this be less than accurate.
MACBETH Know you much, young prince. Something may have been rotten in your state, But the sterile cast on affairs here Shall find you wanting for unreasonable Access to jurisdictions lost from sight. I bid you maintain fortuitous resolve, Should you show ability to display it. Exit MACBETH HAMLET [Walks down first aisle, picks up large sausage from shelf] Alas, Yorick’s Yard O’ Beef: Is this what it has come to? Enter ROMEO and JULIET, walking hand in hand with a cart through the aisle, blocking HAMLET’s passage. ROMEO My sweet, the jewels we have found here do not befit thee. But who is this? Seen him before, I have not. JULIET Yes, gentle husband, I believe you speak true. Say from whence you came, Oh darkly clothed gentleman. HAMLET From Denmark did I traverse The thin line between here and there. Upon a poisoned blade I fell And so did earn my fate. Earn it alone, I did not, And I fear these halls will soon run With the blood of those come undone. JULIET Knowest of what he speaks? ROMEO That supposition could be dangerous, But yes, we can relate. Fair Dane, why hold you that sausage so?
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HAMLET Apologies, new friend, If friend is what you are. I but forgot that it was in my hand. I must find a ladder. I pray thee allow me passage.
[Puts sausage in cart]
JULIET Of course. Please forgive us. Our honeymoon has been a challenge, And now weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re here. HAMLET Thank you, kind lovers. Many happy returns to you. ROMEO and JULIET embrace and kiss for a prolonged period of time, then exit. HAMLET continues to push cart around end cap and into next aisle. Enter OPHELIA, attired as an employee walking with a ladder. OPHELIA I fear this is not a nunnery, oh prince. But to say that I did not expect Our meeting in this very spot Would be a lie at best. HAMLET Oh sweet injustice! OPHELIA What? Art thou not satisfied? Perhaps it is this uniform. HAMLET No no, my love. OPHELIA Your love? HAMLET What is it?
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OPHELIA Save us both a spot of trouble And keep walking. HAMLET But I need a ladder. OPHELIA Fie on your needs.
[Raises middle finger then exits, forgets ladder]
[HAMLET wanders around aimlessly for about a minute, puzzles over ladder, then folds it up and places it in cart. He then pushes cart to cashier.] Enter SHYLOCK as cashier. SHYLOCK Didst thou find everything well today? HAMLET Yes. Thank you. SHYLOCK This is not for sale.
[Points at ladder with scanner]
HAMLET Then I did not find everything well today. Why can I not purchase this? SHYLOCK â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Tis not for sale. You cannot purchase what is not for sale. HAMLET I will pay you double. SHYLOCK But this has no price, Nor is it in our inventory. The item belongs to the store itself. HAMLET I do not comprehend this logic. I demand you sell it.
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SHYLOCK Why desire you this? It will not do what you think it will do. HAMLET What believe you my purpose withâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t? SHYLOCK There are reasons that we do not sell it. HAMLET Then I should speak to your manager. SHYLOCK Of course. Titus!
[Grabs phone, dials]
Enter TITUS TITUS Yes, good prince. How may I be of noble service? HAMLET Sell me this confounded ladder. Please. TITUS I cannot sell you this item. I can sell you sword or pie, Alcohol in bulk, tobacco dry. All these things which may once have well Brought about your end in fashion swell. But I assure you, this ladder cannot be sold, So choose another item before we all grow old. HAMLET [Unsheathes dagger] With this I shall secure my ends. Tarry not, my lame new friends. TITUS Ha ha ha! Such a device is even less useful than this ladder When it comes to this goal of yours. You cannot kill what is already dead. Believe me, for we have all tried.
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(Cont.) But alas, there is work for you. [Produces a uniform, folded] Outfit yourself thusly, and join our cause, As we shepherd the departed, replete with pause. HAMLET receives uniform. HAMLET Such apparently is noble Hamlet’s fate. To work in service of Hell, At no more than a standard hourly rate. then eats it]
[Uses dagger to cut a piece of sausage,
TITUS Ay boy, that’s the spirit! Welcome to eternity, good prince. Now go attire yourself properly. Exit HAMLET. TITUS and SHYLOCK remain on stage at checkout counter. Enter AARON at entrance of “store,” then fade house lights to black.
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37 | Montage Flowers by Skylar Chism
The midday sun passed through the shop window, warming both Nora’s face and the dusty pages of the volumes that comprised the main display. The smell of used book commingled with the metallic scent of currency emanating from the cash register. If only she could walk on the beach and smell its freshness once in awhile, breathe in the brine, she might be better able to deal with the stuffiness of the shop. Lazily shifting her weight, Nora took her chin out of her hand and slowly straightened up from the slouching position she’d occupied for the past half hour. Being a cashier in a used bookshop in the town of Provins in the summer meant a lot of sitting around and staring out the window. In the last half hour she’d seen a total of three people pass by: a mother with her child, whose untied shoelaces almost made him trip over the cobblestone street; and a young man carrying a bunch of fliers. None of them even so much as glanced at the bookshop. Indeed, most residents of Provins were spending their summer days on the coast rather than shopping for used or nearly new books, and if they needed a cheap book for the beach, they’d bought it months ago. Nora took out the latest issue of her favorite travel magazine, seeking diversion from the quotidian scenery before her. After flipping through a few pages, but not being able to concentrate on any one feature or photograph, Nora resorted to technology. She pulled out her smartphone and pressed the home button, bringing to life a picture of her and her parents on the sandy shores of Marseilles. Nora’s eyes went to her father, who had forgotten his sunglasses that day and was squinting into the camera. He was always forgetting normal, practical things, yet he always remembered obscure things, like the number of cantos in Dante’s Inferno or Isaac Asimov’s pseudonym. And then there was her mother, the fashionista, sporting her big black Chanels. Her mother somehow appeared both posh and gaudy, yet undeniably radiant. Nora smiled at the idyllic scene, but the happy sentiment was fleeting. She wondered if the contents of the picture was something that could ever happen again. Thinking about the current state of things, prospects weren’t promising. Her smile changed to pursed lips as she focused on her mother. Her mother, who had shipped her off to France. Again. She had claimed she could no longer visit “that wretched, love-sick country,” but that she didn’t want her daughter to miss out on all its beauty just for her sake. Her mother, who, ironically enough, used to be unable to keep herself away from the place. Who completed a B.A. in International Relations and a Masters in French, found love overseas instead of a job, and came back to the States to raise the child. Who taught her the ABC’s and 123’s in two languages. Her mother, who filed for divorce a mere three weeks before Nora entered high school, driving her father back to his homeland before she’d even had time to memorize her class schedule. If anyone could be so flighty, it was Lily Anderson Moreau. “The best decisions are made last-minute!” she’d always say. Nora pressed the home button again, harder this time, cutting the screen
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to black. She put her phone back in her pocket and sighed. Her mother was a handful, but her father could be just as fickle. Indeed, Adrien Moreau was an honest man, and he loved Nora. He loved Lily, too. But when Lily hung up on him, France called, and he couldn’t resist answering. A true bibliophile and a romantic, he took the divorce as a reason to return to his native country, reopen his bookshop, Les Livres des Rêves, and resume his intimate relationship with literature. Without a woman to make love to, books were the next best thing. And at Lily’s request, he took in Nora for what was now the third summer of her high school years, granting her the job of cashier. Nothing could have been more riveting. Failing to suppress a yawn, Nora glanced at the clock above the door. 12:45. Her stomach promptly growled as she made her way to her father’s study in the back of the shop. “It’s lunch time, Dad.” She never adopted Papa, even though she could tell he wished she would have. But growing up with a foreign father, who spent more time at the local library than soccer games and dance recitals just like all the other dads on the block, Nora did what little she could to control her circumstances. She considered “Dad” a small triumph. And if she could get him to take a break from his intellectual passions and eat during the lunch hour, that was even better. “Oui, ma chèrie…” Nora waited. Counted. Un, deux, trois– Right on cue, Adrien snapped his head up from a half-finished treatise on the benefits and drawbacks of the Oxford comma. “Ah oui, le dejeuner! Pas de temps. I will have something later.” “You might as well eat now. You’ll just be hungry later.” “Peut-être, mais…” Adrien trailed off, hastily trying to complete the written thought that Nora had interrupted. Sometimes Adrien’s attention span would hold a little longer after the initial lunchtime announcement, but when it didn’t, as in the present case, Nora unashamedly pulled out the “Lily tactic.” “You know, Mom always hates when I don’t want to eat when I’m supposed to. Says that I’d be better off–” “Your mother,” Adrien cut in, “is always imposing rules she herself cannot–will not–follow.” He snapped up again, nearly making his spectacles fall off of his face. “When have you ever seen her eat a meal on time? She’s always flapping around like a–a–how you say–a chicken with his head sliced off!” He then muttered to himself incomprehensibly, rubbing his temples. Nora waited. Counted. Un, deux, trois– “Eh, bien,” Adrien sighed, “I suppose a little something would be nice. Merci, mon ange.” “I’ll grab you a sandwich, then. You can put it in the fridge if you don’t want it right now.” “Oui, le réfrigérateur. A most useful invention…” And with that Adrien readily bent back over his work, his mind rarely
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able to stay away from academia for more than a few minutes. ---- “Dix euros et quarante-cinq francs, s’il vous plaît.” Nora handed the money to the cashier in exchange for her father’s simple favorite, ham and Swiss, and her regular turkey with provolone, both compactly wrapped in wax paper. Once in awhile Nora would contemplate trying something more exotic, like prosciutto with Brie or pastrami with Munster. But she usually stuck with the ham and Swiss. She did not posses her mother’s spontaneity. “Merci,” Nora replied. She exited the sandwich shop, thinking of the coming days. Wake up, man the register, eat, man the register, eat, sleep. Being a planner, this routine should have pleased her. But part of her itched for something more. Nora turned onto the next street, relishing the sun and fresh air. Provins faded and her ideal destination came to mind. She thought of sand between her toes, sticky sweet ice cream dripping down a cone, gulls flying overhead. Closing her eyes, for just a moment, she stepped into the cool blue waters– “–plus de volontaires–oh! Pardon!” “Oh, désolée, je–” “Ha ha, ça va, ça va.” Nora blinked. In her reverie she’d collided with someone standing on the street corner. The sandwiches had fallen to the ground, somehow still wrapped, along with a bunch of papers. The stranger picked everything up and handed the sandwiches to her with a chuckle. “Voici.” His brown eyes smiled as he spoke and his brunette hair glinted in the sunlight. He had to be her age, maybe a couple years older. As she glanced at the fliers in his hands, she recognized him as the guy who walked past the shop a few hours earlier. Nora sheepishly took the sandwiches and uttered a “merci.” “De rien,” he responded, his smiling eyes holding hers. Without any sort of small talk coming to mind, Nora didn’t know what else to do but head back to the shop. “Au revoir,” she managed. “Au revoir,” he said. Nora offered a parting smile, which he readily returned, and left. As she walked, her heart pumped a little faster. --- The next day started like all the others: wake up, man the register, hope for human contact. Last summer only the occasional customer strolled in, inquiring about a copy of The Little Prince or trying to knock down the price of books that were already knocked down in price. During such negotiations, Nora would echo Adrien’s words: “Le prix sur l’étiquette est le prix final.” Other times Nora wouldn’t exchange more than a quick “salut!” with anyone all day if the occasional customer happened to be the silent, perusing type. This summer there seemed to be even more of a customer drought. Or maybe Nora was imagining it. Either way, nothing could cure the ennui. Her interest in travel magazines and her smart phone was long gone. She would have
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asked her father to take a walk around town as a change of pace, but she knew he’d politely decline, as he always did. Someday she’d get past his mental fortress and calm down that whirring brain of his long enough to help him step into reality. Show him that a human being–that his own daughter–could be just as good a companion as his favorite Proust novel. She didn’t know how or when, but she hoped. For the present, though, Nora simply tried to get by. Ironically enough, she decided to pass the time the way her father thought best: reading. She’d always enjoyed reading, but not with the intensity that one would think the daughter of Adrien Moreau to possess. And the summers in the bookshop had had a strange reverse effect on her: being surrounded by books suffocated rather than inspired her. Today, however, there seemed to be no other option. She got as comfortable as she could while sitting at the register and settled in with a copy of Jane Eyre that she found under the counter. A few pages in, Nora noticed movement in her peripheral vision. She lifted her gaze and a head of shiny, brown hair appeared. The young man she’d literally run into the day before was taping a flier to the window. He noticed her, and his brown eyes lit up in recognition. Nora’s heart started racing. Was this what it felt like to be Jane in the presence of Rochester? Before she could think of what to do next, he walked in and approached the register. “Bonjour,” Nora offered. “Bonjour,” he replied. “Je suis tombé sur vous l’autre jour.” Nora blushed, “Ouais, et les sandwiches sont tombés aussi…” He chuckled warmly, envisioning the fallen sandwiches. “Je suis Damien,” he said, extending his hand. She took it. “Nora.” “Nora? Ah oui, je connais ce nom. Mais ce n’est pas un nom français. D’où es-tu?” “Les États-Unis. Bien, je suis née en France. Mais j’ai grandi dans Les États-Unis.” Damien tilted his head at this information, interested. “Ah, so you speak English, no?” Surprised at the sudden switch in language, but skilled at making such a switch, Nora replied, “Mm hm! My mother is from the States, my dad from France. He owns this shop. I just sit here at the register, waiting for someone to–” Nora cut herself off, realizing the current situation. Damien took the break in her speech to hand her a flier. L’Exposition d’Équestre Provins, du 8 juin au 10 juin. Les volontaires necessaries! Nora looked at him inquiringly. “ ‘The Equestrian Exposition of Provins. Volunteers needed.’ Volunteers for what?” “For greeting the participants before the exposition begins. The exposition is tomorrow and we do not have as many volunteers as we would like. That is why I was asking for volunteers when you bumped into me the other day.” He chuckled again and looked at her warmly. Nora simply sat there, finally having an extended conversation with an-
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other human being but not knowing what to say. His gaze made it hard to focus. He contentedly continued, “My father is the assistant manager of the exposition; I have been volunteering for many years now.” He grinned. “You speak French very good–you would be wonderful for greeting participants, no?” Nora still stood silently, musing over this unexpected collision with a handsome stranger and the idea of an exposition just for horses. Expositions were for people who were fanatics about something. She’d really never been a fanatic about anything, let alone had a strong passion for anything, like her father did with his books. Expositions sounded like the kind of thing her father would be into. “Would you like to volunteer?” Damien’s eyes twinkled. “I’ll be there,” he added. It wasn’t exactly a day at the beach, but it’d be more of an adventure than the bookshop. Nora looked at Damien, then at the flier, then back at Damien again, a smile emerging on her lips. She thought of her mother and how, at a moment like this, she’d tell Nora to seize the day. But the logical voice inside her head said to wait a moment. So Nora waited a moment. She counted. Un, deux, trois– “Sure!” she found herself saying. Damien burst out with a slightly nervous laugh, having only half-expected Nora to say yes. “Ah ha, merveilleux!” He grabbed a stray pen on the counter and scribbled his contact information on the flier. “The exposition is happening just outside of town. Tomorrow I will be here at 3 o’clock and we will go.” ---The exposition bustled with energy and people. Equestrians from all over France arrived, the picture of sophistication and poise. The afternoon sun shone sweetly on the horses’ coats of chestnut, gray, champagne, black, cremello, dun. In the background the voice of the commentator heartily boomed, “Bienvenue, les cavaliers, les juges, les spectateurs de le même façon! L’Exposition d’Équestre Provins commencera dans un heure!” Once settled at the check-in table, Nora eagerly awaited the riders. Damien had given her the simple instructions to ask for the participant’s name, find it on the list, and ask for the participant’s signature. A tall woman with cropped blonde hair approached the table. She wore sleek black breeches, black knee riding boots, and a smart navy jacket. Nora sat up a little straighter and addressed the woman with a warm smile. “Bonjour, madame. Puis-j’avoir votre nom?” “Claire St. Claire,” the woman replied with an equally warm but much more reserved smile. “Bienvenue, Madame St. Claire. Ah, voilà. Veuillez signer ici, s’il vous plaît.” Nora handed her a pen and Madame St. Claire signed in a graceful cursive flourish. When finished, the equestrienne smiled at Nora again. “Comment t’appelles-tu?” “Je m’appelle Nora, madame.”
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“Bien, merci, Nora. Bonne journée, et prends plaisir d’exposition!” “Ah, de rien, madame, et merci beaucoup!” Nora watched gleefully as Claire St. Claire glided away, pleasantly surprised with her cordiality. Before she knew it, another participant was approaching the check-in table. She could barely wait to greet him. After three summers of scarce human interaction and below average exchanges with her father, this exposition breathed new life into her. Unable to contain her almost childlike excitement, she turned to Damien and grabbed his arm. “I like this. I like it a lot.” ----When the exposition had nearly closed, Damien approached Nora, who had found a spot near the back and watched the last several demonstrations. He had a twinkle in his eye. “Aimais-tu recontrer mon cheval?” he asked. Giddy at the question, Nora blurted, “Sure! Yeah! That’d be cool.” “Merveilleux. Allez-y.” The two walked down a country road just outside the perimeter of the exposition grounds. As they approached the stables, the smell of hay and manure hit Nora’s nose with a potency not unlike that of the dusty volumes in her father’s shop, but much more organic. Damien gently took her hand and led her to the stall at the very end of the walkway. “Nora, c’est Henri.” Henri whinnied happily, but Nora gulped, never having been in the presence of such a large animal. The sea gulls at the beach in Marseille were nothing in comparison to this majestic creature. Noticing her nerves, Damien assured, “He is very well-trained. He loves people.” Nora shot Damien a playfully stern look. “Does he now?” She turned to admire Henri, smiling softly. “He’s beautiful.” Damien then asked the question that all people who show someone their horse asks. “Would you like to ride him?” Nora didn’t wait, and she didn’t count. “I’d love to.” ----“Oh god, oh god, here we go, this is happening. If my parents knew I was riding a horse they’d–” “Your parents?” Damien inquired, stroking Henri’s nose. “Would they oppose to this?” Nora thought. “No. They wouldn’t. My mom would love it. My dad wouldn’t love it but he’d be okay with it. He’d call me a chicken with its head cut off but he’d let me. Probably go devour a copy of The Black Stallion before I got back and–” Damien looked at her quizzically. She sighed. “I just wish they could experience this with me. We…we don’t experience a lot together anymore.” Damien nodded, thinking. He took a shiny black helmet off a hook and
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handed it to her. “This experience can be for you, then.” He looked at her with his warm brown eyes. “Some experiences have to be for just you, no?” Nora put on the helmet and stood up a little straighter. “Ready?” “Ready.” Damien took Nora’s hand and kissed it. “Merveilleux.” He helped her mount the horse, chuckling at Henri’s spirited whinnies. Once on the saddle, Nora felt a wave of calmness flow over her. No matter what her parents did or didn’t do–what they could or couldn’t be for her–no matter how many days she’d sat staring out the window of a used bookshop, she could proceed to make the most of this summer. She smiled to herself, delighting in the fact that it had only just begun.
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45 | Montage U of I Dream Streets by Skylar Chism
Should I? It was pretty high up—three stories. Our ladder could reach it but everybody used the rusty old cable tower that was a horrible eye sore. The rungs were three feet apart and hard to reach and slippery from the dust. I’d climbed a few of them before. At one point, a number of summers ago, I had made it nearly to the top, but I looked down and saw the ground with my sister standing there yelling like a tiny angry squirrel and I scampered back down with my heart pounding up in my throat. I was afraid of heights, they said. That’s why I didn’t like roller coasters. Should I though? I really wanted to. Everybody else had. My sister was the first to climb it. She floated up the bars and sat on the hard black shingling before I had a chance to worry. I couldn’t even get myself up the first two rungs that day. She made fun of me, called me a sissy and a wimp. Another time we were playing sardines and she hid up there and soon everybody was up there, and I was wandering around the ground and didn’t even think to check. They were nice, being church people, but they made fun of me for it. I was the worst at sardines. That other time he threw one of my books up there. I didn’t like him much but nobody really did, except his friends. Every bully has friends, which always surprises me. Well he had to go and get it down for me ‘cause I was too nervous to climb it, but that wouldn’t be the last time I lost some possession up there, and not all the time did someone go and get it for me right away. Everybody climbed the roof. Except my older brother, but he had a good reason. When he was pretty young he climbed over a water tower and got yelled at, but that pretty much did it for him, and nobody called him a pussy for not climbing the roof, because he wasn’t, and he had already seen greater things than can be seen from our three story roof. I heard it was beautiful. When my girlfriend climbed up there she told me she could see the lake, all of it. She said she could see into every corner and that in one there was a kid peeing on a log. People saw over all the other houses, and most of the trees. The school was visible, even though it was miles away. They—the meaner ones—always started talking about how beautiful it was in the sky and how I was missing out. I liked it better when they said I was a scaredy-cat, at least I could see that was true. I suppose not everybody climbed it. There was that neighbor boy, but he was fat, so nobody pressured him. And my cousin, she never climbed it either, and said it was because she was a girl. Nobody called her a pussy for that though, which made no sense to me, because as I saw it, she was just as pussy as me. I don’t want to be them. I don’t want to be like the fat kid. I should just climb it. It seemed like I stood out here every summer, leaning against this tree, trying to muster the courage to climb. I had come pretty close a week ago when the gutters clogged and I took the ladder and with a gloved hand swept out the millions of soupy helicopters. I was eye-level with the roof then, but I dared not turn to look at the lake, or down. They told me to be careful then. The sweetest always
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made excuses for me, which helped. Sort of like the height-phobia. It’s a stupid game, it’s dangerous, you’re afraid of heights, you’ve done cooler stuff—things like that. They helped I guess, curbed me from my desire a little, but I’m always back here in the early afternoon, looking up that tall, gross cable tower. “Dad? Oh, there you are.” He walked over and looked up. “What are you doing?” “Thinking about climbing the roof.” “You’re too old for that.” “I know.”
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Grandpaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Moonshine by Layne Knoche
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The man stands at the CTA bus stop On the corner of Milwaukee And Central Park. The bus is delayed. He has been waiting for at least twenty minutes. That’s how long I’ve been standing there too. He smiles at me with his eyebrows, Raises his scrawny arm to his thin, chapped lips And puts a cigarette between his teeth— Sweetly kissing the tobacco And rolling paper. He raises his green 7/11 lighter And brushes the flame across the cigarette end, Focusing solely on his inhale. The smoke enters his mouth And dances down to his lungs, Lingering there for a few held breaths. He then exhales slowly, Tasting the tar as it departs his lips And stares blankly as the smoke tangos with the humid air. He turns his head and motions the box of Marlboro toward me. I shake my head. “No, thank you. I don’t smoke cigarettes.” He smirks, “Notice you said you don’t ‘smoke cigarettes’ instead of saying you don’t smoke. I’ll have it you aren’t as innocent as you appear to be.” The blood rushes to my cheeks, Giving away that I do, in fact, have something to hide. “Exactly,” he laughs a childish laugh, And I join in. And then, The 56 Milwaukee finally appears.
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Thursday’s at Murphy’s Aiden Baker
Porcelain feels cool pressed to my cheek. I allow myself this, to feel the cool and forget the violence inside my stomach. I feel the cool and refuse to remember the steps that brought me here. Arrival’s inevitable, not the steps but the spinning, endless spinning, bringing me here more often than I’d care to admit but I’m not here to be honest- I drink to forget, to erase myself until the only thing left is the sickness inside, the madness and muck that clings to my bones and each time I wretch I want to think it’s poetic but it’s really just painful, spinning on, without end, constant motion moving nowhere. Is it the spinning making me sick? Or the fact that my feet are stuck to the ground and there’s no way to run away from yourself? I want to vomit my ego past painted lips, to see the last shards of myself floating and vile, then flushed. But bile is as close as I get and campus bars aren’t meant for contemplations of self- they’re meant for fucking and dancing and diluting the agony of being alive. Outside they are dancing and swaying and sweating, and somewhere a girl is down on her knees and somewhere a mother is praying and somewhere, someone is coming and spilling themselves into their partner with oh gods and fuck yes and somewhere, a soldier is loading his gun and somewhere, a waitress is shooting up and yes-it’s there, in that moment her eyes roll back, it’s there we want to meet, to find familiarity inside the other, and when we can’t...we fill ourselves with something else, inhale the whiskey, inject the opiate, and with each blind thrust, pretend we’re whole
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51 | Montage Shore by Erik Wessel
just a thought
i say it so often my lungs feel Empty when in reality I don’t say anything at all except– sigh bra strap digging into my shoulder these thoughts are Exhausting and I just– breathe the gum in my mouth is almost the only thing that feels like Substance. in surreality Living, cold air, on unshaved legs, walking the pathways, down my palms, slick, cracked phone case clutched desperately stuck between the ennui of humid rain and nostalgia of nonexistent sunshine wind i dont know what im doing i forget punctuation, forget the pain, forget the itch, the itch of being alive it sounds bad. it’s really not. Autocorrect my tears at 4 am to totally useless, just like this bra strap impaling, ravaging my shoulder straightforward itchy useless “like me.” Edgy, right? Look. I’m not a poet. I’m not clever or beautiful or sad or lonely or warm or white; I’m not Emily or Walt or Edgar. I’m itchy itchy like the voice of that girl in class reading Plath’s Daddy with her “itch itch itch.” It obviously says “ich ich ich,” right? a tragedy lost in the naivety of adolescence to be a good poet you must abandon verbs Action should be passive and instead relay observations with flowery language and striking, poignant metaphors, itchy noses and itchy hearts
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this language that both is and isn’t mine is irksome to read, to speak, to be main saath mai hoon na? nahi i do (not) belong the long, sharp fingernails of Life trail along my spine seeking contentment, an itch it cannot find (a little to the left, please) i keep walking hearing people talking, mocking, balkingI have privilege. is that Too Much? is it really so hard to say? though i guess in Writing it’s supposed to be show, don’t say shhh don’t tell show and tell all is well you see, i am not a Poet (sorry Ginsberg) i am simply a Child with my frustrating bra strap andsomething i Cannot find.
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each morning i wake up and pray that you don’t eat cotton balls and that you see a pretty dog. i promise i will always kiss you when we are drunk even if you turn into your mother and put plastic covers on all of your couches and even if your voice turns so shrill it summons cockroaches from the walls. someday i will get you to try mayonnaise. despite your five-foot-nothing stature, you are a redwood tree (my redwood tree). you were voted “most likely to murder a man” and “kanye west look alike” and when you sleep you drool. when you sing you hurt my heart. at seventy-two, i plan to lose my front tooth and sell my car and buy a tandem bike with you. together we will ride across washington (the state) and put poppies in our hair and chew mint leaves and sleep on the side of the road. fuck you for eating avocado, pesto, mustard, and cheese sandwiches, you sicko. thank you for holding my hand when i sleep. as i ride the bus away from you, rain falls, demure (much unlike us). you are texting me about dwayne the rock johnson and fucking joe biden and the history of spain and i wish i could eat rat poison and die. i want to be buried next to you.
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A Fabric Rugose by Ana V. Fleming
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Some people say that there really isn’t anything to the Midwest but corn. Fields of waving, golden ears that create some illusion of movement, of excitement, on an otherwise flat, motionless plain. And they’re right. Mostly. If you want to see more, if you want to feel more, you have to look. You have to leave the fresh fields that smell like pig shit and motor oil. And find the creeks and streams hidden deep in clusters of trees too small to be called forests. You’ll find fish: bluegill, carp, bass, pike, catfish, even trout and salmon if you’re in the right spot. But what you want isn’t zipping through the water. They’re resting at the riverbed, burrowing in the banks, hiding in the nearby grasses. What you want is the spark that makes the creek come alive. The gears of the supporting mechanism, the small creatures that keep the more impressive things— the frogs, the snakes, the birds—
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alive. Most of it isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t all that different from what you can find outside your house. Clinging to the windows, crouching in the gutters, or sweeping through the grass. Wolf spiders that dance across the surface of the water are little different from those that make their nests in cracks in the foundation, or in the dark corners of old, musty rooms. Grasshoppers that prance down the dirt path are little different from those that you caught on warm summer days. That you held in your hand, their long legs twitching against your palm. The grasshoppersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; legs are stronger than you expected, and their bodies are more ticklish than you imagined. Your grip goes slack for only a moment, and they push off, gliding through the hot air that hangs low on the fields before a harvest. What you want is something different, something unique. Something that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t remind you of light traveling through a trembling glass, the short, harsh song
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of silverware clinking together, the meaty slap of a hand against the table. What you find is a long, black-and-brown thing, hiding in the riverbed, that acts like it was born frothing and furious at the world. It’s the larval form of a dobsonfly, a hideous length of blackened plates, and stabbing filaments that burst from the sides of its body. Anglers call it a hellgrammite, because “dobsonfly larvae” sounds vaguely hospitable, and is therefore wholly inaccurate. As adults, they only live for a few days. Maybe that’s why they spend the first years of their lives in a blind rage, chomping at the air with heavy mandibles that’ll draw blood if you let them. Maybe some of them know that those same mandibles will one day grow so large and unwieldy that they’ll never bite again, that they’ll only be useful for contests of strength. And maybe those lucky enough to keep their mandibles know the cruel irony that the moment they’re free to take flight and bite at anything in the world, they’ll only have a week to find a mate and a place to lay their eggs
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before they die. So they rampage young, and erupt from rivers and streams in hordes when itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time to pupate. You wonder, if maybe they bite and crawl and rage, not out of some precognizant bitterness, but because they truly love the water and cannot bear to leave it. You catch one in a jar, and watch it scurry in circles, tearing at the sides as if its legs could wear down glass with fury alone.
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All the Time in the World Jenna Beebe
The day my great aunt died, my dad sent me a text: “Sharon has passed. Pls make sure ur home for funeral.” “Ok,” I replied, then immediately regretted how cold those two letters sounded. I wondered if I should send an “I’m sorry” or “At least she’s in a better place,” or some other pre-packaged reassurance people offer to other people when someone’s dead. But I didn’t, because I knew my dad and I both knew better. Instead I reread his text to see if I felt something the second time. I didn’t, so I read it again. No matter how many times or how slowly I read his text, I was coming up empty. I even tried imagining her in the casket—hands folded neatly together and eyes closed as if in sleep, like she was waiting, relaxed and ready, for whatever came after all the fuss and ceremony—just to make myself cry. Nothing. I begin the three-hour trip to my dad’s house in the middle of the week at 7 AM, having sent the necessary emails to my professors, their responses all calculated and formal. I make a mental list of the catch-up work and dig out time later in the week to get it done as I drive. When I arrive at my dad’s, he comes outside to greet me in his nicest and most ill-fitting flannel button-up, his belly drooping over his belted Wranglers. When he hugs me, I’m wrapped in a cloud of dollar store cologne. When he kisses my cheek, I can feel little red spots forming from the whiskers of his beard. I climb into his massive pickup and we sit in silence for most of the hourlong drive to Bowen, this tiny, dried-up village where my grandma and Sharon grew up, and where, even though Sharon lived in a different tiny, dried-up village for most of her life, she would be buried. “Was she in pain when she…passed?” I ask, just to disturb the silence. “With the cancer?” I wince. “No, I think they had her on a bunch of medication.” My dad shifts in his seat and keeps his eyes planted firmly on the winding country road that snakes to Bowen. “I was the one who had to go identify the body.” He presents this information to me suddenly, hurriedly, as if he wishes he hadn’t brought it up. “Your grandma couldn’t handle it. So she called me and I went to the hospital and I identified her for them.” “Oh.” “It wasn’t fun. Wasn’t pretty.” “Yeah.” I feel like I should say more, so I say, “She seemed pretty at peace when we visited her.” “Yeah.” My dad nods slowly. “Yeah, I think she was.” I only visited her in the hospital once, about three weeks ago. My dad insisted it was the right thing to do and I didn’t argue. The discomfort set in the moment we walked through the sliding doors. The tiled floor was too polished, the walls were too minty green, and the lights hummed with a whiteness that was too sterile. Sharon
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was finishing her dinner when we entered her room. When she saw us she raised her pudding cup to us like she was giving a toast. “I see you’re living large,” my dad said with a warm smile. “I’m just enjoying my lil puddin’ cup,” Sharon answered cheerfully. I hung back at the foot of the bed while my dad pulled a chair up next to her. Her face was a vague, sickly grey-green, though it and the rest of her body held its roundness despite the chemo. Her boyishly short waves of white hair were still intact but thinning out. I had expected her to be bald. After answering the customary “how’s school going?” I phased in and out of the conversation. I was drawn back in when my dad asked at the end of our brief visit how Sharon was really doing. “You know, Billy, I was so mad for awhile, I coulda just screamed,” Sharon answered, staring intently at my dad over her thick-framed glasses. “But I just…We got an understanding now, God and I. We’re on the same page. And I’m ready to be with Gus again, I miss him so dang much.” My dad nodded and hugged her. She invited me over and I stiffly hugged her too. My dad and I said goodbye in unison and left. Her goodbye followed us into the hallway, along with the scraping of her plastic spoon in her cup of pudding. The gravel of the church parking lot pops and crunches beneath the truck tires. Several cars are already here. The church is a few miles outside of Bowen, bordered on three sides by stirring seas of harvest-ready corn. Its spire pokes out of the dusty golden waves, inviting the faithful. Inside, the high-ceilinged entry hall opens to the left into a dining hall just large enough to accommodate the average after-sermon luncheon or bible study for a village of two hundred people. White tablecloths are draped over the tables, glass vases filled with fake lilies centered on each one. The metal folding chairs are dented and rusted, their dark beige paint chipped away. There are at most twenty people scattered amongst the tables, none of whom I recognize. Neighbors and co-workers of Sharon’s, I’m assuming, maybe a distant cousin here and there. I follow my dad to the table where my grandma sits with a woman I’ve never seen before. She looks no older than fifty. Her wavy auburn bob is held firmly in place with more than enough hairspray. The laugh lines that frame her face and the gentle bags beneath her eyes, which are heavy with layers of mascara, betray her age. My grandma is explaining to this woman, in rambling detail, how she managed after fifty years to quit smoking cold-turkey. The woman is grinning and nodding with so much enthusiasm that her golden teardrop earrings shake violently. She is unable to participate much, but seems more than happy to indulge my grandma. “Weeeellll,” my grandma rasps at me as I sit down. “I wasn’t sure you were gonna make it, way your father was talking.” I force a feeble grin. “I made it.” “Who’s this young lady?” the woman asks. Our eyes catch each other’s and she gives me a sweet, apologetic smile. Genuine, not plastered on like I would expect at this sort of thing. I open my mouth to answer, but my grandma beats me to it. “This is my granddaughter, Emily. She’s a college girl.”
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“Oh, wonderful!” the lady gushes. To my relief, she doesn’t ask me where I’m going or what I’m planning on doing when I graduate. “It’s great meeting you Emily. I’m Connie.” I give her the best smile I can muster. At my grandma’s say-so, Connie stands up and announces that everybody is free to eat. We all shuffle in small groups to the kitchen, where pitchers of lemonade and tea and plates of deli meats, cheeses, tiny bread buns, and homemade cookies are sprawled across the counters. As I make my plate and pour my lemonade, wondering why I’m eating picnic food, I try to listen to the hushed conversations around me. None of the scraps I pick up are enlightening—“Harvest should be good this year,” “I think it started on her back and just kept spreading,” “These cookies look so good”—so I head back to my table. Connie and my dad have been yanked into another of my grandma’s stories. This one is about her and Sharon sneaking behind the tool shed and smoking cigarettes when they were kids. Sharon never really wanted to, but my grandma coerced her so she would be complicit in a crime that was worthy of at least ten smacks with a switch. My dad is more focused on the sandwiches on his plate than the story, but Connie is as obliging as ever. Sharon told me this same story once. I was seventeen and had only been to her trailer a few times before, when I was a child. She had called my dad and begged him to make the trip to Augusta to fix her bathroom sink, since her landlord didn’t seem to care. My dad planned his trip on a weekend that he had me, and so we took the two-hour drive together in a long, biting silence. The trailer park was on the outer edge of town, bordered on one side by a field choked with weeds. The trailers all shared a tired, resigned look of disrepair, their siding all faded and grass-stained, kids’ toys and fast food cups littered around them. Sharon’s trailer was a pasty yellow, landscaped with neglected flowers and buggy-eyed frog statues. When we entered, Sharon was sitting in her usual worn-down recliner. An old Western was blaring from her ancient thrift store TV. Gunshots rung through the trailer. “Hey kiddos!” she greeted. The mole above her lip migrated towards her glasses as she grinned welcomingly. A loose cream-colored dress patterned with dozens of tiny royal blue flowers fell to just above her ankles. Her black slippers had a cat’s face printed on each of them, its eyes closed in contentment and its triangle nose a vibrant pink. My dad swapped small talk with her for a bit, then retreated into the bathroom to begin his handy work. I sat unsurely on the floral-printed couch, leaning into the checkered quilt draped over it. Sharon and I stared at the TV quietly. The living room, which was about the same size as my bedroom at home, was stuffed to the brim with Native American statuettes. Chiefs with beady, defiant eyes, women carrying infants in their papooses, muscular braves on horseback with tomahawks held threateningly above their heads. Sharon’s fat cat, Gus, emerged from behind the couch. He was a dark brown striped with black, his belled collar betraying his every movement. I offered my hand. He hissed in scorn and ducked behind the couch again. “Don’t you mind Gus at all,” she reassured. “He’s always been a lil stinker.”
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“Oh I know. He never seems happy to see me when I’m here.” “He prolly doesn’t remember you, it’s been so long since you came to see me. Come over more often, and he might take a liking to you.” Sharon winked at me and turned her attention back to the TV. A cowboy was lighting a cigarette and staring into the distance with narrowed eyes. “Is your grandma still smoking? Haven’t seen her much lately.” “Oh, I think she’s trying to quit.” I repositioned myself, trying to get more comfortable. “You know, she started smoking when she was only twelve years old. Got me in on it too. She dragged me behind the tool shed…” I listened to Sharon tell her story, polite and vaguely interested. She told me about being caught with the cigarettes eventually, about being hit with a switch from the nearby willow tree that her mother made her pick out herself. She was an eager storyteller. She punctuated the drama of her stories with the flourishes of her hands. Tales of childhood love interests and after-school mischief spilled out of her, as if they had built up within her over years and years. At a particularly scandalous part, when the boy went in for the kiss or when school was skipped for a day at the creek, she would lean toward me and raise her eyebrows, a mischievous shimmer in her eyes. Here and there I offered up an “Oh wow” or a “that’s crazy,” sneaking glances towards the bathroom where my dad worked. After almost two hours of stories, the sink was fixed. Sharon asked us if we really couldn’t stay longer. My dad insisted we had to be on our way. She sighed melodramatically and hugged him goodbye. Then she wrapped me in her arms and kissed me on the cheek. “You’re welcome here anytime, kiddo,” she told me. “You don’t need a reason to stop by and say hi.” “I know.” All twenty of us step into our cars and drive two minutes away to Bowen’s cemetery. A thick cluster of trees masks it from the road, so my dad’s turn is abrupt. A narrow gravel path barely wide enough for the truck borders the steep hill of the cemetery. Graves dated from a few weeks ago all the way to the eighteenth century are strewn up this hill. The wealthier the family name, the more elaborate and looming the headstone. There’s a pastor and a blue tarp tent waiting for us at the top. Those same metal folding chairs from the church are lined in rows underneath the tent. Everybody takes their seats silently. A portrait of Sharon sits on a stand next to the pastor. Her coffee-brown eyes shine at us like there’s a laugh in them. Her smile is reserved but playful. “I got to know Sharon pretty well,” the pastor begins. He’s a young, cleancut man who looks like he’s fresh out of seminary. “She and I had a lot of interesting talks when I visited her in the hospital. And I think she would want this to be short, sweet and to the point.” Everybody chuckles softly. The pastor gives a concise speech, some anecdotes about his encounters with Sharon at the hospital. He is a pastor in my hometown, where she stayed for the final stages of her chemo, and did not know her
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before the cancer. He ends with a passage from Corinthians, then leads us in prayer. While everyone else bows their heads, I stare at Sharon’s picture. The prayer concludes in a chorus of amens. Subdued voices start to bubble around me. A few people are crying now, but with quiet dignity, staying stubbornly in the rhythm of conversations about Sharon’s cat, about a quirky joke she once told them, about how good the harvest will be this year. Connie lets a few tears slip as she chats with the pastor, who squeezes her shoulder in sympathy. My grandma and my dad are making plans for the trip to Sharon’s trailer to go through her things. My dad’s eyes glisten with the threat of tears, but he is all logic and practicality right now. I get up and walk over to Sharon’s grave, which lies a few yards behind her large portrait. I stand in front of the mound of freshly-turned dirt and try not to think about her being beneath it. The black silhouette of a cat is carved into her headstone in the lower left corner, no taller than three inches. It sits with its tail curled upwards in anticipation. One of its paws is raised slightly and its head is tilted upward, as if an invisible toy has been dangled above it. Beneath this cat is Gus’s name and the year of his death, two years ago. “She put it in her will that she wanted to be buried with Gus,” Connie says as she walks up beside me. Her voice is thick from crying. “She had him cremated when he died.” “I feel like I didn’t really know her,” I hear myself say. I feel Connie turn her gentle stare to me. From the corner of my eye I notice her cross her arms tightly, a Kleenex balled up in one of her hands, as the autumn wind breathes through the cemetery. “That’s a real shame. I worked with her at the nursing home in Augusta…” “I didn’t even know she worked in a nursing home.” I meet Connie’s eyes for a moment. Her mascara is smudged into a tiny bruise-like stain beneath of one them. Her lips are pressed together in a thin line of contemplation. I look back at the cat silhouette to break from her searching gaze. “Oh yes,” she says. “She took good care of those folks. Sat with ‘em and talked with ‘em when they had nobody else, when their families couldn’t be bothered to stop in and check on ‘em. Held their hands and prayed with them when they weren’t holding up too good.” She steps through her next words carefully. “She was a good woman to have on your side. A wonderful friend.” I imagine Sharon sitting by a bed half-filled with a crumpled, fading old man or woman, telling them her lively childhood sagas with those animated hands and eyebrows, or maybe her listening patiently to theirs instead. I wonder if her eyebrows were just as active when she listened as when she spoke. “I didn’t know any of that.” Connie stays silent for a while. Her eyes bore into me for a bit longer, then wander to the cat on the gravestone. “It’s okay, hun,” she says eventually. “It’s funny, we always think we have all the time in the world to know somebody…” She trails off, as though deciding against finishing that thought. Instead she says, “I’m sure she knew you loved her.” I don’t say anything. She waits for me but I give her nothing, so she leaves me be. I stare emptily at the cat silhouette. Its lifted paw is pointing at Sharon’s name and its slender, graceful head is bent towards the sky. I feel like I have missed out on something.
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Luminescence by Erik Wessel
The World is Going to End Brian Robinson
I heard the news that morning while I was on the bus. The man in front of me was reading a newspaper with the front page: “WORLD COMING TO END – Scientists, Philosophers, Beekeepers agree: World’s End to occur exactly 6:28 EST.” Naturally I was a little skeptical, after Y2K was a bust and the 2012 Mayan prophecy turned out to be a fluke. But I had been avidly reading Holly’s Horoscopes for quite some time and she had been hinting things here and there, “It will be powerful, it will be great. The world will end at 6:28. Do not fear, do not be afraid—become a Holly’s subscriber today!” So when I saw the headline, I knew it was for real. I pulled the cord and immediately got out at the next stop. The streets were remarkably calm for the last day on Earth. My suburb was as quaint as it usually was. What few businessmen that were left this late in the morning were walking with backpacks; briefcases had gone out of style for luxury backpacks now—velvety browns and navy blues with tan handles. They looked like fuzzy camel humps with straps attached, but I wasn’t one to judge. The sun was mostly shining between scattered clouds, birds were chirping (rather loudly); things seemed normal. I thought about running home to gather supplies but all I had were a few bottles of water and a jar of peanuts, and if the world was truly ending they wouldn’t do much good anyway. Plus, it was just me who lived at my house, so I didn’t need to go back for anyone. I decided to walk into town. Crowds were moving as normal—sleepily, and scattered across the sidewalks. It was still early. Perhaps they hadn’t heard the news yet. As I turned the corner, I saw a man with an exceptionally large wheelbarrow stalled in the middle of the street with a wrench in hand. “Excuse me, sir, can you hold her steady while I tighten this nut?” he called to me. He had a big smile on his face and seemed friendly enough, so I walked over to join him. I bent down and held the wheel frame steady while he tightened away with his wrench. “You know, the world is going to end soon,” I said, making small talk. “Right you are, my boy,” he said with a short grunt. I noticed upon further inspection that his suit was neatly tailored and he was wearing a remarkably brilliant tie. His shoes were freshly polished. “That’s why I’ve got this wheelbarrow here, you see. Ah ha! There we go.” He lifted it up and inspected his work. “That’s why you’ve got this wheelbarrow?” “Why, of course. The world is ending, after all. You know what I’m going to put in this wheelbarrow, son?” he said, leaning in. I could feel his breath on my skin. “I don’t know,” I said. “Apples,” he said, eyes growing wide, a sly grin spreading across his face. “Apples?” I said. “Why apples?” “Everyone needs apples, boy’o. When the world ends, apples are going to be a hot commodity. Everyone will be lining up to get my apples, just you see.” He leaned back and rested a hand on his wheelbarrow, looking proud. “But if the world ends, won’t there be nothing of anything? And even if there’s an apocalypse, and you survive, won’t the apples go rotten after a while?”
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“Trust me boy, I know what I’m doing. People will always need apples, and I’m here to provide. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some apples to find.” The man grabbed his wheelbarrow and walked off, leaving me in the middle of the street. I looked around. There weren’t many cars on the road, which was normal for this time of day—most people were at work. I looked up and down at the rows of ash trees along the sidewalk. Sparrows fluttered and plucked at branches, or whatever it was they did. I was never very good at birds. I once met some fellow Americans while on holiday in Amsterdam. They told me of a trip they took from London to Beijing, traveling exclusively by rail. Along the way, they took pictures and kept notes of all the birds they saw. “We don’t know much about birds,” they told me, “but we plan to look them all up when we got home!” They were old and very much in love. It was early afternoon and I was hungry, so I decided to grab a bite to eat. I walked through the little downtown and saw a Chinese restaurant with red Chinese characters on the door and a miniature Great Wall bordering the window. I stepped inside and smelled soybean oil and egg, and saw one of those moving-paw-cat-things on the front desk. There were a few sticks of incense, but none of them were lit. “Hello sir, how many in your party?” A short woman behind the counter greeted me. “Just one.” She grabbed a menu from under the counter. “Follow me, please.” I don’t know why she asked how many were in my party, for I was the only one in the restaurant. She sat me at a table by the window. I rested my hands on the white placemat and looked at the stained menu. Another woman came up to me. “Ni xiang hè yībēi…Oh, I’m sorry sir. Forgive me, we don’t usually have many customers and they are almost all Chinese. Would you like a cup of tea?” “Yes, I would love a cup of tea. Thank you.” She nodded and walked back into the kitchen. She came back a moment later with a tray holding a teapot, two cups, two plates, and several cookies. She set the tray down and began to pour a cup for me. “You know, the world is going to end soon,” I told her. “Hmm? Oh yes, I heard it on the news this morning,” she said. “Funny stuff. It’s about time, I think. The whole place is going to shit.” She poured the other cup for herself and sat down. I hadn’t invited her to join me, but I appreciated the company. We ate and drank mostly in silence, with the occasional “More tea, please.” At one point she went back into the kitchen and returned with two plates of lo mein. It tasted delicious. “How come only Chinese people come here? And how come you don’t get more customers? This place is empty. And the food is great.” She shrugged. “Most people are afraid of the unknown. They think Chinese food is too foreign to taste good. They like what they’re used to.” She grabbed another cookie and slouched back in her chair. “Plus they say we smell too much like eggs.” I thanked her for the meal and for the company, and when I offered to pay she said this one was on the house. She gave me a kiss on the cheek when I left, which I thought was strange, but I didn’t say anything. “What are you going to do
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now?” I asked her. “Same as I always do. Today’s just another day. Why should I do anything different? Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start making the soup. I had a good time today. Goodbye.” She turned and walked back into the kitchen, leaving me at my seat with a fortune cookie. I left it on the table and got up to leave. News of the world ending seemed to have spread. When I walked outside, I saw people running down the street with shopping carts full of food and clothes. Why they had shopping carts, I had no idea. Luckily, there weren’t that many of them, so I could make it down the sidewalk generally unobstructed. I walked a few blocks and admired the sparrows in the ash trees again. They were still chirping quite loudly. If only I had my fortune cookie to feed them, I thought. Soon I came up to my favorite record store: Jenny’s Vinyl and CDs. They didn’t have one of those electronic beepy-things that chimed when a customer walked inside, but a tiny bell that hung from a long string in the ceiling and let out a single “ding” whenever the door opened and closed. R.E.M.’s “It’s The End Of The World” was playing when I walked in, and Jenny was behind the counter. Like the restaurant, there was no one inside. I guessed people didn’t want to buy music on their last day. The place was dingy and dusty and smelled like an old rug, but it had a nice homey vibe to it. I think it was the incandescent lighting. I used to suffer from horrible migraines until I saw a doctor that told me to try switching from fluorescent to incandescent. It had done wonders, and whenever I found somewhere that still used incandescent, I clung to it. “Hi Jenny,” I said, walking up to the counter. “Hiya there Nate!” she said with a smile. She was wearing a long dress with squiggly shapes all over it, and big dangly earrings. “Good to see you! Glad you came in!” “I like the music you’ve got on,” I said. “Very festive.” “Well the world’s going out with a bang, so why not be in the mood?” When she said the word “bang,” she lurched forward and flung her hands toward my face. I jumped back. “Have a look around, listen to some music. Everything is halfoff today, to celebrate! What an exciting time to be alive!” “Well, alright,” I said. I started leafing through the records and picked out a few that I liked. Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald. I started grabbing a few more before I realized I didn’t have a record player, and I wasn’t about to buy one now just because the world was ending, so I set the records down and walked up to the CD sample listening station. I put on the headphones. Some Latin compilation was playing, and I started doing a slow salsa in place. I had once been an avid dancer—ballroom, salsa, bachata, even a little bit of swing, but fell out of it once I couldn’t find a suitable dancing partner. I set the headphones down and walked over to Jenny at the counter. “Hey Jenny,” I began. She perked up and looked at me with a toothy smile. Her bottom teeth were crooked, which I found endearing. “I was wondering –” “If I’ll have sex with you?” “Well, yeah,” I said, a bit taken aback. “I mean, with the world ending and everything. But how did you know?” “I could see it in your eyes.”
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“Oh. Well do you–” “I have a boyfriend.” “Ah,” I said. “I know none of this will matter by 6:28, but who would I be to abandon my morals so quickly? Just because the world is going to end. After all, it’s just another day.” She said this with a smile that felt patronizing, but I knew she was talking to me as an equal, just as two adults. I looked down. She quickly added “But I’d love to get dinner with you! Are you free tonight?” I perked up. “Well, yeah.” “Great. How about you pick me up at five. I’ll close up early. Where do you want to go?” “How about we cook dinner in? I don’t really feel like going out,” I said. “That sounds fine with me!” she said. “Should I bring anything?” “Maybe a bottle of wine. I’ll take care of the food.” “Great! This will be fun!” I gave a quick smile and turned to leave. “Alright, I’ll see you tonight. I’ll go and get groceries.” She waved. “Bye, Nate! See you later!” The grocery store was only a few blocks away. I had nowhere to be, and no responsibilities anymore, so I took my time, kicking bits of gravel as I walked. The stores I passed were mostly empty—I don’t think the looting had started yet. I kept my head down as I walked. The grocery store was chaotic, as expected. People were rushing past with carts full of gallons of water, energy bars, big bags of rice, and lots and lots of cans. Some of the cashiers had quit, it seemed, as there were only three lanes open for the approximately fifty carts that were in line. Many people simply walked out with their carts. Who could blame them? I walked over to the produce section to look for a cabbage. I was thinking of having corned beef as my last meal. It was my favorite growing up. As I was testing the heads for firmness I looked over and saw the man with the wheelbarrow filling it up with apples. All sorts of apples, really. He went down each row, plopping every kind of apple into his wheelbarrow. Gala, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Fugi, Red, Yellow, Green, all went in. He was whistling as he filled it up, and when he turned around and saw me he came up and gave me a big hug. “Hiya there, sonny! Beautiful day, isn’t it? What a smashing way to end things on. Birds chirping, sun shining, excitement in the air. Can you feel it?” I reeled back. “Yes. I think most people are starting to panic.” He shook his finger at me. “As they should, my boy. The world ending is some serious business. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s always a light at the end of the darkness. Or in this case,” he said, holding up an apple right in front of my face, “an apple!” He happily took a bite and returned back to his wheelbarrow. “Well, I’m off. Nice to see you again, friend. Happy end of the world!” He turned around and I watched him walk out the front doors. “Happy end of the world, too,” I said. I grabbed a cabbage and some corned beef from the deli and walked out the store. I didn’t pay for anything. I got to the record store promptly at 5, and Jenny was waiting out front
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clutching her purse. “I’m excited for our meal,” she said. “We never spend much time together, apart from talking here and there in the store. This will be fun! Where do you live again?” “West end of town,” I said. “It’s only a short walk. Did you bring the wine?” “Yes,” she said, holding up a bottle. “I have a nice cab that I’ve been saving in the basement for a special occasion, and now seems like just the time to break it out.” “Great,” I said. “Shall we hold hands?” she said. “It would only seem proper.” “I don’t see why not,” I said, and she took my hand and squeezed it tightly as we walked down the sidewalk. Dinner was uneventful but nice. We talked about music mostly, what we would miss about the world, what we would regret. I told her I’d always wanted to go to Norway. She said she always wanted to try belly dancing. We finished off the bottle of wine and listened to some more R.E.M. -“To get us in the mood!” she said -and soon she got up to leave. “Well, it’s about 5:50 right now, which means I’ve got a little bit of time left to say goodbye to my boyfriend and family. He’ll probably want to have sex one last time, but I should have time to see everyone else off too if I make it quick.” She smiled. “I had a great time tonight,” she said, giving me a kiss. “It’s a shame we couldn’t have done this sooner.” “Yes, it’s a shame.” After I let her out I slumped back along the door and slid to the ground. A little dizzy from the wine, I held my head to my hands. I took a few deep breaths. Not wanting to spend my last few moments in my apartment, I stood up and walked outside. Total chaos had emerged. Glass windows of storefronts were broken, and there was rubble in the streets. Cars were smashed, and two were on fire. Men with rage on their faces and baseball bats jumped on top of things and yelled. More shopping carts ran through the streets—women, children, and the like. I kept looking for the police, but they probably called in sick today to stay with their families. Or maybe they didn’t have any and were out looting with everyone. I decided to go to the park and watch the sunset. I had always found the park peaceful, and I didn’t really have anywhere else to go, so I figured I’d spend my last few minutes sitting in the grass and staring out at the sky. I made it a few blocks down before I saw a large crowd circling around something. They were not looting or screaming, but were peaceful, and I could see some sort of line had formed. I walked up and saw it was the man with the apples and the wheelbarrow. He glanced over at me and gave me a big grin. “Hey there, my boy! Glad you could make it! See, what did I tell you? Everyone needs apples. Here’s everyone, and here’s apples!” he said, pointing down at his wheelbarrow. He picked one up and threw it over the crowd at me. I was startled, but I caught it. “There you go, sonny. Happy end to you!” The man turned back toward the crowd of people and began dispersing the apples to them one at a time, like a man distributing foreign aid, or like a soup kitchen, like a saint. I tucked the apple into my coat pocket and continued on down
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to the park. The park was completely empty, which was nice. I made myself comfortable on the bank of a hill facing the sun and took a look at my watch. 6:23. I had five minutes left. What to do in my last five minutes? It would have been nice to make love one more time, I thought. Just to hold someone—to be held. Perhaps I should have called up one of my old flings, or gotten a prostitute. I doubt I would have the audacity to stroll around looking for a hooker, though, even with the circumstances. I started plucking at the grass and laying it across my legs, like I used to do when I was a child. After a few minutes I laid down my head and took one last look at my phone. 6:27. It would happen at any moment now. I closed my eyes and listened to the world around me. Car horns blaring, people screaming, objects being thrown. All of it seemed to blur into a gentle hum. I’d heard about this before—people in stressful situations can sometimes find a sense of peace in the stress, a strange state of calm from the chaos. Perhaps that was what was happening to me. I started thinking if I had any regrets. Yes, Norway was on there, but it wasn’t too important, more of an idle fantasy. There were things I wanted to say to people before I left, some friends, but they seemed so far away from me now, like they were close yet far at the same time. Perhaps it was like the peace-stress thing, how things can be two things at once. I took a deep breath in, appreciating the feel of the air rushing into my mouth and filling up my lungs—with each breath, thinking how it may be my very last one. “I’m still here,” I said, aloud, to no one in particular. I reached into my pocket and took out the apple the man gave me. I took a bite out of it, and for a moment, I felt something strange that I didn’t have the words for. Something unfamiliar yet familiar all at once, like the stress-peace or the friends being there-notthere; like a memory. It felt foreign, yet good, and somehow I felt that whatever was to happen when the world ended, things just might be alright. I took another bite.
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MONTAGE A RT S
J O U R N A L
CONTRIBUTORS Carolyn Aiello is a Creative Writing major from Frankfort, Illinois. She enjoys comfort food and the occasional one-liner. Pariyamon is her first published poem. Aiden Baker is a confused undergraduate who smokes too much weed. Catch her at Murphy’s writing poems, or crying on the quad. Jenna Beebe is a junior in creative writing. She enjoys cheap wine, books about space, and jamming to 80’s glam metal. She hopes to become an editor of some kind, preferably in book publishing, because she refuses to believe that the printed word is dying. Jessica Berbey is sophomore majoring in English at the University of Illinois. She is originally from Belize, an ardent advocate for the oxford comma, and she takes pride in the fact that she is fluent in three lanuages: English, Spanish, and Sarcasm. Skylar Chism is currently doing an exchange program in Seoul, South Korea. She has a strong passion for visual arts and loves eating fried rice. She just wants to create. Ana V. Fleming is a senior majoring in English. While she has a passion for literature, she also enjoys oil painting, composing music, and dabbling in creative writing. Ana wishes to thank Montage for giving her an opportunity to share her artwork, and congratulates all the other contributors for helping make UIUC a more creative place. Sohyun is a junior majoring in Graphic Design and Developmental Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She loves taking Instagram pictures (shh, @sohyunipnida), listening to music, and eating peanut butter jelly sandwich. Layne Knoche is a head-strong UIUC Landscape Architecture student who is constantly in over his head. Depending on the day, you can find him singing obnoxiously in the shower, taking pictures on the Quad bc basic, or designing something neat. He also enjoys long walks on the beach and listening. Curt Kupferschmid writes minimalist and visual poetry. “The Roof ” is his first published story. Dan Levin may have seen things you people wouldn’t believe, but he’s yet to see attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. He recently managed to run the Voight-Kampff test on himself. You can probably guess what the outcome was. David Marcus writes poems. Andy Miles is a freshman majoring in Advertising with a deep passion for Astrophysics and food. When he isn’t finishing reading a book a day, you can find him in his natural habitat at the dining hall. (He’ll be the one who brought his chair up to the buffet line.) It’s ok to say hi, but make sure you’re at a safe distance.
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Agatha Miodowski hopes to become a lawyer and advocate for the rights of animals, specifically and/or only for corgis. Her dog knows the meaning of life but he won’t tell anyone, probably because he’s not a corgi and that means he’s a selfish bastard. She’s hoping medicine can make the correct advancements and she herself can become a corgi. If that falls through, she’ll settle for dying alone. Luke Coombs Misiak is a freshman currently seeking his degree in English. Born and raised in the city of Chicago, Luke hopes to further grow and reflect on his urban roots while branching into universal themes and complex discourse through the mediums of poetry and storytelling. Zoe Moersch is majoring in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois. When not talking to herself in her slow descent towards hermithood, she enjoys cheap wordplay and spending time with her cat, Noelle. Mariana Patino is a sophomore majoring in psychology and minoring in political science. She is from Chicago and enjoys going to the local art museums and art galleries in the city. Aside from drawing, she also paints and writes poetry. Brian Robinson is a senior studying creative writing and psychology. This means he will either write intense psychological thrillers or probably just do something boring like going to grad school. If you see him in public, please offer him gifts of apples and tea--he responds well to those. Julia Rush is a future educator and poet. She enjoys destroying in rugby, eating potatoes in all shapes and forms, and crushing the patriarchy. She plans on being sent off to the afterlife with a Viking funeral. Kriti Sharma is the living definition of a controlled disaster. Between running Harry Potter Alliance meetings and shuffling between Computer Science, English, and Chem homework, this indecisive sophomore can be seen binge watching anything from Friends to Phineas and Ferb, or, alternatively, leisurely reading the entirety of the Federalist papers in a misguided attempt to solve history. Robyn "Red" Steinmetz is a UIUC Junior majoring in English and minoring in Secondary Ed. She enjoys eating her body weight in rare steak and sushi whenever she gets the chance, and every single day is almost her birthday, even if it's the day afterwards. Erin Threlkeld has liked writing since she was a girl. She currently enjoys writing short stories and dreams of producing successful screen plays for film adaptations of her novel. Erik Wessel is a stargazer and daydreamer who occasionally comes down to Earth to study physics, do theater, and write. Elli Wills is an artist. She paints with words and writes with colors, dances the notes and sings the steps. Her inspiration comes from the three things that she is most passionate about: nature, art, and people.