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Montage a periodical of creative writing and visual art, edited and designed by students of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The journal’s goal is to publish the finest creative work that this school has to offer. We strive to recognize talented undergrads and to foster artistic creativity on campus.

Editorial Officers Editors-In-Chief: Jeff Girten & Chris Magiet Prose Editors: Megan Cavitt & Derek Beigh Poetry Editors: Dan Klen & Mary McCormack Art Editor: Henry Del Rosario Treasurer: Jeremiah Childers Secretary: Jason Cruz

Editor’s Note Spring 2010 has been a time of transition for Montage Arts Journal. This marked the first semester where our journal was run by two co-Editors-in-Chief, Jeff Girten and Chris Magiet, and we also received an unprecedented amount of submissions this semester, almost two hundred single-spaced pages of material. Unfortunately, things weren’t only good this semester, as with all non-profit organizations we saw our private donations shrink with the economic downturn. Never to be a bunch of gloomy-Guses, this fall promises more good things for Montage as we launch our newly developed infrastructure under the guidance of our new Editor-in-Chief, Jeremiah Childers. The best of luck to Montage’s Fall 2010 staff from both of us. This semester’s journal reflects some of the finest quality work we’ve seen in our time here at the University of Illinois, and we’re proud to present it to you, as always, free of charge. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have. Catch you on the flip side, dudemiesters.

- Jeff Girten and Chris Magiet, Editors-in-Chief

Graphic Designers Ian Ferguson, Sanny Lin, Kristin Mueller

Editorial Staff blah

Rain A Fable: Little Suzy & Tree Gregory Drive / Main Library Commencement Our Thin Costumes And They Wear Masks Consumption West Palm Beach Cemetery untitled Ventadorn, Eight Days Ago The Morning After You Left Me Catechism untitled series Michael Stevens untitled series untitled The Process of Gathering A eulogy to my good friend, John Ahn untitled untitled Contributors Thanks & Gratitude

Scott Jackson Jeremiah Childers John Menchaca Janeallison Ng Daniel Wolff E. P. Reid Janeallison Ng James Castillo Kristin Mueller Kevin Hsia James Castillo Brianna Walker Jeff Girten Kristin Mueller Derek Beigh Stephanie Ruiz Kevin Hsia Anna Majeski Steve Nowicki Kevin Hsia Kevin Hsia

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But she’d no thin-reeded call to sing into the branched expanse, no antlers with which to rake the trees, so she started as best she could—as elegantly, crying out, out: Man! . . . over and over, man and man: Nothing. Suzy tried noise, any noise: guttural grunts waffling her stomach, screeched beats

There came a time when Little Suzy was little no longer, living in a hovel: a cave dug in clay, underneath a red tree: a huge tree, the tallest in the Forest, not knowing limits: run straight from sky to ground with roots, taller than she, careening down in soft-barked bones, like the knuckles of god, shoved into blackdirt. Her ceiling was made of roots wound under tree-bough, where the buried fingers twined in on themselves, a ragged circling: a tinder fist closing round a central column: the taproot shot through earthen hollow and further, always dripping: bath and sink tapped in with iron spigots, the big pillar’s veins run thick with rainwater. Suzy saw a pair of snakes coupling, once: their slick weights set in a dark helix of scales and muscle: contracting, relaxing, contracting. She thought they were fighting—trying to squeeze life from the other—but instead, they spasmed: rolled away with dazed pupils, their smooth lengths not even knowing how to lash. Yes, the doe have their bucks and the bucks their doe, but these were shadowed times for Suzy, even at high-sun: trees tall as cliffs threw flat sheets of light, down into the pillared dark. Beyond their leafy ceiling, it was nothing but sun, sun and the beaked fluting of birdsong. But Suzy, instead, stumbled on slick moss and boulders: slept in a bed with room enough for another.

~ She’d seen elk: mateless bulls rattling through the woods, each broad body lain with whitened coats: alabaster fur over thick ribs, flashing through the bark and emerald brush. Their fogged nostrils bugling, loosing a high call: from haunch to maw, every piece flexed in-rut. So Suzy saw, and so Suzy thought to try. 2 MONTAGE

hidden behind her tonsils. She hit rocks against rocks, stamped in the stream: listened at the echo for a countered sound but: Nothing. Though bears paused to nose the air, and woodpeckers gave up their flatheaded drilling, and snakes coiled more tightly into themselves, nothing was as Suzy wanted. So she lay in a green-needled bed, waited in a tree-lined clearing: a nest of leaves and afternoon light. She lay for days: through high-sun and moon, quietly through coyotes crooning and fog, misting before dawn: hazing azure. All the clearing filled up with herself, till no animal came near and something tensed like fever between her skin and blood, never stilling: she lay naked with this need pulling, now pushing, now pulling: it contorted her navel and bit at her bones. Suzy needed and knew the way an unfed fawn needs and knows milk, but: Nothing. She was not sated, she was not met: nothing ebbed. So Suzy stood sweating, huffing: tried. And so Suzy thought to build.

~ There was a downed log mouldering, black and turf covered: a nurse log cradling hemlock. She hatcheted a chest from it, carved and knocked at the breastbone: a knobbed ridge on the trunk, echoed: hollow. Suzy furrowed, then scraped together leaves and dirt and peat: stuffed his empty chest full. His legs were split from trees she felled, young trees ripe with yellow skin under-bark: ready to ply and run. She wound his arms from saplings, fibers sheeted like muscle, exposed: they were ready to bend and bleed sap, like a real man. His joints were limestone netted in creekbed cement, his limbs lashed with vining ivy. Suzy fashioned gloves from flowerstems, filled with red petals, and gave them to him for hands. She claimed his head from the middle of a creek: a small boulder the goats called Bullersten: Noisy Stone, because it made MONTAGE 3

the water talk: a clear runnel ceaselessly breaking, brooking: sanding the big rock smooth: Suzy set it upon his neck, planted his eyes with rust-colored lichen, hung his hair in lavender and goldenrod. So there Tree lay, inert on the ungardened flowers of Forest: created and gaping. Suzy plucked a pink rhododendron, one bud unfurling, and buried her arm in his mulched torso. She left it there behind his thick-timbered sternum: a heart. Suzy thumped his chest with a pale clenched fist—and again, and again: a drumming punch till Tree’s whole body rolled, his arms and legs heaved off the ground in one great pulse—and then he stretched: like warming after waking, arched his back and yawned. And so

on both sides of his face. This, this they weren’t expecting, and Tree didn’t know what to do, so Suzy laughed: she kissed his shoulder: an iris plumed, indigo. She kissed his hands and they filled with bluebottles and snapdragons: pink and yellow and orange. She kissed his neck and sunflowers shivered out his spine. Tree just stood there, blushing still: he wasn’t sure if this was a good thing, if his love could be taken with all this show, this rainbowed flowering. His eyebrows hung low, he toed at the ground but Suzy—Suzy raised his chin: held eyes with eyes, leaned inward and with one kiss to his mossen lips, set every piece of him in lilied bloom.

up stood Tree, rubbing at his eyes. And so ran Suzy, calling back at her newly beloved man.


~ Suzy stood alone at the clearing’s center: from where she first called but, this time, smiling: Something: Tree. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, giggling tremblings and O—she could not keep still. Suzy let out all her breath, slowly exposed her slender neck to sun, and whispered: Tree. His ear-hollows quivered. He heard it again, and again: Tree and Tree and Tree: some pulse rising, each beat singing off in a long labial. He followed that beat, ran up propped log and down over hill till he stood at the clearing’s raised edge, looking at Suzy where she stood in a lone sheet of light: Suzy out of breath, biting her lip to keep from grinning so bad. Tree coughed: opened his mouth and tried to work voice, till his stomach quaked: his throat echoed some earth-bellowed sound that shook the birds from their perches. Tree jumped: he was surprised at his low sounding self. Suzy sprinted up the little holler’s slope to meet him at his face. They stood, beaming—for seconds before she pecked his stone-smooth cheeks: left, and then right: beautiful golem that he was. And Tree blushed—but, amethyst: violet quartz glinting, blossoming



Gregory Drive



our thin costumes Daniel Wolff

I remember, peering at my mother in the dark of the bathroom, pouring alcohol into the porcelain basin, dabbing cuts and scrapes in her flesh with swabs of cotton, wiping blood from the scars engraved on my father’s wedding ring. The same year, he’d be downstairs cleaning dinner knives while she put on puppet shows at my bedside ` sealing her fist in a white sock with buttons for eyes her thumb, a soft muted tongue.


And They Wear Masks E. P. Reid

the cream is like butter slick and inflated as clouds and when she pulls the razor the sound is hard a crunch like gravity on gravel   “Drink this,” she says through a muscular grin careful to leave    her eyes   at the door on the shelf next to the latex gloves she’ll keep her face with strings all wood and shadow sockets   he enters silent as a priest and makes his mark on me   and they wear masks and they wear masks they fill me ripe with gas while the numbers knock off backwards into haze and stone and night  


West Palm Beach James Castillo While you were sleeping in the room upstairs, I was down at the shore, digging my toes into the sand in the strange way I do. I never have been able to explain it right. I was eating an apple with pink skin and I couldn’t figure out how pectin could be so tart, especially when it mixed with the salty ocean breeze. The tartness of the apple reminded me of an idea I had once for a poem. It was going to be about daffodils, how the white ones are, to me, inauthentic flowers, and how I could only accept the yellow ones. I never managed to write it. For an instant, I wondered if it would be a good idea to watch the sun rise out there on the beach, but I threw the apple core into the ocean and went back to the room upstairs instead. I fell asleep tracing constellations on your back. Then, I dreamed of trees that do not bear fruit.

Consumption 10 MONTAGE






The only image that I would have retained without the help

of notes was of Maria, a pallid eight year old girl

with greasy red hair and a condition no one knew the name for.

Ventadorn, Eight Days Ago James Castillo

She wore a dress her mother made out of old curtains

and all down the front of the dress and all around the corners

of her tucked-in mouth and all soaked into the flesh

of her little fingers was the bloody black juice of the wildberries

Since my heart suffers from a possibly unnamed

condition, I’ve had to rely on minds to keep

me occupied. Last Tuesday, I spent the afternoon

pulling memories (or I suppose I should say images)

of a farm in the south of France just outside the village

of Ventadorn around the year 1800. Most of the images

were pedestrian and I’ve forgotten them.

Some (the granite wall that surrounded the farm

to keep the Salers cow in; the orchard to the north

where the worms had turned the apples

into Christmas ornaments; the two walnut trees

at the south end where two scraggly hens played the part

of my mother’s cat as they scratched in the dirt)

were only interesting in that they were bucolic

in the way a travel journal describes a landscape.

Had I not written them down, I probably would have forgotten them.


that grew all throughout the grounds, the wildberries

that grew all throughout Occitània, the wildberries I had watched

her force off their shrubs and pulverize with her crooked

teeth. I stood and watched her for a moment. With a stare

as far away as the first line of a poem and her dress

bloodied with the wildberry juice, she looked like a sacrificial

victim of an angry Aztec god that eats hearts in exchange

for allowing the sun to run its course. I approached Maria

and set my hand on her chest to see if I could find

an incision above the place a heart was supposed to be

but the juice had already dried into the fabric of her dress.

Then Maria placed her small, soot-caked hand onto my chest

and drew it back covered in a viscous burgundy liquid.

She folded her thumb and pinky into her palm and placed

the other three fingers onto her tongue and sucked at them.

Before she could speak, I turned in onto myself and thought

about my present state. When had I started bleeding?


The Morning After You Left Me Brianna Walker

I turned the rain blue. I started with a cool periwinkle palate but changed my mind after a few minutes. Periwinkle was too easy, so I colored it a shade just short of indigo, carefully refraining from overindulging in purple. My almost indigo rain painted the sky and the buildings on my street. It waltzed through the early morning air and pooled in little blue puddles on the sidewalk. Most people were excited, I think. I looked out the window of my apartment as I did it, but it was only six o’clock. One early riser stood on his balcony, looking at the sky and drinking from a coffee mug. An hour later school children twirled down the street as a man with a tripod snapped photos. On the television in my living room, a news anchor wondered why the new blue rain didn’t seem to dye clothes. I made a mental note to change that, but your sister called to check up on me before I got around to it. She asked me how I was doing and said she would miss seeing me during the holidays this year. We talked about the rain for a little while, but in the end it was just a conversation about the weather. Nothing more. We hung up and I took a nap. When I awoke I was grumpy, so I gathered all the letters you wrote to me and shuffled the words around to make new sentences. Raspberries nearly ran farther into your cotton sheets, your long, curved handwriting now says. Eat eleven classy honey perfect new house, I. After a few days, people stopped discussing the rain at work, and no one bothered to kiss in it or splash in it or wonder why it didn’t dye their white shirts. I stepped outside during an especially blue day, and saw commuters, heads down, umbrellas up, and you on the corner. “It’s bluer than usual,” you said. Your yellow skirt clung to your full, heavenly thighs. Your wet brown hair stuck to your shoulders and flipped down your back, a long and slippery frame for the muscles of your back, your waist. “Why did you make the rain blue?” you asked in same voice you once used to whisper morning greetings. Wake up, beautiful man, you’d say, your feet entangled with mine and the soft white sheets cradling our naked bodies. “I missed you,” I said. You grabbed my hand and walked me to the door of my apartment complex. You pressed your lips to my cheek and said, “I missed you too.” I turned the rain back to normal. I didn’t need blue rain anymore. I don’t know if anyone noticed. Except you. 16 MONTAGE

Catechism By Jeff Girten

Q: When Paul went to the bar at Beacon Hill, what did he order? A: He immediately ordered a scotch and soda, then more hesitantly a vodka cranberry. Q: Why more hesitantly? A: Because, despite having worked with Ramona for more than six months, he was unsure of what to order for her. Q: What made him pick a vodka cranberry? A: His reasons were twofold: first, because he believed that all women enjoy vodka cranberry, and second because of the strong, acidic taste. Q: Why did Paul desire a drink with a strong acidic taste? A: Because, though he had heard that rohypnol did not have a distinct taste or smell, he wanted to be sure that Ramona was unaware of his intentions. Q: What were his intentions? State both immediate and long-term. A: His immediate intention was to ensure that Ramona would ingest the drink he had brought her, and thus ingest the rohypnol. His long term intentions were not as clear to him, but he had, as a form of insurance, rented a room at the Radisson Hotel only six blocks away. Q: When Ramona first tasted her drink, did she notice anything? A: No. The strong taste of cranberry had dulled her tongue. Q: When did she begin to feel the effects? A: Not for another thirty minutes. Q: Did the possibility that Paul had drugged her ever cross her mind? A: No. MONTAGE 17

Q: Why not? A: Because, in her experience, Paul was a ‘nice guy’ whom she hoped to get to know better, and she attributed her light-headedness to the amount of alcohol she had ingested. Q: Did Paul need to drug her? A: The nature of ‘need’ is inherently subjective. It is arguable that in order to accomplish what he believed to be his goal, Paul would have had to alter Ramona’s physical and emotional state somehow. However, this could’ve been accomplished through a variety of means. Q: Through what other means might Paul have accomplished his goal? A: He might’ve simply taken Ramona out to dinner, and perhaps, if things went well enough, there would be subsequent dates which eventually led to sexual intercourse. Q: Or? A: Or he might’ve merely encouraged Ramona to drink. At five feet, six inches, one hundred and twenty-seven pounds it would’ve taken two hours, at a rate of three drinks-per-hour, to get Ramona to her self-described ‘drunk’ state. Q: When in her drunken state, is Ramona prone to different behavior? A: Yes, after drinking at the aforementioned rate, Ramona tends to become ‘handsy.’ Q: What is the effect of Ramona’s ‘handsy-ness’ on those around her? A: If she is in the company of a man, he tends to believe that she is sexually attracted to him. If she is in the company of a woman, she tends to believe that perhaps Ramona has had too much to drink and ought to retire for the evening. Q: Did the thought Ramona was sexually attracted to him ever occur to Paul? A: It did, later that evening. Q: What subjects of conversation did Paul use to distract Ramona? A: They talked extensively of his personal record collection. He cited that he had several first edition Beatles albums, though, in fact, he despised their music. Ramona expressed a desire to ‘start a collection’ of her own. Paul laughed at her attempt to relate. Q: Why did he laugh? A: Because Paul does not own a record collection. Q: Why would he deliberately lie to Ramona? A: Because he had been studying her at work. He accessed her web browsing history and noted that she spent almost 30 minutes each day streaming bootleg albums on her computer. It was, in his opinion, the best subject on which to strike up a conversation. Q: Was Ramona aware that pursuing personal interests on company time was in violation of the employment contract she had signed? A: Yes, but that thought did not often occur to her. Q: Why not? A: Because there were few things about her job which Ramona found of interest. Q: What did she find of interest? A: The secretary, Mrs. Ivors, whom she believed to be rather shrew-like; the pending 18 MONTAGE

divorce of her boss, Ted Phillips; and, of course, Paul. Q: Is that why she accepted Paul’s invitation for a cocktail after work? A: Correct. Q: Did the thought ever occur to Paul that Ramona might have been attracted to him in the absence of alcohol? A: It did briefly occur to him that afternoon, while they were at lunch, but the thought quickly passed from his head. Q: What replaced it? A: He assumed that Ramona would inevitably blow him off, because she hurriedly accepted his invitation and then left. Q: What reason did Ramona have for hurriedly accepting his invitation? A: Her lunch break ended in approximately eight minutes, and the drive from her current position, Michael’s Deli, to work would take a minimum of thirteen minutes given the status of traffic in the early afternoon. Q: Did this concern her? A: Yes. Q: Why? A: Because the secretary, Mrs. Ivors, at the front of her office has always viewed Ramona as a distraction to her male co-workers, and subsequently reported Ramona to Ted Phillips, when she returned late from lunch. Q: What was Ramona’s immediate response upon realizing what time it was and how little time she had to return to the office? A: Shit. Q: Does Ramona frequently curse? A: Yes, though she does not take the Lord’s name in vain due to her Catholic upbringing. Q: What other effects did Ramona’s catholic upbringing have on her adult self? A: It gave her an incredible memory for biblical passages; the strange sense that somewhere, deep down, everyone was lying to her; and an unfortunate lack of knowledge on practical methods of birth-control. Q: What subject of conversation did Paul strike up which snapped Ramona out of her daydream? A: He asked her about her hobbies. Q: What did Ramona list? A: Field hockey, French new-wave cinema, taking her dog Baxter for short but brisk walks through the park, the collected works of Flannery O’Connor, soapoperas, independently produced rock-albums, creating short lists of things she had observed and hoped to one day get published as a collection, words that are really several words compounded in to one (e.g. nevertheless, wherewithal, sonofabitch). Q: Which of the above listed items was, in fact, not true of Ramona? A: Her love of French new-wave cinema. Q: Why did Ramona feel the need to lie? A: Because she felt as though Baxter, Flannery O’Connor, and compound words did not amount to an interesting life. She was also under the impression that talking about foreign films gave her the appearance of being worldly. MONTAGE 19

Q: Did Paul call Ramona out on this? A: No, he did not. Q: Why not? A: Because Paul himself did not know much about French new-wave cinema and felt that broaching the subject would only illuminate his own ignorance. Q: What did he ask about instead? A: He asked about Baxter, believing that it would prove to be a simple, yet extensive, conversation starter that could lead in a variety of productive directions. Q: Did he see the humor in trying to make small talk in light of the current situation? A: The humor was not lost on him, but he nonetheless felt obliged to engage in what he liked to refer to as ‘mental-foreplay’. Q: When the subject of Baxter, and dogs in general, began to run dry, in what direction did Paul attempt to lead the conversation? A: He asked if Ramona watched the television program Dexter, believing the similarity of the two names would provide a linguistic bridge to a different point of conversation. Q: What was Ramona’s response? A: Initially, she hiccupped, then her gag reflex kicked in, and ultimately the taste of bile filled her mouth. Q: Did she vomit? A: No, no more than the tiny amount which reached the back of her throat. Q: Was Paul aware that Ramona was no longer feeling well? A: Yes, and he immediately tried to comfort her. Q: In what way did he attempt to comfort her? A: He removed his jacket, bundled it up as a pillow, and placed it beside her so that she might lie down in the booth where they were seated. Q: Did she lie down? A: No, in her intoxicated state, Ramona believed that lying down would ultimately signal the end of the date. She was not ready to give up and believed that with another drink she would rally. Q: Did Paul buy her another drink? A: Not initially. It took several minutes of fervent pressure, countered by his rejection, before he began to think that perhaps she was not as inebriated as he had originally thought. Q: What ultimately convinced Paul to buy another round of drinks? A: A threefold attack. Ramona repeatedly telling him that she ‘like(d)’ him ‘a lot,’ his own suspicion that the night would end abruptly if he took her home now, and the sensual, determined application by Ramona of her palm to the interior of Paul’s pants’ pocket. Q: What physical and mental responses did Paul have to Ramona’s assertion of interest? A: Mentally, he received a renewed zeal to carry through with his plan. His physical description would match that of most heterosexual men who have just had a woman that they find attractive force her hand into their pants’ pocket. 20 MONTAGE

Q: Did the alcohol at all affect his response? A: Paul had not yet ingested enough alcohol to trigger a ‘whisky dick’. Q: Did Paul’s body begin immediately secreting hormones to prepare itself for the task of mating? A: Yes. Q: How did he respond to his naturally triggered response? A: With shame and guilt. Q: Was Paul a Catholic also? A: In principle, yes, he had been baptized. In practice, no, he did not frequent the church and preferred to see himself as ‘spiritual, but not religious’ so that he could freely adopt his views to fit those to whom he found himself attached. He believed that keeping an open mind was his dearest principle. Q: What was in fact his ‘dearest principle’? A: Such questions cannot be answered simply. Paul held a variety of things close to him: A belief that a man ought to be able to take care of his wife and children, that marriage was an institution forged to make legitimate children, that he himself might someday like to have legitimate children, that on earth there was nothing so worthy of his admiration as the Boston Red Sox, that thinking so did not make him a walking stereotype, that most things had a logical and empirical answer, that he would eventually shake the nagging feeling that there was a ‘higher power’ at work in life, that he would one day find a woman worthy of settling down with. Trying to discern which was dearest to him at that moment would be nearly impossible. Q: Which of these would later come true? A: The future is too difficult to predict. Paul, like all people, was in a constant state of flux with regard to what he wanted and when he wanted it. Some would inevitably come true, but predicting the future is far more difficult than reviewing the past. Q: What events immediately followed Paul returning with another round of drinks? A: When he sat down, Ramona slid over, as close to him as she could be without touching, and began to play with the hair over his right ear. Q: Why his right ear? A: Because reaching for his left ear required higher level motor skills and spacial relations, and at that point in the evening Ramona’s motor skills and spacial relations had regressed greatly. Q: What words did she whisper in his ear? A: A variety of phrases, mostly with the same intent and meaning, all with a slight slur, that included the following phrases: ‘so cute’, ‘been waiting’, ‘we should’, ‘nearby’, (giggling). Q: Paul’s response? A: A smile, but not an ordinary smile. It was the smile of a man triumphant, a man who had realized in himself something which he never thought possible. Q: But hadn’t Paul realized it by illicit means? A: Yes, but that thought did not cross his mind. Q: When Paul rose from the booth, did he offer Ramona his hand? A: Yes. MONTAGE 21

Q: Did she accept it? A: Yes, and she believed that it was an indication of Paul’s true, high moral standards. Q: Was it an indication of his moral standards? A: Yes and no. Paul’s morals were in constant motion over the course of the evening. Q: On the way back to Paul’s room at the Radisson, did anything of note occur? A: Ramona did, at last, vomit, all over the sidewalk. Q: Did this renew in Paul his former feelings of doubt about what he was about to do? A: It did not. Paul’s determination and conviction were at their high-water marks. Q: Why did Paul fumble with the key to his room at the Radisson? A: Because Ramona was chewing on his earlobe and tracing the outline of his zipper with her hand. Q: Was Ramona aware of what she was doing? A: At that point in the evening, Ramona had little, if any, control over her actions and would remember nothing the subsequent morning. Q: Upon entering the room, what did they do? A: Ramona threw Paul on the bed, and then attempted a suggestive dance for him. Q: And he? A: He sat back and admired her beauty, then felt a surge of satisfaction wash over him with what he was about to accomplish. Q: When Ramona collapsed onto the bed, what action did Paul initiate toward her? A: He kissed her long and passionately. He felt it the physical manifestation of the surge of satisfaction that had washed over him. Q: Did she kiss him back? A: Yes, quite clumsily. Q: Did Paul take note of her clumsiness? A: Yes, but he attempted to put it out of his mind so that he might stay in the moment. Q: Was his strategy successful? A: No, he felt pangs of remorse for what he was about to do. Q: How did he attempt to fight these pangs of remorse? A: By engaging himself with a renewed zeal into the physical activities which they were participating in. Q: At what point did these pangs at last overwhelm him? A: Immediately after he removed her panties, but slightly before they fell in a crumpled heap upon the floor. Q: What happened next? A: Paul excused himself to ‘take a leak’ and went into the bathroom. Q: What did Paul actually do in the bathroom? A: He sat on the edge of the bathtub and watched as his leg began to shake uncontrollably, then gave in as the shaking spread throughout his whole body. Q: What feelings accompanied Paul’s physical breakdown? A: Remorse that he had drugged Ramona and anger that he had ever conceived of such a hideous idea. 22 MONTAGE

Q: When Paul looked in the mirror, what did he see? A: A very flustered looking man whom he believed to be himself, three distinct teartrails on his cheeks, and a piece of lint stuck in his hair. Q: When Paul exited the bathroom, what did he see? A: Ramona, asleep on the bed. Q: Did he attempt to wake her? A: No, he merely slipped out of the room as quietly as he could and ran home in a desperate attempt to escape himself. Q: In the morning, upon awakening, what did Ramona remember of the previous night? A: Something pertaining to the collected works of Flannery O’Connor and briefly discussing Baxter with Paul. Q: What did she find in a crumpled heap on the floor? A: Her panties. Q: What did this lead her to believe? A: That Paul had drugged and raped her. Q: Was this true? A: Not entirely.




untitled series

eight grandchildren; and fifteen great-grandchildren. Per Michael’s wishes, the Stevens family has elected to forgo a traditional funeral in favor of a small observance at the Niles Herald-Spectator, where Stevens was Managing Editor until he retired at 75. Stevens spent 51 years at the HeraldSpectator after serving his country in the Vietnam War. Stevens is preceded in death by parents Scott and Marjorie and an older brother, Joseph, of Country Club Hills.

Herald-Spectator Editor Lost at Sea

Michael Stevens DEREK BEIGH

Michael Stevens, 83, of Niles died in his sleep at approximately 3 a.m. Friday. Stevens’ wife Audrey said she awoke to find Michael still in bed despite a rigorous post-retirement lifestyle in which he regularly ran early in the morning. When he didn’t respond, she phoned local authorities, who declared Stevens dead at 8:37 a.m. CST. Stevens is survived by his aforementioned wife; their three children, John Stevens, Elizabeth Stevens-White, and Alexandria Smith; his sister Carla, of Skokie; 26 MONTAGE

Stevens Missing, Presumed Dead The manhunt continues for Herald-Spectator Managing Editor Michael Stevens, 65, who was on vacation with his wife and daughter in Key West six days ago when a strong wind capsized his small fishing boat and sent him into the water. Stevens’ wife Audrey was the only witness to the accident. By Mrs. Stevens’ account, she and Michael were on the beach early Wednesday morning when Mrs. Stevens, who was collecting shells, saw Michael’s boat begin to tip and wobble. She rushed to the family’s cabin to find Alexandria Smith, the couple’s youngest daughter, but Stevens and Smith upon returning to the beach found the boat fully capsized and Michael absent. They then sent for help. That help was resident and friend Jerry Busey, who moved to the island after retiring as President of Northeastern Illinois University in North Park. “I didn’t know what to tell her,” Busey said. “I’ve been here ten years and I’ve never seen anything like it. I just figured, hey, let’s call the cops and let them take care of it.” By Busey’s account, local authorities arrived at the scene approximately two hours later but didn’t have much help to offer. “They did a little bit of searching,” Busey said. “There’s only so much you can do when somebody goes adrift out there. I pretty much figured he was a goner.” Police said they’re continuing to search for Stevens or his remains, and the family remains hopeful that Michael will be returning to them soon. “Dad’s too tough to go out like this,” said John Stevens, the couple’s eldest son, a doctor who resides in Country Club Hills but practices in Niles near the Stevens’ home where he grew up. “After all the [stuff] he told me about him going through in [Viet] Nam, he wouldn’t let Key West knock him out.” Regardless, Busey called Stevens’ return very unlikely, dead or alive. “All we can do,” he said, “is keep hoping.” MONTAGE 27

To Be Just Like Mike A Colleague’s Goodbye You may not know the name Michael Stevens, but as a reader of this paper you certainly know his work. Over the years Mike has contributed an incredible amount to the Herald-Spectator, putting in long hours first as a freelance assignment reporter, then as a regular contributor, and finally as head of the sports section, a job he loved so much he often slept under his desk by the phone just in case a latebreaking story came over the wire in the dead of night. Greater than his passion for news, though, was Mike’s ability to whip young reporters into shape, a duty he took so seriously it got him called a lot of things: slave-driver, curmudgeon, whip-cracking tyrant. I should know; as an up-andcoming beat writer in Mike’s sports page, I was one of his most frequent critics. But at the end of it, I had new names for him: Teacher. Mentor. Friend. That’s why it came as such a blow to me, as well as to the Herald-Spectator, when Mike died unexpectedly of congestive heart failure at age 42 here at the office. Our Managing Editor, Steve Carlsby, found Mike under his desk as usual, but unlike most days, when Mike couldn’t wait to get back to the job, on this morning he didn’t budge. Mike’s desk hasn’t been moved yet; his wife and two children came in several days ago to claim his personal effects but left the desk and the phone on top of it that Mike tended so many long nights. Someday I hope to meet another journalist with Mike’s passion, integrity, and zeal for reporting; in the meantime, I’ll fill the gap he left as sports editor here at the Herald-Spectator and hope that he’s looking down at my work and smiling. More importantly, I’ll fill the hole under that desk and honor his memory by being the best teacher, mentor, and friend I can be. Just like Mike.

Niles Murders Still Unsolved Two Dead in Late-Night Shooting Police remain in the process of investigating a shooting incident that took place in downtown Niles shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday that killed two and left another wounded. The shooter remains unidentified, and police say a list of suspects is forthcoming. The incident was first reported via telephone by neighbor Marlene Atkins, who said she was awakened by the sound of shots being fired next door. Atkins was in bed next to her husband, John, who remained asleep until she shook him awake 28 MONTAGE

him moments later. They agreed that they should inform the authorities, and police were dispatched to the home of Ryan and Abigail Matteson minutes later. Upon arrival, police found Abigail, 29 and a man, believed to be 35-year-old Herald-Spectator sports editor Michael Stevens, in bed and riddled with gunshot wounds. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Police said they believe that this may have been a crime of passion. “The residence show signs of forced entry,” said Norman Turner, sheriff of Niles police, “and given the nature of the crime – only three shots in each victim – the perpetrator seems to have been in a hurry to escape.” Turner’s assertion that the shooter was eager to get away from the scene was supported by the story given by Ryan Matteson, who claimed to have been playing poker at a neighbor’s residence when he heard the shots and raced home. “I was on the way in, wondering why the door frames were damaged,” Matteson said, “and then I saw this crazy woman running out of the bedroom toward me, and I froze. She tackled me by the waist and I hit my head on the table, and when I came to she was gone and the cops were outside.” The prime suspect is rumored to be Stevens’ wife Audrey, who has vanished with the couple’s infant son despite being called for questioning. The HeraldSpectator will have more on this story as it develops.

Letter from the Editor: 7.2 Bay Area Earthquake Hits Home Beat Writer Stevens Lost in Unfortunate Accident Residents of the Niles area probably didn’t have much of a reaction to last week’s earthquake that rocked the San Francisco bay and parts of Oakland. After all, California is hit by that particular natural disaster often, and most in the HeraldSpectator’s reading area will never meet anyone from northern California. The aftershocks of such a quake are unlikely to reach so far. This time, though, they did. Herald-Spectator contributor and Cubs beat writer Michael Stevens, 24, was in his San Francisco hotel room prepping for that night’s Cubs-Giants contest at Candlestick Park when disaster struck. Isolated and unable to call out, Michael was trapped under debris for a few hours before police found him amidst the wreckage. He was taken to San Francisco General Hospital shortly thereafter and declared dead the next day. The staff of the Herald-Spectator would like to extend our dearest condolences to the Stevens family in the wake of this horrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael’s friends and family today, and we hope yours are as well.


Group Suicide Shocks Northeastern University Community Seeks Answers There’s only one word to describe the mood in the air at Northeastern Illinois University in North Park: Tragedy. It’s been just three days since four NEIU students, who will not be named at the request of their families, decided to take their own lives in an incident school officials called “shocking” and “inexplicable.” “We never saw this coming,” said Dr. Jerry Busey, President of NEIU. “I graduated from this school 20 years ago and never stopped loving it. What would possess these students to commit this terrible sin is beyond me.” School officials like Busey have been quick to quiet rumors that the deaths were in any way a political statement against the school’s ROTC program, which sources indicate at least two of the students were involved in against their will. Insider tips to the Herald-Spectator have indicated that the four students were found locked in a bathroom with the words “STOP THE KILLING” emblazoned on the mirrors in the students’ blood. “Those rumors are totally unfounded,” Busey said. “Our ROTC program is something we’re immensely proud of, and it draws a lot of students to this school before they leave and take up arms for their country. This incident is in no way political or symptomatic of anything but four very confused students who didn’t know where to go to get the help they needed.” An older sibling of one of the students, who wished to be identified only as Joe, disagreed with Busey in an exclusive interview with the Herald-Spectator. “I talked to [my brother] about the program our parents forced both of us into, and he told me he might do something drastic to show them what for. I just never thought it would be anything like this.” Joe is currently taking temporary leave from military service in an unidentified location as a conscientious objector. He says he’d like to someday be able to return to the Niles area and pick up where he left off before his parents became so actively involved. “I have a girlfriend and a life waiting for me in Country Club Hills. I just hope I can go back without thinking of [my brother], his friends, and this horrible tragedy.” In the meantime, the NEIU community is left with many more questions than answers, but sources agreed that major steps need to be taken to prevent another incident like this. Joe had several suggestions but emphasized one in particular.


“Stopping forced entry into ROTC would be a good start,” Joe said. “It’s an honor to serve your country, but [my brother] and I agreed that it should be on your terms. I just wish he was still around to say so.”

Local Boy Killed in Freak Bus Accident Fleet Co. Claims No Liability Tragedy struck today as an errant kickball led seven-year-old Michael Stevens into the street in front of his Niles home. He was pronounced dead from internal bleeding two hours later at Gabriel Memorial Hospital. The cause of Michael’s injuries was a slow-speed impact from a passing school bus. The driver and his employer, Fleet Bus Co., claim no fault in the collision. “I never saw him coming,” said Clint Harmes, the driver. “There was no way I could stop. He didn’t have a chance.” Stevens’ parents, Scott and Marge, said they didn’t see the incident, and their first indication of anything wrong was the sound of frantic knocking at their door by the neighborhood children with whom Michael had been playing. “We just want to make sure this never happens again,” Mr. Stevens said in a statement through his attorney. “There’s no reason more children should suffer this horrible fate. We intend to make Fleet pay for this awful oversight.” Mrs. Stevens spoke to the Herald-Spectator shortly after the accident. “We have another boy, Joey, and nothing like this can happen to him. We need to make this a safer community. Just imagine what Mikey could have become. Just imagine.”



untitled untitled series


The Process of Gathering ANNA MAJESKI Quentin, at twenty-nine, still lives at home with his mother. He thinks this might have something to do with the last woman who left him. She told Quentin that he had eyes round like open wounds, and she was starting to feel guilty staring at them, the way you would stare at some kind of horrible accident. She called herself a tragedy pervert, and Quentin began to wish she had just left him guessing. Quentin remembers the way that his mother used to talk about the differences between men and women, as if she had, at one time, been in the shoes of both. She would say that women like a man who’s willing to get his hands dirty, and Quentin would wonder about this because all the boys he knew liked to get their hands dirty, but it always made their mothers mad. She told him, “Quentin, you are a boy. Men, all they ever want to do is wipe their hands clean of the whole thing.” Quentin’s father lived in Iowa with a woman who liked to wear lipstick at the dinner table. His mother always said that real women wash up before supper, so for the rest of his life Quentin figured a woman who’s got red lips isn’t a woman at all. Quentin’s mother used to work at the local elementary school teaching secondgraders how to put sentences together. She would tell Quentin that a day would come when children would defy her rules of grammar if it meant someone would listen, but Quentin never seemed to have much to say, and he realizes now, living in his mother’s home, that to be heard you’ve got to make a little noise. Quentin would spend his summers in Iowa. He would watch his father lie fully clothed in the sun, would watch him pass out in his own backyard. Quentin told his father he thought that this scared the neighbors, but his father just looked at Quentin like the two of them, well, they were on different teams. Quentin works for a landscaping company. He spends his days with his hands deep in the soil, his fingers brushing up against the skeletons of things. It’s September when he is working in the front yard of Lark Cassidy, a man with nothing but one foot out the door. But Lark claims he’s a procrastinator; he’s putting off the whole end-of-the-road thing until winter kills off his marigolds, and Quentin figures the man has been around long enough to know if he’ll make the cut next season. The leaves on Lark’s trees are dying, so Quentin is asked to gather them up by the sides of the road. He thinks this will serve a purpose in the long run, when children fling themselves onto the piles, knowing with certainty that something will break their fall, if only this once. “Bitch work today, eh?” 34 MONTAGE

The tips of Cooper’s fingers are yellow, and he says it’s from the tobacco, but Quentin has never seen Cooper smoke a cigarette. “Yeah, you got it real easy over there with your toes in the dirt, huh?” Because they both know that it’s all bitch work. Cooper once told Quentin that he felt a little like he was digging small graves all day, and Quentin said that he felt more like a god, making things grow the way they did. But Cooper just spit the dirt from between his teeth and said that if we give it life, well, then, we have a thing or two to do with its death. In his mother’s home, Quentin will take his boots off in the foyer and slide around on his socks. Nowadays the curtains are drawn in the daytime so Quentin’s mother can watch TV without the glare in her eyes, and when she looks at him her pupils move like pixels. Quentin will bring home the dandelions he’s pulled like so much waste from front yards. His mother will knot the ends together and make dandelion bracelets, and Quentin thinks it’s a good day when she keeps her fingers moving. His mother, she has a deep ache in her bones. The doctors call it old age, but she won’t move from her space in front of the TV, so Quentin has to tend to her. Today, Quentin sits on the steps of his front porch and lets his hands bake in slits of sunlight. He watches boys play with girls who do not yet know they are girls, so they let their knees get dirty in the mud. He thinks there was probably a time in his mother’s life when she would let her hair knot into tangles, a time when she would walk barefoot on hot pavement and pull scabs from her skin. Quentin feels a deep regret for forgetting that his mother has not always been a mother, knowing now that to deny her the acknowledgment of so many days of her life is to cut her sharply from her own beginnings. Quentin has to change his mother’s sheets when she wets the bed, and on days when she can’t move her fingers because of the pain, he feeds her with a spoon, and he thinks now she is becoming a child again, and this time he’s here to see it, only it isn’t the same. So Quentin sits on the front porch a while, and he braces himself. She has begun leaving real-estate ads on the kitchen table. Says she wouldn’t resent him if he got on with his life, left her to the institution. He says, “What institution?” She says, “The one over on Washington, you know the one.” “Ma, that’s a funeral home.” “Kid, you’ve been ladling my soup seven years now, and I just won’t have it.” “So, what? You’re just going to play dead then?” “Son, my body won’t move for me. I tell it to move, and my body won’t move for me. You cannot be my hands.” So Quentin fingers the newspaper ads; he puts a woman in a sundress on the front porch, puts a baby in her hands, removes himself altogether, and sees his MONTAGE 35

mother in the beginning, and says, “Ma, what’s so bad about my hands?” In Lark Cassidy’s front yard, Quentin pulls and pulls from the womb of the soil, elbow-deep in the rot that cold seasons bring. Cooper sits beside him, talking through the stem of dandelion stuck between his teeth, asking Quentin if he can find a babysitter for his ma for the night and come on out with him. “My ma, she doesn’t like strangers. She says they talk to her like the only thing she’s ever known is her pain. Maybe some other time, eh?” Quentin glances at Cooper, who’s now ripped the stem from his mouth as if from the ground, a movement that has become habitual, making men like Cooper and Quentin appear ruthless in their motion. In the daytime, Quentin’s mother can make the walk to the bathroom working with slow and steady steps, her hands gripping the railings Quentin has built into the wall. But at night, in the dark, she feels her bones lock into place while she’s lying in her bed, and she tells Quentin that the pieces of her body are in rebellion, and she thinks it gives them some character. Quentin doesn’t think this is funny; he will not laugh at her decay, so unprovoked. So in the evenings he stays, carrying her to the bathroom in his arms when she can’t make her legs move straight. “When’s the last time you went out?” Quentin flinches at this, knowing that he hasn’t been out since Cooper’s birthday last September. “Look, you know Kay, the new girl I’m seeing? Well, she’s having a few people over, it starts at six. Stay for a beer, and I’ll kick you out by nine?” Quentin bites at the tips of his fingernails, a habit his mother once said made him look hungry, and she just wouldn’t have her son looking hungry when she was setting her table three times a day. So she wrapped his fingers in band-aids for a week, and now Quentin only starts up again when he’s trying to reconcile things in his mind. He thinks he could use a beer. He thinks his mother doesn’t move much during the six o’clock news, and he can make dinner before he leaves. He thinks he could really use a beer. What’s three hours when his mother doesn’t move much during the six o’clock news? So Quentin says yes, and Cooper says it’s nothing but a play-date, he’ll have him home by nine. “You think I’ve never sat on my ass three straight hours alone, son?” “I didn’t say that, ma.” “You know, I got myself a glass of water today? Held it up with my own two hands, finished the whole thing.” “I’ll leave the telephone and Kay’s number on the table by your chair, ok?” “Did you hear me, son? Drank the whole thing.” “I heard you, ma.” “You don’t have a curfew in this home, Quentin. You’ve been a man a long time now.” Quentin kisses his mother on her hands, stiff from so many days of keeping her fingers curled around the base of Quentin’s world, holding and holding 36 MONTAGE

until the pain of it all kicked in. When it’s dark enough, Kay lets the boys hang off of her porch like children, gripping their bottles by the necks as if to suffocate them. Quentin is still in his work boots, and a woman with lipstick on her two front teeth is asking him if he’s done a lot of kicking in with shoes like that. Quentin tells her she’ll just have to look for the dents in the walls, and he excuses himself, says he seems to have lost his date and goes looking for Cooper. In the living room, Cooper’s got his feet in Kay’s lap, and he’s watching her from behind the lip of his cup, following the arch of her hands as she tells him stories about other men, because isn’t that why she chose Cooper anyway? Because of the coming and going of all those other men? And Cooper has collected all of the things these men have misplaced and given them to her, and Quentin thinks you just have to have all of the right pieces. It’s a process of gathering. “Hey Quentin, how you feeling over there?” “A little lighter this evening, Coop. A little bit lighter.” Because it’s been a long time since Quentin has held a bottle in his hands, drinking, as if he were a small child, to fill a void in his aching stomach, to sustain. And so he doesn’t blush when Cooper laughs at him as if to say, Quentin, you’ve simply forgotten how it’s done. “Why don’t you have a seat, take a load off, eh?” So Quentin settles down for the evening in a foldout chair Kay has retrieved from her basement, purchased only for occasions such as this one, occasions when Kay has too many people in her house all looking to take a load off. “You’ve got a half hour left in that curfew of yours, you hear?” “Where’s that clock of yours, Cooper? Seems to me like I’ve got nothing but time. ” “I don’t need the hands of a clock to see you should be calling it a night soon.” So Quentin thinks about his mother to help straighten out his mind, and he knows that when he gets home, he’ll have to hold onto her hands while she uses the bathroom to keep her steady. She’ll tell Quentin stories about how he used to fall in when he was a child, and together they’ll laugh at his expense. Quentin wonders about homesickness. In the evenings, they eat dinner in the living room so his mother doesn’t have to move, but she asks Quentin to turn her chair around, let her take a look at the home she’s long neglected. She’ll ask Quentin why it took the death of her to teach him how to put his shoes in the closet. He’ll tell her, “Ma, you’re not dead, I’m looking right at you, and you’re not dead.” She’ll say, “Quentin, I’m taking baby steps these days, so I suggest you say grace now, put in a good word for me.” In Kay’s living room, Quentin tells Cooper he thinks it’s about that time. In Quentin’s home, he hears only the static of the television, a noise made MONTAGE 37

A eulogy to my good friend, John Ahn in absence, a noise that fills Quentin’s ears when he enters the living room. When he can no longer hear the movements of the rest of the house, Quentin thinks that fear comes only from the failure of the senses, the inability to grasp what is outside of the body. His mother is shifting in her chair, movements he knows cause her pain, and so he moves quickly to her side. She is pressing her fingers deeply into the cushion of her seat, and Quentin sees that her leg is on top of the remote, pressing on channel buttons. She will not open her eyes for Quentin. “Ma, what’s the matter?” Quentin reaches to steady her hands and feels that they are damp from the cushion. “I couldn’t get up. They wouldn’t hold me. I couldn’t get up.” The fabric of his mother’s jeans is dark between her legs, and she pushes with her fingers on the cushion as if she can make herself stand. Quentin thinks he should carry her to the bathroom and he thinks it had been a long time since he had a beer and maybe feeling light on your feet isn’t such a good thing after all when your mother doesn’t move much during the six o’clock news. He thinks he should get her a dry towel or maybe he should cover her up so she doesn’t look like such a child but his legs won’t hold him up and when she pushes her fingers into the seat cushions he can smell her accident. His night smells like her accident now and he thinks Cooper will drink too much and maybe he’ll have an accident too only no one is responsible for carrying Cooper to the bathroom when his legs don’t work because legs don’t just stop working. Quentin’s mother is asking if he won’t help her up now and her damp fingers are in his hair because really Quentin is only a child and his mother always said the difference between men and women was in the legs. Quentin take me to the bathroom she says Quentin won’t you just take me to the bathroom it really isn’t your fault that your mother is a mother and it’s been a long time since her beginnings. Quentin thinks that fear comes when all you have is your body and then your body runs out on you and boys who are supposed to be men have to hold onto your hands when you use the bathroom because husbands are gone and fathers are gone. His mother is saying take me to the bathroom won’t you just take me to the bathroom because I gave you life and I just don’t want you to have a thing or two to do with my death.


STEVE NOWICKI John was a man, a man’s man’s man, a man who liked banquet beer, and broads, and ate only barbequed brats, that were of course self prepared with the delicate care of a toll booth operator with Alzheimer’s. John had hair on his arms, and hair on his legs, and hair on his back, and of course hair on his face in the form of a beard, that was thick and dark, and went well with his wardrobe of flannel.  John was a lumberjack, a LumberJohn as it were.  I mean this literally, you know, you don’t always have to be metaphorical and deep – Kermit the Frog on mescaline may be wise for a time, but eventually you realize that he, like everyone else is just a tadpole with legs.  But I digress, and am apologetic, severely so, for I must tell you the story of LumberJohn the lumberjack.  He was real manly, you get it, I mean he cut down trees for a living and was strictly carnivorous!  His friends were all lumberjacks too, and usually, on the weekends they’d get together at the local shooting range and chew bullets, while shooting their handmade bow- and-arrows at burlap sacks that they stuffed with wood chips and baby robin eggs and fashioned to look like Richard Simmons – the likeness was astounding.  Well, one such weekend, while John was waiting for his friend Herb to pick him up from home, he decided to pass the time in a new and exciting way. John had a secret passion for nails.  Yes, nails!  And no, not the metallic ones, the kind you would expect, but the keratinous ones that protrude from your fingers and toes.  Up until now, in his 42 years of sentient life, living in pure masculinity and making Conan the Barbarian look like a tampon commercial coated in Avon Skin-So-Soft Luscious Lip Balm, he had never exercised his fancy.  So, having previously purchased some of the finest red nail polish from his secret catalogue subscription to Estee Lauder, he sat down on the floor and began to paint.  He tore off his boots.  He ripped off his socks.  A stench emitted from between his toes.  But then, then, delicately, paintbrush to yellow fungus-ed canvas, he stroked and made himself pretty. And well, you probably guessed it, but Herb walked in the door, just in time to catch John red-handed (finger-nailed to be precise) and he stopped in a shock.  John’s heart fluttered, he reeled his head to Herb, and instantly he felt like a steak being cooked in a microwave, marinated with catsup, and served with a side of beets.  Words weren’t exchanged, but from that day onward, things were different in the forest.  And the shooting range?  The shooting range was just shot to hell.  Never the same.  God damn you John. MONTAGE 39







He can rhyme orange and purple. He plans on getting his passport stamped. He once drew a pretty good circle by hand. He is not a tortoise. He is Jeff Girten, and he is the most mediocre man in the world.



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Montage | Issue #6  

Spring 2010 edition of Montage Arts Journal

Montage | Issue #6  

Spring 2010 edition of Montage Arts Journal