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VOL. 2, ISSUE 1
First Things 2 Masthead 4 Contributors
I T ’ S O N L Y B R O K E N G L A S S , B A B Y by Elizabeth Ball
O N T H E R U N by Judy Fischer
A D A M ’ S E V E by Michael Vincent Moore
N E V E R B O R N T O R U N by Hunter P. Thompson
M E S S M E R , L E O N A R D C O H E N , A N D A B A B Y by Lea Beddia
S C H O O L Y A R D S I N S U B W A Y C A R S by April Ford
B A L L O O N S A N D M I D N I G H T by Pola Mazur
O V E R C O M I N G G R A V I T Y by @iamshellshot
CONTRIBUTORS ELIZABETH BALL (It’s Only Broken Glass, Baby, p.6) grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick but has been living in Montreal, Quebec, since 1998. Her writing has been published in Glass Buffalo, The Dalhousie Review, and Waxing & Waning. LEA BEDDIA (Messmer, Leonard Cohen, and a Baby, p.26) was born in Montreal and now lives near Joliette, Quebec, where she’s been a high school English teacher for fifteen years. Her passion for literature has bred into a passion for writing. She studied Education at McGill Uniersity, and is currently completing a Creative Writing certificate at Concordia University. She enjoys all forms of writing, especially literature for young adults, and children. She aspires to have her young adult manuscript published. When she is not teaching or writing, she and her husband care for their three children. She spends her free time reading anything from Shakespeare to Stephen King, usually with a warm cup of tea, or a slice of her mom’s homemade pizza! Find her on Facebook @LeaBeddiaWriter and on her website: www.leabeddia.com.
APRIL FORD (poem, p.12) lived in the U.S. for a decade, where she taught undergraduate creative writing. She has now returned home to Montreal. Her debut novel is forthcoming spring 2020 with Inanna Publications, and her debut story collection was released by SFWP in 2015. She is the recipient of a 2016 Pushcart Prize, and her work has been featured in various journals including Grain, The Lascaux Review, and QWF Writes. She is Associate Publisher of SFK Press.
MICHAEL VINCENT MOORE (Adam’s Eve, p.22) is a social science writer and lifelong meditator, with extensive studies on human behavior and dream research with over 30,000 reviewed dreams, and an active dream journal spanning over two decades. Fascinated by the potential of dreams and consciousness and their connection with our ultimate reality, he has devoted much of his time attempting to unravel the mysteries they contain through himself and others. Much of his insights and findings are translated into both his fiction and non-fiction writing. He is also the founder of TheOneHumanProject.com, a global initiative with a mission to scientifically JUDY FISCHER (On The Run, p.14) is a prove that we are all connected. Montrealer by love and choice. She is the author of He Fell From the Sky and Missy Loves René, two HUNTER P. THOMPSON (Never Born to Run, books published in the last two years. p.32 is a writer from Oakville. She has a huge passion for it and has been writing since she was
a child. Hunter aspires to write screenplays in the future. Her work covers a variety of genres including comedy, drama, science-fiction and, horror. POLA MAZUR (poem, p.11) was born in 1988 in Poland and studied anthropology. Her work been published in the biggest Polish zine. She now lives in Toronto. @iamshellshot (photography, p.18), as a visual artist, T. “Donatello” Fletcher’s style consists of colourful, energetic movement and imagery stemming from his background in dance. He embraces a conceptual approach towards literal wordplay, expressed through photography, videography, and directing. He makes his bed in Ottawa, Ontario but does with the comfort of being close to his birthplace in Montreal. JENNY YANG studied International Relations at the University of Cambridge. She has worked for the NATO Association of Canada, INTERPOL, Global Affairs Canada, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). She has published articles related to women in peacekeeping, separatism, and the ethics of lethal autonomous weapons.
F I C T I O N by Elizabeth Ball
I T ’ S O N LY B R O K E N GLASS, BABY
ecause her self-appointed superstar lawyer husband traveled so much for work, Lucy spent a lot of time alone. In her room. Eating cookies. She’d moved to Montreal for a teaching job and met Guillaume quickly after that, so she hadn’t had much opportunity to make friends. Her colleagues were nice enough, but most of them were too organized for her liking, or talked about their families too much which made her miss her own even more. When she wasn’t working or in her bedroom stuffing her face, Lucy liked to bike around the city listening to music with her headphones on. Sometimes she called Mom. Lucy didn’t want her to worry—she’d be on the next plane up, and Guillaume couldn’t stand her visits—so she made up all kinds of fantastic stories about her life in the big city. She didn’t hide the truth from Guillaume though. He knew she was miserable. But when she tried convincing him to move back to Saint John with her, he wouldn’t hear a word of it. “You can work anywhere, Chérie. But my work in Montreal is important,” he said. “Plus, Saint John is full of dirtbags.” Sometimes she wondered why he married her at all. She could tell that her moods and dirtbagness annoyed him. When she found out she was pregnant, she began to hope that things were about to change for the better. Guillaume sure seemed excited to be a papa. Perhaps he wouldn’t travel so much anymore. Perhaps she wouldn’t care. Lucy had always cycled to work, but once she hit the third trimester, she decided to stop and take up power walking on her lunch break instead. Her second-graders thought it was hilarious to see her zoom around the
school. There was a little group of them who liked to stand by the gate and cheer her on, throwing leaves in her wake. As they did, she blew kisses and pretended to walk like an overstuffed Santa Claus. Wobbling along, ho-ho-ing, and holding her big round belly as if she were coming home from a long night of merry-making. One day, on her tenth lap, she stepped on a rather large piece of glass that her sneaker shattered. Nothing to worry about. She wasn’t hurt—her sneaker had a solid sole, and so, she thought, did she. It didn’t break her pace. It was just an innocuous piece of someone’s wine glass they’d snuck out from happy hour, maybe. Or a piece of a mayonnaise jar some kid had used for his bug collection. When Lucy was a kid, she had kept tadpoles in a pickle jar on her front porch. She was late getting back to class, so she didn’t stop to clean it up. At four o’clock in the morning, however, the glass event popped in her mind and started to gobble away at her conscience as if she’d gotten drunk and stolen money from the Salvation Army to buy blow for her students. She imagined some kid stepping barefoot on the glass and bleeding to death. As a result of their unspeakable grief, the kid’s parents would fall apart and spend the rest of their lives in and out of prison, forced to leave their other children to grow up in foster care. She imagined an old man bending down to pick up the glass. He’d lose his balance and fall into the road. An oncoming truck wouldn’t have the time to stop before crushing the geezer’s head between the wheel and the pavement. She imagined a dog’s tongue sliced off as it tried to lick the glass. And it would all be her fault.
Lucy told herself they were the kind of worries that only happened in the middle of the night, or when you were high. And when you thought about them again during the day, you laughed because they were so cuckoo. Still, she couldn’t get back to sleep, so she ignored her baby’s kicks and Guillaume’s hard-on poking her backside, and slipped out of bed. She paced the living room. She paced the hall. She paced the kitchen as she stuffed her face with cookies. Guillaume was always giving her shit for eating while walking. “Only dirtbags do things like smoke or eat while they walk,” he’d say. But Guillaume wasn’t awake to give her f lak, and the cookies were calming her down enough that she eventually came to her senses. People wear shoes, she told herself. Geezers get run over all the time, and it wouldn’t be her fault if the guy was stupid enough to bend down to pick something up when he his bones were as fragile as Lucy’s emotional state in the middle of the night. Dogs don’t eat glass. Only the baby is worth worrying about now. Then she told herself to back to sleep, and she did. But the next night, she woke up with a similar feeling of alarm. Did she leave the stove on? Had she left the door unlocked? Did she forget Mom’s birthday? No. She remembered that she’d short-changed a waitress at the diner. Two weeks ago. The waitress hadn’t noticed, and neither had she until she looked at the crumpled bill she’d found stuffed in the bottom of her purse the next day. She’d told herself she’d tip extra the next time she went back, but she hadn’t returned. Not because she was a liar, but because she’d forgotten. At the time it didn’t seem like such a big deal, but at that moment, her mind was working in overdrive to convince her otherwise. An impatient voice in her head reminded her that she was the most selfish person in the world. Because of her, the waitress would be blamed for the till not adding up and would be fired. And then she’d lose her job, and she wouldn’t be able to pay her rent. And then she’d end up homeless. The tragedy of it all was too much
for Lucy to bear. There was a quiet, rational part of Lucy’s brain, telling her it was okay, begging her to go back to sleep, but she couldn’t. Whatever sense she’d once had didn’t stand a chance against her conviction that the fate of that waitress rested entirely upon her next move. So she got up, skipped the pacing, went straight to the bathroom—where she locked herself in with two baguettes and a jar of Nutella—and called the diner. Over and over again. She left three messages for the waitress, apologizing for her mistake, and then four more for the manager, begging him to rehire the waitress, in case the worst had come true. Each time the answering machine cut her off, she left another message. She puked up the baguettes and the Nutella. After the phone calls, Lucy spent the rest of the morning on the bathroom f loor, head buzzing as if she were attached to an intravenous drip of caffeine, body shaking like she’d been locked in a deep freeze. When she heard Guillaume stir, she left the bathroom and told him a candy-coated version of what she was feeling. “I can’t sleep or stop worrying about people,” she said. But Guillaume just rolled his eyes, took her into his arms and patted her head. “You need to stop worrying about everyone else, and start looking after yourself and our bébé précieux,” he said, as he rushed to get ready for work. Over the next week, while Guillaume was away, Lucy continued to spiral. After work on Monday, she turned her apartment upside down looking for a sweater she’d taken from a lost and found box at a skating rink the previous winter. She was sure the sweater’s original owner had caught pneumonia that day and had weak lungs ever since, while Lucy had been wearing it without a thought for the poor soul. When she couldn’t find it, she felt compelled to rush out and buy a similar one and trek across the city to bring it to the rink. Until she saw the receptionist put the brand-new sweater in the lost and found box, she felt like someone had a gun to her head. Part of her wished they’d hurry up and pull the trigger. She missed her five
p.m. prenatal class. On Tuesday, she spent her lunch break tracking down every person she’d ever lied to. She apologized profusely through labored breath, berating herself for being such a terrible person. She confessed to her seventhgrade teacher to cheating on an exam. She admitted to a childhood friend that she’d broken her favorite doll. She tracked down her Girl Guides leader and told her she’d once stolen a box of cookies. She didn’t tell anyone about her pregnancy; it didn’t seem important. On Wednesday, she went home during her lunch break to pack up all the things she’d ever bought second-hand. She reasoned that if she hadn’t purchased these items, someone less fortunate would have. There was someone out in the world who, because of her, had missed out on cheap goods—a toaster, a pillowcase, a porcelain dog—and that was just too much. So she packed it all up, even the cutlery and the bedside lamp, and went up and down Ste. Catherine street giving everything away to homeless folk. She forgot to return to work. On Thursday, the principal called Lucy into her office and questioned her about her disappearance the day before. Also, she said that the kids had complained that she was acting weird. She was talking fast, forgetting names and she even forgot to feed Snowf lake the guinea pig. Because the principal liked her so much, she said, she thought it best for Lucy to take her maternity leave early. It was important for the baby that she rest. Lucy apologized and thanked her, blaming it all on baby jitters and lack of sleep, but her mind was elsewhere. She was champing at the bit to get home and remove an old knife she’d put in the garbage. The blade was blunt, but she had visions of the garbage man’s mangled hand. At home, she couldn’t find it in her garbage can, so she spent the afternoon digging through her neighbour’s. In the middle of the night, she walked the streets, looking for broken glass. Lucy couldn’t sit still. She couldn’t stop eating. She was afraid that if she showered she’d be taking water away from her
neighbours. Whenever she managed to sleep, she dreamt of giving birth to wild animals, like skunks and porcupines. In one dream, a beaver ate its way out of her womb. When she spoke, it sounded as if she were in a cave. Her voice was thrashing all over the place and nowhere in particular, like a confused bat. Every little noise made her jump. On Friday, the midwife called to ask why she’d missed her appointment. Lucy told her she hadn’t been feeling well, and that thoughts of other people kept her up at night, making her do messed-up things. “What should I do?” she asked. The midwife told her the world wasn’t going to stop if she slowed down a little. “Try yoga and Skullcap drops, and make sure you don’t miss your thirty-two-week appointment. And if that doesn’t work, find yourself a doctor,” she said before cutting her off to treat another patient. Saturday morning, Lucy set out to find a doctor. The first drop-in clinic was full. The second had a four-hour wait, but a doctor could see her in a couple of weeks if she liked. If they noticed her pyjamas, greasy hair, and bloody fingernails, no one mentioned a thing. Lucy wondered if she needed to take a dump on the f loor to be taken seriously. But on her way to the third clinic, she remembered that she had a library book from her hometown in her apartment that she’d brought with her by accident when she moved. Abandoning her plan to look for another doctor, she ran back to her place as fast as she could, given her condition, with the intention of mailing the book back to the library immediately, along with an apology note and a hundred dollar bill. When she realized the post-office was closed, she set the book on fire in her bathtub. If she couldn’t return it, it had to disappear. When she struck the match, the f lame burned her fingers, and it felt good. On Sunday afternoon, as she was adding to her to-do-or-else list, her blood-tinged water broke all over the white shag carpet in the living room. Guillaume was going to go berserk, she thought. He loved that carpet, and now it looked like a crime scene. But before she called him, or her midwife, or
Mom, or the taxi to take her to the hospital, she called the school principal as she had some things to tell her replacement: Joanna didn’t like to be called Jo. Thomas M––not to be confused with Thomas J––had to pee before recess. Nora shouldn’t be forced to eat her entire lunch. Lucy had promised to give the parents a play-dough recipe. She’d promised to bring in her Rubik’s Cube— oh, no! The Rubik’s Cube! Lucy hung up on the principal and went searching for it. What kind of example would she be setting if she didn’t keep her promise to the children? They’d never trust anyone again. They’d spend their lives going from one toxic relationship to another. She found the precious object under the couch and called for a taxi. She’d swing by the school to drop it off on her way to the hospital. She left her apartment without her hospital bag. While the taxi waited for her across the street, Lucy passed out in the schoolyard covered in blood and amniotic f luid, with her Rubik’s Cube in one hand and a play dough recipe in the other. Her eyes rolled back in her head, her skin the color of a foggy Saint John day. Dozens of hysterical children swarmed her before the adults herded them away. “Miss Lucy! Miss Lucy!” they cried. “What’s wrong with Miss Lucy?” In the ambulance, Lucy moaned about kitchen utensils and library dues and something about a pink sweater. When the EMTs lifted her shirt to check on the baby’s vitals, they found she’d carved up her tummy with something sharp and jagged. Some of the cuts were superficial, but many were deep and infected, oozing green and gold pus. The following day, when Lucy came to in her hospital room, a nurse was standing in front of her holding a baby who reminded her of everything she loved and hated most in the world. “Am I dead?” Lucy managed to ask. “No, dear. You’re a mother now. Congratulations,” replied the nurse, as she shoved the baby in Lucy’s face. “Would you like to hold him? He’s perfect.” Lucy nodded, and took her baby. But it had
already started to occur to her that she hadn’t paid the taxi driver: What if she couldn’t find him? What if he lost an afternoon’s pay because of her? What if that pay was meant to be sent to his starving family back in his country of origin? Whatever the case, Lucy’s stapled-together-gut told her that the nurse was lying. She knew that at least part of her had died. The nurse knew it, the women in the posters all over the hospital walls holding their babies against their breasts knew it, and the woman screaming bloody labor in the next room knew it. All the mothers in the world knew it. Part of her had definitely died.
P O E T R Y by Pola Mazur
BALLOONS AND MIDNIGHT Through these waves and noises He is the water flowing through my contours Let the life begin I’m the river that swallows the rain Soon, we will collide in our own streams of time In infinite trajectories of all this wandering We are two random points of duration Let it begin, I’m ready I’m ready
P O E T R Y by April Ford
S C H O O LYA R D S I N S U B WAY CARS They sit across from us in subway cars, the Joans and the Tracys of our pasts, the prissy girls who dared us to be cool, the cool girls who didn’t know we existed except when the Matthews and the Andrews passed their fathers’ (sometimes mothers’) beatings onto us during recesses and lunches, when none of the grownups in the schoolyard even pretended to pretend not to notice. But we noticed. Now those Joans and Tracys and Matthews and Andrews across from us in subway cars are no longer mysterious; we are no longer curious about how they turned out. One became a lawyer, the other cranks cock like an old-timey cash register. And the guys: One’s in prison, of course, and the other is just some guy. Married, kids, two-car garage (such a thing of the past!), pending heart attack.
Do they miss the longing for longing of youth? I hope one day I’ll be able to look back and say…. The obliviousness to time extending beyond the age of innocence to the age of guaranteed failure: jobs, loan applications, pregnancies, marriages, breath alcohol tests. Joan and Tracy, Matthew and Andrew: You are the worst part of our pasts. You are the ugly retro sweatshirts now back in vogue because four-year college programs and reality tv shows call it “fashion.” The faces of the Tracys will live forever in subway cars, the Joans you knew but have never known. Now, you stare fearlessly at the Matthews and the Andrews, will them to meet your frothy female gaze. When they look up, you pass through a portal to where everyone in the subway car who isn’t looking up is the grownup in the schoolyard who didn’t even pretend not to pretend. It’s your time to shine—hurry! Disassemble the past before it’s your stop and the faces become again just faces, prissy, cool, cruel behind sliding, closing doors.
F I C T I O N by Judy Fischer
ON THE RUN Exert From: Immigrant
Young there was very rewarding, but returning home proved to be perilous. School started before I came home. Chapter One Though my first day of school should have been memorable, it was not. The grade one Budapest, Hungary 1956 class had made their first day of school memories and friendships without me, and I t was toward the end of September 1956 arrived at their doorstep a stranger. The one when the leaves from all the inner-city month I remained in school was as traumatic trees had already fallen. The dead, as the month that followed. On October brown foliage lay thick and heavy 23rd, a caravan of Russian tanks stormed on the sidewalks of my home town. Those into Budapest following a civil uprising sweet smells of summer and the feeling of and all hell broke loose. To squelch the hope that accompanies the happiest season revolutionary sentiments forming strongly of the year was slowly coming to an end as in the hearts of many, foreign soldiers in full the autumn of that particular year made its uniform arrived. Soon, chaos and fighting ugly appearance. It was showing signs of became an everyday reality. At the age of a more ominous and frightful season than six, I knew little and understood even less, those previously. A hint of terror hovered about war. The fear and terror written on over the entire country of Hungary. the faces of my neighbors and strangers on There was a cold nip in the air awaiting the street was, however, the harsh lesson I us as our tiny airplane landed at the local soon learned. airport following a month-long trip to my After the invasion, the city became a war fatherâ€™s childhood home. The summer zone. My mother made an honest effort to vacation to Bulgaria was my first trip keep me safe and to protect me from the harsh abroad, and although at six I was indifferent truth, yet she decided to take our afternoon to its significance, I did enjoy the trappings walk, even though something ominous was linked to the fun and excitement. Whether happening in the streets of Budapest. She our trip was the result of something my dressed me in a warm fall jacket, but without father foresaw and feared, or a well-deserved a hat to cover my blond curls. Even those vacation, I will never know. Too young to fall garments could not protect me from the have recognized the political atmosphere things I was about to see. While the cold was of the time, the trip was just a magnificent not the threat, the scene outside was. I was adventure for me. My father was a man in only six years old. Young children should his fifties who had out-lived many tragedies only see the wonderful side of life, not the in his life. Having survived World War One atrocities of war. Nonetheless, we walked by f leeing his birth country, and adopting a through the crowds. There were people new language and culture in Bulgaria, my everywhere. Horrified, they staggered father must have known there was something from place to place. But it was just another terrible brewing in the wind. A longing to day for me, walking hand in hand with my visit his parentsâ€™ graves possibly for the last mother. Around me, an era had just come time was his main reason for going. Arriving to an end. People were running through the
streets. Some were screaming, some were just making awful sounds, and others were staring up toward the sky. In the park, naked bodies swung from gigantic trees. They were on display for everyone to see. I couldn’t understand what was happening, and my mother’s answer was enough at the time. She told me that the men were being punished for the bad things they had done. That they were being displayed as examples to warn those who were thinking of doing the same bad things. I did not question it. She begged me not to look up. But how could I not? My young eyes had never witnessed such horrific sights. How was I supposed to make any sense of them? As we walked, there was a soft cushion under our feet. It wasn’t like the hard cement sidewalks that I recalled from our past walks. Upon a closer look we could see faded, muddy and shredded garments. But it was not the garments providing the cushion. It was the dead bodies of the people who wore them. There was an odor in the air, something heavy and indicative of blood and death. The following day, as we sat in our kitchen, the sounds of bullets echoed through the streets nearby and the sound was coming closer. They bounced off the walls under of our own kitchen window without warning. My parents grabbed me by the hand and hustled all of us downstairs to the bomb shelter. We ran with the other tenants to save ourselves. We huddled close together for safety, and to find a little comfort. No one really felt safe after those first weeks of the uprising while the Revolution of October 23 kept raging on. My parents quietly plotted our escape. I was too young to be included in the preparations. My mother gave me a bag, and instructed me to fill it with a day’s worth of clothing and one of my favorite dolls. I wanted to take many more, but there was no more room in it. On November 20, almost one month since the beginning of the revolt, we left the comforts of our home with a small suitcase each by our side. It was my 7th birthday. I was abandoning my childhood, my innocence, my cousins, all my dolls and my favorite
toys. But I had no inclination of what was happening around me. The disruption in my life was disturbing, yet through the eyes of a child, reality was tempered. The adults made all the necessary plans, children obeyed and followed. There was a definite advantage to being young and naive. To prevent a disaster, I was told we were going to visit my grandmother who lived in a neighboring town. I used to go there often, but never by train. I was joyful about our unexpected trip. It was my birthday after all, so going to celebrate with my grandmother was not unthinkable. The train station was jam-packed. It was noisy, and people were pushy. Hysteria. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry. I was just happy to be visiting my grandmother, and was telling anybody who stopped and listened to me. But they laughed at me. The train was not going to take me to my grandmother. It was taking me to a new life far away. The train ride was quite uneventful. It was quiet and somber. Fear was written on the faces of each passenger. Unable to move, we all sat crammed together. The oxygen got thinner with each kilometer the train moved, and a few passengers fainted in the aisles. When the train finally stopped, the scene changed. People yelled as they climbed out by the windows unto the platform. People were acting like caged animals trying to set themselves free. The aisles remained crowded, and sweat dripped from everybody. My innocence was now stolen, and the hope of sharing my birthday with my grandmother had vanished. I could not ignore the fear in my mother’s eyes. I started to cry. The border between Hungary and Austria was unarmed, and the border guards had abandoned their posts. The message as suggested by the news reports encouraged more and more people to seek asylum outside of Hungary. There was an urgency to get to the border before it would again be closed. It was accessible, but far away from where the train could go. The rest of our journey had to be continued by foot, and in the dark of the night. I turned seven. I was a cry-baby and
complained from the minute we started on foot. It must have been terrible to travel such a dangerous journey with a young child. I complained about the blisters on my feet, about my hunger pains and about my fatigue. My father had sadness and uncertainty in his eyes and voice. We did not rest very often. There was no time to delay, for there was an urgency in every step that brought us closer to freedom. I remember taking refuge in a farmer’s house. We were there given hot food and the adults were treated to strong homemade brandy to calm their nerves. These good Samaritans opened their homes to all those needing some comfort and warmth. The quest for a better life became a monumental challenge my parents had not foreseen. Our trek toward the border was also interrupted by one very frightening incident. On the road we walked on during the day, the anti-revolutionary movement had a pickup route. They travelled back and forth picking up stragglers, and collecting and depositing them into makeshift prisons. Nobody was legally allowed to leave the country. The trucks they were using were cruising the area at the same time we were on our last few kilometers. The anticipation of being caught made the journey more terrifying. We had joined up with a group of others who were also finding their way to the border. The group of travelers, made up of young adults, were compassionate, but travelling with a crying and complaining child tested their patience. My father insisted that we stay at the end of the line. As we walked, a young man on a motorcycle pulled up beside us. He was heading in the same direction, and kindly volunteered to take me on his motorbike. He offered to deliver me to a milestone further up the road. Without hesitation, my father agreed. Seeing I was having a difficult time keeping up, this was a very good opportunity. But the decision he made to keep me from crying and to make better progress on this last stretch of the road nearly separated us from each other. It could have been forever. My ride up the road was memorable. I can still remember the cold breeze blowing
my hat off my head, but the pain from my blisters was gone. I was focused on holding onto my escort with both arms, so looking back was impossible. My parents were too far behind. I felt strange without the security of my mother’s hand holding mine. But sitting without pain was a welcome relief that outweighed the loss. We arrived at the checkpoint where we had agreed to reunite. The young man and I sat on the cold, damp grassy shoulder. Suddenly, the sound of a truck roaring in the distance brought my companion to his feet as he pushed me under a nearby bush. The engine’s thunderous echo came from the same direction as my parents. As it approached, my young escort seemed more agitated and motioned at me, signaling that I should remain in hiding and silent. The truck came closer and closer to where we were waiting. As it passed us by, I could see it was full of people standing close together. There were so many, there was no room for even one more person. My escort gazed quickly at the truck, and looked very worried. Then in the far distance, we saw the group of people I had been walking with, and I saw my mother and father leading them. Their faces of relief were obvious as they ran toward me. We were reunited. I didn’t know what all the fuss had been about. We were together and hopefully, I thought, never to be separated again. Little did I know that it was by sheer luck and good fortune that neither my parents, nor I became passengers on that prison-bound truck.
P H O T O G R A P H Y by @iamshellshot J e n n y Ya n g
F I C T I O N by Michael Vincent Moore
dam, in a horrid state, rouses himself up and searches about, no one to be seen. He stumbles up from the patch of leaves he is laying on. Adam wanders, nude, distraught, seeking. He catches a glimpse of Eve in the distance, stretched out in the shaded grass next to a pond, equally nude. He joins with her. As Adam approaches, Eve looks up at him, and observes his discomfited nature. Before she can formulate a word, he attempts to untangle his disjointed thoughts. “Eve, I, you.” Eve, incapable of grasping Adam’s swollen and despairing countenance, nor of embodying his inner turmoil, barely glances at him before returning to her peaceful rest. Adam, desperate to impress upon Eve the horrific images he has just perceived, proceeds with much effort to render in words his tumultuous tale. “You could not believe what I have just beheld; a dreadful event is poised to burst after us. Such horror, such hopelessness, beyond apprehension.” He lets himself fall next to her, in abject wretchedness. Eve turns back to him, astounded. “What? Horror, here?” “No, it was not within this space that I saw it.” Eve, lost in thought, ponders his words for a moment, then focuses back on Adam, curious. “But we have never been anywhere else.” Adam fixes his gaze to the crystalline ref lections of the star’s rays upon the pond as he endeavors to understand this event. “I was here, then I slumbered, then I was there, and then I was here again.” Eve raises to her side and leans on Adam’s knee, as the mystery of his experience captures more of her faculties. “Adam, are you implying that he brought you to another
place?” “I am not certain where I was, but it was not here that I conjured these things, this I know.” “What things?” “The most horrible things: Agony, decay, pollution, craving, sordid creations. So many people living in fear, living in torment of the worst sort.” Eve caresses Adam’s f lowing hair, attempting to assuage his ill feelings. “I still do not understand. What horrible place do you speak of ?” “It was called Earth, and its history was conferred to my existence in an unending succession of ghastly images. Part of me was there. Part of me endured all of it with them, through them.” He pauses, sorely recollecting those sensations. “A whole world. Inhabitants born, living short suffered lives. Inhabitants who then died of disease, lost hope, regret, hunger. Even murder!” Eve freezes, her hand still intertwined in Adam’s hair. Her eyes widen. “Murder?” “Yes, murder, and so much worse still.” Adam looks at Eve earnestly, trying to gauge her level of discernment, of how far he should delve into the reality of what he has seen without compromising her innocence, her amity. “Things worse than murder? How could such a place even exist?” She resumes caressing his hair. Adam further contemplates Eve’s well-being and chooses to discontinue the elaborations of his descriptions. “I have perceived things that I ought not repeat to you. I have seen what it is that some of these people have done to one another.” He temporarily interrupts his discourse, the painful images coming back to him in the moment. “It is so hideous that it induces a magnitude of displeasure to my being.
Billions of people, struggling, over and over again. Life and death. No respite, no end.” “My dear Adam, even though I am familiar with all these words you speak of, I am at a loss to comprehend the consequence of them, or to sympathize in any way.” As Eve speaks to Adam, she gently slides her hand over his arm in tender affection. “Be grateful of that,” Adam replies. “For I have felt their anguish, and I would spare you of it at any expenditure.” “Was it all so evil? Was there not any redeeming attributes to this place you have sojourned to?” “Some, but all far eclipsed by the governing perversity to which the beauty could be measured in drops, but the suffering, in oceans.” Adam shakes his head in a dejected manner. “How can he have brought you there, and why?” He contemplates Eve’s query, and a faint impression springs forth to him. “It was for a purpose, and,” Adam, arrested in mid-account, his eyes fixed to the ground, becomes exceedingly faint. “Oh, I saw how this place came to be.” “How it came to be?” A f lash of horror thunders through his mind, and a subsequent expression of great heartache ripples across his facial features, distorting them to an almost unrecognizable form. Eve recoils in fright. “It, it was because of us. We were responsible.” Of a sudden, Adam obediently bows his head and shamefully shadows his appearance nether the veil of his consentient palms. On hearing of Adam’s self-recriminations, of them being at the origin of this harrowing other-worldly disturbance, Eve overcomes her momentary displeasure to Adam’s harsh judgment. She becomes defensive and asks: “How could we be responsible for such a place?” Adam is despondent and Eve pulls at his hands. At his grief-stricken expression, she grows concerned. “Adam, speak to me!” Adam takes a few moments to constitute himself, and hesitantly proceeds with
the account. “It was that which you were attempting to prevail over me. Us. Our parts, joining together.” Eve wrenches herself away from Adam in consternation. “How can that have anything to do with this place you called Earth, where you witnessed countless people suffering so dreadfully?” “I do not know, but he admonished us not to do certain things. He said that there would be grave repercussions.” Eve cannot come to terms with this inference, this connection that Adam is implying, particularly not through any fault or inf luence of her own. “But how can there be such grave repercussions for anything we do here? This place is so idyllic?” “Again, I do not know. But his essence left me somehow within that moment. I experienced darkness, loss of harmony, and we became them, all of it was created from us.” Adam trembles as he unsuccessfully attempts to dislodge those impressions from his knowing. “Please do not try to persuade me again, do not even refer to it any longer!” Having difficulty facing Eve and her insistence in the matter despite an admonition of this horrifying outcome, Adam turns aside in dismay. Eve still contests Adam’s resolve. “But, Adam, I yearn for it in a way I cannot explain.” Delicately resting her head on his shoulder, Eve proffers an embrace. “Eve, I beg you. After what I have been through, I would as soon tear it off and burn it to ashes before I would even attempt such a thing with it, the consequences are far too important, just because of this, union, you yearn for.” “Adam, do not be so hurried to settle your judgment. Please, consider my feelings further.” Through the sensations they are communing by their corporeal link, Eve feels Adam draw back. She reasserts her longing by keeping to him in a more coercive clench. “No Eve, my word is final. There is nothing additional that you can do or say to convince me otherwise. I am going to Father now, to impart to him what I have witnessed. I will make him aware that he can rest assured,
never will I be betrayed to go against him.” Forcefully parting with Eve, Adam stands. “He will be disappointed of hearing about this deception that we have considered, our contemplation of going against his word. But he is forgiving and will be reassured of my renewed convictions and obeisance.”
N O N - F I C T I O N by Lea Beddia
MESSMER, LEONARD COHEN, AND A BABY
he hy pnotist’s voice is a glacia l la ke: smooth, dist a nt , cold, a nd piercing. It says, “Close your eyes a nd put your ha nds together in f ront of you.” The tips of my f ingers touch, as if in prayer. “ Your ha nds a re f used together.” My ha nds a re mag nets. My a r ms sha ke f rom the force. “ You feel the bond increasing as your ha nds squeeze together even stronger.” Vines sprout f rom my w r ists. Cold a nd heav y, like w rought iron, they t w ist a nd t a ngle a round my f ingers. I ca n no longer keep my ha nds lif ted in f ront of me. The weight forces me to bend for wa rd so I ca n rest my elbows on my thighs. The v ines get so long they ya nk my ha nds to the g round. I sepa rate my k nees to spa re my feet f rom get ting caught . In this position, I rea lize this is what a n x iet y feels like. It creeps up on me a nd weighs me dow n. I str uggle aga inst it , seek ing control. Mostly, I tr y to hide it , which is impossible when I’m being pulled dow n. “ Your ha nds w ill not come apa r t ,” the voice, inter r upting my thoughts, stings my ea rs, like a caught bee. I tr y to tea r my ha nds apa r t , but the v ines a re uny ielding, a nd I a m their pr isoner. I hold my breath. “If your ha nds ca nnot come undone, st a nd up.” Despite the weight , I st a nd. Ok ay, someone is going to help me. Good. I don’t pa nic. This is a minor inconvenience. Now someone has ga rdening shea rs equipped w ith a blow torch to get through the v ines. I ex ha le. “If you a re st a nding, you w ill be able to sepa rate your ha nds on the count of three. One, t wo, three.” The spell is broken. The v ines loosen a nd fa ll to the g round. I k ick them under 27
the seat in f ront of me. The voice spea k s aga in, “R a ise your r ight ha nd.” Freedom! “If your r ight a r m is in the a ir, open your eyes.” The v ines melt into the f loor. The power of suggestion has inf iltrated. I a m suddenly awa re that my husba nd, his sister a nd her boy f r iend a re look ing at me, chuck ling. I laugh too, but I don’t k now what’s f unny. I remember that I’m in a vocationa l st udies auditor ium in Joliet te, Quebec, a nd Messmer has hy pnotized me. There a re about t wo hundred other people at tending the show. I had a lways been cur ious about hy pnotists, wonder ing if the people who end up onst age at these shows a re pa id actors. Could someone rea lly t ap into a nother’s subconscious w ith their voice? I went to the show to f ind out . We sat through the f irst act in hyster ics at the absurd things Messmer made audience members go through. Two men, who did not k now each other, were spooning on the st age f loor while their g irlf r iends watched f rom their seats. A nother chump, who had been under the spell, st a r ted da ncing the mereng ue. It was good enter t a inment , but how much of it was rea l? We a ll have that voice inside our head telling us not to emba r rass ourselves; so, I f ig ured they were actors. A f ter the inter mission, the hy pnotist asked us to close our eyes a nd listen only to the sound of his voice. I didn’t think that it would be my t ur n to be hy pnotized in a few moment . The voice continues, “If your ha nd is in the a ir, please join us onst age.” A n usher approaches me, holding out his ha nd in a welcoming gest ure. I’m one of the chumps. My f r iends a re laughing at me, but I’m not bothered by it . It must be the voice, ca lm a nd cool, telling me I a m happy a nd hav ing a g reat time. I wa lk onst age, where Messmer puts a microphone to my lips.
“ W hat’s your na me? ” the voice is still cool but inv iting. “L ea .” “Like the pr incess? ” “ Yes, but not spelled the sa me.” “A nd those a re your f r iends? ” he points. “ Yes.” “Ok ay, L ea, have a seat .” The usher nods to a cha ir behind me, a nd I join severa l others. “ W hen I count to three, you w ill a ll close your eyes a nd sit comfor t ably in your cha irs until I ca ll your na mes. One, t wo…” My eyes a re a lready closed, my head is tilting dow n. “…three.” I slump in my cha ir. This is like a drea m: rea lit y is distor ted yet I feel in control. I a m comfor t able, like the voice told me I a m. Even though I a m f ully awa re of the audience, they seem to be a pa r t of my drea m; I a m not emba r rassed to be in f ront of them. I ca n ig nore them if I wa nt . I ca n get up a nd leave if I wa nt . Like watching a hor ror mov ie, I st ay to see how this w ill end. The voice ma kes me feel sa fe. I sit comfor t ably, awa re of what is going on a nd, when I a m not included, the suggestions don’t a f fect me. I sit w ith my eyes closed a nd listen. The voice has conv inced a g irl that the number seven no longer ex ists. W hen she counts, she sk ips it . W hen she adds three a nd four, she has no a nswer. W hen she counts her f ingers, she is astonished a nd conf used to f ind out she has eleven. “L ea, join me onst age.” I like the way the voice says my na me, it is as if we’re f r iends. The next pa r t of the show includes us acting out a scene f rom the Luck y Luke comics. We each have a role a nd the voice g ives instr uctions: “L ea, you a re Luke’s g irlf r iend. You a re sit ting in a sa loon, dr ink ing a beer. You haven’t seen Luke in months, a nd you w ill g reet him passionately when he a r r ives.”
It doesn’t t a ke a ny more conv incing for me to believe this tha n for the prev ious woma n to forget the number seven. “On the count of three, you w ill beg in the scene. One, t wo, three! ” We come to life in unison as though we’ve rehea rsed it a hundred times. I blow the suds of f my inv isible mug of beer. A moment later, I hea r the hooves of a horse. The spotlight is in my eyes, so I ca n’t see who it is. Then I recog nize him. It’s Luke! I see him on his horse as he r ides f rom the back of the room. He’s here at last a nd I ca n f ina lly be w ith him, but he’s r iding so slowly, I ache for him. My ha nd shoots up, tr y ing to get his at tention. I ca ll out to him, “Lu-uuuke! ” At long last , Luke reaches the st age. Climbing dow n f rom his horse, he races towa rds me w ith a r ms extended a nd lips puckered for a k iss. I hesit ate. That lit tle voice in my head is still there. She’s resting w ith her feet up on a cof fee t able while the voice onst age does most of the work . W hen Luke approaches, my lit tle voice k ick s her feet of f the t able a nd comes to the foref ront . Yea h, that’s not happening, she says. I nod to her then hug Luke. There is no passionate g reeting, as the voice instr ucted, because this is Luke, not my husba nd. I still k now who I a m a nd, a lthough I a m Luke’s g irlf r iend, I w ill not cheat on my husba nd. I f ind this conf using but shr ug it of f as the hy pnotist expla ins to the audience that I w ill not go aga inst my mora l judgement . The scene continues, there is a showdow n outside the sa loon. Luke a nd one of the Da lton brothers face each other. The voice says the spotlight is the bla zing sun; I w ipe sweat of f my brow a nd g rab the base of my sk ir t (a lthough I a m wea r ing jea ns) to fa n my legs. They draw their g uns a nd I hide behind my cha ir. I duck , a f ra id to see what might happen, but I peek a ny ways because that’s my Luke. I wa nt to r un to him, but if I get in the way, I’ ll get shot . The g un pops, a nd Luke cr umples to the f loor. I r un out f rom behind the cha ir, a nd
r ush to his limp body. K neeling beside him, I screa m, “Luke! No! ” tea rs blur r ing my v ision. W hen the voice tells us to do the f ight scene aga in, but back wa rds, I w ipe my eyes a nd repeat , “Luke! No! ” I st a nd up a nd wa lk back wa rds, duck behind my cha ir to hide my eyes, a nd look up aga in. I fa n my sk ir t a nd w ipe away sweat . W hen the voice tells us to do it aga in in slow motion, I remember my ever y move. This time when Luke is shot , I stretch out my a r ms a nd legs in a pa ntomime of pa nic as I r un to him. W hen Luke fa lls, I hea r my ow n voice, deeper tha n usua l, echo in the room, “Luuuuuuuuuuuke! Noooooooooo! ” I hea r my f r iends laughing. W hen I look towa rds them, I see my husba nd has his head in his pa lm a nd his sister’s mouth is open. They must a lso be in shock that Luke is dead a f ter I’ve been wa iting so long to see him. The scene is over on the count of one, t wo, three. We f reeze. “ Well done, ever yone,” the voice tells us, “ You may go back to your seats onst age.” We follow his suggestion. “ You a re not emba r rassed. You a re feeling good a nd happy a nd comfor t able.” Tha nk goodness. “Next , you a re a ll going to work together in a rock ba nd. You w ill each have your instr ument to play. L ea, on the count of three, you w ill st a nd up a nd join me. One, t wo, three.” I get up to play the bass. I don’t just wa nt to play a bass g uit a r, I wa nt the big bass, so that’s what I conceive in f ront of me. “On the count of three, the music w ill beg in, a nd you w ill each play your instr ument . One, t wo…” I spin my bass as I have seen musicia ns do. “…three! ” Jet’s “A re You Gonna be my Girl ” plays. The singer is lip-sy ncing to it but so a m I because this song rock s. We a re
on f ire. A s the song ends, the voice introduces each of us to the audience once more. “A nd on bass, ladies a nd gentlemen, is Miss L ea Beddia! ” I spin my bass appreciatively a nd hold my r ight ha nd up, t wo middle f ingers dow n. Rock a nd roll! The audience cheers. W hen the second act is over, the voice reminds us aga in that we feel g reat . He counts back wa rds f rom three a nd we snap out of it . The evening is done. Until this exper ience more tha n ten yea rs ago, I a lways thought of hy pnosis as a mere mag ic show illusion. Being onst age w ith Messmer made me rea lize that a lthough there may be things I ca nnot control, I ca n ma nage how they a f fect me. I did not pa nic when the v ines restra ined me, because the voice made me feel conf ident . In a stra nge a nd unexpected way, exper iencing hy pnosis gave me self-assura nce. W hen I told my sister about the show, she sa id, “I g uess you have a wea k mind.” Nor ma lly, this would upset me, but my husba nd cor rected her. “ You have a n open mind, L ea . W here most people would shut of f a ny possibilit y of something unconventiona l like hy pnosis, your mind is open to lea r ning. That’s not a wea k ness.” Three yea rs ago, while I was preg na nt w ith my third child, I decided to use selfhy pnosis dur ing bir thing to help ma nage my pa in a nd stress. I had a n epidura l, but I wa nted to go f ur ther, to see if I could control how the pa in a f fected me. Dur ing my prev ious deliver ies, the epidura l had a minima l ef fect a nd I was on the edge of pa nic by the time my boys were bor n. I felt my stress had a lot to do w ith it . There a re not enough hats in the world to tip to mothers who go through childbir th w ithout a n epidura l, but I didn’t wa nt to go through it aga in. I wa nted a nd needed to be in control. I resea rched t actics for self-hy pnosis. With practice, I was able to get myself in
the r ight st ate of mind. My tr igger was a simple touch to my abdomen a nd a one, t wo, three. The book I read suggested ma k ing a playlist of songs to help me rela x . Much like Peter Pa n needs a happy thought to f ly, I used songs tr igger ing serene memor ies to get me through contractions. W hen my pa in beca me more intense, I requested the epidura l, but had to wa it for the a nesthesiolog ist . Listening to my playlist , a live version of L eona rd Cohen’s “Da nce Me to the End of L ove” bega n. The rhy thmic wa ltz t uned out ever y thing else for me. For about a n hour, while my contractions persisted, I used that rhy thm to breathe. Cohen’s voice, like a pendulum, veiled the discomfor t so it was dim a nd fa r away. W hen the nurses wheeled me to the a nesthesiolog ist , my mind a nd my muscles were rela xed, just like when I sat onst age at Messmer’s show. By the time I saw the a nesthesiolog ist , my body was open to receiv ing the pa in relief. Moments a f ter the injection, I felt wa r m, easing into a gentle wa kef ulness, index f inger resting on my abdomen. It was as if I was in a room w ith the door closed. I hea rd voices on the outside, but ever y thing was muf f led. I was ca lm a nd, t went y minutes a f ter I hit ten centimeters dilation, my daughter was bor n. Hy pnosis has become sy nony mous w ith control. On occasion, my a n x iet y is much like the v ines g row ing f rom my w r ists, weighing me dow n. I don’t a lways have the voice to f ree me, so I had to create my ow n method. Had I never considered self-hy pnosis to ma nage my pa in, I would not have lea r ned to adapt these techniques to cope w ith my stress a nd a n x iet y. It is a pa r t of my coping system, g iv ing me conf idence to tell my a n x iet y to t a ke a hike. I use it to get through crowds, elevators, boat r ides, awk wa rd fa mily gather ings, messy diaper cha nges in public places, a nd pa ra llel pa rk ing. I
keep “L a-da, L a-da, la-da, L a-da, Da nce Me to the End of L ove” on repeat in my mind. I tell myself, Count to three a nd breathe. One, t wo, three, a nd go. It seems simple for the mag ic spell to work : I needed a n open mindset a nd a ticket to see a hy pnotist . I was emba r rassed a f ter that show ma ny yea rs ago, but I’m glad I kept the spell.
F I C T I O N by Hunter P. Thompson
NEVER BORN TO RUN
love my family–don’t get me wrong. They’re great and all and I know how much they do for me... I just wish I had my freedom. Being seventeen years old is not at all like it is in the movies. I don’t have a car; I can’t even drive for crying out loud! I can’t leave the house because it appears my life is so important to everyone else. My parents ask me every single detail about my day: Where are you going? Who are you going to be with? Are they good students? When are you going to be back? It’s all just so annoying. I want to have a life like all the other teenagers in the world. They get to hang out with friends and ride in the back of trucks while I sit inside bored to death. I want to take an epic day off school like Ferris Bueller. I want to go van surfing like in Teen Wolf. I want to go to an awesome party like in Risky Business. Why can’t life be easier? “Jan, dinner!” Mom calls from downstairs, breaking my train of thought. I exit my room and, on the way down, my eye catches the family portraits. Mom, Dad, my sister and, me. Now really, what I hate most about my sister being away for college is having every single dinner conversation being centered on me. Like, if we’re going to do that, let’s make it fun and talk about Back to the Future. But no, we have to talk about college crap and grades, and whatever else my parents think teenagers should be talking about. It always ends up the same way–with me in tears. I walk into the kitchen and sit down at the dinner table. Mom puts the plate of food down right in front of me–chicken and vegetables. A dreadful meal for the dreadful conversation that’s yet to come. I dig my fork into the mushy vegetables as she sits down in her chair.
“So, are you going to tell your father your marks?” “I got a B- on my biology exam,” I say quietly, staring at my dad across the table. My mother cuts me off. “Just tell him the final marks,” she says. “I finished with a C+ in English, a C+ in biology, an A+ in gym and a B in marketing.” “Oh well you didn’t get a B in English, so I guess you’re going to summer school then,” my dad says as he cuts into his chicken. “But you said I had to get a B on just the summative.” “No, a B in the class.” He says as he leans down for a bite. “I could have sworn you said a B on the summative.” “A B in the class. You’re going to summer school!” “No! I’m not going!” I slam my hand on the table and watch as the cutlery jumps. “Fine. But if you don’t go to summer school, you can forget about getting your license.” “That’s the only thing I want in life right now!” “Well you have no one to blame but yourself,” Mom says jumping into the conversation. “You didn’t do the work and you got caught lying, so now you have to pay the consequences.” “But that’s not true!” “Don’t lie.” “But you don’t understand! Ugh!” I throw my hands in there air out of anger. “You’re ruining my life!” And just like that, I run out of the kitchen and head straight upstairs to my room. I feel the tears start to run down my face. I mean, a C+ isn’t even that bad in the grand scheme of things. I’ve seen movie characters get C+’s all the time. Besides the point though, you see, my sister got a D- in math last year, 33
and you know how they reacted? Nothing. That’s not even the worst thing. Last year she got caught plagiarizing and my parents didn’t go all gung-ho on her either. Like seriously, they really didn’t have to make it that obvious that she’s their favorite. God. I decide to get up and take my suitcase out of the closet. I throw what I can in the bag, including my clothes and my laptop. You never know when movies will be useful! Let’s just hope the bus transportation system has Wi-Fi. I open up my window, toss my bag down, and begin the climb down the water pipe. Once I reach the ground, I grab my stuff and walk off down the dark street. The bus stop isn’t that far away; I’m just hoping there’s a bus that comes at this time of night. The walk isn’t too long though. Right now, I’m just glad that Mom and Dad didn’t hear and come running out to get me. I reach the bus stop and take a seat on the small bench next to an old man reading the paper. I mind my own business as the stop fills up with more and more people. My mind grows bored as the night moves on. It’s around two am when the bus shows up. I take out the measly three dollars I have in my pocket and pay the driver, before going to take a seat in the back. Everyone seems to settle in, and we drive off. My suitcase fills the empty seat next to me and I take out my laptop, popping my earbuds in as I open the screen. I’m just glad there’s a signal to help pass the time. I go onto one of my usual movie sites and start watching a rerun of The Breakfast Club. I feel a sort-of connection between myself and the characters. I mean, they’re trapped in detention and can’t escape. I sometimes feel like that at home. As the night grows on, I feel my eyelids begin to grow heavy and the credits start to roll. Before I know it, the sun is rising, and the bus comes to a stop. I pack up my things and disembark. The cold morning air creeps up on me and the first thing I do is check my bag for my jacket, but I come up empty handed. I forgot it. How stupid of me. My stomach growls, and I decide to
walk into the old building directly in front of me. It turns out to be a dying soup kitchen. Must have been running since the Great Depression. I bet it doesn’t get much business nowadays. It’s all wood with a roof that looks like it would leak. There are long tables along the sides of the walls, and a few sitting in the middle. There are, however, no windows. The place is mostly empty except for a few scrawny people in tattered clothes. They give me a good stare but I ignore them and walk up to the counter. The worker puts down his newspaper and glares up at me. “Um, can I have a bowl of soup?” “We’re a soup kitchen. What do you think?” He sighs, getting up from his chair to go over to the boiling pot of soup. He opens it, scooping some into an old wooden bowl. Then he throws in a spoon to go with it and pans it down the counter like someone in a fifty’s diner would do. Ignoring me, he takes his seat and goes back to his paper. I grab the bowl and sit by myself at one of the tables against the wall. I stick the spoon into the gross looking bowl of liquified week-old cabbage. I got to give them some credit though, they’re here feeding poor people. And me. I decide to stir it around a bit, avoiding eating it despite the fact that I’m starving. Kind of like school, I don’t seem to care right now. Then, out of the corner of my eye, someone comes up and takes a seat next to me: an old man with brownish-grey hair wearing an old windbreaker jacket. He looks better than the rest of the soup citizens. “What are you doing here?” He asks. “People need to eat, don’t they?” I continue to stare down at the gross slop in front of me. “A suburb kid like you? Now, you should be in school.” “Well I’m not now, am I?” He sighs. “Where are your parents, kid?” “Home.” “Where you should be.” “Well I’m fine here now, and it’s not important.” He continues to glare down at me as he
doesn’t take the hint that I don’t want to talk. “So, I take it you ran away from home then?” I squint my eyes at him. “You a cop?” “No.” “Then yeah, why do you ask?” He seems to sit up straighter. “Why did you run away?” “None of your business,” I snap. “Why?” He asks again. “Because I felt like it.” “You felt like it?” “I just wanted freedom, okay?” “Well what do you mean you wanted freedom?” Damn, does he have to question everything? I turn towards him and sigh. “I wanted freedom but my parents wouldn’t give it to me. Now I’m on my own. I’m free. Get it?” “What’s the problem with your parents?” “That’s personal!” I exasperate much more than I really need to. “I bet it is. Listen kid, I can’t help you if I don’t know the whole story.” “I don’t need your help.” I run my fingers along the dusty-wooden table as he continues to talk. “Well you don’t seem to be helping yourself either by running away.” “I just wish they’d let me have more fun, you know?” He blinks. “What kind of fun?” “You know. Go out, down-town and dance on a parade f loat! Go back in time! Ride on the back of cars!” “You’re like what? Seventeen? No one does that.” “The teenagers in Dazed and Confused stayed out all night at an awesome party!” I shout. “That’s a movie.” “So?” “That’s fantasy. No one does that.” He says matter-of-factly. “People do that all the time! Are you kidding me?” “You watch way too many movies.” Who cares? You see, it’s more like a drug.
It draws out the miserableness of normal life. But I can tell he’s waiting for a response. Instead I just sip the crummy soup. “I’m telling you kid, you’re not missing anything.” He says, finally. “Well what did you do as a kid?” I look back up at him. “I had a job. I worked.” “No, I mean, what did you do for fun?” “Well I hung out with some friends. Just talked, nothing special.” He shrugs his broad shoulders. “Really?” I raise an eyebrow. “Yeah. You’re not really missing much.” “Well my parents don’t even let me do that!” “I’m sure they would let you.” “You don’t know my parents.” “Well what are they like?” “If I want to go out, they ask me tons of questions. And I mean tons!” “That’s expected.” “What do you mean?” I prop up my chin with my elbow on the table, actually wanting to listen for once. “Well they care about you, you know? They just want to know you’ll be safe.” “I know other people who don’t get the third degree.” “Well you should be glad you do. It shows how much your parents love you, and how much they care about you.” “It’s a strange way of showing it.” “You say you’re unlucky, you say you don’t have any freedom. Let me tell you, I think you’ve a very lucky girl.” He points his finger at me to get his point across. “You do?” “Sure. You’ve got a roof over your head, you’re fed every day, you’ve got clothes on your back. Most of all, you’ve got two parents that love you. You love them too, don’t you?” “Well yeah, but-” He cuts me off. “There’s no but about it. You’re a hell of a lucky kid.” “I want my freedom.” I take my hands away from the table and sit up straight. “You still want freedom? I’m telling you, you don’t even know what freedom is. I
mean, there are people in this world just struggling to make a buck. They should be in school, but here they are working hard to support their families.” His eyes do most of the talking as I see he’s beginning to lose some of his patience. “You mean they can’t even watch movies?” “Movies are nothing. You know what I see? You’re an extremely privileged kid and here you are being ungrateful.” “That’s not true.” I cross my arms over my chest, somewhat annoyed. “Like I said before—Someone like you doesn’t belong in a soup kitchen. You should be in school.” I raise my voice a little too loud. “I don’t care about school! At dinner last night, my parents completely blew up at me for just a couple of bad grades!” “They just want you to succeed.” “Well they shouldn’t be so hard on me!” I throw my arms in the air. I’m not getting anywhere here. I may as well be having this conversation with my parents. “They’re hard on you because they care about you. They want you to be the best that you can be. If they weren’t as hard on you, you wouldn’t have the motivation, you see?” I take in a breath. “Okay, maybe you’re right. Maybe I have been a little selfish lately.” “Well selfish isn’t the word I’d use, but you get it.” “Well thanks uh, Mr...” “Dupé. Mr. Dupé.” “Right.” I shake his hand and get up from the old wooden chair. Not bothering to finish the bowl of soup, I grab my stuff and walk out of the deserted kitchen, going back to wait at the bus stop. This time around, there’s not a lot of people here. Not even a few minutes into waiting when the bus arrives. I hang around for a second, digging through my bag to come up with some cash. Finally, I find three and a half dollars. I get on the bus and, pay the driver and head to the back again. This time I don’t feel like watching a movie.
Mr. Dupé’s words repeat in my head. He’s right—I really do watch too many movies. What I really need to do is get my head out of the clouds and dive into reality. As I glance out the window, I notice the stop from last night. I jump up from my chair and hop off, heading down the chilly street. When I approach my house, I notice my parents’ cars in the driveway. They didn’t go to work today. I walk inside and there they are: standing together, waiting for me. I can tell my mom’s angry. She looks like she’s about to scold me and tell me I’m grounded or something. But before she has the chance I wrap my arms around her and my dad, pulling them close. “I love you guys,” I say. It takes a second or two, but eventually they hug me back. My mom kisses the top of my forehead and whispers, “We love you, too.”
ISSUE 2.1 / JANUARY 2019