e s 2
3. Bleeding Sky DYLAN MILLS 2. Bring the Light DREW MARTIN & THE LIMELIGHTS
1.El Elephante KANE THOMAS
7. Steel Strings KANE THOMAS
8. Six Feet Tall BETH WELLFORD
9. Rolling in the Deep/Rock’n’Roll/Burning Down the House (remix) WILL MALLERY feat. KAYLA PLEASANT and JACK ARMSTRONG
4. Airplane Blues MARINO ORLANDI
5. The Midst of this Ruckus DYLAN MILLS
6. The Grim Street Preachers KANE THOMAS
12. Even in the Dark BETH WELLFORD
11. Hit & Run DREW MARTIN & THE LIMELIGHTS
10. Not Unmindful a reading by MAX CHAPNICK
MUSELITERARY ARTSMAGAZINE SPRING 2013/VOLUME 8
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Will Fulwider ‘14 LIT EDITORS Annie Persons ‘15 & Andrea Siso ‘15
ART EDITOR Janey Fugate ‘15
MUSIC EDITOR Scott Sugden ‘15
LIT STAFF Griffin Cook ‘15, Zebrina Edgerton-Maloy ‘16, Maya Epelbaum ‘16, Sarah Helms ‘15, Lauren Howard ‘16, Isabella Martin ‘14, Iva Weidenkeller ‘14, Bella Zuroski ‘14
ART STAFF Ebony Bailey ‘14, Hillary Bontempi ‘14, Zebrina Edgerton-Maloy, Ryan Johnson ‘15, Marino Orlandi ‘15
MUSIC STAFF Chase Flint‘15, Sarah Helms ‘15, Isabella Martin ‘14, Marino Orlandi ‘15
Congratulations! Since you are reading this, you have successfully found a copy of Muse. After the great printing woes of 2012, which led to a dearth of available magazines for the public’s perusal, the Muse staff dug in its heels, contemplated breathing exercises, thought better of it, and finally birthed this magazine in unheard quantities. Four score and seven days ago, approximately, in a galaxy far, far, far away, I had a dream to ask not what your literary arts magazine can do for you--ask what you can do for your literary arts magazine. Whatever the cost therein, we shall go on to the end, we shall fight in the studios, we shall fight on the pages and canvases, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength, we shall defend our magazine, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches (of the unconscious), we shall fight on the layout grounds, we shall fight in the margins and within the text, we shall fight for notoreity; we shall never surrender. Thank you so very much for picking up this collection of pages. The works contained within are the only reason why Muse has come to fruition. These are your fellow students doing what they love to do--turning the brain blender on pulse and letting the creative juices flow. I think I speak for everyone at Muse in saying that we hope you enjoy and have a nice day.
7. How to Lose a Why in Ten Ways NICK LEHOTSKY 11. Lights 13. Practice Makes Perfect MICHAEL BRONSTEIN 14. Trois Palabritas PARKER CHAMBERS 15. Bogotá/Caracas/Houston ANDREA SISO 17. Under the Counsin Trees BELLA ZUROSKI 20. Fog Woman MOLLY ORTIZ 21. Marbled Orb Weaver in My Mailbox ISABELLA MARTIN 22. Winter Haiku AUSTIN PIERCE 23. Strawberry Smoothie MAX CHAPNICK 24. ‘Confessions of a Director’ NICK LEHOTSKY 25. The Cradle of Mankind HALEY SMITH 28. Streaking Free VICTORIA BELL 29. Night in the Country ISABELLA MARTIN 32. Quantum Physics Love Song MAX CHAPNICK
TOM WOLFF 2.
33. Velvet Prisons JANEY FUGATE 34. Alabaster Charles McKEE 38. Honor VICTORIA BELL
Hydrophobia LIDA STEVES 5. Splash KATY BONARO 8. Paris Reflections STEELE BURROW 12. Handouts MARINO ORLANDI 13.
Parisian Summer MATTHEW MOORE 14. Woman and Child: Pampoyo, Bolivia ALEX PRATHER16.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
6. The Prince of Scrounge MOLLY ORTIZ
Puddles, Pirouettes, and Pillows A. JOHNSON, E. BAILEY, H. BONTEMPI17.
Gargoyles JANEY FUGATE 19. TOM WOLFF 20. Humpback in my Garden DANIA BANAT 21. Michelangelo RYAN JOHNSON 22. Faith KATY BONARO 23. Bobby’s Feet BAILEY RUSSELL 24.
Santa Fe Mindset STEELE BURROW 25. STMKNG ELIZABETH CRITTENDEN 26. Wendell & Sons MARINO ORLANDI 29. 10K RYAN JOHNSON 31. Tangled JANEY FUGATE 33. Winchester Catacombs IVA WEIDENKELLER 34. Carcass RYAN JOHNSON 37.
5 Hydrophobia oil on canvas by LIDA STEVES
THE PRINCE OF SCROUNGE BY MOLLY ORTIZ
On Sundays, Bible lessons never sank in like bare toes in low-tide muck. I chased you from shoreline to the trees, navigating driftwood graveyards for the perfect tract of sand, and hours away from where rules stuck fast in concrete, I found it easy to forget that Jesus had a name for beach-builders like you. You were a blur of scabbed knees and salt-tangled curls, in those first few moments after anchor, our parents still off-shore. The ground beneath you crackled with dried kelp and promise, and all of it was ours to discover, and ours to transform, and youâ€” a gold-seeker, four-foot-seven conquistador, taught me to lay quick claim. Bones of fallen kingdoms, scratchy blue rope and half-melted milk jugs, lay at our feet. The crunch of faded orange crab shells, a reminder, storms always pass. Deflated red buoys became pillows, and a styrofoam slab, a table for feasts. I fashioned you a scepter from a twisted, barnacle-coated drainpipe, and believed in your rule, an empire to last as long as the tide.
How to Lose a Why in Ten Ways BY NICK LEHOTSKY (NOTE: Characters may be of either gender, so select pronouns accordingly!)
(An ACADEMIC, a serious looking person in a tie, cigarettes in a pocket, enters)
Observe the brutality of this contemporary dramatist, the slap which, (s)he feels, is in good taste, is in fact disgusting. An element in align with (his/her) low brow humour.
DRAMATIST (cleaning his fingernails)
Conflict. A powerful word in such a space (indicates) as this. It is the be all, and its death the end all. Conflict. It is of the Latin ‘conflictus’ of confligere-meaning ‘to strike together’. Since the Greeks and before it has made for humanity’s most compelling tales-noble struggles between life and death, good and evil. Conflict. The very life of a play must breathe conflict (deep inhalation). Whether it be the ever internal externalized battle for happiness-or a search for eternal truth.
Low brow means connecting with the people. Connecting with the people means relevance. Relevance leads to success. Success leads to immortality. Somewhere in between Low brow and immortality is the paycheck. It’s a bloody miracle if an academic makes it to low brow.
(A DRAMATIST, a sort of funny looking person in suspenders, enters) ACADEMIC Ah! Another player! Thus, this monologue turns into a dialogue., and a new conflict is initiated. (Nodding to the DRAMATIST, who says nothing) And a new conflict is initiated. (Still nodding to the DRAMATIST, who turns and slaps the ACADEMIC) What’d you do that for?
ACADEMIC See here! Without the academic, how will people know what is and what isn’t low brow? DRAMATIST Ooh, bad move, Jenkins. Leave it to the people to find what they want. ACADEMIC I-you-Shit! (the ACADEMIC storms away from the grinning DRAMATIST, and (s)he is sulking.)
Oh, sorry. Just creating a conflict.
Help me out dictionaies, I need a rebuttal! (S)He pulls out a pocket dictionary and (his/her) SMART PHONE. Contemplating, (s)he tosses the pocket dictionary somewhere behind or to the side of (him/her))
That’s not a conflict, that’s assault! An irrational, uncivilized, primal manner of harassment!
Bah! Leave it to Google. ((S)He begins to key in something)
DRAMATIST I could shoot you if you like. ACADEMIC Oh, and I suppose that would make it better? DRAMATIST Of course not. But certainly more civilized.
(The DRAMATIST loses (his/her) grin. (S)He searches for it for perhaps a moment, and decides (s)he can buy another one. (S)He turns (his/her) attention back to the ACADEMIC.) DRAMATIST I’m sorry, what? ACADEMIC (repeating (herself/himself)) Bah! Leave it to Google. DRAMATIST
Splash water color by KATY BONARO Oh. That’s what you said. (a beat) How dare you! ACADEMIC (with a smirk) Who needs us when they’ve got Google? DRAMATIST Everybody needs a dramatist! How else will they know how to feel? (Leaping up, the ACADEMIC has found new meaning in (his/her) weltschmerz) ACADEMIC (laughing) Ah-ha-ha-ha! How ironic. ‘Leave it to the people’, eh, Sterling? Why don’t you just come to terms with yourself? You are a product made by the people for the people.
(the SMART PHONE, still in the ACADEMIC’s hand, rings. Preferential ringtones include Little Green Bag by The George Baker Selection or The Law & Order theme. But a simple tacky one will do in a pinch. There is a beat as the DRAMATIST realizes the disruption.) DRAMATIST (glaring) Do you want to get that. ACADEMIC Nah. I’ll take it later. (the DRAMATIST leaps for the SMART PHONE, and the following dialogue takes place during a grapple for said device.) DRAMATIST
You idiot! An active cellular device in the theater is forbidden! It’s taboo!
What complete and utter nonsense! Do you see a patent stamp on me?
(ACADEMIC pulls back the DRAMATIST’s sleeve to reveal writing reading PATENT NO. 224573.The DRAMATIST is speechless.)
Like hell it is! DRAMATIST
ACADEMIC (a beat)
It’s like masturbating in church!
Hm. I wasn’t expecting that.
Why should people give a damn what I do in church as long as I’m quiet about it?
DRAMATIST (putting fingers to lips of ACADEMIC, who is now quite scared)
Context, you sicko! A metaphor is all it is!
What are you doing?
Wrong! It’s a simile!
(the ACADEMIC, struggling against the feistier reach of the DRAMATIST, begins a new strategy)
What does it look like I’m doing?
ACADEMIC I love the existential conflict you present to religion! DRAMATIST No! Not that! ACADEMIC Yes!! Your comparison of taboos is humourously brilliant!! DRAMATIST (laughing the laugh of a tickled person) You stop stroking my ego this instant! ACADEMIC (snatching the cell phone and ceasing said stroking) All right. DRAMATIST (saddened) Why did you stop? ACADEMIC Because I-because the conflict was resolved. DRAMATIST But I hadn’t even climaxed yet. You dirty tease. (the ACADEMIC is flabbergasted.) ACADEMIC What? I’m the dirty tease? DRAMATIST Yes. ACADEMIC You told me to stop!
ACADEMIC Like you’re trying to burn a hole through my eye sockets. DRAMATIST (in a husky whisper or deep voice) Wrong. ACADEMIC Are you trying to sell me something? DRAMATIST Closer...but no. ACADEMIC Alright (tapping fingers). Are you trying to seduce me? DRAMATIST Bingo. ACADEMIC I don’t really feel that way about you. DRAMATIST I know. Not yet. (DRAMATIST says this next speech as sexily as possible, letting it ooze out of every pore) Climax. From the Greek for ‘staircase’ or ‘ladder’, its beauty in ascending lies in the sweet descent, the hot rising to the cold falling. Without climax, there is only conflict that stops. Climax means the mutual satisfaction of both author and audience, and its rush of emotions and actions and thoughts and feelings that make the viewer hunger for more. ACADEMIC (Is seduced)
Fair enough. Your metaphor rings truth, like the waves of the ocean!
But I didn’t mean it!
DRAMATIST (once again ‘tickled’)
And without the metaphor, what is relation?
Look, this is really getting out of hand here.Why don’t you just say what you have to say and get-
ACADEMIC You’re so right! Relation is nothing but a word we use to convey it!
DRAMATIST (even more tickled)
From the Anglo-French conveer, to accompany or escort!
DRAMATIST (tickled by the pun)
Resolution. A mighty word in a place (indicating) like this. The omega of narratives, it is the harbinger of conclusion. Derived from the Latin resolvere, it is to unloose or dissolve. Since the dawn of man, it has been the signal of survival, the beacon of hope, the light beyond the cave. Resolution. The narrative must exhale it (deep exhale). As deep in the heart of man, there is a desire for-
How extradiegetic of you!
Accompany is purely an idea!
Do you mind?
DRAMATIST (even more tickled)
Yes! Don’t stop! You’re brilliant!
Can I have my cigarettes back?
Accompany is simply a figment of an idea!
How pathetic. A paltry- writer- as you call yourself, scrounging for cigarettes. Well, take them.
ACADEMIC Accompany is not a person!
DRAMATIST (tickled to the point of climax in laughing) You’re a genius!
(tosses them to ACADEMIC-whether the catch works or not, play next lines accordingly)
(At this point, if possible, the lights should fade in and out, giving ACADEMIC enough time to pull out a cigarette from DRAMATIST’s pack)
I need to resolve this-this-thing-that you have wrought.
Revelation. Evolution. Reunion. These are just a trio of words to describe the act of resolution.(lights begin to fade and black at director’s choosing) An act, which, as we are told by the greats of bygone eras, never truly ends, but simply continues, cyclical in its musings, ramblings, reasonings, call them what you will; its very existence is its end, and yet its very end its sole existence. Such agony in living, writhing as the crucial concluding component never seemed so necessary for any evil, for preserving mankind’s fables, legends, lives, and morals. Indeed. What truly is the evil here? The tantalizing reach of a resolution, or the revelation that there is one? Or is there one? Or is it all a lie?
I know. DRAMATIST So I trust it was stimulating for you as well? ACADEMIC Indeed.You might even say it was ‘arousing’. (ACADEMIC freezes. Realizing authorship of a rotten pun, ACADEMIC puts hands over mouth, exits.)
(ACADEMIC scuttles back into wings)
When I stare out of my apartment window, I see a city of lights. insect-like, I am transfixed. But it is just the library, windows lit with
the fluorescence of hordes of lamps, and the movement of moth people flitting by, brushing wings, leaving trails of dust.
What sweet darkness disappears? Why do we leave our lights on, illuminating only what is around us, eyes becoming emptier…
When I look into my own eyes, and blink against my soul’s brightness, I wonder why I am here, wings folded, staring out of windows.
Paris Reflections photograph by STEELE BURROW
photograph by Steele Burrow
y of lig ct-lik e , I am just the t libra ry, w i the fluor esce mov nce eme of n t of brus m oth hing p wing s, le avi Wha t sw eet d Why arkn do w ess e leav illum e ou inat r lig ing o eyes n l y beco wha t is min g em ptier … Whe n I lo ok in my s to m oul’s y ow b r ne why ightn I am ess, here I wo n , win gs fo lded inse
star e ou t of city my a of lig part h men ts. ke, I t win am dow tran , sfixe brar d. B y, wi ut it ndow is s lit with cenc e of hord of m es o oth f lam p e ps, a ople ngs, nd t flitti leav he ng b ing t y, rails of du st. arkn ess disa ppea ve o ur lig rs? hts o y wh n, at is a roun emp d us tierâ€Ś ,
my o wn e yes, ss, I and won blink d e agai r gs fo nst lded , sta ring out of w indo ws.
Handouts photograph by MARINO ORLANDI
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT BY MICHAEL BRONSTEIN
When I was young, our stone gate bore bleak words one might find in rock---Devil's music. On bone dry grass, our hound, all black save two full moons opposing each other on his neck like scars of amputations, growled soulfully.
Surrounded by black-iron banisters, my father punished me as he always did: he placed a circle of silver beneath my tongue to give from mouth to man who ferried me, in slow strokes, to beg forgiveness at the graves of those who came before. I'm glad my father's dead. The gate is gravel now, strewn among green grass. I put the dog down decades ago, I reminisced as I looked, in pensive bliss, upon the white arches of my hair that overlook my clouded eyes, and I thought of that youthful journey that I would soon repeat. Damn. The old man's dead, but he's not gone. The score of life: measures bearing colons before bars. Devil's music.
BY PARKER CHAMBERS
Ayer te eché de menos Tomorrow tu me manqueras Aujourd’hui ahora I miss you Separados por place, par le temps Todavía a part of my pensées Siempre remembering toi Parfois prefería olvidar T’as volé tellement de my thoughts Aún creo que I know you Quand même tu es si loin de moi So often un desconocido Nous n’avons jamais le moment Nunca sé si voy a verte Toujours à la merci du temps Sin embargo je m’en fiche I miss you En bref, résumé, tu me manques
Parisian Summer photograph by MATTHEW
Bogotá Caracas Houston
BY ANDREA SISO
I am glittering in the night, I am humming I am humming. I see lights on the side of the mountain, those smoky specks that greet my arrival in Bogotá— Lights that could mean Caracas. But these fluorescent bulbs I find in downtown Houston high-rises; they are the same. Lights are just orbs of glow, yet they manifest my hopes. I do not know if I can find myself here or there; I feel as though I can open my eyes to the soft heat of the night and be in three places. When I look to the sky, I realize: my family and I are under the same moon. The stars that wink at me, glimmer for them. And I can finally prove to myself that we are still linked, all of us— our homeland’s light gleams through our eyes.
Woman and Child: Pampoyo, Bolivia photograph by ALEX PRATHER
Puddles, Pirouettes, and Pillows mixed media by Alee Johnson, Ebony Bailey and Hillary Bontempi
e pour out of the car into the Bemus Point night, the darkening velvet air enveloping us in its smoothness until the difference between it and us is no longer distinguishable. Eight cousins’ eighty toes dig into the cold, damp grass. Dad and Uncle Frank light a bonfire in the fire pit next to the old crab apple tree. Its winding, knotted branches remind me of the hands of the wicked witch as she offers Snow White the poison apple, just as the crab apple tree offers us its small, bitter fruit that our parents tell us not to eat. We sneak bites anyway and regret it each BY BELLA ZUROSKI time. The parents sip out of the “camping cups,” as I call them, the navy blue ones with the small white speckles. They clink together, the metallic sound mixing with the low, familiar voices of Mom and Dad and a song Auntie Ellen is singing and drifting all together through the night. Our small bodies scamper around the backyard with a strange sense of urgency as we run half blind through the darkness, the thrill of being together once again making stillness an impossibility. Bats swoop down from above, grabbing invisible insects out of the last of the receding twilight. Our incessant motion eventually tires us so that we are forced to retreat back to the warm glow of the fire, and we perch ourselves on the Adirondack chairs, two or three cousins to each one. I scratch a heart into the dark green plastic of the armrest and scrape the white chalky remnants of the paint out from underneath my fingernails as I watch the bonfire’s flames lick the black night. I lean forward until my face grows unbearably warm, and then pull it back into the cool darkness. My eyes grow heavy and the clinking sounds of the cups and the low murmurs of the parents and the dull rumble of trucks crossing the lake on the bridge mix in my ears like syrup, heavy and slow, and nothing seems real except for the Backyard at the Corner of North Harold and Main.
Under the Cousin Trees
There is a small black and white photograph that sits on an end table in the living room of the Bemus House. In it, a boy of about four sits in a toy airplane, looking up at the camera with wide, excited eyes. His hair is an intensely bright shade of white-blonde. The day the picture is taken, a traveling photographer comes to the paper mill town of Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania. He charges parents a small amount of money to have their children’s pictures taken in his toy airplane. The boy’s mother dresses him up in his little overalls, combs his white-blonde hair, hands over a few dollars, and sits him down in the toy plane. After the picture is taken, she picks him up out of the airplane and brushes off his overalls. She rubs his whiteblonde hair and smiles. “My little blonde Bunny Rabbit,” she says in her heavy Polish accent. My leetle blonde Boonie Rabbit.
I sit with Grandpa Boonie in the backyard. The air seems to be made of gold as it does sometimes in late summer when the sun and the haze and the soft air coming off of the lake are just right. We don’t say anything because we don’t need to; we just sit and watch the gold dust stream down through the maple branches. These are the Cousin Trees, one for each cousin: for Greg’s Gena and Kathryn and
Emma, for Ellen’s Maggie and Joe, for Chris’ Nicole, and for Nick and me. They mark the edge of the yard, standing watch over the small white house and everyone in it. Boonie turns and says something to me in an effort to grab my attention. The sieve of my memory has let the sound of the words themselves slip through its cracks, but it has held on to the image of him saying them. The effect is something like a silent movie in my mind. Now all that remains is the image of him turning to me and moving his mouth in his slight half-smile, the gold dust streaming from behind him in the breeze, his white moustache moving up and down as he mouths his silent words. He points across the yard to something. His hands are marked with age spots, veins running clearly visible just beneath the surface. They, too, are covered in gold dust. At first I do not see to what he is pointing. But then it hops into my vision, a small white bunny rabbit. We watch it hop from patch of golden light to patch of golden light underneath the shadows made by the Cousin Trees. I turn to Boonie. He laughs a silent laugh, its sound also left behind by the cracks in my memory. Although I can no longer hear it, I know that it still exists in that backyard, and that it can be found on the days when the sun and the haze and the soft air coming off of the lake are just right and the gold dust streams down through the Cousin Trees in the Backyard at the Corner of North Harold and Main.
Upstairs in the bedroom with the low sloping ceilings and the rows of books covering the walls, Joe and I are investigating Auntie Ellen’s and Dad’s and Uncle Chris’s old toys. I remember the smell of these toys. It’s what the whole house smelled like. It was an old smell, but it was also a good smell because it meant that I was at the Bemus House. That was always a good thing. Today the Bemus House is my house, and Mom has made it clean and fresh and new and gotten rid of the dust that was there when it was just the Bemus House, and the smell is mostly gone. But sometimes, if I catch the House at just the right moment, I can smell it for the smallest part of a second. This moment usually comes on a day when it is cold outside but the sun coming into the House is warm. On these days Dad has left the bright red door to the mudroom open, leaving just the glass front door to hold out the cold but let the warm sun in. The smell is warm like the sun that comes through the glass door into the mudroom. I wander downstairs. The people are helping Boonie do something. These people are unfamiliar to me, and I am confused because the only people that belong in the Bemus House are Boonie and the Aunts and the Uncles and the Cousins and these people are not Boonie or the Aunts and the Uncles or the Cousins. I remember that one of them was a lady but I don’t remember anything else about them except for the fact that they were there in my Bemus House. I walk by and look at Boonie’s feet. They are not like mine. “No toes!” he says, laughing at the curiosity on my face as I look at his funny feet. I don’t know that I should find the appearance of these feet as something that is gross, or that I should associate them with the appearance of the people and recognize that something is not right. I just laugh back. “No toes!” I go back upstairs to Dad’s old toys and my cousin Joe.
Joe, Boonie has no toes! Joe just laughs and keeps poring through our parents’ toys. I can still hear Boonie chuckling downstairs. No toes, no toes.
Once again we pour out of the car into the Bemus Point night. But this time, it is different. The smooth, dark, velvety air of August is not there to welcome us. The cold rains of a late October night swirl around our faces as we walk into the little white house. This time there is no bonfire and the grownups are hushed and no one sings or laughs or plays in the darkness. I am sick, and so is cousin Maggie. I try a sip of the tea one of the parents has made for her and pretend to like it even though it tastes bitter and unfamiliar on my tongue and burns the back of my throat. The next day we all have to go to the church down the street. I am wearing my favorite dark purple dress that Mom bought me a month earlier for school pictures. I am excited that I have the chance to wear it again and twirl around and around, looking down proudly at the way the dark fabric floats up and ripples in the light. The church is filled with people who all look like they are trying to think very hard about something very important. I wonder what that thing is. Father Kuhlmann talks on and on. Sitting in the hard wooden pew, I stare up the giant wooden crucifix hanging behind the altar. I look in terror at the nails that go through Jesus’ hands and feet. I nudge Uncle Frank and whisper in his ear – those are just to hold him to the cross in the statue, right Uncle Frank? He never really had nails in his hands, did he Uncle Frank? I cannot remember his response, only the melancholy look on his face as our eyes meet. He squeezes my hand. My eyes refuse to let me look away from the hands and feet and the nails that pierce them. Afterwards we go to the cemetery. We stand under a big white tent and I can see the lake just down the hill. The lake has its moods. Today it is choppy and dark, an unforgiving slate gray. I am only as high as the knees of the adults and can barely see what is going on farther in the tent. Through the cracks of vision left open between hips and knees, I see Dad wipe a tear from his cheek. This is an unfamiliar sight to me and it gives me a feeling in my stomach that I don’t like at all. Nick starts crying and I go with Mom as she takes him a little ways away from the tent, so that I can still see the people inside of it but I cannot hear the things they are saying or how they are lowering Grandpa Boonie next to Grandma Dolly or the way that Uncle Greg and Uncle Chris wipe tears from their cheeks just as I had seen Dad do for the first time that day. We sing a song but it isn’t happy like the one Auntie Ellen sang by the bonfire. But that night, Uncle Frank and Dad make a fire because Boonie would have liked it and remember that time when Boonie made a fire right here so big that its flames hit the telephone wires and the police had to come and wasn’t Boonie funny? And everyone laughs again and everyone is a little sad and a little happy but mostly we don’t know, so the eight cousins dig their eighty toes into the grass and nothing seems real at all except for the Backyard at the Corner of North Harold and Main.
Another Bemus Point summer and now there are nine cousins and ninety toes digging into the grass of the Backyard at the Corner of North Harold and Main. Next door, a bright red riding lawnmower is creating a checkerboard of light and dark greens on a lawn, and the sweet smell of the freshly cut grass floats over to our backyard. The lake breeze that carries it brings with it extra smells – lake water, algae, the stale smell of carp whose summers have come and gone lying on the lakeshore, the oils and spice of the chicken wings frying at restaurants in town. It is late afternoon, and the sun is starting to move over towards the other side of Main Street. The heat hugs my skin close. My knotted ponytail lays damp on my neck, the sweaty backs of my knees stick to the dark green plastic of the Adirondack chairs. The screen door squeaks as Dad walks out onto the sharp cement steps I tripped up earlier that day. The bright red scratches stretch in a straight line across my skinny knees, stinging as the sweat drips into them. Dad unrolls a long yellow Slip and Slide, and the scent of hot plastic enters my nose. We hurry into the house to change into our bathing suits, which are still damp from the trip up to the beach with Maggie earlier that day. We spend the rest of the afternoon sliding the length of the backyard over and over, running and jumping and pushing and shoving and falling and crying and laughing. When we get tired, the cousins sit under the Cousin Trees wrapped in our towels on the Adirondack chairs and eat the push pops that Dad delivers to us. Mom and Auntie Ellen are setting the table and their singing and laughter floats out to us through the screen window.
We are covered with bruises and scrapes from underestimating our momentum and landing in the grass and rocks; brush burns from hitting the dry, hot parts of the plastic the sprinkler couldn’t
quite reach. They sting when Mom and Auntie Ellen clean them out with Dove soap in the bath later that night. I play with Boonie’s old-fashioned shaving brush, lathering up the suds and adorning my face with them, proudly displaying my beard to all who care to see. I shiver, cold, as mom wraps the towel around my scrawny, scraped up body. That night, as we lay packed into the big bed in the upstairs bedroom with the low sloping ceilings and the rows of old books covering the walls, I listen to the familiar clinks of glasses and the parents’ low murmurs and laughter and the never-ceasing rumble of the trucks on the bridge, and once again they mix heavy and slow in my tired ears. Outside the window, the darkened shapes of the Cousin Trees, bathed in soft silver moonlight, stand watch over the Backyard at the Corner of North Harold and Main.
Now the cousins are older and some of the Cousin Trees are gone and so is the Slip and Slide. Now, it is just Nick and Frank and me and our thirty toes digging into the grass in the Backyard at the Corner of North Harold and Main. The other toes are walking around towns in New Zealand and beaches in Florida and banks in London and museums in BostWWWon and cobblestone houses near the shores of Lake Ontario and one set of toes is even walking around a nursery in Canada carrying a new little set of baby toes. And now there are so many things that seem real besides the Backyard at the Corner of North Harold and Main. But we all come back, and the bonfire pit is still ready to be lit and Mom still sings when she sets the table and the picture of the little boy in the airplane still sits on the end table and there is another bunny rabbit that lives in the backyard. And our toes will always dig the deepest into the grass of the Backyard at the Corner of North Harold and Main
Gargoyles drawing by JANEY FUGATE
FOG WOMAN Some call you bitch. I call you brilliant. Fog Woman, the princess who handed the hero his heart then drowned it while he was sleeping. They speak of you, your legacy, to the tourists, day-trippers, shivering suckers in garbage-bag ponchos who are taken right in , at first, by the tragedy of it all. Oh itâ€™s Alaskan Camelot, they think, talking birds, sea-dwellers, a king who cares oh-so-much for his people, a selfish queen. The tour-guides sell it. And the intruders hear and believe, and even your children took his side, when, in cedar, they carved out your place near the bottom, his talons piercing your scalp. Fog woman, the beauty with everything, who wouldnâ€™t share.
BY MOLLY ORTIZ
Chipped paint indicts you for mouths left unfed, while acts of atonement are left unchiseled, how each spring the silver-rich harvest you spirited away returns, scales gleaming as brightly as the day you unveiled them. Fog woman, the magician who protected her secret, who understood its price. I suspect that you knew that the ring that he gave you was stolen, that he would never really teach you to fly. And so, you slipped away, packing up your wedding gifts into the shimmering folds of your gown. You traded love, his and theirs, for self-defense lessons. Fog Woman, the practical one. No number, no address, just a promise whispered in the ear of a child on the beach as he watched you float away.
MARBLED ORB WEAVER IN MY MAILBOX BY ISABELLA MARTIN
g g lin rin ee owe ain- , f r in e ,c t th long l and ema n e il te R rg e ve n’t b ble b ds? tau iten n e o r o h u t yo u d e ca ca e ll w aso Do t yo n th eting l com s wi is se tha twee gre r wil ract s. Th ned s? be ined tobe Cata eye wize ar ster e a k . i c st d O ints lac like t. H r s ies oo you bod f an ur jo ght b und r d de of yo ur ei ot so un aths usan ice g n o n y es e tho he , kli f d t r do rin brie ose , in be er c h e m nd , s t c e y e l r v n v e le a o lea lon u he l at o of N ur s ittle, l e o r o a Y e th n y te . e b ill ez t? fly Ca pita bre tigh com es w d r wa cre d fog rl up ill be g ey ay w an d cu o, w lurin ery ly e, , an s, to ur al e ev d. On don ven t g c rai ve wo gs. fram le d yo a r ’ att af ou ’ve an or s an to t be ch y you our f e do ries. am e e o h u y s e r o t n f a g d ce t do ow m erfu ap o ithin em gue m a t u h n f w b B nk su o rv ts b thi the quen st we ebb you e y all fre e la e th mif the k on snar um Lin d en nd m an tch a Ca
Humpback in My Garden photograph by DANIA BANAT
BY AUSTIN PIERCE
Spindles finding rest, walls of white atop tree limbs, burdened by beauty.
Soft feathers falling, icy tendrils â€˜cross the ground, cold yet full of light.
Still ever sparkling, brilliance caught in every touch, crystals in repose.
Michelangelo charcoal by RYAN JOHNSON
Pour it slowly, please, let ground ice (blushing) – ruby-red slush slide slide slide from the blender into my needy plastic cup, sweating from thoughts of sugary fruit flavor it caught,
Faith acrylic by KATY BONARO
from the heat of the sun frozen whisper of winter that smells like summer –
aching lips part, (no apology required) so sweet and so strawberry. 23
STR A WBER RY SM OOT HI E BY MAX CHAPNICK
Excerpts from Bawdley Woodhowe’s ‘Confessions of a Director’
rack out of my nose) was completed on the dot of three. Brutus kindly loaned us the film for developing, promising ‘a good washing of that Camoose (he meant Camus) collection’ BY NICK LEHOTSKYvvvv if we failed to return the film on time. Fearing my copy of L’Etranger in soapy suds I rushed to the development studio-otherwise known as CVS-and began developing for my existence. Indeed, it was a move contrary to Camus, but I had no other choice. I returned the film to Brutus, who had forgotten who I was until I showed him the hat rack that was my nose, and he laughed and said keep it, meaning the nose. He took the film and for the next five weeks, I was desolate. My life’s work had gone to a magistrate of the mugging variety and women would talk to me only when placing their hats upon my nose. Then one day I received a call from a gentleman with a familiar voice calling himself Brutessori. It seemed my picture had been entered at the Sundance Film Festival, and the critics had been so enamored with it I was offered a job as a ticket usher for Robert Redford’s picture! My life was rejuvenated with meaning and usefulness, and from there on in, I was somebody. Mr. Redford even complimented me on my halitosis when he walked by. I could barely breathe. He later thanked me for this noble effort, and I was promoted to the position of Assistant to the fourth power-that is, Assistant to the Assistant to the Assistant to the Assistant to the Director. Such posterity! Such promise! But the more filming I saw, the more I realized my true dream lay behind the camera in the director’s chair. This crucial revelation came to me after seeing Uwe Boll’s Resident Evil 13, in which the heroine battles off the monster’s henchman in a bowling alley, rolling one of their decapitated heads down lane twenty three. I later met Mr. Boll and thanked him for forwarding my image. He in return, thanked me, and said it was the most original and fruitful idea he’d had in yearsv
Bobby’s Feet photograph by Bailey Russell
es, how we’ve heard it all before-‘this musician has relied far too long on her songwriter, that artist doesn’t use any other materials, the actor doesn’t challenge himself in any of his roles these days!’ Being counter-cultural just doesn’t pay like it used to. I remember my first film, The Atrophy of Liver, had a modest budget of eight dollars and a coupon to Taco Bell, because I told my star actor, Clayborne Pantifreeze that he was working for charity. Being drunk at the time, he puked all over my bowling shoes. A noisome affirmation in my sole. It was at that precise moment I realized I treasured the pins and boards too much to bother shooting the climactic, pie flinging finale in a ghetto, but rather in my hometown bowling alley. After a fierce bout of bargaining with the owner, during which several contracts and my face were neatly rearranged by his lawyer, Brutus, we concluded that the film could be shot in lane twenty three during the rainy Thursday afternoon discount hour-two o’ clock to be precise. My cast and crew arrived at two fifteen, soaked to the skin and without a Mike. Two Daniels, sure, but a Mike was nowhere to be found. I huffed and I puffed and Clayborne Pantifreeze blew the door down with his imperious stench at two thirty seven.We began rolling tape at two thirty nine, but found it was of the scotch variety and Clayborne could not keep his tongue off it long enough for a take.We were now fifteen minutes and a parking ticket away from permanent expulsion from the halls of my muse, my gateway to artistic success. It was at that precise moment, the lawyer Brutus took pity on our plight. I’ll never forget how he loaned us his Super 8, which he said he had been using ‘to make an extra buck on the side’, and at two fifty two, a dream was realized. The now famous shot of Clayborne rolling a strawberry rhubarb down lane twenty three was shot at two fifty five, and Brutus’ reaction shot (in which he makes a hat
Part 1: The Cradle of Mankind Written: October 25, 2012, 2:46 PM, EAT (East Africa Time)
BY HALEY SMITH
riving through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to reach Olduvai Gorge, the landscape changes from green and colorful (for the dry season, that is) to a barren land of dust and dry.There is a point at which you can see a sharp line where the soil changes from grey dirt to a red dust which coats your body, hair, and everything else available (iPods included).We arrived at the Gorge at approximately 10:00AM on that Saturday. Olduvai—Oldupai in the original Maasai—is named after the sisal plant that is prevalent in the gorge.The place is not necessarily spectacular to look at, but there is a vague perception in that vast, dry wasteland, of the slowly turning sands of time, which gave me a feeling of complete insignificance. As our guide spoke of the peoples who had come before us, I looked out over the harsh landscape and, as if a movie effect was used in real life, I saw, in my mind’s eye, ghosts of these early people walking across the unforgiving land amidst prehistoric megafauna and the volcanoes which made the preservation of their remains possible. The gorge’s one distinctive feature is a small butte or “monolith” in which distinct rock layers are visible and demarcate different eras of geologic history. As I understand it, the most recent layer, “Layer 5,” has been completely eroded, and Layers 3 & 4 did not reveal any fossils, because the conditions were not appropriate for fossilization. Thus, fossil remains are missing from a period of the Gorge’s history. The older layers, Layers 1 & 2, and the basalt basement (if memory serves correctly) house the multitude of finds which have occurred at Olduvai Gorge. Unfortunately, the only remains available for viewing at Olduvai Visitor’s Center are those of the ancient megafauna which coexisted with early humans and only replicas of preserved humanoid footprints and skulls. Regardless, visiting the Cradle of Mankind before lunchtime is not an experience to be dismissed. Then, after leaving Olduvai, our convoy of Land Cruisers continued on through the dusty landscape toward the gate of Serengeti National Park.
Part 2: Siringet Written: Tuesday November 20, 2012, 9:15 EAT
I still find it hard to verbalize my experience in the Serengeti, as it was, truly, life-changing. After leaving Olduvai Gorge, we continued driving through the dusty landscape. We even saw a few camels, although we were so sleepy that we couldn’t be sure at first whether they were real or hallucinated. We reached the gate a little before lunch time and sat at some picnic tables with our packed lunches while our staff got everything figured out at the gate. After eating and guarding our lunches from the all-too-tame birds eyeing our food, we climbed a steep trail to reach an overlook of the entire Serengeti area. For the first time in Tanzania, I saw what I had originally expected in an African landscape.The only hills and small mountains were so distant they were barely visible, leaving an unending, flat expanse of yellow grasses, dotted with the occasional acacia or baobab tree. Only one name can accurately describe the place in one word: Siringet. Endless plains. The Maasai term, altered when it was adopted into the English language, describes the landscape perfectly. After a brief stay at the overlook, we returned to the cars to begin a typical evening game drive to our camp site (“game drive” of course referring not to game hunting, but simply to wildlife viewing). Once you get on the ground, the landscape seems slightly less flat, thanks to the occasional rocky outcrop or hilly rise. In the first several minutes of the game drive, we saw more types of wildlife than I could keep track of: elephants, zebras, Thomson’s gazelles (more affectionately known as tommies), impala, and some that we hadn’t seen as much before, including topis, Grant’s gazelles, and the hartebeest, one of my personal favorites. The hartebeest is related to the wildebeest, and has a similar face and horns, but is smaller and has a different color and body shape. By far the highlight of the evening, however, was our first big sighting of the trip. As we drove up behind a pack of stopped tourist
Santa Fe Mindset photograph by STEELE BURROW
vehicles, everyone straining to see what was there, I registered a dark, round, bushy shape only a few meters from the road. I pointed it out to the other people in my car. “No way,” I said. “How crazy would it be if that was a male lion, right there.” Since I missed our trip to the Ngorongoro Crater, I had seen only one lion to date, and only briefly. However, up to that point, nobody had gotten a good view of an adult male, so this would be a treat for everyone. Still, no one could tell for sure, and it’s best not to get your hopes up. As the car drew even with the shape, the lion’s huge head came into full view among the grass. Healthy and fit, the male lion was more impressive and beautiful than I could have anticipated.While his mane was not the biggest, everything else about him was powerful and imposing. He sat lazily under a tree, a lioness napping nearby. He seemed mostly disinterested in the tourists, although he gave a warning rumble at one point when a group of tourists got too loud and began disturbing his peaceful afternoon. (I quickly learned that lions are very lazy. If they are the kings of anything it may be cat naps. We saw a few lionesses up and moving throughout our trip, but usually lions were observed napping under a shade tree. Once we saw a lioness with two cubs stalk and chase a herd of zebra, which got us very excited. Unfortunately, from what our professors said, it was a pretty feeble attempt and was unsuccessful.) After the male lion sighting that first day, we had to hurry on to our camp at the dik-dik camp site.We found the staff tents already pitched and our kitchen staff moved in to the kitchen building. A number of striped mongooses and both bush and rock hyraxes greeted us from the edges of camp. Most of us struggled pathetically to pitch our heavy-duty tents for a while, eventually having to get some help from our professors and drivers. Some of our group had never been camping. While I ad, I have only ever used tarps for makeshift tents, and these big tents were a challenge even to the best tent-pitchers out there. Dinner was at 7, as usual, right as dark began to fall. The stars were spectacular, and that first night was largely spent stargazing and telling stories. Before going to bed, as I brushed my teeth, I saw a large hyena just on the edge of camp, perhaps 30 meters or less from where I stood. Even with night-time predators lurking nearby, after the day’s long journey, I still slept like a baby, with full faith in our askari (guard) from camp and the hired TANAPA guard with the machine gun she toted around… While I would love to describe each day in as much detail, I don’t think any of you reading would make it through. The next few mornings were all early starts, beginning at consecutively earlier times: 6:30 the first day, 6:00 the next, and up to 5:30 the following day, since everyone was so eager to get out into the park at daybreak. Each day had the same schedule: small snack breakfast at dawn, leaving for a game drive accompanied by a field exercise assigned for the morning or entire day. At 10am we returned to camp for a late breakfast, followed by rest time until about 1 or 1:30, when we would have lunch, although we were never that hungry with the late breakfast. During rest time, you could fully appreciate the lions’ laziness. If was far too hot to be out and moving around in the smoldering midday heat. At about 2pm each day, we would head out to continue our exercises, or to a lecture. One day we stopped at the Visitors’ Center to look around and have a lecture from a park employee. Another day we got to visit the research hotspot, with buildings and housing for members of most research projects in the park, and we were given a very interesting lecture by a member of the wild dog research team. Mid-to-late afternoon we would always begin a free game drive, returning to camp by 6:30 before the sun was down. Each day, every vehicle struck its own path, so everyone had different experiences and sightings, but everyone had at least one leopard and cheetah sighting, and a few cars saw servals. (mine included, although our sighting was a bit hidden). Regardless, they were all spectacular and beautiful. On one of my evening game drives, we saw very few animals for a fairly long time, and everyone stood in silence as the sun moved
towards the horizon, feeling the cool, fresh breeze on our faces. The colors in the sky, the silhouetted acacias everywhere, and the cleanness of the air all left me in such a calm place, my mind able to work through thought after thought in peace since no one else was talking. I don’t know if everyone else felt the same way, but no one broke the silence for what seemed like nearly an hour, so they must have been enjoying themselves as well. That night when we returned to camp, I ate dinner and went straight to sleep after RAP (daily reflection time), trying to preserve my good mood and peace of mind for a rejuvenating night’s sleep. The final day in the park, we took a game drive in the midday heat for the first time, driving through a new part of the park to reach Serena Lodge. This was a much anticipated finale to our trip, with promises of an amazing buffet and a relaxing swim awaiting us.The landscape was somewhat different, more riverine and bushy than grassland, and the road was clearly less travelled than the ones we had been using the rest of the week. Although there had been very few sighting the rest of the week, in that part of the park we saw so many giraffes we lost count. We also stopped at the hippo pool on the way, but we were all hungry and it was during the hottest part of the day, so it was unfortunately a brief stop. The lodge was everything it had promised to be, and we all stuffed ourselves until we couldn’t eat anymore, and freshened up (after 4 days of camping) in the pool. Some of us (I will admit to my weakness) even showered at the pool, in the warm, high-pressure shower. Although the day at the lodge was fun, it was sad to know that our stay was drawing to a close. I saw my second pair of cheetahs that night and a pride of lions tearing away at what we thought was a buffalo, but it was too far from the road to be sure. The next morning we woke up actually a bit later than usual, had a normal breakfast, and packed up camp so efficiently it was shocking.The campsite had felt so well-established and homey, and it was amazing to see it disappear in the blink of an eye. We left as we had come in, finishing with a game drive. We even had a huge male lion, whose stomach was fat from a recent meal, bid us farewell, just as we had been greeted by one on our first day in the park. I couldn’t help feeling that I was leaving a part of me in that park. Although 5 days of early mornings and in close quarters were beginning to put some people on edge, those had been the best 5 days of my time in East Africa. While we were somewhat released to be tourists, driving around just to see animals, it was very inspiring as a wildlife management student to see that such a vast area of prime wildlife habitat still exists. The park had seemed huge, but we only explored a small fraction of its entire area, which is mind-boggling to think about. Everywhere we had looked in the park had seemed to stretch endlessly in all directions, and in those endless plains, Siringet, I had been able to ignore the outside world for a few days, and remember the beauties of life that originally inspired me to pursue a career in biology and the environment. I think everyone deserves a reminder like that, a renewal of inspiration to conquer your life goal, but I don’t know how often such chances come along. I hope I can keep that inspiration long enough to make some difference in the world and that I can find pieces of the calm I experienced there in some of the lesser beauties in life
STMKNG acrylic by ELIZABETH CRITTENDEN
Lunar moons looming synced with heart beats booming. Stressed clothes strip on to cool cobblestone brick. BY VICTORIA BELL Taut feet pairs brace for this imminent race. Temptress wind’s breath softly charms clammy skins, Swear by heaven, They will dread the 7th day’s confessions.
NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY BY ISABELLA MARTIN
Their music flickers softly at first, building under the stars, luminescingâ€”a prayer to pierce the sultry weight of evening.
With the windows open, katydid song invades the little house where I sleep, where the moon glories the blue-gray rooms, dusty
and unmagical by light of day. When it peaks, their hymn finally fills the empty spaces, makes the house whole, slows
time enough to let me sleep, to still the frantic sawing of my heart and lungs, I am not afraid of the frenzied pulse
of their music. Let it wash away the other night sounds: bird dogs whimpering in the woods, pickup trucks rattling down the road, this house breathing my dreams.
Wendell & Sons photograph by MARINO ORLANDI
10K photograph by RYAN JOHNSON
whether the wind is a normalized distribution, you whether I am cold. We exist both discretely and together. The approaching tide releases
We carry our shells with us as we stroll along the sand. Generally, Hermitians are tricky to recognize. I ponder
So do not tell me where you stand and I will not tell you how fast Iâ€™m going.
of us an uncertain operator. But shhh, boundaries require maneuvering. Truth, the coarsest measurement, might collapse our shells.
BY MAX CHAPNICK
wave packets, sloshing randomly, which you meet with evaluative sighs. Let us commute into the sea of possibilities, each
QUANTUM PHYSICS LOVE SONG
V E L V E T P R I S O N S Tangled ink drawing and poem by JANEY FUGATE
I say, I want a dragon on a mountaintop or a dungeon dark and cold. You say, for what? I say, for a memory, a look on a face, For a chapter in a story fair and old. You say, seek it. I say, I live with polished glasses, Feather pillows, trapped by fears untold. You say, in a prison of velvet.
You say, what do you see? I say, two paths in a yellow wood But the sky and roads are grey. You say, which is ancient? Which is good? I say, I cannot see but grey buildings, grey roads and a stone that once stood. You say, you are afraid to see. I say, one goes to a velvet prison, The other to a cold mountain.
I say, Love, are you a ghost, are you here now or far away? You say, a mystery now. I say, are you just one amongst many A day in a year, or a minute in a day? You say, there is just one source of love. I say, will I find you in a velvet prison Or on a mountain or sinking in a fey? You donâ€™t answer.
y ? ove.
Alabaster BY CHARLES McKEE
Winchester Catacombs photograph by IVA WEIDENKELLER
My father was walking toward me, waving slowly as he saw me from the other side of the beach. The wind whipped at his clothes and I was nearly blinded by the glare of the sun off his balding head. Perhaps I would keep that last bit to myself. My father was possessed of a peculiar vanity. The wet sand sank and folded its way around my bare feet as I walked to meet him by his favorite spot, the beginning of a steep path going up the alabaster cliffs. I got there first, but waited. He had led the way ever since I could remember, even after I started to walk down early for my morning jogs.
shoulders. “For now at least.”
“Hey guy!” said my dad, smiling his once-perfect smile. Time had dug cracks into his long, angular face. I beamed back at him with my own smile which was, by all accounts, a less damaged clone of my father’s. “Ready?”
“It’s all just the same as here,” he asserted. I stayed quiet for a time. Of course he didn’t really know that. He had spent his entire life in this little French town on a small Normand beach. But I couldn’t bring myself to question him. My father didn’t need to be riled up any further. I used to think I could see Britain across the water if I looked hard enough. We stood there a while, soaking in the morning light. The sun, pleased enough with painting the cliffs in golden-pink, shined through the clouds and coated Étretat in a layer of brass. It was quite a sight from on high. I looked down at the water, but seagulls caught my eye as they yelped and moaned over the meager breakfast they could scavenge, signaling it was time to leave.
“Of course.” We climbed the path, feet slipping over pebbles and sinking into familiar dirt. At the top, the grass was drenched in gold running up to a single apple tree. Dad was breathing heavily. I shot him a teasing look. “Alright old man?” “You,” he said between breaths, “watch it, kid. I’m still bigger than you.” He let loose a breath and wrapped his arm around my
“You’ll always be bigger than me, Dad. Mom made me short.” Dad sighed. “Don’t tell her that.” He kicked at the ground. “You know, we’ve done this every morning since you could walk.” There was more than a trace of nostalgia in his voice. “I know.” I paused, wondering how to best broach the subject. “I wonder what the sunrise looks like other places.” I tried my best to hide the nerves running through me. My father tensed at my comment, wrinkling his nose.
“Shall we then?” I asked, motioning for him to lead the way. At the bottom, I turned my head around and glimpsed the beginning of another path further along the beach. Down beyond the cliff we stepped of the beach and back onto pavement, which was not yet hot enough to burn bare flesh. Still, little black rocks dug their way into my feet before we jumped into the little Peugeot my father had bought years ago. According to him, it would be a collectible someday. He noticed me scanning the old wood panels with disapproval. “I tell you,” he sang through his smile, “one of these days, some old collector will be begging me to sell.” I had my doubts, but I kept them to myself. The car started up with her tell-tale wheeze and sputter. But she started all the same. We wove through the cobblestone streets of Étretat around mismatched corners and vague roundabouts. It was hard to believe that anything could be twenty minutes away from anything in that town. It was a hamlet. But then my father was parking on a downtown street and my watch read nineteen minutes later than it had been at the beach. Caught between a boulangerie and an épicerie was a weathered old bookshop. Situated across the town square on a prime strip of Rue de Bailly, the shop was a model of Normand architecture, with dark brown wood enclosing a body white-washed brick. It was my father’s entire life. Bequeathed to him by his father, he hoped it also would be my inheritance. Where my father saw wonder and adventure, I saw ink bound to paper. Sitting behind a desk nursing paper cuts and entertaining customers fueled my father. It seemed to me a chore, at best. The smell of old books gave my father a high that I had never found.
“You must know him! This book I read, it was written by some master I’m sure! The adverbs were sublime!” His voice dripped with desperation. My father, however, could provide no help. The name was as foreign to him as it was to me. Of course, in a world filled with free information, the greats were lost. Hacks and whores were praised as masters while my father and other men of paper winced and cringed. Even from afar, I could tell my father was upset. I saw it in his fidgeting hands and pinched eyebrows. After the man left, crestfallen and clutching his book at his heart, my father turned to me with a fire in his face. “Ridiculous!” he sputtered, “Absolutely disgusting, that he would chase such trash!” His voice was shrill. The last few months, had put a great deal of stress upon him. “I agree,” I responded, placating the beast. “No respect for the old masters anymore.” My father nodded furiously. He didn’t seem to catch the hint of condescension in my voice. It was about that time his outbursts (for they had become increasingly common) had started to wear on me.Why couldn’t he just let things like that go? Every time he yelled a new wrinkle folded itself into his skin. It would kill him, I was sure. “What’s the matter with people like him? They’re idiots, just idiots! Why do I even entertain these inanities?” “I’ll tell you why, it’s because–” “Dad, shut up.”
“Well, open the door already!” blurted my father, emerged from the trunk of the car. I had just been standing there, the shop keys clutched in my right hand. My father had stacks of new books from the trunk tucked underneath each arm, and his expression was equal parts need and exasperation. I caught the cool metal knob and listened to the mechanical rise and fall of tumblers as the key wriggled its way in. The lock gave way, and I pushed it back to give my father some relief. It was comical, really. He carried so many books he had to walk through the narrow door sideways. I followed him, shutting the door behind me. He set down his books, unsettling stray specks of dust from the unused part of the counter. The dust lit up in the incoming sunlight, which also revealed the peeling paint and damaged furniture around the shop. I’d overheard customers say it called for a woman’s touch.
I had caught him with his mouth open and eyebrows raised. He hardly had to change his expression from outrage to surprise.That was the first time I had been so directly antagonistic towards my father.
“Help me out, won’t you?” he asked, coughing. I made my way over and grabbed a handful to sort, just as I had done ever since I could reach the second rung on the bookshelf. The familiar stench of old paper and ink ran through my hands and clothes, tinged by the aroma of leather binding. As my father often commented, leather bound books were few and far between these days. Even Bibles could be found held together by some synthetic plastic.
“Don’t you speak to me like that! I’m your father dammit!” He sputtered and spat. I was shocked at how flustered I’d made him, but at this point, my blood was boiling and the filter on my mouth had been disabled.
“Son, make sure you’re sorting those by author,” my father intoned. I scowled. As if I hadn’t worked in this shop for the past twelve years. I could sort these shelves with my eyes closed. I grunted my understanding and continued with my work. We opened the shop and the day was uneventful. For most, that would seem positive. However, a bookstore thrives off the passion and absurdity of its clients. Without something strange, it was a markedly slow day. Each hour that passed without a customer compounded the anxiety filling the wrinkles underneath his eyes.
There was only one client that day, an old man bent on finding everything he could written by some obscure Spanish author that I had never heard of.
“What did you say?” His voice trembled. That was unsettling. His eyes burned a rare oil of anger and hurt. I choked down my Adam’s apple. Well, I had already crossed that line, the line every boy crossed when he stood up to his father and became a man. “It isn’t your job to judge what people read or bash old men with poor taste. You sell books, and that’s it. You sell books. Want to know why no one comes by the shop anymore? It’s because no one wants to deal with a judgmental dinosaur telling them what they should and shouldn’t read!”
“No shit? Thanks for the reminder, Dad. Here’s one for you: your business is dying. This shop hasn’t seen multiple customers in a day for months. You’re running out of room on the shelves because no one is buying the books. The dust sitting on those old editions hasn’t been bothered in weeks. No one wants your books anymore. No one wants this shop anymore!” The words spewed out of me. Instead of snarling a retort at me, my father just stood there, like some switch had flipped off in his head. His eyes were extinguished and his lip trembled. Disappointment replaced the rage on his face. I had succeeded in tearing him down. My brain screamed at me to take it back and make it better, but I was frozen. My lips pressed together in shame, and my eyes glued
themselves to a scrap of paper on the floor.
discoloring the bottom of the stone.
My father looked at me. Crestfallen, head bobbing slowly, he dragged himself over to work in silence maintaining his private collection. It was nothing special really, a few first editions, but none particularly valuable. Mostly, it was a mélange of worn leather bound books written by friends. They weren’t any good. My father kept them for sentimental value; no one else had touched them in years. He stared at the pages but his eyes didn’t move. There was an emptiness which I’d only seen once before, when his world had been upended fourteen years earlier. He polished for a few minutes before considering me.
“Dad is still taller than me, you know. I think it may be because you were so short, but dad told me not to tell you that.” I crushed a dandelion between my fingers and its milk ran down my wrist.The tears started up. “I screamed at dad today. I tore him down, I made him hurt.” My voice wavered. “I’m sorry, Mom. He didn’t deserve it. I didn’t mean it…” I tried to swallow what felt like a rock in my throat. My fingers trembled as they traced the letters carved into stone. I clenched my teeth.
“Why don’t you just go home early? I think I can handle it from here.” His voice croaked. I regretted every despicable word I had thrown at him. I wanted to beg forgiveness. Somehow though, all I could do was stare at my father, defeated. Out of habit, I looked at my watch. The long hand creaked around to 4:21. The shop closed at five-thirty, so this was indeed quite early. But on that day I could not leave fast enough. I gathered my things and made for the door. I turned to say goodbye, but my father was already buried deep in a novel he no doubt knew from cover to cover. The door flung open and the bell warbled in response. I gulped down the outdoor air, grateful to be away from the taste of ink mixing with bile on my tongue. It was warm out, but the clouds had begun to cloak the afternoon sun. I looked back through the smoky window at his face, angry and disappointed with the modern world. My father had used to stash copies of Le Conte de Monte Cristo and L’Etranger in my bedside table, hoping to spark a love for literature in me. He did. But while his love for book was a slow-burning marriage, mine had been an explosive and short-lived love affair. I didn’t have the patience for these bumbling Victorian stories anymore. Until then, I’d managed to hide that from my father. I left the fossilized Peugeot on the street for my father to pedal back home. I couldn’t stand to go home after what had just happened. Instead, I weaved my way around the backstreets and alleys, feet clacking against cobbled sidewalks and breathing the stench of rotting fish and sour wine. An endless stream of streetlights and years of routine brought me back to the waterfront, where my day had begun. I ripped off my shoes and socks, leaving them sprawled on the sidewalk leading down to the beach. Sunset had begun to wash it with warm rose water. I walked through a blur down on the sand, past my father’s favorite trail and beyond the far side of the eastern cliff. Down a narrow pass into the cliff there was a small clearing of dark green grass marked with a single stone. The wind whispered through the curved walls of the clearing and shook the overgrown grass. “Bonsoir, maman.” That single stone stood silent. I listened to the wind a little while longer and examined the tombstone I’d studied a thousand times before. My father had sold his treasured Dumas collection to pay for my mother’s grave. A rosy-white slab of alabaster, it was cut from the very cliffs I stood atop every morning. It almost fluoresced in the waning sunlight. The inscription was simple, just her name and the years of her life. It reminded me of the obituary fourteen years ago. Marie Fontaine (1964-1996). I always thought it was funny how they put the years after the name in parentheses, as if they were an acceptable alias for the person. People don’t just become numbers after they die. I knelt and began picking at the dandelions and wild grass obscuring and
I’m not sure how long I was there. When I gathered myself, the moon gazed into the clearing and the stars were the only lights. I retraced my steps back down that narrow path onto the beach. The sand was wet and malleable. High tide had brought the waves up further than usual. I went towards the sea so they could lap against my feet. I was five again. Bubbling water ran over little feet sloshing in the sand. Sea salt filled my nose and I giggled at the briny scent. The wind tickled my neck and ears, just enough. I shrieked in delight as my father’s strong hands lifted me higher than I had thought possible. His smile was perfect then, and his handsome face was not so heavy with grief. My mother ran up beside us. Her face, her face— I stared out at that single apple tree on the cliff. I couldn’t remember my mother’s face. I stumbled across the expanse of beach back to the sidewalk. I fell onto the streets back home, abandoning my shoes and socks. Breathless from the run, I just avoided crashing into the small gates which kept our front door off the street. Fumbling with my keys, I gripped the door knob. Hands shaking I leapt into the dark hall. I bounded into my father’s bedroom. “Dad!” I yelled. He knew it could only be me, and there was a bit of an edge in his groggy voice. “What is it?” He sat up on the far side of the king-sized bed. An open book flopped off his chest and landed shut on the empty side of the bed. Moonlight spilled through the window and over the cover. Dumas. A cheap hardback edition. “I can’t remember Mom’s face. I can’t remember her.” New tears were finding their way into my speech.All his anger and frustration drained away. He grabbed me and held me like I was a boy again. “Don’t worry. It’s okay. It’s okay.” The light dripped around to the edge of the room, revealing pots and vases where plants had withered away. The closet was left open and filled with empty hangers. Only my father’s one suit stayed in there now. “Are you alright, son?” I pulled my head off his shoulder and looked back at my dad. His eyes showed concern but betrayed his own pain. I pulled out of his arms and looked him in the eyes.They were filled with love and relief, nostalgia and pain. But sadness flooded over everything else. His eyes glowed with despair. Like a man who knew he was ancient
Carcass photograph by RYAN JOHNSON
Carcass photograph by RYAN JOHNSON
HONOR On my birthday, I went to the club “Honor.” I have never seen such a place neither such an attractive young businessman given away by his eyes piercing me. I’m not allowed nor am I able to breathe. My fibs are received well by his ego: lawyer, yoga instructor, nurse, anyone you fancy. My own desires unacknowledged, his body aids my biology on this lonely eve. Tonight, a test of my moral fortitude.
BY VICTORIA BELL
Washington and Lee's annual publication of the literary arts.