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Nichols College Literary Magazine




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SHORT STORY Featured Ed Baia


Tiffanee Burris


Jon Cawley


Jeff Halprin


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“Chug, chug, chug!” my friends said as the Rubinoff went down my throat like water down a drain.

Gone Too Far by Ed Baia “Cheers to us,” I said with a Keystone beer in hand. “We finished high school and now onto college.”

I hated the taste of Rubinoff. It was torture to me to have to drink it, but I guess when you’re eighteen you get what you can afford and your friend’s brother will buy for you. All I kept thinking to myself was don’t puke, that would be a “party foul.”

I felt like the man being at his last high school party with my four best friends and my girl. My buddy’s house was flooded with kids drinking, smoking, and grinding on each other. The music was blaring and everywhere you looked people were smiling and enjoying their time. It was the perfect way to end their year.

“Get me a beer to wash it down with,” I said after coughing for a few minutes, with a face that looked as if I had just been tortured like a prisoner. “Get used to it, man. You’ll be drinking like that all the time up at Syracuse,” my friend said with a smirk.

“Have another, bro,” my friend said to me as he passed the bottle of Rubinoff vodka around our small circle.

“Yeah, I’ll invest in better shit than that,” I said as I crushed the now finished beer can.

I grabbed the bottle and looked at it for a minute. It seemed like the bottle just left me and now it was back in my hand.

“Dude, I can’t believe you got a full ride to Syracuse,” my other buddy said. “I guess all those nights you chose to stay in and be a pussy paid off.”

“Babe, just chug it. You deserve to be able to party tonight too; you worked hard all year,” my girl said to me with a smile of pride. She’s right, I did deserve it; I worked all year sacrificing partying every weekend with my friends for baseball practices and games. Luckily though all my hard work paid off with a scholarship to Syracuse, my dream school. Finally I gave in and took a massive and long swig of the bottle.

“Dude, I am going to school for free to play baseball. What more could I ask for?” I said to everyone. My buddy grabbed a beer and put it up in the air; the rest of us followed suit. “To Mark, doing what the rest of us only wish we could do.” 2

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Following the toast we all cheered and chugged our beers.

“Dude let’s go into my bedroom with that stuff,” another one of my friends said, ushering them into the oak stained door at the end of the hall.

“C’mon lets all do one more shot to the night,” I said. “Bro, you’re starting to loosen up?” my friend said to me. “I want to enjoy my night,” I said. “Can’t a guy just enjoy being with his boys and his girl?”

I was already fucked up and knew that was the last thing I needed. I had done it once before and knew it would make me blackout for the rest of my night, once it mixed with the alcohol sitting in my stomach.

“No problem, there babe. Cheers,” my girl said as she swigged from the bottle and passed it to me.

“I’m good man, I’m already fucked up. I don’t need that shit,” I said to my friends.

I took another huge swig and allowed myself to get lost in the music. I could feel the alcohol starting to work and knew it would only be a matter of time before I was drunk. Tonight though I couldn’t have a care in the world; I just wanted to enjoy the party and have a good time with my girl and my buddies.

My buddy looked up from cutting up the lines and said, “pussy,” and then went back to cutting. “Mark it’s fine, you’ll be fine, c’mon lets all do it and enjoy our evening,” my girl said as she searched her bag for a twenty for us to use.

As the party went on and the smell of smoke from cigarettes and weed filled the house, I continued to drink and get sloppy. Since I didn’t drink as much as many of the people at the party I was one of the first to be drunk. I didn’t mind, it was the right amount of drunk for me to remember my evening, but still have an excuse for my dumb behavior. Just then my buddy pulled out a little bag. Immediately I knew exactly what the white powder inside was.

“Yeah, man. It’s our last high school party. Let’s go out with a bang,” another one of my friends said. I thought about it for a second. “Fuck it. I’m in,” I said. With that I grabbed the rolled up twenty from my girl and slowly lowered down towards the desk. Taking a minute to examine the

“Anyone looking to make this night more eventful?” my buddy asked, shaking the bag in front of the small group.


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evenly distributed lines in front of me, I chose to take the biggest of the lines laid out.

I wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t. I wanted to say I needed help, but I couldn’t get that out either. Bump, bump, bump went my heart again.

Sniff and it was up my nose, so fast if you blinked you would have missed it. I then took the card off my buddy’s desk and made the leftovers from my once giant line into a smaller line and finished that off too before passing the twenty on to my girl.

“I… I… just need to…” Bam! I fell to the ground, just missing the coffee table. “Mark, Mark, can you hear me?” my girlfriend asked.

While the rest of my friends took their lines, I sat back on the bed. I could feel the coke starting to work its way through my body. I zoned in on a particular corner of my friend’s room and thought to myself that my buddy should really clean that area up. It looks sloppy. I then moved onto a corner of the ceiling where my buddy’s border was starting to rip. I noticed the most peculiar things when I was coked out. However, the next thing I noticed wasn’t a messy corner or a ripped border. It was my heart pounding fast and rapidly. Bump, bump, bump. I started to sweat, and then I heard my friends finish up and they were on the move. Bump, bump, bump my heart went again as I worked my way through the crowd back into the living room. I noticed eyes starting to look my way from the partygoers. I felt that everyone knew what I just did. The next thing I knew I lost my breath. The drip was starting to back up in my throat. I grabbed a beer and guzzled it down thinking that would help. It didn’t.

I was staring off into nothing, the room spinning faster and faster with blurry faces of kids around me in a circle and the distant sounds of my friends talking to me, trying to keep me conscious. The next thing I knew, I passed out. I woke up to a mask covering my face, unsure of where I was. I looked up and saw my girl’s face looking at me as she talked to the paramedic. “Cocaine, he did cocaine and drank a lot of beer and vodka,” she said. “Just tell me he’s going to be okay!” I then felt a prick as the paramedic placed an IV in me. The gurney I laid in had me strapped down so I could barely move. “I didn’t do that much, did I?” I thought, as I lay there unsure of what would happen next. “Shit! What about Syracuse?”

“Babe, are you okay?” my girlfriend asked, noticing that my face went pale and that I looked puzzled by my surroundings.

Slowly my eyes began to shut again and I was out.


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I sent a text back saying that she was making me tear up and as soon as I sent it, something came over me. I couldn’t hide behind my sunglasses anymore. The road became blurry as I began to cry my eyes out. I don’t want this to end. I don’t want this to be goodbye, but a part of me is telling me to let go.

By Anonymous I spent my last hours with her on January 23, 2010. She packed up her things and then waited for her mother to get home. The time I had been dreading came, and it was time for her to leave. I didn’t want her to go because I wasn’t sure when I would see her next. She pulled me in close for a tight embrace. We held each other in our arms and for those moments I felt like she was mine again. It felt like nothing could go wrong and I didn’t want to let go. We kissed each other’s necks and still held each other close. I didn’t want this moment to end, but we had to let go at some point because her parents were waiting. Our tight grasp loosened and our arms came apart. She told me she would have kissed me, as we walked to our cars, but her parents were there.

“I didn’t want to cry. You’re amazing. You really are,” said her next text. She said she was still crying and felt sick. I wanted to be there for her. I wish I could have held her and made her happy. “I miss you already. Please don’t let that be goodbye,” she said. “I hope it isn’t,” I said. “I won’t let it be”.

“Who cares what they think?” I replied. She smiled and hopped into her car as did I. I followed them out of the driveway and down the street. Even though we were in separate cars she was still in eye sight so it felt like we were still together. She took a left and I went straight. I watched her drive away from me and it hit me. This is it. My eyes were hiding behind my sunglasses because it was bright out. I felt a vibration from my phone, so I looked, hoping it was her. It was. “Thank you. And now I look like an idiot crying. Cool. :P I miss you,” her text said as I read it.


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I Am From

mother’s ancestors stem from. I am from a woman who is laid back but yet is assertive. I am from a woman who is classy and eloquent.

By Tiffanee Burris

I am from a woman who cherishes every moment like it is her last instead of taking life for granted. I am from a woman whose family is her main priority and concern. I am from a woman who sees the bigger picture of life and knows that the grass is always greener on the other side. I am from the womb of an African American woman!

I am from the womb of an African American woman. I am from where there is struggle, pain and hardships. I am from where love is constantly given by a mother that is loving. I am from a woman who gives her all just to make sure her children have the necessities of life. I am from a woman who has nappy hair, thick lips, a bone structure that is thick as well, with high hips and cheeks. I am from a person whose skin color is seen as dark and dirty but yet is as beautiful as diamonds. I am from a woman who faces discrimination and hatred but yet makes it through the day with a smile on her face. I am from a woman whose image I am made in the likeness of. I am from a woman who may seem to be broken and shattered but has overcome the obstacles of life. I am from the womb of an African American woman. I am from a woman who would give the shirt off her back just to make sure her children are warm. I am from a woman who strives for the greater things that life has to offer. I am from a woman who’s strong and brave and stands firm on her beliefs. I am from the roots of the branches in which my



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Late Night Snack

until she was off, but it felt like the clock wasn’t even moving. The time had come, but she still had three tables to take care of. She got the first table out, thanked, and cleaned up. She waited anxiously for the other two tables to get out. She glanced over at the bar and it was still there. The last two tables got up and left at the same time. She was excited and furiously cleaned her tables. She got off her shift and made her way to the bar to find her meal. Finally, they meet for the first time and his name was Dave. She coaxed him into leaving with her. They both left thinking about how one another would taste, but only one would really sink their teeth in to find out.

By Jon Cawley As she gets “babed” out for her simple waitress job she thinks about her next meal. She knows she has to eat something before work, but has limited choices because of her vegetarian lifestyle. She finally finds a salad seductively staring at her. She pulls it out of the fridge, dresses it up a bit, and sinks her teeth into it. She finishes it up and rushes out of the door to get to work on time. She gets there and immediately gets thrown into a ring of hungry customers. As the day rolls out and the night rolls in, the innocent vegetarian starts to have a different glare in her eyes. After waiting on a couple more tables, management let her go on her mandated break. As she went in the back and had her tables covered, she started to get ravenous. The only thing that could really quench her thirst was meat. Although she is a vegetarian, at night she seems to get a little more carnivorous. She looks around the kitchen for something to fit her needs but found nothing. Her time was up on break and she had to go back on the floor before she could find anything. As the night went on she got hungrier and finally found her target. It was just sitting there at the bar area waiting to get picked up. She knew that it would be unprofessional to go over on her shift and eat in front of the customers, so she hoped that it was still there when she clocked out. She was counting down the minutes 7

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Foreign Transportation

slow enough to stop in time if some one came around the curve at you. So, like Captain Kirk, you speed around the curves, and hope that the way you have always driven is going to work somehow in this different world.

By Jeff Halprin In Ireland you drive on the other side of the road) and the other side of the car, of course).

And what I remember most is when two cars going in opposite directions pass on those roads. I guess slightly wider roads, so two cars approaching each other can pass if each one squeezes as far onto the grass as possible. As you slow to pass you catch eyes with the other driver and, with one hand at the top of the steering wheel, raise two fingers. He raises his back, and you feel, “Oh man, I

It’s kind of the thrill of being a tourist, right? You dream of being able to actually live in that foreign world. Not just see what it looks like and visit old churches. You crave a feeling of falling into a completely different life. At least I do. And foreign transportation puts you there for a moment. It is just driving, like you always have done. Just walking across the street. But now you suddenly have to operate on somebody else’s rules, like Star Trek, where you are on a strange planet but everybody speaks English. You can kind of operate, but you never quite know what is going to be lurking around the corner.

belong here.”

In Italy, I'm in the passenger seat looking down at a gorge that starts two feet from the edge of the car while Carol drives. Me: "honey, I know I don't need to say this, but you really, really, REALLY don't want to drive off the road here."

Those Irish cars tended to be smaller, but not as small as the roads, which are often one lane. Really one lane. Like a neat ribbon of asphalt just the width of the car, winding through the fields. The fields are fenced not with fences or stone walls but hedges that are grown, for generations, until they are so thick nobody, cow or sheep or human, can get through. And the hedges are high. When you drive between hedges on winding roads, you can't possibly go

In Paris. We we're there one night, arriving on the train from England, leaving on another train before dawn for Venice. (It sounds so cool, every time I say it) Just like I learned in French class in seventh grade, Paris has something like four or five or six train stations, all on different points around the outskirts of town. So we arrive at the Gare de Nord and have to leave from the Gare de Est (let's say. Gare de something, anyway) so we take the 8

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subway. I mean, the metro. (never to be forgiven by Carol who had never been in Paris and who's view of it was now going to be

Cuba. Havana is packed with tiny Russian Latas and Italian Fiats and huge American cars from the '50s. On the highway, there aren't so many cars on the road, but there is a truck body being

entirely underground.)

pulled by a horse.
 But there's excitement. There is a family made up of a tiny mom and a tiny dad and a regular sized twelve year old daughter who is a head taller than both of them. And mom and dad are screaming at the girl who seems like she is doing her best to keep her cool and not knock them into next week. But it meant we bonded with the Parisians who, recognizing us immediately as "not from there" gave us a blow by blow translation of everything they said and every piece of child-raising advice the other passengers were giving them at the top of their lungs until the tiny dad grabbed his mammoth daughter by the arm, and pulled her off at the next station.

In Vietnam there were no traffic laws at all. At least, there was no one enforcing them. More scooters than cars, and we get around by hiring scooter drivers and we sit on the back. Families of three and four and even five are riding their scooters; husband driving with the oldest kid straddling the gas tank in front of him, mom behind, elegantly dressed with a long skirt, and often long gloves, sitting sidesaddle behind holding a baby, maybe a toddler standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders.

Our drivers cruise down big boulevards built by the French, around huge rotaries where nobody ever slows down, through narrow alleys, up onto the sidewalk, on the opposite side of the street right through oncoming traffic. At an intersection, there are no stop signs, no traffic lights, and the traffic on the bigger street just keeps coming. If we need to cross or merge in, our driver waits while more and more bikes and cars and scooters join him, waiting. Suddenly and wordlessly, there is a group decision that we have reached critical mass, then all of us pull into the boulevard, jamming into the traffic, which stops, or veers around us, and let's us in.

In England, we would take the buses in London. Probably what we would do, no real English person ever does. They really do have double-decker buses, so we would run upstairs. The top is open, with a railing around it at the height of the seat back. And if you sit in the front seat, it is in the VERY FRONT. Nothing is in front of you but the street. No steering wheel, no dashboard, no hood. So going around the roundabouts, the wrong way, racing down narrow streets making sudden turns where you can reach out and touch the second floor windows of the buildings in front; it's like an amusement park ride.


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So how do you cross the street? That’s where I felt most like I was a native in this, most exotic place I’ve ever been. There is one rule. Just walk across, straight through the traffic, AND NEVER EVER LOOK AT THE ONCOMING CARS. You walk looking straight ahead while cars and scooters steer around you and let you make your way at your own pace to the other side. But if you ever look, then apparently the drivers now feel you have taken over responsibility for your own safety. The cars will make no effort to avoid you, and you have to jump out of the way and run for your life.


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POETRY Featured Katie Malloy


Daniel Smith


Stef Mendez


Andrew Haas


Kerry Postale


Chelsea Rafferty 15 Ashley Harris


Tiffanee Burris


Fae Risio


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For You

Our Songs

by Katie Malloy

By Daniel Smith Who are you men and women with charred homes and singed hearts? You, who history has yet to decide, who responds to injustice “fairly” and in kind.

We spin around again, Heartstrings carelessly plucked like the words you choose to spit at me

Windfall Poetr y Contest Winner!

From under the covers you just shared with me, you hide. You, who instructs a chorus of cries, a choir that trumpets war and lies, that sings of hunger, poverty, and pain, squelching all else which sings the same.

Pretend you’re shallow, I see right through the curtain you arranged so carefully, Because it can’t conceal the way you look at me, Your eyes tell a whole different story. Let me in, let me show you what we could be,

Though they may be deafened, the followers nod and heed your beckon, unable to hear the stalks of wheat breaking and dying beneath their feet.

Let me show you the way I love you, I’ll show you the way you could love me. Try as you will, but you can’t forget me, I’ll stay there in your heart, in your memory,

They leave no home untouched, breaking and stealing their private possessions. They harm the innocent, both young and old all for their past transgressions.

Because if I can’t be by your side, that’s all I can be. Let me be there for you, When you’re broken and bruised, And you need somebody to turn to.

The singing stops.

I know you love me, you don’t have to tell me, But before you can announce, “Justice has finally been achieved,” You hear a faint whisper, an echo of another song that has just been conceived.

This is my way of telling you.


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Who Am I?

Love at First Sight

By Stef Mendez

By Andrew Haas I’m not too good with the ladies you see, Yesterday, friends is all my grandma said we should be, It hit me hard when she spoke those words, So I walked to the park to watch the birds, There on a bench I was about to cry, But then something beautiful caught my eye. Off in the distance I saw her body, I thought to myself, “Look at that hottie!” Details were hard to make out from so far away, But her backside made me say, “Ay bay bay!” With a gust of wind her hair blew, It was like a commercial for shampoo. Cupid had shot me right in the heart, I fell in love right from the start. As I walked closer I pictured her lips, Giving her a kiss as I held her hips. The closer I went the more I could see, And then POW, it hit me, I stood there with a blank stare on my face, Then I turned and ran like I was in a race. Nobody could know this, not even my brother, That girl in the distance was my mother.

Imaginative, Sensitive, Compassionate, 
 Kind, Selfless, Unworldly, Intuitive and Sympathetic
 Idealistic, Secretive And Vague
 Weak-Willed And Easily Led. To me this is unreal, this world we live in is just a phase, we are part of a bigger picture, here we are part of my imagination I’ll drift through the earth, ill travel wherever you take me, nothing can hurt me, not even your reality. Only I can set me free from my world, I’ll devour my life to be the way you want me to be, because I like to feel accepted. If you love me, show me you need me. I love that. I’ll care for you and tender you as long as you like it. And what happens to you happens to me because in my world your story becomes mine in which we share a soul. I will be loyal because in my world everything is perfect and that’s what I’ll be to you. And if I imagine it, it comes true. Because my imagination will become your reality and you will see it unveil. I’ll be who you want me to be. I’m a Pisces 13

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Untitled By Kerry Postale I met you on a Friday night. You were my light. You make my heart beat Thump…Thump…Thump Like a rabbit’s foot.

Every second I see you You make me happy. When I think about you, I’m Happy. Because of you, I’m happy all the time!

A rabbit’s foot is luck And oh shuck’s you’re my Lucky charm.

You make me smile. I love how sweet you are. You are like a shining star.

You cause my no harm. My heart sounds an alarm When I see you looking at Me from across the room.

What happened? Do you really like me? I’m confused and question Myself everyday.

I get butterflies And that’s no lie. I met you on a Friday night. You make me who I am today. I know this might sound Gushy but I’m falling for You.


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Hidden Identity


By Chelsea Rafferty

By Ashley Harris

When I look at myself in the mirror, What do I see? A repressed and bound soul, Attempting to break free, A mind locked with secrets untold, To which no one bares the key, A heart filled with love and acceptance, That plummets as deep as the sea, An individual whose appearance, Causes the soul within to flee Someone whose fears and desires, Are as painful as the piercing sting of a bee, A person with great potential, Who wants to spread her branches like a tree, Every fiber of my being, Resisting the pressure from others about who “I should be,” You see a content person, Who looks at their image with glee, This may be so sometimes, But on most occasions I’d highly disagree, For the being you see before you, Is not the true me.

A daisy was blooming in a field, All by itself in the sun, Until it was plucked from the earth by a little girl. She starts pulling the petals off "He loves me, he loves me not." "You're foolish for saying such things." says the wise old tree. "What do you know? You're just a tree." And with that, she wandered off. A butterfly was floating by, On it's way to a flower, Until the girl caught it in her hands. She opened her hands to see the butterfly. "Some day, I think I'll meet the boy of my dreams." "You're foolish for thinking such things." says the butterfly. "What do you know? You're just a butterfly." And with that, she let the butterfly go, and she wandered off. A stream was flowing down the field, To nowhere in particular, Until the girl interrupted its' peacefulness by playing in the water. "Some day that boy will put a ring on my finger." "You're foolish for saying such things." says the stream. "What do you know? You're just a stream." And with that, she wandered off. There was nothing in the field, But peace and quiet, Until the girl interrupted it. She sat in the middle of the field, and began thinking out loud "I am nothing but foolish." 15

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My Grandma

My Mother

By Tiffanee Burris

By Tiffanee Burris

My grandma was a strong woman. A woman filled with much love and compassion for her family and for others she was close with. She was the type of woman who would give her last just to make sure her family had the best. She was a woman of many wise words.

My mother doesn’t have millions and my mother doesn’t have a legacy for me to follow, but what she gave me is more precious than gold and that’s the gift of life and a mother’s love which is the very best of her.

My grandma was the backbone and the driving force of my family. She was the foundation on which my family has grown to be part of. She was the heart of my family. She was the person everyone looked to for advice, good conversation and even laughs.

Day after day she tries her best to provide, so I don’t ask for much. She gives all that she can even if that means giving her last. She’s not a selfish woman but a woman with a caring heart. You can’t find too many people in the world who’s similar to my mother.

My grandma had strong beliefs and made sure that God was instilled in her family members. She told us that where ever we go, we should take God with us. She stood by all the choices we made whether they were mistakes or not. She never judged us but respected all of our ideas and beliefs that we had of our own.

My mother may not be the most intelligent person but my mother is very wise. She’s gives advice that empowers who I am and tells me to do what’s best for me. My mother is strong, my mother is courageous, and my mother is who I wish to be.

My grandma is and will always be one of the most inspirational people I know.


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The Perfect Early Morning

A Spinning Tornado

By Fae Risio

By Fae Risio Hits my chest like a ton of bricks. As if its suddenly night My world goes black, and I’m Falling in slow motion.

I arrive at the barn on a cold winter day, The snow falling so heavy and wet. When I slide open the door the horses all neigh In anticipation of breakfast and a good morning pet.

If I had time to move, I Would try and dive out of the way. Or maybe somehow, some way Block my body from the pain.

With delight beaming from their eyes, I lead them one by one to go outside. As each hoof hits the snow I see their anticipation rise To run and buck in this weather where nature and beauty collide.

Except that I’m too late. Before I know it, it’s in front of meSpinning, plunging, forcing. Then it’s on me, pushing and shoving,

I watch as they gallop, spin and kick, moving with free reign They snort, whinny and jump through the air with grace. With necks held high, they flare their nostrils and shake the snow

An unexplainable force. Next I’m wheezing, huffing I’m begging for air, grasping at my chest Then it’s numbing my arm.

from their mane. I take a deep breath in and this moment, I do embrace. A smile comes across my face and I feel bliss Starting my day off here is as good as it gets, just like this.

My bones, my heart, beat to a pulp. I swell with adrenalin, panic. This happened so fast. Then without turning back it leaves me, Satisfied, fulfilled, tearing a pathRaging power, strength, destruction. And then I’m up. I brush it off and walk away.


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AFTER THE FIRE ESSAYS Featured Skye Oliver 19 Emily Looby 21 Liz Coleman 23

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reflection in the mirror was terrifying. A thousand thoughts ran through each of their minds in the moment it took them to lift the mirror to their now frightening faces, scarred beyond recognition. “…Alvaro looked into the mirror…it wasn’t anything like the face he had grown up with. This isn’t my face, [he] thought”(153-54). How would other people accept what they’ve become when they couldn’t themselves? During Alvaro’s stay at the hospital he constantly thought about what other people would think of him once he returned to campus. “…he had lain awake, lamenting how the students at Seton Hall would stare at him”(151). They no longer saw the people they were but labeled themselves as ‘burned’.

By Skye Oliver Receiving the letter stating that I had been accepted to the college of my choice was liberating. The thought of beginning my freshman year of college and having the opportunity to move away from home and stay on campus was extremely exciting, until I read the story about two college freshman students who were severely burned in a fire at their dorm. Perusing the story of these two survivors made me feel somewhat uneasy. After the Fire is a “true story of friendship and survival”, written by Robin Gaby Fisher. One of the major themes discussed in this deeply compassionate and motivating book is acceptance. Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos experienced a dramatic, life-altering event during their freshman year of college at Seton Hall University, when a devastating fire was ignited. Although their lives would never be the same, even after their miraculous recoveries, the power of friendship and love allows them to continue on through the struggle of accepting who they become, instead of resenting and grieving who they were. Acceptance is a powerful word that describes the ability to approve of, or believe something that results from overcoming a challenging hardship.

During recovery, Alvaro and Shawn were shown support from their parents and each other. Sensing companions’ affection toward them gave Alvaro and Shawn the drive they needed to speed though their painful, yet phenomenal recoveries. Experiencing the unconditional love of family and friends motivated them to accept themselves. Having each other through the ups and downs and endeavors that lay ahead was unique. They both understood what the other was going through. “A friend is one who knows you as you are, understands where you’ve been, accepts who you’ve become”(163). Alvaro and Shawn lived through the same traumatic event, struggled to survive, and recovered together.

Throughout the novel, there are several instances where acceptance plays a key role in Shawn’s and Alvaro’s lives. After the fire when Shawn and Alvaro wake up from comas, their parents, friends, and even they must accept who they become, in order to move forward. The first time they hesitantly glanced at their

Shawn, still feeling self-conscious, was apprehensive to return to school, dreading the stares he would receive from his peers and former friends. However, he became comfortable with whom he came to be. Both Shawn and Alvaro shared the thought that they felt as though they were reborn and had an opportunity to start 19

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their lives over, as discussed on page 212. This unfortunate event would not prevent Shawn or Alvaro from continuing on with their lives, but give them the strength to look past the burns and see themselves just as a person. They felt “determined to make the best of whatever lay ahead of [them]”(199). Once they learned to accept themselves as they are, they moved on by living in the present and looking beyond who they once were.

maybe even more than the major things, people understand that looks aren’t everything and just being able to wake up in the morning and breathe is a miracle in itself. Shawn once said, “[…] you still have your life. That’s what’s important”(212). Once we experience hardships our values are altered, and things that we previously took for granted are cherished. Alvaro and Shawn survived. I survived. They were burned and suffered permanent scarring; something that they grew accustomed to and they live with every day. We all overcame the emotional scarring that resulted from our life-altering experiences by accepting them. There were few instances we recalled when we looked into a mirror but didn’t recognize the reflection that stared back at us. Speaking with them personally allowed me to notice the subtle similarities in our thoughts of these portentous triumphs that we overcame. Instead of dwelling on the past, we accepted what we endured and became stronger from our experiences.

Although no personal experience can match the calamity that occurred on that cold January morning, I somewhat understand the predicament that Alvaro and Shawn endured. As a young child I sustained many instances where I was intentionally abused and inflicted with pain. The physical and emotional abuse created a constant fear in me and caused depression, that I’m sure was similar to what Alvaro and Shawn felt when they recovered from their injuries and returned to Seton Hall where it all began. Although I didn’t suffer any noticeable physical scarring like Alvaro and Shawn, the emotional trauma stuck with me. Even without physical scars, I still felt as though people could see my fears and knew what I had been through as if I wore my affairs on my sleeve. By receiving help to escape that unfortunate situation I accepted what had happened and the consequences that would result.

Thank you.

Like any formidable hardship, it changes a person and can make them stronger. It takes time to accept the reality and move on from it. Without undergoing these life-altering occasions, Alvaro, Shawn, and I would not be who we are today. Life experiences are major elements in building and shaping character and who individuals become. Realizing that the little things in life are just as important, 20

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How to Persevere

gauze and hooked up to a maze of tubes and machines … Al was in bad shape” (Fisher 88). Alvaro even had to endure grueling treatments in ‘the tank room,’ which is a room where “… burn patients tended to remember most about their hospital stay… It was the place where they were taken every day to have their open wounds scrubbed with gauze … Though out cold, Alvaro grimaced … Tears streamed from Alvaro’s eyes” (Fisher 63, 66, 67). Alvaro would be in a coma for about four months before finally waking up. Alvaro had so much strength and perseverance when he was in a coma. He was incoherent to the world, and, yet, on the inside he was fighting to stay alive. His perseverance was incredible and aweinspiring.

By Emily Looby Robin Gaby Fisher’s book, After the Fire, is the non-fiction story of two friends and college roommates, Alvaro and Shawn. One night, a terrible fire occurred in their dorm, and they were both terribly burned while trying to escape. Throughout the book, Fisher describes the hardships Shawn and Alvaro now must face after their life altering incident. Perhaps the best theme I can think of for Fisher’s work is perseverance. Perseverance is the ability to withstand any tribulation, survive any trauma, and achieve any goal regardless of difficulty. It encompasses the drive to survive and continue on with life. Without the ability to persevere, it is easy to just give up. I believe perseverance is the main theme in After the Fire because it would have been easy for Shawn and Alvaro to give up after they had been burned. They could have retreated within themselves and lost all touch with the world and given up their desire to live. However, they both knew they wanted to get better and perseverance is what kept them going, allowing them to overcome their obstacles together.

In contrast, Shawn recovered extremely quickly. He was able to make it out of the burn unit in just weeks instead of months like the doctors had told him (Fisher 89). After he was discharged, he had to return to the hospital for surgery on his hands. “Pines had to be put in his fingers to immobilize his damaged joints. Otherwise, he would lose his fingers” (Fisher 91). Shawn also had to return to the hospital daily, at first, to participate in physical therapy so he could re-learn how to use his hands and fingers. Fisher writes that “… the pain of bending and straightening his fingers was excruciating, and Shawn was finding there were limits to his tolerance and his perseverance” (Fisher 92). Shawn did indeed doubt his ability to persevere a few times throughout his recovery. He often questioned whether or not it was even worth it to keep going to physical therapy. However, he quickly realized that becoming depressed would not help him get better. Shawn always managed to find his perseverance to continue with physical therapy

In the first part of Fisher’s text, After the Fire, the most important thing for Shawn and Alvaro was survival. After they had suffered third degree burns on their body, they just had to find the perseverance to stay alive. Alvaro was much worse off than Shawn. He would be in a coma for months and the doctors, originally, only gave him a thirty percent chance of survival. When Shawn first saw Alvaro, he describes his friend as being “… wrapped head-to-toe in 21

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even though the pain made him want to break down. Inside, he knew that if he persevered, he was going to get better.

support one another and not let one another falter or get off the path of perseverance.

When Alvaro finally woke up, he too discovered that he had amazing perseverance. He was always so eager to start physical therapy “… to restore his agility and build his strength and endurance. And there was occupational therapy to relearn the basics, such as walking, writing, and feeding himself. Every step Alvaro took was hailed as a victory” (Fisher 159). Alvaro’s perseverance was described by Fisher as a shock to everyone. Not even the doctors or nurses knew Alvaro would be so dedicated and ready to learn so soon after waking up. Alvaro hardly complained during the entire process. Yes, it hurt him greatly and he struggled a lot, but he knew that if he let his mind wander to far, he would begin to pity himself and lose his perseverance.

I cannot even begin to imagine what Shawn and Alvaro went through being so badly burned. However, I do know the value of perseverance. When I was younger, I suffered a dance injury. I had torn the muscles around my hips causing the nerve to sometimes get pinched in my hip socket. The pain was terrible and I was afraid that I may never be able to dance again. For a little while, I was depressed because the pain was terrible and I could hardly walk. I really began to pity myself. Then, my friends pulled me out of it. They told me that if I let the pain get to me, I would be very disappointed in myself. Because of them, I discovered my strength and was able to persevere through the physical therapy and was able to dance again.

While Alvaro had to work much harder than Shawn to regain his independence, they both greatly needed one another and supported one another. Their friendship grew so much stronger through their perseverance. The first thing Alvaro wrote after waking up from his coma was “’Shawn You Are a Good Friend’” (Fisher 162). Shawn had stayed with Alvaro through everything, and had even helped him escape from the fire. The two boys fed off of one another perseverance and strength. When Alvaro first looked at his face, Shawn took off his bandages too and told Alvaro, “’ I look like you, I told you, we’re going to get through this together’” (Fisher 153). Perhaps the greatest part of Shawn and Alvaro’s ability to persevere was their strong bond. They truly were with one another every step of the way. They were always there to

The fire, in some ways, was not such a terrible thing. It was a horrible lesson that taught Shawn and Alvaro that they really could do and persevere through anything. It brought them so much closer together and made them even better friends. I know that I would not have been able to overcome my injury without the support of my friends. It all comes down to perseverance. If you have perseverance, you can overcome just about anything no matter how hard or impossible it seems.


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After the Fire

The narrator of this novel was a mildly autistic boy who had a lot more things to deal with and over come than his condition. This novel sparked my interest because my 26-year-old brother has the same condition as Christopher, he too has Asperger Syndrome. Freshman year of high school I read a book called The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I thoroughly enjoyed this because I am very interested in religion and this book contains countless biblical parallels. I also enjoyed the book called Night by Elie Wiesel because although the subject of the Holocaust is disheartening, it is interesting nonetheless.

By Liz Coleman I am not much of a reader; I read when I am required to do so and even then, 95% of the time I am miserable. I do not find reading to be enjoyable; I find it to be extremely dull and tedious. I would much rather be active and do things outdoors than sit down and read a book. My mother is an avid reader; she says she likes how when reading, she temporarily escapes into a different place. Every week she has a new book that engrosses her attention for countless hours before she retires to bed. Fortunately, being adopted, I did not acquire that gene.

I feel like I enjoyed this book because one of the common themes in the books I enjoyed that were previously listed is the theme of survival. When I first heard that I had a summer reading book, I thought to myself, “I thought I was done with summer reading, this isn’t high school anymore.” I bought the book and read the first chapter; I was not a happy camper. I reread the first chapter several times hoping that maybe by the sixth time around I could suck it up and find something good about it. My efforts were futile up until August 12th when I left the Boston Port to embark on a carefree cruise to Bermuda with my mother.

I stick by my saying 95% of the time I am miserable when it comes to reading but when it came to reading After the Fire by Robin Gaby Fisher, this story immediately fell into the 5% category. Out of my 18 years of having to read, I can name all the books I have ever found to be interesting. If you asked my mom to do the same, she would find the task very difficult. I read Saving Lily by Peg Kehret when I was in 3rd grade. It was about an elephant that was a part of a traveling circus that was being harshly mistreated. In 6th grade I read a book called Tangerine by Edward Bloor. It is about a boy who is visually impaired and throughout the novel he overcomes countless obstacles and struggles to find out how his vision got impaired; to this day it is still my favorite book. In 8th grade I read a book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon.

When I first stepped aboard the Norwegian Dawn, I took in all its wonders and was overwhelmed with all the things, places and activities they had available on the ship. On August 19th at 9:00am, I vacated the Norwegian Dawn having yet to explore everything they had to offer. The first couple of days aboard the ship were enjoyable but after that, my mother being my only companion, my


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unsatisfying routine gave me the motivation to attempt to begin my summer reading, again.

“Almost two months earlier than the doctors had predicted, Shawn was ready to go home” (Fischer 99).

After completing the second chapter I wanted to know how the book ended. I was intrigued by the fact nobody knew who started the fire or why. Also, the few people that knew what went on that night would not turn on their friends even though their fellow classmates’ lives were lost. I was amazed by the loyalty and lack of conscience, “There were a couple of reasons why Sean Ryan would not be back to take a polygraph. For one, two days earlier, at a meeting at the local Dunkin’ Donuts, he had made a pact with Joey LePore, his Boland Hall roommate, to say nothing to police about the night of the fire. Ryan and LePore had been best friends since kindergarten, and like all best friends, they had shared plenty of secrets. Their biggest secret was the second reason Ryan would not be back.” (Fischer 60-61)

I am not the avid reader that my mother is but I enjoyed reading this “true story of friendship and survival”. This book was both inspiring and heartwarming and I would definitely recommend it.

From the moment I opened the book (for the second time) I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. After four long days, of reading and wondering, I finally finished the book. After listening to several of my classmates talk about how boring they thought the book was, I began to think about what made me like it so much. I enjoy books about struggles and survivals and this book was chalk full of them. I was extremely impressed by Shawn and his will to recover, “As tenacious as he was proud, Shawn wasn’t about to go back on his promise to himself that he would be out of the burn unit in weeks, not the months the doctors had predicted.” (Fischer 89). I envied Shawn and wondered to myself if I were ever in that position, would I ever do as Shawn did or would I just give up? 24

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PHOTOGRAPHY Featured Kyle Mascilak


Fae Risio


Stephanie Rideout


Daniel Smith


Fatima Pichardo


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• Kyle Mascilak •

Windfall Photog raphy Contest Winner!


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• Fae Risio •


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• Stephanie Rideout •


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• Daniel Smith •


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• Fatima Pichardo •


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Nichols College Windfall Spring 2012  

Nichols College Arts and Literary Magazine