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Oakland Arts Review (OAR) is an annual journal published through Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. OAR is dedicated to the publication and advancement of literature written by undergraduate students from across the United States and around the world. We publish fiction, poetry, essays, comics, and screenplay excerpts, as well as artwork. Because we believe that undergraduate students have much to contribute to the literary world, it is our mission to provide a platform for this generation’s emerging writers and, in so doing, create a journal that is of both high artistic quality and great literary significance to readers from all backgrounds.

VOLUME 4 WINTER 2019


Oakland Arts Review Volume 4 Winter 2019 Logo Design Natalie Williams Oakland Arts Review (OAR) is an annual international undergraduate literary journal published by Oakland University OAR Department of English 2200 North Squirrel Road O’Dowd Hall Rochester, MI 48309 Submit to: https://oar.submittable.com/submit OAR is published by Cushing–Malloy, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan Cover Design Alison Powell Front Cover Art “Venus Vain” by Irene Kattos University of Sheffield, UK Back Cover Art “Patience” by Nicholas Webb California State University Northridge Interior Layout Design Kevin T. Ferguson

OAKLANDARTSREVIEW.COM


OAKLAND A

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VOLUME 4 WINTER 2019

STAFF Emily Stamper Managing Editor Veronica Selke Fiction / Nonfiction Editor Shyanne Totoraitis Fiction / Nonfiction Editor Olivia Brown Poetry Editor Hannah Lewis Poetry Editor Shelby Jeffrey Copy Editor Amy Reese Gauthier Copy Editor Jessica Trudeau Layout Coordinator

FACULTY ADVISERS Dr. Alison Powell Dr. Jeffrey Chapman

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Emily Stamper Oakland University

Dear Reader, As a writer, the experience of working as an editor of the Oakland Arts Review has been both enlightening and invaluable. It has forced me to reimagine my preconceived notion that editors of literary magazines are the snobby, uptight gatekeepers of the publishing world. The editors I’ve had the pleasure of working with on this magazine have been passionate storytellers themselves, eager to bring amazing writers, clever poets, and wonderful artists into the spotlight. It has also made the process of submitting simultaneously less mysterious and more daunting. Less mysterious because I now have a better grasp on what makes editors really consider a piece. While reading through the seemingly endless flow of submissions, the ones that stuck out to me were doing something different, something unique. It made me realize that I shouldn’t be afraid to submit something that is “nontraditional” or “weird.” In fact, that should be what makes me submit it. But it is also more daunting because we got so many lovely pieces and it brought to my attention just how many talented undergraduate writers are out there vying for a chance at publication. While deciding on what pieces to publish, we didn’t have a specific agenda or goal. We just wanted to take pieces that we felt had quality writing and an interesting story to tell. However, as we were reviewing what works we had accepted, we noticed that many of them centered around some of the issues that our society is currently facing. Sexism, mass shootings, and racism are all terrible things that we live with and, as has been true throughout history, many people turn to art to cope. Though some may try to discredit or ignore these problems, art and literature can help to bring more attention to them. Which brings me to an important point about the publishing industry. Through the course of my work on this journal I have learned just how influential the publishing industry is. It has the ability to shape the literary world, to control what the public sees and what they don’t, to choose what works of literature are immortalized and which will be forgotten as the years pass. And I am extremely honored to be just a small part of that process.


Of course, I would be remiss in not thanking all of the lovely and wonderful people who helped us spread the word about our growing magazine and all of the amazing writers and artists who sent us submissions from all over the globe. We continue to be humbled and awed by the overwhelming amount of quality work we receive and love that, as our journal grows, we can continue to showcase and support all of the budding undergraduate talent around the world. It would be absolutely improper of me not to extend a thank you to the English Department and the College of Arts and Sciences at Oakland University for their continual support of the journal, and to my fellow editors, who have found time in between their own coursework to bring forth this culmination of outstanding literary and artistic works. Finally, I’d like to give my upmost gratitude to you, our readers - I hope this work will challenge and enlighten you. I hope it will inspire you and drive you to create something amazing of your own. Most of all, I hope you find some joy within its pages. Warmly and Most Sincerely,

Emily Stamper Managing Editor


CONTENTS

FICTION OVER THE EDGE Riley Steiner

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WELCOME TO PARADISE Nick Zablocki SALAD DAYS Andrew Letai

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DEAR MRS. NAIR Nakul Grover

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CHINESE CIGARETTES Kwan Ann Tan PRETTY Miranda Jacobson TO A FOREIGN PLACE Allison Boyce

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DISAPPEARANCE IN A MID-SIZED TOWN Daven McQueen

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MICHELLE ON TAPE Cheung Shun Kit Anderson

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THIS IS WHAT COMES AFTER Francesca Halikias

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EGGS 145 Mary MacLeod


NONFICTION DIFFERENT NOW James Braun

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THINGS I’VE LOST Kathryn McDanel

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HOLLOW 117 Meg Matthias THE LAKE HOUSE Riley Steiner

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POETRY THE MORNING 13 Ellie Long WAR MARCH OF BEES 14 Jacqueline Farley WOMEN WHO ALREADY CHECKED OUT BE LIKE 15 Khadijah Green DREAMSCAPE 16 Shelby Weisburg I DID NOT ASK Ifeoluwa Bada NEGRO PARANOIA Khadijah Green

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ST. CROIX, DAKOTA Kateria Rodriguez

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LOS ORISHOS Christopher Cannon

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THE ORISHAS Christopher Cannon

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GRANDMA WAS A DRAGON 33 Brooke Thomas SCARLET #045 34 Briana Campbell PLÁTANO 35 Claudia Rivera Barbeito HOME ECONOMICS 36 McKenna Christian LEGGACY 47 Grace Goze MAMA 48 Ellery Page BECAUSE YOU REMIND ME OF SOMEONE I’VE NEVER MET 49 Maxwell Levy I WANT TO THANK SCIENCE 61 Evana Marisa Flores DEAR LANGUAGE 62 Maya Day MEANING WITHOUT MEANING 63 Daven McQueen WHAT MY DAD SAYS— 72 Jami Kleinpeter DREAMCATCHING 73 Maija Hecht IF MOONS WERE UNCONQUERED PLANETS Brooke Thomas

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YOU, ME, AND BETTY WHITE Melissa Weiss

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LARGER HALF Sarah Terrazano

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GRAPE HYACINTH Jessie Urgo

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BURNT ANTLERS Tanner Barnes

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I SAW HIM Isabella Barricklow

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COWHEADS 123 E.R. Vanett GREETING 124 Grace Downey 5 A.M. ALARMS AND DIRTY BOOTS Harley Taff

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THE 7 WAYS OF LOOKING AT DEMENTIA Jane Thomas

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L8 NITE TLK Meg Matthias

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TRANQUILITY 135 Naomi Tornow HAIKU 136 Maya Day CRUMB Emily Paquette-Leahy

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WHOLE 143 McKenna Christian


CHICORY 152 Jessie Urgo

ARTWORK MEMORY 94 Veronica Isabel MY FIRST WEEK IN NEW YORK Alex Laver tue

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PORTRAIT OF A FRIEND Noah Bavonese

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BRING ME THE LIGHT Janet Doan

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ROOF LIGHTS Marshall Farren

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BARK 99 E.R. Vanett ICE 100 Dani Jakobson VENUS VAIN Irene Kattos PATIENCE Nicholas Webb

FRONT COVER BACK COVER


VOLUME 4 WINTER 2019

T his volume is de dicate d to the memor y o f W il l i am P. Ge or ges , b elove d student and p o e t .


THE MORNING Ellie Long

California Lutheran University Thousand Oaks, CA

After the shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA

The chapel overfills today. Children no longer children squeeze into the aisles in sweatshirts and pajama bottoms. Cling to each other’s hands in prayer, creating the God they need now. They listen to the man behind the altar who is no pastor today but the bearer of bad news. He tells them dryly who they have lost. Someone cries out and a shudder goes through the sanctuary which has never borne the weight of so many tears, salt sinking into the oak of the pews, corroding it, warping it in a way it will not recover from. Eleven hours of praying to the television set for signs of life have ended here. Hands clasped over mouths, numb shadows in bedrooms and empty parking lots. Evacuation the least of concerns. Shattered phones on the dance floor stop ringing.

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WAR MARCH OF BEES Jacqueline Farley University of Arizona

The bees. They beat their backs. The bees, they beat their backs against the window pane. The bees, they beat their backs against the world beyond the window pane. The bees,

they beat their backs and climb the sheet of sugared sand. The bees, they beat their backs and taste its sweetness with their feet. The bees,

they beat their feet and backs with burning light. The bees,

they beat their anthem drum into their sides. The bees

they beat, we rise, we rise, we rise. The bees, they beat their wings, a hanging weight. The bees,

they beat into the sugared sheet. The bees, they drown along with gravity. The bees, they beat the fall, fall back. The bees,

they beat the pane with pain. The bees they sleep on beaten backs. The bees,

they beat their backs again.

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WOMEN WHO ALREADY CHECKED OUT BE LIKE Khadijah Green

Christian Brothers University

I would like to speak to the manager please. I would like to manage . I would like to speak . I speak to please. I li e to manage . I d i e to please. I would li e to ease. I would li e to please. please. please.

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DREAMSCAPE Shelby Weisburg Willamette University

He was my father, but not my father. We drove: the imaginary pick-up a mooring in the gusty country. My fingers smudged the window, yearning to touch the beard-grey fields and chicken-skin trees as they reeled unhurriedly past. Outside blurred like thunder clouds. Inside, his soothing, rumbling voice sang about Detroit or the Rockies without sound. His crow’s feet deepened with callow laughter and reconciled the boney air slipping through the cracked windows. Wind brushed the polyester seats, remembered the smell of grassy, sweaty work caught deep between their fibers and mollified my raging wish— it didn’t matter. I understood he made mistakes. He was my father, but not my father.

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I DID NOT ASK Ifeoluwa Bada University of Texas

to be born

white black eyes shut caul crown keloid scars naked. I did not ask for my father’s nose. back. A stationary ‘l.’ ‘r.’ Straight. Bent.

My feet carve prints the shape of

my father. a quota. I wonder what it is like to be fired

hired

first.

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Hired Fired last.

To carry

fear guilt as rage to see bruise-blue

those flickering lights the justice colors

for protection

blood-red for honor and black is just a shadow.

What do my hands betray? Do they not resemble

Daniel Pantelo Eric Garner? I am not black. white. One a color.

The other a sentence.

I can’t breathe.

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NEGRO PARANOIA Khadijah Green

Christian Brothers University

I will be shot by this white man because I come into his store every day and disturb his displays. I am always fingering the etched shot glasses and the Elvis-emblazoned postcards near the Kama Sutra picture books. And it’s a manufactured fact that black people do not buy knickknacks and black people who carry backpacks can’t be trusted. So I will be shot by this white man, who has a gun stored somewhere, I’m sure of it. Probably a rifle. Probably behind the counter. Probably a revolver. Probably under the cabinet with the porcelain bears in overalls and sundresses picnicking in circles of grass. I will be shot by this white man in front of the bears, but the bears don’t snitch and neither does Elvis and black people with backpacks don’t buy knickknacks, can’t be trusted and I am always disturbing him and fingering things that don’t belong to me and it is a manufactured fact that if you aren’t shopping you are trespassing and trespassers will be shot.

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ST. CROIX, DAKOTA Kateria Rodriguez Salisbury University

“If you can fake it, you can take them like a photograph.” – Robert Nanna

To those who consume, you taught me that the truth was written in all the dead tongues. You taught me about the velveteen cloth folded politely on the table, and how hydrangea tastebuds bloom for the poison sprinkled on them. They were out of season, those flowers, but spring would be here eventually. Wizened sourness carved holes in my mouth. It was a certain misery, but I stayed for the cravings. Somewhere I could hear a choir of coyotes and newborn stars, howling on about how history is a song we choke on. All meddling verses and pseudo crescendos they dug out of the trenches of No Man’s Land. A dash of poppies, the flavor of genocide. A recipe titled by the Greats, a smooth sizzle of decay. That soft, sweet scent of victory and misplaced apologies. But a broken tongue still works, they say. It speaks so little, but devours everything. It tastes like surnames and shotguns and powwows and crescent moons. You timed your amnesia so perfectly.

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LOS ORISHOS Christopher Cannon

Case Western Reserve University

Una mujer nos dice cómo encontrar una tienda para comprar agua filtrada por huesos humanos— ella es un espejo cristalino de mi madre muerta, probablemente tan ocupada llevando tres mil mariposas amarillas y un colibrí de neón en su boca. Recibo cartas (sin nombre) de un ataúd: fueron escritas por los mismos fantasmas que se aparecían en la casita de mi papá en Messenger Road cuando mi hermana era niña y mi hermano soñaba con escaparse de la matriz. Rírí—(apodo de la primera virgen)— me dijo que mamá y ella vieron el espíritu atrapado de un coronel (reviviendo su piedad de la época de la Guerra civil americana). Rompía vajilla de porcelana y tazas de té—construyendo huracanes y vomitando páginas de la Biblia. Mamá tiró sal al piso y les pidió a los antepasados que nos cuidaran. Ahora nos guían ambos.

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Hablábamos de la sal en el piso como si fuera sólo algún chiste. Como si alguna vieja en África no hubiera hecho la misma cosa antes de la llegada de barcos y víboras. Como si mi mamá no hubiera conectado con la tierra y usado agua marina para luchar contra el coronel. Como si los Orishas no anduvieran al lado de ella. Me volví para este lugar en una vida pasada, todavía perdido en esa ciudad extraña—yo, cubierto en la luz de una paloma negra; bailando en los parpadeos infinitos de relámpago.

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THE ORISHAS Christopher Cannon

Case Western Reserve University

A woman tells us means of finding a store to buy water filtered through human bones— she is a crystalline mirror of my dead mother, probably a bit too preoccupied with carrying three thousand yellow butterflies and a neon hummingbird in her mouth. I receive (nameless) letters from a coffin: they were written by the same ghosts that once haunted my father’s humble house on Messenger Road, when my sister was just a little girl and my brother dreamed of escaping the womb. Rírí—(nickname of the first virgin)— she told me all about how mama and her saw the entrapped spirit of a colonel (reliving his Civil War-era piety). He used to smash up all the porcelain china and cups of tea—constructing hurricanes and spewing up pages of the Bible. Mama threw salt down on the floor, and asked that the ancestors watch after us. Now, we are guided by both.

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We used to talk about the salt on the floor as if it were just some joke. As if some old woman in Africa would not have done the same thing before the arrival of ships and vipers. As if my mama hadn’t been connected to the earth and used sea water to fight off the colonel. As if the Orishas did not walk beside her. I came back to this place in a past life, still lost in that strange city—I, covered in the light of a black dove; dancing away in the infinite flickers of lightning.

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OVER THE EDGE Riley Steiner Miami University

They arrived at the edge of the earth on the seventh day, approaching what looked like the brink of an enormous cliff. White salt flats spread to each horizon. They shuffled their boots, caked with powder, inch by inch until they could peer over the lip. At the edge of the earth, the sky curved over them and just kept going, down until it plunged into what looked like a shimmering cloud of mist. The cliff dropped off and disappeared into the glimmering steam below. The three explorers stood at the edge, the wind whistling around them like a breath sighed across the opening of a giant glass bottle. The doctor coughed and the sound echoed, reverberating until it was lost somewhere far below. Julianne peered over the edge and felt a twinge of her old fear just below her ribcage, but she took a deep breath and tried to push it away. She couldn’t let it stop her from doing what she’d come here to do—not now. * Two months ago, Julianne had seen the flyer in the window of the laundromat. It was a small, bright orange piece of paper, stuck to the glass at a haphazard angle with a piece of tape. DO YOU, it read, WANT TO GO ON THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME? Julianne squinted her eyes behind her glasses. She really needed a new prescription, she told herself. These were making things a little fuzzy around the edges. When she edged closer, she could read the fine print on the flyer more clearly. Now accepting applications for the Miles Expedition, it said in no-nonsense Courier New near the bottom of the page. Two-week hike to the end of the world. In the middle, there was a photo of a square-jawed bald man with a bushy grey mustache wearing a brown leather jacket. His title read Dr. Marcus Miles, Ph.D. Scrawled in untidy script like a footnote after the final period were the words AND AMATEUR EXPLORER. Without really knowing why, Julianne ripped off one of the tabs at the bottom of the flyer and stuck it in her pocket. *

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Scott was the first person she wanted to tell. Everyone knew about the end of the earth, but Julianne had never heard of anyone actually venturing there. It was rough, she’d heard. Danger around every corner. She knew Scott would get a kick out of this eccentric doctor who was planning an unprecedented expedition. She knew she’d find him at the bank. In their little town, she always knew where everybody was. When she showed him what she’d found, he laughed, and her stomach flipped— it was his laugh that had made her fall for him in the first place. He didn’t know, of course. For the past year, she’d been making excuses to go to the bank, just to talk to him. But her tongue always got so tied up that she could never manage to say much beyond that she was out of coin wrappers. At home, she had a drawer full of their discarded shells. “Do you want to go?” he asked her. She shrugged and said she didn’t know. It sounded interesting, maybe. And it would be good exercise, at least, hiking for two weeks. “I think you should go,” he said. In her mind, Julianne replied, “Come with me.” But nothing came out of her mouth except, “Maybe.” “Let me know what you decide.” He smiled at her and turned back to his computer. * Later that week, Julianne and her mother went to dinner at the Italian place that served their favorite pesto tortellini. She held the door open as her mother went in first, placing a steadying hand on her mother’s back. “You really don’t have to do that,” her mother said, her eyes flashing. “I’m fine.” Julianne rolled her eyes at the back of her mother’s head and followed her inside, where they went straight to a booth in the corner. The seats squeaked as they both sat down. Julianne opened her menu but didn’t glance at it; she was ordering what she always got. Instead, she fixed her eyes on her mother’s face. “So, Mom, how have you been feeling?” Her mother, who always ordered the same thing as her daughter, was suddenly very interested in her menu. “Hmm?” “Mom, come on.” Julianne let the menu slap back onto the table. “Why are you always trying to avoid my questions?” Her mother looked up then, scowling. “Because we’ve been over this a hundred times,” she said. “Nothing has changed. The doctors say everything looks good, just like it has for the past five years.” She stared pointedly at Julianne. Julianne sighed and leaned back against the unyielding wood of the booth. “I just like to know what’s going on,” she muttered. Her mother’s face softened. “Honestly, honey, you don’t need to worry,” she said

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briskly, returning to her menu and adjusting her glasses with one hand. “I don’t even worry about myself anymore.” They sat in silence for a few moments. Julianne could feel her mother looking at her over the top of the menu’s list of pasta dishes. Finally, her mother said, “Don’t you think it’s time for you to get back out there?” Julianne stared, wondering if her mother somehow knew about the flyer. She could picture the little tab right now, sitting on top of her computer keyboard at home like a neon orange beacon, the black numbers burning a hole in the top of her desk. Quite out of place. Her mother must have sensed her hesitation, because she went on. “All I’m saying is, you don’t have to stick around for me anymore.” She raised a hand to wave the waiter over. * The next time Julianne went to the bank after telling Scott about the flyer, she found him packing his potted desk plant into a cardboard box. “What are you doing?” she asked. He grinned. “They’re transferring me to the main branch,” he said, reaching for a pile of manila folders. “It’s a big promotion.” Julianne stood there and watched him. Words bubbled in the back of her throat, but she couldn’t move her lips to form the sounds that would tell him she wanted him to stay. With her. He stepped out from behind the desk, carrying the box in front of him. “Listen,” he said. “I hope everything goes great for you. Keep in touch, okay?” And flashing her a final smile, he walked out through the sliding glass doors. It was only after they had whirred shut behind him that Julianne realized she didn’t have any way to contact him, not even an email address. She glanced at his desk, its silver surface gleaming. It looked empty without him. * Julianne turned the key in her apartment door and creaked it open, flicking the light on. It was a small apartment, but she didn’t need anything bigger. For the past five years, it had been enough. She dropped her keys onto the hall table with a clatter. Across the room, her computer sat on her desk, surrounded by stacks of paper. She walked into the kitchen and turned the light on, noticing as she did so that it seemed a little dim. She’d have to change the lightbulb. “Lucy,” she called, and her small white terrier came trotting into the room, her nails clicking on the tile. Julianne bent over to rattle some dry kibble into Lucy’s bowl. As she straightened up, the photos on the wall caught her eye, as they always did.

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There were two of them, each a small five-by-seven snapshot in a brown wooden frame. They looked out of place on the otherwise empty wall, but Julianne couldn’t bring herself to put them away. She was in them, both of them, surrounded by other people, all of them grinning while wearing scuba masks and diving suits. In one, they stood in a clump on a beach, the ocean spreading away behind them. The other had been taken underwater. She was holding a starfish and giving the camera a thumbs-up, the other people frozen mid-dive around her. Five years ago, she left her small town for the first time in her life, signing up for a scuba-diving trip to Australia’s coral reefs. She’d been taking classes in oceanic wildlife at the local college, and she’d been nervous but eager to go. She could only imagine what the world was like outside the six square miles where she’d grown up. She’d never had any reason to leave before; she’d studied business in her twenties, and had been content with helping her mother run her small bakery. But something tugged at her when she’d learned about the trip through the college, and after days of contemplation she’d decided to go. In between getting ready for the trip, Julianne spent the days leading up to her departure standing behind the counter of the bakery. Her mother had been laid up in bed all week, too fatigued to leave the house. When Julianne visited her the night before she left, her mother assured her she was fine. “I’m feeling better every day,” she said. “Really, I think it’s just a thing going around.” Standing at the door, Julianne frowned. “Well, call the doctor if you get any worse.” She felt worry lingering in the back of her mind, but it was lost in the hubbub of the next morning. The first two days of the trip had been perfect. They’d spent the time swimming in the ocean and recording the movement of the sea turtles on the beach. But on the second night, Julianne got the phone call. Her mother had collapsed, and Julianne rushed home. The bills piled up, the money sucked away by the costs of medicine, and Julianne could no longer run the bakery by herself. She took a job as an accountant, which she hated, and spent her days caring for her mother. She’d never gotten over the shock of that phone call, the pit of fear that had opened up inside her at the somber sound of the doctor’s voice, or the guilt that gnawed at her for leaving when she’d known something was wrong. She’d made a vow to herself, then, to stay as long as she had to. Now it had been five years since her failed adventure and she was still at her accounting job. Scott had made the days better, but now he would no longer be there. Julianne walked over to her computer, dreading the emails she knew would be lined up, waiting for her answer. Even after she came home from a day at work, they endlessly seeped into her inbox. She let her bag drop to the floor with a thunk when a spot of color caught her eye.

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She looked down at her keyboard and saw the orange slip of paper waiting for her, like a train ticket to another world. Picking it up between her thumb and index finger, she stared down at the numbers on the paper. Julianne thought of what she had here. Her job was stale. Her mother was going to be fine without her. And now Scott was gone. She looked up at Lucy, who had finished her dinner and sat in the armchair. The dog tilted her head and twitched an ear. Taking a deep breath, Julianne picked up her phone and dialed. * After taking down her initial information (female, age thirty-six, in reasonably good shape), Dr. Miles declared her registered. “Welcome!” he enthused in a wheezy voice. “Excited to have you on board.” Julianne spent the next few weeks buying supplies—apples, camping and climbing gear, sunscreen—and trying not to think about Scott. When their day of departure finally arrived, she was glad to leave the town and the feeling that she got every time she passed the bank, one of having missed a chance that was now gone forever. Their expedition consisted of only her, the doctor, and one other man, Rick, who Julianne knew as a maintenance worker from the library back home. They spent the first three hours of their journey in a rusty old van that tossed them in the air every time it hit a bump. Rick, twenty-five years old, was journeying to the edge of the earth as an assistant to the doctor, it turned out. Dr. Miles was paying him to help collect rock samples. Despite the money, Rick was skeptical. “What exactly do you have a Ph.D. in?” he muttered, sitting next to Julianne in the van after they’d spent forty-five minutes listening to Dr. Miles ramble on about fluctuating temperatures and landscape elevations and the vegetation of the southeastern grasslands. “Legends and mythology, young man!” Dr. Miles declared. “Why do you think we’re hiking to the edge of the earth, of all places?” “But people have been to the edge of the earth before,” Rick said. “It’s not a secret.” Dr. Miles raised an index finger. “Yes,” he said, “but no one has ever been over the edge, have they?” The party of three sat in silence. Julianne could feel Dr. Miles studying her intently, but she kept her gaze trained out the window. * There had been one time when she’d thought Scott might have seen her as something more than the bank’s most frequent customer. It was early June, and midday sunlight streamed in through the bank’s glass doors, falling in stripes across the tiled floor.

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Julianne squinted against the glare as she approached Scott’s desk. “Hey,” he said after she’d deposited her check, “I’m having a cookout this weekend, if you want to come. It’s really casual, just a neighborhood thing. I think we’re just grilling burgers and watching baseball.” A little too quickly, Julianne replied that yes, sure, she’d try and stop by. Inside, she unsuccessfully told herself not to get her hopes up. He’d invited her. That Saturday afternoon, she crossed Scott’s front lawn in a pair of beaded flipflops, armed with a glass bowl of fruit salad. She heard music drifting around the side of the house and followed the meandering sounds of voices to the backyard. All of Scott’s neighbors were there, and there he was, holding a drink, standing in the middle of a semicircle of people who lived next door and across the street and catty-corner from his house. When he saw her, he raised a hand. “Hey!” he said, and stepped forward to meet her. “Here, let me take that.” He took the bowl of fruit salad in one hand and set it on the patio table. “Thanks for bringing this.” His eyes lit up as he turned back toward her, and for a moment Julianne thought he was going to say how excited he was that she was here, how it was so nice to see her outside of work, how they should do this more often—but then his gaze traveled past her, and she realized his grin was directed over her shoulder, at another group of people who had just arrived around the side of the house. “Hey!” he called, greeting them with the same ebullience that he’d greeted Julianne, that he greeted everyone who was his guest. “Thanks again for coming,” he said to her, and stepped away to meet the newcomers. Julianne watched him that evening as she made small talk with the neighbors and the Beach Boys drifted from the stereo across the darkening grass. He was a gracious host—that was all. * Two hours after Rick’s conversation with the doctor, the van stuttered to a stop, the driver informing them that he could take them no farther. They got out and looked at the road, which stretched ahead of them for a few hundred yards before cracking into chunks of concrete and then disappearing altogether, as if swallowed by the gold grass. Julianne looked around and saw dry plains stretching away from her and a blur along the horizon that may have been a copse of trees. There was no sign of civilization in sight. “This is where our journey begins!” announced Dr. Miles, and he hefted his bulging backpack and led the way forward along the broken road. Rick followed, and Julianne was about to do the same when she heard an engine cough and turned to see the van sputter away down the road they’d just come from. Its clatter faded away until it was no more than a speck. *

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As the sun was beginning to set on their first day, Rick spotted the silhouette of a building in the distance. This would be their first stop, said Dr. Miles. He knew the man who lived there, someone who gave food and a place to sleep to the occasional travelers going to the edge, like them. As they drew closer, Julianne realized there were other buildings surrounding this one, but most of them had collapsed into piles of rubble overgrown with weeds and moss. The largest one, the one that Rick had seen, was the only one still standing, a solitary shell of an old Applebee’s. Most of the letters had fallen off the sign that leaned against the wall, but Julianne recognized the logo. Inside, they met the doctor’s acquaintance—a large man with a thick beard who seated them at one of the two tables left inside the mostly-empty interior. “Do you get a lot of people coming through here?” Rick asked him when he brought them glasses of water. The man squinted at Rick for a moment, then grunted, “Not a lot, but people come. They want to see it for themselves, I guess.” Dr. Miles leaned forward. The hairs of his mustache stuck out at odd angles. “The ones who pass through on their way back—do they tell you about it?” The man shrugged. “Some,” he said. “They go, they look, they come back. It’s usually the same story.” “Have you ever met anyone who went over the edge?” The doctor’s eyes were wide. “My brother went. He was an explorer, like you,” the man said, eyeing their backpacks. “He heard the stories and wanted to see if they were true.” “Did he come back?” asked Dr. Miles. The man fixed his eyes on him. “Not yet,” he said. * That was the last they saw of other human beings on their way to the edge. They spent a week trudging through grasslands with stunted trees and across dusty plains. Julianne quickly realized that the rumors of danger were untrue: she was surprised at how flat the hike was. At night, they pitched tents to sleep. As they grew closer and closer to the edge, the temperature began to fluctuate wildly. Julianne would spend a freezing night huddled in her tent with her knees clutched to her chest, and then the next night would grow so hot that sweat dripped off the tip of her nose. As they walked, the wind whirled dust around them in stinging storms, then the next moment dropped completely, leaving their faces powdered with dirt. They reached the salt flats on the seventh day. * “The legends say that incredible treasures lie beyond the edge of the earth,” said Dr.

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Miles, standing with them at the edge now, tapping his nose with his index finger. Julianne looked down over the edge, at this place that was said to be dangerous but also amazing. She thought of coin wrappers and potted plants and missed opportunities. Taking a metal stake from her belt, she hammered it into the ground at the edge of the cliff, knotting a rope securely around it. Then she clipped the other end of the rope to the harness she wore, stepped forward, and lowered herself over the edge.

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GRANDMA WAS A DRAGON Brooke Thomas College of Charleston

How you combed your tongue, picking off the nits of English and feeding them to your daughters. How they grew up not knowing that the zashiki warashi were moving their school books when they weren’t looking. How your black hair fell out and came back white like you’d seen a ghost in the mirror of the medicine cabinet. How the dragon became a darkened sewing room, an empty kitchen window. I ate the little piles of salt you left on the bases of the porch columns when I was young; how there’s still salt in the back my mother’s antique buffet, one grain for each evil spirit to ride home, you said. Sometimes I think you’re gone because the spirits ate you. Maybe those salt piles really did keep them away, and maybe it’s my fault you’re gone. The statue of St. Joseph my mother buried is still in the front yard, even after we sold your house to strangers who leave salt in the shaker on the table. How they look out the kitchen window like it’s a piece of glass rather than the mouth of a dragon’s den as they sit down for supper.

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SCARLET #045 Briana Campbell Florida State University

At the nursing home I paint my grandmother’s nails, getting the color in her cuticles, thick paint running off the sides, but my eyes are fixed on her pale veiny hands, bruised from the I.V.’s prick, gentle curve of freshly-filed fingernails because I want her to feel pretty lying on the sheets washed with no fabric softener, even as old age pushes her dyed blonde hair further from her head because I hope it reminds her of the beauty shop in Humboldt Park with the German Shepherd that’d visit in the afternoons, with women that had hair so high it’d peck God on the cheek, and domino games in the park on her day off, choir of old Puerto Rican men yelling about this play and score and that tramposo, and limber de coco dribbling down her chin in the heatwave, and taking the long way to get piraguas, and dancing a sweaty salsa into the night and the Mexican restaurant she loved with corn tortillas somebody’s abuela made in the back, topped with cilantro so green.

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PLÁTANO Claudia Rivera Barbeito University of Tampa

burnt freckled cheeks and a few baby teeth— suck and slurp under a mango tree.

machete blades slice sugar cane fields and crack open coconuts. feed an island, a territory— a colony of broken backs and open wounds.

salt breeze oxidizes skin to a cooper color. Plátano stains never fade away.

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HOME ECONOMICS McKenna Christian University of San Diego

Two-stories supported by columns wrapped in stucco. White walls, white carpet; the dining room seats ten for Saturday brunch. A bullet: part gun powder, part plastic wad, sealed in red tubes. Cookie icing: mostly powdered sugar, some buttermilk, add almond extract. His mother used a gun. He regrets never visiting D-day. I wish I could tell him that it isn’t too late. She studied home economics, always asks about the lady-finger recipe she sent me in San Diego. Can’t bake bullets into histories. Families don’t work like that.

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WELCOME TO PARADISE Nick Zablocki Oakland University

A peculiar, October-like breeze ruffled the green porcupine trees. Liquid glass pooled around EPA-approved septic drains currently clogged with the offspring of the trees. I kicked a baby rock like it was a tiny soccer ball down the crackled blacktop. (Or perhaps I was a giant mid-fielder.) The stroll to Roger’s apartment was roughly 27 minutes, 35 if I was lolly-gagging with the casual pace I usually maintained, 19 if I was really in a bustle. Roger sold sticky bushels of rare plants for most of the neighborhood. He was the guy that made things happen for other guys, a real people-pleaser. He held the stars in place as far as I was concerned. If you needed a quick smoke, or a quick ball with a faded starlet, he had the numbers to dial. His doorway was a turnstile. Denizens of all genres passed through his checkpoint, though very few ever got acclimated enough to stick around. An auburn moss collected on his jawline, and a few of his teeth were severely tarnished. Still, his laugh was like a foghorn, and the twinkle in his eyes was a lighthouse for this crummy side of town. When I arrived, Roger was quick to let me in after inspecting me through the door’s fisheye. The peeling wallpaper kept the walls scantily clad; nonetheless, his small apartment was comfortable, if musty. Roger was on an unusual tune today, evidenced by the way he bumbled around the room. He looked like someone right after their beloved goldfish— named Perry, or Huck Finn, or something like that— died. Business was bad this week, he told me. “People just aren’t buying the bushels like they used to, Jack.” Even the regulars had moved on to brighter pastures or darker chemicals, it seemed. Myself, holding an almost nursery fondness for Roger, couldn’t stand to see him like that. I forked over nearly triple my usual payment for quadruple the product. Roger was real good at taking care of his regulars, even in times of crisis. I’d worry about making rent some other time. It wasn’t until I visited the watering hole a few stars later and ascended one of the rickety stools that I heard the news. Dancing embers had consumed Roger and all the goddess-forsaken people of that building. I attended the funeral in my casual Friday best. It’s what he would’ve wanted. “It juss ain’t right, is it Jack.” “No Marv, it really isn’t.” The vacuum had inhaled the wrong ball of yarn yet again. ZABLOCKI

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SALAD DAYS Andrew Letai Hamilton College

One fine sunny day, a pair of young princes played together on the palace grounds. They had devised a simple game centered around a bronze goblet they had swiped from the kitchens. The game involved seizing the goblet from its starting position upon a rock, running across the garden, and placing it on another rock, all without being caught by the other boy. It was currently Prince Phillip, the younger of the two brothers, who ran with the goblet clutched in his pudgy fist. Prince Edward, three years Phillip’s elder and approaching his tenth birthday, raced after his brother, stubby legs pounding the ground and scattering the meticulously placed gravel of the garden paths. Ahead of him, he saw Phillip stumble on an errant tree root and fall, skidding across the grass. Edward reached him and slowed his run. The young prince, who would one day be known as King Edward the Redeemer, Scourge of the Wicked, reached out a hand to his brother. Phillip took his hand—the same hand that, years from now, would clap him on the back after signing the decree making Phillip Lord Marshal of all the realm’s armies—and pulled himself to his feet, brushing dirt from his princely clothes. “Thanks,” Phillip sighed. Their mother, Queen Eleanor, would be cross. He could already hear her admonishing him about how a prince must present himself and how that presentation should rarely, if ever, include grass stains. “You’re welcome.” Edward smiled. “I got you, by the way.” “That doesn’t count!” Phillip protested. “I fell!” “That’s not a rule.” Phillip considered this and realized it was true. “Fine.” He shrugged and began walking back to the starting stone. Edward followed. “I saw a dove this morning,’’ Edward said as they walked. “Really?” Phillip’s eyes lit up. Doves were his favorite bird, but though they were plentiful in the capital, they were scarce here at the summer palace. “Where?” “It landed next to the cherry tree outside the dining room window. I saw it during breakfast.” “Why didn’t you tell me?”

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“You weren’t there. You had already gone to your lessons.” “Oh.” Phillip scowled. Edward didn’t have to take any lessons in the summer, but Phillip’s tutors had come along for the season. Edward said he had endured summer lessons until he was eight, but Phillip was still jealous of his unfettered free time. “It might come back. I’ll watch for it.” “Alright.” Phillip knew his brother was telling the truth. Edward would be sure to tell Phillip if he sighted another dove. The boys reached the stone, and Phillip placed the goblet on its flat surface. They stepped back, positioning themselves a few feet from the cup. “Ready?” Edward said, tensing his muscles. “Ready.” “Three, two, one…go!” Edward proclaimed the start of the game and sprinted to the stone, grabbing the goblet and turning in a wide arc. He managed to outpace his younger brother, though not by much. While Edward was older, he was only slightly larger. His parents assured him he would grow as tall as Father someday, but for the time being he accepted his lot. It wasn’t all bad— if he was much taller and stronger than Phillip, Edward often thought, their games would be no fun. Seeing his brother had claimed the goblet, Phillip wheeled around and ran after him. The scent of flowers—lavender, lilac, and primrose—filled the air, riding on a lazy summer breeze. A few birds chirped in the trees. Phillip and Edward both grinned as they charged forward, squinting against the afternoon sun. Phillip gained on Edward and lunged forward, but Edward whirled to his right and took off towards a thick elm tree. Edward ran around to the other side of the trunk, followed seconds later by Phillip. Edward ran around the tree again, and Phillip chased him for several loops around the ancient trunk. Finally, Edward broke away and ran towards the second stone. He looked back over his shoulder, expecting to see Phillip in close pursuit. Instead, he saw Phillip directly behind him. Phillip had been ready for Edward to run away from the tree and rushed after him as soon as he did. Stretching his arms forward, he could almost grasp the hem of Edward’s shirt. Breathing in deeply, he leapt forward and grabbed Edward’s shoulders. The two boys toppled to the ground together, coming to a stop lying in the grass beside each other. Prince Phillip, who would one day feel Edward’s body go limp as he

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squeezed the life out of his throat on the cold stone floor of a throne room, laughed and placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “I got you.” He beamed at Edward, who returned a chagrined smile. The two boys climbed to their feet and walked back towards the first stone. As they replaced the goblet, a voice rang through the garden. “Prince Edward! Prince Phillip! Come in for dinner!” Horace, the steward of the manor, called from the door. The boys groaned and trudged towards the palace, leaving the goblet sitting outside. When they reached the stairs leading to the entrance, Horace clucked his tongue. “Look at the two of you. Covered in dirt. What were you doing out there, hunting for moles? Better get yourselves cleaned up before your parents see you.” Horace bustled the boys towards the washroom, where he handed them off to a maid, explaining the situation with a wry smile and a curt nod. Half an hour later, Edward and Phillip, freshly groomed, entered the dining hall and sat at the table with their parents. “So,” King Lionel said between bites of roast chicken, “what did you boys get up to today?” “Nothing much,” Edward answered. “We played in the garden.” “I saw you out the window. Looked like fun.” “It was,” Phillip confirmed. “It’s nice to see you having fun. Reminds me of my brother and me, when we were your age.” “But I don’t think you were nearly as fast as either of our boys, Dear,” Queen Eleanor chimed in, winking at her husband. “Oh, of course not.” King Lionel chuckled. “It’s a fine thing to have a brother, you know. You boys are lucky. The way the world is, there aren’t many people you really know you can trust. But you two will always have each other.” Lionel nodded at his own words and took a long sip of wine. King Lionel was healthy and strong, and by almost all accounts a perfectly decent king. His own death was far from his mind, and fairly so. He had many years left before the hunting accident that would claim his life. He had no idea of the turmoil his death would cause, how the realm would be plunged into bloody chaos in his absence. For the time being, his thoughts were chiefly concerned with what the cook had prepared for dessert. Dessert turned out to be a confection of strawberries and cream, and King Lionel was entirely satisfied. Edward and Phillip devoured their portions then marched off to bed. The next morning, Phillip awoke to the whinnying of horses and excited shouts outside their window. He shook Edward awake, and the two boys looked out on to the front walk of the palace where they saw an ornate carriage come to a halt. A servant opened the door, and out stepped their uncle, Henry, Duke

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of Aurenburg, followed by his wife Margaret and their son Thomas. “It’s Thomas!” Edward exclaimed. “They’re here!” Still in their nightclothes, Edward and Phillip weaved past servants carrying the Duke’s trunks and rushed outside to see their visiting relatives. Henry was clapping Lionel on the back when the boys arrived. “And who are these two young men, Lionel?” Henry asked, smirking. “They’re far too big to be my nephews, after all.” “It’s us, Uncle Henry!” Phillip exclaimed indignantly. “My goodness!” the Duke gasped. “How you’ve grown.” He patted the boys on the head—the same boys whom he would accuse of being bastards after their father’s death in an attempt to win the throne for himself—and informed them that Thomas was on the other side of the carriage. The princes walked over and found their cousin fiddling with a broken clasp on his shoe. When Thomas looked up and saw Edward and Phillip, he raced over and hugged them tightly. Thomas was eight years old, between the princes in age. They saw each other every summer and sometimes during the rest of the year as well, when Henry visited the capital on matters of state. They had been friends since infancy—partly because they did get along very well, and partly because friends were hard to come by for boys of their station. The children of servants and townspeople shunned them—not out of anger or dislike but out of excessive deference. Few parents in the realm thought their children were worthy of being a prince’s playmate. So the three boys clung to each other, the only children with whom they could have a truly unobstructed friendship. Edward and Phillip changed out of their nightclothes and then, reunited for the first time in months, the three boys immediately set about the business of getting into mischief. While King Lionel discussed a new tax plan with his brother and Eleanor showed Margaret the latest additions to the palace’s art gallery, Edward and Phillip showed Thomas their prized secret—a fox den they had discovered on the edge of the palace grounds. “There’s nothing inside,” Thomas noted, examining the hole. “Not right now,” Edward admitted. “But there’s a fox who lives here. We’ve seen it.” “When will it come back?” Thomas asked, looking for signs of life in the adjacent hedge. “We’ve only ever seen it around dusk,” Phillip replied. “Let’s come back then,” Thomas said. The boys agreed, and their deliberation over what to do next was resolved when a squirrel ran by. The boys exchanged a quick glance and immediately gave chase. Phillip placed his hands over his mouth and bellowed as grandly as

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his young lungs allowed, imitating the hunting horn the noblemen used. The chase came to a rapid halt when the squirrel ran up a tree and sat on a branch. “Is he going to come down?” Thomas asked, squinting up through the leaves. “I don’t think so.” Philip frowned. “Unless he’s stupid.” “I’m hungry,” Edward declared, and the boys abandoned their hunt and marched back to the castle in search of provisions. They found all four of their parents eating a light lunch in the dining room. The boys joined them, and King Lionel called for more food. “You boys enjoying yourselves?” Duke Henry asked as the servants brought in a fresh plate of venison for the children. Henry would eat a similar supper of venison on the eve of the Battle of Hollingbrook, in which his forces made their final stand against Edward’s army. By slaying Henry the Usurper, Edward would cement his claim upon the throne as unquestionable and end the years of bitter civil war. “Yes!” Thomas exclaimed between bites. “Don’t eat so fast,” Queen Eleanor chided the boys, all three of whom were eagerly stuffing their faces in the interest of an efficient lunch. “You’re liable to choke.” Queen Eleanor’s last meal would be decadent. In an attempt to win her to his side, Henry would provide for her a sumptuous dinner of roast pig, goose pies, and apple tarts. She would eat only a single slice of bread before excusing herself for bed. That night, her reputation destroyed by Henry’s machinations and her son seemingly on the verge of losing the war, she would fling herself from the window of her tower prison. She would never learn that, only days after her death, Thomas abandoned his father and pledged his support and troops to Edward, turning the tide of the war. “Sorry, Mother,” Edward said, averting his eyes. “We just want to go back outside.” “You may go back outside when you’ve finished eating like a civilized prince.” A short while later, as the boys finished their meal, Horace entered the dining hall. “Ambassador Porivus has arrived, my lord,” he announced. “Ah! At last.” King Lionel clapped his hands together. “Back to business, eh, Henry?” The two men stood and walked into the hall to greet the ambassador. The boys, sensing their chance for freedom, jumped to their feet. “Be careful playing out there, Thomas,” Duchess Margaret called after her son. “Remember your nerves.” “Yes, mother!” Thomas shouted over his shoulder as the boys vanished out

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the door. Thomas’s nerves were a source of great concern for Margaret and Henry, though not for Thomas himself. The boy was given to anxious fits and fainting spells from time to time, usually triggered by undue stress. While these moments were very unpleasant to experience, Thomas never regarded them as more than an inconvenience. He wished his mother wouldn’t worry so much. Margaret would echo her wish for Thomas to mind his nerves when the mother and son said their final goodbye. After Henry’s defeat and denouncement, King Edward would send Margaret into exile, mercifully sparing her life and granting her a retinue of retainers with which to travel. When Thomas and Margaret tearfully bid each other farewell, she would tell him, striving to maintain an air of dignity despite her weeping, to be sure to mind his nerves. To reach the back garden, the boys briefly passed through the main hall, where they saw their fathers conversing with Ambassador Porivus. He was surrounded by the attendants and family that had arrived with him, including his daughter, a wide-eyed young girl with dark hair and bright eyes who stood clutching her mother’s robes. Edward did not know from what country Ambassador Porivus hailed. While he knew all the countries in the region, his education thus far had focused mainly on internal geography and politics, not learning the names of every foreign dignitary. He did not know if Ambassador Porivus was an emissary from a staunch ally or an old foe. Nor did he know that Celia, the delicate girl who clung to her mother’s coat-tails, would someday be his beloved wife and queen in a historic marriage that united two empires. Phillip only glanced at the ambassador and did not notice Celia at all. Phillip’s young face was clean and unblemished. His cheek would one day bear a thin scar, left there by Celia’s raking fingernails as she rejected his offer of marriage and decried him for a usurper. Though he would have her locked up for the offense, the mark his brother’s widow left on his face would never disappear. Moments later, clear of the palace’s constraints, the three boys returned to the garden and searched for a diversion. Arriving at the tree where they had chased the squirrel, Phillip wondered aloud if it was still up there. “Let’s find out!” Edward grinned. “Who wants to climb it?” All three cousins agreed that would be a fine pursuit but found it more difficult than they imagined. The tree’s lowest branch was above their reach, and they had to resort to climbing on top of one another to grab hold of it. After Thomas predicted the outcome of two coin flips correctly, he was selected to be the one boosted into the tree. Edward and Phillip hoisted him over their heads, where he grabbed on to a branch and pulled himself up onto it. From there it

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was easier to find hand and footholds to climb higher. As he swung himself up another branch, a squirrel popped out of the leaves, chirping wildly. The squirrel startled Thomas, who lost his grip on the branch and scrambled madly for another one but found nothing to hold on to and fell screaming towards the ground. Down below, Edward and Phillip saw their cousin’s sudden predicament, and their eyes widened. They reached their hands upward, hoping to catch him. Thomas tumbled out of the tree and landed in Phillip’s outstretched arms, the weight of his impact knocking Phillip onto his back. Thomas was shaken but uninjured. He looked at Phillip with gratitude in his eyes. It would not be with gratitude that he looked upon Phillip on a fateful day many years later, when Phillip informed Thomas that his daughter Rose was to remain with Phillip as a hostage. Phillip would tell Thomas that he wished young Rose no harm, but if Phillip did not pledge to support Phillip’s claim to the crown and help to quell any resistance, he would be forced to make an example of her. Interference with Phillip’s plans would mean the death of Rose. It was with a heavy heart that Thomas left the capital, returning home to Aurenburg without his daughter. His heart was just as heavy when he publicly declared his support for Phillip’s kingship, thinking of his daughter and silently cursing himself for a traitor all the while. Thomas and Phillip stood up, dusting themselves off sheepishly. “Thanks,” Thomas said between deep breaths. “No problem.” Phillip cocked his head. “What should we do now?” Edward, Phillip, and Thomas spent the next two hours playing the goblet-chasing game, adding increasingly complex rules as the day wore on. “That doesn’t count!” Phillip cried out as Edward triumphantly placed the goblet on the finishing stone. “You didn’t jump the stream!” Edward thought for a moment, then his victorious smile became a scowl of despair. “Oh, no! I forgot!” he wailed. Thomas casually walked up behind him and placed his hand on his shoulder. “Got you,” he giggled. Edward sighed and handed the goblet to Thomas. The boys were soon interrupted for dinner. The dining hall was crowded, and the adults spoke of things that the children neither understood nor cared too deeply about. They entertained themselves with a spirited discussion about whether the three of them, working together, could defeat a wild bear. Edward believed they could do it, while Thomas and Phillip were less confident. Edward was a great believer in the power of teamwork and would remain so

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until the day of his death. In his reign as king, he would make a point of surrounding himself with competent and trustworthy advisors. Among his closest confidants would be his brother, Phillip. This faith in the importance of fellowship would make it all the more surprising for Edward to discover that his brother had been plotting against him for years. He would still hardly believe it was true even when Phillip’s fingers wrapped around his throat. As Edward’s world faded to black, his final sensations would be confusion and disbelief. After dinner they returned to the garden but couldn’t find the goblet. Thomas was sure he had left it sitting on the designated stone, but it wasn’t there, and in the failing light the boys couldn’t find it in the flowerbeds. Agreeing to look for it tomorrow, the boys returned to the fox den, expectations high. Unfortunately, the coveted fox did not make an appearance. The boys grew impatient and began searching for sticks that were the appropriate size and weight to serve as swords. Once they had found two, Edward and Phillip engaged in a mock swordfight. Thomas, heedful of his mother’s warnings, sat out, electing himself judge of the match. He would become more and more uncomfortably aware of his own infirmity as his life wore on. He would never be a great warrior, a fact that he would ruefully consider as he lay on his deathbed, his body racked by disease. The doctors, whom by this time he would consider worthless, could do nothing to save him. When Thomas, Duke of Aurenburg, died in his bed, his chief but far from only regret would be that he had not lived to see Rose married. Edward and Phillip swung wildly at each other with their sticks, the interaction alternating between bold threats and fits of laughter. Occasionally, one brother would land a hit on the other, and they would pause for a moment to collect themselves, Thomas imperiously declaring a ceasefire. As the sun vanished completely behind the horizon, the boys walked unhurriedly back to the palace. The hot summer air had grown cool, and they stared up at the newly appearing stars, wondering to each other what might lie beyond the sky. The daytime breeze had faded away, but the scent of the palace’s flowers still drifted through the air in a fragrant haze. Passing by the stone, the boys made one more fruitless attempt at locating the goblet. Once inside, they bid each other goodnight. Thomas went off to sleep in the east wing with his parents and the Aurenburg retinue while Edward and Phillip headed to their bedroom. “Good night, Phillip,” Edward said, yawning as he burrowed beneath his blankets. “Good night, Edward,” Phillip replied. He sat up in bed and stared out the window. He watched the stars twinkle and heard the trees rustle in the faint wind.

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Decades later, when Phillip was king, he would often gaze out into the night. He would wonder about many things. He would wonder about his place in the world, with his parents, his brother, and his cousin all dead and gone. He would wonder about the fate of the kingdom and the fate of his own soul. And sometimes, remembering the carefree summers when he played with Edward and Thomas, the warm, smiling days rolling together into an endless parade of diversion, he would think about one question that had never been answered, despite the boys’ best efforts. Sitting silently in his throne room, lost in thought at a feast, or awake in bed at night, he would wonder where in the world that goblet had gotten to.

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LEGGACY Grace Goze

Ball State University

when a human being dies, does that make them a human been? and if so, when i become a human been, will i be satisfied with the pieces of identity i’ve decided to leave behind? because i think human beings are like two forms of eggs wait, eggs don’t have brains, hands, or legs yes, but eggs have consistencies that reflect how we give ourselves over to each other one, two, three taps is all it takes to crack open some, their secrets spilling out with one single poke, bursting and thirsting for ears to hear but not me. i’m hard boiled, protecting my yolk. therefore, getting to my core takes a little bit more than a tap. it takes work, method, and gentle hands, patience and peeling of layers, so as i sit with insides still solid, i again wonder if as a human been i’ve opened up enough to leave behind more than a shell of who i once was being.

--leggacy

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MAMA Ellery Page

University of Arizona

Sourdough between my toes She was singing She used to know She used to sew She used to She used She use She uses me. Like lions Like carnage. Lines in the sink hole A place holder for moles. Interdynamic patches Latches Cyclic fables A round table A constellation. And so it goes. To be a place in Your mental real Estate. Lenting resentment Renting me a Blank State. I wanted a Blank Slate.

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BECAUSE YOU REMIND ME OF SOMEONE I’VE NEVER MET Maxwell Levy

St. Lawrence University

For you, I walk on water backwards with my shoes lit on fire during a tornado that just tried to steal the Mona Lisa on the first Tuesday of November. For you, I make a song out of a Rubik’s cube in tune with the Beatles saxophones’ harmonic melody which is now featured in an ASPCA commercial. For you, I crash the car that I don’t have into a dandelion while I am drunk off of the last strawberry pudding that I ate with a fork at the cafeteria during the lunch lady’s office hours. For you, I pour magnesium nitrate on my face so your eyes don’t make my chest bleed when I see your incredible lips glow red like a rose from the Western Coast of New York City. For you, I dig a hole inside of my heart until there is no more coffee left for anyone to buy at Dunkin’ Donuts when your last one-night stand is vomiting profusely before his 8 AM class. I could love you like a dove without a pair of wings still trying to fly off north during the first sandstorm of the winter season.

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I will cross my fingers inside of my perplexed elephant of a heart that is still tumbling around on Seventh Avenue, hoping that someday you might love me back. For you, I raise my heart in the air to ask a question in class and it’s

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for you, for you, and it’s for you…

LEVY


DEAR MRS. NAIR Nakul Grover

Pennsylvania State University

Aunt Jennifer’s finger fluttering through her wool Find even the ivory needle hard to pull. The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand. --Adrienne Rich, “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”

Old Mr. M.M. Nair anticipated his death for quite long—every breath was his last, every sunshine a new beginning, and so he lived alone in Delhi with a lizard that wasn’t his, surrounded by a billion people that he had learned to call his own. Solitude, as Mr. M. M. Nair saw it, was a choice, and in India, never challenging. He formed special bonds with the maid and the milkman and the postman and the gardener, slowly leaking into their lives. He had sponsored the postman’s daughter’s wedding, and purchased the diamond ring that sits on her husband’s finger. And of course, his problems became theirs. The milkman’s knees ached with Mr. Nair’s arthritis, and now and then, he would sit by him and massage the old man’s legs. Mr. Nair and the kitchen lizard inhabited the house. The lizard, with imposing black beads for eyes, never complained—the spice-cupboard had enough tidbit-delicacies to chew, and it had an excellent selection of mosquitos to savor after dinner while Mr. Nair watched the cable-channel on TV that played pirated new movies, and sucked ginger flavored toffees. No less than Ganesha with 108 names, the common house gecko had a unique name in every inch of Asia. Mr. Nair conducted ambitious but incomplete research in the hopes of drafting The Nair’s Dictionary of Regional Animal Names. In Bengali, his neighbor Mrs. Bannerjee informed him, geckos were called ticktickis for the tick-tock sound of their gait. “Should I call you Tickticki then?” Mr. Nair asked the lizard, taking its immobility for a yes. How to tell a lizard’s sex? For some reason, she was a she. Geckos possessed a mysterious, feminine air for him—possibly because they were called Chip-Kali in Hindi, like the court-dancer Anar-Kali known for her graceful movements, or because its black, monochromatic eyes showed no utterance. Tickticki had never spoken to him; still, they chose to never roam in the kitchen at the same time. He enjoyed Tickticki’s presence distantly—fearing that in proximity she may drop on his head or crawl on his body. Although he had never heard the sound of a lizard falling on the floor, he imagined a slushy pudge-pudge sound that he wished to avoid.

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Tick-tock. Two decades ago, when Tickticki wasn’t yet born, Mr. Nair’s son left for the United States. One decade ago his wife left him forever. When she left, the son returned to Delhi briefly with his New York this and New York that, complaining about the heat and humidity of the city that once loved him. As the priest sang prayers for his mother’s soul, the son managed multi-million dollar projects on his Blackberry phone. His nonchalance, his scant participation, his silence about losing his mother disturbed Mr. M. M. Nair. The grandson, on the other hand, an altogether new breed, racially one, geographically another, had a vague association with the garlanded idols in the temple that blankly stared at him. “Look, the elephant one is Ganesha! That one’s Shiva!” cried his mother, introducing him to his gods like forgotten cousins. Just like with Amala and Kamala, the girls raised by a pack of wolves in the forests of Bengal, who walked like quadrupeds and howled like beasts, Mr. Nair couldn’t decipher the feral anomaly of his grandson. His whitewashed accent marked betrayal. Mr. Nair remained in the reverie of his wife’s last words: don’t forget to feed the sparrows. Every time he visited his wife’s garden he remembered the vast deserts and oceans he had crossed for his research, the countries he had lived in, the cuisines he had eaten. Yet he somehow managed always to return to his wife, who had stayed in the garden with the sparrows. The apartment was surrounded by a bedding of grass; dense ferns and leaves littered every corner. She thought of marigolds as her kin: born from the earth, returned to the earth, built by the software of nature and clothed in the orange of holy sages. He fondled the marigolds that she had planted in her final days. Mr. Nair envied her temporariness in this world; every morning for fifty years she rocked in her rocking chair, read prayers, exercised her toes while the sparrows, fat-breasted and brown as the earth, gradually disappeared from Delhi. Where were the sparrows? Dead, or somewhere else. The son returned to the United States and every once in a while, he’d use Skype to show his father the snow in his backyard. “That is a huge shovel!” Mr. Nair would say. “Did you just hear grandpa pronounce shovel as show-well?” One afternoon, while watching Cheeni Kam on the TV, he received an unwanted call from the United States. Manju Nair, his grandson, would visit him. Mr. Nair had only a few recollections of his grandson, who was once fat and little and brown, another little sparrow who disappeared from the city in no time. Upon learning that his grandson was visiting, he made elaborate plans of picking him up from the airport with a bouquet of orchids. But his son instructed him to stay at home. “But the boy doesn’t know Hindi, how would he come home?” “Don’t worry, Papa. Uber is very simple.” Now twenty-one years old, Manju was visiting India for a photography project to document the lives of the poor. He started soon after arriving. Shooting on the

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roads with his large Nikon camera, he would stop by a beggar whose black-andwhite picture would shortly appear on Manju’s Instagram. #India #storiesofindia #nikon700d #travelgram #wanderlust #travel #photooftheday #likeforlike #old #man #beggar #poverty #followforfollow. In one nation a man begged for a meal, in another a man begged for a white man’s arousal. But Manju wasn’t a white man—he was one of the shades of brown between Morocco and Myanmar, yet strangely manicured, exfoliated, affluent looking. Not that he dressed in American clothing, not that he wore boots on a sunny Delhi day; still, one could tell from the perfection of his skin that every pore was New York and not New Delhi, and held a desire to return rather than emigrate. Manju clearly enjoyed the weightlessness of blending in. For once he forgot the burden of exotic elephants and Slumdog Millionaire, or when his boyfriend Toby had asked: does your mom wear sari to sleep; or when his friend Ezra’s mother made chicken-tikka masala for his bar mitzvah; or when Toby had assumed that in his family, marriages would be arranged. They sat together for breakfast, the old man with a newspaper, the young man with his cellphone. “How do you book the Uber?” Mr. Nair asked, devouring his bowl of cornflakes. The idea of this Uber animated him, making him feel younger than other men in his circle. Mr. Nair was the only one not sick or lazy or dying, though showing up to events got challenging with his arthritis. With the Uber, however, he could go anywhere. Even if, as with many his age, anywhere meant a funeral. “You put down the destination, and the car comes.” “Won’t the driver need to my address?” he asked, closing the newspaper, staring at Manju. “Nope. Just enter where you have to go. It takes care of itself.” “So it knows where I live.” Unsettled, he finished his bowl of cornflakes. The Uber indeed knew where he lived, and one afternoon, he decided to take his first step towards dying by getting an Aadhar card. The Aadhar scheme, the government’s new mission to register every one of the billion.2 citizens of India, took the nation by storm. Without an Aadhar card, you couldn’t open a bank account, you couldn’t apply to a university, you couldn’t even buy a SIM card for a new phone. And as it seemed to old Mr. M. M. Nair, who had vivid imaginations of his demise, you couldn’t even die: the government had mandated this card even for death registry. If he didn’t register for this card, he’d live for hundreds of years according to the government of India, unless someone from his family decided to register him later, which he thought was quite unlikely. Only two minutes after he requested a cab, it arrived. The driver parked the car as though it were a palanquin waiting for its princess. For some reason Mr. Nair shook hands with the driver. A man from his caste would never stoop to shake a driver’s hand, let alone a Muslim; but he wasn’t just a driver, he was the Uber driver. The driver’s name, Indrajeet, was Hindu, but a snippet of Arabic writing hung from the rear-view mirror. Mr. Nair found the situation funny: Islam highly discouraged

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Hinduism for its belief in idol worship and multiple gods, and here, his very obviously Muslim driver bore the name of Lord Indra: the council minister of every god. “Are you...a Hindu?” “In this country I am,” the driver replied. “One has to change.” “So you...?” “Ran away from Bangladesh. No jobs there.” What must Bangladesh look like? Do you miss it? Mr. Nair wanted to ask but didn’t. One has to change. As the car paced, the sprinting trees reminded him of a day when he ran for miles on the coast by the wavering waters of the Indian Ocean. What year was it? What time was it? He just remembered the waters gulping the sun, the viscous, cutting air, the endless beach— and his mother shouting, “Stop, you fool!” But Mr. Nair, with his little toes covered in sand, didn’t stop, he never stopped. He ran so far away from the coast and the coconut trees, the Southern simplicity of his tumbledown cottage, the cutting blades of grass, the boulders, the sea, that once he entered the streets of Delhi—so intricately packed with life, ambitions, and family—he began to miss himself. Memories of one evening running on the beach throbbed in his mind, as if the scene summed up a lifetime. One has to change. He realized that, after becoming a husband, a grandparent, a geologist, a professor, after the multiple becomings that he achieved, he had forgotten who he was in the first place. The guilt of such a realization haunted him—that the retirement he finally earned was devoid of his loving wife and child, as if his love, a phase, a mortality, never meant anything, as if his money couldn’t afford him happiness, as if nothing mattered. Solitude came with a tax; the people he loved had to leave him to remind him of his importance. His wife, who packed his lunch every morning before work, had to leave him one day so that every time he chopped onions the knives came to remind him of her love and her years of service. The objects began to not only remind him of her, but to become her. Tick-tock, a month later: Tickticki was still alive, his Aadhar card arrived, and he could, officially, die. Dear Mrs. Nair, I am ready to die. You are lucky you didn’t need an Aadhar card to die. I have taken care of all matters. I have asked Dubey to ring the bell three times and wait for me every morning for fifteen minutes. If I don’t wake up, he will break into the house and check if I’m alive. Sometimes I take such deep naps I think I’m dead. I wake up and forget what year it is. Sometimes I forget who I am. It is a humbling feeling to forget everything, but slowly I come to remember. I remember you. I remember me without you. I remember our son. He is well.

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Manju is staying with me. He likes boys. At night he says “I love you” to a boy called Toby. Did I ever say “I love you” to you? I didn’t need to. This Toby boy is a foreigner. I did a special ceremony at the temple to bless Manju from this Toby’s evil eye. Did you know that if you keep a ripe avocado next to an unripe banana, the next morning the banana ripens? These days I only buy unripe bananas for this thrill. This Toby boy has a similar effect on our Manju. Very very influential. Very. Hopefully, he will become okay. Americans can be too forward, you know. The sparrows still haven’t come. At the zoo, they have pheasants and peacocks but not sparrows. Waking up without you is hard, but I manage. I hope you have forgiven me. Yours, M. M. Dubey the milkman appeared in his cream shirt with an orange bindi on his forehead. Before he handed Mr. Nair the milk, he touched his feet out of respect and pressed his palms in the best namaste he had ever seen; such an elegant namaste that all his chakras aligned with the universe and his incandescent smile glowed pink below his bushy mustache. Born in Benares by the Ganges into a family of priests, Dubey managed the local goshala, or cow shelter, behind the temple; he then delivered the milk he collected. Dubey had the indifference of an accountant in his countenance, a long nosed accountant of short stature, an accountant of strong character, one who deserved respect. Though he made little money and roamed around on a bicycle, he held his head high, for he belonged to the caste of Brahmins, the Hindu elite honored with the responsibility of the temple. “Nair sahib,” he began, sighing, “My cow doesn’t talk to me anymore. I pat her on her back and give her grass. She doesn’t even look me eye to eye. I think she is depressed. Nair sahib tell me one thing: can cows be depressed?” “Your cow talks to you?” “Of course she does! The purest connection on this planet I’ve had was with my cow! Oh, Sonali. So. Na. Lee. Light of my life.” “Did you try asking her why she doesn’t talk to you?” “I have. Cows and women all the same, Nair sahib. They stop loving. My wife also same. All they want is something to chew. And it’s never enough. I’m never enough. Cows want more; women want it more, and faster. But hey, we Hindus respect them­— cows and women—equally. It’s the only path to salvation.” Mr. Nair rolled up his pant legs and Dubey ducked down to massae the old man’s legs. “Nair sahib you tell me what I must do. My Sonali doesn’t love me anymore.” But Mr. Nair didn’t have a response. Back from inside the house, he heard the clatter of utensils in the sink. Mrs. Nair washed them in a white sari, blocking the light from the window, appearing as more shadow than a figure. One half of her face was oranged with the sun, the other blackened with darkness. The essence of sandalwood from the incense sticks diffused in the air, blurring her portrait by the

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window. “Nair sahib?” repeated Dubey. “Wait here.” He pulled his leg from Dubey’s hands and limped to the kitchen. It wasn’t her. Manju, still half asleep, wearing a long white kurta, stood tall spreading butter on toast. Mr. Nair, relieved and panting, returned to his living room where Dubey waited, crouching, complaining about his cow. “Dubey, why don’t you show the Taj to your wife. Here,” he reached his wallet, “Take three thousand rupees and go see the Taj Mahal with her. Take your cow with you!” He remembered that when he had visited the white marble mausoleum that was now yellowed with pollution, his wife had smiled for the first time in ages. She smiled at the love story of Emperor Shah Jahan and Queen Mumtaz. Mr. Nair had traveled all across the world; to him, the place stank of tourists. Mrs. Nair was sixty and hadn’t ever seen the Taj Mahal. They had held hands. He remembered that before and after the Taj Mahal trip, life was and would be bland. “But, Nair sahib... do they let cows see the taz mahil?” That night Mr. Nair didn’t sleep alone. The wrinkled hand of his wife sat on his shoulder as fell asleep. Her hand rested on his chest that, once full of hair, now sags to the sides as he sleeps. In between his feet was another foot, her foot. The smell of Horlicks chocolate milk in her breath suffocated him, and when he opened his eyes to change his side, she held him tightly from the shoulder to kiss him on the lips—once, twice, tick-tock, like a woodpecker. He slid his hand in her blouse, caressing her back, and when he woke up in the morning, she was gone, the sparrows were gone, and the Horlicks chocolate milk was gone. Dear Mrs. Nair, Last night you kissed me. I still remember your embarrassment when we first kissed in the American style, with the lips and all you know, like in North by Northwest. I think you have forgiven me. Your He was in mid-sentence when Manju walked in. “Do you have pictures of Grandma?” “I do,” Mr. Nair replied. Since she died, Mr. Nair hadn’t dared to look at her pictures. The pictures carried not the portraits of his wife, but the portraits of his younger self. “Why do you ask?” “I want to write about her life. Tell a story through pictures. You know.” “What would you gain from that?”

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“I want to submit the photo essay for an art fellowship at Columbia. I think that the piece would let us understand her better through a third-person narrative. And of course, I’ll juxtapose it with images of her village in Madras, the food... just like the culture. Like, super Indianish.” “Your grandmother was an exceptional woman. But she is not your pet project.” “If Grandma were alive, she’d be happy.” In fact, she wouldn’t be, thought Mr. Nair. Mr. Nair, cleaning his flower-vase with a dirty towel, said, “If she was.” Her entire lifetime— nurturing her child, preparing food, spent loving and learning—how could an art project ever materialize the woman? Forget her contributions to the world; how would it ever tell her flaws? What about her loneliness—the hours spent in the garden with sparrows and marigolds and not him? How about when one morning she appeared in a blue sari, with a knife that smelled of chopped onions, wanting him to stab her in the heart? He would never hurt her. How beautiful she looked in a blue sari, textured like lapis lazuli—partly gold, partly ocean. The white flowers that she placed around the bun of her hair. The back of her blouse, wet from her hair after a shower. Or how she wailed when she delivered their son, how her chocolate skin turned red. How their son was always her son and not theirs. How could a college student’s photo-essay encompass an entire lifetime? “Listen, Manju, she’s in a better place. If her soul finds utterance here, we will never let her rest.” He ruffled Manju’s hair, and smiled at him, “If you need the scholarship then I am ready to pay you the same amount. But don’t sell my wife’s story.” “I’m not selling her story. The art faculty is sensitive, understanding, open... Rupi Kaur’s photo-essay used her period stains to sensitize people on the internet about menstruation. I’m a journalist. And the world needs to know about where I come from, my parents’ struggles as Indians in America. My struggle as a first generation Indian in America. My grandmother’s struggle as a South Indian villager in New Delhi.” Mr. Nair laughed, “Struggles,” he said, using air quotes, “Why do you think Indians are always struggling? Let me tell you something. Your grandmother struggled with far worse problems than being South Indian in Delhi. She liked learning languages, so she caught on Hindi, as we all did. What else did she have to do anyway? She had no purpose. Your father caught onto that American accent, and you were born with it. I met a poor Uber driver from Bangladesh the other day. I pitied that he had to leave everything only to drive cabs. One has to change, Manju, and changing doesn’t mean struggling.” Mr. Nair certainly wouldn’t give the photographs of his wife to Manju. Manju kept requesting, and he kept rejecting. No one could see his wife. Mr. Nair stepped into his wardrobe to retrieve her pictures from the topmost shelf. In those pictures

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in front of the Taj Mahal, a massive, imposing ruby ring sat on her delicate finger. Oh, my darling, he wept, pressing the picture to his heart. Next to the album lay a plastic bag from a sweetshop with letters he wrote to her, stamps from Iceland in 1985, stamps from Hungary, 1973; from Brazil, 1979; from Sydney, 1981. Stamps, envelopes, stamps and envelopes, pictures of ships, boats, mountains, deserts, the President of Venezuela, seas, oceans, white people, black people, snow, Arabians, Machu Picchu, more stamps, more envelopes, letters with three words: Dear. Mrs. Nair. Letters addressed to a woman who waited in a kitchen for a husband to return. Alongside the letters he came across a prescription from Dr. Dutta, who had once warned him: Mr. Nair, your wife is suicidal. She had been seeing the doctor for months in secrecy, telling him that she was visiting a gynecologist at the hospital. Holding the prescription, Mr. Nair remembered his younger self, one with thin, black, waning hair that hardly covered his scalp, seated at Dr. Dutta’s clinic, saying, “One cannot negotiate life from a position of weakness. There is nothing wrong with my wife. She is just bored at home, you know. She needs to read, write, do yoga, make friends, or something, have vitamins, and get her life in place. She has no talents. I would take her with me to my trips but she embarrasses me sometimes. Her English isn’t that great. She still eats with her hands and can’t use a fork and knife properly. How am I supposed to take her with me? She needs a lot of polishing, but who has the time to do that, especially at this age? Let me enroll her in a painting class and she might do better. Give this mental illness crap to someone else. Mrs. Nair will not visit you after today. I will see to it.” Dear Mrs. Nair, I remember the smell of garlic in your fingers today. Each time I returned, the smell of garlic in your fingers when we slept reminded me I was home. Sometimes I wish I had taken you along, that you had seen as much of the world I had. But how could I take you? Who would’ve taken care of our son? Who would have taught him math? Manju is like him--he wants what he wants. Today he asked if he could see pictures of you. But you are mine and only mine. When Dr. Dutta told me you were suicidal, I told her she was wrong. When she asked me if she could contact our son in case of an emergency, I lied, I told her that we didn’t have children. I wanted to cry and shout. But do you think he would’ve returned from New York anyway? He would’ve said “Give this mental illness crap to someone else.” Was he ever our son after he left? I told her that you couldn’t conceive. She insulted me. She said I failed miserably as a husband but now that you are gone, Mrs. Nair, tell me, did I ever fail you? Did we ever have little money? Didn’t we afford Princeton University for our son? Didn’t I get you a souvenir from every corner of the world I visited for

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research? You didn’t even know a country called Burkina Faso existed till I got you a fridge-magnet from there. You think I wasn’t miserable seeing you that way? But the more I stayed at home, the more you haunted me. I have no regrets but one—that you told the doctor I left you. Do you remember how happy you were at Taj Mahal? When you died you had smiled, for once you had believed your sparrows will return and you asked me to feed them. I haven’t broken my promise. Yours, M. M. He took the album to the kitchen, lit the gas stove, and burned every photo. Tickticki observed. Picture by picture. Memory by memory. The stench of bromine killed the sandalwood in the air, and an entire lifetime came to burn in the same kitchen that had once contained her. As one of the four minarets of the Taj Mahal photograph caught fire, the last proof of her smile disappeared from the face of the earth. The soot from the photographs filled the entire kitchen. Mr. Nair, aware that he was adding to the same pollution of Delhi that had pushed out the sparrows, cried with shame. I am killing your sparrows. “What the hell is going on here? You’re going to set the house on fire, Grandpa!” Manju rushed into the kitchen as it filled with smoke, holding his weeping grandfather tightly from the shoulders. “Shh... I got you, Grandpa, I got you. Stop crying. You didn’t have to burn everything.” He gave the old man a glass of water and walked him to his bedroom. “Sit down, sit down.” “Your grandmother didn’t die a natural death.” His speech slurred, his hands trembled, “I... All my fault. She... would be here. I can’t do this anymore... oh my darling Mrs. Nair...” “Shhhh... Grandpa, stop it. What are you saying?” Mr. Nair pointed at the shabby cupboard in his bedroom, lined by bottles, vials, pills, herbs, oils, and everything that kept him alive. “Mrs. Nair wasn’t happy here... she committed—” “You’re imagining things, Grandpa. And stop calling her Mrs. Nair, she was your wife.” “My wife.” “Yes, your wife. Now go to sleep.” Mr. Nair wept silently in his bed, Manju comforting him until he fell asleep. Manju wondered if what his grandfather had said was true: he returned to the kitchen and found only the ashes of what might have confirmed his grandfather’s confession. “Nair sahib,” appeared Dubey the next morning, worried, “The stupid man at the ticket center said I can’t take cows on the train. Nonsense. Thinks my cow will dirty his train. Anyway... my friend has agreed to give us a ride in his truck.”

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“Wait, where are you going?” Manju asked. “Taz mahal, where else?” Manju had indeed never visited the Taj Mahal, though it was often the first place people saw when they visited India. He had to take a picture to post on his Instagram. He imagined he’d return there someday with Toby and sit there an entire afternoon, holding hands. “Tell your friend that my grandfather and I will come too.” Mr. Nair disagreed a little but his heart couldn’t resist the travel. On the way, he smiled at the sprinting trees, the same scenes, the changing times. He had journeyed many times, but never with his kin, never with his family. Manju practiced his Hindi each time a signpost appeared, studying each alphabet so carefully that Mr. Nair never thought of it as a foreign language. He forgave Manju’s whitewashed accent. He forgave Manju for a mistake that he never committed. As soon as they reached the medieval city of Agra, Mr. Nair didn’t stand as tall as he had before--his knees shortened him, his wrinkles burdened him. Right outside the Taj Mahal, a placard shouted “ANIMALS NOT ALLOWED,” and Dubey, dumbfounded, stood awkwardly with a cow and his angry wife and nowhere left to go. Manju laughed, grouping them all for a picture. They all stood still next to a silent cow. “Say ‘Cheese’!” he hollered, pointing his camera at them, and old Mr. M. M. Nair, the man who had recently gotten his Aadhar card to die, couldn’t stop smiling. “Cheeeej!” cried Dubey and his wife. The cow didn’t moo. Mr. Nair knew that this would be his last visit to the Taj Mahal— his last visit to the ghost of his smiling Mrs. Nair, standing wrapped in the sari she had worn to their wedding, red in color, sprinkled with a galaxy of golden stars. This was their last picture together, their last moment together: with the milkman and his wife and cow, his family, in a picture shot by Manju, his little brown sparrow.

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I WANT TO THANK SCIENCE Evana Marisa Flores University of Texas Austin

then myself. I am always the latter in this magic, so true in a nervous hand. Orange and white little voodoo seed. Thank you for the fire suddenly devouring my bed. So I’m sprinting past neighborhoods, the nuclear families, flickering flames. Thank you for the adrenaline dancing in my veins as I sit observing a bagel. The peanut butter smells like mud. Thank you for quieting my appetite. Never did he listen to my No. Thank you, from Stomach. Thank you, echo the hallow walls. Thank you for this retrograde, the extra eight count. The wheel needed one more cog today-- as for tomorrow, I will thank myself for swallowing.

MARISA FLORES

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DEAR LANGUAGE Maya Day

Colorado College

Dear Language, I am stuffing dirt in my mouth. Quartz. Feldspar. Seed pods. Coyote tooth. Worm. Sometimes Bone. My belly’s all in knots. A case of the mystic fits. In forcing me to spit it out, you will open my mouth to find creation moving and unmoving. A river. Smoke. Gnarled trees. Maybe a moon. Codfish. I am making a new body out of the one you made me. Best, Maya

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MEANING WITHOUT MEANING Daven McQueen Brown University

I dreamt my grandmother turned into an iris. She sprouted from between my shoulder blades and wrapped herself around my neck to coax my tongue out of my mouth and plant seeds among my taste buds. She said, I should have done this years ago. She said, These are the words that have always belonged to you, as she pressed her leaves against my cheeks. She said, It’s about time you understand. I dreamt my grandmother reached backwards into history and braided my hair with strands of forgotten memory. And when she spoke my tongue grew heavy and then her words were mine.

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I woke with flower petals on my chest smelling fresh pan de sal and Vix VapoRub. I lifted my tongue but no sound came out and any words I’d known were gone. And I thought of my grandmother, waking with the sun 3000 miles away to tend to her irises. And I wondered what language her thoughts are in when she’s alone, if fifty years in this country has left holes in her memory or if she’s held on, as our family has not, to a language I can only speak in my dreams.

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DIFFERENT NOW James Braun Oakland University

— for the Little Man

Even after everything, my apology was reduced to a signature with some smudged words next to it, lost among the comforting constellations of prayers and short-lived letters. We’re all praying for your recovery. You’re going to pull through this, we just know it. You’re close to our hearts, wrote one family I’d never heard of. It seemed like even the most distant known acquaintances of Easton’s had something better to say than what I had to offer. What I had to offer: Get well soon... What the hell else are you supposed to say? I mean, I was the reason he was getting the wellness card in the first place. My words might as well have melted off the page. But even after all this, after the images to be saved for later, after the accident, and after the hospitalization, those were the words lying on the page: Get well soon. I wrote that simple clichéd phrase as a preamble to whatever else I had to say, but turns out I didn’t have anything else. My words were all used up. Looking back now, I wish I would’ve written something to make Easton smile, to make him laugh. I had a gift for that, you know. Laughter. If I could’ve just found some way for him to split the air with his lungs during the hell I made him walk through, maybe things would be different these days. Maybe we can become closer in the future, when we can forget these degrading times. But until then: Get well soon. Kristen held the camera up to her full-rimmed glasses, and with a simple click, made the moment last forever. “Smile,” she said. Click. “Get in with your father.” Flash. “Alright, all together now.” Snap. The last picture Kristen took just then she would later put it inside a scrapbook; she loved to keep the past all in one place to one day find it again. The photograph shows my father, Kristen’s second husband. His right arm is wrapped around my stepbrother Easton, whose smile is peeled back wide enough to grow another face. Easton stands a little more than half the height of my father. The other arm attached to my dad is wrapped around me, a tall lanky fellow, gaunt behind a nose for a face. All of us are bundled in sweatshirts and camo jackets, frozen just like the winter around us.

BRAUN

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Outside the picture, Easton trudged through the snow, size six bootprints imprinted behind him with every clumsy step. He climbed aboard the orange circle sled, eager to be pulled around our backyard, to be whipped around just for the hell of it. My father and I climbed aboard the quad. With a gloved hand, he stuck the key inside the ignition and gave it a twist, starting the engine. Click. My father put the four-wheeler in gear and started off, and as we pulled away the rope attached to the rear rack went taut. Behind us, Easton yelled, “Faster... faster... faster!” As we picked up speed, snow blew harder through the chinks of our jackets, numbing the exposed skin there. Our faces ballooned to a puffy red from the cold. I exhaled and a white cloud streamed from the hem of my mouth, abandoned in a trail behind us. My father shifted into fourth gear. His camo coat flapped in the wind and smacked against the open air like one end of a used bandaid come loose. I wrapped my arms tighter around my father so as not to fall off the quad, and I shifted my body, contorting it to get a view of Easton riding behind us. Easton’s sled glided over the snow gracefully, trailing in the predestined path my father set for him. Dad turned left, and Easton went right. Dad turned right, and Easton went left. Flash. From somewhere among all these lefts and rights, we ended up in our neighbor’s yard, albeit slightly. Around fall time, our neighbors had chopped down the majority of the trees in their backyard for firewood, to keep warm during the winter months. One of these forgotten and remaining tree stumps stuck out of the earth next to a garden of stones. I saw the stump, saw the stones. I thought them to be mere objects and no more, put in this world for no other reason than sustenance or beauty. They meant no harm. So I figured I didn’t have to tell my father to watch out for them and to steer clear; I issued not the faintest warning. My father’s next left turn drove Easton right, right next to the stump and rocks. The cord vibrated almost at once, reverberating back and forth as it caught the wood poking out of the ground. The rope slingshotted Easton from the sled, a sudden whiplash, and as he tumbled out he rolled over and over until coming to a complete stop. My father and I thought this to be hilarious. Oh yeah, we got Easton real good. The little man crashing, the sled tipping over— the moment hit us in bursts of drawn up laughter from deep inside our stomachs, our chests. And as soon as Easton would get up, he’d be laughing too, a smile full of snow and maybe a bit of dirt crescented in his teeth. It would make for a great picture. Snap. But as we pulled around on the quad, Easton didn’t get up. He didn’t move at all; only his clothes quivered in the wind. His outline remained splayed out in the

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snow, as if he were an angel on a dissecting table. The wind whistled through his coat, a husk of human skin underneath. My father called, “Easton?” He drove closer and turned off the quad’s engine, saying, “Easton?” And then we were off the four-wheeler, running. The snow gave way to our footsteps, the white accumulated flakes crunching beneath us. An acidic taste formed in my mouth, and I spit. With each footfall, my father kept saying, “Easton?” Now upon him, we could see the blanked-out expression on Easton’s face, glazed over with his eyes wide, unbelieving. His rollercoaster-ride arms flared out in both directions above his head, his legs following suit. Dad grasped Easton’s shoulder vise-like and shook him, saying, “Easton?” A droop of yellow-brown goop dripped out the side of the little man’s mouth. “Easton?” My father lifted Easton’s head and a stream of blood ensued, emitting a crimson red into the snow. Dad dropped Easton’s head to the ground, my father’s eyes fully dilated, and he whispered, “Easton.” Dad turned to me and said, “This isn’t good.” No snap. No flash. No click. No shit? More yellow-brown fluid flowed out of Easton’s mouth, and I wanted to roll him over so he wouldn’t choke to death, but if I lifted his head more blood would’ve spurted out of the cranial wound. It was as if there was a choice in all this— he could either choke on his own blood or bleed out. Beside Easton, the stump and rocks were both covered in red. His hands hovering over the little man, he said, “I’ll go get help. Stay with him.” I nodded, and just as my father got up to find a savior, Kristen ran towards us with her camera swinging around her neck, screaming. She screamed, “Oh God, there’s so much blood…” And my father yelled, “Honey, call 9-1-1!” I was alone with Easton while my father calmed down his wife. I reassured Easton, mostly reassuring myself, saying, “You’re gonna be fine. God’s not gonna let you die today.” More blood filtered out the back of his head, staining the snow. “You’re gonna be just fine.” I felt as though I was speaking with the dead. It scared me. Somewhere between all the reassurances the paramedics arrived, sirens blaring as they rolled down our gravel driveway. Two EMTs threw open the doors and opened the back of the ambulance to retrieve a gurney from inside. Kristen was still vomiting her voice box so the paramedics said, “Ma’am, we need you to calm down.” The EMTs brought the gurney over to Easton without much immediacy, and when they rolled him over, another stream of yellow-brown fluid tumbled down the side of his mouth. A large spray of pomegranate-colored juice fell from his head wound, so much so that it seemed like the wound encompassed the entirety of the back of his head.

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The two men scooped up Easton and put him on the gurney. They carried him over to the ambulance, and set him inside. One of the EMTs, a man wearing a dark blue polyester jacket, asked, “Would one of you like to ride with us?” Kristen volunteered through traumatized nods, and my father and I stayed behind. They drove off down River Road towards Port Huron Hospital. The two of us took the truck and made our way to the hospital, speeding and talking to ourselves exclusively in self-assurances. “He’s gonna be fine.” “Yeah, he’ll be alright.” “Totally fine.” Fine. At the hospital, seated in the waiting room, we waited for the news. Any news. The receptionist at the front desk told us she would let us know if she heard anything. Meaning: if Easton was dead or not. Or somewhere in between. Kristen gave the receptionist all the information: Eleven years old. Weight, maybe eighty pounds. Roughly four feet nine inches tall. Prescription glasses. More and more, Easton was becoming information. Facts. Three plastic styrofoam cups of black coffee later, a doctor walked out of the ER. With his practiced, stern expression, he ambled and said, “We need to fly him to Children’s Hospital. We can’t give him the care he needs here.” “Give him what he needs,” my father said. The doctor nodded, his face unwavering, and he walked back through the ER. And my father turned to me and said, “Come on. We’re going to Children’s.” Kristen walked out of the ER with a nurse guiding her, the nurse’s short arm wrapped around my stepmother as she wept. The three of us left Port Huron Hospital to go to Children’s, but on the way we picked up my stepsister Mikayla and my brother Derek. Both were still at school, the former at band practice and the latter at basketball practice. They hadn’t heard the news. I didn’t want them to. On the highway the five of us sat in the car, the atmosphere silent other than the AC cranking out hot air. Kristen was the first to speak. Her voice was small. I could’ve held it in my hands. “I can’t believe you didn’t see the stump. You should have been more careful with him, you should have—” “Do not put this on me! This was not my fault!” my father yelled. More silence. In the silence, I couldn’t help it. A single thought overtook my mind: This is all your fault. You are the reason. I saw the stump. I should’ve been the one to say something. My father accelerated, hitting almost ninety miles per hour, and he said, “It’s nobody’s fault. Now, I’m going to get us there as fast as possible, but also as safe as possible. You guys understand?”

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Yeah. We understood. After about twenty radio songs, going ninety miles per hour down the highway the whole time, we made it to Children’s. Inside, a waxed linoleum floor stretched before us, bright fluorescent overhead lights setting the stage. We sat in hard plastic chairs, coffee tables holding magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue and Reader’s Digest. There were other occupants. I could only imagine why they were there. A lone woman was pouring coffee for herself. A bald man sat in front of a large flat screen TV watching football with his eyes closed. We waited for the next wave of news. While the clock subtracted time, my father and Kristen spoke with me. “Are you going to be okay?” Kristen asked. “We understand it must’ve been a traumatic experience for you, and we can hire a therapist and—” Snap. I was on the verge of snapping. “I’ll be fine,” I said, “as long as Easton makes it.” Which was, for the most part, true. Still, that single moment of Easton’s brain matter spraying into the snow played on repeat in my head. It wouldn’t leave me; it never would. Fine. A doctor came out after some time and walked over to us. The way he stood in the middle of our family with the light shining over him, he looked like he was going to start reciting the speech from Fight Club. Except instead of rules, there were conditions. The doctor told us, “He’s not in the green yet, but he’s stabilized.” He said, “There’s some cognitive issues…” He said, “Your son is in a comatose state.” Stable, but not in the green. Somewhere near it. Maybe. Three days passed before they let anyone in to see Easton. Visiting hours, we visited. My father and brother and step-everything and myself crowded around Easton’s bed, some of us seated, some standing. You can only fit so many chairs in a room. Distant aunts and uncles and cousins stood next to the doorway, lining the walls, a whole army of friends and family. Everyone acted the same way, as though more people and more support would be enough to save a life. We were all waiting for the outcome. My father and Kristen pushed through the crowd towards me. Hands and fingers brushed over their shoulders as they made their way past. My father said, “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Kristen said, “I really appreciate you staying.” And my father said, “Really, we can get you a therapist, or someone to talk to if you need it.” Snap. “I’m fine.” Fine. In his room, Easton laid on the hospital bed in a coma, tubes running through

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his neck brace, a giraffe of a neck brace that reached up and covered the lower half of his face. Gauze wrapped around his head three times over, and two oxygen tubes combining to a single one slithered over him and tapered into a cannula. These wires and tubes were all a new, necessary part of Easton, the only medium in which he was kept alive. Easton was different now. A monitor next to him beeped, reading his pulse, his heartbeat, his vitals. Kristen sat next to him in a cushioned chair with clasped hands, praying for the monitor to keep on beeping. Another week passed, and Easton moved into the green. His eyes opened, and he was able to write his name on an Etch-a-Sketch. EASTON. A work of art. But other than the Etch-a-Sketch accomplishment, Easton seemed to only respond to you from a multiple choice list: (a) Give the middle finger (b) Give two middle fingers (c) Wave arms in frustration (d) All of the above When Easton opened his mouth, when he drew his lips together and opened them wide, only inarticulate jumbles came out. His dyslexic sentences made no sense, and you could tell he knew this. Hence, you received option (c) Waving arms in frustration. Or option (a) or (b). Or, somedays, option (d). The speech therapist told us there was something wrong with his frontal lobe, called Broca’s area. This language-dominant hemisphere was damaged in the accident, and Easton would need extensive speech therapy to regain control of his voice. And: occupational therapy. And: physical therapy. And: cognitive therapy. Different now. I sat slumped in the corner and watched. Easton laid in bed, his head propped up by three pillows. A feeding tube ran through his stomach, his only way of receiving nutrients. Another tube ran from his right nostril, giving him air and fluids. They had removed the neck brace and for the most part, Easton was able to breathe on his own. The doctors believed he’d make a fair recovery, but they said it was going to take time. Around the hospital room, dozens of flowers sat in vases. Hundreds of “Get

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well soon” cards leaned against the windowsill and were scattered about the room. My meaningless words were lost among them. The day prior, the mascot from Michigan State University came in to see Easton. The amount of love and support sent Easton’s way was incredible. Kristen pulled out her camera. She aimed it at Easton. Snap. She took several photos with her phone. Flash. With her tablet. Click. She leaned over and took selfies with him laying in bed. Snap, snap, snap. Even then, she wanted to keep the past all in one place to one day find it again. Flash to a month after Easton’s artwork on the Etch-a-Sketch, the hospital discharged him, sending him home with a lengthy grocery list of medicines. Wherever Easton went, he had to wear a helmet. Easton was still Easton, only made new. This new Easton endured seizures almost every day, could barely form sentences, and wasn’t allowed to do any physical activity lest he injure himself again. This new Easton attended occupational therapy meetings, physical therapy sessions, and had to go back to Children’s Hospital for regular checkups. His only food was liquid. This new Easton was a product of something I might’ve been able to prevent. Because of me, he was different now. Every time Easton had a seizure, every time his sentences ran off into incoherence, I was reminded of the time I might’ve been able to save him. From there, I grew up bitter, tethered to that moment. These days, Easton walks around with a scar that covers half his head. Recently, I saw a Facebook post from some kid I’ll never know. It was addressed to Easton, and it read: That scar on your head looks badass.

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WHAT MY DAD SAYS— Jami Kleinpeter

Louisiana State University

oh yeah we

used

to

take

visit

the before

family

before boat

sold

warm

pier weekend didn’t speak know didn’t before months before

english

lake

of

lost before cajun

french course before

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time

that before

still house

before

good was

before

before


DREAMCATCHING Maija Hecht

Macalester College

Swinging bare legs from the back porch and snipping string with small scissors, kid scissors, the kind our mothers buy for school art projects. I have yet to become afraid of spiders, and Hannah dangles them by their legs, snipped off one by one. Spindly wirething daddy long legs spiders–writhing on the ground. We pull dogwood from bushes at the edge of the long grass. It grows red but we’re searching for green, to bend easy. Full of water in the spring, pared thin with a pocketknife stolen from her older brother. Winding sinew the way her grandmother taught her. A woman I’ve never met, who taught Hannah to roll blue glass beads in her palm and wet the end of a string in her mouth. The Ojibwe dream mother was a spider. Her web stretched across a people, growing too far to string the moon up silver and the sun in the morning, to carry dreams to her people each night. Tiring, she teaches mothers to weave instead for sleeping babies. Bad dreams confused in a loom and drip down to glass beads, trapped until morning. The sun burns off nightmares, and dogwood and sinew crumble slowly, over years. You’re supposed to outgrow bad dreams on your own. I grow into a fear of spiders. We outgrow patience and sometimes stop dreaming, and Hannah outgrows me and has her own babies. The dogwood above my bed is woven in synthetic string and fails to crumble.

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CHINESE CIGARETTES Kwan Ann Tan

Jesus College, Oxford University

She was in the middle of packing up her things when the inevitable question came— “Do you want to walk to Olympiad Maths together?” They had been walking to their extra math classes every Monday, Thursday, and Friday for the last two years, and Lily’s question had been endearing at first, it had become a personal mission of hers to dash out of the classroom and beckon wordlessly and slightly impatiently at her friend, seeing if she could circumvent the words about to come out from her mouth. Today, however, it was different— she wanted her to ask the question, just as the answer she wanted to give was carefully crafted to avoid any suspicion. “I can’t,” she said, not looking up and zipping her bag shut very carefully. “I’m having a really horrible migraine, I think I’m going to go home first.” she pinched the bridge of her nose and squinted seriously, familiar with the symptoms of head pounding and flashing lights on the periphery of her vision. “I hope you feel better soon,” Lily said, looking concerned, but steady as ever. “Drink more water, the weather does nothing to balance our energies nowadays— at least, that’s what my mother says.” She thanked her and they walked out to the first traffic light. Lily would walk to their extra math class, and in an alternate universe, she would have gone home, in the opposite direction. When she was sure that Lily had turned the corner out of sight, she immediately doubled back to school, taking a quieter route and heading straight for the back of the gym. The crickets chirped in the tall grass as she walked past the track, glancing at the sweating athletes stretching and going through the motions of their practice. As she approached the back of the gym, she carefully looked around the corner— she knew all of them from around school, a group of eight seniors that everyone gossiped about shamelessly and were jealous of, either openly or secretly. Each of them a glistening tangle of limbs and achievements, and all friends, although it wasn’t immediately evident what bound them together. A shiver of nervousness ran up her spine and she contemplated turning around and going home after all, but she had been thinking about this all weekend. She knew she would never forgive herself if she gave up this chance, and she would never be able to gather the courage to come here again. And so very slowly, just

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focusing on putting one foot ahead of the other, she walked towards the circle. “What the hell are you doing here?” said an unfriendly voice as she approached. “Everyone knows that this is where the seniors hang out after school.” Her mouth opened and shut, but to no justification came. Some of them got up and began to draw near to her like hungry creatures, while some looked away in disdain, trusting that the matter would be dealt with. “She’s so small. Should I pick her up and toss her out onto the track?” asked one senior she knew. It was Mike Spinoza, a boy with a cruel but beautiful mouth, and a famously cutting tongue in debate club. She could see his fingers itching to grab the cloth of her shirt. She started to back away, getting ready to break into a full-out sprint back to the school gates, and stepped onto someone’s shoes as they came from behind her. “Come on, Mike,” a voice said from behind her, their hand coming down protectively on her shoulder. “I invited her here to hang out with us.” The aftershock was palpable, as the others expressed noises of surprise. “I promise, she’s really cool. And I owe her one.” The hand came to rest around her shoulders, and she looked beside her to see a friendly face at last: Jim Teitelbaum, writer for the school’s literary magazine and president of the Honours Club, and the person who had invited her over after school in the first place. They immediately slunk back warily to join the group, begrudgingly allowing her to sit precariously on the circle’s outskirts, though she was too afraid to properly join it. She looked around silently and watched. Jim sat a little way away from her at on a bunch of gym mats, and began rooting through his bag for something. “You brought the stuff?” asked a pretty senior, Melissa Wong. Melissa had babysat her a couple of times when she was younger, but once she entered high school and gained some weight to fill out her frame, she shed the skin of her past like so much debris sloughing off, swapping house visits for house parties. “Of course I did. A promise is a promise,” Jim replied cheerfully, rummaging through his worn, faux-leather messenger bag. “I nearly got caught by Ms Russo, but I managed to pass it off as my lunch.” The circle inched closed until she couldn’t see what exactly he was holding, only that it looked like a wrinkled, white paper bag. It was a strange flutter of activity that reminded her of a marketplace, money exchanging hands smoothly with Jim at the center of it all, a busy spider spinning his webs, handing out change and whatever he was selling with practiced ease. Finally the flurry died down, and the others resumed their positions, passing around a lighter, as she realised that they had been buying cigarettes from him. Plumes of smoke drifted around them like a perfumed fog, and a senior opposite her threw his head back in ecstasy, exhaling loudly. “Couldn’t stop thinking about this all weekend,” he confessed. “This is the good stuff.” “I’m glad you like it,” Jim said, lighting one himself. “I had to deal with one

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of those shady Japanese guys, I don’t know, he was like, a past yakuza member or something like that? He had one of those gang tattoos, anyway. So he asked me to meet him at the back of the old Stuarts’ house— you guys know how creepy that place is at night— and Jesus, you guys have no idea how shady this guy was—” She tried to imagine Jim as he was— the smiling, sandy-haired boy that was telling the story so animatedly—sneaking around for clandestine meetings with Japanese yakuza. She wondered if Jim had smiled with all his teeth, or with the lopsided, careless smile that he seemed to throw around so freely. For some reason, she could never imagine him doing anything without smiling. “—So he freaking opens his bag, and the cigarettes are there, right next to a bloody human head. Scared the shit out of me, I tell you, and honestly, it smelled even worse. The cigarette packets were just there, covered in blood or whatever, and honestly at that point I just wanted to get the fuck out of there. I guess the guy that was supposed to meet him after me is into some seriously weird stuff.” “I want to feature this story in the school newspaper next week,” someone on her right said seriously. His face was obscured by a stream of smoke, as he savoured his cigarette like a rare delicacy in a way that reminded her of her mother eating tropical fruits smuggled into the country by visiting relatives. “Think of the headline— Star Student Stumbles Upon Gruesome Crime. If anything, it would probably finally make people sit up and read the damn paper instead of just using it for paper mache projects.” “Hah, and get me suspended? I’d rather not, thanks,” Jim laughed. “Maybe if you changed the names and passed it off as a story, I’d publish it in the magazine.” The conversation slid into the usual: homework, struggles with love, and gossip about other people outside the circle, seniors whom she had a passing familiarity with, and other names she didn’t recognise at all. She watched Jim’s face glow with something like pride as he darted like a dragonfly between conversations, laughingly offering his opinion and teasing others comfortably. He even inched his way closer to her, reeling her into their conversations by asking her what she thought about the situation they were discussing, acting like he was leading her through these choppy seas of scorn from the other seniors. As they talked, she tried to recall the first time she’d met him. “Sorry, I don’t think I have enough after all.” It was one of the colder spring days of this term break, and it was the last week of her working at the local arts and crafts store before school started up again. She looked up at his face, ears red from the cold snap and face flushed with embarrassment. The art supplies that lay in a small heap between them seemed to shrink with each passing second, and she felt a twinge of pity flare up in her. He scrambled to pick up the change that he’d left on the counter like he was holding up the line, despite the fact that she wasn’t in a hurry and they were the only two people in the store. She knew who he was from school— the popular,

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handsome senior who got along with everyone and on whom half her class had some kind of crush. Jim-she-wasn’t-sure-what-his-lastname-was. Was Jim short for something? In any case, he’d been mythologized to the point that anyone else who happened to be named Jim in school was referred to by their last name. “These are for my sister’s art project,” he explained quickly, words spilling out of his mouth to fill up the awkward silence. “I came in here and checked the prices last week but I guess I must have been mistaken—here, let me just put these back for you, I’m so sorry to trouble you.” “Look,” she said, putting a hand on the supplies to prevent him from taking them away. “I can help you out with my employee discount and cover you for now. You can just pay me back later.” He looked startled, and pulled his hand away as if he had been burnt, but didn’t outright refuse her offer. “I couldn’t,” he said, his face slowly spreading into something like wonder. “We go to the same school, don’t we? I think I’ve seen you around.” “Yeah, we do,” she said, already ringing the purchases up and bagging his items. “Just pay me back whenever you see me next in school, I guess.” She handed him the bag, and for a moment he seemed unsure what to do with it, like he had never been handed anything before in his whole life— which, she assumed, looking at the frayed but carefully folded ends of his sleeves, he hadn’t. “This is just a loan,” he said, more for his own benefit than hers. “I’ll get the money and pay you back as soon as I can. Thanks, by the way. You’re really cool.” He flashed a bright grin at her and took the bag, taking one look over his shoulder before disappearing into the crisp, cold spring day. Her second biggest anxiety of the day was getting home as quickly as possible without being noticed. Over the weekend, she had timed it in her head: she would leave 15 minutes before math class ended so that she wouldn’t bump into any of her friends, and to give her plenty of time to walk home and hopefully get rid of the cigarette stink on her clothes before her parents came home. She waved a small goodbye to Jim when no one was paying attention to her, and picked up her things to leave, but he leapt up quickly to walk her to the school gate. It seemed almost unbelievable how he changed from the languid, confident boy in the circle, ruling over conversations with ease, to this eager-to-please, excited boy that she was barely sure she knew at all. The stream of conversation didn’t stop as he asked her what her favorite music was, talking about teachers and his homework, and glancing over at her face as if to check that she wasn’t losing interest. She left him at the gate with at least three promises of him giving her his notes from past classes, and an offer to tutor her in anything she wasn’t sure about. Only after she had reached the front door of her house, her head spinning with the events of the day, did she realize that she hadn’t really agreed to any of the

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things he wanted to offer her because she’d wanted them— she just wanted to see the look on his face in response to those agreements. Predictably, her mother was home and preparing dinner, and she noticed the smell of smoke immediately. “Go and clean up,” she wrinkled her nose, deftly picking a clove of garlic to pieces. “You smell like a fire. I’ll call the center and tell them to chase away any smokers in front of the place. Smoke is so bad for your lungs! Your second-cousin Alistair—” She excused herself, saying that she had a headache and was going to take a nap before her mother lauched into twelve stories of cousins and friends who smoked and the bad ends they came to. Her mother waved her away, telling her to shower first before she made the whole bed smell of smoke too. When she finally fell onto her bed, wet hair and all, she dreamt that she was choking on the smell of smoke, and when she reached out for help, there Jim was, his hands reaching out, that bright grin on his face. But when she finally managed to grab his hand he let go, and at that point he wasn’t smiling any longer. He just let her fall into a deep, dark, endless pit of vile fog. Three weeks after their meeting at the arts and crafts store, she bumped into him at the bookstore. He tapped her on the shoulder as she was contemplating a book in the physics section. He was carrying the same beat-up messenger bag she recognized from earlier, and shoving his hands sheepishly in his pockets. She asked him politely about his sister’s project for school, and he ran off on the quality of glue and sequins nowadays, which was apparently not as good as he remembered. He caught sight of her book, and she held it half out rather self consciously, face flushing. “Dense stuff,” he laughed. “I never had a head for math— or science, for that matter. I’m better at puzzling out things people did or said in the past. I’m always so impressed by people that manage to figure all of that out. It’s like a whole other language.” She laughed, but admitted that she was mainly reading it for the AP classes she’d be taking this fall and to get a head-start on college applications. She told him that she was the opposite: she found humanities classes difficult, so she avoided them whenever she could, choosing subjects that left no room for ambiguity or conflict. Then, looking at the clock, she reluctantly peeled herself away with the excuse that she had an extra class to go to. “I’ll walk with you to your class,” he smiled, and waited for her to purchase the book. On the way he talked to her about his sister, and she could tell that if anything, he did adore his sister. He talked about school and people that she didn’t know personally but had seen around school; mostly gossip. As they approached her class, he asked her casually if she’d like to hang out with them after school— saying that his friends would love to meet her, and that he thought they would get

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along just fine. At the time that seemed impossible, like he was just saying it to be nice, but there was an underlying tone of wanting to please that she couldn’t resist. “Maybe I will?” She smiled at him, and then disappeared into her class. A month after she started hanging out after school with the seniors, Jim’s seemingly endless supply of cigarettes was running low. She watched as the others swapped cigarettes, sucking each precious breath like they were the dregs of the fountain of life. She was now fully integrated into the circle, seated between Jim and Melissa, and they treated her as carelessly as they did anyone else, as if they had known her for longer than a month. She’d been called upon to help with math homework, given sage advice about dating, and had even been publicly acknowledged outside of their small after-school meetings at her locker when Mike, the senior who had originally threatened to throw her out, came over to lend her a autobiography they had been discussing. “I’ll be picking up more of the stuff today,” Jim said, and then put a hand on her knee. “You want to come with?” The feeling of his fingertips making contact with her skin spread through her whole body. She nodded, pretending to shift her legs into a more comfortable position to make him move his hand. “Is it safe?” Melissa raised an eyebrow. “From what you were telling us last week, it sounded pretty rough.” “She’ll be fine with me,” he smiled. “I’ll make sure of it.” They left early, and she felt excitement bubble in her stomach, tempered with a bit of fear. She was sure Jim had exaggerated his story from before— she’d noticed he was prone to telling small, insignificant lies that didn’t quite add up, no matter how careful he was. She supposed it was just his personality, the need to be liked so strong that he thought nothing of adapting his story to the right audience. He still talked at her. He talked about other people, other things, and she noticed that he hardly ever talked about himself, only about his sister, as if using her relationship with him as a shield to prevent talking about himself. It was the same when they were walking down the street, Jim leading the way. He kept up an endless stream of news, anecdotes, and stories that made her dizzy just listening to them, still unused to his way of dazzling people with his words despite the fact that she had spent so much time with him over the past month. When he paused for breath at a junction in a part of town that was becoming increasingly familiar to her, she interjected quickly before he had time to continue. “Why don’t you ever talk about yourself ? Or ask me about myself?” The light turned green, but he turned to her and they stood there until the green turned to red again. His mouth was slightly slack with confusion. “Nevermind,” she said, and crossed the road quickly when the light next turned green. He hurried to catch up and they walked in silence for the rest of the way. She knew this part of town very well— it was where all the Chinese stores

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were, packed with the sundry Chinese imports and herbal medicines alongside butchers, acupuncturists, manicurists. Jim led her down an alleyway and stopped outside a liquor store next to the herbalist that her mother often visited. She didn’t know what they were doing there, but she assumed he was making a quick stop before their destination. “I’ll wait for you outside,” she told him. “The person who runs the counter knows me, and I don’t want them to let my mom know that I’ve been cutting class.” “Suit yourself,” Jim shrugged, the small bell above tinkling loudly as he walked in. She tucked herself into a dark corner in case anyone she knew walked past, and waited for him, still thinking about the confused look on his face. Had he really been confused or merely surprised that she had asked him the question in the first place? She wondered if he would pretend that she had never asked, or if he would give her a straight answer, and if so, what he would say. He emerged, the same merry expression on his face, but with packs of cigarettes. She recognized them as the brand her father used to smoke before he “quit,” and still did when he was feeling especially stressed. Her lungs felt as if they had been punctured, the air slowly leaving her ribcage in a disappointed, deflated release. “Our little secret,” Jim winked conspiratorially at her, asking her to hold them while he took out his crumpled paper bag. “The other guys have no idea. They buy my little stories. Aren’t they dumb?” She thought of the others sitting in a circle, taking their long drags on their cigarettes with such pleasure, and of Jim laughing inwardly all this while, crowing at the fact that he had taken them all in with this simple deception. In a way it was almost amazing that people believed him in the first place. She suspected that after all, they didn’t— but it was the excitement of their imagination that let them continue entertaining his little fantasies. “Why?” She asked, staring at the glossy tiger on the top-most packet. “Why do you do it?” He didn’t meet her eyes, but continued taking the cigarettes out of their packages and dumping them into the paper bag. “At first I just wanted to fit in, I guess. People love a good story.And anyway, these are cheaper than whatever they could buy themselves, and I get to earn some money on the side. It’s win-win for both of us.” There had to be something else, she thought. Malice, or spite, or downright greediness. Something he wouldn’t even admit to himself. “You fit in just fine,” she thought aloud. “You’re smart— and good looking— why would you have to fake it like this?” “You think I’m good looking?” He paused and looked up, directly at her. “Objectively speaking, I guess.” They fell silent, and Jim tucked away the cigarettes into his bag again. “Well, I guess I’d better head home,” she said, but as she turned Jim grabbed

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her arm and pulled her closer. “May I—?” She looked him in the eyes, and saw that eager-to-please boy again, but this time mixed with resentment: at her, at the other seniors, at himself, at the lot in life that he had been cast with? “May I kiss you?” She tilted her head to one side and considered his request, letting the world around them spin as they stood in this dark corner. She thought about saying yes for a moment, giving him a kiss because she pitied him and wanted him to flash her that grateful smile that made her feel like she had done something good for someone in need. He unravelled before her, all his petty secrets and exaggerations, laid bare on his face as he waited for her to respond, the hand on her arm seeming more like a drowning man’s clutch as the seconds passed. Everything that he had done— initiating her into the seniors’ circle, bringing her with him to buy the cigarettes, all of this was a way to pay off the debt he owed her and an attempt to desperately hold some kind of power over her. She stared at him. His features seemed to morph from the grinning, carefree, kind senior she knew to one that resembled a fox, longing and scheming for someone, everyone to hold under his thrall. How he must have hated giving in that day at the arts and crafts bookstore, having to tuck his tail between his legs and accept her loan. “No.” She gently pulled her arm free and left him standing there in the corner. She walked home on her own, without looking back, the illusion of him lying shattered in the dust.

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THINGS I’VE LOST Kathryn McDanel Warren Wilson College

My mother to a brain aneurysm. A mildewing Moleskin journal with a disintegrating spine, an expensive ballpoint pen taken from the office of a businessman, dog-eared, underlined books forgotten on park benches and subway seats, one sweater sacrificed to a barbed wire fence mid-exploration of an abandoned asylum, the phone numbers of my elementary school friends: Hannah, Kylie, Jacy, and Makayla. Myself in the world, a time or two. Thrift store sandals kicked off on drunken nights through Boston and San Francisco, soulless socks and Victoria’s Secret underwear to the spin cycle of a laundromat washing machine, my virginity in a backyard as coyotes howled and neighbors scorned, a teal 1997 Subaru Outback totaled in a traffic light collision, countless mugs shattered under the weight of gravity and the clumsiness of shaking hands. My sanity, one November in the Midwest. Coffee-stained love letters crisped in the red, orange, and blue flames of a bonfire, my childhood Bichon Frise to testicular cancer, paychecks to a gold dust day gecko for auto insurance, half-smoked cigarettes—Menthols, American Spirits, and Marlboros— to nights out on the town, the embrace of a perfect gentleman to long stretches of highway and a ticking clock. God, to the infinite possibilities of god.

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IF MOONS WERE UNCONQUERED PLANETS Brooke Thomas College of Charleston

I began to bleed last night and woke dotted draco, followed the constellation of my bones, saw the poison dripping from my jowls like nebulas. I was never warned of my fire breath or blood signifying an immortal wound. I can count the chocolate keloids along my belly. They number the months I revolved around naproxen. All planets have rings on this side of the solar system. Mother Nature is an astronaut. She wars with my stars, holds their breath another millennium while I shove my femininity into rings for the sake of pretending I am an unclaimed moon, for the sake of pretending I am not bearing the vacuum on my own.

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YOU, ME, AND BETTY WHITE Melissa Weiss

University of British Columbia Okanagan

eat dinner at Mosconi over the Alzette River. She has tomato skin stuck in her teeth. And your teeth are dino teeth. Or little dove feathers. They alternate, I think, depending on the color shirt you’re wearing. Or the distance from the moon to Mars. Snowflakes drool from your plumage-y bouche like the seven seas. Beautiful rivers. Wanderlust bullshit pen strokes. Betty asks the waitress for a double-shot of vodka. I gulp cherry wine. Swill until baseball bats wrench poems into pixels. Crush glass in rubber buckets at the dog park. It’s February, and you swipe right. Wear your snapback backwards and track dirty water through marble floors. The mighty oak, you brag, has wings on its back. Barks with ferocity. Never hides its voice. You tell Betty her lasagna has the wrong kind of oregano so she sends it away. She shows you hippos in the clouds; you dub them wispy smoke demons. She speaks of Allen Ludden; you quote The Name of the Wind. I am silent, dipping chicken nuggets into honey packets. Kirschwasser into flesh wounds. You piss off Betty White: flip-flops and a laptop bag, she treks down the street while you get high off popcorn and yoga and the sound of your own voice.

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LARGER HALF Sarah Terrazano Brandeis University

In ninth grade I made a list of oxymorons. Plastic glasses. Open secret. I reveled in the duality, like holding dark chocolate on my tongue to let the bitterness linger. When I came out, this is where I found myself— not seeing a choice in the not-choosing. Bi as in two, as in one whole that makes my girlfriend insecure. She asks what I first like about her, but I know the unspoken sticks like peach skin in her teeth— did you leave him for what’s between my legs? Original copy. Liquid gas. Larger half.

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PRETTY Miranda Jacobson Sierra Nevada College

A bell rings somewhere, and I know I’ll be late to class if I don’t move. My feet don’t touch the ground when I sit in the chairs here, and everyone smells like they haven’t showered in a few days. A few boys laugh and joke as they walk past me, but one boy stops. His eyes belong to me. They trail my body like a priceless painting. I should feel flattered, since all the other girls want boys to look at them the way he’s looking at me. “Who are you?” he asks me. “Kate,” I tell him. My voice is sweet as honey, dripping down my lips. I can see him salivate over the drops. I almost tell him to get a taste. He says, “Kate, you’re a butterface.” They all laugh and walk away, their backpacks hanging down so low they might touch the ground. I don’t understand why they’re laughing at me. My hand swipes against my cheeks, checking for butter, but nothing sticks to the tips of my skin. I look at my friend who sits across the table and ask her what a butterface is. “It’s when everything about her is hot, but her face.” She draws out the last three words, trying to show me the meaning of the slang. My honey dries up and I take my bag. I don’t feel flattered anymore. I just feel an ache in my chest. “I can’t wait to be done with the sixth grade,” I tell her. The moment is over, but I’ll never forget it. I grow out of making honey. It all disappears as my bones begin to stretch and the world changes without any warning. One morning I wake up and men are watching my every move. I walked down the street as a child and clung to my mom for protection, but when I am finally old enough to go out on my own, I’m faced with fear. My whole life I grew up thinking that everyone would do the right thing all the time, but it took a stranger reaching their hand under my dress at my first high school dance to make me realize that not every man was raised by my mother. I spend time at my best friend Rachel’s house. After graduating high school, there isn’t much to do except spend our time drinking too much alcohol and drunk texting our ex-boyfriends. When we’re not getting drunk, we’re watching reality TV or working at a coffee

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shop together. I scratch at my jeans and flick my cigarette on the sidewalk. My eyes dance with the ashes that swirl on the ground. “Kate!” I look up. Rachel presses her lips against the end of her cigarette and stares at me. I roll my eyes at her. Some people only talk to have others stare at them. “Don’t take my attention if you aren’t going to intrigue me.” She exhales. “You looked sad.” Who can argue with that? I listen to the radio at night on the way home from Rachel’s. I used to play my music by listening to songs on my phone on repeat. Now I sit in silence. A few months ago, Rachel’s car adaptor broke, so she started listening to the radio. When I go home later that day, I drive back listening to the same station out of habit. I drive home when the sun sets behind me, and the light reflects against my skin in a way that tints me orange. But not the bright orange that makes my head hurt. The kind of orange you see when you close your eyes after staring at the sun too long though your eyes should feel blessed to see something so beautiful. “I’m sorry sir, we’re actually about to close.” I hold the door closed against my body, hoping he won’t try to come inside. My eight-hour shift at the coffee shop is quickly turning into nine while I argue with the man standing in front of me. “I just want some coffee.” He stares at my face first. I wonder if he thinks I’m beautiful, but I watch his eyes fall, staring at what you can only slightly make out of my chest beneath the baggy shirt. Does he know that I purposely asked for bigger shirts, just to avoid the awkward dance I have to do to with myself to forget that men like him only want to stare at my B-cup boobs? “Forget it, have a good night.” He walks off, and I close the door. My coworker asks me if everything is all right, and I nod. She doesn’t want to hear about the new guy who thought I was hot. Everyone gets tired of hearing the hot girl complain about guys staring at them. They seem to forget that I’m not the hot girl; I’m Kate. I finish closing and walk to my car. I keep my pepper spray in my hand until I get to the driver door. “Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?” Rachel hands me the tiny FIJI bottle filled with two-day old tequila. I take a swig and shrug my shoulders. “Why do you ask?” I counter. “I’ve just been doing some deep soul searching,” she tells me timidly, and I understand why. The huff that came from me was meant to be heard, but she keeps talking anyway. “Don’t you think we should stand up for ourselves as women? To be equal? To not be afraid?”

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“I’m not afraid,” I tell her, “and you shouldn’t be, either.” Rachel doesn’t answer me because she knows I’m lying. She knows I’m afraid of my own body. I take another drink from the bottle to keep myself from looking at her, but it doesn’t keep me from remembering that Rachel is right. Sometimes at night I stare at myself in the mirror. It’s easy to get lost in the way my skin curves against the bones in my body. I notice a red blemish below my cheekbone and trace it with the nail of my index finger. I study the way my eyes twitch when I look from my face to my body. An ache forms low in my stomach when I think of the day I began to truly notice my face; the same day I thought I needed to wear makeup before letting my face grow to what it needed to be. The day I rushed a process that should’ve been given room to breathe. Sometimes at night, I wish I could go back to that day. To find the girl who sat on the bathroom floor and cried because she didn’t understand why her body mattered more than her face, why her sexual appeal mattered more than her feelings. I lay awake and think about this day, wonder how I could have changed the outcome, but all I’m left with is myself in the mirror, me wondering how I can make a zit disappear by sunrise. I click my pen once, twice, three times, when Lane walks up to the counter. His hands are covered in dried up paint, and his jeans are marked up with dried dirt and grass. I almost want to tell him to leave the place, but his smile keeps me from breaking my own. “Hey there.” My heart beats faster. Lane knows how distracting it is for me to see him at work, but I also know I will never tell him leave. “Afternoon.” “What can I get started for you?” He looks up at the menu for a moment before looking back at me. He winks, hands me a five, and walks over to where he sits every day. I ring up the order and grab his normal Thai tea, then set it wordlessly on the table in front of him. He stays until we close. Around five in the afternoon, another man walks in. I’ve seen him a million times over, taken his order since my first day, but today is different. Today he doesn’t see anyone else. “How you doin’ today?” he asks me. “Pretty good. Just another day.” “How’s the boyfriend? Lane, is it?” I smile and take his twenty, already knowing what drink to get him. My smile is forced because I don’t like to talk about my personal life in front of people I don’t know. I just nod and hand him back his change. I look past my regular and see Lane staring at his computer, knowing he hears every word. “We’re good.”

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“How old are you, Kate?” We move from counter to bar, and I begin making his iced Vietnamese coffee. I go through the motions of grabbing an ice cup, making espresso, pouring the shots. As I add in his extra condensed milk, I listen to my customer tell me how he wants to take a new girl on a trip, somewhere nice. He tells me he can’t find anyone to take, tells me I should come. I hand him his drink and say, “Have a good day.” Rachel is on the phone. Her boyfriend is yelling at her again about something dumb, but I’m not surprised because dumb people can’t see past dumb ideas. She listens to him, but she doesn’t hear a word he says. Instead, we continue to paint my bedroom walls to the beat of his crackling voice. But eventually he stops. I move to the other side of the room so that I can’t hear their conversation. We’ve been painting all day and my back is beginning to hurt. I can hear him talking to her. “Show me Kate.” “No,” she whispers. “I don’t want to keep doing this with you.” “Show me Kate or I’m hanging up.” “Please stop doing this to me.” I hear the disconnect beep on the phone. Neither of us say anything. We both know that I heard him, and we both know it wasn’t the first time that it had happened. I don’t turn around to look at her. She grabs her stuff quietly. “See ya tomorrow, Kit Kat.” “Uh-huh.” I think that maybe I should look at her, say something, try to defend myself. I know she is mad at me for her boyfriend wanting to fuck me even though I have never done anything to lead him on. It isn’t my fault she doesn’t know how to love herself. Still, it is my fault in her eyes. I met Lane when I was young. My body was different then. Flat and skinny. He didn’t fall in love with the way my ass curved in ripped-up jeans. He fell in love with the way I spoke, the way my light found its way out through my thoughts, the way I wasn’t afraid to let anyone else share my warmth. But lately I wear makeup and clothes that show off my pale skin. We’re both different now, but his love is the same. I envy the way it is easy for others to see their beauty, and my envy is only calmed when I’m with Lane. It’s the only place I’m allowed to feel unashamedly beautiful. We’re naked and his finger traces the lines on my stomach from slouching. His eyes catch my own, and I see the way he admires my face. I want to ask him if he thinks my face is pretty, but I hold my tongue. I don’t want to ruin the moment. He hums softly beneath the sound of music that plays low around us. “What’s wrong?” he asks me. “I think my friendship with Rachel is over,” I tell him. “All because of Jason.”

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“Don’t be sad about that. She was holding you back from being the best you can. And we both hated Jason, so is it really that bad that we won’t have to be around him anymore?” I shrug and close my eyes. I can’t argue with that. My second job is almost as bad as the first. But this time I work with snotty kids, and they pull my hair and spill crumbs on the couch. Three beautiful babies, but one is almost ten years old and doesn’t believe in playing the TV at a level lower than fifty. Today Rachel comes over. I invite her because I haven’t seen or spoken to her in over a week. She sits on the couch across from me while the children watch TV, and neither of us say anything. She’s staring at her phone and swiping here and there, but she knows I’m angry. I will her to stare at me, to say something, but she doesn’t care. “So, I have a serious problem with the way your boyfriend treats you.” She looks up. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Rachel, come on. You know what I’m talking about. Why are you looking past what an asshole he is?” She keeps typing on her phone. She won’t look at me. “Rachel,” I say again. She doesn’t answer. The kids hear me talking now and the oldest, Annie, turns up the TV. It’s too loud and Rachel is too quiet, and I scream: “RACHEL!” Everyone looks at me. Annie pauses the TV. Rachel looks up from her phone and turns it off. I look at Annie. “If you’re going to watch TV, the volume needs to be lower.” Annie nods and turns the TV back on. After she lowers the volume, I turn back to Rachel. “We both know that Jason hit on me the other day, and it wasn’t the first time. I know you love him, but I can’t be your best friend and know that you’re letting someone who doesn’t respect you lust after me. I’m sorry.” Rachel’s face changes. The shock from my outburst turns to sadness. “Everything will be fine, Kate. It’s really not what you think.” She starts to explain more to me about what kind of man he really is, but I already know. He’s the kind of man that reaches beneath your skirt when you walk past. He’s the type of man to stare at your body as if it isn’t your own. The type of man to tell a woman who loves him more than anything that most of the time she’s ugly. He’s the type of man that made my best friend throw up every day for weeks because she had more body fat than he did. And I couldn’t hear about him anymore. “Okay, Rachel. You’re right.” Rachel leaves before my boss gets home. I watch her walk to the car. I hear her tell me goodbye, but she doesn’t hear me let her go. Lane walks me to my car in no particular rush. Our hands are linked loosely be-

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tween us, and I let my thumb rub circles over his coarse skin. “What time is work tomorrow?” He asks me. He reaches out for my door but waits to open it. This is common with goodbyes when it comes to Lane. Have you ever had to say goodnight to the person you wish you were sharing a bed with? The dance you two do around each other to prolong the inevitable goodbye for the night, the five “last” kisses exchanged with whispered desire for something more, are all a part of Lane’s classic car routine. “Five in the morning,” I tell him, inwardly groaning. “When will I see you again?” “I’ll see your pretty face tomorrow.” Instead of the dance, the anticipated hustle, Lane presses a sweet kiss to my lips, so sweet I can taste honey. “I can’t wait,” I whisper against his lips. He opens the car door and helps me in, stopping short to say, “Don’t be worried about Rachel, you’ll figure it all out.” I nod. Rachel comes over a few days later but she isn’t herself. This time she is angry. She knocks on my front door with rage; when I let her in, she begins to pace. “He wants you, Kate. He asked me if he could have sex with you because you’ve been giving him signals. What the fuck, Kate?” She stares at me like I’m the most disgusting thing she has ever seen. I stare back at her. She has already tried and convicted me, and the verdict is obvious: I’m guilty. “Are you going to say anything?” she asks me. I don’t have anything to say. She has already made her decision. It’s him over me. I’ve been there for her for years. He tore her apart. But it was always going to be him. It’s hard to let go of someone who doesn’t deserve you, and usually it’s because it’s hard to know that you deserve something better. I could’ve done something, but I didn’t. Instead I open my front door. “Goodbye, Rach.” A tear. A huff. A slammed door. Just like that, she’s gone. I put my shoes on for work and shut the door behind me, and I feel an ache building in my chest. I want to scream, but instead I close my mouth and drive to work. My shift passes by slowly, and by the end of the day I’ve learned how to ignore the pain when I breathe. Once, I had a puppy. It had long, floppy ears with a short tail and a tongue that was too wet for my liking. He’d lick me all the time, and I’d push him off, but he’d just come back, even after I said no. No. Now I’m twenty years old and men do the same thing, but no one thought to tell them the word no. Now I don’t know why I try.

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I make a new friend at work a few days after Rachel leaves my house. We are sitting in her backyard. The sun is setting behind me, and my skin is the kind of orange that you see when you close your eyes. “Are you okay, Kate?” she asks me. Her name is Hana, and she listens to me when I speak. And lately I’ve been speaking a lot. I almost tell her that I’m not sure if I’m doing any better. But my skin is warm and my feet are grounded, so I say, “I’m going to be okay.” And who can really argue with that?

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GRAPE HYACINTH Jessie Urgo

College of William and Mary

He walked right up to you and said, Anybody ever tell you you have a beautiful head of hair? Beautiful, those ringlets. All purple, curving like bells and hanging down your neck. A purple pine tree made of bells. (He was slightly drunk.) He shoved his head against your head and tried to smell you, tried to say your name. Muscari botryoides. He laughed at it. Later, in the bathroom, you let the water run over your hands, and your collarbone ached where it had been broken before.

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MEMORY Veronica Isabel

Florida International University

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MY FIRST WEEK IN NEW YORK Alex Lavertue The New School

LAVERTUE

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PORTRAIT OF A FRIEND Noah Bavonese Oakland University

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BRING ME THE LIGHT Janet Doan

University of California, Riverside

DOAN

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ROOF LIGHTS Marshall Farren Indiana University

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BARK E.R. Vanett

Indiana University South Bend

VANETT

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ICE Dani Jakobson Bentley University

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BURNT ANTLERS Tanner Barnes

Florida State University

When the house burns down, the deer will be the first thing I think about, my mind there again, watching the open plot of green drift in and out of focus in front of me, counting the cardinals that buzz past my head with every other shallow breath until he becomes an image in the corner of my eye. Stamping across the scene like Gary Cooper in High Noon: antlers arching towards heaven, he kneels before the stack of corn, alternating between the flick of ear and tail as he chews. Pine needles cracking underneath his hooves ring out a creek through the numb that has become my fingers and toes, the ring of a yanked trigger is too loud for me, as I watch as his hind legs become a fighting force against falling, jolting him end over end until his path has been set for the trees. But before I can shank out the bolt from the barrel and put the universe back into action, he becomes another shadow growing cold in the forest, and now as the hours become days, my thumbs become blisters, rounded off from the twiddling. I silently snap off a twig from the pine behind my back and begin shaving off layer by layer with the pocket knife. I shave

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and shave until I am a pile of almost transparent wood, looking out into an endless field of empty, surrounded by the sound of thirty deer pacing in circles, jumping up and down in unison, trying not to break beat with the pulses of the Milky Way. When I get home my stomach will become a cinder block, I’ll learn that a gut shot does not put you down in seconds but rather days. When my grandfather tells me that they found him nuzzled up to a tree circled by crows two days later, that they were able to save the head, and that the taxidermist had already finished, I will sigh a little. I will look at him years later, stuffed and hung in the living room, and laugh. Laugh at the fact that I had never named or acknowledged him until now besides the three hats gathering dust on his antlers. I will name him Bucky and miss the irony of the title and stumble my way down to the lake to smoke a bowl. When I get back we will talk for hours and he will explain to me the meaning of death and why my tongue can never reach my nose, even though I am trying as hard as I possibly can, and that when the sun comes up on me, whether it is a car crash or a flash or a cancerous creep and a hospital bed, or an oven left on while I sleep and burn and burn until I am a pile of ash waiting to be shoveled up with the rest of the rubble, it will be time. I will try to ask him if my chest will always be a bag of bricks, red and charred waiting to be removed or forgiven, but before he can answer I will be asleep on the couch. When the house burns down he will be the first thing I ask about. Not the dog or if my mother is okay, but the deer head staring down at me from the wall to the couch. When they say that he is ash

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and singed antlers, I will ask what this means for me. Are my sins absolved? Will I become a lamb, cold but clean in the waters just beyond the line where Florida becomes Georgia, free to fly my mind away from these burdens and breathe easy now that an era of atonement is upon me? Or will the haunt begin in full, creaking down the cracks in my spine and spinning my swiveled head with every settling floorboard?

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I SAW HIM Isabella Barricklow

Central Michigan University

I saw him by a freshwater lake. We chased garter fish and trout snakes in the wave pools until the wind washed him away in purple gusts. There was sun, a glowing orange orb against a midnight sky scribbled onto the horizon with charcoal,

a whisper of what could have been. I know it. There is a reason I always see him after I fall asleep. Every night there’s wild in those eyes. They’re the orange fur of fox running through cornfields at dawn, the white slips of mountain snow between crags of rock like cream capping off the blackest coffee,

yard so full of violets, you can’t see grass. Just once I would like to fall asleep to something less than a god,

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less than him as that god, spend less time stringing the beads on my bedside table into rosaries with the alternating colors of his name. Like teeth, gold and brass, I tuck them under my pillow and wish for dreams that make him flesh. But he is a shadow that will not be caught.

I dream I could sew him to my foot, a mismatched sock, and peddle against the grass of summer fields, cool sand just touched by water­— print him into my superstition until he is embedded in the skin.

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TO A FOREIGN PLACE Allison Boyce

Vanderbilt University

I knew Dean Miller because we were in the same grade in school, and because he was my next door neighbor. He and his mama Grace had lived alone in the house next door to Mama and me for as long as we’d both been alive. We were the only two kids in Bertram who were entirely dad-less, even though whenever anyone asked, Mama told people that my father had temporarily moved abroad for his job. He had left her long ago for a real estate agent. Dean and I used to get dropped off at the same bus stop until the ninth grade, when he stopped riding the bus because he thought it was lame. After we got off at our stop every day, he usually walked over to the small pond in our neighborhood park to go fishing and have a smoke until it was time for supper. Most of the time, I asked if I could come with him, and at first, he’d always make a big show of saying, “Nuh-uh, Maybelline, no girls allowed, don’t even think about it,” but then before I even made it to my front porch he’d say, “Well I suppose, but you can only watch, and be quick about it if you’re coming.” One time in eighth grade, we were at the pond and I was watching him cast his line from the grass while I flipped through the reading for our history class. It was silent, save for the way the fabric of his denim jacket whispered when he moved his arm back to throw, his cigarette propped between his lips at a dangerous angle. Breaking the silence, he had asked, “Maybelline, who’s that boy who’s been sitting next to you at lunch in the cafeteria?” Dean Miller always said my name like the vowels were caught in honey, like we had all the time in the world: May-baleeen. “Who, Gregory Finch? He’s my lab partner.” “Well, is he your boyfriend or something?” “What? No. He just sits next to me at lunch sometimes, is all.” “Well,” he said. After a while, still staring straight ahead, he said, “Just so you know, I wouldn’t have cared if he was your boyfriend.” “Whatever, Dean,” I said. “I thought you were going with Lulu Cornwall, anyway.” He shot me a look, like are you kidding me? “No way, nuh-uh. She has buck teeth bigger than a horse’s.” I remember laughing, even though I knew Lulu was really self-conscious about

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her teeth and we were on the soccer team together. I replayed his words in my head as he took a huge drag from his cigarette, no way, nuh-uh, over and over again into the silence that followed. Mama told me one week after I came home for the summer after my first year at Cornell that Dean Miller had disappeared. She said that Grace had gone to wake him up for his shift at the bowling alley a few days ago and he was gone, but all his clothes and belongings were just where they’d always been. Even his car hadn’t moved, still parked in the same position in their driveway. The only thing missing, besides him, was his cell phone. Mama said he’d probably run off to join a traveling circus or something bogus like that. “That boy was always trouble, Maybelline,” she said, sipping her coffee at the kitchen table while she flipped through the paper. Not once in my entire life had I heard her refer to Dean as anything other than “that boy.” She added, “I was glad when you finally stopped hanging around him.” “I know,” I said. “All his wits were probably fried out of his brains from all that dope. He’s got no more sense left in him. Grace should’ve seen this coming.” His disappearance was all anyone could talk about for those first few weeks of summer. Had he planned it all, everyone wanted to know, or was he in serious trouble? At the swimming hole, all the lifeguards passed the time during our shifts exchanging stories about him while we were on duty in the high chairs, trying to solve the mystery. He’d been a freshman at the community college this year, and Lulu said he’d failed out of her stats class. Everyone remembered the time when a switchblade fell out of his jeans pocket in the gym locker room and the police had to conduct an investigation, but he only got a suspension. No one could confirm if he had been dating Violet Lawrence – he’d been spotted grabbing her boobs at a party a few months ago but they could have just been having sex. “I guess it’s not all that surprising,” Jimmy Crawford said. “He barely graduated high school, he got suspended so many times for being blitzed out of his mind.” “Oh my god, Jimmy,” Lulu said, elbowing him in the ribs. “You can’t say things like that. He’s missing.” She paused, and then focused her gaze on me. “Wasn’t he your neighbor, Maybelline?” It was a slow day, and all five of us on duty were watching the same three toddlers bobbing in the shallow area. Almost every day at the swimming hole was slow, but no one cared much because it was easy money. All you had to do was make sure no one tried to jump off the tire swing, because the rope was frayed and old, and watch over the little kids in the deep end. Sometimes people even spiked their ICEEs from the Circle K during our shifts, and even though I was pretty sure that our boss Mr. Lincoln knew, in the four summers that we’d been working there he’d never said a thing about it. “Yeah, Dean and his mama lived next door to us,” I said. I didn’t know why we were already using the past tense.

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“You probably knew him better than any of us, then,” Lulu said. “Oh no, not really,” I said. I pushed my sunglasses higher up on my nose. Today, the sun was a hot, bald eye blazing over us, turning the water almost white. “I don’t think anyone really knew Dean. But his mama and my mama are on the PTA council together.” “Well, I sure hope he turns up soon,” Lulu said, flipping a page in her magazine. I wondered if that was how she saw him – the way a fish gets washed onto the shore by a big wave, belly up and open eyes unseeing. Eventually, as the weeks passed and the police ran out of leads, people stopped telling stories about him and trying to piece together the mystery of his disappearance. By mid-June, they had taken his name off the list of people to pray for at mass every Sunday morning. He had been right after Phyllis Larson, a senior from St. Mary’s who was ninety-seven and had acute dementia, and then one morning they skipped right over him. But Grace still came every week, her huge, milky eyes fixed on the floor as she pulled out little chunks of her hair. She always wore a black dress, as if he had died. Summers in Bertram were a slow and lazy affair, always had been. You could live inside a Bertram summer for three years, every day the same endless routine. Summers were when Mama took out her old Billy Joel albums and let them play all day long in the kitchen, his voice sunny and warm. All the college kids who weren’t already employed at the swimming hole drove out in the afternoons to sunbathe and flirt, a borrowed stereo buzzing the pop station in the background. Once the sun set, we all piled into cars and drove to Jimmy Crawford’s. Jimmy Crawford’s parents left for a two-month-long tour of Switzerland every summer without fail, and he threw huge parties every single night that they were gone. He was like Gatsby, except instead of the live orchestra and fireworks, he had a heated indoor pool and a strawberry margarita machine. Most nights, everyone in my whole grade was at Jimmy’s, either crammed into the pool making the water turn brown from spilled beer or taking turns playing Wii Sports on his parents’ flat-screen television. At Jimmy’s first party of the summer, I was sitting out on his patio with my best friends from high school, Kennedy and Lucy. We had arranged our deck chairs so that we had a premium view of the boys playing a shirtless game of sand volleyball in the backyard. “It feels so good now that it’s finally summer again,” Kennedy said. We were drinking mojitos that Jimmy had prepared, they were almost pure rum. “I miss everyone at UGA, but there’s nothing like being back home. You know?” I nodded. “Feels like we never left.” Last summer, we had sat in these same sticky deck chairs every night, watching the same boys play their shirtless games. The humidity a hot, wet mouth blanketing us in its breath. There was no evidence

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that the past year had really even happened, no way to know that any time had passed at all, except now Dean Miller was missing and Kennedy had a nose ring. It felt more and more unsettling that Dean Miller wasn’t there the longer we sat there talking. He came to all of Jimmy’s parties, like everyone did. I wondered if anyone else noticed the empty space at the pool table where he used to face off Jared Masen and his buddies, or in the kitchen where he could almost always be found chatting up some girl. He had become a fixture in the old house. Suddenly, Lucy said, “Maybelline, Aaron Davis is staring at you.” I took a big sip of my mojito. It was disgusting. “So?” “What, you’re trying to tell me you don’t have it bad for him no more? Last year in English you’d stare at the back of his head so hard I thought you were gonna burn a hole through his skull or something.” “Come off it,” I said. “You’re exaggerating.” Kennedy fanned herself with her phone. “Well, he’s got bedroom eyes if I’ve ever seen any,” she said. “What does that even mean?” I asked. “I don’t know, I heard it on some HBO show. But it sounds real sexy. Maybelline, he sure does keep looking over here.” Aaron Davis was wearing a pair of swim trunks that rode up high on his thighs as he served the ball. He played lacrosse for UGA now, and was apparently making a big splash there. In high school, he’d been the star midfielder on our lacrosse team as well as the salutatorian, and I’d courted a ridiculous, one-sided fantasy that we would start dating, since I was the valedictorian. But back then, he’d never looked my way once. “Well, it seems kind of silly now to care about all that,” I said. “We go to colleges clear across the country from each other. It’s not like anything serious could happen this summer.” Kennedy shook her head at me. “It’s like this, Maybelline: if someone put a big slice of peach pie in front of you, would you just sit there and stare at it?” “All he’s done is look this way, Kennedy. I doubt he’s even interested.” “Eat the pie, Maybelline,” Kennedy said, ignoring me completely. “Eat the damn pie.” By middle school, Dean and I had started going to the pond almost every afternoon. It was an unspoken ritual, something we never acknowledged or planned ahead of time. But we walked over as soon as we got off the bus unless it was pouring down rain or one of us had a dentist appointment. Sometimes Mama would mutter comments about him when I came home in the evenings for supper. “I know for a fact that boy smokes pot, Maybelline,” she told me one day as soon as I’d entered the kitchen, without even saying hello first, as if she’d been sitting in a chair for possibly hours just waiting to inform me of this dis-

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covery. “I smelled it when I walked past his room while I was working with Grace on the PTA fundraiser.” I ignored her, pulling out plates and forks to set the table for two. “Is that what you two are doing when you go to the pond? Smoking grass together?” Folding our napkins, I said, “Mama, no. I don’t even know what pot looks like. He just smokes cigarettes, is all.” “Oh great,” she said. “A thirteen-year-old chainsmoker. That boy is a dead end, Maybelline. He’s going to end up in federal prison, mark my words.” The next day, I asked him about it. He was standing completely still on the grass while he waited for something to bite his line. My algebra homework was open on my lap, but I was secretly counting his breaths, each one slow and easy. “My mama thinks you smoke pot,” I told him. “She hates you, you know.” “Believe me, I know,” he said, looking over to where I was sitting on one of the large rocks and rolling his eyes. “But do you?” I asked, scooting slightly closer to him. “Smoke pot?” He rubbed his face with his hand and groaned. “This is weird,” he said. “But yeah, I do. Not every day, though.” “Could I try it?” “Absolutely not.” “What do you mean, ‘absolutely not’?” I asked. My face was reddening. “Why should you be able to but not me?” He’d just laughed. Then he went quiet, and it seemed like he was deciding whether or not to say something. After a while he said, “Listen, Maybelline, we’re not the same. You know that. You’ve got your path. You’re gonna go to a fancy college and read poems all day long and leave this place behind. Me, I’m going nowhere. You’re not gonna bum around and smoke with me, alright?” Then he’d added, laughing again, “Plus, your mama would beat the shit out of me if she ever found out.” “That’s not true,” I said, but I didn’t even know which part I was referring to, which part was the most wrong. “You’re wrong, Dean.” But everything started to shift after that, almost as if by predicting the future Dean had willed it into motion. He started smoking with Jared Masen and his group of friends in the parking lot during our lunch hour, even though leaving the building during lunch was strictly prohibited. At first, I thought they were just leaving to smoke cigarettes, but then Dean would return to class shaky and slow, his eyes black and enormous as he tried to fight off the effects of a foreign darkness he couldn’t control. Sometimes he never came back to class at all. That was the thing – even back then, Dean disappeared all the time. Grace would drop him off at the arcade or the bowling alley to hang out with Jared and his friends, and when she came back to pick him up a few hours later he’d be gone without a word. She would drive around town for hours looking for him, calling

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Mama over and over again to ask if he was with me or if I knew where he had gone. And I told her the same thing that I would tell the police after he disappeared for the final time, when they wanted my official statement. I would tell her the truth: I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. Kennedy and Lucy told me during our morning shift that Aaron Davis had asked Jimmy if I was seeing anyone at Cornell, or if I’d ever talked about him. “He’s Aaron Davis, Maybelline,” Lucy said. “And he’s interested. In you.” She took a long sip from her blue raspberry ICEE, which I could tell by its unusual color was spiked with rum. We hadn’t come home from Jimmy’s party last night until three, and the morning shift started promptly at seven. I had wanted to leave the party at midnight – I hadn’t really even felt like going in the first place – but Kennedy was my ride home and no one else wanted to go home. “How can you drink that right now?” I said to Lucy. “I feel like I’m about to puke everywhere.” “It eases away an oncoming hangover, Maybelline. A rookie trick. You’ve got to step up your game.” “Sorry I don’t feel like drinking hard liquor at eight thirty in the morning.” “Maybelline, be serious,” Kennedy interjected. She leaned in closer. “Let’s focus. Aaron Davis has a six-pack, you know. Like, it’s real. I’ve seen it. And you already know he’s super smart and nice and everything. Senior-year-you would be dead on the floor right now.” I rolled my eyes. “I know he has a six-pack. He walks around shirtless every chance he gets.” My head was starting to pound, and I squinted my eyes against the glare of the sun. “He’s only interested in me because he’s already hooked up with everyone on the old dance team again this summer and now he’s bored. We’re all bored. It doesn’t mean anything to him.” “How do you know that? You’re judging him before you’ve even spoken to him,” Kennedy said. She started to say more, but then she shook her head. “I don’t know what’s been going on with you, Maybelline. Lately it seems like you’re not all there this summer, you know what I mean? It’s like you’re always waiting for something else. But what are you waiting for here?” “No one,” I said. “Nothing.” I turned away and kept my eyes fixed on the water. “I’m not waiting for anything.” Sometimes before I fell asleep at night, I said Dean Miller’s name out loud in the darkness of my room. I whispered it to the ceiling over and over again until my eyes slipped shut and my mouth started slurring the vowels. No one besides Grace ever said his name anymore, never had any reason to, and I thought I could keep him alive this way. Every time I said his name, I imagined the words pumping life into Dean somewhere, his shadowy figure gaining strength and color the more I

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repeated it. It comforted me in a way that nothing else could anymore. Mama and I saw Grace mowing her lawn one day as we pulled into our driveway. She was wearing a baggy sweater that fell off her shoulders even though it was in the nineties outside, and she was openly weeping. But she waved us over with an easy smile as soon as we got out of the car, as if talking to the pair of us was exactly what she had been waiting for to lift her spirits. “And how are you holding up, Grace?” Mama asked, shuffling our grocery bags from one hand to the other. She stood rigidly at the edge of our lawn, careful not to cross over the invisible line separating our properties. “Oh, I’m okay,” Grace said. Her eyes were so huge that I was afraid they might pop right out of her face at any moment. They were golf-ball-sized, two small planets. “No updates, but the police know to look out for him. I’m just doing what I can these days.” She leaned in closer, her eyes growing impossibly bigger. They were a cloudy, pale blue. “You’ll keep him in your prayers?” “Of course,” Mama said. Once we were inside the house, Mama rolled her eyes. “For Christ’s sake,” she said. “Grace has always lived in a delusion. She was never firm enough with that boy. I knew he was bad news from day one, of course. Everyone did. Never liked you following him around everywhere.” She started unloading the groceries as she continued, unaware that I had gone still beside her. “The damn kid’s probably halfway to Egypt by now, I reckon. He ain’t never coming back.” She suddenly looked over to where I was still holding the grocery bags, rooted in place. She said, “But I know you know that. Right?” “Yes, I know,” I said. “Good,” she said. “Good. Does no good to pretend otherwise, like she does.” She nodded out the window to where Grace was making slow progress on her tiny patch of grass in the front yard. Together, we watched her move forward as her shoulders jerked up and down from the force of the lawn mower buzzing. Her sweater kept slipping off her shoulder, and she stopped every so often to push it back up before continuing. I watched her for so long I didn’t even notice when Mama left the kitchen. It started out just like any other night at first. We were at Jimmy’s. Kennedy, Lucy, Jimmy and Lulu were sprawled out on Jimmy’s deck chairs, half-watching some boys play a game of football, half-sleeping. The heat had become a dense cloud that clung to our clothes and clogged our throats, muting our words. A fan whirred beside us, spinning the same stale air around again and again. It was the kind of summer heat that was inescapable in its misery, impossible to ignore or outrun. There was nowhere to go. Inside, people were standing around in their usual formations in the kitchen, sipping on their beers and shuffling to the music. I watched them through the window. They flirted in the same tired, eternal dance. Eyes averted, dead laugh-

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ter. Probably discussing the same small collection of recycled topics from the night before, and the night before that, until they would inevitably leave to make out and grab each other in the backseat of a car. This was how it would be next summer, too, every summer from now on. Forever, even. “We should go somewhere,” I said suddenly, setting down my untouched cup and sitting up in my chair. “Get out of here and go somewhere new.” “Leave? We just got here,” Lucy said. “So? There’s nothing going on. We could drive down to the beach, go for a night swim,” I said. “Or we could drive up to Turtle Cove and stargaze in the mountains.” “I can’t drive us anywhere, I’ve had three drinks,” Kennedy said. “And I promised Ben I’d be his partner for beer pong later.” “Let’s walk somewhere, then,” I said. “Just start walking and see where we end up. Come on.” I stood up. Lucy looked around, waving her hand. “Where would we go? Everyone’s already here.” “So? We’ve been hanging out with ‘everyone’ all summer. We can do something on our own for a night. Come on, we’ll figure it out once we leave.” “I don’t want to leave, okay? Jesus,” Kennedy said. “Just sit down, relax and have a drink.” “We could play a game or something,” Jimmy offered. “I have board games inside.” “Oh my god, I don’t want to have a drink or play a stupid game,” I said. “I want to go somewhere, I want to do something.” Kennedy sat up in her chair, staring me down. “What is wrong with you? You’re acting insane and you’re being so rude to Jimmy right now. This is his party, you know.” Yards away, the boys had paused their football game, and the sudden silence amplified my words. “I’m sorry, Jimmy. I just can’t do this anymore,” I said, waving my hand in a jerky circle to encompass it all, the brown waters of the indoor pool and the people playing Wii Boxing in their socks in the living room like fifth graders at their first co-ed birthday party. The football game had now completely stopped behind me as the boys moved closer to listen. I continued, “It’s like we’re all trapped here. Don’t you want to do something different for even just one night?” “So, this isn’t enough for you, is what you’re saying,” Kennedy said. “We’re not enough for you anymore. One year at Cornell and suddenly you think you’re all refined and superior–” “Hey, that’s not fair–” “Just go,” Kennedy said. “If you want to leave so badly, then get out. Sorry we’re not worthy of your precious time.” I grabbed my purse, shoving my belongings inside at lightning speed. “Is anyone coming with me or not?”

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My friends stared at me in silence. Except for Kennedy, who had already turned away. I was dismissed. “Fine, then,” I said. “I’m going.” I started walking in a random direction after I left. I was shaking so hard I could barely see and my heart pounded in my ears. Somehow, I found myself in the woods, touching the trunks of trees to feel my way through the total darkness. My feet tripped over roots and branches, but I kept walking. It didn’t matter where I was going as long as I kept moving, away from Jimmy’s, away from everyone. I walked for so long that I came across the old pond where Dean Miller used to fish after school. I hadn’t been back here since the last time we ever came. The pond looked much smaller than I remembered, just a smooth black hole in the ground boxed in by trees. There wasn’t a single fish darting under the still surface now. I wondered if there had ever been fish in the pond, or if he had just been pretending that whole time. I sat on the rock that I used to sit on when I would watch him cast his line in his denim jacket, smoke from his cigarette spilling out of his lips like a secret. Those were the only times I ever saw him at peace, his shoulders relaxing at last as he laughed at one of my jokes and stared out at the water. The last time we came here was also the last time I spoke to him, which I obviously did not know at the time. How can anyone know a thing like that for certain? I asked him to meet me here after school one day. It was December of ninth grade, and we hadn’t been to the pond in months. He had stopped taking the bus home, had stopped going to school a lot of the time, and I had only spoken to him when we bumped into each other in our driveways or between classes. Meaningless how-are-yous, we-should-hang-out-soons, placeholders we’d never had to rely on in the past. I was waiting on my rock with my homework open on my lap when I saw him break through the opening in the trees. He hadn’t brought his fishing pole with him, or even a cigarette, and I suddenly felt stupid sitting there with my math textbook. I wished he hadn’t come at all. We talked for a few minutes about school and how our mamas were acting crazy because the big PTA walk-a-thon was coming up in a few weeks. He kept tapping his foot on the ground, looking behind him, and I had the intense fear that I might start crying. Then he said, “Look, Maybelline, I can’t stay long, I have some things I need to do.” It released something inside me. “Oh yeah, like what? Get high? Steal a car? Sorry to pull you away from your busy schedule of destroying your entire future.” Hurt flashed in his eyes, but only for a moment. “Screw you, Maybelline. Is that why you called me out here? So that you could tell me to my face that I’m

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a huge fuck-up, just like your mama predicted all along? Congratulations to you both.” “Just forget it, Dean. I thought we could go back to before, but I see that’s impossible–” “You’re such a child. You thought, what, you could snap your fingers and we would hold hands and dance around a campfire and be best buddies again? That’s not how life works. This is it, Maybelline, this is all you get,” he said, pointing at himself. “Deal with it.” I slammed my book shut and stood up. I said, “I don’t know why I ever even bothered with you.” It was over. We changed our hallway routes between classes so that our paths never had to cross. Over time, I stopped watching him from afar in class, at the swimming hole, or at Jimmy’s, and I stopped subconsciously tracking his movements around town until I was just as unaware as anyone else of the places he went, the things he did. It took longer for my heart to stop racing whenever I spotted a jean jacket in the grocery store or in a parking lot until I could see that it wasn’t him, just a stranger. But eventually I did stop, stopped all of it, until it was just like anything. Easy as breathing. August came. I quit taking shifts at the swimming hole, too busy packing for school. Kennedy and Lucy never reached out to me after that night I left Jimmy’s. I spent my remaining evenings at home watching ‘90s reruns on the couch while Mama did her paperwork for the PTA. On one of the last days of summer, I asked Grace if I could go up to Dean’s room. I said I wanted to have a look around, see if there were any final clues that they had missed as to whether or not the disappearance had been premeditated. The truth was I just wanted to take his denim jacket before I left. Grace let me up without any hesitation. I hadn’t been in his room since we were eight, when we had a sleepover because Mama went out of town and had nowhere else for me to stay. I slowly searched through his closet and all the dresser drawers. I pulled out every drawer from his desk and looked under the bed. After an hour, I had surveyed every inch of his room, but his jacket was gone. In the police report, Grace had made an official statement that Dean had gone to sleep around midnight the night before he disappeared. He’d been wearing boxers and a t-shirt, watching Criminal Minds, and had made no outward signs of distress or preoccupation. The last text he sent was at eleven twenty-six, to one of his friends who had asked to hang out later that week: sure wednesday sounds chill. Grace came to wake him up at seven forty-five the next morning for work, and that’s when she discovered he was gone. That night, it had been ninety-seven degrees outside, not cold enough to warrant wearing a jacket. There was no need for him to take it, unless he’d known he wasn’t going to come back. Sometime in the seven hours and forty-five minutes after the last time he was ever seen, he had known what was coming. I clung to this knowledge tightly, this small piece of

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evidence that he had made a choice, even though we would never know what had happened, or just where he had been trying to go. I went downstairs to tell Grace about the jacket. I told her that I was leaving soon for Cornell, that I wouldn’t be coming back for a while. I told her I was sorry that I didn’t know where he was, or why he had gone. Before I could turn to leave, Grace stopped me. Today, in the light of her kitchen, her eyes looked somehow clearer, a calm grey-blue. “Maybelline, it’s not your fault that you don’t know where my Dean has gone.” She touched my shoulder. “God is carrying him on his shoulders on his journey now. All we can do is pray for him.” I knew then what she was trying to tell me. What she had already accepted on her own terms: he was really gone. I didn’t go home right away after I left his house. Instead I walked up and down the deserted streets in the neighborhood until I found my way onto our old route to the pond. The world had fallen silent in the high noon heat, and I could hear each one of my breaths as I walked. I thought of places where Dean might be at this exact moment. I saw him speeding down a highway in a borrowed car, someplace sunny, maybe California or Arizona. The radio playing and the windows rolled down. There he was, speeding farther and farther away with every hour from the town that had raised him, had ruined him. Away from all the people who had wronged him, away from whatever it was that had caused him so much pain. Speeding towards something good. And I would hold him there in my mind, keep him locked in that scene, so that he might be at peace at last.

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HOLLOW Meg Matthias Miami University

Before I am born, a house-tree is planted in my backyard. When I think about age, I think about Methuselah: the oldest man in the Bible who lived nine hundred and sixty-nine years. I think this is a reasonable time for a person to live because no one I know has died yet, and I especially think my tree could’ve lived that long—it is bigger than me in my childhood and that is all I need to know. It could’ve survived the great flood of Genesis, probably, or at least escaped European settlers manifest-destiny-ing their way through wildlife. I want it to be so old it is able to protect itself, has learned, has fought its way into this time and place to live near me. The tree stands at the edge of my backyard where the grass gets longer and thicker and the land underneath slopes up, all systems on deck to sabotage any lawnmower who tries to climb past the green-and-yellow swing set where I learn all my flips and draw in hard dusty ground. The tree’s roots spread over the dividing line between the lot that belongs to us at 5262 Ivy Hill Drive, an address I made up a song to remember, and the wild untamed land behind us that is yet unowned. My street is the first in our neighborhood, and though more have filled in after us, we belong to what I think is the eastward edge: the row to the left of my car window as we turn in the normal way, backed up against a series of empty lots that seem like a forest. I am six or seven, but age doesn’t matter because I can walk over our property line without parental supervision and feel like maybe I will never see a road again, like I am the girl in Labyrinth or a grounded Wendy from Peter Pan. My favorite game is always running away: if I refuse to look in the direction of my house, I am living off the land. The pine needles I am collecting are for soup. The long grasses I am weaving together are baskets I am selling. I take my mom’s dead cell phone with me and pretend I am making important calls: “What? The queen is missing? I’m on my way.” The land behind us is a version of Narnia called the Dump. When my dad and I weed our two plotted flower beds and pile the thistles and dandelions into a wheelbarrow, we walk it through our backyard and into that otherworldly area to dump the contents at the bottom of a pine tree. My dad lets me ride back in the stomach of the wheelbarrow, my feet and hands staining with grass, and I fly back

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home in a womb underneath what in memory is always my favorite blue sky. One of my favorite indoor things to do these summers is to read the Fairy Realm books by Emily Rodda, a series about a girl named Jessie who moves in with her grandmother only to find an entrance to a magic world hidden in her new backyard. She says a magic word and a hedge splits open, sucking her into a friendly void. I pronounce realm as ree-alm, like it is a foreign name. I read a book about a magic charm bracelet, and a book about mermaids and wishing stones, and a book about a queen. Today I remember a political element, too, but I’m not sure if I dream it later—an attempted government-upset by a dangerous sphynx, or a journalist moving in next door and attempting to exploit the Fairy Realm for a cheap talk-show appearance. Do I remember Jessie being afraid she would drown when she was underwater? Or am I, years later, giving her my fear? At six or seven, the house-tree is my own nature portal. It spreads its branches across my yard and what lies beyond, but I do not care about the branches. What is important is its hollow. My best friend Abby and I set up camp near the tree’s base for days. We bring out picnic supplies and peanut butter sandwiches, pick long chives that grow there and chew them bitter and spit them out. We do not like to break for lunch. Abby is my best friend because she lives directly next to me, and my parents have not yet put up our fence. We promise each other that if a fence ever appears between us, we will have no qualms about launching ourselves over it. We both have excellent playsets with swings and monkey bars, so we are equals with homes that each make acceptable options for playtime, depending on snacks. My house, however, is the only one with the tree. We are sure it existed long before we ever did. Our houses were not yet plans when it was born; our parents were waking up in their parents’ homes; there was no such thing as my favorite Animal Planet show, The Kratt Brothers, which may not be real since nothing with the name appears with a Google search. I remember the two brothers hiking through wilderness and narrating the animals they saw; I thought the trips put them in real danger. On the internet, all that shows up are their programs for children. Kratt’s Creatures and Zoboomafoo and Be The Creature and the animated Wild Kratts. I remember only Zoboomafoo separately from the show that exists in my head. Animal Planet teaches me to be respectful of what I do not understand, so I never think about chopping the tree down to count its rings, like a kid in my Sunday school class once told me he wanted to do with a tree in the park. I assume any tree’s wide trunk knows more than I do. I remember my favorite show as something for adults, wild to match the mystery of the tree and the land beyond. I refuse to look for answers other than memory. At six or seven, all that matters is that Abby and I think our tree is very old. It is called house-tree because we both believe in the fairies that live in its hollow. There are either two or three fairies, depending on if you ask me or Abby. Abby

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thinks for sure there are two and plans a heteronormative love story based on the scattered leaves and things we find around the trunk. I am yet to be interested in romantic love—my Barbies are kidnapped by Ken and then murder him in elaborate rescue missions more often than not—and once find six little seed shells scattered just by the entrance to the hole. Together, these two facts clearly mean three fairies live in the tree and have split these seeds for their dinner. Two each. I don’t have siblings and neither does Abby, so I can imagine the fairies only as great friends. They never fight over who gets which seeds or who wants to play Mario Kart and who wants to play outside. To humans, of course, they are very ornery. Any scrape on my finger is from them—any grass left in my hair. When I wash Feet-Face-and-Hands instead of taking a full bath, the bottoms of my feet are grass-stained and green. A testimony to my dedication. I get a fairy house kit in my Easter basket, and Abby and I can barely wait until an Indiana spring settles in to set it up under the tree. A few show up on Amazon now, most sold with “fairy house, paint, glue, felt shapes, miniature accessories and two peg doll bodies to make their own tiny fairies.” I remember an outdoor kit instead: here is how you lure fairies into your backyard. Here is what they need to survive: a thimble for water; small pillows to sew together for beds; maybe a canopy woven in leaves if your neighborhood experiences frequent rain. Abby and I set up the kit by the base of the tree, careful not to disturb any moss or grass the fairies may already be using. We sew one large cushion-bed, so no matter how many fairies live here, they can share. In the Fairy Realm book The Third Wish, Jessie swims into a deep lake to find a wish-stone. Wish-stones are small and round and flat, perfect for skipping if not for the fact that any wish you think while holding them comes true. Earlier in the book, at her grandmother’s house, Jessie is careless with wishes. “I wish I was a fish,” she says. “It’s so hot outside, I wish I was a fish so I could live in the water forever.” I don’t remember how she breathes underwater—magic!—but it isn’t too hot in Fairy Realm and her wish doesn’t cross her mind except when she is taught how to be careful with wish-stones. She trains herself not to think in wishes. They are powerful, she is told, probably by her best friend (a miniature Pegasus). She doesn’t think, Oh! I could use this magic and live in the lake if I wanted. When I read it, I think, maybe with my fairies’ help I could stay underwater forever. I could drift in seaweed and calm. Abby’s mom is named Laurie, and I am so in awe of her it is probably an unrecognized crush. She is taller and less sharp-looking than my mom, and spreads the peanut butter on apple slices for us instead of making us do it ourselves. Her hair is the longest I’ve seen on any adult woman, any mother, and she wears long sleeveless dresses that show off the curve of her arms—usually covered with small scratches from Jasper, a black cat who hates everyone but Laurie and only

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scratches her on accident. If Abby or I are scratched by Jasper, it is decidedly on purpose. We think it is because when Abby was four (a baby, really) she used to pull his tail. Laurie is bringing us a snack on Abby’s back deck when she first sees something. She asks, “Meg, have you ever seen anything by that tree in the back of your yard?” I don’t know what I say, but I am probably thinking about how, finally! Fairies live in our tree and magic is revealed as real. Laurie disappears inside, and Abby and I whisper excitedly about the possibilities. Any desired outcome is a secret—it’s a fact well known to this day that adults are assholes about magic. I don’t know the word asshole yet, though Abby sometimes teaches me curse words that she picks up from her dad. I just know that when you tell adults about fairies, their mouths look like they’re laughing at you even when their words seem like they’re being serious. If we could tell Laurie our belief in the fairies, we would ask her everything. I in particular want to know what pastel color their hair is. Later that week, Laurie goes out to the hollow tree when it is dusk out and Abby and I have been sent inside for our baths. A feral and orange cat is living in it, and as she tries to reach out her arms, to save it, it lashes out at her. I’m not supposed to know about how scary it was, but I overhear her talking. In my next bath, I think about it: I was sinking my seaweed hair underwater while she confronted the danger that lived in my own backyard. In my dreams later, I see it jump at her face. Sometimes I selfishly wish her brush of danger had been mine. I think, like I think often: I would’ve done that differently. I would’ve been better. Maybe if it had been me, I could’ve protected the fairies. Or maybe if I had been me, the cat would’ve loved me. And then, look! A new pet! Laurie next appears in my life with a large bandage on her cheek, a small line on her eyelid swollen and pink. Abby and I are banned from the back of my yard, and the hollow tree and the dump beyond, in case the cat ate our fairies and now plans on giving us rabies for wanting to protect them. I don’t know if Animal Control is called, but I know that one day I stop worrying about the cat, so I now assume it was taken away. I hope it lived past that time—that Laurie loved cats enough to protect its life even if it didn’t grant her the same courtesy. With the house-tree taken away from us, Abby and I turn to other pastimes. We sling our stomachs over the chin-up bar and do flips backwards and forwards. Our feet hitting the ground clear a patch of dirt that flies up in a patch of dust every time we fall. We act out violent Bible stories, me as David and Abby as Goliath and then vice versa, taking turns being stunned by a slingshot-rock and having our head chopped off. David’s five smooth stones become wish-stones in my mind, and praying is like that—like wishing I was a fish. 11:11 counts as a prayer. An eyelash blown off my finger does, too. Abby shows me computer games like Webkinz and ToonTown and a fairy

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game on Disneychannel.com that’s released after the premier of the first Tinker Bell movie, which features Lucy Liu and America Ferrera. We run through the Wildflowers, which is what we call a Do Not Mow park a few blocks from our houses. Something magical lives there, sure. Maybe an entrance to another fairy realm. But we are never able to find out what, and we never expect to. These new magics do not belong to us. In a month or so, we forget to miss our tree. My dad still carries me in the wheelbarrow back from the Dump, but he makes me stay close on the way there. The sky grays into fall, and soon it is winter, and soon it is another year. Abby and I go to different schools, and ours is maybe becoming a summer best-friendship. The next summer, construction sets up behind our row of vinyl-sided houses. A new neighborhood is being built: Delaware Trace, where there will be manmade lakes and biking trails and homes with two contrasting colors of brick. On Nextdoor.com/neighborhood, the interests of Delaware Trace residents are “volunteering” and “yoga” and “tennis” and “church.” In my neighborhood, Abby and I use up our three guest passes to a driving-distance membership-only nearby pool in the first month of summer. A fence is erected in our backyards between us and the dump, which is being quickly transformed into a seminal neighborhood of Carmel, Indiana. The fence is taller than either of our dads and leaves no room between boards to squeeze through and runs too low to the ground for our bodies to scoot under. A board is nailed into place on either side of the house-tree, splitting it in half hot-dog style. From all it has maybe lived to protect itself from, it cannot stay unharmed through this. The fairies flee from the construction that blocks the entrance to their homes. Abby and I miss them, and the fence stops us from picking up a new habit of watching construction. Delaware Trace has fallen out of fashion now, and my family no longer lives behind it. The best neighborhoods are in West Carmel these days, closer to the new IKEA and farther from any undeveloped land. I hear that some of them have Starbucks and Panera franchises inside their neighborhood bounds, just so they never have to leave their brick-lined streets. To me, though, these 2015-built million-dollar homes will never be more exclusive than the mid-range houses behind us that left my backyard with access to only half a tree. I am eleven or twelve and my hair is a darker brown and my family is looking at homes in other neighborhoods. I start watching HGTV instead of Animal Planet, and I can say with certainty today that the House Hunters episodes I love are real. Abby is using her height to play basketball and I am trying to shrink mine down so my nervousness doesn’t get me noticed, and I read all fifty-six Nancy Drew Mysteries in my bedroom, the sun shining in filtered by cool window panes. There

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is no more land to explore, though once I ask, “Why aren’t there any mysteries around here?” I try, but they are uncreatable. As I read about The Third Wish now, in college, I see something I have forgotten. Jessie is not seeking the wish-stone to save the Fairy Realm from imminent danger, though this is the third book in the series so she has saved it twice already. Forest fires plague her real hometown, which is hot but beautiful and so is probably located in California or Arizona. If Jessie does not end the spread of a natural disaster with a wish-stone, the home she lives in with her grandmother may be lost in a real and unmagical way. I read the online summary and think about my home changing in a way that is outside of my control. I think about my home changing in a way that is so predictable that I barely notice it happening at all. I think about leaving the heat and fear that lives in the home of my body to wish I was a fish. At six or seven, I don’t think that the interruption of Delaware Trace has stolen the magic of the house-tree or of our fairies or of the Dump. There is no universe I can imagine where project managers in khaki pants say things like, “Did you know, I think we can use some of this magic that’s out here!” There is also not a world where they might realize something new about the land they are standing on and care. The magic does not belong to someone else now that Abby and I are herded into different classrooms and we forget to wonder about fairies and a fence is unquestionable behind our houses. It chose to reveal itself to us, and the minute we can’t see it anymore, it is destroyed. Jessie saves her hometown and befriends the sea-witch who lives at the bottom of the lake. She is not evil but deeply misunderstood and is probably trapped by misconceptions of her character because of a foolish wish on a wishstone. I do not remember now, not for sure, but it feels like something that should be real. A Goodreads review says that she is “not exactly what Jessie expects.” In Fairy Realm, it is unexpected that magic should have consequences. Goodreads.com user Stef Rozitis rates The Third Wish three stars out of five. “I would get this for a little girl,” she writes. “It avoids most of the pitfalls of littlegirl chapter books and is something fresher.” I move away from Ivy Hill Drive without saying goodbye to Abby, not because we don’t like each other anymore but because we have, in the tone of adults who are being assholes, “grown apart.” I hear a few years later that she’s a starting basketball player on one of the best high school teams in our area, and that she’s cut her hair short and dyed it pink. I look her up on Instagram with every variation of her name that I can think of, but she has disappeared. I work with a girl the summer after my freshman year in college who has the same name as she does, first and last, and every shift I wonder if it’s her and we’ve just been apart so long that we can’t recognize each other. Or maybe, like The Kratt Brothers and a revolution in the Fairy Realm, I’ve made the Abby I remember up.

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C OWHEADS E.R. Vanett

Indiana University South Bend

The land slept on and on... on top of cattle spines and the place where the woman put her miscarriage to sleep. The cattle were in the land... they were buried. And the man who owned the land planted wheat on top of it. Only his wheat withered before the thresh of the season; his children ran out and played on the land that slept. The land that slept on top of cattle spines is where the wheat feeds off the dead. The children played in the field made on top of cowheads: cowskulls smiling in the yellow dust, looking up at the children who played on top of them: maybe they sang to them? This yellow earth. The yellow cowheads: humming together: we hold the children.

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GREETING Grace Downey

Indiana University South Bend

Perhaps it’s pertinent to bring up my Catholic second cousin leaning over to ask if I want to hear a bad word. Or maybe the ghost of the Grand Kankakee Marsh whispering that I must revive it. No—my grandpa gently lifting up detritus to reveal speckled yellow salamanders to an entranced four-year-old me. The chrysalis I find unattached at the golf course then keep in a clear plastic box until the monarch’s wings come unstuck. My father sinking into the torrentine river every spring to pull up bodies that have no names or faces, only rusty license plates. * Instead I will tell him how my aunt never believes me when I say that bats don’t really fly into your hair. How she calls me every so often to expunge them from her attic, but I’m never thorough. I always leave the cracks in place, so they have some way to get back in.

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5 A.M. ALARMS AND DIRTY BOOTS Harley Taff

Pacific University

I climb into my “clean” overalls that will always smell like milk no matter how many times I wash them. The Gator roars to life and She’s So Fine gives me a morning moo and I stop to pet the beautiful beast. I load the trunk with buckets of grain and drive to the super hutches. By the time I come back, the milk truck is parked and it is time to move the heifers inside. The Mennonite family down the road is holding a funeral. The father was backing up the tractor; his 4-year-old boy was backing up his. The bucket of the tractor fell with an echoing crunch, hitting everything but the boy’s hand which still held his little, yellow tractor. The gray of the funeral falls on our farm like a blanket of snow. We are the cows today, plodding through the

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afternoon chores. 5 a.m. alarms and dirty boots. I climb into my dirty overalls while mom feeds Eli a warm bottle of formula before feeding the calves. Sometimes Eli rides on the back of dad strapped in tight. Sometimes Nate stays in the yard, out of harm’s way. Most days, Nate and Eli dig holes in the dirt or run in their rubber boots around the property. The Gator roars to life and I back up with care because I don’t want to hit anything, even the boys’ little yellow tractors.

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DISAPPEARANCE IN A MID-SIZED TOWN Daven McQueen Brown University

The truth is, no one really gave a shit about Leroy Samuelson until he disappeared. He wasn’t particularly interesting—he had lived in the same house all his life, gone to school with the same kids for thirteen years, graduated and taken a job at a diner in the center of his mid-sized town. He’d been working there for six years, sleeping in his childhood room, and kind of seeing a girl from his high school class when one day, without warning, he was gone. And while Leroy Samuelson wasn’t particularly interesting, his town was the kind of place people rarely leave, much less vanish from. But vanish Leroy did, on a warm night in mid-April sometime between the end of his shift at the diner and the beginning of the Angels game. We know this because his mother had cooked his favorite meal in anticipation (Kraft mac and cheese with ketchup and a hardboiled egg) and set it out on the coffee table at 7:55. She turned on the TV at 8:00. When he wasn’t home for the first pitch nine minutes later, she got the police on the phone. Drastic, one might say. Dramatic. And they used those words when they found out, the neighbors and the grade school teachers and the shopkeepers and the coworkers. They said she was overreacting. But if nothing else, Amalia Samuelson knew her son, and she knew he would never miss an Angels game. It became clear in the coming days, when Leroy missed two shifts and a date with his kind-of girlfriend Emily, that his mother had been correct. And as the police combed the streets and missing person ads were run in the daily paper, Leroy Samuelson’s mid-sized hometown was turned upside down. And the truth is, most people hadn’t thought about Leroy Samuelson in a long time. There was always a nod of recognition when they saw him on shift at the diner or wandering the aisles of the supermarket, but there was never any serious consideration of his character. This all changed when they turned on the local news one night and newscaster Jennifer Ellis, who grew up around the corner from Leroy, appeared on screen to announce his disappearance. Her simple statement (“Local resident Leroy Samuelson has been reported missing. Any information regarding his whereabouts should be reported to the police.”) seemed to trigger a collective refresh of the town’s memories. Everyone, it seemed, had something to say. “Leroy was such a good guy,” former classmate Abby Sullivan told a friend over

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coffee at the local Starbucks. She had spoken to Leroy exactly once, when he’d handed her back a dropped pencil in freshman year biology. But her eyes filled with tears as she sipped her cappuccino and tried to recall the sound of his voice. “Hey buddy, hope you’re okay!” began a post on Leroy’s Facebook wall from a neighbor named Chris Gillan. Chris was a former linebacker a few years older than Leroy, and in fact he had stolen Leroy’s cafeteria lunch on more than one occasion. But this was all forgotten as Chris poured his heart into a sixty-character social media message. “We’re worried about you back here! Come home!” “Leroy was my first kiss, you know,” Sarah Graham confided to her sister, referring to an incident in third grade PE when she and Leroy dove for the ball at the same time and ended up smashing their faces together. This collision had knocked out the last of Sarah’s baby teeth and broken Leroy’s nose, but only the most romantic details survived the test of memory. Other reflections on Leroy came from his boss at the diner, who described Leroy as a “dedicated worker” even though he had nearly been fired twice. There was a loving Instagram photo and lengthy caption from kind-of girlfriend Emily, declaring her love and worry and asking for Leroy to be kept in everyone’s thoughts and prayers. The only one with nothing to say, it seemed, was Amalia Samuelson. Interview requests from the press were met with slammed doors; casseroles delivered by the neighbors were left on the porch to rot; a call from Emily was reportedly answered with a curt “Who are you?” It went on this way for weeks, with everyone who had ever even seen Leroy remembering the person they thought he was. It became unclear whether they thought him to be missing or dead. After two months, the police stopped looking. After three the candles and flowers began to appear on the sidewalk outside of Leroy’s home. Four and Emily started dating Chris the former linebacker. Five and his mother started getting her groceries delivered. Everyone forgot her face. And then, six months after he disappeared, in a mid-sized town two counties over, in a diner much like the one where he had been employed, Leroy Samuelson was found watching the first Angels game of the season with a bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese, ketchup, and a hardboiled egg. The waiter who called the police said Leroy had been coming in for weeks, but it had taken a while to recognize him from the pictures on the news. “He looks just like a guy I knew in high school,” the waiter said with a shrug. The next day, Leroy came back. But despite the fanfare surrounding his disappearance, the streets were silent when he passed through the city limits. Abby Sullivan realized that she had forgotten not just Leroy’s voice, but also his face. Sarah Graham examined the box of baby teeth on her nightstand, lost all at once in the third grade. The owner of the diner where Leroy worked penciled him in for the next morning’s shift. Emily abruptly dumped former linebacker Chris (who suddenly remembered why he’d hated Leroy all those years ago) and made reservations

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at a restaurant she and Leroy used to kind of enjoy. No one could really remember why they’d remembered Leroy Samuelson at all. The last interest in Leroy’s disappearance and return came from newscaster Jennifer Ellis, who was parked outside Leroy’s childhood home at 8:00 the evening he arrived. She asked him why he’d left and he stood for a moment on the porch, swaying, his face vaguely troubled. Finally, and slowly, he said, “I’m sorry, I guess I don’t know. I didn’t really realize I was gone.” Then he stepped inside and closed the door. His mother was at the store buying Kraft Mac and Cheese and there was another Angels game on tonight. First pitch was in seven minutes. He couldn’t miss it.

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THE 7 WAYS OF LOOKING AT DEMENTIA Jane Thomas

The University of Oxford

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1.

blindly in denial

2.

straight in the eye – speaking calmly using only short simple sentences

3.

as a list maker: - sit down for socks - don’t pay the milkman - press green button after number - eat Magnums - rations? Ask.

4.

through the bottom of your brandy glass

5.

like a puppeteer doing an end of season run on a Victorian pier

6.

as a wake. a living decade under vigilant watch

7.

as the shuffle of a solo chain gang.

you get bigger in the pane the mottled father figure defrosting in the light to wriggle with your keys like a fire juggler in lesson one you do not ask who I am in addition, the chain is not on.

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L8 NITE TLK Meg Matthias

Miami University of Ohio

today is twenty-three degrees celsius & mary arden tends her sheep says thanks to the girls doing the washing at the river holds her stomach with one hand

HI, GUYS! SORRY I HAVEN’T POSTED IN A WHILE TODAY WE WENT TO BRIGHTON BEACH

mary arden hangs out in the garden but refuses to weed it. she is a ghost & ghosts don’t have to do work & ghosts should be allowed to be visible or invisible whenever they want, these are her personal rules for her house and tourists must follow them. tourists care more about the great-great-great-great grandchild of her favorite goat, the one who never kicked her when she milked it, than about seeing her apron flap in the wind out of the corner of their eye. there is no respect for seeing the dead anymore. even when mary says Fuck they don’t listen, even when she gives it feeling like she’s actually saying Listen to me, you assholes, my son isn’t the most important thing about me, like saying picture linen dress folded up underneath scabbed feet, trying to find a poem drunk like unsure what one week ago felt like in your body, like did ribcage feel buzzed savethebees rubbing against bone, touring Shakespeare Birthplace Trust™ events with pangs in teeth, chest,

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tremulous voice critiquing mind-self for ‘tremulous’ wince out loud ask Hey siri am i having a panic attack a mary arden impersonator says to mary arden, This kid ran into my skirt popsicle-first, and mary arden says back, Is it one of the rosé ones because shit mary arden is a trademarked name now & she’s proud she’s so down to earth mary arden tends her sheep murmurs Hi guys sorry i haven’t posted in a while i went to Brighton today i didn’t sleep

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MICHELLE ON TAPE Cheung Shun Kit Anderson Hong Kong Shue Yan University

As I pulled into my parents’ driveway, I realized how loud the radio was. I turned it down, peeled my legs off the blue vinyl seat, and lugged my pile of laundry up to the front door. The doorknob wouldn’t turn, and I still hadn’t gotten around to making myself a duplicate key. I rang the bell and waited. Nothing. Leaving my basket of dirty clothes on the steps, I tramped through the bushes in front of the living room window. Pep was across the room, sitting in his usual chair and reading the paper. He was a familiar sight in his plaid flannel shirt, striped clip-on bow tie, and tweed cabby hat. I knocked on the window. He turned around, startled, and focused his eyes on me. I smiled and waved at him, but he just stared at me. I gestured toward the front door. His face had that hollow look, but something made him get up and let me in. “Hi, Pep.” I kissed him on the cheek. He made way for me and my laundry. “Hello, how are you?” I headed for the washing machine. Pep trailed closely behind. “Kevin and Clare aren’t home, but they should be here soon. Do you want to wait for them?” “Yeah, I’ll be here.” I began separating whites from darks. “Do you want anything to eat? There’s meat and bread in the ice box and some cookies in there.” “No, thanks.” “I don’t know where Kevin and Clare are. They took Katie out somewhere. Do you know Katie?” I paused. Here we go. This was going to be one of those conversations. I should just say, “Why, yes, I know Katie,” but perhaps if I venture a bit further, something might jog his memory and we wouldn’t have to go through the whole routine. Dad says that Pep has a tape recorder in his brain, and bits and pieces keep getting erased. I decided to give it a shot. “Pep, Katie is my sister.” It didn’t work. Pep responded as though I hadn’t said a word. “Yeah. Well, they went down to . . .” He doubled his chin and scratched his chest with both hands. “You know, down…” “To the Donnellys’?”

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“Yeah, that’s it. What did you say?” I repeated, “Donnellys’,” loud and clear. It was usually best to speak with as few words as possible. The name “Donnelly” had a vague significance in Pep’s mind, but he had no idea that the Donnellys were my mother’s sister and her family. “Yes, that’s right, they went to the Donnellys’. How did you know? What did you say your name was?” “Michelle.” He smiled politely. “Oh, are you a friend of Clare’s?” “Pep! I’m her daughter.” “Yeah, well, I just want to tell Kevin and Clare who was here, in case you leave before they get back.” “I’m home for the weekend. I’m not going anywhere.” “Okay,” he said, with an offended tone that left me feeling guilty. He turned around and headed for his chair. He truly did not know who I was. He had let a perfect stranger into our house to wash clothes. When I was a child, Pep would spend hours with me, patiently teaching me all fifty states and their capitals. When I had those down, we moved on to state flowers, birds, and slogans. He would read me his poetry and tell me never-ending bedtime stories about giants and fairies and magical castles. We would sit in front of the Christmas tree and try to guess which ornament the other was thinking of. On this day, though, I had more important things on my mind. Whites. Darks. Delicates. Pep returned a few minutes later with a pen and his notebook. “Here, write down your name so I can tell Kevin and Clare you were here.” The prospect scared me. I was hoping he would realize who I was after a while and forget that he had forgotten me. But this was putting everything on the line. What if he saw my name and still couldn’t recognize me? As he eagerly offered me the pen and paper, I couldn’t say no. I wrote M-i-c-h-e-l-l-e in his notebook and gave it back to him. He looked at it for a few seconds and then wrinkled his eyebrows and bit his lip. He looked at me with a hint of disbelief. “Michelle.” He said it with the expression of a disappointed but amused parent. The name seemed to hang in space. I imagined what would come next. He might say, “You’re not Michelle,” or, “Who in the world is Michelle?” But he said, “All this time you were Michelle?” “Yes.” That giant lump shot into my throat and tears crept into my eyes. “Well, thank God for you.” I smiled. He patted me on the shoulder and walked away, shaking his head and chuckling. I was relieved. I did still exist in his mind, on his tape. But I was only a part-time visitor now, and I couldn’t help wondering how long it would be before I was permanently erased.

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TRANQUILITY Naomi Tornow Bradley University

The deer fell sometime between. He died heading west and rests on his left side: an open eye towards the fleeting springtime, a livid body purpling against the clay. When the possum is hit, she crawls to the side of the road. Not to avoid being hit again, but because her body knows it wants to dissolve in the grass. A whale drowned by bored orcas may take months to disturb the ocean floor. Bizarre, that sinking. The weight of salt a mile deep is a strangeness I can’t envy. A nurse log in an otherworldly jungle crushed two children during a war. A bright cypress has taken to the fallen giant; it curls its roots around where their bones used to be. Calcium is calcium.

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HAIKU Maya Day

Colorado College

Dead cat on the road. The tag on its collar says This cat is okay.

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THIS IS WHAT COMES AFTER Francesca Halikias DePaul University

He didn’t call. It wasn’t like I was expecting him to. But still, he didn’t call. I had even set aside fifteen packs of Mike & Ikes and seven packs of Twizzlers for him in the following days and weeks after he didn’t call. I had thought that maybe he would still show up. That maybe I would see his tall figure from across the room, standing on the wine-colored carpeting with one hand in the pocket of his jeans and the other thrusting a wad of cash at the ticket taker, saying, “No, really, keep the change.” The first time he came into the movie theater was eight months ago. I had thought he was colorblind at first. I mean, who wouldn’t think that when you see someone wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt, a red baseball cap, and blue light wash jeans all at once? “Give me all of the Mike & Ikes and all of the Twizzlers you have back there,” he had said to me as I stood behind the concession counter. I remember how I had given him a weird look. A look that had my face all pinched up and my lips pursed. My mom always hates whenever I use that look on her. But all he had done was replicate that look and stare back at me, his dark green eyes narrowing and several blonde curls popping out of his cap in the process. “Why would you want…” I had started to count each bag of candy, “fifteen packs of Mike & Ikes and seven packs of Twizzlers? How many movies are you seeing?” He had shrugged, a movement so exaggerated on his lanky frame that it seemed to make his whole body go up and then back down. “Who knows? Could be one, could be four. I have to be prepared either way.” “Oh,” I had said back, “so you’re going to movie hop, huh? I should call security on you.” His smile was crooked. “But you won’t.” I didn’t. “You know it wasn’t your fault, Marie. Correct? You do know that, don’t you?” I face the balding man sitting on the brown couch across from me and pull the neck of my white turtleneck up over my mouth. It makes the lower half of

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my face feel hot and sticky every time I breathe. White. Such a pure color. Why did I choose to wear this sweater? “Yes, I know. I know.” 4:09 am. Why was he awake? “Isaac, it’s late. Why aren’t you asleep?” My bedroom window was open, and freezing wind rushed into the room. I had purposely opened it about thirty minutes before. The cold prevented me from falling asleep on the phone with him. “I don’t need sleep, Mar. Come on, let’s go see a movie. You still have the key to the snack counter, right?” “The movie theater is closed. You do know that, don’t you?” It was the second week he had called me in the early hours of the morning, sounding as if he could run a hundred marathons and still not be tired at all. A pause. “Yes, I know. I know.” “So,” I said, cocking my hip to the side, “you’ve come to this theater, to this concession stand, every single day for the past week and you still haven’t even told me your name.” The crooked smile again. “Isaac Prestlin.” “Well, Isaac Prestlin, will it be your usual candy choices?” I smiled back. The back of the car had given me a bruise on my thigh, large and violet, but I refused to look at it the whole night and the days after. In fact, I still refuse to look at anything that reminds me of that night. I have made my eyes blind to cop cars, to thick brown ropes, even to the moon. There had been an unforgiving crescent in the sky when the police finally pulled up next to his house. It was looming over everything like an ominous presence, though there had barely been any light coming from it at all. “This is your fourth session, Marie, and I’m afraid that you still think that your friend’s suicide is your fault.” Friend. The word leaves an acrid taste in my mouth. But I guess he’s right. To all of his friends, to all of his family, to this stupid grief counselor that I didn’t even ask to see, we were friends. And yet, “It is my fault, though. You see: he didn’t call.” “Did anyone call on the phones in the offices?” I asked my boss at the movie theater. “My phone died.” “No,” she said. “Were you expecting someone to? And by the way, can you put those packs of candy back in the bins? I don’t know why they’re out.” “Sure thing,” I painted a grin across my mouth and slowly set each bag of Mike & Ikes and Twizzlers back. All twenty-two of them.

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10:22 pm. Have you ever felt as if your stomach was sinking? And you didn’t know why suddenly you felt as if you couldn’t breathe, but just that feeling that something was terribly wrong? All I remember is 911 being dialed on an outdated landline with my own fingers and then I was riding in the back of a police car. I remember watching through the slits in the separation window as two police officers drove me to an address I had memorized from the very first time Iwent there eight months ago. 11:09 pm. I never want to see a rope again. I also made sure that the first thing I did when I got home was to rip my fan from my bedroom ceiling. It didn’t matter that it was August and scorching. His body would now be permanently cold. So mine will have to have enough heat for the both of us, I thought. It didn’t matter that my mom was going to kill me for the hole I made. “You didn’t go to the funeral,” My counselor says. “No, I didn’t.” “Why?” I open my mouth, then close it. You see, when the final picture you’re left with of the boy you used to love is him swinging in the air with his neck broken, and his eyes popping out of his head, and his skin a dark blue color, you run. And you run and run until the image is finally gone. And the funeral? The funeral would have made everything so much worse. Instead I say, “I don’t know.” “Would you like to go on a date with me?” Isaac asked me one rainy day at the movie theater. He put his hands on the concession counter and leaned in close, close enough that I noticed a tiny section of brown in his left eye. It was towards the bottom of the eye. It was cute. “Okay,” I had said. “What do you want to do?” “See a movie?” I swatted his arm, “I hope you’re joking.” Truthfully, I wouldn’t have minded seeing another movie in the same theater where I worked everyday after school. I wouldn’t have minded staying there all night, if Isaac was there too. He’d been coming to the theater at least twice a week for the past month, and I’d grown attached to him. I wonder now, if I had known all that was to come, would I have said yes? “You quit your job?” My mother had screamed at me a week after Isaac died. “We need that money!” How was I supposed to work there? I had tried for a week. And I couldn’t do it. Not when all I saw in the yellow lights was Isaac’s blonde hair. Not when all I heard in the movie posters was his voice saying how, this movie was pretty good, and, I know you, Marie, and you would hate this movie. Not when all that filled my head was the

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click click of an outdated phone line and a blue-faced boy swinging from a rope. “I think I might be—” “Don’t say it,” he said to me as we lied in the back of his car with blankets and pillows and, of course, Twizzlers and Mike & Ikes. In love with you. “Why can’t I say it?” I asked him. I was confused. And hurt. “We’ve been seeing each other for six months.” “Just—don’t say it. Not yet. Please.” His eyes found mine in the dark. They didn’t look away until I answered. “Okay.” I ripped the blankets off and stepped out of the car. “Where are you going?” He opened the door. “Home.” “Why?” “I need some time alone.” “Let me at least drive you back, then.” “No.” I was mad, my nostrils were flaring and my chest had tightened. Why didn’t he want me to say it? Didn’t he love me back? “Okay.” “Don’t call me.” “Okay.” He didn’t call me for two months. And I was too stubborn to call him first. Still, every day I put aside fifteen packs of Mike & Ikes and seven packs of Twizzlers in case he ever showed up. “It’s okay to be angry at him,” the bald man says again. But I’m not angry. I wish I were. It would be easier. But I’m not. All I am is sad. Sadness is something I have underestimated. It can dig at your life and flip you over. It can bury you in dirt and have you gasping for air, at the same time making sure that no one can hear your screams. I have been sad for the past two months. “I know.” “Are you sure?” the bald man says. I should probably start referring to him as a doctor, but seeing a doctor implies that some part of you is sick. I don’t want to be sick. Isaac was sick. I didn’t know. “Yes,” I say. He hadn’t come to the theater for a week and a half now. I called him on all of my breaks, and finally, after the third time, he picked up. “I’m sorry, Marie, I just don’t feel well. Can we do a rain check on our date?” “Sure,” I said. He did sound under the weather. And we did have a first and second date already, so he had to like me, right? Or else we wouldn’t have even gone on a second date. We ended up painting pottery for our first date, and seeing

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a comedy show for our second. Those were good dates, right? I thought we’d had fun. He wouldn’t be blowing me off, right? A week after I had called him and he eventually answered, he finally came in. He looked skinnier than normal, even in his bright sweatshirt, and his eyes seemed to droop down. “Are you okay?” I asked. “Never better,” he grinned. And I believed him. “Accept that Isaac is gone, okay?” My older sister tells me on the phone. She is married with two kids and a firefighter husband. “I know he is.” It’s been four months since he died. I know he’s gone. That doesn’t mean I I can move on yet. “Are you coming to our house for Christmas?” “Yes,” I say. “Are you excited to see your nephews?” “Yes.’ “What gift should I give you?” “Nothing.” There’s a pause on the line, followed by a heavy sigh. “Are you still going to therapy?” “Yes,” I say. “Is it helping?” “Yes,” I say. “Then why are you still acting like this?” I hang up the phone.

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CRUMB Emily Paquette-Leahy Arizona State University

This crumb is your lifeline. A broken piece of whole, but more. A whole This crumb is an onion entity of its own, skin staining linoleum I want you to taste this too. floor. crumb to feel its teeth, its crunch, its wet belly. The crumb packed his bags, This crumb caught itself left a mess on the floor, under your foot and made thought about finding the The crumb is hot in your itself a home. right words to leave mouth, salty and bitter, behind. Instead he left unwhole. a crumb. This crumb never married, never wanted much, The crumb is the thing much to her mother’s you wished you could tell The crumb pretends to be chagrin. your mother last night something it’s not, but didn’t. pretends to be something sweet and mild. She collected herself, a pillar of crumbs turned The crumb is stuck in your back and: is a grain of salt mouth again, gaining in the same as a crumb? size, making itself known. The crumb is always home, and also not.

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WHOLE McKenna Christian University of San Diego

Inspired by Roberto Bolaño’s BEACH It was four months after I had stopped eating when I woke up oily and tired, a teenager type of tired, maybe a starving type of tired, and put on my rollerblades, the kind with the different patches of leather and the little rubber stopper on the toe, the kind you see in the Hollywood movies, the kind of movies with movie stars that don’t eat, so it all made sense as the bottoms of my feet rode on the four wheels to the pier where I sat down on one of the wooden stairs leading to the pier that took you out to the lake, a murky lake, with carp and snapping turtles laying dormant in the mud, a lake that was in the bigger city thirty minutes away and not just the suburbs in the outskirts where I lived. So my wheels took me to the bigger city but my feet with galaxy-blue painted toenails are what took me to the pier’s step which was permanently dampened from years of the lake lapping at the oak and licked with mossy algae and the teetering step could’ve broken but I still sat down to try and cool the burning in my sternum and the prickling of my forehead and deal with my irritating hair, curling at my temples and at the nape of my neck and even forty-five minutes of straightening it couldn’t stop the curls from rejoicing in a little sweat, as punishment. I whisked my wispy blonde hair into a high ponytail and squinted at my thighs, pale freckled hot-dogs without a bun, it made me miss the Oscar Mayer hot dogs that had cheese inside them, the ones my dad would put into my elementary school lunches in a Zip-lock baggies when we were in desperate need of a grocery run, I missed them and I missed lunch so I promised myself a plain rice cake when I got home, a rice cake for being good and sticking to routine, this routine of visiting the lake every day during the summer by necessity to feel whole because all my friends live by L.A. in three-story houses with pools and king-sized beds and huge doubledecker fridges filled with the expensive shit from Whole Foods, pomegranate seeds and edamame, all individually packaged in pretty crisp plastic, and I wish I could make it to the city or make it in the city but I’m not pretty enough, not pretty enough yet. And the prettiness I want is so gummy that it could scab over open wounds and catch flies like boxed custard left to set, so I just roller blade to the pier about thirty minutes away and pretend I’m in Santa Monica, the city that the rappers on the radio mention, where I could watch the street performers trying to

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make it like I’m gonna make it, like that woman down the pier with long brown curls and half of her head shaved with dark kohl eyeliner and lips plump with purple-fruit lipstick and beads in her hair and around her neck and from her wrists to her elbows are bangles of all colors. I bet she got called pretty in high school, probably before she got hip and weird, but afterwards I bet she got called hot, but by a different type of person, that person would probably crave her voice, how it was raspy and how when she sang, she sang with her eyes closed, lips barely parted but the words floating around her are still clear and crisp as Whole Foods’ plastic, and she was expensive right then and there, not something I’d spend money on but I’m sure someone would, I’m sure someone had before. I’d seen her before because every day I went, she was there with her jewelry and closed eyes and clear words and was lusted after by the kind of men my mom told me sold cannabis at those green-cross corner shops and still lived in their mom’s basement with cheap tapestries wrapping their dank asbestosridden walls. Men with a hunger that was easily matched, easily surmountable by a hunger that was more than a ravished stomach and a burned esophagus, a hunger for the whole. Isn’t that what I have been fighting for, four months in an attempt to be whole, and yet these men are attempting to grasp wholeness in the whole of this beaded woman with the raspy voice.

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E G GS Mary MacLeod

Virginia Commonwealth University

Sadie was barefoot. A summer of running around on the black asphalt cul-de-sac in front of her house had armored her feet with calluses. Along with the t-shirt that her grandparents had gotten her from the Grand Canyon, she wore skinned knees, red cheeks, and a layer of baby fat. The eight year old was standing at the base of her driveway with a sign that read, “BABY FOR SALE!!! 20$” Each exclamation point was written in a different color marker for flare. Sadie didn’t notice the expression of horror on Mrs. Marshall’s face as she crawled by in her 1999 Honda Odyssey. Sadie desperately wanted a baby. A real baby. Her parents had tried to curtail this desire by purchasing an overpriced doll, which Sadie was initially reluctant to accept but eventually adopted. She named the doll Anne. Anne came with a small wooden cradle, and every night Sadie would carefully swaddle her and put her to bed. But after a few weeks it became clear to Sadie that Anne was both too realistic and not realistic enough. Sadie could feel Anne’s unblinking eyes follow her as she tried to sleep, and her cold plastic head lacked the milky sweet smell that Gabe’s had. As a result, Anne was relegated to the depths of Sadie’s closet, and soon after became the sole item for sale at her front yard auction. The August sun was beating down on Sadie, but she didn’t mind all that much. She avoided going inside. Up until July her biggest worry had been avoiding the pebbles that somehow always found a home in her heel, but now she had to press her ear against doors and enter rooms cautiously, acutely aware that she was out of place in her own family. For the past month her house had been turned into a museum of grief, and the entry price was apparently a frozen lasagna. After a few hours Sadie noticed the streetlamps come to life, which meant her father would be back from work soon. He would be furious if he found out she was pawning Anne off, so reluctantly she packed up shop and headed inside. As she entered her house she was greeted by a blast of AC and dead silence. Her mother was home, but she was there and not there. She usually spent the day asleep. The nights too.

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Sadie’s mom was a kindergarten teacher at the same elementary school that she attended, which made summer breaks all the more sacred. During previous summers she and Sadie spent hours in their backyard pulling weeds and planting seeds, which usually devolved into a day at the “waterpark,” courtesy of the garden hose and her mother’s good aim. But this summer was coming to an end, despite the lack of waterparks. Sadie was to start school soon, and was told by her father not to expect to see her mother in the hallways this year. On the first day of school her new teacher, Ms. Evans, assigned her a seat next to Eli Smith. Sadie sat down and studied her new neighbor. Eli had eyes too big for his face and an uneven buzz cut that his mother had given him in an attempt to combat the heat. He breathed through his mouth and still gripped his pencil with his entire fist. Eli looked at Sadie for a while, then finally said, “Sorry about Sid.” “Who’s Sid?” Sadie asked, but there was a familiarity with the word. Eli’s big eyes got even bigger, and his face turned scarlet. “Oh, um, you know... your baby brother?” “My brother’s name was Gabe.” Now it was Sadie’s turn to feel embarrassed. “Oh, really?” Eli murmured, perplexed. “I just heard my mom talking on the phone about it. She said something about a baby named Sid, I thought. Sorry.” “His name was Gabe,” Sadie repeated, and then quickly turned her attention back to her times tables. When she got home that day, Sadie checked to make sure that her mother was upstairs and then headed straight for the kitchen. She found what she was looking for in the cabinet underneath the sink. Sadie held the hot water bottle that her mother had used as a cure for backaches while she was pregnant. Sadie quickly retreated to the bathroom and locked the door. Running the tap as hot as it would go, she placed the bottle underneath and watched as its belly swelled with water. Then in the confines of her room, with a hand towel thrown over her shoulder, she slowly rocked her water bottle baby back and forth, and gently patted it on the back while humming a tune. But it was only a matter of time before its warmth faded, and after a bit she was forced to walk her baby to the sink and pour its life down the drain. She performed this routine when she missed Gabe. She performed this routine when she missed her mother. Sadie couldn’t help but think of that night, the night when her mother breathed panic into the phone. Her dad had been away on business. “He’s not breathing—” “He’s cold—” “He’s blue—” What followed were bright lights of the same color, sirens, a shoebox sized coffin and then two weeks at her grandparents house. That’s where she heard the word “SIDS” for the first time, as the adults tried to give a reason for something so meaningless.

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A few months of school passed and the novelty of a new year began to fade. But Ms. Evan’s class still had cause for excitement; it was announced that they were to inherit a chicken egg incubator in order to witness the miracle of the life cycle. Sadie listened carefully as her teacher explained that it was important to keep the eggs nice and warm in order to hatch, around 100 degrees to be exact. It all made sense to Sadie. So much sense that the first thing she did when she got home was take an egg from the fridge, wrap it in a blanket, and place it in the cradle that Anne had previously been evicted from. No more cold babies. Sadie checked on her egg constantly, sure that it would yield a cute little chick at any time. She was ready to be a mother. But her hopes began to fade with every passing day, and a familiar fear crept into her heart. A few weeks passed, and she came home from school to see to something that she had not witnessed in what felt like forever. Her mother, standing in her room. On her face was a look of utter confusion, and in her hand was an egg. Apparently she had been cleaning Sadie’s room. “Sadie, what is this?” “I promise I’ll feed it every day,” Sadie said earnestly, but her eyes began to fill with tears, “It just has to warm up some more.” Her mother’s expression went from perplexed to pity, and gently she said, “Honey, that egg is never going to hatch--” “I know,” Sadie cut in, now struggling to get her words out through sobs, “it has SIDS.” This was followed by a long moment of silence. Sadie feared that she had made her mother angry at her, more angry at her than she had been since Gabe died. She feared that as a way to punish her she would go back into her room and never come down, this time for good. But instead her mother knelt and looked Sadie in the eye, and explained that the eggs we eat can’t hatch because they’re not fertilized, and that they can’t have SIDS, and then told her that yes, sometimes babies die and nobody knows why, and that she doesn’t have an explanation for that because there isn’t one. And then she hugged Sadie, tight. “Can we throw this egg out now?” she asked, still wrapping Sadie in an embrace. “No, mamma, please.” Sadie begged, with her face buried in her mother’s shoulder. Despite making it abundantly clear that her egg was never and would never be alive, she understood Sadie’s need for closure despite having none of her own. So she watched from the edge of the deck as Sadie buried her sweet egg in their backyard, among all of the weeds.

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THE LAKE HOUSE Riley Steiner Miami University

I’m sitting just a few feet away from my aunt, but even though I see her lips moving, I can’t hear a word. My ears are filled with the high-pitched whine of a chainsaw. “What are they doing?” I try to call over the noise, but then it suddenly becomes even louder, and I peer out the sliding glass doors of my grandparents’ house that look out onto the deck. I see my uncle standing on the wooden bench with his arms stretched up in the air, holding the saw up to one of the pine trees that stands between the house and the beach. He’s cutting where a large branch meets the trunk, and I watch the branch slowly dip downward as the saw chews through the wood. Finally, it drops to the ground with a crash, landing on the bed of dead needles below. These trees haven’t been cut in forty years. Through their branches, I can see where the sand begins and beyond that, out to the sparkling blue lake. This place has always been the same to me; I can chronicle my childhood based on my visits here. But now, everything is beginning to change. * My grandparents built their house in the 1970s, in what was then a tiny town in northern Michigan called Traverse City. It’s nestled on a peninsula that juts out into the lake like a child’s curious finger reaching out to touch the water. The house itself is a grand structure, made of brick and sleek dark wood. Floor-to-ceiling windows face the lake so that it’s almost as if you’re never inside at all. And, really, who would want to be? The lake, with its quiet waves and water as clear as the Caribbean, is irresistible. My mom and her two brothers grew up here, sailing in the summers and walking on top of the lake in the winter, when the temperatures dropped so low that the water was frozen into a thick layer of ice. They went to school here, played sports here, stumbled their way through teenagehood here. My dad even proposed to my mom on my grandparents’ beach. And every summer, my mom brought us back here. It’s only a sliver of what it was like for her growing up, but even that small taste has been enough to keep me dreaming of the lake during the eleven-

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and-a-half months I’m not there. * This summer, we’re returning to the house once again. It’s been a whirlwind year for us—we’ve had a couple hospital visits, a college decision, and a career change— and the lake will be a welcome getaway for a few days of peace. We’ll also see both of my mom’s brothers, my aunt, and one of my cousins. They live hundreds of miles out west, so we’re only together like this once every five years. When we arrive, we find my uncles hard at work on the overhanging tree branches. My aunt tells us they’ve already repaired some broken planks on the deck. “Might as well put them to work while they’re here, right?” she says, but we all know what she’s not saying: my grandparents are getting too old to take care of a house this big, and eventually, something will have to be done. * My grandfather has to have hip surgery. He has a visit scheduled at Mayo Clinic the week after we leave. He’s had procedures done before, but this one’s direr than the rest: if it doesn’t work, it could leave him in permanent need of a walker. If nothing is done at all, it could be even worse. I sit with him in the living room. He’s in his favorite chair, the one that faces the TV, its green upholstery scattered with woven silhouettes of moose. On the walls hang photos of grizzly bears and snow foxes, taken by my uncle, and a framed set of Native American arrowheads discovered by my great-grandfather, their stone surfaces flaked into divots. The room’s giant bookcase is filled with hardcovers about hunting, fishing, and the national parks. My grandfather is an avid outdoorsman; he always has been. As he gets older, I know his hip is preventing him from doing the things he used to love. He has always been a solid, steady man, a pillar, but he grows somber and quiet when he talks about the surgery. As he trails off into silence, I know he’s scared, even if he won’t say it. “Hey, we can compare scars,” I joke, showing him the long, curved one on my own hip that looks like a shark bite. He smiles, the mood lightened, if only for the moment. * A few days later, I’m sitting in the same chair, playing cards with my uncles. They’re teaching me how to play euchre the right way, they say, because apparently my brother and I have been playing it wrong for years. Classic rock drifts from the radio

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in the corner, and we’re trying to be the first to name the song when a new one comes on. “Hotel California!” my uncle yells, and he slaps a card down. In the kitchen, my mom and grandma are talking. I can’t hear what they’re saying, but their voices are relaxed and comfortable. Something delicious is sizzling on the stove. Tonight, my grandma is making her signature dish, lasagna. Every time we visit, she meticulously plans each meal, calling us a week in advance and asking what kind of yogurt we like or which cereal to buy. This week is a highlight of her year, and she wants it to be perfect. In the past, my mom has tried to bring up the possibility of having a plan for the house. The cobblestoned driveway is shockingly steep as it leads from the bluff road down to beach level, and during zero-degree Michigan winters, it ices over. The neighbor boy usually has to come and shovel the snow away from the garage, and it’s becoming ever harder for my grandparents to climb the steps leading up the hill to the mailbox. The house is getting along in years, too, and needs upkeep that my grandparents can’t provide. But every time the discussion is brought up, they are obstinate. “We’re staying here,” my grandfather responds. “That’s our plan.” I know what’s probably best for them, but, sitting on the outskirts of these conversations, I find myself quietly cheering for the house. I can’t imagine selling it to strangers. It would be like leaving a piece of my childhood behind. * On our last night of vacation, we’re gathered around the fire pit down on the beach. Years ago, my grandfather hauled rocks the size of basketballs here and arranged them in a circle. They’re now blackened where they face the fire, but this pit has stood the test of time. It’s completely dark out, the inky dark that you only get up north, away from the electric haze of large cities. I look up and see stars glittering like pinpricks on a velvet blanket. The distant lights from across the bay flicker on the horizon, turned wavy in the water’s reflection. Underneath the crackle of the flames, we can hear the quiet lap of the waves. We sit on lawn chairs and overturned canoes. The air smells like scorched marshmallows. It’s cool out, but the fire is enough to keep us warm. My grandfather pulls out a worn hardcover book of poetry. He reads the same poem every time we have a family reunion—it’s become a sort of silly tradition. He holds a flashlight under his chin and flicks it on. The beam casts the wrinkles on his face into shadow as he flashes us a maniacal grin. “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” he intones dramatically, and we all snicker as he reads the spooky tale of Sam McGee’s ghost, cremated after freezing to death on the Arctic tundra.

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This place is full of family traditions. If the lake could talk, it’d tell the story of two generations growing up on its shores. It’s hard to imagine life without it, but I know that these moments are transient. My grandfather breathes the final words in a raspy whisper, and they hover there in the few moments of silence that follow—though it’s not silent, this place, never truly silent, with the waves and the hush of the air through the beach grass and the plop of a fish’s mouth breaking the surface of the nighttime water. And in a hundred years, when the house is no more than tiny piles of sawdust, these sounds will remain and carry with them the memory of a family who grew up and grew together here, even after we are all long gone.

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CHICORY Jessie Urgo

College of William and Mary

In the slanted, late afternoon light, your blue petals are almost purple. They are tattered like flags, and splayed out in a circle like a child’s drawing of sun rays. Unseeing, you watch the mountains. I know you’ve done a lot of waiting on roadsides, a lot of waiting for people who never come, and tonight, you are remembering. I know that you want to be alone, you want to be quiet and let the shadows blur the edges of your pain. So we wait. On the horizon, the mountains become lavender, and the sky turns yellow above them. There is not enough silence for the remembering.

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CONTRIBUTORS

Cheung Shun Kit Anderson completed two years (2015 - 2017) of study in a four-year Bachelor Degree of Psychology program organized by Hong Kong Gratia Christian College. In 2017, he withdrew his study at Hong Kong Gratia Christian College. He is currently a 3rd year student at Hong Kong Shue Yan University, pursuing a four-year Bachelor Degree of Social Sciences, which he is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Psychology. He is expected to receive a Bachelor Degree in 2020. Ifeoluwa Bada, or Bada for short, is a 21 year old Nigerian DACA recipient. She recently received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with a minor in Creative Writing, at the Unviersity of Texas at Austin. Bada is a recipient of the Roy Crane Literary Award. Currently, she is working on expanding her literary knowledge beyond that of Harry Potter and Stephen King novels -- though in her opinion they deserve attention. Though only a few months out of college, she is already planning on going back to earn her Masters in Fine Arts. Claudia Rivera Barbeito is a junior at the University of Tampa where she studies biology and art. This is her first time submitting a piece to a literary journal. Claudia uses her writing to reflect on her experiences as a young woman from Puerto Rico, as well as call attention to the cultural and socio-economic crisis the island suffers from. Tanner Barnes is currently working on the last leg of his Bachelor’s degree in English at Florida State University. He spent a great deal of time over the past few months stress eating as a result of applying to graduate school. He hopes to pursue poetry as far as it will take him. Recently his hometown was leveled by a category 5 hurricane, so getting one of his poems picked up has helped to lift his spirits. Isabella Barricklow is an English major at Central Michigan University. She is a 2019 Fulbright English Teaching Award nominee for Colombia. She spends her spare time speaking Spanish, traveling, hiking, and writing about all of it. Her work has appeared in The Blue Route, Red Cedar Review, The Slag Review, Audeamus, Central Review, and 30N.


Noah Bavonese is an illustrator, animator, and designer, and is currently a senior at Oakland University studying graphic design, while pursuing the many facets of digital media in his own time. Painting was his entry into the world of art and design, and the piece appearing here in the Oakland Arts Review is one of his first acrylic portraits. Allison Boyce is a junior studying creative writing and business at Vanderbilt University. She hails from Scottsdale, Arizona, and is thrilled to be sharing her work in the Oakland Arts Review. She was recently named a semifinalist for The Adroit Prize for Prose. James Braun currently teaches fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to the incarcerated at the Thumb Correctional Facility. He studies creative writing at Oakland University and his work has been published in Smokelong Quarterly and is forthcoming in Atlas and Alice. James lives in Rochester, Michigan. Briana Campbell is currently studying creative writing and communications at Florida State University. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s at a concert or visiting a museum. She is a poet of Caribbean descent who often explores identity in her work. She is originally from Orlando, FL. Christopher Cannon is a Cleveland-based poet and musician. He is currently in his senior year at Case Western Reserve University. The lineage and plight of his family have had a tremendous impact on his identity and art, inspiring him to create sonic and visual representations for the voiceless. McKenna Christian was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, having inhabited the same pale green house for eighteen years before moving to California to attend the University of San Diego (USD). She is a junior at USD studying to complete her English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing, and a minor in Psychology. She is currently studying abroad, with a semester in London and a semester in Australia. Her poetry has been performed with the Poetry Society of New York and workshopped at the 2018 Summer Literary Seminar in Tbilisi, Georgia. When she is not traveling or writing poetry, she is most likely lifting weights or spending time with animals. Maya Day is a student at Colorado College majoring in English / Creative Writing with a minor in Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies. Born and raised in Colorado, Maya has a love for magpies, rivers, and prairieland. Her poetry connects her to these things and is an attempt to reframe language as an decolonizing, anti-racist tool for exploring the self.


Janet Doan is a Political Science and Finance Major with a Spanish Minor at the University of California, Riverside. In her free time she enjoys traditional art, reading, graphic design and exercising. Ever since she was young, her mission has been to dabble in every type of art form imaginable. Her life thus consists of ceramics, fashion design, and photography classes. Now grown up, she is working towards her dream of having her work published. Grace Downey is an undergraduate English student at Indiana University South Bend. She enjoys writing poetry about the environment and her experiences. Grace is working on finishing her degree and finding her writing style and voice. In her spare time, Grace likes to take her dogs to the park. Jacqueline Farley is a senior undergraduate student of English and Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. Diverting from her original plan of obtaining a welding certificate from a community college, Farley has been studying fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for less than three years. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Crossing, Hedra helix, Voice of Eve Magazine, and Miranda’s Station. She currently reads poetry and flash prose for Sonora Review. Marshall Farren, a writer and photographer from Indianapolis, is a senior at Indiana University studying Human Development and Psychology. His fiction has appeared in The Blue Route. This is his first photograph to be selected for publication. More of his photography can be viewed on his Instagram account (@marshfarren). Evana Flores is a senior year at the University of Texas at Austin where she studies Creative Advertising (think Mad Men) and Poetry through her Creative Writing Certificate. Though she one day aspires to be a Creative Director for a swanky production agency, she will continue to write and be moved by the art of poetry. Other outlets of expression for her are through film photography, art, or playing instruments with friends. She would like to thank the editors of OAR for publishing her first piece, and her grounding teacher, Natalie Diaz, for prompting this poem and guiding it along its way. Grace Goze is a sophomore at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She studies Creative Writing with minors in History and Vocal Performance. Her poems have also been published in the Ball State Honors literary and arts publication, Odyssey. More of Grace’s poetry and writing can be found on her instagram, @ittybittyliterature. Khadijah Green is a creative writing major at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN. In 2017 she was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to the New York State Summer Writer’s Institute at Skidmore College. In 2018 she served as the


poetry editor of Castings, the literary journal at Christian Brothers University. She is currently working on her first book of poetry, which explores themes of race, gender, and alienation from the body. Nakul Grover is a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering & English at Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College. He received the Erickson Discovery Grant for his novel that draws from contemporary political events in India and Bangladesh, tracing the lives of Rohingya migrants from Myanmar affected by climate change. He has won the Collegiate Laws of Life Essay Contest twice in a row, alongside the Katey Lehman Award and Edward Nichols Award in fiction and James Cranage Award in poetry. He is a member of the Presidential Leadership Academy and blogs weekly. At Penn State, he has served as a writer for the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and been a resident assistant, a Hindi tutor, and a research assistant in the surface science laboratory. He plays the piano and enjoys doing yoga, going to the gym, cooking, and reading. He hopes to study environmental law. Francesca Halikias is a sophomore studying English with an emphasis on creative writing at DePaul University. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her family and her four dogs, and has loved reading and writing ever since she was little. Maija Hecht is a sophomore English major at Macalester College where she also studies Spanish and studio art. Of the many things in her life that remain unsure, writing has never been one of them. ”Dreamcatching” is one poem from her yet untitled chapbook about childhood and northern Minnesota as she knew it. Dani Jakobson is a landscape photographer based in Boston. Her photographs do not come from a specific desire to show the world through a certain lens, but rather from her deep fascination with nature. She hopes to introduce audiences to the natural world through her eyes and capture her experiences and travels for others to enjoy. Miranda Jacobson is currently majoring in Creative Writing at Sierra Nevada College. Serving as the college’s Creative Writing Club president, as well as participating in the English Scholar Program, Miranda spends all her free time writing and exploring her beautiful home of Lake Tahoe. Miranda found her passion in writing poems and short stories that focus on social justice, women’s rights and bodies, and self love while living in the Bay Area. She has been published in The Ink, and participated in a reading for 100 Thousand Poets for Change with UNR and Planned Parenthood in September 2018. Irene Kattos, born in the sunny (yet hot) island of Cyprus, is currently studying law at the University of Sheffield but remembers when her passion for art emerged:


she was 14, trying to create a sculpture for her art class inspired by the Surrealist movement, and somehow it turned out well. Since then, with the help of her teachers (who she considers mentors), she has strived to create some outstanding work, she hopes. Follow her on her IG: art_is_a_cain for more. Jami Kleinpeter comes from a large family in southern Louisiana and is very passionate about the physical and cultural landscape of her home. This year she graduates from Louisiana State University, where she is majoring in Creative Writing and Literature with a minor in Sociology. Next fall, she plans to continue her education with an MFA in Creative Writing, focusing on poetry. Her dream is to teach at the university level and continue to write. Alexander Lavertue is currently a freshman at the New School for design. He has been interested in the arts his whole life and decided the New School would give him the best tools to achieve his dream, which is to be a great designer. His piece represents his first emotions arriving into the glorious city of New York. Coming from a suburban neighborhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he felt a sense of shock, and his piece represents his transition from a suburban kid to an adult city dweller. Emily Paquette-Leahy is a queer poet who lives and studies in Toronto. Her work navigates family, the domestic, and memory. She has facilitated workshops for other novice writers and studied creative writing at Glendon College, York University, and Arizona State University. Making and sharing food is one of the ways she shows affection. She has published in Pro Tem and Mélange, and is now a graduate student at the University of Toronto. Andrew Letai is a senior at Hamilton College, where he is editor-in-chief of the satire paper The Duel Observer, writer and director of a series of science-fiction radio dramas, and a double major in Creative Writing and Theatre. Among his greatest convictions is the belief that capes should make a comeback. Raised in Medfield, MA, he enjoys candlelit dinners, long walks on the beach, and sleeping until noon. Maxwell Levy is a Sophomore at St. Lawrence University. In his spare time he is working on a science fiction novel and enjoys watching his friends play video games. Max is very happy to be a part of this magazine and hopes you enjoy this new issue! Ellie Long is a junior at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA. She is majoring in Political Science, with minors in Creative Writing and Global Studies. She hopes to work in politics or law, but plans on always writing creatively for herself. Her poem “The Morning” is a response to the mass shooting at Borderline


Bar & Grill, which took the life of twelve members of the tight-knit community. Ellie hopes this poem brings awareness to this shooting and others like it, and to the aftermath left behind on communities. Mary MacLeod is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is studying English and creative writing and hopes to go on to earn her MFA in fiction. She interned with VCU’s literary journal Blackbird and has been published in VCU’s newspaper The Commonwealth Times, as well as the student run literary journal Poictesme. Meg Matthias is a poetry and prose writer from Indianapolis, Indiana, whose work has been published in Rookie and Indiana Review. She is a student at Miami University in Ohio where she is an executive staff member of campus lit mag Inklings Arts & Letters. When not in class, she is writing about girlhood, anxiety, and the body. She is an only child, but asks that you not hold it against her. Kathryn McDanel has spent the last four years after high school roving about, experiencing the world first-hand with a moleskin journey by her side. She often uses her observations from life on the road to write engaging non-fiction pieces. Currently, she is attending college to obtain a Global Studies degree with a minor in Creative Writing. Daven McQueen is a student and writer from Los Angeles, California. She is completing her final year at Brown University, where she studies economics and literary arts. Her work often centers around themes of suburban life, intersections of food and culture, and meditations on identity. When she’s not writing, Daven enjoys tap dancing, traveling, cooking, and collecting pictures of cute dogs. Ellery Page is primarily a visual artist and printmaker. Much of her work revolves around the imagery of biological systems becoming and coming from human anatomy, and represents the neuroplasticity that allows humans to adapt to their environments. The written work and poetry she writes is compelled by an exploration of how the disruption of neuroplasticity caused by trauma, both personal and societal, affects communication through reinforced dynamics of language and behavior. Kateria Rodriguez is a senior at Salisbury University pursuing a degree in History with a minor in English. Her prose, much like her research, focuses primarily on historical perspectives, race, identity, and sexuality. The loss of certain historical perspectives is a topic in a few of Kateria’s poems. She hopes to continue writing poetry as she begins graduate school in the fall of 2019. Riley Steiner is a senior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she studied Creative Writing and Media & Culture. She was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio.


Harley Taff is a non-binary author that grew up in the desert side of Washington. They have had a passion for writing since they were able to write, drawing a lot of inspiration from human behaviors and colors. They are now a senior Pacific University studying Creative Writing and Editing and Publishing. Harley is currently working as Layout Editor for Silk Road Review: Literary Magazine and has previously worked as Managing Editor. Harley has won two writing contests and has had a few pieces of art published in various small journals. Kwan Ann Tan is a writer from Malaysia and a student at Oxford University. Her work has previously been featured in The First Line, Half Mystic, Porridge Magazine and L’Ephemere Review, and she can be found on Twitter at @KwanAnnTan or at kwananntan.carrd.co. Sarah Terrazano is a senior at Brandeis University, where she reads a lot and sleeps a little. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Merrimack Review and Collision. She also won the 2018 Ramon Feliciano Poetry Prize through the Academy of American Poets University & College Poetry Prizes. She is the poetry editor at Blacklist Journal, Brandeis’ literature & arts journal. Brooke Thomas is a legal assistant living and working in Charleston, SC. She graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in English Literature in May 2018. When not hard at work, you can find her hiking in the Pisgah National Forest or working on her writing. Her future plans involve getting her PhD. in English and eventually teaching in a university. Jane Thomas is a continuing student at the University of Oxford. She is a regular in the spoken word scene in Oxford, and a personal tutor and dedicated word hunter. Her poetry processes some complex personal and universal themes including dementia and grief. Naomi Tornow is a senior at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. For the past four years she has enjoyed major coursework in English (focused in creative writing) and Sociology, with a minor in Philosophy. Between school and sleep, she makes as much time as possible for gardening, cooking and dancing. She writes poetry with the understanding that it should outgrow her name. Veronica Isabel Torres (who uses the name Veronica Isabel with her visual art) is a Puerto Rican writer and photographer, and has spent 24 years on this planet. She is a senior at Florida International University, but spent her freshman and sophomore years at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. Both institutions have shaped who she is as a person and artist. Being fluent in both English and Spanish, she has had the opportunity to be published in HerCampus.com, as well as Claridad


newspaper (a local Puerto Rican paper). She currently writes for L’etage magazine and is the handler for the @iamanindigokid Instagram page, as well as @writingflash, which focuses on publishing flash fiction stories. Jessie Urgo is a junior at the College of William & Mary. She loves getting to know people and listening to their stories, and she loves telling stories as well. When she’s not daydreaming, she’s probably scribbling in a notebook or wandering around outdoors. Her poems and short stories have been published in The Gallery and Winged Nation and have won awards from William & Mary and the Poetry Society of Virginia. E.R. Vanett is a current senior at the Indiana University South Bend. She enjoys the creative writing process and is presently working on completing a poetry manuscript in the near future. She also finds that going on hiking trips to take photographs of nature is an important part in her creative process. A lot of her inspiration comes from her connection to nature, animals, and religion. Shelby Weisburg attends Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where she is majoring in Creative Writing. She was the honorable mention award recipient of Willamette University’s Frank H. Newell Creative Writing Prize in Short Fiction last spring. She currently works for Willamette’s Outdoor Program as both office staff and trip leader to foster equity and diversity in the outdoors. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys collaging, rock climbing, and having exploratory conversations with fellow human beings. Melissa Weiss studies Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in CV2, Prairie Fire, The Maynard, Sky Island Journal, and elsewhere. She placed second in Into the Void’s 2017 Poetry Contest, and was shortlisted for CV2’s 2017 2-Day Poem Contest. In 2018, she was nominated for Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize. Melissa co-edits One Button Press in Kelowna, British Columbia. Nick Zablocki is a junior at Oakland University. He is a creative writing major with a focus on poetry. He has two hip-hop projects available on all streaming services, and is currently working on his third tape. He also has a history in stand-up comedy, podcasting, and fiction writing. His favorite part about writing is using interesting and obscure words, and in particular the way these words sound when stitched together.


STAFF

Olivia Brown, Poetry Editor, is a junior at Oakland University. She is double-majoring in English and Creative Writing and hopes to add to this collection with a Linguistics minor. When she’s not busy running late to classes, Olivia enjoys YouTube binges, fawning over dogs, reading, and going to the gym. Olivia means to earn her Masters in English so that she can work in the publishing industry as an editor. Her greatest dream is to make a name for herself in the world of publishing and to own a pack of small dogs. Amy Reese Gauthier, Copy Editor, is a senior at Oakland University with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in English. She aims to publish her own novel one day and secure a job as an editor at a publishing house. Her other passions include dressing up in cosplay at anime conventions, playing video games when she’s supposed to be doing homework, and spending outrageous sums of money on concerts all across North America. In the future, she hopes to live in a big city with her closest friends and a bunch of cats. Shelby Jeffrey, Copy Editor, is a junior at Oakland University majoring in English and minoring in Biology. In her free time, she likes reading, writing poetry, going camping, going thrifting, and watching old movies. Veronica Selke, Fiction/Nonfiction Editor, is a senior majoring in English and minoring in psychology. She works at Oakland University’s Writing Center where she helps fellow students revise and expand their work. Her favorite authors include Bret Easton Ellis, Irvine Welsh, and Kate Chopin. She loves playing with her dog, watching Game of Thrones, and listening to rock. Emily Stamper, Managing Editor, is a senior with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in English who dreams of a day when she makes enough money to adopt every homeless dog. After graduating, she plans on pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing or a career in the publishing industry. She hopes to become a published author someday. When not in class, at work, or writing, she can be found riding


horses, cuddling with her dog, or pretending to be good at photography. Shyanne Totoraitis, Fiction/Nonfiction Editor, is a junior at Oakland University majoring in English. She is a wife and mother of three who struggles to know if whomever she is putting first—among her family and herself, and when— is right. She is a self-proclaimed writer of half a novel who hopes to one day boast of having a published book. Her future aspirations include working as an editor in some capacity. Hannah Lewis, Poetry Editor, is a junior at Oakland University majoring in Journalism and minoring in Creative Writing. She enjoys insects, talking too loudly, poetry, and martial arts. She is currently ranked in three styles of martial arts: Ryukyu Kempo, Small Circle Jujitsu, and Modern Arnis. She is highest ranked in Ryukyu Kempo, in which she holds a second-degree black belt. Outside of martial arts, Hannah has been writing poetry every day of 2018 in hopes of self-publishing a book early next year with a close friend. Jessica Trudeau, Layout Coordinator, is a senior English major at Oakland University. She was also Managing Editor and Layout Coordinator for Volume 3 of the Oakland Arts Review and will miss OAR dearly when she graduates. Jessica enjoys reading young adult literature, blogging about books, and spending hours rewatching the same TV shows. She hopes to get a job in book publishing or design in the near future.


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Profile for Oakland Arts Review

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

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