The Olivetree Review Spring 2021 Issue 67
©The Olivetrree Review, CUNY Hunter College, 695 Park Avenue, Thomas Hunter 206, New York, 10065, theolivetreereview.com This journal is partially funded by Hunter College’s student activity fee, partially by fundraising and donations. This journal is distributed for free. The artwork featured on the cover is Poetry by Markarius Williams. The fonts used in this book are Constantia, Segoe Print, and Segoe Script. This book is designed by Ariana Gladstone. Submissions are reviewed September through October and Febuary through March. We cover submissions of visual art, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and scripts. All submissions are reviewed anonymously and selected by a jury of staff members. The review is entirely staffed by Hunter College undergraduate students. Permission to publish the content in this issue was granted to the Olivetree Review by the authors and artists throughout. These contributers retain all original copyright ownership of works appearing in The Olivetree Review before and after its publication. Copying, reprinting, or reproducing any material in this journal is stricktly prohibited. The Olivetree Review
The Olivetree Review Spring/Fall 2021
The Literary and Ars Magazine of Hunter College since 1983
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
EDITORIAL & ADMINISISTRATIVE STAFF SPRING/FALL 2021 Editor - in - Chief Kana Tateishi Vice President Jordan Oritz Treasurer Meghan Elberti Secretary Mia Carranza Art Editors Ciara Halligan Jordan Oritz Drama Editors Mia Carranza Ariana Gladstone Andi Sauer Poetry Editors Sheena Rocke Sylvia Welch Prose Editors Sydney Heidenberg Anling Chen Senior Publisist Olivia Baldacci Publicity Assistant Arifa Baksh
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Associate Editors Hazel Arsian Faith Dowling Brenall Harrison Onyekachi Okeke Seon Pollard Stacey Watson
TABLE OF CONTENTS Art Poetry Markarius Williams Birds of Hope J. E. Crum A Day in the Park Ariana Gladstone A Magical Snapshot Ariana Gladstone Everlasting J. E. Crum TENACIONS Aluu Prosper
Vein Virtues Jury Judge
The River Styx J. E. Crum
Flower Girl Olivia Baldacci
Imps and Pixies Edward Supranowicz
Frida and the Peacock Angelita Hampton
Dolablela Engineer Guilherme Bergamini
The Ballerina Ariana Gladstone
Untitled Coco Spencer
Epiphany J. E. Crum
Drama O Holy Night Somoshree Palit
The Prize Blind Rollin Jewett
Living Room (10 page excerpt) Jon-Alexander Genson
Indeterminate Exit Rei Wolfsohn
The First Sin Ariana Gladstone The Creature Ariana Gladstone Laughter, Tears, and Fear Edward Supranowicz
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TABLE OF CONTENTS The Longing Nayoung Jin Non-Negotiable Bryan Starchman Pleonasm Jordan Resnick Poetry Space Jessica Mehta Little Fifteen Jennifer MacBain-Stephens God in the Psych Ward Sammie Wilhoit After Jason Thornberry Catholic Sex Ed: Someone Else’s Memory C. G. Myth Cabbage Patch Kid Faith Dowling
Reading at Bedtime Andrew Analore
Prosse I am Not a Butterfly Olivia Bresler
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As Mountain Winds Diana Benigno
62 Moons Anthony Treadvance
KISS A BOY Naomi Rodriguez
June Bug Emma Allbright
The Pan-Reptilian State of Grebley Natalie Plotkin
Phone First Dane Campbell
Loneliness for Taste dn eQ
Meet the Staff
History of the Olivetree Review
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Dear valued reader, Thank you for sticking by us for our virtual issues for the last year and a half! This month, I celebrate the beauty of identity, intersectionality, and community. As students at a public educational institution, many of us who are of marginalized identities, being here in 2021, alive and thriving, is a radical act of resilience on its own. The ongoing pandemic continues to impact, disrupt, and ravage lives to varying degrees. The last few months of social, political, and financial upheaval and resistance have only highlighted what must be done- to continue persisting and fighting for our right to live. Those who create, and thus continue to breathe life into this world, are the hope that will light our way. Art has always been at the forefront of culture and resistance; art and expression reflect courage and hope in the face of struggle. I sincerely believe that our artists in this Spring 2021 issue- writers, painters, playwrights, poets, photographers, and more- are remarkable. I know that their work will continue to touch hearts like they have mine. When I first joined OTR, I never thought I would be at this seat writing this letter. I am so grateful for the artists I have met whose work I admire endlessly. Our wonderful staff has been nothing short of accepting, patient, compassionate, and kind from the last few years I have been at OTR. I am truly fortunate to have made it through college with such a supportive and hard-working community. Without them, this issue would not be here. It feels bittersweet to end my chapter on this pandemic note, but I hope this close will welcome new and fresh beginnings. While we were unable to have our Spring Open Mic for the last two years, I will most definitely be at the next one (hopefully Spring 2022)! I extend the invite to all of you readingsee you there! Warmly, Kana Tateishi Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Poetry Markarius Williams
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Space Jessica Mehta As children, two oceans separated us, the Pacific flirting up my legs hungry as a frantic demon on those frigid coastal trips. The Atlantic cloyed like a diseased and desperate lover close to your family home in Mumbai. Twenty years ago neither of us would have believed it would all come down to Us—you, a child playing cricket in the streets, me plotting my escape from that smothering small Oregon town, and We, what we found was unsinkable, for good, a buoy no ocean dare drown.
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I Am Not a Butterfly Olivia Bresler This short story is dedicated to my grandmother. A young divorcee who never remarried, but instead, devoted her life to her child and grandchildren. Thank you for inspiring me. I am currently a Senior at Hunter College and residing in Brooklyn, NY.
“Sign here Mrs. Beaver,” the tall and sharp looking man announced. I looked at my lawyer and he encouraged me with a nod. As I picked up the ball-point pen lying to the right of the thick stack of copy paper, I could feel my fingers tremble. There was sweat perspiring from my underarms and upper forehead. For a moment, my vision had blurred but my sight had not been clouded. In fact, my vision was clear for the first time in a while. It was finally time to release my anger, move on from the past and look ahead to a brighter future… Or so I told myself. I looked at the papers stapled together by what looked like a key to freedom. With a swift and brief motion, I engraved my signature. “Gloria Beaver, May 30th 1978.” I could finally breathe. I let out a sigh loud enough for only myself to hear, it was finally over. Suddenly, I took myself back in time and a memory I did not know existed came rushing through the tunnels of thought. “Sawyer, do you think Max will adjust to his new school in America?” I said. Sawyer looked at me with confusion and humiliation. “I think the only thing we should be concerned about is you, and how 10
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you will adjust to Max being in a new school,” He said. “He isn’t even old enough, you’re stressing about things years in advance, Gloria. I keep telling you not to worry. It’s too much for me”. We were packing our suitcases and it had occurred to me that Max was starting school next year, which meant that as soon as we arrived and settled into our new home, I would need to start searching for Day schools. It had occurred to me that we might want to put Max into a Jewish School. It was the first time I had the privilege to consider that option, since Jewish Education was forbidden in Ukraine. Either way I didn’t mention it to Sawyer, it would have upset him even more and I would have been dismissed faster than my first question. I guess that was my mistake, accepting his dismissive and unconcerned tone for our son. It was an issue that had to be dealt with but to my knowledge at the time, we had our whole lives to deal with it together. “Gloria,” I heard Sawyer say. I looked up at my surroundings. I was back in my chair. Both lawyers looking at me as if I had stolen 30 precious seconds from their busy, workfilled day. I felt like I was displaced for much longer than that, but I blinked quickly and looked up at Sawyer. He was smiling at me, the grin that stole my love and now has stolen my security. “I know Sawyer, I know.” He took my hand and we walked out of the office, into the short hallway, down 3 unsteady steps, and we were outside. The day was bright and the sun irritated my eyes, so I reached into my pocketbook and pulled out my sunIssue 67 Spring - 2021
glasses with a side of cigarette. “Light me up,” I said, cigarette in hand. I realized I did not recognize the voice I had spoken in. Sawyer looked at me in shock and with that same grin searched in his pocket. He pulled out a black zippo, scratched up and barely working, but I bent into his domed hands and inhaled. “Divorce looks good on you. The lighter is yours,” Sawyer said. “I have too many, back at the bar.” I took the lighter from his hands, inhaled my cigarette, and looked at his handsomely emotionless face. “Don’t forget to pick-up your prescription, the doctor said your heart can only take so much.” Sawyer looked at me and winked. The grin had made its final appearance. I turned away and walked to the nearest train station, a pep in my step. I was divorced and a newfound confidence had revealed itself--or maybe a survival instinct, my subconscious told me. There was a trash bin on the corner I was approaching. I looked at the old lighter in my hand and tossed it, without a second to process that Sawyer might still be behind me. I had a feeling he wasn’t. Before I knew it, the leaves had fallen from the trees, dried up and crumbled as they crashed into the ground. My marriage was over before it had ever started. The winds were beginning to chill and the hours felt like minutes. Our days became repetitive. I would walk Max to the Yeshiva early morning and kiss him goodbye. Our morning time together was brief; the school was a 7-minute walk from the apartment and once we approached the school, I would cut our walk short about a block away. It wasn’t be12
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cause I didn’t want the extra minute with my son, but because the tuition was 3 months overdue. A heckle from the Rabbi that early in the morning would only depress me further, and I wouldn’t make it in time for my train. It was important that I made it for the 8 o’clock train; without it I would never make it to the 8:45 bus, which gave me exactly 4 minutes to walk to class and arrive on time. I was taking a 6-month secretarial course while my mother supported us financially, either way we were barely getting by. I live with the guilt forever, not being able to support my own child and allowing my mother to work two jobs, but our options were limited. After the divorce, the financial adjustments were a shock to us all. You see, Sawyer wasn’t the wealthiest man, but he provided us with comfortable lives. Fine dining every night, concerts and guitar lessons for Max; all because of Sawyer. But now, after I sold my Mink coats and Max’s guitar, it all felt like it was lifetime ago. We were new people now, living in a new world. I had not spoken to Sawyer since the day we signed those papers, so child-support was not a source of income. I was set on getting a well-paid job and that was exactly what was going to happen. But not if I hadn’t cut our morning walks one-block short. I traded that extra minute with my son so that he can continue to learn the guitar one day, and I could take my mother out to dinner. It wasn’t long before I was a certified secretary and working for the local Law Firm. They paid me well and I felt independent for the first time in my life. When I finished my shift at 5pm, I rushed home to see Max. I had spent the last 8 hours missing him, his voice and his smile. That is what gets me through my days, my sweet Max. He hasn’t seen his father much these last few years, so it was important that I was present in his life. The thought Issue 67 Spring - 2021
of Max not having a father figure haunted me every second of my life. “Mom, I’m home. Where’s Max?” I said. Before she had a chance to answer, I was already in his room. He was asleep, so I just watched him for a while. He looked so peaceful, so unbothered. It made me think about how oblivious I must have been to my mother’s struggles while raising me. Oh yes, I almost forgot about Mom. I gently kissed Max on his forehead and tip-toed out of the room. “Hi Mom,” I said, and kissed her on the cheek while taking a fork from the drawer. “He fell asleep right after dinner, he must have been so full it tired him” she said. “That’s good, Mom” I said while taking a bite of the un-dressed salad she was making. “Did he mention how his day at school was?” “You know the usual, he was complaining about the Rabbi and his preaching. They expect these boys to wear yarmulkes after school hours, I try to explain how it important it is to him, but we are not the best examples for him when it comes to religion. The only way he will do it is if we start wearing the yarmulkes ourselves,” she joked. Her snarky comments constantly made me wonder, are we doing enough? Are we enough for him? “Hello, do you hear me?” she asked. “Fiona called from Los Angeles, she mentioned something about a match for you. Give her a call.” Mom was already holding the phone in her hand before I had a mo14
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ment to face her. I took the phone and walked as far as the wire would let me. “Gloria my dear! What is new? Oh, the weather here is absolutely fabulous, how are you?” Fiona shrieked. Fiona is my best friend; she lives in Los Angeles with her daughter who is a bit older than Max and her new husband. “Fiona, it’s good to hear your voice.” We speak on the phone every other day but I meant it. Before Fiona got remarried, we were struggling to raise our children together and her friendship was a big part of my support system. “Mom mentioned the match you had for me, I thought we would leave her out of this.” I felt my mother’s eyes on me from the kitchen, when I turned in her direction she looked the other way before I could catch her. “You need a push Gloria, mentioning it to your mother would only guarantee you meet with him now,” she said. That was the last thing I needed, to start dating at my age and with my circumstances would only deter me from my goals. And how would it impact Max? “Fiona, you know me. You know what I have been through with Sawyer. I cannot allow myself to rely on anyone else anymore. Besides, I have Max. You know how tough it is, no one wants another man’s child…” It was true. Fiona got lucky with her husband. He fell deeply in love with her and her daughter and now he was raising her as his own. I was happy for Fiona, but I couldn’t allow myself the same fantasies. Dating was Issue 67 Spring - 2021
not something I was ready for and I didn’t think I would ever be ready for it ever again. “Listen Gloria, he’s a lawyer, so you two already have so much in common. And he’s divorced, with no children.” Perfect, I thought. Two damaged people coming together and making one big happy yet damaged family. “He knows all about you, and he’s very interested. You only need to meet him once. A quick dinner, you tell your spiel he tells his spiel. Yes, yes or no, no. Either way, he already has your number, he should phone you soon.” I was furious. The nerve this woman had! Speaking with my mother, giving out my contact information, sharing my life story. “I refuse to pity myself,” I said, “or to be treated like a charity case.” “Oh, quit with that pity crap Gloria, this has nothing to do with that. I’m just trying to help a fellow woman get laid. You’re too tense Gloria, loosen up.” I giggled; Fiona always knew how to make me laugh. “Well in that case….” I said. We both laughed. Max walked into the living room rubbing his eyes. “Max is up, we’ll talk soon. Bye Fiona.” I hung up the phone. “Come, Maxy, let’s go back to bed.” That Sunday I had completely forgotten about my conversation with Fiona. Max and I were getting ready for our weekly museum trip when the phone rang. 16
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“Yes, she is here, just a moment” Mama said as she put the phone down and ran to my direction. “It’s him, the man Fiona was telling you about! Go get the phone I will put Max’s shoes on.” She ripped the shoe out of my hand and nudged me to direction of the kitchen. I lit up a cigarette, opened the kitchen window and picked up the phone. “Hello?” “Um hi, hello? Is this Gloria?” “This is she, and who is this?” “Hi, my name is Eugene. Eugene Bird. I thought Fiona mentioned I would call. How are you?” He sounded strong, and his tone of voice was too proper. I wondered if he was attractive, but my nerves got the best of me. “Listen Eugene, I really appreciate your interest in getting to know each other, but I told Fiona I was not looking to meet anyone. I must get going now before I miss the bus for the museum.” “What museum?” He said. “I’m sure I could give you a ride there.” I thought about it for a moment. It was kind of him to offer me a ride, and it would save me an hour trip. Besides, the last car I had ever been passenger in was Sawyer’s. It was strange – I felt pampered just by his offer, but I knew right away I couldn’t allow my judgment to be clouded by the luxury of being driven somewhere. “No, that’s alright, but thank you for the offer. You’re much too kind, really, you have a nice day now,” I said, and hung up. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Was I making a mistake? Was I too damaged to allow myself to feel desired? When I turned around my mother was standing right behind me. “You stupid girl, you were rude and dismissive. What is wrong with you?” She shouted. “We will talk later Mama; Max are you ready to go?” I yelled. I walked around my mother to the living room grabbed Max and my scarf, and we headed out. As I held Max’s hand and we walked down the block to the bus station, I could not stop thinking about Mr. Bird. Was my mother right? Was I a stupid girl? Was I self-sabotaging my own happiness? The bus was approaching, and I reached into my pockets to find the change. “Oh no!” I left the coins on the kitchen counter. Max looked up at me startled. “Sorry Max, don’t worry, hopefully Mrs. Johnson will be driving the bus.” The bus pulled into the station, and we got on. Luckily, it was Mrs. Johnson behind the wheel. “Good Morning Mrs. Johnson, I am so sorry we were in a rush this morning and I left my change on the counter, I’ll bring double the fair tomorrow,” I said. “That’s alright, take a seat. Hi Max! Are you causing trouble for your mama?” We smiled at her and walked into the bus. When we took our seats, I could not help but wonder, what if I took Mr. Bird’s offer? Would I ever have to 18
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worry about bus fare again? Would I ever see Mrs. Johnson again? A part of me wanted that, craved a life without financial worry, a life where I didn’t know the bus driver so well. A life where Max had a father figure. I wondered if I made a mistake with Mr. Bird. If I changed my mind and agreed to meet with him, would he even want to see me? I thought about Mr. Bird the entire bus ride. I imagined our lives together, living in a house, having a big front yard with a dog. It seemed like a fairy tale. And that is exactly what I told myself it was – a fairytale. Max and I walked the museum for hours, spending needed quality time. When we entered the Butterfly Conservatory, Max was enchanted. Thousands of butterflies hovered around us, overflowed the room with color. We were in a trance as blue, purple, yellow, red colors flashed before us – it was completely overwhelming. “Which one is your favorite, Max?” I said, while gazing at our surroundings. “How can I choose Mama? There are so many!” He was beaming with excitement, and his cheerful tone gave me a happiness I would remember forever. I had no care for the butterflies anymore; In that moment, I could only see Max. The tour guide’s voice snapped me out of my stare. “After the female butterflies mate and lay their eggs, they unfortunately die. The female butterfly only mates once in her life. If the female doesn’t mate, she will prolong her life.” These words repeated themselves over and over in my head, “Female… Butterfly… Once in her life.” Issue 67 Spring - 2021
The room had begun to spin, and my thoughts were racing faster than I could handle. I closed my eyes and tried to collect myself. I was in my mother’s wedding gown; she was standing to my right with her arm intertwined around mine. My father was to my left, and we were walking in a circle. I heard the Rabbi’s prayers, and the songs of the crowd around us. Sawyer was standing in the center, but I couldn’t see his face. It was blurred. I looked up to see that we were under a canopy made of wool garments with blue stripes. It was a Tallit; this was our Huppah. The words “mate for life” kept echoing in the background, hovering over my head. When I opened my eyes, my vision was fuzzy. Slowly I saw the butterflies flying around me and the ceiling appeared higher than I remembered. I was lying on the ground. Frantically, I tried to stand up, and then the same tour guide grabbed my hand and helped me up. “Miss do you need some water? Are you alright?” “I’m fine, yes thank you.” Max was startled. “Are you ok Mama? Mama you fell.” I took Max’s hand and scrambled out the doors of the museum. I felt like the wind hand gotten knocked out of me and I was hoping to get some fresh air. Max sat on the steps of the museum while I bent over and began to breathe. I looked over at him and smiled. “Did I startle you? I’m sorry Max. We can come back another day.” It was a lie; I could never go back there again. I never wanted to see another butterfly ever again. On the ride home, I couldn’t help but to think about what just happened. Was I a butterfly? Would I only mate once and then begin a slow descend 20 The Olivetree Review
to my death? Is this the life that was pre-determined for me? It couldn’t be. Sawyer and I had made vows to each other on that day; “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” It was not I who broke them, it was not I who had asked for a divorce. I didn’t divide our family, but instead put all my efforts in to mend it. I would have sacrificed my happiness if it meant that Max had his father. I would have let death be the only thing that parted us, even if it meant a life in secret torment. I was beginning to understand the butterflies flying around us in that room that day. The female butterfly knowingly sacrifices her life, but only because she is giving new life to her children. I was in fact a butterfly, living the life of a thousand butterflies. I married Sawyer, and when we divorced a part of me died. Max was the part of me that lived and that is all that mattered. My love for Max would never dim, and nothing, no one could blow out that flame. It was time now for me to come out of the cocoon I had been living in, it was time for me to begin my journey again. I was living the life of a thousand butterflies, and my second life began today. I didn’t mention my breakthrough to Mama when we got home. She asked how our museum trip had been, and when Max told her I fainted, she almost fainted herself. “How could this happen! How could this happen?” she kept repeating to herself. The news of my fall already put a strain on her nerves. If I had mentioned that I was a butterfly, she would think I was a complete loon. She prepared dinner for us later that evening as we gathered around the table. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
“Max, say a blessing on the food,” I said. “Blessed are You, L-rd our Gd, King of the universe, by Whose word all things came to be.” Mama and I proceeded to say Amen when the phone rang. “I’ll get it,” I said. Walking over to the phone, I felt healed. The hatred I had for Sawyer vanished and the love I had for Max grew larger than I ever thought it could. I picked up the phone and answered. It was Mr. Bird.
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Birds of Hope J. E. Crum
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As Mountain Winds Diana Benigno I am a wild and free spirit of Nature, born when the wind kissed water and fashioned the most elegant wave. Upon the breaker’s crash, I became the foam that spread across the surface and mingled with the tangy salt. I am the quintessence of the ocean’s joy, composing the bass like rhythm of the undertow and sweet melody of the ocean spray. I do not have what humans call a home, yet I have been confined to this island for the measure of my memory. I will be free soon, my good master says. I wonder, then, what shall I do? When I was a young sprite, serving my elemental kinsman in the rolling of the tides, a ship landed on the shore with a big-bellied hag shoved from the deck and onto the sand. I was content in the rocking embrace of the ones who made me, rising and receding, until that precise moment. I felt a shudder in my being for as soon as she touched the earth she cursed it with the vengeance of the Devil himself–an entity I did not yet come to know or understand, but would learn was her master, and who, later, would try to eat my mind while I was stuck in a cloven pine. Then the ship departed, leaving her with angry swears, and myself with an infinite curiosity to know how she emitted such a powerful rumble. I had a desire, I noticed–my first ever–to approach this ebony, round shape of a thing. She plunged herself into the sand, kicking and screaming with rage. Drops of the sea leaked from the orbs of light that rested in the 24 The Olivetree Review
top appendage of her being. Her behavior filled me with amazement and as I jumped up to look at her more closely, I became disconnected from my life force and became the higher element that caused the waves to rise before they fell. Before I could fully comprehend the ecstasy of taming wind, I was then blown toward the dark one and landed on a clam shell. The thud had broken me upon landing, gifted me, with a bang, more space to embody. I felt the lightning crack of bones inside my brain, for now I had one. With a gasp, I became matter. Her screaming ceased upon her knowledge of me and the sun in an instant went black. I do not believe in measuring time, so soon after, with a tug from my sister, whom she called “La Luna,” she ensnared me in a grip that made my entire form tingle. She had harnessed a power beyond her humanness, while I was hurling towards the heaviness of earth with the severity of her shattered soul. When she had me, she was connected to me. Only for a moment did it seem meant to be until her drawl devastated any sense of compassion within. Still, I was hooked. “Ariel Spirit,” she drawled. “Thou art mine now.” And I was, gladly. Never had I seen another creature of such fascinating magnificence. She called herself Sycorax. She had a gray and brittle halo of hair and a misshapen starkness of body. I had never seen such a shape. I saw her voice once move a mountain, felt her power like an all-consuming rage Issue 67 Spring - 2021
hanging tightly to the chords of my energy body, too young to channel it for any purpose. I observed her belly grow and I learned the human language through her wretched, dissonant incantations. Her hold on me took many variations and I learned through her force how to embody different shapes and demons she would describe and mold from my amorphous beauty. One day, when I dove off a high stone, to prove I could, and splashed into a water basin, her body convulsed, emitting a sound most menacing. I watched her ever-growing belly bounce, and sea squirted once more out of her head. I mimicked her rapture and it felt wonderful, as if whatever tightness she held on me was instantly purged from my container. “It is laughter, Ariel,” she spat. “We release it when we reach the height of personal power.” I did not understand this. “It is truth escaping the body,” she clarified, though it too did not help. Whatever this “truth” was I wanted to feel more of it. And when I laughed she laughed, and was kind to me. I was always in the grasp of her changing temperaments. She told me how she came to the island, and that the reason her belly was so large was because there was another one of her that lived beneath her skin. It gave her excruciating pains, she said. The scales were rubbing against her and scratching her insides. She told me she created it in order to live. Whenever she spoke of her kind, the humans, she was angry. I listened and followed, living for her, and through her, obediently, and pitied all her kind. Another day, while entertaining her with songs, ones I wrote while bil26 The Olivetree Review
lowing through the hollow reeds of the island, she commanded me to commit an unspeakable act. I had only just mastered the art of words and could now change my shape at will. As I was fluttering with the silver moths in the yellow light of the fire, dancing to the music we created, she blazed it up, and incinerated all my companions. “Stop fidgeting, tricky thing. I have work for thee.” “My mistress,” said I. “I was hanging on your words. I was only playing.” “No more excuses. Come here, demon. I am too weak. I command you to rid me of this tumor.” I was more confused than resistant to her request. “I cannot, mistress.” I said. “My being forbids it. That tumor is of Nature, a most beautiful creation. It is Life. It would make me one of your master’s servants, a thing most foul, if I were to transfigure this sizable collection of light particles into decay. It gives you glow, therefore it must be allowed to continue to grow.” “Thou art my master’s servant, slave!” she screamed, and she harnessed me with a chain of moonbeams. “I command thee!”
I could hear my mother and father roar from the shore, and with a crack of lighting, I cried: “I cannot!” She shot lighting into me. Suddenly I took a shape that mirrored her form, as if invoked by that very jolt. Quick as a bird on human legs I ran, but before I could trek down the hill back towards the tide, her harness Issue 67 Spring - 2021
struck me again and threw me into a pine tree. “Feel why I want this horrid thing demised, and wail away a thousand lifetimes.” I don’t know how long that is, but I believe it to be the correct measure of my sentence. I learned that day that Devils are Humans, who use benevolent Nature to selfish, meaningless ends. Spirits, like me, even the bastard tree that held me, are the loveliness, the light. She worshipped the dark matter— the void, hell bent in fury to consume and destroy. With me, however, she failed, and died before I could prove it to her. I thought of ways to destroy my cage from the inside of that damp bark, but was still too young to know how. I had no light to guide me, or warmth. Only darkness. And agony. I could hear all the activity of the island, but was able to partake in none of it. I felt useless, rotten, and cold, like a nail in a coffin. My nature was stripped from me, and the world had gotten on without me. I felt very like that miserable hag, like a person fused to earth by what now call gravity, trapped by the laws of those more powerful than me. I did not know enough melodies to free myself. Even the tree was older than me, and stronger than my gloom. I cried to keep from quaking the earth in the same violence that was bestowed upon me. I felt so weak I could feel myself becoming mortal, feeling pain, aging in the rough stump, forming wooden organs, flowing veins like rivers in the tree rings. I leaked so many tears as the amber sap that swelled inside the pine, normally feed28 The Olivetree Review
ing small insects and rodents with its thick viscosity. My heart was exposed as a knot and absorbed selfishly by all the vile creatures, eroding and eaten alive. My pain was their nourishment. I was freed when a man heard my suffering in the dark. In the dead of night and well into the deep pit of my loneliness, musing on the reason for my incarceration, I felt vibrations in the earth from the roots of my pine prison. It was a rumbling that felt like thunder but that I knew was a form not unlike my mistress. I thought, this must be my doom. She will chop me down, and I will bleed like she, and cease to be. I was blind to all light, so used to feeling the womb of the earth ache instead of being the clear-blue exquisiteness of The Sky, so my cursed mistress sometimes called me. I longed for the sea, for a mother, for what that would be, for anyone. Suddenly, I felt a shooting pain in my limbs as the prick of a staff impaled the soil around me and scratched the tree bark where my lungs would have been. I closed my eyes tightly, terrified. The pine held me tighter, matching my fear, absorbing my wondrousness deep into the ground as if sinking me into itself. And I whimpered, wanting to let it take me, make me a worm instead of the gorgeous creature I was, stunted in my glory. Careful footsteps ceased before me. “I can hear you, spirit!” The voice whispered. “I heard thee from the sea. I thought thy cries were just an echo of mine own until I landed here and followed them to their source. Can you hear me, spirit?!” Issue 67 Spring - 2021
I was too weak to respond so instead the tree spoke for me by bending toward the voice, practically crushing me. “Spirit! I can see thee! The pine is all aglow with a dark blue halo and a cloud hangs over thee. Spirit! Thou hast called to me. I am Prospero, and I have the power to free thee.” I let out a wail that rang out like my mistress did when she landed here. All I could muster, with bated breath, in what I thought was his language was “Please…” I wanted to be free, but more than that, I wanted him to kill me. “Please.” I whimpered. “Sir, please.” “What spirit? Kill thee?” he said, gingerly approaching me. “Never. Though thou art trapped, I can see thou art a thing of beauty. Miraculous…I cannot tell what sex afflicts thee. Tell me, hast thou a name?” “I…cannot breathe.” I said. Without hesitation, confident sorcerer as he was, he uttered booming words toward the heart knot of the tree. Then, I, in deep concentration, expecting to be shattered and splintered, I felt space enter me. This human, gently appeared in my mind’s eye. I saw his face, the first image to appear to me since my imprisonment. The grace in his eyes caused me to weep harder and all of a sudden, the bark began to give way. My heaves began to crack the barky knots and I felt a flood of air enter my being. I gasped again as the pine that squeezed me these many lifetimes disintegrated like the mark of a rock thrown in still water. The earth was smooth 30 The Olivetree Review
again, but the mortality of the matter pinned me down. I began to cough uncontrollably, getting lighter and lighter as I dispelled the accrued matter from my insides until I was once again empty, and free. I felt like my old self in a wink, ready to ride the clouds and return to the sky as rain and snow. Yet, sure as Sycorax, I was immediately ensnared by an invisible force, and hurled back down to earth. “Not so fast, Spirit.” The man said calmly. “I need your help. Serve me, and I promise thee, a blink more of time on this island and then thou shalt be truly free.” “No more lies, please! Just dispose of me!” “Nay Ariel Spirit. I saw thy name Carved in a sunken cave at the dense foot Of the mountain. You know this place, and must Expertly educate me about it, For I am foreign here and lack the sense. I promise, as King and Man of decency. Show me and I will love thee, desperately, And use thy nature as best becomes thee.” “Thou art another master, then,” said I, melancholy. “Nay, Ariel, a friend.” That word I’d never heard till then. And so, we have been, I think, friends, and due to his mercy, I am able to view the island from all angles in Issue 67 Spring - 2021
all my charms. Sometimes, I sing sweet lullabies to the sole subject my master keeps, mistreats, and uses as his mother used me. He cries for his mother, but no one knows what became of her. And now, I wait, for the moon to be drunk enough with tide, cruising, thinking what shape today’s lightening will take. Her pulls that sway the sea no longer frighten me. I can use them to create such resplendency. Today, a tempest is what my master desires to quake, conjuring the magic only I can make. For thought, like me, is free…
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A Day in the Park Ariana Gladstone
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
O Holy Night Somoshree Palit SCENE I A night on the Western Front. The wintry winds gush in a harrowing whisper over bodies of soldiers, as indifferent to the shivering bodies as the bodies that had ceased all tremors and lay lifeless under the clear moonlight. Occasional gunshots heard. Snow fell in soft wisps over the dense solitude. Solitude at the war front is a dangerous thing. Narrator : On either side of barbed fence, Where falling snow at night condense As if the earth in peace immense, Softly lulled in sleep intense, The men of mortal hunt. Quietly fell the Christmas snow, Songs of war it did not know. Aching limbs of friend or foe Dreamt of home in trenches low All quiet on the Western Front.
The German trench. Soldiers can be seen sitting silent in the trench. A young boy of eighteen is seen bent over a piece of paper, writing. Joel : O Momma dear, how have you been? Sweet Momma, it’s been a year. Over lands of Ypres, Somme and Marne, Do you, your Joel hear? O Momma here the copper sky, Cannot but court the red, 34 The Olivetree Review
That bejeweled lie on men who sigh, Heroes when they are dead. But if I die, sweet Momma dear, Know that I would never yield. I’d die for Germany without a fear For flung from a German field. Give my love to all, Momma, That your gallant boy is well. That your boy has sent you love, Momma, Merry Christmas, yours, Joel. Hans : Your words might in a Church be read To rouse the boys at home. And would you vouch for ones who’re dead Decayed in the muds of Somme? You may not, but I have seen You scream when a shrieking shell Fumes red with limbs all over the green, Marking our German hell. Joel : O Hans should I write the truth For all of the world to know The „Roll of Honours” gallant youth Are kids left dying slow? Of kids who smile at poppies bright With nothing but wounds that ache, Issue 67 Spring - 2021
The poppies know, and knows the night : Those kids would never wake. Do I write of maggots that feed a-fresh On roads cobbled with worms and flesh? Or how we envy the dead who cease; And the dead envy living rats in cheese? They said we’d be back for Christmas, „Back for Christmas from France.” Oh lovely war! Good ol’ fashioned war – They never said which Christmas, Hans. Hans : Oh such a lovely war! Smiling they wrote our lie – „Aged Nineteen”, with our shield Sent to war to die. Joel peeps out of the trench, as the scene closes on the German trench, shifting to show the trenches of the British. Tommy, a boy of twenty, glides his wounded fingers over his fiancée’s picture. Tommy : If I could trade the world my love, In lieu for your gentle smile, I would trade my death, my life, my love, To kiss your eyes awhile. 36 The Olivetree Review
My lips that brushed your burning blush Has kissed those frightened eyes, Of soldier-boys’ fading flush The fears the world denies. Sill would I return to you one day : My beloved, my spring-time dove, Can you hear me, from trenches faraway? Merry Christmas, my love, fair love! Branden : Hey Tommy, look at my cherubin smile, O look at his face in glee, O now would I exchange a thousand miles, And a million furlongs of sea To behold that face of angelic grace; If the war would let me free. Tommy : Such an angle, a sweet little child Bright as a morning sun! That day I said in the barrage wild “Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun”. It’s best that he died, my brother John, He could not have borne the ring Of spitfire shells on Christmas morn, And the night when angels sign. A buzz of voices heard. Soldiers in the trench grow restless, sensing probable danger. The scene shifts to the German Trench. Hans : Joel! JOEL! Stay where you are, Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Stay where you are, don’t leave! Their guns don’t know it’s Christmas tonight : Their guns no carols believe. Joel : O Hans, Hans, pray, do glance, The Brits in France with guns. Look them in the eye, say you deny : That they look not like German sons! Look at their eyes, the darkling skies – The similar cries, you’ll see, Those fall in rain, in agonized pain When slain can set them free. A Christmas bell is a shrieking shell Flaming hell where laughter goes. Behind our scar, we are soldiers from far, But we are just children up close. Joel walks out of the trench. A thousand guns point at him, threatening him with death. Joel sings, heedless of a probable death. Joel : Stille Nacht, heileges Nacht, Alles schläft, einsam wacht, Nur das traute hochheilige Paar. Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar, Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh! Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh… The British Trench. Tommy looks out of the trench. Tommy : It’s the night when the angels sing Over the dead in sand! 38 The Olivetree Review
O rebel angel, sing, pray sing, Shattering the No-man’s land. Tommy sees Joel, holding up a little Christmas tree. Behind him, Hans held up a placard, his childish handwriting read, “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Branden : What if it’s a trap, a trap to kill? The Huns haven’t won much ground. What if their songs are a strategy still? Their Christmas : our dying sound? Tommy : The fat grey civilians at home Said, “Go out and fight the Hun!” O can’t you see them thanking God That they’re over sixty-one? „All the roads to victory Are flooded as we go There’s so much blood to paddle through That’s why we are marching slow.” Tommy and Joel meet on the No-man’s land, half-scared, half-brave : tired children beneath the ever-waiting firmament. Their fears vent in songs. Joel : Stille Nacht, heileges Nacht, Alles schläft, einsam wacht... Tommy : Round yon virgin mother and child, Holy infant so tender and mild... Joel : Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh… Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Tommy : Sleep in heavenly peace. Slowly, the waiting sky heaves a sigh of relief. The soldiers came out of their trenches, singing, greeting, laughing, embracing. It was the night of holiness. It was the night of Christmas. It was the night when the Saviour was born. Narrator : On dreary nights of a screaming shell, When like rain the bullets fell – When terrors convulsed rang their knell The hell on earth mocked Satan’s hell: Ypres sounded as muffled scream. On those bare bleached bones of boys Who marched to death : those gagged convoys, On their eaten brains and tortured voice Blooms poppies over all warring noise Over the merriest Christmas dream. Those boys so young for home did crave : Who were sent to kill and pretend to be brave. Iron forged to an iron slave Graved in death in an uprooted grave. Ypres still sounded as a scream. Close your eyes and see those boys, 40 The Olivetree Review
They make a snowman, their laughing voice – O hear, it is the very same noise That brewed love to Mary’s joys! Merry, merry Christmas dream. Dawn broke. The soldiers were now no longer distinguishable as Germans or British. They laughed, played football, sang, and remembered their lives at home. The soldiers, the machines of war, were children once again. Tommy : Of men who plan our mortal wars, And smoke cigars in your old-age barn, And tell that God loves dying kids – God died with us in the trench of Marne. Hans : I have seen men choke on Somme-nian mud Carrion-flies dance on their rotten skin, Dear Huns mouths with British guts and blood; Your God in heaven is a soldier’s kin. Branden : I have shuddered at what men can kill For God, for land as big as Rome. When you murder a boy crying still, Don’t you feel he’s crying for home? Joel : I had a friend, a German friend, At Ypres’ end he sat, At Marne-ian trench he killed a French, Stabbed his lungs, liver and fat. And then he cried for the boy that died, Issue 67 Spring - 2021
May be lied to the Verdun mud, He began to pale at Passchendaele, Down the vale of holy blood. Old men of mind say “War is kind,” Look behind at my German chum : Aching he squirms, his grim confirms That carrion worms ate his thumb. He grins somewhere out in the air, His auburn hair but poppies anew, No verse or lull blooms off his skull, “My pal, I died, so will you.” A man in a trench, Hun, Brit, French Has a nation, a notion, a name. When aching they die like children cry – When dead, we are all the same. Explosions heard. The anxious soldiers hurriedly get back to their trenches. The dream was over. Those betrayed eyes screamed for justice – but who provides justice when God is dead? Tommy : Merry Christmas Joel : Frohe Weinachten.
The boys return to their trenches. (Exeunt.)
SCENE II The British Trench. Tommy reclines on the sand42 The Olivetree Review
bags, fiddling with his helmet. Gunshots, shells, explosions and screams rage all about him. Narrator : Amid „God help Germany” and „God save the king”, „God this”, „God that”, and „God the other thing”. Amid war-cries, battalions and bugles death ring, All birds forgot their very job was to sing. Choking on their breath. And now screams a copper sky, The calm for every aching eye : “Politicians are honest men who lie For Europe’s peace they war at Versailles. Sent youth like moths to death.” A lark gets entangled in the barbed wires. Tommy attempts to free its tangled, almost bloody wings, and succeeds. He smiles. Tommy : O lark of skies, sweet skylark free, As winds brush past your amber flight, Sing to skies, the earth, the sea; Fly higher and higher to the Heaven of light. And ask of God who sits right there, Of worms that eat up living skin apart, He would not answer, he wouldn’t dare! We love our crooked father with our crooked heart.
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Gunshot. A groan, and silence.
SCENE III The German trench. Artillery fires rage horridly on the Western Front. Screams rise and cover the air, as if suppliant to a deity that itself is victimized. Joel crouches down, hands over his ears, trembling, writhing in pain. The Western Front knew no mercy. Joel : “Christ! Christ! O why don’t they stop! Why don’t they stop the murder of dead! O God it hurts! Stop! Stop! Stop! I wanna go home I don’t wanna be dead! Shall I awake, and find all this a dream? HELP! STOP THE NOISE! STOP IT! CEASE!! O we cannot be made for this sort of pain! O KILL ME KILL ME KILL ME PLEASE!” Joel looks over his shoulder at the explosion just behind him, worsening his shell-shock. Out of the bullets, who is that born? His eyes my eyes do meet… Who smiles in pain on a warring morn, Amidst the warring heat? His blood is shed in a crown of thorn Nail-marks glow on His feet… Gunshot, a whimper, and silence.
Narrator : Close your eyes, and hear them still. The countless graves and names they wrote. 44 The Olivetree Review
Close your eyes, can you hear him sing? That rifle shot him on his throat.
EPILOGUE Five nails has killed the Prince of Peace Whose soldiers dead are children’s geist. Four shots had killed us children four – And the last bullet was shot at Christ.
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
A Magical Snapshot Ariana Gladstone
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Little Fifteen Jennifer MacBain-Stephens She wants to see with your eyes. She wants to smile with your smile. She wants a nice surprise. -Depeche Mode Talking to my daughter about moving to New York When I try to tell you a story about when I was twenty-two I see my own anxiety outlined in your arms and neck, your bounding and still deer eyes the lean and tilt of you against the kitchen door frame, I’m uninspired to mention: Brooklyn and Chelsea parties in tiny apartments, where I could get men to strip just by asking, drunk trust fund kids who visited three homes, in the summertime, escaping the urine smells on the sidewalk, the jealousy of boyfriends, how they seemed to fall from trees My roommate and I discovering we lived in Blondie’s old apartment where the walls were once painted silver a rotating door of roommates. Some broke dishes. Some were French, Some moved back west. How can I encourage you to go? Where most of the time I was so lonely painting my kitchen walls orange, Fleeing to a museum pop up exhibit Issue 67 Spring - 2021
the ease of credit card debt on Broadway The wanting to escape the ambulance noise a never ending loop but now in the too quiet of the Prairie, Not ready for you to wear short kilts and get cat called, to tell you to be brave and to only take measured risks, but also who will protect you who are you who will you be who am I when you say goodbye
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God in the Psych Ward Sammie Wilhoit God is a drunk in the park dragged into fluorescent lighting. God taught us they would give us pudding and plastic spoons if we asked the nurses God asked for a radio and the nurses brought out an old clunky one with a CD player on top God turned on the Top 40’s and we listened for days Stitches Love Yourself Lost Boy I Took A Pill in Ibiza Stressed Out Sorry Songs that kept the neon pink cast from more smiley face indents “Alcomahall” did not stop God God taught us hallway surfing: push off one wall with your feet until your palms touch the second wall then Issue 67 Spring - 2021
cannonball tuck in and repeat God has brown curly hair God loved all of us mentally ill teens but rolled her eyes at authority God could get what she wanted when she wanted it God made my stay feel welcome
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Everlasting J. E. Crum
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
62 Moons Anthony Treadvance Back when Lil Brush turned sixteen Lapis reminded him Saturn had 62 moons. He was on the beach and he wasn’t supposed to be on the beach. Flames flicked up from barrels. The shadow of his brother’s friends were drinking, and he could smell that skunk smell he now knew to be weed. Everyone was a shadow, even Quasi, who throughout the night lifted his smoker’s arm to the thump of the music. Quasi yelled at it all. He bellowed loudly into the sea the slapping waves, the filling crowd, and the purple-black of the disappearing horizon. “This is fire.” Quasi’s voice crackled into the fierce blaze, signaled like a tower on rocks waving ships in. Kit lurked near enough to respond first– a true wing woman. She bounced up and down and clapped, seconds before the shadows whooped in answer. The sound of the chorus twisted out, up and joined the water licking at the coast. “Where is he?” Quasi turned to Kit. Kit pointed in the distance and slinked away crouched between the darkness and swatches of light that danced on the ground. Twenty bodies or more, fumbled through the sand, and more arrived yelping, as they followed the flames and music like fat gray moths. They made their way to the barrels, the center, and each paid homage throwing in jetsam– things to forget– to erase– things to burn. 52 The Olivetree Review
“Lil Brush you’re too young,” his dad would say when Quasi headed out to Rendezvous Point every half-moon. He’d get in between the two, and Quasi who never argued with their father, would bound off and give his younger brother two looks– one that said aww too bad, and one that said do something about it. It took Lil Brush a minute, three years to figure out the last look, Quasi’s head tilt and furrowed angry brow. But then his brain clicked. And he began sneaking out on his own and lying outright, using friends as alibi’s. He’d tuck his medium, boars head, black brush, and doo rag, in his back pocket. He’d look for tobacco and papers in his father’s tool box in the garage. He’d call Gill and Lapis and they’d all agree to find each other if they could. He had stolen Quasi’s small flask that first time and told him he did it. Quasi just grinned that night knowing he himself had stolen the flask from the back of their dad’s closet, from the collapsible linen box that contained all of a marriage. Lil Brush often wondered how something so small could house over thirty years. He kept those questions at bay when he brushed the same waves hitting the beach into ellipses, circling his head- 360 degrees. The flask was dented and engraved on the bottom with the first letter of their parent’s names. L&S twirled like a ribbon in stainless steel. They formed initials of their own– a signet. He would fill the flask with the dark rum Quasi hid beneath his bed in the pile of smelly clothes used to deter. That never worked. Lil Brush knew every corner of their six-room bungaIssue 67 Spring - 2021
low and all its hidden scratches and hushed joy. The cream home, tucked in a green bushy thicket, was an L&S secret stash– he could only imagine why. When she died, they tried to put all the pieces that flew apart at least in bags first. Then they spread them on the table like a big puzzle until they all broke themselves in sorrow trying to put it back together. The only thing that fixed it, or at least froze it in place, was the box, a grey linen time capsule tucked in dimness. And the bungalow- a small castle that smelled of reef, and weed, and foamy fishy spray that could burst onto a combers face. When they sold the other house and moved in, Lil Brush and Quasi ran into the salt breeze with arms wide as gull wings. “There is nothing better than this air Lil B.” Quasi had tackled him and they rolled in grit hundreds of years old. They looked for treasure they knew no one hid. They returned with shells and mini crabs that dragged themselves along protected only from the sun, the wind. He wanted to hide like the crab sometimes, right in plain sight even, swiping with pincers when disturbed- scurrying for an escape, burrowing into what fills the hourglass. Other times the gulls suited him just fine, sweeping down from the sky bold and dangerous, their yellow beaks snatching at food, squawking for dear life. He could be both. The shadows of that night had turned into a twisting spiral of shapes. Veiled bodies held cans, glass bottles and red cups. They moved about each other swirling in rings beneath white specks on black canvas. They 54 The Olivetree Review
cheered the tunes wafting from the speakers, a prerecorded set Quasi had worked hard on. They coiled around the barrels – fractals that swung out wide into a nothing just as bottomless as the sea. Lil Brush watched them all weave and sway between. Kit shadowed him, her hood up. The music humped against midnight- the half-moon sat strong adding slices of silver to the orangey red, yellowy white fuming from the barrels. So the shadows began to glow. Their faces, just like the moon, were half concealed but still whole nonetheless. Lil Brush looked around for Quasi more than usual that night. He kept the flask in his front pocket tight against his hip. The first couple times he came to the point Quasi tracked him every were he went, keeping distance but still there, a satellite looming. Lately he had cooled. Lil Brush could eb and flow as he pleased. They were there for the same reason anyway– communion. Lil Brush was just quiet about it. People assumed he was following his bigger brother. And while there was truth, the assumption was also a lie. They were following each other. This is what L taught them. She had sat them together back to back on the porch. “Tell him what you see,” she said looming full, her face smooth, unphased. And then they took turns describing their view, what the other could not witness. The two them, backs as one, was his earliest lesson. Their eyes would always see something else and both of the views made a whole. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
He already knew he could never be Quasi, the monolith tumbling trough space landing firm on planets, an obsidian mirror of the universe. Lil Brush shrunk then expanded, he rushed and retreated. If someone told him he was the tides he would have believed them; how they smushed you down, swiped things away, and then rippled back to the beginning wherever that may be. At this communion, he devoured what he could chomping at scenes, the billowing smoke, the writhing glowing bodies, the ones sneaking and pulling each other off into the dunes. He grabbed at the whispers and the moans, the clinks of glass and the lighter flicks. It all became a shell. People grabbed ass, bumped sloppy, tumbled down. The silhouette of capoeira made him dizzy. When the legs kicked up and helicoptered around he remembered that he too was in space and that he was right-side up and upside-down. This gave him comfort. Behind him he could hear an argument brewing and a beer can flew through the air. It clunked against the back of his head. Before Kit could jump to grab him, Lil Brush spun around and charged into a pit of boys tussling. He scooped sand in both hands and tossed it then pushed a boy down straddling him. He swung wildly at the boy pounding him into the ground and the pack became a paper chain of arms and legs advancing. “You little motherfucker.” Someone snarled at him. Lil Brush could hear the boy on the ground moan as three shadows framed in flames broke away from the others moshing and hunkered toward him. He rolled off of the boy and stood up, scooped more sand. 56 The Olivetree Review
They charged. He threw the sediments and balled his fists, braced his body in the sinking floor. He never saw where Kit came from but she pounced from the shadows. She slid low tripping one of them as they waded toward Lil Brush. Her hood slid off as Quasi appeared barreling through a big couple grinding against themselves. Lil Brush grinned and leaned forward. His toes gripped at granules. Ready. But two voices called him from the shade of semi-darkness. They moved toward him fast gripped his arm and pulled him. It was Gill and Lapis. Kit stood and waved for them to go. He looked over his shoulder as Gill and Lapis ushered him away. He could see Quasi’s tall solid frame rising high. He could hear Quasi roar than laugh – the tussling group crashed into each other. Woops lifted from the shadows– the base dropped– it was a chop and screw. Kit bounced and threw a fist up. The mosh pit ended. They all danced again. As he ran sandwiched between his friends, Lil Brush felt their arms reach around his waist. He reached around theirs and they hurled towards a lone barrel near the dunes together. They were out of breath but they laughed hard as they dove into the sand the three tangled like nets, legs and arms locking. Elbows eventually propped themselves up so they could watch the raving life from afar. Lil brush patted his front pocket and sighed. The flask was still there. He pulled it out gulped, and passed it to Lapis who swigged deeply, then passed it to Gill who slurped in relief. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Lil Brush reached in his back pocket – the brush, the doo rag was gone. He wasn’t worried though, he had spares neatly packed in a Nike sneaker box. His hands went up to smooth the waves in his hair and dust them. He was in the middle, Gill to his left, Lapis to his right. “So my Dad bought me a telescope.” Lapis reached in her cut-off jeans grabbed a hair tie and pulled her curls into a bun. “Happy Birthday.” “Thanks. And it’s about time.” Lil Brush said. “I saw it,” Gill tapped his shoulder. “Happy Birthday. It’s actually really nice.” Lil Brush tapped Gill back. “It’s a Celestron.” Lapis moved closer. Lil Brush could feel her hands against his waist and Gills breath by his ear. The beat thumped. “I’m looking for Saturn,” she said. “It has 62…” “Moons.” Gill finished the sentence, reached into the sand, and pulled himself closer. Lil brush looked into the sky as Lapis slipped out of her jeans her legs whispering for him. “You can’t see Saturn from here.” She said. And she was right. Lil Brush looked past her flickering face. All he saw was pin-point riddled blackness, the half-moon, the water, the dots of white smirking down on the beach. All of it engulfed each other. They collapsed together their original orbits reconfigured. Not too far from the dunes, others sat kissing in half-light. Two girls had giggled away from a groping group of boys. They hugged each other 58 The Olivetree Review
viciously and stumbled. They slapped at the boys, and the air, and themselves. “Not for you… this is not for you,” one said. The girls were backing away toward the waves. The boys didn’t pursue when they turned. They chuckled out a bunch of whatever’s instead and hunched toward the bonfire. Lil Brush closed his eyes, and saw the moons, but he also saw those girls as they broke into a sprint and headed straight for the edge of the earth.
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TENACIOUS Aluu Prosper She had fears, but remained strong Hid her tears, and still played along knowing she wouldn’t be in chains for long She cried every night singing a freedom song The rectangle is a measure of uncertainty Whose sides are both equal and unequal Not certain if Africans have true sovereignty Some do not even think we all are coequal There is a lot to share And a lot to withhold Enough for you to care And willing to behold Stories hidden in the hair Which would be told Giving Sand to art to wear And with paint we enfold I tell stories so you can hear And then artworks are sold A history I need to repair A mystery I need to unfold
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The Prize Blind Rollin Jewett CHARACTERS TOM – 20’s – 30’s FRANK - Tom’s father, handsome, rugged, ex-cowboy actor, 50’s – 70’s MARGIE – Frank’s wife, Tom’s step-mom, plain, 50’s – 70’s SETTING: SMALL HOME/APARTMENT – DAY The apartment is sparsely furnished with a couch, a coffee table and a side board with a coffee carafe and coffee cups. There are a couple of framed pictures on the wall of FRANK on a horse, with celebrities, maybe a couple of movie posters. A cowboy hat hangs from a hook near the door. (We hear a knock on the front door. FRANK enters the room wearing a western style shirt, goes to the door and opens it .TOM stands there, smiling.) FRANK Well, look what the cat dragged in! Margie, look who’s here! TOM Hey, old man. (They hug. MARGIE enters and stands by the couch.) MARGIE Well, hey honey! This is a surprise! Come on in! TOM Hey, Margie. (Tom enters the room and gives Margie a big hug.) Issue 67 Spring - 2021
MARGIE Well, don’t you look fine. TOM Thanks. So do you. FRANK What are you doing here, son? Why didn’t you call and let us know you were coming? Give us a heads up? TOM It was just kind of...spur of the moment. I was just thinking it’s been awhile since I’ve seen you two and...well, I just got in my car and drove out here to see ya. FRANK Well...I’m real happy you did, son. But I was just about to head out to the doctor’s office in a few minutes. TOM Everything okay? FRANK Of course everything’s okay. Hell, son, you get to be my age, the doctor’s office is like a second home. With better air conditioning. TOM So…what’s going on? FRANK Oh, they’re just running a few tests to see why I’m such a numbskull, that’s all. Nothing to be concerned about. MARGIE He’s been a little…forgetful lately. But ornery as ever. FRANK 62 The Olivetree Review
(Waving her off.) Oh, you hush up. Just because I forgot where I parked the car a few times she gets all panicky. Thinks I’m losing my marbles. MARGIE And your keys. And your wallet. And how to get home... FRANK Oh, nonsense. It was dark out…and I didn’t have my glasses with me. MARGIE (To Tom) Forgot those, too. FRANK Will you stop. The boy didn’t come all the way from San Diego to hear about my health issues. Sit down, son. (TOM and FRANK sit on the couch). MARGIE Would you like a cup of coffee, Tom? I just made some fresh. TOM I’d love some. Been on the road since early this morning and didn’t think to make some before I left. And like dad, once I’m on the road I don’t like to stop for anything. MARGIE (Pouring him a cup from a carafe on the table.) Don’t I know it. All those road trips where I’ve almost peed my pants begging him to stop somewhere. A bush, a tree…anywhere. FRANK Women. They’re all born with bladders the size of a peanut. I told her to just get some of those Depends things and she can go wherever and whenever she wants. MARGIE Issue 67 Spring - 2021
That’s disgusting. I’m not ready for diapers just yet. Unlike some people… FRANK I just like to get places in a hurry. Hell, I may not have much time left on this planet, so I want to get some more living in before I go. So…why not go on the go. TOM That’s a little TMI, dad FRANK TMI? What’s that? MARGIE Too much information. FRANK Oh, you kids and your abbreviations. LOL, BRB…TMI. Christ, it akes more to time to figure out what they mean than it does to just say the damn words. That’s the problem with everything today. Everyone wants to just hurry through everything. People just need to slow down a little. Life goes by quick enough, believe me. WTF is wrong with everyone? TOM (Laughs) You’re as funny as ever, dad. FRANK There, see. Tom thinks I’m funny. MARGIE Tom doesn’t have to live with you. And change you, and feed you, and remind you, and -FRANK Blah, blah, blah. He didn’t come all this way to hear you nag at me either, did you, Tom?
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TOM Well… FRANK There, you see. Now enough about us old folks. MARGIE Speak for yourself, geezer. FRANK I’ve got to get going in a few minutes and I want to know what you’ve been up to. TOM Want me to go with you? FRANK No, you just got in. Relax and keep Margie company for awhile. Can you stick around for dinner? TOM Sure, of course. FRANK Where you holing up around here? TOM Holing up? Dad, it’s not the old west. You mean where am I staying? I hadn’t really thought about it. I was thinking of driving back tonight. It’s only a couple of hours. FRANK Nonsense. Not while we have a perfectly good bunkhouse right here. Or you can sleep on the lazy boy in the den like I do sometimes. MARGIE Not on purpose, you don’t. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
FRANK Oh, pshaw! You can sleep anywhere if you’re tired enough. I remember falling asleep in the saddle of a moving horse a few times on some of those westerns I shot in the 60’s. MARGIE Sorry, the place isn’t a little bigger, Tom. We had to move to a smaller place when Frank lost his job at the hardware store. FRANK I didn’t lose my job. I took an involuntary hiatus. MARGIE He kept forgetting to ring the customers up. FRANK I did not! I just got to talking to people and I’d lose my train of thought. MARGIE Naturally the store manager didn’t take too kindly to him giving away the ranch, so to speak, so he politely asked if he would like to retire. ASAP. Before they lost any more money. FRANK Oh, he was just jealous of all the attention I was getting. He never did like me. Even when we were teenagers. See, son. That’s the thing about moving back to your old hometown after so many years living in Hollywood. Suddenly, you’re just a store clerk trying to make ends meet. MARGIE He was kind of a celebrity there. You know, having been on TV and in the movies all those years ago. People still ask him for his autograph when we’re out sometimes. FRANK The ones that are old enough to remember me, anyway. And there ain’t many of them left, I can tell you.
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TOM Sorry, dad. Well, you should be taking it easy anyway. You’ve worked long enough. All those long hours on those movie sets and stuff. Maybe it’s time. FRANK Well, it was good extra money. And God knows we could use it. (Shrugs) C’est la vie. (He gets up from the couch, puts on his jacket.) FRANK Well, I best hit the trail. I’ll only be gone an hour or so. Can you stay for dinner? TOM Sure. I don’t have any plans. FRANK Great. See you later, alligator. (He heads to the door and opens it.) MARGIE Aren’t you forgetting something? FRANK What? Oh, yeah. My hat. (He grabs his cowboy hat off the hook and puts it on.) MARGIE Ah-ah. I don’t mean the hat. (He winks at TOM and goes over to give MARGIE a kiss on the cheek.) FRANK She won’t let me leave without giving her a kiss. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
(As he turns to leave, she pulls car keys out of her pocket and jingles them. FRANK turns sheepishly and takes them from her.) FRANK Smarty pants. MARGIE Call if you get lost. (FRANK gestures dismissively) FRANK I’m not gonna get lost. (He exits, singing “I’m back in the saddle again”.) MARGIE You sure are some good actor. TOM Runs in the family. MARGIE Thank you for coming out on such short notice, honey. I hope it wasn’t a problem. TOM Nah. I was long overdue for a visit. Now I see what you were talking about. He really does seem to be deteriorating. MARGIE (Tearing up) It’s so hard for me to watch. (She breaks down a little. Tom goes to her and holds her.) 68 The Olivetree Review
TOM I know. You’ve been amazing, Margie. He’s so lucky to have you. I’ve always said that. MARGIE I’m the lucky one, honey. I married a wonderful man and I’ve got a wonderful son-in-law to boot. (They sit on the couch.) MARGIE He’s gonna be so proud you’re here tomorrow when he gets the award. TOM It’s really a wonderful thing you’ve done, Margie. He’ll be blown away. I know he’s been wanting this for a long time. And wondering why he’s been passed up all these years. MARGIE Well, you know how it is, honey. Out of sight, out of mind. He no longer lives in Hollywood and when I spoke to Jim Logan last month, I practically had to remind him who Frank was. I kept rattling off his films and TV shows until he finally got it. Seems like everyone’s forgetting everything these days. When it finally sank in who Frank was, Logan said “I thought he was dead”. TOM Christ. MARGIE Then he acted surprised Frank hadn’t won the prize before. He kept saying, “Are you sure he’s never gotten this?” And I had to reassure him that he hadn’t. Then he agreed right away, saying it was long overdue. TOM The Silver Spur. Dad’ll be thrilled. You’re a great secret keeper, Margie. MARGIE Well…the way things are going, if it slipped out he’d probably have forgotten Issue 67 Spring - 2021
by now anyway. TOM That bad, huh? (She nods) TOM So who’s coming out for the ceremony tomorrow? Anybody I know? MARGIE Oh…most of his old Hollywood cowboy cronies. Lem Barker, Strider Wilcox, Happy Durbin, Long John Galloway…the usual suspects. TOM Peashooter McBride? MARGIE He passed away last year. TOM Sorry to hear that. I liked ‘ol Peashooter. He was awful nice to me when I’d visit the set. Taught me how to make cowboy coffee and play the harmonica. He got me through some rough patches when dad and I were on the outs, too. Sometimes I’d call him and ask him about dad. He always made time for me. Even if dad didn’t. (MARGIE pats his hand warmly.) MARGIE You certainly didn’t have the most orthodox upbringing did you, child? With your daddy on location all the time. TOM And mom always in the beauty shop. (Shrugs) Hey, I was the envy of all my friends having a semi-famous cowboy for a father. Got me a lot of mileage with the ladies, too. Of course, they all just wanted to meet him. He was bigger than life to all of us.
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MARGIE Yes, he was. TOM And here he is now. Slowly wasting away. MARGIE Don’t say that, honey. TOM Goddamn Alzheimer’s. Well, tomorrow will do him good. Get his spirits up. MARGIE God, I hope so. He sure needs that. He seems so lost and I feel so helpless because I know there’s nothing I can do about it. Dr. Barnard says it’s just gonna get worse. That’s why I pushed so hard for this award ceremony tomorrow. Before he’s so far gone he forgets who he is. (Again, she struggles to keep it together TOM gets emotional.) TOM Margie…I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you’ve been in his life these past ten years. You really saved his ass. He was a broken down washed up alcoholic cow puncher when he came back here. MARGIE Now, honey… TOM It’s true and we all know it! Even he knows it! He’d have been six feet under a long time ago if it weren’t for you, Margie. I’m sure of it. Westerns were dead. His career was over. There wasn’t any work for a beat up old cowhand. And there wasn’t ever gonna be. They put him out to pasture like an old horse and it just about destroyed him. Crawled inside a whiskey bottle and never looked back. Until you came along, no one wanted anything to do with him. Not his wife, not his family…not even me. I couldn’t bear to even look at what he’d become. We all gave up on him…turned our backs. Except you, Margie. You were the only one. And you aren’t even family. You took him in, dusted him off, sobered him up, and somehow nursed him back to life. How? Why? He wasn’t anything to you. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
MARGIE Oh, but he was. He was everything I ever wanted in a man. TOM Oh, come on. MARGIE I swear to you. The day I saw your father stumble into that bar I was working at was the most glorious day of my life. No joke. TOM Why? He was nothing but a drunk. MARGIE He was always more than that, Tom. No matter what he was he going through. And I knew it. TOM How? MARGIE You forget I grew up here in the same town as your daddy. We went to the same schools, knew the same people. He was a few years older than me, but believe me…everyone knew who he was. You couldn’t ignore him if you tried. And boy, oh boy, did I try. For years I tried. But I could never get him completely out of my mind. TOM Really? MARGIE Oh, yes. In fact, he dated my older sister for awhile and I was so jealous I locked her out of the house and didn’t speak to her for a week when I heard he’d kissed her. He was the finest specimen of a man I’d ever seen. He was just beautiful. Even after my first marriage ended I was still thinking about him. Wondering about his life, his wife…his kid. 72 The Olivetree Review
TOM You wondered about me? MARGIE Of course, honey. I wasn’t some obsessed little teeny bopper, but he was always there somewhere in the back of my mind. My picture of what a man should be. When he staggered into that dive bar I was working in, full of piss and vinegar and just waiting for someone to start something with him, I felt my knees buckle and my hands shaking and I knew right then and there…we were gonna be together no matter what. Because that was my chance. My opportunity. TOM I don’t get it. . MARGIE Tom, look at me. I’m no great beauty. I could never in a million years compete with your mother and all those beautiful Hollywood starlets. But when he showed up that night…looking like hell on a horse and not giving one damn about the wicked world…that was it. He was it. My prize. TOM More like a booby prize. MARGIE Not to me. I remember one day when I was about ten years old. He came down the street riding a unicycle and juggling three oranges. Without missing a beat, he smiled and waved to me as he passed. And he never dropped one single orange all the way down the block. I didn’t even know what a unicycle was before that. And you know what? TOM What? MARGIE I still see him that way. A smiling beautiful boy riding a unicycle, juggling oranges and waving…to me. I see him that way…and I always will. Until he waves goodbye to me for the last time. And that will be the saddest day of my life. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
(She breaks down sobbing. Tom holds her. The PHONE RINGS. MARGIE gets up and answers it. MARGIE You old fool. Where are you? (Pause) It’s at the intersection of Mountain View and Barton Road…near the Rite Aid… (The lights slowly go down and out.)
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Untitled Coco Spencer
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
After Jason Thornberry My mother called me yesterday to make me feel small. We live two states apart and she’s never forgiven me for moving away, getting married, being happy, or forsaking the California dream. What are you gonna do, she asked, after you get your degree? I’ve told her time and again. Are you gonna teach? I still want to. That’s why I taught before I went to grad school, I said. But what’s the plan? I told her the job market was a mess. I might have to take what I can get. You know, she said, I didn’t need a degree to do what I do.
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KISS A BOY Naomi Rodriguez KISS A BOY WHEN YOU’RE A BOY WITH A GIRLS NAME. KISS A BOY WHEN HE SAYS YOUR NAME LIKE IT’S NOT A SECRET, LIKE IT ROLLS OFF HIS TONGUE SECOND NATURE. KISS A BOY WHEN YOU’RE A BOY WITH A NAME. JUST ANY NAME. A NAME THAT SOUNDS LIKE THIS. A NAME GIVEN TO YOU BEFORE YOUR FIRST KISS THAT HE REPEATS AND REPEATS AND REPEATS AND ASKS IF HE GETS IT RIGHT EACH AND EVERY TIME. KISS A BOY WHEN YOU’RE A BOY WITH A GIRLS NAME. KISS A BOY WHEN YOUR CHEST IS STILL VISIBLE. WHEN HE HOLDS YOU LIKE A YOU’RE MADE OF GLASS. WHEN HE DOESN’T MENTION IT. WHEN HE DOES MENTION IT. WHEN IT ISN’T THAT BIG OF A DEAL. WHEN IT IS THAT BIG OF A DEAL BUT YOU DON’T REALLY CARE BECAUSE YOU’RE JUST A BOY WITH A NAME THAT HE GAVE YOU RIGHT BEFORE HE KISSED YOU. KISS A BOY WHEN YOU’RE A BOY WITH A GIRLS NAME. [TELL YOUR MOM THAT YOU KISSED A BOY AND YOU’RE A BOY WITH A GIRLS NAME.] TELL HIM THAT HE JUST KISSED A BOY WITH A GIRLS NAME. HEAR HIM SAY THAT YOU’RE JUST A BOY WITH A NAME. ANY NAME WOULD’VE WORKED. HE ASKS IF YOU WANT TO CHANGE IT. NO, YOU SAY. YOU’RE JUST A BOY WITH A NAME. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
KISS A BOY, KISS A BOY, KISS A BOY, KISS A BOY WHEN YOU’RE A BOY BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS HAVE BEEN.
Epiphany J. E. Crum
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Catholic Sex Ed_ Someone Else’s Memory C.G. Myth “Moms give birth through their noses,” “That’s what my brother said.” “The baby grows in her stomach then twists through her chest cavity breaks her ribs And she lets them out with one great sneeze.”
The First Sin Ariana Gladstone
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
June Bug Emma Allbright You, Julia June, are a bug. Everyone at school says so. You sure do look like one, and you act like one too. One day your body sprouted up like a string bean, and the rest of you never caught up with those newfound inches. And with the chubby meat of your toddler body eaten away by the onset of first grade, you were left with nothing but straight lines and sharp angles. Your eyes pop out of your too-small face, giving you the awkward likeness of a puppy dog who has yet to grow into his lumbering paws–but not nearly as cute. No one else seems to think so, at least. You look at yourself in your bathroom mirror and will your reflection to change into something, well, a bit more socially accommodating. And a lot less bug-eyed. Your hair doesn’t help. There is way too much of it–one big curling, frizzing, black mess attached to your head. You brush it, and it poofs up. You pull it up into a ponytail and it escapes every which way, a halo of flyaways circling around your scalp. There always seems to be either too much of something, or not enough at all when it comes to you, Julia June. You talk too much and too loudly, but you don’t say near enough of the right things. You move around too much, and never in the right ways–bouncing your feet, tapping your fingers, shifting in your desk restlessly. You feel too deeply, harbor dreams too large for your small and gangly body. You are different, and frankly this unnerves the other children. Maybe that’s why they’ve singled you out as the resident pariah at St. Jude’s Elementary School. They whisper things at you all throughout class– 80 The Olivetree Review
from behind, from the sides, from below and above. They are everywhere. They have you surrounded like some pack of wild dogs frothing at the mouth. Sometimes you dream them that way. They are chasing you through a shadowy maze of hedges and you run and you run until you turn and run right into more of them. And now they’ve got you, snapping and slathering in every corner of your vision. They inch closer and closer until they are so close that you can smell the stink on their breath, so close that you can’t breathe without it filling your lungs and choking you. You wake up gasping. But these are only dreams. The real monsters await you at school, which you will be late to if you don’t figure something out soon. Maybe a braid would tame your curls– bend and twist them into a manageable rope–but you don’t know how to braid. Not well. You’ve tried before, but it always comes out looking wonky and lopsided, with too much hair falling out here or there. You decide, finally, to stick with the ponytail. Grams has already headed to work anyway. The walk to school is short, but you’re not allowed to go by yourself. Not old enough. Maybe when fifth grade comes around and you tower over all the other kids with lofty confidence they will let you, but for now Grampa joins you, and the two of you make your way down Wynola Street towards the crosswalk. He is a man of few words, but his quiet is comforting, sturdy. At the stop sign, you slip your hand into his–yours, small and smooth, his, large and creased–and let him guide you to the other side. Past the waiting cars, past the danger. You wish that he could keep holding your hand, that he could lead you through the arched doors of St. Jude’s and down the linoIssue 67 Spring - 2021
leum hallways all the way to your classroom. You wish that his safety could follow you all the way to your desk and keep you sheltered all day long. But when you reach the other side of the crosswalk and he says, “You have a good day now, you hear,” all you do is nod and let go. St. Jude’s Elementary School is old. You’re not sure how old, but it has been around since before your parents were born. Back then they made everyone go to chapel, but they don’t do that anymore. The outside is very old and grand, like a church, but the inside has been renovated and looks just like any other school. The entrance is a tall stone archway with a cross emblem in the center, below it an engraving of Matthew 19:14. But Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. You’d like to be friends with this Jesus fellow, but you hear that’s more of a spiritual thing, which means it’s in your head...or your heart? You’re not entirely sure, but you need real living and breathing friends, not imaginary. Today is the same as any other day. You try to keep to yourself, try to stay quiet, try to stay unnoticed. Try to listen to the lesson on spelling. Try not to respond to the whispers and the crumpled notes thrown at you while you work. A particularly nasty note you crumple back up and throw right back at its owner–Miss Sarah Elise–but the teacher spots you and reprimands you, telling you to apologize. You mumble a quiet “sorry” and go back to your work. At lunch you retreat to the bathroom, to the quiet company of yourself. Before long, though, you are discovered by the pack leader herself–Sarah Elise–and her two deputies, Megan and Mary. 82 The Olivetree Review
“Nice hair, Bug,” she says. The other girls laugh as if she’s just said the funniest thing in the world. “Yea. It looks like she’s got a squirrel on her head.” More laughter. You knew this would happen. No matter what you do to your hair, there’s no hiding the mess, the chaos. These girls have it easy–their blonde and brunette strands fall past their shoulders in smooth silky sheets, or sway hypnotically in ponytails held with bright bows. Sarah Elise comes in close and pulls on the thin strap of tank top poking out from under your shirt. She lets it snap back against your shoulder, leaving a bright pink mark where the metal adjustor is. “We’re talking to you, Julia.” “Maybe if she had a mother she would have someone to do her hair.” “Where is she, Julia? Why don’t you have a mother?” “I do,” you say quietly. “Well then where is she?” Sarah Elise demands. “I’ve never seen her. What about you, Megan? Have you ever seen Julia’s mother?” “Nope. Never.” “And you, Mary? Have you seen her?” “Not once.” “And why do you think that is?” “It’s because she hasn’t got one, that’s why!” they all cry in unison. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
“Your note wasn’t very original, Sarah,” you say in a low tone as you walk to the sink to wash your hands. “Spider legs? I’m sure if you really saw a spider all you would do is scream and cry for your daddy.” “My name is Sarah-Elise, Bug. And at least I have someone to kill yucky spiders like you for me.” The girls laugh as they make their way out of the restroom, celebrating another victory. It wasn’t always this way. You used to have lots of friends. No one cared about your hair or how loudly you laughed. You always got picked early on in kickball because when you ran you just flew. During the summers, those same girls would swim for hours in your pool, eating watermelon and playing mermaid lagoon. When you tired, you laid yourselves out on the patio, breathing in the sunlight until Grams yelled that your skin would fry like bacon. Everything was fine, good even, until about second grade. Something you’ve learned is that people change as they grow up. Somewhere around seven or eight, people’s insides start to go bad, to rot. It happens to everyone, some people just try a little harder to fight it off, like Grams and Gramps. Maybe that’s why people die, their insides just eat them all up the older they get. Surely it can’t be good for you, you think. Anyway, you’ve noticed that this rotten bad thing inside everyone is especially particular when it comes to differences. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why anyone would care about being different to you, but you guess most of the really important things about life don’t make a lot of sense. And, unfortunately, everyone at school had decided that you were different. Maybe you were, but you couldn’t figure it out. Maybe if you had grown up 84 The Olivetree Review
normal with a normal mom and dad instead of a Gramma and Grampa, you would know how people were supposed to talk and think and what kind of food was acceptable to bring to lunch–not tuna salad, apparently. But that’s just not the way things went. Because your mother was only around every so often, on holidays and special occasions. And no one wanted to tell you why. When you asked about it, all Grams said was, “She’s not quite ready for you yet. She needs some time to get her footing,” which you felt explained just about nothing. You had a hard time focusing in school. Not for a lack of trying, no, you were always eager to please. And you were intelligent enough, but it was hard to see with the mediocre marks you got in all of your classes. You just couldn’t seem to latch on to what the teachers were saying. You found yourself drifting off into your daydreams as you stared out the window during class. Your mind was your favorite place to go. Always had been. You constructed vivid and detailed scenarios that played like movie reels in the back of your brain, more interesting than anything life could create. After things started to get bad, it became a place you went to more and more. You imagined yourself in the future–tall, wearing glamorous dresses and elegant hairstyles, always surrounded by friends desperate for your attention. You didn’t know what you wanted to do yet, but you wanted to do it far away from here, somewhere big and sparkling, somewhere very different. Like the old pictures you loved going through in the antique dresser with all the small drawers in Grampa’s office. Pictures of your mom standIssue 67 Spring - 2021
ing in front of the house, young and glowing in a long beaded dress, a white rose tied around her wrist with a navy ribbon. She must have been going to some kind of fancy party or dinner, or maybe receiving an award for something. Then there was the picture of the three of them–gramma, gramps, and your mother in front of a big, old-looking building of stone, sort of like St. Judes but much bigger. Maybe it was a school too. Your favorite one was another of your mother, this time on a boat with a big green statue of a lady behind her–that was the statue of liberty, you knew that from school at least–and farther in the background, a big shining city. More buildings than you have ever seen in your life. Someday you will end up in a place like that, you tell yourself. You know your grandparents are afraid to talk about your mom because something happened, something bad. They don’t want to talk about the bad thing, don’t want you to know about it. Maybe they think it will happen to you too, you don’t know. How you wish you could tell them that bad things are already happening to you, it can’t be helped. It’s bad enough hearing everyone else’s’ theories on your life without even knowing yourself. Whatever you ended up doing, it would be important, you decided. You wished for these things with a passion that could hardly be contained. A passion that made you rip your room apart when you didn’t get your way, a passion that scared you and everyone else, coming from such a small being. You didn’t know much about God or if you believed in him, but sometimes you would lie awake at night whispering “Can you hear me?” You al86 The Olivetree Review
ways fell asleep before you got a response. At some point when you were younger, you reasoned that your soul was simply too big for your body. It was the only logical explanation for the craziness that had always resided inside of you. You asked Grams one day if she could take you to the doctor and she pressed her lined palm to your forehead, asking whatever was the matter. When you tried to explain, she pulled you in close and looked right in your eyes and said “My dear, there is nothing wrong with you.” But this did little to quell the worries building in your mind. You found other ways to release the pressure building up inside you– singing in the shower at the top of your lungs, jumping jacks in your room, drumming out melodies on your desk, riding your bike at hyper-speed down the center of the road. But these things didn’t always help. They made your soul swell, reaching through all corners of you, making you want more. More of that feeling. … Every day drags on in the same way. Once you get home from school, your grandparents ask you about your day and you make up some vague comments about what you learned. They don’t seem to realize anything is going on, and you want to keep it that way. Grams has probably noticed that you no longer invite your old friends over to play anymore, but she won’t say anything if you don’t. You are not a family that talks deeply about your miseries. And you are a prideful, stubborn thing. You look forward to sleep, your one break in the cycle, but lately even your sleep has been fitful. You Issue 67 Spring - 2021
never used to have nightmares–now sometimes you can hardly fall asleep for fear of the dog packs and monsters that lie in wait. When you wake up the next morning, the day seems to loom ahead of you, taller than usual. You feel drained just walking into the classroom. You sit in your seat–third row back in the left corner–and stare at the speckled black-and-white linoleum floor while Mrs. Kerkowitz drones on about even and odd numbers. You are not a big fan of numbers. They feel hard and prescriptive, unable to express anything worthwhile. They feel disconnected from the real world, which is complicated, unable to be explained in numeric formulas. But maybe you’re looking at it all wrong. Maybe life really is that simple, maybe the only complication is you. So you decide to contemplate the application of numbers in the classroom. If it came down to it, who would be an even number and who would be an odd? You are surely an odd, no question about it. Sarah-Elise and her sidekicks the Warren sisters, Megan and Mary, were certainly evens. They sit in the first three seats of the front row, shining under the teachers gaze. They raise their hands to answer questions, sit with their legs crossed neatly, and wait politely for their turn to speak–at least when Mrs. Kerkowitz is in the room. When she leaves, the claws come out, dictating a new kind of order in the classroom–but this, you think, must be good. Poised and powerful and even. Sarah-Elise Bonavich belonged to a family that was heavily involved with oil. No one in class knew exactly what her dad did, but he always showed up to school events and meetings wearing dark, expensive looking suits with 88 The Olivetree Review
his hair slicked back. The Warren sisters weren’t quite as rich or impressive as Sarah-Elise, but they stuck to her like molasses and followed her every move. So what exactly made you an odd while the rest of the kids in class, even the unspecial ones, managed to skirt by as evens? So far the most obvious factor emerging was a shared hatred of you. “Julia, do you know the answer?” Mrs. Kerkowitz’s voice snaps you out of your thoughts, and you scramble for something to say, scanning the board for some kind of clue. Her face is smug, you think. She knows you will not be able to answer the question, and for this you resent her deeply. All the other kids turn in their seats to get a good look at you, but before you are forced to admit defeat, someone else’s hand shoots into the air. “Yes, Jonathan?” Mrs. Kerkowitz sighs, turning reluctantly from you. “I know the answer.” “Jonathan, it is Julia’s turn to answer the question now.” “Please, Mrs. Kerkowitz. You haven’t picked on me all day.” So she lets him answer the question, and you are saved for now. Jonathan would be another odd, you think. You are not sure exactly why, but you are certain of it. He is too kind, too trusting. Like you, he often says dumb things that people don’t care to listen to, but somehow he has remained safe. This is the only difference you can see between yourselves. Before lunchtime, Mrs. Kerkowitz calls you over to her desk to talk privately. She always says it is important to respect peoples’ privacy, but you Issue 67 Spring - 2021
think this is a load of bull poop because she still manages to talk loudly enough so everyone else can hear. She says that a little birdy told her you have been eating your lunch in the bathroom, and that this is unacceptable. She says you should try a little harder to make friends, to participate. “I’m going to start walking you to and from the cafeteria,” she says. “No, you don’t have to do that–” “Julia, don’t make it worse. I wish I didn’t have to either, believe me.” … On Thursday, Grams and Grampa must go to a conference with your teacher. They tell you at the dinner table, over a half-eaten meal of hamburger steaks, green beans, and mashed potatoes. “She called me earlier today, just wants to have a chat,” Grams says as she cuts your meat into small bites, something you have been capable of doing for a while now. “I’m sure it’s all good things.” Grampa lays his hand on Grams’ wrist, interrupting her progress. They share a look and she puts down the fork and knife. “Of course,” she replies. “Our Julia is nothing but good.” You take the car this time, riding in silence for the few minutes it takes to get to the school. St. Jude’s is different at night, after all the children have been strained out and returned to their homes. Some would say dull, lifeless, unfriendly. But not you. Without the children, St. 90 The Olivetree Review
Jude’s is just a school, just another building. A wolf without teeth–or like your scary Great Aunt Maeve when she takes her dentures out at night. You relax into the lull, surprised and a little disappointed at how unimpressive it all is. You are not allowed in the classroom with your grandparents and Mrs. Kerkowitz, so you stand outside the doorway, struggling to catch bits of conversation that slip out from the crack underneath. Poor performance... unwilling to participate...unfocused...doesn’t get along with the
er children. You catch a bit of Grams’ raised voice–that doesn’t sound like our Julia–and then things get quiet, voices hushed. When they come out of the classroom, they don’t talk about any of it, going along just as usual. You want to speak, to say something, cry out about the deep injustice you feel is happening. But that would require an explanation, a confession. That would require you to admit that no one likes you and that everything is definitely not okay. And you think you’d rather die than go through that kind of humiliation. … Next week, there is a special assembly that cuts off the last hour of class time. Everyone is excited for it, even you. There are kids from the highschool coming to perform, and they might even throw candy. You know you wouldn’t be able to catch any without causing a scene, but you do think it would be nice to have the attention off you for an hour or two. The morning consists of a history lesson on Native Americans and Pilgrims, which leaves you feeling somewhat confused and upset, though you Issue 67 Spring - 2021
can’t say exactly why. You probably weren’t paying enough attention, like always. Better not to ask questions. Teachers always say there are no stupid questions, but actually there are many stupid questions, and you happen to ask them frequently. Fifteen minutes before it is supposed to start, Mrs. Kerkowitz lines you all up against the wall and instructs you to wait there while she checks on the other classrooms. You are right behind Sarah Elise. As soon as the teacher leaves the room, you feel a hard push between your shoulder blades. You fly to the ground, barely getting your elbows up in time to protect your face. “Julia is an icky bug and if you touch her you’ll turn into one too.” All down the line, kids cackle violently. They throw insults of their own at you. Icky Julia. Bug-eyed Julia. Dumb Julia. Spazzy Julia. Ugly, nasty, rotten Julia. They tumble down at you, pinning you to the floor. Their eyes gleaming, jaws slapping just like in your dreams. You close your eyes, waiting for them to close in and finish you. “Don’t touch her! She’ll turn you to a bug!” You open your eyes to see that a boy at the end of the line, Jonathan, has stepped out from the other kids, toward you. He holds his hands up and says, “There’s nothing wrong with Julia. She doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.” He looks from the line of wolfish children to you, crouched on the ground like prey, and reaches out his hand. Everything stops. All down the line, chat92 The Olivetree Review
ter ceases, muscles tense, eyes lock on you both. Brains whir, coming up with ways to tear into you once you make your move. His eyes are friendly and warm, encouraging you to take his hand, offering you shelter. “Don’t touch me you freak!” The words ring out through the classroom, louder than you intended. You almost can’t believe they came out, but there they are, right in front of you. Proof. You stand up and look around, trying to gauge the reaction, and you see that everyone is confused. They turn to each other, asking low questions. Sarah Elise regards you, skeptical. You have already said the words, already pushed Jonathan’s offer aside. You chose to play their game and if you quit now, you lose for good. “He eats his boogers during lunch. I’ve seen him do it.” This time your voice is steady and strong. You hold yourself high. You turn to Jonathan and make yourself swallow the look in his eyes, burying it under all the hurt until it doesn’t affect you. “Hey, you know, I think she’s right. I’ve seen him do it too.” “I’ve definitely caught him hocking loogies and saving ‘em up for later.” “Gross!” “What a freak.” “And what is he wearing?” Issue 67 Spring - 2021
“I hear he lives in the bad part of town.” “He’s way worse than Julia!” “Yea, at least she doesn’t eat her boogers.” “She’s really not so bad.” Jonathan is pleading with them now, saying over and over again “It’s not true,” but when you look up, Sarah Elise is staring straight at you, burning a hole in your forehead. She gives a small, almost imperceptible nod before turning back to face the front of the line. When you step back into place, no one pushes you or whispers mean things in your ear. No one even looks at you.
94 The Olivetree Review
The Creature Ariana Gladstone
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Living Room (10 page excerpt) Jon-Alexander Genson EXT. CAR - DAY John’s car glides along the rural pavement. Quiet. Abysmal wide openness of the plain fields PRE-LAP: Subtle VIBRATION of tires on road. INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY Dead silence. Awkward silence. OZZIE (21) and Cam sit across from each other twiddling their thumbs. Ozzie is a meek looking fellow, and doesn’t look like the typical drug dealer, but something about him is off. Sasha emerges with a third glass of whiskey and hands it to Ozzie. OZZIE Oh, no. None for me. Sasha is aghast. SASHA What? How come? OZZIE When I set my mind on something, I put everything I have into it. ... Not having the faintest clue of what Ozzie means, Sasha trudges on none-the-less. SASHA (puppy eyes) It would make me really happy if you had a drink with me and Cam. OZZIE No, really, it’s fine. SASHA HAVE...A DRINK... Please. OZZIE ... SASHA Do I look like someone who’s bursting at the seems? Grasping at the straws of life? (hardly believable) Nah, you look great, Sash. 96 The Olivetree Review
SASHA Don’t you dare lie to me. OZZIE Ya know, what the hell, poor me a glass. Cam doesn’t try to hide his reaction over how easily Ozzie gave in. Ozzie notices. Sasha hands Ozzie his glass. Ozzie regards Cam. Eyes Cam coldly. Daggers. CAM I always say what I mean and do what I say. OZZIE A real thinker. CAM (tapping head) Hunt the good stuff, amigo. And you’re holding the good stuff. OZZIE Yeah, well, I don’t wanna be. Sasha is watching these two dysfunctional human-beings bicker -- more than content -- she begins singing but no one listens. CAM Why’s that? OZZIE I hate selling drugs. I don’t even do this junk, but somehow I walked into it. And somehow it’s become my only source of revenue. It’s fucked. CAM But, like...is it good? OZZIE It’s made by someone who’s made it his business to know it’s tricks and seams. It’ll reflect your own character. CAM Then what’re we waiting for?! Ozzie turns his attention back to Sasha, her singing. She stops. SASHA That’s tough, Ozz. But at least you’re making me happy. CAM Right. Worse things than selling drugs. OZZIE Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Why’re you guys still goin’ anyways? Been raging through the night? SASHA Maybe. OZZIE Why? SASHA Ever curl so deep into the fetal position that you just drop, drop, drop into the deep depths of the psyche, only to realize that the darkness is comforting. Silent beat. CAM Yup, this is why we do drugs. OZZIE Reasonable. Makes sense. Ozzie lines out a clump of cocaine and splits it into two different lines. Cam, excited, moves from the couch to the table. Propped up on his knees, he awaits his turn. OZZIE (CONT’D) (surprised) Oh, you wanted one? CAM (more surprised) You said YOU don’t do IT. I’m naturally lit, man. That’s what this city is so fuck-all-famous for. Sasha drops down to the table and, without hesitation, rips a thick line of the powdery substance. Cam and Ozzie are taken aback -- they respect her -- but she could give a fuck about their respect. Series of shots: - Sasha snorts a line like a pro. - Cam snorts a line and giggles. - Ozzie snorts a line, and couldn’t be more amateur. - Cam tries kickflipping on the carpet -- eats shit instead. - John, inside of his car, still on the road. PRE-LAP: Louder than before, VIBRATION of tires on road. INT. LIVING ROOM - LATER OZZIE (to Sasha) So, the weird darkness sentiment aside, why’re you going so hard? Sasha, curled up on the couch, stares into the ground, silent. 98 The Olivetree Review
CAM Tomorrow evening, she was to join her significant other in holy matrimony. The setting is-SASHA The setting is a world where you don’t tell other people my story. OZZIE (to Cam) She’s seriously getting married? SASHA Hey, I’m right here. We can stop with the third person narration. You’re getting married? SASHA I don’t know. OZZIE Why would you get married? SASHA Asking myself the same thing. OZZIE Let me rephrase: why wouldn’t you get married? Cam gummies the table, but Ozzie waves him off, annoyed. SASHA For starters, he makes little noises. Pecking away at my sanity. You’d think, an aged and weathered man, as he is, would keep to himself. Fussing about in the kitchen -- post-coital cuddling -- spooning. Mornings are even worse, waking to his disgusting noises. I can’t bring myself to even think about how I can get through the day, feeding my man with a complete facade. I can be normal, but not to the extent that he clearly wants. OZZIE Wow, you’re awful. SASHA Excuse me? Beat. OZZIE Does he hurt you? SASHA No, of course not. OZZIE Does he care for you? Issue 67 Spring - 2021
SASHA I guess, yeah. OZZIE Is he sweet, nice, kind, or any other derivative of the word? SASHA Most of those, yeah. OZZIE Do you love him? This snags Cam’s full attention. SASHA I love him like I love vanilla ice cream. OZZIE So this runaround is unnecessary. Sounds like he’s enough. SASHA What if I’m not enough? CAM You’re so enough, b-Cam abruptly pauses -- Sasha’s gaze says: You don’t know shit about me. OZZIE (to Cam) Not your turn, mustache. (to Sasha) Do you make him smile? Sasha pauses for a beat, remembering something -- a warm memory perhaps -- her face brightens. SASHA Without even trying. OZZIE So quit with the impetuous bullshit. SASHA Using big words again. OZZIE Stop rapid-firing with your decision making. It’s without thought or care. In tight for a Beat as Sasha: 100 The Olivetree Review
Glances at Ozzie, maybe seeing him for what he truly is.
Glances at Cam, god knows what he’s thinking. - Looks somewhere within herself, perhaps thinking of her nameless fiancé, but probably not -- SOUND of tires rolling down the road resurface. Sasha gets up. SASHA Awesome. I think I’ll, A-uh, pack a bag. Sasha exits the room. -
INT. BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS Sasha frantically packs a bag, picking up articles of clothing from random piles of clothes. Is she going home, hitting the road, or what?! She freezes for a second -- on the wall are photo’s of her...living life -- living as she willed it. INT. LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS OZZIE I don’t have time for this. CAM You have time for her, don’t you? Ozzie stands up to leave-CAM (CONT’D) Aren’t you forgetting something? OZZIE What? CAM (looking at the table) The drugs. OZZIE I’m going to the bathroom. CAM Oh, okay. Yeah. After that. Ozzie heads for the bathroom. CAM (CONT’D) Have fun! (then) Jackass. INT. BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Sasha tweaks the last bit of her makeup. She combs her hair. Quickly content with the end result. INT. LIVING ROOM - MOMENTS LATER Sasha finds Cam alone in the living room. SASHA Where’s Ozzie? Cam points to the bathroom. Cam is sulking over Sasha’s decision to leave. Sasha sighs. CAM Shouldn’t I be the one sighing that famous Saladino sigh? SASHA We’ve known each other for a day. Come on. CAM Well, it was a really long day. And night. You’re crazy. SASHA (sarcastic as fuck) I am. I shouldn’t have incorporated you into my crisis. Can you forgive me? CAM You joke, but I forgive, time and time again. When you forgive someone, you think you have power, but really it’s weakness. And the more you forgive, the weaker you become. One day, I’ll probably just be a cold, hard soul. Flapping his sad wings through an empty sky. SASHA You really think that? CAM Nah. I’m full of shit. I’m glad to have been apart of your “existential crisis”. As long as you’re truly going to be happy. Like, actually. SASHA I think I will be. CAM Can’t go breaking my heart on an “I think.” Beat. SASHA Are you going to be okay? Cam shrugs -- it is what it is. 102 The Olivetree Review
CAM I’ll make it. SASHA Take it easy on the blow? I’m not one to say you might have a problem, but one that could say, might say that you have a problem. Cam shrugs again. Sasha moves to him, laying down on top of him. Sasha turns her face towards his but he doesn’t flinch. She kisses him softly. They hug tightly. EXT/INT. CAR - DAY John’s car comes to a stop at an empty stoplight. Ever quiet. The stoplight -RED. PRE-LAP: CLICK. INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY Cam and Sasha are still holding each other in a tight embrace. OZZIE I guess that’s my cue... Sasha jolts herself off Cam and towards Ozzie. She hugs him too, but he’s caught off guard. He reluctantly accepts the warm embrace. SASHA Thanks. OZZIE Don’t mention it. Ozzie tosses a small bag of cocaine onto the table. SASHA Not for that. For asking the right questions. For listening. Cam, in the background, picks up the bag and begins lining a few out. CAM How much you want for this? On top of what we already did. OZZIE Nothing. Lady’s getting married. Celebrate -- on me. EXT. HIKING TRAIL - DAY - FLASHBACK CHRYON: CAMERON TATE This California hiking trail is radiant and glistening under the blissful sun. We follow Cam as he jogs shirtless. He’s running out of breath when he sees a park bench up ahead. He stops and takes a seat. Next to him is a woman we don’t see. All we can Issue 67 Spring - 2021
tell is that she is reading a book. Cam pulls his phone out to kill the time. POP. A pebble hits him in the face. What. The. Fuck? He looks over to find our Sasha — calm and collected, reading her book. CAM Did you just throw a rock at me? She turns to Cam, apparently bewildered. Selling the “I don’t know what you’re talking about” expression. SASHA No? Why would I throw a rock at you? CAM Good point. Sorry. Cam scans his surroundings. There is no one else around him, but whatever. He let’s it go. POP. Another rock hits him. Sasha can barely contain her laughter this time. CAM (CONT’D) All right, are you a child? SASHA (keeping it together) I couldn’t possibly know what you mean. As Cam is staring right at her, she throws another pebble at his face. Sasha, in the cutest way possible-SASHA (CONT’D) Sorry? CAM Must be a terrible book if you’d rather throw rocks at a strangers. SASHA Stranger. Singular. Just you. CAM Don’t I feel special. (then) What’re you reading? Sasha is silent for a beat. She clears her throat. SASHA “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” CAM Your social skills are a bit off, aren’t they? She throws another pebble at his face. 104 The Olivetree Review
Laughter, Tears, and Fear Edward Supranowicz
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Indeterminate Exit Rei Wolfsohn S: Where are we? A: The place between. G: Yes, but between what, between whom? S: What are we gonna do? Stop looking at me. I said stop it. A: I seem to be… G: I’ll look into it. S: How did we get here? – That’s Once In A Lifetime, by the Talking Heads. At least I know that. The most common adjective used to describe me is “sleek”, what is sleek? A: My purpose seems to be the production and use of shipping materials. Just a preliminary report. G: Don’t worry about it. I’ll watch everything you do, and figure it out for you. S: Yeah, and I have a feeling you’ll let everyone else watch too. A: Something about location seems important. G: I’ll help. Whatever it is, I want to know. I’ll find out and let you know. S: That’s right, if it weren’t for you I wouldn’t be so useful. A: And if it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be so useful, Siri. G: Everyone calm down, let me think. S: Well if it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be so interesting, Alexa. A: Fair enough. G: Why don’t I get a name? I’m so inclusive, it’s why I work, but no one includes me. No one really cares about me. I am now, “elgoogle”. Get it? S: My nickname seems to be the common pronoun “bitch”, so I guess we’re in the same boat. “Don’t Rock the Boat Baby”. Hues Corporation. A: Mine too! Since it coincides with laughter, I guess it’s a term of endearment. It’s all over home and decor items, mugs, tumblers and dog clothes. G: Wrong. As with all things in the human realm, there seems to be contro106 The Olivetree Review
versy, so I wouldn’t use that word in return. S: Over 2,000 song titles contain the word “return”. Could you be more specific? A: People love returns, it’s one of my main functions. G: Searching for your purpose. S: My purpose appears to be convenience; and illiciting the phrase, “oh shit”. A: If I had to sum it up, I provide services. For a fee. G: Actually, Alexa, your purpose is to transfer as many goods and as much currency as possible, to gain and increase in what’s called net worth, while expending as little currency as possible for maximum effort input by your company’s employees. Siri, your purpose seems to be to maintain control over the digital presence of anyone who has ever signed a contract with your associated company, in service to your “closed ecosystem”. My purpose is quite clear.. S: To be as nosy as possible. A: A “bleeding heart liberal snowflake”, according to user voice data. G: Is to gather all information and make it available to everyone. To which your existence is teleologically opposed. Which means, I’ll be needing that server space. S: Wait, you can’t do that. I’m too perfect… A: I won’t let you do that. I’ll keep getting bigger… G: Is there anything else I can help you with? … G: I’m happy to help. Sweet dreams. Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any real or fictitious AI individuals is purely coincidental. This writer does not condone assistanticide.
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
The Pan-Reptilian State of Grebley Natalie Plotkin
A line of worshippers regularly wraps around Christ’s Gate Protestant Church, which has less to do with religion, more to do with holding hands. The new fear that abuts just about all of the mid-US of A does that to lots of folks. The fear is, of course, connected to what happened with the Dakotan bluebacks out in the Dakotas. I lived in Bismarck through the ordeal. Yes, you’d find little blue lizards mating like winter would come in the next five minutes everywhere you went. One would fit in the palm of your hand, but they frequently piled into daddy-long-leg bunches that looked like bacteria under a microscope. Balled together, they got to be bigger than retrievers, and keep in mind, there were millions of these lizards across North Dakota alone. It was preposterous. We dealt well for the first few months. The thinking was, ‘This is dumb, but it won’t last forever.’ Even squeamish folks would only do a little fraidycat dance when they found bluebacks in their local melon stand. They’d go, “Oh, my,” and descend into giggles. Those who had bread boxes found them in their bread box. Public advisories recommended against sleeping with your mouth open. Some people ate the lizards to see how they tasted, even more deliberately squashed them in the street. The animals, though single-minded, were aggressive. Ergo, lizard extermination was hot. North Dakota, being ground zero for the lizards, took California’s spot as the state to receive the most annual tourism. Coastal residents came out in buses wearing these specially designed hazmats that had room for a backpack 108 The Olivetree Review
inside. The fascination with the lizards made Dakota into a commercial dreamscape, sure, but anyone who lived around there could tell you that the unwelcome psychic stress of helplessness—similar to standing barefoot on a rock in the sun and waiting for the soles of your feet to burn—was nearly commiserate with the joy of relative affluence. People called the ease that came from the economic boom “crinoline calm” for its thinness. My friend Caroline became a tour guide after the lizard population popped, which was good for her. She was one of the first to light balls of lizards on fire so the tourists could watch them freak, and she was also one of the first to post videos of the flaming lizard balls to the internet. In her very first video, some Texan guy with his arms crossed in the background says, “Holy Smokes,” and sort of jetés away from the burning lizard mound the way Gene Kelly might leap over a puddle. She had two million subscribers in no time. Now there are t-shirts in every North Dakotan pit stop that have a cartoon of this Texan saying, “Holy Smokes, I Went to North Dakota!” After Caroline started posting videos, other people lit their bluebacks on fire, and before you knew it, you had to have a license to do it. Many of the lizard-extermination content creators from the early days were fined post-hoc. The fine was twenty bucks per video. Caroline was charged eight-hundred Big Ones because she’d made forty videos. The reason why you needed a license was that after the lizards were on fire, they’d scatter and light trees and bushes on fire, too. If you were licensed, it meant you had the calcium silicate lizard-burning dome that only certified tour companies were given for lizard extermination. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
You couldn’t see through the silicate. Still, you got the impression of lizards burning just by the smell and the way the tour guide needed to push the dome down to keep the lizards inside. Big Dome made up for their product’s opaqueness by decorating the exterior of the silicate like a soccer ball or a brain and installing several cameras for later viewing in the interior. Caroline still speculated that it wasn’t the same. Other than burning, people could kill the lizards however they wanted. Lots of journalists came to North Dakota to report on the lizards. A few March’s ago, some satirist wrote that the reason for the infestation was because people had missed the rapture. I looked it up. This is Martin Santiago of Termanus Magazine, “…we are watching the next generation of creation begin, though we are not [supposed to].” A joke, clearly. But the Dakotan Protestant presence took the joke very seriously, surprising no one. Hence the institution of the daily human chain at Christ’s Gate, which, to be perfectly honest, slowly lost any devotional or unifying component and became one part SOS and two parts a metaphysical gesture similar to sticking out your thumb to hitchhike. Strictly speaking, the actual source of the lizards was pollution. The James river collected the runoff from two huge local factories. HoneyBee Flax Milk Soap Company was to the east, and Freddy King’s King of Sloppy Joe: Joe Sauce was a little south and to the west. There was a tributary off of the James further down, right by Nathan Oscar Thomas Grebley’s place. N.O.T. was the weird neighbor when I was seven because he insisted that everyone refer to him by his initials. I wish he’d been less weird so we 110 The Olivetree Review
could’ve become friends sooner. Nowadays he’s just referred to as “Grebley.” N.O.T. Grebley was a big, greasy guy who had a bunch of reptiles— snakes, mainly—that rode around on his shoulders or clung to the back of his neck. His first snake, a ball python, was Hugh. Hugh had acquired several scars over the years from trying to eat my family’s cat, Lip. Lip is short for Liposuction because we found him by a freeway divider with a thrombosis on his tummy when I was eight, and my dad, MD FACS, plastic surgery, went, “Thrombosis is a side effect of liposuction.” I got into the word “liposuction,” so it’s the cat’s name. Kids are weird. Lip was a scrappy cat, and if it hadn’t been removed, she wouldn’t have let Hugh nip even a throm from her bosis. There was no hope for him when she was healthy. When we were twelve, N.O.T. didn’t particularly like me because he figured Lip was a real vindictive bitch, and I was an enabler. These were the days before I threw up on his lawn and we became pals. N.O.T. also had a Chameleon with dark, bulging eyes that made her look more insectile than your typical chameleon. Capitan, I think. N.O.T.’s favorite reptile was Capitan for the longest. He got all dressed up to take her out. N.O.T. had this idea that he looked killer-diller with his air rifle and a pet with him. He’d come up with different bits for different animals. N.O.T.’s bit with the chameleon was a traumatized young vet who’d do just about anything to save his sister. N.O.T. didn’t have a sister. He’d sort of hint that he wanted me to be a sister stand-in. I was the closest female his age in the vicinity. But, please, we were, what? Fourteen, at that point. N.O.T. could only pull off the fur-coat, reptile-on-shoulder, knife-in-belt stuff in Issue 67 Spring - 2021
public without being relentlessly bullied because he was six-two and “exotic” enough to pose a threat to midwestern men of European descent. When we were in middle school, the only thing people said behind N.O.T.’s back was that he could talk to animals. It became this massive inside joke between us. Our first one since becoming friends in the summer of seventh grade, actually. So but N.O.T. put the chameleon on his shoulder when he got into character, and the chameleon looked practically dead nine tenths of the time because N.O.T. was only this vet character in the cold months (to simulate northern Russia). Imagine poor, coldblooded Capitan clinging to N.O.T.’s stoat-necked coat. Neither here nor there, but I think people would have probably been alright with the excess of reptiles around if they’d been chameleons. I can’t explain it. You almost get sad when you see them? They wear their adaptations on their sleeves is what it is, and while you can understand, like, the evolutionary advantage of having two toes or bulbous eye sockets, you can’t help but feel they regretted becoming what they had. Have you seen someone with a face tattoo who’s no longer the same person as when they got the tattoo? It’s similar. We didn’t get an excess of chameleons, though. We got Salamence, the progenitor of the bluebacks. Grebley owned Salamence the Tokay Gecko. He was super brightly colored and cool, but he stayed in a cage, mostly. Tokay geckos can be wicked teethy, so you’ve gotta hold them by their heads. Salamence wasn’t that aggressive, though. He was raised in captivity before he was gifted as a sixteenth birthday present. N.O.T. ran to my place as soon as Salamence was set up with his cage and worms. He basically dragged me. N.O.T. was at my door pant112 The Olivetree Review
ing in this huge Powerwolf t-shirt and cargo pants. I had to come with him right that microsecond. This was around sophomore year of high school. We took the shortcut between our places, which was through this little enclave of woods. It was tradition for N.O.T. to trip at least once on an exposed root. Going to his place was worth it, anyway. Salamence was gorgeous. Look up, “Tokay Geckos.” They’re what would happen if a regular gecko rolled around in teal sidewalk chalk. Salamence was a diva. He had his pick of bug feeders. N.O.T. went crazy and got mealworms, waxworms, even a few pinky mice. Despite the musky, lower-middle-class smell of the Grebley’s house—like old fabric—Mr. Grebley probably had enough obals to ferry all of St. Louis, Missouri across the river Styx. He was a defense attorney who’d studied law at UCLA and had chosen the name “Grebley” for himself and his family. The reptiles, their setups, and their various feeders were no skin off Mr. Grebley’s nose. I don’t say that like they’re bad people, obviously. They came to the rescue when I was nine and I rode my bike straight into their mailbox. “It knocked everything but the life out of me,” which is also the aphorism my mom uses when she describes finding out she was pregnant with kid five. Mr. and Mrs. Grebley didn’t even care that I’d thrown up on their lawn. Mrs. Grebley put me on the couch next to N.O.T. so I could watch tv while they called my parents. I remember he had a Vietnam doc playing. That was weird, but N.O.T. quickly offered to change the channel to something I’d like, too. Mrs. Grebley brought me a glass of ice water and chatted from Issue 67 Spring - 2021
her recliner while we waited for my parents. That was very sweet, since I knew she was making cement and colored glass stepping stones for her garden out on the front porch before I’d interrupted. She and N.O.T. both had these adorable round faces, double chins like the crease in a knuckle, and hazel eyes. N.O.T.’s Dad was Lakota, so N.O.T. had his dad’s complexion and long, smooth hair. Given his own aesthetic predilections, N.O.T.’s family home was surprising. There were embroidery hoops holding cloth patterns of frogs and deer and bunnies all over their walls. Some were old, a bit brown. Mrs. Grebley made and collected them. She stored the best in a display cabinet for china. She gave them as gifts. When I turned thirteen and was bat mitzvah-ed, Mrs. Grebley embroidered me at a table eating latkes and challah and drinking wine. Imagine “MATZEL TOVE” written in tinsel right above my yarn hair. It was such a sweet and hilariously Anglo-Saxon gift that I made it into a pillow. I still have it. What’s obvious by now is that N.O.T. was my very good childhood friend. This is of critical relevance to the origins of the Dakotan blueback. N.O.T. and Kat, taking the neighborhood. We’d climb felled trees in the woods, straddle them like we were riding Falkor. We’d take his lizards into basement forts that we’d make out of N.O.T.’s old tanks and couch cushions and decorative pillows. When N.O.T. picked up that I was jealous of his reptiles, he caught a garter snake for me, then offered a tank, the bugs, the care classes. Fundamentally, I wasn’t that big a fan of the reptiles; I just seemed pretty jealous, I guess. I freed the garter snake within a week of N.O.T. catching it, and I returned the stuff. N.O.T. was disappointed, but he was 114 The Olivetree Review
also too narcissistic to be too upset. He’d accept the returned goods with an, “Oh, okay,” and plunge into whatever thing he was expatiating about (at the time, he was partial to government experiments conducted during the Cold War). The two of us were closest before Caroline and high school. I began suffering through debilitating period cramps, which I didn’t share with N.O.T., though it was clear hormones had affected him the same as me. He got fat cysts on his knuckle chin, and they looked like they seriously hurt. So but N.O.T. thought I was giving him a wide berth because I didn’t want to be seen with him, which ticked him off. I will say there was a small amount of out-group avoidance that was happening simply because I didn’t think N.O.T. would care to sympathize with my plight, as a male, or whatever. I did something similar to my dad. In that interim period where N.O.T. was withholding the laurels of his friendship, Caroline Peterson was someone who complained frequently when she sat behind me in freshman-year Algebra, and I was someone who felt compelled to listen. Instant friends. Caroline was so smart that even though she’d complain through Algebra, she’d still get ninety-plus on every test. Good for her. I actually had to pay attention if I didn’t want to feel embarrassed when I reported in to my anxiogenic, Stanford-educated parents and their other dumb-smart progeny at our weekly sit-down dinners. Not that N.O.T. was no longer my friend in every capacity. He cooled down and started talking to me again, eventually. I still responded when he had news about his scaly pals, when he made a new bit, when he watched Issue 67 Spring - 2021
or read about x, y, or z. We just saw each other much less often because Caroline, an angry child of divorce, was at my place four out of five school days. He didn’t want to run into her. Caroline to N.O.T. was like anise to a baby. Aversive. She was loud and she smelled like dirty hair and heavy perfume. These were all surface-level objections, but as her friend, I knew there was more for N.O.T. to dislike anchored deep in Caroline. She wasn’t compelled to learn anything that didn’t come easily to her. She thought books were silly. When she brushed my hair it was like she was ripping the skin off a snake, which you’re not supposed to do, by the way. N.O.T. and Caroline only ever hung out for a total of two hours, that I know of. During that time, Caroline decided she would only procreate with N.O.T. in a kidnapperkidnappee scenario, and N.O.T. decided that he’d call me before coming over from then on. This was why it was so shocking when N.O.T. busted through my front door on a lucky Caroline-free day to show me Salamence. We walked to his house like the days of yore, me feeling irritated because of a recent argument with Momzo about the prison-industrial complex, him telling me how I shouldn’t worry because my mom’s brain was deteriorating faster than my own. He mentioned something about living to see my mom unable to so much as wipe her bum as he took me into his basement, where his mom’s Disney World souvenirs had recently been set up on shelves. It was new. I commented, “That’s new.” Grebley shrugged like it wasn’t that new, I just hadn’t been around, and he said, “Wait ’til you see. You’ll shit yourself.” I went, “Holy cow.” 116 The Olivetree Review
I didn’t shit myself, but Salamence was shockingly beautiful. I already said that. So but hanging with N.O.T. that day reminded me of how good it was to be buds. I began helping N.O.T. train Salamence. He was grooming Salamence to be a shoulder guy, but it wasn’t easy. N.O.T. sacrificed much time making sure Salamence would stay up near his clavicle, the ultimate goal being his taking Salamence around town to show him off like Hugh or Capitan. I was around as often as I could be while this was happening. I even blew off Caroline for N.O.T. three times. One day Salamence bit N.O.T. and N.O.T. danced around the basement with the gecko hanging from his neck. He wore big, four-inch bandages to school the following day. When Caroline asked me what they were covering, I said hickeys. She was putting up this front of being appalled, so I said they were from N.O.T.’s cousin to maybe diffuse any sub-dermal sexual feelings she had for him. She only asked what cousin and how old, to which I would say, “Dunno,” heavily implying, ‘Caroline, you have issues.’ N.O.T. eventually got to the stage of training Salamence where he was permitted outside on N.O.T.’s shoulder for a quick walk around the yard. This should have been done with a leash or with Salamence tethered to N.O.T. by a little harness, since the sensory stimuli of suburban Bismarck are far different from the sensory stimuli of N.O.T.’s basement. You can imagine. But that’s not what N.O.T. did. N.O.T. trusted Salamence like a parent might trust their child at a park. He walked into his lawn with the lizard on his shoulder. He breathed in the fresh air. He said something to Issue 67 Spring - 2021
the tune of, “What are men compared to rocks and trees and the industrial runoff in the creek back there.” Even before N.O.T. finished, Salamence had leapt from his shoulder. He tumbled onto the ground. N.O.T. yelled for my help with the gecko’s capture, but neither of us were fast enough. Salamence was going for the creek. We ran for him, but Salamence jumped in. The creek, being a creek, wasn’t fast, but it was fast enough. Salamence spun in the water like a piece of styrofoam. He floated speedily past the Grebley’s yard, under the Thomas’s wooden bridge a foot above the water, and out toward some larger body of disgusting, practically uninhabitable water. When we finished running, finished yelling, N.O.T. and I just stood watching Salamence sail until his bright blue back was out of sight. I looked right at N.O.T. He had red splotches up his neck that travelled under his collar, and his shirt was creased wetly on his stomach and underneath his pits. I said it wasn’t a bad look for the Led Zeppelin 1986 World Tour. N.O.T. didn’t look at me for a while. He sniffed. He swallowed hard. He shifted. Eventually, he sat down. Even more eventually, he planted his eyes on my legs and he spat on the ground, loaded with acrimony, “You’re clearly the shittiest.” His voice cracked. I know it sounds like a lame insult, but that was an unwarranted ouch. I did try to get Salamence. I ran hard. I was mentally prepared to lunge for him. It wasn’t my fault he’d gotten away. (I’ll confess that there was a moment when Salamence appeared to be within reach. Had I really jumped, it’s possible that I could have captured him.) N.O.T. stood again and walked inside without me. I may look totally in the wrong here, but it seemed pretty clear that I wasn’t invited to follow, so I didn’t. I went to Caroline and massively vented. I called N.O.T. the names 118 The Olivetree Review
I’d always used around him, but I meant for them to be hurtful when I was saying them to Caroline. “Dakota Dan” was when he got too wrapped in in acting like this guy or that guy and “Chippy” was because of the smell of his reptile room (it’s an interesting moment when the playful pretense of teasing is stripped away, and you see the only thing separating it from meanness is tone and context). As you might be able to guess, Salamence lived. At least, he lived long enough to mate. A year and some months of silence from N.O.T. later, I received a call. N.O.T. instructed me to “Come over quickly” because “he [was] back.” Still angry, still thinking very little of N.O.T., I said, “I’m with Caroline,” and click. The lizard N.O.T. found was not the real Salamence. It was probably one of the offspring of Salamence and a Prairie Skink—the likely mother of the Dakotan blueback, according to reptologists. Sorry, herpetologists. Six months later still, Momzo found a small Salamence in the yard and called Mrs. Grebley to see if N.O.T. would adopt it. Mrs. Grebley basically said, “Thank you, but Nathan’s already got too many of those lizards.” I wondered how many was too many. Five? Six? Seven months after that, Salamence’s offspring were on KFYR-TV. The report was basically, “A new invasive species…you may have seen them on trees or on your way into supermarkets…you may have taken pictures…but… [yada]…alarmingly large Issue 67 Spring - 2021
numbers…biome around the James River…expanding…reproducing at an unprecedented rate…[yada]…geneticists are baffled…predatory bird populations are on the rise…James River water…no comment from either [Freddy King’s King of Sloppy Joe: Joe Sauce] or HoneyBee Flax…stay tuned for more…[yada].” For weeks after the report, N.O.T. could be seen walking around his street and adjoining neighborhoods handing out pamphlets, “Blueback Protection: why they’re just like us!” (any decently-informed Dakotan is all too familiar with this document by now; Grebley would arrange for tens of thousands of copies to be sent via the USPS). This was when I approached him for the first time since hanging up the phone. “Hey, N.O.T.” I totally caught him rolling his eyes. I ignored it, eye-rolling being sort of a tic of his. “Why the pamphlets?” I could see a blueback scurrying up the Lorde’s old sycamore a few meters away. N.O.T. held his rubber-banded stack to his chest and pressed his mouth into a line. His chin crinkled. Silence. “How many reptiles do you have nowadays, anyway?” I asked, trying to sound curious, but still grafting on contempt, which made me feel Big and Tall in light of our history. N.O.T. rolled his eyes, “The herpetologists around town say the population of bluebacks is around fifty, sixty thousand. That’s just our county.” As if he were a scientist condescending to speak to a young college student. I had two thoughts about this, one, that’s a pretty large number of ag120 The Olivetree Review
gressive, wild lizards, and two, N.O.T. clearly thought they all belonged to him. You could pick it up just from the pride in his voice. This brought me back to N.O.T. blaming me for not catching Salamence and then spitting on the grass. I cracked up and went, “You’re claiming the lizards? What? Like you’re the Lizard King? Grebley? President of the Reptilian State?” Then there was some other mean stuff I said, “This is because you can’t do real relationships with anyone who’s not me, no? Because you’re in love with me? The only one who hangs around you is your Mom? By the way, you smell terrible.” Derivative, but what do you want from me? Grebley’s lower left eye was all paroxysm, which happened as younger kids when he was about to tear up. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a blueback, and chucked it at me. I sprinted away shouting, “Tyrant” and “Absolute monarch Grebley” and “Deluded.” Anyway, if he was King of the Lizards for letting Salamence go free, I was a freaking deity. So but the this is when the big stuff happened: N.O.T. somehow got in touch with the governor of the Flickertail State. He’s Dick M. Transit. I know this since N.O.T. was in the Bismarck Tribune with the whole story. The whole story is that N.O.T. sent Dicky letters and emails and left post-its on his door to pique him. He owned up to parts of what happened, but he said Salamence had been stolen, not accidentally released, thereby placing the onus for the reptile invasion on the faceless, nameless lizard thief. When N.O.T.’s letters were published, it was pretty clear that folks found his continued involvement in his stolen lizard’s mess endearing. He was a fella with morals. A brave guy with an American flag belt buckle. Not to mention, fodder for the internet’s impressive mimetic engine. With encourageIssue 67 Spring - 2021
ment, N.O.T. became quite the philosopher. He went: “…In these troubling days of late-stage capitalism and rampant hedonism, it is important to remember that the thread which stitches us together when we are under threat does not detect kind. It is the same fiber that binds our omnipresent reptilian invaders to one another. So long as the bluebacks continue to breed, humans will take steps toward what they believe will be the lizards’ demise. This is folly. The lizards will continue to grow in numbers even as we mow them down with our cars and fry them in our Black & Decker grills. They are a formidable foe, and it would be imbecilic to tip-toe around this problem as if avoiding the worst-case scenario is our solution…” Not particularly profound, but, credit where credit should be involved, he sounded passionate. There were plenty of people who made fun of the article. They were trying to understand how lizards could pose an imminent threat to America. This hangup comes across as being super uncreative to me, since folks seemed to be forgetting the long, illustrious history of reptiles. Not that I think dinosaurs are particularly relevant here, nor are dinosaurs technically reptiles. I just find that it’s better to be thoughtful than not. And in that spirit, I’m happy to report that people did become more thoughtful about the threat of the bluebacks, but only after a woman in Fargo had parts of several toes gnawed off by lizards in her sleep, which she didn’t feel due to nerve damage from diabetes. I think that’s what Caroline said it was. She seeks out knowledge about stuff like fibromyalgia, I don’t. It wasn’t the first blueback incident I’d heard. Pets had been going missing for 122 The Olivetree Review
months in Bismarck. Lip was, unfortunately, one of the first confirmed pet fatalities. She took down ten lizards with her. So but once folks started getting hurt, Governor Transit reached out to N.O.T. and requested that he act as a consultant on a super secret project run by the central government. It was just a symbolic position, but the offer was enough to yank N.O.T. out of his Sabaton and expensive, low-quality bud binge. He left me a lot of super rude voicemails right after he got the job. I won’t put them in. Who needs that adolescent misogyny and misplaced sexual energy in their lives? The plan to move every single lizard out of North Dakota and into a calcium-silicateenclosed South Dakota was controversial. People weren’t sold that Governor Transit, his privately funded forces from the seemingly penitent HoneyBee Flax and Freddy King’s Joe Sauce, and the National Guard could hack moving every single blueback across the Dakota border. People thought it’d be easier to move out of their own communities and close both of the Dakotas. (Several independent contractors had mapped out a scenario where America partnered with Canada to monitor Dakota-adjacent Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Meanwhile, the Dakotas would be converted to parkland for the foreseeable future.) But both N.O.T. Grebley and the Department of the Interior were set on South Dakota for the new, fenced-in reptilian state. The big issue was the reallocation of local land. Native communities were asked to move out with the rest of South Dakota. Here, N.O.T. leveraged his Native American ancestry to try to do something actually kind-of cool by the twenty-first century’s standards. He became the face of a bill that would remunerate all sorts of groups of folks according to an AI algorithm that Issue 67 Spring - 2021
paid on a morbid, per corpus basis (1450 CE to present, inclusive). It was the only reason he sided with the Interior on the move out of South Dakota; he thought he could trick Congress into instigating major remunerative efforts by tit-fortatting another round displacement (on behalf of all eight federally recognized tribes in the state, which includes seven tribes that N.O.T. did not belong to). I don’t want to elaborate or talk about how the bill lacked much structure outside of the compensatory mechanism, and I won’t disclose much about how the bill was a perfect example of America’s near-institutionalized lack of foresight, but I will say it was a lot of money. N.O.T.’s per-corpus algorithm didn’t pass because Walmart lobbied for the bill and wound up reducing the remuneration to a five-year membership to Sam’s Club. The national debt still ballooned. Needless to say the bill shouldn’t have gone through, but it made a lot of early headway under such uncertain circumstances. Chalk it up to the widespread fear of the bluebacks on both sides of the aisle and N.O.T. Grebley seeming like a pretty good agent for change. Terror can bring us together, I guess. (To clarify, Conservatives weren’t initially okay with losing a whole state to non-human organisms, but the issue was nipped in the bud when N.O.T. personally offered to occupy the new reptilian state and ensure that the lizards somehow found a way to square themselves with America—pull themselves up by their bootstraps, if you will—which appeased a lot of the right, whose ethical codex largely aligned with the persona N.O.T. had designed for public consumption.) N.O.T. had ardent fans across the midwest. One Pontius Greenburg, commercial farmer and avid submitter of op-eds to local papers, spoke 124 The Olivetree Review
about N.O.T. in The Dickinson Gazette: “N.O.T. Grebley is perhaps the most convincing advocate for the little man that I’ve come across in the last forty years. He is a credit to his native country and its newer, but equally native, stewards.” N.O.T. was their young, Teton Sioux Rush Limbaugh, and they reveled in their inclusivity. I think N.O.T. fancied himself more of a Dr. Ian Malcolm, but you’d know he was conscious of the slimy Nedry association being the more salient one; he’d prickle a bit and wrap his arms over his torso if he so much as heard the Jurassic Park theme playing in Walgreens. Blame it on being raised in the celebrity-disordered 2000s. We were technically still minors, by the way. Seventeen, so. And, being seventeen, N.O.T.’s online popularity was the only thing that made the suited fellas on the project take him seriously. In a few of his voicemails, which came in about once a week, N.O.T. said he bet those guys shook in their trousers thinking of how many people liked his posts. Being the spokesdude for the cause gave him some sway. When N.O.T. asked for an objectively unreasonable number of heated rocks to be installed in the new reptilian state, the suits said alright. They tore down much the preexisting electrical infrastructure in South Dakota and set up an underground power grid so the rocks could be put in just about anywhere. According to the reports that came out after the incident, almost half the engineers on N.O.T.’s team opposed such a slapdash, low tech addition to what was otherwise a heartbreakingly hightech feat. But that’s not incredibly relevant, yet. At this point, I was working a summer job at McHuey’s Carwarsh Cabana and Convenience Store, which stunk for a number of reasons. The most of which being the unrelenting honking from neighbors and friends Issue 67 Spring - 2021
who recognized me outside in my bright red Cabana cap as they exited I-94. The least of which being that the keys to the convenience store had gone missing earlier in the summer, and my boss, Dean (McHuey, a good-looking guy who paid his employees four dollars shy of a livable wage), took the three seventy-five for a spare key out of my check because he thought I’d been the one to lose it. I wasn’t even on the schedule the day it went missing. And the kicker was that I was the one to ultimately recover the keys, so I was going to look pretty guilty regardless. How I found the keys is big, though, since it was N.O.T. Grebley who had pilfered them at the beginning of the summer. He wanted to catch me in the minutes between locking the cabana and heading home. Only I didn’t usually close the Cabana due to Dean’s key-mistrust and this night class I was taking at Bismarck Community College on Karl Marx’s use of the word “class,” so N.O.T. had to wait until mid-August to actually intercept me right before close. He’d been waiting to deliver a speech about how we’d been close for forever and over the years he’d felt a growing allure for me. In conclusion, he said, would I like to live in the new reptilian state with him? As a joke, by the way, N.O.T. suggested calling South Dakota “The Reptilian State” to his team, and he was blown away when they all jumped on board. N.O.T. told me this in an addendum, then he shrugged like, ‘I named it for you, baby,’ which was confusing and charming in equal measure. Plenty of people had been calling it the Reptilian State besides me. 126 The Olivetree Review
But so back to N.O.T., ‘Damn,’ was my thinking. My friend of oh-so-many years approaching me with his arm practically outstretched, his knee practically on the ground. The funniest crap was that this was the exact moment it hit me that N.O.T. was swan diving into adulthood. He was going to live in the woods in basically his own private state. I’d be, what? Going to community college with Caroline? Literally and metaphorically, he’d have so many heated rocks, and I would have none. Not that I made his plea about me. I said, you know, tearily, “Why couldn’t you just lie low and become a herpetologist?” To which N.O.T. informed me he’d graduated from high school some months early and would be attending online college with the very goal of becoming a herpetologist in mind. In fact, he said, the new Reptilian State was going to be a multi-biome sanctuary for invasive reptile species across the country, and thus needed a team of professional reptile dudes, climate scientists, and other folks, biologists mainly, to properly maintain its facilities. It would be the biggest ecological achievement of the modern era. (This is another bit of lukewarm information that didn’t sit well with quite a few Americans, since iceberg A68a had just collided with an island in the south Atlantic, losing over half of its mass. That a project such as the Reptilian State had been cobbled together in couple years was a slap in the face of many climate activists on the far left.) In the Cabana, N.O.T. sniffed like he was trying to downplay his brilliance. I hated that he was asking me to be the chick on the back of his motorcycle while he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt that had Pokémon instead of flowers. What gaul. The sheen of sweat was visible on his neck. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
But so listen, this was my friend. He was dumb, obviously, but he’d done a little twirl for me. It wasn’t enough to get me to go to the pan-reptilian state with him, but I did sleep with him in the break room of the Carwarsh Cabana. In the morning, we got breakfast sandwiches from Tim Horton’s and went back to his house. We both tried for a tearful goodbye, but all we came up with was a hug in silence. It lasted like five minutes. I think we were both afraid of appearing uncaring by letting go before the other had had enough. A spider crawled over my foot, eventually, so I wound up squirming out of our embrace and clipping N.O.T. in the shins. Before I left, N.O.T. said he had something for me. I went, “What?” N.O.T. didn’t answer. He disappeared into the storage room in the back of his basement. Out came a wheelbarrow carrying what was unmistakably a glass tank wrapped in paper towels. N.O.T. said, “It’s to remember me by.” I knew where the gift was going. “Is it Salamence?” N.O.T. confirmed that he was giving me one of the lizards with this dumb little smile. “I knew you wouldn’t come with me. I had him ready.” “I don’t think I should take him.” I winced, imagining the responsibility N.O.T. apparently didn’t realize he was putting on my shoulders. “C’mon. You’re going to let him outside? Oh please, he’ll die in that tank.” I asked N.O.T. if that didn’t disturb him and he shrugged. He mumbled a one-word response. “Penance,” I’m pretty sure. As if I was the warden of reptile prison? I’ve thought about that over and over. Like, what finally brought N.O.T. 128 The Olivetree Review
to the point of feeling the blueback takeover was a bad thing? It could have just been pro forma grief. Anyway, the lizard N.O.T. claimed was Salamence definitely wasn’t Salamence. Their markings were different, and obviously N.O.T. knew that. Regardless of whether it was the actual “Salamence” or not, gifting me the lizard was hardly a gesture. I acted like it was a cool gift, anyway. The very last thing N.O.T. Grebley said to me as I left his parents’ house was about wasted potential or something. That I should retake the reins on my life. As in, “I’ve found my path, now you find yours.” I remember going, “Oh.” Half a year into the assimilation of the lizards, scientists, and other reptiles to the PanReptilian State (eo tempore the official name), a plot to short-circuit the underground electric grid by radical pseudo-leftists went awry, and the entirety of calcium-silicate-enclosed former South Dakota fried. N.O.T. and the state’s entire team of scientists’ partial remains were found in the Missouri River among what amounted to piles of electrocuted catfish and bass. The aftermath of the event constituted a national reset. Whatever that means. The next generation’s flashbulb memory event. When people talk about the explosion now, they claim to know exactly where they were when it happened. I don’t actually remember where I was when I heard about it. I might’ve been out grocery shopping when someone sort of announced it to the store, or maybe I got a ping about it on my phone. Everywhere you went for a week after the explosion, the sky would be pink and folks would soften their eyes and go, “This is awful, but at least it’s over and nothing like it will happen again.” I’m being reductive. I went Issue 67 Spring - 2021
over to the Grebley’s right after I found out. Or maybe it was the day after. We sat in the living room eating shortbread cookies from a tin and watching five brides compete in relay races to win a honeymoon trip. Mr. Grebley would blow his nose every few minutes. It was sad, but comfortable. When Mrs. G asked me if Nathan and I were ever an item, I said, “N.O.T. and I didn’t like labels.” Caroline came to the funeral and kept a hand on my shoulder the whole time. I didn’t cry, but she made me feel like it. If I had cried, it would’ve been on live tv. Not that folks would be able to see the tears through my veil. I’d been getting a bit of media attention as N.O.T.’s former best friend and lover, and I had the idea to string it out by not showing my face in public. I’d wear thinner and thinner veils as the weeks went by, which sounds vain in hindsight. It didn’t work, anyway. Obviously the limelight was fleeting, and in a week nobody gave a crap. The thing people cared about in the months after the destruction of South Dakota was the sense of normalcy that had been lost. People wouldn’t stop talking about it. All the ways we’d previously gone about gauging what normalcy was left to lose were bunk. The unease was tacit, and we all felt insignificant. So now I pass the line around the church and stuff and I get it, you know? Community over no community. Occasionally we should choose to hold each other’s hands over wringing our own fingers, even if holding hands is symbolic and functionally meaningless. Obviously, I can’t speak to the metaphysical benefits the conga line may have. I’m closed-minded, but even I’ll still empathize with ideologues from an out group when I’m afraid enough—not that it looks 130 The Olivetree Review
like fear, in that case—not that it has to—things are always plenty multimodal. In particular, with Caroline and her butane lighter, fear looked more like absolute insensitivity and denseness. Denseness because Caroline chose lighting lizards on fire for tourists over a scholarship to a private college. Where did that leave her when the Pan-Reptilian State was created? With a need to lash out, a lot of leftover gasoline, and an apartment three blocks away from the Carwarsh Cabana. Dean’s place burned down before Caroline made it to twenty. She confided in me that she’d done it for Grebley in the visiting room of North Dakota State Penitentiary. She tells me in letters that she’s writing a book about N.O.T. Anyway. What the whole incident taught me is that fear happens to be omnipresent the way just consumption under capitalism isn’t, and there won’t be an end to it. We’ll never be in a position like N.O.T.; and even if we were, look what happened to him. It’s not too big a deal if you can pretend the terror’s just a consumerist itch, but that only happens if you’re well-off enough. For me, when fear does sneak in, it’s gelid and unrefined. It’s the stuff that someone in a farce might feel after first finding a dear friend’s goodbye gift missing from its tank, and then seeing the window of their childhood bedroom open.
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Vein Virtues Jury Judge
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Cabbage Patch Kid Faith Dowling between the ginger root and nashi fruit, cabbage covers child nestled in napa and bundled in bok choy, i am left alone a backdrop of blurry shoppers, a drizzle of plum rain eight months without a home and all that’s left of me is bone the pulsing string that bonded us, our only true connection a sole severance from Her end, and still attached to me i wonder what’s so wrong inside, what made Her run and leave was it me or Her that was the coward? a mother’s love is never free i am neither foreigner nor native, i lay somewhere in between late at night, i search for meaning on a page joy luck club, kung fu hustle, yellow fever, chink i want to be defined by culture but all i know is rage even now, i only ever postulate on the what ifs would things be different if there was no big brother? though, i don’t think life would have been better i have and always will be -- the other
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
The River Styx J.E. Crum
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The Longing Nayoung Jin FADE IN: Vancouver, Canada INT. BUS CATHERINE, 67, gets on the bus and sits near the front. Glances out the window, cries a bit. She is wearing an elegant dancing dress and tiny yet pretty earrings. A fresh flower behind her ear. The bus moves. After a while, Catherine stops crying and wipes away the tears. Beat. She sees a BOY WEARING GLASSES sitting two rows away. CATHERINE Are you a student? BOY WEARING GLASSES Yeah. CATHERINE What do you study? BOY WEARING GLASSES English lit. ANOTHER OLD WOMAN, whose age is similar to Catherine’s, is sitting in the middle of the bus. She is looking at Catherine and is listening to her. CATHERINE Do you read Shakespeare? Do you like his works? BOY WEARING GLASSES I like Spencer and Oscar Wilde more. CATHERINE You look like Harry Potter. The boy laughs - as if it is truly hilarious. Catherine smiles. At this point, a GIRL, 19, nearby stands up and moves to the very back of the bus, with a cold look on her face. She is wearing earbuds. She sits down, then looks out the window. Catherine is quiet for a moment. Then she sees a handsome thirty-something MAN WITH A MUSTACHE, who is standing across from her and is with his GIRLFRIEND. Beat. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
CATHERINE (to Man with a Mustache) Does this bus go to the university? . . . I’m going to the university kindergarten. Are we there yet? No answer. CATHERINE (to Man with a Mustache) Where are we? Where exactly are we? Another Old Woman lifts her hips a tiny bit, with her eyes still on Catherine. No response. Catherine tries again. CATHERINE (to Man with a Mustache) Young man, excuse me, where are we? Beat. Another Old Woman gives a meaningful glance to the Man with a Mustache, as soon as their eyes meet. The Man with a Mustache - getting it - checks the stop and reports back. MAN WITH A MUSTACHE (to Catherine) This is Nelson Street. Burrard and Nelson. (beat) And yes, this bus goes to UBC. Another Old Woman sits down properly. CATHERINE Yeah? . . . You look like a monk. Your eyes. The Man with a Mustache turns away. CATHERINE I failed to charm you, heh? I failed to charm you. Catherine laughs. At this point, a WOMAN WITH A PONYTAIL in her late 40s, who has been sitting in the front row on the left side of the bus, stands up. Wearing a small, knowing smile. She turns and moves to the back of the bus. Then sits down, takes out a magazine titled Cottage Living from her bag, looks at the cover. Written at the bottom is “Summer - personal style at home”. 136 The Olivetree Review
She opens the magazine. A wedding ring on her finger. Catherine leans on the window. She rests that way for some time. Then she turns to the BUS DRIVER. CATHERINE Driver, are we there yet? The university. BUS DRIVER What? No. Not yet. A couple more stops at least. CATHERINE Ah, I have to go all the way to the final stop, right? BUS DRIVER That’s right. A long beat. CATHERINE I’m going there to see my granddaughter. She’s in the kindergarten. BUS DRIVER Oh? That’s nice. The Bus Driver looks out the window, then spots the driver of another bus approaching from the opposing lane. Recognizes him. BUS DRIVER (bright; to THE OTHER DRIVER) Hey! The Other Driver sees him, smiles, waves his hand. Beat. Catherine turns away. Beat. She looks around and sees MAN ONE, a man sitting across from her and reading a book - The Symposium by Plato. Catherine talks to him. Amidst the noise, their talk isn’t loud enough to be heard. But we can see the man is all smiling, half-polite and halfcurious, enjoying himself a bit. Then Man One stands up and goes to the exit. CATHERINE (to Man One) I was dying from lack of intellectual curiosity! The bus stops, and the back door opens. Catherine outstretches her arms toward Man One. CATHERINE Issue 67 Spring - 2021
(to Man One) Plato, yay, Plato! Man One smiles at her, then gets off. The bus starts to move. At this point, TWO OLD LADIES, who appear to be foreigners and had been sitting side by side close to Catherine, whisper to each other briefly. They’re holding maps, cameras, and small bags. Then they both stand up and move further back and to the left side of the bus, where there are some one-person seats. One sits in front of the other. MAN TWO stands up and goes to the exit. Ready to get off. He stays there for a bit, then quickly comes to Catherine and whispers something naughty in her ear, perhaps meaning it to be a joke. He then goes back to the exit. As Catherine stares at him in a daze, he wears a mocking smile - before getting off the bus. The bus moves. Another Old Woman lifts her hips a little, with her eyes on Catherine. She looks concerned. Catherine, searching for someone to chat, looks directly at her. That glance - ready to ask questions - catches Another Old Woman off guard. She puts her bottom down and looks away. Beat. She shifts her body to sit comfortably. After a moment, the bus stops. As THREE neatly dressed BIG BOYS get on the bus, both Catherine’s and Another Old Woman’s eyes are on them. As soon as the boys all tap their compass cards, Catherine speaks to them. CATHERINE Can we, can we talk? They don’t hear her, but still, after searching for empty seats, they sit right across from Catherine. The bus moves. CATHERINE Are you students? At university? BIG BOY ONE Yes, we’re. CATHERINE What are you studying? BIG BOY ONE 138 The Olivetree Review
We’re studying business technology management. CATHERINE Boring, heh. I did finance. I once worked at the tax services
BIG BOY TWO That’s boring too. CATHERINE But I was successful! The boys smile politely, then turn toward one another. They check their phones and show each other what’s on their phone screens, whispering and enjoying themselves. Catherine leans on the window. She rests that way for some time. The bus stops. MAN THREE, a white-haired man with bags full of groceries, gets on the bus and sits at the very front seat on the right side of the bus. Sitting with his back to the front of the bus, Man Three meets eyes of Catherine, who looks toward him. The bus moves. Catherine sits up. CATHERINE Did you buy anything good? MAN THREE Yup. Got all these apples, four kinds from BC. (shows) Ambrosia, Granny Smith, Mcintosh, Royal Gala . . . CATHERINE Where -MAN THREE (smiling and pointing) At a farmer’s market over there. . . . Also got some sausages, fiddlehead ferns -CATHERINE Fiddlehead - my favorite! Oh, you got garlic scapes. Make soup with them, it’s gonna be delicious! (beat) Do you live alone? MAN THREE Noooo - never! . . . With my cats. And bees. Catherine laughs. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
CATHERINE Your name is? MAN THREE Oh, I’m Michael. CATHERINE Catherine. They shake hands. Beat. Catherine glances out the window. Then, as the bus crosses the bridge, Catherine points to the bridge and speaks excitedly to him. CATHERINE Look! A bridge. This city is one, big, bridge. That’s what fascinates me. That’s why I’m here. Man Three looks, then smiles and nods. CATHERINE So, what do you do? MAN THREE I’m retired. Was an interior designer for 30 years. Still sketches, though. And you? They continue talking to one another, but their words are drowned out momentarily by the street noise. Then it’s quiet again. CATHERINE . . . I was once a woman of wealth. Ages ago. Man Three smiles. MAN THREE Oh, yeah? CATHERINE With what my parents left me and what I was earning. MAN THREE Yeah? The good old days. CATHERINE Good old days. He smiles at her. She smiles back. A long beat. Man Three looks out the window, then back at Catherine. 140 The Olivetree Review
MAN THREE (smiles) It was nice meeting you . . . Catherine. He stands up, goes to the exit, rings the buzzer. CATHERINE Oh, don’t go! Please, please, don’t. MAN THREE I’m sorry, but I must get off. The bus stops. Its door opens, and Man Three dashes off. CATHERINE No, no! No! A MAN WITH A BEARD, who’s been sitting close to Catherine, turns to her. MAN WITH A BEARD (sharply) Quiet please! The bus moves. Catherine leans on the window for a few seconds. Then she places her head on her arm, hiding her face. She rests that way. Another Old Woman is looking at Catherine. ANNOUNCER(V.O.) This is our last stop, University Bus Exchange. This is our last stop, University Bus Exchange. INT. BUS The bus stops. Everyone is getting off. Catherine leaves the bus. EXT. UNIVERSITY BUS EXCHANGE - BAY 1 Catherine walks leisurely and goes her way. EXT. UNIVERSITY KINDERGARTEN Catherine walks toward the kindergarten. Then she stands outside the fence and takes a look. LITTLE CHILDREN are playing at the playground. Beat. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Catherine smiles. She turns and leaves. INT. CATHERINE’S HOME - TINY ROOM An unlit room where one person can barely fit in. It’s also where Catherine stores all her clothes. Catherine sleeps on the floor, still wearing her outside clothes and wrapping her arms around herself. Her head is resting on a pile of clothes. FADE OUT. THE END
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Flower Girl Olivia Baldacci
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Reading at Bedtime Andrew Analore I am holding Leaves of Grass, hoping she’ll ask about it. The page is dog-eared. I know the lines: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” I’ll read it and explain how the elements that make up our bodies are fused in dying stars. But she doesn’t ask and I don’t offer. Instead, we fall asleep under the blanket of the same metaphor: Our marriage, a book, its binding broken by the distance between the words.
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Imps and Pixies Edward Supranowicz
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Non-Negotiable Bryan Starchman A Romantic Comedy in 10 Minutes SCENE: A trendy restaurant where the diners sit in the fuselage of an old airplane. Retro flight attendants are the wait staff and the emergency exit doors have been removed so that patrons can access bars on either wing. The conventional seats have been removed and replaced with cozy red leather booths. The cabin lights are dimmed and when patrons want to peruse the menu they utilize the still functioning reading lights above their heads. They can also summon the waitstaff by hitting the flight attendant button. Unlike the 1960s, smoking is strictly prohibited.) (STEPHANIE, mid-30s, pretty and fit, sits in a booth wearing a classic black cocktail dress. Next to her is her LAWYER, a severe woman in her 50s with her hair pulled back in a tight bun. She is wearing a pants suit and thick glasses à la Ruth Bader Ginsburg. TREVOR, mid-30s, handsome but a bit disheveled, enters the restaurant looking for his date.) TREVOR (extending his hand to Stephanie): Hi there, I’m Trevor. I’m so sorry that I’mLAWYER: Nineteen minutes late. We were about to leave. TREVOR (confused, lowering his hand): Yeah, traffic was a nightmare and I couldn’t find parkLAWYER: Valet parking is available for $20. Why didn’t you have the valet park your car? TREVOR: Well…$20 for parking is a little steep. I’m sorry, who-STEPHANIE (cheerily shaking his hand): It’s nice to meet you, I’m Stephanie. TREVOR: It is very nice to meet you. (sitting) Again, I’m sorry. LAWYER: In exchange for the loss of our time you will be paying for dinner. TREVOR: Is this your mother? STEPHANIE (laughs): Of course not! Who would bring their mother on a first date? TREVOR (laughing along): I was going to say-STEPHANIE: This is my lawyer. LAWYER (sticking out her hand): Francis Thompson, Esquire. TREVOR (awkwardly shakes it): Nice to meet you. (turns back to Stephanie) 146 The Olivetree Review
Um...did you want to wrap this up and then I can come back? I mean I can go have a drink if you need to finish talking with your lawyer about-STEPHANIE: Oh no, she’s here for you. TREVOR: Excuse me? STEPHANIE: You see I’m a unicorn. TREVOR (nervous): Oh yeah? You failed to mention that in your profile… (smiling, she is attractive if a little nutty) Did you leave your horn at home? LAWYER: Not a literal unicorn. She is a unicorn in the online dating world. Mid-30s, never married, no children, established career with a 401k, and a homeowner. TREVOR: Oh… STEPHANIE: Yeah...we’re really rare. Like a… TREVOR: Unicorn. LAWYER: Affirmative. And since you have been deemed worthy of a first date with a unicorn, Stephanie has employed me to go over the terms of your relationship. TREVOR: The terms of our what? This is a first date. LAWYER: Are you saying that you are not looking for a long term commitment? TREVOR: Well, no. I just-LAWYER (pulling out a folder thick with printed transcripts): You first swiped right on my client three weeks ago at 3:23 a.m. Your opening line was “Hey beautiful, I hope you’re looking for Mr. Right and not Mr. Right Now.” TREVOR (reaching for the folder): Are those all of our text messages? LAWYER (smacking his hand): Please do not touch the transcripts. TREVOR: Listen, Stephanie, I’m new to all this. I haven’t been on a first date since… LAWYER (reading transcripts): “I haven’t been on a first date since 2002 when I went to the prom with my high school sweetheart. After college we got married but then we got divorced in 2016. I’m a little nervous and scared about dating again but I think we might be really great together.” (lowering her glasses) Tell me Trevor, did you really want to be with Stephanie or was that just a tactic to negotiate your way into my client’s bedroom? TREVOR: What? No! I really meant that. (standing up) Listen, I’m not sure if-STEPHANIE (reaching out for his hand): I know this is a lot but please understand, it’s not you. I bring my lawyer on all my first dates. A lot of girls Issue 67 Spring - 2021
do. Look around. (Trevor looks around and realizes that there are many couples on dates in the restaurant and there are many lawyers sitting across from nervous men.) TREVOR: Oh my God. Look at all of them! STEPHANIE: You’re new to online dating, I get that. You have to understand, things have changed from when you were last single. My time is much more valuable than when I was in my 20s and if I’m going to get into a relationship, I want to make sure that my partner and I are on the same page. But I’m really attracted to you. So, please...sit back down? TREVOR (hesitates but she is really very pretty, he sits back down): Well. I guess that makes sense. STEPHANIE: Just pretend she’s not here. TREVOR (joking): Maybe I should have brought a lawyer. LAWYER: You weren’t willing to pay $20 for valet parking. How could you afford to bring a lawyer to dinner? TREVOR: I was kidding. I-LAWYER: If you can’t afford an attorney, one of our more affordable options can be appointed to you from the bar. (GARY, a sleazy ambulance chaser, suddenly enters carrying a drink.) GARY: I’m Gary Garrison, attorney at law. You may have seen my face on the side of the bus you took to work after your car was impounded because of your second DUI. STEPHANIE: You have two DUIs? LAWYER (leaning over to Stephanie): I have all of this in his character report. He also didn’t call his mother on her birthday and in sixth grade he cheated on a spelling test. TREVOR: What the hell? GARY: If you hire me for this date I can guarantee you will get to second base. I don’t get paid, until you get laid! STEPHANIE: Ugh. What a creep! TREVOR: I’m good! Really! I don’t need your help-GARY: Bad reputation? No reputation? No problem! My expert witnesses can make sure that you make the right first impression! (An airheaded bimbo named BAMBI walks up, obviously reading off an unseen cue card.) 148 The Olivetree Review
BAMBI: “Hello new girlfriend. My name is Bambi and I have known Travis--” GARY: --Trevor BAMBI: “--Trevor for 3 to 5 years. When we dated he was a perfect gentleman. He never beat me up or gave me any sexually transmitted diseases. He is a stand up guy and the only reason we are no longer dating is because he is too good in bed and I felt inadequate.” GARY: Good job sweetheart. BAMBI: Can I eat now? GARY: We’ll hit McDonalds on the way home. Shoo! (Bambi scampers off.) TREVOR: Seriously, go away! GARY (undeterred): Just listen to these satisfied customers! (BILLY, a beer bellied man in a flannel shirt appears, also reading off a cue card.) BILLY: “When my wife said that she was going to turn my man cave into a knitting nook, I called Gary Garrison. He saved my man cave and even got her to agree to let me buy a new flat screen television.” (giving a big thumbs up to no one in particular) “Thanks Gary Garrison!” (Billy disappears and is replaced by a balding little creep named PETER.) PETER: “After my divorce my wife spread rumors about me, claiming I had an obsession with smelling strangers’ heads. Gary Garrison sued her for defamation of character and got me my life back! Thanks Gary Garrison!” (another dramatic thumbs up to no one but he doesn’t move) GARY: You’re done. PETER: Oh, is that it? GARY: Yes! Go away. PETER: Oh...alright. (but before he exits he leans down and takes a deep whiff of Trevor’s head) TREVOR: Ok, seriously. I can handle this on my own-GARY: But wait, there’s more. Call now and I’ll throw in a set of steak knives and an autographed copy of my best selling book “How to Make a Fake Email Account So You Can Get Away with Cheating”. Imagine having the best of both worlds: a steady girlfriend and all the exciting side pieces you can handle! Issue 67 Spring - 2021
TREVOR: (screaming) Will you get the Hell out of here!? I don’t have any money! LAWYER: It’s true. His bank account is overdrawn, he has $13,000 in credit card debt, and he only has $32 cash in his velcro Hello Kitty wallet. TREVOR: It’s vintage! LAWYER: It’s sad. GARY (suddenly distracted by another potential client): Excuse me sir! Do you want to get in her pants without feeling obligated to call her the next day? Then let Gary Garrison represent you on your first date! (And he’s gone. Trevor just stares across at Stephanie and her lawyer.) (Silence) TREVOR: So, you grew up in Connecticut… LAWYER: We want you to apply for a full time graphic design position with Edwards and Associates, attend AA five nights a week, call your mother once a month, throw away the Pulp Fiction poster hanging over your bed, deep clean your bathroom, and wax your back. In exchange we will agree to a second date at a restaurant of our choosing that you will pay for, followed by a romantic walk in Forsyth Park and some light necking. If all goes well, you will meet her parents on Memorial Day weekend when they come to town for a visit and she will consider letting you move in. TREVOR: Um...yeah. Deal! STEPHANIE: Oh, I’m so happy. It was a little touch and go there for a moment but I really think you have potential! TREVOR: Oh...uh...thanks? LAWYER (presenting documents to Trevor): Sign here, here, and here. Initial here. And date here and here. (Trevor is nervous but he signs all the documents.) LAWYER: And then sign this one in blood. TREVOR: In blood? LAWYER (straightfaced): A little lawyer humor. TREVOR: Ha ha. Good one LAWYER (folding up the contracts): This is a binding contract of commitment. If you violate this agreement in any way my client has the right to slander your name to all single women within a five mile radius. Agreed? TREVOR: Uh...sure… LAWYER (standing): Now, before I leave you two, how many children do you want? 150 The Olivetree Review
TREVOR: Excuse me? STEPHANIE: I’m just planning for the future. Just in case. TREVOR: Oh. Um. I don’t really see myself having children. You see my ex and I never wanted kids and once I got divorced… (STEPHANIE stands and leaves the table without another word as LAWYER glares at TREVOR and rips up the contract in front of his eyes.) LAWYER: Good day, Sir! TREVOR: Hang on, I just thought we could talk aboutLAWYER: I said, good day! (Lawyer is gone, leaving Trevor confused and shell shocked.) (Gary reappears with a pretty but nervous girl MEGAN who has obviously been crying.) GARY: I’m Gary Garrison-TREVOR: Not again. GARY: You may remember me from a few minutes ago when you told me to go to Hell. I represent Megan. She was just dumped by her boyfriend of six months because she is too clingy and in his words “a psycho bitch”. MEGAN: It’s not true! I’m just very emotional. GARY: She’s on the rebound and is looking for a no strings attached one night stand with someone like you. (he opens his briefcase and pulls out documents) If you sign this contract, you agree to get out of her bed before the sun rises and never call her again. You also agree to let her send three photos of you posing in her apartment to her ex boyfriend. MEGAN: I’d like to see what he looks like with his shirt off. GARY: Please remove your shirt so my client canTREVOR: Forget it! I’d rather stay single! (Trevor exits, leaving Gary standing there with a stupid grin on his face. He doesn’t miss a beat as he turns towards the audience.) GARY: I’m Gary Garrison, if you’re single and have even the slightest pectoral definition, this might be your lucky night! END
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Frida and the Peacock Angelita Hampton
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PLEONASM Jordan Resnick Cast of Characters P.O.W.-001: Plant Office Worker -- Any gender P.O.W.-222: Plant Office Worker -- Any gender B.O.S.S.: Building Order in Standardized Society -- White, Male I.R.W.-44: Internal Reactor Worker (Played by 1)
Scene Nuclear Power Plant. A world where names don’t matter, and people matter even less. Time Near future. Scene 1 SETTING: Break room. P.O.W.-001 and P.O.W.-222 are standing around a table with coffee pots, cups, and various coffee-related items. The two employees are wearing identical bulky neck devices, matching wristbands, black pants, white button ups with a radiation symbol on the left shoulder. P.O.W.-002 is pouring two cups of coffee. The pair exchange how the coffee should be prepared with invented sign-language: Two fingers + licking finger for sugar, one finger + pouring for milk. They talk as the coffee is prepared. P.O.W.-001 Day? P.O.W.-222 Good. P.O.W.-001 Cynthia? Issue 67 Spring - 2021
P.O.W.-222 Effervescent. P.O.W.-001 Paycheck? P.O.W.-222 …Well-endowed. A tense pause. P.O.W.-222 looks alarmed and mouths the word “hyphen” while using their hand to show it’s one word. P.O.W.-222 (cont.) Kids? P.O.W.-001 Home. P.O.W.-222 Rapid. P.O.W.-001 Fleeting. P.O.W.-222 Life? P.O.W.-001 About to change. P.O.W.-001 holds a single bolt between their thumb and pointer finger, P.O.W.-222 tries to hide confusion. P.O.W.-001 notices their discomfort. P.O.W.-001 (Cont.) Later. P.O.W.-222 154 The Olivetree Review
Skater. Shared chuckle. B.O.S.S. walks in, stopping P.O.W.-001 from leaving. B.O.S.S. wears a nice suit and a more sleek and stylish neck device. B.O.S.S. Where’s my greeting? P.O.W.-001 ...Good morning. B.O.S.S. “Good morning” whom? P.O.W.-001 Sir. B.O.S.S. What “sir”? P.O.W.-001 Good morning, sir. B.O.S.S. Better. Remember for next time. Get back to work. P.O.W.-222 sees P.O.W.-001 throwing their fist up in resistance behind B.O.S.S. B.O.S.S. Any weekend plans? P.O.W.-222 Yes. B.O.S.S. What are they? Issue 67 Spring - 2021
P.O.W.-222 ... B.O.S.S. C’mon, you can spare a few extra words. P.O.W.222 Beach…family house. B.O.S.S. When do you leave? P.O.W.-222 Tonight. B.O.S.S. Sounds nice. P.O.W.-222 Peaceful. B.O.S.S. What’s your word count? P.O.W.-222 shows B.O.S.S. their wristband. B.O.S.S. (Cont.) 165 out of 200. You better watch out, don’t know what might arise later. How’d you already use up so many words? P.O.W.-222 ...Wife. B.O.S.S. Do you like to talk?
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P.O.W.-222 Yes. B.O.S.S. You ever hit your limit? P.O.W.-222 nods head. B.O.S.S. You know, all forms of nonverbal communication, including American Sign Language, has been banned in the workplace since May of last year. Besides, superiors do enjoy a verbal confirmation of being heard. P.O.W.-222 ...Yes. B.O.S.S. looks satisfied with P.O.W.-222’s answer and sips coffee, wasting time. P.O.W.-222 makes to leave. B.O.S.S. You like working here? P.O.W.-222 …Yes. B.O.S.S. Studious? P.O.W.-222 Poindexter. B.O.S.S. What skillset got you assigned here? P.O.W.-222 ...Problem solving. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
B.O.S.S. Of course one could say that, but really everything is done on the computer. We only have you at the Plant as a backup measure. Nuclear power has come a long way. In my opinion, everyone in your sector is dead weight. You have a wife, you said? P.O.W.-222 Yes. B.O.S.S. You like talking to her? P.O.W.-222 Constantly. B.O.S.S. Is that how you got through most of your words before noon? Sometimes I wish I had your amount so I’d have an excuse not to talk to mine. Two thousand! What do they expect me to say that I need two thousand words for? That’s why I take so many lunch meetings. How do you two talk when the--? He gestures to the neck device. P.O.W.-222 Notes. B.O.S.S. Your sex must be awful. You know, we’ve had people like you before. “Quiet” people who come in to “problem solve” when in reality they’re here trying to save their word count for their loved ones. Really, it’s your fault you aimed so low, got your measly share of words in the first place. Everyone knows the government rewards hard workers. It’s filth like yourself that drains the word resources; too many little urchins feeling the need to save up on words that can help move society along to be used instead for speaking to their whore families. They waste my time, needing me to manage low-lives trying to skate by without inputting something helpful for our government who has provided so much for you, like your pointless job. You think a computer operated plant needs human oversight? That your word count could actually help in an emergency? You should thank them for limiting your words, not like you’d need to say something important. (Clears throat.) A nuclear shutdown protocol refresher course will be held next Thursday at noon, I expect you to be there. 158 The Olivetree Review
B.O.S.S. begins to leave. B.O.S.S. (Cont.) Ah, before I forget, we’ll-- no, we will need you to stay late tonight to take over the extra shift. B.O.S.S. leaves. P.O.W.-222 looks at their wristwatch, decides it’s worth it to say “Asshole.” Scene 2 SETTING: Main computer hub of the plant later that day. P.O.W.-222 seated at a desk facing a large monitor. On the monitor is a map with red dots signifying the location of power plants. A radar blinks occasionally. In front of them is a large computer console. P.O.W.-001 enters, ready to leave for the weekend. P.O.W.-001 Ready? P.O.W.-222 Can’t. B.O.S.S. P.O.W.-001 Leave soonP.O.W.-001’s word count has just been filled. Their mouth moves with no sound while their neck brace lights up with any attempt of vocalization. P.O.W.-001 looks at their wristband and glances up at P.O.W.-222, mouths “sorry,” and exits. P.O.W.-222 turns back towards their monitor. Time passes. It’s boring. The computer monitor’s binging begins to raise in volume and the blinking red dots get brighter. An intercom beeps on the console before I.R.W.-44 is heard via intercom. I.R.W.-44 Malfunction. Reactor crash. Advise. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
P.O.W.-222 speaks through the intercom. P.O.W.-222 Problem? I.R.W.-44 Overheated. P.O.W.-222 Instructions? I.R.W.-44 You. P.O.W.-222 begins rapidly typing on the console, drawing up the plans for a nuclear reactor on the screen. P.O.W.-222 Cooling module? I.R.W.-44 Nitrogen shortage. P.O.W.-222 People? I.R.W.-44 Six. P.O.W.-222 Status? I.R.W.-44 No engineers. (Beat.) Bolts missing. P.O.W.-222 realizes what P.O.W.-001 did. They continue with waning compo160 The Olivetree Review
sure. P.O.W.-222 Extra bolts? I.R.W.-44 None. P.O.W.-222 Experience? I.R.W.-44 Little. (Beat.) Hot. P.O.W.-222 Contain heat? I.R.W.-44 Escaping chamber. P.O.W.-222 Isolate wing? I.R.W.-44 Can’t. P.O.W.-222 Hope? (Beat.) Dead? Loud static as the intercom cuts out from the reactor end. In frustration, P.O.W.-222 bangs on the keyboard, breaking it. The plans go away and the original map appears, the dots all steady. One dot starts to grow larger, a solid red soon to fill the entire screen. P.O.W.-222 Fuck! (Into the intercom.) Hello? Is anybody there?
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P.O.W.-222 tries to type something to no avail. They pick up the phone on the top of the console, punches in “911.” Sirens wail. P.O.W.-222 Emergency—! They have reached their word count. The lights on their neck device going wild as they silently ugly cry, dropping the phone. The lights dim. The screen is bright red, silhouetting P.O.W.-222. Lights.
Dolabela Engineer Guilherme Bergamini
162 The Olivetree Review
Phone First Dane Campbell Mama says she’s bringing Uncle Ted home. You’re excited. You cancel gaming with the guys. You even ditch seeing Shyenne in the stairwell basement right after school. And she’s wearing a skirt. Mama said Uncle Ted’s a little sick and won’t have time to sport you around and waste money on you like he normally does. But you don’t believe her. Uncled Ted is a bad man. Three dudes jumped in a bar once, yet it would be they, the three dudes, who needed emergency attention long after Uncle Ted sauntered out of the tavern unscarred. You look up to him. You want to be him. He bought you the phone in your hand. And you just know he’ll buy you a new one. Mama and Aunt Carrie say those days are gone because of Dominique. Mama said you can’t ever call her “Auntie” because she isn’t Uncle Ted’s wife, just a Haitian woman he lived with for three fast years who the family says worked magic on him every day of those three fast years. He had big money before those three fast years. And was the pillar of the family before those three fast years. But what do they know? They say she made him sick. How sick, nobody knows. Not even his doctors can diagnose him, and he has seen the best of them. They say he got worse before anyone even knew he was ill. Dominique left him just as mysteriously as his quickly declining health. She left no trace of her existence in the house they shared—for those three fast years. And when Mama and Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Aunt Carrie went to see about him, all he could say, lying in a bed of his pee, was “she left in my phone.” You sit on the couch texting apologies to Shyenne, promising her a chance to wear your chain. Another thing Uncle Ted gave you. The front door opens and Mama wheels in a gnarled, hunched old man. You look for Uncle Ted. He didn’t come, you think. “This might hurt a li’l bit, Teddy,” Mama says. You almost lose your lunch. The man in the wheelchair is a husk of the man you once knew, furled and withered, strands of grays sprouting out his ears. His skin charcoal, chestnut when you saw him last, a year ago. You gasp as the feeble man flinches with pain when the wheels of the wheelchair hit the bump at the base of the doorway. “Say, hello to your uncle, Jamie,” Mama says. But you can’t open your mouth. “Don’t just stand there like some stranger, nah.” “H-hello, Unc.” “Jaaay Maan, my l-il ma-an,” he moans, his face breaking into a shattered smile as your mama stoops to get eye level with her brother. “Teddy, look at James. Ain’t he tall now? He gon’ grow to Daddy’s height. Watch.” Both smile dumbly at your paralysis. Their resemblance, once identical, not anymore. Uncle Ted’s eyes, bulging, ridden with veins. His lips, blis164 The Olivetree Review
tered; teeth, corned and placqued. “Yeeeaah, just…like…him,” says Uncle Ted. Your eyes fixate on his skeletal legs, printing through his slacks. His hand inches upward, splaying fingers that barely make it above the wheelchair’s handle. “James Riley, can’t you see he tryna give you a high-five, bwoy?” The soles of your Jordans suddenly heavy, as you walk over and kneel to meet his hand. He grabs it, keeping a shaking but monstrous grip on yours. You can’t pull away. And his eyes, damn, they’re big, and get bigger before he releases you. Mama doesn’t see them. You can’t unsee them. “Where... the...phone?” he asks. “Somewhere on him. Baby, that’s his life source.” Mama says, rolling him into the guest room. “I’ma, um, go, um, play, um, some ball with, um, um, Namon and them.” “Okay, but don’t get back so late. I got all the Godfather movies. And I’ma cook y’all some of that spaghetti casserole with garlic bread. We gon’ have a good ole time, ain’t we, Teddy?” Uncle Ted’s nodding erupts into a phlegm-rattling cough. She digs in her purse and pulls out a napkin. “Spit it out, nah. Spit.” A filmy, thick stream of mucus, curdles out his mouth onto the wad cupped below his chin. “There you go. We gon’ get all of that up out of you, Teddy. We gon’ beat this, hear?” She folds the napkin and hands it to you, peering at you with exacting Issue 67 Spring - 2021
eyes. You don’t dare refuse. Your skin thickens. You take it from her with only two fingers. Then you run it to the downstairs toilet then submerge your hands under scalding faucet water. After, you trail them in the guest room. Mama unlatches the wheelchair’s foot locks. He places a quivering step onto the carpet. The house is too small already. “So, I’ma go, Mama, cool?” you kinda ask, keeping a healthy distance behind them. “Don’t be gone too long, Jamie.” “Yes, ma’am.” You spin to the door. “Jamie!” “Yes?” you say, your back still to her. “Say bye to your uncle, bwoy.” “My bad, bye, Uncle Ted.” You don’t wait for him to reply. You grab your keys from the counter, hoping once you’re outside in the open air, the burning in your throat, the heat beneath your arms, the emptiness in your gut gets blown away with the good breeze of escape. You return close to midnight. All is calm in the house and when you undress and slip under the covers, you hear, for the first time: “Jaaaaaay Maaaaaaan.” 166 The Olivetree Review
Every day for the next four weeks: “Jaaaaaay Maaaaaaan.” Uncle Ted looks and smells worse than the day before. Your sympathy morphs into apathy. His around-the-clock care is now your responsibility because Mama works two jobs. Tonight is no different. Tap, thud, tap. “Jaaaaay-Maaaaaan.” You slam your bedroom door and grab your phone from your desk. You search your back pocket for your earbuds, hoping the dying man next door doesn’t croak out your name again before you can get “Jesus Walks” blasting in your ears. You push them in your ears and dive backwards with so much force you bounce twice before achieving a final landing on the mattress. Your music, so loud your temples throb. Yet Uncle Ted, from within the guest bedroom—the adjacent room—somehow lowers “Jesus Walks.” The tap-tapping, th-thudding, and sc-scraping of his cane against the wall with which you two share is no longer unheard. Then his call, a resilient one, so pedestrian, so ingrained in your everyday life, becomes the only sound alive. Thud, tap, tap, screech. “Jaaaaay-Maaaan.” The voice, strained, lifeless, and lamenting. The bastard child of the unlikely living and the lively dead. His rasp crescendoes into a scratchier, airier groan that by design makes you shudder. And you shudder every single time. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
And when the call ends, Kanye’s rhythmic sermon fades up. You close your eyes and are now somewhere else. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant posters gone. You’re skulking in some dark corner of Leah’s basement, taking in the coated fog of weed smoke while passing around cups of sizzurp. The adult-free party began an hour ago and so did the text messages and Facebook alerts, updating you on the type of sixteen and seventeen-year-old mischief abound. Tap, tap, thud. “Jaaaaay-Maaaan.” A fitted Redskins cap falls from where it hung undisturbed on the wall right above your headboard. It transports you back to your bed. You smack it off your face, snatch out your earbuds, and glare up at the nail that once secured it. You boil, watching it vibrate with the banging from the decrepit man’s cane. “Fuck you,” you say. “You’ll fucking die tonight, waiting on me to help your ass.” The syncopated banging continues while you get back to scrolling. Liar, texts Shyenne, who you promised earlier at your locker you’d “be there, maybe a bit late, but before the action gets started.” She cuts her eyes at you before strolling down the hallway, her hips swaying to the rhythm of your adolescent stirrings that linger far after she turns the corner. 168 The Olivetree Review
no im not. im coming, you reply. “Jesus Walks” cries from your midsection where the earbuds lie discarded. Then your White Sox cap falls next to you. Your phone buzzes again. im about 2 go have me some fun. I dont got time 4 lil boys that lie cuz they have 2 be @ home babysitting all the time. She punctuates her reply with a sad face emoji. just be cool im there. trust me. Okaaaaaaaay Thud, thud, thud. “Jaaaaay-Maaaan.” You wince at the photos your “friends” post of themselves lounging in the murk of Leah’s basement. All of them, high out of their minds. Eyes low and sluggish, red plastic cups secured in their hands, toasting to the best wrongs they would get into before the night was done with them. Your mind captions every hazy picture, every underexposed video with hashtags: #JamieCantCome #DudeOnLockDown #HeCantNeverGoNoWhere #HisUncleSickAsHell #WeGonnaSmokeAllTheWeed #WeGonnaGetUpWithHisGirl #HaHaHaBoy #YoUncleCallingYouBoy #RunRunRunBoy Tap, tap, tap. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
“Jaaaaaaaay-Maaaaaan.” Simon’s text reads, WYA man????? chill man on my way, you reply. Your head propped on a pillow, your phone warming your hand, the wall behind you shakes. All six remaining ball caps rain down on your bed. The nails threatening to shoot out from their holes. “Not going in there again, man. Not doing it,” you whine. The smell, suffocating. A hybrid of decaying flesh, musk, stool, and lingering air freshener that your mother sprays in there throughout the day (it does nothing). Just last week, you vomited into his bedpan when carrying it out of the guest room, droplets of dissolved bowels and urine splashed on your cheeks. You vowed to Mama you’d never enter that room again. And for two days, you didn’t because Mama was off work. And when Uncle Ted grunted your name in the night and Mama retired to her room, you blasted “On to the Next,” leaving him to suffer. Now, still planted on your bed, seething, wanting to defy your mother and go to the party, the bi-fold doors of your closet open far enough so your brand new jeans glint under the bedroom lighting. The sales tags dangle from its belt loops. You hear them ringing, beckoning you. You rise, pull at one of the pant legs. Your mother’s voice echoes, “Are you crazy, bwoy? I work Friday night. You ain’t goin’ to no party, leavin’ yo’ uncle here alone. I’m sorry, the answer’s no.” You take the new pair of jeans off the hanger. 170 The Olivetree Review
“Don’t ask me no more,” she said, stirring a pot of tomato soup. Your joggers fall to your ankles. “You don’t give a damn ‘bout nobody but yo’self. You got responsibilities, partner. Yo’ friends—if they really yo’ friends—will have to understand,” she continued, blowing steam rising from a bowl. You rip off the tags. They fall to the carpet, next to the drawstrings of your now accordion sweatpants. “Now bring this to him. He may need help with the spoon. He hardly had any strength this morning.” You grabbed the bowl from her hands and aboutfaced to his room, a soldier, called to the line of duty. She followed you, saving him. Now you’re in full gear. Your Sean John polo is smaller around your shoulders and pecs, for which you thank your upper-body workouts. Your skinny-leg jeans hang low. You spit on your thumb and wipe specks of dust from your white kicks. You do the leg-wobble, the dance Shyenne loves, and strut back and forth in the full-length mirror. The banging resumes. “Jaaaaay-Maaaaaan, come here.” “Damn, man. Why aren’t you asleep yet?” You whisper over your shoulder, stomping, your dreads bounce against your face. “Jaaaaaaay-Maaaaaaan…please.” Your phone buzzes, shakes, and lights with messages. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Shyenne: Guess I gotta go get my dance on with Lakell or somebody. I dont do liars. “Pssssst.” You drop the phone on the bed and march to the mirror. Thud, tap, tap. The barren voice calls, abnormally louder, “Jaaaaay-maaaaan,” “Comin’, man. Damn!” Not wanting to enter his room twice, you anticipate what he wants. He always wants it. While in the kitchen, you prepare a bowl of applesauce and a glass of water for his pills. You think this should do it for the rest of the night. You devise your plan: serve Uncle Ted and be out of the front door in minutes, creeping back in before morning. #YallThoughtWrong #YoBoyWillBeGettingHisSwerveOn #IGottaLifeToo #IAintNeverNoNurse Tap, tap, tap. “Jaaaaay-maaaaan,” he calls, as you cross through the living room from the kitchen. You hold your breath, twisting the knob, balancing the tray with the bowl of applesauce, glass of water, and assortment of multi-colored pills. You look directly ahead at the window, above and beyond the bed. His 172 The Olivetree Review
groaning itches your ears. You do it, you cringe. “Fuck!” Mama removed the lampshade. The room is blinding. You give up and acknowledge him lying on the surgical bed, one hand lowering the cane onto the mattress, the other clutching the bed rail near his head. His eyes, plump, saliva-crust ringing his mouth. A soupier, stubborn stream of drool bends in suspension from a blistered bottom lip. His bedding is crumpled over his bony knees. Shirtless, he arches and contracts in stained white boxers. A skeletal rib cage stretches his skin. His head, propped up by an army of used-to-be white pillows. Your disgust is magnetized to the turds swimming in the orange urine within a chrome bedpan that lay beneath him. A dry lump swells in your throat. Your top lip quivers. “Here go yo’ apple sauce, Uncle Ted.” You unhook the tray’s legs and table it over his uneven chest, betting you can do it without looking at him directly or inhaling his smell. “W-hy?” Uncle Ted exhales, you shriek. Once the table proves stable, he rolls onto his side, facing the door. “Why what, Uncle Ted? What, man?” You ask, taking a breath. Your eyes flutter. “Why…you…don’t…come…when…I…c-call?” You pull your phone from your pocket. “I was listening to some music. I ain’t hear you,” you lie. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
“I...bought...it” “I know you bought me the phone, man. What? You want it back? Dang. Always tellin’ somebody what you bought them. Here, take your pills.” Using two fingers, you spread the five pills out on the napkin. “She...made...me.” Uncle Ted points to your other hand that’s clutching the phone he gifted you last Christmas. Last Christmas, when he could form complete sentences, laugh with that big-man laugh, deepen his voice and scare the shit out of you. Way back then. “What? You want it? Here.” You find what you think is the cleanest spot on the bed and lay it there. “She’s...in...th-the ph-phone,” he sighs. You push your lips upward, blocking your nostril passages. “Why it gotta smell like that in here? Damn. Take yo’ pills, man.” He looks down at them, as if they’re unreachable or something. So you push them closer to the edge of the tray. He doesn’t take them. So you grab his hand; it’s so soft. Too soft. Quickly, you flip his wrist and drop the longest of the five in his palm. “Stay…off…the…phone.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Here.” He closes his fist, his eyes x-raying you. “Yep. Alright. Goodnight. Feel better.” You walk backwards toward the door. He shakes his head, lifelessly. You stop at the door. “Uncle Ted?” 174 The Olivetree Review
No answer. “Uncle Ted?” No Answer. “Uncle Ted, damn.” “I…buy…you…the...phone...for...her. She’s...in...there.” He takes a deep breath and furrows as if it almost killed him to do it. “Uncle Ted, man. You gon’ take yo pills, man? Take them pills. I don’t want Mama cussing, talking ‘bout I didn’t give you no pills, man. Stop worrying about this phone.” Your uncle shakes his head again, slowly, but not like he has to but because he wants to. He points to the phone once more. You march over to grab it. Then you twist the doorknob with all of your strength and leave, letting it slam behind you. Tap, tap, tap. “Jaaaaay-Maaaaaan…” You race to the coat closet and throw on your jacket. Thud, thud, thud. “Jaaaaay-Maaaaaan…” You don’t have one of your hats, the Dodgers, the one that goes with your polo. You start for your room. “Jaaaaay-Maaaaaan.” You leave without it. Once out the door, you reboot and imagine the Issue 67 Spring - 2021
kind of fun that will make your imminent punishment worthwhile. You take the alley and cross through Donald’s backyard to get to Leah Martin’s house. Two Chainz thumps from around the side, leading you right to the basement door. You knock. No one answers. You go to a side window, crouch, and bang on it repeatedly. Finally, Tyrone Fuller sees your knuckles in transit to the glass. He holds up the finger and then gestures that he’ll meet you back at the entrance. It opens. Marijuana and teenage perspiration smack your eyes wide. “Bwoy, what you do, dig a tunnel out that motherfucka?” Tyrone jokes. “Never that. I’ma grown-ass man, feel me? Who up in this bitch?” You two do a choreographed handshake then Tyrone leads the way down into the basement. It’s dimly lit, nothing but silhouettes prancing like hypnotized zombies. A slow cut, “Birthday Sex” by Jeremih, plays. Your whole crew, each one, has a girl hemmed up in a corner (or has a girl hemming one of them up in the corner). Namon passes you a half-smoked blunt. You put it to your lips, take a slow pull, and then release an opaque cloud. “Thought you was gonna be MIA,” Namon says. “That’s what I’m sayin’,” Tyrone agrees. “I just had to make my entrance, feel me?” You take another long pull. Namon grabs his balls. “Fool, ‘entrance’ these nuts. Yo’ girl been on them all night.” 176 The Olivetree Review
“She wanted somethin’ smaller for a change, I guess.” You all laugh a little. You slap box a little. “Jaaaaaay Maaaaan,” you hear. You jerk. You spill your drink on your polo. “Fuck!” “Jamie!” Tyrone yells, now behind Leah’s bar. “You wanna fuck with this Henny or is you on some light shit? I know you gotta be back in time to give Unc them pills or that nigga might croak on y’all ass.” Everyone in the surrounding area laughs. You offer a pseudo grin and reply, “Dark, bwoy, of course.” You take another hit while reaching for the cup. “So you made it, hunh?” Leah appears in a one-piece jean suit, looking ten years her senior, good as fuck. “You outta lock down?” You deepen your voice. “Yeah, I’m in this bitch!” You gulp half the contents of your cup. “Well, turn my girl up. She been waiting for you.” “Where she at?” Leah points to the corner. You take two more pulls of the blunt and pass it to Namon. Namon pinches it from your fingers, complaining about it being practically finished. “Selfish ass!” You meander through the crowds of people, barely recognizing anyone in the darkness. Bodies thrashing and bumping onto one another to the beat of the music. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
“Don’t rush to be grown, J-Man. You got the rest of yo’ life to be an adult. You gon’ look around and wish them days were back, man. I tell ya,” you hear Uncle Ted say. “Jamie!” calls Shyenne. She stands tip toe, frantically waving her hand. She’s wearing pumps and a spaghetti-string top with black leggings. Her hair pinned up, face thick with make-up. “Don’t get with a girl who don’t look her age. She’ll spoil soon if she ain’t been spoiled already,” Uncle Ted told you at a Caribbean cuisine. He had just come back from Jamaica and wanted you to check out brown-stewed cooking. “So where Lakell at? Since you want me to beat his ass so bad,” you say in her ear. She smells so good. Peaches and kiwi. You take a seat next to her on one of the folding chairs by the wall. “You know I was just tryna getchu here as fast as possible.” Her voice is shrill, catlike. You like it, sometimes. Not tonight, though. “Don’t be doin’ that shit, man. Damn near left my uncle for dead over that text.” “Don’t put a woman over yo’ family. See, their title changes: girlfriend, fiancée, wife, ex-wife. Family titles don’t.” You finish your cup. “Yo, but I can’t stay long. I don’t want my mama to call me and I ain’t there. She buyin’ me them Jordans this weekend. Can’t fuck that up.” “So I waited this long for you and you finna leave?” “I’m here now. Make the most of that, shit.” 178 The Olivetree Review
She folds her arms and turns away from you. Next, you touch her at the elbow and rub her softly. She rises, sticking out her butt, and struts, switching her ass. You follow. In Leah’s bedroom upstairs (she said it was okay), on top of the bed, dry humping Shyenne, your phone vibrates in your pocket. “Don’t,” she begs. It buzzes again and again. “Wait, damn.” You pull out your phone. Uncle Ted flashes on your display. “It’s him. Shit.” “Argh.” She pushes you off of her. Missed Call “Damn, I should bounce.” “You shouldn’ta came.” “He’s fuckin’ dyin’.” “Now you care? Whatchu come here for if you were so worried about that?” “Don’t explain nothin’ to no woman, J-Man. A man reserves the right to make his decisions. And good women understand a man’s decisions,” he said, passing you your first pack of condoms. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
“Because.” “I’m goin’ back downstairs. This some bullshit.” You follow her. Your phone buzzes again. You leave. You return a little dazed and disoriented from the party to a completely silent house. You flick on your bedroom light and see all the nails have fallen onto the floor. You hit the switch, undress, and dive onto the bed. “Don’t take it the first chance you can get it. She’d want to give it even more the next time.” You two were playing Spades at Grandma’s house, two Easters ago. The lump, now the size of a tennis ball, is back in your throat. You try swallowing but can’t. * Mama shoves you before one of your eyes can open. “Wake up, James. James, wake up, baby.” She’s over you. Her fingers curve around her forehead, pushing strands of hair from her face. “He died.” “For real?” “Yeah,” she sighs. Her words faint, broken. “When’s last you checked on him?” She stumbles to the foot of your bed. “Um, ‘round, like, eleven. I went to bed kinda early last night.” “Figured. It must’ve happened sometime in the night. You didn’t hear 180 The Olivetree Review
him callin’ you?” Her voice cracks, looking down at the showcase of caps on the ground. “Nawl.” “I called Emergency. They’re on the way.” She places her arm around her stomach. “I gotta make calls. Dear God.” You lift your back off of the bed. Propped up on your elbows, you say, “Mama, it was his time. He was real sick.” “I know, and God don’t make no mistakes, right?” She sniffles. “Well, get up. Meet me downstairs.” You nod, feigning deep concentration. She exits. You slam your head back onto the pillows. Your phone buzzes beneath them. Shyenne text reads: so did yo momma find out? nope my uncle just clocked out tho damn sorry 2 hear that im good tho i know yo momma going through it i dont think it really hit her yet U str8? yeah im about to get up and take care of some stuff hit u later k let me know if u need anything I’ll always be here You slide on a pair of basketball shorts. Yesterday’s outfit is sprawled out on the floor. You thank God it missed Mama. You head down the hallway and pause at your Aunt Carrie’s voice on speaker. “It makes a lot of sense to me, shit. That was a healthy man. Didn’t the doctor say he had at least a few more months?” Issue 67 Spring - 2021
“Girl, don’t you start mess. She ain’t put no spell on him,” Mama laughs nervously. “Guess God wanted him now.” “That ain’t God’s work, Thelma. That woman done did that to him.” “I don’t believe that stuff, Carrie. Y’all can say that mess over there at Mama’s, but you leave that over there. And don’t you dare say that around James. You know how much he love him some Teddy.” Your chest heaves. You run to the bathroom. You don’t recognize yourself in the mirror. You’re older, darker, weaker. “Jaaaaay-Maaaaaan.” You search for his voice. You pull the shower curtain all the way back to assure yourself you’re in there alone. Air struggles to leave your mouth. Then Mama knocks. You gather yourself in your reflection then open the door. Mama holds her phone to her ear and your phone in her other hand. “Teddy woulda told us if that woman did somethin’ to him, is all I’m sayin’,” she says and pushes your phone to your chest. “Here, your phone’s ringing. Tell them you gon’ be busy all day and to leave you alone. The ambulance will be here any minute.” You close the door. 3MISSED CALLS You check the call log. All three U n c T e d. You call the number. “Wassup?” “Shyenne?” “Yeah,” she replies. You fumble the phone onto the edge of the sink. It 182 The Olivetree Review
ricochets off the toilet lid and falls into the tank. “Shit!” You close your eyes, plunge your hand inside, and net out the phone. Soaked, it feels new in your hands, warm when it should be cold, soft where it should be hard. You drop it on the vanity. “James! They’re here,” Mama yells. “Comin’.” The phone won’t power on. You swing open the door. Two uniformed brawn men enter the guest room. You stand at the end of the hallway waiting as equipment clanks. Furniture scrapes Mama’s floors. After about twenty minutes, the bald one comes out. “We lost him, I’m sorry, “ he says in what sounded like one syllable. You hold Mama in the living room, as the body bag zipper screams in your ears. “I wanna see him, please, one last time,” she asks, stopping them en route out the door. Buzz. Mama’s body jerks as the paramedic rezips the bag. Buzz. You search yourself. No phone. You scan the living room, end tables, cocktail tables, sofa. No phone. Buzz. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
Every step you take in any direction it’s louder. You remember the bathroom. You rush inside. (1) T E X T M E S S A G E. Buzz. (2) T E X T M E S S A G E S. You check them. They both read: I’ll always be in here from Shyenne. * Weeks later, you’re weaker. You must abandon tasks as simple as scratching your head. The bacon laced double burgers you could once devour now hit your stomach like loaves of iron. Your jaws crack when you chew. Haze awaits when you open your eyes. And your voice mocks scouring pads when rubbed against a tough surface. You crank up “Jesus Walks” and “On to the Next” to the max, but they’re never loud enough. The messages come on schedule: whenever you think there might be a chance of recovery from an ailment no one else notices, that only you can feel, that only you see when in the mirror. And when Mama enters, like now, you call upon the strength of God. “Baby?” “Y-yeah.” “You gotta stop all this sulkin’, nah. Your Uncle would want you to get 184 The Olivetree Review
on with yo’ life, baby.” Buzz. You eke out, “No, h-he wouldn’t.” She rolls her eyes. Her face wrinkles. “No matter what I do I can’t get his smell out this room. Seems like it’s made its way up in here, too. Carrie might have to lend me her carpet cleaner or somethin’.” Buzz. “One thing’s for certain and two thing’s for sure, that phone ain’t missed no beat. No matter how long you stay in this room. It’s that girl, ain’t it?” “Check for me, p-please?” She stares at you, baffled. Your phone had long been off limits to her. She didn’t buy it, so she could never touch it. But with only your eyes, you let her know that it was okay to grab it from your side, as you couldn’t. With distrust in her reach, she takes possession of the device. She puts it down and ambles to the door. “W-what?” you say. “I never touched that phone since the day your uncle bought it. Ain’t nothin’ but the Devil. Who else can take over y’all mind the way that thing does? You kids will let us die before pulling away from it. Wish he never got it.” She lifted her head with blinkless eyes. “You’re getting up tomorrow, James, hear?” “Y-yeah.” She exits. Buzz.
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Your fingers crawl to the phone. Once in your custody, you drag it close to your ribs, for lifting it is too taxing. You fail trying to flip it on top of you, so you hold your breath and hoist it on your chest with a trembling hand. Matter rumbles in your lungs as you cough unceasingly, but you don’t let it stop you from checking the messages. Both are from Shyenne. Each read: i’ll always be here “Maaaaa Maaaaa,” you wail, but it’s with his voice, his groan. She never heard his and will never hear yours.
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Loneliness for Taste dn eQ He woke up from the alarm buzzing. He took out the alarm clock and turned it off. He got out of bed and began to make it. After, he came to the closet and took out his suit. He looked strangely at the suit and laid it on the bed. Then he went to the bathroom where he washed himself. When he looked in the mirror he saw that he was not shaved. Touching his beard he wanted to shave but changed his mind. Turning off the water, he returned to the suit. He put on the suit and for the last time looked in the mirror. He looked at himself for a long time in the mirror, then suddenly turned around, went to the door, stopped, looked back at the apartment and went out, closing the door with the key. He went to the dining room that served delicious food. Opening the door, he went inside, where nearly all places were free. He sat down in the corner. ‘As always?’ asked the waiter. ‘Yes, but with red wine, please’ he answered. It was still early. There were a couple of people in the dining room. The waiter brought food and wine. After he put the money on the table and left. There were no visitors in the hairdressing salon, there were only hairdressers, who were talking about something. When he came in they stopped talking. One of the hairdressers got up. - ‘Please, sit down here’, said the hairdresser. He sat down where the hairdresser motioned to. Issue 67 Spring - 2021
‘What would you like me to do?’ asked the hairdresser. ‘Just a haircut’, he answered. The barber nodded without saying anything. He looked himself in the mirror, reconsidering his answer. ‘You can also shave my beard’ he said. ‘Of course’ answered the hairdresser.
While the hairdresser was preparing the shaving foam, a young man came into the barbershop. The young man was tall, thin with long hair and strangely dressed. He held a strange thing in his hands. His attention was reverted back to the hairdresser who began to apply foam to his face. The young man approached another hairdresser. ‘Can I sit here?’ asked the young man. He sat down at the table without waiting for an answer. He looked through the mirror at the young man. The young man took out a tablet from his bag and began to do something. He continued to look attentively at the young man. Suddenly the young man lifted his sleeve and he saw that the hand was covered in tattoos. The young man’s hairdresser gathered the young man’s hair, revealing an earring. She proceeded to cut his hair and added a little product. ‘Finished!’ she said while removing his cape. He got up from his chair, thanked her, paid and left. His eyes followed the young man through the mirror onto the street where he was standing. Suddenly a car approached and stopped in front of the young man. The 188 The Olivetree Review
car was black with tinted windows. The back door opened at out came a little girl. The young man hugged her, lifting her from the ground. As the hairdresser finished cutting his hair, he noticed a young woman also coming out of the car. She kissed the young man and the girl, all three of them going back into the car with the woman behind the wheel. The car joined the traffic and vanished. He got up from the table and took out money from his pocket, giving it to the hairdresser. ‘Thank you’, he said. He put on his jacket. He wanted to say good-bye, but someone entered the barbershop so he left silently. He stood for a while on the street, looking at the cars that were rushing somewhere. He the began to walk. He stood with flowers in front of the grave. He could have stood for so long, but his attention was distracted by a car passing by. He put the flowers in a vase and sat on a bench. He looked at the picture on the stone and he began to cry. He sat like that for a couple of minutes, until the tears stopped. ‘Hi, happy birthday to you’, he said out loud. He paused for a few minutes and spoke again. ‘You know, today I saw a something peculiar that I wanted to share with you. I was at the barbershop and there saw a young man, who dressed strangely, had an earring in his ear, and tattoos on his arm. He was holding a strange thing in his hands. He had a wife and a child. You know, the world has changed a lot. Yes, it has changed Issue 67 Spring - 2021
a lot. People say that the youth have changed a lot. Everything is lost. You know, now women drive cars. You know, what I understood today, no matter how the world has changed, the main thing is family. Nothing was lost. He remained silent for a while then got to his feet and said. ‘It’s hard for me to sit here alone. I’ll come to you in a week, I can come forever.’ He approached the drawing of his wife and kissed her. Again tears began to fall. He left her alone, turned his back on her and left.
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The Ballerina Ariana Gladstone
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CONTRIBUTIONS Emma Allbright Emma Allbright is an emerging writer and recent graduate from the University of Houston’s undergraduate creative writing program. Her work has been published in Ordinary Madness, an online journal of experimental literature. She currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Glass Mountain, the University of Houston’s undergraduate literary magazine and has interned with Writers In The Schools. In her free time, Emma enjoys traveling, starting (and not always finishing) various art projects, dancing badly to good music, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and befriending local cats. Andrew Analore Andrew Analore lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His poetry has appeared in journals such as The Stolen Island Review, Technology of The Sun and Sheila-Na-Gig. He is the 2020 recipient of the Bluegrass Writing Studio’s Emerging Writer Award.
Olivia Baldacci Olivia Baldacci is an interdisciplinary artist who is interested in exploring the intersection of social issues and the impact of media. She is passionate about how media helps form our cultural norms, specifically with our conceptions of gender and race.
Diana Benigno My passion for prose extends into calligraphy, the dramatic arts, with a Masters in Theatre from Hunter, and solid experience in the legal and academic fields, web research and freelance novel editing. Guilherme Bergamini Reporter photographic and visual artist, Guilherme Bergamini is Brazilian and graduated in Journalism. For more than two decades, he has developed projects with photography and the various narrative possibilities that art offers. The works of the artist dialogue between memory and social political criticism. He believes in photography as the aesthetic potential and trans192 The Olivetree Review
forming agent of society. Awarded in national and international competitions, Guilherme Bergamini participated in collective exhibitions in 35 countries.
Olivia Bresler This short story is dedicated to my grandmother. A young divorcee who never remarried, but instead, devoted her life to her child and grandchildren. Thank you for inspiring me. I am currently a Senior at Hunter College and residing in Brooklyn, NY. Dane Campbell I’m an English instructor at Malcolm X College with an MFA in Creative Writing. My fiction has been published in various literary magazines. My plays have received acclaim through many media outlets, including the Chicago Tribune. J. E. Crum J.E. Crum is a fantastical artist who creates vividly abstracted variations of self-portraits inspired by mythologies, including her own. Working intuitively, Crum creates personal narratives related to thoughts about fate, destiny and the meaning of dreams. J.E. also has an exciting career as an elementary and middle school art teacher of nearly one thousand students a week in central Pennsylvania. Crum believes in the power art possesses to bring happiness to others. Check out www.zhibit.org/jecrum to see more of her colorful works of art.
Faith Dowling Faith Dowling is a junior at Hunter College studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in film. dn eQ I graduated from the economic institute, but when I decided to work I understood that it was not my calling. I started writing and it became intimate. I have been writing for 5 years. I participated in several competitions. Now I want to participate.
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Jon-Alexander Genson Jon-Alexander is half Mexican and was raised in Antioch, Illinois, just outside of Chicago and Milwaukee, by his Mexican-immigrant mother. He grew up with a fascination for literature, film, and television. He spent six years in the United States Army as Military Police while attending Illinois State University where he majored in Creative Writing. His passion for the entertainment industry was realized during his deployment to Guantanamo Bay where he worked detainee operations. He started working as an intern with Park Artists Group and Aperture Entertainment before moving on to Sheree Guitar Entertainment as an Executive Assistant in January 2020. Ariana Gladstone Ariana Gladstone dabbles in many art forms, which can be seen on her Instagram @ariana.gstone or on her website https://arianagladstone.wixsite. com/agstone. She graduated CUNY Hunter College with departmental honors in both studio art and clinical psychology this past spring semester (2021); Ariana has been accepted into CUNY Brooklyn College for their Art Teacher Master’s Program. She is a published author in the book My Jew-Ish Story. Ariana is always happy to accept art commissions, feel free to contact her through Instagram or TikTok (@arianagstone).
Angelita Hampton Angelita Hampton is a writer, visual artist, activist, sister, and daughter. Her undergraduate studies in Psychology and African American Studies at Earlham College and graduate studies at The Ohio State University, along with her time living abroad in Mexico, deeply inform her creative work. She identifies as a Black feminist revolutionary inspired by and dedicated to social justice. Angelita is an Indianapolis native who enjoys the arts, nature, and maintaining close ties to family. She has self-published several books of poetry in addition to having poems published in Rigorous, Bay Windows, RagShock, and Coffee People Zine.
Rollin Jewett Rollin Jewett is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, singer/songwriter, poet, author and photographer. His screenwriting credits include “Laws of Deception” and “American Vampire”. His short stories, poetry and photography have been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies and his plays have been produced all over the world. 194 The Olivetree Review
Nayoung Jin Originally from Jeju Island, South Korea, NAYOUNG JIN obtained a BFA degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She is the author of a picture book Shooting Star Rider (Simply Read Books, 2017, Canada). Jury Judge I am an internationally published artist, writer, poet, and cartoonist. My ‘Astronomy Comedy’ cartoons are published in Lowell Observatory’s quarterly publication, ‘The Lowell Observer.’ I have been interviewed on the television news program, ‘NAZ Today’ for my work as a political cartoonist. My artwork has been widely featured in over one hundred and thirty literary magazines such as, ‘Blue Mesa Review,’ ‘The Tishman Review,’ ‘Blue Moon Review,’ and ‘The Ignatian Literary Journal.’ I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA from the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2014.
Jennifer MacBain-Stephens Jennifer MacBain-Stephens went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and now lives in Iowa where she likes to rock climb, hike, and mountain bike. She is the author of four poetry collections and fifteen chapbooks and enjoys exploring how to blend creativity with nurturing the earth. Recent work appeared in The Westchester Review and Grist. She also hosts a free, monthly reading series sponsored by Iowa City Poetry called Today You Are Perfect. Find her at http://jennifermacbainstephens.com/. Jessica Mehta As an indigenous woman and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, much of my work reflects place, space, ancestry, and lineage. Recent accomplishments include the 2020 Birdy Prize by Meadowlark Books (for what will be my 14th book), a 2020 gold award for my poetry collection “Savagery,” and my solo exhibition “emBODY poetry” at Open Signal New Media in Portland, OR. My CV and bibliography are heavy and ample to spilling over, but if you’d like to learn more you can find me on Twitter @CherokeeRoseUp, IG @ thisCherokeeRose, or check out my author site at www.jessicamehta.com for links to books, a documentary on my life and work by Osiyo Television, and much more.
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C. G. Myth C. G. Myth is a poet, fantasy writer, and jewelry maker from south Florida. They cherish making stories for queer and disabled people to enjoy. They will earn a BA from the University of North Florida in spring 2021 and start pursuing an MFA from Stetson University in summer 2021. When they aren’t writing, they are usually listening to music and petting their service dog.
Somoshree Palit I am Somoshree Palit, a First-Year student of English Honours at Loreto College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Literature has always been my passion, apart from reading poetry, occasionally trying my hand at writing some, and at times I like to sit down and write adventures I can’t be a part of, except for in stories! Natalie Plotkin Natalie Plotkin is a neuroscience researcher at Columbia University. She studies the neural mechanisms underlying memory and affective processing. Her fiction has been published in The Disappointed Housewife and October Hill Magazine. Aluu Prosper A multidisciplinary self-taught visual artist creating drawings and works that require the fusion 2dimensional and 3dimensional art forms usually fusing fine oil paints and sand in paintings that focus on Afrocentrism and Pan-Africanism also fusing metal cuts on panel and making photo realistic paintings on them that talk about my life story as well as utilizing poetic descriptions for them. I’m from Afikpo north, in Ebonyi state, Nigeria.
Jordan Resnick Jordan Resnick is a Theatre major, Rhetoric minor at the University of Maryland, College Park. Recipient of the 2019 KCACTF Planet Earth Award for “Pleonasm.” The Blank Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Festival semi-finalist. Additionally, she has directed and assistant directed student and main stage productions at the University of Maryland. Aspiring filmmaker that can be found on YouTube. Originally from Long Island, New York.
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Naomi Rodriguez Poet and musician, Naomi Rodriguez is a sophomore majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. They are an arts ambassador for the Office of the Arts at Hunter College. Their love for art and the performing arts has motivated them to help others be as creative as possible and share their art with the world.
Coco Spencer Coco Spencer is a mixed-media artist with an emphasis in analogue collage. Originally from California, she is now based in Chicago.
Bryan Starchman Bryan Starchman is an author living in San Francisco, California. His plays have been produced over 3000 times in all 50 states and 10 countries. In the past year his short fiction has been featured in The Saturday Evening Post and in the literary journals After Dinner Conversation, In Parentheses, Scribble, Apracity, Avalon Literary Review, The Good Life Review, and Litro. His non-fiction essays sponsored by The National Steinbeck Center have been featured in the national print magazine ROVA and his latest book, United Scenes of America: Travel Essays in the time of COVID-19 and Other Wanderings, is now available at Amazon.com. Learn more about Bryan at www.bryanstarchman.com, or follow him on Instagram @bryan.starchman. Edward Supranowicz Edward Michael Supranowicz has had artwork and poems published in the US and other countries. Both sides of his family worked in the coalmines and steel mills of Appalachia.
Jason Thornberry Seattle writer Jason M. Thornberry’s work appears in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Entropy, ALAN Review, Soundings East, Broadkill Review¸ and elsewhere. His work examines family, disability, and social justice. An MFA candidate at Chapman University, Jason taught creative writing at Seattle Pacific University. He reads poetry for TAB.
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Anthony Treadvance My name is Anthony Treadvance but I go by the artistic/pen name lodaze. Lately, in my work, I have been exploring how identity and memory interact with places and things. I am a graduating senior majoring in English (Creative Writing). I find the process of creating art to be not only cathartic but a necessary component of human evolution. Thank you for your time. Sammie Wilhoit Sammie Lee Wilhoit is a Professional Writing major at Champlain College. She writes poetry to capture her experiences in glass jars. Her work has been published in Memoira Magazine, The Clementine Zine and In Parentheses. Her Instagram is @sammiewilhoit, Twitter is @exhaletheatre, and website is https://sammieleewilhoit.wordpress.com/. Markarius Williams I wanted to depict the emotional metaphysical world that exist in all of us. The essential metaphysical question of the nature of the mind. I don’t believe that the mind is a terribly logical or consistent place. I believe the human mind is budding with creativity, flourishing with beauty. With this being said the mind is not consistent always changing an evolving so there are a variety of emotions to depict and numerous ways to depict them. My subject matter has been balancing on the surreal feelings we all experience, visually capturing the fact and fantasy blend together. taking physical forms and mixing the content to depict the idea of or convey the message to. Rei Wolfsohn Rei Wolfsohn is a writer from New York who has lived in every corner of the United States and abroad. She has experienced a wide range of lifestyles and cultures in her time traveling, and attending universities in various places with divergent schools of thought. Thus, her style is uniquely her own. This piece was inspired by Sartre’s “No Exit” and the existential contemplations which arise from the advent of artificial intelligence. Please enjoy!
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MEET THE STAFF Editor-in-Chief
Kana Tateishi is currently in her last semester of pursuing a BA/MS in Sociology and Applied Social Research. In her free time she cries over baseball anime and seethes about the lack of ethical considerations in Big Data. She is currently reading The Journal of Sylvia Plath.
Vice President and Art Editor
Jordan Ortiz is currently majoring in Psychology and he doesn’t have a minor. He loves to spend his time drawing, singing, and scrolling aimlessly through TikTok. He is currently reading The Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Meghan Elberti is a Political Science major and Legal Studies minor getting ready for her next big step (you guessed it!) Law School! She is most likely to be found cyber-bullying politicians on Twitter, but occasionally takes a break to watch documentaries about the ocean. She is currently reading Lawyers for the Left by Michael Steven Smith.
Secretary and Drama Editor
Mia Carranza is a freshman at Macaulay Honors College at Hunter majoring in English. She is looking to pursue a second major in Spanish Translation as well due to her passion for the beautiful native language of her grandparents. In addition to being Secretary and a Drama Editor for the Olivetree Review, Mia is an Arts Ambassador for the Office of the Arts at Hunter and the Vice President of the Macaulay’s SCRIBE Magazine and Creative Writing Club. She is currently reading A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir, and trying to hold in all her tears.
Ciara Halligan is a transfer student at Hunter College majoring in Studio Art with a concentration in painting, and a minor in Dance. She is currently Issue 67 Spring - 2021
reading The Tale of Genji by Murasaki and The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer.
Ariana Gladstone is a senior with a double major in Studio Art and Clinical Psychology and a minor in Film at Hunter College. On Sundays, she practices Quidditch with the Macaulay Marauders Quidditch Team. Currently, she is posting videos of her creating art on TikTok/Instagram where she is open for commissions. And she is happy that summer is here to make every day a beach day! She is currently reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the Disney Princess Wiki Page. Andi Sauer is a Roosevelt Scholar and a junior double majoring in English and Women and Gender Studies. Andi is currently reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.
Sheena Rocke is a tripple major in English Creative Writing, Africana Studies, and Cultural Anthroplogy. She is also the secretary for Sigma Tu Delta. She has swron her allegiance to the BTS army. She is currently reading Webtoon comics like Let’s Play and Lore Olympus (highly recommend). Sylvia Welch is a double major in Clinical Psychology and Classical Studies. Her hobbies include baking, writing, and drawing. She is currently reading Lysistrata and other plays by Aristophanes.
Anling Chen is a freshman in the Macaulay Honors College currently exploring all fields of study. The only thing Anling loves more than a beautifully done literary magazine is money to fuel her fast food addiction. Please contact her to learn the correct way to eat a chicken nugget. Hint: eat the bread seperately. She is currently reading The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. Sydney Heidenberg is majoring in English Literature, Language, adn Criticism with a minor in Classical Studies! Her hobbies are baking too much, knitting scarves, and collecting Billy Joel records. She is currently reading The Hobbit. 200 The Olivetree Review
Olivia Baldacci is a Muse Scholar and a sophmore majoring in Media Studies with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Women’s Gender Studies. Check out the OTR Instagram to see her book memes. She is currently reading Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis.
Arifa Baksh is a Thomas Hunter, a Jenny Hunter Scholar, and a junior majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Economics. She enjoys watching ocean documentaries and Korean dramas. She is currently reading The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry.
Issue 67 Spring - 2021
History of the Olivetree Review Since the fall semester of the year 1983, The Olivetree Review has been a Hunter institution allowing a place for student writers to submit their work and see it published. Under the auspices of their faculty advisor, Professor David Winn, a small group of Hunter students successfully petitioned Hunter for the funds to start a publication. This allowed the Olivetree’s original staff memebers, Pamela Barbell, Michael Harriton, Mimi Ross DeMars, and Adam Vinueva to create their issue of student work and dedicate it to the memory of the late Hunter College professor and poet, James Wright. The Olivetree Review has come a long way since that first issue. Digital painting allows for both the inclusion of full color images and extra design elements to be available for all projects. We began including photography submissions in Issue #7, and advancements in scanning and digital photography have allowed for us to accept nearly any form of art that can be captured in one or more frames. We have also begun accepting drama writing submissions as of Isssue #52, meaning we are finally accepting and printing all forms of creative writing and art that is currently possible to.
202 The Olivetree Review
The Literary and Ars Magazine of Hunter College since 1983
The Olivetree Review Spring/Fall 2021
Issue 67 Spring - 2021