by the Students and Alumni of Palm Beach Atlantic University
If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.
Thank you School of Arts and Sciences • English Department • Art Department • Development Office
President William M. B. Fleming, Jr. • Dr. Joseph Kloba • Dr. Barton Starr • Dr. Susan Jones • Dr. Jenifer Elmore • Becky Peeling • Elizabeth Murphy • Autumn Raab
FOUNDER AND FACULTY ADVISOR Professor David Athey • GRAPHIC DESIGN ADVISOR Professor Tim Eichner • MANAGING EDITOR Caitlyn Girardi • EDITORS Olivia Anderson Kelsey Satalino • ASSISTANT EDITORS Alex Franks Heather R. Lawrence Gaettane Armand Scott Cotto Noah Thaman Andrea Preciado Rachel Bartolotta Chris Nickell • Cover art Ben Greco
Help support Living Waters. Contact Professor David Athey in the English Department. 561-803-2259
Living Waters Review
Table of Contents
5 6 7 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 18 19 22 28
29 30 31 32
Overture to the Sun’s Landscaper The Hills are Thrumming Scott Cotto Noah Thaman Atom Smashing Waves Brandon McGuire
Four Prophets Elizabeth Jorgenson
Cosmic Laughter Alex Franks
Intracoastal Alicia Stamm
Lessons in Infinity Kelsey Satalino
I Wanted to Own the Ocean Joey Hedger
Shooting Stars in My Silence Molly Waldron
Undone Luke Hoffman
Shelter Kim Gordon Yankee Feet Caitlyn Girardi
The Mooring of Wind
As I Gaze Upon My Empire of Earth Noah Thaman
A Banjo Is Ben Lusk
Weightless Chelsae Horton
She Said ‘No’ So She Could Say ‘Yes’ Anisa Stechert
34 35 41 42 43 44 45 46 47
To the Skies Amy Andress
Train Caitlyn Girardi
Lost at Sea Amy Andress
Port Skye Deutschle
My Exile Christopher Jensen
Highway 50 Drive Michelle Kristine
Daughter Earth Charlotte Rakestraw
Holland Kate Lawson
30-Minute Student Portrait: Chris Alicia Stamm
48 51 52 53 57 58 59 60 62 63 67 68 69
The Art of Becoming Noah Thaman
Bench and Tree by Lamplight Connor Dealy
Choices Joybeth Pagan
Wonderful Woman Contents 4
4 and Â˝ Abby Beard
Homeland Awakening Gaettane Armand
Reflections in the Pond Jenna Herrick
Pale Faces Romina Barrientos Childrenâ€™s Games Andrea Preciado
Wrinkled Presents Amy Smith
Salisbury Cathedral Caitlyn Girardi
Above the Roar Olivia Anderson
73 74 75 76 79 80 84 85 89 90 91 92 95
Communion Rachel Bartolotta
The Golden Wind Scott Cotto
Mountains Alicia Stamm
Tukta Rachel Bartolotta
Forms in Dialog Alissa Cutforth
Body Language Jessi Hiler
Koi Pond Alicia Stamm
The Water Grows Wild Heather R. Lawrence
Los Catrachos Olivia Anderson
Advent Devotion Noah Thaman
Yuletide Glow Ashley Taylor
Josiah and the Golden Tree Emilio Gomez
Raised by the Ocean Caleb Collier
Living Waters Review
Overture to the Sunâ€™s Landscaper Scott Cotto
Reveal the hidden under flameless light. Stars grant a profound shamble upon lakes glorified by a cosmic glaze. And each ripple procures a sweet sound of fragmented flavors. It becomes the cold touch of scales and feathers where swamp meets sand
and sand meets fortitude.
Sing, sing, and sing, muse of song, clinging to flutes and flowers. And now I hear the moment beyond to a grove of graves, watery in silence, an old Florida symphony.
Atom Smashing Waves Brandon McGuire
Through the cerebral cortex and medulla There is a land of neural electro paradise And a valley of seas Between synapses and brain lapses It dawned on me like morning A fog storm theme park That everything is moving That atoms are smashing
And waves are folding over And over like the blinking eyes of God In big bands and little bands A language that is speaking From inside and outside Like dark matter And grey matter And it does matter Living in a paradise And moving through this spinal track Are ganglion fibers That find the hidden scheme and spark Within a theme park of all places That not only spark my mind But continually The everything of life
Living Waters Review
Four Prophets Elizabeth Jorgenson
threw open the door and shouted words that every college student is desperate to hear, “I’m leaving for California! Now. Are you coming with me?” Alex’s eyes widened. I’d spoken cries she hadn’t yet vocalized, but I could see in her eyes that West Coast gold fever had struck her also. I prowled the room like a tiger who knew what lay on the other side of the cage. She laughed, delighted as she watched my bold, heartfelt performance vie for her accompaniment. Alex reassured me repeatedly that we were on the same page, that our thoughts had miraculously intersected at this particular crisis junction, and she wasn’t joking either. We were about to embark on a mysterious journey, an adventure of the best kind. I packed a sequined dress that had never found its occasion, pajamas that were warm without reason, makeup for glamour, and my teddy bear. I threw in a few necessities. All I needed was squished into one box. My cohort packed her bag, and we raced out of the dorm to my old red minivan, Clifford. Once we began driving, our finances altered our destination. In short, we didn’t have enough money to make it to California. And Alex had a presentation on Monday that she thought she might want to be back for. I still hoped to convince her to leave for good, but a weekend was enough for now. Hightailing it out of Florida would still fulfill our pressing need. We ran through town names, tasting them on our tongues, as if our issues could be solved by mere geography. “Asheville?”
“I’d stay,” Alex quickly retorted. “We need to go somewhere beautiful, but where the ghosts will hasten our return.” “Savannah is only a little over six-and-a-half hours away.” “Hmm. Never been to Savannah.” There has never been a hand more comforting than the wind that rushed by at eighty miles an hour toward a new retreat. We arrived in Savannah with the dark. Georgia, oh Georgia, your weeping willows bend underneath the history of your land. Georgia, oh Georgia, I have come to hide between your pages. Your ghosts don’t scare me. The night was fairly harmless, and we headed to the nearest Starbucks. Copies of Gaston’s chair multiplied, and I sank into contemplation of all of our previous unsuccessful quests. Alex and I escaped from Florida. What of it? There is a relief when your life’s purpose is simplified to only articulating thoughts. Frustrated by the repetitive nature of my depressed musings, I looked to the man sitting next to me. He was in his mid-forties with short cropped hair. He wore a printed t-shirt that I assumed was for the 5k run that happened the previous day. Desperation can make a girl’s behavior rather odd, but I needed distraction from myself. “I’m writing a paper for a creative writing class, and I have to interview people for it.” Lie. “Do you mind if I ask you a couple questions?” Surprised, the gentleman turned toward me. Apologetically, he replied, “Sure, but I only have a few minutes.” “Ok. That’s fine. Everyone in Starbucks only has a few minutes.” He chuckled. “Alright.” “What are you doing in Savannah?” “See that bus out there?” He pointed out the window to a big white school bus. The bus was painted with encouraging words like “stop hate” and “overcome bullying through love.” “My name is Bob. I’m driving all over the United States with Bogart, my dog, spreading kindness and the anti-bullying message. After the massacre at Virginia Tech, I went to a memorial service in Ohio. I’m a dad of three. My kids are in their twenties now, but I didn’t like where the world was heading. Kids aren’t learning how to be kind
Creative Essay 7
Creative Essay 8
because they aren’t being taught. So I came up with a goal. From my heart, I wanted no harm to come to another individual. So how to deliver the message? I sold my house, my car, everything. I live in a bus. 12’x7’. No air conditioning. 84 sq. ft.” When I gasped at the thought of no air conditioning, he chuckled at my horror, and said, “Yeah, I better get out of Savannah. The bus has no heat. It is very cold and very hot. But I travel around the country to deliver my message to colleges, high schools, and middle schools. Hey, I’m sorry, but I have to go.” “Yeah, of course.” Alex said, “Thank you so much for talking with us.” “Okay. Sorry that I have to cut this short.” I watched the gentleman as he walked out the door. He’d left all he had to travel around the United States with his tiny Boston terrier to promote kindness. I sank back into Gaston’s chair while tears welled in my eyes. That is so much like Jesus. Kindness is good. In this haze of right and wrong, he is doing good. Bob’s truth was a strong beacon of light that shot through my darkness. I looked across the coffee table at Alex in disbelief. “Can you believe that just happened?” I sat back and looked out the window at the bus. Good is good and its roots run deep. Relief washed over me. Maybe the man on the other side of me could root me even deeper. His brown socks were pulled high beyond his leather shoes. He wore a very nice watch with the display of New York City as the background. So I lied again. “I’m in a creative writing class, and we have to interview people for a creative essay. Can I ask you a couple questions?” Just like Bob, the man looked at me, unsure. “Um, sure.” Encouraged, I sat up. “Okay, great. Well, what coffee are you drinking?” “Pike Place. I’m getting ready to drive back to Atlanta, and I needed coffee for the drive.” “So,” I said, “what do you wish you’d have done when you were twenty?” “I wish I would have worked less and had more fun.” “Yeah? What was your major?” “Computer science.” “Do you still wish you worked less?” He sighed, disappointed. “Yeah. I travel five days a week.”
“Wow. That’s a lot. What do you do?” “I work in software for utility companies – electric bills, water bills and the like.” “Hmm.” “Yeah. It’s not fun. It’s a living. And I have to move every two years.” He rattled off a list of cities. “Pittsburgh is beautiful, though. They have really worked to remodel it.” Alex, also interested in unearthing diamonds, leaned in across the table and asked, “What’s your name?” “Ken.” I snorted. Ken glanced over at me apprehensively. Alex scolded. “Elizabeth!” “Well, Ken is a funny name. It makes me think of Barbie.” As if on cue, a stunningly beautiful blonde walked up. Ken stood and informed us that this Barbie was Kimberly, his wife. She briefly gave us a once over before hesitantly smiling. I watched them as they walked away. She was wearing sparkly toms. It wasn’t a glass shoe but it was close enough. “That’s so sad,” she said. “He still wishes he worked less.” Alex agreed. “That is really sad. His wife looked like Barbie.” “She really did.” The next lady that sat down next to me wore neon orange shoes that indicated that she had run a race. Her husband sat down next to Alex. The lady explained that the race was for the American Cancer Society. I asked her if we could interview her, and Alex explained what we’d been doing and told her about Bob’s inspiring story. The woman’s face intensified. I smiled at her. “Bob goes around to schools with his dog and talks about kindness and anti-bullying.” The lady’s eyes widened. “My daughter is being bullied. Where is Bob now?” Alex answered, “He just walked out the door.” Desperation on behalf of her daughter propelled the lady into the street, and she ran looking for Bob. The woman’s husband explained, “You see, my daughter is fourteen. She was dating this one boy, but he got seduced by her best friend. Girls can be so mean.” Alex and I both agreed. “It was nice to meet you,” he said. The man walked out the door to join his wife’s search for Bob. Just then, a black
Living Waters Review
guy sat down next me, and I said, “I’m in a creative writing class and I have to interview people for an essay. Can I ask you a couple questions?” His apprehensive expression caused me to add, “Obviously, feel free to say no.” “No.” He stared at the goofy white girls and said, “Well, what kind of questions you gotta ask?” “Nothing personal. Just what type of coffee you’re drinking.” “Alright. Go ahead. Ask your questions.” Surprised, I stuttered, “Okay. What type of coffee are you drinking?” “Tall mocha.” “Why are you at this Starbucks?” “Didn’t want to go to the one on Skidaway.” “What do you do?” “I’m a truck driver.” There was something wonderfully honest in his bluntness. So I asked a question that had always haunted me. “Does it annoy you when people make the honk-your-hornmotion?” He laughed. “Not when it’s kids or hot girls. If it’s grungy dudes, then it’s weird.” “Do you like being a truck driver?” “Yeah,” he responded with pride, “I’m my own boss.” “What have you learned?” He smiled. “No guts, no glory.” His grin grew wider, as if he had just shared the meaning of life. “Well, girls, I got to head out. Got enough for your story?” “Thank you so much. I think I do.” Alex got up to stretch her legs, and I stayed in the Starbucks to write what had just occurred. Kindness is good. Work less, play more. Fight for your daughter. No guts, no glory. Contemplating the answers to my questions, even the ones unasked in my heart, time seeped by as new thoughts tried to form in my head. What could this all mean? Alex returned and asked, “Are you done writing? You ready to leave Savannah?” “Yeah, I guess. Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” “I have that presentation on Monday.” “Oh, right.” So, where was I? I’d found people who wander but seem rooted. And people who are rooted but seem to wander. Then there’s me and Alex, wandering and returning to our roots. I was ready to leave, too. After all, I really did have an essay to write.
Creative Essay 9
July 2011 Brandon McGuire
Let us raise up fire bags And lanterns in the night A final memory of our youth Let us breathe our warmest And most holy breath
And burn up one last drifting summerâ€™s light
10 Into our still unburied lives Let us hold madly onto love With fidgeting fire angels in our hands These are the beauty of time itself I will not let mine go Until that final moment And then very softly Open my hands to the sky And watch her rise And rise To mingle softly with the starry night
Living Waters Review
Cosmic Laughter Alex Franks
There are cosmic and golden stories that were told a million light years ago and are just now reaching my ears. I can love and hold delightfully dark thoughts because the dark isn’t scary like when I was a child. I know what hides under the bed
and in the deep sky now. Still my mind wants to dance in the laughter of the lighted stars. They sometimes look like free candles that flirt in space. It’s a glow that envelops first, my heart, and then the light surprises my body, a guffaw erupts in my throat, now I’m laughing. I’m laughing with the stars.
Intracoastal Alicia Stamm
Living Waters Review
Lessons in Infinity Kelsey Satalino
ordyn grinned and grasped her surfboard. “Guys, this is going to be so much fun,” she said, leading the crew of university students down the steep hill to the beach. The resident surfer of the group, Jordan’s bleached hair and prominent freckles attested to her familiarity with the sun and waves. She bounced across the sweep of sand in front of the three straggling girls carrying borrowed surfboards, skim boards and towels. Vera smiled and hugged her board. “Isn’t the ocean beautiful today?” I trudged behind, tripping over the skim board in my hands. It was a stereotypically clear spring afternoon in South Florida. The sun was at its peak, heading toward the west, and the light breeze rolled sheets of ocean into glistening waves. I absently kicked some sand from my sandals as Melissa took out her camera to capture twenty angles of seagulls swooping low over the shore. Jordyn was a pro surfer—well, as near as you could be at twenty—and had taken it as her mission to teach us how to surf. Vera was eager to learn a new sport, to look cool in her neon tank top and shorts, holding a board nonchalantly as she strutted down the crowded beach. Melissa wanted to try something adventurous, but mostly she wanted to take pictures of the others, to catch the movement of wobbly legs on waxed wood slicing through a Floridian sunrise. The surfboard felt bulky in my awkward grip, and I inhaled deeply. With a healthy appreciation for nature and sports, I was a novice at both, and tended to spend my days
indoors out of the humidity. I sometimes wondered how I became friends with this enthusiastic group of girls, but something about their vibrant optimism appealed to me. The wind blew its familiar salty siren song over the stench of sunscreen and sweat, calming my nerves. “This spot looks good, guys. Right? This is so exciting!” Jordyn clapped her hands, and Vera joined in, giggling. “All right,” Jordyn said, “we’ll just bring my board out for now, and we can try one at a time.” The rest of us obligingly dropped our boards, and Vera sprinted for the waves. “Okay, but I’m going first!” Jordyn pursued Vera into the foam, jumping and splashing in the shockingly cool water. Melissa put her camera in its case and we hopped along afterward, getting caught up in our friends’ merriment, despite our athletic inadequacies. In that moment, I longed to stand on the water rolling beneath my feet and find my balance. There was something of the eternal in those shifting swells… The dizziness set in about ten minutes into our lesson. The comforting tha-thump of the waves as they rolled through each successive swell became a nauseous merry-goround. I glanced back at the shore—we were maybe twenty feet out. I grimaced and watched while Vera paddled into the next wave, good-naturedly slipping as she attempted—again—to stand. Thump, thump, thump went the rocking chair waves and my stomach turned. I tried diving under the next swell and ended up swallowing some water. Spluttering, I lifted my head above the surface. Everyone else was watching Vera’s fifth attempt, but I could barely lift my eyes. “I’ll be right back,” I murmured, salt burning my throat, and splashed back to shore. My feet sunk gratefully into the mucky sand, though the water kept wrenching me backward. I fell on my knees and crawled, careless of the shells imprinted on my legs and arms. I’d drifted on my way back, but I didn’t bother to retrieve my towel down the beach. I lay in the biting sand, hiding my burning neck from the sun’s glare. Even now the rhythm of the waves kept time to my insecurities. Their mocking splashes could not drown the giggling motion of my friends—pink swim-shorts and ponytails trying to tame the waves. At least they could stay in the water. Who gets seasick from swimming? I couldn’t make out their faces in my unfocused gaze—only bright splashes on peach skin, shifting, diving and resurrecting in the green glass waves…
Short Story 13
Short Story 14
*** A shriek pierced my reverie. “Oh no, oh no, Vera!” Frantic splashing. Jordyn splashed toward Vera, whose surfing exploits had led her far from both shore and friends. Melissa seemed immobile—glancing around helplessly and screaming. Vera’s foot, attached for safety to the board, was caught in a strangle-hold. She yanked desperately, swallowing water and scraping at the rope that held her in bondage, but the tide pulled her out farther into the ocean and she needed her hands to keep her head above water. The board hit her head with a resounding thunk, and her face disappeared below the surface. I jerked upward, my mind abuzz with myriad explanations for the struggle before me. All dizziness abated, I ran for the water, haphazardly kicking sand into my eyes, and dove. I could see Jordyn swimming from my periphery, but my earlier drifting put me closer to my struggling friend. The waves sliced my eyes and nose and I could only hear Vera in my squinted vision. I focused on the horizon, now obscured with clouds, and the blazing glare of white-hot sunlight on the water’s farthest edge. “Where is she?” I shouted to Melissa, who was jerking her eyes spasmodically back and forth across the waves. “Look! The board!” A glimpse of pink pierced the surface and a black line with it. The circling waves propelled me backward as I kicked toward the drowning splash of a girl. The stench of salt drenched my whirling senses. A gasp of breath. Vera’s heavily-doused head joined the fragmentary whirlpool of light and sound and sea and the clear sky-edge beyond it. I pushed forward, bathed in the light of that dimming star, splashes of ocean refracting pointillist sunbeams and the pink board swirling maniacally. I reached out a hand to Vera but the wave hauled her farther back and I swallowed salt water, mind focused on that splash of pink salvation melted into blue violence and setting sun. My fingers grasped the board and slipped— *** “Last one to shore eats dirt!” My fingers grasped at air. Jerking sideways, I inhaled a mouthful of sand. My frantic coughing drew the attention of my friends, giggling as they waded back to shore. “Are you okay, Sophie?” Vera called.
“Yeah,” I spluttered. “A bit dizzy. I think I dozed off for a minute. Is everyone okay?” “Um, yeah! I should say so,” beamed Jordyn. “Especially this girl”—pointing to Vera—“who stayed on her board for ten. Whole. Seconds.” Vera jumped up and down. “I can’t wait to try again. I’m going to be a pro surfer.” “It was pretty awesome,” Melissa added. “Are you sure you don’t want to try, Sophie?” “You could try skim boarding if you get dizzy,” Jordyn said. “It’s pretty hard to balance, but you can stay in the shallow water—assuming you don’t fall down.” “Maybe next time. I’m feeling a little light-headed.” “You’re probably dehydrated. We’re going to go get some lunch now, anyway. Then we can come back for more surfing adventures!” She and Vera exchanged excited grins. “Yeah,” Melissa said. “And this time I’ll stay on shore for a bit and take awesome pictures of you guys.” Jordyn grinned. “Okay, good plan, guys! Let’s go!” The three of them grabbed boards and blankets in their slippery hands, and began walking up the sandy slope to Jordyn’s house. I brushed off some sand and picked up my towel on the way, ignoring the empty numbness filling my head. The sun was unrelenting, and I left the beach more full of sand than water, my surfing dreams deferred, if not completely shattered. I decided to bring Homer with me after lunch and leave surfing as a mental pursuit for now. I joined in conversation with dazed laughter, but could not concentrate. The sun beat on me and the familiar salt-song of the air reminded me of the ever-circling ocean.
Living Waters Review
I Wanted to Own the Ocean Joey Hedger
I wanted to own the ocean
I wanted to stand with my strong legs
as it danced, clear and vivid in the sunlight,
and let the water drift past my feet
steadily reaching and pulling at the shore
like a current to the bathtub drain,
in hopes that the sand will give,
and yet I stepped only shin-deep in the surf
and let the salty waters season it to perfection.
before its power completely pulverized me.
I wanted to devour the ocean
I wanted to flee the water
and all of its deep-sea’d anomalies.
and escape the vast beaches that I grew up in
But when I tried to set my black sail
with a desire to hide behind a mountain,
and wet my lips with a desire to conquer,
but I became parched,
my boat was crushed in its foam curls.
and in the ocean’s grasp, I stayed.
I wanted to feel like a postcard
I wanted to hold the sea
as I dove into the waves,
as if it were a picture frame,
and I couldn’t understand why my fingers pruned,
yet with an inescapable futility.
my hair hardened and my eyes burned,
I never owned the ocean,
when my ocean should have refreshed me.
but the ocean owned me.
Shooting Stars in My Silence Molly Waldron
The angels were launching stars that night through the expansive Adirondack sky and into my heart. Backs against a well-creaked dock, the water lapped and our noiseless thrill murmured across the lake. The night, salted with stars, was closer than the charge
pulsing in my soul.
16 I realized I loved him during that celestial show beneath Long Lakeâ€™s heaven.
Living Waters Review
Undone Luke Hoffman
A thought struck me today— to leave Melancholia behind and search some other shores, another province there to find; a thought struck me today, and so you’re left behind. A bough struck me today— I’ll leave this chalky snow and search some other lore to learn what else there is to know; a bough struck me today, and so I’m forced to go. A ray struck me today, out from the eager sun— a parting kiss upon my cheek before the day was done; a ray struck me today, and so I feel undone.
Shelter Kim Gordon
Digital Illustration 18
Living Waters Review
Yankee Feet Caitlyn Girardi
rab traps are a hard thing for a boy my age to carry all by himself. Bobby Dee would come to my house in the morning, banging on my bedroom window, and yelling with that Carolina accent for me to wake up, and I’d get up and put on my hat before even thinking about how early it was. But I always went, every Saturday, to help him carry those crab traps to the park— the only park in our town where a kid could play baseball and then go crabbing all in one day. I would stay just long enough to get him situated and all, then walk home and sleep until a decent hour. I’d come back to the park once the sun went way up in the sky to help him with the traps again and he’d make us take the longest, dang-convoluted way back to our block ‘cause he had a crush on that tall pretty lady at the corner store, and she thought he was darn cute in that little-boy way, but she was old enough to be our mama with her Lady Bird Johnson hairdo. The principal at school says that when rotten little kids lie, they lie with only their tongues, since other things give them away. I knew Bobby for a while and his eyes could lie when his mouth could tell the sweetest tales. They made me want to cry ‘cause I really wanted to believe that his mama was just sick today when he showed up at our house without a meal in his belly. I knew when he was lying to me ‘cause he would look down and stare real hard at his bare feet like he was trying to fry an ant like we used to do sometimes with a glass. A couple Saturdays ago, I woke up to Bobby’s voice hollering in at me, and I didn’t have to get my hat ‘cause I
had started sleeping with it on already. I opened my window and jumped out onto the grass, and I said, “Well, ain’t it Bobby Dee.” Bobby handed me a few traps and said, “Mornin’, Will!” with a big smile and I think he thought if he smiled big enough and believing enough, I wouldn’t see the shiner that colored clear across his eye. I could hardly believe that kid—one second I’d be wanting to know more about faraway Sweet Carolina and then I’d want to just shrink into my shell like one of those crabs he liked to catch. We walked across my lawn and onto the sidewalk on the way to the park. I fiddled with the latches on the traps and looked down at my feet, pretending to step on something so I wouldn’t have to look at his face. He looked at my feet too and laughed. “Dang it, Will, you got Yankee feet. But you keep hangin’ with me and I’ll show you real feet, like the boys in Carolina. I got a callous so big I stepped on some broke glass once and the glass was fixin’ to break. Didn’t even leave a scratch on me.” I finally looked up and said, “Well lemme tell you what. You gon’ get a nose so big it could break glass if you keep lyin’ like that.” I smirked at him and I wanted to say something funny ‘cause we were almost at the park and I didn’t want to leave just yet. Bobby looked at me over the traps in his arms. “You and me ‘been doin’ this for a few weeks now, Will, and I think it’s time to teach you to catch some crab.” His eyebrows were near touching the top of his forehead and the only thing stopping them was that gravity thing we learned in school that keeps everything down on the earth. Well, I looked at Bobby and said what any boy with a brain in his head would say, “Sure thing, Bobby Dee.” So we walked to the back of the park across this big baseball field where the kids had games on Saturdays. Bobby’s daddy didn’t register him in time to play, but it didn’t matter ‘cause he said baseball’s a Yankee sport and football is for real men. Behind the baseball field was a tall fence that said ‘Keep Out.’ They couldn’t be serious, ‘cause everybody knows that when a boy sees that, it gives him an itch to climb that wasn’t there before. Bobby gave me his other traps to hold and the bait bags and turned to the fence and started gripping the chain links with his tough Carolina feet and hands. I looked up at him and, well, what I saw on his
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Short Story 20
head was what my mama calls a gash, and it still had that red crusty blood on it that you get the day after you get a real bad cut and don’t take care of it. I almost dropped the traps, and that would’ve been bad ‘cause they’re just about the only thing Bobby owned and cared about. Bobby landed on the other side of the fence and hollered, “Throw them traps on over one at a time, and be careful now.” I threw them hunks of metal over as lightly as I could and I climbed over with my “Yankee feet.” When I got down, I made a show of checking my feet for sores and acted like it was some big deal, and I was huffing and puffing and I made Bobby laugh one of those laughs that feels like someone’s turning your sides into jelly. He tried to catch his breath, and when he leaned back for one final laugh, his shirt lifted up a little and I saw funny looking dark splotches on his belly. And all of a sudden I was getting this feeling like I was going to cry. I just felt it in my stomach and my chest, but I never teared up or anything. It was one of those times where a boy should be home with his mama drinking lemonade and getting a hug and pretending he don’t want hugs anymore. I cleared my throat the way my dad would when he was trying not to cry in front of my mama, and I said, “Bobby, some lemonade would be real nice right now, wouldn’t it?” “Sure thing. You gotta come over to my house one day, and my momma can make us some sweet tea. Boy, does she make good sweet tea.” Bobby got a faraway look in his eye like he was trying to see his mom. And I got that crying feeling in my stomach again. We walked past some tall grass and got to the inlet where the sand was brownish and there were big sidewalk chunks smashed up in the channel. We put the traps down on the beachy part and Bobby showed me how to hook the bait bag to the bottom of the trap. We waded into the water and I looked for fish and he showed me where the best spots for blue crabs were, and I was mighty proud of our work. Bobby said he usually just sits quiet on one of the blocks of sidewalk when he’s waiting for the crabs to bite, so we climbed onto one that was big enough to be a kitchen table and was in the shade of a big tree. The water looked silly with the rocks jutting out of it. And once you looked up, there was a solid layer of green – trees and grass, and that big silver fence. It all surrounded us like we were in a jar, and the sky was the cover. It was real nice
in that jar, and I wouldn’t have minded doing that every Saturday. Bobby looked at me. “It’s good, huh?” I nodded, feeling impatient like any boy would about checking the traps, but Bobby kind of sighed and said, “My head’s hurtin’ real bad all of a sudden, like from my eyes.” I didn’t know what to tell him and he said, “Well, I think I’m gonna lay down for a bit, until the crabs smell the bait anyhow.” So Bobby laid down with his head to the side ‘cause he had that big cut on it. “This is real fun, Willy,” he said with his eyes closed and his voice real soft. “Sure is, Bobby Dee.” I ended up laying back to look at the clouds since Bobby was sleeping, and I must’ve fell asleep too ‘cause when I propped myself up on my elbows the sun was high in the sky. I looked down and thought it was funny that Bobby was still laying down ‘cause usually by this time he’d be waiting for me by the fence. I said real loud in his ear, “Waaaake up, Bobby Dee! The crabs are biting!” But he didn’t move an inch. I put my hand on his shoulder and shook him a little, but not too hard, ‘cause of his head and all. I shook him again, and he didn’t move, and I would’ve just thought Bobby Dee was a heavy sleeper but his skin was ice. So I did what they do in movies, and put my finger on his neck where it makes that bump-bump that tells you how fast your heart’s beating. His heart wasn’t doing a thing and his neck was mighty cold too. I jumped right off that block of cement and ran stumbling through the water, and when Bobby had made fun of my feet he should have been making fun of my legs ‘cause they were shaking so bad I could hardly run. I scaled that fence and ran home to my mama and was crying so hard she could barely get the words out of me. She got this look in her eyes like she didn’t know what to do, and a boy isn’t used to seeing that in his mama. Mama grabbed my hand and took me to the car and drove us to the park. I took her to the fence and we could see Bobby through it, lying there on the rock with his arm resting funny from when I shook his shoulder to wake him up. I had never seen my mama climb before, but she kicked off her shoes, and her mama feet climbed that fence and she didn’t need any help. I followed her and she held the bottom of her dress with one hand and held mine in the
Living Waters Review
other and we waded out to Bobby. She leaned over him and touched his face, and she put her fingers on his neck like I did, and tried to breathe for him and put her ear next to his nose, but all mama’s tricks didn’t work, ‘cause Bobby didn’t wake up. Mama saw the cut on his head and she started crying, and a boy can’t do nothing but cry when his mama’s crying, so I cried and she hugged me hard and she didn’t care that her skirt was getting all wet in the water. Later at the hospital, they saw the dark spots I saw on Bobby and the cut I saw and the shiner too. And they saw things I didn’t see, like burns on his back and the bones that had been broken and never healed right. The brain swelling from when his daddy hit him on the head with a beer bottle is the last thing they saw and it’s what killed him. Mama brought me home and made me some lemonade and gave me a hug and I didn’t care about looking like I didn’t want one. She said a boy my age shouldn’t have to carry his lost friend around with him, and I know that’s true now ‘cause my chest and throat have been aching and I think that’s me trying to hold on to Bobby. After a few weeks when I could wake up normal on a Saturday without thinking that Bobby would be there waiting for me, I went back to the inlet. Bobby had taught me how to set the traps but he never did show me what to do after that. When I got to the big fence I had a happy memory at first, but then I started sniffling ‘cause I didn’t want to climb it without Bobby, no matter what the sign said. But any boy knows what to do for a friend, so my Yankee feet climbed that fence to get those dang crab traps that Bobby Dee from Sweet Carolina loved so much.
Short Story 21
The Mooring of Wind Renee Long
Short Story 22
here were no right whales for Willa to spot that morning. The mild sea breeze left the rolling water glossy and quiet. No rights were breaking the glass with cones from their spouts. The whales had dwindled into nonexistence along with everything else in 1931. Ten years old and the daughter of a respected Lighthouse Keeper, Willa’s losses centered on the right whales. She stiffened on the bow of the dinghy beached on the shoal, her eyes scouring the horizon for any sign of a pod. On the sandbar, her twelve-year-old brother Clove worked quietly, wriggling his toes deeper into the sand in search of clams. Every few minutes, Clove’s tongue would creep to the side of his upper lip, his eyes narrowing, and his knees working to pull his feet from the sand. He’d haul up two or three middleneck clams cradled between his toes and toss them into the tackle bucket. Willa kept her eyes fixed along the water. When a pair of dolphins surfaced, puffing mist, the corners of her eyes would narrow. She huffed and yanked on her redbrown braid in frustration. More dolphins, more sea turtles. No rights. The breath of dolphins and turtle shells pretending for brief moments to be right whales exhausted her. Clove closed five more clams between his feet, and topped off the bucket with the final catch. “I think this’ll be enough,” he said into the bucket. “You ready, Willie?” Willa caught her breath. They had spent the morning in silence. The only sounds had been the gull calls and dolphin surfacings. She turned her head toward her brother. “Yes, Clover,” she sighed. “Let’s head back ‘fore it
gets choppy.” Willa didn’t try to hide the disappointment in her tone. “Willie,” Clove said gently while he hauled the clam bucket into the boat. “I know you think they’re out there, but…I dunno. They’re nearly all gone—” “They’re out there, Clover. Daddy saw a pod that time he went out and rescued the Sloop Dream.” All winter, Willa had anticipated spotting at least one right whale during the Florida migration. As the end of the migration period drew to a close, her resolve grew fiercer. Their father, Cardell Daniels, was the Head Lightkeeper on Anastasia Island. Since Clove and Willa were too young to help him rescue floundering ships, Captain Daniels frequently relayed his nautical tales in detail to his children. We jus’ ‘bout made it before her hull cracked wide open like a walnut… He’d cough or rub the back of his hands along the rope scars and callouses. Musta been two hundred rights out there near the wreck, Willa. Musta been hundreds. And did I ever tell ya ‘bout that water spout that cropped up that same autumn a ’27… The Captain often had to rely and focus on encounters with the wonders of nature to compensate for sorrows on the sea. “Okay,” said Clove, and he launched the dinghy from the flat and hopped easily over the stern. He began to adjust the rigging. Clove had to keep hands or feet in motion at all moments, so he nearly always sailed the dinghy for the two of them. Willa rarely liked to help sail, and she didn’t know a better feeling than slipping her fingers through the cleats on the bow and facing headlong into the gushing boatwind and salt spray. But Clove was having trouble that day. The wind was strengthening and blowing offshore, pushing them away from the lighthouse and out to sea. Clove had not yet mastered sailing home into an offshore wind. He worked quickly to trim the sails and secure the primary reefing line. Willa turned to see her brother struggling to bring the boat to a close-haul, and the wind was threatening to push them further from the mudflat and out into the Atlantic. Clove continued to battle with the lines before Willa pushed him out of the way. “Hey! What’s the big idea?” Clove objected. “I got it, Willa!” “We’ll be washed all the way ta Bermuda ‘fore you get the sails right.” Willa adjusted the jib, trimmed the sails, and fastened the rigging, bringing the dinghy to a perfect close-haul. “There,” she said. “We’re on course now.” The offshore wind filled the sails, and the dinghy coasted gently
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toward the lighthouse. Clove skulked to the side of the boat, embarrassed at being out-sailed by his ten-year-old sister and at the same time, awestruck by her shrewdness. “Thanks, Willa,” he said. “I dunno how you pick it up so quickly. You never practice unless you have to.” Willa returned to her perch at the bow of the dinghy, and she tried to answer the question for herself. “I dunno. I just feel it. The wind, the riggin’. It fits, somehow. And watching Dad.” The two children sat in silence until they reached the mouth of the St. Augustine Inlet. Clove adjusted the rigging to head south down the Mantanzas River, guided by the white and black swirls of the lighthouse daymarker. The brother and sister ran in zig-zags along the sand path toward the lighthouse and the keeper’s house, playing a “hot-potato” game with the fresh catch of clams. They could see their mother, Grace, walk out onto the east porch from the kitchen, but they continued to laugh and dive for the flying clams. “Willa Mae! Cardell Junior!” their mother called. “You better stop throwing around those clams! Daddy will have you scrubbing the lantern lens ‘till your fingers are raw if you ruin his clam chowder tonight.” “Heya, Momma!” they shouted and placed the clams back into the bucket. Clove and Willa tapered their laughter as they brought the catch up to the porch. Out of the corner of her eye, Willa spotted a figure shuffling down the main road toward their house. She recognized the silhouette of James Cunningham, Clove’s best friend, and she scowled. Clove cried, “Hiya, James!” and placed the bucket on the stoop in front of his mother. “Oh no, no,” Grace said. “You think these clams are gonna scrub and soak themselves?” Willa smirked. “Looks like you hafta tell James to go on back home,” she said to her brother. James Cunningham had green eyes that sharpened on their subject, but also shifted from moment to moment. This habit made Willa uneasy. When fixed on something, those eyes seemed to calculate strategies for destruction or manipulation. She had watched James evaluate ways to exploit anyone he came in contact with. Over the last few years, James had slowly worked toward convincing Captain Daniels to take him on as a keeper’s apprentice. One morning while replacing a cracked prism in the lens, Willa and the Captain found James hauling the two 30lb
cans of kerosene up the tower steps an hour before Clove’s scheduled haul. Dropping a few beads of polish on the buffer in his hand, Captain Daniels announced, “Ya know what Jimmy, you wouldn’t make a bad apprentice yourself. You and Junior won’t be pulled apart anyhow. How ‘bout it, son?” James poured the kerosene into the lamp, smiled toward Willa, and replied, “Yessuh, Cap’in Daniels.” As she turned to finish polishing the new prism, Willa shuddered. She felt like a strange onlooker watching a quiet and cunning trapper in the woods. “Aw, Momma,” whined Clove. “Can’t James help Willa and me clean the clams? There’s even enough for him to stay for dinner!” “Alright,” Grace sighed. “That boy does spend a lot of time here helpin’ your father with the light.” She grabbed a broom and began to sweep the east porch. “I’m starting to feel like I have three children to feed instead of two!” Grace laughed. “Now get on with those clams, and don’t let me catch you in that old oak tree ‘till they’re cleaned and soaking.” Clove soaked two bristled brushes with soap while Willa filled a bucket with warm water and cornmeal. When they brought the bucket and brushes through the screen door, James was at the top of the steps. “Hi, mack,” he said, slapping Clove between the shoulder blades. He looked into the tackle bucket topped full of clams. “Nice catch this mornin’?” Clove smiled wide. “Yeah boy! You bet. That mudflat 600 yards south of the inlet was teaming. You gonna help us clean ‘em?” James shifted his glance from the bucket to Willa’s stony face. “I dunno. Willie,” he smiled, “what do you think?” The joints in Willa’s tiny fingers contracted. The sound of the nickname her brother used in James’s mouth made her stomach flip, but she couldn’t let them see the nausea James caused. She would not be calculated and controlled. At that moment, Willa felt something brush against her ankles. Shocked but not surprised by the feeling, she looked down to find Smokey, her cat, grazing her calf with his ash-colored coat. Willa grinned and scooped up her pet. “Sure, James,” she replied, momentarily calmed by the appearance of her companion. “There’s an extra scrub brush on the counter in the kitchen.”
Short Story 23
Short Story 24
The trio worked diligently on the porch steps, scrubbing the clamshells free of dirt and stuck-on sea muck and plopping them into the bucket of warm cornmeal water. Willa sat with her legs crisscrossed, Smokey curled up in a tight ball on her lap. Applying an extra amount of pressure to the clam in his hand, James said, “How’s the parachute, Clove? When we gonna test it?” Clove sighed. “It needs tweakin’. I ain’t ready to drop it yet.” Willa could see the trapper glare in James’s green eyes. Where is the snare? What is he up to? she wondered. “I think we should test it today,” James said. “Not from the tower. Maybe from the old oak?” “He said he ain’t ready,” Willa barked. Clove snapped his head toward his sister. “I don’t need your help, Willie.” James grinned. “Yeah, Willie.” He plopped another clam into the cornmeal bath. “You just need somethin’ to weigh it down, Clove,” he said glancing straight into Willa’s freckled face. “You just need something to drop.” Willa plunged the last clam into the cornmeal and gathered up the sleeping Smokey. “There. All scrubbed and soakin’,” she sighed, shrugging off her uneasiness. “Momma! Clams are soakin’ out here,” she shouted into the kitchen. She turned back to the boys. “I’m goin’ up in the oak.” There were five strong Florida oak trees that grew in a thousand different directions in front of the Light Keeper’s house. If not out on the water or completing their tower duties, Willa and Clove could be found leaping from branch to branch and tree to tree, lounging like lazy panther cubs, or spying on tourists beneath the veil of Spanish moss. Willa tossed Smokey over her shoulders and scaled the largest oak. She nestled into the highest branch and stared eastward, scanning the horizon for whale spouts. She pulled a ball of dark orange yarn and a crochet hook from her skirt pocket. Last week, after a fierce nor’easter, her father had fished a collie pup out of the ruins of a shipwreck, but found no other survivors. Her mother took on the pup as her own, and built a small basket for her in the mudroom. Since the early March nights still harbored a slight coolness, Willa decided she would crochet a small blanket for the new addition. Keeping her eyes peeled on the sea for cones of whale mist, her fingers wove quietly
in soft rhythm while Smokey sat mewing nervously at her feet. “Oh, stop it, you big baby,” she giggled. “Who ever heard of a cat afraid a heights?” She watched and crocheted as fishing boats and Navy and Coastie barges coasted across the river, into the inlet, and out to sea. Willa didn’t understand adults most of the time. She didn’t know why giant vessels were needed to fill huge nets with thousands of fish, occasionally snaring a dolphin, when anyone could build a dinghy like her own and safely fish or forage their own seafood. When Willa first felt any twinges of curiosity that she couldn’t quench through exploration or adventure, when she questioned the existence of things, she retreated to the cellar where her father kept the walls lined with books. So when she first wondered about the Navy and Coastie ships and the men in blue or white uniforms that manned them, she went straight to the cellar library. Finding a book with images she recognized was difficult, but she finally came across Great Vessels of the Great War. The pages were lined with pictures of destroyers, torpedoes, explosions. The book seemed to explain everything about the boats, but nothing at all about why in the world they existed to begin with. She began to piece together that something called Kaiser was the enemy of good, and the Allies were the people the book celebrated. No matter how long Willa studied the book and the images of war, she could not piece together why these two things, the Kaiser and the Allies, needed them at all. Willa pondered their existence now. More books in the library confirmed that the “Great War” was over, had been over for years. Naturally, she continued to question why the boats designed for death were now new and improved from the book on the Great War. “Why?” she breathed, frustrated that they continued to sail on and obscure her view of a potential right whale spout. She was unsure of how much time had passed when Clove appeared in the branch next to her, holding a bundle of strings and sailing canvas. Willa folded the beginnings of her blanket and the needle into her lap. “Figure out how to fix that chute yet?” she asked. A huge grin spread over Clove’s face, lighting up his soft gray eyes. “You bet,” he said. “I jus’ know it’s gonna work this time, Willie. I know it.” Clove vaulted over to Willa’s branch and began to untangle the lines and smooth the canvas. With the extra person in the tree, Smokey
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slipped quietly away to a more secluded branch. “Well, only one way to find out,” Willa said, moving to a crouched position. She and Clove assessed the height of the drop and began to examine the parachute. Clove made a few more knots and adjustments before Willa said, “You’re gonna need something to tie to it…like James said. Did his Momma call him home?” “Nah, he wanted to help Momma fix the chowder.” The thought of James making her dinner made the back of Willa’s throat go dry. The two of them searched their surroundings. “Here,” Willa said, holding out her yarn and blanket. “Tie this to it. It’s heavy enough.” “Perfect!” Clove balled the blanket around the yarn and secured the lines of the chute to the bundle. The brother and sister examined the chute and it’s package a final time, and positioned themselves for the launching. Clove inhaled deeply. “Alright, here goes nothin’!” “On ‘three’,” Willa said. They counted: “One. Two. THREE!” The chute opened, expanding the canvas, filling itself with wind. Before the smiles could reach their lips, Willa’s and Clove’s faces dropped in disappointment. The left side of the canvas collapsed, letting the package pull the entire contraption perpendicular to the ground, and Clove’s parachute plummeted like an anchor. The siblings crouched silently in the tree, staring at the heap of orange and white crumpled on the grass below. Willa was the first to speak. “I’ll go down and get it.” Her brother did not respond. “It jus’ needs one more adjustment, Clover. You saw—it even opened up that time!” Clove’s eyes stayed fix on the heap of yarn and chute below. Willa climbed down and retrieved the bundle. “Listen,” she said, climbing back up to her brother, still crouched like a stone. Pulling out her penknife, she said, “I think if you loosen the string on this corner, then maybe cut a hole here,” she began to work her fingers steadily on the contraption. “Tighten the—” “Shut up, Willa.” “Tighten the string with—” “Willa, I said shut up.” “—trust me! Give a little more lift here, and—” “WILLA!” She released the parachute for a second drop. “Look, there it goes! It’s workin’! Look Clover, it’s
flyin’! Clover!” Willa turned to her brother; he was trembling, gray eyes riveted to the parachute. He turned to his sister and detonated. “WILLA!” He cussed and hollered and dug his fingernails into the oak bark. He tore twigs and leaves from the branch, twisted and crushed them to pulp. The explosion eventually settled, and his eyes fell back on Willa, her back sealed to the trunk of the tree, frozen in confusion. “Dang it,” he breathed and forced his shoulders down. “Why. Just. Ugh. Willie, I…UGH!” He leapt from the branch and descended down the neighboring oak tree. Willa didn’t try to chase after her brother. She sat for a long while, stunned and confused. Clove was not one for tantrums. She wondered why the perfect launch of the parachute would set him off like a blasting torpedo from one of the Coastie ships in the inlet—the kind of explosion she’d read about in The Great Vessels of the Great War. After a while, she hoisted the whining Smokey back onto her shoulders and scaled down the oak. That evening, Captain Daniels returned from town, showering the children with chocolates from Whestones and a fresh list of tower chores. “Season’s almost over,” he said over dinner. “Tourists’ll be headin’ back up North. Tower’s lookin’ a little weathered. We’ll be needin’ to fixer up for the summer. The three of you,” he waved his spoon toward Willa, Clove, and James, “you‘ll hafta work extra hard this year. Ya’ll gettin’ older now. Time to take on some more responsibilities. Willa, you’re big enough now. You can start helpin’ your brother and James haul up the kerosene cans. And the four of us can start repaintin’ the lantern room and the catwalk in the mornin’.” “Sure, Dad,” Willa said, tearing off a fresh hunk of sour dough bread for her soup. James looked up from his bowl of chowder. “Cap’ain Daniels, sir,” he said. “Clove drew somethin’ real nifty for those cans. A real neat pulley thingamajig. It would haul ‘em up all 219 steps, sir.” “It ain’t nothin’,” Clove said, speaking his first words of the meal. “It sure is somethin’, sir,” said James, ignoring his friend. “You ought to see the sketches. A page for every angle—diagrams and all.” Captain Daniels turned to his son. “Junior, you really have sketches? You hear that, Gracie? We gotta ourselves a regular inventor.” He slapped Clove firmly on the back.
Short Story 25
Short Story 26
Grace placed a gentle hand on her son’s shoulder and smiled a knowing grin, “Yes sir. We sure do.” Clove’s face morphed back into its usual contentedness and filled up with warmth. He continued to animatedly explain his complicated pulley system, rolling his mother’s napkins into tight strings to demonstrate. Willa glared at James. She resented the fact that he was able to revive Clove after the tantrum this morning—an explosion she still couldn’t comprehend. After dinner, Willa slunk away to the cellar to find her mother’s scrapbook of crochet patterns. While she grazed her fingers along the wall of books, albums, and collections, her eye was caught by something lying open in front of the hearth. Clove’s sketchbook covered carefully with his leather graphite pencil case. Willa crossed to the fireplace and began to thumb through her brother’s sketchings. Sheets and sheets of intricate renderings of parachutes, sail boats, pulleys, flying machines, wings, dumbwaiters, moving staircases, draw bridges, improved Fresnel lenses, a three-story tree house labeled Willa, bridges suspended from cables. The sketchbook was nearly full, only a few shabby sheets toward the end were left. Willa sat and examined the drawings and their descriptions. She ran her fingers gently over the design details, but recoiled when she realized the oil from her finger pads smudged the graphite. Willa always watched her brother build things, and respected his attention to detail and design. She never found her mind scouring for the inventions or contraptions her brother created in the yard when he was finished with his tower duties. Willa would have never thought to make a parachute on her own, but when presented with the need to help make it fly, her natural reaction was to make the needed adjustments to make it fly. She looked at her hands, calloused and now dingy from the graphite. What Clove could create on the page, Willa could carve into the world. She placed the sketchbook and the leather case back onto the hearth, careful to leave it as if it were untouched, and climbed the stairs. The crimson paint from a week’s worth of priming and repainting the lantern room was becoming more difficult for Willa to remove from beneath her fingernails. The callouses on her hands had begun to split and bleed from the new strain of hauling the kerosene cans. It was difficult for her to finish the collie pup’s blanket. Her hands would tremble and occasionally bleed onto the
sunset pattern, but she was able to present her offering to her mother with minimal flaws in the stitching. Her hands bandaged, she was glad her mother suggested she sweep and scrub the north and south porches instead of making another haul up the lighthouse that afternoon. Willa indulged in the respite. On the south porch, she swept the dirt into silly designs and shapes, singing and whistling a tune she mocked from the Coasties. “Gypsy Lou, Gypsy Lou,” she sang and whistled an interlude. “Where are you? Where are you? Oh Gypsy, Gypsy Lou, where are you?” At the last where are you, Willa slowed her movements to a halt. The workload of the day passed through her memory, and she could not remember seeing Smokey. It wasn’t unusual for her cat to spend a day hunting along the edges of the lighthouse property, but something on the back of her neck and the lower part of her chest seemed to tighten. Her ears scanned the air for clues. She could hear her mother in the kitchen, the mockingbird that lived in the furthest oak, the rustle of lizards in the leaves. From out of the ambiance, laughter crawled its way around the porch. The laughter sounded off—it was not her brother’s usual tone, and it collided in a fierce discord with James’s. The broom clanked to the porch, and Willa leapt from the steps and sprinted around the house. She skidded and froze at the base of the lighthouse tower. The brilliant red of the lantern room shone like blood against Willa’s eyes as she tried to make out the scene on the catwalk. She squinted and strained her eyes against the reflection of the two-o’clock sun in the Fresnel lens. Willa could hear faint and rhythmic mewing. A cloud crossed the sky, dimming the sharp rays. The breath in her lungs left her body, and she could see the scene above. Clove methodically smoothed the canvas and untangled the lines of the parachute. James wrapped Smokey’s torso and belly tightly into the collie-pup’s blanket, a makeshift harness. Willa could not find air in her lungs. She shook and tried to inhale while Clove snapped the parachute clips to the back of Smokey’s orange harness. She felt her knees lose tension as James held Smokey and the contraption over the catwalk railing. “Wait,” she heard Clove mutter. “I wanna do it. It’s my chute.” “Alright,” said James, placing the now howling cat into his friend’s hands. “Aw, shush ya stupid animal.” He laughed while the other began to count.
Living Waters Review
“On three. One.” “Clo—” Willa choked. “Two.” Clove swung the cat back and forth with the counts. “Smoke—” she sputtered. “THREE!” Willa came to life as the cat began to scream, expanding his four limbs and tail to their limits, hair on end, eyes gaping in panic. “SMOKEY!” she shrieked. Clove jolted with the sting of his sister’s scream. Willa continued to yell as the canvas expanded and floated her cat gradually toward the ground. She skidded along the base of the tower, trying to follow the path of the rogue chute and her wailing cat. James’s laugh continued to ring off the cement tower until Willa managed to place herself beneath the terrorized Smokey. She slipped her palms beneath his front legs and chest and tried to bring him into an embrace. The cat spasmed and continued to shriek, tearing open huge lines of flesh along Willa’s arms, chest, and face. She managed to unbind him from the bloodied harness, and the animal ran howling into the woods. Willa stood frozen and battered. She couldn’t even find her feet to run after him into the trees, and she collapsed into a cloud of dust and sand at the base of the tower. At the top, Clove also stood motionless and silent while James gripped the railing in waves of uncontrollable laughter. *** The moon hung like a late spring mango, barely suspended over the eastern horizon. Willa sat crisscrossed in the window seat, outlining the edges of the bandages with her fingertips. Her thoughts were cut short with a knock at the door, but she kept quiet. Willa slipped into her bed while the visitor continued to rap lightly. Clove finally entered without permission, carrying a trembling heap of gray fur and blanket in his arms. Willa shot a quick glance to Smokey, and then plummeted her face deep into her pillow. She felt the cat’s unsteady paws land on the bed, and Smokey burrowed himself beneath the quilt, tucking himself into the curve of Willa’s side, still shuddering. Willa turned to face her brother. Clove’s brow and gray eyes were contorted and shifting, avoiding his sister’s stare. His lips were sucked in, the bottom of his jaw off center. He sat at the edge of the bed and rested a rough hand on the top of her hair. He rubbed his eyes hard with the other
hand. Willa could see the dried crimson paint still stuck deep beneath his fingernails. The brother and sister stayed that way for a few moments until Clove slipped off to his own room. Willa made sure to focus on her tower duties to remove the image of the terrorized Smokey from her mind. Weeks of hauling up the thirty-pound cans three times a day broadened her shoulders and strengthened her center. When she and Clove worked to polish the lens, she stayed silent. One morning, James tried to take up the cans on one of her scheduled hauls. Willa seized his shoulders and slammed his body into the hard cement wall of the tower. The lightning in the redbrown eyes ignited. “Git away, you piece of slime,” she growled. “You can’t stay here. You can’t be here. Don’t ever come back!” She watched something untangle in the green of his eyes, and he ran from the light. One night, just before dawn, Clove knocked furiously at Willa’s door and entered before she was fully awake. “Willie,” he gasped, audibly out of breath. “Willie, come on. I got somethin’ to show you. Git up!” “You gotta keep your eyes closed, Willa. Don’t look ‘till I tell ya.” Clove dragged his sister by the arm all the way to their dinghy. He unmoored the boat, and hoisted the sails. “I know we’re on the boat, dummy,” snapped Willa, her eyes still firmly shut. “Why you actin’ like a crazy person?” She yawned. “It’s four-o’clock in the mornin’.” “Just wait,” Clove said. He coasted the dinghy along through the Mantanzas, out of the inlet, and into the sea. Willa began to slip off to sleep, her head resting quietly on the boom, before Clove lightly shook her arm. “Open your eyes, Willa. Wake up.” She could hear the soft slapping of water and a faint, intermittent pshhhh. Willa’s eyelids lifted and her vision came into focus. She saw cone after cone of mists of air, the water vapor reflecting the steady yellow beam from the lighthouse. Willa wrapped her fingers around her brother’s arm and pulled him to the bow of the boat, and the brother and sister sat silently in her favorite spot, watching hundreds of right whales commune in the St. Augustine waters after the long migration.
Short Story 27
As I Gaze Upon My Empire of Earth Noah Thaman
Living Waters Review
The Hills are Thrumming Noah Thaman
The hidden lake is fathomless in fidelity A spectrum of sea green-blue balance with the sun Yet deep and brooding greys in its absence Towering hills surface above the meandering shoreline Mountains in adolescence, they dream fitfully And clothe themselves in ranks of pine Ramrod straight and evergreen The little peaks run through the limit of the horizon While billows of celestial froth drip down To pillow craggily crowns in slumber The steel cities do not remember their God They have exiled him to the reservation of the howling wild And out here the lake waters chop with glacial passion The sentinel trees toss in spiced currents Stirred by the exotic, green breath of their maker Out here the wood and the wild thrill even yetâ€” Reverberating with the music of the throbbing earth The lake changes faces with the passing of storm fronts And God rumbles through timbered hills With the fervor of a strong East wind
A Banjo Is Ben Lusk
A banjo is a microcosm of creation, because of course of how mysterious and satisfying it is. God ain’t a cosmic watchmaker—he’s a cosmic banjo-maker. You couldn’t make a better whole transcending the sum of its parts if you took a piano, a guitar, a circus calliope,
jasmine flowers, two gypsies and a set of wind-chimes and threw ‘em in the furnace together and played what walked out. When them strings get plucked it’s the lonesomest, most jubilant locomotion in the world… like listening to a constellation sink past the horizon.
Living Waters Review
Weightless Chelsae Horton
She Said ‘No’ So She Could Say ‘Yes’ Anisa Stechert
Short Story 32
he room was so dim and the sounds of the piano so soft. The smell of coffee beans that had just sacrificed themselves to be made into grounds and drunk by grateful coffee connoisseurs had been percolating through the air all night. My pumpkin scone had barely found a comfortable spot to nestle itself on my plate before I ambushed it and picked evidence of the gruesome consumption off my shirt without shame. My head felt too heavy for my neck, and I kept closing my eyes for a little longer each time. The whir of the coffee grinder, voices of the people, and fractioned music blended together into white noise. The only thing missing is a wiry man with a beret, goatee, and a tortured soul. A wiry man with an inky black goatee, a beret haphazardly tossed onto dark ringlets, and eyes that had seemingly witnessed the horrors of mankind plodded onto the stage stoically. I stifled a guffaw and looked around the dimly lit room. Every café cliché was here, down to the misunderstood boy with a pierced eyebrow and sleeve of tattoos getting people lattes and muffins. Ever since I had started dating a sensitive guy for a change of scenery I had been coming to places like this too frequently. I let my eyes wander and people-watched. A young couple was making out in the corner. An old woman at a table in the front wept at every speaker’s piece. Levi had left for the bathroom almost ten minutes ago, and I felt myself getting annoyed at being left alone at the table for so long. The lights dimmed dramatically, catching me off guard. My eyes were still struggling to adjust to the lighting when one solitary spotlight sliced through the darkness
onto a large three-legged stool on stage. That dang three-legged stool having to hold up every pompous jerk that thinks his grandiloquent speech is going to be any different than the one before him. I rubbed my temples and let my eyes roll into the back of my head. This had better be one heck of a speech on love. I giggled at my cynicism and prepared myself for the fifty shades of sappy I was going to be exposed to. “Ally, my sweet, sweet honeysuckle,” Levi’s voice pierced through the room more than the spotlight. “I know we’ve only been dating for a couple months now, but I’m head over heels about you. I can’t imagine life without you now. From the way you buy Chef Boyardee and then tell me that you worked on homemade ravioli all day, to the way that you so articulately belch the alphabet after every meal, I just need you in my life.” My eyes felt like they were going to fall out of my head, and I didn’t even realize my mouth had been open. But like how obvious would it be to crawl under the table and then dig a hole through the wood to try and get to China? People had really begun to wonder who this Ally character was and every neck, young and old, craned to find her. I joined in with the masses hoping to be inconspicuous. Unfortunately for me, I failed seventh grade drama and not even the couple that had just been engaged in passionate kissing bought it. My cheeks felt like they had been licked by solar flares from the sun and my neck was pulsating with the wild throbbing of my heart. “Ally, this may seem like I’m taking things quickly, but when you know something’s right, you know it’s right. I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you!” Levi had pulled a Tom Cruise and had climbed on top of the barstool, balancing himself on one leg while he proclaimed his love for me to this infernal café. God, I know we’re not on speaking terms really but just take me now. I’m not even asking for it to be painless. Levi dramatically jumped down from the stool and then plopped down onto one knee frighteningly animatedly. He ripped a small pink box, my least favorite color, from his jeans pocket and opened it with a flourish to showcase a gold band with a gaudy diamond surrounded by small sapphires and rubies. What the actual heck is that? “Marry me, Ally. Don’t even think; just say yes.” The omniscient spotlight moved directly from Levi, beaming on one knee, to my shell-shocked face that looked anything but beautiful. I had unconsciously been running my hands through my hair and succeeded in looking like I had just escaped with
Living Waters Review
Andy Dufresne from Shawshank Prison, my cheeks were red, my mouth was open, and my eyes were huge. I cleared my throat ceremoniously only to stutter and let out a sound that could only be accurately described as a yelp. “Levi, you’re so…you’re so Levi. You make me happy, you really do.” Levi’s face fell, but he stayed on one knee with the ring pitifully held out in my direction. Every person in the room had positioned their chair to face me. The whir of the coffee grinder had stopped, the piano had been muted abruptly, and I could hear the unruly boy with the piercings drop an earring in the back. “Just…no. No. I’m so sorry, but…no.” Levi dropped the box and then fell to both knees, cradling his face in his hands. The weeping woman in the front row let out a wail before tearing her clothes and sanctimoniously donning sackcloth and ashes. The make-out-couple gasped in horror at the irreverence I had showed love. Rebellious-barista-boy scowled and shook his fist at me. I cleared my throat and pushed my chair back from the table, causing a screech that made everyone wince and then commence scowling. I stood up straight, pushed my shoulders back, and then walked towards the stage like I had some sort of idea of what I was going to say to this riotous bunch of hipsters. I helped Levi up and then worked at supporting his weight while he sobbed into my shoulder. I tapped the mic with my free hand and then attempted to smile that probably looked more like a grimace. I peered out over the faceless throng and tried to shield my eyes from the spotlight that seemed to be growing in intensity. We must have been the oddest twosome the place had ever seen, me smiling and holding a grown man like a child while he sobbed into my hair. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” I paused to let the crowd laugh. No one laughed. “Levi and I have been together a mere three months. He hasn’t even met my parents yet.” A couple groans of understanding from the mob encouraged me forward. “I had just gotten out of a bad relationship when I met Levi and I have those notorious trust issues.” A voluptuous black woman held her hand up and nodded in agreement with closed eyes and pursed lips. I removed the microphone from its stand and walked around the stage, guiding Levi, to make eye contact with those in the crowd. “I’m still in school trying to further my career. I have dreams,
aspirations that cannot be squelched by an abrupt marriage.” A woman with glasses perched on the ball of her nose gave me an approving nod. “Friends, we must do what is right for ourselves! We can’t live our lives for other people!” A group of homosexuals were on their feet, raising their lattes – no whip – towards the stage. “So forgive me for breaking this man’s heart. I didn’t say no to hurt him. I said no to help me.” The multitude was on their feet clapping. I placed the microphone back on its stand and made Levi bow with me. Levi and I walked back towards the bar, getting congratulatory slaps on the back. “Let me buy you a coffee, Levi. It’s on me.” “No, it’s on me.” Tattoo-Boy grinned and took our order. I walked around the room with Levi in tow, shaking hands, and signing coffee cups. A college-aged girl approached me and asked if she could speak to me in private. “Listen, I was wondering if I could share your story with the world. I could send you a draft for you to look over and then we could go from there. Such inspiring events need to be documented,” she said. “Of course.” I smiled and patted her shoulder. “Share my story with the world. Tell it on the mountain. Here’s my email address and phone number.” “Perfect, I’ll be contacting you in a few weeks.” And with that I knew that I was forever going to be immortalized within the pages of a captivating short story that would one day be read by millions that needed to be able to learn to say “no” so that they could say “yes.”
Short Story 33
To the Skies Amy Andress
Living Waters Review
Train Caitlyn Girardi
y dad is in the train business, but he’s not one of those old train workers who forever has the chugga-chugga-choo-choo in his heartbeats. So when people ask me what he does for a living, I say he’s a liaison for international train companies, or I just make myself look serious and say, “Don’t worry about it.” When I was about six, my dad took me to “work” at the station for the first time. It was spring, and I was in kindergarten. He had pulled into the school parking lot with his shiny, black car and bypassed the usual rules for visitors; he walked right past the old lady yelling at him to sign in at the office, and straight to my classroom. He knocked on the door and let himself in without waiting for an invitation. He stood in the doorframe in his usual pose; legs hip-width apart, hands clasped one over the other below his belly, eyes focused and charming all at once. Miss Gilly was perched in a wooden rocking chair with a picture book in her hands. My class sat on a colorful mat in front of her, and was whispering about the stranger at the door with the shiny shoes and the long dark coat. Miss Gilly paused mid-sentence and looked up through thick, red glasses. She laid the book down in her lap and said, still in sing-song kindergarten melody, “Now, who is our guest today, children? And did he forget his visitor’s sticker from the main office?” My stared at Miss Gilly and pressed his lips into a smile. “I came to take my daughter, Samantha, to work with me.” Miss Gilly raised her eyebrows to a cartoonlike height.
She cupped her hands to her mouth and whispered conspiratorially to the class, “Well, we will have to make sure he has a good reason, won’t we?” She rocked forward, and stood up while crossing her arms in a childlike manner. She pouted. “What if we don’t want Samantha to leave?” My class mimicked her childish expressions. My dad looked up at the ceiling and laughed while slowly rolling up his sleeves. He crossed his arms and looked Miss Gilly straight in the eye. “I’ll give you a good reason.” He played up his accent so she’d know he was serious. “You see, I have some clients in the cement business, and they can always use some more…material, for the mix. You know?” I took that as my signal and made my way to the closet, grabbed my backpack and my macaroni necklace, and ran to hold my dad’s hand. As he held the door for me, I looked over my shoulder and waved. “Bye, Miss Gilly! See you tomorrow!” Miss Gilly was stunned. She stuttered, “Bye Samantha! Have fun at…daddy’s work!” We drove off, and my dad saluted the security guard as he pulled out of the parking lot. The guard had done some community service work for him in exchange for a discount on freight fares. My father was always a great businessman. When I say that he works in trains, I don’t mean at a commercial station, but at an industrial yard, the North Los Angeles yard. Industrial trains carry mostly production materials, food, HAZMAT junk, and the occasional vagrant or hobo. Initially, my dad figured that with me around, business deals would go more smoothly; people generally keep themselves tame in front of kids. I started picking up cuss words pretty quickly though, and my mother was not happy, so he decided it would be better to leave me out of business. Instead, he dropped me off at the Yardmaster’s booth. Yardmaster, or who I liked to call the “big cheese” of the yard, became my unofficial babysitter and train tutor. He’d let me play in the RIP (Repairs In Place) yard, which was the section of track for broken trains The RIP yard was paradise to me. The trains were all non-functional, so I could play around them without worrying about getting a limb chopped off. About twenty or so cars rested there at a time, ranging from industrial cars that had held building materials, to commercial cars that moved food and clothing
Short Story 35
Short Story 36
across the country. Yardmaster taught me the names of all the different kinds of cars. It was the day after my eighth birthday, and I’d learned how to make friendship bracelets. I sat cross-legged with my back against the fence, carefully knotting the string into what would be a bracelet. I heard someone open the gate to the yard, and looked up to see Yardmaster walking toward me. He was probably about sixty at the time, but he had grey hair, and that made him seem absolutely ancient. I squinted up at him through the sunlight as he kneeled down to my level. He nodded toward the string in my hands. “What you got there, little miss?” I wrinkled my nose in frustration. “It’s going to be a bracelet, but it’s taking forever!” Yardmaster smiled. “Well,” he said, “do you want to take a break and hear a story about one of these cars here?” I giggled. “These aren’t cars! Cars have wheels. These are trains!” The old man held up a finger. “Ah, see, that’s where you’re wrong. When they’re up and on the track, they all make a train. But that one there—” he pointed at an overturned car, “is called a boxcar.” My eyes widened, and I pointed to a car behind him. “What’s that one?” He turned. “Well, that’s called a hopper, or a grainer. People ship grain and minerals and stuff cross-country in those things. See that little porch on the end there? Well, that’s how you can tell a hopper when you see one.” I spotted a round one and pointed again. “What’s that called?” Yardmaster cringed a little bit, like he had a bad taste in his mouth. “That’s a tank car. Carries all kinds of nasty stuff—gasoline, liquid iron, hydrogen, toxic waste. Those are the kinda trains you see going by real slow at three in the morning—well, you’ve probably never been up that late yet. But one day.” I mimicked his look and nodded knowingly, while trying to remember to ask my mom about this “three-inthe-morning” thing. *** As I became acquainted with the former functions of these cars, their brokenness was precious to me. They possessed the wonderful ability to be re-imagined. I turned
cars into secret clubhouses, pirate ships, and bunkers. I played school and mommy-and-baby, went shopping, and got thrown in jail. Then, there were the hidden treasures left behind in the cars. Scraps of wood were among my favorite things to find; I could add them onto my clubhouse, or make a teepee. I once found a car completely filled with dried flowers. That day, the boxcar was a chapel, and I got married while throwing the flowers all around. Sometimes I found bags of rice, scrap metal, packets of clothing, keys, and socks. My least favorite thing to find was some kind of food item that had been decomposed and ruined by the animals, like the Twinkie shipment that got hijacked by a pack of rats. On one occasion, I helped my father’s business with one of these found treasures. His “job” depends on his fearsome reputation, so an ignorant client is the most difficult client; debtors who don’t fear won’t pay what they owe. While I was playing in the RIP yard, my father was meeting with two brothers who refused to pay up. I was minding my own business, just taking a stroll between my clubhouse and the shopping mall. I found something black and shiny on the ground, and upon picking it up, realized that it was a gun. I had only seen guns on TV or as toys, so I never thought a gun could actually hurt a person. I decided that the hopper car was now a saloon, picked up the gun, and whooped on an imaginary horse while I shot into the air. BANG! BANG! Yardmaster told me that over at the main track, the two big brothers screamed like little girls. His associates convinced the boys that the gunfire was my father’s boss— the head honcho. Yardmaster ran over to the RIP yard, knocked the gun out of my hands, and hugged me tight. I had no idea why his face was so cold and pale, and why he and my dad would not let me bring home my new toy. But afterward, my dad got me iced cream for closing my first business deal. When I grew up and turned twelve, Yardmaster let me cross over from my makeshift playground to the main part of the railway. The magic in the RIP yard grew dim with the distraction of my maturity and the new awareness that imaginary games were silly and immature. I often looked curiously over the RIP sign and tried to see my beautiful pirate ship and clubhouse, but all I saw were boxcars #1934 and #900A, rusting metal, and rotting wood. The new, fast world of the functional cars intrigued me with its
Living Waters Review
complex network of tracks, plates, and sidings. My mind and eyes grew sharp to keep up with this new intricate and quick world. The slightest movement of a switch had the potential to move the train onto a different track, or reverse its direction; a train could seem to be going one way, but change and start chasing you down in a second. After school let out for the day, I’d walk to the station and hang out in Yardmaster’s booth, which sat between the RIP yard and the House Track. I became pretty good at math, because I knew how to count cars, as well as figure out the amount of seconds it would take for one train to catch up to another. I knew my history, because Yardmaster, and all the old conductors and crewmembers, would tell me their war stories and travel stories. And I settled comfortably into writing, because the chug-chug of the trains and the whoosh of them going past became a rhythm that morphed into poetry. When I wrote, I’d dangle my feet over the edge of the booth and place my notebook in my lap. That way, I’d be able to see which trains were coming in and out, and let their movement inspire the words on my paper. I wrote about wanting freedom, like those trains that ran down the tracks and raced each other into the hills. I wrote about finding devotion to something like the engineers had for their trains. I wrote about helping the needy, like the car-men, who mended the broken cars. Time was the only thing in the world to be counted on for order, even though no one at the station really abided by it. Marriage was the relationship between the conductor and his crew, the tracks and the car. The world was beautiful to me. When I was fifteen, I met Noel. He was Yardmaster’s nephew. The Yardmaster became my unofficial grandpa, and I called him Papa Dave. He was developing that characteristic old man twinkle in his eye, and he and Mama Jeannie were that cute old couple that still held hands and went on dates. They spent time with me when my father was constantly away on “business” and they took pride in the way I was growing up. I loved them. I was in the middle of my homework in Papa Dave’s office when I heard the door open. I was finding the ghost edge of an angular rail crossing—I mean, the hypotenuse of a triangle. I said absently, “You’re late. I’m already halfway through my math.” I paused. I looked up and saw the comforting sight of Papa Dave in the doorway. He was about six feet tall when
I first met him, but he’d shrunk a little vertically and grew a belly horizontally since then. He had wrinkly blue eyes that smiled without needing his lips, and white hair that looked dark after the layer of gel he slicked it back with. When he talked, the age marks on his cheeks danced to the rhythm of his kind, gentle voice. A kid, probably a little older than me at the time, stood to his left. He’d clearly mastered the art of looking cool, with his hands in his pockets and his head cocked to the side. He had this curly brown hair that caught the light and looked a little reddish, like a hopper whose porch was just beginning to rust. Papa Dave nodded toward the boy and smiled. “Samantha, this is my nephew, Noel.” Noel lifted his head, and raised one of his hands in a relaxed wave. His eyebrows lifted a little. “Hey.” I placed my homework on the floor and jumped up to my feet. I reached out my hand to shake his, and my brain felt gooey. “Nice to meet you, Noel.” My cheeks went warm, and the corners of my mouth kept trying to rise up in what felt like a goofy grin. Noel kept the effortless-cool look, but I could see him smiling. *** My dad found a new girl to replace my mom, right off the boat from Sicily. Noel’s family felt bad for us and kept trying to invite us to their church to help us “get through this tragic time.” They tried to tell me that my dad still loved me, but I knew that he didn’t leave because he hated us, and he didn’t abandon us, either. He and my mom stayed good friends, and sometimes he joined us for Sunday dinner (without the new girl, of course). He still took me out for iced cream, went to my parent-teacher conferences, and did other things parents were supposed to do. My mom wanted to be a free woman anyway, and now, she could have that—a with the financial security of a married woman. When I was a child, the trains taught me what I needed to know about the outside world. I developed my views of freedom, love, and beauty because of them. But Noel brought outside life into my perfect world at the station. I had idolized the relationship of the car-man to his crew, but Noel told me how he would cuss at them and that the crewmembers hated each other. I thought the trains were free until Noel told me just how many switches, wires, and buttons controlled every part of
Short Story 37
Short Story 38
them. Time was no longer a source of comfort and order, but a thing that needed to be fought against in order to keep business moving. I thought I sensed community at the station, but the workers were just united in their hate for the system, not their love for the trains. Noel and I started dating and life became less beautiful every day. The only thing that remained pure in my sight was Papa Dave and his devotion to the yard. Papa Dave died when I was nineteen. Heart attack, they said. I felt lost, and walked to his office to sit where he should be. I fingered Noel’s diamond promise ring around my finger. But without Papa Dave, the tracks in my heart switched, and I couldn’t spend the rest of my journey trudging along beside Noel. He had introduced me to the Lord Jesus, and that along with the promise ring made me feel obligated to marry him, but it suddenly felt wrong. I heard a HAZMAT train coming, and got my answer in the chugga-chugga of it going by. I wouldn’t be that train. *** I held the phone up to my lips so I would be heard clearly. “Noel, I don’t know if I want to get married. Not just to you, but to anyone.” I bit my lip, and though I could not see him, squeezed my eyes shut. “We keep fighting…” He cut in, “But we figured all of that out!” I sighed. “It would really help if you didn’t interrupt me. Listen. I don’t think you and I are on the same page. I’m young, I really am. I don’t know anything about anything!” My heart felt stuck on the track with a giant freight coming toward it at 60 miles per hour. Noel cleared his throat. “Yeah, you’re young, but we’ve been dating longer than most people date. And you don’t have to know anything. I don’t even know what you mean by that.” I took a deep breath. “I don’t want to run all my decisions by another person. You keep saying love is a choice, and that I need to keep choosing to love you. But what if I want to go live a little before settling down?” He laughed, like I was the dumbest person in the world. “What do you mean anyway by ‘live a little?’ That’s kind of silly.” I clenched my jaw. “I want to do something with my life. I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all.” “Well,” Noel said, “if you love me, you’re going to have to let some of those dreams go.”
I cleared my throat. “So expect this ring back in the mail in a couple of days.” *** Without the ring, and Noel behind it, I felt free. There was no more planning my day around him, or making sure I updated him on every second of my life. I could do my own thing and finally feel like I was going somewhere. I wanted to do something crazy, especially because Noel had always thought it was a dumb idea. I knew it had to be something quiet and deep, but exhilarating enough to really make me think. This wasn’t a time for messing around. I packed a bag with stuff I’d need for a week or so. I didn’t have the time that the undecided majors had to go explore things. I grabbed couple of pairs of socks, some waterproof boots, a raincoat, and a hat. I packed water bottles, ramen, beef jerky, and my phone and charger. Most people who go to experience some kind of nirvana usually don’t use technology, but I was a young girl going alone into a dangerous environment. I wanted to be sensible. But most of all, I knew I needed to sleep on this idea before carrying it out. I had seen enough “hobos”—who, in our part of town, were really young students and professionals who had seen a documentary on train hopping—do what most people thought was too dangerous to be done. I knew that it was also pretty easy to get on a train without getting caught. Papa Dave always said, “A night of sleep keeps the stupid away.” I didn’t set my alarm, but figured I’d test my heart, and see what rail schedule it was adjusted to. Then, in the morning, I’d see how the engine felt. The light from my bedroom window woke me up. I pulled myself out of bed and made a bowl of cereal. I dialed Mama Jeannie’s number. After three rings, she picked up. “Hello?” Her voice always made me smile. “Hey Mama Jeanie, it’s Sam. How are you?” Mama Jeanie coughed. “Just a little under the weather, baby. How are you?” I cleared my throat, and she knew something was cooking before I even started talking. “Now Sam, you’re not going to tell me something that’s gonna give me a heart attack, are you?” “Well, depends. I was meaning to ask you a question…”
Living Waters Review
I trailed off, trying to work out how to say it. She sighed. “If you were pregnant or something, you would’ve blurted it out by now. So it can’t be that bad.” She was right—I did tend to blurt things out. So I blurted. “Mama Jeannie, I wanted to ask you if I could have Papa Dave’s ashes for a few days, because I’m going on a trip, and well, you know I always wanted to travel the world with him. It would just be for a few days and I’d take real good care of him…I mean them…I mean—” Mama Jeannie cut me off. “Hush. Of course you can. He needs to get out a little more anyway. Just promise you two won’t get into trouble, alright?” I exhaled, relieved. “Sure. I’ll be over this afternoon to bring you some soup and pick him up.” Since Papa Dave taught me everything I knew about trains, I thought I might as well take him on my journey. I was still getting the hang of praying to God, and wasn’t too sure of the logistics of it, so I figured he would be good company if things got lonely. After I set up Mama Jeannie with some chicken soup for the night, I walked out her front door and sat on the porch. Papa Dave loved sitting out on the porch, because you could just see the lights from the train yard through the trees. I looked down at the blue urn in my hands. “I gotta do it, huh?” I spoke to the ashes, or God, or whoever happened to be listening. I got no answer. I stood up, adjusted my backpack, and held the urn tight to my chest. I let my feet lead me, and they went across the street and into the woods. The faint lights of the station grew brighter, and a picture developed before me—familiar, yet strange. I felt like I was looking at a living black and white photograph of the rail yard. I’d never seen it at night before, and my feet knew that this was the place, but my eyes could not put the sense and the sight together. I felt a lump in my throat and tears beginning to form. “Papa Dave, why doesn’t it feel like home?” I gulped, but approached the back fence of the yard. I fished in my back pocket and found Papa Dave’s spare key to the Yardmaster’s booth. I shimmied through an opening in the fence, and unlocked the booth door to check the schedules, but I heard a train coming before I could look. The train was mostly boxcars and hoppers—perfect for riding. I was paralyzed for a moment, but quickly looked around the yard for a piece of strong metal. Once I found one, I looked both ways for the Bull (security at the station
when it gets dark) and made a run for the track. I jogged alongside the train, threw my pack and the piece of metal into the boxcar, and launched myself up the four-foot ledge. I quickly propped the door open with the piece of metal so it wouldn’t shut me in, and set up camp in the corner of the car. The feeling was anticlimactic. I looked at the wall opposite me. “What do I do now?” I looked down at Papa Dave’s urn. “Papa Dave, what do I do now? Do I just kind of sit here, and wait for the meaning of life to fall down from Heaven?” I got no answer, so I tried God. I closed my eyes tight, clasped my hands together, and said, “Lord, I think I just made one of those dumb decisions you make—well not ‘You’ make because I’m not trying to say that You make any bad decisions or anything, but by ‘you’ I mean a person. Well, I think I’m trying to find myself on something I’ve seen go by all day, every day, for my whole life. So why is it that now it doesn’t feel right, and I feel so sad?” The tears I had tried to swallow were making their resurgence. They were just water, but they felt heavy like freights down the tracks of my cheeks. My eyes started adjusting to the dark boxcar, and I combed the walls for meaning. The wood was pretty, and I swam my fingers over it without getting any splinters. I cleared my throat. “God, you did a real good job creating things for humans, like trees. Without trees, and You, we wouldn’t be able to have any trains.” I smiled. “Thanks.” The wood only bore the markings of two names— Bob and Gina. No secret what they were doing in here together. I chuckled, then I froze. Should I be thinking about that in front of Papa Dave? And…God? I whispered, “I know you can hear my thoughts, so…I’m sorry about that…” I didn’t have much more time to feel guilty, because the train stopped. The momentum of the train bumping across the tracks was just starting to accentuate the drama of my prayer. Suddenly, a flashlight beam appeared on the wall of the boxcar. I froze for a moment—I hadn’t considered what would happen if another person decided to hop the same car. A hobo? A criminal on the run? There were several moments of agonizing silence. I heard a hushed voice say, “I saw her run in there.” The flashlight slowly scanned the walls and corners of the car until it landed on my face. I shielded my eyes, and
Short Story 39
Short Story 40
jerked my head away. A voice said, “Miss, you’re going to have to come with me.” I paused for a moment before asking, “Who are you?” The voice cleared its throat and said, “Railroad Police. Step out of the car, please.” I sighed. So much for finding myself. I swung the pack over my shoulder, and tucked Papa Dave’s urn under my arm. I was careful to scoot slowly across the car, and climb down gently. The Railroad Policeman, “the Bull,” motioned for me to follow him. He walked toward Yardmaster’s booth and I tried to hide my smile. The Bull opened the door for me, and asked me to sit down in Papa Dave’s old chair. He tried to look intimidating with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face, and I tried to be a good mix of ignorant and innocent. He said, “So. What exactly were you doing out there?” I raised my eyebrows a little. “Well, sir, I was trying to get to San Francisco, and I hear this is the best way to go.” I motioned to the yard. The Bull chuckled. “Are you aware that you have committed felony trespassing? You can be put in jail. Do you understand?” I nodded. Yes, I understood, but what he didn’t understand was that no judge in his right mind would put me in jail, unless he wanted to seriously tick off my father. The Bull pulled out a pad and pen, and asked me for my name. I cleared my throat. “Samantha Calabrese. C-a-l-a-b—” His face went pale. “r-e-s-e.” The Bull spoke nervously. “Did you say, uh, Calabrese?” “Yes, sir, Samantha Calabrese. Hey!” I pretended to suddenly remember something. “You might know my father. He does business here sometimes.” The Bull nodded several times while blinking rapidly. “Yes, well, uh, you can go. But consider this a warning, and don’t try it again.” “Officer?” I asked. “What did you say your name was again?” I batted my eyelashes. His face turned red as he mumbled, “Officer Panabaker.” I smiled warmly. “You knew Mr. Dave.” The officer’s eyes widened. “Samantha—you’re Sam!
His Sam. Goodness, it’s been years since I’ve seen you. I used to work the day shift; you were like his little shadow.” My eyes filled with happy tears. “That’s me.” I extended my hand to shake his. “I’ll make sure my father knows what a great man he has working at the yard. Goodnight, Officer Panabaker.” I left quietly and looked back at the dark yard. I silently said goodbye to the black-and-white scene that didn’t feel as foreign as it did when I first arrived. I’d made my own imprint on the nighttime version of the yard that would feel foreign once the light colored the yard. I had forged a connection with both worlds. Everything was all right now. I walked back to Papa Dave’s house because I wanted to put the urn back on the mantle before Mama Jeannie woke up. But when I got to the porch, I saw her on the swing holding two cups of coffee. She looked at me and smiled. I squinted, confused. “Is everything okay? What are you doing awake?” She laughed quietly into the night. “More than okay, baby. I’ve been here waiting on you. Made you a cup the way you like it.” I didn’t even ask her, as I would have before, how she knew I’d be back. I knew exactly what she would say: “The good Lord told me so.” And tonight, I would believe her.
Living Waters Review
Lost at Sea Amy Andress
Port Skye Deutschle
I never made port because the waters were too shallow I scraped the sandbars and harbors until my synthetic skin ran raw I circled around at sea drowning my sorrows in messages in bottles The cold aqua arms massaged the barnacles that were crested underneath
my frame But the pain still remained Nowhere to call home Until I found a harbor that wasnâ€™t so close to shore with deep enough waters to safely anchor.
Living Waters Review
My Exile Christopher Jensen
There was an old barn somewhere
The barn might still be there just
near my grandparents’ house,
a couple blocks north and west
but my only memory of the place
of Seacrest Circle. Behind those trees,
can’t be real because it’s about
there could be a thousand scorpions
moving through a line of trees
and a whole silo full of
to find a giant green scorpion and
mangos, but I might never know.
some crates full of mangos. What I have is a mayfly’s impression, It still comes to me from time to time,
a miniature Monet of recollection of
that half-forgotten image: the red, splintered
something that might never have
doors and steepled loft so incongruous
even happened. The image is alone and
with the suburban South Florida backdrop, and
fleeting, only alive in a childhood memory,
I just can’t help but wonder
and I just can’t stop thinking about how
how many hundreds of times I must have
I don’t want to grow up to become
driven past and not even noticed.
someone else’s green scorpion.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what home means, about my place in the world and how growing up seems to mean an equal amount of bills and keys. Living alone in an empty apartment has made me question what I am, why my face is so young and my hands so old.
Highway 50 Drive Michelle Kristine
Living Waters Review
Daughter Earth Charlotte Rakestraw
Eyes the color of manure. But when you get real close Aren’t they really the golden apricot of the sunrise at St. George Island? Shining from the sunlight reflecting off of ships and shells and seaglass. With webs of green, so vibrant they would put the foliage of the rainforests to shame. But maybe there is a jungle inside. She’s so wild, There’s got to be all kinds of creatures and life teeming inside of that girl. Hair the texture of a haystack, Thick and coarse and disheveled from being tossed around. If you know her though, You realize those locks are like fallen pine nettles that blanket the fertile soil of the South Protecting ancestral lands during the harshest days from October to February Stained with reds from the blood of fallen soldiers; forefathers who fought with conviction. The same strength and courage lies within that sweet, stubborn child. Her spirit embodies those South lands. Full of spirit and pride, Tough as gators, And sweet as pecan pie.
Holland Kate Lawson
“You must be a Vanderbilt,” she told me. Nothing could make me prouder. My ancestors wore wooden shoes that calloused their feet to work their water-saturated farm land. Blue is a spirit color Water is a spirit color God waters my spirit and I water his plants. My grandma was a florist.
She worked for minimum wage in that floral shop for twenty years. Her rose-torn fingers rubbed my back as a child despite the carpel tunnel that came from twisting arrangements and canning her pickles. She has living hands ornamented with sapphire rings that she promises me when she dies. God gave me those breathing oxygen hands too. Leaves spread chlorophyll on my fingers and I feel the light of the sun shining through the cells. I love those fragile plants. Japanese beetles suck green from the basil, but they can’t stop the new leaves from sprouting. “The Vanderbilts were good farmers,” she told me.
Living Waters Review
30-Minute Student Portrait: Chris Alicia Stamm
The Art of Becoming Noah Thaman
Short Story 48
here was once a man who lived inside of a live oak tree. It should not be supposed that he had always lived inside of the tree; after all, it is well known that trees grow from soil and sun while humans grow from grain and greed. Men are not born from the soil and so it was that for twenty some-odd years, Digory Schmidt stored up treasure chests of grain within his body with all the greed of the mythical dragons of lore. He ate and he ate and his bones grew and stretched his skin to new lengths. At first this occurred at an alarming rate, but doctors of some medical repute have proven that bones grow weary of elongating after several years, and so it was that he began growing at a more normal pace and then, before long, not at all. It should be noted that our man was born with few strands of hair on his head and also died in the same fashion; however, in the years between being born and being dead, he succeeded in growing an incredibly mossy mop of hair, and after a certain age, began to experience a great deal of success in growing hair on his face as well as his arms and legs. In summation, our man, Digory Schmidt, became a master in the art of growing things. In his childhood, Digory took much pride in his skill at growing his own body. “I will become as tall as a mountain,” he once boasted to his flock of admirers. “I will grow myself so tall that I should like to wade in the ocean, I imagine. Not along the shores, mind you, but further out in the deep end.” These pronouncements often would be greeted by gasps of breath and the quiet, warbling sounds of admiration, and Digory Schmidt would graciously condescend to offer warm, benevolent smiles to his emulators. It is known that this incredible young man lived in a small, industrious town built just beyond the shores of the southern sea. The buildings of the town were made of mortar and many outsiders have made the jape that the inhabitants were constructed likewise. This was the environment into which Digory was born, but the consensus of the parliament of the third grade was that he would soon grow himself too large to remain within the township’s limits. One day he would need to find himself a larger pair of shoes, and the town’s cobbler had not been trained in
the art of shoeing giants. It would seem that there was not enough skin in Digory’s small town to cover the bones of his aspirations. One might very well imagine that Digory was greatly dismayed when one day his bones informed him that they had lost all desire to keep stretching. “We will sleep now, if you don’t mind so much. Be a good fellow and wake us in forty years or so. We’ve been scheduled for an exercise in shrinking that we just can’t miss.” With this pronouncement, Digory’s bones gave one last sigh of a stretch and promptly began snoring. Despite his best attempts to reanimate them, nothing that Digory could do would wake his body’s timbers from their slumber, and for some time afterwards Digory felt greatly depressed. I will never wade through the Atlantic after all, he thought glumly. I’ll never do much of anything. I will never leave this tiny town. For some time Digory Schmidt soaked his skin in a solution of despondency and mourned for the death of his dreams. His run as town spectacle had come to an abrupt end, and he was forced to take a night job down at the local box factory, earning his living as a man of the working class. On his first day at the box factory, Digory was assigned to the foreman in Zone 3 of the factory floor. “We stack boxes here, son,” he grunted past the dancing tips of his moustache. “We stack them in rows 5 feet tall and 8 feet long and 3 feet wide. Clock in at 10 p.m., clock out at 6 a.m. You’ll have a 20-minute lunch break at 2, but it’s on your head if you’re more than 30 seconds late. I’m a box man, son, and I’ll not have some upstart whelp upsetting my quota.” Digory soon found that his 20-minute lunch break would become his one solace as a working man. On his first shift, just as the clock ticked past 2 a.m., Digory took his powder blue lunch pail to the solitary window of the factory floor, leaned against a corroded steel support, his body parallel with the tear-streaked surface of the dirty glass, and stared out into the night sky as he ate his gruel of grain. The first night turned into another and a week turned into a weary month. “Clock in at 10 p.m., clock out at 6 a.m.” This pattern went on for several years, and eventually Digory began to forget all about any notions of growing or leaving town. The time came when Digory stopped taking his lunch break by the factory window, and eventually he ceased from eating grain at all.
Living Waters Review
“Meat is the sustenance of a man,” his foreman informed him constantly. “Meat and potatoes will make a man grow thick and healthy.” And so it was that Digory began taking a cut of meat with his daily meal. Eventually he tried one of these potatoes as well, and although he decided that they were wretched things, he determined that it was necessary for a man of the small town to grow “thick and healthy,” just as his foreman asserted. For Digory, the days began to slide by with hardly any sign to mark their coming or going, and eight years passed in which Digory saw the light of day only on a handful of occasions. He was well on his way to being well on his way (as the townspeople liked to say about their posterity), when something happened to Digory Schmidt that his foreman, the townspeople, nor even himself could have expected or foreseen. On a night that was like every other night, Digory was found diligently at his post, stacking his boxes 5 feet tall and 8 feet long and 3 feet wide. He stacked and he stacked and he took his lunch break at 2 a.m. as was his custom. However, on his way back to his station in Zone 3, a poorly positioned box fell from the very top of a stack and knocked Digory to the ground, breaking his right leg in the process. The bone in his leg was greatly distressed about being woken from sleep and protested loudly about the inconvenience. “It shall take me a full six weeks to fall back asleep,” his shin bone moaned, “and I shan’t go quietly either.” True to its word, Digory’s leg took all of six weeks to finally begin snoring with its brothers again. In the meantime, the leg bone seemed to take an almost cruel pleasure in tossing and turning on its bed of muscle, sending impulses of annoyance racing up the bedposts of his nerves. The inconvenience of being broken caused Digory to miss many days of work and fall dreadfully behind quota on box-stacking. As he lay in his bed of feathers with his leg all wrapped in plaster, Digory could almost visualize his red-faced foreman wagging his finger at him. “Quota, quota, quota,” he would growl, jowls quivering in fervor. But in the solitude of his recovery, memories of the time clock and the punch card began to fade like a morning mist from Digory’s mind. As his leg began to mend, he became accustomed to taking long walks out beyond his cottage on the sandy paths that wound circuitous paths away from his doorstep.
At first, Digory would only walk at night as he was not acclimated to the glow of the sun, but one morning he dreadfully overslept his alarm clock and woke to find pale, cream-colored beams of light casually dancing about his room. It took him a full two hours before he could finally keep his eyes open without squinting severely, but as he dressed he said to himself, “I shall see the world once more.” From his front door he began to walk, at first with a limp, but after a time the pain in his leg began to subside, so he laid aside his walking stick and strode along the distantly remembered paths of his childhood. After several mornings of taking his daily constitutional in this fashion, Digory finally gathered the strength to walk all the way to the shore of the sea. As he sat with his ankle bones submerged in the sand he looked out wistfully at the far blue expanse and remembered how, as a child, he had boasted of walking out far beyond the surf. I was going to grow bigger than this ocean. I would have stood in the middle and waved goodbye to all my little friends back on the shore. I could have been like Columbus or Magellan and have been the first giant to discover what ever lands lie beyond that line on the horizon. Curse these lazy bones! The only response Digory got from his “lazy bones” was a sigh, a shuffle, and a prompt snore that emanated from his right shin. His leg had finally healed. I used to be so good at growing things, Digory thought as he stood to begin the trek back to his home. With a last look back at the white-capped sea, a breath of an idea entered his mind. Perhaps we only grow as large as the world inside of us. The next morning, when Digory awoke, his first order of business was to march straight into his foreman’s office and hand in his resignation. “I have had quite enough of stacking boxes,” Digory Schmidt informed him. “I will be leaving town on the morrow, and I mean not to return.” Word of Digory’s plans for departure quickly spread through the box factory and spilled out of the solitary window, opaque with the grime of industry, and into the town beyond. “Surely he doesn’t mean it,” one of his coworkers exclaimed. “He seems too industrious to leave.” An elderly lady from the small town also spoke up. “Someone must talk some sense into that boy. He cannot be in his right mind.” The pastor of the only church in town went as far as
Short Story 49
Short Story 50
to pay a visit to Digory’s cottage, piously attempting to persuade him from his error. Unfortunately, the pastor had the misfortune to call while Digory was out on his daily walk and left a sternly worded admonition in his door as a consolation. We will add his name to the prayer list, he thought reassuringly, as he turned his back on the cottage door. The following morning the time for Digory’s departure came, and the entire town emptied out into the streets to see the spectacle of The Leaving. A Leaving was such an unprecedented event that even a few of the nocturnal box stackers braved the harsh morning light to see if Digory would truly follow through on his boast. As he assembled the last of his few possessions, Digory glanced out of his window and observed, with a smile, the hundreds of townsfolk that lined the path between his doorway and the overgrown footpath that led invariably north. They were all wide eyes and open mouths as he pulled back the door twenty minutes later and stepped out of his home. Digory stood there for a moment and looked kindly into each of their faces. They would not understand his leaving. They would never grasp what he had come to realize that day on the beach as he stared out into infinity. Perhaps I can still become a giant. It may just be that our world continues to grow within ourselves. With a touch of sadness Digory thought, they will never know just how big this world can be. “Why do you leave?” a voice squeaked as Digory stepped down from his porch. All he could do was smile as he passed the tow-headed girl who asked. She would never understand the answer. “Quota, quota, you’ll miss your quo...” Digory walked past his old foreman with a grin. I wouldn’t waste my breath trying to explain. “Repent and turn back from this foolishness.” “Young man, you must think of your future. You must stay and grow thick and healthy.” Digory passed them one after another, offering them nothing but smiles in parting. Step after step brought him further from his doorstep and finally only one townsperson separated him from whatever lay north of the outer skirts of the town, blowing and whipping around the legs of the outriders of society. “Where are you going?” the last voice asked. Digory paused and turned to look into the expectant
faces of the crowd that had followed. “Forth,” he chuckled. “To find room for my shoulders and space for my soul. I shall leave and grow from within, out and up.” As he expected, all he received in response were furrowed brows and a hundred sets of eyes, lost in confusion. They will not follow. Digory shouldered his pack and turned to the path. Beyond the whitewashed mortar walls of the town lay the wide world, virile and verdant. Her arms opened before him and met the burnished blue of the sky in alluring embrace. Into the forest of the wild, Digory stepped. He was quickly lost from the eyes of the town in a thicket of pines and willows and almost as quickly, he was forgotten. Digory’s cottage soon was broken down into material for the box factory, and its foreman found another suitable lad to stack Digory’s boxes even higher than before. The memory of Digory Schmidt’s Leaving fragmented over the years until finally the years turned memory into legend and legend swirled into the dark ghosts of myth. Many years later, a traveler from the far north came into town with a strange tale that sensationalized the local folk. On his journey south, the man came across a hermit on the road. As the day was spent and the road was long, the traveler accepted the hermit’s invitation to dine with him. Together, the two men walked a small distance off of the main path and shortly came across a giant live oak tree, surrounded by a field of golden grain. The traveler followed the hermit to a small clearing at the base of the tree and that evening the two dined on a meal of grain, baked into bread over a carefully tended fire. Later, as the traveler laid his pack down to sleep, the hermit stood and crossed over to the live oak tree with quiet steps. He lifted a flap of deer skin and strode inside the trunk, disappearing from sight. In the morning, when the traveler called out to his host to wish him goodbye, there was no trace of man, fire, or deer skin flap. The traveler circled the tree looking for any sign of entrance, but he could find nothing but tree roots, twisting down into the earth. When the man turned south to the path again, a gust of wind blew through the limbs of the tree, and with a thankful sigh, the arms, gnarled and creased with age, reached their bony twigs up towards the sky in praise and, with an exhalation of contentment, stretched an inch upward.
Living Waters Review
Brackish Waters Kate Lawson
I was born onto the dill fields and the prairies And raised to stomp leaves and race down snowy hills I was taught how to love the once clear Fox River And how to manage under blankets of sleepy stratus clouds. My breathing matches the rhythm of the crickets and the cicadas And the hostas and corn fields tell me I’m home. I was captivated by the oak forests that are free of bear And moose and alligators and scorpions and snakes My feet almost leave the soil as I run parallel to the deer, Despite their ticks and frightened eyes. I’ve learned to cultivate this land and this land holds my heritage, But this land lacks certain minerals I need. I fell in love with the Fox River and fell in love again on it, Then tried to untangle myself in the carp muddied waters of Lake Michigan. But nothing washes me clean like the arms of the ocean Or feeds my spirit like the salt of the sea. Now even if I tried to rid the brine from my veins I fear I’d no longer be me.
Bench and Tree by Lamplight Connor Dealy
Living Waters Review
Choices Joybeth Pagan
nilda sits on a bench in a park with a book. The protective trees create a cocoon that hides her from the world. Sunlight tries to grab her attention by painting her hair with different shades of gold, and the wind plays with her hair in an unsuccessful attempt to distract her. Flowers in hues of red and blue… I don’t like blue. Why don’t I like blue? Birds chirp and sing off key, speaking to each other, curious as to why this girl is sitting here. I wonder why they are singing off key. She takes a deep breath. I wonder what made me come here today. Closing her book, she stands up and decides to lie down on the green grass. Looking up, she sees the blue sky with a myriad of clouds all with different shapes and sizes. One of the clouds reminds her of a car… A car, beer, flashing lights, blood, smoke. She flinches away from the memory and shuts her eyes. Shadows dance behind her eyes, but Anilda ignores them, not willing to try to decipher what they mean. She knows better than to dilly-dally her time away. She shouldn’t have waited for him. But that’s what they had done all the time, waiting for each other. She had a long list of things that needed to get done, but she remained exactly where she was. Simply waiting. A shadow slowly intrudes into her little world. Sensing the presence, she looks up and only sees an outline of a body. Tall enough that she must tilt her head back to focus on his face. I know you… She remains silent and tries to place the shadow and where she has seen him before. “Do you have the time?” he asks kindly. “The time? Sure.” Anilda reaches for her bag and is
alarmed. The bag and her phone are missing. Startled, she sits upright and looks around. Frantically, she looks left and right and begins to stand up already thinking about all the places she’s been that day. The man says, “You know, you should really pay closer attention to your surroundings.” Well, he had to be a jerk, since he’s so good looking. Honestly, a nice guy would have volunteered to help a girl find the bag. Not stand there and criticize. Men… Suddenly, the guy has her bag and is handing it back to her. Outraged, she replies, “Did you try to steal my purse?” Shrugging, not bothered by her outburst, he answers, “If I had tried, I would have succeeded. You were so caught up with your own thoughts, you didn’t even notice me taking it from right under your nose.” Standing abruptly, Anilda snatches the purse from his hand, picks up her book and starts to leave. He catches up to her quickly with long strides. “You don’t have to get all angry. It was just a simple lesson for you to learn and help you break that bad habit of yours, darling.” She picks up her pace in an effort to lose him. “Well, that’s very judgmental. How do you know it’s a habit?” “Because I know you, Anilda, and I know your habits,” he replies gently and lovingly. She stops, and turns around. “Have I really seen you before? You shouldn’t play those kinds of jokes on people you don’t know. Tell me where we’ve met before.” Putting his hands in the pockets of his blue jeans, he smiles and looks down at her. “Of course we’ve meet before. But this is the new game you’ve invented, so I’ll play along.” He continues walking, leaving her to decide whether to follow or not. Anilda’s curiosity won’t allow her to let this mystery go, and so she follows him deeper into the park. By the time she has made her choice, he is already heading deeper into the foliage of the trees. Breathlessly she cries, “Hey, wait up. Where are you going?” Not stopping, he replies over his shoulder, “Come and see, Miss Amnesiac.” She hurriedly picks up her pace and ends up falling straight into him. That’s weird, he smells like beer… “You need to pay more attention to your surroundings,” he says, and wraps his arms around her waist. She avoids looking up, not wanting him to see her red checks. She mumbles, “Sorry, you were just going too fast.
Short Story 53
Short Story 54
I was just trying to catch up.” Leaning down, he kisses the top of her head “That’s okay, love, we’re here.” And he suddenly lets go, leaving her staring after him as he moves toward the clearing. “Come on, you’ll love this place. I found it a few minutes before I was supposed to meet you.” He laughs. “Isn’t that fortuitous?” Anilda follows after him, bemused, until she sees what he sees. Trees surround the space, hiding them from the world, with splashes of color peeking in. “Amazing, isn’t it? What God does and how He blesses us with these quiet places? I’m so glad we decided to do this.” He looks down at her with a smile that slowly dims. “What’s wrong, Anilda? Don’t you like this place? I thought the trees and flowers would be soothing.” He has blue eyes…a car…a blue car… Flinching, she shies away from that thought. “Thank you for showing me… but I honestly don’t know why you think you know me so well…” “At some point you’ll understand,” he replies. “This is just a preview, if you will.” “A preview? A preview of what? You still haven’t told me your name, even though you know mine. How do you know mine?” He laughs, his sweet blue eyes shining. “Always with a million questions. What do you think I mean, love?” He ruffles Anilda’s hair. “I don’t get it,” she says. “When did we agree to meet?” He stops her question with a gentle kiss, and then hugs her close. “I’ll always be here if you need me. I’ll always wait for you, even if you think you don’t remember.” *** She is in a dark place, heavy with gravity. She hears his voice calling sweetly and softly, yet she can’t find who is speaking. “I see you. Can you see me, love?” “No…where are you?” “Close by.” “Why can’t I see you?” He replies somberly, “You don’t want to see yet.” Puzzled by his tone, she replies, “Yes I do, but you are hiding from me.” “I am closer than you think,” he whispers softly into her ear. Anilda turns around joyfully to catch a glimpse of him, but she isn’t fast enough. She begins to pout.
“Don’t make that face, love. This is just fun and games.” “But I want to see you. Why won’t you let me see you?” “That would be cheating.” “I don’t care what the rules are. I want to see you.” He laughs. It seemed like he was always laughing at her. “No,” he says, “never at you. You make me so happy, I just can’t help it.” “You scare me sometimes.” “Why?” Shaking her head, Anilda remains silent. Blood, smoke, a blue car, a meeting… We were supposed to meet… Startling her from her thoughts, he says, “Come on, chiquitita, you can tell me anything.” “What does ‘chiquitita’ mean?” she asks. He winks. “That’s for me to know and for you to find out.” Rolling her eyes, she replies, “You’re just being contradictory.” “If everything is handed to you, you wouldn’t appreciate it, duska.” “I would appreciate anything that came from you,” she blurts out, and instantly regrets making that confession. He says softly, “I like knowing that I’m special to you.” Mumbling under her breath, she says, “Isn’t that obvious?” Suddenly, she feels his breath on her lips as he says, “No, it’s not. You think it is, but you hide yourself really well.” “I…” “Yes?” “You make me nervous.” “I like making you nervous,” he says. “Keeps life interesting. Wouldn’t you say, chéri?” Ding, Ding, Ding. A familiar, annoying sound begins to come from all different directions. Like the sound a car makes when the door is left open too long. He sighs and begins to move away from her. “Well, I guess our time is up.” Panicking, she grabs his arms. “You have to let go now, chiquitita,” he says softly. “No, I don’t want to go. Please don’t make me.” “We can’t stay here. And besides, this isn’t real.” “Yes it is.” “How do you know for sure, querida?” He laughs again. “You haven’t even seen me.” He laughs again. “I know you’re real, because of this.” Anilda rises up on
Living Waters Review
her tippy toes, and she kisses him. *** “I hate you! I can’t believe you would do something like that. You just let it happen. Well, you can’t fix this now. It’s all gone wrong and now you have to live with the consequences. Why would you do something like that? Where are you? Why don’t you show up? I never knew cowardice was part of your repertoire. Was it all a joke to you? Well, if that’s the case, I thank you for the lesson. I won’t make the same mistake twice. So stay hidden. Stay away, if you like, because if you come my way, you won’t survive the hate I have for you.” Softly, a voice interrupts her, “Are you finished?” Rigidly, she turns. “Well, well, well. Look who decided to show up. Are you going to stay this time? Or are you going to walk away?” Grabbing her by the arms, he stares down at her. His ice-blue eyes and her fire-green eyes collide. He asks, “Would you have changed anything? Even at the cost of changing the person you are right now?” She yells, “What does that have to do with anything?” “Just answer the question.” He gives her a little shake. “Never mind, you just gave me the answer.” He turns away from her. “Your experiences create you. Without what happened, you would have become a stuck-up airhead. You wouldn’t have cared about the world or me. So, I decided to modify that.” “Modify? You decided to modify? Who do you think you are?” “The result is the same.” “Yeah, because you didn’t give me any choice.” *** “Wake up! Come on, Anilda, stop playing with me and open your eyes.” Everything hurts…why does everything hurt? What is that coppery taste in my mouth? That doesn’t taste good. I don’t understand why everything hurts… She doesn’t realize she’s been voicing her thoughts, until Alexei responds, “I know everything hurts, but we’re going to fix it. I promise. I won’t let anything happen to you. Can you tell me where you hurt, specifically?” Turning away from him and flinching, she responds, “My head hurts a lot.” She tries to rub her head, but he intercepts her. “No, don’t do that. You’ll just make it worse.”
She still can’t open her eyes. “What happened?” “We were in an accident. Do you remember where we were?” She doesn’t answer. “Anilda, I need you to try to remember, and stay with me. Okay?” “I remember… We were at a party…” “That’s right. Can you remember anything else?” “I was so mad at you, Alexei.” He asks nervously, “Why do you say that?” The ambulance siren gets louder, and louder, and louder. *** A girl on life support is on a bed. Two nurses watch over her, making sure the machines are in working order. “I think it’s cruel that she has to be kept like this.” “I don’t know,” the other nurse says, “if I’d have the strength to pull the plug if it were one of my family members.” “It’s just prolonging the inevitable.” “You don’t know that. She might come out of it.” “Get real. She’s been in a coma for a month. It would take a miracle to get her out of the maze she’s in.” Their superior’s voice interrupts the conversation. “Well, that’s not your business.” Both nurses straighten and become pale. The younger one says, “I…” The superior interrupts her. “You’re off duty. You’re free to go. Have a good night. I’ll finish up.” The two nurses exit the room, avoiding eye contact as they leave. The head intern is left alone with the patient. He’s tall with wide shoulders. His hair, typically cut close to his head, is longer than usual and a bit messy. He scans his patient’s file, and then carefully checks the machines, making sure the nurses didn’t miss anything. “Alone at last, Anilda. You’re looking better, but I wish you’d wake up.” He sits on the bed, and gently looks down at the girl. The bruises have started to heal. “Don’t believe what the bad voices say. You’re going to come out of this coma. You just wait and see.” He begins to stroke her long golden hair. “Just keep resting. That’s what your body needs right now. You had a pretty bad accident…”
Short Story 55
Short Story 56
He is unable to finish because his colleague interrupts him. “Why do you talk to her?” “I don’t know. I guess I believe those theories that say that people can still hear you, even when they’ve retreated into their minds.” “Alexei…I think you need to start coming to terms that she…” “Don’t say it! She’ll come out of it. Anilda is not going to die.” “I’m sorry, Alexei. I know she was not just a patient.” “That’s right. She’s everything to me.” Nodding sadly, his colleague leaves quietly. Alexei continues to talk to his patient. “Don’t you find it funny, when you don’t want company, you’re suffocated by them? Then when you do want company, no one’s around.” He laughs sadly. “I know you can hear me, Anilda. You need to come back soon. Everything will be fine. I’ll make everything alright.” He strokes her hair one last time, and leans down to kiss her forehead. “I’ll see you tomorrow, querida.” Staggering, but now very sober, he quietly leaves the room. He does not notice that the hand he’d been holding had opened, and closed.
Living Waters Review
Wonderful Woman Erika Kolenz
I find her outside, Her hair like a flame, Golden embers Licking her face As the wind blows In the crisp fall air. Her eyes, A cool liquid emerald. Flecks of gold and brown Shine inside them while rays of sunlight Kiss her face. Her hands, soft and smooth, Are covered with earthy brown soil. Rubbing it between her fingers, It falls into a terracotta pot. She arranges marigolds and chrysanthemums, Fiery oranges, reds, and yellows. She stands up, brushing the earth from her hands. Her silhouette, cast from the sun, Is small and sleek on the lush green ground. Walking over, She smiles two perfect rows of white teeth. Enfolded in her embrace, I can smell the earthy musk of wet soil. She leads me over to her project. Tenderly caring for each As if they were her children. I see a perfect mother of both kinds of life.
4 and Â½ Abby Beard
Living Waters Review
Homeland Awakening Gaettane Armand
Time for school. Dé bus already left.
You feelin sick?
Levé levé levé.
Ooooh your stomach hurt? Podyab, I have something for that.
You not sick, der is nothing wrong.
Pi ga’ou kite’l vin fret.
Levé levé levé.
Levé levé. It’s hot now, come eat now.
It is Saturday morning and time to clean. Levé levé levé.
Oh you tired? That’s nice.
Uhnnn, you thought ou tà pral rét koushé?
No, levé levé.
I don’t have time today for that.
I don’t give if you sleepy.
On Sunday we go to church.
You see me, I had to wake up every morning.
Sleeping in? Oh oh!
5 o’clock in the morning, I go to school.
Oh no papa. No sir.
I walked from Delmas to Rue des Miracles
every single morning. Now you tired poské it’s 8:30?
Uhnn, you still tired?
Ah, levé levé levé.
Ah, please. Levé levé levé… Get Up. Get Up. Get Up.
Reflections in the Pond Jenna Herrick
Short Story 60
he sun touched the tallest tree on the horizon, balancing itself on the high tip of the pine, glowing like an angel on the Christmas tree. The grass rolled out in a velvet blanket below the sky, the water of the little pond in the distance dancing with the setting rays of orange light. He touched her hand gently and wove his fingers in between hers, “Gorgeous sunset, isn’t it?” The woman smiled and nodded in agreement. She breathed in the scent of summer, letting her lungs fill with the lush scene. A tiny electric blue dragonfly flew circles around her head and her eyes followed it until she became dizzy. “Would you like to keep walking around?” The woman gently turned her neck around to look at him, as if just remembering he was there. “Sure.” The couple started a lazy stroll on the path slightly worn by tire marks, observing the sun begin its descent behind the trees, a light breeze setting the wave of flowers into motion. “Did you remember cheese and crackers at the store this morning?” “Oh no, I forgot, Honey, I will pick them up after we get home.” They continued their slow circuit around the pond’s edge, forcing the sun to turn and heat their black-clothed backs. With the sun dipping deeper into the horizon, the woman stopped and so did he. Looking out over the pond the woman resurfaced, “This is a perfect summer afternoon. I wish I could keep
this image in my head forever.” “It will be. Whether you recall it or not, this day will stay safe in your mind. Warming you just like the sun is now.” The woman beamed at him and rested her weary head on his shoulder. He did always have the right thing to say, ever since the day he first met her with a simple “Wow.” A group of frolicking dragonflies soared between the trees and pond, catching their last meal for the day. Their bodies, the neon colors of summer, became a dashing rainbow over the water. She suddenly stuck her neck straight up and said, “I think I forgot to shut off the dryer!” The man let out a soft laugh. “You are worried about forgetting this place but can remember the laundry?” “No, seriously. That could burn down the whole house if the lint catches fire! We have to go back and shut it off! Maybe we can get those crackers on the way too.” She started to pull his hand backwards as she began the trail back, but he stood strong, knowing after many years her desire to run. “Don’t worry. I’ll go check on it and come right back.” The woman focused on the parallel lines of the path, the sun momentarily hidden behind a tree and letting the breeze send through a chill. “Please don’t leave me.” The man didn’t have to look into her eyes to realize she really meant it. “It’s ok, I’m sure the neighbors would call if they saw something wrong with the house. Shall we continue to our destination?” He looked unblinking into her face until she gave in looking up and let him take her hand in lead. The colors of the horizon trickled time away into exaggerated darkness as the couple reached the banking on the hill spotted with cars. Her hand caused his finger tips to turn white at the sight of the many cars. He squeezed back with less force and she loosened her grip reluctantly, trudging up the hill. Spots of black popped up in her eyesight, and she thought she was about to faint when the spots turned into familiar faces. Her mother’s youngest sister walked up grave-faced and embraced her in a gentle hug. She smiled bravely and walked back to her husband and two young children. Several other family members, that the woman recalled either from yesterday’s brunch or years back at a reunion, came up to envelop her in a hug and with words of remorse.
Living Waters Review
“I am so sorry for your loss” said every step-family member and glitters of tears streaked the faces of many distant relatives. The returning blue dragonfly landed on the woman’s right shoulder and stood against her dress like a neon sign in a dark alley. Annoyed, she tried to wave it away. The man still holding tight to the woman’s damp palm pondered that maybe she’d be able to stay in control, until the youngest of her nieces came up and hugged her tightly. “Grandma would be happy everyone is together and hugging for her.” The woman joined the crowd of shining faces slowly dripping salt to the dry ground below as the dragonfly flew away. Moving together the family created a semi-circle around the stone markings, dull gray against the bright setting sun and lively flowers. A few straggling cars pulled up and completed the circle as all eyes fell upon one flat stone. Etched with an angel, it shined like a pearl in the deep sea. The woman’s favorite aunt squeezed next to her and grabbed her empty right hand, whispering, “Isn’t it funny how we get to the age where God stops giving us gifts, and starts taking them away?” Much like anything this particular individual said, it made the woman smile despite herself. A man with a collar of white resting against his black suit took a step into the circle, “I’d like to read a passage today…” The circle was broken up and the family members were all mingling like the dragonflies soaring above. Though the sun had left hours ago, the warmth of love filled the dark field. “Remember the time mom tried to pass heated up cookies from Wal-Mart as homemade?” “Thank goodness we hired a caterer for this event!” Laughs loud and quiet filled the air, mixing with the ticks of crickets and hum of life. Booming laughs from one uncle were rivaled only by the bull frog in the pond. The woman noticed her other half missing and went about to find him. She spotted him by the half-filled earth chamber beneath the angel stone. “Is everything okay?” “Yes. Just saying my goodbyes.” He bent down and played with a handful of sandy dirt before letting it fall over the urn, piece by individual piece. The woman watched him carefully cover the last few inches of exposed ceramic, and swallowed hard. He stood up and rubbed
her left hand in between his, the left over grains of sand exfoliating. “Are you going to say goodbye as well?” The woman looked at him for an answer, but he kept his gaze on their hands. She listened to the voices behind her, laughing and sharing stories of love and kindness, teary eyes replaced by squints of a smile. The woman took a deep breath in and bent down to grab a handful of dirt. The soft mix of sand and dry earth tried to escape the gaps in her fingers but she held tight. Breathing in deeper until she could no longer hold it, her heart and fingers let the combination cover the remains of the hole in the ground. Letting the earth return to where it belonged. Standing up her breath let out and she felt several years of constrained air escape. Intertwining her hands between his, the sandy earth fell away to the ground bit by bit until they both stood motionless over the stone face. The woman let out another satisfying breath and smiled, looking up at the pond face, now reflecting the full moon and dark trees on its surface. The small blue dragonfly found peace on her shoulder and together they watched the colors continuously dance on the water.
Short Story 61
Pale Faces Romina Barrientos, Inspired by â€œSidewalks of New Yorkâ€? By John R. Grabach
The gray tall skies With fake concrete keep Getting higher, Hiding the light from the sun Rising at the East. The streets full of fog Invade the small spaces Between the empty Pale faces, walking fiercely
Around the clock.
62 Children Look for their mothers But the lady with the red lipstick Gives them lollipops Erasing their frown faces. The invisible man In the wheelchair Asks for directions As the people with pale skins Compete for colorful Plastic masterpieces. The old woman Looks at the gray sky While drinking black coffee And smokes her cigar With no one by her side.
Living Waters Review
Children’s Games Andrea Preciado
asper’s hands quivered as he reached out to touch the casket one last time. His transparent skin slid on top of the black gloss and he flinched at the prick of a rose’s thorn. Seeing their dark petals, he turned his head and retreated from the grave site. While Jasper walked past the gathered crowd’s edge, a young woman timidly scurried toward him and whispered, “Grandfather, the service isn’t ov—” He interrupted calmly, “I know, Sally. I’ve been to many of these before.” Jasper continued to walk away and dropped his hands in his graphite-grey overcoat. “Go pay your respects, Sally. It will make you feel better later.” Sally hesitated to follow Jasper, then dropped her eyes and shuffled back to the black clot of mourners. The coffin was lowered into the sandy dirt and was powdered by fistfuls of earth. A pale pastor stood behind the double headstone: Centelli; Elizabeth Zoe 1935–2003 Jasper Arnold 1933– *** A tiny pair of hands emerged behind an adjacent tombstone, followed by a pile of brown wavy hair that ascended behind the marker’s arch. He looked with curiosity away from the service and pattered among the headstones, tapping them with intention as he labeled each one “duck.” He approached an ivory crypt; before passing it he smacked its corner and yelled “goose!” and raced upon the silent ground. When the boy reached the row’s end, he noticed Jasper walking by himself among the graves. The gravel crunched like rice crispies under his tiny dress shoes as he pursued Jasper with a gleeful smile. Jasper stopped to rest on a memorial bench under the shade of a tree. When the boy reached the man’s knee, he drummed on his leg and asked, “Grampa, what you doing? Why you all the way over here?” Jasper removed his black fedora hat and put it on the other knee. “Well, I was trying to spend some time on my own. Did Sally tell you to follow me again, Ethan?” Ethan replied, “Nope.”
“Ah.” Jasper was relieved. “Then why aren’t you over with everyone else? They’re probably looking for you.” “But they’re no fun, Grampa. Everybody’s sad and mad over there.” Jasper stared at the silent group and sighed. “Nonetheless, you need to go back to your sister, Ethan. This is no place to play.” Ethan started hopping and held onto his grandfather’s leg. “But I wanna go on an adventure. You promised we’d go on an adventure today, remember?” But that was before Wednesday night. “Listen, Ethan. We’ll have to go on that adventure some other time. Not today.” He picked up his hat and rested it over his brow. “Go back to your sister.” The old man crossed his arms and slouched against the chilled tree bark. Ethan took off running toward the group and stopped when he noticed that the door to a large stone crypt in the corner of the graveyard was open. He began to rush over with excitement and yelled, “Hey Grampa, look at this!” The old man didn’t stir. Trapped in his thoughts from the last few days, he wondered about what would happen to him now that his wife was murdered. He couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt from his mind. I shouldn’t have insisted on taking the long way around the building. His face grew pale under his brim as he realized that he was now alone. Ethan halted when he stood in front of the unsealed doorway. Then he slowly approached the open door and looked inside. “Hello-o?” His voice echoed in the dismal room. He snuck into the main space and walked towards the stained glass window on the back wall. Climbing onto the long wooden chest below it, he traced the edges of the lower pieces with his fingertip. A pair of footsteps echoed into the room. The door creaked while it nearly swung closed. He excitedly whispered. “Isn’t it pretty, Grampa?” There was no response. “Grampa?” He turned around to face the door. Before he could identify the feet behind him, a cold pair of hands gripped his sides, lifted him into the air, and threw him into the dusty chest. Ethan screamed and called out for his grandfather, but no one from the funeral service could hear him. *** The expiring sunlight faded as Sally retreated to the black limousine. Her mother continued to stare at the headstone. The chauffeur came and lightly rested his hand upon the woman’s shoulder. He muttered, “It’s time to go,
Short Story 63
Short Story 64
Miss,” and walked her to the open door. Their wearied feet churned the gravel with fatigue as the motor ominously whirred in the graveyard’s suffocating silence. As the woman pulled her dusty feet into the limousine, Sally asked, “Mother, where’s Grandpa and Ethan?” The door clapped closed. The chauffeur’s pace could be heard over the motor’s lull. Sally’s mother stared at the floor. “Hm?” She slowly lifted her eyes. “What did you ask, Sally?” “I was asking about Grandpa and Ethan,” she said, “where are they? Did they already leave for the memorial service?” “Oh,” Abigail pondered. “I suppose Grandpa must have already left with Walter.” The limousine pulled away and began to crush the settling stones. Her eyes were glazed as she looked at the interior of the backseat; they are alone in the vehicle. “Sally, where’s Ethan?” “I just asked you that, Mother. Did Uncle Daniel take him when he and Aunt Marci left to go help set up for tonight?” Abigail searched her thoughts “N-no, I don’t think so.” She squirmed in her seat; she tried to support her head while her elbows dug into her lap. She moaned, “I hardly remember anything from today, Sally. Don’t ask me any more questions.” “But where’s E—” “Sally.” Abigail lifted her hand in warning. “That’s enough.” Abigail wiped away the weepy lines of mascara for the twentieth time. “I’m sure he must be with somebody. Maybe he’s with Grandpa. They always have their little ‘adventures’ on Saturdays.” The limousine rumbled out of the cemetery. The sound of the gravel rustled Jasper from his halfslumbering thoughts of grief. He saw the oblong modern carriage passing under the gate’s archway in the twilight. Before he could muster strength to move or speak, the tail lights disappeared from sight. Jasper was frozen in shock; he was overlooked and forgotten by everyone. Ethan had not come to say goodbye. Not even Sally or Abigail had come over to pester him. When did the world become so cold, Lizzy? I wish I was buried with you, then it wouldn’t matter if they forgot about us. Oh my Lizzy, why can’t I just lie next to you one last time? Why didn’t that coward just kill me too? The old man’s worn jaw trembled as he slowly lifted himself from the cold ground. He looked toward where
Ethan last ran off, and he sighed, seeing only a pair of maintenance men raking leaves and preparing a grave site for a future burial. He began to venture towards the gate and pulled his overcoat against his sore sides. When the whizzing of cars met his ears on the main street, he walked up a few blocks to a local Italian restaurant. It was Lizzy’s favorite place to go on their anniversary. A pear-shaped Italian with greying whiskers greeted him warmly. “Jasper, my friend, it’s good to see you. How is your wife?” Jasper tried to speak without shaking. “She’s dead, Tony.” His eyes were grey and distant as he looked blankly at the manager’s shoes. “We just buried her today.” “God have mercy.” Tony clasped his hands in shock. “Jasper, Jasper, I’m so sorry. If there’s anything I can do for you, you just tell Tony, yes? Come let me cook you something.” He placed a warm hand on Jasper’s shoulder and escorted him from the entryway toward the front bar. “Thank you, Tony.” He slumped onto a bar stool and leaned his forearms on the counter. “I need to make a phone call. They left me there, Tony. Even my daughter and my grandkids forgot I was still there and drove off without me.” Tony set the portable phone and charger on the counter. “You mean you’ve been over there, all alone, this whole time?” Tony placed a drink on the table. “Jasper, why didn’t you come sooner?” The old man swallowed the bitter spirits and grimaced. “I guess I fell asleep, or got so lost in my thoughts that I thought this whole thing was a nightmare from hell.” He put his glass down and reached for the phone to call his daughter. Tony lowered his head and looked out at the customers in the back section of the restaurant. “You take care of yourself, my friend.” He left to check on tables with a halffilled water pitcher. Jasper dialed Abigail’s cell phone and waited for her to pick up. A dull roar preceded her voice. “Hello?” “Abigail, where did you go?” “Dad? I’m at the memorial service like everyone else. Aren’t you?” He huffed. “Would I be calling if I were there, Abigail?” “Then where are you? Aren’t you with Ethan?” “No, Abigail, I’m not. He must be with Walter.” His voice began to grow hard. “You left me alone in the cem-
Living Waters Review
etery!” “What! How?” Dinner sounds clinked behind her voice. “Why didn’t you call me on that mobile phone I bought you?” “Why would I use that infernal… Oh, never mind. Come and pick me up from Tony’s. I want to go home. I’ve had enough misery for one day.” “Dad, I am so sorry. I’ll send the limo to pick you up right now. I’m so sorry, Dad.” “Hmph. Sorry. Yeah, everyone’s sorry.” Tony returned with a plate of stuffed shells. He looked Jasper in the eye and silently demanded that he eat something. Jasper nodded, and said to his daughter, “Send the limo over in thirty minutes. Tony won’t let me leave without dinner.” Jasper hung up the phone and stared at the steaming pasta. Giving up on resistance, he unrolled the silverware that was nearby and began to dissect the sweet starch. *** When daylight had consumed the graveyard’s shadows, a dented white vehicle puttered along the gravel to the gate. Opaque headlights flickered on as the truck passed through the gate and turned toward the train station. The bed of the truck held shovels, tools, and a large trunk that was tied down and partially covered by a grey tarp. An hour later, a black Jaguar with tinted windows drove past the gate with its flashers on. The driver got out and walked back to lock the iron gate with a long rusted chain. After testing the bound gate a few times, he hopped back into his car, turned off the flashers and drove away. *** Ethan continued to cry as he realized that he was trapped in the trunk and being moved to another location. Unlike the adventures he and his grandfather had experienced, he was now in serious danger. He tried to be brave while he tumbled about in the musty box. He kicked at the locked lid and beat his hands against the sides. He called out for his grandfather, but the street noises camouflaged his cries while the vehicle entered heavy traffic. The two men in the truck discussed what to do about the boy. The driver asked his passenger. “Did he see the passageway?” The silhouette shook his head. “Nah, he was too busy
studying the stained glass on the wall.” The driver smirked. “Well, at least that worked in your favor. Next time keep that door closed before we attract real suspicion.” The second man fired back. “How was I supposed to know that the kid would come walking into our freaking crypt? Huh, Frank? You said that group would be gone in an hour flat!” “Shut up, Marcus.” The driver signaled to turn down a dark dirt road. “We’re stuck with that whiny kid for now, okay?” Marcus cursed under his breath. “Watch it, man.” Frank scolded. “We’re both in deep, and we’re both gonna get out.” Frank lowered the lights on the truck. The dim glow looked like a haze on the park’s faded wooden sign. “Let’s find a good place to dump the kid.” The truck rolled along the twisting roads for half an hour until they reached the back of the park that opened into wild forest. The truck pulled into the edge of a steep ditch and grew quiet. Squeaks arose from the door hinges as the two men dismounted and walked to the bed of the vehicle. Marcus leaned against the tail light. “So now what? Are we just gonna leave him in the dark forest or something?” Frank climbed into the truck bed and searched the tool boxes with a small flashlight. “Yeah, something like that. Do you have your pocketknife on you?” “Yeah, why?” Marcus held the handle in his left pocket. “Because we might need to cut a few things.” Frank tested the strength of a stretch of rope. Marcus stepped up on the tire to climb into the back of the truck. “We’re not gonna kill the kid, are we?” Frank pulled on his work gloves. “What choice do we have? We can’t risk him blowing the cover for our dig site—we’ve gone too far to screw this up, Marcus.” “Wait, Frank, we can’t do this. It’s wrong.” Frank’s eyes burned furiously in the lunar glow. “Do you want out of the treasure, Marcus?” “No. But I can’t kill a kid, Frank. That’s just messed up.” “We won’t have to. The forest will handle it for us.” Frank untied the chest and slid it between boxes of tools towards the back end, while Ethan whimpered a prayer. A frown flashed across Marcus’ face. “What are you
Short Story 65
Short Story 66
gonna do, Frank?” “We’ll leave the box as far in the woods as we can carry it. Grab your handle.” Marcus started to reach for the handle. Suddenly he pulled out his knife and leapt towards Frank. Frank dodged his first swing, yelling, “You traitor!” He charged Marcus and tackled him to the ground, causing the blade to fall into the grass. Frank claimed the knife first and swung blindly. “Augh!” Marcus groaned, his face gashed and bleeding. The two men tumbled in the dirt while Frank strained to puncture Marcus’ face with a fatal cut. As he swung, Marcus leapt away and Frank punctured his own arm. He bellowed with rage and yanked the knife out, gasping for breath. He pulled on the back of the lowered truck bed for support, hoisted himself up, and banged his head against the corner of the chest. It fell off the edge and crashed upon his head, which silenced him upon the road. Ethan whimpered in pain while Marcus lifted the box back onto the truck. The bleeding man turned and stared down at his partner’s lifeless body. “I didn’t want this to happen. I’m so sorry, man. But you made me do it.” Marcus grabbed Franks’ limp arms and dragged him towards the edge of the forest. There he covered the body with branches, and then stumbled back to the truck. He rested his head on the steering wheel and his thoughts began to race. What have you done, Marcus? Viero is gonna bury you alive in that crypt. You never finished the job. Marcus revived the truck and ventured toward the nearest church. Finishing the job in his own way, he dragged the beaten box to the front door of the sanctuary, released all the locks on the chest, and drove away, trying to hold back his remorseful sobs. After the truck’s engine had faded into the distance, Ethan clambered to his knees and forced the lid open. Bruised and shaken, he stood in the open box clutching a yellowed leather journal and a small wooden jewelry chest. The night was crisp and cold, so the boy sat back down in the box and rubbed his swollen hands together and rocked back and forth, trying to stay warm. An hour passed before the glow of headlights filled the adjacent parking lot. The chauffer turned to face dozing Jasper. “We’re here, sir.” He patted the leather seats to catch Jasper’s attention. “It looks like no one’s here, though.”
The old man pressed the brim of his hat above his eyebrows. “I’m not expecting anyone to be here at this time of night.” He moved toward the door and moaned with each scoot. “Sir?” “Let me out. I need to walk to clear my head. I need to…I don’t know. Just let me out.” As soon as his grandfather’s hat appeared in the headlights, Ethan’s face glowed with excitement. “Grampa! Grampa!” He held his discoveries tightly as he raced across the asphalt. “Grampa! Look at this! Look at this!” Jasper quickly shuffled toward his grandson. “Ethan! What are you doing here? Where’s your mother?” He hugged his grandson’s weary frame. “Are you okay? Where did you get these things?” “I had a scary adventure!” Ethan blurted as tears returned to his face. “You did? Tell Grandpa all about it.” “Well, I was in the little house and then a ghost grabbed me and locked in a box!” “What kind of a box, Ethan?” The boy pointed. “There! In the shadow of the church!” Jasper stared. “Oh my word…” He grabbed Ethan’s arm and escorted him toward the open chest. “Ethan, where did this come from?” “From the little house, Grampa, where the bad ghost grabbed me.” Ethan shook his discoveries. “Look what was inside, Grampa!” “Ghost?” Jasper pondered. “Ethan, let’s go find your mom. She must be worried sick.” Jasper approached the treasure chest, and then carefully closed the lid and hoisted it up. “Come on Ethan, let’s go.” They walked over to the limo, where the driver had already dozed off. Jasper slid the chest into the back seat, smiled, and tapped the chauffer on the shoulder. “Take us home.” “Um, yes sir.” The driver glanced over at the church, and as the limo departed for home, grandfather and grandson fell asleep to the road’s rocking murmur.
Living Waters Review
Wrinkled Presents Amy Smith
Another year walks by,
She’d sit in her room
waving as it saunters on.
with boxes and bows
Momma never said much
stacked so high
on her birthday.
you couldn’t even see her eyes.
“Not a day to remember,
She’d just sit and wait.
Wait for the day when her tired
My feet getting older,
old feet and wrinkled old hands
can’t walk no more.
would relax and smooth out.
My hands getting smaller,
On her very last birthday,
can’t write nothin’.
she left her sitting room early.
Skin lookin’ like a old
Leaving boxes and bows
road map ya’s lost
just as they sat,
in ya closet.
she blew out her candles
and walked up the stairs,
just gimme the cake
the wooden steps
and let me be.”
squeaking, “Happy Birthday” the whole way up.
Salisbury Cathedral Caitlyn Girardi
Living Waters Review
Above the Roar Olivia Anderson
ike a hungry lion’s jaws, the Colosseum rises from the dusty cobblestone street, seeking whom it may devour. Time’s smallpox has eaten away at the arena’s fat slabs of travertine, leaving holes and gouges that stare down at tourists like a hundred dead eyes. But the tourists are distracted and dicker over two-inch tall, plastic gladiators held captive in their legions at the souvenir booth. Across the street is the Forum. It seems to cower from the hungry lion. The ruined remnants of its glory days are distorted with decay. Saturn’s temple, once Rome’s treasury, has been stripped bare of all gold and silver. The Vestal Virgins’ sanctuary has been raped by pillagers and has suffered its secrets to be violated. An altar prepared for Jupiter, the most high of the ancient world, is cold in the sunshine; the hot blood of oxen and sheep and birds has stopped spilling over its slippery surface. The cella, the innermost holy room of the temple, a place that was only open to the priest in his white toga and woolen headdress, is now exposed to public scrutiny. All that is inside are the crumbling stone busts of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. A sculptor’s hand gave these gods ears which cannot hear and eyes which cannot see. Yet blind, deaf gods gave the people freedom to be whoever and whatever they desired. And the mob still roars. The Via Appia takes you from the marble heart of the city into the wilderness. The ancient road winds, twists, turns. The tour bus stops. There is nothing here but trees and an old wall, which the centuries have clothed with vines and wildflowers. Hiding behind some vines is a sign
pointing towards the ingresso to the catacombe S. Sebastiano. The tourists follow the arrow through a narrow opening and enter an open courtyard, overgrown with shrubs, scattered with cracked stone statues. The doves in the treetops whisper secrets to these attentive effigies, which smile back. A tour guide calmly waits in the middle of the scene. She is so still you nearly mistake her for one of the sculptures, but she begins to explain the history of this deserted place with her multilingual, thick-veined hands and broken English. “Come,” she says. “Come, follow me.” Her silver head disappears down smooth steps into Rome’s underworld. You hesitate. The doves are so sweet, the sun so sincere, and the darkness so, so cold. You may be right to hesitate. Maybe you’re better to walk away. But where to?—to the lion caged within the city walls? To the roaring mob? To the cold temples and mocking gods? No, you can only hesitate for a moment. Then you follow the tour guide. And you are in the catacomb. Thirty-nine steps lead tourists down into this cold, damp inferno. A rope railing holds the walls back like a fat man’s belt. Tourists grip the belt tightly, subconsciously afraid that they might fall off of this underground pathway. But when their knuckles brush against the bulging wall, they pull back in terror. The stone belly seems to be expanding, gorging upon centuries of victims and visitors. The flickering light bulbs lining the passage reveal just enough to make these visitors’ hearts pound. Carvings. Inscriptions. Horizontal graves lining the walls. Some short. Some long. Graves stacked from top to bottom. As a child visiting the catacomb, I shrank back from these abrupt flashes of terrifying truth. I gripped my daddy’s hand, and blocked my view with his strong, stable figure. Some of the marble slabs that had sealed the graves were gone, and gave us a clear view into the place where a body had once lain—a body like mine that was now mere dust. I tried to avert my gaze to the ground until the tour guide told us that some graves were beneath the passageway’s floor. I envisioned a dozen Lazarus’ rising from the ground, coming to greet me with icy, skeletal hands. But my own hand was safe and warm in my daddy’s. He gave tender squeezes to reassure me that all was well; he was near. The catacomb of St. Sebastian was once four stories deep, although the bottom levels have crumbled under
Creative Essay 69
Creative Essay 70
the centuries’ weight. Though one of the smallest Roman cemeteries, the underground labyrinth winds and twists for seven miles. Shafts cut out from the soft volcanic rock allow fresh air and sunlight into the underworld. The tunnels are only wide enough for a funeral bier to pass through. The tour guide told us about the first funeral held here—for a young Roman named Sebastian. He had been a part of the powerful legions, battling for power, glory, and world dominion. Rome promoted him to captain of the Praetorian Guard, making him the chief protector of the emperor, Diocletian. But Sebastian’s fighting arm was stilled when he heard the story of a humble carpenter from a little town in Judea. It was the story of a man whom Rome had nailed to a cross for healing the sick, for loving the hated, and for giving hope to the sinner. The carpenter’s crime was peace, but everyone tried to tell the young Sebastian that this Jew had only brought turmoil and uproar to the empire: “Be reasonable, Sebastian. Look at the power of Rome. Listen to the roar of the people. Taste the blood on your sword that made us so great. Smell the terror of the conquered. Feel the gold in your pocket. That’s what’s real, Sebastian. That’s what matters. Forget about the carpenter. He’s dead; we crucified him.” But Sebastian could not forget. He found that his iron sword melted in the light of the Son of God. His polished armor was nothing more than dirty rags now. The truths of his youth and country were shredded like a victim in the lion’s arena; the truths had been shaped to look like marble, but beneath the façade they were no more enduring than morning dew. Sebastian became a criminal that day, guilty of truth. Diocletian, the emperor whom Sebastian had sworn to protect, accused his bodyguard of betrayal. Soldiers, comrades, bound the young Christian to a stake, lacerated his body with arrows, and left him there for dead. This catacomb, the tour guide explained, is Sebastian’s burial place. I could only listen to the story half-heartedly. My squinted eyes darted back and forth between each entrance of the chamber—squinted not because of the brightness, but so that I could be more prepared to snap my eyes shut if any Lazarus happened to pass by. At least Sebastian’s fight had been against real, breathing people, not thousands of silent voices. I averted my squinting to the ceiling where I was sure to find some phantasmal figure taking a wispy,
afternoon stroll through the catacomb. My legs ached from keeping my feet elevated and away from any grasping hands that might sprout from the floor’s cracks. A quick pinch on my arm forced a gasp through my lips. My brother chortled with the gleaming eyes of a troublemaker. My eyebrows almost met my upper lip in a snarling frown, and I made a mental note to kick him later. The tour guide had apparently finished her presentation for that chamber, because we continued through the stygian labyrinth, our feet shuffling like a thousand whispers. Yellow light bulbs introduced a remarkably inviting room to the tourists. Rows of wooden benches led up to a solitary stone altar at the front. The altar’s surface was smooth from generations of tender hands. On top of a blood-red cloth stood a single dove-white candle, tall and thick, held steady by a wooden base. Our movement generated a breeze which caused the candle’s flame to flicker. It came back with new vigor. In a thick, warm accent, the tour guide pointed out the various inscriptions upon the walls. “See these-a palm— what you say in inglese?—Fronds? These-a palm fronds— they symbolize victory.” I studied the palms, trying to understand their relevance in a place of death, but mostly trying to distract myself from the greater matters at hand—namely, my possible demise. My dad asked a question about some writing on a wall. I wished he hadn’t said anything. The fewer questions, the sooner we could all leave. “This-a writing?” asked the guide, pointing to the words “DOMUS PETRI.” Dad nodded. “This was-a put here for santo Peter the day he was martyred. It is said that he is buried in this catacombe.” Her voice became soft and tender as she spoke, full of reverence for the venerated apostle. Her dark eyes reflected the candle’s flame. She reached out her hand to other words on the same wall. “See here?” she said. “This was written the day santo Paul was beheaded, the same day that Peter was crucified… Paul spent his very last-a days in a prison on the far side of the Forum, and then was buried here. Both of their bodies were hidden here from the reign of Emperor Valerian until the reign of Constantine, who was the first emperor to convert to Christianity.” “What was this room used for?” a thickset man asked. “I will-a tell you. But first, sit. Rest.”
Living Waters Review
My family and the other tourists sat gratefully upon the wooden benches. I lingered, wary of touching anything, looking at anything, or unintentionally discovering anything. As a compromise I sat hugging my knees to my chest while leaning against my dad. I was sure he would protect me in the event of a revival of the dead. I pinched my brother for good measure. “Many say that the catacombs were used to hide the early Christians from persecution, but most were really built in the first and second cent’ries after Christianity was made legal. But when santo Sebastiano was killed, there was indeed a terrible time of persecution in Rome. The emperor, Diocletian, tried very, very hard to destroy all minority gods—any gods against-a Rome’s gods. This room was used to worship the God who claim’ to be greater and better than all-a Rome’s gods together.” The tour guide smiled warmly not at us, but at the candle on the altar behind which she stood. Her face was brown and leathery, like most aged Italian women’s skin, but it had never appeared as sun-kissed as it did in the light of that lone flame which gleamed beneath the earth’s surface. Like Moses before the burning bush, the tour guide stepped away from the candle with reverence, and studied the floor as though it were holy ground. She allowed silence to embrace the room, as she looked from face to face, analyzing our expressions, and questioning our hearts. None of us dared to speak. We feared the silence, and yet were strangely in awe. For a moment, I forgot about ghosts and listened to that invisible something that breathed life into the room. I’m not sure I understood the gentle whisper then. I’m not sure that it is something anyone can fully understand until the day dust embraces one’s body like a mother embraces her lost child, and eternity embraces the spirit like a prodigal father embraces his found son. The whisper I heard then has become clearer and louder: “Do you really know Who I AM? Do you understand why these saints chose the I AM in the face of death?” The tour guide ran her palm over a picture etched into the stone wall. “See this-a fish? It is the symbol for the God who was worshiped in this room—the same God for which santo Sebastiano, santo Peter, and santo Paul died. But they knew it was life, not death, into which they passed.” Some of the tourists seemed suddenly uncomfortable in their seats. They broke their gaze with the guide and memorized the tour pamphlets they had picked up in the
airport, and then peered longingly into the dark tunnel they had so recently feared. The guide moved further down along the wall, her fingertips familiar with every crevice. She stopped slowly, savoring the room. “And this,” she whispered, as though she were sharing the location of a priceless treasure with us, “This is the name ‘a their God. It’s in Greek. It says, ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.’” Some of the tourists glanced around at one another in confusion. They had come to see ancient graves, not hear a sermon. But I felt a connection with this place, as though I belonged. I could almost imagine the guide as a near relative, a grandmother. The dust in the tombs was the earthly remains of my brothers and sisters whose souls had already been perfectly reborn in eternity to be with our Father. I was so used to people who hated my God and mocked my faith. All I heard at school was, “Nothing and no one matters but you. Believe whatever makes you happy. Live for you alone.” You. You. You. It was some obscure tribal chant that civilized savages taught their children. They taught us how to dance around the fire of lies without getting burnt. At least, we thought we weren’t getting burnt. But the smoke was so thick, and our blood so hot, we did not even realize that the flames lapped at our souls. But here, in this catacomb, you wasn’t what mattered. We could see the thousands of graves enclosing the cold, breathless dust of past “you’s” whom no one knew and no one remembered. The tour guide continued to speak, “The early Christians use’ this-a room to remember what Jesus Christ had done for them—to remember his-a death on the cross.” Then the old woman took out her worn Bible, took out the message which had condemned the soldier Sebastian, and told us the Good News that had caused so many of the surrounding graves to be filled. The other tourists looked as if they would flee, but they didn’t know the way out. It was too dark beyond this room, too twisted. They were trapped in this sepulcher to be told the way to eternal life. A man in the corner sat silently beside a woman with diamond earrings and two designer-brand kids. He pulled at his polo shirt and pressed shorts, looking at his cellphone every few seconds in anticipation. This man had no use or time for a sermon. His two kids argued amongst themselves, their cultured voices soft with anger. The mother’s eyes flashed like her diamond earrings as she ordered
Creative Essay 71
Creative Essay 72
the kids to be quiet. The father slumped, watched the tour guide blindly, and read the words on the wall without comprehending their meaning. He checked his cellphone again, just in case his service plan extended to Hades. I made an extra effort to show the guide that I was paying attention, and that I already knew the importance of the answers. The family in the back quieted, suddenly aware of the guide’s eyes on them. She smiled; they didn’t. I watched them squirm with a frown, somehow thinking that I could shame them into understanding God’s love which takes away all shame. But as I turned my attention back to the altar’s pulsing heart of wax and fire, shame covered me. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye as the tour guide led us back to the land of the living. Everyone walked with more reverence this time. I tried to decipher the names on some of the tombs to remember them in case I met them in heaven one day, but I couldn’t stop wondering what the names of the tourists around me were. The sky’s piercing eye was hot and blinding when we resurfaced. The air was heavy and thick, not clean and cool like in the catacomb, but it washed over the other tourists like a wave of relief. They smiled while they wandered through the courtyard, watching the silver Lamborghini that buzzed by on the road. Some checked their cellphones for any missed calls after an hour in a no-service zone. Others looked at pamphlets for cafés, argued over how much they had to tip the tour guide, and rubbed sunscreen into their faces as though the dark underworld had made them susceptible. Perhaps it had. The doves sang in poignant whispers above us all.
Living Waters Review
Communion Rachel Bartolotta
Soap and sunlight, pressed and layered into faded sweaters more fragrant than the sweetest incense more holy too pale yellow soft and warmâ€” young skin pressed against, straining, to hear the pitter pat legends from an ancient heart straining to know the mysteries and secrets and truth and answers that will unravel the puzzle of the paradox that the universe had surely whispered withinâ€”in these arms there is a sanctuary. Your chains chime like bells calling me to rise and run the jingles of my harbinger summon me to my sacred place. Hot tea and you sing to me, and the kitchen clock cuts in with tick-tick-tock and the sunlight through lace casts vision on your face, as I sip and taste God in my tea.
The Golden Wind Scott Cotto
“You hear but do not listen… As I act like an arbitrary angel to all the waves That emerge to freed minds.” But I dared to listen, dared to Cry and feed the mind that was produced by golden winds. And from the stone balcony I watched What free minds can dare, and saw Corn and wheat and flash beyond in fields,
Where King Midas became jealous of This golden wind. And there upon the field I saw a king, lost, and with agony. Outstretching his arm and trying and touching The wind. But he fell To and fro, he fell unable to grasp Unable to reach on…unable to be free. And I stood before the wind As it stripped me clean And I was made bare.
Living Waters Review
Mountains Alicia Stamm
Mixed Media 75
Tukta Rachel Bartolotta
Creative Essay 76
he whir of the wheezing old fan stirs up the warm soupy air, giving the thickness motion. Walking becomes wading and bare feet stick to the cool floor and come up again, like pulling jelly stickers off a windowpane. My long skirt trails behind as I walk up the three flights of stairs to my fourth-grade classroom at Prakuhn English School. The small white-walled room appears less cramped once the curtain is pulled off the large windows. I prop the windows open to let in some form of circulation. My classroom does not have the courtesy of a fan. The simple, straight-lined white room with its square white board and three long, white rectangle tables is offset by the wild tapestry of Thailand, which lays sprawled obscenely beyond the window pane. The rich red dirt is host to limestone cliffs that rise like English cathedrals, lavishly draped in lush greenery. They spill over their austere and mighty surfaces, tumbling to earth like strings of pearls. The sky above it is a hazy and thick magenta. Streaked with blues, oranges and lavender, it seems every color was sucked from the earth and saturated here. The stillness is interrupted by the sound of bare feet padding up the sticky linoleum stairs. On the first floor it sounds like soft thumps that gradually get louder and more boisterous with every ascending step. Oat and Boss enter the room first, dancing around in play fight, awakening the sleeping giant of hot heavy air, making it alive with energy. Captun slinks in, his glasses perched sleepily on the edge of his nose, followed by Cream’s sweet smile.
“Hello Teacher!” Pop, with her eyes always squinted closed behind a smile too big for her face, bounds up to hug my waist. Kim’s pudgy form is the last to arrive. He is the sweetest and most sincere child, which often results in him also being a dreamer and a dawdler. “Okay class, please settle down and take your seats! The first one sitting quiet, notebook open to page fourteen, gets to pick our song for the end of the day.” An incentive not taken lightly, the room becomes a frantic struggle for order. Oat sits, hands fo lded on top of his book, beaming up at me, bursting out of his seat with so much order. Boss follows suit. Captun lays his head on the table, Cream looks demurely down, and Pop bounces in her seat to make sure I notice her book is open and ready. Kim sings to himself under his breath, gazing out the window, wide-eyed and oblivious to this silent battle for song jurisdiction. I walk quietly up behind him and open his book to the right page. I tap it gently to gain his attention, with a smile, and walk back to the front of the small room. As the lesson progresses, you can see learning lighting up their eyes, from some blazing fire within them. These are the smartest kids, no, smartest people I have ever met. They are nine years old and are almost fluent in two languages that are phonetically incompatible. They go to school for seven hours and then go to English school for two more hours straight after. They also do math in English, as if the enigmatic language of math wasn’t challenging enough in one’s own tongue. They conjugate sentences and decipher grammar in this sweltering classroom, in a small, broken-down town, a speck on the map of this third-world country, as if one day they will rule it all. And honestly, while watching them, it’s easy to believe they will. The glowing potential of these young and pure souls is invigorating, it makes me want to sing and dance and hug them. It makes me want to promise them the world and hold their hands as they walk up to receive it. Life and hope surround me in this small room. However, outside these walls, Thailand is dead. Around 80,000 women and children have been sold into Thailand’s sex industry since 1990. The prime age for Thai children to be abducted into the lucrative business is twelve to sixteen. Outside these white plaster walls, the populous streets teem with international gentlemen of nefarious character. Tourist
Living Waters Review
hostels, spas, and nightclubs lurk in the dark, luring them in with their dull red glow. It is almost easy to miss these subtle hints of atrocity. It is almost easy to get caught up in the exotic gaiety of The Land of Smiles and not the faded lipstick on faded-faced girls; to only see the quaint tourist shops with elephant printed patungs, and not the barred windows above; to get caught up in the contradicting beauty of nature vs. city and overlook the silk-shirted men with furtive smiles, shepherding consumer and merchandise into darkened doorways. Almost easy, but nearly impossible, because there is a spiritual force here that cannot be ignored. No matter how beguiling this land may be, the atmosphere is thick with tension and devastation. “Teacher! Teacher Racher!” Pop’s voice breaks through my reverie. “Yes, Pop?” “Did I do the word scramble correctly, Teacher?” My eyes scan her workbook page, only spotting a few spelling mistakes. I point them out to her, explaining why ‘i’ goes before ‘e’ except after ‘c’. She hastily corrects herself and I move down the row, stirring the embers of their intellects. The next page of their workbook is hard. It makes me nervous that they will become too frustrated; that they will throw their books shut and fold their arms with a defiant “This is stupid! I will never need to know how to spell ‘xylophone’!” The room remains silent with the exception of pencil scratches, and I forget this isn’t America. Captun leans so close to his paper that his coin necklace hits the table creating an uneven beat. All of my students wear some form of talisman around their neck. On the first day of class, Pop proudly showed me hers, a small golden Buddha sitting within a glass tube. She wears it on a black string around her neck to ward off the evil spirits. Boss wears a coin inscribed with a holy prayer of blessing. Oat bears a collection of images of different monks who reached the exalted state of enlightenment. He wears them with honor. I walk around Krabi and see millions of people and faces with little figures wrapped around their necks, clinking and swaying to and fro as they stir the pad thai, brush the street corners and beat the rugs. They clink when the people lay their faces on the floor below a larger version of the man around their necks. They jingle and jangle, during incense lighting and sacrificing, a constant choir to make up for the
spirit’s silence. Small temples, like elaborate birdhouses, stand brightly arrayed outside every home and shop. Little ceramic bowls of fruit, nuts and drink lay rotting and molding, a sacrifice to appease the spirits’ appetites. Pop told me how her father warned her of evil spirits and ghosts. Spirits are everywhere and it is up to the individual to choose with whom they will affiliate. The small temples, known as spirit houses, host these perplexing presences. When an unsavory person dies, his spirit will either be reincarnated to a lowly creature or trapped in the spirit realm. These trapped spirits, along with spirits of evil, will then haunt and torment those still living, to try and bring them down the wrong path. Providing good spirits with food and lodging invites their protection. As long as food and shelter is provided, these perpetual house guests will remain as guardians. Oat hopes to reach enlightenment one day; then maybe, children will shield themselves with his image tied around their necks with black ribbons and string. I went to the Reclining Buddha Temple the other day and found a monk on the hillside. We patched together some fragments of friendly small talk, using gestures and a mixture of two languages, gauging how much the other knew and understood. His bright orange robes stood out in sharp contrast to the earthy greens and thick browns that surrounded us in that hillside jungle. He said he came up here for the serenity and it was easy to see why. As I gestured, he caught sight of the black cross tattoo, emblazoned boldly along my wrist. “Ah, Christian,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Yes, I am a Christian!” I replied, eager for the chance to engage him in such a compelling topic. The Thai are very open-minded and spiritual people, happy to discuss philosophy and ideas, if only to be amused for a moment. He said, “I know that is the symbol for Jesus.” He seemed very proud of this fact. “Yes, it is the cross; it represents Jesus’ sacrifice for us.” I gestured generously, welcoming him into the theory. “Do you know about Jesus?” The monk tilted his head with mild curiosity. “He was a prophet, I think?” I tried to explain simply that Jesus was actually the son of the only God, but there really isn’t anything too simple about that. After a lot of polite nods and smiles, I returned the favor by asking him about reincarnation. He explained
Creative Essay 77
Creative Essay 78
the ultimate goal was enlightenment, to break the cycle of reincarnation and finally experience the bliss of true nothingness. Nothing was the goal, and the more spiritually enlightened one became, the closer one was to personal obliteration. He disclosed that his worst fear and dread would be to be reincarnated as an American woman, which, coincidently, happens to be exactly what I am. I wondered how strange it must be, for a monk on a hillside, to discuss theology with his worst nightmare. I also wondered what it meant that someone was surrendering and dedicating his whole existence to becoming nothing, in fear that he would become someone like me. It is an intriguing concept, to say the least. “Teacher Racher, I’m done, I’m done!” squeals Oat. “Me too, Teacher!” Pop says, scribbling furiously. I laugh. “Okay, okay! Since it was so close and you have been absolutely wonderful today, you can both pick a song.” “Yes!” Pop says, pulling her fist down in victory. Oat smiles and bounces eagerly. Kim says, “Oat, pick the song about picnics. I like singing the word jello. Jello, jello, jello.” “Teacher, I am done too,” comes a soft voice from the back. Cream looks up shyly. I feed her constant praise as I look over her meticulously written sentences. She blushes brightly while avoiding my eyes. Pop informs the class we will be singing “The Zoo Song,” which strangely goes to the tune “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Boss and Oat add to the melody with their fake vibrato and Captun taps along with his pen. Kim dances along in the back corner, all while Pop conducts the ensemble from the front. As they sing, I watch their little faces, so perfect and clean. Skin pulled tight and fresh around smiles. I see this vibrancy of life, bursting from every pore and hair follicle. And I feel nauseous at the idea that the only path to freedom their world offers is a path to emptiness, that the only formula for happiness and peace prescribed is one that drains every ounce of what makes them themselves and replaces it with nothing. Nothing is the ultimate goal and reward of a successfully lived life. These children, my children, were not made to be nothing. They are everything but that empty word. They are diligent to a fault, brilliant, determined, hopeful, lively, creative and fun. They are joyful and silly, shy and outgoing, talkative and contemplative,
humble and proud. They are so much more then what this town, this country, this world has to offer them. It breaks my heart that they might never know that. The cramped buildings of this city, swarming with girls who have been reduced to less than slaves, to just bodies to be used, have been made into nothing. This hopeless and life-sucking business practice not only carries on, but thrives in this place. As if the depravity of humankind flourishes in humid weather and tropical terrain. When I catch their empty eyes in the street, I can’t help but wonder if those same eyes used to be bright with an inner fire of hope and aspiration. I wonder if those dreams melted away under the weight of life’s cruel reality and layers of endless perspiration. There is no escape from the heat here. You can smell the despondence in the streets. The elaborate and ornate temples are filled with tiny metal figures hitting stone floors in desperation. Prayers repeated to unfeeling effigies, pacifying smiles plastered on their faces. I watched a monk, wrinkled with age sweeping a temple step. He had been a monk for fifty-eight years, devoted to nothingness for most of his existence. He gazed up at a statue of Buddha, sitting serenely, surrounded in vibrant colors and gems. He has no wife, no children, no pets or possessions. He has nothing, and it showed in the tired lines of his empty face. All these images and ideas cloud my mind today as I watch the children scampering from the window, off to dismissal three flights of stairs below. I pull the curtain shut, banishing Thailand’s twilight from the room. I hit the light and begin the walk down the stairs. Feet sticking and unsticking all the way down. The choir of children’s voices hits my ears and grows louder and stronger. I stand on the last step and watch them play and dance and laugh and tease one another. Standing on this last step, it suddenly becomes not only possible, but absolute truth, that this room of life and light holds the future of this beautiful land. The children smile up at me and I smile back because their faces hold something so much more powerful than nothing. Hope bursts out of them, all the hope in the world, and I know that if they hold tight and fast to that hope, nothing will ever touch them.
Living Waters Review
Forms in Dialog Alissa Cutforth
Body Language Jessi Hiler
Short Story 80
he bit into the gummy banana chip from her plastic bag of all natural trail mix. I wonder how many calories are in this bag, she thought. Sharon turned her wrist to investigate the contents label on the back of the package. Potassium. Her eyes squinted to see the tiny font. Vitamin C. She began to feel the nausea slowly creep back up. Don’t read, you idiot, she thought. You know it makes you car sick. The infernal rocking and swerving of the ten-passenger van around the tight cliff roads was enough to cause her to regret her hasty decision to make the journey to the village of Purmamarca. An assignment of this kind was hard to resist, however. Sharon unzipped the top of her navy blue backpack and reached into its pocket to pull out an envelope that she had received this morning precisely at 7:03 a.m. with a quick rap at her apartment door. The letter’s messenger, a thin boy with red-brown skin and a muted expression, looked at her from the disheveled mop on her head slowly down to her pink-slippered feet and back again. She stood in the doorway, disrespected, and brought her folded arms closer to her chest as a means to demonstrate some sense of authority despite her twenty years young. “Can I help you?” she impatiently asked the boy who just stood there now staring up into her eyes. A few awkward moments passed. Sharon, reiterating her question, nodded her head and quizzically lifted her eyebrows. “Well?” The boy sharply shoved a letter forward and quickly garbled words of Spanish tongue. Of the dozens, Sharon
recognized emergencia and por favor. She unrolled the sheet of dirty paper that appeared to have been nervously handled during the boy’s journey to her apartment. The warmness from his grip lingered on the scroll. She read its scribbled words: Doctor Adams—you help? Son very sick. Arm no move. He fall from horse. He no will cry. Please Martin bring you van. Hurry please. *** It was quite a challenge to be living on her own in a foreign country doing a year-long residency. When she graduated high school at the age of sixteen and entered college, Sharon did not fully imagine her career destination. However, seeing that she spent most of her time with the Anatomy and Physiology textbooks and completed extra assignments, it was no surprise she earned a research-assistant position and then gained admission medical school. Life became a busy blur of sanitizing soap, blood transfusions and scalpels. The next thing she knew, Sharon was boarding flight number 7637 to Buenos Aires, Argentina with the hopes of completing her residency. When she embarked on her trip to Argentina, Sharon did not know the extent of traveling that was required. Her arrival in Buenos Aires by plane was followed by two tenhour bus rides to her hospital in Salta. The chaos of the nation’s capital waned and melted into an interstate lined with cheerful sunflowers and fields of bowing soy bean plants. Many landmarks brought back memories of the United States: the hills, trees, and fields of crops and cattle; but the half-completed brick homes and filthy, emaciated dogs roaming the suburban streets quickly reminded Sharon of her distance from the comforts of home. Salta soon became a temporary home and quiet comfort to Sharon, with its clean streets and familiar shops folded between the surrounding sandy-hilled peaks and distant mountains. The apartment building, chosen for her by the residency program was situated at the top of a hill, just paces beyond a modest strip of small businesses and cafés. Her morning routine included a stop at the panadería for a deliciously warm factura and a bittersweet café con leche at Tomaso around the corner. A male attendant that served her daily coffee quickly learned her name and would inquire a morsel about her life during each visit. His persistence flattered Sharon because her ability to make friends completely vanished in international air space. “You here…ehhh…doctor?”
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“Yes,” replied Sharon, “I am here working as a doctor.” “Ahhh…good, good!” The expression on his face clearly showed his frustration in wanting to communicate further, but between his and Sharon’s limited knowledge of the other’s language, a friendly nod and a smile concluded their conversation. She adjusted quickly to the routine at the hospital. The supplies and equipment did not meet North American standards, but Sharon soon learned to adjust. The language barrier, however, continued to affect the pace of her work on a moment by moment basis. Only a few doctors spoke conversational English, and their level was very basic. Sharon would hasten behind the professionals, her mini Spanish dictionary in hand, tearing through the pages, trying to interpret commands. One day, Sharon was sitting in the doctor’s lounge, reviewing some of her personal notes when Dr. Lavalle popped his head into the room. “You alright, Charon?” he asked. “Sí,” sighed Sharon, indicating with every fiber of her body and mind that she could not possibly be capable of working in a country different than her own. How am I supposed to help these people if I can’t communicate with them? She tossed her notebook and threw her head back, staring at the dull yellow light from the illuminated ceiling panel. Confusion and fear befriended her in that moment and seemed like a constant distraction to all her work from that day. So when she received a pounding interruption to her sleep early that morning and the desperate letter, she feared the disappointment of her limitations. Her little messenger, however, did not hesitate to force her into action before she could begin the second-guessing. “Apurate, doctor,” he chirped, snapping his fingers in a sharp swinging motion. “Okay, okay,” appeased Sharon, gathering every instrument and supply she had on hand in her apartment. With her backpack, all-weather jacket, and canvas duffle bag of various medical provisions, she followed the boy out of the cement apartment building. Please Martin bring you van… she remembered. “Van?” she questioned the boy. His reaction did not imply understanding but pure instinct. His stride picked up, and his commanding presence caused Sharon to dutifully follow. They strode a few meters farther up the hill to a gas station parking lot; their burgundy emergency transport and driver were awaiting their departure.
*** Sharon stuffed the trail mix into her North Face backpack. Her young travel partner sat on the same seat as her but adjacent to the left window. His face was plastered to the glass, and he curiously studied each passing object. Sharon’s hazel eyes traced the vinyl floor of the bumpy van until they reached boy’s soiled white apargatas. The canvas of his shoe was so worn and stretched that a gaping hole revealed a caramel-colored toe caked with dirt. She wanted to express to him in his native language that she also owned a similar pair of shoes. His scrawny legs did not yet reach the floor of the van. The boy fidgeted next to her as they both made their incessantly bumpy journey up the mountain. They exchanged no words. Sharon’s eyes scanned the distance beyond the van’s dirt-splattered windows. For the first time since the journey’s beginning she cared to gaze out at the panorama passing by at a steady fifty kilometers per hour pace. The color scheme of the mountain’s drops and lifts was not like anything Sharon had seen before. Brilliant layers of deep reds, burnt oranges, and lime greens danced and vibrated like sound waves that became permanently frozen into the mountainside. The dusty texture of the earth reminded Sharon that they were finally entering the arid desert, home of Purmamarca, their final destination. “Vacas,” the driver explained, pointing at the road ahead and looking to Sharon for affirmation. She tilted her head to the left and was astonished to see a small herd of cows walking toward the van. A lone shepherd wandered aimlessly among the slim cattle. The driver pounded the horn with a few short beeps to encourage the herd to scurry off the driving path. The narrow road only allowed for a few feet of space between the cliffs to the left and the mineral-enriched soil wall to the right. Apparently used to this style of commute, the pushy driver slowly began to inch forward. Some cows reacted calmly and made their way alongside the van. The shepherd followed suit, nudging a few stubborn bovines with his wooden stick. Just as the van passed the herd, the driver accelerated to reach the usual rate of speed, but the crushing of gravel startled a straggling cow and sent her leaping over the side of the cliff. The boy and Sharon stared at each other in disbelief after they had witnessed the strange occurrence. The driver simply continued on, not indicating any clues that he had also witnessed the
Short Story 81
Short Story 82
suicidal plunge. It was such an outrageous moment, one in which you do not know whether to laugh or cringe in horror. Sitting in amazed calm, Sharon and the boy shared the identical language of disbelief. She looked over at him. His bewildered face expressed everything she was feeling. The van continued on its journey. *** “¡Martín! Ya estamos,” shouted the driver. Both the boy and Sharon flinched from their naps. She reached her arms toward the low ceiling and squealed as she stretched. How long have I been asleep? she wondered. “Bajate, Martín!” he again shouted. Martín, she thought, yes, that’s his name. She followed the boy out of the van, and in an instant, the vehicle was gone. “Martín?” she questioned with her best, forced Spanish accent. “Sí,” he answered, following up with various other words Sharon could not understand. “Sharon,” she said, placing her hand on her heart. “Charon.” He smiled then turned to walk down the dirt road, but this time, he motioned with his hand for her to follow. “Vamos, Charon.” The village was situated around a central, square plaza. In the plaza’s center stood an aged fountain long devoid of water and stained with dirt and scattered pieces of trash. Enclosing the fountain was a rusted metal fence with pointed spears. The gated entrance to the fence led to a path sprinkled with stone benches and through an overgrown garden. Martin marched past the plaza and down a narrow dirt road, wasting no time to share in the scenery. Sharon skipped a few paces in order to keep him in her sight. His little legs scurried over potholes and ditches in the ruddy street. He knew his destination. This was his village. The buildings shared the same color as the terracotta street, likely made of the same material. The doors and windows, although all closed tight, were of a strong, quality wood, and the detailed carving and molding on the wood looked strange when fixed to a building so simple. Sharon’s eyes studied the houses as she walked through the lonely streets. Martin and she alone occupied the streets. The sun hanged half way in the sky, but three hours of sunlight still remained. Where is everyone? Sharon thought. “Aca. Vení, Charon,” Martin shouted for her. She jogged to catch up to his location outside a
building much like the others on the street. Martin began to clap. Confused, Sharon stood next to him, slightly embarrassed. His attention was fixed upward. She followed his gaze to two shuttered windows. One of the shutters opened, and a woman quickly articulated words to Martin that evaded Sharon. A few moments later, she and the boy were welcomed into the humble dwelling. Sharon had to lower her head as she stepped down into the house. The door’s threshold was a few inches below street-level. Her first impression of the house was darkness mixed with a rich food smell baked into the mud walls and low ceiling. She and the boy were shimmied into the back of the large multi-purpose room, which served for sitting, dining, and living. A cot was situated near the entrance to the kitchen, a room that offered a minimal amount of light but a lot of warmth. The figure of a young boy, her patient, lay in the cot in a sleep-like state. His forehead hoarded a mass of sweat, and as Sharon knelt down, she could hear the boy’s soft moans. “Tiene mucho dolor, Señorita,” cried the woman who let them in. Arms crossed, her expression revealed desperation, a plea. “I wish I knew what you were saying,” said Sharon aloud, yet not expecting her listeners to understand. “But I will do my job. Now, bring me some water. Uh, agua, por favor.” The woman hurried into the kitchen. Son very sick. Arm no move. He fall from horse…The words of the letter guided Sharon to gently remove the blanket from the boy to inspect the arm. He did not even stir. She discovered the break in his forearm, the bone protruded through the skin like an icicle and toward his shoulder. “Martin. My bag.” He stood by her side, concerned because he could not understand. “Bag,” Sharon repeated, “bag…uhh…bolsa? Is that bag?” The word was enough to trigger an understanding. Martin ran toward the front door and grabbed her canvas duffle bag and returned, pleased to have been able to assist. Sharon pulled out the essentials she would need to operate as well as her Spanish dictionary. When the woman came back from the kitchen, Sharon used the hot water to sanitize as best she could. The boy’s fever would make it impossible to use any anesthesia or sedative for fear that his heart rate would drop to a dangerous low. He no will cry…she remembered. Offering a silent prayer, she hoped this would be the case, and taking her
Living Waters Review
scalpel, she cut an incision above the protruded bone. The boy’s frail body stirred. Fearful that his movements would jeopardize the surgery, Sharon motioned for Martin to hold the boy’s head while the woman held the patient’s feet. Martin whispered softly with comforting tones. Sharon focused on her grueling work. The incision was followed by the painful and merciless task of resetting the bone. Whimpers and groans issued from clenched teeth, but the boy did not cry. Sharon had practiced similar exercises in a controlled environment in med school, but she could not compare the realism of this situation with any practice scenario dictated by a professor. Her steady hands patiently executed the task before her because of the emotional encouragement from her two witnesses whose silent prayers guided each step. “Breathe,” Sharon instructed her feverish patient as she exhaled in demonstration. “Nombre?” she asked Martin, hoping the single word would suffice. “Manuel,” he answered, looking at his companion. “Es mi hermano, Manuel.” Sharon smiled. Hermano was a familiar word. Brothers. She looked over at the woman with the new understanding of her role as their mother. The woman smiled nervously, and again bowed her head, her grip still on her son’s legs and her lips muttering silent supplications. The painful procedure lasted half an hour, and Sharon was relieved to sew the last stitch and leave Manuel’s bandaged arm to rest. After administering the I.V. and wiping Manuel’s sweaty forehead with a damp cloth, she excused herself to walk outside. The cool breeze refreshed Sharon’s brow. Her elevated temperature began to lower, and she breathed deeply and calmly. Trying to reassess the situation, Sharon meandered a few paces, kicking the stones in the dirt road and then pivoting, paced back. With her eyes fixed on the ground as she walked, Sharon first saw a pair of soiled feet and then looked up to find Martin and Manuel’s mother standing in her path, composed and with arms crossed close to her heart. Martin, as a true companion, stood by her side, leaning slightly into her waist and resting his head on her. Sharon smiled. She thought of going into the house and grabbing her Spanish dictionary to offer guidance in caring for Manuel’s wound. Before she could make any movement, the mother seized Sharon with a warm hug.
Without lingering too long, she released Sharon but grabbed her soft hands and sandwiched them between her calloused hands. The woman stared into the doctor’s eyes. Sharon, although a little startled, returned the gaze, communicating a message of comfort beyond signals or words. Sharon reached into her back pocket and grabbed the note that she’d received in the morning. She placed it in the mother’s hands and whispered, “Gracias.” Their eyes reached a mutual understanding as the sun set behind the dusty hills, bringing home the workers from the fields.
Short Story 83
Koi Pond Alicia Stamm
Living Waters Review
The Water Grows Wild Heather R. Lawrence
hite surf broke on black volcanic rock, sprayed upward like an explosion, and then trickled down in little waterfalls. The wind whipped Amelia’s hair into a tangled mess across her face. The young woman stared at the water until the wind died down and only the rush of the waves filled the silence. A gull gave its shrieking call from overhead, and the girl squinted into the dull sunlight. The bird swung by, nearly clipping her with its wing tip, and flew towards the horizon, a white speck against the gray sky. Amelia blinked through spitting sand and watched the bird disappear. Her gaze fell to the water again, and then she glanced behind to the house sitting on the cliff. Its shadowy eaves hooded the windows and hid anyone that might be looking out. Amelia looked back at the ocean. The water was wild. Each ebony stone shone with wetness. Maybe if she stared long enough, she thought, the scene would fill her up and wash out everything else. Amelia bit her lip. A foghorn sounded. A white lighthouse on a far cliff shone through the dimness. Its beams flitted across the gray water like broken halos. The young woman watched for a few moments before a shiver shook her. Amelia took a step forward and wavered, a mist veiling her vision for a moment. When it cleared, she took a deep breath and ambled over the black sand. Like ash, dust covered her pale silk slippers. She thought of the little pond back home with its stepping stones, and the summers with glowing green lily pads in the fading sun. Cold spray brought back reality and water sloshed over the rocks, soaking her slippers. One fell off, floated for a moment,
and then sunk beneath the murk. Amelia took a breath, the wind filling her lungs, and stumbled on, feeling the slick roughness on her bare foot. She dug in with her toes, leapt to another rock, and clutched a tall, pillar-like stone to steady herself. With another breath, she stumbled on to the next one…and the next. A wave crashed into her knees. She teetered, fixing her eyes on the setting sun. The clouds parted for a moment, and burning rays reflected against the gray backdrop. A smile tugged at her lips. Then another cloud moved, and the sun’s light blinked out like a curtain had dropped into place. “Farewell,” Amelia murmured. The girl’s splash echoed with the crashing waves, and she sunk to her neck. Cold lanced through Amelia like shards of ice, and she gasped. Her second slipper fell away. She pushed at the water with her arms and swam numbly toward that last glimmer of sunlight. The sea rumbled like a beast and pushed her down, tumbling her through the dark water. Amelia hung limp, letting the sea take her. Then burning pressure in her lungs made instinct take over, and the girl crawled for the light gray of the surface. Her head broke the water’s suction like a newborn bird breaking out of its shell. Amelia coughed a sob and swam toward the horizon line. Wave after wave washed over her, but the girl rose again and pushed forward. Her muscles trembled while the sky darkened with the last ghost of day. She floated on her back and waited for the next wave, while the first star twinkled into being. A shout dimly reached her ears, but then a black wave rushed over Amelia, filling her eyes and ears. The pressure built in her lungs again, and the girl lost the strength to fight it. She sunk, feeling the sick peace of utter weariness take control. Amelia saw herself again, sitting in the garden. Pink, red, and orange roses surrounded her, while her parents laughed in the distance. Sunlight made everything glow like a fairyland. The scene faded, and the waves rocked her to a restful darkness. A golden light warmed Amelia, and a voice filled her senses. My grace I give unto you. The light faded, and she blinked. A shimmery fin flashed past her. Something tugged on her arm, and she felt
Short Story 85
Short Story 86
a rush of speed, but all sound and thought seemed to be fading away toward the beach. Then something struck her on the back, over and over again, and Amelia jerked forward, water pouring from her mouth. She coughed, spitting, and gasped broken breaths. Amelia opened her eyes, the black pebbles of the shore before her face. Slowly, she sat up, every part aching. A voice asked, “Why would you do something like that?” The girl turned, staring at the dark-haired stranger beside her. He was young, perhaps only a few years older than her. “Well?” the young man asked, his tan face wrinkled in question. Rubbing her dripping arms, Amelia looked at the water and then back at him. “You—” He nodded. “Yes. I saved you.” Amelia looked away to the sky, the water, anything but him. She stood and swayed. Scattering pebbles, he scrambled to his feet and to her side, but the girl shook her head and stepped back. “I’m fine,” she said. He eyed her. “Are you?” Amelia looked at the ground, her cheeks burning like embers in a cold grate. “I suppose I should thank you.” The young man cleared his throat. “You’re welcome.” Glancing up at the cliff, he asked, “Do you need help getting home?” Amelia shook her head and stepped past him, hugging herself. The girl’s wet dress clung to her like burial clothes. She took a few more steps and then turned back to him. She met his eyes for an instant. “Thank you.” She turned and hurried up the dirt path that led to her house. *** Amelia’s dress dripped on the carpet in the entryway and on the wood flooring as she tip-toed toward the stairs. “Amelia, is that you?” a thin, scratchy voice demanded from the sitting room. “Come in here, girl.” The young woman sighed and turned back. “Yes, Aunt?” she asked, entering the room. The old woman didn’t look up from her embroidery. Earrings dangled against black lace and blue-veined skin. “Where have you been? The servers kept your supper until it was cold, and then I finally had to eat alone.” “It won’t happen again, Aunt.”
“See that it doesn’t. And while you’re—” The old woman looked up and stopped in midsentence. Her dark eyes blinked once behind their gold-rimmed spectacles. “Heavens, child, what have you been doing? You’re soaked to the skin.” Amelia shrugged. “I fell in the water.” The old woman raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Is that all?” She turned back to her embroidery. Her needle stabbed a bluebird’s wing, threaded, and stabbed again. “Perhaps, you should be more careful.” Amelia curtsied. “Yes, ma’am.” The girl left the room and climbed the winding stairs to her bedchamber. *** The next day, Amelia walked down to the beach again. The winter clouds drew back, and the sun glinted off the water. She stared out at its innocent sparkles. Her attention wandered to the far end of the beach to the little hut. The young woman walked towards it, her petticoats chafing her legs. Amelia knocked on the hut’s wooden door. A face peered out the diamond of glass near the top, disappeared, and then the door opened. “Can I help you?” the young man asked. He wore black breeches and a loose white shirt. Amelia looked down at the wooden step. “I’m afraid I didn’t thank you properly yesterday for…saving me.” The young man stood silent for a few moments, and Amelia felt his eyes on her bowed head. “Come in.” He motioned her in, and she whisked past him. He closed the door, and she stood to the side, marveling at the spacious interior of the hut. Three windows lit the room, and a table, covered in charts and maps, stood in the center. Thin wooden shelves lined the walls, filled with books and an odd variety of things. Amelia examined the shelf on her right. A glass case held a miniature ship, and on the shelf below that, conch shells of many sizes were arranged in neat order. Small and large nets hooked everything together like tendons and ligaments of a great sea creature. On a different shelf, another glass case held an open, ancient-looking book. A creature with large eyes stared at her from its pages. Amelia shuddered and turned away. The young man stood by the table, watching her. “Please, have a seat,” he said. Amelia stepped forward, and he pulled out a chair for
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her. After she sat, he returned to his chair. Many books were spread open on the table before him with one centermost, neat scrawl covering the pages. Noting the direction of her gaze, he closed it. “Perhaps, I should introduce myself,” he said. “I am Galeno, and you are…?” “Amelia.” The girl folded her hands beneath the table. “My aunt owns the manor house on the cliff. We’re on holiday for a fortnight.” Galeno nodded. “So…Amelia…why did you come to see me today? It can’t have been to just say thank you.” Her hands clasped and unclasped beneath the table. “I wanted to ask you—” She broke off and looked out the far window, which showed only the cliff-side. Amelia looked back at him for a second and then down at her hands. “I wanted to ask you to not tell anyone what I tried—what I almost—” His chair creaked as he leaned back. “Ah…” She met his gaze, desperation quickening her heart. “Please—” Galeno’s face softened. “All right. But only if you tell me why you jumped in the water.” Chair legs scraped across the floor as the girl stood. She walked to the front window and looked out at the ocean. “I wanted to clear my head.” He snorted. “Right. Let’s just pretend—” “No. I mean it…” The young woman’s voice faded, and she looked at the woven green rug on the floor. “I couldn’t stop them—the words, the memories. I had to get them out of my head.” The girl looked up, her vision blurry. “They wouldn’t stop.” Galeno shifted in his chair, his eyes analyzing her. With a sigh, he looked down and rubbed the spine of the closed book. “I promise I won’t tell anyone.” “Thank you.” “But you must promise…” He leaned forward, eyebrows lowering. “You must promise to never come here again.” Amelia frowned. “All right.” “Promise?” “I promise.” Galeno stood and motioned to the door. The young woman turned, and he ushered her out. The door closed, and her ears filled with the sound of the waves again. Amelia paused and looked back at the closed door.
*** Amelia walked along the beach that night after supper. The moonlight on the frothing water soothed her like a magical balm. She sat and leaned against the same rock that had been so uncomfortable yesterday. The beach had no comfortable rocks. She liked it that way. The stone kneaded into the girl’s spine and made her think. Her mind wandered to drowning. It wasn’t so bad. She looked up at the moon, shining like an old friend. It wasn’t so great either. A flicker of light to the left caught her eye, and Amelia turned. Moonlight glittered on something in the water, and then it was gone. A fish? She stood, walked down the shoreline, and watched the open water. The girl’s velvet evening gown brushed lightly against her legs, reminding her of her Aunt’s words. You’re lucky to have that gown, Amelia. Why I spend so much money on you, I have no idea. Amelia shook her head, focusing on the waves. There. Something shone in the moonlight again as it broke the surface. She hurried closer to the water, stopping just short of the waves’ reach. Is that…? Fins cut through the water, racing straight toward her. Amelia stepped back. A cloud covered the moon, and she stood in the near-dark, heart thudding. Water splashed, and a shadow rose up in front of her. The cloud moved, and moonlight reflected off scales of a standing creature. The girl stumbled back as a cloud stole the light again. “Amelia,” a deep voice growled. The cold night seemed to suck the air from her chest. Amelia opened her mouth to scream. But then the cloud moved, and moonlight shone down on Galeno. His wounded eyes held her in place. “You promised not to come,” he said. Amelia’s hand covered her mouth. “I—I’m sorry.” She looked at his scaly skin. “That’s how you saved me, isn’t it?” “Yes.” “Galeno. How—” Her voice choked in a broken question. He shrugged. “It’s the way things are.” He looked her in the eye. “You must promise to tell no one.” The girl nodded. “I promise.” He watched her. “I think you will keep your promise this time.” Amelia looked at the moonlit waters and back at him.
Short Story 87
“I don’t understand. Why are you saying this to me?” Galeno took hold of her hands. “Maybe I saved you for a reason. Maybe I was meant to save you. Maybe Someone wanted me to save you.” He met her eyes. “Please.” Amelia searched his beautiful irises. They reflected the moonlight, shining with earnestness. Half-remembered words came to her, as from a dream. My grace I give unto you. She nodded finally. “Yes.” Hand in hand, they ran into the water, deeper and deeper into the waters of grace. Feathery scales glinted on her skin as they sank beneath the water, the moon lighting their way.
Short Story 88
Living Waters Review
Los Catrachos Olivia Anderson
Their cardboard homes seem palaces fit
like a shadow
only for the children of a king.
molting light to reveal darkness.
They know themselves to be rich,
In the valley, pairs of dim eyes peer
possessing an incorruptible inheritance.
through boarded gaps
They dance and sing the new song:
tiny hands crawl through the dry dust
brown feet, oh the feet, pattering,
wrinkled and callused fingers tremble
just pattering in the warmth
of rising sun-caught dust twirls and tattered banners of love, yes the love
Seven years heâ€™s been bedridden
encircling their bodies
skin stretched scantily over heaving bones.
while their faces beam up, up
Heavenâ€™s sun is rising
uplifted to the Son.
as he fingers a worn cross never to see darkness again. Seven tears his widow sprinkles upon the mercy seatâ€” seven costly pearls of heavenly hope. Outside, seven solitary children look up to the sun forget their naked feet. Gaping black holes in the smiles, which their spirit mothers will never love and their phantom fathers never remember, bid the sun to enter in.
Advent Devotion Noah Thaman
Creative Essay 90
he Midwest sleeps in the winter. The fields of maize and grain pillow their heads in piles of vagrant, drifting snow and a frigid shroud is pulled over the landscape with a flourish. In the winter months, nature instructs us of hidden things. Autumn is a three-month spell of bombastic chromaticism, and the earth counters with a triad of months painted in the spectrum of greyscale. During these times, we learn nature’s lesson of concealment: what is hidden will be revealed. When I was a child of the Midwest, my parents taught me the price of a hidden thing. On Christmas Eve, my siblings and I slept with all the anticipation of the birth of the world. The delightful fancy of a child is a consuming mental marvel, and come Christmas Day, we lived like it was our only day. We woke like the dawn and huddled around the uppermost step of our staircase waiting for 8 a.m. Come that glorious hour, we rushed down the shag carpet steps and slid on our hands and knees before the pine tree. There we found not gifts but clues. The delight of Christmas was the grandest of scavenger hunts conducted in search of our presents. We crawled into cabinets
and searched through the sawdust strangeland of our father’s workbench to find our season’s gifts. The objects of our search were hidden from us, yet even when found, we still were compelled to playfully manipulate their wrappings to unveil the hidden treasures. Years have passed since the days of innocence, but sometimes during the deep, internal ruminations of winter, I remember that the Christ child also came to us shrouded, covered in night and hidden away amidst the obscurity of Bethlehem. I remember that the Divine impetus did not reveal himself in splendor but as a vagrant child who quested the fertile banks of Egypt long before, bloodied, beaten, and naked, he affirmed Pilate’s inquiry of his identity. And this is the driving example of Winter. The seed of Summer has hid itself deep within the dormancy of death, and it will rise, surely it will rise given three months of days. The grass will grow again, for all of Winter’s fury is wasted in its subservience to the resurrection of Spring. This is a mystery and a marvel. This is the Divine metaphor of Christmas.
Living Waters Review
Yuletide Glow Ashley Taylor
Josiah and the Golden Tree Emilio Gomez
Short Story 92
he winter sun beat down on Josiah’s rosy cheeks as he ran like lightning down the sidewalk, frantically searching his surroundings. He was looking for something, but he didn’t know what. Ducks, whirling leaves, and air conditioner vents all vied for his attention. A plane flew by. Josiah pointed his finger and blurted, “Bah! Bah!” “Yes. Airplane.” My little detective loved to explore. Just ten feet to the west of the sidewalk was a wall of trees that shot up thirty feet from the ground. Nobody ever crossed the barrier. Vines, branches, and tree trunks served as “NO TRESPASSING” signs, while leaves served as drapery to keep curious eyes in the dark. At night, possums and raccoons ventured out of the woods, but nobody knew how dense or dangerous the population of wild animals inside it was. At the foot of the forest, I could see the sun reflecting off of something metallic. Josiah must have seen it before me. Making a sharp turn, he picked up a tree branch and bolted towards the woods. “Josiah, no! Dangerous!” But, Josiah knew no danger. Fearlessly, he ran past the shiny object and into a toddler-sized opening in the woods, properly primed with his penguin backpack and wooden walking stick. Thunderstruck, I ran after him. “Josiah! Josiah!” I peered through the tiny tunnel, but Josiah was gone. I looked down to examine the pitiful purpose of my son’s vanishing, expecting to find the usual discarded candy wrapper or soda can. Instead, a golden hilt shone in the
sunlight. Rubies, emeralds, and ten other precious stones adorned the grip and the guard. Gold lettering dressed the fuller until the sword was fully clothed with blades of Floridian grass. I grasped the handle and wrestled the weapon until one of us submitted. My son had been roaming the wilderness by himself for several minutes, and I was wasting precious time. Fearful of the ominous forest before me, I retrieved a Swiss Army knife from my side pocket. I followed Josiah’s trail, crawling beneath tangled tree vines that looked like a hundred green garden snakes slithering through the air. My stretched muscles cried as fangs punctured my skin. A thousand tongues sang as the restless serpents enveloped my body, entangling me limb by limb. I attempted to cut through the vines, but the unhindered creepers continued to suffocate me. Losing hope, I began flailing my arms and legs. I managed to get my right leg free and commenced crushing the skulls of my adversaries. After warding off a few of them, the rest began to retreat. A pathway opened before me, and soon sunrays began to dance among the trees. Gold dust carpeted the floor as elated birds began exalting their creator. Flowers broke through the dirt and rose in full bloom. This fallen nightmare became a living spring. How long has this paradise been overlooked? I thought. Dust rose like fireflies and beckoned me forward. The walkway led to a large open area. In the center, a golden tree stood taller than its companions. Golden fruit called out to me from one of its outstretched limbs in a voice that sounded like the wind. Ignoring the voice, I searched for Josiah among the gardens and springs, for clues under rocks and in bushes. I interrogated foxes and rabbits, created search parties with eagles and owls. A penguin was lying down casually in the shade, its golden beak smirking on its black and white face. It was lying on its side, motionless, with its eyes wide open. I asked the penguin where Josiah was, but it couldn’t tell me. Above him, the golden fruit from the golden tree called out to me. I ran to the base of the tree and began the ascent as any good tree climber would. I dug my feet into the trunk and hoisted myself up, keeping the majority of the pressure
Living Waters Review
on my legs. I scaled the tree until I reached the branch with the alluring fruit. I knew I was higher than I’d ever been, but I resisted the desire to feed acrophobia by refusing to look down. The trunk of the tree was so wide it impeded half of my visual field. Not seeing Josiah from my current position, I slowly walked towards the fruit at the edge of the branch as it continued to call me by name. The sight of the fruit from such close proximity caused my tongue to moisten and stomach to growl. It smelled like coconut and lime had embraced on a bed of gardenias. I reached for some of the produce and took a bite. My eyes were suddenly opened, and I could see for the first time. Butterflies fluttered down my esophagus, gaily performing twists and turns as they entered my stomach. The fruit was as sweet as honey, and as healthy, too. The more that I ate, the better I felt, and I noticed that the scars from my adversary were beginning to heal. My lungs took a deep breath before joining the choir of birds. After a long time, a dove whispered in my ear. I looked west and saw Josiah swimming in a lake the size of an ocean. His eyes glistened as he splashed and chuckled. I laughed too, enjoying this moment. My baby was safe. Childlike otters danced around Josiah like synchronized swimmers. Ducks sung him a special song, with swans joining in for the climactic chorus. The smile that shone on my son’s face was overwhelming. Then, without notice, the sun began to collapse. Fog hovered above the lake’s surface. Willow trees casted shadows that came to life. I watched as one of the shadows tiptoed from the southern shore, quietly walking across the water. Halfway to Josiah, the figure slowly raised his willow-like hands as he quickened his pace. His eyes shone a deep, boiling blue, as the fiend began to howl like an assembly of demonpossessed frogs. “Josiah! Swim! Swim to Daddy!” He couldn’t hear me, and he didn’t see the shadow. The howling intensified as the relentless degenerate got closer and closer, eyes furious with rage. Just yards away from my oblivious son, he disappeared into the water. And, everything stopped. The lake. My heart. Breath. Time and fog stood still. Ages passed before Josiah broke the silence. “Agua.” The lake awoke and began to swallow Josiah. The hellish
howling reemerged as I screamed for my son. I climbed down the tree as fast as I could. I ran past the penguin, broke through some bushes, and jumped in the lake. “Dada!” The sound of his voice sent chills down my spine. I knew this might be the last time I heard it. “Dada! Dada!” “Josiah, Daddy’s coming. Just hold on.” But, Josiah couldn’t. He lost his grasp on a wooden log and began to sink for the final time. Flapping hands and muffled screaming were the last things I heard as Josiah went under. And, I might as well have been a mile away. *** By the time I reached the body, it was motionless, sinking deeper into abyss. Descending headfirst, I nearly swooned while retrieving Josiah from the depths. He was lifeless. Emerging to still, murky water, I tilted his tiny head back, covered his mouth and nose with my mouth, and fed his lungs oxygen twice. Nothing. I carried my lifeless son on one shoulder while paddling with the other, performing rescue breaths in five-second intervals. Reaching the shore, I laid Josiah on his back and furiously began chest compressions. “1, 2, 3. Come on, bud, stay with me. Come back to Daddy. 12, 13, 14. Come on!” Still nothing. Josiah had slipped into the shadows, and he refused to return. The willows and I wept all night while I clung to Josiah, questioning the constellations. *** The following morning was dark, gray clouds covering the sun. One cloud yawned and released a loud, contagious sigh. Soon, all the clouds were yawning and sighing uncontrollably. Tears were released from clouds and fell to the ground, joining the puddles that had formed overnight. Unwilling to budge from the first stage of grief, I was still cradling Josiah’s inanimate body on my forearms when the storm began. His wide-open mouth was filling with showers from the now-sobbing clouds, but I didn’t notice. Paralyzed, I gazed past the lake to infinity, pondering eternity. In the distance, a dove hovered over the surface of the waters, his resolute face resounding with purpose. He flapped his formidable wings, sending mighty gusts before
Short Story 93
Short Story 94
him, stirring waters beneath him. He shifted his attention to the shore. The sun began to break through the clouds as the bird traversed the breadth of the sea. Light shining from his brilliant face, the dove reached Josiah and whispered something in his right ear. The powerful rays penetrated the skin underneath my son, reviving a hope I’d forgotten existed. Awakening from the lingering trance, I shifted my eyes to behold my son’s face. Josiah’s cadaverous complexion was beginning to brighten. His lake-colored lips had begun to pigment as the last of the rain trickled into his bloodstream. The skin underneath my son got warmer. Josiah was beginning to awaken. I embraced my son at the first sign of motion. His dark blue eyes opened in wonder, wrinkling as incarnadine cheeks stretched tight to unveil his increasingly appreciative smile. “Dada? Dada!” “Yes, it’s me. I love you so much, ‘Siah. I’ll never let you out of my sight again.” He stretched his little arms around my neck to hug and kiss me. Then, he let himself down, picked up a branch, and ran back into the heart of the forest. I made certain to keep pace with him this time, taking mental pictures as he shared his energy with all of the living things. I sat under the golden tree, watching Josiah as he ran after orange and blue butterflies, breathed in white and red roses. I ate of the fruit, and we sang with the choir of birds as the sun continued to rise.
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Raised by the Ocean Caleb Collier
At last, you turn your headlights north And return to your barren mountains and cold skyscrapers. Leave these golden shores to those born in the Land of Flowers, We, who were crafted by the hand of God from sand And rocked to sleep by the playful, tumbling waves.
Ask me for majesty greater than all the mountains in our nation, And I will give to you a warm sand dune, a bed too exquisite for kings, For stories more numerous than those of your concrete jungles, I give a single tree, whose roots hold the entire island above the sea.
Leave the beaches to those who guard them, We who tend their wounds After theyâ€™ve been gouged by the claws of hurricanes. Until summer returns, these horizons again belong to us. Show me now the fear in a handful of dust, I will show you the hope in a handful of sand.
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