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.
School of Arts and Sciences • English Department • Art Department • Development Office
FOUNDER AND FACULTY ADVISOR Professor David Athey GRAPHIC DESIGN ADVISOR Professor Tim Eichner
SPECIAL THANkS PresidentWilliam M. B. Fleming, Jr. • Dr. Gene Fant • Dr. Barton Starr • Dr. Susan Jones • Dr. Jenifer Elmore • Becky Peeling • Louis Park • John Sizemore • Autumn Raab
MANAGING EDITOR Olivia Anderson SENIOR EDITOR Joey Hedger ASSISTANT EDITORS Rebekah Best Anisa Stechert Thomas Lubben Rebecca Ethridge Hannah Menendez Rachel Bartolotta GRAPHIC ARTS EDITOR Naomi Wallen COVER ART Ashley Taylor
Help support Living Waters. Contact Professor David Athey in the English Department. 561-803-2259
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tabLe of Contents
shooting star, DitCh 10, beLtrami state forest, mn
What the sun saW that night
bLooming bLue veins
a navigatorâ€™s pLea from the mastheaD
the Courts of the LorD
horeb, the mountain of goD
the Writerâ€™s hymn
Lois mabeL fitCh bjork
girL from the Choir
Chopin (for my granDmother)
a nameLess park besiDe my thirD ChiLDhooD home
eine kLeine sturmmusik
for C. s. LeWis
bounD & seaLeD
my granDmotherâ€™s painting
for my unborn Daughter
the LeoparD buLLo
a Lamp anD a book at my beDsiDe
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my porCeLain China useD to breathe
the WasteLanDs WouLD be groves
shooting star, DitCh 10, beLtrami state forest, mn Thomas Lubben
What fell that night and crashed in crystal panes? Some say a star too heavy for the sky. We found it, scattered flames, along the trail Ditch 10 in Beltrami. We looked that night, up, empyrean fazed.
Some said a star too heavy for the sky— I looked, and saw a place much greater than the earth, the long green everspinning— above us rode the eyes of lightning, sang the fires that light the roads of comets. Broken, small, but flaring vivid color; no longer tall, a flying, skyward wonder, but singing in its pieces— some saw a star too heavy for the sky; I saw a star that wanted us to fly, and so it showed first how it is to fall.
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peeLing Lemon Britta Martinez
stjerne Rebekah Best
Short Story 8
tjerne’s platinum pocketwatch teetered between his white fingers. Gliding through the Milky Way’s halo at 500 kilometers per second may have seemed rather brisk for a star, but he could not travel quickly enough. He flicked the watch open to examine the hour. Soon, Earth would be in his cobalt view, and his being could barely contain this spark of information. He shoved the watch back into his silver vest. Looking at the expanse, he wrung his hands with Andromeda anxiety. He kept fixing the tailed, white tuxedo he wore, and the black tie around his neck was starting to crumple under pressure. A nervous flip of his long white hair appeared as a solar flare to a casual comet passing by. “Brother,” a low voice reverberated through his skull, “you’re working yourself up again.” Stjerne bristled and then calmed. With a sniff, he turned around to face his older brother kauban. The elder’s blood-red trench coat flooded the space around him, making him a red giant—seriously dwarfing Stjerne. His meter-tall, scarlet top hat did not aid in increasing Stjerne’s self-confidence either. Blessings and curses were constantly in flux between the brother stars. Stjerne’s gaze smoldered as he considered the red behemoth. “I am well aware—” “But she’s not aware, is she?” “You know full well the answer to that.” The older brother maintained soft orange eyes behind his snicker. After a quick melodramatic sigh, he removed his top hat, sending his long burgundy locks sweeping across his face to rest around his shoulders. The hat was
profoundly placed against his coat’s lapel. He inhaled deeply, “One-sided love is the cruelest kind, dear Stjerne.” “It’s not my fault that she’s on Earth.” He straightened his tie-pin. “If I had my say, she would be here with me.” “Then I’m glad you don’t have your say.” kauban replaced his top hat and crossed his hulking arms. “How would she survive here?” Stjerne stiffened and swiftly turned away from his brother. “It’s clear that you disapprove, so you don’t have to constantly pester me.” Dark hair swished as kauban shook his head, pitying his brother. “The only thing I disapprove of is your idiocy.” “Bah!” Stjerne flung a pale hand in the air, dismissing the red star. “Listen to me,” kauban said. “I have let you entertain the notion of emotions for this human astronomer for quite some time now. My energy has been lent to you to make you appear brighter. There’s not much more I can do to help but to encourage you to stop this.” He paused and cast his eyes in downward relativity. Words wanted to surface, but he withheld them. Instead, he wished he could embrace his brother, but that was impossible. They might both be destroyed. This path of thinking led him to continue. “Your temperature is rising too high.” kauban reached out, entreating the white star to truly listen. “If you don’t expel some of this energy, you will die.” Half of Stjerne listened to his brother and was angered because of the giant’s effect on his psyche. The other half thought of what it would be like to see the astronomer again. He closed his eyes and tried to black out the space around him. Her image appeared in the blankness of his mind. Stjerne considered her petite form, fiery hair, and fair skin spattered with a galaxy of freckles across her nose. For the twelve hours he saw her, it seemed like a millennium that they were separated. She intrigued him. Her intense love of the universe placed her above other humans in Stjerne’s mind, and for this, he admired her deeply. Stjerne straightened his tuxedo again. “Will she see me this time, kauban?” The red star answered, “Yes, Stjerne, I think maybe this time she’ll see you. But enlighten me. How will you know if she sees you?” Stjerne pondered for a rotation, then slumped. “I hadn’t thought of that.” He stared back at the giant.
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“Do you have an answer to your own inquiry?” kauban responded with a shrug. The white star became visually distraught and frantically ran his hands through his hair. His feet found themselves pacing, quickening his and kauban’s respective orbiting. After a relative minute, Stjerne stopped and threw his arms out. “What’s the point then?” “You claim to love this woman?” “Yes.” “Then that’s the point.” Stjerne rubbed his forehead and twisted his face in contemplation. “Brother, you confuse me.” kauban raised a speculative eyebrow. “How so?” “Most moments of yours are spent chiding me and telling me to quit my feelings, but then you pull one of these conversations out of your ridiculously large hat.” Rubbing the scarlet brim, kauban said, “I don’t see what you mean.” Stjerne rolled his eyes, exasperated. “Why are you trying to encourage me now? It’s still the same scenario as it has always been.” kauban looked directly into his azure eyes. “I don’t like it when my brother is unhappy.” “I’m always unhappy.” “I know.” The younger quietly asked, “I’m not going to survive much longer, am I?” kauban sighed and nodded with a melancholic smile. “How much longer will I survive? Tell me.” “Hard to say, really.” kauban lifted up his sleeve to look at his wristwatch. “It’s getting late.” “I’m past the nova stage,” Stjerne said and shook his head slightly. “I should have listened to you sooner.” “That’s true,” kauban replied. Stjerne’s mouth twitched as he considered his only option. He had done this to himself, so he couldn’t shake the proverbial fist at anything. Looking back at his brother, he saw the red star filled with emotion and said, “You need not worry over me.” “But I do worry about you.” He flicked the edge of his coat, sending a scarlet wave of fabric to his outermost point. “I’m the one responsible for you. What would I do if— if—” “Don’t do anything.” Stjerne gave a half-hearted smile. “You can’t do anything anyway. There’s no stopping
the flow of energy.” kauban’s cheeks flushed, creating sickly sun spots. “I don’t want—” “And you think I do want to die?” “Of course not!” he snapped. kauban’s hair had started sparking. He breathed in deeply to simmer down. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.” “I appreciate the apology, but I deserved the snap.” Stjerne clasped his hands behind his back. “I definitely don’t deserve a brother who worries about me so much.” kauban rolled his misty eyes. “No need to get sentimental.” Grinning, Stjerne turned to face the approaching Earth. It was just making its last rotation before being completely in his line of sight. Suddenly his vision blurred, and he wiped his eyes. He sniffed once to try to control himself. The thought of dying before he could see the woman again was not something he wanted to experience. The white dwarf needed to see the fiery-headed astronomer one more time. He looked at his hands. “kauban, I…oh.” “What is it?” kauban tried to look over his brother’s shoulder as best as he could, but he couldn’t quite see until Stjerne turned around. His orange eyes widened as he looked straight through his brother’s hands. “kauban, I’m fading.” Stjerne held his palms in front of his face and was able to see the red star’s worried expression through them. He gave a low whistle as he shifted them towards the rest of space. “Never have I been able to see the whole universe on my hands until now.” His eyes met kauban’s. “I’m not going to last much longer.” “Don’t say that,” his older brother murmured. He worked his jaw, trying not to notice that the fade was spreading. “You’ll be able to see her. You have to tell yourself that.” He tilted his head. “It’s all psychological.” Stjerne glanced back at the approaching Earth. It was so close. He could see the sunlight reflecting off the oceans. It was almost sunrise where she would be. The white star looked again to his brother who had tears rolling down his cheeks. “I think it’s time, kauban.” His brother nodded once and slowly blinked. “If she doesn’t see you when, well, you erm…” He sighed, held out his arms, and tried to smile. Stjerne smiled, and for the first time since he saw the astronomer, the smile reached his eyes. He glided to his brother and embraced him, not caring about potential
Short Story 9
Short Story 10
consequences. Tears now flowed down Stjerne’s cheeks as well, realizing that this first time they ever embraced would also be their last goodbye. “Thank you, kauban. If it weren’t for you, she wouldn’t have seen me.” He started to fade faster. “No, Stjerne, hold on a bit longer.” kauban hugged him tighter, causing his coat to singe, but the younger pulled away. “I’ll make this an ending that she won’t dare to forget.” Stjerne glided as far away from kauban as he could. Not once did he take his eyes off his brother. He took a slow bow. kauban returned it, his face contorted with emotion. Stjerne started to double over, but he regained enough control to painfully straighten himself. “I always took you for granted, and for that,” he winced and grit his teeth with excruciating pain, “I’m sorry.” He looked above himself and started shaking violently. “Forgive me?” “Already done,” came kauban’s doleful reply. Stjerne nodded and tried to smile. “I suppose now would be a good time to say—” The white star faded completely and then lit again so brightly that kauban had to shield his eyes. Stjerne was nearly five billion times brighter than Earth’s sun. The shock wave from the explosion knocked kauban off his feet. Still unable to look, he waited for the intense heat and pressure to abate. Finally, he was able to look around himself. Stjerne was gone. All that was left of his once proud brother was dust and gasses. His brother’s death had created a spectacular display in shades of blue, white, and silver, which now floated leisurely in the space where the white star once stood. kauban’s tears flowed more quickly now, though he did not utter a sob. “Goodbye, brother.” He bowed once more and stuck his hands in his pockets. Feeling something cool in the left one, he pulled it out. He smirked and gave a pitiable laugh. Then, looking at the dusty formation, he whispered, “Thank you for the pocketwatch.” He gingerly placed the timepiece where Stjerne had left it. The red giant glided to where his brother last stood and solemnly watched as Earth passed below him. The astronomer was nowhere to be seen. She had been dead for at least 1,000 years, and kauban knew this, but he never had it in him to tell his brother. “Though you never would have believed me anyway,” he said to the memory of
Stjerne. He wiped his eyes on his sleeves and flew back to position, where he would never move from again. *** “Luke,” Dr. Farrawey called from the top of the observation tower. He was head astronomer at the Space Exploration and Mapping Research Center. Lately, he had been trying to discover the romantic concept of “space’s heartbeat” through novae and nebulae. A recent development in his research had just presented itself. “Come look at this!” His intern, Luke, came running up the metal staircase to see what Dr. Farrawey was looking at. “What is it, Dr. F.?” The head astronomer merely pointed into the midday sky at a bright point. “Do you see that?” “Hmm,” Luke thought deeply, “it appears to be a Type Ia Supernova. White dwarf, by the looks of it.” “Precisely.” Dr. Farrawey patted Luke on the shoulder. “And now we can use it as a standard candle marker. We’ll be able to see how far out in the galaxy that little guy was. Then that data can be used to map other stars and galaxies.” Luke nodded at what his supervisor was saying while continuing to gaze at the bright point, though it hurt his eyes. He smiled at the supernova and ran a hand through his curly orange hair. “Wow,” he whispered, rubbing his freckled chin, “I know of someone from 1,000 years ago that would have loved to see you.”
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paperbaCks Rebecca Ethridge
I write by firelight but
Broken spines, torn pages.
fired light writes me.
Between the lines
Canvas is my parchment—
the ink is beginning to run—
each rolled back
a black mark
tent flap opens
on our lives.
a new chapter. There is no stopping the Between periods of canon-fire,
war of words
until the pages have been
and gunpowder serves as ink.
burned and turned to ash. And paperbacks will go first
Generals with authorial command
then hardbacks and then all
who have stood on the shelf too long.
into plotted positions. We have been written in the Book. We are no longer hardbacks
But only the Author knows if
but have become
we’ll survive erasure.
young oCeans Emilio Gomez
She wades in a crystalline ocean, postured before breaking tides, saline swells that wash the filth from vagabond surfers. Unrelenting mercy crashing continually
reminds her of grandmaâ€™s house and baptisms, breakfast-table testimonies, feral adolescence and redeeming love. She is at home with the ghostly jellyfish hovering over glittered shores, vanishing with each new wave that haunts them in timeless turmoil, that sways like grandmaâ€™s rocking chair facing low tides on a western horizon.
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What the sun saW that night Savvy Myles
welve bullet-ridden and bloody bodies lay in shallow, dusty graves; the thirteenth waited to be tossed in with the rest. I scratched the right corner of my scruffy jawline, putting on airs that this rushed burial was a waste of my time, and in a sense it was. Warm, sandy wind and tumbleweeds warned me and my boys that someone would come looking for these bodies soon, and I didn’t want to be around when that happened. Thirteen stiffs were enough for one day. Squinting, I looked up at the blood red sky and followed the sun as it sprinted to hide under the horizon, somewhere in the west. Even the sun wanted nothing to do with us; that ball of gas was smart. After all the sin it’s seen through the hopeless ages, I imagine the sun is always excited to set and to leave the moon to solve the problems it couldn’t fix. I’d be much obliged if the moon would bury these bodies so we could get a move on. Flecks and splatters of dried blood crusted the desert sand, leaving behind clues as to what had happened hours ago. Some drops laid on the earth at the toe of my boot. I scuffed my shoe back and forth across the harsh ground until the dark blood crumbled and mixed in the red sand. The wind at the back of my neck brushed me so roughly I could have sworn it was the devil himself trying to drag me back home with him. I craned my neck to look over my shoulder and peered into the shadows the sun left behind. Scanning the Texas wasteland, I searched for any sign that we were being pursued. Ahead, the night was as empty as the goners’ pockets.
“Boss!” Jebediah Simmons’ high, twangy voice interrupted my scoping. “The body won’t go in the hole.” With one last look at the distance we’d covered, I turned to the youngest and newest member of my posse and snarled, “Don’t talk nonsense in front of everyone, or I’ll have to hurt you.” Samuel Edwards, John Pike, the twins Matthew and Alistair Adams, John Murray, and young Jebediah Simmons made up my company, and right now they all looked at me as if I were Lucifer himself. I shoved my hands into my dirty pockets and crossed the terrain until I was standing alongside them. I looked between the men and waited for an explanation. When none came I said, “No more nonsense, ya hear?” Jebediah looked more helpless than my mama when she lost her vision. The doctor said Mama was too young to have gone blind, and he used some fancy words like “traumatic” and “cataracts” when he explained the problem. I will never forget the look on Mama’s face when those milky white eyes of hers widened, never seeing our family or house again; it was a look of complete and utter helplessness. She wandered our house blindly, like a stranger who’d never set foot in it before, and I watched her lose her mind over it. You don’t forget fear like that. This is how Jebediah stared at me now. His green eyes darted from me, to the thirteenth body, to me again. He shook his head violently, uncomprehending. “Every time we put the body in the grave it comes back out—like it don’t wanna be there, Boss.” I raised a black eyebrow and followed the men’s gaze down to the corpse. The dead man before us had been the hardest to kill; I wouldn’t forget that easily. Fourteen bullets for the thirteenth man. Even now he still wore that defiant look on his face—the same one he had when that last bullet put him down like a dog. I turned my attention to the empty grave the twins had dug. It was hardly two feet deep. “So the dead doesn’t want to be put in the grave,” I reiterated. To me this was as idiotic as the time Jebediah shot himself in the foot the first time I handed him my .45 revolver. The memory made the corner of my mouth quirk up. Waving my hand in the direction of the thirteenth body, I said, “Put the stiff in his grave.” Jebediah wrung his hands and exchanged a worried look with John Pike.
Short Story 13
Short Story 14
“You deaf, boy?” I barked. “Toss the body in.” Jebediah rushed over and grabbed the body’s rigid arms. Samuel grabbed his ankles. The two men looked at each other and nodded, and in unison they lifted the corpse, swung it back and forth to catch momentum, and tossed it in the shallow hole. The body landed with a hard thud. Me and my boys watched the bag of bones and bullets for a moment. Everything was completely still. Nothing happened. Just solid moonlight washing over everything. After a moment of silence I lifted my hat and wiped the sweat from my forehead, annoyed with Jebediah. “You’re not Jesus and this body ain’t Lazarus,” I said finally. “Ain’t nobody’s comin’ back from the dead tonight. You’re an alcoholic who traded his spine for a gun, is all.” I glared at the rest of my posse, then at the darkening sky. “Fill up the hole. Let’s go—” “Boss!” Jebediah shouted, pointing down. “Look!” I cut a sharp glare at the deranged boy. This kid was really looking for a beating now. My eyes followed to where his trembling finger pointed, to the thirteenth body, and my breath caught in my throat. That dead one was out of the grave. All I could do was stare. I’d hardly looked away for more than a few seconds—I met each of my boys’ horrified faces and tried my best not to sink to their level. “Maybe he’s possessed by the devil,” Samuel said, trying to sound educated. “There’s no other explanation.” Matthew and Alistair squatted on opposite sides of the body and leaned in closely. The twins exchanged cautious expressions, and Matthew said, “He ain’t breathin’. He’s out of the grave, but still dead.” Alistair nodded. “Dead as a doorknob, this’n.” More nods. Then all heads turned to me for an explanation. “Boss?” John Murray prompted in his low voice. Heck if I knew. I shook my head. “Maybe somebody ain’t ready to be put to rest.” Everyone chuckled. Everyone except Jebediah. I looked at the shaken boy out of the corner of my eye. He still had that frightened countenance that declared this situation was very wrong. And it was. None of us knew the first thing about what was happening, and the pressure on our shoulders to understand this was heavier than any corpse. The truth of the matter was, I was just as scared as Jebediah. “Boss,” John Murray urged, “we should leave.”
I nodded, thankful for some voice of reason. “All right. We got a long night ahead of us if we’re gonna git to San Antonio by morning.” I turned toward the grave, hesitated, and cursed myself for my curiosity. “Throw the stiff in one more time. I wanna see this.” I gave the twins the signal. Matthew and Alistair grabbed the body’s wrists and ankles, eager to watch the wicked performance once more. Thud. “All right,” I said. “Nobody move. Nobody look away.” We were as still as that thirteenth body, holding our breaths, waiting for the devil to perform one of his awful miracles. My heart threatened to shatter my ribs, it beat so violently. To be honest, I wanted to see the dead body crawl out of the hole again. I wanted to be terrified. I wanted it to haunt me in my nightmares from this day forward. “C’mon,” I muttered. “Rise up.” But that body never moved as long as my eyes stayed on it. Five minutes felt like five years to me—I don’t know what my boys thought—and my eyes stung from the sandy wind and from staring at one place for so long. That body never moved an inch. I rubbed my swelling eyes with the back of my hand. Only then, when I realized I’d looked away, it was too late. My boys swore and yelled, their souls all terrorized, because out of the grave was that darn body. Right at my boots. I’d missed it again. “Let’s go Boss, please,” Jebediah begged. “This must be some Indian burial grounds or somethin’ real bad. This whole place is cursed!” The rest of the posse nodded and voiced their agreement. Everyone but me had seen the body leap out—they were convinced it was the devil or dead Indians messing with us. I rubbed my eyes again, and my head began to hurt. Maybe because I was thinking too hard about something that couldn’t be explained. Maybe I drank too much before the robbery. Maybe this was part of the punishment for what me and my boys had done. I don’t know why I began to feel guilty and scared, or why the pain brought up those emotions. I didn’t like feeling those things. To make matters worse, I felt like my mama in a sense: like that old lady with her cataracts, I wasn’t able to see or understand what was before me. Maybe I had cataracts; I wouldn’t know. Whatever it was, I knew the headache was atonement for something I’d done.
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I was so bone-tired. I couldn’t say whether or not my boys felt the same way. Nobody had said a word for a good hour—as if everyone but me were a ghost. We all sat in our saddles like we was waiting for doomsday, looking down at that corpse, save for young Jebediah who stared out into the distance, his back facing us. “Let’s get movin’, Jeb,” I said. He didn’t move. “Jebediah,” I barked. “Get over here now.” The pain beat hard at the back of my head. My vision flashed white for a second from the ache. Colors of the night seemed to wash and bleed together, like someone tossing a bucket of water on fresh paint. I swayed in my saddle. I didn’t know what else to do—I pulled out my revolver from its holster and aimed it at Jebediah Simmons. “Get over here or so help me God I will shoot you right between those green eyes of yours.” Jebediah turned around and looked at me. I knew by the scare in his eyes what he was about to do. Before I could tell him to stop, he turned and ran off in the opposite direction. “Jebediah!” I yelled after him, but I knew it was too late. I wouldn’t be able to catch up with him, not even on this horse. The hand holding the gun began to shake. My head pounded and I slipped out of my saddle. Help, I thought. I need help. I was gone before I hit the ground. *** Jebediah Simmons ran as fast his little legs could carry him back to the house. More than anything else in the world he hated nights like this. He jumped over the three steps that led to the back porch and burst into the house, breathless. “Mom!” he cried. “Dad’s done it again!” Jessica Simmons stepped out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a dishtowel. To see her son so terrified infuriated her more than seeing her husband wasted. Whenever Alex talked about his acting days, even though he’d never really “made it,” alcohol always followed. He never hit her or their child, but he yelled. There was always yelling. Jessica left the dishcloth on the counter, told Jebediah to stay inside, and walked out onto the back porch. There was only moonlight, growing fainter, so it took her a minute to locate her fallen husband. There in the yard, which was more dirt than it was grass, she found him. Lying on his back with his snoring
mouth wide open, Alex was fast asleep with twelve empty bottles strewn around him. In his hand was another bottle, but he’d passed out before he opened it, which was a good thing, she guessed. He looked like a corpse ready to be buried.
Short Story 15
niChoLas breyer Olivia Rawlins
Rejuvenated flowers dance on sodden soil, a contrast of yellows and pinks against the slick marble of stone. Chiseled carving and dates too close together provide unwanted assumptions and unanswerable questions. Your heart held the strength of a lion
with roars of laughter following your wake, serendipity preyed on your innocence. Your wise youthfulness preceded you, gray hair furrowing where experience was held and your nose buried into pages of Thoreau and Tolstoy. Flowers now stomp the ground where your feet should have been, where your heart should have roared and your youth should have grown.
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DominiCana Hannah Menendez
The girl doesn’t see the visitors— Instead her hazel eyes observe with maternal gaze half-naked children playing beside tin-roofed candy houses pinks and greens and blues like cans with bright labels sitting side by side on a grocery store shelf. Her beauty is honey-brown skin rich from island sun never touched by product, smooth as the day her mama held her brand-new blinking into relentless rays of equatorial sunlight—except for the pink bumps. Streaks of blonde-striped dark tight coils of hair touched not by dye but by genetics that know the meaning of dualism. Cheekbones carved as sharp and abrupt as the ravine that scars the earth between her shack and the flat-topped mountain she pretends leads to heaven— though the path up to the crest is full of trash and vines with spindle-like thorns. Eyelashes reaching up to her forehead—individual shoots sprouting and curving like the gentle slopes of the plantains growing in nearby fields. Smile slow and tight—and rare as someone here braking at a red light— mystical the way those lips stretching whittle that pair of dents into her cheeks as perfectly as the local carpenter carves tourists’ trinkets from native wood. Body tall and straight like those telephone poles lining dirt streets covered in campaign ads, her printed shirt emblazoned with a slogan as meaningless to her as the promises of politicians. The tourists watch her grab her little sister’s hands and swing her round til they grow dizzy and grow younger and fall flat on the clay floor, melding with the earth until they and the dirt are breathing together and one heart bleeding from island corruption, beating to island rhythm.
bLooming bLue veins Tiffany Sepulveda
What are we but bones that ache, as the leaves turn a spotted beige; and blood that drips, like water, from our nose, when weâ€™re punched in the face; and eyes that wince
and corners that wrinkle at the littlest feeling of pain or pleasure; and fingers that, most of the time, caress the atoms in the air, that, most of the time, caress each other; and toes that are barely touched, except by old wool socks in December; and souls that never want to mourn; and blue veins that have yet to bloom out from the dirt that we are?
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samantha Evan Sahlman
a navigatorâ€™s pLea from the mastheaD Noah Thaman
Ships sail turgid waters, ships sink. Rock faces crumble, saline caverns gurgle like skeleton mouths grinning at indiscriminate clouds. Rain falls on the mess of it all, and the sun bridges the rainbow surf.
The sea will outlast us, stars too. The earth grumbles on through dark, untraversed nothing clipping through solar rollers pulled by what? Ribs of Orion like a slingshot to Rigel slowly burning down into an ancient blue wick in a storm cloud. Cosmic ware maker, I cannot track your magnetic storms, yet light travels on after stars expire like headstones laid in the heavens. What happens to memory at death? Does it fall away like burnt paper, whisp away like smoke? And what is all this holding together of yesterdays like popcorn strings â€˜round the blue spruce of a history? But you, thread weaver, I have a few questions over stitching. I am not a beautiful cloth so mend me. Maker of quilted men, pierce me with your needles and draw together this fray for I would rather be a dishrag at your feast than a festoon in this drab sailed parade.
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the Courts of the LorD Alexis Brumby
walk along the edge of the seawall, bare toes gripping. My jeans are rolled above my ankles, and I take each step slowly, savoring. Around me, the breeze is full, salty and wild. Clouds build overhead, crowding out the few shy stars already hung in the sky. Tonight, nature is strong, powerful and unrestrained. Nights like this I feel alive, realizing I’ve been sleeping far too long, unaware of my lack of life. I breathe deeply and let the air sting my lungs. My thoughts are as chaotic as the waves that throw themselves relentlessly against the wall immovable. Little Sister is in her bed, heart pounding, wires tucking in and out, eyelids twitching, and I know she is dreaming. Her deep brown hair is flat and pressed damp against her pallid forehead. The room smells sterile, cold, void of life, and I feel the emptiness seeping into me. Her small hand lies limp against her side while the other stretches across her six-year-old chest. Outside the door, there is crying and the hustle of nurses and doctors as they try to save lives. I feel it, and they know it too well: the death that slides underneath doors and through closed windows. The monitor flashes, medicine running empty. Nurse comes in and smiles and I smile back. A new needle plunges into the already swollen flesh. She checks vital signs. She smiles again and leaves, closing the big door with the single window and white blinds. I look back at the monitors and needles and the small warm body in front of me; warm with a life not yet lived. Little Sister breathes in deep, and I exhale long. I heard a saying once, “Wherever you are, be all there.” That’s a nice saying. That’s a hard thought. I don’t want to be all here.
Little Sister has mangled legs and a vicious scar tracing up her back. She stirs. Fingers tighten and eyelids open slowly. She rubs her suffering eyes with one hand, the one with the IV protruding. Her mumbled words come out sleepy. “Can we read a story?” I look around for the storybooks. “Of course. Who is your favorite princess?” “Ariel!” A smile slides across her lips, and her eyes finally begin to twinkle. Mom helps me find the book, and then I crawl in bed, carefully aware of wires and pain. Little Sister and I flip the cover open together and skip through the first blank pages to reach the beginning. “Once upon a time…” Twice we read the story, giggling out the names of Scuttle and Sebastian and Flounder. Flounder. I feel like him. I think about the blank pages at the front of the storybook, the ones that are silent, the ones before the story begins. God has been silent too. Nurse comes in again, and it’s time to check more tubes and take more medicine. “This one has a nice flavor, Queen Jordan. And… it’s even pink.” Nurse winks and smiles encouragement. “Just get it down quickly and then you can get some more apple juice.” The Oxi squeezes out of the tube and down her throat, numbing nerves, numbing pain. “Good job, you’re all done!” Little Sister hands the empty container back, triumphant. “You’re looking so much better each day. Maybe, if you keep getting stronger, the doctors will let you go home tomorrow!” Little Sister rolls her eyes and giggles, “I am going home tomorrow. And…” she points with an excited finger, “I get to bring my chair!” Earlier that day, while energy allowed, we’d gone for rides in the wheelchair. She’d been happy, independent. Watching her spin wheels and explore made me spin my own wheels into thoughts. This is how it’s going to be. I watch her interact with others—the looks, the stares, the smiles, the hidden pity. This is it. Little Sister is oblivious to all these things, and as strength returns to her small body, I realize her joy has been no less. Down the hall, through two big doors, across from the window that overlooks the sailboats, there is a play room. To one side stands a small kitchen and a kid’s grocery store. Little Sister and I play checkout. With one hand, she scans and makes the beeping noise while I pick out the choicest
Creative Essay 21
Creative Essay 22
meats and ripest fruits from our small basket of selections. My thoughts wander to the multiplying of fish and bread made by the gentle hands of the One who gave manna to the Israelites, and I remember, painfully, that Jesus gave thanks before the miracle happened. To the left, tucked away in the corner, there is an old jukebox. Papa comes over, hair wiry and legs slowed from the months of his radiation treatment for last year’s cancer. And all of us want to see if this jukebox can play us some good music. He puts his left hand into his pocket and pulls out the usual crumpled collection of old receipts and coins that have been through more than a few hands. Little Sister wheels her way over and angles herself to be able to play the jukebox. Papa hands her a quarter and her small hand barely reaches the high slot. We all hear the tink of the coin rattling downward. Numbers are pressed and out rolls a song, light and childish. We all sit there for minutes and listen happily, drinking in the sweetness of a long moment. Papa and I look at each other, and I know he has the same questions I do. As we make our way back to the room, a few people tell us “hello” and “have a nice day.” We say the same back to them, although none of us are really sure what having a nice day means in this place—maybe the fact that you still have blood flowing through your veins, purple with red life. Minutes draw by, and I know it is time for me to go home and leave Papa and Little Sister behind. There are five other hungry mouths to feed, five loads of laundry to be done, and floors that need to be swept and mopped. I breathe deeply, and I thank God, wanting Him to multiply the small manna in my soul and turn it into Bread of Life. If I can give thanks before the miracle, then will I be able to gather up twelve baskets filled to the brim, an over-abundance of trust in the One who is currently hard to see? On my way home, I watch the deep blue melt into dusk. Small pieces of clouds grasp at the sky. Tomorrow is Friday, I think. Tomorrow might bring a homecoming. Dinner sits steaming on the counter, small pieces of bread on each plate, and we all fold our hands and bow our heads to thank God for the day, for this meal, and for each other. I look at each bowl, full to the brim, and at the pieces of bread, and I think again of the suffering Israelites gathering their daily manna. It’s now Sunday night, one week later. I’m staring at a paper not yet typed, a book not yet read, papers piled
high, and I answer “hello” to the phone ringing. It’s my mom. “Jordan’s in the emergency room again. The machine inside her head failed, and there’s too much fluid clogging her brain.” I look at the clock and it reads 10:32. I find my way outside while hearing details, eyes clouded by tears, fists clenched tight shut, and I feel the hot anger searing my heart. Here we go again. One hour later, the phone rings. “Can you say a quick ‘hi’ to her?” Scared cries answer me on the other end of the phone. Little Sister tries to speak out words. I tell her it’s going to be okay and that she will be taken good care of, but my words are too little and my throat is too tight, and I know very well what the next couple of days hold. Mom says, “They’re taking her away now, but I’ll keep you updated. Just pray. Love you.” The line clicks silent. Sometimes there are days when the questions are quiet, and the mind is put to ease by peace. Most days though, my thoughts are not quiet, the thanks is not on my lips, and I am back on the seawall with the relentless waves always crashing. I think of the small body again in the hospital bed, the shaved piece of skull exposing twisted, naked flesh. Perhaps the glory of God truly is in all these things; and I am missing it. Each day brings news. Some bad, some promising. Soon Jordan is going home again, saying goodbye to nurses that have worked tirelessly to ease her pain. Other siblings have visited and drawn pictures, leaving love-notes. We are all homesick, and I know I am homesick for a place not of here. I see a world of emptiness, and I am blind and starving, crouched on the wall, waiting for healing. My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Little Sister is getting stronger now. I might be too, I think.
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horeb, the mountain of goD Thomas Lubben
I stood in the cave
And I felt the heat
with shadows wrapping me,
of starving nature’s tongue
looking out gray-eyed at algid scree
charring the cold rocks and melting some
in a lifeless world
like a burning justice
under a lifeless sky,
that would melt all desire.
and waited for God to pass by.
But God was not there in the fire.
Then wind from the up,
I stood in the cave,
a north wind fighting through,
and then a still small voice
crushed the dead faces of stones and blew
split my rock soul with its silent noise
in a lifeless world,
and in quiet strength,
feeding the lifeless spin,
it shook earth from my feet
but God was not there in the wind.
and burned away ice in its heat—
I stood in the cave
I stood in the cave
and felt the planet tilt
and knew a still small voice
as earth’s undergirding described the lilt
and knew that if I should make one choice
of a master hand
in a lifeless world, under a lifeless sky,
that rocked worlds for my sake.
I’d live in the wind,
But He was not there in the earthquake.
the earthquake, the fire of the still small voice that went passing by.
Lake meaD Ryan Arnst
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moCkingbirD Joey Hedger
plump little Mockingbird fluttered onto an eye-level branch and scratched the bark with its poor-excuse-for-a-talon. I saw that it was looking at me, so I smiled and tipped my hat. “Ahem,” it said all of the sudden. I froze. Did that Mockingbird just say “ahem?” It couldn’t have. Birds can’t speak. Especially not Mocking… “I would like to sing you a song,” it said, interrupting my scattered thoughts. “Uh,” I uttered, now completely sure that I wasn’t mistaken about this creature’s ability. “Sure… I suppose… If you’d like.” It looked at me and tilted its head. “Don’t sound so excited,” the Mockingbird squawked. “So what’ll it be?” “Yes. You can sing me a song,” I heard myself sputter. “No, no. What SONG do you want me to sing?” At this, I was perplexed almost as much as when it first said “ahem.” What song? What song would a Mockingbird know? Let’s Fly Away immediately came to my mind, but I decided that I would never want to hear a Mockingbird sing that.
“I dunno,” I responded nonetheless. “I guess one that you wrote…err… made up or whatever.” The Mockingbird suddenly became so angry that it pecked the branch it was on and made a spitting motion. I didn’t see any spit. “Who do you think I am? Mr. Rogers? Reading Rainbow? Dr. Seuss…of songwriting? I don’t make up songs; I’m a bird.” I didn’t know how to respond to this. I was getting irritated. “Okay,” I said. “Then how about Free Bird?” “Don’t know it.” “Fine,” I finally shouted. “Just sing whatever you want.” At that, the Mockingbird seemed to cheer up and then started singing, only, its song simply sounded like chirping. “That’s not an original?” I asked as it started swaying. “Nope,” it briefly responded before continuing to sing. By this time, the Mockingbird had closed its eyes, so I walked away, completely disappointed by this unoriginal little creature. I could hear it singing until I was too far away, but I’m sure it continued to sing. I am quite sure of it.
the Writerâ€™s hymn Rebekah Best
Our young, soft hands aching dreaming of dancing on constellations that our craniums create Our young, soft hands flying with our craft between our fingers callouses forming with frontier freedom
Our young, soft hands grasping feeble words and phrases fall stars wink, eyes glisten Our young, soft hands wondering inexperienced, impervious, immortally ignorant galaxies in our pink palms Our young, soft hands work One day they will be weathered
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verneLL Naomi Wallen
Lois mabeL fitCh bjork Olivia Anderson
Creative Essay 28
ois never would tell me how many fiancés she had. There was the Harvard grad she played tennis with. “My mother was a wise woman,” Lois said, staring her own wisdom at me through bright blue eyes. “She had me invite him to our house for a week. I figured out how awfully lazy he was and dumped him at the end of that week!” Then there was “that fetchin’ fella” with “a blue convertible.” My eyes rolled to the dwarfed porcelain model above her TV. “I was a sight to behold in that car! You should have seen me, scarf tied over my hair, blowin’ behind me in the wind.” I snickered and cast her a playfully reproachful look. Shrugging shoulders rounded by age, she laughed deep harmony and said, “Blue is my favorite color.” It wasn’t until Lois was in her sixties that she slowed down enough to be caught. “You can’t imagine my surprise the morning after I eloped.” She shook her head, apparently still shocked, and parked her chin in her palm. “I woke up, looked over at him, and thought, Oh my soul, I married a Scandinavian!” Lois was of deep flowing American blood. Civil wars ended when her mother, a Bostonian debutante, caught the eye of a Virginian architect who was ten years her senior in the decade before the twenties began to roar. Almost a casualty of the First World War herself, Mabel fought death on a bitter January morning giving birth to a daughter. Like a medal, this golden-haired, cerulean-eyed spitfire proudly carried about her mother’s name, Lois Mabel Fitch. Nearly a century later, this squalling medal sat before me flashing a faux pearl and diamond necklace, which I
have inherited, and an ornate golden bracelet, which she inherited from a childhood friend killed in a car accident seventy years ago. Tapping on the sleeping face of one of her many thrift store watches, Lois continued, “My daddy refused to allow Mother to go through another pregnancy. Everyday on the way home from school, I pleaded with my parents to stop at the orphanage an’ pick up another lil’ baby. Oh, I wanted a baby brother or sister so bad, and I thought that’s how you got one.” Very properly, Lois smoothed out her wildly patterned sleeves as she spoke. She then ran her red nails through a thick halo of antiqued blond hair. The white, balled up remains of a kleenex, which had been imprisoned in the palm of her hand, were forgotten, and floated down into her lap and onto the floor, paying obeisance (along with other fallen remains) to her golden thrift store shoes. She claimed it was the fire of the Holy Spirit that had singed her clothes into wildness. “It’s my ministry to the young women,” her painted lips professed. “But when I was a lil’ girl, I refused to wear anything but white. My poor mother certainly had a whole lot of launderin’ to do.” Lois’ stubbornness hadn’t diminished over ninety-five years. “Don’t give me that look!” She laughed at me as I closed the door after the mailman, holding a delivery big enough to be that baby brother or sister she always wanted. “We’ll find space for it somewhere!” Grabbing a gospel track from an overflowing supply, Lois flashed a floral cane and opened the front door with a swish of her costume-bejeweled wrist on the knob and a kick of her foot along the dented bottom. “Hullo there! Mr. Postman! Hold up!” her sweet, bird-like voice warbled. No one left her home until they heard about her “precious Redeemer.” A few minutes later, we opened up her package and unloaded the latest sales—spiritual books, therapeutic socks, wonder vitamins, or “hurricane supplies,” as she called it. “You don’t wanna run out of anything…necessary …in case you’re caught in a hurricane! Gotta be ready for anything, my dear!” Pulling back the shower curtain in the spare bedroom—converted to a library “so that any visitors can get the idea in their heads to stay at the motel down the road”—I built up the leaning tower of inevitable, old age dependencies. Once, I wondered if this hoarding mentality sprouted from a 1930s childhood. “I didn’t even know we were
Living Waters revieW
havin’ a depression!” she exclaimed as she cast her eyes over a bountiful stack of magazines, which I weeded whenever allowed. On the table to her side rose a heap of unopened mail, anchored down with a magnifying glass. From where I sat, I could see nearly a dozen Bibles scattered about the room, most opened and used daily, marked by a wobbly hand with a sky-blue colored pencil. Bible commentaries and missionary biographies were stacked like an Israelite’s altar on the floor; here God met with Woman. *** “My daddy was a brilliant man. He never invested in banks or stocks. Those years didn’t affect us. I had a limousine to take me to kindergarten,” she declared in all sincerity. Hers was a rose-colored world. “Sometimes, when I was really lil’, my daddy would take me to work with him, and I thought I’d bust with pride seein’ his name painted on the glass windows: ‘Charles Fitch, Architect.’ I just love the name Charles, don’t you? I wanted to be an architect for a long while.” Lois doodled buildings and 3-D boxes as she shared her hoarded memories. “My daddy printed a Christian newsletter and would often have me write poems or stories for it. Once he put a picture of me on the front cover. I was three—had nearly just died after an ear surgery. My head was all wrapped up in bandages, and I was standin’ in his garden, smellin’ his roses.” Closing her eyes, Lois lifted her rosy lips in a sweet smelling smile. “I wish I still had that picture, but it and everything else I had was gone after I up and left my house in Greensboro. The doctor told me that I needed some special treatments and had to pick either Greensboro or Florida for them. All of my friends were down here at Bible Town—and my niece, of course!” Lois’ niece, Dot, was her only remaining relative, the daughter of one of her late husband’s many sisters. Every Friday, they made a day of Wal-Mart and a feast of Subway. “I wasn’t going to let that doctor keep me up there in North Carolina for the rest of my life—though I miss it something dreadful—so I packed my bags, hopped in the car, drove to Florida, and never moved back. Sold the house and everything in it just like that!” She snapped her fingers as if breaking a spell. After a few moments, she reassured me like she always did when something crossed her mind that she missed: “It was all only stuff.” Another item she always regretted selling was the violin her father gave her as a child. “It was such a pretty lil’
thing. But I was a stupid college student and thought that I needed the money.” Yet somewhere between breaking hearts, getting her Masters, working at IBM, becoming an elementary school teacher, imparting speech therapy to children all over America, eloping with a Swede, and being a greeter at the Billy Graham crusades, Lois found the time to become a concert violinist. While cleaning out her desk drawers one afternoon as Lois sat in another room, eyes closed, binging on sermons by her favorite preacher, I came across a thick manila envelope labeled, “My Students.” Like butterflies at last ready to leave their chrysalis after half a century in the creating, scraps of paper flew out as I opened the envelope. Gracefully, haphazardly, they landed without any particular composition on my crossed legs and the thick carpet. Colorful pictures and misshapen letters smeared into one beautiful love note, the accolades of second graders to their beloved teacher, Ms. Fitch. Behind me on the mustard colored couch watched a teddy bear and a plush whale with curious, plastic eyes. “I never knew you were a teacher!” I exclaimed, interrupting the deep voice quoting Scripture to Lois. Her lips mouthed each word simultaneously with the portable, long-antennaed radio. Cracking one eyelid open, she glanced at me and answered, “Oh yes! But I gave it up after I got married. My husband wanted me to be at home, but I missed those dear lil’ children terribly. I told him that I hadn’t cooked a day in my life and didn’t drink coffee—my soul, those Swedes need their coffee! But he said that was okay, he could make his own coffee, and went ahead and married me anyways. Once I taught him how to pinch his fiery lil’ temper in the bud, we got on just fine and had ten good years together. Men—they just love pickin’ fights. Don’t you even consider marryin’ a man with a temper! They’re a whole lotta work to train.” Another era of her past I uncovered while cleaning was her work as a speech therapist. “There are so many poor little boys and girls who can’t speak properly,” she explained to me, as my curiosity questioned a fat folder of yellowed pamphlets and guides. “I travelled all over America, helpin’ these children in our elementary schools.” I wonder how many Lois-accented adults there must be around this country today. Teaching wasn’t her only career. One evening, during the commercials between our daily viewings of Wheel of
Creative Essay 29
Creative Essay 30
Fortune and Jeopardy, Lois nonchalantly leaked, “I modeled fur coats in college to earn some extra money.” At my raised brows, she justified it with, “They liked me because I was so tall.” Scoliosis of the spine had shrunken her in her old age. But I told her I loved her by rubbing my hand over that rippled curve of a back. The first time I did it, she melted to a halt in her place, closed her eyes, and said, “You don’t realize how wonderful it is to be touched by another human being. Old people don’t get touched very often.” Yet there were times I wanted to shake, not rub, that shrunken frame. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard as when I let Lois drive. Her spine was so crooked by ninetyfive that she had to watch the road through the hole in the steering wheel. Two, stick-on American flags fluttered in terror over the backseat doors of her green Cadillac as we swerved in and out of the bike lanes of Boca Raton. A pocket-sized leather Bible, cracked by years under the hot Florida sun, and a man’s hat staggered back and forth in the rear window. “The Bible’s meant to be a testimony to everyone I pass,” she assured me. “And the hat’s there because crooks are less likely to break into a car they think is owned by a man.” Each vowel was like a song with two syllables. Lois loved to sing. In the mornings, she walked up and down the outdoor hallway of her condo’s floor and sang hymns. “It’s my ministry,” she told me. “When I don’t do it, the folks come ‘n’ tell me how much they missed it. They probably think I died!” When she wasn’t strong enough to get in and out of bed by herself, I slept on her couch at night. Each morning, a golden-brimming song would drift out over the sky blue carpet of her condo and to my ears. Sometimes she sung my name in crafted and ever varying melodies. Sometimes she belted out her favorite show tune: “Ohhh, what a beauuu-tiful morrrr-ning! Ohhh, what a beauuu-tiful daaaay!” Though it’s been over a year since I’ve heard her sweet chirruping, I still wake up most mornings with her song on my lips. “Just gettin’ ready for that heavenly choir, my dear!” she laughed at me once. But I’m not sure if that heavenly choir was ready for her.
Living Waters revieW
girL from the Choir Susan Bealor
Chopin (for my granDmother) Hannah Menendez
Play the piece again for me,
the one you know I love,
the one you learned
cups of tea
just for me because
I wanted to watch
fly across ivory,
fly across centuries
like airplanes and time machines,
and arthritic fingers
dancing slower now—
the little black dots and lines;
You don’t mind
they’re as much your children
as your present audience
so I won’t mind growing up
Largo I love that when your fingers stumble you just laugh and brush the arpeggio again like I always used to years ago when you taught my clumsy hands to dance. They never danced as well as yours, but I never minded; I’d rather watch your fingers perform a thousand recitals than play my own—Why would I ever paint in front of da Vinci or van Gogh? Though you never thought you were an artist; you loved to hear me trip and skitter and gaffe through scales and preludes, nocturnes and sonatas
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a nameLess park besiDe my thirD ChiLDhooD home Alexandra Gomez
I never liked that path that wound up the hill, its dust-smeared brick unforgiving as it rose high and forced me along its way. That way lays out and becomes wood shavings, bends and meanders and is shrouded mostly, but not altogether, by fronded palms; their toffee trunks curving up and bowing over mangroves, petals verdant and dusk orange
and met with tawny bristle, bunched there,
where the crunch of leaves follows gull calls. White vessels tend to carve the murky green-blue hills that slap on a shaky yet unbroken line of infinitesimal shellsâ€” spitting back half-empty coconut husks. Beside it lies half a precipice, dangling over: three bottom-dwelling rocks unearthed, with sharp points on their round, grainy surfaces. That picture there remains, nameless; despite concrete towers and loud lights that rake my eyes, I stop and feel the precipice under my fingertips. A child, I sat there unperturbed and watched noon dim on murky waters until it sank, and I would start up the hill.
ponDerosa pine Thomas Lubben
Short Story 34
he noon slept in the deep blue sky like the sun, a motionless flare over the ever-distant Black Hills. Cosmo’s listless gaze drifted through the dusty window into the prairie of his backyard. He hadn’t slept in three days. Intense in the gold of a concluding summer, the daylight confronted him again, and he was pathetically weak for the encounter. The fall was finally beckoning; the one tree outside of the house glowed a fiery green, and the endless ocean of tall grass carried its last splendor. He fought to pry his swollen eyes open, because he would fall asleep. And when he would fall asleep, the same dream would torture his mind into waking up. Yesterday, or three days ago, or last week…in the recent past, a vision began to surface in his dreams: this old summer sun. Even, now he felt its ardent cadence—the scathing glare that left him blinking and exhausted in his bed. A distant hum wandered from downstairs into his room. Sounds—sounds of talking. “…said we could come visit sometime.” “Oh, that brother of yours,” floated a low, female drone. “I’m just glad that he decided to leave that crazy music behind.” “I don’t know; now that he’s finally made it as a composer, his music doesn’t seem at all less crazy, but now it’s a craziness that makes some sense. That you can listen to. I wish I knew more about music.” The screen door downstairs rattled and snapped Cosmo into a sudden alertness. “Couldn’t find any turkey, but they did have honey ham. Will that do?” It was his sister’s voice.
“Oh, sure,” said his mother. “It doesn’t matter. Was it busy in town?” “Yeah, very. There was a line at the counter when I checked out.” “It’s getting busier and busier there. You know, I think more people than ever have been visiting Devil’s Tower.” The deep voice entered. “Hasn’t it always been a busy place?” “Yeah. But now it seems like vacationers are either adventure seekers at Devil’s Tower or at Yellowstone watching the sunrise. Nobody can do both anymore, I suppose.” “Anyway, thanks for making the drive, Mag. Oh, by the way, Uncle Rip invited us over. What do you think?” “That’s nice of him. It’s funny he would, though. kind of a shy guy.” The Rip kids were great. When Cosmo was younger, he and his cousins had played together at least every week. Sometimes, in the sprawling prairie of Wyoming, it felt to him like the two families braved a wide, uninhabited earth together. Like some remote tribe in the wilderness, they had bonded with the intensity of common blood and endurance. “Hey, where’s Cosmo?” “You know, I haven’t seen him all day.” The voices hushed, which made Cosmo all the more interested. He recognized the aching, empty sorrow of the sick kid—of those past times lying bleary-eyed on the couch with low, adult voices drifting sadly down the hall. “He hasn’t been sleeping well.” “Why?” The sink was running. The water must have been the only moving thing in the prairie today besides the determined humans downstairs, who somehow—impressive to Cosmo who sat as still as granite on his bed—managed to defy the heavy, sleepy afternoon. “Oh, it’s run in the family. Nothing to be concerned about.” “Well,” it was the whisper of his sister, “I talked to him a little about it yesterday, and he’d been having weird dreams that kept him awake. I bet he’s still in bed catching up.” *** Uncle Rip once had trouble sleeping. He took bottles of pills, but they never seemed to work. One time, grouped around a board game in the basement with the cousins, Cosmo and his sister had suddenly heard wild, terrifying piano music from upstairs.
Living Waters revieW
They froze, but the cousins continued the game as if nothing had happened. “Is that your dad?” his sister had asked. “On the piano? Yeah. He’s composing.” Another crash of tonal chaos from upstairs. “What’s it for?” “It’ll be an opera, I think.” A forearm cluster, like a shock of cold lightning, split the silence. This time, even the cousins looked up. “It’s kinda loud, isn’t it?” “Yeah.” With the vacant rhythm of a departing thunderhead, the clusters began to sink into silence. Fewer notes, softer, softer, sinking gradually into nothing. That same night, after Cosmo’s family had left, the cousins found the composer slumped on the piano keys fast asleep with bruises on his fingertips. Four months later, after the families had made a field trip to Minneapolis and watched the premier, Uncle Rip was flooded with commissions but not as many invitations to lecture at universities. Personally, both families delighted in the tonality shift. *** “Hey, Cosmo,” his sister’s easy voice, very close, very near, dissolved some of the hazy stillness of the room. “How do you feel?” He ran a shaking hand over his crusty face. Even the sense of touch seemed distant—unreal. “Tired.” “Is there anything I can do? You wanna book, a blanket, or water or something?” A world seemed to splash through the soft expression of his sister’s eyes—a world mysterious and beautiful orchestrated since his first step into existence. The revelation overwhelmed him, and he had to turn away and gaze, blinking, through the window. “No. No thanks. I—I don’t know what I want. Nothing like that, though…” He still stared out at the country outside his chamber—so huge, so endless. Suddenly, he felt claustrophobic and imprisoned. “I could get you something to eat—” “No. No—I’d just like to sleep. Sorry.” His sister left and with her some of the anxiety, but an underlying anticipation shivered through his consciousness like the distant sounds of an execution. Cosmo understood with terror the beginnings of torment, but nonetheless could not force his heavy eyelids open. And now it began. He was shuffling on his way to the
bathroom. At the end of the hall, a window opened into thick, starless blackness. Abruptly, as he reached tremblingly for the handle of the bathroom door to escape the intensifying and unnamable terror unique to nightmares, a fiery sun exploded in the window and filled the house with a white lightning. He turned to run and his feet moved in a treacherous slow motion. He felt the heat of the vision scorching his back, and out of frenzied instinct glanced behind him. There, with his face to the bursting orb so that it formed a pulsing halo around his head, stood Uncle Rip with a banjo, wildly strumming like there was no tomorrow. Cosmo’s shriek managed to wake him up, and in the same moment, he lurched to his feet and stumbled out of his room, down the stairs, and out the door that crashed behind him as he thrust himself through. As he ran, he realized that the house was empty—maybe his family too had jumped into his hungry dream and left him alone in the sprawling dusk of the wilderness. Please, his inner voice pleaded, please don’t leave me here. His moment of unconsciousness had led him to the doorstep of the dusk. Shadows, shadows from the house, from the prairie grass, from the mountains. In a violent flash of fear, he formulated the idea that perhaps he had left reality for good—that forever his vision may have closed around him and that same, indefatigable sun would glare forever into his existence. “Please!” His own choking voice flared, “Please! No more!” while his piston legs pounded a clustered dissonance beneath him. The mountains shook in front of his bouncing eyes, while their colossal shadows forked across the river of grass. He was running somewhere, somewhere distinctly his own, but he could not remember—could not remember anything. “No more!” he bellowed as his exhausted body began to give way. He used to climb trees. He and his sister. The only living thing that wouldn’t bend in the ever-flying wind: the wind that had died this day…or perhaps fallen asleep. Now, he was running to a tree, a tree distinctly his own, but he could not remember—could not remember anything. Stiff, jagged rocks protruded from the earth like spectral heralds. These, too, sparked long-irrelevant memories; their shapes, their color, their cold, hard faces. Memories many years old but once vitally important. In his frenzy, he feared to collapse among them, but in his mounting weakness he could not help it.
Short Story 35
Short Story 36
“No more!” he sobbed, as slowly, like a rotten branch, he sank helplessly to the earth at the foot of a ponderosa pine. *** “You fell asleep under a grave stone?” Cosmo blinked at his sister’s face hovering above him. “Yes, but I fell awake.” The tree rushed softly overhead. “Obviously.” “Is it? I’m glad.” He sat up in the tall grass, grinning. Around him, at the foot of the tree, scattered several mossy headstones, graves of his ancestors. Finally reaching the ground, the light filtered through the thick grasses and illuminated each etch and erosion of the stones. “I thought these tombstones were granite,” Cosmo wondered out loud. “You know, some of us were looking for you.” “Were you worried?” “Well,” she looked across the windswept prairie, ceaseless as an ocean. “A little. The only way to distinguish this whole area from the rest is these few blocks of stone and Old Tree, so I went here first.” “Yeah, Old Tree.” His brain was teeming with old thoughts made new in the morning. The morning—had he ever really woken up in the morning? “I love this tree. I used to climb him so much when I was little—remember? I would get so high, and then look down, and the graves were so far away it made me feel dizzy.” The early light ignited the dark needles of the pine that stretched into the soaring, cloudless sky like a patient giant awaiting a heavenly summons. “But the one back home is the easiest to climb,” his sister said absently. “We would always go up that one. From the top, you could see straight through the second story of the house. That one time, we reached the top together right when an orange sun was looking through the windows on the other side.” “It hurt my eyes and I was afraid. I couldn’t look at it.” The memory revived a dying shiver that trembled and was gone. “It made me feeler older than I was. But it was beautiful. So much orange.” “Yup. It was.” Bending the tall grass, a wind tinged with birdsong fed the growing morning. “Look—” she said, pointing, “an orange sun.
Want to see how it looks from Old Tree?” “I don’t need to...” He stood up slowly, stretched, and faced the warm glow hungrily. “I can see it from here.”
Living Waters revieW
eine kLeine sturmmusik Rebekah Best
andora blasted Mozart, clashing beautifully with the cacophony accumulating outside. Foggy glass obstructed my view of the alpine crests forming on the Intracoastal Waterway, but I noticed a wonderfully dark cumulonimbus swiftly marching towards the university. Without hesitation, I grabbed the rainbow stack of piano books and loose-leaf scores. The music was nestled against my side as I left my room and wandered quickly towards the staircase. The rain pelted the uncovered fifth-floor walkway, and I looked upward, willing the rain to lessen and hoping it would intensify simultaneously. My feet skipped through the deluge and to the stairwell door quicker than I could hum “Singin’ in the Rain.” Wrenching the weathered knob, I jumped inside the stairwell. My eyes haphazardly glanced at my music and saw that it was unscathed. With a quick nod to the sheets, my damp form began the descent into the cadenced umbilicus of Johnson Hall. The skylight above me cast the vertical labyrinth in a dark gray umbra. Only then did I foresee a potential hazard. The skylight was leaking profusely. A rectangular prism of water flowed freely from the skylight like Handel’s “Water Music.” Stray droplets hit my back and head, causing my face to distort into a Beethoven scowl. With a grandioso flourish, I entered the lobby of my building. Not hearing anyone tinkering on the piano keys, I hurried over to the communal room. It was pretty much the same as the last time I had ventured this deep into the dorm. The separable couch pieces were scattered about like the notes in a John Cage piece, and the tables were stacked like precarious chords on a staff. The unplugged jukebox
stood stoically in the corner, while the baby grand piano relaxed on the adjacent side. When I’d first arrived at the university, I was instantly captivated by this old piano. The panel along the front, separating the keys from the strings, had long been broken off and placed to the side in rejection. The stand’s screws had been removed, broken, or both. Now the precariously positioned stand was connected by only a large paperclip and an old bobby pin. A single touch could cause the whole thing to collapse, and it had apparently done so in the past. Most of the force of the fallings had impacted the strings of the F5 key. I can’t remember how many times I’d attempted to fix those injured strings with nothing but my tiny fingers. Upon approaching it, however, I saw that the three strings had been mutilated beyond repair. Where there used to be three… there was one. After gravely mourning the formerly grand piano, I sat delicately upon the bench. My books and sheet music were placed next to me just as delicately. The windows facing opposite the piano were being assaulted by the rain, and lightning flashed like cameras. I never liked an audience. Playing for myself and God was all that was needed. However, if creation wanted me to play, then I would play. Smiling at the storm, I rifled through my various sheets and picked up one of my most beloved pieces— “Moonlight Sonata.” Its creased edges and taped-up sides gave it personality, and my personal notations gave it character. I placed it carefully centered on the rickety stand, skimmed the lines, and relished the pattern of the undulating variation and finesse of the notes. Poising my slender fingers above the keys, my lungs inhaled and waited for a timpani roll of thunder. Once the percussive beats sounded, the keys pressed in a deeply resounding phrase. The notes collided with one another and with the melody of the elements, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. Much like the rain, the notes kept appearing in synchronous order, rearranging themselves within the measures. I was utterly enraptured in the sonata. About to zenith the third page of my melodious journey, I heard the sounds of a giggling couple. My soul was brought back from the linings of the cumulonimbus, saddened by, and slightly annoyed at, the flippant disturbance of my art. Flying fingers kept playing, but I was distracted by the giggling. Their forte infatuations were full of flapdoodle phrases that held no bearing to the music that I was trying to create.
Short Story 37
Short Story 38
Regardless, the ring-by-springers stayed where they were, and when they became quiet, my hands almost stopped playing, but I couldn’t leave that poor baby grand. Glancing up, I saw that the couple were leaning on each other, eyes closed, listening to my playing. Great, I sarcastically thought. I’m giving them mood music. Accelerating my fingers’ pace, I brought Beethoven’s moon to a startling eclipse, but much to my irritation, the couple didn’t seem to care. If only I’d brought Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with me. The loud beginning of that iconic piece would have definitely knocked some sense back into them. Though I pitied the rest of my un-played music, it was time to leave before the couple started making requests. My fingers brushed against the sheet music, and suddenly the rain stopped. I smiled out the window at the sky, gathered my things, and made my way to the elevator. Upon reaching the fifth floor, I stepped out and looked back at the ominous sky. Slowly, in tempo, the rain began to fall once more. It kissed my face and hit the concrete like applause, regaining its original intensity, reminding me of an audience right after a concert. The rain was giving me a standing ovation. I pretended to flick my coattails out from behind me and executed a perfect bow. With a turn of a heel and a flick of a wrist, I entered my room, hearing the rainy roses being thrown at the door behind me.
Living Waters revieW
for C. s. LeWis Ashley Taylor
bounD & seaLeD Tonya Mateuszczyk
our own stories are written in the myriad moleskin journals and flimsy paperbacks of poverty and even the incomparable classics that torture us with infinity. they bind themselves with the obsidian ink that runs through our cores and thick cords of tissue that clamp us together
and they are written by an unknown freelancer and his regal Editor. both put thousands of celestial constructions into the once meaningless corpses that long ago respired and had stories of their own. we are written in the galaxies and the fiber in our cases. each a story to be beloved and mourned even after our Alexandria is no more.
Living Waters revieW
my granDmotherâ€™s painting Savvy Myles
The water is filled with color that can move back and never forth. The sky is bruised by the aging of the day and can no longer support itself, so it sinks under the sea. The seagulls are paused, lost in a thought, and remain never bothered. Neither sand nor shore can be seen but there is a sailboat in the distance, and it will never come closer.
soLitary ConneCtions Renata Zarro
Lights go up to reveal SCARLET sitting in front of her computer. Off to the side, COMPUTER sits staring forward, slightly angled toward characters and remains in this position throughout the play. Scarlet presses a key. COMPUTER: Red42 requests a video chat.
SCARLET 15-17 years of age, desires something different, suspicious of the cultural atmosphere.
Lights come up to reveal Meg dancing in front of her computer; salsa music plays. MEG: Accept video chat.
COMPUTER Male or female; emotionless voice (similar to the voice of Siri or a voicemail machine).
COMPUTER: Accepted. MEG: (looking at computer and still dancing) Hey girl! SCARLET: Uh, what are you doing? MEG: I got assigned Mexico for my multicultural project so I’m sending in a video called “how to salsa.”
MEG Scarlet’s best friend, dependent on technology, accepts most things without question.
TONY Scarlet’s crush, entertains her suspicions but writes them off at first.
SCARLET: Like the dip? MEG: No, Tony already made a video of “How to Make Salsa” so I’m stuck doing this routine. Meg plops down in her chair and presses a key to turn off the music. MEG: Apparently in Mexico, people still go out to dance. Like, they have buildings dedicated to it. SCARLET: Really? That can’t be very popular.
COMMERCIAL MAN An enthusiastic salesman/news anchor.
MEG: Right? But the internet says it’s true and it’s unique enough to get me an A+. SCARLET: Look, Meg, I need to ask you something. MEG: Shoot. Scarlet looks around uncomfortably.
Living Waters revieW
SCARLET: I don’t wanna talk like this. Let’s go somewhere.
through a computer screen, you know?
MEG: We can go to Unplugged; I heard they finally got Wifi, might be fun to check out.
TONY: I guess. SCARLET: Just feeling so…idk.
SCARLET: No, I meant… TONY: Cooped up? COMPUTER: Tonyeltigre has entered your chatroom. SCARLET: Exactly, and I’m tired of it all. SCARLET: Never mind, I’ll catch you later; gotta chat with Tony. MEG: (teasingly) Oh, I see. Tell that assignment stealing techie that he owes me some salsa. SCARLET: Bye! Scarlet presses a key and Meg’s chair becomes dark. Scarlet presses another key and Tony is illuminated sitting in a chair with a laptop in front of him. Tony and Scarlet should be typing the dialogue while they say it. COMPUTER: Red42 has entered her chatroom.
TONY: Tired of a reality that doesn’t feel real? SCARLET: Omg! Yes! How did you know? TONY: I read your daily status updates. This morning you posted: “Feeling cooped up. Sick of a reality that doesn’t feel real.” Not very happy thoughts. SCARLET: Yeah, Mom thought I was depressed when she saw it. She actually called me into her room instead of sending an IM. It was pretty funny. Tony presses keys rapidly while Scarlet is talking and hacks into Scarlet’s computer. Scarlet looks at the screen surprised.
TONY: Hey Scar. SCARLET: What did you do? SCARLET: What’s up, Tony? TONY: Hacked into your webcam; I was tired of typing. TONY: I was thinkin’ we could do somethin’ 2night. SCARLET: Tony, you can’t do that. SCARLET: Like what? TONY: Just did. TONY: Idk. Go somewhere fun; got this new hack that can get us into any online club. Wanna take it for a spin?
Scarlet rolls her eyes, obviously amused.
SCARLET: I’m kinda tired of the club scene. How about somethin’ new?
TONY: So, about what your mom said, you’re not. Right?
TONY: Like the cybercafé that just opened?
SCARLET: Not what?
SCARLET: Naw, someplace unplugged.
TONY: That place on 5th? They’ve been around forever. Heard they just got Wifi.
SCARLET: No, I just… (Looks around uncomfortably) I don’t wanna talk about it on here.
SCARLET: No, I mean I wanna talk to somebody, not
TONY: Okay, tonight you choose. What are we doing?
SCARLET: How about a walk? TONY: Alright, where are we walking?
SCARLET: You’ll see.
TONY: So, it’s gonna be like that? Girl, I will spam up your desktop.
MEG sits to the side of her computer taking selfies. SCARLET knocks on the door.
SCARLET: Do that, and I will sneak into your house and steal your phone.
MEG: Come in.
TONY: Promises, promises.
Scarlet enters and sits next to her on the bed. She looks around the room. Meg continues to take selfies and text throughout their conversation.
SCARLET: (laughs) By the way, you owe Meg some salsa. Scarlet closes her laptop. She smiles at first but then the isolation gets to her. She looks around the room a bit and becomes uncomfortable. Then, she takes out her phone and dials a number.
SCARLET: (looking around the room) Wow, you really changed it up. MEG: Well you haven’t been over in practically a year, hon.
COMPUTER: Red42 has left the chatroom.
SCARLET: Yeah, I had to sneak past my mom’s room just to get out of the house.
Tony shakes his head and smiles. He presses a key and his light goes out.
MEG: (shrugs) Moms worry.
COMPUTER: Tonyeltigre has left the chatroom.
SCARLET: She never just lets me go out for a walk or anything.
Meg is lit as her phone vibrates. She answers. MEG: Yellow? SCARLET: (nervously) Hey, can I come over? MEG: Like here? To my house? What’s up? SCARLET: (trying to sound more normal) I’m going out with Tony tonight, and I have nothing to wear. MEG: Say no more. I have the perfect outfit for you. SCARLET: kk, be there in a sec. Scarlet shuts her phone, looks around again, and then quickly leaves the room.
MEG: Wait, did you walk here? SCARLET: Yeah, so? MEG: You really shouldn’t do that. It’s not safe. SCARLET: You only live two blocks away. MEG: Still, you could’ve taken a car. They say you shouldn’t go outside if you can help it. Pause in the dialogue. MEG: Look, Scarlet, let’s not fight. We have more pressing matters to discuss. Like, where’s Tony taking you tonight?
Living Waters revieW
SCARLET: (unconvincingly) Yeah, maybe you’re right. SCARLET: I get to choose. Scarlet gets up to leave. MEG: So…where? MEG: Wait (hands Scarlet a shopping bag). For tonight. SCARLET: Magnolia Park. SCARLET: Thanks. MEG: You mean like a virtual reality walk through Magnolia? SCARLET: No, I’m gonna take him to the actual park.
Scarlet leaves. Meg picks up some controls and points them as if to turn on a screen. Commercial (wo)man walks in front of Meg’s room and addresses audience. Every time Meg says “change,” the channel changes.
MEG: In person? SCARLET: Yeah.
COMMERCIAL: Reports of acid rain causing fatal illness to continue. We advise citizens to stay in their homes until further notice—
MEG: Scarlet! You can’t do that. MEG: Change. SCARLET: Why not? MEG: It’s dangerous out there—outside. SCARLET: Well, I got here in one piece. What’s so bad about going outside anyway? MEG: You know what they say—
COMMERCIAL: …flakes! Part of this complete breakfast. MEG: Change. COMMERCIAL: …and although this curfew has historically been geared toward children, the Controller urges even adults to stay off the streets after—
SCARLET: What do they say, Meg? MEG: Change. MEG: They say…I dunno, they just say it’s bad…with the pollution and diseases. Like what happened to your dad. SCARLET: (stiff) We don’t know what happened to my dad. MEG: Come on, Scarlet. You told me that after he retired, he used to go out all the time, for no evident reason, just for…fun or something. SCARLET: He didn’t retire; he was let go. MEG: Whatever. The point is, it’s better to just stay indoors. I don’t want you to end up missing for five years.
COMMERCIAL: The world’s leading brand in toothpaste! We deliver right to your door with our next day guarantee— MEG: Change. COMMERCIAL: Well, Sal, we’re predicting that by 2099, every household will own at least one A-bot with the basic functions of cooking and cleaning the house, childcare, and so much more. Already, 30% of families are benefiting from— MEG: Mute. Commercial (wo)man silently mouths words. Meg addresses her computer.
MEG: Open search engine.
TONY: That sounds like Jeremy alright.
SCARLET: Tony, there’re two reasons I wanted to come here. First, there’s something I need to say. I don’t know if it will make any sense or if I’ll just sound crazy, but I know I have to say it out loud. I can’t keep it to myself anymore.
MEG: Search “Paul Anderson retirement.” COMPUTER: 19 million 700 hundred thousand hits found.
TONY: Sure, Scar, you can tell me anything. MEG: Open and read first hit. COMPUTER: Paul Anderson, married to Julie Anderson, father of Jeremy and Scarlet Anderson, retired May 5th, 2062 from security detail to the Controller. In 2063, his family filed a missing person’s report—
MEG: Mute. The Computer stops talking. Meg looks at the TV again. MEG: (quietly, as if to herself) Change.
Scene 3 SCARLET and TONY walk onstage and sit down on a park bench. TONY: I gotta hand it to you, Scar, I would never have thought of going to a park. SCARLET: I used to come here when I was younger. Jeremy and I would hide in the trees past curfew so our mom would come outside looking for us. TONY: Ah, Jeremy, what a troublemaker. Did you know he was the one who taught me that webcam hack? What is he up to these days? SCARLET: Haven’t seen him much. He stays cooped up in his room mostly. But, sometimes, I’ve heard him leaving in the middle of the night and sneaking back in early in the morning.
SCARLET: (takes a deep breath) After my dad lost his job, everything became a secret. I’d hear him and my mom arguing quietly when they thought we were asleep. They’d have these hushed conversations that stopped whenever I walked into the room. Then, he was gone a lot. He used to go out after dark, always saying he was just taking a walk. I remember getting so mad at him, because he got rid of all the computers in the house. He wanted us to leave the country. My mom said he was crazy. She would cry every day. Finally, three days went by, and he hadn’t come home. The police showed up even though nobody had called them. We had computers in every room again. That’s when we first got the interactive voice feature installed. TONY: Yeah, just about everyone’s got that now. SCARLET: I remember thinking mine was malfunctioning. I would turn it off at night but the microphone light kept blinking like it was on. I’d say “microphone off ” and it would stop. A few minutes later, I’d look over again and the light was back on…like someone was listening. TONY: You think someone hacked you? SCARLET: I don’t know what to think. When I finally got the nerve to tell my mom, she turned so pale. She held me and just cried for the longest time. When she was done, we called in an I.T. guy to fix it. The light stopped blinking, and she didn’t cry in front of me anymore. TONY: I’m sorry, Scarlet. They sit silently for a moment, staring ahead.
Living Waters revieW
Tony looks ashamed.
TONY: What’s up?
TONY: No, Scar, I didn’t mean it…
SCARLET: My mic light has been on every night this week. I can’t turn it off. I went over to Meg’s today just to get out of the house, but her computer’s always on, and I just couldn’t say anything with it right there… (She puts her hands on her head and looks down)
SCARLET: No, it’s okay. It is crazy, but it’s also true, and I just can’t go another five years pretending I don’t see what’s happening in this messed up world. People are missing, best friends don’t see each other face to face, and the most meaningful human connections occur in physical solitude.
TONY: (trying to comfort her) Scarlet, it’s okay; it’s just a microphone, alright? It’s just a computer.
TONY: Hey, I’m here for you, okay? You know that.
SCARLET: (mostly to herself) Don’t you see what’s happening?
SCARLET: Thank you.
TONY: Look, if it bothers you that much, maybe I can come over and take a look. You might just need a reboot.
TONY: Now, you said there were two reasons you wanted to come here? Are you gonna steal my phone and make me chase you for it?
SCARLET: I guess…
SCARLET: (annoyed but smiling) I’m not seven years old anymore.
Scarlet looks down as Tony stares at her, concerned. SCARLET: (breaking the silence) Jeremy’s gone. TONY: What?
TONY: I know, just wanted to make you smile. Now, what was the other reason? SCARLET: (She brings out a map) I found this in Jeremy’s room. It’s my dad’s handwriting.
SCARLET: He hasn’t been home in a few days. TONY: What is it? TONY: Did you call the police? You have to tell someone. SCARLET: (looks up at Tony) Are you serious?
SCARLET: A map to something. I need you to help me find it.
TONY: Maybe he just ran away. SCARLET: If he did, I don’t want him to be found; I don’t want them to find him.
TONY: You don’t want who to find him?
TONY: Scar, come on, you’re sounding a bit crazy.
MEG is sitting on her bed, looking bored. Her fingers move as if they are texting but she is not holding a phone. SCARLET knocks on the door. Meg jumps up and opens the door. Scarlet carries the shopping bag Meg gave her and puts it on the floor.
SCARLET: Crazy? You think I’m crazy?
MEG: Thank God, I’m so bored.
SCARLET: The same people who took my dad.
SCARLET: Did you do what I asked?
SCARLET: Neither can I. Meg, what if it’s not true? What if going outside doesn’t make you sick?
MEG: Yes, but I don’t know why. SCARLET: Your computer?
MEG: Well, it’s still dangerous; I mean your dad went missing.
MEG: Is off, unplugged, and I even let the battery die.
SCARLET: Jeremy too.
MEG: Jeremy’s missing? Scarlet nods.
MEG: Unplugged. SCARLET: Phone?
SCARLET: I’ll explain in a moment. First, we’re gonna talk.
SCARLET: It proves that someone doesn’t want us to think it’s safe. Scarlet takes a metal box out of the shopping bag.
MEG: (sighs) Fine.
MEG: What’s t hat?
SCARLET: Yesterday, you said that it’s dangerous to go outside.
SCARLET: My dad’s research. He hid it in Magnolia Park. Tony helped me find it last night.
MEG: Research? I thought he did security for government officials?
MEG: Downstairs. What is going on?
MEG: Well, doesn’t that prove that going out a lot isn’t safe?
SCARLET: You said people get sick from the pollution. MEG: Yeah, so?
SCARLET: He did, and he heard a lot of things because of that job. Some things he wasn’t supposed to know.
SCARLET: (looks at Meg and speaks slowly) I want you to think. Do you know anyone who is sick from being outside?
She takes out some papers and hands them to Meg.
MEG: Well sure, it’s all over the news and— SCARLET: No, Meg, can you name one person who you know that is sick?
MEG: (reading titles as she sorts through the papers) Notes from World Peace Meetings, Pollution Induced Diseases a Hoax, The Truth Behind the Interactive Voice? (nervously hands them back to Scarlet) I don’t wanna read this. SCARLET: Don’t you wanna know the truth?
Meg thinks about it in silence.
SCARLET: She was a smoker.
MEG: The truth? The truth is your dad left, okay? He was bored from being retired or upset about something. I don’t know, but he left, and this (indicates the box) is some kind of sick joke.
MEG: Oh, right… No, I can’t think of anyone.
SCARLET: You can’t honestly believe that.
MEG: Pete’s mom died of lung cancer.
Living Waters revieW
MEG: It doesn’t matter what I believe. Look, Red, I may play the bimbo, but I know what you’re implying. I know what you’ve been hinting at all these years. And maybe you’re right and someone kidnapped your dad and Jeremy, or maybe they just ran away. Maybe we’re being watched, or maybe you’re just paranoid. Either way, reading your father’s notes is only going to bring trouble.
MEG: (looks over at the computer and shrugs) Dunno, that’s the mic light. Malfunction maybe?
SCARLET: (indicating the box and speaking quietly) I want you to keep it.
Meg looks at Scarlet, then at the computer, then back at Scarlet.
MEG: I’m sorry; did you not just hear what I said? SCARLET: Just for a couple of days. I can’t bring them home yet.
Scarlet jumps up and starts to back towards the door. MEG: Um, are you okay? SCARLET: It won’t stop, Meg.
MEG: Look Scarlet, this has clearly been a long week for you. You’re just tired or something. You should snooze early, k? Text me when you’re feeling better SCARLET: (a bit crazed, talking mainly to herself) Who’s next?
MEG: Scarlet… SCARLET: (practically whispering) Please....
MEG: You’re just tired, Red. We’ll do something tomorrow. We can check out the new cyber-café, okay? Or, a virtual club?
Meg thinks about it, and then sighs loudly. MEG: Fine. Three days. It stays under my bed, and you have to come pick it up.
SCARLET: (steps toward the computer, frantic) Well, who’s next? Scarlet runs out of the room.
SCARLET: (hugs her) You’re the best. MEG: Scarlet! MEG: Yeah, yeah, I know. SCARLET: If for some reason I don’t pick them up...
Meg shakes her head, plugs in her computer and opens it. She stops, thinks for a moment, then closes it and leaves the room.
MEG: Why wouldn’t you? SCARLET: Just in case I don’t, take them to Tony. MEG: (rolls her eyes) Fine.
Scarlet smiles and looks over toward the computer. She freezes. SCARLET: I thought you let your computer die.
TONY sits at his computer when MEG knocks on the door. He gets up and answers it.
MEG: I did.
TONY: Meg? Um, come on in.
SCARLET: Then why is that light on?
Meg enters, holding the shopping bag and looking nervous.
MEG: Hey, I, uh, can’t stay long. I’ve got a car waiting downstairs. TONY: Sure, what can I do for you? MEG: I promised Scarlet I’d bring something to you. (She takes the box out of the shopping bag) TONY: You have her dad’s box? I thought you were supposed to bring it to her? MEG: Yeah, well, she went ghost; she hasn’t been online in five days.
TONY: (nods) I know. I thought she just wanted a break. She always did like to unplug. Pause. Tony smiles, remembering the past. TONY: Do you remember in 2nd grade she’d take our phones at recess and demand we play tag with her? MEG: Haha, yeah! We would chase her around the whole time just to get them back.
to her room and the computer was smashed like she’d thrown it, repeatedly. Everything was knocked over; her sheets were on the floor, like someone had pulled them off— Meg starts crying. Tony tries to comfort her. MEG: She was right, Tony. She was right the whole time. TONY: Hey, it’s okay. She’ll turn up. MEG: Will she ? Tony looks more serious and concerned. Meg hands him the box. MEG: Here, I should get home. He walks her to the door. Meg turns around one more time, glances at his computer, gives him a hug and whispers to him. MEG: She was right, Tony; the whole time, she was right.
TONY: We never could catch up with her.
Meg leaves. Tony sits on his bed. He looks up at his computer and notices a light blinking.
Meg studies his face as he stares dreamily, remembering the young Scarlet.
TONY: Microphone off.
MEG: You really care about her, don’t you? TONY: (still in a daydream) Yeah, I fell in love with that cell thief. (realizes where he is and then looks embarrassed) Hey, don’t say anything to her; I still haven’t made my move. MEG: Well, you may not get the chance. I was concerned, cuz I haven’t been able to reach her, so I went to her place. TONY: (feigning shock) You actually went somewhere? MEG: (she punches him playfully) Shut up! (more seriously) I was worried. The door was unlocked so I just went in. Her mom was curled up on the couch muttering “Gone, Scarlet, Jeremy, Gone, Paul, Gone….” I couldn’t get her to snap out of it. No one was upstairs. I went
COMPUTER: Microphone off. TONY: (to himself) Oh, Scarlet. COMPUTER: Calling Scarlet. His phone starts ringing. TONY: Hey, I turned the mic off! Computer is silent. TONY: You heard me; I didn’t say microphone on! COMPUTER: Microphone on. Tony stands up and stares at his computer. He looks at his phone.
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TONY: Call Scarlet. COMPUTER: Calling Scarlet… Scarlet is unavailable. TONY: The phone didn’t even ring. Call again. COMPUTER: Scarlet is unavailable. Tony moves closer to the screen. TONY: Enter Red42’s chatroom. COMPUTER: I’m sorry; this chatroom does not exist. TONY: What do you mean it does not exist?!
COMPUTER: This chatroom does not exist.
TONY: Video chat with Scarlet. COMPUTER: I’m sorry; this user does not exist. TONY: Video chat with Scarlet Anderson! COMPUTER: I’m sorry; this user does not exist. Tony gets closer to his computer and becomes angrier. TONY: Give me Scarlet! COMPUTER: Scarlet is unavailable. TONY: No! COMPUTER: Scarlet is unavailable. Tony falls to his knees, sobbing her name. COMPUTER: Scarlet is unavailable.
DeaD sunfLoWers Tiffany Sepulveda
He brought her two sunflowers to remind her of his eyes. Cornflower blue fading into yellow, encircling the black pupil in the middle. She was the one who had told him that they looked like two sunflowers in a blue sky. But the green teardrop shaped leaves are now wrapped around themselves.
Their edges are curved inward,
like someone hugging herself, each edge trying to get to the center. One pinch and you hear a crunch, and you see a little dust. The leaves are coffee-colored now, and so are the stems, which are just barely holding up the no longer sunny little heads. My grandma keeps them in a glass box on her bed stand because they remind her of him.
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for my unborn Daughter Emilio Gomez
Words are wily when wielded by weasels. Men are weasels, poets and fiction tellers, architects articulating blueprinted kingdoms covered in exquisite stones cloaking delicate sand,
Poetry promising pristine palaces to unsuspecting princesses, drowning the destiny of every budding flower on bending shore whose roots are not buried in solid soil. Tend to your sails, my dear, prepare your ship to voyage past obstinate pirates who covet expendable plunder, to seek the one who insatiably searches for one gold nugget he will cherish like the precious metal you are.
Donia Sarah Schulkins
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gypsy Hannah Menendez
hen the last of the boxes was shoved into the old Honda, the back seat was stacked so high that the rearview mirror was rendered useless. Ryder shut the door carefully, lest she disturb her puzzle-like construction of boxes. The keys clanged together in her trembling hand as she went back inside the house. “Dad?” she called. No response. “I’m leaving.” She waited in the entryway until she heard from the living room the springs of a footrest closing and the unmistakable grunt of her father hoisting his body from the easy chair. Finally he came into view, a scowl on his weathered face. “No point in sayin’ bye,” he said for the tenth time. “You’ll be back next month.” He had repeated this phrase to himself and to Ryder until it became a mantra of sorts. “I might come home for a weekend in the next couple weeks,” she said. Not likely, she thought. “You’ll be home for good. You won’t learn nothin’ there that you can’t learn in a church pew,” he repeated. Sometimes Ryder wondered if her father believed words functioned in the same way his hammer did—if he just pounded them in again and again, eventually they would pierce her mind. Well, if his words were nails and his voice a hammer, Ryder was concrete. “I’ll call you when I get there.” She didn’t bother to wait for an answer; she turned and left her dad standing in the entryway of the house that they’d shared for nearly ten years. Without looking back, she knew that her dad stood on the threshold, the door open, watching as she got into her stuffed car and drove off. Her car was affectionately named Gypsy, and because
Ryder often drove alone, she had developed a habit of talking to her. “Ready for some new roads, Gypsy?” Gypsy chugged along, stout and reliable as always. Ryder even felt that the engine sounded cheerier, as if the car knew that it was about to escape the dirt roads to which it had long been subjected. Ryder cranked up the radio and sang along with the Beatles—badly, but only Gypsy could hear, and Gypsy didn’t judge. She drove down the main street of the one-stoplight town she’d rarely had reason to leave. On one side were the outer edges of the nearby national forest; the sand pines were tall and thin, their needle-branches stretching lamely away from the toothpick trunks. They had always seemed sickly to her, subsisting on sandy dirt. The few businesses that could survive in that sort of town lined the opposite side of the road—a bait and tackle shop, a gas station, a thrift store, a locally-run grocery. Further back from the potholed road was the little white church where she and her father sat in the back pew every Sunday. Her father religiously tucked away into a shoebox the neatly printed outlines the pastor provided for his listeners, yet she had never once seen him open that box—except to place inside another unread outline. The one restaurant, Jill’s Fish Shack, flashed by in a blur; the stoplight was green. Gypsy hummed gently. Ryder and Gypsy crossed the drawbridge that arched over the river. She glanced to the side at the gray-green placid water that was the life of this town. Then it was gone, and she was in the next town, “over the bridge,” as her dad always said, as if the bridge and the river marked the end of the world for him. Even though Ryder had been planning this three-hour drive for months, she realized that she had not truly believed that it was going to happen until she crossed that bridge. Now it and the river were behind her, like those stone monuments that prophets and kings in the Old Testament used to set up as reminders of great events. The lonely two-lane highway stretched before her, and she felt that the road had waited for this moment as long as she had. Suddenly there was a loud pop and Gypsy tilted dangerously. Ryder gripped the wheel, trying to keep control of the skidding car. For a moment she was frozen— she couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. Somehow she managed to pull over onto the grassy shoulder of the road where Gypsy slid to a stop.
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Short Story 56
All Ryder could do was sit still and wait for her hands to stop shaking. When she was certain that she was not having a heart attack, she cursed, loudly, and fumbled for the door handle. After flinging open the door, she stepped outside into the heat. She always drove barefoot; the sharp grass bit into her feet, but she ignored the stings. Her front right tire was flat—not just flat, but blown out, the rubber in shreds around the rusty hubcap. Ryder stared at it, unbelieving. Gypsy had never had a flat before. And though her dad had told her a thousand times that she ought to keep one in her trunk, Ryder had no spare tire. Her first instinct was to call her father. Yet that thought caused an actual pain in her chest—how could she call him now? She was finally free, “over the bridge,” doing exactly what he’d never done. She couldn’t call him and tell him that she hadn’t gotten five miles from home before she needed him again, proving that she was truly the helpless eighteen-year-old he believed her to be. He would say it was a sign. He was always saying things were signs—so long as they proved his point. She wouldn’t ask for his help. No way. She pulled out her ancient flip phone, trying to think of someone else she could call. A name popped into her head. She scrolled through her contacts until she found the name and then pressed the phone to her ear. “Ryder!” her friend shouted. Ryder flinched and held the speaker a few inches away from her ear. She always forgot how loud Robbie was. “Hey! I thought you’d long left for the sacred halls of great learning! What, did ya miss me already?” “Hey, Rob. I just left a few minutes ago, and Gypsy’s got a flat.” “Seriously? That’s not good. You’ve got a spare, though, don’t ya?” Ryder could distinctly hear the sound of chewing in between Robbie’s words, the punctuation of potato chips. “No, that’s why I’m calling. I thought you might have a tire I could buy from you. I’m just over the bridge in Perry. Can you bring me a tire?” “Course I can! I’m in Perry now, at Rich’s place. My truck’s spare won’t fit Gypsy, but my dad’s got one in his garage that should work. I can pick you up on the way to my place so you don’t have to sit in the sun forever.” “Thanks, Rob, you’re a lifesaver,” she said, already sweating. Once she ended the call, she got back inside
Gypsy and turned the engine on. Ryder let the air conditioning flow over her flushed skin and remembered all the reasons why she hated August. It only took a few minutes for Robbie to arrive in his green Ford pickup. Ryder had named the truck during their sophomore year when Robbie was delivering hay bales to horse farms, driving to school every day with the bales under a huge tarp. One morning Robbie had arrived at school without noticing that the corner of the tarp had come loose. Ryder took one look at the tarp flapping in the wind and called the truck “Flap Jack.” Robbie parked Flap Jack behind Gypsy and then leapt from the cab. Just after Ryder got out of the car, Robbie picked her up and swung her around in a circle, crushing her face against his Guy Harvey t-shirt. “Put me down!” she gasped, laughing. “You just saw me a few days ago!” “Yeah, and I thought that was goodbye until Christmas. I went through the six stages of grief and everything. I feel like I haven’t seen you for four months.” “There’re only five stages of grief, Robbie.” “Well, I went through six. That’s how much I missed you.” “Let’s just get that tire,” she said, pretending to be more exasperated than she really felt. The two climbed into Flap Jack’s cab. Robbie turned the key in the ignition—and the engine sputtered. Robbie muttered, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He turned the key again. Nothing. He leaned back and looked over at Ryder, his expression apologetic. “Flap Jack’s been having ignition problems.” He turned the key over and over again, but the engine refused to come to life. He cursed. “Really, Flap Jack? You’re gonna die right now? You’re such a drama queen.” “You can fix it, right?” Ryder asked. “Maybe, if I had my tools. I think this is beyond my expertise, though.” He wiped the sweat off of his forehead. The cab was already smoldering. Ryder knew that there was no reason to panic. They were only in Perry, after all, but she still felt unreasonably anxious. “Then what do we do?” Robbie raised a bushy eyebrow. “Ryder, your dad is a mechanic. Call him. I don’t get why you called me instead of him in the first place. He’s got plenty of tires.” “I don’t want to call him,” she said stubbornly. “Can’t you call Rich?”
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“Rich doesn’t have a car, and his mom’s at work. What’s the deal? Just call your dad.” Ryder didn’t answer. Silence reigned for a moment, but Robbie had never had much respect for silence. He rolled his squinty blue eyes at her. “Look, I understand why you don’t want to call him, but right now we don’t have a choice. Either we sweat to death out here, or he brings you a tire and fixes Flap Jack’s ignition.” He opened the door. “Where are you going?” Ryder felt abandoned, although he hadn’t even gotten out of the truck yet. “I’m going to go sit in Gypsy with the air conditioning running while you call your dad. keys, please.” He held out his open hand. Ryder threw him the keys before he climbed out of the truck. Since the enclosed vehicle was growing warmer every minute, Ryder got out herself and stood in the shade beside Flap Jack. She stared at her dad’s number on the screen of her phone, her finger hovering over the “call” button. There has to be someone else I can call. But Robbie was right. Her dad was a mechanic, he had tires for Gypsy, and she knew that he was still at home, in his chair watching television. She should have called him in the first place; yet knowing this only made her more reluctant to call him now. Sweating, with cold beads sliding down her temples, she pressed the button and listened to the rings. “Changed your mind already?” Ryder cringed at the sound of his voice. “No, Dad, I didn’t change my mind. Gyp—the Honda’s got a flat and I don’t have a spare. Could you bring me a tire? I’m just over the bridge in Perry.” She appreciated the immediate change of tone that a mechanical question always affected in her dad. “What kind of flat? Patchable?” “Uh, definitely not. It’s in shreds.” “Dry rot,” he muttered to himself. “We let it sit too long over the summer.” He spoke louder, “Okay, I’ll bring you a tire. Off the highway in Perry, you said?” “Yeah—and listen, Robbie was just going to pick me up and get a tire from his house, but something’s wrong with his truck’s ignition and it died. So, bring your tools?” “You called Robbie first?” Ryder couldn’t tell if her dad was upset or patronizing. “Uh, yeah…he was, um, in Perry already, so I thought it would be easier.” Not really a lie, she justified.
“You shoulda just called me; I’ve got the exact tires for the Honda. Alright, I’ll be there in a few minutes. Are you going to be late to—whatever you had today?” “Orientation. I don’t think so, as long as it doesn’t take long to change the tire.” “Nah, shouldn’t, but I’m bringing you a spare and a wrench and jack. If it’s dry rot, the others might be blowing out soon, too. You can change a tire on your own, right?” Ryder was slightly offended by this question; he’d showed her how to change a tire multiple times. “Yes, Dad.” “Okay.” He hung up. Ryder walked over to Gypsy, ready for some air conditioning. To slide into the passenger seat, she had to displace all the laundry detergent and various pairs of shoes littering the vehicle. She glanced over at Robbie. “He’ll be here in a few minutes.” “You see? I bet it wasn’t that difficult.” “Easy for you to say,” she muttered, but she didn’t want to talk about her dad anymore. She changed the subject, asking Robbie what his plans were for the fall. She’d hit a spring with that topic. Robbie talked about all the things that he and his friends planned to do together: beach trips, camping in the forest, snorkeling in the springs, all the things that Ryder used to do along with them. After a while, however, she tuned him out and listened instead to the radio playing quietly in the background. Soon she could see in the rearview mirror her dad’s old black Chevy truck (which Ryder had privately named Leviathan) coming up the highway. He pulled Leviathan in front of Gypsy while Robbie and Ryder exited the car. All three of them gathered around Gypsy’s front right tire. “Yep, it’s pretty blown all right,” her father said. “Morning, Mr. Henry,” Robbie said brightly. “How’s the shop?” “Same old, Robert. Your family doing alright?” “Oh, they’re always alright. Though kaylie’s been crying for days about Ryder leaving.” Ryder knew that Robbie was just making small talk, but she still felt a twinge of guilt when he mentioned his younger sister. kaylie was twelve and had three older brothers; the girl had long considered Ryder a surrogate older sister. Robbie helped her dad get the tires and tools out of the bed of his truck. They continued talking while they changed the tire, excluding Ryder from the conversation entirely, not that she minded much. To her, it always
Short Story 57
Short Story 58
seemed like her dad had the same conversation whomever he spoke with: the shop, going to church, going to “town”— meaning the nearest city that was large enough to have a Wal-Mart, movie theater, and shopping mall—and fishing. Robbie was an avid fisherman as well, and the two men enthusiastically debated the best fishing spots and bait types for large-mouthed bass until the new tire was on. Once that task was finished, her dad got out another tire from his bed. He popped Gypsy’s trunk, and then stared at the clothes and boxes and lamps that stuffed the space to the brim. “That’s why I took the spare out,” Ryder said, a little embarrassed. “I did have one in there before.” “Got somewhere else to put this for now?” “Maybe in the passenger seat,” she said, and took the tire from him. She managed to fit it on the floor in front of the seat. “Well, you can head on out,” her dad said without emotion. And to Robbie, he said, “I’ll take a look at that ignition.” “Thanks, Mr. Henry.” “Dad, you’re blocking me in,” Ryder reminded him a little impatiently. Leviathan and Flap Jack were both parked parallel to Gypsy with very little space between bumpers. “Oh, right. I’ll go move Bilbo up a little.” “Bilbo?” Ryder stared at her dad in confusion. “My truck.” His face reddened. “That’s his name.” Robbie started laughing, but he quickly shut up when Ryder glared at him. “What’s wrong with namin’ things?” her dad asked sheepishly, glancing between Robbie’s badly suppressed grin and Ryder. “Nothing,” Ryder told him. “Nothing at all.” She got back inside Gypsy, remembering the year that her dad had bought his truck. It was her fifth-grade year, the year her dad had read The Hobbit aloud to her every night before she went to bed. It was the last book she had ever let him read to her.
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thanks, bob Anisa Stechert
It is a difficult thing— to hold a grudge against someone— when you imagine them standing before their closet in the mornings, hair disheveled and having lost one sock to the sheets in the night. They stood in line at some point in time, clutching their now favorite t-shirt. They stopped for gas at the closest Chevron and caved, like they always do, buying a Snickers. It is a difficult thing— to hold a grudge against someone— when you picture them at Grandma’s house, half paying attention to The Price is Right and half coddling the too-old cat, more gray and gimpy than ever. Old episodes of Bob Barker’s booming voice squeezes into the corners of the living room and you can’t remember why you’re mad at them anymore.
the LeoparD buLLo Joel Nickel
His pits smote all residents within wingspan and his beer-stanched breath spoke of poison. Greasy yellow hair wigged his brown scalp and skin spotted by sun. His mouth opened into a waning crescent
all black, and one yellow-tainted tooth to fill the buck spot. Bullo spat, â€œTime to rip gnar!â€? The sour-toothed beach twanger rummaged through his flat-tired jeep for his Lost surfboard and hobbled across the dunes atop a nub. He leaped into spinning waters, into the sea desert that reeked of serpents and sharks sub-surface towards the sirens that call us all.
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siDeWaLk Naomi Wallen
A gradient of grays unkempt the tarnished trail of other pasts; a weathered hide we soon forget of vagrants, runners, and coquettes. Stumbling tones, tumbling stones beer glass mosaic, cigarette burns; tracing each fissure of grumbling woe glancing avoidance, wary left turns. Overpass pillars sweeping in arcs, laughter lip-lapping on watery piers; overhead rumble escaping in cars heedless roaring like bombardiers. Shadowed curve to mangrove cay grime begins to lose its grip; equidistant vertebrae, symbols scrawled in wet cement. Spotlight gleams on fragment veins etched onto its dingy face. The sidewalk talks with wizened gait the secrets of a saintly trace.
sCuffeD up Anisa Stechert
First, Mama wipes those lousy scuffs off the new white sneaks you didn’t even have to ask for, those new white sneaks that defend your green feet from peaked pebbles and merciless pavement.
And when Mama is gone, when your feet aren’t so green— more black and blue than anything— you’re supposed to know how to wipe those scuffs off the new white sneaks you went out and got yourself. Man, don’t ever stop wiping away those scuffs.
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the embraCe Britta Martinez
taxi Cab Stephen Hedger
Short Story 64
he ice on the hinge cracked like an overclenched fist as Lillian forced the heavy car door open. The upholstery reeked of the greater portion of the citizens of Manhattan, but she took her seat. “First and Fifth please,” she spoke to the driver as if she were an IRS agent, all monotonous and unfeeling. Her hand glazed over the fake leather. The thing about taxi seats, she thought as the cab merged into traffic, is that they carry a remnant of every person who ever sat in them, whether it be dried sweat and tears, strands of hair, or dead skin. Lillian’s eyes glittered for a brief moment as she imagined all the celebrities who must have left remains in the same seat as her. And then her stomach turned. She was sitting on a barren graveyard of dead skin, dead hair, and shadow puddles of sweat and tears. It made her nauseous. “I am a rich man!” the driver spoke. “Pardon?” “I am a rich man! Is this not how you say in English?” His voice was foreign, but she couldn’t tell where from. “That sounds about right.” Silence. Lillian saw his hopeful eyes in the rearview prodding her with each glance to further the conversation. She had grown to hate small talk with most people. The city has a way of alienating people, but she was not altogether rude and unfriendly, so she obliged him. “So you’re rich? How much did this taxi cost you? Two million? Three million?” She couldn’t help her sarcasm. “I’m not rich in American money, no, no, no. I am rich in a different kind of, how you say, currency.”
“Dominican?”With only a view of his eyes in the rearview, Lillian thought he looked Central American. “HA!” He made an elevated sound that would have seemed natural and even normal had he repeated it with similar and continuous sounds that often form what is commonly known as laughter. But this mysterious “rich man” refused to display amusement in any ordinary sort of way, just as he apparently had not attained riches from any ordinary sort of currency. His was a completely honest display of delight. Lillian found herself becoming annoyed when he retreated from making any further noise and left her in another awkward silence. This was beginning to sound like one of the strangest conversations she’d ever had in her life, or at least since she arrived in New York nearly three months prior. “How was your Christmas?” he asked. “Cold much,” she said, smirking. Sarcasm was one of the few things that gave Lillian a sense of security. She even thought herself witty. Lillian was not used to cab drivers making conversation. In fact, she was not used to anyone making genuine conversation since she’d arrived in the city, and she was not about to start telling a stranger about her lousy Christmas. About how she spent it with the only man she had in her life who happened to be a cat named Steve. But being twenty-three, just out of college, and single in a city like New York is difficult. Especially during winter. It spreads a person thin, little by little until every fragment is dispersed all across the city, smeared on to the leather of a taxi cab. Lillian felt a sense of justice as she repaid him his stupid question with more rudeness and an awkward silence of her own. After a few moments, he broke the silence and said, “My name is Aren.” “That’s grea—” “Do you want to know my full name?” he quickly interjected. “Okay. What’s your full na—” “Aren’tchya glad I didn’t say keith! HAHAHA!” This man—what a conundrum, she thought to herself. Laughing at his own joke as if it were funny. Either he’s a madman or just very strange, which were essentially the same thing in her eyes. But there was something in his laugh and his spirit that made her feel a different kind of emotion. One that was all too uncommon in a city like New York. It was
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warm, like hot cider. His cheeriness infuriated her, but the cold weather made any warmth desirable. She felt like she was betraying herself when she gave in and giggled. But it felt good. She giggled very silently and under her breath, though careful not to make him too excited. But he heard, and her laughter did exactly what she knew it would. It acted as kindling, bellows building the bizarre and boisterous fire in his chest. “What’s wrong with the name keith?” she said. He thought for a moment. “Have you ever met a keith you can trust?” She thought for a moment. “No, I guess not. But I don’t know many guys named keith.” “You’re lucky.” “Well, what’s your real name then?” Curiosity persuaded her to dig deeper into conversation. “Well, it actually is Aren. I’m Romanian.” She paused. “What kind of money do they use in Romania?” He found this extra amusing, and gave it a couple more enthusiastic HA’s. It was as if the amount of HA’s he gave measured the amount of amusement he received. “I don’t have any Romanian money—that’s why I’m in America.” “But you’re not rich in American money either.” “I’m rich wherever I go. Didn’t I say this already?” “Yeah, you mentioned it.” Lillian was smiling now. Not a sarcastic smile, but a real smile. It made her very nervous, because she rarely smiled real smiles. There is no security in real smiles. “My name is Lillian.” She said it without planning it. The words just slipped out of her mouth. Had this occurred five minutes prior, she would have given herself a long speech on the importance of ignoring strangers or madmen. But it happened when it happened and she was even glad of it. The car stopped at her destination, and Aren pivoted in his seat, leaning towards her. “Well, Lillian, it’s nice to meet you.” She removed money from her purse to pay the fare, but he waved his hands and said, “No, no, no, I don’t need it, I told you I’m a rich man.” “Well, thank you.” “Hold out your hands,” he said. “Pardon?”
“I have a gift for you.” Curiosity once again won her over along with his strange and inviting charm. So she obeyed and held her hands out, eyes glimmering as they saw him pull something out of his pocket. He carried it above her palms, then released the invisible treasure into her grasp. Noticing that there was nothing in his hands and consequently nothing in hers, she asked, “Where is it?” “HA!” he grunted. “Goodbye Lillian.” The car door squeaked like a sponge rubbing against a clean surface as she opened it and walked out onto the chilly sidewalk. One thing became almost paradoxically clear on her walk home as she thought more about her Romanian driver. That he was not lying when he told her he was a rich man.
Short Story 65
aLLeyWays Alexandra Gomez
‘S tough gettin’ warm in alleyways freezin’ and crossin’ through ‘scrapers like hallways risin’ up like ‘scrapers Tall like the Empire’s shadows comin’ over Stephenson’s tracks then Brooklyn’s tracks stretchin’ up out of the floorboards like exhaust and Rockefeller’s breath straight through ‘til Carnegie
Straight through ‘til every street that’s got a name every street that wants one I’ve seen ‘em from the alleyways Even when February tosses today’s newspaper bites my cheeks and fingers on its way out It don’t care nothin’ for me just goes on straight through ‘til Carnegie From my corners my breakfast ain’t Tiffany’s not like those people clackin’ down my streets I’ve seen ‘em from the alleyways I’ve seen ‘em with their leather and plastic and sweaty wool Let ‘em clack right on by but they walkin’ on Rockefeller’s breath like me straight through ‘til Carnegie— Not pig metal or some main-street shop but Carnegie where sometimes I hear legends play their secret pain that sounds a lot like mine I hear ‘em from the alleyways and I get warm
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fiat Lux Rebecca Ethridge
Lift the windowâ€” let the lilt of fall tumble over tresses curled too tight on your head. Feel the trees move with their murmurs as the wind shakes them from their sultry summer slumber. Wake, you sleeperâ€” you stumbling muse with your proper airs and too tight prose. Push back those rows of opaque fabric folds. Untie the tiers of tears that trapped your withered whimsies. Let the light of language lull the windows open, and watch your words escape with the rising of the wind.
a Lamp anD a book at my beDsiDe Alexandra Gomez
Its head a woven wonder, its non-pattern stitch patterned in every patch. Frayed edges loosened with every neck-swivel, its square feet dimming in azure as they dip into mahogany finish. It stands erect over scattered trappings, useless to anyone who cannot find use in useless things. The lamp casts its exposure over them,
highlights and shadows over dust-layered glass.
68 The layers collect above and settle over turquoise waves, heavy at their crests and in their dips, but cannot reach the feet that stand above glass and marble mahogany and pages of red and black ink whose leather is worn but loved. The pages are frayed but marked in margins at times drawn too deep where ink was particularly pressed with meaning.
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hanging Lantern Faith Rohn
ombeyi Olivia Rawlins
bumps riddle the clay soilâ€” mounds of upheaved orange plastered onto the soles of fraying, sun-beaten sandals, tattered from miles of trudging the rugged path, and into the hooves of scrawny, ambling cows, their fur coated with the color of the earth.
these bumps are filled with stories of old kenya roadsâ€”
70 indented by the footprints of rice field workers, whose legs have been baptized in dirty water; indented by their offspring who drag along woven baskets from their mothers at home. roars of laughter dance from the clay, bursting, frothing flames of fire-colored mud cloaked in innocence of school children. sweet water drenches the road, as Ombeyi drinks in the ceremonial flood of renewed landscape and clumping clay. simplicity of life is stored in the cracks and bumps of those old kenya roads.
Living Waters revieW
afriCan Light Melissa Hendrickson
sCripteD sheLves Rebekah Best
Boundless clutter stacked on haphazard shelves of personas past. Path marked by fallen props and top hat torches, showing the way to spotlight skins. Memories in Tupperware,
opaquely plastic, turned away from the fluorescent sun. Hangers like arms clutching worn racks, bearing the shoulders of the company. The ransacked room is beautiful. Smiles escape from searching eyes, as costumed bodies bustle. Grabbing lives and twisting tales, before artificial dawn cracks through the curtain.
Living Waters revieW
bLeary-eyeD Writer Sarah Schulkins
the potter Olivia Rawlins
You fill cracks of clay with lines of gold and whisper through the storm â€œYou are mine.â€? Your hands are caked
with dirty clay and murky water molding, shaping. You are the potter, beautifully, artfully creating, filling shattered sides with intimate promises. You cling to creation, unburdening, inseparable, unraveling releasing pressure and forming the clay into an art form of Your image.
Living Waters revieW
rakuness Naomi Wallen
got a face full of ash as I tossed sawdust into the crackling mouth of a molten mug. Pulled out of the kiln at more than a thousand degrees, the shavings burst into flames and I swallowed smoke as I scrambled to stifle the small inferno contained inside an old paint bucket. Raku firings depend on adrenaline. The pieces are pulled out with long tongs while they are glowing with heat, and then dunked into waiting combustion chambers (a fancy name for metal buckets and trashcans) that are stuffed with paper. Different combustible materials can be used to cause different effects—shredded paper, sawdust, dry leaves, and horsehair, among others. The pieces are allowed to smoke inside the chamber for about fifteen to thirty minutes before removal, depending on the desired end product. I was the lid lackey, and it was my responsibility to choke out the flames. Even though I was wearing insulated hot gloves, I balked around the bucket’s licking tongues like an apprehensive snake wrassler. I should have been wearing a face mask, but I didn’t know I was being recruited until Graham had thrown the gloves at me. “Open the door, Reid,” he ordered, tongs at the ready. I squatted beside the next bucket, gulping fresh air while I could. It was a bigger container and needed more sawdust. As the paper and shavings started to billow, the breeze changed direction, and ash crept into my eyes. I retreated, temporarily blinded. Reid uttered an expletive as he lidded the bucket for me, the flames nipping his wrist. “You alright, Paige?” he called.
“Yeah. Just couldn’t see for a second.” I blinked, eyes burning, and then reoccupied my station. “Ready for the next one.” Pottery demanded the most primeval danger— playing with fire. Reid already had several blisters on his fingers, and Graham’s jeans had nearly ignited yesterday. The ground was littered with the broken shards of fallen ceramic comrades, and we were all wearing sandals, which was a horrible idea. But we were inviting spontaneity and sometimes that meant we got a little sloppy. We weren’t at an art school, at least as any art student understands the term. We didn’t have much funding and the facilities were small. But a small department also meant we could do crazy things like this on a whim. Graham had built this entire kiln on his own from a steel crate with some insulation, kiln shelves, pyrometer, and a gas tank. A few days ago, he’d unveiled his contraption from beneath a thick, blue tarp. “It’s for raku,” is all he said. He could have gone to a real art school. He really should have. Yet for some reason, he stayed with our grassroots artist colony. The “American” or “Western” raku process had been discovered in the 1960s by the late professor Paul Soldner. While studying, he attended a demonstration of the original Japanese process, which directly submerges the red-hot piece in water or a green tea solution. Reportedly, on his way to the quenching bath, Soldner accidentally dropped his piece into a pile of dry leaves, which ignited on contact. He enjoyed the effect that burning left upon the glaze, and thus the post-reduction process was born. When the wares are withdrawn from the kiln, the glaze is liquid and susceptible to the atmosphere; any of the combustible material that comes in contact with the vessel gives the resulting surface effect. Areas of clay that are not covered by glaze will turn matte black from the smoke. We were working with a variation of four glazes. One produced a lustrous dark teal. The second was more of a turquoise spidered with navy veins. The white glaze we mixed crackled like eggshells, exposing glimpses of blackened clay permeated with smoke. Sometimes errant particles would cause the surface to be littered with spots, or the ash would leave large sections marred and motley. Reid had also mixed a copper carbonate glaze, which produced a textured exterior. It bubbled, reminding me of how it looked to peer at the bottom of an indoor pool in the summer.
Creative Essay 75
Creative Essay 76
Graham knocked a mug over and the handle departed its body. He shoved it into the bucket anyway, crushing two other fractured vessels in the process. “It doesn’t matter,” he said curtly, noticing my perplexity. “We’re just testing the glazes. Shards still show color.” It just so happened that every single one of those broken pieces in the bucket were his, and they were part of a series. They were all good, and I was a little miffed that he was so flippant about breaking his things left and right. But Graham held himself to a demanding standard, and in his own eyes, his work was rarely up to par. Often he left projects unfinished and got sidetracked with another endeavor. At other times, he would come into the studio and make massive amounts of product in a day or two. He was a living, working conundrum. “He really needs to finish things up for the senior exhibition,” I muttered to Reid while the raku took its smoke break. Graham was shuffling through the shelves, locating mugs and sculptures we had shoved into back corners to keep them out of the way. Some of them had been sitting there the two years I’d known him. “If he’s going to be this picky, I don’t know how he’ll get enough pieces in,” Reid replied, voice inflecting his concern. “At this rate, he’ll have to fire at least half his stuff and hope he doesn’t break the best ones. Then again, how does he choose the best? I don’t see any pattern.” Watching our departmental celebrity fumble around, I wondered how his inconstancy had yielded such fame. The corners of his solemn lips creased frequently as he studied the rough pink bisqueware in his skinny hands. “Graham knows what Graham wants,” I answered, shrugging. “Maybe we only think he’s so talented because he’s so particular. That way, we only ever see his good stuff.” Reid smirked. “I’ve seen the ‘doodles’ he does in class. They’re amazing. He’d have to paint blindfolded and handcuffed to make something really awful. But who am I kidding, he’d probably just emerge the next Mark Rothko.” Graham abruptly materialized, tapping his watch. “It’s time.” Reid rolled his eyes amusedly and tossed me a pair of gloves. We exhumed the vessels from their metallic urns, baptizing them immediately and rubbing them in the grass to strip away clinging ash. They showed the stress of their journey, fractured diagrams like a city blueprint sprawling across the glossy surface. Chalky black lakes crouched
against the borders of the map-like design, sawdust redeeming those parts from the glaze. I started sweeping the broken shards into a pile. Graham sat on the porch steps, contemplating a pitcher with a big segment missing. The glaze had reacted beautifully, and the crackleture seemed to trace inverted constellations on the milky background. He was rubbing soot-stained sections with a cloth and a pinch of silica to polish it. His face looked almost satisfied. He turned the pitcher in his hands and folded his fingers over the void. Tenderly, he ran his thumb over the rim of the break, leaving a faint streak of red in its wake. Pulling his hand away, he observed his thumb philosophically. The corners of his mouth creased, and he stood, sticking his thumb in his mouth momentarily before wiping it on his cindered jeans and returning inside. Reid approached me with a dust pan, shaking his head. “Figures. The broken one is perfect.” Three days later, at the opening night of the exhibition, the broken pitcher sat on a white pedestal smudged with copious amounts of charcoal. A spotlight shone down on the gaping fissure with its missing segment set ceremoniously to the side. Graham had chosen a quote that managed to manifest his concise yet variable demeanor. The words of Paul Soldner were displayed on a plaque adjacent—“One must embrace the element of surprise. In the spirit of rakuness, make no demands, expect nothing, follow no absolute plan, be secure in change.” I snickered softly to myself. As if in memory of the smoke, my eyes started to sting, and I reached up to rub them. The smudge of eyeliner left on my hand looked just like ash. Noticing Graham’s lanky figure standing near the refreshments, I waved. He offered me one of his rare and subtle smiles in cordiality. I pointed at the broken pitcher and nodded lightly in approval. His smile finally rose from the creases of his mouth, and he gave me a triumphant thumbs up, displaying the Band-Aid wrapped around it like a badge of honor.
Living Waters revieW
my porCeLain China useD to breathe Kailey McCormick
I have felt their movements through my dilated pupils, I have tucked their manes behind my ear and I walk to the rhythm of their untouched hooves. They ran with the petals set loose by the wind until they found their ivory skin amidst the pastel paint and the pigment of our land. They thought they could capture their grace by draining their blood and glazing their satin coat. They didnâ€™t know their heartbeat lay in the pulse of the rain and the dew that shakes from their silvery locks kissing the soil with morning adoration. They didnâ€™t watch them like I did. I feared puncturing their raw air, so I viewed their life from above the hilltop and from the family table whose ancestors are the oaks and pines that build their fortress. I see them resting on our shelf, bringing elegance and poise to our home, but I know they left that in the dirt of their tracks and as the white highlights that melt on the landscape.
teaCups Emily Johanson
Living Waters revieW
anCestors’ speLL Olivia Anderson
There is a place where the tide flows out; my family’s memories chase after it like ocean foam and oyster shells, paddleboats and pioneers, tealeaves circling around Lady Liberty. But for me, it’s a place where the tide flows in; Cornish crags, cliffs, and countryside sinuous beneath the weight of ship-shaped clouds and foamy-wooled sheep. Thick-spoken farmers and king Arthur’s ghost, wandering with livestock and tourists, plows and train tracks long unused. The tides gush through Merlin’s hushed cave. Magic to me is the village of Tintagel. Ancestors’ spell, salt air smell, memory’s bell. Only a few photographs washed out like English Breakfast, cream, no sugar: starched suits and top hats picnicking on the shore with high-buttoned collars, bottom bustles, and one boy whose eyes are horizon-filled. Each step of mine unsettles the tealeaves—color, wind, and legend revealed. I stand at my ancestors’ door and knock, expecting my great-great grandfather to open with a “Good-eve’nin, you. How dee’ye’do?”
the postman Evan Berlanti
Short Story 80
eaves fell around Landon while he walked through the brisk morning wind and thought about Allie. Without realizing it, his feet directed him towards the park at the top of the hill. The sun had just come over the leaves scattered around the benches, turning them the color of rose petals. Landon took a deep, icy breath and let it out, thinking again about his beautiful fiancée. She was everything to him, especially now that a car accident had taken his father. “Excuse me, young man?” Landon looked up. There was an older man in front of him, holding a letter in his right hand, which seemed to shake ever so slightly. “How can I help you?” Landon said. “I’m sorry to disturb you, son, but I was wondering if you could deliver this letter for me. I’m afraid ‘Father Time’ has done a number on me, so I can’t read as well as I used to.” The gray-bearded man held the letter out towards Landon, and there was something peculiar, and yet familiar, about the man. He wore a tattered brown suit and dark overcoat, and his eyes seemed full of a dark and piercing intelligence. The letter hung in the space between them. Landon looked curiously at the letter, then back at the man, and again at the letter. “You want me to read it for you?” The elder man smiled. “Thank you, son. Can you tell me what it says?” Landon squinted at the envelope. It was addressed to Miles Standon. And it was postmarked 1918. “Very strange,” Landon said.
The old man nodded. “I know. Please read it to me.” “Are you sure?” “Yes,” the stranger said. “Open it.” “Well, okay.” Landon gently pulled apart the top of the envelope, took out the stained letter, and read the words of a soldier who was serving in World War I, in the trenches, in the pouring rain. He spoke of the rotting fortifications, the daily assaults across no-man’s land, and his wound, the infection that might take his entire leg. The soldier spoke of his wishes to see his only son, to see him grow tall and strong, to grow into a man. “I love you, and I’m sorry I’m not home,” the soldier wrote. “My son, be strong and courageous, and never give up hope. Life cannot exist without hope. And keep faith. And always do what is right.” Landon looked up from the letter with a deep ache in his heart for the writer, a father who would never see his son. He thought of his own father’s death in the car accident, and he remembered Allie’s tears. Her compassion was the only thing that had delivered him from a total loss of faith. “What do you think?” the stranger asked. There was a long pause, and then Landon asked, “How did you find this letter? Are you the soldier’s grandson?” The stranger smiled mysteriously. “Thank you for reading it to me.” The old man seemed more powerful now, his form etched with light against the rising sun. “Listen to me. The son of that soldier was one of many people whose lives were irrevocably changed by the absence of a letter. What if you had the ability to help these people? What if you could deliver their letters? Would you do it?” Landon laughed. “You’re crazy, old man. This letter is probably a fake. Nice try, though. Here, take it back.” “No. You can change lives, Landon. Truly, you can change time.” “Listen, I don’t know who you are or how you know me, but you need to leave me alone. Here, take back the letter.” The stranger continued to stare at Landon. “Look at the address. If you take this letter, you will find yourself on August 3rd, 1918, at precisely the moment the letter was lost to history. Landon, if you agree to do this you can change the course of history, the course of a young boy’s life. You can bring loving words of a father to a son, just as you ache to hear some final words from your father.” The old man’s words beckoned in the autumn breeze, blowing along with the leaves as they rattled across the
Living Waters revieW
stone path. But Landon was done. He turned his back on the stranger. “I’m going home.” He turned away, but stopped when he realized the letter was still in his hand. He stared at the faded ink for a moment, picturing the soldier’s hand penning it while dark rain fell like bullets over the battlefield. Landon whirled around to ask the stranger a question, but the old man was gone. Looking back down at the letter, Landon noticed one corner was stained with dark, red ink. For a moment he hesitated, seeing Allie and her tears, and now the knot in his chest grew almost unbearable. And before he could stop himself, before he could register how insane this was, he spoke the address on the letter... 1918 Poppy Lane, Lyn, Nebraska. He looked up at the house, the wind chimes dancing gently, the front porch swing creaking. This was the house. He walked up the steps, knocked and waited. And waited. “Hello?” A woman with dark hair and a sad face answered the door. “Mrs. Standon?” Landon asked quietly, adjusting his tie. “Yes? What is this about?” A little boy appeared from behind the woman’s skirt. He had dark hair and freckles, and he waved a chubby hand. Landon waved back with a soft smile. “Hey bud, how are you?” The kid smiled for the briefest of moments and then asked with innocent sadness, “Are you my daddy?” For a moment Landon thought his heart would break. He closed his eyes and saw… The land ripped apart by craters, sliced and constricted by an array of trenches stretching off into the distance… screams and cries and explosions. The light leaving a soldier’s eyes. Private Standon’s eyes. “Please…” Standon said, “please find my family.” Dirt and blood and rain falling together on the soldier’s letter. The corner stained with blood. To: Miles Standon. “No bud, I’m sorry. I’m not your father. But I do have a letter. It’s from your dad.” Landon looked at Mrs. Standon for a long moment. Her hand leapt to her mouth, the tears instantly forming. She hugged her son tightly, sobbing quietly, and then whispered to the man who had delivered the letter. “Thank you, sir. This letter will mean the world to him when he’s older.” Landon nodded, closed his eyes, and that place in Nebraska disappeared. ***
“The rules are simple,” the stranger said. “Listen to me, Landon. There are only three things you must know to be the Postman.” “To be the Postman?” “Yes,” the old man said. “First, each letter must be delivered to its intended recipient. Second, each letter must be opened and read by that person. Third, each letter will be for the ultimate good of its recipient, whether you understand that or not.” The old man stared at Landon with coal-black eyes that burned with inner fire. “Now if you choose to be the Postman, you must shake on it.” Thinking the stranger was crazy, but intrigued by the thought of working for the “ultimate good,” Landon reached his hand forward to shake. Quick as a blink, the stranger produced a knife and sliced into the palm of Landon’s hand. Landon cried out, wincing with confusion and shock. The stranger smiled. “It’s never authentic until it’s done in blood. *** Six months later... At five in the morning, the Postman rolled out of bed, got ready for work, and went to the front door to see what mystery awaited him. Oh stranger, he thought, opening the door, whoever you are, you still aren’t done with me yet, are you? Sure enough, there was another letter on the porch. Landon shook his head in amazement as he stood outside, and suddenly the chill breeze of the early morning began pulling out memories. He remembered how he’d delivered letters to people all over the world. Constantinople, Budapest, London, Rome, the Himalayas, the Sudan, and the Forbidden City in China. He had seen joy in so many faces! Joy, along with the tears. He had delivered good news, and bad news, for the “ultimate good” of the recipients. Landon had become the perfect messenger. He had truly become the Postman. And while he was worried that his secret life might cause trouble between him and Allie, she had never seemed happier. And now the wedding was only a few months away. Landon reached down and picked up the latest letter from the floor of the porch. Where would this journey lead him? The light was just creeping over the tips of the trees, illuminating the penciled scribble on the envelope. He read the name and address. And then he read it again. “No,” he whispered, “this can’t be right. This must be a mistake.”
Short Story 81
TO: Allie Mayerly 3014 Haven Rd. Ft. Collins, CO FROM: Pvt. Colin Amanzo 3rd Division, 2nd Platoon, Fox Company Lang Hai, Vietnam
Short Story 82
The Postman’s heart froze in his chest. His thumbs rubbed over Allie’s name, written in smudged pencil. Who was this Colin person? Landon knew he was not allowed to open any of the letters. He understood it was a serious violation that could harm the “ultimate good,” and yet, with a deep breath, he opened the letter that was addressed to his fiancée. Dear Allie, I am alive. I love you. I pray this reaches you. I am currently in a field hospital. I have three broken ribs and worse than that, Allie, I lost my leg. And all I can pray is that I haven’t lost your love. You are the only thing I cling to with hope. Please wait for me. I am coming home. I’m coming home, Allie. We’ll meet again at the corner of Ash and Willow, down by the bridge, where we had our first kiss. Yours forever, Colin Choking back a sob, Landon closed his eyes. He had to choose. Darkness. Light. Darkness. Light. The light shone brightly around him while he walked along a gravel road leading to a farmhouse. Every muscle in his body begged him to turn around and run away. And his jealous heart ordered him to destroy the letter. How could the stranger make him deliver a love letter from some soldier to Allie? Landon paused, thinking about how easy it would be to turn around, and how easy it would be to rip the letter to shreds. He whispered angrily, “How can this be for the ultimate good?” The Postman took another step forward, another agonizing step forward, as if the weight of the world rested upon every step, the letter dragging him into the ground. It felt like he was being dragged into Hell. “Stranger, what are you doing to me? How can I make this decision?”
The Postman took another step forward. And another, until he was shuffling up the steps to the house. He paused again, thinking he should run away, thinking he should destroy the letter. And then he knocked on the door. A young, beautiful woman with light blond hair appeared. She was slight and graceful, as if every movement was a dance. A sad dance. “Hello?” Landon could tell she’d been crying. But those blue eyes stared gently at him, those same eyes he’d stared into and responded with “I love you” a thousand times. Those eyes did not know him now. The Postman struggled to find words. “Are you… are you… Allie?” She bit her lip as if to keep from crying, her eyes noticing the official seal on the letter. “Yes, I am. Is that for me?” Landon gave her a small, bleak smile. “Yes, this letter is for you.” Allie’s hand shook as she reached for the letter, and Landon felt the softness of her hand as it touched his. He accepted the fact that their hands would never touch again. In agony because of the so-called “ultimate good,” Landon left Allie with her love letter and lurched away from the porch. Tears stinging his eyes, he marched like a dead man down the gravel driveway without saying goodbye. *** A middle-aged woman walked swiftly to the door, calling out, “Make sure Beth is up. Her driving test is at 9:30. I’ll see you guys when I get home from work today. I’ll grab takeout, okay?” She turned to get visible confirmation from her husband, and he nodded with a smile. “That sounds great, but no sushi please.” She laughed and strode out to her car. The woman’s steps were hurried, and yet happy. Her husband shouted up the stairs to the second-floor landing. “Bethany! I know you’re up. I heard the shower running for twenty minutes! There are pancakes downstairs. You’re going to be late unless you hurry!” He waited a moment. No reply. Sighing, he quickly made his way upstairs, past the smiling frames on the wall and past his study. Her door was closed. He walked over and knocked. “Bethany? You there? We’ve got to get going! You won’t get your driver’s license if you aren’t there to take the test.” A small, muffled voice came from within. “Yeah, I’m here. I’ll be out in a sec.”
Living Waters revieW
He closed his eyes and leaned against the door. “Can I come in, please?” “Sure.” He opened the door softly. Beth sat cross-legged on the bed, her long, willowy blond hair tied neatly in a ponytail. In her hand was a picture frame. Landon felt a pain rise in his chest from deep within, the kind of pain only a parent can truly know. He sat down on the edge of the bed. “You okay?” No answer. He lifted the girl’s chin with his scarred hand. Beth’s bright blue eyes were full of tears. “Sorry, Landon. I’m fine. I just… wish my parents could be here to see me take this test.” Landon nodded. “They’d be really proud of you. I know it.” She smiled. “I remember one time my dad took off his leg to show it to me, you know, because of the war. I was so scared, I started to cry. But he scooped me up and let me feel his wound. It was all knotted and gnarly, but it was healed.” Beth looked down at the picture of her mother, Allie, leaning on the shoulder of a tall man in a military uniform. She dabbed at the corner of her eyes. “Crap. I’m going to ruin my makeup.” “Oh, Heaven forbid,” he joked, “there might be a cute boy getting his license today, too.” Beth pretended to scoff. “Landon, you’re so embarrassing. When do I emancipate?” Landon grinned at his adopted daughter. “Bethany Allison Amanzo. I’m not bringing you to school anymore. So unless you want to walk all year, you need to get that license. Now hurry up!” “Chill, dude.” Landon picked up a pillow and threw it at her. Beth squealed and ducked it with a laugh. “Hey,” she said, “watch it! How am I supposed to drive if I’m in an accident before I even get to the test?” Laughing, he tossed another pillow. “Well, I don’t know, maybe you shouldn’t get your license. It might be for the ultimate good, protecting everyone else on the road.” He smiled at her as she pretended to be shocked. “Ultimate good?” she asked, stomping toward the doorway. “What do you know about the ultimate good?” She walked out into the hallway, leaving Landon alone in the room. He stood for a moment, unsure. “The ultimate good?”
he whispered, trying to remember something. The words stirred his memory. Images flashed in his mind, but they were blurry. He wanted to examine them, but it was like searching through a darkened glass. “Ultimate good…” he whispered one more time. “Landon, are we going, or what?” He looked up, surprised. “What? Oh right. Your test.” Still searching for something in his mind, he walked toward the hallway and reached for the doorknob, the traces of a deep scar etched into his palm.
Short Story 83
vaniLLa roses Alia Michaud
Water coagulates in his palm, slouches in the wrinkles of his hands, a mosaic of years, his skin splintered with age and painted with experience. He leans and anoints his hair, slick and white now, all white, with golden perfume that tastes like fifty blue summers like four grown kids
like one last forever. His mottled fingers dangle with gold rings that tie ribbons to his mind, addled, with memories that he forgot. The fingers fumble on his buttons on a shirt she bought in a winter blue, pin-striped, wrinkled. He collects her with a loverâ€™s peck and guides her under the arm that spirits her to the creamery. He orders one cone. Vanilla. She wears flowers, sprinkled on her chest, and the slightest red smile.
Living Waters revieW
okay Anisa Stechert
ake Your Triumphant Return to Normal Life” ran across the glossy pamphlet from top to bottom. The white background hid behind the abusively fuchsia lettering, and I watched the strawberry blonde unfold and refold the leaflet at least a dozen times before pressing her lips into an impressively straight line. For the last several weeks this woman had made herself a satisfactory addition to my train ride to work. She would get on at the station right after mine and then get off at Blaine. I had taken up studying her; there was something both singular and interesting—either in her features or the way in which she carried herself—I hadn’t decided which it was, if not both. She looked the type to have spent too long of a childhood in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Her face wore this obstinate innocence or naiveté that comes from growing up in a town with a couple hundred people and one grocery store. I hadn’t been able to come to any conclusive decision on her age; it was as probable for her to be in her early twenties as it was for her to be in her mid-thirties. The train lurched and my still hot coffee from home kept with the momentum of the train as gravity threw it onto my loafers. I sighed out a barely audible “shoot” before bending down and trying to wipe the coffee from my shoe with a useless hand. My fingers succeeded only in spreading the coffee around my loafer as if forcing me to engage in an adult-themed finger painting exercise. The edge of a stark napkin was thrust into my line of sight. I lifted my head to perceive the origin of this much needed assistance and was met by Leaflet Lady.
“Thanks,” I muttered while grabbing the napkin and achieving much more success this time in removing the coffee from a now much darker loafer. “It’s the least I can do since you’ve been indulging my ego for weeks now.” I felt my brow line collapse in on itself as I studied the amused face before me. “What?” She rolled jade eyes, compressed her lips, and I watched as her nostrils flared from the deep inhale. “You watch me every morning. I can rest assured that regardless of what the day will hold, the man on the eight o’clock train with his curiously patterned button-downs and cornflower blue ties will watch me.” She gave one of those lopsided grins that I actually hate and tilted her head to the side. I tried to take this woman in with her too-big indigo shirt that carried one tiny hole by the collar and her weathered purse that hung for dear life from a freckled shoulder. “You have a different pamphlet every morning. That’s what I look at. I’m trying to read the covers—maybe catch a glimpse of the clipart that’s been slapped on by an underpaid editor that once had youthful dreams of running their own prestigious magazine.” I almost instantly lamented my forced smile that showed too many teeth. Her cheeks threw a flushed blanket across themselves, but the color left as quickly as it appeared. She placed her bag down in front of the seat next to me like it contained a million glass beakers that all housed a part of an experiment only she was a part of. She heaved my old-school briefcase from the seat next to me onto the floor, replacing its previous location with herself. She slowly, meticulously, brought her right leg over the left one and placed her hands, one on top of the other, atop her knee. The way she moved made me imagine her to be fine china, clinking and clanking when parts of her were placed together too quickly, too carelessly. The bawdy blue of the seat looked lewd next to her sensible khakis. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I just attend different support groups in order to try and sleep at night. I may not have any of the associated afflictions, but there’s this inexplicable camaraderie I feel being with people that experience firsthand the darker aspects of humanity. It may be a strange conduit to cathartic emotional reprieve but it helps with the chronic insomnia.” I stared at this ponytailed enigma next to me. “That is literally the intro to Fight Club.”
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Short Story 86
She let out a small humming noise and grabbed at the end of her ponytail like a kitten batting at string. “I didn’t know a lot of people knew about that movie.” I continued to stare at her. “It was directed by renowned David Fincher and employs the fantastic capabilities of both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.” Without blinking, she tilted her head to the other side and re-crossed her legs in the same exacting slowness as before. “Natia,” she said after thrusting a pastel hand at me. I shook her hand and was struck by the presence of raised callouses. “Fletcher,” I said far more tentatively than I intended to. “Fletch.” She said it like extra creamy peanut butter was clinging to the roof of her mouth, like she was learning a new word and trying it in a sentence for the first time. “I like it.” “Well, I don’t believe in nicknames; so, Fletcher.” Natia snorted. “What do you mean you don’t believe in nicknames? I hate to be the one to break this to you, but regardless of whether you believe,” here she threw overemphatic air quotes above our heads like confetti; “They are very real. They exist. They are among us.” It was my turn to stare at her. “Yes, choosing words carefully is important—” “Oh, it is of the utmost importance, Fletch, that words be chosen with precision. A teacher at the university I graduated from would always quote from Confucius, ‘When words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom.’” “It appears you attended classes of profound philosophy.” “Ah, pro-found phee-losophy. I too am a fan of alliteration.” Her brow had fallen low, and she nodded her head methodically as if we were coming to mutual agreement on the finer points of Calvinism. I let my eyes rove over her facial features. They slid into the worn ravines by her eyes and then tripped over the lifted corner of her mouth. I tried to read between the lines of clearly constricted body language, tried to gauge where she was coming from. Was all of this an attempt at bizarre comedy or was this woman, this Natia, the token eccentric everyone is destined to meet on a train? She let the silence, that had seemingly been waiting in the fly space above us, slowly descend. Neither of us spoke and the rattles, clatters, shakes of the train prattled on for us in those few minutes. She moved her face away from me to look out the
window, and I surveyed my poor loafer critically. Her voice interrupted the train’s suddenly, “I’m kidding. I know that Fight Club is a Cult Classic; I know a lot of people say they don’t believe in something when they really mean they’re not a supporter of said thing not supposedly believed in, and I know that you were playing with assonance, not alliteration . . . okay, in all seriousness, I know that’s alliteration.” I continued to stare at her. My face cracked. “You’re funny, Natia.” I lowered my head to rub the back of my neck with a warm hand and took notice of her purse on the jostling train floor. Its mouth was open just enough to reveal the bewildering contents, each bump and sway prying its jowls apart more and more. More than a dozen intensely-colored pamphlets fanned from her bag. I was able to read the cover of the first one in line, “You know You Need Help,” before Natia gently gathered the faux leather purse and nestled it into her lap. “Sorry.” I wanted to apologize further but felt too awkward to speak any more. Natia cinched the mouth close with her folded arms, pulling the purse closer to her stomach. “It’s fine.” A second, more awkward and palpable, round of silence settled on us. She turned her head away from me to stare out of the train window opposite us. The red brick buildings and avocado green trees whirring outside our train’s windows reminded me of a hearty attempt at Christmas decor that was only shades off. “This isn’t what Old Saint Nicholas had in mind,” I chuckled to Natia. She unstuck her eyes from the window to look at me. “The reds and the greens outside look like an attempt and fail at matching Christmas colors.” Natia nodded once and smiled. “I never noticed that.” She turned her wrist that was still helping to keep her purse shut just enough to look at her watch. “Our stop should be coming up.” This would be the first time Natia and I actually exited the train together, and I don’t know why the idea amused me as much as it appealed to me. “I’m not typically an intrusive person.” I was looking at the cheap blue of the chair directly behind Natia in order to avoid direct eye contact while still looking in her general direction. She moved her head so that my awkward eyes matched up with cool gaze. “It’s okay.” She moved the bag from her lap and worked both straps onto her shoulder with an ease that comes
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from familiarity. “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” The railroad engineer’s voice crackled through the air, “Ah, yes, we’re coming up to Blaine right now, folks; Blaine is the next station.” Natia bent down to heave my briefcase between us. It looked excessive, obtrusive, and overstated now next to her modest purse and sensible, monochromatic clothing. I looked down at my paisley button-down, divided by a weak blue tie and wanted to sneak into the train bathroom to change. “Thanks.” I wanted to thank her for taking this train every morning, for growing up in a town with a couple hundred people and one grocery store, for the napkin that saved my loafer, for the talk about Fight Club, nicknames, and alliteration, for grabbing my briefcase, but I felt inexplicably mute. “You’re welcome, Fletcher.” She laughed and stood as soon as the train began to slow. I took her cue and walked as closely as I could behind her without having her feel suffocated. She turned toward me abruptly as soon as she descended the three steps from the train to the platform. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” I took that to mean our travels with one another would end here. “Okay.” I suddenly felt distressingly dumb and conspicuous. A boy walked by, clutching the hem of his mother’s floral dress, staring at me. It was the hideous paisley with the blue tie and condescendingly shiny briefcase that drew his innocent eye; I knew it had to be. I scanned the simmering crowd before me in search of Natia. I found her almost immediately, her bag bouncing against her hip with each step she took. I started to walk toward her but then was violently halted by what I saw. Natia had met up with a shell of a girl. It was painful to look at her; someone had seemingly rolled out only enough skin to hang, stretch, and maneuver over the frame of a skeleton. I watched the two of them interact and was left to assume they were sisters. They had the same sharp eyes that grew in intensity the more you looked at them, the same seesaw mouth that was constantly tilting up at a joke that hadn’t been told yet. If I had to guess, I would say that Natia was the younger sister, but it was hard to tell the other’s age. The girl must have said something funny because Natia threw her head back to laugh while grabbing her around the shoulders and pulling her in.
I felt like a voyeur, encroaching on personal moments. Natia released Sister from her arms and reached into her purse. Her arm moved around, searchingly, and then stopped short. Natia seemed torn. In her heavy contemplation, she had grabbed the corner of her bottom lip with her two front teeth, and her eyes wandered around the station as if the answer to whatever question she was asking was graffitied somewhere. She began to bring her arm up for air from the bag, and I could see the corner of one of the familiar pamphlets emerging with it. Natia slowly closed her eyes and then shoved her arm along with the pamphlet back into the depths of her purse. Her sister had seemingly been oblivious to the civil war that had taken place before her and fiddled with the bottom of her gray shirt while talking. Natia placed an arm around Sister’s shoulders and walked toward the parking lot, occasionally turning toward her, occasionally resituating a bag that weighed a million pounds.
Short Story 87
the WasteLanDs WouLD be groves Peter Copan
A stench goes before it, like the herald before a king that no one likes but everyoneâ€™s stuck with in that stationary station. As assigned by caste lots, what can one do? Where the smell of death is strong and hurt and hatred join hands,
what can one hear? Over the din of clanging bells that deaden as they deafen, what can one see when mist envelopes those who would seek the road beyond? Were there but one, he would come forward humbly, the frond of a date palm, his only herald. His presence brings fragrance. His name is euphony. His path clears all paths. He walks through those streets, a new peace brought nearer with each step. Death is dying, bells stop tolling, eyes start seeing the groves.
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peaChes Chantel Muir
raptureD Olivia Anderson
Deep, damp, drum of waterfalls, depths of oceans rising, roots, long hidden, puncture the surface, seasons in reverse, skeletal leaves fattened with life, reattached to their sustainer. The sun rises in the west
rewinding to its first taste of golden light. Smooth mountainsides are hacked by the untrampling of human footsteps. Every death births life, wrinkles become the paints of youth, gray hair grows into tinted newness. Gravestones shatter like earth’s first sun when in celebration, it became the stars. “It is good” are the only words ever spoken in the ears of Time, that babe of creation, who gurgles with rapturous delight.
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