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Cover Design and Art by Stacy Deese

The Phoenix Š 2012 Reproduction of any material within this publication is prohibited without consent of the artist or author of that particular work. 2


The Phoenix Pfeiffer University Misenheimer North Carolina Spring 2012

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Table of Contents Silhouette Pop-up ········································································ John Borza The Pariah of Politics ···························································· John Anderson Skylines ············································································· Dr. Juanita Kruse Usual Routine ············································································ Jamie Alcala War ························································································ Claire Johnson Blue Mandala ·············································································· John Borza Summer in Damascus ························································ Elizabeth Tucker Making Hay ······································································· Dr. Juanita Kruse I Will Wash My Vegetables Outside ·········································· Cynthia Dick In Times Gone By ······························································· Angela Galloway The Goodbye········································································· Kayla Lookabill Sleep Deprived ······································································ Claire Johnson Mortality Realized ······································································· Kari Passen The Epoch ·········································································· Elizabeth Tucker Puzzle Man············································································ Hanna Wilhelm Mirrored Faces Blankly Stare ············································· Elizabeth Tucker Potter ·················································································· Angela Galloway Young & Free ···································································· Elizabeth Tucker The Hypothesis ········································································ Cynthia Dick Money··················································································· Kayla Lookabill Low Country Fantasy ······················································· Dr. Juanita Kruse Moonlight Tanning ····························································· Elizabeth Tucker Solitary Intricacies ····················································· Christopher Cocherell Brrrzzzp ············································································· Dr. David Palmer You ······················································································· Claire Johnson Boots ················································································· Angela Galloway

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Wilberforce ····································································Dr. John Grosvenor Ganesh Cutesy ···········································································John Borza Bark at the Bikers ······························································Dr. David Palmer The River of Fire ································································ Elizabeth Tucker The Passenger ·········································································· Greg Owen

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Silhouette Pop-Up

by John Borza, Phoenix Staff

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The Pariah of Politics by John Anderson

Is liberalism a liability, is conservatism too cynical? As global violence and the debt ceiling rises, has America the beautiful been knocked from her pinnacle? Will it take a miracle to restore her greatness? Does she care about the homeless, the nameless, the faceless? Or do partisan lines still define us, do we still trust in God as a nation and seek his guidance? Will we become like Egypt, Rome, and Great Britain? Will we continue to smile in the face of injustice and pretend like we can't smell the stench? Will we isolate ourselves from the rest of the world so that no one can enter or leave the fence? No one will give an inch that is the pariah of American politics. Will elected officials fight to the death until we have nothing left? Do we stand for life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, or money, war, greed, and sex? Is it Russia, Iran, or China, or is it ourselves who are our own greatest threat?

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Skylines

by Dr. Juanita Kruse

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Usual Routine by Jamie Alcala

Days like this are usually blurred together, but there are moments of the day that I can’t forget. I have gone to Arlington Cemetery so many times, that I can’t remember what day it was or what the day looked like, but even though the motions of those days are the same, they are unforgettable. Each time we plan a visit, the night before I go to bed with the anticipation of the next day. My mind tends to wonder about how this day could be different than the others. As my wondering mind calms down, my eyelids slowly close on that day and hope to open up to a reality where I don’t have to go to the cemetery, but this isn’t the case. My sleeping body is awakened by my mother sweetly rubbing my leg to wake me in a gentle manner. When she knows that I am awake, she leaves so I can get ready. Once she leaves, I sit up in my bed; I look around and realize it is that time again. I take a deep breath: big breath in...big breath out. I blow away all my worries and my fears. My mind is clear. My mind is now ready for the day ahead. I work my way out of the bed, my resistant body makes it difficult to get the day started. Eventually, I have worked my way around my room and bathroom. I am ready. After a quiet breakfast, my father looks up with his painful eyes and says in a hesitant voice, “Let’s go.” The silence follows us to the car and hops into the car for the ride. We first have to stop at our local store to grab flowers. We get out of the car, with people around and running errands, silence decides to stay in the car. It is not needed here. The choice of flowers is one that shouldn’t be very difficult but it can be. All we want...all we need is yellow roses. Once we work our way to the roses’ area, my eyes search for yellow roses. We don’t just grab any dozen yellow roses. They have to be the most amazing shade of yellow. The rose buds need to be at full bloom, we want the best roses we can find and we won’t take anything less. After analyzing every single yellow rose, we have found the best dozen. These roses are now ours to give to another. After paying for them, it is time for us to get back into the car and get on our way. As we walk back to the car, silence waits for us patiently. Climbing back into the car, we buckle up and now we are ready for the journey. The forty-minute drive is nothing special. Silence is what is best known for this part of our day. It can explain everything about this trip. It explains the fear of having to relive the death of loved one. It explains the sadness that is so hard to hide. While I sit in the car my head rests upon my hand as I watch the trees roll by and watch the innocent faces of the other drivers, tears invade my eyes. Eventually a silent tear slowly streams down my cheek. This tear is the proof that I probably won’t win the battle between me and sadness. I wipe the tear away as quickly as it came. I can’t show my parents that I am sad. I need to be strong for them. They are just as sad as I am but I shouldn’t be the weak one. I fight hard against the tears 9


and I start to win the battle, but as I hold the yellow roses I am reminded once again why I am here and I lose the battle again. After time continues to pass by, I start to realize we are getting closer. I remind myself about the strength that I have. I keep telling myself, I need to be strong...I need to be strong. As I continue to remind myself of my strength we finally arrive. We are waved through by Arlington guards when they see our pass that allows us in and we drive through the gates to the cemetery. We slowly drive down the road and take a right at the sign. The sign reads, “Section 60,� a number that is very important to me, a number that is very important to a lot of people. We are here. It is that time again. I take a deep breath: big breath in...big breath out. My parents have somewhat worked their way out of the car, my hand finally reaches for the door handle. I hesitate to open the door, but I know what I need to do. I get out of the car and I am greeted by my parents who are waiting for me. My mother wraps her arm around my unoccupied arm as my other is carrying the roses. My parents and I walk together through the graves. As we get closer the tears fight to get out of my eyes. My heart beats harder. My legs weaken. My hands shake. My whole being gets beaten down by the fear of the lost. I see his name. I am reminded that this is reality. If only this could be a dream that I can wake up from. Even though I wish this was a dream, I know it will never be one. This is my reality. This is what my life has to deal with. I put the flowers next to his grave and take a step back. Trying to calm my nerves I take a breath: big breath in...big breath out. As time ticks by I cry. I feel the hand of another. My hand and the hand of my mother tightly interlock as we both are weakened by this reality. We both need each other’s strength to make it through this. As I continue to stand there, I look at the yellow roses. Wen I look at them I am reminded not of the sadness but of the strength. I am reminded of who we are giving these roses to. I am reminded of the strength he had. I am reminded of how much strength it had to take to sacrifice his life to save over fifty others. I realize that I am not here to mourn. I am here to honor. I am here to remember. Troy Lee Gilbert: my friend, my brother, my hero.

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War by Claire Johnson

I am the soldier of misfortune; shipped far away at war, fighting for the girl I adore. They say that I will see her soon, but when I see her now I swoon— my once loved body turned to gore.

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Blue Mandala

by John Borza, Phoenix Staff

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Summer in Damascus by Elizabeth Tucker

Silver portraits and silent strings; the thought of you beckons a crystal stream, ebbing and flowing by remembered things. Tempts happiness on my tongue, tastes like spoiled time. It's a sour thing, the memory of youth but inability to be young. Eyes that were once anxious, and gaping, perceived the world in endless tones and vibrant hues, now close, lost in foggy, fading grays and lapping blues.

we tried to catch it a thousand times, and still do. Cool water ran over our bare feet from the tiny stream, beneath the trees. Where you and I left the world and ate the breeze; it stuck to our stomachs like thick molasses. I'll never forget the way freedom tasted that summer in Damascus.

Lullabied by the quiet and the dark, I let my mind bend back to the space in between where here and now lack. The dripping dreamland evokes old and new, evaporating in the Sound of happiness. In this mirage of summer land reality begins to dissipate, and I am renewed with the heart of a child of eight.

The wind blew that day like a push from God— picked us up from daydreaming at the sky, made us run. But our feet could never travel as fast as the feeling; 13


Making Hay

by Dr. Juanita Kruse

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I Will Wash My Vegetables Outside by Cynthia Dick, Editor of Poetry

Cigars and grease, pipe tobacco and peppermint. It smells like my Granddaddy in here, still. Thirteen years later not one pipe has been smoked in this room and it still smells like him. This is my Granddaddy's barn. The unwavering wood structure, the tin walls and roof rusting just for color, the poured concrete floor stained with car grease, machine grease, are all still here. The smudges of thick black covering the floor wouldn't come up even if we wanted to erase the evidence of forty years of puttering about. “What do you think? Something isn't it?” my Momma says, coming up behind me and placing one hand gently against my back. She's been talking for years about finding a ladylike pipe to smoke, just like her daddy did. But she can come out here and breathe deep the scent she wants to recreate, and this old stale smell is a sharper evidence of that reality than the one she would create with her own blue smoke. I couldn't find a nice pipe, so I bought her a ladylike cigar for Christmas. “I sat right here and smoked half of it, baby girl, then I smoked the other half down on the deck, for Momma,” she tells me, moving to sit in the dirty orange recliner my Granddaddy moved to the barn when Nanny said it had to go. “Did it make you feel old?” I ask. “Hell yes, and proud,” she says. She wore the scent like perfume to church, and everyone said it smelled like Aaron Watkins was in the congregation that day. “I want to use the old Farmall and plant a garden this year,” she says. “It's a lot of work, Momma.” “I know, but that's why God gave me you children,” she says, and winks at me, just like Granddaddy would have. “You had us just to harvest your dill, then?” I ask. “Sure! I'll make you some good old Granddaddy pickles. Fair trade act.” And that doesn't sound like a bad idea. I walk over to the back wall, still covered with half of my Granddaddy's tools. I can't name any of them, and neither could he. “Hand me that old thingamajig over there,” he'd say, smiling. “This one?” “No, that other one there.” “This one?” “The thingamajig, Granster, with the handle and the round thingy.” He couldn't say my brother's names. Granseur was Granster. Jonathan was Jonifer. Momma used to tease and say she named me Cici because she knew it wouldn't give Granddaddy any problems. I take a thingamajig off the wall, one with a handle and a round thingy at the end, and turn it in my hands a few times. The wooden handle is so light now. Any 15


and all stain, had it ever been applied, is completely gone. Now it's dead wood, bone gray. But smooth, from my Granddaddy's hands. “Where's the round saw?” I ask my Momma. It was the one tool that had a name. And it was the one tool we were never allowed close to. We could run washers and bolts and all types of thingamajigs to Granddaddy. We could drive nails for him, mount screws, and even, when we were older, run the tiller for him. But never could we ever come close to that saw. Imminent death is what that tool meant. The sound it made, like one hundred thousand starving infants screaming for their mothers, all at once, was power we wanted but couldn't have. I'd sit and watch as Granddaddy would run the same piece of wood screeching through the saw, over and over, until like magic he had more than plenty stakes for the garden. “Can I try?” I pleaded. “No, baby, you'll cut your head off. This is a big man tool. You can watch and I'll let you help me drive the stakes later.” Granddaddy had children so that they could have children to harvest his dill, I think now. Still, the opportunity to work in the garden with Granddaddy was one we would never pass up. I loved walking through the neat rows, looking in on the tomato plants through those protective plastic stands that were filled with water. “Keeps the bugs off and the 'maters warm,” Granddaddy informed me. “It's pretty!” I said. “It's useful,” he said. Useful, just like the round saw missing from my Granddaddy's barn. “Momma, where's the round saw?” I ask again, finding her staring toward the place where the saw used to stand. Zoned out. She must be remembering deep. I have to ask a third time, and say her name with the same plaintiff tone I would have used as a child. “Momma! The saw? “Oh! Sonny took it. He took a lot of the tools,” she says. Sonny is her sister's son, my first cousin, and the first born Grandson of Aaron and Mabel Watkins. “Rightfully so, then,” I say, trying to ease the irritated look off of Momma's face. “At least Sonny has it and not some auction house, right?” “Maybe Granseur or Jonathan wanted it, though.” “Maybe you should've beat Aunt Diane to the delivery room,” I say. “I guess so but I wasn't thinking about what tools my unborn sons might want when I was getting into bed with your Daddy,” she bites back. I regret having spoken. It's a recurring theme. “Anyway, maybe Sonny wouldn't mind letting you borrow it to make some stakes for the garden you plan to enslave us with,” I say, trying to bring back the jovial nostalgic mood. “Or maybe Sonny could make them for us, and we'll trade him some good spiky cukes for the stakes,” she says. “That sounds perfect,” I tell her, walking outside to look over the earth my Granddaddy used to turn and plant. I'm not sure I know how to plant a garden. Nope, after all of those years, watching, helping, I’m sure I’m lost as to planting that garden. I stand at the end of what would be long rows of melons and look back toward the house. To me, it looks like more work than a good memory is worth. To me, the one who lets memories go until scent or sound requires them to come rushing up, it looks like a stab at something we can't handle like Granddaddy could. 16


“I don't know, Momma, you really want to do this garden?” I call back at her. She steps out of the barn to look at me hurt, and surprised. I shouldn't say things like that. Dig in the garden and wipe the sweat from the dip in my Watkins nose, that's what I ought to do. Drive stakes and call tools thingamajigs, that's what I ought to do. “You don't have to do anything if you don't want to. Daddy did it himself, and so can I,” she says. But I know she can't. “I'll help you, Momma, I just want to make sure you know what we're getting into,” I say, squatting to pick up a handful of thick red dirt. The ground here is clay, solid when wet and irritating as hell to run a tiller through. “This is a good thing, baby girl. You don't want to eat an ol' 'mater sandwich from your Granddaddy's garden?” “I don't like tomatoes,” I remind her, playfully. “Fine, a cucumber and onion sandwich, with a side of salted radish!” And I suppose she's won me over. “Sure, Momma, let's plant this garden full of vegetables. You're running the tiller, though,” I tell her. But, I could never wink. “I will run the tiller,” she says, green-brown eyes sparkling. “I will run the tiller, and drive the stakes. I will plant the seeds. And I will wash my vegetables outside, just like my Daddy.” We decide that we will plant in April and May and June. We will plant corn and tomatoes and cucumbers. We will plant dill and melons, and more peppers than we can eat. We will pull up weeds and toss them aside. We'll smoke cigars and dig into the ground and pull out purple radish memories, fat with the taste of my Granddaddy's earth.

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In Times Gone By

by Angela Galloway

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The Goodbye by Kayla Lookabill, Editor-in-Chief

That morning was cold. The kind of cold that sinks into your bones and seems impossible to get rid of no matter what you do. Everyone moved around me like zombies. They would walk down the aisle to the head of the casket and cry. The voice in my head was screaming at me. “Run away! This isn’t real!” The sweet smell of the flowers that covered the floor and top of the casket were making me sick. I turned to run. Run anywhere that wasn’t here. Run anywhere away from all the people asking me how I was doing. Away from all the tears and the sad gospel music. Away from the pain. Away from the sickening flowers and my family. I just wanted to go away from the teal carpeted room lined with pews that faced the mahogany casket that my grandfather now laid in. Away. Then just as I was about to turn around and run through the big glass doors into the impossibly cold air my dad took my hand. “Are you ready?” he asked. His voice was a mere whisper and his eyes couldn’t reach mine. I swallowed hard and tilted my head down to stare at that teal carpet and my hideous black shoes. “Ready for what Dad?” “Ready to say goodbye.” I pulled my head to meet his gaze which felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. I looked into my father’s soft brown eyes that were now slightly glazed and filling fast with emotions. I looked for a long time trying my hardest to find the words. I wanted to say no. I wanted to leave and never come back. I wanted to yell at him that this was a mistake and that the man lying in the casket was not my grandfather but was someone else’s. But I couldn’t. I just nodded my head and held on tight to the hand that lead me down the teal tear covered carpet, my feet heavier than they should have been, to finally say goodbye to my grandfather.

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Sleep Deprived by Claire Johnson

I open my eyes: my brain is going whack. I try to; try to look at the sky, I realize it’s pitch black. I feel like its day, and in a way it really is— when the days feel like nights and the nights feel like days. This is simply what happens. You need to get this through your head. You aren’t dead. You’re just weak from trying. So when you stumble through the door and your face hits the floor, that’s when you mumble, No more.

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Mortality Realized by Keri Passen

I awake to a choir of loud, piercing screams in the middle of a cold spring night. These screams are like four-inch fingernails on a rough blackboard in a small country school house. Rising like a zombie off of the one dingy, cotton pillow case that I had been sleeping on, I notice the voices in the hallway are dripping and oozing with panic, and are terrified. It is 1:53 in the morning, on April 15, 1912. I am aboard the RMS Titanic, and freezing cold water rushes into my room from under the closed, white wooden door. The sound of a full stampede of desperate running footsteps floods my ears and makes it hard to think. It is as if I am in Pamplona, Spain, running with the bulls. The minute my dainty, suntanned feet hit the knee deep water in my room, I go cold to the bone, numb of all physical feeling and sensations for a long moment. With about five strides in the freezing ocean water behind me, I open the door to my room; it feels as if it weighs about five hundred pounds, and it is the only thing keeping me, in a false sense of security, from what is about to happen. Bright, blinding light pours into the room, and my ice blue eyes take a painful moment to adjust. I see almost all the lower class passengers that I have gotten to know these past few days running and screaming for their lives. There are elderly passengers, along with parents, teenagers, and little children. Everyone shows the same awful expression. The little children are what hit me the hardest; they are confused and terrified by the horror they see in their parents’ eyes. Even the rats that keep us third class passengers humbled are running, scared of the impending doom. There is a hard shift of motion, coupled with a metallic crunch-like noise, almost as if a giant bean can is being smashed in. I look down at the hand that is on my swollen belly; the ring that resides there is a simple silver engagement ring that I have cherished since the moment it was placed upon my left-hand ring finger. That ring, along with what it symbolizes, no longer matters. My heart is pounding so loud that my ears are throbbing. There is a nauseating cringe in my stomach where my unborn child rests, and a stab of fear hits me. It no longer matters that I am a nineteen-year old, unmarried woman who is expecting a baby in a little under a month. A ghostly tingle of fear and sorrow goes up my spine, and I feel it from my toes all the way to my light blonde curls. I cannot seem to swallow the bitter taste in my mouth as I realize that most of these people, myself included, will die tonight.

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The Epoch by Elizabeth Tucker The stone was cast away with the force of a thousand arms the day she followed the trail, to where her salty spirit swarms. Down by the splintering, swaying dock, she released her heart to sink to the bottom, like an osmium rock.

by Elizabeth Tucker

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Puzzle Man by Hanna Wilhelm, Phoenix Staff There was a puzzle man, and he was comin’ right at me, as he was colorful and confident and seemingly so free. I tried to look away, but I couldn’t help but see. He was a crazy fueled puzzle man and he wouldn’t let me be.

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Mirrored Faces Blankly Stare by Elizabeth Tucker

Mirrored faces blankly stare against the poisoned eyes they bare. I once loved a man who was never there. In the midnight walls, slumber resides and anger crawls. A bitten lip against my tongue; you are old and I am still young. Voices, images, none I recall; we were only dancers in the eagerness of it all.

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Potter

by Angela Galloway

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Young and Free

by Elizabeth Tucker

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The Hypothesis by Cynthia Dick, Editor of Poetry

I don't know that I'd have lived if I wasn't born after two boys who spent most of their time trying to kill me. Brothers are something special; they built me a thick suit of skin and set me into it before I ever even knew I'd need it. I certainly wouldn't have made it through the third grade if I hadn't already heard every way you could get at a person's fat from my brothers. When I thought my wings made me look like a fairy princess, my middle brother, Granseur, pointed out the rolls created by the elastic straps digging in to my baby girl arm pits. “Ew, what is that? Pork chops?” he said. Skinny girls can't touch put-downs like that. “Hey! Look! It's See See my DICK!” the older kids would yell at recess. They thought they were clever, that maybe they were enlightening this young girl to the true meaning of her last name. They were wrong. I'd already heard it all, every interesting and seemingly harmless combination of names had already been paraded before me in my own backyard, in my bed room, in the hallway upstairs where we used to play. My Grandfather's name is Harold. He never went by Harry, but most people liked to tell me that he did. I can never remember every particular event, and some I think I made up in hopes that tragedy would somehow find me and make my life more interesting. All I know for sure is that from the moment I took my first breath, my brothers aimed to make each one after my last. When I was six, Granseur took a nine iron to a chunk of quartz rock. He told me we would find crystals if we could break it open. “See the lines of gold in there? That means there's diamonds inside!” I followed his long skinny fingers as they traced the lines of soft metal, squished between fat rows of milky white, hard rock. “Diamonds?” I asked, with my little nose scrunched up in confusion. I thought diamonds came from Linville Caverns, or the Great Smokey Mountains, or somewhere else too far away to reach. “Well, crystals, but it might as well be diamonds!” He said, his eyes settling somewhere between green and brown in a flash of excitement. “We'll be rich! Now stand back!” he said. So I did. Or at least I thought I did. Or maybe I really did and Granseur's arms were just six feet long each. I can't be sure. What I do know for sure, is that he swung back, hard as he could, and following through to contact with the rock, made no impact on it's dense geological composition. “DAMN!” he hollered. Then I hollered. But not because the rock hadn't broken and released the crystals waiting inside. I hollered because I was on the ground. My cushy little bottom had plopped hard into the dirt. I did see stars. Then I saw red. Then I saw Momma running out of the house with a look of half despair, half outrage, her 27


hands already carrying the first aid kit and a wet paper towel. Granseur was too strong, even at a lanky eleven. His back swing had caught me right in the middle of the forehead, one of the few places I had no fat to cushion a blow. The impact of nine iron to skin to bone had ripped a hole in my head, and blood was pouring down my face, spilling down my shirt, and filling the spaces between my toes. It felt like he had run the club all the way through my head. I imagined chunks of my brain were splayed against the well house behind me, buried like old evidence in the layers of ivy. I could visualize the jagged pieces of bone scattered across the ground like arrowheads on Edisto Island. I knew I was covered in blood, my favorite Minnie Mouse sweatshirt, pink and gray, was definitely ruined. “Shhhh, calm down baby, what happened?” Momma said, in those soothing dulcet tones only a mother can produce. She hunkered down on the ground in front of me and pressed the wet paper towel to my head. I was taking deeper breaths. The tears were slowing and I sniffed a little, just to see if I could. I could still think. I opened my mouth to tell her how Granseur was trying to kill me, but he beat me to it. “I told her to get back but she just stood there!” he blurted out. “No, I moved! I moved! I did too move!” I yelled, the tears pushing to the fronts of my eyes again. “No you didn't! You just stood there! I told you to step back and you didn't move!” “Then YOU should've looked!” Momma said, before I could begin my second round of protests. I smiled. It was Granseur's fault. Not mine. “Am I going to die, Momma?” I asked, looking up at her. “Nohooho,” she said, her laugh breaking the most serious of words to pieces. “You're going to be fine, baby girl, it's really not that bad. Just a scratch.” She lowered the paper towel for just a moment, and I saw there a quarter-sized splotch of red rust blood. “But, but, I'm covered in blood!” I said, obviously confounded by the majority of white area on the paper towel. “I can't feel my face and he's ruined Minnie!” But when I grabbed my shirt and looked down to show her, there was nothing there. Not one drop of blood. I looked up at her again, surprised. “See, you're fine,” she smiled, “just a scratch! Let's go inside and get you cleaned up. You can stand, come on. Granseur, be more aware of yourself when your sister's around. Please.” “Yes ma'am,” he said, lowering his head. “Tell me you're sorry!” I demanded. “I'm sorry you didn't step back,” he said, like a total prick ass. Momma shot him a look, the one that I used to get when I would tell her that I didn't have a bedtime any more, and the same look she would give me no less than one hundred thousand times throughout the remainder of my years. “I'm sorry I hit you, Cici,” he said. And then he smiled at me. And then he kissed my cheek and patted my back, gently. And then I smiled at him, and then I smiled up at Momma, who took my hand and guided it to my forehead, so I could hold my own paper towel against my own forehead, that I now realized was not the Grand Canyon. She took my other hand and led me back to the house. Sitting on the kitchen counter, swinging my legs and sucking happily on an orange freeze-pop, I had already forgotten about the pain in my head when my oldest, wisest brother came down from his sanctuary upstairs. 28


“Hey tickle toes, what's happening?” he said. “Granseur was trying to kill me so I wouldn't get rich off the crystals,” I told him. Momma laughed a little as she dabbed Neosporin onto the cut on my forehead. She looked right in my eyes, somehow splitting her gaze so that part fell on my body, and part dipped into my soul. “Your brother was not trying to kill you, Cici,” she said. “He loves you.” I believed her. She picked out the biggest band aid she could find in the old first aid tin and stuck it square in the center of my forehead. “There, all better!” she said, and with a kiss to the wound and a pat on the knee, she turned and left the room to return to whatever activity she had left when profanity and cries had called her outdoors. Jonathan moved in closer to me and put both hands on my knees and kissed my forehead, right where Momma had. Then he just stood there, looking at me for a moment. “I believe you,” he said, playfulness in his gaze. “What are you talking about?” I asked. “I believe Granseur was trying to kill you,” he said. “No, actually, I know he was trying to kill you.” “Really?” “Yeah, really.” “How do you know that?” “Because he tried to kill me,” Jonathan said. I searched his eyes for silliness, but it was all gone. He must have been telling the truth! I turned around to look out the kitchen window, out over the yard to the well house where Granseur was still swinging away in disdain at the quartz rock that could not, would not, be broken open. My scrupulous gaze narrowed in on him. His face was turning red. He was growing angry and frustrated. I could almost sense the tension from my safe place upon the counter. “Okay,” I said, “tell me when he tried to kill you.” “Are you sure you want to know?” Jonathan asked me. I recognize now that this was a tease, his way of working me to where I just had to hear the story, working me to where I would have to believe him. I weighed the consequences of knowledge and ignorance in my little six year old brain. If he told me how Granseur tried to kill him, I no doubt would be afraid. If he didn't tell me, I'd always wonder. Knowing was better than wondering, I decided. “Tell me.” I said, turning back to Jonathan with the most serious look I could muster. “All right,” he said, “I'll tell you.” When Jonathan was seven or eight, and Granseur was three or four, they were after each other every moment of every day. They would push, shove, pull, grab, scratch, bite and roll around with each other constantly in hopes that one would get sent to their room and rid themselves of the other's presence for a while. They hated each other, Jonathan assured me. See, Jonathan was born first. He was the perfect, sweet, dark little boy child, first heir to the Dick throne, and loved immensely by both of our doting parents. Then Granseur was born, and everything changed. No longer was Jonathan the center of attention. No longer was he the perfect child of mother and father. Now he was part of a perfect pair of boys. And that was bullshit. Something had to be done to get this boy out of their good graces! He would scatter Granseur's toys about the upstairs hallway. He would spill Granseur's breakfast all into his lap and onto the floor. He would go into 29


Granseur's room at night and watch him sleeping, allowing Momma and Daddy to catch a glimpse of a sweet older brother's watchful eye, then the second they left the room, he'd grab both of Granseur's legs and pull them between the crib rails, ramming his crotch over and over and over again. But he never tried to kill Granseur. He thought it was all fun and games. He thought Granseur thought it was all fun and games, until one day, little Granseur decided to kill Jonathan. Jonathan was playing Lincoln Logs, peacefully and quietly, at the bottom of the stairs. Granseur spotted him there from the balcony at the top of the steps. He crept silently to his bedroom and grabbed the biggest, heaviest Tonka Dump Truck he could find. He proceeded quietly to the landing in the turn of the steps. He counted. Eleven steps. He eyed Jonathan's position, two feet from the steps. He calculated angles, right triangles, and hopped just once, quietly, to test the springiness of the wood. Lifting the truck high in the air, and letting it drop to his waist three times, he heaved it up one final time, steadied his eye on the back of Jonathan's head, and pitched the truck as hard as his three year old arms could, straight down at his big brother. The truck crashed into the second step from the bottom, and in a perfect arch, bounced from the step right into the back of Jonathan's skull. Jonathan fell forward, wailed, and Granseur sat down right there at the top of the steps, folded his legs under him, and smiled. Momma came running, ready with wet paper towels and the first aid tin. When she sat Jonathan back up, Granseur's little boy smile faded, and he returned to his room, grumbling as Momma shouted up at him. “Be careful, honey! You dropped your truck!” Jonathan told me he heard Granseur mumble something as he retreated to his room, defeated by the human body's ability to withstand brute force. “'Almost,' I heard him say. He was trying to kill me, once and for all!” Jonathan said. “Gosh!” It was all I could say. “But, look,” he said, and turned around and parted his hair in the back so I could see the smooth, mounded skin where no hair would grow. “I've got a scar there, and that skin is so thick, that if anything ever hits me there again, no matter how hard, it wont be able to break through!” he said, turning back around to flash his grin at me. For a moment I thought I saw green in his eyes, just like Granseur's and just like Momma's. But when I looked closer, they were just plain brown. Like mine. “So Granseur's trying to kill us, then.” I said. “Yeah,” he said, “but that's a good thing. If he wasn't trying to kill us, then we would know he didn't really like us that much.” I thought that was ridiculous. A scream from outside broke my train of thought, and Jonathan looked over my shoulder, back out the window at Granseur in the yard with his nine iron and that quartz rock. “He's done it!” Jonathan proclaimed, and lifted me off the counter with a grunt and set me on my feet on the kitchen floor. “Come on, let's go see some quartz crystals,” he said, holding out his hand for me to take. I hesitated a moment, frightened still by the story I had just heard. What if we went out there and it was all a clever ploy? What if we got outside and Granseur took the nine iron to both of our heads? “It's okay, tickle toes,” he said. “He wont try to kill you any more. He knows your head wont bust now.” Taking his hand and walking back out into the yard, I could still feel the 30


flutters of hesitation when Granseur called to us excitedly. “We're all going to be rich! Look! Just look!” And there, on the ground was the quartz rock, busted open revealing dozens of clear crystals jutting out from the center. “I'll buy you a new head, Cici!” he said. I smiled at him as he took the biggest whole crystal and put it into my palm, closing my hand around the little treasure. He held my hand there for a moment, then kissed my fat little fingers before letting go to run around the yard whooping and hollering. “See, I told you.” Jonathan said. Then we both joined in the celebration along with Granseur, shouting and pumping our arms into the air in communal ecstasy.

31


Money by Kayla Lookabill, Editor-in-Chief

Sometimes the hardest part of growing up with teenage parents is dealing with the lack of money. Most little girls, and little boys for that matter, do not have to worry about their parents’ money, but I did. When I was six my parents moved us into a new trailer on the other side of town. It was white with green trim and rose bushes on the left side of the front door. There was a steep concrete stoop that at six I had to hold on tight to the side of the trailer in order to get up on. The front door opened into a small hallway that allowed us to go either to the left or to the right. To the right was the kitchen. It was large with all of the appliances necessary to live. The laundry room was right off of the kitchen. To the left of the door was the living room. It was huge. It had two picture windows that were gorgeous and were used to get the couch in and out of the trailer. A long hallway led to the two bedrooms and one bathroom. My parent’s room was at the very end of the hall and my brother and I shared a room. The bathroom separated the two bedrooms from each other. This was the second trailer that I had lived in. We could not afford to buy a house so this was what we were stuck with. The kitchen was infested with roaches when we first moved in. They were only babies but there were so many of them. We had exterminators come in every now and then but the roaches were never fully gone. By the next year, I had already learned how to cook ramen noodles on the stove, how to do my own laundry and how to wash dishes. I remember one Saturday morning in the summer, I woke up early and crawled out of my bed that sat two feet away from my brother’s. I padded into the living room and noticed I was the only one up. I walked into the kitchen, watching where I stepped so that I would not squash a tiny little roach with my feet, to find something to eat. I noticed that there were still dishes left in the sink from the night before. I walked to the sink deciding to surprise my mom and do the dishes before she woke up so she wouldn’t have to. I took each dish out of the sink and placed it next to me on the counter, then took the dish soap and poured the tiniest little amount on each dish. I reached forward to turn on the faucet and that is when it happened. The faucet sputtered and hissed and nothing came out. I waited. The pipes started to moan and groan then they made a dinging noise like a pinball. I quickly jerked the lever to the off position and backed away from the sink. I turned to walk into the living room to watch TV and suddenly I had to pee. Slowly and cautiously, I walked through the living room. I padded down the hallway past my room careful not to wake my brother. I walked into the bathroom and sat down to pee. I stood up and went to flush the toilet. To my shock and horror, I found that it would not refill with water. I burst into tears. My face hot in my hands. I had broken the water. Then suddenly my dad’s arms were tight around me. “Are you hurt?” He gently pushed me back and searched my body for scrapes 32


or blood. “No, daddy, I’m not hurt.” I couldn’t look him in the eye. He was going to be so mad that I had broke the water. “Then why are you crying?” His eyes were full of concern. The words flooded out of my mouth before I could stop them. “I broke the water. I woke up, went to get something to eat, and tried to wash the dishes but the water wouldn’t come out and then I came in here to pee and the water wouldn’t fill the bowl. I am soooo sorry daddy I didn’t mean to break the water please don’t be mad.” I stopped and stared at my feet. Then the unexpected happened. My dad hugged me close and chuckled. “You didn’t break the water sweetheart, I did.” I pulled back and looked at him confused because I knew that I had been the one to break the water. He explained that he hadn’t been able to pay the water bill which made the water company take the water away. Later I found that this wasn’t the first time that this had happened, and I experienced it more as I grew up. Growing up with teenage parents and their lack of money, I learned the value of a dollar. My dad has never only worked one job. For as long as I can remember he has always worked two or three jobs at a time. He worked hard to get us what we needed. The struggles that we endured as a family taught me the struggles of life. It also taught me that I did not want to be a teenage parent because I did not want to worry my kids. Our financial struggles showed me the pitfalls of having children at a young age. These lessons have been more valuable to me than anything I ever learned in school, and I learned them from my teenage parents.

33


Low Country Fantasy

by Dr. Juanita Kruse

34


Moonlight Tanning by Elizabeth Tucker

That creature there— floating on the surface where her rocking, spell-creamed waters spin, carrying her, cradling her. They coat her like a second skin, fluid with the beats of time; clicking, clonking, the human pulse of rhyme. The current courts her to its side, pulling her, to where sunken ships reside. Moonlight tanning on the liquid glass, circling sharks form a halo beneath her tiny mass. She stares straight up into the skies with helpless, hungering, opal eyes. The raven's friend, the poet's wife; an irregular visitor upon every life.

Canister men collect the ocean floor, sweeping the fallen skeletons of the men she can no longer adore. A portal— an open door. A languid being, nothing more.

Her long, wet nightgown, clinging, reflects: the fallen moon's tenderness; an eerie thought's uneasiness; she is the Empress of Subconsciousness. Her smile contorts the heavens out of place, this child, who turns from sand footed embrace.

35


Solitary Intricacies by Christopher Cocherell

Delicately folded from its creator's hands, now the crane is alone. Strung high, with its flight never ceasing, the crane only flies alone. Birds are to fly, and fly this bird does; the crane serves its purpose alone. In a flock of its fellows, the crane is only a number; the crane is only glorious alone.

by Christopher Cocherell

36


Brrrzzzp by Dr. David Palmer

The Society for the Harmonic Integration of Terrestrials was gathered for its monthly meeting. Someone in the group was channeling a message from their guardian angel when they were interrupted: “Brrrzzzp— we interrupt this channeling to bring you the following message: this is Zarg from Planet X in the Pleiades. We wish to announce that we will be making our first visit to Gaia within one rotation of your planet. Any interested humans can meet us at the pre-arranged location. That is all.” The group was excited, but no one was more excited than Bob and Helen. Some years before, they had witnessed the strange, V-shaped craft that hovered over Phoenix for over 2 hours and had wondered why no extra-terrestrials had attempted actual contact with humans. They immediately made plans to drive to Roswell. Bob’s mother and his Aunt Mabel had hair appointments the next day, and, since Bob or Helen was always the one to drive them to their appointments, he called up the salon and cancelled the appointments. Mother and Aunt Mabel had been living in a nursing home for several years, and both were deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s. Mother and Aunt Mabel would occasionally say the most absurd things and, other times, their consciousness seemed located in some distant memory or place; but Bob and Helen loved them dearly, visited them every day, and took every opportunity to take them out. Bob and Helen went home and began loading up the RV. Helen filled up a thermos of coffee, and they went over to the nursing home and picked up Mother and Mabel. Bob explained to the staff that they were taking Mother and Mabel on a vacation, and the staff, annoyed by their babbling and incontinent residents, were only too glad to be rid of them. Bob trapped Mother and Mabel into their seats, put their wheelchairs in the back, and drove all night. He hardly needed the coffee, he was so excited. Around noon, Bob and Helen met up with the other members of the Society just outside of Roswell, and together they sat in their lawn chairs, talking excitedly of what might happen and when the aliens might arrive. Most felt that the extraterrestrials would arrive in the late afternoon. Sure enough, a spacecraft descended into their midst at 4:20 PM, stirring up the desert dust and making them cough. Finally, a door opened, a walkway was extended, and out walked two forms, sentient but undeniably alien. The two beings stopped at the end of their walkway, and one of them produced some kind of apparatus with which it appeared to be testing the soil. The group waited expectantly, but the forms said nothing. Finally, Mother spoke up from her wheelchair. “Who are these nice young men?” Ignoring her question, Bob piped up, “Greetings, visitors from Planet X. We 37


await your instructions.” “Instructions? We have no instructions for you.” “Don’t you want us to take you to our leaders or something?” “No.” “Don’t you have some special knowledge that you wish to impart?” asked Helen. “No.” “Why are you here?” asked Bob. “Well, Zarg here and I had some vacation time, so, when we heard the galactic directive that you were taken off the quarantine list, we thought we’d come and see what you’re like.” “Quarantine? What do you mean?” asked Helen. “I guess you didn’t know that we’ve avoided any contact with you because your species was deemed too toxic. We could not afford to be contaminated by whatever there is in your genetics that causes you to commit war, genocide, murder, rape, and repression.” “So, if you’ve known that we’ve had such tremendous problems, why didn’t you try to do anything about them?” asked Helen. “Believe me, we considered starting the process all over again – re-booting the Gaian operating system – but we had already done that once when we flooded the entire planet.” “Why didn’t you do that again?” asked Bob. “The one thing that saved your species was we like your females. They aren’t contaminated by the linear-male-dominant perspective which breeds fear, greed, and destruction. Besides, your females are very agreeable to look at.” “You mean that you think we’re beautiful?” asked Helen. She was smiling. “Oh, yes. Especially the ones with lots of wrinkles.” Helen’s smile took on a curious expression. “So what caused us to get taken off the quarantine list?” asked Bob. “We recently passed a galactic alignment that heralds the midpoint of the history of your species. To use one of your metaphors, you’ve swum halfway across the lake; with a little effort, you can make it to the other side.” “I like you,” said Aunt Mabel. “What’s your name?” “I am Kerg.” “Will you take me dancing?” asked Mother. “Ah, dancing with a female human: that would be an exceptional joy.” “I’m ready when you are” said Mother. “What about you, Mabel?” “Beam me up, Scotty,” said Mabel. Bob and Helen were amazed at the relative lucidity that Mother and Mabel were exhibiting: it had been years since either one of them had been able to carry on a conversation with anyone. Zarg spoke to Bob, “I perceive that you are of the same genetic strain as these beautiful females. Do I have your consent to take them to the Space Disco? The Intergalactic Funk Band is playing there tonight.” Bob asked, “What assurance do I have that you won’t subject them to some sort of analysis?” “Oh, we’ve already analyzed all of your bodies.” “What? What do you mean?” “Oh, we don’t need to actually touch your body, inserting probes and so forth, 38


to analyze it.” “What guarantee is there that you won’t harm them in any way?” “Harm them? Why would we want to harm those whom we adore?” Bob was so caught off his guard by this conversation that he hardly knew what to say. “You do know that my mother and Aunt Mabel aren’t able to walk without assistance, let alone dance?” “Oh, that doesn’t matter when you get into a zero-gravity environment. Besides, Intergalactic dancing is a free-form style in which any movement or none is all part of the joyful response to music.” “Let’s boogie!” said Mother. “Get down!” said Mabel. “Well,” said Bob, “can you have them back by 11:00?” “Let’s make it 10:00,” said Mother. “I need my beauty sleep.” “10:00 it is,” said Zarg. “While we’re gone, would you like to have a look at our food processor?” “You mean that thing that you were testing the soil with?” “We weren’t testing the soil with it; we were making doughnuts.” “Out of the New Mexico desert?” “Yep. You don’t need a lot of nutrients to make doughnuts. Here, would you like to try? Just collect a scoopful of soil, set the dial to the object shaped like the rings of Saturn, and wait until the light comes on. See, there’s your doughnut.” “Fantastic!” Bob said, as he was tasting the result. He was grinning from ear to ear. “But don’t overdo it. Our analysis shows that your body can’t take too much of this kind of food.” Bob stopped smiling. Zarg and Kerg pushed Mother and Mabel into their spacecraft, and they took off. “Well,” said Helen, “that was interesting.” “Kind of underwhelming if you ask me,” said Bob. “You sound disappointed. Want a doughnut?” “Better not.” Expressing their disappointment that nothing more cataclysmic had happened, the other members of the Society for the Harmonic Integration of Terrestrials began to pack up and leave. Bob was depressed. “Is that all that’s going to happen? I thought that this would be the beginning of a new age of human transformation, greatly advanced technology, and space travel. Instead, I get a doughnut maker.” “Well,” said Helen, “considering how much we’ve worried if the human race would survive Mutually Assured Destruction, environmental devastation, or global warming, Kerg did seem to be saying something hopeful when he said that, with just a little effort, we could reach our historic destination.” “And what is our destination? A space disco?” Bob and Helen sat in their lawn chairs listening to a public radio station and eating Space Food Sticks and drinking Tang. At 9:00, a music program came on called “Hearts of Space.” The music was dark and mysterious. It reminded Bob of all the hopes he had put into this first contact with aliens. At 10:00, the spacecraft touched down, and the aliens wheeled out Mother and Mabel, who were smiling and waving. 39


“Thank you for such a wonderful time,” said Mother to the aliens. “Such nice young men,” said Mabel to Bob and Helen. “I’m glad to see that they’re back in one piece,” said Bob to Zarg and Kerg. “Of course they’re back in one piece,” said Zarg. “You humans are not like us in our ability to detach and re-attach our body parts at will.” “Ew,” said Helen. “We’d be glad to take these lovely ladies out again, if that can be arranged.” “What do you say, Mother?” asked Bob. “Yes, please.” Bob was still amazed at how lucid his mother was. It was as if she had been asleep for the last 3 years. “I guess we could stay here another day.” Kerg said to Bob and Helen, “and we can take you with us some time to make crop circles.” “Crop circles!” exclaimed Bob. “That would be so cool! I’ve been practicing making them on my carpet at home.” “Yes,” said Helen with some distaste. “I wish he would find somewhere else to work out his fractals.” “Fractals?” said Zarg. “That sounds most intriguing.” “Boy, have I got something cool for you!” Bob was smiling. Kerg said, “Well, we’re going to zoom off to deep space for a while before your air force tries to bomb us or something.” To Mother and Mabel, he said, “Thank you for the pleasure of your company. We look forward to the next time. Bye-bye!” They got in their craft and left. Bob sat back in his lawn chair. His first encounter with aliens had not gone as he had expected, but things were turning out all right, after all. He was eager to learn how the aliens made crop circles. There were beds for all four of them in the RV, and they had enough freeze-dried food to last a week. And that music program was supposed to come on again tomorrow...

40


You by Claire Johnson

Your smile is intoxicating, like the first sip of a drink mixed strong with liquor, causing me to rethink. Your laugh is musical, like the last strum of a guitar, echoing throughout my life, no matter where you are. Your eyes are radiant, like the first shine of the sun, popping its head through the clouds, one by one.

41


Boots

by Angela Galloway

42


Wilberforce by Dr. John Grosvenor

I heard a noise, and I looked around. Something tore the west fence down. What I saw was a golden haze: A brand-new horse has come to graze!

Scarred for life if he pulls through; Now you know what I gotta do. I can’t let another child get hurt. That stallion’s gotta hit the dirt!”

Like my Uncle Wilber, he Was forceful, spirited, and free. None of my neighbors claimed the horse. And so I named him “Wilberforce.” All my mares chased after him, All along the pasture’s rim. A golden horse with golden blood: I got myself a racing stud! Got myself a racing stud!

Wilberforce, Wilberforce, there’s no joy: You’re accused of hurting a boy. Wilberforce, Wilberforce, save the day: Wilberforce, get away!

Two boys went to where he was, Started to rub his golden fuzz, But when I heard him snort and neigh, I knew I’d better keep the boys away. My son Jake and his pal Clyde Said they wanted some mares to ride. I told each of them, “Of course, But please stay away from Wilberforce!” Please stay away from Wilberforce! My wife got a call later that day, Said Todd Jackson’s on his way, Said his son got kicked by a horse, Said he’s gonna kill Wilberforce. I went down to the field to wait; Watched as Todd approached the gate; Eyes so red I thought they’d smoke; Rifle cradled as he spoke: “Outa my way, pal, let me through! You know my quarrel is not with you. Wilberforce hurt my boy Clyde, Kicked his face; he almost died!

I stepped back, and Todd went by, As he rode with tension high, Through the pasture, past each mare. Wilberforce: no longer there! We heard a noise in the forest dense: Wilberforce had jumped the fence. I heard Todd shout without fear, “I’ll get you if it takes all year!” I’ll get you if it takes all year! One year later, a surprise: Todd came by to apologize. Todd said that he felt remorse: “Clyde never went near Wilberforce. When he left your place that day, He passed the farm of my brother Ray, Took a short cut through the field, Couldn’t see what was concealed, Then while driving back from town I saw Ray’s bull knock Clyde down, Gore his face and trot away. I saved Clyde, but not the day. Rather than tell Ray, I blamed Wilberforce when Clyde was maimed, But Clyde didn’t want a lie: ‘Dad, better you tell, than I.’” Dad, better you tell, than I. 43


I forgave him, but my mares Miss the stallion that was theirs. In the pasture there’s suspense When they gather at the fence. Is that Wilberforce they see Waiting for the time when he Can come safely back to stay? Come on, Wilberforce, it’s OK! Wilberforce, Wilberforce, don’t be blue. Todd’s no longer after you. Wilberforce, Wilberforce, come and stay. Wilberforce, it’s OK!

44


Ganesh Cutesy

by John Borza, Phoenix Staff

45


Bark at the Bikers by Dr. David Palmer

Sergeant was sound asleep when the biker whizzed by. He was a Great Dane, and his enormous frame was sprawled on the back lawn. The biker changed gears, and the clicking sound that he made snapped Sergeant out of his stupor. Sergeant spun his head around in the direction of the click and produced three gravelly woofs. By this time, the biker was a block away, and the biker turned his head around to see where the sound was coming from and smirked. “That dog sounds like it just woke up,” he thought. While the biker’s head was turned, a ferocious snarl suddenly erupted from the yard that he was passing, causing the biker to veer into the curb and fall onto the grass. Cursing, the biker got up to see a German Shepherd-Chihuahua mix barking furiously at him. He got on his bike and went on his way. “You see,” said Binky, the German Shepherd-Chihuahua mix, “that’s how you bark at the bikers.” “Wow, Dad! You made that human fall over,” said Muffy and Buffy, two smaller versions of Binky. Binky glowed with obvious pride. “Hmph,” rumbled a furry lump lying in the shade. It was Grover, a Weimaraner -Schnauzer mix who was 11 in human years. “You think that that’s how you bark at bikers? I can see that you have a thing or two to learn from the older generation.” “Really?” asked Buffy, slightly incredulously. “What about Sergeant? He didn’t start barking until the biker was way past his yard.” “Sergeant is not what he once was,” said Grover. “In his day, Sergeant could make the toughest human quake with fear. But it’s the dogs like him and me that have set the standard for dogs like your Dad.” “Is that so?” asked Binky, with just a trace of mockery in his voice. “Perhaps you’d like to demonstrate.” “Well, sure,” said Grover. He got up from the shade and stretched and shook himself. “The first thing is to make sure you’re limber. I’ve even seen our human master do that stretch when he is practicing his yoga. The next thing is to position yourself so that you can see any biking activity that might be occurring on your street. Now, you will notice that there is a small biker approaching.” And indeed, there was a six-year-old human girl who was riding toward them on a bright pink bike with training wheels. She sang a little song as she rode, and her pigtails and the pink tassels coming out of her hand grips fluttered in the wind. Grover crouched and tensed his muscles as the girl approached. When she reached the near corner of the yard, Grover tore toward the girl, barking with all of his might. He crashed into the fence but kept barking continuously. The girl screamed and pedaled furiously. A little beyond the end of the fence, the girl 46


stopped and turned around. She was crying. “Wow,” said Muffy. “I didn’t know Grover could be so loud!” “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much spit,” said Buffy, looking questioningly at his Dad. “It looked like his eyes were going to come out of his head,” said Binky. “I’m surprised he hasn’t had a stroke.” Just then, Grover’s master came out of the house. “Grover, you stupid dog! What are you doing, barking at that girl? Go lie down!” Grover retreated from the fence. He was panting heavily and foamy yellow saliva had accumulated at the corners of his mouth. As he was going back to his position in the shade, an elderly female human, who was 539 in dog years, came cycling toward the house on a three-wheeler. “OK, here you go,” said Grover to Muffy and Buffy. “Bark at the biker!” The two pups yipped at the senior citizen. Grover collapsed in the shade with a grunt. The effort of barking at the biker had exhausted him, and now Grover closed his eyes, confident in the knowledge that he had done his duty to the younger generation.

47


The River of Fire by Elizabeth Tucker

Earth and Water flow stagnant on her porcelain palm. Coral, tangles of veins twist tightly within, grasping for the secrets written in her skin. She is distance and breathing. Her organs are made of make-believe and unreasoning; the River of Apollo does reversely run; upwards, not down, reaching for the mounted empire of the Sun. Indiscriminate lines trace the hollow of her being; she lies awake, in deluded fleeing. Her open palm against his chest, thinking maddeningly, chasing rest. Silver moonbeams crust her face, shadowing her features like a veil of silent lace. Dust specks slowly suspend in air, becoming only fragments of what was there. Distance glances back at truth, shaking it from virgin youth. Now, on the midnight lawn, her moon plants awake to a waning dawn. With bare feet, upon black grass, vagrancy was solemnly cast, and the burning River of Fire runs straight, alas!

48


The Passenger by Greg Owen

“Oh, the passenger, He rides and he rides.”- Iggy Pop Sitting in the diner alone, even the coffee I had just filled with sugar and cream tasted bitter. I couldn’t help but clutch the handle of the cup in my hand tightly, feeling as though it were the only thing in my life that I could keep a firm grip on. It seemed like everything I knew and cared about was slowly being taken away from me, like Fate itself were repossessing it because I was late with my payments. Nothing seemed to go the way I wanted anymore. “Sir?” I could hear her voice, but I chose not to respond. I knew what she was about to say, and I didn’t desire to hear it, so I sipped my coffee. “Sir, I’m sorry—we’re about to close.” I looked up at the waitress, a girl of no more than twenty. She smiled, trying her hardest to be civilized, as many girls her age usually do. I figured she had a life of her own that she wanted to return home to, or some friends she wanted to go see, so of course she would want me to leave. I was the last customer in the entire building, after all. “Can I finish my coffee first?” I asked, trying to manage a grin. She sighed. “Oh, of course, sir. Take your time. I just thought I’d let you know we were closing.” She reached into the pocket of her white apron and removed the notepad on which she recorded customer orders. “Here’s your bill,” she said, tearing the top sheet off of the pad and placing it on the table beside my coffee cup. “Have a good night.” I looked at the nametag above her right breast pocket. “Thanks, Jennifer. You too.” I took another sip of coffee, turning my attention back to the table in front of me. Jennifer smiled and left to tend to clean the remains of the evening’s meals on other tables. As I watched her move from table to table, I thought of my own daughter, though I wasn’t exactly sure why. At only nine years old, she was wise beyond her years, much like her mother. We had all been through so much in the last few months, and I was sure it was only going to get worse for the three of us. There was no one to blame but myself. I finished my coffee in a few more long sips, forced myself out of my seat, and walked to the register at the front desk. The cashier, an elderly lady named Ruby Marlowe, was the wife of the former owner of the diner, who himself had died peacefully in his sleep the year before. Pete was a good old man, known to many 49


as a great friend and an even better cook, and his small business attracted many faithful customers, including myself. I love the pastrami on rye there. Ruby was her usual warm, loving self, even through her blue-grey eyes. She had obviously been hard at work in the kitchen, her long white hair pulled back into a messy, disheveled bun. I paid my bill, said thank you, and opened the exit door to step outside. It had been a particularly rough winter this year and tonight was no exception. A dreadfully powerful wind blew, cutting into my exposed cheeks like sandpaper. I gripped the edges of the collar of my coat and pulled them tight, hunching forward as I walked quickly to my car. I fumbled for the keys in my coat pocket for a few tense moments, knowing at any moment I would certainly freeze to death if I couldn’t get in the car and turn the heat on high. When I finally found them, I felt a great deal of relief, and climbed into the car to start the engine. It only took a minute or so for the heat system to kick in, and I reveled in the sensation of being warm, holding the palms of my hands over the vent in the dashboard. The sky outside was starless and black, as though the stars themselves had been swallowed by God. I figured it was probably going to snow; it would be the third time in a month. Even though I dreaded going home, I figured it would be best if I began my drive. Sarah would still be upset with me, regardless. Sarah and I met a few years after I graduated from college. I was a pretty successful attorney with a prestigious law firm, and everything seemed to be going my way. One day on my way to my car for a lunch break, I spotted her trying to get into her car after locking her keys inside. I remember how calm and collected she was, laughing at her own expense, and I was instantly enamored. Most people would have cursed and beaten on the vehicle, among other things. Not Sarah. After showing her a little trick I had learned years ago using a paper clip, I managed to get the door to her car unlocked, and I invited her to come to lunch with me. I took her to Pete’s Diner, where she told me that she was an accountant at a local bank and that she loved Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, and I told her how I grew up watching the old Universal horror movies, especially The Wolf Man. After an hour or so of talking, laughter, and flirting, the rest, as they say, is history. We were married a year later, and soon we had our daughter, Kelly. Kelly looked and acted exactly like her mother, which was never a bad thing. I thanked God everyday for them both, especially during these times. Making my way down Maple Street, I could feel my car gliding on the road, the icy concrete making steering nearly impossible. Thankfully, there seemed to be no one on the streets at this time of night. As I turned onto Elm, my earlier fears of snow were justified as a few small flakes of white began dancing across my windshield, and within minutes, those few became many. I flicked on the windshield wipers. I was mortified when the wipers didn’t come on, allowing the layer of snow to thicken and further hinder my view of the road. I smacked the dash, shouting a curse at my car’s inadequacy, and the wipers still didn’t come on. Even though the snow obscured the sight of what was in front of me, it couldn’t eliminate a blinding light that suddenly began to consume the inside of my car. I tried to block the light with my arm, but it grew increasingly brighter, prompting me to close my eyes and scream as a deafening roar filled my ears. 50


When I opened my eyes, I was still in the car. My windshield was clear and there was no light to be seen, except that of the moon and stars above me. The sky was no longer black with snow clouds; in fact, it was beautifully clear. As I drove, I looked around me and tried to figure out what had just happened, having no idea what the source of blinding light was. I happened to glance in my rearview mirror, seeing something far behind me. I could only make out red tail lights from one vehicle and a set of headlights from another pointing straight ahead. It looked as though the two vehicles had collided, but I wasn’t sure and at the time, I didn’t really care. I was still trying to regain my composure from the disorienting light and sound a few seconds before. I shook my head in a bid to clear my mind and noticed that I was coming up on Pete’s Diner once more. Had I gotten turned around? I had no idea and did not dare try to fathom what I was doing going this way again. As I came closer, I saw that the lights were on within and it was filled with people, yet there were no cars in the parking lot. I had only left thirty minutes before and Ruby was in the process of closing, but now it looked as though it were a busy Saturday evening, except for the fact that the parking lot was nothing more than a graveyard. I didn’t understand, but I did know that I still didn’t want to return home to Sarah and Kelly yet, so I turned into the parking lot. Climbing out of the car, I locked the doors and noticed how it was no longer cold outside but instead rather warm, like a common summer night. Of course, that was incredibly strange for a night in January, but I decided to remove my coat as I stepped inside anyway. The diner’s air was thick with smoke, smelling as though the entire building were on fire. I coughed, choking as my throat burned and eyes watered and began looking for Ruby or perhaps Jennifer the waitress, but neither was to be found. Instead, a slender little man stepped toward me, appearing almost out of nowhere from the large crowd of diner patrons. “Good evening, sir. Would you care to sit down?” He grinned, his grey eyes piercing through mine and into the recesses of my skull. I immediately felt a strange sense of dread. “Uh, sure. Sure.” I looked around as the man led me to an empty booth, noticing that many of the patrons were now staring at me with the same grey eyes as this little man, acting as though I were a gazelle who had wandered into a den of lions. “Here we are. You can sit with me—that is, if that’s all right with you.” I nodded in response, and we both sat down, the leather squeaking beneath us. “Would you like something? How about a nice, black coffee?” He smiled his crooked grin at me once more. “Sure. Two sugars.” “Oh, yes, of course.” I took a moment to observe this little man across from me. He had light blonde hair and a pale face, his eyes sunken in and his cheeks concave, like a malnourished man or, as I originally thought, a corpse. He placed his hands, hidden in black gloves, on the table, spreading his fingers wide. His hands were spiders with menacing legs, each finger long, bony, and slender. He invited a darkhaired waitress over to the booth with a beckoning finger and gave her our order. She looked empty, almost soulless, in both her demeanor and movement, gazing 51


straight ahead with a glassy look. After she walked away, the man turned his attention to me, clasping his fingers together. “Hmm, a little warm in here, isn’t it?” he asked as he removed his long white coat and placed it beside himself. “Oh, I’m sorry—I forgot to introduce myself— such bad manners. My name’s Lee Jones.” He extended one of his gloved hands. I felt a little strange, but thought the man seemed friendly, so I reached out to shake his hand. It was burning hot to the touch, feeling as though it were boiling my flesh. I quickly jerked my hand away from his, clutching it with the other, surprised to find that nothing had happened to it; no blisters or anything. I looked back at Lee, who was still smiling as though nothing had happened. “So, what’s your name?” he asked. “Um—I’m Joseph. You can call me Joe.” Lee’s eyes brightened. “Oh, nice to meet you, Joe—I absolutely love meeting new people. So, tell me—what brings you here this time of night?” I thought about telling him what I believed happened earlier, but figured it wouldn’t make much sense to him. After all, he was filling me with a dread that I couldn’t quite explain. So, instead, I decided to lie. “Well, I’m a night owl, I guess. I love the food and coffee here, and I saw a lot of people, so I figured I’d stop by.” I forced a smile to Lee, who continued staring at me. I believed he hadn’t blinked once since I came in, which was odd, considering the wall of smoke in the diner that was burning my eyes. “And you’re out this late when you have a lovely wife and beautiful daughter at home?” The waitress returned with our coffee, placing it on the table between us. What Lee had just said finally registered in my mind. “Excuse me, Mr. Jones—how did you know that?” Lee didn’t respond. He just smiled that constant, crooked grin. “Have we met before or something?” I asked. “No, Joseph—we haven’t,” he hissed. Suddenly, with an ungodly quickness, Lee Jones’s black hands were clutching my wrists with fierce strength. My skin was set aflame, and I could do nothing but gasp in pain. “But I know you’ll grow to enjoy my company.” I began to hear numerous murmurs of “Yes” throughout the room, as if the other patrons were listening to what Lee was saying, but I couldn’t ignore the excruciating pain. I could see that the other people in the diner were staring at me with grey eyes, smiling devilish smiles. “AARGH! WHO ARE YOU?!” Lee did not answer and instead gripped me tighter. After what seemed to be hours of grimacing from the torture, tightly clamping my eyes shut, I soon realized that my arms were free and no longer burning. Opening my eyes, I saw Lee sitting back in his seat, staring over my shoulder. However, unlike before, he was no longer smiling. In fact, his face was full of fear. I wanted nothing more than to leap over the table onto this little man and beat him senseless, but decided instead to see who or what was scaring him so. Standing at the entrance was a plain looking man with wavy brown hair and a dark complexion, dressed in a grey suit and black tie. He had a five o’clock shadow, hinting that he needed a shave, but otherwise, he looked fairly dignified. I looked around the room, and the rest of the patrons were acting in the same fearful manner as Lee Jones. As the man stepped forward into the dining area, many of the patrons began to get up from their seats, moving to the back of the room. I turned back around and watched as Lee silently excused himself, leaving his 52


coffee, and me, behind. The man made his way to my booth, prompting me to stand. I had had enough of strange people and strange events this night, and wasn’t going to wait and deal with anything else. “Leaving so soon?” the man asked softly. I didn’t answer, looking down at the table as I searched for money in my pocket to pay for my coffee that I was honestly too scared to drink. “Please,” the man insisted, placing his hand on my arm. “Allow me. Sit down. Mind if I join you?” Thankful that his touch wasn’t searing the flesh on my arm, I looked up at him. His face was warm and lively, much friendlier and less sinister than Lee Jones’s, who was now at the back of the diner among a sea of equally sinister patrons. I decided to humor him. “Sure, I seem to be very popular tonight. Just promise me that you’re not as weird as that man.” I pointed at Lee. “As long as you can keep them away, you can sit with me.” The man placed his hands together and looked over at the group, giving them a serious gaze. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about them.” He turned back to me, grinning slightly. “Please, sit.” I sat down and the man followed suit, and I noticed that as this man sat down across from me, Lee Jones and his group seemingly vanished from the diner. I looked around to see if maybe they had made their way out of the building, but there was no sign that anyone had left. Even Ruby, the owner, was gone. It was just me and this man sitting alone in Pete’s Diner. “I just want to thank you for letting me sit with you. I do enjoy meeting new people,” he said in a very calm, droll tone. I chuckled nervously at the remark. “So did my friend who was sitting here earlier. He loves new people, too.” I looked at my hands and wrists, recalling Lee’s embrace. “But he has an—odd—way of showing it.” I chose not to explain what I meant by the comment, and was relieved that the man didn’t probe further. He held out his hand. “Sorry—allow me to introduce myself. I’m Mr. Carpenter.” I was hesitant to shake his hand, to say the least. But I wasn’t getting that same daunting sense of dread or fear about him as I had felt with Lee, so I pushed my hesitance aside for the moment and shook his hand. It felt normal, as it would be with any other hand. “Hi, I’m Joseph. You can call me Joe, if you’d like,” I said. “Nice to meet you, Joseph.” He pushed the coffee that Lee ordered earlier to the side of the table, placing his hands in front of him. “Sorry—I’m not a big fan of coffee, especially if it’s black.” I reached for my coffee and took a sip. This coffee tasted a lot like motor oil, and I gagged with disgust, ultimately sitting it alongside the other coffee. “Is your coffee not to your liking?” “No. Usually it tastes great, but for some reason, that tasted awful. Like—like something was missing. It tasted bitter.” Mr. Carpenter arched his eyebrows. “Well, I always like to think that if something tastes, smells, or feels bitter, it���s not because something’s missing from it. It sometimes means that perhaps you’re missing something.” I chuckled at the remark. This man sounded like a Buddhist monk or something, reading from a fortune cookie. “What’s your story, Mr. Carpenter? Do 53


you have a first name?—this seems a little too formal.” “No, Mr. Carpenter’s fine. Honestly, I just don’t use my first name often, if at all. I know that sounds a little strange to you.” He smiled slightly, but quickly returned to his quasi-serious self. “Ha, yes, it does sound a little strange. But that’s all right. You seem like an all right guy.” “Thank you. So, you’d like a story, eh?” I nodded at his question. “Well, I’m afraid there isn’t much to tell, really. I’m a simple person—I enjoy coming to places like this, listening to peoples’ stories and talking with them. I also don’t own a car.” I was surprised at his last statement. I figured everyone owned a car, especially in this day and age. “Then how did you get here?” “Oh, a friend dropped me off. I asked him to take me here, which reminds me—I’m almost embarrassed to ask, but would you give me a ride, whenever you’re ready to leave?” “So, you’re a hitcher?” I asked. “Oh, no, nothing so crude. But, I guess I am, for lack of a better term. I like to think of myself as more of a ‘constant passenger.’ But will you give me a ride, Joseph?” “Sure, Mr. Carpenter. Where do you live?” “On Pinehurst. Not too far from here.” I was shocked at his answer. “Really? That’s quite the coincidence. I live on that street, too.” Earlier, I may have found that strange, but Mr. Carpenter had a calming air about him. “But yeah, I’ll give you a lift.” Carpenter smiled brightly. “I appreciate it, Joseph. Thank you.” “No problem. So, you don’t have a family or anything?” “No,” he said softly. I frowned. “Well, that sounds a little lonely. I’m sorry.” “Oh, it’s no big deal, Joseph. I’m not as alone as you’d think. I do get the pleasure of company quite often.” He leaned forward. “What about you, Joseph? Surely you must have a family.” I thought of Sarah and Kelly and how I’d left them at home alone. How I was afraid to return and confront them. “Yeah, I do. Wife and little girl.” “Then what are you doing out at this time of night? I’d think someone like you would be at home with them.” I felt a little empty. “Um, well, Sarah, my wife, isn’t very happy with me. Neither is Kelly, my daughter. I haven’t been the best husband and father, to say the least.” I felt myself frowning again, staring straight down at the table. I could see my reflection in the polished surface, and I didn’t like what I saw. “Well, what is going on? Anything I can do to help?” It took me a second to respond. “I don’t really want to talk about it, honestly. No offense to you, Mr. Carpenter.” Carpenter reached out with his hand, placing it wide over my reflection on the table, as if he were trying to break my concentration. I looked up at him, and he was smiling at me again. “I think it’d help you if you’d tell me.” After a few seconds of thought, I exhaled deeply. I figured I could tell him. Sure, he was a stranger to me, but he seemed friendly. And maybe he had some good advice. I could use any I could get. 54


“Okay. I was a lawyer, Mr. Carpenter. I worked with a very powerful firm— good at my job. Paid well, so I could keep Sarah and Kelly up fairly well. But a few months ago, I had to do something that I disagreed with—a few things, actually, but one was the final straw for me.” I stopped. “Go on, Joseph. What was it?” I sighed. “I had to defend a murderer. I was asked by one of my bosses, as a personal favor. It was the son of one of his closest friends. The man murdered children—I couldn’t do it. I tried, for the sake of my job, but in the end, my conscience won. I just couldn’t stand at the side of a man who was obviously guilty and seriously claim innocence on his behalf. I mean, who could do that? Who in their right mind could do it?” “I’ve met many lawyers. You all are asked impossible things at some point or another in your lives. It can be sickening, I know. But some of you seem apathetic enough to do these things without regret.” Carpenter’s smile faded, as if feeling remorse for my “kind.” “Well, anyway, I was asked to step down. Fired, in a way of putting it. I couldn’t do what was asked of me. Since then, I guess I’ve—become distant—from my family. I’ve been ashamed of my profession, and even more so, I’ve been ashamed that I couldn’t do what needed to be done to support my family. Sarah’s an artist, and she does make a living, but not enough of one to support herself and two others. You know how the job market is, Mr. Carpenter. “And I haven’t been able to get a good job and keep it. I’ve worked several odd jobs, but none of them last. And my daughter acts like I don’t exist—she used to come running to me every time I returned home. Now, she stays in her room. I guess because Sarah and I are always arguing. Just last week, we had to file bankruptcy, and Sarah’s threatening me with divorce. I don’t really know what to do—I just don’t have the drive to do anything anymore.” Mr. Carpenter was silent, looking deep in thought. “Tell me something, Joseph. Are you a faithful man?” I wasn’t sure what he meant, exactly. The idea of being a “faithful man” had many definitions now, and I didn’t know how to answer. “What exactly do you mean?” “I mean do you believe in anything? Or anyone?” “Well, Mr. Carpenter, I don’t really know how to answer that. I guess I can say that I used to, but not so much anymore. I don’t know what to believe in anymore. I mean, I feel like I’m losing everything I hold dear.” I felt tears welling up in my eyes, but I tried to stifle them back. “I can’t fight anymore.” “You shouldn’t have to fight for anything. You have to have faith in things, yourself included. If not, things tend to fall apart.” “Well, I’d love for someone to show me why I should, Mr. Carpenter.” Mr. Carpenter pulled back his sleeve to look at his wristwatch. “Hmm, well, it’s really late. Shall we go? I’m ready whenever you are, Joseph.” I wiped the excess water from my eyes with my wrist and looked around. “Uh, yeah. Yeah, I’m ready. We can go.” I grabbed my coat as we stood up and stepped outside. I opened the door, allowing Mr. Carpenter to climb inside. It was still rather warm outside, and the sky was still hauntingly clear. He clicked his seatbelt and placed his hands on his thighs. “So, are we ready to go?” I cranked the car in response. “So, we’re both going the same way?” 55


“Yes. But there is somewhere I want you to stop first, if that’s okay. It’s on the way,” Carpenter said calmly. “Do you mind?” “Uh, no. Not at all.” I put the car in drive and left the Pete’s Diner parking lot. I decided to ask Carpenter about the encounter I had with Lee Jones earlier, figuring that it was better to ask him in the privacy of the car. After all, although we were alone in the diner, I was still wary of talking to him about that in there. “So, did you know the man I was with?” Carpenter didn’t answer immediately, looking straight ahead. Finally, he answered sternly. “Yes. I know him.” “What was with him? Who was he?” “Well, Joseph, I’m not sure if you’re actually going to be able to accept the answers to those questions.” I sat silently for a moment, and ultimately began to get a little angry with him. It seemed as if all the memories of Lee Jones came rushing back and they flooded my mind with a terrible fire. “No, Mr. Carpenter, I need to know. It was all so strange—I feel I deserve to know. I thought I was dreaming, but it felt so real, and it scared me that everyone in there looked and acted like him. And his hands—they burned me. Then you show up, and everyone’s gone. Where was Ruby?” Carpenter was quiet once more. He pointed straight ahead as we went down Elm Street. “Pull over here—up ahead.” “Answer me!” “Pull over, and I will tell you what you want to know, Joseph. I’m not trying to be mysterious—you just need to see this.” “See what?” I asked as I pulled the car over onto the side of the road. I was too busy focusing on Carpenter’s face to pay any attention to what he was wanting me to see. I finally looked forward and saw it: Two cars had collided in the middle of the road, and surrounding the accident was a number of police cars, an ambulance, and fire trucks, all flashing their bright, colorful lights. I felt an odd sense of déjà-vu. “Follow me, Joseph,” Carpenter said, opening the door and stepping out of the car. I stepped out too and walked with him as he made his way toward the wreckage. Both cars had lost control and slammed into each other, so hard in fact that they looked as though they came off of the assembly line conjoined. I watched as two men lifted a gurney with a body on it, and I noticed that Carpenter turned toward me. “I want you to look at the license plate on this car, Joseph.” I caught a brief glimpse as the red of the lights from the nearby fire truck splashed over the plate, allowing visibility. I couldn’t breathe. I aggressively pushed past Carpenter to get to the two ambulance drivers carrying the gurney, and almost collapsed at what I saw. On the gurney was a bloody mess of a body, covered in cuts and gashes, looking as though it had been thrown into a blender. The face of the body was that of a man. The eyes were cold and lifeless. “You are dead, Joseph.” I ignored Carpenter, screaming loudly, my voice threatening to shatter the heavens. I could see myself being carried to the ambulance, and none of the officers or workers could hear me. Not even the people standing outside of their houses, watching the events like a Hollywood movie, could hear my screams. I collapsed from exhaust and terror. 56


“Come on, Joseph. Stand up.” I felt his hand on my shoulder, and he reached under my arm to pull me off of the asphalt. “Don’t be afraid.” My fear and hatred culminated in my throat. “Why?! What is this?! Who are you?” I began to cry, sobbing hysterically. “Come with me back to the car, and I’ll explain everything to you.” He gently grabbed my wrist and led me to my car, and we both climbed back inside. He allowed me to sob for a few moments before he began to speak. “I think maybe now you can hear what I need to tell you. Joseph, you are dead, but this is not the end.” I looked at him in surprise, my eyes puffy and bloodshot. “What—w-what do you mean?” “You’re still here because I came to you. A few minutes ago, you asked me who Lee Jones was. He is not one person, but many. All of the people within the diner were Lee Jones. His name is nothing more than an alias, though I’ll admit it is a rather crude one.” He paused. “It makes him seem more—approachable.” I still didn’t understand, and didn’t care to even begin to try. I just knew I had witnessed this revelation—that I was a corpse. “But what about me? What now? Are you saying you saved me or something? From what?” “Dissolution. Destruction. Any word with such implications that you care to use. I try not to use words such as those, but you can feel free to, if you’d like.” I was disgusted with how nonchalant Carpenter was. I didn’t know whether to throw him out of my car or kill him. I was filled with so much rage, yet I was so terrified by what I had just seen. “Listen to me, Joseph. All is not lost.” He again placed his hand on my shoulder in an attempt to calm me. “You told me before that you didn’t know what to believe in—but you do love your family. Sarah and Kelly love you, too. You just need to open up and move on. Don’t let the loss of your job, the harsh times of the world, or the blow to your principles defeat who you are—what you believe. Believe in your family—in yourself. You can believe in God or whoever you choose; it’s your choice. Just believe in something, Joseph. And tell your family that you love them.” “I—I can’t. You—saw—that.” “I did. This is a crossroads for you, Joseph. You were lost. You followed this routine of remaining alone, running away to late nights at Pete’s Diner, wasting your life away. All I can offer you is a choice. Look ahead.” I looked up and saw that the remnants of the accident were gone, having vanished like the people inside the diner. I didn’t ask what happened; it would be useless. Ahead was a road divided in two, and there was no sign dictating where each path would lead. “The choice is this, Joseph,” Carpenter began. “Both roads lead to a peaceful place, but only one will return you to your wife and daughter. If you choose the other, you will still be happy and free of the restraints of the world. Either way, you will see Sarah and Kelly again, but only one will allow you to physically be with them. You know where you’re going and don’t need me to make the choice for you.” I tried to speak, but couldn’t. I heard the door open as Carpenter stepped out. I rolled the window down as he began to walk away, heading toward the nearby pine trees. Finally, I mustered the words. “Wait—where are you going?” He turned around. “I’ve reached my destination. Thanks for the ride, Joseph.” “But—who are you? How—?” 57


Carpenter held up his hand to stop me. “I believe you know who I am. You don’t have to hear it from me.” He stepped back to my car and leaned his head toward the window. “Just know that I’ve always been around, and I always will be. I’ll be seeing you. Thanks again for the ride.” He turned around once more and when I blinked, he was gone. I wasn’t sure what to do, or even about what had happened. But I did know that I could follow what Carpenter said. He said that I knew which way to go, and that I could be with Sarah and Kelly again. I wanted to set things right with them, with myself, so I decided where to go. Putting the car back in drive, I drove forward and made my choice. When I awoke, everything was a blur. I could see two figures sitting in front of me, both smiling with tear-riddled eyes. “Joe? Honey?” I groaned, my entire body feeling stiff. “—Sarah?” I was able to ask, my throat filled with dry cotton. It was difficult to swallow, much less speak. “Yeah—Kelly’s here, too.” I blinked again, and the world became clearer. “Hi, Daddy.” I could see Kelly’s beautiful blue eyes. “Hmm—hey, sweetheart.” We all talked for a while. I apologized for what I had and hadn’t done, and we all cried. For the first time in months, I felt like myself once more. I had my family back, and was whole again. When Kelly left the room to go get a drink, Sarah sat on the edge of the bed at my feet, placing a gentle hand on my knee. I winced slightly from the contact. “Honey, we thought we had lost you. They said you were—gone—for a bit. I was so scared. But then you came back.” “I know, honey. It’s okay—I’m okay.” “I know, Joe. They said you’ll be out in about six weeks. It’ll be rough, but the doctor said you’ll be fine.” “Good.” I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful to be alive. “Hey Joe, let me ask you something. Do you know a man named Carpenter?” I remained silent for a moment, hesitant to answer. “Why?” “Well, there was a man who sat in here with you not long after you first arrived. He didn’t say much—just that he wanted to watch over you. I thought it was strange, but he seemed very nice. He left this behind yesterday.” She removed a note from her pocket and held it up to my eyes so I could read it. Joseph, I’m glad that you made the right choice. I’ll be seeing you around, and maybe we’ll go for another ride one day—Maybe a more pleasant one. Take care, Carpenter

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I smiled when I finished reading it. “What does it mean, Joseph? How do you know him?” I watched as Kelly came back into the room carrying a soda. “Well, I’ll tell both of you one day what it means,” I said. “As for Carpenter—I gave him a ride home.”

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Letter from the Advisor In all creative endeavors, perhaps I should say in all ambitious endeavors, mistakes are made, wrong decisions are made, and priorities questioned. That being said, it is extremely regretful that all of the above has occurred in producing the second online Pfeiffer Phoenix. I hope that our contributors will forgive the lapses we’ve experienced, and, instead, offer thanks as I do for Cynthia Dick’s selfless efforts to pull the proverbial fat out of the fire. It is even more impressive as she is a post-graduate, launched out of Pfeiffer and into the larger life-stream. So, thank you Cici. Our debt of gratitude cannot be satisfied with words, but praise for coming to the rescue is offered nonetheless. Sylvia Hoffmire Advisor, The Phoenix

Letter from a Departing Editor “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Lazurus Long Oh, but for this labor of love. To the editors I leave behind, take it as seriously as you can. This magazine is a reflection of the care we have for art, for community, and for ourselves. It is a picture of who we are as a Pfeiffer people. Read closely. The writings depict our time and place. The artwork, the photos, are captured pieces of the soul of our community. This magazine has been and is a puzzle, and I present it to you now, complete. Cynthia Dick Editor of Poetry

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Spring 2012 Staff Editor-in-Chief ······················································································································Kayla Lookabill Production Editor ····················································································································· Stacy Deese Editor of Visual Art ················································································································· Brittany Loder Editor of Fiction/Non-fiction ········································································································· Joleen Hill Editor of Poetry ·························································································································Cynthia Dick

Kailey Boots John Borza Marlinda Burgess Courtney Efird Kane Hathcock Sarah Hill Brynne Lippard Joshua Mullis Tabatha Shue Samuel Soto Ashley Stutts Kristina Trexler Kaitlyn Welch Hanna Wilhelm

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The Phoenix