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THE RAVEN SPRING 2013

EDITORS

Allison Bolles MinJae (Steve) Cho Michelle Mehrtens Faculty Advisor IMAGE: LUCY FERRY

Ms. Laureen Bonin


VIDEOS

Portsmouth Abbey Youtube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/PortsmouthAbbey

Christmas Assembly Video by Creative Writing Class

http://goo.gl/ttPwm

Tea Time

by MinJae (Steve) Cho and Maria Luisa Ruiz http://goo.gl/wfkFf

Zombie Apocalypse at the Abbey by Julia Slupska

http://goo.gl/8MA4f

Closer Look Video

by Creative Writing Class http://goo.gl/gDVYt


TABLE OF CONTENTS CHURCH TALKS

POETRY

The Weakest Link

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Allison Bolles

#22

21

Kim Mehrtens

Don’t Shut Down, Don’t Shut Up

1

Gabriel Miller

Untitled

22

Yue (Will) Wu

Gaining Perspective

2

Kimberly Mehrtens

Precalculus

23

Julia Slupska

Faith & Strength

2

J. Hadley Matthews

Mistakes of the Matchmakers

24

Patrick Wilks

Live for the Moment

3

Michael Stark

The Foulest Foe

25

Julian Minondo Hannah Niles

Shoot for Thrill

26

Heavier than Gold

27

Fletcher Bonin

Erin Shaw

Ode to Family

28

Ruoyu (Barrett) Xiong

6

Xijia Yuan

Gracie’s Poem

29

Ryan Conroy

6

Mitchell Kelln

Guatemala

30

Julian Minondo

Unlimited Power

7

Steven Foster

Brutally Honest

31

Justin Mistikawy

Weirdo

7

Nicholas DeLieto

Blinding

32

Mengqiao (Tina) He

“Normal”

3

Mary-Frances Kielb

Turning It Around

4

Charles Ramsden

With a Little Help from My Friends

5

Embracing the Difference Motivational Doubt

Accepting Hardship

8

Shiloh Barry

#27: And I’m Tired of All Your Friends

33

Kim Mehrtens

Across the Mason-Dixon

9

Hannah Niles

Rich Aristocrat in My Room

34

Fletcher Bonin

You Can’t Be Anonymous in a Speedo

9

Zachary Pray

Ride This River

35

Michael Madigan

Home

10

MinJae Cho

Called to Be Extraordinary

11

Ann Gallagher

Make It Count

11

Austin Kreinz

CREATIVE NONFICTION

#24

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Kim Mehrtens

Bicycle

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Monica Urquijo

Ode to Dark Chocolate

37

Claire Doire

Fear Itself

38

Steven Foster

The Distance

39

Charles Ramsden

The Cottage

40

Patrick Wilks

Rumiana 35A, Wilanow, Warsaw

15

Julia Slupska

Faulty, Not Me

41

Rhoads MacGuire

A Fool-Proof Plan

16

Allison Bolles

#19

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Kim Mehrtens

The Aye-Aye and I

16

Fletcher Bonin

Not Meant for Greatness

43

Rhoads MacGuire

Rhyno

17

Ryan Conroy

Spiritual Relief

44

Maria Luisa Ruiz

All’s Hair in Love and War

17

Fletcher Bonin

Dead or Alive

45

Xiang (Bill) Li

The Darkness of Alienation

18

Mossiah Kouassi-Brou

Looking at Myself

46

Ryan Conroy

Never Mistake Ink for Art, or Swear

18

Patrick Wilks

COLLEGE ESSAYS

SHORT STORIES An excerpt from 'A Killer of Killers'

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Gerrard Hanly

Allison Bolles

49

Bittersweet

55

Michelle Mehrtens

Fletcher Bonin

49

Senior Sleuth

57

Hannah Niles

MinJae (Steve) Cho

50

Egelloc

58

Julia Slupska

Mossiah Kouassi-Brou

50

Happy Birthday, Me

58

Allison Bolles

Justin Mistikawy

51

Marvin Gates

59

Fletcher Bonin

Sarah Sienkiewicz

51

Happy Mother’s Day

60

Allison Bolles

Allyson Tessier

52

Do It

61

Ryan Conroy

Two Hundred and Fifty-Two

62

Steven Foster

Southern Sabbath

63

Hannah Niles

Overdrawn

64

Julia Slupska

Weightless Marigolds

65

Michelle Mehrtens

IMAGE: MINJAE (STEVE) CHO


Wisdom and Eloquence Sapientia et Eloquentia


IMAGE: MINJAE (STEVE) CHO


The Weakest Link by Allison Bolles

Don’t Shut Down, Don’t Shut Up by Gabriel Miller http://goo.gl/KrEuD

http://goo.gl/eTZyv

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live in the world of my mind. It’s a place of both peace and agony, a place I simultaneously curse and adore. But this past summer, I spent a week at the Naval Academy Summer Seminar, a six-day trial program for students interested in attending Annapolis. I experienced the shock of being torn from the confines of my mind and thrust into the military world, a world intensely uninterested in my comfort. On the fifth day of the program, we had to complete five different endurance courses known as sea trials. At the very first obstacle, in a pathetic attempt to haul myself over a wall, I somehow managed to deliver a swift kick to my squadmate’s groin. As if that weren’t bad enough, I’d just set the precedent for my success at future obstacles. As one of the slowest runners in the platoon, I was given a head start. But even so, all I could do was trip and stumble through the woods, desperately trying not to cry. For the first time in my life, I discovered what it was like to be the weakest link. Weakness. The word flared in my mind every time I failed. And believe me, I failed a lot. I failed to pass over a creek by rope, to complete fifty pushups, to even come close to passing my physical fitness exam. Yep, I was that guy: that one person who just couldn’t get anything quite right. After roughly six hours of running, jumping, and swimming, we had to hoist ourselves out of the ocean, over a pontoon, and into our boat for a race. But I couldn’t muster the upper body strength. All seven of my squadmates had already clambered on board, found their seats, and grabbed an oar. I was helpless, horrified, and about to be left behind. But suddenly I heard my squadmate, Dominic, cry out, “Wait! We forgot Allison!” He plunged into the water and lifted me in. I must have thanked him a million times. We won that race. Then we had to bear-crawl across a huge field with a teammate hanging off our backs. I struggled and struggled, but fatigue had gotten the best of me and I fell dreadfully behind. The next thing I knew, my squadmate, Cody, had run back onto the field with a guy from a different team. Cody said, “I’m right here with you and we’re going to finish this together.” They got on their hands and knees, put my arms around their backs, and dragged me the rest of the way. I vaguely remember the sound of cheers as we burst through the finish line. Finally, sea trials and the summer seminar came to a close. When I got home, all I could do was lie in my bed, sore all over, and think about what had just happened. Being yanked from my own head and feeling the shame of repeatedly letting others down had taught me a lot. Above all I realized that I would not have survived without my teammates: I couldn’t have gotten into the boat without Dominic or across the field without Cody. As someone who thinks alone, works alone, and lives inside her head, this kind of dependence was a whole new concept for me and I was deeply uncomfortable with it. But here’s the thing—my squadmates fulfilled their promise. They didn’t let me down. If the road was bumpy, they watched my back; if I fell, they helped me up. These aren’t figures of speech, but physical facts. One boy even put his leg underneath mine so that he, not I, would bear my weight during pushups. Outside the safe confines of a textbook, the internet, or just my own thoughts, I literally had no solid footing. These people completely forgave me for my flaws and weaknesses. Is that not the purest form of compassion? Is it not this compassion that holds a team, a family, or a community together? It is a profound human experience to be weak and to have no other option than to put our faith in another. Thirty years from now, looking back on this experience, I won’t think about the physical pain. I’m not sore anymore. But I will never forget what it’s like to step out of my head and fall, really fall, into a place where I have no control. I will never forget my brothers, the ones who saved me from the illusion that I could do it all alone.

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hat was the worst experience you ever had? A lot of the Church Assembly talks I’ve listened to described real suffering: death, disability, depression. I write this as I sit in my single room at my boarding school’s brand new dorm overlooking Narragansett Bay, before applying to an equally expensive and beautiful college where I’ll spend the next four years. I can’t help but laugh at myself. Honestly, in my privileged life, how much actual pain have I had to face? Even the bad events I can recall weren’t misfortunes in the long run. For me, this raises a different question. It isn’t, “What was the worst experience I ever had?” It’s “How did I respond to that experience?” My mother is Brazilian, from Minas Gerais. My father is American, born in Louisiana. It made for a confusing household. Growing up in Brazil, I awoke to both “Good Morning!” and “Bom Dia!” Two worlds, two cultures at once, and I just tried to keep up. At family parties I’d draw quizzical looks from the grown-ups whenever I’d bellow something in the mixed gibberish that was my language. As I got older, I decided that the only way I’d gain an identity was by choosing one culture and rejecting the other. So I immersed myself in all things Portuguese, listening to Roberto Carlos, “the King of Latin Rock,” and studying my “Monica” comics to learn the ways of a typical Brazilian kid. At six years old I’d rid myself of nearly every trace of American English and culture, to the dread of my father. He couldn’t communicate with me. Even if he pointed at something, I’d give him an amused frown, as if I couldn’t tell him from the Captain America action figure he’d given me for Christmas. Fearful of what was happening to me, in 2001 my father packed our bags and my family took the next plane to Boston, so that my decontamination could begin. But from the minute we landed, I refused to cooperate. I took an oath of silence in front of my new teachers and classmates. I pointed and grunted when I was hungry and contorted my face and hopped from leg to leg when I had to go to the bathroom. But the teachers mistook my anguish for a request to play with the building blocks, so that’s what I had to do, while the rest of the class looked on. This went on for two months. I refused to cave, until one day when I was sitting alone, trying to figure out multiplication on my own. I looked up and saw a boy staring at me. Anxious, I got up and moved to another table. But not a minute later, there he was again, sitting across from me, grinning sheepishly. For the next two days he followed me around, never speaking but keeping me company as I dealt with the plights of first grade. As I would learn later, he was just like me: he had been yanked out of his home in Finland and thrown into the unforgiving quandary of American schooling. I slowly allowed him to join my oneman wolf pack—after all, he had the most savory packed lunches and a collection of Hot Wheels available only in Europe. We started out with silent games of tag or the sound of action figures smacking into each other. Eventually we agreed on words such as “play” or “this is my lunch,” and with every day’s new predicaments our vocabulary grew. On the final day of first grade I tried to converse with my mother and, to my astonishment and terror, found that I was at a loss for Portuguese words. That summer my Finnish accomplice and I were forced to trudge to a brightly-lit classroom every morning. There I was supposed to cleanse my soul and learn English. My diction was viciously attacked and I could feel my entire being conforming to the obese, idiotic, lazy idiosyncrasies that was “American.” Despite my attitude, I couldn’t help but learn, and by second grade, my teachers were shocked to find that this mute, exotic boy who used to wet his pants could now read classic Roald Dahl books, instead of “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” During track season last year Mr. Micheletti asked a question that got me thinking. Since we don’t get to choose who we are or where we’re born, and since so many of our decisions are unconscious or


made by others such as our parents, are we truly responsible for our actions? I thought about it over the summer, but I’m still not sure. I didn’t choose my parents. I didn’t pick Boston. I don’t think I was fully conscious of any of my decisions when I was six years old. Still, it would have been a big mistake to use my situation as an excuse for isolating myself for the rest of my life. Even though it was my father’s decision to take me to America and put me in school here, it was up to me to embrace the opportunity, or to cut myself off. We don’t get to pick our own lives, but we decide how to live them. What was the worst experience I ever had? Well, it depends—it depends on how I responded. Every situation is determined by the attitude you take towards it. I encourage you to keep an open mind. The next time you find yourself dreading the hours of homework you’ve been given or the grade you are going to get on the Calculus exam, take one minute to think about where you are. You are on a beautiful campus next to Narragansett Bay, getting a great education. You are surrounded by friends going through the same experiences and challenges with you. Don’t shut down, the way I did. Don’t shut up, the way I did. Instead, face your situation with the right attitude and the right greeting. I suggest “Good Morning! Bom Dia!” Thank you.

Gaining Perspective by Kimberly Mehrtens http://goo.gl/qgvpu

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erspective. It’s something most people say you need in life. Perspective keeps you from confusing, say, the problem that you’re too short to see over a lectern and the problem of worldwide hunger. Perspective says, as the Sesame Street song puts it, “One of these things is not like the other.” However, if you’re anything like the average high school student, it’s hard to have perspective when everything seems to be such a big deal. Body language, word choice, and especially silence, all mean something in high school. Any insecurity you have gets enlarged out of all proportion. And why is that? Well, I think it might be because we all see life at this point as one giant drama and we’re the stars of our own private soap opera. These life-or-death issues may be all in our heads, but it’s only from the perspective of hindsight, once we have a little distance, that we finally get over ourselves. There are some things that can consume our lives that other people don’t even notice. The summer before my freshman year, I was staying with my grandparents when I scratched my collarbone. I had two little cuts, one smack dab in the middle of my collarbone and another about an inch below. I didn’t think much of it, because getting scratched is no big deal. However, within the next week, my cuts had formed two large bumps, similar to hard mosquito bites. They were painful to the touch and didn’t go away even after two months. I ended up going to a dermatologist to find out what was wrong. It turned out my skin had formed keloid scars. Keloid scars are when your skin, for some reason or other, creates new skin cells to heal cuts, but then doesn’t stop. Skin cells keep forming, and they keep piling onto each other, growing bigger and causing extreme sensitivity or pain. This meant that my scars were permanent, hurt incessantly, and would actually grow bigger with time. Worst of all, dermatologists don’t know why keloids form and there is no way to make them go away. My two options were surgery, which had an 85% risk of causing larger scars to form or the option I chose: once a month I’d need 4 shots in the scars, which would flatten and numb my skin tissue. Once a month from then on. On that day in the dermatologist’s office when I heard the news, I began to have a full-blown panic attack. I couldn’t handle the fact that for such a stupid reason I would have to live with these scars. What was I going to tell people? The scars don’t look like scars, they’re hypertrophic (raised above the rest of my skin) and hyper pigmented (ranging from red to white). And if keloid scars were genetic, why was

I the only one in my family to have them? It didn’t seem fair that for the rest of my life, whenever I cut myself I would have to wonder if the telltale bumps would begin to form. It took more than an hour— not until I was driving home with my mother—before the panic attack subsided and I wasn’t freaking out, However, here’s the ridiculous thing; I couldn’t stop thinking that I could never wear a dress or tank top again. As someone who grew up in Miami, wearing turtlenecks year-round was not my look and I was not okay with it. Clearly, life was impossible. Most likely, no one has ever noticed, but for me—especially freshman year—it was like this constant gnawing problem, where I was so sure that someone had seen my scars when I leaned over, or that everyone must notice that I button my shirts all the way up. Truthfully, people are so wrapped up in their own inner monologues about their own imaginary crises, that I shouldn’t have spent all that time worrying; I could have focused my energies on enjoying being out with my friends or—I don’t know—picking up a new life skill other than all-pro self-consciousness. But, I suppose that requires perspective. That was four years ago and since then I’ve gotten used to my scars. Sure they hurt, and I hate getting the shots, but they haven’t really affected my life for the worse as I thought they would. They didn’t change who I’m friends with or what I like to do. They’re a nuisance, but really that’s it. No big deal. Sure, in the “story” of our lives we will always play the lead, the Simba of our own respective Lion Kings. Yet, sometimes you may realize that maybe you’re not center stage in the drama we call high school. This may be a relief to some, or hard to swallow for others. After all recent studies show that most people’s favorite word is their own name, but at some point, we have to discover that, for all our self-absorption and private melodramas, we’re all in a crowd scene, an extra in a cast of thousands. People rely on preconceived notions: If you’re shy, you must be mute or socially awkward or have no sense of humor. If you’re short, you must be a freshman. But that’s typecasting. You don’t have to play that part. Even more important, though, is that you don’t typecast yourself, lose perspective, and play the victim. High school can seem overwhelming and our worries and problems shouldn’t be dismissed. But I can assure you now, looking back from senior year, what feels like tragedy freshman year, turns out to be comedy. Perspective. It’s something most people say you need in life. Thank you.

Faith & Strength by J. Hadley Matthews http://goo.gl/OrJJd

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s someone who had never actually been to a hospital before, I did not know what I was going to see when I went to Lourdes. The hospital pilgrims, or “HPs” as everyone lovingly called them, were living with a diverse range of physical and/or mental disabilities. Our days consisted of taking care of the HPs, bringing them to different religious activities and fighting jetlag. We were on call for nearly 16 hours a day, punctuated with breaks spent gorging on chocolat chaud and baguettes. Although incredibly exhausting at times, connecting with the HPs and making them feel comfortable was one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life; although perhaps physically weak, these people were some of the strongest people I had ever met. At a first glance, one might not expect too much from Tony. A shrivelled, 40-something man slouched over in an electric wheelchair, a catheter strapped to his ankle, a thick string of drool dangling from his mouth, his hands crooked and stiff. And yet, as I sat next to him in the ward, talking to him, his eyes glimmered as his fingers lightly pressed buttons on his keypad, “R U SINGLE?” the small machine bleeped out as he gave a small giggle. 2

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Based on appearance, this man was different, slow, demented even, but I quickly learned he surely had his wits about him. Tony, along with other HPs on the floor, showed me that sick people, no matter what their condition, still have personalities, ideas, and dreams; they might not be able to convey them in a “normal” way, but one can just tell they have something on their mind through the glint of spirit in their eyes. Besides relying on medicine and nurses, the HPs used faith to battle the everyday obstacles brought on by their illnesses, which impressed me with the power of their belief. One of the afternoons we were off-duty, all the girls on the pilgrimage took a bus into the French countryside and visited a community of women who were battling substance abuse through prayer. You heard me right, I did in fact say “prayer.” Each of these women showed up to this community addicted to heroin, cocaine, or alcohol, and immediately gave up those drugs for prayer. No medicine. No therapy. No doctors. Just other recovering addicts and prayer. Amazing, right? These women had a strict daily routine of meditation and making rosaries and other religious items to support themselves. One of the women I talked to said it was her ninth year living in the community, and she had no desire to return to the “real world.” Faith now ruled these women’s lives, not drugs. These people –the disabled, the ill, the addicted, the dying- stunned me. They were so strong. What if I was as strong as these people? What if everyone could have the strength and faith these people have? It would be a completely different and better world, that’s for sure. I realized another thing too. If I wanted to strengthen my faith, then prayer and following these people’s example is the way to do it. Dreading church is like dreading the gym, ritual and prayer exercise our faith. I arrived at Lourdes as someone who was not a “very devout Catholic,” and I did not leave a “Jesus freak,” but Lourdes taught me that compassion, devotion, service, and prayer can really strengthen one’s faith. I went to Lourdes as a hospital helper, yet I also found healing.

Live for the Moment by Michael Stark http://goo.gl/ELbZr

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hen you’re faced with a difficult challenge in life, what do you do? Do you shy away from it or do you attack it head on, and try to make the best with what you’ve got? We each face different challenges every day, some more daunting than others, and some people are dealt a more difficult hand than many of us will ever have to experience. When I begin to feel sorry for myself because something hasn’t gone my way or I’m thinking that I have too many pressures to deal with, I think about one person, one of those people who really does have it tougher than most of us and I realize that I have nothing to complain about. My cousin, Gus, is 13 years old. When Gus was three he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. CF, as we call it, is an inherited, progressive disease that clogs the lungs and digestive system. There is no cure for CF and over time, it will rob Gus of more and more lung function and will destroy many of his vital organs. My family was devastated when we first found out that Gus had CF, not too long ago, most kids with CF died before they left elementary school. Thanks to research and great treatments the average life span for someone with CF is now 38 and we are all grateful for that. But the truth is that Gus, and every other person with CF, is in a race against the clock. My family is very involved in fundraising to find a cure for CF and we hope that someday soon, a cure will be found. In the meantime, Gus must take countless medications and treatments every day to stay ahead of the disease. His daily regime consists of giant pills and supplements every time he eats anything, wearing a compression vest for an hour each day that loosens the mucus in his lungs, then nebulizer treatments to pump medicine into his lungs to prevent infection, then more pills. Watching what he goes through,

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it feels neverending: he finishes one treatment, and starts another. Sometimes, when he must sit with the vest on, we play games and hang out with him to keep him company. It makes me feel exhausted, watching him. Though this seems like a lot to most people, Gus is hardly ever bothered by it; he never complains, because he understands that this is the hand he was dealt and he has to make the best of it. He has an amazing attitude. The only time he ever questioned why he had to have CF was as a child, when he said to his mom, “Does God really love everyone?” And when she said, “Of course,” he asked, “Well, if He loves me, then why did He give me CF?” Gus has grown up knowing that in order to stay as healthy as possible, for as long as possible, he must do all of this. The thing is you would never know Gus has CF by looking at him. He is extremely active, and he’s a very good athlete. He’s one of the best runningbacks in his football league and he’s being recruited by some prep schools; he’s also a good lacrosse player. He knows that to keep his lungs healthy, he must keep them strong. Though right now he is one of the most energetic and outgoing people you’ll ever meet, the sad reality is that as time goes on, his health is going to decline. When you have CF and get a lung infection, you never get that lung function back. Friends of my family have a son with CF. Just a couple of years ago he was pretty healthy, working and living a regular life, now, he is in and out of the hospital all the time maybe facing a double lung transplant to keep him alive. For many people, “live every day as if it was your last” is a simple expression, and people don’t think twice about it when they say it. But for my cousin, and many others plagued by diseases like CF, the expression is a reality. The moral of this story isn’t so much to remind you of how difficult life can be sometimes, but more to remind us all that we should leave it all out there because we don’t want to have any regrets at the end of the day. Gus could certainly feel sorry for himself but he also knows that in spite of his illness, there are a lot of kids with CF who are much sicker than he is, and so he thinks he is lucky. Imagine—thinking you are lucky when you have a disease that will likely kill you while you are still a young person. He leaves it all out there every day and he reminds me that I should do the same. Whether in the classroom or on the playing field, I try to remind myself that I don’t want to be left thinking about what I could have done; rather, I want to think about what I did do. Life often really is too short for people to squander opportunities, and we all do it, no matter how little or how much we take things in life for granted. So I only need to look at my cousin Gus to remember that regardless of the challenges I am facing, they probably are nothing compared to the difficulties he and many others endure every day. I have to do the best with what I have; I need to tackle the difficulties I face, not run away from them and complain. Thank you.

“Normal“ by Mary-Frances Kielb http://goo.gl/nUXSZ

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grew up despising the forty-minute breaks during standardized testing. Being home schooled, I had to take yearly evaluation tests at a local school. Walking into a classroom filled with fourth-grade girls, all twenty of them best friends, terrified me. Taking the test was fine, but when the breaks came around I was on dangerous ground. Do I try to talk with these strangers? Some years I tried to fit in, and some years I ate my GoGurt in solitude. But I always wished that I could be one of those girls in the choker necklaces, who all seemed so . . . similar. The night before the Abbey’s Class of 2011 Commencement, I was out to dinner instead of at study hall, pretending that, like my graduating brother, Ed, I no longer had any reason to study. After dinner we


returned to campus. It was Ed’s last night as an Abbey boarder, and as we walked towards the dorm he sat me down. We sat on a bench together one last time, and he told me something I will never forget: “If I could do it all over again,” he said quietly to me, “I wouldn’t have waited until the spring term of my senior year to focus on my friends, and to build a life here that wasn’t only educational, but also enjoyable. Never sacrifice the world you live in now for potential success in the future.” Now, I’m sure some of us don’t need Ed’s advice. I will confess that I am rarely told I study too much. But his message still applies. It is our responsibility to make the most of life here, step outside of our comfort zone, and not let important opportunities pass us by. Well, that’s easy to say, but why don’t we, then? Why do we play it so safe? The Oxford English Dictionary defines normal as: “Constituting or conforming to a type or standard; regular, usual, typical; ordinary, conventional.” Such dreary terms! Is normal really the height of our high school aspirations? Last year I received a letter in my mailbox. Elaborately handwritten, it accepted my request to tour the Monastery so that I could write a Beacon article revealing the hidden art on campus. Only later did I realize what a big deal that letter, in Father Damian’s unique calligraphy, was. An open tour of the Monastic enclosure? For students, rare. For female students, never. What had I gotten myself into? It is surprisingly difficult to figure out what to wear for such an occasion. There are no Wiki answers for “monastery visit outfits.” And you can’t Google “conversation starters with monks,” either. So I had no cheat sheets on “normal” behavior to rely on; I was on my own. While my friends geared up for afternoon sports, I slowly walked up the steps to the empty Church. Nervously, I tugged at my well-belowthe-knee-length dress, compliments of the deepest corner of my closet. Father Damian stood at the back of the church, waiting for me. “We do not normally do this,” he confirms. “Neither do I,” I laugh awkwardly. Monks don’t really do small talk. Tongue-tied and panicky, I began to doubt my decision to throw myself into the unknown. We walked into the Church, and as I stared at the glittering gold wire sculpture above the altar, I realized I knew nothing about it, nothing about art, and nothing about what lay beyond in the mysterious confines of the Monastery. I was ignorant about the men who lived there, and about the profound art that I might encounter. All I fully understood was my ineptitude for the job. I was starkly aware of the difference between my uninformed curiosity and the utter depths of Father Damian’s knowledge. Nevertheless, when he asked, “Are you ready?” I answered with a firm “Yes.” I stepped through that sacristy door and into the secret world beyond. Inside, I received a guided tour of the rooms behind the church, the Monastery Library, and the Monastery garden. Inside, I beheld treasures, including sculptures from the 15th Century, illuminated medieval manuscripts, and a collection of primitive art from Papua/ New Guinea. I left the Monastery that day with a little more knowledge and a lot more respect. The beauty I was allowed to witness is unseen by most students during their time here—and all I had to do was ask. The reward so greatly outweighed my nervousness that, looking back, it seems silly that I even hesitated. But, you would be surprised how often we all refrain from something because it is out of our comfort zone. It is easy to pride yourself on never feeling awkward, on never having those moments of nervousness, never being unprotected by friends. Easy to feel proud that you always feel normal and accepted. But that also means you never threw yourself into something blindly. You never did anything on your own simply because, even if it was intimidating, it might be worthwhile. Instead, you strove to be similar. Maybe you are a person who has lived life fitting in perfectly, or maybe you are like me, growing up with questionable haircuts, still looking for my comfort zone. Either way, we should look at discomfort as a good thing. When you step into the unknown, when you feel out

of place, you are making progress. It is incredibly freeing to just laugh at yourself and your own awkwardness, and to experience something new. A few weeks ago I gave a campus tour and, while talking with this shy ninth grader, she asked me, “How do I meet people when I come here? How do I act? How do I dress?” At that moment, I realized that to her, I was normal. I was one of those fourth-grade girls, sitting with the rest of her friends in the choker necklaces. But I’m not. I never would have met the people I have met, or seen the things I have seen, if I was afraid to sit alone once in a while.

Turning It Around by Charles Ramsden

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ike a lot of boarding boys, I started my Third Form year a little clueless. It was exciting to step into a totally new environment and to meet new people. I wanted to make the year memorable. But this mindset and this goal quickly got me into trouble. My priorities were popularity, athletics, and academics, in that order. Axe bombs, shaving cream concoctions, coating fans with Gold Bond, and other pranks all seemed like simple fun to me. I didn’t consider how these “harmless laughs” affected others. I was cocky, careless, and thoughtless. Then, in one week, it all turned on me. One day in February, after classes ended, I walked back to the dorm to get ready for squash practice. My neighbor burst into my room and announced that his roommate had just flunked a math test. Instead of feeling sympathetic, the way most people would feel, I decided it was the perfect time to head over to my neighbor’s room to make a joke out of it. But his door was locked, and I could hear a distressed voice inside the room. Now, where most people would walk away and continue with their jolly day, I made my second mistake. I grinned, leaned against the door, and in the most annoyingly sarcastic voice, I mockingly said, “Don’t worry, I’m bad at math too.” The distraught student burst out of the room in tears, pushed me down the hallway, and threatened me. I was shell-shocked. How did this escalate so fast? When he went back into his room I tried to fix things: “What’s going on? Are you all right? Let’s talk this out.” But he was having none of it. I’ll never forget his face: overwrought, agitated, but most of all, hurt. At squash practice I was confused and flustered. This student had spent countless hours in my room along with the others from our hall. Didn’t he know that “we’re just guys” and that “jokes are just jokes?” Then my mind would flip and I’d wonder how my attitude or actions could provoke such scary anger. I told my prefect what had happened, and he told me that everything would be fine. This would be handled in the dorm. But after dinner, I was pulled aside by the Dean of Discipline for questioning. Over the next two days, I never had the chance to talk to the other student once he had cooled down. I had more meetings with the Dean, and the more he investigated, the more he learned about the way I’d been treating people since the start of school. That Friday, I was dismissed from school for a two-day “leave of absence,” with a DC meeting scheduled for the following Tuesday. The DC handed down consequences: ten hours of community service; an apology to the student; disciplinary probation; and the leave of absence recorded as a suspension in my file. When I returned to school I was moved, along with three boys who had done nothing wrong, to the other side of the dorm. The whole atmosphere in the dorm turned negative. The student I mocked left after his Fourth Form year, and to this day I consider myself the first stepping stone towards his departure. I tell you this story today for, well, a few reasons. First, to let you know how stupid and dangerous a sense of entitlement can be. In my case, it led to all those consequences, a dark smudge on my reputation, and a lot of time to think about what kind of person I wanted to be. I realized that whether you stand out socially, athletically, or academically—or if 4

2013


you just think you do—that in no way translates into your being better than anyone else. Realize that everybody brings something unique to the table of life. Second, as James Joyce wrote, “Mistakes are the portal to discovery.” Learn from your mistakes. Everyone in this Church has done some things they’re not proud of. But you can respond positively and responsibly to your bad moves. For me, that thoughtless move made me change my mindset. After that shaky Third Form year, I began Fourth Form year knowing I had to make up for my mistakes. I knew that I had done wrong (and I still know it), so I decided that instead of trying to stand out, I would try to listen up—to my peers and to my teachers. I found that listening, patience, and humility—three simple things— changed my whole point of view. I stuck with that formula for the next two years, and now, at the beginning of my Sixth Form year, things have turned around for me. Now I’m a prefect in St. Hugh’s, looking out for Third Formers who might make the same mistakes I did three years ago. Thankfully, I can say that the boarding boys of the Class of 2016 lack a devious, entitled, thoughtless fourteen-year-old Charlie Ramsden. And my third and final reason: don’t look down on those who’ve made wrong decisions. Every night, every boarding student here says the words “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I’m standing here talking to you today only because friends, teachers, advisors and coaches were able to look past the crassness of my Third Form year. They saw me for what I’ve been trying to do, not for what I had done. For that, I’d like to thank my Third Form advisor, Mr. Antol, who got me through that crisis. Thank you, as well, to my Disciplinary Committee—Mr. Chenoweth, Coach Brown, Mrs. Brady, Brother Gregory, Dr. DeVecchi, Luke Gleason, Quent Dickmann, and Tess Condon. Their guidance and punishments set me right. I’ll close with a simple message: “God first, the other fellow second, thyself last.” This is my fourth and final year as part of the great Abbey community. Thank you all.

With a Little Help from My Friends by Erin Shaw http://goo.gl/XQfFa

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or some people, it’s easy. If something is bothering them—whether a major issue or a minor—they turn immediately to the people they trust and care about, to talk over their problems and seek support. But I was never like that. My first instinct when I’m facing a problem is not to go to my friends or family but to go to my room, sit quietly, and try to work through the problem myself. But in the past year, that’s changed. A few days into my March break last year, my mom drove to my dad’s work and demanded he go to the hospital with her. My dad had been feeling poorly for months. It started with a sharp pain in his rib cage, which he assumed was a pulled muscle. But the pain didn’t go away. Finally, he went to the doctor, who realized that the pain was caused by my dad’s spleen – it was enlarged and would eventually have to be removed. They set a date for the operation, but after speaking with the surgeon, my mom decided it would be best to get him to the hospital as soon as possible. In spite of my dad’s loud protestations about being “shanghaied,” it turned out my mom’s instinct was right – my dad’s spleen was far larger than the doctors had realized, and was caving in part of his lung. They moved the surgery up to the very next day. The operation dragged out for several long, anxious hours as my mom and I waited in my dad’s hospital room, but eventually it was over, with no complications. It had been exhausting, but it was over, and all my dad had to do was rest for a few days. But a couple days later, just before my dad was about to go home from the hospital, my mom asked me to wait behind in his room before we left for lunch with visiting relatives. She hesitated, then she told me that the doctors had found out why my dad had needed the operation in the first place: he had lymphoma. A blood cancer.

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I recognized the word, but only from one place: the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which we had supported since my grandmother died of leukemia four years before. I didn’t know what lymphoma was, exactly, but I knew it was closely related to the disease that had killed my grandmother. And my father had it. My parents seemed to be waiting for some kind of reaction from me. I nodded, let them tell me about what the plan was for his treatment, and then we went out to lunch. Days passed; my dad came home from the hospital. March break ended. I went back to school. He started his chemotherapy. I was half-expecting to have some kind of breakdown, but for weeks, I didn’t. It seemed like I would be fine. I remember the moment that it hit me very clearly. We were walking into assembly a few weeks after the term started. There were little sticky notes of different colors on some of the chairs, so of course we all avoided those chairs like the plague. During announcements, a few students went up to talk about a plan to raise money for cancer research, and explained that the sticky notes represented different kinds of cancer. Every year, they said, over 500,000 people in the US died from cancer. After that, I stopped hearing what they were saying. I could only hear that number, repeating over and over in my head. For the rest of the day, I felt dizzy and disoriented, unable to focus on anything. After that, it came in waves. I could go days without thinking much about it, and then suddenly I would spend one in a total haze, unable to think about anything but my dad. Each time it hit me, I felt more overwhelmed. One day, late in the term, I came home at 10:30 at night. I had had my AP U.S. History exam in the morning, and mock prefect duty in the evening. I was full of things to tell my parents. But when I walked into the house, my dad, the early bird, who woke up at 5:45 in the morning and never went to bed later than 9:30, was wide awake and washing dishes, full of energy. He had had a session of chemotherapy that morning, and the steroids were still pumping through his system. His hair was almost gone from all the treatments. He tried to talk to me about my day, but I could hardly hear what he was saying over how surreal everything felt. I had been eager to talk, but now all I wanted to do was run up to my room and cry. All this, on top of the normal stress and chaos of Fifth Form year spring term. I discovered very quickly that I couldn’t rely on myself the way I was used to. There was nothing left to rely on; all of my energy was consumed by the busy insanity of my life. But there was always something keeping me from a breakdown—the generosity of others and the strength of my relationships. I was astonished by how much the little things suddenly meant to me – a card of sympathy from a distant relative, well-wishing from a teacher, a friend asking my how my dad was doing. Every time something like that happened, I felt buoyed, lifted, and, for a moment, it was like something had broken through the dizzy fog of my life. And the moments when I felt the most stable, the most normal, were when I was with my friends. We weren’t doing anything different or special. We studied and gossiped and goofed around, just as we had for years. But suddenly that dose of normalcy was everything. My friends didn’t have to go out of their way to be supportive of me, though they often did. They just had to be there, being smart and silly and kind just as they’d always been. My world felt new and confusing, but they kept me feeling stable and sane. Gradually, I began to understand that this time, I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed to rely on my friends. Late in that term, I was interviewing for the prefectship at Manor House, and Ms. Gundy asked me what accomplishment I was most proud of during my years at the Abbey. I opened my mouth, ready to give my normal, canned response: my grades. But I stopped as I realized that that simply wasn’t true. And instead I told her that my proudest achievement was the bonds I’d formed with my friends, with the wonderful people who helped me through such a difficult time just by being themselves. My dad has officially been in remission for a month now, and things are getting back to normal. But I’m never going to forget what


I realized over those long months. I know that to many of you, this lesson will seem obvious. Many of you already know the importance of relying on friends in difficult times. But I’m sure that some of you out there are more like me, inclined to be independent, to rely on others only as a last resort. And so it’s really to those people that I’m saying: not everything can be handled alone. But not everything needs to be handled alone. There is strength in the relationships you have formed. And when you most need it, you will have people to rely on. Thank you.

Embracing the Difference by Xijia Yuan http://goo.gl/zXRii

that everything I knew might be wrong? Yes, I was scared. Change is always scary. But I am more happy than scared. Without these changes, I would be the same person that I was three years ago, someone unfamiliar with the idea of religion in general. Obviously, I would respect people with different religious beliefs, but I could never have understood how people can be so involved in religious practice, or how people, in fact, truly believe in what they believe. Here at the Abbey, we are forced to learn about a lot of things, but it is up to each one of us to determine the value of what we learn. Even more importantly, we must decide whether or not to believe in any of it. When faced with new, different, and even utterly foreign ideas, our tendency is to ignore or dismiss them. But if we take those ideas seriously, and embrace that difference, we just might figure out what we think, what we believe, and who we are.

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efore coming to the Abbey, going to Mass was a foreign thing for me. I was raised in a relatively traditional Chinese family; my parents were atheists, but were also influenced by Taoism with its idea of keeping the balance of yin and yang, and by Buddhism. Overall, though, we never really involved ourselves in any religious practice. Although I had relatives who were Christians, back then when I considered myself fully atheist I didn’t appreciate them patronizing and trying to convert me to Christianity. However, since coming to the Abbey, my views have evolved. I can recall so many moments in my Humanities class, when I would just be hit by the awesomeness of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I didn’t fully understand all the implications, but books such as Augustine’s Confessions and Paradise Lost amazed me with their completely different worldview. But at the time, I just read and did my homework without grasping these works’ deeper meaning, until one day in class a concept really captured my attention. We were discussing Pascal’s wager. For the very first time, all these complicated ideas became clear to me. Using the simple yet very logical device of the wager, Pascal proved that those who rejected the idea of God were wrong. I didn’t think that religious belief could be this simple, and I was shocked after Mr. Smith drew a chart on the board, laying out all the possibilities of what happens to us after death. Depending upon whether one accepts or rejects God, there are only four possible outcomes: eternal happiness, eternal misery, or (in two cases) eternal sleep. I know that in reality there are probably more options, but the two choices—belief or unbelief—and the four outcomes were enough to prove Pascal’s point for me. If I chose to ignore religion and not to believe in God, I would either end up in eternal misery (if God existed) or simply sleeping forever while my body rotted in the ground (if God did not exist). But if I chose to believe in God, there would be a fifty percent chance that I had wagered correctly, and I would end up with eternal happiness. This epiphany faded after class, but it never went away. I remember being in Ms. Thomas’ class and reading C.S. Lewis. I wondered how it was possible for Lewis, an atheist, to suddenly change his beliefs and become a Christian. I didn’t like how he made it sound as if he converted to Christianity on the spot when he found it more appealing than atheism. But I was wrong. C.S. Lewis didn’t convert all of a sudden; he gradually came to accept and adopt the idea of Christianity. His thinking changed over time, and then his life changed. And after three years here at the Abbey, I’ve changed, too. I am not fully Catholic, but I believe in God. I pray before I go to bed. I go up to be blessed during Mass. I really try to be a good person. Although I still have a lot of questions regarding the Catholic religion, Christianity, and everything else, I am so glad that I really opened my mind and changed my views. If I hadn’t embraced all the different books and ideas I encountered here, if I had just kept going with what I thought was right before I got here, if we hadn’t talked about Pascal’s wager at all, I wouldn’t be standing here, delivering this speech. Was I terrified when I realized

Motivational Doubt by Mitchell Kelln http://goo.gl/xEePG

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veryone faces doubts. There will always be something about you that someone else will doubt. How we deal with doubt is what defines us as people. When I was four years old, I had my first two kidney surgeries. I spent a few weeks in the hospital, eventually returned home, and thought everything was normal. But one year later, I was blindsided by bad news from my doctor. He told me I would never be able to play a contact sport. Now, to a lot of you this might not seem like the end of the world. But growing up with an older brother who is now a football player at Johns Hopkins made this news particularly difficult for me to swallow. My brother started playing lacrosse when I was six years old. And being my brother’s biggest fan, I was determined to do the same. There was nothing I wanted more than to play lacrosse. So, being the son of a businessman, I decided to take the more mature approach. I drafted a PowerPoint presentation, entitled “Mommy, I Want to Play Lacrosse.” She gave in. We went back to the doctor’s office to discuss the idea of playing lacrosse. He told us he could make a one-of-a-kind kidney guard to help protect me on the field. But he said it was still not a good idea to engage in any intense contact—in other words, real lacrosse was out. My brother then asked, “Will he ever be able to play?” The doctor replied with the phrase that would drive me for years to come: “I doubt it.” My brother then bought all the equipment I would need to play. The catch was, I would have to play a position called “Fogo” in which I took a face-off, and then ran off the field. But I was determined to be the best at it. I worked all summer. My brother taught me drills to practice and I broke numerous windows doing so. When I finally got on the field for my first face-off, I lost terribly. I was awful. The next time I went on, it was even worse. I was getting dominated. That didn’t change. I took around 200 face-offs in my lacrosse career as “Fogo,” and I truly believe I won just three. After a year of begging my parents to let me do more on the field, they finally gave in—without my doctor’s approval. That was enough permission for me. I found myself doing much better away from the face-off position, and eventually became somewhat decent at the game. I even managed to become captain of my eighth grade team. Much to my parent’s dismay, I spent almost all day playing lacrosse. The homework thing wasn’t nearly as interesting to an eight-year-old. Years went by and my drive to play lacrosse to the best of my ability never changed. But in my sophomore year of high school I was shocked to learn that my right kidney would need to be removed. I had the surgery in January, and I missed a lot more school than anticipated. I was in the hospital for a month. Just before I was released, my doctor told me that she doubted I would be able to play lacrosse that spring. I nodded politely, said “I understand.” A week later I decided that I was

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ready to play lacrosse again. Many popped stitches and trips to the hospital later, I made it through a pretty decent lacrosse season. That summer, I decided boarding school was the best way for me to improve my lacrosse skills. I transferred to Portsmouth Abbey last year. I headed into lacrosse season not knowing what to expect. Would I be any good here? Would the Abbey players be better and more athletic than I was? Hundreds of worries like that flooded my mind. The worry that didn’t cross my mind was my health. But then I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and missed the first three games, and was extremely sick for the remainder of the spring term. I finished out the lacrosse season feeling about 50%. I spent the summer struggling with doubt—not from a doctor, but from myself. I shut down. I doubted everything I’d worked for. I truly didn’t believe I was good enough to play at this school or good enough to play in college. I was a mess. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my brother, I don’t know if I would be back at the Abbey today. He came into my room after my third straight day in bed, and said “Mitch, you have proved so many people wrong in seventeen years. You proved me wrong, mom and dad wrong, plenty of doctors wrong, everybody. You were never supposed to play at all, and now you have the chance to play college lacrosse.” I got angry and kicked him out of my room, shouting the typical teenager’s response, “You don’t understand!” I continued to feel sorry for myself until I realized how right he was. I walked into his room and we went and played lacrosse for three hours. The most memorable thing I’ve ever heard was what my brother told me when we were driving back from the field that night. He said, “Other people can doubt you all they want. Just stop doubting yourself, or you will collapse. You set your own limitations. Don’t let anyone else do that for you.” Thank you

Unlimited Power by Steven Foster

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f a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” - Thoreau Benjamin Haggerty—the Seattle rapper also known as Macklemore—has a song called “Make the Money.” It’s a phenomenal track—a thick, steady bass line coupled with unusual vocal samples and a few simple piano chords. The lyrics, like most Macklemore songs, are deep and personal, and they deal with fear, passion and success. During the chorus, Macklemore declares, “Make the money, don’t let the money make you. Change the game, and don’t let the game change you.” Macklemore’s line was born out of a record deal that quickly went south. An agent offered him millions, so long as he changed his music: more pop-y, his lyrics less sophisticated. Despite being a starving artist and fearing this might be his only chance for success, he declined the offer—because he believed. Macklemore is an extreme example, but don’t we all face some version of the same temptation, the temptation to sell out or give in? “The money” does not have to be actual money any more than “the game” has to mean the music industry or big-time sports. The pressure may come from friends, family, the media, whatever. Don’t let others make you: decide for yourself who you ought to become. Don’t let the game change you: your dream and passion must stay your own, not the false promise of something more stereotypical, expected, or easier to do. At the Abbey, you and I have countless opportunities to “make the money” and to “change the game” in every aspect of our lives. Throughout my time here, however, I have constantly feared failure and rejection, and this has prevented me from doing a lot of things. It’s taken conscious effort to pursue the things I love, even when

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I’m challenged by fear and self-doubt, and it’s always a struggle to overcome my own misconceptions of who I am and what I can become. Whether I’m facing a challenge in the classroom, on the football field, behind the turntables, or in the weight room, doubt assails me, even though I know I have the ability. When I turn around and realize I’ve let fear freeze me again, I always ask myself, “Why? I want to succeed, I want to be happy, and I want these things as badly I want to breathe. Why do I not believe in myself?” The truth was uttered to me by possibly the brightest human being I know, Rhoads MacGuire, who’s probably napping in the back row as I speak. He said, “Steve, regret is always worse than failure.” Enter with me the scene of a Tuck Dance—the home of hormones. From behind the decks, I’m playing “Call Me Maybe.” I’m feeding the crowd what they want—a direct injection of what they already know— stereotypical, expected, and easier. But there’s this one song I’ve been dying to play. It’s called “Home,” created by Brown University student Nico Jaar—booming and declarative. You’ve never heard of it, and I want to take you with me, I want you to hear something you’ve never heard before and, who knows, you might love it. The song is cued up. “Call Me Maybe” is ending. Suddenly, I’m attacked by doubt. Will I lose the crowd? Will someone rush up to the table, lean over and yell, “I need me some ‘Low,’ man! Flo Rida!” But I stuff down the temptation, and “Home” begins to play. When it ends and mainstream mania floods our ears again, it won’t matter. What matters is that I trusted myself. Enter the backfield of the football team. Gabe Carter in front of me, Austin Kreinz behind me. It’s 44 iso, and Kreinz is getting the ball. I am eyeing my Pingree target through my visor, a refrigerator of a human being. The moment before the ball is snapped, I feel that same pang of indecision. I am suddenly unsure of my ability to run this man over, my only task. Nevertheless, I overthrow my ambivalence, and I lower my shoulder. When I look back, I will forget if I failed or succeeded at making the block. But, whether I threw everything I had into it or not will stay with me forever. All of us here have unique personalities and unique gifts, though we may not have ourselves or our talents figured out just yet. There is no doubt about our potential, if we can overcome our doubts. All we have to do is believe. It’s that simple, and it’s that difficult. That agent will always be there, even inside your own head, tempting you to give in. Don’t listen to him, and don’t worry about what everyone else wants to hear. Just like young Macklemore, step back and hear the music you were meant to hear, the music that is already inside you. Thank you.

Weirdo by Nicholas DeLieto http://goo.gl/QzNwM

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ou are so weird,” she says. “What?” I replied. She quickly retorts, “Seriously, who wears their socks that high? And why is your sweater tied around your waist like that?” My seventh-grade mind, eager to please, scrambled to find the answer: “Well, I—” Well I what? My hands, even as I’m reading this, shake. I asked myself, Why did I wear rolled-over mid-calves? But what I should have been asking was, Why does it matter? “Well, I never really thought about it,” I say. Rolling her eyes, she walks away, her criticism trailing behind her and resonating in my head even to this day. Why didn’t I fit in? In middle school, I was quirky to say the very least. I wore high white socks with my leather school shoes. I tied my sweater around my waist like my middle-aged goober parents and had an unhealthy obsession with Led Zeppelin and my encyclopedias. Quirks. What are they? The dictionary on my computer simply


defines them as peculiar behavioral habits, but in school they can make you a pariah. It’s as if they think you’re going to flip out a switchblade along with your deck of Yogio cards and go on a stabbing spree. Crazy, right? Maybe I’m being dramatic, but think about it the next time someone says, “Ohhh! I love Star Trek!” Your mind, as if programmed, instantly labels that person and assigns them to a file in your brain that reads, “Warning! Trekkie.” It’s strange how quick we are to label, judge, stereotype, or categorize, just because someone doesn’t fit in. And fitting in is what every middle or high schooler desperately wants to do. So that’s what I did. I bought ankle socks. Never again would I tie my sweater around my waist. It kept people happy, even though I’d rather have just worn whatever I wanted. But it was a useful lesson. My exposure to middle school judgments prepped me for high school. When I got to the Abbey, sure, I was still quirky. You’d have heard me around campus, yelling about how “Rad!” something was. But I honestly worried about fitting in. Coming back from breaks, I would have panic attacks. I just couldn’t catch my breath. What if the kids in my dorm hate me? What if they think I’m stupid, or talk about how weird I am behind my back? Naturally, I encountered some of the same type of people I had in middle school. People who whispered about my now-infamous hat. Or who mistook my loud, obnoxious personality for arrogance. But I was far from arrogant. My forwardness was a front, a way to pretend like I didn’t care what they said or thought about me. I was, in fact, pretty insecure underneath it all. I desperately cared what people said about me and what label they’d stuck on me. It wasn’t until I started taking my interest in photography seriously that I began to appreciate people’s quirks and flaws. I’d always liked taking pictures, loving the way I could freeze a scene in time. But when I really started to appreciate photography, moving into the world of f-stops and apertures, it made me look at a scene or a subject in a different way. Candids are a favorite of mine, catching people in an unguarded and honest moment. A camera can catch the minute facial features and expressions that we miss when we just glance at someone. Looking through my camera has allowed me to really see different people, different personalities, and different faces, all so intrinsically distinct. I still cringe whenever I hear someone say, “Ugh, you’re so weird.” But photography has helped me realize that we’re all weird—that is, we’re all different. We try to hide those differences and strip away who we are, to be accepted and pass for “normal” because we’re all insecure. Even Amanda Seyfried thinks her nail beds suck. Speaking of Mean Girls, Tina Fey gave Cady Heron one of the best lines in the movie. She says, “Calling someone fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid won’t make you any smarter.” Think about that for a second. Calling out someone’s flaws or quirks literally does nothing but make them feel more insecure about themselves than they already do. And it doesn’t do anything to solve your own insecurities. Maybe we should be more like cameras and less like labelmakers. Everyone’s quirks and imperfections make them who they are: interesting. Sure, people can be mean, especially in high school, but there are also people who, like a good photographer, will like what they see in you and like you for your weirdness. Some of my best memories at the Abbey aren’t special occasions like Tuck dances, or prom, or the Coffeehouses, but rather spending hours in a van ride to Kentucky or D.C. with nothing but my friends and our unfiltered thoughts, our unfiltered selves. The best pictures are unposed. What I’ve found is that when you drop the pose, your insecurities fall by the wayside, too. You are free to just be yourself. And what a relief to discover, finally, that we don’t need to Photoshop ourselves. Thank you.

Accepting Hardship by Shiloh Barry http://goo.gl/95Mh5

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hen I was five, I never knew if I would be picked up from school—never mind by whom. At age six, I was locked out of my house in 110 degree heat. I had seen bars, bar fights, drug use, alcohol abuse and violence between my parents. Most people go through life without thinking twice about what they have. They take for granted the little things: getting to school, eating, having a bed. For me, this was not the case. My mom was reckless. She would party all night and sleep all day. She never made meals or played games. She would be too high to do anything. At the time, these things scared me, but they were also familiar. It was the only life I knew. I can remember that my parents would be fine, and then, with a blink of an eye, fists were flying, things were everywhere, and all I could do was sit there and scream for them to stop. I loved both my parents, but I knew they could not care for me. At the age of six, I moved in with my half-sister and her husband, both of whom I had never met before. The change was difficult. I didn’t know what to call them. Debbie and Bill? Mom and Dad? Some other term not yet invented? Regardless, I was welcomed into a new life: a house, clean clothes, even my own room. These things were exceptional, but I was angry. I wanted my real parents to watch me grow up. I wanted a normal life with my mom and dad, not Debbie and Bill replacing them. Throughout my childhood, I had several talks with counselors. Ray would ask: “Do you remember the fighting? The drug use?” I would nod my head “yes” in reply. I remember it like it was yesterday, but rather than cry about it, I would tell myself: that is not the way I want to live. So now I see my childhood not as a crutch, but as an opportunity. Children tend to follow in their parents’ footsteps. I watched my mom abuse alcohol and drugs, so was I supposed to follow her example? After all, it is hard to fight genetics. But instead, I strive to do the opposite. I want to be my parents’ example—I want them to look up to me. Life is full of challenges—not all of them pleasant or easy. But even bad experiences can teach you something. Even now, talking on the phone with my mother, I can tell if she is sober. While frustrating, it reminds me again that I have to be the example. Maybe that was the reason why I was exposed to such horrible situations. It wasn’t the easiest way to learn life lessons, yet I’m thankful for all that I have gone through. Seeing both sides of the spectrum makes me realize how lucky I am to be where I am today. When I was in middle school, I memorized a Bible verse which has remained my life motto. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” God gives me the strength to be better than my mother, and to tolerate her. I had to accept the situations I found myself in, and learn how to use them to grow. Despite my childhood, I could not be happier with who I am. I do not need pity or sympathy, because if I were given the opportunity to change the way I grew up, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Across the Mason-Dixon by Hannah Niles http://goo.gl/vkskX

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grew up in rural North Carolina and attended public school. Before coming to the Abbey, I had never been north of Virginia and had no desire to leave the South. But, with the prospect of an excellent education and boarding school, that changed. I saw the Abbey as an opportunity I could not pass up just for sentimental reasons. Once in New England, I quickly learned several things: what it really meant to be cold; that if you wore anything with a Lilly Pulitzer tag it meant you had good style; and that Rhode Islanders take pride in coffee milk the way North Carolinians take pride in their BBQ sauces. I even discovered a whole new species known as “lax bros,” with a set of behaviors so unique, even my experiences with fiercely proud and competitive Southern football and NASCAR couldn’t help me understand their world. New England was more foreign than I had anticipated, and it was a challenge adjusting. I couldn’t for the life of me use “wicked” properly in a sentence and quickly realized that if I tried, I got the same look I gave northerners when they said “y’all.” I also had a difficult time having a roommate. By the end of our first day living together third form year, my roommate and I had constructed a Mason-Dixon line of dressers down the center of the room. That way, we didn’t have to see or talk to each other. We fought about everything: who got to shower first, politics, how to divide mirror time, if yellow looked good with pink, and anything else we mentioned in those brief moments when we forgot we didn’t like one another. It wasn’t long before we channeled the tension in our room into malicious action. She would chew her apples loudly, driving me crazy with every obnoxious crunch, and I would blast Aerosmith to drown out whatever stupid rap song she was listening to. She would move the ladder on my bunk bed in the middle of the night so that in the morning, when I swung my legs over to climb down, I would crash to the floor in a stunned and enraged ball (I’ve never been a morning person.) I countered by locking the door to our room while she was in the shower and disappearing with the key. We eventually came to an understanding—we understood that neither of us would ever back down. All of that, along with a heavy course load, made my freshman year... interesting. But what was most foreign was Catholicism. I remember having a conversation with my family about what I thought about attending a Catholic school—how I would handle being in a different religious environment. I was raised Southern Baptist and thought that Catholics worshiped Mary and the Pope. I had never heard the word “transubstantiation,” and I sincerely thought of monks as skinny, bald men who wore orange and meditated in the mountains. I assured my family that they had nothing to worry about, that I was strong in my faith, and that I would not let those Catholic teachings affect me. I meant it. And for a long time, that was true. I listened to Catholic ideas but vehemently defended Protestantism whenever it was challenged or undermined. I remained behind my Mason-Dixon line of prejudice: not trying to keep peace with my roommate because, well, she was the problem, not me; staying in my room and not really trying to make friends because I didn’t understand most people here; or refusing to say the “Hail Mary” because I was Protestant, and I didn’t know why, but we didn’t do that. Gradually, as I tried to figure out who I was, I became comfortable at the Abbey. I began to recognize the Vineyard Vines buttondowns and even kind of appreciate how guys could effectively incorporate belts decorated with lobsters or even martini olives into their wardrobe. My roommate became one of my best friends—the kind of friend I don’t have to talk to every day, but on whom I know I can always depend on and trust. And perhaps most significantly for me personally, I became Catholic. I don’t know when exactly it happened. It took Humanities, Masses, and the Abbey community, over the course of three years, for me to realize that Catholicism was fulfilling, for me, in a way

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beyond what I had experienced. I was baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church five days ago, and I can’t think of a more appropriate conclusion to my time here. I was taught in Humanities that in order to learn, a change must take place. Here at the Abbey, I have been exposed to a new culture, but, most significantlythe Abbey has compelled me to transform, through a combination of encouragement, high expectations and support. I encourage you to be open and receptive to growth. I didn’t find my place and myself until I dropped my defenses and made myself vulnerable to being wrong. I suppose y’all Yankees aren’t so bad after all. Thank you.

You Can’t Be Anonymous in a Speedo by Zachary Pray http://goo.gl/8tjdy

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want to tell you the truth. When I began writing this speech, I had no idea what I was going to talk about. I didn’t have a clue where I should start. I began to ask myself, ‘What have I done?’ As I racked my brain, trying to think of a crisis I had to deal with or a moral decision I had to make, time started to disappear. And as each hour passed without any good ideas, I grew more and more discouraged. Then I thought, ‘Why not talk about being a repeat Fifth Former?’ and figured it was my best choice. Fortunately for all of you, however, I decided not to lecture all of you on the pros and cons of being in high school for five years. I chose to talk about what only a few people in this room know about, my Third Form year. Five years ago, a smaller and quieter Zachary Pray walked this campus. I was a shy 14-year-old boy lurking the halls of Portsmouth Abbey. My long bowl haircut sat in front of my eyes, causing me to always brush my hair to the side with my hand, nervously trying to fix my hair so I could see. I slumped my shoulders and always walked with my head down, trying to avoid eye contact with other people. To state the obvious, this socially awkward teenager wasn’t the most popular of people in 2008 and 2009. I had trouble interacting with other kids and felt it difficult to be myself. I’m not saying that I sat in the corner of the room and never talked to anyone, but I would never be too involved with them. I would hang out in their rooms, talk with them in between classes, but it never felt like I had a good group of friends. I was always too nervous to be myself, so I never acted like me. I always tried to just ‘fit in’ because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted. I was so worried that I was going to be made fun of, I blocked myself off, even from the people I did talk with. I never shared my interests, what I like to do, what music I listen to, or what I like to watch on TV. It just seemed that I didn’t belong here. Maybe it was because I lacked confidence in myself, or because I didn’t really spend much time at school after classes and sports, but I felt that I was holding myself back. I was withholding my own personality, trying to keep it locked away. I look back at that year now and I wish I just showed people my true self. I worried so much about what people thought of me. I just wanted to be a person in the crowd, the nameless, faceless person that blends in. The person who never speaks up and is never criticized. I thought that this was my way of getting through high school; anonymity was my savior. But it got to the point that I realized that this escape wasn’t going to fix my problems. I remember sitting in the common room of my dorm towards the end of my Third Form year. It was after class and sports were over for the Spring Term. There was pandemonium in the hallways; kids yelling to each one another and others sprinting out of the door to go play outside. I sat on the couch, watching all of this, with my hands folded on my desk. I just put on my headphones and tried to tune everything out. Even though I wanted to remove myself from others, I longed to be one of them. It took time, but I was finally able to break myself of my self-restriction. I slowly became more and more confident in who I am


and wasn’t afraid of what other people thought of me. I finally had the self-assurance to be who I am. I know I said that I wouldn’t talk about it, but this extra year of school actually helped me grow through this. During my first Fifth Form year, though I was finally becoming comfortable with myself, I still denied myself opportunities. For example, I chose not to run for Head Boy in 2011. I kept telling myself, ‘I will only embarrass myself, and who would vote for me, anyway?’ So I talked myself out of it. But last year, I had a second chance. I made sure that I was going to run. I wrote a speech I was proud of and delivered it in front of the whole student body. Obviously, I didn’t win, but even though I’m not the Head Boy, I don’t regret trying to become one. This year has helped me evolve into someone who is truly comfortable in their own skin—maybe a little too comfortable, considering I wore a Speedo during a swim meet last season. Nevertheless, this extra year has given me another shot at trying new things that I wouldn’t have dared to attempt before. If you take anything from my speech this morning, I ask that you be more than the person in the crowd that I so badly wanted to be. Don’t just blend in, be someone different. Be proud of your name and say it loudly. Take advantage of any opportunities that are presented to you, and don’t be afraid to get criticized. I promise you that just trying to fly under the radar during your time here won’t work. Anonymity isn’t a saving grace, it’s a condemnation. I wish that my 14-year-old self could see me today. I’d probably be having a heart attack that I was giving a speech in front of the whole school. But I’d also say, ‘Man. . . I look good in a Speedo.’ Thank you.

Home by MinJae (Steve) Cho http://goo.gl/eySTC

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e are a month away from graduation. A month from this day, we go home. Home. Most of you are imagining a place filled with familiar faces: parents, family, friends–back in a place you know. To most, the word “home” is automatically singular. If your parents are separated like mine, do you have two homes, or none? “Where are you from?” is often one of the first questions we ask strangers. Home is an extension of our identity. It is a symbol of support, stability, privacy and security. It’s where your family is, and it’s the people you know best. It’s a place you can count on to feed you, to shelter you, and to give you Internet. I still remember moving to New Zealand nine years ago. It was a small town called Blockhouse Bay. I didn’t know it back then, but that move coincided with my parents’ divorce. The first day, it was just me, my dad and my grandmother. We didn’t have furniture yet, so we used a box as our table. Our plates and silverware didn’t match. The next day, I went to school. Hill Top School. But back then, I didn’t even know the English alphabet. I sat in class, on the floor, off to the side, not understanding a thing. White people: just think about the last time you were surrounded by Asians. I would go back to my house, but it was mostly empty. That was not home. Even after a few months, I was ready to leave, go back to Korea. Eventually, my father moved back to Korea, and my grandparents moved to New Zealand just to raise me. After a few years, we knew where the flea market was, we knew all the town gossip, we knew who the crazy people were. We became a part of the Korean community in Auckland, and my grandparents and I had people on whom we could count. It was becoming home. Believe it or not, I had friends in middle school. One of them is Linda Li. Remember that name. Linda Li. When I was twelve, I began my first year in high school. And yes, Zach Pray can be quiet now, because I’ve been in high school for six years. But no, I’m not an old man like Toby. I met new people and began to expand my comfort zone in New

Zealand to beyond my neighborhood. Other than the fact that I went straight from dividing numbers to quadratic equations, school was fun. There’s another name to remember: my first Indian friend, Tushar Garg. At that point, I could answer with certainty the question, “Where is home?” I would have said, “2 H Alpers Ave, Epsom, Auckland.” I was comfortable in New Zealand, and I could see myself living there. Forever. After only two years there, everything I was used to broke down. My grandparents moved back to Korea, and I was put in a boarding school—Auckland International College– in New Zealand. Until school started, I stayed in Seoul with my mom, who I hadn’t seen much until then. I still stay with her when I go back to Korea, and that’s why my answer to “Where are you from?” will either be Seoul or Suwon, where my dad lives. My first boarding school changed my lifestyle completely. Trust me, Portsmouth Abbey is not like prison. Auckland International College was a single building. No activities, just study. It was like a prison, and not a home; we depended on one another to make it tolerable. But I was, again, ready to leave New Zealand, though it was not an easy decision after six years. Somehow, I knew that it was time to leave my comfort zone, and go for something beyond just academics. America. I’d been watching CSI since I was eight, so America was a scary place. I thought I’d either get shot or get sued. I came to the Abbey, and here I was again, not knowing anyone, not even knowing where exactly I was. I thought Rhode Island was an island. The first day I arrived, I got out of the taxi by the art building. I had no clue where my dorm was. The campus seemed so big, and I felt stranded. I didn’t know what was beyond that empty space between the gym and St. Benet’s. This wasn’t home. Yet. Now, three years later, the campus seems so small. And the last of the three names is Christian Barcenas. What I didn’t tell you is that back when I was still in that boarding school in New Zealand, when my home disappeared, I missed my grandparents so much that I would cry just from hearing their voices on the phone. I avoided calling just to keep my sanity. Every time I went back to Korea during breaks, I knew that I couldn’t live with my grandparents in the countryside. I knew that my father didn’t want me living in his new home with my stepmom and my baby stepbrother. I knew that my mother’s husband didn’t feel comfortable with me in his home. I knew that I couldn’t move back to New Zealand with my grandparents. I knew that I didn’t belong anywhere. There was no home for me. But that’s not true: there’s a saying that hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t know anything. I know now that my mom always wanted to be there for me, but couldn’t. I know now that my dad wasn’t trying to abandon me. He was trying to make the best decisions he could, because I couldn’t do it for myself. I know now that my stepmom and my mom’s husband weren’t trying to keep me away. And most importantly, I know now that I can rely on any of them. Although I still couldn’t tell you exactly which one is home, I can tell you that home was always there. From my experience, feeling at home is all about connecting with people. From my time here, I learned that independence is different from not belonging anywhere. It is easier to become independent if you feel connected and at home. Comfort comes from knowing the place, knowing the people, and being able to trust and rely on that. Once you graduate from here, you will know someone in almost every major city on earth. Because of that, I know that I can go anywhere. This fall, I go to college. Remember the three names? Linda from middle school, Tushar from Auckland, and Christian, from here? By some strange fate, we meet again, at Penn. It is uncanny that my friends, from every stage of my life, have all converged in that one place. With only a month left, I appreciate the Abbey because, in some ways, it has become home to me, and I will carry it with me in my heart, just like my other homes. And I know our paths will converge again. 10

2013


Called to Be Extraordinary by Ann Gallagher

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alk in the front door of my home. For you, the scene is probably utter chaos. For me, this is normal. Many of you know that I am from a large family. I have thirteen brothers and sisters – we are exactly seven boys and seven girls in total. On a usual day, you’ll find both my parents and about eight kids living at home. What is it like? That’s a difficult question, simply because the chaos is so routine for me, that it is hard for me to recognize how unique my childhood has been. I wake up in the morning to the sounds of laughter and running feet above my head. From my shared bedroom in the basement, I can count on my younger sisters to act as a trustworthy alarm clock around 7:00 a.m. each day. Sometimes I complain that I can’t sleep in past 7, even on vacations. But when I climb out of bed to join my younger siblings for breakfast, I listen to their amusing stories of first and second-grade drama and I know that I wouldn’t miss that for any amount of extra sleep. The conversation begins there – at the breakfast table with Kevin, Joseph, Bridget, and Clare. And it doesn’t end until everyone is sound asleep that night. Without a television at home, I spend nearly all of my time with my siblings in conversation. If there is anything about my family that I appreciate most, it is the typical night at home, in discussions about anything you could imagine. Every evening, we gravitate into one room, filling the chairs and couches, and overflowing by sitting around on the floor. It might be Christmas Eve while fourteen of us relax at home, or just a Tuesday night during the school term. I love to sit there for hours as we share the news in our lives, laugh over memories, and debate the news, politics, and even philosophy! With so many people, and nearly always a different group of siblings home every day, our conversations are never the same. My sister Theresa and I still do our homework at the kitchen table where we can listen and contribute to these discussions. When I think about why these hours with my siblings are so special to me, I realize, it’s because it is in these conversations that I begin to appreciate how much each of my brothers and sisters enriches my life. It’s clear that they all have different gifts that they share with me. You would imagine that with so many siblings, it would be hard for me to recognize which person is missing in a crowd of ten people. But actually, the opposite is true. Every one of my siblings contributes opinions so unique that, in our conversations, it is very noticeable which sibling is not present just by sensing whose opinion is missing! My siblings each have something special to share not only with me, but with the world around them. Stephen is an architect, Mary, an editor, William, an engineer, Robert, a carpenter and ensign in the Navy, John, an engineer, Eileen, a teacher, Patrick, perhaps one day a doctor. And I could make some guesses as to what five of my younger siblings will be doing years from now. My parents have given each of us the opportunity to discover and pursue these talents and interests and to share them with the world around us. My parents also gave that very same opportunity to my sister Katherine. In 2000, even before she was born, Katherine was diagnosed with trisomy-18. It was clear to the doctors and to my parents that she was not going to live for very long. I was only five years old at the time. But years after, it seemed strange to me that the only memories I have of the days preceding her birth, and of her funeral and burial four days later, are not upsetting or even very sad ones. I have spoken much with my parents since then, and have discovered that they had already learned from their experience with their ten children, what I have already shared with you. They had already recognized that each of their sons and daughters possessed a unique vocation. And they decided to allow Katherine the opportunity to pursue her own. It was for that reason, that her birth and her death gave much joy to my family.

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Because my mother chose to give Katherine life, despite the fact that she knew it would be short, my family rejoiced to receive a new sister, and Katherine rejoiced in the ability to pursue her vocation. She became a part of our family, and I can recall when she entered the church, as my Uncle, Father Timothy, administered Baptism and Confirmation. She shared four days on earth with my family before she was called to heaven. Again, my memory of that day was not a sorrowful one. My father assured me that my sister was going to be with God and was going to act as an intercessor for our family. That was, and still is, her vocation. She could not have pursued that vocation if my mother had not chosen to give her life and bring her into my family and the church. Years later, I learned that throughout the whole service, no one in the family shed tears. We were, and still are, confident that Katherine actively lives her vocation in heaven as an advocate for my family. Today, in many personal, difficult situations, my siblings and my parents often seek Katherine’s intercession. The memory of my sister and her short lifetime is a joy to my family, simply because my parents allowed her to live. They accepted her life and the understanding that God willed that life to be short. She is an example for me, just as my other brothers and sisters are, that each of us has a unique vocation and are placed here on earth to discover and pursue that calling.

Make It Count by Austin Kreinz http://goo.gl/8pGRc

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, 14, 13, 12, 11 . . . . Every Sixth Former knows what I’m talking about. The countdown to the day that seems to never come: Graduation. As I go through the day I hear these numbers more often than anything else. But why? I can understand. People dread the long, demanding Abbey school days. But personally, I dread Graduation day. Maybe it’s because I’ve only been here for two years, but I can promise you this: You will never find another place like the Abbey.  When in your life will you ever be in such a tight-knit community? Every person at this school adds something unique, so that the rest of us can call the Abbey home. I mean, who can’t spot Foster’s head, or hear Rhoads’s voice, no matter where you are on campus? There’s Reaves, who, since he arrived in September, has yet to leave the weight room, and every day hopes that the dumbbells will somehow go above 100 pounds. Or take Fletcher, who’s lived here for so long, I’m pretty sure he’s going to end up as a monk. Then there is “Creynolds,” who I think got into Notre Dame based on his online Sporkle accomplishments. I’m joking about them today, but the characters and the quirks that make us laugh now will become the Abbey memories we’ll have for the rest of our lives. Because every one of us is unique, living together can be a challenge. We can get on each other’s nerves. Differences can get annoying. They can even make us want to leave—just graduate, get out, move on. But that’s letting uniqueness push you in the wrong direction. Instead, we should look to the unique people around here pushing to make us better and to help us out. Look to Mr. Hobbins, who will tell you nothing but the truth. Look to Coach Brown, who will show you how to be a leader—and, more importantly, how to grow a really solid mustache. These people are here, not just as our teachers, coaches, and houseparents, but as our mentors. They’ve already been through what we are going through, whether that was two years ago or sixty years ago, and are preparing us for what is to come. I still see Mr. Barron for help on my papers (even after seeing him try to catch a football; we all know how well that goes) and Ms. Miller is hands down the only reason I got through writing my college essays. To me, people are the Abbey—not the buildings, or a diploma, but just being able to go down to the Cage, knowing that Kurt and Matty are always


there to lend a hand. What I am really getting at is this: don’t count down the days. Make the most of the days you have here, because in a few years, I promise you, every single person here will miss some part of Abbey community life. When in your life will your best friend live two doors down from you? Or in the same room? Roommates: sometimes you love them, and sometimes you hate them. I can honestly say that Mitch has more belongings in my room than I have ever owned in my entire life, but the thing is, he actually isn’t even my roommate. When I come back to the room during the day, there he is; when I wake up in the morning, there he is; when I actually try to do some schoolwork—yes, you guessed it, there he is, doing his best to distract me. But as much as I want to hate that, I can’t—not just because he’s my best friend, but because that’s what the Abbey provides for us all: comfort and company. You are never alone in this place, whether you need someone to cry to, or someone to hold you up, or occasionally someone to scream at you (yeah, I’m looking at you, Tuite), or even just someone to be around so that you’re not alone. Sure, all this togetherness can be frustrating, and even push us over the top at times, but that’s the flip side of what dorm life at the Abbey has given us: the opportunity to be close with so many different types of people. Whether it’s Wednesday Fight Club in Aelred’s, which definitely doesn’t happen, or blazer challenges, the dorm provides a home. I’m just giving you my version here, but every other Sixth Former, whether from Brigid’s, Hugh’s, or Benet’s, could tell you how what started out as a bare room ended up as home. We’ve all been through so much with each other here. We survived Hurricane Sandy and the Blizzard of 2013. For the ones who have been

here for four years, I’m sure it has been a long haul, and even a drag at times. For me it was different, coming in as a new Fifth Former. Coming in new was a drastic transition for me, but I think everyone can agree that getting settled in, two, three, or four years ago, wasn’t that hard after all. Somehow we all found a place here, we all made friends, and the jorts club was a hit. Well, at least we felt like it was. Through those inside jokes, long trips on a Furtado bus, and Abbey Confessions, we all found a way to live here. We knew it was our adolescent duty to make mistakes: starting a Raven Rave in the locker room or the music room, for instance, or running around campus in the midst of that blizzard, chanting “America.” Of course, we all want to get out of here and go on to college—even Zach Pray, (this is your year) but it’s these unique things that make it so hard to say goodbye. My Form will graduate soon. Fifth Formers, Fourth Formers, Third Formers: now it’s your job to manage the countdown, not by counting down, but making every single day count. Not to be clichéd, but it comes down to you and how you make the most of the time you have left here. What will your unique memories be and how long will they last? That’s up to you to decide. And as Father Chris would say, “Go Abbey.” Thank you.

Michelle Mehrtens Available at http://www.youtube.com/user/PortsmouthAbbey

QR Codes for Church Talk Videos Allison Bolles

Gabriel Miller

Kimberly Mehrtens

J. Hadley Matthews

Michael Stark

Mary-Frances Kielb

Erin Shaw

Xijia Yuan

Mitchell Kelln

Nicholas DeLieto

Shiloh Barry

Hannah Niles

Zachary Pray

MinJae (Steve) Cho

Austin Kreinz

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CREATIVE NONFICTION

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Rumiana 35A, Wilanow, Warsaw

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Julia Slupska

A Fool-Proof Plan

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Allison Bolles

The Aye-Aye and I

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Fletcher Bonin

Rhyno

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Ryan Conroy

All’s Hair in Love and War

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Fletcher Bonin

The Darkness of Alienation

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Mossiah Kouassi-Brou

Never Mistake Ink for Art, or Swear

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Patrick Wilks


IMAGE: JEE WON (CHRISTINE) YANG

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Rumiana 35A, Wilanow, Warsaw by Julia Slupska Even the street name is nostalgic; rumiana means rosy. Poets use it to describe blushing young girls. Rumiana 35A is my father’s house: the house my brother and I stayed in for a few weeks every summer in Poland. My parents moved to California before I was born, but my father kept the house and took us back to Warsaw each summer to “keep our language.” The house is mock Victorian, with ivy running jubilantly up the front. It always seemed to me a bit enchanted: a house whose walls elves would love to inhabit. It has four floors and nine different flights of stairs. It has a basement full of musty down covers and old paintings. It has an odd ballroom-like hall with heated marble floors. A rock-climbing wall dominates the third and fourth floors. From the third, a glass veranda juts out into thin air. The garden stretches out under the veranda, always overgrown. Waist-high grass overflows onto paths that lead towards dozens of trees to climb. My cousins, my brother and I played knights, cowboys, and Indians in that garden. The oldest and loudest, I was the shaman of every village, the pharaoh of every pyramid. We burned rag witches in the campfire we were allowed to make – something unimaginable in our flammable California neighborhood. For a while, a famous (and overwhelmingly handsome) Polish actor inhabited the house across the street. I remember one day my cousin and I lied on our stomachs looking through the window, cataloguing and comparing the women that went into his house. We imagined the wild romances he must have been having with all of them, and compared them to the romances we ourselves would one day have. For most of my life, my father rented out the house to a series of tenants, most of whom I never met. In every rental agreement, there was a clause saying that the tenant had to leave the house vacant a few weeks every summer. Each tenant redecorated the house; each left offerings. The German family left a tree house – suspiciously flimsy and almost impossible to get up to – precariously perched in the apple tree. The Koreans had an Xbox attached to a huge Plasma screen with illicit treasure in the form of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” Touching the Xbox was forbidden and GTA was especially forbidden. We played it for hours every time my dad went to work: you could drive over the good citizens of San Andreas and shoot at policemen. Last year, a whole brigade of Korean cooks and waiters (friends of the previous tenants) lived in the house, and they left boxes of noodles, rice and tea, as well as scratched floors, broken windows, and a kitchen so covered in greasy soot you could barely make out the tiles.

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Whenever I lived there, I had a small room on the fourth floor – it had a secret compartment in one wall and a window that opened into the garden in another. Every year, I struggled to make it mine: I left a bracelet in the farthest corner of the compartment, hoping to find it the next year. I scratched my initials in another corner. I put up musty paintings I found in the basement on the walls, knowing I would have to take them down before the tenants returned. After my parents began to argue and father moved back to Poland, these summer trips changed, almost imperceptibly. Suddenly, they were not school vacations or adventures in Poland so much as the few months in the year that we saw our dad. Also, I knew more. Walking through the familiar rooms, I knew how close my parents had come to going back to Poland, and the house seemed haunted. I could have grown up here, among cousins and neighborhood children, not in some secluded American suburb. In San Diego, our neighbors had pets instead of children. All the houses were identical; it was forbidden to plant flowers in your front yard. My father helped design the Polish house: you can see him in the climbing wall, in the way that every room resembles a mountain lodge, in almost every corner. Every summer he had some new project to fix it. I remember trying to cleave paths through the garden and getting into full rock-climbing gear to paint and repaint the roof with him. A few tenants liked it so much they wanted to buy it; they offered huge sums. To be perfectly honest, I am terrified for Rumiana 35A. What will happen to it? It is too big for my father alone. My brother and I are not going to move to Poland just to live in it. It seems doomed to become a childhood memory. So many people and places become memories, but their passing does not leave me feeling quite so regretful, so helpless. I am not stupid. I know this house represents to me a unified family, living in one house instead of stretched from California to Warsaw to Portsmouth, Rhode Island. I know that it frustrates me because it seems sometimes we would have been happier had we grown up here. And I know this kind of thinking is oversimplified, as well as circular and unproductive. My dad threw a New Year’s Eve party at Rumiana this year. Even my mum flew in from California. I watched drunk uncles try to scale the climbing wall, and all of Warsaw burst into firecrackers – so many that when I walked out on the street, I could not see five feet in front of me for the smoke. When I turned around, the blurred house loomed in the shadows. The streetlights gave it a fuzzy golden outline in the smoke and the frost.


A Fool-Proof Plan by Allison Bolles Having spent nearly a month in Spain, I made a conscious effort to look and sound as un-American as possible. I was getting pretty cocky about my selfproclaimed “with-it,” European self. With that attitude, I waltzed into the Prado swinging my camera from my wrist. Oops. I might as well have been wearing plaid shorts and white sneakers. Row after row of paintings unfolded before me. I didn’t know anything specific about the works. As far as I was concerned, if the people looked different from the lampposts and the tables looked different from the animals, then, well, that’s a pretty good painting. I didn’t know which ones were most famous, so I decided I’d photograph every single one of them—a fool-proof plan. I first encountered Titian’s The Worship of Venus.

With the simple push of a button, I sparked more than just a burst of light from the flash. Not a second had passed before at least four museum curators had surrounded me like dogs to a bone. They scolded me in Spanish, “No se puede sacar fotos.” One lady started touching my camera as though she intended to confiscate it. I nodded with wide eyes, emitting my best damsel-in-distress vibe as I slipped my camera into my bag. It was only when they had dispersed that I noticed practically every spare inch of the walls had signs forbidding photography in this section. They even had camera cartoons with X’s drawn through them. I looked back at the painting. The little cupids mocked me with their pudgy baby faces, as though saying, “Stupid American, even I knew that.”

The Aye-Aye and I by Fletcher Bonin The aye-aye creeps from tree to tree. Its slender fingers carefully wrap around each individual branch. Its large yellow eyes dart around the forest furtively, its prehensile tail gripping the limbs for balance. Its toaster-oven-sized body sits nearly motionless, blending into the darkness with its jet-black fur. We were alike, me and the aye-aye, which is why it was my favorite animal for a large portion of my childhood. Both of us had big ears, large eyes and a knack for tree climbing. I loved animals, and would have a new favorite every week. The week that I liked the aye-aye was different though, as I chose this week to also feel artistic. Thus, filled with all the passion of Vincent van Gogh and all the skill of a fifth grade boy, I attempted to unite my whimsical interest in art and animals. I decided to make a papier-mâché version of this noble, rugged beast of the trees. I contemplated briefly over whether to make it life-sized or not, but this moment of contemplation quickly passed when I decided that, yes, of course this papier-mâché would be life-sized. I used balloons for its bulbous, round body and tin foil for its slender, creeping fingers. I went through the whole, messy process. Then, after allowing it sufficient time to dry, I began the elaborate painting process. It would require a total of two colors, I decided: yellow for the eyes, and black for everything else. The process took two unforgettable weeks of my life, and at the end, I stared down proudly at the grotesque blob of painted newspaper that stared up at me with its offcenter eyes. It measured about two feet long and one foot tall, and I triumphantly brought it into school on a sled, so as not to damage the masterpiece I had crafted. Beaming, I presented it to my art teacher for submission into the smART gallery (very clever wordplay Portsmouth Middle School). This gallery was, to our school, a large glass case in the school’s lobby, but

to me it was the Louvre. Ms. Palucci stared for one horrified moment at what appeared to be a large, black raccoon in a sled. I prompted her, explaining that my creation was for the gallery. She smiled politely and took my aye-aye quickly into the back closet where, she explained, it would “be safe.” I realize now that what she really meant was “you’re more of an enthusiast type, aren’t you?” or more accurately, “let’s put this into the back closet, so that we can forget this ever happened.” I never saw my aye-aye again. Clearly, it had not been selected to appear in our school’s lobby. I looked at the pathetic creations that had been selected instead of my labor-of-love, life-sized papier-mâché rodent: clay pots that mothers pretended to love from their “talented” children; abstract colored diagonals; and even some detailed, very accurate depiction of a Pokémon. I told myself that all of these kids probably had no friends and always hung out in the art room, currying the favor of Ms. Palluci, completely ignoring the fact that I had just spent two weeks making an obscure rodent out of newspaper, water and flour. I reverted to the thinking of most artists and NYU students, telling myself that they just “don’t get it,” and that they’re all sellouts, mainstreamers, while I’m more underground and edgy than they could ever imagine. I never went back for my project for two reasons: one was that I was ashamed that I had failed, and wouldn’t be able to bear the stares and questions as I brought home my aye-aye, this time defeated. The second reason was that I wanted Ms. Palluci to have to see that thing every time she walked into the back closet, so that she could remember the day that she single-handedly crushed the dreams of one of her students.

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Rhyno by Ryan Conroy The rhinoceros: a ferocious beast roaming the plains of Southern Africa. Under tough skin, needed to withstand the harsh conditions, the massive body of the rhino ripples with muscle. The most prominent feature of the rhino is its protruding horn. Most see the sharp weapon and think, Gee, I wouldn’t wanna play chicken with this guy. While you may find the horn terrifying, I think every rhino has been bullied for having such an unsightly flaw coming right out of his forehead. Do rhinos go home, drown themselves in alcohol, then have an identity crisis? Do they think Am I really a rhino? I don’t feel like a rhino. How do I know I’m not just a mutated armadillo, huh? Studies show that middle schoolers are the meanest breed of humans, right next to bus drivers. Dare to step foot into school with a bad haircut, and there will be paper handouts by next period saying “Come see the show, folks!” Lately, I had seen some kids with faux-hawks. A faux-hawk is like a mohawk, just without the ridiculous shaved hair on the sides of your head. Do it right, and you will only receive compliments. Problem was, in eighth grade, I did not

do it right. I had no ambition to go to the barber, so I experimented in my bathroom ten minutes before I left for school. Feeling rushed, I only got the point in front of my head, and by the time I stepped into school, the overly-applied mousse had solidified my hair into a rock-hard, horn-shaped figure. And so the fliers were handed out and the circus show began. Now, I have had many nicknames in my life: Buggy, Ry-Ry, Ryconderoga, Flyin Ryan, Cryin’ Ryan, the list goes on—and don’t ask about any of them. But the award goes to the asshole who first called me “Rhyno.” The name stuck, almost as much as the hair product that stuck in my hair for two days. These things scar a man. You begin to wear hats everyday, and even to bed, when you cry yourself to sleep. You shrink in the back of the classroom and stay in the bathroom stall for half of class. Those days were an eye-opening experience. I sympathize with the rhinoceros. We are quite alike: tough guys, outfitted with massive rippling muscles, but underneath our skin we lack confidence. Yes, we definitely lack confidence.

All’s Hair in Love and War by Fletcher Bonin It is a commonly known fact that little girls often love to cut the hair off their Barbie dolls. These young girls are not content with the long, straight, blond locks of the tiny figurines. I can’t say I blame them, though, looking to create some imperfection on these little effigies, with their impossibly skinny waists and deep, unblinking, blue eyes. These little girls would whip out their craft-scissors and become the Sweeney Todd of their playroom. I was one of these little girls. However, my Barbie came in the form of Geronimo, the Native American action figure. It sounds cool, but it was really just a glorified doll for boys. I had received him as a gift for my ninth or tenth birthday. Geronimo, the historic Native American chief, was majestic with his characteristically-jacked torso (which I assume was historically accurate), his appropriately-dark skin and his questionably-racist face paint. His long, dark hair flowed down the length of his back. This would not be the first time that the white man committed an injustice against the Native Americans. Perhaps I had the subconscious jealousy of those little girls, or maybe I was just bored, but within the

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first few days of my relationship with Geronimo, his hair would be shorn. Clearly, a ponytail would be out of the question; a hat would be too girly… Yet clearly, I was somehow okay with playing with dolls, but I try not to overthink that one. So, I decided he would look better with the classic “bob” hairstyle, a comfortable length that he wouldn’t have to worry about getting in his face while he hunted buffalo. But instead, I messed up big time and ended up giving him a few crude, awkward chops, removing almost all of the length in an attempt to salvage the haircut. Where did I get this sense of entitlement? Who was I to think that I could cut hair? What a tragic fall, from powerful Native American chief to just another uncomfortably inflexible guy with America’s worst hairstyle: the bowl cut. As if the white man hadn’t already taken enough from the Native American people, I had to go and eradicate any dignity their culture had left. He looked up at me sadly from beneath his perfectly even bangs. If ever a Native American curse was deserved, it would be here.


The Darkness of Alienation by Mossiah Kouassi-Brou “The savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him.” Everyone in my Humanities class immediately glanced at me, seeking visible signs of irritation. I looked down at my book, uncomfortable under their gaze. Truthfully, I was offended. With each reading, the racism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness disturbed me more and more until I could barely read the book. The readings seemed to transport me to the first days I faced at every new school, and my classmates’ innocent questions: “Do you have electricity? Are you in the middle of a war? Do you speak African?” A decade ago, I had rolled my eyes and scoffed at their ignorance. By now, I had learned to answer those questions with a smile, ignoring the way my stomach churned. This book was igniting

feelings of alienation I thought I had escaped years ago. It made me all the more uncomfortable that the novel chafed a painful reality: at that time, Africans did embody the primal instincts that he was denouncing. Although I despised the book, I realized that ignoring it would be tragic for my development. The tantrums had to stop; I was better than this immature child. In the weeks that followed, I forced myself to ignore the racism and focus on the central themes of the book. It was not a pointless book; it exposed man’s struggle with his primal instincts: lust, the need to dominate, revenge and his quest to accept reason and culture. Dread of alienation is also a primal instinct. The struggle that Kurtz had lost, I will win.

Never Mistake Ink for Art, or Swear by Patrick Wilks In my original definition of the word, I was never a skilled “artist,” but as a child I loved to put my imagination down on paper. In elementary school, this was encouraged, but when I mentioned that I liked crayons and markers on the first day of Middlesex Middle School art, I had made my first big mistake. The menopausal spinster who was now in charge of my artistic education, a sort of salt-and-vinegar mix of ex-hippie and abusive Victorian matron, announced that our sole purpose that year would be to make traditional Chinese ink prints of blooming flowers on branches. Her complicated instructions befuddled me just about as much as my questions seemed to offend her: no, there could not be butterflies or birds on the branches, and any bark color besides jet black was strictly forbidden. I watched as my classmates filled their portfolios with dozens of graceful branches, and I was still stuck on flowering tree number one. I had to keep restarting because I would do something wrong, and every Tuesday I would walk home with cuts on my hands from carving knives and jet-black ink from my fingertips to my elbows. I never finished the first assignment, and when I asked if I could move on with the rest of my classmates, I was promptly told, “You’ll never be an artist.” I spent the rest of the class silently trying to wash Chinese ink off my hands (to no avail.) Seventh grade found me in a new school, much smaller than the giant public puberty mill that I came from. Wooster had its flaws, as every progressive PreK-through-twelve-day school must, but at least it was fairly inkless. Walking into my new art classroom, I immediately noticed several shocking differences between it and the dark, bare room in the musty top floor of my former prison complex. At Wooster, the art building had a huge, sun-filled window, and if it was anything, it was colorful. Paintings and photos

cluttered the walls; strange sculptures of various mediums stood in every crevice and cranny; huge buckets of paint and tiny cups of personally concocted colors sat on a bright orange table; all sorts of creations filled rows and rows of drying racks; desks were wellworn and splatter-painted; and on each stool was a silly painting. To my happy surprise, shelf after shelf contained huge boxes of markers and crayons. There I met a tall, pregnant woman with a contagious smile named Mrs. Rand, also known as the polar opposite of my former art teacher due to her caring nature, kindness, optimism, and successful love life. She asked me all sorts of questions, ending with if I liked art. “Oh, I like it,” I laughed, “but I’m not good at it.” Suddenly everyone in the small room stopped chatting and stared at me with a tense silence, as if I had just stood up and cursed God in the middle of church. Mrs. Rand resembled a kicked puppy. “Why would you EVER say that?” I had made my second big mistake. “Erm….I guess I never did it right?” Third big mistake, check. She rose and suddenly gained the same sharp tone of command that my other teacher had. “You are never to utter either of those two sentences in our studio again.” I was shocked that she didn’t call it her classroom. “They are art ‘swears,’ and as an artist you are never to use them again.” She paused and remembered, “But never say ‘never’ either. That’s another one. Once you subject yourself to one art swear, you subject yourself to all of them.” That was the last time I ever heard her speak in that voice. We spent the rest of class laughing and painting autumn leaves, and then I effortlessly scrubbed brown and yellow paint off of my hands, leaving no trace.

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POETRY

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#22

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Kim Mehrtens

Ride This River

35

Michael Madigan

Untitled

22

Yue (Will) Wu

#24

36

Kim Mehrtens

Precalculus

23

Julia Slupska

Bicycle

36

Monica Urquijo

Mistakes of the Matchmakers

24

Patrick Wilks

Ode to Dark Chocolate

37

Claire Doire

The Foulest Foe

25

Julian Minondo

Fear Itself

38

Steven Foster

Shoot for Thrill

26

Hannah Niles

The Distance

39

Charles Ramsden

Heavier than Gold

27

Fletcher Bonin

The Cottage

40

Patrick Wilks

Ode to Family

28

Ruoyu (Barrett) Xiong

Faulty, Not Me

41

Rhoads MacGuire

Gracie’s Poem

29

Ryan Conroy

Guatemala

30

Julian Minondo

Brutally Honest

31

Justin Mistikawy

Blinding

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Mengqiao (Tina) He

#27: And I’m Tired of All Your Friends

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Kim Mehrtens

Rich Aristocrat in My Room

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Fletcher Bonin

#19

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Kim Mehrtens

Not Meant for Greatness

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Rhoads MacGuire

Spiritual Relief

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Maria Luisa Ruiz

Dead or Alive

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Xiang (Bill) Li

Looking at Myself

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Ryan Conroy


IMAGE: MINQIAN (LUCY) CHEN

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#22 by Kimberly Mehrtens Sadly we clasp hands But, disenchanted, our hearts weep For what wasn’t and will never be. Pulled together, we struggle for escape While despair dances between our eyes. Shudder and sob, clarity lies discarded Alongside childhood ignorance. These building blocks fashioned Solely for their destruction. But then, regret lies absent, Not in the deep subconscious Nor ever-present future. I muse numbly: Light shone brightly never remains pure, But, rather, blends into Obsession, NaivetÊ, Righteousness. We seek everything, We find nothing, And so, You stand here, with me, Our eyelids sewed open and I catch the glint of needles in our hands.

IMAGE: NICHOLAS DELIETO

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Untitled by Yue (Will) Wu Knights are galloping across the gushing river, War-flame ahead burns against the beaming armor. Forwards are warriors hacking in bloody mire, Backwards are beloved wives weeping in despair. As raging billows rolling to the sunsetting horizon, With a deep-sworn vow to battlefield they hasten. A vow made to a grey old man under a robe black, Once sworn, their road has no turning back. Water splash under iron heels of neighing steeds, Last tears of the last cry take no heed. Bugle-horn, battle cry and sword-clash shake the earth, Fading away are cavaliers’ youth and mirth. Though blood and flesh are they losing true, Men immortal for their brave souls have no rue.

IMAGE: MINQIAN (LUCY) CHEN

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Precalculus by Julia Slupska i’m standing at an improbable angle, one cheek almost touching glass, how did i get here? it takes a moment to remember i was doing my precal but i got up from my bed to find my calculator which should have been on my desk but i found the sweater laura left first so i went to give it back to her but i passed this window on the way and i looked out, twisting my neck to see the bench where you sit sometimes and as i stand here, neck screwed tight, hoping maybe you’ll show up, i wonder if they all - the calculator, the sweater were all but props in an elaborate ruse my mind coordinates to glimpse you

IMAGE: Xuanqing (AMY) HUANG

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Mistakes of the Matchmakers by Patrick Wilks He always loved the way she seldom spoke And swung her skinny arms from tree to tree So when they played and laughed under that oak We all could see that they were meant to be Us boys began to pressure him to ask The girls would wink at every little glance They’d steal in class, fueling our task That forced our friends to hold hands at a dance My roommate mocked how Cupid’s bow was slow And Sarah with her boyfriend shared the pride If we foresaw what happened in the snow We would have different feelings inside He looked so cute when he would kiss her head How could we know he’d chop it off instead? IMAGE: Xuanqing (AMY) HUANG

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The Foulest Foe by Julian Minondo Twisted and tangled like a vine Corruption takes an expensive fine Upon a nation’s noble decree Suffocating, it turns it into debris. Spreading like a plague Greed turns values vague. You are the foulest foe Despair is what you sow. Like a veil covering the eyes You impregnate with lies. Rhetoric might confuse the lot, Justice to these must be brought. No longer puppets in this game We shall ride a violent flame, And consume the vile snake Leaving it empty of charms to make. Rid this evil from the root Take away what does pollute.

IMAGE: NICHOLAS DELIETO

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Shoot for Thrill by Hannah Niles Words fire from my lips with intent to kill; Only one target: to have my will. In my crosshairs is a dangerous spot; If you’re in my way, I won’t miss the shot. Irrational compulsion to have my way Makes me its fool, unable to turn away. Loaded and ready for challenge and fight; Passion burns for when the moment is right. Beckoning for contest, mocking of threat; Each encounter: Russian roulette. Exhilarating emotions explode like lead Coursing with adrenaline, in victory I tread. Irked by the slightest moronic din; Irritation heightened as patience wears thin. Careful attention to remain level and steady; Deep breath, hold the line when all seems petty. Constant adjustment to have balance to cope But for my sanity there is no hope. Rigid demand to be tough and respected; Fear you try to instill—in my face not reflected. Bold attitude counters a less forceful stature; A skill mastered when I played catcher. Not easily intimidated by anything really, My eyes shoot back at you cold and steely.

IMAGE: NICHOLAS DELIETO

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Heavier Than Gold by Fletcher Bonin What is this winter in June? This cold, empty appearance of your bowl? This lurking darkness in the afternoon? Surely some golden piece is missing from my soul. You beamed up at me from your transparent cube, Unable to blink, because you’re a fish, So many questions unanswered, how do you breathe with no tube? I’ll fix you some fish flakes; it was your favorite dish. You were such a strong swimmer, But swimming gets harder when you’re dead, And the light of my life, had just gotten dimmer, While you floated to the top, my heart sunk like lead. But my memories of our time together are none too rare, Memories of you swimming from my tapping, Or pretending not to enjoy our human air, You flopped this way and that, fins playfully flapping.

IMAGE: JULIA SLUPSKA

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And now you sleep the big sleep, Flushed from the plumbing to the ocean’s deep blue. But I’m consoled by one fact as I nightly count sheep, If I drive to PetCo, I’ll find a thousand like you.


Ode to Family by Ruoyu (Barrett) Xiong The house, Full of love, with your care and warmth, Is never the same as before. The old days, Full of laughter, with sunshine and fostering, Are now long and filled with pain. You gave me sincerity, And saved sorrow to yourself You gave me the best days, And left years to yourself. You gave me spring, And winter is all you left for yourself. You brought me warm sunlight, Along with tender dreams in the night, And ultimately forgave my youthful ardor. You threw me a lonely window, That blocks all the wind and rain. And eventually left with a smile, And blessed my unknown road ahead. That is where I was born, Where I spent the motherly days. That is where I then tried to run away, And where, My tears are running towards.

IMAGE:ANNIE ZHAO

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IMAGE: Xuanqing (AMY) HUANG

Gracie’s Poem by Ryan Conroy Champions of make-believe, Stars of our own youth, Our own Colosseum known as the doghouse. A bruise was bronze, and a scratch was silver, Broken bones the Golden Goose. Sticks and balls, keys to our victory. Yet at the end of celebrating, sad memories creep in. How the autumn race Ended at the black and white finish line, And Gracie’s life became family legacy.

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Guatemala by Julian Minondo Falling upon the tin roof of the shop Filling the bare room with the steady sound Of falling raindrops. Oh sweet singing top What is in your song that changes my frown? Though we are both thousands of miles apart, The rain, with its enchanting melody Murmured in my ear, clutches my lone heart. Oh life, you neverending tragedy. Take me to the land of eternal spring Sweet land of Eden, thou were never lost In that lush green valley, where birds do sing Sweet aromas are the only exhaust. Oh Guatemala! My country, My home: I could your green pastures forever roam.

IMAGE: XIAODIAN (DIANDIAN) XU

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Brutally Honest by Justin Mistikawy I’m not quite sure what I want from all of you— Respect, admiration, pity—I have not a clue. My actions are weak but still pretty loud, Yet not enough to emerge from the crowd; Which makes me question my own façade, My personality has become fake, not even odd. Wisdom and honesty in my words flow, No wonder I’m a modern JJ Rousseau. My vulgar blunt diction becomes verbal assault, And if I wanted, I could start another Egyptian revolt. My sophistic sarcastic inflections portray, How I’m perfectly crass in every way. And I invoke a unique blend of humor, It spreads swiftly like a sadistic tumor, Or a vicious rumor, that’s not even true, And it doesn’t matter who it’s directed to, My jokes are harsh, not even witty, Yet I show neither compassion nor pity. I’m still not sure what I want from me, Is it to stop interrupting life, rudely? I often act like a juvenile boy, My objections are obnoxious, often coy. My confidence small but ego remains large, Why do I allow negativity to take charge? But, what I value with all my reason, Are those changing moods like each season.

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Blinding by Mengqiao (Tina) He Through the darkness presents the sound. World stands truly. Nothing comes abruptly But like spring drizzle spots a leaf. Nights without dalliance of the stars Being my day. Yet day with brightness may, Become dimness with no end seemed. Colors and senses feast in the dark, Dancing in black. With fragrance at my back And melody in the air, dance. So close to a vision, like a dream I crawled ahead To reach the light it led. With a spark, I opened my eyes.

IMAGE: NICHOLAS DELIETO

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#27: And I’m Tired of All Your Friends by Kimberly Mehrtens Outcasts cast out the boy Who dances and sings Silent messages to an Unyielding sea Of drone-like waves. They echo his cries Back to him With renewed vigor, The kind of hate That isn’t hate, But pounding apathy; Their differences only Betraying their sameness. The shrugged shoulders All proclaim “—there was nothing I could do—” We are all our own islands, Mirrored in solitude. Regardless, I relate.

IMAGE: NICHOLAS DELIETO

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Rich Aristocrat in My Room by Fletcher Bonin Please excuse the state of my living space, It seems the maid hasn’t made rounds in ages, And I pay her too much for her to slow down the pace, About the mess in here, I could write pages. Just look at that glass of milk, Unaccompanied by a coaster, And just where is all of my good silk? About my cleanliness, I’m usually a boaster. Heavens, you must think I live without a care, My nightgown tossed on the IKEA chair, Posters and pictures off by degrees, and dusty, My butler’s cleaning habits have gotten a smidge rusty. And who should know the state of my land? With these blinds closed I can’t even tell if it’s sunny. And all of my pocket watches should be organized alphabetically, by brand, It’s a good thing I don’t let these people handle my money.

IMAGE: XIAODIAN (DIANDIAN) XU

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Ride This River by Michael Madigan Come on and ride down this with me And we will find some adventure somewhere Just come, come with me and flee the city The cold water is a drag so beware. Nature our destination, freedom our goal The trees, plants, and animals our new hosts I will paddle if you look for a shoal The rapids will guide us, there is no post. Let’s camp here tonight and sit by the fire Look at all the bright stars; what was that sound? It’s just our company we desire If only we were never homeward bound We could keep going down this great river And venture here together forever.

IMAGE: MINJAE (STEVE) CHO

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#24 by Kimberly Mehrtens As I sat up with the night, The stars shifted, flashed, breathed with life, And I in sullen brisk and ease Shot them down—one by one. Lies and mirages of the distance Do not matter when you’re cold— Never have I lived so long.

Bicycle by Monica Urquijo Wearing rose-tinted steel, she leaves trailing behind her leaves, and light, and the sun falling behind. Like a shadow, she disappears. She bears my weight, she bears my fate. We travel together through the roads, through the woods, through the stories. She follows my feet, she leads the way, she chooses which path we will peddle on, today.

IMAGE: MINJAE (STEVE) CHO

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Ode to Dark Chocolate by Claire Doire Dark chocolate, yes, is dark indeed, Black as night, and smooth as silk, Light reflects off of the glassy surface, And it shines, regal, a delicacy of kings. Beneath the surface lies a solid bunker of impeccable flavor, Impenetrable, until two rows of teeth sever the morsel, Detonating an explosion of bittersweet release. The safari of cacao glides over one’s tongue and down the throat. No white, nor milk chocolate, could ever compare to this fine species. Proven to prolong life, indulgence overshadows guilt. When partaking of this decadent sweet, no regret will surface, In the ocean of sweet pleasure, waves of filling flow gently. Fresh mint, smooth caramel, and juicy fruits dance exquisitely with a partner of the Darkest chocolate. Not a flaw can be found in the texture, color, or taste, Every maker succeeds, from Ghirardelli, to Godiva, to Lindt, Honored in countless cultures, from south of the equator to the isles of Britain, Chocolate lovers worldwide unwrap, taste, devour, and are immediately smitten.

IMAGE: JULIA SLUPSKA

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Fear Itself by Steven Foster The devil and God are raging inside me What scares me? leaving nothing behind, Remember the time we used to take Your presence alone made me shake And could love be any more opaque? An awful beast shreds at my heart my own mind and body torn apart. I’m as pessimistic as Rene Descartes. Yet my own fear I cannot outsmart. Pain and suffering perfectly wed. Fear leaves me hopeless in my own bed. A thick pool of blood beside my head, I awake in the morning, cold and dead.

IMAGE: MARY-FRANCES KIELB

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The Distance by Charles Ramsden While all the rest joyous and gay, Glowing like her before that day. Like the children on the playground, begging to stay. But neither our choice, for your departure away. Have the red and yellow engulf her once there. Upon the five inch book stamp the permanent square, Marks proof of equal despair; A fire dwindled, to mere flare. A quarter score since the flooding on the floor. But when it rains, the thought of you still makes it pour. Youth once ignorant, keyless to lock the timed crashing door Left with only hurt to try and ignore. Now my conscience repaired, a little more sane. The pursuit indefinitely proved vain. All the while from here to Spain, Your face, your voice, I cannot retain. IMAGE: JULIA SLUPSKA

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The Cottage by Patrick Wilks There is an antique cottage on the coast Vacant, despite its outlook of the bay For there resides a witch’s ghost Or so the children and the sailors say In the evening, vines twisted round the iron-gate bloom The sea breeze makes the porch swing creak Looking at the rotten deck where a young girl met her doom The boarded windows seem to want to speak She knit while she sat on the swing, staring at the docks Lost in her diurnal reverie She watched the waves hit the lighthouse’s rocks Waiting for her true love to return from the sea But bitter Patience and Wisdom, her lover Just like this maid and hers, sometimes part And so insanity began to uncover A darker side to her mind and heart So when her swashbuckling paramour was hanged Like most pirates, for his theft She lit red candles, drew chalk circles, and sang A hex on those who left her so bereft Desperately perceptive, through Woman’s eyes the hangman’s wife Saw a Medea wail under this Penelope’s black veil She took her husband’s knife, and the maiden’s life And left them both dripping blood off the porch rail Thus sleeps the antique cottage on the coast alone And from inside, or so they say You can still hear the witch’s moan While sailors sail and children play

IMAGE: JULIA SLUPSKA

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IMAGE: MINJAE (STEVE) CHO

Faulty, Not Me by Rhoads MacGuire I haven’t yet grasped the concept of swag, But that keeps my pants from a constant sag. I have trouble spelling more than six letter, But that keeps me simple, I think for the better. My voice is lightyears away from subtle, But volume always aids a clever rebuttal. 8:15 turns my eyes to flickering lights, But I always have found in my dreams more vivid sights. My sense of shame is always far away, But I have never cared what the cool kids had to say. I’ve been called crass and just a tad crude, But what fun is this journey if you’re not a little rude. I am a master of procrastination, But my necessity tends to breed innovation And while I am faulty as can be That’s how I like it, that’s just me.

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#19 by Kimberly Mehrtens Push the floodgates My heart pours forth. Laced fingers cling To the gates, yet, As Tantalus knows, Success runs bittersweet. Racing and pounding, With Hell on our heels, I pull and you follow. Traitor tears burst From our eyes, Not born from sadness: Spawn of wild-eyed rage. Chased by no one, Persecuted by all, We run circles. The silence deafens you, But fear sobers my eyes And the escape doesn’t stop. Never, I swear, will it stop. IMAGE: MINJAE (STEVE) CHO

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IMAGE: XIAODIAN (DIANDIAN) XU

Not Meant for Greatness by Rhoads MacGuire I couldn’t think of anything to say, A sonnet is all I wanted to write, Wished myself comparisons to Dante But with no love like Beatrice in sight. And with my thoughts brown and slowly wiltin’ My pen falls more silent than England’s king, Reading the glories of a John Milton I find it cheap he had angels to sing And with no inspiration for my fear These words slowly and surely lose my use How can I be a William Shakespeare With no dark lady for whom I can muse? But with all these works there for me to read, I can surely vanquish this scary deed.

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Spiritual Relief by Maria Luisa Ruiz I am melting And within me there is no space. Forgotten under soft leaves I take in the pain That fellows who walk about Leave behind in the rain. Bare believers sleep On dense tippy-toes, Slicing through the soil of places Not a soul knows. But if I could rise from the ground And touch the seas, I’d slice through the water And glide through the breeze.

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IMAGE: MARY-FRANCES KIELB

Dead or Alive by Xiang (Bill) Li Through the misty fog, Chilliness rises from thin air. Wind blows into my body, As I witness the death of myself. The child within me fell asleep, And won’t rise up again. I tried to flee But soreness strangles me So I walk as if I were dreaming Broke down melody comes out of my piano, As it weeps gently, unable to find the missing me. My mountain bike still waiting for me, To be thrashed hard once again on the trail I used to go. I am dead, Yet still alive. I am not who I used to be I pray for my answer to come. But as I was lowered deep into the ground, Returned my unanswered prayers.

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Looking at Myself by Ryan Conroy Through the glass, you stare Remind me of what I lack, You constantly tell me, There’s no way to come back You’re a hypocrite, You do what I hate. You’re always quick to jump, You never think to wait. You always point fingers, When only you’re to blame. Yet you always shrink down When the crowd calls your name. I am stronger than you, We have no connection. You are the man in the mirror, I am not the reflection.

IMAGE: NICHOLAS DELIETO

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COLLEGE ESSAYS Allison Bolles

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Fletcher Bonin

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MinJae (Steve) Cho

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Mossiah Kouassi-Brou

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Justin Mistikawy

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Sarah Sienkiewicz

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Allyson Tessier

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CERAMICS: MICHAEL BROWN

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Allison Bolles

I

desperately wanted to love God. I thought that maybe, if I went through all the rituals and did all the right things, I could finally reach spiritual peace. I was only sixteen, but I had been wrestling through this limbo-like state for three years. After reading his Confessions, I identified immensely with Saint Augustine: every day, I struggled between the part of me that wanted to follow God and the part that clung to earthly things. The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I fell deep into the throes of my spiritual battle. Sometimes I would read a few chapters of the Confessions. It was like reading my own diary, until he opens Paul’s Epistles and reads a particular verse. He converts immediately: “the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.” In that moment, my diary could only kneel in awe at his triumph. That summer I could tell that my spiritual pain had reached a maximum; something had to happen soon; I couldn’t live like this. Around mid-July, my parents dropped me off at my uncle’s apartment in New York City. I couldn’t have been more excited— we understood each other. Every morning we walked to Grey Dog, a small diner, for breakfast. A painting of the devil on the wall prompted discussion about Christianity. We went back and forth: “I just can’t understand why…” and “Isn’t it strange that…” I felt so at ease with my uncle that I talked openly about my struggles. I realized that maybe I

wasn’t as weak as I thought—maybe I just wasn’t meant to be Christian. I left my uncle’s with a newfound serenity that came over me just as suddenly as faith had overcome Augustine. I was overwhelmed with recognition of the transcendence of the mind in its own right. I didn’t give up on being Christian out of desperation; I intentionally let go of the compulsion to be someone I wasn’t. I met the change with open arms rather than despair. I embraced my passion for thought and for reason, and realized that the natural world could be just as incredible as the supernatural one. A deep calm had imbued my being like incense in a temple. That calm quickly evolved into an enthusiasm for learning, for nature, for thought. I found hope and purpose in the transience of my life. I noticed little things I had previously been too distracted to see. I noticed that English and physics alike captivated my mind in rhythm and I saw mathematics for the poetry it was. Everything felt natural. But basing my life on the profundity of the human mind has brought with it a whole new set of challenges, moral and otherwise. While I no longer use my energy on marathon rosary sessions, I will spend hours contemplating who I am and why I’m here. I’ve found that nothing is black and white, and it’s that element of mystery that deifies my universe.

Fletcher Bonin

I

loved the grime-tinted windows. I loved the dead grass in the courtyard. I loved the flickering, naked bulbs. I loved St. Bede’s dormitory for boys. But as Robert Frost said, “nothing gold can stay.” Robert, you were never more right. St. Bede’s provided for me relationships welded to last and a community brimming with spirit. We exist from relationship to relationship as people, for better or for worse, and this connects us to a community. These relationships and communities are the center of our worlds, whether we are JD Salinger hiding from them or Rob Gronkowski, embracing them. Or middle schoolers, navigating them. Things were about as serious as they get for a seventhgrade relationships—as serious as handholding and minimal eye contact. Unfortunately, this seventh-grade romance ended in tragedy. Apparently, Christmas gifts were expected to be exchanged between “couples.” I had not received this memo, and as she walked toward me, a well-wrapped gift under her arm, I knew I was out of luck. I dug into my lunchbox and pulled out a bag of noticeably eaten Moose Munch that my mom had packed for me. Safe to say, my lunch was going to be ruined regardless. I offered her the cartoon-moose-decorated bag of caramel corn and chocolate, and she smiled politely, accepting the obvious disappointment with attempted gratitude. She had gotten me a nice, quality sweatshirt from the mall. Things ended shortly after that fateful day, and I gave that sweatshirt to my brother, because I felt guilty, and because it was too small. So that was dramatic. Luckily, communities are built on more

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than the fickle love of seventh graders, or the false communities promised by Facebook. Real communities are built on stronger foundations, melded by conversation, time, and personality. But this takes us to St. Bede’s, the combination day student boys’ dorm and eyesore on our boarding school campus. St. Bede’s was originally built to be a temporary building, and by looking at its flat, square, shoddy appearance you shouldn’t be surprised. But, we took a deep pride in the ugly and disdained brown walls of our dorm, which resided in the massive shadow of the brand new, three-story boys’ dorm, St. Martin’s. I have a theory as to why this happened: without working computers and with spotty electricity, we were forced to interact with each other. We would play Frisbee, Bede’s Football (a game of our own invention), and mostly lounge around the broken furniture that littered the back Common Room. This constant interaction forged a bond so much stronger than any Facebook group or relationship status. So it was a crushing blow to all of us when the school hierarchy decided to divide we few, we happy few, we day students, amongst the boarding dorms, and demolish St. Bede’s. So when I was elected Head Boy, essentially the school copresident, I wanted all the dorms to chant their own names at assemblies as we had, to join into our silent pact, to strengthen our community with our original fraternity, despite the destruction of our material community. Next fall, I picture playing Frisbee on some campus quad, doing anything as long as it’s with others. Communities and relationships are not built on the click of a friend request.


MinJae (Steve) Cho

I

latched onto photography as soon as I got my hands on a camera, in which composition, balance, and brightness were all within the control of my fingertips—move further, zoom in here, block out this, include those. While dexterity may parallel the photographer’s degree of control of his instrument, perspective, as well as participation, are not apparent in the final product: the telltale snapshot belies the care and thought, however minor or momentary that precedes the click. But the images of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam, living with disabilities and untreated birth defects, were worse than I imagined. A photograph couldn’t capture their sense of vulnerability, poverty, and stigmatization. Hope seemed starkly elusive: I worried about how I was going to greet them and live with them for the coming week as part of my Golden Star Outreach Program. The overwhelming task to “aid the victims” overwhelmed me: Where do I go from here? It’s the same question I asked myself when I was eleven, after my parents’ divorce divided my family, and I was sent to school in New Zealand with my maternal grandparents, who moved just to be my guardians. I had not known at the time, but they had trained and prepared me to be an independent learner. Enrolling in boarding school in America forced me to take control. For my whole life, I had little to do with where I was heading, but once on my own at Portsmouth Abbey, I had to assert the self-sufficiency my grandparents instilled in me back in Auckland. With this control, photography became an all-consuming

passion as I learned new applications, and consequently as I sought publishing opportunities and groups to join. The most rewarding aspect of this initiative to delve into a hobby was how a certain commitment manifested to enhance other facets of my life: teachers at Portsmouth Abbey commissioned me to take photographs of their family, inviting me to partake in their special moments, hence fostering my sense of belonging, community, and service. The tangible outcome was the much needed fridge I purchased for my grandparents from my petty commissions— minor, relative to their time and sacrifice for me, but knowing I could now contribute, even if a little bit, made me breathe a little better at night. And I didn’t have to accept helplessness, because there is always a choice, an opportunity for action within the smallest decisions I could make, which I only realized after several countries and a camera later. “Hey, stop taking pictures and come help us!” I quickly put down my camera and run to the other volunteers. It’s blazing hot and I start tying bamboo rods with coconut leaves onto a skeleton of a house that we’re building for the victims’ families. This time on my second Vietnam trip, the photographs I took from my maiden trip prompted generous donations from various others who also refused to be passive. It’s not the snapshot of hope I’ve ingrained in my brain, but the true tale that testifies the hope that precedes the click.

Mossiah Kouassi-Brou

“W

hy aren’t you being more fun?” My three-year-old sister asked, aiming her brown expectant eyes at me. The ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign flashed in the background as I struggled to answer her. Three hours down, eleven more hours to go. For each neighbor that fell asleep, my sister became more awake. She jumped over me and ran down the aisle, poking every person she passed. One man suddenly turned around and gave me a pointed look. He undoubtedly saw a flustered teen mother unable to restrain a toddler. I realized the whole plane was wishing we had never boarded. A flight attendant began her angry march to confront me. I said, the desperation apparent in my voice, “Nicole-Marie, get back here please. You’re waking everyone up.” My sister had made it her mission to attract as much attention as possible. She was testing me, pushing me to see how far she could go before I lost it. I was dangerously close to reaching that point. I could barely understand the outrageousness of the scene. A three-yearold was challenging me. I stiffened and my hands slowly closed into a fist. Her blind naiveté made us so incompatible. I watched her as she expertly maneuvered between the aisles on all fours. I remembered how, when I was younger, I had tackled another girl in my class because of our language barrier. My parents had been shocked at

my flagrant disrespect for my peers. They had looked at me the way I now looked at my sister. Do adults see me in the same light now? Am I still their toddler? In a way, my sister and I were cut from the same cloth: confident and full of possibility. However, fourteen years of failures, victories, struggles, and joys separated us. She did not yet know that her rudeness to those around us had negative consequences for her. She was hurting herself. My cynical tone aged me. I slowly walked towards her and extended my hand. She must have noticed something in my manner because she immediately got up and took my hand. “I think it’s time we sat down for a bit,” I said, smiling down at her. Her breathing slowed and she rested her head on my lap, gradually falling asleep. I could finally be alone in my own thoughts instead of focusing on hers. I stroked her hair and smiled. I could see ignorance’s appeal. However, I understood wisdom’s superiority. She was so peaceful and the much-deserved silence lulled me for the rest of the flight. Five hours later, I was relieved to hand her over to my parents. Nicole-Marie took my hand and smiled, leading me to believe that maybe my observations had not been so extraordinary. “Next time, I just want to go with Mom. You never let me do anything,” she said.

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Justin Mistikawy

M

y one and only experience with the SAT Subjects Tests didn’t exactly go as planned. Instead of showing up, burning through a few pencils, working on my TI-89, and leaving for summer, I ended up in a particularly quaint science-building bathroom for half an hour. Sadly enough, this wasn’t the first time that’s happened to me, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. At the age of seven, before I left a small market in my hometown of Fall River, I had to use the restroom. There are many things I remember of that experience: the small room, foul smell, wooden door, chipping paint, and of course, the impending thoughts of death. I was surely the only seven-year-old thinking, “Oh my God, I’m going to die in a bathroom?” I leaned against that filthy door, screamed, cried, and prayed. It all seemed very pointless, but miraculously the door finally opened and light burst into the room. My mother waited outside and comforted me as I cried and whined. I later developed a subconscious fear of bathrooms that I embarrassingly acknowledge today. My short life flashed before my eyes, all of it in the ten minutes I was trapped. The second time was different: mommy wasn’t there to unlock the door, but I also had another ten years of life to dwell upon.

Thankfully I had an extra twenty minutes to think about it. The walls crept closer and crushed me as I tried to hide between the sink and toilet. Despite being able to taste the bathroom, and looming thoughts of death, I didn’t really panic. I considered it— dying in a bathroom, what would my parents think? However, I didn’t panic. I looked at others’ fingerprints smudged on the mirror. I looked at the big metal door that held me hostage. After ten minutes I came to terms with my fate. I spent the rest of my time considering whether I would be lucky enough to get another chance. That cold damp bathroom, with the bad smell and cracked mirror, made me think of my future. I strangely thought about not squandering any opportunity and trying to make the most of my situations. Twenty years ago my dad came to this country with a nothing but ten dollars. He was jobless, practically English-less, but he had a goal in mind. He pursued it and achieved it. It’s very cliché, dreaming and doing; but I want nothing more. I just need a solid start, a guy to help me tear the hinges off that metal door. I hope I can make the most of the opportunities I have because for all I know, I could get locked in another bathroom.

Sarah Sienkiewicz

M

y childhood was spent climbing the Great Mountain of Subzero Boxes. I hid in freezers (obviously not turned on). I created and decorated cardboard houses, allowing my imagination to flow through the tip of my sharpie. About 50 years ago, my grandparents started Gil’s Television & Appliance. Like me, my mom and aunt spent their childhoods at the store. Eventually, Gil handed the business off to his two daughters. When I was younger, I never stayed with a babysitter. Each day I walked through the doors behind my mother like a duckling, ready for work. I pretended I was an employee, asking an imaginary customer, “How may I help you?” Similar to my mom, I would walk the “customer” around the store, showing her refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, and microwaves. When I decided it was time for the “customer” to purchase a refrigerator, I wrote down the information on an invoice; I usually used “Mary” as the “customer’s” name. Finally the sale was done, and I pretended to hand “Mary” a copy of the invoice, saying, “Thank you, have a nice day.” The real customers would observe me noting, “Oh how cute!” I would quickly run away and hide behind a refrigerator out of embarrassment. As I got older, I outgrew the imaginary customer stage and “retired” as an employee. The retired life was excellent. I became a part of an expedition climbing the Great Mountain of Subzero Boxes in the back room, pretending there was hot lava flowing in the spaces between each box. My mission: travel from one side of the room to the other, without touching the ground. I leapt from box to box, like a frog

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jumping onto a lily pad, being careful not to “fall in.” Due to the cautious employees who feared for my safety, I was encouraged to explore less physical talents: architecture and design. I created giant cardboard box houses. An employee would cut out windows and a door for my house. In my cardboard house, I decorated the walls using a sharpie (secretly removed from my mom’s desk). Each wall was decorated with the same flowers, and occasionally I would draw spirals, too. Outside of my box I was exposed to different lifestyles. I became quite observant of the customers who came through the front doors, noticing that some were reluctant to buy an appliance “out of their price range.” Through these observations, I understood that for some customers money was scarce, but for others there was no limit. This became my first experience in understanding the concept of money. I remember making friends with customers’ children who would ask, “Do you live here?” At the time, I thought they were joking, but I guess they actually were right, as the store has always been my second home. It was a place to explore the world surrounding me, and open my mind to the world of business. It is my home of memories and experiences that will have a lasting impression on my life. I remember falling asleep to the lullaby of my mother answering incoming calls. As a child I never thought of climbing “mountains,” “working,” and decorating boxes to be life changing, but those actions have molded me into who I am today: a conscious observer and an out of the box thinker with a creative mind and an awareness of the world.


Allyson Tessier

O

ne, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war. A harmless chorus to many, but to me it triggers painful re-runs of childhood memories. A thumb war is a true battle between nothing but two people and their thumbs. Opposing players line up on their respective sides, take their positions grasping each other’s sweat covered hand with their thumbs sticking straight up towards the sky. They slowly sing those exact words until the silence sets in for the war to begin. To win a battle is a privilege and a skill, and one that I have never experienced. I was born with a birth defect. My thumbs are short: just picture a big toe on each of my hands, but ones that are stubby, and to be honest, rather chubby. The nails are so wide, that the few times I have gotten my nails done at a salon the ladies always say something along the lines of “Oh my, what big nails you have.” These confidence-shattering remarks from people with appealing thumbs force me to shy away from the limelight and stay within the bounds of the clubbed-thumb minority. Daily life continues to be a silly struggle, and since we are now in the 21st century, texting plays an important role in most teenagers’ lives. I recently texted a friend saying, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, I KISS YOU.” Picking up on the awkward typo,

I quickly texted back, “MISS, I mean miss!” A weird situation was directly averted, but my notorious clubbed-thumb spelling errors struck again. Texting is just another issue on the continually growing list. Here is another: I could never be a hand model because who wants to look at a picture and be reminded of a stinky foot. The only famous person I know of possessing a single clubbed thumb is Megan Fox, known for her roles in Transformers. When the second movie opened in theatres a while back, I recall reading an article about her, but only one point stuck with me: she has a single toe thumb. I continued the article and, unfortunately, found out some rather bitter news: when she is photographed, her thumbs get digitally altered later on. The unpleasant news highlights the one point I took from the story: at least I am symmetrical. As I grew up, my self-confidence increased. I was no longer the unassertive kid who said one-word answers to most questions. I have outgrown walking around with my hands shoved in my pockets. Instead, I stroll through campus wearing fluorescent pink gorilla shorts and a Marvin the Martian t-shirt, giving a thumbs up to every friend who walks by.

IMAGE: MARY-FRANCES KIELB

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SHORT STORIES

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An excerpt from 'A Killer of Killers'

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Gerrard Hanly

Bittersweet

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Michelle Mehrtens

Senior Sleuth

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Hannah Niles

Egelloc

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Julia Slupska

Happy Birthday, Me

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Allison Bolles

Marvin Gates

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Fletcher Bonin

Happy Mother’s Day

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Allison Bolles

Do It

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Ryan Conroy

Two Hundred and Fifty-Two

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Steven Foster

Southern Sabbath

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Hannah Niles

Overdrawn

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Julia Slupska

Weightless Marigolds

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Michelle Mehrtens


IMAGE: LUISA POSADA

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An Excerpt from ‘A Killer of Killers’ by Gerrard Hanly A series of events, sharp, crystalline shards of memory stacked in loose order against the haze of youth, stand out in Grigori Dolochinko’s mind. The first one, the most prominent on nights like these, is the day he and his mother spent stowed in the tool shed, blind to the world but smelling the farm burn and hearing the cries of the animals cooking alive in their barn mix with the staccato of gunshots and men yelling in all kinds of languages. It was the smell he remembers most, the copper tang of blood clogged with the deep, bass undertones of diesel burning. Oftentimes Dolochinko, sitting low and sweaty-mouthed amongst the black underbrush, looking in at the yellow light inside of some stranger’s house, would remember that day. He would taste that almighty blend of absolute horror and dark, carnal excitement that transcended any hunger or sexual desire. Along with the glowing warmth in the hollow of his chest came the smell of burning gasoline from when the German tanks rolled across their collective farm. Other experiences are more static by far; like much of Dolochinko’s life, he simply existed as they ran their course, his only emotion being the shallow apathy he felt for most everything. That was the feeling he had when a yellow-edged letter came from Moscow informing Mother of her husband’s execution on grounds of desertion. Mother cried a lot when that letter came. The only reason, however, that this one memory has hardened to resist obscurity is because of what lay underneath the letter, wrapped in brown paper. When his mother tore the wrapping from Stefan Dolochinko’s service pistol, the exciting warmth began to build once more in little Grigori’s mind. The same pistol—an old Tokarev semi-automatic—that Grigori Dolochinko would grip in one pale fist amidst those dark shrubs outside those houses, staring at the yellow light inside, its grip tarnished by dry maroon stains from previous nocturnal ventures. The same pistol that lies before Dolochinko now, as he sits imperially slim at his desk in the perfect dark of his apartment, considering. He considers the policeman, Faustov, and the big, stupid government thug, Kabakov. He thinks more concernedly about the man who seemed to have taken an unhealthy interest in Dolochinko’s nighttime hobbies, the American who followed

the police around and devoted an unhealthy amount of time to digging for information. If the American kept shoveling, he would eventually reach a layer of rotten flesh and skeletons and the stench of burning gasoline. Dolochinko thought about that, but not for very long. The next family had been selected, and although he was under no realistic obligation to perform his craft as promptly as he usually did, he still felt as if he had no choice in the matter. His life and the grim tasks that lay before him were infinitely connected, tangents on the same line. Dolochinko was a locomotive, his brakes surrendered, his engineer inebriated. On the steel tracks before him lay the selected families, their simple, vapid homesteads doomed from a mile away. He rose from his solemn perch amidst the absolute shadows of his room. The materials lay on the cold, pristine sheets of his bed. Dolochinko tugged on his thick cotton overcoat and pulled his weathered fur cap over his scalp. He packed his sealskin doctor’s bag with his equipment. A monochrome photograph of the family lay on his work desk. He picked it up and ran his thumb over the blurred cyanotype faces. Dolochinko tore the picture in half before any notion could solidify in the folds of his brain. He ripped a wedge from one half and slid the emulsion-coated paper into his mouth. Eventually, the entirety of the photograph would come to lie in his bowels, digestive fluids melting away the blue-ink memories plastered on the paper. Much like Dolochinko himself would devour the meaningless creatures that ink depicted. Dolochinko picked up the Tokarev from his workbench. He slid the iron magazine into the pistol’s clip and chambered the first bullet of its malignant payload. He pushed the barrel of the pistol between his dry lips, feeling the cold, grainy sheet-metal depress his tongue. He tasted the machine oil and felt the sharp pressure of the forward sight biting into the roof of his mouth. His finger slid over the solid slice of metal that was the trigger. Dolochinko laughed and stuffed the gun into the pocket of his heavy coat, then pulled open the door and stepped into the black chaos of the snowstorm outside.

Bittersweet by Michelle Mehrtens “What are you doing here?” I clutch the orange plastic bowl in my hand, a Jack O’ Lantern’s smile painted crookedly on the side. I’d been expecting trick-or-treaters. Jack stands uncomfortably on my front stoop, hands jammed deep into his black jeans. He’s wearing a distressed leather jacket, but it’s not a costume. He always wears it. “Is it true?” Jack asks morosely. His blue eyes flick over my face with uncomfortable intensity. In the distance, a princess and an astronaut lunge across the street, shrieking and whooping with unabated joy as their parents trudge wearily behind them. The energetic pair grabs each other’s arms and leapfrogs down the road, a wonderfully bizarre dance that makes my grip on the Butterfingers and Skittles tighten. We used to dance—late at night, with the moon thrumming

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stark strands of light, fireflies circling through the air, and it was easy to breathe. It used to be easy to breathe. “Of course it’s true,” I say harshly, the words rattling coldly in my ribcage. Jack doesn’t wince or flinch. He nods his head as if it’s logical. It takes all I have not to pelt him with the hardshelled candy. Wordlessly, Jack settles down on the chipped, watery grey steps, pulling in his long legs like a grasshopper. The wind ruffles his silver hair. For an instant, I imagine his hair peeling off like goose feathers and floating away into the black mouth of the sky. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. I don’t want to join him. I don’t want to share our pain, or swallow a plastic sense of closure. Jack glances at my wooden figure. “You look like shit,” he says casually.


I stare at him. “I was sleeping, moron.” He grins crookedly. I slam the bowl on the splintered planks beneath my feet and plop down beside him. When he nonchalantly reaches for the chocolate I slap his hand away. “You never did let me have your Butterfinger,” he jokes. I study his scuffed Doc Martins, ravaged by black Sharpie and ugly brown shoelaces. “Your Hershey Bar did not impress me,” I deadpan. He tilts his head back and laughs, resting easily on his palms. His laughter ripples through the air, and its very power seems to propel a pile of orange leaves at our feet. A packet of matches slips from his back pocket and I snatch it with my cold fingers. I light one, fast, and stare at the wisp of flame on the red bruise of the match. “So you’re a pyro now,” Jack notes. The fire gobbles the air and swerves to bite my fingertips. I blow out the match and shrug. “I’m always cold.” He bobs his head. “It has been a pretty crappy fall.” The following silence makes me tap my fingers on the porch, the rhythm nonexistent, the pulse of the tap, tap, tapping jerking and impatient. “When did she tell you?” Jack asks. “It’s been four months.” When he doesn’t respond, I add, “Four whole months.” “Yeah, I get it,” Jack says irritably. “I suck.” Two teenagers stumble past us, guffawing loudly, their faces painted messily like ghouls. I imagine the party they left, cups and cups of sour, flat beer shoved down their throats, because it seemed to make sense at the time, it really did. And they stood awkwardly to the side of the living room or gyrated madly in the very middle, and the music burrowed in their lips and the lights billowed and expanded behind their eyelids. Now, now they are trying to go home. Trying to reach the front door before the cotton of their mouths constricts their tongues. Trying to reach salvation before they are purging the party from their mouths. “Good times,” Jack says wryly, his eyes watching their frenzied descent down the sidewalk. “Jenny had her stomach pumped last week,” I inform him. “Mazel tov.” We clink imaginary glasses and swig back invisible liquor, sharing a smile. I look away first. “I found out a week ago,” Jack says quietly. He wants me to see that it wasn’t really his fault he wasn’t here—even though he was the one who decided to leave in the first place. “Well, it happened four months ago,” I say icily. Jack shrugs, avoiding my glare. “A month, a week. There’s really no difference. Either way she” “Shut up.” “Maggie.” “I said shut up!” I turn my head away from his stupid eyes and stupid concern, trying to pick apart the knot in my chest, the heavy thuds of pressure surging uncomfortably under my skin. His hand, warm and dry, hesitantly rests on my frozen fingers. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. It feels more real than his first apology. “Aren’t we all,” I murmur tonelessly. “You know,” Jack begins slowly, “There are group meetings for this stuff at the community center on Hamilton. We could—” “It’s not going to do anything,” I say sharply. “Maggie—”

“Sometimes they use kids. I mean, you probably knew that. They talk about it on the news all the time.” Jack watches me, uncomprehending. “They’re just kids. God, can you imagine growing up like that?” I exhale. “Strap a bomb to your chest and blow up a whole army,” I say flatly. “Jesus, Maggie.” “I know. It really sucks.” “You shouldn’t talk like that.” I glance at him, and can’t help but feel slightly vindicated at his pale expression. “I’m just trying to be realistic.” “That’s not going to happen to Beth.” The pumpkins lining my neighborhood watch us with satanic eyes, cackling silently at the disaster that is us. That is me. “She’s going to be okay,” Jack says firmly. I cradle my head in my hands and feel his arm encircle my shoulders. He leans against me, hand stroking my hair. His palm slides to my cheek. I immediately pull away. “Don’t even think about it.” We stare at each other, and Jack’s mouth is quirking, threatening to split into a lopsided grin. “God.” I look away. “I can’t believe you just tried to take advantage of me in my moment of weakness—” Jack snorts. “Like anybody could take advantage of you.” I glare at him. “You obviously lack human sympathy. Here I am, pouring my guts out—” “Lovely imagery.” I shoot him a withering look. He tips his head back, eyes scrutinizing the stars above. “It’s important to Beth,” he says. “Because you know her so well.” “I do.” He glances at me. “You know I do.” Before his eyes puncture me I rip out another match. The glow draws the sky in burnt matchsticks. I wave the flame and it dances in a lonely pirouette. We used to dance—back when it was warm in the dark and the grass crunched beneath our bare feet, back when his hands were loose on my waist and Beth clapped hers like castanets, laughing at our interpretation of prom. She left for training a week before her prom. Taking advantage of my distraction Jack surreptitiously reaches for a Butterfinger. With an arched brow he takes an obnoxiously loud, crunchy bite. “The ladies must swoon at your feet,” I say sarcastically. Jack watches me as he chews, amused. “I know what you were thinking about,” he taunts. “Right,” I scoff. “Like you know me at all.” “Oh, I do.” I ignore his gaze. Jack came four months too late for anything. Sighing, I grab a bag of Skittles and pour them into my palm. I’m about to eat one when he grabs my wrist and pulls me off the porch, my legs stiff at the sudden movement. The breeze embraces my skin, the candy spilling on the grass like bright Willy Wonka seeds. The shift is dizzying, abrupt. I’m still not sure how to breathe. I’m still not sure I understand why Beth felt she had to leave, the way her eyes pled for acceptance when she told me her decision four months ago. But as the houses whirl past me in ghostly disarray, I think about hands clapping like castanets and melodious humming that rivaled the blue jays outside our bedroom window. I close my eyes and breathe it all in.

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Senior Sleuth by Hannah Niles “On my way,” she said to seemingly no one in a sweet, but firm, voice. “Be smart and report back when the mission is complete,” she was ordered by a man through the earpiece hidden beneath her helmet of white curls, stiff from the half bottle of hairspray she had used that morning. A taxi rolled to a stop in front of her, and she lugged her huge box onto the tattered seat beside her. As the taxi headed to Barnes and Noble, she thought about how the taxi driver might react if he knew the old lady in his back seat was hauling fifteen FN SCARs (the latest—and still experimental— high powered rifle for the U.S. Special Forces). She had an almost impenetrable façade of innocence that made her one of the most valuable people in the agency. That, coupled with her forty years of service, was a deadly combination. Her mission today was simple: “accidentally” leave behind her package in Barnes and Noble, and a member of the other organization would retrieve it. It was little more than routine, except that the “retriever” was known to be merciless and savage, having killed a disturbing number of people, and too often just for sport. She reclined comfortably in a large leather chair and sipped on tea for half an hour, flipping through the newest edition of Southern Living magazine before deciding it was the appropriate time to “forget” her package. She stood, pretended to browse the magazine section for a bit, and then headed out the door. “Ma’am!” “Excuse me, ma’am!” she heard from a young woman trying to get her attention. For the first time in over a decade, she panicked. Her heart thumped furiously, and her paper-thin skin burned with true fear. If she returned and took the package, the mission would be a failure. Worse, the ‘retriever’ did not like surprises, especially on rare occasions such as this, when he handled exchanges directly. If she instead pretended she couldn’t hear the woman and left, the woman might pick up the package, guaranteeing her death. The ‘retriever’ had recently been involved in a conflict which resulted in massive destruction in the city. Among the many buildings damaged were the Piggly Wiggly, a sports store, a bakery, and the Sandy Brook Senior Center. A life dedicated to the agency had left little time to pursue companionship, and the Sandy Brook Senior Center was the only place she had to be ‘normal.’ She played Bingo, did puzzles, and gossiped with her girlfriends. With her Center’s destruction, she had lost more than entertainment: she had lost her only sense of belonging in civilian society. Her only pleasure had been stolen, and as she dwelt on her loss, a hateful vengeance developed. When she was presented with the mission to handle a drop off of high power assault rifles to the man who, coincidentally, had

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destroyed her Center, she quickly recognized her opportunity to seize revenge and inflict proper punishment. Now, as she looked back through the bookstore window from the street, she saw the delicate young woman reach down and unknowingly grasp her own death. The old woman’s heart landed in her feet. She had laced the handle of the package with poison—a poison that absorbed through flesh, entering the bloodstream and killing its host silently within two hours after contact. It had no symptoms, a delayed effect, and no antidote. Fool-proof, she had thought. She glanced to the right and caught the stare of a gentleman who had been watching the whole ordeal. His clear, ice blue eyes—endless pools of nothingness—were devoid of emotion, and yet had an air of awareness and recognition. He knew the urge she was consumed with too well and was slightly afraid, but mostly intrigued, of having found such ruthlessness in a sixtyseven-year-old woman. She stared back with hatred and arrogant satisfaction, relishing that he knew she would even have taken his life. For three seconds, they acknowledged one another in a manner so raw and pure that even in such wicked kinship, they felt liberated to have been exposed to one another. Once safely back home, the old woman lay in her bed. She stared into the darkness, and two images shuffled continuously in her mind. First: the sweet innocence that had radiated from the woman even as she was poisoned. Second: the hollow stare of the ‘retriever.’ She sank beneath her blankets wishing to disappear altogether at the sickening realization of her own savageness. Her obsession with revenge caused innocent death. She had become what she hated. Perhaps forty years of espionage and guile had led to this. It had created a subconscious need to seize real control of her life for the first time. But, when this need was nurtured, the consequences were fatal. The next morning, the woman retired from the agency and tried to begin the comparatively boring life she now determined to be her only passage to sanity. Her love for the agency did not justify her wickedness. She was ravaged with self-disgust. She left the agency with an equal sense of resolve and nostalgia for the only life she had ever known. Months later, as the sun cast down gentle rays on an April afternoon, she reclined in an antique rocking chair and delighted in the simple joy of watching two squirrels chase one another playfully up and around an ancient oak tree. “We need you” sounded forth from within her curl helmet. She took a final sip from her china tea cup, put on her hat and headed away, drawn in the direction of the man in her ear.


Egelloc by Julia Slupska On the first day, Egelloc laid down the laws: when you’re studying your books, when you’re partaking in organized sports, when you’re finding compensated employment, it doth please Egelloc. When you’re drinking, when you’re smoking, when you’re wasting your time foolishly sitting in your room, it doth anger Egelloc. Egelloc does not forget such wickedness. On the second day, Egelloc established days of organized worship. Believers must meet in groups at regular intervals. Whilst sitting in rows they must fill in small holes with dark powder until their backs ache and each muscle in their hand cramps. Fill in the whole hole darkly, not part of the hole or outside the hole, just the whole hole and nothing else, Egelloc said. It is an unpleasant ritual, but Egelloc feels no need to be kind. On the third day, Egelloc made the heavens. Let there be

multitudes of heavens. Some provide the whole package: angels, clouds, and harps. Others will leave you feeling like you missed your chance for all eternity. On the fourth day, Egelloc thought She would rest, but then She remembered She never rests. Egelloc watches always: She peers into your mind and soul, and takes careful notes. Oh, Egelloc! Omniscient, all-powerful God of our generation! In humble obedience, I have switched classes, run laps, filled in holes till my hands turned to claws – all for you. For you, I have groveled, at times self-advertising, at times self-deprecating. For you, I have summed my whole being into less than two hundred characters. I offer these up to you, Great Scatterplot Goddess. Do they please you, O Queen of Questionnaires? Tell me, Egelloc, when will the kingdom come?

Happy Birthday, Me by Allison Bolles He had learned from a young age that the only way to get his father’s attention was with a joke. It wasn’t a big leap to internalize this, and by the time he reached thirteen he felt like a failure if he couldn’t make someone laugh. From his mother, Daniel learned that women were never to be trusted. He kept his sensitivity bottled up, putting it on emotional quarantine because it caused too much pain. On his twentieth birthday, Daniel gathered a group of friends and their girlfriends to party for a weekend at the Carlyle Hotel in New York. They wasted themselves on a keg they had hauled to the suite. His friends slept with their girlfriends while Daniel watched, cheering and making inappropriate comments. He awoke the next morning to his friend shouting, “Kegs and eggs!” Everyone grumbled and rolled over. Daniel could hardly remember the night before as he stumbled out of bed and over to the keg. He filled up his cup, took a sip, and said, “Ahh, nothing like beer for breakfast!” His friends chuckled and fell

back asleep. As he staggered to the bathroom, Daniel felt his toes squish into a pile of vomit. Smirking, he picked up his foot and shook the vomit onto a sleeping friend. The bathroom lights blinded him when he flicked the switch, and he jumped when he saw his friend Josh asleep in the tub with a girl. Daniel couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this. He leaned his rear over the edge of the tub and passed gas so loudly they woke up. He waited until they dozed off again before stumbling back to the main room, still laughing quietly to himself. His “kegs and eggs” buddy had fallen back asleep. The room had fallen so silent he could hear the pounding of his headache. He stepped out on the balcony and climbed onto the railing, from which point he could see miles of city before him. It was a quiet morning, no sound but the birds and a few cars in the distance. He breathed in the spring air, exhaling “Happy birthday, me.” And then he jumped.

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Marvin Gates by Fletcher Bonin The world was out to get Marvin Gates. Or at least, that’s how he felt. Especially on Mondays. On Sundays, the world might be less out to get him, but that was only because mail wasn’t delivered on this one, blessed, day each week. If you were to ask Marvin Gates why he chose to become a mailman, he would give you one of two answers. If you asked him on a Sunday, he might say, in his high, nasal voice, “because my father was a mailman, and my grandfather was a mailman.” Any other day, however, he would sarcastically laugh at his own misery, saying, “because I love waking up at five AM, shouldering a heavy bag filled with greeting cards that aren’t for me, trudging around a neighborhood filled with people I’d never talk to otherwise, and finishing my day drenched in sweat from a day of hiking from one mailbox to the next under this goddamn beautiful California sunshine. And hell, who doesn’t love to wear dark blue short shorts while pretending to take themselves seriously?” I would recommend asking him on a Sunday. This morning did not seem different than any other Tuesday in the string of Tuesdays that had made up the past fifteen years of Marvin Gates’ career as a mailman. For fifteen years, Marvin had been a mailman, and for fifteen years, he had willed himself awake at 4:30 every morning, ready to face the day anew. He would drag himself out of his small apartment, stumble blearyeyed down the stairs, yell at his Pakistani landlord that he would pay the rent by the end of the week, and then collapse into his Volvo 240 sedan, dejectedly turning the key and heading off to the post office to get the day’s first load of mail. The monotony was what killed him. Every day, the same route. Marvin Gates could make this route with his eyes closed. He knew exactly when to speed up so that the Jenson’s dog wouldn’t notice him and when to slow down to avoid an awkward conversation with the recently widowed Mrs. Harrington. He grew depressed when he realized that the greatest achievement he had realized so far in his 35 years was that he could map out a few neighborhoods in Southern California from memory. You may wonder why Marvin Gates puts up with it day after day. And honestly, he often asked himself the very same question, usually on Mondays. Why did he deal with the reclusive Mr. Regis, constantly glaring at him though his window and sending strongly worded emails to the local post office, complaining that Marvin handled his mail “suspiciously?” And why did he put up with the bratty seven-year-old girl who refused to let him pass on the sidewalk while she played hopscotch--didn’t she have school or something? But Marvin had a reason, maybe even more than a reason. You see, Marvin had never been in love. He had gone on plenty of dates, but had never found a girl he felt was worth his time. A big part of it was that he felt he should be in the market for matrimony at this point in his life, and he hardly knew where to start. He didn’t feel that he was particularly good looking, but he certainly wasn’t ugly, especially on the rare occasion that he would smile, his teeth appearing bright white against his tanned

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skin and short dark hair. He had always wanted to be taller, but his height was one of the many miseries he had come to accept about his life. And Marvin Gates still held on to that singular quest for love. An unlikely quest for such a cynical and bitter man, and yet history had proven it worthwhile. His father, like his grandfather, was a short, sarcastic, and often miserable man. And in both cases, they had met their wives while delivering mail. They had the same story, happening upon an unfamiliar address after getting lost and stopping to ask directions, only to find the love of their life waiting on the other side of the door. Marvin had heard the story a million times, and secretly hated himself for believing that he could possibly have the same fate. It was this scrap of hope that got him into his dorky uniform each morning, and this shred of possibility that had kept him going for fifteen years. But back to this Tuesday. Marvin pulled on his dark blue hat in preparation for what he assumed would be a terrible day. It was Tuesday after all, which he considered the rudest day of the week, as it didn’t even have the decency to call itself by the name he thought it deserved: “second Monday.” He pulled the Volvo up to the employee parking lot of the post office and went in through the “employees only” door, the same way he had the past fifteen years. His boss Phil Shirley greeted him with the usual gruff and decaffeinated “mornin’ Gates” as he walked by. But this time, Phil stopped and added hesitantly, “Oh, and uh, you should know that Stan Leonard killed himself last night, so you’re going to need to take his route for the next few days while we find a replacement. Thanks Grant, I appreciate it.” Marvin was surprised by this news, but not shocked. It had been seven years since a mailman had “gone postal” and committed suicide in this post office. Stan had seemed so levelheaded and calm. Quite frankly, Marvin had always thought himself the only one miserable enough to commit suicide around here, though he knew he could never actually bring himself to do it. But the thought had struck him on some Monday mornings. Let’s see, thought Marvin, Stan worked the west end of town, meaning his day just got longer by about two hours. It was hard to feel resentful when guys killed themselves, but it happened enough in the postal business that one could grow numb to the idea, morbid as that sounds. Marvin walked up Pacific Avenue, following the map he had been issued to take on Stan’s route. It had been a long day, and he couldn’t wait to get back home, where he could collapse onto his couch and watch “Seinfeld” reruns until he fell asleep. Trying to get his bearings, Marvin knocked on the bright red door of 185 Pacific Avenue, which appeared not to have any visible mailbox. A smiling woman opened the door, her long dark hair falling to her shoulders, pushing back her bangs with a hand that Marvin immediately noticed did not bear a ring. Marvin gazed back at this girl he knew only as 185 Pacific Avenue. And for the first time in 15 years, Marvin Gates decided that this week, Sunday could wait.


Happy Mother’s Day by Allison Bolles I’d written his address at least a thousand times: “118 Revival Lane, Maplewood, New Jersey, 07040.” Saying it aloud to the taxi driver, I kept a stiff upper lip but failed to conceal my quivering voice. The words flowed through my chest and lungs and I thought I was losing some part of my soul. I put a box, which I planned to give to my son, in the backseat. It’d been six years. Six years since I’d seen my baby. I had started to convince myself he was dead, because the pain of grief burdened me less than the pain of his ungrateful rejection. As we drove through rural New Jersey, I sweated under my velvet blazer. I lost circulation in my crossed legs and my cheek muscles cramped around my pursed lips. I imagined my son opening his front door and saying, “You’ve given me everything. I love you so much. I’m so sorry I hurt you, mommy.” I imagined his embrace. I imagined the way he would weep in my arms, full of regret. That’s all I wanted. The cab driver pulled into the empty driveway and I paid him his due, taking my box from the car. No one answered when I rang the doorbell. I twisted the doorknob and found it unlocked. Even if he treated me like a stranger, I was still family. I dropped the box by the front door and started towards the kitchen at the end of the hall. The room was nothing special and smelled nauseatingly like tomato sauce. I took a peek in a kitchen drawer and dug through it until I came across a stack of business cards. My son was a personal tutor for little kids? When my dad was his age he was taking torpedoes in the Pacific. I ventured into the bedroom. The familiar scent of my son so overwhelmed me that I hardly noticed no one had bothered to make the bed. I looked through his dresser drawers until I saw a familiar purple coaster peeking from beneath a t-shirt. I pulled it out and stared at it in disbelief. He’d handcrafted this coaster for me when he was just eleven years old; the underside had a messy hand-written engraving that read, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

I’d shattered it into a million pieces. He’d lost his temper a few days before and left me no choice but to teach him a lesson. Yet here it was. He’d glued every last, tiny fragment back together. As I left the room to look through more of the house, the front door cracked open. I stood mid-step, staring into the wide eyes of the little woman my son must call his wife. She took a nervous peek behind her before coming at me. I considered running but she had gotten to me too quickly. Grasping my sleeve with her fist, she marched me to the backdoor and pushed me outside, declaring “I know who you are. I don’t know how you got here, but get the hell out and never come back. Don’t call and don’t write.” I slapped her wrist off of my sleeve and hissed, “Don’t touch me with those grimy hands, you little jezebel.” Indignant, she started gabbing at me, but I wouldn’t hear a word of it. I took off around the house, calling my son’s name. Wow, I thought. I’d never seen him so fit and well-groomed. Mouth agape and holding a bag of groceries, he backed away as I came closer. He dropped the bag and placed a hand on the hood of his car for support. I got less than a foot from his face, but he refused to make eye contact. When he still wouldn’t look at me, I went back inside and retrieved the box. “I brought you something.” I untied the ropes and pulled out a framed picture of me, standing with my arm around his shoulder at Machu Picchu. “Remember this trip? You sure had trouble breathing…what with the altitude.” Just as my fingers touched my son’s shoulder, his whole body convulsed. He threw the frame on the ground and stomped on it, crying like a little kid throwing a fit. The glass cracked beneath his feet; he left our smiling faces muddy and distorted. I took a step back and tilted my head just slightly to the side: “Now that’s a strange way to respond to someone who just brought you a gift.”

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Do It by Ryan Conroy “Can you to take me to hell?” said the old woman at the cab window. Her nose was almost as crooked as her one-toothed smile. She looked like a typical traveling gypsy at the edge of the circus fair that’ll tell your fortune for free and give you insight on how you’ll be dying tomorrow. Jerry took all this in and judged accordingly as he did with all customers. Realizing what the woman had just asked, he said, “Take you to where?” Her deranged grin widened. “Take me to Well Street if you can, sir.” “Hope you tip well, lady,” Jerry mumbled under his breath. “Where can I put my suitcase?” Until now, the box had gone unnoticed. Where had that come from? “Uh, you can probably just fit it in the seat.” She moved into the car quite nimbly for such a relic. The suitcase seemed light, almost as if nothing was in it. She placed the box on the tattered back seat and settled in. Most customers inspected every inch of the dying cab, or put their nose in their shirts to breathe. The lady just sat there, holding the handle of the case. Written in Sharpie on a piece of tape stuck onto the side read Pandora’s Box. The name rang a bell, but the only thing that came up was an old silent film from the late twenties. Jerry himself loved old movies and watched them for inspiration in his own films. All his life he wished to be a screenwriter, but lately he learned that the world is only full of disappointment. The films lead to long nights filled with alcohol, and leftovers for dinner again. Films lead to a divorce, a runaway child and recently unpaid bills. Jerry had as much left in his pathetic life as he had in his wallet. The little money he got from driving taxis around left him with a choice of shelter or food. Filled with dreadful anxiety, he waited every day to be evicted. It was getting dark and traffic lights illuminated the street. The red light hanging above filled the car, shining quite brightly. “Have you ever seen ‘It’s A Wonderful Life?” she asked from the backseat. “Of course, it’s a classic,” responded Jerry. “An angel lives, or exists, to get its wings. I always found that quite interesting, a bit selfish,” she said, cackling. “Well, the wings are just a reward for rescuing a soul spiraling into despair.” “Do you think a demon needs to work for his horns?” Jerry looked into the rearview. The old lady’s grin went ear to ear, clearly anticipating his answer. “Uh, yeah sure I guess that could make sense.” “They need to lead a helpless soul astray and drag them

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down to hell with them.” What the hell was the lady talking about? “You sound pretty certain about this whole theory.” “I am certain.” Jerry went to look in the rearview again but the red light coming from the street blinded him, and he only saw red filling the car. He rapidly blinked and began to gain some vision back as the light faded away. He felt a bony hand clutch his arm. “Can you take me to hell Jerry, or will I take you?” Jerry, paralyzed with fear, sat frozen in the witch’s stare, her eyes endless holes. He felt a falling sensation, and the red continued filling the car, though now a much darker, blood red. Sweat dropped from his brow, and the demonic woman asked, “Isn’t this what you want Jerry? What are you worth as a mortal being? You merely float around with no purpose, no family, no friends, no life. You are nothing.” “Please, no, don’t kill me, I don’t want to die,” he cried, tears and sweat cascading off his flushed face. “Why not, you are nothing as you are.” “I can do something, anything, please just don’t take me.” The seat felt on fire, and the woman continued to stare into his soul as he cowered, still paralyzed. She gave him that anticipating, menacing grin for what felt like a million years. Suddenly, she let out a loud hiss. Jerry recoiled back and shut his eyes. Jerry started forward from the driver seat, sweating. He looked at the dashboard clock: quarter past one in the morning. Slowly, he looked to the rear-view mirror. She, or it, was gone. But the box remained. He grabbed it from the back seat. It still read Pandora’s Box. Jerry cautiously unlatched the lock and opened the case. Inside was a silver desert eagle. He picked it up out of the box and saw a note beneath where it had lain. Nothing stops you. Jerry stared at the note. Then he began to drive. Jerry parked the car, grabbed the gun, and got out onto the sidewalk of Well Street. It was a dead end hill with an old house waiting at the bottom. In front of the broken down house was, surprisingly enough, a well. Engraved on the stone well in Latin, Eam Facere. He held the gun and remembered what the demon said, You are nothing. He peered into the well and saw nothingness, exactly as he had seen in the demon’s glare. The demon was right: he had no family, no friends. Nothing to live for. He began to cry. What had he done to deserve such punishment? It made no sense. Nothing in his life had ever made sense. Jerry put the gun to his head. He heard her in his head, Do it. A tear fell from his cheek, plunging into the bottomless dark well. Jerry pulled the trigger.


Two Hundred and Fifty-Two by Steven Foster “The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.”

– General George Smith Patton, Jr.

The irony of a depressed psychologist depressed Marc Hayden even more. The monotony of his daily routine was slowing crushing him. The light crept in through the shades. The truth crept into his head. Maybe he really couldn’t handle what he preached. He sat on his black stool, and he thought of the shot. The guns. The screaming. The pain. His mind constantly replayed his victim’s final chapter. It was so quiet he’d wondered if he’d gone deaf. Utter stillness as they moved closer, midnight hanging over them, the laser from the automatic weapons beaming onto the compound. “This is it boys, let’s roast this towelhead.” His mind continued to drift. He remembered the date last night. Everything was perfect – a beautiful woman sitting across from him in a warm, dark atmosphere. While Nico Jaar filled the air, conversation ran smoothly sans awkward gaps. Then he remembered her hands. Later, they were warm and loving, running slowly up his sides, her lips leaving kisses wherever her hands traveled. He was in love. And yet he thought only of the shot. The guns. The screaming. The pain. Then he thought of his most recent mission to Stop & Shop and the emptiness the plenty had brought. Alone in a crowd of people, he found only loneliness in the meat section, he found only depression in the soda aisle. “American Sniper.” The name horrified him, yet it was deemed both appropriate and heroic for one to be called such. He wished not to be synonymous with that

mass of killing. What have I done? As he reached for the baking soda, he realized he would never forget how many he had killed: two hundred and fifty-two. And yet, through all of it, not once did carrying out his duties make him feel more patriotic. He thought of his friends, the ones who had gone to hell and back with him—the ones who had been with him when he took the shot. Three big ones in between the eyes. He was screaming. They were doing just fine: barbecues, nice cars, good jobs, and clean lives. They could go to Stop & Shop without an issue. They blended back into society as if nothing had happened. He felt like the loner, the one who hadn’t actually come to grips with what had happened. Everything he did was unsatisfying. There was a certain energy he found in killing. It was as if each bullet fed his soul. He thought of the office in which he did spend all his time. The door was too close to his desk, he determined. While the window to his far left was strategically advantageous, the one closer to him definitely posed a threat. Dammit, stop thinking about it. Just live. There came a sudden knock at the door. Frustration, depression, there was nothing that could satisfy him – does he still need to kill to be satisfied. Maybe it was the killing. Better still, maybe it was the recognition of the killing that had done it. He recognized what he has done – was it wrong? Was he still “defending his country’s liberty?” American Sniper – it horrified him for his name to be synonymous with that of mass killing. 252 confirmed kills and not one ounce of guilt or regret while he was doing it. He still saw that goddamn towelhead in every dream.

CERAMICS: NOLAN BANKY

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Southern Sabbath by Hannah Niles The magenta dress fell an inch above her pale knee, and her heels were an appropriate two-and-a-half inches: tall enough to express her effort, while low enough to suggest modesty. Her hair was masterfully tamed with bobby pins and overly priced antifrizz serum. She approached with a steady, swinging gait. Her demeanor was forcibly bright and inviting as she stepped into the combat zone. The threshold was a time machine, reviving an entire childhood of fellowship dinners, trying not to erupt in laughter during sermons, attending Sunday school, and stealing candy from Deacon Selmon’s desk drawer. The only difference was that now there were more gray hairs and wrinkles in the room. She took her seat in the third pew, ignoring the scrutinizing eyes that zealously consumed her presence. The church became silent as everyone waited for the service to begin. The church, the people, everything was familiar. This was the only life they had ever known, and her leaving made her an outsider. As her memories flooded back, so did a familiar smell. Her nostrils flared in anguish at thirty-seven different, but equally pungent, perfumes. Every woman in the church used her own specific fragrance to mask body odor in the one hundred and five degree Southern heat. The stench of chemicals, old wood, and sweat hung heavily in the air. Hand fans were waved furiously in the futile pursuit of preventing entire faces that had been painted on that morning from melting. Every woman was dressed in her Sunday best, had her hair fixed, and her nails painted some shade of red. Had a match been lit, the entire building would’ve exploded instantly from the dangerously high level of hairspray concentrated in one room. She stared at the large mural above the baptismal pool behind the altar: a whimsical painting of a river, twisting off into the distance. She remembered what it had felt like to stand in front of the entire congregation at the tender age of eight and to be submerged in the deep tank, cleansed of her sins. Preacher Ponder entered and proceeded in the same way he had for thirty years. Soon the tiny man would turn an unnatural shade of maroon as his voice grew and he stabbed the air to emphasize his words, demanding “Amen or oh me?!” She resented this accusatory phrase that the ancient little man had adopted as an appropriate conclusion to every assertion. “Amen” followed a ten minute prayer that cued the end of the sermon and the start of the most critical part of the church service. Now, everyone would make their way around the room, hugging and smiling, wishing well and asking, “How’s ya mama and them?” She got up and only made it halfway down the pew before she was first intercepted. She had anticipated all of the questions they

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might ask, and she was ready. Mrs. Bonnie waddled over and kissed her, leaving a giant ring of red lipstick on her cheek. They exchanged the usual trivial banter about their respective families and the incredible heat; it came every year, yet still seemed to surprise people and become a well-utilized conversational crutch. Next, Luke, the boy she had adored in grade school, but who was now of no interest to her, called out “Hey darlin’” through a crooked smile and winked. She acknowledged him cordially but continued to navigate her way to the front doors. As she walked past Mrs. Debbie and Mrs. Thelma, she heard them mention that Kayla would be singing in next Sunday’s revival service. “She’s singin’ for the Lord,” I heard from Mrs. Debbie. “Bless her heart,” added Mrs. Thelma. What they meant was, “How terribly embarrassing and unfortunate for Kayla.” Kayla Fowler sang with a natural reverberation in her voice which made Amazing Grace sound like she had a tiny goat lodged in her throat. She thought of what they might be saying about her own dress, the way she walked, or how she had disgracefully lost part of her Southern accent. The entire scene was disgustingly predictable. Everyone sat in the same seats they had since birth, as did their parents before them. After the preaching, which inevitably stretched fortyfive minutes longer than anyone’s attention span, all engaged in a perverted interchange of gossip and meddling disguised as genuine concern and hospitality. It was a beehive filled with bees buzzing about innocently until the slightest unfamiliarity or threat emerged; then, they would sting, all at once from every direction, flying away as quickly as they had come, but leaving scars. She tried to escape past the four remaining pews with polite head nods and smiles, but was stopped by the choir director, her old teacher, the owner of the seafood restaurant at which she had bussed tables as a teenager, and the folks that owned the farm adjacent to her family’s land. She was offered a solo in the choir on the church’s float in the upcoming Yam Festival, which she swiftly declined. She also learned that a smut infection had ruined the corn crop in the entire county and that Mayor Wright’s receptionist had been caught runnin’ around on her husband with one of the Deacons at Beulah Baptist. She was one step away from leaving the sanctuary as she reached Preacher Ponder at his station at the church doors. She gathered her sweetest smile and most genuine glance as Preacher Ponder hugged her. “You’ll go to hell if you don’t go to church,” he chided in her ear. She heard her mother’s voice in her head: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” She backed away and nodded with an irritated smile and fled into the bright July morning.


Overdrawn by Julia Slupska May bought one lottery ticket every Saturday morning from the kiosk across from the coffee shop where you worked. “Lotteries are the tax on the stupid” you told her, but she laughed and kept scratching at the silver bars. May always had silver under her fingernails. May turned you down, gently but firmly, when you finally told her what you both knew she suspected anyways. You worried, later, that all the happy futures you planned with her were founded on nothing but a diligent yet lonely imagination. Don’t worry – you didn’t make it all up. May stopped in the coffee shop every once in a while after classes. The shop had a low roof and low chairs to make up for it. It should have been claustrophobic, but each wall was covered by cubes and dodecahedrons in one-point and two-point perspective, painted in violets, azures and burning oranges. Since the background was the same dark gray as the carpet, the small stuffed chairs seemed like just more colorful objects suspended in infinite space. She sat in a corner across from the counter – you would walk up and ask her if she wanted a refill. On the house, usually – when Tucker (the owner) wasn’t around. You tried to abstain. You told yourself to wait until the minute hand touched 30, or to finish the dishes before you walked over. And when you did, you would usually end up chatting about one thing or another. You would find a reason to sit down across from her, limbs stretched awkwardly in front of you. That is how you will remember her: legs crossed, a mug of coffee in between her hands, laughing. Silver under her fingernails. You talked about concerts and books, foreign places and lotteries. But mentions of girlfriends or boyfriends were instinctively taboo. She never said when she was jilted and angry or sad and lonely. You never went so far as to comfort her – you never made it across the coffee table, really. You played songs on the shop’s speakers for her, and she understood. May was always there more often when she did not have a boyfriend. None of this is solid, but you didn’t make it all up. You based all your hopes on a thin wisp, but a thin wisp is not nothing. “Did you do the shapes?” she asked one time. You said that you had, back in high school when Tucker hired you. “They’re crazy, Jonathan, you should do like a show or something. It’s sad that no one knows about this place.” But she never brought any of her friends over, never brought her boyfriends over. You began to draw again. You filled notebooks with shapes for her: cities of cubes suspended in space, painted screaming orange and silky blue. You supposed your first real date would be an art museum. You planned hundreds more while you ground coffee beans and didn’t watch May in the corner. You would go backpacking in Yosemite, she

would make you jump into the icy lakes. You would watch scary movies and she would lean into you just so. The first house you got together would have shapes on the walls. After the Freshman Humanities requirement, you rarely saw her outside the shop. It was odd really – Occidental was not that big, but you glimpsed her on campus maybe once a month. Then again, you were majoring in Statistics and Graphic Design, while she was majoring in Sociology and Drinking and Hookups. You should have told her you loved her in the shop. You longed to. You should have told her while sitting on the familiar squashy chairs – and not at Tucker’s cousin’s beach party in your third year – not under the moon, with the others watching by the bonfire maybe twenty feet away and the beer pounding your brain and churning your stomach. But you saw her standing away from everyone, watching the waves. You walked up and you told her. It sounded mechanic, rehearsed – and in truth you had rehearsed it, every afternoon in the past two years that she did not come for coffee. But that night it came out wrong – like an automated voice in an ATM. She muttered something – you were not sure but it sounded like acceptance, like agreement. She sat down on the sand and you sat next to her and your spirits soared wildly even as the wet sand dampened your jeans. Slowly the silenced sobered you, and you felt cold, wet panic seeping up from your ribs. You felt the insistent presence of the crowd at the bonfire, watching the two of you, guessing at what was happening: Tucker and his cousin and all May’s friends and who knows how many ex-boyfriends. You felt the need to do something, but what? You put one arm awkwardly around her: she remained silent, still staring at the waves. It all felt very wrong. She stood up and walked away, eventually. After, she found a different place to go for coffee. You dropped Graphic Design and you finished your major in Statistics. You were brilliant, and one of the huge counting companies scouted you. You twist and wring numbers so that the possible payoffs never quite break even. It comes to you effortlessly. You make sure the company earns its millions. You make sure the masses win only enough so that they keep buying tickets, and you know that in the end no one ever wins. And the numbers that belong to you – your accounts and your stocks – they twisted and stretched until now they seem to hardly fit in your bank. Your computer screens bulge with these numbers. But when you stare at them, especially late at night, they all blend into M’s and A’s and Y’s, and then you know you’re broke, just like you know that no one ever wins.

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Weightless Marigolds by Michelle Mehrtens “Where are we going?” Vera asks, her hand sweaty in my firm grip. “A walk,” I say, tramping through the dirt barefoot. I feel like such a hick in this moment—I have shoes. I should have worn shoes. Vera doesn’t respond, just wraps her fingers tighter around mine. We walk until we’ve passed the ruin and haphazard slump of trailers and busted cars. The nearest neighborhood consists of a few gray houses, squat like pouting old men, and plumes of barbecue smoke wrench the air. My stomach gurgles, but it doesn’t bother me until I hear Vera’s do the same. “I thought you had dinner at Kathy’s,” I say, voice accusing. She averts her eyes, ashamed. “I did.” “Like hell you did.” I stop, my fingers tilting her chin to face me. “If you weren’t at Kathy’s, where were you?” “I just didn’t want you worrying about me.” “What?” “I knew we didn’t have stuff at home, okay? And I didn’t want you beating yourself up about it.” I stare at her. The guilt is a separate entity, an albatross on my neck—the moment when I look at my little sister and see a jutting collarbone and weak limbs. “Don’t lie to me again, okay?” I say. She nods her head. By the time we come back home, smacking our lips on the saltiness of pistachios, Phil’s left. I nudge open the trailer, making sure none of his crap is lying around. Vera tentatively enters after me. Once she’s asleep, curled tightly in the corner of the bed, I go back outside. There’s a set of abandoned swings behind one of the empty trailers. They stand like benevolent apparitions. I clamber onto the sturdiest swing. Wrap my fingers around the cold metal. The night is freckled with lonely stars. The moon is held hostage by a string of gray clouds. It feels like resignation, the concealment of the moon. It feels like the sharp pain in my stomach. “Hey.” A boy stands in front of me, calmly. I don’t respond. “Just moved in.” His thumb points behind him. My fingers grip the cool comfort of the chains. Let go abruptly. I spin like a broken clock. “Guess this is your property, then,” I say. “You can stay. I don’t mind.” “You’re not a creep, right?” My feet dig into the dirt. “Because that would suck.” The corner of his mouth tilts upward. “Not a creep.” The boy keeps his gaze on me. His eyes are kind but melancholy, black like pools of river water. It rockets through me, hot and fast. If there’s anything I’ve learned, living in a decrepit wasteland where the grass scrapes my ankles like fingernails, where smoke tastes the air in a slithering haze, where the chugging of brash music and harsh sunlight slashes the skin like glass, is that people don’t change. I know this with a firm, fierce, unwavering knowledge. People lie and hide and thieve and burn and cry. But they don’t change. So when I see this boy, eyes rimmed black with long lashes, eyes frozen and sad with a depth I can almost touch, I don’t expect him to change. I don’t expect me to change. I just think that I have finally found someone like me.

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I stare at him, shocked. “You like Hemingway?” Diego grabs a root beer from the fridge. “That’s a bad thing?” “If you’re a fan of misogyny and pretentious white men and mustaches, I guess not.” A corner of his mouth turns upwards. “Tell me how you really feel.” I collapse onto his couch, tucking in my legs. Red prayer candles line every window. Patron saints, with clasped hands and eyes tilted heavenward, guard every sill. “They look nice,” I say politely. Diego smiles wryly. “They’re Raffie’s.” “Ah. Raffie.” He sits next to me, handing me a can of soda. “My cousin. She and my aunt love candles. And Catholicism. So it works out.” “Who’s your favorite saint?” I ask, poking him. “That’s easy.” Diego leans against the couch, his leg knocking into mine. “St. Jude. Patron saint of lost causes.” I take a sip of my drink, the bubbles fizzing on my tongue. “That’s definitely my favorite, too.” Sewing needles, thread, loose buttons, and spinning tops sleep on the coffee table a few feet away. I imagine curling up near the white bowl of fruit, nestled between bananas and a fat red apple. “But not Hemingway,” Diego says jokingly. I shake my head. “Never. And you better not tell me you like Catcher in the Rye.” Diego doesn’t respond. I bury my head in my arms. “Jesus Christ,” I say. “Your room’s a shrine to lost boy angst, isn’t it?” He watches me, amused. “Would you like to see it?” I raise an eyebrow. “No funny business?” Diego holds up his hands. “No funny business,” he says solemnly. As soon as we enter his room, I jump onto his bed. I spread my arms on the comforter, breathing in fresh cotton and sun. “Just because I’m in your bed does not mean anything questionable shall occur,” I say archly. He grins and sprawls next to me, his legs hanging off the edge of the bed. “I love the smell of clean laundry,” I say. “I used to help my mom hang clothes outside.” Diego smiles. “I mostly just tried to juggle the clothespins.” A cold misery settles in the corners of his mouth, in the shadows under his black eyes. “What happened?” I whisper. “My dad worked in construction,” Diego says softly. “A loose beam knocked him in the head.” His hands tighten into fists and then grow slack. “He woke up in the hospital with the police standing right in front of his cot.” Diego rolls over and buries his head in his pillow. “My mom and I stepped into the room and—we knew it was all over.” His hair is so black it gleams blue under the wet sunlight. “How long have they been back in Mexico?” He shifts onto his side, his arms drawing me close. “Two years.” Gently, he brushes hair from my cheek. “Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t even born here. That’s crazy, right? But then…then I could go back without feeling guilty. Like I wasn’t throwing away an opportunity.”


I want to tell him that it’s okay to feel so wrong and warped and squeezed tight like wet clothes. I want to tell him that I understand why he wants to run. I want to tell him to take me with him. The heat of the sun, the bright colors slanting off the houses, can burn off our old skins. We’ll be free. It’s a naïve dream and it drowns fast in my thoughts. I don’t really know how to say any of that. So I pull his warm arms around me. And I kiss him instead. Vera looks up from her book, fingers splayed over the cover of Catch-22. “Who’s coming over?” My washcloth skims the kitchen counter. “Diego. For lunch.” “Oh.” She closes the book. “He’s the guy you just met, right?” I glance at her. “I met him three weeks ago.” “So, he’s, what? Your boyfriend?” Her voice is unexpectedly petulant. “I don’t know. Maybe.” I pull out a few flimsy dollar bills. “Can you get some chicken at the store?” “We’re using our money for this?” I look at her, annoyed. “Well, we’ll be eating it, too, right?” Vera sighs. “Fine.” She exits the trailer slowly, her legs dragging on the carpet. I watch her uncertainly from the window, surprised. She has never acted like this before. I walk throughout the trailer, attempting to clean it up—or at least make it a tad more respectable. In the bathroom, I dig through the cabinet, searching for our old hairdryer. A small pouch slips from behind a row of nail polish. It’s empty. I know the plastic pouches too well. It’s the reason I leave home every time Phil brings his friends over. It’s why I forget to put on shoes and trudge around in the dark with Vera, dirt clinging to my toes, burrs biting my legs. It’s the reason my parents wear orange jumpsuits like degenerate villains cast into a black hole. I know I shouldn’t tolerate Phil’s actions. I know what his meetings with his friends actually are. But he’s my brother. And he’ll be my brother whenever he stops getting so lucky. He’ll be my brother when metal bars stripe shadows on his face. Diego arrives with his hair gelled back. I press my fist to my mouth, swallowing my laughter. “What?” he asks. I shake my head. “What?” He steps closer. He grabs my waist and I shriek with laughter. “I appreciate your response. I really do,” he says, grinning. “Chicken’s ready.” Vera pauses when she sees us. “Hello,” she says coolly. “Hi.” Diego holds out his hand. She stands like a statue of Aphrodite, poised, arrogant, unmoving—and ignorant of my deathly gaze. “Smells great,” he says affably. “So what happened to your parents? Nora won’t tell me.” I stare at Vera, shocked. Diego touches my hand and looks at her calmly. “They got deported.” She watches him closely, her finger tapping her bottom lip. “That sucks.” “What a succinct reply,” I say icily. “What a big, impressive word,” Vera snaps back. “Who wants flan?” Diego asks, holding up a big blue Tupperware. “My aunt made it, and she’s an amazing cook.”

“Nora won’t eat it.” I stare at Vera. “What are you talking about?” She shakes her head. “You’ll just give it to me. That’s what you always do.” She motions to my figure. “You haven’t noticed how skinny she is, Diego?” Vera narrows her eyes. “Or do you like her that way?” I grab her arm. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I hiss. Her eyes stare back at me defiantly, Aphrodite’s brittle beauty crumbling to dust. “Hey.” Diego gently touches my shoulder, pulling me away. “Let’s all take a step back. A pause.” He turns to Vera. “I know you have absolutely no reason to trust me. But I care about your sister.” He glances at me. “A lot.” Vera folds her arms. “If she doesn’t eat that flan, I’m leaving.” Diego leans toward her. “She’s the reason I brought it,” he whispers. After lunch, I whisk Diego away, apologizing for my sister’s strange behavior. He smiles. “She’s protective. I get it.” The sun melts over the grass, spilling light in orange waves. Our shadows merge in and out, crashing into each other like overeager lovers. We spend too much time in the park, intertwined in the grass, dizzy with the sun’s fierce smiling and the breathless blue of the sky. Dusk alights on the swings, on our skin, too fast. Diego insists on walking me back home. “Thanks for having me over,” he says. “Thanks for the flan. It might just be better than cake.” Diego smiles. “Aunt Helena will be really happy to hear that.” The streetlight down the road flickers on abruptly, painting the ground white. We are submerged in shadow, swallowed by the night. Diego cradles my face in his hands. “I think I like you too much,” he whispers. His eyelashes pattern the ridges of his eyebrows. I wipe my hands on my jeans, impossibly sweaty. “Me too,” I say softly. He leans in closer, mouth near my ear. “If I knew poetry, I would totally recite it to you right now.” I laugh, pressing my hands against his chest. “Dork.” He grins. “Sonnetsonnetsonnet,” he says. I’m smiling so widely my face hurts. “Heartflutterheartflutter.” When I come inside, Vera is washing the dishes. She stands on a scarred wooden footstool, wiping our plastic plates with extreme care—as if they were made of porcelain. “You like him a lot, don’t you?” she says. I glance at her. She’s gazing out the window, her long black hair swooping over her shoulders like a curtain. “Yeah.” I walk toward her tentatively. “That’s okay, right?” She looks at me, eyes gray and neutral. “It’s nice liking someone.” She stacks the plates on the counter. I touch her shoulder. “You’re fine, though. Right?” “It’d be pretty selfish of me not to be.” She slides away, positioning herself against a chair. “But I do worry about you.” I smile a little. “I’m the big sister here, Vera.” Her brow wrinkles. “I don’t live in a fairy tale, Nora. I’m not naïve like you think I am.” I look at her, confused. “I don’t think that.” She folds her arms. “I know what Phil does when he’s not

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here. I know he doesn’t have a real job.” Her eyes focus on the pale blue curtain behind me, flapping in the breeze. “I know what Mom was like, too.” “Vera.” “Just…” she sighs. “Be careful, okay? Don’t…” her voice drops to a whisper, “Don’t lose yourself in him.” I purse my lips, annoyed. “Thanks for the wisdom, sis.” She sighs. “He can’t always be the one to make you feel better.” She brushes past me, toward our room. “Sometimes you have to do it yourself.” I can’t sleep. Footsteps knock together violently in my stomach. Phil’s been gone for two weeks, longer than usual. I imagine his head cracked open like a melon, his eyes imbued with sleepy wonder. My body feels like glass, cracks webbing throughout my skin. One more minute inside this trailer and I might just break. Permanently. I step outside to catch my breath. The brown grass, thirsting for rainfall that will never come, stretches for miles like pools of muck. I pretend it’s an orchard, a forever ever after, that shines with crops of corn. I pretend that I can wing across the blackness like a light-filled, weightless marigold. Almost immediately my feet propel my body across the gravel, across the grass, straight to Diego’s house. I grab the key hidden under the stoop and let myself in. When I enter his room, Diego’s huddled behind his bed, eyes rimmed red. A burgundy photo album lays open at his feet. “Jesus.” He wipes at his face rapidly. “Ever heard of knocking?” “Sorry…” I pause. “Are you okay?” My back bumps into the wall. The room feels like a fist, pushing me from the doorframe. “Do you…do you want to talk about it?” Diego covers his face with his hands and exhales deeply. “Nora, just leave. Please.” My hand is already reaching for the doorknob. “Sorry,” I say again, flushing. Then I’m outside, arms wrapped around myself, trying to breathe—trying not to feel like a coward. The swing set stares at me in judgment. Diego silently appears next to me, his hand touching my wrist. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. “Don’t be. I shouldn’t have come.” “Nora.” “You have your own stuff to deal with. You don’t need my crap, too.” “I want your crap.” We stare at each other. “You want my crap?” I ask seriously. A smile tickles the side of his mouth. “Well, when you put it that way…” A laugh escapes my lips. Diego grins. “Mature.” I shove his shoulder. “You started it.” He watches me. His black eyes lack judgment, lack pressure, lack deceit. They are the saddest eyes I have ever seen. “What’s wrong?” Suddenly, the thought of spilling the sordid details of my life nauseates me. I’m tired. And I don’t want to burden him with my

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ghosts when he is so clearly struggling with his own. “Not right now.” His eyes are speculative—probing question marks. “How about you?” I ask. “What’s wrong?” Diego jams his hands inside his pockets, avoiding my gaze. “Nothing.” “This is a two-way street, pal.” “Well, this road’s under construction.” “Fine.” I cross my arms. “Me too.” “Fine.” “Fine.” “Fine.” “I’m not some dainty doll, you know. I can take it.” Diego watches me. “Yeah. I know.” He tilts his head. “I’m not some asshole who idolizes you,” he says. “You’re judgmental. You’re a book snob. You don’t eat enough—” “Thanks, Dad. You mope around. You hum when you eat—” “You’re Nora.” Diego shrugs. “That’s why. That will always be why.” I stare at him. He’s right. He’s wrong. He’s both. I want to throw myself into his arms and disappear. I want to stand fearless and fierce and stay concrete. “That can’t always be why,” I say. It’s four in the afternoon and Vera is sitting on the roof. The trailer’s aluminum roof reflects sheets of white light, scalding my retinas. She’s a dying star in the cobalt sky, exploding brutal, merciless rays. “Tanning?” I call out. “I believe ‘burning’ is the more accurate term,” she replies. I clamber up to meet her, collapsing dramatically at her feet. The heat ripples up my skin like fire, burning my toes. “Okay, we can’t stay up here long. Or else we’ll die of heat stroke.” “Always looking out for me, sis,” Vera says with a mocking smile. I jostle her shoulder with mine. “Respect.” “Where’s Diego?” I bite back a sigh. I refrain from throwing myself on the metal sheeting like a lumpy piece of dough. “We’re still us.” I pause. “But we’re not.” My knuckles scrape the roof. “If that makes any sense.” “Huh.” Vera watches me. “You okay?” I shrug. “Meh.” She holds out a brown paper bag, pocked with grease. “Got a powdered donut. And sugar makes everything better.” I smile. “You eat it. I’m good.” Vera rolls her eyes. “Screw that, Nora.” “Language!” She rolls her eyes again. “Stop being so self-sacrificing. It’s pissing me off.” Vera nudges my shoulder. “We look out for each other.” She pushes the bag toward me. “Now eat the donut.” I eye her for a second. “Powdered?” She smiles sweetly. “Your favorite.” The donut tastes crumbly and slightly stale, breaking apart easily in my fingers. It tastes better than a kiss.


Portsmouth Abbey School Portsmouth, RI

Mission Statement The aim of Portsmouth Abbey School is to help young men and women grow in knowledge and grace. Grounded in the Catholic faith and 1500-year-old Benedictine intellectual tradition, the school fosters: Reverence for God and the human person Respect for learning and order Responsibility for the shared experience of community life

www.portsmouthabbey.org

The Raven 2013 - Portsmouth Abbey School  

The Raven is Portsmouth Abbey Schools's annual student-published literary and arts magazine.

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