Page 1

FATHOMS ......................................... BENEATH THE SURFACE

2016


FATHOMS DESIGNERS Morgan Jones Dorothy Mikos Stephen Skinner

SENIOR EDITORS Katie Chanez Harrison Cook

ASSOCIATE EDITORS Callan Miranda Aurelie Rozeboom Jessica Rusick Randi Proescholdt

EXECUTIVE EDITOR Delany Brietbach

EDITOR-AT-LARGE

ASSISTANT EDITORS

Jessie Bowman

Emmalyn Brown Hanna Grimson Colleen Durkin Caitlin Plathe Michael Ripa Alexa Starry

ART DIRECTOR Jennah Davison

2


TABLE OF CONTENTS FICTION Spare Parts.................................................................................8 In the Dirt..................................................................................13 Tree Limbs................................................................................24

NONFICTION Things Were Different Back Then....................................34

POETRY Remote Under the Couch....................................................6 I Didn’t See You There..........................................................18 Lace and Placenta...................................................................21 Snail Lady.................................................................................30 Eulogy........................................................................................45

3


4


A NOTE FROM THE EDITORS According to the lit mag lore, Fathoms crawled out of the primordial slush pile and learned to walk on their own feet (yes, our lit mag has feet). Fathoms grew up like everyone else, went to school, bought a dog, took up gardening, takes caution when walking by trees, has internal organs delivered to their door on demand. But as of late, Fathoms doesn’t sleep much; Fathoms’ diet has consisted of Folgers grounds for the past week. Fathoms’ apartment is untidy, and quite frankly, smells a little, but Fathoms doesn’t care. To make matters worse, Fathoms’ watch just broke, sending them spiraling into an existential crisis. In an attempt to find themself Fathoms engages in one hour meditation sessions, salt lamp immersion therapy, and late night OED searches. This is what Fathoms finds: Fathom, n. Pronunciation: faðəm • The embracing arms; the object in embrace • Grasp, power. • Breadth of comprehension, grasp of intellect; ability • The length covered by the outstretched arms, including the hands to the tip of the longest finger; hence, a definite measure of six feet, now chiefly used in taking soundings Fathoms stretches their arms (yes, our magazine has arms), but it is less than six feet. Fathoms is a measurement of six feet, but Fathoms isn’t a tool. Fathoms plunges into the psyche six feet at a time, but Fathoms isn’t dead yet. Fathoms ate Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego for breakfast. Fathoms has a mind of their own, thanks to our contributing editors, design team, radiant authors, and of course, you, the reader. Fathoms is a pulse--a life beat--in your hands. Wish it a happy birthday.

Katie Chanez and Harrison Cook Senior Editors Fathoms

5


REMOTE UNDER THE COUCH Macy Scully A leopard sinks its teeth in hot flesh And I told you this happens every time But you still eat soup with a fork And expect the rain to save your tomato plant. Your shovel hit a rock and it split. It swallowed the yard and you Still watch the movie that makes you cry Even when the grass is mowed And the shower drain works fine. The dog ate the bunny and you find The bones under the refrigerator that You thought was supposed to keep things Hidden so you sold the dog to a farm and went Back to the T.V. where a leopard sinks

..................................

Its teeth into hot flesh and I

THINGS YOU FIND UNDER THE COUCH:

Told you this happens every time.

• A horde of dust bunnies • Sofa pizza • $1.38 in change • An open bottle of Jack • Three differently colored socks • A sticky, congealed puddle of Jack • That copy of The Giver you lost in 6th grade • The T.V. remote

6


7


SPARE PARTS Rebecca Cammenga Lucille woke to a knock at the door. It was the first Tuesday of the month and the mailman was waiting with a package, just as he was every month. Lucille had not expected him today, however, since New Congress had sworn in Actuary as the thirteenth month of the year not three days ago, and she was suspicious about the efficacy of mail delivery during political uprisings. She sat up and reached for her teeth on the nightstand, followed by her eyes, ears, and kidneys. She rose, pulled on her robe, and carefully adjusted her liver—it had been installed just last month and she knew it wasn’t sitting right, but her husband had insisted he knew how to install it without reading the instruction manual. “Hello, Joseph,” she said when she answered the door. Joseph had been waiting patiently on the front stoop while she pulled herself together, understanding that he too would grow old and need spare parts someday. Behind him, a group of men were fanning the flames of a small fire just inside the park. He met her with a smile. “G’morning, Ms. Lucille. Got your last package for you.”

“The last one?”

“That’s what they told me.”

Lucille frowned. “Surely there must be something else that needs replacing. Maybe a finger, or a toe?” Joseph shrugged and held out his clipboard for her to sign, which she did, with fingers that had already been replaced sometime last year. She exchanged the new package for an old one—her old liver, to be returned to Sender, whoever that was—and went back to the bedroom where her husband, Harold, sat on the edge of the bed, trying to put one of his ears on upside down. The replacements had started when she fell and broke a hip following her overexcitement at the swearing-in of the first two-headed president. The hip replacement went smoothly, but she had just turned sixty-five, and the doctors suggested, to prevent further accidents, that she slowly replace more and more parts. Eighty-seven years, two months, and one Actuary later, she held the last replacement in her hands.

8


“What is it?” she said, peering into the box. It was a tiny, silvery, snaky thing that didn’t look like it belonged inside a human body, but then, her kidney wasn’t exactly what she had expected it to look like either.

Harold took the box from her. “Maybe we should read the instructions,” he said.

She rolled her eyes.

“Contents of this replacement include one three-quarter inch Allen wrench, three screws, and one soul, guaranteed fresh.” Lucille looked again at the small, wriggling thing in the box, then looked up to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She looked young for one hundred fifty-two, hardly even recognizable as the same woman she had been when she started the replacements; yet through it all she still felt the same, still felt like a Lucille. She reached into the box, then hesitated. The thing in the box trembled. It had recently belonged to a nice woman in Upstate New York, and it was not thrilled at the idea of Lucille and her drab suburban lifestyle. Lucille, unaware of this fact, decided switching this soul for her current one wouldn’t be any more difficult than switching gall bladders, which had been a fairly painless process, once Harold broke down and read the instructions. “How easy is it to install?” she said. Harold twisted his ears until they were right side up. “What did you say?” She sighed. “How does it install?” Harold clucked his tongue—freshly replaced last week—and tossed the instruction manual aside. “We’ll figure it out.” Lucille rolled her eyes but didn’t stop him.

9


..............................................

MEDICAL ODDITIES OF THE MÜTTER MUSEUM: • A baby born without a skull, kept in a jar of formaldehyde. • An eight-foot-long colon weighing 40lbs. • A jar of pickled human skin that mimics the smell of Romano cheese. • A book from the 1700s detailing pregnancy, bound in human skin from a woman’s thigh. • Albert Einstein’s brain. • The skeleton of Harry Eastlack, a man who suffered from fibrodysplasia ossificans which causes continuous bone growth, eventually fusing the entire skeleton. • Soap Lady. • A wall of forty eyeballs that stare back.

10


11


.....................................

DEVICES FOR GETTING BENEATH THE SURFACE: • Questions • Threats • X-ray • Scalpel • Bone saw • Thumbscrews • Waterboarding • The Rack • Backhoe • Coffin

12


IN THE DIRT Sara Katschka There were three of them. Each wore the same wool tunic, the same trousers, the same hat, the same vacant expression. They stared at her and she did her best not to stare back. Instead she looked at the dirt wedged in the cracks of her toes. One of them cleared his throat and her head followed the sound. The same man took a few steps toward her and uttered a greeting in English. She understood the greeting, had heard it spoken by other soldiers who passed by her house, and nodded. He came even closer, and his thin, cracked lips opened once again. The sounds hit her ear drums and immediately dissipated. She shook her head. He looked back at the two other men and a brief conversation ensued. They seemed to be arguing. She waited, though something inside her told her to leave. The man turned back around again and pointed at her. She paused for a moment and then nodded. Next he pointed at the other men. She just stared at them. The man then stepped forward, grabbing hold of her hand and placing it on his thigh. It dawned on her just what they wanted. She inched backwards, towards her house, shaking her head. He moved forward with her. Before she could fully retreat, he reached into his bag and pulled out a large loaf of bread. She froze. Food. She hadn’t eaten yet today. She imagined the sound the crust would make as it flexed and broke beneath her teeth. She thought of the soft grains dissolving onto her tongue. Food. Not just for her, but for her mother as well. They took their turns in a small patch of woods near the house. The first one didn’t take too long. He placed one hand on her right knee, the other one on her left thigh. He closed his dark eyes and bit his thin lips. Her eyes wandered. They followed the lines of dirt that lined his wrists, the large mole on his right cheek, and the freckle that sat just above his left eyebrow. She focused on anything she could until it was over. The second one took longer. He removed his hat and pushed a hand through his matted blond hair. A few strands stuck to his sweaty forehead. There were dark bruises beneath his large blue eyes and his nose was crooked and clearly broken. He smiled nervously, and said something she couldn’t understand. So she smiled back. He traced his open lips down her throat. She could feel the light scrape of his teeth. Eventually, he settled his head on her shoulder, and continued to talk and talk and talk. The third one was the man who’d offered her food. He got down on his knees and took a deep breath, planting his hands on either side of her face. His irises were like the smoke she often saw at a distance. He moved his hands to her shoulders, and then he settled once again on her thighs. Unlike earlier, he remained silent. Instead

13


his fingers pushed beneath the fabric of her dress, pressing over the sharp edges of her hips, until they rested against the soft skin of her stomach. The touch once again made her aware of her hunger, and she began to writhe beneath him. As he began, his fingers began to dig, to rub, to cling to the soft skin, as if he’d forgotten that something so soft, so gentle existed anymore. When he had finished, he helped her sit up. She felt a sort of soreness in her thighs and in her lower back. She could feel the dirt sticking to her forearms, her elbows, her knees. He kept looking at her, and so she just nodded. He leaned in and suddenly pressed his lips against hers. They were soft like the leaves she used to collect and sew together to make dresses for her dolls. The kiss was brief. His eyes were open and so close. His nose, touching hers. “Merci,” he whispered before getting to his feet. Before they turned to leave, he handed her the bread. She ran inside, calling for her mother, who was in the kitchen mending something. Her mother looked at the bread and asked where it came from. She was not given an answer. The man who kissed her showed up alone the next day. He had another loaf of bread and some biscuits. She nodded, and the two returned to the same spot. He took off his hat and smoothed down his tight, brown curls with the palm of his hand. Once again he remained silent while the act was carried out. He kept his hands in the same place as before, but this time she dared to reach up and touch his neck. The skin was warm and flushed. A few beads of sweat clung to her fingers as she curled them around the nape of his neck. After that, she went a few days without seeing him. She wondered if he had moved on or if he had been killed. But then he appeared out of nowhere at around noon. He sat down next to her, took a cigarette out of his pocket and offered it to her. She shook her head. He held the cigarette between his fingers but made no move to smoke it. They sat together for an hour not touching or speaking. She counted his breaths and watched the way his fingers picked at the fabric bunched around his knees. She watched him steal glances at her. She wondered what he was thinking and what he was feeling. She wondered if he wanted to speak as much as she did. When he stood up to leave he pressed his lips to her thumb and then the palm of her hand. “Au revoir,” she whispered. “Au revoir,” he repeated with something like a smile. He was back the next morning. He had found some fruit. She hadn’t had fruit since the war had started. She couldn’t wait until after they’d finished in the woods; instead she ate it all right there, and he let her. Once she was finished, he placed his index finger against her hand and said

14


something. When she did not respond, he said it again. And again. Finally, she grasped what he was saying. “Main,” she said. “Main,” he repeated. word.

He trailed his fingers up to her arm and she kept supplying him with the proper Bras. Bras. Epaules. Epaules. Tête. Tête. Nez. Nez. Lèvres.

Rather than repeating the last word, he simply pressed his lips against hers. And this time she pressed hers back. She reached up and held his jaw. His stubble felt like bark beneath her fingers. She couldn’t help but move her fingers back and forth, up and down the length of his jaw line. She felt her heart beat in her chest, and in her the palms that were now moving down to his neck, and in her ears with the sound of the windy day. He pulled back when he heard the sound of a voice coming from the door to the house. It was her mother. She was yelling at the top of her lungs. Even her daughter could not understand what she was saying. The man backed up a few feet. He looked quickly at the girl. He pointed to himself and said, “Harry.” “Harry,” she repeated, and then added, “Annette,” pointing to herself. “Annette.” And then he was gone again. Her mother’s round face was red. Her voice was all she heard for the rest of the day. Her mother spoke of virtue and the role of a woman. How important it was to maintain those things in times like these. The thoughtlessness of British soldiers. How

15


the war would be over soon and then they’d be gone. What would she have then? She did not listen. All her mother ever did was mend clothes and talk about how the war was ending soon. Her mother had been saying that for two years now. Instead she remembered the sweet taste of the fruit on her tongue and the texture of his cracked lips. Harry was at their house that night. He started knocking, quietly at first, but it quickly became louder and more erratic. She was as quiet as she could be when she crept down the stairs and opened the door. For once his hat was nowhere in sight. His tunic was halfway unbuttoned. Forgetting herself for a moment, she asked him what he was doing there in the middle of the night. He didn’t answer her and she was not sure whether he had even understood her. He cast a glance to his left and then his right, before taking her hands in his. He began talking to her in a soft voice she knew was meant only for her. She hadn’t realized that he’d been out of breath, but now he was gasping. He’d been running. What on earth was he running from? He pressed his lips beneath her ear. “Merci et au revoir,” he whispered. His hold on her began to loosen and she dug her fingers into his shoulders. He grabbed her wrists and gently pushed her back as he turned away from her. Suddenly, the stillness of the air was interrupted by a loud bang. She jumped. He stood frozen for an instant before he collapsed to the ground. She couldn’t scream. She’d forgotten how. She’d forgotten everything. Harry. Harry. Harry. She got on her hands and knees and she called out to him. She shook him gently. Then she shoved him. He didn’t move. There was a wet spot on his chest. It was sticky. No. No. Her hands found the buttons of his tunic and she unfastened them one by one. For the first time she saw his chest. There was a small patch of brown hair beneath his collarbone, and his ribs were just barely visible. There was a scar right above his belly button. She saw him then, standing twenty feet away. The blond-haired man with his gun still aimed in her direction. In the darkness, she could still make out his crooked nose. She remembered how to scream. It filled her up. He lowered his gun and fixed her with a sort of sympathetic gaze. He tipped his hat, and he turned around. Harry’s skin was so pale, though becoming darker as the blood spread its way down his stomach. He was dead. He was dead and she didn’t know how to help him.

16


Get rid of the blood. That was something she could do. She pressed his tunic to his chest and began to dab. When she had finished she realized there was blood on his trousers as well, and so slowly she slid them off. Then his shoes. She didn’t shy away from his nakedness. Instead she closed his eyes and sat with him on the ground, surrounded by dirt and the lingering smell of smoke.

17


I DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE Macy Scully i’m telling her not to trust me the way branches trust leaves or snow trusts water but to be careful not to take me literally or else she may falsely accuse me of letting bread grow mold

picked berries and the ones left

behind to bury themselves in

wet dirt and questions

but jenny called again today

she said it was the last time

and so i let ants carry away

bread crumbs i’m asking her to trust me the way strawberries trust dried roots and pine needles fall from trees but to trust me only from the ends of her fingertips

18


tissues, sharp elbows and hair

leave streaks like berries, and i eat them red juice stains my chin

but jenny called again today

and i mistook an ant for a crumb

so i stepped on it

..........................

TYPES OF MOLD AROUND US: • White, Diplodia (harmless) • Turquoise and white, Penicillium (probably harmless, could be cancerous) • Gray-brown and fuzzy, Botrytis (destroys fruit) • Black, Aspergillius Niger (generally regarded as safe by the FDA) • Pink, Fusarium (produces a toxin called fumonisin which can cause liver and kidney damage and birth defects) and Gibberella (not considered highly toxic to hu mans)

19


20


LACE AND PLACENTA Hannah Gellman We gather under a chuppah of avocado linoleum and cholerahued cherry lumber. It is a most gruesome forest, waxy trees wracked with the green flu of witnessing. It must be summer. The egg frying on the roof sounds like steamy rain and my mother wears the sizzling as a veil. At thirteen she stained an organza beach scarlet, thought a shark had strolled onto shore with confident new legs and tried her out for a snack. Lace and placenta make a honeycomb matrix, sting and squeeze my halfformed eyes so I cannot see my grandmother survey her daughter’s white rose midriff and snap her neck away with fervor and shame

21


or my grandfather prick his blue tar thumb while fastening a carnation above the heart that will be my very first pillow. All I can see through eggshells and gelatin is a man holding a tarnished ring with practiced legs and a gill-ribbed blouse and five rows of slick teeth awash in boiling wine. Purple martins swelter and chirp outside. The shark says his vows, then lunges.

......................

EDIBLES IN Lace and Placenta: • Avocado • Cherry • Egg • Mother • Shark • Placenta • Honeycomb • Daughter • Heart • Gelatin • Wine

22


23


TREE LIMBS Caitlyn Winkler The Old Ones teach us patience, but patience is difficult when hunger becomes all-encompassing. Hunger feels like termites eating through your limbs. At first, it is sharp and you notice it every second, but before long, it becomes a dull ache. You forget what life was like before it came. It has been years since our last meal, and we can feel ourselves growing weak. We are beginning to worry that nourishment might never come, and all of this waiting would be for nothing. The Old Ones tell us to have hope, but they have deeper roots than we do. They will live for centuries more without a feeding. We will only last decades. New Ones have not sprouted in years. There is not enough nutrition for them to break free of their protective seeds and puncture the soil. Even if they did manage to grow at first, there is not enough rain to keep them alive. The humans have caused a great drought to sweep the land. The drought is the reason we have gone so long without nourishment. Without water, the creatures of the earth are unable to survive, and thus are unable to die and enrich our soil. Even we will die off if there is not a rain soon. We have grown our roots deep into the earth to drink what little water is left there, but we feel our leaves shriveling. We know that it is only a matter of time before we lose all of our leaves and are unable to use the sun’s light for food. Without water or fertilizer, we will surely die. “Clennam! Wait for me!� a small voice pierces the great silence. We are surprised; we have not heard a human voice in over half a century. The owner of the voice gently avoids the great cracks along the dusty ground as she walks between our trunks. It looks to be a girl-child. She is clothed in dirt and her long hair is knotted down her back. She looks very different from the last girl-child who walked between us. We are used to humans who clothe themselves in fabric and keep their hair from knotting. The last time humans were among us was during the great migration. Hundreds of them moved toward the east, perhaps in search of food. That was not long after the drought had begun. The Old Ones rustle the scarce remains of their brittle leaves. Many of them are fond of human children. They remember a time when human children were their companions and would scramble amongst their branches. They often reminisce about particular human children who would come to play on them every day. We do not have this same fondness for any humans. We watched them kill our brothers and sisters with

24


no remorse. And then, when they began to run out of room, we watched them kill each other. “I’m over here, Lis,” another voice yells out. Even the Old Ones are surprised that there are two humans. We were all certain that they were gone forever. The girl-child changes direction to follow the other voice. It appears to belong to a boy-child. He is not much larger than the girl, and his hair is just as long as hers, and perhaps even more knotted. When they are reunited, she leaps upon him. “You scared me!” she chides. Her voice reminds us of the squirrels that used to live in our branches. They died off long ago, even before the humans. We wonder if perhaps they will come back too. “Why? There’s nobody out here,” he responds. “The trees look scary here. They’re so tall. I’ve never seen them this tall.” This remark makes us stretch our limbs. Our height is the one aspect about which we are vain. “Trees can’t be scary. All they do is stand there.” We rustle our leaves in indignation. The Old Ones chuckle at us—at our pride. The humans should respect us. We are the Last of the Living Things. They should respect us for our ability to survive all disasters. We are able to survive the drought because we grew our roots deeper than ever before. We are able to survive the famine because we conserve what little resources we have left. When disaster strikes, we work together to survive. There is nothing the humans can survive because when disaster strikes, they turn against one another. “This is a good place to hide.” “Hide from what?” the girl asks. there?”

“From the settlement. Remember how Momma told us about the bad men “The men she had to hide from?” “Yes, the men who told her they would hurt us if she kept us.” “I miss Momma.”

The girl’s face twists in anguish. The Old Ones drop what is left of their leaves onto the girl. They cannot stand to see a human child in pain. The boy picks one of the

25


leaves up and hands it to her before tugging her away. The children run back to wherever they came from. Night falls quickly, as it has for the past many years. There are no longer sunsets. The sun, vain creature that it is, requires the clouds to reflect its beauty. Without clouds, it slips away quietly, nothing more than a bright disk that hides beneath the horizon. We are startled by the sound of running. It is the children again; we recognize their voices. “Lis, look, this tree can hold you. Get into the hole.” The girl-child crawls into the dried trunk of one of our dead sisters. “Where are you going?” she asks the boy, “Don’t leave me!” The boy holds his finger to his lips and climbs one of the Old Ones. They are happy to feel the old familiar weight of a child upon their limbs. More footsteps approach us—four human men are weaving through our trunks. They are covered in animal furs. Each of their coats must have taken dozens of kills to create; only the smallest of rodents have survived the drought. “Where are you?” one of them yells out. There is nothing but silence as the men stand still and the children hide. We marvel at the existence of the six humans. We wonder if there are more. Perhaps the drought has ended elsewhere, and precious rain will soon fall upon us. Excitement begins to flood through us as we remember the delectable feeling of rain dripping onto our leaves. “I see one of ’em,” another man says while raising his weapon. He points it toward the boy-child. “Wait, Affery, it’s just a kid! Can’t we let him go?” the man at the back of the formation asks. The man with the weapon lowers it to speak to the man in the back, “What do you think kids grow into? In a few years he’ll be a man and he’ll take a lot more than food from the village.” “Why don’t we take him with us? We could put him to work.” work.”

“We don’t have enough food as it is. He would go hungry and be too weak to

26


The man with the weapon turns around and raises it once more. The boy continues to climb, but he is unable to escape; there is a loud noise and the boy falls to the earth. His small body is limp. We are unsurprised by this show of cruelty. This is the sort of thing we have grown to expect out of humans. “Should we bring him back?” the man who drew the weapon asks, “We could have full bellies tonight.” “No. He’s too heavy; we’re already over a day’s walk from home. And Cale hates it when we bring kids. Best just leave him,” the man who first spotted the boy says. “Too bad. They’re making stew tomorrow.” The man at the back looks pale. The men leave as quickly as they came. The girl-child steps out of her hiding place to stand over her fallen companion. She weeps silently as she places a pile of dirt on his chest. It is not long before she too disappears. We wonder if she will be back. Months pass and the boy begins to return to the dust. It will not be long before the soil soaks him in. We watch with interest; our next meal has finally come.

27


EXTINCT SPECIES: ...................... • Dodo Bird • Steller’s Sea Cow • Great Auk • Passenger Pigeon • Tasmanian Tiger • Caribbean Monk Seal • Tecopa Pupfish • Javan Tiger • Golden Toad • Pyrenean Ibex • Yangtze River Dolphin • West African Black Rhinoceros


YEAR...................... OF EXTINCTION: 1662 • 1768 • 1844 • 1914 • 1936 • 1952 • 1970 • Mid-1970s • 1989 • 2000 • 2002 • 2006 •


THE SNAIL LADY Hannah Gellman My grandmother took great delight in strolling through her backyard and killing snails. On the days she got out of bed, she would step into her faux wool slippers, palm her cigarettes and a mason jar of salt into the pocket of her bathrobe and plod along the cobblestone garden path— one hand smoking, the other sprinkling. Every year she said the marigold patch was perfect, never had she seen them so brazenly golden. My sister took to the little suns with zeal, wrenching one from the ground, root and all. Underneath her bare pink feet, the salt was at work drawing the life out of a snail—slow, writhing. Shell hunting was our favorite game. A straw basket full of the hollow things sat on the plastic

30


porch table, next to the ashtray, like potpourri or medals of valor. They were as organic as smooth stones, as empty as the pecan hulls we tossed in the compost pile after cracking them open and pressing the stripped nuts into a warm custard pie. We never stopped to shake the empty shells near our ears, to listen to the rattling of the dry, shrunken bodies still inside them. My grandmother began to emerge less and less, missing doses and cigarette sun time and salting sessions. The garden atrophied. As she shivered with the naked stalks, I wrapped her in patchwork quilts, held her hollow body on the rusty porch swing. When she fell asleep, I held my ear to her trembling chest and listened to her tiny, tired heart rattle.

31


AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER...

......................

• And Snow White forces her stepmother to dance to her death in hot iron shoes as wedding entertainment… • And Cinderella’s beautiful yet wicked stepsisters cut off their toes in order to fit into the golden shoe, but once discovered, Cinderella is chosen as the Princess-To-Be, and birds peck out the stepsisters’ eyeballs… • And the Little Mermaid is gifted a dagger to kill the Prince in order to turn herself back into a beautiful ocean creature, but her love for him is too much so instead she sacrifices herself to her former home and bubbles into sea foam… • And Rapunzel, who is pregnant and whose golden locks have been cut, is banished to the desert, soon to be reunited with the Prince who was pushed by the witch into a thorn bush that poked out his eyes…

• And it is only when the Frog makes unwanted advances on the Princess in the dark of the night that she throws him against the wall and he turns back into the Prince… • And the Ice Queen fails at seeking out companionship in a young boy, and is later melted by the sun after he is taken from her… • And Briar Rose is taken advantage of in her deep sleep, only wakened after nine months to her twins suckling the spindle shard out of her finger, and when the Queen discovers the King’s infidelity she orders the twins to be cooked and fed to their father, but instead, the King orders his wife to be burned alive and marries Briar Rose…

32


33


THINGS WERE DIFFERENT BACK THEN Katie Campbell When I was in grade school, I used the story of my grandpa’s death to unashamedly get attention. Most of the other kids didn’t have a story that topped one of a disappearing grandpa who’d flown away in his plane, never to be seen again. In those moments, I was the ultimate storyteller, and I felt a thrill whenever I reduced my peers to gaping mouths and startled breaths. The more I found out about my grandfather, though, the less I wanted to tell the story. • The only image I have of my grandpa is a photograph that used to sit on my grandmother’s dresser in her bedroom. It was clearly a picture he posed for, as he was well-groomed, handsomely dressed, and smiling in that way that I’ve only seen men do—no teeth showing, the lips not quite upturned, but you can still tell that they’re smiling, somehow. He looked like a Hollywood movie star. He was very handsome, and his hair was combed back like Gene Kelly’s. The picture was in black, white, and gray, and the whole image gave the sense that he was more figure than human. When I was young, the only thing I heard about him was his name. I knew that Roger Campbell was my grandpa, my father’s father, and my grandma’s husband, but I didn’t know who he was. The first real information I learned about him was how he died. On the night of March 25, 1968, my grandfather left his house and never returned. The story goes that he flew out in his plane and crashed somewhere in the water, because no one ever found a trace of the wreckage. After a week of searching, of the coast guard combing the water along the New Jersey coast, what was left of the Campbell family was forced to admit that he was gone. • It took me a long time to gather the courage to ask my father about it, and when I did, I saw something truly amazing and terrifying: he looked sad. His eyes tightened, and when he spoke, I could hear real sorrow in his words. It was the first time I saw my

34


father hesitate. He was, and is, a confident, eloquent man, but I had dared to break the wall of silence built around Grandpa Roger, and had thus thrown him off his guard. He stuttered, stumbled, tripped over words in a manner completely alien to his usual demeanor. Carefully, hesitantly, I asked, “Dad, do you think Grandpa was planning on coming back?” His brow furrowed, and the lines around his eyes tightened. “No,” he answered.

“Why not?” A beat, then—

“Because they would have found the plane if he’d been flying locally.” •

My grandpa was an alcoholic. When he drank, his handsome features morphed into an ugly grimace. He raged and swore. He hit his children with a belt if they made him angry, and it wasn’t hard to make him angry. He even self-medicated with the drugs he had in his doctor’s office. His actions cast a shadow over his family that still hasn’t completely dissipated, that still lingers in the pinched faces of his surviving relatives. These were the things I learned about him long after finding out how he died. I didn’t know what alcoholism was until I found out my grandpa had it, and I’d thought that kids only got hit with belts in stories that were told to scare kids. I felt angry. He was my grandfather, which meant that he was a part of my family—yet his actions betrayed my very definition of family. Relatives weren’t supposed to hurt each other, but this man had. He had hurt people who I had thought were immune to hurt. And yet, despite the anger and bitterness that curled in the pit of my stomach whenever I thought of him, I still felt a perverse desire to know more. I wanted, needed, something other than the tableau scenes of him terrorizing his family and then leaving. In my quest, I managed to land an interview with a source of information not often available to me: my Aunt Maggie. She lived in a small town in Minnesota, far away from my home in Virginia; that summer night, though, we met at a halfway point, sitting in the kitchen of her childhood home in New Jersey. It was long after everyone else had gone to bed, which gave me the courage to bring up her father, a topic that felt safer to approach under the cover of night. As we talked, she admitted that she’d never had a good relationship with Grandpa Roger, for she had fought back against him more than anyone else in the family. Good for you, I thought vindictively, helplessly. “My mom was not the person you know today,” she told me, and my stomach clenched, hard. I truly wished that I had never asked about my family’s past. I had

35


loved Grandma Theresa deeply and fiercely since I was very young, more than any of my other extended family members. She was sweet yet spunky, unafraid to chase her grandchildren around the house even when she was well into her seventies. I was so enamored with her when I was little that I had declared to my mother my intention to marry her. I did not want to know that my grandmother had ever been in pain. I did not want to know that she had been different than the kind, strong woman I had always known. Yet still, my mouth opened, and I asked, “How?” Aunt Maggie tilted her head back and gently rolled her shoulders, sighing deeply. “She was quieter. She didn’t like to challenge Dad, especially when he got out of control. Things were different back then.” I didn’t know how to reply to that, so I nodded briefly, my gaze fixed on the tabletop in front of me. The gap between me and the past seemed like a chasm that I had no hope of ever crossing. We didn’t say much after that, just listened to the whir of the air conditioning and the hum of the refrigerator. • Since his body and plane were never found, Grandpa Roger was labeled a missing person. That label was the first of many hardships my grandfather left his family with when he walked out of their lives. Because no body was found, New Jersey law stated that he could not be confirmed dead until he had been missing for seven years. For seven years, my grandmother was unable to claim any social security benefits and was forced to pay taxes on properties she didn’t want to own, as everything was in Roger Campbell’s name. Divested of their primary source of income and shackled to a sham mimicry of hope by the law, Roger’s family had to adapt. Maggie became a waitress and Theresa took on any job she could get, saving every penny she earned. Russell, my father, became the man of the house at age fifteen, all because Roger Campbell decided he didn’t want to stay with his family any more. • Desperate for some sort of positive feeling that could anchor me, I started to wish that I had inherited something favorable from my grandfather, some definitive trait that I could say I got from him. I wished that he had been a good singer. If he was, I could have thought of him in fondness when I sang; alas, I got my voice from my other grandpa.

36


I think my dad had a similar feeling. Recently, he told me, “Your Aunt and I got addictive personalities from him. My mother got anxiety that reared its head whenever one of her children turned twenty-one, or started to drink alcohol—whichever came first.” That anxiety has been passed on to my mother. “I used to watch how much your father drank,” she admitted, “and I didn’t like it when he flew on planes. It was just too spooky.” Hearing such superstition from my level-headed, practical-thinking mother was even stranger than seeing my father hesitate and stumble over his words. It was alarming to think that a man she had never met had influenced her fears so much. My mother had to remind herself of what her children got from their grandfather in order to remain vigilant. “I was worried about your older brother when he started to drink,” she said, “because I can see the addictive tendencies in him that Grandpa Roger had.” Her worries weren’t unfounded. For a period, my older brother drank too much, and he got drunk very easily. I felt my grandpa’s legacy in the generalized depression and anxiety disorders I was diagnosed with in my late teens. When I went to my first psychiatry appointment, I had to fill out forms that the receptionist handed to me. When I got to the part of the form that asked about family history, I asked my dad what I should fill in. He leaned over my shoulder, read down the form, and said quietly, “Check off alcoholism, anxiety, and depression.” I swallowed and marked the three boxes with my pen, and then wrote, “Grandfather, father’s side,” on the lines next to them.

“Anything else?” I asked, and he shook his head.

It was hard not to get angry at my grandpa, and so easy to blame him. I was angry at the genes he had passed on to me, my brother, and our other siblings. He was darkness to me. He was pain. • My grandpa lost most of his family in one harsh fell swoop when he was very young. He would lose the rest of it more slowly, but just as painfully. On September 17, 1927, my great grandfather, Russell, took my grandpa’s older brother, Russell Jr., and many of their relatives up on a sightseeing flight to celebrate Russell Jr.’s birthday. That Saturday afternoon, the passengers departed Hadley Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey on a Fokker F.VII monoplane. At five hundred feet, the plane’s single engine stalled,

37


causing the craft to crash into a nearby apple orchard. At the time, the incident would be labeled the deadliest airplane crash in United States history. The impact killed the pilot, Russell Sr., his son, his sister, two nieces, and a cousin. Little Roger became the man of the house when he was two years old. I didn’t even know that my father was named after his dead grandfather and uncle until I read it in an almost one-hundred-year-old newspaper. • After the crash, all that was left of the Campbell family was Roger, his mother, and his grandmother. Both women eventually turned to alcohol in their grief. Roger’s mother poured her grievances down her throat and eventually died when she couldn’t fight her sorrow any longer. His grandmother left her mark by teaching Roger to speak German, her native language, before passing away as well. I had been so focused on my family that I hadn’t even spared a thought for my grandfather’s. • Alone but not beaten, Roger kept moving forward. He graduated from medical school when he was twenty-one, an age where most people graduate from college. One winter night in Philadelphia, Roger was walking home from the hospital in only his white lab coat, blending in with the snow swirling around him because he didn’t have the money to buy any better protection. He was trudging along, head bowed against the wind, when a woman charged into his path, squabbling in German. “What on earth are you doing? Where is your jacket?” She cried, pointing at his poor excuse for a coat. Incredibly, thanks to his grandmother’s lessons, Roger could answer in her tongue, could explain that he didn’t have the money for anything else. In response to this, she took him into a nearby restaurant, bought him a meal and asked him about his life. By the end of the night, she had decided to give him a regular stipend that would pay for the rest of his medical school tuition and living expenses. My father still has some of their letters of correspondence. As time went on, my dad started to open up to telling positive stories about his father without any prompting; this is the one he seems fondest of. Each time he tells it, he finishes with: “Only in America could that meeting have occurred. Only here could two strangers from different countries meet on a deserted street and find that they spoke the same language. It was the embodiment of America.”

He also tells tales that showcase my grandpa’s eccentricity, energy, and enthusi-

38


asm. One Fourth of July, my grandpa wrapped red, white, and blue streamers around sticks of dynamite and tossed them haphazardly into the sky. One could taste the nitroglycerin in the air, could feel the explosive patriotism—and no one more than the poor police officer parked by the house, tasked with instructions to make sure the field didn’t catch on fire when Dr. Campbell got excited and started blowing things up again. The following day, the next door neighbor walked across the yard and wished Dr. Campbell a belated happy Independence Day. He also politely asked him to fix all of the shattered windows in his house that the homemade fireworks had blown out. Roger had them repaired and replaced in a day’s time. Grandpa was giving, too. He and my grandma started the first public swimming pool, fire department, and doctor’s clinic in Yardville, New Jersey. He provided care for anyone with any condition, amount of money, and background. If a woman could not leave her house because she was too far into labor to be moved, Dr. Campbell would make a midnight house call. He regularly sent money and clothes to his wife’s relatives in Ireland because he could afford to, and because they had adopted him into their family. Because only in America could two people from different countries find a new home in each other. • I don’t know if I’ll ever stop uncovering secrets about my grandfather. Every time I think I’ve heard it all, something new and often darker slips out from the mouths of my dad or aunt. As always, my grandma remains tellingly silent. It hurts that I’m no longer surprised by the terrible things I hear, but by now the shock has faded away to weary acceptance. Ultimately, the only conclusion that I can draw is that my grandpa was human. He was the dual Greek comedy and tragedy masks, grinning yet sobbing. He could be angry, out of control, and violent, trapped by a past that he just couldn’t beat. He is a haunting example of how history begets patterns, how the past sends shivers, reverberations down the spine of the future. As my dad told me over the phone, both his voice and my hand shaking, “He was loving, eccentric, and tragic.” • Grandma Theresa lives in my hometown now, so she can be closer to my mom and dad in case she needs them. She is in her nineties, and has reached that fragile point where she needs to be taken care of, instead of being the caretaker. Over the summer, my father had my sister and me go through my grandmother’s jewelry, which he had taken from the house in New Jersey as he prepared for it to be sold. He told us that it was time to see if there was anything that we would

39


like to keep. Neither of us wore much jewelry, but my sister and I humored him all the same. As I was looking through the sparse boxes, I came across a gold watch. It sat in a small plastic jewelry bag, and a scrap of paper was wrapped around it. Unfolded, the faded paper said, “Gold wedding watch” in my grandmother’s elegant handwriting. Not wanting to take anything without her express permission, I brought the watch to my grandmother, who was waiting downstairs. She smiled when she saw it. “When we got married,” she told me, “your Grandpa Roger only had eighteen dollars left to his name. He used it to buy me this watch as a wedding present.” My throat tight, I immediately said, “Grandma, if you want to keep it, you should.” She shook her head. “No, if you want it, you should have it. Your dad will need to take it to the shop to get it fixed so it will work again, though. Do you like it?” I had always been very sensitive to certain textures and pressures on my skin. I was never able to wear anything with elastic, or shirts with high collars, because they made me feel like I was choking. I couldn’t wear a sock if it had a hole in it, or a bracelet that moved around on my wrist, or a too-tight headband, because my mind would attach to the sensation and wouldn’t let it go. But the watch fit my wrist perfectly. It didn’t move or make me feel uncomfortably constricted. It was simple, yet elegant and beautiful, despite the fact that it had stopped ticking.

“I…yeah, Grandma, I do,” I answered.

40


41


EULOGY Hannah Gellman I was going to ask you to crush my sternum into talc and squeeze chalk into warm cobblestone. After my chest, to work on my ankle, I was walking past the aprons watering their flowerboxes when a dormant fracture began to pulse and kettle scream. We sang down gum streets, beyond the train and slug chatter, up a blistered hill, remember? My sandals dangled from your ring finger like a gold wind chime, I wore your boots around my neck, bruised my collarbone with the dirt jolt of everywhere you’d ever been. We ferried to a non-island in the rain. Just us, a cloud of gulls, and one crow— dark and bright. You played a marsh grass celesta, whistled a melody across the gulf like an unsinkable stone, half-slept on black leather to thunder and two guitars. The crow watched your eyes dart between dreams. This is the story I will tell at your funeral: Sometimes I yell down the bone ravine. I pray it still echoes back in your voice.

42


“We have grown our roots deep into the earth to drink what little water is left there, but we feel our leaves shriveling. We know that it is only a matter of time before we lose all of our leaves and are unable to use the sun’s light for food. Without water or fertilizer, we will surely die.”

“She rose, pulled on her robe, and carefully adjusted her liver—it had been installed just last month and she knew it wasn’t sitting right, but her husband had insisted he knew how to install it without reading the instruction manual.”

“As he began, his fingers began to dig, to rub, to cling to the soft skin, as if he’d forgotten that something so soft, so gentle existed anymore.”

Fathoms