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VOLUME 59 The Literary Magazine of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program, Columbia University

QUARTO The Literary Magazine of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program, Columbia University

Current and recent undergraduate Creative Writing students—including non-degree students and students enrolled in other divisions of Columbia University who are taking undergraduate creative writing courses—are encouraged to submit to Quarto. We welcome poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama, including excerpts from longer works. Manuscripts may be considered elsewhere while under consideration at Quarto. Please notify us of acceptance by another publication. Address all submissions and correspondence to: Quarto 612 Lewisohn Hall 2970 Broadway, Mail Code 4108 Columbia University New York, NY 10027 For information on becoming a patron of Quarto, please call the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program at (212) 854-3774. Text set in Cochin. Cover art: We 're Never Coming Down by Stephen Neill Holland. Copyright Quarto 2007 All rights are reserved and revert to authors and artists on publication. 0735-6536


Executive Editors

Emily C. Belli Johanna Smith Managing Editor

Katelyn Doyle Senior Editoiv

Atossa Abrahamian Priyanka Chablani Lemi Guidice Karen Kelleher Ryan MacCarrigan Ian Solsky Zohar Tirosh Editorial Advisor

Christina Rumpf Director, Undergraduate Creative Writing

Leslie Woodard

Produced at The Print Center, Inc., 225 Varick St., New York, NY 10014, a non-profit facility for literary and arts-related publications. (212) 206-8465
































LETTERS FROM HOME DORLA C. MdNTOSH Hope this find you well... the cow she gave birth again all we need is a change to cover the school fees the rains came early the rains came late remember cousin Mamitz daughter she belly big to she throat .. .if God spare will we lay eyes on you in this life You letter reach me safe... it's alltime a cold sun can't put a piece of food in meh mouth I long for a piece of cassava & saltfish a cold drink of water from a tar bottom drum the madam say she maybe give me a little raise come New Year .. .even in the ground ants go whisper news of me



Microbraids blowing near an electric fan out front of shotgun quadruplexes, crackling front porches a quarter mile off cobblestone Liberty Park, your eggs over easy on an old gas stove, a stank face and deep fried weave on lazy west side nights when a vrooom off the drag strip bursts, then fades into dust


THE RIVER LIFFEY MARISSA FOX He tells me he is leaving Dublin by choice: the bars are too crowded, the girls drink too fast. Under the canopied alleyways along O'Connell Street, he complains that this is nothing like the nights in Canterbury when the wand stirs the trees awake in the dim pre-dawn. There is nothing left for me here, he whispers in his bare apartment above Stephen's Green, where the windows overlook the motionless morning, •where the rain splinters from the sky like glass. He tells me he is leaving Dublin by choice, that there is nowhere left to go but home. But I know, lying beside him, that he is always leaving and it is always as meaningless as the garlands of Christmas lights strung carelessly about the city, tangled in the trees, glowing in the darkened pubs, perched high above the River Liffey where the water crashes in every direction until it is neither coming nor going.



The girl stood in front of the tank labeled Kelp Forest. It was by far the biggest, with huge ropes of kelp spanning its length, swaying in the tide like so many long-waisted girls. She picked absentmindedly at a thread on the sleeve of her camel-haired coat and slowly walked away. It was 7:03. The Phyllis Bock Aquarium would not open to the public for another one hour and fifty-seven minutes.

Bingo Little did not see the girl until 12:45. She was passing the far side of the otter pond, camel coat swishing. He had never seen anything with so much integrity in all his sixteen years. "Bingo," said his sister Caroline. "Can you see the otter?" She was eight, and itchy in new socks. "No, Caroline. I can't." "I can't either. It's terrible." "It's not terrible, Caroline. It's just an otter pond." "Hmph," said Caroline, inspecting her knee. Bingo didn't hear. He was already dragging his sister at an unsteady pace through the crowd, her small feet trampling many toes as he manhandled her through the open door. He'd seen the girl swish into it a few seconds before, her foot framed in the lower hemisphere of the glass. It was a foot that Bingo would remember vividly for many nights after, a foot in a brown leather loafer. An intelligent foot. Bingo deposited Caroline at the Intertidal pool, where you could stick your hand in the water and touch a starfish, or a sponge, or hermit crab. Caroline looked skeptical. A teenaged volunteer smiled shyly at her, coaxing her small and sticky fingers in the water. Bingo contributed very little to the process as he craned his head,


looking through the crowd. "It's hard, and rough," said Caroline to no one in particular. "Not at all what I expected. Rather like a toothbrush." "Yes," said Bingo. "In you go." He scanned the maze of heads for the girl's tawny one. At last he saw her, her head and shoulders propped up against the wall. She was being spoken to by a large, dark-bearded man in a woolly turtleneck. The girl looked only barely alert. Not passionate, thought Bingo. Extremely pale. Which is not to say he lost interest — in fact, as introspective and sickly, the girl was perhaps even more alluring than before. "Can you lift me? " said Caroline to the pimply attendant. "I can't quite reach the sea urchin."

Bingo brought Caroline to the aquarium every day he could that fall. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays she had ballet, where she and other small girls galloped across the room like a herd of little pink sausages. Bingo tried to convince his friend Ed Wexler-Baron that the aquarium might be a good place to spend the afternoon. Ed was tall and gangly with an overbite. He and Bingo, their friendship the vestige of a 6 grade car-pool, talked frequently about the prospect of losing their respective virginities. As they neared their seventeenth year, the prospect seemed like it might at last appear on the horizon. "No," said Ed. "The last time I went to the aquarium was when my Michigan cousins visited in January. It was awful." "Right," said Bingo. They sat down to watch television instead. This was followed by a half hour spent smoking cigarettes in Ed's garage. "Cool," said Ed, experimentally.


The manta ray "petting zoo" was a big draw for the Phyllis Bock aquarium. It consisted of a large, shallow basin raised three or four feet off the ground. A single ray glided along the floor. As it neared the far side, girls with their hands stuck in the water shrieked in delight. It reminded Bingo a little bit of a very dark mushroom encountered in a soup, possibly a Chinese soup. "To better swim through the ocean," said the guide. "Evolution has provided the way with a diamond-shaped body. Using its graceful 'wings,' the ray propels itself through the water." The ray had not discovered that it might be happier playing dead in the middle of the pool. Instead it rushed furiously into the little hands of girls and boys alike, "wings flaring. Caroline, obediently standing on the platform, extracted her hand from the water to stroke the hem of her neighbor's dress. Bingo pined, looking preoccupied. Then he saw the girl across the basin! She was looking splendid in a plum-colored tunic and tortoiseshell headband. Bingo put his elbow down squarely on the head of a small red-headed boy. She saw him too. He was underwhelming in an argyle sweater. Freckles, she noted, and turned her attention to the ray. Her name was Sybil. The ray made her think of bat sonar bouncing off of cave walls. She tried to re-imagine the ray as a bundle of sound, too high-pitched for human ears. Bingo put his hand into the water, his cheeks burning. If only she put her hand in and they both touched the ray! He strained forward, paddling the water vigorously. Sybil didn't put her hand in. She maintained a steady distance from the basin, staring unfocusedly at the wall.


Sybil's face evoked that of a small gray cat: alert, but with no visible motivation. The veins on her neck and wrists were finely traced and strikingly blue and lent her skin a slightly violet cast. An oblique face, thought her research supervisor, Randall Kohler. A little cruel, perhaps. Many a research assistant had passed through her rank at Phyllis Bock, and none in Randall Kohler s opinion was as pretty as Sybil. None, also, were so completely unmoved by his expertise with ocean geology and his luxuriant beard. Her ankles, he thought while driving to work, were especially fine. He adjusted his turtleneck, which itched him under the chin. Randall was married to Jane Bock, daughter of Horace Bock, steel heir and sea mammal enthusiast. Jane was a vigorous woman who spent a great deal of time in a wet suit, brimming with a kind of threatening enthusiasm for fieldwork. Randall drew caricatures of his wife in goggles and flippers in the margins of his notes at academic lectures.

Sybil, in a tartan skirt and loafers, walked down the hall to the research laboratory. Bingo Little stalked the Outer Bay exhibit in vain. Randall Kohler sat in his office, his feet on his desk. Caroline galloped gracelessly across the studio floor. It was six o'clock. The Aquarium would be closing in half an hour. Sybil entered the lab, which was wall to wall with comb-finned quid in large tanks. Pipes and tubes filtered in and out of each tank. "Squid," said Sybil softly to herself. "Are voracious, fast-growing, and fast-moving predators. They are exclusively carnivorous, feeding on fish and other invertebrates. "


PT~~ She walked over to a tank, home to a pair of comb-fins, paused to adjust one sock, and touched the glass with her fingers. The squid took no notice. Sybil turned around and walked over to the windows. She pulled the blinds down. She turned off the lights and locked the door. In the middle of the room, Sybil spread her camel-hair coat on the floor and lay down on it, shifting onto her left side. Slowly, she removed one shoe with the toe of the other, and then her socks in the same manner. Her toes were long and white, illuminated only by the purplish glow of the fluorescent tank lights. Sybil looked up at the sea of tentacles before her and began to make a highpitched humming sound, barely audible to the human ear.


WHEN YOU LEFT M E IT WAS AFTERNOON ABRAHAM WEISS But when I see you again it will be morning, and the light will settle around the kitchen like a loose, cotton sleeve. All of the windows will be open, so I'll have to choose one to climb in, while you are eating your cereal, making your tea, "Hello," I'll say, just like that, only in such a tone that we 11 dance on tip toes in woolen socks along the white and green tiles. Or better yet it will be evening on a boardwalk on the pacific, with everything lit up a dark dark blue like overalls draped over a chair, only the city is the chair, the boardwalk the seat, you will be sitting, and I will walk up in a pressed silk suit and a bowler hat, to which you will say "Hello,' just like that only in such a tone to make the stars come out, one by one, shiny brass buttons on an old pair of overalls, where the pockets are the future, the straps are ladders, and all we have to do is climb.



After all the anger: A mirror and a stranger.




Eat light. Heavy.



They flew in overnight through the gym's open doors Then departing, they broke against bolted glass windows. There were thirty by morning, imitations of sleep. They'd fallen and landed near painted white lines, Respecting the boundaries of our basketball court. When we entered and saw them our coach barked a curse, Don't touch 'em and left us to hail the school janitor. We stood cold and quivered in marigold uniforms, And while one of us cried, another stepped forward. With a grin and the tow of a small canvas sneaker He kicked a brown body across the white line. We watched as it soared on the glossy wood floor. Soon more of us joined and we added more sparrows. We split into teams and established two goals And the sparrows moved smooth with each pass and kick And our fast eager feet caused one bird to tear. The burgundy mess -was soon ushered away. And our coach then returned blowing his whistle, And some of us froze, others sighed ltd not fair. Like me they weren't ready to give up the game.



In the gravel of a baseball diamond beneath the ceaseless neon of its floodlights I planted an empty Doritos bag For weeks I watered it with Coca-Cola and Budweiser a few globules of petroleum I cropdusted it in gunpowder fertilized it with finely ground Starburst chewies then staked off the gardenbed with a Marlboro As expected the ingredients congealed and burst into a glorious rippling-in-the-wind American flag



Though I am not a botanist, I often dream of ripe tomatoes, Earthen zits with green bow ties, Killers in another life. Solatium lycopenjcUim, the wolf-peach,

Hidden poorly in night's shade (or was it Eden's?) by your rose-red, I seek To classify you, Though I am not a botanist. A lone tomato in an unlit room. Fruit? Vegetable? Ontological? What of your ancient status? Poison, Now a pizza? Have you quit the party? Thus I interrogate you, Though I am not a botanist.




With a spear whittled from the upstairs shower curtain rod in hand, Uncle Jay sets about the business of getting a chicken for the Christmas dinner. Normally, Uncle Ray would help him, but he currently wades -waist deep in the murky water of our five hundred gallon fish tank looking for eels to make soup. Near the clothesline, outside the house, Aunty Ting and Aunty Ming negotiates with Popple, my older sister's — Mae's — demon possessed pony, for safe passage to the kitchen. Yesterday, Popple slammed a hoof mark on Aunty Xing's stomach while she hung up ornaments on the guava trees; and the day before that, he took a chunk out of Aunty Ying's t-shirt for singing "Jingle Bells." Popple hates the holidays. From the back of the house, I hear Uncle Tay screaming, "Ping! Ping!" I guess Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — Mom's geese — have chased him up the swing set again. I do not blame them. He was conspiring with Uncle Wey to make a "Christmas goose' for dinner. Aunty Ring and Aunty Ying hum as they decorate the house. But because Mom does not believe in Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, and Creches, and Dad does not condone wasting money on lights, wreaths, or anything that will be seen only once a year, the house looks pretty much as it always has with the exception of forty-five colored socks pasted on the living room wall. No names have been written on the socks just incase the missing pair miraculously appears. Mom returns from the wet market and summons the entire house to help bring in the groceries from the fiveand-a-half-seater Toyota. It takes us several trips before we unload all nine baskets of vegetables, half the ocean's inhabitants, seven industrial-kitchen-size bags of flour, five crates of durians and mangosteens, two whole-roasted pigs, and a spare table.


As Mom begins cooking, Mae climbs up on the island and recites Walt Whitman's 0 Captain! My Captain!, Alfred Noyes's The Highwayman, and other tragic poems. Inspired by Aunty Ping's — our Sunday school teacher's — lecture on "Cleanliness being next to Godliness," Max, my younger sister, and the rest of the eleven orphans that inhabit the house, busily haul up hoses, brooms, and detergents to clean the kids' room. I do not think they know what they are doing because the rattan beds are beginning to sag and a waterfall cascades from the room, down the marble stairs, to the living room. I can hear Mom yelling something about turning off the pipes, but Dad is shouting too — the rabbits have escaped again! I organize Max and the other kids into a hunting party but just as we open the front doors, several chickens race into the living room with Uncle Jay grinning fiendishly behind them. Amid the screaming and squawking, Uncle Jay aims and launches his spear, pinning an unlucky chicken to the wall. Mom chases Uncle Jay out of the house with a cleaver, but slips on the soapy water. Aunty Ring and Aunty Ying dive to her rescue and end up colliding into Uncle Ray's bucket of eels. Now, Dad and the uncles slip and slide trying to capture the eels, while Mom and the aunties chase the chickens out. The chaos attracts Popple who prances into the house and snacks on the colored socks.




The table will decide if we sit in a square or a ring and if— when I kick you to -warn against licking the teaspoon before dipping it into the sugar bowl — my legs reach yours in time. If they don't and if you lick and dip, my mother will not let me wed you. No matter that my father often licks and dips. If that were an excuse, then what of my mother's efforts to prevent me from making the grand mistakes she made? The rug of purpose pulled from under her legs and the table's.



At five, you walk the pre-dawn street to your bus stop and shut your eyes how a wildflower folds at night. Steamship's hornblow over a swaying Harlem River, stoplights against a no parking sign, a wiry cat sitting on a toppled news box, dumbstruck at the moon. Tree-planting your footsteps - a god walking, your weight leftfroma different lifetime: a full jug of water, you carry it still.


Bl-COASTAL JOANNA SIEGEL Home is a place where these aren't even possible Where all this yields no thread to feed the crystal loom for the making of the fabric of reality And home has its own wonders Nary to be found or lost here Next to these skeletal gatekeepers Under evaporated milk and powdered doldrums Which weigh so little and press so hard Home is unsoiled by clean white This is not even possible at home It simply does not figure Home is dangerous in a sexy sort of safe Home seduces better ends Home scatters the trite remainders of what was yet to see Here I go roving whipcream nights Seeking out lost catscratch alleys Home tucks me into various strange beds, All shaped like the one I used to know best In my chalksuit here I am ready to hop scotch. Here steel toes take me to market with the option of stocks. I go to the beach to get sucked underwater, where I always Bump into someone I know And I cast rocks onto the churn of either river Whether loved or loathed I am only ever either hither or thither



Edie coughs and carefully folds her hankie, looking out the window at a dusty Paris. She absentmindedly unfolds it and feels the thin metallic shock almost before she sees the blood seeping towards her fingers, clouding the mucus into a syrupy orange. She quickly refolds the hankie, hiding its contents from sight. Paris looks hot, but its nights are damp and cold. Weeks later and it's almost all blood now, thinner and more insistent, clinging to the rims of her lips if she doesn't wipe thoroughly, staining her pale skin a bright crimson. She buys red hankies and rouge to match and doesn't tell anyone, not even when the blood starts coming from her nostrils, which had previously been clear. Later still: Woozy she feels entire sections of herself float off into her hankie; not wanting to lose so much anymore she begins collecting them, and she has to buy more hankies, these ones pinker than the first to match the chunks of gore that spray out of her nose and mouth. She tries to assemble them, to put them back together but they're too soft and they squish beneath the delicate touch of her fingers. So she saves the used hankies on the windowsill, watching them dry slowly into dark twisting shapes. Weeks escape her and she notices the shapes more now; she becomes aware of a new glowing existence in her tiny flat. As she adds to the collection on her windowsill, roses bloom out of the dried hankies, roses that grow closer and closer together until they fuse where their edges touch. Startled at this new being, coming from within her yet outside of her and sitting on the windowsill, Edie places a trembling finger on the tip of its mouth. "Are you here for me? " she whispers, not noticing its reply as she blows her nose again, this time tucking the stained hankie into a hole on the beast's forehead. The lion roars and the sound consumes little Edie with


her hankies and her hopeless white gloves and her pale skin that shone under electric lights. The lion sits, trembling, on the sill, then springs forward, landing at the top of the stairwell and finds itself locked inside the flat. Edie hadn't been so stupid after all, thinks the lion, then it sets about tunneling through the stovepipe upwards to the roof. Once outside, the lion sees a new Pans, not the rusted fire escapes and clotheslines of the tenement housing but the broad avenues that allowed for teams of horses, dragging cannons no doubt, to march tirelessly through the city. The lion roars but forgets Edie who tumbles out, not so much a person but a slip of cloth by now, for the crimson lion, studded with rosettes, has grown rather solid while looking at Paris. Edie's new shape serves her well for she floats rather than falls and drapes herself over a dustbin in the alleyway.



Swept naked, the hardwood floors gradually gat sat upon by furniture found missing on sidestreets in the Bronx. Rental-white walls are slowly smeared with watercolor doodles, anti-war posters and lascivious clippings from Vice Magazine. And trendy vagrants rush in. The names on the lease read like holepunched clinical forms in a psychiatrist's spiraling notebook: Bipolar lovers take the master bedroom where they play mix and match and crush and snort with potpourri of prescriptions. They invite their drug buddy (fresh from sleeping on park benches) to cop the living room, put a scavenged mattress in it and bring along a prospective girlfriend to help pay rent with disability checks she receives for auditory hallucinations compounded by her acid years and hereditary disposition to schizophrenia. White kids in the boogie-down Bronx play a different punk rock song on each stereo, just to drown the reggaeton that blasts their windows like imaginary gunmen. They take out the trash only "when a parent visits to ask for a larger check. That, and depositing beer bottles for a thousand nickels and dimes will stave off eviction



as long as they don't mess with rent-stabilized abueUta downstairs, or the super who sells them cocaine so they don't have to face the neighborhood. Even though their posters say ELECT A MADMAN YOU GET MADNESS, these walls are still white and it makes them recall the psych wards they frequented like smoke spots in their youth. Every time they call a house meeting to decide who pays the electric bill it's a flashback to group therapy, a ring of fingers wagging their vulnerabilities at you as residence becomes one more failed rehabilitation.



When Cecily and John sit down to eat, their love is like a carcass before them on the table. She picks gingerly at the pink feet and he pokes along the ridge that is the bird's backbone. Cecily's father is 82, and lives along in his West side apartment. His Dominican nurse, Marleni, comes everyday Monday through Saturday to treat him like a big, disgusting problem that no one wants to think about, let alone Mt, but she wears coral lipstick and calls his junior, •which he likes. Cecily, wiping her mouth at the table, tries not to think about the times when Marleni wheels her father to Zabar's where all the big disgusting problems fester at the long communal table while their children, downtown in their offices, try to forget them. John and Cecily met at a film screening, when Cecily felt compelled to wear her creativity on her sleeve and introduce herself as a photographer rather than an editorial assistant, which she is really, every Monday through Friday from nine to five for a woman named Naomi, who wears polyester suits and plasticky shoes. John wanted to do Cecily the second he saw how pale and slightly yellow the insides of her wrists were, and how wistfully she bore the brunt of her slight under bite. When they go to bed, Cecily huddles her face in the small of John's back, as if hiding. John is a self-sufficient sleeper but he often dreams of being mauled by dogs. In the dreams, he is backed up against towering walls of concrete, and cannot call out for help.


SOLO JESSIE GAYNOR Saw you dip-bob dancing there, body slink-twisting, liquid elbows. Tag-along music obeyed your hip flows, foot slide head beat. Watched your skin pulse, mirror-eyed human strobe-light. Costumed in sweat sheen.



Dancing so very softly, you swim through space. Saw you evaporate the seconds with Outstretched arms. Saw you carry the Weight of this world into the next with you and You pull my head along this still midnight alleyway Hanging onto each silent step taken is Time holding a short thread on My running heart as it is So very softly, Dancing.



At the party Alexi tells me to read Zorba the Greek so I smile ok ok sometime soon what U your favorite book?

& I say everything because everything comes to mind & I am drunk too, which I think can pass as a response, but he looks at me coldly & says could you love only one man?

to which I can only shrug. It\) exactly the dame right there, to fall in love with only one thing,

& then he leaves me, pressed up against the sink of the small kitchen, my neck aching from keeping eye contact with such a tall person.


FT CLEANING HOUSE ANNIE BERKE It was the biggest house on the block, and the pink stucco made it look like a giant birthday cake. The house was, in a way, a present: it should have read "Happy Divorce ' across the front in loopy frosting letters, Georgia mused as she crossed the threshold. Georgia had dressed Meghan impeccably in a tasteful sailor suit, thin, unruly hair snapped back with a barrette. There was no real reason to dress up for moving day, except Georgia thought it might be fun to make the move more of an occasion, and why not dress up to meet your brand-new house? (Meghan looks like a little doll in that outfit, doesn't she?) "What do you think, sweetheart?" Georgia whispered to Meghan, who was loosening the red tie at her throat. "It's big," Meghan replied, shuffling one foot over the -wood softly. Georgia could see how her daughter enjoyed how the soles of her patent-leather Mary-Janes sounded on the floor. "Give me your shoes," she told Meghan. "You'll scuff up the floor." Meghan quirked one corner of her mouth, to indicate her displeasure, but without a word, sat down on the floor and set to work on the buckles. Georgia wiggled her fingers and Meghan dropped the shoes into her mother's open hands. "What's your favorite part?" Georgia asked. "Of the house? " "Yej, the house." Meghan immediately knew her answer. She pointed to the ceiling. "That." Georgia looked up: "Oh, the skylight! I forgot about that." Meghan smiled to herself. "I like it." "Come on, kid. Let's see if we can find a bedroom for you with a skylight!" Georgia said. When Georgia's friends from college called, or her sis-


ters, or even her mother, she apologized and explained that she doesn't mean to ignore them. The house kept her very busy, too busy to think about Peter and the woman he left her for, the woman that Georgia called a "wifelette," since she acted like his wife, but, let's remember, isn't. At least, yet. She was too busy to get depressed about the divorce, certainly too busy to get involved in adult education classes, pottery, or book club or whatever was in vogue for divorcees that season. Georgia told her sister the C.F.O. that she was too busy to re-enter the work world, conveniently leaving out that she had never entered the work world. (She entered a few pageants here and there growing up in Atlanta, and she always won, but then again, she hadn't entered that many.) The house took up a lot of her time. "It's a very special house," she told her friends who are living in cramped studios in boroughs of New York that are not Manhattan. "You need to fly out here and see it. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's friend." She 'would explain what the hip young realtor told her, how the architect used negative space so effectively, how the floorboards were from the Redwoods of San Francisco. Georgia would leave out the moment when she asked, "How much does a place like this cost? " And how the realtor shocked her with the whispered answer, "Don't worry, it'll set him back." Sometimes Georgia drank too much while she talked to her family and her friends — only white wine, nothing too strong — and tried to be funny. "This is the goddammed most special house in Beverly Hills. Champagne comes out of the antique faucets, champagne and the blood of endangered animals. Like pandas. It's all very expensive." These conversations happened late at night, with Georgia perched on her sofa in her sexiest silk nightgown. (Who am I wearing this for anyway? Why not go to Target, buy a cotton night-shirt, and be done with it?) Only some of these nights, she fell asleep with face pressed into one of the couch cushions and believed, as


she was waking up, she smelled her husband's after-shave on the upholstery. All in all, Georgia was proud with what she was doing with the house. She considered very carefully whether she would hire a decorator and decided against it. She would do it herself. She remembered what the realtor said about the negative space and kept the design minimalist, Asian-influenced (was what she told people). When Meghan unpacked her pinch-pots and finger-paintings, Georgia struggled to find a place for them. She put a few of Meghan's pictures on the refrigerator and urged her daughter to put the rest of the artwork, including the family portrait featuring stick figures of Mommy, Meghan and Daddy holding hands, in the play-room, a spacious room on the first floor with a blue sky and fluffy white clouds painted on the ceiling. Meghan held out a tiny clay puppy she made and reminded Georgia that she made it for her, for mother's day last year, remember? Georgia took it and put it by the delicate lamp that looks like a lily. Meghan was satisfied, and Georgia planned, when Meghan had forgotten, to put the puppy away someplace. It threw off the look of the room, her "bachelorette pad," as she called it to her put-upon younger sister with her rambunctious twin boys. Georgia enjoyed fixing up the house and had just finished Meghan's room. Meghan, unfortunately, had picked out the unicorn wallpaper from the enormous book of samples. "Honey, you don't want unicorn wall-paper, " Georgia told her daughter. "In a few years, you'll only think unicorns are immature and unsophisticated." "But I like unicorns," Meghan protested. Georgia sat down next to Meghan, who was nearly dwarfed by the book of wallpaper samples in her lap. "Sure you like them now, but in a couple of years, you won't." "What will I like?"


"I don't know. Boys?" "What?" "Look, here," Georgia said, opening up to a page toward the end of the book. She pointed at a swatch of yellow paper with tasteful blue flowers and looked down at her daughter with wide eyes. "Now, isn't that pretty? Isn't it nice and grown-up, this design with the flowers?" Georgia was grateful it was not in her daughter's nature to pout; Meghan just shrugged, then hopped off the couch to find something to do. Meghan's room was in the other wing of the house, far from Georgia's own room. Georgia believed this was right, since she thought she might start dating soon (who knows?) and Meghan would grow up and -want her privacy, though, right now, she crawled into Georgia's bed nearly every morning, early, when Georgia was too tired to send her back to her own room. But now that Meghan's bedroom was nearly complete, Georgia could concentrate on her next project: turning the basement into a wine cellar. She read up on wine cellars and found she would have to get a special thermostat installed to monitor the room's temperature. She ought to treat herself to a luxury like this — everyone she asked told her so. Georgia even promised Meghan to keep a bottle of sparkling cider in the cellar until Meghan sternly reminded her that she didn't like bubbles in her drinks, and never had. "Oh yes," Georgia says. Of course, she had just forgotten for a minute.

"Mom, I don't want to go there," Meghan wailed, angrily throwing a pair of socks into her duffle bag. "It'll be fun," Georgia insisted, having decided she was telling the truth. "Jeremy's not even my friend," she continued. Georgia knew this was true, but Jeremy's mother was her friend, or, rather, a very friendly acquaintance/retired social


worker who had been urging her to start dating for weeks now. She had met Donna at the grocery store — Donna recognized her from the car loop where they picked up their kids each day. Georgia at first was annoyed to be interrupted during shopping. It had taken this house renovation project for Georgia to discover the soothing powers of making small decisions: choosing peas and carrots over corn, Tropicana orange juice over Minute Maid. But Donna's animated expressions, her wild gesticulations that caused her to knock over a stack of fabric softener, made Georgia more comfortable than she had been with anyone in a long time. And now she had pitched in to baby-sit, because Georgia finally had a date, with the landscaper. "It's a really good business," she told Georgia. "You should be more excited than you are." "I am more excited than I am," Georgia replied absently. "Look, Meghan can stay over with me that night. Not that you should let him stay over — I would advise you not to — but in case you go against my advice, you know," Donna said with a giggle. Georgia heard a honk and pulled Meghan's pink curtains aside to see a gray sedan parked in the driveway. A white hand waved to her from inside the car. Georgia saw Jeremy's mother's bob of red hair glow in the darkness. "Jeremy's here," Georgia said, zipping up Meghan's bag and racing down the stairs ahead of her daughter. "I'm going to watch you go, okay?" she said. "Take me to Dad's," Meghan pleaded. "Every other weekend, that's the deal with Dad. And it's too late notice now, " Georgia snapped. "Now go." She only waited a second to slam the front door. Jeremy's mother could take it from there. Now that she was alone, it was time to get dressed. Georgia was sure that her date was impressed with the house. When he walked in, clasping a bouquet of daisies


and baby's breath, he took a moment in the foyer to look up at the high ceilings and breathed in the smell of chicken marsala simmering. "You eat chicken, don't you, Jim?" Georgia asked, sweeping in from the kitchen and smiling warmly. She carelessly removed her apron and revealed her carefully chosen outfit: a conservative but flattering sundress and very high heels. She smoothed the dress over torso nervously. "I'm sorry I wasn't there to greet you at the door — I had to watch the chicken, so I left the door open for you." "No sweat," he responded, holding the flowers out to her. "Oh, how beautiful. Well, the chicken is in the oven now, so... yes! These really are beautiful." He followed Georgia down the hall into the kitchen, as she rambled, in a high voice, about navigating this new kitchen. "What are you making for us?" he asked. "Oh!" She reached behind him, their bodies touching a moment, and pulls out a menu. "You framed it," he noted, amused. "Well, I already had the frame," she explained quickly, as she put his daisies in water. Georgia had picked the menu very carefully, nearly a week in advance: a green salad with strawberries and almonds, then chicken marsala served with couscous and grilled asparagus, then angel food cake with sorbet. She'd been careful to cook with little salt, olive oil instead of butter, sparing with the carbs, for her own sake. The last time she had been on a date, she had been younger, with a fast and dependable metabolism. A huge part of her appeal, she'd known even then, was that she was effortlessly thin (in addition being naturally blonde). Now, of course, she had to be more careful. Not more careful than the average woman, less in fact! Good genes! But all the same, she could not gobble up spaghetti and tiramisu with the same flirtatious abandon she had when she had met her husband. Ex-husband. Yes. But if anyone could make healthy, sensible eating


sexy, she was sure she could. "It looks delicious," the landscaper offered. "Smells great too." She turned to look at him, his graying stubble, his endearingly crooked smile. How could she not, with such an attractive escort? She was so relieved at finding she was enjoying herself and nodded, attentive, as he told her about his ten-year-old son's new-found interest in British history, how before he got there, he went online to find a PBS minisenes about Henry VIII and his six wives. "Matty just taught me the rhyme, you know? So I can remember what happened to each wife: divorced, beheaded, died — divorced, beheaded, survived. So I got the tapes for us. Of course, by next week, he'll probably be bored with British history, moved onto god knows what, right?" Georgia interrupted, in a voice a bit loud, so that it startled her date, "Do you like wine? " "Sure, " he answered. "I'm not a big drinker, but, uh, yeah. Are you offering?" Georgia hesitated. "No, I just... I'm building this wine cellar. In my basement. If you wanted to stop by soon and take a look around, we could open a really nice bottle." He smiled. "Yeah, that'd be great." "But you know, I might have a Me riot sitting in the basement, though I don't have the thermostat in yet." "What?" "For the wine cellar. But it was a house-warming present, the wine, if you're interested." "Okay, yeah." Georgia made her way down to the basement, hanging onto the banister, as her heels were higher than even she was used to. Holding the warm bottle in her hands, she, for a moment, wondered what would happen if she never came back upstairs. How many hours would he wait? Or would he come downstairs to find her? Where, in this space, could she hide? He greeted her at the doorway, with two wine glasses in his hands. "Thanks, Georgia," he said. She followed


him to the counter, where he pulled out his pocket-knife and opened the bottle with the corkscrew. Georgia was transfixed, watching his strong, calloused hands work. "Let me pour," she said. Taking a long sip from her glass, Georgia felt herself grinning, suddenly loose and easy. "Would you like a tour of the place?" "Yeah, sure," the landscaper answered. "It really is beautiful." Georgia touched him on the shoulder and guided him to the dining room, where the long table was set with a lace table-cloth and elegant china-ware, from there into the living room. She moved her hand onto his back as they both look down at the oriental rug. Georgia launched into what the antique dealers told her about the rug, about what the different symbols meant and how the piece must be nearly a hundred years old. She traced the stitched vine with the pointed toe of her shoe. What she didn't tell him, but almost did, was how much this room looked like the living room in her childhood dollhouse. See? She had always been a wonderful designer, really marvelous taste. Once she had overheard her mother talk about her to her father about the dollhouse: "It's really quite nice, though I've never seen a child like beige so much." The landscaper went to sit, nearly put the glass down on the coffee table, when Georgia ripped it out of his hand and, in the switch, the wine flew through the air gracefully. The glass made a quiet thud as it hit the rug. "What just happened?" he asked. "No coaster — I —," she began, dropping to her knees and touching the fresh stain on the rug tenderly, like an open wound. "Will you go get some club soda please?" "Where is it? " "It's in the refrigerator," she replied, trying to speak quickly but finding the words leave her mouth maddeningly slow. Listening to her heart beat in her head, she took a deep breath in her house, out her mouth, working hard to dispel her panic. This is how frown lines start, she


thinks. She grabbed at the lines that are forming around her mouth, swearing to herself that she could actually feel wicked creases settling into the pillow of her fat face. She had tried, the other day, to buy an anti-aging serum at the mall, but the college-kid working behind the counter refused to sell it to her. "This serum is for a woman in her twenties," she said. "I don't want to take your money." Georgia had responded by laughing very loudly and told the girl, "But honey, I've been twenty-nine for almost three years now!" An older woman standing close tittered politely; the girl behind the counter returned Georgia's joke with a look of bored confusion. "I can't find the club soda,' he said, holding out a spray-bottle of carpet cleaner and a roll of paper towels. At the sound of his voice, he noticed her lean in toward the stain, as if trying to protect the rug from his violence. "I'm sorry," he offered, helplessly. Georgia looked up from the stain, dazed. "I can't use that cleaner," she said, her voice deadened. "It's not gentle enough — it'll kill this rug." He knelt down with her and replied, "Come on, just try. Just a little.' He almost sprayed some on the rug when Georgia shrieked. "No, please don't!" she cried. Scrambling to her feet, she rushed to the refrigerator and looked. "Dammit, where is it? " The landscaper stood behind her. She could practically hear him wincing. Maybe because all she had in her refrigerator was pickles, mustard, and olives — she had planned to go shopping. "I must have drank it all," she said, miserable. "I need to go buy more." Georgia turned around and threw her hands up in the air. "What is a house without club soda? Or seltzer? A dump, right? A mad-house." The landscaper put his hands in his pockets. "Look, Georgia, if you'd like, we could just get out of here for a little. Get some ice-cream. How's that sound?"


"But the chicken is almost done," Georgia countered, with a whimper. "Any minute, I'm just going to go try and — hey, have you heard that "white wine is good at removing red wine stains?" "No." Georgia chewed her bottom lip in concentration. "I can't remember if that's true. All I have are white wine coolers. Do you think those would work? " The landscaper looked at his watch and exhaled a profound sigh. "It's getting late." "You're right. The stain's probably set by now." "No, actually, what I meant was, I think I'm going to head out," the landscaper said. "What? WhyV "You're shaking, Georgia. Your hands are actually shaking," he pointed out. "You're very nice, but I suspect you'd rather me go." Georgia moved her trembling fingers through her hair. "I'm just a little high-strung, is all. People think, when you're from the South, that you're going to be easy-going, but that's not true of me, or my mother, or my sisters, for that matter. We're all nervous wrecks, insane but very efficient. Highly functional, no need to fear." She cleared her throat. She could swear that she caught him roll his eyes as he hesitated, then asked, wearily, "Are you even having a good time? " Of course, I'm having a good time—you make me feel attractive, which is something Peter hadn't been doing for years! Of course — I love playing the hostess, always have! Of course — I'm showing that mean-spirited cosmetics bitch that even old ladies like me get nab dates with handsome, outdoorsy types. "Georgia? ' "No. I'm having an awful time. How sweet of you to ask.1'


Georgia awoke from her wine-induced nap on the oouch by the sound of answering machine. BEEP. "Hi, it's Donna, Jeremy's mom? Well, I hope I'm not interrupting anything, but Meghan was just crying and crying, and well, she wouldn't stop or explain why or anything. She insisted I take her home, so she is letting herself in through the garage as we speak. I really tried to get her to stay, but you know how kids are, and I swear, Georgia, I didn't know what to do! I really wish you could pick up... I need your cell, for the future. But, um, you should really... talk to her... or something. I happen to have the number of a great therapist, good for kids and for families — it's - BEEP." Georgia erased the message mid-stream, resentful of Donna's awkwardly dispensed advice. She heard the sound of the garage opening, then the sound of a door slamming. "Meghan? ' she called. No answer. Her calm left her — "Meghan? Meghani Are you all right!" She raced around the house, nearly running into walls at every turn, anticipating each time she would find Meghan on the ground, body crumpled, head cracked wide-open. "Meghan, you answer me! " she yelled, her throat tightening. "Tell me where you are!" She pictured Meghan tripping on the stairs up from the garage, a violent gash tearing across her forehead, or maybe she was crumpled up on the driveway, sobbing because of some terrible pain — it could be her appendix. Maybe that was why she had been crying at Donna's house. Where was the closest hospital? Would it be quicker to drive her or to call 911? Did she have enough gas in the car? She found Meghan lying on the floor in the middle of one of the corridors on the first floor. Georgia dropped to her knees and quickly scanned Meghan's body with her eyes — no blood, no limb bent unnaturally. She looked into her daughter's face, expressionless except for the clenched jaw. Meghan wiped a tear from under her glasses and continued staring up at the skylight.


"Honey, are you okay?" Meghan sniffed and turned away onto her side. "I'm fine, okay?" she retorted, each word crisp, distinct, and very mad. Georgia shut her eyes tightly. "I'm sorry, Meghan." Meghan turned onto her back. "Okay." She squeezed her daughter's shoulder and said, "Come on, come sleep in my bed tonight." "No, I don't want to," Meghan said, sounding more confused than angry. "Come on. You know how I have those soft sheets..." "No!" Meghan was sure now, having heard the vulnerability in her mother's request. Georgia left and came back with two throw-pillows. "Move over," she said. Meghan begrudgingly did so. "Red or white?" Meghan was quiet, then answered, "White." Georgia gently put the cream-colored pillow under Meghan's head, then the other under her own. Meghan fell asleep within minutes, the crying having zapped her energy completely. Georgia watched the stars for hours, noticing for the first time how comforting the wide, black sky can be, and she wondered if she could get one of the rooms in her house painted to look just like it.




I pushed my brother into the pond and watched him fall like the rock fell, sucked away from me by the water's wavy lips when he took it from my hands and flung it. I was a rock collector and I'd found the craggiest shape and stashed it in my basket so the jealous little shit had it coming, so dumb and young he still teetered like a duck when he walked. But that didn't mean he could float — though he did for a second or two, chubbily, waterprone and wailing to the sky like a baby bird about to eat vomit. I yelled mother then before he could swallow who came running and swooped him like a bundle of laundry, patted his back smooth and stiff as if ironing his soaked shirt. She told me I was such a big boy so brave, so smart, to call for help and she asked me, what in the world happened. Hefell I said and he didn't contradict me. He'd rather be a rock than betray.



She taught me to appreciate drinks ending in macchiato, lessons like go, don't ask for the kiss. My family lost its smile when she went away. I couldn't eulogize her, my grief so; although, she loved watching me speak at those who stood in portrait alongside our people. Held me up with a whisper while I looked past eyes and mouths and berated the thorns in our flowers. How they neglected their blood's awakening; those they were ordered to love, we lived to love. You know, we were at the beach when she told me. I asked if she was afraid, prepared to comfort her with every lie and gift I could lavish. "Of dying?" She leaned against the car and threw her neck cracking three joints to the side, "No. You know what would piss me off though, if Hell doesn't carry Marlboros." I laughed because we don't cry, hugged her tight and long so she wouldn't see my face. It was in the white linen and red Jello hours we stood over her, bound tighter than kin, each of us fell into worn words and trite thoughts. Each said we wished it was us, like a bullet intercepted. How we wanted to beg the doctors to shove the poison cure into our veins, instead. Surely one of us led a more wicked existence. Yes, threadbare and empty. Though, I've seen each of us since that day and there is not a flower to be picked. Bloodless, but, each time I see another light up, that first glow like pinching a bonfire, I think our wish came true.



SWETHA REGUNATHAN Docking: This was the primeval moment when their world was created. It was so dark at the party, even the glitterati were mere silhouettes. After several rounds of cocktails, a glass was heard shattering against the wall, and waitstaff was forced to turn up the lights. This was when he saw her first (or so he thought) coaxing a slab of brie onto her pumpernickel slice. It was something about the slab that caught him, something about the way she sectioned off a perfect quadrangle onto her plate and dabbed at the pumpernickel crumbs with her index finger, as though every bit mattered. As though to say I'm not careledd. She saw him first (in actuality) drumming along a windowpane on the other side of the room, eyeing a much prettier woman. His face fell when the woman returned his glance and walked briskly to the other end of the room. There are leagued above and below the

dea, he knows. But once the lights -went on, they saw each other clearly, like a pair of deer on opposite sides of a road who'd been waiting to cross for a long time. They met somewhere in the middle, made clumsy remarks about poetry (all tall, attractive men like this quote a few lines of Eliot), and walked into the brisk night. Desperation: She wakes up in pieces —firsther feet and legs slide off, then her hands catch the wooden frame of the bedpost to prevent her from falling, then her eyes squint against the sunlight. She shuffles to the kitchen, where a short, balding man wipes coffee stains off the countertop. I made waffled and coffee, he gestures. He leaves shortly thereafter, and she eats her breakfast in silence. Her fiance returns in a veil of cheap cologne strong enough to compete with the wooden stench of burnt waffles. Who WOJ that, he


asks with a quizzical look. The cable guy, she's sure they'd say in stories. "This guy I'm fucking," she says. "I wish you'd told me sooner," he sighs, walking into the bedroom. "Why? " she calls after him. "Because I just ended it with Jill, that's why, " he declares nobly. She knows he will then dress, shower, and lock the bedroom door so that he can pull the covers up to his nose and sleep through the day. (She doesn't know Jill has ended it with him). They meet in the living room when the sun is going down. She apologizes because it's dark and lonely at the bottom of the ocean. He apologizes because he's swum too close to the surface, and it is time to come back down. Departure: Two summers after the wedding, they stay on the Gulf Coast with his family. She starts a collection of paper sailboats, one for every color of construction paper, until she has a fleet. One by one, she blows them onto the warm water -where they stagger and hesitate until being steadied by the -white hands of the -waves. Ten days later, she sits on the dock behind his parents' house, lapping the -water with her bare feet. Her husband watches from their bedroom window and notes for the last time that her lapping feet, arched back, wrinkled shirt, and wild hair mean to say / don t care anymore. While he is on the phone with another -woman, a green sailboat lands at her feet. When he returns to the window, all he can see is a trail of foam.


HOMETRAINING DORLA C. MdNTOSH To cover her sacrifice dhe weard thick long-dleeve jhirtd agaiiut the noonday dun head wrapped in the cool of d ilk cotton leaved

My mother did not raise us to be pretty daughters nor fell daisies into lapped skirts we counted on the sharp down-swing of her cutlass and read her back bent against the mahogany hoe We learned to imprint our mark on goats in the pasture "left ears cut and right ears split," she said each animal a perfect birthday pearl we strung into a flock to adorn the hills We gather dpilled mud along the bankd of the river root dnake dkiiu dhed among the rockd dpider webd hang deep midtfrom treej at night we dumrner the brew in the three-legged iron pot near thefireside predd the dilent poultice againdt her raided blue-black mottled dkin

"In nine days it will bring the thickened blood," she said "If I ever catch a man putting he hand on meh daughters I will fold up meh frock and sit down in jail"



It was Paula Sloper down the street who first recommended the Feeding Project. It wasn't the only option, of course, she told them. Agape offered many programs and they didn't all involve volunteer work, either. There were meditation workshops, lectures, a semi-annual crafts fairs, worship services if the Kathleen and Howard were interested. At this, Kathleen offered a tight smile and told Paula that they weren't religious people, herself and Howard. She appreciated the gesture but Agape just didn't sound like the place for them. But no, Paula had persisted, these were hardly your conventional religious services. Agape, you see, was a. spiritual center. The mission was hardly grounded in one religion or another. It was a place for prayer, for celebration, yes, but you wouldn't find a single traditional icon in the building. Absolutely everyone was welcome; the word "Agape" itself meant brotherly love. And if they were sure they didn't want to attend services — and what a shame that would be, because a truly beautiful service it was with the mixed choir, the dance troupe, the smooth music of Reverend Joshua's orations—then she supposed that was fair enough. But the Feeding Project! They couldn't say no to that. You didn't have to believe in God to believe in helping people. With this she released a hearty laugh that exposed her yellow teeth and made Kathleen shudder a little. Paula Sloper could look so unfortunate sometimes, Kathleen sighed to herself, glancing at her husband who was responsible for this encounter and should never have allowed it in the first place. But Howard was smiling at Paula, a portrait of attentive engagement. Howard really had no filter, sometimes, thought Kathleen. He was generous and he and validated these interactions and didn't see how intrusive they could be. He was the one who had crossed paths -with Paula in the first place while running


laps around the golf course. Kathleen could picture it so clearly; sometimes on her way to the organic market, she saw Paula, quite red and sweaty in that shirt with the giant heart, carrying a little set of turquoise weights and jogging in place at the corner until the crosswalk signaled go. Howard was the one who had suggested Paula come over for coffee this afternoon. Howard was always happy to extend an invitation because they had only moved in last year and he was always talking about how much he loved the company of people and how quiet the house seemed on the weekends and didn't Kathleen want some company, especially with him in the office all week long and her cutting back on her real estate job and only showing one house a week? She always looked down and picked at her manicured fingernails when he said these things because the answer was no. He couldn't imagine why she preferred a quiet house. Why the new yellow curtains in the kitchen made her smile or why tending the thyme in the garden was calming and quite pleasant. Howard seemed to forget that these neighbors were more interested in talking to him than to her. He was better with people. He would never say it aloud, but he'd always been better and he knew it as well as she. The Feeding Project took place Saturday mornings from nine to one, Paula was informing them now. Hardly a commitment; it would work perfectly with Howard's busy week. You too, of course, Paula added quickly, her grin stretching uncomfortably as she twisted slightly to address Kathleen. It was a real opportunity to unwind, she continued eagerly, a way to give back. Sipping her coffee, Kathleen wondered what exactly Paula meant when she said "give back." She herself had never been aware,of owing anything to the city's homeless community. And what did these mornings consist of? Howard was asking now his elbows supporting an attentive forward lean. How very like Howard, Kathleen thought, expressing such interest when the last thing he needed in a forty-


hour workweek was another commitment — one involving a drive to the polluted valley, at that. And here was Paula, filling their heads with images of two hundred homeless men receiving meals from generous hands and laughing with the volunteers and then everyone holding hands for a prayer circle at the end of the morning. Angela Boylan—she founded the project and ran it, Paula said — lead the most inspiring prayer circles she'd ever seen. Kathleen concealed a grimace and rubbed her palms together slowly. Paula continued talking about how rewarding it all was and tossing her head about as if she couldn't contain the excitement. Kathleen stood up and smoothed her linen skirt. Walking to the kitchen, she cleared her throat to ask, "More coffee, anyone? " In her nightshirt, Kathleen stood before the bathroom mirror and studied the tiny wrinkles forming in the corners of her eyes. Her expression gave way to a slight pout and she applied a dab of cream to the spot. Howard spoke from the bedroom. "So I think I'm going to try out that feeding project next weekend." "Oh?" She walked in with arms crossed to her chest. He sat in bed in reading glasses with a book across his lap, continuing to scan the page as he spoke. "Paula's offered to introduce me. She says they always need new volunteers." "She was an effective saleswoman this afternoon." There were a few moments of silence before he continued. "So, you think you'll come?" "I'd rather not." "Come on, Kathleen. ' She walked to her side of the bed and said nothing as she seated herself. "Kathleen." "What?"


"I think you should come on Saturday.' He had closed the book now and was setting his glasses on the bedside table. "I just said I'd rather not." "I think you should come." "And why would I enjoy something like that?" She pictured one of those prayer circles, felt the weathered, cracking palms as they held her hands. She saw the dirt under their fingernails. She imagined them digging through dumpsters, their forearms smeared with rotting food. She imagined their hands grazing the backs of wet, darting rats. "It's worth a shot." "Why?" "Because it's something we could do together." At this he reached over to squeeze her shoulder softly. She twitched at the contact. "What's wrong with our Saturday mornings now?" But as she spoke she saw these mornings in her head. Howard at the table with the business section laid out before him and she at the opposite end of the house. Perhaps even outside in the garden, as if he were still at the office and they would have to wait until night fell to speak over dinner. "You know what I mean, Kathleen." "I don't, Howard." "We could really use this." At this she rose from the bed and turned to face him directly. "Paula Sloper didn't come over today because you mentioned us — " "This has nothing to do with Paula." "And her promotion speech on that spiritual center and these wellness workshops?" "I didn't say anything to Paula." "It was just a lucky coincidence, then," she turned away and spoke quietly. "A solution for us."


"Maybe it was." "I don't want to do something like that, Howard. " She was seeing the hands again, the dirt beneath the fingernails and picturing herself with these people. "Then what?" "Not a Feeding Project. Just listen to the way that sounds." "So you'll just stay at home and keep doing things this way? " She turned and stepped into the bathroom and closed the door behind herself carefully. Howard didn't call after her and she stood before the mirror and looked at herself a long time. When she came out his eyes were closed and he lay facing away from her side of the bed. She crawled under the sheets feeling cold and squeezed one hand between her thighs and slid the other beneath the pillow. She knew that Howard 'was still awake from the sound of his breathing. He didn't turn to hold her and she silently thanked him for it because she wouldn't have wanted it. He understood by this point, had learned to. They hardly touched anymore. Awake in bed she counted the months and realized that it had been nearly two years ago. It had been an accident and he'd known that she hadn't wanted it because they had discussed it extensively. But all the same it had made him so happy -when it happened, so -when she found out she closed her mouth and swallowed hard and didn't protest. She had smiled and nodded when he kissed her forehead and rested his hand so carefully on her stomach when all she could think about 'was the 'way the tiles on the bathroom floor were so cold in the morning and the way they left ridged impressions on her trembling pink knees when she heaved hard and wept quietly as Howard slept. Or the way she had rested her cheek against the smooth curve of the porcelain toilet seat and waited for one wave of nausea to subside, for the next to seize hold.


She remembered how she had pulled off her nightshirt and held her breasts before the mirror and imagined the way they would leak and hang heavy, the way her stomach would stretch like pulled brown fabric, her thighs rippling. Her own body repulsed her as she looked in the mirror and imagined it swell. And when Howard pressed against her as they fell asleep and whispered how happy they would be and smoothed his hands over her and held her closely she could only think about how little she wanted to be touched. It had been just under three months when it happened and it had been a Monday morning and she had woken up before Howard and seen the sheets and walked carefully around to his side of the bed with underwear stained so dark they looked black. She had touched her hand to his shoulder and shaken him and asked him quietly if he could get up please because she needed to strip the bed and rinse the sheets and it might be too late already but perhaps if she used cold water they could be salvaged. Howard's face had wilted and he'd held his head in his hands and shaken it slowly back and forth, no. She had told him she didn't need any help as she took the sheets to the bathroom and held them under the running faucet and watched the tub fill and drain with water tinted the color of rust, releasing a scent equally metallic. Howard had been behind her, one hand to smooth her dark hair saying oh god Kathleen, and she had asked him if he wouldn't mind not touching her right now, that right now she didn't want to be touched. Afterwards she had said that she didn't want to be a mother and hadn't wanted to before and she was sorry if that wasn't normal and she was sorry if that hurt him but she couldn't help it. But it did nothing to close her eyes and fill her head with such thoughts so she waited for sleep. "So." It was after two on Saturday and he had returned with a grin.


"You want to know?" She shrugged and turned back towards the kitchen. "Kathleen, I loved it." "Yes?" "You should have seen these guys. Two hundred lunches we made. Two hundred by hand and not one of them left by the end. We passed out fruit and pastries too. And coffee. And here I'd shown up expecting something chaotic, thinking they'd all just push and yell when we set up and it was time to distribute, but you should have seen the cooperation." They were in the kitchen now, and he drifted past her, past the cutting board, the green and yellow vegetables she'd laid out so evenly. He stared out the window and into the backyard, his eyes glazed as though these images of the morning were still ripe, assembled before him. "They run a tight program," he continued. "Like clockwork, these mornings. That woman Paula mentioned — that Boylan 'woman — she knows how to organize. And there's so much good feeling — feels more natural than a project. Everyone there was so willing to lend a hand. Almost ten of the homeless guys showed up before me. Showed up early just to give us a hand with set-up.' Kathleen snorted a little. "How clean." Howard turned from the window and looked at her, his smile falling. "Angela made sure we 'wore gloves the whole time." "I'm sorry." She squeezed a smile and shook her head. "Of course you wore gloves. I'm sure they know what they're doing." He stepped towards her and settled his hands on her shoulders. She turned her face away and wondered if he had washed them, gloves or no gloves. "You should come next week." He waited. "Kathleen. I'd like it if you came next week." "So you'll keep doing this then?"


He nodded. "Something feels right about it." "I'm glad you've found something meaningful." She pulled away and returned to the cutting board. "If you gave it a chance you'd get it. " And she felt vaguely cold now. "I'm happy with my Saturday mornings." She looked to her cutting board and out the window. The new curtains framed the view nicely. The tomatoes she had planted were thriving. "The way they are now. I'm very happy." She looked at Howard and smiled and walked to the kitchen sink and turned the faucet and held her hands under the cold water. Four weeks later the first phone call came. It was a Wednesday afternoon and Kathleen returned from an open house, stepping out of the suede pumps she only wore when she worked. The red light that flashed on the answering machine alerted her to a new message. She pressed. Howard! Angela here. Just calling to day once again bow much I appreciate you picking up the socks for the Saturday. You have no idea what a tremendous help this Id. Let me know If there are any problems, and I look forward to the weekend.

She replayed the message twice more before Howard came home from work. "That woman from the Feeding Project called this afternoon.' "Angela? " "Yeah. She said something about socks. About how much she appreciates you picking them up." Howard nodded and set his briefcase down next to the couch. "You talk to her? " "It was on the machine." "Good. Thanks."


He walked into the kitchen. Kathleen followed him to the refrigerator with her arms pressed to her chest. A carton of milk in hand, he looked up from the open door. "Well?" "Are you going to explain it to me?" "What?" "The socks." He took a slow swig from the carton. "We're going to start passing them out with the lunches. Angela and I have been talking about expanding the program." He wiped his mouth and returned the carton to the refrigerator. "Not just socks. We'll start collecting clothing donations too. Eventually shampoo and condoms even if we can get the city to donate them. But we're starting with the socks this weekend." "You have time to go pick up two hundred pairs of socks?" "It ^von't take long." She stared at him without blinking. "Look, Angela already takes care of all the food shopping. She works full-time too and pushes hard to run the Feeding Project the way she does. I was happy to offer with the socks this week. Figured it was the least I could do." And now Kathleen couldn't help but feel a slight pain in her stomach. "So you're establishing yourself, then." "That's not the way I'd put it.' "You're becoming pretty involved." "I guess I think it's important.' He left the kitchen as though to signal that the discussion was over. She spoke quietly. "You haven't told me any of this." "You haven't asked me a single question since that first day. You haven't been especially...interested, Kathleen." Now she looked away, taking her hair in her hand and



twisting it. He was right, of course. In the first few years of their marriage, she had been much better at expressing interest in the activities that interested Howard. It had made him happy. Feigning enthusiasm had made those early years much easier. "Well, I think it's very caring of you." He spoke again, his back still turned to his wife. "It's hardly me. She's been running the program for years. She just needs a little more support is all." Kathleen pursed her lips and looked down. She nodded, understood. "Hello?" "Hi, is this Kathleen? ' "Yes." "Kathleen, this is Angela Boy Ian with the Feeding Project. I work with your husband — " "Angela. I know who you are." "Well it's wonderful to hear your voice. Howard mentions you and we all keep telling him he should bring you by one of these mornings. We must say it every Saturday." "It's kind you should say that." "I'm serious. And let me just thank you for loaning your husband to our program!" Kathleen listened to her chuckle at this. "I can't say enough what a blessing he's been. Only been five weeks or so, but I swear it feels like he's been around since the beginning. So committed, Howard. And you'd be so proud to see the way the men respond to him. He's so natural with them. He's really been a gift." "Well I'm sure he considers himself—," she struggled for the -word. " — blessed to have found your program." "He's not there right now is he?" "He should be back from work any minute. I'll tell him you called." "Would you? That'd be just great." With that the phone calls continued, most of them in


the evening before Howard came home. Sometimes they missed him by a full hour, sometimes only ten minutes. It worked almost perfectly, Kathleen thought to herself, wondering if Angela timed them that way. Because it didn't matter precisely when the ring sounded — the call always served as an interruption, a regular reminder that Howard was part of something good, something important. Something she had rejected. "Content" was an appropriate word, she thought to herself—the phone calls a kind of punishment for being "content" with her life such as it was, "content" not to give back as Paula Sloper had put it that afternoon that felt so long ago. When Angela called she always took the time to small talk, to ask thoughtful, detailed questions, to put off the moment when she revealed the real purpose of the phone call and asked if Howard was there and could she please speak to him. And Kathleen was impressed at how convincing these brief servings of conversations were. There was a soothing, genuine quality to Angela's voice, her choice of words. Perhaps she really did care how Kathleen's day had been, or how the garden in the backyard was coming along because Howard had mentioned that Kathleen grew her own herbs, or how she should pass on one of those wonderful vegetarian recipes one of these days because she'd heard that Kathleen was a talented cook, and was it very difficult to keep meat out of her diet? She rarely asked questions in return but when she hung up the phone, Kathleen wondered about Angela. She tried to imagine what Angela looked like. Kathleen generally pictured her in jeans, wearing one of those shirts with a heart on it like the one Paula Sloper jogged in. She imagined that Angela was the type of woman who did not wear make-up, at least not on Saturday mornings. Here, she pressed her fingers to her mouth and pulled them away to consider the mauve lipstick print they left behind. She wondered what Angela made herself for dinner.


Sometimes Howard left receipts from the wholesale grocery store on the counter. Sunday afternoons he now helped to stock the Feeding Project pantry with items necessary for the next Saturday morning. There were granola bars in bulk, individual servings of apple sauce, cans of tuna fish or Vienna sausage, little packets of mayonnaise, juice boxes that brought the playground to mind. The lunches that Howard was so proud of sounded completely unappealing. She wondered if Angela bought her own food wholesale on these grocery trips. If she ate the tuna on Saturdays, drank from the juice boxes as well. She pieced together Howard's increasing commitment to the Feeding Project from the phone calls, asking Angela each time if there was anything specific she should mention to her husband -when he came home. She watched him with his laptop at the dining room table, staying up past midnight on weekdays to-write letters requesting donations for the program's expansion, writing articles for a newsletter they were publishing. Abandoned drafts cluttered the living room, often making their way to the bedside table and floor. Howard had taken to leaving bags of donations around the house. There were generally two or three next to the front door, swollen with socks, discount underwear, old shirts and shoes left in an Agape drop-box. Kathleen had opened a bag once to assess the taste of the spiritual center's generous members. After catching a musty whiff, she had re-knotted the bag and taken it outside to the porch where it could wait patiently for Saturday. Howard didn't seem to notice, depositing new donations in the house each week, crowding the foyer and sometimes the living room. Kathleen remembered how Angela had once spoken of project volunteers as a family. She wondered if Angela was the kind of woman who wanted a family of her own. "Angela has feelings for you, I think." They sat in bed now, each holding an open book.


"That's ridiculous." "It isn't." "You don't even know Angela." "We've spoken on the phone, Howard. She certainly calls here a lot." "I told you that we're working to expand the program." "Why does she call the house?" "She wouldn't very well call me at the office." "Why does she call when you're not home? Like she knows I'm here by myself, like she's taunting me for not being part this thing you both have." "She calls when she gets off work, Kathleen. And she calls when I'm home, too. You're being unreasonable." Kathleen winced, reminded of the weekday evenings when Howard would sprint across the living room to the ringing telephone. In the beginning he spoke to Angela with Kathleen in the room. Now, he opened the back door and disappeared outside to discuss price details, a grant that had just gone through, the possibility of a local paper writing a feature on the program's expansion. "You don't know how it feels to get those phone calls.' She closed her book. "You don't know a lot of things feel." He believed she was cold, Kathleen thought. He had felt this way since that night with the sheets. More likely, he had felt this way since long before. He had hoped that their accident two years ago would change things; Kathleen was certain of it. Now he made no effort to conceal the disappointment. With the Feeding Project, he had found a place that -was warm, a place where he could bring her with renewed hope that she might thaw, might open herself to the possibility of touch again. And this time, if she refused, he was ready to commit himself without her. At least he could spend his Saturday mornings with people who embraced his presence, people who considered him a gift. Kathleen remembered Angela's words


and closed her eyes. "Angela is a good person. She doesn't mean any harm. She lives on her own, works this shit job during the week. This Feeding Project is her whole life and Agape doesn't even pay her for the time she puts into it. She probably enjoys catching you on the phone. Wants to talk...for you to like her or something. I don't know.' Kathleen repeated the words to herself, her eyes still closed. Angela was a good person. "She always talks about how much she'd like it if you came one Saturday. I'd like it too." "Why do I have to make up for something. "That's not what this is, Kathleen." "It isn't?" "This is about you, about you feeling some way about something. Anything. It's not about making anything up. It's about you figuring yourself out." Kathleen opened her eyes and looked down as he continued. "Whatever this all is has nothing to do with Angela. And it's not like you needed me here for your Saturday mornings before all this. I don't know what it is about the program that gets to you so much but I'm tired of trying to figure it out." She drew a bath after that and considered his words as the water cooled around her body. Easing her head back until the still water framed her face, she closed her eyes and knew that Howard was right about many things. Angela wasn't really what frightened her. Angela wasn't a threat so much as an example—a figure for Kathleen to consider to understand where she lacked warmth. She had told Howard that she didn't want to make up for what happened two years ago and she had meant it. Not with spiritual center involvement, not with the need to heal and find herself, not with an act of goodwill towards others (and she couldn't help that she didn't like the homeless).


She would never be effusive or giving like Angela, oh God no. And had she ever been? She wondered if Howard was beginning to question the same thing, if he knew she had been cold since the start and simply better at hiding it. The fear settled in her stomach that she really would hate the Feeding Project — of all the worthwhile, good activities to try with her husband, of all the experiences to feel something about. She had avoided actually trying it by telling herself that she would hate it — she'd suggested it in so many words the first time Howard proposed it. If she tried it and was right? The idea of contact with those people— filthy, with legitimate reason to complain. And all the while this scene being something she was supposed to celebrate, to feel about. Perhaps she feared the other volunteers more than she feared the homeless men. She would feel, of course, but what if it was unease and disappointment? Having never tried it she would never know. But if she went and was miserable, what then? Howard had been right about not feeling, but what was it then to try and realize you didn't feel the way you were supposed to, but instead felt something quite different — altogether opposite, perhaps? She knew she should to explain herself to Howard. He was asleep now and she could hear his whistling snore through the closed bathroom door. She would tell him in the morning. She pulled the plug and listened to the drain swallow her bath. Kathleen woke and turned over in bed to face the empty the space, the tangled sheets Howard had left behind. She reached for the small plastic clock on his bedside table. It was Saturday and if she left now she would miss the food packaging. She could still meet him for the distribution. She drove quickly and pulled into the Agape parking lot with her hands shaking. The spiritual center was huge, a warehouse space of corridors upon corridors, endless


stretches of purple carpeting and colorful displays of members' artwork. But the paintings were only blurs of color as Kathleen ran down the halls, her head whipping from side to side in hopes of an open door and there, her husband. Here was a bulletin board. There were announcements of the workshops Paula had mentioned that one afternoon: a pale green flyer advertising "Meditation, Guided Meditation, and Visioning: A Retreat," a lavender one teaching "The Healing Power of Forgiveness," a creme-colored one involving "Sacred Birth: Embracing the Maternal." She could almost feel the colored sheets of paper accusing her. But amidst these and the reminder of a singles event that had already passed, there was no word on the Feeding Project — no call for volunteers, no newsletter. She turned and saw was a woman emerging from the bathroom nearby. She was pulling on a pair of latex gloves. Kathleen approached her breathing hard and asked with a creased brow, "Feeding Project? " "Volunteer?" "I'm not sure." "I think we've got all our positions covered already. If you want to come take a look, we'll still need a hand with clean-up." They wove around a corner and down another corridor, following the sound of laughter, shouts, commotion. It was a gymnasium that had been outfitted for the food distribution. Brown bag lunches were stacked along a long cloth-covered table. There were crates of fresh oranges, plastic containers brimming with pastries. One volunteer hurried to empty more loaves of sliced bread into a bowl while another asked a homeless man if he preferred white or brown and handed two slices over to slather with tuna. There was a table for coffee, a table where one volunteer sat distributing razors. In one corner were the blue plastic bags, the hundreds of socks. At a table near the back a fat -woman sat and held the hands of

a man seated opposite her. Kathleen glanced at the other working volunteers and realized that this woman was the only one without gloves. There was a pink sign tacked next to her: "Prayer Table." Then there were the benches, the men seated and beginning to eat. There was the moving line, the tight organization that Howard had mentioned that first day. There was no Howard. The woman had returned now holding out before her a pair of latex gloves and a black trash bag. She asked if Kathleen had washed her hands already. Kathleen shook her head weakly and felt the sudden need for air as she began to back away slowly feeling with her hands for the wall behind her. As she stepped backwards her heel dug into something soft. Looking down her nostrils filled with the curling scent of a fallen tuna fish sandwich and she shook her foot furiously and looked up and knew right now that she needed to find Howard. She scanned the room again, the faces of two hundred people. At last she found him, not handing out food at all but sitting at a bench among a group of them. He -wasn't serving, just laughing and talking and enjoying his company. His face glowed and Kathleen wondered if she had ever seen him look so happy. And she regretted coming, coming to tell him that she was afraid of hating this place and now here she was and she didn't know what it was that she felt anymore. It wasn't disgust after all. But loneliness, perhaps. More than the feeling when she was home alone or home with Howard as they silently went about their separate ways. Now she had pressed herself into a corner and she watched them all as they ate and they laughed and some of them yelled, too. Something about this place felt whole and it was something that she was not part of and it was a choice she had made. She would not talk to Howard now. She would leave; she would wait. Her presence here was -wrong. And as she moved along the gymnasium wall towards the door, the voice stopped her.


"Wait." She turned. It was the woman from the prayer table. The one who held their hands and looked them in the eye and wore no gloves as she consoled them. Kathleen looked down at the cheap white sneakers and the enormous veined calves and the stomach that stretched her cotton shirt and spilled over her belt. "Can I help you?" the woman asked, smiling. "I was just having a look," she stammered, suddenly knowing the voice. "Kathleen?" Angela opened her arms as she stepped forward. "You came." Her face glowed. "I'm sorry.' Kathleen held up her hands to motion stop and Angela stopped. "I'm sorry but I can't stay. ' Her eyes stung now and could feel the warm tears welling. "You should." "I shouldn't be here." Then there were more tears and she couldn't believe she was doing this here and in front of Angela who Howard was right about. Angela who a good woman. She closed her eyes and the water spilled down her cheeks and she brought her hands up quickly to wipe the mistake away. But then the next moment she was warm, wrapped in Angela's arms. She felt her body jerk, the impulse to detach and run. But Angela's arms held tight and Kathleen could feel her breathing into her hair and her enormous body was soft and secure and Kathleen stayed. She cried hard into Angela's shoulder as the enormous woman embraced her. She allowed Angela's cotton shirt to absorb running snot and tears, to muffle pained moans. When Howard walked up, she was still there, allowing herself to be held.


CONTRIBUTORS Katherine Atwill dreams of brighter and darker things than exist in this "world. She remembers more than she has experienced and doesn't listen enough. She is worried that she'll miss something if she doesn't write it down. She prefers to dance. Annie Berke feels honored to be included in Quarto this year. She recently graduated from Columbia College with a major in English and a concentration in Writing, and currently, she is working towards a Masters in Film Studies at Columbia's School of the Arts. Thanks to Leslie, Christina, and Sam for all their help on this piece. Scott Cuthbert "was born in Madison, Wisconsin and spent most of his childhood in Gainesville, Florida. After leaving home, he bounced around various locales in the United States, but ultimately found himself in Taiwan, where he spent the better part of a decade teaching English and studying Chinese. His readings of literature in both Chinese and English inspired him to study the subject formally; he did just that, returning to the states to enroll in Columbia's School of General Studies, where he is now a junior. Sara Davis loves words. Ossian Foley attends The School of General Studies of Columbia University in the City of New York. He works at The Center for the Study of Science and Religion at The Earth Institute at Columbia University in the City of New York. Marissa Fox is. Jessie Gaynor, Columbia College '08 is a history major QUARTO 71

in the writing program. Hailing from Evanston, IL, the birthplace of prohibition, Gaynor practices a method of temperance all her own when it comes to sugar, but she tries not to let diabetes, or the man, keep her down. . Few things delight her more than an excellent sandwich. Billy Goldstein hails from Southern California, where it is warm and sunny all the time. He likes New York okay, we guess, though it gets awful cold in winter. He likes making sock-puppets and singing around campfires. Stephen Neill Holland is a student in the Columbia University Writing Program. He is a licensed sea captain who has published numerous articles in the St. Petersburg Times and National Geographic Adventure. Holland is an accomplished printmaker, having shown at the Park Foundation, as well as Capitol Fishing where his work is currently exhibited. To contact Stephen Neill Holland: or 212-929-6132. Gabriel Johnston is a recent graduate of Columbia College. He is currently writing and traveling in Canada. Katarzyna Kozanecka has returned from Roman Holiday on the Red Square. Her poetry has also appeared in Quarto 2005. Manissa McCleave Maharawal has always written poems. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005 and now takes a variety of classes at Columbia while working at the Law School. Dorla C. Mclntosh keeps her eagle eye trained for any signs that she might be becoming a poet (Erich) so that she can pluck it out before it hatches into feathery chicks. For the beloved Undergraduate Writing


Program that demanded she sit through a Structure & Style class and opened up a new cosmos in her. Elena Megalos, Columbia College 08, is majoring in English with a concentration in the Writing Program. Venice, California and the Hudson River Valley make her nostalgic. Richard Platypus has and 'will always live in New York City. A consummate borough-hopper, he is currently stationed in the Bronx. His interests are as follows: Africa, politics and subways. True to his surname, he is known to lay eggs, and he frequently does so in public when he isn't too busy picking his nose. Swetha Regunathan, Columbia College 07, hails from New Jersey and Mississippi. She hopes to see the world, find herself, and discover more original goals. Emilie Rosenblatt is a Columbia College student graduating in 2008. Her poetry has also appeared in Quarto 2006. Joanna Luz Siegel is a poet, translator, and traveler born in Arlington, Virginia, but reared in Carpintena, California. Her senior honors thesis for the Center of Comparative Literature & Society consisted of an annotated translation of Bruno Cuneo's Verano. She graduates this spring, but she'll be sticking around New York City for a while. Doug Silver is a student in Columbia's School of General Studies. He is thrilled to be published in Quarto. Abraham Weiss thinks that Columbia is great, loves all of you, and wishes he wasn't graduating. He plans on


traveling the world for a few years and then on hunkering down to start a social movement against the War on Drugs, which he believes has replaced Jim Crow as the racist policy of the United States. If you re reading this on Friday night, Shabbat Shalom! Melissa (Fong Yee) Yap was born in the Year of the Monkey in Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia. Thanks to her sisters, Mae and Maxine, who refused to let her wallow as a high school drop out, Melissa will be graduating this May (2007) from Columbia University. Also, much to her amazement, she is a member of the Golden Key International Society and the Honor Society of the School of General Studies. One of her discombobulated prose pieces from her thesis, "Stories of New Tongue," will be published in the Tablet's Spring 2007 Issue. Melissa has decided to brave graduate school instead of joining the ranks and files in employment; though she hopes to, someday, have her own intern.




2007-2008 QUARTO " 2007-2008 VOLUME 59 The Literary Magazine of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program, Columbia University


2007-2008 QUARTO " 2007-2008 VOLUME 59 The Literary Magazine of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program, Columbia University