RED WEATHER Number 32
poetry s prose s visual art
Minnesota State University Moorhead Students, Faculty, and Alumni
© 2013 Red Weather All future rights to material published in this magazine belong to the individual contributors. Any reproduction of this material may only be done with their permission. For more information or to link to the electronic version of this issue, please visit web.mnstate.edu/redweather.
Cover image: PENUMBRA by Jamie Hohnadel Frontispiece: “Outside the Walls of Weld Hall” by Dustin Mohagen Printed by Otter Tail Power Company The opinions expressed within are not necessarily those of the college, university system, student body, or Otter Tail Power.
Acknowledgments Managing Editor Dustin Mohagen
Poetry Editors Jennifer Phillips Heather Rand Ashley Swanson
Mark Bjornson Nayt Rundquist Daniel Shudlick
Layout & Design Dustin Mohagen Daniel Shudlick
Cover Design Sierra Fosness
Dr. Thom Tammaro
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The houses are haunted By white night-gowns. None are green, Or purple with green rings, Or green with yellow rings, Or yellow with blue rings. None of them are strange, With socks of lace And beaded ceintures. People are not going To dream of baboons and periwinkles. Only, here and there, an old sailor, Drunk and asleep in his boots, Catches tigers In red weather.
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“Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock” (1915) Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
Samantha Woods Pamela Longtine Meridyth Morgan Whitney Walters Alecs Peters Misty Schwab Nikkie Nouwen Carla Isom Billie Gaffney Verna Mikkelson Joni (Deal) Norby Renée LaMie Ashley Vivian John Powers Jesse Olson Jesse Olson B.T. Friesen Ron Frannea Payton Skonseng Brianna Brickweg Nicholas Boushee Brianna Brickweg Quinn Callens Catie Miller Catie Miller Catie Miller Catie Miller Val Oswald Danielle Wente Jesse Olson Miranda Roberson Billie Jean Kitzman Miranda Roberson
From the Editor Introduction
1 2 3 4 6 7 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24 25 26 29 30 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 45 46 47 48 49
Anticipation Sundog New Year’s Day I Have Decided Untitled The Maturation of Damian Getting the Boot Calving Season Robins Inside Out Mud Hens Residents A Tear’s Perspective From a Letter to a Friend A Fisherman’s Hook A Picture of A Fisherman’s The Flowing Echo Waiting for Grandpa’s Paper Sailboats Room for Interpretation Coffee Grounds Flower An Ode to Cupcakes Teacher in 202 Artist Statement Hoarder Mugs Exposed Grandpa Was a Junk Man Lucky Pennies Just Keep Swimming Yellowfin Entanglement My Father’s Hand Goodnight, Sugarplum Red Weather s ix
Val Oswald 50 Divine John Powers 52 Snug Alecs Peters 53 Untitled Ron Frannea 54 Father’s Day Miranda Roberson 56 Remembering Kaitlyn Ludwig 58 Slow Samantha Woods 59 The Time-thief Dave Binkard 60 That Stupid Shark JaNae Boswell 63 Rolling By Corey Mattison 64 Alucinari B.T. Friesen 66 Lonely, Beautiful E JaNae Boswell 68 The World Is in Your Hands Jamee Larson 69 Catching Lucky Zana Pommier 73 Tickle Me Pink John Powers 74 No Moral to the Story Nicholas Boushee 75 Patriot Faggot Meridyth Morgan 76 delicious Nicholas Boushee 78 L O V E Joel Hegerle 79 She Brings Her LOVE Whitney Walters 80 Home for Hearts Billie Jean Kitzman 81 Liffey Love Locks Annie Hockhalter 82 Cherokee Drum Claire Shive 83 Close Up Whitney Walters 84 Disguises Sarah Beck 86 Our Poem Renée LaMie 87 Half-light Kayla Rutherford 88 Medora Sunset Renée LaMie 89 The Guilt Sand Dunes Blain Bursch 90 Crossing Nowhere Melissa Stephan 92 Heavenly Light John Powers 93 A Rlxd Poem Sarah Beck 94 Moving Day Rick Abbot 95 Tree Growing in Doorway Noah Kleckner 96 Hunger Drives Me Randa Veazie 97 Harvest 2012 Meridyth Morgan 98 In the Photo Album Billie Gaffney 100 Fiore Giallo Andrea Kochensparger 101 A Study of Aubrey II Stephanie Wiese 102 Seduction x s Red Weather
Jamie Hohnadel Elizabeth Fink Jamee Larson Ryan Christiansen JaNae Boswell April Barstad JaNae Boswell Meridyth Morgan Benjamin Pontius Jamee Larson Mahmoud Toumeh Randa Veazie John Powers Matthew Doherty Renée LaMie Melissa Stephan Samantha Woods Samantha Woods Billie Jean Kitzman Gerri Stowman Renae Hansen Richard D. Natale Rick Abbot Nathaniel Hansen Jamie Hohnadel Mark Vinz
104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 135 136 146 147 154 155
The Duchess Bitter Nothings White Rage Three Untitled Cinquains They Said Lost in the Light Where Are You, Sister? If You Die Deconstruction Prairie Tragedies of War Fargo in Motion Ode to Tradition Succubus Half-life Final Pose The Man in Weld’s Basement Thanatos Irelandish Cathedral Revelation Untitled Something Better to Do Peggy’s House Wildlife Antumbra Professor Emeritus
Contributors 157 Special Thanks 158
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From the Editor When the opportunity to helm Red Weather was first offered to me it came with the understanding that, unlike some previous years, it would not be offered as a class, since no one had volunteered to advise it. It was also made clear that should the charge of shepherding Red Weather go unaccepted, the journal (that has been published continuously since 1977’s “Primal Burst”) would ultimately go unpublished, at least for the current year. Considering that 2013 marks fifty years since our school’s first literary magazine, I didn’t want Red Weather to skip a beat. It was, without doubt, a project worthy of attention—a belief that was surely held by others. I would not stand alone in the endeavor. And I have not. I couldn’t be more pleased with the “sailors” who came aboard. Our school’s first literary magazine was birthed in the spring of 1963. Robert Frost passed, in a Boston hospital, in January of that same year. Is there something to that? I like to think so. I like to imagine Frost in bed, wearing a brightly colored nightgown, maybe Cardinal red—then his poetic essence leaving his body, leaping toward the heavens, some part of it being drawn to the vicinity of Moorhead State, gracing Weld Hall, and finding new life in our journal. It’s a nice fantasy, albeit impossible to prove, save that Frost’s work continues to live, as does Red Weather. I would like to personally thank those whose generous donations have made this issue possible: Travis Dolence, Barbara Glasrud, Jennifer Phillips, John Strand, Dr. Thom Tammaro, and last but certainly not least, Professor Emeritus Mark Vinz. Thank You. Dustin Mohagen Managing Editor Spring 2013
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Introduction It’s hard for me to believe that this year marks the 50th anniversary of literary magazines on campus—and that I was faculty advisor for more than 30 of those years. Convivio, the first magazine (1963-69), ended in a censorship dispute in the spring of my first year of teaching at (then) Moorhead State College, and except for a few issues of The Fat Giraffe, a stapled-together broadside the next year, we would be without a literary outlet for students, alumni, and faculty until the 1976-77 school year. That fall, English majors David Pink and Al Honrath came to see me with the idea of starting a new literary magazine. Given all the work that I knew would be involved, I tried to talk them out of it, but they persevered, and the first issue of The Three Seasons was published spring quarter with the subtitle “Primal Burst.” The magazine was reconfigured four years later with a new title, Red Weather. And so it has remained. Currently, as for most of Red Weather’s existence, the magazine has survived mainly thanks to volunteers, though before I retired in 2007 I was able to offer it as a course. Whether students are involved for credit or simply the learning process and joy provided by the experience, the editing and all the other requirements of a literary magazine remain essentially a labor of love. One thing has remained certain over the years—thanks to the efforts and dedication of so many, the university’s students, alumni, and faculty have long had a very necessary showcase for their creative work. The talent of all who have been involved equals our magazines’ enduring tradition as something to be extremely proud of, celebrated, and continued. Mark Vinz Spring 2013
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Samantha Woods Anticipation
Wings flap against flesh walls housing anxious bodies feathered flitting jostling each other towards thelightoutsidelightoutsidelightoutsidelight outside the light
Pamela Longtine Sundog
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Meridyth Morgan New Year’s Day
like a babe scrubbed clean from my mother’s womb the dark, cold winter stars edge back from my horizon now I am born anew seared clean by the long frozen nights pumping hot breath through my tired, aged body until the wrinkled skin tightens taut, throbbing into the hot round flesh of a newborn I grab my big toes— happy to see them such round rosy-fleshed buttons— I squeeze them tugging my chubby legs so I spin on my curving backbone topsy-turvey a Tweedle-Dee-Dum tumbled on my warm, tingling back to squeal in pleasure-pain to know I am glorious alive I am glorious new Christ-child I am glorious New Year’s Day
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I Have Decided
I have decided to speak what has not been spoken out loud, what my soul has said at my core: I. Me. I have decided to speak because you asked me to. So, I will. I will say not only what you want to hear, what you need to hear, and what you expect to hear, but also what I need you to hear. And now I need you to listen to me speaking, and understand 4 s Red Weather
I hold these letters in until the moment you are ready for them and ready for me. Even those parts of me you didnâ€™t expect. As well as those parts you want and need. For I have decided to confide and trust in you, unlike any other.
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Alecs Peters Untitled
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The Maturation of Damian Spooler
amian, I think we should stop seeing each other,” Louise tells me before school on Monday, October 18th. The day already got off to a bad start because our favorite teacher, Mrs. Henley, quit her job because someone put a dead pheasant on the hood of her silver Dodge Caliber. I know that my best friend, Jeffrey, is the culprit, but no one else suspects a thing yet. He always hated the way Mrs. Henley encouraged us to think on a deeper level in her religion class, and he called me last night to brag about his plan. I can’t decide what upsets me more: Louise’s decision to break it off after only two months, Mrs. Henley’s resignation, or Jeffrey’s idiocy. My locker door suffered enough abuse from my head-banging today, and it’s only 10:15. I don’t expect Jeffrey to sympathize with me since he has his own problems to deal with, but he does point out that Louise chose a pretty inconsiderate time to trample on my heart. “Right before school? How dare she? She could’ve at least waited until ten-minute break, or during the three minutes in algebra when Mr. Framer leaves the room to wash his face,” Jeffrey says. The pope will move to Vegas before Jeffrey takes anything seriously. I’m confused mainly for two reasons. First of all, Louise looked at me just the other night and said, “I think we’re different than other ninth grade couples.” Secondly, Jeffrey is still dating Maureen, Louise’s best friend, and he goes around putting dead birds on teachers’ cars. Something doesn’t add up. Everyone is talking so much about Mrs. Henley that Mr. Blinker, the principal, calls a meeting for grades seven through twelve. We all file into the auditorium, where he gives a lecture about stupid stunts and honesty. Only one person needs scolding, so I tune out Mr. Blinker until he says something that really makes me feel like a criminal. Red Weather s 7
“ . . . and if any of you knows who pulled this juvenile prank, or if you contributed in any way, I expect you to own up to your faults. Mrs. Henley is a firm believer that the worst sins are the silent ones.” We file back out into the halls, and Jeffrey immediately grabs me by the shoulder and whispers in my ear, “You say nothing. Got it?” I decide to think about Louise again before my conscience starts to work and I lose my only real friend by acknowledging his crime. Louise looks lonely during noon hour. I can tell because her back is pressed against her locker and no one is talking to her. She’s playing with a string on her coat, trying to look preoccupied. I want to go over and make amends, but I’m pretty sure she wants to be alone now. Maybe I’ll go visit her after school, stand outside of her house and pretend to be looking for something I dropped on the ground until she comes out on the porch. Maybe we’ll take a walk together and discuss what might become of our English class, or maybe we won’t even talk. Sometimes you just need to exist beside somebody without needing to say anything. “Your turn, buddy,” Jeffrey says, nudging me. We’re playing Uno in the hallway during noon hour. No one really wants to talk just in case the conversation turns back to Mrs. Henley, so we resort to playing a game that requires shouting out colors. “Sorry,” I say, laying a green two on top of his reverse card. “Uno.” “You sound like a clown who just learned that the circus is shutting down,” Jeffrey scoffs. Maureen is sitting next to him on the other side, her fingers laced in his. Our school prohibits public displays of affection, but none of the teachers say anything when they walk past. It’s kind of like when a toddler starts walking—at some point, you stop cheering for them and simply accept that they’re moving up in the world. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing in this instance, but I don’t worry too much. “Would you cut me some slack? I’m thinking about something,” I say. “You’re thinking about someone,” Maureen clarifies. “And I know who.” 8 s Red Weather
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I roll my eyes. It’s funny how Maureen’s keen ability to see past people’s fronts is entertaining until it’s your mask she’s ripping off with her words. “Guilty,” I say. “Talk to her,” she says. “You’re hurting yourselves by ignoring each other.” It surprises me that Louise is hurting too, mainly because she was the one who called off the relationship. Maureen, of course, notices my raised eyebrows. “Shoo,” she commands. I’m up in an instant, walking over to the girl who I’ll never understand. “Hi,” I say. She looks up, stares at me for only an instant, and then looks back down at her hands. “Hi,” she says. This is so typical of recently broken up couples that I almost want to laugh. Wasn’t it only a day and a half ago that we sat in the grass behind the cemetery and talked comfortably about the downfalls of society? It’s unbelievable how breaking up means finding a new way to communicate, one that won’t lead you back to that overwhelming infatuation. “Can I sit here?” I ask. “Go for it,” she says, and stands up as soon as I’m down. Ouch. I take the hint to stay put and watch as she walks past the ending game of Uno. Maureen immediately stands up and follows her friend to the bathroom. Perhaps I’ll be informed of the discussion later. Walking home after school, Maureen catches up to me on the sidewalk. “Louise would prefer it if you kept your distance,” she says. “Is she sick or something?” I ask. “No, she just really likes you still,” she says. Well, this makes a lot of sense. “I don’t get it. When you like someone, you want to be with them. You don’t want to chase them away.” Maureen rolls her eyes because I’m obviously not on the same wavelength. “You guys are fourteen, for one thing. For another, Louise is very adamant about . . . staying chaste.” Red Weather s 9
“So what? Am I just supposed to ignore her?” “You don’t have to ignore her per se, just . . . don’t talk to her unless it’s absolutely necessary.” When I get home, I sit on my bed and stare at the ceiling. I know that it’s not a very productive activity, but I really feel like listening to a sappy love song or maybe some Guns N’ Roses. I don’t know. I really just want to shoot some hoops with Jeffrey, but I’m not particularly fond of his girlfriend right now. But, maybe she’s hanging out with Louise; so, I give Jeffrey a call. He’s grounded, his mom tells me. Apparently he sold his older sister Arielle’s iPod to a kid named Bo Sorenson last month, and everyone declared it missing until Arielle caught Bo using it during study hall yesterday and asked him where he got it. Bo grew too attached to the object to return it, so I guess Jeffrey deserves his punishment. Still, I think there should be a rule against grounding any kid with a best friend who needs condolences. After playing Spider Solitaire on the computer for an hour and a half, I decide to call Maureen to get more information. I’m not looking for pity or anything, I just need something to do because it’s only 5:00, and the good movies don’t start for another two hours. It turns out that Maureen is bored too, since Jeffrey is busy paying the price for selling Arielle’s iPod. I invite her over to my house since I don’t feel like going out. Maureen rings the doorbell at a quarter after five. She hands me an envelope containing a note from Louise. I don’t want to read it, but I have a feeling that Maureen won’t say anything to me until I do. Knowing Louise, she probably put a lot of time and thought into the message. It says: Damian, I just want to assure you that I didn’t want to break it off. I miss you, but it had to happen like this. I think we’re too young. I don’t know who I am. You don’t know who you are. So, you see, we don’t even know who we fell in love with, if you want to call it love. I don’t think that either of us knows what love is yet. I thought I did. I thought that love meant finding someone who is confused about the same things as you are. But someday, we 10 s Red Weather
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won’t be confused. So then what? I want to understand life better before I commit, and I think you should too. That’s all I’ve got to say. Love, Sincerely, Your friend, -Louise
I stare at the note and decide that it’s a fair statement. At the same time, it makes me wonder if Jeffrey and Maureen see matters the same way. They’re the same age as us, after all. Maureen probably knew everything about life by age eleven, but what about Jeffrey? He’s still so . . . childish. Maureen sighs after I show her the note. Apparently she’s thinking the same thing that I’m thinking because she sits down on the little bench in the entryway and puts her head down in her hands. “Damian, what do guys want to hear when they’re getting dumped?” she asks. I ponder this for a second. “Why don’t you ask Jeffrey that question and see what he says? I’m sure he’d come up with a good answer.” She chuckles. “Yeah, add a touch of humor to the situation like he always does, nothing wrong with that. Sometimes. Why do you think girls mature so much faster than guys, Damian?” I would love to shoot a witty question back like “Why do girls have such high expectations of guys?” but that would be the same as admitting that I can’t meet those standards. I am not Jeffrey, I decide. I can be mature, or at least try. “Maybe we’re just hiding it,” I suggest. “Or maybe it’s more scientific than that.” Maureen looks thoughtful now. “You’re different, aren’t you Damian? Louise always told me you were, and now I can see it. I see why she likes you so much. Not that I like you that much—I like Jeffrey. Never thought I would in a million years, but he won me over somehow. He has a good heart, but he forgets how to use it. I know that someday he’ll be a better man, when he is a man— not a boy. Plus, I can’t be his teacher. He has to learn on his own.” I don’t really see why Maureen is pouring this out to me when I’m her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend’s best friend. “Why are girls so . . . open?” I ask. Red Weather s 11
“What do you mean, open?” “I mean, why are girls so comfortable talking about feelings and letting down their guards?” She finally decides to take off her blue Columbia jacket as she considers this. “I don’t know, maybe it’s because guys don’t seem to like facilitating conversations; so, we automatically assume that they’d rather listen to all our petty problems.” “Oh.” Maureen and I share the truth about some common misconceptions of guys and girls for an hour or two. We take a break to play ping-pong in the basement when a siren goes off. Either someone got injured, or Jeffrey snuck out and took his fake siren with him. Sure enough, we hear someone charging down the steps. The door pops open, and our friend stands before us dressed completely in black, face mask included. “Okay, you guys can stop making out now,” he jokes as he whips off his mask and shakes his brown hair back to life. “Don’t go acting like you were just innocently playing ping-pong—I know what’s happening here.” “You’re supposed to be grounded, Jeffrey,” says Maureen. “Supposed to be, but the ‘rents went to visit the neighbors and forgot to lock the back door. So I took it as a sign that I was supposed to be with you guys instead, especially since Damian here just got his heart busted in two. Who knows what kind of advice you’ve been giving him. For all I know, the poor kid’s self-confidence is lower than before.” “Damian’s doing just fine, actually. I’m more worried about you and your need for attention,” says Maureen. “Well good, I do need your attention. Can’t live without it,” he says. “So who’s up for toilet papering Louise’s house?” Maureen and I both decline. Later that night, Jeffrey calls me. Maureen broke up with him almost immediately after they left my house. Apparently, he’s “over it.” “She said she wants to give me space to grow up. She thinks she’s so mature. I’ll show her mature. I’ll wear a tie to school every day and comb my hair to the side. Maybe I’ll even get a grandpa hat . . . and a pipe. This’ll be good.” As much fun as this plan sounds, I decide to follow Louise’s advice instead. I want to know who I am, abandon foolish 12 s Red Weather
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behaviors. Mainly, I want to learn how to put a stop to bad things before they happen. I pick up the phone and call Mrs. Henley. Itâ€™s time to make a confession.
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Getting the Boot
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I remember the exact moment my mother told me she would miss calving season the mostâ€” if she ever had to leave the farm. Mid-morning light reached through yellow curtains to the kitchen table, graceful and slow-falling across her face. I rather thought her favorite time would have been the autumn, when endless dust of harvest ended and family sat down for evening grace. And how it was at that moment I knew she should never leaveâ€” this woman who birthed me to the music of an August storm. She knew even then that any city wanderings I might know would leave me lost in a way that a midnight country road never could.
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Billie Gaffney Robins
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Verna Mikkelson Inside Out
Somehow, as I lay here, I am able to shut off my body, let it go limp. I move outside of me. Let the doctor continue removing what remains, pieces of placenta after I birthed my baby with no heartbeat. I lay here thinking, reliving seconds, each moment leading to thoughts, memories of days before that laborious night. Thoughts, memories, questions medical answers swirl, twisting, turning stuck in my head instead of tiny toes kicking me within.
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Joni (Deal) Norby Mud Hens
his late October morning, dressed in a winter coat and hat, I cradle my coffee cup between two mitted hands and settle into my front row seat on our dock. A wall of silvery mist drifts gently to the north and the east shore comes into focus as the fog dissolves. Pink clouds crown the vista. Mud hens land on the water as day breaks over Pomme de Terre Lake. I never tire of this morning pageantry; and now that pheasant-hunting season is underway, this ritual takes on more urgency. Shortly after sunrise, the pop-popping of guns will chase me back to our cabin. On cue, just as the sun seizes the day, hundreds of mud hens flit onto the lake. Like dancers lightly tapping tiny feet, the hens pitter-patter onto the lake’s surface and begin their fall churning. With their big feet they skitter and bobble as they take flight, but they are beautiful swimmers once settled onto the lake. They dabble and dive as they churn all aflutter. The old adage “safety in numbers” holds true for mud hens. If separated from their group, often called rafts, they can fall prey to eagles and crows. Mud hens literally taste like mud (hence the name) so they don’t warrant a hunting season and swim unharmed by man. A massive raft of birds roils in front of me and I marvel at its size. It collectively seems to sense its bulk and breaks into two separate rafts. I notice one small hen off to the left of both groups. He floats over tiny waves and falls away. Two other hens separate from the groups and stay close to the lone bobber, squawking and squeaking at the rebel bird. With an inward sigh, I think about the countless times my husband and I squawked and squeaked at our son, Ben. I stand silent witness as this family’s cacophonic efforts prove as fruitless as ours had been. The little lone bobber drifts out of view. Is he as lost to his family as Ben is to me? Will the world gobble him up without a hiccup of remorse?
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I find myself wondering how this much change can happen before my eyes. Why can’t I perceive shifts and shadows in my own life as well as I can see them in a sunrise or a flock of birds? Life overwhelms me. Warning signs are often hidden behind the distractions of everyday life. I don’t want to know what’s going on; I don’t want to follow the wandering bird for fear of what I’ll find. My thoughts scatter with the pop-pop of a shotgun. Faceless, orange-clad hunters with red and black plaid ear-muffed hats stalk the east shore. As I surrender the day to them, I pray for the pheasants . . . and I pray for my lone mud hen, wherever he may be.
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Renée LaMie Residents
 On Sunday afternoons, a woman searches by the river for dead bodies. She takes careful strides. With one hand, she holds onto her dog by a leash; with the other hand, she holds a stick ready to nudge, if the need ever arises. She doesn’t realize she wants to unearth herself.  A woman jumps on a trampoline. When she turned twelve, she climbed a tree to carve all the initials of all the girls she loved into a thick branch. When she turned 28, she watched an arborist cut the tree down after a storm spilt it in two, and thought this is why people get into trouble. She jumps higher and minds her neighbor digging in the garden.  It’s true that Native Americans didn’t see the ships, a woman says sitting behind her desk. Underneath her gray cardigan, she wears a white DARE shirt she bought at a thrift store. She dates a man she doesn’t often see and she flirts with a girl who has become a friend.
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 A man leaves work early to come home to sit on his couch. He thinks he drowned a long time ago every time he turns on his television. He turns on his television everyday.  In a manâ€™s house, there are over a hundred plants. The man warms tap water before sprinkling each one. He lost his wife in a car accident a year ago. And tomorrow, he will get into an accident that will allow him to move on.  On one Sunday afternoon, a man runs by a woman with her dog. He thinks her beautiful and wonders what life would be like if he decides to ever stop. Later, he composes a line of poetry in his head: Men and women were meant to be geese.
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A Tear’s Perspective
I am not just a drop of water. I am a salty morsel emitted during times of pain, remorse, sorrow, grief. I am an unwilling victim to one’s emotions, sliding down a face like a small stream to only be destroyed by a Kleenex—the knight in white armor— or a delicate kiss from a true love. That’s my existence. My kind and I are like dead flakes of skin—shed and forgotten. No one remembers why we exist, why we are here. Not only do we clean the eyes, but we clean the soul. Instead, we are now just known for sad movies.
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From a Letter to a Friend (or Phoenician Fear)
Finally, today there is a warm sun Shining through the crystal frost On my office window. Eliot was right; April is the cruelest month. Here in the Red River Valley, We fight off the fate of Phlebas. We too face down the fear— Death by Water. But today, finally, a warm sun Shines through the crystal frost On my office window . . . illuminate!
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A Fisherman’s Hook
The wave’s subtle rhythms roll onto the muddy shoreline, gently chiming cattails. The warbler’s mellow melody—swinging in and out of the thick brush, white birches, cotton woods, and red oaks— frogs bounce delicate drum beats on a bed of lily pads, largemouth bass splash the cymbals. Choirs of dragon and horse flies humming in harmony, strings strumming in sways of cordgrass while the loon sings tranquil lyrics and a piece of cotton dances in the wind.
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A Picture of A Fishermanâ€™s Hook
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he river moved on. Beyond the naked trees, he could see it flowing like it had for the past fifteen years. He watched as he had watched from his back porch most evenings, even when the cold came and the river covered itself to stay living—alive beneath the thick veil of snow and carapace of ice. Though the snow and the ice were still things of the horizon, the chill had arrived. The trees knew it—they in their leafless nakedness and the squirrels in their flutter-dashing hurriedness all felt the real cold. The river seemed to move faster now than in the cool glaze of summer, urgent to finish all the flowing it had to do before pulling its coat back on. As he sat on his deck, he too moved—swaying in pendulum motion on a porch swing. She was there too, moving by his side, not going. The porch held them fast, a thin lattice guard with shadows of rot and age enclosing the two, sheltering them— trying to block out the woods beyond, and the river. Dregs and a spot of amber liquid were all he saw at the bottom of the mug as he lowered it. Circling his lips, he blew out a jet of warm vapor into the chilling air. He felt her glance at him, at the jet, but she turned back to the river without a sound. The itch was there inside him again. He used his left hand, so as not to ruffle her, raising it from the armrest and sliding it into that familiar, sour place within his jacket. She flinched as she heard the click, though she was silent as he spun the flame to life. He pulled it in, down to his bones, and exhaled through his circled lips, watching as the smoke and lingering breath intertwined. He heard the subtle break as her lips parted. He waited for a moment, hanging there. Then her lips closed and he drew in again on the cigarette. He shut his eyes for a moment, sinking into the swing. From the darkness, he heard the faint, repetitive groan of
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the porch swing, then the squirrels’ chirping, the creaking of the trees under their tiny paws, then the river’s smooth, living motion. A noise came from within the house at his back—lugging of a heavy trunk and the soft thumping of a subwoofer. The trunk dropped harder than he would have liked, though now it didn’t matter. He heard the microwave open, close, and then hum. “You think he’ll be okay?” Her voice split the silence causing his eyes to split the darkness. “I’m sure.” “No really, Frank.” She looked straight at him. “I mean, he’s got friends here and Emma of course . . . I know you see this as a sign but I just don’t know.” “You and I survived two years apart when I went to Colorado for school.” “Yes, but survival isn’t . . . ” She turned back to the river, taking another sip of the John Daily in her glass. “What am I saying? Survival isn’t the goal, is it? I mean, we want him to do well, to thrive.” “I think a couple months apart from Emma will be good for them. They’ll see each other at Christmas, if not Thanksgiving.” “Yes, but aside from that. He just got in now with that acting club-thing at school and you’ve seen how he’s getting along with his teachers—for once.” “He said he was up for it, he understands why.” “Well of course we understand why you think we have to leave.” “Why I think we have to leave? We decided on this together. We literally cannot stay here.” “Well not here, of course, no one can. But the whole city’s not condemned.” A sudden burning pain called from the numbness of his left foot. He jumped, more in shock than real pain, cursing as he shook the fallen cigarette ashes from his sandaled foot. Brushing it off, he fell back into his seat. “Why are you wearing sandals out here? It’s freezing.” “Because all my other shoes are packed!” He dragged in on the cigarette, only to realize he held nothing but the butt. He flicked it to the other side of the porch, meeting her scornful stare. “Oh, don’t give me that. It’s all going to be gone by next week ‘cause of that damn thing.” Red Weather s 27
He jabbed his hand out into the chilling air as if trying to stab the river. She sighed and shrugged. She knew it. Oh, she knew it all right, but she just had to act as if it was his fault they were moving. “I’m going inside,” he said, pushing up from the rickety swing. He grabbed his mug and stepped past her. She balled her hand into a fist, resting her cheek on it and looking away. “Come on, Clair,” he said. He was soft now, controlled again. He held out his hand but she did not take it. She took another, larger, sip of the John Daily in her glass then looked up at him. “I’ll be in in a minute.” He turned, paused at the sliding glass door then turned back, a straining smile on his face. “You know that’s a summer drink, don’t you?” She took a sip again and bit her lip like she did when in thought, as if finding a deeper meaning in what he said. “Yeah . . . I know.”
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Echo Waiting for Grandpaâ€™s Magic Carpet to Fly
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Payton Skonseng Paper Sailboats
t’s Saturday, 3:00 PM, a boy sits on a wooden bench. He has sandy blond hair, blue eyes, and he wears faded blue swim trunks, sandals, and his father’s old softball jersey. It’s the second week of August and the summer is coming to an end. He knows this, but won’t acknowledge it. Now he sits on the bench five yards from the riverbank. His hair drips from jumping in the river moments ago. The water runs slowly through his hair forming a drop at the very tip before falling onto his father’s jersey. He wonders, “Am I really this easily amused, or am I just completely and utterly bored?” “Both!” he says aloud and turns to make sure no one heard. A squirrel climbs a nearby tree, a bee buzzes around some flowers, and a few birds fly above him, but no people to assume that he’s crazy for talking to himself. So he averts his attention back to the river noticing a duck floating downstream like a boat. It reminds him of when he was seven and used to make paper sailboats. He and his brother would pretend to be pirates and British sailors. They’d color the British flag on one boat and a skull and crossbones on the other, take them to the neighbor’s dock upstream, and let them sail back down. The first boat to make it past the old windy oak tree along the riverbank was declared the winner. Back then he’d like to think that they would float all the way to the Atlantic. But he’s older now; the Atlantic is hundreds of miles away. So he knows how impractical it is; life was simpler then. Imagination took him and his brother a long way—being knights and fighting with cardboard swords, or playing ninjas with plastic throwing stars. At times, their activities seemed aimless. They would just roll in the mud, hide in the tall grass, climb and jump out of trees.
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They were young. They were reckless. But he looks back now with no regrets. He gets up off the bench and runs full sprint, twenty yards, to the house. He flies through the door and up the stairs to find his brother lying on the floor, still in his pajamas, watching an old Looney Tunes rerun, and he says, â€œYou wanna make some paper sailboats?â€?
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Room for Interpretation
Now thatâ€™s art, I think as I pass a painting, the three-letter word spelled out in white bold font, hanging in the modern gallery. How could anyone ever consider the red shadow to be anything less than art, or that the yellow backdrop implied another thought, emotion, or feeling besides art? What I like most about this piece, I say to the closest museum patron, is that, while it does not immediately portray art, the sense of art eventually finds you.
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Coffee Grounds Flower
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An Ode to Cupcakes
Be still, you divine cake of cupping form Wrapped in paper, topped with cream of butter I pine for you, should you feel chilled or warm The mere taste of frost makes my heart flutter While in a belly or on bloated cheeks Your sweetness can never be equated Though, some who prefer pie may see critiques Batter always leaves me satiated Away! You tempting incubus of health! You curse my body, grasping to my hips You steal me of my elements of stealth And weigh me down as like a sinking ship Yet I must have you, so beg you to stay And I will eat allÂ our troubles away
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Teacher in 202
She smells like an elementary school art room. Bits of construction paper and paste, sacks of yellow clay, and colored pencil shavings tapped out in the trash bin. Hers are the sticky days of kids’ pink paintbrushes in soggy little puddles of glue. She is thirty or something, and can’t see you seeing her, as she itches her face with the one part of her hand that has no paint splattered on it. “Miss?” From behind a damp stack of children’s projects, she emerges like a denim-bibs-and-teal-turtleneck sort of kid–woman with rare hair, and a pencil stuck in her curls. She asks you for “something to write with.” She will get your kids wise, though, and turned on to color and light. They will cut out paper people in her honor
and think of her years later when they smell bits of construction paper and paste. Red Weather s 35
I choose to draw portraits of people’s hidden lives, magnifying their features and private moments. Currently, I am exploring the obsessive collection of things—hoarding—and how this fixation interferes with one’s quality of life. Growing up, we had a lot of stuff: overflowing boxes of papers, small mountains of clothes, and a cat for everyone. Moving a lot throughout my life has forced me to evaluate my relationship with my possessions. In most cases, the act of hoarding is very secretive. It happens in the privacy of one’s home, out of sight from the rest of the world. This overwhelming disorder consumes one’s physical space along with their mental state. Hoarders feel a strong connection to the objects they collect, surrounding themselves with things while distancing themselves from people. Loose, slightly humorous, and unsettling illustrations animate my ceramic works. My pieces use contrasting elements—textured and smooth finishes, covered and exposed clay, and loose imagery with distressed repetitive patterns. Multiple layers of surface create a crowded environment for the narrative. I push my work to fill the surface space no matter what the size of the object, much like hoarders do with their available space.
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Catie Miller Exposed
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Grandpa Was a Junk Man, Grandma Was a Pack Rat, It Is All She Has Ever Known
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louds dotted an otherwise clear mid-October sky as waves crashed beneath the pier of Ocean City, Maryland’s inlet, while I set out on my morning jog. A few fishermen were casting lines into the Atlantic, causing a flurry of activity from the scavenging seagulls that waited to steal discarded bait. The brisk autumn wind buffeted my face as my aging New Balance trainers pounded an uneven cadence against the boardwalk. With his tail waving behind him like a metronome, Dover, my yellow Labrador, clicked accompaniment to my pace. It was off-season in Ocean City and the beach had a ghost town feel, but I wasn’t complaining. Dover and I could run unhindered along the shore, without having to dodge teenagers texting their friends, screaming infants covered in a sticky mess from Dumser’s Dairyland, or any number of rubbernecking tourists snapping hundreds of photos of the scenes I knew by heart. On this particular morning, I was not alone. A man tending two surf rods stood ankle deep in the sand near the breakers and two boys were making their way toward the boardwalk from where the man was fishing. The smaller of the two boys ran in earnest as the other walked with his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his tattered jeans. As I jogged closer to where the boardwalk split off to the path leading out to the breakers, I overheard the two arguing. “Come on, Henry!” the smaller boy yelled as he scrambled off the rocks and galloped through the sand, sinking every few bounds. “You heard what Dad said, you little shit! Don’t run!” Henry glanced over his shoulder to a man armed with a fishing rod standing calf-deep in the surf. “Oh hell, what do I care. Go ahead and run. If you bust your face, it’s your own fault.”
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“Hen-ry! Come on!” the little boy yelled, stopping where the sand met the boardwalk. His brother had stopped as well, but he now sat atop the last of the large rocks that formed the natural link between the water and the sand. “Shut up and go play your game, Jacob,” Henry yelled back. “But we’re both supposed to play!” “Dad gave you the dollar, so just go.” The rivalry between the two boys reminded me of my own childhood. I had been my older brother Jeff’s unwelcome shadow. My father made sure Jeff took me with him whenever he went to the inlet, saying we needed to bond. Jeff usually ditched me once he found one of his friends from school, telling me he’d kick my ass if I told our dad. Once Jeff bailed, I’d spend an hour or so roaming the boardwalk in search of loose change to occupy myself at the arcade. If I was lucky, I’d get Jeff to play a game or two with me at the end of the night when he came back to find me. Jacob kicked at the sand-covered boards with one shoe, dragging the toe of his Chuck Taylors in a circle. Looking down the boardwalk in the direction of Marty’s Playland arcade and then back to his brother, his shoulders rose up and down a bit. He chewed on his lower lip and then sat down at the edge of the boards and began running his hands against the weather-beaten surface. He swept his arm back and forth as far as he could reach, his palm brushing the sand-swept wood. Suddenly he stopped, and I thought he had a splinter in his palm for as loud as he hollered. “HENRY!” “Jacob,” the older boy hissed as he skulked up to the boardwalk. “No one wants to hear your yammering.” “Look!” the smaller boy exclaimed, tugging at the sleeve of his brother’s windbreaker. He beamed at his older brother, despite the growing scowl drawing the corners of his lips down. “It’s a penny. A lucky penny!” Jacob said. “Yeah right, lucky my ass,” Henry replied. Henry stepped up to the boards and trudged in the direction of the pier. Most businesses, including all of the rides at Trimper’s Amusements, had been shuttered since the last weekend of September. A few shops and the old arcade, however, remained open. “It is lucky, you’ll see!” Jacob rubbed the sandy grime from the penny with his shirttail. Red Weather s 41
“Hey, mister!” Jacob called to me as Dover and I slowed a bit. Dover sat when I stopped, his tail thumping against the boards in earnest. “Hey, mister, look! I found a lucky penny.” “Well now,” I said. “I suppose you have.” I touched Dover’s head to release him from his sit and he padded over to the boy, poking his nose against his hand. Dover licked the penny and then gave a soft wuff as the boy stroked his head with his free hand. “Nice doggie,” Jacob said. “Does doggie have a name?” “His name is Dover,” I replied. “Like the city where they race cars?” Jacob asked. “The same one, yes,” I said. My constant companion was aptly named for where I had found him, in the parking lot of Dover International Speedway, on a weekend trip I’d taken half a decade ago after my father passed away. Looking for something to distract me from the argument over Dad’s will that I’d had with Jeff at the funeral home, I’d trekked up to Delaware to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Dirty and thin, with no collar and a layer of grease on his coat, the dog had looked like more of a chocolate lab than a yellow. After I lured him into my pickup with a bite of hot dog, I took him home and cleaned him up and from then on, we took care of each other. Dad was gone and my brother was bitter over the fact that I’d been willed the Ocean City home where we grew up. I figured Dad left the house to me since Jeff had his own condo on the north end of town and I wasn’t quite done with college at the time and still lived at home, but Jeff didn’t see it that way. Dover helped ease the anguish of finding myself abandoned; after all, he had been abandoned too. In the absence of anyone else, Dover and I became each other’s family. “Daddy promised to take me there this summer,” Jacob said, looking out to the breakers where the fisherman wrestled with his rod. “But he had to go away on business.” Dover leaned his head into Jacob’s hand, begging for more petting. “I think he likes you,” I said. “I like dogs,” Jacob replied. “But Daddy says I can’t have one— my brother is allergic.” “Is that your daddy out there?” I asked, pointing to the breakers. The man was reeling hard against something on one of his lines. 42 s Red Weather
Jacob nodded. “Why aren’t you out there helping him reel in those big fish?” The little boy frowned and absently rubbed his fingers across the penny. “He says I get in the way.” “Ah,” I said, running my fingers back through my hair. “What about your brother?” “Henry hates fishing,” said Jacob. “I think he hates me, too.” Glancing back to the surf, I could see the boys’ father still reeling, but giving whatever had his line a bit of slack to fight, trying to wear the fish out. “I’m sure he doesn’t hate you,” I said. “Daddy gave us a dollar to go to the arcade,” Jacob said. “But Henry told me to go by myself.” A dollar. Christ, that would occupy the kid for less than five minutes. A dollar doesn’t go far in Marty’s Playland these days, though I could remember when I was able to play ten games with that much back when Jeff ditched me as a kid. With a single dollar, he’d be able to play the aged penny cranes and fill his pockets with junk, but at least he’d have something to play with other than grains of sand on the beach. I reached around to the back zipper pocket of my Adidas pants and pulled out the few bills that were folded around my license. Shoving the license and a few crumpled singles back into my pocket, I held out a ten-dollar bill to Jacob. “Here, kid,” I said. “Add this to your dollar and hit that arcade.” “REALLY?” Jacob yelled. His wind-chapped cheeks turned an even brighter shade of pink and his face split further into a grin. “Maybe you can share some with your brother, too.” I nodded to where his brother had stopped just a few boards down and sat with his head on his knees, staring out across the sand to the Atlantic. “Maybe he’ll race me on the NASCAR game!” Jacob squealed. “Tell your brother you found the ten dollars, too,” I said, reaching down to scratch Dover behind the ears. Then maybe he’ll believe that penny you found really was lucky.” “Thanks, mister!” He turned and sprinted toward his brother. “Have fun,” I called after him as Dover and I stepped down into the sand. “Well, boy, I’d say we just made his day.” Red Weather s 43
Dover replied with a soft wuff and waved his tail before bounding ahead to the hardpack sand where we’d usually jog for about a mile before turning around to come back to the inlet. I glanced out to where the boys’ father had landed a sand shark, from which he was trying to wrestle his hook back. A Frisbee had landed near his feet, but he didn’t seem to notice, even as the coeds from Salisbury State called over for him to throw it back. The man was lost in his own world. After about twenty minutes, Dover and I had made it back down to Worchester Street and the old arcade. I slowed as we approached Marty’s Playland and smiled at what I saw. There at the entrance of the old arcade were Jacob and his brother, seated at one of the simulated racing games. Each boy was crammed into a molded plastic seat, hands gripping a wheel and whooping as they fought to take the lead from one of the computer’s cars. When Dover and I made it back to the pickup, I dug my cell phone out of the center console and flipped it open. I scrolled through the list of contacts and stopped halfway through the alphabet, hit send, and waited for someone to pick up. “Hello?” answered a gruff voice on the other end of the line. “Hi, Jeff,” I said to my brother. “Long time no talk.”
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Just Keep Swimming
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The rapid clanking from a large chainâ€”splash, the anchor echoes on the ocean, people yell: Yellowfin, Yellowfin, Yellowfin! Squawks from sea gulls, pelicans, and cormorants. Barks from sea lions and seals. Thirty-seven lines scream into the saltwater. Chum is flung. Yellowfin, Yellowfin, Yellowfin! while the Sea Forth sways in the waves and everything in the ocean eats our bait except for the elegant and picky Yellowfin.
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Miranda Roberson Entanglement
Did you determine the day we warmed our legs on the harbor’s toothy border? We scanned the shellfish bound to the ocean’s exposed floor. I guessed familiar ones, asked if they could survive hours of low tide and an unforgiving sun. Yes, they’re equipped for that. You explained how the lobster pots rest in the ocean with bait and open arms, inviting the lobsters to saunter in, to eat and linger. Your words and your history became translations of mine. The sunshine pinked our flesh, competing alongside a briny breeze that musked our hair and mingled with your Old Spice.
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Billie Jean Kitzman
My Fatherâ€™s Hand
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Asleep during the car ride home from the circus, I felt the bounce and pull of the country highway. The seatbelt cut into me as I slouched to the side, the circus program and leftover cotton candy my pillow. The tires’ crunch on our gravel driveway woke me, though I pretended to sleep, breathing evenly. A whisper: Randal, she’s sleeping, will you carry her in? The cool night drifted into the backseat as Dad gently wrapped his arms around my ribs, trying not to wake me. I was sure to drop my neck to make it bob with his steps so he wouldn’t suspect as he moved sideways down the hallway. My feet brushed lightly against the pine paneled walls. The kitchen glow behind us, he lowered my head, centered it on the My Little Pony pillowcase. He unhinged my legs from his arm as he slid the comforter over me, not bothering with the pajamas crumpled nearby. His mustache scratched my skin as he kissed my cheek, his cologne hovering — what cowboys must smell like. His whiskey breath stung my nostrils and pricked my tongue.
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Val Oswald Divine
The moment was and still.
Snow fell around us in crystalline flakes of symmetry and silence. Delight danced through the air and we were completely immersed in joy. Everything in that instant was serene. Nothing else mattered as we listened to the whispered
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words from heaven: shimmering spheres of swirling conversation. A presence of divinity occupies the space in time as winterâ€™s kiss touches the earth with a tender white embrace.
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John Powers Snug
I’ll guess a lot of poets wrote odes to snow On this blanketed Minnesota morning. And why not? It is all around us now, Having come out of nowhere. Indifferent. But today I’m writing a poem of thanks For a morning shared with my daughter— A small spot of color home sick from school, Snugged up to the home and heat of my heft. My petal pink rose. Warm cheeked. Runny nosed. I wish I could do more for you, More for the world you’ll share, More for this world I too often fear. But today I’ll give thanks for the world’s small spots of color, Snowy Minnesota mornings, and a fever dropping by the hour.
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Alecs Peters Untitled
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Uncut June grass lies in Sunday repose— some tufts longer and darker courtesy of neighborhood dogs. How many years has it been since we wore those plain white uniforms, those helmets trimmed in blue cougars roaring in perpetual silence? On this vacant field near old Central, apparitions tumble here, then over there, disguised as stray McDonald’s wrappers caught by a sudden breeze: teen boys playing at being tough, at being rough sketches of what we thought we should be . . .
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Once my father managed to slip from work to watch me in a game, maybe to feel vicariously the runs and tackles, the blocks, the passes . . . the win, or even the loss. Or maybe he just wanted to see his boy play. This barren lot mute of shouts and calls, of whistles and claps, is ages past a place to battle our way into a purpose, into a sense of self, under the prideful eyes of fathers who, in times before, did much the same. Some of us, no doubt, now have sons to watch play on green fields somewhere and feel pride in seeing them strive to become men. Some of us, no doubt, are still striving.
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Miranda Roberson Remembering
Condensation traveled the sides of a tall glass nearly full with whiskey and water. Gravity pulled the beads of moisture closer to the rough wood shelf of a blue shed filled with tools and tackle and a riding lawn mower. A pony-tailed girl carried splintery pieces of wood from behind the shed to a nearby fire pit. The cracked pileâ€” a sloping mountain with pieces creeping onto the brown shingles. Slivers of ice clinked against the glass; Dad drank. He held his cigarette out to the side, its ashy tip long and hardly attached to the unburned nicotine inside. Leave it, he said, weâ€™ll burn the scraps here. But, the shed, the girl pointed a thin arm. He told her not to worry; he would never start the shed on fire.
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Helpless to stop him she tattled instead, to Mom, or the neighbor, or the fire departmentâ€” or nobody. She watched the fire trucks fill the gravel driveway. Their thick hoses forced a waterfall over and against the flames, cooling and soaking everything. She doesnâ€™t actually remember after the flames. How many minutes passed before the firemen were there, or how she got inside, or what Mom said, or how often whiskey sweated on the blurry edges of her past and future.
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Kaitlyn Ludwig Slow
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Samantha Woods The Time-thief
Immortalityâ€™s mistress, indifferent, lapped water from pain-filled tears of men. Sated, moving ever onward, she leapt and fled. Father, head in hands, retching on the grass, let salt grains tumbleâ€” like hourglass sands rolling over and over from eye to cheek to sword-pierced heart (the golden stones kept falling) from rose bouquet to white-petaled lilies to Motherâ€™s marker in the ground.
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That Stupid Shark
n a mild spring day, back when I was close to driving age, but not quite there, my dad and I went to Vermillion, South Dakota. A bridge had recently been built connecting Vermillion to Newcastle, Nebraska, which was a stone’s throw from my home town. If we wanted to travel to Vermillion before the bridge was built, it would involve an hour-and-a-half detour through Iowa to get to a town only a few miles from my house, as the crow flies. Vermillion was a land of new sights and sounds back then; a bustling college town with a wonderful Chinese restaurant, a fine university, and a Pamida. It’s gone now, but back then, my brother, our friends, and I found the Pamida fascinating. Being from small town Nebraska, we were easily amused by the store, wandering around in it, and joking about the products and prices because there was simply nothing better to do. Plus, none of us had girlfriends. That may have been a factor. On that spring day, I convinced my dad to stop at the Pamida to partake in the wander-fest that I was familiar with. We walked with some success through the dilapidated store until we reached the toy section. The toy section of Pamida, for some reason, had toys that other stores did not carry. While finer box stores like Kmart or Walmart would carry name-brand toys, Pamida seemed to carry toys other stores wouldn’t think of stocking on their shelves. And in our case, we struck gold. We found a selection of cheap, flexible rubber animals—giraffes, elephants, cats, dogs, and sharks. The shark struck us as the most peculiar. The shark’s eyes were strikingly unlike any set of shark eyes I had seen. Shark eyes are usually infused with some sort of coldness, dark hatred, or loathing. This toy shark had eyes filled with what I can only describe as mild bemusement and sheepish curiosity.
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That Stupid Shark
My dad examined the shark the way someone might examine a diamond. After seconds of consideration, he concluded, “This has to be the stupidest shark I’ve ever seen.” He pinched the shark’s sides between his fingers, which made the shark open his already ajar mouth even wider. This simple act proved humorous, as the shark’s eyes changed with the new shark-face expression—realization that it had, in fact, bitten off more than it could chew. Needless to say, we debated the appeal of the two-dollar toy for only a few moments before we decided to give it a permanent place in our family. As we drove home, we considered how best to use this new tool to its maximum potential. “Why don’t you put it under your mother’s pillow?” my dad suggested. Brilliant, simply brilliant. Rather than show this purchase to my mom, I snuck it into the bedroom and carefully placed it under her pillow. I can only imagine the surprise she felt when she slid her hand under her pillow that night, right into the jaws of that stupid shark. And I can only imagine how she would have held it by the tailfin and asked what the hell it was and where it came from. But, as time would tell, she did figure it out fairly quickly. The next night, it ended up under my father’s pillow. Then the next night, it ended up in my bed. Then it began to appear fixed between the couch cushions, in my dad’s recliner, on top of the TV, peering down from the top of the fridge, in my bed again, in my dad’s bed again, in the kitchen cabinets, in the shower, on the car’s dashboard, everywhere. It became a game—the person who found the shark would move it to a new location. The game lasted for months and months until the hiding places became more complex. The shark’s appearances became few and far between, until it vanished completely. We searched for it every now and then, but with no luck. The shark was doubtlessly swimming in the shadows, lurking in the nooks and crannies of our house for the perfect chance to strike again. Then came Christmas 2011. My parents came up to Fargo to visit my wife and me for the holidays. After a few presents, my mom handed me a curiously wrapped object. Inside was a number of foam sharks, the kind that grow multiple times their original size when wet, then shrink as they dry. Red Weather s 61
“You know what this reminds me of?” I commented. “That stupid shark we used to have. Remember? That blue shark we would put in each other’s beds?” My mom and dad knowingly agreed as we took the next round of presents. Inside my next gift was a long, narrow box that contained none other than the stupid shark. That stupid shark, or “that goddamn shark,” as it came to be known in my new family, had at last resurfaced. My wife and I played the old game in our apartment. I would hide the shark on her side of the bed and she would put it in the sleeves of my shirts hanging in the closet. I would put it in her bathroom drawer and she would put it in the kitchen cabinet. It lasted for a while, until once again, it made seldom and infrequent appearances. Now, finally, with the birth of our son, we have found a new place for the shark. As we decorated the baby’s room, we placed a number of stuffed animals and blocks on shelves to give the room a more baby-like feel. The shark is not on these shelves. Nor is the shark mixed in with the baby toys. No, the shark, true to its odd nature, sits perched atop the curtain rod over the baby’s window. It watches over the sleeping infant each night, mouth ajar, its aged eyes still showing the same mild bemusement and sheepish curiosity. It sits, biding time, until it is ready to strike again by camping amongst someone’s underwear in the dresser, or by hiding inside a cereal box, or next to the milk in the fridge, or . . .
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JaNae Boswell Rolling By
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Corey Mattison Alucinari
I see them in the shadows. Where they hide is what they are. I hear them in the darkness; see the movement beneath the stars. The snow has ceased its falling and no one is around. There is no proof of any soul leaving tracks upon the ground. The moon, she whispers softly, the stillness caresses my hair. I have never heard so many things in the silent air. My tongue it starts dancing without permission or plan. I stroll along in horror, uttering voices of no man.
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There is beauty in the fear that crawls inside us all; for, in the fright a tear, a glimpse before the fall. I finish my errand and retreat out of the night, and forget that I was threatened by the footsteps out of sight. I walk on leering glass, a shielded veil of spite; I am alone with all myself to conquer and to fight.
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Lonely, Beautiful E
I crossed through the fence that held back Death. The scene was no surprise— a maimed field of great breadth. I meandered about, I knew not where to stop. The stones were like shoots— memory pushed to the top. I saw the ancients, —the marble so jaded— weary of declaring the names of memories faded. And then I saw You, the one I almost stepped on, peeking through the grass, fighting those who abandon. You were just one letter that meant little to me. You were just one letter, and that letter was E.
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The middle of my name, but the whole of you— the last starting point from where your life grew. So I took you with my pencil, etched your life to this page. You left the back with grass stains— a little earth from your grave. It’s like you’re calling out, screaming to be remembered. So please, let me keep you to outlast your permanent December. I’ll fold your picture into my pocket— then you’ll always be with me. You’ll never be forgotten, Lonely, Beautiful E
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The World Is in Your Hands
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have never been a St. Patrick’s Day enthusiast. Aside from the green beer I occasionally drank in my youth, March 17 usually passed without a second thought. All of that changed last year, however, when I was introduced to Lucky. “Nice try,” the note said. “Tricky, but not tricky enough. Better luck next year.” My nephew, Blake, waved Lucky’s message in front of me. “Blake almost caught him,” my niece, Ella, exclaimed. “We’re gonna get him next year.” Blake and Ella began to detail what they thought went wrong: where their trap had failed, how the leprechaun had escaped, what improvements should be made. Ella believed that she “might have” seen him run across the kitchen sink, so the kids guessed that he entered the house through the dishwasher. Maybe they would start there next year. My childhood experience with leprechauns ended with the Lucky Charms breakfast cereal we were allowed to eat on special occasions. I knew of the myths involving rainbows and pots of gold, but they were never part of our traditions. My brother’s children, however, learned all about leprechauns in school and were told that Lucky visited children each St. Patrick’s Day. He played mischievous pranks on the children while they slept, was rarely seen, and as of yet, had never been caught. He left gold coins for the kids, and often a note taunting them as he escaped for another year. As my youngest niece, Jocey, devoured the chocolate coins, Blake and Ella showed me their leprechaun traps and the note. When I mentioned that I would be visiting Ireland in May, Blake’s excitement neared hysteria. “Lucky lives in Ireland. He lives in the trees,” Blake explained. “You should catch him for me. Please, please catch him for me.” Red Weather s 69
“I’ll try, Bud, but I think he’s pretty hard to catch,” I reasoned. “Try, just try,” he replied. For the next two months, any mention of Ireland, leprechauns, or even the color green sent Blake into a whirlwind of planning and instruction. He was determined to teach me how to trap leprechauns before my trip. The night before I was scheduled to leave for Ireland, I had supper with the kids. Ella’s excitement over Lucky had worn off not long after St. Patrick’s Day and I got the feeling that she didn’t have much faith in my ability to catch him. After all, if her cool big brother couldn’t catch him, there was no way her boring old aunt was going to pull it off. “He is really tricky, Jamee,” Ella would end our conversations, as if she was preparing me for the inevitable day I would return empty-handed. Jocey’s interest in the whole thing stopped at the chocolate, but Blake’s commitment to the cause never wavered. As I got up to leave for the trip, he gave me a few last minute reminders. “Leprechauns live in the trees,” he said, “probably wherever it’s green.” “Okay,” I said, “I’ll look for something green.” “You have to be really fast,” Blake continued. “If you can’t find Lucky, just try to catch any leprechaun.” “Okay, Bud. I’ll do my best.” I was about to leave when Blake urged me to wait. He ran back from his room with something in his hand. He held it out to me. “It’s a leprechaun trampoline,” he said with confidence. “It will help you trap them.” He handed me a Mason jar ring with rubber bands stretched across it. “When you find where you think they are, hide this and they will run on it and fly in the air so you can catch them.” “Wow. That’s really neat, Blake,” I said as I put it in my pocket. “I think that will really come in handy.” “Just make sure you bring it back,” he said. “I need to have it for next year.” The next day, the trampoline and I left for Ireland. I wasn’t interested in trying to explain the contraption to the boarding inspectors, so it made the trip in my checked baggage. When we arrived, I was so taken with the scenery and swept up in the excitement of travel that I forgot all about the trampoline. 70 s Red Weather
That all changed on day three, however, when I found the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin. I knew it would be the perfect place to find tracking and trapping information. I found out there had been documented cases of people who have managed to catch a leprechaun, but because the little guys are so tricky, they’ve always managed to escape. I also learned that if you catch a leprechaun, you cannot take your eyes off him. The minute you do, poof! He will be gone. At the museum, we saw authentic leprechaun clothes and heard stories; there was even a pot of gold. I left the museum with the confidence that I was going to succeed in my task. I was ready. We were in the city for the first few days of our trip, so it took me awhile to get out to the places where Blake thought Lucky and his friends might live. On day five, we toured the Ring of Kerry. It was a highly traveled area, so I wasn’t sure I would find anything. Blake told me that leprechauns only live where they think they can hide, and I wasn’t sure the Ring of Kerry was such a spot. Nevertheless, I set up the trampoline a couple of times and waited. Nothing. On day seven, we stopped at The Burren and I thought I was onto something. There were cracks and crevices among the rocks that I thought would be perfect for a leprechaun. We even found a few flowers that were so small, they could only be used for decorating little houses. I’m not sure if the number of people in our group scared them off, or if there weren’t any leprechauns living there, but I left The Burren empty-handed. My best chance came on day eight when we went to the Aran Islands. Those little flowers were back, along with tiny pinecones. They could have only come from little leprechaun trees. There had to be little people living on the island. I was right. Halfway through our tour, we came upon a row of little houses — actual leprechaun houses. Of course, they were on private property so I couldn’t inspect them as closely as I would have liked, but I got some good pictures for Blake. Again, I hid the trampoline in the grass and waited. Nothing. I moved it between some rocks, but still nothing. Blake and Ella were right; those little guys are really smart. Before I left for Ireland, Blake told me to look near anything green to find Lucky. Blake has obviously never been to Ireland or he would know that everything is green. I don’t think, however, Red Weather s 71
there was a greener place than Coole Park, which we visited on day nine. If I were a leprechaun, I would live in Coole Park. I found a couple of paths that looked like little people created them, but my traps were unsuccessful. I was beginning to fear that I was going to return to the States empty-handed. The next day, however, I realized what I had been doing wrong. We stopped for lunch at Dooney Rock Park and it hit me— my trap had no bait. What attracted them? Sugar? Meat? Crackers? What do leprechauns eat? I consulted my fellow travelers, and we decided on cheese. My next few traps contained a leprechaun-sized chunk of cheese and I was sure that was going to yield results. I was wrong. By the time we left the park, I had a dirty piece of cheese, but little else. My last hope came on day eleven at Glencar Waterfall. I changed my mind; if I were a leprechaun, I would live at Glencar. I was positive there were leprechauns that agreed with me, but again, I boarded our coach sans leprechaun. I began to accept the fact that I would have to return with stories and pictures, but no little person. The kids met me at the airport. “Did you catch a leprechaun?” Blake asked as soon as he saw me. “Did you find Lucky?” “No,” I said as I put my arm around him. “You were right. They are really tricky.” “They are,” he said, “I know. That’s why I couldn’t catch him. I’m going to next year, though. Do you have my trampoline?” “Of course, and lots of presents.” We went home, and their souvenirs took the sting out of Lucky’s absence. Blake particularly liked my leftover Euros, convinced they were golden leprechaun treasure. I told him the stories I had heard at the museum and we paid our respects to the genius of the leprechaun. Despite acknowledging Lucky’s wisdom, however, Blake is confident that with the help of his trampoline, he will catch the little guy next year.
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Tickle Me Pink
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No Moral to the Story
He had rough hands And wore Carhartt pants Work boots and old flannel shirts. He read Hemingway everyday While he drank cold Chardonnay. And Iâ€™ve been told By a friend that should know Weâ€™d a made a great couple If either one of us were gay.
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Nicholas Boushee Patriot Faggot
if love is best unbound and since we hold up as heroes those who work toward real change then the faggot is the ultimate revolutionary as they love uninhibited with the full force of the word laboriously and joyously burning social scripts blazing new paths to love over old routes proven only to lead to devastation they represent the advancement of our species our true new founding fathers
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Meridyth Morgan delicious
delicious, every mouth and voice I hunger to make them talk greed for more and more vowels of moist hot flesh but they are not yours, sweet No but they are mobile soft lips they form slow, soulful “ohs” and wide, tight sigh-“aighs” they pickpluck carefully through thorny consonant mazes
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and though heâ€™s just a boy at the counter and sheâ€™s just a bus-stranger on her ear-piece phone I peer into the red wounds of their mouths and see pointy, pearl incisors I see flicks of muscular tongues I see words of wondrous love love love
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Nicholas Boushee L
L O V E IS
V I O L E N T W
IS L A I D THE M O ST
B E A U T I F U L
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She Brings Her LOVE Wherever She Goes
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Home for Hearts
You always liked those foggy autumn days— the way the mist comfortably wraps around you, muting noise, the transformation of street lights into golden halos. The air balances on the sharp brink of brisk and crisp; so, when you step inside, you feel you’ve been balled up in bed, a bubble of warmth, and merely taken a breath of chilled air. Meanwhile, I am miserable after your goodbye, because, whatever the weather, there are emotionless skies when you’re gone that not even the purest blue can help. But, it’s in these moments that I know with more certainty than the combination of all else I ought to be sure about that you are for me, and I am yours.
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Billie Jean Kitzman Liffey Love Locks
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Annie Hockhalter Cherokee Drum
Love is a dusty back road to somewhere. Through the dust is a beat of a drum. With that sound, I follow; I can hear it in the air. I hear the Powwow and they holler your name; I swear. Back to you I travel; back to you I come. Love is a dusty road back to somewhere. I see your squaw, your pawpaw there. I hear the drum of the Cherokee Chief, time to run. With that sound, I follow; I can hear it in the air. Cherokee winds take me home, take care. Dusty bare feet slap solid ground, how come? Because, love is a dusty back road to somewhere. We can only hope the road takes us home, all the way there. Back to the mountains and the pawpaws I canâ€™t refrain from. With that sound, I follow; I can hear it in the air. Back to the simple way of life is my prayer. Your song, your beat, I follow you like a guitar strum. Love is a dusty back road to somewhere. With that sound, I follow; I can hear it in the air.
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Whitney Walters Disguises
Adult Being an adult means nothing means wearing a mask more than in order to hide putting on a mask. true emotions. What happened to the fearless We distract our fears, children we were: as adults. We drink, exploring our luscious world grinding the work hours away imagining our own fantasy from the literal worldâ€” trying, falling, scraping a knee, analyzing, forgetting, rubbing some dirt in it sleeping the pain away, getting up again and buying something new unafraid to show some tears to hide our lack of imagination. protected from any harm We have lost or packed away by the blanket we carried with us our once treasured items and every hurt comforted prized above everything else. by our stuffed animal? Where is Teddy? Where is Blankie now? 84 s Red Weather
Maybe we still are children We never were adults, placing meaning and security replacing curiosity and wonder in things beyond ourselves with bigger and brighter options and wearing masks to hide our self.
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In my mind’s matter and heart’s pulse you are grey. Grey in granite walls you promised me forever, grey in steel Paris terraces and towers, grey in rugged mountains reaching into grey atmosphere above us. We travel in grey. We exist in grey. Grey walls yield vivid bursts of color— showcase passion against steadiness. That four letter word grey. Not gray left heavy and hollow, but grey suspended light against cheeks brushed so close, our black and white souls BLUR and I cannot separate You from Me.
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My teeth are like a hummingbird, a child of seven tells me. After a day of playing in the rain I push her wet, shivering body on the hammock at half-light. I ask question after question about how this world works because she has answers: God had a wife and dog; he was the greatest man on earth until he made his dog die on the cross.
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Kayla Rutherford Medora Sunset
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The Guilt Sand Dunes
The trees died & what can be found in ash? I killed men women & children across the border if I spent the entirety of my life walking away I wouldn’t reach a mountain top this morning I made a spider smaller than an ant sail through air with a blow of my breath but I killed men women & children across the border I won’t tell you what wasn’t the hard part but I will tell you the heat smell of bodies was Red Weather s 89
e waited over an hour at the bus stop. Fourteen hours had passed since he woke up and rode to campus, pumped iron in the gym, attended class, studied, and worked—the daily routine. Only, today three inches of snow had fallen. That stopped hours ago. Now the roads were clear enough. Now the sky was as clear as it could be described—the light-polluted, Martian-like orange of Midwestern winter nights. A full moon glowed above— alone in an empty cosmos. Yet when he finally called the bus station, the only answer he received was a recording; the buses had stopped running due to weather. He began to walk, and it was not the cold but the loneliness that numbed him. Had he sunk this low, that when the busses shut down, he had no one to call? How had it come to this? He must walk, trudge, and march to his apartment over sidewalks buried under last weekend’s blizzard. He must cross six miles of cold, dead night. So much for self-reliance, so much for needing no one, he thought. Along the roads he became an involuntary mime. Spotlighted under streetlights and headlights, climbing drifts and tripping over mounds, he starred in some silent film framed behind onrushing windshields. Spectators passed in each warm car, never granting more than a sideways glance, never braking. Marching into endless headlights, the skin of his thighs frozen under jeans, on the verge of an adrenaline rush, he ascended the gradual slope of Veterans’ Memorial Bridge. Obelisks soared out of the snowdrifts, towering over the small, trudging figure below—a body that, underneath the tattered jacket, had been chiseled and torn apart in a desert overseas. Each wave of passing cars, whether gawking or ignoring, presented an equal affront. The resentment boiled over.
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“You built this bridge for me!” he shouted at them. But wind, traffic, and the thump of pop music drowned out all sound and meaning. The crossing, the journey, had become absurd. “Just what I needed, a monument,” he said. Some monument—the summer before he walked along the river and found a nest of sleeping bags and trash under it. The bridge may have been built for that man too, but not as a home. Shoveled sidewalks beyond the river took on the character of mazes. The cold signaled nothing, a minor stinging in the thighs. The real obstacle was distance; that alone was never enough to take a man down. Over that distance, he dispelled the illusion that one could know where they were in the universe. Like out of some Antarctic expedition for all he knew, he finally reached the apartment building. “I made it,” he muttered, some part of him wishing he hadn’t. “I made it, I made it, I . . . ” “Made it from where?” A man was smoking outside the apartment. He exhaled, squinting behind a cloud of vapor. He almost didn’t speak. But no, it was time to set a new precedent, time to meet new people, to connect, to tell them everything he knew. He looked him in the eyes. “Nowhere.”
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A Rlxd Poem (On a Rushed Day in Early Spring While the Ground Is Still Covered and There Are No Tulips to Mention in Frozen Moorhead, Minnesota)
I’m bitter today and it is silly, really, It is in fact ridiculous to be bitter At sidewalks full of uneven, clumpy ice. The angry patterns of tracks from snow boots And snow blower tires frozen under-foot Make it difficult to stay upright, on your feet, Viable. It is difficult to get anywhere at all Lately. It’s not just me. So many of my friends Are stuck. Can’t get anywhere. But to be bitter Because neighbors along my way do not have time Or cannot make time to clear their sidewalk, To clear the threat; it is silly of me, isn’t it? I’m sure they would do more, I’m sure they would Do better for the common good if given the time. And it is not only us. Just the other day I said To my friend Thom, he’s always listening, I said, Thom, careful here on Main Avenue. These pot holes Will break your axle, pop your tires, swallow your Faith in infrastructure. Rlx, he said, Sun’s coming. They won’t fix the holes but in the melt we’ll see More clearly, the threats they pose. Rlx he said.
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That letter from your lover? Put it in a box and stretch the tape across the top. Seal it good. Really good. That box will move from attic to attic, house to house, state to state. And one day, on moving day, you will find that sealed box and decide it is time to throw it away.
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Tree Growing in Doorway of Vacant Fishermanâ€™s Cottage
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Hunger Drives Me
Itâ€™s early morn when I set out in darkness for the far horizon. The rumble of my old jalopy resonates throughout the hollow pit of my stomach. Sliding onto the freeway as yolk unto a pan, a golden bulb illuminates behind, obliterating cold nocturnal shadows. Driving west, the car seems to flatten the Missouri hills into prairie, like Godâ€™s chosen rolling pin. Corn and wheat sheaves undulate, waving goodbye as they are cooked alive, while tires expel dust to season freshly-baked earth. Finally, the ancient machine hums, content, and together we whisper to the world that night is over and breakfast is served.
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In the Photo Album
Mom looks like Cindy Crawford in this photograph. I flip it over to read her maiden name— she must be only twenty-three. It’s at one of Dad’s camping parties in the Rockies in the seventies I know what the background is— drugs, alcohol, old west saloon-girl costumes, dirty jokes, and naked touching limbs.
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And Mom in her red fitted-flannel, beautiful-toothed smile over pained cautious eyes as she tries to perform for the much much older man. Was he ever good to you? Thirty years down your married life? Did you ever lose that forced uncomfortable smile? Was it ever okay?
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Andrea Kochensparger A Study of Aubrey
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Stephanie Wiese Seduction
â€“After Matthew Dickman
When jealousy comes to you as Cleopatra you must consider yourself seduced. She starts off slowly, flirting around in your mind, playing games, whispering quietly to you. Sauntering up close, she gets touchy-feely, still drawing you in. You want to hate her because she is beautiful, sensual, playful, and sexy. And she teases you. But, you let it happen anyway. She strives to rule over you, and everyone, really. And upon attaining you as her own she becomes aggressive, dramatic in her actions, like a snake, she coils up before striking. The full power of her lust controls you now.
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She is . . . poisonous, venomous when she speaks, the sultry words on her tongue seem to drip into your ears. Do you feel that burning pain inside? She’s hurting you, she’s killing you silently from the inside out. If you don’t save yourself now, you’ll never be able to. Don’t kid yourself, you know what she is. She damn well knows what you are— weak. Be confident and confront her. You don’t deserve anything but better than this.
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causing me to in a way I never would before yes that is the message I came here to tell you why do you remember such things? your fault these my lies mine my doing but so cleverly I hide the blame in your guilt
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Angry winter air claws at my window, warning me She can gain access at any time. Outside all existence is gone, trapped behind a layer of her thick white rage. No softly falling flakes, no snowmen in the front yard. There is nothingâ€”until She says so.
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Three Untitled Cinquains
School bus full of farm kids. A steel-sided cradle. Slumbering schoolgirls in the dark with boys.
The dead stand up to watch neighborhood construction. The gravedigger melts frozen ground today.
White fields shoulder white sky. Traffic-yellow sign says Iâ€™m the last colored square out here for miles.
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JaNae Boswell They Said
They told me my blood was cold, you could see no spark of life within my soul, my eyes bleed out unstable emotions behind every blink. Silent Undifferentiated Schizophrenic State They told me I was a mutt, I can never have a traditional life, I’ll never be enough, it is a war and I’d have to pick a side, there was no border. Disturbing Dissociative Identity Disorder They told me to just try it, I won’t get hooked, I won’t turn into some addict, the belt will be tight around my arm—a green vein pulsates against my skin. Precipitated Comorbid Substance Abuse They said she was dead, it happened on highway five, that the newspapers read, “Four Dead After Cars Collide,” this was life and now things would never be the same again. Dysthymic Psychotic Depression
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Lost in the Light
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Where Are You, Sister?
Where are you, sister? Where is your pride that shined throughout our mother earth? It was daring and beautiful, like the sunlight cutting through a storm. Where is your voice that was bold, valiant, and strong? It was once like buckskin drums beating loudly against the warriorâ€™s cry. Your spirit no longer dances with the butterflies, gliding gently on the breeze. Has it been shattered, By men lying with their eyes and with their heart, loving you with their fists? You are in that shadowed corner, where your light dims and your fire loses radiance. Where is your serene smile? It was brilliant like the morning sun peeking over the horizon, chasing darkness away. Where is your heart? It used to be tender and pure, filled with passion and wisdom, Inspired by our ancestorâ€™s laughs and guided by their visions. Did he crush it in his callous hands, turning it to dust? And, dear sister, where is your laughter? It was joyous like the chimes from a jingle dress dancer And vibrant like the colors embellishing a fancy shawl. What did he do? Did he silence you with his judgment? Choke you with his abhorrence? Beat you down until you became unrecognizable, a shell of yourself? You now stand breathless and alone as the spirits whisper; where are you, sister? Come back to us.
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Meridyth Morgan If You Die
If you die and leave me here all alone I’ll become that ThingintheAttic. I’ll eat baked goods and play pinochle with your grandma. We’ll talk about dying— we’ll wait for it and wonder why it hadn’t gotten us yet.
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Benjamin Pontius Deconstruction
I am preparing to attend a funeral, my own, where you shall kiss me like Judas and like Jesus. And I shall smile with joy, kissing you back. Love always leads to martyrdom, no matter how soft the words are said. Just like being a tree always leads to growing leaves or being a star means eventually burning yourself to death. I am setting the house in order for demolition, re-arranging the furniture, remodeling the master bedroom and purchasing new carpet. Carpet to match the colors in your eyes on late nights when you laugh at my slowness. For reconstruction always requires its opposite, and the better one is done, the more satisfying the other. Indeed, I am remodeling the home. I am preparing for a wedding, ours, where I shall stand and kiss you like Judas hoping to be like Jesus loving like a martyr loves; his home all in order, singing as he burns.
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Jamee Larson Prairie
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Mahmoud Toumeh Tragedies of War
he first time I heard “Lullaby” by Nickelback, I was driving on the interstate on my way back home in south Fargo. It was a cold night in late February; strong gusts of wind and heavy snowfall blew against my windshield. The Midwestern snow made visibility almost impossible as cars flew by me, racing for their destinations. My blurred perception of my surroundings was a direct reflection of the outcome of recent events in my life. I was finished with my tedious organic chemistry lab, and the potent stench of salicylic acid on my fingertips permeated my BMW. I decided to turn on the radio to break up the tense atmosphere. To make my long day even worse, my car’s screen displayed “Nickelback.” I instantly had a flashback of all the jokes I had made with my friends in high school about this mediocre band when I was in Performing Arts. But something was strikingly different in the beginning chords of the song. I was struck as the lead singer gave the lyrics to my life. My hands began to shake uncontrollably, so I turned up the car’s heater. Nothing changed, however, as I began losing my firm grip on the steering wheel. The honking of cars seemed alarmingly close. My mind drifted to my old friend, Omar, and the unwanted flashbacks began. Omar never escapes my mind, whether I am studying, eating, or sleeping. It was a year ago that my best friend, Omar, left this world. We were childhood friends for more than fourteen years; I still remember the excitement we both had when my family traveled to Syria every summer after schools in the U.S. closed their doors. I have not been home to see Omar or any of my extended family for more than three years, which saddens my heart. Conditions in my home country of Syria worsen by the day, as what started as a peaceful revolution became a brutal
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Tragedies of War
war led by a ruthless dictator and his barbaric regime against his own people. Omar and I were alike in so many ways, but I always envied him for his reckless bravery. His decision to become an activist for the revolution did not surprise me. Every weekend, I tried my best to Skype with him to check on his safety. The last time I contacted him, telephone lines and internet were cut by the government, but somehow he always found a sneaky alternative. He told me of all the pictures and videos he took of the protests that were happening in our neighborhood. He had not seen his mom for three months after he was forced to relocate to a different home each night, running away from the hated security thugs of our government. He spoke little of himself and would always ask how my courses at college were going. Omar always encouraged me to do my best and wanted to see me come back home as a doctor to treat the fatal injuries he saw: tank and mortar shrapnel, sniper wounds, land mines. He never knew his hopes would be so short-lived. The last time I Skyped with Omar, I was halfway through finishing my sentence when the screen went pitch black, and I could no longer hear his voice. Deep down, my instincts told me something terrible had happened. After five minutes of staring hopelessly at my screen, I shut it down and prayed, and prayed, and prayed. I could not sleep that night. Nightmares of vague faces of strangers gasping for help clouded my mind. The next morning, I woke up to my daily routine of eating cereal and watching the news in Syria on the Arabic channels my dad subscribed to. As sad as it was, nothing seemed out of the ordinary as the news anchor relayed the stories: two hundred plus people dead in different cities in Syria, armed conflicts in civilian neighborhoods, a massacre by the government here, a massacre by the government there. I almost turned off the television but a change in the anchorman’s tone got my attention. A massive raid by the government security forces had taken place in the Al-Mahatta neighborhood in Homs, the central city in Syria that I grew up in, where all of my maternal relatives reside. Security forces infamously known as Shabiha, “ghosts” in Arabic, had received intelligence reports on the location of several activists. Omar’s apartment, along with many others, was shelled Red Weather s 115
by rocket-propelled grenades in a systematic manner. Names of the deceased were announced, and Omar’s name was mentioned last, along with a picture of him filming a protest. I was in complete shock as I began to weep. Questions raced around my mind. Was it my fault? Why did they want Omar out of all the others? Why was the world doing nothing about it, as all the politicians sat back and watched the suffering of the people in Syria? Did anyone care anymore or was Omar just another number? What if destiny had placed me in Syria, instead of going to college in Minnesota on the other side of the world? Tears from my bloodshot eyes fell swiftly again as I heard “Lullaby” in my car a year after the incident. Every time I hear the song, I imagine speaking to Omar casually and pretending everything is fine. Several months later, I still think of Omar every day and ask myself “What if?” To this day, I think of all my family members and old friends in Syria who are not able to leave the country for a safer place, and I dream everything will get better soon. After all, what else can a confused soul do besides pray and dream?
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Fargo in Motion
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Ode to Tradition (or Old Money)
You are the table set for Thanksgiving. Polished silver gleaming. Calling the eye to its glint, To its hint of a promise of a better way of life, A better version of myself waiting inside of you. You are the second nature decorum devouring energy Of less relaxed, less comfortable creatures. You know When to call. How to dress. What to send. Indeed, you are The accusation of impropriety upon the impoverished. You are the door opened and scraps offered to the wayfarer. You are gilded cruelty dressed up and posing as kindness. You are the bold block lettering above the bank, the library Name carved in a granite entry arch. You let us borrow a book, A loan, a dream, a thing handed down from above. Not a prayer, An interest rate. A comfort that comes to crush. You are power.
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Matthew Doherty Succubus
Panting above a forlorn corpse weeping, Serpent tresses gnaw with amorous desire, Abandoning the cold dead seeping. Cadaver lips lustfully heaping Flames from passionâ€™s humid fire, Panting above a forlorn corpse weeping. Reptilian skin elegantly sweeping, Longing for orgasmic death to transpire, Abandoning the cold dead seeping. Flesh ripped with succulent tongue reaping, Opal fangs drip a sanguine mire, Panting above a forlorn corpse weeping. Blood saturates, slowly steeping, The Heart fights to ardently expire, Abandoning the cold dead seeping. Dawn incarcerates, creeping, Smoldering within a funeral pyre, Panting above a forlorn corpse weeping, Abandoning the cold dead seeping.
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The taxidermic mice huddle together on a shelf where they tote umbrellas, wear top hats and silk gloves, though today is a fall day without rain. When their maker glued their black eyes open after death and gave them human half-life of frailty and frivolity she thought she was doing them right. Her justification: they were lab mice, you see. Now, in an odd twist, one wears a stethoscope around his neck, glasses held upon his nose, with never the chance to ask: How bad is the pain?
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Melissa Stephan Final Pose
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The Man in Weld’s Basement Wall
There’s a man in the wall His boots are high, legs long— he must be tall Man’s boots are poised, ready—barely reach the floor, like he’s running toward the custodian’s door Man is in the wall— skin, blackish-brown; hair, white snowfall atop, a charcoal crown Man screams the building’s years Fear forces footfalls fast near the crack-seamed linoleum Man’s boots, poised, ready, barely reach the floor— he’s running toward the custodian’s door Man is in the wall— boots high, legs long Man, an ancient scratch, Basement level, Weld Hall. 122 s Red Weather
Samantha Woods Thanatos
Send my bones to college for scholars to poke and prod, to cut and sew and squint. Let them saw off bits— tiny pieces of myself— experiment and draw forth the inner rugged me, call up unholy Unstandardized, and place the bulb of difference in the light behind my irises. Examine everything that was . . . So, when those ragged bodies rise, (as they’re wont to do) when they surge forward, flash mobs, hunger-groaning, seething from rotten lips marred by raw flesh-craving, I’ll fight.
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Billie Jean Kitzman
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Gerri Stowman Revelation
hen Beth drove away from her office, she felt as if she were hovering over the car, watching it maneuver through the familiar streets on autopilot. “I need to get home.” She said the words aloud, repeating them until her car pulled into the driveway. Glancing at the house she’d shared with Jim for more than two decades, she noticed the updated shingles and new siding. Now, Beth thought, they looked grim and stark instead of warm and cheery. She stepped inside the front door then turned quickly to lock herself inside. After dropping her purse, she ran to their bedroom, stripped off her clothes, and stepped into the shower, sobbing as the water’s heat seeped through her aching frame. “God,” she cried. “Where are you? How could this happen? How am I going to get through this?” Steam fogged the room, and water ran down the shower walls in narrow rivulets. She watched as the small streams merged, racing toward the drain with her tears. “Why didn’t I see this coming? What’s wrong with me?” When the water turned cool, she turned off the faucet and collapsed on the thick cotton rug outside the shower. Exhausted, she lay still for a minute and then reached inside a low cupboard for a bath blanket to pull over her shoulders. She wanted to sleep but didn’t want to risk seeing Jim if he came home early. I’ll lock the bathroom door, she thought. I’ll tell him to meet me at church. When the phone rang, she heard the answering machine record Jim’s smooth voice, the tone rich and confident, just as it sounded from the pulpit: “Hello, Beth. I got a late start out of the city and have to meet Dr. Brentworth at church. Keep supper warm until I get home.” Red Weather s 125
Supper, she thought. The last time she’d seen him, just two days earlier, they’d prepared supper together, visiting as they worked. After the meal, she’d helped him pack for the conference and then walked him to his car. She recalled how he’d leaned against the vehicle, pulling her body toward him for a lingering kiss. She remembered the phone call she’d received the next day. “Dr. Brentworth’s coming—he wants to meet with us.” Beth recognized the voice on the telephone and smiled. Dave Jacobson was board chairman of the church Jim had started twenty years earlier, when they first moved to Lake Pemmican. When Jim and Beth’s only child, Sara, started school, Dave supported Beth’s decision to earn a counseling degree. Years later, when she opened her practice, he defended her choice to conservative members who felt pastors’ wives shouldn’t work outside the home. “Jim won’t be home until tomorrow afternoon, Dave. He’s at the conference in Minneapolis. I thought Dr. Brentworth would be there, too.” “He’s leaving early because he wants to see us before Pastor Jim gets home,” Dave explained. “Before Jim gets here?” Beth asked. “What’s up?” “Honestly, Beth, I don’t know. I pushed him, but he wouldn’t budge . . . said he’d talk to us tomorrow.” As a longtime board member, Dave knew the request was unusual. The superintendent of their church district, Dr. Brentworth, was known for his threepiece suits and his insistence on being called “Dr.,” though the title was honorary. “Can you bring him to my office? I booked off the morning to catch up on billing.” “That’ll work. You know, Beth, Dr. Brentworth has talked about another church plant in the Twin Cities. Since Sara is working there, maybe he wants to sound you out before he pitches the idea to Jim?” Beth laughed and shook her head. “No—that’s not his style.” Dave cautioned, “Don’t let his attitudes get to you. He’s our last dinosaur, and he’ll retire soon. I know he’s not supportive of your work, but he doesn’t live out here. He doesn’t see the difference you make.” 126 s Red Weather
Beth sent up a silent prayer of thanks. “We’ll know soon enough,” she said. “See you tomorrow.” The next morning, Beth tensed when she saw Dave cross the parking lot in front of her office. Dr. Brentworth was at his side, the three-piece suit carefully buttoned over his girth. While both men looked somber, Dave looked like he’d stepped out of the dentist’s office after a root canal, sans Novocain. She invited the men inside, put out her “CLOSED” sign, and locked the door. Then, she sat down behind her desk and waited. “Beth, do you have any idea why we’re here?” Dr. Brentworth’s hands trembled as he pulled a black leather briefcase onto his lap. Beth searched his eyes. “No, sir. I do not.” The older man opened the clasp and pulled out a stack of papers. “There’s no easy way to say this. The pastor at Westland Baptist brought these to me last week. They’re statements made by several women who used to attend your church, but who moved to Westland years ago. They did an abuse seminar there last month.” Dr. Brentworth’s voice faltered, and he pushed the papers toward Beth. “Here—read these.” Dave interrupted, “Beth, what Dr. Brentworth is trying to say is, if these women are telling the truth, well, Pastor Jim isn’t the man we thought he was. He’s been leading a double life.” His eyes prodded her to pick up the documents. Although the name on the top sheet was covered, Beth recognized the young woman from details in the statement. She’d graduated from high school with their daughter, and married soon after. A year later, when her first baby was stillborn, she went to Pastor Jim for grief counseling. Beth scanned the words: Pastor Jim was the only person who understood what I was going through. Of course he understood, Beth thought. We lost our first baby—he knows what it’s like. I wanted to kill myself, but he kept me alive. I felt like I owed him my life because of all he did for me. That’s not unusual, Beth thought as her eyes scanned ahead. Nausea pitted her stomach as she absorbed the rest of the page. Red Weather s 127
When he put his arms around me the first time, I was so confused—I just froze. Then, he wanted hugs when I went in for counseling, and it soon turned to kissing. He was helping me, and I was afraid that if I didn’t respond, he’d quit helping me. When he started touching me, he said God put us together—that losing a child is a bond we shared, and that I was helping him as much as he was helping me. Beth closed her eyes. “Keep reading,” the older man ordered. “We need your feedback before we confront Pastor Jim.” Feeling helpless, she picked up the sheets and resumed reading: When I wouldn’t do it anymore, he said if I told, he’d say that losing the baby made me psychotic. I stopped going to his church and didn’t tell anyone until I saw the film about victims at the abuse conference. I was just like those women! I didn’t think anyone would believe me. Beth looked at the next statement. She remembered the woman whose husband, deep in gambling debt, took his life. Weeks later, Jim had moved the young widow into their basement apartment so she’d have a place to stay while sorting through the financial mess her husband left behind. Pastor Jim started coming home at lunchtime and asked me to join him for a sandwich. I was flattered by his attention. I trusted him. He seemed to care about what was happening to me. I hated myself for it, but I couldn’t refuse his advances. I felt like I owed him because he helped me and gave me a place to live. Beth remembered Jim’s suggestion that she take appointments over the noon hour so she could leave the office an hour earlier each day. I didn’t suspect a thing, she thought. How could I be so naïve? On the remaining forms, ages of the women varied. Most were in their twenties and thirties, though one woman suffering from chronic depression was just ten years younger than Jim. Beth knew the story: The woman’s husband was suspicious of therapists and wouldn’t allow her to see a secular counselor. Instead, he’d taken her to Pastor Jim. Months later, when they abruptly left the church, Jim told the church board that the husband suffered from paranoia and was as disturbed as his wife. 128 s Red Weather
She picked up another sheet. He said I was special. He helped me so much. I thought I was in love. He said this had never happened to him before, and that I was the only person who understood him. He said his wife doesn’t like sex, and he wouldn’t be able to work so hard for the church if he didn’t have me, being there for him. Beth’s numbness grew into anger. How many times had she reached out to him in bed, only to have him turn away? How many times had he fallen asleep—or feigned sleep—before she turned down her side of the blankets? She felt like she’d been living in a funhouse, where bizarre misperceptions skewed her sight. She’d spent her life with him, caring for him. She’d always admired his organizational skills and the way he could juggle so many commitments. Now, she realized the full depth of his skills. To lead a dual life for so many years—without anyone suspecting—took tremendous effort. What kind of therapist am I? Why didn’t I see what he was doing? Had he ever done anything to Sara? And what about Bonnie Jensen’s suicide? Jim had been counseling her at the time, and then presided over her funeral. Was there a connection? Dr. Brentworth’s voice sounded like he was talking in a barrel, the tones so muddled she couldn’t make out the words. “I said,” he repeated, “do you have any reason to believe these reports are not true?” Ignoring Dr. Brentworth, Beth turned to Dave. “What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I see it?” He looked at her through tears. “You trusted him, Beth. We all did. Looking back, I saw some things that seemed odd, but I let them go. They didn’t seem important . . . until now.” “What did you see?” “We’re running out of time, Beth,” Dr. Brentworth said. “What’s important is the here and now. You’re a counselor; you know how this works. I want you to read all of the statements and tell me whether the situations these women are writing about sound . . . plausible.” Beth sifted through the rest of the papers, looking for evidence of lies, collusion, or some logical explanation. She thought of the times it crossed her mind, briefly, that Jim was evading her questions about little things—like a late meeting or unscheduled appointment. Finally, she handed the stack of papers back to Dr. Red Weather s 129
Brentworth. “I . . . I know many of these women, and their stories show a pattern. Jim has been preying on vulnerable women who’ve been coming to him for help.” “We’re confronting Pastor Jim late this afternoon, as soon as he gets home,” Dr. Brentworth said. “We’ve talked to the insurance company, and they’re prepared to make an offer to each of the women who signed affidavits.” He looked at Beth, “You realize that if this becomes public, there may be more complaints?” Beth knew that with a longstanding ministry like Jim’s, the abuse could go back for years. Dr. Brentworth continued, “We’re making a one-time offer to these women, contingent on their agreement not to talk about what happened. Our lawyers and the insurance company will handle it quietly. We’ve gone through this before and—as long as the insurance company covers counseling for the women who want help—no one else needs to know.” Puzzled, Beth asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to disclose it to the church?” Dr. Brentworth ignored her question. “Jim will resign, of course. We’ve prepared a press release. The denomination has a retreat center for pastors and their families in Colorado, and we’ll rent a house out there for you until this blows over. Of course, we’ll pay the costs of counseling for you both.” Dr. Brentworth looked at her over his glasses. “You know, these things never happen in isolation.” Angered by his words, Beth asked, “How can you possibly blame me for this? This isn’t my fault!” “Beth’s right,” Dave chimed in. “Pastor Jim is an ordained minister. This isn’t about anyone but him.” Dr. Brentworth ignored them. “We’ll relocate you in an area where Jim can go back to school and—eventually—return to ministry.” Incredulous at his remarks, Beth asked, “Ministry? You want him to return to ministry?” Dr. Brentworth nodded. “He’s a gifted man, Beth, and we’ve invested a lot of years in him. We can’t afford to lose him now.” Stunned, Beth wondered about the pastoral couples she knew who had moved to Colorado and “gone back to school.” Was “going back to school” a euphemism for pastors who abused their counselees and betrayed their wives, families, and churches? 130 s Red Weather
Sensing Beth’s frustration, Dave whispered, “Are you okay?” “I don’t understand,” she said loudly, ignoring the older man’s presence. “My marriage is a sham and my husband has been sexually abusing women who were going to him for help. That’s a felony in this state, Dave! If Jim is convicted, he’ll go to prison—and have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.” Dr. Brentworth interrupted, “Beth, these women aren’t going to report Jim to the police. That will never happen—they’re too embarrassed.” “What do you mean?” Beth asked. “We’ve gone through this before. No one reports to the police. It doesn’t happen.” “What about me?” “As I said, we’ll send you and Jim to Colorado and pay for counseling. You can work there for a while and then—in a year or two—we’ll find you a new church.” Beth stood from behind her desk. “You don’t understand, Dr. Brentworth. I’m a licensed therapist; I have a legal obligation to report therapeutic abuse. “ Dr. Brentworth groaned before he spoke. “Look, Beth, Jim is your husband. You don’t have to testify against him.” “You don’t think I have an ethical obligation to report him?” Beth said. “He’s been sexually abusing the women he was supposed to be helping.” The older man threw up his hands. “Look, Beth, I’ll make some discreet enquiries. I’ve never run into this before. Now, please sit down so we can discuss the confrontation.” Instead, Beth gestured toward the door. “This is all I can handle right now, gentlemen. You’ll have to plan your confrontation elsewhere, because I need to go home.” When the men left, Beth sunk into her seat, lowered her head between her arms and sobbed. How could Jim do this? When did he start? Was he ever faithful? And how could he hurt the women who were going to him for counseling? How could he feign compassion when he was manipulating them? She remembered yearning for more children when Sara was a toddler, how she’d waited hopefully every month, and then got depressed when her menses arrived. It wasn’t until she made a specialist appointment that Jim came clean. He explained that he’d Red Weather s 131
had a vasectomy six weeks after Sara’s birth because her crying drove him crazy. I should have figured it out then, Beth thought. The vasectomy didn’t have anything to do with Sara’s cries—it was his way of protecting himself from impregnating his victims. Beth looked at her degrees, neatly framed and hung on the sage-toned wall next to her desk. She remembered her counseling professor’s husband, a psychiatrist, admitted to serially seducing patients. The professor reported him to police and contacted a divorce lawyer the same day. She didn’t see it either, Beth thought. How can it be possible for us to have so much education—and be so blind? She picked up her car keys, locked her office, and headed toward her car. I need to get home, she thought. I just need to get home. When Jim walked into the church late that afternoon, the first thing he saw was Beth sitting between Dr. Brentworth and Dave. The color slid off his face in an instant, as if he’d abruptly stepped into a black-and-white film. Refusing to acknowledge him, Beth stared at her hands. Rather than telling Jim what he knew, Dr. Brentworth asked him to confess all the moral failures he’d committed during ministry. Sweat beaded on Jim’s brow as he tried to figure out who had come forward. “It just happened once,” he said tentatively, glancing toward Beth as if to gauge her reaction. Beth noticed how Jim’s left eye twitched as he spoke. She remembered other times when she’d observed the involuntary twitching and suddenly realized its significance. It happens when he’s lying, she told herself. “Jim,” Dr. Brentworth said sternly. “What you’re saying isn’t consistent with the information I’ve been given. You can tell the whole truth—or, you can lie and go through this on your own.” He glanced at Beth before continuing. “The choice is yours, Jim. But before you start speaking again, you need to know that if I find any evidence of lies, the denomination and the church can’t help you. What Beth decides is up to her, but as an official representative of our denomination, I’m warning you—this is your last chance.” 132 s Red Weather
As Dr. Brentworth talked, Beth glanced at Jim’s profile. He slumped in his chair, all evidence of his charisma stripped as cleanly as his professional credentials. Jim dragged through his list, one by one, and then looked at Beth after each name. In addition to the women who submitted written statements, Jim said that several others had been hurt. “There are probably more,” he admitted. “I wanted to confess all this, but it’s like an addiction. Each time, I’d tell myself that it would never happen again. And then, I’d just start over with someone new. I’ve sinned against Beth and my family, and I’ve sinned against the whole church, not just these women and their families. And, I’ve sinned against God. I don’t deserve His forgiveness and I don’t deserve Beth’s. I don’t deserve anyone’s forgiveness.” When Dr. Brentworth started to respond, Beth interrupted. “I need to ask Jim some questions before you go any further.” Dr. Brentworth paused, and then looked at Dave, who nodded his agreement. Jim spoke first. “I don’t deserve you, Beth.” She interrupted. “This isn’t about what you deserve; it’s about what you’ve done.” Voice steady, she continued, “I’m going to ask you some questions, and I want to know the truth. Have you ever touched Sara sexually?” Jim sighed and then responded evenly, “Beth, I understand why you have to ask that, and I understand you have no reason whatsoever to believe me, but I would never do anything to hurt our daughter.” Beth noted that his eye didn’t twitch, but his words ignited rage. “How can you claim you’d never do anything to hurt Sara? Don’t you think your duplicity will hurt her as much as it hurts me? And, how in God’s name could you sexually abuse your daughter’s friend? She lost her baby and went to you for help. What were you thinking?” Dave spoke softly, “Beth, are you sure you want to do this here?” She glanced at him, “Dave, I have to do this here.” “What do you want me to say?” Jim asked. “That I hate myself? That I’ve hated myself for a long time? Well, that’s the truth.” “Why didn’t you tell me?” “It just seemed . . . impossible. I’m a pastor. I knew I’d lose everything . . . my job, my church, and probably you and Sara.” Beth garnered her strength. “What happened to Bonnie?” Red Weather s 133
Jim looked down. He hadn’t mentioned Bonnie in his confessions. Beth followed her intuition: “You owe me the truth. You owe Bonnie’s family and the rest of these women and their families the truth.” A victim of incest, Bonnie Jensen was a college student whom Beth had counseled without charge. After escaping from her father as a teenager, Bonnie was abused by a foster parent and then a college professor before she reached out to Beth for help. “I get it, Beth,” Bonnie told her one day when she realized the repetitive nature of what happened in her past. “I don’t have to let men use me!” With Beth’s encouragement, Bonnie went to Pastor Jim, asking that he bless her new beginning. A year later, she was dead, a victim of suicide. “What happened with Bonnie?” Beth asked. Jim looked into her eyes. “Nothing happened with Bonnie. Beth, you have to believe me. Nothing happened with Bonnie.” As if on cue, Jim’s left eye twitched. Devastated, Beth realized she was married to a predator. He senses when people are vulnerable, she thought. He isolated Bonnie from everyone—including me—and then moved in on her. Sure of her instincts, Beth made her decision. “Did you think you’d get away with it forever? What did you think would happen when someone told?” “I didn’t think about it, Beth. I couldn’t make myself go there.” “I want to understand, Jim. Did you ever once think about your daughter, or the church, or the risk to me? Did you think about things like HIV?” Jim pleaded with her, “You know these women, Beth. Except for Bonnie, none of them had ever been with anyone other than their husbands until . . . ” Astounded, Dr. Brentworth interrupted, “Except for Bonnie? I thought you said nothing happened with Bonnie?” Realizing his mistake, Jim lowered his head into his hands. Beth stood and pushed back her chair. Then she walked out of the room and across the darkened church foyer. “Beth?” She heard the faltering voice behind her but didn’t pause. “Beth—may I phone you?” Ignoring his question, she pushed open the heavy church doors and walked into the light. 134 s Red Weather
Renae Hansen Untitled
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Richard D. Natale
Something Better to Do
he first time I went for a walk along the beach, I knew I was out of place. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, there was a light breeze blowing in from the cape, and it was warm. Up until that day, I had avoided the beach, but having the day off and seeing how nice it was, I couldn’t resist. I put on some wool socks, jeans, a T-shirt, flannel shirt, and a windbreaker. I kicked on my heavy boots, tossed on my backpack, grabbed my wool gloves, and was out the door. The beach was only a few blocks away and I couldn’t wait. When I first arrived, I wondered why I’d waited so long to come down here. The sound of the waves hitting the shore and the smell of the salt water was relaxing. There’s always been something about the ocean that has called to me. It doesn’t call me to adventure, or give me the need to explore. I already had that in abundance. The ocean does something else. It gives me a sense of peace, a sense of relaxation. It welcomes me and reaches out its arms to embrace me like a long-absent friend. When I finally saw sand, I hopped down the boulders forming the tide break and began walking. I wanted to take off my boots and wiggle my toes in the sand, but I knew that was a stupid idea. So, I looked down, picked up a piece of smooth sea glass and started a leisurely stroll. I wasn’t in any kind of a hurry. I had nothing better to do and with all the work I’d been doing, it was good to take a bit of time for myself. As I walked, I carefully examined the tide line for hidden treasures. Sea glass was in abundance and there were traces of black sand, but nothing major, yet. Here and there I’d spot a piece of some half-buried machine or a rusted gear sticking out of the sand. What these devices once were, was lost to time and years of rust. They weren’t worth the time to examine beyond reassuring
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myself that I wasn’t going to suddenly find part of them sticking in my foot. When I finally saw other people, I had the strong feeling I wasn’t welcome. I kept to the tide line and looked out at the water, or down at the sand as I passed, but I could feel them all staring at me. It’s not like they were so normal-looking either. Well, normal in the loosest sense of the term. There were four wall tents set up about ten feet apart. Clothes were drying from the tie-down lines and a variety of furniture was cobbled together from driftwood and abandoned barrels. There was a small fire smoldering in the centralized fire pit and the residents just lounged and stared at me as I passed. About fifty yards beyond the first group of tents, I saw another campsite. It was just a lone pup tent with a variety of camping gear scattered about. There was no sense of organization. It was like someone opened their backpack, shook it all out in a pile and kicked it around until they found what they were looking for. However disorganized, there was a good-sized fire pit and a campfire was burning steadily. A pot sat on one of the rocks that surrounded the fire. At first I didn’t see the owner, but as I drew nearer I saw her coming out of the water. I knew this girl must be insane. She was completely naked and dripping wet as she walked up to her campsite, picked up a towel, patted herself off, and wrapped the towel around her long dark hair and tied it up on her head. “Hey, good morning!” she shouted as she noticed me. “Come over and have a seat. It’s nice to see a new face around here.” I approached, and she picked up an oversized shirt and pulled it on. “Sorry, you caught me in the middle of my bath. Want some coffee?” she asked as she poured herself a cup from the pot. “No, I’m OK. But are you? That water can’t be over thirty-three degrees.” “I had to clean off somehow. When in Nome, right?” I rolled my eyes at her bad pun and had a seat on a rock. “Still, brrr, you’re nuts.” “You get used to it. So what brings you here?” “To the beach—or Alaska?” “Either—both,” she said as she sat down on another rock and pulled her knees up tight, and took a sip of her coffee. Red Weather s 137
Richard D. Natale
“Well, I’m in Alaska working for the Associated Press. I’m on the beach because it’s a nice day. How about you? You’re obviously not a beach miner.” “No, I just needed a break, so I decided to go to the end of the earth for a while. This is as close as I could get. I’m Emily, by the way.” “Chris,” I said, reaching over and shaking her hand. “Well, you chose well, that is definitely how I’d describe this place.” As the day progressed, she told me about her home in England, and I told her about the Midwest. We shared stories about back home and our various travels. She dug out a small piece of gold she’d found on the beach. I laughed and showed her my collection of sea glass. She picked up one piece of blue glass and said it was pretty. I let her keep it. Eventually, she got dressed and made us some lunch from her supplies and a couple of bagels and some cheese from my pack and what water I’d brought with me. I’m not sure how long we sat there talking, it’s hard to judge time when the sun rotates in a circle instead of passing overhead, but I knew it was late when we’d parted. Later that week, I found myself on assignment twelve miles north of town at a little place called the Cripple River Mining Camp. When I arrived on site, I found it was pretty primitive. Huts had been built out of plywood and arranged to form a kind of street. On one end was a building marked “Saloon.” On the other end was a communal dining hall. Out back were a few outhouses and a rudimentary water system that pumped up water from the river nearby for use in the washbasin, kitchen, and gold separator. The people there came from all over the lower forty-eight. Some were doctors or lawyers, mechanics, teachers, or any number of other professions. All of them brought together by one thing. Gold. The lust for the placer gold that lined the beaches was insatiable in some people. It’s fine as flour and hard to separate out, but these people felt the need. They weren’t hardcore like the beach miners that come up every year and work the beaches for four months, hoping to retrieve enough to live on for the rest of the year. These were the cheechakos, the newcomers. Pretenders who come to a dude ranch for gold prospectors and work and sweat for a couple of weeks to find an ounce or two of gold and 138 s Red Weather
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then go home. It’s a giant summer camp for adults. And once they found out that I’d never prospected, they made it a point to ensure that I was not going to leave until I shared their desires. I never did gain their gold fever, but I did learn how to prospect. I learned where to look for the black sand, how to swirl the water around to remove the lighter sand and rocks, and how to later separate the small amount of gold from the magnetite that remained. The next time I went down to the beach, I found acceptance. I’d brought along a shovel and a gold pan. All the people who’d stared and watched me suspiciously before were now intrigued. As I walked along, they came up to me and wanted to know all about the new prospector. Where was I from? Had I had any luck yet? Here, look what I found yesterday down by the stream. You shouldn’t go to the stream, look for the thick patches of black sand near the big rocks. The questions and advice were endless. I met two brothers who’d walked down the Yukon River then hiked along the coast to get here. They were hoping to get enough gold to fly home to Sweden before the snows started. There were divers with suction dredges who worked the underwater sandbars. But Emily was nowhere to be found. I’d walked past her campsite, but nothing was left except the fire pit. I put my pack down and made a fire, then set up a kettle of water to warm while I worked. I stripped down to my T-shirt, grabbed my gear, and went to the waterline. I found the kind of black sand I’d been told to look for and filled my pan. As the next wave came in, I scooped up a little water and started processing the material. Swirling slowly and watching the sand and rocks slop over the edge. I was quickly engrossed with my task. The next wave knocked me over and soaked me thoroughly. I was instantly cold. The water in the Arctic was only a few degrees above freezing and I wasn’t properly dressed. Cotton has no warmth value when wet and I was drenched. I threw my tools up the beach and ran up to the fire stripping as I went. After a few minutes of huddling by the fire, I hung my clothes and boots on sticks to dry out and put on the flannel shirt I’d happily left behind. The water was warm, so I dug out some hot chocolate mix, made a cup to warm myself, and watched the flames flicker between red, blue, and green. The Red Weather s 139
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only noise was the ocean and the crackling of the fire. It wasn’t long before I fell asleep. “Who’s the crazy one now?” Emily said as she nudged me with her stick. I opened my eyes and looked around in time to see her dump the contents of her pack in the sand and start setting up her tent. “I thought you’d left.” “No, just went to town for supplies. So, what happened here?” she asked, gesturing to my scattered tools and state of undress. “I guess you could say I confirmed that I’m not a prospector.” She laughed, brought me a blanket, and poured herself a cup of water from my kettle. “Here, you’ll need this.” As I took the blanket from her, I noticed her necklace. It was a shoelace with the piece of blue sea glass hanging from some rough gold wire. I smiled. “I’ve missed you. It gets lonely out here. Where’ve you been?” she asked. “I don’t know. I’ve been in town. I was on assignment for a few days up north though . . . ” “Hence the drowning-prospector look?” “Exactly.” Emily came over and stood there, looking down at me. “Well? Open up. If you’re going to steal my blanket, you have to share.” I opened the blanket; she sat down between my legs and scooted up against me. I wrapped the blanket around us and she leaned back against me. “This is nice,” she said. I didn’t complain. I woke a few hours later to the smell of burning leather and rubber. Realizing my boots were on fire, I jumped up, grabbed them from the stick, and shoved them into sand. At least they were dry. Emily had gotten up at some point and gone into her tent. I peeked in and saw that she was zipped up into her sleeping bag and quite unconscious. Not wanting to wake her, I packed up and went back to town. The next couple of weeks kept me busy and away from town. A group of bike riders were attempting to reach the forest service camp at Serpentine Hot Springs. Normally, the area was only accessible by plane or by dogsled in the winter, but these guys were determined to be the first to make the sixty-mile trek on bicycles. 140 s Red Weather
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I flew in a couple of days before their anticipated arrival with replacement gear and food in an attempt to document the end of their journey. They made it, but it took much longer than they thought due to constant breakdowns and impassable trails filled with tussocks. When they arrived they were beaten, tired, and hungry. After a good soak in the spring-fed hot tub and some food, they were looking a lot better but decided not to attempt to pedal back. There was plenty of room on the plane when it picked me up and they took advantage of the opportunity. I didn’t blame them one bit. I don’t know how many people I’d run into up there that were determined to be the first person ever to do this or that. What they usually discovered was that there was a reason no one had done it before and about half the time it stayed that way. It was the Fourth of July before I saw Emily again. Most of the town had shut down for the annual celebration. The day was a beautiful forty-two degrees, a perfect day to be outside. I had the day off but brought my camera. I didn’t have anything better to do anyway and I figured I might have a bit of fun. The day started out with a speech given by one of the more colorful locals dressed up as Wyatt Earp. Looking around, I noticed a number of people were dressed circa 1901, the year the gold rush brought people to settle here; but most were wearing their normal clothes. It was not until the street games started that I saw Emily. She was cheering for someone in the stilts race. I went up beside her and stood silently looking at her. When she turned and saw me, she jumped. I smiled and said hi. She hit me playfully and smiled back. We spent the day watching the activities and chatting. I never did take any pictures, but by the time the ice cream social started, we were holding hands. I woke up the next morning in her tent. My head was lying on her lumpy backpack, her head was nestled in the crook of my shoulder, and her arms were wrapped around me. I had sand in my hair and felt grimy, but content. I tried to go back to sleep, but quickly gave up and just held her, listening to her breathing. I was caressing the short hairs on her arm when she woke up, batted my hand away, and said, “Stop. That tickles.” She took her arm away and rubbed her face and mouth, then turned to look at me. “Good morning,” she said, as she turned Red Weather s 141
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and kissed me. I smiled and kissed her back. It was a lovely way to start the day. A few days later, I woke up to a light rain and made my way into the newspaper office. Up until now, the weather had been pretty mild. The only rain we’d been getting was light and most days it cleared off quickly. But by noon it was raining steadily. “Looks like the July rains are a week early this year,” said my publisher. She was about sixty and heavily weather-beaten. She could have been any age, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask. She was cranky enough on a good day. “July rains?” “Around the second week in July it starts raining and doesn’t stop for a month. I’m going to one of the camps on the other side of the mountains later today. The weather’ll be nice there.” I sat there looking out my office window and noticed the waves were a lot higher than usual. “The ocean looks pretty rough. What do the beach miners do in this?” “If they’re still down there, they’re gonna be in bad shape. Most of the regulars are either leaving or getting hotels.” “Can I borrow the keys to your four–wheeler?” “Why?” “I need to check on someone. Please!” She threw me the keys and I was off. The only place four– wheelers weren’t allowed was on the highway, but I didn’t care. I pushed that little machine as fast as it would go and was soon buzzing right past the wall tents. They had been moved up farther on the beach and were closed up tight, but Emily’s camp was different. Her little tent wasn’t designed for heavy weather and by the time I got there, she was in trouble. I pulled up and shut off the engine. Emily was outside wrestling her tent, trying to get it folded up. The waves were breaking high on the beach and her cookware was being tossed around in the surf. I helped her roll the tent up and we grabbed what we could salvage, piled it on the four–wheeler, and headed out. When we got into town, I took her to Fat Freddie’s. I bought us lunch and let her warm up a bit. She looked exhausted. I offered to get her a room in the boarding house where I was living, but she said she’d just get a hotel. She had enough 142 s Red Weather
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money to last a few more weeks and she already had her tickets home. I dropped her off at the Nugget Inn and she dragged her soggy gear inside. She was far from happy and looked a bit defeated. I offered to stay with her but she just wanted to sleep, so I went back to the newspaper office. I called to check on her later that day, but the hotel said they were full and had turned her away. I made a few more calls, but I couldn’t find her. It was early August when I received my next assignment. I was working at my desk when the letter arrived. Assignment: Omaha. I was being brought back to the Midwest at last. Alaska had been fun but there is only so much to do up there if you don’t fish or hunt, and I do neither. I called down to the airport and made reservations. The next plane out was a few days off and the trip didn’t look fun. Nome to Anchorage would be a four-hour layover; then, Anchorage to Minneapolis would be another eighthour layover; followed, finally, by Minneapolis to Omaha. I was not looking forward to the journey. When the morning of the flight came, I finished packing my backpack and hitched a ride the two miles to the airport with one of the other reporters from the newspaper. Since I didn’t have any luggage to check, I just found a seat in the one-room terminal and settled down for what I anticipated would be a long, boring day. However, that quickly changed when Emily arrived. We saw each other and smiled. “How did you know I was . . . ” we both started, then laughed. “So, you’re leaving too?” I asked. “Yeah, I’ve had my tickets since I first arrived. School starts back up in a few weeks, so I’m heading home to my parents.” “Oh, that’s good. I’m heading to Omaha to start a new job at the paper there.” “Omaha?” “Nebraska, it’s the state next to Iowa where I grew up.” “Oh, yeah. You were telling me about that once, I think.” Comparing tickets, we noticed we were on opposite ends of the plane. When it came time for boarding, she sat next to me. “The plane’s half empty. No one will care,” she said. As the plane took off she grabbed my hand, looked at me with panicked eyes, and squeezed tightly. Gradually her iron grip Red Weather s 143
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relaxed but she never let go. She entwined our fingers, smiled, and leaned back. We hardly said a word on the way to Anchorage but once we got there, Emily couldn’t stop talking. We sat and ate the cheapest meal we’d had in months while she told me about the small room she’d taken in another boarding house and how she’d been sick, but was feeling better now. She told me how lonely things were back home and how she wasn’t looking forward to returning to school, but saw little other option. “I really thought getting away for the summer would help. I hoped it would give me peace or help me find a new direction. What I found was you,” she said, squeezing my hand. “What can I say? When you got it . . . ” I smiled. “You ass—I’m serious,” she said while shoving me. “Thank you—for everything. I wish you were coming back with me.” I didn’t know what to say, so I kissed her. She kissed me back. As I held her in my arms, I thought about how right it felt. It’s too bad she lived so far away. The flight to Minneapolis was a red-eye. Most of the passengers slept, but I couldn’t. Emily was asleep on my lap. I sat there watching her sleep and caressing her hair. She was so beautiful. I was so lucky to have met her this summer. My job was great, but lonely. Traveling all over is fun for a while but it left little time for long-term relationships. Whatever this was with Emily was nice. It was effortless. At that moment I realized I hadn’t been searching for a where; I’d been searching for a whom. And in a few hours I’d be saying goodbye. Emily woke up a few hours later and apologized for drooling on my pants. I chuckled; the last thing I was worried about was a bit of drool. After getting a couple of sodas from the steward, we cuddled together under the little blankets and watched half of My Fair Lady in Russian. We couldn’t help but giggle when it suddenly stopped, only to be replaced by cartoons. We gave up on the in-flight entertainment and entertained ourselves. When the plane finally landed in Minneapolis, there wasn’t much time before her plane left. We searched the screens for her flight and I walked her to her gate. After checking in, we sat and waited. Neither of us knew what to say. We sat there holding hands and waited for the others to board. When Emily and I were the last ones, she stood and hugged me tightly. When she finally 144 s Red Weather
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released me, she pulled back and looked at me. Tears gathered in her eyes. She started to speak, but released me, turned, and boarded the plane. All I could do was stand there and watch her go. When she stepped onto the plane, I felt a sudden loss. Until that moment it hadn’t felt real. I looked down at my ticket and made my decision. I walked up to the counter, gave them my ticket and credit card, got on the plane, and sat down next to Emily. She looked at me, smiled, and took hold of my hand. “What about Omaha?” “I’ve found something better to do for a while. Besides, I really hate layovers.”
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first-year professor of Twentieth-Century American Liter‑ ature and Creative Writing at East State University, South Dakota’s smallest state college, Dr. Timothy Stead had explored several regions of the state since his arrival in late July. Even before that, while growing up in southwestern Minnesota, he had visited the obligatory South Dakota landmarks. Mt. Rushmore. The Badlands. Custer State Park. Wall Drug. Al’s Oasis. The Corn Palace. But now before him, in its granite-column-and-brick majesty, stood the Redlin Art Center on the southern edge of Watertown. The mid-October breeze rushed into his parked Corolla, and his excitement multiplied as he pictured prints depicting wildlife, wetlands, and rustic cabins, and as he imagined the bird calls (redwing blackbirds, robins, Canada geese, woodpeckers, killdeer) and instrumental acoustic guitar music—all of the sounds trickling from strategically hidden speakers. After he strolled through the three gallery floors, he was confident he would find a birthday gift for his father. The smiling broad-faced woman at the reception desk, whom he recognized from his previous two visits, again invited him to sign the guestbook. While he began his somewhat-legible signature, she asked, “Have you been to the center before?” “Twice already.” “That’s great that young people like yourself have such an interest in Terry’s work.” “I really enjoy it.” The thought of being young amused him— he’d been mistaken for an undergrad more than once in his first weeks on the job. He entered the granite-floored gallery and stopped at the first painting: a worn-looking cabin on a lakeshore, the sun setting. Red Weather s 147
The lake’s water an unreal blue, orangish-red streams of sunlight streaked across its tranquil surface. Smoke rose from the cabin’s chimney, and pine trees (their boughs an opulent green) laced both sides of the lake. Cattails arched in an invisible dusk breeze. As with all Redlin paintings, this one made him want to climb over the oak railing and crawl into the canvas, à la Chief Bromden. If only the world were really the way Terry Redlin portrayed it: uncomplicated, sorrow-free, and unaffected by a violent past acknowledged by far-flung shapes outlined in gray or orange on maps. At the chirping of a cardinal, he began perusing the other prints, lingering at each one and experiencing a rush analogous to some of his life’s best moments. The home run he hit in little league. The first time he unhooked a girl’s bra. The April afternoon his dissertation chair opened a faded-white door and told him he’d passed his orals. Practically an out-of-body experience. He passed the perfectly shiny water fountain and twin elevators before entering the next gallery room. An older couple wandered along the wall farthest from him. He could tell they weren’t art sophisticates; the man sported blue jeans (of the darkest blue with shiny gold thread on the back pockets), a mustard yellow and white seed cap, and cowboy boots. Timothy observed the first picture on his right. Out of a field of wind-blown wheat burst five Canada geese. The bluish-gray sky, which dominated the canvas, was about to release rain, similar to how the sky appeared on his drive earlier that morning. If only he were in that wheat field. After an hour and a half in the galleries, he was browsing merchandise in the gift shop. There were standard items—prints, clocks, and plates—but also mugs, coaster sets, shot glasses, postcards, throws, candle holders, tissue box covers, even light-switch plates—anything with enough surface area for a Terry Redlin image. He knew the clock with two pheasants would be a good gift for his father, but as much as Timothy liked Terry Redlin, he’d not yet bought anything for himself. The prints were well over $100, but a print was what he really wanted. Whenever he would glance at it, those genuine warm feelings would rise up inside, transporting him to a mythical tallgrass prairie lakeshore. What if he bought a print and hung it in his office? The room was drab, 148 s Red Weather
save the bookshelves he’d mostly filled. Its window wasn’t as big as he’d hoped, and the gray carpet was accented by walls the color of coffee-stained teeth. The ceiling tiles, with their little black holes, reminded him of Ellis High when he and his classmates would toss pencils at similar tiles, trying to lodge them in the holes. He was sure his students were familiar with Terry Redlin (though not necessarily his name), seeing as ninety-five percent of them were raised in the Dakotas, Minnesota, or Iowa. A painting could establish a connection, demonstrate he understood where they were coming from, and in a way he did, considering where he grew up. His students would drop by his office, pausing at the cabin on the shores of the pine-tree-lined lake. They would feel comfortable and at ease. Most, if not all, would silently acknowledge the painting, look at him, and wait for him to speak. But the concern that accelerated his heart rate was what his colleagues would say (or worse, think) when they popped in to say hi or to ask him a question. He wagered he was the first person in the department who had been to the Redlin Arts Center even once, and this was his third visit in two-and-a-half months. If any of the other department members had visited the center, he knew it was surely out of a conscious irony, so he had not told anyone about his affinity for Terry Redlin. Of course, he knew what “real art” was. There was Van Gogh’s “Road with Cypress and Stars” in the living room, Picasso’s “Three Musicians” in the kitchen, Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” in his home office. So while hanging a Terry Redlin print in his school office might have its benefits with his students, it might well compromise his nascent positive reputation with his colleagues. He remembered the posters, the signs, and the stickers that decorated the offices of his doctoral committee members. Greenpeace. Bushitler. Coexist. Free Tibet. Dissent is Patriotic. I “Heart” Cuba. He grabbed the clock featuring two pheasants along a line of golden weeds and grasses, and then, holding his breath, he grabbed the rolled up print of the cabin painting. It was past midnight in his duplex when Timothy flung off the sheet and blanket, having attempted for almost an hour to shut off his brain and sleep. Part of the restlessness had been from the twenty-ounce coffee he’d drunk that afternoon on the way back, Red Weather s 149
but the greater part had been because he’d already inserted the picture in a brand new frame. It was ready for his office, and that was the problem. He had to hang up the picture before he could fall asleep. And anyway, the town would be placid at this hour, the students on fall break for another full day. Eight blocks later, he was parked in the empty Bernard Hall lot. He flipped open the lighted visor mirror to check his appearance. Black turtleneck. Beret. Groucho Marx glasses and mustache. All acquired for a grad school Halloween party. He saw no reason to take chances. The frame waited in the seat behind him, the hammer and nails in his backpack. He shoved the car door open, one hand clutching a backpack strap. After retrieving the frame, he strode across the lot, hoping the campus security pickup was trolling some other area of the small campus. Without incident, he made it to the side door, and was fidgeting with his keys when he heard an engine and the sound of tires on blacktop. His key in the lock, he turned to see the white pickup enter the far end of the parking lot. He turned the key, hearing a sharp click, and forced himself to calmly enter the building. He pulled the door shut behind him, relaxing further when the lock clunked into place. Timothy had checked his e-mail three times in the past fifteen minutes: he was killing those last moments of his office hours, that time when he couldn’t start anything new. Besides, his navy blue backpack held all of his materials for his 10:00 class. Reclining in his chair, he focused on the cabin scene fixed above his desk, a scene that, so far, only he knew was there. The cabin triggered a memory of a resort on Big Stone Lake where he had stayed with his dad and older brother back when he was in high school. It had been a deer-hunting trip. Since he had arrived in his office at 8:30, no one—student or colleague—had dropped by, which wasn’t unusual. A light knock on his half-open door forced him upright. “It’s open,” he said, wondering if the person—student or colleague—would say anything about the painting. His stomach felt fluttery, and he gripped his armrests. When Amery Holmseth entered, his tension dissipated. She was one of the best students in his 1:00 American Novel course. 150 s Red Weather
She participated actively, her comments and questions almost always spot on and insightful. Even more amazing to him, she’d actually dropped by his office unannounced several times this semester to ask questions. In her typical stylish jeans and tight-fitting long-sleeve top (royal purple today), she smelled faintly of smoke. “Professor Stead,” she began. “I won’t be in class this afternoon, so I wanted to drop off my response paper.” She thrust the rolled up paper at him, and he took at from her and unrolled it. “All right, then.” Her paper would go on the bottom of the stack where good ones belonged. “Is there anything else I need to do before Friday?” She was not concentrating on him; her eyes not meeting his. “Follow the reading on the syllabus, and don’t forget to bring a journal article on As I Lay Dying,” Timothy answered, examining her as she looked at the painting. “Say, did you just get this?” Her arm extended toward the painting as if she thought it might shock her if she got too close. Was there a morsel of distaste in her words? “Monday. Why?” He leaned forward. “It’s just that I think I saw this same one at my dentist’s office back home.” She shook her head. “Scary place.” “Oh, I see,” he said, rubbing his chin. “Yeah, it is. I don’t think I could ever buy dentist-office art. Anyway, I’ll be there on Thursday,” she said, and then stepped out of his office. Dentist-office art? Was one of his best students belittling his tastes? He knew students talked about professors outside (and inside) class. Would she mention this to anyone else, use that same epithet? The first attempted connection had failed terribly, and he wondered if he should just bring the painting home. While locking his office door before class, he was still tossing around these questions like rocks, as if by his mental juggling he would suddenly hit them together and the resulting sparks would provide answers. Timothy was unwinding after his 10:00 class, decompressing, he called it. He’d been distracted throughout the entire class, ruminating on Amery’s words. Now turning side to side in his chair, staring at the print above his desk, he continued replaying the scene. Red Weather s 151
When he discovered Alex Barnes, professor of Early American Literature, leaning against his doorframe, he stilled his chair. Alex was a middle-aged man with graying hair, slightly stocky, whom Timothy took to be one of the nicer faculty members, not that anyone was snooty or mean. “Did you get an email about advising yet?” “I’ve gotten a couple, why?” Timothy asked. “Was there one about student rosters, you know, who each of us has for advisees?” “I think there was one last week, maybe Tuesday.” He was aware Alex’s eyes were focused above his desk: the Redlin print. What would Alex say? He thought about last night’s dream in which he had been at a department meeting wearing only his gray boxer-briefs. Pinned against the wall, his bared back against a big Redlin print. A winter scene with a little red schoolhouse and children playing outside. The other faculty members, as well as members of his dissertation committee, were lined up behind a duct-tape stripe across the floor. Everyone was sipping from martini glasses and throwing darts at the picture while he flinched and tried to fling himself from the painting. Darts whizzed perilously close, and his colleagues and his doctoral committee shouted bits of Lacan, Derrida, and Cixous (in French, which he could amazingly translate). When he had awoken, he seriously considered running over to his office at that moment and bringing the print home. Now he wished he had. “Say, Tim? You okay?” “What’s that?” He asked, aware he was fully clothed. “Yeah, I’m fine.” “Is that a Terry Redlin painting?” There it was. “Yes,” he answered, and braced himself. It couldn’t be good—there was no way it could be. Would Alex write the print off as simply an odd quirk? He bit down hard on his lower lip. “That’s what I thought.” Timothy sat straight in his chair, prepared for whatever invective might be delivered. “It reminds me of a cabin I used to go to with my dad. Up in northern Michigan.” 152 s Red Weather
Alex’s smile seemed wistful, and yet Timothy was conscious of the tension coursing through his body, the tightness in his chest and shoulders. “Really?” he squeaked, as though he were in seventh grade all over again. “We caught lots of fish. Well, actually, I caught more than my dad. I was just lucky.” He slapped the doorframe lightly. “Anyway, could you forward me that email? That’d be great.” On the word great he gave a half wave and stepped out of the office. Timothy felt his body relax. He swiveled his chair back so that he could see the painting, and he remembered his dad’s words: “Stop thinking and go to sleep.” That was his dad’s way of telling him to stop worrying about whatever he had brought up over dinner: a friendship, an assignment, a girl, a case of societal unrest in some far-off country. Imagining himself in the near darkness of his old bedroom, he smiled at the thought, wondering what his dad would say when he opened the clock with the Terry Redlin pheasants, knowing for certain he would be pleased.
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So, how’s retirement treating you? they ask, and there’s still no good answer—I keep on learning, day to day, just what it is I miss, or thought I would and don’t, or don’t and should . . . Maybe I’ll start mentioning those teacher dreams that come more often now—all those rooms I still can’t find, the missing lecture notes, the blank-faced class I fail to recognize. Tomorrow will be Christmas Eve. I’m up before first light, the rhythm of the seasons still what drives me from my bed—all papers finished, grades turned in, and now a little time to savor momentary silences. Yesterday, a former student met me with a hug, another slapped my back in the supermarket line, full of season’s cheer and maybe something more. I have to wonder what they still remember after all these years, but glad they still remember it at all.
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Contributors Undergraduate Students
Rick Abbott April Barstad JaNae Boswell Blain Bursch Matthew Doherty Elizabeth Fink B. T. Friesen Billie Gaffney Annie Hockhalter Jamie Hohnadel Billie Jean Kitzman Kaitlyn Ludwig Corey Mattison Catie Miller Nikkie Nouwen Jesse Olson Alecs Peters Zana Pommier Benjamin Pontius Kayla Rutherford Misty Schwab Claire Shive Payton Skonseng Melissa Stephan Mahmoud Toumeh Randa Veazie Ashley Vivian Danielle Wente Stephanie Wiese Samantha Woods
Dave Binkard Jamee Larson Richard D. Natale Val Oswald John Powers Whitney Walters
Alumni and Faculty Sarah Beck Nicholas Boushee Brianna Brickweg Quinn Callens Ryan Christiansen Ron Frannea Nathaniel Hansen Joel Hegerle Carla Isom Noah Kleckner RenĂŠe LaMie Verna Mikkelson Meridyth Morgan Joni (Deal) Norby Miranda Roberson Gerri Stowman Mark Vinz
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Special Thanks Red Weather would like to give special thanks to the following for their considerate support:
Travis Dolence Barbara Glasrud Jennifer Phillips John Strand Dr. Thom Tammaro Professor Emeritus Mark Vinz
This issue could not have been possible without them. Thank you.
Donation Opportunity Red Weather depends on the generous support of private donors. Please consider donating to Red Weather today. Simply visit the MSUM Alumni & Friends web page and click on the Donate button, making sure to designate Red Weather as the beneficiary: www.mnstate.edu/alumni/ Thank you for your support.
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