October 2013 Photography by Hugo Seven
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Contents Fiction: Parking Spaces, Cold Embraces - Geoffrey Carter Fearless and the Mechanical Bull - Madison Kemper The Greatest Man that Never Lived - An Interview with Jay Gatsby - Charles Dalton Creative Non-Fiction: Vermont by Sail with Captain Evan Wing: “Woods Island: Ghosts and Lost Dreams and New England’s Smallest State Park.” - Evan Wing Poetry: Too Much - Sammi Stolar Meet Our Maker - Althea Grover Kent This is High School - Jacob Moore Any Highway - Grant LeMaitre Daily Conscious - Jillian Tomlinson Shades of Myself - Nicholas Charles Defeated Warrior - Paige Apple Pernicious Youth - Elizabeth Mueller From a Citizen with Lo<3e - Anna Van Dine Photography: Hugo Seven Aisling McDermott Margaret Slate Jonah Blake Evan Wing Lanie Nowak Cover photo by Hugo Seven.
Formatted and edited by Samuel O’Brient. Send letters toBowTie Publications/Rocket Fuel Magazine P.O. Box 1124 Stockbridge, Massachusetts 01262
Photography by Aisling McDermott
Parking Spaces, Cold Embraces Geoffrey Carter
They say that your entire life flashes in front of your eyes before you die. They also say that light travels at a speed of 299,792,458 meters per second. Of course, it is easier to tell how fast light is going than it is to tell what you see before death. The only reason people say this, is because they believe the ones that go about bragging that they “died for six seconds.” It’s like trying to remember how many kids were on the bus on your first day of kindergarten versus how many sharks there are in the sea. I think there were eighteen kids minus the fifth graders who boarded after I did and forced me to move out of “their seat” in the back. I was the new kid in the school, so I wasn’t exactly high up on the social latter. As for the sharks, well, they come and go. The only amount I can give you is number swimming beneath my tired feat. I count one…two…three…four…five…six…seven…eight...nine...ten…eleven…twelve…thirteen. Thirteen of them dashing around like the people in Grand Central Station, or appearing hungry like the sense of happiness you get when you see your meal being delivered at a very fancy restaurant. I am breathing in. I am breathing out. I am breathing in. I am breathing out. I am breathing…..a trick my mother taught me when crying over spilled milk, stressing out over a late research paper or vomiting on the linoleum floor, or in this case, in the almost black ocean. It rolls out of my mouth like yellow paint. Gasping for air, my helpless head bobs up and down with the violent waves that take it there. The opening to my mouth begins to fill with water. I shut my eyes and flip over like a “Worst Case Scenario” card that explains how to swim at sea for long periods of time. The answer to this is, according to the card, is to do just as I am doing now: lying on my back and occasionally kicking my arms and legs. This is a game I used to play with my best friend Greta, but instead of actually playing the board game that went along with it, we would spend hours at a time by the fire at her father’s house just reading the cards out loud to each other in hope of gaining some sort of knowledge of what to do in desperate situations
Like this one.
“So, what’s the answer?” she would say, grinning at me through the shadows of the flames that danced beneath her chin. Her smile would bring warmth to my stomach. My next move would be flipping it over to look at the bold faced sentence through the dim lighting and read it out loud. “That’s not what I would do,” Greta would start in her playful voice and her locks of jet-black hair falling over her eye
“I think that the answers are supposed to surprise you.”
I had said this in a teasing manner, which was followed by her hand extending out to grab the deck of cards from me.
“Okay, let’s do another.” I guess the reason for our game was Greta’s father himself. The tall, slender man would never let her have any friends over to his dusty old mansion, or any relative for that matter. I would have to sneak out of my own house and meet her at the back door when her dad was out. That was rarely possible, but when we did do it, it would be easy since her father would have been wasting his earned money away at the local bar. When we were inside, I could usually catch a glimpse of her backside which was a rainbow of mostly purples, some blues. Or, she would just flinch as a response to my touch.
“My father,” she explained.
And I understood. I understood everything without any other explanation at all.
We’d take our mind off things with that only game Greta had in her house. It was kept in the bottom left corner of the dresser in her father’s office, which, Greta explained, was a dangerous place to be. Sometime we would just sneak around the house and eventually end up in her minimalized bedroom. It was coated with cheap photographs of movie stars and dusty leather-bound books that were strewn on her yellow bedspread, turned open to a page of meaningless words. A familiar torn backpack lay in the corner against a white wall. We would stay there until the man she dreaded burst drunkenly through the front door. I’m still doing what the card tells me to, staring up at the starry, starry night and holding my breath and letting it out with a loud whoosh that causes me to sink down and panic. The breaths become closer and closer together until I am back to where I started: A hyperventilating body in the water frantically thrashing my arms and legs trying to stay afloat, but the monsters beneath my feat became closer and I could sense them smelling the vomit swimming in the water. It reminds me of my grandfather, who was telling me how much barf attracts fish. The bigger ones especially. We would always take these fishing trips at his expense in the heat of the summer when the fish were slow and tired. I went on the very first one that was offered and was never planning on going back.
How was I supposed to know that I get seasick?
Wasting away my precious family-reunion time, I had spent approximately an hour puking and dryheaving over the side of the boat, and many fish would swarm like poor children after a French Fry is dropped. We had about ten fish that night because that was the limit, and my father made me come the year after. And the year after that. And the year after that, after my kicking and screaming fits. He cared about fish that much.
“You did well, son, you did well.”
I would always mumble as a response to him, but managed to keep my head up.
They are obviously more of them now, which only makes me kick harder. I am dizzy beyond belief.
Fourteen…fifteen….sixteen sharks join. It only adds to my fear and I begin to tremble. Or It could have been from the ice cold water, I don’t know, but I am beginning to kick my legs faster and more hysterically as I remember the card again: Only kick when absolutely necessary. My eyes shut. Forget everything that I know
Except for this.
And then I cry.
Because that is the thing to do, and that is the thing that there will always be to do. There are tears of joy, tears of pain, and tears of sorrow of how stressed or happy or how sad you may be no matter what happens now.
Photography by Margaret Slate
Fearless and the Mechanical Bull Madison Kemper
o one remembers when or how the bull appeared. It just had always lived in the tunnels under the city. Anyone who dared to invade it's territory would be inevitably gored through with its horns. It would terrorize citizens, and cause the odd earthquake under the slums of the city, where the underground trails were closer to the surface. Some said that the bull was the punishment of one of the gods, slighted by a long-forgotten king or priest. Some said it was the rogue invention of a scientist whose name had been lost to history. Others believed that the bull was as old as the city itself, a neglected protector who had lost its purpose. In any case, the great mechanical bull, wandering through the tunnels, had become a menace to our city, and had been for generations. Many kings had called for heroes to come and face the beast in the great stadium outside the castle. Every time, the hero would stand in the center, surrounded by a roaring crowd. Every time, the bull would appear, a great hulking beast made of gold clock-work, steam bursting from his nose and ears. Every time, the hero would fail, and the bull would charge back into the tunnels, swinging its enormous horns and searching for more blood. I have only seen the bull a few times in my lifetime. By the time I was born, word had gotten around about the indestructible bull of Terraza, and very few people would come to take the challenge. Very few people came at all, actually. The ports on the west edge, where our city met the sea, were empty. The markets, once teeming with people from distant lands, objects of every kind and color for sale, the smells of spices piercing the air, were closed. People lived in fear of the bull. Cracks had begun to appear in the cobblestone roads, letting the sounds of the robotic beast ring through the street. There were frantic, worried, whispered questions of when the bull would break loose and set upon the streets. The city was beginning to die, as people were too fearful to head out beyond the citadel walls and tend the fields just outside, on the terraces that had given this city its name. Some even fled, carrying rumors to the world of the danger within our walls. So I could understand when my father, the king, gathered the matadors de toros and made his proclamation. I could understand when he promised their freedom and the hand of my sister, the princess, or myself, the prince. I could understand his desperation to be finally rid of the bull. I could tell my sister was less than pleased with the arrangement. With the majority of the matadors in the city being men, it was more than likely that she'd be the one married off. Unlike the heroes who had come before, some with titles and names and lands of their own, the matadors were usually slaves who decided to risk life and limb for the ceremonial entertainment of the people. Still, each of them was owned and sponsored by someone, usually a lord who could afford to pay for fancy dress and trainers. To those in the highest ranks, including my sister, the matadors were no better than slaves; useful, sometimes in valuable, but not worthy of their friendship, and certainly not their love. Why must a princess lower herself to marry a common slave, even if he did save the city? She was royalty, and deserved to marry another royal, in her mind. But my father's decision was resolute. If her hand in marriage would give a man the determination to defeat the menace, then so be it. Me, I said nothing against it. He was the king, and my father. I would follow his orders. My sister didn't have much to worry about, though. Very few matadors were willing to risk their lives, even for their freedom or her hand. The couple that did were easily destroyed by the bull. They may have been able to defeat the flesh and blood bulls brought in from across the sea, with skin they could piece and muscles they could exhaust. The mechanical bull, though, was seemingly indestructible and tireless.The matadors could not stop it from catching them in its horns, throwing them up into the air as if they were nothing more than the rag dolls of the peasant children, and then goring them through. As each matador died, I saw another layer of woe cover my father, like the heavy blankets woven by our people. Whatever hope he had held for the future of his city was slowly dying, stomped on by the creature the way it stomped on his people. I pitied my father. This
That was when Fearless came in. Everyone knew of Fearless. She was one of the few female matadors in our city, and she was a master at her art. There was a grace to her and the way she would work a bull, giving enough of a show to please the crowd, but always leaving them yearning for more. With her auburn hair cut short around her face, emerald eyes framed by tanned skin, she would have been considered a beauty had she grown up in any other way. Her sponsor, some duke whose name I no longer remember, said that he had found her as a child in a pen of bulls on his farm. She had been laughing, and reaching for the swinging tails of the beasts around her. She had been completely fearless of the bulls, and the duke had named her accordingly. He had taken her in and sent for the best trainers in the city. By the time she was seventeen, she was fighting bulls for the entertainment of the population, and for the greed of her master. I had seen her fight bulls before. They would dress her in black jackets, white shirts, and red tights, all covered with embroidered swirls of gold. Black slippers over the pink silk socks would cover her quick yet dainty feet. Her montera hat, black as night, would be set off by the red of her hair, but it was the capote de paseo which would catch everyone's attention. The ceremonial cape was made of gold silk, and embroidered with flames. It would shimmer in the sunlight, with the blaze seemingly jumping off the threads and onto her. It would send the crowd into a frenzy, to see the girl apparently unafraid of even fire. She would raise her free arm, holding the montera, almost offering it to the crowd, and each way that she looked, another roar would spring up. Her entourage would remove the flaming cape, and hand her the red muleta cape with which she would fight. I would stare down at her from the king's box, completely entranced. I was only a few years older than she, yet she commanded more respect and displayed more courage than I had ever felt in my lifetime. At the feasts my father held every festival, her sponsor would bring her, prepared to brandish his prized bull-killer, the girl he had found and claimed. Fearless would be dressed up, like a doll, in colors that showed off the color of her hair or eyes. Any skin that was shown was purposeful, to reveal the muscles she possessed, or the ragged scars she had gained. There would be the scent of lavender, or oranges, or vanilla wafting off her skin, and her hands would be scrubbed clean of calluses and blood. The other lords and ladies would compliment her to the duke who owned her, give him praise on her training and the luck he had had in finding her. No one would speak to her directly. To them, she was just an object to behold, just like any other matador in the city. They only cared for her well-being because the overwhelming majority of the population did. But unlike the other nobles, I noticed something in the way she would smile at them, especially her donor. It was less of grin than of a baring of her teeth, a warning to those who ignored her humanity. In her eyes, there was an anger, a rage for being treated no better than a well-trained dog. Her passion lay in her sport, yes, you could see it in the way her eyes lit up in the ring. But she did not want to be a slave. I don't know why I was surprised when Fearless announced her acceptance of my father's challenge one hot summerâ€™s day. Perhaps it was because I was expected to be. Everyone in court saw her as too precious to let her challenge the mechanical bull, the automaton that had taken the lives of others far stronger than her. If she died, they feared riots would ensue, the people angry from the loss of their champion The duke approached my father, begging him to keep Fearless from entering the ring. He could not risk losing his greatest possession, he said. I saw red, standing there beside my father. There was nothing in his voice to imply that he truly cared for her wellbeing; all he cared for was that people kept coming to the fights, and giving him their money, and not rising up against him. Thatâ€™s all any of them cared for. If I had been a braver man then, I would have stripped him of all titles and given Fearless her freedom then and there. Still, my father refused his request. If Fearless wanted to challenge the bull, then she would. Looking back now, I wondered if he wanted her to gain her freedom as much as I did. I wondered if he saw the looks she would give at his feasts, like I had. He never told me, though, and I never asked. A date was set, a week after her announcement. On the first day of fall, she would fight the mechanical bull.
Never again would I see so many people crowded into the stadium as I did that day, with the sun beginning to set into the turquoise sea and the clouds stained orange and pink. The city had made her its champion, its last hope. These common people had watched her for years, fighting bull after bull, and they had come to love the red-headed girl. In their eyes, if anyone could save them from the bull, it was her, the girl who had seemingly been sent from the gods, filled with courage, to defeat the menace. There would be no picadors to weaken the bull for this battle; no horse was bigger than the mechanical bull, and their spears only bounced off the the metal skin. Fearless was on her own, but as she stepped into the ring, she seemed to not care. Her capote blazed around her, as if she was a phoenix, rising to new life. Unlike at her previous fights, the crowd was silent, an unspoken communal prayer sent to the gods for her and for themselves. The tension nearly hummed in the air. I often ponder what she must have felt at that moment. All I could feel was my heart in my stomach, beating hard and fast, as I watched her stand in the center of the ring and hand her capote to an armored individual who then hid somewhere I could not see. The moment she took her muleta, an ominous rumbling could be heard. The entire world seemingly fell hush, leaving only the sound of heavy hoofbeats. Every songbird, every bee, even the wind itself stopped. I watched the people in the stands shrink away, cowering against the seats. I felt myself do the same. Not Fearless, though. She stared defiantly down the dark archway from which the bull would appear. She stood tall and straight, an unbreakable wall. At the first flash of gold, I felt the collective staunching of breath in the throats of the crowd. The bull, the great mechanical bull, was here. It charged out into the ring, right at Fearless, who at the last moment turned away, the back of her jacket brushing the metal as the bull sped past. It turned and stopped, and the two stared at each other, fire-filled green eyes meeting cold diamond orbs. For moments that passed like lifetimes, the foes stood frozen. The bull's metal skin was tarnished in some places with blood that had dried black. At the chinks in its armor where the legs, body, and neck met, you could see into the clock-work body, and the gears and steam that kept the bull alive. Its horns, though -- its horns were its most terrifying feature. Thicker than the strongest man's arm, and curved into deadly point, they had been stained black by the blood they had shed. It snorted, but hot steam came out. A great clinking, clanking, clattering sound came from within it, where the sprockets turned. I felt waves of dread fill me as Fearless lifted her red cape. The metallic tail flicked from side to side. She snapped the cape, a quick motion, and the bull charged, head low to the ground, the grinding sound of metal filling the air. Again, at the last moment, she turned away, the bull flying under her muleta. It turned and charged again, and again she turned away moments before it's horns could touch her. Again and again, she let it come within mere inches from her, confident in her ability to avoid every charge. It was dance between her and the mechanical bull, a deadly dance where one wrong move would be the end. Spellbound, I could not look away for one moment as they moved around one another, circling rapidly as if it was a tango. The bull would bellow, horns aimed to bury themselves in her abdomen, and Fearless would spin away, taking three steps before facing the bull again. She never ran away from it, always pulling it closer to her, always staying in the terrain of the bull, rather than her own. Still, for all her speed and agility, there were times when she couldn’t move fast enough. Tears appeared on her clothing, and at times there would be a small stumble in her step as the bull’s charge threw her off balance. The sheer fact that she could regain her footing, and avoided the worst of it’s horns, spoke to her skill. It went on like this for what felt like hours, but could only be minutes. The bull stopped charging, seemingly gauging how to attack this tough opponent, and she faced it, the smallest of smirks gracing her face. Still, this could not have been play for her. Too much was on the line. The mechanical bull was fast, faster than any living bull, and she had to kill it now before it wore her out too much.From the folds of her muleta, Fearless withdrew her sword, causing the red cloth to flick out and the bull’s tail to rise.
Her confidence at staying alive this long had made her rash and negligent. She could not keep still enough to keep from provoking the bull. The bull charged again, before she was ready. She had lost her control of him. In less than a moment, the bull was upon her, his left horn piercing through her stomach and hooking out from the top of her back. Now the horn was red, red as the muleta, red as her hair, red with her blood. A piercing cry broke the air. Hours later I would realize it was mine. It was over. Fearless was dead and the city would die and my father would die with it. It was all over. Those same blankets of heartbreak that I had watched cover my father fell upon me. There were shivering, sobbing cries from the crowds, as they too conceived of the end. The sheer loss of hope was indescribable. I could only stare in horror as the mechanical bull, that beast who would not die, bellowed again in triumph, turning to charge back into the tunnels of its home. Yet it shuddered, and stopped. Its movements slowed, and the steam bursting from it puttered out. The crowd murmured in confusion, perturbed by the bull's actions. Suddenly, I could see what they could not. From a chink in its metal armored skin where the body met the neck, a silver hilt stuck out, held tightly by a blood-covered hand. The bull fell forward, and then onto its side, allowing the crowd to see the sword thrust in. A collective shocked hush filled the crowd. Fearless, still alive somehow, still gored through and pinned to the ground, heavily lifted her head to stare at my father. I realized I was standing then, as I had to turn back to stare at my father. His face was ashen, and his eyes were filled with emotions I can not name to this day. He stood too, coming to the railing of our box next to me, and looked down at the scene. Gazing down at her again, I could see the question in her eyes, in those wild green eyes which said everything she could not; would the king honor his word? Would she be freed? I'm sure somewhere in the crowd, her master, that despised duke, stared at him with that same question filling his head. And I, I only wished for someone to move, to run onto the ring and stop her from bleeding anymore, to stop her from feeling anymore pain. Without a sound, my father nodded, a movement with all the meaning in the world. Fearless closed her eyes. I'm sure I saw a smile of relief, before her head fell down again. I don't remember clearly what happened after that. I remember seeing her entourage pour out from some hidden crevice, removing her body from the horn and taking her away, covered by her muleta. I remember the crowd calling her name, shouting it to the heavens, proclaiming her the hero of Terraza. I remember, hours later, hearing the claims of the common people, that she was a gift of the gods, sent to defeat the bull. Stories began to circulate of an unknown prophecy she had been sent to fulfill. Some even claimed that she was a child of the gods themselves. I don't remember if she died. I don't know if they ever told me what happened to her, or if I have just forgotten as I have so many other things. I know, elsewhere, people have claimed to see her, a stranger traveling the world. Often, I have wondered if any of those stories were true. I like to imagine they were, for if she did live, she certainly never came to stake her claim on me. In all truth, though, I never did see her again. I forever keep that last vision of her close to my heart; of her peaceful smile as she was carried away, drinking in those first few moments of freedom.
Photography by Jonah Blake
Photography by Evan Wing
Series: Vermont By Sail with Captain Evan Wing - Evan Wing “Woods Island: Ghosts and Lost Dreams at New England’s Smallest State Park”
When someone begins talking about great places to go sailing, the first place that springs to your mind is most likely not Vermont. Maine, perhaps, or the Florida Keys, but not Vermont. However, to overlook the nautical opportunities of this small state would mean to miss out on a world of spectacular sunrises and steady winds, isolated coves and broad waterways, historic wrecks and mysterious islands. Lake Champlain, the seventh largest lake in the United States (after the Great Salt Lake and the Great Lakes), is home to many weird and wonderful sights, in addition to four centuries of maritime history. Beneath her waters lie some 300 shipwrecks, from Abenaki fishing canoes to steam barges to warships from the American Revolution, and over 80 islands dot the lake, many of which are uninhabited. Hell, we even have our own legendary sea monster, Champ. In this series, I intend to take you through some of the more intriguing and surprising locales of this beautiful highway to the sea. Some places might be familiar; some may not be. Either way, it will be an adventure for us all.
Our first stop is a small, strange little island called Woods Island. A short hop from Burton Island in Lake Champlain’s northern “Inland Sea”, Woods Island is the smallest state park in New England, taking up a cozy 125 acres. What it lacks in size it makes up for in its history, which is a poetic tale of the whims of nature thwarting the ambition of men. The homesteader who originally inhabited the island in the late 19th century had to abandon the venture for reasons unknown; no trace remains of his stay on the island. A farm was built on the island in the 1920s, but the marshy terrain and difficulty of transportation spelled doom for that enterprise as well; the foundations of the farmhouse and rusted pieces of farm equipment can still be seen today. Much later, a small airstrip was constructed on the island, but was abandoned shortly thereafter; a geological survey had found that the bulk of the island was slowly sinking into the lake, transforming more and more of the surface into impenetrable swampland. Today, tall marsh grass marks where the runway once was, and the remains of the control tower sit like an abandoned temple in the middle of a forbidding, mosquitoinfested swamp. Woods Island was the last stop on a week-long voyage I underwent last summer; I was making a run from north to south, then north again with my dad in our 19-foot Flying Scot named Such Fun. People still say we were crazy to undergo such a long trip in a boat designed for short races and afternoon picnics, with a hull that probably hadn’t seen any repair work since the Nixon administration. I’m prepared to admit that anyone who enjoys waking up at 4:30 to deal with a dragging anchor after a restful three and a half hours of sleep in a chain locker is probably not the most mentally stable person out there. But hey, it’s what we do. We drifted into the cove at the southern end of Woods Island on less than a knot of wind, on the afternoon of the last full day of our trip. A beachhead of broken shale and a tall, near-sheer cliff greeted our arrival as the sun sank into the trees of this quiet, still place. I remembered the feeling of isolation as I climbed the bluff to our campsite; I’ve camped on islands before, even deserted ones, but none have exuded such a feeling of loneliness as this one.
The island is divided into two distinct sections: the highlands and the lowlands. The highlands encompass the southern tip (including our cove), a ridge running up the entire western edge, and a small outcropping on the southeastern edge. The highlands are, for the most part, covered in lush, beautiful forests of mature oaks, birches, and ash trees. In the late afternoon light, walking along one of the old footpaths transports you to another world; once out of sight of the shore, I was reminded of Narnia or perhaps Middle Earth. The lowlands cover most of the middle of the island, as well as the north and east coastlines. Standing in stark contrast to the inviting highlands, the lowlands are covered in dense, feverish swamps, with reeds that grow above your head and snags that stand like sentinels in stagnant pools. The ruins of the past lie here, hidden until you are almost tripping over them. It may have just been my imagination, but this part of the island seemed darker, even in the bright afternoon sun. As sunset turned into twilight we lit our fire and began cooking dinner. Woods Island’s campsites are clustered in the southern section, and after a quick tour we discovered that we were indeed the only campers on the island; you can imagine our surprise, then, when we paused in our dinner at the sound of something making it’s way, rather quickly and noisily, through the swamp to the north of our site. Catching a glimpse of the creature through the trees, we could see it was much larger than the raccoons we typically have to shoo away from our food, and it was running on it’s hind legs. In an instant, every story I had heard about bear maulings, serial killers on the loose, and Bigfoot all surged through my head. Dad already had a hatchet in his hand; I pulled out my sheath knife, although in hindsight I doubt that would have done much against a mature brown bear. It’s a good thing we didn’t decide to re-enact the tomahawk-throwing scene from The Patriot, because what burst into the clearing was something we least expected: a short man with a bushy ginger beard, wearing a well-kept but clearly well-worn park ranger’s uniform, complete with the flat-brimmed state trooper’s hat. My dad later noted that the style of uniform he wore was an old uniform that was retired in the early ‘80s. A .38 revolver hung from his belt, and an aging golden retriever dashed playfully around his feet. Evening, fellas”, the ranger said, waving as he approached our fire. “Evening sir”, my dad replied. “Is there a problem?” We were seldom paid a visit by the staff of any of the places we camped, so we assumed we were violating some park rule.
“Nah”, the ranger replied, taking out a small notepad and a pen. “Just checking you off the list…ah, here you are. Site 3. Only staying for one night?” “Yes sir”, I replied. “We’ve been sailing between islands all week. This is our final stop!” This piqued his interest. “You’ve been sailing all week…”―he looked over the cliff at Such Fun, happily in the bay below―“in that?” Yes indeed!” A look of surprise crossed the man’s face. Then he turned back to us. “Say…” he said, looking at our cooking fire. “Would you mind terribly if I joined you for dinner?
Half an hour later, after finishing a course of baked beans, brown bread, and Italian sausage, we were still swapping our stories. The ranger was fascinated by the details of our trip, and it turned out he was an avid sailor himself―his first job was as a sailmaker’s apprentice, mending sails for racing boats. This man, we soon learned, had probably the loneliest job in these parts. He was the only ranger the park had, and he lived on the island all summer long with his dog every year. Because the park was not well-known, he said, he often went for weeks without seeing a single soul. We were the first people he had seen in almost four weeks. Finally, as the moon began to rise and the fire collapsed into a pile of red embers, he rose from his stump and called for his dog. “It was a pleasure meeting you both” he said, tipping his hat. “Enjoy your stay on Woods Island.” And with that, he turned and walked off into the night, his dog bounding after him. The next morning, before we left for home, I walked around the island, hoping to find a cabin or a ranger station so I could bid farewell to our new friend. I searched for hours, covering every inch of the little island, but I never did find where he lived, nor did I ever see another trace of the lone ranger of Woods Island.
Such Fun docked on Woods Island. Photo curtesy of Evan Wing
The Greatest Man That Never Lived An Interview with Jay Gatsby Following the release of the new motion picture The Great Gatsby, inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel, Rocket Fuel sat down the Mr. Jay Gatsby himself to discuss his book, his movie, and his life.
Rocket Fuel: Thank you joining us, Mr. Gatsby.
Gatsby: She thought I always looked so cool.
Jay Gatsby: Quite glad to, old sport. RF: So, we’re told you inherited your money? Gatsby: I did, old sport. But I lost most of it in the panic - the panic of the war. RF: What sort of business were you in, Mr. Gatsby? Gatsby: That’s my affair. I was in the drug business and I was in the oil business. But I’m not involved in either one, now.
RF: Yes yes, of course. But could you elaborate a little more, Mr. Gatsby? Gatsby: If it wasn’t for the mist, I’d have been able to see her house across the bay. They always have a green light that burns at the end of their dock. RF: Is it true that you bought your home in West Egg just to be close to her? Gatsby: That’s my affair. RF: Because she had a husband, did she not?
RF: Yes, yes of course. Let’s start a little earlier in your life. You attended...Oxford University in England, was it?
Gatsby: Yes, Tom Buchanan. The polo player. A hulking man.
Gatsby: I was raised in America but educated at Oxford. That’s a family tradition.
RF: Didn’t he say he hated the word “hulking?”
RF: Ms. Jordan Barker stated that she didn’t think you went there?
Gatsby: He might have, old sport. But he told her things in a way that frightened her, that made it look as if I was some cheap sharper.
Gatsby: Yes, for some reason, still unknown to me, she just didn’t believe I went there.
RF: They had a complicated relationship, would you agree, Mr. Gatsby?
RF: And yet you still invited her to your noteworthy parties?
Gatsby: Yes, very much so. I don’t think she ever loved him.
Gatsby: Of course, old sport. She loved my large parties. She liked how intimate they were. At small parties there’s never any privacy.
RF: Do you think she loved you?
RF: While we’re on the subject of women, is there anything you’d like to say about Daisy Buchanan?
Gatsby: Yes. You must remember, old sport, that she was very excited that afternoon. RF: To which afternoon are you referring? Gatsby: The afternoon when she joined me for tea, old sport. I had wanted to catch up with her and discuss things passed.
Rocket Fuel: It’s been said that you can’t repeat the past, Mr. Gatsby. It was Nick Carraway who said that, was it not?
Rocket Fuel: Comedian Warren Holstein referred to DiCaprio as “The Mediocre Gatsby” How would you respond to that?
Gatsby: Yes, but he was wrong. I strongly disagree with him.
Gatsby: I would say that he was correct in his thinking. There can, after all, only be one Great Gatsby and I think we both know who that is.
Rocket Fuel: You don’t agree that you can’t repeat the past? Gatsby: Can’t repeat the past? Why, of course you can! Rocket Fuel: On a different note, what do you have to say after seeing yourself portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in your book’s recent film adaption? Gatsby: Well, The Huffington Post called his performance “mesmerizing, sad, amusing, romantic, scary, desperate, hopeful, doomed and almost glad of his doom.” That does more or less summarize how I was in the book. Rocket Fuel: Oh? So you liked the film? Gatsby: Parts of it, old sport. Rocket Fuel: What parts did you not like? Gatsby: The background music, old sport. Hip Hop, or whatever it is you children call it has no place in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Rocket Fuel: Is it that you would have preferred jazz music, Mr. Gatsby? Gatsby: Of course, old sport. It was, after all, the “Jazz Age.” Rocket Fuel: F. Scott Fitzgerald coined that phrase, didn’t he? Gatsby: At that he did! A short story of his, if I recall.
Rocket Fuel: Fair enough. Where does Robert Redford fit into that list? Gatsby: Let’s just leave him out of it, old sport. If your readers have seen his film, they’ll understand why. Rocket Fuel: Ok, that’s just about all the time we have. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know? Gatsby: Just one thing, old sport. Please, do not watch the 200 television adaption of my book. Whatever ever you do, avoid it at all costs. Rocket Fuel: Oh, you didn’t like it? Gatsby: Quite the contrary, old sport. I would rather have watched a feature length film about Daisy’s awful husband titled “The Great Buchanan.” That’s one part of my past that I don’t plan on repeating.
Interview by Charles Dalton
Photography by Lanie Nowak
Too Much When I was a girl My grandma said, “There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.” I asked how too many chocolates for dessert, And too many hugs from dad, And too many snuggles from mom before bed, Could be a bad thing How? But now I realize that this world made of Spiderwebs clinging to rearview windows and Keys that only fit rusted shut doors Has too much in it already Because the fireworks start Lame at first But the end is almost too loud Thought my eardrums might burst And when it was finally over The dust and gray and smoke left over in the space Was not enough to replace the light that had once filled it and that’s what makes me scared that there will be too much light that I turn to dust. - Sammi Stolar
Meet Our Maker A young man sits completely still. He rests on a large canvas endless with white. His tears stain the space beneath him, His sadness present only to match the loneliness around him. With all of his might, he concentrates. He summons bottles of paint, out of thin air they appear. With an angry shout he dunks his strong hands in black. He throws them about, marking all the space around him dark. He continues to weep, realizing the black endlessness is worse than the white. He then softly dips his fingers in yellow, dotting around him. Occasionally he would drag his finger from one dot to the next leaving a beautiful trail of light. He notices the other colors and uses them, making sure none of them are lonely like he was. He splatters random drops of blues and oranges and greens. He bangs his head on the sheet now beautiful in color. He feels no relief from his isolation. His paint wet hair softly brushes against the canvas leaving tiny pale specks We were all created to keep the lonely boy in the sky company, yet he is still lonely. - Althea Grover Kent
This is High School I have a friend selling pot just to keep his baby fed I have a lady friend, a gorgeous friend Who just wishes she were dead. Ex’s dad liked to smack her around She called mom and her new home was found Kids pop pills in the middle of class Women seen by brutes just as another piece of ass Cling to anyone who’ll pay attention and follow the primal need for affection you both know there’s no love, and you fail to mention, that lust is the compass of this fading relation Search for your eternal love in a blurry, booze fueled fuck This is high school and if there is a god, I’ll get hit by a truck -Jacob Moore
Any Highway Lost Girl driving through later than usual Old Angelface kicking his motorcycle in the dark Fate doesn't need a reason, only a direction Old Angelface reaches in his pockets And cuts the darkness with a flame The cigarettes cough as he puts them away Lost Girl pulls right over to Old Angelface Tells him "Come on in, I'm lonely" She's peels out into the wide open She cries to Old Angelface "I'm tired. I'm sick of learning about winners and losers, Father Mike preaching of strings with no sins attached” Lost Girl swerves the car and kills the jet An injured bird resting on the wings of an angel Looking to the stars Angelface says “Don’t let a good thing die. These misfit toys last all year long. Use em’ for your whims and desires till they’re gone.” Any highway they want they can go But they can’t leave their blue heaven Nor would they ever try. - Grant LeMaitre
Daily Conscious Synchronize the psychosis that dabbles down through our burning crowns, melting behind our liquid eyes gathered in our quicksilver souls we shake the morning blues from our snooze & decide upon which face must be worn in presuming this war the telecaster booms in announcements of predicted fact wind blown with clouds of swirling doom plays the track Our visions maybe skewed & the croon is all there is left to consume from the duty of the left handed pocketful floozy whom uprooted our brothers & sisters to smother their homes & destroy all they know only to trade for another something to trade to trade & trade this unfair wage of plight & lust that does heavily disguise this high & mighty illusion of life "Donâ€™t listen to your feelings for they are all wrong!" cries the desperate psychiatrist as they lift a pen to scrounginly scribble endless prescriptions of pills that feed our cells with chemicals to kill you never ever really realized the quest only set foot to find fruitful love dancing free in the grassy fields tickling the sweet petals of the daisies that call calling you back to your senses of five you blink & stare kindly at the stranger from afar wondering whether or not you have already met him at the downtown dive bar & with that you suspect you shall meet him again for like-minded people come close in corners of dim, & mountains of sun of streets in gray, & lakes of green in houses of past damage never quite fixed even as serene as the scene may seem stepping back & raising the sweating glass to my lips I take a sip, swallow heavy, & breathe out my struggle for where do I sit in the middle of all this terrible trouble? - Jillian Tomlinson
Shades of Myself My brain hurts and it's filled with bristles My skin is moist and peeling and scabbed My legs are shaved down into thin layers My nails are overgrown and under bitten My fingers tell me to rip everything apart My ribs are stretched far and too gently My breath is perpetually offbeat and steady My eyes are crystallized and far too delicate My voice repulses me but I can't stop speaking My spine has pleasantly twisted itself My ears are constantly perked unnecessarily My teeth are rotten and cleaned too often My hair is matted and brushed into nothing My tongue is centered to catch droplets My throat is wide open in anticipation My shoulders crave more needless weight My joints are a symposium for your words My skull is a temple with an empty congregation My blood is abused by my own body constantly My stomach is too big for my minds eye My saliva is thick and delicious to drink My veins are unbreakable cords of tension My phallus is stone easily broken to pieces My heart is all of these things with exceptions My body is a knot pulled in different directions - Nicholas Charles
Defeated Warrior She can't stand it waking up every day, feeling like a failure; staring into the masses of the merciless, featureless faces... this girl; has somehow held on to the war that the rest of the world calls life, and each and every day, these hallways are filled Â with her enemy... and she, she's the only one who is on her own team-but unfortunately; this soldier has run out of ammo each and every night she stands completely upright in her bed to feel for once; as if she is important as if the whole world is watching, and waiting; waiting to see what she will do next. then she'll unzip the translucent, soundless bag that is hidden underneath her old stuffed animals; ironically and she--the last warrior--would stand on her bed while breathing her satisfaction & shooting the reprieve into her vein on her opposite, useless arm Â this unpopular, disassociated, ammo-less girl; on the last night of her uneventful, unimportant life; she places this vein to her ear-and she hears her sinister heartthrob beneath the sound of her broken eardrums... these eardrums that have heard the awful, merciless bullets that were shot right into her heart; by her enemies of the hallways she hears this heartbeat, the rhythmic booming sounds of evidence the evidence that she... she is somehow still alive but she knows that she is not living
she began to hate this heart; she hates the sound that lies to her this heartbeat is just the persistent sound that tries to keep beating beating beating even against her will she began to hate this heart; she hates the sound that lies to her this heartbeat is just the persistent sound that tries to keep beating beating beating even against her will Â so on the last night of her life she listened to the persistent, deceiving, lying heartbeat that told her what she didn't want to hear as she reached for the metal that rested...waiting; for the night she would finally give in & she pressed that cold hard metal straight into the base of her skull; after hearing one final heartthrob she pulled the trigger & she shot Â on the last night of her life her body fell limp from her standing position on the bed to the unmoving body of a lost warrior but unfortunately; this soldier has run out of ammo. - Paige Apple
Pernicious Youth When you were little you used to pretend the pretzel stick in your mouth was a cigarette, but the salt on your tongue could be washed away with water; no one told you that the ash in your lungs couldn't be emptied like yesterday's trash. You used to exhale stars and Skittle rainbows. Your smile was the color of Kool Aid; but now your breath is smoke, nothing but a silver, substance free dragon that slips up your nose and under your skin whenever you look away. You used to hunt for sea glass, the special red and blues. If you were lucky, a clear piece once in a while. You used to pick green ones until someone told you those were fragmented beer bottles and you didn't know what beer was so you tossed them aside. Now the glass in your hand is green, swishing a clear gas sea with every flick of your fingers. There is a callous on the thumb that caresses the metal wheel that kickstarts the spark you watch with empty fascination. Watch your innocence squirm in the ashtray at your elbow, trying to duck under each shower of steaming hot gray; gasping for you to lift it free, begging you to save it. You tried once, with a head full of murky clouds and the taste of strawberry sour belts, but that crystal platter is for dreams long burnt and your fingers shook too much as you tried to grab it.
You're weighed down by the puffs of gray you exhale like opaque blinds that gum up your eyes, and your hand doesn't move to brush it away. It's too busy holding that skinny pillar of toxic paper and the other is heavy from the little green glass rectangle full of your flammable holy water. Deliverance is fleeting, as hard to catch as the flame that condemns you; your hands are shaky offerings and your eyes seem to miss the point of salvation, seem to always skip past it. Your lips move with vicious conviction but they never settle on the right words. You pray for relief, an answer, a resurrection -and it never comes. The only thing you see is the dim light as you fire up, another salty stick of your childhood burning away. - Elizabeth Mueller
From a Citizen with L<3ve When you speak of democracy, do you engage in hypocrisy? What does that mean to you, that “freedom”? Our so-called liberty has still got its boundaries, its crossable lines. We call it morality: a part of mortality. What do you mean when you talk of stability? Prosperity. Posterity. What is opportunity? Our world has more wrinkles than you can iron flat with your hot hot air: the steam you’re blowing out. What sort of meeting do they do at these meetings? Just exchanging their Hallmark speeches and greetings? “of the people, by the people, for the people” how wonderfully constitutional. Due to the first amendment we’ve had to make amends, and being influential or presidential hasn’t been a help. Because people have to go and make malicious acts of free speech. These provocations is a subject of fixation and we can’t expect the world to love us any more now than they ever did before.
We need help with tolerance. The world is a mess. Potentially peaceful but still a long way, and if nobody knows then nobody cares. Honestly, if honesty could be less negative then its relevance could become more pertinent. Hatred is not a basis for opinion and politics. It’s a dividing bias, but if only divisions between cultures and beliefs could be reversed into multiplications of good! And, you know, Obama is fine. Pro-bama, No-bama, I’m getting sick of all the drama. And it’s hard, I know, but we humans are so ignorant and narrow-minded with mouths much too big for anyone’s good. - Anna Van Dine
Photography by Jonah Blake
Rocket Streams! The two most powerful warriors are patience and time…so remember: great achievements take time, there is no overnight success. - Leo Tolstoy
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go - Oscar Wilde
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. - E.E. Cummings
He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson
Find what you love and let it kill you. - Charles Bukowski
Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe - Elie Wiesel
He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. - George Orwell
Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory. - Tennessee Williams
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry, and been widely regarded as a bad move. - Douglas Adams
If youʼre going through hell, keep going. - Winston Churchill
I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. - Louisa May Alcott
Worry does not empty today of its sorrow, but today of its strength. - Corrie ten Boom
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. - Mahatma Ghandi
Discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but of seeing with new eyes. - Marcel Proust
The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind. - Caroline Myss
Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings. - Salvador Dali
Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss. - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh. - George Bernard Shaw