4 . . . Editor’s Note
Act One 6 . . . Music From Another Room Diane Diane Shipley Shipley DeCillis DeCillis 7 . . . I Once Heard That Scars Give You Character Brandon Brandon Bowlin Bowlin 8 . . . American Romanticism Brandon Brandon Wright Wright 9 . . . My Kitchen Sheryl Sheryl L. L. Nelms Nelms 10 . . . Wash the Sky and Bloom Caley Caley Terrill Terrill 11 . . . Personals Gladys Gladys Justin Justin Carr Carr 12 . . . All I Truly Know About Vietnam Christine Christine Kravetz Kravetz 14 . . . Death Penalty Arthur Arthur Gottlieb Gottlieb 15 . . . Hero Melissa Melissa Palmer Palmer 16 . . . The First Little Pig Schubert Schubert Moore Moore 17 . . . Winter in the Vineyard Kathryn Kathryn Ridall Ridall 18 . . . Two Ways of Killing Your Enemies Ellen Ellen Sullins Sullins 19 . . . February Brandon Brandon Wright Wright 20 . . . Summer Shannon Shannon Barringer Barringer 21 . . . Urban Vampires, or Celebrities in the Land of Milk and Honeyed Ryan G. G. Van Van Cleave Cleave Shadows Ryan 22 . . . A Soul of Split Pea Soup Andria Andria Craig Craig 23 . . . Violence Kelly Kelly Wisdom Wisdom
Act Two 25 . . . Thinking of a Landscape Luis Luis Zepeda Zepeda 26 . . . A Fisherman’s Seaweed Andrea Andrea White White 27 . . . The Transformation William William Umberger
The Wanderers Luke Luke Bumgarner Bumgarner . . .28 Sang-mi Park Park . . .29 Bearness Sang-mi Jessica Murphy Murphy . . .30 Caterpillar Commune Jessica
Post Modern Janelle Janelle Goodrich Goodrich . . .31 Through an Abandoned House Andrea Andrea White White . . .32 Lost in the State Luis Luis Zepeda Zepeda . . .33 Hanging Out William William Umberger Umberger . . .34 Dr. Zeuss Janelle Janelle Goodrich Goodrich . . .35 The Native Luke Luke Bumgarner Bumgarner . . .36 Forbidden Andrea Andrea White White . . .37 Anatomy of a Corpse Chad Chad Blevins Blevins . . .38 Vine Brew Janelle Janelle Goodrich Goodrich . . .39 Beautiful Suicide Jessica Jessica Murphy Murphy .. .. .. .. 40 Lives in Deads Sang-mi Sang-mi Park Park . . .41
Act Three Knickers and Red Suspenders Arlene Arlene Sanders Sanders . . .43 Chickens Seana Seana Graham Graham . . .46 A Baseball Story Katie Katie Ferrell Ferrell . . .48 Going For Donuts rlrl white white . . .53 Jurors . . .59 Contributors . . .60 Special Thanks . . .62 Colophon . . .63 Staff Bios . . .64
Dramaturgy is a theory in which people present themselves the way others would expect them to while they are ‘on stage’ and reveal their true selves ‘off stage.’ So many of us hide our real selves from those around us. Too often, we are worried about what other people think, and censor our words and actions. The arts are one of the outlets we use to deal with this divide. For many, art is a way to express our innermost thoughts and feelings; our most private selves. For others, it is a means of becoming someone else. This year’s theme reﬂects the roles that we play in life. It is our hope that you identify with both halves of yourself through the content of this magazine, for all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
Music From Another Room Diane Shipley DeCillis
There was a time, before my father left, when the seats at the dining room table opened like petals with family and friends: professors, authors, philosophers, and merchants dining on meals made of fresh vegetables, meats, and breads purchased at the Eastern Market early that Saturday morning. The sound of preparation in the kitchen: chopping, boiling — pots & pans landing on the iron grates of the stove, fanning cupboards, clapping drawers, and later the clinking of silverware to china — smells of Turkish coffee laced with cardamom — a mosaic of bowls with jewel-toned fruits, pistachios and the scent of rosewater from platters of pastries. People more adorned than now: women in skirts, bangles, pearls, and men in white shirts — neckties loosened, sleeves rolled up as the evening progressed with its chorus of conversation, laughter, and heated discussions creating this cacophony, this energy that fed me. Some nights a poker game with the plastic wind chimes of tossed chips, the cirrus of a cigarette cloud caught in the artiﬁcial moon of lamplight. And from the living room, sounds of my mother’s favorite Tchaikovsky piano concertos and Uncle’s Arabian records with the ouds and derbekes of Port Siad, rich with magical strings of a place far away and the heartbeat percussion my grandmother taught me to dance to. A melodious passage that echoes the ripple and trill of my linguist father’s tongue — still calibrates my emotions as I try to recapture it, ﬁnely tuning out the static of distance to channel pleasures of rich conversation, news of long ago that drifts on the dial as I sit here at this desk for one by the light of a computer screen, neither moon nor sun — but a twilight that illuminates a faded stage, empty chairs pressed against the table, quiet as dust.
I Once Heard That Scars Give You Character Brandon Bowlin In black and white A saddened happiness Torturous yes Dangle me hang me I am their “beautiful” The center of men’s attention A voyeur enjoyer A further voyage every time I get to play dress–up just like the little girls I am that dark sexy mysterious woman now that Daddy always used to talk about Bind me gag me please I love my learned helplessness Choke me with rough leather and hurt me oh however Hold my arms back with cuffs that cut into the skin of my wrists so that I can savor my degrade Making sure that I can hear the chains clanging iron–love links I cherish my abusive exhibition Empty eyes that enjoy the view closest to the ﬂoor Show this dirty whore Explore this to the very extremity Teach me your ﬁlthy raunch and untrue scruples that I would’ve never known So that I can do every wicked nasty thing you do to me here at home I want burns and scars To be ﬂawed and marred for I have no character of my own
American Romanticism Brandon Wright
It is rumored you were drunk under the tables when you ﬁnished two, like me and I wonder if you pulled from your pockets all the folded scraps of paper to recite if you carried with you library–borrowed books to yell in the ears of bar patrons. I like to believe that you were on top of a mumbling player–piano, a war hero’s scream as loud and as big, read from a wet cocktail napkin. and I like to believe they all cheered. Tonight I’ve climbed the stools to a height worth shouting from, I reach to you, Poe as one of those bearded old testament characters must have reached to Yahweh Anoint me! in this malt liquor and I will preach your poetry like Revelations! Listen to the bells tolling the end! calling the earth to open, spew cold black birds into every restless room! My throat is sore for you, Poe! and for Art! (with a capital A) until my ﬁngertips are numb enough to lose my page, my eyes without focus, then this will be for these faces at whom I shout: You (You bastards!) voted for a real asshole a real son of a bitch who never did a damn thing for anyone and let me get–a–hold–a my guitar ‘cause I gotta song about him! I like to believe that I am on top of a burning building or a dying elephant, that my voice rings hard and loud like an iron bell, that the intoxicated ears all hear my poetry fold their hands tight to pray when I scream Hallelujah! and I like to believe they all cheer.
My Kitchen Sheryl L. Nelms
it’s three steps up to the top of the blue stool from here I look down on all the shaggy beasts that roam through the dust balls below the cupboard mastodons and wooly mammoths lumber over the linoleum cracks saber–toothed tigers prowl the dark recess under the sink snapping and snarling whenever I try to reach for the Liquid Palmolive a pack of hyenas skulk under the refrigerator ﬁghting over yesterday’s crumbs of barbecued chicken and there in slow motion moves a giant three–toed sloth is coming up the front leg of the stool slashing the air with his curved nails going for my jugular I can hear the neighbor ladies now saying, “It was too bad, but she should have kept a better house.”
Wash the Sky and Bloom Caley Terrill
Costume party... as if the full moon wasn’t enough! At least there’s plenty of sarsaparilla, golden corn ﬂakes and special seasonings! That should last us until the morning. As for now, techno beats echo the hallways and a crystal ball is showing our secrets to wearing masks. Life force captured in a painting caught my eye so I grabbed a pen and jotted the message: “Just give her a kiss!” And then she was there, looking right at me... golden hair down her back so bright I thought for a moment it was the sun, escaping its routine on the other side of the world just to illuminate her beauty. For what seemed like hours we just stared at each other, completely lost in connection which had ﬁnally come to discover we were meant to be together. I removed my mask, and so did she. Instantly, I knew the reason why I was brought here to exist; just as she knew the love we all possess, like a candle buried in potential wax to feed our desires through lonely nights now disguised in a costume’s mask.
Gladys Justin Carr
1. Looking for a post–structural feminist Pop Rocker with traces of Woolf & Marjorie Morningstar. Me? I’m just a has–been kind of guy drunk on the good old B’s (Burroughs, Beckett, Bukowski) and an occasional C (Celine) with a Tinkers to Evers to Chance love of background music (Mahler to Mozart to The Grateful Dead) A hopeless romantic y’know Ich Liebe this Ich Liebe that Call me.
2. Have you ever made love to a homeless person? You do not have to blow me with your kindnesses. No name no lineage. I offer you my copy of Basho & a six–pack of OutKast. Hobbies: looking through windows without rooms, listening to the ticking ticking ticking, leaning into time . . . You’ve got my number. 3. When I love I sleep poorly so, criminal, do not infect me, astound me, bruise me. (the longing for the dance stirs in the buried life) I am gentle as death, I cudgel dead lovers to my breasts. Of course I could kill you with my tiny knives that glow like ﬁreﬂies but there are so many other ways to say I love you. Try e–mail.
All I Truly Know About Vietnam Christine Kravetz
World of Beauty At World of Beauty the women wear name tags pinned to their white cotton coats: “Tina” “Yvonne” “Tracy” “Amy.” These are not their real names, the names that are hard to remember, the names that resonate in their throats like tiny gongs struck by satin mallets. The women’s faces appear unlined by care as they scrub the soles of my callused feet. Yet their care is undeniable and their bodies Oh, their bodies! bend as gracefully to the task as a garden of supple ﬂowers. Yvonne takes my hand and begins her work while I watch the shapes form on the pillowy softness of her lips. Words spill out like coins on glass. I follow her story until she ties on her surgical mask. Then she speaks to the others beneath her breath so softly, I could not hear, even if I could understand. Back and forth their language travels between them — a secret unfolding. Like Birdsong Tina’s real name is Thuy — pronounced Twee — like birdsong. One December morning as the bright tips of her scissors
nip at my hair she tells me Christians in Vietnam eat dog at Christmas, preferably puppy. Thuy is not squeamish, she will happily share her recipes for the preparation of snake, but her family is Buddhist and the consumption of dog is forbidden. She falls quiet for a moment as her comb creates a surgically precise part along my scalp. One day, I ate some dog at a friend’s house. My grandfather met me as I returned to our village. I didn’t have to tell him what I’d done — he could smell it through my skin. She pulls taut another lock of hair. I look down at my magazine and wish I could pull her memory tight against me, tell her how hungry I am to possess her full, unrepentant appetite, her frail, knowing grandfather, the edge of her village, its rice paddy moats, the dark, complicated jungle beyond. Home Remedy When Thuy was four years old she began to walk in her sleep. The old woman of the village instructed her parents
to tie a string of bells around their daughter’s slender ankles so they would be awakened should she wander. They were also to take a baby monkey from the jungle. Every night, until the age of twelve, Thuy slept with her monkey guarding her against the evil spirit which had possessed her. Her family rested easy, knowing that, should the spirit try to escape, Monkey would awaken to snatch it into the strong, brown claw of his hand.
Thuy and I talk about everything, everything except the war, although we often talk around it. Thuy’s father was an American serviceman who lived with her mother for two years. He vowed to return and never did. Thuy shrugs it off when she speaks of him. His loss, she’ll say. Or she’ll tell me,
Every day, Monkey returned to his life in the jungle. Every night, hearing the jingle of bells, he returned to Thuy.
I don’t remember the war.
One day, Thuy’s parents were told it was time to complete their daughter’s cure. Following the old woman’s instruction, they killed Monkey, cut out his heart and brain and fed them to their child.
I don’t remember it except for the times we ran into the rice ﬁelds to hide from the bombing.
How awful! I tell her. Thuy stands behind me, her busy hands rest for a moment. In the salon mirror I can see an old sadness wash over her face. Yes, I loved that monkey, she tells me. She raises her scissors and her smile returns like a guilty friend. But you know, she adds, monkey meat is very tasty. Everything Except the War There is something about the anonymity of a beauty salon, the way we look in the glass — not at each other that frees us to conﬁde loves, disappointments, regrets.
Last week, I looked at her unlined face in the mirror and told her I only saw it on television. She said something I couldn’t hear or understand over the hot whir of the blow–dryer. And then I saw my face swell and crumple as though I’d told her a most tragic story. So I looked down shamefully at my hands unable to describe how great our undoing The bright, shining, near distant hope we held so close and lost so quickly. Yet she, as much as anyone, must already know we all devour what we love.
Death Penalty Arthur Gottlieb
You go quietly, stumbling down death row on watered–down knees, a priest and a policeman each holding an elbow, the one reading your last rites from a bible, the other making sure you’ll make it to the chamber. You forget what your crime was but remember your last meal was a myth. It did not go down well and your upset stomach still aches for what it wanted: a wafer and wine served on your tongue by a gentle laying on of hands gracefully crossing the air like dove wings. What you get is bread and water in a bowl like the brass dish they are clamping on your head. Butterﬂies breathe in your belly as they strap you to the electric chair. Bolted to the voltage, you will hear the current whisper a lullabye and the short goodnight story told to a babe in the woods by the wolf, before the last minute switching off of lights.
Superman grew tired of his double life the constant back and forth between good and the mediocrity of his every day Pushing back glasses waiting for chance moments where he could only glimpse the man he truly was Brief tastes of who he wanted were all that were allowed in these days of guessing The bickering inside his mind punctuated the vacillation Should he stay grounded with his glass of milk half empty and stale white bread sandwich or does he ﬂy? No one wants small talk Polite smiles are for losers and deep down inside he always understood how the bad guys got the chicks The world looked somewhat better when he was on top looking down at a round ﬁeld of green or two Open wide, trapped in his frozen gaze There was something there in those moments Before he drifted back to the watercooler Styrofoam in hand, dull emptiness in lifeless light, pounded the man who could be steel If only he could remember the last escape Or take off the ties he wears while politely talking weather He drifts through clouds hidden from view in thoughts ﬂying through troubled air Finding those two familiar orbs of green that beckoned the same way they did on secret nights and called to him as he dove, driving forward with all his might over and over again until the sweat built on his brow and let him forget No thoughts labored in his mind not now All was silent with the death of Clark Kent
The First Little Pig Schubert Moore
The tragic ﬁgure, of course, is the second little pig, wallowing in brick envy, should have thought twice about building a wood house in a seedy neighborhood, but he would be close to family. You know what he must have felt, carrying the prison of his desire around with him, like a pig in a poke (although he stayed home usually, disgruntled). The third little pig was the hero, substantial, had roast beef, wolf stew, voted conservative, elected to ofﬁce, had the whole hog. But I would choose the ﬁrst little pig, living in a Jamaican–styled beach house complete with thatched roof, frequenting the open–air markets. He never squealed, voted against pork barrel, didn’t make a pig of himself, usually took a rum drink to the water’s edge to watch the sunset with friends, was not surprised when the wolf was at the door, expected him, really, sooner or later, wasn’t worried about being gobbled up alive, knew there were worse ways to go, Disney, for instance. He kicked back, took a long pull on his Mai Tai, and said, “Blow me.”
Winter in the Vineyard Kathryn Ridall
Winter has arrived, laying his ﬁrst cold kisses on the long, black arms of the vines. I remember other times: tentative buds peeking out with young hope then unfolding into broad leaves that fanned the dry, summer earth; hot juices bursting from skin that could no longer endure the press of ripeness. All of that has ended in a ﬂourish of mustards, burnt oranges, and deep–throated reds. How can it be that these vines burn most brightly in the moments of their dying? When those I loved died, the special plumpness of their cheeks sank beneath the mask of disease, the unique slope of shoulders and breasts fell into a collapse of ﬂesh, and the world faded to grays and icy whites. Still I wonder, do these vines have a lesson to tell? If the eye were open further, would it see colors now invisible to its heavy vision, would our days of dying display their own ﬂaming hues? I cannot answer this. Perhaps this is so, or perhaps we live too far from the vines to say such things. Perhaps there is only the slow crawl of each kind toward the cave of death — each in its own way.
Two Ways of Killing Your Enemies Ellen Sullins
Look in the mirrors of their eyes Drink from their cup of day–in, day–out Roll on your tongue the ashes of their dreams Smell the hair of their beloveds as they sleep Nurse their wounded children back to life Pray to their god for forgiveness Or — but you know this — guns, bombs, etc.
Above my computer, there is a picture of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, one of those shitty calendars that insurance companies and banks send you, a photo of a different exotic locale for every month. The sun is setting above a port crowded with private boats, some yachts a rich, white vacation spot, its fraudulent sense of culture: sombreros, a mariachi band, my wife dancing poolside in her swimming suit, drunk and getting drunker holding a margarita in the air, like victory. Dear, you are so victorious. While the Mexican kids, with their dark skin and poor clothing approach like disease, to sell cheap, beaded jewelry. Vicky, I don’t have any cash on me. Honey, have another drink. And the maids are like the kids, and we don’t look them in the eyes. We try to sound polite when we ask for more towels, we try to sound as if we would love to get the towels ourselves if only we knew where they were kept. And where’s the ice-machine? And the waiters and bartenders are so charming and funny, and it’s amazing how much English they know! José deserves a good tip! Even if he does make fun of my Hawaiian shirt to the other waiters and ﬂirts with my wife right in front of me. I didn’t see a thing. Uno cerveza por favor! I say. Si, señor! Right away! God, I love José! and I love the gloaming, the sun setting, my Hawaiian shirt. It makes me look like a fun guy. And I love every drop of Mexican beer and every shot of tequila I pour into myself, I love the maracas and my wife, I probably loved her too — before the dull glow of my computer burned my skin like the Mexican sun, heavy; before the calendar bent the tack with its weight and fell to the ﬂoor, reminding me it is still February.
Oh I think he had the right idea. Eliot, that is. April is cruel, I agree. But imagine the earth, the dead earth, breeding, actually breeding lilacs! That’s beautiful. Even if lilacs do remind one of a funeral home. It is summer who takes those same lilacs, those dull roots, and wilts them, along with whatever else the dead earth was hanging on to inside. Didn’t Bananarama just get it? It is a cruel summer! A cruel summer I know it was, steeped high in humidity and mosquito bites. Forcing us to expose the middle weight that winter blanketed so sweetly in wool. Wrapping around our throats like boa constrictors til we couldn’t breathe, out thoughts trapped in our heads under fuzzy red sweaters so sweat began to push forth from our pores all the fear we could not express. The days were too hot so we slept through them, living only at nite, like vampires. So much heat (such violent heat it was this summer) such harsh daylight such long nites spent wandering downtown or in swimming pools, because really there was nothing else for us to do — It clouds one’s judgment. This explains The Long Goodbye, (which was not really a goodbye but an extended pause) after which You did not drink too much wine, sleep with Alana, then vomit on my carpet til I could only see burgundy even after the stains were gone. The skin is a fragile exhibit, and I melt into sunburn as soon as I step outdoors in August — I am not a cactus, I cannot live in the desert or in Arizona or with coyotes. I resent being too hot to wear jeans or tights or leg warmers and wearing skirts which show all the bruises I got on my legs when I fell down the stairs. (Twice in June) I am ready for fall, and maybe fall is the season for dying, but there are things inside of me which need to die. Please come and clothe me in earth and sturdy colors. I want to rest. In my bed. With a gaping window beside me. I opened it the nite the air conditioning broke. Leave it open. Soon the abundant leaves will be trailing in. I do not know if I will sleep, but my eyes will adjust to the darkness. I have felt too much heat to be afraid of winter now, so I say if it snows this winter let the snow come right in, too. Let it fall on my eyes, my nose, my mouth and let my body grow so numb from cold that my only ﬁght will be to warm myself, and not you.
Urban Vampires, or Celebrities in the Land of Milk and Honeyed Shadows Ryan G. Van Cleave We’re drinking Fruit Fizzes in Magnus, the velvet Madison yuppie bar, when in strolls Richard Simmons and two brickbreakers right off the set of “The Sopranos,” each with piano–bench arms and enough muscles in their 56" chests to make even the ex–tight end bouncer look twice. Joe, one of the two UW–Madison TAs I’m drinking with says A buddy of mine from high school hooked up with Richard once at Mardi Gras. He said Richard’s pecker is bent like a banana, and is only ﬁve inches. My other drinking buddy, Deborah, says I don’t care if he’s only got a nub, I think he’s kind of sexy. In a George W. Bush meets Ben Stein sort of way, she added, ﬂagging the Sig Ep bartender for another round of Fizzes. The thing about famous people is they’ve got no privacy — everything thinks it’s their God–given right to stroll on up to Richard and say Howdy, Dick! How’s it hanging? Or whatever the hell they wanna say. Of course, when I ran into Dr. Ruth in the Albany airport on my way to a writing conference in ’00, I was on her like a raccoon rustling through the trash, snout quivering, my rank scent everywhere. When she snubbed me for an autograph, I was inspired by Sam Kinnison, saying Hey, Ruthie! Does your pussy really look like a bad grilled cheese sandwich? The last time you actually saw a penis — were people still traveling by horseback? I wasn’t drunk, just young and angry that a midget sex–therapist didn’t have ﬁve seconds for her biggest fan, someone who listened to a transistor radio tucked inside his Spiderman pillow each night. Thinking about it now, the guilt inside the house of my life is a cold chimney, a crusade of stone. Once, my father ran into Elvis in a Memphis hothouse where they both were shopping for peaches, and my father said I’m quite a fan of yours, to which Elvis (the skinny, spiritually–shipwrecked one) said St. Francis and Socrates, they’re the real heroes, which shell–shocked my father the way my Cuban writer pal was at the 2000 Miami Book Fair when he charged up to Mark Strand with a Mr. Strand, your work’s changed my life yadda yadda yadda, and Mark looked over his shoulder, saying Excuse me, I think that’s my hotel shuttle and left. Alexander Pope knew about celebrity–ness, writing three hundred years ago about Cromwell being “damn’d to everlasting fame,” how lives become casualties, so many soft particles suspended in the blare of such unﬂinching light, but Deborah, drinking partner #2, orders more Fizzes and says If I were famous, I’d blast through the years like a foghorn through chill mountain air. It’d be amazing. Joe nods, his blood whistling through his veins at the thought of National Book Awards, winning Lotto three days in a row, curing cancer, his own TV trivia show. I stir my crimson drink with a plastic straw, trying hard not to look at Richard across the room, trying hard not to think about the dead air between one lost life and another.
A Soul of Split Pea Soup Andria Craig
My soul is contained in a can of split pea soup, thick mossy green concoction, such splendor in these peas, It’s my personality. And although it reminds me of digestion, and all sorts of products of bodily functions and also a Lifetime made-for-TV movie I once saw about a bulimic girl, I still remember that the nutrients are stored up inside. Yes, I must admit it can feel bland without salt and pepper, but I’m not watching my cholesterol and I ﬁnd these spices in abundance all around me, Just like everything else. (Though sometimes I feel too hungry) But I don’t worry, I don’t yearn to ﬁll my stomach, there’s always a can of split pea soup stored away somewhere in a cupboard. Distractions at dinner cause me to leave my bowl of split pea at the table, and if I leave it sitting too long, a green crust forms a layer over what’s left unexposed. But that never stopped me from returning to my bowl of soup and scooping out the insides until all that’s left are splattered remains of crusting split pea soup dried up on the walls of cheap white bowls. But it’s still satisfying. I understand that some people can’t appreciate split peas, and I really don’t fucking care if it makes you cringe to gaze into a bowl of split pea soup.
The salmon slides from the can into the silver bowl In a slick pink mass of Flesh, and grease, and bones. My fork’s silver tines slip into the meat, Dividing the mound into two pale chunks Flecked with iridescent black ﬁshskin, Unearthing the milky skeletal line of The salmon’s intact spine. With my wrist’s ﬂick, the column crumbles Into individual bones, so delicate that They dissolve when I pick them up, Crumbling under my oily ﬁngers. Stunned, I turn back to the recipe: Drain, ﬂake, and crush bone. Behind me, the television’s violet light pours into the room. Over my shoulder I see you sitting on the couch Quietly watching dark tanks roll into Gaza. Back at the sink, I rinse my hands. Pink buds of ﬂesh slip down the drain. I put our food in the oven and sit down beside you, Praying silently for forgiveness.
Thinking Landscape Thinking of of aa Landscape
Luis Luis Zepeda Zepeda 25
A AFisherman’s Seaweed Fisherman’s Seaweed
Andrea White Andrea White 26
William Umberger William Umberger
The TheWanderers Wanderers
Luke LukeBumgarner Bumgarner 28
Sang-mi Park Sang-mi Park Bearness Bearness
Caterpillar Commune Caterpillar Commune
Jessica Murphy Jessica Murphy 30
Post Modern Post Modern
Janelle Goodrich Janelle Goodrich
Andrea White Andrea White Through AbandonedHouse House Through an an Abandoned 32
Luis LuisZepeda Zepeda
Lost theState State Lost in in the
William William Umberger Umberger Hanging Out Hanging Out
Dr. Zeuss Dr. Zeuss Janelle Janelle Goodrich Goodrich
Luke LukeBumgarner Bumgarner
The The Native Native
Andrea White Andrea White 37
Anatomy of a Corpse Anatomy of a Corpse 38
Vine Vine Brew Brew
Janelle Goodrich Janelle Goodrich
Jessica Murphy Jessica Murphy Beautiful Suicide Beautiful Suicide 40
Sang-mi Park Sang-mi Park Lives Deads Lives in in Deads 41
short stories stories short
Knickers and Red Suspenders Arlene Sanders Joyce pressed her ﬁngers lightly against the small of his back, and he felt the warm stirring of wanting her, which happened always when she did that, no matter how bad things were between them. He had tried to talk to her. Marriage was a journey through life, he had told her, made by two people who were supposed to love and honor each other. Theirs was not a marriage made in heaven, but they could work things out – if she would try. She was a termagant. He had come upon that word one day when he was looking up something else and saw: “a quarrelsome or scolding woman; a shrew.” She had turned him into a rather sad, quiet man who lived his days with uncertainty and disappointment. She put him down in small ways. Last week, when he’d picked her up at the Johnny Fox, where she waitressed, she introduced him to Maggie and Evelyn, and before she told them his name, she hesitated as if she couldn’t remember it. He’d felt this latest dig as a tiny stab in his groin, another small wound, open and gaping, a thin stream of his blood seeping from it. On Saturday, they drove to Fair Oaks, a shopping mall in Fairfax. She wanted to look at some Cuisinart blades she had seen in Bon Appetit, and he wanted simply to be with her in the mall, because shopping sometimes lightened her mood. He carried her shopping bags. As she often did when they went out in public, she walked a few steps ahead of him, or behind him, as if she didn’t want to be seen with him. He paused at the window of the Franklin Mint Outlet to watch the tiny skaters, the lady in a white velvet skirt and soft mittens, her partner in knickers and red suspenders, twirling stifﬂy on the pond of a music box. They embraced, and she skated away. The little man watched her graceful pirouette, then held out his plastic arms as she returned for their next embrace, smiles on their face, love in their eyes for all time. He felt a small twinge of jealousy and wondered what this little man had that he lacked. Was it the red suspenders? When he looked up, Joyce was six or eight stores ahead, frowning at a Pawley Island hammock in the window of Brookstone. Their standing arrangement was that if they got separated, they would meet at the car. He wondered how many times he had gone to the car and waited. At Brookstone he took her hand, but she pulled it away quickly, as if a rodent had tried to slip between her ﬁngers, and she led him into Bloomingdale’s where she told him to sit near the dressing rooms. Then, she walked off and failed to return for half an hour, so he roamed the mall in search of her, weighted down by her packages, then headed for the car, where he sat for an hour before she joined him, excited only about her new vinyl boots with fur trim. He considered what another husband might do: a different kind of man would simply beat the shit out of her, and then they could get on with their marriage. “Do you think I’d look good in red suspenders?” he asked, and he told her about the skaters and how he had envied the little fellow’s knickers and perpetual look of contentment. “Envious of a little plastic man like that?” She was peeling gold tags off her boots. “His lady loves him,” he said. “You can see it in her eyes. Their love is real.” “Their love is plastic,” she said. “Just like ours.” *** He carried four shopping bags into the house, noticed his brown wool shirt on the ﬂoor, and knew what that meant even before she said it. “Your shirt’s on the ﬂoor again. Why would a grown man drop his shirt on the ﬂoor, right where he was standing when he took it off? A three-year-old wouldn’t do it.”
He picked up the shirt and carried it to the hamper, feeling like a small, tired pack animal. He hadn’t been unfaithful to her, except that one time. He had gone to a bar, something he almost never did, and met a woman named Lila with a stain on her blouse and beer on her breath. Lila had had chipped nail polish the color of port wine and runs in her stockings, and he had fucked her hurriedly in the back seat of his car. Having spent himself inside the yawning chasm between the tops of Lila’s nylon stockings, his emotional desire for Joyce had felt more urgent and intense than he had ever remembered it. At two o’clock that morning, Joyce woke him and took him in her mouth, and – expert with her lips and tongue – brought him to the most powerful and satisfying orgasm of his life. *** “Look at this kitchen ﬂoor,” Joyce said the next morning. “We need new linoleum, and where are we going to get the money for that? Why do you persist in a job that doesn’t pay anything? A school teacher!” “Joyce, I teach school because that’s what I love doing,” he said. “I’m good with kids.” He rolled his shirtsleeves down to his wrists, buttoned the left one, struggled with the right, then held out his arm so she could do it for him. She stepped back and placed her hands on her hips. “I’m sure you get your satisfaction,” she said. “What do you mean?” he asked, resuming his effort to button the cuff. “Everyone knows what kind of men teach in elementary schools,” she snipped. “Failures, that’s what. Failures and pederasts.” “Pederasts? Joyce, what are you saying?” “You know very well what.” The button broke off, fell to the ﬂoor. “You are accusing me of molesting my students?” “I wouldn’t put it past you.” He decided to go for a walk. The Blue Ridge Mountains often brought him peace. This evening, a thin gauze of snow lay on the ground, and the air was soothing and cold on his face. He breathed deeply and heard the honking of wild geese overhead. “Godspeed!” he called up to them as they sailed off in a line. He wondered what their conversations were about, and if they mated for life, and whether or not wife-geese were scolding husband-geese up there. Then he went back home and wrote it: Wild geese lying on the wind, trumpeting their place, stately, calm, and gathered in a pale, gray arrowhead of grace. Wild geese lying on the wind, the arrow ﬁnds its mark, a pond. They break formation for a time, to mate, discuss and fuss, and dine. If I keep watch, I may see soft shadows on the snow of wild geese lying on the wind, one more time before I go. He placed it on her pillow and turned to see her watching him. “What’s that?” she asked. “Something I wrote for you.” She walked past him and snatched it up. “I thought you might like it,” he said as she read it. He felt drained, defeated.
Her laughter opened fresh wounds. “My husband, the impoverished poet!” she said. He felt like a small burrow plodding toward its grace, cursed and stropped because it wasn’t fast or strong enough. He put on the dark blue shirt she had given him the Christmas before. “You look nice,” she said. Those words warmed him. He put his arms around her, nuzzled his face in her hair. “I love you so much,” he whispered. “That is bullshit, and you know it,” she said, pulling away from him. “Joyce, where are we going,” he said, and it was not a question. “Meaning what?” she asked. “We need to talk,” he said. “We can’t go on like this.” “Like what?” “This is supposed to be a marriage,” he said. Already he was lost about what to say or how to continue otherwise. “Is that what this is?” she sneered. He wondered how it had happened, and when it had begun, that his wife would talk to him like this – kick him the way a sociopath would kick an old hound. “Joyce, we’re on a journey, together, through life…” He felt like a beetle trapped in dust. “Well, this is a bad ride,” she said. “Then we need to change it.” “Do you want a divorce?” she asked. “No.” “Then what?” “I want you to change,” he said. “Change?” “I want you to treat me better,” he said. “I don’t want you to scold me.” “Demands!” she said. “If you wore the pants in this family, maybe you’d have a right to make demands. Do you think you deserve that right? Do you?” He thought of Lila, the runs in her stockings, the tired, defeated look in her eyes, the yawning gorge between her legs, ready, perhaps still, to hold him. He looked at Joyce. “I found your dirty underwear in the back of our closet,” she said. “What is this? Hide-and-go-seek?” “I’m sorry,” he said. He felt a small tightening in his chest. He picked up the underwear and put it in the clothes hamper. Then, he pulled his suitcase from the closet and laid it open on the bed. He packed his brown slacks, his brown wool shirt, some underwear, and various shirts she had given him for Christmas over the years. He placed their wedding picture on top of everything in the suitcase. He picked it up again. The wedding party was toasting the smiling couple, wishing them happiness. He could still smell the orange blossoms in her hair, feel the smooth silk of her skin, inhale the mint-freshness of her breath, catch the glint of candlelight on her tiny pearl earrings. He put the wedding picture back on the dresser, closed his suitcase, and snapped shut its brass buckles. He stared at the clothes hamper. “I’m going for a walk,” he said, not knowing whether or not she had heard him. Then, he stepped out into the colder air and trudged toward the ﬁeld where he had seen the geese.
ky’s an odd color tonight. There’s a shade of purple in it that I don’t recall ever seeing before. I’m sitting on the back porch, looking out over the yard where Cora kept her chickens last year. They died in the freeze this winter. We went out to the henhouse one morning and found them all dead, every last one. There’d been a short in the wiring that kept the heaters going, and we’d never had a clue until it was already too late. So maybe it started there, with the chickens. Could be, anyway. I guess I’m never going to know for sure, but sitting out here, a kitchen chair tipped so far back that I’m always at risk of toppling, I’ve got plenty of time to ponder things on these long summer evenings. Cora — it’s an old-fashioned name, and I sometimes think it’s maybe why I married her. If so, I was wrong in that. She was named after her grandmother, is all. There was nothing old-fashioned about her. She wasn’t a farm girl. Her father sold real estate — a little on the shady side, I always thought, though of course I never said. And I wasn’t exactly an old hand at farming myself, but my uncle had had a dairy farm, and after I was 12 or so, I used to go out and help him summers. I liked farming right off, and from then on, I always knew it was what I wanted to do. I had that dream of going back to the land that struck a lot of people in those days, and it wasn’t as hard as it might be now to convince some girl who thought she was in love with you that this was her dream, too. I didn’t actually have any land, of course. My uncle had sold out to some developers who put tract housing all over his pasturage long before I had a prayer of taking the place over. No, Cora and I worked ‘real’ jobs for those ﬁrst few years after college, scrimped and saved and planned in a tiny city apartment that was barely big enough for our bed. We thought we had it all
ﬁgured out, which probably tells you a little something about just how green we were. But we had friends who’d preceded us into the agrarian life, so we’d go out and help with the harvest on various farms throughout the late summer and into the fall. Corn, wheat, apples — we did pretty much whatever was wanted, and had a lot of fun, as I recall. But then, it’s different when it’s not your crop. None of the old gang’s in it now, though. Bob Chesnutt took a fall under his tractor last October and mangled up his arm pretty good — they managed to save the arm, but that was it for him. And Gene and Sue Coburn, well, she took a part-time job in town to boost their household ﬁnances — they had three kids at the time and were barely keeping them in shoes. It was just a little bitty branch of some big insurance company, but danged if she didn’t turn out to have a knack for the business. Next thing you know, she’s being offered about a gazillion dollars to come back and work in the home ofﬁce in Connecticut. Well, old Gene didn’t have a lot to say in the matter after that, believe me. They packed it in — didn’t even wait out their lease, she was getting paid that much. So maybe it wasn’t the chickens after all. It’s funny, when you’re a couple, you tend to think it’s your own marriage that’s all you have to worry about. But it turns out that maybe half the time you’re just living out some idea of marriage that’s patched together from what you’ve seen around you. So if some other couple who seemed to have roughly the same idea of the whole enterprise that you did suddenly takes off on a new track, you ﬁnd yourself questioning your own sense of direction. It’s not like we saw so much of our old friends once we set up on our own — who had the time? But Cora went down to stay with Anne Chesnutt for awhile after Bob got hurt, and they probably spent a lot of time talking about the hazard of farming life. And I suppose she told Anne, too, about the swan dive I’d taken out of the hayloft a couple of weeks before — a freak thing, really — my boot caught on a loose nail and I went ﬂying. She saw the whole thing from the kitchen window. I got up, dusted myself off, and went right back up into the loft, but Cora knew as well as I did that it could just as easily have ended with me lying there with a broken neck. She didn’t say anything at the time — I mean, she didn’t say, that’s it, I’ve had enough. But after she got back from the Chessnutt’s, it was like she couldn’t stop talking about how sick with worry Anne had been. And more than once, it came to me that maybe be weren’t just talking about Anne and Bob.
he chickens were her project, her idea from start to ﬁnish. I built the coop for her, though it was all according to her plan. I guess that’s why I see the night they died as the last straw, though actually it wasn’t till a few months later that she said the ﬁrst word about wanting to leave. When I looked at her that morning after the freeze, I thought I might see tears. I thought she might at least want me to hold her, but no, she just went and grabbed the wheelbarrow and we took turns hauling them out to the rubbish heap, where we burned them. Though it had been so cold, we had no idea how long they’d been lying there like that and it didn’t seem safe to eat them. There was the smell of burnt chicken feathers in the air for days afterward. We couldn’t get it out of our clothes; we couldn’t get it out of our hair. I tried to say something comforting to her that night, but she cut me off. “They were just chickens, Jay,” she said. “It wasn’t like they were going to come to a happy end.” But the fact is, they were layers, not broilers, and they’d have had a nice, long life ahead of them if it hadn’t been for that wiring. And another fact is that Cora could have had new chicks to start up again within two weeks if she’d wanted. But she didn’t. She didn’t get any new chicks. And maybe that should have told me something. I don’t know, though. We were barely struggling along, but we’d been barely struggling along for 10 years — things weren’t exactly great, but they were no worse than they’d ever been. I guess when your marriage comes apart, you look for some catalytic moment to point to, but if there are such moments, I suppose they’re usually hidden. In our case, there was just the slow accretion of events, and if I sift through them now like the ashes of a ﬁre, it’s not because I really expect to ﬁnd some concrete evidence of what caused our marital calamity, it’s just that I have nothing else to do. I keep coming back to the chickens, because that moment when we stepped into the utter silence of the darkened henhouse was such a sad and horrifying one, and the faulty wiring that turned out to be the culprit was wiring that I myself had installed. I want it to be about the chickens, because that’s a cause that I could understand. I want it to be about the chickens, but it probably wasn’t that at all.
a baseball story katie ferrel
was a worn-in leather glove for my right hand and a worn-out leather ball for my left. Give me a 32-inch Louisville Slugger whittled out of an old Maple tree and I could do some damage. Hitting came natural to me. Nobody had to teach me about stance or choking up on the bat or how to tell a fastball from a curve in the fraction of a second after the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. If baseball hadn’t been invented already I’m sure I would’ve invented it, because I knew the game before I knew the game, you know what I mean? So now you’re probably wondering why a girl like me would ever give it all up to stand on the sidelines. And not even the sidelines of my own sport. I wonder about that too. There’s no simple cause and effect series of events here, but there was a day when everything changed. Dad walked in at ﬁve o’clock as usual. I didn’t notice the front door open over the blare of the T.V., but I heard those steel-toed boots he wore. They made a stomping sound on the linoleum. I was sitting in the living room with my older brother Dave, lost in thought and staring at the pattern in the wallpaper. This you’d have to see — thousands of yellowy-gold ﬁreworks (maybe they’re snowﬂakes) outlined in brown dots. I used to beg Dad to do something about that seventies vibe. Maybe get away from the yellow-orange-brown color scheme. I ﬁnally had to give up because change wasn’t in the budget and besides, the guys actually liked it that way. Anyway, Dad likes a few minutes of quiet when he ﬁrst gets home from work, so Dave turned down the T.V. Dad sat down on the couch, unlaced and threw off his boots, and then got back to work in the kitchen. In half an hour the three of us were sitting at the dinner table eating the only thing Dad could cook — hamburger soup. If you look in our cupboard you’ll see four or ﬁve cans of everything, like we’re stocking up for an earthquake or the next depression or something. Hamburger soup is made from ground beef and potatoes, plus one can of every vegetable in the cupboard and extra cans of tomato sauce. Salt, pepper, garlic salt, you’re in business.You get a glass of milk and all the food groups are covered. We were about halfway through dinner when it happened.
“So Dad, I have a friend I want you to meet.” Dave said. He took a big gulp of water from his plastic “Beat L.A.” cup. “Well...more than a friend, really.” “Oh yeah?” Dad couldn’t hide the excitement in his voice. Dave was about to turn eighteen and he’d never brought a girl home. “Sure, we’ll have barbecue or something, have her over. What’s her name?” “Alan.” “Alan? That’s kind of a guy name, isn’t it?” Dad was a little slow. So was I. “Is she self-conscious about it? I mean who names their daughter Alan?” But as soon as I said the name I understood. Dad didn’t. “That’s okay. There’s a lot worse names out there. I worked with a guy named Dieter. Poor bastard.” He dipped a piece of bread into his soup, let it soak up the broth, and jammed the entire piece into his mouth. I looked up at my brother and made eye contact. His eyes were begging for advice, asking “How the hell do I say this?” The look in my eyes said, “Are you fucking serious? Why didn’t you ever tell me?” It didn’t take long for Dad to notice our silent conversation. Suddenly in the loop, Dad’s eyes widened and questioned my brother, who nodded his head. We all went back to eating our soup. Slower now, and with tense, wrinkled foreheads. When Dad ﬁnished, he cleared his plate and walked to his room, not saying a word. He stayed there the rest of the night. “So you have a boyfriend? I guess you’re having better luck with the boys I am.” That was my ridiculous attempt at sounding casual. Dave didn’t hear me anyway. I sat there wondering why I hadn’t seen it coming. But it’s not like Dave was ﬂamboyant or had a lisp or anything. He didn’t even have a ﬂair for fashion. In the next few weeks he didn’t say much and neither did Dad. They’d pass each other in the hallway without saying a word, and at dinner they’d break the silence only to say “pass the salt” and even that was directed at me. I played along for a while, but then I felt left out of all the drama and started ignoring them both. “Pass the salt.” No response. “Taylor, can you hand me the salt?” But I just kept eating. “Oh, funny Taylor. Real funny.” I was hoping one of them would eventually crack and they’d talk about it. But that’s not how it played out. Instead, Dad focused his attention on me. “I have a surprise for you,” Dad said as he handed me a
piece of paper. I unfolded the paper, which turned out to be some kind of receipt. “What’s this?” “Look, here.” He pointed near the top of the page: Roosevelt Wildcat Cheerleaders. “I paid the fees and everything.You pick up a uniform after the ﬁrst day of school.” I assumed he was joking, so I laughed. Then I saw he was serious. “Dad, I play baseball. I have to train for that. That pretty much takes up all my extracurricular time.” “I thought you should try something new. Baseball’s such a... It’ll look good on those college apps.” His eyes were desperate, then irritated. “There are starving girls in China who’d love their fathers to pay for their cheerleading shit.” “Dad, that doesn’t even make sense.” “Will you just try it for God’s sake?!” I knew the tone. He was really serious about this. And when he was serious about something it was gonna happen. See, Dad had this habit of running the family like a maﬁa boss (only without the money laundering and murder).You didn’t want to cross him. There was more to it than that, though. Dad was a complete wreck. And I know I’m making excuses here, but I was tired of all that silent ﬁghting in the house. It sucked the life out of me. Out of all of us. So I ﬁgured, Fuck it. If it’ll make him feel better, I’ll be a damn cheerleader. Take one for the team. Besides, I considered it a temporary sacriﬁce. Dad would have to come to his senses eventually. the ﬁrst day of school I walked into the gym slowly, dragging my feet a little but moving forward towards a group of tables lined up across the room. There were a dozen different perfumes competing inside the gym. I listened to the echo of conversations along the way and learned that Amy found the best hairdresser, like, ever, and that if you want to avoid a streaky sunless tan you really need to use Neutrogena. Duly noted. It was like I walked into a bad movie. No, a bad T.V. drama, designed for yuppie teenagers and middle-aged women who wish they were eighteen again. We all had our roles. Maybe personality is like a lottery, or maybe it’s genetic, or maybe it’s all the glass ceilings and trap doors that make us who we are. All I know is that I didn’t ﬁt. Before long I felt their stares lingering on me, the intruder, as I stood in front of the table marked T-Z. Under my breath I told the lady behind the table, “I’m here to get a uniform.” I heard a girl behind me asking, “Did she go to camp? Did she even try out?” And another girl respond, “They have to take everybody now. Some afﬁrmative action thing, I think.” “What size are you, sweetie?” “I don’t know, around a ten I think.” “Oh, we didn’t order any that large. I’ll have to order you one.You can just practice in your sweats until then.” I heard snickering from the group behind me. Size ten apparently means I’m a fat ass. Now, I’ve always considered myself pretty thin. My hips are wide and my ass is kinda big, but it has a nice shape to it and besides, it helps my swing. Helps me drive the ball. What was so funny about having an ass? So I turned around and said something about it. “Yes. I
digest my food. Fuck you.” (But I only said it in my head). After ﬁlling out a form I turned around, looking for a safe place to stand. Not ﬁnding one. A girl who’d been laughing at me was the ﬁrst to say hi. No, not just hi but an exaggerated “Hiiii! You must be new.”
dave was about to turn eighteen and he’d never brought a girl home “Yeah, no shit.” (In my head again. “Yep” is what I really said). The girl stuck her hand out conﬁdently and shook mine with force. As much force as her petite arms could muster. “I’m Amy.” She was a cute girl with small features and unusually white teeth. Her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail. They all kind of looked like that, but with different eye and hair colors. A few of them looked stronger than average, and I ﬁgured they’d be the ones at the bottom of that pyramid thing they do. Where was I going to be, I wondered. I didn’t want to hold anybody up but I didn’t want to be thrown in the air, either. Maybe I could just do cartwheels while that stuff was going on. I could do cartwheels. But I’d be in a skirt, so I didn’t really want to do that either. At this point I realized I’d rather be the fucking mascot than humiliate myself like this. I started to walk away. “Hey, you’re Taylor, right?” I turned to see who was talking to me. “I’m Sarah.You were in Mr. Spencer’s class, right?” I remembered. We were in the same English class the year before. She always seemed nice, so I stopped and talked to her for a minute. As I was about to break away, I heard the squeal of a megaphone being turned on, and then loud instructions from a peppy, middle-aged woman. “Good morning, ladies! Let’s get started. I realized many of you didn’t go to camp this summer so I’m going to need the ladies who know the routines to help out the ones who don’t. It looks like some of you aren’t appropriately dressed. That’s okay this time, but you should all have your uniforms by next week. Now let’s stretch those muscles.” I looked down at my blue jeans and black Converse. There were other girls without uniforms but they were at least wearing sweats. Mostly with words written on the ass. Why would you want somebody to read your ass? I was the only one not wearing grey Nikes that matched the letters on the front of the uniform. They could afford that kind of shit. Most of their parents were loaded. My face started to burn so I knew I was blushing. I didn’t feel sorry for Dad anymore and I didn’t fear him either. I imagined running home from school and kicking him in the shins. Then I thought about the way things used to be. Eight years ago. Sunday morning out in a huge park across from my old elementary school. There was a grey metal backstop and a patch of dirt, not quite a baseball diamond but good enough for us. Dad lobbed a ball towards my brother, who was crowding the plate — an old square of carpet we’d brought from home. Dave brought his hands in and hit a ground ball right into my glove. Jammed him. Dave would usually give me a pretty good workout, scattering the ball over the six positions I was covering: ﬁrst, second, third, left, center,
and right ﬁeld. He hit the next ball over my head. I tore after the ball, slipping on a patch of wet grass, falling on my ass and sliding a few feet. Dave stopped rounding the carpet bases to laugh and point at me, like Dad was doing. That’s all right. I’ll show them when it’s my turn to bat...
i went for the captain ﬁrst. not trying to kill her, i didn’t use my homerun swing. My vision was interrupted by the megaphone. “Ladies who know the routines, line up over here. Ladies who don’t, line up over there.” It was pretty even. “Alright, pick a partner.You know what to do. Once everybody knows the basic moves we’ll come back together. I’ll walk around and help anyone who needs it,” the coach said as she looked directly at me. Everyone rushed into pairs, rushed away from me, until this really tall girl walked over and said, “I guess I’ll have to help you.” “You don’t have to. I could just watch.” Without enthusiasm, tall girl said, “Yeah. I do. I’m the captain.” So I saluted her and said, “Ay ay, captain.” I thought it was kinda funny. She rolled her eyes and tilted her head back in one movement, staring at the high ceiling of the gym as if to ask what she’d done to deserve such a fate. I ripped her eyes out (in my mind). Then the music started to play. It was that song by C&C Music Factory from the eighties, early nineties maybe, “Gonna Make You Sweat.” No, really, I’m serious. Right after the line “everybody dance now,” the captain started showing me the routine. “Just watch the ﬁrst time, then we’ll go through it.” I was paying attention, but I really couldn’t do it. I couldn’t understand a movement without a functional result. I knew how to rotate my hips to get the best possible swing when it came to hitting a baseball. I had a Will Clark swing. It was pretty. There was something at stake in the way I swung my bat, the difference between a base hit off the sweet spot or a popup to the catcher. But I didn’t know how to move my hips for the sole purpose of looking good. The captain’s commands didn’t help. “No, swivel. Oh my God.You’re too jerky. Loosen up. Arms out, in step, swing those hips, blah blah blah.” She walked away and started talking to the coach, probably saying she couldn’t work like this, that I was hopeless. When I got home from practice I collapsed on the couch next to Dave, rolling myself into a ball. “Rough day?” He asked. “Yeah, you could say that.” “What’s wrong? Not getting along with the other girls?” His voice was over-the-top sarcastic. “No, jackass, I’m not. Thanks for the concern, though.” “I’m sorry Taylor,” he said with more sympathy. “Hang in there.” “Easy for you to say.You don’t know what these girls are like.” “Sure I do. That’s why I like guys,” he said. “I can’t handle you bitches.” Dave’s always had a knack for making me laugh, even
when life was shitty. If only he could work his magic on Dad. After a week they still weren’t talking. Not a single word. By the end of two weeks I had my fat ass uniform and I’d learned the basic steps through repetition, but I didn’t look good doing it. The coach pulled me aside before practice to have a talk. “Taylor, I’m glad to see you’re trying and you’ve come a long way.” The words were encouraging enough, but I could tell from her voice this wouldn’t be a pep talk. “But, if you want to perform with us, and you know, we have to be ready soon, you need to work a lot harder.You need to really feel the music.” “But the music sucks,” I told her (in my head). “You also need to present yourself in a way that does this school proud.” I looked around at the other girls with their ﬂat asses barely covered by the pleated mini skirts, their bare stomachs, and their breasts on a platter like they were about to perform at the music video awards.Yep. They call it female empowerment. Jesus H. Christ. “How’s that?” I asked. “Well, ﬁrst of all, stop biting your nails. That’s a terrible habit.” “You think people will notice my nails?” “No, you’re probably right. But what about wearing some makeup? Of course, at practice you don’t need to worry about it. Same thing with the hair. But when we’re at a game...” “What’s wrong with my hair?” “Listen, I’m not trying to tell you what to look like...” “Sure you are.” She could tell I was irritated so she started drawing out her words and pausing a lot, as though saying it slower would make it less annoying. Go ahead and say something stupid as long as you carefully choose your stupid words. “It’s just that some of the girls...they’re concerned you don’t really...your image might not be...hmmm. Let me think. I mean, maybe if you could get better at...as far as dancing...well...other things could be overlooked. It’s about the whole ‘package’.” I couldn’t believe she just used ﬁnger quotes. “The ‘package’.” “Don’t worry. It’ll just take time,” she said, feigning concern and motherly warmth. Then she picked up her megaphone. “Okay girls, we need to get used to performing outside, so we’re practicing on the ﬁeld today.” We ﬁled out of the double doors and walked onto the long stretch of ﬁeld. It smelled like the grass had just been cut. I’ve always loved that smell. I stared straight ahead at the opposite end of the ﬁeld. That’s where the baseball diamond was. And by cruel coincidence, a group of guys had come to play. It wasn’t even baseball season. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence, but fate’s notso-subtle reminder that I’d sold her out. were stretching on one end of the ﬁeld, the girls on the other. I just stood in place, watching one guy lay out equipment while the others stretched and threw the ball around. They practiced catching pop ﬂies and grounders, punching at their gloves as they waited for the ball to drop or bounce. I’d only been watching for a few seconds when one of the girls walked up and snapped her ﬁngers in
my face. “Hey,” she said, “you can check out the boys later. If anyone here needs practice, it’s you, honey.” Some of the girls laughed, others nodded their heads. “Fuck you,” I said. Out loud. “Uuum, excuse me?” The rest of the girls gathered around, hands on their hips and scowls on their faces. Sarah came to my defense. She said, “Leave her alone, you guys. Let’s practice.” The coach broke out her megaphone—a temporary ﬁx. But a few of the girls kept giving me shit, just quiet enough so the coach wouldn’t hear. They said things like “What are you even doing here?” and “It’s called a Stairmaster, sweetheart.” I started to walk away. What the hell was I doing there? But they weren’t done. They had to throw in a couple more shots. “Come back if you ever turn into a girl!” I kept walking away, walking towards the baseball diamond. Then I heard the captain yell, “I heard your brother’s a fag! Maybe he’d make a better cheerleader!” Followed by laughter. I quickened my pace, but my mission wasn’t to get away anymore. I made my way across the ﬁeld and went straight for the line of bats leaning against the backstop. I rummaged through the jumble of wood and aluminum and chose a medium weight Rawlings, made from
my bedroom window facing the front yard. “Evening ofﬁcer,” Dad said as he stepped out of his truck. “What brings you down this way? I can tell you right now I haven’t done anything. Or seen anything. If this is about...” “We need to speak to Taylor, Taylor Williams. Is she here?” I had a good view of the two cops. The guy on the left was tall with a seventies moustache and his thumbs latched into his belt loops. The other cops was short, stocky, and holding a clipboard. They look like extras from some new T.V. cop drama. “Taylor? What’d she do?” “It seems she attacked some girls with a baseball bat after school. Some girls on her cheerleading squad.” “What? No. No, she wouldn’t do that. Had to be somebody else.” “Sir, we have statements from the coach and a dozen girls who were on the scene.” Dad looked over to my window and saw my red face and bloodshot eyes. “Aaaw, Fuck.” I was lucky. The judge considered me insane. Could’ve been much worse. I’m back home, still going to anger management, but I’m not sure it’s helping. Dr. Stanley says I should channel my anger into something useful. “Write your feelings down,”
White Ash. If the boys had any objections, I couldn’t hear them. I couldn’t hear anything. I wasn’t running. My strides were quick, but deliberate. My face burnt red and my jaw closed tight. None of the girls noticed me closing in on them because the music was playing and they’d started their routine. None of the girls saw me wielding the borrowed bat until they spun around to the rhythm of the music and by then it was too late to get out of the way. I went for the captain ﬁrst. Not trying to kill her, I didn’t use my homerun swing. I stayed within the strike zone. Letters to the knees. She was too shocked to scream as I swung the wood into her gut, but the other girls were screaming. When she crumpled to the ground and gasped for air I went for her kneecaps, barely bringing the bat back before swinging again. Then I was surrounded. When one of the girls grabbed my hair from behind I swung around at my new target, grazing her abs as she jumped back. Rage took over. A certain amount of anger is good for your swing but too much will ruin it. My bat ﬂew wildly in all directions. Before long they backed off and I brought the bat to rest. It was quiet except for some mufﬂed crying, whispers, and the coach calling the cops on her cell phone. I walked away, much slower now, back across the ﬁeld. The boys were motionless, staring at me in silence as I returned the bat to its rightful place against the backstop. “Thank you,” I said. The cops didn’t show up at my house for another hour. I heard them pull up at the same time as my Dad, so I stood at
he says. “Take the anger out on the page,” he says. “You can’t attack people with baseball bats,” he says. I know he’s right. I know these situations are better played out inside the head, but it’s not that simple. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not so sure I’m the crazy one here. The whole damn world is crazy, and if you’re not careful you’ll ﬁnd yourself stuck at the bottom of a people pyramid, or worse. Like I told Dr. Stanley at our ﬁrst session, “It wasn’t my idea to be around those girls in the ﬁrst place. It was my Dad’s idea. I play baseball.” “But he didn’t make you attack those girls.” “Hey, if you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em. Isn’t that what they say?” “That’s not funny, Taylor.You have to take responsibility. Do you want to own your actions, or do you want your actions to own you?” He seemed to think he was being deep. He even rested his chin on his ﬁst like the thinking man statue. When I didn’t respond he said, “You didn’t want to be a cheerleader?” “No.” “Why not?” “It’s not the dancing to bad music that I mind. That’s actually kind of fun. It’s the role you’re supposed to play. It pisses me off.” “Why is that?” He was asking for it, so I let loose. “Because. It’s like they’re saying, ‘Hey, sweetheart, you’re too weak to play sports, but why don’t you stand on the sidelines and shake your tits around? Make yourself useful somehow.” “I sense a lot of anger there.”
“You know what else? They’re always smiling. Say the other team scores.You’d think they’d throw down their pompoms. Swear a little. But they just keep smiling and doing leg kicks. They’re not even watching the damn game!” Dr. Stanley didn’t say a word. Even when I said, “Did I mention they’re a bunch of homophobes?” he just kept this goofy half smile on his face and changed he subject. “Let me ask you something, Taylor. What kind of future do you think you’d have in football?” “I don’t like football. I play baseball.” “So what kind of a future would you have in baseball?” “I don’t care.” “What about softball?” “I hate softball. The glove’s too big, the ball’s too big, and you can’t block the plate.” The conversation went on like that for a while, Dr. Stanley telling me to act like a lady and try not to get so upset. Thanks, Dr. Stanley. I can say after this experience is that we’re all talking again. My family, I mean. The other day we were sitting down at the dinner table. Dad had learned how to cook something new — chicken and noodles.You take a whole chicken and boil it for half an hour, scooping out all the foamy fat that ﬂoats to the top. Then you add chicken bouillon cubes, chopped celery, and noodles. A little salt and pepper and you’re good to go. “Hey Dad, can you hand me the salt?” Dave asked. “Sure.” Dad pushed the salt Dave’s way.
“Did you two hear Will Clark’s retiring?” I hadn’t heard. “Will the Thrill? Really?” “He had a pretty good year, didn’t he?” Dave asked. Dad had just taken a bite of noodles but he answered anyway. “Yeah, playin’ some real good ball since he went to St. Louis.” “Never should’ve left the National League.” Dave said. “Nope. Still had a ﬁne career, though.You kids know about his ﬁrst major league at bat?” “Of course,” I said. “Homerun off of Nolan Ryan. God, he had a pretty swing.” Dad lifted his glass. “A toast — to Will Clark’s swing.” We joined him. Dad took his last bite of noodles and drank the rest of the broth from his bowl. He got up for a reﬁll, then sat back down and looked over at me. “So Taylor, how’s that anger management going?” “Fine.” I answered. “I’m not angry today.” “That’s good,” Dad said. “Here’s to progress.” And we lifted our glasses again. Dad’s really surprised me with how supportive he’s been. Not that it started out that way. My brother was the only one who never, not for one second, looked at me different since the incident. Dad didn’t know what to think at ﬁrst. Of course he thought I could have found a less violent way to handle things. But since it happened he’s apologized a good eight or nine times for pushing the cheerleading idea on me. In fact, just yesterday after picking me up from therapy he said, “I’ll make it up to you, kid. I’ll take you to the batting cages as soon as you’re allowed to hold a bat again.”
r l white
Finding his car keys, Doug slips out the side door of the trailer. The night chill brings a shiver as he creaks across the wooden deck. Tara’s cravings are getting way out of hand, Doug decides. Last night, it’s cherry vanilla at two in the morning. Now, it’s crème-ﬁlled donuts. What a man won’t do for his pregnant woman. Doug stops in front of his Chevy truck, which is half-submerged in shadows. But Tara’s not pregnant anymore. Their baby’s gone. He glares at the empty truck seat through the cracked windshield before stumbling on towards Tara’s dark blue Altima. But the word gone sticks in his mind. Gone sounds so much better than miscarriage. The word miscarriage reeks of a cold, impersonal attitude towards death. It sounds almost like a mistake. Hearing the engine’s purr, Doug can’t remember getting in the Altima nor starting it. He clicks on the headlights. The twin beams spot the jacked up front-end of his truck and the plugged tire lying beside it. Even though it will only take ﬁfteen minutes to throw on the tire and tighten the lugs, his voice lacks willpower as he mumbles, “tomorrow.”
oug puts the car in reverse and backs out of the driveway. Having often passed the Donut King on his way to work, he knows the way well. Once on Wilkerson, it is a straight twenty-mile shot down the boulevard and on the left. The car shakes off the cold and starts rumbling along the side street toward Wilkerson. Streetlights force back the night at calculated intervals. Several houses are lit. Are they also doing the donut run? Pulling onto Wilkerson, he notices a woman with her baby leaving an all night grocery store. What is she doing out at this time of night? Tara would never do such a thing; babies need their rest. Babies need their sleep. The grocery store and lit parking lot fade in the night as he pushes the gas pedal. Doug tries shaking off his gloom by pulling back his hair and rubbing his face with one hand while steering with the other. He wonders if he has overlooked something. Is there some way he can make this all better? He recalls old Pastor Smith’s warning: “You must stand united in God’s love like the mighty oak baring a painful knot. In time, that knot will give you strength. For a child’s death is painful and has caused many a good marriage to crumble. Often the parents will blame God, each other and even themselves. It is only through a unity of God and parents will the marriage last.” Doug feels no unity with Tara and her God, since she refuses to talk about the baby’s death. Well, it has only been three days. Perhaps she just needs more time. A red light brings the Altima to a stop. Doug revs the motor and holds in the brake. The heater pumps warm over his quickly thawing feet, while outside, night carries the sudden winter chill down the boulevard. People still coat the walks of Wilkerson; they feed off the sex and drugs of the city’s nightlife. Doug watches a middle-aged woman and her girlfriend cross the street and enter the Red-Ox Saloon. A wino staggers against the wall before passing out, while a red-wigged prostitute in a long, black, leather overcoat rolls clean his pockets. Her jacket pops open to reveal a lean, thonged body. Doug looks away and wonders what they are doing in all this ﬁlth. He wishes he could take Tara away from here. Perhaps to those mountains just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. They are so full of life this time of year. With the millions of trees battling red and orange across the mountainside, they can forget. They can start their life over. A voice screams in Doug’s mind. No one can just drop everything and go, can they? Doug feels the need to get real. One of the ﬁrst things to do is to get off that damned weekend shift. Up until now, he didn’t mind overtime. It paid the bills and put a little cash in the bank. It even helped them get the double wide. But now he needs to spend more time at home. He needs
to spend more time with her. What will Bill say? That Captain’s job has made him an asshole at times. What can he say? If not, he can always get another security job. he light turns green, and Doug takes off. From the corner of his eye, he glimpses a dark silhouette leaning against the building. The stranger strikes a match; the glare of a well-tanned cheekbone catches Doug’s attention. The thought of his old buddy brings back the memory of him sitting at the kitchen table with a newly arrived Char-Meck Review. Even though it is a local paper, he had found its shallow articles and classiﬁeds easy to digest with his supper. “Have you found me a bedroom set?” Tara has asked two weeks before over the steaming pot of pasta. She tapped dry her wooden stir spoon on the edge of the pot before sitting it on the counter. “I’m getting around to it,” he reassured her, rufﬂing the paper. For Doug, Tara’s complaints about the bed moaning while they are engaged in the act had started to become an annoyance. He admitted the mattress is old, but so what. It works. “Karen said she heard it squeaking from the porch, yesterday.” Karen is Tara’s high school buddy, ugly as a horse that was starving for attention. Doug pitied the manvictim caught by her. He went on the defensive. “So what if it moans when we make love, let the world know we are in love.” “Well, you better care.” Tara lightly slapped her creamy thigh with the wooden spoon before pointing it at him. he thought of Tara cutting him off sent Doug scouring the paper. Near the back, he found two bedroom sets in the used furniture section. There was a three-piece oak set – mattresses not included – for $800.00 and another set going for $85. The cheap one sounded way too cheap, and Doug knew they couldn’t afford $800 plus mattresses. He gave up, hoping tomorrow’s search would be better, and watched Tara prepare supper. She ﬂoated from stove to refrigerator to counter, her hips swinging merrily with the tune of an expecting mother. Hearing a knock at the front door, Doug got up to answer. “Long time no see,” said a tall man wearing a faded black leather jacket. “Harley?” Doug asked, hugging his old friend. Harley chuckled. “Good to see you, too.” “Well, come on in,” Doug said, waving an inviting stretch of arm. Harley inspected the double-bolted doorway as he entered the living room. “Nice.” He studied the burgundy leather couch and chair. “Looks like you’re getting up in the world. Nice. Real nice.” It should be, Doug thought. Damn thing cost way
enough. If Tara hadn’t wanted it so badly, he never would have gotten it. “Thanks,” he said. “Who is it honey?” Tara’s voice faded, and her rosy complexion ﬂushed soft red. “Harley!” “How’s my little girl?” Harley asked, ﬂashing her a clean, even grin. Tara clapped her hands together with a smile then hugged him. oug looked over at Tara in the arms of another man and wondered if she really loved him. The question vibrated through his mind. Since they married last April, their relationship had been great – not that there was much to complain about before. She made him realize that he could do anything with his life. She gave him the courage to go back to school. Perhaps that’s why he loved her. Perhaps that is why he didn’t mind working those long nightshifts. As if heading for his chair across the room, Doug tried to move between them. “Excuse me,” he said, nudging by the couple. “We heard you got life.” “Nah, just ten years.” Harley stepped away from Tara. Doug took a seat before glancing from her to Harley. “Why don’t you ﬁll us in on what really happened.” He leaned in the tall man’s direction, trying to ignore Tara. Harley stepped further away. “Well, I was tripping bad that night. Dropped six hits and don’t remember a thing. Do remember waking up in a cell. Brain fried and feeling like shit. They said I attacked a cop while he was trying to get my naked ass down off the ledge of a ﬁvestory building. Nearly killed him.” “Must have been one hell of a bad trip.” Doug said, chuckling at his friend’s stupidity. Tara returned to the kitchen and pots banged in the distance. Harley frowned. “Shit, man. You know me. Lover, not a ﬁghter.” Doug nodded, trying to show Harley that he agreed. Harley’s piercing blue eyes, ﬁnely pointed nose, and soft voice had trapped many women. He had always been lucky like that, since their boyhood down in Piedmont. Harley took the foxes while he got the leftovers. “Anyway, I ended up getting seven years with good behavior.” Harley looked over at Doug. “Seven years? That seems like a lot of time for one bad trip?” The tall man grinned. “Well, perhaps the thousand other hits they found in my possession might have been a factor.” “No doubt,” Doug replied. Harley’s grin faded. “Why didn’t you ever come see me?” Doug searched for an explanation. It was true that he never did go see his running buddy. Why? Was it because of Tara? Secretly in his heart, Doug knew he had wanted her the ﬁrst time Harley brought her to the
trailer. Doug tried to look offended at having to explain himself and snapped, “I didn’t know where you were. You never wrote or called.” “Kind of hard since we had no phone,” Harley replied. “Why not write?” Doug demanded, but deep inside he had failed to ﬁnd a valid answer. Harley grinned a twisted smile. “You know I’m not much at writing. Besides,” he chuckled, “I couldn’t remember the address.” “What?” Doug looked over at Harley. “You lived there?” “You were the one paying the bills, I just stayed there.” Harley sank deeper into the couch and ran a ﬁnger across the soft burgundy leather. “What have you been up to?” “I’m working security.” “Doug made Lieutenant last year,” Tara said proudly from the kitchen. “It’s nothing,” Doug stepped in. Uncertain of what to say, he searched for an excuse, but nothing came to mind. “Doug works up town. At the Macy Building,” said Tara having moved into the living room. Harley laughed. “We used to break in places like that.” “That was long ago,” Doug pointed out. He wished he could forget those days when they stole anything not tied down. If he hadn’t been caught stealing that car, he would probably still be at it or in the clink. Harley frowned. “Listen, I got something in mind.” oug lifted up his palms. Bringing back his hands across the top of his head, he pulled his hair straight down before releasing it. “I spent three months in county. Enough for me. No thanks.” Besides, Doug thought, the days of playing Harley’s little assistant are over. Now he supervised men. He had the job, the money and the relationship. It just wasn’t worth it. He decided to change the subject. “How did you ﬁnd us?” “Karen.” “Never could keep her mouth shut,” Doug said in a joking tone of voice while studying his wife’s reaction. “Now that’s enough of that,” snapped Tara. When Doug did not reply, Tara turned to their guest. “What would you like to drink, Harley? We have soda, tea, coffee, juice, milk, water.” Harley brushed away a strand of his long light brown hair. The slight smile tracing his lips cracked wider. “Beer.” Tara’s smile evaporated. “We don’t drink anymore.” She said it a little too sad for Doug’s taste. “You know I only drink beer,” Harley pointed out. “I’m sorry,” said Tara her bottom lip drooping. “Doug doesn’t want us drinking.” “Oh, well, soda will do,” said Harley, nodding.
Tara headed to the kitchen as Doug shouted his order for a glass of tea. arley watched her disappear into the kitchen then turned toward Doug. “She your old lady? She’s been with you since I left?” “What?” said Doug, jerking slightly while ripping his eyes away from Tara’s wiggling ass. He nodded a ﬁrm yes. “She needed a place to stay after you dumped her. At ﬁrst we were friends. We kind of grew together. Married last April.” Around and around his ﬁnger, Doug twisted his loose wedding ring. The tiny oak leaves encircling the band caught a glimmer of light, reﬂecting bright and true. “Boy, she sure has blossomed,” said Harley, his voice fading. “What’d you expect?” Doug demanded. “It’s been seven years.” “She used to be skin and bones.” “She was only eighteen then.” Doug told him, straightening up. “She sure wasn’t that ﬁne when I had her,” said Harley, buzzing like a fruit ﬂy lost in an apple orchard. “That’s because you were busy banging anything with a hole, remember?” Doug snapped. Talking about Tara as if she was a slab of meat raked against him. “Here she comes. Let’s chill on the subject.” “Cool.” Tara emerged with a tall, clean, iced glass of bubbling Coke in her left hand for Harley and Doug’s tea glass in the other. Harley locked eyes on her. “Thanks. You got something else for me?” He asked, teasing her with a soft grin before taking a sip of his drink. “Oh, I forgot,” Tara said, dumping off Doug’s tea and vanishing into the bedroom. Soon she reappeared, carrying a small locked safety deposit box. Doug remembered ﬁnding it in the closet shortly after Tara moved in. It was locked and there was no name on it. He had always ﬁgured the safety deposit box was Tara’s. After all these years, he should have known. “It’s never been opened,” She said, handing the box to Harley and sitting down on the arm of the couch beside Doug. Tara draped her long tan arm across his defeated shoulders while her red ﬁngertips massaged his right arm. She looked down at Doug and smiled. “Good girl,” replied Harley, searching his key chain. “Thanks.” He found the key and opened the box. Rummaging through his trinkets, he pulled out an old butterﬂy knife with rusted twin dragons etched in the handles. “I sure did miss this thing,” he said,
ﬂicking his wrist and the blade appeared. He beamed while placing it on his lap. Digging in the box, Harley gathered up the loose hundred-dollar bills and shoved them into his pocket. Doug felt hot and clutched Tara’s soft tan leg. “It’s all there,” insisted Tara before looking down at Doug. “I know. Thanks,” smiled Harley. He began popping open and close the butterﬂy knife; it blurred in his hand and the blade appeared, disappeared, and appeared again. Doug’s stomach tightened. Why was Tara acting this way? Confused, he shrugged her arm off his shoulder and got up. “Let’s go out on the porch,” he said, picking up his drink. Outside, the setting sun burned a darkening blood sky. He leaned on the rail with a nearly empty glass of tea and tried to enjoy the approaching dusk. Emerging, Harley pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He smoked it slowly, calmly like a hatless Marlboro Man. “Great place,” he said. “We like it here,” Doug assured him. “Can I have one?” asked Tara as she stepped onto the porch. Doug cut a look her way. “I thought you quit?” She stared him down. “Well, I guess I started again.” Tara tapped the butt of the cigarette against the rail and placed it between her soft raspberry lips. Harley put ﬁre to her smoke. Tara inhaled deeply, held it in and focused on Doug’s face. She tried to hunt down his eyes, but he avoided her look. Tara blew smoke in his face. “Well, you can at least act civil about it,” Doug snapped. He pushed by Harley. Back in the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator to a baking soda smell. Inside were plenty of leftovers and a half-full pitcher of tea. Doug grabbed it. Filling his glass full, he drank half in one shot. The cold sweet tea shivered him. Evidently, Tara had abandoned supper by turning off the stove. Doug glanced at his reﬂection in the mirrored clock. He saw a big man with a slight beard tracing his block jaw. With his hazel green eyes and fair smile, he had received more than one offer from women at work. e shifted his focus out the living room window at Tara. Why was she acting so weird? That relationship ended years ago. She loves me, Doug screamed inside. Isn’t it obvious when we make love? She must be ending that relationship. Yeah. Closure is good. That’s what she promised me when I gave her the ring. As their conversation ended, Doug stepped onto the
porch. Relief swept through him as Harley headed for a red Grand Prix parked on the side of the street. Doug followed him up the driveway. “Got to be going?” Harley turned, “Yeah, need to see a few people.” He opened the door to an interior of dark leather seats and huge speakers mounted in the doors. Doug stopped in front of the car. “Nice ride,” he said, pausing as he turned to see Tara go inside. “I’m just borrowing it from a friend,” said Harley, closing the door. He tossed the box onto the passenger seat. “You got a great woman there. Take care of her. So long.” Harley started the engine and pulled away. “Yeah, see you around,” Doug said, waving him off and returning to the kitchen. Tara was ﬁnishing their supper. She stood at the stove stirring beef strips into the pasta and vegetables. “What were you two talking about?” Doug asked, moving down the counter. “What?” Said Tara, looking up confused. “What were you talking about?” repeated Doug. “What do you mean?” “You told me that he got life and he didn’t want to see me,” Doug coldly stated. When Tara did not respond, Doug continued his interrogation. “Why didn’t you tell me that security box belongs to Harley? I saw you looking at him. What’s going on here?” “Nothing,” said Tara. “Alright?” She turned off the stove and stirred the pasta once more before dropping the lid back on the pot. “I made him a promise.” “When?” demanded Doug. “Just before he went away.” Tara moved opposite Doug at the kitchen counter. “He asked me to keep it for him. I made him a promise and I kept it, just like I made a promise to love you.” Tara moved to Doug’s side to give him a hug. When Doug did not respond she pushed him away. “Grow up,” she said.
lamming the brakes, Doug watches the red lights grow brighter. The car stops inches short of a Toyota’s rear bumper. Close, Doug plays off his fear by toying with the heater controls. Taking off again, he spots the brightly lit Donut King just ahead and pulls in. The large building has plenty of parking and counter space. Various donut junkies roam the white, tiled ﬂoors. The aroma of fresh baked goods greets Doug as he enters. Ordering a dozen assorted donuts, he pays the cashier. Heading back to the car, Doug jumps as the beeper chews angrily at his hip. He pulls it off his belt and looks down at the number. Macy. Why not tell them to shove it? But Doug knows it will cost him the lieutenant’s position. We can’t afford that. Tossing the donut box on the car seat, he heads for the phone
booth in the corner of the parking lot. Punching up the numbers, he listens to McDowell: “Edwards is late. He hasn’t called. You need to get here fast.” Doug cannot believe it. Edwards is never late. He calls Tara and breaks the news. “Yeah, I just got beeped. Looks like I have to go to work.” Doug moves closer to phone as a truck blows by. “You don’t work tomorrow, and I got a uniform at work. I’ll just head in. It will probably be an all-nighter.” Doug shakes his head as if he can see her watching him talk to her over the pay phone. “Please be careful. I’ll see you around noon,” says Tara, her voice fading. “Bye,” says Doug, hanging up and starting for the car. He feels the beeper vibrate once again. Now what the hell? He glances at the number. Work. He returns to the phone and calls McDowell. “Talked with Edwards, says his car is down. Needs a ride.” “Where’s he live?” “Next to the old Mercury Theater off of 49. At 405 Goodman Rd.” “Yeah, I know about where that is. If he calls back let him know I’m heading that way and be ready.” Doug hangs up and returns to the Altima. He ﬁnds a pen in the visor, but nothing to write the address on. Opening the glove compartment, Doug tries to stop an avalanche of papers from covering the passenger ﬂoorboard. He gathers up the papers and notices a pamphlet titled: Your body: Your choice. What would Tara need this pamphlet for? Is one of her friends having trouble? Then he notices the knife. It is a rusty butterﬂy knife, just like Harley’s. Scared, Doug cramps all of it back into the compartment and slams shut the lid. Starting the car, he avoids looking at the compartment. He heads for Highway 49. Within twenty minutes, Doug is near the Mercury Theater when he spots a mailbox lettered: 405 Goodman Rd. Pulling up the driveway next to a shabbily painted one-story millhouse, he blows the horn. Shortly, Edwards appears in a starched dark blue security uniform. He jumps into the passenger seat next to the box of donuts. In his late ﬁfties, Edwards has retired from a paper company several years earlier. “Thanks,” says Edwards. The forty-ﬁve minute drive to the Power Building is one Edwards concedes to silence, and Doug doesn’t mind while his eyes journey back and forth from the road to the glove compartment. As they pull into the driveway, Doug notices the lack of cars in the parking lot and turns his attention to Edwards. “Well, at least it is going to be a quiet one.” Slowing for the speed bump, he pulls around to the back of the Macy building “Yeah, thanks for the ride.” Edwards shuts the car door and heads toward the employee’s entrance.
Doug’s thoughts return to the glove compartment and what is inside. He reaches over and opens it. Pulling out the knife and pamphlet, he places them on top of the box of donuts. A lump forms in his throat. n his way home, Doug’s thoughts bounce from the abortion pamphlet, to the baby, to Tara, to Harley’s knife. In the blackness, he parks the car several houses down the street. Gathering his stuff, he starts for the double wide. Harley’s Grand Prix is parked in the driveway. As he approaches the mobile home he can hear the bed squeaking. An image of Tara spread wide and lips sighing as Harley puts it to her rushes through Doug’s mind. He feels hot. Dropping the box of donuts and pamphlet in the driveway, Doug ﬂips open the rusty knife and slashes all four stems to Harley’s tires. How easy it would be to go in there and slice that bastard’s throat. He grips the knife tighter as blood surges faster through his veins. Air hisses his approach to the front porch. Seeing the donuts and pamphlet on the ground, Doug stops. He feels his legs tremble, and he drops the knife. Why would she do this? He has done everything for her. The wet glare from the porch light blurs his vision, and Doug loses his balance. The cold ground catches his fall. Doug recalls the night he had learned of the baby’s death. He can see Tara’s tangled dirty blonde head sobbing over the couch pillow while he failed to ﬁnd the right words. There were so many questions that he had wanted to ask, but the fear of knowing those answers silenced him. The more Doug listens, the more distant it seems. Relief sweeps through him. All the years of wondering are over. Now, he knew she didn’t love him. She had never loved him. No longer are the questions important. They are as unpractical as that squeaking bed. If this is the way it’s going to be then the hell with her. He gets to his feet and heads for the truck. Minutes later, Doug tightens the last tire lug in place and lowers the jack holding the Chevy. Tossing the equipment in the back, he can still hear the bed squeaking its contempt. Glancing down at the knife, donuts and pamphlet lying in the dimly lit driveway, he picks them up. Approaching the deck, Doug drops open the box of donuts. They bounce freely across the cold wooden deck. Many settle upright. Sliding the abortion pamphlet under a raspberry ﬁlled donut, he pulls off his wedding band and sets it on top. Doug drives the knife into the deck pinning the ring, donut and pamphlet to the deck. The blade bites deep into the knotted wood. “We’ll see who gets to the teller ﬁrst, bitch,” he mumbles as he turns to leave. Eyes wide, Doug freezes in the headlights of a car. A dark ﬁgure emerges from the car. It is Tara. Stepping away from Karen’s car with a six-pack of Bud, she glances from the lit bedroom window to the wedding ring pinned to the deck and says, “What
the hell’s going on here? What are they doing in our bedroom?” Her eyes tighten and a hard line crosses her lips. “Damn it! Last week she wanted an abortion and now...” Tara’s eyes tighten. Doug holds his breath as he watches Tara shift her focus from the pamphlet to the bedroom to the truck and back towards Doug. “Idiot,” Tara says, dropping her six-pack of evidence on the deck. “You thought that was me in there!” She punches him in the shoulder. Doug shakes his head no, but he knows she ﬁgured it out. This woman is everything, he decides, face growing redder. Obediently, he slides the sticky ring back on his ﬁnger, takes a bite of donut and follows her into he living room. “Can you believe that? This neighborhood is going to crap. Someone sliced off all four tire stems on Harley’s car.” “Pity,” says Tara.
Student Jurors MARC BESS was born and raised in the (too) small town of Cherryville, North Carolina, a place where the phrase “(He/She/It) just fell off the turnip truck” likely originated. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Communications Studies with Minors in Journalism and Film Studies at UNC Charlotte. He hopes to someday be paid to hassle students with the vast knowledge of political and ﬁlm trivia currently taking up residence in his fuzzy noggin. ERIN CRAIG is an English major at UNC Charlotte. She grew up in Charlotte and works at a local church with the Children’s Ministries. Erin enjoys reading, writing, horseback riding, ceramics, the mountains, chocolate, the color purple, and people who stand up for what they believe in. She dislikes hot weather, bad ﬁction, tofu, and non-Crayola brand crayons. LINDSEY GREENWALD is a recent graduate of UNC Charlotte and former slave to Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine’s grueling demands, and has now slowly become accustomed to the quiet life that her newly discovered adulthood brings her. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a Minor in Art History under her belt, she enjoys catching up on all the things she has always wanted to do (but had no time for) such as scheduling daily nap times, chasing after ﬁremen, daydreaming about graduate school and reading or watching anything to do with Harry Potter. It was a pleasure for her to be a small part to the process of putting this magazine together and looks forward to having the opportunity to do it again in the future.
Art Jurors KRISTIN ROTHROCK received her Master of Fine Art degree in Graphics from the University of Wisconsin— Madison in 1998. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Studio Art from Skidmore College in 1990. Currently she teaches Foundations at UNC Charlotte. She continues to pursue her art, exhibiting locally and nationally. MALENA BERGMANN, a member of the faculty in the Department of Art at UNC Charlotte, completed her M.F.A. in Painting/Drawing at the University of Florida in 1992. Previously, she studied both painting and Russian language at UNC Greensboro and The Russian School at Norwich University in Northﬁeld, Vermont. She had been teaching art at the university level for seventeen years in Florida, Texas, and both of the Carolinas. Although she was trained as a two dimensional artist, Malena has been making three dimensional work for several years, and received an ASC grant to begin a body of small scale kinetic sculptures. She has shown regionally and nationally since 1989 and is currently at work on a new series of sculptural pieces combining found objects with sound, motion, and light. LOUANN LAMB has a split position at UNC Charlotte as graphics adviser for Student Media Publications and Marketing and Graphics Coordinator for Student Affairs. Before coming to work at her alma mater — UNC Charlotte class of 1990 — LouAnn worked in the promotional advertising industry as a copy writer and graphic artist and as a feature writer for local lifestyle magazines. She continues to freelance for corporate and non-proﬁt clients.
Lit Jurors MYRA A. H. PERRY has been teaching writing at UNC Charlotte for ﬁve years. She has written poems for her family album and currently composes Lifeline devotionals for her church’s website. One author she admires is Garrison Keillor, who performs his humorous and sentimental creations on “The Prairie Home Companion” broadcast on National Public Radio.
JULIE TOWNSEND is a published short-story author and a previous First Place Winner of Creative Loaﬁng’s Short Story Contest.
Art Contributors CHAD BLEVINS is currently a sophomore at UNC Charlotte pursuing his BA in Art but hopes to pursue his BFA in Graphic Design. Art has always been a way to escape the world around him and deal with his own manic ideas. Currently, he lives at home with his family, two cats and a wardrobe void of any color. LUKE H. BUMGARNER is currently completing his BFA in Photography with a Minor in Art History at UNC Charlotte. His photographic methods range from alternative processes to standard silver gelatin prints. He enjoys traveling and experiencing different cultures and ideas. His work is not bound to any particular subject matter. He utilizes a solipsistic approach when creating his images. JESSICA MURPHY is currently a senior BFA student in Timed Arts/Photography in the department of Art at UNC Charlotte. Her artwork is hard to ﬁt into a single category because it is all over the place, just as she is in real life. She also dreams of going to graduate school but this is contingent upon winning the lottery or becoming rich and famous from her art. SANG-MI PARK came to America to study abroad. She is in her second year at UNC Charlotte. She is very interested in art, especially in drawing. She likes to draw portraits. “Art is a life.” WILLIAM UMBERGER is a non-traditional student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Art with Teacher Licensure. Bill is currently a junior working on studio concentrations in painting and ceramics. ANDREA WHITE’s work conceptualizes ephemeral stages of her life, addressing subjects such as sexuality and the physical appearance of body and earth. Through her artwork, she is able to cope with on-going situations in different areas of her life. Studies of pure beauty give her reason to breathe, along with her love for God. LUIS ZEPEDA is a junior Art Major at UNC Charlotte. He recently decided to concentrate in painting. He paints in order to communicate with others, trying to form a language by using expressive brushstrokes and strong, bright and vivid colors. He’s always enjoyed art throughout his life, but it feels like just recently his passion has taken over his drive to paint, paint and paint. also: JANELLE GOODRICH
Lit Contributors SHANNON BARRINGER has an obsession with dressing up in fake beards. This has nothing to do with poetry. The ﬁrst poet she remembers falling in love with is ee cummings. Currently, she enjoys Gertrude Stein, Frank O’ Hara, and Louise Gluck. Her own writing is discursive, and tonally focused. Presently, Miss Barringer is a senior at UNC Charlotte. She will spend her next and ﬁnal semester in France. She’s quite excited. BRANDON BOWLIN likes you to call him “Brando” when you see him. You will know him as someone sleeping in the next room, and he you, as an unnamed angel awaiting the name-tag in his front pocket whose unlatched pin pricks his thigh with every stride. GLADYS JUSTIN CARR is a former Nicholson fellow at Smith and University Fellow at Cornell. She was a publishing executive with McGraw-Hill and HarperCollins book publishers. Now writing full time, she lives and works in New York City, East Hampton, and the Gulf Coast of Florida. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in West Coast Review, Buckle &, Mudﬁsh, Trace, The New York Times, Bartlett’s Unfamiliar Quotations, and North Atlantic Review. ANDRIA CRAIG is a senior at UNC Charlotte. Many of her English classes outside the required classes have centered around creative writing, speciﬁcally poetry, and linguistics. However, her primary Major is Spanish. She hopes to use her passion for the language and her study abroad experiences as sources of inspiration for her creative writing work. DIANE SHIPLEY DECILLIS is a graduate of University of Michigan. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New York Magazine, The William And Mary Review, The MacGufﬁn, Conﬂuence, Eclipse, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Heartlands, Nimrod, Gargoyle, Poet Lore, Puerto del Sol, Rattle, Slipstream, The South Carolina Review, South Dakota Review, Sulphur River Literary Review, Apalachee Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, and Full Circle Journal. She owns an award-winning art gallery in Southﬁeld, Michigan and is co-editing an anthology of poetry on the Mona Lisa in honor of the painting’s 500th anniversary. KATIE FERRELL is a third year M.F.A. student in ﬁction. Her primary interest is in representing working class families and examining stereotypes. Her story “Homecoming” appeared in Illuminations.
ARTHUR GOTTLIEB is an Oregon poet whose work has appeared in most small literary magazines, including The Ladge, Chiron Review, The Alembic, The Paciﬁc Review, Lullwater Review & many others. SEANA GRAHAM is a longtime bookseller, working in a large independent bookstore in Santa Cruz, California. She has been writing stories seriously and steadily for the past 12 years. Recently, she has focused more of her time and energy on writing novels, but the short story form still intrigues her and seems a good balance to these longer pieces. CHRISTINE KRAVETZ was an attorney litigating on behalf of the disabled before she started writing. She earned an MFA in Fiction from Bennington College. For the last ﬁve years, she has taught poetry through the nonproﬁt organization, California Poets in the Schools, and through a local school, The Santa Barbara Music and Arts Academy. She works with students grades K-12. At present, she primarily writes poetry. Prior to that she wrote ﬁction, creative nonﬁction, and essays. In 1998 her memoir, In The Names Of My Fathers, was represented by literary agent, Rhoda Weyr. She also had a short story, Margie, published in the anthology I Thought My Father Was God, edited by Paul Auster. SCHUBERT MOORE was pleased to ﬁnd that he will be published next issue in Long Island University’s Confrontation and has placed in the Oregon State Poetry Association’s annual contest. He has an MA in English and taught in three colleges in and around the Portland area. MELISSA PALMER has previously published poetry and academic literature focusing on the role of women in medieval literature. She was featured poet in Chavez and Poetry Motel. Her poetry has been published by J. Mark Press and University Editions, 1998. She has been invited twice to share her work at the New Jersey College Association Conference on the poetry panel. She did research on Constructions of Widowhood and Virginity by Dr. Angela Jane Weisl, published by St. Martin’s Press and has worked on Arden’s Shakespeare Online project, preparing the sonnets section. KATHRYN RIDALL is a psychotherapist and university instructor who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. As a member of the Marin Poetry Center, she reads with their summer traveling show. Her work will appear in the Marin Poetry Center 2005 anthology. The psychological themes in her poetry grow from her years as a psychotherapist.
ARLENE SANDERS won Honorable Mentions in the 2005 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition and the E.M. Koeppel 2005 Short Fiction Awards. She was a ﬁnalist in the Future Writers–USA Annual Short Story Competition. She won First Place for “The Arrival” in ByLine’s NewTalent Short Story Contest; “The Companion” won a Special Honorable Mention and “Cabbage Roses” won an Honorable Mention in the same competition. ELLEN SULLINS was raised on a farm in Missouri, and now lives in Tucson, Arizona. She has a Master’s degree in Counseling and a PhD in Social Psychology. For ﬁfteen years, she was a university professor and researcher. Now retired, she is a practicing psychotherapist. She is currently studying with Eleanor Kedney of the The Writer’s Studio, Tucson. Her work has appeared in Byline Magazine, laughing dog: strictly poetry, Sandcutters, and The Moon. CALEY TERRILL began writing poetry seriously when she returned from a month’s travels in Australia to Maui, Hawaii where she lived for 15 months. She then moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to live with her brother where she continues to pursue her interests in music-making, artcreating and creative writing. RYAN G. VAN CLEAVE’s work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Ploughshares, and TriQuarterly. His most recent books include a poetry collection, Imagine the Dawn: The Civil War Sonnets (Word Press, 2005), and a creative writing textbook, Contemporary American Poetry: Behind the Scenes (Allyn & Bacon/Longman, 2003). He lives in South Carolina and serves as Poetry Editor for The South Carolina Review. RANDY L. WHITE received a Bachelor’s in English from UNC Charlotte in 2002. Currently, he is working on a Master’s in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. He plans to graduate in 2006. He has had articles published in The University Times and The Fall Survivor Guide. KELLY BRADLEY WISDOM is a writer/dancer who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in English at UNC Charlotte. She lives in Mooresville with her husband, stepson, and a bunch of cats and dogs. BRANDON WRIGHT is a senior at UNC Charlotte. He enjoys reading William Carlos Williams, Charles Bukowski, and Bret Easton Ellis. Brandon’s poems contain underlying themes of isolation, motion, sensuality, and art. After graduating Brandon plans to pursue writing, traveling, and further education. also: SHERYL L. NELMS
Special Thanks... LOUANN LAMB For all of your encouragement and wisdom. You hold our ofﬁce together. WAYNE MAIKRANZ For helping us with all of the technicalities we don’t completely understand. MARK HAIRE For making sure our monetary demands are met...sort of. MICHAEL KERR For being our helpful and imaginative muse. JURORS For your willingness to assist us in the laborious task of accepting submissions. CONTRIBUTORS Without all of your work and dedication, the magazine would not exist. DAVIDSON COLLEGE and UNC CHARLOTTE For your cooperation in allowing us to utilize your beautiful theaters: the Duke Family Performace Hall and Robinson Hall, respectively. WADE BRUTON For taking the time to contribute your talented photography and for your general hospitality.
Copyright © 2006 Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine and the Student Media Board of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Printed by Deluxe Printing Group, Hickory, North Carolina. 3000 copies of Sanskrit LiteraryArts Magazine were printed on 80 lb. Utopia Blue White Matte. Cover stock is 100 lb. Utopia Blue White Matte. The magazine contains 64 pages with a trim size of 8.5 by 11 inches. Produced on Power Macintosh G4 computers running OS X version 10.3, using Epson Perfection 1200 and Epson Perfection 3200 Photo scanners, Adobe InDesign CS, Adobe Photoshop CS, and Adobe Illustrator CS. Most body type is 10 point Optima. Titles are in 30 point Optima and 28 point Script 33. Other fonts used: BaRrettIronwork, Caxton, Cooper Black, Enya, Gill Sans, ITC Clearface, ITC Lubalin Graph. Cover design by Denise Anetrella. Illustrations for Knickers and Red Suspenders by Samantha Webster. Illustrations for Chickens by Denise Anetrella. Illustrations for A Baseball Story by Debbie Archer. Illustrations for Going for Donuts by Melanie Jansen. Art pages designed by Denise Anetrella and Samantha Webster. Poetry pages designed by Denise Anetrella and Melanie Jansen. Photos courtesy of Wade Bruton: UNC Charlotte photographer, Debbie Archer, Photos.com, iStockphoto.com, SXC.hu and www.forbidden—ﬁre.net/brushes.
Stage Hands Editor in Chief, DENISE ANETRELLA, is a junior BFA student in graphic design. Her aspirations are sketchy at best. However, she does know the following: this magazine has been her passion for the past three years; life without laughter is dull; and ﬁnding someone who can make you smile in any situation is a treasure.
Associate Editor, SAMANTHA WEBSTER, is: sunglasses, bright colors, music, drawing, writing, white girl fro, ﬂamboyance. Her southern accent makes her lovely self even more special and complete. As an art major, Sanskrit will always be her one love. Most of her days and occasional long nights are spent at the ofﬁce’s design computer enjoying a song called “Sahm,” sung by her friends for late night excitement.
Content Coordinator, DEBBIE ARCHER, is truly a renaissance woman in every sense of the phrase. She graduates next year with a degree in biology, but loves Sanskrit so much that she is sacriﬁcing her time and money to come back for a second degree in art. Her hobbies include photography, building lamps and other metal treasures, and sword ﬁghting with PVC pipes. We often speculate whether she is Canadian.
Promotions Coordinator, KIRSTEN MARTIN, is technically a junior in a freshman’s body, but what she lacks in experience, she makes up for with uncanny wit and an eccentric nature. Her college wanderings are leading her down a path toward a career in psychology; she has already begun the process of searching Goodwills across the nation for the perfect pair of glasses.
Design Coordinator, MELANIE JANSEN, has a knack for the incomprehensible. Though frequently misinterpreted, her (ahh) unrestrained imagination brings unmatched skill and excitement to the magazine and our lives. Majoring in art, her talent will not go untapped.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte