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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ASSISTANT EDITORS-IN-CHIEF

Kelsey DuQuaine Beth Heidtke, Tess Warner

EVENTS COORDINATOR

Beth Heidtke

LAYOUT EDITOR

Jake Jenkins

CREATIVE EDITOR MANAGING EDITOR CHIEF COPYEDITORS

Matt Vanden Boomen Katie Simson Kelsey Brown, Doug Larscheid

FICTION EDITOR

Clarice Tuinstra

POETRY EDITOR

Samantha Gibson

NONFICTION EDITOR

Karlee Vanlaanen

VISUAL ARTS EDITOR

Jentzen Ostman

FICTION STAFF

Angel Campbell, Zac Gholston, Krista Jaeger, Jen Kraft, Jordan Preman

POETRY STAFF

Doug Larscheid, Samantha Severson, Katie Simson, Kerrie Sutton, Corbin Walsh

NONFICTION STAFF

Justin Biese, Cindy Cooper, Tracy Haack Taylor Hilgart, Rachel Klika, Shawn Kressin, Julia Maack, Andrea Reisenauer

VISUAL ARTS STAFF

Alyssa Burke, Jessy Jozwiak, Amanda Kennedy, Emma Kunkel, Caleb Poole

ADVISOR

Dr. Chuck Rybak


08 32 64 102 FICTION

NONFICTION

POETRY

VISUAL ARTS


dear reader Starting off as the new Editor-in-Chief of the Sheepshead Review this semester was, to be perfectly honest, a little scary. Our longtime advisor, Dr. Rebecca Meacham, started her sabbatical this summer, leaving her colleague (and husband) Dr. Chuck Rybak in her stead. I had no fear that Dr. Rybak would come in and expect perfection or enact sweeping changes to the system I had grown familiar with through my previous semesters on the journal. Still, there was a decent amount of uncertainty to how things were going to work. Would we just go on as normal? Would we be able to get a journal out as if nothing had changed? Of course, the shift in advising for our organization was not the only change we dealt with this semester. Many of our upper-level editors graduated this past spring, and much of last semester’s staff simply could not fit the Sheepshead Review into their schedules. This left us searching for people to replace the talents we lost. We were immensely lucky to cobble together such a dedicated and creative group of people in our Fall 2012 staff, and it is because of them that you are holding this journal in your hands. That is not to say that it was smooth sailing once we got going, however. It is indeed true that we experience the phenomenon of an almost entirely new staff each semester thanks to our status as an undergraduate journal. However, this semester was even more challenging as our staff was full of people who were entirely new to the responsibilities that were handed to them. Between our own classes, our jobs, and our other campus organizations, we all learned how to produce a high quality arts journal from new perspectives. The few returning staff members were all in entirely new positions on the journal, and the rest had never been on the staff of a journal before at all. As former genre editors turned to layout and new staff members tried to make sense of the journal-making process, we were all seeing the journal with new eyes. While every semester is a learning experience on the Sheepshead Review staff, this semester’s challenges were increased exponentially thanks to the overall novelty of our individual approaches to getting the journal to press.


I am proud to say that our journal, thanks to our dedicated staff of students and our fantastic advisor, has not only found its way from our hands to yours, but has exceeded our expectations overall. The journal itself is gorgeous and innovative when compared to past issues, and the content is spectacular and student-led. This Fall 2012 issue showcases experimental and exciting fiction, heartfelt and personal nonfiction, innovative and striking poetry, and visual arts that reflect the studied eyes of their artists. This semester’s content has been a joy to review and we are thrilled to showcase the talents of UW-Green Bay’s students as well as artists and authors from across the world. I hope you enjoy this Fall 2012 issue of the Sheepshead Review as much as we have. I could not be prouder of the work we have done to get this journal into your hands. The Sheepshead Review is our staff’s pride and joy, and I cannot wait until we get to show it off to the world! Thank you for reading,

Kelsey DuQuaine Editor-in-Chief

thank you

UW-Green Bay Dr. Chuck Rybak Dr. Rebecca Meacham SUFAC Bea Yang Nancy Matzke John Landrum Common Grounds CupCake Bakeshop Dr. Stefan Hall Phoenix Bookstore


The Last Farmland in the Country Up or Down The Wayward and the Comfortable The Iron Skillet

10 18 21 25

Joe Baumann Cole Heyn Conrad Kamschulte Sarah Overland


F

The Last farmland in the country JOE BAUMANN Holland Menners wasn’t scared when he pulled the barn door open and saw his wife standing there in the yard with the shotgun aimed at him. He raised his hands, palms up, then let them fall to his sides as he sighed and muttered to himself, “For fuck’s sake, Lori—” Before he could finish saying her name, Lori Ann pulled the trigger, the blast of the gun sent the horse in the yard running toward the other end of the corral, and Holland Menners fell backward. When he woke up, Holland couldn’t open his right eye. He felt no pain, just a


baumann | the last farmland in the country

throbbing freezing feeling in his skin. When he reached up a hand, he felt dozens of tiny cuts in his lips and cheek, the skin torn and grated by the birdshot embedded in his flesh. His fingers patted at the puffy mess of his shut eye, soft and squishy like some gruesome pastry. Holland tried to smile, and he laughed as he hacked up a wad of coagulating blood. Of course it was birdshot, he thought to himself. He shook his head, and felt the start of a small wave of pain. Of course Lori Ann wouldn’t check the shells. Breathing through his nose, Holland winced as the air agitated the pellets stuck in his nostrils. He could smell smoke through the open door, though he could see that the air was clear. He shook his head again and stared at the bare rafters of the barn. The fires were getting closer. Soon enough they’ll come for the farm, he thought. He shut his eye and took another deep breath, wondering what it would feel like to stand in the center of those flames as they consumed the corn, as they scorched the ground and licked at his unmoving feet. Holland felt some sweat spindle down his forehead, stinging the lacerations constellating his face. He heard footsteps and opened his left eye. The right eyelid remained closed, rigid and sealed over. Lori Ann appeared, hands on her hips, a dish towel in her clenched fist. “Lunch is ready.” She turned to go, then spun back toward Holland. “Clean yourself up before you come stomping around my kitchen, will ya?” Holland watched her disappear across the grassy yard separating the barn and the house. As he stood, stray bits of hay stuck to his palms and his foot slipped on a few pieces that he had shoveled into a messy pile that morning.

H

···

Holland looked up at Lori Ann when she set the sandwich down in front of him. Her mouth was drawn tight, and she glanced toward him, then down at the sandwich, then back at his ragged, cut mouth. She shrugged and sat down at the seat next to him at the square table in the center of the kitchen. “I told you if I had to write that damn letter for you, I’d shoot you in the face.” She slid a piece of paper that had been at the other end of the table toward Holland, shoving the plate aside as he reached down toward the sandwich, which she grabbed half of and took a large bite from. “Didn’t know you’d switched out the shells,” she

11


F said between chews. Holland glanced at the letter and shrugged. His face was throbbing. He stared at Lori Ann with his one good eye, who stared back. He watched her chew and swallow. “God dammit, Holland,” she said, tossing the sandwich back on the plate and grabbing up the paper. He watched her eyes as she read the letter, pupils flitting back and forth. She blinked a few times, lashes flicking. She looked at him. “I know you think these things are pointless, but we have to do something. We have to try something.” Lori Ann pushed back her chair and stood, tossing the letter back onto the table. “Just sign it, would you? Will you at least do that?” Holland reached for the sandwich, but Lori Ann swiped the plate from him. “After, Holland.” He exhaled and opened his mouth slowly, felt the cuts across his lips reopen. A dribble of blood tumbled down his chin, and he watched a few drops stain the white paper. He stared at them, then heard the plate Lori Ann was holding crash against the metal tub of the sink. “Oh God, Holland. Look.” He looked up: Lori Ann was staring out the window, mouth unhinged, lower lip protruding and tense. Holland ran his tongue over his own lips and tasted blood. He stood and stepped behind his wife. Through the window he could see a thick column of smoke rearing into the sky beyond the trees in the distance. “They’re really here, Holland,” she said. Her voice was quiet, pitching mid-sentence. He watched the cord of smoke as it billowed up and dissipated into the clouds, wondering how much his broken vision was distorting the smoldering dark vapor the fire was belching into the sky. Holland stared at the smoke as it spread into a wide curtain, stretching across the line of trees, flattening into a dark sheet. Holland looked down. Lori Ann’s hand was reaching back toward his. The pain in his face was growing, weltering up from a dull throb into dozens of tiny, fiery wasp stings. He looked at the side of Lori Ann’s face, could make out the shape of her nose and chin with his off-kilter vision. He could hear her shallow breathing and was aware of his own. She turned to look at him. He closed his good eye and shook his head, the pain waving over his skin like the heat from the fire that was closing in. Even if he’d been able to speak, he’d have had nothing to say. ···


baumann | the last farmland in the country

i

If he hadn’t already been awake, lying on his back so as not to put pressure on his face, the itching would have woken him up. He’d been staring at the ceiling, feeling the skin around his eye, which had started bruising and crusting over like a prune. Then his whole body was dry as sandpaper, an intense prickly feeling crawling up and down his arms, the itch exploding across his chest. Holland pushed back the blanket and leapt out of bed. He heard Lori Ann roll over and cover her head with a pillow. He dug his fingernails into his arms as he stumbled out of the bedroom and down the hall. In the dark, he couldn’t see the trail he was leaving, but he felt skin flaking off in waves, marking his path to the kitchen. He stumbled past the table, knocked into one of the chairs, and reached to turn on the light, rubbing his hands over his arms and chest all the way. When he found the light switch and flicked it, the brightness stung his one good eye. “What the hell are you doing, Holland?” He spun around. Lori Ann was standing in the doorway, staring at him. “What the hell is going on?” Holland swallowed and bit his lip. While he scratched it with his left hand, he ran his right hand over the surface of the table. He looked out the window. He couldn’t separate the darkness of the night from the black smoke. Even though the fire had burned itself out hours before, the smell of charred, smoldering wheat and grass filled his nostrils. Holland’s gaze fell back into the kitchen. He put both hands on the table and looked toward Lori Ann, whose eyes were still wide, dark pools threatening to swallow him. His arms were shaking, itching. Screaming. “What is wrong with you?” She crossed her arms. Holland looked around the room, then back at Lori Ann, whose gaze hadn’t left him. Couldn’t she see it? Everything was covered. The floor, the table, the chairs: all strewn with bits of straw and hay.

t

···

The sound of Lori Ann knocking on the bathroom door surprised Holland, who was leaning over the sink, staring at himself. When he ran his fingers over his cheeks, they felt like burlap. The cuts scored into his skin from the bird shot had scabbed

13


F over, leaving crusty, hard bumps across his face. His lips were chapped and inelastic, the lacerations healing into inflexible scar tissue. “Holland,” he heard Lori Ann call through the door. “Come out here.” He opened the bathroom door. She stood there, hand on the handle of a suitcase. “You haven’t packed,” she said. Holland’s right eye had all but disappeared beneath a brown scab in the shape of a button. His vision had been skewed for days, but he’d adjusted to the warping sense of the space around him. So he could see the tears forming in her eyes. Holland started to open his mouth and felt the scabs in his cheeks and on his lips resist, threatening to tear and bleed again. He pressed his lips together. “Why are you doing this, Holland?” She crossed her arms and tapped her foot on the hardwood floor. Holland idly scratched his arm through the loose-fitting flannel shirt he was wearing. He could only wear flannel now. In anything else, the scratchy, itchy feeling was overwhelming. Everywhere he went, he left a trail of straw. Lori Ann refused to notice it or clean it up. It had started piling up in the hall, stuck in the corners of the bedroom, pools of it left behind when he got out of bed or stood up from the kitchen table. “They’ll be here soon, Holland. It’s only a matter of time.” He took a deep breath through his nose. He still had his nose. The burning, quixotic smell of engulfing flames was heavy in the air. For two days the odor of scorched earth had lingered in the drapes, the sheets, the water, the food. It seeped in through the open windows in the barn loft, hung in the kitchen while he and Lori Ann ate in silence. His bloodied letter was still sitting on the table, unsigned. “I’m sorry I shot you, Holland.” Lori Ann let out a sputter of a breath, a mix of a laugh and a sob, and tears started rolling down her cheeks. “What a thing to say.” She looked up at him, and for a moment Holland wanted to wipe her eyes, but he worried that his calloused, rough skin would scratch her. “You’re not coming with me, are you?” Holland shook his head. She reached up and touched his scarred cheek. The feel of another hand on his coarse skin was almost soothing, cool. He hadn’t been cool for days, and the throbbing in his cheeks tempered. He let her hand creep up his face, past his disfigured eye, linger on his forehead, before running through his brittle, crisp hair. When she touched it he could almost hear it crack and snap. “Could we have done anything?” she asked, looking him in the one eye he had


baumann | the last farmland in the country

left. He could tell she didn’t expect him to answer. “Goodbye, Holland.” She turned from him, and he watched her walk out of the bedroom, resting his hands on either side of the door frame. He stared toward the hallway even though he could no longer see her, and he listened for the sound of the door closing. Even after he heard it thump shut, Holland stood there, staring at the empty space before him.

h

···

He could no longer smell the smoke in the air, or the hay stacked in the barn, or the muddy manure in the pasture. Holland sat with his head in his hands. His fingers had all but disappeared, tufts of straw and the nubs of arms poking out through the sleeves of his shirt. He had willed them not to, had stared at them for hours, asking, praying for them to stop receding, to stop shrinking back. He tried to cry, willed himself to tears, but nothing came. Barely able to see, he kicked his bare foot—his boots had become too heavy for his legs to support—at the barn floor, spraying hay across the ground. Holland heard the cawing of a small cluster of birds perched on the window sill of the loft. They’d been there for two days now, just sitting there, staring at him. When he stumbled across the yard, holding a hat down on his head to stunt the discomforting feeling of his hair being blustered about and yanked out by the wind, they followed him, hovering and squawking, some of them diving toward his arms and forcing him to wave them away. When he entered the empty house, they waited for him to come back outside, perched on the rail of the front porch. When he finally dragged himself from the barn, the letter was waiting for him, tossed toward the door like some discarded newspaper. The birds stared at him from the rail. He didn’t bother bending down to pick the letter up; he didn’t need to open it to know who it was from or what it said. Two days to pack up any personal belongings and leave. After that, if you were still there, they weren’t responsible for what might happen to you. He left the letter where it was. Holland stood there for a moment and looked across the street. Just yesterday, the neighboring field had been torched, and Holland had watched the flames lick and beckon toward him, pointing and flicking as if to say, “Soon. Soon we will be there.” The heat they gave off wasn’t as intense as he’d expected, didn’t burn like he’d hoped.

15


F The birds, despite the crackling heat, had stared at him as he watched. Now, as he looked over at the dark, rotting field, one of them flew over and perched on his shoulder. When he didn’t resist and just kept staring with his hazy, dimming vision, another bird, and then another and another, fluttered over to him, digging claws into his soft skin, gripping his bones and looking out at the field with him. He was the only one who could hear the swish of their dark feathers.

h

···

He was standing in the barn when it happened. He’d been there all morning, waiting for the fire. He wanted to see it start, wanted to know how they did it. Was it one person that set flame to the brittle, dusty corn stalks, some nameless soldier who would, with a trembling hand, toss a torch into the field? Or someone important, someone Holland might recognize, or at least some colonel or general? At whose hand would his home disappear? And would they set it in the middle of one of the fields, or on the edge? Would they stick around to make sure everything was burned up, or would they slink away, disappear before it was finished? Holland would never know, because as he stood there, holding his body up with a pitchfork while the birds swarmed in the loft, everything went dark. His vision had been dim, fuzzy as though he’d been squinting out of his one eye, and all of a sudden even that was snuffed out. For a moment he just stood there in the singular darkness, listening to the birds flapping and chirping above. Their number had increased. He wasn’t sure what they would eat when the crops were gone. Dropping the pitchfork, Holland reached up and ran his hand over the spots where his eyes had been. They’d disappeared beneath thick calluses, hard and impenetrable. He could barely feel the pressure of his fingers on his face. Holland took a step forward and caught his leg on one of the pitchfork’s extended teeth. He tried to steady himself, but he tripped and fell forward, arms out in front of him. As he fell, Holland managed to turn himself, and, leading with his shoulder, landed in the pile of hay. He felt a crunch, but no pain, and he managed to roll onto his back. A strange melting sensation overcame him, like water dripping off his skin, and he felt his head and arms, everything not protected by his flannel shirt, sinking into the hay. He heard the birds stir, and then felt one of them, then a second, third, the whole


baumann | the last farmland in the country

flock, pour down from the loft and land on the disordered pile. He felt them crawl over his shirt and peck at its buttons. They waddled toward his face, flapping their wings and cooing over him. They started tearing at the fabric, dragging the shirt apart in their beaks. When the flannel finally gave, hay and straw spilled out like viscera, spreading into the pile. And then, when Holland tried to lift his arms to shoo them away, a new sensation: not only could he not lift them, he couldn’t find his own arms. He felt hay all around him, in him, dragging him down into itself, but he could not locate his arms and legs. He couldn’t feel them, couldn’t move. He couldn’t do anything. Holland Menners realized then that he couldn’t feel his own heart beat. His own chest had melted into the hay. The only sound was the pattering of the birds’ wings. Then came a loud whoosh, and the birds flew up away from him, cawing and screeching, and Holland knew, without seeing or smelling it, that the flames had come. Somewhere not far off, his farm was being set on fire. Why couldn’t he taste the crisp burning in the air? Holland laid there for a while, knowing he could do nothing else. He could hear the popping of the fire, the vacuum of heat as it pulled oxygen from the air and he knew it was spreading across his fields, and that it would arrive at the barn in only a few minutes now. Staring toward the ceiling, imagining his transformed face smiling up at the rafters and the birds, unable to flex, unable to move, his body lost among the disarray of hay and straw, Holland wanted to close his eyes, wanted to inhale and feel the sharp smell of ash and smoke in his sinuses and lungs. He wanted to be out in the field, standing among his defenseless crops, putting up some show of defiance. But he could do nothing. He could only lie there, the remains of a flaccid flannel shirt the only evidence of his body, the only remainder of a life going up in flames, and wait for the fire to come. •

17


F

Up or Down COLE HEYN

The old man heard, just then, the unmistakable sound of youth: understory being swatted and snapped, careless footfalls, and the probable rattle of a big streamer— like the kind he had sworn by as a youngster—against a carbon-fiber rod. A ways back from the stream a young man bounded towards the old man, without knowing he was there. The young man moved quickly down the winding trail to the water, breaking branches and silence as he drew nearer the old man. The old man let out a sigh of indefinable sentiment as the inevitable encounter with the young man became impossible to avoid; he just couldn’t move fast enough. The old man stared blankly at the gliding surface of the stream as the young man arrived just a yard or two down the bank, whistling when he saw the crystalline water. “Helluva day, huh?” the young man said, as he glanced upstream and down, as if crossing a busy street. He paid little mind to the old man standing uneasily beside him, just upstream. “Sure thing. . .” the old man replied, knowing that a silent argument was about to unfold: who goes up, and who goes down? Earlier that morning—earlier than the young man—the old man had stumbled through the birch, then the alder, toward the river. He had been there a thousand times, on that stretch of river. He had thought about a few of those thousand times he had stood at this very bend, letting the wind carry away his troubles up out of the ravine. His old bones were achy now, but the feel of the old cork grip and subtle wobble of his bamboo rod seemed to dull the pain of old age considerably. He took a few more steps toward the river, the stream-side boulders making the descent uneasy. Which way today? the old man asked himself, his thought drowned out by the whisper of poplars. He settled his weary eyes on the glaring surface of the Onion River trying not to concede to the thought that the young man held the answer to his question.


heyn | up or down

The Onion River is a sinuous stream, which often doubles back to see where it has been; the land it drains is unremarkable, working land, but by some act of God— or volunteer work—the Onion holds trout. The old man had seen the river grow. Hell, he had helped build it to what it is, and in his old age took pride in the good he had done. The old man knew the Onion well, as an old friend. Upstream from where the two men stood was a meadow, of the postcard variety, with the Onion winding into the distant tree line, and cattle gazing quizzically from atop a cobblestone bridge. The trout in this particular reach grew fat each autumn on well fed grasshoppers, and the old man knew each of them by name. It was easy walking too, which carried more weight in the old man’s mind than anything else this day. Downstream from where the two anglers stood the river got wild, crashing through thickets of wild rose—the kind that’ll cut you to pieces—and over boulders the size of headstones. It was a hard stretch of the Onion to fish, and even harder to wade. The trout in this particular segment of the Onion were lean and small, suited to slicing through the brawling current. Both men knew it. “That’s a nice lookn’ rod y’have there, young man,” said the old man, breaking the silence. He lifted a shaky hand to point at the carbon-fiber rod, with a big streamer dangling from the hook keeper. Figured. “Thanks,” responded the young man, almost dismissively, as he looked toward the meadow upstream, thoughts swirling like the rise-form of a big brown. The old man nodded and looked down at his own rod. Clasped in his aging hands was a work of art, a bamboo split-cane rod he had handbuilt long ago. As the old timer examined his rod he thought to himself, the trout don’t know no damn diff’ernce. The young man, eager as he seemed, broke the pensive silence with a question that left them both reeling, “You headed up or down?” The silence that followed was more biting than stepping balls-deep into the frigid flow. The old man knew the young man’s angle; he knew they were both already cutting the wet-flies from their tippets in their minds, and double-hitching hoppers to the ends of their leaders. The old man paused as long as he knew how, knowing that if he resigned to a downstream course his day was done. He came back at the youngster—whose carelessness the old man rather admired—with, “I don’t much know boy. . .what’re you fixin’ to do?” He played his hand as best he could, hoping the young man could sense his weariness, and concede to giving the old dog one last shot at the trout he knew by name.

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F The young man stood a moment, mulling over his decision whether or not to pounce on what flowed toward him, risking humility on the selfish impulse. Like a trout in his feeding lie, the old man thought. “Well,” said the young man, “I was thinking about wetting a line up at the meadow. There seems to be a lot of hoppers around.” “Sure thing. . .” mumbled the old man, an expression of dejection and self-pity washing over his leathery face. The young man knew exactly what he had done. The old man could see it in his inexperienced eyes. He turned downstream, took a few faltering steps, and looked back over his shoulder to say, “Good lu—" “Hey, old timer,” the young man interrupted, “what’d’ya say we fish the meadow together?” The old man smiled, the cracks in his worn face deepening as he turned to face the young man. “Sure thing, boy, sure thing.” Relief rushed through his soul, and gratitude filled his chest. Like the swelling of the stream after a good spring rain, it washed the debris of old age from his tired body. The old man retraced his last few steps back toward the meadow. It had been a long time since he had fished with another man; all his old fishing buddies were in the dirt, beneath headstones the size of boulders, surrounded by wild roses, the kind that would cut you to pieces. •


21

The Wayward and the Comfortable CONRAD KAMSCHULTE Perfect. It was absolutely perfect. It was: streamlined and uninhibited, glossy and not to be jeopardized, just like the night sky that the tool would be observing. The divine, pinnacle, and quintessential instrument of an astronomical telescope, and it was all his to use. “Never you mind the cost,” father chimed, “worries cheapen the joy. You have earned it, my sparkling prodigy! You are a strapping, junior genius in the making.” Young master Benedict Hollows chimed just as hard as his dear old pa. The celestial bodies were no longer safe from his prying eyes! He could gaze at the birth of stars, those gorgeous demigods of brimming energy. He was free to peep at the distant


F planets as they orbited in the darkened fields. Suns were in sight, comets could be stopped on their paths, and. . .and. . .hell! It was all there for him! Benedict Hollows had access to the heavens, and by god he was going to abuse the shit out of that pass. MAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAY The OV-111 Idaho, apple of NASA’s eye and the public’s pride and joy, vibrates into bizarre monstrosities. A routine round-trip rocket race to the moon and back before tea is served! That is all it was supposed to be and yet, in a most spectacular way, it has wobbled and bobbled into a million fractured miniature fiascos. What a dilemma, to have unwillingly wandered into the path of a malicious black hole. What are the odds? There is no time to calculate it. The cadet bleats, “Oh captain, oh captain! What path can we take to avoid a gruesome fate?” The captain speaks not, for a wise man knows when to still his tongue. It was the cadets’ first exploration in motion, and the kinetic flow halted so soon? The gravity has clutched its nasty little claws onto the hull, like an osprey upon its ichthyic victim. The hooks snagged them, and the maw has begun reeling them in. “Nothing we can do, son. Brace for the unknown, brace for the eternal, brace for the suffering, and brace for the bliss. Expect the beginning, expect the final, expect Dis’s fires, and expect Mother’s kiss.” Cadet H held Ensign F. Lieutenant J held Cadet T. Captain stood still. The black hole had them, and the black hole did not treat guests well. Andittorethemtoshredsanditbrokethemintwoanditstretchedthemapart The OV-111 Idaho, apple of NASA’s eye and the public’s pride and joy, vibrates into bizarre monstrosities. . . Happy Wednesday! Bananas and toast accompanied by corn-based cereal with milk. Oh, and a hot cup of tea and sugar resting alongside the tray to boot! If how to construct the ultimate breakfast was a school, then you can rest assured that Mr. Benedict Hollows was top percentage of his graduating class. You need not utilize your imagination, for Mr. Hollows, entering his fourth decade of a vibrant and colorful life, has championed any educational establishment by its bricks. High marks and


kamschulte | the wayward and the comfortable 23

high achievements, followed by high expectations. An energetic stateside cosmonaut, embarking in two days, for the first time, to the pitch black, white-splattered canvas he had gazed at as a prodigal child. Crunch on toast and then munch on nanas, with even thoughts lost in daydreams. The final step is to be taken until his goal is realized. Ben could feel the swelling. He could feel the need for a deep desire to burst inside of him, even if it would kill him. A smile beckoned to him and it graced the world. Sincerity bludgeons him too much. KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK Peculiar. . .now who could that be at this hour? Without the posthaste, he jogs over to open the door. Is it a package or a visitor? Neither. An astronaut, fully garbed in the white, angel domain, traveling suit, stood before our Benedict. Flabbergasted, gobsmacked, plain old speechless he is. A darker-than-space visor meets a human eye; the reflections bounce off each other infinitely. There they met: the wayward and the comfortable. The opposite ends eyed each other ostentatiously. Through a muffled and crackling radio, the astronaut spoke: “Sense is often thrown out of the window, isn’t it? We’re the embodiment of that belief. The quintessential sincere apology cannot redeem what I am to do, but. . .I truly am sorry.” Questions were to be asked but they never got to leave the brain, never mind the mouth. The speed of the act was the marvel, not the nature of it. An analysis deemed it impossible, yet it was achieved. Brick, meet your new good friend named Benedict’s temple. Meet him again. Why not again? Why not one more time, just for good measure. The offending space traveler struck with malcontent, gloriously, and if to rectify. Red liquid coated the outer edges of the dislodged cornerstone, and it gladly glistened in the golden morn. Specks of the good stuff rested amongst the dew. Benny fell, the brick tumbled, and the astronaut collapsed. The universe sort of did the same. How unfortunate, judging on the twisted planning and courtesy of the creator, for the OV-111. Much to their dismay and horror, they discovered that plunging into the gravitational abyss wasn’t their finale. As it turns out, the fabrics that unite the universes, parallel and canonical, are prone to interdimensional, spatiotemporal


F spasms resulting in the ability shift into different time streams. Theoretically, if one was to stumble upon the correct wormhole, you could travel to any point that existed or will exist. Perhaps even to safety? Nope! Not the case for OV-111, sadly. Innocents cursed to be tortured sevenfold perpetually, the crew had been warped to the point where, in exactly half a minute, they were about to enter the black hole. Soul crushing according to their malfunctioning and recovering minds, coping was nary an option for the lost souls of the star ocean. They remembered everything and more. They remembered their bones snapping, pouring marrow into their blood which filled their eyes that condensed and popped and burst as they screamed from their lungs which filled up with their own stomach acid scalding their skin which was torn into trillions of bloody individual particles. They remembered the sheer amount of agonizing, body annihilating, gut-wrenching pain over the past 50 times they relived it. “Negatory, Captain!” cried Cadet H. “The maw shall masticate me no more. Death would be too good of a relief, than a life of suffering.” Perplexed and dumbfounded, the crew remained stunned in disbelief by the tearing defiance. “I never thought I fought space, but rather merge.” Hesitation thrown out of the window, Cadet H fled into yonder air lock. Button activated, decompression regulated, ejection obligated. He rested amongst the stars. Yet the maw still had him. Inescapable as it was, H merely prayed for the Reaper to sweep him off his feet. But then, he slinked his way back into the darkness of the universe’s mouth. No repeats, they say. Cadet H escaped the endless cycle of disparity. Rather, he found himself in front of his home. Good ol’ home, he remembers how he left it to embark on his first mission just that one Friday. Relieved, he began to take his final steps. But hark! What waited underfoot? A newspaper…dated Wednesday…two days before his first mission. The sum was never to change, unless the equation was altered; the sentence forever an ongoing palindrome, unless the words were dropped. Cadet H, hasty and rash, spied a dislodged stone. KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. And there they met: the wayward and the comfortable. •


25

the iron skillet SARAH OVERLAND When I was a girl, I was proud of my slender ankles and wrists, the only body parts decent young ladies showed off in public. Later I would realize how silly it was to be vain about weak joints, no matter how shapely. Later I would look at my limbs in the mirror and see a puny stick-person. Back then, though, I joyfully hemmed my best dresses to mid-calf. I strapped on my dancing heels every chance I got, elevating my height to a half-inch shy of five feet. Oh, how I loved to go dancing. When he was courting me, my husband took me to the dancehall whenever a new band came through town. By the end of the evening, he would be slouched and slurring in the corner while I twirled around the dance floor with his cousins. He had a whole mess of cousins, being Irish Catholic. My mother spat out the words, “So you’re going out with that—Irish boy—again,” in the same hiss she usually saved for "filthy mouth" or "spoiled brat." She wanted me to marry a French Catholic, or a German Catholic, or even a Polish Catholic, if it came to that. On my mother’s grand list of acceptable sons-in-law, the only thing worse than an Irish Catholic was maybe a Lutheran, and that was a close call. “Yes, Mamma, I’m going dancing with Martin. His name is Martin Maguire. He has a good job, Mamma. He’s decent.” “Edna,” she sighed deep and shook her head (my stupidity knew no bounds and her patience was stretched), “He’s a drunk. Just like the rest of them.” She was washing the breakfast dishes, up to her rough elbows in sudsy water.


F When Martin proposed, I threatened my mother with elopement. I cried and hollered and beat my fists like a toddler. In the end, she threw up her hands, palms and face tilted towards heaven, “Edna, I’ve done everything I possibly could, God help me. Don’t come running to me with your litter of Maguires when things go wrong.” Martin and I didn't dance at our reception in the church basement. My wedding dress brushed the wooden floorboards and my wrists were sheathed in lace, but I felt beautiful even with my best features hidden. I wrapped my arms around my husband over and over, right under the noses of my mother and Father Flanagan. As our families came forward to present us with gifts, Martin and I sat nestled into each other, still getting used to touching in public. His cousins handed him envelopes of cash, which he tucked into the pocket of his suit jacket, nodding a quiet thanks at each one. When it was my mother’s turn, she waddled towards us, weighed down by the large wrapped box she carried. She wore a wide-brimmed hat with a blue feather sticking out the back. She bought that hat especially—I could see that she was proud of it by the way she held her chin high and forward so the feather curved all the way down to brush her back. She dumped the box on the table in front of us with a thud and announced, “You’ll have use for this, Edna,” and turned on her heel. Later, we locked ourselves in the loft room of his parents’ house. We stayed awake most of the night, and at sun-up we opened the gifts. My husband counted the bills in the envelopes. I unwrapped the box from my mother—it was a cast-iron skillet with a wooden handle. Martin laughed, “What do you need such a big pan for, Edna? It weighs a ton!” He stood in his undershirt and lifted it above his head with both hands, like a barbell. It turned out my mother was on to something. I proceeded to give birth to a baby every two years. Like clockwork, every other summer, starting in July 1921. After the sixth baby, we had a break of five years until Tommy, our little caboose, was born. With all those hungry kids in the house, there was a ridiculous amount of cooking to do. I used the skillet to fry eggs every morning. I kept chickens in the backyard, and even when times were hardest, I sent the children to school with full bellies. Then a series of events would ensure that I had another, unexpected use for my oversized skillet. My husband died. The doctor claimed it was a stroke, but I knew the truth—Martin drank too much whiskey at his nephew’s bachelor party and poisoned himself, the fool. If he hadn’t already been dead I would have strangled him for leaving me alone with seven children and a depression on. Call me cold if you like, but sorrow costs


overland | the iron skillet 27

time and energy I did not have. At the funeral, I looked over my already thin children sitting from youngest to oldest in the pew. Connecting the dots of their seven little heads formed an upward swooping line. I counted them over and over to keep calm. I wondered what in the world I would do. Shortly after I was widowed, the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor and the men disappeared off to war in a steady trickle. Shame on me for seeing the good in that, but all of sudden there were manufacturing jobs for women. Even little women like me. I worked stitching parachutes on a massive industrial sewing machine. I was able to keep the skillet filled each day, the pork chops crowded so tight that the outer ones curved up along the sides of the pan. The children grew up and moved out one after the other until only Tommy lived at home. Our breakfast eggs sizzled alone in the middle of the skillet. The empty blackness surrounding our food was room for me to finally relax, to josh around, to sigh in relief, to feel lonely. One day at work, I met Ralph. By that time the war was over and the parachute factory had been revamped to sew fancy slips and blouses. I took a pay cut and clerical work to make room for veterans. Ralph walked into the office where I was typing a letter and he filled the width of the doorway with his shoulders. I looked up at him and very nearly commented on how tall he was. How rude. I bit my lip and said, “Hello, can I help you?” He asked to speak to my boss. I walked across the office to pour him some coffee. As I stood in front of the electric percolator, he said, “You are a tiny woman.” A burst of laughter escaped me. I said, “You’re not one to talk about someone’s size. You could join the circus as the world’s tallest man.” He chuckled and waited beside my desk until I handed him the coffee. I kept my eyes level on the buttons of his shirt, and tried to stop my silly smile. As he took the cup, his fingers brushed mine and there was an awkward moment as some coffee sloshed onto the saucer. As he sipped, he gazed at me over the rim of the cup, which looked like doll’s porcelain in his hands. He said, “Good coffee. Would you accompany me to dinner tomorrow evening?” Ralph ordered milk at the restaurant—no cocktails. I found myself thinking about Tommy. He could use a man in his life. He had never known his father, and that’s not good for a boy. After dinner, Ralph took me dancing, a sure way to my heart. Even though Ralph’s legs were awkwardly long, he moved them in perfect time. When he kissed me that


F night, he plucked me carefully off the ground so we could reach each other. We married after what they call a whirlwind romance, common when the war was over and everyone seemed ready to welcome joy with open, not-at-all-skeptical arms. I never thought of Ralph’s broad shoulders as a threat, naïve that I was. The day we drove home from our honeymoon in the city, we picked Tommy up in Ralph’s Buick—he had stayed the week with his cousins. It was cold, and as Tommy settled into the back seat, he slipped off his boots and tucked his feet under him. Ralph turned and said, loudly, “Get your feet off my seat.” Tommy should have listened to Ralph right away. I know that. But my son protested, “I only have socks on.” Ralph slammed on the brakes and barked, “I said. Take your goddamn filthy feet off my seat.” Ralph slapped Tommy on the thigh. Hard. I cringed, but I didn’t say anything until later. In my own bed for the first time with Ralph that night, I rested my chin on his chest. He took up over half the space—it was going to take some getting used to. I said, “Honey, you don’t have to be so hard on Tommy.” “The boy is spoiled, Edna.” Ralph was probably right. By the time Tommy was born, the older children had started school. As the baby nodded off each afternoon, I rocked him as long as I liked, singing and breathing in his milky, drowsy smell. A mother isn’t supposed to have favorites but I may have coddled him a bit. A father could give Tommy the discipline he needed. I fell asleep with my cheek against my new husband’s wide, warm chest. Tommy wasn’t around much over the next few weeks. I had imagined him being happy to have a stepfather, but instead my son spent all his time with friends. He only showed up for dinner when I ordered him to be home. I missed our quiet times together, listening to the radio. My eyes weren’t strong after those war years staring down at tiny stitches—Tommy read to me from his collection of Hardy Boys books. I had pictured Ralph joining us in the living room for those evenings, but that wasn’t how things were working out. One night Tommy came home ten minutes late for dinner. Ralph and I already sat across from each other at the kitchen table. Tommy rushed in and tossed his jacket over his chair. “Sorry Mom,” he said, and reached for the serving spoon. I had made his favorite—spaghetti and meatballs. I smiled at his growing-boy appetite, then startled as Ralph slammed his fist against the table so the milk rippled in the glasses. “Is that all you have to say, boy?


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Your mother worked hard on this meal and you’re out playing baseball. You’re sorry? That’s it?” Tommy looked down at his plate, and glanced at me. I grabbed Tommy’s hand and said, “Let me handle it, Ralph.” Ralph didn’t take his eyes off Tommy, whose shoulders were quivering. My son’s hand was cold in mine. As brightly as I could manage, I said, “You forgot to wash your hands, Tommy. Go do that now. And tomorrow there’s no baseball—come home right after school.” Ralph ate his spaghetti in silence. He pushed his chair back with a scrape when he finished. Later, when we were alone, he pointed his finger and said, “Don’t talk back to me, Edna.” I searched his eyes. He looked like a scared little boy, not a bully. I tried to squeeze his hand, but he pulled it away like I had stung him. Ralph had calmed down by the time he got into bed later that night. He pulled the covers up to his chest and sounded perfectly reasonable as he said, “Listen Edna, my dad was tough on me, too. That’s what made me the man I am today. It’s what dads do.” Now, my first husband was a lot of things—he was a drunk, he was lazy in the mornings, he got in trouble at work and never did pick up after himself. But how he adored his kids. The last time Martin left the house, he scooped Tommy up, lifting the boy above his head. Tommy whooped and wriggled. Martin boomed in his deep, lovely voice, “How’s Tommy the caboose this evening?” and bounced him up and down while the older kids surrounded them, clamoring for a turn. I shrieked, “Be careful! You almost hit Tommy’s head on the ceiling!” Those were the last words Martin ever heard from me. I whisked the boy away and Martin rushed out the door to catch the bus to that blasted party. Now I kissed Ralph and said, “I know you are trying to do what’s best.” I hoped I hadn’t made a huge mistake. It all came to a head one week later. I arrived home from bridge club to the sound of Tommy’s howls from the back porch. I dropped my handbag and strode through the house, panic bubbling. I rounded the corner to see Ralph giving Tommy a hiding with his belt—the buckle end. Tommy kicked and Ralph’s face was red from holding the boy still while he whipped the belt over and over. Besides an occasional ruler across his knuckles from the nuns at school, Tommy had never been hit in all his twelve years. “Ralph!” I couldn’t think of what else to say. There was something uncontrolled


F and frightening in Ralph’s expression. Ralph stopped and Tommy pulled himself upright and ran past me. I heard his sobs as he crashed up the stairs and slammed his bedroom door. “The boy was lippy,” Ralph said as he hurried to thread the belt back through his trouser loops. I sensed just then that it was best to play along. It was cowardly, but I nodded. Tommy stayed upstairs and I fixed Ralph’s dinner, swallowing the urge to cry. At the end of the evening, Ralph walked up behind me as I tried to keep busy folding laundry. He wrapped his arms around my waist and encircled my thin wrists with his hands. I dropped the silky nightgown I had been folding and it slipped down to drape my feet. His touch was gentle, but I imagined how easily Ralph could snap my arm bones if he took it in his mind to do so—a little extra squeeze would do the trick. He bent over to nuzzle my neck, and must have felt me stiffen. Ralph said, “Don’t worry about Tommy, darling. He’ll be fine. He needs to toughen up.” I nodded, but didn’t follow him to our room afterwards. Soon I heard Ralph’s snores from down the hall—the man could shake the house down. I crept up the stairs to Tommy’s room, pushed the door open and whispered his name. My son lay facing the wall and held his blanket pulled tight over his head. I sat down on the edge of the bed and put my hand on Tommy’s shoulder. He squished himself flat against the wall, as far away from me as it was possible to get on his narrow mattress. “Tommy, are you hurt?” I asked. No answer. “Ralph is doing his best, Tommy. He’s never been a father before.” No answer. “Maybe you should try not to make him so mad?” No answer. I took some deep breaths to steady the uneven hammering in my chest and was struck cold by a terrible thought—what if I died and my son was left alone with his stepfather? I squeezed Tommy’s shoulder one last time and went back downstairs to clean up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. From the kitchen, I listened to Ralph’s deep, rumbling snores as I scrubbed my cast iron skillet with coarse salt the way I learned from my mother—salt doesn’t rub out the oil like soap would. Even all those years after my mother had presented it to me, the skillet was in perfect shape—no rust. As I stood in front of the kitchen sink feeling the heft of the unwieldy pan, I had an idea.


overland | the iron skillet

Before I could change my mind, I hoisted the skillet with my scrawny arms and stalked down the hall to our bedroom. I flipped on the light switch, leaned over Ralph’s slack face, took a deep breath, and whispered, “Ralph, wake up.” Ralph’s eyes flew open, and he looked up at me, bewildered. My stomach churned, but before he could sit up, I set the frying pan gently on his chest, looked him in the eyes, and said quietly, “Ralph, I love you. But if you ever lay a finger on my son again, I will kill you in your sleep with this skillet. I’ll smack you right over the head and you’ll never know what hit you. Do we understand each other?” Ralph seemed to consider my words, and I wondered for a moment if he would grab the pan and beat me senseless, but he didn’t. He blinked several times, swallowed hard, and said, “OK, Edna. Sorry.” Ralph kept his word and never hit my son again, even two years later when Tommy borrowed his Buick. When the sheriff brought the boy home, Ralph looked up from his paper and asked, cool as a cucumber, “You got this one, Edna?” As punishment I made Tommy get up early with Ralph every Saturday to help with chores—splitting wood or painting the house or fixing the fence. Afterwards Ralph took Tommy fishing. Ralph died last year and left me alone once again. Tommy was a grown man, but cried like a baby as he delivered Ralph’s eulogy. My mother could never have guessed how right she was. I did have use for that skillet. •

31


Portrait: growing Face-Plant Icarus Retold Morning Dose Bell’s Palsy for Two aliker alump Blue-Collar Twister The Heart as a Monkey Up in a Tree O, Come now Sailor! Permanent Damage The Monster and Me Cottonwoods flesh tones You Just Dance Away from Me Life (Or Rather, a Photosynthetic Representation) Why I Broke Up With You Northern Religion What Remedies extinction in Shelby county Boundary First Date, Last Night David afternoon chieftain You See the Hut Yet You Ask “Where Shall I Go For Shelter?” A Step-by-Step Guide to Annual Identity Dissociation Less than Ash tristan (1984-2006) Light depression Cellar Dark

34 35 36 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 58 59 60 61 62 63

Randy Devillez Paige Konitzer Gwyer Sinclair Chris Messett Kirby Wright Derek Sugamosto Sonnet Mondal James Valvis Samantha Smrz Kirby Wright Mariah Vandertie Lenore Gusch S.T. Scrivener Mitchell Sabez Kayla Klemm Kelsey Brown Craig Evenson Jeffrey Alfier Jim Davis Trevor Ketner Samantha Smrz Sinta Jimenez Mitchell Sabez Jordan Preman Richard King Perkins II Brendan Basham Peycho Kanev James Valvis


P

holding to her heart the weeping, sleeping male newborn, she dreamed his tinker-toy, young-boy apple-pie world

RANDY DEVILLEZ PORTRAIT: GROWING

holding to her heart the cold, metal purple medal, she viewed his flag-draped, life-drained pine-box world


sheepshead review | poetryt 35

PAIGE KONITZER FACEPLANT

the ground

opened up and swallowed me whole.

face-planted like a leaf

falling

skyward,

rocketing

downward.

smacked the concrete

feathers broken

wings

too tired

to lift me.

a corpse with

rotting flesh

seeping badness

onto the pavement.


P

I was born to the earth Not by choice, but by chance. I saw beauty and rhythm In the wind’s ceaseless dance. I coveted birds As they traveled the sky. I wondered at how In the mirror asked why. Why do they soar when here I am held? How can they stand to desert kindred kind? Is it lack of wing, that my spirit is quelled? I resolved to escape, leave the earth behind. Born to the land But meant for the sky This soil is shackles It’s for freedom I cry To travel those paths Not meant for mankind To feel is to soar To soar is to fly They say that existence Is marked by your years But my life is measured By sweat, blood, and tears An age passed in searching In feeling the breeze In study, my aerie I felt the winds tease Then, fruits of devotion And deep contemplation My plans were complete I began my salvation With a purposeful hand

And zealous passion A vision so grand My purpose I fashioned I took for my own Had belonged to the hawk The Eagle’s possession The prize of the flock That soaring-tool Lifting-thing Flapping-arm Flying-wing Born to the land But meant for the sky This soil is shackles It’s for freedom I cry To travel those paths Not meant for mankind To feel is to soar To soar is to fly To fly is to live

GWYER SINCLAIR ICARUS RETOLD


sheepshead review | poetryt 37

The day at last came To become complete I donned my creation My departure was fleet But yet children shouted And everyone stared For I suppose to their eyes An angel was aired And suddenly, freedom Out here I could feel The wind that surrounds, The sun that heals The clouds, my true brothers, The eagles, my peers The air, my father My joyous tears But salt beads, whisked away Like my old life’s pain They joined with the clouds To fall, as the rain Wind snatched at my locks Of spry, golden hair There’s a breeze in my blood There’s a star in my stare The sun so lordly, Above the blue sky I flew up to meet it Every wing beat a sigh But the beats grew fewer And weaker, it seemed With horror I saw How the melted wax gleamed

Born to the land But meant for the sky This soil is shackles It’s for freedom I cry To travel those paths Not meant for mankind To feel is to soar To soar is to fly To fly is to live I’ll live till I die And I fall back to Earth And its cold cruel embrace And I feel the sky’s tears And its kiss on my face As the son of the clouds Is snatched from his dream From the heights where he found What it means to be free So I plummet from heaven To that place I abhor But on the way down I will fly, just once more.


P

MORNING DOSE CHRIS MESSETT I slip away into silence while staring at the red polka dots splattered on orchid white walls. It reminds me of the time I hit a rabbit with my car. The little white tail drifted across the blacktop like a tumbleweed in a calm breeze. It was just a minor casualty—now melancholy. My momentary abstraction shifted toward the paradoxical carousel dangling above carnation pink sheets. Little white bunnies bounce up and down as they spin. Their beady eyes glare with resentment as though blaming me for their binding strings. I’m sorry. The cotton candy rabbit now joins in while angrily perched in the princess throne rocking chair. I swear I saw it move. I remember this rabbit from the time I hallucinated at work. Its authoritative chuckle drowned out the sound of my coworker asking me if I was alright. His Cheshire cat grin widens. Remorselessly I yell out, “You bastard rabbit, I’ll fix you this time!” In the doorway stands my wife with a transparent yellow bottle in her hand. She tells me I’m late with my morning dose. I reply, “Honey, I don’t think we should go with the bunny theme.”


sheepshead review | poetryt 39

BELL’S PALSY FOR TWO KIRBY WRIGHT My best friend Rich returns from the dead for our high school reunion. He killed himself last year for being gay. Rich’s hanging out at the punch bowl wearing a 2-button Seersucker suit and a cobalt tie with a black diamond pattern. I feel foolish in jeans. He’s got Bell’s Palsy like me but his case doesn’t look as serious. I ask if he can smile. “Just a little,” he replies, lifting the left side of his mouth. I see a flash of teeth. Funny, my palsy affects the opposite side. I compliment Rich on his duds. “It’s what Mom buried me in,” he mutters, dipping a ladle into the punch. “Are ` you still with Mandy?” he asks. I tell him yes, that I love her and that now she’s my fiancee. He fumbles his glass and spills punch on his suit. I ask him if something’s wrong. He nods.


P 1. the dead man sits upright, his head on the floor the Victrola is in pieces, the front room is lousy with signs of struggle ^ papier-mache ` planets hang from the ceiling in the basement the altar’s mismatched lumber is flecked with blood there’s a handprint in the coal chute, the cement wall sweats

ALIKER ALUMP DEREK SUGAMOSTO

never been a hotter summer in Detroit the flies own the air, the yards are brittle water pools beneath the ice truck gathering around their radios, his flock is aghast they’re peeking through the basement window to spy a bleary glistening mass in the half shadow 2. His wrists are leaning into the frame, unnatural-like the cuffs are gleaming in sweat he’s howling in the backseat like an animal torn from its feast the patrol car bounces with his rage I found the bloody hacksaw in the midst of a distress call his wife’s face purple and splayed clutching the phone like an anchor her frantic eyes rehearsing the story that only a sutured jaw will reveal the Church of the Solar Seal is now headless I got my picture in the Detroit News my hand on the back of the maniac’s neck the clues adding up, as we speak the filament sparks, let no one say the dark devours the dark


sheepshead review | poetryt

Sweat tries to swim upwards through the hairs of a labourer building the statue of the herald but fails and falls in the soil sucked up by heat, Vanishes as a struggling animal in quicksand; Dreams drain and entity turns into fossils as slippers walk over it. His weapons are a chisel and spade; He lifts them to protest but vacuum wailing in the curves of his muscles make it fall again on the mummified ground; just to dig, dig the ground for the Herald’s statue must stand firm or his existence will be buried under its falling weight. Toils will evaporate with the smile of the moon The dawn will hear sounds againsounds of iron striking against rocks. The air waits to weave those sounds and strike a twister with them— Tall enough for the world to see bold enough to step over mountains Clear enough to show the waving hands begging a day out of slavery.

SONNET MONDAL BLUE-COLLAR TWISTER

41


P

The heart becomes a monkey and climbs a tree. It lives comfortably up there. It eats fruit and, if it has to, leaves. It doesn’t need the stuff people are always chasing. The heart swings from branch to branch, and is happy in its lofty home. The higher it goes, the fonder it grows of isolation. It has birdsong to keep it company, clouds, grass smell rising with each hard rain. Call to him, and he will only laugh. Mock or insult him, and he’ll hurl a coconut or perhaps his own feces. The heart has no manners, and wants none. You cannot reason with a monkey in a tree. If you want to civilize him, if you want to drag him back to the earth, you’re going to have to climb almost to heaven.

THE HEART AS A MONKEY UP IN A TREE JAMES VALVIS


sheepshead review | poetryt 43

SAMANTHA SMRZ O, COME NOW SAILOR! O, come now sailor! Walk upon the sand and shed your watery skin For just a day give up the waves for the trees And find a place amidst the leaves To sit and consider the soul of your sea And find me among the dry heaps of earth Bring me water though I ask for dirt Tell me I know nothing of the true nature of bodies Grab my hands and heave them toward puddles A small imitation of your world Where I will see the reflection of the stars You claim them not stars but our eyes You say I might know this if I were born at sea But I am comfortable here The water is as much a mystery to me as the forest to you And though I may not understand How you use such indecorous language To say such lovely things Or why you fight so rabidly against the will of your kin Surely I can see that I am no better My land claims me as your boat does you We are both held so far from our minds And so close to our love of things We’ve forgotten we are the same So when you have turned green with turbulence And the sand ripens to red around me May we look to the stars And see our eyes as it ends


P

They’re outside driving in circles. They want me to join them. Circling makes me dizzy and forgetful. I will become a poet, live on cupcakes and hope. They want me to join them. I can write about broken things and us. I will become a poet, live on cupcakes and hope. Permanent damage attracts me. I can write about broken things and us. The paper ignites, burning my words. Permanent damage attracts me. My pulse is wearing thin. Cake bakes in the kitchen. Circling makes me dizzy and forgetful. The heart owns a limited number of beats. They’re outside driving in circles.

KIRBY WRIGHT PERMANENT DAMAGE


sheepshead review | poetryt 45

my adolescent hands lay trembling developing beads of sweat although cold like dead flesh and that is what I feel I will be dead flesh. screeching noises swarm the staircase saturating the grey carpet absorbing into the textured walls cries of desperation howl. the screaming halts. footsteps begin to vibrate through the floor powerful and thunderous tears race down my rosy cheeks pooling into every crease of my chapped lips.

THE MONSTER AND ME MARIAH VANDERTIE

the footsteps become deafening a monster climbs the stairs to me ruthlessly guided by my heavy sobbing I’m shaking.

cruel fists plunge into my gut white pigments flood his knuckles blackness streams into my sight stains my mind.

fire is burning in his eyes scorching my sensitive skin with his stare blood is boiling through his body crimson red.

the beating halts.

he has captivated my focus although I feel nauseous to look at his face no crying, no screaming no mercy.

unconditional love ceased at our front door To her the name of father was another name for hate.


P

COTTONWOODS LENORE GUSCH Inches of muck on our shoes from the dying and decayed bogged us down. Our lungs filled up with cotton and burned with pollens. Cottonwood beetles, black and white, grotesque, dropped from branches, clicking their limbs at us, the intruders. We ran like convicts away from the city around obstacles of fallen logs, twisted rusted metal left behind by fantastic machines. We ran until we reached the water, a sick, muddy trickle, and drank, filtering out the pollution in our bodies with more pollution and pretending that the water was clear. The cotton swirled and sank in the current. Might have thought it was snowing, but we knew better, beads of sweat dripping down the sides of our faces. By the river it was cooler, and we soaked our aching toes, staying still enough for cotton to settle in our hair, and watched the sunset spread fire over the water, waiting for the moment that nightfall would beckon us home.


sheepshead review | poetryt 47

pitted olive-eyes strum choir tunes on collar bones find drum beats in the spaces between hands and stomachs we play heartstrings like guitar strings one, two, three, four, blunt bass with padded fingertips two, two, three, four and compress and pull saxophone lungs

one and two and three and four with muscles boisterous as minstrel's hands conducted by metronome heartbeats. gut-busting baritones tap ballads on tooth fillings. there is music in our hair, tangled in the roots like grass.

FLESH TONES S.T. SCRIVENER


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I know your shadow better than I know myself. I know you appear close and yet so far from me.

MITCHELL SABEZ YOU JUST DANCE AWAY FROM ME

So dust off your old flats and plié away from me. In an empty, wood cracked room, all you think are thoughts unrelated to me. So dust off your old flats and plié away from me. She can perform a perfect pirouette. She can dance so far away, safeguarded by our apparent distance. Lay down your old flats and plié toward me again.


sheepshead review | poetryt 49

Let it illuminate you Let it creep like vines, tendrils, into The dog-eared maps of your DNA, into its polymers grasping each other too tightly Choking your bones, piercing the fabric of your muscles, digging deep into your Self Breathe it deep into your lungs Alveoli And into your cells Hypotonic Until they grow And become full Burst With energy like tidal waves Let your pores soak in all its seeds Provide a home They become rooted beneath your skin And germinate at a rate rivaled only by A disastrous invasive species Let it grow— Let it grow.

LIFE (OR RATHER, A PHOTOSYNTHETIC REPRESENTATION) KAYLA KLEMM


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WHY I BROKE UP WITH YOU KELSEY BROWN

I am wild woods you tried to tame. Brought in bright yellow bulldozers raging blaring chainsaws tried to C H O P down the thicktrunkedoaks the flowing tressed willows full rivers drained furry creatures slaughtered But you kept one alive. You know, to keep me happy.


sheepshead review | poetryt

God is merely the angle, merely the nook you would have to be an angel to see, and I'm more nearly a howling bear, lean-eyed, hidden like prayer in fragile light, denied a den of chalky feathers, a pair of pretty arms, because I won't talk about my day with my mouth full of moonlight.

CRAIG EVENSON NORTHERN RELIGION

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WHAT REMEDIES EXTINCTION IN SHELBY COUNTY JEFFREY ALFIER There are times when heavy rains like this pass— the kind our congregation prays too hard for, and your eyes would find your visage pooled in tractor ruts, face and hands sharing the mirrored path of crows, as if the birds had sprung from you, their forms dark against the green hope of cotton crops to come, your breath the only sound. Here, we lose words for the shuttered mills, their pine floors and bricks plundered for other kingdoms. Come night, trees flanking this field will gather stars in their branches. High winds will lessen the fragmenting of wings.


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JIM DAVIS BOUNDARY Standing on his head he can smell the ocean. From here, translation is simple, you can hear ` the difference between dolor & dolar: pain & currency; the difference between meses & mesas: measures of time & table. The apple in the mouth of the pig can imagine each—is, at once, either. Eager, said he, to learn the language of the clay bodega, the slang of struggle. Right side up, he is not lost for thought, as if thought were a great train barreling through the country, blaring an oppressive horn— but want, now & again, for track. So the man rocking slowly on the porch of his red colonial home will continue teasing the stalk of his pipe, waiting patiently for the 6:15 Burlington Northern to split the day, exhaling soft wreathes of smoke, eager to hear the prairie-shaking bellow, the steel-whistle scream. He admires the way some men construct their lives through penance. Earthworms curl on cement after storm, five hearts dying together. He finds a broke-neck songbird on the patio below the window he cleaned the morning before. Standing on his head the smell of rust is overwhelming.


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FIRST DATE, LAST NIGHT TREVOR KETNER

Can we meet again on some affected street covered in layers of the possible, of perhaps? Can we sit on a public bench shoulders just touching, rubbing the wool of our coats generous now in their warmth? We could breathe smoke now into the clouds, rounding out the edges with wisping, gentle wandering of the mist of our thoughts, leaving our mouths as words and smoke; as smoke.


sheepshead review | poetryt 55

DAVID SAMANTHA SMRZ Michelangelo’s hands imprison his hammer You can hear David pleading “Put down the chisel, return me to dust! Or at least have mercy enough to fix me in a garden, stand me tall in a bed of beauty Lend me eyes to see the wonder before me, lend me ears to hear the garden maid singing As she walks down the row in a summer dress and bare feet Lend me a reason to exist as more than stone I seek not God, not money, not material things I want only to live with the elements To break mold and run like a valley creek through the wheat fields And, like a watercolor, the landscape will bleed into me The sun, summer’s crown, will slip to the grass When it lands at my feet I will enclose it in my hands And sling it back into the sky It will shatter against the moon and the shards will form stars that I can hang from by strings And swing like a sword above the head of any man who tries to cut me down Give me life and I will tear away my marble to expose the skin beneath it Toss me to the storm and I will rend my ribcage apart to expose the rainforest in my chest Its vines will shoot out and wrap themselves around the roots of the rye And I will be ripped apart by the calamity of nature But if the closest I get to life is to be a boulder in the flowers Let the garden maid sit on my shoulder And watch the moonshine drain into the creek bed Let her hum to the symphony in my blood And dance to the tambourines in the trees I stand here now with the reapers fists around my ankles His chisel tip gnawing at my knees I am stonework Among hills and valleys I have no meaning I am not art If I am never made soft Let me crumble with time Let me sink into the Earth So as not to be an aberration in the natural placement of the rocks And though I will never move through it, let the wheat shake with the things I am lacking.”


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SINTA JIMENEZ AFTERNOON CHIEFTAIN

afternoon chieftain you rocked your horse in boots and blue gingham red feather in your hair tomahawk at your waist grazing against the downy "little slaves, i am king!" of all the toys of all the boys afternoon chieftain king of small things fine until you fell red tongue you cried your lip split it is always her scent first then her body it shivers against you in silken robes shattering through to your elementary bones she kneels back from treetop and cradle upper boughs you once travelled from astral realms first an idea then a soul


sheepshead review | poetryt 57

then flesh and holds her mouth over yours red tongued took the blood she gave you took the taste that is almost like him a slow suck devoured the pain and replaced it with another "there, there my perfect little love" she says before going back to the bed they conceived you where she stays for days sometimes uterine contracting choleric a shadow against the window entombing the light you don't trust to exist when he's gone you are her sole witness a smothered gravity a moon in crippled orbit the bluebirds, their broken beaks and wings the tv turned to static her head in the oven

stroking her legs against your hands disgusted at their filth that you dared step outside to see blue sky and air without her to bury a pinecone in the garden there, there our failure is indexed there the betrayal for whores the devalued worship are in the remains of syllables in the echo of those afternoons i am an anomaly on the radar sole visitor to your self-exile dark as the soil that you buried the pinecones a seduction of earth at our marriage i cut your arm red tongued lip split took the blood she gave you never noticing how you rubbed your fingers to remember the silk


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Photographs flash, flash, flash, of scenes gory, of limbs misplaced.

YOU SEE THE HUT YET YOU ASK “WHERE SHALL I GO FOR SHELTER?” MITCHELL SABEZ

A hobble gentleman, dedicated to neither side. Mowed down as if he were an Over. Grown. Lawn. Innocence. Bullets spray to yours & mine a situation torn apart, to be handled by men in suits, hats and nice coats.


JORDAN PREMAN A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO ANNUAL IDENTITY DISSOCIATION

sheepshead review | poetryt 59

Throw on that gold tiara, we know it never lies. Today you’re twenty-nine crow’s-feet and wrinkles be damned. First, apply make-up two inches thick. Do your tummy too ‘cause stretch marks don’t exist tonight. Next, lather cheap perfume like sunscreen. More. Still more. Seriously, just use the entire bottle. Now that even the blind hotties sense you, you’re ready to summon your fellow succubi. I suggest the one with the cringe laugh as the more she repels, the more are drawn to you. Resist the urge to stand outside the club you won’t get into, find a bar which caters to the young and more importantly, drunk. These are your baby impalas to capture oh cold stalker of thy night-scene. The weakest won’t be hard to find: overly drunken douches, underly drunk reclusives. Remember, you’re not playing the game ten years lost, you’re here to win. Let the gyrations of hips and warmth of your sweat-beaded skin slather across the victim’s defenses, splitting any urge to defy. With prey slung across shoulder, slink to your den. I think you know the rest.


RICHARD KING PERKINS II

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LESS THAN ASH

I sometimes lie in bassoon veil where the cat surrenders mutely at the door. Typically, I can be trusted tramping out to Asbury Park with yard-long footprints and the world sweeping behind me. It’s taken only moments, but I’m already at the furthest point from recognition. You asked me why I hadn’t sketched a picture of your earlobe last summer. I did, without instrument or paper. Four young women wave at me from a passing car for no other reason than it is their time to be seen. I pull in the shorelines of bare, distant lakes knowing that I sometimes lie but for now, I’m standing, motionless, even as the girls cannot fathom how they have burned my house down into something less than ash.


sheepshead review | poetryt

BRENDAN BASHAM TRISTAN (1984-2006)

he slept in between layers of bach and schubert lined with tortoise shell and lived a life quiet and hidden from the minds of others he wiped his boots clean scraped the bottoms to get the red clay off he watched his warm breath against the cold air get battered ripped apart pulled under and washed out until it was invisible out there in the dark it must exist somewhere i imagined the minarets spinning in that skull he beat to a pulp as a child down the slide head-first, against the walls because he was top heavy he tripped and fell face first into the screen door a tooth, snagged and yanked out of his mouth floating midair and his tears cleaned his filthy fat face it just so happened he was the better of us and it’s the loosest teeth that get pulled first the youngest with the thickest hair and the whitest grays get trampled and filled with despair but he was up for the challenge he wrapped himself in words and music the print smeared off on his skinny awkward body then he bathed in rain we snuck pulls off dad’s scotch then we laughed at the stupidity of television then he folded over into his restlessness paced his room first then the house then the streets and when he was done pacing he started running and we never could keep up

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LIGHT DEPRESSION PEYCHO KANEV

When I lift my right hand some obscure shadow is following it, when I lift my left one— quiet music sounds. What kind of hell is this? Schumann? This is funny, you see. I play on the chessboard of my life, and all of the pieces are black, yet the 64 squares are of white light— but that’s not improving anything. It is Depression everywhere, but they call it Recession. It is Darkness everywhere, and they turn on the neon lights for us. I open the door and then close it. My bathtub is dirty, and my trash can is full of empty bottles and memories no longer needed. And tomorrow, when the morning crawls like a roach into my plastic coffee cup, I will still be waiting for an answer from my walls.


sheepshead review | poetryt 63

JAMES VALVIS CELLAR DARK “How could Anne Frank think people were good?” —question posed by a student And I am again that frightened boy standing at the top of the stairwell, looking into the cellar on Princeton Ave., into a darkness so dark it seemed absolute. Odd: the dark grew no lighter by waiting. Not that kind of dark. Not cellar dark. Cellar dark stays dark until you enter. You must move out of the light. You must be surrounded by dark. Only then will your eyes adjust. Only then will cellar dark seem less dark and you’ll see what light there is to see.


Anatomy of a Sea Monster Smoking in Rented Rooms Entwined Debris Footprints and Static A Kept Man

66 73 78 83 94 98

Mollie Hawkins Sinta Jimenez Elisha Wagman JM Huscher Keisha Vergenz Julia Maack


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anatomy of a sea monster MOLLIE HAWKINS I’m supposed to find it meaningful and beautiful, but it repulses me. The absurdity of it in violent stages, the final scene playing out in gore and sweat. And before: the stretching of the once-hard belly, the tiny alien foot or hand pushing hard against it, trying to escape the elastic wall that holds it.

I can’t grasp the concept, the giving over of self, of making someone else the center of your trajectory. Really, it’s the kicking that rattles me. I saw my pregnant friend, Kat, experience the kicking, the desperate jumping jacks of her unborn daughter, as we sat in Anatomy and Physiology II lab.


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The labs met every Thursday evening for two hours inside a large concrete box. It was the only room inside the large, squat building that had no windows. It was the ugliest campus building in the city of Birmingham, looking like a pack of cigarettes stood on end. During the day, the campus was alive with students rushing in and out of buildings like blood through the heart of a speed runner. The night students were molasses. They were mostly tired, overworked professionals looking for a career change, young parents, and me, who preferred night classes where I could get them. The vents spat out frozen air. Silence filled the halls like a water balloon. Kat and I were in our second semester as lab partners, both on track to nursing school. I wanted to be a psychiatric nurse; she wanted to be a pediatric nurse. She told me I was brave for wanting to be around psychotics every day, and I told her she was brave for wanting to be around sick, bleating children all day. The labs followed a ninety minute lecture class, where my hand cramped frequently like a claw in trying to keep up with the professor’s spew. The textbook alone weighed around twelve pounds. We called it the Green Monster. I carried it around like an extra arm, studying the complex machinery of humans for at least two hours a day. In my sleep I will

think of connective tissues, of the spelling of sternocleidomastoid, of arteries and veins in relation to breathing. Veins inbound, arteries outbound. Kat was a loyal note taker during lectures, but unfastened her lips during lab. She was an easily excited pregnant person. She gasped with every movement of her unborn daughter, each time causing my muscles to spasm into near disaster. I lost purchase of the scalpel, dissecting pins, and nearly sliced the pungent colon of the fetal pig on the table in front of us. It was like an offering, a sad little slab of meat with a protruding tongue. I really didn’t want to be startled into mutilating it. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you,” Kat said, “but you have to feel this.” She put her hands on her stomach like it was what made her believe in God. Each time I smiled, shook my head, and held out my arms like tree branches to suggest that my hands were too dirty. My cheeks flushed as I struggled to pin the little pig’s pink, rubbery legs to a blue mat so I could cut through his chest to find his locket-sized, soft heart.

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When Kat told me she was pregnant, we hadn’t gotten to the fetal pigs yet. It hap-


N pened the previous semester, before her baby was big enough to throttle her into submission with internal calisthenics. We were still fumbling with microscopes and memorizing the bones of the skull. Here’s the occipital lobe, here’s the ethmoid bone, here’s the lacrimal bone. Kat was my lab partner because she was the person I sat next to on the first day of class. The other lab stools were taken. She sat perfectly straight next to me at the oversized marble table, face powdered and blonde hair pulled into a slick ponytail, so tight on top of her head it gave her an unnecessary facelift. One day she turned, her face an explosion of light. “I just found out I’m pregnant,” she said. I twisted my face in horror. “I’m-sosorry.” Kat looked at me, her ponytail sinking with her eyebrows like ships. My reaction was not what she was looking for. My mouth filled with glue. A horde of girls at other lab tables heard her news and flocked to congratulate her, each of their reflexes aligned with genuine happiness with the prospect of a new life. They were one voice, spilling out of puffed cheeks, circling Kat like a fog. Congratulations, congratulations. “We weren’t planning to try until after I graduated nursing school,” she said, graceful enough to ignore my prompt condolences. “But I’ll just wait a few

semesters. It’s a blessing.” “You’ll be great,” I said, wondering to myself if she had considered even for a moment getting an abortion, in putting her dreams first. I didn’t ask. “It’ll be crazy for a while, but I’m excited,” she said. “Do you want a boy or a girl?” “Do you have names picked out?” “When’s the due date?” Kat thumbed through her lab manual. I caught flashes of dried muscle and bone diagrams. A skull, a torso, a foot, magnified. She nodded and took a deep breath, names spilling out of her mouth like a fountain. Braeden, Brooklyn, Angel, Jonathan, Anthony, Paul, Michelle, Grace, Susanna, Jordan, Clay, Andrew, James, Monica, Clair.

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My first thoughts if faced with an accidental pregnancy would be: panic and disbelief, followed by a call to the clinic. I’m no sultan of sentiment: there is no small sainthood or motherly wisdom tucked away in my sock drawer. I forgot to feed my childhood pets. I forget to water my plants. I talk to children as if they were sword-wielding fish. Something has gone horribly wrong.


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The receptors in my brain never seem to come to an agreement. They fit together like square pegs in star-shaped holes. I drink honey whiskey, I have vicious sex, I say fuck, I am impulsive; I act in ways that are contradictory to my parents’ hard work. My mother is a proper Southern Belle, fire and brimstone and fried chicken. My father is a minister of music and a wedding photographer. When I was shorter than a pair of her nylon stockings, my mother stripped the lining of my skull and wallpapered it with the treacheries of sex, drugs, and anyone wanting to touch me. “If anyone ever tries to touch you, you just start screaming,” she’d say. She also told me repeatedly to wait until marriage to have sex. Because sex led to babies. “Once you’re pregnant, you have to have it,” she said, when I was seventeen and secretly on the Pill. “Because, Mollie, you can’t have an abortion.” My mother believes that abortions are the worst thing a person could possibly do, worse than divorce or suicide or being an atheist. “You’ll go to hell,” she said, her eyes slightly popping out of their sockets like gumballs. “I know,” I’d respond. “You just can’t,” she’d shake her head. “I know.” She ignored me. “It’s murder. And it messes with your head.” Then she’d tell me the story of the girl she went to high

school with that had an abortion. It drove her to suicide. “She’d just sit at the lunch table and cry every day,” she’d recall, looking over my right shoulder every time she told the story. “It was just the saddest thing.”

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I try to remember that as I age, most of my friends are getting pregnant on purpose. It’s typically not the result of sloppy back-seat sex after a rowdy house party. They are all intentionally experiencing something beautiful and profound, following a path I can’t seem to locate lined with pastels and diaper genies. At the end of my aged path I see a scene like this: an existence in a highrise apartment I can’t really afford, in some major city that isn’t threatened by tornadoes. My face is swiftly aging, wrinkles gouging out ditches around my mouth and eyes, and my eyeliner is always slightly off target because I refuse to buy glasses. I will have five dogs swarming near me on a small terrace, all barking into the city skyline. The apartment itself will be a carbon copy of Tyler Durden’s homage to IKEA in Fight Club. It will be dusty. If I have a husband, he’s probably in the kitchen trying to find where the sugar is hidden. I will spend


N my days on the terrace, bent like a straw in my chair, overlooking a city that has outgrown my traditions. I will drink a lot of coffee (dark roast). I will think of all the children I didn’t have, all the ex-boyfriends I didn’t have them with, every trip I made to buy Plan B at the drugstore. Still no kids? Kat will ask me, through whatever social media is popular at the time. It’s not too late to adopt.

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My mother was 23 when she had my older sister, Maggie. She was 25 when she had me. My sister was 21 when she had her son. When I was 21 I started drinking mid-shelf vodka that wasn’t flavored, moved into a studio apartment in Five Points, and got an orange Pomeranian. Now, at 26, I live in a larger apartment in the same city with the same dog. I switched to whiskey. I carry mace in my purse. I am dating someone that potentially wants little feet slapping against hardwoods, one day. I don’t have the heart to tell him I like children only when they belong to other people. My mother tells me I would make a beautiful bride and even more beautiful babies. “Just one grandchild, do it for me?” She says on the phone, every now and

then. “I’m too selfish,” I say. “Just have one and give it to me, then,” she says. I laugh. “Are you serious?” “It would give me something to do!” she says, a drop of desperation in her voice.

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Another scene: my mother is raising a carbon copy of me. A tiny little girl running through my parents’ yard in my Alabama hometown, a whirr of fair skin and shocks of blonde hair. The grass is overgrown and sprinkled with dandelions that make her sneeze. Her lips and fingers are stained and sticky with remnants of blue Popsicle. There are plastic toys strewn around the yard, a motorized Barbie car, a teddy bear covered in ants. And next to her, buried partially under the earth, is the rusty swing set my sister and I rattled and abused trying to swing as high as the tallest tree in the yard. She will try to climb into the swing, little hands begging for purchase of a hardened and cracked rubber seat, but fails at the authority of my mother, who will pull her away. She’s too small to occupy a seat of her own. “No, honey, no,” my mother will say, exhausted.


hawkins | anatomy of a sea monster

Kat will bring her kids over every other day for her to play with. Kat will be pregnant again, her third. She will waddle around the yard with them, all frantic blurs of incorruptibility. The summer days are becoming shorter, like shrinking bacon in a frying pan, and it’s becoming night around her. The sun spills past the trees, behind the cow field in the near distance, and eventually disappears beneath the surface of a swimming pool in a neighbor’s yard. The cicadas strum their guitars. The little girl looks at the sky, at her dirty toes, at me, questioning. A string of useless words float out of my mouth and commit themselves to the sticky southern air. “Aren’t you glad you had her,” my mother will say. “That blonde hair, just look at that blonde hair.”

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Around the 24th week of Kat’s pregnancy, she tells us her baby will have blonde hair. Kat has natural, silky pale hair that strokes her shoulders when she swivels her head. Her husband, Brad, has wavy hair the color of egg yolks. The fetus grows hair around the thirtieth week of pregnancy. They develop eyelids and weight roughly one pound and a half during the twenty-fourth week.

“Her hearing has fully formed. She can hear everything we say. Isn’t it precious to imagine?” Kat asks me. I think about blonde hair, of tiny ears, the loud sizzling of bacon in a frying pan. My nose burns with the smoke. “It really is.” The professor, Dr. Jonkins, catches our conversations straying from the topic of anatomy. “Oh, you girls,” she says. She’s perched at the front of the lab like an awkward bird, flapping her wings behind a wooden podium that places her in the center of her projected slides. “What are you girls going on about?” she demands. Kat looks guilty. “I was talking about the baby.” “I know you’re excited,” Dr. Jonkins smiles, understanding. She has two sets of twin girls, all cheerleaders at the local high school. “But you need to be taking notes,” she says. She swivels her perch and starts clicking her remote through slides of abnormal blood cultures. Kat waits a beat and starts again, whispering. “Can you believe that it’s legal in most states for women to get abortions up to 24 weeks?” She shakes her head. We shake our heads. ···

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The bigger her belly got, the angrier abortions made Kat. She posted pro-life articles on her Facebook page at least twice a day, each featuring graphic and bloody images that I could go lifetimes without seeing. Airbrushed visions of purple clotted blood covering the mangled fetuses, holes punched through their soft skulls, toothpick fists balled around closed eyes. This baby could have cured cancer one day, the captions read. Murder is not an option. “I don’t know how anyone could live with themselves,” Kat says, putting a hand over her stomach. Her wedding ring sends shards of light into my eyes from the fluorescent light above. “I can’t even imagine,” I offer, thinking of the girl my mother told me about at the lunch table, sobbing. “Just look at that face,” Kat flips her notebook closed to a picture of her latest sonogram. I don’t see a face. I see a black mass,

a Rorschach inkblot. I see a duck, maybe a sailboat. An octopus with five eyes. “She’s a living being,” she says. This is what I see next: a knuckle under the surface of Kat’s stomach, pushing as hard as possible, sweeping from left to right, testing the limits of its rubber tank. “She’s kicking!” Kat smiles. The tiny hands stretch and kick, frantic. “You have to feel it,” she says. I shake my head, horrified. I feel my stomach filling with rotten teeth. I’ve never seen a baby kicking its mother before. It was an alien abduction, an experiment in human torture, and an abomination, a monster swimming beneath a solid surface. I focus on the table in front of me. A fetal pig, pinned open to show me its shriveled coin-sized heart, next to my lab notes, next to my scalpel. I focus on its sour formaldehyde smell that has perpetually lodged itself in my nose, trying to embalm me. •


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smoking in rented rooms SINTA JIMENEZ It’s early April in Philadelphia but the air still hangs frigid with the hollow wind of East Coast winter. We run together through the scumbag streets. Block after block of concrete and black windows flying past. Our noses cold, our foreheads dry. There are no entrances to heaven, no shoots or ladders to ascend.

I push my body against his as we walk down the street, his arm around me. We hail a cab at Broad Street, City Hall visible down the avenue, to go towards Washington and 7th, blocks and blocks away from the Ivy League affluence of Rittenhouse. When we get there, he tells me to stand on a corner,


N in front of a grade school, while he goes to score. “Are you ok?” he asks me. “Yeah.” “I’m ok.” “I just don’t want you to come with me to meet the guy. I’ll be back soon.” The wind pushes down and against me. There’s not much room for chivalry in addiction, in street corner copping, but there’s plays at tenderness. He doesn’t want me to go with him in case he gets arrested. In case he gets arrested at least I’ll be able to go home and sleep in my own bed. Soon I see him, smiling, coming down the sidewalk with a saunter, almost cheerful. And even with his skull cap and his heavy black jacket, the grace of his face seems to purify him from his acts, a mask over the scar tissue. We cruise again though the city, weaving in and out of traffic, but this time without the itch. His pockets are full, my expectations are loaded. We are dead on arrival.

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We get home. He brings out a plastic bag, full of little bags, and throws it onto the coffee table. Four grams of herb, two grams of blow packed tight, and

then two thin, light blue packets of scag stamped with the words “Day Off.” He hits the stamp bag with his fingertips as he settles down next to me on the couch. “How much was it?” I ask. “It’s very cheap. Did you know that?” A bare light bulb flickers and revolves above us as though it were the sun. “Last year I was hella sick and had to go to the emergency room. That doctor’s bill cost me almost five thousand dollars. All to check if my appendix was burst and to give me a shot of morphine. It was just the stomach flu. I could’ve gotten this for five dollars and forgotten all about my tummy troubles.” “Just five dollars?” “That’s the price,” he says with a bitterness, cutting like sunlight through Afghan clouds. Our evening goes late into the a.m., smoking cigarettes and herb rolled with tobacco, listening to Lou Reed. “Man, I wish I hadn’t lost my Iggy Pop CDs.” “Have you ever heard The Birthday Party? One of Nick Cave’s early bands. I think you’d like them.” I look into his eyes and wonder how dark the world looks to him right now. He’s done enough to feel warm, but not fall into the nod. The contraction of his pupils makes the color of his eyes even more vivid. There is no full, darkened center, only color where light invades.


jimenez | smoking in rented rooms 75

I kiss his face. I linger below his eyes where the skin is thin, incapable of deception. “You’ve been with a lot of beautiful girls.” “I don’t know about that. Really, you’re it,” he says. I choose to believe him. “I’m scared of how it’ll be when you leave.” “We’ll be cool,” I say.

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I hold onto his slim shoulder, tattooed with a black dragon that continues down his arm and upper back, the black ink drawing a high contrast against the whiteness of his skin. I tell him to look up. His eyes look suddenly translucent like. “There’s a lot of men out there who want to fuck you,” he says. “Yes.” The room pulsates, the air sweats. We are denied safe passage. We hold hands in our restless sleep. Half awake I feel him tossing next to me, scratching his neck and arms, kicking his legs, withdrawal bringing the itchy blood. My throat is dry and sore. I put my hand flat against his back. His skin is too smooth. His skin is an

impossibility. “When are you going,” he mumbles, eyes closed. “I don’t know. In the next day or two.” “You could stay.” We are escape artists, conspiring in the underbellies and alleyways.

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It isn’t until late afternoon until we really wake up, groggy and heavy in the comedown. The air is cold and we move slowly under the covers. “How do you feel?” I ask him. “Alright. Shakes in a bit, but I already know I won’t be able to piss for a while.” “Maybe later—” I begin. “Yeah, don’t worry. We’ll pick up later.” The view from his bedroom window is grim. Power lines and television satellites lie akimbo on concrete rooftops. My nose is raw. I look at the emptiness of his room, the old discolored blinds, and the white walls encrusted with the drunken distortions, frail lies, desperations, hostilities, prayers and sexual penetrations of past tenants. A pleasure arises in me from this human incoherence emanating from the walls. It seeps from the decaying


N brick and mortar, makes itself visible only to me. “Have you ever gone on a fancy vacation with someone?” “No, never,” I lie. “Should we go to Argentina?” “The dollar goes far down there.” I carry on with him. To forget the comedown, to distract from the itch. “We should go to Carolina too. I have friends with a house in Asheville. They’re raising chickens,” I say. “Let’s do it. Fresh eggs in the morning, delicious,” he smiles. All the words make fantasies of a future of things nearly impossible, likely improbable. We proceed under the influence, accepting delusion as truth, accepting narcotics for whole grain. With other men, who I knew I wanted to be with for a while, a disgust always mechanized in me. An automatic default jogging my apathy, preventing further emotion, and nothing, absolutely nothing could bring me back. Neither petition nor memory. But I cannot do that with him. I can tell. I cannot retreat from his body. I won’t be able to turn it around. “I’m going to get dressed. Get out there and bring back some water and cereal.” He walks out the bedroom door to the bathroom. I share a secret with his room, without distinction except for two omamori hanging on his doorknob from the

Shrine. I’d discard the immaculate for this damaged space, any time, any how. The walls seem softer after, submitting like a victim or disciple. We walk through the streets of brotherly love, high out of our minds again, laughing and kissing, on the verge of tears. We’re alone in a shrouded continent, in the schizophrenia of hope. We pass by a brick row house with an open upper window. “Ah,” he says. “What?” “That smell,” he nods towards the window. “What is it?” He smiles widely. “Someone’s chasing the dragon. Doesn’t it smell like flowers?”

m

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My last night in Philly we go without the drugs. We have dinner in the arts district in a restaurant we cannot afford. “It’s a very big world. We had a very small window,” he says. I surprise myself. I start crying. “It’s the wine,” I say. “Come sit with me for a second,” he says, sliding over in his booth. “Alright.” “I am trying here, I’m trying to under-


jimenez | smoking in rented rooms 77

stand and not to be sad,” he says. His body burns like a loaded gun.

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All the trains, solo car rides, subway stations, taxies, buses, boats, and airplanes I’ve taken to reunite with past lovers are bittersweet memories when I really think about it. When I really think about how many I’ve left and have also left me behind. I recall the reflection of my eyes on those naked windows of travel, the light of streetlamps seen from a plane, the fading pleasures pursued in hotels and apartments around the world.

I am the last person on the bus. I hear the sound of the motor revving, then driving away. Driving away. This is the sound of leaving. Us both leaving each other again for works and lives that must continue apart. Leaving each other maybe only to follow other people into the dark, into other beds, in our separate cities. But I think one more time of his worn room. The historical blocks go on for miles in Philadelphia but not all have survived the way his row house had. After I leave I will hunger for the nakedness of that room that we filled with the vibrant, choleric air of our bodies. Maybe some other time, in another season, in another city, we’ll be together again, smoking in rented rooms. •


N

Entwined ELISHA WAGMAN

At six, they said she was hyper. Disruptive. A tornado that ripped through the classroom hurling pencils, flinging markers, shredding books. We sat with our backs pressed against a chain metal fence separating the playground from the graveyard where my grandparents’ tombstones slouched. There, she taught me to make cobra bracelets out of fluorescent green gimp. Her thick fingers more agile than my thin ones, confident as they wove plastic thread. For eleven years, I wore the bracelet. Now, it’s tucked in a drawer of my desk next to my father’s obituary and the wedding band from my first marriage. At ten, they said she was defiant. An anarchist who pitched insults like fastballs at anyone in charge. They whispered the word dangerous. A psychiatric hospital in northern Ontario offered a steadfast solution. Her parents cried as they filled a small suitcase with clothes and the stuffed Smurf I gave her.

Visitor’s Day occurred once a month. We made the two-hour trek in her father’s sedan. Sometimes, we stopped at a burger shack on the side of the highway and her parents bought me a vanilla milkshake. In my head, Paul McCartney crooned, “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.” She waited for us at a wooden picnic table wearing a pressed polo shirt and khaki shorts with sharp pleats. Her smile warmed the courtyard, a rectangle of concrete painted institutional green. The doctors claimed the color was soothing. It reminded me of cat puke. In the art studio, she showed us huge black canvasses sliced with swashes of orange and red. Therapy, she said. I nodded but didn’t understand. Her mother gazed out the window where another student Rachel’s age sat with an older woman under a willow tree. Her father stared at his scuffed tennis shoes. While her parents spoke with the director, we hid between stacks of novels


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in the library and talked as we once did, snuggled in sleeping bags beneath a glowing moon. I asked if she was okay. She didn’t yell as much and the pills helped. She smiled when she said this but only with her lips. They might let me go home, she said. At twelve, they said she was cured. A miracle of modern medicine. Her mom and I baked a chocolate cake and frosted it with fudge to celebrate her return. She unpacked the Smurf and placed it on her pillow. I gave her a homemade friendship bracelet. We hugged until our arms hurt. In the school parking lot she taught me to skateboard. And smoke. Menthol cigarettes stolen from my mother’s purse. We painted our fingernails black and our eyelids charcoal. In Kensington Market we bought combat boots and floral print dresses. We donated our gator shirts and topsiders to the Salvation Army. The polo shirts we shredded. At thirteen, they said she stumbled. Teachers caught her smoking pot in the boys' bathroom. When they proposed boarding school she threw a skateboard through the window. I helped her pack. We put the Smurf in last. She squeezed my hand when I told her it wasn’t forever. Two weeks later she ran away. Her parents came to our house late at night to ask if I had seen her. The police were notified. A warrant issued. I waited in

the living room until dawn, but the only visitor was a brown moth who flicked its wings against a chandelier. They found her on the corner of Dundas and Yonge begging for change. She’d shaved off all of her hair except the bangs. When I visited her at the group home she told me the style is called a Chelsea. I said she looked like a cancer patient. She laughed. I didn’t find it funny. She introduced me to the Sex Pistols, Flipper, and Brutal Attack. I asked her about the thin, red lines striping her biceps. A razor blade, she said. I made her promise to stop. She made me promise never to try acid. We pinky swore. At fifteen, they said she was a threat to herself and society. She broke into her parents’ house while they were on vacation in Florida. She and her friends bombed the walls with graffiti and burned all of the rugs. The insurance adjuster estimated $50,000 in damages. The judge ordered her confinement at a detention center. My parents insisted I cut all ties. Her mother drove me to the facility, a fortress of concrete and barbed wire hidden in a commercial pocket of the city. Against the orange jumpsuit Rachel’s skin looked yellow. I noticed puncture marks on her arms, a swarm of dots near the crease of her elbows. She caught me staring and covered them with her hands. I pulled one away


N and asked her what they were. Heroin, she said. And a little coke. It’s called a speedball. She quizzed me about the jazz classes I took, and the performance I was to give at a shopping mall. I danced my solo for her, and the ten other inmates and their families. Everyone clapped except Rachel’s mother, who wept. At seventeen, they said there was hope for her. Motherhood changes a person. She’d quit junk and returned to high school. We went to Lamaze and parenting classes. We bought tiny tennis shoes. Every weekend I took the bus home from college. She’d wait for me in the parking lot, her smile wider than her swollen belly. We’d go to Dairy Queen. One sundae, two spoons. She’d complain about a leaky bladder and I’d whine about picky professors. At night, we slept in the same bed like Siamese twins, limbs coiled around limbs. When our stomachs touched, I felt the baby kick. The call came on a Tuesday, a little after four in the morning. She was in labor. The next bus to Toronto left at six. I promised to be on it. I was supposed to cut the umbilical cord, but by the time I arrived they had pulled him from her womb. She showed me the enormous gash that stretched across her belly, a crimson snake sewn with stitches. Nothing to ease the pain

because they worried drugs would reignite her addiction. I fed her ice chips. We both cried. When the nurse placed him in my arms something shifted in my chest. My rib cage expanded, to make room for an enlarged heart. Blood spurted from my ventricles, a ruddy, kinetic force. I kissed his forehead, and worried my lips would sear his skin. Her parents brought take-out and onesies in blue, green, and yellow. I bought a balloon from the gift shop that said It’s a boy! The only remaining photograph of the celebration is tacked to a corkboard in my office. On the back it says, Michael, 7 lbs, 5 ozs. The next day, her parents invited me to a family meeting. Rachel sat in the corner of the hospital room, clutching Michael to her chest. Her mother said she couldn’t keep him. They were sending her to a college in the country. Rachel wanted me to take him. Her father thought it was a bad idea but she insisted. I begged my parents. My father threatened to cut off all financial support. My mother said there was nothing we could do. Rachel’s mom said it was for the best. He’d be adopted by a good family. She and her husband would make sure. That afternoon, we took turns holding Michael. I brushed thin wisps of hair from his forehead and apologized for


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failing him. Rachel squeezed my shoulder as I sobbed. She didn’t cry. Not then, and not when the woman from Social Services pried Michael from her arms. Ten days later, I helped stuff suitcases into the trunk of her father’s sedan. I wished her well and meant it. When we hugged we felt Michael’s absence in the space between us. At eighteen, they said she wouldn’t live to twenty-one. She’d overdosed five times in four months and the last one left her in a coma. I drove from college to a hospital in Sudbury where I found the corpse of my friend connected to a ventilator. We don’t expect her to survive the night, said the doctor. For four days, I existed on coffee and chocolate bars bought from a vending machine. I took furtive naps in a chair stationed next to Rachel’s bed. Her parents slept in the lounge. They ate even less than I did. On the fifth day, Rachel regained consciousness. On the seventh, she completed one lap around the ward. On the tenth, we celebrated her recovery with Chinese take-out. The doctor warned us that Rachel was fragile. They weren’t certain that the overdose was accidental. When we were alone, I asked her. She showed me the scars on both wrists. Even suicide she screwed up. Nothing is more pathetic, she said. From the hospital, they sent her to a rehab center five hours away by plane,

one that specialized in opiate addiction and complex mental health issues. We didn’t hug before she climbed into an idling taxi. Her left hand, swathed in bandages, poked through the open window, a waving white flag. Instead of driving back to school, I spent the afternoon in the maternity ward watching babies wiggle in their cotton cocoons. A month later, I received a letter from Rachel’s therapist. He’d advised her to sever all ties with her previous life. When I telephoned the rehab center a receptionist with a raspy voice told me Rachel’s telephone privileges had been suspended. I sent her letters but all of them returned unopened. The final fissure was the Smurf I had given her years before, sent to me by special delivery. I burned it in the backyard. At twenty, they said she had bipolar disorder and prescribed lithium. With counseling and medication, they promised she’d live a normal life. A new therapist lifted the ban on our friendship. The night she telephoned, I was at a friend’s cottage celebrating our graduation from college. I miss you, the message said. I didn’t return the call. Five years later, I found Rachel sitting on my stoop. She’d gained weight, and it suited her. Clothing clung to rather than hung from her frame. Her hair extended past her shoulders and she’d cut it in a shaggy style that showcased her strong cheekbones and chin.

81


N At twenty-five, she said she was a survivor. Her journey carved into skin, the scars faded but still visible. She pointed them out in case I had forgotten. I hadn’t. Blind, I could identify their locations on her body. From her purse she pulled out photos of a man and a boy about two years old. For a second, I thought it was Michael, that against all odds she had found him and gotten him back. Relief more powerful that any drug I’d tried washed over me in waves. Her husband Steve, she said. And son Jeremy. I wanted to be happy for her, proud of the resilience she’d shown and her ability to start her life anew, but I wasn’t. I asked about Michael. She didn’t know where he was, but hoped he was happy. She wished that for me too. I couldn’t say the same. She drove off in a golden sedan, its paint sparkling in the setting sun. On the morning of my thirtieth birthday, I found an unmarked envelope in my mailbox and inside a bracelet woven from green gimp. There wasn’t a note or card inside but I knew she’d made it. It fit snugly around my wrist. She hadn’t accounted for the inch of fat that had settled around my bones, just as I hadn’t

counted on the remorse that burrowed beneath my skin like a frenzied tick. I called her parents and left a message with my cell number. For days, I waited for a call that never came. Later the same year, a fertility specialist informed my husband and me that children weren’t possible. Ovarian failure, he said, but I knew it was karma. People who abandon babies don’t get to be parents. My husband didn’t care about the cause. He wanted kids and wasn’t willing to adopt. Our marriage ended like it began: quickly and without fanfare. At forty, Rachel declared herself a success story. Owner of a chain of vintage clothing stores, and mother of three teenage children, she had much to be proud of. The twenty-year sobriety chip her talisman. I followed her on Facebook. We accepted each other as friends but didn’t communicate. Instead, from photographs and status updates I collaged her life; Rachel beaming at Jeremy’s high school graduation, Michael’s birthday discreetly tattooed on the inside of her left wrist, Rachel and Steve’s anniversary party at a biker bar. Every Friday I scan her page, hoping for an update about Michael, now a man of twenty-three. I still can’t cut the cord. •


83

Debris JM HUSCHER

I was ten years old the first time I saw my father preach on a street corner. We were living in Budapest, Hungary at the time. My parents were sent out as missionaries from a small, non-denominational church in Nebraska shortly after the Soviet bloc countries relaxed their border policies on westerners with Bibles. They were devout, sincere Protestants—my father having famously proposed to my mother by saying “I believe God is calling me to marry you.” In a way, it made sense that we would uproot and move to Eastern Europe. It made sense because we had Jesus and they didn’t. There were a number of strategy meetings in our Budapest living room before the first trip to Skála. Dad’s sermon was reduced to ten minutes, because using a translator meant that everything would take twice as long. Our translator, Péter Szabados, was a short, bald man who learned English while in the military. His name back then was Péter Orosz,

but he had filed the paperwork to change it in 1989, two years before our arrival. Péter’s former family name, which literally meant Russian, had made him virtually unemployable in the months after the Soviet tanks rolled east back toward Moscow. The fantastic thing about watching Péter translate was in how perfectly he emulated my father’s pitch and tone. Sometimes, perhaps without even knowing it, he even mirrored my father’s physical gestures. At those same meetings, my father, Péter, and the small team of missionaries they worked with talked about how to get as many people to hear the Word as possible. “A crowd,” Dad told us, “will draw a crowd.” He decided to have the group dispersed over a small area, and then, as he and Péter began, we were to quickly come stand and listen as if we were interested. My brother and I were included in the plan. The group practiced in the yard, creating a crowd of eight around Dad and Péter that would allow


N more interested folks to walk in between us, closer to the front. Dad preached at the Skála for several years. On Saturdays, the three of us (him, my brother, and I) took the 114 bus from XIII. utca to Kosztolányi Dezsö tér. We met up with Péter and the rest of the group before my brother and I were dispatched to take up our post near a flower vendor. There were a few times that we became so distracted by the trying to remember the names of the blooming irises and dahlias, idly running our fingers along the rough edges of leaves, and sticking our noses into the bunches of yellow and orange roses that we missed his sermon altogether. Usually we didn’t. Usually we heard the familiar boom of his voice and feigned curiosity, moving through the crowded market toward a man yelling in English about redemption.

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Bruno Schulz wrote two novels, or maybe three, though the last one lurks only in letters, journals, and rumors. The other two, Street of Crocodiles (as it’s called in English), and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, are both full of his father. Or a father figure of some kind. He appears as a fox and a condor and a knight and a scorpion, dying

and reincarnating over and over. In the last chapter of Sanatorium, he’s in the wallpaper somehow, and when you read it, you think to yourself, Yes. Yes, of course he’s in the wallpaper. Because isn’t that what it’s like to watch someone lie in the same bed in the same room for so many years? Didn’t you have to say good-bye to him so many times before he died, and wasn’t it like letting him die every time? You remember your uncle Louis and his long piano-key fingers. Wasn’t there something of Louis in the uncomfortable couch? The rough fiber against your cheek while you tried to nap after lunch. He was propped in the recliner, oxygen tubes extending up from the green and silver tank, pillow under his back, and you watched his chest rise and fall, expecting it to stop at any minute. He was so fragile you couldn’t sleep a wink. Closing the cover to see the author’s name crawling down the spine, it will not occur to you as a possibility that Schulz’s father was still alive when he wrote the book, or that Schulz did not spend some portion of his formative years watching his father die. It would last for almost a full decade. Of course that’s how it happened, you will tell yourself. He couldn’t have written it otherwise. ···


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a

Ankur has only ever had one complaint about my writing. It’s the names, he says. He gets too distracted trying to turn “Joanne” back into Amy or “Gabriel” back into Michael. Last time he saw me read, he asked me if I had really ripped the spark plug cable off of “Kayla’s” P200. I could have. She certainly deserved it, showing up like that after sending me court papers. The P200 would have been towed to a shop, and she would have dropped a couple hundred bucks to a lucky mechanic for 30 seconds of work. It would have proved a point about where she belonged, but only would have changed things for her. The damage was done on my end. That was the night I stopped wishing she’d come back. I might as well have set the thing on fire. It wouldn’t have made any difference at all. Did I pull the spark plug cable off of Kayla’s P200? No. I drank beer and sulked in the bar like a chicken shit and couldn’t come up with anything to say or do that would have made that night interesting at all until two years later when I sat down to write a story about the thing that happened inside my head. ···

t

The mirror was the shop’s only amenity, and I watched both of us through its dusty face. I watched my body become not my body while Ed pushed the needled tip of the gun over my pale skin, pausing intermittently to wipe the blood and ink with a Brawny paper towel. It was my first tattoo. On the mirror, a small sticker with a crucifix and large block lettering read: BODY PIERCING SAVED MY LIFE. In the graphic next to the text, a railroad spike-sized nail protruded from an open palm. Tomato-red blood gushed out. Ed and I didn’t talk about Jesus, but I suppose we could have. I looked at the sticker and the reflection while Ed wrote the word “Truth” in an old English font onto my shoulder. I was 19. It was the sort of tattoo one gets at 19, which is to say it’s the reason people tell you not to get ink. My parents didn’t know about it until I was 21. “I’ve had it for two years,” I told them. “Doesn’t it seem strange that you would lie about that? About a tattoo of that word?”

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There was something very 1950s about us. We went on walks. She held my


N hand while we aimlessly wandered the sidewalks of her neighborhood. Usually at night. There were specific houses we knew would probably have the picture window curtains drawn back. We never stood on the sidewalk to stare in, but of course we would glance up into the houses to see shadows on couches or at the dinner table, often illuminated by the flickering blue of television. I told her once that it wouldn’t be so strange to just see people watching sitcoms, but sometimes we could see people watching commercials. Or just see a TV playing in an empty room. The first postcard I sent her was from Africa. It was before we started dating. She kept it on her nightstand under a novel by a Polish writer that she could never seem to finish. The edges of a Cape Town coastline poked out from under the book. I mailed her others, even when we lived on opposite ends of the same town. Usually they were just photos I had taken and printed onto cardstock paper. The postcards never said anything really. She never wrote back. It was never about that side of the card. That wasn’t how it worked. At night she used to sleep on me, with her cheek against my chest, and ask me to write postcards for her. I swept my fingertips lightly over her naked back, drawing the shapes of cursive letters. I studied the shape of the light fixture above her bed. She dropped off

into a heavy sleep before I could. The swirls of the letters were impossible to decipher. She never knew what I was writing—sometimes things like: I love you so bad I think I might set myself on fire. Sometimes I wrote: I’m afraid to leave you, so I’m waiting for you to go. But when I wrote things like that, the cursive had so much more calligraphy.

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A reduction of anxiety between thumb and index. I spin the ring slowly. Push it against my knuckle. The tiny grooves which, at the end of my finger, become my fingerprint are made smooth under it. The silver ring is how I survive small rooms, elevators, and crowded vehicles. It pushes the walls out. The ceiling into the sky until I can find oxygen. My brother bought it for his high school girlfriend maybe nine or ten years ago. When she left for college in a different state, the ring stayed behind. He was destroyed. Called an ambulance for himself two months later, having


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realized how terrible it would be for his roommates to have to clean up his blood from the bathroom floor. He gave me the ring one Thanksgiving when we were both at my parent’s house. He said he wanted it to mean something else. It was a rare moment for us. Getting along like that and being able to talk about horrible stuff. I used to beat the shit out of him when we were growing up. Really awful. I feel worse about the way I treated him than I do anything else. I almost admire him for hating me. We don’t talk anymore, but I still wear the ring.

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The film The Raven (with John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe) was filmed in Budapest, but made to look like 19th century Baltimore. I can’t imagine that the art directors had to do much more than make sure there weren’t any cars parked on the street. The industrial plants in the Eastern districts have painted the walls of Budapest in gray soot. It is a city of hard surfaces—the modern concrete and pavement folding into the centuries old cut limestone and castle walls. Wrought iron window bars. Tall ceilings and small rooms. The city belongs to every time but this one.

While Cusack walks through the frame, I wonder where he is exactly. I think Obuda in the north of the city for awhile, but the streets seem too narrow. I wonder if they’re not in the First District, near the river. There is a beautiful museum about the Hapsburgs there. A gothic cathedral which always seems to linger just out of frame. I can’t unsee the tall, stone spire. I can’t unsee the city. Cusack is Budapest. He is Lloyd Dobler and Denny LeChance and Martin Q. Blank and Rob Gordon and all of them are each other and all of them are a bastard city.

s

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Several of my writing students got into a bit of an argument over the general procedure of cremation. One of them had written a story about a guy addicted to chopping up bodies with a fire axe, and there was a question as to whether bodies prepared for cremation would give our protagonist the sort of Tarantino-esque blood splatter he so craved. One student suggested that all of the blood was drained from the body long before it was cremated. Another suggested that the blood wouldn’t splatter at all since there was nothing pumping it through the body. “It would just sort of ooze,” he


N said, gesticulating a sort of gelatinous fluid with his hands. Allen, who never does the reading, was faking his way through the conversation. He had no idea the story was about dismemberment until one of his classmates brought up the logistics of it. Then Allen wouldn’t shut up about how great the story is. I know I’m not supposed to say this sort of thing, but I hate Al. I finally recommended that the author find out what he needed to find out about cremation, but that we, as readers, could probably think of more useful things to say that don’t have to do with logistics. The author needs to know what happens exactly, but maybe the rest of us don’t. I told them that I had once watched a series of YouTube videos of cow births to try and write a scene for a story. “But you don’t put all of that in there,” I said, “But you could if you wanted to.” Al raised his hand and asked if cows eat the placenta, and it made me want to bounce his face off the desk in front of him.

t

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The first stories I ever wrote were about three boys who fought battles against an evil oversized lobster. The stories were called “John Mark, Jeff, and Josh.” My

two best friends in the fourth grade were named Jeff and Josh.

t

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The question was always how and whether or not it had changed, and the truth was, it hadn’t. Not even a little bit. The language was a bit rusty and I could hear my own accent coming and going. I met Nona on my fourth day back in Budapest. She had just been robbed by gypsies and was living off of her roommates' food. I did the decent thing. I bought her beers until she was piss drunk and then walked her home. On a national holiday, when neither of us had to work, there was a large political rally a few blocks from her house. In spite of my warnings, and having shown her the YouTube videos of the previous year’s rally erupting into a full-scale riot, Nona insisted that we should go. The Nationalist Party crowd was four blocks deep. Many of them were dressed in black. Gas masks hanging from their belts. Ten-eye combat boots. Hands in white-knuckled fists. Nona and I were able to walk through the crowd without being noticed. We were just another pair of bodies shouldering our way to a closer look at the central stage. A woman was at the microphone yelling angrily. Nona tugged on my jacket, but I refused to translate. I


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whispered to her not to say anything in English and said we should leave. We made our way to Parliament, where we stood at a safe distance and watched a small skirmish between police in riot gear and a few angry, drunk Nationalists.

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Before the year was up, my brother and I carried new backpacks on our trips to Skála. Both were packed with freshly printed copies of “The Four Spiritual Laws” booklet. The popular tracts had, of course, been translated into Hungarian—the familiar font on the front had to be drastically reduced in size in order to make room for the new words: Ha személyesen megismerhetnéd Istent, érdekelne-e? Mike and I had concerns about the tract. For one, the word for four, négy, was nowhere in the title. The new title also ended with a question mark, and the whole point of the Four Spiritual Laws was, of course, that there was no question. Observing these things did not deliver us from our heavy burdens. We pulled ourselves onto the bus by gripping the guide rails on the door. Before the bus settled into its route north along the river, I found a seat near the back of the bus where I could sit alone while my dad and brother talked

and laughed in English. I slid the blue backpack under my seat and sat with my arms folded over my chest. As the diesel engine roared away from another stop, I tried to imagine being brave enough to get off without the tracts. It was impossible. I heard someone behind me mutter the word yankee under his breath. Dad and Mike seemed to be even more obvious now, even more American, and I pretended not to know them. Watching them like that, I think, was the first time I understood the difference between us. I wanted him, God, dad, or whoever, to leave us alone. I stared out the window and watched the city go by—the limestone facades of the embankment and a brown, flat river on one side of the road and the blur of storefronts on the other. I tried to disappear completely.

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I have come to believe in the recycled living room of television. The set from All in the Family becomes the house from The Cosby Show. Front door on the right. Open staircase in the back. Archie’s chair gets replaced with Dr. Huxtable’s couch. Walk behind the couch and go left to enter the kitchen. It becomes Raymond Barone’s house a few years later. Blossom before that. Family Mat-


N ters, Step by Step, Who’s the Boss, and Full House were mirror-images of that house with the front door on the left. I have faith in the house and its ability to tell one story, and to tell it in a choir of voices.

t

***

The Nazi’s established a ghetto in occupied Drohobycz to detain the 10,000 Jews living in the city. Bruno Schulz was among them. Hundreds of men and women were shot to make room for others—families coming in from as far east as Vienna. One gestapo officer named Karl Gunther kept a diary. It recorded the deaths of two Jewish women who were forced to dig their own graves before being executed. When they grew tired from the work, Gunther offered them water, which they refused. This meant everything. Gunther also recognized Schulz’s illustrative talent and hired him to paint murals for his son’s bedroom. Schulz spent the next several months alternating between a new novel and wall-sized paintings of the Grimm fairy tales. One day, when he was returning home with a loaf of bread, an SS soldier walked up behind Schulz and put a bullet in the back of his head. After the war Gunther became an interior designer.

Decades later the unfinished wall paintings were miraculously discovered under several layers of paint. Devotees of Schulz’ fiction were elated, but the celebration was short-lived. In what felt like a plot line stolen from an elaborate heist film, the walls of Gunther’s former apartment vanished overnight. But walls are not made to be moved. It is difficult to imagine the artwork as anything other than rubble. Perhaps some large chunks of dusty plaster. A piece with its flat side painted red. A little girl’s hood or a wolf’s tongue.

t t

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The novel’s protagonist is named “JM.” I’ve never met anyone else who went by that name. Calling him that reminds me to tell the truth. I try to tell the truth, but it’s not enough. I have to dig it out of myself. ···

There are four books in my tent. Three of them are religious texts. The fourth is Amos Oz’s The Same Sea. I will read it three times during the month I spend in Mpumelanga, near the Mozambican border. Three years later, on the first


huscher | debris

day of Gerry Shapiro’s 20th century fiction class, I see Oz on the syllabus. I schedule a meeting with Dr. Shapiro just so I can freak out. He tells me Amos Oz will be in town for a writing seminar, and Shapiro can get me in. I shit bricks. Shapiro introduces me to Oz a few weeks later. I shake his hand. I tell him about the tent. How I sat on a rock in the African sun, eating boiled peanuts, re-reading his book over and over. He laughs at me. I am biting my lip about the three other books and his essays on the Israel Palestine problem. I am fumbling with the book in my hand, nervously fidgeting with the dust jacket. Shapiro, who can see me stumbling over my own tongue, suggests that I ask a question. “Panther in the Basement,” I say. “It’s about a kid who is 12 years old in 1948.” And I don’t know why I’m retelling him the plot of his own book. “Yes.” He smiles at Dr. Shapiro because, I think, no one ever reads Panther in the Basement, and no one asks him about it. “You were 10 years old in 1948.” I let the question ask itself. Dr. Shapiro takes my copy of The Same Sea out of my hand, couples it with a pen, and silently passes it to Oz. There’s a look of disappointment, which fades quickly. He tilts his head back to look at the ceiling—to find the words. I wonder if he is picturing me

in a tent. He writes something in my book. He waits for a few seconds. I don’t remember if he started with “My boy,” but he might as well have. “Everything is autobiographical,” he says. “Nothing is confessional.”

t

···

The drive home turns into an interrogation. It’s warranted, I suppose. Move too far, too fast, too many times and you have to start answering questions. Six months ago, I crashed on Tim’s couch on the way to Budapest, now we’re driving home from IKEA, having picked up a few items for my California apartment. It’s the return trip he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t buy the story about my visa running out, which is too bad since it’s the best lie I’ve come up with in years. He presses me on it, so I admit that it’s a lie. “My visa did expire, though,” I tell him. In the Frankfurt airport, an EU border guard shook his head at me and muttered “three months Visa” in a heavy accent. He held me from my flight to New York so he could consult with a superior officer. The other travelers, now indefinitely stalled behind me, shot me a few dirty looks. When the guard returned, he pressed my passport against the glass and yelled, “Next time! Only three months visa!”

91


N Tim laughs at the story, but he still wants to know the truth. I am silent as the red Subaru carries us along business 80. I check over my shoulder once to look at the unassembled living room in the back seat. Stacks of cardboard boxes. “Team lift” stickers appearing several times on each one. Tim stares blankly at the downtown skyline as we cross the river. It won’t be long now. Krakow is covered in snow, but it’s not cold. From the train station it’s a ten minute walk to the banks of the Vistula river. A wide sidewalk extends around the Kazimierz and the southern end of the castle and goes right up to several overpriced hotels with very English names. The Sheraton. The Kossak. The Radisson. There is a Best Western a bit further north. I swear to god. A fucking Best Western. It’s a tightrope walk of sorts. I stay away from bars and restaurants where I can read the menu, but once I sit down I order Kielbasa and coffee because it’s the only way I know what I’m getting. When I meet Ewa, a cute banker who I chat up in a small coffee house, I tell her, “I want to do what the locals do,” and she says, “but we don’t do anything.” I don’t believe her, so she has me over to her apartment where we eat spaghetti, drink wine, and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Polish broadcaster can’t afford to hire voiceover actors, so it’s

one man doing all of the voices. If you listen closely, you can hear the original dialogue in the background. Ewa says you get used to it. We finish the wine and I take a cab back to my hotel, alone. It’s one of the best nights of my life. A few days later, I get up at 5 in the morning and take a bus to see Auschwitz. It’s an hour and a half away, and I am smashed between a small Japanese man and a woman who spends the entire trip digging through her backpack for books and chapstick and a bottle of water. It takes me five hours to walk through the camp. There are hundreds of us on the grounds and no one speaks. When someone asks me about the trip later I will say, “It’s a museum, right? But every display and exhibit is just there to say ‘This happened. This is a horrible, horrible thing and it happened. And it happened here.’” On the bus ride back to Krakow, I feel like shit. I think seriously about asking Ewa to marry me. I’ve known her for 3 days. Of course I won’t do it, but the particular chemistry of that moment makes it seem like the best idea I’ve ever had. Love is the lie I can afford to tell myself about Ewa. I settle into it.

t

···

The novel is in pieces. It is four MS Word documents and is almost 400


huscher | debris 93

double-spaced pages when I print it out. It is a four-inch thick pile in my filing cabinet as well as half of a drawer under my printer. I’ve outlined the next set of revisions for myself by stacking 37 postit notes in a specific order. Two copies have notes on them. The word “kid gloves” is written in cursive in one of them. I can picture it in my head on the left side of the page. It is underlined. The last revision stalled when I tried to write the chapter about the first night I missed curfew. I was 12, and surprised to see my mother sitting in a chair by the front door when I came home at sometime after 3 a.m. She screamed at me. Asked me where I had been. I refused to answer. When I tried to go past her, she grabbed me by the throat,

digging her fingernails in around the outline of my trachea. She threw me against the bathroom sink, and I bent the faucet. Two days later I took the 114 to the Skála with my dad and my brother. We never fixed the faucet. None of this is in the novel. One thing I am sure of, having spent the last five years inside this narrative, is that the fiction and the autobiography of it will always be at war. Wanting to find, to build a space where they can coexist is the battle of each paragraph and sentence. I try to paint it with the thinnest brushes. I lose sleep over it. I should buy a paper shredder. It’s a problem I have. Believing in the sacredness of things. In the wholeness. Never thinking to look in the debris. •


N

Footprints and Static KEISHA VERGENZ In our phone calls, we talk about which restaurant he visited that day, alone. “Just one?” the host asks. “Yep, just me,” he says. At his table, he checks his new office-issued cell phone he didn’t ask for, the endless touch screen buttons, his thumbs bumping more numbers than intended. He sends me messages about Arnold Palmer iced tea, apple cheesecake with caramel ribbons, and how we’ll have to bake one together, sometime. Once, I called my mother and asked how dad was doing. He’s been stressed,

she says. His paperwork spins his sense of seconds into hours. But he’s in Pennsylvania right now. Should be home next week for a few days. “But I just talked to him a few days ago,” I say. “He’s in Louisiana.” “Oh, geez, I wasn’t even close,” she laughs. My father laughs when he hears this, too. “Just you wait,” he says. “Something will happen, I’ll be in New York, and you girls will send an ambulance to who knows where.” We chat about the


vergenz | footprints and static 95

pros and cons of his current hotel stay. Always, the beds crinkle his spine and rarely fit just right. I imagine him staring at an unfamiliar ceiling and wish to stick glow-in-the-dark stars in every room he visits.

w

···

We walked the edge of endless cornfields. My father knew when to venture into the branches, when to keep walking, the sky rose and pink through the bare trees. I liked to step in his tall footprints, the snow broken into shards. He turns and leans down, pulls the old red bandana to his chin so I can hear. Frost crinkles in his moustache, but he never gets cold, he says. It feels good just being out here. “Alright kiddo, once we get to my tree stand, we’ll have to be real quiet,” he whispers. “We don’t want to scare away the deer.” “Okay,” I nod quickly. A scarf is wrapped around my head, my shoulders. My breath sticks to the woolen facemask and beads around my mouth, the orange overalls heavy on my small shoulders. I feel like I’m peeking out of a protective space suit as my father leads the expedition. I pull cattails from the snow, carry them as a bouquet. I tug off a mitten and

tickle the bristles. My father had said deer can even hear a person scratch their nose. I wonder if they can hear this, too.

m

···

My father and I drove home from the grocery store. With the window down, I balance my arm on the edge to avoid any june bugs pelting into my palm like last time. He pauses at a stop sign and looks both ways. The car hums in place. “Do you think I should take this promotion?” he asks, looking at the pine trees. I shrug. I’m eighteen and my mother has just moved into an apartment a sliver larger than my future dorm room. My life felt like a handful of coins tossed in the air, landing opposite of how I’d always thought they would. “If you think it will make you happy, then do it. Maybe it’ll be a nice change. Maybe you’ll like it,” I say. “Well, it’ll sure be different. I might be gone a lot. Not that there’s much to come home to now, anyway,” he says, musters a laugh. He stares at his hands, a newly developed habit. My father didn’t own a pair of appropriate dress slacks, which were now required in place of a grease-stained shirt and steel-toed shoes. He would now


N travel the east coast as a salesman for the machinery he had built himself for over fifteen years. He started to tuck in his shirts, slick gel in his hair, now cut and shaped in his goal of a style.

A

···

At our old house, my father crafted a tree house out of spare lumber scattered around the backyard. Inside it, I surveyed my crashing seas below as a pirate and tucked my pet caterpillar into its tin bucket home strung on a rope. My old playmate Amanda and I scurry beneath the tree house with our squirt guns, dodging the crystal bullets, when hers drops with a final cracking noise. We soon discover her weapon spurts with as much force as the lazy bubblers at school. “What’s wrong, bud?” my dad calls from the back porch. His baseball cap, his go-to before he sets out to explore the lawn, covers his eyes. The dirty green rim is nearly bent into a hook from his familiar routine: remove cap, wipe forehead, squeeze the visor, return. “It’s broken,” I say, ”and it’s the only other one we have.” We settle around the tree with our chins tucked, brush the curious ants off our kneecaps. “A broken squirt gun, huh?” he says. Later, he finds us and carries an

old shampoo bottle with small holes he punched in the top. “Here you go,” he says, and squirts water on my cheek.

W

···

With his decision made, my father attended a conference on selling techniques and public speaking. After, the kitchen table disappeared beneath folders, business cards, and a new laptop. He settled into his new desk, called me from my bedroom. “But how do you send it?” he asks, leaning toward the screen. “Just hit send in the corner,” I say. “Then, it’ll show up in the sent box. Make sense?” He nods a few times, sighs. He opens a new message, blank and spacious. “Okay, let me think.” He clears his throat, stares at the keyboard as if it might lunge at him. Then, his words start to fall like a game of Tetris, one by one. “Typing is harder than it looks, huh?” he says. I notice his grammar errors, but this new posture feels strange, leaning over his shoulder with all the right words. I write on yellow post-its nearby: “They’re not going to like the spaghetti. There is the zoo. This is their blue house.” I stick


vergenz | footprints and static 97

them to the side of his screen. My father gives a side smile. “Thanks, bud. See, what would I do without you?”

n

···

Now, my father often calls during his long drives between cities. His hours are scheduled, his inner workings like a dependable machine without an off button. We plan my next visit home, which History hannel shows to watch. I’ll find him at the kitchen table when I arrive, asleep on the couch before the last commercial break. “Hey, before I let you go, I wanted to tell you about my run this morning,” he

says. “Why are you running in the morning? Don’t you already leave for work at like, six?” I laugh. “Six or six thirty. I’ve got to get it done somehow, and it’s nice in the mornings. Less cars,” he says. He is driving through a tunnel, his voice reaching through static. “Right when the sun was rising, I saw a shooting star. I didn’t even think those happened then, but who knew?” “I love shooting stars,” I say. “Are shooting stars like birthday wishes and you’re not supposed to tell? Well anyways, I saw the star and I thought, okay, come up with something quick,” he says, laughing a bit. “So I said I’d like world peace, and for my daughter to be successful." •


N

a Kept man JULIA MAACK “So how old were you when you found out that Grandpa was. . .” “A player?” my dad supplies with a lop-sided grin. He looks more and more like his own father every day, gray streaks through his dark hair, crow’s feet peeking out from behind his glasses. Almost what someone might call an old man. “Uh, yeah, sure, let’s go with that,” I was thinking more adulterer, liar, or cheater, but I suppose “player” works too. “I don’t think it really clicked until I was about sixteen. I heard Kelly’s mom saying things when she was drunk and put two and two together,” my dad trails off, heading out to the garage for his perennial smoke.

m

···

My grandfather was a heavy smoker, too, and a heavy drinker. On paper he was a salesman, selling insurance, machine parts, whatever needed to be sold. What he actually did was court potential clients with booze, cigarettes, and women on the company card. He was a seller. He’d meet his clients for liquid lunches, discuss purchasing orders over three, four, five dirty martinis and a handshake. Gentlemen’s agreements. Grandpa was a notorious smooth-talker; Grandma always said he could talk an Eskimo into buying ice. What she didn’t say was that he could just as easily talk any woman right out of her Neiman Marcus dress


maack

and into his hotel suite. All this while my grandmother stayed firmly ensconced in the tidy suburban ranch home she knew and loved. Of course, these ranch homes ranged across the country from Illinois to Washington, but they were always in the suburbs. Grandpa’s string of sales jobs led them from one town to the next, packing up the three kids into the station wagon and moving on when required. My dad would learn how to make friends quickly and drop them just as easily when Grandpa decided to quit his job and look elsewhere. Meanwhile, Grandma would decorate each tiny little box, painstakingly put up curtains and framed pictures of Jesus to cobble together a home, only to be taken apart and re-configured in the next house the next year. I would understand later that Grandpa thrived on this nomadic lifestyle, probably due to his childhood. He was, from an early age, shuffled between his mother’s relatives. His own dad, a modest mechanic, died when he was an infant. His mom was a serial dater, flitting from one man to the next in a series of never-ending marriages. Her own love life seemingly much more important than the upbringing of her son, she threw him into boarding school as early as possible. Most summers were spent on the farm. Grandpa spoke of the farm as though it were a labor camp, and for the most part, it was. Old Fred, his mother’s father,

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a kept man 99

was a strict Scotsman by way of Canada. Fred was humorless and cruel, often subjecting even his adult children to bare flesh belt-lashings. The beatings were in between dawn-til-dusk labor sessions on the farm, where Grandpa was exposed to his crude young uncles. Two of these uncles would eventually make the FBI’s Most Wanted list for racketeering, armed robbery, and fraud. The other five were less successful ne’er-do-wells. Shinny and Corky, though, like my grandfather, knew the fine art of sweet talk. Later they would sweet talk their way into women’s lives, rob them blind, then run, never to be heard from again. I have to wonder if these summers on the farm are where my grandfather learned his particular skill set. My grandmother, on the other hand, was raised in a wealthy family, the youngest child and only daughter. She was doted on by both her father and mother, and would require this same amount of adoring attention throughout her life. When my grandfather couldn’t give her that, she became withdrawn, cold, and bitter. When the phone rang and a strange woman’s husky tone on the other end would ask for Ray, she would bite her tongue and slam down the receiver, not allowing the stranger on the other end to be privy to her indignity. She’d compose herself for a moment, then set the meatloaf on the table for her three children and say grace. Maybe


N later she’d pop a valium and go to bed, alone.

d

···

Dad was twelve when he and his buddies saw my Grandpa’s car parked at The Pink Pussycat in the next town over. They cruised closer on their Schwinn bikes, checked out the license plate. Yes, it was him. One o’clock in the afternoon, treating his good-ol-boy clients to a little post-lunch debauchery. “Your dad’s at a titty bar!” one of his buddies exclaimed.

t

···

Titty bars, however, were not the tawdriest of grandpa’s dirty little secrets. Being a salesman was a handy excuse for skipping town on short notice, driving down to Cincinnati, Memphis, Atlanta, wherever his mistress du jour was stationed. He would wine her and dine her like he would his clients, only instead of a handshake and a business deal, there were hugs, kisses, and post-coital cigarettes. ···

d

“Did you ever meet any of Grandpa’s mistresses?” “He didn’t have mistresses,” Dad replies crossly, then contemplates. “I don’t like that word, mistresses. It implies, like, a sex maid at your beck and call or something.” He is clearly uncomfortable with the direction of this conversation and would much rather get back to reading the Financial Times on his tablet. I try to think of a nicer word for someone grandpa cheated on grandma with. Fling is all I can come up with, but before I can rephrase dad continues. “No. It’s not like he ever brought them home, you know, to meet the kids,” he chuckles, the innocent chuckle of someone who never has had a mistress himself, but implicitly understands the nature of such things. He shuffles off to the kitchen, muttering mistresses, under his breath with a wry chortle.

t

···

The mistress that stands out most is the heiress from Nashville; in my mind she’s tall, with thick dark hair that stands out against her porcelain complexion, a direct study in contrast to my strawberry-haired grandmother. Her name is Vivian, Victoria, Verena. A name you have to purse your lips to say. In reality no one


maack

except my grandfather knew precisely who she was or what she looked like. She is the only one my grandfather considered leaving his family for. A young widow with a company to run, she begged him to leave his wife and three young children to move down to Nashville and marry her. She would make him the president of the company, just a figurehead, she said, he wouldn’t really

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a kept man 101

have to do anything. In the end, he couldn’t do it— couldn’t leave his two teenaged sons or the five year old daughter that still called him Daddy. Couldn’t leave the angry and aloof woman who mothered them, either. But mostly, he couldn’t stand being a “kept” man. Any more so than he already was. Besides, he didn’t know anything about running a company. •


Breaking the Yoke They Go, We Go Coquette Happiness Windows to the Past Twins Riley Untitled Untitled Imagining What Once Was light cobwebs Lady Bug's World Anthropomorphism #5: “Sun or Moon” Anthropomorphism #6: “Virtue” Opening Day Drops Would Smell As Sweet Work didn't make them Free Discovering Myself Skewed Emma, Ink in Water #4 The Mannequin Murders

104 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 112 113 114 115 116 117 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125

Kerstin Torgerson Kerstin Torgerson Kerstin Torgerson Fabio Sassi Chloe Scheller Phillip Enderby Phillip Enderby Jessica Schmidt Jessica Schmidt Kerrie Sutton Eleanor Leonne Bennett Eleanor Leonne Bennett Paige Konitzer Riya Aarini Riya Aarini Cole Heyn Emma Hitzman Gwyer Sinclair Rebecca Brown Rachel Cherechinskey Rebecca Brown Cambrie Davis Willy Conley


KERSTIN TORGERSON Top: Breaking the Yoke | Bottom: They Go, We Go | Opposite: Coquette

104


105


106

FABIO SASSI Happiness Opposite: CHLOE SCHELLER Windows to the Past


107


108

PHILLIP ENDERBY Twins Opposite: Riley


109


110 JESSICA SCHMIDT Untitled


111


112

JESSICA SCHMIDT Untitled


113

KERRIE SUTTON Imagining What Once Was


114

ELEANOR LEONNE BENNETT light Opposite: cobwebs


115


116

PAIGE KONITZER Lady Bug's World


RIYA AARINI Top: Anthropomorphism #5: “Sun or Moon” | Bottom: Anthropomorphism #6: “Virtue”

117


118

COLE HEYN Opening Day


119

EMMA HITZMAN Drops


120


121

REBECCA BROWN Work didn’t make them Free Opposite: GWYER SINCLAIR Would Smell as Sweet


122

RACHEL CHERECHINSKEY Discovering Myself


123

REBECCA BROWN Skewed


124

CAMBRIE DAVIS Emma, Ink in Water #4 Opposite: WILLY CONLEY The Mannequin Murders


125


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Sheepshead Review - Fall 2012  

Sheepshead Review, UW-Green Bay's journal of the arts, features student and non-student prose, poetry, and visual art.

Sheepshead Review - Fall 2012  

Sheepshead Review, UW-Green Bay's journal of the arts, features student and non-student prose, poetry, and visual art.

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