Sink Hollow Issue 17 Spring 2024

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SINK HOLLOW

ISSUE XVII

EDITORS NOTE

This semester, as I’ve prepared to leave Sink Hollow and the mountain valley we call home, I’ve found myself asking what it means to leave something behind and what it means to keep a person or place with you across time and space. I’ve found no clear answers, but the work we received this semester has helped me see the pressing and collective nature of these questions. Although our shared sense of external space often seems to have been annihilated by technology and the speed of contemporary life, an internal sense of distance or nearness still persists, and as I saw in this issue, it can appear where we least expect it.

At Sink Hollow, we work to create a space for undergraduate work that will speak to readers across space and remain with them through time, whether consciously or unconsciously, as an image, phrase, or idea.

In this issue, we invite you to inhabit our writers’ and artists’ visions of the inseparable pains and pleasures of human connection, and to reflect on the mystery of presences that reveal absence.

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Rebecca Reading Donald Patten 3

Rebecca Reading

SN 1572

Hendrix Donald Donald Patten

Salvamento

Rosalinda Pacheco

Estaciones

Rosalinda Pacheco

“Ileum”

Syd Brewster

I Should Remember the Street of My Last House

Hendrix Donald

Self Portrait Over Time

Jove Goldberg

Last Memory

Jove

Seeing the Same Board

Claudia Darius

CONTENTS
Acequia Pacific Greens Hialeah Heat Rebecca Hurtado
Daniel Zysk Pillar of Light Darkness
Goldberg Jove Goldberg Alessandra Waugh 3 6 7 8 9 10 11 Back Cover, 12 14 15 20 22 23
Bad Feminist Lucy Dale Merrily 3 Years Later A Flood Snakes in the Garden E.M. Walker Longing 78CD4B90-C433-4947-856A-7F665B99D28F A Phone Call With A Surrealist Jay Grummel “PIG” Syd Brewster Cow Alexandra Shandrenko Ophelia Surrounded By Seagulls Acknowledgments Biographies Staff A Grieving Alessandra Waugh Daniel Zysk Daniel Zysk Daniel Zysk Donald Patten J Inoc 24 25 26 27 29 32 33 34 35 36 38 40 Cover, 42 Magazine Layout & Cover Design By Kj Anderson

SN 1572

“Since I had, from boyhood, known all the stars of the heavens perfectly, it was quite evident to me that there had never been any star in that place of the sky. . . I was not ashamed to doubt the trustworthiness of my own eyes... A miracle indeed, one that has never been previously seen before our time, in any age since the beginning of the world.”

-Tycho Brahe’s journal to cassiopeia

Proper, I think, that she who loves her daughter, lauds her beauty, and for it, chained upside-down to the stars;

She —forced to give her child— breaks olympus for that empyrean beast.

Was it bloody? That beast birth, ram’s horn, that cosmic scattering?

Her child burns brilliantly shackled to the stars, a sacrifice to the future.

to tycho

Could that same light erupt from your coiled guts, between the first dazzling celestial death and the great silence that followed?

I saw the stars in my grandfather, who did not burn bright— but shattered, until I could not tell if he’d gone but by the small black space left in my mother’s close-clutched stars.

Copernicus hurled the earth into motion. How could you grasp // the cosmos, declare these are mortal— capable of that great human act of nascence, of immolation?

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Salvamento Rosalinda Pacheco 7
Estaciones
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Rosalinda Pacheco

“ILEUM”

I’ve never stretched apart a breast bone before, but I dug lanky edged fingers into your sunken chest. I crawl inside you, staining my bare skin against your left lung; hearing, feeling you wheeze as I bore myself deeper into flesh, blood, cartilage. The density of your muscle thins, the tension of your shoulder blades releases as you accept me into your concave with slowed rhythmic beatings of a heart that finally lulled me asleep. And as your large intestine wrapped around the back pocket of my knee with strength in its embrace, I realized I would never be safer anywhere but inside you.

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I SHOULD REMEMBER THE STREET

OF MY LAST HOUSE

the best place in Boulder is a tea house, 40 years of work in Tajikistan, ancestral work, deconstructed, packaged, shipped, and rebuilt.

my colorado is loveless, my colorado is scraped palms on stucco, a hot backseat on Ken Pratt, wandering in the blank foothills, neighborhoods with no sidewalk, crooked pines and sap -stuck hands.

I do not yearn. I am something uglier, a snot-nosed jealous groveling in a fort of sticks against the big tree on a moat that feeds greedy cornfields.

my colorado is scattered across the country.

Those who remain lay gently in the grass, smoking on a stump, gently rolled like the foothills, staring at the full blue stars and all the wreckage on the hips of mountains.

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Self Portrait Over Time

Jove Goldberg 11
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Last Memory Daniel Zysk
of
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Pillar
Light Darkness Jove Goldberg

SEEING THE SAME BOARD

Chess has always been an additional member to our family. Like a stowaway or hitchhiker my father let tag along 40 years ago when he came to this country. Of everything he brought with him, which wasn’t much to begin with, he still has his grandfather’s chess set which he smuggled out of Cuba. This was the first board I ever played on: the scratched up wooden set tucked away in the corner of my father’s office. There was something magical baked into the tiles of that board, a sleeping agent that exuded from the pieces and into the pads of your fingertips. Perhaps it was all the years absorbing the Caribbean air and its swaddling humidity. Or perhaps I was unknowingly lulled to sleep by my great-grandfather’s voice, the language my father tried hard to unlearn singing in the pieces like an exiled lullaby. Nonetheless, when my sister and I would sneak into my dad’s office we would sit in front of it for hours until eventually, one of us would yawn, clumsily stretch our arms too wide, and send a piece clattering to the floor. Snapped out of the trance, we would rush to reset the board and dash for the door, suspecting our father just around the corner.

It wasn’t that the room was forbidden so much as the game we played. It seemed to us, seeing as we were never actually playing chess, our father would disapprove. Despite his success in teaching us how all the pieces move at ages 6 and 7, we never entertained the idea of starting a “real” game. Instead, I took to crafting stories. The Kings and Queens from opposing families: black and white, found themselves in every conceivable variation of a love triangle, arranged marriages, and scandalous elopements. The Bishops, with their long elegant faces acted as doting courtiers, the King’s greatest confidant or sometimes least expected betrayer. If that was the case, they were thrown in jail by the brawn: Rooks. Finally, The Pawns who, because of their stature and multitude, were always a gaggle of children whom we couldn’t differentiate from or an army.

But it was how we played with the Knights that reflected my father’s ability to loom over any board, how his benevolent yet equally righteous presence would invade even our private make-believe world. In our games, Knights were never the animals which they resemble. They might have pulled wobbly carriages created by balancing Queens on the heads of Rooks, they never galloped and absolutely never neighed. We heard stories from chess team practices about students that dared to make such a trivial mistake. Perpetrators who uttered, “_ _ _ _ _ to B4” or muttered to oneself “Where’d my _ _ _ _ _ go?”, were caught and told to, “drop and give him twenty”. Go ahead and imagine the average elementary school chess team kid. Brutal, I know.

***

Claudia is a 16 year old Cuban-American female, who resides with her parents, two siblings, and a nephew. She is a sophomore at Cannon School. She speaks English and is right hand dominant. Claudia is referred for this psychoeducational evaluation to examine critics for math learning disorder. On the date of evaluation, December 31st, 2019, Claudia arrives on time for the appointment having been driven by her mother. She is of average height and weight. She wears her dark hair naturally. Posture and gait is unremarkable as she easily accompanies this examiner to the testing room where she will be evaluated in a private office over the course of five hours with appropriate breaks. According to the testimonies of the parent interview conducted, Claudia presents longstanding difficulty in math, particularly with math computation and retention of basic math facts. Toward the end of second grade Claudia developed a math “phobia” to which her parents responded with a myriad of interventions to no avail.

***

There are certain abilities we associate with intelligence. Behaviors and actions that we use to size one

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another up from an early age. When did you learn to count? How quickly did you learn your times tables? In a classroom of bouncing legs and daydreaming second graders, imagine a teacher calling out to you, “What is 8 + 4?” If you answer correctly, what happens next? Perhaps your teacher and peers are impressed, and they might subconsciously file this minor accomplishment away with what else they know about you. Smart, they might add. But maybe the answer immediately popped into their heads as well, rendering them unimpressed by your success. Part of the way I, like many of us, learned what to associate with intelligence was through the movies I watched growing up.

In High School Musical and Vanessa Hudgens’ character Gabriella Montez, I found the rare gem of a girl on TV who looked like me. So as I watched Gabriella, the new girl in school, humbly correct her teacher’s math on the board and impress the room, I wanted more than anything to be her. To make myself smart just like that.

But what if Gabriella didn’t correct her teacher, let alone understand the problem written there? What if you didn’t answer 8 + 4 correctly?

As I got older, “chess team” became less synonymous with daycare and I began training alongside my father’s pupils. However, throughout lessons on tactics, I struggled to distinguish any board from the fantastical landscape my sister and I had spent years pouring lore onto. Most of our lessons required us to analyze positions set on the demo board, a vinyl canvas hung on the wall with plastic pockets in place of tiles. Forget the mate-in-one, I was more fascinated by how the pieces, printed on cards, would jump out of their pockets and the “zip” that would resound when one card captured another. When my father would sit across from me deciphering my chicken-scratch annotations to reenact games, I would stare at the way his hands played with the discarded pieces on the sidelines of the board. How he would swing two together with one hand, absentmindedly reunited two star-crossed lovers into an alluring waltz. I never considered my disinterest in the formal areas of tactic or strategy as anything serious. For one, it didn’t interfere with my love for the game. And secondly, I used my father’s relationship with the board to justify my own.

Despite the fierce nature of his punishment for those who disrespected the Knight, he never acted out of an expectation of perfection among his students. Rather a genuine protectiveness for the pieces. His relationship with chess, while analytical and intellectual, is nothing short of romantic. How he sets up the board, adjusting each piece like delicately squaring them up for battle. How he stops to tap each pawn on the head like a father might that of his own children. Always referring to the pieces with pronouns “he” or “she” and never “it”. Above all these eccentricities, it is my father’s relationship with the King that’s enough to make me jealous. My father loves the King. Throughout my childhood he spoke of him like an old friend or mentor. My father can analyze a position and know the limits of what is possible. Calculate the weight of each piece. Premove towards an optimal outcome. Yet even when he knows winning was no longer feasible, he never resigns. Simply because he can’t stand to see the King toppled to his side.

He’s a glorified pawn, I remember thinking. And as if reading my mind, my father would begin to lecture.

“You see, players always underestimate the pawn. They throw them around. Sack ‘em. Trade ‘em during the opening. But when the endgame comes around,” he’d wave his hand like cutting through invisible smoke, “they realize how valuable the little guys are.”

The kids around me shift in their seats, leaning in as if my father is the sun and they are desperate to catch his orbit, their hands clasped in their laps like praying. I’m restless. I pick at my uniform, digging my fingernails between the school logo emblem and the gold fabric of my collared shirt. Fine, I think, but the King? He’s an ancient tyrant who can only hobble one square at a time.

“The King on the other hand—all good players claim to love him. Our entire game depends on

***
16 Claudia Darius

protecting him, right? In that way, he’s the most powerful piece on the board. And yet,” he’d add, raising one finger in a ‘here’s the catch’ manner, “because we’re scared, all we do is keep him on the back rank. Moving him a measly 2 squares to castle if that.”

“Just because he’s an old man doesn’t mean he’s good for nothing,” a softness filling his voice, “A good chess player doesn’t underestimate the pawn and a great chess player knows how to move their King. Not resign.”

Now that I’m older I conjure up these lectures and scour them for hidden meanings and applications. Metaphorical breadcrumbs he might’ve been placing in my mind for years. But at age 9, sitting in the tournament hall, hours deep into a tedious and hopeless endgame, I would imagine my sister outside the banquet walls. How she might be somewhere exploring the hotel, possibly riding an escalator or eating pizza with the rest of the team. In times like these, I couldn’t see the King as anything more than an off switch I could easily flick with my hand.

But when I walked out and met my father who always waited patiently in the hall for the verdict, I could never bring myself to lie. Hanging my head in shame, I would admit to my resignation.

“Mija”, he’d break into a weak smile, pulling me into his chest, “That breaks my heart.”

***

Claudia is administered the WIAT-III, a comprehensive test of academic achievement, and her performance in the subjects area denoted as Math Fluency are as follows: Standard Score 63. Percentile: 1. Confidence Interval – 95%: 57-69. Qualitative Description: Extremely Low. In overall math fluency skills, Claudia’s performance lies in the Extremely Low range; on a test of addition calculations with a 60 second time limit she completes only 24 of 48 items. Her performance of subtraction calculations fall on the extremely low range, she accurately completes 12 of 48 items. Her performance on multiplication calculations falls within the extremely low range, she accurately completes 16 of 40 items. ***

The article is dated March 22, 2009. Beneath the bolded title, “Cannon School Builds Chess Team” is a photo of my dad in a highschool classroom. The focus of the photo is two young boys sitting at a chess board splayed across two desks pushed together, the fabric board dipping slightly in the center where the tables barely meet. Behind these boys, my dad is sitting in front of a board with another student. He is perched above the desk, sat on the back of the chair with his feet in the seat. His fingers are pinched on a pawn at the center of the position. This is the version of my father I recognize from my childhood, his completely dark hair and beard not yet speckled with gray, and his rectangular framed glasses from before he switched to the contacts he wears now. I am six years old at this time and I have never seen my father cry. That would come years later at the death of my grandfather. The version of my father in this picture is much more tender, perhaps afraid to express his emotions than the father I know now. It was in this classroom that my father allowed himself to find the animated and authentic version of himself. It was through teaching us chess and the small gestures of love that came with it.

Before sunrise, we’d be on the road towards the tournament venue and not even a second after buckling up, I’d ask. “Papi, are we gonna stop for hash browns?”

Of course, this was never in question. We always began our drives, without fail, at McDonald’s. One small decaf (2 cream, 3 Splenda) and 4 hashbrowns.

Yet when I’d ask, never wavering, he would beam with pride and find my eyes in the review. A conspiratory squint meeting mine as if we were both in on a surprise. “Alright, listen up,” he would announce to the car, “Claudia has just made a brilliant suggestion.”

Throughout my childhood, my father honed this talent of making big impacts out of small moments. As a coach and father he learned to be quicker to express love, even for inanimate pieces. Or sympathy in tournament halls when one of his students lost. He became magnetic. Children would line

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the Same Board
Seeing

up at his board waiting to analyze their games and their parents couldn’t help but reach for the crook of his arm, leaning in to whisper words of gratitude or seek answers.

Recently, while talking with some friends, I floored them with the information that I had learned chess at 8 and played competitively throughout my childhood. This version of Claudia is so far from who I present to those around me now; someone who stays within the comfortable confines of her humanities strengths and creative writing major, avoiding stem and mathematics at all costs. Trying to reconcile these two Claudias, my friends were enthralled by my tournament stories, knowledge of chess etiquette, and familiarity with tactical terms. I was given a taste of the instantaneous respect and validation I had never received before, at least not without extremely costly and timely work. At that moment, just like Gabriella Montez, I was a genius. So when they asked for credentials, my fathers rating, the numerical status that indicates the skill level of the player, I went looking.

In an attempt to find out my father’s chess rating, I dug up this article. However, it mainly focuses on the team’s preparation for Super Nationals, a tournament of 10,000 players hosted that year in Nashville, Tennessee. I remember this trip vividly as my first time in an airplane and a hotel with a glass elevator. At the center of the article, with no real context or introduction, the author drops a quote from my dad. Another breadcrumb I’ve stopped to pick up for a closer look.

“Nothing is hidden in chess,” he said. “You see the same board as your opponent. I believe it all comes down to seeing, being disciplined.”

***

By definition, a learning disorder is characterized by difficulties learning and using academic skills that are substantially below and quantifiably below those expected for the individual’s chronological age. Claudia’s pattern of scores is consistent with DSM-5 criteria for Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in mathematics. She performs below her chronological age on measures assessing memorization of arithmetic facts, accurate or fluent calculation and accurate math reasoning. Claudia is reliably unreliable.

***

To explain my learning disability, I’ll start by asking, when I say ‘7 times 4’, what do you see? I often pose this question to myself like conducting an experiment or a routine check-up. I don’t know if it is possible to put what I find into words. If you don’t mind the metaphor, it is like a cloudy haze. Not a foggy curtain I can swipe my hand through to dissipate but something thick as a wall. It stops my thought process in its tracks, forcing me to turn back and find another route: counting my fingers, asking a friend, pulling up a calculator.

I was 16 years old when this mental blockade was given a formal diagnosis: Dyscaclulia. Until then, I figured perhaps I wasn’t disciplined enough. So I crafted a few winning strategies. Not to achieve victory, that already seemed far past my reach, but to ensure I would never have to tip my King on his side. I wrote explanations of every thought and calculation in the margins of my tests. If these pleas of mercy failed, I resorted to playing on the pride of my teachers. Presenting myself as a struggling, simple-minded girl with lots of heart and admirable quirks. They would take pity on me then. Wouldn’t you?

The truth is I was never good at chess. But I’d never tell my friends that. When they show me a puzzle and assume I am able to instantly see the solution, I don’t correct them. I definitely don’t tell them I was never rated. Even if I did win, because my sister and I both played in unrated brackets, the highest achievable trophy was Best Girl Unrated Player. Not too impressive. Yet to everyone, a girl excellent at chess, especially one with Dyscalculia, is an exotic idea. So I’d rather let us all live in this fantasy.

The consequence of my exaggeration, however, is that my father has begun to send me daily chess puzzles. . I’m not sure which daughter he intends as the receiver. The daughter he remembers coaching,

***
18 Claudia Darius

Seeing the Same Board

more fascinated in love affairs and past lives of pieces than the game itself. Or perhaps another Claudia. One that could have been forged if I was gifted with the sight everyone else seems to have. On days when I fail to make it somewhere on time or self-deprecate my intelligence yet again, I think of that girl. Here’s a piece on the board of my life that I can see. One that represents mathematical precision, and therefore intelligence, I can never really obtain.

Are we seeing the same board? I wonder.

Something tells me my father sees both versions of myself. That for all of my jealousy of his affections placed upon the pawns and their King, my father’s love for me is similar to his love for chess. Not regulated to one way of seeing. He knows how to see my strengths on the board when even I can’t. He doesn’t underestimate me for my weaknesses and most importantly, he doesn’t see my strengths as an excuse to keep me safe on the back rank. He forces me to move out and challenge myself. He is one of the few men who sees me both as capable of complicated and intelligent thought despite difficulty, as well as the girl he peeked in on, sitting in his office and making up stories.

“Nothing is hidden in chess,” he said. I realize even then I was never really able to hide from him.

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Acequia Rosalinda Pacheco

Pacific Greens

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HIALEAH HEAT

Hialeah heat has a way of dropping kids like flies swarming to avocados pelted from trees, slit open and pounded ripe by ferocious little fists. Miami children know these fruitless victories will be cast into the cursing neighbor’s yard. Will anoint the patio, smeared by Abuela’s broom. Inside, the pool pockets can be worn like sleeves. Billiard balls plummet down barrels, knocking around the room, splitting open toes. Up on the table, a little girl perches and pets the evergreen felt because here, grass grows like barbed netting over ash. Eroded mollusks and Caribbean cremains wash up for exiled mothers to wipe down from feral baby heels. She stands, skinny arms her propellers, like the pair that brought Abuelo to this country where his granddaughter tries to fly. All childlike pride and idiocy, stuffed with giggles and dares and bread and guilt and “what if” and rosary beads and “where can I go?” Without a yell, her foot—wet from the rag, dry from any coast—slips like wax from the table lip. Her skull cracks against terracotta tiles. And the sound is no different than a scratched cue ball.

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BAD FEMINIST

Lucy Dale

I have never felt more like a woman Than when I stood in front of a man, Embarrassed at my lack of courage.

I seek the taste of another girl just To balance out the obedience That rushes to my cheeks when I see Him. I spend moments, in between sips Of the wrong coffee order, wondering If it makes me a bad feminist to fall

In love with a man, like a daisy with A yellow-jacket. I feel that draw Of being wanted, needed—the holistic

Pleasure best described as motherhood And I find myself digging up the pretend Wedding dress I waltzed around in When I was a toddler.

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Merrily Donald Patten 25

3 Years Later A Flood

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SNAKES IN THE GARDEN

“You hear the rattlers in the corn, Cass?”

From the edge of the field they could see acres of golden harvest. The girl heard nothing, save the wind singing in the stalks.

“Can I get a closer look, Pop? ” she said, jumping up on the fence. He pulled her back down by the collar before she could slip any further.

“No, honey,” he said, taking a gentle knee to meet her eye. Equals—the two of them. “They keep out the critters for me,” he said. “That means keeping us out, too. They only get to lettin’ me in once it’s time for harvest.”

“But…” she started, losing the question somewhere between her teeth and her tongue. “What happens if we go in too early?”

Cass knew her grandfather’s careful smile—the way his mouth sat on his face, thin lips upturned ever-so-slightly. His mouth drooped, his jaw taut with the weight of something she didn’t recognize. “That’s how you get bit, honey.”

Every Sunday since God made the day, Ricky Scobell raced his stock car. He’d take his boys up to the old abandoned quarry by the junkyard—a canyon crafted by man’s hand. They’d gear up at the impromptu stands they’d built of junk 2x4s stuck at the end of a dusty, painted checkered line at what looked like a good starting point. Seven cars, always—Ricky’s boys never missed a race. Seven racers meant seven girlfriends; brothers and sisters always wanted in too. You name it: everyone up and down Sand Mountain wanted to see Ricky and his boys race.

My bet’s on Henry today. Rick can’t win ‘em all.

Henry? The kid’s good, but he ain’t Ricky.

You know Rick’s always got my vote.

That Ricky… he’s just like his pop.

Their track was carved of dirt, snaked around the curves of the pit. Shaped like a pair of human lungs, the canyon looked just like the earth was breathing. From the road, you wouldn’t even know there was a canyon there—it just looked like an old pile of dirt and gravel. But if you wandered up the hill off the overpass past the third highway exit, just under the broken chain link, you’d find a path that led right to the boys’ track. One of their fathers owned the junkyard nearby and let the boys keep their cars tucked under a propped piece of sheet metal. Seven cars, all in all, arranged in a neat row just past the piles of mulch and forgotten debris.

The quarry was older than the racers, the eldest of them hardly twenty. It was dug up decades ago by some oil or gravel company—nobody quite remembered. The sign said Ramblewood Management, but all Ricky and his boys ever saw was their own personal stadium. They’d line up at the straightest part of the cliff and race the length of the quarry: three laps. Some say if they timed it just right, the sun would hit its golden peak right as the winner tore across the finish line. Ricky didn’t always win, but nobody doubted that he was the best racer on Sand Mountain.

They say it’s because his pop made it big back in the day running ‘shine—it was in his blood. When Ricky died, his mama buried an empty box. She had no choice—as far as anyone on Sand Mountain knew, his body was at the bottom of the Ramblewood quarry. Everyone had their theories as to how it happened.

I heard it was his hand—twitched trying to turn. Must’ve been his brakes. Never seen a kid like that freeze.

***
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That boy was asking for it. It only takes half a mind to get behind the wheel of one 0f them things in the first place. Wasn’t him in that seat—that was God.

The day that he died, Ricky didn’t skip church. He sat next to Cassie Cain, just as he had for thirteen years—the two kids living at the end of the creek. It was the only day of the week they spoke to each other.

Ricky and Cass grew up on one of those backroads that you miss coming up the mountain. Sand Mountain is a quiet place full of secrets. One of those secrets was turning left a little before the highway when you’re coming up the mountain. “Out yonder,” Cassie called it. Follow that winding road up a way’s along the river and you’d find Papa Cain’s farm and the Scobell’s ranch.

The Cains and the Scobells had lived on Sand Mountain since the land bore it—when the river came rushing in from the west, they say Papa Cain was steering it. Now he works the land at the end of the creek where the Scobells keep their flocks.

Cassie’s pop is an unremarkable-looking man. His hair, a blossoming dandelion atop his balding forehead slouches harshly to the left. His face is worn and weary from centuries of sun and gristle. His shirts bunch around his narrow shoulders, always tucked into pants pulled too high. His slacks, pulled taught with a leather belt, dig into his hips with unrelenting force—the man chokes himself on his clothes.

He held Cassie’s shoulders in his hands when they walked into Sand Mountain’s one and only memorial chapel to pay respect to the empty box at the altar. A woman beside it sobbed—Ricky’s mother. Next to her the reverend watched her weep, a weary hand weighed on her back. Cassie’s pop walked her to the third pew, where just last week Cassie sat with the dead boy to watch the sermon, just as they had for years before. As he sat down after her, Cass let her head fall to his shoulder.

“Are you gonna say goodbye?” Pop asked. Cassie looked up at the line of people standing beside the casket. People standing in line to wish Ricky’s mother well, give her a hug, or apologize for God taking her son. Cass didn’t answer her grandfather—she just watched as another one of Ricky’s boys said goodbye to the empty box.

Cassie was always peculiar. Whenever she gave up her farmwork, Pop’s wife— Cassie’s Ma—always defended her. She told Pop that God had reached down and given Cass something none of the rest of them had. Boy, was she proud of Cassie. A girl who knew the world too fast, too soon—a farm girl at heart, but not in her hands.

When Cassie was young, she set fire to her papa’s barn. There she was, standing in the hayloft, transfixed by a lantern. Just standing there, burning away. She thought of nothing but that light—that flame that burned behind metal and oil burned in her, in her hands that couldn’t work a field, couldn’t handle a scythe, or couldn’t tug a plow.

It wasn’t more than a twitch—a twitch of the wrist, a flitter of her fingers that sent the lantern crashing to its side. She didn’t even know why she did it. The glass shattered and flames burst onto the hay immediately. She didn’t move—she couldn’t. She stood, aloft in the hay, watching God and everything burn away from her.

Her Ma was sitting in the field, picking blueberries. She’d just sat down to enjoy a few. Just a few blueberries from the bush, she thought. Just a moment. And then she saw her little girl in the eaves of the flaming barn and took off, leaving her berries for the snakes and worms.

The barn doors were open, but by the time Ma reached the great entryway, the boards had begun splintering—she thought the building was breathing its last breaths, and the gentle heave was going to take Cass with it.

Cass had sat down, boards crackling around her, fire growing hotter and hotter. Ma ran in from below.

She cried for Cassie to come down, sagged arms raised, motioning that she’d catch Cass if she’d only jump. She didn’t know Cassie started the fire.

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Longing Daniel Zysk 29

By then, the light had woken Pop from a nap in his rocker. He’d dozed off on the porch while contemplating drifting into dust, tethered to the world by divine choice and punishment. When he awoke, he saw the flaming barn crumble on the golden horizon.

He broke out running, stumbling off the porch. He fell to his knees when he reached what was left of the barn, now a sloppy mass of soot and dirt. Cassie stood in the rubble—covered in ash, coughing, but okay.

They never found Ma’s body. When they buried an empty coffin for her, Pop told little Cass that she hadn’t died—the river washed her away. It must’ve seen the flames getting too close to heaven and whisked Ma downstream someplace safe.

Now Cassie sat before another bodiless name. Rising, her feet trembled as they carried her out of the pew, past Pop, and down the aisle. There was no line by the box anymore. Cassie walked, closer and closer to Mrs. Scobell. Cassie, short for her age, looked up at her, the elderly matriarch at the end of the street. Typically a musk of manure followed the Scobells—today, Mrs. Scobell smelled of nothing but flowers. Cassie apologized, taking her hand but saying nothing more.

As she approached the box, she felt the deepest of impulses to open it, to reveal the bodiless boy beyond the lid. It was nothing, nothing at all. Nothing more than a twitch. Cass pressed her fingers under the ivory lid of the coffin and hoisted it up.

The inside was lined with a deep crimson velvet, a pillow propped at the end where a head should be. A few trinkets slept in the bed, an odd collection of items to quantify Ricky’s existence. A toy race car. A plush sheep. A collection of papers held together with a paper clip that Cassie didn’t recognize. After all, she didn’t really know the boy.

Ever since she heard that he’d gone, she wanted a look at him. She wanted to see with her own eyes the devastation wrought by a bad turn, a slip-and-fall into the unknown. Cass needed to see him, and he wasn’t in the box. Turning on her heels, she let the lid slam shut as she ran out of the chapel, away from the altar, away from the sobbing woman, away from her Pop and toward eternity.

“What d’ya think it means, Cass?” Ricky asked the Sunday before. They both stayed until noon, well after the mid-morning service. They were no strangers to this—they didn’t speak often, but when they did, they got along. Their youths were occupied by one another, punctuating each other’s weeks in the third pew. Ricky sat with his hands clasped in prayer on the pew in front of him.

“Wish I knew what you meant,” she said, scooting closer to him, matching his hands. His eyes were open. She closed hers.

“I keep crying out and—getting nothing,” he said, closing his eyes as if maybe he was asking for something right then.

“You could be asking for the wrong thing,” she contested.

Ricky opened his eyes and turned to her. “Who said I was asking for something?”

Cass couldn’t say anything. Stunned by his words, she closed her eyes again and tried to reach out. Ricky unclasped his hands and relaxed back into the pew. “Don’t you just wanna know what we’re supposed to do?”

“So... you are asking for something.” Cass sneered, elbowing Ricky’s side. He turned to face her, meeting her eye.

“I’m just asking for a deep breath, Cass.”

When Cassie made it to the third exit, her legs knew where the path to the quarry was before her brain did. She was at the broken chain link in no time, working her way down the path Ricky and his boys carved a few years before. From here, the hill still hid the quarry beyond its golden grasses. Grass turned to dirt beneath her feet as she passed into the junkyard, toward the makeshift garage with the missing car. Ricky’s empty spot stared at her from across the piles of rubbish and old car parts. Called to it, she walked toward the six cars, running her hand across each bumper as she passed. Now in Ricky’s spot, she saw the worn tire marks in the orange earth and began following them.

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The tracks led over the hill. From the top, Cassie saw the whole quarry, a pair of lungs in the earth. She silently swore she could see them breathing. Here she could make out the stands where she knew all the races began, where all the brothers and girlfriends and old town smokers would gather.

She walked and walked, the trodden earth as her guide, until she reached the stands sticking out of the ground. A painted finish line stretched to a sign a few dozen feet away that read Ramblewood Management. Cassie could now make out the intermingling tracks of all seven cars. Following the threads left of Ricky’s car, she started her race. She walked until she couldn’t feel her legs and the tracks veered left into the canyon.

Looking down, she couldn’t see much—the setting sun blinded the bottom of the quarry in shadow. With no other options, she swung her leg over a rock and began rappelling down, down, down, into the canyon. Down, down, down she went, surveying each ledge, a careful eye on her feet, where she’d catch herself if she fell.

Before she reached the bottom, she slid. She threw out her arms to steady herself against the cliff face but it wasn’t of any use—she was backsliding toward a drop off thirty feet high.

Tumbling down the mountain she clawed at the rock, desperate to slow her descent—no matter. Gravity intervened and took her all the way down into the canyon.

She landed on her leg. Her bone crunched in her teeth as she crumpled to her side. The canyon was dark, even though the sun was still in the sky. Flopping on her back, she watched the sky to distract herself. Even from here, the sky was that perfect shade of blue, fixed up just for her.

She turned over, and suddenly the canyon was filled with divine light. A tree grew a hundred feet from her, a gargantuan thing with branches snaking in and out of one another, hundreds of fruits growing all over, dripping off the leaves. Caught in its branches was the mangled wreck of Ricky Scobell’s stock car.

She couldn’t walk—not with her leg sticking out of her knee. So she crawled. Closer and closer, dragging herself through the dirt, rolling on her stomach. Soon she was at the base of the tree, covered in dirt, her shattered femur sticking out at the knee. With her head to the earth, she could hear a rumbling coming from the ground. She couldn’t make it out, but it sounded like voices—a million bloody and bodiless voices, crying out from the ground.

Up in the tree, she could see Ricky’s car, a mess of metal held together by wire and not much else. The front bumper pressed up against the trunk, dipping down so Cass could see right through the broken windshield. In the driver’s seat was the unmistakable, limp body of her Ma. She looked back down to her destroyed leg, the dirt all over her clothes and face, guarded by the shade of the fruitful tree. A snake slithered by her leg, off toward the distance. She watched its path as it dragged itself through the dirt until it was out of sight, lost to the canyon’s walls.

From across the way, she heard the river coming to wash her away.

31 Snakes in the Garden
78CD4B90-C433-4947-856A-7F665B99D28F J Inoc 32

A PHONE CALL WITH A SURREALIST

Good morning, dear goose. I sold my soul for violin strings and frozen litter. Tasted clouds, smoked strawberries, and drank Zeus’s bones. Throat soaked with mint, eyes dusted with wrathful angel wings and liver squeezed to pools of maple syrup. When the moon glows hasty orange, the sun crumbles to ash then bird. Sitting naked, I watched the dancing skies take their last bow. Felt the liquid anger of a glacier gone cold, kissed the pines of the trees left alone in a desert. I’ve seen it all now goose, Mars making love to Venus, birthing bubbles, caterpillars marching amongst lions, wind inside my paintings but not the grass. The clouds are gone now, goose. The lava has formed a blue stone with split teeth. Wasn’t yesterday boiling? The rats left, with violets in their wake. And yet, I look out this sinking window goose, and I see snow.

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Syd Brewster “PIG”

I hang my head below my shoulders, my hair grazes the cement, and this, yes this, is what I’ve been looking for. The blood rushes to my head, two whole gallons, an increase in intracranial pressure. I feel like I might stop breathing, but I can’t let up. I won’t let up. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool soldier, drowning from the inside out. Because someone told me this is what devotion feels like.

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Cow Alexandra Shandrenko 35
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Ophelia Surrounded By Seagulls

Daniel Zysk

BIOGRAPHIES

ART

Jove Goldberg is an undergraduate at The Pennsylvania State University, currently perusing a Bachelors in Fine Arts. Jove enjoys reading, film photography, and crocheting gifts for friends.

J Inoc is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University Hawaii. He loves photography and graphics designs. He always goes hiking with his friends or watches the sunset.

Rosalinda Pacheco studies at the University of New Mexico. She enjoys painting and drawing stories about her community. It is through this artwork that she continues to explore connections that transcend barriers.

Donald Patten is an artist and cartoonist from Belfast, Maine. He is a senior in the studio arts program at the University of Maine at Augusta. He produces oil paintings, charcoal figure drawings, ceramic pieces and graphic novels. His art has been exhibited in galleries across Maine. His online portfolio is donaldlpatten.newgrounds.com/art

Alexandra Shandrenko is a 21-year-old university student. She has a few published written pieces featured in Friction Literary Anthology and Dipity Literary Magazine. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Computer Science along with minors in both Cybersecurity and Philosophy. She is set to graduate in May 2024. Whether lost in literature or creating new computer graphic images ideas, she is dedicated to integrating varied perspectives into her work. Excited about the journey ahead, she’s eager to see where her writing and artistic endeavors will lead.

Alessandra Waugh is an undergraduate student at Utah State University studying Drawing and Painting, as well as Folklore. They enjoy spending time with their cats and drinking tea.

Daniel Zysk is a BFA student currently studying at Portland State University. His focus is painting and drawing and he is interested in depicting the human form, creating narrative pieces, as well as exploring concepts such as family, gender, the self, and trauma in his work. Outside of art he enjoys reading, taking very long walks, and cooking.

FICTION

E.M. Walker is an undergraduate student at UNC Asheville. She writes stories about grief and God and all the love wrapped up in that.

NONFICTION

Rebecca Hurtado is an undergraduate student at Denison University. She is a poet and essayist. Her publications include poems published in Exile Literary Magazine and Outrageous Fortune. Rebecca grew up in North Carolina in a Cuban-American household.

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POETRY

Syd Brewster is an undergraduate student at Chapman University. They enjoy writing, film photography, and finding new music. Follow them on Instagram @whoatethemanshark

Lucy Dale is a Denison University freshman studying Women & Gender Studies and Creative Writing. She graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy, where she studied Creative Writing. Lucy is originally from Cleveland, OH.

Hendrix Donald is an undergraduate student at UNC Asheville. They love poetry, horror, and life between the mountains.

Jay Grummel is an undergraduate student at Bowling Green State University. Their poetry focuses on the in-between moments of life and actively engages with uncomfortable emotions and sensations. They love reading gothic novels, watching operas, and taking their dog Felix to new places.

Rebecca Hurtado is an undergraduate student at Denison University. She is a poet and essayist. Her publications include poems published in Exile Literary Magazine and Outrageous Fortune. Rebecca grew up in North Carolina in a Cuban-American household.

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Preston Waddoups

MANAGING EDITOR

Melissa Cook

DESIGN MANAGING EDITOR

Kj Anderson

GENRE EDITORS

Fiction: Chase Petersen & Ashleigh Sabin

Nonfiction: Amber McCuen

Poetry: McKinlee Armstrong & Noelani Hadfield

FICTION STAFF

Melissa Cook

Gregory Dille

Caden Taylor

Chloe Scheve

Pearson Williams

Bee Pickering

NONFICTION STAFF

Eliza Oscarson

Eli Moss

Will Clark

Zada Stephens

K’Lee Perry, Colby David

Abby Smith

Woody Laing

POETRY STAFF

Preston Waddoups

Linn Eggett

Jaxson Meyer

Zack Baker

Eliza Saunders

Kj Anderson

Addie Hemsley

Elizabeth Russell

Aimee Hamblin

Brook Haight

STAFF
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FACULTY ADVISORS

FICTION NONFICTION

Charles Waugh

Russ Beck

POETRY

Britt Allen

ART AND DESIGN

Robb Kunz

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Grieving
A
Alessandra Waugh
SINK HOLLOW ISSUE XVII
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