Sisyphus LITERARY EDITORS Kieran Connolly Mitch Mackowiak Alex Tarter Jacob Hilmes Gabe Newsham Noah Weber Hap Burke Sam Fentress ASSISTANT LITERARY EDITORS Emil Beckford Garret Fox LAYOUT EDITORS John Webb Jacob Hilmes ART EDITORS Patrick Conrey David Greaves Thomas Williams Jacob Colvis Giuseppe Vitellaro MODERATORS Rich Moran Frank Kovarik Special thanks to John Mueller, Joan Bugnitz, Sarah Rebholz, Matt Sciuto, Patrick Oâ€™Leary, Steve Missey, Joe Kreienkamp, and Ben DuMont. Manuscripts are considered anonymously. Thanks to all who offered their artwork and writing for consideration.
Sisyphus Spring ’13 The St. Louis University High School Magazine of Art and Literature Cover artwork by Sam Beckmann Inside covers artwork by David Greaves masthead photo by Austin Strifler 3 Mann Elementary, poetry by Clark DeWoskin 4 photo by Austin Strifler 5 Brave Finnegan, poetry by Suzanne Renard 6 The Looking Game, fiction by Alex Groesch 7 photo by Joe Kreienkamp 8 photo by John Kissel 11 photo by Sam Beckmann 12 photo by Austin Strifler 15 2/7/13, poetry by Gabe Newsham 15 photo by Kieran Connolly 17 Heavy Lifting, fiction by Ryan Kennedy 17 photo by John Kissel 18 photo by Sam Beckmann 21 photo by Austin Strifler 22 Hidden, poetry by Adam Lux 23 photo by Mitch Mackowiak 24 Sestina for Christina, poetry by Chuck Hussung 25 photo by Matt Sciuto 26 Tomorrow, fiction by Kurt Thiemann 27 photo by Sam Beckmann 28 photo by Sam Beckmann 31 drawing by Garret Fox 32 Outcast, fiction by Mason Ryan 33 photo by Sam Beckmann 34 Snow Ball, poetry by Gabe Newsham 35 photo by Ben Banet 36 An Odyssey, poetry by Andrew Robinson
37 photo by Ben Banet 38 Crushed, fiction by Scott McCartney 40 pinch pot by Joe Reardon 42 drawing by Jack MacDonald 43 Quiet Love, fiction by Jack Ross 44 photo by Ben Banet 46 Winstead’s, fiction by Justin Seaton 47 photo by Ben Banet 49 Three Haiku, by Sam Chott 49 drawing by David Greaves 50 The Life of a Book, poetry by Guillaume Delabar 51 Warmth, fiction by Alden Henderson 51 photo by Sam Beckmann 52 The Favorite City, poetry by Jacob Hilmes 53 photo by Ben Banet 54 Guy, prose by Noah Weber 55 photo by John Kissel 56 To the Kid Who Liked Roller Coasters, poetry by Austin Strifler 57 Rematch, fiction by Anthony Heumann 58 photo by Austin Strifler 61 drawing by Jack MacDonald 64 photo by John Kissel 65 (1) New Update, poetry by Brendan McDermott 65 photo by Sam Beckmann 66 Blown Away, poetry by Mitch Mackowiak 67 The Half Moon, prose by Brandon Hernandez 68 Late-Nite, prose by Kieran Connolly 69 photo by Kieran Connolly 71 My Passion is Baseball, prose by Nick Keeven 71 pastel by David Greaves 72 Minor Engagement, poetry by Sam Fentress
Mann Elementary Clark DeWoskin
I get it. I get all of it. I get slope. m equals rise over run. Take the inverse, And m equals me. And about future tense: Try past tense, then maybe You’ll get it. I get the rules, too. I get all of ’em. It was him didn’t get it. I was just tryin’ to teach him. And I got kicked outta school Yesterday. Maybe I started it. He says so. The police officer by the front door Doesn’t care who. That’s ’cause he doesn’t get it. I got kicked out of school yesterday For bullying. And I don’t get it. Get it?
Photo by Austin Strifler
Brave Finnegan Suzanne Renard
Here are some things that scare my dog: The sudden snapping of that giant, striped cloth, up high on the tall, skinny, leafless silver tree; The way his people shrink when descending stairs, as he waits at the top for them to return to full size again; Things that land, without notice, on his head; The appearance of mean dogs who resemble the one that bit him on his rear end one day, when he was minding his own business; Strangers, of course, at the door, at whom he must bark in order to be brave. I’m a lot like that part of him. But worse. I wonder, when I stray from my yard, what awaits. I don’t understand the invisible forces that move the seen things; Or how ones I love fade from view, Or whether they will come back, Or what befalls that (I’m pretty sure) I haven’t asked for. But oh, to be more like the rest of him: Always bursting, almost, with joy, when someone returns, Utterly free of bitterness about the leaving in the first place, And ready to love from one end of myself to the other.
The Looking Game Alex Groesch
hat a stupid game. Sixteen years of life have taught me about forty-seven useful things and one of those is that stupid-looking game. You know how it goes. You’re just sitting there in class, or standing in a gas station, or in my case sitting in the middle of an orchestra camp and you notice someone attractive and you’re a goner. Anyway, I was sitting in this orchestra, playing my cello nice and relaxed, and then I saw her. Everyone likes specific things, even if they don’t know it, but what gets me first are the eyebrows. I have no clue why, but when I see a girl and the first thing that comes into my head is that she’s attractive, I find myself staring at her eyebrows. So when I first saw this knock-out, my eyes knew what to do. They were amazing. Dark blonde, maybe even brown, they hooked a little bit up around her eye—long, thin, and natural, as far as I could tell. She looked straight at me. I had to look away; that’s how the game works, so I jerked my head to the left and smack! My face banged against my cello. “Uh, you okay?” asked the guy next to me. I had forgotten the kid’s name. I had only been at the camp a day anyway. “Yeah, I’m fine.” “What’re you doing? Was there a bee on your nose or something?” A bee? Weird. “No, there was like this beetle thing that flew straight on my forehead, and it made this buzzing noise, and the whole time I’m trying to keep my cool, and—” “What? There’s a beetle?” He stood up. No joke, he really did.
“Sit down! Everyone’s looking at us.” They were. “The beetle’s gone, okay? Just sit down.” I had no idea what to think of the guy, let alone the whole camp. I had been around large groups of musicians a few times before, but this bunch looked like it had an even greater percentage of crazy people. Not that all musicians are crazy or anything. In fact, I relate to musicians better than anyone else because we share a similar passion. Classical music does that. You play with people and you can see indescribable energy in their eyes while they move. People can make fun of classical music all they want, but I don’t care: they don’t understand. The way that girl moved struck me—not just because of how attractive she was—but because of how her head danced a little bit when the piece got intense. “Dude, stop staring.” My friend Tom’s voice came from behind me. I turned around, not even caring about the rehearsal. The violins were working on something, so we had time. “What’re you talking about?” I asked. “I know you’re staring at someone. Trust me, man, I know how to do this.” He did. I had seen him in action. He could walk into a room, notice the most attractive girl in it without even a second glance, walk into a corner, look straight at her, and get her to come over. I’m serious. “What’s it to you? I’m just thinking; that’s all.” “Yeah, sure. We’ll talk.” Great. “And now let’s move on to the cellos.” The conductor turned toward us, and I scrambled around so fast that I knocked my cello into the weird guy next to me. “What the hell, man?” He was really ticked and loud too. Way too loud. “Sorry, the beetle was flying right by your head and I thought I’d get it for you.” I stared directly into his eyes. They guy was a little chubby and I couldn’t help feeling
bad for him. He was wearing this black Tshirt with Spiderman on it, and he had two plastic wristwatches on his right arm. One was dark pink and the other was this murkyyellow color. He had a blond bull cut and was pimplier than I feel like describing. His eyes were so young and jumpy. “Stop making fun of me. Everyone always makes fun of me. You’re a liar just like the rest.” I didn’t know what to say. I looked at him and saw how sad he was. I wanted to cheer him up or apologize or be his friend, but I didn’t do any of those. For the rest of the rehearsal I just sat there without talking, oh, and staring at that girl. I never had a real conversation with the weird guy again, but I did talk to that girl.
here are times when plans are necessary, and I had a brilliant one. That Friday, we were going to break into groups and practice the music in quartets. My plan was this: I had been talking to that girl’s friend since the first day and had gotten to know her pretty well. I was going to ask to be in her group for the quartet thing, and she would more than likely ask her friend to be in the group too. I said, “Brilliant,” didn’t I? So when Friday came, it was time for business. That morning I stood in my bathroom upstairs with the door shut and locked and the fan on so no one could hear what I was doing. I was fighting a hard battle with this pimple right above my right eyebrow—a battle that both the pimple and I knew I was going to lose.
Photo by Joe Kreienkamp
“Peter, get down here right now! We’re going to be late!” My mom was right, but I had been about to deliver the final blow when she called and ruined the whole thing. I lost, after all, so I can’t say I started the day off too confident. I wonder if anyone starts off every day feeling confident. I know the jocks certainly think they do, or at least they act like it in school, and that’s enough to make you wonder about your own confidence. I forgot to mention something. Earlier in the week I made my first move and I must admit, it was crafty. I was lying on my bed watching my nightly Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix, and it occurred to me that the Internet was the answer. I threw off my headphones way too fast, which probably wasn’t a good idea because they hit my dog, who had been peacefully snoring away, square on the back, and she jumped up and started barking her head off. If there’s anything about me
that I know, it’s that I get embarrassed when I’m doing anything related to girls—even staring at Buffy—around my family. So when my mom walked in to drop off some laundry, I shut my laptop and pretended to be asleep. I’m not a coward or anything; I just like my privacy. When she left, I opened the laptop and immediately looked the girl up on Facebook. Zoey Cloverfield. What a name. The problem was, I could see only one photo, her profile picture. It was this close-up of her holding her cat, which really got me because I have this embarrassing obsession with cats. I could tell she had had braces at one point because her teeth were perfect. She had a few freckles toward the middle of her nose and her blue eyes caught my attention with such force that I almost forgot to focus on her eyebrows. I clicked the “send request” button with a smile on my face and said to
Photo by John Kissel
myself, “Slick, kid, she’s gonna accept it by tonight.” She accepted it two days later. I sent her a message saying hi, but she never responded.
hen we pulled up to the camp, Zoey was standing right there, at the door leading up to the stage. There was no one else around, so it looked like I had no choice but to talk to her. Everything inside of me was cheering and crying at the same time. Everyone has been in a situation like that, and if you say you haven’t you’re probably lying to yourself because you want to think you’re a stud. Everyone wants to think he’s a stud. Well, there was no avoiding the inevitable contact, so I slapped myself in the face, tilted my head a little to the right so that the shadow of my spiked hair hid the reddening spot above my right eyebrow, got out of the car with a quick goodbye to my mom, and walked forward, quick and calm as a lion (in my case, a mane-less lion). “I, you know, I really, yeah. I really do.” Those were the first words I ever said to her. “Umm hi? I’m sorry what was that?” Her voice was high, but not too high. It was a little innocent-sounding, too, and you could tell she was kind of laughing as she talked. Her face was so friendly that I smiled like I had just been kissed or something. I wish. “I like your shoes.” I didn’t even know what her shoes looked like. “My shoes?” “And your hair.” “My hair?” “I’m sorry, my name’s Peter Thorterhoff.” I lamely held out my hand. “Nice to meet you, Peter! I got your message.” Awkward. “Yeah, that must’ve been my cat or something. He loves to type things for me. It really comes in handy in English class, though.” “Haha, you’re funny.” “You’re welcome. I have to go now,
though.” I have no idea why I needed to leave, but I did and she just went on standing there. She must’ve been waiting for someone or something. Back then I was a big believer in Fate, so I bumped my chest twice, kissed my fist, and pointed up to the Big Man. It had to be a sign. Why would the world make me run into her like that when she was all alone if we weren’t meant to be together?
he plan was in action. Zoey’s friend Emily had asked her to be in our group and I was ready for something big to happen. We were all sitting in our quartet: me, Zoey, Emily, and a stud whose name I didn’t want to learn. Yeah, the stud was a problem. There aren’t too many super-athletic guys who play in orchestras, but the ones who do are always the type who are confident enough to talk to anyone anytime. I was getting there, especially by watching Tom, but this guy knew what he was doing, and, boy, did he drive me crazy. We were playing something by Dvorak, and it was a great piece of music. It really was. The theme started out at the beginning nice and slow with the first violin and flowed throughout the different parts in the rest of the movement. All I could think about was how the camp would last only for a week and how I might never see Zoey again. Then the game started. Zoey looked at me very quickly, smiled and then jumped back into playing with her little head dance move. “Someone’s got a crush,” the stud whispered. The two girls were talking about violin stuff pretty loudly as he turned to me. You could tell he shaved every day. He had this clean, light brown haircut that fit perfectly with his confident attitude. “What’re you talking about?” I must’ve looked like a tomato. It was one of those moments when you’ve been focused on one thing for so long and the narrator in your
head is on overdrive and then something shocks you out of your trance. It’s like walking out of a lighted bathroom in the middle of the night. Once you turn off the light to walk into the hall everything goes black and you hear this little buzz as everything turns from black to a lighter and lighter gray. “It’s okay, dude. I’m totally into Emily. I mean, look at her.” I almost fainted I was so happy. “How old are you anyway?” “Me? I’m in college.” “Ah, one of those kids.” There were lots of those kids. A good number of musicians were home-schooled, so they dual-enrolled in college as high schoolers. This guy was a typical college student, so it was probably easier for him to talk to and interact with the high school girls than it was for me, a rising junior. “Yeah, one of those kids. I go to school here and Emily is a dual-enroller who is only a year younger, so it could work out. How old are you, kid?” “Sixteen.” I was beginning to like the guy more and more. “So is Zoey. Go for it man. You’ve only got today and tomorrow left of the camp. Just go for it.” I looked up at Zoey. She was staring right at me but then quickly turned her head away again with a smile. God, I loved that game. “I’m going to do it.” I’m a clever guy; trust me. Since Tom was Zoey’s friend (I had just recently found out, but Tom knew almost everyone anyway) and I was Tom’s friend, I knew exactly how to get Zoey’s number. Getting a number makes the possibility of anything happening go from five to a thousand, kind of like fishing. If you fish without bait then the fish will swim right on by, but if you get bait, you’re playing a whole new game. The rest of the rehearsal went by very quickly, but I was looking at Zoey so much
that I don’t even remember a thing that happened. When we finally started to pack up to go back to the stage, the stud and Emily left, so I had my perfect chance. “Hey, Zoey.” “Hi, Peter.” “You know how spastic and crazy Tom can be, right?” She laughted. “You have no idea.” “Well, if I’m ever hanging out with him or something, I might need some way of contacting someone who can help me settle him down. You know how he gets.” Okay, the idea sounded smart in my head, but saying it out loud made me feel stupid. “I guess I know what you mean…” “And I’m very good with short, random phrases.” “Oh, are you now? Like what?” I walked into that one. “A mouse a day keeps the cat away.” She laughed again. “I love cats!” I already knew she did because of her Facebook wall, but I wasn’t crazy enough to let her know that. “Really? I do, too!” “I think you’re right. I could use some short, random phrases every now and then. I just can’t resist.” Bingo. “Well then, what is your number, good lady?” Everything stopped. She still smiled with her huge dimples. I love dimples. Her eyebrows arched in a friendly way, expectant and youthful. “Can I see your phone, dear sir?” She asked. I may have whimpered. “YES!” “Whoa, there. Getting a little excited, are we?” “No, I just love letting people see my phone. You know how it is.” “Oh yes, obviously. Well, are you giving me the thing or not?” “Right, haha, probably a good idea.” She took the phone gracefully, like everything
was normal. “And here’s a pic!” As she took a picture of herself with my phone to put in her contact info, I pretty much died. She looked at me. “We’ve got to hurry, Peter, or we’re going to be late.” With that she just ran off. Well, skipped, actually. When I couldn’t see her anymore, I hit my chest twice, kissed my fist, and pointed up to the Big Man. As I said, back then I really believed in Fate. Then Tom came. “Well now, I had no idea that’s who you were staring at.” Tom had his cello in one hand and his bow in the other. He looked happy—in fact, joyful. His short brown hair sticking up in the front, he sort of hunched over when he walked, like he was about to try and tackle someone. “Huh?” “Zoey. I saw you talking to her.” “I think I’ve got a thing for her, man.” “Well, you better not.” Uh oh. “And why’s that, wise guy?” “Because of the leather jacket guy.” “Huh?” “Her boyfriend.”
ave you ever found out something about someone that kept you from talking to them for two months? Well, that’s what happened. And yes, I did ask my mom if I could buy a leather jacket. She said no. I walked into the hall. Pretty much everyone was there. I wanted to be early because I had never been there before and it was the first day of orchestra, so naturally I
showed up half an hour late. I hadn’t been in an orchestra since the camp, which was tiny compared to the massive group of people I would now be playing with for the rest of the year. I unpacked my cello, which normally didn’t make too much noise, but because of the size and acoustics of the building, everything sounded super loud. The conductor turned around and briefly furrowed his dark, thick eyebrows as if looking at some complicated painting. There would be no hiding in this place. Somehow I ended up on the stage, sitting in the back where I knew I belonged. I pulled out my endpin, stuck it in the ground so my cello wouldn’t move and looked up. Zoey was staring straight at me. With a nagging sense of déjà vu, I looked away very quickly. How could Fate do that to me? Spending nine Photo by Sam Beckmann weeks trying to forget about her had been hard enough, and now there she sat, all poised and everything. The possibility of our attending the same summer camp and both playing in this orchestra had never occurred to me. I swear I almost face palmed. Zoey hadn’t changed a bit. She was wearing this pink, short-sleeved, fancy shirt, and boy do I love it when girls wear pink. Her dark blonde hair fell past her shoulders, straight and smooth. “Dude, stop staring.” Tom’s whispering voice came from my left. How many déjà vu’s did I need to have in twenty seconds? “Are you kidding me?” I hadn’t even noticed him. I was sitting in the last stand by
myself and he was sitting perfectly diagonally from me, giving him a clear view to catch me in the act. “I know who you’re staring at now, man.” “Swell.” “I bet you went home and bought a leather jacket.” “Uh, no. I’m not desperate.” God, the guy was too good at reading people. “We’ll talk at break. It’s too freaking boomy in here.” It really was. I realized the conductor had been working with the brass, but they were done. “Now, let’s run the fourth movement,” the conductor said. His face went from expressionless to deeply depressed. He added about sixty-four wrinkles all over his face, which kinda freaked me out. I looked at what we were playing. Symphony No.6 in B minor, by Tchaikovsky. I had no idea I was about to play my favorite piece of music to this day. I looked at Zoey one last time before we started. She smirked a bit then did her head dance thing.
ow, before I go on, I should mention something. About a month before the orchestra rehearsal, I had started dating this other girl, Allie. I had had girlfriends before, but it felt different with her. Every part of me—and I mean every part—told me I was in love with her. She loved many of the same things I love, including music. She had curly brown hair, a nice, strong face with small, hooked eyebrows, and sounded like she was soothing baby kittens to sleep
whenever she talked. I must say, I was infatuated. Okay, so at the break after an hour of orchestra rehearsal, I did something I probably shouldn’t have done. Tom and Zoey were talking, so I had to get involved. Thanks, jealousy. “Hey, Zoey,” I said. “Hi, Peter,” she smiled. “No hi for me, man?” Tom grinned. “It goes without saying.” I wanted him gone. We were still standing on the stage. Most people went off to talk in groups out in the auditorium, so the area was pretty much empty. “Well, I gotta go, you know, to socialize,” said Tom. I almost hugged him. “Oh, we know,” Zoey said as she turned to me, her blue eyes still showing through the dim lighting of the stage. “So how do you like the piece, Peter?” Suddenly Photo by Austin Strifler I wanted Tom back again. “I’ve never loved any piece right away like this one.” I tried to hide how hurt I was that she didn’t ask why I hadn’t contacted her in any way the past two months. “I know! But it’s so sad.” “I have this strange obsession with sad music. It really gets to the heart of Fate and conflicts and stuff.” That was not at all what I wanted to talk about. “I see. Fate’s an interesting thing, isn’t it?” She wasn’t smiling anymore. Her shirt was dark pink with a huge cartoon open mouth in the middle of it. Under the mouth
were the words, Speech Meet Champions. “I’msorryIdidntalkmonth,” I mumbled. “What?” “I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you for two months.” “Um…it’s okay.” It sounded more like a question. A freaking question. She still smiled, her eyebrows arched as if I had said something unexpected. I needed to recover. “So…you like speech?” “Oh, you must be talking about my shirt.” “Sure thing.” “Well, it’s not mine. It’s my sister’s.” Another dead end. There’s no way you haven’t been in a situation where you’ve got no clue what to talk about. It feels like looking for a French word in a German dictionary. There was nothing I could do, so I did the only thing I could think of. Yeah, it may have been stupid, but my brain had turned into a hamster running on a wheel. “I’ve got places to be.” With that I ran; I mean, I completely sprinted off the stage and out the main doors. I couldn’t get Allie out of my head for some reason and started to feel super guilty that I even felt bad about ruining things with Zoey at all. With my arms clutching the back of my head, I let out a huge groan. “That bad, huh?” Tom was leaning against the opposite wall from the doors, his legs crossed and a smirk on his face. What luck. “You’ve got no idea.” “Well, good.” “Good?” “Dude, Zoey lives like more than an hour away from you. Way out in Kirksville. Did you expect that to work?” I almost socked him in the face. He knew there was no way I could’ve known how far away she lived. I slapped my chest twice, spat on my hand, and shook my head at the Big Man.
lmost a week had passed since the orchestra rehearsal, and the next one was a day away. I hadn’t really talked to Allie all week except for a few short messages. It’s not that I didn’t want to; it’s just that I kept forgetting. I wonder why. That night I turned off all of the lights in my room and listened to Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony. Towards the middle of the first movement—about where the funeral march starts—I turned up the volume, and as if I were searching for something to make me sad, I texted Zoey. It was one of those times where you’re feeling down and you do something a little risky just because you figure it can’t get any worse. Hey, want to go ice skating sometime or something. Even as I was pushing the send button, I was slapping myself in the face. Almost immediately, she responded. “Umm Idk? Why would you want me to come anyway?” In the manliest way possible, I got so close to crying that I whimpered. I stared up at the ceiling fan as it made this buzzing noise every time it cycled around, conscious only of the grenade launcher in my chest. I wanted to think of something clever to say in response, but I couldn’t. There was no point, anyway. She had the guy with the leather jacket and I had Allie. I threw my phone onto the ground a little too violently and groaned. If you’ve ever messed up really badly because of your own fault, you’ll understand. It’s like getting punched in the face, thrown in a freezing lake, and feeling guilty after kicking a dog all at the same time. Out of nowhere my dad walked in. “What’s going on, Peter? Don’t bother dancing around the question. You’ve been acting weird all week.” He was right. All I did every day was get home from cross country and hide myself in my room. His eyebrows were furrowed, thin and blond, but scrunched enough to make you wonder if the guy was
angry or just deep in thought. “Have you ever liked two girls at once, Dad?” I decided to be honest, as I guess was mature, but I felt like I was in fourth grade. “Many times. I thought it was something like this.” “But you—” “Just listen. It may seem like a big deal now and it probably is, but trust me, if you relax it’ll all be fine.” Yeah, right. I could see both his father and myself in his face: his dark blond hair, small ears, and Polish nose. “It’s like in any kind of game. If you’re relaxed, then you do better.” He went on to talk about basketball or something for a while, but I wasn’t really listening. It didn’t matter anyway. I still couldn’t get that guilty image of Allie out of my head as I used all my willpower not to start whimpering about Zoey again. “You’re right, Dad. I’ll just relax.” I didn’t.
ometimes music, especially classical, gives you this rush that makes you believe you can do anything, whether it be talking to a girl for the first time, taking a risky shot in a basketball game, or whatever. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it depresses you so much that you just don’t care anymore. That’s how I felt when I was sitting there in orchestra the day after I texted Zoey. If you’ve ever listened to the last movement of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, which you probably haven’t, then you know how depressing everything becomes. You can listen to it and pretend it’s all boring and too old to mean anything, but you know you’re wrong. Anyway, I was feeling so down during that rehearsal that I hadn’t looked at Zoey
at all. Believe me, it took a lot of discipline. I just sat there in the back of the orchestra, ignoring Tom, who kept trying to get my attention. Everything went nearly silent as the violins played the theme of the movement, which moved straight into the most depressing phrasing of music I’ve ever heard. The cellos joined, then the winds and brass, and when the phrase reached the loudest peak, a blast came from the brass section, which completely defeated everyone else in the orchestra. I thought about Allie, about how I had barely texted her all week. I thought about Zoey and how I had screwed everything up. I thought about my dad and how I had rejected everything he said out of my own stupid pride. I thought about that weird guy at the camp and how I hadn’t tried to be his friend. When I stopped zoning out, the sixth blast from the brass echoed through the hall as the whole orchestra died down. You see people cry often, but when I looked up at the conductor and saw the old guy bawling, I almost lost it. There was nothing cheesy about it. Then it happened. I laughed. I freaking laughed. And I don’t just mean a quiet chuckle; I’m talking about the kind of laugh you make when you see a dog chasing its tail or something. I just couldn’t help it. To my surprise, no one heard me. At least, not a single person acknowledged what I had done. Why did I laugh? I have no clue, but I wasn’t sad anymore. I looked at Zoey, and she was staring straight at me. The violins were holding out this note, and she wasn’t even paying attention to what she was doing. She smiled, her eyebrows arched, and then she quickly turned away with her little head dance. That’s how the game works, after all.
2/7/13 Gabe Newsham The air is fresh and cold against my eyes while the scarf around my neck fogs hot breath onto my glasses. Halliday. My right arm swings out even though there are no cars behind me, and I lift out of the seat 15
just a little as the road jostles me and the bike all the way down the hill. I jerk my head in a nod to some cold woman scraping her windshield. I feel that little thrill again as I cross Grand, briefly going the wrong way in the left lane to get to the barrier in the middle of the street. Tower Grove Park. I mutter something bitter when I see the grass is still frosted. The middle road is bumpier but has less ice, so I deal with the bumps, the hills, the burning in my thighs and the sweat in my hair. I think Iâ€™m making eye contact with a man coming around the roundabout, but I still wait â€™til heâ€™s past before pushing off into the right lane.
Tower Grove Avenue. Now it’s a long slope down, gentle enough to push the gears up high and speed, the cars seeming slower by comparison. It’s a red light at Shaw, and I slow to a halt, one leg straight on the ground and the other ready to continue pedaling. Green. I pass the empty school yard, Chouquette, Olio, and Vandeventer.
I’m stopped, next to someone listening to rap or R&B or hip-hop, something bassy. I pull my scarf down so I won’t fog my glasses, because that might be fatal at this intersection. The cross traffic slows, stops, leaving me a window of time when every light is red. I push over the hill and continue down Tower Grove. Manchester. Sweetie Pie’s is next to the Nappy Kitchen and there are murals on the brick sides of bars and I am almost falling over as I turn left. The next right goes to Newstead. and my breath is ragged and Oakland. and its long gentle uphill and Oakland. so long and Oakland. so uphill and Kingshighway. Just one more crossing. Maybe an English teacher or a Spanish teacher or a chronically late student will appear and cross with me, but not today. White. Walk Signal. I push off and coast down Oakland. It’s seven forty-eight and I’m late for work study. Oakland.
Heavy Lifting Ryan Kennedy “
ll right, you got a couple more inches,” Casey warned me as I pulled the forklift right up to the back of the Cadillac Escalade. The owner stood beside her car, not saying a word, trusting I knew what I was doing. I couldn’t see in front of me too well because I had a big barbecue grill on the forklift. I was planning on pulling the forklift up behind the Escalade, lifting the grill to the height of the trunk, and then sliding the grill in, since it was too heavy to lift by myself. When I was close enough to the trunk, I began raising the forks, unaware that the forks were protruding from underneath the grill I was carrying. “Whoa, hold up! Stop!” Casey shouted. “Back it up! Back it up!” I couldn’t see around the grill, so I had no idea that I had caught the bumper of the Escalade with the protruding forks and was lifting it in the air, crushing the bumper as I did so. The Escalade owner’s eyes were popping out of her head, and Casey clenched his teeth together as if he were getting punched. I threw the forklift in reverse and started backing up just like he told me to. “No!” Casey shouted. “What do you want me to do?” I had no idea what was going on. “Just... put it down!” he yelled. I put the forklift in park before letting it down and looked around the grill on the forks to see the Escalade lifted a foot off the ground, the bumper bending with the forks and now being pulled from the car as I backed up. I immediately lowered the forks, and the Escalade bounced a little as it hit the pavement. “Oh my God,” muttered the owner of the Escalade, on the verge of tears. “What
did you do?” she asked rhetorically. “Oh, Jesus. Uh, it’s all right. Let me go get a manager inside.” I ran inside, told my boss, Joe, what had happened, and let him deal with the rest. had been working at Forshaw for about a year. It was a furniture store that my cousins owned, and I worked in the warehouse mostly, assembling furniture and pulling orders for customers. Sometimes I did some cleaning inside the actual store when necessary, but for the most part I stayed in the warehouse, which is attached to the back end of the store. Most of the furniture they sell is summer patio furniture, along with some grills, which I obviously hadn’t had the best experience with. This was my first real job, and besides the fact that the warehouse could reach upwards of 120 de-
Photo by John Kissel
grees in the summer, I enjoyed it. Everyone’s favorite part of working in the warehouse was driving the forklift. It was pretty easy, made up of six controls total, and it was very entertaining maneuvering the back wheel rotation. Honestly, I was pretty good at it and never had any serious problems until the bumper issue. After the incident, the owner of the Escalade had told her husband that I had yelled “I don’t know how to stop this!” while I was driving the forklift. Of course he then called in, furious that Forshaw was letting someone drive a forklift who didn’t know how to stop. Joe knew this claim by the husband was not true because he had seen me drive the forklift to perfection. But Joe wanted to make sure he was safe from a legal standpoint, so he did some research and found out I was not supposed to be allowed on the forklift since I was under 18 years old. This sucked. I had been driving it for a year now, and all
of a sudden had to stop? Needless to say, my productivity on the job plummeted. I could no longer work the warehouse alone because if any order was not on the ground, I needed help getting it. I felt worthless, as if I wasn’t needed at all. I worked with Casey on Sundays, and he seemed to be the only one who noticed how worthless I felt. Whenever he was with a customer, he would look at the location on the order ticket, and if it was something I could get to without the forklift, he’d tell me he was busy and ask if I could get the customer’s order. At 24, Casey was seven years older than me, but I liked working with him even more than with workers closer to me in age. He seemed like your classic drifter— never cleanly shaven, tattooed with some Bible quote creeping up his neck—and often told me stories of the numerous jobs he had previously worked. He didn’t take his job very seriously ,and it was weird to me to
Photo by Sam Beckmann
think he had to make a living on this lowpaying job that I worked just to earn some spending money. He didn’t seem to think the job was too important, though, and he came and went as he pleased. He was always late to work, if he showed up at all, and he was in a hurry to close up as soon as he could. I knew Joe liked me better as a worker and would’ve gotten rid of Casey if he weren’t so tight on warehouse workers. I had a sense of superiority about myself when I worked with Casey, and sometimes this made me feel awkward around him, but all in all we had sort of become friends in our year and a half of working together. Casey didn’t seem to care too much about the other workers. He wasn’t the kind of guy to help without being asked, and was perfectly content with sitting at a desk all day and letting me do all the work—that is, if it didn’t require a forklift. One weekend when I was working with him, he let three customers wait in the parking lot as I got their items. Instead of helping out and taking one of the customers himself, he just acted like he was sweeping the loading dock off. I ended up getting all of the customers their things in reasonably good time, but the last customer was still frustrated with the wait. I confronted Casey about how he didn’t come help me out, but he just replied, “Oh, I thought you liked when I let you get the customers that you could without the forklift.” This was true, but I knew he was taking advantage of me at this point and hiding behind his fake generosity of helping me feel needed. Later on, I ended up being scolded by one of the salesmen, who had received a call reporting my poor customer assistance. I tried explaining the situation to the salesman, but he thought I was just making excuses. This only happened once, though, and when Casey saw how upset I was, he started helping out a lot more in the following weeks.
ne hot, hot Sunday afternoon, I was walking back to the warehouse after cleaning the windows in the front of the store. Cleaning the windows was probably the task I hated most in my job. No matter how many times you soaked and dried them, you could always see streak marks when the sun hit them right. Not to mention I had to clean the windows from outside where it felt over 100 degrees on the pavement. When I got back around to the warehouse, I was relieved to see there were no customers. I also noticed that Casey wasn’t at his usual spot, sitting on wooden stairs on the side of the loading dock. I heard a forklift in the warehouse, so I went back to tell Casey that I had returned from cleaning the windows. When I walked into the warehouse, I first noticed the unusually large cloud of dust in the air and knew something big had been moved. I walked to the back aisle, and that’s where I found Casey. He was running around frantically, pulling boards and metal poles off the covered forklift. He had apparently knocked down a three-story shelf of Summer Classics patio furniture, which then toppled on the forklift, ruining the shelf and most likely the furniture. “Oh shit, what happened?” I asked Casey. He didn’t hear me and kept working at the mess. “Hey, Casey!” He jumped, turned with wide eyes, and then sighed, relieved to see me instead of Joe. “Hey, you gotta help me out,” Casey started. “We gotta clean this up before Joe comes back here.” “Clean it up? The chairs are probably ruined. You can’t just set them back up there for a customer to get,” I said. “Well then, you gotta tell Joe you did it.” “What? Why would I do that?” “Well, if he sees that I did this, he’ll fire me in a second.” I knew he was right. Joe was already annoyed with Casey’s recent tardiness and probably wouldn’t mind having such
a reasonable excuse to get rid of him. But I might be in just as much trouble if I took the blame. I wasn’t allowed to be on the forklift for another year, until I turn 18. It was a loselose situation. I was worried, but I saw a grin developing on Casey’s face. He stopped running around frantically and was now leaning against one of the fallen boxes. “Yeah, c’mon, you’re a kid. This kinda thing is expected from you.” I was surprised Casey was so ready to put the blame on me. We had gotten to be friends; at least I thought we had. I understood that he wanted to keep his job, but then why wasn’t he more concerned with showing up on time or doing good work when he did show up? “Just this one time. I’ll owe you.” “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can do that. I’ll help you put the chairs back on the shelves if you want, but nothing more.” “Man, c’mon. If you don’t do this, I’m gonna lose my job. And then it’ll be your fault.” This wasn’t true, but I would feel guilty. Why did he think he could put this in my hands? I barely knew him, and he was ready to put my job in jeopardy for his own. “Yeah, well, it’s honestly not my problem,” I replied. “Let’s hurry up and fix this before Joe gets out here. We can at least lessen the damage if not completely fix it.” “Jesus Christ,” Casey muttered as he grabbed the first box and set it aside. We had the three-story high metal shelf put back up and most of the chairs relocated when Joe finally came outside to the warehouse. The boxes were crumpled up, and it was obvious something had happened. “What happened here?” Joe asked in an accusing tone. Casey jumped in before I could say anything. “Ryan was on the forklift! He lost control and knocked down the shelf, bringing all the patio chairs with it.” Casey looked at me, waiting for my support. “Really, Ryan?” asked Joe. I had no idea
what to do. The warehouse was hotter than it had ever been, and I could feel sweat running down my back. I was almost positive I would be fired. Casey didn’t flinch. I wasn’t going to be bullied by Casey just because he was older than me. We were both employees with the same status, and there was no reason I couldn’t stand up for myself. But I didn’t. “Yeah...sorry,” I said. Joe looked suspicious but accepted what we told him, lowered his head and closed his eyes, and thought it over. “Well, first I want you two to sort through the chairs, see which ones are damaged and not able to be sold, and set them aside. It’s almost five, so when you’re done with that just go through your regular lockup routine,” Joe muttered, and then walked back inside to the main store. We just did what we were told, closed up for the night, and went home.
only worked on weekends, and most of the time Joe called me at some point early in the week to tell me whether he needed me on Saturday or Sunday. The week after the shelf crash I didn’t get a call in the first three days of the week, which was unusual. I thought that maybe I wouldn’t get a call at all. Maybe I wouldn’t be called in to work this weekend and then Forshaw would slowly start cutting back my hours until I didn’t work anymore. Or maybe they just would never call again and I had closed up for my last time. But that Thursday evening I got a call from Joe asking me to come in on Sunday. I was so relieved. Since I would be working Sunday, I knew I would be seeing Casey. I was eager to talk to Casey about the accident and maybe even laugh about it a little. Maybe Joe hadn’t taken the situation as seriously as we thought he would’ve. But he had. That Sunday when I went
into work, Phillip was out in the warehouse to work with me. Phillip was another warehouse worker only a couple years older than me, but he didn’t usually work Sundays. When I saw Phillip, I went straight into Joe’s office and asked him where Casey was, worried that something was wrong with him. “Casey doesn’t work here anymore. He called in this Wednesday and explained to me in detail what happened last Sunday. He told me it wasn’t your fault and that he was sorry for putting the blame on you,” Joe explained. “So...?” “So he did the right thing. But of course I had to fire him. He was a reckless and careless employee, and we needed to get rid of him. There was no way out of it. Just be happy that we were able to end things on good
terms. He’ll be coming in later today to pick up some of his things.” Casey didn’t come in to get his things until just before closing time. I was considering avoiding him altogether, but as he was leaving the warehouse with a plastic crate full of his possessions, I decided I needed to say something. “Hey, Casey,” I said. “Oh, hey.” “Man, I’m sorry you got fired.” “Don’t be. I needed to get out of here at some point,” he spoke gently. “Move on with my life, ya know?” “Yeah. I guess so. Well I’ll see you around,” I said. I still felt like it was my fault and was hoping Casey would tell me otherwise, but he just smiled, got in his car, and drove away.
Photo by Austin Strifler
Hidden Adam Lux
22 Have you ever felt hidden by someone? Tucked away, not like some great treasure But rather like an old security blanket— Some piece of childhood not lost, but Hidden Out of fear of ridicule. Why do you still have that? Tucked away in some closet, Reassured, I still love you. You’re still special, No words truer and less reassuring. It’s my job to fix her. When she comes to me broken Infected, shattered, torn, snapped It’s my job to glue her back together with care— With love so genuine it can’t help but heal everything. Then I pick her up and dust her off She thanks me with a smile and closes the door. But that’s too glorious an image for me— Too Beautiful. Maybe I’m just a zit on her face She’s just too afraid to pop. Covered with makeup until— I get the hint. I’m not wanted Have you even felt hidden?
Photo by Mitch Mackowiak
Sestina for Christina Chuck Hussung
She lingers, in my mind, about the city. She takes a booth and shares it with the hours Of noon to two-fifteen, then drains her cup And stamps her card and slips along a garden To mail to me a picture of the night, A message that reports and resists change. Like all of us, she wants to stunt the change That tumbles in and out and through her city. If she could only find a way this night To lengthen moonrise and delay the hours Until the sun awakes her northern garden To mourn the morning heat. She fills her cup With honeyed chance, then swirls within the cup Her sure belief that nothing carries change So truthfully or sweetly as a garden, Nothing so taut and artful as her city. She’ll carry through this Tuesday’s thoughtful hours The hours she lay awake to ponder night. She stands to stretch and turn away from night, To rinse her plate of crumbs and rinse the cup. She’d rather give her life away in hours Of sympathetic wit and ride the change Of any drought or storm that pelts her city Within the haven of her whispering garden. She cannot spend the day within the garden, Nor can she lose the way she spent the night Resisting dreams of bargaining the city To satisfy her life with half a cup Of beauty and companionship and change That drags its feet and slips behind the hours.
She gives the day the grace it needs for hours Of latitude to occupy the garden. She knows that change must change and welcomes changeâ€” If only she can gauge the change at night, Within the echoes of her coffee cup, Within the alleys of her sister-city.
She gives the hours a nod, she rounds the night Within her garden right and makes the cup A cup of trembling change to give her city.
Photo by Matt Sciuto
Tomorrow Kurt Thiemann
hen Momma came to wake me up this morning, I had only one thought in my head. Tomorrow, I thought, not today. Maybe today will be different. Sometimes it bothers me that Momma has to come in to wake me up every morning. It’s not like I could possibly get out of the room without her, but that doesn’t mean I like it. She still acts like I’m her little baby. I hate it. I’m a big boy now, I just turned seven. At least she lets me make my own breakfast. Toasted Pop-Tarts, my favorite. She puts them in the toaster for me, though. She says she’s scared to let me use the toaster. She walks me all the way out to the bus stop every day, too. I just want to get on and see my friends, but she has to call out, “Have a good day! I love you!” I nod at her. Sometimes I smile, especially if the Pop-Tarts are brown sugar and cinnamon. My seat is way in the back of the bus. I have to walk past every other kid talking and laughing with their friends. Sometimes I wish I could join them, but they make me angry a lot. I don’t think they’d enjoy talking to me anyway, because I wouldn’t say anything back to them. That’s all right. It’s actually better that I get to do the same thing every day. If someone’s sitting in my seat I tend to have an episode. Usually I don’t remember what happens when I have an episode on the bus. The kids whisper about how it’s embarrassing. Because I don’t talk, I hear a lot of whispers. Some of the kids just assume I’m deaf, but not after I have an episode. I just… I just don’t like things not being the same. I couldn’t handle switching classes as much as the other kids do. I love going into the same
room every day, with the same teacher I’ve had for all of first grade now, Mrs. Nesbit. She’s really old. Someone said she’s not a day over forty-five, but that can’t be true because her hair is gray and falling out, and her eyes have bags under them. I’ve heard her say that we’re the ones who made her so old. But she also told the class she knew Abraham Lincoln when he was a boy. The whole class burst out laughing. I smiled. I’m always last into the room. I nod to Mrs. Nesbit, who smiles at me. I don’t smile much in the morning. My face rarely changes at all. Most of the time people have no idea if I’m happy or sad. Most of the time I don’t know either. I guess I’m not happy or sad. Usually Adam is the first person to talk to me. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say talk to me, exactly. Adam is always running around the room screaming about how the world is going to end tonight. He has a different reason for it every day. Today was exciting. “Lava has been building up beneath all the volcanoes for centuries! Tonight they’ll all explode together and cover the earth in fire and death!” he screamed right in my face, a few drops of saliva flying onto my cheeks. I wanted to say, “I believe you mean magma.” But of course I didn’t say anything. I like Adam because he’s full of opposites. Somehow after years of saying the world will end, he hasn’t quite caught on yet. Then again, he probably knows better than anyone that life could end at any time, especially today or tomorrow. Sometimes it takes two or three people to force him into his seat in the morning or after lunch. Once he sits in his seat, he’s fine because he can look out the window. As soon as Adam looks out the window, he gets quiet and peaceful. I thought he would be afraid of the outside more than anyone, but he loves that window. After Adam sits down, usually Dylan comes up to me next. He always has a different “Word of the Day.” It’s the only word
he’ll say for the entire day. He goes through phases with his words too. There was a time it was all nouns, and then all verbs. Now he’s more into types of words. At one point he always tried to find the longest word. The trouble was he’d forget the word and not know what to say for the rest of the day. If he was lucky, he’d find another long word. Now he’s starting a phase of looking up some of the most-used words. He started with things like “the,” “I,” or “like,” but now there are some weird words. One time he kept saying “swag,” and today he’s got an even weirder word. I’ve heard the word before, but I don’t really know what it means. I just know that adults use it when they get very angry. Dylan didn’t last long in class today. Mrs. Nesbit sent him down to the office to be “handled.” Any time someone causes a problem in
class they get sent down to be “handled.” I hate it when she sends me down. I get sent down anytime there’s a different day. If we don’t follow the schedule we use every day, I have an episode. Sometimes I break things. I’m not doing it to be mean; I just don’t know what else to do. I usually do it without thinking. Sometimes I have an episode when we come back from long breaks, or the day after a different schedule, because I’m still a bit confused. I don’t like being confused. I hate having to be “handled.” They grab you and send you down to the office so you can be held until you calm down. I feel like an animal, and I never want to feel like an animal. I went to the zoo once. As soon as I saw an animal in a cage, I had an episode. I missed a day of school a few months ago because the rest of my class went on a field trip to the zoo. Momma wouldn’t let me go. She was with me the first time.
Photo by Sam Beckmann
After Dylan gets sent down and Adam is looking out the window, class finally starts. We really don’t do much, but Mrs. Nesbit does her best. There’s only seven of us in the class, but someone else is always talking while she’s talking. She does her best to ignore them, but at some point she has to stop everything just to talk to that one kid. I try to listen, but I hate having to stop for other kids. Sometimes I’ll have an episode if we stop too much. I hate doing that to Mrs. Nesbit, but I don’t know what else to do. It’s almost like I’m not in control of my body at that point. I just stand up, move around, and start to break things. I’ve opened cuts on my hand while I’m breaking things. The rest of the day goes by without much to say. Thankfully, I didn’t have an episode, but we didn’t get much done in class anyways. During lunch I listen to the other kids in my class talk. Adam, Dylan, and I usually just end up listening to them talk since we don’t have much to say. I never have anything to say. Momma once tried to explain it. She said I was “different” and “non-verbal,” and that’s why I act so differently from all the other kids. She kept telling me that it didn’t mean I was a bad kid, just special. I’m not sure how much I believed her. Momma met me at the bus stop, just like she does every day, and walks me home. I got lost one time, a few years ago. She never let me walk anywhere alone again. I don’t remember it really, but they said they found me out on a tree branch ready to jump. But I don’t remember any of it.
Momma always tries to make my time at home with her as “normal” as possible. I don’t know if that’s for her or me. She lets me watch TV and play video games all the time when I’m with her. She even talks with me, asking me only yes or no questions so I can just move my head. There’s a game I love called “20 Questions” that she plays with me. I always pick Batman or horses, but she still has to use all 20 questions every single time. Sometimes she doesn’t even get it. The front door opens and slams. Dad’s home. Momma’s smile drops a little bit. But then she smiles at me again. I look at other people’s mouths a lot, so I notice when smiles change. She doesn’t know that I know she does. My face hasn’t changed since I came home. “I’m home!” he screams from the front room. It’s dark now. Photo by Sam Beckmann It was sunset just a little bit ago, but it’s already gone pitch black outside. Momma walks up to greet him. She smiles. “How was your day, dear?” He hands her his coat and briefcase without looking her in the eye. “Fucking terrible.” There’s that word Dylan used. Dad comes over to me on the couch. I think his face is red because I think he spends a lot of his day screaming at other people. He’s got to do it somewhere else, too. His facial hair is always thick stubble, as if he can’t make up his mind about whether or not he wants a beard. He leans down real close to me, with a strange smile. I can’t tell if he’s happy or not. “How was your day, sport?” he asks.
I nod. I don’t know what else to do. Momma walks up behind Dad, biting her teeth on her lip. He sits down next to me on the couch. His breath smells awful. I turn away from him. “Oh, c’mon,” he says, “just talk to me son.” I turn back around, without changing my face. He smiles a little and pats me on the arm. “Now why don’t we talk about your day? How was school?” I shrug. He sighs. His smile drops a little, but now he puts his arm around me. “I just want to talk to my boy.” He was looking at Momma, who has her hands to her mouth. He turns back to me. “Now, son, how about we talk? What did you learn today?” I shake my head. “Did you not learn anything? Or do you just not want to talk to me?” I shake my head again. He shakes his head back at me. “Nope, that’s not an answer to that question.” His smile is gone. He gets off the couch and crouches next to me. “I’m going to ask you again, and I want you to tell me a word that describes your day. Just one word, that’s all I need. How was your day, sport?” he asks me again. I tell myself I have to do it. I open my mouth for the first time today. I push every muscle in my body to speak because I don’t know which one does it. Dad lifts his chin, watching. I squeak. Just like yesterday when he asked me, I squeaked. He sighs again. Now he gets really close to my face. He’s not smiling anymore. Momma whispers, “Don’t.” He doesn’t say anything to her. He asks me very slowly, “I said, how was your day? It’s a simple question. Give me an answer.”
I don’t say anything. I just look at him, and then I shrug again. My eyebrows have moved up. Now Dad’s face is red again. He opens his mouth wide and screams, “Nothing? Fine!” A few drops of saliva land on my cheeks again. “Go to your fucking room!” There’s that word again. I slowly stand up to go to my room. Momma grabs Dad on the arm and says, “He hasn’t even eaten dinner yet.” “Then he’ll learn better!” Dad yells over his shoulder without looking at her. He grabs me by the shirt and hauls me upstairs. He’s incredibly strong. His fist alone is about as big as my entire face. I can’t break free. I couldn’t break free yesterday, so I don’t know why I even tried today. Dad throws me into the room, and I fall to the floor. He shuts the door behind me, with a metallic clang. “If you talk, you can come out!” he screams, still red in the face. I can see him through the door. The door is actually just a series of black metal bars, with a frame that always slams against where the normal door would be. He locks the door with the key he has and goes back downstairs. My room is a dull gray color, with nothing but my bed and my dresser in it. The bed is pushed up to a wall with two big windows on the side of it. The dresser always has clothes piled on top of it to match the huge piles of clothes on the floor of my room. No one’s cleaned in here in a while. I hate this room, especially the windows. There’s no glass on the windows, just black metal bars like those on the door. It gets really cold in the winter. I put my head to the floor, and I can make out a few things said between my parents downstairs. “How could you?...has to learn…help… I want to…Well, why don’t you?...terrible… my son too…there’s nothing else to do… my house…what are we gonna do…can’t…
forever…find dinner yourself…cooking’s terrible…” I hear Dylan’s word more than a few times. I like to think it’s a different talk every time, but I know I’m just hearing different pieces of the same talk. They have this talk every day. Today was exactly the same as yesterday. That’s something I’ve said for years now. Momma will come up and say good night and she loves me. I’ll nod at her while forcing a smile. She’ll force one back at me and go to bed with red eyes. Dad will come up soon after that, ask me to say something, and then follow Momma with a brown paper bag in his hand. Once they’re both in bed, I get out of bed myself and go over to my dresser. Momma doesn’t know this, but Dad gave me a knife when I was a boy, back before he put in the bars. He clumsily handed it to me late and night and mumbled, “Hey! Take this. It’s… my dad’s…or…” right before falling asleep with a heavy smell about him. When he gave it to me, I touched his hand. It was softer than I thought it’d be. I held that knife in my hand for a long time. For a bit, I felt a little more normal. It’s the only gift he ever gave me. I loved it. I take that knife out every night. It’s a simple red Swiss Army Knife, with a worn bottle opener. The knife itself is sharp, and cool to the touch. I like to pull the knife out a little bit with the tab then grab it by the blade and pull for the rest of the way. I sit cross-legged on the floor of my room and play with my knife, running it up and down all different parts of my body. I use it to scratch my legs, and poke it on my chest. I run the blade up both my arms, until finally I come to my hands. Once I get to the palm, I start to poke the blade until my skin nearly breaks. I’m very careful with making sure the skin doesn’t break, but I can push it far enough to feel plenty of pain. After I poke around the back of my hands for
a while, I flip my hands over and get to my palms. I do a few warm-up strokes, getting faster each time, until I have the speed and pressure perfectly. I make a slice on my open palm, switching hands every night. I sliced with the left so it was a bit easier tonight. I love that moment right when my skin opens, but right before it starts to bleed. I figured out if I cut along the wrinkles in my palm the cut is very unnoticeable. Once my mom found a cut and got really scared. She asked me where I got cut. Of course I didn’t say anything, but she looked scared. I don’t want her to see the cuts anymore. I heard some boys talk about how useful a tube sock is for cleaning things up in your room, and they’re right. There’s a red-stained sock in my dresser in the bottom of the top right drawer, right next to where the knife is. I wipe the blood off, thinking about how funny it is that it doesn’t hurt until the morning. I hope I don’t have an episode tomorrow and break the gash open. I don’t want Momma to know how I calm myself down at night. If she found out… then today might be different. Or tomorrow. I don’t know why I can’t be any better. Momma goes through so much pain to take care of me and thinks I don’t notice her sadness. Mrs. Nesbit does the same. How can I put them through all of this? Clearly I’m not worth the trouble. Dad’s told me he wishes I were different. I wish that I were too, because being “different” like this is just too hard. None of the kids on the bus know who I am, and my classmates never even think about me. But I don’t think much about them either. If I hate myself, I must have good reason to. Don’t I know myself best? If I hate myself, everyone else must hate me too. It only makes sense. It only… My left hand is gripping the knife tightly, holding the blade up against my neck. I read once about where the jugular is, and that’s right where the blade is. I sit there for a
while, unable to move and unsure about what to do. Slowly, I regain control of my hand, but I still don’t move it. Today was the same as yesterday. That’s something I’ve said for years now. I slowly put the blade back down into the knife, and put the knife back into my dresser. Tomorrow. Not today. I slip back under the covers, pulling the blanket all the way up to my neck. When it gets cold, I use four or five blankets and co-
coon myself in them to make it through the night. Sometimes I dream I wake up as a new butterfly. Tomorrow. Not today. I can’t do it today, because today’s like any other day. I’ll do it tomorrow, though. I’ll finally cut again tomorrow, and then I’ll be done. But tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow.
hen Momma came to wake me up this morning, I only had one thought in my head. Tomorrow, I thought, not today.
Drawing by Garret Fox
Outcast Mason Ryan “
eter Jefferies,” the teacher called out as she assigned us seats for the first month of our third grade year. In the corner all alone, an average-sized boy with a bowl haircut, wearing jean shorts and a toosmall T-shirt, straightened his curved back and raised his bowed head. His feet were crossed as he leaned on the wall. Beside him was a stuffed backpack and in his hands a book on paleontology. Three hours later at recess as everyone was talking and playing with friends whom they had not seen much over the summer, I noticed Peter sitting on a bench, hunched over, reading. He did this every day we had outdoor recess, no matter the weather. When it was cold out, he wore a light blue winter coat and pulled the hood on and forward, giving him tunnel vision to his book. At lunch, he sat by himself at the end of a table, still reading and hunched over, but with his left ankle perched halfway up his right thigh, slowly eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with his lunchbox and other foods placed in specific spots. Day to day, the only thing that changed about his lunch was the book he read as he ate. The only time he wasn’t hunched over reading and shying away from talking was when class was going on and there was work to do or the teacher was calling on kids to answer questions. Peter was always the first to raise a hand and the last to turn in papers. He was always right—and a know-it-all who kept on talking or writing even after answering the question. He and I were two of the five third-graders who got to go to an advanced math class every week, but he was also the only third-grader who got to go to a weekly gifted-reading class with fourth-grad-
ers. Sometimes, I wondered why he hadn’t skipped a grade. The first time I talked to Peter about something other than schoolwork, I found out he had previously been home-schooled, his dad was a scientist of some sort, and his mom had just gotten a job as a science teacher at Hinsdale Central High School. He also went to the town library every day right after school to work on “homework and stuff ” with his mom. I began to talk with Peter every once in a while, and as far as I can remember, I was the only kid in my class who did for reasons other than getting help on schoolwork. He never approached anyone because he was shy, no one wanted to talk to him, and he always had a book to read. If he did try to start a conversation, he usually began with something oddly polite such as “May I ask” or “Hi, how are you?” My main interests at the time were basketball, baseball, and cars. His were geology and animals from the time of the dinosaurs. Neither of us could relate to what the other was saying, and neither of us lit a fire in the other with a hidden passion or interest. I never showed any particularly great interest in what he had to say, though he did to me. I talked and listened to him because I was curious and felt bad that he had no friends, and he talked and listened to me because he wanted to be one of mine. But Peter was just too different to fit in with anyone else, even if none of us did much to accept him and he preferred to be left alone. One Thursday in November, my mom picked up my sister and me to go to the library to work on my sister’s school project since it required color printings and we had no color printer at home. My sister and I usually walked the half mile home, and while waiting to be picked up, I saw and heard Peter getting picked up by his mom. As he climbed into the small blue sedan, his mom asked the routine question of “How was
school?” but then she asked about his participation in class—“Did you participate in class and show Ms. Scarzane what you know?” The replies were a flat-toned “School was fine” and “Yes, I did.” When we got to the library and went downstairs to the children’s and teens’ floor, I spotted Peter and his mom at a table, working on homework. Peter was hunched over and furiously scribbling down things on a paper. While my mom helped my sister at a computer, I sat three tables behind Peter and did my homework for the next half hour and finished. When I was done, I went to ask my mom when we would be leaving and got “about an hour” in reply. Bummed out that I would have to wait to get home and go sledding with some friends, I found a book, went back to my table and started reading. On my way to my seat, I noticed Peter working on our English assignment with his mom sitting next to him and watching every word he wrote. He had written at least three times as much as was required. As I passed by, Peter took a quick glance at me and went right back to writing. Engrossed by the book I was reading, I
didn’t look up until my mom came by to let me know that she and my sister were done working. They were going upstairs to check out some books. They took mine and I was to pack up and meet them upstairs. Peter, on the other hand, was still laboring at some workbook with shapes and analogy signs and patterns. When I walked by, I tried to take a closer look at the problems, but was stopped as Peter looked up and met my eyes with his wide ones and raised eyebrows. The title of the book began Enrichment for Gifted. He stole a look and nodded at his mom, who had a red pen in hand as she evaluated some papers, then looked back at me with a clenched jaw and pursed lips. He gave a slightly extended blink of his eyes with a small sigh and shrug, discreetly so his mom wouldn’t notice, then looked back at his paper. His eyes and face looked lonely, desperate, and hopeless. The rest of his body said the same. At recess the next day, I was on the swings with a friend. Halfway through, Peter stood up and, leaving his book and bench behind, walked over and got on the empty swing next to me with his head high, never saying a word.
Photo by Sam Beckmann
Snow Ball 34
Gabe Newsham It’s dark and maybe she’s blonde and in something like leopard print. Can you show me? Yeah, left right left left, then reverse. If a Korean pop star can do it you can too. A new verse comes up and we fall back into whatever Popping and locking and rolling we thought looked cool. A good two feet separate us and we’ll keep it that way. It’s something else now, some other nameless pop song that I can yell half the lyrics to. I’m somewhere else now, with friends, pulling out all the stupid moves we save For when we’re too sweaty and tired to care. Lifts, partnering, panting laughing yelling, And I’m carried for a moment but then Back on the ground, slow dancing to a fast song. And at this top floor above downtown, We are something else, Other than privileged teens dancing to Rihanna, Other than bad dancers and hoarse singers. We are covered with something More coordinated and self-confident and promiscuous Than we were before, Something like leopard print.
Photo by Ben Banet
An Odyssey Andrew Robinson
Sing to me, O Muse, Of all the Mice and Men Who’ve wandered through our weary minds And stumbled out again
“Whoso would be a man...” I clung to every word! These authors and their concepts no longer seemed absurd
Of comedy, of irony Of dreams—fulfilled and withered— Of thoughts spun in the mind’s bright wheels And those left unconsidered
Could it be that I’m a novel On a page right in the middle? That every man, too, is a book Whose cover page means little?
I could not see the twinkle In star-cross’d lovers’ eyes But then again how could I know Of what love was comprised?
That as I bear harsh slings and arrows Others will understand? That fictional plots and lines and scenes Are part of a bigger plan?
Words, words, words! Does this fury signify nothing? What does Hamlet mean to me? And tragedy and suffering?
But that’s not all— There are poems and stories Shimmering stars and mountains— Radiant morning glories
“To me or not to me?” Yes, this question rings much truer I could not stand to dwell on thoughts When I could be a doer
They understand too— Or am I mad? Not quite cognition, Just a feeling I had—
Then flickers of clarity—sharp but brief Amidst the petty pace Though in myself and not the books Was where the change took place
But I have had enough of apple picking That is—for now at least Though I have many more to touch And miles to go before I sleep
A single thought—what “seems” is not Beneath the surface, something lurks Dulce et decorum est to find myself in master works
Photo by Ben Banet
Crushed Scott McCartney
got his call once I got home. I had driven only a few miles home from the Bread Co. With my car safely parked along the curb, I turned the engine off and the lights went dim. The only light left was the moon and the reflection of my porch light on the stop sign ahead. As I opened my car door, I felt my right thigh vibrate and saw my phone’s screen light up through my pocket. The frigid wind snuck in the car through my open door. The name on the screen was “Ben-jammin.” “Hey, Ben. What’s up?” “Hey. Me and Jessie just broke up.” I was silent for a second. I sat back down in the car seat and closed the door, now in complete darkness. I put the key back in the ignition to turn the car on. The winter air outside had already seeped in; the damage was done. I cranked the heat so that I wouldn’t freeze before this call ended. “Oh shit, man, what happened?” “After you left, me and her were just sitting in my car and she started talking about how she and Joe went swimming down at the Lake of the Ozarks last weekend. I’m fed up with worrying about what she is doing down there with her so-called friend.” “How’d she take it?” The phone vibrated twice in my hand, buzzing loudly in my ear. The message would have to wait until I finished the call, though. “I tried to explain myself, but she was pissed and told me to leave. She wouldn’t even let me give her a ride home. Her dad apparently picked her up.” “Okay, I’m sorry about that, man. I was
really rooting for you two.” “Yeah, I know. Thanks for that. See ya Monday.” I heard a small click as he hung up the phone. It was a much shorter conversation than I expected. I turned the car off again, braced myself for the cold outside, and opened the door. Fog from my breath blew out of my mouth with every step. I pushed through my red front door and stepped inside, shutting the door quickly so the precious warmth of the fire in the living room to my right wouldn’t escape. My favorite recliner sat in front of the contained flame. The green leather of the chair hugged my body as I felt for the indent I had made by sitting in the chair so many times before. I kicked each of my shoes off deliberately and let myself rest in the glow of the fire for a moment before looking around for the T.V. remote. It sat on the end table beside my chair where I had left it several hours earlier, before leaving for Bread Company to meet Ben and Jessie in his red Mustang I coveted so much. The T.V. came to life with the press of a button, and I reached into my pocket to check the time on my phone when I saw the message image in the middle. I had forgotten about the text I received during my phone call with Ben. It said that it was sent at 9:45, about ten minutes earlier. I traced the complicated maneuver with my thumb to unlock my phone, an uppercase L, and was surprised to see that the sender was Jessie. Well, not exactly surprised. Since the beginning of high school, we had been best friends. We talked about everything together, including all of the boys she liked, despite the ravenous crush on her I was nursing. Considering that I had inadvertently set her up with my best friend Ben seven months earlier, I did not expect her to come to me for condolence that Ben was the biggest jerk alive.
“Hey, me and Ben broke up. Im coming over if thats okay...” she said in her text. I started to dread her arrival. I knew that she wanted me to bash my best friend so she could feel better, and I did not want to be placed in the middle of their fight. I agreed with Ben about the reason for their break-up, but Jessie was stubborn. She would convince herself that she had no fault in their breakup. Jessie lived only about a half-mile down the main road outside of my neighborhood. I remembered the time in freshman year when I walked to her house for her fifteenth birthday. It started pouring as I was walked home from her party, and I had to run the last few minutes home. That was the night she started going out with Joe Chervitz. I started to rise out of my chair when I saw headlights round the corner onto my street. It was not Jessie’s silver Chevy Cobalt, and it passed by my house, heading towards the stop sign at the end of the street. I was still in the clear. I sat back down, and debated texting Ben about my situation. After some thought, I realized it was better if I didn’t, and I put my phone back in my pocket. Another pair of headlights came around the corner before slowing down and turning into my driveway. The headlights stayed on; the engine continued to hum. Light from the porch made the silver paint shine. I stood up and walked to the door. She was scanning the windows of the house for my silhouette. I could tell she wasn’t coming in, instead waiting for me to join her. The cold air hit me as I took my first step outside. I had forgotten my shoes, so I leaped from toe to toe on the freezing concrete. I landed on an acorn during one of my most spectacular bounds and my whole body rolled under the intense pain. The side of the car was there to catch me as my hands landed with a hard thud against the glass window of the passenger door. By the time I opened up the door to get in the car, my face was
bright red, and not from the cold. I always seemed to be my most awkward around Jessie because I was so nervous about trying not to be awkward. She loved it. I looked over at her just long enough to see her laughing hysterically before putting my head down in embarrassment. Something was missing in her laugh, though. It sounded happy, but after years of friendship I could tell that she was still preoccupied with what had happened to her tonight, and why she had come over to my house tonight instead of staying with Ben. “God, you always know how to make me feel better. I love seeing you.” She leaned over and put her right arm around my neck and pulled me in for a hug. She exhaled deeply, her chest expanding against my own, before sitting back in her seat and staring at me across the compartment in the middle of the car. Jessie turned to face me, her right knee resting on the car seat, her left foot resting on the brake. She seemed to be thinking, and suddenly she reached over and flicked the car lights off. Her smile faded and she looked serious. “So, Ben and I broke up.” “Yeah, I know. He called me before you came over.” “Oh.” She looked away, embarrassed, unable to look me in the eye. Her brown hair fell over her face and she didn’t attempt to brush it away. “What’d he say about me?” “He just told me why you two broke up. About how he was concerned about you and Joe.” She looked up with a hurt expression. “He didn’t even explain...” She mumbled something else under her breath which I’m pretty sure was “asshole.” “Well, I’m glad I’m done with him,” she continued. “Now I get to go back and live the single life!” Again, I saw that her smile masked how sad she really was.
I had sat in this seat several times before. I hadn’t had a car to go with my license until very recently, so Jessie would pick me up and drive me to parties or to hang out with friends. Very rarely did we go to an event without each other. On our way home we’d go to the park in my neighborhood and talk about school, my hockey team, or her latest crush until her dad would call, yelling for her to get home. We did this almost every Friday night until she and Ben started going out. Then I was quickly dropped off at my house by Ben in his red Mustang. He claimed he wanted to have his own private “talk” with Jessie at the park that used to belong to me and her. Whatever went on there I didn’t want to know, and I never asked. Sitting there, alone with her like sophomore year, I made my decision. “Don’t be sad. Ben is an ass.” This was the girl I had waited for, and lost, for so many years, sometimes by my own doing. If it meant tearing down my best friend to make Jessie look up at me and truly smile for the first time tonight, it was worth it.
I checked the second story of my house. No lights were on in the far right side, which held the master bedroom. No shadows danced across any of the closed blinds. I looked back to Jessie, who was staring at me expectantly. I didn’t have time to react. In one swift, fluid motion, she leaped from her seat towards me, pulling my head in with her right hand. Her eyes were closed, but mine were wide in a mixture of surprise, confusion, and delight as her lips moved on mine with a technique far beyond my own skill. She moved farther across my seat, almost falling into my lap. I closed my eyes too as I pulled her over the threshold of the middle compartment and onto my seat with me.
watched the silver car until it turned right at the end of my street and passed behind Mr. Wolff ’s house on the corner. Before opening the door to my lifeless house, I checked the time on my phone. It was almost eleven. I also saw that I had missed a call from Ben. I hadn’t heard the buzz of my phone amid the intense shuffling of bodies during that almost hour-long period in
Pinch Pot by Joe Reardon
Jessie’s car. I felt guilty but snuck into my house overpowered with elation. I went up to my bedroom, lay on my blue comforter, and stared at the plain white ceiling, unable to fall asleep for a long time.
stood on her porch, waiting. I hadn’t been able to sleep much the previous night, and the winter cold made me shiver. I was early, and had debated knocking, but ultimately decided she might not be ready yet. I pulled my phone out to reread the message she sent me: “You should come over in like 20 mins!” I glanced just above the message at my phone’s clock. I had waited only fifteen minutes, but I was anxious to see her after last night. I knocked on the front door. The sound was soon silenced. The sun shining at my back put a glare on the front windows so that I couldn’t peek through the glass to see movement inside. After a few seconds, I could hear her running down the stairs and I readied myself with a waiting smile for when she opened the door. She opened the door and attacked me, tightly embracing the back of my neck with her forearms. I held her for a long time until she pulled away and led me into her front room. The house was silent, and it was dark for the middle of the day. Usually on the weekend, Jessie’s mom would be in the kitchen, practicing new pastry recipes and trying them out on Jessie and me to see if she could use them in the bakery she owned. Jessie’s dad would be in the living room, sprawled out on the couch watching the Mizzou football team crush their opponent. Today, no sound came from any of the rooms ahead. “Are your parents here?” I asked, kicking off my shoes at the front door. “Actually, no. They left like fifteen minutes ago to see The Hangover.” She led me to the living room, and lay down on the couch, careful to make room for
me to sit. She grabbed the remote, pointing it to turn the television on before placing it at her waist. I made my seat underneath her legs, and she stretched them across me so that she lay length-ways on the couch. After adjusting herself so that her lower back was on my lap, she looked up at me with her brilliant blue eyes. I didn’t feel her weight on my legs. I was numb in expectation of our time alone, but her body heat helped soothe some of the shaking I was experiencing. She turned the T.V. to the Disney Channel, our personal favorite freshman year. We used to sit on the couch, eating her mom’s delicious food, watching reruns The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Today was different, though. We turned on an episode of a new Disney show I had never seen before, and we were not sitting on separate sides of the couch. She lay across my lap, and I waited with anticipation to continue what we had cut off the night before. Being friends with each other for so long must have given us identical thoughts. When I looked down at her, she moved up sharply for a kiss. I obliged. Just as I felt her breath on my cheeks as we were inches away from fulfilling my fantasy, a loud ring shattered the moment. Jessie hesitantly moved back, picking up her phone. I looked to see who the bastard was that delayed my time of bliss, but I didn’t see the screen before Jessie turned it away from me. Her sedated smile changed to horror as she read the message. “Oh shit, you have to go!” She shot up and looked at me in terror. “Wait, what?” I was still a few moments behind her, still picturing our almost-kiss. “It’s, uh, my parents. They’re coming home in a few minutes!” She started to shoo me off the couch because I hadn’t moved. That kicked me awake. I started running for the door. One person I really did not want to see when I was alone with his
daughter was Jessie’s dad. He was always kind to me, but his towering height and the quick temper he displayed while watching college football were not to be reckoned with. I gave her a quick hug and then ran out to my car. In record speed, I turned the car on and put it in gear. I decided to take the long way home through her neighborhood, away from her parents’ route coming back from the theatre. Unfortunately, that meant I had to go all the way down to Big Bend, the main road, and circle back to my own neighborhood. I took a left at the end of her street, then another. I slowed at a stop sign, but
had to wait for a Red Mustang that stopped across the intersection before me. The Mustang continued straight, and I saw Ben’s face through the windshield as he drove past me. He didn’t return my look. His eyes were set dead ahead as he drove towards where I had come from. I didn’t start driving until a few seconds after I saw him turn right, heading in the direction of Jessie’s house.
got his call once I got home. “Hey man, Jessie and I just got back together!”
Drawing by Jack MacDonald
Quiet Love Jack Ross
ockey practice was over, and I was the last to get picked up, as usual. With my hockey bag acting like a pillow, I rested until my ride came. Finally I spotted my dad’s pick-up, chucked my equipment in the bed, and hauled myself up into the cab. I hated my dad’s pick-up. The cab seats were connected like a bench, and at each bend I would have to make sure I didn’t slide in uncomfortably close to him. The ceiling handle doubled as an anchor and a head rest. Trying to fall asleep was one of the foolproof ways to avoid awkward conversation. When I couldn’t fall asleep, I’d try to familiarize myself with our new town, Steelville. I wasn’t necessarily opposed to the recent move. We needed a change. It was only a few months since we had moved in and I started the school year, and I was just beginning to recognize street names, where the new Hardee’s was coming in, and the quickest ways home from the rink. Steelville was smaller than our old town, and in five minutes we were already rolling over the loose gravel of our driveway. Our house didn’t feel like home yet, but it was still filled with familiar furniture and memorabilia. Dad said he would get the couch reupholstered, but the same holes in the stitching and olive brown color remained. When he wasn’t working, he was sitting on the black leather recliner to the left of the couch, watching hockey on TV. On the mantle above the unused fireplace were my older brother Tyler’s two high school hockey state championship trophies. There were few pictures on the walls anymore. Dad made sure that any picture with mom didn’t make it to the new house. That left the majority of the pictures to highlight Tyler’s success on the
ice. I had one picture. When I was seven, I caught a 25-inch trout on Montauk Lake. I was lucky. Dinner consisted of a large pepperoni pizza and a six-pack of Busch for my dad. I grabbed some paper plates and the pizza and went to the dining room. The dining room was really the TV room. My dad was sitting in his chair drinking a beer and watching the hockey game, so I joined him on the couch with the pizza. “How’s the game going? Is Detroit playing well.” “Not well enough to win it all. How was school?” he asked. “Oh it was okay, I was having trouble in math cl…” “Can you throw me the channel changer? I want to check the score of the other game,” my dad interrupted me before I could get my sentence out. I threw him the channel changer. “So what was it you were saying? Something about school or English class or something?” “Never mind, it was nothing.” My dad had always been a man of few words, even before my mom left us, but now his reticence was amplified. Conversations revolved around hockey and occasionally trivial questions about each other’s day. We bonded over hockey, letting the pain of my mother’s departure subside under a wall of sports. I finished my pizza and headed upstairs to start some homework. It was only Friday, but this weekend would be spent focusing on the league championship on Sunday. I was only in eighth grade, but I was able to join Steelville’s youth hockey team, the
Eagles, which proved to be better than my previous team. The game had been on my mind all week, and practices were getting more intense. Consequently, pressure was building up at home, too. I woke up bored on Saturday, so I decided to take some shots outside. Slapping hockey pucks against our garage door reminded me of an old memory of my mom. When my parents used to fight, I would do
the same thing. I would go outside and shoot pucks, hopefully with enough velocity that the bang against our garage door would help drown out the yelling. One day after a particularly nasty fight, my mom came outside and interrupted my bombardment of our garage door. “C’mon. We’re gonna go get ice cream,” she said. We got into the car and headed to
Photo by Ben Banet
Dewey’s Ice Cream. This was a usual spot for my mom and me. She was more spontaneous than my dad and liked to go on little excursions and adventures. We would go to the park, get ice cream, or maybe grab some dinner. When we got ice cream, she always ordered regular vanilla, but I went with whatever mood I was in. That day, I was in the mood for rocky road. The conversation over ice cream felt normal until just before we were leaving. She took a few licks from her ice cream, looking at me, waiting for a break in my consumption of the rocky road. I realized she was looking at me, so I took a break from the treat and looked up. “I just want you to know that I’ll always, always love you.” At the moment, I didn’t think too much of it, but the next day when I woke up, she was gone. Saturday wore down with a little more shooting practice and TV watching. My dad had prepared a “special” dinner for that night. I didn’t find the pasta and vegetables to be necessarily “special,” but it was the meal he always made before the biggest games. I sifted through the vegetables, thinking about the game, thinking about my mom. Unlike my mom, my dad liked to stick to a routine. We hadn’t been out to dinner or ice cream or anywhere even once since she left. He stuck with pizza a few nights and “athlete meals” he called them the rest of the nights. I got to bed early on Saturday in anticipation of the game on Sunday. We woke up Sunday, ate a banana and some eggs, and got into the truck to leave for the game. “The Lightning are a great team, but I think you can beat them.” My dad started the car ride with confidence. “I don’t like our chances with the way I’ve been playing lately.” “You’re gonna have to show up out there tonight. Your team needs you.” I knew that there was added pressure on
me. I was on the first line and the two other forwards had been doing their part lately to win games. I, on the other hand, hadn’t scored in five games. “We’ll take ’em down.” “Let’s hope so.” My dad was right about the Lightning. After the first period we were already down 2-0. He was also right about us having a chance to beat them. We managed to tie it up by the end of the second period. I was still scoreless and knew that the third period was when my team needed me. I did all I could throwing shot after shot at the goalie, but I could not score. With less than a minute left, and I was already looking ahead to overtime. I knew scoring in overtime would be the perfect ending. In the midst of my heroic daydream, I heard the siren go off behind our own goal. The Lightning had scored with only twenty seconds left. The shock hit me progressively as time ran out and the game ended. I could feel my lips wobbling and tears forming up in my eyes. In the locker room I let the shower water fall over me, knowing that I let my team down and my dad down. I wanted to stay in those warm waters forever instead of hearing what my dad had to say after the game. I gathered all my equipment, eyes still red, and went outside to find my dad waiting in the truck. I climbed in, keeping my head down and my tears covered as best as possible, waiting to hear what my dad had to say. “I loved watching you tonight, ya played great.” I was taken aback by my dad’s first words to me as I got into the car. “I hear there’s a pretty good steak place in town. Wanna check it out tonight.” “I could definitely go for a steak.” A small grin came over my face as I unhooked my arm from the handle and began to look for Sawyer’s Steakhouse coming up on the right.
out in its day, but now there were only four tables occupied and one scraggly black man at the counter. A young waitress with big hair greeted us with a smile. She showed us to a table near the only other occupied ones, Justin Seaton and I sat down on the sparkly green seat of a booth and bounced to the inside, where felt a strong hand on my shoulder, shak- a miniature jukebox sat on the windowsill. Broken. ing vigorously. We were all tired and not in the mood “Wake up, we’re here.” I forced my eyes open and searched for my to talk, so we just stared. Not at each other, shoes before stumbling out of the soft back- but at the old diner’s interior and patrons. seat comfort into the warm Kansas City night. Mom and dad looked nostalgic, imagining Kansas City was our destination and Dad the glory days. Rachel looked disgusted. was determined to get there, so we had wait- Christopher looked at his phone. I looked ed to get dinner until we arrived around mid- at the cracked pink tabletop, the red dome night. Dragging my feet across the parking lights, the tiled brown ceiling, and the relalot, I studied my surroundings. A bright neon tively silent customers. There was another sign shouted the word “WINSTEAD’S” in family there, but the only noise from their an ugly combination of purple and green, table was the repetitive and piercing squeal the same colors as the tube lights wrapped of an infant, which at first interrupted the around the roof. Down the street was a plaza silence, but soon became a part of it. At the with a big clock tower, the lights of shops and table directly in front of me and behind my restaurants still open late on a Friday night. mom, were two older folks who weren’t siThere was a big fountain across the street lent like the rest of the place, at least not in with a rusted statue of a man riding a horse the same way. The rest of the diner seemed in the center. I had heard about Kansas City’s disconcertinly quiet, like it was holding its magnificent fountains; this one sparkled breath, but the older couple appeared congold in the night and there were still a few tent. I imagined much younger lovers in people around it, a family taking pictures, their stead, sharing a plate of fries and listena young couple making out in the shadows. ing to the soft sounds of the jukebox. I bet As I pulled my still sleeping feet over that’s what they were imagining too. My observations were interrupted by the curb and onto the sidewalk, I turned my attention to Winstead’s. Mom had men- the waitress, Judy, who kindly asked for our tioned the diner once or twice as “the Kan- orders. I saw in her a longing for more. The sas City equivalent of Steak N’ Shake.” That smile was fake, of course, and something was her memory from college in the early about her said “I’m gonna get out of here eighties, when it looked like Winstead’s had someday. I’m gonna go places.” That was when I first looked at the decided to stay. The door was heavy, but I held it open for the others before heading menu. It was in a shiny plastic cover and inside. The interior was gaudier than I had the only dinner options I saw were simple imagined, chilly, with the same color scheme variations of the same burger. I ordered a that had dominated the outside. The room double cheeseburger with everything and a was huge with green tile flooring and faded vanilla malt. Judy nodded and smiled. I nopink tables. I could see it as a college hang- ticed white ear buds hanging from the pock-
et of her apron. Maybe she had wanted to be a musician. As she walked away she slid them into her ears and started humming. It sounded nice but faded quickly as she swung through the kitchen door, and I returned to my thoughts. The last couple were a younger and looked like they just came from a run, maybe a bike ride. They were arguing about something, though I couldn’t hear what it was. They talked quietly, aggressively. and held a cold, hard stare. I didn’t see the same love in their eyes as in the old couple’s. With no people left to observe other than the scraggly man at the counter and the large man with dreadlocks flipping burg-
ers, I turned my gaze to the window. Steam wafted from the manholes in the street like a scene of winter in New York, clouding my view of the pitch-black apartments across the street. The diner was an island in a sea of empty parking spaces. It made me feel lonely, hopeless. Even the people on the island were isolated; the only lights in this darkness were the distant lights of the plaza, and the glistening of the water in the fountain. Judy brought our food thirty minutes later and left her headphones in as she passed the plates around. She began singing passionately, with no inhibitions. It was loud and haunting. Some of the other customers
Photo by Ben Banet
turned and glared, and Christopher sunk deep into his seat. I recognized it instantly. “Florence + the Machine,” I said as she handed me my burger “Very nice.” She winked, smiled, and walked back into the kitchen as she hit the bridge of “Dog Days.” The first bite was disgusting, so I gulped down the burger and cautiously sipped at the malt, which was surprisingly delicious. It was another comfort here, like the old couple and the voice of the waitress. Mom started talking; she was always the first to talk. She started telling stories about her and Dad’s college days, when they had lived a few blocks from here. “I know it’s not much to look at now, but it was the place to be back in the day. And just down the street is central plaza with most of the big stores and restaurants. Your dad and I used to walk there from our first apartment and ride the gondolas. That was back when he was a romantic,” she chuckled. As she continued to tell stories about their past, I noticed the cook carrying a huge multi-colored sundae to the old couple’s table. Mom finished and turned to the couple. “What is THAT?” The lady answered kindly that it was a “skyscraper shake,” and began to dig in with her husband. A few minutes later, I noticed Judy in a heated discussion at the bar. The scraggly man ripped the headphones from her ears and pushed his face dangerously close to hers, but she held her ground. He stepped back as if to sit down, grabbed his plate, and threw it at her. It cracked against her arm and fell to the ground in pieces. The big man cleaning the dishes ran to her aid and yelled at the man to leave. Suddenly the whole restaurant let out a gasp, the breath it had been holding in, as the men from each table rushed to the counter. The scraggly man, obviously drunk, was complaining to the big man with dreads — who had a tight grip on
his left arm — that Judy had gotten his order wrong. Sirens blared in the distance. The other family began hurriedly talking to each other, and my mom turned and whispered with the old woman. The sirens were not for the scraggly man. He was escorted out of the building and I watched him walk away from central plaza and into the darkness. The old man came back to his table and told his wife a piece of the plate was lodged in the waitress’s arm, and that he had offered to take her to the hospital. Without hesitation, the old woman picked up her coat, draped it over her shoulders and marched over to the big man with dreads, whom she handed a handful of cash. She then rushed after her husband who was supporting the waitress as she dragged her feet toward the door. Before the old woman got there, though, she doubled back to our table and smiled at Rachel and me. “Why don’t y’all finish our shake? Looks like we won’t be back before it’s melted.” With that and one last smile, she left. People returned to their respective tables. The man with dreads swept up the bloodsplattered pieces of plate and spoiled food. As I slurped down the last of my malt, the young couple strapped on their helmets and got up to pay, arguing the whole way out. The closing of the door silenced their raised voices. I watched them mount their bikes and pedal into the darkness. Then the family left, their mother carrying the screaming infant. We got up, paid the bill, thanked the man with dreads, and piled back into the car. “I wonder if Judy will be okay.” They were already asleep, except Dad who nodded mindlessly. I knew Judy would be all right, but I wondered what would become of her. She had a gift. It was two a.m. now, and as we turned toward the lights of the plaza, I saw the neon purple and green go out behind us.
Three Haiku Sam Chott
49 epic muse, here’s a hero the hero descends to hell shows the culture’s mores
pc check your syntax, don’t make an error. they’ll throw you you’re no exception
façade walk on touchscreen ice below, code; an enigma leave || go fishing?
Drawing by David Greaves
The Life of a Book Guillaume Delabar
It sits by itself— An orphan, yearning for company. Meek and bashful, it waits for you to break the silence, To birth the process. Now, in your hands, it accepts your advances, Revealing it considers you a friend— A confidant to share its secrets with. With each new page comes intriguing stories: beautiful and tragic memories. Unforgettable characters. These things trap you to the binding, prolonging the conversation Until you become a piece of the book yourself, A witness and a relative to the joys and sorrows you’ve heard. It’s a family member, A part of your life, that, with every page, Grows closer and closer to your heart, Helping you filter your anger and share your happiness. But eventually, there are no more pages to turn, And the vibrant and consoling breath that captured your love and affection Is finished. But even though your friend has passed, The stories and memories still remain. Because families never die. They survive in the love they showed to the people around them, And that is what life is truly about.
Warmth Alden Henderson
woke to the sound of screeching tires followed by the commanding thud of colliding cars, the typical New York fender-bender. It must have been one of those mangy cab drivers. Eyes still closed, I lay awake, and as my bladder drove me to unwillingly roll from the warm comfort of bed and stumble blindly to the toilet, I blinked away a cloud of morning goop. Upon relieving myself, I pushed the silver lever down to hear the satisfying whoosh of water and urine, swirling around the bowl until sucked down the hole and replaced by clear, tranquil water. There’s no yellow here, I told myself as the clean water rose to place. I shifted over a few steps to put my hands under the faucet, expecting the automatic rush of warm water to cascade over my hands, and there it was. Germs. I shuddered. Such vile creatures, I thought, pumping the scented soap onto my hand, attempting to exterminate the disgusting parasites. I had the automatic sensor installed a couple years ago to prevent the contraction of any bacteria when shutting off the water. Outside a woman was yelling, “Someone help! Call for an ambulance! My husband is...” I splashed some water on my face and walked over to the window to gaze down on the incident...but changed my mind. Wrapping myself once more in my blanket, I returned to dreamy sleep. Photo by Sam Beckmann
the favorite city Jacob Hilmes
coming back from d.c., where the walks are long and the children in the streets dress in costume, i had counted the clouds, the sun below, the airplane shaking, death saying remember, remember. the airport shops were sickly at nightâ€” diseased fluorescence, windows like walled darkness. and i, the clicking luggage wheels, had to piss like hell. in the bathroom, my hands foam and water, the air smelling of urinals and traveling men, i see one mirror on a wall by the urinals. a man in one of the sweaty urinal lines makes a swift turn and crashes directly into his reflection, his small face, fat body, slamming into the glass. i saw it all and thought welcome to St. Louis you are home.
Photo by Ben Banet
Guy Noah Weber Then the park ranger found him passed out in the bathroom and he was unconscious but breathing. he’s okay oh god he’s okay thank god he’s okay.
We were playing CBC and all of a sudden my summer baseball coach showed up: he’s in the hospital. the hospital are you serious what’s wrong you have to be—is he okay? he’s okay. could be a heart attack but he’s okay he’s going to be okay. Diabetes. He stayed in the hospital for a few weeks. He acted all weird and crazy with dehydration—grabbing for things not there, shouting the nouns that crossed his mind. teaspoon! banana! georgia! yes, dad. it’s okay, dad. here, just eat the ice cubes, dad. chew on them. And I was crying. The doctor said it was like he was always dreaming. We didn’t know how long it would take for him to get okay, but it wasn’t like he was going to die or anything. that’s what mom kept saying she kept saying well I know it’s scary and I know it’s terrible but he didn’t die at least there’s that he didn’t die. He left the hospital and my uncle came into town and we all went out to eat and my uncle was driving him and. From the car behind them my mother and I saw her brother pull out of the neighborhood while the light was still red, Guy in the passenger seat. Cars going 45 down the main road. shit, oh shit! And then the jolt of the car, and it shook for a bit. Just in time. thank god oh christ he’s okay The joke was: Wouldn’t it have been a shame for him to go through all of that in the hospital with the passing out and the dehydration and the diabetes and then have it all end in a car accident like that?
Wouldnâ€™t that have just been worthless? Wouldnâ€™t that have just been a goddamn shame?
How stupid that would have been.
Three weeks later. Photo by John Kissel
To The Kid Who Liked Roller Coasters Austin Strifler
You told me you wanted to build machines That would let you taste the sky And know what itâ€™s like To be Superman You told me the roller coaster you were on Seemed to be stuck in a downward spiral That your car was descending And you had tried to shut down the ride. I told you about the coaster I was on About the Big Loop that flipped my world And the countless corkscrews that followed And how the power switch tempted me. But nine years is not long enough for a real ride. Nine years is too early to cast your eyes On that infinitely irreversible switch However small it may seem. So I made you promise To take your hand off the power button To stop destroying To start creating I told you I wanted you to build machines That would let you taste the sky And know what itâ€™s like To be Superman
Rematch Anthony Heumann
erek laced up his high tops and grabbed the silver outdoor basketball that he had brought from his old house. He pushed through the screen door and pressed the garage door button. He could see the sunlight peek through underneath the garage door. He hunched over, holding the ball tight in his right arm, to sneak under the door as it was opening. “At least the hoop is nice,” he thought to himself. That was about the only thing Derek thought was nice, unfortunately. He wasn’t fond of his new home, so it was relieving to him to find something he actually enjoyed about it. Back at his old house, his basketball hoop was weathered. The net was gone and the sand filling the base had seeped out. At his godparents’ house, though, the pole that supported the basket was stuck in the ground with concrete poured around it to hold it down. There was even a little line marked with duct tape that seemed pretty close to a free throw line. Derek walked over and lined up as he would in a real-life game. “Care if I join ya?” said a voice from behind him. It was his godfather, Andy, stepping out of the garage. Derek could not say no, even if he wanted to. It had been three weeks since he had moved in with his godparents. He had shut them out for most of that time. Without speaking, Derek threw the ball into Andy’s outstretched hands. “Two shots! Rest on the first,” Andy said as he bounced the ball back to Derek.
Derek held the ball at his side, took a deep breath, then looked straight at the back of the rim just as he was taught. He bent his knees slightly and dribbled twice with his right hand. He tossed the ball a little in front of him. When it bounced back in his hands, he rearranged the ball so the seams touching his fingertips were parallel to the free throw line. He extended his knees and arms in the same motion and flicked his wrist. He held his follow-through high above his head as the ball sank in the net. Andy caught it before it hit the ground and smiled. “One shot! Live off the rim.” Andy bounced the ball back again. Derek went through his free throw routine and again made the shot. Andy, just as before, caught the ball before it hit the ground. This time, however, he laughed and kept the ball to himself. “I haven’t seen a free throw that smooth since my own back in the day.” “You played?” Derek looked surprised. He himself was short for a basketball player at 6’4”, and he had at the least three inches on Andy. “Oh, I played! Ball was life when I was a young man like you. I was, modestly speaking, of course, the best point guard my school ever had,” he replied, laughing. “In my senior year, I averaged 14 points and roughly six assists with less than one turnover a game. How’s that for consistency?” “Not bad. Not bad at all.” Derek remained reserved. In reality, he was actually
Photo by Austin Strifler
very impressed. This was his third year of playing on the high school varsity squad, but his stats weren’t nearly as respectable as Andy’s. “How many points did you average last year, D?” “Somewhere around nine, but I’m not positive. I played more than I did as a freshman, just not as much some of the upperclassmen. My coach was very confident with me offensively, especially with shooting. He
wasn’t so confident defensively, though; a lot of the upperclassmen on the other teams were a lot stronger than I was.” “So you didn’t get the minutes you thought you deserved?” “I mean, basically. No other guys on the team could guard the post better than I could, other than the post players themselves, so they never even were put in those situations. It just sucked to shoot the highest field goal and three-point percentage and then get yanked because I’m getting scored on in the paint.” “That’s ridiculous.” Andy scrunched his face together and shook his head a few times. “Did you talk to the coach about it? If your team’s that small, why doesn’t your coach have you play a 2-3 zone on defense when your big guys are out? It would seem to make more sense to force teams bigger than you to shoot from beyond the arc rather than over you in the lane.” “I completely agree, and I told my coach that. When I approached him, he told me he understood where I was coming from but that we were too quick a team to play a zone. Coach has it in his mind that the only way for us to win is by our transition offense. We do get a lot of steals; I’ll give him that. We don’t score all of our points that way, though, so that’s where he loses me.” Derek took a big step back from the free throw line. He outstretched his hands and called for the ball again. “Watch this.” Andy threw him a bounce pass that he caught just a little above his knees. In one movement Derek pulled the ball up from his hip and straightened his arm over his head as he jumped straight into the air. With a flick of the wrist, the ball left his hand. He watched the ball sink into the back of the net, which flew up as the ball went through, as he held his follow-through a little lower than its release point. This time the ball bounced once on the driveway before Andy
caught it. Derek took another step back, and then ran a little to his left. “Again.” Andy threw him another pass. He caught it in rhythm with his running as he planted his right foot then shifted his left around to square his body to the rim. He jumped up, shot with the same form as the shot before, and made a basket again. “Coach overlooks how well I can shoot. I can catch or spot-up and shoot from anywhere around the arc at any time of the game.” Andy nodded as he dribbled the ball a few times after he caught the ball again. Then he threw another pass at Derek to meet him in the corner of the driveway for what would be a baseline three-point shot. Again, Derek caught it in perfect rhythm, jumped up, shot, and made another. “I don’t know what to tell you, Derek.” Andy didn’t pass the ball back this time, rather, he started dribbling the ball back and forth, from his right to his left hand, between his legs. “I’ve only been able to watch you shoot around on the driveway these last three weeks. But if you’re as consistent in a game as you are out here, then I’m sure your coach will see it this year.” “I hope you’re right.” This time Derek went under the basket to rebound for Andy, who dribbled backwards toward the free throw line. Like Derek, he too had a routine. Andy bent his knees as he tossed the ball out in front of him. When it bounced back into his hands, he took one dribble with his right hand and then picked the ball up. He readjusted it in his hands the same way Derek had, so the seams of the ball touching his fingertips were parallel to the free throw line. He extended his legs onto his tiptoes and his arms in the same motion as he flicked his wrist. He lost his balance and fell forward, preventing him from holding his follow-through. Nevertheless, he made
his shot. Derek laughed at his lack of poise while the ball bounced on the concrete after it dropped through the net. Andy responded to the laugh in a sarcastic voice. “Yeah, yeah, real funny. Laugh at the old man who can’t keep his balance.” Derek continued a suppressed chuckle and dribbled the ball back out to the corner of the driveway. This time, rather than setting both of his feet, he turned on his left foot, making his shoulders square, leaned back, raised his right knee, and shot the ball. His shot hit the rim, dipped in the far side and continued to roll to the left side until it fell out. “Ha!” Derek turned his head to see Andy laughing at him. “I bet this old man can make that shot.” Andy snatched the bouncing ball and trotted over right where Andy was. He too turned on his left foot, faded, and shot, except he, unlike Derek, made the shot. “Pure luck,” Derek said, feeling a little embarrassed that his godfather had made the shot he had missed. Andy just laughed again, making Derek’s face a little red. “All right then, hot shot.” Andy raised his eyebrows with a grin and stretched out his arm with his hand underneath the ball. “If I’m so lucky and you’re so talented, you should have no problem beating this old man in a game of PIG.” Derek laughed to himself, attempting to cover up his shame. “Is that funny?” Derek nodded. “You can’t beat me, Andy.” Andy’s grin grew bigger. “Well then, game on!” Andy slammed the ball down and walked back in the garage. The ball bounced over Derek’s head before he got caught it. He heard the door to the house open up. Squeezing the ball between his hands, he rolled his hand off the top to shoot the ball spinning
out of his hands. In the blink of an eye, Derek had the ball balanced and spinning on his middle fingers. He slapped the edge of the rapidly rotating basketball a few times to speed up the spin. Standing in the driveway, ball balanced on his middle finger with his index accompanying it, Derek really did feel like a hot shot. The silver basketball was spinning so fast that the seams of the ball disappeared. Derek stared at the ball as if it were the greatest thing he had ever seen. Ever since he watched his mom spin the ball on her fingers when he was a kid, Derek knew he’d love the game. His mom saw the look in his eyes as well. That same day she went out and bought him a basket. It took her days to put it together without a man in the house to help. Derek tried everything he could to lend a hand, but he was too young to understand the complex instruction manual. Regardless of the time and strenuous effort the basket took to assemble, the two never fretted. They enjoyed their time together, screwing countless wrong nuts and bolts in the wrong place, yet laughing every time. When they finally finished and filled the base with sand, they looked in admiration of all their hard work at the basket. Derek’s mom kissed him on the forehead and told him she was proud of their efforts. She then grabbed the handle attached in front of the base and pulled the basket into the street where Derek could play his heart out. And every day afterwards, he did. Derek played for hours at a time. He would come home from school, grab the basketball from the garage and shoot until his mom had to chase him in for dinner. After he ate, he would go back outside and shoot until it was dark. Sometimes his mom would play with him after dinner. Basketball was never her thing, so she normally just rebounded the ball and passed it back to him. Once Derek got to high school, he didn’t have the time to go out and shoot around. He missed it just
as he missed her. His number one fan would finally miss her first game this upcoming season, and Derek wasn’t ready to accept that. The ball finally slowed up and settled back into his palm. He looked at the ball and saw all the little scratches and tears from years of being bounced on concrete. His mom bought him that ball when he was ten, and it had been his most prized possession ever since. Now it felt like the ball was one of the only things he had left to remember his mom. “Hope you’re thirsty!” Andy walked back out of the garage with two full glasses of ice water and handed one to Derek. Derek grabbed the glass out of Andy’s hand and drank it down. He set the glass of ice down on the garage floor and looked to Andy, who, to his surprise, had changed from his plain white tee into an old basketball jersey. The jersey was just a tad tight on him as it hugged his stomach, highlighting his gut. “I figured if you’re that good I might need my good luck charm, my old high school jersey.” The jersey was a faded red with black letters that read “St. John’s Pioneers” with a poorly designed picture of a man on a horse underneath. The number on the back of his jersey was eight, except it looked like a zero. The top part of the number was dangling off the jersey, as were some of the edges of the letters on the front. Derek had never heard of the school. It had been at least thirty years since Andy graduated, though, so he wasn’t too surprised. He respected that Andy still had his jersey after all these years. Derek knew that his school didn’t allow players to keep their jerseys when they graduated, and he grew jealous of Andy the more he thought about it. “You like it? I know it’s a little beat up and shows off my gut...” “Yes,” Derek interrupted before he finished his statement. “I wish my school would let me keep my jersey when I graduate.”
“A few years after I graduated, I went to a game one night just to relive my past. My coach was still there, and I sat behind the bench listening to him tell his players the same things he told me when I was in their shoes. It brought a tear to my eye. After the game, we caught up and he told me that the program would be shutting down along with the school next year. That upset me. There were so many memories for me there, especially with your dad.” The two made eye contact when Andy brought up Derek’s dad. It felt awkward for Derek, so he looked back down as Andy continued. “When I walked in the gym that day I felt like I was back in high school. I had the butterflies again. I felt the same intensity I used to. It reminded me that my love for the game hadn’t changed. Anyways—” he took a drink of his water. “Sorry, I get caught up in the past. I asked my coach if I could buy my old jersey when the season was over. Thankfully, he was able to pull some strings and gave it to me for free only a few months later.” Andy set the glass down next to Derek’s and trotted back underneath the basket. “Game on?” Derek asked. Andy nodded. Derek decided to start off with something simple. “Left hand reverse layup,” he said as he looked to Andy. Derek dribbled to the left side of the driveway a little past the free throw line. He faced the basket then pounded the ball down with his left hand and took off. After only one dribble, he picked up the ball as he neared the left side of the basket. His first step with his left foot put him in position for a regular left-handed layup. With the second step with his right foot, he made to the other side. Now, back turned to the basket,
Drawing by Jack MacDonald
he pushed off the ground with his right foot. While at the peak of his elevation, he lifted his left hand above his head, releasing the ball. His head was tilted back all the while, allowing him to see his shot kiss off the backboard and into the rim. Andy caught the ball as it dropped through the net and immediately went out to where Derek started. With the same motion, though not the same speed, he shot as well. “All right then,” Derek said as Andy
tossed him the ball. He knew he needed to set the tone. He wasn’t going to lose to his godfather. There was no way he would allow it. “Baseline three.” Derek tossed the ball out to the right corner of the driveway, imagining the distance of a real three-point line. He squared his shoulders and took a dribble. Then he bent his knees and jumped up in the air, pulling his arms and the ball up with him. He flicked his wrist, giving the ball a fast backspin, then landed back down with his followthrough held high. Swish. Andy caught the ball again as it went through the net, not saying a word. He walked over to the corner and shot the ball as Derek had, except he failed to jump as high and as a result came up short. “Didn’t put enough legs into it,” Andy said as he shook his head. He threw the ball hard back to Derek. “That’s P.” Derek dribbled the ball as he envisioned his next shot. He decided he felt like trying something a tad more difficult now. Andy already had one letter and he hadn’t even had a turn yet. “Spin move from your left to an elbow jumper.” Derek ran out to where he had started his lay-up. He dribbled forward once with his left hand until his right foot was forward on the free throw line. He planted this foot on the ground and put his left hand back on the upper-front side of the ball. Almost cupping the ball, he turned back with his foot, his body following, and threw the ball back down. As the ball bounced back up, he quickly turned his right foot around, facing the basket, to square his shoulders. His knees were bent low during the spin already, so he popped straight off the ground, raising his arms and snapping his wrist. This time the ball hit the back of the rim and rattled in. Andy let the ball hit the ground this time and dribbled it after it bounced back to his hand. He ran out to where Derek started and
followed the same motion. Unlike Derek, he failed to keep control of his body after the spin. His body faded to the side, causing his shot to go a little bit long and to the left, hitting off the backboard and bouncing off the rim. “I don’t want to hear it,” Andy said as his missed shot bounced back into his hands. He handed it off to Derek, who already had contemplated his next shot to make Andy earn his last letter. “Just a simple bank shot. A kiss off the glass. No rim, only net.” He dribbled about ten feet out from the rim on the right side. This was a shot he always struggled with and never took in a game. But he figured he was hot already, and if he couldn’t make it, neither could Andy. “Here comes the game winner!” He looked over at Andy then back down. He threw the ball forward and set his feet as it bounced back. With knees bent, he jumped, flicking his wrist, aiming at the upper right corner of the basket. The ball hit the corner, went down into the left side of the rim, dipped in, and then rolled out. “About time it’s my shot. Damn,” Andy said as he scooped up the ball. “I’m going to keep it simple—a baseline jumper.” He dribbled the ball to the same spot the two took their fade-aways from earlier and turned his shoulders around. He bent his knees and extended up in one motion. He didn’t jump, though, only flicking his wrist. The ball hung in the net for a second after it entered the rim, then dropped onto the concrete. Derek snatched the ball, laughing quietly to himself. He knew that he could make that shot no problem. So he dribbled over to the same spot and immediately jumped into his shot. The ball flew over the rim and to the other side of the driveway. “Jesus,” Derek said. “P.” Andy didn’t even respond. Instead, he
ran over to get the ball, which was now lying in the grass. To Derek’s surprise, Andy didn’t step back on the driveway. Andy turned his shoulders so they were in line with the basket. His footwork matched his shoulders, left forward and right behind. With the ball in his right hand, he rocked to his right side. He then exploded back to his left side, raising his right arm with the ball well above his head. Before his arm was straight up he let go of the ball, giving it a high arc in the air. The ball soared high and went right through the basket, barely moving the net. Derek’s eyes widened. “Is that a joke?” He was in disbelief. He was pissed, too. “Seriously, who makes that?” Andy smiled, saying, “That was the shot I always got your dad on. You can’t top the hook shot.” Derek’s heart dropped when his dad was brought up. He looked away and decided to ignore it. He grabbed the ball and walked it over to the grass and lined up like Andy had. He leaned, rocked back, and released the ball. His shot didn’t get the arc it needed and bounced off the front of the rim back towards him. “Tied up!” Andy said with a smile. Derek didn’t respond, just threw the ball back to Andy. He was too worked up inside. Anytime he heard anything about his dad, he wanted to lose it. He had never even met him. His dad had left his mom and older brother before he was even born. His mom had told him countless times as he and his brother grew up that she was sorry that they didn’t have a father like their friends did. It was hard for him to accept her apology. This was because he never truly understood why she was apologizing to him. All Derek wanted to know was why he didn’t have a father. He didn’t necessarily believe it was mom’s fault. It was the little things that other kids had with their fathers that he didn’t that hurt him the most. He never understood
why his dad wasn’t outside building his basketball hoop. He never understood why he didn’t have a dad to drive him to school in the morning like his friends did. He never understood why he constantly overheard his mom crying in her room at night after he had been tucked in. There were so many things he didn’t understand. Derek’s older brother saw this, so once he thought Derek was ready to understand, he told him. The two were playing basketball at the time, and his brother opened up. He told Derek that their father was a drug addict. “Coke, pills, pot, alcohol, you name it, he did it,” his brother had said. “Mom didn’t think that her children should be raised with a man like dad, so she tried to get him clean. Initially the two just argued it out when he came home fucked up. But one day she got up for breakfast and he was gone. I was too young to remember and you hadn’t even been born yet. Grandma moved in with us that week to help mom stay strong. And it worked, here we are. Everything’s fine and mom’s done a great job as a single mom and don’t you ever forget that. Dad fucked up and stepped out of the picture. Whatever. Fuck him. Mom was enough of both for us. Don’t you ever forget that.” And he hadn’t forgetten, not once. “All right, now this will be the game winner.” Andy dribbled the ball to the free throw line. “Something your generation dropped out of the game—the granny shot.” Derek laughed out loud, finally bringing his concentration fully back to the game. “You laugh now,” Andy said as he bent both of his knees. With each hand on the opposite side of the basketball, he hunched his back and swung his straightened arms underneath his bent knees. He extended upwards with his arms. When they passed his knees, he bent them. He flicked his hands simultaneously backwards and released the ball with a back-
spin. The ball hit right in the middle of the backboard and bounced in, moving the net forward before the ball dropped through. Andy gave a double thumbs-up with his hands at the same height he released the ball. “Your turn,” Andy said as he threw the ball back to Derek, who had now stopped laughing. When Derek lined up at the free line, his hands started to sweat. He went through the same motions as Andy, squatting, keeping his arms straight until the end, but when he released the ball, he didn’t get the backspin Andy had, so the ball ricocheted off the top of the backboard and bounced back to him. “Who’s laughing now?” Andy said. “I used to beat your dad on that shot all the time.” Derek’s face turned red. “Fuck him.” “Excuse me?”
Photo by John Kissel
“Fuck him, Andy. Fuck him. Stop bringing him up. I can’t handle it.” Andy looked a little taken aback. He took a deep breath, let it out, then started dribbling the basketball around. “Derek.” Andy swallowed the little saliva that was in his throat. “Let me tell you something. Your dad was my best friend from the day we started middle school together. I loved that man like a brother, so believe me when I say I know the damage he did to your family when he left. Your mother, too, was always one of my best friends. I know the pain your dad put her through when he left. I shared that pain. Maybe not the same way, but I did. Your mother raised you right. I know she did. I know you miss her, and I miss her too. That’s a different conversation for a different time, though. Right now, all I want to let you know is this: your dad did mess up, and I know that. And I know that you haven’t known what it’s like to have a dad. Regardless of your dad’s decision, I loved both of your parents more than anything and I owe it to them to take you under my wing the best I can. I owe it to your mom to be what your dad, my best friend, could not be.” “So…” Derek’s voice trailed off. “So what I’m trying to say is, give me a chance.” “So…” Derek’s voice trailed off again and he smiled, “can I get a rematch?” “Absolutely.”
(1) New Update Brendan McDermott
Nothing exists for real, until Facebook knows. Relationships, events, it’s where my life goes. My attention span? Twitter, 140 characters long, Intellectual litter, lyrics to bad songs. Stalk me via Foursquare, I check in everywhere, Though anyplace I go, I grasp my phone—stare. When I glance up, I take a photo, it goes on Instagram, Because everything I want is everything I am. I am everyone you know, the social paradigm, Surfing the wave of the future, while you are left behind A networking revolution, an inhuman solution, To knowing one another, only byproduct: pollution. To the digital generation, across this slack-jawed nation, Lift your iPhones high—then back down, In concentration. Photo by Sam Beckmann
Blown Away Mitch Mackowiak he picked me up outside the grocery store, he murmured he would take me to the park
I felt elated, the weather was fine! he hurried me across the dense forest with branches waving and birds chirping song I felt ecstatic, weâ€™d have a great time he took me to the zoo with sea lions gamboling in the choppy water and tigers roaring about their exhibit I felt ethereal and danced with him he found the large hill with people smiling and sunning themselves, I lingered at the statue on its summit, he urged me on, the vista anchored my resistance well I eventually fell to his pull he led me to a wooden bridge spanning a creek with massive lily pads drifting and frogs crouching, I hated getting wet but he carried me across with such ease I felt secure, he guided me with care he turned sharply to the pavilion with children frolicking in the fountain and long grass swaying like the ocean current I felt empowâ€™red, we could go anywhere he drove me to a lake with daffodils bobbing and fishermen waiting on luck
I felt listless, he seemed to tire quickly we settled on the warm bank with content; I needed nothing but his presence now
he left… I felt heavy.
The Half Moon Brandon Hernandez
t is strong. The current is always pushing you. If you try to walk against, it will pull and grab at your back until you decide to go in the direction it wants you to go. If you lie on the surface of the Jacuzzi-like water, the current will carry you away, as if it is trying to take you away from all of your problems, all of your stress. The surface beneath your feet is sponge-like, adjusting to the form of your foot. You walk on tiny pillows that shield you from any rough edges. There are many trees surrounding the body of water. Their long, brown roots break through dirt in order to stay submerged in the soothing water. You can grab on in order to catch yourself if the current sweeps you away. They are strong, sturdy vines that help you keep a steady foundation. Tiny fish dart around the roots, and they brush against
your legs. You are able to see through the non-polluted water. The colors of everything around you, including the bright fish, are sharp. I have only been here once before. I was with my father and at the time, I was just about to turn four years old. It is in Rio Verde, Mexico and it is very close to my father’s hometown. It is a body of water similar to a river, yet the supply of water is coming up from the ground beneath it. Ten years later, I was able to remember the joy of swimming with tiny fish, the tall trees reaching high into the sky, and the warm water surrounding my body. It is simply known as La Media Luna, or “The Half Moon.” It is the river where I remember having a great time with my father. Up until the day I die, I hope that I will always remember the Half Moon.
Late-Nite Kieran Connolly
he night was another calm, warm one. Just like always. I was sitting outside the cabins, reading by the light of a propane lamp, used only for this one week each year and drawing in all the moths from half a mile around. Corrie had gone to make checks of the cabins where the kids we were supposed to be watching were sleeping. Babysitting, the way it was done here, was always a lowintensity affair. The cicadas’ chorus had already faded into the sonic background by dinner, one of those things I noticed only when I paid it any attention. A large black thing beetled across the pages of Crime and Punishment, which I half-regretted bringing, because when anyone asked me what I was reading, I didn’t know whether to be proud that I was reading it or ashamed that I would be so pretentious as to talk about reading it. “How’s life?” I asked as Corrie sat down at the picnic bench again. She wiped her forehead and reached for the bug spray. “The mosquitoes are just vicious tonight,” she said. “I’d rather be inside.” “Aha! A sign of weakness!” “No, just testing you. But that was a little too obvious.” We had a running competition to prove who was the better camper. Scorekeeping was pretty lax, and generally points were earned by doing outrageous things such as going a full day without applying bug spray or eating three plates of the dining hall salad. “But seriously, how’s life?” I asked again. “Oh, it’s been tough. Junior year stank. I’m glad I’m done and all that, but I’d like to just forget all about it. How about you?” “I’ve been fine, I guess. Things haven’t gone as well as I’ve wanted them to, but
nothing does, right? And that’s something I have to live with.” I remembered the twelvepack the Lenzinis’ parents had left to warm in the grass by their car. “Want a Coke? I can promise you it won’t be cold.” “Well, of course, that’s the assumption! You wouldn’t offer me any otherwise, I hope?” Warm sodas were an integral part of our Iron Camper competition. I returned her eyebrows-cocked smile. “No, I was just testing you.” Corrie walked over to the Coke box, grabbed a can, and cracked it open. “Mm, warm,” she said. “Did you know that if you keep a Coke long enough—years and years, we’re talking—it’ll separate into layers?” “No way!” “Yeah, my brother had one of those collectible glass Coke bottles, from the 2000 Olympics or something, that he left on his dresser behind a bunch of his stuff for years. I pointed it out one day, like, how it had separated out, and he shook it up so it went back to normal. That made me so angry.” I laughed, but Corrie wasn’t smiling the way I’d expected. Even without taking the time to consider it, I asked, “Do you still have trouble with your brother?” “You could say that. To the extent that he’s a part of my life, yeah, I do.” “Oh, right, isn’t he in college now?” “Yep. He went away two years ago, actually.” “Oh, yeah, I forgot. So what gets you going against each other?” Corrie’s unremarkable, pleasant face still maintained its lively, energetic look, but her tone was flatter, more morose. “Anything from shampoo to cars, I don’t know. I mean, that’s really what happens when you’ve got a bad relationship with someone. Anything can set you off, things that wouldn’t lead to anything if you liked each other.” “Yeah, I guess I know what you mean,”
I said. “I hadn’t really thought about that, about arguments being a symptom of a bad relationship instead of the reason for it.” Corrie took another drink of warm Coke without meeting my eyes. “Maybe it’s something we’re all better off not knowing.” “Ah, yeah, I guess you’re right about that,” I said, and neither of us said anything for a while. The cicada chorus got louder, and Corrie on the other side of the picnic table scooted to examine her bare, mosquitobitten legs. There was one year we’d counted the bug bites on each others’ legs, before it would’ve seemed off-limits to be touching each others’ legs. I thought about grabbing a Coke for myself, but only for a moment. Corrie looked thoughtful; she had pulled a knee up onto the bench to rest her chin. I kept my sweaty arms folded and looked up into the dark patchy tree canopy with its
sprinklings of stars, and we sat like that. After a while I could see a flashlight bob down the crunchy gravel-asphalt road, and it was Ellen, alone. She squinted as she came within the glow of our lamps. “Gaah, bright,” she half-whispered, holding her hands in front of her funny wide face. Usually she was with Lauren, whom she’d known from outside of camp. “Where’s Lauren?” I asked her. “Ah, now that’s a story,” she said in the mock-deep voice of a fisherman about to tell a gripping yarn as she sat down by me. “Well, actually it’s not. Lauren’s with the Seavers’ kids, and she’s busy talking with that Rick guy anyhow. So I walked over here.” Soon enough we saw another light coming down the hill, and it was Lexi, a small skinny girl with a long brown braid. Ellen grabbed another warm Coke. “The drink of
Photo by Kieran Connolly
the night, Lexi,” offered Ellen, and Lexi accepted. “You guys are all so weird,” Lexi said, and slid onto the thickly painted brown bench next to Corrie. “I totally didn’t think I’d enjoy this place at all.” “Oh, insects, snakes, hideous weather, lousy food, weird people, maybe some bears—you’ve got it all here,” I joked. Across the picnic table, Corrie smiled. “But really,” Lexi said, grinning, “I don’t know how I’m going to tell my friends about this. They just—I mean, no one’s really going to believe I enjoyed this.” “Here’s how I put it,” said Ellen. “There’s a bunch of crazy Catholic families that all go out year after year to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the summer, and it’s hot and miserable and we don’t have electricity or AC or cell service, and in the evenings there’s a mass and a bonfire and the adults get together and drink and get smashed while the teens all talk and chill out, and nobody would have it any other way.” “Well-put,” I said sagely. “My friends still think I’m crazy,” Ellen said. “And I don’t even mention the bike ride people!” “And you get the feeling that maybe no one understands us,” said Lexi, “But when you’ve gotten into it, then it all makes sense. And even though it’s my first time here, I get that now.” Corrie put her leg back under the table and set the Coke back down and spoke. “It’s a funny sort of family, and mostly we only see each other for a week every year, but that’s the beauty of it, I guess. We just all see each other a year older every time, but there’s a sense of stability. At least in my family, it kinda anchors the rest of the year, and that’s a good thing.” Corrie seemed relieved, like she’d had those words sitting on her mind for a while.
If I’d been closer (and maybe a little more comfortable), I would have given her a sympathetic hug right then. “I like that, Corrie,” said Ellen. “It just wouldn’t be right without the people. And, like, Leon, I’ve known you since we were seven, and the same with you, Corrie.” “I guess it’s weird that I don’t get to have the same experience, exactly,” said Lexi. “We’re practically adults now, and I’m a firstyear here.” “But you might just be coming here the rest of your life, who knows? If you keep coming with your family even in college, and then when you have kids, and we’ll still be here as well,” said Ellen, “It would be almost the same.” She looked at Corrie and me hopefully. “What do you guys think?” “Oh yeah,” I said, and smiled. “I don’t know how I’d get through a year without this place. I can just say what’s on my mind and completely be myself for a week.” I gave Corrie an encouraging smile. “How about you?” Corrie waited before answering. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’d love to come here for the rest of my life, but ahead there’s jobs and college orientations and schedule conflicts and kids and family illnesses... and I’m worried we might—I might, you might—just lose the kind of desire to keep coming back. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot.” She wasn’t dramatic, but she had a kind of melancholy I’d never seen in her before. “And that would be sad,” said Lexi, propping her head up with an arm set on the table. “I don’t want it to end like that.” I didn’t either, and Corrie had said what I’d been trying to avoid thinking about— that there would be no more weeks of us together, and no more hope for me to work out what exactly were the feelings I had for Corrie, whom I had always loved as a friend. The four of us talked long into the cicada-chorus night.
My Passion is Baseball Nick Keeven
t was Christmas Eve morning when a customer walked up to my register with a tennis racquet and a pair of women’s running pants. “Part of our rewards program?” I asked. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s under Karen.” “Last name?” I asked. He looked at me like I was an idiot as he spelled it out: “M-A-T-H-E-N-Y. 63305.” My nametag said, “My passion is baseball,” even though I hadn’t picked up a bat since the sixth grade. A different Nick had quit the week before I started, and the manager had given me his nametag.
Pastel by David Greaves
Minor Engagement 72
“A minor engagement,” he says, with a grin, his toothy tight smile and stubbly chin. The bulbs in his eyes flicker just for minute, before glossing, then dulling again. The stench of his breath is just bearably tart, A rancid calligraphy, criminal art; It seeps through my porous, invisible heart, but misses my nose, ’cause it isn’t that smart. I offer a smile, but not with my eyes, which gaze at those plastic, industrial lies. A tubular system, snakes tight ’round his thighs; soft beeps tag along to each burdensome sigh. A lumpy, dry swallow is how he gives in, my hand on his hand and my skin on his skin. If incarceration is barely a sin, then what is this knocking I hear from within?
sisyphus spring 2013 art magazine