SISYPHUS The St. Louis U. High Magazine of Literature and the Arts Spring ’09 LITERARY EDITORS Chris Brennan Dylan Kickham James Fister Ben Kim Eric Lewis Ben Minden-Birkenmaier Michael Blair Conor Fellin Conor Gearin ART EDITORS Dan Baxter Zac Boesch Kevin Kickham Nevin Peeples Andrew Beckerle Patrick O’Leary LAYOUT EDITOR Chris Brennan MODERATORS Frank Kovarik Rich Moran Manuscripts are considered anonymously. Thanks to all who offered their writing and artwork for consideration. Special thanks to Joan Bugnitz, John Mueller, Matt Sciuto, and Mary Whealon.
SISYPHUS Spring ’09
Cover artwork by Nevin Peeples Masthead artwork by Ed Harris Inside back cover photography by Anthony Re’
December Flower, fiction by Jason Nienhaus artwork by Clayton Petras 4 Circles, fiction by Dan Neyer 6 artwork by Dan L’Ecuyer 10 The Inuit Fisherman, poetry by Gary Newcomer 11 artwork by Evan Orf 12 Painting a Picture, poetry by Joel Geders artwork by Bill Shi 13 Lustre, poetry by Dylan Kickham 14 artwork by Misha Digman 15 The Fall, fiction by Shawn Blythe 17 photography by Zac Boesch 19 photography by Kevin Casey 20 Teachings of the Sage, poetry by Dan Baxter 21 artwork by Kevin Casey 22 The Coldbright Sun, poetry by Ben Minden-Birkenmaier 23 Jacks of Diamond, poetry by Chuck Hussung artwork by Kevin Kickham 24 Partner, fiction by Dan Miller 25 artwork by Dylan Kickham 26 photography by Zac Boesch 28-29 artwork by Henry Schneider 30 Edward Mathers, fiction by Shawn Blythe
Jason Nienhaus “ 31 32 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 45 46
47 48 49 50 51 53 54 55 56
artwork by Joseph Wright artwork by Zac Boesch artwork by Greg Fister artwork by Michael Rose Sartre’s Pizza, fiction by Eric Lewis artwork by Michael Rose An Elaborate Speech, fiction by Conor Fellin artwork by Tony Bruno artwork by Kevin Kickham Art Critic, poetry by Gary Newcomer photography by Joe Earsom The Fort, prose by Conor Gearin photography by Kevin Casey photography by Zac Boesch Another Evening, poetry by Conor Fellin artwork by Dylan Kickham Two, fiction by Patrick Quinlan artwork by Sonny Hager artwork by Kevin Casey Juvenile Cobia, poetry by Conor Gearin artwork by Will Linhares Like a Rolling Stone, prose by Michael Blair artwork by Michael Rose artwork by Bill Franey Tough Crowd, fiction by Pat Linhares artwork by Michael Adams Cursive, poetry by Dylan Kickham
ippie chicks rule.” For about five minutes on the way to school I had been staring through the frosty windshield at the stickers plastered over her trunk. They urged me to “Coexist” and “Give peace a chance.” I gently coaxed the accelerator, trying to catch up to her, to see the face that professed this universal love. Seventy. Seventy-five. Eighty. I still could not reach her. Ignorant cars blocked my path on both sides, and my exit was next. I decelerated and blinkered over to it, an already fleeting image of “Love” with a peace sign for an O in my memory. CLAYTON PETRAS
CIRCLES Dan Neyer
goes on breaks with them; they think they have a shot with my wife, so they ask her out. That’s when she panics. I know I’m in for some good sex when that happens. “So, Rick, tell me: you work at Bukowski’s, right?” Chelsea asks me. “Yeah, I’ve worked there for nineteen years.” “Is that right? Well, what do you do?” she asks me. “Work in produce, and if we could keep the fruit jokes to a minimum that would be great,” I say. She smiles and says, “I think that’s great. I work at the hairdressers’ down the street.” I look down the table. Steph and Ted are whispering in each other’s ear, laughing and having a good time. Chelsea is staring at me still, so I take a drink of my beer. “We should go have a drink sometime,” she tells me. I look back at her and say nothing. Leaving some money for the waitress, I get up to leave. “You know where to find me.”
e were all sitting at a bar table waiting for our drinks when the cry came down the table to hear the “cherry story.” “Not again—it’s not that good.” “C’mon, Rick. Chelsea hasn’t heard it,” hollered Mark. “Tell me,” she said. “Well, all right: so I work in produce, and last summer I was filling the cherry display when this guy comes up and asks me, ‘How are the cherries?’ I say, ‘Great, but don’t take my word for it. Try one.’ He does and he chews it, spits out the pit, looks at me and says, ‘Oh these are sweet, just like you.’” The table erupts with laughter and I sit there and smile. Chelsea is laughing with everyone else, but I don’t care. For some reason, my mind is stuck thinking back to high school—Sally sitting across from me at an IHOP chowing down on her pancakes telling me she’ll call me later. She never did. :30 a.m. IN BEAUTIFUL SAINT LOUIS, “ I’m thirty-five years old, but I feel like I MISSOURI. WELCOME TO THE CHRIS always have. I’ve had one job my entire life, AND BOB MORNING SHOW. I’M BOB AND and I have the same friends I did back when I HE—,” the radio told me. graduated from high school. We do the same “Turn that damn thing off, would ya?” things we always have, from bowling to drinking Stephanie mumbles at me. in Mark’s basement. I married at twenty-three “Sorry, babe,” I reply, getting up to hop in to a checker named Stephanie, who is now the the shower. deli manager. We tried to have kids, but so far “You should be.” it hasn’t happened. I hop in the shower and wash the sleep from I don’t know many people who can calmly my limbs, remembering back to when Steph and say that they’ve ruined their lives. I could’ve I had just gotten married. For the first couple of gone to college, but I was too lazy. I could’ve months, she would get up with me and we would gotten a different job, but I’m comfortable with talk while I showered. Eventually that turned into the job I got. And I married a girl who has never my waking her up to kiss her good-bye, and now surprised me. all I get is a guilt trip when I don’t shut off the Steph is there with us, but she’s down the radio immediately. Sometimes I think marriage table talking to Ted, the new deli clerk. Ted looks is the worst thing that ever happened to us. interested, but I’m not worried. She does this I leave the house and walk out into the cool with all the new workers. She talks with them, dark morning. I head out to the Volvo I’ve had
since the eleventh grade—the first car I ever bought with my own money. Stephanie’s Camry is parked in the driveway, by the accumulated junk piled into our small garage. I wipe the dew from the sideview mirrors and climb in, turning on the lights in the process. I remember when Steph called me after she got into the first accident in the Camry; she had taken out a mailbox on her way into work. She was all shook up, so I took the rest of the day off to calm her down and handle the business end of the accident. She had broken the windshield of the car, and the mailbox had disintegrated. I drive past the house now and chuckle as I remember. I speed through the blinking yellow lights and turn into the mostly deserted parking lot. I march up to the store and pull the exit-only automatic door. Andrew is already there doubling up on the bananas and nodding his head toward me. I head to my locker in the back and pull out one of my many ties I keep stashed in there, deciding on my bright red one. I grab two boxes of potatoes and head out to the floor, going through what’s out on the table and throwing away the green ones, the moldy ones, and the ones growing roots.
alf-way through my shift, I head out to the floor to see my wife get in at 8:00. She and Ted walk in together, she’s laughing with him. I smile and nod at her, and she looks over and nods her head. She clocks in and walks straight back to deli, without even a hello. Andrew is filling pears up and seems to have missed this encounter, and I walk up to him, looking at some pears and say, “How’s Ashley treating you?” “Fine. You know she’s expecting?” “I did not know that. Congratulations. Isn’t this your third now?” “Yeah, we’re both really excited,” Andrew tells me, a smile forming in the corners of his mouth. “How about you and Steph, any kids?” “No, and I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
His smile vanishes, “Don’t worry, man, it’ll happen.” “Maybe,” I say, no real belief behind my words. I walk to the back, and keep working, joining in with the banter of the guys as we moved through our daily dance. I’ve been full time for twelve years now, and we always do the same things over and over. We’re busy rotating the old produce till about eight or nine o’clock. After this, my day dies down considerably, filling up items no one buys, like dried mangoes, just throwing away whatever’s left on the shelf.
inally, noon rolls around and I head out. On my way out I notice that Chelsea is over by the strawberries, looking for the good ones that currently don’t exist. Strawberry season hasn’t started yet. Her hair is up in a bun and she has on a white tank top with some cute black shorts that draw attention to her long smooth legs. I walk up next to her, my tie loosened and my apron in my hand, and ask, “Can I help you today, ma’am?” “Rick! How are you?” she asks. “I’m better now that I’m done working,” I reply. “Yeah, I’m off today. You must be hungry. What are you doing for lunch?” “Probably just going home to have a quick sandwich before I go to sleep. I shouldn’t go out drinking when I know I have to work the next day. Makes me feel like a teenager, coming into work with a hangover.” “You didn’t seem that drunk last night,” she says. “Well, I can hold my liquor better than a teenager,” I say. “Listen, let me take you out to lunch. There’s a Bread Company right down the plaza.” “That does sound delicious,” I say, thinking of some good coffee and a plain bagel. She leaves her cart where it is, not even bothering to put the items in it back. We head out of the store together, walking in the sunshine. My eyes burn as they get their first taste of natural light of the
day. Chelsea seems to glow in the sunlight, a soft light emanating from her pale skin. We walk into the café, and I order the food while she grabs a booth in the back. “Chai tea and a blueberry muffin for you, coffee and plain bagel for me,” I say, handing her her food and taking a seat in the chair opposite her. I spread some butter on my bagel while she talks to me. “I had a good time last night at McLaggen’s. I can’t believe I’ve never hung out with you guys before,” she says. “Yeah, I mean, we don’t hang out as much as we used to. Everyone’s having kids and whatnot. Makes life a little more boring for me,” I say. “So how long have you worked in produce?” she asks. “Well, I’ve always worked in produce. Got a job at Bukowski’s when I was sixteen, got ‘promoted’ to produce the next year and have worked there ever since.” “You’ve never had another job?” she asks. “I’ve thought about it, but a job is a job, and when it comes down to it, as long as I can afford the things in life that I care about, I don’t
really give a damn what I do,” I say, thinking of how many times I’ve said that to people at high school reunions and to family who ask why I never moved away from my first job. It was DAN L’ECUYER more complicated than that, or at least it felt more complicated to me. The real reason was that I just got comfortable and never really felt the need to leave. It was home, it was what I was used to, like drinking at McLaggen’s or the soft kiss that Stephanie gives me right after we finish having sex. It’s something I’m used to and something that I like and that makes me comfortable. “That’s cool. I cut hair, so I guess I’m in the same boat as you,” she says, leaning in closer to me as if we had some sort of secret to keep. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. People always ask me that, and I guess I just get a little angry from time to time,” I apologize, staring at her brown eyes. Stephanie has blue eyes like the sea. “It’s fine,” she’s whispering now. “I know how it feels to do the same thing over and over when you could’ve done something.” “Whaddya mean?” I ask, scared of what she’ll say next. “I mean that I chose not to succeed to be with a guy who just couldn’t succeed, and now I cut hair on a daily basis,” she says smiling now. “I think in that story, I’m the guy who can’t,
not the person who didn’t.” “I think you’re both,” she says. “How can you tell?” I ask. “It’s your face. It seems like it knows things,” she says. I guess my face looks confused after that statement because she says, “Your eyes look heavy.” I stare at her face and think back to what Steph told me last year. “You’re getting old.” “What? No, I’m not,” I responded indignantly. “You are,” she said laughing, “Just look at your eyes.” “What’s wrong with my eyes?” “They look heavy and tired all the time,” she said. Back in the present, Chelsea is still smiling at me and I say, “That’s not the first time I’ve heard that.” “I bet it’s not,” she says. “What are you doing tonight?” “I dunno, probably have some dinner and watch some basketball. Why?” I ask. “Well, I have a gift certificate to Vedicci’s, if you’d like to help me spend it,” she says. “I am married, so I should probably talk to my wife, but I don’t think she’ll mind,” I say waiting for her to panic and realize that she has a crush on a married man. “Yeah, ask her, but she shouldn’t mind. I mean, it’s only dinner,” she responds confidently. “I will,” I say, “but now I’m going home to get some sleep. Meet you there at seven?” “Well, there’s no reason for us to take separate cars. Pick me up.” It wasn’t a question, it was a demand. And I didn’t really mind doing it. “All right then,” I answer, imagining what my wife would say to my taking another woman on a date. Chelsea gives me directions to her apartment, and I get up to leave. She gets up and looks at me expectantly. Without thinking I pick her up in a massive bear hug and twirl her
around in a semi-circle. I put her down and she giggles, asking me, “What was that? “I dunno. I haven’t done that to someone since high school. I’m sorry,” I say. “Don’t worry about it. It was fun.” I walk out to the Volvo wondering what the hell that was. That was my thing in high school—I would pick a girl up and twirl her regardless of weight, or if she wanted to be up or not. Some girls thought it was fun, other girls thought that it was weird or uncomfortable, but I still did it. I like to do it—you got the scent of a girl in your nose. It’s a clean scent, with maybe some makeup thrown in. Perfume is the worst thing in the world—it hides the actual scent of a woman and turns her into something else, like a beach or sea foam. It’s a sin and should be banned. Stephanie started wearing perfume recently. She keeps asking me what I like, but I like her the way she was. Now she’s entirely concerned with how she looks and how people perceive her. She used to walk around in sweats and didn’t give a damn what people said, but she doesn’t even wear sweats to bed anymore. Now it’s all about nighties and negligees, which are sexy but she’s trying too hard. I pull up to the house and put the Volvo in park. I get out trying to think of what to say to Stephanie when she gets home in a couple of hours. I climb into bed and stare at the rotating ceiling fan swirling the dust on the dresser.
t four, I hear Stephanie throw her keys on the counter top and open the fridge, no doubt grabbing some iced tea while her popcorn pops in the microwave. I get up and head out to the kitchen. “Hey, how was work?” I ask. “Fine. Not too busy,” she responds. “What are you doing tonight?” I ask. “I dunno, maybe go to McLaggen’s and grab a beer with Ted and the gang,” she says, “What about you?” “I was thinking of going out to dinner with Matt,” I lie. I had decided I couldn’t tell my wife
I was going on a date with another woman, no matter how okay it might be. “You haven’t seen him in ages. How is he doing?” she asks. “Fine, I guess, but you know he’s never been the same since he got back,” I say, a frown forming when I think of my best friend serving overseas. He had gone to college, but as ROTC, so after college and medical school, he went to Germany to be a surgeon in the army hospital there. He came back a pessimistic pacifist. I haven’t talked to him in about two years. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that,” she says, getting up to give me a hug. “Don’t be. It’s not your fault,” I say looking at the tile floors I installed in our first year here. Stephanie tried to help, but she kept cutting the tile too small to be of any use. “Well, tell him I say hello,” she says. “I will.”
s I drive to Chelsea’s, I notice that I’m shaking. I haven’t been this nervous since I asked Stephanie to marry me. I walk up to her door and ring the bell. She comes to the door in a periwinkle blue dress that cuts off just above her knees. She has on white stilettos that show off her feet and butt. I’m just staring there, frozen in place. It’s not because she looks stunning, which she does, it’s because I’ve seen that dress before. It’s the dress that Sally wore to the dance the night she slept with me, went to IHOP with me, and never called me back. “So do you like it?” she asks, a little nervously. “You look beautiful,” I say, regaining what little composure I have left. “Let’s go.” We pile into the Volvo and head to Vedicci’s. She’s looking at her makeup in the mirror, and I wonder why. I can tell she spent a long time getting ready. She must be nervous. We arrive at the restaurant and it turns out she made a reservation, so we get a corner booth. “What’s good here?” I ask her. “Everything,” she says, “but the pasta con
broccoli is excellent.” “Thanks for the advice: I do love broccoli,” I say smiling at her. “So how long have you been cutting hair?” “Well, I guess for like ten years now. My boyfriend at the time thought it was a good way to make extra cash, and, well, we needed it,” she says. “You lived with him?” I ask. “Yeah, I lived with him for eight years, and we dated for twelve, but he never wanted to be married and I knew that someday I would want that, so we broke up,” she says. “How long ago was that?” I ask. “I guess like six years ago now,” she says. “Dated anybody since?” I ask. “Yeah, but nobody for as long, and nobody I really liked,” she says. The waiter arrives and we order our food. I think back to my first date with Stephanie. We went to Hooter’s for wings, then to the state hockey game. I had just gotten out of a relationship, and she had liked me for ages. I was still trying to decide about colleges, and she was trying to decide what she wanted to do after high school. We both worked at Bukowski’s and I had just been promoted to trainer. She wore blue jeans and a pink silky top. I couldn’t stop staring at her, even at Hooter’s. We talked about our futures and I grabbed her hand for the first time. Back then, we had a future. Now, well, I think now we have a past. She might be cheating on me, or she might not be, but sitting with Chelsea, I’m not sure I love my wife anymore. The distance between us was palpable before, but with Chelsea, I feel wanted, desired, loved. I hardly know her, but I know she wants to be with me, which is more than I can say about my own wife. Chelsea is looking at me, her hands in the middle of the table, and I stretch out my own hand to grab her clammy fingers, never looking at anything but her eyes. She leans in closer and we start to talk about life. What went wrong, and
how we can make it right. A couple walk past us and sit at a table in the middle of the floor. They sit and, with a familiarity that makes me uncomfortable, grab each other’s hands. The woman sits facing me. It’s my wife, and she looks up and frowns at me holding Chelsea’s warm hands. I look at her. Neither of us moves, neither of us says a word, but I feel shame well up in me. I look over at Chelsea, and her mood changes, from smiles to bewilderment. “What’s wrong,” she asks. “My wife is sitting at that table over there with another man,” I reply. “What are you going to do?” She sounds angry almost, like I’ve slighted her somehow. Her eyebrows make a perfect V. “Well, I’m going to go over there and talk to her,” I say, already releasing her hand and pushing my chair back with my knees. “Rick, please don’t,” she begs me. “The food will be here in a minute and then we can enjoy it in peace. You can talk to her when you get home.” “I’m sorry. I was having a good time too, but if I don’t go over there and talk to her, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at myself the same way again,” I say, throwing some money down for some food and a cab. Chelsea looks at me, and I know I’ve hurt her. I’ve crushed whatever hope she had, but at this moment I know that if I don’t talk to my wife right now, I’ll have given up on one of the only things in life I love. Stephanie sees me coming and watches me cross the room to her table. Ted’s talking to her and doesn’t notice her lack of interest in whatever is being said. I grab a chair and slide up next to them and say, “What’s going on over here?” Ted’s face stiffens, and he looks at Stephanie,
releasing her hands in the same moment. “Well, Ted and I decided to go out to dinner before McLaggen’s,” my wife says. “What are you doing here with my hairdresser?” “Grabbing a bite to eat,” I say. There’s no shame in my voice, and this seems to anger Steph. Her cheeks get red, and I know she’s about to blow. “Let’s get outta here if we’re gonna fight,” I say before she can start. “No. I’m having dinner here with my date,” she says. “Steph, we need to talk,” I demand. “I’m done with all your talk, all you do is talk and sleep.” Her eyes are watering now, and I can feel the blood pounding in my ears. “Okay,” I say. “But I’m going home, and I would like it if you were there.” “I’ll be home late,” she says. “No need to wait up.” “Fine,” I mumble, and get up out of my chair. I squeeze Ted’s shoulder, probably harder than necessary and walk to the door. Chelsea is standing outside the door when I walk out and she looks like she could blow flames on me, so I walk to her and ask if she needs a ride home. “No, thanks,” she says, in a pissed-off way. Silently, I trudge to my car and, climbing in, breathe a deep sigh. It seems I’m back where I started, back in high school, leaving IHOP, realizing Sally is gone and I’ve just wasted my life. I drive around, not heading anywhere, ending up in Jefferson Barracks Park. I stop the car, walk out to the edge of a cliff, and watch the Mississippi flow steadily. In this moment, I wish I could do that, look ahead and move forward, instead of looking back and circling myself.
THE INUIT FISHERMAN 10
Gary Newcomer What thoughts must transpire Upon the frozen wasteland Within this pale idol amongst the frost. Perched, claw in hand, Ready to steal away the seal Who might foolishly push her curious head Up through the rabbit-hole carved from ice. The seal must think in wonder of the world Above the sea’s cold, fixed film Before it shoots up for a glimpse and a gasp Of freezing air and the even colder hook. This seal will soon discover the secrets Of the above world— Empty, with the pureness of the snow Blanketing the trashed bloody hooks That succeeded in catching the innocent prey. Does the frozen man reflect about his day, The task at hand Or maybe the fish he hopes to catch? Or perhaps it’s not those He births prematurely into his snow-capped world, But the ones he leaves behind, To whom his mind wanders— And the infinite mystery he feels in their suspended lives Is reason enough for him to stand his ground.
LUSTRE Dylan Kickham
PAINTING A PICTURE Joel Geders
He is gone. Those things cannot stay. I know that. I know his name is lost, I know my temple is nothing but dead leaves in a pile… I simply wish I had gone with him or somebody had at least, for the shade of his oak is empty and I cannot hear myself over the din of the waterfall without his voice to cast hope over my despair. He has left me in the fall but it is only early in the season and I shall bear infinite breezes alone, watch the leaves drop in solitude, feel the grass grow stiff and yellow by myself, and it shall be the first time that I venture home through the grove without another set of footprints beside my own;
I was hoping to find more than just me, But the mirror could not let this be. So I began to assemble a new man From more respected men’s plans. My feet became callused and clean After the model of that humble Nazarene. And my knees bent eternally in the gutter Like that praying, devoted woman of Calcutta. My fingers nimbly danced around a subtle rhyme As if I were from William Shakespeare’s own time. And my palm is stained from the ink Used to write Homeric epics, making men think. My once rosy lips turned to a brilliant gold through oration As the timeless Cicero’s had grabbed his whole nation. And my eyes reflected a perfectly orchestrated chapel; A natural utopia as seen inside the Newtonian apple.
I do not know how long I will wait for him, or if I will decide to search for him, but these sunsets are too beautiful to be seen only by one, and I have no jacket for the breezes I shall meet. BILL SHI
My mind continually churned over questions of import: Societal, natural, existential, and anything of the Socratic sort. And even my soul burst forth in various forces, An idea that Saint Augustine endorses. And finally I judged my transformation complete When I was changed from head to feet, So I went again to face that brutal mirror, Hoping to see myself much clearer. What stared back at me was completely new And he was alight in a strange bronzy hue. It was then I realized the error of his ways; Ignoring my own internal blaze. Nothing of me was in this apparition. It was a strange unfamiliar composition. The old me was gone, and in his stead Stood a hackneyed concoction of the dead.
Shawn Blythe “
like that.” “First of all,” Mark said, feeling his insides boil with rage, “I’m fifteen. And if you don’t want to be treated like a child, then don’t act like a goddamn child.” Mark walked away, feeling his face burn red. That bitch, Mark thought to himself, his fists quaking with fury. That fucking bitch.
hope you fall down and die,” Mark whispered through gritted teeth. He watched his elderly grandmother bend down to pick up a dish towel that had fallen off the counter. He knew she couldn’t hear him. he was like death. She lurched slowly around “Oh,” she grunted, her knees aching with the house, her cold bony fingers destroypain. She seemed to take forever. Mark watched ing everything they touched. Disgusting flab her, feeling a jolt of rage surge through his veins. hung from her arms. Every day when Mark He jerked his neck to the side, which was the came home, she greeted him with a wave, and only thing he knew to do when he was ready to the arm flab jiggled back and forth, like she explode but could not release his anger. It was was wearing someone else’s skin. Her room a twitch that he had developed ever since his and all her belongings smelled like shit and Ben-Gay, forcing Mark to hold his nose every grandmother had moved in with his family. “I could kill you,” he hissed. “I could kill time he walked by. She refused to shower and never washed her hands. When she reached you right now.” At last, his grandmother managed to grasp into a container of food, that meant there was the dish towel between her frail, slender fingers, no more eating it. God knows where her filthy and she straightened slowly. When she was stand- old hands had been. She was deaf in one ear and hard of hearing ing again, she had to lean against the counter for in the other. She couldn’t remember what day it support. “Oh,” she said again, panting softly. “Grandma, what are you doing?” Mark was or whom she was talking with or even the called out loudly, though she was standing not name of her own son. She called Mark names that weren’t his, such as “Steve” or “John” or five feet from him. “Pickin’ up this towel,” she said, waving “Robert.” She woke up in the middle of the night and banged on Mark’s father’s bedroom door, the dish towel once limply in her hand. calling out for her long-dead mother and asking “Where’s your walker?” Mark asked. where her deceased sister had gone. “In my room. I don’t need it.” She was a parasite, sucking the life out of “You can barely stand up.” the house, causing unnecessary stress every“I’m fine, honey,” she said. To prove how fine she was, she let go of the where she went. She was a useless, bitter waste counter and attempted to stand up unaided. But of human flesh that did nothing but sit and rot. after a few seconds she felt her knees begin to Before long, Mark couldn’t even stand to look at her old, ugly, wrinkled face. give and had to grab the counter again. “Yeah, you know, it’s really worth breaking your neck over a freakin’ dishrag,” Mark “ ’ve seen him,” Mark heard her say one night. “I’ve seen him in my room going through my scowled. “Young man, I am eighty-six years old, and stuff.” She tried to whisper, but her deafness I don’t appreciate being treated like I’m a child,” made her speak unnaturally loud, enabling his grandmother retorted. “And by a fourteen- Mark to hear her clearly while sitting in his year-old boy. You’ve got no right to talk to me room. Mark cracked his door open a sliver
and listened. “Mom, you’re crazy,” Mark’s dad replied. “What would he possibly want to go through your room for? All you’ve got in there is boxes of useless crap from the seventies. He doesn’t want any quilts, okay?” “Well, I don’t know what he wants,” Mark’s grandmother said, adding a touch of disappointment and concern to her voice. Mark would have applauded if he wasn’t so furious. She was a good actress. “Mom, listen to yourself. We’re talking about your grandson. My son. He’s a good kid. I wish you respected me enough not to make up stories.” “And I wish I had a grandson that respected me enough not to steal things from my room,” she said matter-of-factly, as if that had settled the matter. Mark could almost picture the smug smile on her face. “I think you’re a bit paranoid.” For that, she had no witty reply. Mark’s father left her there and walked down the hallway toward Mark’s room. Hearing him coming, Mark grabbed his biology book off the floor and opened it in one swift, silent movement, pretending to be studying. “Working hard there?” his father asked, peeking his head in the doorway. “Yeah,” Mark said without looking up. Even though he had done nothing wrong, he still began to feel his face turn crimson. “Just wanted to say we got dinner in five. I made spaghetti.” “Okay, thanks,” Mark said. And with that, his father turned and left. Both knew what had been said and what had been heard, but neither wanted to talk about it.
hen Mark’s mother had died when he was five, his father became his only support system. His father was a man, and men didn’t like to show their emotions or even admit that they had them. The day of his wife’s funeral, Mark’s father did not shed a tear. His wife had
been taken from him in a violent car crash, after only six years of marriage, and yet he still could not bring himself to cry. Mark remembered watching his face, looking for any sign of emotion, but there was none. Phony women who had barely known Mark’s mother cried all around them, each of them glancing at Mark’s father out of the corner of their eyes, wanting to see him cry, to react. But instead, he simply spent the entire ceremony staring blankly at the casket, as if he didn’t understand what was happening. At the age of five, Mark found it difficult to grasp the concept of death. He had certainly heard of it, but he had never experienced it before. As he looked at his mother’s coffin, he began to cry. The funeral ended quickly, and before long Mark found himself standing with his father, both of them staring at the gravestone that bore Mark’s mother’s name. The procession had gone, but Mark’s father had insisted the two of them stay awhile. Mark’s father put his arm around him. “She’s in heaven now, Mark,” he said solemnly. Mark nodded numbly. Several questions ran through his mind, but he decided against asking them, knowing his father would have no answers. Why was she in heaven? Why would God take an innocent life for no reason? And why, in all His infinite wisdom, had God had decided to take a mother away from her child? Staring down at the dirt beneath which his mother now rested, he realized he had been lied to. There could be no God that allowed innocent people to die. There was no heaven, no magical city in the clouds full of rainbows and sunshine and happiness. There was only dirt. And before long, everyone, including himself, would be buried right along with his mother. About seven years later, his grandmother would move in with him and his father when it became clear she couldn’t support herself.
And thus, Mark had his real mother violently, suddenly taken from him, only to have a new mother figure thrust upon him. A mother figure that was old and ugly, that didn’t know his name, that accused him of theft and called him names when she thought he wasn’t listening.
ne day, Mark came home from school and found his grandmother on the phone. “Who is that?” he asked bluntly, without saying hello. His grandmother ignored him and continued talking. “…Oh, I’m not sure what my account number is,” she said, digging through her purse. She was sitting in an armchair, a pile of papers spread out on the small table next to her. “Who are you talking to?” Mark asked again, raising his voice. “My address is 245 North Flynn Road.” Mark dropped his book bag on the floor and stepped forward. His grandmother did not look up, instead picking up a folded sheet of her paper and squinting at it. “OK, the account number is 7-4-3—“ Before she could finish, Mark snatched the phone. She looked up at him in surprise and anger. “Who the hell is this?” Mark yelled into the phone. There was a short pause before a man with
a strong Indian accent replied, “Excuse me?” “I said, who is this?” Mark asked again. “You give me that!” his grandmother yelled furiously. With surprising speed, she managed to heave herself out of the chair and stand upright, stumbling forward towards Mark. Mark stepped backward out of her reach. “This is Sanjay, with US Bank,” the man on the phone replied as Mark found himself stepping backward again to avoid his grandmother’s franZAC BOESCH tic attempts to retrieve the phone. “Uh, is Evelyn there? I was about to finalize her withdrawal.” Mark took the phone away from his ear. “You’re withdrawing money?!” he yelled at his grandmother. She took another step toward him, almost falling and losing her balance. “It’s none of your damn business!” she shouted, hatred burning in her voice. “Now give me that phone!” Mark ducked her bony hand and sidestepped her, amazed that she was still on her feet. He then darted to his right, stepping down onto the first step of the basement staircase, figuring that she wouldn’t pursue him down the stairs. He put the phone back to his ear and demanded, “How much is she withdrawing?” Mark never got an answer. Staggering forward, his grandmother reached for the phone, quickly losing her balance. She fell into him, sending the both of them tumbling down the stairs together.
It was over in a flash. Before Mark knew it, they were lying in a tangled heap at the bottom of the wooden stairs. He pushed his grandmother off of him and stood up angrily, rubbing his shoulder. But the anger melted away as he looked at her again. “Oh no,” he whispered to himself. His grandmother had fallen on her head and snapped her neck. Her head jutted out awkwardly at an impossible angle. She stared blankly at the ceiling, her eyes wide in a silent scream as she drew short, shallow breaths. “Oh no,” Mark said again. “Ohhhh,” his grandmother managed to squeak out. “Mark,” she whispered. “Mark, call the hospital.” Mark stood rooted to the spot, paralyzed with shock. He watched with morbid fascination as she slowly lifted her hand and gingerly touched her neck. She whimpered softly, like a child. “Mark,” she pleaded, her glassy eyes staring at him. This was exactly what he wanted. He had willed her to die since the day she had moved in, and now his prayers had been answered. She would be out of his life forever. But I can’t let her die, he thought to himself suddenly. She’s my grandmother. My family. Several memories flashed through his mind. No. She wasn’t family. She was a liar. A psychopath. A leech. Why should he save her? She’ll lie, he thought. She’ll lie and she’ll make up a story and she’ll say I tried to kill her. “Mark,” she said again, her words growing fainter. “Please.” Mark said nothing. Instead, he walked upstairs and into her room. He grabbed the pillow off her bed and returned to the basement clutching it tightly. His grandmother tried to say something, but couldn’t. Mark hovered over her, his hands shaking uncontrollably. “You would do the same to me,” he said quietly. He held the pillow over her face and
smothered her. She put up no fight. He removed the pillow and checked her pulse. She was dead, fear and helplessness forever frozen on her face. Mark stared at the body for a moment, letting his situation sink in. Before long, he trudged upstairs and put the pillow back in her room. He dialed 9-1-1, and, his voice shaking, screamed into the phone, “I think my grandma’s dead!”
week later, Mark again found himself at the cemetery, standing with his father and staring at a gravestone. For the first time in front of his son, Mark’s father cried. “I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “I wish you didn’t have to be the one to find her.” “It’s okay, Dad,” Mark replied quietly. “It’s just that—” he started, wiping a tear from his cheek. “I miss your mother. She would have known what to do. Now that I have to go through something like this without her around, I just—” Mark nodded, placing his arm around his father. “I miss her too.” “I guess it was her own fault,” he chuckled sadly. “She tripped and fell down the stairs like an idiot. She should’ve been more careful.” Mark said nothing. He looked away from the grave and into the distance, feeling a harsh burst of wind blow against his jacket. “Well, that’s what you get for being stubborn, Mom,” his father said. “Dad, can we go?” Mark asked softly. “I can’t be here anymore.” “Yeah,” he said, rubbing his teary eyes with his sleeve. “Look at me, blubbering like a sissy. Let’s get out of here.” They walked silently up the hill toward the car and got inside. Mark’s father turned the engine on and let it run for a few seconds while the two of them looked down at the rows and rows of white graves. “I want you to know,” Mark’s father began, “that she wasn’t always like that. These last few
years were hard on her. It’s really a shame she had to go like that.” “Dad, I—” Mark cut in. “Son, just listen. You need to know she was a good person before she started getting senile. You need to know because there’s nothing more important in this world than family. I know there were times you thought she hated you, and I know you heard the stories she made up about you. But that wasn’t her, that was the Alzheimer’s. She loved you more than anything in the world.” “Dad—” “She would come over every weekend when you were a baby, and she would always hold you the entire time she was there. She spoiled you rotten, I swear.” “Dad, I don’t want to talk about this,” Mark
said forcefully. “Let me just say one last thing, Mark,” his father sobbed, fighting back another rush of tears. “The reason why she didn’t come to your mother’s funeral… she said it was because she couldn’t stand to see you cry.” Mark stared vacantly at the windshield, watching as it began to drizzle. Tiny drops of water slid down the glass. He hoped fervently that his father would stop talking. The drizzle quickly turned into a downpour. They drove in silence. “Your mother would be proud of you today,” his father said unexpectedly. Mark felt his stomach tighten. Curling himself into a ball, he rocked himself back and forth a few times and began to cry. KEVIN CASEY
THE TEACHINGS OF THE SAGE Dan Baxter
In a place not so far away, The hermit lives and spends his day. He sits and laughs down in his room, Joyful that he’s spared the gloom, ’f all those others who just don’t get, Why solitude is the best bet. All day and night he laughs and sings, At all those sad confused beings. In the corner, discs lie in stacks, Each series not a season lacks. Around his dungeon are these tools. I pity all the other fools, Who dance and sing out in the sun, Poor saps who like to jump and run. Skin cancer will decide their fate, If only they had learned to wait, To stay indoors until it snows. They should have learned from one who knows. I would not be surprised at all, If one of them would trip and fall. Broken bones they have known quite well, Living in their homespun hell. The bold hermit understands, That truly perfect life demands A good computer and a book, And certainly a quiet nook. Some DVDs go very far, To living life under par. Why would anyone need friends When games can please without amends? The biggest choice in life today Is “Wii or Xbox now to play?” Some say women are the greatest, But the wise prefer the latest In games and cool technology, To keep where no one else can see. The hermit, all these things he knows. To other things he turns his nose. He prays for others and their curse. His creed summed up in one small verse, “What are relations but a cage? I much prefer my strong archmage.”
JACKS OF DIAMOND Chuck Hussung To free a hand to reach a light switch, I rest the book I’m reading open on my head.
THE COLDBRIGHT SUN Ben Minden-Birkenmaier The coldbright sun has caked the snow to the ground where it traps the dirt in an icy shell under my soles The hollow scrape of branch upon dead branch accompanies The crunch of my footsteps up the frozen sidewalk As I turn and cross the road An eighteen-wheeler rumbles by up ahead, splashing me with A fine spray of dirty snow as I reach the light and wait Cars slip past me, whipping up the air Blaring their angry voices through the coldsharp morning The light changes, and they reluctantly stop, Motors growling, wheels inching forward, Eager to race onward, but restrained by distracted Soccermoms and businessmen on their cell phones Ready to start the day I cross in front of their steaming tires, Over the furrows they’ve rent in the crusty ice and splashed with cast-off snowpulp But I do not see them, no, I’m still trapped in my world of snow
It strikes me now that it’s Fr. Hopkins up there, His poems pressing against my adamant skull Like a bishop’s hands bestowing blessing, Pulsating with playfulness and grief. On my right The poor dear priest calls on God to send us rain. On the left He calls us Jack and joke And, in a flashing diamond, immortal triangle, Jesus.
PARTNER Dan Miller
he first time I saw the rookie I thought he was a boy. Turns out he had been in the army; just didn’t cut it, I guess. It was my last day on the job. Thirty-five years in the same precinct and I was out of a job. Thirty-five years of being a sergeant because the police chief was some war hero that didn’t give two shits about moving up in life. Now I was being retired and stuck with taking some rookie out for training on my last day. Heart condition, they said. They could’ve just told me I was too old. When I saw the rook, he was just sitting outside of the chief’s office, his cap in his lap and a confused look on his face. He was a small kid, probably from the Jackson area. A local farmer boy back from the service. He had a long, narrow face but the biggest, bluest eyes you ever seen. He didn’t look like a cop. He looked like a milkman. I sat there watching him for a few minutes. While I walked over, I couldn’t decide if taking him out on my last day and his first day was a favor or an insult from the captain. He spoke cautiously, saying all these sirs and sergeants. I told him to loosen up and get ready for work. I asked him if he’d had any breakfast. He shook his head. I was starving, so I took him to the diner and got him breakfast. He was quiet the whole ride, staring at the radio like it was gonna bite him. When he got some food in him, he started talking. He asked me about my time on the force, and I told him some war stories from way back when. I was in the middle of telling him about when the chief went out on his first time when the kid dropped a goddamn bomb of a question on me. What’s it like to have a gun pointed at you? he asked. I didn’t even really know what to tell him, so I said there had been only three times in my illustrious career that someone had pointed a gun at me and really meant it. Twice it was
some punk who was running away, and the third time it was some crazy broad that had killed her husband. I told him that having a gun pointed at you is a reality check. I was lying, of course, but I didn’t want to tell the kid that I saw guns at least a few times a week in the bad sections of Jackson. None of that religious finding-God or seeing-your-life-flash-before-your-eyes crap happens. Instincts just take over. There’s enough time afterward to think about life and death. If he wasn’t cut out for patrolling Jackson, Mississippi, I told him, we would find out today. We left the diner and started patrolling the roads. All the rush hour traffic was gone by now, and we had time to catch a few late speeders. We nabbed a few on I-55, and the rook really got to talking. He went on about how his parents had both been cops in Tallahassee, but he hated them so he ran away to join the army. He didn’t like the army, so he went to police training as soon as he got his discharge. He seemed like a nice enough guy, so I let him know that the guys usually grab beers at Chester’s after work. I disclosed this because if he went with me he wouldn’t get the typical new guy shit, and I had a gut feeling that if he showed some sack in the first month he’d stay and have a nice long career. Well maybe not nice, but long. Just as I started convincing myself, we got a domestic disturbance call. Domestic disturbance is the most common call in, but it’s also the most unpredictable. It could be anything from some babysitter gone missing for an hour to a lunatic wife-beater sitting on his porch with a shotgun. We were the closest unit, so I flipped on the siren and started weaving through traffic. During the ride there, I saw the kid start shaking like an alcoholic in rehab. I told him that it was no big deal and that I could take care of this one. He could just watch what I did and take the next call in. He settled down a bit, but I could still see him glance nervously at the shotgun on the rack between us. We got to the house, some ratty two-bit number in the projects by Maple Street. I told him to let me take the lead. I walked
up to the door and knocked forcefully. Police! I yelled into the house. The rook was hiding behind me, peeking around my shoulder at the door. Right away some tired-looking woman with a tank top and an apron opened the door. She had more wrinkles than a raisin, but I could tell it was from her life and not her age because she had no gray hairs in the bun above her head. She calmly told me she was in a fight with her husband when he threw a whiskey bottle at the TV and ran out of the house. He didn’t take the car, so he couldn’t have gotten far. I took down a description, put out an announcement, and circled the street a bit. I didn’t see him, but as soon as we got into the car, my partner started running his mouth as fast as possible. He talked about how easy that was and how he was ready for some real action. He said he knew what to do. We got a few more call-ins while we circled the street. They were all in the bad neighborhoods, and we were the only unit close enough to respond. Still, it was all simple stuff, with few real problems. We had one or two more missing persons and a fight. The last one we got was actually a small-time drug deal, and the kid took down two angry scums right in front of me. His
confidence was rising, but I still didn’t want to let him lead on his first day. By this time, I felt like once this kid got rolling, he would be a good cop. Late in our shift, we got a call-in for a missing child in Taylorsville. It was the safest, most affluent county in Jackson, so I asked him if he wanted to take it. He said, Yeah, you bet. Before DYLAN KICKHAM I knew it, we were at the house, and he was marching to the front door and knocking on it. On the first tap the door swung open noiselessly. He called into the house but no one answered. I still wasn’t worried, but he unbuttoned his holster and set his hand on his gun. Settle down! I hissed at him. He looked down and kicked the gravel a bit, but he took his hand off the gun. He slowly stepped into the house, calling out again. Still no answer, and I didn’t see anybody on the first floor. We drew our guns with our safeties on and searched the floor room by room. Still nobody. We sat in the kitchen and I radioed for backup. He set his gun on the counter while he reached for a soda in the fridge. BLAM! A blinding flash went off in front of me, and my ears started ringing as I saw the kid tumble to the ground. My instincts yanked my own gun back out while I got my bearings in
the smoke-filled room. I didn’t see anybody, so I crouched on the ground and rushed over to the rook. Even with my vision a little blurry, I could tell he was dead just from the gaping hole where his left ear used to be. I started screaming into my radio while I dragged his body into a corner of the room. I pressed my back up against the cabinets and blinked the glare out of my eyes. I started thinking clearly again, and the kitchen snapped back into focus. If someone wanted to kill me they could have, but they didn’t. They must’ve been running, so I decided backup wouldn’t come in time. If somebody was in the house, I needed to take care of them or I might be dead next. I stood up and let my heart settle its pounding for a second. The smoke had settled, and very steadily the blood stopped roaring in my ears. I heard a sound I didn’t expect—a little kid crying somewhere close. I poked my head around the corner and saw a young boy sitting on the floor in the hallway pushing his fists into his eyes and bawling. The tall French windows cast long afternoon shadows across the hall and just under his leg I saw a .357 six-shooter lying on the floor. I ran over and kicked it out from under him while pulling him upright. WHO’S IN THE HOUSE? I yelled at him. He just looked up and kept crying. WHO’S
IN THE HOUSE? I asked him this time but still screaming. Still no response. Just as I was about to stash this kid in a room and search the rest of the house, it hit me like a slug in the chest. Not a moment too soon because backup rushed in and took us outside. He thought it was a toy, they told me later. The kid’s parents thought he had run away, ZAC BOESCH but he was hiding. They left the house looking for him and called the cops. The kid found his dad’s gun under the bed and thought it was a toy, a mistake any five-yearold could make. The parents were more concerned that they found their kid than about the body lying in the kitchen. I told them that it was the guy’s first day. They just apologized, waved me off, and debriefed with some other guy. When I finally got home that day, I just sat in the tub with a bottle of Ole Tennessee and a million thoughts running through my head. What if I had been shot? Would that be better since I was done with my career? I didn’t even have a wife or kids. I just went to work everyday and did what I thought was my civic duty. His parents were married in the force. Who was gonna tell his parents about this? They hadn’t even seen their kid for at least five years, and they get news like this? I woke up in the tub to
my phone ringing. It was morning already, and the chief was calling. He said he knew I was officially retired, but he asked if I would talk a little to the parents at the wake and maybe console them. I spent the next few days just sitting around the house in a daze. The only thing I had in life was my job, and now I had as much time as I wanted to do absolutely nothing. Once or twice I tried to take a walk outside of the house, but I ended up just coming back inside and falling asleep. Days seemed to stretch out to weeks, and after a while I found myself counting the hours until the wake. I felt like I was in prison. I ate little and just about went crazy pacing back and forth thinking during the days. At night, I was usually in the tub drinking again. I didn’t feel much guilt, but the thought of trying to convince his parents that he was a good cop but there was nothing I could do was hanging over my head. I simultaneously dreaded and welcomed the day of the wake. When the day finally came, I woke up and felt worse than I had the entire week. I didn’t feel free or liberated at all. I still faced the same problems adjusting to retirement, and I still had nothing to do until the wake. I probably dressed an hour too early and checked my appearance in the mirror at least a dozen times. On the car ride to the house I went over what I wanted to say again and again. Still, I felt sick as I ascended the steps to the front porch where everyone was. I saw all the heads turn, and the last two to look over were an older man and his wife, the only two I didn’t recognize. I walked over, introduced myself and
started my practiced routine of condolence. I am so sorry for your loss, Mr. and… So you were his partner then? she cut me off. A lump the size of a planet made its way into my throat because I knew what was coming next. All I could do was swallow and nod my head weakly. So you saw it happen then? she asked softly. I don’t need to hear about that. Was he a good boy? He was a great kid, I replied. A great cop. They started to tear up as they told me they hadn’t seen him for a while. Once he left for the army, they hadn’t heard from him at all. As I watched the couple share their grief, I realized that they didn’t care only for their son. They cared just as much for each other—the way they stood together and held each other. They were okay when they retired because they had the person they loved to spend it with. I was just a lonely old guy who just happened to be in the wrong place, and now I had to intrude on their privacy. Well, they didn’t need me. I said a few parting words and went back home. I actually managed to find things to keep me busy when I got back. I cleaned up the mess that had accumulated the past days. I got some groceries, threw the old bottles away, and I started to cook dinner. I don’t know why but I set out two plates and lit some candles. I dished out the food and sat down. I looked up and saw the nothingness right in front of me. In the glow of the candles, all I saw was the steaming plate of food and an empty chair. I need a partner, I thought.
EDWARD MATHERS Shawn Blythe
dward Mathers was happier than he had been in a long time, for today was the day he had finally decided to die. Five hours had passed in silence as Edward stared fixedly at nothing. The only sound was the clock’s soft, rhythmic ticking. The clock mocked Edward, and he knew it. It laughed slowly, repetitively, ticking away his life. The clock jeered at Edward, always pointing at him, clapping its slow clap-a-minute clap to impress its wall friends. The clock was a real jackass. The walls mocked him, too. They laughed because they listened, and they listened because listening made them laugh. They heard every day of Edward’s woeful life, and it made them chuckle their wall-chuckles until the ceiling grew angry and told them to shut their big fat pie-holes. Edward’s thick, horn-rimmed glasses also joined in the festivities. They liked to hide themselves far away from their intended perch on Edward’s broad nose, forcing him to search for them in darkness. The walls giggled and the clock clapped with glee as the glasses hid themselves daily and Edward stumbled blindly about his two-room apartment like a circus bear prancing about stupidly for his audience. In fact, Edward could hear them laughing at him all the time, but he chose to ignore them because he had always been taught to bear his fortunes like a man. “Bear your fortunes like a man,” Edward’s mother always said. Edward did so, and it was because of this that his house mocked him. Edward had never learned to defend himself, but he did learn to handle failure and misery like a man by bottling it up deep inside. He bore all his injustices patiently, not protesting when his boss chopped his salary in half, not getting angry when his neighbor borrowed and lost his set of wrenches, not complaining when his car was towed after the meter ran out, not fighting back
when a drunken redneck assaulted him in a gas station parking lot because Edward had looked at him funny. You see, God had a plan for Edward. “God has a plan for you, Edward,” Edward’s mother would always say. Edward would have liked to know what this plan was, but he also knew that God couldn’t tell him the plan, because if he knew, he would go and screw it up. “God can’t tell you what his plan is, because if you knew, you would go and screw it up,” Edward’s mother would say. Edward accepted this, too, because he bore all his fortunes like a man.
ally Dupree, however, did not bear her fortunes like a man. In fact, if she bore them at all, she bore them like some sort of angry chimpanzee. Sally was prone to wailing and beating her tiny fists against her desk when she did not get her way. She would pull on her long blonde pigtails, screeching shrilly while the dumbfounded teacher pondered what to do with the unruly child. In the end, Sally always got what she wanted. This was why Edward Mathers had loved Sally Dupree since the second grade. All of the other children had despised her, thinking her a whiny brat; and she had despised them, thinking them stuck-up teacher’s pets. But Edward saw her tantrums and her wailing for what they really were: beautiful expressions of freedom and individuality. He instantly fell in love with her, and he engineered every move solely toward getting her to love him back. In the second grade, as he sat eating lunch alone, he vowed to himself that he would one day marry Sally Dupree. Edward took to following Sally daily. It was a thankless job. When she was walking home from school, her pink book bag bouncing on her back, Edward was likely watching her as he crouched behind the bushes or sat on a low tree branch. She was oblivious to the world, which made her really easy to shadow. She would skip along, carefree, singing songs that Edward had heard on the radio that his mother
had turned off because they were naughty songs and a good little boy shouldn’t be listening to those songs. But Sally sang them, and she sang them loudly and without caring whether or not they actually ended up sounding anything like the originals. He had only once been noticed pursuing her, and it wasn’t by Sally, or even his mother, but by ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer. Sally had been singing “Twist and Shout” and changing around the lyrics haphazardly, until she was eventually singing “Mist and Drought,” which oddly enough kind of made sense to Edward, who sat on a tree in somebody’s yard and watched Sally go. The tree turned out to belong to ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer, who didn’t take kindly to young boys sitting in her tree, because hey, what if the branch snapped or something and then the boy fell and died and then what would happen? Ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer would go to jail for the rest of her life and probably die cold and alone in a cell instead of cold and alone in an armchair in her living room. And plus, it was just her goddamn tree so she didn’t want any stupid kids climbing all over it, okay? “What are you doing on my tree?” she had yelled at Edward, who was genuinely surprised at the ugly old lady storming towards him in a nightdress because he had been following Sally Dupree for nearly two months now and nobody had stormed after him in a nightdress before.
“I, uhh…” “Well, I don’t care what you’re doing, because you’re on my goddamn tree and I don’t want any stupid goddamn kids climbing on my tree, okay?” “I, uhh…” “What if the branch snaps or something and then you fall down and die? Then what would happen? I would go to jail for the rest of my life because you died on my lawn! So get off my goddamn tree and go back home, you little jerk!” “Yes, ma’am,” Edward said as he jumped down from the tree branch, which was thicker than his waist and incapable of breaking even if ten guys had stood on it, and also two feet off the ground, which was a fall that wouldn’t kill a baby JOSEPH WRIGHT mouse. Ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer squinted at him angrily as he walked away, her wrinkly face stretched into a repulsive frown. As Edward walked in Sally’s direction, trying to look inconspicuous, he realized that Sally had turned around and was now walking directly toward him. “Hey, why was Old Stinkyface yelling at you?” Sally asked from a distance of fifteen feet. They both continued walking. Edward’s face reddened for no reason, his mouth suddenly dry. “Hey, I know you,” Sally said. “You’re in my class, right?”
Edward nodded, embarrassed. “What’s your name?” she asked. “Edward,” Edward said. “So why was Old Stinkyface yelling at you?” “I was sitting on her tree,” Edward said. “What an old cow!” Sally exclaimed, inexplicably passionate about the injustice of ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer. “Jeez, Ed, that’s no fair. We should get her back.” Edward smiled when he realized that Sally had just assigned him a nickname, and he briefly considered running up to ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer’s door with Sally, ringing the doorbell, and running away while holding Sally’s hand as ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer yelled after them. But then Edward remembered that revenge was a fool’s game. “Revenge is a fool’s game,” Edward’s mother had always said. “I don’t know, S a l l y, ” E d w a r d said. “Oh, come on, Ed,” Sally said. “Don’t you want to teach her a lesson for being such a no-good wart-faced witch?” “I don’t know,” Edward said again, but Sally had already grabbed his arm and dragged him along with her. Edward watched as Sally picked up the two biggest rocks from the rock garden in Mrs. Havermeyer’s yard and tested their weight in each palm. Sally then handed one to Edward.
“What? Wait, we can’t—” he started. “ONETWOTHREETHROW!” Sally yelled, and she launched the rock into Mrs. Havermeyer’s window. Edward stood there dumbfounded, clutching his own rock as the cheap glass shattered. “RUN, ED, RUN!” Sally yelled, but she was soon around the corner and out of sight as Edward stood there terrified, looking at the broken window. Not ten seconds later, ugly old Mrs. HavZAC BOESCH ermeyer busted open the door, and, seeing Edward there holding a rock very similar to the one that had just sailed through her window, began screaming at him to get over here because she was going to beat the ever-living shit out of him because he was a worthless little brat and Jesus Christ kids these days had no goddamn respect, but Edward heard none of it, just dropped the rock and took off running and ran straight home to his mother, who had already received a call from ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer and began yelling at him to get over here because she was going to beat the ever-living shit out of him and Jesus Christ, hadn’t she taught him better than this, and why the hell would he go and embarrass her like this, and God was going to punish him for acting like this, and he’d better just go sit in his room until she could think up a punishment that was harsh enough to fit the crime.
So while Edward sat in his room, his mother and ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer determined that Edward would come over after school every day for two weeks and do chores for Mrs. Havermeyer until he had worked off the money he owed her for the window, and Edward decided that he would stop following Sally Dupree.
ut that was over thirty years ago, and Edward Mathers had not exactly fared well, and here he was almost forty years old, getting mocked by his clock and his walls and his glasses, never having dated let alone kissed a girl, and maybe it was just about time that he ended his life, because there certainly wasn’t a lot to look forward to. He was done bearing his fortunes like a man, because maybe God didn’t have a plan for Edward, and maybe in fact God hated Edward and wanted him to hurry up and die. Or maybe God did have a plan for Edward, and it involved dying bitter and alone just like ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer, or maybe God’s plan for Edward was that he stop bearing his fortunes like a man and instead bear them like a coward and take his own life. Whatever God’s plan was, Edward had already made his decision. He would get a handful of pills and swallow them, and he would die and hopefully there would be a heaven and then he could ask God exactly what His stupid plan was. He wondered why now he found himself thinking of Sally Dupree, whom he hadn’t seen since she transferred to another school at the end of second grade; why he still loved her even though he hadn’t seen her in thirty years and even though she had never caused him anything but trouble and stress and even though there was a very good possibility she had no idea who he was anymore and had probably forgotten about him the same day she met him. Sally was gone, unreachable, and Edward knew it. She was nothing but a memory. Even if he saw her again he knew he wouldn’t recognize her; she’d just be
another individual lost in a crowd, just like he himself was, and there was nothing he could do about it. The only problem was that in his fury he had tossed his glasses aside, and the bottle he swallowed did not contain sleeping pills as his squinty eyes believed, but in fact contained ExLax, a laxative that did not make him fall into an eternal sleep but instead made him sit on the toilet for six hours with an uncontrollable case of the shits, something the walls found particularly amusing. So, exhausted from his ordeal, Edward decided he would not end his life that night but instead wait until tomorrow morning, because hey, what could one night’s sleep hurt, so instead of getting up and doing the deed he passed out there on the toilet with his pants around his ankles. Perhaps it was God speaking to Edward, or perhaps it was hallucinations from the laxative poisoning, but as Edward sat asleep on the toilet, he dreamt of Sally. She was older now, about thirty years older, and she had not fared well either. Her blonde pigtails were gone and replaced with a short mop top dyed bright yellow with ugly brown roots beginning to show. She was short and plump and she wore a tight black shirt in an attempt to hide her girth, but it only made her look worse. Her once sparkling blue eyes had grown dull and lifeless, and there she was standing behind the counter at a library, where she clearly didn’t belong. As he watched the woman that clearly was Sally and yet no longer was Sally, Edward suddenly felt like he was about to have another case of the shits. Thankfully, he was still sitting on the toilet, because that’s exactly what he did, and the sheer velocity of his violent shit awoke him from his dream. So there sat Edward Mathers, a thirtysomething year old man on a toilet surrounded by the stench of his own feces, still half-trapped in laxative-induced hallucination about a girl he had not seen since the second grade. And it occurred to Edward that if Sally
couldn’t make it, could anyone? Could anyone really be happy if she couldn’t? Could life play a joke crueler than it had played on Sally? Was that all life was? A joke? Was God’s plan just to humiliate everyone for his own amusement? And why should he keep living if irony was all there was? And then Edward thought maybe the fact that he hadn’t died was a sign. Maybe God wanted to show him what had happened to Sally Dupree and what had happened to himself. Maybe God’s plan was that Edward find this out and do something about it. Maybe he, Edward, should find Sally Dupree, and they should stroll together down the street where he had followed her so long ago, and together they would sit in ugly old Mrs. Havermeyer’s tree and throw rocks at her window and sing “Mist and Drought” at the top
of their lungs, because who gives a damn about the lyrics? So there sat Edward Mathers, feeling enlightened and full of new meaning, and he resolved that the very next day he would tear through every phonebook and bust down every door until he found Sally Dupree, and then he would move out of this goddamn apartment and they would live together, and it would be just as he always imagined it. And Edward was so excited by this resolution that he fainted again, this time sliding off the toilet and cracking his head wide open in the bathtub, where he was found two weeks later by his landlord, dead in a dried pool of blood, a confident grin plastered across his face.
SARTRE’S PIZZA Eric Lewis
hey awoke in a dark sweltering room with small droplets of water condensed on the walls and ceiling. Meager light of a sickly yellow trickled through slits near the ceiling on three of the walls. “Where am I?” one asked. “Where are we?” another corrected. The ceiling was low, and they, lying on their backs in a circle, did not have room to move. “Who am I?” the one asked. “Who are we?” the other answered. “Isn’t it obvious?” said a third. “We exist. We’re alive and conscious. Could that have happened randomly on its own? Think about it.” There was a pause as they all stopped to think about it. “Someone or something must have made us this way,” the third continued. “I don’t see how that follows,” countered a fourth. “Where did that someone or something come from?” “It was always there.” the third said confidently. “Oh, okay.” “Why?” “What?” the third snapped incredulously. “Why?” the voice repeated loudly. “Why what?” “Why are we here?” the voice asked. “Why are we who we are? And why did this He make us this way?” “Because He wanted it to be so,” the third said. “Who?” “He.” “But who is he?” the voice asked. “The someone that made us this way of course,” the third answered. “I don’t see what’s so confusing about it.” “Why would he put us here, in this place?”
the voice asked. “I can feel the heat seeping from my body. I’m stiffening as we speak. Why should he make us? If he did I’d fear that we’re nothing more than his playthings.” None of them knew how to respond to the voice. Before long, the low rumblings of incomprehensible voices disturbed the stagnant hush. The room shook slightly as the rumblings grew louder. “Can’t you hear His voice?” the third whispered. “What?” “I said,” the third one shouted to cut through the din, “can’t you hear His voice?” The third’s voice trailed off into dejected silence when he realized the rumbling had ceased. “Maybe it was an earthquake,” the fourth suggested helpfully. The room suddenly tipped, and they fell to one of the walls, but the low ceiling held them in their tight formation even as they crushed each other. The room leveled as quickly as it had tipped, and the third groaned as he slid away from the wall with his fellows. “See,” said the challenging voice from before. “Why would He put us in this dangerous place?” “Because we have a purpose,” the third voice cried fanatically. “He’ll let us out.” “There’s no way out!” Again, the room shook at these words, and the ceiling swung open to illuminate them and end their ignorance. As they rejoiced, a massive hand emerged from the light. Following the hand was an arm, equally massive and downed in thick dark hair, which disappeared into a stained white muscle shirt far above. And above that was the mouth lined with yellow, nicotine-stained teeth. The hand grabbed a slice and pulled it free. “NOOOOOOOOOO!” the third screamed, as the mouth opened before it.
AN ELABORATE SPEECH Conor Fellin
was in seventh grade, nearly a teenager. I no longer spent my recesses inventing game shows with Kenny Tyler, but instead discussed rock and roll with Charlie Wexter. I no longer feared getting West Nile virus whenever I stepped out my front door for more than an hour, but had adjusted to the outdoors slowly but effectively through the Boy Scouts of America. I no longer believed in Santa Claus; I knew he was invented just because some clever atheist wanted to replace Christianity with consumerism in America. I should no longer have reacted that way, but somehow I did. I did it during a competition for my school’s speech team, the second one in my speech career. Sitting in a classroom on the second story of Our Lady of Sorrows School, I awaited the first of two recitations of my speech by which I would be judged. The hard plastic of my chair pressed against my back, as I looked around at the five other kids sitting in random desks throughout the room. They would also be performing their speeches in this room. They, I thought to myself, had probably, like me, practiced for months with their schools’ coaches to memorize and perform a short, scripted humorous monologue using no props except an optional chair. Their coaches had probably, like mine, carefully examined the effectiveness of every detail of their execution. By the end of the day, a few of them would probably receive the gold ribbon for suffering no point deductions. I knew a few parents, including my own dad, were present to watch the event and sat in the desks behind me. The bright reds, purples, and oranges of cartoon “Good Study Habits” posters illuminated the bleach-yellow walls of the room. A clock hung above the teacher’s desk, its slim brown hands doing little to obscure the scene inscribed upon it: a solid black train churning over a bridge, with landscape of glowing blues
and greens on the horizon. I glanced at my watch. 10:32: the judge was a few minutes late. I began to rehearse my speech. I would get up in front of the judge and write out my name, Tim Ladane, the name of my speech, “Ronnie Drives the Car,” and the author, Emily Seaber Parcher, on the dry erase board at the front of the room. I would then don the high, squeaky eight-year-old voice of my character and begin my speech. I would slip into the chair, back erect, feet flat on the floor, and it would become the car that my character, Ronnie, would so desperately try to start, using information he had picked up from his parents’ conversations. I would visualize the wheel, careful not to move it or expand the grips. This concern had occupied most of my attention in the earlier practice sessions. At first, the wheel-grips would expand to about the thickness of a walkie-talkie within the first thirty seconds of the speech. Observing this, one of my coaches had told me to practice holding the wheel in one of my parents’ cars until I got used to it. Early one evening, I had tried just that. Flapping open the door of my father’s bright red Geo Tracker, I had slipped into the driver’s seat. My back had stiffened as it touched the cool cloth seat. I had gazed into the rearview mirror at the reflection of the dark gray interior of the Tracker and, beyond it, the mud-brown aluminum posts decoratively placed at the mouth of our carport. I had slowly slid my hands around the wheel and moved it around for a minute. I had quickly satisfied myself that I had practiced enough. My hands had slipped off the wheel and flung open the door. I had stridden back into the house where my nightly routine of homework, reading, and some video games awaited me. The entrance of a tall, round-faced man in a black outfit and a priest’s collar, probably the judge, interrupted my train of thought. Some boy conscripted from the student population of Sorrows followed him into the room. The priest told the kid to take the clock into the hallway and then began writing his name on the board
in green dry-erase marker. My mind returned to my speech preparation. Practicing holding the car wheel had proved itself a waste anyway. As the competition had approached, that same coach had decided that, since I was portraying an eight-yearold too small for a car, I should enlarge and raise the wheel. I had not had much time to practice manipulating the wheel at talkie grip width, but today I felt relatively confident in my ability to avoid any noticeable inconsistencies. I would also remember that Cindy, a short girl in my class and on the speech team with straight brown hair and a kidding smile, had told me that she had seen someone perform the sketch who kept one hand on the wheel through the entire monologue. She thought it was a neat idea, so I would certainly do that. Furthermore, I would have to be careful not to draw out my speech too long. I had frequently slipped dangero u s l y close to the strictly enforced time limit in recent practices. I considered this understandable. After all, I would have only seven minutes to make Ronnie get in the car, call his friend Skippy over, play with the starter, the clutch, and the gear shift successively, actually manage to start the car, scream as it swerves about the neighborhood, and return to his former playful attitude the instant it miraculously stops. I thought I could do it. Prepared, I let my attention flutter out the window to the cloudy sky overhead.
he clouds seemed to have grown slightly denser when I looked out the window an hour later. Everyone had recited their speeches and we had received written evaluations from the judge. The judge made some closing remarks, and, after a few minutes, dismissed us for lunch. As we filtered out of the classroom, I nudged dad on the shoulder. He looked at me, his upper lip curled slightly outward and his left eyebrow raised. I stepped off to the side of the group. He relaxed his eyebrow and joined me. “We need to go somewhere,” I murmured after the group had passed. “What is it?” he asked. “We need to go somewhere,” I murmured slightly louder. TONY BRUNO “Why?” “We just need to go somewhere private,” I insisted. I began walking. “ We l l — where were you thinking of going?” He now seemed to deliberately cool his voice. “ I d o n ’t care.” A fast glide quickly replaced my stride. “Timothy—” I didn’t hear the rest. Within a few seconds, he had drifted behind me. My feet flowed down a flight of steps, across the landing, and down the next flight. Instead of going straight toward the cafeteria where my team awaited me, I slipped back behind the stairs and through a short hallway and tucked myself onto a bench in a small alcove. I started to cry. After a few minutes I saw the bulky frame of my father bobbing towards me.
“There you—” he began. “It was the clock, that idiotic clock that ruined it. You saw it,” I told the dark-slime-yellow wall behind me. “The judge didn’t want anyone to be interrupted by the clock, so what did he do? He put it out in the hallway where all of the classrooms could hear it. Ain’t that funny? I couldn’t concentrate enough to remember my next line with that thing a-blowin’ its whistle off, and everyone thinks I don’t know my lines, and I look stupid. And then that puts my speech over the time limit. 7:05, five seconds! They always take off points for being over the time limit. Any other speech I could have gone within the time limit. Any other speech I would have remembered my lines back there. But this one repeats so many phrases.” I turned my head towards my dad. “And all the stuff about the car. And all that stuff about the wheel; I learned it all. And what happens? You know what that judge said to me? He said skill is proportionate to experience or somethin’ like that. He didn’t like me keeping my hand on the wheel the entire time. I lost points for that. And he tells me that, seeing my fist open like that, he wanted to throw a baseball at me—like I’m a catcher. Well, I’m certainly not a catcher.” My eyes swung down to the bench. “Anyone who knows me knows that. Wasn’t even my idea anyway, the whole hand-still
thing—but anyway…” The distant chatter of kids from the cafeteria filled the hiatus left by my voice. I looked up and saw my dad’s face. His blue eyes sat still within his tan face. His gray-white beard bounced down with his jaw as he asked me if I was ready to go to lunch. I needed a few more minutes. I wondered what Charlie Wexter would say about this. I, Tim Ladane, an unconvincing driver and crying about it. I tried not to think about it. KEVIN KICKHAM
ART CRITIC Gary Newcomer This portrait hardly Meets expectations. No depth, no life, And no contrast Between the farmer And his mule Who both, in dismay, stand, Within the endless field, A cruel, dry sea Of withering grain.
Just like an aged painter, The farmer can only look out Upon the world With cruel, empty eyes Tearing down the liveliness Of beauty’s design That he can only desire To someday re-create. JOE EARSOM
THE FORT Conor Gearin
n the beginning, there was chase. As kindergarteners at St. Catherine Labouré, we would engage daily in the primal game of suspense and superiority. The belligerence of the chaser and the cleverness of the chased obsessed us during recess. For motives not yet understood by us boys, the girls always wanted to chase us. One girl, Krista, singled out one boy, Daniel (who quickly became the quickest of us), and these two became the leaders of the packs. Grossly outnumbered, we would zigzag under the metal structures of the playground, sometimes stopping unexpectedly so that our pursuers would crash into our backs. This was enough for us until second grade, the year that initiated us not only to the Eucharist and Reconciliation but also the soccer field—that green Valhalla across the previously impermeable expanse of the parking lot. We crossed the asphalt like the first fish to step from the primordial ooze onto land and explored our new emerald territory, a land that the teachers did not allow us to enter during recess until we graduated the first grade. The terrain consisted of a large interior plateau bordering steep inclines on its north and west sides and declining sharply on its east and south sides. Behind the southwest corner’s baseball backstop, we found one small area of foliage that defied the groundskeepers. Oak leaves squished against the bordering fence on a more minor piece of elevation, flanked by more orderly hedges, small oak trees and honeysuckle bushes stretched their branches five feet out from the fence, intertwining to form a little cavern with a low entrance. Some bushes rebelled and colonized areas where grass should have been, forming thick underbrush that made up the walls of the little den. Several second graders could hide there, nearly invisible to the fiendish girls and the recess moms that stalked the field, their walkie-talkies always in hand.
We hid there every day for half a year at least. In this manner, the Fort was established. Why we tolerated this predictable routine for so long is inexplicable, but then, the mind of a second grader is enigmatic. Krista and the girls, used to the ever-changing paths under the playground equipment that we had once favored, were baffled when we first ran to that one spot and stopped. Once we got to our stronghold, we held our ground, even barring the way into our hiding spot with football blocks. We startled the girls so much by our unwavering line that they fled instantly. They were even more amazed when this happened every single day. Yet as they gained experience, they also became more audacious. Later that year, we had to keep a garrison inside the Fort itself at all times, for the girls had learned to crash through the bushes and blast their way into the interior. Yet the girls could never stay for a prolonged engagement, because an even larger predator, the recess mom, would come over to break up the battle. For our part, we clustered inside the Fort and pretended not to hear the recess mom’s lecture, which always included a shrill tirade on chivalry. As the teachers began to take notice of our war-like activities, I tactfully chose to enlist as a mere “messenger” in the growing army of the Fort. This purposefully vague title allowed me to carefully build trust with the authority figures, and I was able to work as a special service operative, confusing the enemy’s war effort in minor ways and entering the fray during the critical moment to change the tide of the battle. Through the third grade, we had two recesses. The first was devoted to pickup football games, but lunch recess revolved around the Fort. The Fort was the center of our society; with its establishment, our leaders changed. Brett, the best at talking someone into doing something (like swabbing the dirt floor of the fort with a flimsy pine branch) became our leader. Daniel, champion of the nomadic chase game, lost his charisma in this established setting and soon became a minor colonel in the army. Krista
was usurped by tall, brave Tina, one of the few girls not afraid to shove back in our skirmishes. We battled for control of the fort almost daily. The moment the teacher dismissed us from the cafeteria to recess, we sprinted en masse to the Fort—it was a nightmare scenario to find giggling girls trespassing inside our sanctuary before we could get there to defend it. Then early in fourth grade, the girls attacked less and less. Julia, the kind of super-nice, talkative person who apologizes way too much for things that don’t really matter, usurped Tina as leader of the girl-horde. Tina, not wanting to give up her campaign, took a contingent of more aggressive girls, including the demoted lieutenant Krista, up to the top of the hill behind the western soccer goal. Atop the hill above the east goal, overlooking our position, shielded by three trees growing against the bordering fence, Tina set up her base: the hated Other Fort. Our Fort survived this last period of onslaught: Tina staged a few attacks, storming down from the highland in what were without a doubt the most hard-fought of all the campaigns, but thankfully she soon lost hope. She joined the main group of girls and peace settled on the land. Harmless third graders, interested only in the absurd little box turtles in a pen on the other side of the fence, settled in the Other Fort. The defenders of the Fort turned their attention to the well-being of the defenses. Derek, Daniel, and Justin carved out another entrance, which led to a less-covered area they called “the patio.” Brett and I swept out the leaf-covered floor of the main shelter and broke some branches so that the entrance stayed low but our ceiling became nearly high enough for us to stand up in some parts. During this period of hard-earned peace, our improved Fort faced threats from within its circle of defenders. The main body that made up the defense had been whittled down to six or seven, including myself, but the rest of the boys played football and stopped by only when they were bored with their game. Soon the esprit de corps
of the remaining garrison became corrupted. In fourth grade, we lost our morning recess, and football competed for the same time slot with the Fort. Early in the year, we had focused on defeating the Tina threat and beautifying our Fort. As invaders no longer challenged us, we were seduced by football, a game that could change daily. In late fourth grade, the Fort became a sort of part-time job; by fifth grade, we abandoned it almost completely, except when we needed to hide from the recess moms. This period of exile, in which we departed from our thenceforth-called “Old” Fort to wander the plains of the soccer field and sifting gravel of the playground, playing primitive forms of various sports, cannot be elaborated upon fully in a history of the Fort alone. It is worthwhile to note that this nomadic exile, which lasted from fifth to eighth grade, was a time of enough betrayals and social unrest to rival a Greek tragedy. The girls introduced a philosophy which further weakened us in which worth was based on popularity (and this popularity coming from affinity with the ever-problematic girls.) In the eighth grade, we buried the Liberace. This statement may require some explanation to those not familiar with the pop culture of St. Catherine’s. In eighth grade, we found that we no longer cared about past divisions and past affections of fickle women. In April, a mere month away from graduation, a small plastic pig known (inexplicably) as “Liberace” became the it thing. The pig changed hands many times, and most accounts confirm that the first was destroyed by fire, and was replaced by Liberace II. In addition, many pretender-Liberace pigs appeared and the disagreement over which pig was the true successor was heated. Eventually, we decided that the current Liberace—which was probably Liberace IV or V and of another dynastic line entirely— much disfigured by ink and third degree burns, had died. We buried the hatchet; or, we buried the Liberace. This we did ceremoniously in the Old Fort. The groundskeepers had finally cut back the branches a little since we left, but it was still the same Fort. I remember saying the ritual words,
standing upon the ground I once scrubbed with a cedar branch: “ashes unto ashes, dust to dust, buried in the eternal hope of the Resurrection…” The pig became, in my reckoning, a sort of effigy representing the disunion of the past and the new society of eighth grade, where all were equal, or close enough. We returned to what was good in our society, and what was good was the Old Fort:
that bastion of stability, kingpin of camaraderie, which held our society together. It united almost every male in our class under its proud banner of honeysuckle and oak. Therefore, it was fitting that the Liberace was buried in its immemorial dirt. The fact that the girls exhumed the body of Liberace days later only proved that they were forever the source of our problems. ZAC BOESCH
The young writer only once craned his head to the side To look through the half-drawn Venetian blinds Over the spectrum of watermelon green, Lake-surface blue, and near-twilight purple Created by the golden late-afternoon sunlight refracted through That smudge of window wax he had missed with the towel To the sun-bathed asphalt of the parking lot below. This done, His fingers began to dance across the keyboard and words Flowed onto the laptop screen—but no, still not right. His wife, Eve, opened the pine door of his room, Glided in, and hovered over him, Her breath brushing down his back Until he reminded her that he needed to recover The lost time of another fruitless day of writing. DYLAN KICKHAM
tephan dropped into his chair heavily. He sighed. “This day is going to be long.” He looked over at Emma, who was nodding to herself. Stephan leaned forward, his new leather chair creaking. “What?” “Nothing. I agree. It’s gonna be a long day.” Stephan sat back, folding his hands. He glanced at his white sliver of a laptop. A conglomeration of pastels and sharp neons twisted and flipped in an unending chain of light from the screen. Stephan ran his hand over the pad near the keys, and the harmony of colors vanished. Emma approached the desk as Stephan looked up from the laptop. “Yes?” “You wanted me for…” “Oh, yes. I need you to proofread this brief for me. I can’t make one mistake: otherwise he’ll be all over me.” “Who?” “Philips. The plaintiff’s lawyer.” “Okay. How long is this, anyway?” “Don’t worry about it. Just do it.” Stephan slid his index finger over the pad of his laptop as Emma walked out. He noticed something in the corner of his eye, a rectangle. When he shifted his vision to it, he recognized it as a photo of his wife, Sarah. Her long brown hair curled around her shoulders. Her blue dress
and plain white background behind her reminded Stephan of the sky. He swiveled his chair around, gazing out at the city beneath him, the blue sky stretching away, the concrete and steel constructs reaching up like teeth. He saw the white planes taking off and landing, gigantic birds. The sound of the street below rumbled up to him. He stared, taking everything in. The rumbling grew louder. He was brought out of his trance. He looked behind him. Emma had walked in. “Do you hear that?” “What?” The rumbling became a roar. He stood up from his chair slowly and turned around. He saw through the window. He didn’t see it fast enough. Stephan clenched his eyes shut as orange light seared through the glass. He stumbled back SONNY HAGER into his desk and his knees buckled. He fell down as the roof fell on him. White dust enveloped him. The roar exploded in his head. White turned to black.
hite was in his head there is no way out she said Help. me. stephan get up Help. arm hurts he tried to move it didn’t move. more pain blue sky where is the Help. curls of light stephan she held his back the white to gray his eyes stopped closed being opened them he. Help. wet fell on his face. Gray to light her face Sarah he thought Help. he saw emma not Sarah why. she was crying her tears on his face he didnt know why. this happened white around him screech in his ear blue sky bird hit orange no white whistle in his head screech why? emma needs Help. door he said she didn’t hear him
he said again door she cried on his face closed its stuck i cant open it. Lets go then No she said my legs he saw them they weren’t normal he saw them backwards Why? He grabbed the desk got up wet on his face the sprinklers were on he wondered why he needed Help. emma cried on the floorwet everywhere. Dust fell his shoulders from he tripped on the ceiling pieces of the picture on the floor near his face he lifted himself walk to the door try to open it didn’t he burned his hand. The ceiling was on fire it fell on him. his clothes werent wet enough he
caught Help. he said emma cried she said plane. he thought of the plane why would it do that he’s not crazy it shouldn’t but it did. Help. he burned the water sizzled and changed to gray smoke he cried the window he saw he knew then he ran and tripped saw his wife on the floor burning he got up he wept he ran again he was the plane the glass shattered diamond flew outward he shone the glass went into him he felt the fire going out he felt free the glass followed him down he was the plane but he didn’t fly he needed Help.
JUVENILE COBIA Conor Gearin The ever-present, primeval Ocean heaves off the port side. An ancient, sentient, wise old Sea swells up to greet us with a mass of rippling, muscled brine and passes on. Gulls yelp hopefully Over a leaping gathering of tiny gleaming shad. Leviathan yanks suddenly upon my rod, livid at my inattention— A struggle to hold him, the thrashing unseen beast, A quick buzz of the drag gears, he loses the initiative— I pass the crank round the reel, again, again, and he rises from the black depths, A silver shining cutlass forged by Poseidon’s own hand. He is pulled, undulating defiantly, over the rail. “Better luck next time,” suggests a callow sea salt at my side. A survivor from the selectively hospitable unseen void, he makes his disagreement clear with a final quiver. WILL LINHARES
LIKE A ROLLING STONE Michael Blair
hings changed in the sixth grade when I found out about Bob Dylan. I bought myself a faded brown corduroy jacket and grew my hair long. They also changed because I left my old school and started a new one, leaving behind the wealth and comfort of my elementary school. Now, rather than hearing stories of Larry Toomey taking on Carter Smith one-onone at the basketball hoop, I’d hear whispers of people making out behind school by the rusted bike rack, or some kids smoking dope in their basement. Most of these names were just names, a handful of my three hundred new classmates, faces that I might have seen before but never recognized. And though people like Carter and Larry still went to school with me, they seemed swallowed in the crowd, blurry and unfamiliar. My new classmates came from unknown places, too, with names that couldn’t stir my memory in the way that Hawthorn Drive meant the makeshift baseball field carved out of the trees in Larry’s backyard and Timmy’s announcing of the innings with a pinecone and an impossibly low voice, or Mrs. Toomey’s cookies and two percent milk. Instead, I had to rely on rumors about areas like Claymont or Henry, or the spots downtown where the “city kids” lived and had to be driven in from everyday on buses different from mine. I felt disoriented, like something was happening and I didn’t know what it was. I was Mr. Jones. I couldn’t grasp why everyday after the final bell a group of boys would push each other against their lockers and shout “Jerry! Jerry!” or why everyone else would circle around them and laugh. I couldn’t understand why I’d constantly find penis drawings on my science lab table or why my teachers never assigned anything but instead spent their time making sure Donnie or
John or Martin didn’t disrupt class too much. I couldn’t make sense of these things, but I wanted to and I think, because of this, I started listening to Dylan. His music felt perception-shifting, sometimes direct and other times cryptic, vivid and angry, romantic and depressing. After a while, I started throwing away physical relationships for musical ones, ducking into dark bathroom stalls during lunch to pop my Grateful Dead tapes into my dad’s black cassette player. On the bumpy and loud bus ride home, I kept to myself, hunched in the corner while Lennon snarled an old Elvis tune: “They said that you was high class/well that was just a lie,” and I would glance at Lauren and Timmy cuddling two seats ahead and Clayton shooting spit balls at our driver, a wrinkled man named Jack, who had a proud face and a broken demeanor. Though little other than Dylan or Lennon or Neil Young got me through the first few months, I slowly adapted: a rock and roll attitude coupled with little schoolwork fit well with the nature of the other rebellious students. Soon, like my other friends, I had two or three girlfriends and a few others that I strung along, including a girl with long blonde hair named Victoria, who brought me Altoids and packs of spearmint in hope of winning my heart. I told her I’d consider it so long as she kept the peppermint patties coming. Everyday I walked into Mrs. Oliver’s homeroom before lunch with pride that I never had at my old school, telling everyone I knew about the White Album and “Helter Skelter,” or Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. Mrs. Oliver wore bright clothes—orange cardigans and purple pants that clashed with her frizzled brown hair. She told us about authors with strange names like Updike and Cheever and had us write those poems with a word spelled vertically down the page and adjectives describing each letter. We didn’t get along. I thought of her as a tyrant, and she gave me a “needs improvement” in citizenship. But she let us do whatever we wanted most days, something that never happened in my other classes. Sometimes, while the rest of the class
whiled the time away by talking or playing cards, I would retreat to one of the cold, white desks and pencil my own amateur lyrics in a miniature black notebook that my mom had picked up at Barnes and Noble. Writing these songs, just like listening to music, let me inhabit a different world, one that could make Cinderella fight a vagabond and not think anything of it. At home, I’d read stories about an adolescent John Lennon wearing leather jackets and thick black frames and beating up whoever got in his way, or I’d watch videos of Dylan abusing a Time magazine reporter who was highfalutin in his language and dress while Dylan just worried about a “tramp vomiting in a sewer.” I spent most days, however, quizzing Paul, a good natured and soft-spoken friend whom I’d met early in the year. More than a few times, I went over to his house, a humble and warm place. Paul’s dad, a sports writer, knew I played hockey (Paul must have told him) and we would talk over the Blues and our favorite players while Paul’s mom would make us lunch, usually something German and almost always involving sauerkraut. After lunch, we would go outside and shoot hoops until it got dark, but we never competed. We each got our own ball and shot as we pleased, sometimes talking about Geography class or the Cardinals, others times not saying anything, listening to the sound of the balls popping off the blacktop and at night, the crickets chirping.
When Paul and I didn’t have any studying to do, I usually sifted around until I found Sultan, a short and awkward Iranian friend who played Jenga with me. Sultan, like Paul, spoke quietly and rarely, with a thick accent, and looked down at his shoes whenever he did. We’d sit on the rough blue carpet and build our tower block by block in a kind of reverent silence. The carpet sloped unpredictably and our tower leaned and could fall unexpectedly at any moment. Whenever it did (even if it was my own fault), Sultan would wear a guilty face, his brown eyebrows curling MICHAEL ROSE up and his head dropping in shame, as if we had just lost a thing of great beauty and importance. A few times, after Jenga, Sultan slipped off his white sneakers on the carpet, tucking his out-of-fashion blue jeans into his long, white socks. Soon after, the two of us would get up from the blue ground and dance around, Sultan picking his legs up wildly and resting an arm on my shoulder for balance and support on the sloping carpet. Though Sultan and Paul never did, I sometimes tired of our routine. A few times, I had Paul ask certain girls what they thought of me and how my long hair looked. Later in the day, Paul and I would meet by the drinking fountains and he would report the facts coolly and without inflection, like a scientist reporting data. One day, not long after I bought Blonde on Blonde, I had Sultan scream “Everybody must get stoned!” in his deep accent. No one heard it but me, but I smiled as I sat down and poked a piece through our newest building. The wooden blocks toppled, and Sultan sulked.
A few weeks later, Mrs. Oliver’s son got sick and we had a sub, Mrs. Roberts, a middle-ager with mom jeans and one of those bowl cuts that act as the norm for any professional woman above the age of fifty. She led a tight ship, foregoing the usual free-for-all policy for strict and silenced haiku writing. I tossed the Jenga box back by the toy shelf and shuffled to my cold, white desk to scratch through a few 5-7-5s about a “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” This wasn’t so simple, though, and I needed inspiration. I pushed my pen off the desk, crouched below, and scanned until I locked onto a pair of black Converses. As I lifted my waist up, my eyes panned up the tight washed jeans as they yielded to the green tank top and the flowing chestnut hair. Laura Jeanne. I knew, if closer, I could smell lavender and hear her whisper like cool air. I glanced at Roberts, seeing if I could dart across the room to Laura’s desk for a brief chat before she might notice me. Our eyes locked and lingered for a while. “So, what do we do when we’re done with these things?” I asked. “Find some work to do quietly at your desk.” I shrugged, and dug my black journal out of my jacket, found a new page and started scribbling out “Once upon a time/dress so fine/threw the bums a dime/in your prime/didn’t you?” but then stopped, and glared back at the witch, Roberts. “Do you really have nothing to do?” Her head twitched to the side. “Yep. That’s right.” “There’s some books up there,” she said, nodding toward a cart in the front of the room, in between the white board and the toy shelf. I lifted up slowly, stretched and yawned, and dilly-dallied my way to the cart. Three or four others joined me. Eventually, I settled on Native American Sign Language. The book had a picture of a proud looking Indian on it, his face painted black and white and a feather in his ponytailed hair. He looked
free and natural. I paced back and forth in the front of the room while I read, until I noticed something, set the book down on one of the front desks, walked over to Laura Jeanne, and knelt next to her. “Hey, do you wanna know how the Cherokee say ‘up the chimney?’” I whispered. “Yeah, sure.” I stuck my index finger on the side of my nose and pushed it up and down. She laughed, and I jumped off the blue carpet, eager to find something else that might please her. When I got back, though, the book had disappeared, swiped by someone else. I looked around and found it buried with Nick, a nerdy kid with glasses and braces who ate lunch with me. He had a thermos which he would slurp on while the rest of us talked. When he did speak, it came out forced and quick, slurring his r’s and w’s. I stepped past the book cart to get to his desk. “What you think you’re doing?” “Just reading some sign language, Mike.” “Reading my sign language.” I nodded to the Cherokee. “Mine. Now, will you hand it back over?” “There’s five minutes left, Mike. Can’t I just keep it?” Nick asked. “No, you can’t.” I reached toward his lap, where he held the book. “Just give it to me. I need it back.” He held on as I tried to pry his fingers off. Grabbing at his wrist, I yanked the book free, ripping three or four pages clean and into my hands, making a crackling noise like a newly kindled fire and then a thud as the book hit the blue carpet, like a moss-less stone falling into a pool of cold water. Nick turned around to me with frightened and fragile eyes, and I suddenly felt hot and naked. “Gentlemen. What’s going on?” “Well, Mrs. Roberts, Nick, here, has decided to steal my Indian sign language book, a very informative, life-changing piece which—” I stopped. No one had laughed. Instead, I looked at shocked sixth-grade faces. As my eyes darted around, looking for support, they rested
on Sultan, looking ashamed and staring down at his white sneakers, just as he did whenever our blocks would fall. I walked back to my cold, white desk in silence, my chin sticking out and my hands balling up the book’s white pages in the pocket of the corduroy jacket. I scribbled in my black notebook about jugglers and clowns doing tricks, looking up to see the witch writing me a detention ticket. I scowled, and squinted at Laura Jeanne,
who flashed me a quick and painful smile. On the bus ride home, Jack looked depressed while Clayton shot spitballs at him. Everyone yelled. Carrie told me I looked like “a fucking Beatle,” as I sat down in my back corner and threw headphones around my ears. Bob Dylan piped in, and I thought of Nick and Paul and Sultan, and wondered how it must feel to be “without a home/like a complete unknown/like a rolling stone.”
eremy. Are you ready?” “I hope so.” “Okay, good. Wait for Ron to introduce you and then take stage after he exits. Ya got it?” “Yeah.” My first stand-up act. Months of preparation and gathering of jokes come to this moment. I did not feel nervous until now. C’mon Ron, just get on with it. I need to take stage. “And so Giggles Comedy Club presents Jerrrrrremy Pitt!” Ron walks by and pats me on the back. “Good luck, kid, they’re a tough crowd.” I ignore what Ron says and run on stage waving to the crowd. If I want to make them laugh, I have to keep the intensity level high. Some people are clapping. I look out into the crowd all sitting at their tables and say, “Wow… wow…wow…thank you.” No one is clapping anymore. I forgot my opening joke. “No, really, thank you.” Shit, I forgot my opening joke. Not a good start. I better stall. “So some of you may not know, but this is my first stand-up routine. Right here…Right here in Giggles Comedy Club. So first off I’d like to thank all the staff for giving me this opportunity and—” “You suck!” someone from the audience yells. This is not good. “Hey, well, folks, it looks like we got a joker in the audience. Hey now, I thought that was my job.” I started to do my best nerd impersonation, the one my mom loves, and I wag my finger at him. No one thinks the impersonation is funny, and people start to boo. This is going downhill fast. I close my eyes and try to remember my opening joke. I think I remember. “Okay. Okay. Wait a second. Do you guys
want to hear some comedy?” A few people cheer. “I SAID do you guys want to hear some comedy.” I take the mike and start to pace back and forth. Good, good, Jeremy, now all you gotta do is keep the energy level up and they’ll love you. “Get off the stage, clown!” I try my best to ignore the heckling. “So you guys remember back in grade school art class right? Remember Crayola crayons, right? Do you guys remember when you used to press too hard on the paper and they would break and you would be like, ‘Aww, my crayon broke.’ Do you guys remember that?” One person laughs. “Those were the days right? Do you remember when some kids would have like the five-hundred pack of crayons right? And you would need like a special carrying case to hold it because was so big, right?” A small tomato is thrown on the stage. I need a way to save this routine. “Wait. Wait. Remember that one kid in your class? He had the shitty off-brand crayon. It was named like Rosel or some shit.” Cussing is effective. “It was basically candle wax mixed with poop.” More people laugh. When used sparingly the word poop is always funny. “Yeah, that kid was the weird kid. He always had a runny nose, and no one wanted to shake hands with him because his hands were too greasy. You know what kid I’m talking about.” I wait for laughter, but there is only silence. Finally someone bursts out in laughter, but I know it’s not at the joke. The same voice as before yells, “Get off the stage!” People start booing. I run off in embarrassment. Why did I go with the crayon joke?
CURSIVE Dylan Kickham The long thin instrument steadily Released the liquid onto That virgin little thing. She took All she was given without a noise, And it covered her glistening White past with its dark Stains. But long After he was gone, she Still had a story to tell, a story that was her Own and that she would always carry. She could not conceive Of anything more precious than what he Gave her.
student art magazine