VOLUME V ISSUE 2
FEATURING AWARD WINNING POETRY, PROSE, AND ART
THE ECHO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
POETRY EDITORS Gianna Taravella
EVENT PLANNER Haleigh Gaw
John Eric Vona
Ally Carlin ADVERTISING MANAGER Michael Dailey LAYOUT MANAGER Emma Stevens FUNDRAISING MANAGER Justen Vargas
SUBMISSIONS MANAGER Miranda Cornell
ON THE COVER
Kayla Halls CONTESTS MANAGER Emily Chmielewski
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR This edition has been a true test of The Echo’s dedication and willpower. We’ve managed to push out a magazine in under two months. Not only is it the most efficient magazine we’ve produced so far, I firmly believe that it is the strongest quality of all those that we’ve created so far. As a class, we’ve worked together all year in order to improve our writing, as well as improve our ability to recognize good literature and artwork. In this magazine we’ve explored many new areas and themes that we haven’t in the past, and overall I think it’s an exciting new direction for the magazine to be moving in, and will make for a more exciting read for the students at Steinbrenner. With nearly 100 pages of award winning prose and poetry, the students and faculty submitted some of the most interesting and well-written literature that I’ve had the pleasure of reading in my four years on staff. Miranda Cornell’s “Support Group” won a gold medal at the national level at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and Emily Chmielewski’s art won first place for hand drawn illustration at the Florida Scholastic Press Association competition. Being here from my freshman year (the second volume of The Echo), I’ve seen the publication grow from a small group of ten people that met once a week after school, to an active class of students supported by an enormous writing club that is excited to share its work. I am excited to see where the magazine will go from here, and know that I am leaving it in very capable hands.
SPRING EDITION Artwork Welcome to Support Group Artwork Disorder Lost Living Past Stage 4
Cover ZACH GULICK 8 MiRANDA CORNELL 12 EMILY BARUCH 13 ALLY CARLIN 14 ANGELiCA REYES 15 KATAYA BAKAL-SCHLOMANN 19 JAMES FLASKAMP 23 ANNA MOYE 24 BELLA CRUZ-O’GRADY 28 EMILY CHMIELEWSKI 29 CHRISTINA RAMAZZOTTO 30 MEGGAN BAUTISTA 31 SAGE WHITNEY 33 EMILY CHMIELEWSKI 37 ANDREW ZILBAUER 41 GIANNA TARAVELLA 42 SUREN SIRAVAM 43 ANGELINA VENETTO 44 ELIZABETH INGOLIA 47 LAUREN RIVERA 48 GABRIELA JOHNSON 56 ERIX PIZANO 57 NATALIE MANNINO 58 LOURDES HOHMANN 58 KIONA EDWARDS 59 AMBER GOTTFRIED 59 RILEY MURRAY 60 KAITLIN BURKHART 61 CHRISTINA RAMAZZOTTO
Heartbeat Personality It’s Hard to be a Patriot Artwork Artwork Reverse Reality Return to Sender A Coveted Practice Forty Tons of Concrete Undesirables Night Owl Artwork Big Dog Crying Dog A Crappy High School Play Artwork Wrath Candle of Light Artwork Artwork Pants on Fire The Book Workmen 6
SPRING EDITION 63 MICHAEL DAILEY 65 JESSIE BRYANT 68 MATTHEW BALKUM 69 ANONYMOUS 70 MADI MAHA 71 MADI MAHA 73 CELA SOSA 73 JILLIAN MONTANINO 74 ANGELO CASIANO 77 EMMA STEVENS 78 HALEY CUERVO 79 GALEN SHILA 80 LEXI VELTE 86 ASHTON TEJEDA 88 THAIS JACOMASSI 90 ANONYMOUS 90 SAGE WHITNEY
Blocked The Forest of Decay Wyrd Sister Ridges and Scars Artwork Blank Dragon and Flies Artwork We Wear the Same Shoes Skinny Artwork Seeing God Alzheimer’s February 26th, 11:16PM Smart Man Unknown Fungal Espionage
WELCOME TO SUPPORT GROUP NATIONAL SCHOLASTIC ART AND WRITING AWARD GOLD MEDAL WINNER
By Miranda Cornell
I couldn’t help but cringe when I noticed the sign and the cheesy comic sans font. The sign itself made me nauseous and just laying my eyes on the door next to the sign caused my heart to pound furiously in my chest. I sighed, gathering all of my willpower, I forced my outstretched hand towards the curved door handle. Once or twice my hand flinched away causing snickers and giggles to sound next to my right ear. Finally I had a firm grip on the handle. Taking a deep breath I pushed the handle down. ‘So far so good.’ But when the door was about halfway opened, a loud screech echoed through the still air. Horror wrote itself across my paling face.
“Now look at what you did!” A vile, mocking voice tickled my ear. The tight hold around my neck tightened. ‘Oh God.’ I prayed and pleaded to any being for the promise of my hidden presence, but when I peeked around the cracked door only to see multiple set of eyes staring in my direction, I couldn’t help but curse. I quickly slipped into the frigid room and closed the door behind me but not without first glaring at it for its betrayal. “Oh good, you came! Rose can you please take a seat, we are about to begin!” a rehearsed, overly cheery voice called from behind. Turning around I spotted Miss Evans, the consoler that was in charge of controlling and organizing this support group. When my therapist a couple of days ago recommended that I should attended this meeting, I wanted to say no, but as usual I couldn’t mutter a single word. So my silence was taken as an answer and I was handed information packets. As I slowly shuffled my way towards the group, I couldn’t help but flinch when I noticed the painted on smile that Miss Evans displayed. Neither of us wanted to be here apparently. 8
“Why doesn’t she drop the act already? No matter what you do or say, she’ll still think you’re a freak.” I quietly hummed my agreement as I started for a lone empty seat. My skin crawled as I tried to ignore the stares that burned into my backside. Once I sat down, Miss. Evans threw a wide cartoon smile my direction before turning to address the group. “Now I know all of you are wondering, why am I here? Well the answer is pretty simple. Improvement! We are here so we can learn from each others’ experiences and improve our own situations. But since today is our very first session, we are going to spend it getting to know each other!” she sing-songed. A chorus of groans and vocal noises of displeasure rang around the room. “Now, don’t be like that! This will be uplifting! Fun even!-
“HA FUN!! As much fun as a funeral maybe!” -There is no need for this behavior! Now if you are done, we should begin. When you introduce yourself please state your name and your situation-
“You mean why we are in this freak show in the first place.” -This way we can see if anyone in the group shares a similar situation with you. Hmmm. . . why don’t we begin with . . . Mikey!” Just like that, everyone turned in sync to look at the unlucky victim. ‘Thank god it’s not me.’ Mikey, to my surprise, was a pale, thin, small girl with long, light blonde hair that was ironing-board straight. She looked ill, but it could have just been the horrid lighting that somehow turned the pale yellow walls into a puke-like yellow. But it wasn’t her looks that shocked me the most, it was the company she kept. Looming over her was a grotesque, blubber-like monster. Its beady eyes were popping out of the mass of tall flesh. A wide smile filled with sharp teeth and broken glass stretched underneath the bits of coal that were its eyes.
“An ugly one, isn’t he?” I hated how it looked at her as if she was something to eat. As if she was a five star dinner. “M. . .my. . name is Mikey and I have an eating disorder.” She spoke with a mouse-like voice, and I almost didn’t catch what she said. For a while we all stared at her while her demon chuckled and spat. Disgusting. “Great job, Mikey! Whoever is on her right, will you please introduce yourself to the group now!” After her, a boy named Andrew with a chain-like demon that had wrapped itself around the boy’s body, introduced himself and how he had depression. Next a man with post-traumatic stress disorder with a vicious blood thirsty wolf. Then a mom with paranoia and a twitchy shadow that wore a mask with a painted blue face. And so on and so forth. As each person took their turn my heart steadily beat faster and my palms, which were up until recently dry, were sweaty and clammy.
“Get ready! It’s our turn next!! Let’s hope you don’t stutter this time!!” Heat flooded my face as my heart raced. I almost walked out, but quickly decided that would just bring more attention to myself. ‘Stay calm, stay calm. Don’t panic, stay calm.’ I was so focused on my frantic breathing and thoughts I didn’t even noticed it was my turn until someone cleared their throat. Whipping my head up, realization struck me and left me mortified. “Umm . . . I’m . . .” I couldn’t get the words out no matter what I tried, the grip around my throat preventing any words from escaping. My hand flew to my throat and felt the rat-like tail that was coiled there.
“Oh what a shame. . . .Cat got your tongue?” “Rose, will you please introduce yourself?” Again I opened my 10
mouth hoping for words to come tumbling out but to no avail.
“Tick tock, Rose. Tick tock.” I tried to grab the tail wrapped around my throat, but like any other time I tried, my fingers found nothing but air. Snickers rang from my shoulder. Tears threatened to fall down my face as I struggled to fight against my demon. ‘Please, oh God, please.’ My breaths started to come out faster and more strangled. It was as if I couldn’t breathe fast enough or there wasn’t enough air. My vision was also failing. Black dots danced across my sight as the edges were eaten away. Passing out at this point was inevitable.
“Giving up so soon? But they’re just now understanding what a mess you are.” Passing out would be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I wouldn’t have to deal with their burning stares anymore, but a curse because when I woke up it would be twice as worse. People surrounding me, questioning me, whispering to each other . . . A hand gently touched my shoulder. “It’s okay, just breathe.” A gentle voice, soft as silk, pulled me from my dark abyss. Turning slowly I faced the comforting stranger as furious hisses rang in my ear. She had an understanding expression in her eyes. Her lips pulled up in a small, soft smile. My eyes flickered to the top of her head and back as she continued to look at me. “It’s okay, we won’t judge. There’s nothing to be afraid of. We all know how you feel.” Gently she took my quaking hands into her own. “We all have our demons.” As if on queue, the thing on top of her head flew down in front of my face. It was about the size of a baseball with wide glassy eyes. It wore a long red night cap
and upon closer inspection was carrying a small gray blanket in its tiny hands. I looked back at the woman and suddenly noticed dark blue shadows under her eyes. Insomnia. She nodded as if reading my mind and squeezed my hands in encouragement. I looked down at our linked hands and tried to focus on my breathing, taking in mouthfuls of much needed air. ‘In, out. In, out.’ Slowly as my breathing stabilized and the black around my vision receded; I let my hands fall from hers. Turning back to the group, I noticed everyone now was gently smiling at me while their demons all settled closely by their sides. A warm feeling blossomed in my chest. A quiet sigh softly brushed my cheek.
“Looks like our little game is over.” I could feel everyone’s encouragement and support. And suddenly, I no longer felt judged and isolated. I felt welcomed. This feeling alone was enough for the tail around my throat to loosen and eventually fall until it rested against my back.
“Well? Are you just going to sit there?! Speak idiot!” I laughed quietly and brought my hand to my right shoulder to gently pat my demon company, causing an angry hiss to erupt in my ear. ‘Hush now’ I rolled my eyes and smiled. Slowly I turned back to the group and softly cleared my throat. “My name is Rose Evers and you’ve already meet my demon. But let me formally introduce you to Anxiety.”
Art by: Emily Baruch 12
DISORDER By Ally Carlin
Her room was chaos: clothes thrown everywhere, bed unmade, and junk piling in every open spot. Even though her father told her time and time again that she needs to find a solution to this train wreck, the messiness never seemed to cease. She had attempted to tidy up, but somehow the mess would always return, always lurking in the back of her mind, taunting her every second. She washed her dirty clothes, threw away the trash, got rid of unnecessary items, but the mess always returned. She began to lose hope; nothing would bring this to an end. Each time she tried to stop the mess, it grew stronger and got progressively worse. Her friends had started telling her she needs to clean her room, but she always had an excuse. She would constantly say how she was always too busy, but it was a lie; she had all the time in the world, but she knew her friends just wouldn’t understand how the mess was her own personal bully; it never left her alone and it was a constant reminder of how disorderly her life had become. One day, she finally broke. Her goal to have a clean room had been demolished and engrossed into the mess itself, similar to her other goals and aspirations. The mess began to spread: her locker overflowed with useless papers, her car filled to the brim with futile garbage; it followed her everywhere. The grogginess from her bedroom poured into the sky, turning it a terrifying shade of gray, lessening her hope drastically. Every single thing she did contributed to the mess, and she just couldn’t take it anymore. She went home and just lay there in her unkempt bed with her dirty laundry and empty water bottles, and she allowed the mess to overtake her. She stayed trapped inside this mess she created until it consumed her, like it had consumed every other aspect of her life. She never found a solution to the never ending mess.
LOST By Angelica Reyes
As I venture into the uncharted waters of my mind I find myself lost Somewhere in the midst of everything and nothing happening all at once I find myself stuck in disorientation Stuck in my head Stuck in this feeling of dread Searching for some type of solution A however A what if But I can’t seem to find it As I stare into The Logic Searching for some type of answer The Logic stares me down It exudes intimidation And fills me with doubt The Logic provides nothing but a two dimensional statement Lacking depth Lacking passion As I gaze into the intriguing essence of passion The warm embrace of sensations surrounds me I begin to delve deeper into this emotion Perhaps here, I could find my devotion A notion that may lead to my desired solution But once again I’m lost Lost in this sweet sensation Lost in the passion
LIVING PAST STAGE 4 By Katya Bakal-Schlomann This piece contains explicit language and may not be suitable for younger or sensitive audiences
Friday morning we waited in my aunt's car- me, my cousin Remi, and my dad– in one of the rare parking lots you find and the cemented world of New York City. My aunt Emilie and cousin Sofia went into Trader Joe’s to pick up the wonderful unleavened products for Passover. My fingers continuously tapped the tinted window as my cousin flicked through New York radio pop stations in hopes that a pop star would one day develop an astounding song. “Just warning you, Amy looks like shit.” Remi’s indifferent tone was disturbing. “Oh really?” was my dad's attempt to continue this conversation. I just put my headphones in and raised the volume of my alternative rock music. As we walked into the rather modern style building that did not quite fit in with the 1940’s vibe of the Bay Ridges old brick houses, I couldn’t help but think no child should have to enter through this door. The smell of cleanliness greeted us as we walked in. Not the cleanliness of visiting your neat-freak grandmother's house, rather the sterile smell of the doctor’s office. Upon entering my aunt’s room, the second thing I noticed was a huge window facing the glistening water that tricked the eye into thinking it was a glorious summer day, instead of a cold day in early April, just weeks before my seventeenth birthday. The first thing I noticed was my aunt Amy. She did not “look like shit” as Remi had said, but I still found myself biting my lip and crushing my tongue to prevent streams from rolling down my cheeks. Though her cheekbones protruded much more than when I saw her seven months ago, and her gray hair convinced
many she was my mom’s mom instead of her twin, her warm smile nearly hid the desperate hope of a stage 4 cancer patient, and she looked just like Amy. Perhaps my urge to cry came from the fact that I had seen her so healthy and it was so shocking, so unsettling, to see how ruthless cancer could be. Standing just before the foot of the hospice bed, I smiled, and when Amy returned the gesture, I went and sat by her while my father attempted to catch up on the past several months without tiring her. In the corner of the room was a corkboard filled with pictures of Amy with family and friends. I examined the pictures closely, and when the water swelled in my eyes, I awkwardly side walked like a crab to avoid eye contact with Amy. She suffered enough without having to see my sorrow. I looked out the window though I could no longer see the sparkling water outside as my own tears blurred the view. My mom, who rightfully abandoned my father and I with a one way ticket to New York several weeks prior, brought me out of the room and around the corner to a playroom, an unfortunate area to be built in a hospice. The hyperventilating began, then the torrential downpour of my tears, and lastly the unreal feeling that so often accompanies death tore into my chest and stomach leaving my fragmented. The most devastating feeling had nothing to do with any physical aching. It was the realization of who my tears were for. For months I wondered how my 11 and 23 year old cousins would cope with the death of their mother, how my grandmother would face losing her daughter, and how my mom could live after departing from her twin. Now, however, my empathetic tears were replaced with more selfish ones. Saturday, I was the designated distraction, requested to play Wii with Sofia, the younger of Amy’s children. Any moment I had in Amy’s room I made sure to have a cup of warm black tea in my hands, as if sipping it would prevent my voice from wailing. One moment I had alone with Amy in which she begged me to care 16
for Sofia. Later she told Sofia about plans they had started but, “Mommy might not be able to finish.” Amy’s weak words reminded Sofia if she's having a bad day that she must say, “It's just a bad day and it’ll get better.” My tea was unfortunately empty at this moment and I could not help but take extra long to make my next cup, avoiding the end of Amy’s discussion with her daughter. Later that day, Sofia asked Amy to brush her hair. Quite soon, Amy could no longer lift the brush and pull through Sofia’s thick, brown curls. At 11 years old my cousin would lose the opportunity to have her mom brush her hair- a luxury I never even noticed. Amy whispered that she prays for a miracle everyday. At this point I had to make what must have been my hundredth cup of black tea that day. It's too hard to watch someone who wants nothing more to live as she dies. These tears were for Amy this time. Sunday morning, when I was leaving, was the worst. My mom asked Amy if it was okay that my dad and I were leaving. She cried, “No,” and her face transformed into the face I made in elementary school when I couldn’t buy ice cream from Mr. Softee’s ice cream truck, or couldn't extend a play date to a sleepover. However, as if a fit was just too much effort, she fell asleep. Down the elevator I went. I forgot my coat. Back up the elevator. Amy was so peacefully asleep. I wished that she’d wake up for just one more conversation. I left. On the plane home, I recounted the weekend. Many people often joked about how Amy would never stop talking. Which is half true. I recalled that one night that a nurse came in to give a high dose of painkillers. Amy panicked, fearing that she wouldn't awake. A fear that I somehow related to, maybe of all the times that I’ve had anesthesia, or perhaps the nightmares in which bombs in New York City separate me from my family, leaving me all alone. Many people often joked about how Amy would never stop talking, which is half true, because when Amy
was not talking, her contagious laughter spread through the air. Unfortunately, cancer mimicked her laugh. With almost a year passing since Amy’s death, my 18th birthday being the marker, most days end with a genuine smile. Most days Amy’s absence does not pain me like it does my mother, as my eyes often hide in an AP Euro or Comparative Politics textbook. Some nights though, reality hits me like a car crashtoo quick to have prepared for the impact. And all at once, I want to be back at the hospice, sipping more tea than I knew I could, yet too little to comfort one surrounded by death. I want to wake her up for just one more conversation.
HEARTBEAT By James Flaskamp
I remember hearing my daughter’s heartbeat for the first time. Each reassuring pulse whispering that everything was going to be alright. As I watched her tiny 12-week-old body dance in a ballroom of amniotic fluid, my wife and I captivated by the black and white pixels knitted together on the ultrasound screen, the same way God had knit together the life He had entrusted to us. The technician told us Ava’s heart had been beating since she was about three weeks old. The tears made a charge from my heart straight to my eyes and overcame my pride. I cried in that ultrasound room holding hands with my wife and didn’t care who saw because the power of LIFE was infinitely stronger than my insecurities. I wasn’t always this way. The years have changed me from what I was. Each passing year’s wisdom coming in waves of experiences and revelations bringing me to a destination I’ve never been before and never will be again. Like a needle moving slowly across the million little grooves in a
record. The song of my life used to have different lyrics. Refrains coming out of my mouth like, “Who are YOU to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body?” Choruses of, “Who are YOU to impose your values on someone else?” Verses like, “Who are YOU to think that a man has any idea what a woman goes through?” “Who are YOU??” I confess I didn’t really know who I was then, my identity derived from the world around me, opinions, trends, celebrities, musicians, politicians shaping my sense of self, feeding the blaze in my heart with the coal of a bandwagon locomotive. My blinded eyes focused solely on myself but seeing nothing of what I really was. My old self used to think people like my current self were insane. I remember hearing my daughter’s heartbeat for the first time. It became a dictionary teaching me the true definition of insanity. Insanity is parent willingly killing child. Insanity is 50 million inconvenient American children. Insanity is fear’s push… keeping us in our seats when we should be standing against evil. Insanity is rejecting, “choose life,” while being thankful our own mothers chose life. 20
Insanity is selling limbs and organs given unwillingly. Insanity is taking a box labeled “murder,” repackaging it in a box labeled “choice,” and feeling much better about it. Insanity is being KNEE-DEEP in the blood of the innocent. Insanity is a poet seeing the beauty of life in everything but an unborn baby. Insanity is demanding equal rights for EVERYONE except the one group of people who truly Cannot. Defend. Themselves. Brothers. Sisters. Sons. Daughters. How lost have we become? How far have we gone from everything that is decent and honorable and just? When did it become insane to think that every life matters, no matter how small or insignificant? I remember hearing my daughter’s heartbeat for the first time. That was the moment the fading embers of “choice” in my heart finally died out completely. That was the moment the needle on my record player moved on to the next track. My refrain has changed.
You see, it’s hard to deny beautiful humanity once you’ve seen it with your own eyes. It’s hard to deny miracles when you’ve spent 10 days in the NICU witnessing one. I can no longer look into my daughter’s face and see her as a CHOICE. There is hope for redemption because I’ve seen it in my own
life. The record hasn’t finished playing yet. My needle hasn’t reached its final destination. Neither has yours. Which is why I think the least we can do is have a moment of silence for the 40 years and 50 million tiny, beautiful spirits who never got the same chance at the life we all share. I remember hearing my daughter’s heartbeat for the first time. Each reassuring pulse whispering that everything is going to be alright.
PERSONALITY By Anna Moye
People are different, Some are the same, Some walk alone, and some carry fame. As for me, I walk alone, my hood tightly up, my face is not shown. For when I’m alone, I do my best thinking, and when I’m not, I suddenly start shrinking. My friends, they like to walk in the crowd, yelling and screaming and talking real loud. But people are different, I’m not the same. I’m my own person, I don’t want the fame.
IT’S HARD TO BE A PATRIOT By Bella Cruz-O’Grady
It's hard to be a patriot In a country that only wants to knock you down In a country where you're considered a member of the failed generation In a country where your future is at stake But you don't even get a say Where old people call you lazy As they rest on the couch And pop another butterscotch candy into their mouths Where your parents call you irresponsible As they bear the third, fourth, fifth child That they can't support financially
Where 21 year olds call you stupid As they drop out of college Because the real money is in drugs They'll tell you that education is important If you'd like to succeed in life But they'll interrupt your learning and Send you down to the office Because the fact that you dared to wear a tank top is wildly appalling Who cares if it's 97° outside It's inappropriate, cover up The boys might get distracted Because his comfort and education as a male Is vastly more important Than my comfort and education as a female
Comfort They like to throw that word around a lot They'll have you take an anonymous survey And ask you if your teacher cares about you But never ask if you feel the equality they like to preach about with pride Equality Has never once rang stable In the public school system Where the bathroom is a place to breathe and take a break From a daunting teacher's lecture For a cis-gendered child But a transman sets foot In a men's bathroom And GOD FORBID it makes a good Christian boy uncomfortable But no more uncomfortable than the same transman Who gets publicly humiliated as he's scolded and told to stop To once again infringe upon his education By forcing him to cross the entirety of the campus to get to the nurse's room Because they care about comfort As they break the hands of the writers As they bind the lungs of the musicians As they saw the feet off of the dancers As they box the minds of the artists Because they can't solve a ten part stoichiometric equation Some people live their lives to the fullest More people live through careful planning Even more people live from paycheck to paycheck Even more people live from day to day And even more people live from hope to hope Because there's only enough money and American dreams For a handful of families
However poverty is plentiful But to those few rich families If you shut your eyes tight enough and put your fingers in your ears You can pretend it doesn't exist So you can sleep soundly at night. While parents of yet another person who died too soon Stir restlessly in their bed In a home that feels cold now Because it's lacking a presence Something's very wrong Because a murderer masquerading as an officer Is still out on the streets "Protecting" good white people from the evil darker skins You know, the scary ones who are 12 years old Playing with a toy gun Or maybe the unarmed teenager Who was so incredibly threatening That 16 rounds in his flesh Seemed like the only logical solution. You can't just put a bullet in another person's head You can't just put a baby in an unwilling woman's stomach You can't just burn the preachings from another person's bible And you can't just break the spirit Of another person's free will To love To think To follow To be It's hilarious How some people will go to Hell and come back to defend the 26
second amendment Despite the fact that people with guns Have slaughtered more U.S. citizens Since 2001 Than have terrorist invaders who practice the Islamic religion And you never hear the comparison In number of attacks But in count of all the victims Because it's all the more impressive To say over 2,000 students attend Steinbrenner High School Rather than Steinbrenner is only one high school Don't tell us our country was built on Christian ideals When even our founding fathers believed Freedom of religion was as basic as drawing breath The land of the free The home of the brave We put men on the moon But some people still can't deal with differing skin tones It's hard to be a patriot But where there's a will there's a way.
Art by Emily Chmielewski Contest Winner at FSPA 2015
Art by: Christina Ramazzatto
REVERSE REALITY By Meggan Bautista
I’m starting to believe it what they’ve told me all my life which is that I can’t choose my own fate I don’t believe I will live a happy life because how I want to live who I want to be is unobtainable but I will never say that it is going to be easy they told me it is not possible that I can change the world, it’s what I tell myself, that in my hands opportunity is nonexistent it will not be a good house a good career a good family that I end up with I will make sure the other way around not the fate I create will be what I become I can’t do it can I 30
RETURN TO SENDER By Sage Whitney
Dear May, You were there. You were in the forest. You felt the dampness. You experienced the stillness. We were tied to each other with rope so as not to be lost from each other. You remember, we were naked. We were huddling together for warmth in July. You heard those sounds, you were sure you heard them before. You remember it. You remember the feeling. You heard the whispering. You could smell the decay from the moss and leaves on the ground all around us. You remember it, so you must have been there. Right? Returned to sender. Dear May, You were there, You must have been. You remember how long it felt. You heard the rustling in the distance. You felt their presence. You heard them sing to us. You saw the lights. You remember. You trusted us. You loved us. Returned to sender: Do not contact again. Dear May,
You were there. You remember dying that night by the lake. You remember watching our souls leave our bodies as the current pulled us downstream. You remember making love in the sky that night. You do remember... Right? Returned to sender: The authorities have been alerted. Please do not contact again. Dear May, So you really don't remember. You don't remember the most significant event of our lives. I find that hard to believe. You were there. Dear Donte, I do remember. I remember driving to your parent’s lake house I remember singing along with the radio during the long drive. We never made it to the lake house. I remember wandering the woods until our feet bled. We were trying to outrun the fog. I remember studying the changes in each other's faces. Your lips pursed differently and your eyebrows curved upward. I remember when the fog finally caught up to us. I remember the drop in temperature. I remember how tightly we held each other. We were shaking. I remember the taste of burning plastic in the air, And the lights in the sky. And the beings who taught us how to love ourselves… Yours forever, Daphne
A COVETED PRACTICE By Emily Chmielewski
His face was emotionless, long sweeps of tan makeup rested just above his skin, a shoddy attempt at masking the translucent flesh that lay underneath. Somebody somewhere was very proud of their masterpiece, but to her he looked like some sort of haunted ventriloquist dummy. A botched paint by numbers that consisted of only the best of CVS’s cosmetic aisle. The waxy layer was so thick that it had started to settle on his forehead in a way that reminded her of a 5th grade science experiment. Why did it have to be an open casket? Something about seeing the dead masquerade as the living was unsettling. In Melanie’s opinion, nothing was better for a grieving family than seeing the dead as they were… dead. Dressing a corpse up like some plaything was a coveted practice in the funeral business. No detail was too small; from the gentle spray of Chanel No. 5 that covered the smog like reek of decay, to Revlon's “Red Hot Rio” that covered brittle, yellow nail beds. They would even go as far as rebuilding facial structure, and, had the canvas been living, the mortician’s putty would have resembled the victims from House of Wax . An open casket ceremony had a way of playing into an acquaintance's worst nightmare. Susan’s son, Jim from work, or that really sweet guy that lived in 24B was preserved in the way you had always seen him. Except this time, small talk was the least of their worries. “Were you close?” An earnest voice asked from the fold out chair to her left. Melanie kicked her black kitten heels on the linoleum absently, more interested in the tacky floor tiles than any conversation this man could’ve made. It was a funeral after all, why couldn't he go back to the expected pack driven grieving? To her dismay, he took the painful silence as an invitation to
continue. “I don’t like funerals. They make me really nervous; you know, like jittery? Like suddenly I need to tell my mom I love her or pay off my debt.” Melanie could feel the conversation move right through her and tinker to the floor into a useless pile of words. She was not the focus of his attention, and instead was a sit-in that kept people from giving strange looks to the man talking to himself. In a way she was thankful for his presence, a friendly counterpart gave the illusion she was meant to be here. The man rubbed his face and sighed, the anxious taps from his dress shoes pounding in her head. “Mom? I don’t see her. Did she leave with Aunt Susie?” The man was mumbling to himself incoherently, and if she had set her mind to it she could almost decipher the jumbled code, but this man was nothing special. Melanie did her best to block him out, a distraction was not what she needed right now and her brain had been drawn to riddles.
A moment before she would’ve clapped her hands over her ears, the man stood, turned, and scurried without so much as a glance. Melanie followed the back of his head until he was absorbed by the mob of cheap black satin and rough crushed velvet . She checked the post-it note for the umpteenth time. 2:43:23 PM at the Giles & Yeckley Funeral Home. She checked her watch. 1:46 PM. Suddenly everything in the funeral home seemed to move slower, or at least her patience of it all was wearing away. With a twitch of her eye, she started tearing at the post-it note, forming tiny confetti piles on the yellowed tile. Nothing was worse than offering false condolences while a stranger floods forced tears down the front of a Dior dress they could never wear again. If she wasn’t so disgusted with the thought of physical contact she might’ve offered an equally forced pat on 34
the back. Melanie's coworkers all claimed to enjoy funerals. But apart from cheaply organized cheese platters or the occasional dessert plastered with a portrait of the deceased there was no lure. A big ol’ slice of the dead’s cake portrait couldn’t justify the occasion. To them a funeral was the social equivalent of Monday night football, instead of betting on teams however, they betted on which relative would become the most entitled. Unlike the rest, Melanie preferred to remain inconspicuous, hidden amongst the distant cousins twice removed. It made it easier when she didn’t get involved. The man from before fell back into the chair making the metal squeak in protest. “I can’t find her anywhere... I can’t find anyone anywhere. ” He was wringing his hands roughly, with enough strength that she could hear his bones pop. The noise was getting on Melanie's nerves. At the rate he was going, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not would mistake him for the world’s first human metronome. She let her gaze wander to the tangled mess of white knuckled fingers, taken aback by the sudden surge of emotion radiating off him. She was already reaching for her purse to find a new dark corner to lurk in when she noticed something. There was a tiny chip at the end of his index finger, a hole that revealed the discolored plane underneath. Squinting slightly she could see a quarter sized smear on his left wrist just beneath the platinum cufflink, where orangey tan makeup had lifted. The man grabbed at his hair and pulled at the roots by the fist full. “I can't find anyone.” He groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. He had begun to resemble a deflating balloon. His chest rising and falling in deep compressions that made it hard to make out the form of his body. These decompressions continued for several moments until finally, after all of the meaningless rambling, he turned and addressed her .
“Why can't I find anyone?” His voice had gotten significantly more resigned from all the rambling she had heard previously. He searched the planes of Melanie’s face for answers, like somehow the new acquaintance could fill in the gaps he could not. But Melanie Brook was not a concierge, and Melanie Brook did not possess all of the answers. Melanie pursed her lips as she methodically tapped the face of her watch. Quizzically, watching the second hand for a sign of life. After seeing nothing, she hurriedly directed her full attention to the man. Cream tan beaded off the man’s flesh and rose off the surface of his skin to form a barrier between them. The off whites of his eyes were a perfect match to the translucent coating that stretched over the bone. The coating began to pull taunt, giving Melanie glimpses of the structures looming beneath it. There was a moment of absolute stillness. Where both acquaintances became acutely aware of the other. Murky water met stormy clouds as Melanie absorbed the gold flecks that surrounded his iris. The accents danced around the void of the pupils playfully, in beautiful cadence with underlying lustrous greens and blues. She took advantage of what little time he had left to remember the way they shimmered. Eyes had always been the first to shine and the last to dull. If her coworkers had chosen to count by yarns, she would count by eyes. Melanie’s memory would never forget the golden dance of William A. Horton’s, nor would it forget the way his stormy clouds had started to rain. Her moment was over when Mr. Horton studied what was left of his limbs with a moan saturated with agony. “I’m sorry for your loss.” Melanie sighed . With the only act of remorse she had felt all day she ghosted the fragile skin of Mr. Horton’s cheek . A soft glow filled the room with an immaculate light, so warming and gentle unlike anything you could experi36
FORTY TONS OF CONCRETE By Andrew Zilbauer This piece contains explicit language and may not be suitable for younger or sensitive audiences
She walked quickly away from the parking garage, her nondescript black sneakers and gray hoodie in stark contrast to the bright white lights of the garage, which created a shadow in front of her. She turned the corner and began to think about the bomb going off in 3 minutes and 19 seconds. She had just parked a white van filled with explosives, a mix of fertilizer and C4 connected to a timer, adjacent to the wall of the ground floor of the bank building. She was now three blocks away from the garage. She thought about the security guard she passed on the way out, how he had greeted her in a pleasant manner and told her to have a good evening. He was an elderly man in his sixties, possibly an ex-cop. He probably had a family who loved him. But in 2 minutes and 35 seconds, he would be underneath 40 tons of concrete. If his remains were found, it would be a closed casket funeral. She turned another corner and passed by a bar that was teeming with life. She looked up at the televisions and saw the baseball game. Whoever the home team was is winning 4-1. The bar patrons would have their night disrupted by the sound and shock of an explosion in 2 minutes and 17 seconds. She thought of the camera crews and reporters that would be swarming them and asking the same question of, “What did it feel like?” while the patrons would try to fight off tears and drunken tendencies. At least they weren’t the security guard, she observed. 2 minutes and 2 seconds. She crossed 45th Street and began to think about the reason for her current situation. She remembered the tears of her parents when they received the letter eight years ago that had large red letters that spelled, “FORECLOSED.’ She remembered the arguments between her parents that often turned violent.
The weapon of choice for both of them were her father’s halfempty bottles of Jack Daniel's, something that he had shoehorned into their stretched budget the day after the letter came. She remembered hating the fact that she would watch television or go online to see that only the people running the banks were getting richer. Her misplaced sense of justice convinced her that her plans for the night were just that, justice. But she also realized that most people, including a jury of her so -called, “peers,” were convinced it was a form of domestic terrorism. She checked her black digital watch and saw that it would be 1 minute and 36 seconds until all of downtown would be deafened. She turned the corner and crossed 8th Avenue. She began to think about the stay in prison that would likely await her. It would probably be at a federal super-max prison, in a cell nestled in between the Unabomber and Robert Hanson. She pretended not to care about this possibility, but honestly, the thought of that level of isolation terrified her. 1 minute and 10 seconds. She heard sirens. Police sirens.
Oh shit, oh shit. Her split-second scare transformed into insurmountable terror when she saw three police cars going the direction of the garage at Mach speeds down 39th Street. She began to jog, which then transformed into a full sprint down the sidewalk just as she passed by the grocery store she went to as a child, The Market Garden. 41 seconds. She started thinking about that prison cell next to Unabomber a bit more seriously now. She thought that it would be a race against time for the police, as they had 32 seconds to disarm the bomb or become a part of 40 tons of concrete just like the security guard. She was now 10 blocks from the parking garage, but the further she ran away, the louder the sirens would get. She continued to 38
run. 15 seconds. Pure adrenaline began to mix with her blood, numbing the pain that was resonating in her feet. 8 seconds. She envisioned the security guard one final time, and how he was about to become an unknowing sacrifice in her descension to infamy. 3 seconds. She stopped thinking about anything and everything. 1 second. She tensed her body for the explosion. 0 seconds. Nothing. She was terrified, and relieved, and confused all at the same time. What the hell happened? And then she remembered. She forgot to arm the bomb. The security guard had startled her with his pleasantries and caused her to leave in a haste. She began to nervously laugh, knowing that the 40 tons of concrete would be safe in its designed form for another night. She began the long walk back to the garage, going at a much more leisurely pace than before. On 40th Street, she passed by a 1998 Nissan Maxima surrounded by police cars, the trunk filled with what appeared to be an abundance of cocaine, and three men sitting in the back of separate squad cars. The scene was illuminated by the red and blue lights that were supposed to be for her. She walked by the bar that was still teeming with life, its patrons unaware of what was supposed to happen in 6 minutes and 35 seconds ago. No cameras in their faces tonight. She looked up at one of the televisions and saw the home team was now winning 6-3. She looked down again, gazing at a piece of clear plastic stuck to the top of her shoe, and noticed how it mirrored the streetlights perfectly onto her watch. She approached the garage and paused across the street. She began to think of how her watch might have glitched, how she didn’t actually forget to set the bomb to arm and was about to join the security guard in a final resting place of concrete. The thought of leaving the van in the garage crept into her head.
She shrugged this thought off, knowing that someone would raise suspicions about the white van that smelled like fertilizer sitting on the first floor. It would be very easy to trace the bomb back to her at that point. She entered the garage. The security guard saw her and greeted her again. She nodded politely. She unlocked the van and stepped inside, ensuring that the explosives were still there, in case of a rainy day. She started the van and drove onto the street that had hosted her shadow 12 minutes and 13 seconds ago. She began to think about how nice the Unabomber might be, and smiled.
UNDESIRABLES By Gianna Taravella
Complicated twists; an obstruction in the light. They maneuver through the mess, curious, and all but comfortable Limber creatures blink rapidly, searching for answers. Searching for space in this world. These mysteries of science are of no harm to us. Simply misfits. Their words, a mess of languages, bring no warmth. Misunderstood, the extraterrestrials spend years searching for just one. Careless, the inhabitants almost immediately dismiss the creatures. Faced now with the unique group, the planet will never be the same. Through the twists, they've found no answer. Venture back again, requesting some assent, only to be caught in an endless search for acceptance.
Art by: Suren Siravam
Art by Angelina Venetto Contest Winner at Scholastic Publisher
BIG DOG By Elizabeth Ingolia
She was sick and I knew it. Generally, when an active, young dog lies on the floor for three days straight without getting up to eat, drink, or relieve itself, something is wrong. Her name was Annie, but I always just called her “Big Dog” or “Mutt” instead. She was eight years old, with a pointy-poodle nose and a slender body, covered in tight curls of soft, apricot fur. Her eyes sparkled like tiny black stars through the messy mop of curls that grew atop her head. She had a unique look about her, and a unique personality to match. It was summer. I remember her looking up at me from the cool floor of my bedroom, her eyes afraid and urgent, but still sparkling like always. She still wagged her tail, still lifted her head, but refused to get up. I even resorted to offering her cheese from across the room, which is impossible to resist, even for most humans. But to my disappointment, she was completely disinterested and would not take anything. I told my parents that she didn't seem healthy, that something was definitely wrong, but they kept putting off taking her to the vet. That weekend we had scheduled a workday with my grandma, where I was supposed to spend the night at her house and clean up for her, and that was more important to them than a sick dog. And as reluctant as I was to go, my parents insisted that it would only be a day and that everything would be fine when I returned. “Come on, Liz,” my dad beckoned, swinging his key ring around his index finger while I finished up getting ready. “We gotta go, before it gets too dark.”
“Okay, but you have to promise to take Annie to the vet’s in the mor-” “-Yeah, I will, as soon as I have a day off to work. Let’s go.” Annie, for some reason, had chosen my room as her resting place, so I went back to say goodbye to her before I left for the night. She was in the same position that she had been for the past two days (no surprises there) flopped down on her side on the floor at the foot of my bed. She lifted her head to greet me with sad, sparkly eyes. “Big Dog, what’s wrong?” I cooed, kneeling down to stroke her fluffy head. She pressed her chin down against the smooth wood floor, still looking up at me, as if she was expecting me to do something to help her. “What do you want me to do, huh? What’s wrong?” Realizing that I was short on time, I said goodbye, kissed the top of her pink nose, flicked off the lights, and made my exit. My dad and my brother accompanied me on the drive to my grandma’s house. We arrived within fifteen minutes, and were able to help her clean her dishes and do her laundry before my dad received an alarming phone call. “Yeah, uh-huh, we’ll head home right now.” I could hear the static hum of my mom’s voice through the cheap cellphone speaker. My dad continued to talk. “Yeah, I think they’re open after-hours… I’ll be home soon, uh-huh, yeah, bye.” Apparently my sister had finally noticed our dog’s poor health, and had forced my mom to go in and examine her. They found that her gums were a sickly whitish color, and that the whites of her eyes were tinged yellow. Knowing that something was probably going on with her liver function, I prepared for the worst and told my dad and brother to rush home as quickly as possible.
I wish they had taken me with them. No cleaning got done that night. The next couple of hours were filled with anxious waiting and various stories of my grandma losing past dogs. Her voice seemed to drone on and on as she remembered one dog’s death after another. There’s nothing like trying to remain calm when somebody’s constantly reminding you of the thing you’re worrying about… And then, at last, a text. It was my mom, letting me know that they had taken Annie to the after hours vet for some testing. My dad had rushed her there after she had peed blood, and then proceeded to collapse on the grass at home. She had a high fever and, like I had thought, her organs were failing. Apparently she was going down fast. The vet didn’t know why and was still waiting for the results of the tests. I flipped the keyboard out on my phone, texted, “Keep me posted,” and then told my grandma that I was heading to bed for the night. I took a shower to ease my anxiety, hoping and praying that the vet could fix her. I think at that point I knew that there was nothing they could really do, but I wanted there to be something. I kept telling myself that she would be fine. They would figure something out, right? I didn’t want to lose my dog. She had been with me through some bad moments and was such a source of comfort; I couldn't imagine going home to a house without her. Of course, a few hours later, my mom sent another text. The results of the test showed that Annie’s red blood cell count was basically nonexistent and that her immune system was attacking her organs. The vet defined it as some sort of rare autoimmune disease. The options were either to do blood transfusion after blood transfusion in hopes that it would help, or to put her down. 46
My parents had both chosen to put her down. I was devastated. I knew that they had probably done the right thing, and that she had been in some pretty serious pain beforehand, but I was still overcome with grief. I was angry with myself for not being there to say a final goodbye to my longtime pal, and frustrated that I couldn’t do anything to help her. Upon my request, my dad came to pick me up from my grandma's house a little after midnight. I couldn't stay there, I couldn’t focus on cleaning. I just wanted to go home and disappear for a few weeks. Or months. Or years. My world felt like it had stopped moving. The idea of going home to an empty house, a house without my dog, was surreal. But sure enough, when I walked in the door, there was no Annie to greet me. I think I spent more time crying that night than I did sleeping. There are still reminders of her all over my house. I will occasionally pull something out of my closet and it will be covered in curly, apricot fur, because she shed like crazy, and the hair got everywhere. A little while after she died, we found a few milk bones that she had buried under the couch cushions. Her collar and leash are hanging in the laundry room. Even now, I feel guilty that I wasn’t there when she died. I know that she was a dog, not a human family member or anything. But anyone with half a heart knows that a dog is never just a dog.
Art by: Lauren Rivera
A CRAPPY HIGH SCHOOL PLAY By Gabriela Johnson
Characters: NARRATOR- male, cheerful yet passive aggressive disembodied voice BOY- teenage high school student, quiet and mysterious ‘bad boy’, rebel who gets outstanding grades and is a poet with great self-esteem and an interest in classical literature and extremely talented at playing guitar and writing music, wears leather jacket GIRL- teenage high school student, clumsy but only sometimes, mousey yet beautiful, great student, lots of close friends but no real self-esteem so she’s picked on by the POPULAR GIRLS even though she’s beautiful and highly successful around school TEACHER- middle-aged woman, has both students in the class yet is so oblivious to their growing romance that she’s appalled when they end up together. MOTHER OF GIRL- sweet, understanding, fairly normal, typically interrupting a conversation or monologue midway to fit protective mom role. FATHER OF GIRL- school principle, stoic, disapproving of relationships at all costs FRIEND OF GIRL- teenage girl, quiet sidekick of the GIRL, only present at the end of the story. THE POPULAR GUY- teenager, athlete, football quarterback star THE POPULAR GIRLS- a small group of 3 or 4, doesn’t really matter although one must be appointed leader, and they all must be blonde and adorned in pink and glitter because apparently that’s popular 48
Setting A high school. The present. Lights up to an empty stage. Students holding backpacks walking and chatting in groups begin to fill the stage as disembodied narration begins. NARRATOR We set the scene in a modern high school hallway. The students lollygag and gossip before class starts. Here the story begins, an annoying stereotypical love story between a teen boy and a girl. I’m here to guide you along the way, although everything that happens from here on out is quite basic and rather predictable. So, sit back, relax, and ill wake you up when it’s over. (School bell rings out) Act 1, Scene 1. (As this is spoken, BOY is revealed to be sitting in a corner, listening to headphones, sketching in a notebook. GIRL enters holding many books though her backpack is clearly empty and walks through other students without looking up, (a.k.a a disaster is waiting to happen). As students rush off stage, BOY and GIRL bump into one another scattering books across the floor. They bend over to pick them up and their hands meet.) BOY Oh sorry. Guess I didn’t see you there. GIRL Oh, it-it’s fine. Uh-I’m used to people not seeing me.
BOY Well, that’s strange, I think, you’re beautiful. (Awkwardly pushed her hair behind her ear) GIRL (Unnecessary pause) Wow, thank you! I’ve never gotten complimented, ever. You just became the sweetest guy I’ve ever met! BOY I mean, I’ve never really noticed you until now, but that’s probably only because I’m always in corners, wearing beanies, writing poetry and music, being mysterious and whatnot. GIRL I love music! You just became the sweetest, most artistic, most talented guy I’ve ever met. BOY Thanks. I have also never been complimented so your opinion means a whole lot to me. Maybe not as much as mine meant to you, but close. Wait, you like music? You’re so different from other girls. GIRL Yeah, I don’t wear a whole lot of pink so I guess I’m not popular. Maybe it’s because I read a book every now and then… BOY A girl? That reads?
GIRL Yeah, weird right? BOY Yes, completely. Apparently teenagers in high school reading is unheard of… but I like it! You know, you like music. You must really get me. Want to go out sometime? GIRL With you? But you’re wearing a leather jacket! I’m not poplar girl. 50
(Enter the POPULAR GIRLS headed by their leader. They walk by the couple making comments about the girl’s attire and push her books down once again.) BOY I know you’re not popular. I also don’t mean an actual date. I was thinking of throwing pebbles at your window really late at night so maybe we could talk or something. (School bell rings. TEACHER appears across the stage.) TEACHER BOY! There you are! Typical for you to be late for class. BOY Actually, this is my first tardy this year. In my defense, it’s the first day of school
TEACHER (Sarcastically) Of Course it is! Well, you got detention young man. It’s that leather jacket! Its makes you look like you are up to trouble. BOY Well I’m not. Just talking to this girl, (pause for effect) the most perfect girl in the world. You see I’m in love. (Turns to GIRL) I know we’ve only known each other for a short amount of time, it feels like 5 minutes, but I know you’re the one. GIRL Oh, you couldn’t possibly fall in love with a girl like me. I’m just plain old me. I read for God’s sake! BOY You’re all I’ve ever wanted! But if we’re going to elope, we’ve got to do it now!
GIRL This is all happening so fast! I think I’m pregnant. (Pregnant pause) NARRATOR Ahh, always my favorite part to stop the scene. Such a high intensity moment in any stereotypical teenage girl’s life: getting asked out for the first time. Although, this one seemed a bit more intense than any other occurrence would be. Moving on to the date! Or shall I say, the forbidden date? Really, no one cares, let’s just move on. I’ll set the scene, the outside of GIRL’s house, 2am, he’s right on time. (Meanwhile, a small setup is being prepared to represent a bedroom in a house, and the yard down below.) BOY (Throwing pebbled at her window) Hey, you up? (GIRL Appears at window in pjs looking like a more accurate and realistic mess) GIRL Oh! You’re here! Uh, it might take me a minute to get ready, I guess, but I’ll be right down! Just let meBOY No need for that! I wrote you a song! (Boy pulls out a guitar and breaks out into raspy grunge metal melody.) BOY (CONT.) “The stars, your eyes, the moon, in my dreams we fly, away. . . Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby . . .” 52
(Floodlights turn on and GIRL’s parents appear) FATHER OF GIRL What’s going on out here? (Looks at BOY) I know you boy! You’re that Johnson boy that hangs out at the Dairy Queen! BOY Actually, I’m lactose intolerant and gluten free. I wouldn’t be caught dead at a DG! I’m offended.
FATHER OF GIRL Oh, then, pardon me. But get off my property before I call the police! BOY But, sir, I’m in love with your daughter! MOTHER OF GIRL I remember my first romance, it seems like such a long time ago. Life was different back then… (Continues to babble) FATHER OF GIRL (Cutting her off) There’s no time for that now! You better get going, son. By the look of that leather, you aren’t good enough to date my daughter. GIRL (Still interjecting form the window) Mom! Dad! Enough! I love him and nothing you say can change my mind.
FATHER OF GIRL I simply won’t allow it. GIRL Gosh, dad! I’m 16 years old you can’t tell me what to do, I’m not a child. (Cue soft melodramatic music: lights dim)
GIRL (CONT.) I know you want me to be that little girl that used to play hop GIRL (CONT.) scotch in the yard, but I’m a woman now, dad! (Long pause, father begins to quietly sob, breaking stoic persona and revealing classic dad reaction to puberty)
GIRL (CONT.) I’ve got my own ideas and emotion! I’ve got needs, dad! (Scene pauses and actors freeze.) NARRATOR Stop! Stop! Ugh, my least favorite part of the play! So dramatic. Goodnight, go to bed, its two in the morning. I don’t want to hear it. No one wants to hear it. So we move on to the third and final act: the breakup.
(Resetting the stage for the school hallway. Once again, students socialize in the hallway, purposely ignoring the dramatic conversation between BOY and GIRL. Throughout unison lines the actors gesture and sob.) BOY AND GIRL UNSION It’s not you it’s me. We really rushed into things and, I don’t know. I’m just not ready for someone as great as you. I’ve got a lot of growing up to do and I don’t want to hold you back in any way. There are plenty of other fish in the sea. YOLO, you know? GIRL Wait, so we’re breaking up. It’s that easy? It’s not at all the same as things they show on TV. All those movies and plays makes everything so dramatic, it’s ridiculous! 54
BOY Yeah. It’s so unfortunate that we had to break up so soon. I would’ve really liked to get to know you. You inspired my music in ways I never thought possible. You read and like music! That’s amazing. Though we only knew each other briefly, you’ll always be a very important person to me. I’d love to stay friends. GIRL Wow, yeah, me too. It’s nice to know I’ll always have someone to help pick my books up whenever I’m feeling down. BOY Well, it’s been swell meeting you. By the way, I, uh, never got your name. GIRL How classic of me! Always so forgetful. My name is – (POPULAR BOY enters loudly and obnoxiously) POPULAR BOY Hey shawty! How’s about me and you hit up the cafeteria and I’ll buy you a soda pop? (GIRL melts immediately and follows POULAR BOY offstage, heartlessly abandoning BOY. BOY pops leather jacket collar and turns, immediately bumping into FRIEND OF GIRL. The stack of books she was carrying sprawl across the hall. When they bend over to pick them up, their hands touch.) BOY Oh, sorry. Guess I didn’t see you there.
FRIEND OF GIRL Oh, it-it’s fine. Uh-I’m used to people not seeing me. I’m usually a sidekick. I’m a friend of that girl, over there! (Points toward GIRL who stands dreamily next to POPULAR GUY who’s surrounded by POPULAR GIRLS) BOY Well, that’s strange, I think, you’re beautiful. (Awkwardly pushes her hair behind her ear) GIRL Uhm, don’t touch me. (Actors exit stage.)
Art by: Erix Pizano 56
WRATH By Natalie Mannino
To wrap your hands Around her neck To hold her Until her last breath To read the last words As it comes from her lips And falls out on To the obituaries; A testament to her life To clean your hands of blood, To rinse away the guilt And to remember why, Why you did what You had to do To wrap your hands Around her neck To hold her… Until her last...
Art by Lourdes Hohmann
Art by Kiona Edwards
Art by Amber Gottfried
Art by Riley Murray
THE BOOK By Kaitlin Burkhart
The book opens when you breathe for the first time Filled with pages of empty space Not filling the pages is a crime As the words appear when your life takes place As your life begins, events carry on New words will be written and the story will grow In your head pictures will be drawn Of friends you make and places you go Mistakes you will make are still written down And you can’t erase them away Every single verb and noun Is there for you to reflect upon everyday
Your stories contents are up to you It just depends in what direction you take it to.
WORKMEN By Christina Ramazzato
The men worked well, in a timely manner. Each labored enough for double their pay, but stayed content with what they were given. All for the sake of maintaining a delusional comfort. They assumed that if heads were kept bent over each broken cry, and every job was buried under booze, a strange type of innocence could be preserved. That was their attempt at keeping sane. They told themselves it was only a few more years, and then they’d have enough money to move on. As long as they didn’t act unsure around the boss, who would often pay a visit. He didn’t speak, he watched. The only noise in the hall would come from his shoes clicking on the yellowed tile and music that echoed from the rusted speakers, music that was more static than melody. Mr. Frederick Shire had just started that day. The first steps through those doors made his stomach turn like every man before him. After all, nobody grows up wanting to do this. But beggars can’t be choosers. And in that economy, everyone was a beggar. The inspection had come as a surprise, and since nobody wanted to waste their time with a trainee in front of the boss, he was left with a simple position. Sign-in clerk: he was promised it would only be temporary. As the work bell tolled, the obsolete began to file in. They each leaned on their personal escorts, whose white uniforms were still clean and stiff. By closing time, they would be stained with tears from those who had given up and Midazolam from those who hadn’t. The escorts themselves matched in more ways than the uniform. Each had worked behind counters and machines for years before ending up here. It showed clearly in each wrinkle, in each silver hair and hunched pair of shoulders. Their skin was grey and dull, scarred by the clawing of desperate hands and roughened by the daily disinfections. And if you
met one, you would find yourself meeting one of those rare types of people. The type that is just as ugly on the inside as they are on the outside. If Mr. Shire had known that day where he too would wind up, he would have walked right out those doors and continued to starve on the snowy streets. He would have been happy to. But losing your soul was not in the job description. Besides, it happened so gradually that most of the workmen just attributed it to the wear of life. Very few caught on, and by the time they did, they didn’t care enough to tell anyone. So everyday Mr. Shire came in, his distaste for the job fading little by little. For the first few weeks, he signed people in. Upon proving he could do that well enough, he was set to work behind the medication counters. Here he supplied sedatives and aspirin to his colleagues. Eager to escape meniality, Mr. Shire was actually excited for his next promotion, machinery specialist. This is where he got to learn a few trade secrets. He had always assumed that it happened quickly, that they didn’t feel a thing, but that sadly wasn’t the truth, even though it easily could be. The deaths were slow and painful for no other reason that if they weren’t, it would be boring. It was so much more fun to press each key, to program each movement of the equipment and watch as those deemed out-of-date screamed and writhed on the cold metal table. Mr. Shire came to work each day, enjoyed the feel of money in his pocket, and tried to drown the memories each night. Eventually, the truth no longer sickened him and he realized why the escorts had stayed until they couldn’t leave, until he became one himself. There his mind could slip away as he worked. In that job, there was nothing left to do but think; think of all the wide eyes and hollow screams until he himself was declared obsolete.
BLOCKED By Michael Dailey
He crumpled a piece of paper in his frustrated hands and threw the ball of disappointment into the pile of other disappointments. One poem after another found its final resting place by the trashcan that was now overflowing. The clock ticked impatiently above him, wagging its second hand in disapproval. His forehead met the glass desk for the hundredth time that night. On his desk lay a menacing black cube. The cube had a ghoulish green glow to it and a light smoke danced around the cube’s faces.
You only have to write two pages, that’s not so hard is it? He leaned his head back in his chair and stared at the blank paper before him. Anything that came to mind was quickly discarded, as it was deemed boring or stupid. He wrote sentence of a zombie story, and felt proud for making it to the second line of the page. Then he remembered how overdone zombie stories are and struck the idea with the end of his pencil. Part of him felt the box judging him as it sat quietly overlooking his workspace.
What about something about love? He channeled his inner Nicholas Sparks and wrote the sappiest love story a high schooler could write. To get in the mood he played Taylor Swift’s entire discography on repeat. By the time he reached her Red album he had made it to the end of the first page, and his writing started to come to a standstill. Four breakups and a prom dance later, he realized this wasn’t him at all, and did away with the love story.
Did you really think that was a good idea? He was becoming discouraged, and dejectedly he lay his pencil down. Nothing was working. He found premade writing prompts online and attempted to formulate some sort of response. In-
stead, he just read the other writers’ responses and sulked, wishing he had the ability to write like them. He clicked through prompt after prompt until all the links on the Google page were purple.
I bet everyone turned their piece in already. He had become exhausted. What had he done to deserve such an awful punishment? Why had the wretched Writer’s Block chosen him? He glared at the cube staring back at him. The Writer’s Block fed on his exhaustion; it loved to see him suffer. The cube was an expert at what it did, and the boy swore he could feel it grinning at his frustration.
Just write about the first thing that comes to mind! Taking his own advice, he began to write about the first thing that came to his mind: how nothing had been coming to mind. He described his trials and gave emotion and life to the hours he had spent stuck with the Writer’s Block. As his ideas danced onto the page he realized the cube that had been glaring at him all night was beginning to fade away. When he reached the end of his paper, he triumphantly slammed his pencil down and admired his work. He took one final look at the cube and caught a glimpse of it just before it disappeared.
THE FOREST OF DECAY By Jessie Bryant
A creeping road lead her deeper and deeper into an unfamiliar place. It twisted like a single coil wrapped within an intricate design, and broke between the forest like an unwanted guest, with its jagged edges and narrow sides. Broad, lengthy trees outstretched their limbs over the road, capturing it from the night as it graced its opaque glow onto the earth. This road had been untraveled for sometime now; the vegetation from the bushes seeped out onto the asphalt, and enormous roots had begun to peak between some of the gravel, leaving the surface full of holes. And everything was silent-not even the wind dared to ruffle the leaves. She had yet to notice the silence, however, as she listened to the quiet music pouring from her stereo. The relaxing sound of some upbeat tune slightly helped ease her nerves as she traveled farther down the road. Somehow, she always found a way to get lost. Whether she blamed it on her poor sense of direction, or lack of common sense, she always found herself in these situations; driving around aimlessly, close to tears. On cue, frustration began to override her nervousness as the road stretched on and on, winding down and down. She had thought this road might have been a back route- a quicker way to get home from her dull, mind-numbing job. But that wasn’t the case. She had noticed the tiny, dark entrance to the road before, but never had an interest in checking it out. However, today, when an awful accident blocked her usual route, she thought she might give it a try. Regret filled her with each passing second. Eventually, her patience neared its peak, and she stopped. “Wasted five miles worth of gas for nothing,” she exhaled, as
she prepared to make a quick turn around in the middle of the street. As she maneuvered the car around and started another five miles back to where she came, she caught a glimpse of something in her rearview mirror. Without stopping, she glanced back to identify what she may have seen, but all that reflected back was lanky tree limbs and darkness. Completely annoyed, she listened to the stereo once more and tired to focus on the winding, bumpy trek ahead of her, until she saw something at the end of the nearest bend. She blinked a few times, squinting to see what was leaking about between the trees. She couldn’t distinguish the certain color or shape or form of what it was- it was like watching fog collect above a body of water. She was so distracted by the approaching shape that she hadn’t noticed the sudden absence of the music- but at the same time, she was not distracted enough, for the flash that whipped across her rearview mirror caught her cautious glance, once more. Because of that split second missed, she hadn’t been paying attention to the absence of her foot on the brake. And when the white fog- now a shape that registered as a human form- appeared in front of her speeding car, she had no time to stop before she plowed into it. It happened so quickly, the girl had barely enough time to allow a panicked breath release from her lungs. When the car jolted to a stop, leaving a long trail of black skid marks along the jagged asphalt, she cursed under her breath. For a long moment, she sat there, both hands on the wheel with nails digging into the leather, only hearing her heartbeat in her ears but expecting agonizing screams or cries from the person she had just hit. Eventually, the girl swallowed the lump that had crawled its way up her throat, and exited the car cautiously, fighting tears. 66
Slowly, she drug her feet, peeking to the front with a cautious gaze. However, expecting to find a bloody, mangled body, she met her undented, unscratched and unfazed front bumper. The only evidence of what had just happened, was her memory and the crippling fear consuming her entire being. The girl peered about, carefully looking around and above the car, searching to find anything- maybe some blood, a shoe, a tooth, something to let her know that what just happened wasn’t a part of her imagination. She couldn’t decide whether she was happy or more afraid that she was finding nothing. The air grew colder with each passing second she spent outside, beside the trees. The wind passing between the limbs created a haunting sound- like hushed, muffled human screams, and brushed against her skin like decayed breath. Somehow, even with the moon still full in the sky, the road had grown darker. Hugging herself tightly, she hurried to her car, giving up and more disturbed than she had been before. She had found nothing, so she convinced herself there was nothing, and that was that. She readjusted the radio so it was playing soft tunes again, yet the sound seemed familiar, and did not calm her as it had before. Between the chorus of whatever song it was and the mellow beat of the instruments, there was a haunting noise breaking between the melody. Oddly enough, it sounded like the wind had sounded when it passed between the forests… so she turned it off. Immediately she locked the doors and laid her foot down on the gas, wanting nothing more than to get out of there. As surreal as it felt, a nasty feeling settled in her gut. A feeling that told her she was not safe- not in this unusually cool car on this strange, jagged road. The nasty feeling grew bigger and bigger; a ball of thorns col-
lecting in her stomach, stabbing her from the inside. It told her to turn around and look in the backseat, but she couldn’t bear to. She gripped the steering wheel and pressed onto the gas harder, going so fast the rugged, cut edges of the dark forest became a black blanket around her, somehow trying to escape this feeling that someone- possibly the person she had hit- was sitting behind her, waiting for their gazes to meet. But now that someone must be inches from her, because something oddly warm caressed her neck- a breath. It leaked from a decaying mouth, smelling like rotting lungs, and fell down to her collarbones, where it coiled around the air. The nails of a painful scream embedded themselves into her throat as she fought the urge to turn around. Tears welled in her eyes, from the stench and from the fear consuming her. But it wasn’t enough. When the chorus of the haunted screams whispered into her ears, and the blazing hot brush of someone's fingertips grazed her shoulder, she found herself yanking the wheel to the right as hard as she could- mostly out of fright, and a last ditch effort to save herself- and her car ran off of the road, and was devoured by the trees instantly.
Art by Matthew Balkum 68
RIDGES AND SCARS By Anonymous
I saw her in autumn and as I watched her leaves fell into me I saw how much more beautiful she was without leaves than with them telling stories of days long gone through her ridges and scars that I soon became a scholar in studying the marks late at night under the moonlight but still shrouded in darkness I came back every night because I liked the way it felt as if she could read me while I read her because I liked the way it felt as if I was becoming more of her and she was becoming more of me rooted to the ground in her ways but still branching out to me only to trap me in a forest of her thoughts so dark and mysterious neither her ridges nor her scars could explain I came back one night to find no forest no trees where she used to stand I found a small pile of sticks sheltering a single seed that I planted where she used to stand
I came back every night and sat by the planted seed watching and hoping that it would grow but it never did.
Art by Madi Maha
BLANK By Madi Maha
You are my sunshine... I remember left-footed waltzing In condensation of cotton candy At the back of a rusty carnival cart And when the painted smile on my face wasn't a lie
My only sunshine... I was your blackbird the Beatles sang about And two birds of a feather Were supposed to stay together ‘Till I had to leave the nest
You make me happy... Wait. This isn't right, you shouldn't have this mental trick Upon your temple Kings are supposed to be rulers in a strong hearty line With the stories you always read starting with, "Once Upon A Time"
When skies are gray... Daddy's little girl doesn't know how to react Demons and thoughts keep screaming with every heart attack The words to sing get choked up in my throat You always did it for me when I couldn't stay afloat
You'll never know dear... Why was I the last thing we spoke of as you told me to fly The surgery was scheduled as planned, you weren't supposed to die The doctors came and told my family Barely able to mutter that they were sorry
How much I love you... What happened to safety What happened to home What happened to the little girl
Who feels all alone
Please don't take... The bleeding got too heavy For your fragile lungs Blood wasn't supposed to go there Or anywhere it went besides your heart being the only one.
My... When I lost half of me, I started to go numb The world could never understand The trouble that’s been done Memories I made phantoms Music I made noise I guess I'm not really good at these goodbyes
Sunshine... They all tell me you wouldn't want to see your girl in space For her to still know, she's always sunshine like her name They'll never know the meaning Of things you were always singing.
Away... I guess I didn't either.. ‘Till the right time But one thing here still echoes That little nursery rhyme To that little girl you sang it to Every Single Time.
DRAGONS AND FLIES By Cela Sosa
Dragons fluttered in controlled panic learning to cope with their fly-sized bodies and trying to find a place of peace, when they’re calmed enough to land on the arm of innocence they spread their luck selflessly. And then they’re off again...
Art by Jillian Montanino
WE WEAR THE SAME SHOES By Angelo Casiano
We wear the same shoes we walk the same way we do the same things from Mon-through-Sunday We joke the same jokes we do the same do's and we don't the same don’ts because we wear the same shoes We talk the same way, yes we talk very loudly and we show off our struts as we show ourselves proudly
We puff out our chests and we walk with long strides to show those who don't know who's low and who's high We dislike the same people and hate them, need be if those people have different opinions than we People come to us with ideas that are oh-so confusing so they must be wrong or else their thoughts would be more amusing But we do love the same things and it's things that we love 74
the shoes, watches, and shiny red gloves! And cars and phones and things shoved in boxes and coats made from the fur of Northern Red foxes Oh how much I love things they make me so glad! And they do well at distracting me from the fact that I'm sad I mean my life is so lit and so hype- you all know it but I don't like to go through life completely not knowing
I have such large questions in the back of my head and I expect to find someone like-minded but instead I got my "bro" saying, "Come on, you're not that guy. We wear the same shoes so you're not that much different than I." He says, "Here have a beer or two," and admittedly I do but there still remains a question: Why do we wear the same shoes? I guess they do well in wet rainy weather
but who on earth would want to wear shoes with no socks made of leather? I'm tired of being mean to those who are kind-hearted and I swear it's not me it's the shoes that start it! And it's not like I can go anywhere that I choose because other people don't like the guys who wear the same shoes But from all the shoes I'm quite a unique pair! I like poetry and nature and sometimes I just sit and stare
at the thousand of stars that dazzle the night sky and maybe if I'm lucky I’ll see a star shoot on by So I guess I'm stuck here in the land of shoes all the same I can't help feeling like this is all but a game But you still have a chance you can go in any direction you choose! but remember to look around and make sure you're all not wearing the same shoes
SKINNY By Emma Stevens
The word skinny should not have held so much power over me. Yet, I strived everyday, because that is all I ever wanted to be, I forced my throat close and my hands to stop grabbing for food. I was so far in denial that I couldn’t even see a way out Because I didn’t care about the consequences. I had to be skinny. I needed to be skinny. “Being that skinny doesn’t seem healthy.” “Why don’t you eat something?” “You look like a bag of bones.” “You’re too skinny.” Skinny. I was too skinny. My eyes were sunken in, My ribs jutted out of me like a corpse, I looked like a walking cadaver, which fit how I felt. It’s a stupid word, because how is being skinny worth it? I live in a first world country but ate like I belonged in a third. My innocence had been stolen by a word that means nothing. Modern day beauty is defined by curves but fitting into a zero. A flat stomach is an urban legend, thigh gaps are wasted space. I rather be strong and happy that what I see isn’t a society zero. Someone who isn’t exactly, Skinny.
Art by Haley Cuervo
Art by Galen Shila
Art by Galen Shila
ALZHEIMER’’S By Lexi Velte
My nurse always enters my room with a knock and a smile on her face. Even with my eyes closed, I can feel her cheerful energy filling the room. I remember her name- Theresa- and how she said that she was named after her grandmother. I slowly open my eyes to see her grinning face as she trills, “Good morning, sunshine!” Theresa turns around to open my closet, and I see the dark, intricate braids wrapped around her head. I remember that she told me it takes hours to get them done. She is dressed in white scrubs with a pattern of dainty, little blue flowers scattered across, and I remember that blue is her favorite color. “Have you run through your checklist today?” she asks me while holding up two shirts for me to choose from. “The purple one,” I respond, “and I’m still working on the checklist.” I remember that purple is my favorite color. “Alright, well, while you do that, I’m just gonna fill you in on the schedule for today. It’s Wednesday, so Jim is coming at the normal time.” She pauses, waiting for me to check off the corresponding facts. I remember that Jim is the man who visits me twice a week. I remember that he is also my husband. I nod, which she takes as a sign to continue. “You have knitting as your activity today, are you okay with that?” I smile and nod again. Knitting is something that I’ll never forget. Putting needles and yarn together comes as instinctively to me as eating or drinking. “And you are also going to have an extra visiting session today; it’s been a while since you’ve seen them, so I’ll give you a little reminder. Julie, your oldest daughter, will be coming to see you, along with her husband Michael and your granddaughter Louise.” She gives me a moment to take that in. 80
I don’t remember my life before I came here. I don’t remember getting married or buying a house, and I don’t remember being a mother and watching my kids grow up. But they remember every moment that we’ve spent together. It breaks my heart when my children come to visit me, because while Jim has become used to my forgetfulness, my children haven’t. No amount of mental preparation can prepare them for the fact that their mother does not remember the sleepovers they had their best friends, the awards they won in science fairs and sports games, their first dates or school dances. It’s as if their entire lives have not taken place, because to me, it feels like they haven't’. “You know how I feel about that, Theresa,” I say quietly after a moment. She helps me with the buttons on my blouse. “I know you don’t remember them, sweetheart, but they love you and care about you. They just want to make sure you’re doing alright.”
“They can just call here, or ask Jim.” The only thing they’ll gain from coming here to visit me is sorrow and unpleasant memories. “It’ll be fine, I promise. Now, come on, let’s get you some breakfast.” I take a deep breath. Her smile is contagious, and I can’t help but return it with one of my own. At 11:00, it’s time for the first visiting session of the day. As I make my way to the sitting room, I already see the top of Jim’s head, just a few wisps of hair away from being bald. I sit down, and he waits while my eyes take in his face, forcing my mind to find recognition in the laugh lines and creases pressed deep into the skin. I remember that he has a quiet kindness about him, shown through his few words and rare smiles. He takes my arthritic hand in his, twisting around the wedding band I still keep on my finger. We sit in a comfortable silence, the love I used to feel for him now taking the form of familiarity and un-
derstanding. “I’m guessing they told you that the kids are coming today,” he says after a while. I nod. He gives me a wry smile. “I told them that you were fine. I know how you feel about them coming to see you.” I grimace. “I just wish that it wasn’t like this. It isn’t fair to you. I hate hurting you all like this.” “You aren’t hurting me,” he says quietly, his eyes glancing at my face before quickly flitting away. We both know that he is lying, but the visiting session is over. “I’ll knit a new blanket. It’s supposed to be a cold winter,” I tell him in place of a goodbye. He nods, and I leave to go to my activity. Knitting is where I feel at home. My knitting needles feel like extensions of my arms, my movements as natural as breathing. While I’m not able to share my love with those in my life through reminiscing about good times we’ve had together, I can share it by making something special for them during my activity time. Theresa keeps me updated on important birthdays and holidays so that I can make something special for everyone that the old me loved and cared for. I’ve made pastel sweaters for grandchildren I’ve never met, patterned tablemats for my children when they bought their first homes, a floral scarf for Theresa on Christmas, a soft blanket for Jim on our anniversary last year. It feels like a way to make up for all the pain I’ve caused, and it’s a good way to pass time. I close my eyes and let my hands do their work. It feels like I’ve only just begun knitting when Theresa comes to bring me to the second visiting session. All of the relaxation I felt only moments before melts away into a bubbling anxiety as I remember that I have to go see my daughter and her family now. I watch as my trembling hands seem to move on their 82
own, folding the first few rows of Jim’s blanket and placing my knitting needles into my bin. Theresa places a comforting hand on my arm. “They know what to expect, hun. I’ve met Julia; she’s a really sweet girl. She understands what you’re going through, so don’t worry about this, okay?” I nod and force a smile onto my face. I hope she’s right. Afternoon visiting sessions are always busier than the morning ones. Grown-up children sitting with their elderly parents fill the space. I let my eyes roam the room until I spot a woman with curly brown hair; a tall, thin man; and a little blond child. This is a trick that I taught myself- look for the people without a resident already with them. I lift the corners of my mouth in greeting, hoping that they believe my feigning recognition. Theresa gives me a quick pat on the back before sending me on my way. I feel like a child riding a bike whose training wheels have just been taken off. “Hi, Mom,” the woman greets me hesitantly, getting up to help me into a seat. She’s unsure whether to smile or not, her face a mask of indecision. I quickly try to take in this woman who is supposed to be my daughter, trying to force my mind to remember her round face and large brown eyes that are so much like my own. “Hi, Julia, how are you?” I ask, trying to sound as enthusiastic as possible. I must have been convincing, because she finally grins. “I’m doing really well, Mom. I’d like to introduce you- er, reintroduce you- to my husband Michael and our daughter Louise.” Michael shakes my hand. “It’s really good to see you.” I return the sentiment before turning towards Louise. “How old are you, Louise?” She darts behind her father’s chair so that only her dark blond
curls are visible. Her mother chuckles. “She’s five. She acts like she’s younger, though.” This is where a normal mother would say, “I remember when you were that age,” and launch into a story about her daughter’s childhood. But I’m not a normal mother, and I can’t provide any relevant anecdotes, so I just say, “She’s precious.” The rest of the visit passes smoothly, just a woman and her much younger acquaintances having a bit of small talk. I learn that my daughter is a middle school teacher and that my son-in -law is a car salesman. Louise is attending kindergarten at the school my children attended. I had almost forgotten my fears from before, but then Louise decides to peek her head around the chair and speak up. “I came to see you when I was four.” She holds up four fingers to accentuate her point. “Do you remember me?” Julie and her husband grow very still, Julie’s mouth trying to frame words that would never be enough to make up for the fact that I don’t remember her. My hands start to shake, so I quickly place them on my lap. “Well, Louise, I recognize you now. You look just like your parents.” I smile, trying to pretend like the tension settling around the table isn’t there. It’s impossible to return to the carefree chitchat that we were having previously, and the next twenty minutes feel like hours. Finally the visiting session ends and Theresa comes to rescue me. I hug the strangers who are supposed to be my family and ask them to write, though we both know the only letters they’ll be sending to me will be their Christmas cards in December. “I love you,” I tell to the three people I met today, hoping that they won’t see through my lie. If I don’t want it to be a lie, then does that make it the truth? I’m quiet tonight as Theresa gets me ready for bed. She’s been 84
careful not to press me about my visit with the family. She sets out my pills, reminding me what each one is for, and then hands me a glass of water. “Bottoms up,” she says with a wink. I smile weakly before swallowing each capsule. “Thank you for taking such good care of me, Theresa.” “Of course, doll.” Before she turns out the lights, she sits on the edge of my bed, singing me to sleep with a song about cowboys and highways and sweet baby James. As she gets up to leave, she brushes my hair out of my face, whispering, “Goodnight.” She closes the door silently behind her. Sleep takes me quickly, my late night fears swept away before I get the chance to dwell on them. I dream of a life that in my consciousness I don’t remember, a life of walks on the beach and flip flops and bike rides and tans. I dream of my Jim, my strong, kindhearted Jim. I dream of my happy children- Julia, Andrew, and Ruth. I dream of a cloudy day, dragging all our bikes outside, ignoring the groans that ensue. I promise to make brownies for dessert, and my children grudgingly agree to come along. We ride through the neighborhood, silently relishing in the breeze and the feeling that we’re flying. Even Ruth can’t hide her elation as we ring our bells at the waving neighbors. When we arrive back at the house, everyone pitches in to help bake dessert, even though my ‘helpers’ eat more than they assist. We all go to bed that night with full bellies and happy faces. I curl into Jim’s side and close my eyes. My nurse always enters my room with a knock and a smile on her face. Even with my eyes closed, I can feel her cheerful energy filling the room. But this morning, I can’t seem to remember her name.
FEBRUARY 26TH, 11:16PM By Ashton Tejeda
That night I ran into the open field and collapsed Like all the weight of my worries couldn't be held back anymore By the shield I put up in my brain. I lay on the cold earth sobbing, Every emotion leaving my body like waves. The rise and fall of my chest shook my body As I tried to stop crying but I couldn't. I laid on my back and looked up at the stars. I felt so small, So insignificant. How dare someone say that I matter If when I look up at the thousands of stars in the sky My brain can barely count the ones in front of me? How dare someone say that I mean something When the feeling of coldness through my bones Was the only thing I felt in a long time? The moisture from the grass seeped into my hair and clothes And had my body shivering in between sobs And choking inhales of breath. It's so hard. It's so hard to survive the day When I can't even look at my own reflection Without a look of disgust on my face. It's so hard to survive the day When every other consuming thought in my head Was what I had done to you? It's so hard to survive the day Not knowing if this was the last day I was able to survive. I am a freshly picked flower. 86
Portraying a look of beauty and joy When it's slowly withering away Due to lack of nutrients. I'm slowly wilting as I try to perceive my life as happy and free. My petals are falling one by one to the ground And soon enough it will show the truth Of the decay I'm going through. I need to be replanted. I need the brown soil to surround me in safety. I need the refreshment of water to rehydrate my roots. I need the brightness of the sun To bring back the warmth in my life I need you. I need you to hold me in your arms, And tell me what I did to you broke your heart. I need you to tell me that you forgive me I need you to tell me that you understand That what I did to you was unintentional. Those words I said were the result of dried out roots And lack of soil to support my wilting stem. I need you to tell me that I'm going to be okay I need you to tell me that days spent lying in bed Talking about our future meant the world to you. Your touch could bring the warmth back into my life. I need your gentle hands to replant my roots And water me with your affection again. Until then I'll remain a single picked flower on the earth Waiting for someone to replant me again. And show me how the warmth of equally returned love Could feel in my life once more.
SMART MAN By Thais Jacomassi
Her presence was not one to be ignored. He could just imagine the platinum of her middle parted hair swinging from elbow to elbow. A beige satin dress clung to her body and a white fur coat hung off her shoulders. He could hear the heels of her sky high stilettos and the chilling screech of her axe dragging behind her. Her Colgate smile was bright as she passed all the rooms in the dimly lit hallway, hearing all the tortured and their tormentors. The cement beneath her feet was stained with dried blood and the walls beside her had now gotten to a rusted brown with yellows. Once she entered the concrete room, the only thing to capture her attention was the bloody pulp of a man sat in the middle. The silence filled room put an edge to her usually arrogant demeanor. She enjoyed listening to the whimpers, pained cries and hushed prayers that were so commonly heard. The man was silent and his posture made him seem composed. A dark aura surrounded him, which she had picked up on when she had first entered the room. His fists clenched making his knuckles turn white and his wrists were bloody from the ropes digging into his skin. Hazel eyes were as sharp as his jaw line. She propped her axe at the door and stalked towards the silent man, placing her forearms on the armrests of the chair so their faces were merely inches apart. “Do you trust me?” Her voice taunting and her eyes bright with amusement. The man met her eyes and with an uplift of the left corner off his lip he uttered a ‘No.’ Her smile only widened and she let out a breathy chuckle as she heard the sharpening of knives in the rooms surrounding them. “Smart man.” She glided back to the door to pick up her stained axe. A new 88
one would be in need very soon. The silver had begun to chip off around the edges from all the damage that it had caused. A long sigh escaped her as the silence only grew louder. “Well, lucky for you, I like to do things quickly,” She said over her shoulder as she trailed her fore finger along the pointed edge of the weapon. “Not quickly enough.” She didn’t have a chance to turn around before she felt a piercing pain in her stomach where a knife had stabbed her. The crimson color spread across the satin of her dress as she was pushed onto the floor, landing on her back. Her breathing was becoming heavier by the second. The man’s face stayed emotionless as he stared at her shaking figure as she attempted to put pressure on the wound. His eyes darted to the right, landing on the fallen axe. That made him smile. It felt strange in his hands, a bit heavier than what he usually used. He placed it above his head and looked down at his target. His grin was something to die for. “I guess this is where I say something witty...” He paused for a minute before shaking his head. “I’m not witty.” And now that he had the last word in, he brought the axe down between her grey eyes and brought it back with a jolt. The blood had now spread and stained the floor and walls around them. He opened the door and began his way down the hallway with the loud screech of the axe following behind him.
UNKNOWN By Anonymous
A past that won’t liberate me. A future that escapes me. A present that deprives me. It is as if the world hates me. Memories compress me. Possibilities are nonexistent to me. Life takes everything from me. I have no identity. I am an essence that is not seen nor comprehended, and therefore lost since there is no remembrance of me. There is no legacy. No actuality. And no testimony.
Art by Sage Whitney 90
THE STEINBRENNER ECHO LITERARY MAGAZINE The Echo, Volume 5 Issue II was student produced by The Echo staff at Steinbrenner High School. The writing and artwork pieces that are featured in this issue were submitted by Steinbrenner students and teachers and were anonymously reviewed by The Echo staff members. The layout was designed in Microsoft Publisher 2013 by layout editor Emma Stevens. The Echo is a member of the Florida Scholastic Press Association. PTSA provided a portion of funds used to create the magazine. The magazines were sold for $5.00 each. Visit us online at steinbrennerecho.com to see an extended version of the magazine. Steinbrenner High School 5575 W Lutz Lake Fern Rd, Lutz, FL 33558
“CREATIVITY IS THE GREATEST REBELLION IN EXISTENCE” -OSHO ”I was thinking of throwing pebbles at your window really late at night so maybe we could talk or something.” - A Crappy High School Play “It's hard to be a patriot In a country that only wants to knock you down In a country where you're considered a member of the failed generation In a country where your future is at stake But you don't even get a say” -”It’s Hard to Be a Patriot “ “Why doesn’t she drop the act already? No matter what you do or say, she’ll still think you’re a freak.” -”Welcome to Support Group” 92