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SYCAMORE AN ANNUAL OF POETRY, PROSE, AND ART St. Louis Community College -Wildwood | 2017


Volume 9 / 2017 Editors Monica Swindle, Editor and Advisor Mark Weber, Art Editor and Advisor Dan Yezbick, Faculty Editor Gina Tarte, Copy Editor Jackie Johnson, Graphic Designer

About the Cover artwork by DION DION | STLCC-Wildwood

Currently, I’m approaching the canvas with the mindset that the actual surface of a painting can be inherently interesting, in addition to the imagery. To achieve this effect, I create multiple layers with paint while also incorporating three-dimensional elements such as cords and handmade paper. I enjoy working with larger canvases because they allow for bigger and more expressive strokes and shapes.


about SYCAMORE Ancient Egyptian culture revered the Mediterranean sycamore fig tree as a symbol of immortality, with its fruit symbolizing mercy and compassion. A biblical mention of the sycamore fig references Zaccheus, in Luke 19:4, who climbed a sycamore tree so that he could have a glimpse of Jesus. Native American stories feature the American sycamore as having sacred properties. Some see it as a magical tree that symbolizes growth, persistence, strength, and endurance. Sycamore lore even appears in Missouri author Mark Twain’s most famous of novels, Tom Sawyer. Tom almost leaves a sycamore scroll for his Aunt Polly, but then thinks better of it and puts it back in his pocket. The sycamore tree is evident in our own Wildwood, Missouri community. The brown bark of the sycamore peels away to reveal its inner core, and during the winter the pale branches of sycamore groves stand in contrast to the grey and brown quilt of neighboring trees. The sycamore tree has inspired generations with its quiet, enduring majesty, just as our journal contributors inspire us by revealing eternal truths about the nature of life and love. – Layla Azmi Goushey

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artwork by ALLYSON BURNS | STLCC-Wildwood

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Fiction Homocidium, Nick Brouk.............................................................................................. Do You Miss Me?, Celeste Rhodes................................................................................. Patient #1996788, Taylor Kurzenberger........................................................................ The Daily Test, Caleb Dunn........................................................................................... Creative Non-Fiction The Value of a Word, Sarah Mullinix............................................................................. Drowning in Dark Eyes, Tim Luzecky............................................................................ Loneliness and Love, Deanna Meyer.. ........................................................................... Pressures of Racing, Colton Masewich......................................................................... Near Death Experience, Rosalina Cortez...................................................................... A Pivotal Moment in Life, Elizabeth Side...................................................................... Steadfast Under Trial, Luke Donohoo.. ......................................................................... Drama Tales of the Old Days!, Nick Keim................................................................................. Poetry Colors, Caleb Dunn........................................................................................................ Gasoline Rainbows, Nick Brouk.................................................................................... Almost Blue, Nick Brouk................................................................................................

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artwork by KIM KORDONOWY | STLCC-Wildwood

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Colors BY CALEB DUNN What’s wrong with some Colors? You can rhyme every hue Of red, yellow and blue. And the world teems with rhymes for greens. Even whites and blacks But what English lacks, Are rhymes for purple And orange Even silver has none to discover.

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artwork by JOAN METTE | STLCC-Wildwood

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The Value of a Word BY SARAH MULLINIX “Quiet” has never been a word used to describe me. When I was in preschool, during naptime while everyone else was spread out and sleeping on their cots, I stood up in the middle of mine in the dark room full of silent kids, put my tiny hands underneath my armpits, and began flapping my elbows around and chirping like a baby chick. Soon the little girl next to me was doing the same thing, and before you knew it the room was filled with chirping pre-schoolers until the teachers finally stopped thinking it was hilarious and made the class return to having quiet time. In my defense, it was Spring, and our class had been hatching baby chicks in an incubator for weeks, so I assume I was expressing my excitement for the chickens to arrive with the one thing that no one could ignore: my voice. My mom and dad still laugh about this story and joke about how they “should’ve known I was going to be a handful.” My name is Sarah Mullinix. My favorite color is race car red. Red is the most eye-catching color to the human eye, which is why it is my favorite. Red is a powerful color. It’s loud and intense like me. In school I was always the girl talking to everyone. I spoke when I had something to say, and I spoke when I didn’t. I was talking when I was supposed to talk, and I was talking when I wasn’t supposed to. My mouth got me into more trouble than my actions. Listening to others was never my strong suit. Although people may have different strengths and weaknesses, we all have something we can offer the world if we choose to use: our voice. That’s why I was always using mine. I wanted everyone to listen to what I had to say. I was and still am what my mother refers to as a “chatter box.” As I got older, it became very frustrating to me when I realized that people often didn’t take what I said very seriously at all. My charisma and “small but mighty” spunk always made me a natural born leader, but I never knew how to apply my natural ability to be a leader because once people got to really know me, they stopped listening to what I had to say since half the time when I spoke I was just joking around. Finally, a couple weeks ago my chatter box was cracked. My father and I have never gotten along too well, which I believe is because we are so much alike. We got into another small argument that led to a huge one, which only ended with

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me screaming and him screaming back. I didn’t want to listen to him, so I just talked loudly over him instead. My dad always used to say that if I wasn’t so busy talking maybe I would learn something. I started to wonder if he was right. I wondered what the world would be like if I couldn’t talk at all. So that’s exactly what I did. On Friday, September 2nd, I didn’t speak for twenty-four hours straight. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this experiment would end up teaching me one of the most powerful lessons in my life. Click clack, click clack, click was the sound my suede black boots made as I walked swiftly across the sleek dark wooden floors on the lower level of the St. Louis Galleria mall. I decided that since I wasn’t saying a word all day, I would go to the mall and people watch. I took a seat in a small, brown cracked leather chair next to a perfume stand. I watched and listened in as an overly-pushy saleswoman ran her mouth about every single perfume on display to a client who had her eyebrows raised practically to her hairline from all the overwhelming information. All it took was the sweet but powerful aroma of rose petals mixed with various chemicals to talk the client into walking up to the stand, but the more the retail woman talked to the initially interested customer, the less interested the client looked in the different perfumes until finally the sales lady was done with her long, fast paced sales pitch. The client responded with “I don’t really think I need any perfume on second thought. I just wanted to check them out but thanks anyway.” The woman turned abruptly the opposite way and left the stand without even taking her samples with her. Don’t get me wrong, the sales lady seemed like a nice young girl. She constantly smiled, almost so much that it looked like her cheeks would hurt the day after. She seemed knowledgeable about the products she was promoting and very friendly and happy. Although the sales lady filled the client with good information on perfumes, I was almost positive everything she had said went straight into the client’s ear and out the other. “What was it about her sales pitch that was sooo off putting?” I thought to myself. I scribbled down what I had witnessed sitting next to the perfume counter in my little blue notebook and got up to head to the food court where my mom was meeting me so we could go home. The car ride home was mostly silent other than the sound of the wind flying by outside the car and the radio turned on low as I scrolled through stations searching for the right song. On dreary days like the one we were having that Friday, I preferred listening to older, softer music. The song “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead was on 89.1 “The Wood,” which was and still is one of my favorite songs of all time. Naturally, when it was on the radio, I was very happy until I remembered I

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would have to fight the urge to sing along due to the silence experiment. I had to be silent all day, which meant no singing allowed. As I twirled my silky red hair around my pointer finger and peered out of the rain-dotted car window, I got lost in the sweet melody of the song. About thirty seconds in, I realized for the first time ever that a few of the lyrics I had always sung when I listened to this song were incorrect. This intrigued me. I continued listening more closely to make sure I had all the rest of the lyrics right in my head. The soft guitar seemed to float out of the radio speakers and vibrate in sync with his voice until the sound waves reached my ear and traveled down to my neck and seeped into my heart. The song really spoke to me. Suddenly, something clicked. I realized the true meaning of the song for the very first time. Before this day, I always thought “Fake Plastic Trees” was just another sad 90s political dig about global warming and how we need to start recycling and keeping our communities “litter-free.” Hence the name, “Fake Plastic Trees.” As the slowness of the beat set in and a darker chord was strummed, the lead singer’s voice began quietly crying out, “She looks like the real thing, she tastes like the realllll thingg. My fake plastic love.” I shuddered and looked down at my arms which were now covered in goosebumps on both sides. The song was not at all about recycling. The “Fake Plastic Trees” he sings about are people. Society is so fake, and sometimes we act like we’re made of plastic...like we’re perfect. And for the very first time, even though I’d heard the song a million times, I actually listened to what the meaning of the song was. Why now? Why hadn’t I realized sooner? Maybe I was always too busy singing along to really care. When I heard the ending of the song “it wears her out, it wears her out…” I suddenly had an image of the sales lady at the perfume stand fresh in my mind. I think it was because her smile reminded me of plastic. The day went on, and I actually got a lot of things done while I was on mute. I had such a peaceful day. I actually had time to think for once. I went outside as the sun went down and took a few deep breaths as I stared up at the beautiful orange pink disaster above me in the sky. The sunset was reflecting off the clouds and putting on an art show for the world that evening. I felt so serene. By the end of my day in silence, things became much more clear. After sitting quietly with nothing but my thoughts and watching people interact throughout the day, it’s hard not to learn a few things. I pulled out my notebook that I had written that day’s experiences in and read all the notes I took.

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As I read my notes over, one thing was VERY apparent to me; the people who talked less but said words that meant a lot more were the same ones that seemed to be the most respected. But then as I read more notes, I thought about what causes some people to feel like they need to say more than they do? I thought about my own personal experience. Over the course of the day, I had heard over six different people ask someone, “How are you?” Every time the response was basically the same. “I’m great! How are you?” or “Oh just awesome, the kids are amazing!” I couldn’t even think of the last time I had personally asked someone how they were doing and had them tell me “not so good.” I realized that it has become socially unacceptable to tell someone you’re anything other than “doing good,” even if it’s the truth. The song “Fake Plastic Trees” had been stuck in my head ever since I had heard it on the radio earlier that day, and the more I thought about my experiment, the louder it seemed to be replaying in my head. What I learned on that gloomy Friday in September was that I’m run down from all the extra chatter. No one wants to listen to someone that never stops talking. Before that day of silence, I was a lot like a pushy sales lady in a sense, always trying to get people to listen to me or to buy this fake idea that I was just a happy, funny, perfect girl all the time. I didn’t know the strength of my own voice until I went a day pretending I didn’t have one. If you have an overabundance of resources, then they aren’t worth as much as they would be if they were more rare. The same is true of words. Words are not just a jumbled combination of letters. Words have the power to make or break someone’s day. Words have the power to change a life. Words have the power to do good or to do evil. But the worst thing about words is that you can use them as much as you want and choose to do absolutely nothing with them. I don’t want to end up being another fake plastic tree swaying in the wind. Use words when they are needed and use them honestly. That’s what they were intended for. Don’t waste your time talking back or saying things that won’t change the situation. Remember how I told you my favorite color is red? Well, if the color red was a person, it wouldn’t be very talkative. Red wouldn’t need to say a lot to get a point across. It’s powerful all on its own. The most powerful, respected people on this planet are the ones who know when to speak up and when to be quiet. Sometimes silence can be the loudest thing in the world. I’m so grateful that I had a chance to realize how valuable my voice can be, and I’ll never take something so valuable for granted again.

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artwork by HEATHER DOBRINIC | STLCC-Wildwood

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Drowning in Dark Eyes BY TIM LUZECK Y The world watched as relief efforts from across the globe raced to Colombia in hopes of helping those ravaged by mother nature. On November 13, 1985, the Colombian volcano of Nevado del Ruiz erupted. Liquid death scorched the landscape, triggering a number of mudslides. The sheer magnitude sent the death toll to more than twenty-three thousand. Among the masses fighting for their lives was a thirteen-year-old girl named Omayra Sánchez. Omayra struggled to keep her head above the rancid water while stuck in between slabs of collapsed concrete. She was interviewed for three days before her untimely death. Omayra answered the reporters’ questions while she stood on the mangled corpses of what was once her family. With great humility, she endured the corrosive effects of frostbite. The frostbite crept over her hands and legs making her body appear chalky white. The dozens of reporters from all over the world who knew she was just moments from death continued to interview her as she slipped in and out of death’s grip. Viewers worldwide looked into the hauntingly beautiful, dilated eyes of Omayra Sánchez as she submitted herself to death. Thirty-one years later, the proud people of Colombia still mourn the historic loss of family, friends, and neighbors.

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artwork by KEVIN BULLOCK | STLCC-Wildwood

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Homocidium BY NICK BROUK In the afternoon sun, where the day is beautiful but no one goes outside, on the television in the peaceful afternoon living room of the Phillips home, two Irish characters held guns to the back of a fat Italian’s head.

“Nomeni Patri, et Fili, Spiritus Sancti.”

Bang. Bang.

“Why?” “Natalie, this is the fourth time you’ve asked me, and the answer hasn’t changed. You have to wait till you’re older.” This was how most conversations went with her father in the long and uneventful dog-days of the summer. Natalie, for whatever reason, was an overwhelmingly curious child. She explored and took interest in every bit of life around her with an unrelenting desire for knowledge. Quite often in the Phillips home, she would find herself unable to satisfy her interests, which included but were not limited to skydiving, exploring the Amazon, scuba diving in the Pacific, climbing Everest, and so on… Generally, Natalie would beg her father to embark on what you and I would consider an outlandish adventure, and being the responsible adult that Mr. Phillips had proven to be, he would most of the time deny her requests. On this particular occasion, Natalie had become obsessed with the need to accompany her brother and father on one of their hunting trips. This would not have been so ridiculous except Natalie was only five years old and would hardly have been able to even pick up a rifle, much less shoot one.

“But why can’t I go now?” She whined. “Pleeeeeease?”

Natalie’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, were very respectable people, who were vehement about taking all the necessary precautions that are generally associated with firearms. They kept the functioning pieces of all their guns separated and hidden from their children and were very vocal to them about the dedication of their rifles to fair sport and sport only. The couple were both in strong

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agreement that weapons such as these should be handled with very precise respect and consideration. Their son Patrick, however, did not practice such discipline. Though the boy, only fifteen, was not allowed to own his own rifle, he was given a BB gun as a gift from his father the day after their first hunting trip. He spent the rest of that afternoon scaring off birds and dropping acorns from the trees. The weather was perfect that day as August had made everything around him brittle and clean. Now, his BB gun spent the majority of its time lying stood up in the corner of Patrick’s room, blatant and decorative. The safety lock was on, but that was about as far precautionary measures went. “Why do you want to know so badly what if feels like to kill something?” Natalie’s father asked while he munched on popcorn and stared at the television, only half-teasing his daughter. She frowned at this. In the course of this latest obsession, Natalie hadn’t thought that killing had anything to do with it. She, of course, was much too young to fully understand the concept, but Natalie was still remarkably intelligent for her age. Through movies, she grasped concepts and jokes that would be lost to the majority of her classmates, and this remarkable comprehension was probably to blame for fueling her aggressive curiosity. Once Natalie set her mind to pursue a new experience, she would only be satisfied by fulfillment of her wish. This is not to give the impression of snobbery. She was a very patient girl. Reflecting upon her desire to hunt with her father, she again found that she had no interest in the act of killing, only in the feeling. She wanted to know what her father and her brother experienced on those days they left her alone with her mother. Mrs. Phillips, Natalie’s mother, made sure that she was well occupied on those days and would spend those times with her daughter reading to her in the park or teaching her how to cook her favorite meals. They even went to the zoo or sometimes to the movies. Mrs. Phillips felt it was slightly unfair not to give Natalie some sort of outing if indeed she was to be excluded from a trip with her father and brother. So Natalie was rendered inarguably content, even happy. Little Natalie would tell you that she quite enjoyed spending time with her mother. It was only later, after said outings had passed, when she was lying alone in bed, that her curiosity would fester, asking over and over, “What did you miss?” She would then resolve to confront her father in the morning and be met with the same and inevitable:

“No Natalie.” ***

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When Natalie turned eight years old, her brother extended an olive branch. The boy was seventeen now and leaving for college next year. Just like his younger sister, he was also fairly intelligent but reckless and impulsive at times. Even so, he had earned a substantial scholarship to several prestigious universities in his area and was allowed to graduate from his high school a semester early. By the time he turns eighteen, Patrick will have already spent a semester at college. He took Natalie out to the backyard one day while their parents were out shopping. It was autumn, and the leaves hung crisp on the trees. Sticks cracked brittle beneath their feet as they walked through the back yard. Natalie scanned the ground for items of interest while Patrick cradled his BB gun carefully. The safety was on (he had checked four times). Little silver BBs rattle-snaked together in his pocket as the two made their way through the woods, which with the coming of fall had become warm and vibrant, a fiery collage of leaves and sunlight. The quaint deaths of the trees revealed paths that had been previously blocked by the ambitious summer greens, making their walk quite scenic, and crunchy. They came to a relatively open clearing that overlooked a dried-out riverbed. Tree branches formed a complex spider web above, growing out from the extending forest below. If you were to stand at the clearing, you would find yourself level with these branches, though also a good fifteen feet above the riverbed. The clearing was the tops of the trees, overlooking a perfect woodland scene.

“Alright Natalie,” Patrick said, “Would you like to shoot my BB gun?”

“REALLY?” She was beaming. Her father had told her she had to be at least twelve before she would be allowed to touch anything that could fire a projectile, save a Nerf gun, and Patrick had only told her she could watch him target practice. Natalie was overcome with that delightful twinge you get when you know you’re doing something bad but can’t help but like it. She was giggling and could feel her anticipation in her stomach. She was so excited that she began to jump up and down and gleefully cry out. That is, until a grave look from Patrick made her freeze, in fear of losing this opportunity. “This is not a toy.” He said sternly. “And this is not at all a game. You could really hurt someone with this.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” She replied, still obviously very excited.

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artwork by ALEXIA EGUIRES | STLCC-Wildwood

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And she did know. The word “hurt,” or perhaps the way he had said it, reminded her of the time her father was the victim of a terrible accident. A few years ago, Mr. Phillips had acted as the chief safety inspector for various establishments around the area. One day, he was called to Natalie’s school to examine the rafters along the roof of the theatre. Unfortunately, the steel beams that comprised the rafters had not been properly bolted to neither themselves nor the foundations of the roof. They could barely support the middle-schoolers that were taught to operate the lights, much less a 210-pound adult male. Mr. Phillips went up to investigate and soon after came crashing down. One of the beams ended up skewering his right calf, and he broke a few ribs. The injuries were serious but not particularly obscure; Mr. Phillips was left only with a nasty scar and a slight but persistent wobble. Other than this, he made a damn-near perfect recovery. However, the image of daddy’s torn-up leg was still burned into Natalie’s head, and this would consistently cause her to cringe at merely the thought of it. She hated all the pain she imagined her father must have endured.

“I promise I’m ready.” She said to Patrick, convincingly this time.

So Patrick began showing her the ins and outs of firing a weapon. How to load and reload, how to cradle the gun by resting the butt on your cheek and gazing down the barrel. Where to position the sights in order to most effectively hit a target. How to match the aim with your breathing and when to hold your breath in order to keep the sight steady before the shot. He even taught Natalie how to gauge the amount of pressure needed for how far of a distance your target is from your position. See, where guns consistently fire each bullet at a fixed force, BB guns often have a pressurized compartment that must be pumped before firing the weapon. This way, the hunter may control the amount of pressure he distributes to each BB. This is particularly important when shooting smaller game and still keeping the organs and body intact. Too much pressure could tear a small animal apart, ruining any chance of deriving meat from that animal. Though smaller game tends to render much less meat than say a buck, rabbit stew is delicious and well worth the effort one must put in when hunting the quantity of rabbits one must procure in order to prepare such a wonderful dish. After what felt to Natalie like an hour, but in reality, was fifteen minutes, Natalie was finally allowed to hold the gun. Patrick handed it to her very slowly, watching her with blatant nervousness. He stood close, right behind her so that he may prevent having to drive himself to the hospital. He picked out a dead leaf for

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her that was hanging off a nearby tree, maybe twenty feet away from where they were standing. “Now, what happens if you tell Mom and Dad I let you do this?” Patrick asked her.

“You’ll throw Ariel in the garbage disposal.”

“You’re goddamn right I will. Now, pump the gun three times then aim for the stem of that big red leaf.” Natalie did as she was told, picking up the gun and cradling it as well as she could. Of course, at that time, the gun itself was about half an inch shorter than she was, so she was having understandable trouble holding it correctly. She gazed down the sights and patiently waited until her breathing matched the target.

In… Out… In... Out… And…

Click. Natalie looked at the gun confused. The safety was on. She wrestled it a bit so that she could reach the little black button by the trigger, and she pressed it firmly into the off position.

“Wait!” Patrick said suddenly. “Get down!”

Natalie crouched down excitedly, and they lay in the brush and the leaves for a moment. The air was perfectly still, and Natalie’s heart was racing. She was grinning, and just as she was about to speak, a deer poked its head out from the bush, about forty-five feet away from the clearing. Natalie looked at Patrick wide-eyed and elated. The deer stood there, its head bent down to graze. It didn’t matter, of course. From her angle at the clearing, the deer down in the riverbed was almost entirely exposed.

“Wanna shoot that deer?” Patrick whispered slyly.

“Will I kill it?” She asked nervously, scared of being rushed into this moment. The truth is, she wanted that all to herself.

“You won’t.” Patrick replied. “His hide is too thick. It’ll just be like a pinch.”

Natalie got onto her knees, Patrick helping her position herself for a crouched shot. She nestled the gun once more, again looking patiently down the sight. Everything began to slow for her. Seconds felt long and muddled, and she was getting lost in her own focus.

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artwork by GINA ROSSELLI | STLCC-Wildwood

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“Careful,” Patrick whispered in her ear. “Wait.”

She nodded her head silently, statued there in the brush.

Breathe. Wait.

The deer poked its head up.

Breathe in. “Now.” Breathe out. The deer yelped in annoyance then darted off into the woods. Natalie sat on the ground, giggling at the rush of finally experiencing what she had been missing out on. She was grinning uncontrollably, and so was Patrick. The two of them laughed a little, and after she took a few more shots at the leaves, they made the walk home. And they never told Mom and Dad. *** Years later, while sitting on the couch, taking refuge from the summer heat and only half watching the T.V., the box suddenly grabbed Natalie’s attention. Outside, the beautiful spring was giving way to the pit-bull summer. The television program depicted three men standing in what looked like a warehouse, with another lying on the ground, and a fifth sitting motionless in a chair. The three men who were standing were pointing guns at each other and screaming. It seemed to her that two of the men, one in a blue tracksuit and the other in a white jacket, were arguing with the third man, who was wearing a black suit and a blood-stained shirt. Natalie had only just now started watching, and so the dialogue was almost meaningless to her. As she had guessed, and sure enough, the three men all shot at each other, and subsequently fell to the floor. But she noticed something that she thought was very peculiar. After the three men fell to the floor, every bit of noise in the room stopped, almost to accentuate the moment. Before the gunshots, even while the men were shouting, there were still the light sounds of the radio and its background music, as well as the whoosh of cars that must have been passing by the building. But afterwards, even the background noises seemed to cease completely for distinct moments. Everything was utterly silent until two of the men on the floor, both in suits, began whimpering to each other. In reflection of this silence, Natalie became curious. In the absence of noise, she could feel a distinct point. Again, she began to think about killing, and after a sleepless night

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of festering the plague of her curiosity, Natalie came to the conclusion that this silence accompanied all death. However, she did not see this fact as somber or even ominous. Rather, she had convinced herself that this silence was valiant, honorable. A moment of breath to pay homage to the struggle and the fallen. A natural phenomenon instilled by the galaxy. And she wanted to have it. More than anything, as the seed of that idea began to grow in her mind, she wanted to be in the thick of that dark sensation. She began to crave a power, a semblance of control over another creature’s fate. All other aspirations faded. Sweet little Natalie wanted to kill. She waited patiently for days after this curiosity was ignited, biding her time and trying to act as responsible as she could so that her parents would eventually trust her enough to leave her on her own. When clever Natalie was finally awarded this privilege, she did exactly as she was told. She stayed in the house, and when her parents called to check on her after only half an hour, she was there to answer. When Mr. and Mrs. Phillips came home, they sung her praises. They were truly proud of the responsible daughter they had raised. The second occasion that Mr. and Mrs. Phillips went out, however, they were so confident in their daughter that they refrained from calling her at all, trusting her completely to be alone in the home for a much longer period of time than their first outing. Where the first occasion they had only allowed themselves to be out for an hour, on the second, they were gone almost three, giving Natalie an estimate of when they believed they would return so as not to worry her. And clever Natalie waved them goodbye happily, assuring them that she would be fine. She sat on her couch and read that day, patiently waiting for the first hour to pass. When it did, she jolted up the steps to Patrick’s room, her heart pounding in anticipation. There, in the corner, was his shiny black BB gun. She picked it up gingerly, now large enough to alleviate the awkwardness of its size. She searched his desk for BBs then carefully began loading them into the gun. After she had emptied half the tin, she pumped the gun a total of eight times, the maximum its cartridge would allow. She noticed how hard it was for her to pump the gun once she got up to about five, but after struggling with it for a good ten minutes, was able to lock the pump in place. She turned the safety on then made her way down to the clearing in the woods. It was a beautiful day in April, and the air was wonderfully crisp. The sun illuminated the morning peacefully, and birds flew happily in the clear sky. The wind kissed Natalie gently, and the farther away she got from her house, the slower

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she began to walk, taking time to breathe in the freshness of the spring dew. She was wearing her grey Houndstooth that her mother had bought her and carrying her brother’s gun by her side, the barrel pointed up into her armpit. She feared the eyes of her neighbors and began to think of excuses should one of them come out to question what she was doing with the BB gun. She reached the woods and was strolling down the path now, heart still beating a little faster than normal. She came to the clearing where Patrick had showed her how to shoot and sat on a piece of log that jutted out of the ground, reminiscent of a fallen tree that had been gored in a storm. She looked around and admired the tranquility for a moment then began to carefully examine the BB gun. She flipped it over and turned off the safety. She cleaned it with her sleeve and inspected it for abrasions, just as she had been taught, then held it in her arms and admired the beauty in its power. The books she had read and the movies she had watched all talked about this feeling of control. She felt as if the gun were an extension of herself, and with it, she could do whatever she wanted. She could feel whatever she wanted. She began to look at the weapon in the same way that she imagined an artist looked at a paintbrush or a writer a pen and pad. She saw the weapon as a means to entire worlds of experience. Her curiosity was beginning to burn a hole inside her head, and she sat in a dark ball of anxious compulsion. All around her on this beautiful morning, the birds were calling to each other. The bugs chirped away, squirrels rustled through the trees, and sticks clicked together as the wind blew songs through the leaves. It was a beautiful woodland symphony, and Natalie wanted silence. She stood and walked to the brush, then crouched as her brother had shown her. The eleven-year-old began to scan nearby branches for birds or squirrels. Or anything really, I don’t think it mattered much to her. She watched closely for what felt like an hour (but was really only ten minutes), and finally, on a branch not three feet away from her, landed a bluebird. It was beautiful and vibrant, and when Natalie lifted up the BB gun in its direction, its bright royal feathers seemed to pulse even more definite. It was saturated and clear, like a shining ball of nebulous. It was an incredible breathing sapphire that perched before her, and Natalie could almost poke it with the barrel of a gun. She drew air carefully, and time seemed to slow. Everything began to fade from her, except the bird and the branch. Only experience would satisfy her insatiable hunger. Her eyes were married to the bright oceanic vibrancy, and her incessant curiosity bit her one more time.

Breathe in…

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She thought it would be clean. Clear. That’s not at all what happened. When Natalie pulled the trigger, the pressure in the gun hurled the BB out through the air in a bitter SLAP! The bird, not four inches in front of it, exploded. A shard of its beak burst off and cut Natalie’s cheek, and mangled feathers puffed out in all different directions. The clump of torn flesh looked like a messy ocean of crimson and purple. Everything dulled immediately, all of the forest’s beautiful color lost in a few moments. The sun faded, the air became heavy, and everything that shined now seemed to sulk. What once was a bird fell back off the branch, and with a loud THUD, hit the rocks below. The silence was deafening and thick, and after the POP, there was nothing. Everything around Natalie that once made noise was frozen, and several very long moments passed before her eardrums began to search frantically for something, anything to latch onto. But there was nothing. The birds refused to sing and the squirrels curled up and remained still. Even the wind left without a word. All that remained was Natalie and the mesh of color and gore on the rocks. She could feel the weight of all emptiness, and it was excruciating. She couldn’t even hear herself crying, but she could feel the warmth of her tears streaking down her cheeks. She began to scream into the woods and tear at the ground, throwing her body around in a blurry and violent fit, but nothing would talk to her.

Natalie had gone deaf.

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artwork by MICHELLE STREIFF | STLCC-Wildwood

SYCAMORE 25


Loneliness and Love BY DEANNA MEYER The cold air gripped my heart, unrelenting. I stood in this quaint and distant town with Christmas lights directly above but death in front of my eyes. Torn from the sight by warm hands, I noticed I had been an outlier standing so close to what people considered a beast, a mongrel, a brute. My sister, Leah, brought me to my senses, and I realized I had just witnessed a life pass. An innocent dog, whose last few moments were looked upon by bystanders, none seemingly brave enough to help, including myself. As Leah guided me away from the tragic scene, I found myself contemplating one of life’s most depressing questions. Is that our destiny, to die alone and afraid? It all began one holiday evening, the day after Thanksgiving. A sixteen-yearold version of myself and Leah, a college junior that I rarely saw anymore, decided to go out for a drive. Our curiosity was piqued by the many advertisements calling on consumers of the country to “run, not walk” to their nearest stores for this day, known as Black Friday. Touted with deals of the century, we decided it ludicrous to pass up the opportunity. But, after lightly dipping our toes in the messy waters of consumers lambasting each other over deals, we decided to cut our adventurous shopping experience short. As we headed home, we giggled to each other about the exploit and the preposterousness the whole trip entailed. Employees berated by middle-aged men in the name of Santa. Bulging-at-the-seams parking lots looking as though people had parked on top of other vehicles. Coupled with a leftover heaping of turkey and stuffing before partaking on our endeavor, my head yearned for some rest. Quietly reveling in the sisterly bonding I had accomplished on this short trip, I laid my right temple on the passenger side window and looked out at the intricately strung Christmas lights. The lights gave the impression of soft twinkling fireflies in the dry, cool, autumn air as they draped gently across windows and trees above the whizzing street. My eyes followed the glow for some time before catching a more beautiful sight: two stray dogs rambunctiously galloping like two wild, albeit tiny, horses along the outside of a small opaque storefront. The purest

26 S Y C A M O R E


vision of friendship and love was visible amongst them. They reminded me of two fuzzy kids, wrestling, romping, and smiling, a happy ragtag duo, unabashed by their freedom. I imagined them identical to my sister’s and my dynamic. Maybe not having seen each other for some time, they were catching up and having a time of it, an adventurous and goofy pair taking on the world together. One of them was a large, satin black dog, stocky in build with power to his stride, a Pitbull with the classic characteristics. He had a broad blocky head and muscles extruding all parts of his body, his bullish and daunting features subdued by his devil-may-care grin. He darted in and out of view with his cheerful companion, a scrawnier, practically emaciated brown, curly-coated dog with matted splotches around his body and a black muzzle. Ineffable joy filled me as I watched the two furry friends prance. I looked to Leah, her heart-shaped face silhouetted in the dark. I contemplated the times when we were younger, untroubled and bonded just like the two tail-waggers. “You remember when you’d drive me around in our toy car as kids? You’d never start rolling unless I was strapped in. Ever the protector you were,” I recalled, attempting to connect on some level beyond the superficial fun. Not having seen her in a while, I feared our now distended geographical distance might soon lead to an actual thinning of ties. “Of course, I do,” she began. “How could I ever forget how I always protected my baby sis?” Her eyes unexpectedly widened, their whites seemingly illuminated the dark. My heart dropped, as I began hearing horns bellow and brakes squeal in anger and distress. I whipped my head around to see the commotion that I immediately regretted seeing. Utter shock and pain coursed through my nerves as I witnessed the black dog’s hind-side connecting with an SUV’s front bumper ahead of us. The car’s force sent him spinning, like an inanimate toy top, onto the shoulder of the road. He and the brown dog, probably deeming the other side of the street their continued playground, spotted an opening and hotfooted it. A small gap in cars, they assumed large enough for their pure speed and play to overcome, proved inevitably too short. I felt horror and shock. I witnessed the brown dog glance back and realize that he was the only one to have made it. His pointy ears withdrew close to his head, while his eyes exhibited terror and grief. No one by his side anymore, he took off

SYCAMORE 27


running again, a newly formed hole in his soul as strangers surrounded his buddy’s meagerly moving body. Leah pulled over as soon as possible. Her breaths became uneven and ragged, mimicking that of a broken furnace, as she began hyperventilating. We attempted to gather ourselves before confronting the situation outside, but concluded that a pointless feat. After scrambling to the despairing scene, I was surprised to find the black dog cognizant. People hovered around the Pitbull, but kept a distance, as if he were a leper and his tragedy a show. He struggled and failed to stand as he became scared of the human encroachers, but his doubtlessly broken back leg prevented escape. The busy road’s traffic continued in the background, but the noise was unimportant or unnoticeable. As the black dog began to wheeze, I gathered that his body concealed a significant portion of the damage. With no viable ameliorating talents, what could I do to help? I froze, incapable and pathetic, as I became another wary onlooker, unable to assist. I glanced over my shoulder at Leah. She had just gotten off the phone with the police when she muttered that they’d arrive within thirty minutes. Not reassured, I focused again on the black dog. His eyes momentarily met my gaze, and I felt as though a bolt of lightning burst through my chest, conducted by his pain. His struggles diminished as the adrenaline subsided, and he came to fall in a heap on the ground. He began succumbing to the shock and agony. I crouched near him, five feet removed, and watched as he lay his head upon the cold concrete, while simultaneously wishing I had a warm blanket to cover and comfort him. Such a small contribution would hopefully alleviate my feelings of helplessness as I looked on in horror as an innocent animal died alone. He was without his grief-stricken best friend who, scared off by humans, would surely never say his final goodbye. A happy day of play had turned into a night of tragic end. The moments changed in a flash. His eyes fluttered as he drifted into eternal sleep, and I watched lying to myself that none of it was real. Leah’s warm hand cupped my elbow and raised me to my feet. My knees ached as she guided me to the car as I had stayed numbly kneeling by his lifeless body. My mind’s thoughts warped as I tried to comprehend the haste in which the

28 S Y C A M O R E


contrasting events took place. The initial image of him playing to that of his lifeless body gouged at my soul. Images morphed from blurred to distinguished. He had died alone, though, and that was unquestionably clear to me. I turned to look at my sister’s reaction. Her guiding presence propelled me forward, yet I had failed to gauge her handling of the situation. Her tears glistened, in the now malapropos festive lights, as she caught me staring. In that moment, as if through some telepathic sisterly ability, she read my thoughts, my fears, and my everything in what she told me. “Believe me when I say that no matter what happens to either of us I will be there for you. Even if I have to move Heaven and Earth, there’s no way I’d let you ever be alone or scared in this world,” she promised, her voice steady regardless of the understandable emotion. I knew wholeheartedly she meant what she said. I would never doubt her love and ability to be there for me, whether in this plain of existence or another hypothetical one. My fear may have been natural, but her declaration took a step in comforting and making me aware that with love present, true loneliness did not exist. I still deeply regret not being able to save the black dog’s life, but I don’t believe he lived his life in vain. Living beautifully with emotion, joy, and friendship, he left an indelible impact on my sister and I, who were lucky to have beheld it. His life is an undying symbol of love’s presence in its loneliest moments.

artwork by VICKI HEFTY | STLCC-Wildwood

SYCAMORE 29


artwork by LESLIE RANDLE | STLCC-Wildwood

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Tales of the Old Days! BY NICK KEIM Characters Grandpa (old man voice)

Nick (low/deep voice)

Young Grandpa (normal voice)

Charles (C3PO voice)

Stuart (little kid voice)

Introduction The play is about a grandfather telling his grandson Stuart a story about his career as a door-to-door salesman in 1965, a time when people didn’t have to leave the comfort of their own home to receive the best deals on everyday household appliances. The grandfather sold vacuum cleaners to the neighborhoods surrounding Central Park in New York City. The story is about his first day as a doorto-door salesman. He thought his first day was going to go perfectly, but boy was he wrong. Eager to sell his first vacuum cleaner, the grandfather was unaware of the challenges ahead. He uses descriptive storytelling and humorous dialogue to bring his story to life. This is his story. STUART:

Grandpa can you please tell me a story about what it was like to be a door-to-door salesman in the 1960s?

GRANDPA:

Sure, I would love to tell you about my old job as a door-todoor salesman. (short pause) How did you know that was my old occupation (surprised)?

STUART:

Mother told me. I want to learn more about you and your career so I can write a paper about you for school.

SYCAMORE 31


GRANDPA:

Well, I would be delighted to tell you about my days as a door to door salesman. (clears his throat) The year was 1965. I had just been hired as a door-to-door salesman selling vacuum cleaners at age twenty-five. I was eager to sell my first vacuum cleaner unaware of how hard it would be to sell one. I walked steadily down Main Street, whistling a merry tune as I gazed at all the magnificent sights of New York City. The flowers had just started to bloom into a rainbow of colors, as spring started to poke its tiny head out into the world, ending the cold-blooded grasp of winter. A variety of birds had returned to the city, bringing back sweet music to the joyous atmosphere that was New York City. The sun shined bright overhead as I approached my first house, ready to make my first sale. I walked up to the front door and knocked three times. I then stepped back and waited for my first customer to open the door. I was so excited to meet the first person that would purchase my vacuum. I couldn’t stand still, and I was smiling ear to ear. My whole body shook as I stood there waiting, sweating and anticipating the thrill of making my first sale. I...

STUART:

Grandpa!

GRANDPA:

What? What’s the matter?

STUART:

I appreciate the descriptive storytelling, but can you just tell me about your first sale? I don’t need to hear this much extra commentary.

GRANDPA:

Do you want to hear the story or not?

STUART:

Sure I do, but...

GRANDPA:

(interrupting) Well then, let me tell it my way. It’s not that often that I get to tell someone a story about my life and to someone who will listen to me. Now, can I continue telling my story?

STUART:

Go ahead Grandpa.

GRANDPA:

Thank you. Now where was I?

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artwork by PATRICK JOHNS | STLCC-Wildwood

SYCAMORE 33


STUART:

You were waiting for your first customer to answer the door.

GRANDPA:

That’s right (short pause). My heart was racing as a man slowly opened the door, gazing at me with his dark brown eyes. He was a thin man with a light brown mustache and clothes that made him look similar to Sherlock Holmes without the hat and pipe (short pause). I began to give him my salesman’s pitch as he opened the door to its fullest extent. (Switch to young Grandpa voice.) Good evening sir, my name is James Oddbody, and I’m here to offer you a chance to buy our brand new, topof-the-line, Hoover vacuum cle…

CHARLES:

(man interrupts in a British voice) I don’t see anything wrong with you.

YOUNG GRANDPA: What did you say, sir? CHARLES:

I said, I don’t see anything wrong with you.

YOUNG GRANDPA: (trying to stay polite) What do you mean by that sir? CHARLES:

I’m just suggesting that any person that has a last name like Oddbody must have something wrong with him or his family. Why else would you have a last name that is so insulting and descriptive?

YOUNG GRANDPA: (defensive) Sir, there is nothing wrong with me or my family. I don’t even see how this is relevant to the conversation. I was trying to inform you of a one-of-a-kind product if you purchase a... CHARLES:

(interrupting) Oddbody, was there any indication that I cared about you or your product you’re selling?

YOUNG GRANDPA: No. CHARLES:

Exactly, I was just trying to distract as well as antagonize you until you came to this obvious conclusion.

YOUNG GRANDPA: (annoyed) Sir, you could have just told me you weren’t interested in a respectful manner.

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CHARLES:

Yes, but where’s the fun in that? Good day Mister (stretch out word/mocking/sarcastic) Oddbody.

YOUNG GRANDPA: (enraged) You sir are a complete a... (interrupted by the door closing) STUART:

Grandpa!

GRANDPA:

What?

STUART:

You almost said a bad word.

GRANDPA:

The key word is “almost.” I almost said a bad word.

STUART:

Okay Grandpa.

GRANDPA:

(continuing with the story) After that low down, good for nothing, son of a…

STUART:

(interrupting) Grandpa!

GRANDPA:

What now?

STUART:

You need to watch your language in front of me. I’m only seven.

GRANDPA:

Well if you’re only seven, how in the world do you know what bad words I’m going to say before I even say them?

STUART:

Well for one, I can tell by the tone of your voice, two the words you put before them, (stretch out the and) and sometimes I hear others use them in the same context.

GRANDPA:

That’s awful. You kids today learning inappropriate words at a young age. What is the world coming to?

STUART:

(over top of his grandpa talking/softly) Oh great, I got him going on another old person (mimicking his grandpa) “you kids today” rants.

GRANDPA:

(continuing his rant) ...and I can’t believe how much you young people are learning about things you’re not supposed to till you’re twenty. I…

SYCAMORE 35


STUART:

Grandpa. Can we please continue with your story?

GRANDPA:

(unsure/surprised) Huh? Who? Wuh? (catching on) Oh yeah. (small pause) Sorry, I got lost in my train of thought. I’ll, uh, continue with the story if you want me to, censored of course.

STUART:

Yes, thank you.

GRANDPA:

Well, okay. After that (pausing/catching himself) jerk shut the door on me, I strolled next door hoping I would have better luck with my next customer. I walked up to the front door and knocked three times, once more. A tall, muscular man opened the door. He gave me a smile and greeted me with a deep boisterous voice.

NICK:

Hello sir. Can I help you?

YOUNG GRANDPA: Yes, my name is James Oddbody, and I’m here to offer you a chance to buy our brand new, top-of-the-line vacuum cleaner for the price of $80.50. Allow me to demonstrate. NICK:

Sure come on in (gesturing with his right hand to come in).

GRANDPA:

His house was a one story home with a Slim Angle TV in the living room placed under a decorative Sun Burst Clock. There were Pole Lamps in every corner of the room giving off shimmering light, which terrified the darkness lurking in the shadows, waiting for the lights to finally die by nightfall. I noticed a Belt Massager in front of the TV as I set my equipment down. I thought no wonder he has such a muscular body. I need to get one of those, but you can tell (talking to Stuart) with my stomach that shakes like a bowl full of jelly I never did get one.

NICK:

So, how does your vacuum work and how does it compare to others?

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artwork by JOAN METTE | STLCC-Wildwood

SYCAMORE 37


YOUNG GRANDPA: The Hoover has super-suction, using deep cleaning brushes and giving almost twice the power of any other cleaner. It has a beater arm brush that picks up dirt, hair, chips, you name it, and it all gets sucked into a disposal bag. The dust bag is in plastic housing, which helps eliminate dust puffs from within. There is a panel on the front that lifts to change bags, and there are two-position handles to help get under furniture and helps the vacuum sit upright for storage. NICK:

Wow, that is impressive. (gazing at the vacuum astonished) May I see a demonstration? (gesturing towards the vacuum with his right hand)

YOUNG GRANDPA: Sure. (says with a smile) Do you like Pringles? (curious) NICK:

Yes, but I don’t see what that has to do with the demonstration.

YOUNG GRANDPA: Well, I have some right here. (reaches into suitcase) Do you want any? (pulling out a can of Pringles and offering it to Nick) NICK:

No thanks. (shaking head slightly) Could we please move on to the demonstration? (starting to get annoyed)

YOUNG GRANDPA: Okay, (smacking lips and eating a chip) but (smacking lips) you’re missing out. (short pause then stretch out anyway) Anyway, as you can see I am intentionally dropping bits and pieces of chips onto your carpet as I enjoy their sweet, salty flavor. NICK:

(annoyed) Yeah, I can see that.

YOUNG GRANDPA: (enthusiastic) Well, you haven’t seen anything yet. Do you like dogs? NICK:

(annoyed/confused) Yeah, I used to have a Golden Retriever.

YOUNG GRANDPA: Well, I have German Shepherd, and I brought with me a handful of my dog’s hair. (pulls out dog hair from the suitcase). NICK:

38 S Y C A M O R E

(agitated) What are you doing?!


YOUNG GRANDPA: I wanted to show you what color my dog’s fur is (white/brown fur) and what it looks like on your carpet. NICK:

(agitated) Would you stop putting disgusting things on my carpet?!

YOUNG GRANDPA: Hold on a second. Do you like hiking? NICK:

(confused) Yeah, sure.

YOUNG GRANDPA: Well I have a bag full of dirt and rocks that I picked up from a hiking trip. NICK:

(warning) Don’t you even think about it!

YOUNG GRANDPA: Hold on a second as I dump this bag of dirt and rocks on your carpet. (pours the entire bag on the carpet) NICK:

(enraged) I warned you! You better get all of that stuff off my carpet or you’re going get a serious beating from my cold, dead fists. (pounding his fists together)

YOUNG GRANDPA: (enthusiastic) Don’t worry. The Hoover will pick all of this up in a matter of seconds. (turning on vacuum) NICK:

(warning) It better.

YOUNG GRANDPA: Watch how the Hoover sucks up all that food, hair, and dirt. (moving the vacuum across the carpet and looking at Nick with a smile) NICK:

(shocked) I can’t believe it. It’s picking everything up off the carpet.

YOUNG GRANDPA: (confident/sarcastic/cocky.) See. (turning of the vacuum) I know what I’m doing. I guess you didn’t have to get so mad at me huh? NICK:

I wouldn’t be so cocky if I were you. I haven’t said I would buy one yet.

SYCAMORE 39


YOUNG GRANDPA: The key word I heard there was (emphasize word) yet. That means there is still a chance. NICK:

Ok. (trying to end the conversion/annoyed) How much for the Hoover if I buy it today?

YOUNG GRANDPA: That would be $80.50. NICK:

(surprised) Alright. Let me get my checkbook.

GRANDPA:

I couldn’t believe it. I finally made my first sale. I started tap dancing around the living room but stopped cold in my tracks when I saw him walking down the hallway with his check book.

NICK:

Here you go, $80.50. (handing him the check, which Young Grandpa grabs)

YOUNG GRANDPA: And here’s your vacuum cleaner. (placing a cardboard box marked Hoover Vacuum by his feet) NICK:

Thank you. Is this your first sale?

YOUNG GRANDPA: Yes, it is. NICK:

Well, congratulations on your first sale.

YOUNG GRANDPA: Thanks. NICK:

You’re welcome. (short pause then stretch out I) I do have a small suggestion before you go.

YOUNG GRANDPA: (curious) What might that be? NICK:

Make sure you let people know that you are going to pour disgusting things onto their carpet.

YOUNG GRANDPA: (stretch out yeah) Yeah, that’s probably for the best. Thanks for being so understanding. Have a good day. NICK:

40 S Y C A M O R E

You too.


GRANDPA:

I began to think about what Nick said as the door closed behind me. I then decided to make this a learning experience of what to do and what not to do as a salesman.

STUART:

That was a really good story Grandpa. Thank you for telling me about your first day as a door-to-door salesman.

GRANDPA:

You’re welcome Stuart. Did I give you enough information for your paper?

STUART:

Grandpa I have a confession to make. I don’t really have a paper for school. That was just a lie, so you wouldn’t find out the truth.

GRANDPA:

And what might that be?

STUART:

Mom paid me $5 to listen to a story from your past. She says you’re always complaining about no one wanting to listen to your stories, so she paid me to listen because she said it sure wasn’t going to be her.

SYCAMORE 41


artwork by HEATHER DOBRINIC | STLCC-Wildwood

42 S Y C A M O R E


Pressures of Racing BY COLTON MASEWICH It is a foggy cool morning in October on the day of the big race. On weekends of races, we need to get up at six in the morning, but unfortunately for me, I tossed and turned, restless at the thought of being first place in points. The stakes are very high in this race; the thought of losing is unbearable. The guy in second, who is my friend, is only ten points behind, which is too close for comfort for anyone. if I get second and he gets first, I lose the championship. For relaxation, before every race I always try to meditate and get my head straight by walking the track. This helps me memorize exactly where to turn, where to brake so I don’t fly off the track, and where to start giving gas again so no one passes me. These are all crucial parts to getting a fast lap time, which is the first step in keeping my composure during a race. By this point, I know this track like the back of my hand, so the odds of my losing are very slim. My kart is kept at top-of-the-line standards. In addition to keeping my kart up to date, the day of the race I wipe it down with WD-40, being sure to wipe the edges of the tires. This allows the other karts to slide off if they rub-up against me. Next, qualifying starts, and everyone is wishing each other good luck. Whoever gets up there first goes out on the track first. They always give each racer a four second split, so no one catches up to one another in four laps. I go out, and I get the second fastest lap time, which is a 44.438, and my friend gets the 1st place spot with a 44.372. Only one tenth off. I know that could always be adjusted by varying my braking points. Now I just have to relax and stay hydrated until the final race. As soon as the engine starts up, the adrenaline rush is just overwhelming. Finally, the real fun. The final heat is about to start. Everyone is getting suited up and ready. We all go out on the track, one by one, then staggered like a professional race would be. The warm up lap is to get all the engines and tires warmed up before the green flag goes out. I am currently in second place but won’t be for long. My friend is leading the pack, but I pass him up as if he has let off the gas. I am pumped. This is when I am in control. The adrenaline is rushing through me faster by the second. This is, by far, the most pressure I’ve had on me in a race, but nothing compares to the feeling of doing what I love, driving.

SYCAMORE 43


As we go through the first turn, I still hold the lead. Many karts spin out, but that doesn’t prevent the race from going on. With ten laps down, four out of twentytwo of the racers are still on my butt. As we get tired, our lap times start to get slower and slower due to the constant stress we put on our body. I am coming up on to lap the racers that are in last, and this is a very tricky part that can go wrong in a split second. Finally, by the fifteenth lap, I am right on the rears of the last place drivers, needing to pass them. Rounding the curve, I am patiently waiting for my moment to make a move. We start to straighten out, and I floor the gas, turning the wheel slightly to pass up the last two. My friend, in second, passes the one driver in last place, but, luckily, doesn’t pass the second driver. This buys me some time. Now I can take a deep breath; the worst part is over. Lap nineteen. My friend is back on my rear, and my heart racing just a little faster. As we start to go through the curve, he bumps my right rear tire. I spin out! I hit a few bales of hay, which takes me out of the race for good. A few parts break, a tie rod and a wheel. I am infuriated! Blood rushes to my face and sweat drips down it. There is no way for my kart to get started again after all that. I push my kart to safety, take my helmet off, and sit on the hay, thinking about how I let that happen. Every time he drives past me, I stare him down for betraying my trust. I anxiously await the trailer to load up my kart and get back to the pits to hide my embarrassment. On what seems like the longest trailer ride, one thought clouds my mind: “There will be another championship. I lost to an unfortunate accident or a ferocious act by a selfish traitor.” I finally make it back to the pits and immediately jump off the trailer and storm over to him while he is congratulated. I shove him and ask why he did that. He tells me, “There was a shot to pass you, and I took it. I didn’t mean to bump you and for you to spin out. It was an accident.” We argue until the officials break it up and escort me back to my trailer. Still restless, I start to clean my kart, careful not to see my reflection, the reflection of disappointment, embarrassment, and failure. After I have time to calm down, I decide to walk over to my friend’s pit and apologize to him for my actions. I realize I shouldn’t have made a scene. When I approach him, he jumps at the opportunity, and apologizes to me for betraying my trust. I take a moment to gather my thoughts; his apology takes me by surprise because he defended his actions when I confronted him earlier. However, it seems like his apology was genuinely sincere then it was my turn to confront my own mistakes. Before we know it, we are back

44 S Y C A M O R E


to good terms. Even if it was a mistake to forgive him, I needed to see the errors I made in the actions I took. The future can never be expected, and what goes around comes around. Maybe then I will win first place.

artwork by LINDA HARTMAN | STLCC-Wildwood

SYCAMORE 45


artwork by MARY OSBORNE | STLCC-Wildwood

46 S Y C A M O R E


Gasoline Rainbows BY NICK BROUK Gasoline rainbows, Hand-written into the puddles at my feet. This colorful city reminds me of a time, When I forgot how to look around myself. The paintings on the street will never cease to amaze me, As will the occasional clouds, And the rarest of fires that light the sidewalks. “Don’t worry.” I mutter to myself. “There will be plenty tomorrow.” I’ll only cease to believe myself when long hair hits dirt, And the bugs reach the scalp. But right now, this city is beautiful. Bitchy, angry, and neurotic, yes. But beautiful. Like teardrops and laughter sung to a golden fountain, The remembrance of promise is almost as valuable as the promise itself. Evil tries at this garden with jealousy, but pettiness never was very strong. A pissy friend still can’t blot out this light. Even in a dirty home, certain moments still leave me wondering why I was ever pessimistic. But then, when the sunlight goes down, Sometimes teardrops don’t hold hands with laughter. Sometimes pettiness picks up a stick.

SYCAMORE 47


Angry children run rampant through dark corners, And I can’t smile until the light comes back. Irrationally, I doubt this phenomenon. Irrationally, I don’t believe it will. This means nothing, other than a long, hard wait. When the first peak of the sun arises again in the morning, And the frequency that all of us ride finally begins to climb, I go for a walk in through this colorful city, And marvel at how much can be seen In a swirling gasoline rainbow.

artwork by JO JASPER DEAN | STLCC-Wildwood

48 S Y C A M O R E


Near Death Experience BY ROSALINA CORTEZ I looked toward the radiant blue sky and saw how it contrasted with the bright white clouds. I focused my attention on the water, and the light ripples allowed me to calm my nerves. As I hesitantly stepped into the canoe, it wobbled.

“So...what do you want me to do?” I questioned nervously.

“Since it’s your first time, you don’t have to do anything. We’ll do all the work,” my friend Sara responded, referring to herself and her cousin. Paddling sporadically, going with the flow of the river, we occasionally ran into the branches dropping along the edges of the river in a frolicsome way. Embracing the weather and each other’s presence, we soon rounded the corner. The current pulled us down the middle at a steady pace, allowing us to relax and put minimal effort into paddling. I lied there, my arms stretched at my sides and my feet propped on a metal bar that lie in the canoe, basking in the afternoon sun. I occasionally looked up to catch a glimpse of the trees full of bright green leaves that would soon change colors due to the upcoming season. The canoe began to hurry down the river at a faster speed. I sat up curiously, knowing it had to be the river because we weren’t paddling. I naturally pulled my hand to my forehead while squinting to gain focus on what was in front of us. My mouth parted once I saw the obstacle ahead. Then, I turned to see a slightly perplexed look come upon Sara’s face. She mumbled, “What is that?” I heard slight panic in her voice. Looking back to attempt to answer her question, it became more clear. Once I was out of the sun’s blinding light, I saw where the current parted, visible due to the ripples of the water. It was a large branch that seemed almost impossible to avoid. Part of it stuck out of the water, only allowing us to see a small portion, which is what caused our confusion at first.

From a short distance, we heard a distressed shriek, “Watch out!”

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artwork by LESLIE RANDLE | STLCC-Wildwood

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I had no choice but to sit futilely, not having my own paddle to help steer the canoe toward safety. The paddling was done in an amateur style, not making the canoe efficiently break from the current’s grasp. As we neared the branch, we had no choice but to accept the fact that we were going to hit it. The canoe began to turn sideways, and once we made contact with the branch, the canoe tilted and water began to rush into it. Because of the inability to lift myself due to the strength of the current, I couldn’t risk getting up because it could have pulled me under water. I was stuck. That was where I was going to die. I couldn’t focus on what I needed to do. I was in shock; I’d never experienced something as unforeseen. I heard people yelling frantically, and I tried to concentrate on what they were telling me to do. They were telling me to get out and go to the small island that was a few feet away. I stood carefully, not wanting to take a wrong step and be taken away by the water, but the current forced my body in the opposite direction. I heard faint shrills from Sara and her cousin, and my leg smacked into the metal bar which it had once rested on for comfort. While walking toward a small island, the water came up to my waist, sending goosebumps up and down my body. Yet, I kept thinking how sore my feet were going to be from walking on the small, painful rocks without any water shoes on. I turned to see if I was the only one able to get away from the current. Sara was in the midst of escaping, and her cousin had made it to the other side of the canoe. She stumbled and began to move slightly with the current, but she managed to lift herself up while shouting at her mother who was yelling at her to get out of the current. Once I was at a safe distance, I stood and stared incredulously as others who had floated down the river tried to help us get our canoe. There were three grown men struggling to lift the canoe that was now full of water. After multiple tries, they managed to free the canoe allowing us to attempt to return to our relaxing evening. After many thank you’s, we resumed our trip more cautiously. We decided to switch from a canoe to a raft, letting Sara’s mom take control of the canoe.

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Patient #1996788 BY TAYLOR KURZENBERGER Ella approaches the cemetery and remembers. “How could you keep this from me? I work in the same damn hospital!” She reads over her father’s paperwork. “Honey I was- “ (How long?) “6 months?” Furiously, she walks out with the doctor. She whispers, “We are not related, you understand?” And walks away. After hours in her office on the second floor, tears hit the pages on her desk. The next day, they are together again. “I know sweetie, I know.” They hold hands. Two weeks later, at the vending machine, Ella notices the high beeps have turned to one flat long sound that causes her coffee and knees to hit the floor.

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artwork by MICHELLE STREIFF | STLCC-Wildwood

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A Pivotal Moment in Life BY ELIZABETH SIDE I had never seen anyone close to me die or even known anyone who had passed away. Since all my grandparents passed away before I was born, the closest life I have known to have lost was a close elderly family friend; however, even that was when I was far too young to remember. That changed unexpectedly one Thursday. I was stuck in traffic with my sister, Rebekah, on my way to soccer practice. We were only about half a mile away from the field, but our car was at a standstill. Rebekah and I both agreed to walk the rest of the way since we were so close to the practice. We pulled over into a church parking lot and then walked to the field. It wasn’t long before we reached the incident that had caused the terrible traffic. There were multiple fire trucks, emergency vehicles, police cars, and a response team everywhere; however, no one seemed to be moving very fast or with any kind of urgency. One small, dented car was at a standstill. From where I was standing, I could clearly tell it was a car accident, just with no sign of the other car involved. The sidewalk was ending, so we were forced to cross the street towards the accident. As we approached, a police man seemed to notice the direction we were heading, yet he did not make any comments or try and stop us. That’s when I noticed a lifeless body lying on the concrete with a crumpled motorcycle lying about ten feet away from the body. This man was dressed in a casual business outfit with nothing but a helmet for his protection. Not more than a second had passed from when I saw the body and a paramedic draped a thin white sheet over his whole body as an indication that he had already passed away before the paramedics could try and revive him in an ambulance. After seeing this, I was hit with so many emotions. Everything changed; my face dropped. I could not think of anything happy. I could not focus on anything but the lifeless body lying on the burning concrete on that hot summer day. The sun felt hotter. The oxygen seemed more humid as the air seemed to be sucked out of the atmosphere. This young man’s life had ended so suddenly that he didn’t have time to say goodbye to anyone he cared about. I did not even know this man, yet seeing him in a deformed state and no longer alive made me think very deeply about the fact that I had never seen anything like that, or even known anyone who had passed away.

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My sister and I walked the rest of the way to practice in silence with heavy hearts, not knowing what to say. When we reached the field, we muttered a quick but solemn “I love you” to each other and shared a hug. The people in that man’s life would never be the same, and I couldn’t even imagine the pain of loss they were going to have to endure for the rest of their lives. I felt blessed to live another day with the people I cared about still alive as well. Two hours later, after practice, we began to walk back to our car. When we reached the intersection where the accident had been, I could still see the blood on the pavement even though the body was no longer there. We continued home once we arrived at our car, and when we reached our destination, we shared our experience with our mom. Two days later, she went online to see if the accident was reported. The information we found showed everything we had been imagining to be true. He was a young man with a long life ahead of him, with a little family and a successful career as a fighter pilot in the Air Force. The need for speed in the air and on the ground resulted in his owning a motorcycle. Two young children and a loving wife lost a father and husband that afternoon. Every family that has a loved one in any branch of the military always has a small fear that they could die serving our beloved country in service, but tragically sometimes it is the ordinary things that take away a life so unexpectedly. I did not even know this individual, and my heart felt as though I lost someone close to me. Seeing the whole crash scene briefly and moving past it in a blurred a state of mind made me think surreally about life, the people I love, and those who were close to me. Experiencing something specific and detailed as a dead body soon after the last breath was drawn in real life, not just on television, changed the way I value life. Each day, I remember this vision. I still have not lost anyone personally close to me, yet I fear that every day because I have seen the pain it causes and I know how the sting felt when I did not even know him.

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artwork by VICKI HEFTY | STLCC-Wildwood

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Steadfast Under Trial BY LUKE DONOHOO “Put your best foot forward and remember hard work pays off.” It’s a phrase that my family has been taught to live in every aspect of our lives. My father learned this phrase through all the trials and tribulations he has faced. Life doesn’t always go your way, and things get tough, but having the will to never give up can lead to greatness. Growing up just outside of Detroit in Trenton, Michigan my dad was the only athlete amongst his six brothers and sisters. Football was a great release for a child that was full of piss and vinegar. He tells me one issue he constantly faced was the coaches’ favoritism to play their sons even if others were better than them. I could hear the irritation in his voice as he told me “Yeah, it was tough. I was a 1,000-yard rusher every year, but because of someone’s name they’d play over you, and it was really something I had to fight through.” Fast forward now thirty-five years later and still the former Trenton Trojan’s records have yet to be broken (single season rushing yards/TD’s). After three years of immense success, David surprisingly passed up his senior season to pursue his newly found passion for bodybuilding. I asked him what it was about bodybuilding that could make a star like him hang the cleats up. He chuckled, “Even from a young age I had always looked up to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane, and I was already a serious lifter for football, and I realized the stronger I got, the better results I had on the field, so as I continued to train, my passion for the weights grew, and I quickly fell in love with it.” David was just a young teen trying to make it in a sport dominated by the older generation who didn’t respect newcomers. He recalls it being standard protocol to not make eye contact with the older guys in the gym. “You had respect for the vets, and you knew your place; it was a really intimidating environment, and for a long time it seemed like us young guys would never get anywhere in this sport.” My father soon proceeded to compete in his first ever bodybuilding competition at twenty, where he stunned everyone by earning the title of Teenage Mr. Michigan, which nobody expected this newcomer from Trenton to do.

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artwork by LESLIE RANDLE | STLCC-Wildwood

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After his success on the stage, David went on to graduate from the Police Academy and work in both the cities of Ann Arbor, Michigan and Kirkwood Missouri for years. Tragedy befell him soon as the career he had so much passion for would be taken away from him with one accident. He recalls that day when he was chasing down the convict. “I just remember a sharp pain running down my back, and I couldn’t move.” The incident resulted in two steel plugs being placed in his back as well as the end to his law enforcement career. The police department claimed he wouldn’t be the same anymore and considered the injury too much of a liability. After a long hunt for a new career, David joined M.T.S., an organ donation company. He worked with grieving families who had lost their loved ones and provided valuable information regarding donation. He became very passionate about his new career. “I was so happy to help people again and was able to finally find work after a long, difficult wait.” I recall my brother and I always digging out his old bodybuilding pictures to see our dad in his glory days on the stage and being in complete awe of our father. My dad still felt like something was missing in his life, and he states that it was one sentence I said to him that gave him his “spark.” I said, “Dad you probably could never look like that again.” I asked if that offended him when I told him that. “Not at all. I just wanted to show my sons the type of man I was, and you saying that gave me the push to do it.” He then reached out to Adam Lockwood, a former bodybuilder whose family David knows quite well. Aside from his shimmering bald head, the first thing I notice is how massive Adam truly is; he towers over people like a modern-day Goliath. Adam Lockwood was an incredibly decorated bodybuilder who had several state overall victories, an IFFP pro card, and even competed at nationals. As a young kid, Adam looked up to my father. “When I was young and saw him, it was incredible. He was really the inspiration that got me into bodybuilding from a young age.” Adam helped coach my dad for this contest, teaching him a vast assortment of things ranging from nutrition to new workouts and contest prep, which he learned while being an IFFP Pro.

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The nutritional part might have been the trickiest part in the entire process. David was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes a few years earlier and struggled with his blood sugar levels. Type-2 causes someone to have issues balancing blood sugar and insulin levels. “It was a shock. Even the doctors didn’t know how I developed it, but I wasn’t going to let something like that hold me back in life.” After months and months of unfathomable training and diet, he began to see mind-blowing results. He was cut to the bone; striations were thick and unbelievably prominent; his body had veins that looked like giant night crawlers wrapping around his entire body. His face looked like just a skull and was sunken, his eyes with dark rings underneath them. Most bodybuilders at the day of contest hover around 3-6% body fat and haven’t consumed any carbohydrates or sugars for quite some time. “It can be hell. People really don’t understand how truly stressful and hard it can be.” He had finally decided that the Mr. Missouri contest would be the perfect setting for his final competition. He competed in two divisions, both the overall light-heavyweights and the 40-year-old division. He took first place in the 40-yearold open division and 3rd in the light-heavyweight division. “Judging is always a wildcard. You never know what type of physique they’re looking for. Not to mention, just like football some favoritism plays a role in the process.” So when a competitor steps up on stage, they truly have no idea what to expect; all they can do is trust in the work they put in. Donohoo credits his all of his successes to his family and to all the naysayers: “Everyone that ever doubted me was truly giving me fuel to use as motivation to help me push through whenever I felt like giving up. I’ve never given up before, so no matter what life throws at me, it will never stop me.”

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artwork by LINDA HARTMAN | STLCC-Wildwood

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Do You Miss Me? BY CELESTE RHODES Twinkling stars blanketed the night sky casting a glimmer of light on an old brick building. The one rectangular building stood five stories tall in the middle of an isolated town. Occasional screams shattered throughout the night air. An old tattered up sign read, “Maybury Asylum for the Criminally Insane.” The shattered doors of the building secured a large waiting room. Maroon chairs board the waiting room as a musty aroma seeped its way out from the seams. A lady in her late forties sat behind a glass window filing papers. Her large round glasses sat on the bridge of her nose as she popped her gum vigorously. The shattered doors creaked open as two young adults approached the window. “Names?” The lady asked refusing to be bothered from her paper work. The two cringed as she snapped her gum on the roof of her mouth. “Kelly Smith and Robert Lang. We’re here to See Coda.” The girl replied tapping her fingernails on the counter. Robert sunk his hands deep in the abyss of his pockets. “Take a seat, hon; she’ll be out in a few.” The lady behind the desk tilted her head back peering through her massive lenses. The two took a seat in the back corner. The lights flickered, causing an eerie presence within the room.

“Nervous?” Kelly laughed staring at Robert’s anxiously dancing legs.

“She’s been here for over a year now. I’m just, I’m scared.” Robert wiped his sweaty palms on his pant thighs.

“Robert, stop being such a wuss. It’s Coda.”

“I’m the reason she’s here. I did this to her. I-“

“Dude, you broke her heart. You were the only guy she trusted.”

“I didn’t mean to. I love her; it’s just-” Robert said in disbelief.

Kelly flipped her dirty blonde hair over one shoulder.

“Look,” she said, “She’s my best friend. My sister. After everything, I’m kinda surprised you’re even here.”

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Robert combed through his short red hair, burying his head within his palms, burying his head. The lady at the window clicked the glass window with the end of her ball point pen.

“She’s on her way kids. Sit tight.” The lady twirled her gum around her finger.

A faint clicking came from the long hallway to the right of the lady at the window. Robert sunk his head deeper as Kelly sat up in anxiousness. The clicking grew louder. A young girl emerged out of the hall. Her black heels folded behind another as she stood at the entrance of the hallway. Her long dark hair hugged the sides of her waist, curling ever so slightly as it descended to its limit. Her sultry gaze scanned the lobby.

“Coda!” Kelly screamed bursting out of her seat.

They hugged each other tightly, burying one another’s head in each other’s shoulder. Robert pushed the armrests for support as he stood up.

“Coda,” He stumbled.

“Robert,” She chuckled, walking over to squeeze Robert’s shoulder.

“Let’s get out of here,” Coda said heading out the door.

Robert and Kelly exchanged looks watching Coda breeze past them. Coda peered over her slender shoulder, “You coming?” She said smirking and walked outside. Robert and Kelly trailed behind her. Coda hopped in the passenger seat of Robert’s truck, everyone got in the car, and they were on their way. The ride was quiet, everyone focused on the flashing scenery outside the windows. “Damien is having a party at the abandoned glass factory, so we’re stepping in. That cool?” Robert asked. Coda agreed as they headed down a wide empty road. Slowing to a stoplight, Robert reached a hand to Coda’s thigh.

“Look can we-”

Before Robert could get the words out, a gush of wind slapped him in the face as he watched Coda sprinting down the long road. He bolted to follow her. Coda ran underneath the dimly lit streetlamps as Robert raced after. He charged up to Coda and forcibly turned her towards him. He

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artwork by MICHELLE STREIFF | STLCC-Wildwood

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slipped one hand through her hair and pulled her close, her dark eyes falling into his. He kissed her, passionately consuming her in his arms. Coda yanked away running, looking back at Robert with heavy eyes. Robert sat down on the curb. The roar of his truck struck his attention as it pulled around the curb. Coda sat behind the wheel staring into Robert’s eyes. Robert stood up walking towards the truck when a large screech broke the silence. A car sped into the side of the truck t-boning Coda. Robert fell to his knees in agony.

Screeeeeeeeccccchhhh.

He exhaled his last breath of hope he had, then everything went blank.

Robert opened his emerald eyes to find he was in a confined room.

“What the hell? What’s going on? Hello? Anybody?” Robert pleaded.

A door swung open out of the padded walls, and the lady from the front desk rushed in. Her large glasses hung around her neck as she fiddled with the chain. “What happened, hon? Another dream?” she asked as the door sealed behind her with a robotic click.

“Huh? Where am I?” Robert asked exploring the room. “What is this?”

“Not again,” The lady mumbled into her large bosom. “I’ll play along this time, but no more! I’m Nurse Heidi. We’ve had the pleasure of caring for you for just over a year now. You’re one of our favorite patients!”

“Patients? Look you got this mixed up. I was just at a party and-”

“I’m not sure how that would be possible. You haven’t left the patient’s home since you arrived here.” The nurse said sitting on the bed. “I have to call Coda, or Kelly, even Damien. I don’t care. I’m not supposed to be here.” He pleaded. The lady dug for a tiny notebook buried in her coat pocket. She slipped her glasses on and fingered through her notes. “Ah! Kelly and Damien. They dropped you off here remember? I’m afraid you’ve had no visitors since then, though.” Nurse Heidi said squinting at the small piece of manuscript within her hand.

“What about Coda? Is she here? Let me-”

The lady squinted her eyes at Robert. She scooted herself a bit closer, brushing her cold fingers along his back.

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“Sweetie, your friend Cece died. It was about a few weeks before you were admitted. She died in a car crash; do you remember? She was on her way to your friend’s party.” The lady said softly. “Sit tight. I’ll go get you some water. Robert sank, his bed evolving into a consuming vortex as he buried himself in the covers. Tears trickled down his round face. He lifted his head to examine his palms. The gash from the shard was a mere scar now. Robert laid his head on his pillow and cried. A familiar voice caught his attention.

“Robert, Robert do you miss me?”

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artwork by MARY OSBORNE | STLCC-Wildwood

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Almost Blue BY NICK BROUK The winter killed the summer Slowly poisoned him with the fall He dragged his final breaths, pale as chalk. I, however, was almost blue. Winter held me in her arms. Possessive and moody Lovely as always, Yet violent and sadistic. Caught off guard as I was, To see her again. I spent those days With a person void of the means to care, Turned my head away from the concept of an original affection. This was realized, thought over, drawn up by the philosophers. I read their manifesto, and even then, I was almost blue. A baby was born soon after, And his tears rained down on April. My eyes were painted green As I gazed upon the carcasses.

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Old and tired, Young and soft. It hurts to bleed and also, to blink. It’s days like these, I feel bloated and unnecessary. I stick my head Into a lion’s mouth. To this; I found closure. I was sure it would rain again. It was such a precise measure, I bet all my money that it would pour. But the rain never came. When they came to take my money, They came to take everything. Empty; And nothing ever burned again.

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artwork by DION DION | STLCC-Wildwood

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The Daily Test BY CALEB DUNN I know it’s coming. Why am I so nervous? I take this test practically every day and always pass. Why should this time be any different? One by one they call the others to take their test. Each and every one of them performs perfectly. I hear the names getting closer and closer to my own. They’re like a ferocious monster with its gnashing teeth backing me into a corner with its threatening roars. Its foul breath makes me feel like I might puke. Its chin still drips from devouring its last victim. I’m shaking. Every hair on my body seems to be standing on end. I want to scream, but I can’t make a sound. My throat is so tight, I can’t breathe. This is the end for me. I’m going to fail this time. The incessant pounding of my heartbeat is so loud, I almost miss the moment I have been dreading for what feels like hours. I desperately try to compose myself as they call my name. I raise my hand and say, “Here.”

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artwork by TRACEY SNYDER | STLCC-Wildwood

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artwork by PATRICK JOHNS | STLCC-Wildwood

2017 Sycamore  

An annual of poetry, prose and art by students at St. Louis Community College-Wildwood.

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