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SYCAMORE AN ANNUAL OF POETRY, PROSE, AND ART St. Louis Community College - Wildwood | 2018

Volume 10 / 2018 Editors Lisa Haag, Copy Editor Jackie Johnson, Graphic Designer Gina Tarte, Project Manager Mark Weber, Art Editor and Advisor Melanie Whithaus, Copy Editor Daniel F. Yezbick, Ph.D., Editor and Advisor

About the Cover artwork by KIM KORDONOWY | STLCC - Wildwood

I painted this piece from a photo of a newborn fawn in the grass. After drawing the fawn on my canvas, I selected seven related fabrics that seemed to suggest the flecks and contrasts in the form - similar to the way someone might select fabrics for a quilt. After cutting and gluing the fabrics on my canvas, I painted on and around them to clarify and mesh together the intersecting colors and patterns. I wanted to show the realistic gesture of his head tucked in sleep and how he nestled into the grass with enough abstraction to suggest something more universal.

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


Ten Rings around the Tree: SYCAMORE Celebrates its First Decade of Art and Rhetoric Reflections by Professor Daniel F. Yezbick, Ph.D., faculty editor After ten years’ worth of compiling student and community art and writing, SYCAMORE has matured and adapted to many concerns. Our college, our editors, and the issues our creations address have changed and shifted in reflection and reaction to complex - often chaotic - times. Conceived and shepherded by two dynamic teachers - Layla Goushey and Mark Weber our SYCAMORE was blessed with fertile, nurturing soil and dedicated guardians from the very start. Soon after its first fulsome foliage, one of Wildwood’s most innovative teachers and incisive editors, Monica Swindle, brought startling new energy and editorial scrutiny to this celebration of our campus’ diverse and dynamic voices, and, thanks to her creative collaborations with Professor Mark Weber, SYCAMORE became even more powerfully poetic and pictorial. Many other hands and hearts have given gifts of time, insight, organization, and funding to keep our tree of art and ideas alive through the years. Though we cannot pause to appreciate them all by name, we can certainly credit the logistical genius and generous funding of Gina Tarte, Jackie Johnson, Judy Brouk and Michael Dreith as well as past contributions of time and insight by Debbie Lyons Ward, Patrick Vaughn, Dawn Dupler, and many others. This year, we are especially grateful to two talented writers, Melanie Whithaus and Lisa Haag, for their assistance in the selection of entries. After ten solar orbits, our tree has grown terrifically tall with the benefit of so many supporting suns and lovers of fine art and fine writing. Before we close this prologue pointing out the past, we have to give final praise to the one voice that has kept SYCAMORE hearty in all seasons. Professor Mark Weber, a gentleman, scholar, master painter and inspiring colleague who continues to share art, wit, generosity and wisdom with his students, colleagues and friends every day in every imaginable way. Without his constant guidance and guardianship, this SYCAMORE and all of the diverse voices and visions that scamper and romp within it, would have had little opportunity to thrive. Thank you Gina, Jackie, Layla, Mark and Monica, and everyone else who has given growth and scope to SYCAMORE. May it continue to rise and reach for ever higher heights over its next ten seasons!



TABLE OF CONTENTS Poetry Lillian Hayward, “A Sermon in the Mud”.. ................................................................... 4 . Megan Livell, “Dear Mr. President”. . ............................................................................ 7 Mackenzie Coburn, “The Thunder”............................................................................. 8 Lillian Hayward, “Pepperoni Trees”............................................................................ 9 Caleb Dunn, “Fangirling Over You”........................................................................... 12 Lillian Hayward, “This is the Year”............................................................................ 14 Laura Schuermann, “The Loss of Mary”................................................................... 17 Mackenzie Coburn, “Magic”. . ..................................................................................... 18 Lillian Hayward, “That Girl”. . ..................................................................................... 21 Timmy Delia, “Jack Was Born In a Box”.. .................................................................. 22 Megan Livell, “In Divide Spread Wide”. . .................................................................... 25 Creative Non-Fiction/ Memoir Audrey Selle, “Horses Bring Hope”........................................................................... 26 Chris Charles, “Dear Professor” . . ............................................................................... 32 Makayla Song, “My Father”. . ...................................................................................... 35 Molly Taff, “No Place Like Home”. . ............................................................................ 41 Chance Whitlatch, “Shylo”.. ....................................................................................... 47 Monica Batra Nagpal, “Two Hours”.. ......................................................................... 52 Fiction Angela Swim, “Edward’s Lucky Day”. . ....................................................................... 58 Joshua Mundschenk, “It’s You, Me, and Axe”........................................................... 60 Elena Iglesias, “The Enslaved”.................................................................................. 62 Megan Livell, “Bent”. . ................................................................................................. 65 Drama/ Scriptwriting Chance Whitlatch, “Z in the Library”........................................................................ 71


A Sermon in the Mud BY LILLIAN HAY WARD 1937, Gelsenkirchen, Germany: Wolfgang Waterwiese’s father did not come home. He was left at the bottom of a bottomless pit, His ashes Meant to mix smoothly with dirt So dark That only coal miners knew its true hue. Soft accordion probably played at his funeral. I assume. I don’t actually know. Even though, Wolfgang was meinem Opa And that was his father And I’ve been to GelsenkirchenStood in front of the office building That now topples where the mines once were. I remember my mom walking into the building And asking if they sold post cards. And meinem Opa used to stand in front of me, For so long Until he toppled too.



Grey-white beard Amputated arm Never left the houseResulting in a stench and a smile. Stench and a smile My brother and I would talk about how we felt bad whenever we left my Opa and Oma’s house. “Es war immer interessant… It was always interesting aber klein und traurig auch. “ but small and sad also. Just like we were whenMeinem Opa would beg us to “stay, stay longer, stay, I am so lonely” small and sad also. Meiner Oma would “hush, hush, hush” him And they would wave together on the porch As we disappeared into the distance. Our small minds not able to comprehend the power of the old immigrants’ house. In the last years Meinem Opa’s memories Started to mix so smoothly with nightmares So dark Only two people could see through. His eyes became swiss cheese, And you were lucky if you fell into the holes in between.


artwork by KEVIN BULLOCK | STLCC - Wildwood



Dear Mr. President: BY MEGAN LIVELL

Have you ever been repeatedly hit in the gut?

I’ll feel it more severely; since you made a spending cut -

Once a month, maybe you should hunch over a toilet bowl;

That’s what happens when you take away birth control.

The only thing that eases my pain;

Thanks for showing concern and using little of your brain.


The Thunder BY MACKENZIE COBURN the girl saw a photo of a boy and fell in love she saw their future it started to rain with magic in her eyes, she ran out into the middle of the street as she screamed with the thunder and danced as it clapped all around her in a bright yellow dress with full crimson lips she ran to him and leaped into his arms she yelled, ‘IT’S RAINING!’ and he exclaimed, ‘YOU’RE CRAZY!’ as they simultaneously smiled like Cheshire cats and whispered ‘I know’ and then she kissed him and transported that boy to a place where he was finally happy and with the final roar of the thunder they had won the war against the world.



Pepperoni Trees BY LILLIAN HAY WARD I met a boy who writes a poem everyday. The leaves are red, yellow, brown, but not blue and the wind whips through the streets. I trudge along the road with a book in my hand and childish posture on my back. The way back from school is a thirty-minute trek, which roughly translates to one short story, “In the Isle of Lagoo the leaves are blue and everyone is happy except for Tony’s dad who’d rather wear mascara then have to make pepperoni. Tony’s father, whom other mothers claim is a bother, is the butcher on 82nd street (which doesn’t’ make any sense since Lagoo is only seven miles long) but you get the point, the women are transphobic and Tony’s dad totally doesn’t want to be a dude butcher. In fact, if he was a lady I don’t think he’d even want to be butch, in that circumstance. Mr. ‘Tony’s-Dad’ is kind inside. He likes to paint his daughters’ toenails, and turn them into pretend mermaid scales and doesn’t care for politics but loves a good themed party, ‘Funfetti, forget he’ cries Mr. Rabaj, as he picks off pepperoni from his pizza which everyone with a right eye agrees is the best part. (Except for vegans, and probably vegetarians and pescatarians too, and maybe even Mormons, whom my father, not Tony’s, claims are the nicest people) Resume. We see Mr. Rabaj in his room


It’s like looking into a dollhouse, in the middle of Lagoo, where the leaves are all blue and everyone is happy except for Tony’s daddy and possibly Mr. Rabaj too. You see, Mr. Rabaj with the surprising red hair and Mr. ‘Tony’s-dad’ had an affair. But you probably knew that by line 2. Now it was over and it was mid-October. And trouble was brewing in Lagoo. There was a major storm coming their way that would render everyone’s chargeable toothbrushes useless. Tony’s dad, was feeling sad when his doomful daughter ran towards the butchery on 82nd street. Enter Linda, poor Linda, it’s a super outdated name on this fictional island too Linda’s hair droops in her eyes and she likes cold soup, and sings sad songs in her mind. ‘Papa!’ she screeched in her most monotone voice, ‘there’s a storm heading straight for Lagoo!’ ‘Linda! Quick, help me bury all this pepperoni so it doesn’t get ruined in the storm!’ Linda and her papa’s fingers covered with soot, dig like dogs through the rich soil of Lagoo. The horizon can’t be seen anymore, and the sky is blue grey, and smells like aftershave and dandelions. Linda had met a boy who writes a poem everyday. Those are the best kind. The leaves in Lagoo were red, yellow, brown, and especially blue and as the wind whips through the streets, Linda hopes he knew she still thinks about him too. And as for Mr. ‘Tony’s-dad’ and Hurricane Rabaj, with his aftershave and dandelion scent? They’ll figure it out. After the storm… sure their carports will be gone, but pepperoni trees will sprout everywhere.”

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artwork by ANN FRAILEY | STLCC - Wildwood


Fangirling Over You BY CALEB DUNN I am a nerd, and you find my fandoms absurd. You think all my superheroes are super zeros You don’t care about Chitari hoards or Laser Swords But it’s plain to see, you care about me. If I’m going to play Halo, it’s going to be solo Taking on the Covenant, I’m lovin’ it Though you give me grief for how much I love Master Chief... But you mean more to me than any killing spree You’re a Vader hater. You find the Galactic Civil War a bore It makes me wish I were a clone, so I wouldn’t have to watch Star Wars alone I couldn’t find the droids I was looking for, but I found someone I do adore I want to convert you to a Potterhead, but you’d rather take a nap instead. Your love is the only spell that lets me escape this Muggle Hell. “Going to bed? Mind if I Slytherin?” But wait, that’s a sin Let’s try this again... Although our relationship has just begun, I think you might be my chosen one You bring balance to this mysterious force called love

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artwork by CLAIRE GYURKIKISS | STLCC - Wildwood


This is the Year BY LILLIAN HAY WARD This is the year of loving myself. Feeling the aroma of tangerine tea sitting on my tongue and in my breath as I lean against a parked car in the openness of a cold January thinking… “Damn! Wouldn’t No One be lucky?” Feeling the wind’s clean chill, hit the ankle area that sits between rolled-up jean and sneaker and smiling. Building a temple inside myself Made of seashells, cedar, and pine Have you ever seen Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour’s ocean-side cottage, where they bury Dobby in the sand? It’s something like that. (This is the year of unapologetic Harry Potter references too.) This temple I built with my own, two, awkward, and introverted hands is where I can be in my lonesome, Even in a sweaty, crowded dance hall Plates clinking Hearts thumping, I can be In the - beauty of togetherness without ever being there.

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This is the year I say, “no thanks” This is the year, “ No, I will not drive you to your ex-boyfriend’s house.” This is the year I realize I am the dragon my Chinese zodiac sign claims I am; I sit inside my cave, sleeping in warm embers and sifting through autumn with ease. I sip my tea. “Damn. Wouldn’t No One be lucky.”

artwork by CLAIRE GYURKIKISS | STLCC - Wildwood


artwork by DION DION | STLCC - Wildwood

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The Loss of Mary BY L AURA SCHUERMANN Charles and Dorothy. First parents to be. Had a full term Baby Girl. But in distress was she. Doctors tried in despair. To recover her to life. But it was not to be. For she could not breathe. She passed as they struggled. To put breath in her lungs Then presented her limp body to the Nuns. Who christened her Mary. And to heaven she went. Charles and Dorothy distraught. Over their loss of the child. Buried her with her Great Grandfather. At peace forever in heaven was she. Charles and Dorothy went home alone. To start their lives over again. During the following years to come. They had seven more children born. All the children, healthy they were. Proceeded their lives as a happy family. But Little Mary, never forgotten. Remembered by all to this day. Never to forget those who are lost. The family continues on with their lives. Ever conscious there was one more. Who will live on forever in everyone.


Magic BY MACKENZIE COBURN The opulent black-haired maiden With crisp, wine-coloured lips And angelic ivory skin Was tempting To the broken man Who had set sail To ease the whimper of his painful day to day endeavors He whispered hush, hush, to his broken heart A shimmering break in the pandemonium From the thoughts that racked his skull Was welcomed warmly. He leaned against the ebony wood Took in her aromatic scent Closed his eyes And wistfully dreamed of a tomorrow In which he actually looked forward to one.

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artwork by VICKI HEFTY | STLCC - Wildwood


artwork by MICHELLE STREIFF | STLCC - Wildwood

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That Girl BY LILLIAN HAY WARD That girl does her homework And the extra credit essays And the tennis regional championships And the driving her sister to gymnastics That girl could run on a Habitrail hamster wheel for five plus hours and not realize she’s not going anywhere… That girl does her homework And the proposal for Model U.N. And the late-night lunch making. That girl’s boyfriend could be gay and she wouldn’t realize it. “I’m only gay for you!” 5”2, quaff, looking for a good time his Grindr profile reads. Let’s just say I’m not surprised the girl has a blue highlighter… She’d be prepared if the world was about to end and the only way to save it was if she could Quickly! Highlight and Annotate this copy of the Scarlet Letter! I bet she used to watch that T.V. show, Dance Moms, and get like, emotionally invested, you know? I’m sure by her neon green jacket that she would wash her hair with silky conditioner after running laps and the afternoon delight of algebra. She’d spool her hair through a comb Wet and icicled-at-the-end And curl her fingers into sweatshirt sleeves. She’d watch that show with a milky bowl of cereal and criss-cross applesauce with her dazed eyes through thick-rim glasses that only she ever sees herself in.


Jack Was Born in a Box BY TIMMY DELIA Jack was born in a box. Yes, Jack was born in a box. The type of box with a lid on top. A lid on a box too big to prop. Not enough to reach in a hop. Jack was born in a box.

Jack was born in a box. A box he could not withstand. The lid was too far up for Jack to command. He often jumped to land on his hands, Dust off his pants and try it again. Jack was born in a box.

Jack was born in a box. And Jack was starting to worry. His actions were pressured and his actions were hurried. He jumped and fell down, Jack hopelessly scurried.

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But outside his box, Jack heard a faint knock. The sound of a voice, the ticks of a clock. Newly enthralled, Jack ran to the wall. Using his voice he shouted and called, “Is somebody out there, someone at all?�

Lifting the lid exposed a small kid. Jack now heard chimes as they sang in the wind. The child reached in, Jack shouted again, This time in horror with words to offend. Off went the kid, slamming the lid. Jack was condemned. He knew it, he did.

Quickly regretting what he had done. Upsetting himself, for his fear had won. Jack looked at his lid too big to prop. The sound of the voice and the ticking had stopped. No longer the fervor for even a hop. Jack was born in a box.


artwork by MICHELLE STREIFF | STLCC - Wildwood

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In divide spread wide Black and white not allied. North Korea aiming quietly Itching for our rivalry. America blind sided Hostility and hate being our guide. More than ever, we need peace and tranquility. Will we learn, or burn with irony? Riptides crashing nationwide.


Horses Bringing Hope BY AUDREY SELLE A small, physically handicapped boy grasps a volunteer’s hand and leans against the strong frame of a chestnut horse. In the center of a brightly lit horse arena, the stallion’s muscles ripple beneath his thin, copper-colored coat and shine like a pair of polished shoes. The child reaches out to pat his forehead, then runs his small fingers down the muzzle, and smiles at the horse’s blaze. The saddled animal stands motionless and inspects the boy with curious eyes. Gripping the boy’s arms, the instructors lead him up a plastic stair-stepper to mount his horse. The child’s face lights up in pure delight as he swings his frame into a Western saddle and clutches the color-coded reins. As I pushed open the door of Equine-Assisted Therapy’s Wildwood facility, I was warmly greeted by Katie, the receptionist, who had been expecting my visit. Inside, was a quiet, country-styled lobby. A TV and tan sofa were positioned in a corner by a fireplace; sketches of horses hung on the wall, and decorative horseshoes were placed throughout the room. Katie quickly showed me the entrance to the indoor horse arena behind the main lobby. The door creaked open, and I squeezed into the bustling arena filled with volunteers, parents, and disabled riders. Taking a seat on a bright red lawn chair, I surveyed the scene before me. My neighbor, an orange cat named Murphy, woke from his snooze, meowed, and sprang into my lap. The rectangular arena smelled like fresh hay, and a slight breeze whipped its way through the open garage doors on either side of the building. A few of the participants clung to the metal rail encircling the arena, eager to start their lessons. In the corner, a rider waited on the wheelchair ramp, ready to mount the horse from a lift. Meanwhile, several instructors motivated a young boy with a mental disability to swing his leg over the barreled body of his horse. After balancing himself in the saddle, he clapped his hands, waved at the parents, and smiled from ear to ear. Another rider gestured at her mom each time she rode by and yelled, “Look at me!”

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A riding instructor wearing dusty cowboy boots and an army green baseball hat found me in the arena. Extending her hand, she kindly introduced herself. LuLu’s blond hair was tied back in a ponytail, and her freckled skin appeared tan from working in the sun. She was well informed about horse therapy and related the information in a down-to-earth manner. The instructor proved to be likable and eager to answer my many questions. LuLu, who is a certified riding instructor (CRI), is one of many volunteers that Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT) runs on. EAT is located in Wildwood and is situated on several acres of sprawling pastures and wooded areas. The organization currently stables thirteen horses and two miniature donkeys. On a typical week, LuLu told me EAT needs 300 volunteers to act as sidewalkers and front leaders to ensure the safety of its participants. EAT strives to offer disabled individuals with an array of challenges and exercises on the back of a horse instead of in a traditional clinical setting. The benefits of equine therapy seem endless. Sitting on a horse engages all core muscles which can increase muscle tone, strengthen the spine, and improve posture. Riding develops balance and coordination, which are crucial for walking. For those with mental disabilities, games on horseback can promote thinking, problem solving, and patience skills. LuLu explained that the participants must also use fine motor skills to reign their horses, employ leg muscles to move the horse forward, and communicate with the animal by woahing it.

“It really is a whole body, mental, physical workout,” LuLu stated.

When a new patient joins the therapy program, instructors evaluate their situation and create drills that will improve their condition. “We look at each participant’s diagnosis and try to figure out what we can do on the back of a horse, today, that can help them with that diagnosis,” explained LuLu. “There are a lot of different exercises and equipment we can use that is specific to their disability.” If a child has a weaker side, the instructor will do more drills and reigning on that side to strengthen it. For autistic children, EAT may utilize weighted vests so the child feels tight and secure. Or if the diagnosis is cerebral palsy, ankle weights may be attached to help lengthen and loosen the leg muscles.

LuLu pointed to obstacles dotting the arena. Barrels, orange cones, and


artwork by JOAN METTE | STLCC - Wildwood

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long poles laid on the ground were strategically placed throughout the course. Plastics bins filled with balls and rings were perched on top of the barrels for easy access. The toys are not only employed as motivation tools, but also for throwing and stretching games the children play. Towards the right of the the arena, I noticed a teen girl with a mental handicap struggling to mount her horse from the stair-stepper. The instructors gave encouragement and showed her where to place her leg. Meanwhile, a different trainer instructed her riding patient to release the reins and stretch his arms out wide. The child hesitated but eventually took the challenge. LuLu remarked, “We never make anyone do something that they feel uncomfortable with, as far as the safety aspect goes. If it is a stubborn aspect, and we know they can do it and they just don’t want to, we try to push them through. But we take all those things into consideration.” The gate latch clanked open. As the riders finished their warm-up, volunteers lined them up one by one for a mini trail ride bordering the fenced pasture and the woods. LuLu led me onto the dirt arena towards the gate; I followed her out the open garage door onto the trail. Orange and crimson trees dotted the landscape, contrasting with the vivid, blue sky while crisp leaves danced in the breeze as they floated down from their summer home. The horses clopped along the gravel driveway leading to a grassy trail. They patiently listened to their rider and never spooked. LuLu explained that the horses used in EAT must successfully pass 4-6 weeks of training before entering the program. This consists of desensitizing the animal to toys like hula-hoops or an unbalanced rider. “It takes a pretty special horse and a great amount of trust. Horses are naturally claustrophobic animals, so some can’t get past the two sidewalkers, a front leader, and a person on their back all at the same time.” But horses are very intuitive, honest, and reliable in therapy. She noted that horses can hear a human heartbeat from 70 yards away, allowing them to know what is going on with a rider before an instructor could. For example, if a kid were to have a seizure during the session, the horse would stop and “square up” before the seizure occurs, because he can sense the increasing heartbeat.


“You’re doing great!” and “You’ve improved so much!” she yelled to the riders throughout our discussion. Along with the encouraging words, she smiled radiantly and gave the kids a big thumbs up. Her passion for horses and therapy shined through. With a grin on her face, she commented, “You really get to know each one of the participants, which is a ton of fun!” Just like the horses, instructors must be trained and pass a test through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH). They must learn CPR and emergency first aid; however, LuLu stressed that most instructors and volunteers are not medical professionals. Although the organization does not provide any therapists, they never discourage their participants from bringing a PT, OT, or psychologist. “Most people choose not too,” she admitted. “I think they get enough of that in-session, clinical therapy at other times of the week.” She laughed, “Horse therapy is really like a fun form of therapy.” Kids are more excited and motivated to do this treatment because it is not another set of exercises in a clinic; they can focus on building their horsemanship skills along with improving their disability. That’s the end goal of Equine-Assisted Therapy. Strolling back to the country lobby, I was inspired that horses can bring so much joy and transform countless lives. Sports are deeply rooted in the American culture. Football fields, basketball courts, tracks, and even fitness gyms are ubiquitous in the U.S. However, in a country dominated by sports and athletic games, we rarely imagine how disabled children and adults feel to be limited in their activities. While other types of therapy may help, horses have proven to be valuable in helping patients engage in a sport. Equine-Assisted Therapy has positively changed these children’s lives through horses, and hopes to provided the participants with a physical activity they can both perform and master. Works Cited “Equine-Assisted Therapy.” Equine Assisted Therapy, Bogolin, LuLu. Personal interview. 6 October 2017.

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artwork by JO JASPER DEAN | STLCC - Wildwood


Deaf Professor BY CHRIS CHARLES Whether it’s a physical trait or personality trait, we all have defining features. Our personalities should define us, but sometimes society uses our physical features to define us regardless of their validity or importance. Sometimes we find ourself taking physical features and using them to define a person, even if we know better. I thought because I took American Sign Language (ASL) in high school, I would know better than to define my teacher from his deafness. As I waited around after class, I found myself watching this Deaf man use these beautiful hand motions to communicate with the class. I noticed two of my other classmates waiting, as well. Before we all left, he became serious and got our attention. “During class, while I’m teaching, why does the class laugh and giggle?” he cautiously asked. All at once, we laughed and looked at each other. None of us knew quite how to answer his question. It was incredibly simple, so we plainly told him “Because you’re funny.”

Looking utterly shocked he said, “What?! No I’m not! … Am I?”

“Yes, you are,” we all laughed in agreement.

When I began taking ASL with a deaf professor, many friends became worried for me. They’d say things like “Wow that’s probably gonna be boring” or “It’s gonna be really hard to understand him.” Yet here he is, my favorite teacher. He’s by far the most entertaining and engaging teacher I have. Once my other classmates left, we moved to the teacher work room. Ready to start the interview, I opened up my laptop, in hope that Mr. DeShetler would let me type on a word document in order to communicate with him, but he immediately told me he would not look at it. He wanted me to sign to him, so I hesitantly started signing my questions to him. “So, were your parents Deaf? What was their opinion on Deaf culture? Tell me about your family,” I signed, roughly.

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“My parents were hearing. My sister is hearing. My brother is Deaf. My parents were against sign until society became more sign positive, during the rise of technology.” To my surprise, like most other kids, he had parents whose views were as conservative as the time, but thankfully times change. “Were you and your brother close?” I asked. “No, me and my brother were 10 years apart. I never helped him out and we were never close until we became adults.” I assumed that because he and his brother had Deafness in common, they must have been close. He must have lead the way for his younger brother and protected him. In reality, he and his brother had a similar relationship to most other siblings. “So why do you teach ASL?”

“Because I have to eat,” he said, seriously.

I laughed at him, once again, unable to tell if he was joking or not. I clarified, “No, but what made you decide to teach ASL? Were you excited to educate hearing on Deaf culture?” “I was a graphic designer. My job got axed during the recession. No companies wanted to hire a Deaf employee. After searching for another job, unable to find one, the college came to me about teaching ASL classes for them.” I found myself expecting him to say he started teaching because that’s what he was passionate about. I unconsciously decided that since he’s Deaf, he must teach because he wanted to educate the hearing on Deaf culture. I was caught off guard to find out he was just a normal guy who lost his job during the recession, just like many other Americans. After all these unexpected responses, I figured asking about a prominent Deaf actress would be a safe bet, so I asked, “What do you think of Marlee Matlin, and her influence on hearing society?”

“Bitch. She’s a bitch.”

I laughed, “Well okay, but do you think she’s good Deaf representation for the hearing world?”


“Oh yes, yes! Very good. I’ve actually talked to her before.”

Once again, I got a shocking answer. I fully expected nothing but kind words about her. I was thinking because they were both Deaf he must love her as a person. At this point, I began to realized my mistake. When I decided to interview this middle aged man with a scruffy goatee, I assumed I knew his life because he’s Deaf. I thought he would have a “Deaf life.” There is no such thing as a “Deaf life.” Every Deaf person, same as any hearing person, comes from different walks of life and has different experiences. Taking a year of ASL in high school didn’t help me develop an educated opinion of Deaf culture. A big reason for that could have been because my teacher was hearing teacher. Although I enjoyed ASL in high school, and it inspired me to learn more, it had no positive influence in my assumptions concerning Deaf people. If my teacher had been Deaf, he/she could have helped break my assumptions early on. They could have better educated me on the Deaf struggle, but helped me realize that it doesn’t define any one Deaf person. When I told him my high school ASL teacher was hearing he said, “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.” The hearing community has a long way to go before the Deaf community really feels included and equal. Good progress has been made, but we all make small assumptions about things we don’t really understand. As hearing people, we need to be courteous to the Deaf and understanding that they can do everything except hear. Deaf people are not stupid. They are not dumb. They are equal to us. Within my year and a half of learning sign, I have realized how beautiful and unique the language is. ASL is not english. It has its own grammar and sentence structure. Even myself, who has been learning about Deaf culture for this long, can be ignorant to the truth about the Deaf community. If we really want to help Deaf people feel included and accepted, learning as little as basic sign and fingerspelling (ABCs in sign) would be a huge step forward.

Works Cited DeShetler, Steve. Personal interview. 10 Oct. 2017.

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My Father: A Piece of the Musical Puzzle BY MAK AYL A SONG Our elders constantly provide wisdom in the midst of trials; they want to spare young minds from a similar fate. My father was faced with a crossroads that would alter his entire life. I am fortunate to have a father who went down a similar career path as I have been. My dad gives me his words of experience, so I may be wiser in the face of the temptations music throws my way. I can vividly recall going to my dad’s gigs. I remember one where my dad’s friend asked him to play in his band because they were short a bass player. I was seven years old. The gig was outside in front of several restaurants, where they played inside a green vinyl tent as the stage. Despite the cold, people left the comfort of the indoors to eat outside and listen to the music. People walking by stopped, danced, and yelled out things like, “play it again!” I remember the band played “Stray Cat Strut,” and when the song began to play I rose to my feet and danced. I didn’t care that the wind propelled shards of broken ice, stinging my cheeks as I moved. Everyone laughed, smiled, and sang along. Girl’s night out groups sat and clapped for a while; mothers with small children danced the twist, and old couples swayed to the music. The band brought joy to so many, even if it did only last for a few hours. Amidst the happiness, I stopped to look at my father for a few seconds. His face was blank as he stared off into the distance. People probably assumed he was focusing hard on his music; however, I knew that face too well. My father looked miserable. I didn’t understand at my young age how he could be so sad among such happy people who were so grateful for the music. People endlessly tipped the band and complimented my dad’s skill with the bass guitar. With every comment, however, my dad seemed to grow more and more indifferent.

Like my dad, I began playing music for others at a young age. One night


artwork by JESSICA FOX | STLCC - Wildwood

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after a gig, I asked my dad what inspired him to start playing music, even though talking to my dad about music always felt like a forced game of twenty questions. “I had a radio that was in the shape of superman,” my dad answered as he sat at the head of the table in the living room. He said, “I used to listen to a lot of top 40 hits on that radio.” Up until now, my dad had been mostly quiet. I asked to talk with him in hopes of hearing how he became the musician he is today. Most of my questions bounced right off of him; his discomfort with the topic of himself seemed to eat at him. I felt apprehensive to keep talking. That’s when my father surprisingly filled the space. “My want to play the bass came from a bubble gum commercial, Hubba Bubba, I think. The track in the background had this funky bass.” He paused for a second and laughed, “My first gig was at my middle school. I was twelve, and I was asked to play bass for some guys I knew for a school assembly. I arrived in a sports coat and a tie. I remember my friend saying, ‘Leo you look all wrong,’ and he took the tie off my neck and wrapped it around my head; I think he wanted me to look more like Jimmy Hendrix.” My dad began to explain that at first music was a fun surge of energy, and as he grew older he obsessed over it. Craving fame and fortune, he told me about his want for the entire rockstar package: girls, booze, drugs, and partying. “I never really thought of having a family,” my dad sighed. “I lived in the moment, and I only wanted music.” However my dad’s father wanted him to have a job to fall back on. After trying out a trade school that didn’t work out, my dad decided to only study music. He joined a band called “Frenzy” on top of his musical studies at college, so night and day, music surrounded him.

“They made me the frontman of the band (Frenzy). That was when my


musical chops really soared, yet people were never amazed by me fronting the band. The band wanted a record deal. Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records actually was going to sign us, but it was one of those bogus record deals, the ones where bands never see any profit, only piles and piles of debt. So we turned it down.” After this record scenario, my dad became a Christian and started to mend his life. He started to back away from his position in Frenzy and became more interested in playing paid gigs for all sorts of musicians to broaden his horizons. He was making connections, which he knew was extremely important in the music world. “I was tired of being told I was never good enough as a frontman. I also wanted more time to focus on my direction with God and my life. Paid gigs was the direction I took, even though it gave me less time to focus on my own music. I played live or even in studio sessions. Music was becoming a drag. I remember I liked learning about the audio equipment; I liked knowing how to get the best sound for my bass, but that’s about all I was interested in.” While playing a session gig for Daryl Mansfield, a famous musician in the Christian music industry, my dad learned of a guy named Chris Taylor. Chris was an audio engineer, offering an apprenticeship to whomever wanted to learn the art of audio. “The apprenticeship seemed like a great way to pay the bills. I thought it really would hold new beginnings. Though, the first job I did for the guy was build new cabinets for the mixing machines. I knew nothing of carpentry, but I tried my best. I kept praying, ‘God please, let this be worth it.’” Hearing this made me think of The Karate Kid; he had to learn his skill through odd everyday tasks. Just like that movie, over time my father learned the trade well and got hired at a local Christian company called Joyce Meyer Industries. My father made decent money, but he never got what he really desired- the fame and fortune.

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“It’s good to not lust for money when you’re in the music business because usually there isn’t much. I desired wealth and fame, and for years I was angry at myself that I never reached that goal. I had to choose whether to be content or go on loathing for a missed chance at a life I was never meant to live. Man, I loathed for a long time. I beat myself up about not trying harder. Time is slowly but surely healing these wounds, though. Musical fame isn’t earned or truly worked for; it’s luck and the people you know. I think God is now using me to teach my children about my experience and also teach me to be content with the gifts I was given, despite not being rich off it.” My father faced the crossroads of self-loathing or being content. My dad influenced my views on the music industry and prepared me for the pain it can bring. The strength my father shows inspires me.

“You can’t always get what’cha want.” No, but we often get what we need.

artwork by MICHELLE STREIFF | STLCC - Wildwood


artwork by MARY OSBORNE | STLCC - Wildwood

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No Place Like Home BY MOLLY TAFF As I opened the purple doors and made my way into Eureka High School’s gym A, the familiar scent hit me immediately. It smelled as if someone had just cut fresh wood, mixed with a stale, sweaty stench. The smell triggered all the memories I had made in this gym. The anxious feeling before I took the court, the hours I spent working on my game in this gym, the laughter I shared with my teammates, the feeling of accomplishment when we would get a win on our court, it was the feeling of just being at home. I gazed around the gym that was once my stage to show off what I loved doing the most, playing basketball. Shiny, light brown, maple hardwood covered every inch of the floor. The wood looked as if it was glass; it was always so nicely polished. The lights from above were all brightly lit, and the glossy wood reflected the light as a mirror. There were bright purple lines on the wood that showed where the free throw line, the out of bounds line, and the three point line were. As a basketball player, I knew where these lines were without even looking. I slowly began to make my way towards the middle of the court. While walking, I kept my eyes moving to take in the entire view. The purple bleachers matched the length of the court on both sides. On most nights, they were packed with parents, teachers, the students, young fans, and random residents of Eureka. However, the bleachers were completely empty this time. I took a look down at the perfect hardwood floor, and took notice of the hand painting of a wildcat that was in the middle of the court. The wildcat was outlined in purple with a dark, hardwood color that filled the inside of it. I began to admire the amount of school spirit this gym gave off. I have been to many different schools and played in a ton of gyms. Many of them just had the name of the school only once in the entire gym. My home court is completely different. ‘Eureka’ is plastered in gold on one baseline, while ‘Wildcat’ is plastered in gold also on the other baseline. A purple EHS is under both free throw lines, and even the purple bleachers have gold seats that spell out EHS. The ceilings above the court, have purple banners hanging all around them. Each banner contains


a different sport, with the year and what they placed in state. Eureka has a great tradition and remembers all the amazing accomplishments of their athletes. I outstayed my time in that gym, just observing, reminiscing, and picturing how life will be without this special game in my life. I finally got myself to get up, and I made my way towards the doors, trying not to burst into tears. I turned my head around, and began to walk backwards to take in the view of the perfect court one last time. Just before I was exiting, my eye spotted a basketball stuck under the bleachers, probably left from a P.E class earlier that day. I paused for a moment, but then quickly went over to grab the beat-up, brown basketball. I hadn’t touched a basketball since the last game I’d played in March. We had lost our first game of districts, so our my season was cut short. It took a dramatic toll on me when basketball came to an end, and I’d promised myself to never touch a basketball ever again. It was an overwhelming, but an exciting feeling to have a ball back in my fingertips. I bounced the ball firmly against the shiny wood, and the sound echoed throughout the entire empty gym as the ball came back up to meet my fingers. It was music to my ears. I bounced the worn out basketball through my legs, and behind my back. It was as if nothing had changed. I eagerly kicked off my black flip flops and rushed to the court to take my first shot. I planted my barefeet on the bright purple free throw line, bounced the ball exactly twice, and then flipped it up into my hands. As I looked up at the basket to make my aim, that’s when everything changed. Suddenly, I felt as if I had shrunk, and my hands could not fit around the ball as it had a moment ago. My once barefeet were all of a sudden a pair of bulky, white Adidas basketball shoes. The green, Lululemon tank top and black shorts I was wearing before turned into a cut off Eureka t-shirt with long purple basketball shorts. Was I dreaming? I nervously checked over my shoulder to find very familiar faces behind me. I saw my friends, who were much younger looking, standing with their basketball gear on along with other random little kids. I saw my head coach Alsup standing with his arms crossed and the most plain look on his face. I locked eyes with a lengthy, thin girl with brown eyes and the longest curly brown hair in a high ponytail. She looked a lot older than my friends were, and I knew her face but couldn’t put the pieces together. I stood there frozen as a statue with the basketball still in my hand. My little hands began to shake as the older girl approached me quickly. She bent down to be eye level with me and said determinedly, “You’re

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gonna win against your 3rd grade class and the rest of the grades above you. Don’t be nervous, just shoot.” I was utterly confused. How am I in 3rd grade when I just graduated high school? I tried blinking or pinching myself to wake me up from this odd dream. It wasn’t working. I was suddenly turned into the 3rd grader I once was, and at a Eureka High School summer camp in a free throw competition. The massively tall girl who had just approached me was a student at Eureka and a women’s basketball player I remembered from my childhood. She made her way back to stand alongside with the rest of her teammates who were teaching the camp. I could feel the kid’s eyes peering at me, so I took a deep breath in to calm my nerves. I could not only feel my heart racing, but I could hear it. I lined up my torn up basketball shoes with the purple free throw line, bounced the ball exactly twice, and then flipped it up into my hands. I looked up, made eye contact with the back of the orange rim, bent my little knees and shot the ball up in the air with all my strength. It was a perfect swish. Everyone in the gym began to clap and cheer for me. I had won the free throw contest at the camp as only a 3rd grader. I heard a familiar saying that has stuck with me ever since I attended one of these camps as a kid. Coach Alsup grabbed my tiny shoulder, looked me straight in the eye and said “There’s no better feeling than winning on your home court.” It was as if I was reliving my childhood. I knew I had been through this exact moment before. I knew he had told me that exact sentence once before. I took a seat on the purple, wildcat padded seats and took a drink of my water bottle. I couldn’t believe how vivid the dream was; it began to scare me more and more as the time went by. My eyes stared at the ground at my tiny feet until I was startled by a piercing buzzing sound that echoed throughout the gym. My feet began to grow into a fresh pair of white Nike basketball shoes. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My head raised up, and I found myself in a varsity home game against Lafayette. My heart dropped instantly. I had seen and done this same thing already. My body seemed to have grown back to what it was originally. I was no longer a small, scrawny 3rd grader. I could tell I had just came out of the game from the amount of sweat dripping from my face, arms and legs. I was exhausted and out of breathe. My coach had called a timeout, so I got myself out of the chair to let the current players in the game sit down. I glanced up at the scoreboard and saw we were down by 1 points with 30 seconds left. It was again a situation I had already experienced. I looked around the gym at the packed bleachers all around me. The student section was going nuts and chanting “E-U-R-E-K-A!” as loud as they could. I knew I was going to be told to go back into the game because that was what happened before. I turned my body to face my coach and listened carefully to what he was saying. Coach Alsup was so


artwork by KIM KORDONOWY | STLCC - Wildwood

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furious; his face turned cherry red as he was yelling at us,which was something we were all used to. As our time out began to run out, he quickly scribbled out a play on his whiteboard. He was instructing all of us what do on this particular play so we could win. Everyone of my teammates looked blankly at him and pretended to understand what he was saying. The crowd was incredibly obnoxious making it difficult to hear. He turned around grabbed my shirt and told me I was going in. The buzzer went off again but seemed to be louder this time. The game was on me, if I could make a simple layup. My nerves were out the roof as the referee handed my teammate the ball. I made the exact cut my coach had told me to make. She launched the ball in the air, and the crowd went completely silent. You could hear a pencil drop, that quiet. The orange round ball met my fingertips, and the next move was to go directly to the basket for a lay up. I glided across the court, while I pushed the ball against the shiny hardwood. The girl from lafayette put a good amount of pressure on me, which made it more difficult to get it to the basket. The referee blew his whistle before I made it to the basket. He called a foul on the Lafayette player guarding me. The crowd stood up and screamed their lungs out of excitement because I was going to the free throw line. The entire Lafayette team rolled their eyes and raised their arms in the air. I smirked as I lined up my brand new Nike white basketball shoes with the bright purple free throw line. I only had to make two easy baskets to win this. It was all on me. It began to get harder to breathe, my nerves were taking control of me. The fans went silent, and I could feel their eyes glaring at me. I took a deep breathe in, bounced the ball exactly twice, and flipped it up into my hands. I looked up, took aim at the orange rim, bent my muscular legs and took my first shot. It was good. The crowd went insane, but I still had one more shot I had to make. My teammates gave me high fives, and I smirked at them. I knew I could do this without a doubt. The referee tossed me the ball, and I lined my toes up with that same purple line. I took one last deep breathe in, bounced the ball exactly twice, and flipped it up into my hands. Time stopped in that certain moment. It felt as if the dream wanted to give me the time to take in the atmosphere one last time. I knew I wouldn’t get any moment like this ever again. I took notice of all the amazing people who came to support my team, the parents that made it to the game despite their busy schedule, the student section supporting us no matter what, and my own teammates. I looked at all of their exhausted red, sweaty faces and truly began to be appreciative of how hard they have all worked to get to this point. Most of the teammates on my time I grew up playing with, so I took it all in. I looked up, took aim of the orange rim, bent my legs, and took my shot. I watched the perfect orange ball swish through the white net. We won against our rival on our home floor. My teammates attacked me while the crowd went insane. The Lafayette girls walked


back to their benches with their heads down, mostly with tears running down their face. Coach Alsup came up to me, grabbed my jersey, and looked me straight into my soul it felt like and said once again, “There’s no better feeling than winning on your home court.” I was grinning ear to ear until I remembered it was only a dream, but I didn’t want it to come to an end. That is when my dream was interrupted by the sound of a door prying open. A figure appeared in the doorway but my vision was too blurry to tell who it was. I rubbed my eyes, in attempt of clearing them up. An aged man who seemed to be a custodian entered the gym. He had a long, thin grey ponytail that hung down his back. The man had large glasses that were clearly too big for his small, bony structured face. He was pushing a large trash can alongside him and said from across the gym calmly, “It’s getting dark so I’m going to have to lock up the gym soon.” I shook my head and agreed to be out in a minute. I stood in disbelief from the dream I just had, but felt extremely thankful for it. I got my one last feeling of playing the game I love the most, in my home gym. Every little detail was so vivid to me. I could hear the crowd; I could feel the butterflies, see my exhausted teammates, and feel the ball glide across my fingertips. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I made my way out of the gym. I slid my flip flops back onto my feet, and made eye contact with the custodian. He stood in the doorway, waiting patiently with a polite grin on his face. Trying to hold back the tears, I glanced over my shoulder at the pristine gym one last time. In attempt to hiding my face from the man. A tear came streaming down my face, and I wiped it with my arm almost immediately out of embarrassment. The man chuckled and said, “There is no place like home my dear.”

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Let me tell you a story.

Just one story out of many that tell you about my life. A story that shows a glimpse into why I think and act the way I do. Why I am-a creative thinker, a lover, a listener, stronger, compassionate, energetic, extroverted, great friend, approachable, and yes, a short and hot stud-. As you can tell, I am also a very sarcastic individual. However, this is not the happy tale that you came for or that you were hoping for. This is the truth. An assertion that will take you into my soul through my eyes. Not how I perceive at the age of twenty-two, the eyes of a six-year-old. The reflection of a situation that caused my personality to fracture. My communication to falter. A snap in my heart like a branch falling from a tree because he just gave up on life. Causing waves of feelings as hard to bring out as rowing a boat on the desert sand. This is the true story of how my sister died. Yeah, you heard me. Very straightforward and to the point, right? Well let me start you off easy. My name is Chance Whitlatch and I’ve been going to St. Louis Community College at the Wildwood Campus for three years now and plan on going to Webster in the fall for acting. I also want to work on getting my minors in communication and creative writing, but that’s not important right now. The story is. Let’s start with my family. I come from a family of seven individuals including my mother and father. My youngest sibling happens to be Shyann and she is six years old. Following her is my eleven-year-old brother, Skylar. They are the miracle that has happened out of the most traumatic moment in my life. I happen to be the very middle child which my kind is known for being stereotypically crazy and weird, which I meet both categories. After me would be my older brother Austyn who is twenty-three. He just recently graduated from Edgewood College in Wisconsin with a nursing degree and I’m so excited to see what he will accomplish. This very short but almost enough of a detailed description of my family that leads up to the main star, the one light that brought me so much joy and helped me through all my rough p atches as a kid. My sister Shylo. It all started when my family moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. We moved to get closer to a Children’s Hospital for one reason, my sister Shylo had been


diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and would be receiving treatment. My sister was a tall, dorky looking girl who had very bright red hair and freckles. The weird thing was that she had brown eyes and could tan for someone with red hair. She was always pale. Red is my favorite color and anyone with red hair makes me stop and think about her. Shylo always wore Harry Potter looking glasses and had one of the funniest personalities you would ever meet. I remember one time that she put a pillow in her underwear and was walking up the stairs saying stuff like ‘Ohhh look at my big butt’ and ‘Like what you see?’ and we would all huddle around her and laugh. She then insisted on mooning us over and over again. That’s one of my favorite memories from those days. The peacekeeper is what we would always call her. She had such a kind heart and was so attached to people’s emotions that it hurt seeing her hurt about others. Shylo loved animals to death and wanted to be in the peace corps when she grew older. Her biggest dream was to become a veterinarian and to take care of every animal in the world, especially her favorite cat Angel who was our fat grey cat. When I was younger I had such a bad attitude and had very bad anger management skills which led to me and my older brother Austyn fighting constantly. Shylo would always pull us apart and come talk to me after I would get so red faced that I would cry my eyes out and say I hated me. She was the one person who listened to me, who understood what was going on in my head. Now that she is gone, my head has no operator. It’s a train about to derail but gets pulled back on the tracks by the helping hands of passengers every now and then. “Shylo went to heaven to play with all of the animals up there, someone has to take care of them.” My mom would always say. She was the person who made me whole inside and could fix me up just like a doctor would fix their patient. I still struggle without my sister who was supposed to teach me how to live and love, but she did give me her emotions ability. I love to study people and feel their emotions, even when I hate my own. I feel for people so much it hurts me for days and if you asked my closest friends they could tell you that it is weird how one little upset to a person can cause me to cry and feel all they feel. It is my closest thing I have with Shylo now... Let’s go to the day. Bear with me now. Shylo has changed a lot. The Chemo has done its job and took away her hair that I oh so loved. She has gained a lot of weight which does not look normal because she was always very thin to the point that my mom would force her to eat more. She wears bandannas to look beautiful which she always was anyways, and she would normally sit at her baby grand electric piano that she got through Make-A-Wish. I was not told that patients

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artwork by LESLIE RANDLE | STLCC - Wildwood


who are expected to die are the ones who get Make-A-Wish. I was too young. The other thing that was never explained to me was that Shylo on her last weeks was brought home from the hospital for at home stay care in bed. This made me so happy because I thought the reason she came back home was that she was getting better and finally would stay with us. No one explained it to the little boy that she was brought home to die. That they could no longer do anything to save the most amazing person in my life. When I found out later how wrong I was, it killed me. I couldn’t sleep for days and got very unhealthy. I would cry every night for my sister and sleep with my parents in their room because I was so lonely. I prayed every night for God to giver her back. “God, why did you take her? This is unfair! I am the awful one who is so angry all the time! Take me instead! She was too important, I am the one who doesn’t matter!!” Imagine a six-year-old Chance telling himself this stuff every night. It’s the reason I still have bad insomnia and feel lonely every night. If I could never go to bed I would be the happiest man alive. Shylo showed me everything, she is the reason I feel more attached to girls instead of boys, she is the reason I am very flamboyant and a very understanding guy who has no more anger to spare, and I owe it all to her. The day Shylo died was just like any typical day. I wasn’t feeling very well, and my grandma was giving me a bath when my aunt came into the bathroom looking very distraught. My grandma asked what was wrong and she blurted out “Shylo died…” This made my chest sink to the bottom of the tub. I was rushed out of the bathtub and was helped getting dressed when we all sprinted downstairs. Shylo had her own hospital bed put in the living room which I thought was so cool at the time and that’s where we found her. She was so cold looking and not moving. This brought shivers up my spine as I approached my sister. The first thing I noticed was that she had a bloody nose. Well it wasn’t really a bloody nose, but she must’ve had one because there was dried up blood under her nose that looked like copper. I thought this was why she died, I thought when people die I guess their nose bleeds because they shut off. I don’t know why her nose had bled but it was there for a while. The next thing I remember is hugging her and saying goodbye with eyes full of water. I cried and cried and cried until I was no more. I didn’t want to continue. I couldn’t just go on looking at my new changed sister without and hair, with chubby cheeks, and that fucking blood above her lips. I wanted to die. I hate cancer. I still feel it should have been me even though I know I shouldn’t, but I do know she would have made more of a difference in life then me. She had the kind heart that I do now, she gave it to me because she loves me, but she was born with it. I was

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given it as a gift which makes her a better man and woman then I will ever be, then anyone will ever be. That is all I can say. This story may not be very accurate or straight facts because I was so young and my thoughts from back then were so jumbled that there is no way I could tell you the real truth. But this is the story through my eyes, this is what I remember as a kid, and this is my honest truth of the most tragic moment in my life. When I lost my light, my only hope, my leader and supporter, my big sister Shylo.

artwork by TERRY BANGE | STLCC - Wildwood


Two Hours BY MONICA BATRA NAGPAL I had taken numerous train journeys in India going to various places every year, but I had never thought that two hours in my eight-hour train journey would change my whole concept of belief in God. Since my childhood, I had been a big believer of God. I grew up watching both my parents spend at least 30 minutes every day praying in front of a small temple located in the living room of our house and fasting every Monday. Since I was five, I started following my parents by offering prayer everyday and fasting every Monday by eating only fruits for the whole day to show my devotion. Whenever I closed my eyes for my prayers, I would find God standing in front of me and talking to me. I would share all the daily activities with him and he would appreciate or criticize me for my actions. I did not know if this was my subconscious mind, but I always believed that he was my true friend and was always standing by me all the time. At 22, I was going back to college, which was eight hours away from my home in Delhi along with my friend, Sethu, after a week with my parents during our spring vacation. I met Sethu on our first day in college, and since then we developed an awesome understanding and friendship. She came from the State of Kerala, which is in Southern part of India. I was from the Northern part of India. We did not speak or understand each other’s local language, so we spoke English. She was around 5 feet 4 inches with a dark complexion and long hair. She always wore the salwar kameez, which is commonly worn in Southern India. The bus route to our college was very busy. The buses were always crowded and there were traffic jams on the way. It often took sometimes 10 to 12 hours to reach there. We had not reserved a train seat. Generally trains in India have at least one rail car that does not require seat reservation and people can go even standing in that if they do not get a seat. Sethu and I decided to try that. We started from home to reach the railway station an hour before the scheduled departure time of our train, The Bareilly Express. At around 10 a.m., Sethu and I got into the unreserved rail car, placed our bags in the luggage space on the

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top and occupied our seats. I took the aisle seat, and Sethu took the middle seat. The people started coming in the rail cars, and all the seats were occupied within 45 minutes before departure, and the people started finding a good space for standing to travel. Though the train originated from Delhi, I could still see waste papers and peanut hulls lying on the floor. As the people walked in the aisle, I could hear the cracking sound of peanut hulls “CCCrrruuukkk…….CCCrrruuukkk.” There also was a faint stink of unwashed socks.

artwork by JO JASPER DEAN | STLCC - Wildwood


artwork by MICHELLE STREIFF | STLCC - Wildwood

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There were four more people sitting in our row of six seats. There was an old man in his sixties, who was traveling with his grandson. There was a college student sitting in the window-seat next to the old man and his grandson. As soon as the college student took his seat, he started reading a book as if he was preparing for a test. There was a woman in her mid twenties sitting with a baby on her lap near the window. As the train departed from Delhi station, people tried to make them comfortable. The old man and his grandson pulled out Snakes and Ladders board game from the bag kept and started playing it. The baby started crying “Whaaaaa… Whaaaa…” and the woman breastfed him which brought some silence back. As the train caught speed, the vendors started coming into the rail car selling tea, biscuits and Samosas. The whole train was filled with calls from the Tea seller “Chai…Chai.” I was enjoying every bit of my journey, still unaware of what was going to come. After two hours, the train made its first stop at Meerut station. Nobody from our railcar disembarked, but four young people, who must have been in their early twenties, boarded the rail car. As the train started moving, they started looking for empty seats. There was none. They suddenly stopped in our row and they asked us to vacate the seats. We all objected because we had occupied the seat since beginning of the journey and it was an unreserved rail car. One guy, who appeared to be leader of this group, said that they travel every day from this stop to the next stop and they always occupy these seats. They appeared to be very rude and uncivilized “Goons.” The guy who appeared to be leader was around 6 feet tall, wearing a red and blue check shirt and black jeans. All four of them were around 5ft 10 inches to 6ft 2 inches of height and weighed around 200 pounds. The leader started moving towards the old man and said, “Vacate the seat, you old man. If you do not obey, we would break your bones.” I tried to intervene and raised alarm for help, but he pushed me back on my seat and said, “It appears that you are from a good family and you are looking educated, so we would not disturb you and it would be better if you do not intervene in what is going on.” I was completely shaken, my hands shivered, my legs shook and drops of sweat trickled down from the sides of my head. My palms felt wet with sweat. Sethu pulled me back and advised me to keep quiet. I looked at the passengers around me in other rows, but everybody seemed to be afraid and not willing to intervene. There were no police guards in the rail car. This part of India was also famous for goons, and they often carried guns.


Consequently, everybody was afraid to intervene. The old man rose from his seat along with his grandson and made way for these people. Some people in the next row got closer to each other to make space for the old man and his grandson to sit. The college guy too appeared upset and did not provide any resistance; he just got up from his seat and stood near the exit gate of the rail car. I could not imagine, even in my dreams, that people could stoop so low when one of them asked the woman with the kid to vacate the seat. I got up from my seat and said, “I would vacate the seat and let her have the seat as she was holding a baby.” The guy pushed me back again and said to sit where I was and not to interfere. Sethu was holding me tightly. The woman got up from her seat and again some people in other rows made place for her to sit. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. I had never felt more helpless than this. I wanted to finish this journey quickly as a bad dream, but the biggest learning of my life was yet to come. Once they occupied the vacated seats, they pulled out a pack of playing cards and started playing Poker. After half an hour, the train crossed the Holy river Ganges. In India, the river Ganges is prayed like a mother God. Whenever any ceremony happens in India, the water from the Holy River Ganges is sprinkled everywhere and even when a person dies, the ashes or the remains of the person after cremation are disbursed here. As the train was crossing the river, all the goons folded their hands for prayers to seek pardon for their sins. As the train crossed the river, they again started misbehaving with passengers. This whole act of the goons praying to God to pardon their sins over the river Ganges shook my whole belief on prayer. I started asking myself: “Are the actions more important or the prayer?” People commit all sorts of sins in their daily life and later they just pray to God for forgiveness and then keep on repeating the same sins and repeat the prayers.

Would God forgive them?

Is this what God expecting from us?

I reached Bareilly at 7:00 p.m. Though they had got down from train five hours before, but I was still shaken and thinking about the whole episode.

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Though I always wanted to forget this journey, but It gave me an important lesson in my life “Our actions are our worship.� If we are good to others and helping people in our community, that is the greatest worship to God. I still pray to God, talk to him everyday, but I always keep in my mind that my action should not hurt anybody. Even I have hurt someone unknowingly, I should learn from my mistakes and correct my actions otherwise prayers have no meaning.

artwork by MARY OSBORNE | STLCC - Wildwood


Edward’s Lucky Day BY ANGEL A SWIM

I am awakened by the sound of metal clanking, as my cold cell door opens.

Today’s the day. The tall, broad shouldered doctor, dressed in blue scrubs looks over me. He seizes me and directs me to the examination table. The physician’s eyes dart up and down my body, jotting down notes on his clipboard. He nods and clears his throat, as doctors do. “Well, Edward Stiph, it looks like it your lucky day.” The doctor dresses me for the grand occasion, covering me in the critical areas to “preserve my decency.” As he wraps the cloth around my groin, I get a good look at his eyes. Bloodshot. Crimson. Those empty, fatigued eyes are the last thing I see, as he covers my face with a black, cloth sack: the pièce de résistance. Today’s the day. I hear the door handle jiggle and the knob turn. Sneakers shuffle into the room, and the metal objects reverberate. Pens scratch paper as the doctor makes his way around my examination table. The clinking of tools makes my body tense in excitement. I feel the scalpel touch the skin atop my cold, hard sternum; the doctor applies more pressure and his knife pushes into my flesh. Ecstasy floods over me and fills my body with a sense of peace and fulfillment. This is it. My magnum opus. Today’s the day.

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artwork by VICKI HEFTY | STLCC - Wildwood


It’s You, Me, and the Axe BY JOSHUA MUNDSCHENK The log stretching across Tara’s chest, resounded the satisfying thud of steal on wood. The rain-soaked woods, echoed their response. The damp smell of mud and desperation filled the air as cries of “Oh Fuck!” split the silence. Tara’s face held no cracks; however, her shattered hands mirrored her work in the fields. Her daughter stood over her. “Calm down, Emily. We’ll figure this out.” Emily freed her axe and swung again. White-knuckled, she gripped the wooden handle while terror spiderwebbed across her face. Chips flew after her fourth swing. Emily examined the notch developing in the trunk below Tara’s right shoulder. Again, she set to work. Swings became wild. Frantic. Every swing, heavier than the last. The axe-head glanced off the edge of the log. A gash opened on Tara’s arm. “Shit, Mom. What do I do? I can’t hurt you. I can’t.” Tears flooded Emily’s eyes. “There’s gotta be another way.” “This is all we have. It’s you, me and the axe. I’m so proud of you, baby. You’re doing great.” Blistered hands wiped sweat from Emily’s eyes, hefting her tool again. The wood became more pliable after every swing. Splinters. Cracking. Triumph and courage splashed threw her eyes. Her final swing rose, heart leaping from her chest. “Oh fuck.”

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artwork by LESLIE RANDLE | STLCC - Wildwood


The Enslaved BY ELENA IGLESIAS Richard was a good man, my parents said. He made a fine match, society insisted. I still wasn’t sure. “Who’s that slave?” Richard spat. His wagon pulled us away from the school after my evening class. I looked and caught Adam grinning at me. The grin brought reminisces of him holding the door for me, keeping the little boys in line, or bringing me wildflowers when I felt ill.

“Adam Parish is not a slave, Richard. He is a freed man like any -”

“He is nothing but stolen property. I forbid you to see him again,” Richard thundered. Fury flashed through me until my body shook. Of course, I’d heard his oppositions before when I began teaching for the Freedmen’s Bureau. I learned to ignore the fuss. This time, my stomach clenched hearing Richard, the man I was to marry, passionately voice such rubbish. Adam isn’t so cruel or reckless, I compared. He is kind and gentle. “Well?” Richard demanded. In that moment, I saw the truth. I could never be in love with Richard, no matter how hard I tried. “I love him!” The words rang loud and true in the crisp evening. I gasped, regretting them instantly. Rage twisted Richard’s handsome features, and he jerked the wagon back toward the schoolhouse. Adam suddenly appeared, strolling home, whistling. Our eyes met, his bright and merry, mine wild with terror. Richard forced the horses to a jarring halt and leapt out. His first blow came down, fast and forcefully. Blow after blow. A tornado of fists, blood, and dirt. Until Adam Parish was no more.

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artwork by TRACEY SYNDER | STLCC - Wildwood


artwork by JOAN METTE | STLCC - Wildwood

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Bent BY MEGAN LIVELL You were the only thing I wanted since the moment I fist laid eyes on you. My mind was constantly occupied by you. I mean, how could it not be? You were tall, had bright blonde hair, and had the most intense emerald eyes I had ever seen. Your name was a sleek old-fashioned car and just rolled off the tip of my tongue. Bentley. You were also incredibly smart, just not when it came to me. You were my boss, and everyone told me to run. I didn’t listen very well. You did have a past. Not cheating, but straying. We had grown close, friendly and intimately for a few years, so I never thought of you possibly doing it to me. I couldn’t be farther from the truth. You looked at me like I was the best thing in the world, but looking and showing are different things. Over the years, I have made the mistake of reading all those romances. I really should have been reading books that tell you how to get away with murder. You didn’t even have the respect to tell me. She did it. I remember asking you “Why is she messaging me and telling me you were with her the other night?” I knew you were lying when you said, “Grace, how am I supposed to know?” When you finally grew a pair and confirmed it, it was like a physical blow to my gut, an everlasting abdominal hernia. Someone was constricting my lungs, squeezing tighter and tighter, restraining my air flow. At first, I didn’t believe you, I remember saying, “What?” over and over, expecting a different answer. Then there it was again, “I made a mistake” or “Grace, I’m sorry” for what felt like the millionth time. I wasn’t listening. I just stared at you. Then I felt it, a burning rage about to ignite.

“You’re sorry? Sorry for doing it or sorry for having to tell me?”


I remember asking you why because there must have been some sort of valid reasoning behind it or it would have made more sense if you were drunk. I was hoping you were. “I didn’t even realize you were my girlfriend. I have been single for so long, it didn’t even register.” “How do you just forget you have a girlfriend, I stop replying to you and go to bed, so


I must not exist anymore? Bullshit.” “It didn’t mean anything, she doesn’t mean anything.” “Did you sleep with her?” “No. I didn’t want to.” “Oh, how thoughtful of you. Thanks for the consideration.” I wasn’t ready to leave you, but to save the little dignity I had left, I knew I had to. All of that changed the moment I saw you cry. This was a real cry. An ugly cry. Tears and snot dripping from the tip of your nose kind of cry. This cry made me change my mind. Little did I know the worst was yet to come. Over time, I was ready to forgive you, but forgetting was the real challenge. I was emotionally and physically broken. I was screaming, but no one ever heard a thing. I couldn’t eat. I felt sick to my stomach day in and day out. I couldn’t possibly get any sleep. Every time I would drift off, I would be abruptly awoken by the hauntings you now provided for me. Crying myself to sleep every night now became my new normal. I tried everything I could to get you to despise me. You loved my long, dark chestnut hair. So, what did I do? I cut it short and turned it blonde. You cringed at the sight of many piercings, so two new holes appeared in my ear. No more following girls on Instagram or Facebook or even liking pictures if girls are in them. Eventually, just no more Facebook or Instagram all together. You deleted every girl off Snapchat, except me of course. I checked your phone every chance I had. Hanging out with your friends wasn’t even an option, unless I gave the okay. Your whole life now revolved around me, or was it the other way around? I still don’t know. When our first Christmas together arrived, it was supposed to feel magical, after all it is the happiest time of the year. Not this Christmas. My grandma’s health had taken a sudden turn, and was fading quickly. During all this, it brought out a different side of you. No questions asked, you were there. Driving me back and forth to visit my grandma, never complaining, even when you would only get five hours of sleep. This was the very moment I knew something had changed in you. In my eyes though, it was still nowhere near enough. Our conversations turned into who could scream the loudest or me attacking you with little sarcastic comments, which you never acknowledged. This only made me angry. I wanted a rise out of you. I wanted you to feel what I was

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artwork by MICHELLE STREIFF | STLCC - Wildwood


feeling. When I tried to be civil, I would be blinded by you and her. You touching her the same way you touched me. Every time I started to feel a fleeting amount of remorse, I would remember why I had to pull over to the side of the road one night because I couldn’t see through the streams of water clouding my vision. In the middle of everything we were, I held onto one memory. It was cold, the air was brisk, but I can still feel the warmth of your hand engulfing mine. Your hair was windblown and flipping every which way. We drove forever that day, browsed around in old shops, and went to a very old and musky bookstore. We drank coffee and huddled together in the car until we were warm. That day was special, but it vastly faded. Over time, our relationship became purely physical. The emotional attachment was gone, just consumption between the sheets. Looking back, we used this as our grip of what was left of us. I hated who I had become. I hated you for turning me into a raging bitch. I couldn’t stop. One night, you surprised me with the sweetest gifts, more than what I honestly deserved. I didn’t say thank you; I wasn’t grateful. I cried and said it wasn’t enough. This was the first time I really felt disgusted with what I turned into. By the time I realized what I had done, it was too late. Your repulsion towards me seeped through the threads of our broken relationship. I could feel it in the silence. When you looked at me, you looked right through me. The final nail in the coffin came. You left your phone unlocked and in plain sight, like you were begging me to see it. You knew I would sneak a peek. Then I saw it. You had a message from a girl. I didn’t yell or scream. I just melted to the floor and cried. My turn to ugly cry had come. Warily, you stalked towards me, not saying a word. After a long silence, you spoke. “I can’t keep living like this, this isn’t a relationship. This is you dictating my life. Even if I wanted to do it again, you couldn’t stop me.” You finally saying this made me freeze with fear. I always anticipated you saying this, but it never came. I didn’t think you had it in you. Deep down, we both knew we should have ended it sooner, and I like to hope we did try and walk away. We made our way back every time. Through hiccupping and heavy breathing, I managed, “Bentley, I’m sorry, I don’t want to be this way towards you.” Between the scorn and distressed look on your face, I wasn’t expecting what I heard next. “I still want you, I want us, but if you don’t change, if we don’t change, we need to say goodbye.”

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Saying you were done and giving me an ultimatum was a blessing. It opened my eyes. It took time, but things slowly started to change. My snarky remarks towards you lessened. The resentment we held against one another faded into being nonexistent. This also gave us the opportunity to get to know each other again. I figured out things about you that I never knew. You loved to build and construct little projects. I learned that you love to read about economic and environmental issues. I learned you had never seen Hocus Pocus, which is incredibly beyond me. You are back looking at me like I am the best thing to ever walk in front of you. I learned much more about myself. I figured out what I am capable of. Capable of forgiving someone who hurt me so deeply. Capable of forgiving someone who stripped my trust away. Capable of forgiving what I saw as unforgivable.

artwork by MILTON BLOOD | STLCC - Wildwood


artwork by MARIA KUHN | STLCC - Wildwood

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Z in the Library BY CHANCE WHITL ATCH Introduction: [Jonathon Forsythe is journaling onto pieces of paper he found in a briefcase with a broken handle.] Jonathon:

[writing in a journal but said out loud as if his mind were speaking] It’s been a couple of days since I last wrote to you. I’m not actually sure who I am writing to anymore. Someone. Anyone…

[A thump can be heard.] Jonathon:

Ever since this outbreak happened, I’ve been trapped in this Library for 26 or 27 days... I think. All I’ve seen is death after death of inmates, eating each other until nothings left. This prison has become my home but I never thought I would die here. I mean an old prison guard that’s stuck in a library, only 3 years away from retirement. What kind of life is this? I was so close to finishing my novel too. This one was going to be the top. The one to finally get me known and have my name put on the map.

[Another thump] Jonathon:

After my wife and I got divorced, I didn’t think I would have much more excitement in my life other than my 7 kids, 4 boys and 3 girls, having their own and me becoming the best darn grandpa I was destined to be. It feels like—

[Jonathon’s pencil breaks and he reaches into a zip-lock bag to retrieve another one but something stops him.] [A final thump against the library door draws Jonathon’s attention from his journal.]


[A whisper. Jonathon panics and wanders slowly towards the door as the whisper grows louder and becomes a voice.] Jonathon:

Who could this be? Is it one of them? One of the dead ones? It can’t be. They don’t talk… I think.

[Knocking and scratching.] Person:

Is anyone there!? Please help! Oh, I don’t have much time.

[Jonathon breaks back into reality and grabs the shelf from the door and swings it open to grab a woman and pull her in. He re-covers the door and turns to the blond woman on the floor.] Jonathon:

Are you okay? How is it out there? What’s your name?


(catching her breath) … I am Patty Shinner. I was teaching a ministry class to the prisoners when everything went crazy. From what I’ve seen, it’s not so good.


Oh, you are the woman who comes from the church. I’ve seen you teach before… (not wanting her to know he had his eye out for her.)


I was locked in a room for so long, I ran out of food 2 days ago and had to escape. Do you have any?


(Turns around to sift through a box)… A smashed cupcake… Tofu… A bag of…


…Wait! Tofu, give me that. (She grabs it form him.)


Are you a vegetarian?




Why? I just don’t get it, it seems useless.


(Shifts upwards) Well ever since my husband’s death 3 years ago, I joined the church and have made a lot of different choices.

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(realizing his mistake) Oh, I didn’t mean it like that… Well… I’m just bad with words.

[Awkward silence as Patty eats] Person:

Well it’s okay. What’s your name?


Jonathon. Some people call me Jonny but I like Jonathon.


Well Jonathon, I can tell by your uniform that you are… well were a prison guard.


Yes, ma’am. For 25 long years.


Wow, that’s a long time. (She held back a laugh when she noticed that he was wearing flip flops on his feet.)


What is it? (checking his beard for food.)


Oh, It’s nothing. Just admiring how beat up we both must look.


It’s been a really rough couple of weeks. (reaches his hand over his head to scratch his back)

[Blood drops on the floor] Person:

Oh, Jonathon! You’re bleeding!


What? Oh, it’s nothing.


(grabs his wrist and finds some cloth to wrap it up) No, no. Let me take care of that.


Thank you ma’am.


All done!


(expects the wrapping) Hey this ain’t too bad. You got any medical background?


As a matter of fact, I do. Retired from the military where I was a nurse.



Wow. That’s pretty nifty.


Well thank you.

[Awkward silence] Jonathon:

Well I call this baby of a prison my home. Been here for way too long.


At least you keep busy. I bet you have lots of stories.


Oh, not much. Well… (tries to talk about something else then his boring self) since you use to be a nurse. What do you think about this outbreak?


Well, from what I’ve seen, the people become ill. To a point where they burn up so much that their body shuts down and they die.

Jonathon: Wow. Person:

Then their veins turn from blue and red too purple-greenish. It’s like something is resurrecting them again, just like in the bible. (Patty begins to tear up)


(Reaches a hand over and touches her hand.) It’s okay.


Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a fool.


You can’t be a fool. I’ve been so lonely for the past weeks that I’m just glad you found me before I became crazy.


You seem like a nice person Jonathon. (She smiles.)


Where were you born?


Wisconsin. You?


Just outside of New York. What brought you here?



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I here it’s pretty cold over there in Wisconsin.


Oh, it is. But it’s nice and beautiful.

Jonathon: Really? Person:

Yeah, the seasons are beautifully shown over there.


I guess I wouldn’t know that much.


If you want I can…

[A loud crash can be heard just outside of the library.] [They grasp hands tight.]

artwork by VICKI HEFTY | STLCC - Wildwood


artwork by DION DION | STLCC - Wildwood

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artwork by MARY OSBORNE | STLCC - Wildwood

2018 Sycamore  

View the 10th edition of STLCC-Wildwood's Sycamore, an annual of poetry, prose and art.

2018 Sycamore  

View the 10th edition of STLCC-Wildwood's Sycamore, an annual of poetry, prose and art.