Stork Magazine Issue 29 (The 2020 Issue)

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Stork Magazine is a fiction journal published by undergraduate students at Emerson College. Initial submissions are workshopped and discussed with the authors, and stories are accepted based on the quality of the author’s revisions. The process is designed to guide writers through rewriting and provide authors and staff members editorial support and an understanding of the editorial and publishing process. Stork is founded on the idea of communication between writers and editors—not a simple letter of rejection or acceptance. We accept submissions from undergraduate and graduate Emerson students in any department. Work may be submitted at during specific submission periods. Stories should be in 12-point type, double-spaced, and must not exceed 4 pages for the “short shorts” issue or 30 pages for the long issue. Authors retain all rights upon publication. For questions about submissions, email Stork accepts staff applications at the beginning of each fall semester. We are looking for undergraduate students who are well-read in contemporary fiction and have a good understanding of the short story form. Copyright © 2020 Stork Magazine Cover design done by Amy Yang Illustrations done by Sadie Hutchings & Amy Yang Typesetting done by Amy Yang Printed and bound by Shawmut Printing, Danvers, MA

MASTHEAD Co-Editors-In-Chief Maya Meisenzahl Thomas McCorkle Managing Editors Abigail Michaud Sadie Hutchings Prose Editors Jack Newton Garrett Speller Emma Kaster Chloe Aldrich Head Copy Editor Jack Newton Copy Editors Taylor McGowan Charlotte Drummond Maggie Lu

Faculty Advisor William Orem Design Team Haley Brown Sadie Hutchings Amy Yang Staff Readers Megan Fehling Mackenzie Denofio Jacqueline Thom Sara Fergang Brianna Jackman Kate Rispoli Shannon Lawlor Jade Edwards Natalie Vasileff Melanie Lau Taylor McGowan

LETTERS FROM THE EDITORS First, we have to thank every single member of the Stork staff for their hard work in helping us to create and complete this extra-special issue of our magazine. To our Fall 2020 staff members, thank you for your amazing work and contributions in spite of the stress of the pandemic! We were floored by your dedication, and couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to help us make this issue happen! To all of our new members, we are so glad to have you, and thank you for your commitment and willingness to adapt as we all worked to figure this out. To all of our staff from Spring 2020, we can’t thank you enough for your work and contributions, especially as everything went crazy at the end of the semester! Unfortunately, as a result of said craziness, the masthead for our Spring 2020 staff was lost, and we are unable to reproduce it. But our gratitude remains, even though we weren’t your editors in chief at the time. This issue would not exist without you. To our authors—oh, our lovely authors! This issue would truly, truly, not exist without you. Thank you for entrusting us with your stories, and thank you for creating them in the first place. We are all better off for it. This goes without saying, but 2020 has been a wild

year. For many reasons. One being that this issue is, to our knowledge, the first ever publication of Stork Magazine to contain both the Fall and the Spring issues! When COVID-19 first hit in full force and sent us all home from Emerson for the rest of the Spring semester, Stork was left unable to publish its Spring 2020 issue. At the same time, we were promoted to Co-Editors in Chief of Stork Magazine, and presented with the conundrum: what would happen to the unpublished issue? We had already told the authors that their stories would be published, so we decided to stand by that promise. It was difficult and stressful, but in the end, absolutely worth it. With the unique year that was 2020, we are so proud to have been able to produce and publish a unique and wonderful issue of Stork magazine with the help of so many incredible folks. To the readers of this issue of Stork Literary Magazine; while some of our previous issues have had stories which possessed common themes, this issue is unique in that we decided to publish a wide variety of material. We thought this would be a wonderful way to highlight the unique voices that have submitted to our magazine over the course of this entire year, as strange, scary, and hectic as it was! Thank you, and enjoy this very special 2020 issue of Stork Magazine! Maya and Thomas Editors-in-Chief

CONTENTS 15 21 27 33 39 43

Familiarity By Sadie Hutchings Illustration by Sadie Hutchings Filial Piety By Melanie Lau Illustration by Sadie Hutchings Last Stop By Brian Feller Illustration by Sadie Hutchings The Doll We Buried By Jade Alexandria Illustration by Sadie Hutchings Heritage By Joe Buckler Illustration by Sadie Hutchings Potato Demon By Rachel Whitehill Illustration by Sadie Hutchings

47 55 77 95

Sorry, I Can't Come to the Phone Right Now By Ana Hein Illustration by Sadie Hutchings The Memory of Adelaide By Laura Rockfeller Illustration by Amy Yang Send in the Clown By Ray Geoghegan Illustration by Amy Yang Newton's Third Law By Abby Provenzano Illustration by Amy Yang

Spring Fiction 2020


Familiarity by Sadie Hutchings illustration by Sadie Hutchings

The night wind batters against the window; the bubbled, spider-webbed glass too thin and cracked to keep out the surges of heat that accompany each wave of summer humidity. I am walking silently across well-worn floorboards edged with the familiar walls of this house. How often did we sit here together last winter? How often did we wedge ourselves under that windowpane, as we mixed the air from our lungs with the frosty winds that snuck their way in? Sitting there long enough for the cold to numb us. We never did call a repairman to come and fix that window. Maybe you’ve always secretly liked the idea of disrepair. I run my hand along the cedar credenza my grandfather gifted us. My fingers come away layered in dust. When was the last time we invited him to come to stay with us? I always mean to call, but each time I reach for the phone, you draw me into you and I forget all about grandfathers and the world outside our house. This house. You’ve always had that effect on me—the ability to silence my mind. It’s why I love you. It’s why I’m leaving you. Following the glare of moonlight streaming in from the window, I make my way down the narrow stairs. The 15

railings are made from heavy, twisted wood and each post casts a shadow that cuts through the path of pale light. Am I really ready to do this? With each step I take, the remaining length of the staircase seems to lengthen, to bend, to twist. Am I ready to leave you, to leave this house? It’s not too late to turn around and join you back in bed. Back in slumber. In numbness. Ahead of me, the staircase slithers, looping back and forth and creating a labyrinth of steps and banister. You were so angry last time. No, not angry, you assured me—worried. I am gripping the railing with both hands; my knuckles are chalk-white, liable to snap into thousands of pieces. It would be easier to stay. Easier. Expected. My feet continue to move. I put one foot in front of the other. One foot in front of—with you, I know who I am. I should stay. I can’t stay. My mind swirls, almost as if competing with the acrobatics of the stairs. My body continues moving forward, doing what my mind cannot, and sticks to the decision to leave. The staircase opens into the foyer of the house and I go to the coat closet where I’ve hidden a suitcase of my things. In taking out the scuffed case, my hand brushes against the array of coats that hang stiffly on their hangers. It’ll be a decent amount of time before they’ll get any wear—before the summer’s heat wave simmers into the cool crispness of autumn. I close the closet door. And then there you are, as if the sound of the door latching into its frame was loud enough to wake you. How is it that you never look tired? Free of the fatigue that always clouds mine, your eyes are alert. They take in the suitcase I’m holding in my left hand, the lateness of the hour, and the fact that I am fully dressed. “What’s going on,” your voice filling the palpable silence. “Are you okay?” I tighten my grip on the bag. “I have to go,” my voice 16

comes out quiet and small. “I can’t—I can’t stay here anymore. We aren’t good for each other.” You shake your head as you move closer, towering over me. I swear that I was the taller one when we first met. How is it that now you dwarf me? “This isn’t the first time we’ve gone through this—you always end up wanting to stay. There’s a reason for that.” Your voice is soothing and you reach out to place a hand on my shoulder. “Look, let’s just go back upstairs.” As you continue to speak, you appear to grow even taller. I look to my feet and I’m sinking in quicksand, your hand at my shoulder pushing me deeper in. You continue, “We are good for each other. Please, let me be here for you.” I sink deeper; the coarse, sticky sand rises to my knees. Maybe you’re right. You’d never leave me. “I love you, you don’t want to be alone.” I barely notice the sand, your voice lulling me into a sense of comfort. A sense of calm. Deeper and deeper I sink, my legs fully submerged under the sucking grime. Wait. I’m letting it happen again. “Enough!” I spit out. And I twist out from under your hand and rip my legs, one by one, out of the muddy pit. “I’d rather be alone and myself than who I become when I’m with you.” “Who you become?” Your voice comes out harsher now. Less melodic. Less lulling. “With me, you don’t reach too high. You are safe. Stay with me, and we can go back to bed and forget about all this. “Stay here? In this tomb of a house? The walls, so heavy with decay?” I snarl, and the walls of the foyer begin to bubble and buckle. You don’t seem to see it, you never see it. Fungi bloom along the edges of my vision. Mold and spongy growths burst from behind the wallpaper and muck oozes from the floorboards. Remember how long we 17

took to decide on a wallpaper? At the time it seemed like the biggest conflict we’d ever get into. Now the floral design is covered in sludge, slime, and months of avoidance. I gesture wildly to the scene, “I’ll never understand how you can look at this—this broken carcass of a house, of a relationship—and see something worth staying for!” The stench of the rot becomes overwhelming and I feel tears streaming from my eyes. Batting them away, I say accusingly, “Can you not see this?” I rip a handful of grime and rot-encrusted decay from the wall and thrust it under your nose, “Can you not smell it?” You’re staring at me blankly and push me out of your face. My hand must appear empty to you. How can you not see the deterioration and disrepair? The toxicity we’ve let fester behind our walls? You shake your head and there’s pity in your eyes. Disgusting, patronizing pity. But the thing is you’re wrong. There is more to life than being paralyzed by fear and familiarity, more to life than sleepy apathy. So, I am leaving. I am leaving. I know the exact moment my decision becomes real to you. Something in the way you now fold in on yourself shows that you’ve realized I’m serious. Serious about leaving and serious about staying gone. And suddenly, I am a giant. I swear the floor shifts and cracks under the weight of me. I am too large in this moment—too potent. My voice, booming when I speak. “I am something without you. I just have to find what that means again. I need—no, I want something other than the numbness of this house.” I feel myself shrink back to size, the suitcase held firmly in my hand. “I want something other than sleep.” I turn and reach for the door. Opening it releases a wave of heat and humidity into our chilled house. You always kept the AC on full-blast. 18

The outside air makes my hair stand on edge; my nerves hum to life. The moon outside is bright, glaring, and alien. Behind me, you are as you always are—soporific and familiar. But familiarity isn’t the same as being loved. Then I step across the threshold into the sweltering midnight heat, closing the door shut behind me. the threshold into the sweltering midnight heat, closing the door shut behind me.


Filial Piety by Melanie Lau illustration by Sadie Hutchings

Grandma ends up on the floor again. She’s curled up beside her bedroom door like a cat, chin resting on her arms. Dad flips a switch, and Grandma flinches at the sting of fluorescent light. Midnight is not a good time for this. Dad stalks up to her. “要什么?” he asks quietly. Yào shénme. What do you want? I stand in the doorway of my bedroom, peering down the hall. I don’t want to approach Dad. He’s doing his job as the man of the house. Mom is gone, and there is no one but him to care for her mother. He pokes Grandma with his toe, and she mewls. She is the house pet. She must have slid out of the low bed, hooking her fingers into the carpet to drag herself across the room. After a decade of slow deterioration, her legs have finally given up on her. She forgets that she cannot walk. “西洪,” Grandma says. Xīhóng. Dad’s name. Dad and I woke up to this call, a strangled sound scaring us awake. She says his name again and again, voice wavering as she goes on. Grandma presses her face down into the carpet. Dad stands over Grandma, and the scene looks scary, 21

a dangerous man looming over his victim. Grandma has done this before, slipping to the floor in search of water, food, or attention. Dad will toss her back onto the mattress. He will threaten to tape her mouth shut and bind her to the bed frame. These are empty promises. I hope that these are empty promises. “要什么?” Dad asks again. I move forward, crouching to speak. “婆婆.” Pópo. Grandma. “小便,” she says to the floor. Xiaobiàn. Pee. Dad groans. “I can get her,” I tell him. It’s difficult to lift Grandma on my own, but I tense whenever he gets too close to her. I have never figured out what words will placate my father. From her place on the floor, Grandma does not look like my grandma. This grandma looks like a bloated body. Her hips push at her elastic waistband. Her shirtsleeves cup the flabby skin of her arms. She used to have thick black hair, sturdy as rope when tied into a braid. I spent my early years sitting on her knee, bouncing with excitement as she sang nursery rhymes into the back of my head. So soon would old age come to turn her skin sallow, draw the strength from her bones, wipe her memory like a tornado sweeping a town. “小便,” Grandma murmurs, lifting her chest by pressing her palms to the floor. She ends up in a sphinx pose. She looks directly at me, but her eyes are gray and blank. “西洪,” she calls me by Dad’s name. “No,” I say, “我叫嘉怡.” Wǒ jiào Jiāyí. I’m Jiayi. She does not respond. She cannot hold herself up. Her upper body sinks, losing the fight against gravity. “要什么?” Dad asks again with more malice. He wants 22

a different answer. He doesn’t want to take her to the bathroom. He doesn’t want to balance her weight on his chest, use his hands to quickly slide down her diaper. He doesn’t want to see her sagging crotch, her white, wiry pubic hair. “要什么? 要什么? 要什?” Dad speaks to her in sharp angles. Two years ago, Dad became a widower. Now, he spends his retirement savings on his dead wife’s mother, on orange bottles of pain-relief medication and a motorized wheelchair. Grandma isn’t built for abuse. She is an old woman. She is made of delicate material, hair like spider webs, skin like lace. Because of her dementia, Grandma couldn’t even recognize Mom’s death. She sat in the front row of Mom’s funeral, a confused smile on her face. Coronary artery disease meant nothing to her, though it was the same heart condition which took my grandfather. The morning of her death, Mom rubbed Tiger Balm on Grandma’s legs, wrinkling her nose at the pungent smell of menthol, forever the dedicated daughter, the loyal caretaker. Grandma doesn’t even remember. Dad slides one arm under her thighs, the other arm under her chest. He flips her onto her back. Grandma’s lips pucker. She lets out a harsh grunt. He is not afraid to get aggressive. He is Grandma’s 女婿. Nǚxù. Son-in-law. He is not of her blood. He grabs Grandma’s shoulders, shakes her, roughens her up so she learns her lesson. Stop causing problems, he does not say. “Ai!” Grandma yells out. “Dad,” I smack his shoulder, and the slap stings my hand. I have never hit my father before. Dad does not turn to me. He tells me to get her wheelchair. I hop over Grandma’s legs, grab onto rubber handles. I tip the wheelchair forward, angle the seat right under her butt. 23

Dad drops her, I catch her. Dad takes the wheelchair from me. “要什么?” Dad asks again, right into Grandma’s ear. “小便!” She yells, hurt, defensive. Dad moves methodically, back into Grandma’s bedroom. He waves me off. Sleep, he scolds. I don’t move. He reminds me about school tomorrow, how I need sleep to succeed. He wheels Grandma into her room, and tips her into bed like spilling dirt from a wheelbarrow. I flinch. I walk into the room, right up to Dad’s back, but he doesn’t react. We both watch her slowly roll over. The bed frame creaks. She lands hard on her back, then stares at the ceiling, breathing through her mouth. Dad heads to bed, shutting off the lights without another word. I stay in Grandma’s room. My eyes adjust to the dark. I place my hand on her shoulder, but I get no reaction. I ask myself to cry. If I rain pity on her weathered body, would she bloom like a young flower? Would she open herself up to me? Grandma closes her eyes. I navigate to my bedroom and lay atop my sheets. No tears escape. Sometime in the night, Grandma will pee in her diaper. The excess will soak into the padding on her bed. I want to get up again, drag her to the bathroom, half-asleep. I cannot hold her up. Urine would spill all over me. Respect for family is a virtue ingrained in Chinese culture. To harm my elder, is this an act of treason? But what duty do I have to a grandmother who does not recognize my face? Grandma does not deserve a terrible granddaughter, but now is not a good time. I will be more generous in the morning. I am in bed. I will not stand. Exhaustion anchors me down. The night’s silence fills my body with dread. 24

Last Stop by Brian Feller illustration by Sadie Hutchings

“Northbound’s late,” I say as I pocket my phone. Tony stands beside me. A small pool of water is forming at his feet, dripping from his drenched clothes. He’s wearing his favorite black bowling shirt with stripes going down each side in a bronze Celtic design. His beard is as long and wide as ever, resting against his broad chest. “Last chance to head in and grab a drink or take a piss.” But he doesn’t answer, just looks at me in that nonchalant way that says I don’t need to. I shrug. “Should have figured.” He’s been staying with me this past week, just showed up in the middle of the night. Every day, it’s been this silent treatment. I thought he might say something now since I was taking him back home. When the bus arrives, I wait for the driver to lower the platform before I climb in, comforted by the firm rubbery thump of my cane. For a moment, it appears to me that it must look strange, a man in his thirties with a walking stick. But I let the thought pass, and we take seats in the back. Tony plops down, soaked jeans onto hard plastic. 27

For the first few miles, we sit in silence, staring out our windows at the grey New Jersey sky. The clouds are thick, dense, and there’s a hint of wind. “What a shitty day,” I say, and lean back in my seat. A woman and child a few rows ahead turn and stare at me. At first, I think it’s for my cursing, but I know that’s not it. I ignore them, and they turn front again. “Do you remember,” I whisper to Tony. “When we were kids?” He doesn’t answer, but he shifts his attention from the window to look at me. A few drops of water fall from his hair onto his lap. His eyes tell me to continue. “Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we were such little pricks as kids,” I say with a snort. I half expect the woman to turn again. But she doesn’t. “I remember how we used to go into ShopRite and you would lean against the shelving to block the camera while I slipped candies and whatever else into my jacket.” Water is still dripping from his hair and puddles his large thigh. Everything about Tony is large; you could fit three of me in him. Been that way since we were little. “And then we’d get back and pig out on snacks and shoot BB guns with your cousins,” I continue. I think I see a hint of a smile on his lips, and I’m quiet for a minute. The bus rattles under my ass, jutting along down a pothole-filled road in desperate need of maintenance. I check my phone. Time is moving too slowly. Another twenty minutes I figure, and then we’re there. I turn to Tony and want to reach for a napkin or towel, something to dry his sopping head. But there’s nothing to use, and what’s the point anyway? I relax further into my seat and think of the last time we were in North Jersey together. This was after I’d moved 28

out of Newark and into my South Jersey college dorm. I’d been so focused on my studies and my girlfriend that before I knew it, it’d been two years since I’d visited home. I guess it didn’t seem like such a long time because my parents and sister would drive down and book themselves a room in a quaint hotel nearby. But I eventually got homesick, longing for familiar streets beneath my feet. So, I went back during summer vacation, and Tony and I met up for pizza before swingingback to his place. While I sat on the couch and he was busy shooting off those same BB guns with his cousins, I couldn’t help but think that I was somehow beyond this—that I’d grown up in my time away—and he was still the same child I’d once been. That was the last time I saw Tony. “You know,” I say. “I had a pretty bad accident last year.” I lift my cane up, turn it this way and that for Tony to see it better. For a moment, I’m tempted to poke his belly with it, watch the handle press in. I imagine the wood cutting in like a knife, straight through him. I’m disturbed by the thought. “Got sandwiched on the highway. Fucked up my back pretty bad.” Up ahead, the woman turns back toward us again with a puzzled look on her face. She stares at me a while before shaking her head and pulling her kid to a seat farther away from me. “Remember how we used to pretend to be superheroes, seeing how long we could keep our balance on one leg and shit?” I’m certain that he’s smiling at that, though I’m not looking at him, keeping my eye on the wooden cane instead and wishing I could take some miracle cure and cast it aside. I try to remember the feeling of a strong 29

spine without pain or tension. But I’ve already been slapped with the reality that things can never be as they once were. Still, I imagine going back to before the car accident, before turning on the ignition and before I tried drinking away the memories of our childhood because they were just too painful to hold onto. “Yesterday,” I continue. “I was struggling on one leg just to get my damned pants on. Felt like a hero, too, when I got the second leg in without falling. Funny how we take the little things for granted.” The bus drops us off a few blocks away, but it’s a short walk to the cemetery. I’m content in staying silent, but the closer we get, the more I feel that if I don’t get something off my chest, I never will. “I had a dream last night,” I say. And we stop just outside the cemetery gates. I can see Tony’s home just beyond the entrance, solemn and small and packed down tight. “In the dream, I’m at a diner in Clifton, and all our friends are there. I’m sitting at this booth and we’re all mourning. How could he be dead? I’m saying. This doesn’t make any sense. And then you walk in and everyone is smiling at me. You say it was all just one big joke, a prank. You say you all fooled me good.” We walk through the open gates and up the trail. I stare at him now, river water steadily running down his face. He hovers his hand on my shoulder, the first time he’s tried to connect since he’d shown up at my apartment. His face is blue and fading, more transparent than I’d like. He looks happy and sad and…I don’t know. “And I say to dream-you, How could you do that to me? I’m glad you’re okay, but what kind of asshole does something like this? And I walk out of the diner. And then I woke up, and it was like you died all over again.” 30

But by now, I’m talking to the wind and kneeling on the soil.


The Doll that We Buried by Jade Alexandria illustration by Sadie Hutchings

The poles were out of the water and had been for quite some time, but James and I still sat by the shore, watching the darting shadows of the minnows. Two hours ago, we’d come home, loaded with groceries and a stack of papers from the mailbox. We cleared everything away until all that was left was the mail—bills, a US military appeal, internet provider ads, and a letter from Dartmouth. We both stared at the stack, and I thought about saying something, but then I was suddenly aware of the glass eyes of Ma’s dolls watching us from atop the wraparound shelves like a grim council. James picked up the US military appeal, shoved it in the trash, and asked me if I wanted to head down to the pond. I kept thinking about it, less about James’s military appeal or my letter from Dartmouth and more about those dolls, about the empty spot right above the trashcan where a porcelain family heirloom used to sit before I broke it in the fifth grade. 33

James had brought a couple of Miller Lites too, even though Ma always got cross when we drank. The last one was still warm was still sitting between us and I took a sip. I was warm. It tasted like piss. James picked up a pine cone and tossed it at a dark splotch on the fabric of the water. The fish jolted but didn’t swim more than a few feet away. “Cocky bastard,” I said. James snorted and looked at me funny. “It’s just a fish.” I shrugged and a strange, gaping silence formed between us. “Shooting fish in a barrel,” I murmured, meaning absolutely nothing by it but needing something to fill the quiet. I tried to think of something else to say, but all I could think of was that other idiom shooting the shit. It used to be that James and I would say the same thing at the same time. People always said that’s how they could tell we were twins, but then in the same beat they’d point out how different we were, what with James being all muscles and sports and me being all brains and books. It was irritating, listening to people draw out the Venn diagram of the two of us, even if it was mostly true. And, lately, it felt like the two circles of us were drifting farther and farther away, like one cell splitting into two. It shouldn’t be so hard to talk to my goddamn twin, I thought, and I didn’t know when it started being that way. But then James took a sip of the beer, grimaced, and said, “This tastes like piss.” “Yeah, I thought so too.” “So, you going to Dartmouth?” he asked as if we’d been talking about this all along. I said naw, I was thinking about the community college, that they had a decent enough medical program. His 34

face didn’t change. “I figured you were—I am too, but hell if I know what I’ll do, maybe sports medicine. But how you gonna tell Ma?” “I don’t know, man.” I could hear him suck his teeth. The cicadas started to cry; I hadn’t realized how dark it was getting. “You could go,” he said, “if you wanted to. Ma would make it happen.” “If.” Ma was worse than anyone about making us out to be so different. For me, it was endless tests and insisting I take honors even though it put James and me in different classes. For James, she’d eye his gut when he grabbed seconds at dinner and enrolled him in baseball and football, which made it rare to see him before dinnertime. “They just work different muscles,” she’d always say, especially to teachers and football coaches, who were most liable to scratch their heads and ask how we shared twin blood. “Good idea, throwing away the military acceptance. I should’ve done that with the Dartmouth letter.” “Naw, Ma would’ve killed you. She’s gonna kill me when I tell her I’m not joining the forces.” I glanced back at the house, and I saw the fractured rectangle of gold light emanating from the kitchen window. Ma had come home about half an hour ago, probably read the letter, probably was waiting now for us to come back inside, probably had started supper in the meantime. Maybe she’d already found the military letter in the trash. “Let’s be real,” I said, “she’s gonna kill us both.” What could we tell her? Neither of us really had a better plan, and it was already the last semester of senior year. She always called it “promoting our natural talents,” 35

and maybe that was true, but I couldn’t help but wonder if you only are who you are because somebody turned you that way. She wouldn’t understand that. I thought of the doll again, the tinkling crack it made as it hit the floor after I’d slammed the front door in a tantrum. It had been more than just another doll in her collection; it had been her favorite, some bonnet- wearing prairie girl passed down from her grandma. When Ma saw it, I was ready for her to be angry or even sad, but I wasn’t ready for her to say nothing, turn on her heel, and leave it in pieces in the kitchen, immediately irrelevant. “Remember that time,” James said suddenly, “when you got mad at Ma when she didn’t let you join the baseball team with me because you had tutoring?” “Yeah, I was just thinking about that, about—" “—that doll.” James slung the poles over his shoulder. “After it broke, we went and buried it, remember? You think it’s still there?” We’d buried it at the base of a pine tree at the edge of the pond. For some reason, we’d done it at night while wearing all black. We both brought shovels and didn’t say a word, just dug until it was deep enough to hold the little white shards, threw them in, stared, then shuffled back inside, never mentioning it again. But now we had no shovels, so we just used our hands, wiping away the pine needles and worming our fingers into the dirt. It was almost too dark to see anymore. After a few minutes, we found a fragment white as bone. It was the face, the paint long rubbed off the creamy porcelain but the empty creases of the eye still intact, the head halffilled with rich, black loam. I ran my thumb across its smoothness. “When I told you I was gonna go bury it,” I said, “You came along. I 36

didn’t ask you to.” I wondered why I’d never thought of that question before—maybe back then I knew the answer. James sat back on his haunches, looking at the house, at the shadow moving behind the window. “I figured it could’ve just as easily been me that done it.” He stood and brushed off his knees, and looking up felt small again, like that fifth grader burying a doll like it could be a person. I opened my mouth to say what I’d been thinking all day, that I wouldn’t have turned down Dartmouth if I didn’t already know he was gonna join me at the community college, that we were in this one together, but there was no point saying it because I was sure he already knew. So I also stood, kicking the dirt and pine needles back over the doll, and told James I was about ready for supper. He was too.


Heritage by Joe Buckler illustration by Sadie Hutchings

“A little further,” your mother says, reaching for your hand. “We’re almost there.” Her grasp is firm in yours, still slick from the uphill hike. The waning summer sun ignites her dress, turning the yellow fabric into gold and the carefully stitched orange flowers into wildfire. She moves like oil over water, fluid, unburdened by her surroundings, narrowly avoiding the same hidden burs and reaching thistles that cling to the cuffs of your pants with desperation, sticking even to your fingertips as you try to pull them out. She laughs because she knows you were made for the city, that you feel more at home among sharp angles and rising towers. You try to find the beauty in the empty, sprawling field, looking through her eyes like you promised to, but the rolling hills remind you of the cold, endless oceans you read about in school, and the sky looks like it has been pulled too thin, stretched from horizon to horizon until it is ready to tear. You feel small beneath it, even as the sun falls behind the trees and throws the world into twilight. “Here,” she says, finding a spot for both of you to sit. 39

“See, little little one. Isn’t it beautiful?” Your mother spreads her arms, framing the night sky between fingers, and takes her place in the soft grass, pulling you down to her side. She folds her legs beneath her and cups the rising moon in her palms, as if she could lift it to its place in the sky. You frown at your own hands, caked red with dirt, calloused from long afternoons of climbing over stone columns and tripping over uneven trails. You wipe them on the dry grass, but they still look unclean, stained pink like the long-forgotten alien symbols that you’ve seen peppered across the city walls. “Your father would have loved it here,” she says. “It was all he talked about—wanting to see it for himself.” You wrap your arm around hers and wonder what it would have been like—having the three of you there instead of just the two. “I miss him very much,” she continues, laying back on the grass. “Your father wasn’t a rich man or a famous man, nor the strongest or smartest, but he was a good man. He was a loving man. Like you, little one. He didn’t have much when he was young; the world he grew up in was very different from this, very poor and very sad. There was war everywhere, marching through the streets day and night. When it finally showed up on his doorstep, your father ran. He ran until he found a ship to take him far, far away.” In the distance, night animals start to stir, their haunting calls carrying your mother back from the past. She blinks the tears from her eyes, embarrassed. “I met your father on that ship,” she continues, putting on a smile. “I miss him very much.” You put your hand on top of hers and watch, quietly, as a second, smaller moon breaches the horizon, straggling 40

behind the first like a younger, timid sibling. For the first time time, with the two shining orbs filling the lavender sky, you think maybe you can see it through her eyes; all the beauty of the world. “Look,” she says, pointing just below the trailing moon. “That blue dot there. Do you see it? That’s Earth. That’s where your father came from.” You study the dim light at the end of her long, slender finger, eager to unwrap its mysteries and pull it down from its place above. It soon fades away. “Where did you come from?” you ask, scanning the sky for something more to hold onto. “Oh, little one,” she says quietly. “That’s a story for another day.”


Potato Demon by Rachel Whitehill illustration by Sadie Hutchings

“God damn it,” he growls, hefting twenty bulky pounds of potatoes over his shoulder. After thinking about that statement more in depth, he suspects God probably already has. Damned this whole project, that is. Look. He’d been fine with blood rites, small sacrifices, sure, and all the usual stuff that came with trying to become an evil mage. It isn’t too much of a hassle to swear fidelity to the dark arts every weekend or so to keep his apprentice’s certification up to date. But he’d recently risen all the way to the point of getting a master’s certification—for this, one has to summon a demon—and now they suddenly expect some real effort from him. After all, someone will need to replace his father—evil mage by trade—in The Association. How hard, he’d thought, could a little summoning ritual even be? But potatoes? He has to put his foot down somewhere. What kind of summoning ritual requires potatoes? Not just a few little ones, either—oh, no, no, because that would be too easy. It needs twenty pounds of potatoes. Thud. “What the hell?” he says. That had better not be what 43

he thinks it is. Thud. Thud. Thud. He turns to find a trail of potatoes marking his exit from the grocery store. His eye twitches. Can I still use potatoes that have fallen on the ground? Don’t potatoes come from the ground in the first place? “Gah—aaagggghhhh.” He begins gathering the lost crop in his shirt, stuffing his pockets with potatoes while trying to keep ahold of the lumpy—and apparently broken—bag. His skin turns red where they touch him, but he ignores it. Can’t be too careful when it comes to quality, can I? he thinks. Because last time, when he biked all the way down from his rental altar to the farmer’s market—which happened once a week at six a.m.—the ritual didn’t take non-organic potatoes. Why? he had thought. Why the hell does a demon care about the organic-ness of potatoes? Is it, what, health conscious? It’s a literal demon; it has no right! So, yes, he’s worried about dropping them. This ritual clearly has high standards! Won’t take just any old ground beans, no— A homeless man darts in and grabs a fallen potato. “Hey!” the mage shouts, “hey, I need that! I need all of my potatoes!” Potato Thief doesn’t listen; he starts running instead. A burst of completely uncalled-for sneezing prevents the mage from pursuing any sort of chase. Crime in this city— it’s unbelievable. What’s so hard about being a good person, really? Geez. Now he’s one potato short, and he can’t just go and buy another, like some kind of loser. He’s already bought twenty pounds, twice, and he certainly doesn’t want 44

people thinking he’s from Idaho or something equally as embarrassing, and— —this is not worth it, he thinks. You know what? He stands up, potatoes raining from his pockets. He doesn’t even want to summon a demon at all! Who in their right mind does? That never ends well! Sure, his mentor had reassured him that the first summoning “only has a twenty-percent fatality rate,” but he’d also said, “it should only take a few hours, with the right ingredients.” And then, then, he’d wasted almost three days of his life on some stupid magical creature that was likely to murder or torture him anyways, for the effort! He’s going to allow his life to culminate in a gory conclusion of peer pressure and parental misguidance? And to what end? To be mistaken for a goth for the rest of his professional career? Just because my father told me all my life that being an evil mage is soooo glamorous? You know what? You know what?! He’d really only started doing the whole mage thing in earnest when his dead dad—killed by a demon, God rest ’im—asked him to “carry on the family legacy” with his final breath! This isn’t his dream! It isn’t glamorous. It’s only vaguely even kind of cool. A potato falls out of his pocket and rolls under the tire of his bike. He rubs his eyes, which start to burn. And I think I’m allergic to potatoes.


Sorry, I Can't Come to the Phone Right Now by Ana Hein illustration by Sadie Hutchings

Hello! You’ve reached the Brighton residence. We can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number, we’ll be sure to get back to you when we have a minute. Have a blessed day! BEEP. “Hey, Mom. It’s Cassie. The plane got delayed so Audra and I are gonna be getting in a little late, but we’re still gonna make it on time. I’m not worried about it. I just wanted to let you know, just in case—but again, I’m not worried, so you shouldn’t be either. You’ve got enough to deal with right now. I hope you know you can always ask for help. I’m here for you. I love you. Audra says hi by the way. I know the timing is the worst thing in the world, but she’s excited to meet you. I—I hope you like her. She 47

means a lot to me. I want—I want all of us to be able to talk, you know? I would really like that. We’ll see you soon.” Hello! You’ve reached the Brighton residence. We can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number, we’ll be sure to get back to you when we have a minute. Have a blessed day! BEEP. “Hi Mom. We just landed. Literally—I’m still sitting in my seat. We haven’t even gotten to the gate yet. I don’t know if I’m technically allowed to be on my phone right now, but I wanted to let you know we’re here. We should be getting off the plane in a few minutes and we’ll book it to the rental car place. I’ll call you again when we’re in the car. We’re gonna be cutting it close, but we’ll be there. I love you. Please take it easy. Be there soon.” Hello! You’ve reached the Brighton residence. We can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number, we’ll be sure to get back to you when we have a minute. Have a blessed day! BEEP. “Mom? We’re in the car. You haven’t called me back. I know you’re probably running around the house cleaning everything that’s already spotless, but could you pick up? I know you’re listening to this as it’s getting recorded. I can wait. Mom? . . . Mom? . . . Please don’t be working yourself to the bone, okay? I’m—I’m worried about you. We’ll be there in half an hour. Audra got these beautiful lilies. Anyway, I love you. Bye.” Hello! You’ve reached the Brighton residence. We can’t come to 48

the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number, we’ll be sure to get back to you when we have a minute. Have a blessed day! BEEP. “Mom, I’ve been knocking on the door for five minutes. Are you home? Could you open the door please? Did you leave already? At times like this, it would be really helpful if you could get a cell phone. Hello? Hello! Mom! Please open the door. Please let me in! Mom! Mom!” Hello! You’ve reached the Brighton residence. We can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number, we’ll be sure to get back to you when we have a minute. Have a blessed day! BEEP. “. . . . . . . . . . . .” Hello! You’ve reached the Brighton residence. We can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number, we’ll be sure to get back to you when we have a minute. Have a blessed day! BEEP. “I can’t believe you haven’t changed the answering machine message. It’s been months. I—I used to call it sometimes, just to hear his voice, you know? I knew you wouldn’t pick up for me, so I’d get to hear it. Do you ever do that? Call the house just to hear him say ‘Have a blessed day?’ I miss him, all the time. I miss you, too, just as much. I mean, I’m still angry—so so so angry. I honestly don’t have the words. I wanted—I had a right to be at my own father’s funeral. I know you don’t approve of the way I live my life, but I thought you were finally going to let me back into yours. When you called me and said 49

you wanted me home for the service, after all these years, I was—I was upset about Dad, obviously, but I was also so glad that I was going to be able to see you again and hug you and tell you about my life, about Audra and how she makes me feel like I’m not broken. And we were there— we were there, Mom—and you just turned us away, without saying anything. You didn’t even tell me to go to my face. I haven’t forgiven you, but I do really want to talk to you. I don’t—I don’t want to leave things with you like I left them with Dad. Please call. Please. I love you.” We’re sorry. You have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again.




Fall Fiction 2020


The Memory of Adelaide by Laura Rockfeller illustration by Amy Yang

“I think it’s disgraceful that they are willing to make such a display of themselves.” The constant motion of her fingers as they twist back and forth around the delicate stem of her champagne glass is incongruous with Adelaide’s relaxed posture on the chaise. This posture is, in truth, as carefully crafted on her part as she hopes it looks effortless to her companions. “For ladies to go among the raucous, possibly drunken, men who I am told make a nuisance of t hemselves at polling places is worse than ridiculous. It is compromising,” she continues. “Hear! Hear!” Her husband applauds. She tilts her head to admire him as he leans against the mantelpiece. A cigar dangles with easy grace from between two fingers of his right hand. “Thank you, Edward.” Despite the presence of their dinner guests, she rewards him for his support with her most beguiling smile. “But dearest Adelaide, can you really not be the least little bit curious to vote yourself ?” Winnifred asks, peer55

-ing over the top of her champagne glass as though its presence in front of her face might shield her from Adelaide’s indignation. “I’ve heard that 70,000 women have registered to vote in Boston alone. It will be an historic occasion.” “Not at all. I find curiosity very unbecoming in a lady,” Adelaide replies, draining her champagne in a manner that Winnifred might say was also unbecoming in a lady. Fortunately for Adelaide, Winnifred does not often speak her mind in public. Edward toasts Adelaide with his snifter of scotch. “I am indeed a lucky man to have a wife with enough sense of her own that I have no need to restrain her.” Adelaide’s fingers tighten around the stem of her glass, but she recovers in time to return his toast before anyone notices her unbecoming surprise. Why would he say something like that? Adelaide wonders as she prepares for bed later that evening. The idea that Edward could or would speak of “restraining her” has never crossed her mind in eight years of marriage. Of course, she has never given him any reason to restrain her, she thinks with a toss of her head as she unfastens her necklace and hands it to Susan, her maid. Adelaide believes she can congratulate herself on having more than enough sense of her own. She is quite capable of restraining herself. As a child, Adelaide was trained to be a perfect wife and hostess, and as an adult, she prides herself on how deftly she fulfills both of those roles. She is contentedly aware that many women of her acquaintance envy her graceful capability in running her house and her exquisite taste in clothes, and that many men of her acquaintance envy her husband for having her tall, slender form behind 56

him. She feels fortunate to know what her duty is and to know that she executes it exquisitely. This, she thinks to herself as Susan unpins her long auburn hair, is why she cannot understand these so-called “suffragists”! What is it that these women want from the vote? These women who unsex themselves by lecturing from public platforms to promiscuous audiences of both men and women—by picketing on street corners for all the world to gawk at? They say they want a Voice? They have a Voice through their husbands, fathers, and brothers, who care for them in the public sphere as women care for men in the private sphere. They claim the need for a Sense of Purpose? Adelaide is glad that she has her own Sense of Purpose through her charity work and her vital role as the caregiver for her family. She has no need to meddle in the affairs of the nation. A small voice at the back of her mind prods her: What family? You’ve given your husband no children yet. But Adelaide silences that voice by standing up and dismissing Susan. She saw the light under the communicating door to Edward’s room go out a few moments ago, so she knows that she will not be disturbed for the rest of the night. Before turning out her own lamp and getting into bed, she pours herself a glass of brandy from the small Waterford decanter on the table and adds a few drops of laudanum. The next morning, she has a headache and does not go down to breakfast but rings for a tray to be brought up to her room. Moments later, Susan appears with a tray and that morning’s mail. 57

“Good morning, ma’am. I’m afraid it’s a bleak, rainy morning,” Susan says as she scurries across the room to open the curtains. She puts her hands on her hips as she surveys the vista of dripping autumn leaves and umbrellas outside the window. But Adelaide isn’t listening. Her focus is on the front page of The Boston Daily Globe. The headline loudly proclaims, “10 TO 1 BETTING ODDS ON HARDING,” and then continues in a quieter font, “Both Party Chairmen Claim Victory— Women Ensure a Record Vote.” “Susan…” Adelaide is surprised by how tentative her voice sounds. "Yes, ma’am?” Susan turns back from her surveillance of the damp pedestrians on Arlington Street. "May I ask you a personal question?” Adelaide does not look up as she says this. “I suppose so, ma’am, so long as I’m at liberty not to answer.” “Of course. I only wondered…” Adelaide looks back at the subheading. Women Ensure a Record Vote. “Do you intend to vote in the presidential election today?” Susan emits a noise that Adelaide can only describe as a snort. “Well, now, ma’am, I would,” she says. “Only I don’t know near enough about either of these two men from Ohio to feel qualified to give an opinion. Besides,” Susan continues, looking down at the flowers in the carpet, “I can’t vote now, can I? I have to work.” Adelaide is suddenly very conscious that she is lying in bed in a dressing gown. “I see,” she mutters, staring at the newspaper. “If that is the only obstacle—” Her suggestion is cut off by a knock at the door. “Come in,” she calls. 58

The door opens to admit Edward. Susan continues to hover by the bed to hear the end of Adelaide’s sentence, but her chance is lost. “I’ve come to see how you are before I leave for the office,” Edward says, walking over and planting a kiss on Adelaide’s forehead. “You can go, Susan,” he adds, sitting down on the bed and picking up a piece of toast from the breakfast tray. Susan bobs a curtsy and slips out of the room with a drooping head. “Just a word of advice today, love,” Edward continues. “I wouldn’t go out if you don’t absolutely have to. We have no idea what kind of chaos may reign in the streets today with all of these Amazons heading to the polls—not to mention the way that some of the lower sort of men may react to them. I would hate for you to be caught up in any unpleasantness.” “Of course, dear,” Adelaide replies, brushing a crumb of toast off his collar. “It’s a wretched day outside anyway. Perhaps the rain will keep some of the old crones at bay.” Before taking a demure sip of her tea, Adelaide murmurs, “The newspapers seem to have high hopes for voter turnout.” “The newspapers!” Edward scoffs. “What do they know—hyperbole and hysteria.” “You are right, of course,” Adelaide agrees. “Be sure to wear your overshoes if you intend to walk from the office to the polls.” “I will. Have a pleasant day, sweetheart.” He turns back at the door. “You do look a bit peaky—shall I send for the doctor on my way out?” Adelaide smiles. “No need. A quiet morning will do me 59

a world of good.” She lays her tray aside once Edward has left the room. She has lost her appetite. Standing in front of the hall mirror an hour or so later, Adelaide pins a hat on her carefully coiffed hair. She buttons her kid gloves. She laces her high-heeled walking shoes. Despite Edward’s advice, she is preparing to go out. Yes, she is preparing to go out, but she does not intend to go go there. And yet, that is where her feet lead her as soon as the butler lets her out of the front door. As she walks, Adelaide can hear Edward’s words from last night echoing in the headache that she can’t subdue… “I am indeed a lucky man to have a wife with enough sense of her own that I have no need to restrain her.” Adelaide silences that voice by walking faster and pounding the pavement beneath her delicate heels with a vigor that will certainly return to haunt her in the form of sore legs in the evening. She continues her walk along Beacon Street, dodging other sodden pedestrians and their umbrellas as the click-click of her heels on the pavement continues to pick up pace. Somehow, it still feels both strange and joyful to see so many people out on the streets. It was about this time last year that the influenza epidemic made its insidious reappearance after lulling them all into a false sense of freedom and complacency over the summer. Those who were able to fled back behind their masks and closed doors. Those who were not able to flee… Adelaide shivers and readjusts her umbrella. The disease’s unexpected return left Adelaide with a 60

feeling of unease every time she stepped out of her house. She wanted to overcome it, but the dread of some unseen contamination lurking in the air between her and the people around her did continue to wash over her when she least expected it. Every night she prayed that the infection was no longer lurking in some damp corner of the city, and every morning she woke up wondering. Adelaide is rescued from these dark thoughts by the approach of the overpowering cloud of scent and starch that is Mrs. Timothy Frances. “I do hope you are not walking farther up the hill, my dear Mrs. Westwood,”dear Mrs. Westwood,” Mrs. Frances says, coming to a stop with a full-body shake that reminds Adelaide of a large purple bird settling its plumes. “No, indeed!” Adelaide responds quickly. “I’m just going over to Tremont Street—to see Miss Knowlton about a new gown I ordered…for Mrs. Elmsworth’s dinner next week.” “I am relieved to hear it,” Mrs. Frances responds, folding her hands over the handle of her umbrella and leaning toward Adelaide as though she is Guy Fawkes giving Catesby news of King James’s approach to Parliament. “The street is crawling with roving bands of suffragists.” “Fear not, Mrs. Frances.” Adelaide takes a few steps back from the asphyxiating lilac scent of her interlocutor. “I will certainly do everything in my power to avoid that rabble.” She bobs her head and starts to move on. Then she stops and turns her head to recall Mrs. Frances. “Are they very repellent?” She is instantly mortified by the unmistakable note of hope in her voice. “Appalling, my dear!” Mrs. Frances responds with a 61

Cheshire cat smile that widens her already broad face. “Marching along the pavements as bold as brass—singing their frightful suffrage songs at the tops of their voices.” “At least they have the decency to warn unsuspecting pedestrians that they are approaching,” Adelaide replies with a laugh that makes her chest feel hollow. She has the unpleasant sensation that her voice is ringing out for all to hear from end to end of Boston Common. As she resumes her walk, she pulls her veil down over her face. She is disinclined to encounter any other acquaintances. The inescapable pounding of her shoes on the pavement is making her head throb, but she can’t seem to slow down. The rhythmic click-click of wooden heels on flagstones starts to merge in her head with the click-click of piano keys at a party many years ago… Freddy Boncassen, ever au fait with any popular mischief on the rise, arrived at her parents’ home with the sheet music for the latest comic song by Mr. Gray, which poked fun at these silly suffragists. Encouraged by the praise of her friends, Adelaide had always been a bit conceited about her singing voice—though she generally tried to conceal this self-confidence behind blushes and batting eyelashes—and she sang Freddy’s new song with gusto. Edward laughed at her posturing as she sang out: “…Your dear old ma just took a fighter’s place. She likes the smell of powder ’cause it’s always on her face!” In her youthful exuberance, she ended the song with 62

her best imitation of one of those shameless poses favored by the music hall hussies her brother Robert hid pictures of in the back of his closet. Edward, also caught up in the high spirits of the moment, put his arm around her waist and kissed her. They were engaged a few days later. After barely two years of marriage, Edward answered his country’s call and enlisted to fight in the Great War. Adelaide was desperate to follow him to France as a nurse, but his mother explained to her that a lady’s place was not on the front lines. “You have a duty to stay in Boston and run Edward’s house for him,” her mother-in-law said in a tone of voice that brooked no contradiction. “Do you want to add to Edward’s troubles during this perilous time by making him worry for your safety as well as his own?” “Of course not, Mama. But surely I am just as capable —as young and able-bodied as Edward,” she pleaded. “Is it not also my duty to follow my husband’s example and use my talents to serve my country in her time of need?” “You have a duty to ensure Edward knows that he still has a warm and loving home here that is worth fighting for,” his mother replied. This argument struck the young bride forcibly, and she threw all her energy and strength into supervising Edward’s affairs at home, only feeling a twinge of envy every once in a while when she saw a friend or acquaintance don her smart Red Cross uniform and embark on new adventures in France. She kept her mind occupied by writing Edward long, newsy letters full of details about their cozy house, local gossip, charitable committees she had joined to support the war effort, and any tidbit she could think of that 63

might shed a little light and warmth to pierce through the dark and cold of his days in the trenches. She felt that her heart might burst when he returned home last year and she discovered that he had kept every one of the letters she had written him over those four bitter years of separation. She had never felt so proud as she did in that moment. An action of hers had been important to someone. She was of value. There was a reason for her existence beyond planning menus and drinking tea at committee meetings. The cheerful red and yellow blaze of the autumn leaves on Boston Common seems to have been made brighter by the falling rain, so it is with some regret that she turns into narrower streets lined with venerable brick buildings. Their large windows looming over her look like the unblinking eyes of disapproving matrons. Perhaps, she thinks, these suffragists are acting out because they have no one to love or to care for but themselves. It must be exhausting to always be thinking about themselves. “My rights.” “People like me deserve the vote.” “I’m being overlooked.” For a moment, Adelaide feels sorry for these desolate women. They are clearly so desperate to find a way to give their solitary lives meaning. She has seen drawings in the newspapers of what these suffragists look like: wizened hags dressed in boxy, oversized coats and shapeless hats. Some of them have even started wearing dresses that have no waists! Adelaide (who has always been very proud of her tiny waist—in her teenage years, she could lace down to twenty inches) cannot fathom why anyone would choose to wear one of these newfangled “drop waist” dresses. What went wrong 64

in their youths to cause these women to have so little self-respect? She is suddenly aware of the sound of high-pitched, excited chatter. Then a burst of girlish laughter, like a trumpet fanfare, announces the appearance of a band of young women that is rounding the street corner just ahead of her. Their shoulders are adorned with sashes of purple and gold, and the hems of white dresses flutter out from under their coats. They look like a kaleidoscope of butterflies. Adelaide feels short of breath and ducks into the recessed doorway behind her. She doesn’t want to be seen by this bevy of bright young things. All at once, her tastefully tailored jacket feels ill-fitting, and her decorous skirt feels dowdy. She shuts her umbrella with a snap, showering herself with droplets of cold water. Can these elegant, proud young women truly be suffragists? Where are the miserable spinsters of the cartoons? “Now, girls!” one of them is saying in a clear voice that bounces off the sides of the buildings like the call of a bell. She is a petite young woman with a head of shining blonde curls and a slight figure like a fairy’s. “We mustn’t astonish the men too much when we arrive at the polling place!” “Oh, honey, I’ve been astonishing men all my life!” one girl pipes up from the front of the crowd as she adjusts the angle of the hat on her stylishly bobbed hair. “I can’t stop now.” This statement is met with another chorus of exhilarated laughter and a few cheers from the butterflies. “No one would ever ask you to rein in the effervescence of your charms, Kat,” the fairy responds. “I just 65

mean that perhaps we could decrescendo the pitch and volume of our excitement? I know we are all positively brimming over with joy, but this is a solemn occasion, too.” The notes of laughter and chatter fade as the fairy continues to speak. “Let us not forget what the Silent Sentinels—and all the other women of the movement who came before us— endured to win us the right to vote. Let us not forget how these virtuous and brave women were brutalized—tortured—during the Night of Terror at Occoquan Workhouse. We are here today because of the grit and bravery of Alice Paul…” Murmurs of agreement from the company. “…of Camilla Gertrude Whitcomb, Inez Milholland…” “Hear! Hear!” from the group. “…and of the mothers of our movement: Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. We cast our votes today in their memory and to honor their long and bitter struggle!” An ebullient cheer rises from the assembly—from these charismatic young women, so different from the grim picture of suffragists that Adelaide has created in her head. These are not the disgruntled “old crones” and “Amazons” Edward spoke of this morning. These are vibrant young women, inspired to be heard and to make something of their lives. Their own lives… What have you made of your own life? That irksome voice prods Adelaide again. Do you have a life of your own? I live for someone else. That’s better—more noble, Adelaide insists, squinting at the young women before 66

her as though she is arguing with them, not with her own unwelcome thoughts. As the party of women moves on toward their destination, Adelaide emerges from her hiding place. I have made a home. I have made a family, Adelaide assures herself. I have been important to my husband. I have made my parents proud. That has given my life meaning. I have done my duty. She is alarmed to realize that she is blinking back tears. For a moment, her body does not move. She doesn’t even seem to breathe. She wants to go home, to be reassured by the sight of the rooms she has decorated so superbly. To give instructions for the week to the staff she has so skillfully assembled. To see how her husband’s weary face relaxes into a smile when she greets him with a glass of sherry. Instead, she finds herself continuing in the same direction—following that band of suffragists. So bewitching, all in white. She stops across the street when she reaches the polling place, reaching out one hand to grasp the lamppost next to her. The gesture is a weak effort to feel some reassurance of a tangible reality in this nightmarish day, this insubstantial scene. True, one man leaning against the wall by the entrance to the building is taking swigs from a bottle and making off-color comments to ladies as they take that first step into the hall, but, for the most part, the ladies ignore him, and as Adelaide watches, a policeman walks over to him and leads him away by the elbow. To a degree that Adelaide finds astounding, men and women are approaching the hall together in an orderly, 67

purposeful fashion. Without animosity. Orderly, that is, until young Kat of the bobbed hair and effervescent charms emerges from the door, followed by a few of her friends. Thrusting her umbrella into the air as if it is the magical sword Excalibur, she cries, “We did it!” The young ladies behind her respond with a magnificent shout. Several of them toss their hats in the air. The new arrivals at the hall greet this gesture with a mixture of consternation and amusement, some looking down in embarrassment, others smiling at this eruption of unadulterated glee. Adelaide struggles to think if she has ever felt a pure joy of the type now exhibited by young Kat. She tries to remember when she last radiated happiness instead of control. The dance of light and laughter in a Beacon Hill ballroom from a few months ago playfully swirls its way into her mind. Her husband was in conversation with a colleague, Mr. Greene, the editor of one of the local journals, as she stood by and listened. Edward was very kindly, praising her letter-writing and the skill she had shown in a few short tales that she had written to amuse their young nephews and nieces. “Have you ever thought of sharing your talents, Mrs. Westwood?” Greene asked over the rim of his cognac. “I am always happy to be obliging,” she replied, snapping her fan out in punctuation, “but what, precisely, do you have in mind?” “We are always looking for new stories—new writers—to include in my paper, particularly writers of such taste and standing as yourself,” Greene replied. “I 68

would be pleased to look over anything that you might wish to send my way.” For a moment, she was so astounded that even the habitual motion of her fan was suspended. It was as though effervescent rapture had suddenly filled her veins, and, in an instant, she might float up off of the ground and dance away to join the stars in the sky. Before she could collect her sparkling thoughts enough to answer, Edward spoke for her. “My wife has no wish to court notoriety,” he said, placing his hand on her shoulder. “She is well aware that her sphere is in our home, not in the public eye.” The weight of his hand crushed all of the bubbling excitement from her being. What a foolish fancy she had allowed herself to have, to imagine dancing with stars in the sky. To think that people beyond her family circle might care to read any thoughts that came from her pen. A footman passed by with a bottle of champagne, and Adelaide thrust her glass toward him to be refilled. “But it is quite common these days for ladies to publish their scribblings!” Greene persisted. “Consider the success of Miss Bly’s reports—” “Forgive me,” Edward cut him off. “But my wife has no wish to have her name associated with the likes of those new women. It is not right for a woman to contend with the pressures of living a life in the public eye.” The hastily imbibed champagne helped Adelaide recover from her moment of introspection, and her fan resumed its flutter. “I certainly have no interest in their nonsensical ‘dress reform movement,’” she said with a burst of laughter so harsh that she was almost surprised it didn’t crack the glass in her hand. “No, indeed,” Edward agreed. “No one could ever wish 69

you to look any different from the way you do this evening.” He slipped his hand from her bare shoulder to her corseted waist. “Would you care for a waltz?” She felt the customary weight of ingrained pride in her appearance and in her husband’s approbation descend on her like a yoke. She finished her champagne, put the loop of her heavy train over her arm and nodded her acquiescence with a dead and dazzling smile. That was the night that she started taking a few drops of laudanum before retiring to bed. Adelaide drops her umbrella at the sound of a voice close to her ear. “I do beg your pardon,” she says, but before her disoriented limbs can move to reach for the fallen umbrella, it is handed to her by a trim woman whose well-cut suit is almost the same gray as her hair. Her unusually large brown eyes blink at Adelaide from behind a pair of thick spectacles. “Forgive me if I startled you,” the woman says with a smile that softens the severity of her angular features. “I saw you standing here, and I wanted to inquire whether you might like someone to walk with you to the polls?” Seeing Adelaide’s eyes widen, the woman adds, “I would not object to some company myself. It is a remarkable day—one almost feels the wish for a companion to help shoulder the burden, to assure one that it is really happening…at last…” The woman’s large eyes seem ready to brim over. “I…” Adelaide takes a deep breath and starts to smile, but then she catches sight of a tall figure with shiny galoshes approaching the hall. Edward. How had the possibility of crossing his path here 70

never crossed her mind? If she could, she would slap herself for her own stupidity. She moves her umbrella to hide her face and continues in a breathless voice, “I believe you have mistaken me, ma’am. I have no intention of mixing with the masses at the polls. I was out on an errand and mistook my way.” “I see,” the woman responds, peering at Adelaide from behind her thick glasses as though she is an owl. “That’s a pity. Now that you are here, are you sure I cannot persuade you to join your sisters in the making of history?” “Quite sure.” Adelaide glances around the umbrella to be sure that Edward has not seen her. In one petrifying moment, his eyes meet hers. His brows knit together in confusion, then lift in surprise that quickly turns to anger. He crosses the street toward her without heeding the puddles that his polished boots smash into on the way. Adelaide! I thought I told you to stay at home today.” He grabs her by the elbow with a forcefulness that makes the woman in the gray suit back away. “You did.” Adelaide looks around her and realizes with mortification that his sharp movements have drawn the attention of more than one person on the street, including Kat and her suffragist butterflies, who have stopped on the corner to wait for a few straggling friends. “Then how have you come to be in the exact spot that I warned you would be unsafe?” He twists her arm as he pulls her closer. She has never seen this look on his face before. They’ve had tiffs in the past—what married couple hasn’t?— but those had been over whether to paint the drawing room robin’s egg blue or sea green, or whether they really needed to attend a dinner when the hosts were insuffer71

ably boring. None of their differences of opinion in the past have ever made his eyes look as though they are about to emit sparks. Never before has he gripped her arm with such force that she can feel the bones in her elbow grinding against each other. “It was a mistake, Edward—please, you’re hurting me.” The weakness implicit in the tears that rise to her eyes infuriates her. She tries to shake them off, but her throat continues to tighten. Out of the corner of her eye, Adelaide sees Kat lean over to say something to the fairylike girl with the blonde curls. How could Edward humiliate her like this? She is a fully grown woman being treated like a child in front of strangers in a public street. Being restrained. Edward takes a breath as if he is about to say more, but she does not give him the chance. With a strength that she does not expect to have, Adelaide pulls her arm free from his grasp and turns so abruptly that she whips Edward’s legs with the wet hem of her skirt. She walks quickly, then starts to run, hardly heeding where she is going. The buildings fall behind her, and she finds herself leaving the smooth pavement and sloshing through wet grass to the bank of the river. She can go no further. She drops her umbrella and wraps her arms around herself, gasping to catch her breath. It seems that the seagulls are laughing at her as they whirl through the sky overhead. She presses her hands over her ears. As her breath slows, she lets her arms fall and steps slowly forward to the rhythm of a favorite speech from Shakespeare. The words seem to ripple up from the river as she inches closer and closer to the soothing waves. 72

“…with a green and yellow melancholy She sat like patience on a monument, Smiling at grief…” She reaches the river’s edge and admires the grace of her slate blue walking shoe as it begins to nudge its way out from under her mud-crusted skirts and reach over the edge of the riverbank. “‘What’s her history?’” she murmurs as a raindrop slides off of her shoe and hits the water, sending ripples out across the way. “That is for her to decide,” a female voice behind her says. Adelaide teeters there for a moment, knowing that she cannot sustain her current position for long, but uncertain of which way to fall when she releases this tantalizing tension. This suspended moment of indecision is so seductive, so full of possibilities. The voice behind her continues. “It doesn’t matter how much pressure you feel to please other people. In the end, you must own responsibility for the choices you make.” The luxurious darkness of the water looks so restful and serene to Adelaide, whereas the brightness of the afternoon sun breaking through the clouds overhead seems to demand such an effort to face its brilliance. “There is a part of me that was terrified to come out and vote today,” the voice continues, as though it is making conversation over a cup of tea. “I know that my late husband, God rest his soul, would have hated the idea of women voting—bless her, my mother would have hated it, too. I can’t think of one person I respect who would encourage this decision, but at the end of the day, my own conscience is the only entity to which I really owe an answer.” 73

Adelaide does not move and makes no reply. The voice continues. “Could I ever forgive myself if, after having been granted a voice in the affairs of our nation while so many are still stifled, I choose to stay silent?” Replacing her suspended foot firmly under her, Adelaide turns to face the large brown eyes of the spectacled woman in the grey suit. “Besides,” the woman adds with a smile, “I’m sixty-eight years old and should be allowed to do as I please.” Adelaide folds her veil off of her face and feels the emerging sun of the autumn afternoon fall on her skin. “I was concerned when you left the polls in…in such haste,” the woman continues, choosing her words with care, “so I took the liberty of following to make sure you were all right.” Adelaide looks around her, hoping that no one else saw her moment of dalliance with the beguiling oblivion of the river. “Don’t worry,” the woman adds. “Your husband didn’t follow you. He saw some men he knew, pulled himself together, and went on to vote with them.” Adelaide takes a deep breath, savoring the familiar smells of autumn leaves and woodsmoke. She stoops to pick up her discarded umbrella, then stands and straightens her shoulders. “Would you still like a companion to go in and vote?” The woman nods and extends her hand. Together, they begin their walk back up the hill. They intend to go there.



Send in the Clown by Ray Geoghegan illustration by Amy Yang

Eddie Marsh tried to remember to breathe as he ran. He was fit, but the mob chasing him appeared to have unlimited energy. He was getting dizzy, but there was nowhere else to go but in circles around the first floor of the home. That’s when he realized: the stairs. He knew he wasn’t welcome anywhere except the living room, but these were extenuating circumstances. As he turned the corner, he grabbed the railing and went to take the first step, but his oversized shoes caught on the wood. He tripped and felt the pain of the steps bruising his knee. Still, he didn’t have time to recover. He picked himself up and gripped both railings to keep him upright when his shoes tripped him. Once at the top, he threw his body against a door and tried the doorknob, but his sweaty hands couldn’t grasp the metal. That’s when he heard the stampede travel up the steps. He wiped his hands on his pants and opened the door as fast as he could. As he closed it, he could see two heads emerge from the ledge over the stairs. He sat with his back against the door. Eyes closed, 77

he tried to catch his breath. For a second, he thought his heart was beating out of his chest, but as the blood stopped pounding in his ears, he realized it was the children banging on the door. He tried to block out the noise of their laughter and focus on his breathing. He triple-checked that the door was locked. It was unlikely that a group of seven-year-olds could take down an entire door, but he had learned not to underestimate their strength. After a few minutes, they lost interest, and their voices started to fade. Eddie stood up, uneasy on his feet, and steadied himself with hands on both sides of the sink. Looking into the medicine cabinet mirror, he saw that his white face makeup and overdrawn mouth were smudged. Streaks of red ran along his jaw in the shape of small fingers. The cheap spotted shirt was ripped, exposing his chest. The red wig sat askew. A patch of exposed skin trailed from under his left eye to halfway down his cheek. The only thing that seemed to be intact was his red foam nose. He let out an exasperated sigh that turned into a half-assed laugh. “The real joke is that I thought I could do this,” Eddie said to himself, staring into the open drain of the sink. He could feel another tear start to slide down his face, hanging at the tip of his nose, ready to fall into the sink, when the woman behind the curtain decided to make herself known. “The brats got to you, huh,” Miranda slurred. Eddie turned around, startled, as she pulled back the solid white shower curtain. Sitting in the bathtub was a woman with expensive blonde waves, around age forty, in a light blue Calvin Klein day dress, and one white five-inch heel hanging on for dear life while the other perfectly pedicured foot stood bare. She clutched a half-empty bottle of 78

wine to her chest with her free hand draped over the tub, the white porcelain contrasting with her long pink nails. “I’m sorry,” Eddie stuttered. “I didn’t know you were in here.” “You were busy.” She eyed his torn costume. “I thought I locked that door, so I suppose we’re both surprised.” Miranda continued to examine Eddie as he kept his eyes directed at a certain spot on the ceiling, trying not to seem embarrassed. “Don't worry,” she laughed. “I’m the lady of the house.” She pretended to curtsy from her place in the tub. “You must be the ‘entertainment’ my husband hired. I don’t blame you for running away. I spend most of my time with those monsters; I know how they are. If I could run, I would. Instead, I just have to cope with my little moments.” She held up the bottle of wine on the last word before taking a swig. There was silence as she swished it in her mouth and swallowed. Her joyless eyes stayed trained on the generic wall art in front of her. Eddie felt as if he was watching an intimate moment, but as soon as he built up the courage to tiptoe out, Miranda tapped the side of the tub. “Come, sit down, clown boy. You look like shit. No one wants to see a sad clown. At least not a sober one.” Eddie thought for a second before slowly lowering himself to the floor and laying his back against the spotless porcelain. Miranda held the wine out for him, and he took it. “I could say the same thing about you,” he said before filling his mouth with the wine. He winced. Glancing at the label, he did a double take. Twenty percent alcohol. Despite this, he let a little more than he planned to slip down his throat. Miranda laughed. “Aren’t you honest?” “Just thought I’d return the favor,” he replied, handing 79

the bottle back. “Why are you up here, uh, Tom?” “Tom Foolery is my stage name. I’m Eddie.” “Well, Eddie, what did the brats do to you?” Eddie looked up at the ceiling and put his hand up for the bottle. She passed it back, but he didn’t drink. He just held it to his chest like a teddy bear, bracing himself to relive the moment. “I asked for a volunteer,” he said slowly. Miranda grimaced. “Yeah, that was your first mistake.” “The birthday boy, I guess your son, came up. At first, when I got to his level to pull a quarter out of his ear, he grabbed my nose. I laughed it off and took it back. Then, he saw the scarf peeking out of my sleeve and kept pulling. I tried to roll with it but then—” he took a breath and closed his eyes—“he wrapped it around my neck. The kids just laughed and the parents were nowhere to be seen. I pushed him back and got it off. Then he started crying. I didn’t hurt him, at least I don’t think I did, I didn’t mean to. I just pushed him off me. Then one of the boys stood up and yelled, ‘You hurt my friend!’ Then they all started yelling and they ran up before I could stand. They pulled at my wig and ripped my shirt. I’m a grown man; I shouldn’t be overpowered by ten seven-year-olds.” “Actually, most of them are five. Cyrus was held back, twice,” Miranda added. “He was held back twice in first grade?” Eddie turned to look at her. “No, kindergarten,” she sighed. “You need this more than me.” He passed back the bottle, and she looked at it like an old friend before raising it to her lips. Still drinking, she waved her hand for him to continue. 80

“Oh, yeah, so I was being overpowered by a bunch of five-year-olds, and there was no hope in sight. It started to go dark and I heard singing, and I thought, ‘Is this really how I die?’ But then I realized that they lowered the lights for the cake. The kids started to light up on me, and that’s when I broke through. I just started running. Then—” Eddie choked. Miranda put her hand on his shoulder. He took a deep breath. “Then they started chasing me. First, I heard the steps, then they started yelling. I ran around the stairs twice before coming up, taking two steps at a time. I haven’t run like that in forever.” He sighed and wiped away his tears, taking white makeup into his hands as he did. He looked at the white paint stark against his skin and saw it as a confirmation of defeat. “This was my first real gig,” he admitted. “I used to be a janitor. I made a lot of money, believe it or not. People will pay through the nose for jobs they don’t want to do. But I wasn’t happy. The only things that made me happy were my dog and my husband. Then my husband left me.” “Was it because you wanted to be a clown?” Miranda asked, in an expectant voice. “No, he went back to his ex-girlfriend. His high school sweetheart,” Eddie said mockingly. After a moment, his voice became more solemn. “She’s pregnant. I always wanted kids but he didn’t, and now she’s pregnant and he’s ecstatic.” This was the first time he had said it all aloud before and it felt worse than he had imagined. He took the bottle back for a second in an attempt to chase the feeling away, before passing it back to Miranda. “What about the dog?” she asked. “He took the dog.” “He took the dog?” Miranda asked, sounding offended 81

on Eddie's behalf. “He took the dog,” Eddie confirmed. “You should fight that shit,” she said. “The dog died.” “The dog died!” Miranda threw her hands in the air and the wine jumped in the bottle, almost slipping out but falling just short of escaping. “Then I tried to kill myself.” “Then you tried to kill yourself.” She lowered her hands again. Eddie left the memory to hang in the air for a second, looking at the inside of his left forearm. Hiding underneath the shiny and colorful sleeves was a scar, still pink. He hadn’t dared to look directly at it since it happened, and he still hadn’t said the words aloud. Yet, here, he let them slip out so easily. He couldn’t take it back, and tugging the red frill of his sleeves into the palms of his hands, he realized he didn’t want to. “I wasn’t happy,” he continued, testing the waters, giving Miranda a second to object. She didn’t. “I used to be happy, but I couldn’t remember when. All I knew was I thought that I had lost everything that should have made me happy. Then, in the hospital bed, a week after signing those damn divorce papers, I remembered. The last time I remember being happy was here.” “Here?” Miranda questioned. “This town,” Eddie said distantly, finding himself within the memory. “I used to visit my cousin during the summers, and it was so different than living in the city. I used to think he seemed so happy here. I thought that the suburbs were just for happy families.” Eddie took a second and laughed. “It was my cousin’s birthday. There was cake and a bounce house, a clown, and other kids that didn’t know me except as the cousin of the birthday boy. 82

I forgot about that moment for so long. I really thought that the suburbs were where happy people lived and that’s all I wanted. It’s what I still want. I want to be happy. I want a happy family. I thought I would be happy here, or at least that I could be.” The memory drifted in front of him for a moment; close enough to touch but not quite hold. “I failed,” Eddie said, slicing the silence, his voice breaking as if he hadn’t talked in years. “I thought I could make kids happy and learn how to love myself through that. I thought this was something I could be good at. I failed at my marriage and my life. I’m just a failure.” “Hey. It’s your first gig. No one is an expert in a day. Being a party clown is difficult; I mean, I haven’t really thought about it before, but it’s like any other job. You don’t have the level of experience of working with kids as you’ll have farther down the line. I’m eight years into being a mother, and I can’t win either.” Miranda patted his head. Eddie could tell by her touch that the alcohol was beginning to hit her more than before. “That can’t be true,” Eddie said. “You must have learned something.” He looked back at her again and saw that she had rubbed her left eye makeup all over her face. He didn’t say anything. “I’m a stay-at-home mom. I spend all my free time either with my son who I can’t seem to do anything right with, or with the other moms who all have it right. I can’t stand them. They’re all fake. They’re all monsters.” “The kids or the moms?” “Both. Monsters, every single one of them. I guess the kids have an excuse since their brains aren’t fully developed yet. While Cyrus is a handful, at least he keeps me busy. When he’s at school, I basically just day drink. I 83

can’t tell if this is better. I’m not drinking alone, but I’m drinking with a disheveled party clown on the floor of my bathroom.” She laughed, but the cracks in her voice told Eddie that she was holding back tears. “But you’re not alone in it,” Eddie added. “You have your husband.” Miranda laughed. “I haven’t had Liam on my side for a long time. Our relationship used to be so good. At first, we had chemistry. We were fresh out of college. He had this full head of dirty blonde hair and was just so tall. He had a degree in business management, and when he worked at his desk, he just looked so quizzical that it melted my heart. We thought we’d never run out of things to talk about. We didn’t know we were still kids. Now he’s lost half his hair and I feel like I tower over him. And that look in his eye while he works, it’s died out into something hollow I can’t help but resent. All he talks about is his job, and the life of a hardware store manager isn’t exactly exhilarating.” She took another sip of the wine and clicked her tongue. “We never even fuck anymore. It’s not like I’m the one who let myself go. I mean these,” she said, grabbing her breasts, “these are real.” Eddie looked at her and nodded, starting to feel a little more than tipsy himself. “They’re great,” he nodded. “I know they are,” she said, looking down at them and giving them each an air kiss. “And you can’t say that about most of the other women in this town. I mean, I’m hot. I’m his hot wife who could very well be having an affair with the very handsome single dad down the street, but I love him, or maybe I did. He hasn’t even come looking for me.” She looked down and twisted her mouth to the side. “To be honest, I left that door unlocked. I was hoping 84

to rehab or something, at least that would show that he cared. I thought maybe we could fix it, but I’m not so sure.” “I really don’t think so.” “If you really love each other, you can fix anything. I wish Ethan tried before he divorced me. I thought we were happy, but the spark was gone for him. If he had told me what he wanted me to be, how he wanted me to change, I would have done it. Maybe I would have been happier that way. Sometimes sparks dull but you just need to have an open conversation to start them up again. It just takes a little extra effort—” “He tried to buy our babysitter’s bathwater,” Miranda blurted. “What?” Eddie asked, assuming he had heard wrong, hoping he heard wrong. “Liam tried to buy bathwater from our babysitter,” she repeated with her eyes fixed on the bottle in her hands. “She’s only seventeen. He approached her about a month ago. She was about to leave and he stopped her. I wasn’t home yet. I was out at book club or somewhere else stupid I didn’t want to be. He told her that next time she took a bath, if she put some of the water in a Tupperware container, he would give her fifty dollars. She said no, so he upped it to seventy-five, and then a hundred. If she kept it coming he would give her advances as time went on. She said she’d think about it. The next time I saw her, I thought she looked uncomfortable. I had to drag the information out of her, but she told me eventually. My first thought was that the man that I married never would have done that. But we were young back then, and now it’s almost twenty years later, and what am I supposed to do, be surprised he’s interested in younger girls that look 85

like his type, that look like I did twenty years ago? Did we outgrow each other? Am I at fault for this, for aging?” “What did you do?” Eddie asked propping his head up on the rim of the tub, body twisted, enthralled. “I told her to tell him she’d do it.” “What!” “I told her to tell him yes, and I would leave water in a Tupperware container in the cabinet for her to give him at the end of her shifts. She could keep the money he gave her.” “What water are you giving him? Your bathwater?” “No, it’s bath salts in tap water, sometimes our son’s bubble bath, but he wouldn’t recognize the smell, and a special ingredient.” Her face grew stern and she looked straight ahead at the wall art again, her knuckles turning white as she tightened her grip on the bottle. “Are you poisoning your husband?” Eddie asked, begging any higher power that he wasn’t drunkenly bonding with a black widow. He knew he was far too drunk at his point to handle this level of a shift in conversation and the morals involved. No,” she chuckled. “Not that I haven’t thought about it, but no.” She took another sip before continuing. “Our dog has awful dandruff. I mean, he’s medicated for it, it’s so bad. It helps a little, but he sheds more skin than fur at this point. Liam thinks it’s disgusting.” “Oh no,” Eddie whispered. “I put the fucking dog dandruff in the bathwater.” She looked him right in the eye now. “I’m sure you’re aware of what people who buy bathwater do with it.” Eddie shook his head, not to say that he didn’t know, but rather in horror because he did. “They drink it, Eddie.” Her eyes grew wide with power 86

and anger. “I’m making him drink salty dog dandruff water. I think I hate him.” “Do you? Really?” Eddie asked. “I do, I really think I hate him. I love him, but I hate him. I have never been more in love than I was with the man he used to be and I can’t let that go, but I hate him. I hate this life. I never wanted to be a mother, but you can’t get an abortion if you’re married. At least, that’s what I thought. Abortions are for teenagers and single women. I didn’t have a right to that kind of scapegoat. I wouldn’t even know how to make that kind of appointment. Would I call my gyno or my primary and ask, ‘Hey, do you do abortions? Can you give me a recommendation? Yelp hasn’t been very helpful.’ It just didn’t seem like an option. Then Liam seemed so excited when I told him, especially when he found out it was a boy, but I never had that. I wanted to feel his excitement, but I couldn’t. I kept thinking that it would all make sense when I held him, but when the time came, I still didn’t feel it. “Now it’s been years, and I’m the one stuck with the eight-year-old kindergartner every day. I hate having to make his lunches and keep up with what foods he’s decided he doesn’t like. I hate having to go to PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences where I’m being criticized for how I’m raising him. I hate bath time and playdates. I never wanted to change diapers. He spends every day with me, and I try to teach him how to act, but no matter how much I try, he’s becoming a person I don’t like. His teacher recommended that I get a nanny.” She laughed. “I need to pay someone to take care of my son because I can’t. I could, we have the money, but then what would I do? Drink myself to death? The things the people in this town would say about me. I can’t let them get that 87

satisfaction.” She took a swig. “Not them, and not my shell of a husband. Did I tell you he’s paying our teenage babysitter a hundred dollars for dog dandruff water?” Eddie stared at her, unsure of what to say. The silence kept the air still, and when the time came, the only words Eddie could manage were, “Liam sucks.” Miranda looked at him and laughed wholeheartedly, but the tears were beginning to pool in the corners of her eyes. “Liam does suck.” She downed the bottle and cuddled it with her face to the label. “This wine will be my husband. He makes me happy.” Eddie stood up and laughed a little too. He looked at himself in the mirror, and in a futile attempt, he tried to straighten out his ripped shirt. Miranda laughed at him, and so he just took it off completely. He leaned over to the door and unlocked it. “What are you doing?” Miranda shot up, no longer laughing. “We’ve been here for too long. The party is probably over by now, and we should both drink some water. And you need to have a conversation with Liam.” Eddie reached out his arms but Miranda refused. “Come on,” he urged her again. She refused, again, so he grabbed her from under her arms and heaved her up onto her feet. Once upright, the color drained from her face. From the look of her heavy eyes, it was evident that she was drunker than originally thought. Eddie held her by the waist as she slowly stepped out of the tub, abandoning her other heel in the process. Even when she had both bare feet on the cool tiles, she was unsteady. When he started to pull away, she grabbed him by the arm. “I . . . I go down if you don’t hold me up,” she slurred. “Hold you,” he responded, and in his drunken brain, 88

he decided that he needed to carry her in his arms. Unsteadily, he reached down and picked her up. She started to fight back, and in doing so the bottle fell out of her hands. It fell against the beautiful blue-tiled floor and left white specks in the crash. There was a deafening silence again, broken by Miranda moaning and cuddling up to Eddie’s chest. “Actually, I like this. You’re very warm. And smooth. And firm. You might be a little too buff for a party clown. You either need to find a new job or let yourself go,” Miranda said. They were both laughing when Liam busted through the door. Eddie had seen Liam before, but with the new information he had gathered, he really took him in. He was tall, but Eddie hadn’t really noticed it before. Miranda had a point. His presentation made him look small; his eyes had bags under them and his forehead wrinkled. His shoulders were hunched and his bald spot shined in the bright bathroom light. Eddie held back laughter as Liam’s face grew angry. “What’s going on—Miranda? Tom Foolery? Of course, you’re in here. What are you doing, messing around with my wife while you’re supposed to be entertaining the kids?” Liam took a step before looking down at the ground and stopping at the glass. “So, you got her drunk too?” “No, I found her like this,” Eddie explained. “We were just talking, nothing funny. I tried to do the job but the kids—” “Listen, I don’t need an explanation, clown boy.” Miranda popped her head up. “Shut up Liam, clown boy here is taking better care of me than you have since I spat out your kid. He’s listening. He cares. Clown boy, take me to my bed.” 89

Eddie smiled uncomfortably at the now-fuming husband. “Hey, hey, hey. I’m going to give you to your husband, and I’m going to clean up the glass.” Liam ripped Miranda from his arms. “No, put me down! I don’t want you, I want Eddie.” Miranda struggled. “What the fuck did you do to her? Did you fuck my wife?” Liam spat, lower jaw extended, almost resembling a caveman. “Of course not,” Eddie tried to say, but Miranda chirped in. “He fucked me more than you have in the last five years. How does that feel? To be out-fucked by a clown?” Liam put her down on the floor, but she fell back onto him. “You know what? You’re the real clown here, Liam.” “Hey, you ungrateful drunk, I provide for you. I pay for the food, and the house. I pay for your nails, your hair, your expensive dresses and heels, your goddamn wine. I’m the only thing keeping this family together. Don’t you dare—” On that word, he grabbed her by the wrists. Something broke inside of Eddie. He stepped in the glass in his big clown shoes, and slipped as he pushed Liam in the chest. He stumbled back as Miranda fell to her knees. “Don’t lay a hand on her. You don’t deserve her. You’re a shell of a man and here you are, tormenting a real person, probably the only real person I’ve ever met. You don’t love her right.” “And you think you can do better?” “I think a lopsided turd on the side of the road could do better than you.” “You don’t fucking know me, or my marriage.” “But I know your type. You’re some cretin built on 90

toxic masculinity who wants to pretend like he’s the head of the household, when the only thing you really control is how miserable everyone else is. You know what, I will tell you what I did to your wife: I listened to her. We had a conversation. Something you haven’t done in a long time. You should try it; maybe then you would remember how great the woman you married is.” Eddie pushed Liam a little on the shoulders to punctuate the argument. Liam pushed back harder, much harder. It took Eddie a second to realize that this was the beginning of a fight, but by then it was too late. Liam punched him in the eye and he fell to the floor, just missing the glass. “You have no place to say anything about my marriage.” Liam said, towering over him. “You’re a party clown, and a shitty one at that. You have absolutely no right to discuss my life with me after spending an hour with my melodramatic wife. Now I have to clean up the mess you made in my home.” Liam then turned to Miranda and picked her up like a rag doll. When she stood up, there were cuts up and down her legs from the bloody glass shards left on the tile. “Miranda, you’re hurt. Where do you keep your rubbing alcohol?” Eddie stood up and began to open the medicine cabinet, searching the shelves. “Shut the fuck up, get out of my house,” said Liam. “But she’s hurt.” “I’ll take care of her, I’m her husband.” “You haven’t taken care of her in years,” Eddie said, defiance in his eyes. He reached down towards Miranda. Before he knew what was happening, Liam punched him in the face. Somehow, Eddie was able to stay upright. In a moment of adrenaline, he swung at Liam, but he dodged it with ease. Liam swung back and this time Eddie fell 91

to the floor, hitting his head on the side of the tub. He touched it and felt the blood trickling from the back of his skull. When he looked back over, Miranda was slung over Liam’s shoulder. “I think you’ve done enough. Get the hell out of my house.” Liam said, and with that, he walked out and didn’t look back. As Eddie climbed up to his feet, he used the sink to balance himself. Standing up right, he closed the medicine cabinet. He was forced to face the mirror one more time. He saw the half-beaten shirtless clown. A black eye would soon add to the look, and he didn’t want to even look at the wound on the back of his head. He wanted to laugh and cry and drink more wine or even something a little bit stronger. Despite what he wanted to do, what he needed was to go home, throw up, and sleep the day off. He took off his clown nose, and when he turned, he saw Cyrus standing in the doorway. He stepped out of the bathroom and into the dark hallway, and as he passed the little boy, he ruffled his hair. “Eddie,” Miranda shouted from down the hall. Eddie and Cyrus looked towards her. She was on her bed and they could see her through the door. “Don’t be like me.” Liam closed the door but she kept shouting. It was muffled but they could still hear her. “Don’t be like me! Don’t let other people decide who you are! Fight back!” “Shut up, you drunk,” Liam said, loud enough for them to hear. “Give me your leg, let’s get this glass out.” In a softer, kinder voice, Eddie could just make out Liam saying, “I think it’s time we get you some help.” After a moment, Cyrus looked up at Eddie. “You’re a shitty clown.” He let slip a laugh. “Well, you’re a shitty kid.” 92

Cyrus furrowed his brow. “You’re a big person, you should be better.” Eddie laughed. “Maybe I should, but hey, it’s my first party.” He gave the boy the nose and left the house feeling a little more hopeful.


Newton's Third Law by Abby Provenzano illustration by Amy Yang

Aaron and I had a science teacher once back in middle school who told us that there was a biological presumption that symmetrical faces were more beautiful. So, the closer you were to symmetrical, the closer you were to beautiful. Back then, beauty was synonymous with perfection. Maybe it still is. I think the teacher’s point was to dispel this notion, to point out that it was a myth. I don’t know, I stopped listening, more focused on the paper airplane Aaron was folding. His forehead was scrunched up, and he was laughing. He tried to launch the plane—it did an immediate nosedive to the floor, which only made us laugh more. But after school I did stand in front of the bathroom mirror with a sheet of construction paper, alternating between covering each side of my face. I scrutinized the right side, then the left, trying to conjure a picture of what I would look like if my face consisted of two sides that were exact mirror images. I don’t remember my conclusions. What I do know, though, is that symmetry tends to show up in the arcs of our lives. Whether it’s beautiful or 95

perfect or not is up to whoever’s looking at it. It’s a Wednesday, late February or early March, one of those cold and dreary ones. I figured it should be a day that isn’t out of the ordinary. My work briefcase sits in the passenger seat next to me—I didn’t take it out after returning home from the office a few hours ago. I’m driving the same car I got in the divorce, though it’s long past the time I should have looked into an upgrade. The letters I wrote almost a week ago rest on top of the briefcase. I am tired as I drive, but exhaustion has long since settled in my bones. I am calm. I listen to a jazz station and entertain myself by trying to guess which song will be the final one I hear before I reach my destination. I don’t bother ruminating on my unhappiness, my loneliness, my failures, my futility. There has been plenty of time for that. I hum along to the low bleating of a tenor saxophone and let my mind drift. I grew up in a tiny Maine town on a lake, so small that there was a post office, a scattering of houses, and a grocery store, which was an hour’s drive away. Our house was old, a fixer-upper my parents never ceased fixing-upping, though they did it with heart and soul and quite a bit of formidable progress. We had a big barn and no animals, unless you counted the bats. There were horses up the road, though, and I have many fuzzy memories of velvety lips chomping crab apples from my hand. Two things stand out of all that time with great clarity: Aaron and the Bridge. Aaron was the boy the school bus picked up two stops after me. I put my backpack in the seat next to me to save it, and in return he gave me his Go-Gurt at lunch when his mother had packed him a blue one. I remember 96

thinking she was some kind of genius because she kept the Go-Gurts in the freezer. They tasted infinitely better frozen, somehow, yet I never thought to ask my own mother to do the same. I remember playing marbles with Aaron after school, his eyes squinted and the tip of his tongue poking out of his mouth as he scuffed a wobbly circle into the pavement with chalk. We crouched at the edge of the parking lot, heads bent together, shooting the marbles one after the other. We played for keeps. Day after day, swapping the same marbles back and forth. I always shot for his milky blue one, the one with specks of every color of the rainbow. He’d frown and wipe his palms on his jeans and aim at my cat’s eye. “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” he’d recite shrilly, mimicking our teacher. “You take mine, I’ll take yours. A marble for a marble, right, Mr. Newton?” He laughed while I shoved him and rolled the cat’s eye between his fingers. Aaron would call my house on the weekends and say, “Well, come on over. What are you waiting for?” Many sunny afternoons were spent doing who-knows-what, everything blurring together. Aaron and I goofed around during class and played on the same after-school sports teams and traded baseball cards and CDs and built a fort in my barn for overnight camping trips and rode our bikes on the dirt back roads and tried to wrestle under my father’s carefully pruned apple tree and did all the things you do with childhood best friends who aren’t forgettable. The Bridge was the one over the little river—too shallow, the adults always cautioned, to be considered a real river—that flowed towards the inevitable end of the lake. Technically, you could squeeze a midsize car across it, but that was a rare sight. It was mostly just pedestrian. If the 97

Bridge had any forename, it was long forgotten by everyone. Named or not, it was the place where the rowdy teenagers from all the adjoining little towns congregated when the weather grew hot. I’d watch out my bedroom window as they perched on the far side of the thin railing together, cackling and shoving at each other until they dived in, one by one. Their excitement, eagerness, and joy in this kind of freedom was palpable to me even at an age too young to fully understand it. When my mother caught me looking, she’d slam the shade shut and scold me about how dangerous it was. The water was too shallow, she’d say, shaking her head. There were so many rocks right under the surface that those foolish high-school kids couldn’t see, she’d warn. It was only a matter of time before somebody broke their neck—what did they think they were, invincible? I’d nod along with her and then, in her absence, turn right back to the window. They liked to do a lot of jumping and diving at night, when the sun and the criticism of people like my mother weren’t beating down on the backs of their necks. I’d hear the laughter and shouts late into the night and imagine them breaking the surface of the water, shaking droplets off their slick bodies, clambering out to go back to the Bridge to jump again. The sky outside is dark as I pull to the side of the highway bridge on I-395, the connection between Bangor and Brewer. I ended up living in Bangor, and it has been nice enough. In the late and the dark, there aren’t many cars around, and I don’t want to be able to see the water before I do it. I push on the brakes and the car eases to a stop. I 98

I squeeze the keys, the jagged edges poking my skin, and glance again at the small pile of letters balanced on the briefcase in the passenger seat. There are four in total, and what they lack in length, they also lack in any true meaning or revelation. One for my parents, one for Annemarie, one for whoever happens to come across my abandoned car, and one for Aaron. When I first started planning, I asked myself if I should return to the Bridge, if it mattered to me, but I decided against it. I want to be sure. The symmetry’s still there, of course. Can’t miss it. There were a lot of smaller moments in between, naturally, but there’s no point in combing through the little details and specifics that make up the totality of my childhood. I’m not even sure I could. At the time of the only moment that mattered, I had just turned thirteen, which meant that I was now old and therefore a candidate for proving my prospective maturity, coolness, and manhood. At least, that’s what Aaron said when he decided we should try out the Bridge. I don’t remember what I said in response, though I’m sure I resisted. At first. The Bridge was, after all, tall enough to evoke a gut reaction, and I was never one for wildness or daredeviltry. I was never one for freedom, either, Aaron told me hotly, and maybe that was what did it. Convinced me, I mean. Or, as was true for a lot of my time with Aaron, I was never convinced but still ended up going along with his plans. Pranking the substitute teacher with a rubber frog, for example. Changing costumes halfway through Halloween night and taking an identical route for double the candy. Attempting to round a sharp corner on my bike without holding the 99

handlebars “like they do on TV.” Either way, we found ourselves on the Bridge after one of the last days of school in the early summer weather, studying the running water below. Aaron said it was deep enough, that he couldn’t see any lurking rocks. That he was one of the best swimmers in gym class—this was true—and couldn’t wait to join in on the fun. “We have to get in with the older crowd,” he told me in a tone that meant our futures depended on it. “We can’t be stupid little babies forever.” I—who had up to that point been unaware that I was a “stupid little baby”—was the one who came up with the idea for a practice run. That I know for sure. You’d think I’d want to know every little detail, would have clarity after the constant reliving, but I suppose that’s something I use to hide with. It’s easier as only a main, vague idea, like on a storyboard. The practice run was to ensure that we would know what we were doing when we joined the older group. No embarrassing screams on the way down, or flopping instead of diving, or losing our nerve and never leaving the Bridge’s rail. I tried to picture myself hurling my body off the Bridge, somehow keeping perfect form and epitomizing whatever manly image would impress the others, and I shuddered. I instead pictured my younger self hovering at my bedroom window, watching my own perfect dive and applauding. I still didn’t want to do it, but Aaron did. And he was so excited about it, his body practically vibrating as he hopped off his bike and met me outside my house a couple days later, that I thought, what the hell. We had decided to go to the Bridge in the evening, 100

after dinner, so that fewer people would see us, but we would still be able to see the water—our target—for our first jump. We had decided to jump in together. And so, there we were. Like a snapshot from my kiddie Kodak camera. Standing on the side of the railing with only the water before us, side by side. We had stripped to just our boxer shorts—all knobby knees and jutting-out collarbones and pale, freckly skin. I gripped the railing behind me and pushed my back against the peeling wood. I looked down at the rushing water and felt the roar of it deep in my belly. It crashed on towards the lake, moving fast, indifferent to the two of us hovering overhead. I was trembling, but not for the same reasons Aaron had been earlier. I didn’t want to jump. I said this out loud to Aaron, but my voice must have been lost, drowned out by the sounds of angry water beneath us—or maybe he just ignored me. Either way, he tapped my wrist to signal the start of the countdown. He was grinning. I clung to the rail even harder, knuckles white. I heard his voice, loud and clear, then and now and sometimes in my dreams. An echo across an endless chasm. One, two, three! His body rocked backward and forward on each number, and on three, his knees bent to push off and his hands left the railing, coming together in preparation to dive. I bent my knees with his, my hands shaking and stretched out before me with all that grayblue underneath, and for one milli-moment both of our bodies were coiled like springs, poised and ready. And then— I straightened to push off and grabbed for the railing behind me again instead. I was about an inch above the ground—I did jump up, just not exactly off. My naked legs and back crashed against the rail in fear and 101

desperation. They’d bruise later. I folded myself as tight as I could against the rail of the Bridge. Aaron jumped, of course. In all my scrabbling with the rail, I only caught the second half of his jackknife dive, his body straight and still as he sliced into the water. I like to tell myself that I saw him smiling, screeching, even, with glee. He had to have been happy. There was a splash of white foam, arching across the rest of the water, and as I waited for his head to pop up and his exuberant yell, I wondered what he’d say or think of me. Had he realized that I hadn’t jumped with him? That I was a coward, a baby, the opposite of what we were trying to be? Had that been what he was thinking about as he plunged in? Or would he turn towards me in the water with triumph in his eyes first and then, in realizing I wasn’t there, look up with disappointment etched into his face? I squirmed, my body still tense, never loosening my grip on the rail. I waited. I waited. I waited. I don’t know how long it took for it to click in my brain that something was wrong. The remains of that day are tangled up in a knotted, indecipherable mess that I am unwilling to sort out. I know that I started yelling, that I scrambled over the rail and landed hard on the packed dirt that made up the road of the Bridge, scraping my forearms and my knees. I know that I ran down to the embankment, still yelling, and that others began to join me. Somebody pushed me away, someone’s arms were on my shoulders, and I was still waiting for Aaron’s head to break the surface. I couldn’t see. I spit his name from my mouth, over and over. The sounds of the river and the voices mingled together in one increasing howl. 102

It was the shallowness, or a hidden rock, or maybe a combination of the two. The variables didn’t matter; the equation always added up to a broken neck. They got him out, I was told, before the river took him out into the lake for a perpetual back float. This was supposed to be comforting, I think. I don’t remember thinking about much except that I had never left the Bridge the way I was supposed to. Even when I’d realized something was wrong, I hadn’t been able to bring myself to dive in after Aaron. It happened a long time before this night in my old car on this dark road, and yet—there has always been a pull from the Bridge. Everything circles back to the Bridge, somehow. As if everything in our little lives happens under some great mirror, and the Bridge’s presence in the first half of my life must be reflected in the second. It took me until my late thirties to acknowledge this. The Bridge is the only true constant of my life, and I do believe that to be true. Many things have happened since then, of course. I left that small town, that small clustering of nothing, as soon as possible. I never looked back, save for small, insignificant glances. I tried to be noble, to use my experience as some kind of sign and put a positive spin on it. I ended up in medical school. Somewhere in there I found myself leaning over a cadaver, feeling nothing but disgust and revulsion—or perhaps just feeling nothing, period. I dropped out. A crisp white coat and frozen look of reassurance had never had my name on them, anyway. I was married at one point to a nice girl named Annemarie. She was nice, sure, but it didn’t take long for us to grow apart. We never fully understood each other, 103

or what we wanted. No kids, at least. She got the house and I got the car and everything else was divided into neat halves, close enough to mirror images that we were both satisfied. Now I hear from her twice a year, through a Christmas card and a birthday card. Generic messages, Annemarie whittled down to generic ex-wife. This year I received a merry snowman and a cluster of bright balloons. Have a holly jolly Christmas! Here’s hoping that this year is your best one yet! I’m not sure we should still bother. I glance at the envelope in my passenger seat with her name scrawled on it. I had a falling-out with my parents after the divorce, though we began drifting apart long before then. I had been unruly and unmotivated in high school. Lonely. Now I work in sales, selling office supplies, though my boss told me recently that my heart isn’t in it. Whose is, though, if you stop and think about it? Throughout it all, the Bridge. I’ve begun to recognize that it’s not so much that everything is coming back to the Bridge. Rather, it’s more the question of what might be different, what could have happened, if I had jumped, too. It haunts me. I can no longer take the extra weight. I don’t leave any lights on in the car. I get out, leave my keys in the door lock, and pat the hood. I zip my dark jacket up to my chin. There’s a light wind that bites through me, stubborn, cold. I peer through the driver’s side window to try to catch a glimpse of the neat stack of letters, but it’s too dark to distinguish anything. No matter. I know they’re there. Someone will find them. I turn away. I stand with my hands on the edge of this bridge on 104

I-395, squinting my eyes at the black. I can hear the hum of distant traffic and the Penobscot River surging below me, the invisible lapping, the invisible welcome. This bridge feels less crude, more commercial. It’s definitely much, much bigger and higher. It’ll be a sure thing, then. The rail is rough underneath my palms. My hands sting with the feel of it, with the cold. I examine the rail. The side of the bridge in front of the rail is too narrow for me to stand on; I’ll have to stand atop the rail itself. I’ll only have to balance there for a moment. I seize the rail and struggle to pull myself up. I’m not as spry or flexible as I used to be—my body creaks in protest at the jerky movements. I ignore it and heave myself halfway up, having to crawl and scramble to make it all the way to the top. I crouch there, hands gripping the rail on each side. My feet are solid beneath me even as I shudder. The wind rustles and stings my eyes and the tips of my ears. I am surrounded by the dark. I close my eyes. I feel I must look the same, be the same, as I at thirteen. Aaron’s fingers brush against my wrist, his numbered pulse thrumming an unknown countdown. I don’t jump, not yet. Why not? Am I afraid? Still a coward? I know I want to, this time. I know that on my way down I’ll finally grasp, for a milli-moment, that feeling of freedom I’ve been hunting and have never been able to find. The symmetry, beautiful or grotesque or meaningless. It’ll be enough. I will finally submerge myself in that watery space—that limbo—that I’ve waited all this time on the edge of for Aaron’s head to pop back up, to break the surface. What will he say to me when I see him again? I guess I could use a countdown. One, two, three. I rock forward but stay perched atop the bridge. 105

One, two, three. This time, I hear the numbers in Aaron’s voice, the same voice I never heard again summoning me over the phone on the weekend, whispering to me under a teacher’s stern gaze, or screeching as we rolled around in the grass, trying to pin each other down. I hear the note of triumph in it as he stood over the water, as he held one of my prized marbles aloft. Aaron’s voice echoes across the path of my entire life, leading all the way from then to here. I keep my eyes closed. Darkness pushes all around me. I imagine a boat in the dark water, the light of a single lantern. Or the headlights of cars peeking into the secrets of the night, traveling whichever way their drivers’ lives are taking them. Or some business or house with lights blazing, bright enough so that even from here I can see them, stretch my arms toward them and some purpose, and be invited in. Maybe a single winking star or the lights of a plane full of people who can see and not see. A sign in the sky from Aaron himself. A light, any light, to make the choice. If I see a light, I won’t jump. I imagine plummeting into the darkness and floating down the river, part of its angry and inevitable path, dark water surrounding and filling me as I surrender at last. One, two, three. I open my eyes, squint against the brilliant brightness.




About the Authors Laura Rockefeller is a writer and actress based in Boston, MA, where she is currently a third year in the MFA Creative Writing program at Emerson College. She has published articles in "BrontĂŤ Studies", and on "The Revere Express". Clover, a play that Laura co-wrote with Ty Hallmark, was produced by Ally Theatre Company in 2017, and Laura writes and performs one-woman historic character portrayals for educational groups up and down the East Coast. Ray Geoghegan is a Fall 2020 Creative Writing Major. They are looking forward to pursuing a career in publishing after graduation before moving to a sleepy town by the ocean, where they plan to open a bookstore cafe. Abby Provenzano is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing-Fiction at Emerson College. She is the Fiction Editor of Redivider, a writer/contributor at Interlocutor Magazine, an editorial intern at Art + Deco Agency, and an affiliated faculty member/instructor in the Writing Studies Program at Emerson College. Her work has been published in The Black Fork Review, Blind Corner Literary Magazine, The Foundationalist, The Michigan Daily, Blueprint Literary Magazine, and Runestone Journal, among others. 109

Sadie Hutchings is a second-semester Writing, Literature, & Publishing junior, concentrating in Publishing. Most recently from Oklahoma, she is excitedly waiting until she's lived in Boston long enough to call it home instead. She credits her love of storytelling to all the fantasy novels she read as a child and hopes to convey the same wonder and magic within her own writing. Melanie Lau is a junior at Emerson College pursuing a BFA in Creative Writing and a minor in Publishing. Her work has previously been published in Black Swan and Flawless Mag, and is forthcoming in Catfish Creek. Brian Feller is an MFA student in fiction at Emerson College. He currently has two essays published in Canyon Voices Literary Magazine. In his spare time, he’s an avid tabletop gamer and pen collector. He hopes to work as a professor of creative writing after completing his MFA in the Fall of 2020. Jade Alexandria is originally from Georgia. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, video games, and making other people cups of coffee. Joe Buckle is an author of adult and children's fiction, a current M.F.A. candidate at Emerson College, and an alumnus of the University of Arizona where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Creative Writing. His fiction has been featured in several publications, including The Sanctuary Magazine, Persona, and the forthcoming anthology Nefarious Nature from Weasel Press. When not acting as Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Blind 110

Corner Literary Magazine, he also serves as Curriculum Developer for a nonprofit, education initiative. Rachel Whitehill is a graduate student at Emerson College studying Publishing. She lives with her fiance in Quincy, MA, and has accidently become the owner only of cat breeds begun in the 1960s. Ana Hein is an undergraduate student at Emerson College pursuing a BFA in Creative Writing with minors in Comedy Writing and Performance and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her work has been featured in Blind Corner Literary Magazine, Wack Mag, Concrete, Stork, Gauge, and Generic, among others, has won multiple Editor’s Choice Awards from Teen Ink Magazine, and is forthcoming in Fearsome Critters and Terrible Orange Review. She can usually be found buying too many books, singing loudly, wearing red lipstick, complaining about the weather, staring into the void, and generally being very dramatic.



About the Type The running text for this issue is set in Adobe Caslon Pro, designed for Adobe by Carol Twombly based on specimen pages by William Caslon between 1734 and 1770. The display types for this book are Playfair Display, designed by Claus Eggers Sørensen based on transitional designs from the 18th century, and Raleway, designed by Matt McInerney, Pablo Impallari, and Rodrigo Fuenzalida.



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