Editor-in-Chief Kristen Nichols
Lab Review Logo
Hayden Moseley Maria Schrater
Publishing Lab Logo Cecsily Bianchi
Editor’s Note This is the 6th issue of The Lab Review that I’ve worked
on, but it’s my first issue as Editor-in-Chief. In the last two years, I’ve helped to compile issues that focus on the images of home, the intricacies of political tensions, and other worlds built from imaginations. Though we have stopped giving TLR issues a theme, the undercurrent of Vol. 5 was transition. The issue came out in the fall, the semester that signals the start of another school year and a change of seasons. It also came out under new leadership; our beloved previous editor had graduated and one of editors rose to take her place. During that time, our staff had to grow, doing our best to support each other as we all learned new roles. We managed to pull together some fine, fiery, and surprising pieces. Even though my stepping into this role has required a little more growth and change among our editors, Vol. 6 feels like settling in. It’s spring—finally—and the air is warming to us and we’re warming to blooming flowers and blossoming trees and finishing projects begun in much colder weather, like this dear composite of poetry, prose, and art. The pieces within this issue may not all be hopeful, but they are all looking ahead, hinting towards a future unknown, some simultaneously acknowledging the past. Through sheer coincidence, or rather, the mix of talented writers that submitted, the various inspirations they found and words they used to elicit emotions that struck chords with our editors, a perfect mirror of this magazine’s journey, and of my journey with it, has formed. I’d like to personally invite you to join us in visiting each place, character, and emotion shared within; just as we have, feel free to settle in. I would like to thank our editors Jeff Barbieri, Hayden Moseley, and Maria Schrater, as well as our advisor Ann Hemenway, for their hard work this semester. Thank you also to Celeste Paed for typesetting TLR, Deb Seigel for always solving our problems, and Cora Jacobs for collaborating with us for our launch. Special thanks to Andrew Krzak for Vol. 6’s lovely cover art. Best,
Kristen Nichols Editor-in-Chief
Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plains Meet Me at the Moon Kanga and Roo A Wildcat Indeed
Jordan Swanson Anna Moritz Quinn Calcagno
7 13 37
Ashlee Bond-Richardson Hannah Paige Kitchens Karsen Gromm Sydney Sargis Ashlee Bond-Richardson
5 12 25 34 42
Nonfiction Saltwater Peace
Demise A Story of Skeletons Boys Like Me Me and My Friends A Million Miles Away
Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plains Jerakah Greene She wanted to tell her it wasn’t usually like this.
The wheat fields, which usually stood still and straight, now danced in the sudden breeze. The midday sun, which usually cast down one blistering beam like a spotlight wherever she walked, now shone muted through a thick gray singular cloud that covered the whole sky. The hawks, which usually circled lazily above her head like distant halos, now perched, six of them in a row, on a ceiling beam in the red barn. “How do you tend to this place by yourself?” The girl asked, curious. One of the hawks let out a piercing call, an answer to the question even if she didn’t know it. “The work isn’t hard,” Sam replied. “Been doing it all my life.” Something rustled menacingly in the wheat fields outside the barn. A hawk overhead scuffed a talon against its perch, wood shavings raining down. The farm didn’t like being underappreciated. It wanted her to say, Here at Black Oak, we do things differently. Here at Black Oak, the land tends to itself. Sam scoffed to herself. Fat chance. The girl glanced upwards. “Hawks?” Sam shuffled her feet through the loose hay on the ground, grimy hands stuffed in the pockets of her brown overalls. “Less ominous than ravens.” “And less foreboding than crows.” “Oh, there are crows,” Sam said. “And ravens. But the crows take to Old Lar’s corn fields, and the ravens only come out when the weather starts to turn.” The girl frowned. “That doesn’t sound right.” Her East Coast accent was clipped and proper, and her mouth twisted pleasantly around her Os. Long dark hair braided down the length of her spine, she looked too polished against the chipped red paint of the open barn door. “Doesn’t,” Sam agreed, “but it is.” One of the hawks let out another piercing call, something straight out of the westerns Sam’s daddy used to watch. The wild west, he used to chortle. Ain’t much wild about it, is there? Sam used to say, But Daddy, we ain’t in the west. And it was true. Oklahoma was smack dab in the middle of the states, central in every sense, and Sam didn’t know whether she was southern or midwestern or western, but it
didn’t much matter in the long run. Ain’t nothing else in the world but her own fields, stretching long and golden beneath a Rorschach sky. “Isn’t that in your state song? Something about hawks?” “And something about wheat,” Sam confirmed. “‘When the wind comes right behind the rain,’” The girl quoted. Sam studied her, a little surprised, maybe, that she’d done her research. “What?” The girl asked, gazing around the barn to hide her blush. “I saw the musical when I was little. I don’t think Connecticut has a state song.” “What’s your name again?” Sam asked, following her as she examined a wheelbarrow overflowing with weeds. “Eve,” the girl answered, reaching out to run her fingers along a vine that dangled from the barrow. The ivy, green and draping, shrunk at the press of her forefinger, retreating back into the dirt like a snake. The girl jerked back, brown eyes wide and darting. “So it’s true,” she said, a little breathlessly, turning that shocked gaze on Sam. “What everyone says about this place. It’s all true.” Sam clicked her tongue. “Well, I don’t know what everyone says. I just know what I’ve seen.” “And what have have you seen?” Eve asked hungrily, eyes sweeping the expanse of the barn, looking for something extraordinary. Sam knew what she was looking for. It’s why everyone came; scientists, tourists, even families just driving through on the interstate, stopping off to see if the rumors were true. But this girl, Eve, she looked different. Sam wouldn’t know until she tested her, but her gut was usually right. But then again, Black Oak wasn’t usually like this. There was no telling what was right today. “Lived here all my life,” Sam said finally. “Seen a lot of things.” Never anything like you, though, is what she didn’t say. “Well,” Sam said, starting for the door. “You want to see her?” Eve’s head snapped up. “You mean—I can?” Sam nodded. “I trust you.” “You do?” “Shouldn’t I?” Eve blushed again. “Yes, yeah, you should. I just...everyone said you keep it hidden.” “Not well enough, if everyone’s talkin’ about her,” Sam said, gesturing for Eve to follow her into the field. It was getting dark out, darker than it should’ve been at two in the afternoon. She could smell the storm on the air, could almost feel the wind twisting into a cone around them. “Her,” Eve echoed. “How do you know?” “I just do,” Sam said, raising her voice over the wind. She’d mowed a few days prior, so the grass wasn’t tall enough for snakes or chiggers, but Sam noticed Eve’s sandals and tried not to roll her eyes. Didn’t come prepared, this one, did she? As they walked through the yard, around the house and toward her Daddy’s old massive tool shed, she motioned to the barn they’d just exited. “Found her in there. We have the two barns. That one for the animals, when we had them, and
the other, out here, for the tools and such. The tractor, the manure,” she clarified. “I tried to get her to stay in the other barn, ‘cause it’s roomier, y’know. Cozy and all, built for animals.” They were nearing the shed. Painted so black it looked burned, like charcoal against the gray sky. Near the roof, her Daddy had cut a giant square in which he’d intended to fit a window, but his back started troubling him halfway through the construction and he never got around to it. The hole made the shed look like a cyclops, Sam thought, a fitting home for her monster. She halted a few feet from the door which was gaping wide like an unhinged jaw. “The door is open,” Eve examined. “Yeah?” “Well, aren’t you afraid it will get out?” “There’s a storm coming,” Sam said, voice thick with thunder clouds. She felt like a cat, sensitive to the changing weather, ears twitching when the air dampened. “She knows better.”
The farmer motioned for Eve to move forward, but even with that vote of confidence, Eve tiptoed gingerly through the yellow-green grass, which itched like straw against her exposed toes. She ducked her head inside the barn. Inside the other barn, the one that looked like what Eve thought a barn should look like, there wasn’t much of anything but hay and rats. But in this barn, farm tools towered over her, looming dangerously, their shadows cast long and slanted in the afternoon light. Hoes, trowels, and chainsaws were mounted on pegs in the walls, and the air smelled strongly of manure. Eve didn’t see what she wanted to see. She was about to ask, “Where is it?” when something rolled in the corner of her eye. The creature was jet black, a shadow made of shadow. The muted gray sunlight filtered in through the glassless window a few yards above their heads, dust motes dancing around them. When the creature’s feathers rippled, the dust motes were swept into a frenzy, frightened by the change in the air. The feathers caught the light and Eve noticed that every color shimmered in them: purple, blue, green, red. It was an elongated raven. Or, rather, a wolf with wings. But maybe, she thought, it was a lizard, for its tail seemed to flick, long and pointed, and it hissed when it breathed, not unlike a snake. Her brain messily tried to build an explanation, to place the chimera monster before her, but it could not. It couldn’t even come close. “Oh my God,” she whispered, because she didn’t know what else to say. Sam remained silent, leaning against the door frame. Her face was hidden in shadow, the quickly fading daylight hitting her back like a wall. She nodded, which Eve took as encouragement to move closer. The creature rustled in the dusty corner of the shed, raising up on its four legs. A glimmer of light glinted off a clawed talon. The creature shook the dust from its feathers and stalked forward like it meant to meet Eve halfway. When it came into the light, Eve’s breath caught in her throat. It bared its
teeth—yes, teeth, fitted jaggedly into a matte black beak—and cast its blue gray, slitted eyes down at Eve. It might have been sizing her up, counting the number of bites it would take to swallow her down. But Eve was not afraid. She reached out her hand, palm raised, an offering. The creature sniffed and Eve glanced at Sam, who stiffened in the doorway. Would she intervene, Eve wondered, if things went south? Or was this how she fed her monster? The creature closed its eyes and tilted its beak towards the ground, cheek landing heavily in Eve’s outstretched palm. Eve let out a shaky breath, and with her other hand, tentatively reached out to stroke the creatures feathers. It started to purr. Eve laughed, a choked sound, and the creature twitched at the noise, but did not move. “Well,” Sam said after a few minutes. The creature’s eyes snapped open, gaze landing on the farmer over Eve’s shoulder. “You passed.”
Demise Ash Bond-Richardson Through the howling winds Through the whispering woods Through the blackest night On the cliff, she stood Her hand in a fist Her mouth in a frown Her body it shook As she watched him drown His hands clawed the water His lungs gasped for air His eyes, toward the sky, Became less aware From whisper to scream From hope to doubt From gasp to cry And she started to shout “I can’t breathe for you!” “You have to try!” But all was too late He was going to die Nothing more to try Nothing more to say Nothing more to do, But watch him away No last goodbye No tearful plea
No outstretched hand Nothing but sea She turned her back, not wanting to see She took a step forward, not wanting to be She walked out of sight, from tree to tree He sank to the bottom; at last he was free Not a single tear Not a single cry Not a single wish Or painful sigh Through the howling winds Through the whispering woods Through the blackest night In the forest, she stood She closed her eyes She laid herself down And the earth finally took her Beneath the ground
Meet Me at the Moon Jordan Swanson
Under the clouds, I sat with hundreds of people at
the Bowl In The Pines for a concert one late afternoon, somewhere in Maine. Raindrops, from a summer afternoon downpour, fell from the greenest leaves I’d ever seen. Bugs danced along with the music, bouncing through the air. Golden hour shined through the trees until night took over, but even then the stage still glowed orange from the artificial lights and glare of the brass instruments. An empty bench sat before me with raindrops curled up at the bottom of the wood planks like newborn kittens waiting to open their eyes. First there was silence, then there was Gershwin under the stars. “Rhapsody in Blue” floated into the audience. Alone I sat at the Bowl In The Pines, surrounded by people. I closed my eyes and painted stories in my mind with each solo. The viola assembled a dream of slow dancing with Haley in a dimly lit ballroom, somewhere in Virginia. The flute reminded me of the many bike rides down Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive with Ryan, next to spring flowers and waves of Lake Michigan. The guitarist performed “Prelude No. 5” by Villa Lobos, and images of candlelit foreplay inside a hotel room in Montreal with John rushed into my mind. The horn composed thoughts of two strangers meeting for the first time in the metro under Paris Métro. Today I sit in a Parisian café, in the city of love, listening to remixes of American pop music. The lights are more dim than I pictured a café to be at 10am. But isn’t everything always different than we imagine? There are books propped up on a windowsill and a bust of a woman looking over her shoulder, out the window onto the lonely streets of Paris. There is a longing forever chiseled into her gaze. A remix of “Prayer in C” punctures my ears. The last time I heard this song, I was working in River North. Standing at my desk, shuffling through the restaurant playlist, a man approached me, asking if I remembered him. He spoke his name and every memory left dormant in the dark corners of my mind erupted like a volcano. “It’s Fadi, remember?” It was Ryan’s old roommate whom I had not seen since Ryan had hung himself in his backyard early one morning.
My heart pounded, and I felt the urge to either run away or hug him tightly. There was so much I wanted to say to him, questions I wanted to ask. Why did he do it? Did Ryan ever love me? Is it okay to be angry? Are you angry? Nothing was appropriate, and I always felt as though my sadness could not compare to those who knew Ryan longer. Fadi and I simply shared a moment in each other’s eyes, a moment he had been saving for me for a long time. We never discussed Ryan’s death and we grieved separately, but I was dying to know anything more. Were you with him that night? Did he leave a note? How is his mother? Did you know I loved him? Fadi introduced me to his new girlfriend and asked how I was. He came to my restaurant for a private party. I ushered him to the back room and he thanked me, told me to take care. I went back to my desk and thought of the few memories I had with Fadi from the months I shared with Ryan. Then I remembered the first time I ever met him; I was throwing up into a plastic bag in their living room. I felt embarrassed for my 18-year-old self, but Fadi and I have both grown very much since then. I barely even recognized him. Soon we will both grow wrinkles and our hair will turn grey, but Ryan will forever be the same. Trapped at 21. Decaying in a grave.
It’s quite lonely in Paris. All night it stormed, causing the window of my hotel room to fly open and slam shut time and again, disrupting my dreams. But the rain has left pretty puddles for me to skip over during my morning walk; the bright sun reaches around buildings and down alleyways, illuminating the puddles. The standing water is so clean that I lean over to look at my reflection. I am hardly recognizable. Before I left for Paris, I dyed my hair dark and cut my bangs. When packing, my grandmother gave me a hat to wear, and I found my blue rimmed glasses that I had lost in the move to Humboldt Park. Old soul, hair new, borrowed hat, glasses blue. All I need now is a silver sixpence in my shoe and I’ll be ready to marry the city. I met a french boy at the grocery store while buying my very first bouteille de vin and some chocolat noir. “Parlez vous francais?” he asks. “Un petit peu, mais je parle anglais,” I respond. He switches his words to English, we chat, and I leave the store with a date for the night. He meets me at my hotel after the sun goes down. We faire la bise and I hop on the back of his lustrous, black motorcycle. We ride around the 11th arrondissement and into the roundabout circling the Bastille statue. My adrenaline is high and my smile big as the thundering sounds of the motorcycle roar in my ears. We end our ride and park next to la Seine. We hold hands and walk along the riverbank. His hands are smaller than John’s, like everyone’s has been after him. John’s hands have always been my favorite. On the way home, it starts to drizzle and the streets are damp and glowing. I notice a woman running across the street and then a pizzeria filled with happy people eating and drinking. I envy them and their cheer. It would be nice to be able to spend Paris with good company, but tonight I am that lone woman, running through cobblestone streets and disappearing into the carnival lights at le Place de la Bastille.
“Let me drive when we cross through border control and into Canada,” John told me. “Why? It’s my car and I want to do it,” I replied. “You’ll just get too anxious. Plus, I’ve always wanted to do it.” I continued to drive over hills and through mountains, eager to hit the border. I slowed down on an empty road and pulled over onto the grass. “Here,” I tossed him the keys. “You can drive, we are almost there.” He smiled and it brought me joy that such a simple thing could bring him so much happiness. It was worth my own at the time, but once we arrived in Montreal regret washed over me. I opened my eyes to a pitch black hotel room and searched the bed with my hands for the flashlight. I scanned the room. “John?” I whispered. There was an empty space next to me and his shoes were missing from the foot of the bed. My car keys were gone and a note was left in place of them that read in drunken handwriting: I’ll be back in the morning. I laid in a puddle on the floor, alone, angry at myself, asking how long I’ll let this continue. With my mind back in Paris, I change into a nightshirt that I brought back from my summer in Maine. I pull off a strand of yellow hair that was clinging to the fabric and watch it drop to the floor. The old me is not welcome here. My new friends and I enter a square near the center of the city and are attracted to a blind man performing on the cobblestone path. A few dozen people surround him, silently watching. A lone, dark-skinned, older French woman with gypsy-clothing dances in front of the blind man. Wil, a boy I just met on the trip, exclaims that he is going to join her. He walks up to the woman and begins moving his body to the music. Our friends join in. Maybe I should too. Suddenly the song slows down. I began slow dancing with a girl named Serena. Paris always reminds me of Haley with its poetic ways. It reminds me of the endless prose and poetry I’ve written about her dark hair and thick, beautiful thighs. I look for her in every girl I meet, even in Paris, a place she’s never graced with her touch. During the summer of 2015, I took a trip to South Haven, Michigan, and I bought her a new record. I hopped on my bike and peddled toward her house with the record under my arm. I threw my bicycle down in her yard and knocked on her window. “What are you doing here?” Haley asked. “You know I’m grounded.” “I know, but I have a gift for you!” She opened her window and pulled me through. I landed on the floor. Two yellow eyes stared at me from under the bed. Haley walked over to the record player and set the needle on the fresh vinyl. We laid next to one another on the bed, with our legs dangling off. Her fat cat joined us. We pet him until the album ran out of songs. She got up to change the
record and put on Bon Iver. I walked over to her, grabbed her waist, and we quietly slow danced until we grew sleepy. We crawled under the covers with Bon Iver singing us lullabies. I whispered lyrics into her ears and wrapped my arm around her. She fell asleep to my singing, and I wondered why every night couldn’t be like that. Our legs wrapped together like vines and I breathed into her dark hair. My friends and I sit on metal stumps and bike racks in the square in front of the Centre Georges Pompidou. I sip on a wine bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag and pass it around. Everyone takes a swig as we sit, sharing stories and laughter. For the first time, I don’t feel so alone. Later, while walking around the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, the table of candles draws me in. Extreme guilt comes over me. The memory of lighting my first candle in a church in Strasbourg floods my mind. I lit one for Ryan. His funeral was that night and I was missing it. leave.
“Will I see you again before you leave?” he asked at my front door, about to
“Yes, I promise! We can go to that party tomorrow.” I shut the door, and that was the last time I ever saw him. He didn’t go to that party with me. Instead, he hung from a rope in his backyard while I was passed out in a bathroom at the party he never went to. Being inside this cathedral, watching the white wax drip down the side of the stiff candles—belonging to ghosts—gives me a familiar guilt. “You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met,” Ryan said to me while laying in my bed, drunk off an entire bottle of red wine. I didn’t believe him. I step back from the flickering candles, and I bump into a woman taking a photo. My phone starts to ring loudly at the bottom of my purse. I run out of the cathedral with the unwanted noise, down the steps of Sacre Coeur, to discover the call must have been a wrong number; when I call back there is no answer. I find I’m just happy to be outside and away from my previous thoughts of guilt. I’m not religious, so why did I feel the need to light a candle? The dead don’t know. If I lit one, it’d be for me, not him. “I’m going to be a writer,” my 18-year-old self told Ryan. “And I’m going to make films and act and direct and paint pictures, you’ll see!” “I’m sure you are!” Ryan said genuinely. He was the first person to believe the things I told him I was going to do. “Let me act in one of your movies, okay? Just as, like, a cameo. Like the gas station clerk or something… If not, at least put me in one of your stories.” “Of course,” I replied.
I should have lit a candle.
At midnight, from the window of my 7th floor hotel room, I listen to Parisians chatting away at the bars below. The cool air carries their voices from the streets to my resting ears. I can’t seem to find the moon tonight. “Meet me at the moon,” I sing, then I remember my moon tattoo. I lift up my wrist and think, “Ce n’est pas la lune.” But tonight, it’s all I have.
A Story of Skeletons Hannah Paige Kitchens My father has always had some strange affinity for skulls, our house on the corner a mausoleum for dia de los muertos art, something he latched onto as a Catholic schoolboy.
When his parents moved to New Mexico in 2009, his mother sent sugar skulls by the casket-fullâ€”skeletons danced on top of the bar we never used, always begging to be resuscitated with a shot. My father doodled skulls for his girlfriends, his way of telling them things died, he hid them in his signature on receipts and wore suits of the dead to prove that he could. With skeletons like these, I expect the worst from every closet.
Kanga and Roo Anna Moritz Fade in:
EXT. FRONT YARD (AUSTRALIAN SCENIC RIM REGION) - DAY BRAN (5), a hyperactive youngster with a tendency for getting into trouble, sits cross-legged in the shadow of an eucalyptus tree. All around Bran are clumps of tall eucalyptus trees, fig trees, and pine trees. He is on a patch of grass nestled between trees and shrubs, but behind him is a sandy dirt driveway leading to a quaint house seen in the distance. It’s a bright sunny day - the sky gleaming blue. Only a few fluffy white clouds flutter around. Bran’s clothes are short - good for the sweltering heat - and coated in dust. Open by his lap is a Spider-Man backpack. In his hand is a half eaten chocolate bar, slightly melted. There’s chocolate smeared on his chin. Bran stares at something. His mouth agape and his eyes are wide with surprise. He’s looking at an Eastern Grey Kangaroo joey - about the size of a large cat. It sits across from Bran and stares right back at him. The kangaroo cocks its head. (CONTINUED)
BRAN (whispering) Are you lost?
INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY
Bran’s dad, ANDREW (38), a playful father originally from America, walks around the living room. There are Christmas decorations scattered around the area and a fully decorated Christmas tree stands in the corner near a window. Scattered about the room are haphazardly opened moving boxes. There is even some half popped bubble wrap on the counter. Andrew’s hair is mussed beneath a Red-Sox cap. He wanders around the room, picking up Bran’s various toys. He tosses some into a box labelled “Bran’s Stuff” and yawns. Bran’s mom and Andrew’s wife, BEATRICE (35), an exhausted young mother originally from Australia, sits on the couch holding a glass of water and an orange pill bottle. She is still in her pajamas. There are dark bags under her eyes. She’s toying with a necklace she’s wearing. It’s rope, with a round metal pendant hooked through the middle. She coughs and lets loose her necklace. Then she reaches to the coffee table in front of her, grabs a little orange pill bottle, and shakes two pills onto her hand. She places them on her tongue and takes a swig of water. ANDREW (American accent) Have the pills been helping? BEATRICE (Australian accent) A little.
ANDREW Can I get you anything? Eggs? Coffee? BEATRICE I’m not really hungry.
Andrew puts the toy in his hand on the counter and walks over to the couch. He sits down and pulls his wife close to him. She rests her head on his shoulder and they interlock fingers. BEATRICE It’s so nice to be home. Thank you. ANDREW I just want you to be happy. They both close their eyes and take deep breaths. EXT. FRONT YARD - DAY Bran, still staring at the kangaroo joey, gets onto his hands and knees and crawls closer to it. It cocks its head in response. BRAN My mom read me a book once and told me baby kangaroos are always with their mommies. And you’re so little you must be a baby. And since your mom isn’t here you must be lost. The kangaroo doesn’t move. It does, however, nudge its head towards the chocolate bar in Bran’s hand as he gets closer. Bran holds the chocolate bar up towards the joey. BRAN Do you want some chocolate, um... You need a name. The kangaroo leans in to sniff Bran’s hand, but crinkles its snout and sits up straight. Bran looks on in awe.
INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY There is a CLICK and Andrew and Beatrice open their eyes and look over to see the front door opening. In walks Bran, holding something big and heavy in his hands. Beatrice and Andrew look closer and see that he's holding a kangaroo joey. They look at each other, as if to check that neither has gone insane, and then back at Bran. Bran is sweaty and out of breath, but he has a goofy grin plastered on his face. He walks up to his parents and sets the animal onto the carpet. It stares up at Bran’s parents. Two black eyes blink. BEATRICE Um... Brandon? ANDREW Is that a kangaroo? BRAN I made a new friend! His name is Steve! BEATRICE Steve? Bran, sweetheart, that’s a... kangaroo. BRAN (hyper) Yeah! You taught me all about them! He wasn’t with his mom, so he must be lost. So I brought him here. He can sleep in my room. I’ve always wanted a pet! Andrew glances at his wife, then stands up and kneels in front of Bran. Steve, the kangaroo, crawls across the room. He stops near the kitchen and goes to smell the cabinets. ANDREW Bran, we have to take the kanga - Steve - back outside.
CONTINUED: BRAN What? Why? ANDREW It’s a wild animal. You can’t keep it. Bran’s face squishes up and his eyes begin to water. Andrew looks at Beatrice in a panic. Beatrice rises slowly off the couch and sluggishly moves towards Bran. Using her husband to stabilize herself, she lowers down in front of Bran and pulls him into a hug. The kangaroo crawls out of the kitchen and around the Christmas tree. BEATRICE How about this, sweetie. We’ll take Steve back outside, but we won’t leave him until we find his mum? BRAN What if he gets lost outside? Or if more kangaroos come by and I can’t tell who’s who? A beat. Beatrice thinks. BEATRICE HereShe tugs the necklace around her neck over her head. She stands and walks over to Steve, who’s sniffing at the garbage can. She drapes it over Steve’s head, who barely notices a thing. BEATRICE (CONT’D) Now you’ll always know it’s Steve. Bran sniffs and nods. His parents breathe a sigh of relief as Bran goes and scoops Steve back into his arms. Andrew opens the door and Bran squeals with joy before running back outside. His parents follow. (CONTINUED)
CONTINUED: Andrew holds the door open for Beatrice, who has to use a cane to walk. As she walks out the door, she turns to Andrew and raises her eyebrows. ANDREW Don’t worry. I’ll call animal control. CUT TO:
EXT. FRONT YARD - DAY
Beatrice sits in the shade of the awning over the porch and looks over at Bran, who runs circles around Steve. Through the glass door, we see Andrew on the phone. He hangs up and walks outside. He places his hand on Beatrice’s shoulder and she looks up at him. ANDREW They’re on their way. Beatrice nods. Bran giggles as Steve hops around the yard. Bran then starts searching for the mother kangaroo. He looks under the porch, under the rusty Jeep parked in front of the porch, and finally behind some trees. No luck. Andrew pretends to look for the mother too, by shielding his eyes from the sun with his hands and gazing around. Bran, still peering beneath the Jeep, sighs with disappointment when he doesn’t find anything. He stands up straight and looks over around the car to his mom. She coughs. The kind of cough that makes you wince because you know it’s painful. Aching. Terminal. Bran can practically feel her pain as he looks at her. He frowns. He knows something is terribly wrong. Suddenly Bran’s eyes light up. He runs up to his mother and starts pulling on her arm. BRAN C’mon mommy! Help look for Steve’s mom.
BEATRICE Honey, I’m sorry, but I can’t. I’m too tired. Bran lets go of her arm and frowns again. He turns and stomps away towards Steve, who is now crawling around the Jeep. Suddenly, a car pulls up to the house. The car belongs to Animal Control. A YOUNG MAN of about twenty gets out. In his hands is a Steve-sized cage. YOUNG MAN You said you found a joey? ANDREW Yeah. My son found him. Andrew turns and gestures to Bran and Steve. Bran sees the man holding the cage. He puts two and two together. BRAN Is he here to take Steve? ANDREW Yeah, sweetheart. I know we said– BRAN But you promised! You said we’d look for his mom! Bran, now crying, scoops up Steve once more and takes off running into the thick bush. He weaves in and out of trees, making sure to keep Steve safe from thorns. Andrew runs after Bran, but he loses him in the densely packed trees. Beatrice jolts up and yells after him, but Bran is already gone. The young man stands there, cage still in hand, shocked.
EXT. BUSH - SUNSET The sun dips below the horizon. Faded orange light sparkles through the trees as Bran continues to walk through the bush. He walks into a fairly open area, and takes a seat. He places Steve down on the ground next to him. Bran wipes his eyes with his arm and sniffs. He hugs his knees to his chest. BRAN I can’t believe they tried to take you away, Steve. It’s not fair. I can’t have a baby brother or sister, so I should at least get to keep you. Steve stretches up and arches his back. He uses his two stubby paws to scratch his nose. BRAN (CONT’D) It’s boring here. I miss home. He looks up at Steve, hoping for some sort of answer, but Steve just leans forward and lays his head on the ground. Bran sighs. BRAN (CONT’D) And I miss Mom taking me to school. Now she sleeps all the time and Dad takes me to school and I’m always late. Bran reaches out his hand and goes to stroke the top of Steve’s head. Steve sits back up before Bran has the chance. BRAN (CONT’D) Dumb Australia. Bran kicks at the dirt. EXT. BUSH - NIGHT
The sun dips completely below the horizon. The rusty red light fades to blue, then purple, then it’s gone completely. Insects chirp. (CONTINUED)
It’s now pitch black where Bran is, and fear starts to creep onto his face. Silhouetted tree limbs look like monsters in the darkness. Insects chirp and twigs snap and every other noise startles Bran. Steve has no reaction. He simply chews on a leaf he finds on the ground. Bran hugs his legs even closer to his chest. Suddenly, he remembers something in his backpack. He takes his bag off and rummages through it. He pulls out a bright green flashlight. He clicks it on and flashes it right into Steve’s eyes, who blinks at the light. Bran stands up and waves the light around, making light saber sounds as he does so. BRAN Cameron at school says that flashlights are called ’torches’ here. Isn’t that weird? Steve crawls over to Bran and hops up trying to nudge the flashlight with his nose. The necklace around his chest glimmers in the light. Bran waves it around some more, before aiming it into the woods. The light flickers and goes dead. Bran yelps and bangs the flashlight against his palm. The light slowly flickers back on. When it does, a beam of light shines onto a large figure hidden amongst the trees. Bran gasps when he sees the figure - an adult kangaroo. Much larger than Steve. Its pouch is empty. Steve starts jumping up and down when he sees the kangaroo. Bran looks at Steve and then at the bigger animal and smiles. BRAN Is that your mom? We found her! (CONTINUED)
CONTINUED: He jumps up and down alongside Steve. Steve then crawls over to the kangaroo and hops into her pouch. BRAN We did it! We did it! The kangaroo nudges its nose against Steve's head, then turns and hops away. As he realizes his friend is gone, his smile fades. His hand falls to his side, the light of the flashlight flickering off once more. A very faint red and blue light flashes in the clearing, and Bran stands there solemnly in the flashing colors. Strange voices call Bran's name. Footsteps. EXT. FRONT YARD - NIGHT There is a police car with the lights quietly flashing parked in front of the house next to the animal control car. The doors to both cars are open and POLICE OFFICER #1 stands next to Andrew. Sitting on the porch steps, Beatrice nervously watches the tree line. Leaves rustle at the edge of the property. Beatrice leaps to her feet, steadying herself on the railing. From the bush walks POLICE OFFICER #2, holding Bran’s hand. Bran’s head hangs low. He’s crying. Bran looks up, sees his mom, and runs straight at her. He wraps his arms tight around her waist, nearly knocking her over with the force.
Andrew runs over and pulls them both into a big hug. The (CONTINUED)
blue and red lights flash on all three of them. Bran holds extra tight onto his mother, tears still running down his cheeks. INT. BRAN’S BEDROOM - DAY Bran lies on top of his bed. He's in a black suit and his eyes are red and puffy, but dry. Dozens of pictures of kangaroos are taped to the walls all around his bed. He has a bookshelf with books titled things like, "Animals of Australia for Kids" and "Australia’s Flora and Fauna." ANDREW (O.S) Bran, come on. Your grandma and grandpa are waiting for us. Bran slowly sits up. There's a deep lethargy to his movements. INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY Andrew stands at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for Bran. He's also in a black suit. There's an umbrella in his hands. All of the Christmas decorations are gone, and it’s pouring rain outside. Thunder rumbles. Andrew shrugs on a winter coat. He plucks a smaller one off the coat rack for Bran. Andrew hands Bran the smaller coat and Bran puts it on. Andrew then opens the door and the two walk outside together. EXT. FRONT YARD - DAY Now outside, Andrew opens up the umbrella and holds it over Bran as they walk, letting the rain drench him in the process. (CONTINUED)
CONTINUED: Bran’s expression is lifeless as they walk to the Jeep. Rain beats down on the umbrella. Andrew fumbles to get the car key out of his pocket while holding the umbrella. Eventually he gets the key out and sticks it into the car. He pulls the door open. As Andrew does all of this, Bran looks out into the bush. Through the rain he sees a large kangaroo, almost an adult. Around its neck is a necklace. Rope with a medal pendant. It's Steve. Bran and Steve's eyes meet for a moment. Just a moment. The rain falls outside of the umbrella, allowing Bran this quiet moment between the downpour. Then Steve turns and hops away, back into the rain-soaked trees. Bran’s somber expression doesn’t change as he watches Steve hop off into the bush. FADE OUT.
Boys Like Me Karsen Gromm OLD ALBERT: How did you know? YOUNG ALBERT: I didn’t know, I just kept moving. —“BREATHE. WALK. HOME.” THE CIVILTY OF ALBERT CASHIER I wish I could tell you there were boys like me With pretty names written On our pretty skin. I wish I could tell you
How we’d all sit at recess, Teaching each other to shove our ponytails Under the ratty baseball caps We’d been wearing Ever since our mothers told us Our worth is equivalent to the length of our hair.
We were Rapunzels
Who wouldn’t let down our golden locks For the princes on the ground. Instead We climbed down our own hair from The towers we’d locked ourselves in without realizing the door was open. Nobody told us. We became our own princes with the help of Dad’s clippers and safety scissors.
I wish I could tell you about the boy at the theater Who sang soprano, Rattled your heart and made it holy again, like a Catholic boys’ choir Packed into five skinny feet of pure stage presence. I wish
I could tell you about my art teacher Going through puberty at 40, Who had acne like the boys in his class And a voice split right down the middle where hormones cracked open his vocal chords. While he was still in the kiln
He taught me
To sculpt armor in the shape of the body I was growing into,
To rub my heart raw onto the canvas of my future until it spelled out LOVE To paint myself any color. I wanted
To tell you I sat in church And heard the pastor tell me God was all things at once, a being uncontainable and unexplainable. I wish I’d heard him say God loved me more than anyone Because She was a Mother And a Father And Their Son was a boy like me.
I wish I could tell you about these boys, But I couldn’t find them.
Instead I stood in front of my mirror after school With my pink baseball cap I’d tried to color black with a Sharpie To match the bruising on my lungs from every time Someone knocked the wind out of me with the word MISS.
I watched little girls on TV who looked like little boys Skateboarders and hockey players with names like Charlie and Max
And secretly prayed that just once She wouldn’t pull down her hair and put on her heels in the end So I could see the little girl I always wanted to be.
I told myself Mercutio was still a boy Even though we changed his pronouns When I stepped into his shoes.
It took me four years of trial and error To find a suit that fit in all the right places Because nobody wanted to teach me And I didn’t know how to ask. It was the only time I’ll ever say something about my appearance Wasn’t straight enough.
I did ask Myself why my insides always felt like A puzzle piece impatiently shoved into place, Without realizing that wasn’t its home.
I didn’t see a boy like me until I was eighteen, Until I was already reaching out of the closet When my act of becoming was nearing its end.
What I’d needed Was a hand like mine To guide my fingers the first time I tattooed the word TRANS On my knuckles for the world to see, And to bandage those knuckles with hair ribbons and daisies. The first time I came home broken
I’d needed to be taught To reform the earth from which The flowers in my chest bloomed
To keep my pink while becoming my blue, And maybe throw in some purple, too
To trust the roadmap I’d drawn for myself And stop pretending it was on the backs of my eyelids Where I could make excuses to not take the first step Because I couldn’t see the road.
To hand stitch me back together When I accidentally spilled all my guts on the floor Because they were too heavy to hold inside myself that day, And tell me it was okay for the world to glimpse the chaos in my body.
To throw my words up into the stars For every lost boy sitting on his roof at night looking for a sign.
Boys like me grow up few and far between. We are not connected by the water of the womb, But the thickness of blood streaked across our chests, And only by coincidence may we find ourselves bathing in the same pool Promising we will not let each other drown. But otherwise We are reaching down highways and across oceans, Hoping for just a moment of contact Not even knowing if someone is on the other side.
This is my call to the boys like me, little brothers with nowhere to go: Let me be your lighthouse. I may have just learned to turn on the light, but Iâ€™ll keep shining So you know where home is, Even if it is just a glow on the horizon, it will say,
I am alive. I am alive. I am alive. You will hear it, and every bone in your body, The blood in your veins, the breath in your lungs, The beat of your heart, the sparkle in your eyes, They will all learn to say,
I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.
Saltwater Peace Charles O’Brien Every moment of my life has happened by the water.
I existed solely along the ocean, tracing every step back to the coastline, no matter where I was. Now, living in Chicago, I feel a disconnect. It’s a strange feeling, as if someone who was omnipresent throughout all my life has now stepped away. Rather, it was me who gave us space, running away to escape the cage of my hometown. Sometimes, I look back at the choice I made by leaving the coast behind. Would I be able to recognize the importance of it if I had never gone away from it? I can’t really say. Trips to the beach were a regular thing for our family, just like thousands of others. Much of my childhood was spent at Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts, the soft sands covered in relaxed bodies, or, in my later years, on the cold cove of a Maine coast, hiding from the wind and the sunlight in a blanket covered in sand, and sometimes, chips. In some cases, it was the small bay of Malahide, Ireland during February breaks where we would touch the surface of the water with just our fingers, then look out on the always-grey sky. For every year of my life, I can remember a moment by the water. Those moments have blurred together so much in my memory, I took for granted the worth of the ocean before leaving it. It was a constant in my life, one I didn’t know I would lose. I imagine that I was always meant to be by the water. I was born by it; my parents hail from separate islands, and their parents did, too. I never recognized the importance of the ocean in my bloodline. It’s a gift to understand that it’s been there for generations and generations before me. I find significance in the idea that the troubles they had were calmed by the sea, just as mine were. When my father survived a fire that took his friends, he traveled across the Atlantic to find solace. When my mother lost her father, she could remember how he told her that the solution to any sadness was a trip to the beach spent spitting cherry pits in the sand. It’s an eerie thing to be reminded of other people’s pasts. Growing up, there were some things said so calmly you didn’t know the layers behind the strange words used to describe it all. I remember when my mom would talk about her dad when we were younger as if he was a mythological hero. His mythos was typical: the goodness of his heart, the strength of his hands, and the tragedy that cut his life
so short. I will never really know how my mom felt when he died. I can hear about it, I can picture it, but I can never feel it. They aren’t my emotions. When I was younger, I never got the whole story about the fire because my dad seldom spoke about it. It was a hushed secret that I would uncover in the voice of a newspaper in the sixth grade, when we visited Ireland for the 30th anniversary of the Stardust Fire. I remember the feeling in the room when we were allowed in on the secret, as if it was a coming-of-age ritual. We were given the old newspapers that described the events of the night in vivid detail: the locked doors that trapped the party-goers; the broken window a man dragged another man out of; many faces covered in soot; and many faces lost in the embers. Two horrible thoughts occurred to me: the possibility of flipping through those pages and not being able to see my dad in the room with us, and the idea that because he was still there, alive when others were not, he held a brokenness disguised by shame. I look back and I know that there was a reason for all of it, and somehow, the ocean played its part. My mom always making sure we knew her father’s love for the sand at sundown, instilling in us an appreciation and familiarity for the beach. My dad immigrating to this country to forget his sorrows and drown them elsewhere, teaching us to find escape in the water. They feed into the reasons for my being. They don’t just stay in the past, though. Ashes may wash off skin, but they become deeply ingrained in you, becoming traits you will pass on in your blood. Blue eyes aren’t the only things I got from my parents. I got their fears, their deepest pains. I got the secondhand trauma that comes with surviving a fire and losing a parent at fifteen. The way I received these gifts was nothing like the original manifestations of them. For me, it came in erratic fights that escalated to the point of slamming the door and leaving for places unknown. The evidence remains in the hole in a wooden door, kicked through for still-unknown reasons. It’s imprinted in the way my heart accelerates with anxiety any time someone yells, unprovoked. These are my traumas that have stemmed from theirs. Yet in heat of it all, when everything boiled over and I needed to escape, the ocean was a friend with arms open. The ocean’s peacefulness was an escape I grew up with. I can give an exact picture to the idea. That picture includes a blue sunset along the packed, wet sand of Long Sands Beach in York, Maine. My dog, Penny, is running to the water, not going any farther than submerging her paws. The sound of waves crashing fills my head up and it echoes through the hoodie I’m wearing because the evenings are cold, even in the summer. My peace is the ocean. When I have to escape the terror that is my living room, illuminated by the dining room chandelier, I go there. I sit and I cry with friends who love me. Even when the place does not resemble the image in my mind, it is still the same peace, and it will never change. Now, I sit in a room approximately 1,000 miles away from my peace. It’s difficult to be so far. It’s hard to know that whatever happens now, I cannot run back to the sea and let it hold me and tell me I will be okay. This is all different now. This is the place where I cannot tie up my problems with the song of the tides. It pains me to know that creature comfort is gone, and only at certain times am I allowed it again. When I may need it most, when I feel lost in a city made of grids and tiny train cars, it is not there.
If I cannot have the ocean, I know I will always have it in different ways. I am attracted to anything that calls back to it. Music, people, art—all of it enveloped in the mist of the sea. Artists that I’ve grown around like vines seem to have a similar relationship with the water. Ben Howard, Florence + The Machine, and The National are some of my favorite artists who seem to admire the ocean. Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine has been known to draw her poems and lyrics back to the water. She has always given me the best understanding of it as a healing force outside of my own experience. I seem to be drawn to people who come from the water, too. I find myself falling for people who come from the coasts. I think it’s my subconscious that finds trusting people from the sea easier than letting just anyone in. To me, there is more sense giving myself wholeheartedly to something that doesn’t live, or at the least, people who feel connected to the same force of nature. The ocean has always been the way I’ve dealt with things. It’ll continue to be the way I deal with things. After being a constant in the darkest times of my life, I will always seek out the light found in the waves. After being a backdrop for so many happy memories, I will not leave it behind me. There is no part of me that is willing to give up the ocean. Although I may have given myself away to somewhere it cannot be, I will always long for the smells of saltwater and the crisp breeze that only comes with the sound of crashing tides. As my life leads on, no matter where I am, no matter what has happened, I will always have with me the waves, the sands, and the saltwater peace that comes with it.
Me and My Friends Sydney Sargis Me and my friends, we cool like
sittin’ around at 9 am watchin’ Space Jam on the couch after a long night of drinks cool like headin’ to the skate park with Zack to smoke on the cement blocks cool like rollin’ ‘b’s in the Walmart parking lot next to the highway cool like dominatin’ the pong table, pool-bar-light glow, beer water splashin’, balls flyin’ from our fingers cool like trashin’ Kara’s house with cans and solo cups and white lines in the bathroom cool like
cleanin’ up after though, cool like bein’ there on the cobblestone side street when Caleb bought his first house cool like chillin’ in the hospital waiting room when Logan had his first kid cool like bein’ there when I first spit about Gwendolyn Brooks cool like drivin’ 5 hours of cornfield just to visit Stu on the weekends cool like holdin’ me up on the bunny hill when I couldn’t balance on a snowboard cool like layin’ by the fire, watchin’ the stars, real gangsta shit cool like havin’ thanksgiving dinner, and giftin’ secret santa presents with smiles plastered on our faces cool like cryin’ in the car at 3 am about George
and Toria leavin’ for guns and sandstorms cool like bein’ here waitin for them to come back cool and damn we foolish, we chase the sun knowin’ it’s hot, but we feel and we real, and we cool like that.
A Wildcat Indeed Quinn Calcagno I peered at the clock:
7:21 Twenty-one minutes into my first day of high school and already life as I knew it was about to take a drastically different path than intended. First period was sophomore geometry. I sat like a statue in my chair, careful not to draw attention to myself. Greensbury High had notoriously cruel upperclassmen that tortured the feeble in more creative ways every year, and you could bet your ass I was one of the feeble. Intellectually gifted, but still feeble. A few years back, some dork might find himself face-first in a toilet bowl with four beefy hands gripping his stick-legs. But last year, I had heard, the football captain swiped some unfortunate freshman’s gym clothes and changed the lock on his gym locker, so the kid had to take off down the hall in his tighty whities to his student locker for a change of clothes, only to find that lock had been changed too. I tried to block that thought out for now. I watched as the geriatric hand of Mr. Ramsey fumbled to draw the three types of triangles on the chalkboard. Then the door swung open, and the whole class turned to have a look-see. The wide-framed, letterman-jacket-bound body of junior football star Lonnie Oakland sauntered in. Lonnie slid out of his Wildcats jacket, let his seemingly empty backpack fall to the floor beside the desk in front of mine then crashed down into the plastic chair. He leaned back with a deep sigh and crossed his arms. Mr. Ramsey was old school, so he didn’t take much of a liking to athletes the way the younger teachers did. He also probably had a bit of racism in him leftover from the fifties, so Lonnie’s being tardy meant three strikes, you’re outta here! I lifted my chin to look over Lonnie’s massive shoulder and watched as Mr. Ramsey calmly set down his chalk and walked over to his desk, where he grabbed a pen and began scribbling. Then he tore a little pink slip of paper off the pad and brought it to Lonnie. He slapped it down on the desk and about-faced with the pride of a ballerina and returned to the chalkboard. There was a thick sense of dread hanging over the class like storm clouds as Lonnie read the slip. Then... lightning struck.
Lonnie shot out of his chair. “This is bullshit!” he contested, then he crumpled up the slip and hurled it at the floor. “I ain’t goin’ to detention on day fuckin’ one just for being late!” He dropped back into his chair and folded his arms again. Mr. Ramsey set down the chalk, and silently returned to his desk. He scribbled on another pink slip and threw it down on Lonnie’s desk. Lonnie read his second sentencing. “Cursing!?”
Fifth period was lunch, and my only friend from middle school, Mike, and I walked together to the cafeteria clutching our paper lunch bags. As we approached the series of doors to our right that led into the cafe, Lonnie appeared suddenly from within, pacing quickly toward us. Mike and I stopped and stood stock-still. Lonnie hurried out the door then brushed right past me, taking a hard right toward the athletic wing looking rather focused. I turned and watched him for a few moments. Lonnie was halfway down the hall when I turned to Mike. “I… gotta hit the head quick. Save me a seat!” We split ways, and I continued down the hall behind Lonnie. I don’t know why my curiosity eclipsed my common sense that day, or why I took such an interest in Lonnie. I guess watching him stand up to Mr. Ramsey was the closest thing to a real-life comic book superhero I could imagine. Looking back now, if I hadn’t chased down Lonnie that day I probably could have avoided my present predicament… but what’s past is past, I guess. Lonnie turned left at the end of the hall, and I picked up my pace. Once I made it, I peeked around the corner down the athletic wing. Not a soul. Down the hall a bit were the double doors leading to the gym, which just then came to a crawling close. I leaped across the hall, ran up to the closed doors, and leaned against them. I looked in through the window slits and saw Lonnie strutting down the basketball court with his hands in his pockets. Approaching him from the other end of the gym was Jeff Lancaster: tall, blonde, and handsome, as the ladies called him back then. Jeff was the up-and-coming junior QB and apparently had an arm like a cannon—I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded cool as hell. They stood at center court, and I squinted to sharpen my vision. Jeff reached into his pocket while Lonnie acted as lookout, glancing in all directions. I sunk my head low to avoid his gaze. Jeff then pulled out a baggie full of sparkling, green herbs and dangled it before Lonnie. They touched knuckles and headed toward the back door of the gym. In moments, they were out of my sight. I waited a few seconds, then dropped the lunch bag with “Trevor” scribbled on it in my mom’s handwritten Sharpie and opened the gym doors. I raced across the squeaky floor and approached the back. There was no window slit on this door, so I had to push it open to see outside. I inched it forward with shaking hands and looked past the concrete stoop, down the stairs and into the faculty parking lot. There I saw, leaning on the hood of an old Honda about 50 feet away, Lonnie Oakland and Jeff Lancaster smoking a joint. I backed away and let the door close.
What I wish I had known then was that the back door to the gym would close too swiftly, with a loud, metallic CLANK. I froze. I waited for a long moment and held my breath. Adding to the plethora of mistakes I had made thus far, I mustered up the courage to open the door a second goddamn time. When I did, I saw that no one was leaning up against the Honda anymore, but the unmistakable aroma of pot smoke remained. Instead of cutting my losses and returning to lunch, I decided to step outside and investigate further. I held the door open with my right hand and immediately caught a face-full of the skunk smell. I let go of the door to fan the fumes away. I scanned to my left down the line of cars. Over the side railing of the stairs, I saw a thin strip of grass that led to the rear exit of the teacher’s lounge in the distance, but I saw no sign of Jeff or Lonnie. I suddenly realized that the door was now falling back into place. I spun around to catch it, but my eyes demanded that my arms surrender. Leaned up against the side railing that was hidden behind the door were the two stoners I had so desperately wanted to find—but not at this proximity. The sound of the door shutting was just as loud from the outside, and after the deafening CLANK, all that remained was an aching silence. Lonnie was two heads taller than I was and had his arms crossed like he did in Geometry. Jeff leaned back with his hands in his pockets and the joint stuck to his bottom lip. It hung loosely and expelled a short line of dense smoke from the embers. Lonnie’s upper lip was tight, but Jeff seemed calm. The only movements I could manage were a thousand, involuntary tremors all over my body. Then, something amazing happened. Lonnie’s upper lip started to quiver, and Jeff ’s mouth curled up at the ends. The duo burst into a fit of laughter that rivaled the bellows of a God being tickled to death. I still couldn’t move. I just watched as Lonnie bent forward and slapped his hands on his knees. Jeff pulled the joint from his lip, so as to not drop it from his gaping, huffing mouth. Lonnie raised again to smack Jeff ’s arm. “Did you see his little legs shakin’?” he joked and then widened his eyes, spreading his limbs and pretending to be struck by lightning. Jeff could only mouth, “Yeah, dude,” as he tried to suck in some air. The two sensed that I wasn’t reciprocating the hilarity, so they began to calm down. Lonnie saw my terrified expression and through his last dwindling chuckles said, “Damn bro, I’m sorry. We were just playin’.” “Yeah, cheer up, little man. It was just a joke.” They let out breaths of finality and Jeff extended his joint-wielding hand to me. “Here, take this.” I tried to calm the tremors radiating through my bones as I ineptly plucked the joint out of his fingers. I looked it over before I raised it to my kissy-mouthed lips, crossing my eyes to oversee the process. They struggled to hold back more laughter. Then they became suddenly alert. “Oh shit!” Lonnie whispered, peering over my shoulder. I looked up and saw his concerned eyes. “Let’s go, y’all!” Jeff was a step ahead of him and had already vaulted over the railing and
taken off, away from what whatever they saw. Lonnie did the same, and the two rounded the corner of the brick building and were gone before I could blink. I was still glued in place, holding the now ashed and lifeless joint, when I heard two dim voices behind me. I turned around slowly and saw Principal Hallerin and some other female teacher exiting the teacher’s lounge. Then… my reprieve. Or so I thought. The bald principal slapped at his pockets a few times, then let his shoulders drop. The two turned around and headed back toward the building. I exhaled in relief for the first time in ten minutes. But said relief was short lived. I heard the door click open behind me and a male teacher leaned outside, holding the signed lunch bag. “Looking for this, Trevor?” Then he saw the joint. Detention. On day fuckin’ one.
Lonnie was late to detention. I sat quietly in the middle desk of a nearlyabandoned classroom for about fifteen minutes before he decided to show up. The teacher who caught me was running the show from behind the science teacher’s desk, and he peaked over his newspaper when the door opened. He saw Lonnie and simply nodded, returning to his literature. Lonnie turned to the desks and spotted me among the two other delinquents who found their way to detention on the first day of school. He waltzed over to me and threw his backpack down, taking the seat next to mine. The electric shocks started radiating through me again but were slightly insulated when he flashed me an apologetic glance. I threw him a clumsy flap of my hand and put on my best “don’t worry about it” face. He rotated in his chair to face me. “Listen man, I’m sorry about earlier,” he whispered. “We didn’t mean to scare you or nothin’. And when we took off we thought you would be right behind us.” I smiled weakly. “It’s okay. I don’t run so well, so…” Lonnie let out a cackle that cut through the silent classroom. The teacher lowered his paper and looked in our direction. He appeared ready to scold us, but then he nodded at Lonnie again and picked up where he left off in his paper. I looked at Lonnie in utter shock. “So… you can just kinda do whatever you want here, huh?” I asked. Lonnie shot me a glimmering smile and shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t curse.” Then he laughed under his breath, and this time I was able to laugh along with him. When our laughter died down Lonnie looked at me. “Trevor, right?” “Yeah.” “Lonnie.” He extended a hand to me. “Nice to formally meet you.” We shook hands and he nearly snapped my fingers in half.
“So, Trevor… can I ask you a favor?” he asked sincerely. “Uh… sure,” I said, not sure at all. He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “As you probably guessed since I’m a grade behind in math, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to numbers and shit… and you’re obviously smart ‘cause you skipped a grade, so… would you mind helping me out? Y’know, tutor me and stuff?” I looked at him blankly for a second. It hadn’t registered in my mind that this titan would ever need to ask for help from anyone. “Y-Yeah, no problem,” I told him, massaging my sore right hand. “Cool. Thanks, man.” He sank into his chair comfortably. “In exchange, I’ll make sure none of the other guys fuck with you. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we got a major problem at this school with upperclassmen harassing the freshman.” I hacked up a nervous cough. “No, I-I hadn’t heard.” We whispered back and forth for most of the hour about this and that. He told me about the parties he had been going to since he was in 8th grade because of his older brother and how football ran in the family. I told him that I preferred video games and chess and had never even seen a football game in my life. “What?” he asked at full volume. The teacher adjusted his legs and turned to the next page of his paper. “How have you never seen a football game?” “I don’t know.” I began to shrink down into myself. “It’s just not my thing.” Lonnie thought over that for a moment. “You said you like chess, right?” I nodded. “Football is just like chess,” he asserted. “It may not seem like it, but if you came out to a game you could see for yourself. We got a home game this Friday, why don’t you check it out?” That Friday, I convinced Mike to come to the game with me and we sat up in the top section with all the other dweebs. What I discovered quickly was that Lonnie was right, football was like chess. Not in the take down the opponent’s King way, but in how one coach makes a move, and the other retaliates accordingly. Each decision depends on the opponent’s previous move. Game Theory 101. When I thought about it that way, I was infatuated, and in a short time it became clear why coaches made the decisions they did. Offensively, short yardage situations were run-heavy, while thirdand-long was usually a pass. After a few games I was able to understand the nuances of the sport. I tracked the coaches’ mistakes: throwing screen passes against D1-recruit defensive ends, running a dime package on third-and-short; it was chess with real-life, armor-clad knights, and the coaches were the generals. I followed the Wildcats their whole season. The guys went 8-3, losing in the second round of the playoffs. Now, Sophomore year is in session, and I’ve been excited to watch Lonnie and Jeff in their senior seasons. What I didn’t account for, last year, was the possibility that I would run into my future business partner up here in the stands on week three. Lonnie Oakland was a winner. Jeff Lancaster was a winner. Coach J, Wildcat general, was a winner. Now, it’s my turn to be a winner.
A Million Miles Ashlee Bond-Richardson In a vast open field
A shining soldier, as colorless as water Whispers, “I’m not going to last much longer.” With poison in his lungs Sweet and spicy in the air An unearthly man comes In a whisper of silk They hold hands in the certain dark With the beautiful sound of rain Misty and soft They lit each other on fire With bittersweet fortune Now they will have nothing but solitude Bury the soldier in all white Au revoir He drifts off All alone now Falling free, everlastingly Out of all those bright stars
Contributors Ashlee Bond-Richardson is a graduating senior at Columbia College Chicago majoring in Television Writing & Producing, with a concentration in story. Their work has been previously published in The Lab Review and will be published in Issue 3 of Hair Trigger 2.0. Post-graduation, Ashlee plans on attending graduate school in Boston pursuing a career in book publishing. When not working on their novel, they can be found reading, drinking tea, or strolling through a Victorian cemetery. Quinn Calcagno is an undergraduate Creative Writing: Fiction major and Animation minor at Columbia College Chicago. Jerakah Greene is a Sophomore at Columbia College Chicago. She is majoring in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction, and minoring in Literature. When she is not attending classes in Chicago, she can be found back home in Oklahoma, baking blueberry pies and hiding from tornadoes. Karsen Gromm is an accomplished writer and artist studying Animation and Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago. His work spans fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in both comedic and dramatic styles. Karsen often uses his writing as a basis for other projects in mediums such as animation, illustration, and theater. In addition to his artwork, Karsen creates video blogs on YouTube where he documents his experiences as a transgender person and offers education and advice. Selections of his work can be found at karsengromm.weebly.com. Hannah Paige Kitchens is a freshman attending Columbia College Chicago, and has been finding inspiration in every nook and cranny in the city. Along with being a finalist for Seattleâ€™s Youth Poet Laureate competition, she has also had the pleasure of having her words on buses and trains for Seattleâ€™s 2017-18 run of Poetry on Buses.
Anna Moritz is a senior at Columbia College Chicago studying Creative Writing and Biology. In the past she has written scripts for the radio show ClimateConnections and worked as an associate editor for The Publishing Lab. Immensely intrigued by the boundaries (or lack-thereof) between art and science, she strives to connect the two disciplines in her writing. Her work will be published in the forthcoming Hair Trigger 40. Charles Oâ€™Brien is a freshman at Columbia College Chicago, studying Screenwriting and Filmmaking. He is a writer experimenting in screenplays, poetry, and fiction and non-fiction short stories. He is always interested in dogs and quiet places, such as the ocean. He loves to shoot and edit photography in his free time. Sydney Sargis is a student at Columbia College of Chicago studying Poetry. Her work can be found in The Albion Review, The Lab Review, UltraViolet Tribe, The Columbia Poetry Review, and more. She is a previous co-editor for Teenage Wasteland Review, and she enjoys writing poetry, listening to records, and playing rugby. Jordan Swanson studies Television Directing and Voiceover at Columbia College Chicago, but she flirts with all forms of art. In her free time she paints and writes prose and poetry. In January of 2018, she studied creative writing abroad in Paris, creating her piece titled: Meet Me At The Moon. Her poetry website is jordierosepoetry.wordpress.com and two of those poems have been published in 2016 to Carl Sandburg High Schoolâ€™s Literary Magazine. Her writings embrace personal experiences in an honest and straightforward way, revealing her emotions through action and description.