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TEA TEA LITERARY MAGAZINE . VOLUME 18

literary MAGAZINE . v o l u m e 18 .


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TEA 18


Letter from the Editor Welcome to Tea 18. Since its inception in the mid-nineties, Tea has earned a reputation as the University of Florida’s preeminent discoverer of exceptional undergraduate writing and art. Year after year, Tea publishes works that hunger for expression, push and pull, and provide the reader with something unexpected. Tea, in its current form, is unexpected. What began as creative works printed on stapled-together construction paper has evolved—despite budget cuts and waning interest in yet another lit mag—into something that refuses to settle down, quietly. Why create at all if what we create is not unexpected? These things—the emotional weight of a five-line poem, the twist ending of a short story that announces its intentions in the title, the hurdle of—gasp!—attempted sabotage, and the melancholy of not being able to publish all the submissions Tea receives each year—are unexpected. And it is your decision, dear Reader, to join us in dredging meaning from these works that is most unexpected. You humble us. It is our hope that Tea 18 surprises and delights you the way it has surprised and delighted us.

All me are standing on feed, CYDNEE DEVEREAUX Editor in Chief


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s ta f f Editor in Chief Cydnee Devereaux Co-Editor Danny Duffy Executive Poetry Editor Andrew Cushen Executive Prose Editor Olivia Isaacs Executive Design Editor Steven Libby Business Director Victoria Villanti Editors Christian Casas Sarah Fischer Megan Fields Claudia Conger Jordan Dong Melissa Cook

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Acknowledgments As always, Tea would not be here without the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Student Council. We would like to thank CLAS and Student Government for continuing to support us. Tea is grateful to the Honors Program for providing us with the means to reach a wider audience. The Honors Program is committed to promoting the Humanities and the Arts here at UF and their continued faith is encouraging. Special thanks are due to our faculty adviser William Logan, Professor Jill Ciment, Dr. Mark Law, Jennifer Shea, and Jennifer Hart, an artist featured not only within the magazine but also on its cover. Her work so impressed the editors and reviewers of Tea that we had to showcase it both inside and out. Finally, thank you to all of the artists who submitted this year and all those who support and nurture art on campus—especially our reviewers. Thank you for your patience and discerning eye.


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About Our Selection Process Tea bases its content on impartial votes by the reviewers of our editorial staff. The magazine is entirely student-produced and any undergraduate attending UF can participate in the selection process. All submissions are emailed directly to the Editor in Chief of Tea. The staff meets weekly and reviews the submitted works, which are displayed with their creator’s names redacted. Because the Editor in Chief in the only person who knows the identities of the artists, he or she does not vote, except in the instance of a tie. In this way, each work is selected anonymously. The reviewers discuss the integrity, mechanics, and technique of each submission before voting on whether each piece moves on for further review. If a majority agrees that a work deserves more deliberation, it will return for the final round of selection. During the final round, the entirety of the final selection is decided. Reviewers rate each piece with a numerical value and the highest averaging works are slated for publication. Only after the total selection is determined are the identities of their creators revealed. Because of the anonymity we afford our submitters, staff members are permitted to submit to the magazine. We do not, in any form, give preferential treatment to any poetry, prose, or work of visual art submitted by staff members. Tea has spent more than a decade perfecting our review process and we take it very seriously. The result is a magazine that represents the best work produced by our student body. Those interested in being featured in Tea 19 should submit their work to Danny Duffy, the succeeding Editor in Chief, at editoroftea@yahoo.com. We look forward to your submission.

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Palmetto Prize for Prose Four years ago, an anonymous donor endowed Tea with the means to reward one undergraduate writer a year with commendations, and the Palmetto Prize for Prose was born. On the fourth floor of Turlington, a plaque honors these yearly winners. Jill Ciment is the author of  Small Claims, a collection of short stories and novellas; The Law of Falling Bodies, Teeth of the Dog, The Tattoo Artist, and Heroic Measures, novels; and Half a Life, a memoir. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts, a NEA Japan Fellowship Prize, two New York State Fellowships for the Arts, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She has also been kind enough to select this year’s winner. The winner of the Palmetto Prize is Jordan Dong for his short story “Burning Hands Man” for “the story’s voice, its originality, and its odd pathos.” Jordan Dong’s name will join those of past winners John Moran, Danny Ennis, Lindsey Skillen, and Ciara Lepanto in an etching that will embellish the fourth floor of Turlington for years to come.


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Blackbird Poetry Prize As of fall 2014, Dr. Mark Law is the new Director of the UF Honors Program and has, in good spirit, agreed to the continuation of the Blackbird Poetry Prize. This prize is sponsored by the UF Honors program with funds provided by the Wentworth Scholarship Fund, originally advocated for by Dr. Kevin Knudson, Professor of Mathematics and former Director of the UF Honors Program. Dr. Knudson is an “occasional” poet—a professional mathematician with a confessed “lifelong interest in writing and reading poetry.” In 2012, the prize’s inaugural year, Dr. Knudson named it for one of his own favorite poems, Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” This year’s winner is Katherine Tison for her poem “Tuesday,” a piece that indulges in “the beauty of innuendos,” so praises Stevens in the fifth stanza of “Blackbird.” The poem is a succinct visit of appearance, suggestion, and loneliness. To “suggest” is Tison’s mode of success. To succeed, her speaker need not replace “the pale space,” merely roll out the tincture of “paint.” The artifice of her over-it attitude replaces the artifice of “your painting.” The poem thrives in indirection; nothing resolves by the final line, nor should it. Tison leaves us with her question, her “innuendo” notion—something will always be amiss in the coloring-over of loneliness. Amongst the noise and business of the poetry we receive in submissions, “Tuesday,” a brief meditation on absence and empty spaces, immediately and irrevocably shone.

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contents 1

Tuesday Katherine Tison

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Graffiti in the Library Andrew Cushen

POETRY

3 Untitled Christian Casas 4

The Stars in Her Eyes Ali LoCastro

5 Bananas Gunnar Larson 7

Somewhere In Mississippi Danny Duffy

8 Fungus Courtney Jackson 9

Black Walnuts Olivia Isaacs

10 Galway, November 1993 Andrew Cushen 11 Happy Birthday, October Nicole Serrano 12 Diorama Olivia Isaacs 13 I’m Tired of Talking About Myself Jennifer Hart 14 Breakwater Courtney Jackson 15 The Elder Law Attorney Melissa Cook

prose

visual art


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16 Seventy Danny Duffy 17 Big Red Olivia Isaacs 18 Petradorsum veloxii Ali LoCastro 19 Burning Hands Man Jordan Dong 22 Tomรกs Claudia Conger 23 When Your Pupils Shrink Jennifer Hart 24 The Good Room Andrew Cushen 28 Fish Tank Leah Bailey 29 Not the Toes of a Ballerina Brianna Barnett 30 Honey Coma Anton Dolling 31 Mona Danny Duffy 32 The Tortilla Lady Tamara Dobry 33 Friday Morning Danny Duffy 35 A Deus Ex Machina Scene Andrew Cushen

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Katherine Tison

T u e s d ay Paint rollers on sale today, thankfully. Which color suggests my walls will not miss the pale space where your painting used to hang?

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Andrew Cushen

Graffiti in the Library The graffiti scribbled onto the desks intone different levels of cryptic messages. Suck a dick! well that one’s clear. A more delicate hand chides me to Be mindful! and helpfully adds diagrams: happily welling from a lumpy stick figure’s self. Does it precede or respond to the dick? This is my least favorite library on campus— it eschews the classic, any Gothic sympathy, or even stalwart Modern mood. It’s unceasingly practical. There’s an alcove of small beige desks, most all tattooed with the topical comments of undergrads. Mandy Simmons is a whore! Bush did 9/11! Ponce de Leon is dead—Nixon was framed! There’s very little said peaceably or whispered into the veneer of these desks. I scan the room for a virgin surface, and settle on a desk and chair. In simple lettering the only message present reads: I’d like for us all to settle down, quietly. and I imagine him, a student not quite my height, looking small in this desk, and quiet, and alone.


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Christian Casas

Untitled color analog photograph

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Ali LoCastro

T h e S ta r s i n H e r E y e s pencil, colored pencil and white-out on tan paper


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Gunnar Larson

Bananas The day the U.S.A.-167 satellite fell out of the sky, a flaming piece of titanium tore through Grandma Rose’s roof and impaled her left foot. “Well, fuck,” Dad said. “Now we got to patch up the hole in the roof.” Luckily the flames didn’t catch, and Dad grabbed another beer and decided to cover the hole the next day. Grandma Rose was screaming and hollering about her ruined slipper, and my sister called at her to shut up her mouth, her favorite show was on. Grandma Rose came hobbling down the hallway, the piece of space debris sticking 36 inches out of her foot. “Something’s burning,” Mom called from the kitchen, clipping coupons. “Someone open a goddamn window.” In the kitchen Grandma Rose yanked an oven mitt from the drawer, thrust it onto her hand, grabbed the still smoking piece of metal, and pulled it from her skin with a quick, guttural yelp. The slipper began to fall apart around the hole. She shimmied out of it and I finally got a good look at the damage. Her skin was burnt and from the look of things the satellite went straight through her foot. She threw the satellite piece into the trash, then I reminded her we ought to keep it. “For insurance purposes,” I said. She nodded and threw it in the sink instead, the radiated heat melting our plastic bowls. Grandma Rose dug through the drawers in the kitchen, favoring her undamaged foot. Receipts, scissors, coins, pens, lighters, casino tokens, and playing cards fell to the ground. “Now, why you making a mess in there, Rose?” Mom asked. “Where’s the gauze?” “Unguent under the sink.” Grandma Rose paused what she was doing and stared across the kitchen at Mom till the tension between them was too strong and Mom had to look up. “What do you mean? We don’t have gauze?” “We used it all up when Bobby broke his leg falling off the roof,” Mom said. “Remember?” I looked down at my leg and it was, in fact, still wrapped in the gauze, a plank of wood from the shed stuck in there next to my leg. It was starting to smell and the gauze was turning black on the outside. I’d put pressure on the leg a couple days back and felt the bone splinter. Grandma Rose lunged for my leg. “Give me some of that gauze.”  When she reached for my foot I fell back onto the tile floor and hit my skull.

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My head blood pooled in the cracks in the tile. Now with both of us on the floor and my eyesight starring out, Grandma Rose got a real good look at the blackened bandages. “This boy’s rotting!” “Rotting? He ain’t even ten yet,” Mom called. “Put bananas with bananas, they rot faster,” Grandma called back. “What you looking for in there?” Dad yelled from his porch seat outside. “Gauze,” Grandma yelled back. “We used that on Bobby.” “I know we used that on Bobby.” “We got duct tape under the sink.” “Unguent too,” mom added in. Grandma crawled across the floor to the cabinets under the sink. She opened both doors and stuck her head inside. I thought she was the perfect size to fit right in, and contemplated kicking her behind with my good leg and locking the door.  She grabbed the unguent and applied it to both sides of her foot, sticking her finger up in the wound to make sure she got all areas. She took the duct tape and circled it around her foot three times for good measure, then ripped it off the roll in one clean tear. Grandma Rose got up off the floor and asked me what I was doing making a mess of things. I stood up, wobbled a bit, and noticed my shirt was covered in blood. For a moment I saw a couple stars through the hole in the roof, then a cloud came overhead.


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Danny Duffy

SOMEWHERE IN MISSISSIPPI nuns still teach abstinence in school, written on the blackboard in thick block letters. “Kissing is bad, too,� they tell the sixth graders, who like neither themselves nor each other. On the first day of summer, the kids run nude through the sprinklers escaping heat and God, together. Somewhere, nuns fan themselves with pages from Revelations, their sweaty habits a pile on the floor.

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Courtney Jackson

FUNGUS after Theodore Roethke’s “Cuttings” I Dewed green blades part under foxfire and stars, and from the mycelium ring a pale, a soft point prods the soil. The narrow moonstone stipe writhes up, sighs under the night, settles into shade, and glows. II A pull, a quick upward thrust to meet the morning, a filling out of fairy ring—what empire was erected overnight, primordial pins bursting to life? I feel the veil beneath my feet, whispering, sucking up the mud, caps bloating with water and spreading outward. A sponge before it drips—the circle fills out.


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Olivia Isaacs

B l a c k Wa l n u t s We used to gather walnuts in fall, digging them out of loam softer than the dirt you were buried in. I’d carry the bucket that grew heavy as morning pressed on and watch as you examined every nut for defects. At home we’d sit on the porch and crack them open with a hammer. I tried to feed you one—like wedding cake— but you smacked my hand away. Laughing, you said “we’re too old for that nonsense.” But you took it from my fingers and smiled as you ate it. You’d light up a cigarette while I built towers out of black shells and we’d turn in when the porch lights came on.

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Andrew Cushen

G a lway , N o v e m b e r 19 9 3 Friday, Kristin cuts vegetables into finer things, searches the weekly chicken like a dead body. The bones are boiling away for soup— six o’clock and the house is Catholic for the day. The walls are warm ochre, but Kristin shivers, trying not to think of her parents’ home in Maryland. She has not seen cherry blossoms in years, nor heard the Potomac searching for its mouth to the Bay. In town, David kills a phone call, walks to his used car— he dislikes the ’89 Opel Kadett, red and misspelled. Driving home slowly, he regards the West in winter, misty, inviting, Ireland hiding itself within itself. They finish dinner hungry, tired, holding hands. Tomorrow they’ll take stones from the nearby ruins trying to be locals in a place that isn’t theirs.


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Nicole Serrano

H a p p y B i r t h d ay , O c t o b e r charcoal and acrylic on bristol board

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Olivia Isaacs

Diorama “Diana was a good woman,” the pastor said. His balding head shone with sweat in the light of the tall candles that had been placed behind him, around the open casket. He was in white and the corpse was in blue, the only spots of color in a room filled with family, close friends, and acquaintances. The black of mourning dress covered the tiny room like velvet, suffocating and moist in the humid summer night. Bodies were packed shoulder-to-shoulder in wooden pews and the walls were impossibly dark. Behind the body, candle-lit, the wall was papered the same ugly floral pattern that as in Aunt Diana’s bedroom. I was too tired to look for meaning in it. When I was in elementary school, we’d make shoebox dioramas out of book scenes. I’d go to Goodwill and buy a bag of worn plastic toys and color them with marker to match the characters in the stories. Then I’d get a shoebox and paint the inside to make a scene, and when that was done I’d glue the figures down into the box. I filed out into the line to pay my respects, stuck my clammy knees to the kneeler and looked down into the casket. Aunt Diana was waxy and still, placed with precision. I bowed my head and sweat dripped down my nose onto my folded hands. I said a few mumbled, scripted words. I looked into her face, unable to rise into the stillness of the damp, dark room.


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Jennifer Hart

I ’ m T i r e d o f Ta l k i n g A b o u t M y s e l f photograph

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Courtney Jackson

B r e a k wat e r The bouldered jetty is spotted with inky smudges of men sharing 27s, tied to the sea by thin strands of nylon until one of them moves, tearing his line from the water and depositing its end into a bucket. The fish flops for a few moments before settling against the ice. Its visible eye, blank and watery, reflects the graying sky. The water, too, is gray, and cold, flickering with spears of light from between the clouds and churning beneath the wind. Mullet break the surface of the water and the fishermen stand up straighter, anticipating the slight bend of a rod. The sky blackens and rain dapples the ocean—only a few figures remain on the jetty, wrapped in long coats, standing with buckets of ice.


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Melissa Cook

T h e E l d e r L aw At t o r n e y When the old man brought his payment in dimes and hard candies, she hesitated. Peering into his mackerel-blue eyes, she suggested an installment plan. The firm’s policy was to collect up front. It was the nature of her business—taking what little was left of her clients—like this man, sitting in his fetor of Bengay and expired cologne. On Sunday, she walked past a display of snapper on ice at the market, their unblinking eyes reminiscent of past clients. Memento mori, she thought, ordering a turkey on rye.

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Danny Duffy

Seventy When she turned seventy, my grandmother stopped pretending to quit smoking. Though her days consisted mostly of coughing and burning holes in the tablecloth, she never parted with her Salems. “I’m ready to go,” she used to say, as the rising smoke yellowed the ceiling in patches.


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Olivia Isaacs

Big Red I stood under the awning and waited for Emmaline. I picked at my peeling nail polish. When I looked up again she was there, crying. “Do I need to hurt someone?” I joked, but it wasn’t really a joke. She told me about the petition they signed that said they’d rather die than kiss me. I barked out loud laughter. My lips cracked in the cold and bled. I said, “Why would I want to kiss them in the first place?” Emmaline was sweet, but too fragile about some things, like how the boys asked me out as a joke or sent me candygrams on Valentine’s Day as a dare. They called me Big Red. I didn’t give a shit about a pack of band nerds, even if their band was one of the best in the county. It was the way Emmaline cried for me that made me split my lips on my teeth in the widest grin I had as I told her how powerless they were, remembering the rich taste of spiteful candygram chocolate, like the sweet tang of the blood in my mouth.

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Ali LoCastro

Petradorsum veloxii pencil on paper


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Jordan Dong

Burning Hands Man Joe had an issue with his hands. If he touched anything, and I mean anything, he’d let out a real ugly noise that wasn’t quite crying, but sounded something like it. He really got cut a raw deal. Sure, our parents had issues—Dad’s was with his feet and Mom had her head, but his hands were that way since he was born. Tiny Baby Joe, who was probably a lot cuter than what he grew up to be, must have had no idea it would always be that way. He needed to be taken care of. When he was hungry, he needed to be fed. When he was thirsty, he needed water—he didn’t like straws. He needed the most help in the bathroom. From his little brother? Sure, why not? Apparently he used to need help with peeing, but since I can remember he’s been a pro at it. I wasn’t sure exactly how he did it, but I imagined it involved some shimmying. Shitting was the problem. Looking back, it was a pretty nasty thing, wiping my brother and touching it half the time, but that’s just how it was. His hands were messed up so I cleaned him and fed him dinner, and after a while I knew when he wanted a sip of water without him having to ask. That’s just how it went. We were still family; we were still brothers, just less so. Our father had that sort of pain first. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but he told the story like this. He would start off: “I was a young man going about my business as young men do.” He really talked like that. He said he wanted to be a writer, and you could tell by the way he talked that he was the writing type—a real prick, honestly. And he’d continue: “When my feet, both of these poor feet, suddenly broke into three pieces each for absolutely no reason at all, and they have been this way ever since. It’s how it has to be.” That’s how I had always known him, an otherwise normal, pretentious man, with an average face and body and at the bottom—two sacks of foot skin, each filled with three lumps of bone, like Legos in a scrotum. It was the same kind of thing with our mother. She had a headache for an hour every day that would tear up the inside of her head. She would press her hands into her head with her elbows out, as if to keep it from falling off, and spin. When she spun quickly, she looked like she was trying to cause some damage. When she slowed down, I could see her eyes, which weren’t really like normal person eyes, but something lesser. Her steps carefully rotated her, like slow dancing alone, and she could see through her children and the walls. There wasn’t anything too tragic about her. She’d spin into something sharp once in a while, but she was fine. The worst part was that it made her stupid. That’s what our dad said. He said she used to be quiet and smart, never beautiful, but

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always looking for something interesting, which was the only reason they got together. I only saw the mother who talked about the average days she used to have, like it was someone else’s life. “Would you give your mother a good day if you could?” “Of course, I’d give you the rest of my good days,” I’d say, sometimes lying. And she would say, “Oh, honey, I would only take half,” and she would laugh. And our father would say, “She wasn’t always an idiot,” and she’d give him a kiss, because she didn’t know any better. It was an ugly scene back home, and I wasn’t such a nice kid. But how could you be when you’re nine years old and no one takes care of you? I had just finished massaging my father’s feet, because it made him feel good, when I walked in on my brother crying and masturbating at the same time. What could I say? I couldn’t say a damn thing, so I wrote it down. First, I wrote, “I wonder if my dick will be as big as Joe’s when I’m older,” because I was nine, and Joe had a pretty big dick. Then I wrote down what happened, because I just had to. He was lying on his back with his hands hovering over his penis, crying in a blubbery way. So I stepped out and closed the door, because I couldn’t be in there, and then I went back in, because what would happen if our mother found him? I helped him zip his pants over the erection and rubbed his back, but he just went on and on with the crying, and I didn’t understand that it wasn’t because of his hands. It happened again. Same light crying, and when I walked in—twelve years old this time—he had it between his wrists, still trying to get off. He didn’t stop when I entered the room. That time I wrote, “Fuck Joe. Joe’s a fuck.” And then I wrote, “Mom’s an idiot.” And then I wrote, “I hate dad’s stupid ball sack feet.” And it went on like this for a while, because what else can you say when you’re twelve? So I journaled like any other kid, except sometimes I’d imagine my family dying. Maybe that’s normal. I did write one entry about getting Joe off just so I wouldn’t have to watch him struggle. That was probably a little weird. Of course they found the journals. There was no leaving there without being asked to leave. It was the only way to go. It didn’t happen right away, though. For a while we wondered if I’d start to have pain like they did. Once when I was a kid, I tripped while I was running and bit my tongue in the worst way, with my teeth nearly touching between the flesh. The front half hardly stayed attached. Our mother screamed when she saw the blood, and cried like a child. Joe tried to calm her down, but it was hard to do without hands. Regardless, she was inconsolable.


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Our father lifted me by the waist up into his chair to have a look at me. He was stronger than he looked. I was crying and bleeding all over him, and he looked at my mouth and at my eyes, which were just like his, and he thought that was going to be my issue—no more talking. He shushed me and held me until I stopped crying. He said, “Listen, I’m sorry it’s like this,” meaning, “I’m sorry you’re like us.” Of course, that’s not how it went. My tongue got better. I sprained an ankle, and that got better. Everything got better for me. My father’s feet refused to heal or rot, and my mother stayed dumb, and Joe was Joe. Everything stayed the same for a long time, and I could only wonder what it would be like to be like them, to be taken care of. When they found the journals, it was time to go. I walked into the house and they were on my father’s lap. That’s how it was always going to be. I imagined they’d say, “Hey, you’re an asshole. Go away.” And I’d say, “Maybe, but you’re a bunch of freaks anyway,” and it would be easy for everyone to say goodbye, but it wasn’t easy. They were waiting for me and tearing up, posing, like dogs waiting to be fed. I thought, Christ, this all seems too serious. My father said, “Like Legos?” Joe said, “Burning Hands Man?” Joe was citing an entry in which I said something along the lines of, “Joe is like a super hero, except he can’t touch anything and he cries when he jerks off—Burning Hands Man.” My mother couldn’t know exactly what was going on, but she knew everyone was sad, enough to cry at least. What could I have said to her? She said, “I feel like you don’t even love us right now.” I hadn’t meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. Joe came up to me and put his face next to mine. He was a little bit shorter than I was. Such hurt feelings. There was nothing left to say, so Joe grabbed my neck with his hands. He’d never touched anything like he touched me, so firmly that I could not breathe. His hands had been taken care of so gingerly for so long. They were soft and warm and large, like big baby hands, or God’s hands. If he could have, he’d have held me like that for a long time. When I think of them now, which is more than I’d like, they are the same, still not much more than what hurts them. There is still nothing to talk about between my family and me, people like them and everyone else. I like to think their bodies are better without me. I imagine a father is lent two feet from his son. A mother trades her head for her husband’s feet, just to see what it’s like. A son borrows hands, one from each parent.

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Claudia Conger

T o m A´ S

When he came to America, mother tongue divorced. Now mother tongue is gone. Mommy isn’t welcome in school— friends say Mommy is stupid. “You don’t look like teacher!” He tells me, play-dough hands gripping mechanical pencil.


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Jennifer Hart

When Your Pupils Shrink photograph

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Andrew Cushen

The Good Room There are two types of outfits in winter—the “Fuck me, it’s cold,” ones and the “Shit me! It’s cold,” ones. The graceful warning of icicles suspended from the rear bumper of a used car; the place and the pallor of the winter dusting the tops of your shoes, the shades, fading from light blues of broken eggshells to the defrosting fruity-tooty of an ice cream sunset at dusk—this is how it looks, spilling across the ground, making the yard too sticky for your eyes not to linger in the puddles. My father grew up in Ireland but the sensation of American winters, the way the trees leave themselves in winter, how the river below spreads out like a loose thread waiting to be plucked, and how people talk cheerily about tomato soup they’d never make—this was new, and just as much the reason he stayed in America as for my mother or my sister or me. I learned the word “gay” from the way my mother described my father every year in the first snowfall. She laughed at him, her head back, her thick, black hair catching the first drifts of the coming season and refusing to let go. My sister learned to laugh from watching her and we always ran out, no matter the day of the week, eager to shiver in our pajama pants, knowing it wouldn’t stick quite yet, but hoping it would. We lived in a house on top of a large hill that overlooked a mediumsized river that let its mouth into the Chesapeake Bay. Our home was once in a magazine. When I was a child, my mother told me it was a very nice magazine for very nice houses. The fall edition she showed me as proof had a fireplace on the front, which, unusually, had pinecones stuffed into it. They seemed to be prickling at the glossy curls of ivy draped around the marble mantelpiece. Not so nice a magazine, but I believed her back then, the same way I believed her when she told me old dogs went to farms up north to live out the rest of their days, or how my grandfather was in heaven with his wife. I remember the day the middle-aged interviewer, a lady, and her young photographer, a man, arrived to take photos of my mother and our dogs and our fireplaces. The lady hugged me, which I thought was strange because she wasn’t my aunt or my grandmother. She smelled like overripe apples, maple syrup, and a little bit like the wine bottles my mother snuck into the neighbors’ recycling bins every Tuesday morning. The photographer was friendly to my mother. I remember he kissed her on both cheeks and told her she had a lovely home: “Just wonderful!” he told her, lingering on the first syllable of “wonderful.” He wore a red scarf patterned with white Christmas trees, a chic, brown leather jacket, and brown, woolen gloves. He


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pulled off his gloves in two swift movements, like he was about to slap a man in a tuxedo, comedy style, and handed me his gloves. He immediately started taking photographs of the front hall, my mother, me, standing there holding his empty wool, which smelled of sweat and pine needles. The photographer had the first suspicions of an adult beard straggling into the light; the light always seemed to be catching the hairs on his face and pinning them down. I learned the other day that the way plants align themselves to the light is called “tropism.” His face reminded me of that, though I didn’t know the word for it then—as if it would crackle and starve unless it were lighted. I thought about how old I’d have to get to beat his beard with one of my own. Maybe twenty, twenty-five? My father regularly commented about how I was doomed to grow hairy and fat, like a bear—like him. Genetics, he said. Nothing you could choose for yourself, nothing you could question. When I was young it scared me a bit, the idea I would become this animal when I was older, but I know what he meant now. My mother led the interviewer into the newly renovated kitchen, and asked me to show the photographer around the house, and to show him parts of the house other people didn’t get to see. She meant, of course, the good room, the room swaddled in a forest green molding, where her grandmother’s furniture was preserved, where we weren’t allowed to lead the dogs when we were playing. Things went there to be fragile or nearly broken. I towed the photographer, who seemed to be inspecting cracks and glimmerings of light in the elbows of rooms, into the good room, and dutifully pointed out the antique dresser: its stained handles, its dark mahogany trimming, all the important details my mother had drilled into me. Sitting in a glass bowl was a pile of wicker balls—a gift from some friends in Paris, I told the photographer. The bowl was perched on an antique cherry wood table, slightly off-center on what I was told to call a “Persian rug,” but what I knew to be the rug our aging Labrador preferred to shit on when we couldn’t get her outside fast enough. I was a vessel, no more an actor in this room than the wicker balls the photographer was picking up and readjusting for a photo. Suddenly it seemed I was a feature—I became dismantled, an asset to the room’s history. I told the photographer about places in the house I preferred. He perked up at this, at the enthusiasm. I told him about how when you caught a glimpse of the house from behind one of my favorite hiding trees, it seemed to glow as if it were a treasure only you could find. I told him about the view looking down the laundry

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chute, my dad looking up at me from the laundry room and saying “Hello.” About the way the yard stretched out in bumps and ditches for what seemed like miles, how the autumn leaves emerged from the snow like forts. He smiled at me, touched my shoulder, and asked me if I could please show him to the spot in the yard I had mentioned, and I told him I’d have to grab my boots from the laundry room and it was snowy outside, which I’m sure he knew, actually. He said he didn’t mind if the outside was cold, so long as he had something warm to come back to. I ran to the laundry room and met my father along the way; he was gulping from the whiskey bottle he left buried underneath a pile of legal documents. He started when I ran in, then smiled at me, and asked me if I needed my snowboots. I said yes, I did, and he said well then I guess we’re both in a pickle aren’t we? He gestured to the bench where we normally kept our boots. He was going to ask my mother where they might have gone, but he was worried about disturbing her and her guest. I told him that if he led the photographer around the house, I would ask my mother for him, and he said deal. He slipped the bottle into his belt, and told me he was going to give the photographer “an exclusive tour.” I think I giggled at that, the way my dad said it, like my dad could offer the photographer something my mom or I couldn’t. The hallway housed a giant fish tank. The fish that lived there were always dying. It was well-decorated and, today, well-stocked. There were two full castles, and the water was clear, the glass clear, everything blue. The fish, fifteen or so, seemed to be mustering themselves for battle: swimming in and out of enemy territory, claiming the castles for themselves. Few of them would last of course— my mother mostly forgot to feed fish, and within a week I’m sure only a few remained, and then perhaps only by eating the others. In the renovated kitchen, my mother had welcomed the interviewer to a glass of Merlot at half-past one in the afternoon. They sat at my mother’s prized possession—a table of thick, solid wood that sat twelve on ceremonial days, but just two today, two normally. I walked into the kitchen, my enthusiasm curbed a bit; I worried how my mother would feel about my abandoning the photographer. She was laughing and showing her teeth, the way she did with her cousin Marcus on telephone calls and when we met old boyfriends of hers in the grocery store. Her teeth were stained a little, though this might have been from the lipstick she was always wearing, a fresh coat of which was lingering on the lip of her wineglass.


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I was taller than the high counter where I sat to eat my breakfast on school mornings, so I had to duck a little, considering what I would say to my mother. The interviewer was complaining about her son, rebelling in his teenage years, inviting girls over to the house and siphoning his mother’s liquor. She crossed her legs at the shins, and leaned forward when she talked, as if she were swearing the truth with every part of her. My mother confided in the interviewer that my father had never been like that. He’d always been quiet and unassuming. My mother caught sight of me and smiled broadly, asking me what I wanted from the kitchen, and I told her I needed my boots and, still smiling like an airplane hangar, she told me they were in the front-hall closet where they were always supposed to be, out of sight and out of mind until the weather permitted. Still smiling, she asked me if I wanted some hot chocolate. I got the message and said yes, and then went to the front hall where my father had already found his boots and the photographer was helping lace them up. My father’s fingers were shaking. My father told me not to worry, he would show the photographer our favorite winter spots, and I was a little disappointed, but mostly happy to stop pretending for a while. I went back upstairs, to my room and found the book I had started earlier that day. A few pages passed until I heard a laugh from outside the window, and I peeked out to see my father and the photographer tossing poorly-made snowballs at each other, wiping each other off, my father holding the photographer’s woolen gloves. Then they disappeared behind the trees. I finished a chapter before they came back, and my father seemed to be adjusting his jacket over and over, like it wasn’t zipped properly. I didn’t go downstairs again that day until the interviewer and photographer left. I made myself a cup of hot chocolate, and looking at the rimes in the window frames, felt winter leaving like a guest or a lover.

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Leah Bailey

F i s h Ta n k Cichlids and cory cats swim slow, glittering and unfazed. A salvo of bubbles hurries like nervous laughter in an amphetamined race to the surface. They crash into nothing, consumed by the space between the water and lamp-lit ceiling.


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Brianna Barnett

NOT THE TOES OF A BALLERINA photograph

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Anton Dolling

Honey Coma clayboard and graphic on paper


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Danny Duffy

Mona We went to see her on holiday but she wasn’t in good form— a squat, two-dimensional thumb of a woman who offered nothing in conversation. Her wormy eyes slid through the crowd. She never shared her husband’s pride, merely smirked at her own fertility.

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Tamara Dobry

The Tortilla Lady photograph


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Danny Duffy

F R I D AY M O R N I N G My father drank orange juice with extra pulp. I never cared for the texture, but it was the closest we could afford to fresh squeezed. In those days, he owned an auto repair shop. He opened late every Friday—no one asked him why, or what he did with his free mornings. I knew he had been a “Peter Pan child”, so I assumed he would change into green tights when I left for school with my mother. Someone had told me that Operation Peter Pan was, “an exodus after the fall of Batista.” I couldn’t understand what that meant, so the idea stuck with me—he spent these mornings flying south to visit relatives I’d never met. One Friday, when I was fourteen, I woke with a fever and convinced my mother to let me stay home. I slept maybe an hour more, a real break from routine. As I came down the stairs, I heard a Spanish voice beckon me from the record player. At first, I thought it was a fever dream. I couldn’t recall a time when my parents had used the wooden thing, kept under a pile of coffee table books. Near the bottom of the stairs, I saw a woman named Esther Borja on the LP cover. She stared back at me, lips held together in disapproval, like my grandmother during a conversation about politics. My parents never spoke to me in Spanish and only used it with each other during arguments. From that I deduced the curse words, and my abuela helped to fill in the rest. The tempo of “La Tarde” carried me into the kitchen, with its pale yellow paint and faux Tuscan backsplash. My father sat at the table, his back turned. I can still see his bald, tanned head as he read the newspaper under rising cigarette smoke. I approached him slowly, but made enough noise so that I knew he could hear me. When I sat down across from him, he didn’t lift his eyes from the paper. I studied the spread he had laid out for himself. There was a glass of orange juice directly in front of him. I could tell by its muted color that he had watered it down again, trying to make it last. Next to his coffee mug was a bottle of cheap bourbon, one whose hiding place I never found. My mother forbade alcohol in the house, and I didn’t try to sneak it past her. In the late fifties she and my grandmother came to the States, leaving my grandfather in Cuba. Abuela wouldn’t tell me about him but I overheard her conversations with my mother. After I had been put to bed, they would sip tea in the kitchen and try to conjure the past. I would creep halfway down the stairs, just far enough to hear my grandmother say,“Remember?” Over and over she described a man so loud, that even in sleep he woke the house with drunken snores. My mother denied her memories but whenever there was a neighborhood party, the smell of alcohol—in a drink or on someone’s breath—made her sick to

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her stomach. My father didn’t cook, so I was surprised to see a plate of empanadas on the table. We sat there for a few moments, him reading and me watching him. I pictured what he looked like as a boy. I no longer believed in Neverland, so I imagined him on that airplane, the first he’d ever been on. He would’ve had some trouble understanding the American stewardesses. Had he stared out the window as intently then as he stared at the newspaper in his hands now? What did he see in the clouds at 30,000 feet? Cubans feared the government would take away their parental authority—in a way they were right. Like most of the other children, my father never saw his parents again. The turn of a crinkled page finally broke the silence; I followed its example. “Dad?” He still didn’t look up from the paper. “I didn’t know you were home,” he said. He motioned to the empanadas. I chose one of the golden half-moons and took a bite, flakes of dough dropping onto the plastic tablecloth. It was still warm, the meat was perfectly seasoned— they were better than my abuela’s. He poured some of the bourbon into his mug, mixing it with his coffee. “This is private,” he said, going to the fridge to grab me a glass of orange juice, one he didn’t water down. This was a kindness on his part, an invitation. When he returned to the table with my juice, he passed me the funnies. I’d lost interest in them years before, but it had been a part of our Sunday morning tradition growing up, and I wasn’t about to reject something familiar. As my eyes turned to Calvin and Hobbes, I realized I had crossed into a land I’d never been to before. One not exactly Cuban, nor American—separate from my mother, myself. It was an exile of his own accord. I took a sip of my juice and swallowed the pulp.


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Andrew Cushen

A Deus Ex Machina Scene “George?” Marjorie sat up in the darkness. Her eyes hurt. She looked at George, who was sleeping. “George?” she asked, a little louder. Marjorie was the type of person who believed waking someone up slowly and softly was a kindness. As a girl, she’d been known to sneak into her parents’ room and prod them gently until they woke to her staring tremulously at them in the darkness. She consistently described herself as being “tremulous” in dark places. She wasn’t a brave woman, and confessed this regularly in social situations like family dinners or the movies. “George!” George emitted what might have been a grunt of affirmation. “Wake up!” Marjorie could feel it still, the presence in the room. “What is it, dear?” There was, perhaps, a slight pause between George’s question and “dear.” George did not care to commit to waking. The night was cool and quiet and the bed was a yellow comforter over a special memory foam mattress George saw advertised on TV. He had been impressed by how the woman jumped on it, and how the red wine on the other side didn’t spill. He had been equally impressed by the sleek spokesman and the rate at which the terms and conditions were listed at the end. He’d talked about the prospect of owning such a mattress for weeks afterwards; he seemed to believe in it as a powerful sign of the march of progress, and after buying it, he took much pride in showing it to visitors. He had moved the old mattress into the dark blue square of the guest room, and it sat against the wall, unwelcome in this dark blue square. “I think there’s something in the room.” Marjorie stated this with a certain level of restraint. In addition to her being a prodder, Marjorie was a proud jumpon-the-table-if-there-is-a-mouse-in-the-room-er. She had seen this feat in cartoons when she was young, and mastered it, standing by the practice over the years as one does a hairstyle or a lipstick color. She felt it complimented her “delicate nature” and “womanly features.” George turned his face up from the pillow and looked into Marjorie’s eyes in the darkness. They were bright green, and this alarmed George because he had never seen Marjorie’s eyes be so green or so bright before. This alarmed George in many ways, but these were the only two he could articulate, being newly conscious. George decided to take this matter seriously. He straightened his undershirt and shifted his pants. This was a matter worth his full, undivided attention. “I think it’s over there,” Marjorie pointed to the left corner of the room,

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where the walls tapered into a point next to the fireplace. Marjorie often thought of the shape as the “pizza” part of the room. She once ordered a Hawaiian pizza and sat in this section of the room while George was away on business. It felt strange for a minute; she felt a light sweat start to come over her. She felt a rumbling in her stomach, and what she feared to be a great power rising within her. Then, she sat up, burped, and realized these symptoms were just from the pizza, not from divine apportionment to shapes. She finished her meal, then took a bubble bath and listened to Michael Bublé. George swung his feet out of the comforter and onto the ground in a quick movement, which, thanks to the memory foam, Marjorie didn’t feel. She had trouble seeing at night. She searched with her hand on George’s section of the bed. “George?” she asked, her voice barely contained. “George, where did you go?” “I got out of the bed.” “But what if it attacks you?” Marjorie fought the shrill addition to her delicate—she hoped, charming—voice. “What if what attacks me?” “That’s just it! We don’t know! Grab the Holy Water!” George bent down, his knees cracking in the darkness, and retrieved the special plastic bottle of Holy Water from under the bed. They kept it under the bed so that way, “No evil spirits can come up from Hell while we sleep.” Marjorie had declared this with such fervor that George felt no inclination to disagree. Marjorie was not superstitious—she was “prepared against the supernatural.” Though George was at ease with preparation, he found his wife’s occupation with religion and the supernatural to be in conflict with his own professed forward thinking and reverence of technology. He had a private chuckle at Marjorie when, during a storm, the power went out, and Marjorie, looking up from the book of saints she was skimming, declared it “just another challenge from the Devil.” He went to church with her, and said all the little before-bedtime prayers she recited from memory, but admitted he’d rather spend time tinkering with the new blender. He purchased it online after seeing a video of how quickly it could make fruit juice, and how the blades corroded so much slower than the previous iteration. George loved watching the sharp silver blades blur when he pressed “ON.” George was not the type of man to drink fruit juice, but felt strongly one had to be prepared for whatever life threw at him—lemons or anything else. George crept into the pizza part of the room. His feet made little noise


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in the soft carpet, but he couldn’t avoid letting out a bit of gas now that he was standing. Marjorie, upon catching a whiff, crossed herself—sulfur was the element of the devil. Her poor, brave husband. Her eyes were still shining peculiarly in the darkness, and George looked back to see them goading him on. He felt a thrill of terror shoot up his chest, and he trembled without thinking, almost as an accident, almost as a shudder. He took another step forward, Holy Water extended, and found himself genuinely worried that on a night like tonight, Marjorie could actually be correct. In the left corner of the room was a large bookcase and two footstools. One of the footstools was kicked over, and a book had fallen off the shelf. In the low light, the picture on the front cover seemed to suggest horror within. George crept a bit closer, terror growing—a book about US politics. George sighed in relief. “What’s over there, George? Anything?” “I don’t see anything particularly demonic over here, dear.” The pause again. George’s unwitting terror released him, and he felt partially like chuckling, and partially cross that Marjorie woke him up for nothing. Just then, a young man high on methamphetamine stumbled into the room from the door, and as Marjorie screamed and George yelled in surprise he shot them both in confusion, and George never learned what the green eyes meant, and Marjorie never knew it was George’s gas, and they died quickly and didn’t live again.

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TEA 18


!


TEA TEA LITERARY MAGAZINE . VOLUME 18

literary MAGAZINE . v o l u m e 18 .

Profile for Tea Literary and Arts Magazine

Tea Volume 18  

Published in Spring 2016.

Tea Volume 18  

Published in Spring 2016.

Profile for tealitmag
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