Still Life by Molly Ehrnschwender
Table of Contents
Still Life, Visual Art by Molly Ehrnschwender……………………………..Cover Love is Gravity, Fiction by Megan Hatton……………………………………….5 Monster, Poem by Margaret Kaehler…………………………………………….7 You Will Not Like This Poem., Poem by Zachary A. McCoy…………………..8 Mimi@43.edu, Essay by Mimi Daria……………………………………………10 Words, Poem by Chase Stevens………………………………………………….12 The Kindly Herbalist, Fiction by Joshua Zeller………………………………...13 What Was Left Here, Poem by Alicia Hixon……………………………………18 Bear by Me, Visual Art by Molly Ehrnschwender……………………………...19 Smoke Up in the Air, Poem by Jacqueline Tackett…………………………….20 The Oracle’s Secret, Fiction by Kathryn VandenOever……………………….21 Scratches, Poem by Chase Stevens………………………………………………28 Simply Sunflowers, Visual Art by Molly Ehrnschwender……………………...29 Off the Shelf, Fiction by Kim Williams………………………………………….30 Why We Fear Not I Do Not Know, Poem by Jacqueline Tackett……………..32 Excused Absence, Fiction by Megan Erdman…………………………………..33 Tikkun Olam, Poem by Zachary A. McCoy…………………………………….35 Regular Folk, Fiction by Alicia Hixon…………………………………………..36
Love is Gravity Fiction by Megan Hatton The first time I ever kissed a girl was when I was twenty-two years old. I had grown up in a small hickville town just south of nowhere and graduated top of my class at Harvard (the correct hickville pronunciation being HAH-VARDE), but I still had never kissed anyone, and it was starting to get on my nerves. Who would even want to kiss a geeky, pimple-faced astronomer anyway? But there I was, sitting across from her, with only the darkness of the solar systems surrounding us. She grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back down to earth, as dirt and grass softened the blow. We were just lying there, motionless, looking at the stars before us. To the east there was the Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka, composing the belt of the great hunter Orion that shines in the night sky, while to the west, the moon shined at a 29 degree angle from the horizon outside of town. Then of course there were the things that we could not see. The beauty of the Andromeda galaxy (cataloged as NGC 224), for instance, or the 93 million miles that separates the sun from the earth, leaving half the world in darkness, as if God was ashamed of the things we had become. Her name was less eloquent than those galaxies that swirled above us. Sarah. From the Hebrew word for “princess”. There are 58 varies of the name Sarah, proving the pointless desire to be unique in a world where a name is only a version of another name. Even my own name, Samuel, is just an identifier for who I am, and truly does not suggest or define any part of who I am. Such as the Messier 101 galaxy cannot convey the sheer beauty of its H II regions within the name itself. Any rational human being would know that. She asked me what love was. I told her that love is gravity, constantly pulling us closer at a rate so fast that not even God could keep track of its pace. Love is like a comet that shoots across the night sky; pretty only from a distance. If everyone knew that a comet was just a dirty rock, the magic would be gone and we would turn our gaze toward some other celestial body. But we don’t understand, so we sit content with the beauty before us, never wanting our innocent, child-like wonder to end. Love could also be considered to be like magnetic fields, pulling us closer and farther apart. Or like proton, neutrons and electrons, each ring in its own separate place. But for me, love is like gravity, like when an asteroid becomes a meteor as gravity becomes greater. The heat becomes intense while everyone waits for the instantaneous crash upon the Earth, waiting for the shockwaves of destruction, of tears, of lives forever lost in the emotions of our heartbreak. Once, when I was a junior intern at the local astronomy museum, we had a tour group of four and five year olds come in. They wandered around the floor and wanted to grab at everything with their grubby, sticky hands. Finally I gathered them all together in front of the model of the solar system and sat them down. I asked them if they knew what gravity was. “It’s kinda like magic,” said one of the girls in the front. I couldn’t deny that some of that was true, but I proceeded with an answer that seemed appropriate to the age group. “Gravity is something that makes you fall down and prevents you from getting up sometimes,” I replied with a forced smile. The group seemed satisfied with that answer as the 5
teachers gathered them up to take them to the school bus waiting outside. One boy, probably five years old, tugged at my pant leg as I was walking away. He looked up at me with wide, blue eyes. “Sometimes my father hits me and I fall down. Does that mean my father is gravity?” said the little boy. “No, not exactly” I whispered to the boy as his teacher tugged at his arm. I spent the rest of the day thinking about what that little boy said to me. I wondered if he could adapt to the situation. The study of finches in the Galapagos Islands proved the concepts of adaptation. So if a finch can change beak shape and size over generations, then could people adapt to the horrible situations around them in the same way? Out of my three years working there, that moment was one that weighed heavy on my heart. I heard her calling my name, and I was once again brought into the reality of my surroundings instead of being pensive in some psychological flashback of misrepresented and misidentified meanings and reasons. Her eyes reflected the stars in the sky. They looked like oil fields burning in the night, slowly intensifying as her pupils dilated, the blue iris growing smaller as the emptiness of the pupil took over. She asked me if I loved her. I tried to think of some profound, romantic statement to make, but all that came out of my mouth was yes. She leaned in and kissed me, as millions of microorganisms were transferred in a single second. I pulled away and lay back down on the grass, staring up once again at the stars. That kiss was nothing like I imagined. Even years later, I still think about that moment. I thought about the millions of boys that kissed girls every single day. The world population is seven billion and growing. People from every gene pool kissing and breeding, over and over. So this one kiss, albeit my first kiss, was really nothing special on the larger magnitude of this data of kissing interactions. It was nothing important. I study astronomy because of the beauty of the unknown. Down here on earth we have statistical data on the financial impact of war, on the number of automobile related deaths per day, on the murder rates in the United States in regions of less than ten thousand people, and so many other lists of useless data. These numbers though, don’t comfort me at all. How can the human race know so much and still know so little at the same time? I am surrounded by facts. I am grounded here on earth by the gravitational pull that Newton insists remains constant, yet I yearn for the weightlessness of space. But as long as I am bound to earth by the gravity of love, of hate, of other emotions that seem irrational but at the same time innate of the human race, I must remain content that one day, I will experience the feeling of weightlessness, and the release from all that holds me down.
Monster Poem by Margaret Kaehler I’m waiting for you to fall asleep, and I am mesmerized by the rise… And fall of your chest. The hitch in your breath suggests your droopy eyes Will finally flutter shut, soon enough that I will be left To watch the shadows on the ceiling start to swirl and form Into almost recognizable faces, features I can barely make out, No one knows solitude like someone who’s been strapped down And whisked away from one hospital to another by ambulance For spending too many summer nights wishing they weren’t alive. And no one knows solitude the way someone who stares up At the same ceiling night after night after night And takes pill after pill after pill to keep the tigers at bay does. You stay asleep. I’m jealous. You do not get woken up by the sound of yourself sobbing. You are not jerked awake by the feeling that the creature From your nightmares has crept into your reality and is, in fact, Standing at the foot of the bed we share, hissing whispers. There are secrets. Oh yes, there are secrets. There are secrets the same way there are snarling teeth on the beast, The way there is drool dripping from his fangs, and caked blood on his claws. No one knows solitude the way someone else who has slept in the same room As someone else, lover, or friend, or parent, or fellow patient And still is haunted by the voices, the sudden drop in temperature, The way eyes don’t meet yours at family parties and how Relatives awkwardly splutter on the phone that they’re glad you’re better now. Was I not good enough before? I am waiting for you to fall asleep, And I am distracted by the unevenness of your breathing. Or maybe it’s the steady hum of the monster under the bed.
You will not like this poem. Poem by Zachary A. McCoy You will not like this poem. This poem will not contain a form, nor rhyme, nor meter, nor measure. Ignore the previous alliteration there will be no more of it. It will be prosaic and the only way it could be considered a poem is how I wrote it and read it now. You will not like this poem. It is not a reflection on truth, nor beauty on pain, nor transformation. It will not be horrifying nor will it be glorious. You will not like this poem. It is not about the oaks and the willows nor the glens and the streams. It is not about Ontario nor is it about Erie or places Iâ€™ve never even been. It will not portray a young narrator running through the creek with his childhood friends whooping and hollering like noble savages until their cutoff jeans are soaked in sweat and mud and stream. You will not like this poem. It does not ruminate on times gone by, on driving drunk and arriving safely. It does not tell of the games my longtime friends and I played on Smith blocks in Sayler Park sidewalks. You will not like this poem. It does not discuss my loverâ€™s hair, nor her lips, nor her eyes. It will not be about the way the moonlight soaks into her skin and illuminates her from the inside out. You will not like this poem. It is not political in nature. It does not offend the powers that be And will not be quoted by revolutionaries at rallies. It certainly will not be televised. 8
You will not like this poem. It has no hidden meaning. It has no great climax. It will not end beautifully or gracefully, and it will not make you feel better or worse after you have finished it.
Mimi @ 43.edu Essay by Mimi Daria I knew I should go to college; it just never seemed like the right time. I settled down and had my first baby soon after high school. Adult life kicked in quickly for me. Before I knew it, I had two children and a husband to keep me busy. Once in a while my mind would wonder and I would think about college. Time flew by as it does when raising kids. Years were filled with gymnastics, PTA, and in the case of my kids… many, many, many parent/teacher conferences. When my youngest son was a senior, I began to question my life purpose. So the search began. I read various books, joined the gym, and left my husband. During my journey I sought guidance through my dear friend, an immigrant from Ghana, Fr. John. He said in his beautiful accent, “Mimi, go to school.” In many ways it unnerved me, almost brought me to anger. Memories of high school haunted me; failing test scores, unfinished projects, tardiness, and an overwhelming feeling of confusion. I knew in my heart he was right. Even so, my insecurities concerning school surfaced. As I was going through the application process, I was planning my way out of it. I scheduled my Compass Test believing I would score poorly and I could back out with a shred of dignity. Surprisingly, I scored well. Then I thought about the cost, surely I would not qualify for enough grant/loan money to make college affordable. To my chagrin there was plenty of aid. Desperate to find a way out of this mess I waited until the last minute to enroll in my classes, hoping they were all full. Unfortunately, there were plenty of available courses that interested me. At this point I knew I was stuck, but only for a semester. I figured I would flunk my classes miserably and I would be free to continue my life of boredom and safety. After all, only irresponsible people take risks at forty three years old. What was I thinking? Damn Fr. John!! So I anxiously waited for August 26th. I was sick. My entire work day was spent talking myself into a migraine, body ache, an illness of some sort, praying for cardiac arrest. Nothing, illness would not come to me. So I drove, slowly, to Mount Saint Joseph. Think death march. I sat in my class praying that I would not be the oldest person in the room. Within minutes all of my insecurities faded. I wasn’t even mad at Fr. John anymore. I was too busy being fascinated by the subject of Sociology. Before I knew it three hours had gone by and I couldn’t wait to begin my homework assignments. “Sociology is an exciting and illuminating field of study that analyzes and explains important matters in our personal lives, communities, and the world” (2010-2013, Department of Sociology at UNC Chapel Hill). I had an “AH HAH” moment. I could finally diagnose my crazy family culture and all of those people that I wait on at my job as a waitress. Through my study of Sociology I could understand why the “Vera Bradley” women ordered chicken salad with extra mayonnaise and a diet soda. They remind me of the Stepford wives: perfectly manicured nails, Pandora bracelets, and mindless chatter. I suppose after they spend all of their disposable income on their appearance, there isn’t much left for more than a ten percent tip. I could understand why the middle aged men seem to think it okay to stare inappropriately at women. Most men steal a quick glance at a woman’s bustline. The difference is the decent man will turn red with embarrassment when he is caught. A middle aged man who is questioning his manlihood will look at our bustlines and then smile when he makes eye contact. Do they expect a thank you? Little do they know that we, the waitresses, will spread 10
the warning that there’s a pervert at table five. We will dissect his thinning hair and criticize his bulging belly. The next day I spent nervously anticipating my writing class. Although I love to write maybe I would discover that I have no talent for it. What if my teacher uses my papers as an example of how NOT to write? What if my classmates pass notes about my lack of skills? What if I fail? I was back to damning Fr. John. Of course, none of my fears have come to fruition. My writing, both in Sociology and Written Word, fill a void in me that is hard to articulate. I love reading essays by talented authors. One essay is more thought provoking than the other. Writing a response to the essays is almost like having a conversation with literary geniuses. Reading an essay and truly understanding an author’s words is a beautiful gift. When we allow ourselves to be absorbed in another’s voice that is when we begin to grow. Our minds expand. Allowing ourselves to hear another’s view and accepting that their truth, though it may be different than ours, is still their truth. Truth is what we all seek. Here is my truth. I have been lonely my entire life while living with others. It has recently occurred to me that loneliness has little to do with the company of others but more to do with fulfilling one’s passion. In this world of political correctness we are so conscious of speaking and acting appropriately that perhaps we lose the part of ourselves that evokes emotion, the part that lets us dance in the rain or fall in the puddle. For some unexplainable reason putting pen to paper makes my hands sweat and my pulse race like a young girl in love. Elizabeth Taylor said, “Anyone who says they can live a life without passion is either lying through their teeth or lying from their grave.” I, finally, after forty three years, feel as though I am working towards something. It took an embarrassingly long time to get here. Suddenly, I feel as though I am on a journey instead of serving a life sentence. This is a good place to be. Beginning college at the age of forty three has been life changing for me. It is rewarding in a way that I have never known. Some of the works that I have read have been amusing, some thought provoking, all are very interesting. Anne Lammot’s essay about her writing process was so funny and familiar that I gut laughed. Jerald Walker wrote a piece about racism that brought back painful memories of racism that I endured in my own life. I wonder what kind of lasting impression it has made on me. My good grades are a reflection of not only of my hard work but of a determination that I did not know that I possess. In no way do I regret beginning college in my forty’s. When I was a younger woman I did not have the wisdom and the life experience to understand that education is a privilege. As a middle aged woman I am happy to have found the courage to fulfill my passion at Mount Saint Joseph.
Words Poem by Chase Stevens I won’t shut up there’s too much percolation between the waterfall and the stream the filter is nonexistent or loose at least others might resonate the Pleasant Trickle however my mind-to-mouth would replicate the cascade of a drunkard finally pissing after his thirteenth ale you can write a poem with the pen but I stammer my lines in the shower on the street at the market because I have to be talking even if it’s myself that I want to dumbfound which can’t happen so keep going son thought runs to the beat of Ramones guitar and Johnny’s right hand is faster than a porn addict’s when he knows his mother is on the way home and my words can never keep up with that beat but not without the good college try the fat kid in a race the police cruiser out of place in a chase I just won’t shut up Need a dam Need AA Need a pen Fatty doesn’t wanna win The policeman wants nothing more than to go home and watch Cops 12
The Kindly Herbalist Fiction by Joshua Zeller Part One Once upon a time, in a distant, faraway land lived a kindly old woman named Helga, the royal medicine woman. Helga lived in a very lavish wood hut, complete with the materials for her profession, a roughly hewn bed, a rickety dresser, a three-legged table, one window, and a dank dirt cellar. How had Helga soared to such heights? Years ago the (now dead) King of the Entire Domain had heard rumors of her powers as an herbalist and had decided to find her and test if what people said was really true: that she could cure the common cold, that she could cure lovesickness, and that she could even cure the terminally sick. Some people even whispered in hushed tones that she could cure death. The King’s wife, the Queen of the Entire Domain, was quickly wasting away with fever then, and the King was in grief because he knew it would not be long before she passed. So, he found Helga in her family’s hut and brought her and her herb kit to the castle. The Queen was there in her bedroom, looking very weak and burning with the fever, sweating and giving off such a heat as to make the room very hot. The King begged Helga to cure the woman with her herbs, to do anything she could to save his dying wife. Helga heeded his cries for help with compassion and immediately got to work. She first pulled out St. Clement’s Wort, a bluish liquid extract, and poured it in a mortar. Then she sprinkled in some ground up, soothing Aquagrass and mixed it all up. For the final ingredient, she produced some vapor from Iceroot extract and drifted it into the bowl. The mix, after a good stirring, turned a cool, lake blue. Then she asked for a cup so that the Queen might drink the concoction. A servant left and then quickly came back with a fine crystal cup and Helga poured the pleasant looking liquid into the glass. She held the cup to the Queen’s lips and gently assisted her in drinking it. Helga then stood back to watch the concoction take effect. The Queen’s face immediately turned back to its normal color and the sweat left almost instantly. Then, for the first time in a month, she managed to sit up. At this, the King immediately ran and embraced the Queen while Helga stood back proudly. After that she was hired. Part Two Since the moment that she had been given the job of royal medicine woman, Helga had been in service to four sets of kings and queens. Her youth had passed but her skill had remained. However, her work was more difficult now because her hands were stiff with age, and things didn’t come as easily anymore. Today was a special day, Helga suddenly remembered, because a new queen had been married to the King after the unfortunate passing of the Queen due to circumstances which Helga could not prevent.
There was a sudden knock on the door, drawing Helga sharply out of her thoughts. She got up slowly and made her way to the door. By the time she had gotten there, there had been four more knocks, each one sounding more impatient than the last. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” sighed Helga. Helga opened the door quickly and looked at the woman standing there in an impatient huff. She couldn’t believe her eyes! It was the new queen! Helga humbly bowed before her presence. The new Queen was absolutely beautiful and flawless. She was tall, had pale, white skin, long blond hair, blue eyes, and ruby red lips. She was dressed in the fearsome full uniform of the Queen of the Entire Domain, which was comprised of a morbidly tight bodice, an absurdly large hoop skirt, and a Dracula-esque collar, all in the customary colors of the kingdom. “I deeply apologize, my lady, for you see, I don’t move as fast as I used to due to age.” “Well, I can see… that,” the Queen replied coldly. Helga frowned a little before asking, “Well my lady, it there anything that you require from my humble shack of herbs?” “Yes,” she paused for a very long time, eyeing the shack with disgust and contempt before pushing her way inside in a sudden rude movement. This caused Helga to fall down painfully. “Ow!” Helga sharply cried. She held her hand out for assistance to the Queen to be helped up. The queen just looked at the hand coldly. “Oh, you can get up yourself. Now, tell me about your herb selection, you know, in general.” Helga struggled to talk due to the pain of getting up. “Oh, well, I- have- all the necess- ary herbs for any kind of heal- ing.” The Queen looked down at her nails disinterestedly and it was clear that the Queen’s request was a poor effort to make conversation. “There’s- Sparrowroot- which-,” Helga began again painfully. “Never mind, I don’t care. I came here for something specific that I think you can make for me.” Helga, inwardly disgusted, finally was able to get herself up and say with a sigh, “Yes my lady, what do you desire?” “A very potent poison my dear old… Wait… You know, you never said your name to me.” Slightly fearful, Helga replied, “It’s Helga, my lady.” The Queen immediately started snorting with terrible laughter at the name. “Wow, what a—name… Well, anyway Hilda, can you get me some poison?” “Sure my lady, but, what should you need poison for? It’s just the King’s policy that I ask when someone is requesting harmful substances.” “Do you really think that those rules apply to me, Hilla? How dare you ask me such a thing!” The Queen paused and gave Helga the nastiest look she had ever seen in her life. “If you must know, I need poison to help kill the rats that have infested the kitchen. I thought I would get the poison myself so that, you know, the job would actually get done!” “Of course my lady, I’ll get it immediately.” 14
Helga quickly got the Queen her best chair (which the Queen rolled in eyes in disgust at before sitting down) and got to work. First she took out Cap of Satan mushrooms and ground them to a fine powder in a mortar. Then she dumped the powder into a glass vial and put the vial on a wooden rack. Next she took an extract from Despair grass and put the liquid in the vial, causing a poof of ominous purple smoke in the shape of a skull. Finally, she carefully took out a vial of black liquid from a special compartment of her herb box, the worst, most potent poison in the land. It was an extract from the dangerous Periculum plant which, when ingested, caused a horrible, painful death. She added only a drop of this, which was insurance that the poison would still work if the mushrooms or the despair grass were for some reason inert of their poisons. After corking the vial, Helga handed the poison to the Queen, who took it ungratefully and left. Helga breathed a sigh of relief that the experience was over. She felt very uneasy about giving the Queen that poison, but she really didn’t have much of a choice. Part Three In the dead of night, there was knock on Helga’s door. She instantly was awakened and groaned. She would have to start the long process of getting up. The knocks became more insistent and a voice said, “Open up now, in the name of the King!” “Hold on good sir,” Helga replied, “I’m an old woman and cannot quickly come to the door.” Not seeming to hear, the voice shouted, “I’m breaking down the door!” And with that there was a splintering as the jailer and three guards burst into the room. They immediately grabbed Helga and tied back her wrists. “What’s going on?!” Helga exclaimed in pain and wonderment. She was very afraid now. “You are under arrest for the murder of the King of the Entire Domain and will be immediately escorted to jail to await execution!” “What! Who says so?” Helga exclaimed once more, now with a terrible feeling that she knew what he would say. “On the Queen’s orders, who is now grieving over her new dead husband! Dead from your poison!” Helga knew something like this was going to happen. The Queen wanted to inherit the fortunes of the crown and to do so had poisoned her husband and framed herself. If only she had been allowed to refuse the Queen’s request… Before she could think about it further, she was hit over the head and she blacked out. Part Four When Helga woke up in great pain, she found herself in a small, cramped cell with a dirt floor. She was in the cell they put people in for capital offenses. It was deep within the castle and away from any human contact. Besides that, you were not given food or water, and often, if you were lucky, you died from starvation or dehydration before you were led to be hanged on the terrible Gallows. While Helga’s mind raced for a way to get out of there, she pictured the Queen, rolling around in her new riches and power. Helga knew she would have to save the land from such an evil woman. 15
She would quickly have to find a way out of here. She managed to scoot herself over to the back stone wall and rested against it while she thought. What in the world would she do? “I can help you,” said a small voice. Helga’s head snapped up and looked around. She didn’t see anyone else in the cell. “Where are you?” Helga demanded. “I am here, but have made my presence invisible. I am a spirit of the Earth, and have taken a liking to you since you use what grows out of my domain for such good. To help you get out of here, I can grow whatever you may need.” “Really? Would you mind growing something for me right now as a test? I don’t doubt you, but I would simply like to see your powers.” “Certainly.” And with that, all of the sudden, a rose grew out of the dirt right near her leg. Helga was impressed. “Wonderful,” she said, “Now here’s what I need.” Several minutes later, Helga had a strong acid and a spear made of vines and thorns. She quickly threw the acid on the bars of her cell and stepped out after they had eaten away. She found herself in a long hallway. “Go to the right,” whispered the spirit. She went to the right and after a while found a door. She walked through and found herself at a large spiral staircase. She went up it as quickly as she could and came to another hallway. “Go to the left,” whispered the spirit. She did as she was told and came to another door. When she went through it, she found herself in a secret tunnel. At its end was an opening into forest. She walked quickly down the tunnel and was almost to the end when a guard stepped in her way. “Halt in the name of the Queen, prisoner!” With that he drew a menacing sword and started towards her. In her hand, Helga was clutching the spear she made for a situation like this. She positioned the spear at the guard, closed her eyes, and threw. She heard a thump and a death cry as the guard was struck down. It was a miracle that she had hit her target at all, let alone killed him. She guessed that fate and the spirit were on her side. She quickly stepped out into the forest. “Now you have to get rid of the Queen, for she is too cruel to rule this fair land. Everybody realizes that you didn’t kill the King, but they don’t dare to oppose her. They know how conceited she truly is. I will give you a lift to her bedroom window,” the spirit told Helga in a whispery voice. With that, Helga felt herself be lifted up into the air on a huge clump of dirt and let herself be taken to the Queen’s chamber. After about a minute, she was hovering outside the Queen’s window and she stepped inside, quickly into the shadows so that she wouldn’t immediately be seen by the Queen. There the Queen sat on her bed, reading. She lay in a fine bed that was surrounded with curtains of black velvet. Next to her bed was a small fountain that gurgled out refreshing spring water. An ornate cup made of jade stood next to the fountain on a nightstand. The Queen herself was as beautiful as a siren. 16
Helga knew what she would do. It would be very simple too. She pulled out of her pocket a vial that she always kept with her, just in case. It was a vial of Periculum extract. When the Queen drifted off to sleep, Helga stealthily put a drop of Periculum in the empty glass and went back in the shadows to wait. She only had to wait about an hour before the Queen started awake. “What a terrible nightmare!” she exclaimed. “And it made my mouth so dry. I think I need a drink.” With that she filled the glass with a draught of water and drank it down. Immediately the Queen turned a bluish color and began gasping. This was when Helga stepped out. “You!” gasped the Queen. “Yes, I,” replied Helga calmly. “I believe strongly in eye-for-an-eye justice. You are getting what you deserve. This is a vengeance for the King and his memory.” With that the Queen was dead. The poison had acted quickly and painfully. Helga sighed with peace as well as sadness that she had had to kill two people today. But she knew it was all for justice. She would make up for it too, because she had just one more task ahead of her. Epilogue The King’s body sat in front of Helga along with two guards and the spirit of the Earth, who had now decided to show itself. The spirit had convinced the guards that Helga was justified in killing the Queen and that they were wrong to think she had killed the King in the first place. (In this land, when one has a magical spirit to back them up, they are always believed.) Helga was busily mixing some herbs together to make a potion. It was quite involved and she had been working for some time. It contained ingredients of which she only had one in her stock that she had collected in the heartiness of youth; places where it was too dangerous for her to go to now. After five more minutes of mixing, she was finished. She quickly put the potion to the king’s dead lips, parted them, and poured it down his throat. With that she stepped back. The guards watched and—when nothing happened— they called out, “The rumors aren’t true then, medicine woman, for you aren’t truly able to bring back the dead.” “Be patient good sirs, for there is one ingredient left to give him which I also have only one of.” With that she took out the Periculum extract and drank it down. Before the guards could rush over to catch her she had fallen to the ground, dead. The guards worriedly attended to her while the spirit looked at Helga with respectful solemnity, already having possessed the knowledge that she would do this. Then suddenly they heard a gasp of breath coming from behind them. They turned slowly, and called out with joy. The King of the Entire Domain was sitting up and was very alive. Healthier in fact, than he had ever been before. The whole kingdom rejoiced at having their beloved king back. They built a monument to Helga shortly after, in front of her wood hut where it still stand to this day. She became a heroine, then, of the Entire Domain, one whom they never forgot for all of their days.
What Was Left Here? Poem by Alicia Hixon It’s not what was left here Forget everything left here Insert mask here Wild gypsy, mad hair The same days ruined last year Forget the pass here There won’t be a past here The same slights forgiven last year Should haves and plans to Same print, a different issue Same game, a different venue Its’ been done a time or few When things turn, it’s meant to A different familiar than usual
Bear By Me by Molly Ehrnschwender 19
Smoke Up in the Air Poem by Jacqueline Tackett Crumble and crumble I’m crumbling into your embrace bringing me back to the nostalgic taste of your cigarette breathe. Pulling me in with each and every echo; Falling for you as fast as the deadening ash from your homemade cigarettes. That night you overclouded my soul, smoke up in the air. Warm fingers through my wild, Medusa hair And then suddenly we’re there? Time has not been lost For we have not been found. It feels as if the bite has been brought back to life. We’re running breathless, back and forth Endlessly escaping the succumbing and swallowing night. Gasping and gaping for a hole, for a single piece of air. I’m here and there and everywhere. I’m scared terrified and petrified but yet feel safe. So lock me up tighter, I like being consumed and trapped Into the cigarette-smoke embrace.
The Oracle’s Secret Fiction by Kathryn VandenOever Part One: Myth & Legend A large group moved slowly down the crowded hallways of the Athens Museum, being led by a blonde and annoyed tour guide. She was saying: “…and up ahead, we have a recent arrival; a statue of the Greek god Apollo, god of the sun, music, and prophecies. It was found three miles away from the ruins of the Temple of Delphi, where the Oracle, gave her mysterious rituals into the past and future.” A yawn came from the back of the group, from a sixteen-year old named Summer Hart. The tour guide, whose name was Melina, gave Summer a stony look and continued with her monologue. Summer was five-foot six, and had light brown hair that went to her shoulders. She wore a dark red sweater with jeans. And she was very cranky, due to her lack of sleep. God, she thought, I wish we could go back to the hotel for some major sleep. She followed the group, while keeping her nose stuck in a Clive Cussler novel. Suddenly the group stopped, and she walked right into her friend, Max Sheppard, who was only a few inches taller than her, and had black spiky hair. He fell down from the shock of being run over. “Watch where you’re going, Summer. You’re going to get yourself killed like that, you know.” Max said with a groan. Summer helped him up, and then went to look at the Apollo statue. It was six-foot tall and it was a perfect example of the traditional Greek statue. The face and clothes were so excellently sculpted; it was as if the god was in the room with the group. In his left hand, the god held his traditional pipe, and in the other, he grasped a small stone with a hole on top which was covered in carvings of a knotted net. The tour guide was explaining this weird object. “The stone that Apollo is holding is believed to be the sacred omphalos, an item believed to have great importance in Greek mythology. The omphalos was believed to be the stone that Rhea, mother of the Greek gods, gave to her husband Cronus, so he would not eat their son, Zeus. It was used in the most sacred of rituals at Delphi by the oracle, Pythia, herself. It was used to make history-changing prophecies about the end of the Roman Empire, and also the beginning of Christianity.” Melina said in a monotone voice as if she didn’t want to be there. The group continued past the statue and entered a large hall, which was usually reserved for special exhibits. It was filled with exquisitely crafted artifacts, statues, and a very large stone. It was an example of the omphalos itself, a meager copy of the original. The tour guide continued: “…and speaking of the Oracle of Delphi, this exhibit is filled with artifacts found recently at and around Delphi. The dig is currently operated and sponsored by Python Industries, the company most famous for their production of cars, airplanes, and many other transportation vehicles, using environment-friendly technology.” “HAHAHA!!!!!” A loud voice rang from the group, again. “I seriously doubt that!” The voice belonged to that of Christina Harding, a teenage environmentalist, and occasional delinquent. She had short, black hair, streaked with red and purple, and wore a blue ‘Save the Earth’ t-shirt underneath a jean jacket. She began laughing raucously again, but stopped when 21
Summer went up to her and smacked her on the back of the head, thus making her shut up for the rest of the tour. The teacher, Mrs. Sinclair, stared daggers at the two teens, who shrank back in feigned terror. To them, Mrs. Sinclair was the very imitation of the devil (if the devil had been a seventy-year old woman with purple hair, of all things). “I apologize on behalf of my students for their…behavioral problems,” said Mrs. Sinclair with serious distaste for her most ‘troublesome’ students. “Please continue, Ms. Kostas.” But the tour guide had become distracted with the arrival of a tall man. He was in his early forties, had salt-and –pepper hair, was tan, and wore a khaki safari outfit. Summer thought, who does this guy think he is, Theodore Roosevelt? It was a joke that only she would laugh at. “Well, well, well, speaking of the current dig at the Temple, we have the head of the dig team right here, Professor Stavros Angelis of Athens University.” Melina said with a little bit of enthusiasm. There were simultaneous claps from the bored class, as the esteemed archaeologist came over to the group. Several minutes later, the junior class of Huntington High School finally left the Athens Museum. The tour bus was waiting, and the driver, Sam, a large overweight man, was not quite happy that the group was late. “Why are you guys so late?” He asked Max as they all entered the air-conditioned 1987 bus. “Mrs. Sinclair’s shameless attempts at flirting with a very famous archaeologist, and afterwards, scolding Christina for ‘accidently’ tripping her into a fountain.” Max said with a tired smile. Sam laughed uproariously, since he was Christina’s uncle on her mother’s side, but stopped when a very wet and quite peeved Mrs. Sinclair stepped onto the bus, followed by Christina, smiling smugly. The bus began to drive away, as Summer realized that she had left her red knapsack underneath a bench in the museum. “STOP THE BUS!!!!” Summer yelled, scaring the daylights out of Max, and his older delinquent of a brother, Tom, who stood a whopping six foot seven, with white spiky hair pierced ears and nose. The bus stopped instinctively, and Summer leapt out the bus door and sped up the museum steps just as a black SUV stopped in front of the sidewalk and five men exited the vehicle. Inside the museum Summer found the bench she had sat on with her knapsack underneath, and sighed a breath of relief. She picked it up and noticed that it was heavier than usual. Shrugging it off, she placed it on her back, and went back towards the entrance. Meanwhile, the men that had driven the big SUV had approached Dr. Angelis in front of the Apollo statue, and it would have appeared that the taller man and the archaeologist were in the midst of a heated argument. Summer took note and slowed down to see what was happening (being a curious girl). Then the tall man in the trench coat shoved Dr. Angelis, hard, back onto the statue’s base actually. Summer became perplexed, seeing that it was summer, and the fact the man was wearing a trench coat, was NOT, repeat, not a good sign. Then the man pulled out two guns. Summer gasped, as did everyone else in the lobby of the museum, and everyone ducked instinctively. Summer recognized a Beretta .99 millimeter gun and a Heckler & Koch MP5, and the rest of the apparent thieves held plain ordinary shotguns (as she watched many Law & 22
Order and NCIS television episodes). She quickly crawled underneath a nearby café’ table, and huddled. Well, isn’t this something to write home about, she thought grimly? Meanwhile, in the tour bus, the danger in the museum was not apparent to the occupants of the bus. Christina was, once again, taking a scolding from Mrs. Sinclair due to Summer’s absence, and Max was trying to ignore his brother’s attempt to woo the girl sitting in front of them. Max realized that it had been twenty minutes since his friend had left the bus, and said: “Excuse me, Mrs. Sinclair? May I go in and grab Summer, please?” Mrs. Sinclair nodded reluctantly, and Max went off the bus, back into the museum. In the museum, things were getting intense. The ringleader of the thieves was poking his smaller gun into Dr. Angelis’s chest and causing terror in Summer’s heart. Things just can’t get any worse, she thought from under her hiding place, which had become like a tourist attraction, since it was the only table in the lobby, regrettably. Then she saw Max enter through the front door, his face going pale at the sight of the guns. He quickly ducked but not before a bullet grazed his cheek and ear, from one of the thieves’ shotguns. Summer suppressed a scream, and bit her tongue doing it. The ringleader shouted out, in a dark and gravelly voice: “Tell me what you did with the artifact, Dr. Angelis, or I shall shoot everyone down like the pathetic dogs that they are!” His voice was heavily accented English, and he sounded Russian or Greek. Yet, Dr. Angelis stood his ground and said: “I-I have no idea what you are talking about. Now, please get out of here, before you do something you might regret!” The ringleader smiled evilly, and fired his Beretta two times into Dr. Angelis’s chest, receiving screams across the museum. While everyone was so focused on Angelis’s violent demise, Max was busy crawling quickly to his friend, who was hyperventilating from the shock of the shooting. When he crawled up to her, Summer punched him in the arm, saying “IDIOT! YOU COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!” She said in a harsh whisper. Max groaned, and the two quickly exited through the back door of the café, leaving behind a dead body and escaping thieves through the front, rotating doors. Part Two: Discovery In the Hilton Athens that night, after two hours of interrogation and emergency room visits, Summer, Christina, and Max plopped down on a bed in Summer’s room, exhausted, and completely trashed. The TV’s volume was blaring, due to Summer’s roommate having a weird obsession with TV shows. Summer was the first to speak after a few dozen minutes of silence. “Well, that was certainly…interesting.” “Interesting, huh? You call almost dying and being interrogated, ‘interesting’?” Max said with a hint of anger in his voice. He got up, and exited the room without a word, leaving Summer and Christina to their ‘gossip hour’. “Well, someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Well, Summer, aren’t you going to give me any details on your ‘near-death’ experience?” Christina asked, excited to be the first person (other than the police) to hear about it. “Nothing to tell. Now leave, because I am very tired.” Summer said with a small smile. Christina left with a grumpy shrug, and Summer opened her knapsack to retrieve her adventure 23
novel. She gasped when she saw the ‘extra weight’ from earlier. It was a large tube, made of marble, it looked like. There was an inscription on the side of it, and the lid looked like it had been sealed with a type of wax. Summer looked around quickly, finally noticing that her roommate had fallen asleep and turned off the TV so she could focus on the new object. She grabbed a pen from the desk, and used it to open the tube (for curiosity purposes only) and found an old scroll made of vellum. Summer let out a tiny gasp. Five minutes later, Max and Christina stood in Christina’s room (she got her own because Mrs. Sinclair thought hers to be too dangerous), listening to Summer’s tale of how she found the tube inside her knapsack and what it contained. When she finally finished, Max and Christina gave each other a look…and began to laugh, until a harsh look from Summer shut them up. “Please tell us you’re kidding about this ‘theory’ that you have, eh, about how it ‘supposedly’ got into your pack?” Max said with a cynical smile. “Okay. Did you notice that Dr. Angelis was wearing the same knapsack as me, when we were in the museum? Well, I think that while Christina was busy tripping Mrs. Sinclair into that fountain, Dr. Angelis switched his pack with mine, except for my book, though; I had that in my sweater pocket. Not just that, I think that he thought that he was going to die today, too. And before we left, Max, I saw those thieves take his knapsack.” Summer explained calmly. “Oh, so he thought that it was okay to probably put you in danger, as well?” Christina said, not really getting to Summer’s point. “I don’t think that that was his idea, Christina. I think he wanted me to find the scroll and somehow decode the ancient Greek on it.” “Yes, but why you, and why not the tour guide?” Christina said with a small sneer. “Because, like me,” Summer said, “he was a fan of Clive Cussler, and Clive Cussler fans usually trust each other’s with secrets.” She held up her novel for emphasis. Christina and Max looked at each other, groaning. They knew now that they were stuck in this mess along with Summer until the very end. “Well, why not the police?” Max suggested, with a small sliver of hope to get out of his mess in his voice. “He left a note not to, because they might be under this person named Pythia’s payroll.” Summer said, as if it were a matter of fact. “All right, if you want to do this, then I know someone who will be able to help.” Christina said. A few hours later, after sneaking out of their hotel rooms, the three students ended up on the doorstep of Christina’s Uncle Sam Portakalis. When he opened the door, he said in his ghastly night robe: “Please tell me that your mother finally disowned you, or you’ve been kicked out of your hotel?” Inside the house, Summer showed Sam the scroll that she found. He looked at it real closely, then said, or quoted: “When the Full Moon of Artemis shines upon the Sacred Hall of the Oracle then the hiding place of the true source of Pythia’s power shall be revealed, but must be opened by the key of the naval.” Sam looked at Summer and said: 24
“If you are all on a treasure hunt…” Summer prayed that he wouldn’t say ‘I’m going to call your parents’, but instead he said, “…then I want in. but if there are guns and bad guys involved then I’m not going!” he laughed, and the three students laughed uneasily. A few minutes later, an old neon Chrysler sped onto a highway heading to the coast of Central Greece. Part Three: Revelation at Delphi At around eleven o’clock at night, after Summer had decoded the location of whatever had Dr. Angelis killed, the four arrived at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Christina, Max and Sam all groaned when they realized that they would have to walk all the way up Mount Parnassus, which would take an hour over five mile hike. Summer convinced Christina and Max to accompany her to the temple, but Sam Portokalis could not be swayed. Soon they all agreed that Sam could stay behind to watch the car. Incredibly enough, it only took half an hour to arrive at the temple, and to them it was awe-inspiring to see the whole of Delphi. To Summer, she could almost hear the prophecies that the Oracle and her cult once said thousands of years ago. To Max, he could almost see Delphi in its former glory; and to Christina, it was…well, no one knows what she was thinking that moment, whether it was food or the environment. “Okay, whatever these guys want, and what Angelis died for, it’s going to be in the Temple of Apollo.” Summer said, while fingering the scroll in her hand. “How do you come by that, Summer?” Christina asked, once again being a skeptic. “The clue says that we should go to ‘the Sacred Hall of the Oracle’, and the Greek term for that, is the adyton, which means ‘inaccessible’. Most people think that it was located in the Temple of Apollo, according to the brochure I picked up down the mountain.” Summer said. “Dr. Angelis was looking for the lost adyton, but why, I wonder? You know, if people have already decided where it would have been.” Max inquired. “Because, it’s been rumored that the omphalos found in what’s been believed to be the adyton is nothing but a pathetic fake.” A new voice said from behind them, shocking the daylights out of Summer, Max, and Christina. They spun around to find a woman, in her early thirties, dressed in a black coat, with long blond hair, and pale complexion, but had violet eyes. “Uh, hello,” said Summer in a dazed shock. “Who are you, and why did you scare us like this?” The woman shrugged and said: “My name is Margarita Elena Kostovrakis, and I am the CEO of Python Industries.” She replied in a harsh, commanding voice. Instantly, Summer could tell that something was wrong. The woman had appeared out of nowhere, and claimed to be a billionaire CEO of the world’s biggest vehicle production company. Something’s fishy, Summer thought. She looked around, to see if anyone else was in the vicinity of the Temple. “Are you okay?” Margarita asked Summer, who turned to look at the new arrival. “Yes, I’m fine. Why are you here, anyway?” Summer asked suspiciously. “I’m inspecting the site that my company is funding and you three talking just so happened to wake me up. Why are you three here anyway at 11:30 at night?” Margarita Kostovrakis said. The teenagers looked at each other for a second, unsure of what to do, or to say. Suddenly, a gunshot rang throughout the air around Mount Parnassus. The three teenagers 25
leaped to the ground in shock, followed by screams of fright. The only person still standing, Margarita bent to the ground and retrieved Summer’s knapsack. “Uh, ma’am, I don’t believe that belongs to you…” Max said from the ground. Margarita ignored him, and opened it…and pulled out the scroll, along with its tube. Summer gasped (even though she had a distinctive suspicion about the woman) and scowled at her. “Why do I have this feeling that you have been expecting us here from the start?” Summer said vehemently, and severely pissed off. “You thought right, kid. We knew that you were going to be here ever since I saw Dr. Angelis switch bags with you. We were just worried whether you would make it here or not.” The apparently villainous CEO said while several commandos loaded with bazookas, shotguns, and Heckler & Koch MP5s surrounded the teenagers, who put their hands on their heads. Some minutes later, at 11:45, Summer, Max, Christina, and the murderous group of henchmen followed Margarita into what was left of the Temple of Apollo, just as the full moon was about to align with the no-longer existed entrance. “Well, Summer, I do hope that you are pleased with yourself. Just last night, we were busy eating, sleeping, and doing what teenagers usually do, and now we are going to die at the hands of homicidal psychopaths!” Christina said sarcastically. Summer just stared ahead, still stunned from the revelation, but soon got an idea when she noticed a figure move unseen by the rest below the temple, near the Treasury. She said to Margarita: “So, what does a rich and powerful CEO want with the most used artifact of the Oracle of Delphi?” Margarita stopped and turned, and said venomously: “Well, since you’re all going to watch what happens next, I guess you should know the significance of the ceremony I’m about to perform.” Summer instantly got a chill in the back of the neck from the word, ‘ceremony’. Margarita continued, “Ever since the last Oracle, Pythia died; there has been no one with the kind of power that had been bestowed on her, which might have led to many…uncertainties about the future of mankind.” Summer was quite sure some of those facts were wrong, but did not voice them out. “I am here, though, to revive that power, with the use of the omphalos, and that scroll Angelis left in your knapsack, and become the modern Oracle.” She continued, as if she had practiced this speech at home before she came here. There was a minute of silence afterwards, and Summer looked at Christina, who looked at Max, who looked scared beyond all known reason. “Are you out of your mind?! You actually think that you’re the new Oracle of Delphi?!” Summer said incredulously. Max had been right: these people were psychos. Margarita shrugged off the comment and walked towards the center of the Temple, where a circle of stones lay: the hearth of the temple. She bent down, and swept away dust from the center of the hearth. There lay a Greek symbol: E, for the word epsilon, which was usually associated with the Oracle of Delphi. “This is it,” said Margarita, as she pressed down on the symbol, and a grinding noise came from underground and the floor of the hearth fell away, revealing an old stairway, leaving Summer, Max and Christina gaping in awe. “How in the world did anyone not find that before? Seriously, that was one big E, so how did no one notice it?!” Christina whispered intensely. 26
“Maybe they were bribed, or…killed off for money before they could talk about it,” suggested Max weakly. Summer considered this for a moment before they were shoved down the staircase roughly. They all entered through a big chamber, brilliantly carved with only pillars. It was the lost adyton, the forbidden chamber of the Oracle, where she gave her most famous prophecies. But it wasn’t just a sacred chamber anymore: it was a massive tomb. Skeletons of women of all ages lay where they died, possibly violently. One sat in a tripod throne at the other end of the chamber, while wearing a laurel crown. The Oracle, herself. “Well, now we know what actually happened to the last Oracle: she was shishkebobbed.” Max said while carefully avoiding the bodies on the floor. In front of the body of the Oracle, there was a very large and black counterpart of the museum’s omphalos, the actual one. “Someone’s having fun with this,” commented Summer, sarcastically on Margarita’s open excitement over the find. Margarita snapped her fingers, and two commandos lifted the omphalos easily and carried it up the stairs. Summer saw her chance as the tall man from the museum walked past her, and she kicked his ankle in a pressure point, causing the man to collapse in pain. The other five commandos came forward, guns blaring but no bullets came out. They just stared perplexed, and then fell to the ground after getting karate-chopped in the neck by Sam Portakalis, who had sneaked into the bad guys’ trucks, which had been parked, with no guard (anymore) with guns sitting out in the open, and after a few minutes were as useless as fish on land. Now the only working gun in the temple belonged to Dr. Angelis’s currently unconscious killer, and at the same time, Christina, Summer, and Margarita ducked towards it, resulting in a three way, two against one, ‘chick fight’, while Max quickly retrieved his cell phone and dialed the Greek equivalent of 911. Finally, after a long and hard fight, Summer grabbed the gun, and aimed it at Margarita, who was pretty much staring hot, metal daggers at Summer, and made a pathetic attempt at grabbing the gun, but Summer yelped and hit her on the head with it. Margarita slumped to the ground, and Summer breathed a sigh of relief. She walked over to Sam, who was busy yelling in Greek to a disbelieving cop, and Christina and Max sitting down in exhaustion from all the near-death experience in the past twelve hours. “I’ve been thinking. Just how are we going to explain this to our parents when we get home, if we get home? Because I think this registers as an international incident.” Christina was saying while taking deep breaths. “No offense, but how on Earth do you think that this registers as an international incident?” Max said, examining an old Greek sword that had been embedded in the ribs of one of the skeletons. “Okay, 1) most of these guys are Greek, and 2) we’re American. Get the picture?” No response, but Max playfully poked her in the gut with the sword, resulting in his getting punched in the arm. Summer groaned and thought, I’m going to have to get a lot of therapy after this. She pulled out her cell phone from one of the unconscious soldiers, and dialed her parents, following Sam, Christina, and Max out of the dark, cold tomb of the Oracle of Delphi. 27
Scratches Poem by Chase Stevens I scratch my own back and know where the hand will go but when it is the one beyond me whose nails vibrate across my skin the true caress takes form from the unknown She scratches my back I know not where the hand will go These minutes in the realm of unexpectedness reverberate my nerves and I relish the unknown as the moth that kills itself in ecstasy I indulge myself in the light that is the touch I am aware of a looming danger But simply donâ€™t care She scratches my back I know where the knife will go
Simply Sunflowers By Molly Ehrnschwender Acrylic on Black Paper 29
Off the Shelf Fiction by Kim Williams There on the shelf sat a curious vessel. It was such an odd, old cup. Easy to hold, it conformed to almost any grip. If you turn it upside down, you see there on the bottom a grand seal, ‘Designed in Appointment to the Queen.’ This did signify that it was special somehow, or was at one time. On closer examination you see that there are tiny, thin cracks all about its smooth, fine, outer porcelain finish, worn from holding many steaming cups of four o’ clock brew between many pairs of hands. Somehow the intricate cracked veins enhanced its artistic splendor. If you were to pour piping hot Earl Grey into this cup now though, the blend would bleed through these mapped cracks of history and flow unto the table and down onto the floor. The cup could not for all its glory fulfill its original intended purpose. It was a lone cup too, long separated from its original set. There is a small chip on the rim from becoming ordinary and from being used for years as an everyday piece of ware. The saucer long lost, the cup has lost forever the settee of its grandiosity. A little burn mark is visible too, from being laid thoughtlessly too close to the hot drying rod of the dishwasher, instead of being gently hand washed as its fineness had not been recognized nor preserved with care for a century or more. For a long time after a difficult journey through many pantries, this fine porcelain cup had become ordinary, a utility piece, and a play piece for children, and even for a very long time just plain forgotten in the back of a cupboard. One day, a large strong hand reached up and pulled this forgotten and misused cup out of the back of the cupboard and placed it on the drain board to consider. The hand of the Master Chef was mightily powerful, yet very gentle. About him stood the Maids of Angels, observing His pensiveness over this once fine china cup and its present dismal state. The first angel Fidelio claimed, “Oh, what a finely creative and artful cup this once was, though it never saw table with royalty as was its intended purpose, what a pity.” “Yes,” replied the Master Chef, but it gave such delight to the little girls who played tea party with it, so its purpose though misdirected is still worthy.” The second maid angel Skeptivia, said “Master Chef I see no good in it now though, as it cannot hold hot tea from the pot, it seeps through the cracks and bleeds away, so it has become worthless with age.” The Master Chef raised an eyebrow to angel Skeptivia and considered that she may be a good candidate to scrub the floor. Then He replied to her, “What you say is true, the cup can no longer hold hot tea, and cannot therefore be the fine tea cup that it was once intended to be.” He pondered this with the vision only such a Master Chef could have, able to envision all His creations before they were actually made. A third angel, Hope who was quite shy but intuitive and loving, then picked up the battered piece of fine china and held it in her angelic hands and proclaimed, “This cup is a comfort to just hold in one’s hands, therefore it still has tremendous worth, even if it is not that of its original intended creation. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to hold this cup for just one minute in time”, and she very gently and gratefully set it back down onto the drain board 30
in front of the Master Chef for His further consideration. The Master Chef then picked up the cup and held it once more in His hands, feeling its worth really, and not judging it by sight, or purpose or thought. He just held it, and felt it in His hands for a considerable time. Then the Master Chef deliberately and loving placed the cup in a very special bin, with very special contents. The angel Skeptivia could not help but comment on this, and said in the background as she flew in circles, the only way she could fly, “See then such a fine piece as this has met its true end by being placed in eternal duty in this bulk bin as a scooper for flour, this is surely justice.” The Master Chef once again contemplated before speaking as He considered this doubtful angel pensively. “Skeptivia, you rely and judge with your eyes instead of your heart. This is not merely a bin of flour; it is not just flour at all. No, this is a special bin where this misguided yet beautiful cup will spend eternity, true. It is not just flour in this bin, but the yeast for the flour of the Living Bread, and this forlorn but beloved old cup is honored to be a scooper in this bin of Divine contents for all eternity. For you see my weak angel, the yeast used in the making of the Living Bread is most precious of All, because it is that which raises up the flour at the baking; making the ordinary raise to heights unattainable without the presence of its zeal.”
Why We Fear I Do Not Know Poem by Jacqueline Tackett Why we fear I do not know But the less you do the more it shows.
Excused Absence Fiction by Megan Erdman Blaming myself for the terrible morning I am already having. Maybe I should blame Kate for dragging me away from homework last night to have wine night with her and Lacey, and Kris. It always seems like a good idea until I wake up with my head pounding and feeling three times heavier. On top of that, I woke up late with my chemistry homework on my desk where I left it. The professor will not let me slide this time. I almost got away with it last time when I told him I wrecked on the interstate but he spotted my car as I was leaving school. Professor Jang sent me a mean e-mail along with an alternative assignment. I throw some clothes on from the various piles on the floor, brush my teeth and rush out the door with my backpack. My car starts on the third try which is impressive. Before I get off my exit I receive the bird twice, which I fully deserve, as I am swerving in and out of traffic. I turn right and get stuck behind a white van on a one way road. There is some construction going on and traffic is pretty slow. A quarter-mile down the road the van starts to rock back and forth. My eyes glance up at the temporary license plate on the back window. Next thing I see is a small pair of hands duct-taped together. My stomach begins to churn. I keep looking and I find beady eyes staring directly my way. The eyes begin to rise higher and come closer only to reveal a young boy with his mouth also duct-taped and pressed against the glass. My first reaction is to call the cops immediately but due to the construction and heavy traffic I don’t think they’ll make it in time. I keep my distance but follow the van as we take a left, a right, then another left and are on Churchill Lane. It is now 10:23 am and my class is starting without me. I want to be a teacher not a chemist and I am trying to save this poor child. This boy begins to notice me following. I hope I haven’t given myself up to the driver as well. I debate calling the cops again when the van suddenly stops in front of an old, abandoned hotel. I slowly drive by, trying not to be noticed, and get a glimpse of the driver. It seems to be a middle-aged woman with red hair. She gives me a fake smile. There is a younger man in the passenger seat glaring at me. As I drive on I look in my rear-view mirrors and see them still parked in the white van. I turn on the nearest street and grab the emergency mace from my purse. I park my beat up Lexus ES 300 and assess my options. Who do I call? Kate? My mom? The cops? Breathe Kris. Think about the little boy who is scared for his dear life right now. What do I --Knock Knock I jump in my seat when I see the man from the van a foot away from my car. He is trying to pry open my locked door while banging on my window. I hold the mace next to my thigh and do not have time to think about my next move. I just roll down my window a crack and spray the mace all over his face and his eyes. He falls to the ground groaning and covering his face. I hop out of the car immediately while he is down and kick him in the balls as hard as I can several times. The man is down and I get back into the Lexus and pray my baby starts right up. It doesn’t. I turn the key hard and it putters for a moment before roaring to life. I head towards the van and my hands are shaking on the steering wheel uncontrollably. The van is a football field away and is still parked in the same spot. I look for anything in my car that will help me. There is my lucky Easton FS3 bat attached to the side of my softball bag, I grab it immediately 33
and head towards the van. The woman is outside the door and seems surprised to see me. I park in the front of the van blocking its way as the red-haired women hops into the front seat in a hurry and tries to start the engine. I run as quickly as I can to the van and swing full-speed at the front windshield. It cracks and the entire windshield spider webs. The lady is frozen as I pull her out of her seat and begin to take batting practice on her face. She is out cold and I decide to take the van away myself. I find the keys and can’t believe my eyes when I see what is inside the van: four children of all different ages, hog-tied and duct-taped, whimpering in the back. I get distracted as I see a figure headed straight towards the vehicle. It’s the man with sore balls, limping down the street. I start the engine, put it in reverse and stomp on the gas pedal. The man is now further and further away from us. The children are rolling on the floor bed as I make a quick right turn. I keep driving until I reach my college campus. I don’t know why I end up here but I know these kids need help. I notice a white, shining, BMW trying to pull out of the North Parking Lot. I know it is Professor Jang and my immediate reaction it to cut hard left and block him from leaving the lot. He is stunned by this and takes a step out of his car. “Storm, what is the meaning of all this?” Jeng says. “I need your help with why I was not present in class earlier today.” “Oh what is it this time? Fake car wreck? Death in a stranger’s family?” Professor Jeng asks. “I just need you to look inside this van and tell me how I can help these kids.” Professor Jeng goes to the driver’s side and slides open the back door. He whispers an “Oh, my gosh” and almost trips as he steps away from the van. He hurries to shut the door before anyone else sees those poor kids. He leaves his car sitting next to the exit of the lot and we both hop into the van. We go to the local police department and explain everything. When Jeng asks what happened and for the truth only, he listens intently. He has no reason not to believe me; how could I make this stuff up? As I finish with how my morning occurred trying to rescue these kids, he finally says, “I’ll mark that as an excused absence.”
Tikkun Olam Poem by Zachary A. McCoy The world is broken and the pieces are us. The way we fit together is yet to be discovered. The secretâ€”buried in the moments after the sun has set on certain Cincinnati summer nights the Ohio river smells like a beach. The salty stench of catfish seems right, while I try to make sense of how we each reach for, but never grasp, jagged pieces of one another that mirror in perfect alignment. Space between the stars ceases to mean nothing to me. We resurrect each other with held hands, holding one another together while falling apart. Will my jagged pieces run together with yours? How like the sprawling space between stars we all seem to be. An undiscovered, connected sea.
Regular Folk Fiction by Alicia Hixon Where I come from voodoo was our church. We ain’t go to no Sunday school and pray to some white man for our forgiveness but we wasn’t bad folk either. Some people think of my kind and see nothing but darkness but that ain’t all we about. We a proud line outta Bonton and momma’s people been practicing for centuries. You better believe it’s some power in it too. Then again it ain’t much you can’t do if you will it hard enough. Don’t get me wrong it’s some bad folks out there and some who don’t know what they wanna be but that ain’t no different than y’all regular folk so don’t throw no stones from your glass house just yet. Anyways as I was saying for the most part my people are good but every once- in- a -while things happen that make you question your faith and even us folks got somebody we believe in. Mister Evans was a regular man or as regular as it gets for us folks so you could imagine the fear we felt when the sun rise one morning and Mister Evans was gone. Every morning I send my youngest Antoinette over to Mister Evans just to check on him, make sure he living just the same. Two mornings ago she come running back telling me that Mister Evans ain’t there but all his stuff is. So I send my husband Jean over to see what the girl was hollering about and he came back whiter than a set of my good sheets fresh out the wash. He don’t say nothing to me; he tell Andre our oldest boy to take his sister outside for a while. Sure enough Mister Evans was gone and Jean say it’s more than that, but it look like nothing been touched. The way Jean talk, Mister Evans just up and disappeared and it wasn’t long before the whole town knew about it either. Before you know it, folks keeping they kids inside when before they was out way pass sun down. Everybody around town speculating too, whether he left or somebody took him. That night before dark I saw more than a few folk saying an extra charm outside they door for protection. For days everybody waited for Mister Evans to show up but he never came and after a while everybody forgot about it, like they always do. Except for me that is. I was more than a little bothered by the Mister Evans disappearance. I kept thinking, if he walked away then somebody saw him and if somebody took him, wouldn’t we know it? As small as our community is a new face always sticks out in the bunch. Sometimes I’d sit for hours watching his place for some sign of life that never came. After a while even I had to get back to my daily life. With kids to raise and a husband to take care of our folk don’t spend too much time thinking of the business of others. I was a few chores pass caring when one day I’m out in the garden on my hands and knees digging up weeds and setting aside the good share and I feel a hand tap me on the shoulder. Naturally I think it’s Jean or one of the children with one of the many questions they’ll swear they can’t answer without me, so I don’t even look up, I just keep working, thinking that, like always they’ll start talking and I’ll start answering. I shivered harder than a child out the swimming hole when Mister Evans’ voice asks where Antoinette’s been and why she hadn’t been over to check on him the last few mornings or so. I say the first thing that come to my mind, “a few mornings? Mister Evans, It’s been more than a month of Sunday mornings since folks seen you around these parts” and he just smiled and say, “Anyways, I more than miss the early morning conversations with the child.” 36
By now I’m four sins pass terrified and can’t do more than stare at the man and he smiles back at me like the devil waiting for the next soul to possess. Just then Jean come from around the side of the porch and stop dead in his stride at the sight of Mister Evans or at least that’s who this man wanted me to believe he was, but I knew the truth even when dressed up in wolf’s fur. He sure enough look like Mister Evans but my people never been the type to ignore a feeling and this feeling was jumping in my face to be heard. Once Jean got his bearings, he kept towards us till he was standing in front of me the way he always does when he’s feeling like danger is too close for his liking. But, this was Mister Evans as sure as my eyes wanted me to believe. Jean had never stood in front of me to speak to Mister Evans less I wasn’t already doing the talking myself. I knew right then to hush and let Jean do the speaking for the both of us. After a while he walked Mister Evans over to his place and Jean waved a good bye at his doorstep instead of going inside like most of our folk had respect enough to do. That night, after the kids fell to sleep, Jean pulled me into the parlor and spoke to me the way a husband addresses his wife when he won’t accept anything other than his rules. “Sara,” he said “you will not send Antoinette to check on Mister Evans anymore. I won’t have it. It’d be wise for us all to keep our own business until things felt a little better.” I didn’t argue with Jean that night because I knew that he felt the same sort of prickling I couldn’t ignore out in the garden that morning and you don’t fuss with a man bent on protecting his family. Love held some of the strongest power for our kind. I don’t know if it was curiosity or pure fate that led me over to Mister Evans’ house in Antoinette’s place the next morning, but I never expected what took place next. Then again the devil never told anybody his secrets ahead of time and expect his plan to work anyways. As soon as I knock at Mister Evans’ door, I hear him moving towards the front of the house and his breathing get funny like he done swallowed something he didn’t mean to when it’s me at his door instead. The first thing he wanna know is where Antoinette is and why she hadn’t come along herself. I can’t rightly say that Jean won’t allow it, but I don’t say anything ‘cause somehow I know Mister Evans know the truth anyhow. Mister Evans’ staring me down like I owe him for a debt I never be free of. Right then I start to back away from his door step. But, he never leaves the door he just stands there staring at me like he had to remember to blink every time he did it unlike us regular folk. I didn’t breathe a steady breath until I touched the inside of my parlor and saw Jean sitting at the small side table head bent over one of his mother’s old book. Right away Jean could sense that something was wrong. In between unsteady breaths I finally give Jean just enough of the story to have him out the door and across the road quicker than most folks can think. A while later through the parlor window I see Jean cross the yard, but he don’t come inside instead he just sit out on the porch and stare at Mister Evans’ place and when I do go out to ask him what he’d saw, he just kept on watching the place. After a while he looked at me and say, “the place is empty Sara, Mister Evans gone.”
Submission Details Initiated in January 2005, Lions-on-Line is a literary collection of works by the College of Mount St. Joseph students and alumni published online with the cooperation of the English Department. Lions-on-Line is published online twice yearly, during the fall and spring semesters. When our budget allows, Lions-on-Line goes “in print”. We take submissions during all twelve months of the year. If you are currently a student or a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph and you would like to see your work published, you may submit your work to LOL simply by emailing poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction or digital artwork to LOL@mail.msj.edu. For full submission guidelines, consult our website. Lions-on-Line is always looking for new staff members! If you’re interested in joining Lionson-Line, please contact the faculty advisor, Elizabeth Taryn Mason, Ph.D. at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editors and Staff Poetry Editor:
Zachary A. McCoy
Creative Nonfiction Editor:
Emily Berning Lauren DiMenna Matthew Kohlmorgen Chase Stevens
Elizabeth Taryn Mason, Ph.D.
Lions-on-Line is a student-operated literary magazine out of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio.