The AlĂŠtheia Fall 2011 Editors Kristen Flack Megan Harrington Reyes Ramirez Faculty Advisor John Harvey For more information and work by students, please visit: www.thealetheiajournal.com Front & Back Cover by Chad Maydwell Special thanks to Dawn A. Szombathy
Contents 1 Emperor of Ice Cream by Juliet Childers 2 Instructions on Being Attractive & The Body as Economy by Edward Garza
3 Standoff by Christopher Oidtmann 4 The Sparrows by Sarah Nielsen & Untitled by Ana Villagomez
7 Cage by Chad Maydwell 8 Abstract by John Voltaire Paredes 9 Galatea by Boby Kalloor 10 Intruding on the Bear by Amanda Scott & Untitled by Josh Davis
11 An Introduction by Emily Zinsitz 12 Just So Weâ€™re Clear by Christopher Oidtmann 13 Tick-tic-clack by Andre Habet 14 Intruding on the Bear by Amanda Scott continued 15 Thoughts scatter by Stephen Cronin 16 Beauty by Justin Carter & Untitled by Ana Villagomez
Emperor of Ice Cream by Juliet Childers Inhabiting a world created by what is felt and never seen, I dug a hole between the colors black and white that I thought might lead to the other side of the scarred and broken earth the aged and dying man my father had become; a hole that led to a shade of grey where I was still a child only concerned with the DQ blizzard he promised me after dinner or how we took his two door 57 Chevy for a spin after ballet every Thursday. But he put me away with his acoustic guitar and his Casio keyboard the day I heard a pounding wall, stifled breath, and gasping thrusts when my mom wasn't home. Now he lies in a bed, half-dead and attached to a respirator, trying, as he has for years, to apologize; to break even. I am only here to claim the two door Chevy I once called "The Batmobile" and watch him die knowing the only truths in a world created by what we feel and never see are stoicism and ice cream.
2 Pieces of Fiction by Edward Garza Instructions on Being Attractive dor), or cocker spaniel. Oh, and Be great at smiling from nine keep a clean car. feet away. If you are skinny, learn something artistic, an instrument The Body as Economy maybe. Acoustic guitar. This is the This morning I shower with a only way to counteract thin biceps bar of soap: Irish Spring. I bought it and a concave chest. If you are last night from Wal-Mart. A red large, carry your weight smoothly. Range Rover rear-ended me on my Dance well. way home. The blow pounded my In a relationship, a female craves back, leaving me unable to bend two types of power: cognitive and over. Thus, today I scrub only the sexual. She may concede one, but essentials: face, neck, armpits, never both. Therefore, be slightly chest, penis, and balls. I theorize manipulable. Not manipulative – the lather should trickle down my manipulable. Affect a brutish as- body, cleansing every neglected pect. Not a domestic-violence-type inch. And indeed this occurs – but brutishness, but a Charlton Heston, only in a half-assed, temporary Planet-of-the-Apes-type brutishness. way. As I towel myself dry now, Females call this “manliness.” But my lower half feels, shall I say, unof course, maintain overall cogni- derserved. I conclude that in order tive strength. This or get with a for my entire body – from its highfemale only slightly more attractive est highs to its lowest lows – to feel than you. Are you a six? Then get clean, I must lather every inch, with a seven. Eight tops. A female even the unfortunate ones. Because who is only six pounds away from sure enough, by this time tomorlosing her appeal. Yes, she’ll know row, my toes smell like dead gupshe’s more attractive than you – pies. They, my calves, thighs, and that you are, in a way, insanely asshole have been severely lucky to be with her – but she’ll shortchanged. Indeed, I have disalso know how quickly she could covered the hard way that no part lose this advantage. Allow her only of the body can thrive on seconda façade of power. hand Irish Spring. Concerts, clubs, raves: these are Such an epiphany noted, let me the haunts of females. They like leave you with another proposithese places – loud places, places tion: Ronald Reagan’s toes smelled that exclude the verbal. And a dog like dead guppies. helps. Consider: the pug, beagle, retriever (both golden and labra2
Standoff by Christopher Oidtmann We sit on the porch drinking whiskey from red plastic cups staring at the arid dirt where an immense lake used to lap the shore. The water drained year by year, sinking into pebbly sand. A scorpion walks across the deck. He lives here, but we’re just killing time until one of us gets the balls to leave the house and buy more liquor to saturate the drought between us. It was like Provo all over again. Vacations like this can’t fix what’s wrong with us. They won’t clean up the mess back in our apartment where shards from a broken bottle lie scattered across dusty floorboards. Instead we hope the sun will evaporate whatever blood still flows under our bridge, the way it evaporated the dried up lake in front of us Leaving fractured patches of desiccated clay. We return to the city to tell friends how refreshed we are after our week in the sun, as we keep biting the inside of our lips drawing out just enough blood to moisten the soil.
The Sparrows by Sarah Nielsen Night fell on the Idaho road picnickers through empty winand the surrounding vast flatdow frames. The walls' shadows ness of the earth. We kept wrapped around us. We smoked driving. When we got to and the young ones didn't see us, Minidoka, we slept. In waking glancing at each other, inhaling, there was good rural Mormon looking at the horizon. cooking, with side pork Food came off the grill in fresh from the flesh. But deep baking sheets, all of it then their family continued to meat. There was some corn. In arrive, and it went far beyond the back corner of the yard near the women in the kitchen the fields there was a hole the and the men in the shed. size of a grave dug for The karaoke machine startroasting the pig but someed up on the sagging porch one was lazy or it didn't with those good old country happen for some other reaChristian tunes, crying Jesus son. Kids threw stuff in the and oh dear god. hole. We ate. So we left, went walking in Digesting, sucking pieces of the sugarbeet fields for a bit, sinew from between our teeth, and headed back when we drinking beer by the shed with couldn't take it, needing a cigathe unholy family, we continrette forgotten in the haste of ued ostracizing ourselves from heading out, praying the music the glorious religious right of would have run out of bad idethe rest. We smoked. Darkas on the walk back. ness floated down following We snuck around the empthe sun's lingering suggestion. ty field workAnd the kids er's apartc a m e ments streakw i t h i n g their across busted cott h e ton and spring yard from cots and rusted wathe apartter pipes, glass on the ments, jumping floor and mud nests in every cor- around us, their closed hands profner, nestled into each otherâ€™s' inside fered forth. One of them had been arms, smoking shiftily, eyeing the lost with his sister once for a few 4
days in their house when their par- ted them into the cup, made bug ents were too fucked up to find soup. A senile old woman stood them in the broken hell. The babe nearby tottering back and forth on had a mohawk and sinister eyes that tiny feet pointing at the air and saysaid something, asked for nothing, ing, â€œThere's one!â€? over and over. I took something else while you meat-injectored the liquid into the aren't looking. He held up his hands babies' mouths for a long time. stuck together with a cavity be- They gobbled and peeped softly and tween the palms, cracked the nest softer, huddling close and nestling open, showing the baby sparrows in for the night. held there in the cup, tiny bleeping We got to Petsmart past noon; fledglings full of gray terror, the it took hours to dodge rural hell cold absence of their nest, mama's with the truck and thirty-foot trailbelly's warmth gone. er in tow. Finally I got them the Another boy brought two more fledgling formula, the injector, a from his pockets. Another, the water bottle, a measuring cup, and smallest, had the smallest. finally, at last, I fed them again. I took them all, the birds and the And they made it through that day, children, and went to the apart- every quarter or half hour being fed ments where we had smoked in the by one of us as we moved down afternoon to escape the children. A into Nevada. I kept them on the chair was stacked on a chair on a floorboard between our seats, in box in the corner. Nests' remains front of the heater, nearer the lay shattered on the floors like warm engine. We spat at each othplates, feathers floating in the spit er a couple times, at the cost of the and clay fallout of daub and food, and the unspoken fear of curiosity. what might happen to them, how He got a box and I filled it with the birds took away from the work down, gathering the nestlings to- we had already promised each othgether, a peeping pentacle in the er. But we named them, in the center, all the while the backwoods parking lot of a saloon in the rough know-better beaten children's fa- patches of desert brush, where the thers telling me they wouldn't sur- people at the bar, the long-standing vive the night and sipping their city center with a busted sign, were cheap perspiring diet beers, grin- the only for miles in the midst of a ning. Leering. vast sea of brown tumbleweeds One of the children got a bed growing down upon them for gensheet, another the flashlight, a cup erations mercilessly and with with some water, a spoon. We got vengeance. We named them insects to fly onto the sheet, swatThe Sparrows continues on pg. 6 5
The Sparrows continued from pg. 5 at us, gulped and scuttled to the Lindie, Orville, JJ, Amelia, and edge of the featherbed to make Willie. And maybe we loved them healthy poop, snuggled close again more for the dreams of their flight. and slept, mouths opening and I woke just as we drove out on- c l o s i n g w i t h a w h i s t l e . to the alkali dustbowl sitting amidst Everyone made plans to go to three looming ranges of high rock, frog pond after work, but the labor black rock, seeing that great fell into the deep night and sleep expanse of open sand for the first went before the hot springs. time, home for the next unWe were loud later that night, knowns. We got lost heading for waking to each other and excited the lights of the mining town across for it. The wide open space above the basin, bypassing entirely the and around us, the fresh chill of border of the festival grounds. desert night fed and relieved our Hours passed, we broke ranks a bodies. We shook the airstream, few times for smoking, staring at made a ruckus, leapt and giggled bright stars burning, talking, wor- and bit at the air. And it was good. rying, returning to our own tracks The sun rose on the five empty and reconsidering. The orange bar- bodies of the birds, together in the rier and Here We Are At Last ap- same star we saw them settle into peared as the sun rose, so we filed that first time in their last home. ourselves away with the other That day I did not work. towed abodes and slept briefly after I wept sometimes, sparsely, the sex. hoarse cough of sorrow rattling my We fed the birds upon waking, dry frame. I became dehydrated. fed ourselves, found our worksite, My lips broke open and I licked at fed the birds, and acclimated to them constantly to stimy the stingdestitution, a place bereft of oxy- ing, knowing it would grow worse. gen and water and shade, taking A friend with a distant gaze wanbreaks to feed the birds. dered over at one point during The next day we began to build lunch and said he saw something in the temple, laying out the basic my spirit that reminded him of a hexagon for the central structure, sparrow. I hadn't told anyone that leveling and re-leveling the earth we brought the birds. He walked for eventual equal sustenance and away. support. And we fed the sparrows, My companion, my lover, cleaning the yellow food from their wordlessly worked himself sore, all faces before it cemented so quickly through the hot noon, until the sun in that place, there in the dearth of set in colors too joyous for such moisture. They peeped and looked absence. That night we went to 6
frog pond. Everyone from the work crew was already there, except the eight of us crammed in a hatchback hybrid SUV, weighing the box down so that it dragged the hitch hard on the train tracks in crossing. We winced and bounced and winced, wound around one another with limbs temporarily dying, pinched in places. We found ourselves standing naked, shy, awkward jokes, waiting in line for the slimed stairs descending into the hot water bearing minerals, the natural spring full of blessed lithium, and friends who brought booze. He drank Captain Morgan all the way back, hiccupping and holding his head, averting his gaze. He hadn't said anything about the birds all day. He didn't say anything about them that night. He hadn't said anything at all. He couldn't walk straight or without stumbling, so I supported his lank figure over one shoulder and we walked that way, four legs stepping out of line. I put him to sleep. And then I gathered the box, donned his coat so that some part of him would be
present, brought them to the burn barrel, and sat apart from the rest, rolling cigarettes and smoking them, drinking sometimes when the bottle came by. Paije took a block from the fuel pile and wrote "Bee's Baby" on it, making sure I saw what she was doing, trying to get me to edge closer and tell her my secret. I saw the secret she showed me that wasn't hers to share, was not her loss, was not her child, or her sadness to bear. I took five blocks and wrote: Lindie, JJ, Amelia, Willie, Orville. The fire burned brighter, rose higher, threw sparks, shadows as I threw the blocks in, everything to ashes, always there is dust. My fingers were black with soot as I pulled back from the flames, having laid the box on top of the name-emblazoned wood blocks that burned hot to bear away the smoke of clay nests. I sat, watching the cardboard box slowly peel away and turn different colors of the sparrow's last sunset. Then the straw and feathers of the nest caught, and at the end, there were five tiny imprints left behind on the daubed clay shaped like beaks. 7
Abstract by John Voltaire Paredes
Galatea by Boby Kalloor & Untitled by Ana Villagomez
Intruding on the Bear by Amanda Scott 1. The reader should take into ac- Only arguments are valid. count the broken limbs lying on the No arguments are true. floor. That he was going to be late Therefore, nothing is both valid and to work did not make me invisible true. to him. Luckily, I happen to shut the door just in time, and then I 5. Additionally, he later put his run. I still wonder what a hug from hand on her shoulder, squeezing as him on that if to pierce the day would most sensitive have been spot on the surlike, probaface or beneath bly like being the flesh, whichmulled by a ever he could bear. reach first. 2. I assumed that my dad was going into the garage to stare at these women while we slept as women in our beds at night. I felt lucky, for my motherâ€™s sake, when she asked me to get the vacuum from the garage because I stumbled onto curious treasures that did not belong in the school dumpster the next day.
6. He strolled into the corner store, bought a canister of pizza flavored Pringles and a packet of Kotex pads, stuffed the empty Pringles canister with the Kotex pads, and lit his torch on fire, waving it around as he sped down Rodeo Drive while he professed his new reign as the leader of the free world. This sort of undertaking could not have been carried out without a sizable dosage of crystal meth.
3. Sometime in 1970, her sister had eloped. 7. This particular one is not to be categorized in the same realm as 4. Valid argument form of logic: Intruding on the Bear 10
An Introduction by Emily Zinsitz The words drop like pearls From a foreigner’s mouth It is a curious sensation – Being told that you are loved. What else is there to say? It’s not an intimate confession Shared soft in the some sheltered nook Nor a mother’s whispered charm As she bids her sons to sleep It’s just a warm hand A feather-light kiss on the cheek A recognition – yes – You are human, so I will greet you as I can. Form sounds within this wordless space In what I know of your tongue That you may see me And understand that you are seen.
Just So We’re Clear by Christopher Oidtmann I’ve known you long enough, I can speak to you any way I likeI can create searing phrases on the tip of a forked tongue that lashes out, in, and out again, the sharp ends casting serpentine explanations here and there striding down the hall towards our bed where we left smoldering sheets. Our self-serving compromises listed in leather bound journals to chronicle a his and his litany of dashed hopes and good intentions penned on halcyon Sunday mornings, derived from banal Saturday nights spent waiting for tedious hours to pass while listening to the clock tic tock tic I’ll talk to you any way I like I’ve known you long enough.
Tick-tic-clack by Andre Habet John slapped me senseless I don’t how he did it We were talking about him two feet way and he had never heard before, He was blinded by Krishna at two the nurses couldn’t figure it out they prodded and poked poor psychopathic John which only caused his cotton entrails to fall and provide the hospitals with a year’s supply, John’s next action involved clean linens, ponies and baby shampoo, when being a serial killer didn’t work out he reformed and become a philosophy major that turned out well for John, He realized he was nihilistic, hedonistic, Platonic and Freudian, but at the age of 18 he learned he had learned Braille in reverse - a fiendish joke by his elementary school special needs teacher who found John’s stutter more annoying than birds singing in the morning
when you’re trying to sleep off a hangover. John was devastated. He tried to drill through his head. Unfortunately, he used a Truper and not a Philips drillwhich would have done the trickand only succeeded in screwing up his hearing. His smell and taste were ruined through obvious means, - a toaster and bad advice from his motherthat I don’t need to get into but poor John was a loser for sure, We made certain that he knew that by any means we had available. We read Helen Keller’s biography just to learn how to fuck with him Turns out we taught him too well my mind echoes as it rattled in its case it bit the bars and clanged a cup clclclclclclclclclclclclc Shush!! I can’t afford a new set.
Intruding on the Bear continued from pg. 10
those published under names like Hugh Hefner, with respect to Larry Flynt. 8. They were not sad tears; they did not pile up or flood everything like water in a ditch on the side of the road, rather they flowed calmly like a river relaxing my body as I let it push me around. By this time, I was able to believe that he might be comfortable inside the church with everyone there watching. I thought about reading him some passages that I thought could speak to him like the easy mindlessness of a children’s story, but I could not change twenty five years of complacency. He poked around me a bit, so I just let myself forget that I was trying.
door behind me, he was already coming around the staircase, waving his arms around like some kind of bear. He asked if I could come back in half an hour, but I stayed away for the rest of the day. I guess I thought that I should give him enough time to clean up the mess he said he had made in the living room. I cried uncontrollably that night, and tried to stay away from the garage. 12. Having been still that whole time, the squirrel looked as if it were surely going to ravage the scene as onlookers threw out nuts with little care, only to find that the pile had remained untouched, and the squirrel had scampered off somewhere.
13. This incident is only mentioned to affect the physical sensibility of the reader. The mind should be left 9. “Rose is a rose is a rose is a to wander freely. rose” (Gertrude Stein, Sacred Emily) 10. The mother had no patriarch in her life, and now the daughter was without as well. She says I should not mention this to you. 11. It had happened again, but I should not be thinking about it again. I came home from school early that day, and figured he would be painting. He was not. Before I could even shut the front 14
Thoughts scatter by Stephen Cronin like nanites tunneling through the streams of my electrochemically driven consciousness. Each programmed to fulfill their designated assignment, from the central mass of mental energy; blue. Tastes like shimmering. I am the young man below the moving shroud of dense potential; suckling dunes enveloping my feet; reasoning tainted with the deliciousness of connection manifesting waves of supreme ridiculousness. My feet sinking through the sand (And it's beautiful.) Concepts form, independent of my perception of self, from the soft chalky skin of fruit yet discovered. Can I perceive the unperceivable? Screaming and rippling throughout the universe; pulsating. My feet sinking through the sand (And this is beautiful.)
Beauty by Justin Carter There they were in 1969 curled up on the beige couch hands locked tight while three children peeked their heads around the corner, the hair of the youngest standing straight up like the yellowed mane of the lion they had seen at the zoo on the families last vacation, before they lost thousands to the oil bubble. The world is such a transient place. They moved into a small apartment that summer with no television to entertain them and would play checkers for hours every day and laugh whenever the youngest son jumped all his fathers pieces.
The AlĂŠtheia staff would like to acknowledge and thank:
The Center for Creative Work www.thehonorscollege.com/ centerforcreativework
The Center for Creative Work offers courses and programs designed for Honors students interested in a critical and interdisciplinary arts environment. The CCW provides workshops, directed studies, art outings, retreats and signature events such as the Dionysia that bring together great books and creative minds. The Honors College www.uh.edu/honors
The Honors College at the University of Houston is a nationally recognized, intellectually stimulating learning community. As a vibrant, leading presence within the University, the Honors College attracts highly talented and motivated students and educators to a collegial environment where tradition is honored and possibilities are both realized and created. 2011 Artists and Their Regions Class
The AlĂŠtheia Literary and Arts publication seeks to provide a voice for all students at the University of Houston by offering: a monthly online publication where students and their work are featured and showcased, semesterly chapbook releases, and more, we hope to nurture a lively, interdisciplinary arts environment. For exclusive content, student and alumni spotlights, or to submit to monthly, online editions, visit our website: www.thealetheiajournal.com The deadline for the Spring 2012 chapbook is: December 4, 2011