Ball State University Undergraduate Literary Magazine Spring 2007
Editors Andy Clark-Wischnia Kristyn Cloud Liz Combs-Cawley Drew Davis Erin Eickleberry Courtney Elizabeth Hitson Nate Logan Katie Marsh Kate Marshall Bri Rudd Matthew Trisler
Faculty Advisor Mark Neely
Graduate student Advisors Sarah Chavez xue qiao
Cover Photo Jenn shafer
introduction The search for a name for Ball State’s literary magazine ended when a plate shattered on the floor of a local coffeehouse. Since then, The Broken Plate has evolved from an online magazine, run by volunteers, to a print version edited by students in English 489, the Practicum in Literary Editing and Publishing. The one constant has been that every step of the process—the writing, editing, design, even the cover photography—has been the work of Ball State University undergraduates. We are glad that you are reading this issue and keeping this story alive. And we hope you enjoy the work of these talented writers as much as we did.
Banana Ritual Silhouettes In the Morning Mist Pillow The Double Lid Shoes Internet Trading Cards The Forest A Minor Fugue The Life and Times of Patricia Inopportunity An Offer to Sheila Suburban Stay Here Dolly Partonâ€™s Breasts Quinnâ€™s Pretty Coat Ode to Sal Mineo Lovely
6 7 14 16 17 18 21
Kerry Pritchard Tony Settineri Joshua Chatwin Nick Davidson Nick Davidson Bob Miller Bob Miller
22 Nick Davidson 23 Tim Birkel 36 Bob Miller 38 39 40 42 45
Katie Kowalski Michael Hallenbeck Andrew Kmiec Brian Parkison Louis Jordan
47 Meghan McCarty 50 Louis Jordan 51 Erica Spriggs
Dear Joe, What about mustaches? Real thick black ones that curl up into little loops on the ends, that come out and make our faces look slimmer? Or wigs, we could try wigs, real curly ones. Or maybe just one real curly one for you, and one long straight one for me. But if we do that we might as well just stuff some bras with tissues and wear flower-print skirts that I could get from Goodwill. Or what about masks? But how would we get away? We’d have to sneak past Dena and Charlotte (my boss and your owner, in case you forgot their names), but that’d be tough. I could borrow a pickup truck, back it up to your stall in the middle of the night, and you could lie down in the bed. Or I could rent a U-Haul truck, and you could just hang out in the trailer, in a pile of those blue blankets they give you when you rent a truck and say that hey, we’ve got lots of tables with sharp corners, we’re gonna need some blankets. I don’t know, though. That’s so risky. They could probably track us down on the road somewhere. I mean, all they need is a map, you know? A map and some determination, or bloodhounds, or something. What about a hot air balloon? I could land in the cow pasture next door, in the middle of the night, and we’d be out of there like a fart in the wind. Or better yet, we could do it in the middle of the day, to make it real dramatic, to inspire all the other horses. Yeah, I’ll land in the field in the middle of the day, and everybody’ll be excited, and you’ll be in your paddock, that tiny, muddy paddock. You can jump right over that goddamn electric fence that says you can’t go any farther, right into the basket of the hot air balloon while all the other horses look on, stunned. Then you should yell out “Viva la revolución!” or “Freeeeeeddddoommmmm!” or something dramatic and heroic like that. Dena and Charlotte will shake their fists at us, but we won’t care, we’ll be out of there, gone, like dew by the afternoon.
Yeah, I like that. A hot air balloon. I’d have to make sure to bring all your pieces with me so I could put you back together while we hover over the country. Have I ever told you about that, Joe? That I like to think that you’re made of Legos? That you’re just a big brown thoroughbred horse made of a million little bricks that snap together? This makes it easier for me every time a piece of you falls off. I mean, it’s not like “Whups, there goes a rib,” or anything. But every morning when I lead you out and you don’t act up, every time I pat you on the side and say, “Good boy, Joe,” because you don’t buck and rear, I feel my chest sink, like I’m slowly killing you, like I’m chipping away at your heart till someday there’ll be nothing left except a shell. You of all horses should know that it’s not your breed, or your four legs, or your tail, or your long nose of so many poor jokes that makes you a horse. It’s your heart and soul, Joe. I know you hate it when I get all sentimental, but you know that it’s the truth. If I think you’re made of Legos, if I think you’re just bricks that can easily be put back together, it helps me. If I can’t get you out before it’s too late, Joe, then someday I’ll gather the bricks in my arms, carry them somewhere where the sun shines through clouds to make the sky purple and orange and thirst quenching, like sherbet, and I’ll put you back together. I promise you that. -Tony Dear Joe, You’re probably nervous about the whole thing. But trust me. I can do this. I can get you out. Now, I won’t be able to stay with you, Joe, once we get wherever it is we’re going. I’m probably being pretty presumptuous in assuming you’d want me to stay with you anyway, but in case you do, I want you to know beforehand that I won’t be able to hang around. The liberator and the liberated must always separate. It never works out when they stay together. I don’t have any specific examples to cite, I’m just being melodramatic. It’s part of my character. Please don’t judge me for it. I don’t like it, but I’m trying to change. 8
It’s weird, because I jump back and forth from being dramatic and romantic to being cold and realistic. I guess that’s just a different way to say I don’t know how to balance my idealism with my cynicism. My problem is that sometimes I feel sorry for myself, and sometimes I feel sorry for the poor saps who feel sorry for themselves. I don’t know if I told you, Joe, but I’m broke. My dad just lost his job, and I fucked myself over with the ranch job for this summer. Between work and school I only get about four hours of sleep a night. But can I really complain about all this? I mean, I’m broke, but I have this farm job that has allowed me to know you, and I’m healthy, and have the ability and desire to work hard. My dad lost his job, but there are lots of people without jobs who are in worse situations than we are. I lost the ranch job in Wyoming, but I was a dick to the boss on purpose because 1) He’s new, an asshole, and I don’t like him, and 2) I was too scared to say no to the job even though I didn’t want it. But now I’m free. Now I can do anything. I still only get four hours of sleep a night, though. Tired is tired. I guess I just feel like I’m confined, you know, inside my own life. With all the things you do in your life, whether it’s your job or your education or your goals, eventually you ask yourself, Why? Whose obligations am I living by? Am I doing this all for myself, or for my parents, or my girlfriend, or fuck, for God? I guess what I’m saying is, I think I know how you feel. -Tony Dear Joe, What about New Zealand? I heard it’s nice in New Zealand. I could let you go in the hills, or whatever they’ve got down there. I could become a bartender in Auckland. I hear they make good money. You know, I went to the doctor last Thursday, for my throat infection, and they told me I have high blood pressure. Said a kid my age shouldn’t have high blood pressure. Said I’ve lost weight, 9
too. Seven pounds. I guess that’s what happens when you can’t afford any food beyond rice and tuna fish. You get sick of it after a week and stop eating. How much does a steak go for in New Zealand? Could a hot air balloon make it that far? How’s New Zealand sound to you? I wonder what it’s like to fall from a hot air balloon. Would you feel free, if only for a second, before you realized there was no way out? What’s scarier: the actual fall, or the knowledge that that’s it, you’re done? Do you think bodies really go “splat!” when they break against the sidewalk? Speaking of breaking things, did you ever notice, Joe, that a trained horse is called ‘broke’? I guess it’s fitting. I wish I could give you these letters. I wish I could give you something other than those goddamn pats on the shoulder. I rub your nose with genuine affection. I hope you know that. -Tony Dear Joe, What about Mexico? We could go to Mexico, and get lost in Chihuahua, Durango, even Zacatecas. The U.S. is no good. The free ranges in Nevada are a bad idea. The government hunts horses in the free ranges from helicopters, capturing them and selling them to various kinds of buyers. The old ones go to glue factories, or dog food factories, or are shipped overseas as a delicacy. The young ones get sold to people, who break them. We can’t go to Nevada, Joe. We can’t take the risk. What if the hot air balloon tears? What if the engine burns out, or we run out of fuel and start descending rapidly over New Orleans or something? We could stand on our heads and fart into the balloon, but I don’t know what we would need to eat to keep that up long enough. Maybe if you farted, and I held a lighter… So many plans, Joe, so many plans. Can we really plan something like this? Can we coordinate freedom in any sense of the word? And what is freedom? Is it simply more space? I see how you look longingly at the horses next door. I notice the way you tilt your head so you can use your one good eye to look east, 10
to watch them run around in their big pasture, in their grass and acreage. But there’s still a fence there, Joe. How far do we have to go to find a place that’s big enough for you? And how long before even that becomes too small? I want to give you everything, Joe. I’m just worried that it won’t be enough. -Tony Dear Joe, You leave me shaken too often. When you run out of your stall, already rising on your hind legs, I fear that you’re going to break your neck against that short sloping ceiling. When you stand against the side of your paddock, cold and shivering, too tired and desolate to even eat your hay, I fear that you’re going to dissolve. Or last Wednesday, when I opened your stall door and saw the streak of blood like a message, like a violent warning to the Angel of Death, to the people who keep you inside your cell, to me. You paced, angry and panicked like always, and the blood dripped onto my hands when I tried to calm you. It didn’t even seem real. It was the melted wax of a crayon rolling out of your nostril like madness. It was violence and anger, it was energy and electricity. Joe, I was afraid. Joe, please. Calm down, Joe. Calm down. There I go again, trying to kill you. I’m sorry. -Tony Dear Joe, It’s half-past two on a Tuesday afternoon, and I’ve slept through class again. Fuck. That’s four absences now, which means I’m losing points. I’m gonna fail. I know it. I’m gonna fail. I’m never gonna get a degree. I’ll have to donate blood as a part-time job. I’ll have to learn the benefits of paper over plastic. I’m screwed. This is stupid. I’m not gonna fail. I’m not gonna quit. I can’t just drop out of school because it’s getting a little tougher. I can’t run away anywhere. There’s no place without its problems. 11
But there’s got to be something better than this, right? My mom called last night to ask how I was doing, and I said, “Shitty.” She asked me to explain, but that didn’t help anything. I only felt ashamed. I hate explaining my problems to people. What do they care, anyway? They’ve got their own to keep them up all night. Who’s to say I even have problems? The things that bug me, that worry me, are things that somebody else might long for. Like when you’re lonely, and you fantasize about fighting with your girlfriend because she bought yellow mustard instead of deli-style brown. Because you know that the benefits of love are worth all the inadequate hot dogs. Joe, the problems of our lives, our roles, our expectations, are worth it. We should be glad we get the chance to be worried. It could be worse. Like what if there were no worries? I heard once that in life the right thing and the hard thing are usually the same thing. That’s a walking cliché, I know, but clichés are used all the time for a reason. The right things always entail some worry, some fear. It takes guts to stand up for what you believe is right. And it’s scary when you find that sometimes you’re the only one standing. Remember, Joe, I’m up there with you. Some people spend their whole life trying to eliminate the hard things, trying to get rid of problems, of worry, of fear. Like the people on Dr. Phil. You know what I haven’t heard in a while, Joe? A story about a guy climbing to the top of a mountain to ask a monk about the meaning of life. That’s because people have said, “Fuck the mountain, it’s too hard!” Now they go to the self-help section at Barnes and Noble. I think we need worry and fear. They keep us grounded, let us know we’re not invincible. They keep us humble. Maybe that’s what I see in you, Joe. Humility. You’re not like the other horses. You’re not showing off when you buck and rear. You don’t pace back and forth in your stall because you want your food, and now. I think you’re like me. You’re looking for something in this world, something outside of you, to reassure you that the things you feel 12
inside of you are good. And you feel like you’re running out of time. I’m here to let you know that it’s okay, Joe. Someday all the warming, lifting, sinking beauty inside of you will be set free, will go back into the universe and it will all make a little bit more sense. I was told that this is what happens when we die. But you and me, Joe, we don’t want to wait that long. -Tony Dear Joe, What about face paint?
IN THE MORNING MIST In the morning mist The fountain emerges and retires by the lilac Smoke-sunk cloud, Looking like the silent ocean sludge Tirelessly dancing in the garden. The garden Where so much depends on rusty pipes of decades gone by Delivering precious water embezzled from streams And creeks and lakes. Black mold sticks to the spot where she stands, Like a thorn in the forehead of a martyr. She carries a basket Where bones and hearts and all such parts Are kept, with depraving eyes, Like a soulless cannibal Glaring through my existence. Gallivanting in the garden Between her mystery sheets Letting moans of pleasure erase my breathing, Thin air. Thin air. She speaks of Caravaggio before whispering, â€œI must go. I must go.â€? And like the lilac Smoke-sunk cloud, she vanishes by the blink Of an eye, Leaving a hopeless erection, a false hope of claiming what is pure. The sun fades and the garden, Smelling of lustful mildew,
Returns to the decay of the world, Leaving a sterile mind clean-slated and weary. She speaks of Caravaggio before whispering, â€œI must go. I must go.â€?
nICK dAVIDSON 16
pILLOW The wind makes my pillow as long as my pen keeps moving there is nothing I can do but build my wings and fly so much for ham sandwich mustache wings on the apron I set out last Sunday having the wherewithal of an open-penned goat-herder walking further into the tunnel furry giblets (what are they) race across the fields Words are so absurd crawling sideways on the rim of heavy crusted stars reflected on the black soiled earth thereâ€™s a thumping in my ear and I canâ€™t tell how just how I got from one place to the next Freud asked me about my mother but I said nothing He wanted me to know that kittens will always be themselves even in an ocean of sponges that soak up the world and its terrors its sad depressions of valleys stamped into us by a weighty foot I have known this all along and I must keep moving keep moving keep moving so much for a comfortable pillow to hold the heaviness of my brain at night while I wake up to that other world in strange sorrow and misgivings of heart
A double lid floats between my eyes and the world, and it’s clear and crisp and bright. It’s a strange thing to see the blurred edges stiffen and go rigid in the dark, in the soft yellow light under the street lamp. It’s another world entirely. Now it’s as unreal as looking through a window to a street and car and homes, and to the highway beyond, the existence of which I’m inclined to doubt. It’s as if a concave screen has been placed over my eyes, a film of some world that moves as I turn my head this way and bends as I bend, but which lacks any substance. I find I had not known myself; I find the lines of bark are a beautiful maze. But the evil is clearer too, and more tempting, and some I hadn’t known before at all. I can only describe its appearance: A gray blanket fractured in a million dark folds. No, I cannot trust this new sight. It is a beautiful thing. It’s true, I desire the blurred extremities where things are safe, where I know the shadows are only shadows and the slight ripple in the wall as I move by it is only that and no explanation needed, because there is nothing more.
THE DOUBLE LID
our thanks The editors would like to express our deep appreciation to the following donors for their patronage:
Marj and Homer Hiner
Michael Hertel and Joelynn Gifford
We would also like to thank the English Department and Printing Services for their guidance and support.