The Kudzu Review: Issue No. 63

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2019 2019 2019 2019 2019


Florida State University 600 W College Ave Tallahassee, Florida 32306 Copyright © by The Kudzu Review

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Nicholas Holt

Jetsam, Possum, Flotsam

Margaret Smith

Grape Jelly

Kristin Kehl

hearth / home

Nicholas Holt


Ezekiel Joiner

me and Pat walking back to the hotel

Rachel Weinberg

A Toast to Garnier Fructis Air Dry Detangler

Brianna Minuse


Parker Logan

Visit Orlando!


Labelle, FL

Ashley-Marie Poitevien

Wrong Number


On my new life as “The Loser.”

Abigail Radunz


ART ART ART ART ART ART Amanda Corbo Karina Deschamps Eunique Durbin Roan Vaughan Sophia Rogers April O’Gorman





for Jonathan


I remember, so long ago, but yesterday somehow, the shade of blue that painted your face as a red candy lodged in your throat, the look in your eyes like you knew you were going to die at eight years old in the neighbor’s house on a Tuesday afternoon as your older sister watched from the kitchen table. Eventually you spit it back up and we never told mom and dad but it left a strawberry-scented saliva stain on Mrs. Patrick’s white carpet. I hold it in the back of my throat still, this first memory of death and all of the ways we’ve tried to forget it, and, years later, the sound of your footsteps outside the bathroom door, listening for my breath through the wood grain as I lay on cold tile clutching a bottle of pills. It is like this that we keep each other alive, not jumping into the burning house, but standing outside, feeling

the heat from the flames, letting ash and dust collect in the lungs. We have the same nose and when we see each other we are always waving from inside car windows, each time so different from the last. Consider the red stain. Consider the red stain in the house on fire. Consider the feeling, settled deep in the paths of your throat, at the top of your lungs, and know that I am here, still breathing, yes, still watching from the kitchen table, from the car window, from the living room couch scratched up by the dog, from Christmas morning when the dog died, from across the hall as our parents sent tornadoes through the house. Understand that two sides of the same branch are still opposite, and how every day there is a new tree to burn, and a new house to build, and how a kitchen table can be other things, like a promise made in silence, a breath just out of reach, a red Tuesday afternoon.





A yellow morning is spilling through the windows at Krispy Kreme and I’m opening my mouth to yawn but a possum is barreling down through the ceiling and falling right into the glaze machine like jetsam; the cashier is yellin’ and a drop of glaze is splashing perfectly against my uvula like a one hundred & two story hawk of phlegm on concrete and as I retch I think

Didn’t I read that’s good luck somewhere? I’m hacking out a laugh but now I’m realizing the poor thing must have either died on the way down or died on impact or died all burned up in that molten glaze, but either way it’s dead on the end of the conveyor washed up like sugary flotsam, fossilized like one of those sucker flies who got trapped in sap when dinosaurs were all the rage, and I wonder if this possum has it all figured out — oh, sometimes I have this dream where I’m standing in a line of forty billion people and at the end is a very long tapestry, and each of us are holding a tiny length of string; I know forty billion is a lengthy queue but sometimes the ones in front of me will turn into ash or get hit by a bicyclist but sometimes I’ll witness someone add their stitch and I don’t know if that’ll be me but I do know that when I wake up my alarm clock sounds a lot like bike bells.



I wanna spread grape jelly through your hair down to your ears until you can’t hear me say grape is my favorite flavor my mom would send me into the junior food store with a five-dollar bill and I’d come out with a bag of cool ranch doritos and a purple fanta and she’d let me keep the change. if I had that change now, I’d buy gushing grape hubba bubba bubble tape and measure every inch of you and blow the biggest bubble you’ve seen.


honey, I wanna put you in the toaster and then scrape off your burnt edges and watch the char fall from your crust, and do it again for the sake of your undone skin.



listen— the floor is lava. they all call me childish. they tell me

it’s time to move

on but I know volcanoes erupt even after thousands of years. though dormant, I dare the deep rumble then rampage at me. stillness makes some at ease but some go mad in suspense. I jump to the cashmere couch & remember mt vesuvius & mt st helen & mt krakatoa’s magma emerging as the earth moved a p a r t ortogether. this isn’t the same living room but to tether myself to furniture is to make this place home. arms around my knees against my chest, awake.

I wait

for the explosion to they say your

sock covered feet cause a RUCKUS.



NICHOLAS HOLT The best English teacher in Eggshell was a fishing rod I got from an uncle who either didn’t like fishing anymore or caught the gout, I don’t remember, but I do remember learning punctuation: it’s the plip of the bait breaking the surface; he’d read somewhere that punctuation was the music of language, and he’d always moan about how he wasn’t an entry in the encyclopedias as a stringed instrument, and I remember thinking his lecture on verbs was musical too; they’re the whizz of the line flitting like a plummeting dragonfly — a thunk on the water — and adjectives, those were the little red tourniquets ringing my fingers from frustrated line-tying, and then he’d ask if I was doing what I wanted or what the line wanted, and I’d tell him that he’s annoying, and before too long he taught me about the hanging participle, which is what he called the worm when it wriggled on the hook, and we would laugh & laugh & laugh like ten happy frogs on a moss covered log.


BACK TO THE HOTEL ME AND PAT WALKING BACK TO THE HOTEL EZEKIEL JOINER It was his first time in Mexico City and the casino quit serving drinks at three-thirty. We pride ourselves on being able to walk in a strait line and having spoken enough Spanish to gamble away the money for a cab ride home. I told him it was safe to walk back since we didn’t have any money and he told me about the first time he’d heard jazz. He said listening to it was like the whole world put on a silk dress and wanted to go dancing. I told him about ancient jaguars chewing roots to unlock consciousness and he tells me about how he thinks that some rats are reincarnated from people, and how you can tell is by the color of their eyes. Then he told me about his most recent love and how her leaving branded his heart and nobody dipped it in water. I remember thinking that I should’ve told him that his heart will cool, or that rain clouds can only cover so much earth, but instead I reached for the fifty-peso chip in my pocket and handed it to him. Told him not to spend it all in one place.


A TOAST TO GARNIER FRUCTIS AIR DRY DETANGLER My Whirlpool dishwasher cleans the fine China I found at Goodwill last Sunday a bit more indulgently than I wash myself in the steam behind the clear floral curtain

pod and through the floorboards I hear their squeaky-clean squeaks and follow suit milking baby pink cream onto a loofah and again

with mold peeking through its rings, rung modestly above the seafoam green tub where fog fondles my joints, turning me to wet clay.

to the soft pits of my willing knees and elbows, scrubbing sweet nothings away from my wrists and earlobes, eyes closed until chamomile

A mold of myself made in the sharp grapefruit and mimosa mint makes me sneeze in response to the mop of detangled hair leaking like hell

suds are the only remanence of the pulses that kiss my wrists. The same shape and pout and pucker from lower to upper, that stained the wineglasses

on the back of your pajama shirt, my pillowcase, over your left breast and on the tip of my nose. Fingers slick from conditioner greasing

cling clang cheersingthen sipping slow on the stench of tomato-chunk red sauce and left-overs

scalp then collar bones, then shoulder blades for five to eight minutes, pans still simmering with cooking oil in the fuss of a mid-May

still on their dishes, served soppy, watching the mugs fill all the way up and bubble over, mimicking the water trickling down my left shoulder

shower with light clogging the only window like half here half-there hair down the drain. All the while spoons and forks make love to a Cascade dish-detergent

tickling the line of my ribs a jacuzzi pooling in my navel, catching like a pot placed under a leak. And just like that everybody got clean.




I don’t remember it much but my dad tells me it freaked the neighbors out. I must have put on a show screaming at nothing in the middle of our street because they stopped letting me babysit their kids. When I woke up I was crying and covered in dirt and the streetlamp was so bright I was certain I had died. My dad tells me I was yelling for my mom, who was asleep in the house and not out in the street at two in the morning. There is a latch on our front door now and the neighbors still clutch their rosaries when they see me. My mom says God probably doesn’t know they exist. I sometimes think that I am more like her than I want to be, brown-eyed and disconnected and doing everything wrong. I haven’t spoken to the neighbors in years but I heard that one of their kids drowned in the pool while they were at church. I still lay on the floor some nights, can feel the carpet turning into dirt, feel the streetlight flooding my bedroom like a memory that has not yet gone missing where my mother was not asleep in the house but exactly where I was looking for her, halfconscious and clawing at dust, thirteen and barefoot in my pink robe.



Visit Orlando home of swamp smoke and Alligator teeth like nostalgia beaded into a necklace on display at a gift shop: Orange Avenue bottled, OBT on towles in windows--

in quarters, don’t even have a dime to get you the rest of the way home. Visit Orlando. See the people. See the rides. It only takes a moment and 500 workers to make a moment.

where Donald Duck whips stripper money over Tomorrow Land and the carousel ponies as he rides to the top of the ferris wheel at Fun Spot screaming, “it’s huge!” like a duck mad on the power of his quack, the price

Visit the Haitian motorcoach driver obsessed with the Puerto Rican boarding rep at the airport. He wants to shove his foot in her pussy. Visit the crackhead on Vineland who’s buck ass naked by the castle at Medieval Times

of a hamburger ten dollars apiece the price of a good time more than you’d think because everyday is paradise, because everyday is the best day even if you only lose one tooth,

Visit Orlando in the summer. Visit Orlando in Spring. Hulk Smash. Goofy h’yuck. Mi pana in the orange traffic vest, my friend, little girl, big dumb, holding a red stop sign with her hand held into a fist and walking off into the road

even if the whole family finds themselves stranded in absolute bliss between the danger of an idea and the reality of a toll booth, reaching into the cupholder realizing you don’t have 1.50

and she’s bundled in her sweater though it’s 85 degrees, and she’s tired (I can tell by the circles under her eyes like plums begging the question begging the notion, begging, pleading to get the fuck out of here).







Labelle sits an hour away from beaches and thirty minutes from the second largest, naturally occurring, freshwater lake in the United States. It’s made of winding streets that dodge twisting oaks, that hide tiny cul-de-sacs with blue and teal houses, with yards of yellow-green grass. You learn to drive four-wheelers and Jeeps with sun-faded bumpers in an abandoned neighborhood with nothing but cracked pavement and empty frames. At night, it turns into racetracks hidden by far-off streetlamps, underneath a thick blanket with thousands of stars burning through the deep blue sky. You eat gorditas y tacos de cerdo at Las Gemelas across from the rodeo grounds. In January, the grounds turn into a jungle under stadium lights. This is where you see your first snow flurry. The snowflakes don’t make it to your tongue. Cow pastures and orange groves turn into a child’s playground. You take spontaneous carpools on backroads to second and third homes. You camp every year for Easter and take hayrides on Halloween and invade food trucks every other Thursday. At the end of February, you gorge on fried swamp cabbage at the Swamp Cabbage Festival while you listen to the sheriff’s band play. At night, you entertain yourself at the Redneck Yacht Club, mudding in rusted pickups with blue cans of Bud Light. Ditches flood during the wet season. You turn them into swimming pools, and amoebas swim into your ears and nose. Kids raise cows and pigs for the slaughter and raise goats for ice cream flavored with mint and swirled with chocolate chips. Fundraisers mean World’s Finest Chocolate for a dollar, or car washes at the Winn-Dixie. You take siblings or cousins to the playground, to escape their smoke-filled homes with walls covered in holes in the shape of fists. A month before graduation, you hear about the shooting of a senior at the Shell station at the edge of town. You witness a senior die on impact in a car crash. You’re told about a freshman who kills himself. You avoid eye contact with the one cashier at the Dollar Tree who used to stare at you down the aisle of flat two liters and stale chips. You went to the one high school in town and you all shared lockers and exhausted teachers because the school was running out of space for your bodies. But you still miss it, and maybe it’s because you miss riding the winding backroads. Maybe it’s because you miss the jungle under the bleachers. Maybe you miss the childhood that you lost as soon gained it, because when you drive through Labelle you see those memories of simpler times, but you see the bodies there too.





CASEY: High school senior, 18. Extremely smart, usually very practical. Dependable, relatable, very average teenage girl. ARIEL: Early 20s, sexy, sassy, seductive. Figment of CASEY’s imagination. Outlandish. LILY: High school senior. CASEY’S best friend. She does NOT see ARIEL. MICHELE: CASEY’S mother. Supportive, sweet. Slightly helicopter mom. CLIENT 1: The male client on the other end of the phone, interested in the online ad. CLIENT 2: The male client on the other end of the phone, interested in the online ad. *CLIENT 1 and CLIENT 2 should be a different client every time they walk on stage. Simple costume changes, etc.

Lights up. CASEY and LILY walk into CASEY’S bedroom with their backpacks. CASEY’s room has various posters and artwork hanging around the walls, some dirty laundry scattered about and a massive bookcase filled with SAT prep books, and some of her favorite novels. LILY Hey so how’d your advising go today? Mine sucked. CASEY It wasn’t bad. I just need to convince Mrs. Stevens to write me a really good recommendation letter. LILY Convince her? She loves you! You’re like her best student. Plus, you could probably get into literally any school. I’ve known you since Kindergarten, and you’ve never gotten below an A-. CASEY True, thanks Lil. I just don’t know how I’m gonna pay for all these applications. I’m gonna have to get a job or something.

LILY What is it? CASEY I just got this really weird text from some random number.

CLIENT 1 enters. CASEY shows LILY the text. While LILY reads the text, CASEY takes her laptop out and types the link to the ad. CLIENT 1 “Hi Ariel. I saw your ad on and I’m interested in taking you out for dinner. I’ll give you 5K. Let me know, thanks.” CASEY Oh my god (reading ad), “Ariel Starr. This flexible, busty babe will give you a bang for your buck. For a good time, call this sultry redhead at 515-323-1..5..” Oh my god. This is my phone number. How the hell did this happen?! LILY

(laughing) Oh my god. I guess she just wrote it wrong. Oo, I wonder how she dresses!

CASEY’S phone dings and she looks at the text. She begins to get visibly distracted. LILY notices CASEY staring at her phone.

CASEY Same, she doesn’t have any pictures on her ad.


(mumbles to herself while staring at the phone) What the hell?

LILY She probably wears bodysuits and…

CASEY Oo, a miniskirt! LILY

CASEY’S phone dings 3 times. LILY Look at all these people responding to Ariel’s ad!

(slight laugh) It’s probably fake leather. CASEY’S phone dings again. ARIEL walks into the room wearing all of the things the girls describe her wearing. CASEY doesn’t notice her yet.


(laughing) Look at this one! This guy is offering you like $100 to kiss your feet! CASEY And she has a feather boa! Do escorts wear boas? Is that a thing? A feather boa is thrown to ARIEL from offstage. She looks at the feather boa, confused.

CASEY Not my feet, Ariel’s feet. ARIEL It could be your feet.


(throwing the boa off of her) Uh, no. Definitely not a thing.

Lights down on LILY, she freezes in place.

CASEY turns and notices ARIEL. She is putting on lipstick, looking at her makeup, etc.

CASEY No, what the hell?!


ARIEL Your number is in my ad so you’re getting all of my business. If you were smart, you’d just pretend to be me and take all the money for yourself.

(noticing ARIEL, startled) Ariel? ARIEL Live and in person...well, sort of.

CASEY Why would I do that?

ARIEL Do you realize how much I make? You can do so much with that money. You’re a nerd, I don’t a bunch of fancy calculators or something. Mayyybe even pay for all those college applications you’ve been worrying about. CASEY But how would that even work?! Don’t escorts have sex with their clients? I’m not doing that. ARIEL I don’t sleep with my clients...well, not most of them. You don’t have to have sex with anyone. (taking the phone from LILY and handing it to CASEY) This guy just wants your barely legal feet. CASEY But I don’t even know how to talk like an escort! How would I respond to this guy?

LILY What, why?! CASEY

(looks to ARIEL for reassurance) Why not? If these people are gonna be blowing up my phone, I might as well make some money from it. LILY

(hesitant) Okay, but what would you even say to him? CASEY

(attempting to be seductive) Um..”Hey...babe. I’m not in town right now but... uhh (looking to ARIEL for help) ARIEL “..but if you send me the money now, I can give you a cute lil preview”

Lights back up on LILY, she unfreezes. CASEY and LILY look over the text together. CLIENT 2 enters on the other side of the stage. He’s wearing a full suit, carrying a briefcase and has airpods in his ears.

CASEY A “cute lil preview”?

CLIENT 2 “Hi, what’s up, sounds weird but I’m into foot kissing like me kissing your feet. I’ll give you $123 to kiss your feet exactly 7 times. Nothing more.”

ARIEL Yea, like a picture of your feet.

LILY So what’re you gonna do? CASEY I think I’m gonna play along...pretend to be Ariel.

CASEY I don’t know how I feel about that.

ARIEL Your face won’t even be in the picture!

CASEY struggles to position herself to take a picture of her feet. She finally takes a picture and shows it to LILY.


CASEY How’s that?

(reluctantly) Fine, whatever. ARIEL

(laughing to herself) Good thing you got that pedicure the other day. No man would pay for those crusty-ass feet.

CASEY finishes typing and sends the text. CLIENT 2 reads her response and sends a text back. CASEY’S phone dings and she and LILY read the text. CLIENT 2 “Here you go, $123 for those beautiful feet.” LILY Oh my god, he just sent you the money through Apple Pay! Who the fuck uses Apple Pay? CASEY I can’t believe people actually pay for stuff like this. ARIEL Men will pay a whole lotta money for things you couldn’t even imagine.

ARIEL Come on Casey! You call that a nice foot pic? CASEY I can’t say that I’m an expert on the subject. (looks to LILY for help) Lily? LILY Okay, fine. I’ll try.

CASEY hands LILY the phone to take the picture. LILY puts CASEY in a specific position to take the photo. While the girls are taking pictures, MICHELE walks into the room, flinging the door open walking in w/a laundry basket. She’s a nurse, wearing scrubs for work. MICHELE Hey girls!

The girls are still in an awkward position to take pictures. LILY Hi Ms. Miller! CASEY Mom! Can you knock?


(Starts picking up dirty laundry around the room) I pay the mortgage, so these are my doors. Now what’re you girls doin?

CASEY Nothing. We’re working on an...anatomy project. MICHELE Oo, that sounds interesting! LILY Yea! We’re studying the anatomy of..uh..feet!

MICHELE picks up the boa, looks confused. She’s still standing in the room lingering around. CASEY notices. CASEY Mom, can you let us finish our project, please!? MICHELE

(leaving the room) Alright, alright. I have to catch the bus anyway. (Closing the door) These are my doors! LILY, ARIEL, and CASEY breathe a small sigh of relief.

CASEY Yea, Mrs. Jones wants us to uh...take pictures of our feet to show the class.


MICHELE Thank god for that pedicure. You don’t want your class seeing those crusty toes.

ARIEL and LILY are looking at the picture over CASEY’S shoulders.

ARIEL laughs in agreement.

ARIEL Now that’s a good picture.

CASEY Geez, I get it! MICHELE Anyway, I’m picking up another shift tonight so I left your dinner in the fridge. CASEY Thanks, Mom.

(handing CASEY her phone) Here.

CASEY Okayy, (typing); (confident attempt at a “sexy voice”) “Thanks…sexy” ARIEL Good, you’re learning!



(continuing)’s that preview you asked for.” aaaand send.

(typing) “You got it babe. But that’ll be $150 for all of your special requests.”

CASEY hits send and immediately throws the phone onto her bed.

Lights down on bedroom as CASEY opens the nail polish. Spotlight up on CLIENT 1 and CLIENT 2.

CASEY Oh my god, I can’t believe I just did that!

CLIENT 1 & CLIENT 2 “Entertain two guys?”

Lights down on bedroom. Spotlight on CLIENT 1. CLIENT 1 “Happy Halloween, my gorgeous ghoul. We still on for that call later tonight?”

Spotlight down on CLIENT 1. Lights up on CASEY and ARIEL.

Spotlight down on CLIENT 1 & 2. Lights up on CASEY, alone. She pauses for a moment to think about her response. Then she confidently starts typing. CASEY “Double the men means double the price”

CASEY “Of course, I wouldn’t miss it for the world sweetie.”


ARIEL nods in approval. Lights down on bedroom. Spotlight up on CLIENT 2.

Blackout. Lights up on CASEY and LILY entering CASEY’s room. ARIEL is in the room reading a magazine, painting her nails, etc. She’s in the same outfit.

(To CLIENT 2) Damn. No Easter discount?!

CLIENT 2 “Happy New Year. $80 for a foot pic. Bright orange nail polish on the pinky toe. If I even see a sliver of ankle I want my money back. NO toe rings.”


Spotlight down on CLIENT 2. Lights up on ARIEL and CASEY looking at the text together. ARIEL takes the exact nail polish out of her pocket/purse and hands it to CASEY.


(casually) Hey.


(continuing an earlier conversation) Wait, so your mom thinks you got a job at

CASEY Um..he told his friend about me and he said that he wants to meet me in person.

Ms. Wilson’s craft shop? LILY CASEY Yea, it helps explain the all the money...and the props. (gestures to props for her foot pics, etc.) It’s lifted a lot of pressure off of her.

(laughs) Please tell me you’re not actually thinking of doing that. CASEY I mean, his friend’s only asking to have dinner.

CASEY’S phone dings. She picks it up to read the text. LILY Ugh prom is in 2 weeks and I still don’t have a dress or a date. I’m kinda hoping Jason asks me.

Lily notices CASEY not paying attention.

LILY Casey, that’s way too dangerous! How long have you even been talking to this guy? CASEY Pretty much since I became Ariel so I feel like I know him pretty well, but...I don’t know about his friend.

CASEY Sorry, I’m just talking to a regular of mine--(ARIEL glares jokingly at CASEY) (correcting herself, laughing) oh, Ariel’s.

LILY Girl, you could die.

CASEY sits silently reading the text for a moment. She starts out confident and comfortable but then a look of concern and hesitation is on her face.


LILY What does he want?

LILY Someone had to say it.

Lights down on LILY, she freezes.

ARIEL I’m all for meeting up with him! But remember whatever decision you make, you have to be okay with it. CASEY You do this kinda stuff all the time, don’t you? Does Lily have a point? Could I really die? ARIEL No, Lily’s being dramatic. I started doing this for the same reason as you. (laughing) I did get myself into some pretty sketchy situations, but the money was definitely worth the risk.


(getting frustrated) What do you mean you “don’t know” Casey?! You don’t even know this guy! We’re in high school! We have prom, graduation, senior things to worry about! It’s one thing to scam these guys over the phone, but meeting with them in person is just stupid. Do you really need the money that badly? Are you seriously considering becoming a fucking hooker?! CASEY First of all, the correct term is sex worker. And yes, Lily! I’m sorry my biggest problem isn’t finding a fucking prom dress! I have bigger, more important things going on right now. I got into Stanford and my mom doesn’t even know ‘cause I don’t want her working the rest of her life just to pay my tuition. Why else do you think I’m even considering this?!

Lights back up on LILY, she unfreezes. There is a small uncomfortable silence between the girls. CASEY You know what? I’ve been talking to these guys long enough. It can’t be that different in person. LILY Are you sure Casey? Something about this feels a little off. You’re not worried that he might try something? CASEY Honestly... it is kinda odd that he wants to meet at his room before dinner. Ugh I don’t know about this anymore.

LILY I’m sorry Casey. I know money has been tight lately but I didn’t realize how bad it was. (Starts gathering her things and heads to the door) Casey, please just think about this. I don’t want you to get hurt. CASEY

(slight nod) Okay. LILY leaves, closing the door behind her. CASEY takes a moment after she leaves. She pulls out her phone and starts to text.

CASEY “Of course hun’. Just name the time and place.”

Lights out. Lights back up on CASEY and ARIEL standing in front of a hotel door. CASEY is wearing a red wig, posing as ARIEL. She looks nervous, but determined. ARIEL Is this the room? CASEY Yep. ARIEL Okay. Are you ready? CASEY I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I just feel so bad for lying to Lily. No one even knows I’m here. ARIEL Don’t worry Casey, you’ve got this.

ARIEL touches up CASEY’S lipstick, then hands it off to CASEY ARIEL walks offstage leaving CASEY alone. CASEY faces away from the door, towards the front of the stage taking deep breaths and clearly thinking through her decision again. CASEY finally turns around, takes another deep breath, and lifts her arm to knock on the door. Blackout. Play: “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon (chorus)












It doesn’t matter what comes out their mouths next, they all get that look - eyes getting just a touch bigger as they look me up and down to confirm that I am, in fact, smaller. Then I have to calculate how long’s it been since I’ve seen them: five, ten, twenty, or a full 80+ pounds ago? And if I can’t remember, no worries, they’ll sure as hell let me know: “Dude, what the fuck?” “Where’d you go?” “You lost your boobies, girl!” “Wow, don’t you feel better?” “Cuidate, mi amor.” “No more though, right?” “You’re gonna get sick.” “You used to be thick…” “Did you get taller?” I have to be polite, right? Even when I see them looking at me and I remember that “oh right, I guess I am different,” and here’s how: When I started college in the summer of 2018, I weighed about 220 pounds. At my height, that just put me into the category of morbidly obese. As of the fall of 2019, I weigh about 135 pounds. At my height, that puts me dead square in the midrange of a healthy BMI. I still want to lose 5-10 pounds, but I’m not supposed to say this. For the first time in my life, people do not smile when I can’t finish dinner. I shouldn’t have to confirm to them what’s different which is that I have lost some weight; I looked one way then and I look another way now. A lot of people follow up with a “What’d you do?” but the truth is boring, and sometimes they don’t like that. Sometimes people follow up with a “What’d you really do?” If they’re just prodding a little, I’ll say I’m a vegetarian which is true, but I’ve been one even before all of this started.

If I don’t think I’ll have to talk to this person for at least another few months, I’ll tell them that I stopped eating on Tuesdays. And when I just want to cut the conversation for good, I’ll wear this really terrible smile and say, “I developed bulimia!” I ended up with something, for a while, but I’m fine now. I can just be dumb about food — not eating, not eating enough, being so privileged and self-absorbed to think pasta is scary. I kind of flipped on the scale (ha!) of being dumb about food, but I don’t look like either end anymore. Or do I? What flesh I have left is weak, and people often ask if I’m looking to get toned. Others, yet, cluck at me; to them, I’m starting to get an ill sort of look. Like anything that’s somehow up for public discussion, a consensus can never be reached about my body. As for me, the actual person, I still consider myself, at the very least, puffy. But I’ve demonstrated that I’m my own unreliable narrator. I have, in all good and honest intents, taken dresses into the fitting room that turn out to fucking drape on me. When my hot friend asked if I wanted to go through her box of Goodwill clothes, I really thought that she might’ve been making some sick joke. This girl, my hot friend, is a bit of a wonder to me. She’s really the one person who’s been blessedly blind to my recent developments. Fuck that - she’s the one person who hasn’t treated me any differently since I’ve lost weight. And I mean one, even considering my own family (or especially considering my family). She left it at “you look good” and has never blinked at my food; it’s almost lame how much I love her for it. Not that anybody treated me necessarily shitty, of course. The only person who’d dare call me a “fat fuck” was my shithead brother, and it’d only fly out of his mouth in arguments.

Now people start conversations. People smile. People want to hang out. People just seem like they see me. Men have started to see me too, I guess. My grandma laughed at an old man looking at me in a Kroger. I updated my Instagram and got DMs from boys from high school. A man recently sang out “hello beautiful womaaaan” to me in a parking lot, and, really, what I think he meant was “hello passably fuckable womaaaan.” Apparently, I act too open; my ‘friendly’ has become ‘flirty,’ and I need to be careful. I don’t like having to be careful. My tastes lean towards women anyway. Here, my ‘flirty’ still just comes off as an ‘awkward friendly.’ Here would be the only place I’d actually want to catch attention, and I’m still just a soft-stammering queer. If anything, I’m worse. Girls that make my breath fall also make me run when they actually smile at my dumb jokes. There’s an irony there, right? The core of that, and maybe everything, is that I’m normal until I’m naked. Cute fact about me: I’ve got stretch marks, even on the back of my calves. I am twenty years old and I have to be grateful that my pockets of loose skin or scarring wouldn’t qualify for surgery. But when I’m dressed and out and about in this city of strangers, I’m fine. I’m fucking hunky-dory. Really, this isn’t much more than a quick thought when I’m in front of a mirror, but then I run into somebody I knew, and it boils over: fat fuck

fat fuck fat fuck.

And then I’m stuck on this shit all day. It feels like they’re all trying to get me naked and trying to look through my clothes. It’s not creepy, of course, because they need to know that my thighs still touch. I know these are small problems; I’ve got bigger ones, I promise, and I’m working on all of them. Eventually I’ll be healthy and happy, and my old photos won’t seem so recent. Now can we talk about something else, please?



February 14th, 2016

My mother pried my arms from my sister and father, gently breaking apart our seemingly eternal goodbye. She beckoned me towards the airport shuttle, an action that only four months prior would have been met with cheers and excitement. Now the river of tears that streamed down my pale, hollow cheeks displayed a different reality. Physically unable to carry my 10-pound backpack, my mother carried both of our bags through security. “Is she with you?” the security guard asked as he examined the jittery skeleton that stood before him. “Yes, she’s mine,” my mother replied. His gaze scanned me up and down, unsure of what to make of this unusual specimen. “She can keep her shoes on,” he said coolly. Advancing through our developing nightmare, we roamed the terminal. Obeying the obligatory flight arrival time rules, we had two whole hours to spare before our one-way fare to Minneapolis departed. My mother glanced at the large Victorian-style clock that hung seemingly beyond the sky. “6:00 p.m.” shouted the tyrannical time teller, able to dictate a person’s every thought with ceaseless and unremorseful hands. It was dinner time. I followed my mother to a less-than-lavish airport restaurant, the kind that claims to have the “Best Burger in America.” The waitress arrived at our table, carting a burden of questions and judgments I was all too accustomed to confronting. “I’ll have the Southwest Chicken Sandwich.” The waitress’ eyes darted to her pad of paper, her hand making swift and familiar movements. “And your side?” she asked. “Umm….” The unforeseen improvisation prompting her to

resurvey the menu. After much consideration, she finally reached a decision. “I’ll just take some fries,” my mother said, leaving me to the waitress’ full attention. “What can I get you, sweetie?” she asked with bright, expectant eyes. My response was as unconscious as breathing itself, “Nothing, thank you, just water.” As we waited for her meal, my mother soothingly described the course of events that would transpire upon our arrival to the Twin Cities. “We are going to land and meet Nana and Papa at baggage claim. They are going to drive us to the hospital. Once we get there, we are going to talk to some doctors. They are going to help us figure out what the next step is. You need to listen to them. Do as they say. Do it so you can get better. Feel better. Do it for you. And if that’s not enough, do it for us.” I listened. By listened, I mean I made the socially appropriate expressions and comments: “Mhmm.” and “Yes, I understand.” Despite my “Oscar-worthy” performance, I was unaware of the full magnitude of her words. I was preoccupied with the hollowness of my stomach and the fulfilling sensation I then received. I was consumed by the lack of consuming. I thought that my willpower made me stronger, while in reality there was not an ounce of muscle tissue left on my body. I was in the midst of a civil war. A battle between mind and body. Obsession and flesh. The body was a valiant warrior, with a noble cause at its side: staying alive. It withstood months of malnutrition. Breakfasts that consisted of only a few calories of fruit and dinners that would have left a rabbit’s stomach crying for more. The mind, on the other hand, had no such cause. Be better. Be best. Be perfect. These phrases screamed their demands endlessly until they engrained themselves into me. Yet the pursuit of being “better,” “the best,” or “perfect” resulted in just the opposite.

It resulted in a 15-year-old who was told she was feeble enough that she shouldn’t take her shoes off if unnecessary. It resulted in a kid who let go of everything that was important to her: school, friends, and family, just so she could let go of a few more pounds. It resulted in an emaciated girl who could not look a meager stick of butter in the eye, let alone herself.

“Delta passengers for the flight to Minneapolis, Minnesota, section three may now board.” Streaming down the corridor in cattle-like fashion, we entered the plane and took our seats. As the plane entered the atmosphere, departing from the “Sunshine State,” I glanced out the window observing the bright, antlike movements of the city below. If only distance would aid me in the escape of my problems. Like leeches upon my skin, my problems were unphased by my trivial attempts of removal and constant in their irritating presence. The endless promises that were made in the months prior, “I know what I’m doing, please don’t worry” and “I can stop whenever I want to” shattered like porcelain china at their touch. The plane slowed and crawled itself to a halt on the tarmac. With my mother leading the way, we filed out of the plane towards baggage claim of the MSP airport. There, my grandparents awaited. Wading through the crowd of other passengers, I managed to poke my head above the barrier of surrounding bodies. My eyes sifted through the strangers’ faces until I landed on my grandparents’ an all too familiar pair. The anticipation of seeing their daughter and granddaughter provoked sanguine smiles, but as we approached, they were only met with the ghosts of us.

They began to survey my gaunt frame. The love and excitement that had filled their eyes only moments before were immediately tainted with disbelief. Words perched on the edge of their lips, but none managed to fall; there were too many questions to be asked. Too many concerns to be voiced. Too many mistakes to recount. We walked to their van and entered in complete silence. Embarking into the crisp, sub-zero night, we traveled in solace on the highway through Minneapolis, until we reached our final destination: St. Paul’s Children’s Hospital. The gleaming, artificial glow of the hospital was a stark contrast to the consuming darkness that surrounded it. We slid out of the van exhausted and hugged my grandparents goodbye. Standing on the curb of the hospital parking lot, a feeble attempt at delaying the inevitable, we watched as they left; their van devoured by the hard, obsidian night. I glanced at the watch barely grasping my wrist: “12:00 a.m.” The six hours of travel had passed slower than an eternity. Yet, it was only the beginning.

Children’s Primary Care Clinic: Check In I had arrived. My mother approached the desk where she was handed a mountainous stack of paperwork and forms. She returned to her seat next to mine, reserved with my bulky Adidas duffel bag. I watched her file through and fill out the pages.

Patients Name: Abigail Radunz Date of Birth: 09/14/2000

Age: 15 years

Sex: Female

Cause of Visit: Anorexia Nervosa How did your symptoms begin?

That’s going to take up more than two lines on a page.

February 15th, 2016 The whoosh of the automatic doors carried a wave of heat and an inescapable sense of dread. Solemn white faces of nurses and receptionists “greeted” us and guided us down the monotonous, Sears-decorated trails of the hospital hallways. We passed by countless clinics: Emergency and Trauma Care, Surgery, Pediatrics, until one stuck.

Was it the insecurity of being a teenager? Did it happen because I am a compulsive perfectionist? Maybe it was the perfect storm of events or just an inevitability. In the years that have passed, the answers to the how or why have not become any clearer to me. I don’t know why I did it; I can’t decide what made me think neglecting my stomach and my sanity would benefit or fulfill me in any way.

Maybe I was missing something. Was it the fact that I didn’t fall exactly in line with what a teenage girl was supposed to be? My bare, makeup-less face was exposed with an exuberant amount of firetruck red pimples beaming across its surface, framed by my shaggy blonde hair that I had no idea how to manage. With the addition of the baggy, activewear that draped over my pubescent frame. This combination seemed to validate my suspicions. But all of this centered around my body, which was more foreign to me than another galaxy. Are these curves normal? Are other girls wearing bras now too? Am I supposed to look like this or am I some kind of freak? I was lost and didn’t have the courage to simply ask someone for help. Soon, I thought I had discovered the answer for myself. After scrolling through Instagram for hours on end seeing perfect girls, with their perfect bodies, and their perfect lives, I thought knew that if I was like them, I would be happy and liked and successful and perfect? I thought deeply as I sat alone and isolated in my bedroom. I got off my bed and walked over to the mirror; I surveyed my thighs, embarrassed by the fact that they did not separate and withdraw into a highly praised “thigh gap.” I then evaluated my stomach labeling the thin layer of fat, essential for life sustaining functions, as “disgusting.” I looked at my baby face, criticizing it because it wasn’t as chiseled and defined as a Greek statue. I glanced at the happy and successful girl boasting her immaculate life on my phone, maybe that’s what I’m supposed to be too. Given my notorious will of steel and “bullheadedness” as my family calls it, if I was supposed to be perfect, I would be perfect. Whatever that meant. Whatever that took. Whatever I had to destroy to reach my goal. I would do it. And boy did I.

When did your symptoms begin?

December 2015, My mom wrote after taking a moment to run over the answer in her head. Has it really only been three months? I thought. It felt like I had been precisely calculating each and every calorie I ingested for my entire life; it was practically second nature now. *

BreakfastBread- 70 calories a slice. Should I have it with peanut butter or jam or jelly? Let’s see how much those would be… hmm. Jam = 50 calories a tablespoon. That’s almost a whole ‘nother piece of toast! And think of how many egg whites I could have for that… No, that’s definitely not worth it. Ok, let’s look at peanut butter… 190 for two tablespoons? Ok, never mind. Egg whites- 17 calories per egg So, if I have three… three times 17 is 51, so Egg whites are… Egg whites- 17 calories 51 calories

And remember to cook them low and slow so they don’t stick. You can’t be wasting 50+ calories on a few teaspoons of butter or oil. Spinach- 1 cup = 7 calories But spinach cooks down a lot… typically about half of the original quantity. And if I throw in two cups of spinach, I would really only get one out. So technically spinach would be… Spinach- 1 cup = 7 calories 14 calories Raspberries- 1 calorie each x15 = 15 calories Ok, so then: one slice of toast dry, three egg whites cooked - without oiltwo cups of spinach - cooked - and 15 raspberries - carefully pre-counted - would be…70… 121 plus 14… carry the one… 150 calories. Perfect. *

I cringed as my mom filled out the last box on the forms; the gravity of the situation was beginning to seep in. I strained in my chair, breath quickening, my heart pounding against my chest - its bony prison. “Abigail?” a voice asked. “Yes,” I answered weakly. We passed through the doorway, the nurse guiding us through the clinic’s elaborate bleached labyrinth. She stopped at a door, completely indistinguishable from the rest, and showed us inside a bunker of white. I began to head for one of the two chairs in the office but was abruptly knocked back into reality. “Please sit up here,” the nurse said, gesturing to the examination table. “Oh… Of course, I’m sorry.” I climbed up and proceeded to lay flat on my back, staring at the ceiling as another interrogation ensued. “Do you regularly consume alcohol?” “No.” “Are you a smoker?” “No.” “Are you sexually active?” “No.” A subsequent back and forth of questions and blatant “Nos” continued until it was time to take my body’s measurements. “Please stand,” the nurse said. I stood. “Come under here.” I came. “Stand still.” As I did, she thrusted a plate from upon the wall onto my head. “Five foot five,” she said neither impressed nor disappointed. Weight. “Please, stand on here.” Fear gripped my body (or what was left of it). I walked towards the scale and slid my cold, gaunt feet atop its even colder surface. I closed my eyes and held my breath. The moment seemed to hover in time, not moving, not changing, just trying to prevent the terrible future that lay ahead. But alas, it could hold on no more. “83 pounds,” she said evenly and smooth. The words glided off her tongue as water on a windowpane. She spoke the words as if someone was asking the time. She spoke as if a bomb hadn’t just obliterated the room. She spoke as if everything was normal. Like nothing had changed. Like I would be able to go

home that night opposed to spending the next month in the inpatient clinic. She spoke as if it wouldn’t take me months to feel even remotely comfortable going out in public. Like the next four years of my life wouldn’t be filled to the brim with anxiety and depression and regret that crippled every moment of my wakefulness. She spoke, solidifying my mistake - my teenage insecurity, my stubbornness, or whatever you want to call it. She spoke the words I knew were true, but I cupped my hands over my ears to avoid hearing them. And thus, she set off the chain events of months turned into years of pain and trial… but also a massive amount of self-improvement and accomplishment. I freed myself from the misconceptions and the self-imprisonment I locked myself into for those miserable months before my hospital stay. In a way, recovering was like learning how to walk again. Reteaching myself the basic skills of survival - how to eat the right kinds of food, how to eat enough to sustain myself, and even how to know when to stop and set my fork down. In other words, none of it by any means was a cakewalk, but I still persisted and fought each and every day to put the pieces of myself back together. And boy did I. September 28th, 2019 I walk Florida State University’s campus on my way to Strozier Library. Three weeks into my freshman year and I’m already dreaming of graduation. I have a boatload of homework to do and I am repeatedly trying to convince myself that I can complete it before the impending Monday deadline. Fun times at college, no doubt.

Let’s see… I have to

• Read 40 pages in my Psychology textbook • Write a 750-word debate report that I have no idea how to begin • Write an additional 1000 words to add to my 2000-word English personal

narrative… Better make it good. • Take a Critical Thinking quiz

Oh god, this is so much work. Let’s see. I guess I could... • Read 60 15 pages of my Psychology textbook • Write 750 375 words of the report - half today and half tomorrow • Write some repetitive, droning additions to my essay to fill up the word

count No, I’ll make it somewhat interesting with different kinds of layout and italics. LOTS of italics. HAHAHA I’m a GENIUS. • Fine, I’ll stop procrastinating and just take the quiz.

Finally, I have decided on today’s plan of attack. The strong rays of the sun are beating down on my face. I am dripping more sweat than there is water in the Nile and am relieved when I see the library’s entrance, yearning for the cool 70-degree air conditioning inside. But before I can reach salvation, my phone buzzes in my pocket. “Hello?” “Why hi there, is this my little sweetie pie, Abby?” “Yes, grandpa. How are you and grandma doing today?” “Oh, we’re good, we’re good. Not up to much, just the same old stuff up here. But how are you doing? How’s that college life treating you? Classes going okay?” “Mhmm. I’m doing well. Classes are going well. They can be a lot of work sometimes, but overall, I think they are going quite well. I’d even go as far as saying I enjoy a few of them.” “Haha! That’s good to hear. How about people? Are you making some good friends?” “Yeah, my roommates are super nice, and we get along great (surprisingly). We go out to dinner a lot and study together almost every night. So, yes, I would say so.”

“Good. Good…” The inevitable question comes up. “And how’s your eating been going? You’ve been able to bear the cafeteria?” “Yes, Grandpa,” I say, grinning at the fact that he asks this nearly every other day we talk, yet my answer is always truthful and the same. “I’m doing just fine. The food here isn’t as bad as you’d think it would be. They made some pretty good eggs and sausage for breakfast and the waffles were actually wonderful today. But don’t get me wrong, they’re nothing compared to Grandma’s.” I worked hard in order to heal. And throughout my recovery I have experienced inevitable adversities, but also an incalculable amount of improvement and achievement. Those years of personal hardships and self-affliction only made me work harder for what I have accomplished. They have left me with drive - I can persist through difficult circumstances and overcome nearly any obstacle if I put my mind to it. They have left me with tools of which I am able to utilize for my benefit, rather than my destruction. They have left me with perspective - how a hearty chocolate dessert every now and then won’t make the Earth stop turning. And that I am more than just a pant size, I am more than just a number on a scale, and I am more than perfect just the way I am.


























EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT April O’Gorman is a 20-year-old student, attending the Savannah College of Art and Design. Originally from Daytona Beach, FL, April has traveled all over the world to compete and train for surf livesaving events. In addition to being a well-known, awarded athlete, O’Gorman is also a skilled artist. Her piece, ‘Eight,’ was chosen as the cover for this semester’s issue. Below, are her words about the piece: “After my freshman year at SCAD, I fell in love with the medium of ink and stippled this piece in Australia with micron pens. Half way across the world I missed home a lot. Eight was my way of making Australia feel a little bit more like home.”








Jennifer Hopkins, Art Director Merritt Lay, Art Director Reagan Creamer POETRY POETRY POETRY POETRY Emma “Jean” Block, Editor Sarah Beal Michael Cole Theodore Dryce Trayshia Kenon Merritt Lay Alejandro Osuna Noah Volz FICTION FICTION FICTION FICTION Alaina Faulkner, Editor Lexie Berrett Mia Jackson Allison Mickey Jordan Schwartz Katilyn Stelnicki

NONFICTION NONFICTION NONFICTION NONFICTION Jupiter Roman, Editor Kassandra Curiel Maria Hiers Jennifer Hopkins Kelly Malandra Anna Morgan Roxy Rico Isabella Smith Ashlyn Williamson ART ART ART ART Reagan Creamer, Editor Christian Lantham Scott Kelley

NOTES NOTES NOTES NOTES NOTES NOTES This semester, I have had the pleasure of serving alongside such a wonderful group of people. I joined The Kudzu Review a year ago and had no idea how much I would fall in love with this publication and all that it represents. I am so thankful for each and every one of the editorial assistants, editors, art directors, and our outstanding advisor, Maari Carter. Together, we conceptualized and created an issue that shares unique undergraduate voices with our Tallahassee community. By using our platform to publish the works of up-andcoming artists and authors, we strived to create a comprehensive issue filled with new and diverse voices.





We are so glad you have taken the time to read Issue N° 63. We hope you enjoy viewing it, as much as we enjoyed curating it. From all of us here at The Kudzu Review, happy reading.

We started with a goal in mind: a professional lasting aesthetic that would transmute the ideas, experiences, and associations of the 2019 Florida State University student body into an artistic and readable experience. As a whole, we designed the magazine not based around a singular aesthetic, but around an idea that— The Kudzu Review is a mirror to its student body and extended culture. We are made up of many faces, expressions, and livelihoods. Through research and surveil of many different aesthetics in various literary publications we were able to determine our vision and style. Our aim is to re-create The Kudzu Review and create a lasting brand to continue for future generations. Impressed with the notion that there is sublimity in the digital landscape and how our lives as students are irreconcilably immersed within it this world. The Kudzu Review as a digital magazine intends to embody a nuance of the digital age combined with the traditionality of a print literary magazine. Our vision is to merge the imperfect with the perfect. The situated with the unsituated. The beauty that lies within the mixing of perspectives and the molding of ideas under one identity: The Kudzu Review at Florida State University.

Reagan Creamer

Jennifer Hopkins


Art Director

Since becoming a national magazine in 2018, we have been able to accept works from those all over the country. This was an exciting leap for our publication, and we wanted to continue to grow, both locally and around the world. Keeping this in mind, I wanted to change and expand our approach to garnering submissions. Through the use of social media, community outreach projects, and word-of-mouth, we were humbled to receive one of our highest submission rates to date, with 130 individual submissions. We are incredibly thankful for every single person who took the time to submit their work, their art, and their writing to our magazine. Your voice is your most powerful tool in eliciting change for our universe. Thank you for sharing yours.

Merritt Lay

Art Director

The views and ideas expressed in the contained works do not reflect those of the Kudzu staff or the Florida State University Department of English. All rights revert back to their original owners upon publication. The Kudzu Review is funded in part by the Student Government Association and is a Recognized Student Organization at Florida State University.

No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in connection with a review for a magazine or newspaper.

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