K U D Z U
I S S U E
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F A L L
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ISSUE NO. 65 FALL 2020
Florida State University 620 W. College Avenue Tallahassee, FL 32304 Copyright Â© by The Kudzu Review
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Darling...................................................................................Kelly Malandra 4
do cowboys know how to swim?..................................Connor Devore I had the radio on.............................................................Sophie Casarico The sun aches.........................................................................Ana Daragjati Apex.....................................................................................Kevin Pataroque Nighttime Pills.......................................................................Ellie Van Pelt Everlasting Influencers...................................................Sophie Casarico East of Eden, West of Nod.....................................Catherine Cosgrove Gabrielâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Sonnet in the Backseat of a Hearse ................................................................................Catherine Cosgrove Stillborn, October 2017..................................................Lauren Thornberg Summer Spoil.............................................................Catherine Cosgrove
Tower of Tectonics.....................................................Karina Deschamps Work One....................................................................................Joey Phelps Bubble Bath..............................................................................Kiera Garvin Divided Landscape...........................................................Lili Freedlander Toaster House..............................................................Karina Deschamps Tourist...........................................................................................Joey Phelps Striped Skies......................................................................Lili Freedlander Day at a Museum.........................................................Karina Deschamps Over the Top.....................................................................Lili Freedlander
9 11 13 14 15 17 18 20 21 22 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33
nonfiction Phoenix from the Flames.............................................Noelle Knowlton 35 Ishpeming..............................................................................Rachel Biangel 39
DARLING Kelly Malandra CONTENT WARNING: The following piece contains graphic depictions of miscarriage and grief. It also contains strong elements of gore and horror. Reader discretion is advised. Ten weeks after her miscarriage, Cecilia still hadn’t gone back to work. She would sit in the living room, watch dust float in sunbeams, and think about how nice the loft would be for a baby. The well-lit, bamboo-floored, viewhaving loft. She even bought a rocking chair. Cecilia would rock back and forth all day, waiting to hear her husband’s keys jiggle the door knob. And when he walked in, she would spring up and say— “Hi Jesse! How was work?” Every day, it seemed, she’d be sitting one second and springing up the next. Sit, spring, Hi sweetheart! Sit, spring, Hello darling! Sit, spring, Welcome back! And nothing ever changed. Monday began the eleventh week. Cecilia sat in the rocking chair with a cup of coffee in her lap while Jesse got ready to leave. “See you later,” he said. He stopped halfway between Cecilia and the door, awaiting her response. Her chin tilted upwards, staring at a spot on the ceiling. Jesse held his breath. After a few moments, he put his briefcase down, exhaled through his lips, and turned on his heels, back toward Cecilia. She kept rocking, her back to him, watching the window. Jesse stood behind Cecilia, letting the rocking chair nudge his abdomen over and over as it moved, until it eventually stopped.
The Kudzu Review “I said goodbye,'' Jesse said, in a voice so quiet that it cracked. Looking down at his wife, he knew that if he spoke again, he would start to cry. He wondered if tomorrow he should just leave for work without another word. Jesse closed his eyes and slid his hands along Cecilia’s jawline, rubbing her cheeks in little circles with his thumbs. He held her face like this for a few moments, and then turned away, picked up his briefcase, and left. “Goodbye,” Cecilia said, only after the door clicked shut. Alone, alone, alone now, she thought. Alone, alone, alone. Cecilia slunk down in the chair, blowing air up at the ceiling. With her eyes closed, she willed her body to quit aching. She willed the groggy gray mush in her mind to pull itself together. She willed the walls to stop closing in. Just one day, she thought. I just want one day with my son. Cecilia sat up and let out a trembling breath. She kept perfectly still until she no longer felt real. Then, she looked down at her hands until they no longer looked real. She repeated words until they no longer sounded real. “Darling, darling, darling.” “Jesse, Jesse, Jesse.” “Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby.” She looked down at her coffee and waited for it, too, to turn unreal. Instead, she saw a fuzzy black dot floating around in her cup. It looked like something she would see after someone shined a bright light in her eyes. Cecilia blinked and scrunched her face, but the black dot was still there. The blackness followed her eyes wherever they went, and a dull, throbbing pain crept into her skull. Welcome me, the darkness said again. Cecilia was no longer rocking backand-forth but jerking wildly in every direction, her coffee spilling onto her skin. She looked down at her hands, which were red and screaming. Cecilia finally stood, the mug shattering at her feet. She could barely see now, from both the angry pain behind her eyes and the darkness engulfing her vision.
Fall 2020 Welcome me, the darkness said. She made her way into the bathroom, feeling a heavy weight on her body, like she was covered in tar. Hunched over the sink, Cecilia looked in the mirror. She could see nothing but dull grayness surrounding her, and in the place of her head, there was total blackness—a dark hole completely devoid of light. Okay, Cecilia said. … Warm sunlight poured into the living room when Cecilia snapped awake. She felt groggy and her body begged for rest. The pouch of fat just below her belly button ached. She wondered if it wouldn’t hurt to just fall back asleep, but her thoughts were interrupted at the sound of a baby’s cry. Her body flooded with newfound energy, and a smile broke across Cecilia’s face. “You little rascal,” she said to her son. She held him close to her chest as she rocked back and forth in her chair. “Don’t cry, Daddy’s coming home soon,” she whispered. Cecilia hummed a sweet melody as her son fell asleep in her arms. I love you, I love you, I love you, she sang. Just then she heard the sound of Jesse unlocking the door. “Hello darling,” Cecilia said slowly, rocking back and forth steadily in her chair. “Hey,” Jesse said to her, tossing his briefcase onto the counter. “Shit— Cecilia you broke your mug. What happened?” “Oh come on, don’t worry about that. Come and kiss your son hello.” Jesse froze. His keys went slack in his grip. “What did you say?” Jesse said, his voice quiet. “Don’t be silly. I said come and hold your son.” Cecilia stood from her rocking chair. “What are you talking about?” His voice rose. “Is this a joke?”
The Kudzu Review But his eyes went wide when Cecilia turned to him, his face draining of color. She approached Jesse, their son in her arms. In her hand, she held a shard of ceramic from her broken mug, covered in blood. “I said, hold him.” She extended her arms. Jesse stumbled back. “Cecelia, what did you do?” He choked on his words. “What did you do?” The acidic stench of flesh and blood overcame him. He gagged, his knees buckling, body pale and shaking. Cecilia approached him still, her arms outstretched, a bundle of intestines in her grip. Blood and bile dripped from her elbows. “Why won’t you hold him?” she yelled. “I did this for you—for us!” Cecilia fell to her knees, clutching the bundle of her own guts to her chest. A pool of blood formed around her, seeping into the bottom cuffs of Jesse’s dress pants. Cecilia let out a guttural scream. She sobbed until she could no longer make a sound. My darling son, she thought. My darling, my darling, my darling.
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DO COWBOYS KNOW HOW TO SWIM?
Connor Devore I have too many people’s schedules in my head all mixed and matched on when to take what, when to go to work, when the shows come on. I am so used to lying on someone else’s bed, keeping time with the sway of my legs dangling over the run-off comforter. Counting seconds with the tapping of my left and minutes with one big swing of the right. My friend spits out her routine, drawing cards from a deck of events that must be connected, if only by free association: went to the park, forgot to water my succulent, my mother called me. Still, when she lays out her hand I can make out pairs and runs. 5 A.M., my right foot hits the bed on the downswing. The cowboy figurine wriggles on her nightstand then topples over, falling into the cat’s water bowl; Robert Redford jumping into the river with Butch Cassidy. Her Sundance Kid lies drowning in the small pool of tap water, boots sticking up out of the metal bowl. Do cowboys know how to swim? 9
Fall 2020 In between herding cattle to graze pasture after pasture and shoot outs and bar fights and slinking from one bed to another, there couldn’t possibly be room for lazing in springs or rivers. Maybe their mothers guiding their legs and arms in the bath burnt strokes into their still tender hides, whispering dime book stories about the cowboys down in Texas sunbathing on the gulf, sand scratched calves burning from the salt. Some cowboys know how to swim. This one—head in the shoal, pointed leather toe-caps poking out of the water; obstacles for skipping stones—must not be from Texas. Dry him off with my jacket sleeve, put him back on the nightstand as she finally starts to snore. Stop off at Circle K, cold drink, wash my face. Take the long way home, think to myself, Today I made all the wrong decisions. Step out of the shower just in time for breakfast. They unload last night’s dreams as I stir the last few flakes of cereal deeper into my milk. And then there are today’s plans.
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I HAD THE RADIO ON
Sophie Casarico It’s in the root growth maybe or the fine lines that will not settle but I feel like Norma Jean today. Touching white cotton floss fried from years of stripping and exposure. I am so tired of poisoning myself. Joe, I dreamed I batted in pinstripes last night, and I looked goddamn good because I have to. The baseball diamond’s a girl’s best friend I said to you once. Cute, you quipped and tapped, as if to ask if anybody was home, on the nose an LA surgeon made Marilyn. Remember when we’d cruise down Sunset together— I wore sunglasses wings sharp as your left hook you said knock off that fake sexy baby voice don’t tawk to me like Daryl Zanuck you fucking whore magnesium collided with oxygen FLASH BURST LIGHT! My wife, you told the cop who’d later press a pen in my hand and ask for a dedication to his daughter, got mouthy. I got your flowers, keep getting them. How lovely and conciliatory your script is: Congrats, all the best, signed booze-soaked and lonely. 11
Fall 2020 Wouldn’t I (I still) want to be Mrs. DiMaggio again? You will wrap me up in oiled pigskin hands until all the color comes back to me, strong and brown like the roots of the lemon tree at our Cielo bungalow. No one has ever looked at me like that. Distant in the mirror, Jackie drifts with spectral grace. She does not take off her pristine white gloves but I know she is contemplating slapping me with one. (I have practiced her tight-lipped smile red-pigmented and bruised before). They’re waiting for you she says and does not give me the satisfaction of acknowledging the obvious. There will be star-spangled cake later and neither of us will eat it. She wafts out Arthurian and proud, as she goes I see her refracted in the million mesmerizing crystal panes of my gown. I push together what everyone came to see and it crunches like broken glass. Beauty-marked and pouting, I gaze heavy-lidded. Later on pillows of once, to me, inconceivable softness the birthday boy will suggest through cigarette puffs that we put this thing to bed. My lipstick ghost on his wilted collar will resemble congealed blood. When he rises to put on the remains of his wrinkled power suit, I hear my own voice, skipping and frantic. Happy happy happy happy
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THE SUN ACHES
Ana Daragjati through the sky, grieving its past life like a phantom. Give me the sun and I will crack it between my teeth like a sapphire. Grinning, holding tomorrow in my mouth like a feral cat. Give me the sun and I will cradle it in my arms like my own skull, and in its eye-sockets I will plant poppies, God watching. He is a jealous teenager, sauntering.
Kevin Pataroque After Leaping Trout, Winslow Homer If the skies are dark black, then the reddish-brown stars on her skin are a reminder that, before the leap, she is a being of the clouded water, a being whose eyes are carrying twin crescents. Nothing to see here. Just a trout leaping like a trout, leapingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Look at her opaque belly, with dirt trudged from the belly of the white stream. The trout knows air is a crueler fluid than water. And when she falls, dives below the frame, she will be reminded of her troutness, no matter how fast she moves her fins upward like wings. But for this instant, this one instance taken in the apex of flight, she removes herself from a dusty river and I think of her in the constellations, sustained, in the vast and uncharted darkness.
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Ellie Van Pelt My little brother calls them nighttime pills, I call them “One Time I Took So Many I Had A Dream My Ex-Boyfriend Killed Himself Because of Me.” I try not to take them when I feel bad anymore. I looked it up- I didn’t Even take the amount that should trigger That reaction, but then again, I am a very Small person. Maybe I should have checked The child’s sizes. I wonder if he knows he Went through with it in my head, I wonder if That would make him reconsider things. I woke up and for weeks fought the urge to Apologize. Maybe I should have told him his Mom called to ask if he was ok. He probably Didn’t need to know she said she saw it coming. My little brother calls them nighttime pills, I call them “The Only Medication My Parents Will Let Me Get My Hands On.” I told them I Took four one night and my mom called to ask If I wanted to go back to therapy. I should have Told her I wanted something stronger, Something to stop the “My Ex-Boyfriend Killed Himself”s in the first place. My family Is the naturalist type, the sleep supplements 15
Fall 2020 Are new and frankly quite surprising. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re Big proponents of listening to your body and Letting your mental illness run untreated in My house. But she lets my little brother take His nighttime pills, so maybe he wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need to Graduate to anything harder.
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Sophie Casarico I was amongst the Jesus freaks once. Half-crazed god love in their eyes they tried in falteringly less subtle ways to convert me, half-Jew who had no problem with the barefoot socialism but little enthusiasm for evangelical submission. I saw them raise their open palms as if to prove they were unarmed against the charms of slick tattooed youth pastors who used white boys and four chords to prove his holy clout. They were not unkind, yet I felt unsettled when they’d pray over pasta potlucks. They preached humility but the gratitude was of assumption, of being chosen, and when I’d ask later, wanting that same sureness, what about people who have nothing, where was He if not in the flies circling emaciated children, taking communion of their godly blood? My skepticism was met with gentle admonition and a nervy flicker behind the eyes. I think what frightened them –more than girls who were not shamed into modesty before old men watching and that Old Man, He who was always watching, more than the notion that one might not hate neither sinner nor sin— was that someone could look into the cracked-open halves of the universe’s plasma particle matter and not beg for chains to contain it.
EAST OF EDEN, WEST OF NOD
Catherine Cosgrove The rising sun, every day as Abel shepherds the light across the plains. His hair as golden as the fields I sow, the land of milk and honey melting in my palm; I want to be perfect, I yearn to be good but how easy it is to bend your lips, to click your tongue and anticipate a reaction that mediates my unchecked greed. Incensed with envy, overcome with longing – my Father’s eyes dance past me and embrace me like torched grasslands on the horizons: you can say something without opening your mouth, wavering lips and letting everything unspool. Do my words dissipate so soon, does my heart beat so violently, eyes pinpointed on that which I am keeper of? Quick hooves splashing up clay, softness which I cannot hold. I am boiling over, I am red and red and redder than the blood of my lineage, my eternal damnation: I was cut from constellations, a brittle rib and shameful desire of my mother’s mouth our conscious bent down like a broken wing, I was bred of original sin, but what am I to do? I can lie and say: nothing matters. I can turn my chin, lie again: 18
The Kudzu Review everything matters in immeasurable ways as wounds fester, engorged by my ineptitude â&#x20AC;&#x201C; I am not my brotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s keeper, I am not original sin, but I warble with contempt, shuffle with aching inattention. If I cannot be perfect, there is a voided purpose to be good. Calloused hands swaying side by tattered side we can march to the sun burnt field and stand on tilled soil like silhouettes on the cusp of Eden. And with the slight of my hand I can say something without opening my mouth, I can let all of him unspool
GABRIEL'S SONNET IN THE
BACKSEAT OF A HEARSE
Catherine Cosgrove I can remember your body stretched out yawning to heaven, your memory half gone. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nothing in this life which I can keep, yet even more that I do not want to. But you, heavenly body, track marked arms. You, a desperation to keep safe, live. Gabriel and his halo, Gabriel and grief: The choking grip of love around our necks. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s impossible to forget those days, to forget you, Gabe -- beating heart, dark eyes. You can live now, safe in my memory; The beat of your heart carried on in mine. The sweetness of you, the crassness of me. Let rain fall, let LA wash us away.
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STILLBORN, OCTOBER 2017
Lauren Thornberg Do you know what it means to be afraid of libraries? Once, I was just a small bird on the second floor, an outstandingly fragile casualty in a world that demands tragedy after tragedy. Now, I am merely the absence of a woman, the remnants of a queen-sized bed. What was it like to live in that world with him? That world is gone now, it hungered for hurt and wound up dead. I can’t help but wonder what happens to the love we have for things that are now decayed and ugly – do we release this fistful of soil, or will we carry it until it kills us? Where do excuses go when it’s time for them to die? Or do they live forever, poltergeists possessing everything we called ours? He destroyed me in a way I still cannot understand beautiful on metros and in convenience stores and on bicycles, cruel in libraries and in phone calls and in places people could not see. Apparently, when it is all over, you are born again but stronger; I was born again premature, crying on an airplane, always crying (as if I meant to wake the dead).
Catherine Cosgrove Maybe there is space between that which breathes me in, that which spits me out. We call each other secrets names; we call each other without shame. Somewhere in Leland, we forget how to open our mouths and let the truth fall out. Hand caging my heart, you said “I think it will all be okay.” You wanted me to forget July and Wilmington, your hair: blonde and uncut, split ends, roots which grow back like rust, the Jim Morrison poster against a popcorn ceiling, the Ford Explorer lazily doing laps around the cul de sac while you nurse hangovers, while you listen to CDs I sent you — when briefly our mouths move together for words which belong to someone else, and fill a space which smothers us 22
The Kudzu Review as we beg for more. I wanted to believe that this — that you — might bend back and eat me whole. I wanted to keep this despite the way you said you wouldn’t know how to hold my hand without the kick up of dust and waft of gasoline off your brother’s truck. But hand caging my greedy heart, heat licking up your spine and rum soaking through your skin, we cannot keep and we cannot love those versions of ourselves which no longer exist.
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TOWER OF TECTONICS Karina Deschamps
WORK ONE Joey Phelps
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BUBBLE BATH Kiera Garvin
DIVIDED LANDSCAPE Lili Freedlander
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TOASTER HOUSE Karina Deschamps
TOURIST Joey Phelps
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STRIPED SKIES Lili Freedlander
DAY AT A MUSEUM Karina Deschamps
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OVER THE TOP Lili Freedlander
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PHOENIX FROM THE FLAMES
“Please stand clear of the doors. Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas." As if on cue, the automated voice chimed overhead as the looming figure guarded the exit in defiance, asserting his despotic presence over the train car. A bony visage and cloaked frame accentuated his feigned appearance, resembling the grim reaper incarnate. Noticing the bulging holster fastened to his leg, my mom instinctively reached for my hand with a sweaty palm. This may seem like an alternate opening to The Purge, but it’s actually Halloween on Atlanta’s premiere mode of public transportation, MARTA. And while the skeevy man’s menacing command of the car is reason enough to fear the worst, I was most threatened by our arrival at the city’s medical district. As I anxiously braced for our stop, an air of ambivalence consumed me. The fateful train ride no longer preoccupied me, but rather the relentless gnawing at the pit of my stomach. I pried from my mom’s consoling embrace as the tumultuous surroundings blurred into nothingness. One lone thought echoed in my mind: This is it. This is my last stop. This is where I will find the light at the end of the tunnel or extinguish any remaining flicker of hope fueled by perpetual desperation. Apprehensive sentiments gradually receded from my mind, while my mom’s soothing strokes grounded me to the present. I arose incandescently and leaped onto the platform empowered by the prospect of renewed life. Memories of optimism resurfaced as I reflected upon critical moments throughout my medical journey, yet I remained scarred by the underlying emotional baggage of trekking through the unknown. In this specific memory, I traveled from West Palm Beach to Atlanta for yet another surgery consult. 35
Fall 2020 The concealed identity of the man is reflective of my own fear of the universeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s veiled intentions. As I succumbed to uncertainty, I yearned for the prophetic lens of divine foresight. The first surgery was unsuccessful, but would the esteemed Dr. Kenneth Sinervo be my saving grace? Every time I recall fruitless testing, extensive hospitalization, and a life condemned to misery and pain, I can almost taste the bitter bile rising from my upheaved stomach. I am forever tainted by the sterilized must of the pediatrics floor. Within the first semester of my sophomore year, my doctor enrolled me into the countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hospital-homebound program as I persevered through symptoms of my chronic illness. I could no longer attend school physically and suffered the repercussions emotionally. I lost my interests, my identity, and my sense of purpose in life. While my peers relished in the fluttery palpitations of teenage jitters, anxiety over a future of uncertainty plagued me. After half a year of unwavering symptoms and exploratory procedures, I received a diagnosis. It was a severe case of endometriosis, a painful disease that caused reproductive tissue to spread to my abdominal organs. I had my first major abdominal surgery that June. I was finally able to breathe again, to eat again, to live again. This sense of finality made me feel liberated, and I found security in the thought that I could burn this ghastly chapter from my memory. I basked in the glow of boundless opportunity. I would emerge from the cindery ruins of my life as a Phoenix: forged beautiful, powerful, and eternal by the fire of hardship. This was all behind me... or so I thought. The first surgery was unsuccessful. The symptoms returned within two months. Sinking into the abyss of illness again eroded any confidence in fulfilling my ambitions. But when I lost everything, I was able to find myself. I came to the realization that only my response to adversity is within my realm of control. I could not control my flare-ups, my educational situation, or my prolonged absence from a brick-and-mortar school setting. But I could influence my 36
The Kudzu Review thoughts, take charge of my actions, and manifest my own reality under the circumstances. I became transcendent. By embracing the inevitable, more surgery, I was able to relinquish societal expectations and debilitating pessimism to pursue my passions. I continued to write policy analyses for debate and pursued an independent study course where I researched international affairs from my hospital room in Atlanta. I learned to appreciate the little blessings of life and found gratitude in my abilities rather than sulking at my medical inhibitions. I improved my quality of life by indulging in escapism. Unorthodox coping mechanisms came from my obsession with all things Scottish. Celtic film scores made me feel at ease, and I immersed myself in Scottish culture and colloquialisms. I became a member of the Scottish American Society of South Florida and further enabled my obsession through online Gaelic lessons. It gave me a newfound sense of purpose in life. *** “How are you enjoying Outlander?” The allure of Diana G’s hypnotic prose was challenged by the nurse’s interjection, whose warm gesture seemed antithetical to the somber hospital environment. “Oh, it’s great,” I responded with a perfunctory smile. “I’ll set this down right here for ya, bud.” My gaze leveled with the tray of food as the nurse placed it beside the bed, and I reverted to my book, my neck craned over my lap. The roles were reversed. I was now the one in the visitor’s seat. I looked up once more as my brother grimaced at the plate. I knew he wouldn’t eat the food; it was a wasted effort. In retrospect, the daunting feat of maintaining optimism amid adversity was not nearly the most testing aspect of my journey. Rather, it was applying the realization that control is an illusion to my 13-year-old brother’s anorexia.
Fall 2020 While recovering from my latest surgery, I witnessed my brother fade awayuntil he was almost unrecognizable. I alone had recognized the signs of his eating disorder. It felt like my parents didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe me until he was rushed to the Pediatric ICU due to heart complications. I was angry. We had already been through so much with my illness. How could he do this to our family? To me? To himself? The role I had assumed as his watchdog prompted my further descent into confusion and betrayal. But my first visit to his residential center in Orlando provided elucidation. After his first month of rehabilitation, he looked a bit better. He didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t look good, but at least he was out of the wheelchair. His face was fuller, but it remained ashen and haunted. I then knew that this was not within his control, nor was it within mine. There was nothing I could have done to stop his mental illness, just as I could not stop my own chronic illness. All I could control was my own reaction to the circumstance. I realized that as I overcame corruptive external forces in my life, I doubled as an external force in my brotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s battle with anorexia. The experience of my medical journey henceforth equipped me with empathy and understanding to support my brother as we healed together and found ourselves again.
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I breathe a thick warm cloud at the glass, swiping away the murk with the dense fur brimming my parka. A deep sigh escapes my lips, but mama just cranks the nob of the stereo to drown out my disdain. Everything here is mundane, pretty lackluster if you ask me. There’s this dullness—this sameness that inhabits every building, every landscape, every person; it almost seems artificial. I prop my cheek up against the window; my sight becomes occupied by distorted visions of trees blurred by the soft haze of the frost engulfing the bitter barricade once more. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much untouched space before, not down in South Florida anyway. Up ahead, the road diverges, making a ‘T’ shape. I must’ve noticed before mama because the old truck comes to a screeching halt, met with the first stop sign in what seems like hours. Ah, finally, a signal of life. We continue on, yet no life emerges, just some more monotonous masses of abandoned corner stores, boarded-up houses, and half-staffed gas stations. As the speed limit falls and the trucks lag at 50, I’m able to make out a sign with friendly swirling letters welcoming us to the upper peninsula. “Ma, if we just keep going straight, will we eventually just, like, drive off the peninsula?” She presses both pointer fingers to her temples and rubs, causing us to swerve off momentarily before she grips the wheel again and retorts, “I don’t know. Why don’t you go find out one day, and then you tell me.” I sink into the fuzzy depths of my parka, thinking of all the horrible things I could say, but I bite my tongue and continue our ride in silence. Nine Bob Seger songs later, and my gaze instinctively moves towards the windshield. Finally, a remnant of familiarity. 39
Fall 2020 The junkyard is the one place around here that actually looks how it does back home. Chain-link fences covered with rust, jagged edges protruding every which way stained crimson by the delicate skin of eighth-grade knees sneaking out after dark to smoke cigarettes in the moonlit seclusion. And then I see him. A boy probably not much younger than I, the kind of boy to hang out at the junkyard, riding his bike feverishly close to the road, though the entire sidewalk is unoccupied. I can picture him, cigarette reduced to a nub, exhaling his final breath as the smoke curls into the crisp nighttime air like a bony, old hand grasping for youth. Mama veers left to pass him, and as she does, I watch him with intent. Our eyes meet for a moment, and I suddenly know him; I know his story. His scraggly ginger mane flies behind him as he peddles faster, ferociously trying to keep up with our vehicle as if he’s actually a fair contender in this race. His breathing labors and he finally slows down, cackling at his own madness. I wonder if he is bothered by the dinginess of his bike; the orange color so faded it better matched his hair than its original pristineness. Then I remember, he’s a junkyard boy; he doesn’t care what they think. *** People often memorize the names of the Great Lakes with a mnemonic device—I was never good with those, so I don’t actually remember what it is, but I’m here. The Great Unknown. My teeth chatter as wind slaps around my ears and face, putting my hair in disarray, but I can’t actually feel the cold. The whirs of the wind turn to subdued chatter, voices lapping the shore, inching closer to my spot in the sand with each passing wave. I can’t quite make out what they’re saying, but I feel a warmth consuming me. It’s yearning for me, coercing me forward. I plunge into the icy abyss, darkness surging up my ankles and towards my calves. It consumes my cuffed-bottom Levi’s and continues up my shirt, 40
The Kudzu Review still starving. The tsunami of secrets still humming in my ears threatens to drown me, and I struggle for a moment, stopping as their voices finally become intelligible. They want to tell me the stories of this place. I take another step forward, and the voices become deafening. I know I cannot turn back, so I take one final step, surrendering myself to them. Maybe now, they can tell my story, too.
STAFF Aram Mrjoian, Advisor Alaina Faulkner, Editor-in-Chief
Mia Jackson, Editor Carah Gedeon Nicole van der Sommen Chukwudima "Chudi" Oraedu Patreva Brown Carly Martin Tarah Jean Emily Engle Sara Sutton Allison Mickey
Christian Latham, Editor Taylor Anderson
Sarah Beal, Editor Kristine Castillo Anna DeJonge Annabelle Chapman Jordyn Dees Joshua Hogie
Anna Morgan, Editor Harley Preston Jocelyn Arbogast Madeline Brik Alyssa Cuevas Catherine Cosgrove Roxy Rico
The views and ideas expressed in the containted 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.