The WC Press Literary Issue - February 2015

Page 1

february 2015





Computer Support (clothing optional)

Introducing RemoteWC!

Remote technology support services you can trust. (Anytime, anywhere, in any attire)

Schedule your remote session today at 4

Brought to you by West Chester Computer Doctors, located in the middle of the block at 28 South High Street  610.431.0400  THE WC PRESS | VOICE THE BOROUGH



Great Food, Great Drinks

& Daily Specials 15 S HIGH ST  610.696.1400 BARNABYSWESTCHESTER.COM





“Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grasped at once.” -Cyril Connolly COLUMNISTS Becca Boyd Diane LeBold Brad Liermann Jennifer Ozgur DJ Romeo Published By... Mathers Productions 13 South Church Street West Chester, PA 19382 610-344-3463

The WC Press is a monthly magazine distributed free of charge to more than 250 businesses. For a free digital subscription, visit For more information about specific distribution locations, visit


Our favorite submissions

Contributions 11

17 21 29 33 37 45 49

WHAT WE KNEW Short fiction by Jim Breslin PRIMARY PALETTE Poem by Heather O’Connor ONE HELLUVA JOB Short fiction by John Dixon CRACKED Novel excerpt by K.M. Walton

GRACE AT BUCK’S TAVERN Poem by Virginia Beard WHERE BIRTHDAYS DON’T COUNT Short non-fiction by Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi SUNRISE AT FIRESTONE Poem by Melissa Snavely SOFT PLASTIC SOUNDS AND FOREVER Short fiction by Peter Cunniffe





From the


“In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others” –Andre Maurois

I read a lot. As a general rule, my profession is pretty well full of reading duties. Even when I’m treating myself to a break during the work day, I fill that time with news aggregator websites and more reading. I don’t have any facts to back this up, but I’d bet I spend more time reading than I do speaking, especially ever since emails and text messages replaced the phone call as my primary means of communication. Still, there’s one thing I really don’t read much of: literature, particularly Literature with a capital “L.” When I was younger I read a number of classics, but lately the closest I’ve come to digesting an important literary work was when I purchased The Goldfinch from the Kindle store in June; the last I looked at my iPad, I’d completed only 6% of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner for best fiction. I just found that I wasn’t engrossed in the story of a young boy lost in the wreckage of a bombed-out art museum, and the time spent reading it felt a lot like work to me. Sure, with how little I’d devoted to the book, I wasn’t yet confident of the characters’ motives, but I was pretty confident I wouldn’t be reading any more of that book. That’s because—as someone who reads for a living—I tend to fill my spare time with books that are inherently pleasing, right from page one, books that open with lines like, “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Some classify my predilections as the snack food of the literary world. I’m alright with that—I’m a huge science fiction fan. Take a look at most “Top 20” lists of the best sci-fi of all time, and I’ve read at least 17 of them. I downloaded the first novel of the Vorkosigan Saga two days ago, and I’ve already finished three times as much of that as I ever did The Goldfinch. Most literary minds idolize Faulkner or Fitzgerald; I prefer Heinlein and Asimov. So, when we decided to publish a literary issue, friends pushed me to submit a sci-fi contribution. I had dreams of a compelling short fiction piece, but those dreams eluded me. Any desire I had to contribute was quashed the moment submissions started rolling in and I realized just how good my writing would have to be to hold it’s own against fiction writers of John Dixon’s caliber (his debut novel was turned into a CBS series). And I guess that’s a good thing. It means the issue you’re holding is brimming with an immense amount of talent. We fielded 33 submissions from authors who possessed strong ties to West Chester and narrowed it down to the eight entries you’ll find in this issue. The pieces run the gamut from short fiction to ethnography, with a handful of beautiful poems and an excerpt from a novel thrown in for good measure. Whenever we dig deeply into anything in West Chester— from art, to industry—I’m always blown away by what this community has to offer; the literary talent in this town is no exception. I found the contributions to this issue to be so inspiring I was even moved to once again pick up The Goldfinch... I only made it another few pages, but I still think that says a lot.





Jim Breslin


e saw what happened when the camera was off-air and we heard what people said when their microphones were brought down, and we had grown cynical. From the window of Shoplandia’s control room, we peered out over the studio, observing the scene like federal agents without a warrant. Below we saw the rows of order entry operators on headsets sitting in their modular cubicles. When products were selling and America was buying, the operators sat forward and intently pecked at their keyboards. When business was slow, they leaned back and conversed with their neighbors, knitted sweaters and baby blankets, or read through dog-eared copies of People and Us magazines. The view from our perch included a massive rotating stage, which each hour spun—from a living room set to a kitchen set, or maybe from the garage set to the patio—during our top-of-thehour break. At the foot of the stage sat command central, the line producer’s desk. When a host and producer believed they were in a private conversation, we listened in. The producers might leave their headset buttons on, or we’d put the host’s mic in cue and eavesdrop. There is no privacy in a broadcast studio. We knew the personal habits of the show hosts. We knew the timing of Karen’s menstrual cycle and when Henry was hungover. Among the producers and backstage staff, we knew who were loyal friends and who talked behind their co-workers’ backs. We had opinions on who was competent, who was a team player, who was a slacker and who couldn’t be trusted. We knew who received free product samples from vendors and who palmed items from the warehouse. When one of the broadcast cameras was in our preview monitor, we watched Tanya wipe lipstick off her teeth with a paper

towel. We watched as Frankie walked to the side of the set, threw up his hand in the scissor position to signify “cut my mic,” and then squatted and passed gas. When show host Calabrese groped the young model on the set, we were voyeurs through the lens. We could have stepped in to save Curtis, but we didn’t. Through the window and the preview monitors we had watched Calabrese’s fingers sliding over models, order entry operators, female producers and production assistants. On the day Curtis greased Item V4863—Starling 18 X 21 Binoculars—and Calabrese lowered the product and revealed his raccoon eyes on live national television, the incident created a minor sensation. Several directors dubbed the video to their own personal reels, preserving the moment for posterity. We watched it over and over and it never failed to entertain us. At the bar a few nights later, the binocular incident became a topic of conversation. Curtis had a good run but he had been caught. We understood. Life is not fair. Some of us thought if we couldn’t save Curtis, maybe we should avenge him. Others believed Karma would even the field eventually. The space between us swelled with an awareness that we could have done something, but we didn’t. We said amongst ourselves, “Someone should do something about this,” and then we sipped our beers quietly as if in mourning. After a few moments of silence, Clancy suddenly remembered a bit of news. “I heard a rumor we’re going to launch a whole new campaign next week. There’s going to be new promotional spots and a station I.D.” Our ears perked up. This was exciting news. “It’s supposedly an attempt to change our image,” Clancy explained.

Jim Breslin is the author of Shoplandia, a humorous novel about the working lives of show hosts, producers and crew at a home shopping channel set in suburban PA. His short story collection, Elephant, came out in 2011. Jim’s short fiction has appeared in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Molotov Cocktail, Turk’s Head Review, and other journals. His micro-publishing project, Oermead Press, has also published Chester County Fiction and a poetry chapbook, Exit Pursued by a Bear by Virginia Beards. Jim is the founder of the West Chester and Delco Story Slams.






Becca Boyd has a passion for good food


For many, being a great cook is really about choosing a great recipe. Imagining how how the ingredients will work together and then accurately and mindfully forging. It actually makes sense that Bobby Flay dropped out of high school because, after learning how to read, to understand grammar and to add and subtract fractions, he had all that he needed to go to culinary school. If one of your resolutions this year was to become a better cook, I urge you start with the culinary basics – “cream” isn’t just something you put in your coffee and “fold” has nothing to do with laundry.

White Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti makes about 3 dozen 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour; 1 tsp. baking powder; 1/2 tsp. salt 1 c. sugar; 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature; 2 eggs 1/2 tsp. almond extract; 1 c. dried cranberries; 1 egg white 1 c. white chocolate chips 1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. 2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. 3. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter at medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. 4. Add eggs, 1 at a time, along with almond extract. 5. Add flour mixture and mix on the lowest speed until mostly mixed. 6. Add cranberries and white chocolate till JUST blended. 7. Dump dough onto floured counter and divide into three equal chunks. Using floured hands, form three logs, lengthwise, on the baking sheet. Each log should be about 1 inch high, two inches wide, and 12-14 inches long. 8. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush egg white glaze on top and sides of each log. 9. Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 30-35 minutes. Don’t turn off the oven. 10. Cool 15 minutes on sheet, then transfer to cutting board. Cut into 1/2 inch slices and return to baking sheet, cut side down. 11. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer biscotti to rack. Cool completely. Keep at room temp. in Ziploc bag or Tupperware for a few days. Tomato, White Bean and Rosemary Soup serves 8-10 1 tbsp. olive oil; 1 large onion, chopped; 3 cloves garlic, smashed 32 oz (two pounds) canned whole peeled tomatoes 2 (15 oz) cans canellini beans, drained and rinsed 4 c. chicken broth; 2 tbsp. tomato paste; 1 sprig fresh rosemary 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes; 1/4 tsp. kosher salt 1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened, stirring occasionally, about five minutes. 2. Add tomato paste and stir frequently, about 1 minute. 3. Meanwhile, take tomatoes from can and discard remaining juice. Place in a bowl and using kitchen scissors or a knife, roughly chop each tomato in half or thirds. 4. Add tomatoes, beans, broth, rosemary, red pepper and salt to pot and stir to combine. Increase heat to high and place lid on pot in order to bring to boil. Remove lid and reduce heat to low; simmer for about twenty minutes.



Excite all of your senses

at West Chester’s most alternative & unique boutique! A vast array of “one-of-a-kind” products, including...

Hip Clothing • Bags & Accessories • Jewelry Galore • Incense/Oils/Candles • Tapestries/Blankets • Eclectic home/Dorm décor • Hemp products • Grateful Dead, Bob Marley & ‘60s Memorabilia • Tie Dyes & Cool T-shirts • Hand-blown glass & local artwork • Tobacco accessories • Groovy Gifts Gift Certificates Available

130 W. Gay Street 610-431-6607 A portion of our proceeds go to environmental and pro-peace charities! All major credit cards accepted. Open 7 Days A Week

10% off purchase with student ID! SINCE 1992





PHOTO Andrew Hutchins


One thing’s clear when you talk with Bill and Mike Delvescovo about Brother’s Pizza: it’s all about family. So, how’d you come to run a pizzeria?

BD I was in the corporate world for six years doing sales for PepsiCo. I did everything from sales to management.

that was it. What I did know was sales, and I viewed this business as another sales job. I’m taking product and selling it. What did your aunt and uncle teach you before you took charge?

BD Quite a bit. It was a huge learning curve. I’ve got it down now, but it took years of my aunts, uncles and cousins helping. Do you think you’d be this successful if it weren’t for the help of your family?

BD Probably not. I attribute a lot to them. They gave me the base—I went off of that. Not to take away from what you’ve done...

BD I think my sales experience helped us thrive and grow. Our family’s owned this business since ‘91—only Benny’s and New Haven have been here that long. How has the business grown?

BD I was working a lot of hours and figured if I was going to be working those hours, I should be doing it for myself.

BD We do a lot of catering now. MD Christenings, baptisms, graduation parties, seasonal holidays. We’re doing weddings now. Everything from small parties to 200-plus.

How’d you come to own this place?

What’s the source of your success?

Why’d you get out?

BD While I looked at a variety of businesses, my aunt and uncle owned this place. I bought it from them in September of ‘96. What’d you know about the business?

BD I kinda knew how to make a pizza, but

MD I’d attribute a lot of that to the staff. Lauren Berger, our manager, has been with us for 15 years. We have staff members who like working here so much their younger siblings come in to work for us—

we’ve got six sets of siblings on staff. I think that says a lot about our business. How about the awards your food has won?

BD Consistency. We’ve been selling the same pizza for 23 years—same ingredients. We use top-of-the-line ingredients in everything. It might be a little more expensive, but people want quality food. Mike, how’d you get involved

MD I joined as partner two years ago. BD I had a cousin who was a silent partner who was getting out of this business; that made the opportunity for Mike. Why were you interested?

MD I wanted to work for myself. I had success early on in my career—I worked in the financial district in New York for three years, then three years in the pharmaceutical industry—which gave me a base to think about getting out on my own. How’s it going?

MD It’s good. I’m still learning from Bill the way he did from our family, passing on the knowledge of the business. BD Mike’s 14 years younger than me, and this is a young man’s business. I think a lot of him coming on is about having a successor. The goal is to have Brother’s Pizza around for another 30 years.





Primary Palette Heather O’Connor

When you go I am left with blue, only. It is not the blue of radiance, that swirls, turning rose into violet, along the backs of dawn-ripening clouds; that laps warm at your ankles from glossy, sun-filled waters.

It is the blue of twilight, that moment so easily lost— its serenity compromised by a rising breeze— when the sun, leaving off its burden, descends toward rest and brushes along the silken side of darkness.

No, it is the bittersweet blue of strangeness, of the silence that enfolds the air when the birds of light have sung out their last clamorous notes and pause, instantly, completely— to await the night-birds’ patient lullaby.

Yes, when you go I am left alone with blue. It wraps me close in its arms, keeping me silent, waiting— until you return, spreading scarlet before night’s path and carrying sunlight glowing in your grasp.

Heather O'Connor lives in Chester County with her husband and three children, along with three dogs, one cat, a guinea pig and four chickens. She's earned a B.A. in Literature from West Chester University and an M. Ed. from Cabrini College along the way. She currently writes anything from poetry and children's stories to short fiction and novels. She received the Honorable Mention Award for Poetry in the 2014 Surrey International Writer's Conference (SiWC) Writing Contest for her poem, Buttercups. In addition, her first novel, My Watcher's Eyes, was published in July of 2014 and its sequel is due to be released in 2015.





Owner of the


PHOTO Andrew Hutchins


Jamie Jones of WhirlAway Travel knows booking a vacation's about more than finding a pretty picture So, are you actually the owner? Kind of... What do you mean, “Kind of?” My mom

started this business 30 years ago, and I wanted nothing to do with the travel business, but then I had kids. How did kids change that? I used to work with at-risk kids through VisionQuest in Florida, Philly and Emeryville. Then once you had kids of your own… I didn’t want to deal with anyone else's kids. So, I came to my mom and said, “I want in the business,” and she was skeptical. She even got me tested.

a personality test that determines what your strengths are, what makes you tick, how you deal with people. So, it wasn’t like a family thing where this was handed to me on a silver platter—I was under contract with the company. How long ago was that? Four and a half years ago, and we are now working on a transition from her to me. What have you changed since coming in? For one, we scrapped American Ex-

press and joined Signature Travel Network. What does that mean? It’s a network of 300 agencies throughout the world that allows us to offer our clients added amenities, credits, upgrades…. So it’s this network’s relationship that...

allows us to hook our clients up. I now have 850 hotel contacts all over the world where I can call them up and say, “Look, I’ve got a VIP client. Hook ‘em up.” For someone who’s gotten used to the age of Travelocity and Orbitz, explain to me the benefits of going through you. First off,

I know a pretty picture from the real experience. When you’re looking online, everyone’s going to put their best foot forward.

What do you mean she got you tested?

So the beautiful room I see might be the only one at the resort that looks like that.

She made me do a DISC assessment—it’s

Exactly. We know what you’re going to get.

We’ve actually seen a huge uptick in business because people are so overwhelmed by everything they’re finding online. We plan travel every single day, whereas most folks will plan trips once or twice a year, so we know how to sort through it and find what's right for you. The big question is: can you save me money? Of course. We’re professionals, so

we charge fees for our time and expertise, but we don’t work for the hotels or cruise lines—we work for you and want to make sure you’re getting the best rate. Or, maybe you’ll find a hotel for $200 a night, and we can get you that same hotel for $225, but we’ll also get you breakfast included and a $100 food and beverage credit. Oh, and we have to mention that you’re president of the Bride Guide to West Chester. Tell us about that. The Bride Guide to

West Chester was started two and a half years ago as a networking group for local vendors who provide services for weddings, and we had the grand idea to do a bridal show. When’s that? Our second annual will be at the Chester County Historical Society from 11am-2pm on Febraury 22. It’s a great time. Everyone should come.





One Helluva Job John Dixon


was sitting on the counter, eating crackers and cream cheese, when a scythe-toting skeleton wearing a black robe walked into the kitchen. "Oh, hell," I said. "Not exactly," the Grim Reaper replied. "But aren't you...?" "Yup." "Does that mean I'm dead?" "Nope." I sighed. "That's a relief." "You sure about that? I had your life, I'd do a cannonball off the Empire State Building." "Wouldn’t work,” I said. “There hasn’t been a successful suicide in three days. Hear about that guy on the news? Swallowed poison, slit his wrists, and scaled into the tigers' cage at the zoo? Stable condition down at St. Mary's. Nobody's dying." For three days, global headlines had cheered: "NO ONE DIES TODAY!" Suddenly, inexplicably, people had stopped dying. Not one death in three days. "You ain't telling me nothing I don't already know, buster. Mind if I sit down?" "Go ahead." I considered offering him a cracker, but he didn't look like he ate much. "I was in the neighborhood," he explained, shaking a pack of smokes from

one sleeve. "Cigarette?" I shook my head. "Nasty habit, I know, but I can't give it up. Occupational requirement, you might say. I mean, can you imagine a non-smoking Death?" He offered wheezing laughter, patting his robe, cigarette jutting from his yellow grin. "No matches," he mumbled, then went to the stove and used a burner to light his cigarette. "You ought to switch to electric," he said. "Gas is dangerous. Some kid comes along, plays spin-theknob, next thing you know, ka-bloo-ey." "I don't have any kids." "Nephews and nieces, then." "None." "Grandkids?" "Get real." "The children of friends." "No friends, with or without kids." "Electric's still safer." He returned to his seat and rocked back on two legs. "Not to be rude," I said, "but if I'm not dead, what are you doing here?" "I want to hire you." "Hire me? I'm a business consultant." "Former business consultant, according to my notes, Paul. I know about the demotion. Out of corporate and into ... what was it? Education?" I nodded. I’d been a workplace consultant for ten years, but that hotshot

Daniels pushed me out of corporate, and I’d been reassigned to the public school scene like a pawn that had found some magnificent way to move backwards. Death said, "I also know about that time with the cat, when you were a kid." "That was a one-time thing." "No it wasn't. Look, things are a little messy at work. Union problems. You see the results, fruitcakes walking around, sucking air when they should be taking a dirt bath." "I always expected Death to be more formal." "And I always expected the Tooth Fairy to keep up with inflation. I gotta get stuff straightened out, get people dying again. You're the man for job. You got the silver tongue, and kick-starting the death process won't freak you out." "I don't know...I've worked for some tough bosses before, but you are the Grim Reaper." "Oh, don't be so dramatic. I got a boatload of griping employees that need whipped into shape, and fast. You come on board and straighten that crap out, and I'll dump thirty grand into your bank account and tack five years onto your life." "What if I refuse?" "If you refuse, you're the first joker I process once I get my show up and running again."





"Any play in those numbers, the money, the extra years? How about fifty grand and a decade?" "You're on." "When do I start?" "Now."


eath snapped his fingers, and we were peering out of a stone tower onto a bleak and craggy stone-scape. At the base of the tower milled a seething, sign-waving mob. Death explained, "Those picketing nitwits are my employees. Union strike." Behind us spread a massive forest of cubicles straight out of the nightmare of some idealistic college senior. Death led me through a maze of chalky hallways aglow in fluttering fluorescents. "What are their demands?" I asked. "I'm not even sure," Death admitted, "but I'm certain they're unreasonable. Here's their department. Traitors just up and walked out." Empty cubicles spread dustily away in all directions. I said, "I'd like to see an office." "Will this take long? An earthquake just slammed Central America – sevenpoint-three on the Richter scale – and we're still constipated." "I need to see what these folks do before I can sway them." It was true. I always made it a point to walk half a block in my consultees' moccasins. That was the difference between me and that upstart, Daniels, who'd stolen my territory. He was all flash and smile. I was a professional. I could just picture him standing in front of my former clients, cracking jokes and laughing his way through Powerpoint presentations, while I suffered in a middle school library full of sixty or seventy frowning teachers. Death led me into a cramped and cluttered cubicle with half a dozen sickly plants and a clock radio fusing static hiss and elevator calliope. A calendar dated 1978 featuring a faded country scene. Coffee mugs, a stress ball, half a pack of antacid tablets, an ancient typewriter. Stacks of manila folders towered everywhere: the floor, the desk, atop a beige filing cabinet. "Goner files," Death explained, picking up a handful of folders. "Folks overdue to

join the majority. We're a little behind on processing." "Processing?" "Yeah, processing. Can't just go around wasting people these days. The regs are really strict. Processors check forms for errors, initial the admin box, and pass completed paperwork to the dispatcher, who types a work order and passes the folder on to archives." "Holy crow – I never imagined that death was so... mundane." "It's an important job, Paul." "Sounds boring." "Not at all. Look, Paul, I'd love to stay and chat, but I'm busier than a worm in a casket." Death clapped me on the shoulder. His hand wasn't even cold. After Death left, I plopped into the chair and spent an hour perusing folders. The files gave names and ages, even addresses, but no interesting details. The office air was stale and warm and dusty, and my contact lenses felt thick when I blinked. I rang Death, and he appeared momentarily, dressed in a pale yellow kimono with swirling flower print on the lapels. "Great Scott!" I cried. "What sort of an outfit is that?" "Comfort clothes," the Grim Reaper said. "My signature robe chafes. I only wear it during Earthly visits." "I'm ready to talk to the Union." Death led me down several dozen flights of stairs – the elevators were broken, he explained – to the main gate. Faintly, I could hear the angry union workers. "Sure you're up to this?" Death asked. "It's what I do," I replied. He opened the gate, and I went out smiling into the seething crowd.


nce I managed to pry the fat guy's hand off my throat, I gasped, "I'm not a scab. I'm a consultant." "What?" a particularly vicious-looking brunette asked. "You better make this good." "I've come to help you," I said. Grips loosened. I scooted backward through the crowd of attackers, stood, and brushed myself off. "Things are a mess on Earth. I'm here to mediate an agreement between you and Death."

"Death, huh? He tells us to call him 'Ted.'" "Ted?" "Yeah. 'Just call me Ted,' he tells us. Then we don't see him for a month or so." "What's he do while you're working?" "He's in his office, watching TV or listening to his Sounds of the Whales CD." I shuddered. I hadn't been prepared for this. Apparently, neither had they. "Back on Earth," the fat guy said, "I got no respect, you know? But then he shows up, and I'm thinking, 'Yeah, now who's the man,' like I'm a real tough guy, working for the Grim Reaper. Come to find out, he just twinkle-toes around in a yellow kimono. It's demoralizing." An angry chorus supported him. A lean, gray-haired woman with stern blue eyes stepped forward. "Gladys Blummell, union rep. Everything these people are saying is true." I shook her hand, found her grip firm and her stare direct and so offered what I felt to be my best smile for the moment: tight, subtle, and concerned. "I've talked to Death, and he's willing to make some changes. Everyone gather round. Make a semi-circle. That's good. Taller people to the rear. Great. Now… I'd like to hear from you. What are some things about your jobs that we can celebrate?" Silence. "No one?" I asked. "Help me out here. I'd like to start on a positive note." "I kind of like the drop slot," someone from the back admitted. "Great," I said. "That is a neat feature. Anyone else? No? All right. I respect your honesty. Complaints?" An explosion of gripes... "Okay, okay. One at a time. You, with the string tie." "The water pipe over my cubicle hisses." So began the healing.


So I told the guy, 'You get the blonde and the money, but I keep the pig!'" Death's employees screamed laughter. I’d done it. Sure, it had taken several hours and every gimmick from trust falls to what-Christmas-ornament-wouldyou-like-to-be, but I’d pulled it off.





“All right, my friends,” I said, smiling wide. “Time for me to go see Death.”


heir demands," I said, handing Death the paper. "Benefits? I'm the Grim Reaper, not Santa Claus." "Work with me." He shook his skull in disgusted disbelief. "What's all this about the folders?" "They're too impersonal." "They're efficient." "You want to resolve this or what?" "All right. Go ahead." "The employees were idealistic when they arrived, ready to waste people, but the folders are so impersonal – all they list is name, age, address, and some code." "The death code." "Too cryptic,” I said. “They want more. Some cat trips an old woman on the stairs, and she tumbles to her death, they want to know it. They want anecdotes." "They're demented!" "They're bored." His empty sockets stared incredulously. "Additionally, they want a passport photo for each goner, to feel like they're wasting a real person, not just a name and an address." Death shook his bony fists. "This is ridiculous." "It's necessary. They have other demands – new vending machines, better radio reception, and Hawaiian shirt Fridays – but we can slide them into the five-year plan." "Five-year plan?" Death grinned and leaned closer. "The magical five-year plan," I said. "I use it everywhere. Employees whine, I tell them, 'No problem. It's in the five-year plan.' They buy it every time." Death chuckled darkly. I smiled, but I was still worried. Not about Death's employees – they were

green enough to buy the five-year plan – but about those teachers back on Earth. The educational circuit was a nightmare. Those teachers were so jaded from inept administrators and in-service days, they'd never buy my five-year plan. I shuddered. I’d be stuck droning to zombies while Daniels took milk and honey in corporate. "I think I can make this work," Death said, "especially with the five-year plan. You'll draw that up?" I laughed. "There is no actual plan, of course." Death beamed. "I didn't think so. All the same, I'll need a list of empty promises, right?" "Sure," I said, pointing to the list. "The air system, for example. They're complaining of sinus and respiratory problems. You’ll promise them a new air system… along with laptops and a 401k plan." Death slapped the table, wheezing laughter until I said, “There is one more thing…." He leaned back, suddenly dubious. If he’d had eyebrows, one would be raised, I thought. "Your employees are a little disappointed in you." "In me? Why?" "The kimono. The 'Just call me Ted' stuff." Death crossed his arms. "Look,” I said, “I know you probably get tired of being so grim all the time, but these people want to work for Death, not Ted. They want your presence to frost their bones." "They do?" "Of course. They're loons. They volunteered to come here, didn't they? They want to fear you." Death sighed. "I have to wear the robe?" I nodded. "And carry the scythe. Lurk and loom. Buy a fog machine. Get creepy." "I’ll do it," Death said, rising from his seat, new life in his voice. "Should I lop off

a few heads at random? Poison the water cooler?" "Too much. I appreciate the enthusiasm, though."


wo days later, the processing department was running as smoothly as a small-town funeral home. Workers flew through files, studying passport photos, marveling over the variety of deaths, calling cubicle to cubicle when they found a death particularly strange or frightening or funny. A new candy machine brightened the break room, and a juice cooler hummed from the corner. Best of all was Death, drifting here and there in full regalia, scaring the daylights out of his workers, snapping at them to get cracking. "Gee, Paul," Gladys said, clapping me on the shoulder. "I don't know how you did it, but you really saved this place. Thanks to you, people on Earth are dying faster than ever." "Thanks, Gladys, really, but it was you – all of you – that made the difference here." Gladys chuckled. "Too modest, friend. But I'm delaying you. Before you leave, though, is there anything – anything – we can do for you?" "There might be something…" I said.


hat was that. Later that evening, I was back in my kitchen, a little upset to find that I had left the cream cheese on the counter all weekend. The message light of my answering machine winked red in the darkness of the living room. I hit play, and the voice of my boss crawled out of the speakers. "Paul, hi, it's Jerry. Look. Haven't heard anything from you for a couple of days. Hope you're not still sore about the whole school thing, because it looks like I might need you in corporate again." His voice hesitated before continuing. "There's been – there's been an accident, Paul. It's Daniels. He – it's the strangest thing – he was walking down the street when this piano just dropped out of the sky…”

John Dixon’s debut novel, Phoenix Island, inspired the CBS TV series Intelligence. John is also the author of three-dozen published short stories, including “The Laughing Girl of Bora Fanong,” which was recently produced as an audiobook and is under production as a graphic novel. His next novel, Devil’s Pocket, will be published in May, 2015 by Simon & Schuster. A former boxer, teacher and stone mason, John now writes full-time. He lives in West Chester with his wife, Christina, and their freeloading pets. When not reading or writing, he obsesses over boxing, chess and hot peppers.





Children in


Jennifer Ozgur is a mother, wife and teacher who still finds time to get out and about with her family

I don’t subscribe to the myth of Writer’s Block. Rather, I tend to suffer from what I like to call Writer’s Temporal Flu. This malady plagues the afflicted with sudden bouts of acute malaise, ennui and lethargy, precisely at the moment of sitting down to craft a few paragraphs. The patient’s resistance lowers and succumbs to the temptations of binge-watching series on Netflix and surfing videos on YouTube. The best remedy I have found is to wait for the visitation of Deadalinous (the Greek muse of deadlines) to come and give a dose of divine inspiration at the eleventh hour. The closer to the due date, the more dramatic the recovery. I make little reference to my career in my column, but my byline gives it away: I teach. English. Thus, the literary issue of The WC Press is my milieu. This fact makes it all the more ironic that I have been hit by a particularly potent strain of W.T.F. I’d like to blame it on the holiday hangover or the fewer hours of sunlight, but I suspect my avoidance of this issue is that I feel guilty that I must research family-friendly literary topics connected to our borough. I’ve been a resident of West Chester for more than 20 years, a teacher for three quarters of them and a mother for the last nine. Strange though: there is no such thing as knowledge by proximity alone. Even though I drive through town on a daily basis, content for my column—or life, for that matter—will not osmose into my consciousness. I must actively seek out the information. That said, I've come up with a few ideas that combine books, our great town and your family... For the animal lovers, Marley and Me is a great selection. The author relates his autobiography and how his beloved dog had been there through the tough times. If your child was born before 2005, then he/she should be able to handle the content, even if not yet able to read it independently. Read a chapter, then watch the PG-rated movie. West Chester Connection: Some of the film is shot right on Gay Street. Go onto youtube and see residents’ posts of their filming of the film. Caveat: Subjects of death. It's generally a rule: the book comes before the movie. But that's not the case for Oliver Stone's 1986 film, Platoon. Author Dale Dye later novelized the screenplay; it's a great read for war buffs. West Chester Connection: The musical score includes “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber. If you didn't already know, Barber was born in West Chester in 1910. Caveat: Subjects of violence/war. Serious as Dog Dirt by Bam Margera… perfect for the stereotypically reluctant male reader. Famous for his irreverent show, this book boasts many artifacts of the skater with minimal writing, but it could provide a gateway to biographies and histories. West Chester Connection: He graduated from East High school. Caveat: Subjects of, well, the star of a show called Jackass. I hope the above inspires a few families to read together and celebrate the rich literary and cultural significance of our great town. I’m feeling pretty moved at the moment, myself. I may just write a poem about it… As soon as I finish watching this Grumpy Cat compilation.



What people are saying about The WC Press...


The WC Press has been an incredible marketing partner for us. What makes them so powerful is the fact that they are a member of our community and know the market like no other resource. They truly partner with many members of the community, and I feel like they are invested in our success. –Frank Herron, Barnaby’s of West Chester


People love to pick up a copy of The WC Press in my store. The magazine has become a great source for local news and event information that people are interested in, which makes it a great choice for my business to advertise in. The owners go out of their way to help local businesses and donate their precious time to many organizations in town that support the downtown of West Chester.


–Cyndi Meadows, Penwick Design

We jumped on board with The WC Press when they published their first issue (in black & white). These guys had something special from the start and a vision to see their publication grow and reach our whole community... mission accomplished! We enjoy working with their whole creative team from advertising to social media; we are able to reach more customers through a broader spectrum of advertising, and we couldn’t be more pleased! –Laura Aloisio, DARE Auto

5,000 Magazines, 4,000 Digital Views, 250 Locations 19,000 Monthly Readers, 10,000 Social Interactions Contact Nick Vecchio to get involved: or 610.299.1100 28


Cracked K.M. Walton The following is an excerpt from the novel of the same name. I HAVE WISHED THAT BULL MASTRICK WOULD DIE almost every single day. Not that I would ever have anything to do with his death. I’m not a psychopath or some wacko with collaged pictures of him hanging in my room and a gun collection. I’m the victim. Bull Mastrick has tortured me since kindergarten. I’m sixteen now, and I understand that he’s an asshole and will always be an asshole. But I wish a rare sickness would suck the life out of him or he’d crash on his stupid BMX bike and just die. Lately, as in the past two years of high school, he’s been absent a lot. Each day that he’s not in school I secretly wait for the news that he’s died. A sudden tragic death. As in, not-ever-coming-back-to-schoolagain dead. Then I’d have some peace. I could stop looking over my shoulder every five seconds and possibly even digest my lunch. Bull has a pretty solid track record of being a dick, so death is my only option. Last year Bull pantsed me in gym. Twice. The first time was—and I can’t believe I’m even allowing myself to think this, but— the first time wasn’t that bad. It was in the locker room and only two other guys saw me in my underwear. And they’re even more untouchable than I am. They’re what every-one calls “bottom rungers.” Fortunately, the bottom rungers just dropped their eyes and turned away. But a few weeks later Bull put a little more thought and planning into it. He waited until we were all in the gym, all forty-five of us, and when Coach Schuster ran

back to his office to grab his whistle, Bull grabbed my shorts and under-wear and shouted, “Yo, look! Is it a boy or a girl?” I’m not what anyone would categorize as dramatic, but it seriously felt like he grabbed a little of my soul. I remember standing there like a half-naked statue— not breathing or blinking—as wisps of me leaked out of my exposed man parts. I heard a snort, which unfroze me. I slowly bent down, pulled up my underwear and shorts, and walked back into the locker room. And puked in the corner like a scolded animal. He got suspended for it, which earned me two guaranteed Bull-free days in a row. You think that would’ve made me feel better. But each time I walked down that hallway in school or thought of the forty-five fellow ninth graders—eighteen of them girls—seeing my balls, I would gag. Then I’d run to the closest bathroom and regurgitate perfectly formed chunks of shame and disgrace. Bull has a habit of triggering my body functions. In second grade, he made me pee my pants on the playground. He sucker punched me, and I landed face-first in a pile of tiny rocks. Bull squatted down just so he could use my head to push himself back up, squishing the rocks further into my face. He had just enough time to tell everyone I’d peed my pants before the play-ground monitor wandered over to see what the commotion was. “Victor pissed his pants! Victor pissed his pants!” Bull shouted over and over again. I lay facedown for as long as I could. I

knew I’d peed my pants. I felt the warm humiliation spread through my tan shorts. And I knew that as soon as I stood up, the difference in color would be a blinking arrow, alerting the entire play-ground that yes, Victor Konig had just pissed his pants. I got up on my elbows and felt my cheeks. It was as if my face sucked up those rocks like they were nutrients or something. Many were embedded and had to be popped out by the school nurse. I looked like I had zits—twenty-three red, oozing zits. My father wanted to know what I had done to provoke “that boy”—like Bull was actually human. My mother only cared about what the adults at the school thought of her eight-year-old son pissing his pants. She said it made her look bad and that grown-ups would think she wasn’t raising me correctly. “Only weird boys pee their pants on the playground,” she said. And then she asked me if I was weird. She actually asked me, “Victor, are you one of those weird boys? Are you? You can’t do that to Mommy. I’ve worked very hard to get where I am in this community, to live in this lovely neighborhood and in this beautiful home. I can’t have my only child embarrassing me. Do you understand, Victor? I can’t have you be one of those weird boys.” I remember apologizing for embarrassing her. Bull cut in front of me in the lunch line the next day. He shoved me and said, “Out of my way, pee boy.” I remember apologizing to him, too.

K. M. Walton lives in West Chester with her husband, two sons, cat, and turtle and is a graduate of West Chester University, with a degree in elementary education. As a former middle-school teacher she's passionate about education and ending peer bullying, and her novels shine the light onto the hideous effects of bullying. She is represented by Jim McCarthy from Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. For information on purchasing her full-length works, visit her website at



One bite and you’re hooked 40 East Market Street 484-631-0241

It’s hard to beat our California BLT with tots and an IPA 30


Tell Me something


Kate Chadwick takes a moment to spotlight a local citizen for doing something swell

Who he is: Chuck Shaw What he does: Chuck is a volunteer at the West Chester Public Library, where he teaches chess to children on Saturday mornings. Why he’s on this page: When Victoria Dow nominated Chuck from among the library’s many volunteers, she put it this way: “Volunteers are critical to the library accomplishing its mission of creating a place for ‘connection, collaboration and enrichment through knowledge and community engagement.’ The chess club is a good example of that; without a dedicated volunteer it just would not exist.” That’s where Chuck comes in. “There have been kids as young as five in the club, and several teens have 'graduated' from it,” Victoria told us. “Chuck has taught innumerable kids to play chess, coached them as they progressed in skill levels and finally, by his own admission, watched a number of them outstrip even him in ability. He loves the game, and he’s exceptionally good at teaching it to children and passing on a love for chess,” she continued. “Just recently he told me that a young woman whom he’d taught chess almost 20 years ago stopped in on a Saturday. She still plays chess, and even sat down that morning to play a couple of the kids.” Other club members whom Chuck has taught, most notably a seven-year-old, have done well in regional chess tournaments, some taking first place in their age and skill division. What he likes about West Chester: Currently a Coatesville resident, Chuck was born and raised in Harlem, and moved to Chester County to come to the aid of a family member in need. “West Chester is a pretty, civil place—upscale, and the people are generous,” he said. Chuck likes to grab a bite from China King on East Gay Street when he’s in the borough, and he enjoys visiting the Safe Harbor Homeless Shelter on Matlack Street. “I passed through there at one time—I like to go back to visit.” And, not surprisingly, you can also find him at the Methodist Church on High Street... at the chess club there. What we like about him: His humility. There is a certain selflessness in teaching, particularly when you know that you’re instilling skills in someone who may one day outpace you. “These kids are amazing,” Chuck said with more than a little pride. “I mean, they can look things up on the internet that it took me years to figure out and learn them in no time flat, but there’s a certain intellect and skill that has to already be there for that.” Moral of the story: Share your gifts. It’s one thing to find something you love; it’s another to donate your time to share that love. “I don’t know that chess does anything for these kids other than bring out qualities that are already present,” he told us. “I think what they get out of it the most doesn’t necessarily come from me. It’s just the camaraderie and the love of the game.” The West Chester Public Library is located at 415 N Church St. For more information on the chess program or any of their other programs, how to donate, or to volunteer, visit or call 610-696-1721. Do you know a WC resident who’s doing good things and deserves a little recognition in Tell Me Something Good? Let us know! Email details to





Virginia Beard

Menace grafted to neon,

Nevertheless Grace descends. Glides over to our table,

Fat to fry, flab to muscle,

carefully enunciates the specials,

Brag to gross. “Sumbitch” to whatever.

un-muddles mix-ups of appetizers and mains,

Tattoos and truck talk—

sorts out shares and splits,

“he layed on the hood and shot them two dogs

politely answers the garlic query.

engine still runnin’, dropped ‘em right down.”

She’s no sumbitch girl with ink-pricked flabby arms

TUES: 60 cent wings

and tangled grammar. Apologizes when she says “thoop” for soup—

WED: 1/2 price Mexican Coronas, Dos Equis

tells us she’ll get her braces off in two more months.

THURS: Buckets of beer, Oyster shooters, deep fried pickles Grace, unsullied and hopeful, Bud sign flames red, Coors flares yellow,

the sole still point in a swirling red neck bar.

Rolling Rock’s little horse engages. Video games bing and flash at stone-still faces, mesmerized players— weird disconnect, hell of a bad marriage between man and machine. Sinatra soars, occasionally interrupted by pretty boy announcers and football scores. Not a lot makes sense at Bucks, but no one comes here for that.

Virginia Beard has published criticism in The Journal of Modern Literature, Twentieth Century Views of Women Writers, and in Critque: Studies of Modern Fiction. Her poetry has appeared in Writing on the Edge (Univ. of California, Davis) and her short stories in Chester County Fiction. Her poems draw from an archive of urban, rural, and international experience as well as a literary subtext acquired as a member of the Penn State English Department for twenty-three years. Exit Pursued by a Bear and Others, a collection of her poetry, is available at





Children’s and Maternity Consignment S p e ci a l t y Toys

3 - 5 N. Five Poi nt s Ro a d, We s t C h e s t e r, PA 1938 0 610 - 43 0 -76 01 w w w. b u t t e r fl ie s a n d b l os s o m s. c o m



This month Butterflies & Blossoms show us some great looks for kids.




Fashionistas come in all sizes

PHOTO Andrew Hutchins

Butterflies and Blossoms is a retail and consignment shop featuring high-quality and affordable children’s and maternity clothing. They also carry new and used specialty toys, strollers, baby equipment, accessories and other useful items for your growing family’s needs. The helpful staff and a dedicated children’s play area afford you a pleasant, hassle-free and enjoyable shopping experience. New and gently used items arrive almost every day. That means the inventory is always changing, so there is a great selection to choose from. Items that do not sell are either returned to the original owner or, more often, donated to families in need or local organizations that help families.

Outfit One - Polly Zobel Dress - RUUM, $11.99 Shoes - Bellini, $9.99 Flower - No Slippy Clippy, $10.99 Outfit Two - Holly Brown Pants - Gymboree, $8.99 Sweater - Lori Jane, $10.99 Boots - Steve Madden, $13.99 Scarf - Monsoon, $5.99 FEBRUARY 2015 THEWCPRESS.COM




Where Bi rthdays Don’t Count

Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi Laura Tamakoshi

I turned thirty-nine the first year I lived with the Gende people of Papua New Guinea. I was older than most anthropologists doing their first fieldwork, but that didn’t matter to the Gende or me. I saw my age as an asset and myself as ahead of the game: I had started a family twenty years before when I was 19 and skipped the “turn on, tune in, and drop out” psychedelic counterculture popularized by Timothy Leary in the 1960s. Returning to school in 1972, three years after my last child was born and nine years after the first, I focused on anthropology. The women’s and other civil rights movements bolstered my aspirations for a career and studying the causes and effects of inequality. I was grounded by my children and the small-town culture I had always lived in. Now, eleven years later, I was about to turn thirty-nine. And here I was, far from home and the accustomed teasing about how “old” I was from a brother-in-law and two cousins who were mere months behind me in age. I was in Yandera village, a place where birthdays did not matter ex-

cept to government census-takers and missionaries recording baptisms and marriages. Those who knew me and how much I enjoy cards, gifts, best wishes, and cake and candles, were half a world away. So with the rainy season preventing mail delivery and the significance of thirty-nine lost on most villagers, my birthday seemed certain to be a dreary nonevent that January 31st in 1983. Determined, nevertheless, to celebrate my birthday on that soggy Monday, I set about making a peanut butter “cake”. I lined up the available ingredients – flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, peanut butter, cooking oil, eggs, and water – on top of the metal patrol box that held my food and cooking supplies. I picked up one of the eggs I had bought from a woman at the Saturday market on the upper school grounds. Eggs were a market rarity as the few chickens around ran free and hid their eggs from humans. After cracking an egg into a metal bowl, I jumped in revulsion, dropping the egg shells on the viscous, smelly glop. Carrying the mess outside, I dumped it where the scrawny village dogs would eat it. I rinsed the bowl with cold water from my water bucket





and tried again. The second egg was even more shocking with its embryo and attached yolk dropping into the bowl intact. After retching and disposing of the second mess, I gave up on making a cake and chose to make something akin to a scone. Spooning the thick mixture into a greased frying pan, I turned down the fire on my two-burner camp stove. As I waited for it to cook through, I tried not to think of the snarling, yelping struggle outside as several dogs fought to devour the unborn chicken fetuses. I filled my kettle with water and set it on the other burner. As I did, my Gende “father”, the Big Man Ruge, knocked on my door, calling out “Misis! Misis Lala!” – Laura being too hard to say and misis a local expression left over from the colonial era referring to ‘white women’. Letting himself in and leaving the door ajar, he eyed the peanut butter “cake” and hummed his approval. Very few people in the village ate peanut butter, most found it repulsive and likened it to baby poop. Ruge, however, had spent years in town as a young man and had made several shorter visits to see his grown daughter – an Air Niugini hostess in the nation’s capital and other Papua New Guinea towns. Ruge was familiar with white men’s food. “It’s my birthday; em de mama karim mi,” I explained in tok pisin (pidgin English), dropping loose tea in the boiling water and measuring several spoons of sugar into metal cups. “I’m thirty-nine. Mi gat thirty-nine krismas” – which wasn’t true as it would be another eleven months before my thirty-ninth Christmas. I should have said yia, but most Gende gave their age in the number of Christmases they had lived– a yearly celebration in the Catholic Church – if they gave it at all. Ruge didn’t seem to hear or care. I stepped around him to reach for my tea strainer, hung on the plaited bamboo wall and watched sulkily as he settled himself on the floor at the end of a pair of muddy footprints leading from the door to the middle of the room. Smiling, he sniffed appreciatively, obviously willing to wait for my birthday “cake”. Stirring powdered milk into the scalding tea, I handed him the mug and wondered why I was so cranky. I already knew that among the Gende readiness and viability are more important characteristics when judging a person’s “age” or stage of life. The day the child is born is of no importance. What matters is its well-being. A short time after a child is born, the child’s parents prepare a small feast to celebrate the child’s safe delivery and to show their appreciation to the birth attendants and those men and women who had contributed to the mother’s bride price. Within the first year or two after a child’s birth when it is certain it will survive, the father and mother hold a bigger feast and give one or more pigs to the mother’s brother and other members of her clan in recognition of the mother’s clan’s contribution to the mother’s upbringing and her child’s physical existence. “Tenk yu, Lala.” Ruge took the tin plate with peanut butter “cake” on it and placed it on his crossed knees. “Why do Europeans serve cake at birthday parties? Cake is not strong food.” Sitting down on the floor across from him, I reflected on

what the Gende meant by “strong food”. The small feast after a baby’s birth always includes bananas and a green vegetable rich in iron. Among the Gende, it is believed that eating bananas will make the mother’s milk strong. If a woman fails to produce milk, her husband will also give her sugar cane to drink because it too is believed to possess “strong” qualities. Pork – another “strong” food - is sometimes served at the small feast and always at the feast honoring the mother’s family. Ruge continued, “And why do they give presents to children? Children do not make themselves.” Commenting on color photos of his granddaughter Lisa’s first birthday party in town, photos I had seen early on in my fieldwork, Ruge said disdainfully, “No one but Lisa got presents! And why are you still celebrating your birthday?” Why, indeed! Deflated, I bit into the heavy cake, consoling myself with the knowledge that my fortieth birthday would be suitably celebrated back in the United States. “Because I’m happy to be alive and others are happy I am alive.” Judging by his unimpressed expression, my answer didn’t make much sense to my guest. He may have thought my actions childish or, even worse, self-centered.

After Ruge left, I went out my back door to the narrow, covered porch overlooking the clan compound. Sitting on a folding chair with a notebook on my lap, I watched the rain dripping off the kunai grass roof and listened to sounds of a card game going on in the haus tamane beside my house. I could hear Ruge’s voice and laughter. Were they laughing at me? I felt a flush of embarrassment as a young man – Thomas – bent his long lean body over and, crouching, exited the traditionally small haus tamane door and looked up and saw me watching him. “Hello, Laura”, he could say my name better than Ruge had. “Happy Birthday!” He waved as he tucked around the corner of the haus tamane and headed to my front door. Okay, I thought to myself, this is progress. Going inside to open the door for Thomas, I waved him in and cut him a piece of birthday cake. The kettle of tea was still hot so I poured him a cup of tea and filled it with plentiful spoons of sugar and powdered milk, a favorite among Papua New Guineans since colonial days and the time of the Australian mastas. Brushing raindrops from his almost Afro-style hair, Thomas sat on one of my two chairs while I brought the other in from the deck. Thomas had completed six years of school at Bundi and then headed off to town to try his luck in finding a job. After several years of no luck and living with Gende kinsmen in town, he had returned to Yandera to help his family in the gardens and in raising pigs. With education not mandatory and higher education an expensive enterprise, few village children attained a sixth grade education. Only the best and most determined students go further than sixth grade. While in town, Thomas had baby-sat for a cousin’s children while the cousin and his wife worked as poorly-paid do-





mestic servants for an Australian family working at Goroka Teachers College. His other option would have been to work on a coffee plantation but the work was physically hard and not well-paid. “Happy birthday, Laura”, Thomas repeated while wiping crumbs off his thin mustache. “Thank you, Thomas. I’m thirty-nine today.” I smiled, cutting myself a second piece of my peanut butter birthday cake, thinking that now at least I had something to write in my letters home about the only birthday I’d ever celebrated without my biological family. “Thirty-nine! That’s old!” Thomas stared at me as if he didn’t believe me. He was like the old man who’d once lifted my shirt to check the condition of my breasts because as the old man had said, “You can’t be old enough to be the mother of three children! You’re breasts are too small. They don’t hang down like a real woman’s. You’re lying!” Ruffled, I replied to Thomas, “Thirty-nine is not that old!” “You’re as old as my mother!”

he and other young village men had suffered in the presence of prosperous Gende townsmen who came to the school fundraising dance back in September and who were avidly courted by the fathers and mothers of eligible daughters (and the girls themselves) hoping for higher bride prices and connections to mani (money). But then I laughed. Thomas had thought he was only eighteen. And maybe, hopefully, it didn’t matter one way or the other what the missionaries or I thought. In his world he was a boy, not yet ready to be a man. It also didn’t matter that my birthday wasn’t what it might have been if I were home. How old you are or what day you were born shouldn’t matter as much as having others celebrate with you. And I’d had that. Forever after, when celebrating my own or other’s birthdays, I always remember – a little guiltily - the look of surprise and joy on Thomas’s face when I told him he was almost twentytwo. And I always think of Ruge - and share a bit of his displeasure - when I see small children smashing cakes with their little fists while “adults” crowd around them in evident pride that their little darlings have “achieved” the grand ages of one or two.

“No, I’m not,” I said. “Your mother is in her fifties. And you are almost twenty-two.” The fact that my oldest son was nineteen and that I was technically old enough to be Thomas’s mother didn’t seem to factor into my wounded vanity. “I’m almost twenty-two?” Thomas asked, almost dreamily. “Yes. According to the village census book you were born in 1961, the year I graduated from high school”. “I thought I was eighteen!” Thomas smiled. “But I’m almost twenty-two. I’m a man!” “Yes, you are a man. Why did you think you were eighteen?” “I was eighteen when I graduated from sixth grade.” “Thomas! That was several years ago. You have a birthday every year.” “Oh!” he said more shyly now. “I forgot.” Of course, he forgot! And what a bully I’d been. Thomas was far from being judged a man in his own society. With no prospects for earning money and his family working hard to fulfill a bride price for his older brother, Thomas would have to wait – like many other young Gende men - into his late twenties or early thirties before his family could afford to help him get a bride. Feeling guilty, I offered him the last piece of cake, which he gladly took. After Thomas left to return to the card game, I thought for a long time on how it was that such a decent, handsome young man would have to wait many years before he could start a family. The differences between the worlds Thomas and I belonged to were stark. In mine there were jobs for hardworking young people and public education at least as far as high school a given. In his, he would be treated like a boy for years to come, someone helping others to achieve adulthood. I felt sorry for him when I remembered the slights

Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi, a native of West Chester, is the author of many scholarly works on her research in Papua New Guinea. Her website www.theanthropologistinthefield is a world-wide teaching tool. Laura is writing a collection of nonfiction stories based on her first year with the Gende people in 1982-83 that includes “Where birthdays don’t count”. Laura returns to PNG often, most recently in 2014.





The Real (estate)


Entrepreneur and Realtor Brad Liermann keeps tabs on development here in the borough

There's a suburb just east of Pittsburgh that is in many ways surprisingly akin to West Chester. Greensburg is the county seat, the host to a university, and posseses a structural and historical beauty. There are excellent breakfast spots, and power lunch restaurants. A downtown YMCA is the epicenter for kid activities, and a high school football field is situated within town limits. Traffic even flows similarly, with one road in-bound and another out-bound. From the surface, Greensburg seems so similar to West Chester... but it’s not even close. That piece hasn’t yet happened in Greensburg. It has great bones though. There is already a theater that attracts national acts, the local university has located a few of their learning buildings in town instead of on campus in order to tie the two together and there are plenty of professionals that work daily in local government and business. What Greensburg doesn’t have, is the energy and vibrancy of West Chester. Recent graduates don’t stay around to contribute their energy and creativity, families don’t live within walking distance, and the retired population visits for the shows that come to the theater and leave as quickly as they came. In West Chester two decades of development have been allowed to occur within parameters that preserve history while building a bright future. Young and old live side by side, carving out their own corners of town. Creativity and energy drive this town and are the envy of many towns like it. West Chester can be loud and vibrant, reserved and cultured. There are a plethora of factors that have turned West Chester from a town to avoid to a town not to be missed. Playing the role of county seat in the wealthiest county in the state is quite the advantage, and the availability of investment monies has certainly played a role in the change. That surrounding townships are home to stunning horse farms and rolling hills lined by wooden fences only elevates the cultured nature of the borough and its inhabitants. A history that can trace its roots to William Penn gives this place a sense of historical significance; a large university and its students breathe life into downtown eight months of the year. These factors and more converged in the late nineties when developers began to see West Chester’s potential and started pouring funds into the town center. As development continues to occur and changes the fabric of this town, it will be most important to emphasize that this town belongs as much to the renter as the land owner, the new neighbor as much as the families that have had their roots here as long as anyone can remember. That diversity of age and culture and experience is what inspired two breweries to open brewpubs, attracted national companies to open offices, and small boutique shops, and great restaurants to fling their doors open wide. This town isn’t Greensburg... and thank goodness. –







F t a i e restone s i r n u S Melissa Snavely

She has been missing from my mornings Her cool pale pink her fiery orange and blue, Her mist and solitude her vibrancy and rush Every day unique but expected every minute reinventing herself She admired her reflection in the river and danced across its waves She shaped my mood and inspired my day But the blush is gone the palette muddied, Only bricks and stone filtered and dull The light, the light, quiet and still.

Melissa Snavely moved to West Chester in February 2014 after spending the previous 15 years in upstate New York. She had grown accustomed to brilliant sunrises on the Hudson River and sunsets behind Hi Tor Mountain. Her submission is from her time of adjustment after her move to West Chester. With a small portfolio of poems to date she hopes to continue to find the words to express the simple ideas that we each live with every day, when we take the time to stop and be still.






Makeover Remedi Day Spa offers so much more than hair and makeup. Microdermabrasion Facial: The Microdermabrasion diamond tip facial treatment is a non-invasive way to gently and effectively buff away outer layers of skin. Acne scarring, fine lines and other imperfections benefit dramatically. Refine and balance the skin by choosing this treatment or adding microdermabrasion to any facial or peel. Brow/Lip Wax Choose from a variety of different waxes for even the most sensitive skin types. Custom Spray Tan: Infinity Sun creates the most innovative sunless tanning system, combining efficiency and flawless results. Get an unbelievable tan or just a glow without looking streaky or orange! Glo Mineral Make Up: Glo Minerals makes science beautiful by infusing formulations with the powerful antioxidant blend of Vitamins A, C, E, and green tea extract. On the skin, this blend provides nutrients that are vital to maintaining skin health while protecting it Eyelash Extensions: The ultimate in longer, thicker, more beautiful lashes. Developed to mimic your natural lashes, each extension is individually applied to a single eyelash resulting in a natural appearance.





Sounds and Fo c i t s a l P reve Soft r

Peter Cunniffe


minutes after the newscast turns static, Harold jumps from the table like a startled cat. You sit motionless, fixed on the Scrabble board that seems like it is from a lifetime ago, the word “HAVEN” staring up at you. Harold is rummaging through the closet. He emerges happily, bowling bag in tow, unzips it, and hoists the ball easily with one hand onto his right shoulder. After walking determinedly into the kitchen, he places the leather-bound and buzzing radio onto the white tile floor, lifts the speckled ball over his head with two hands, mutters as if in ceremony, and lets the ball drop atop the radio. Static gives way to the sound of a rolling ball across tile. After meeting your eyes and smiling weakly, Harold chases the ball across the floor. You hear his determined strides on the stairs. A quick thud from above leads you to believe the clock radio in the bedroom has suffered the same fate. Again his feet pound the stairs. In the family room Harold emits a primal scream. You visualize flying sparks and dancing smoke as the unoffending TV accepts his offering. “Goddamn them to hell!” he shouts. “Goddamned terrorists!” In forty-five years of marriage, you have never heard him utter ‘damn’ or ‘hell’ in anything but a joking fashion, and even those sparingly. “We can’t know that!” you hear your own shaky voice

assert as you push away from the table and move toward him.
Next he is moving into the garage, a fistful of car keys from the front-door rack in hand. When you reach him, you see Harold twisting first his car key then yours in his mounted vice. He heaves the pliers and half-a-key against the garage wall before addressing you calmly, “Gloria, get us each a glass of water and meet me in the bedroom.” “We can’t know that,” you repeat.
“Can’t know? Can’t know? Seven explosions at northeastern nuclear power plants in one hour - and we can’t know? Get a grip.”
You drop your head, cheeks reddening.
“Two glasses of water,” he orders, but softly.
While you fill the second glass, he rips the entire phone unit from the kitchen wall.
As you navigate the stairs with two trembling glasses, you hear the other phone surrender to the bedroom wall with a bang and a weak ring. For the first time, you realize, you are horrified. Harold is stretched out on the bed in his denims and a tank T-shirt, arms beyond his head as if napping at a picnic. His Shippensburg sweatshirt - Katie’s alma mater - has been dropped in a heap by the foot of the bed. You place the glasses on a water-ringed back issue of Modern Maturity and settle your head onto his chest. “What’ll we do?” you ask.
“Die. Here. Now.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.” His resigned voice, surprisingly, comforts you. He adds, “We’re too old, Gloria.”





“Sixty-six is not old,” you protest.
“It’ll be too old to deal with the fallout of this.”
“How bad can it be? Didn’t we learn anything from Chernobyl?”
“If we had learned anything from Chernobyl we wouldn’t have nuclear power plants.”
You suppose he may be right about this. “We should outrun it. At least try. Didn’t you hear all the cars racing down 422?”
“We live five miles from Limerick, dove. And that boom which caused the foundation of our house to crack, the one what stole the radio waves...that was the end, Glo. There’s nothing to outrun.”
You are sobbing softly, clutching at the gray chest hair spilling from his tank. Harold strokes your head. There are tablets in the bathroom. You had waited in line one afternoon while he was working at the crayon factory. You are trying to ask him, trying to say, “What about the pills?” But no sound escapes as your lips bounce against one another. He reaches onto the bedpost and pulls off his rosary beads. Elbowing you and waving them, he wordlessly urges you to get yours. You do not move.
“You believe don’t you?” he inquires.
You remain silently.
Harold somehow knows to take this in the affirmative. “Then it is all going to work out fine. I’ll see you on the other side. We’ll finish that Scrabble game, I promise.”
You laugh over your tears. “But I don’t want to.” You are bawling now.
“Shhhhh,” Harold offers consolingly.
 “Brandon and Maddie. Katie and Mark. Natalie, Steven, and Markie. It isn’t right. Shouldn’t we have called? Shouldn’t we let them know how much we love them?”
“They all know that, Glo.”
“But, I want...I want to see them again. To hold them.”
“Hold them in your heart, love. You’ll see them soon enough.” His fingers inch from bead to bead.
“No, no,” you are crying.
“Katie, Mark and Markie aren’t all that far from Tom’s River, so they’re in the same boat. I don’t know how far the Connecticut plant is from Brandon and the gang, but their lot is no better, just longer. Nuclear winter, contaminated water. Grandchildren missing clumps of hair. Mutated genes. I’m too old to watch all that play out. I surrender. I’m just gonna lay here until I sleep for good. Hand me that water, huh?”
Reflexively, you comply. “Don’t put it on the nightstand,” you remind. Harold begins to laugh softly, easily at this comment. When you get the joke, you laugh too, despite your current state. “Yeah, Glo. I’m worried about the nightstand right now. I’d hate to have to refinish it.” After his laughter fades to silence, he begs, “Nothing else, Glo. We just lay here. Occasional water sips, but nothing else.”
“Won’t someone come looking for us?”
“The police? Neighbors?”
“Those were the cars you heard, Glo.”
“The kids’ll come.”
“Let them go, dear.” Tenderly he adds, “For now.”
“Can I get the photo albums,” you ask. “Don’t begrudge me the past.”
“I don’t begrudge you anything, Glo.” “They’re in the family room.”
“ ‘Kay,” he mutters after a silent moment.
You look back from the doorway. He is confidently relaxed, his lips moving in plea to the Virgin Mother. You realize just how much you love him. Three fat albums resting on your belly, you leave the family room after having unplugged the TV - just in case - even though it seemed more resigned than Harold. Passing the front door, you pause. He would have known this. Harold, God love him, wouldn’t have failed to consider the possibilities. You could run. Right now. To the highway where a pass-

ing driver would take pity on you. Despite your certainty that God would understand, even forgive if He deemed it necessary, you turn toward the staircase.
Harold is propped up in bed, smiling lovingly - head cocked - and staring in your eyes. “Mind if I stroll down memory lane with you?” he asks.
“Not at all.” You are confident, even happy. Clutching the albums to your chest, you hop into bed - like it was forty-five years ago - a quick burst of laughter escapes you.
Teardrops occasionally splatter onto the protective sheaths of the photo album - from you and Harold. You hold a tissue, swiftly wiping them away as they make their soft plastic sounds. There is laughter too. Black and white baby shots, the month and year somehow inked into the white border. Katie’s lost teeth, fairy costumes, swan dives, and birthday candles. Ginger, the lab - gone so long you had actually forgotten - guarding the infant Brandon. Vacations at Lake Harmony, a Communion dress on Katie, what must be the first day of school. Your beehive hair and a comb over for Harold. Harold’s plaid pants or leisure suits; Brandon’s trophies and baseball games. Prom nights, graduations caps, and the Christmas trees. You notice the mundane. Candid shots during ordinary times: Katie washing the dishes; Harold changing a tire; Brandon on a swing looking like he had - just then - invented flight. These are the ones that cause Harold’s rough hands to brush gently across the page, small whimpers escaping his lips each followed by an unnecessary apology. Outside sirens bellow: the droning and monthly-tested blast from the plant; a high-to-low incessant wail from atop the fire station; emergency vehicles competing with these others, as well as occasional screeches and honks from the highway. You picture some poor soul, car battered on 422, backwards and stalled against the loveless stream of pushing cars; someone not unlike you. None of these noises is for you, however; not for either of you. Discarding the last of the books, you turn gently on your side. Harold pulls himself into you, pressing his splayed-fingered hand hard into your chest. Once your breathing adjusts to his force, you would want it no other way. You push your aging body hard into Harold, as you consider the two of you melting into one. You are wishing some invisible wave would come and get it over with already. Harold whispers, “Come to me.” You are initially surprised by this amorous overture, until he adds through tears, “All who labor and are heavy burdened. And I will give you rest.” Closing your eyes acceptingly, you long for sleep.

Peter Cunniffe graduated from West Chester University back when New Main Hall was, well, new. He can still be found roaming through the downtown stores on a Saturday morning with his daughter, and is a frequent flier at the West Chester Story Slam. His fiction has been published by Philadelphia Stories and The First Line, and has appeared in the the anthologies Workers Write: Tales from the Couch and Chester County Fiction. He lives in Malvern, PA with his wife and kids.



We are Insurance. We are Farmers. Brandt van Naerssen agency owner Business 610-386-7326 Fax 610-441-7583 Cell 610-745-3276

1000 Continental Drive, Suite 500 King of Prussia, PA 19406-2820



BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: It's everyone’s favorite bar game, in print (and you won’t have to pay 50 cents). You can actually WIN money. Compare the two photos at right. They may look the same, but there are five subtle differences between the two. Find those five differences and identify the items that have been changed. Then send an email to listing those items. You’ll be entered to win a $25 gift card to a local business. Winners will be chosen at random, and their name will be posted to Facebook along with the solution at the end of the month. So make sure to like us and follow along if you want to play. Enjoy!

Can you spot the five differences in this photo of a bookshelf full of good literature? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.




Hit List

DJ Romeo curates a list featuring the top tracks you'll hear played on the radio this month.

The following is a list of songs that will take over the radio stations in the next few months—you'll soon know know them by heart and play them 'til they're tired. But, good news: you can download them first and look like the cool musical genius to all of your lame friends.

Maroon 5 crashes weddings in their newest music video

Maroon 5 – “Sugar” Tove Lo – “Talking Body” Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding – “Outside” Ne–Yo ft. Juicy J – “She Knows” Fall Out Boy – “Irresistible” Wyclef Jean ft. Avicii – “Divine Sorrow” Kid Rock – “First Kiss” Mark Ronson ft. Kevin Parker – “Daffodils” Imagine Dragons – “I Bet My Life” Nick Jonas – “Chains” Modest Mouse – “Lampshades on Fire” Ellie Goulding – “Love Me Like You Do” Tyga ft. Chris Brown – “Ayo” Ludacris ft. Jason Aldean – “Burning Bridges” Jessie J – “Masterpiece” Yellow Claw ft. Ayden – “Till It Hurts” Nicki Minaj ft. Drake & Lil’ Wayne – “Truffle Butter” Kanye West ft. Paul McCartney – “Only One” Avicii – “The Nights” Cash Cash – “Surrender” Olly Murs ft. Travie McCoy – “Wrapped Up” Hoodie Allen ft. Ed Sheeran – “All About It” Prince Royce ft. Snoop Dogg – “Stuck on a Feeling” Zara Larsson – “Uncover” The Weekend – “Earned It” Sia – “Elastic Heart” George Ezra – “Blame It On Me” Brandi Carlile – “Wherever Is Your Heart” Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink – “Worth It”



Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.