THOROUGHFARE FALL 2013
The Search for Meaning
Table of Contents 4 UNTITLED Jenny Cho 5 FAITH Mary Berman 6
THE GIRL I CARRY
FULL OF HOT AIR
12 THE FIDDLER Kat Lewis 26 SENESCENCE Jennifer Baik 28 I KNOW Laura Grau 32 FOLLIES Evelyn Ho 34 DEAR GOD Diana Chen 35 UNBELIEVER John Sweeney 36
WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS
40 SOFA Ruth Portes 42
THAT DYING HUM
43 WARRIOR Laura Grau 44 WELCOME HOME John Belanger 46 FRAMES Anamaria Penagos 48
LET GOD SORT THEM OUT
54 VIVID Tania Chatterjee 56
OF WHICH SOLOMAN HAD TOO MANY
58 ATAXIA Davis Einolf 60 L’ACCORD PARFAIT Laura Grau 62 YOUNG LOVE Cyrus Beh 63 WET JUNCTION Cyrus Beh
2 Cover Stock photo courtesy of Bev Lloyd-Roberts at sxc.hu
THE LAST MUSIC LESSON
SPLINTERS OF CLARITY
THE LONG ROAD
72 TRIPTYCH 1 Liana Sanders 73 TRIPTYCH 3 Liana Sanders 74
WHAT HAPPENS AT EVERY FUNERAL
76 SAFFRON Tania Chatterjee 77 MOLOTOV COCKTAIL Jennifer Baik 78 HOW IT IS Katie Robinson 84 DANIELLE Kat Lewis 85 CAUGHT MOMENTARILY Hong-Wai Wong 86 DON’T MOVE Shayer Chowdhury 87 SPIDERHOLE Samuel Cook 88 UNTITLED Hannah Danzinger 89
FATHER TOO GOOD TO STAY
90 SELF INSERTION Kate Orgera 94 NELIPOT Laura Grau 96
HANDS SCENTED WITH HOT
TOWELS AND APPLE JUICE 98 UNTITLED Hannah Danzinger 99 STORY TIME Keven Perez 101 MEANING Jennifer Baik
UNTITLED Jenny Cho Ever since I learned to hold my tongue, My mother’s dragged me to our silt-gray church. Such buildings are unfriendly to the young, To those who have not yet been taught to search For something that’s not there, as I had not. Then, as I aged, I thought I understood The power in the hymns and statues, wrought From iron and from faith and from dark wood; Or, even if I did not understand, I thought the others did, and I recalled The words of those who’d felt the Father’s hand, The words of one who had seemed so enthralled (My mother) by this house on serious earth She had not thought to question from her birth.
Now that I’ve grown, deliberated, read Mary Berman
The Scriptures that they taught and did not teach; Now, after tasting wine and breaking bread And listening to inconsistent speech, I think I may have been mistaken. Yet, On those rare weekends when I’m home, I still Sit and suffer myself to be beset By words of those who say they know the thrill Of faith. I do try, but I can’t conceive Of what they mean. Perhaps they’re comforted By always being told what to believe. What difference will it make when they are dead? I hate it. Still I kneel and still I stand, And, at the Lord’s Prayer, hold my mother’s hand.
time. She falls asleep. One night, our night. Today, we can. I drive to Santa’s Enchanted Forest. We laugh as she sits next to me on the rides. We spin. It’s not as bad as chemo, she says. We laugh. I buy her a snow cone, and she spills it on her shirt. Covered in red but laughing, she glows. Our night. We laugh and drive back to IV’s and such. 7. Movie nights in the hospital. Those are the best. Microwave brownies. Popcorn. Sushi. She laughs as we eat. I eat caviar, and she says she doesn’t want fishies growing in her belly. The nurse comes in and says she needs platelets, hanging the bag from her IV pole then leaving. She says she feels itchy. Her eyes start to swell. They forgot the Benadryl. I run to the nurses. I say she can’t breathe. They don’t let me in until she is asleep. They say it’s an allergy. They say she’ll be fine. I fight them until I am by her side. 8. We swam in the pool and baked cakes at my house. We jumped in the pool holding hands, came out of the water and couldn’t stand. We swam to the edge, and held on for dear life. We laughed at each other, for not being able to swim. When we got out, I cleaned her port. Alcohol prep pads, gauze, and bandaids. The things I always kept in my purse. 9. We went to butterfly world. She loved it so much. She picked up a sick butterfly and helped it fly. One landed on her head. I ran for my camera, but landed facedown on the floor, instead. She just stood there with a butterfly on her head, laughing at me. 10. I see her. She is fine. Even her peach fuzz is gone. I look at her, and she’s fine. Yet the doctor say’s she’s going to die. I see my friend, and I can’t think. The doctor says she has ten weeks to live. I see her now, her eyes a bit weak. Please, doctor, don’t tell her. She can’t know. I hug her mom. I tell her we’re strong, and from now on, we have to just make her happy. Please, doctor, don’t tell me. I can’t know. I just want us to be happy.
THE GIRL I CARRY
1. The last thing she said was my name. She said my name and stopped breathing. She said my name, and I stopped breathing. 2. She says her legs hurt. The ice doesn’t help. Nurse, up the morphine, can’t you see they hurt? She’s crying. I rub and rub her legs with cream. My arms are sore, but if I slow down, it hurts. Nurse, up the morphine, can’t you see we hurt? 3. We need to bathe her. Maybe she’ll feel better. She can’t stand, so I carry her. Maybe if we bathe her, she’ll get up tomorrow. Maybe the water will make it all better. Only I can bathe her. Nobody else. I dip a towel in water and begin to rub. Be gentle. Be gentle. Don’t move me too much. I dip the towel in water and gently scrub. I feel the tumor in her back, the tumor in her head, the tumor in her leg. There’s a tumor. I dip the towel in water, and I rub, praying that it won’t move me too much. 4. She says she’s too tired to go out and play. Not even for ice cream. No, not today. She says that the wheelchair is too much to carry. She says if it didn’t hurt, maybe she would walk. But today she is tired. Maybe tomorrow we can go out and play. 5. Chemo and radiation every day at three. I run out of school to pick her up. She’s always so pretty, dressing in pink. Any other little girl would look healthy. She’s always so pretty, hidden beneath her blanket. She says she’s too weary to walk on her own. I squat to the floor and let her hug my neck. I pick up her legs, and make sure it doesn’t hurt. I can’t do harsh movements when I’m carrying her. Together, as one, we go through the door. Security knows us: the best friend and her. She is the angel. I am the wings. I help her fly, and I feel the wind. 6. The doctor says she can go out today. Bring her back tomorrow. We get in the car, and drive for a long
Stock photo courtesy of Piotr Menducki
IR A T O FH
Lara’s temples throbbed as her boss flung
shook her head in disbelief; her boss stood on the
accusations and petty remarks at her. They were
corner ahead of her. She put her head down and
all completely unnecessary, but it wasn’t like he
hoped to power walk past him so he wouldn’t see
was the type to appreciate the hours of work that
her. As she approached him, the density of the
went into a project, or understand the difference
crowd before her lessened, allowing her to see
between a reasonable request and an unreasonable
him clearly. Lara breathed a sigh of relief- it wasn’t
mandate. She exhaled through clenched teeth,
actually him. It was only his head floating above the
emptying her lungs so deliberately, as if requiring
ground, attached to a cotton string like a balloon.
attention from usually autonomous functions
would be able to keep the tears from coming.
When it was over she used every ounce
bewildered, but seemed unable to speak, let
of restraint not to slam the hardwood office
alone yell. A sly smile crept across her face,
door. The second she got to her own office, she
and she took his string in her hand. She tied
tore off her heels- the clacking was making her
him around her wrist as if she were a child, and
headache worse. She headed for the elevators
continued walking. She glanced up at him as she
and jabbed the button for the lobby. This of
crossed 49th street. He was changing. His ears were
course was the day the elevator stopped on
bigger now, almost simian. Each block the two
six of the eleven floors between Lara and her
traveled together brought more exaggerations
sanity, and she congratulated herself on not
to his features until he resembled a mere
yelling “Is there something wrong with the
caricature of himself. Lara liked it better this way.
stairs?” to the lady who got on the second floor.
Finally she was free. She didn’t care that she
ex’s place. She hated that it was smack dab in the
looked as if she were on a walk of shame; she fled
middle of the quickest route to her apartment.
the office heels in hand. The smooth pavement
She told herself she was over what had happened,
felt good on the balls of her feet. A passerby told
because she was finally past the point of walking
her it was dangerous to walk in the city barefoot.
ten blocks out of her way just to avoid the chance
Lara figured that if she got tetanus or hepatitis she
of seeing him. She really only had run into him on
at least wouldn’t have to go to work tomorrow.
a couple of occasions, but it was never a pleasant
encounter. He was always so polite to her, so calm.
All of a sudden Lara broke her stride. She
Lara laughed as her boss’s head floated above
She held her head high as she neared her
He really thought he had never done anything
wrong. Every time she saw him, the casual glibness
team to play for his sketchy startup group.
herself hate them for a minute. Then, slowly, she
as she examined the grotesqueness of the
untied them all from her wrist, looked at them all
irked Lara so much, it was all she could do to slap
newly caricature-ized features that her ex
lighter, and she decided to broaden the circle.
him across the face in the middle of the sidewalk.
had. She kept sneaking secret glances, and
She found the girl who told everyone else on the
felt a rush of smug triumph with every look.
soccer team that Lara was bulimic the day after
would find herself at the gym listening to the
In the park, Lara found another balloon.
she had food poisoning. At least she and the
angsty punk music she should have outgrown by
It was her college roommate, who had not only
coach already knew each other so there wouldn’t
now, and she would run until she wasn’t so upset.
let her boyfriend live with them without asking
be any awkward tensions in the balloon bunch.
She would run through the flashbacks of the
and without making him paying rent, but ran
insults that swirled through her head. She would
off with him while they still had three months
school who took the note with the name of the
run through the sense of loss for what had once
left on their lease. She never returned and never
boy Lara had a crush on, and read it to the entire
been such a good thing. She never could have
sent Lara a check. She left Lara with an apartment
school over the PA system. She found her piano
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I was cleaning out a binder I
imagined that a relationship she thought was
she had no way of affording on her own, and no
teacher who used to make her cry no matter how
used to use for biochemistry lab and found one
absolutely perfect would end with him callously
prospect of someone to sublet with only a few
beautifully she would play. She found the girls
of my old sketches (I clearly used downtime
telling her he couldn’t stand to spend another
months of college left. She eagerly added her
in from seventh grade who told Lara she was fat
during experiments wisely), so I decided to give
three hours with her, and that he could go a year
roommate balloon to the growing collection,
because she wasn’t allowed to weigh 100 pounds
it a story.
without being intimate with anyone as long as
muttering that she belonged with her people.
until she was sixteen. She even collected Davy
it meant he’d never have to see her again. Lara
After that, Lara vowed to collect the
Commisky and Billy O’Toole from elementary
never knew what she could have possibly done
rest of them, and took off through the city for
school. They were the ones who put glue in her
to him, but had given up trying to figure it out.
balloons to add to her growing bunch. She found
hair and told her it was anti-cootie medicine.
Of course her ex was outside his building
her statistics professor floating near a bench,
today. Lara strode toward him. Today might
acting as if he had never failed her because she
she had made her rounds. She paced for awhile
just be the day she actually slapped him. She
had refused to sleep with him. He joined the
until she was sure all of their transformations had
reached out to strike him, but discovered he
collection and fit right in, growing ugly just like
been completed. The world now could see what
too was not really himself. Lara chuckled at this
the others. Lara found her high school soccer
she’d always known-exactly how ugly they were.
realization and slapped the balloon head of
coach in the park too. She plucked him from
her ex anyway. Then she tied him to the same
the sidelines of a game before he had a chance
climbed to the roof of her building. She took one
wrist her boss was on. She figured they could
to badmouth another player to every college
last look at their distorted features with a perverse
be friends since they had so much in common.
scout just because she wouldn’t leave her club
sense of pride. She let herself be angry. She let
Inevitably, after these encounters, she
A couple blocks later, Lara smiled
As her collection grew, Lara felt herself get
one last time, and let them go.
She found the teacher from middle
Lara had quite a collection by the time
Finally, she took all of her balloons and
EXT. CROSSROADS IN DESERT - NIGHT
A beaten up station wagon kicks up dirt as it drives through the California desert. It slows and pulls over at a fork in the road.
DANI STONE, 16, gets out of the car. Her face is pretty but torn by worry. Her eyes, however, shimmer with
determination. She carries a violin case to the center of the crossroad.
Under the sole lamp post that illuminates the crossing, she unpacks and tunes her fiddle. She brings the violin to her neck and plays Paganini’s Caprice No. 24.
As her fingers fly up and down the fretboard, wind whips
around her. The light above her head grows brighter until it bursts. Glass shards rain down, scintillating in the moonbeam. She stops playing. Silence blankets the desert.
Suddenly, Dani looks up at a giant black fiddle looming over her. LARGE RED HANDS appear next, one taking the bow, the other the instrument’s neck. A disembodied MOUTH appears
THE FIDDLER Kat Lewis
above the violin, slipped to the side in a cocky smirk. DEVIL
Are you here to challenge me? DANI
No, I’m here to defeat you.
The DEVIL lets out an amused cackle. DEVIL
Oh, child. That is some big talk for a little girl like you. What business do you have with me?
Before Dani can reply, two RED EYES materialize above the mouth. They squint at the girl.
Well, if it isn’t Danielle Stone. DANI
It’s just Dani.
The Devil’s grin widens.
I’ve been waiting for you.
INT. HOSPITAL - NIGHT FLASHBACK TO:
Dani’s mother, ELISE STONE, mid 40s and pregnant, clenches the hospital bed’s sheets. Dani’s father, MATT STONE, 50s, pushes greying hair out of his wife’s face as he holds her
hand. GRAMMY, Dani’s grandmother, takes Elise’s other hand. Elise screams. A DOCTOR sits at the end of the bed. DOCTOR
A beat of silence falls on the hospital.
Suddenly all the light fixtures burst one after another like falling dominoes. A fire swarms the walls, its heat beating beads of sweat out of Elise and her family. As the flames crackle, Satan’s eyes and mouth appear over the hospital bed.
Grammy jumps awake. Dani’s parents scoot as far away as the bed allows. Dani cries.
Just one more push, Elise. You’re
You know why I’m here. You breached
Elise shrieks one last time. She lets out a heavy breath as
the Doctor stands with a crying BABY in his arms.
I found a loophole. With all the
lawyers in Hell, it’s not my fault
It’s a girl.
The happy parents share a smile. The Doctor hands the Baby to a NURSE to be washed off. ELISE
you can’t write an airtight contract.
The Devil lets out an indignant snort. DEVIL
How is she?
No complications so far. Very
fortunate for a couple your age.
INT. HOSPITAL - LATER TIME CUT TO:
Balloons fill the Stone’s hospital room. Grammy sleeps in a chair by a window. An empty crib lingers next to the bed. Matt and Elise cuddle on the bed, holding their newborn. ELISE
Isn’t she precious? MATT
I can’t believe we did it. After
all these years we finally did it.
Guilt catches onto Elise’s face as Matt kisses her cheek.
Doesn’t matter. You broke a deal with me. Now I break you.
He lays his crimson gaze on the child. A smirk twists his grin to the side.
DEVIL (CONT’D) name?
Ooo. What’s the pretty baby girl’s
Danielle? Meaning God is my judge?
How appropriate. ELISE
God damn it. What do you want? DEVIL
Oh, I don’t know.
He looks from Elise to her daughter and back. ELISE
No. You gave us this. You can’t take our baby.
Elise gives Matt a worried look. He takes her hand and gives it a gentle squeeze. Elise’s eyes shifts to Grammy. Her
mother sits in the chair with her gaze locked on the tile
floor. Grammy draws her arms tight across her chest, slowly shaking her head.
Naked came I out of my mother’s
She’s all we’ve ever wanted. We’ll take our chances.
womb, and naked shall I return
Elise nods and picks up Dani to breastfeed her. The Stones
Lord hath taken away; blessed be
they all let out a relieved sigh.
thither: the Lord gave, and the the name of the Lord.
Fear grows on the Stone’s faces. The Devil smiles before
look to one another. A tense silence fills the room before Matt stands up with a small smile claiming his face. MATT (CONT’D)
spitting a wad of fire onto the ground. DEVIL (CONT’D)
I’m going to the cafeteria. Anyone want anything?
The Lord’s full of shit. Absolute
The girls shake their heads, settling into their seats. Matt
your assured misery. I lay a curse
groan escapes his mouth. His hand seizes his chest, knuckles
shit. I don’t want the baby. Just on little Danielle. Should you or anyone else touch her, a family member will perish. Don’t worry
though, if you love your husband or your mother more, you can just leave her in the crib to rot.
Elise and Satan stare each other down. DEVIL (CONT’D)
The choice is yours.
The Devil’s voice haunts the air in an echo as he and the
flames vanish. Matt and Elise exchange a glance. Dani cries between them. TIME CUT TO:
INT. HOSPITAL - LATER
Dani cries in the crib with balled up fists flailing about. ELISE
I think she’s hungry. What do we
walks to the door. He reaches for the door knob before a
turning white as he clutches his heart through his shirt.
He collapses, trembling a moment before stillness claims his body. Elise screams as Grammy rushes to his side. She checks his pulse. Elise and her mother share a gaze. Grammy shakes her head.
The two look at the body as Matt’s lifeless eyes stare back
at them. Suddenly the body jolts, unnaturally rising up from its chest. He sits before them, his head hanging to the
side. A lurid red glow fills his eyes. Veins pop out of his
neck as his limp jaw is forced to move. He speaks, the words coming out a hoarse whisper: MATT
(The Devil’s voice)
This is only the beginning.
The body falls limp.
INT. DANI’S HOUSE - BABY ROOM - DAY - SIX MONTHS LATER Super: “Six months later.”
Grammy carries Dani into the baby room. She is careful to
only touch child’s clothes. As she places Dani on the
strewn about her. A grimace stains Grammy’s face as she
Grammy grabs a box of blue latex gloves. She slips a hand
TIME CUT TO:
changing table, a TV is heard from the next room.
into a glove. As she pulls it down, the latex rips. A tear
zigzags from her wrist up to her palm. She looks in the box for a fresh pair, only to find it empty. Her eyes turn to the baby.
TIME CUT TO:
Dani goos and gahs at her grandmother with a sweet smile playing on her face. Grammy replies with a reluctant half-grin and starts to change Dani’s diaper. GRAMMY Elise!
ELISE (O.S) Yeah?
An invitation for cousin Nina’s funeral came in the mail today. ELISE (O.S.)
Jeez. How old was she? GRAMMY
24. Are we going?
Grammy fights with Dani to put on the fresh diaper. The baby giggles at the old woman’s frustration. ELISE (O.S.)
I’ll have to--
Dani kicks - her tiny foot just grazing Grammy’s wrist.
Horror sinks onto her face. Something drops to the floor in the next room.
Grammy finishes up with Dani and takes her out of the room. CUT TO:
looks to the grinning baby.
INT. RECITAL HALL - DAY - 4 YEARS LATER Super: “Four Years Later.”
On stage, four-year-old Dani stands alone, outfitted in a
fancy velvet dress. Her bitty fingers tango with a violin’s strings as she plays an advanced piece for a preschooler. Her song rolls into its final measures. She finishes with a grand flourish of her bow. The AUDIENCE claps and she curtsies.
TIME CUT TO:
INT. RECITAL HALL - LATER
Dani and Grammy linger by the refreshment table. Dark crumbs speckle Dani’s mouth as she chows down on a brownie. Grammy stands too close to her granddaughter, guarding her like a hawk. She sips water from a plastic cup, her paranoid eyes shifting around the room.
A WOMAN in her 60s saunters over to them. There’s something snooty about her clothes and the manner of her walk. Grammy pulls Dani closer.
Oh, Marilyn! You’re granddaughter
is just phenomenal. Only five years old and playing like that.
Dani smiles before shyly speaking: I’m four.
She holds up four fingers. WOMAN
My word! You’re a little Mozart,
aren’t you? I wish my grandson had half your talent.
INT. DANI’S HOUSE - LIVING ROOM
The Woman glances down a row of folding chairs. Grammy and
eyes. Elise lays on the floor, her arms and legs awkwardly
old. He stands by his MOTHER in wrinkled slacks and an
Grammy stands in the doorway staring ahead with glazed over
Dani follow her line of sight to a BOY about eight years
untucked button down. He headbangs and shreds on his violin
like a guitar. His Mother drags a hand down her face, shaking her head.
The Woman sighs and gives the Stones one last smile. WOMAN (CONT’D)
I’ve never seen any of those people before.
Something hysterical grows on Grammy’s face. GRAMMY
Anyway, you were fabulous today.
Have you been wearing gloves? You
Keep it up.
know it’s only skin to ski--
Grammy watches the Woman with a cautious gaze. Things seem
to move in slow motion as she reaches out and gives Dani a
For God sake, Grammy. Yes, I know
Grammy flinches, crushing the plastic cup in her hand.
me leave the house anyway.
congratulatory but condescending pat on the head.
what to do! It’s not like you let
Behind the Woman, the Boy drops to the ground, taking a
chair down with him. His violin thumps against the floor,
It’s for your own good.
family rushes to his side. Grammy picks up Dani and hurries
My own good? I haven’t gone outside
TIME CUT TO:
the last month, you’ve let me out
ringing out mismatched notes. Gasps hang in the air. His
out a back door.
in six days. I’m going crazy. In
INT. DANI’S HOUSE - LIVING ROOM - DAY - LAST WEEK
of the house to get the mail maybe
SUPER: “Last Week”
four times. I have a right to a
Grammy stands in front of the TV with a rosary snaked around
life you know.
a hand covering her mouth. On the screen an ANCHOR WOMAN
reports an accident at a construction site. The box in the
Your mother signed away any rights
corner displays the headline: Construction Accident
you had long ago.
17-year-old boy found dead.
Under the Anchor Woman’s words, a violin sings from
Maybe I should make a deal with Him
bearable than here.
somewhere in the house.
too. I’m sure Hell is much more
The violin stops. Dani, now 16, enters the room, wearing a turtle neck and jeans. Every inch of her body is covered
except her face and hands. Grammy doesn’t take her eyes off the TV.
Did you do this?
Dani looks at the screen, seeing photos of the boy and his family.
You want to leave? Then go. I can’t look at you right now.
Dani points to the TV.
I didn’t do that.
Dani storms out of the house. Grammy stares at the TV,
rolling the rosary’s beads in her hand. The front door slams. Grammy flinches.
into serpents. But that’s life,
TIME CUT TO:
INT. DANI’S HOUSE - LIVING ROOM - NIGHT
Dani returns home. She walks into the dark living room to
see Grammy sleeping on the couch. As she steps closer, Dani
notices the rosary still snared around her hand. Also in the palm of that hand rests an empty pill bottle.
EXT. CROSSROADS IN DESERT - NIGHT
END FLASHBACK. RETURN TO:
A breeze sends some dust tumbling between Dani and the
Devil. Satan laughs, the same smile playing on his lips. DEVIL
You know, I’ve got your Grammy
right here. Would you like to say hi?
Cut the shit, Lucy.
The Devil groans at the nickname. DANI (CONT’D)
Here’s what’s gonna happen. I’m
gonna kick your ass in this stupid fiddle-off and you’re going to lift the curse.
Or, you could just let me bring you
to Hell now.
And why would I agree to that? DEVIL
Hell’s actually not that bad. And
I’m not just saying it because I’m it’s overlord or whatever. Yes, from time to time, bad things
happen to its residents like a limb
gets chopped off or they get turned
Dani stares at him, unconvinced.
Okay, for instance, Hemingway’s my neighbor. Last week he went to visit Van Gogh in the Seventh
Circle. I watched his cat while he was gone and that thing was an
angel. Adorable, playful. God, my kid loved it. He’s begging me for one now.
You have a kid? DEVIL
That’s not the point. Whether you
win or lose, you end up downstairs with me. The price for freedom is your soul. So, it’s only a matter of time. Why don’t we skip this
whole battle nonsense and take you to your new home. You look like a girl who reads. Don’t you wanna meet Hemingway? DANI
You’re scared you’re gonna lose. DEVIL
Don’t be ridiculous. I’m the
fucking devil. I’m not scared of anything.
Dani brings her violin to her neck and runs her bow over
each of her strings. The devil does the same. Spotlighted
under the moon, they played. He plays the call and she the
response. For every question his nimble extremities sing to
her, she answers with a well-timed waltz of her own fingers
She takes his hand but he doesn’t shake hers. Satan produces
Their bows quickly grow fray, horse hair sloshing about in a
blood seep over the edge of the cut, the Devil shakes her
lulling life into nearby coyotes. As the dogs howl in the
contract’s dotted line.
a knife from the air and slices Dani’s palm. As beads of
gust of wind that stirs the desert. Their song gets louder,
hand. Dani’s signature ornately scrawls itself across the DEVIL (CONT’D)
distance, the fiddles’ tune moves from piano to forte until Plink.
A string pops.
See you soon.
playing. Her eyes shift to the Devil. Pieces of string
whisks it away. The Devil disappears.
to Dani’s feet. Blood dribbles down her hand and drips to
one of his strings breaks. Satan growls, playing faster. So
Dani’s fingers continue to dance, occasionally rocking and
Panic scribbles its way onto Dani’s face but she keeps
His whisper stands stiff in the air before a ghostly laugh
dangle from either side of his instrument but that doesn’t
The contract hangs in the air a moment before dancing down
They play on, their notes getting darker. Angrier. Another
the dusty ground. She stares at the date written in black
fast that the last strings spark and glow red.
June 6th at 6:06.
adding vibrato to notes. The Devil grinds his teeth. Another string snaps and sends sparks flying. He plays fast and
short notes on his last string before it too finally breaks. The fiddle catches fire and the Devil slams it on the
ground. The instrument burns a moment before leaving a hissing pile of ash between Dani and the Devil.
Satan curses. He sucks in a deep breath and scraps together some composure.
God, I hate to lose. Okay, I’ll
lift the curse. Feel free to touch and hug and love whomever you’d
like. But don’t love too much. On June 6th at 6:06, I’ll be coming for you.
His hands gesture almost as if they’re reaching into a
pocket. They pull out a contract penned on parchment. The Devil holds out a hand to Dani.
Do we have a deal?
SENESCENCE scientists have determined that cells (like everything else) cannot live forever they find that one day they are stretched a little too thin and cannot divide themselves into any more pieces so they eat themselves from the inside out. I wonder if people can also perform apoptosis as they watch the cyanide act as a lysosome does, eating itself from the insides of the bloodstream. I could never understand why humans attach meaning to everything. maybe we just get too old too quickly watching the trees undress themselves over and over again until one day we reach senescence and thus, we peter out and die.
Stock photo courtesy of gerard79 at sxc.hu
I KNOW Laura Grau
I felt useless just sitting there, holding your
sat there looking at you, was knowing that the little
hand. After years of doing everything I could to make
bumps on your legs, arms, chest, and head were the
you happy, the only thing that was left was for me to
ones taking you from me.
just be there, watching you struggle to breathe. You
no longer looked like you. Not really. Your eyes were
was distract you. Apparently, memories help patients
swollen, kind of like mine from all the crying. The
forget the agony they’re in. It was as if I could separate
difference was that your tears were now a desperate
your mind from your body with my words. If only you
plea for someone to explain to you why this was
could do that to me too, that way my throat wouldn’t
happening. Your neck was so burned. They warned us
have closed up every time I tried to talk to you.
when you started radiation after your surgery that it
might hurt your skin. This was beyond hurt. It looked
it was time. You called me a few days before telling
as if they had taken apart your neck and replaced it
me you could barely breathe, and I had to rush over
with pieces of burnt flesh. What hurt the most, as I
to help you. Your breathing got worse each day. You
28 Stock image courtesy of Danka P. at sxc.hu
The nurse said that the best thing I could do
In that last week of January, I had known that
couldn’t get up anymore. I had to pick you up and
the butterflies. You found a white one on the ground.
carry you even to the bathroom. At first, when the
It had a broken wing and couldn’t fly. You grabbed
cancer spread to your legs, I had carried you on my
it and held it for a while. Even butterflies felt the life
back everywhere we went. It was fun though. I’d
you transmitted with your touch. The butterfly flew
make you laugh as I jumped down each stair to the
away. My angel, you fixed her.
lobby of the hospital. Your laugh was what kept me
going everyday. It would come out of your stomach
the spot I had always taken on your bed. I moved
as you giggled, and your eyes would close just a little
underneath the tubes with the oxygen and cuddled
because your cheeks would go up so much when
right next to you. I could see that on your hand
you smiled. People always looked at us. Maybe they
was the bracelet that matched mine. You had gone
wondered why an eighteen year old like me was
shopping on one of those Make-A- Wish trips, and
laughing so much with an eleven year old in the
one day, when we were waiting for your appointment
hospital. Age didn’t matter. All that mattered was
in radiation, you pulled out half a heart that said “Big
that we were together: two warriors fighting your
Sister.” You had the other half “Little Sister.” I never
took it off. I wore it every day, hoping that this little
Now, it was time for me to be strong for you.
piece of metal would keep you with me. It always
One of my friends told me, as I cried in the bathroom
reminded me of all the things people thought we
of my school one day, that I had always been the
were. One time, when we went to Chuck-E- Cheese, a
one to tell you to keep fighting. I always used to say,
little girl with beautiful blue eyes had come up to me
“You are my warrior.” Maybe that was why you kept
as you played in the arcade. She said, “Your daughter
fighting this. It was as if you just didn’t want to go.
is beautiful.” I still don’t think I look old enough to
My friend said that maybe if I was the one to tell you
be a mom, but I know in my heart that you were my
that it was ok to stop fighting, you’d listen. I just could
daughter. My friends knew you were my best friend.
not bring myself to give you permission to go, when
After all, I would ditch them on Friday and Saturday
I, myself, wasn’t ready to lose you.
nights to go visit you in the hospital. Thinking back,
I wouldn’t exactly say that you were my friend, my
“Hey Sandy. Do you remember that time we
Sitting next to you took all my energy, so I took
went to butterfly world?”
daughter, or my sister. You and I extended beyond
anything this world has ever seen. It’s like we were
You opened your eyes and nodded. You had
been in remission, and your hair was growing back.
It had made me so happy to see you chasing after all
Now, my soul mate was suffering, struggling to
stay here with me. “You can’t let the love hide in the
Party the Pre-Med club of my school hosted. One
to be strong for you. I couldn’t bare to see you suffer
called out my name with your last breath. Your mom
darkness,” you had said to me a few months before.
hundred student volunteers, thirty patients, and I
like this anymore. My hands shook, and I cried. I
still asks me every time I visit her why I think you were
We were hanging out on your hospital bed, singing
found you. Standing before a crowd in your purple
cried by your bedside while your family stepped out
calling for me. At first, I didn’t know why. We had
Nikki Minaj and eating sushi. I was telling you about
hat, you told jokes. We were the ones that were
of the room. They knew this good bye would never
promised to always be next to each other, but I could
some boy I liked, and you were telling me about the
supposed to make you happy, but you just stood
be easy. I wept for you. I wept for the warrior who
not believe that my name was the last thing you said.
boy you loved. His name was Christian. Your mom
there, pulling me towards you with your wonderful
fought so hard. I wept for the angel whose wings
Now, I understand. When you promised me to have
used to babysit him, so you’d always be with him. You
smile. After that day, I could never stay away. When I
were spreading. I wept.
sweet dreams, you knew I was talking about heaven.
told me that one day you told him you loved him. You
ran out of words to say, I realized you were spending
You knew, and that’s why you were calling for me. You
even kissed. It was a secret, though, and I laughed at
more time unconscious than conscious now. You
were calling me to tell me that that was exactly what
the idea that you had a better love life than me, even
hadn’t responded to my words for a few minutes, and
You opened your eyes.
you were about to do, just like you always yelled my
if you were seven years younger. Maybe it’s because
I was so scared that you’d go without knowing. You
name when you were going to show me something
cancer is a disease that makes people erase those
had to know, so I sang like the many times we sang
fought so hard. I am so proud of you. I’ll take care of
limits. Maybe that’s why your love was so strong,
together in my car. I sang our song. “Next to You” by
your family here ok? Your sister is going to be ok, and
your friendship so powerful, and your will to live so
so is your mommy. I promise.”
down outside in the middle of the night and look at
invincible. You can’t let the love hide in the darkness.
“You got that smile... That only heaven can
You closed your eyes.
the stars. I relive the moment when I prayed for the
That’s what cancer taught us.
make.. I pray to God everyday.. That you keep that
“Sandy. I’m going to go now. I want you to close
first time in my life. We were in the Black Eyed Peas
your eyes and have the sweetest of
concert. Everyone had taken out their cell phones,
couldn’t let you go without you knowing how much
dreams. Promise me you’ll have sweet dreams?” You
and the stadium looked like a starry night. You were
I loved you. Memories flooded my mind, and soon,
pronounced the lyrics. You came back.
so concentrated on the music on stage that it took
there weren’t enough words to tell you our story.
you a while to realize what was happening. Your arms
They say life flashes before your eyes when you’re
right next to you..”
the door. I needed to let you go. “I love you Sandy.”
were wrapped around my neck, as I held you up so
about to die. You and I were reliving our moments
you could see the stage. I felt you gasp when you
together. You nodded every time I brought to the
were going to keep fighting. You always had plans.
light a memory. Before, going to the movies, dancing
You couldn’t go without making sure your family
at concerts, and baking in my kitchen had been ways
would be ok. You wouldn’t leave me here, unless
remember getting the phone call an hour
the world you wanted more than to stay there forever.
to encourage you to keep going. Now, these things
you were sure that I’d do all the things we had plan.
after I left your room. The nurse said that it takes
I looked up at the sky that night and I begged God to
were becoming the strongest morphine. I could see
You wouldn’t leave unless you were sure. I caressed
around an hour for the body to shut down in cases like
let me stay there, right next to you.
your face relax, as I continued telling you our story. I
your arm for hours, growing weaker. You had been
yours. When she told me that, she didn’t understand
could see the pain go away. My pain only increased. I
strong for six years in your battle against cancer, and
why I smiled. I knew you would listen. You always had.
That’s all that matters.
thought back to the day I met you. It was at the Pizza
I, perfectly healthy, felt weak when I had to pretend
My time to prove it to you was running out. I
You hummed. You hummed along as my lips
“ One day when the sky is falling, I’ll be standing
I knew then that my friend had been right. You
You didn’t answer. “Sandykins.. baby wake up..”
“Sandy, it’s ok to stop fighting now. You’ve
I kissed your forehead, and I walked towards
“I know.” ***
It’s been months since the day you died. I still
At your funeral, your family told me that you
It’s hard to miss you so much. Some days, I lay
turned and saw all the lights. I could feel this magic going through your body, as if there was nothing in
Stock photo courtesy of leovdworp at sxc.hu
FOLLIES Evelyn Ho
Click to Listen
Diana Chen As I stand at the edge of song, I stare with unbeliever’s eyes At the beauty of silence Dear God,
I’ve often heard it said God can’t exist; no God would watch as countless children starve, would, hearing women pray for peace, resist. No God would build a world so rough then carve soft humans who will harden with their sins. What perfect God would draw imperfect man, who steals and plunders, rapes and murders kin, and then to Hell have him forever damned? They thus conclude no perfect being drew in permanence the men who on Earth trod, for to repair He’d have to start anew. Yes, I’d agree there is no perfect God. But I know my first man to paper fixed was just a circle and five crooked sticks.
Sincerely, Another Imperfect Being
For silence has been my only friend in these times of trouble When my heart’s shown up at my doorstep Beaten and bloody Crying for forgiveness In a drunken stupor I’ve only found comfort in the solitude Of a blind eye towards the fury, Towards the fervency of revelation But what is a blind eye To the persistence of the mind’s eye? It wanders aimlessly Until I meet you in Paris, under lights, In London on a rainy night, But never far from home Always closer than the last time But never as close As the meetings of my eyelids And the reassurance of the light that finds its way Into the tumbling darkness And if your love were even just fleeting, It’d be rose petals in the wind With mine weeds deep-rooted in hopes Only found in the imagination Of someone who wants To believe My soul has found no direction But in the one of your walking Away
N E H W
O B E H T
When Daddy wakes me up, I ask again if Mama’s back from her trip—Daddy had said there was an accident with her car, but we’d see her soon. I’ve been learning to do things properly for myself, so Mama can see what a grown-up girl I am now. You’ve done so well; we’re going to see her now, he says, so how about we put on the black dress with the nice lace trim? Daddy’s already wetted and put toothpaste on my toothbrush. I start brushing and walk back out so Daddy can make sure I’m not swallowing any toothpaste. Mama brushes with me in the morning, but Daddy’s making my bed right now. He doesn’t fold the blanket down like Mama does. Still, I hug him after I spit and rinse. Can you dress yourself? Daddy asks. I nod, and Daddy takes the dress down from the hanger in my closet and lays it on my bed before walking out. Looking at the shimmering velvet, I re-
member that Mama usually helps me into my good dresses, since she says I shouldn’t struggle and ruin them by accident. I want to tell Daddy but remember how his fingers pinched and pulled at my hair, braiding it last night. It’s not his fault; they’re just little accidents. But I don’t want any accidents. Then I couldn’t look my best for Mama. And I want Mama to know I’ve been doing what Daddy’s been saying these past few days, so she can come home. I’ll just go real slow. Shrugging one then the other shoulder into the dress works to get my arms in the right holes. I lift my arms carefully, but still they get tangled in the dress as I pull it over my head. Maybe I should start over. I try to bend my arms so I can push the dress back up off of me, but I feel the dress stretching. It’s not supposed to stretch, and I hear a small snap of a thread. I freeze, stuck in the darkness of the thick fabric, my hands bound above my head. Tears well up in my eyes. What does it matter now? The fabric could fall perfectly down on me
now, but somewhere in this dress is a torn thread, a slowly stretching seam. I cry. I could see Mama, and she could be so proud of me, but sooner or later the broken thread would unravel. Eventually you could poke a pinky and then a pointer through a growing hole and scratch my skin. It was just an accident. Why should it matter! But it doesn’t matter whether or not it was an accident because what matters is that it’s happened. That’s something Mama’d say. All you can do is fix it. Now look what a knot you’ve worked yourself into, Mama would say as she’d slide the dress around until it could slide down onto me. I try a wiggle and find I can twist a bit without tugging at the dress’ seams. Another twist, faster this time, and another snap sounds. Slow and steady wins the race, Mama always says to remind me to have patience. I grit my teeth and slowly slither to and fro in the fabric. One last shift of the dress allows it to slip down. Then I pretend I’m Mama, tugging the dress down from the
skirt and using my hands to smooth the velvety top and sleeves. Finally the dress lays smoothly on me without any wrinkles. I walk down the hallway on tiptoe, like Mama when she wears her Sunday shoes. Daddy’s sitting on their bed. One big hand covers his eyes and the other is tangled in his dark, messy hair. He’s still wearing the same grey shirt from yesterday and the day before that, and it’s all wrinkly. Mama would tell him so. Aren’t you going to change, Daddy? We’ve got to look our best so Mama can see. His eyes are all red when he looks up. You look just like your mama, he whispers. Are you all right, Daddy? We’re going to see Mama soon! He smiles a wet smile and tells me he’ll get cleaned up. -
We see Mama sleeping like Snow White in a one person bed-in-a-box. Her light skin is white as snow, and instead of her bedtime braid, her warm brown, gold-streaked hair lies in long waves. Usually she rocks me to sleep in our jammies, but now she’s sleeping in her best blue gown, her hands resting still on her belly. I think it’s because she’s sleeping in church. I ask Daddy if he’s going to kiss her like the prince did Snow White. He says Mama needs a special rest and we can’t wake her up.
But Daddy just shakes harder, burying his head in the back of my neck.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
That night, Daddy comes into my room after bedtime. He climbs into my bed and hugs me real tight. But he isn’t doing it right. Mama always gently sways and softly sings our lullaby. I guess Daddy doesn’t know, because he just breathes really loud and uneven, shaking us.
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
Daddy, can you sing me the lullaby the way Mama does?
I’m sorry, Daddy, don’t cry! I’ll sing it for you. Mama’ll see we can do bedtime on our own too. I try to rock us as I sing, but Daddy’s too big, so I just rock in his arms.
Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop.
and down will come Ashley, cradle and all.
SOFA Ruth Portes
Her eyes reflected the glass of white wine. “Come on, Maria. You know I don’t have time for that.” “Maria’s right, Emms,” Mitch said, stabbing the stray pasta on his plate, “You need to get out there. How long have you been single? Three years now? And I’m not even going to count Jason.” “Mitch, I was very emotionally unstable when that wonderful, enlightening, perfect, healthy relationship ended.” Emma said, pretending to hide a grin. She looked dramatically at the wall behind Maria. “ I don’t think I’ll ever really get over my dear, dear Jason.” Mitch snorted into his empty plate. “She’s hopeless,” Maria said to Mitch, setting her fork on her plate. “Nothing we ever say is going to get into that girl’s brain.” “Maria, I am a woman now, and must be referred to as such,” she said, finishing her wine. “You’re worse than you were in collge,” Maria said. “Am not.” “She’s right Emms, just accept it,” Mitch said. Emma stuck her tongue out at him and continued bickering with Maria. She had tied her dark waves into a stiff ponytail; she had told him it made her look more serious when he teased her about it on their way to dinner. “My hair makes people want to pat my head and tell me to go play in a corner,” Emma had said. So the hair had stayed. The only things betraying her personality were her constantly amused dark blue eyes—otherwise she looked like every other young, no-nonsense lawyer clawing her way to the top. “Emms, I don’t like the hair,” Mitch said after they had waved goodbye at Maria’s car window and began weaving their way down to 37th street. “Why is it bothering you so much?” she asked. There. The eyes were amused again. Hurt too, though.
“I mean, you look great but—Oh never mind,” he fell silent. “You doing alright?” He nodded. “Worried about my mom is all.” She squeezed his arm for a moment. “She’ll be alright.” He never noticed how nice her voice sounded when she was concerned. “But not if she has another attack.” “The doctors know what they’re doing.” “She misses him,” he said, stopping in front of her building. “He was a better father than mine will ever be.” “He was,” she said. “Every time I came over he’d always make me a milkshake. Remember that?” Mitch smiled. “He always asked about you and why we weren’t married yet.” Emma laughed loudly. “He loved making jokes like that,” she said. They stood in silence. “Come on up?” she said, “what say you to a old-school movie night?” “It’s like you assume I have no social life.” She stared at him. “You know, I have other friends,” he said, while opening the glass door. “Of course you do, dork.” “After you, Miss,” he said, indicating for her to go first. “Oh please,” she said, curtsying and walking ahead of him with clownish grace. He followed her out of the elevator to her apartment door. Her skirt fit her well. Making himself at home, he took off his suit jacket and tie while Emma changed. “My dad sent me some wine,” she said as she came out of her room with a two glasses. She was wearing her Barnard sweatpants; he liked her better this way. She had let her hair down and it tumbled around her shoulders around her small face. “Want any?” “Sure, what’s one more glass of wine?” he said, smirking. She glared at him and crouched by her wine cabinet. “That was once, and I made it home in one
piece, thank you.” Mitch laughed. “And it’s blackmail for the rest of your life.” “It’s not blackmail when there were so many witnesses, Mitch.” “And how many of those witnesses do you still talk to?” She stopped pouring the wine for a moment. “Oh, shut up,” she said, handing him a glass and pouring herself one. They chose from their still unfinished list of movies they had written during high school. “We haven’t done this in so long,” she sighed. “It’s so nice being able to hang out without one of your girlfriends getting jealous.” She said, connecting the computer to the TV. “Hey, Amy never did.” “That’s true, she was the only one I liked.” She clicked ‘watch’ Dances With Wolves. “I’m kind of glad you’re not with her anymore though,” she said, more quietly. He dimmed the lights as the movie began. “I think I am too.” He had never been more aware of the catlike way she folded her long legs under her when she sat on the couch, or how her eyes were still so blue in the dark, or how strange the empty space between them felt. He froze when, an hour into the movie, she resettled herself, resting her head on his thigh and tucking her legs to the side. He wanted to move her hair away from her face. “Emma?” He said. He didn’t know why he just called her by her full name. “Hmm?” “Meet for dinner next Thursday?” She didn’t look away from the screen. “Am I invited to a bro-fest?” “Just you,” he said after a long pause. “Okay,” she said, hoping he couldn’t hear her heart pounding. She closed her eyes and smiled as she felt him move her hair out of her eyes.
La ur aG
W AR R
THAT DYING HUM
Your eyes are clouded over By Vaseline. Your lips are broken At the edge where the doctors Taped the tube. Your bald head Stares at me, reminding me Of the hair you once had.
To Grace, my friend, companion, confidante: I call you now because you taught me how A man, expecting greatness, can, for want Of love, abandon outward pride to follow His innermost beliefs. They taught me song, The snow-capped hills that I have walked alone: I stood and struck there on the lonely gong That old boast of my heart, “I am, I am,” Though you had told me once that I could learn Humility, most difficult of the virtuesPerhaps I know it now, though I forgot So long your lessons, wore my ardent flaws As armor, arrogant and black. I rise To wake, and think of waking to your beauty, And finding insufficient others’ praise, Remember the way that you reached lightly Before my parting, handed me a cloak That I have worn and keep with me still To return, as that dying hum draws close To you in hopes that I have worn it well.
Doctors say you will soon Wake up, but the surgery Did not work. The tumor is inoperable. There will be Only a few more weeks Until you start feeling worse. I want to make you happy. We will keep dancing Every night. I will replace Hospital gowns with pink Dresses, and cancer with a crown.
42 Stock photo courtesy of magda18 at sxc.hu
Stock photo courtesy of Miguel Saavedra at sxc.hu
Click to Watch
FRAMES Anamaria Penagos I hid the remnants of my childhood Inside a wooden box, when I was seven. In the far left corner of Grandfatherâ€™s woodshop. There, I spent my days Enchanted by the vivid motion of machines And hands of men, who gave rise to long-lasting creations. I felt at ease under a cloud of sawdust, Safe from the jagged blatant sawâ€” That riveted my sight.
I watched men polish and varnish plywood pieces, Under the morning draft That seeped through the cracked ceramic roof tiles. At times, Grandfather brought me spare Wooden sticks, box nails, and tools. With those I built small houses that collapsed, But the smell of wood glue still remains Within the creases of my hands.
Years passed and on my return, I found but languid stares of older men. The dust had vanished from the air. I saw that the men had lost the driving force Behind their hands. Silence was their sole companion. I searched but did not find, The box that hid the remnants of my childhood.
Stock photo courtesy of linder6580 from sxc.hu
Three days into the apocalypse and I was
“D- don’t move. Your brains’ll be on that tree
“He has his eyes,” she whispered, dropping
As Nick patched up my neck in the cab, she
already tired of pissing outside. I tucked myself
behind you before you can hurt her.” Nick walked
her gun and then to her knees. After a string of
began her story. “Yesterday, when all the looting
behind one of the many Carolina backwoods pine
out from behind a tree, stuttering. His hand shivered
apologizes, she told us her story.
started, my baby brother and I locked ourselves up
trees, just out of the view of Nick in the old Camino. I
like a fault line as he pressed his hunting rifle to his
reckon that Boy Scout had no interest in seeing my
shoulder. He aimed for the ginger’s head. “I suggest
derrière. I only managed to get my belt unhinged
you back away.”
in storm cellar of boyfriend’s parents home. By that “I swear to God you look just like my brother,”
time the infection had already hit the neighborhood.
the girl said from the bed of the struck, her eyes
Most of the infected were killed or moved on because
before a pair of wax-paper-white hands seized my
As Nick spoke, the girl stiffened and I noticed
painfully fixed on Nick’s. She was surprisingly petite,
there was no one else to eat. I was sitting on the old
waist and neck. My shoulder twitched in a flinch as
my elbow was conveniently pressed against her
clad in a too-big gray hoodie and black Under Armor
bed in the cellar, trying to get my brother to sleep.
I expected a bite to the neck or head but I looked
stomach. Moron, I thought before subtly signaling
that made her look even smaller. She looked about
But he had left his teddy bear mom gave him in the
down to find my reflection glaring back at me from
house. Adam, my boyfriend, said he’d go get it but
the blade of a hunting knife.
shoot with a
I wouldn’t let him until my brother said, ‘you have
quiet shake of
but the past
to. They’ll get him. They’ll eat him’. My mom and his
slithered into to my ear. The voice hit my eardrum
dad had died in a car crash this time last year. It was
odd – almost weak – like all the kindness in it had
had aged her
all he really had from them. I couldn’t say no again.
only recently been broken down and reassembled
face. The bags
into menacing hate. She continued, “Here’s what’s
lapsed and I
got back two looters found a way into the cellar. My
going to happen. You’re going to give me the keys to
sagged to her
brother and I hid under the bed. Adam tried to fight
that piece of shit of yours and you get to go through
them but he couldn’t take on two men. He dropped
another day of this Hell.”
the bear and my brother ran out to save him and Mr.
A scoff easily left my lips. “Honey, yous best
Yogi.” She paused, clearing the sad out of her throat
be ready to kill ‘cause I’ll be six feet under before I
supinely give you my home.” Without a word, the
them. I was too scared to move. I stayed under the
girl tilted the knife into my neck, breaking the skin.
with a well-
cab, Nick shyly
bed until morning. After burying them in the yard I
As beads of blood eased onto her blade, I winced.
left. It took forever to get their blood off my hands.”
“Alright. Alright. The keys are in the ignition but my
hook to my
gaze from her
Her listless gaze fell to the chipping white paint of
friend is in the cab.”
and I took a
the P.O.S.’s bed. “I should have died with them,” she
She kneed me in the back of the leg. “Walk.”
the side of my face, I fell to the pine needle littered
look at him myself. His cerulean eyes were clear
As we struggled into the clearing where I
ground. I watched as the girl grab her assault rifle
as the Atlantic but perennially suspended in that
Nick’s vision fell on something out window.
had parked the P.O.S., I could hear her assault rifle
that hung off her shoulder and cock it. Nick stupidly
throat clogging purgatory before tears. It surprised
His eyes slowly lost focus as the ginger’s grief
clanking against her side. I glanced back to my
stumbled into the line of fire between me and my
me how much Nick felt. Since the outbreak, few of
occupied them. He was always too sensitive to the
assailant, noticing a blitz of red hair hazing just
end. He mustered up the best glare a chickenshit
us could feel anything more than nothing. When we
happenings of others. I swear that empathy will be
above her shoulders. “Be cool. I’m gonna call for him
fifteen-year-old could and let the girl have it. As he
did feel, it was only a pinch of just enough anger to
the death of him. In times like these the selfish see
to come out unarmed,” I said, shifting my gaze to the
fought the fear in his eyes, she looked back at him,
get us through the day. The redhead miserably tore
the sunrise and set. In times like these the selfish
cab only to find it empty.
mouth trembling, eyes watering.
her eyes from my comrade.
survive. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“Move and I carve your throat.” A girl’s voice
Stock photo courtesy of m4tik at sxc.hu
Adam went to get the bear and by the time he
before continuing. “They killed them both. Shot
added, hiding her shaking hands in her pockets.
I smoothed the medical tape over the gauze
Chances are they’re dead.” Nick looked away from
singing, no crickets chirping, not even the relentless
as I looked over to the girl. She eyed Nick before a
me, picking at the yellow foam bursting from the
groan of cicadas.
careless shrug hugged her shoulders. “We all have
P.O.S.’s cracked leather seats. I may have been too
“I don’t hea–.” Nick cut himself off as a soft
the same story. No use in feeling sorry all the time.
blunt but he needed to hear it. You couldn’t dwell.
crunch of footsteps whispered under the breeze.
The sorry don’t make it.”
He needed to learn how to leave things behind, how
The crunch grew harsh and quickened with every
“Do you want to be the one to shoot him if
A small chuckle fell from my mouth. She was
to pick himself up and move forward. He stole a
step. Leah rose to her feet in the bed and brought
you’re wrong?” That shut him up right quick as his
right. Offering her a slight smile, I slipped a full bottle
second glance with those pathetically sympathetic
her automatic to her shoulder. I grabbed my gun
gaze dropped to the car’s floor.
of water through the cab’s back window to her. “I’m
eyes. With an inward sigh, I added, “But Boss has
and nudged for Nick to do the same.
Dandy,” I said, finally introducing myself. “And that
a good head on his shoulders. His cousin ain’t all
there is Nicholas.”
stupid either. That being said, I’m hopin’ they made
“It’s just Nick.” He corrected irked but not unpleasant. “Leah,” she replied, taking the water. She tossed the cap aside and downed the entire thing in
“Where’s it coming from?” I asked, cranking down the P.O.S.’s mud stained manual window.
it and that’s why we’re waitin’.” My eyes gave the
“Three o’clock.” Her words left her lips hushed
woods another quick scan. “But the moment I see
as she took aim. The crunching grew louder and
one of those goddamn wolves I’m hightailing it that
louder until a figure broke into the clearing.
boat in Virginia Beach. No where on land’s safe.”
“Did he look bitten or torn to piece? We both know them wolves ain’t in the business of letting their dinner get away.” I frowned as he mocked my Georgia accent, “Let alone in one piece.”
“I’ll do it.” Leah said from the back, “If he’s turning, I’ll do it. But like you said there’s a chance he made it. I can’t stand here and let you lose your friend without doing anything at all.” Nick looked at me for the final verdict. I sunk into the driver’s seat and put my P.O.S. into gear.
“Ed!” Nick and I both shouted, almost
After off-roading on Ed’s tail, we eventually
one gulp. I stared at Leah as she shook the very last
“A boat?” Leah echoed, taking a moment to
jumping out of the car. Ed was a chunky college
made it to a dirt road that wound up to a lone
drops from the plastic onto her cracked tongue. Her
think about the plausibility of survival at sea. From
kid already balding from a habit of pulling his hair
cottage in a meadow. It seemed like it had once
eyes moved back the Boy Scout. “Did you know each
the way she scrunched her nose, to her, it wasn’t that
when stressed. He stood there, shoulders heaving
been a peaceful place with green grass billowing in
plausible. “That’s pretty risky,” she decided, looking
with every labored breath and face beaten to shit.
a spring breeze and warm yellowing lights glowing
I shook my head. “No. I found him the first
at me for the first time since she had a knife to my
Black quickly grew in rings around a punched in eye
from the windows accompanied by puffs of smoke
night wandering around North Carolina’s border. He
neck. “If you’re not careful you could be stranded at
and some minor cuts were scattered across his face.
sailing from the chimney in winter. But it was fall now,
nothing but tears and two bullets to his name.” Nick
sea. No food. No water.”
Other than that and a fat lip, he was, for the most
the season of dying and the house and its windows
part, free of blood and, more importantly, free of
was as dead as the corpses that covered the autumn
burnt grass. The bodies lay upon each other in piles
rolled his eyes. “Anyway, we’re staying here until four.
I smirked at this. “The question is would you
We’re hoping to meet up with the rest of our party.”
rather be the starving or eaten by the starving?” I
The girl crushed the bone-dry plastic with
shrugged. “Player’s preference. At any rate, you’re
her jagged fingers. “Where are they?” she asked. “A pack of wolves ambushed us outside of
welcome to stay with us.” “Thank you. Survival is a game of numbers.”
Asheville last night. We haven’t seen them since.” My eyes skipped around the woods, checking for any sign those atrocities. “Do you think Ed and his cousin made it?” Nick asked, hopeful.
Ed stared at us like a deer in headlights with his eyes wild with fear, rage and something cruel. “Where’s Chase?” I asked, noticing there were no other footsteps.
The afternoon slowly drew to a close and I
He looked from me to Nick and back again
buckled my seat belt. Nick sadly did the same before
before whispering a breathy, “I’m sorry.” Saying
Leah called from the bed, “Wait.” Nick turned to her
nothing more, he took off the way he came.
spreading over the length of a football field. Their faces were frozen in pain with dismembered body parts scattered throughout the field, staining the beige grass with purple blood. Ed was no were to be found. “These bullet holes still look hot,” Leah said as we stepped out of the truck, guns in hand.
asked what was wrong but she brought a crooked
Nick threw open the door to run after him but
“I reckon their buddies are still up and about.
I sighed, trying to rub the tiredness out of
finger to her lips. We listened to the autumn wind
I caught the back of his shirt, “That there contrition is
Be on the ready,” I added, tucking a crowbar into my
my eyes. “I am no psychic, Nicholas. I haven’t the
whirr against the pine needles. Apart from the lull
right suspicious. He could be infected and trying to
belt loops and walking up to the porch. I walked up
slightest whether or not they gon’ got them killed.
of the wind there was nothing else to hear. No birds
save us ammo.”
to the flowerbed-covered windowsill. Cupping my
hands, I peeped into the cabin and saw something
He was going to chop us up. Ed managed to get
“You feel nothing at all for these people?”
away and I told him to run. Idiot had to come back.”
“Nope.” That was a lie. I wanted to curl up and
Ed crawled off of me. Slipping to his feet, he
cry about every soul I sent to God as much as the
Blood splayed across the kitchen cabinets in burst like fireworks. It took to Ed’s face, smearing
said, “Screw you. I saved your life.”
next person but I didn’t have time for that. I didn’t
perfectly pasty skin with the imperfection of felony
I glanced outside to the sun purpling the sky
have time for tears or fears. Fear is the mother of
as he raised and bashed a bat over and over. Nick
with its set. “Let’s get the body out of here and board
mortality and I was going to last through this. I’d
stood beside me, clutching his stomach before
up the windows. We’re staying here tonight.”
have all the time in the world to feel sorry when the
staggering away to vomit into a nearby bush. Leah
CDC finds a cure. If they find a cure.
watched on, terror tearing across her face at the
That night Ed and I sat on the roof, rifles locked
sight. As for me, my eyes stay on Ed expressionless
and loaded for the night’s first lookout shift. “How
Morning crept up on the cabin. I awoke on
face as I was taken aback by the gory and personal
are you holding up, Boss?” I asked, Ed. Although he
the rooftop to the smell of Ed’s first cigarette of
murder. I tore my gaze away from him and forced
was quiet and sat next to me with his face still and
the day and a soundtrack of starving moans. The
it on Chase who was strangely tied to a chair and
calm as stone, his hands quivered.
pink sunrise blinded me but I could make out the
pale as chalk. A cut traced the space between the
“As well as a killer can.”
silhouettes of wolves trekking up the hill to the
corner of his left eye and jaw line. The island counter
I laughed. “We’re all killers.” Gesturing to the
cottage. The climbed and clawed over their fallen
blocked Ed’s victim from view but anyone could tell
graveyard from their battle earlier, I continued, “Every
brothers to what they hoped would be their warm,
whoever it was good and dead.
one of those bodies was either just like us or about
fresh, fleshy breakfast. I stood up and pumped my
I couldn’t take it anymore. I slipped the
to be us. They all had their own shitty families and
shotgun with one hand. “So what’ll it be, Boss? Is
crowbar out of my pants and slammed the blunt
irrelevant problems and hopes and dreams that one
survival outside of your moral compass?”
end into the window. I followed the hail of shattered
day their hardest decision would be which bottle
Ed put out his cigarette and grabbed his
glass into the cabin and charged Ed from the side so
of champagne they should pop open tonight. Even
automatic. “We’re going to Hell.” He sighed, pulling
he wouldn’t hit me.
though they already lost themselves, what we’ve
the gun’s strap over his head.
“Stop!” The word shot out of my lungs in a scream as I tackled him into a tight hug. We slumped
done was no difference than slaying a schizophrenic man or senile grandmother. No different.”
“Not without taking them with us.” I could hear Nick calling for us to come inside. I took one
against the sink before sliding together into the
Ed didn’t feel any better but I wasn’t trying
last long look at the army that clambered before us
blood pooling on the hardwood floor. Ed cowered
to cheer him up. It was such an impossible task
and brought my gun to my hip. “Kill ‘em all and let
into me and I smoothed my hand over his balding
anyway. “Way to sugar coat things, Dandy.” He
God sort ‘em out.”
head, feeling my blond locks sop up the blood. I
laughed again but this time with some heart – some
looked over to Chase. “What in the hell happened?
feeling. “There’s just something wrong about this.
Why are you tied up?”
Something immoral about killing a living thing.
“Those things chased us here. He was kind
Killing other people.”
enough to take us. Well, kind until he tried to kill us.”
“There’s definitely something wrong,” I
He gestured to Ed’s victim with his head but I didn’t
agreed before shrugging, “But I ain’t got nothing to
look, “I don’t know why. Maybe for ammo and guns.
justify. Survival is survival.”
VIVID Tania Chatterjee
OF WHICH SOLOMAN HAD TOO MANY Ruth Portes
A woman in a rich dress made for arid days, Is followed by her flock of timid slaves, Her children and anotherâ€™s children; his heirs Who will fight over the friendless country.
Their sandaled feet tap on spotted beasts Trapped inside mosaic floors, surrounding other wives taken from their fathersâ€™ homes for having been cursed with sweet eyes.
And the bronze chariots wait for battle, Lined in front of four thousand stables Filled with fiery Mounts stomping For the African Queen.
A T A X I A Davis Einolf
You never need much time whenever she
you’re almost swimming. It’s nothing to do with
in the front door. It only takes her a couple seconds
comes around. The day of waiting eclipses her
her; when you finally connect she’s sweet and
to make it up the stairs – she’s definitely more fit
actual visit, and the alcohol you fetch from the
confident, she’s always so sweet. Every time you
than you, even in high heels – and her perfume
shelf above the stove only slows down the time like
try to say something it comes out more like your
creeps in the door even as you’re fumbling with
watching the second hand on a clock. If you called
voice in middle school when you tried to ask Patricia
the deadbolt. A twist of the knob and there she is:
the night before, set aside the time for the next
Kearns to the spring dance than the debonair Don
evening, the mornings are the worst. Invariably you
Draper tone you rehearse so much in the lukewarm
You’ve learned to avoid awkward small talk,
will wake up far too early for a weekend and with
shower. Sometimes it makes it a little easier if you
but if you accidentally lapse into it she’ll politely
no tarrying, head directly to the fridge, as if you had
imagine her sitting at home, or even pacing and
respond. The truth is she’s never been very interested
a purpose for setting your alarm this morning, but
fretting, waiting for you to call. Most of the time you
in your job; you haven’t been either, for that matter.
not the rest. Once you’re there, standing in the cold
see through that convenient fantasy; undoubtedly
With her in the room it isn’t so hard for you anymore.
air flowing out of the open fridge door, you realize
she has better things to do than wait for you to dry
She can never stay for too long, she’s a very busy
that the half-full carton of orange juice is really no
your hands off on your jeans and bite your nails and
woman, but sometimes she’ll stick around to talk
good excuse. From there, regardless of whether you
dial. Despite all this, when she picks up she is always
for a couple extra minutes, maybe tell you about
decide to drink the juice or not, you will probably
happy to talk, always ready to come over, always so
a celebrity she saw on the street. She doesn’t like
take a shower, turning the temperature as high as
about her other work either, and there really isn’t
it will go. In your apartment that isn’t very high. The
These are the longest hours of your life,
much else to discuss besides brushes with better
rest of the day will be fretting, pacing, drinking, and
longer than the eight hour workdays in your 40 hour
people. That’s only, tops, five minutes on top of the
looking at your phone. Honestly though, why would
workweeks. By the time she finally shows up, parking
hour and then she’s back out the door, down the
her scratched Toyota Corolla, languorously sliding
stairs, and then driving away. You pick yourself up to
If you call only a few hours in advance, like
out and up the dandelion-riddled asphalt towards
watch her turn the corner through the window, and
maybe it’s a workday and you made up your mind
the door, you’ve fretted your nails into tatters, paced
then get back in bed, a few hundred dollars poorer
to phone while copying spreadsheets, then you just
lines into the linoleum, and drunk a good bit more
and another day older. These nights you dream that
cut straight to the phone-looking, fretting, pacing,
than you probably should have. All of that for such
you are rooted in place, on your back, immobile.
and drinking; more condensed-like.
a brief visit. The buzzer makes you jump a little even
You are out on that hot asphalt street and your eyes
The call itself is never easy. Maybe it’s even
though you watched her arrive through the curtains,
are locked into staring straight up at the sky as the
worse. Your palms get sweaty just thinking about
and you have to collect yourself for a moment, still
clouds flow in and out in tides and the birds slowly
calling and by the time you try to dial her number
glued to the pane, before remembering to buzz her
migrate south for the winter.
You grasped her passionately, your hands infatuated with the perfectly calculated curvature of her waist. I sat there, witnessing the power of your spell, as your mutual movement drove me to want that, too. My hairs stood on end when the movement of your fingers seduced a gentle noise from her mouth. You tickled her, making me wish your fingers were tracing my belly. Longing for a love affair like yours, I hugged myself. For months, I have called you mine, yet never have you caressed me so. Perhaps with time youâ€™ll learn to make love to me the way you make love to your guitar.
Lâ€™ACCORD PARFAIT Laura Grau
Stock photo courtesy of Helldiran at sxc.hu
at least half that it’s given me. Take these black notes in your hand and play them like you breathe.
Feel the songs I played seconds ago Smell the hardwood, taste the sounds, This yellow chair; your stage.
Oh, my sister I wish I could stay here and play duets with you all day. But my new husband calls and I must move on; my new home is far away.
But just know that when you practice there will be two more ears from my way, My heart beating the same beat, dancing to the pieces you play.
Now before our time together ends let me just teach you this last song. My sister, this violin is now yours Through you, this tune lives on.
Stock photo courtesy of Yejun Kim at sxc.hu
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Based on “The Music Lesson, Two Women Seated on a Divan” by Henri Matisse
The Last Music Lesson
Now caress the willow, and drive the bow
I hope this music gives you
SPLINTERS OF CLARITY Kate Dwyer
Stock photo courtesy of Constantin Jurcut at sxc.hu
“Mommy, I forgot my lunchbox,” Zach said, a pained expression making its way onto his rosy face. He forgot his lunchbox because it was never packed. There was no lunch for him that day. Annabel watched him, shifting anxiously in the backseat, through the rearview mirror of her late husband’s old pickup truck. She’d sold her car the previous month to pay the rent. “You can ask Mrs. Wilcox for lunch today,” Annabel told her son. The school knew her refrigerator was always empty, and was beginning to, as Mrs. Wilcox put it, “step in.” But Annabel felt that they were stepping on her, squashing her like some kind of insignificant insect beneath Mrs. Wilcox’s patent leather heel. It wouldn’t be long before one of them government agents would be knocking on her door, trying to take her son away. She pulled up next to Robert E. Lee elementary school, and stopped the truck. Oddly enough, it was snowing out, and the backroads were slick with slush. “Okay,” Zach said, struggling to unstrap his seatbelt, seeming to drown in his father’s old yellow parka. There had never been a need to buy him a winter coat; it was the first snowstorm Louisiana had seen in years. But Annabel knew how the kindergartner wearing a man’s coat would look to Mrs. Wilcox. Leaning into the front seat, Zach gave his mother a kiss on the cheek. “I love you, Mommy. Can Billy and I play in the snow later?” “We’ll see. I’ll give Billy’s mother a call. Have a good day at school,” Annabel called, watching as her son climbed out of the truck and walked up to the school door. Sighing, she glanced at the clock. Damn it, she was late for work again. That day, work was at the Baton Rouge Sanitarium. Mrs. DuPont sat on her cot, watching the snow fall on the other side of the plexi-glass window. The parking lot had been smothered in white, cars buried under at least two feet of snow, the weeping willows breathing heavily as white shackles tightened their grips, weighing them down. The only splotch of color in her room was a flower, sitting on the windowsill—an orange rose she found in the hallway the last time she tried to escape. One of the orderlies had given her a bud vase and some water, so the flower could survive. But the water in the bud vase had frozen overnight, and now, the flower was beginning to die, its stem trapped in a block of ice. The edges of its petals were
yellowing, crusting over, crumbling like stale lead paint chipping from the walls of an old plantation house. It was a rare thing, a blizzard in Louisiana. And yet, the snow continued to fall. Knock-knock-knock. “’Tis some visitor," Mrs. DuPont muttered, "tapping at my chamber door. Only this, and nothing more.’” “Mrs. DuPont?” No answer. Annabel knocked again. The doctors had said Mrs. DuPont was a real tough one. And during her first week on the job, a tough one was the last patient Annabel wanted to treat. She was Annabel’s last patient of the day spent spoon-feeding applesauce to the senile elderly and delivering care packages to clinically depressed teenagers. “Mrs. DuPont?” After carefully unlocking the door, Annabel peeked into the room. Sparsely furnished with nothing but a cot, a white desk, and two white chairs, its loud whiteness hurt her eyes if she stared for too long. Most patients’ rooms were covered with photos of family and friends. But there were no faces in Mrs. DuPont’s room. Nor were there ticket stubs from movies she’d seen, or postcards from places she’d visited, or even a single trinket. “Mrs. DuPont?” Seeing that the writer was, at the moment, calm, Annabel pushed the door open and entered the room, carrying a tray. She would do what the doctors told her to do—nothing more, nothing less. Give the patient the pills, give the patient the water, call Billy’s mother and ask her to pick up Zach from school, go home to her tiny apartment with duct-tape door hinges and Tupperware table settings. “How now?” Mrs. DuPont replied, a sugary hint of sarcasm in her voice. She tucked a ratty strand of unwashed hair behind her ear. She was overdue to have her hair dyed by almost a year, Annabel figured—the top half of her head was a golden blonde, but was black near the ends. Skunky streaks of green ran down what were once bangs on either side of her face. “It’s time for your medicine.” “Such mortal drugs you have,” the patient remarked, wiping the salty residue of tears from her cheeks. Annabel could tell that she’d had herself a good cry; her eyes were bloodshot and her nose was running. Hysteria, obviously.
“No, no these pills will help you—” Annabel even smiled for good measure. “To my friends, they are mortal.” Wiping her nose, Mrs. DuPont stood up. Setting the tray down on Mrs. DuPont’s rickety desk, Annabel closed the door behind her. The last thing she wanted was Mrs. DuPont running free in the hallways. The pills sat on a tiny porcelain plate—two red capsules, as the patient had requested the day before. Annabel poured some water into a paper cup and slowly walked to the patient. “Here you go,” she said, gingerly handing the pills and paper cup to Mrs. DuPont. Looking down at the medicine, Mrs. DuPont scoffed. “I said I wanted Capulets, not capsules. Take them back.” “I’m afraid I can’t do that. Your doctors want you to have them.” Biting her lower lip, Annabel glanced at the clock hanging above the door. It was almost three. Her shift was going to end in a few minutes, and she couldn’t leave till this DuPont character took her meds. Zach would be left waiting at school again. Damn it. She hated this new job. But it was the job she could get. Any job was a good job for Annabel— she was up to her hoop earrings in her husband’s old medical bills. Doctors she hadn’t heard from in years started calling. “To swallow, or not to swallow: that is the question. Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer the Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, I’ll take them not.” And Mrs. DuPont drank only the water, holding the pills in her fist. In her other hand, she crumpled the paper cup, throwing it like a snowball against the windowpane. “Mrs. DuPont, you don’t want to stay here forever, do you?” Annabel asked. “If you take your medicine, we can let you go home.” And they’d let Annabel go home to make dinner from the scraps of meatloaf leftovers from the night before. The patient cleared her throat: “In that direction,’ the Cat said, waving its right paw round, ‘lives a Hatter: and in that direction,’ waving the other paw, ‘lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.’” A Cheshire Cat grin crossed her face. “Are you saying you don’t want to go home?” Annabel was beginning to grow impatient. “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity,” DuPont explained to Annabel. Turning to her right, she said, “So did I, Edgar Allan. We have so
much in common.” Annabel rolled her eyes. “If you take your medicine, everything will be alright. That Cat won’t be mad anymore.” “The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Queen Mab. In shape no bigger than an agate-stone on the fore-finger of an alderman…” “You ain’t giving me another choice, Mrs. DuPont. I’ll have to call your doctor.” Reaching for the phone, Annabel hoped DuPont would comply. “Though this be madness, there is method in't," Mrs. DuPont whispered with urgency. “Do you understand?” She reached out and grasped Annabel’s hand, dropping the pills in her palm. “No, Mrs. DuPont, I don’t. Don’t you want to see your friends again?” “I do see my friends. My friends are all around me.” “Who are your friends? Who are you seeing?” “William, the playwright, Edgar Allan, the poet, and Lewis, the author.” “But don’t all them voices chattering in your head make you upset?” Turning to face the window, Mrs. DuPont remained silent. The snow was falling more heavily than before; the orange rose’s petals brittle with the cold. Reaching for the bud vase, Mrs. DuPont pursed her lips. “No. I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched. “Thank you, Edgar Allan,” she added acknowledging an invisible guest once again, grasping the bud vase on the windowsill. “And don’t even think about leaving me for Annabel. We all know how much you adore that slut Annabel Lee…” Before she knew what happened, Annabel heard the shattering of glass and ice against the cinderblock walls. Slivers of shimmering glass covered the floor, and certain splinters were still stuck to the walls, turning the walls into a crystal cave. The rose lay among seeds of clarity scattered across the floor. “Never to suffer would have been never to be blessed,” Mrs. DuPont told the rose, kneeling down amid the glass, lifting the flower from the debris. Annabel rushed to stop her from hurting herself, but she was too late. Mrs. DuPont’s knees were bleeding, those same seeds of clarity lodged in her thin skin. “Mrs. DuPont, don’t you want to live in the real world?” Annabel’s face was suddenly white like the room as she cleaned the writer’s wounds. “What real world? The world where it snows in
Louisiana? I much prefer my writers’ group. ‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’” She paused. “But I like my madness.” “Excuse me?” Annabel asked. “Do you like book clubs? I do. We meet officially on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I see them every day. I’m special. Give me a sample of your work, and maybe you, too, can lend your ears to Shakespeare and Company. The old sports are very selective, so I’m not sure if you’ll make the cut. Wednesdays, we do word play. Saturdays are reserved for soliloquies. Sundays we dabble in sonnets. Would you like to hear my rendition of the ‘Jabberwocky?’” She cleared her throat. “'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe…” Frightened, Annabel back out of the room, and as Mrs. DuPont followed her, she rushed down the hallway. DuPont hurried after her, and, louder and faster, continued to recite the poem, “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun—“ Annabel continued to cry, picking up speed as she raced down the hall. “—the frumious Bandersnatch! Off with your head!" Turning back, Annabel saw that Mrs. DuPont had retreated to her room, had slammed the door behind her. Catching her breath, she strode towards the tiny kitchenette where the nurses took their coffee. Sipping their Cups of Noodles like pelicans by the bayou, they simultaneously turned to face Annabel awkwardly shuffling into the room. “Who knows that DuPont lady?” she asked too loudly. Exchanging knowing looks, the other nurses cleared their throats and returned to their salty soups. “Her husband left her last year,” an older, fatter nurse without a neck said. “For a man,” another nurse, a young, pale one added. Though she tried to hide it, she was losing hair. “And she was gone up there…” the first nurse continued, gently tapping her head. “But she was a little nuts—excuse me—unstable—to begin with. She lived at the library—refused to go home for months on end.” “Because she’s in love with Edgar Allan Poe.” “We’re telling you this on a need-to-know ba-
sis. Because you need to know. Has she invited you to her book club yet?” Pushing her broad shoulders back, the first nurse nodded. Annabel assumed she’d been invited a few times herself. “Poor Lenore had to quit last week because Mrs. DuPont was convinced Edgar was going to leave her, you know, for his ‘lost Lenore.’” “May I use the phone?” Annabel asked, barely processing the take of Mrs. DuPont. She needed to speak to Zach. Dialing the number of Zach’s school, she glued her eyes to the florescent clock on the microwave. It was 3:08, then 3:09. Each ring on the other end of the call seemed an eternity as she waited for a receptionist to pick up. “Robert E. Lee Elementary, Joan speaking.” “Hi, my name is Annabel Kern. I’m going to be a little late picking up my son Zacharias. I got held up at work.” “Oh, Mrs. Kern, I actually have a note here to schedule a meeting with you. Mrs. Wilcox would like to discuss a few things with you, um, about Zach’s lifestyle.” “Yes, of course, um, let me just check the social worker’s schedule and get back to you.” Annabel felt herself choke as she heard the words “social worker.” “Good. I’ll be by in a half-hour. Make sure Zach stays inside. It’s chilly out,” Annabel told her. “And if you could give him a cup of Cheerios before school, he likes those. And he never goes anywhere without this scrap of a blanket he’s has since he was a baby, and there’s this picture of his father he keeps in his pocket. You can barely make out the picture anymore—it’s so crinkled and has been through the wash a few times…” “See you in a half hour?” the receptionist asked, confused. “Of course. I’m sorry.” Annabel hung up the phone. “At least she’s happy now…” a nurse said in a hushed tone. “Who’s happy?” Annabel asked, wiping a tear from her cheek. Sniffling, she walked to the coffee machine and fixed herself a cup. “DuPont. She crazy as hell, but she’s happy. She lives in her own little world.” Later that night, as she made dinner on a hot-plate in her apartment, Annabel watched Zach, playing in the Louisiana snow, without a clue as to what his future would hold.
THE LONG ROAD Cyrus Beh
TRIPTYCH 3 Liana Sanders
TRIPTYCH 1 Liana Sanders
WHAT HAPPENS AT EVERY FUNERAL Matthew Moores
At the funeral, (she didn’t really know him; a distant cousin, it doesn’t matter), her grandparents ask, “Just 20?” and she smiles humbly and nods. Then they squirm to find a joke. She doesn’t save them. The girl wants to ask about death. She wants to ask if they feel a sense of fear now that it looms over them when they’re at a funeral or when they’re visiting the doctor for another checkup or when they least expect it; and the girl wants to stand there all night listening to them talk and ask millions of questions to pick apart their brains, she wants to go and sniff the bouquets of flowers just to see if she feels really truly alive and run around and laugh at all the old people and stick her tongue out at them screaming “You’re old and I’m twenty and you’re going to die soon!” and then to know what it feels like to die; she wants to jump inside the casket and lie next to her distant cousin whose name was either Warren or Warner, but that doesn’t matter now because she just has to join him and hug him and kiss his cold dead face that probably smells like formaldehyde anyway but she must know exactly what his very last thought was before the liver cancer took his pitiable little life! (It may have been lung cancer.) The girl wants to ask about death. She wants to ask, and almost does. She almost says, “Are you afraid to die?” But instead, she doesn’t. Instead she stays quiet, and blinks. When she opens her eyes again, everyone at the funeral is gone, besides her grandparents. They finally land on a joke, and it is mediocre at best. She throws them a courtesy laugh, and then they die. Now she is alone.
Stock photo courtesy of aschaeffer at sxc.hu
SAFFRON 76 Tania Chatterjee
MOLOTOV COCKTAIL Jennifer Baik
bottle. preferably glass. take my heart and pour in the fuel that makes my skin burn. gasoline. or love. it doesn’t matter they both set things on fire. then choke me with a blanket of words dirtied by all the stains you tried to rub out but couldn’t it’s a shame, it’s a shame because you told me that a love like this only happens once, and once only before completely consuming me and you and leaving nothing but some second degree burns. a broken bottle. you were my molotov cocktail.
How it is Katie Robinson
Stock photos courtesy of Claudia Meyer, Colin Brough, fcl1971 at sxc.hu
It was you who found him there, dangling on that rope like a ragdoll, limbs loose, skin almost translucent like a thick sheet of ice. It looked fake. It looked like some kind of joke. Kennedy was with you and he threw up on the spot. You just stood there staring like, There’s no way this is real. This definitely isn’t Robby. It’s just one of his pranks. You took a step closer and Kennedy was saying What are you doing and you weren’t listening just looking closer. Why would anyone want to go out like this? Leaving life looking like some kind of twisted piñata. You got this mental image of a paper mache version of Robby with bright shreds of paper hanging off of him, swinging from a tree at a picnic. You looked at him in his closet and thought someone should hit him with a bat and see what comes out. And then you choked and fell to your knees heaving up sobs at the feet of a dead man and you felt the rough, scratchy carpet where he walked his way to that closet and you smelled the rancid scent of Kennedy’s bile and you could hear Kennedy crying next to you into a phone to someone saying Robby’s dead, Robby’s dead, oh my god and you don’t remember much after that.
Remember that time when you were fourteen and Robby and Kennedy were sixteen and you three were driving home from school? Of course you do. Of course you remember every detail. You guys were stopped at a train crossing and you were in the backseat talking about that rumor that Chelsea Roberts got Derek Lawson off in the gym utilities closet and Robby and Kennedy were cracking up in the front seat, near to tears because you were good at telling stories and adding your own embellishments and they were good at encouraging you to keep it up. And then when you were mid-imitation of Chelsea going down on Derek you heard Robby’s laughter choke off and saw him reach over and smack Kennedy on the arm. Yo, look. Kennedy swung his head forward and you cut your imitation short and stretched your neck out so you could see it too. There was a guy. Some guy in a Jethro Tull t-shirt and worn-out jeans and no shoes. And he was standing on the middle of the train tracks not moving. What the fuck is he doing? Robby yelled. You’d never heard Robby sound like that. You took everything in real quick, like: there’s the guy, there’s the train, the guy’s not moving,
the train is honking, honking, not gonna stop honking, and the guy is standing, standing, not gonna stop just standing, and you wanna scream at him and tell him doesn’t he know he’s gonna die but you already know that he knows that. Oh, shit. Maybe everyone closed their eyes but you or maybe you all kept your eyes open. You wouldn’t know because you never asked. But you watched Jethro Tull Guy’s body get smashed against the train and rain down to the ground like streamers at a birthday party. Oh, Jesus. Jethro Tull Guy was dead. Fucking smithereens. Smashed like a bug against a car windshield. Laying in unidentifiable pieces along the sides of the rails and oh man you never wanted to know what the front of that train looked like because the leftovers were bad enough. Everything was silent for a good minute after it was over, and then traffic started moving again and you guys picked back up conversation like nothing even happened and Robby drove right over those tracks and shit you wanted to throw up but you kept talking even as you looked out the window one last time to see the splattered remains of Jethro Tull Guy. You never mentioned it to anyone and you never talked about it with Robby or Kennedy. But you dreamed about it sometimes, waking up in cold sweats. And you cried for a while that night when you got home, up in your room with your trig homework laid out in front of you untouched. And you thought about it now, sitting on a couch in the living room of Robby’s house, staring your nephew in the face thinking wow did he look like his dad and saying, Why don’t we wait to talk til your mom gets here and he says, When’s dad gonna be home? and you get too sick to your stomach to reply.
they hung on to good relations for that last little stretch just to make dad happy while he was on his deathbed. Dad’s death was slow and rough for everyone. You remember telling your third grade class that your dad was dying. And your fourth. By your fifth you’d stopped wanting to talk about it. He was gone midway through that year, anyway. Cancer ate away at him slowly and he always looked less and less like himself. About two years into it you stopped even thinking of him as Dad, he was just some eroded version of that guy. With sunken in eyes and skin suction cupped to his bones and greasy, stringy, falling-out hair. Sometimes when he was in the middle of talking he would let out wails of pain. Eventually he stopped wanting to talk at all. Mom would cry all the time but when you walked into the room she would wipe off her eyes and turn around talking as if she’d never been crying at all. It just became custom to pretend you hadn’t noticed. Robby got real distant and real odd when dad started going. He was barely passing classes and you didn’t know where he was half the time. At night you’d walk by his door and hear the sounds of spotty, choppy breathing. He didn’t cry at dad’s funeral. But he stood there at the grave for hours and hours not moving and you and mom drove away and when you came back to get him he was still just standing there and when you called his name out of the car window and mom said, Time to go, sweetie, he turned and walked back to the car and didn’t speak for three days.
Ain’t it a funny thing, death? your mom said to you and Robby the year after dad died. You were sitting at the kitchen counter with a plate of pancakes and eggs out in front of you. She was leaning with her elbows on the counter and her round, puffy face resting on her fists. Funny isn’t how I would describe it, Robby said in this biting way and you looked over at him like, Why are you talking like that? but he wasn’t looking back at you. No, no, Mom said distantly, like she hadn’t really heard, her eyes staring off at something that wasn’t there. Your dad would have loved to have been around to see you boys grow up to be handsome as you are. It’s only been a year, Robby said. We’re not that different. Mom snapped her head at him like, What’s with the attitude? Robby dropped his fork and knife on his plate with a clatter and said, I’m not hungry, and walked out of the room.
Robby and Mom had never really gotten along and it was especially bad after dad died. Like
Well he was happy when he got married, wasn’t he? You remember him smiling and everyone saying he looked so in love. You remember nodding blankly like, Sure, yeah. But you’d never really seen what love looked like, so you couldn’t say for sure.
When you sit down with Lindsay you want to be able to say that you’d noticed he’d been sad for basically his whole life but you can’t say that because it wasn’t true. She’s got her head tilted a bit to the side and she’s looking out the window but she isn’t crying. Stop messing with me, she says. It’s not funny. I’m not messing with you. You hear her swallow. You watch her lip quiver. He’s gone, Linds. And then she bursts into tears and you don’t know what to do so you reach out your hand across the table and she grabs it. She’s saying she doesn’t understand. She’s talking about their son. Man, you never wanted to do something like this. You didn’t sign up for this. You feel yourself getting mad at Robby for leaving behind a family and leaving you to clean up his mess and then you sink into yourself feeling like an ass for having thought that in the first place. Goddamn.
Jack-Jack is upstairs, playing with some trucks, just waiting for his dad to come home but he isn’t coming home and now Lindsay’s talking like How am I supposed to tell him that and she’s crying even harder and hell now you’re crying a little bit too. I mean I knew he wasn’t the happiest but… You nod at Lindsay so she knows she doesn’t have to finish and she starts crying harder and then Jack-Jack runs down the stairs saying What’s going on and oh my god he’s only five years old and you stare at those glistening eyes and think of his happy-go-lucky smile and close your eyes picturing it for one second because you know he might not have that smile anymore pretty soon. And Lindsay’s crying too hard to tell him what’s going on and you don’t want to speak so you sit there and wait and you all sit there and wait for someone to finally tell him Robby’s never coming home.
How about that time when you were seven and you guys went hiking in the woods? Kennedy was there too. Kennedy was there lots. He and Robby were up ahead leaving you way behind because at that time they thought you were annoying for being around even though you were all still kinda friends. You were stopping to catch your breath when you heard Kennedy go, Hey, look! and you ran to catch up and there was Kennedy pointing at a dead raccoon. Half of it was nothing but bones and the other half was rotting and stinking and flies were going round it in circles landing and buzzing off and landing again. Robby looked sick. You said, Gross, and Kennedy smacked you on the head and told you to Shut up, dweeb and Robby was saying, Let’s go. Hey, what, I think it’s cool, Kennedy said with that grin he had that was always getting him out of trouble. But Robby insisted on going so you left. Later that night Robby told you he just didn’t like dead things, not even animals and when you asked him why he said, They just remind me of dad. And then he said, What do you think about death? and you were seven and didn’t know much so you said, I dunno. Freaky, I guess. Yeah, he said, sounding like you didn’t get it. And you both dropped it.
Kennedy calls you up going, Do you need to talk about it? No. Okay, just thought I’d check. Maybe. What? Maybe I need to talk about it. Okay, he says. Okay, I’m coming over.
When he gets there he says he’s glad you need to talk. He says, I definitely need to talk. Do you want a drink? Yes, he says. God, please. I could really use that right now. You go pour the both of you the strongest thing you can find in the cabinet and come sit back down. So you told Jack-Jack? he asks. You push out your bottom lip and blow air onto your face. You swallow hard and after a moment you finally say yes. Christ, Kennedy says. I can’t believe that. I can’t believe he would… Poor Jack. You say, I really don’t want to talk about Jack-Jack. He goes, Sorry. He says he never even noticed that anything was wrong with Robby. He says he never would’ve imagined he would do that and that that’s what makes him the most upset—that he was his best friend and never even noticed. He says he knows you probably feel the same. You say you do. You say, Do you remember that guy who got hit by the train? He looks at you silently for a moment and then goes, Yeah. He gets real thoughtful. Then he goes, You know, Robby used to bring that up a lot when we were kids. Asking why I thought that guy did it. Kennedy goes, He was always haunted by how we just drove over those tracks afterwards like it was nothing. Haunts me too, you say. Really haunted him, though. He always said, That was that guy’s final act. His real last moment to make his mark. Probably thought everyone would be struck by it. Would finally see him. And we just drove right over those tracks, chatting about Chelsea Roberts like we didn’t see a goddamn thing.
You remember when Robby got this one girlfriend when he was 19 and he brought her over and you guys were all hanging out. She was laughing at your jokes and you were having a great time and he got real mad and just got up and left. Huh, she said when he was out of the room. Is he alright? Prob’ly, you said. He gets real moody sometimes, she said. Like… I don’t know. I just wonder about him sometimes. Wonder if everything’s alright. Up here, you know? she tapped on her head. And in here, she said, and tapped on her heart. Sometimes I think something’s really wrong. Do you think? You looked after him. Nah, you said. That’s just Robby. You said, That’s just how he is.
DANIELLE Kat Lewis
Gold. Her hair was laced back in apathy. The braid sat on her neck’s nape like a weight of all innocence swallowed in sin. Black pride bound the yellow tail containing it to a rare swish from left to right
and back again. It moved as still as her lips in the shadow of a past smile.
Red. Her nail polish was the only part of her that ever yelled. It shined on her fingers, louder than her own voice that seldom amounted to more than a well-worn sigh lost in stirring air. The cold chill of her breath, like a nip of winter wind, kept most away and left the rest with bites of frostbitten wrath.
Looking down the terrace and Scanning the sun-drenched figure seated By the marble cascade and Seeing a tie-dye maxi, a hat, And her familiar grin is Like being a jaywalker caught Momentarily In the headlights Of a car whose radio blares The mellifluous Saxophone.
Untied. Her shoelaces, grungy with disregard, haphazardly dropped under each step. Her foot just barely missed the string to trip. The shoestrings flapped around in her gait. They shouted that she was not afraid to fall but whispered that she already had. I’ve seen her tie her scarf like a noose. When she stretched, her shirt would ride up and I’d see the blue-black bruises on her sides from the times she walked into corners of counters, mumbling “ouch” with a smile. Last week, I knocked on her door to find that no one home. But in the window I saw two floating feet, swaying from right to left and back.
Stock photo courtesy of Gölin Doorneweerd - Swijnenburg at sxc.hu
Let me pull your strings, like the tides in SPIDERHOLE Samuel Cook
their silent moondance. Anchors aweigh and I cast you onto the seafloor. I’ll give you back to your self later, maybe.
Let me spin you out, like a spool of thread eyeing needles and leaving the air stitched, rippled with our slips. Your hips open like a book. I find you at chapters’ edges, and curl your page inwards.
Let me pour into you, like cream into my coffee, coffee into my core. You stick to the shore, left behind by the ebb. My hands web and spider on your spine, don’t move. SPIDERHOLE Artist
FATHER, TOO GOOD TO STAY Arielle Kaden
UNTITLED Hannah Danzinger
This is for the songs That you once sang me. When the stars came out And youâ€™d kiss me goodnight, And whisper that you loved me.
Father, I can still hear you. That bellowing laugh, When I hear it, I turn To see someone elseâ€™s Face, happy like yours.
This is for the lifting In the air - flying, your arms My wings; my little body soaring Like a bird held steady By your mighty hands.
Father, I can still see you High up in that old tree you Used to climb because you said You never stopped being a kid.
This is for the dancing. That time we learned to tango, My eyes just reached your waist, But oh, how we loved that tune. I can still hear that tip-tap.
But I guess you stay up there now, Father, Because, God thought you were too good to stay; too good to be aliveYou were too good to play down here.
The darkness had swallowed the ship’s brig whole, but the stale air painted a vivid enough sense of the place in Julie’s brain, smelling of rancid sea water, pit stains, and rum. The rum made her think of a funny quote from the Pirates of the Caribbean film, which would have incited laughter except for two things: one, the chains wrapped around her chest, which rather constricted her breathing, and two, the reason she was tied up in the first place. Of course, the setting of the Pirates films was exactly where she didn’t want to be right now – she truly did feel as though she had been dropped in the middle of such a film, except there were no cameras, no craft services tables, and no way out. No, she assured herself, scrunching her face so that her glasses would slide back up the bridge of her nose. There’s always a way out in these types of situations. She just needed a plan.
And, more importantly, a partner.
She steeled herself before she called, “Lilia?” out into the darkness, her vocal chords chafing from lack of use. “Lilia?” The silence stretched for such a long time that Julie almost gave up on making contact, when she heard a grumbled, “What?” Julie’s heart jolted in surprise, and suddenly she found herself floundering for words. “Um... I … look, I know you’re not happy with me – ”
“Yeah, that’s a bigger understatement than, ‘One does not simply walk into Mordor.’”
Another line she wished she could laugh at. Julie swallowed (though, with what, she was unsure, as her mouth was as dry as sandpaper). Even though she could not see her cellmate, she could imagine Lilia’s facial expression, she knew it so well – thin, dark eyebrows lowered to turn her dark blue gaze into a striking glare. “Yes, well... I get that,” Julie continued. “But, I figure the only way out is to work together. I mean, you have to get out of here and finish your quest. And I...” She trailed off, the imagined sobs of her mother piercing her mind. “...I need to get home.” Stock photo courtesy of Matthew Schubert of sxc.hu
Julie heard Lilia’s light scoff. “The quest? Really? What’s the point in finishing the quest now that I know that you just made it all up on a whim?” Julie honestly had no idea. “I’m guessing the expression, ‘It’s about the journey, not the destination,’ wouldn’t be the right answer?”
“You know me too well.” She didn’t say it in the way friends say it, an understanding of the bond between them. No, Lilia’s words, with a cold, acerbic bite on each consonant, were as effective as any spell she could have cast (if not for the magic-cancelling chains) to make Julie’s words die in her throat. So, silence settled over them again. As Julie felt her glasses begin to slip back down the bridge of her nose, she squeezed her eyes shut, though really it made no difference in her sight. She took a deep breath through her mouth so as to avoid the rank stench of the cabin, its pungence not only unsettling her stomach, but reminding her of the reality of the situation. A reality that shouldn’t be a reality at all. Lilia, the pirate ship they were trapped in, the sea that it sailed on, and the entire land of Palmara containing it, had all started out as simple words in Julie’s notebook. It was a standard fantasy quest plot out of Tolkien and Tamora Pierce, written as a fun summer diversion to get her mind off of college starting in the fall. The story centered around Lilia, a clarinetist and fantasy lover kidnapped from band camp into a magical world who discovers she’s the only one with the power to defeat Gregort and save her homeland of Palmara. But one night, in the middle of a writing frenzy, Julie found herself writing of one of the villain’s goons going after a special target that wasn’t her chosen protagonist. She wrote him coming through the magic portal in front of a house that was eerily like hers. She wrote him going up and crashing though a door that was, also, eerily like hers. And then she wrote about him kidnapping her.
Which he then did.
It would all have been very meta if she had
known she was doing it. It had, of course, only gotten worse from there. Because once she had woken up on the ship and come to grips with the reality of the situation, her villain, Gregort of Martin, a towering, broad-chested tyrant, had played his hand. How he had broken the fourth wall to capture her she still couldn’t figure out, but she knew he would want to use her to bend everyone to his will. Why else kidnap an otherwise powerless teenage girl into a magical land? But she had not expected him to use her to get Lilia on his side. She would have envied who or whatever thought of that plot twist, except that, now the participant rather than the reader, she was terrified rather than impressed. She could still see Gregort’s sneering face, could hear his mocking tone reading her own words aloud to Lilia, resonating in the open air over the sounds of the churning sea below. In his mouth, her words sounded like drivel, trite and tasteless, and even worse, he framed her as the monster, not him – that she made him evil, and anything he had done was her fault. Everything that had happened, a ploy to boost a selfish teenage girl’s ego, he said. How dare he! And Lilia had stared, wide eyes darting between the man reading the words and their writer, tied to the mast. She neither looked angry, nor teary, nor shocked. But all the nerve Julie had written into her seemed to drain away, letting her sword drop to the deck, unable to move. The powerful chosen one rendered powerless by a book. If she had been writing, Julie would know what the girl was thinking, would have been able to talk, or rather, write her out of whatever dark thoughts Gregort was planting in her. But she was as powerless as Lilia, only managing to stammer out, “I didn’t know,” before being overtaken by Gregort’s tirade again. It seemed as if
Gregort had won … until, suddenly galvanized, Lilia leapt forward, grabbed the notebook out of the villain’s hands, and plunged it off the ship into the ocean! It was pretty epic, so much so that the memory made Julie imagine some dramatic John Williams orchestral piece in the background. Unfortunately, while her heroine’s action had saved Palmara, it had not saved either of them. And, while she clearly had not fallen for Gregort’s “I’m actually the good guy” ploy, something in what he said had clearly stuck for Lilia, because she seemed to hate Julie as much as she did him.
“I was going to give you a happy ending, you know,” Julie said, breaking the silence. “I mean, even when I thought you were fictional, I never wanted to hurt you. ” Julie heard Lilia sigh. “I know you didn’t know. And I’m sure you meant no harm. But it isn’t about comparing the good you did for me, versus the bad.” Julie heard a clinking sound, and pictured Lilia clenching her hands into fists. “You used me.”
And Julie could practically feel Lilia’s stare on her in the darkness. “The story was never about me. Maybe it seemed like it. Maybe you even believed it. But it was never about me, Julie.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You wrote me. Figure it out.”
Julie tried to further question what Lilia meant, but the protagonist refused to speak anymore. Julie sighed, cursing that she had made her so stubborn. She didn’t understand why Lilia was so upset. Yes, it had to be strange to find out your life had been written about in a story. And yes, Gregort’s lambasting of her writing had not put Julie in a good light. But it wasn’t her fault! She was just trying to write a good story. And it was a good story! She had been guiding Lilia, protecting her, not forcing her to do something against her will. Lilia had stood up to Gregort fine without the notebook, after all, by throwing it off the ship. And even if Julie wasn’t Shakespeare, at least the story had been on course for a happy ending.
“Again, I didn’t know!”
“It doesn’t change that you did it,” Lilia said sharply, her voice rising. “I was just a pawn in your clever little game! Any power I ever had began... ” Lilia stopped, catching her breath, then concluded, “began and probably died with that notebook.” “We don’t know that,” Julie asserted, quelling her own thoughts about what effect the notebook’s destruction had on her heroine. “And you’re not a pawn, or powerless. You’re the hero! It’s your story. I should know, I wrote it that way.” Julie wished she could look Lilia in the eye. There was a pause. “You don’t actually realize, do you?”
Julie frowned. “Realize what?”
But now? Now the story was off course. And
either it was careening off with no control, or something else had taken the wheel. But either way, the former writer was in the dark as to whether she would get a happy ending.
Despite the denseness of the air, Julie’s blood
chilled. She closed her eyes, concentrating on the gentle rocking of the ship, the sound of the waves. Lilia would come around. Eventually.
All Julie could do now was try to sleep.
A few hours later, after spending the afternoon racing each other on horseback through the fields of the hacienda, her parents yelled for her to go up to the house and eat fancy food, yet she preferred to stay with us workers and fight me for the arepas with the most cheese.
Kate tells me my eyes lie. I don’t understand what she means; but I can’t risk offending my boss’ daughter by questioning her. She bends down to pick up a baby lemon tree from the back of the tractor, and the glimmering sweat on her lower back makes me wonder why she’s helping me. Instead of planting the trees along the fence, she could be lying by the pool and drinking iced lemonade like her friends have been doing since they got here.
The first time I saw Kate she was hanging from the back of the boss’ Range Rover, holding on to the spare tire. I had heard about her from the other workers, especially Pablo. They used to play together in the corral before her father told him to keep his distance. He always said she wasn’t like other rich girls. But I never would have expected her to arrive barefoot, wearing a white blouse that had been stained by the specks of mud that few from the tires as they drove through the puddles. Once she and the boss had parked under the shade of the mango trees, she jumped off and ran toward us. “Señorita,” said Pablo as he took off his hat to greet her. She hugged him. “You must be Alex! I heard we had a new addition to the ranch. I can’t wait to see if you can beat me on Amarillo. Pablo has been trying for years! Shall we get the horses ready?”
Ignoring the thick layer of dirt that is forming on the soles of her delicatelypedicured feet, Kate brings a lemon tree to the hole I just dug. She pats the soil around it, making sure not to pack it down too much, and she puts a few drops of water from her pink water bottle on it. When she stands, however, she doesn’t return to the tractor. She turns to me, staring at me the same way she had looked at Pluto’s leg the day we found him laying by the river, her eyes glimmering softly at the corners. We hadn’t been able to save him. A thousand pound bull with a broken leg is impossible to take care of, so Kate left while the vet and I put him down. “Why do you look at me like that, Alex? Your eyes say something, while your words say something else,” she whispers, as if she was keeping a secret from the vast emptiness of this ten-acre field. “I don’t understand. What are my eyes telling you?” “That you like me, too,” she says, shifting her eyes to my hands. “Señorita, I work for your family. I would never disrespect you,” I say, praying that the car I hear in the distance isn’t the Range Rover. She grabs my hand with the hand she had been using to shield her face from the fiery sun, and intertwining her fingers with mine, she smiles. I had been so afraid of touching her, even when I shook her hand the day we met. My hands were sandpaper compared to hers. Hers slowly grew blisters, as she continued to work with me around the ranch for the month of her summer vacation. Mine didn’t even grow blisters anymore. They were dry valleys, covered in dirt that I could never get rid of.
HANDS SCENTED WITH HOT TOWELS AND APPPLE JUICE Hong-wai Wong
The pillbox hat, illusionary scarf and pencil skirt so fits that Unquestioningly despite impossible heels she glides yes She glides away after reciting with her ready simper sorry I’m Working at the moment to – I assume – yet another with an Undone tie and she glides to the Polish tourist who fumbles For words over a black screen and fishes for peanuts and Wine and she glides away from the thirsty housewife again And the cabin now dims as outside wind time space stretches Endless its forbidden shimmer counterfeited on the ceiling; these Manufactured stars catch the forms of a stumbling restless and Plastic cups on her tray as she glides to the baby who bawls Out my fear of infinite floating – this fear that suddenly Quiets to goo-goos in the sooth of her coos as she scopes The baby and sings and swoops and loop-dee-loops and as She glides off down the aisle the baby oohs bye bye and my Vocabulary too is now reduced to this primordial gibberish as she Asks where I’m from and omelet or rice and my eyes remain Glued to my shoes.
Stock photos courtesy of Jean Scheijen, YaMaha91, Marcus Costa, and John Nyberg at sxc.hu
STORY TIME Keven Perez
My imagination ran rampant back then, influenced by tales of the highest fancy. Aliens and wizards and talking monkeys: Each with its own pretty story, but the real beauty was in meshing them together. Today, the only stories I hear are news reports, influenced by tragedies of the highest caliber. Earthquakes and shootings and political uncertainty: Each with its own worrisome outcome, but the real worry is in their combined effect. Back then, the flick of a finger could turn away a tidal wave. Today, the pressing of a trigger can take a life. Tucked in, I remember dreaming of flying a rocket into space. Grown up, all I hear is the fear of rockets falling from space. All it takes is a few years for oneâ€™s world to be turned upside down. Reality is just as hard to believe in as fantasy. How can it be impossible for lizards to fly, yet possible for evil men to tower over the good? The nonsensical made sense back then. Nothing makes sense today.
UNTITLED Hannah Danzinger
MEANING Jennifer Baik
its meaningless its meaningles its meaningle its meaningl its meaning its meanin its meani its mean its mea its me
E R A F H G U 3 1 O 0 R 2 O L L H T A F : F F STA
Heads: Lucy Miao & Ruthie Portes
Heads: Annie Cho & Christina Luk
Heads: Georgina Edionseri & Jose Nino
Head: Hillary Jackson
Ruth Marie Landry
Si Yeon Lee
Abigail Sussman 2013-2014 Executive Board
Chaconne Martin-Berkowitz Gulnar Tuli
President: Alessandra Bautze Vice President: Christina Luk Secretary: Kate Orgera Treasurer: Jose Nino Publicity Chair: Georgina Edionseri Co-Heads of Prose: Lucy Miao & Ruthie Portes Head of Poetry: Annie Cho & Christina Luk Co-Heads of Visual Art: Jose Nino & Georgina Edionseri Head of Layout: Hillary Jackson Head of Website: Trevor Aron
Hillary Jackson Jesse Chen Katie Robinson Katherine Seger Lydia Youngman Madeline Wheeler Ran Liu Ruth Marie Landry
Cara Schulte Constance Kaita Dael Norwitz Evelyn Ho Hannah Ingersoll Katherine Quinn Lauren Altus
Hannah Danzinger Julia Bradshaw Madeline Wheeler
Laura Ewen Nadya Kronis Shayer Chowdhury
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Thoroughfare is a multimedia literature and fine arts magazine catering to the diverse creative pursuits at Johns Hopkins University.
Published on Dec 6, 2013
Thoroughfare is a multimedia literature and fine arts magazine catering to the diverse creative pursuits at Johns Hopkins University.