Page 1

Contributors

Art

Poetry

Loran Cook Andy Sherwin Kyle Reinhard Alma Para Brian Anderson Alicia Vanoy Call

Leslie Williams David R. Iba Kelsie Monsen Joshua Storer David Jones Patric Bates Paige Hamblin Adam Christensen Kameron Kiggins Trevor Williams Robert Steffen

Alicia VanNoy Call Marie Knowlton Jorgen Hansen Brock Jones Brandon Hunt Candice Keller Saara Amelia England Tamara Stanton Eric Paul Lyman

Fall ’09

Prose

Fall 2009 Volume 13


Fall 2009 Volume 13 Issue 1


Touchstones Volume 13, Number 1 Fall 2009

Touchstones Department of English/Literature LA 153 Utah Valley University 800 West University Parkway Orem, UT 84058 Touchstones is published twice a year during Fall and Spring semesters. UVU students may submit work under the following categories: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, visual art and drama. Turn submissions into the English Department office (LA114) and include the application form found at research.uvsc.edu/touchstones or the department office. All rights revert to artists upon publication.


Staff Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Technical Editor Poetry Editor Prose Editor Art Editor Webmaster Technical Assistants Poetry Assitant Prose Staff Art Staff Public Relations Readers Cover Faculty Advisor

Anthony M. Christensen Emma Hunt Meggie Woodfield Meghan Weimer Matt Sievers Trent Bates Meggie Woodfield Rebecca Riddle Chris Green Devon Herrmann Chris Green Annie Doxie Jason Gibbons Whitney Leftwich Audrey Moore Nick Moore Katherine Barton Teagan Alex Jennie Nichols-Smith David Newlin Daniel Parkins John Ditzler Jorgen Hansen Loran Cook Matthew Jonassaint Dahne Davis Robert Steffen Jason Gibbons Jamie Johnson Karin Anderson


Advisor’s Foreword A classroom on the top floor of our new library—umm, I mean, Digital Learning Center—distracts me, or keeps me focused, depending I guess on the “true” agenda of a lit course. A small professor like me can stand at the front of the room and glance through the panoramic glasswork toward the blueline shore of a ruined lake and the frontal lift of a desert range. My personal eye level eliminates the crowded parking lot, the sprawl of bushwhack development, the I-15 fuss, the jagged erasure of Geneva Steel. Not seeing them renders them no less present, of course. I know the old sea that churned this island, awash in colored pipe, pragmatic and celestial preoccupations, gnarled limbs of ghost orchards, mapped under a grid of clenched absolutes. It’s a strange place to conjure portals. Yet beyond the layers of fifth-floor glazed transparency, the deceptively simplified view reminds me to keep gesturing outward. My business is circumference, said Emily Dickinson, another deceptively simple framing of beyondness. Learning to make language, learning to love and fear it in the ways that poets, storytellers, and editors do, turns out to be a stranger and more kaleidoscopic expedition than most of us envision at sunrise. But somehow, within the regimentation of semesters, course requirements, page quotas, politics, insistences and refusals, another steam rises up and wafts through the institutional structures of a taxpayers’ university. Universe. Sinister, transcendent, uncanny, sublime, transformational, expansive. Divine if that word has any Lazarean quality left in our state of apparent foreclosure. And, here again, a gathering of souls who are up to the thrill of breathing it in. This past semester I walked through a narrow orange canyon with a group of student writers, people with whom I was dazzled to share the perfect air. We stared at an ancient handprint marking a moment in the sensuous presence of a previous tribe. We read the names and dates of passing old-century faithful, chiseled into sandstone walls layered back into eons.


This book is like that. “Stop moving!” Kushner’s angel pleads to a bewildered Walter Prior. But Prior gathers his wits and tells the angel No. Because it’s not human. People move. People surpass themselves, step beyond their beforeness. My profession grants me rare proximity to that motion, feeling the future blowing in like a gale, catching flashes of the unforeseeable. I know it won’t be heaven. It will be earth, this same one and very different, awful and sweet and way too quick, inhabited by those who are making themselves here, word by word, into what they have the hearts and heads to become. Share my privilege, then, and attend to this new tribe’s signs of passage.

—karin anderson Fall 2009


Editor’s Note It has been an experience these past weeks to examine each element of the journal in isolation, discovering the merits of individual pieces, and then observe how those exact works are transformed within the context of the complete journal. For me the composition of the journal is similar to that of a tree, whose vitality is in significant part determined by the conditions of its environment. The tree relies on the nutrition present in the outlying soil for its development; only when the ground is saturated with water and minerals can a seed penetrate its roots downward and outward, radiating into the darkness and establishing its base. And only when its sinews advance far enough—only after these rock-fed tips burrow, split apart and repeat this process expansively enough—can the sprout’s foundation assemble the energy necessary to fire a shoot into the skylight. A similar type of communal supply and direction of energy exists within the tree itself. The roots muster the sustenance from the earth, drawing it in and sending it upward, spreading this nourishment throughout the plant by way of a thin, fibrous layer just under its bark. As with what happens underground, the gathered energy of the plant above it travels to the very tips of the developing tree to produce an ever-multiplying series of reaching and splitting branches. The branches, cousins of the roots, in turn share this communal energy with their own growing extensions, namely young branches and newborn leaves. A tree’s leaves are critical to its health, but luckily they seem to recognize the indisputable and intimate relation that ties their prosperity to that of the entire tree. Realizing this connection, after the leaves stretch their textured skins wide and bow them gently to increase their surface area, they take their fill of light and return the rest back into the system. The English department functions as the journal’s roots, providing the base elements necessary for any shoot to emerge, such as money, direction, and assistance, and this process repeats every semester. Sections of the staff function as branches (Poetry Editor, tech team, and managers, among others) and the individual works we


include function as leaves. Although the roots and branches create an environment pivotal to producing leaves, the final product of the journal and its continued development depend on the added strength each selection offers. Our staff, issues, and contributors change, but our base is firm and our environment plentiful. Come witness this season’s harvest. —Anthony M. Christensen


Acknowledgements We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all those who offer their assistance and support to Touchstones. Their enthusiasm for the journal endures, undiminished by years or the inevitable change of staff members, writers and their synthesized results. This list includes Lucille Stoddard, for the original administrative foresight and generosity that has by now made Touchstones a UVU institution; David Yells, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; Robert Cousins and Christa Albrecht-Crane, Chair and Assistant Chair of the English department; Dorice Galbraith, Samuel Banford, and Meredith Bennie, Administrative Assistants for the English department; Laura Hamblin, Scott Hatch, Lee Mortenson, Julie Nichols, Robert Carney, and Stephen Gibson, Creative Writing faculty at UVU; Dawn Chase, English Department Advisor; Steve Bule, Chair of the Department of Art and Visual Communications; Deb Thornton of the English faculty for her invaluable editing and technical wisdom; Jim Godfrey and his typography class for generating cover designs; UVU Printing Services Staff for their openness to questions and their precise treatment of our product; and the UVU Review staff for their continued interest in Touchstones. Special thanks this semester to Pamela J. Balluck, to Rebecca England, to the art students of Fullerton California for their generous behind-the-scenes expertise, and to our judges Katherine England, Rebecca Lindenberg, and Adam Blackwell for offering their expertise. Even with the length of this list, we apologize for forgetting anyone. Certainly there are still more.


Table of Contents Prose Gail

Andy Sherwin..........................................................................17–23 Subject Twenty-Six

Loran Cook..............................................................................24–35 Everybody Loves Me

Alma Para.................................................................................36–40 Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

Kyle Reinhard..........................................................................41–51 Losing Jonathan

Alicia VanNoy Call..................................................................52–57 English 3010

Brian Anderson.......................................................................58–64

Poetry In Splinters the Jawbone’s Daughter

Eric Paul Lyman......................................................................69–70 Track

Saara Amelia England.................................................................... 71 Declining

Tamara Stanton.............................................................................. 72 Break

Alicia VanNoy Call......................................................................... 73


Daniel (Said the Wolves)

Eric Paul Lyman............................................................................. 74 Last July

Candice Keller................................................................................ 75 Prism

Brandon Hunt................................................................................. 76 September Nightfall in the Wasatch

Brock Jones..................................................................................... 77 Hang-Ups

Alicia VanNoy Call..................................................................78–79 After Samhain

Marie Knowlton......................................................................80–81 Contrastive Conceptions

Jorgen Hansen................................................................................ 82 Wyoming Roadtrip

Brock Jones..................................................................................... 83 Shore

Eric Paul Lyman............................................................................. 84

Art 5

Leslie Williams................................................................................ 89 Carousel

Kelsie Monsen................................................................................ 90 West Mtn. Pit

Robert Steffen................................................................................. 91 There Is an Odd Feeling Inside My Skull

Kameron Kiggins........................................................................... 92


Tri

David Jones..................................................................................... 93 God in Bermuda

David R. Iba.................................................................................... 94 Stasis Twins

Patric Bates...................................................................................... 95 Structure 1

Adam Christensen.......................................................................... 96 Move

David Jones..................................................................................... 97 Typographic Self-Portrait

Trevor Williams.............................................................................. 98 A Sea of Courage

David R. Iba.................................................................................... 99 Monkey Boy

Joshua Storer.................................................................................100 Pipes

David Jones...................................................................................101 Stranger

Paige Hamblin..............................................................................102 The Mall

David R. Iba..................................................................................103 Capt. R.J. Fever and the Fish

Patric Bates....................................................................................104 Santa Monica Pier

Kelsie Monsen..............................................................................105 The Bombers

Kameron Kiggins.........................................................................106


Prose


prose

Gail Andy Sherwin Gin and Tonic

L

ike 95% of the drinks that respectable people consume, it is named for its ingredients: gin, which is essentially vodka with added flavors of juniper and other citrus botanicals, is mixed with tonic, carbonated water flavored with quinine (and corn syrup, if you like shitty tonic). Gin and Tonics are generally preferred by people who like the taste of alcohol, as the punch of a 40% liquor is pretty hard to mask, although philistines worldwide inexplicably attempt to do this. It’s usually garnished with a lime, which, when squeezed into the cocktail, adds a third flavor that compliments the quinine while smoothing out the juniper, which, in a London Dry Gin, can be quite strong. Any properly made Gin and Tonic will burn at least a bit going down, but in that good way. Gail Gail is probably in her early forties and is the kind of woman who reminds you of that aunt you always thought secretly was kind of hot but you kept it to yourself. Gail has wide eyes that open even wider when you say something she finds interesting—and she finds everything you say interesting—and she honestly seems like she wants to know you. Her hair is a deep, chestnut brown with a red tint and as we sit at this bar, I notice she keeps smelling her glass as if it’s going to smell different 1/3 full than it did 2/3 full. Maybe it does, but I don’t feel like asking.

17


prose

Gail

Which is a shame, because she’s a food critic for a magazine in Minneapolis and about to become the manager of a soon-to-be-opened wine bar downtown. She was raised Mormon and attended BYU from 1983 to 1988 and talks about Provo’s mid-80s “post-California skate punk scene” like your drunken grandpa talks about “fighting the gooks in Korea,” a hybrid of survivor’s pride and a “what were we thinking” sort of attitude. She’s articulate without being pretentious and she says “fuck” like a semicolon, joining two otherwise complete sentences. Gail’s been married twice, and when she finds out I’m an Aquarian, she pauses; both of her former husbands were Aquarians. This, for some reason, inspires a probably-not-familiar-enough-to-be-funny “Well, I guess I won’t marry you next!” and a series of almost pleasantly demonic chuckles. Her spurt of laughter shows a set of nice teeth—uncommon for a big wine aficionado—and she is perfectly aware of just how pretty she is. Which is, I guess, above average, if I had to apply some crass definition for which I am not well-equipped. She seems warm but slightly clinical. It’s clear that she’s been burned by love but retained optimism. She talks about her first husband, a Mormon skate punk, with a little bit of bitterness, while she refers to her second husband, a speedboat racer from the Northwest, with a little bit of sadness. You see, she still lives with her second husband and they are still very close, Gail says, and marriage, well, just wasn’t for her. She’s bisexual and an atheist slash agnostic. Wine is her religion, she says, and nature and sex are for practice. Because I’m an arrogant shit, I interpret this last comment as an advance. She’s in Provo for a family reunion. Her brothers are going to pick her up from this bar pretty soon, and she imagines that they’ll sigh audibly and say “Oh, good, Gail’s drunk again.” But she doesn’t seem to mind. I remind her that family reunions are often just excuses to drink alcohol and that she’s probably in good shape. She agrees, puts her hand on my arm, and asks if I have a girlfriend. The physical contact isn’t negative but it is jarring, and the combination of the shock of her touch, her earlier mention of sex, and the question’s relevance to my last week catches me off guard. I share a peck with my gin and tonic. “Funny you should ask,” I say between sips. “I was supposed to get married last night.”

18


Gail

prose

Whiskey Sour Also named for its ingredients, the Whiskey Sour was the cocktail of choice for poet Dylan Thomas, and it has been immortalized in a whole lot of country songs. It’s a combination of whiskey, the most difficult of liquors to get right, and sour mix, which is essentially concentrated lemonade (although any self-respecting drinkers of these concoctions make their own sour mix at home from equal parts water, sugar, lemon juice, and lime juice). It’s got a reputation for being slightly less than “manly,” as sour mix is so sweet that it takes the edge off of just about anything. Personally, I find a well-made whiskey sour to be perhaps the most enjoyable of cocktails, as the balance between the sweet/sour mix and the oft-brutal taste of the whiskey (not to mention the aroma) is greatly rewarding. It’s often garnished with either an orange wedge or a maraschino cherry, two things that belong between innings at Little League games, not in an adult’s drink. But there’s no accounting for taste, I guess. Eric and Jordan The young men on my right, Eric and Jordan, went to high school with me but were three or four grades younger. Good kids. When I walk in, they’re pounding tequila shots. When asked why, they explain that they’re celebrating Eric’s recent unemployment, which seems like a mixed blessing at best. As a chaser, Jordan orders an AMF (Adios Motherfucker, apparently), a neon blue cocktail that appears as radioactive as its ingredients list. When asked why any self-respecting twenty-oneyear-old man would order something that looks more like toilet bowl cleaner than something even remotely drinkable, Jordan says, “Because it tastes good, bro!” Gail and I laugh and Eric joins in when he realizes that’s what the adults are doing. “Blue drinks are for sorority girls and prison inmates,” I tell them. “You want to have any self-worth, you drink a real drink, generally something with no more than two words in the name.” Gail nods in agreement and takes a deep draw from her white wine and exhales in that strange mixture of self-loathing and deep satisfaction

19


prose

Gail

that comes only from consuming a copious amount of cheap alcohol because either nothing else is available or nothing else will do. Maybe I’m the only one like this, but sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve better liquor. The only thing I can compare it to, while arguably blasphemous, are Born-Again Christians who weep when they think about their impending salvation. Faith like that must make you feel a lot better about yourself. Thinking that someone out there with the power to do anything has taken it upon Himself (or Herself) to dedicate those powers to saving your immortal soul sounds like a real confidence booster. But sometimes I’m pretty happy to jettison speculative theology in favor of a single malt scotch, so what the fuck do I know. Gail, despite knowing me for half an hour, already has a higher opinion of me than I do. She tells me that I need to take Eric and Jordan, these newcomers to the game of adult life, under my proverbial wing. She believes that my difficultly-acquired wisdom beyond my years needs to be imparted on minds as impressionable as these. “Just look at Andy,” she tells them. “He’s wearing nice jeans, a tshirt, a button-down shirt over that, and a leather jacket to top it all off. He’s like—” she pauses. “He’s like a model.” I immediately become about four times as bashful as a comment like that should really inspire, but I can’t help it. The only compliment better than a deserved one is an undeserved one, and her praise nuzzles itself in the crink of my neck and kisses my bare shoulder. I’m taken aback. “Why are you wearing a leather jacket, anyway?” she asks. “It’s mid-August.” “I was in Park City. Elvis Costello played outdoors tonight and I froze my ass off,” I explain. I think about launching into my usual Elvis Costello tirade. My well-documented fascination and adulation of the man and his music. I briefly consider gushing about the concert, about Elvis’ passion and howling and banter and wordplay and virtuosity and musicianship and pain and joy and dynamic and then I realize something. Everyone has an Elvis Costello. Mine just happens to be named Elvis Costello. Speaking of personal Elvis Costellos, Gail orders another glass of wine. She pays in single dollar bills, and leaves an extra one

20


Gail

prose

on the bar. A 33% tip is pretty generous in this place, and I’m impressed. She takes her time with this glass, doing all of those stereotypical wine-snob things: swirling it in her glass, dipping her nose right into its aroma, making a comment about its nose, its body, its hue, but somehow, these things don’t annoy me like they usually do. They’re endearing this singular woman to me. She closes her eyes whenever she puts the glass to her lips and when I watch her drink it in, it’s both clear and a little frightening that she’s sharing such an intense moment with stemware. Then I think of the people who were surely silently berating me for giggling like a first-time pot smoker when Elvis came out for an encore and I feel judgmental and conceited. Not wrong, necessarily. Just judgmental and conceited. “So,” Gail says. “Almost married? What happened?” I motion to the bartender that I’d like a second G&T. “It’s a long story,” I begin. I squeeze the lime and drop the rind into my drink, swirling it with my finger, hygiene be damned. I lick my finger clean and cannot think of many things more refreshing. Scotch and Soda If you’re going with straight liquor, it’s hard to beat a good scotch. A single malt, made from a single crop of malted barley, is generally better than a blend, which is made from several different crops. Single malt is often drastically more expensive, but it’s well worth it; Johnnie Walker Red, the cheapest “popular” Scotch, is a blend and tastes more like barbecue sauce than liquor. Too often, Scotch is incredibly “peaty,” with a sort of mossy flavor added to the grain and the alcohol. It’s easy to get wrong. Too much peat can overwhelm a fragile Scotch, at which point it’s not good for anything but powering a riding lawnmower. But just a hint of peat, achieving a perfect equilibrium that adds just enough aroma and a subtle shade of forest to whatever other flavors are there, can make the world go ’round. Take one part Scotch and add it to two parts club soda (or other sparkling water). Mix gently, serve with lime. A good Scotch and Soda will take your breath away. Then again, so will a bad one.

21


prose

Gail

The Decision “Shit,” she says. She stares at her wine glass and tries to process my tale of woe. “Shit.” I don’t really know how to reply, so I don’t. “Are you sad?” “I don’t know,” I say. “Depends on how you mean, I guess.” “Do you want her back?” she asks. “I bet he doesn’t even want her front!” Eric interrupts, holding his hand up for a high-five. I may not agree with the sentiment, but I’ll be damned if drunken wit goes unrewarded. “It’s probably best,” I say, “for us to be apart. All of that shit with her parents, the religion difference, the communication problems, everything just feels insurmountable.” I chew on a piece of ice. “I don’t think we can get past those things.” “So it’s over,” Gail states. I nod. “Look,” she says, her half-glazed eyes peering from behind a curtain of Sauvignon, “I have a hotel room just around the block. I can tell my brothers that I’ve got food poisoning or that I drank too much or something. Trust me,” she says as her hand drifts to my knee, “they’ll believe it.” I am immediately suspicious. This is something that doesn’t happen in real life. This is something that happens in overwritten indie movies that star Zooey Deschanel and I’m not prepared for the sort of brazen spontaneity that people like Gail live with. No, fuck that— live for. People who have been through the very same wringer that I am only beginning to approach, who have realized that life is solely what you make of it and not what any bishop or abusive ex or stalker or psychotic near mother-in-law or overdramatic roommate says it is. Our perceptions are all we have, I tell myself, and your instincts may be the only thing that get you back on your feet. Do what you want, I think. Live for the moment. There’s nothing more in life than what you take for yourself, and no one is gonna live for you. I look over and see Eric and Jordan eating French fries that look like they were cooked in motor oil and moth balls and I try to think of what life is like for these young men. These children, really. They’re clearly incapable of making appropriate decisions, as evidenced by their shoddy taste in liquor, and what decisions they do make don’t

22


Gail

prose

bode well for their futures (neither is in the position to drive home, for example). I remember what I was like when I was their age. The fly-by-theseat-of-your-pants nihilism that only comes from youth and drunkenness. It’s only four years’ difference, really, and a part of me is nostalgic for the time when my age was an excuse to do something as stupid and reckless as going to a hotel room with a beautiful older woman under a haze of hedonism and heartbreak. But nobody does anything drunk that they wouldn’t do sober if no one was watching, and I’m in no shape to do anything even half as emotionally exerting as sex. It wouldn’t be fair to Gail, either, really. I’m convinced that the first thing that God will do as the pearly gates open is to scold anyone passing through who ever thought about someone else during sex. This, as far as I’m concerned, is a cardinal sin of poor taste that cannot be excused. And I don’t think I have the wherewithal to turn Gail into an accomplice, be she willing or otherwise. Because if I go back to her hotel room, I will regret it. Sure it’ll be nice, and it’ll be a good story, and I’ll probably sleep well for the first time in two months, when this whole fucked up debacle started, but I won’t be better for it. And neither will Gail. There’s nothing that either of us can get out of me at this point. And for the sake of disclosure, I don’t think she’s offering an intimate rendezvous out of anything more than what I can only think of as a variation of a caring maternal instinct. I was not solicited due to my rugged handsomeness or my delightful charm or my disarming wit. This woman seems gracious and warm enough to simply want to help someone that’s clearly in a bad way, and maybe that altruism takes its form in the way that she would want a cry of help answered. She did tell me, after all, that sex was her religion. Maybe she’s just being evangelical. I smile as kindly as I can and put my hand on hers. “I don’t think that would be a very good idea. I don’t have much to give right now,” I tell her. She nods and smiles back, although she doesn’t look nearly as wounded as my ego kinda sorta hoped she would. “Besides,” I tell her as I signal for the bartender to bring me my third and final, “I’m kind of waiting for someone.” Which is true enough, I suppose.

23


prose

Subject Twenty-Six Loran Cook

R

obin held Milika tightly. Her dark skin was growing colder by the second. The CPR hadn’t worked this time. He hugged her, kissed her forehead and shoved her back into the dark tank of frigid water. “Silly woman. You’d put the life of a dirty heathen before your own. Some scum of the earth with no academic prowess, and no desire for self-perfection.” Robin had thought that Milika might have been the one. The one person who could best him intellectually and she was gone. Robin climbed down from the platform he was on and walked across the wet floor. It was a good thing he was wearing boots: Milika had relieved herself all over the floor. He took out a small hose from the tiled wall casing and turned on the water. It jetted across the tiles and he poured a bucket of disinfectant over the floor to take care of the rancid smell. This morning had been a great example of what his father always used to say. “The more one analyzes people, the more all reasons for analysis disappear. Sooner or later one comes to that dreadful universal thing called human nature.” Milika’s human nature in the end had been to scream wretchedly and piss herself. How intellectual. He had ended their session on philosophy. Maybe he should start with philosophy on the next subject. The next subject. What was he going to do? Who was his next subject going to be? For all Milika’s intelligence, her conversation had seriously been lacking appeal and she had seemed to suck all the fun out of the activities. In the end they spent

24


Subject Twenty-Six

prose

eighteen hours together. For six of those she had been unconscious, and the other twelve belabored. The problem was that Robin normally felt fulfilled after one of these sessions. Now he just felt empty. He finished in the interview room and went up to the main house. Upon reaching the kitchen Robin fixed himself a toasted cheese sandwich and a glass of banana milk and sat at the dining room table. He could hear his movements echoing around the spacious room. The sounds of his chewing seemed to bounce off all four pristine white walls. His daily planner lay on the glass top of the table and he perused the events of the day to come. There were no events. He was free to do whatever he liked, and he liked it that way. He could spend time in one of the libraries upstairs. He loved his libraries. He had a passion for books and reading that in his eyes was unsurpassed by any living being. Knowledge was power. That’s what his father had taught him. Robin had read every book in the house and spent the best part of every day searching the Internet for new information. If only Father was alive now, he would’ve delighted at the knowledge and resources available to all who wanted to learn. If only learning and knowledge were the desires of all, what an amazing world this would this be! Of course there were those who abused these privileges and abilities. That’s why Robin had given himself the task of testing them in academia. To Robin, the thought of anyone having pure intellect and wasting it was anathema. Father had taught him that at a very young age. Father had also enforced this belief. The long scars down the length of Robin’s entire back were thinly scored testaments to his father’s beliefs. A scar for every mistake. There had been many at first, and then Robin had started learning. It had become a passion, a hunger that he couldn’t deny. That’s when he noticed the inspirational quote of the day in his planner. It was by a historian/juror named Frederic William Maitland and was pure providence. The hunger and thirst for knowledge, the keen delight in the chase, the good humored willingness to admit that the scent was false, the eager desire to get on with the work, the cheerful resolution to go back and begin again, the broad good sense, the unaffected modesty, the imperturbable temper, the gratitude for any little help that was given—all these will remain in my memory though I cannot paint them for others.

25


prose

Subject Twenty-Six

Robin felt a twinge of excitement. He was already feeling the hunger, thirst and need for another subject. It didn’t matter whom. He just wanted it soon. Robin remembered the autopsy equipment he had ordered and wanted to test it out on a live subject. Where should he go? He’d acquired the last three subjects in Nottingham. He needed a new hunting ground. Maitland had gone to Trinity College in Cambridge. Cambridge. He would go to Cambridge, the oldest university city in England, founded in 1441 by King Henry VI. Just the place to go and he could be there within three hours. Robin parked his car on a quiet side street close to the city center. He visited Trinity College and sat in the Bridge of Sighs for an hour or so just watching people on the punts floating underneath him. Punt runners digging their poles into the green murky water and withdrawing to propel and steer their crafts. Every now and then Robin heard the odd punt runner giving information on the colleges to the tourists. How many of them had Ph.D.s and Master’s Degrees? How many of them were taking Bachelor’s Degrees and Honors courses? How many of them dwindled so far below his own mental prowess? He took out a packet of extra strong mints and popped one into his mouth. He was hungry, and not for food. He felt the thirst welling in his stomach. The scars on his back seemed to itch and he squirmed, not wanting to give in to scratching. If he scratched just the tiniest bit, he would not be able to stop. Play it cool for all the little academics and tourists. Walking past Queens College in the settling dusk, Robin spied the Mathematical Bridge. It was supposedly a work of genius and had been formed from wood, but amazingly there had been no nuts, bolts or any other joining materials used. It was a feat of genius over matter. Ironically, after the bridge’s creator and builder had died, some bright spark had wanted to see how it had been done. They had taken the bridge apart and then in one of the world’s most upsetting moments realized that he didn’t know how to put it back together. So, now the bridge had been put back together with nuts, bolts and joining materials. “Let me have a go,” Robin said quietly as students and tourists bustled past him on the narrow sidewalks. He was a problem solver. He could have done it, faster and more efficiently than those who had tried.

26


Subject Twenty-Six

prose

Walking up Silver Street he passed a side road and decided to follow it to see where it led. Lampposts were turning on now, casting pools of yellow light in small spots on the roads. Robin’s father’s voice rang in his head. “Just look into the yellow lights Robin and we will be finished before you know it. You know I do not wish to cause you distress, but every line I give is another future opportunity to learn that you will never miss. ‘There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating . . .’ finish the quote and tell me who provided it.” “  ‘. . . People who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.’ Oscar Wilde, Sir,” Robin whispered. Robin shook his head. He realized he was now standing in a badly lit passageway holding a can of red spray paint. He hated those little spaces of time that went unaccounted for. It always gave him that awful feeling of no control. Where he’d even gotten a can of spray paint was beyond him. He dropped it, and it clattered on the ground and rolled into the darkness. He heard someone coming his way and he crouched down behind a rubbish bin. A disgustingly drunk-looking man came within two meters of Robin, unzipped and proceeded to urinate on the wall, all the while muttering unintelligible nonsense. Was he the one? Was he Subject Twenty-Six? No. Although Robin was looking for an easy kill, having any conversation with this drunken sod, let alone an academic one, would be impossible. Providence. As the drunk walked away back on to the street, a short blonde woman entered the long, murky passageway. Just as she was about to pass where Robin was crouching, she stopped and looked at something on the dark wall. She was reading the Oscar Wilde quote that he had sprayed on it. He watched the bows of her lips move up and down as she silently mouthed the words as she read them. This was Subject Twenty-Six. Robin stood up and moved out of the shadows. The girl let out a cry of alarm, but he smiled warmly and turned his side to her to show that he meant her no harm. She stepped away from him and he made no attempt to follow her. He couldn’t give away the game this early on. He read the quote that he had sprayed on the wall aloud. There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating: people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.

27


prose

Subject Twenty-Six

“So which are you?” Robin asked. He positioned himself at her side and looked directly at the quote on the wall. “Which do you think I am?” she said warily. Ah, a conversationalist; this might be just the fun he was looking for. “I’d have to ask if it would make a difference what I thought.” “Never,” she answered quickly. “I don’t even know you.” Robin smiled at her again. This was his award-winning smile that almost never failed to command attention. She looked at him and he could sense her checking him out, trying to catch a clue on what he was all about. She would learn too late, but it didn’t matter. “I’d guess absolutely . . .” he paused in a way that would allow her to interject if she wanted to, and was relieved when she did. “Everything, Luv, absolutely everything.” “So by your own admission you’re stating that you are indeed fascinating,” he said. She gave him a smile that while not really pretty, held some kind of attraction to him. “Well—” she started, but Robin stuck his hand out to her. “I’m Robin, pleased to meet you.” For a second she hesitated, but then returned his smile and cautiously extended her hand. Her skin was cold and clammy and it was only now that he noticed her eyes were rimmed with red. She had been crying. “I’m Jilly. Nice to meet you too.” “Now I know that this is going to sound like a cliché, but tonight—” “—Is my lucky night eh?” Jilly finished for him. “Um no. Tonight, I’ll be your judge, jury and executioner,” Robin said smiling warmly. Jilly smiled back at him and tucked her hair behind her ear with her free hand. She turned her head slightly, still smiling, and said, “Sorry?” “That’s my next line. . . . Sorry.” Robin tightened his grip on her hand and then before she knew what was happening, he punched her hard in the face. Jilly collapsed immediately, and the fear that he had hit her too hard flashed across his mind. The sensation was fleeting and he leaned over and punched her again. He gathered her unconscious figure in his arms and walked further down the passageway. Fortunately he had parked the car only a few streets away and some of these city center streets were dark and unpopulated. When he

28


Subject Twenty-Six

prose

reached the car he found that he’d been ticketed. He laughed it off and laid Jilly on the back seat. He cuffed her hands and feet and then taped her mouth shut. He had to be careful not to muffle her too much. A couple of years ago he had taped someone’s mouth shut and when they had arrived home he had found the poor boy dead. It seemed he’d had a bloody nose and had not been able to breathe. For the next three hours he drove home, checking on Jilly every twenty minutes. He was not ready for that kind of disappointment again. Perhaps the dead boy might have been the one able to best him. Maybe. Jilly finally revived five hours after Robin had laid her on the floor of the interview room. Robin had spent the last thirty minutes setting up the autopsy table and laying out all the tools he would need for the complex procedure ahead when Jilly would prove her worth. He thought that letting her watch him set up while she was awake would be in bad taste. He turned all the lights off in the room and sat in his director’s chair just a few feet away from where she lay. He imagined her inhaling and exhaling as she breathed. She stirred and Robin felt a pang of excitement. She groaned in the darkness and this served to excite Robin more. Then she caught him off guard. “Your name’s Robin isn’t it?” she said, her voice, belabored and broken. “What do you want?” “What I always want,” he replied. “And what I’m probably not getting this time. I’m fine with that; it’s partly why I picked you.” There was silence for a while more. He could hear her sniffing, clearing her nostrils of the blood he had left caked on her face after the attack. He let her clear her head. “And that is what exactly? Aren’t prostitutes normally the game of your type?” “Now, now, don’t judge, we’ve only just met. You don’t know what my type is.” “Prove me wrong,” Jilly said in the darkness. He was impressed. She was a lively one. “I accept,” Robin said happily. “Let me go. You don’t want me.” “No, you are exactly what I want. I normally prey on the high society of academia, someone who will give me a mental challenge, a good

29


prose

Subject Twenty-Six

old battle of wits. Something I am sure you are not capable of giving me. That’s why I chose you tonight. I didn’t want a challenge. I just wanted a kill. I promised myself when I started on this career that I would not kill someone who was my mental better in some way. I never have. Because I’ve never actually met that someone.” “Well there’s a first time for everything,” Jilly said. “Not tonight . . . Luv,” Robin said. “Now, now, don’t judge me, we’ve only just met.” There was a hint of playfulness in her voice. What was that? Was she trying to annoy him? “I’m a good judge of people. I know your type,” Robin said amusedly. “You’ve already misjudged me; I’m eighteen years old,” Jilly said defensively. The comment was so funny that all Robin could do was laugh hysterically. “Whoops,” Robin said calming down a bit. He covered his eyes and flicked on the bright white neons. Jilly thrust her hands to cover her eyes but it was too late. Robin could see tears falling down her cheeks. “Lets get down to business shall we? We’ll start with philosophy, I normally start with the math, but I get the feeling I need to take piggy steps with you,” Robin said. “You’re an evil killer!” “Ahh, let’s talk about that. What makes me evil? I can’t deny I’m a killer. Does this worry you?” “The act of killing is evil you idiot,” Jilly muttered under her breath. Yes perhaps she was trying to annoy him. Did she realize what kind of situation she was in? “Let’s get one thing clear. With my I.Q., the last thing I am is an idiot,” Robin said quickly. “Raw nerve there,” Jilly said with a pleased look on her face. Little witch. Robin decided to take the high road. He got up and she flinched. He slowly walked around to the autopsy table and picked up a scalpel. He made his way closer to her. She stood her ground. Not too impressive, as she was chained to the spot. He continued his interrogation. “Who said killing is evil? I mean, are we talking some kind of deity, government or some system of ethics or beliefs?” “Taking someone’s life is wrong.” “What if they wanted me to take their life?”

30


Subject Twenty-Six

prose

“Does that happen often? Someone asks you to kill them? I’m sure I didn’t even ask to be abducted, and I definitely don’t see myself asking you to end my life.” Robin had to agree with her there. “I’ll give you that one, but then what if God told me to do it?” “God or the voices in your head?” Jilly asked with an odd look on her face. She was relentless. He was beginning to enjoy this. “You’ve got me there. I don’t hear voices and have not the slightest belief in God, or any God for that matter, but humor me. What if God or a God ordered me to kill, would it still be evil?” “There’s one thing we have in common, I don’t believe in God either, but any God ordering you to take something that is not rightfully yours is evil.” “Said with such authority. What if it wasn’t yours to begin with?” Robin chuckled, raising one eyebrow at her. Defiantly she continued to stare at him. “We’re talking about life, right?” “Correct.” “What’s that phrase, about possession being nine tenths of the law?” “Is that English law or American?” Robin asked. “Does it matter?” “No, but it’s not viable,” Robin said excitedly. He had her now. He’d caught her in her own words. “Why not? If an individual controls or has control over his or her own body then I would see that body as a possession for the owner to do whatever he or she wanted to do with it.” “Like killing?” Robin shot back. Jilly’s eyes widened. “No . . .” “Yes. You just stated that our bodies are our possessions to do with as we will. If so, I reserve the right to kill.” Robin deftly weaved the scalpel in between his fingers and sat down in his chair again. “That would be encroaching on my own right or the rights of those you kill.” “What if my rights have a greater priority over your own?” Robin really did believe that he was above the rights of others. “Who are you to decide?” Jilly asked. “I found you. You are my possession and you’ve already stated that possession is nine tenths of th . . .”

31


prose

Subject Twenty-Six

“Shut up! Who do you think you are?” She glared up at him through wet strands of hair that hung over her face. He just smiled. She was adorable, which was kind of a shame. “You might have been right. There is a miniscule possibility that I might have misjudged you. Don’t get your hopes up, you’re still going to die today.” “Are we playing by your rules?” “Always.” “Then don’t count on it,” Jilly said. She was tucking a strand of hair behind her ear while staring at him. What spirit. “This isn’t going how I expected it to. I mean it’s always fun, but I just didn’t imagine it would be fun in this way. By the way, what level of education do you possess being an amazing eighteen years old?” “I’m older than my age!” “I believe you,” Robin said smiling excitedly. “Are there worse things than killing?” he asked, hoping to catch her off guard. “I can’t think right now.” “Try . . . like your life depended on it,” Robin said. Jilly thought hard. “Rapists? Child molesters? Mass murderers?” “What do you think should become of these people?” “Death.” “What about personal rights?” Robin asked. “When you take away others’ rights, you forfeit your own.” “What about forgiveness and repentance? Do we not all deserve those things?” “Forgiveness and repentance are for those that believe in God. In your case you’ve already forfeited yours.” Robin continued to smile saying, “And what if I did believe in God?” Jilly looked up at him. There was silence for a minute or so and he let her have the time to think. “I used to believe in God, but God doesn’t believe in retribution and I do.” What a strange comment. Robin stood up. What had she been through? She had been crying before he had abducted her. What was it? How should he continue? He stood there almost swaying in some invisible wind. He took a step towards Jilly and she closed her eyes tight as if waiting for some vicious blow. He took a step back. What should he ask her now? What was it that he had last asked Milika?

32


Subject Twenty-Six

prose

“Ignorance?” Robin said. “In its many forms. What about that? Is it worse to kill or let someone die knowing full well you could do something to stop it?” “What kind of question is that?” “One that I want an answer to or you’ll be joining Milika, sooner rather than later,” Robin said with glee. Jilly looked directly into his eyes. She was searching him, trying to figure him out. He decided to let her in on a secret. “Milika is Tongan; an economist with multiple Ph.D.s and is fluent in Tagalog, Chinese and several European languages. Fantastic mind. We had great conversation. I finally asked her the ignorance question and told her that I knew that her sister was a conniving alcoholic drug dealer who perpetuated her habits by entrapping and hooking children on cocaine. Then I told her that I would drown her sister and revive her as many times as I could. I asked her if she would give consent to that process if it saved her sister from going through the same ordeal. Would she submit to my experiments herself or would she ask for freedom and claim ignorance when asked about the disappearance of her sister?” “You are sick,” Jilly spat. “And Milika is behind you.” She looked behind her. It had been a spur of the moment and he was hoping she would scream. She didn’t. She just quickly returned her head with her eyes tightly closed. She had seen Milika in the glass tank that stood in the corner of the room. Milika, looking almost serene like an exotic mermaid, completely still apart from her hair that seemed to sway in some unseen current. The only thing that betrayed her serenity was her face. Her open and staring eyes, framed by the odd creased brow and partly open lips, belied the expression of someone who had died in a serene manner. “Are you a victim?” Robin asked. With both hands Jilly tucked her hair behind both ears as though the hair blocking her eyes had been blocking a train of thought. She sat forward so she could stare at him. Something had changed. “What do you think?” “Does it matter to you what I think?” Robin asked back. “Until tonight I was a prisoner. With what I can only describe as luck, I escaped with my life. Then after only two hours, after only just deciding on a plan of action, after only just figuring out what to do

33


prose

Subject Twenty-Six

next, I run into you.” Tears rolled down Jilly’s cheeks but her eyes were unblinking. “A few months ago I saw a little placard on my English teacher’s desk and it said ‘He who allows oppression, shares the crime.’ I’m not a victim. Not anymore and never again,” Jilly snapped. Robin’s father had snapped at him, all the time. He didn’t like it. Not one bit. He remembered thinking that if his father had been alive fifteen years ago he would definitely have made him a subject, and that would have served the old codger right. He remembered having seen that exact same quote somewhere and having the same response that over the years had become a kind of mantra to him. “Not anymore and never again.” Jilly sat up straight and crossed her legs. “So let me ask you something,” Robin said thoughtfully. “Say your father beat you every day of your life for as long as you can remember, but he’s your father. Would you submit him to liver and lung removal without anesthetic if it meant you went free? If it meant you yourself would not have to undergo the procedure? And if and when you were asked what happened to him, should you make that decision, would you plead ignorance and go about your daily life?” Robin watched her carefully. She looked scared, haunted even. This was the moment of truth. This was where she buckled and let her true self show, and then she spoke. Her voice wavered and her lips trembled. Robin smiled. “Presuming I give you the correct answer, how do I know I don’t end up without my lungs anyway?” “You may not believe I have any morals but I do have ethics. If you were to give me a correct answer or say something that I had not expected, I would let you go and you would never see me again.” “But what if I were to go to the police?” “I am very rich and very resourceful. I also have friends in high places who are kept up to date on my activities and are entertained by them. Your going to the police would be counter productive. See . . . where there is a possibility that I might let you go, going to the police will draw the attention of others. Are you getting my meaning or do I have to spell it out for you?” “I get it. I’d be dead.” “Correct.” “Harvey Clay, residing at 24 Anne’s Rd, Cambridge, postal code CB5 8UJ,” Jilly said. Her voice was different now. It seemed to lack emotion, but there was relief that was hard for Robin to miss.

34


Subject Twenty-Six

prose

“Who is that and why is it important right now?” he said. “He’s my father, thinks of himself as quite the intellectual. Beats his wife and the children of his who don’t submit to his sexual perversions,” Jilly said as Robin stared at her. “Fair trade fascinating enough for you?” Jilly asked coldly. “Absolutely,” Robin replied.

35


prose

Everybody Loves Me Alma Para

N

egra, why weren’t you paying attention in church? ¿ Qué es esto? ” “Are these your preoccupations during a time when you’re supposed to focus on Christ? Do you think this is reverent? Why do you do this?” The conversation started with him asking me why I didn’t pay attention in Sunday school. My father was holding a copy of the roll where I had doodled things like “I love Joey,” “Mrs. Rosy Fatone,” “I love *nSync.” “Why do you do this?” Going to church was always fun until I discovered Sunday School with Brother López. He was often referred to as “Bishop López” because of his previous calling. We had many “Bishops” among our congregation. Bishop López, Bishop Ferro, Bishop Flores. All these men had served dutifully as the appointed Judge of Israel in the Grant Ward. Our ward was one of eleven belonging to the Huntington Park West Stake. West Stake was located in Bell Gardens, California and encompassed the entire Long Beach area. The cities were Bell Gardens, Maywood, Downey, Paramount, Commerce and Santa Fe Springs. Bishop López lived in Commerce, a place notorious for its residents. The best water-polo team was in Commerce and about a third of the team belonged to our ward. The López daughters were wide-backed waterpolo professionals. They dominated any arena they were in. I sometimes think that it was his lack of control and authority at home that made him my dreadful Sunday School teacher.

36


Everybody Loves Me

prose

His lessons always consisted of scriptures from both texts—The Book of Mormon and The Bible. They always began as a morality tale on how to be better missionaries and disciples of Christ. The intended result was applying it at home. Brother López indoctrinated us with the kind of life we should have at home. We should be peacemakers and avoid conflict. We should obey our parents because they always know what’s best for us. The men should all serve missions because it’s the only way to gain “true” manhood. Women should prepare to raise families and bear children. A girl cannot be a “woman” until she has borne a child. Dating should be limited if not avoided at our ages. We shouldn’t question whether or not our parents’ requests and orders were valid or necessary. These were his lessons. I was always eager to learn something new. But I was always disappointed after the first ten minutes of class. We began with a prayer and song. The lesson was introduced with Christ. After ten minutes, Christ would leave the classroom. My responsibility in Sunday School was to take the roll. I often times doodled on it because I had no other paper or pen handy. When questions were asked and nobody knew the answer I would lift my head and eyes from my doodling task at hand and answer. In the rare event of receiving an interesting principle, I would ask why it was important and how it functions. These questions were always greeted with “We’ll answer those when we get to that lesson.” I remember the lesson from that Sunday clearly. We were talking about honoring our father and mother. Brother López had asked us to give him examples of ways we could honor our father and mother. We all regurgitated the textbook answers. “Hacerles caso. Listen to their instruction.” “Don’t talk back.” “Seguir los mandamientos. Keep the commandments.” “Go to church on time and help around the house.” Nick, one of my best friends, hadn’t yet answered and when his turn came he said, “Put the towels in the hamper before I go to school.” Brother López asked Nick, “Why do you think putting the towels in the hamper is a way of honoring your father and mother?” Nick answered, “It’s not. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to put the towel in the hamper. I do everything else right. Why do my parents get all worked up over a towel or two?”

37


prose

Everybody Loves Me

“Well Nick, have you ever thought or wondered that perhaps your parents ask you to do this because it could be damaging to your parents’ health? Or that perhaps your mother’s back hurts from picking things up off the ground all day long? Perhaps it helps your mother in keeping up with the house?” “I don’t think so. They’ve never told me why.” “Obedience to your parents is honoring them. They know why they ask you to do things, it’s your job to listen. What does it say in Nephi 3:7? I will go and do, right? Nephi honored his parents and was always obedient to them.” At this part of the lesson I was finishing up the final ‘n’ in *nSync. When I was exposed to this misrepresentation and desecration of Nephi’s profound act of faith I smirked. I laughed to keep from contention. Brother López turned and lectured me. I was just finished with his lecture on the sacredness of scripture and church when the bell rang. We ended with a prayer and he pulled me aside looked at the roll and said, “I’m going to have to talk to your parents.” I dismissed his warning. I knew that if he talked to my parents they would understand why I was laughing and notice that I was not being offensive but offended. “Why do you do this?” my father repeated. It was like music to my ears. Nobody had ever asked me why anything. So this question not only came as a surprise but as an invitation. My dad had finally asked me the question that would allow me to tell the most important person in my life exactly what was going on in my head. I was finally going to be heard because there was a genuine interest in my “why.” I felt validated even though I knew this was a very dangerous place to venture. I knew in my heart that my dad was safe. I felt this was my chance to speak and cease my silence. Then there was a pause and I began to listen to him again as he asked this question for the third time. “Why do you do this?” I had been mistaken. Now I heard the real question: How could I embarrass my family and myself like that at church? Why wasn’t I acting like the promising child everyone else perceived me to be? My dad asked me why as if it were a crime I had committed. I didn’t understand him. I was offended by my Sunday school teacher’s

38


Everybody Loves Me

prose

misinterpretation of Holy Scripture and its desecration. I was the victim and was receiving the treatment of the perpetrator. I was being questioned for disagreeing with the misapplication of Nephi’s “Go and do” creed. My dad has never liked hitting us; he’d always rather talk it out and teach. That was my mom’s problem with him; she believed that his discipline method was too diplomatic for us and was creating insolent children. Pretty soon we were all going to be able to walk all over them both. Other times I’d been questioned, my answers were followed by an hour-long lecture that I would endure to avoid the violence that terrified me. So I answered and said, “I don’t know why I did it. I was bored.” He said, “What about the church do you find boring? You think Christ thought it was boring to die for us? What do you think would have happened if he had been bored?” I thought, Jesus is perfect and knows everything. He’d never get bored because he’d always teach. I answered, “Papi, it’s not that Christ is boring. I just don’t know.” “Well, tell me. I can’t help you and I won’t understand if you don’t tell me.” I summoned up my strength and with a heart full of hope and relief I uttered the phrase that summed me up entirely. “Nobody understands me.” He replied with, “Really? Nobody understands you?” “I feel like nobody gets me. Sometimes I feel like nobody loves me.” “Negra,” he said, “Todos la quieren. Everyone understands and loves you. What the hell do you mean nobody understands you? Do you feel misunderstood?” I picked up the sarcasm and reprimand in his tone and knew that I had answered incorrectly. My body and face were turned away from him as he got up to pace the room. I didn’t need to read his body language to understand that my honesty was a mistake. I shut down my arguments and did what I always did, sat and listened. Quickly I recognized the sound of leather sliding against denim. I stood up yelling in an attempt to prevent and ward off the attack. As the blows came down on my back and thighs I heard him mutter, “¿ Entiende esto? Do you understand this? Don’t give me that shit! Now does everyone hate you?”

39


prose

Everybody Loves Me

I asked him to stop but it didn’t work. So I tried another strategy and yelled, “Okay Papi, todos me entienden! Everyone understands me! I was wrong, everyone cares! Everybody loves me! Todos me quieren! Everybody loves me!” I listened as my miraculous awareness of everyone’s understanding ceased the blows on my back and legs. I listened as I silenced myself. I listened to the end of my childhood hope in my daddy. The name ended there. He wasn’t my dad. He wasn’t Daddy. He wasn’t Papi. My dad became Pops and Spanish was never an option with him again. I was thirteen. My mom didn’t see what happened. My sister told me he didn’t love me and when I finally believed I wept.

40


prose

Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn Kyle Reinhard

L

unacy can drive a man to do just about anything. And his dog too. Perpetual looniness can not only inspire acts of considerable recklessness and abandon, but will also eat away at a person’s resolve, causing him to forsake precious ambition in the process. Webster’s defines lunacy as “intermittent insanity once believed to be related to the phases of the moon.” Right. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Er, wait. Does that moon business make it sound like this is a werewolf story? Because even though that would be awesome, most of the supernatural elements in this account were edited out in the preliminary stages. (Despite numerous revisions, however, a degree of vampiric influence has for whatever reason remained.) We’ll go with psychosis instead. Psychosis can drive a man to do just about anything. Victor M. Lavinski is a thirty-two-year-old former community theatre stand-in and balloon-animal enthusiast who had a devastating emotional breakdown and mental collapse two summers ago, which sort of surprised his family and friend (Alan Richards). Vic will be the protagonist of this story, so it’s important that you get to know him now. By calendar a Scorpio, but really a Libra at heart, people feel inclined to trust him because of his kind eyes, masculine jawline and prominent pectorals. People are ultimately drawn away, however, because of his mangy dress, general disgustingness and severely unkempt finger and toe nails. Hmm . . . let’s see. What else? Even though he doesn’t really fit into

41


prose

Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

the “hero” archetype as it is traditionally defined, he does own several swords, all of which he sharpens regularly. Okay, do we all have something to relate to? I figure that should cover just about everybody. Good. A few years back, Vic became unsatisfied with his home life (or rather confinement) and escaped to the street seeking independence. Eventually able to strong-arm the local homeless community into relinquishing their hangout, Vic opened up his “laboratory,” all along remaining completely unaware that the location was in reality an abandoned waste-management facility whose walls were filled with asbestos and several thriving pest colonies. During his time at the facility (or, The Facility, as he was wont to refer to it), Vic came not only to realize that his life did indeed have a purpose, but also that he had at some point contracted syphilis. This was via a telephone callback from the free clinic that had happened to have taken place within the lab walls, which I like to think counts. Using a variety of mental acrobatics and insanity-driven visualization techniques, Lavinski was able to convince himself that the walls of this building were furnished with a variety of scientific machinery, despite the fact that the majority of the walls were actually covered in human excrement. Here he spent the majority of his working hours engaged in important “business.” This, of course, referred to his ongoing weekly efforts to finish the Chicago-Sun Times Sunday edition “Junior Jumble” in one sitting and his brave quest to drink an entire gallon of milk in under an hour. He also devoted an alarming amount of time to furiously Googling himself to no avail, and brainstorming to develop a series of eccentric personality traits that would make even the most seasoned billionaire blush. The most noticeable of these traits was Vic’s penchant for wearing a cape, a medieval fashion accessory traditionally reserved for fictional superheros and classical Vaudevillian antagonists. Vic had never tiptoed the line on any issue in the past and didn’t plan to start doing so with his craziness campaign. Narrator sidebar: Is the phrase “furiously Googling himself to no avail” actually a euphemism for a far more sinister activity? I’ll leave that up to you. Being as we’re already several paragraphs in, we should also introduce Stu, an eleven-month-old Labrador retriever who may or may

42


Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

prose

not actually be a figment of Vic’s own imagination. Stu had been the product of a night of wild, unplanned canine copulation and sadly had never known his own father, a six-year-old yellow lab named Cinnamonbun. His actions being influenced primarily by scent, Stu continued to live with Vic despite the gross neglect and constant abuse this entailed because of his owner’s tendency to accidentally spill food all over the ground and himself. Stu looked out for Vic during the many nights that his owner was passed out in a gutter, or the like, and took solace in the fact that since they were technically “homeless,” he was seldom not on a walk. Together they were partners in pure evil, and if Stu was indeed a real-life flesh-and-bones creature, bestiality. No, not really. That’s a tad blue for this narrative. In reality they had yet to cross that line. Let’s jump into their story, which is already in progress. As Vic seldom exited his lab, this may have been the first time that he did so with a sunny disposition and a look of hope in his eyes. He hadn’t eaten in days, and was growing increasingly unsatisfied with the prospects of sleeping inside a trench formerly used to transport various excretions, but he had devised a way of fixing this and making his life truly better. As he considered his current position in the universe and all the events that had transpired in his life to this point, a single tear came to his eye. “It’s a new day, Stu,” he quipped to his dog, who at the time was preoccupied with the lingering scent of a pigeon that had passed by several months prior. “Look! I’m crying, for God’s sakes! What do they call this,” he said pointing to a spot just under his eye. “Tear ducts?   . . . Ducks. Duck-t-sss. Duct-ss. Wow, that’s a hard word to say, isn’t it, boy?” As he positioned himself on a city street corner in an attempt to hail a taxi, something was different about Vic. Even his minor linguistic difficulties/failed observational humor and general pathetic-ism couldn’t deny that truth. Perhaps it was from reading that inspiring brochure the timeshare company had graciously slid under his doormat the previous afternoon, or possibly even the frozen dinner from two nights before. Only Vic and Stu themselves knew the real reason for all the concentrated happiness and general excitement. It would

43


prose

Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

change their lives for good and would happen in a way that was quite effectively badass and overall totally awesome. And it was a terrorist hijacking plot. “Thanks so much for stopping,” Vic said to his new taxi driver, a nonnative middle-aged man of indeterminable descent, who did not understand a word of what Vic had said. Vic had fashioned today’s cape (sadly, or—due to the smell, perhaps luckily—he owned multiple capes) around his hips in a manner similar to a bathroom towel to avoid being added to yet another national registry and criminal database. “Take me to the airport.” The driver turned to quickly profile his new passenger, and even though his racist upbringing assured him that a white male aged about thirty would be a likely candidate to not rob him at gunpoint, he underestimated the potential power that the dangerous combination of desperation and euphoria Vic was currently riding high on could hold. “This is my dog, Stu,” Vic said as they pulled away from the curb. The driver ignored this comment, instead choosing to tap on the ‘Driver Does Not Speak English’ label plastered onto the glove compartment in order to quiet his strange new guest. This disinterest, coupled with the fact that he knew his words would not be understood anyway, caused Vic to contemplate formulating his entire scheme by speaking it aloud, just to see how it would sound when verbalized. Luckily, however, he reconsidered, realizing this would instead come off as convenient telegraphing of the plot disguised as exposition—a tactic generally used only by the most amateur of raconteurs—and instead wrote it down in his own personal diary. Boy, I’d sure like to urinate on that tree out there,” Stu chimed in silently to himself. And that one. Was that a cat? “I wish I could too, boy. And I think it was,” Vic replied to his dog, displaying to the world either the possession of an impressive inter-species telepathic gift or his utter insanity. Quietly underscoring the scene was the radio, which broadcasted an advertisement regarding the need for new tires in the wintertime. Per established literary bylaws, this seamless casual foreshadowing enabled an angel to get his wings. As they reached the drop-off area at the airport, Vic prepared himself for what he knew had to come next. Due to his current position in life, Vic had not encountered any U.S. legal tender in the

44


Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

prose

past eighteen months, aside from the occasional passerby who threw change at him—unsolicited—while he was singing to himself on a city sidewalk. As a result of this he felt that he had perfected the arts of not actually paying for the goods and services he consumed, conning others, and grifting: maneuvers that he felt helped him to polish his acting skills. The taxicab came to a sudden stop, and Vic motioned to Stu to get into ready position number TC182, option A. While they had never carried out this particular elaborate currency-saving scheme before, Stu was very familiar with his role in it, due to Vic’s meticulous diagramming and constant rehearsal of it and its many derivatives. Say what you will about Vic Lavinski (and I have said a variety of disparaging things), the man simply understood that practice makes perfect. “Oh look, Stu. I think someone dropped a Skittle on the ground of the front passenger seat!” Vic said to his dog in an amateurish display of cartoonish overacting. Despite the original script’s line calling for a misplaced plain Bugle corn chip, Stu jumped into the front seat, and for a moment pretended to look for the lost snack. After sniffing the ground in an intense manner for a few moments, he sprang into action, attacking the driver with the ferocity of a fullgrown pit bull. As an instance of particularly distracting biting took place, Vic began diligently searching for the gun that the driver was by company policy required to carry; eventually finding it in a case strapped around his ankle. “Your total comes to . . . all the money you’ve got, sir,” Vic whispered in his best approximation of a “menacing” tone to the driver, keeping the weapon pointed firmly in his direction. Although English was not his native tongue, the driver understood the gist of the demands that were being made of him and relinquished his wallet into the hands of this dangerous criminal and his vicious canine companion. With a weapon now at his disposal and a plan coming together like nothing he had ever been involved in before (save a local production of Oklahoma! he had desperately vied to fill in for), Vic exited the car, pounded his feet down on the automatic-door-opening sensor pad, and scurried across the floor of the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, alongside his oldest companion and friend, a Canis lupus familiaris of just under one year of age. While hustling along, he

45


prose

Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

contemplated whether there was an equivalent shorthand colloquial expression already in place that would describe these pads accurately without the bulkiness of the default phrase “automatic-door-opening sensor pad.” He settled on the quasi-word ‘sensopenor’ and excitedly looked forward to a time in the future when he would be able to use it. After finding the flight counter furthest from the drop-off location where his armed robbery had taken place moments ago, Vic made his way through the line. After inquiring as to a ticket and a dog transport crate for Stu, he pulled out . . . his gun. He then checked it for flight via the proper channels afforded for him to do so, with a TSA agent, and made his way to the terminal where his plane would be departing in just under a quarter of an hour. Breezing through airport security with time to spare, Vic also bought a package of chewing gum and a Us Weekly magazine from one of the airport shoppes, and then proceeded to immensely enjoy his eighty-minute flight to Akron, Ohio, which included an in-flight movie option of Beverly Hills Chihuahua, a favorite film. After arriving at his destination, our hero picked up and freed Stu from his cagely prison and began searching for the next dastardly item in his menacing plot of destruction: an airport luggage trolley. In this trolley he loaded his faithful dog, his new wallet and firearm and a complimentary SkyMall magazine taken from the airplane. He figured that should he survive the coming events, his quality of life would be greatly improved with the purchase of a bedside pet staircase, an MP3-compatible fountain pen and a much needed remote-controlled, animatronic, R2D2-themed trash can. And just like that, he was off. Following, of course, a nearly forty-five-minute trudge through the typically enormous Akron airport parking lot—not aided speed-wise in the least by the presence of wheels on the underside of the luggage cart (its original and only intended purpose in the grand scheme)— Vic had finally made it onto the city streets of Ohio. Here he blended in beautifully (that is to say grotesquely) with all of the various transients and riffraff of the area, and he felt content that no passerby would approach and therefore disrupt him. The last notch in the plan’s figurative belt was on its way toward finally being fastened and Vic relished the moment, his mind finally free to consider such strained metaphors. But then Rod came along.

46


Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

prose

Running along, in fact. Observing Rod Mullen sprinting down this Ohio sidewalk would certainly have been quite the sight all on its own, what with his enormously tall frame and overall lankiness, but the fact that he too was pushing along a four-wheeled cart at a high speed made the spectacle all the more impressive. Rod’s age would have been indeterminable to an outsider as his facial features appeared to have matured very little, if at all, since his days as an adolescent, yet one also got the impression simply from looking at his eyes that he had been through and experienced a great deal. His face still plagued with acne and his mouth still desperately in need of orthodontic intervention, Rod’s boyish looks doomed whatever little chance his mouth had at delivering any semblance of a valid point. “Hey, nice cart,” he said slyly to Vic, as if his next move might be to offer to buy him an adult beverage. “Where’d you get it?” Vic eyed Rod suspiciously for a moment, and, upon seeing a gentleman who appeared to be slightly lower than he on the intellectual food chain, he felt secure that he could safely talk to him. However, his overall contempt for human contact caused him to remain with his defenses still firmly up. “I . . . This is mine. I bought it.” “Oh that’s cool, I guess,” Rod shot back understandingly. “I stole mine. Can I level with you for a second?” Vic, who had expected this encounter to be brief, put forth a laughable effort to end talks with this conversational tornado of a gentleman he had met just moments ago. “You know, I really kind of have to get going, if that’s okay.” “Oh that’s fine. I can walk and talk,” Rod said, almost invigorated by the presence of this new receptacle for his thoughts. “Here’s a confession for you: I don’t own a car. So sue me, amiright?! Is it really such a bad thing? I mean excuse me for . . . for one, not being some sort of millionaire with cash to throw around willy-nilly, and two, not wanting to contribute to all of this soot and pollution in the air! But here’s the dilemma: when I go to the grocery store, how the heck do they expect me to get my groceries, which, let me remind you, I just purchased from their store, home?” “Yeah, that’s a stumper,” Vic replied, disheartened that he was now stuck listening to these ramblings for the foreseeable future. “You know what? They should be glad I swiped it, actually, because my continued use of this thing is a deal-breaker. They’ve sacrificed one

47


prose

Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

measly cart in exchange for a paying customer. Somebody shoot Wall Street a line because this investment is a sure thing!” he belted out in a Muppet-esque voice while transcribing a pretend telegram, heartily amused by his own cleverness. “Sure, I guess. Whatever helps you sleep at night,” Vic answered back as he at once attempted to navigate this unfamiliar sidewalk and decipher the foreign-looking street fixtures of the town. (Akron had the audacity to hang their traffic lights sideways! Who knew?) “So where’re you headed to?” Rod chimed in, trying his damnedest to break the ice emanating noticeably from Vic’s demeanor. After a long contemplative pause, Vic said semi-truthfully, “I’m going to the Goodyear Tire Company’s headquarters. I’ve got a complaint that I need to submit.” “Well I sure hope that you’re not planning to walk all the way there because it’ll take you about three hours,” Vic’s new companion yelled at him, cocksure. “Listen . . . what’s your name?” “Umm . . . Alice. This is my dog Mordecai.” “Alice, my name’s Rod. It’s good to meet you. Follow me, I think I can help you.” “Well, uh . . . no thanks. I’ll just go on alone, this is really more of a solo project I think.” In an instant Rod sprinted away with Alice –er, Vic’s airport luggage cart, successfully evaded traffic and, in an act of blatant literary product placement, ran behind a large van adorned with the Pepsi logo parked at the nearest gas station. As Vic likewise dodged traffic to catch up to and possibly murder his new acquaintance, he found himself worried not only for his dog, but also for the possibility that Rod would read the manifesto regarding the grand scheme that he had committed to paper—rather than spoken aloud—while in the back of the taxi. He then came to his senses, however, and realized not only that Rod did not have enough time to do this, but also almost certainly could not read. Vic hastily made his way across the parking lot and around the gas pumps, considering how to most effectively confront this scoundrel who had introduced a minor hitch into his despicable, illegal plan. He peered around the front of the van, only to see a man clothed exclusively in his boxer shorts lying immobilized on the pavement. Rod instantly materialized and motioned for Vic to hop into the van

48


Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

prose

through the open back doors, which Vic prudently obeyed, given that Rod had discovered and was now brandishing Vic’s gun. Rod hurriedly closed these doors and soon after, Vic and his four-legged friend were sliding around uncomfortably in the back of this moving automobile as it departed from the station. “Rod, what’re you doing?” Vic asked his new chauffeur, a man who despite his obvious shortcomings was beginning to grow on him. In fact he realized he may have even found a friend. “I’m taking you to Goodyear headquarters, Al!” Rod happily screeched at him. “I’ve seen this truck go by there sometimes. Probably to restock the vending machines.” “Why did you steal that man’s clothes?” Vic said, somehow failing to recall the potential for deception that this plot device, which had been used in several of his favorite spy and spy-parody movies, presented. “Well I figured that maybe we’d tear ’em up real good and bring them around with us or something. To intimidate passers-by,” Rod said, he too neglecting the trite but effective cliché of a solution that the possession of regulation Pepsi Corporation employee clothing suggested. “Kinda like how the Hulk wears those ripped denim shorts.” “I suppose it could make us look a little unstable,” Vic said, coming around. “But we’ll really have to shred them up, maybe even stain them a little bit, for it to work.” “That’s right! What person’s going to want to cross two guys holding shredded, filthy clothing? Who knows what they’re capable of ?” Rod answered. “Get Mordecai to pee on these.” Able to gain security clearance at the front gate due to their stolen vehicle, Vic, Stu and Rod hesitantly drove around the Goodyear headquarters parking lot. For the first time in many years, Vic felt part of a team, and he was overjoyed to have acquired an ally who appeared to actually be crazier than himself. “Do you have any idea where they keep the blimps?” Rod yelled out the window to a passerby who, trusting persons of the historically honorable cola-replenishing trade, pointed him in their direction. “Thanks.” Vic took the gun from his new friend’s lap and prepared himself to in a moment once again flex his thespian muscles. For this role, he’d

49


prose

Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

be channeling a desperate lunatic who needed to steal a blimp, admittedly a fairly straightforward and basic part given his current situation. Alongside his puppy, Vic stepped out of the vehicle and made a beeline to the nearest blimp. Almost immediately he was accosted by a skeptical Goodyear employee. “Hey, you’re not the usual Pepsi guy,” the man said before being asphyxiated to unconsciousness from behind by Rod who, in a welcome display of mental competency, made use of the stolen uniform by employing it as an impromptu noose. “What’d you say your complaint was again, Alice?” Rod asked with a certain business-as-usual tone of voice as he carefully lowered the man’s body to the ground. “What I’m doing is going to make my life better,” Vic answered, this response somehow failing to set off any red flags in his accomplice’s head. “Trust me.” With no other tire or blimp personnel in their way, all three jumped into a stationary zeppelin, which for some reason was being kept at the corporate headquarters. “We’re Goodyear, dammit!” the executives could almost be heard declaring to each other in a boardroom meeting. “We need to keep up appearances, practical or not! We’re keeping a blimp at corporate.” Finding it astonishingly difficult to operate, Vic tried to recall information he might have learned in his community college History of Flight course many years ago, and recalled having gleaned that one of the medium’s pioneers was also a key figure in the microwave popcorn community. “Darn,” he thought to himself. “This can’t be that hard. Maybe there’s an on/off switch.” The U.S. Government would normally not have bothered intervening in the affairs of such a paltry terrorist, but early security camera footage indicated that the suspect was vaguely ethnic and even had a hint of a beard (just what was he hiding under that thing?). Two special-ops agents, whose entire personal history and backstory are insignificant due to the fact that this tale is already far over the recommended word allotment, were deployed in to quell the situation. Flying overhead, their helicopter fast approaching the airborne blimp (Vic had managed to locate the on/off switch), they spotted a man and a dog standing at the blimp’s former resting point giving them the finger. It was Rod, who had sacrificed himself for the good of the mission in

50


Psychotic: A Humorous Yarn

prose

order to unhitch the beanbags formerly weighing the blimp down. Had he been, anatomically speaking, in possession of maneuverable digits himself, then Stu would have done the same (given the finger, that is. The beanbag duties were easy enough for just one person). The agents, whose—without sacrificing valuable space—motivations were ethically hazy, stormed the front cabin of the blimp to find Vic already on the floor, hands behind his head. “What’s your name?” one of the agents shouted at Vic. “Victor.” “Well, Dick-tor [author’s note: good one!], you’re going away for a long, long time. We don’t tolerate terrorists like you here in the USA.” “That’s fine,” Vic answered. “Fine, is it? You’re fine with not seeing your family, eating three crummy meals a day and sleeping on a cheap cot night after night? That’s fine with you?” And without even having to raise his head, Vic closed his eyes and smiled.

51


prose

Losing Jonathan Alicia VanNoy Call

I

t was a Thursday. I sat on a green cushioned bench in a long white hallway. I wore a square-necked lavender dress with an empire waist and an ankle-length straight skirt. My feet were tucked under the bench, my hands clasped in my lap. My hair was curled and piled on top of my head, ringlets drifting down around my face. I looked exactly as I should, fitting in precisely with the singular occasion we were celebrating today. The trouble was that my nose was running, my eyes were leaking, and I was sure that I was sweating much more than any normal human being should in such a perfectly climatecontrolled environment. My mother, sitting on my right, smelled faintly of lilacs. Her bright blue eyes flicked down to her watch and sometimes to me, as if mentally checking my emotional status. My father sat on my left, looking vaguely surprised. He watched the people walking back and forth along the white carpet. Neither of my parents was crying. Why was I? I wiped my nose and listened to a silent inner dialogue: What is wrong with you? Today is a happy day. Everyone keeps saying so, what a happy day it is. Weddings are supposed to be happy . . . aren’t they? The ceremony had been relatively short. The groom and the bride looked into each other’s eyes nearly the entire time, almost completely ignoring the officiator. I had tried to pay attention, wanting to write it all down later, but it was hard to keep everything straight in my head. I kept floating back along the years that had led up to this moment, mixing the past with the present and getting lost between the two. I had sat in the groom’s

52


Losing Jonathan

prose

line of vision, and the one time he looked at me during the ceremony I pulled a face at him. He grinned briefly. I had always been able to make my baby brother laugh. Here he was—tall, self-possessed, deliriously content, embarking on the ultimate grown-up journey; yet when he smiled I could still see the chubby, curly-headed toddler of my earliest memories. He knelt across from his sweetheart, his eyes shining, and I could see him in the middle of summer, sitting on the front porch, watermelon juice dripping down his belly onto his plastic pants. He gnawed at a watermelon rind three times the width of his face, sticky and satisfied. He grinned, sporting dimples. It was before his blue eyes had changed. He reached across the altar to take her hand, and I could see him pulling all the cooking pans out of the drawer underneath the oven so that he could climb in and sit; a perfect-sized seat for a two-year-old. He would sit there until someone would come in the room and then laugh when they exclaimed in surprise. He leaned across to kiss her, and I saw him in denim overalls, riding his red tricycle around and around the apartment courtyard. He would pull a big picture book out of the shelf and carry it to me, climbing up on the couch to sit next to me and ask me to read. One accident-prone year he had stitches three times. When the ceremony ended, they stood as husband and wife to greet the family and friends who had gathered to celebrate with them. I hadn’t shed one tear yet, despite being caught among countless memories. I waited in line, watching them embrace loved one after loved one. I smiled watching them. They were going to be happy like this a long time, and when sad times came, I knew they would be okay because they were good for each other. When it was my turn I hugged the bride first. I had become well-acquainted with her. She was optimistic, bubbly, and outgoing—everything I wasn’t. She was an ideal complement to our family. I welcomed her and kissed her cheek. She smiled at me, glowing and beautiful. I was glad to have her. Truly glad. Only when I stood in front of my brother did the emotion suddenly threaten to overwhelm. He seemed to tower over me now. He was in many ways the opposite of his child self; tall, lanky, dark, collected where once he had been chubbed, blond and silly. But his

53


prose

Losing Jonathan

generous smile still carried the same childlike warmth, looking perfectly at home in his now grown-up face. I hugged him then and the tears began. “Congratulations,” I choked. He squeezed me until I felt my ribs popping. “Thank you,” he whispered. Beaming, he pulled back to look into my eyes. He kissed my forehead and I gulped back a sob. It was still so strange to have him taller than me. Later, sitting on the bench, I twisted a Kleenex through my fingers. I tried to stop crying. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of weeping on my brother’s wedding day. It was just that such an inundation of emotion was out of character for me. I had developed the ability to disconnect myself from difficult things and I was very good at it. But this was different. I couldn’t disconnect myself from this and I couldn’t figure out why. A door opened somewhere and my brother appeared around a corner, dressed in a black tuxedo. My father and mother stood to hug him again, and after exchanging a significant glance they left the room together. My brother sat down next to me. I sniffled and he put one arm around my shoulders. “You look nice,” he said. “You too, Dude.” We looked at each other’s costumes for a moment, and then we laughed, seeming at once to realize the humor in our understatement. We were sitting together on one of the most life-changing days in both of our histories, dressed to the hilt and wondering what to say next. He put his hand over mine. It still felt like a role reversal to have him in a position of comfort, to feel like he was watching out for me. I realized that it had been that way for some time now, I had just never consciously recognized it. He looked at me quizzically, and I knew what he was thinking. He wanted to know what was running through my head. Even I couldn’t untangle that mess. I was just trying to navigate the labyrinth and come out whole on the other side. Sitting next to him and holding his hand, I felt easier, quieter. I began to sort through the images, memories and random thoughts, putting labels to them, putting them in order. First, I was happy for him, very happy. I knew how much he had gone through to get to this moment, the heartache, the soul-searching, the loneliness. It was good to know he would be okay now.

54


Losing Jonathan

prose

So I had labeled the happiness. That one hadn’t been difficult. The second, I decided, must be nostalgia. Passing down those ancient paths to catch those brilliant moments, however brief the memory, made me want to see that little boy again. I wanted to play hide-andseek with him, tickle him, build forts with him, hear him laugh. The last one was more challenging to designate. Part of me was reeling. For a long time, it had just been him and me. Over the years, we created worlds of humor and adventure no one else really understood. We became linked through shared experience and grew closer than most siblings do. I was the one he came to when he needed to mull something over. I shared the inside jokes, the morbid humor, the ability to laugh at something horrible until we didn’t want to cry anymore. And now there was this girl, his chosen one. I didn’t begrudge her relationship with my brother. I was excited to have a little sister. I just didn’t know what it all meant. What would I become, now that he had her? An old lady dressed in white came to tell us that the bride would be ready shortly and would join the wedding party outside. My brother squared his shoulders, smiling. “Dude,” I told him. “You’re married.” He shook his head. “I know. It’s so weird.” “I’ll go tell them you’re coming.” He squeezed my hand. “Okay. See you out there.” After an endless string of photographs, I helped her carry her wedding dress and veil to the car. They were talking about packing and their honeymoon trip. He had planned it exclusively without her help, wanting it to be a surprise. She was giddy with excitement. They both hugged me, thanking me for all of my help that morning. She reminded me to arrive at the reception center in time to help her get ready. I reassured her I would be there. I waved to them as I walked to my car. “I’ll see you tonight,” I called. “Bye!” They drove away, engrossed in conversation. I spent the next two hours in a bookstore, flipping distractedly through comic books. I felt unbalanced, disconnected, like I had been kicked out of my place in the universe. I drank a double latte, sitting in the bookstore cafe. Where did I fit now? I made sure to be early at the reception hall. It was a lovely old house, draped with vines and embraced by trees. Before running downstairs

55


prose

Losing Jonathan

to help with last minute arrangements, I tied the bride’s sash in front of a massive antique mirror in the dressing room. The afternoon sun filtered through gauzy white curtains, making her glow. I watched us in the mirror for a moment. She was outlined in light, while my reflection seemed indistinct. I wondered if I looked that way to anyone else. That evening passed in a haze of celebration. I stood next to my cousin, the Best Man, and greeted lines of people whom I didn’t know. I paused for a moment at the cake table, considering the lavishly decorated desserts. I wasn’t hungry. I sipped at a glass of iced limeade lightly flavored with mint, watching the guests interact. My mother played the piano and I turned the pages for her. At my brother’s request, I proposed a toast and made humorous, relevant and emotional comments. People floated past me for the rest of the night, effusive with praise for what I had said, none of which I remembered. I sat holding the bouquets on my knee, long-stemmed roses tied into bunches with black ribbon and thinking that I should take pictures. I watched my brother and his wife execute a perfect Celtic Waltz as their first dance, the only mishap being the loss of one white shoe. It was a strappy-sandal, but it still reminded me of Cinderella, the only difference being that the prince didn’t have to search for someone to fit the shoe. He’d already found his princess. The thought made me smile. Near the end of the night, my brother asked me to dance. He spun me around the dance floor, and I cried again. We both laughed about it and this time there was no question in his eyes. I think he understood now where the tears were coming from. Maybe he could see it reflected in my eyes, that when I looked at him I could see the little boy with missing teeth and choppy hair and ankles showing under high-water pants. He nodded knowingly and dipped me at the end of the song. I smiled through the tears. They walked to their car down a rose-bordered drive lined with wedding guests waving golden sparklers. They hugged each of their parents and then he held her hand as she stepped into the passenger side of the vehicle. He stuffed her skirt in after her and closed the door. He turned and scanned the crowd, finding me there. He raised his right hand to his ear and mouthed, I’ll call you. I waved. I believed him, but watching that car drive away felt like saying Goodbye and not See you later.

56


Losing Jonathan

prose

Six months later, we sat across from each other in a booth at a local restaurant. He was digging into a Cobb Salad and telling me about school. We spent the last half-hour playing NinjUNO, a game we had invented on one of our weekly sibling dates. It involved a deck of UNO cards, spoons, lightning quick reflexes and screaming in Japanese accents. He laughed now at one of my anecdotes, chewing on grilled chicken. As we walked out to our cars, he put an arm around my shoulders. “How are you?” he asked. “I’m good,” I told him. And it was true.

57


prose

English 3010 Brian Anderson The other students filed into the classroom. Some of them seemed to know each other, but I’d never seen any of them before. I had already missed the first week of class in a failed attempt to invent a never-ending Christmas break. On this day, however, I had been one of the first to find my way into the classroom, so I watched as they took their seats. I was sitting where the front row of desks shoul have been, but the room was overcrowded with maybe a half a dozen desks too many, so some of them bumped up against the teacher’s desk. It wasn’t that there were a lot of desks, just too many for a small room. As students filled seats, I decided to stake my claim on as much legroom as I could. Unfortunately I was too late, and as I tried to push the desks back I felt the desktop of the student behind me in my spine. Other than that, it was a normal classroom. White walls, gray carpet, and a dry-erase board. There was a tall slender window on the right hand wall. The window was part of a study being done in cooperation with the Engineering and Behavioral Science Departments. Engineering had designed an ultra-reflective pane of glass, and was testing to see if a one-foot wide window could cast a glare on every possible surface in the room. Meanwhile Behavioral Science was testing one of Freud’s theories regarding human reaction to an intense, blinding glare. I didn’t believe the experiments were actually taking place at the time, and I’d never put much stock in Freud’s theories until they made me watch the documentary they made on their findings. I could see the exact moment when I snapped and started

58


English 3010

prose

urinating on everything and talking about how hot my mom is. I thought that was a dream—well, either way: Freud 1 Brian 0. A girl with hair cut like a boy’s took her place one seat to my left and one to the front. A chubby fellow with a neck beard and awkwardly faultless posture sat on the back row, one column to my right. His face was motionless, emotionless. His posture, however, contradicted his face, telling me he did have at least one emotion—discomfort. Over by the door, all the way to the left of the classroom, a sandy-haired fellow with a well-trimmed beard took a seat. Everyone seemed to know him. His was the kind of beard I had always wanted to grow, as thick and rich as the fields of Iowa. If I had a beard like that, I’d switch to Pantene in a second. He looked like a professor, only younger. Several more students came in and took their seats, followed by a skinny guy in a black hoodie that concealed all but the edges of his tattoos. He took his seat in the farthest corner of the class. Two or three minutes after class was scheduled to start, in came the teacher. He was skinny, but pleasant looking. His gangly arms and body were covered by a dark eggplant-colored turtleneck. The turtleneck was carefully tucked into his black Levis. He didn’t strike me as the type of guy who enjoyed bloody/calloused feet, and my suspicions were confirmed when I noticed that he was indeed wearing footgear. The Teva sandals he wore told me “That’s right, I work in the Humanities Department, and my other car is a Subaru Outback,” while the black dress socks underneath told me, “I still know how to get business taken care of, and sometimes my feet get cold.” Every part of him told me something—his hands, his posture, haircut; communication seeped from his pores. His mouth was saying something, but I didn’t listen. I was baffled, trying to absorb everything else he was putting off, like the dots and dashes of a hundred telegraphs. He arranged his papers and plugged his laptop into the projector, all while amusing the whole class with a witty story about an altercation between some professor from the business building and the turtleneck. The tone of his voice was light and happy, which when combined with his cynical sentences, produced a pleasantly pessimistic atmosphere that made anything seem like a target. He continued saying something that I didn’t really listen to; I was too busy now watching his hands. He spoke volumes with his hands. I got the feeling that even if he got laryngitis and couldn’t

59


prose

English 3010

talk, he would still come in and effectively teach with only his dots and dashes. I forced my attention on the words his mouth was saying. “So what did you all think of the reading?” “I thought it was really interesting,” said Girl With Boy Hair. “Oh good,” replied the teacher, “but what is interesting? What meaning should interesting convey to the rest of us?” said his mouth. Someone said something back to him, and I heard everybody laugh, but I was confused. He is an English professor. He knows what interesting means. Why would he ask that? Is he trying to teach us something? Is there some archaic meaning of the word that I’m not aware of? Like how in my parents’ generation the word ‘gay’ used to mean something completely different: a homosexual from the seventies. Did she just call him gay? “Good. Great point. Continue,” his hands said, inviting Guy With Handsome Beard to continue the extrapolation he had begun while I was pondering the professor’s interesting hand gestures. Guy With Beard continued, not sparing any expense with the use of air quotes. “So what I got out of the reading is that any definition of which discourse I ‘want to’ belong to cannot be determined by me, but by individuals in the discourse ‘recognition’; then paradoxically, the definitions of the discourse are in turn determined by the individual’s ‘me.’” The professor reacted with a comment, along with several students making comments and/or questions. I paid no attention to them. I couldn’t; my brain had stopped. I understood those words, but not in that order. Who was the individual? How did he use the word “discourse?” Why did he use so many air quotes? I looked over at Guy With Handsome Beard, hoping to hear something clarifying, but all I got was his well-trimmed beard telling me, “My ruggedness is matched only by my sophistication.” The conversation had gone on without me, people making comments, everyone else understanding them; I was called back to the room when the professor started writing something on the dry-erase board. The ink of his marker was the exact same shade of eggplant as his turtleneck. “KEEP IT REAL,” it said on the board. “So what do you all have to say to that?” asked the professor’s mouth.

60


English 3010

prose

Everyone in the room chuckled. I wondered why. I figured that he must have told a joke with his hands while I was looking at the board so I focused in to avoid missing it again. One hand was resting on his hip while the other faced upward as if he were holding an imaginary waitress tray. “Don’t even try to explain what that means; it will only make you look more foolish than you already do. Because as soon as you say something, Girl With Boy Haircut will rhetoric your ass off,” his hands said ironically. I didn’t see the humor or the irony, as the comment was directly applicable to me, but I gave a courtesy chuckle anyway. My mistimed laugh caused some of the students sitting nearest me to notice my existence for the first time, but they were quick to turn back to the existences that mattered. Apparently not everyone was as daunted by the eggplant-colored challenge. “I don’t think that someone can be more real or more fake than another, but only more rhetorical than another,” said the chubby fellow behind me, while his neck beard weakened his argument by adding in, “Are you kidding me? I’m real-ing my ass off down here and he calls me rhetorical. I can’t work like this.” Judging from the looks of things, I guessed that tensions between the chubby fellow and his neck beard had been high for some time. I wonder what the neck beard’s next move will be—its coup de Gillette, if you will. Midway through imagining the chubby fellow being taken over by his beard and enjoying all the teen-wolf-esque adventures that would naturally follow, I heard two words in an order that I could understand. “I agree,” said Girl With Boy Haircut. “It’s like wearing makeup every day. People who do that are putting on a performance every day. They are just filling the discourse that is expected of them.” “Yes. Good point,” said the professor’s hands and eyebrows. “Yeah, but at the same time, by not wearing makeup, a person is just filling a place in the ‘no-makeup-wearing’ discourse. And there is an equal amount of performance there,” said Guy With WellTrimmed Beard. “An equally valid point,” said the professor’s mouth. “Yeah, but in the reading, like, on page forty-four,” Chubby Fellow said, “it says, ‘Think of all the words, symbols, deeds, objects, clothes, and tools you need to coordinate in the right way, at the right time

61


prose

English 3010

and place, to ‘pull off ’ (or recognize someone as) being a cutting-edge particle physicist, or a Los Angeles Latino street-gang member, or a sensitive high-culture humanist.’ Not wearing makeup is a symbol of who someone is. So if you are just true to who you are . . .” He was interrupted by several students ready to refute his thesis. “Who really are you? What you think or what I think?” said someone. “What is real?” asked another. Guy With Well-Trimmed Beard chipped in. “I have so many different aspects of my life, and use language to define each of those. Different discourses all make up forms of one’s self, but when someone is in a specific discourse, they’re not truly ever their complete person.” I couldn’t listen anymore; their words had stopped carrying meaning. They all think they are so smart, I told myself. O, professor, you think you’re so smart because you string a bunch of nonsensical words together. Anybody could do that. Rhetoric is for clever people with too much time on their hands. Anybody could be a rhetorical theorist. I’ll answer your stupid eggplant question: Well, to keep it real, one would have to understand what is real    1. Well, reality is real . . . right? Then we would debate that for about ten minutes. And at this point we would all get lost in a maze of circular logic and Laurence Fishburne’s voice telling a not-so-bright-looking Keanu Reeves that reality is a construct. If you ask me, Keanu’s first tip-off that reality isn’t real should have been when he was cast in any movie besides Bill and Ted, or when he realized his name is Keanu. The name’s obviously made up, unless he’s of Japanese descent. Keanu might be Japanese, or Elfish. Yeah, he might have some Elf blood in him. Anyway, back to business. I grew up in farm country. But I was convinced that I wasn’t a cowboy or a hick—so I wasn’t. All my friends and I were sports jocks. We wore sport clothes; we used sport phrases like ‘take it to the hoop,’ and did sport activities. Now I have moved here to a college town, but I am still a sport jock and not a cowboy. I was, however, given a cowboy hat as a gift, so I bought some wranglers and boots at a thrift store. I’ve worn them occasionally, around campus, to the computer One would also have to understand what “it” is. In my experience, at least 80% of the time “it” refers to sex or a penis . . . so I’ll just assume. 1

62


English 3010

prose

lab and such. To everyone who has had no prior experience with me, when they see me in my hat, I am a cowboy. So unless my logic is in error, real is just the clothes you wear. This equation will help explain: if R= reality and C= cowboy hats, and M= me, then M+C=R. Me plus my cowboy hat equals the reality people see. Also, through simple algebraic procedures we can see that R-M=C, or in laymen’s terms, reality, without me, would be nothing more than cowboy hats: it’s a mathematical fact. So unless I miss my guess, keeping “it” real can be accomplished through a miniature, penis-sized cowboy hat of some kind. . . . You like that? How does it feel when the making-shit-up-shoe is on the other foot? My internal tirade had lasted longer than I thought; the discussion seemed to have progressed quite a bit and left me even further behind. Luckily, one thing I had learned is that rhetoric is the art of circling, so I just figured I would jump back on the next time it came around. Knowing I wouldn’t understand what they were talking about, I didn’t make any particular attempt to understand what was said. I simply watched the discussion. Girl With Boy Haircut seemed to be winning. “For example,” she said, “if one is not in the ‘makeup-wearing’ discourse, then they are in the ‘non-makeup-wearing’ discourse; either way a person is not able to exist in society without being a part of a discourse.” Her haircut strengthened her argument all the while with simple nods of affirmation. Skinny Guy With Black Hoodie And Tattoos had been just sitting and listening most of the hour. Not saying anything. I figured him for a guy like me, half-amazed at how much smarter everyone else was than he, half-sure they were all faking it through the use of words like “discourse community” and “reality” (when used with air quotes). He too had been waiting for the discussion to circle around, but while I was waiting to try to grab a hold and hang on, he was waiting to pounce with the force of a hundred tornadoes, to wrestle it to the ground and scream with all the might of his index and middle fingers: “REALITY!” Finally he made his move. “So what I understand is that belonging to a discourse makes one not real. And since no one can operate in society without operating in a discourse, it is impossible to keep it real,” he said.

63


prose

English 3010

Guy With Well-Trimmed Beard tried to interject something, but Guy With Tattoos would not be interrupted. “Keeping it real in every situation of life is not possible because reality is dependent on any present goal. To achieve anything, you have to join a discourse. In addition, not achieving anything is a discourse. Therefore, any degree of existence, intentional or inadvertent, creates an association with a discourse.” “Great job. Girl With Boy Hair and Boy With Tattoos both win today,” said the professor’s hands, while his mouth told us, “Alright, we are almost out of time. Does anybody have any more questions or comments? Does everyone understand? You looked like you had a comment a minute ago,” he said, directing the last part at me. “Nope,” I said. “Alright, see you all on Thursday.”

64


Poetry


poetry

In Splinters the Jawbone’s Daughter Eric Paul Lyman [who says] I am all stories. All hands bloodguilty, I am beasts who preach in new-fallen ashes. Billowing, coiling, like blood in water. All hands, I am stolen lives. [perhaps that informs or responds to this] No history devours like ours does— we have no pale beasts or chestbones to hide, no prophecy to denounce. Here we swallow the wind’s teeth. [although it reveals nothing more than what follows] Leave my tongues and my talons no children, no tinder, no crowds on the staircase, barking motor oil and boneshard into monogrammed linen, teeth rattling, Our windows are beaten by wings from within. This house, a heaviness fills it. [still] Eyes fall blackened, hollow wearing bloodless skin. Pale beasts

69


poetry

swallow our prayers, whisper, A tongue for the broken daughters. [this is all mysterious despite these] Clipped wings, charred hooves. With rusted tongue soon I shall pray you please hide or take my hand.

70


poetry

Track Saara Amelia England He likes the rational: mineral, summit, water, dark chocolate, bone. I like his red bicycle—but I shorten sentences for him: replace adverbs and gloss with stern nouns. He lives a phoenix metaphor, opens his pores to remove toxins. Dislikes deconstruction, meandering, slippage. Could leave me in ashes, words cut—learning how to streamline, peeling off skin to show him bone.

71


poetry

Declining Tamara Stanton The front door caught the wind’s high tide an inhale of excessive air There was the jarring gravel’s grind The mourning of an apparition’s hand I heard the numbing, unlayering of the Fiat’s frosted shield, the witness of unveiling Saw the thump of bags enfold the cavernous walls, the United tags still staring Smelled the piston’s click, the cranky catch to shift, The brake’s sharp snap below the mirror’s small stare I witnessed the roiling waves of lessened leaves, The sycamore’s arms shocked and bare Gave the tremored gates their latch, then gathered the porch’s redundant lanterns

72


poetry

Break Alicia VanNoy Call What the hell are you doing? he asks— and she looks up at him, not really remembering who he is— cross-legged on the floor scissors in her hand surrounded by mutilated photographic pieces of herself eyes mouths expressionless heads— macabre snowflakes scattered— she gives him an abstracted smile sees his eyes go wide wishes vaguely she could recall what this means— What happened? he asks— she has trouble grasping the scissors but she doesn’t know why— they seem slippery in her red hands— What do you mean? she replies— I’m just looking for my face.

73


poetry

Daniel (Said the Wolves) Eric Paul Lyman Silvia slipped. Her skull struck the ice and cracked open the lake. We fell through and sank to the lakebed. I knelt beside her sprawling body—silt, hair, blood churning around her head. Wolves came. Circling, fur rippling in the currents, claws raising black clouds of sediment, the wolves gnawed words. All jaws and teeth, those words: Daniel. Go. I tasted her blood, cold in that water, and couldn’t see her face. Go. I swam to the surface. The wolves didn’t.

74


poetry

Last July Candice Keller I want— ed it to move. Quick, loud, harsh. Bursting at the top and falling, forgotten. The next shooter steps up. Light a match and heat dispels. Smoke surrounding ‘said’ parties. Fakes. Spry springing bolts— Shove. I want— ed him to budge. Momentous shifts kept life moving. Wake up, show up, Step up. Flourish. Watch your moves as reflections in glass dance the dance. Music halts. Breaking down at 2 a.m.

75


poetry

Prism Brandon Hunt The sun lingers until it fills the corners of the sandbox. I slide my hands under grainy skin and touch colors that remind me of water from a nameless mountain, or the touch of fire across the sky. Crayon shades revive the tender clasp of hands, or the play of light on hair. So, how do I keep color from running to Montana, where the sky is so big that stars have room to spare?

76


poetry

September Nightfall in the Wasatch Brock Jones Diluted sunlight slowly ascends ragged limestone and granite scarps; below, pine and fir trees gather day’s fading remains between layers of shadow and needle, hoarding light in marrow of splintered bones that ache with forecast of changing weather, stockpiling alpenglow for night when memory of warmth becomes myth, and forests of wooden hearts ice over, quivering with frostbite of mid-winter.

77


poetry

Hang-Ups Alicia VanNoy Call I tell him I like walking in the rain, especially when it’s cold. It feels good . . . or maybe, I mean that it’s good to feel anything for once. Rain makes me sneeze, he says, I’m scared that if I sneeze and forget to close my eyes, they’ll fall out. I realize he’s serious and I laugh, but I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the image: Him clapping his hands over his eye-sockets one second too late, reaching out, groping blindly across the wet sidewalk. Dammit! I imagine him saying, Not again!

78


poetry

I’m not depressed, he says, I’m just not happy. Which makes me wonder what he’s like when he is . . . happy, I mean.

79


poetry

After Samhain Marie Knowlton The wheel turns, beginning And ending. Transmuted circles, Sketched in flaming sky and fertile earth, Speak of promise gone to seed in ageless synchrony. November’s spare sepia, Clean and cold, Cracks memory’s frosty edges Still tangy with smoke and summer. Frayed passion, brown and dusty, Breathes winter in upon me; Autumn’s spent ends dissolve— Reluctant, pausing— And in rain-scrubbed silence

80


poetry

Drum faint lush echoes of harvest gone. Wine-dark mystery, thrumming, pounding, Entwines me in incense and hazy stars. I wake, clutching fragrant memory, In chaste and solitary dawn. The wheel turns, ending And beginning.

81


poetry

Contrastive Conceptions Jorgen Hansen A darkness stretches from ubiquity— leaving the world to fend for itself, we walk blind—spines to moonlight, pondering stars which evaporate— experiencing life miasmically, choking on metaphors—symbols, synesthetic voices that whisper in code, forms of unconscious communication, where we begin emblematically and perish contemplatively— when you blink, I will die, only to rejuvenate anew within the notion of a poet: verbs washing over nouns, dreams melting into idioms.

82


poetry

Wyoming Roadtrip Brock Jones Towns rise, leaning in the high yellow grass— scarred and faded pianos dropped from wagons to lighten a load. Moonlight races over railroad tracks polished by a century of friction— frantic rush of Pronghorn down a wire fenceline.

83


poetry

Shore Eric Paul Lyman Bird bones and black oil rising from dry-lakebed sand tell us nothing you didn’t know, nothing I will ever understand. So we bury our shoes and leave the shore to wade the red saltwater no one ever sinks in, water even mountains float on.

84


Art


art

5 Leslie Williams

89


art

Carousel Kelsie Monsen

90


art

West Mtn. Pit Robert Steffen

91


art

There Is an Odd Feeling Inside My Skull Kameron Kiggins

92


art

Tri David Jones

93


art

God in Bermuda David R. Iba

94


art

Stasis Twins Patric Bates

95


art

Structure 1 Adam Christensen

96


art

Move David Jones

97


art

Typographic Self-Portrait Trevor Williams

98


art

A Sea of Courage David R. Iba

99


art

Monkey Boy Joshua Storer

100


art

Pipes David Jones

101


art

Stranger Paige Hamblin

102


art

The Mall David R. Iba

103


art

Capt. R.J. Fever and the Fish Patric Bates

104


art

Santa Monica Pier Kelsie Monsen

105


art

The Bombers Kameron Kiggins

106


Prose Awards

Adam Blackwell, Judge I appreciate the opportunity I had to read these six fiction and creative nonfiction pieces. I enjoyed all of them and found things worthy of praise and emulation (the best writers are the best thieves, I’ve often thought) in each of them. These writers all appeared to have a sharp eye for the kind of descriptive detail that not only describes but also grounds the reader emotionally in a scene. But the thing that impressed me the most about this collection of stories, more than any eloquent descriptions or humorous lines, was the commitment shown in all of them to doing something distinctive. These were not stories without ideas whose only purpose was to recreate the ambience of a couple of students talking in the Union building. They each attempted something greater, and I appreciated the attempt and the willingness to risk going beyond the confines of what was safe and immune to criticism and even mockery. The winners were those in which this commitment was evident and which drew me in from start to finish.

First place: Gail by Andy Sherwin I awarded first place to “Gail” in part because I found it instantly compelling on subject matter (drinks) in which I have neither expertise nor interest. But the bigger reason was that it effortlessly combined (or rather the effect was effortless, I’ve written enough to know the process would have been anything but) intriguing characters, interesting situations, and a subtle epiphany by the narrator who makes the kind of compassionate choice he will surely not regret. I suspect that if the author were willing to send the story out to a number of literary journals, they would find another venue for publication.

Second place: Everybody Loves Me by Alma Para “Everybody Loves Me” is the story I gave second place to. It was a tight, often understated, and ultimately very sad story of a girl’s coming to terms with the faults and blindness of authority figures in


her life, particularly her father. It contains one of the most haunting descriptions in all the stories—that of the “sound of leather sliding against denim.”

Third place: Subject Twenty-Six I gave third place to “Subject Twenty-Six” because it attempted something so grand and was frequently compelling doing it. Although I doubt I’m a fan of whatever genre this story would most comfortably fit into, I found myself drawn in and increasingly both intrigued and appalled at what I was witnessing. Horror was certainly present in large amounts, but so was an intellectually interesting meditation on the nature of morality and free will. I actually think this might work better as a no-holds-barred piece of Artaudian theatre, but that’s another issue.

Judge Biography Adam Blackwell has a BA in social anthropology from Cambridge University and a PhD in English from the University of Utah. He has taught in universities as far east as Ashgabat State University in Turkmenistan and as far west as Utah. He now works for an educational publishing company, with particular responsibilities for the K-12 general reference and literature products. He freelances as a writer of documentaries for PBS.


Poetry Awards

Rebecca Lindenberg, Judge First place: In Splinters the Jawbone’s Daughter by Eric Paul Lyman This is an ambitious poem that rings with an authenticity of voice rare in young poets and a pleasure to encounter. It is no small feat to write a line like “No history devours like ours does—” without slipping into the didactic, without posturing. But the startling lines that follow, “we have no pale beasts or chestbones/ to hide, no prophecy to denounce./ Here we swallow the wind’s teeth” enlarge and complicate the initial line so it becomes not a statement but an admission. In this way, as the poem progresses, it opens. This poem takes instruction from the felt and observed, notices “billowing, coiling/ like blood in water,” rendering the image not merely visible, but visceral. And the music of the poem’s repetitions in “I am all stories . . . I am beasts . . . All hands, I am stolen lives” compels the reader forward, giving the poem movement, associative direction. And the unpredictable movement through the poem, rendered swift by a deft and sure writer, leads us finally to the end, “soon I shall pray you please hide/ or take my hand,” which reminds us of what we have been discovering all alone—that this is a young poet who understands better than most that the true unit of meaning in a poem is the line. Understanding what you should put on a line together and where you should break or end the line is a difficult and intuitive accomplishment. Furthermore, this poem reveals to me what I want all poems to reveal— how language can slip and thus open new and multiple possibilities for meaning, how the fragment can show us that all things are fragmentary and so, all fragments their own discrete (w)holes. And finally, good poems should make a kind of magic, they should move us without our entirely knowing why or how, certainly without our needing to understand more. As the poem itself declares, “[this is all/ mysterious despite these]” and without a doubt this is a poem that invites us into that mystery, a poem whose “windows are beaten by wings from within.” Startling, lush, coherent and sophisticated, it is a pleasure to introduce Eric Paul Lyman’s poem as the winner of this contest.


Second place: Hang-Ups by Alicia VanNoy Call This poet understands something that most of us forget, if indeed we ever realize—the language of conversation is a poetic language. In “Hang-Ups,” a title suggesting both (equally idiomatic) senses of psychological issues and interruptions of a conversation, Alicia VanNoy Call reminds her readers what is poetic, even astonishing, about an everyday occasion. A simple walk in the rain is transformed by this poet’s original attention. The incident described is weird and funny, and finally the poem helps us to see that compassion is a creative enterprise, empathy the finest end to which our imaginations can lead us, but only if we allow ourselves to be transported by the real, to take refuge in the actual. This poem also exemplifies what can be accomplished with intimate address to the reader. As it is written, this poem has an immense personal charm that reaches out and invites us into the present moment of the poem—it does not record, report, or document, it simply observes and so we, the readers, are not told at a remove what is going on—it is happening to us, too. Playfully brave and poetically intelligent, “Hang-Ups” is the work of an enormously promising writer.

Third place: Everybody Loves Me by Alma Para I so love to encounter a poet who has a sense for the material and texture of words. In this poem, Amelia England gives us plenty of evidence that she is just such a poet. And it is so very, very difficult to write from a place in which the sounds together of “summit, water, dark/ chocolate, bone” are shown to us without fetishizing the language, without neglecting the essential fact that language ultimately means. But this poem, like Alicia VanNoy Call’s, is engaged in the activity of understanding—the self, another person, how they intersect, how the world intersects them. Stylish, substantial, sometimes truly elegant, this poem (by a clearly talented writer) was a joy to read.


Judge Biography Rebecca Lindenberg currently holds a Fellowship from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC). Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, POOL, Barrow Street, Western Humanities Review, and elsewhere, and she is the recipient of a generous Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers Conference, among other honors and awards. She is currently finishing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Utah.


Art Awards

Katherine England, Judge Let me first thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this fabulous venue. I am fortunate to work with artists of all ages, many for whom college life is a distant memory. So, I am pleased to focus on what college-age artists are currently producing. When I first received the images as e-mail attachments, they were small files and I carefully looked at each one. Especially drawn to the use of shapes and lines, I chose a few I liked in particular. Later I was sent larger, higher resolution files and, after seeing the artwork in greater detail, I found myself moved by a different group of artwork. I also shared the images with several of my older students and we had great conversations as to why we were drawn to certain works. Art appreciation is mostly subjective. This hard truth may seem unfair, yet it also keeps us from sticking to a formula and gives us license and freedom to wander into risky or unexpected territory. Per judge’s request, all awarded pieces tied for first place.

(Tied) First place: Monkey Boy by Joshua Storer Since I am a mosaic artist, I drill my students on the primary importance of line and color. Not surprisingly, I found myself choosing three pieces equally, reflecting this mantra, beginning with “Monkey Boy.” I am attracted to the simple idea of the work, the artist’s use of intricate pen lines, and the human-like ease with which the gorilla appears to contemplate something outside our view.

(Tied) First place: Typographic Self-Portrait by Trevor Williams I am also delighted with “Typographic Self-Portrait.” This year I have challenged myself to use words and tie them into the images of my mosaic art pieces. This piece does this so delightfully and seems perfectly suited for a literary journal. The artist manages to merge these two creative worlds--visual and literary--on many different levels.


(Tied) First place: Capt. R.J. Fever and the Fish by Patric Bates “Capt. R.J. Fever and the Fish” tickled me mostly because I can imagine how much fun it must have been to create this piece. Each sea creature is its own world of pattern and rhythm. Since it is whimsical and playful some might say that would disqualify it as “fine art.” To me a work of art meets the definition of art when it challenges us or alters our perception in some way or another, even if it just brings a smile. Each of these three pieces accomplished this in different ways, and I was the better for having spent time with them.

Honorable Mention: West Mtn. Pit by Robert Steffen Finally, I noticed my three picks for best pieces all happen to be black and white. However, I could not let this fourth and last one go unmentioned. I kept returning to “West Mountain,” which I am giving Honorable Mention, because it had the most haunting colors. Even in a small format it is strikingly beautiful and stands out from the other works; seen in full size, the image is entirely compelling.

Judge Biography Katherine England is a muralist as well as an art teacher at the Muckenthaler Museum and several local schools and adult programs in Orange County. Though born in Hawaii she was lucky to be raised a child of the 1960s near San Francisco. The colors and movement in art during this decade profoundly influenced her as a youth and show up as such in her art. Her favorite medium right now is glass and she loves breaking, nipping, melting and coaxing it into playful patterns and whimsical figures. Her largest mosaic piece is 40’ by 8’ but also enjoys playing with tinier pieces such as these smaller insects. She lives with her four amazing and beautiful kids in Fullerton, California. A rich sampling of her work is displayed on katherineengland.com.


Contributor Biographies Brian Anderson is a senior studying Creative Writing at UVU. Brian is unusually tall, is a closet cowboy, and has previously been published in Touchstones. For all you know, Patric Bates could have been born in a teacup. Patric spends his days drawing little pictures . . .  Alicia VanNoy Call is an illustration student at UVU. She lives in Provo with her husband Tyler and his cat Kiko. We have worked very hard to include both Ns in her name each time she appears in this issue. Loran Cook is a writer and has been waiting to be done with school for over two years. Good luck to you, Loran. That M.A. at U.C. Hellmouth awaits you . . . Adam Christensen is a Painting major at UVU. His work has been in multiple shows at the Woodbury Museum and the Springville Museum of Art. Saara Amelia England is an English major and would like to bike through Russia one day. Someone on the editorial staff knows that she has prepared for this by walking through several cities in Brazil. Her track bike is blue. Paige Hamblin wants more people to become aware of the dolphin slaughter in Japan. Jorgen Hansen has slept with himself ever since he was born! This may be why he became a philosophy major. Brandon Hunt is a student at UVU. When not at work or school, he’s hanging out with his dog, Dodger. His hope is to become a writer and poet. David R. Iba was the photo editor at the UVU Review last year and is now the editor-at-large. He is a senior in the English program. We want him to diplomatically resolve the problems in Afghanistan. Brock Jones is a senior (finally!) at UVU. He recently returned from Iraq and is glad to be back in school, finishing a BA in English.


David Jones is a Graphic Arts major graduating with a BFA in Graphic Design. He spans many media in his artwork. Candice Keller is a student at UVU, currently working toward a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Kameron Kiggins is an Academic Studies major. Marie Knowlton is a student at UVU, majoring in Creative Writing. She does community theatre with Springville Playhouse and has previously been published in Touchtones. Eric Paul Lyman is still an English major. At times he designs and edits for Irreantum, Touchstones and Warp and Weave. His poems and art have previously appeared in Touchstones. Kyle Reinhard is a freshman, has never been published and has no such expectations for the future. He likes to think of himself as “en vogue,” despite not speaking French or being particularly familiar with the term. Perhaps he means “in Vogue Magazine.” Or maybe not. Andy Sherwin is a regular contributor to the UVU Review, knows his gin but very little about good wines, and can be found online at getoutfromunderit.blogspot.com. Tamara Stanton is a senior (both in class standing and age, which is why we respect her). She will graduate in Spring 2010 with a double Bachelor’s Degree in History and English. Robert Steffen—a filmmaker, photographer and playwright—is a senior at UVU. He has high aspirations for fading into a gentle obscurity. Leslie Williams is finishing an AAS in Graphic Design to be followed by a BS in Art and a Master’s in Art Therapy. She has displayed her works in the Springville Art Museum’s Spring Salon and often ignores art advice from her husband and children. Trevor Williams is working for a BFA in Graphic Design at UVU. Other interests are Illustration and Motion Graphics. Catch his cover design on the Touchstones Spring 2009 issue.


Contributors

Art

Poetry

Loran Cook Andy Sherwin Kyle Reinhard Alma Para Brian Anderson Alicia Vanoy Call

Leslie Williams David R. Iba Kelsie Monsen Joshua Storer David Jones Patric Bates Paige Hamblin Adam Christensen Kameron Kiggins Trevor Williams Robert Steffen

Alicia VanNoy Call Marie Knowlton Jorgen Hansen Brock Jones Brandon Hunt Candice Keller Saara Amelia England Tamara Stanton Eric Paul Lyman

Fall ’09

Prose

Fall 2009 Volume 13

Fall 09, Volume 13 Number 1  

Fall 09, Volume 13 Number 1

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you