Windfall Vol. XXXIII 2010 Campus Journal of Poetry, Prose, and Art Truman State University
such sudden fortune: windâ€™s gift of crisp, ripened fruit fallen at our feet -founders, 16
Dear Reader, It brings me great pleasure to present you the XXXIII edition of Windfall magazine. Through hours of dedication and time spent evaluating the large volume of submissions, the dedicated staff has put together a magazine we are truly proud of. We continued to reach out to the Truman community, encouraging students to utilize Windfall as an avenue to showcase their talents and interests in publishing. I would like to take a moment to thank a number of individuals that have made this endeavor possible. First and foremost, I would like to thank the faculty and staff of the English department. The professors serve as an integral part of shaping the creative minds, offering advice, and showcasing their talents during our Windfall Faculty Reading this spring. I most importantly must thank Dr. Woodcox, who assumed the role of Dean of the English Department this year and continued unwavering support of the magazine. A special thank you to our faculty advisor, Dr. James Dâ€™Agostino, his passion and dedication for the magazine is apparent in its growth and development over the past three years into a magazine worth recognition. I must also extend my gratitude and appreciation to my dedicated staff that has spent countless hours evaluating pieces, designing the magazine, and promoting Windfall. Most importantly I must thank my managing editor, Daniel Robacweski for ensuring the smooth running of the magazine as a whole. The design staff, Laura Wellington and Liz Zerkel, has continued to further develop an impressive design and final product; without their dedication this magazine would not have made huge strides in the improvement of the design. Lastly, I would like to thank the submitters and you, the reader. Without your support, Windfall would not exist. For the submitters, I would like to thank you specifically for supplying us with a large variety and volume of quality pieces from which to choose. We are honored to present the work of the artists featured within these pages. Sincerely, Jessica Kline Editor-in-chief
Liz Zerkel Laura Wellington
Cassie Kling Natalie Fleming
Literature Marketing Director
Art Marketing Director
Katy Heubel Lindsay Treat
Art Editor Photography Editor
Valerie Lazalier Charli Anderson
Prose Editor Assistant Prose Editor
Jared Cline Amy Reynolds
Dr. James Dâ€™Agostino
Dan Warner Alyssa Bollinger Regina Goines Karin Li Daniel West Robert Williamson
Contents Katibeth Lee Krista Goodman
Front Cover Back Cover
Jamie Bentley Laura Wellington Rachelle Wales Jamie Bentley Laurie Joe Mattson Zeeshan Reshemwala Lauren O’Keefe Dan Warner Rob Darrin Dan Warner Wendy Batson Dan Robaczewski Terrianne Ward Emi Griess Zeeshan Reshemwala Hope Schaeffer Benjamin Winter Ashley Kleinsorge Terrianne Ward Hope Schaeffer Laura Wellington Lauren Greenspan Katy Heubel Claire Bowman Rob Darrin Emi Griess Peter Johnson Allison Stagner Rob Darrin Amy Reynolds Hope Schaeffer
6 8 12 24 26 2 5 6 8 4 5 60 64 65 0 1 2 5 80 82 8 84 8 1 2 4 6
Four AM Undying Love Venetian Rain Rain Night A Quill and a Book The Intoxication I Live For Waking Up From A Dream I Could Not Sleep In A Mirror Badlands Time For Banana Bread Spring in Focus On the Looks from People at a Funeral Lost Tamerlane Hanabi Perkins Strange What They Don’t Tell Us Endymion and Selene Wonderland Waiting to Rise The Box Sea Starting the Car in Snow Uncertainty For a Blue Barista of the Front Porch I wrecked the ship myself in an arid month A Match Discarded Looking Down Almost
Amanda Hamilton Sarah Pollack Amanda Hamilton Nick Wilsey Shellie Kreter Timothy Schlee Timothy Schlee Charli Anderson Amy Reynolds
Prose 10 15 2 41 52 62 66 8 88
Always the Moon Waiting For the Fall The Empty Heart Firewall Weight The Church Almaty A Man Was Walking Down the Street In-Betweens
Art and Photography Hope Schaeffer Krista Goodman Bo Burasco Claudia Convers Rachel Brown Laura Wellington Bo Burasco Laura Wellington Peter Johnson Ruby Jenkins Krista Goodman Laura Wellington Laura Wellington Katibeth Lee Krista Goodman Casey Henderson Laura Wellington Bo Burasco Casey Henderson
1 14 25 4 40 46 4 50 51 61 68 6 4 81 85 86 8
Untitled Default Future Untitled Self Portrait This Is And He Gave The Moon Her Light Untitled Alice Bay Gull The Arno and some rowers transcendencetranscedency On the Corner of Michigan and Monroe Missy Untitled Untitled Untitled Splat Goes the Weasel Untitled Untitled
our AM Jamie Bentley
A grunt as your gut is struck by a cannonball your breath knocked from your lungs bruising ribs insuring you wonâ€™t sleep again that night as it sits, rumbling on your chest so much trouble from a four pound cat
ndying Love Laura Wellington
They think we cry out for brains. But we are not scarecrows tripping gaily Down a putrid brick road. Instead, we yearn for a heart â€“ we organic Tin Men That hate her yapping dog and love her Delicious, throbbing love organ that stutters in our hands And in our mouths as we gorge ourselves On her sweet, ruby red affection.
enetian Rain Rachelle Wales
A movie led by music, not mouths Backdropped by a watercolor wash Of Payne’s grey and aquamarine A flourish of violet streaking against the sunlight The buildings of Venice crumble, Crystallize across the bay Bleached, fading under the strain of the distance A prismatic tower stretches on tip-toe, pointing skyward beyond the clouds A harbinger of hope Slender sticks mark the edges of the docks Sentinels of a silent sea A sign (Down Left) offers the Servizio Gondolë The perfect place to stand the cliché character couple (Just off Center Stage) All eyes drawn to their protection against the last drops of rain That coat the cobblestones in a thin slime. The bright arc of picnic table stretches over their heads, The lady with the faux fur coat of Arctic hares giggles, (Standing ½ right) Tips forward on trembling heels, Presses her hand on the man’s chest (Standing ½ left) To keep from falling. He catches her by the elbows, Doesn’t let her go. They share the white and red-orange stripes; It fastens them in place as their lips meet, slip and smolder Until it’s not raining anymore They see only sunlight in each other’s eyes. Another man in midnight silhouette (Up Left)
A rippling reflection of the one holding the beautiful woman With the taut skirt, the dark waves of hair pulled back from her face The tiny lights glittering from her ears The men— Both wearing long black coats and stiff collars Shiny shoes and jauntily tipped hats But the man on the left holds no one Only the tired black umbrella in his left hand Staring out at the sea, waiting for a lover That will not return She left long ago on a yellow gondola With flashing headlights that showed the Exact shape of the rain And seats stained with the acrid scent Of stale cigarette smoke and the dark, husky Laughter of another man. Twilight—only a brief expression of subdued hues Sweeping across the face of the Italian town— Across the Piazzo San Marco; Tones that settle with weary resignation on the face of the man With the black umbrella Even the shadows resting on his frame appear stretched, thinned to threads. The rain ceases to fall for him. No vibrant shield for him to hold Against the rigors of the world; He is alone. Save for a storm of pigeons (Scattered Down Center) Swirling around him Soiled bodies of soot and sludge Made beautiful By the grace of their flight.
lways the Moon Amanda Hamilton
The moon is beautiful tonight. I wish you could see it. Funny, how even after all that’s happened, it can still seem so gorgeous. I know I should hate it; everyone else does. I just can’t. They say we only have a couple of weeks left. I’m glad. I’ve gotten over the panic and helplessness that seems to have consumed everyone else; now I’m just curious. They say we’ll only be alive for a while, once the moon and Earth collide. They say the force of the impact alone will destroy almost every living thing within the first hour, and that the rest will be wiped clean within the day. They say there is nothing we can do. They say. More and more people have been taking their own lives every day. I don’t blame them. It’s seemed like a good idea at times to me as well. When gravity ceased to exist, many people began to simply let go. They call it levitation. All people have to do is release their grip on the ground below and they float up into the sky like balloons. I’ve heard that the effect is like carbon monoxide poisoning, except that the wonderful experience of flying is the last conscious sensation. They fly up until the air gets so thin that they drift off to sleep. I hope that’s true. I can’t stand the thought that you might have suffered. It took a while to get used to having my bed on the ceiling. It was scary for a while, knowing that the only thing stopping me from floating up into oblivion was that thin layer of plaster and cement. But I can see the moon so well from here, through the big glass skylight. It’s enormous by now, larger every day as it approaches; a huge, translucent globe of pearl almost swallowing up the inky sky beyond. I like to lie on my stomach and hang my head off the side of my bed. That way, I can see the shadows of the mountains and craters on the surface, gray against the chalky white flatlands. There is no day anymore, only the moon.You always loved the night better, anyway. The tides were getting too high, that was the first sign. They went on for months about possible explanations and dangers but nobody listened
very seriously. The oceans were engulfing land all over the world and it was getting colder every day. The sun was dying and nobody cared. And then that night came when the world took you away. I remember it too well. I saved myself and not you. I grabbed the handrail on the stairs outside your house but you weren’t fast enough.You floated up with millions of others, filling the sky, helpless. I saw you over my shoulder against the moon, arms and legs outstretched and uncontrolled. You got smaller and smaller amongst all those people and cars and things until you blended in with the crowd. Soon I couldn’t tell the difference between you or any of the others and the thousands of scattered stars behind you. Then you disappeared into the night and all that was left were those tiny spots of bright light left behind. That was the first week the sun began to stop rising. The Earth stopped turning as the sun’s pull grew weaker and weaker. The night stretched on and on. I stopped going to work that week. Everybody did. We all knew the world wouldn’t be around much longer, so what was the point? And what is the point now? All I have to look forward to is a slow, inevitable end to this existence. I will watch as that gargantuan orb nears ever closer to our surface, hour after hour, day after day, until it eventually meets our surface. That kiss of death will destroy everything and we can’t do a thing about it.Yet, I cannot let go just yet. I can’t decide if it’s curiosity or cowardice—perhaps both—but something keeps me here, staring up at the inky black of space, waiting. You’ve been gone a month now and I miss you every day. I will meet you again soon. Until then, there’s always the moon.
ain Jamie Bentley
Silver rain streaking down into a Puddle of light beneath the street lamp Asphalt glistens, golden sparks Pool of warmth in the cold rain An unexpected beauty best enjoyed From a safe, warm, dry distance.
ntitled Hope Schaeffer
efault Future Krista Goodman
aiting For The Fall
Clair and I shared matching Salem-scented childhoods. The rough and tumble, indestructible middle children of blue collar Catholics. Our mothers are sisters. Both married young and started popping out puppies in synchronicity, never pregnant more than a year apart. Growing up three blocks from each other, we were all of us thick as thieves. Fourteen half Irish, half German mongrels running amuck in our tight-knit city neighborhood. We were referred to collectively as neither the Wagners nor the Schmidts, but the Ryan kids -our mothers’ maiden name. Of all of us, Clair and I were the closest. Attached at the hip, inseparable. In those early years we failed to notice our difference in gender. As we got older we simply failed to acknowledge it. Girls were gross, but Clair wasn’t really a girl. Not to me. And I wasn’t really a boy. Not to her. In that way we were able to remain best friends even through our gangly, awkward adolescence. Between us there was a bond that was unexplainable and unconditional. We were more than cousins. In my recollection, childhood was a mashed-up never-ending family reunion. All those boring days spent alone have fallen through the gaps of my memory while the rest has melded together.Years lived from moment to moment, party to party. Casseroles and fruit salad, potato chips and the infamous Pink Stuff. Cans upon cans upon cans of soda. In my recollection, the Superbowl came about once a month and nearly every night was a sleepover. On one of those nights, when we were maybe seven or eight respectively, we formed a club and unearthed family secrets. It was midnight. We’d built a beige and blue fort in my basement out of sofa cushions and towels. Across the door flap Clair had hung a looseleaf sign with the words “Green eye club, Stay out!” in her shaky little kid handwriting. I remember we tried to stay up the whole night. Neither of us did but in the morning we lied to the others, bragging. It was our secret. One of many. That night (with the use of our shaky little kid logic) we came to the realization that we weren’t, in fact, cousins. We must have been siblings, brother and sister twins separated at birth so our moms would each
have seven kids. All evidence contrary to this conclusion was ignored or overlooked. We kept our discovery secret, sparing our younger brothers and sisters any grief.Years later we still talk of that night, the night we created the Green Eye Club and decided we were siblings. That mourning when my aunt came to pick up her flock, Clair refused to leave. She clung to my mothers leg, crying, calling her momma. We always threw fits when it was time to go home, but that one always stuck out to me. The panic in her voice was so sincere. Here, at this moment, we are twenty and twenty one. Her clothes are folded and packed in a large Rubbermaid tub beside her. Blue with white handles. Everything else has been moved out, now she’s just waiting for Joe to pick her up.Yesterday Clair called me. Out of the blue. She needed a favor, said she didn’t know who else to call. The panic in her voice reminded me of that tantrum so many years ago. It made me answer yes without even asking what she wanted. Now we sit in arm chairs opposite each other. I’m in my uncles seat, she’s in her mothers. Crosslegged, leaned forward, hands rubbing the back of her skinny white neck. Her long red pony tail flopped forward in front of her face. She’s the fourth of seven children, the second to leave home, and the first of any of us -cousins, siblings, aunts, or uncles of any generation- to move in with someone they weren’t married to. We sit there silent, still sweaty from hauling boxes out to her boyfriends Malibu. The word Cohabitation floats thick and ominous in the air, as untouchable and ever present as sound. Clair fishes in the side table drawer. She bums one of her mothers cigarettes, lights it. I imagine our silence is so deep the sizzle of burning paper is audible, blaring loud even. But I can’t really hear it. Today Clair makes family history. Eyebrows will raise and significant glances will be shared this Christmas while her back is turned. The little cousins will overhear stories about cows and free milk. They won’t be told outright, but they’ll learn how she should be treated. Clair knows what her decision means. But I don’t know if I blame her. In the summer when we were five and six, Clair and I decided that lemonade stands, like the one my younger sister and brother had established earlier that week, were passe. Instead we gathered rocks and hunks of cement from around Clair’s’ backyard. We painted them, gave them names and displayed them on a folding table by the street. Our sign was big and colorful, painted cardboard that read “Pet Rocks, $1 each”. Sales were abysmal. Within an hour we’d retired, moved to the tree house in my backyard. We were alone in the dark wooden hut.
Playing with barbies, I’m embarrassed to say. We played until Clair took the game to its usual conclusion. She undressed the dolls, making them hump. Imaginary plastic groins grinding together to the deep groaning sounds she produced. My discomfort always made her giggle. I quit, threw down the doll in my hand and went to shoot hoops with my brothers. I left her alone in the tree house, staring down at us periodically from the window. Ten minutes ago I twisted my back lifting an old plastic milk crate filled with rocks, paint flaking and names forgotten. I saw Clair cross the doorway, walking down the hall with a Rubbermaid container, blue with white handles. Once she’d passed I pocketed one of the stones. It reminded me of Christmas, round and flat with white and red swirls like a peppermint. The front door opened, slammed shut. There was shouting from the foyer. My uncle had come home early. Clair’s move was intended to be secret. Quick and dirty. Now all hell had broken loose as Uncle Paul screamed and Clair cried. Most of it was inaudible, garbled by tears and shouting. I hauled the crate of rocks onto my shoulder and crept down the hall until their voices were clear and I could peek around the corner, watch the mayhem ensue. Joe just stared in horror, mouth agape, as the old man tried to wretch the blue bin from his daughters grasp. Uncle Paul told her to put everything back, told her she couldn’t leave. Clair was hysterical, refusing to release the container of clothes. “No Dad, don’t! Jesus, just let go!” she shouted. He practically growled, yanking the white handles. Clair swallowed loudly, braced herself, and said in a startlingly calm voice,“You can’t stop us. We want to be together. I-I love him.” With that my uncle paused, goatee quivering, utter sadness written in his eyes. Then his face hardened with anger. Uncle Paul gave the tub an extra hard tug. It ripped from Clair’s grasp, but the momentum of the heavy container was more than he’d expected. It flew from his hands, popping open on the linoleum and scattering clothes everywhere. The two of them stared at the mess they’d made. He took a step towards the door, turned pointing at her. “You’re a slut Clair Wagner.You’re a slut and you should be ashamed of yourself.” He left, slamming the door. Clair paused for a beat, dumbfounded and chin quivering. A mirror of her fathers expression just a
moment before. She ran towards the door, opened it, shouted after Uncle Paul who was climbing into his truck. “Dad, please! Daddy, I love you! Please don’t leave! I love you! Just, just don’t leave like this! PLEASE!” Her voice echoed out the door as Uncle Paul fired his ignition, tearing out of the driveway and down the street. She continued to shout long after his car turned and was out of sight. My secret sibling fell to her knees. Weeping. I’m sure I’ll never forget the way his face looked as he drove off, bright red and twisted with anger. A navy blue vein throbbed at his temple. Years ago I drove Clair round and round our neighborhood. We were in high school, still testing our boundaries and finding them far too close to home. She called me. Said she needed to blow off steam, but to me it seemed more like despair than anger. My uncle had chased her boyfriend away. Caught them making out, scared him off with a shotgun. The details weren’t all that clear. Clair’d stopped talking after a few sobbing, gasped sentences. She sat Indian style in my front seat, bawling her eyes out. There was no anger, just sadness. Then, as the needle drifted towards E and the moon appeared round and dim beside the setting sun, a calm acceptance. I stared out the window as Clair tumbled clumsily to sleep. Flitting through my vision for less than a second, two moths danced a single lazy circle around each other before colliding with the windshield. A pair of matching brown/black smears on the dirty glass. Seven minutes ago Clair rose to her feet, shutting the front door. She dried her cheeks on her sleeve, inhaling deeply and swallowing her sadness in a sigh. Her boyfriend crouched to the floor, started folding her clothes. “No,” she said. “I’ll get that. Just take the stuff home and come back for me. Car’s full anyway.” Her voice was steady as if nothing had happened. He kissed her, long and deep, then left. I stepped out of the hall, following him to the car with my box of rocks. Clair stopped me, looked in the milk crate, and smiled. “Oh God, I remember that! Ha! We were so dumb. Just, just throw those out. I don’t want them.”
I did as she said, tossing the whole crate in the outside garbage. When I came back Joe was gone and she was kneeling on the floor, folding laundry. Cheeks dry. Eyes red. I knelt with her, helping in silence. Last year at this time I was in a waiting room at St. Lucy’s, napping in a hard plastic chair. The metal armrests dug into the soft paunch between my hip and ribs. Uncle Paul had had a stroke. Every family member within a hundred mile radius came to wait and be anxious with the Wagners. For hours we sat in that tiny room. Silent. Cellophane Santas grinned mockingly from the windows where they were stuck. At last a doctor came in saying that he was stable. We all breathed a sigh of relief. He said immediate family were welcome to visit with him. When twelve people stood (seven kids, a wife, a sister, his parents, and an older man I’d never seen before but who, by his looks and age, I assumed was Uncle Paul’s brother.), the doctor retracted his statement, saying they’d better go in one or two at a time. Without any discussion Clair and my aunt followed the doctor down the hall. My mother went outside for a smoke and I followed. I stood with her in the sharp winter air. There, on that night, the seeds of doubt were planted. There, on that night, the cornerstone of my life was pried loose and I was left teetering. Waiting for the fall. And to think, it all started with one little question. Why had I never seen my uncle’s brother before? My mother took a last drag off her Salem. She looked at me significantly, deciding something, before dropping the cigarette, crushing it under her boot, and lighting a second. She crouched to pick up the butt and throw it away. “Clair said something to her teacher when she was little. Maybe kindergarten, first grade? Something that led her to believe Uncle Paul was doing things with Clair. Touching her... Inappropriately. The school called social services, it was a whole big fiasco.” I stared aghast at my mother. Seeds were planted. Bricks wretched loose. It’s hard now to explain all the things that went through my mind. What had she said? Was it true? Why was I just hearing about this now? Why, in the name of almighty Jesus, wasn’t this a big deal? My uncle, the man who was practically my father. The man who snuck me a beer on my thirteenth birthday, who taught
me how to fish. The man I’d been praying for, asking God to spare his gentle soul. I just stood there, mouth moving and no words coming out. “Now before you get your undies in a wad, it all blew over. But Uncle Paul’s brother, he was never comfortable around him again. Has a few kids near Clair’s age, just cut Uncle Paul out of their lives and everyone else with him. It’s ridiculous, really. Clair told the cops she was lying. And you know Clair. She’s always lying about everything.” It was true. I remembered she’d invited me to her tenth birthday party years ago. She spun yarns for weeks beforehand about a magician, Franklin the Magnificent, who would be there to entertain everyone and saw her in half for his finale. When the big day finally came there was no magician. No guests, even. Just the Wagners, a few balloons, and a stale Aldi’s sheet cake.Yes. She must have been lying. A simple explanation. It was so much easier to accept that than look closer at the ugly face of the accusation. “Yeah,” I said. “Everything.” A year passed after Uncle Paul’s stroke. The world turned and nothing of interest happened. But my eyes had been opened. It’s amazing the things you notice after twenty years of blindness. I saw the way he said goodbye to his girls on Labor Day. They leaned down to him from the splintered wooden railing of the gazebo we’d rented in Founders Park. He kissed them each on the cheek. Except Clair. He kissed her square on the lips. Mouth closed, no tongue, but lasting just a half second longer than what I could write off as innocent. And the tower of my life shook. But such a small deviation in placement and timing, surely it meant nothing. I told myself this and the tower steadied. I noticed the disdain Uncle Paul showed towards Joe. Always introducing him as “My daughters good-for-nothing boyfriend.” I saw his face when they went out together. It was jealousy. It was bright green greed for her attention. Bright red hatred for the boy who could take her away. The tower of my life shook. But no, I thought. It wasn’t jealousy. He was protective. Angry that his favorite daughter had chosen a Protestant boy. A boy with dark skin and dark eyes. A boy who earned a meager living with a bass guitar. I noticed the preference Uncle Paul showed for Clair. His special girl. His little princess. The look in his eyes when she entered the room. The look in his eyes when she left. Each time the tower shook and steadied. In the year between Uncle Paul’s stroke and today, I’ve seen a hundred things that made me doubt or made me wonder. I saw the devotion
Clair showed to him, the impatience she showed her mother. I saw every sort of dark and ugly and loving and hateful glance shared between the two of them. But all of it I ignored. After today, though... I can’t imagine any other conclusion. And I can’t do a damn thing. Now, at this moment, we are sitting together. I am in Uncle Paul’s seat, she’s in her mothers. She is smoking, I am not. “What am I gonna do?” The question is whispered, but seems blaring loud in our silence. I shrug. What could I say? “Clair, you know if you wanted you could come stay with us for a while. If you wanted. Until you decide what you’re gonna do.” She laughs, snuffs out her cigarette in the stolen restaurant ashtray sitting on the coffee table. “Yeah, well. I got two people fighting over me as it is, what good reason do I have to rock the boat in your household? Why would I do that?” I try to mask my sadness as I give her an earnest look. It was meant to be comforting but prodding. “Why would you do that, Clair?” “Ha! Exactly.” Her face seizes in despair. Her cynicism crumbling. “Oh God! Really, do you think I should go? I have to go! But if I do, who’ll take care of dad? Mom, she’s a real shitty wife, you know? She can’t take care of him.” Something about the statement is askew. I stare down at my hands. There’s a pregnant pause. Clair clears her throat. “I mean, she can’t even cook. Or anything. Oh Jesus, what’s wrong with me!?” Clair sobs, curled up on the recliner. I close the gap between us, kneel in front of the chair, place my arms around her hunched shoulders. We just stay there, holding each other. I cry into my cousin’s hair. She cries into my chest. Kneeling there, holding the
person I love more than anyone else, it feels like we’re melting into each other. Her sorrow and my regret, softening and blending where they touch. There’s a honk from outside. We pull apart. Our sadness, hers black and mine gray, are marbled on the surface. Clair stands, drying her eyes on her sleeve. “Does it look like I’ve been crying?” She asks. “Yeah.” She laughs as I pull a tissue from my pocket, hand it to her. “Tell my dad I love him next time he’s around... We’ll be at the Christmas party.” She nods her head towards the door indicating that Joe was the other half of ‘we’. “You know, it doesn’t need to be like this.” I say. She laughs. Hugs me goodbye. “Yeah, it does. See ya around, brother.” She hoists up her tub of clothes and leaves through the front door. I lock it behind her. His Malibu roars down the street with a screech of tires. The Wagner house is devoid of Wagners. I wander through the familiar rooms where half my childhood was spent, past the oval mirror in the living room. There are two feathery black mascara stains on my chest like moths smeared on a windshield. Clair’s room is now barren and empty. The space once so full of life and memories is clear but for a few bits of rubbish. A torn Weezer poster, old school notebooks, an unwanted sweater trailing from the open closet. Waving goodbye. There is an empty picture frame on the wall, its snapshot removed. But I know it was of Clair and her sisters. They smiled down at the camera, leaning against the gazebo’s splintered wooden railing. I see the faces of my little cousins, stretched and twisted with their earnest grins. I see them in my minds eye and I wonder... But no. It was Clair. Just Clair. Exclusively, passionately, arbitrarily Clair. His special girl, his little princess. Hidden in the darkest corner of our tree house, lurking behind the papery-linen hospital partitions, tucked snugly beside us in each and every makeshift fort: there was a dark figure waiting in the shadows of our matching Salem-scented childhood. Protective in its cruelty.
Unidentifiable in his familiarity. Selflessly, I want to give it all up. To swap my good times for her bad. But I can’t. Clair is an adult now. She’s been an adult for a while. My parents, her uncle, her mother. They all failed. But I can’t shake the feeling we failed. I wonder when I really knew. At St. Lucy’s? Earlier? While we looked the other way and made excuses, Clair grew old. And with that age it became harder and harder to see who was at fault. Who was the victim. Now, at 20, she is hanging her Christmas dress in the closet of a Lutheran bass guitarist. Selfishly, I want to unknow what I know. I want to forget it all. God, I wish I was smarter. I wish I had the answer. With a sigh I pull the peppermint stone from my pocket. Old paint chips off like shedding scales. Underneath I see the gray/black rock. It turns so easily in my hands, cool and rough. I set it on the top shelf of Clair’s closet, shoving it to the far corner with a empty wire hanger. A tiny bit of happiness to keep the shadows company. I want to forget it all. But I can’t.
ight Laurie Joe Mattson
It rose up, leisurely scaling up the night sky, like waves, feeding on the sand, devouring the footprints, like they never happened. The gloom erasing the glow, like the sun had never been. Dissolving the final dregs of light before tipping precariously over the town, into that unavoidable shift from bright to black. Shadows surface- lithe, graceful, dangerous, following people who dare trespass, stalking, stooping behind them, towering over themtheir reflections- warped and twisted, a shallow semblance of their true nature. Skirting around streetlights and quivering at the sight of the moon, whispering and hushing beautiful, unanswered questionsa slight break in the silence. Lurking above the sleeping figures, folding into the corners, waiting, clawing over cobblestones, in between cracks and crevices, crouching under beds of little ones, hiding in closets and in basements, settling like dust over furniture, sneaking underneath eyelids, in between the ears, like tendrils of darkness bleeding into the brain, turning dreams into nightmares.
ntitled Bo Burasco
Quill and a Book. A Conversation Between Dying
Zeeshan Reshamwala Many ways to become Invisible. The fastest is to speak the truth. When the child died in your arms, Were you really calm? Tell me, in how many places Have you hidden your grief? Write on me, write on me, In the music of your words, When you are dead, I will find solace. Perhaps—with any luck. I don’t have the strength To die with such silence. Tell your ghost to hold me, And listen. I have left behind only paper, You exist only in ink, Dust and fire are the foes. I am a wolf-bard of the forest inken, Master of the paper glade, Come write and sing here with me, Before— You forget how to sing. Come listen to my song, Before— You forget how to read.
he Empty Heart Amanda Hamilton
Robert Sansa stepped into his apartment and slammed the door. He stood on the worn beige mat and dropped his briefcase. Sighing deeply, he rubbed his face with both hands and closed his eyes as tightly as he could for a while. â€œChristly Christ...â€? he murmured to the apartment. He could hardly even call the place home, as sparse and impersonal as the furnishings were. A bed with a bare pillow and balled up dirty white sheet in the middle, in the corner a dusty white bookcase holding pictures of his parents, a red dictionary, and a copy of Catcher In The Rye--untouched since high school--and a pair of mauve curtains that were so thin they were almost seethrough hanging loosely on an aluminum pole. The rest of the whitewashed rathole was empty. After a minute of trying to rub out the irritation of the day, he resignedly stepped off the mat, leaving his briefcase abandoned by the door. He didnâ€™t like to give into his petty desires, but after a day full of tedious paperwork and endless phone calls, he knew what he needed. What he deserved. He decided he should have at least that reward for the day he had had. He began to walk towards the door of his closet, but he stopped in front of his squat pine chest instead. He pulled open the top drawer and, digging among his underwear, socks, and ties, his fingers brushed against something small and smooth. His heart skipped a beat, a tingle ran through his arm and down his leg. He fished out the small cedar cigar box and surveyed it with a small smile; the first smile he had enjoyed all day. It had been a while since he had visited his beauties. His stomach churned in anticipation, yet he moved very slowly, dragging it out for himself so he could enjoy it longer. He had restricted his visits on purpose, right from the very start. He had denied himself the pleasure so that when he did allow himself to see them, it
would be all the more special. He thought back on countless nights of lying awake, eyes wide and staring at the black hole of his ceiling, fighting the urge to walk across the room and bask in their comfort. All just so that this moment, and the other rare times he would allow himself the privilege, could be as beautiful as the last. It was torture, knowing they were in his grasp, yet kept unreachable by his own force of will, but it was always well worth it. With a shaky sigh, he lifted the lid of the box. Inside, folded very carefully, were two light blue latex gloves and a white surgical mask. He lifted them out, carefully slid the gloves over his hands and positioned the mask over his nose and mouth. When he was ready, he straightened to face the closet. He took a deep breath, filled his lungs, and exhaled completely before reaching for the knob. He turned and pulled only a little, opening the door just enough for him to barely squeeze in. The trick was to let as little light as possible in. Once inside, he breathed in deeply; even through the surgical mask, he could smell the sweet, musky aroma. The scent intoxicated and immediately soothed him, even before he flipped on the special blacklight he had installed himself four years ago. He stood, enjoying the smell, unable to see anything in the pitch blackness. Then, he reached to his right and hit the light switch. The room was bathed in iridescent purple and his white dress shirt was as vibrant as a cartoon. But he didnâ€™t notice. Instead, he looked around at his lovelies. He had specially furnished the closet with four shelves on all three sides instead of the standard one. On all four shelves were his skulls. He felt a wide, childish smile spread across his face. His muscles relaxed. His shoulders sagged. His eyes roamed slowly, lazily, from one smooth, perfectly white specimen to the next. He had arranged the skulls so that they all looked out at him with their blackened empty sockets. Slowly, he reached out a gloved hand to stroke the forehead of the one nearest to him. The latex caught slightly as his fingers passed over the rough surface of the unpolished round bone, but he didnâ€™t mind. This particular specimen was missing its jawbone and sat on its upper teeth. It was one of the very few incompletes he had in the collection. He had stopped accepting incompletes after the first few he had received. At first he didnâ€™t care; he figured his was an interest in which one had to
take what one could get. But as his knowledge expanded about the truly vast market there was for his hobby, his standards rose. There were many black markets solely dedicated to bones and pickled parts and he quickly discovered that, if you werenâ€™t careful, many would try to cheat the customer out of the jawbone to later sell it separately. A cruel and crass practice it was, defacing something so precious like that, but Robert had had to learn to accept that some people simply did not care as much as he did. He scanned the rows of skulls, leaning over once in a while to inspect them like jewels, letting his gaze linger on each one in turn. He picked them up sometimes, always careful to hold them with both hands at all times. He would bring them up to his face and peer at their perfectly sculpted faces. Each one was different, each one unique. Some had high cheekbones, some had protruding brow lines, some seemed to be scowling or smiling, while some seemed to have blank expressions, letting their empty thoughts flow freely. He found one on the bottom shelf that caught his attention and began to rub his thumb very gently over its curves. He traced the outside of an eye socket, caressed its angular jaw, slid his palm across the smooth, rounded back. He stared with fascination at the thin holes of the nostrils, how delicate they were, how intricately carved, yet entirely natural. After a while, he made his way to the back of the closet. The middle skull on the second shelf. His favorite. He walked very slowly to where her skull rested, set slightly apart from the rest. Her shelf was at eye level and he looked on it with adoration. He had had only a handful of skulls when he had found her. The third complete skull he had ever received. The most beautiful of his entire collection, by far. Claudia. There was a piece of her skull missing. It had been the first thing he noticed when he got her skull, once he had cleared off the packaging peanuts and pulled her out of the clear plastic bag she had been sent in. He had thought it was a mistake made by the shippers and had immediately become angry. But he saw that there was a note along with her in the bag. Written in scrawling handwriting and with almost unsettlingly straightforward language, it said:
â€œKnown background: Name: Claudia Muller Residence: Detroit, MI Cause of Death: Suicide, fell five stories, hole at crown on right side was resultâ€? When he looked at her more closely, he noticed that the small hole was shaped like a heart. Two semi-rounded points at the top came down to form a point that trailed into a long crack down the side of her head. The hole was big enough for him to peer into, to see the empty cavernous space on the inside of her skull. Frozen, he stared at the hole, struck by its perfection. At that moment, he fell in love. He had spent hours that day tracing her features again and again, learning what she had looked like with skin and muscles, deciding what color eyes she must have had, what her hair had been like. He knew she had been kind, with her relaxed cheekbones and her eye sockets that were flat at the bottom to make her smile at him, so that she was always happy to see him. He sat on his bed, getting to know every tiny detail about her, committing it to memory so she could always be with him in some way. Over time, he had grown unsure of whether he had ever actually met Claudia or not. It seemed to him he had known her all his life, had felt the soft curve of her waist, had kissed her warm, red lips. The lines of memory and imagination had blurred to give him a lover, a wife, a friend. He had loved her and lost her. Now, three years later in his darkened closet, his eyes traced the incidental heart shape over and over. He should have known she was so depressed. He could have helped her more, could have maybe even stopped her death. Her suicide, of course, had not been because of him. She had had a bad childhood, stresses at work, manic depression... He thought back on images of her curled on the bed and staring out the window, of her crying on his shoulder, his arms wrapped around her shoulders. Whether or not those memories had been invented or were real, he no longer knew nor cared. The crack, that wonderful, perfectly shaped heart on the right side of her head had been her last testament to him, her only way to tell him that it hadnâ€™t been his fault. She had not left a note, but the empty heart had been enough for him.
He stood and stared at her face, stripped of flesh and emotion forever. Unclouded by her history or what kind of day she had been having, this was her, simple, beautiful. More pure than she could have ever been when she was alive. He always tried to stop himself from touching her skull. Even with the latex gloves, every contact the skulls suffered slowly broke down the perfection of the bone. Even the relatively small amount of contact he had made with her had degraded the fineness of her cheekbones, had smoothed the temples slightly. He wanted to keep his beauties, especially Claudia, in perfect condition forever, and he could not do that if he was selfish enough to touch them every time he saw them. However, today he could not stop himself. He reached forward, careful to handle her as gently as possible. He brought her to his face, closed his eyes, held her head to his cheek. That day, in his purple-lit closet on the fifth floor of his run-down apartment, surrounded by death and dust, he felt pure happiness. Through his surgical mask, he breathed, â€œI love you too, Claudia.â€?
he Intoxication I Live For Lauren O’Keefe
My muse is not a woman with scorching beauty. My muse is not a man with features divine. It’s not a pretty little pet to sit quietly, chirping inspiration, getting lost in the woods, needing to be found. Inspiration does not come quietly. It is not a tool to be put away, brought out only when needed. It is a compulsion, strong and incessant. It’s like a demon riding your shoulder, squalling in your ear, dragging at your hair, claws tearing at your neck. Not begging or pleading to be written, but demanding and forcing your every action, until its will be done. My muse is like a drug. I need it, I want it, but God how I hate it sometimes.
elf-Portrait Claudia Convers
his Is Rachel Brown
aking Up From A Dream
But despite all their comforting in the dark, the branches still hung from the sky like tentacles from some severed heart, and I spoke of my fears of how old men would depart and how I hoped that young men would never forget to grow old. When I was home the top of the bathroom window was lowered to allow my smoke to squeeze through the square keyholes of the screen and I thought how maybe someday that man who waved at me from his pickup on the gravel construction road out in little Wright City would find that smoke and accept it second-hand. I used to follow the Tetris blocks of my bathroom tiles from one wall to the opposite hoping to find an unbroken path between the long ones. But angles tangle and the curves are straightened and realigned, not the braking ache but the unclear torn toothmarks on an old belt that keep track of cheesecake. Detuned whispers of an old chevy violin (or was it a viola?) that I watched her wings reveal on the platform of the L next to the hockey fanatic that I liked but wished would go away before my coworker defended me from the drunk that tried to push me onto the tracks thinking I was going to rob him. He was a young man but alcohol is a warm reminder.
Could Not Sleep in a Mirror Rob Darrin
I could not sleep in a mirror Because a mirror has no love. A mirror is dead, and still, and cold, It shows the ugly and shows the old. And everything nobody wants to see. It crushes who we want to be. I could not sleep in a mirror Because a mirror is a wretch. A complaining, self-deploring whore it takes it all and still wants more. Can’t pass by without a glance, a hateful look, a meeting by chance. I could not sleep in a mirror Because a mirror always cheats. A mirror does not bruise or bleed, or keep a promise or hold a creed. It thinks itself real, free from doubt, a human thing we can’t live without. I could not sleep in a mirror Because a mirror doesn’t share. Enfolding, trapping, it glistens dry, Muffling sound, drowning eye. It pulls you in, hides you away, Steals your form, but makes it stay. I could not sleep in that unflattering light stealing beauty and bringing blight. Seeking the too big pores and the dry chapped lips And the splotches of acne and the fat on the hips. We never see what others see a reason to be attracted to you or me.
No, I could not sleep in a mirror I could not surrender my youth. I could not sleep in a mirror Because a mirror tells the truth.
adlands Dan Warner
And your head emptied water pounding on crushed grass up from the inside above those jagged cliffs those bad lands smacking clay grinds in your gears, eh? covered wagon rumbling the hills on the prairie strolling along heading west then “Oh, shit. Forget it.” Folks riding shotgun sayin’ “Okay, well I’m with you,” and either turn around real quick or roll into deathland. Us kids now in a rusty ol’ speedwagon, dribbling all over this young country trying to swallow our food still, we’re trying to get outta those rickety clay prisons and our boy is down there dying, drowning in dry, and it’s up to us to drag him on outta there and our bearings are the only bearings because there’s no one and nothing in the wilderness but the wild. So we half drag him up this cliff and he can only go a dozen steps before a rough trip skip skews him face in the dirt, screws him back into that clay that God forgot, and I’m left holding his hand so he don’t slide back into the ravine, pack on my back threatening to send me sailing salty every cough I crack, and our old boy here, he cranks to the top of this bad old ridge and grabs like he’s gonna straddle and blow right on through the other side, but soon as he bridges the gravity gap and sees that dead rocky drop before him, he breathes real heavy and I hear a little gasp sprinkle up outta those shocked lungs, just a little excess air that gets tickled by those ever-present vocal folds and their butterfly caresses on that slippery air gently pray out the last little unconscious shot at life still left in his suffering bones: “Oh God.” So when it comes down to it, our boy, and all of us with him, are just slumped hanging skin around the skeletal hope for that one thing that keeps us from falling off that ridge. Because gravity ain’t God, and footholds ain’t God, and his friends sure as shit ain’t God.
And so we get him outta there, he makes it through, and we head hospital ways and sickness clears and all, long trip home, glad you’re better business, and still, after all that work, after my own sickness, after seeing that place, I can’t feel like I’ll ever be comfortable again. Like my poor bones just reached the pinnacle of those majestic cliffs of clay, and I’ve just taken my tired-eyed first look at the dry drop on the other side, and now every fragment that I ever imagined was mine is whispering all at once, “Oh God.”
nd He Gave the Moon Her Light Laura Wellington
irewall Nick Wilsey
They say two heads are better than one. Assume n heads are better than n minus 1 heads. By the principle of mathematical induction, the more heads the better. Hence, Neurocorp. Q.E.D. “Do you smoke?” “Why sure, thanks, but I haven’t got a light on me.” “Your pardon, Doctor Heusprom. That was question number thirty-sev—” “And that was a joke. Good lord, don’t you people have a sense of humor?” “It is not among the list of requirements for my position here at Neurocorp—” “Clearly.” “—or the one for which you are currently being interviewed. Therefore I would not consider it an asset worth flaunting.” “Must something be necessary to exist?” “I beg your—” I hate this man. I hate this world. I dream it is in flames. Cities crumble to dust.The sky bleeds cinders. The earth is bleached with bone ash. Men have been reduced to vultures, fighting for pickings off roadkill. I am not just another boy with dreams. My dreams are not like yours. This is not my imagination.This is a world yet to come.When I close my eyes, the lights go out but the shadows they cast remain. The darkness is alive and brooding. “Doctor Heusprom! It’s such an honor to meet the man who made this all possible, really. I must say, though, it feels a bit awkward being on this side of the inkblot. Here I am, about to do a psych eval on the biggest name in the field! “Well, have a seat and we’ll get this over with. I don’t want to waste any more of your time with another round of twenty questions. Speaking of which, how was the background interview? Not too much of a pain in the ass? I keep telling the
guy he’s got to loosen up a bit, you know? “Well, let’s get started then. I’m sure you know the drill. Any psychological disorders we need to be aware of? Traumatic incidents that may interfere with your abil—” Father beat my mother with a saucepan. I often fell asleep to her screaming. Made for some terrible nightmares.Visions so real, yet nothing I had experienced before. Dreamt I raped a girl before I knew a thing about sex. Dreamt I killed a man before I knew people could die. When it all came to pass in reality, I thought, ‘This could be a useful gift...’ “Interesting. Really, quite interesting...You know, that kind of reminds me of an old story about a little Indian boy who had a dream he rode across the prairie on a strange beast with a long neck, long legs, splotchy skin, and a pair of tiny, useless nubs on its head. “He drew a picture of the beast the next day at the mission school. His teacher looked over his shoulder and said, ‘That’s a very nice drawing of a giraffe.’ Now I should mention, this was the New World. The nearest giraffes were across the ocean. Photographs weren’t invented yet. The missionaries were the only people outside the tribe the little boy came in contact with, and they told stories about Jesus, not giraffes. “So the teacher asked, ‘How do you know what one looks like?’ And the boy just shrugged. ‘I rode it in a dream.’ Isn’t that bizarre? I wonder how in the world a little Indian kid—” I do not draw pictures.There are no giraffes in my dreams. Unless maybe I am slaughtering them. “Welcome back, Doctor Heusprom.Your interview and evaluations have been processed, and I have the results for you here.” “Well? On a scale of one to ten, how crazy am I?” “Again with the sense of humor. It’s as if you think I never tire of it. Let us be serious for a moment, Doctor.You studied pharmacology for the treatment of sleep-related neurological disorders at Johns Hopkins, and in fact designed the Firewall drug we use here at Neurocorp.” You mean the chemical cocktail that keeps me from learning your credit card balance, your child’s safe word, your wife’s sexual fetishes. All your dirty thoughts. All your dusty skeletons.The miracle drug that Neurocorp needs to persuade a thousand people that all their memories are safe and secure when their brains and wired together to form the most sophisticated hive-mind
neural network on the planet. “Is that a question?” “No, Doctor Heusprom. It is, in my opinion, the sole reason you are being hired by this company. As an intelligent, accomplished research scientist, you’re not our typical applicant. Normally we get wash-ups with no better use for their brains. “But at least they pass the psychological examinations. From our quantitative assessments, you should be institutionalized. And from our qualitative assessments – which is to say, my impression of you – you’re a complete asshole. However, these facts have apparently escaped the people making the decision on your employment prospects. They are more interested in your research into Firewall as a result of your firsthand experience in the Network. Which is, of course, the only reasonable explanation for you choosing to be here. “Therefore, it is my distinct responsibility to offer you a p—” Spineless fucks. Must give them an evolutionary advantage. Lets them bend over backward, kiss my ass and shake my hand all at the same time. “Doctor Heusprom! Glad you could join us at Neurocorp. I’m Doctor Max Evanheart, I’ll be your guide today on your tour of the facility. Shortly we’ll be stepping into the mainframe complex. We get plenty of research scientists like yourself wandering about as you can see. They’re the ones in the lab smocks... I know, they’re hard to tell from the robots, heh heh. “But seriously though, rarely does anybody with a PhD around here have the courage to ‘get jacked’ themselves, if you’ll excuse the colloquialism. That’s really where great minds can make a difference, I think. Each of us subsumed into the Network exponentially increases its computational capacity. I think it’s wonderful that scientists like you and I spend our sabbaticals volunteering our brainpower to further Neurocorp’s mission to benefit humanity. “It’s really a remarkable piece of technology, you know. The Network predicted the collapse of the financial markets back in ’27, foresaw last year’s torrential hurricane season – which saved thousands of lives – and decrypted several key communications intercepted by the NSA, leading to the arrest of—”
It also simulated ten billion possible scenarios of nuclear war with China for the DoD. Practically all of which ended with our cities at the bottom of smoking craters. Positive feedback loops in the atmosphere sustained the fallout twenty times longer than previously expected. Calculated a 99.8% chance that all life more advanced than fungi would be extinguished. And do you know what those simulations led to? ‘Just wanted to make sure,’ the SecDef said. “Again, I look forward to working with you, Doctor Heusprom.Your module is just down the block from my own, so I’m sure we’ll see each other before we get jacked for the day. Our shift starts at 7:30 a.m., but if you come early there’s donuts and coffee in the lounge. It’s decaf, of course – they shoot us up with enough drugs as it is. Besides, where we’ll be going, there’s no need for caffeine. There is no line between awake and asleep. It’s like nothing you’ve ever—” My entire life is the line between awake and asleep. Every night I wrench in the sheets, clawing away from the nightmares that await beneath my eyelids. This is how I found my calling. I have mixed every conceivable chemical, searching for a cure to my disease.Thousands of failures. One hit the streets and became the LSD of a new generation. Another became Firewall. It acts to suppress the consciousness, temporarily wiping the slate clean and making your brain into an interchangeable RAM unit.Your memories, your identity, are kept safely stashed away while the United States government simulates nuclear holocaust on your newly virgin hardware. But nightmares are not a product of the consciousness. Firewall does not suppress nightmares. Firewall cannot stop my nightmares from becoming your own. Here. Let me show you. “Well, this is it, Doctor Heusprom. The next eight hours of your life will disappear.You’ll wake up with what feels like the worst hangover you’ve ever had.Your head will pound like it’s been taken to with a jackhammer. You’d be sweatier than a pig if the coolant didn’t carry away your sweat and excess body heat.You’ll be more exhausted then you ever have been from just sitting on your ass. Well, I guess that depends on how excited you get watching telev—” I sank back into the cool water and closed my eyes. It was not difficult to fall asleep.The demons began to stir. I took one final breath and let them devour me.
“What the hell is going on? Bring them up! Bring them out of there! The whole system is melting down! They’re going to die if they don’t—” A thousand simultaneous screams of terror echoed through my skull. “Take a look at this shit. ‘Neurocorp’s Human Supercomputer Predicts Apocalypse – Gov’t Attempts to Conceal Discovery.’ Fucking tabloids, they get one little whiff—” Cities crumble to dust. “Where’s security? Guns! We need guns! We’ve got a fucking mob out here about to—” The sky bleeds cinders. “My fellow Americans, as you may have heard, the same supercomputer that predicted—” The earth is bleached with bone ash. “—but I urge you all to remain calm and vigilant, for the if the world will end—” Men are reduced to vultures. “—it will end on our terms and our terms only—” Fighting for pickings off roadkill. “My god. The world is falling apart—” I’m not just another boy with dreams. “—and we have foreseen it—” Because mine come true.
ntitled Bo Burasco
ime for Banana Bread Wendy Batson
Twelve days and theyâ€™re perfect. Just when the flies materialize to dine on the excreted fruit juices. Gross but just right when the skin, freckled brown and falling from the stem, is no longer firm. The fruit no longer protected inside, bruises to the lightest touch turning pale yellow to yellow-brown, and the biting sweetness suddenly stings your nose, no longer quiet and crisp, but begging for attention.
elcome to Fabulous
The sinkhole of human greed, selfishness, and our animalistic love of the shiny. Addicted to glitter as much as the “cha-ching” of money made audible. An oasis of neon in the sands blasted by cannonades of clinging advertisements with their fingers near our wallet and augmented breasts with their women smoldering at us in a not-quite-inviting smirk that ambushes us every five feet. Once inside the doors we are mice in a maze, searching for the cheese that is always behind the next door (all of which are labeled, in flashing letters “CHEESE”) and taking the time to oogle our fellow rodents as we scamper in different directions, noses to the ground, ears twitching minds spinning in carefully crafted confusion.
lice Laura Wellington
ay Gull Peter Johnson
he Arno and some rowers Ruby Jenkins
A week before the chubby girl killed herself, Professor Ted Schoenbaum asked to see her, along with three other students, in his office after their health class. It was a bright, sunny day, and Ted didn’t want to ruin it for anybody, so he decided to tell his students the results of their body composition tests where the whole class wouldn’t have to hear them. Some of their numbers were really disgusting—he certainly wouldn’t have wanted other people to hear them. He took the first group of students alphabetically by last name. “Well, guys, there’s good news and then there’s some bad news,” he said, looking up at them from behind his desk as they all stood uncomfortably before him. “Brian and, uh, Red Shirt Kid—” “Michael,” supplied Red Shirt Kid. “Right, Michael—you guys are both at your ideal percent body fat. You got nothina worry about.” “All right, coach, that’s great!” “Yeah, yeah, Michael, now don’t go out and eat a whole pizza just ‘cause you think you can.” Ted consulted the list he’d made of each student and their percent body fat, organized from lowest to highest. He deliberately skimmed his thick, squarish finger down the page. “Now, Elaine, you’re about 4% over—that’s not so bad, though, don’t you think? I mean, most men like a few curves on a lady, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” He smiled encouragingly at the freshman in question—she’d probably be fat by the time she graduated, so somebody had better be nice to her now. Elaine didn’t respond. “What’s your percent body fat, coach?” Brian asked with a husky chuckle. “Never you mind!” Ted barked, less amused than he was letting
on. “I ain’t as skinny as I once was, and I can’t bench two hundred anymore, but so far, I still got my hair, and my wife isn’t complainin’ too much,” he patted his slight beginning of a paunch, grinning toothily, “and that’s what’s important. But enough about me—lessee here…” His thin lips squirmed in spite of himself. He glanced over his clipboard at the chubby girl. Maybe this would finally be the end of her weight issues. Maybe he’d fix it, and soon he wouldn’t have to watch her trudge heavily to her desk every day, panting, with sweat stains under her arms. “Your number is, uh…” “Kinda high?” The chubby girl’s voice matched her appearance— thick, with unattractive, nasal vowels. She gazed steadily at Ted. Ted sighed, pushing air through his lips in almost a whistle. “Missy, that’s—well, I want to be straight with you, I figure someone’s gotta be. Look—you’re at 32%, that’s in the obesity range. Just think about how much fat that is. Do you realize how much fat that is?” He made his serious face at her, but the chubby girl said nothing. “Have you thought about how you’re gonna change your life so you’re not so unhealthy? I mean, there’s no way you couldn’t’ve known, right?” Her expression still hadn’t changed. “I know.” “Well,” said Ted, vindicated, “I want you to think about it good. Don’t you want to be able to get up and down stairs and to fit into a pretty dress?” Brian and Michael were both covering their mouths with their hands in an attempt not to burst out laughing. Even Elaine was smirking. Ted caught their eyes and gave them an amused look. “See, these boys agree with me. Once you drop a few pounds, I’m sure a nice guy like one of them will want to ask you out. Wouldn’t you agree, boys?” An uncomfortable, wheezing sound came from behind the boys’ fists. “Yeah, after I… drop a few pounds.” The chubby girl shifted her weight to her other foot.
“Right. Great. Okay, guys, that’s all I needed to tell you, you can go.” Ted leaned back in his chair and put his knee up on his desk, pleased to have done some good that day. ~~~ Two weeks after the chubby girl killed herself, Ted found himself struggling to eat his usual breakfast of two scrambled eggs and a waffle with low-fat strawberry cream cheese. “What’s the matter?” his wife asked. Ted did not look up for her concerned glance. “The cream cheese didn’t go bad, did it?” “It’s just that I haven’t been feeling like breakfast these past coupla days.” “Aww, sweetie. Is my baby feeling sick? It’s not like you, not wanting your waffle.” “Naw, I’m not sick, strong as an ox.” He thumped the table by way of evidence. “Just never hungry anymore, can’t explain it. It’s like I know I’m supposed to eat, but I just can’t. I like to eat my eggs, and then my waffles, and then an’ only then I drive to school. I’m a health teacher, I teach people that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I can’t skip breakfast, they’ll fire me.” “You’re not eating, you’re not sleeping.” His wife folded her arms and frowned at him purposefully. “Something’s gotta be wrong, you’re just not telling me. Are you trying to diet again?” “What? No, no way, that’s got nothina do with this!” Ted pushed his plate back irritably. “You saying I’m too fat? Suddenly I’m not good enough, for you, of all people?” “No, baby, I just—Is it problems at work?” “You know what?” Ted snapped. “I don’t particularly care about what you think my problems are.” He got up from the table and stormed off, leaving his eggs and waffles untouched. ~~~ Three months before the chubby girl killed herself, Ted was the guy at the Tolerance in the Workplace staff meeting (there’s always one) who thought it would be funny to ask if it was okay with the female professors’ husbands that they weren’t at home doing the laundry.
“I know it’s sexist,” Ted said in his own defense, arms raised, “but you know I know that it’s not right, so we can all just think it’s funny, right? There’s no way I actually hurt anyone’s feelings, come on. Right?” ~~~ Three weeks before the chubby girl killed herself, Ted had held the first Basic Health and Fitness class of the semester. Looking back on that day, he remembered that he had played “Small Town USA” through his computer speakers as the class had filed in, and had sized them up by the expressions on their faces as they stumbled in. A couple of the kids had seemed to like the music—they showed good attitudes, they’d probably do well. He remembered that everyone had seemed to appreciate his jokes about how bad the Cardinals were playing this season. He remembered the chubby girl—his eyes were drawn to her magnetically from the moment she entered the room. He’d always had a good eye for the students who tried to avoid the teachers’ notice; he figured it was good for them to have to get out of their shells, talk a little. Just get over their awkwardness. This girl, he couldn’t tell if she was trying to keep her head down or not. Why was her hair dyed so black, and why was it so long? Her Evanescence t-shirt was baggy enough to hang over her slumped shoulders. He caught her eyes for just a second— muddy, dull eyes, that tried to look past him instead of at him. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Ted just couldn’t stand fat people, especially the young ones, with their mounds of perfect, smooth skin, and creases beneath their jaws and at their elbows. It was so wasteful. He wanted to walk over to her and tear open her bookbag and throw away the cartons and cartons of McDonald’s fries that he was certain were there. But he couldn’t do that— he was terrified that, if he touched a fat person, his hand would come away greasy or sweaty, or both. Besides, his boss didn’t share his views on the subject, anyway, and no good would come of that. So instead, Ted stared. The chubby girl stared back.
Ted began his lecture about how health class would be the most important class they would ever take, and still the chubby girl stared. It was different from the way the rest of the class watched him, casually—she never took her eyes off of him once. Her expression was unreadable, and the light from the window beside her put her face in shadow. He had no idea what she could be staring at. Ted felt himself getting a little nervous, starting to sweat under his armpits. His jokes started getting lamer (“It’s okay you answered that wrong, buddy, you better get used to being wrong, you’re gonna get married, you’ll be wrong all the time”), but the chubby girl sat there watching him anyway. He tried not to watch her watching him, but found himself glancing back over at her more often than he intended. As soon as the period was over, he collapsed into the chair behind his desk and hid his face in his hands—he didn’t think that he could deal with watching her unwedge herself from her chair and lumber out of the room. When he looked up again, she was gone. ~~~ Two months after the chubby girl killed herself, Ted was on his knees in his office, going through old boxes of papers. It was the first time he’d cleaned his office that school year, and it definitely needed it. There were piles of papers covering every flat surface; he’d run out of space in his filing cabinets, and so the mess spread everywhere. The old binders of football plays and statistics on his cheap metal bookshelf were covered in papers; his old college textbooks, now twenty years out of date, were covered in papers. Papers were tacked over the photos on his bulletin board of his two kids and the University football team. Today, Ted was going to fix that. Set things straight. The box he started on was old homework from the beginning of the semester in Basic Health and Fitness. He started dumping the papers into the trash bin, barely looking at what was on them, feverishly clearing the old space out for new worksheets with incomplete definitions of HDL and LDL. Then he came to a folder of papers within the box, pieces of homework all in the same round handwriting, badly spelled, that he had sorted out from the rest of the papers two months ago, but hadn’t thrown away. He started to place the folder in the trash bin, but then thought better of it, and withdrew his hand. He dropped the folder amongst all of the other piles in the room.
Without even looking, Ted grabbed the rest of the box and dumped it into the trash can. He grabbed the next box—Basic Health lecture notes—and dumped those into the trash, too. Box after box went into the trash can—his old college work, newspaper clippings about his football team. He even grabbed the box the furthest back under his desk, full of porn he couldn’t risk taking home, and dumped that into the trash, too. By the time he’d finished, he was breathing raggedly and his eyes had started to tear up. He curled up on the floor, wheezing. Everything hurt. ~~~ Two weeks before the chubby girl killed herself, Ted ran into her in the cereal aisle in the grocery store. They reached for the same box of Lucky Charms, and when they looked up, only to see each other, they both swore. “Uh, sorry, I—” “Yeah.” The chubby girl nodded fervently. “So,” he said, “Lucky Charms, huh?” “Yeah,” she said again. “They’re, uh, really terrible for you, you know. All that sugar.” “You were buying them.” She looked even worse under the fluorescent lights in the grocery store—the stretch marks on her arms were a lurid purple. “My kid cries if I don’t get ’em, though.” “Oh. But I’ll remember that.” “What?” “That they’re bad for you.” Her lips turned up, as if she were trying to smile. “Thanks, Professor.” She turned and walked away from him; he found himself staring at her swaying ass as it receded.
“Glad to help,” he said to no one in particular. ~~~ Three months after the chubby girl killed herself, Ted decided to take a personal day to just stay at home, eat cheetos, and watch football. He decided this after he’d gotten out of the shower that morning and before he’d put on his clothes. When he was young, he was muscular and lean, one of the skinniest people on the football team but also one of the fastest runners. He lifted weights after class; he wore tight t-shirts. He ate a wrestler’s diet even though he never wrestled. And he went to college on a football scholarship, not to a football school, but on scholarship all the same. True, not all of his choices had been good ones and not all of his meals had been square ones, but he did not deserve what he had now. Everything sagged—his face had turned jowly and his eyelids were permanently at half mast, and his gut drooped lazily over the band of his underwear. He had done everything he could to prevent it, but fat collected at his hips, on his chest, in his gut—it was like he was smothering. If his younger self had seen him, he would have asked what had happened, and Ted wouldn’t have known what to say. ~~~ Twelve hours after the chubby girl killed herself, Ted got a call from his department chair. He flipped his phone open and kicked his legs up on his desk. “Heya, Tom, what’s happenin’… Uh-oh… Oh, no.” He sat straight up, bringing his feet to the floor with a bang. Piles of papers on his desk slumped over. “Oh, no. Oh, God, that’s awful. Suicide? God. One of my kids? No, not one of my boys, that can’t be right, I would have… I mean, I’d’ve tried to…well.” He brought a fist to his mouth, as if to hold back his next question. Finally he had to ask: “Who was it?” The voice on the phone was tinny and surreal, like Ted was hearing music underwater. “Wait, Alice, Alice. I don’t remember a…” A sudden tightness in his chest, as though his cholesterol had all at once caught up with him. “Oh.”
pring In Focus Dan Robaczewski
There is only curiosity touching snow in Spring, in the way numerous playwrights have painted landscapes with nothing short of pen and paper. The whole of imagination trickles down to the awakening grass in air that never seems cold enough to warrant the frost, when Shakespeare fell in love but still couldnâ€™t express it without being vain and sentimental. The wet grass is again sprouting in the same, familiar ways, scratching above the surface and scraping the snow as it hits at the most inopportune time to settle down after it has already been called back to its seat. The ordinary are lost on innovation, peeling thoughts to endure the struggle while my throat wraps in vibrations, looking for a space in between the lines where I can fit my voice in.
n the Looks from People at a Funeral Terriane Ward
Just write the story. Provide us with a momentâ€™s entertainment. Let us hear your sad, sad news of your poor, poor life. We will give you obligatory looks of sympathy and take pride in our ability to pity you.
ranscendencetranscedency Krista Goodman
he Church Timothy Schlee
The church was a beaut: like a lone lily in a dead summer lawn it burst forth from the concrete, all spires and crosses, all angles and dust, and it stood in protest of the urban desert around it, its shingles flaking and burnt, one missing here or there, their cries as they fell drowned out by the hum of passing traffic, and its gardens caught so little sunlight through the outstretched arms of the sidewalk’s trees – placed there no doubt by city ordinance – that they shrunk into themselves and refused to show their beauty for fear of unreached potential, of constant failure, of never quite reaching the mystic state of grace that hovered about the neighbors’ lawns like an aura, but its most noticeable wound was the new smooth staircase (complete with shiny metallic handrails and a handicapped ramp off to the side) right at the front door, leading from the newly poured front patio through the grand brick arches added shortly after its birth to the towering bronze doors it had sheltered since its inception – a foreboding sign, a symbol of encroaching desolation, of the church’s unmentionable mortality – so obvious, yet no one heeded its cry because stepping inside, all was well; the basement was fine, never quite sleeping for the bustle of neighborhood patrons, here for a monthly pot luck dinner or the occasional election, and the other floors were aging well also, its daycare center thriving, its refectory tasty and neat, its classrooms humble and pasted with posters, its pulpit high and stern – the shimmering rays of stained-glass light, the manifold acoustics, the organ’s throng, the columns and goblets and the dangling chandeliers all frequently reduced church-goers to tears, to rabid confessions and pleas for salvation, and the services were often raging and electric, a palpable intensity infecting the stale humid air of the sanctuary – no, the inside gave no indication of anything at all, but outside the smoke of car exhaust shrouded the church in a misty and ominous haze, hiding it from even the dimmest illumination of streetlamps, from the stray dogs who lived off of garbage and good will, from birds who might, catching sight through the mist of a glint of sunlight off a window and thinking it to be water or a caterpillar’s thread or the buzz of an insect made visible, swoop down and find to its astonishment not the nourishment it had anticipated but the dull cruel brick of the church’s fatal wall; from the boulevards and avenues
that ran at tangents to the cathedralâ€™s abutments, from the homesteads radiating outwards, the cathedral at the focus, so poor and diminutive to the right, yet so elegant and luxurious to the left, the geography of a warring populace, the dexterous poor against the sinister middle-class, hardship and labor versus whitecollar success, and the cathedral caught in the center, forgotten, unseen by all, even its most faithful adherents, who had long grown accustomed to its frailty and decay, took it for granted, knew it to be only the decline of a centuries-old construction that did not, could not in any way, signify the dying of a way of life, because that way of life was theirs, they were living it, right here and now, so they marched on, oblivious, and in a few years when the windows were replaced or the roof repaired or a projection screen installed above the pulpit, there was no one to watch from a far off hilltop the broken silhouette of a withered husk of a church, unrecognizable now, its windows shattered, its roof caved in, its crucifix lying broken and useless at its side; its stairs cracked and uneven, its bricks crumbling dirt, the hedges overgrown, the rafters filled with mice, the royal banners and curtains lying wilted and crumpled on the floor; there was no one to mourn its passing; there was no one to weep.
ost Emi Griess
A universal hum, screens flitting to life Click, enter, refresh. At our desks we secretly share In each other’s failure or success. We hear whispers of warning, Invasion of privacy, lost connections, But how can that be when I have 500 friends? It’s how we find, flirt, and keep in touch, It’s how we observe, ogle, and spy without guilt, It’s how we escape, erase, and contemplate The quiet thoughts of causal contacts. For those who avoid the grotesque openness, They may not know what I know About my 500 friends, But probably, in place of what they don’t see, They know themselves better than me.
amerlane Zeeshan Reshemwala
The wind has called me into a rag The iron-legged steel-hearted Cavern-souled conqueror is lame. But still scales mountains with the flight of eagles. But still rapes through the valleys So much swifter than the Indus at its source. He conquers plains as the ocean enters a pool. Now gold has become oil: Cities are the torches, The more loot, the longer they burn. And the world is become so small He is never far enough. The wind has called me into a rag, The banner of this lame tamer of foes, Sire of empires, father of sultans, Whose swords kiss stone and break it, Whose horse is the crest Of the first wave of a sea. But whose breast is a rock For other seas to shatter Themselves. This rag, Blood-soaked banner Washed in the river Oxus, To be washed in the Ganges, And become a lotus.
lmaty Timothy Schlee
Ah, what a fool I am. To bring her here of all places, back to the infamous Almaty. I had no idea it was such a nice little place. Watching other people’s children scrape their knees on the ice at the skating rink (our own being too old for such trivialities – or presuming themselves such). Or the romantic cityscapes from atop the Kök Töbe. We even saw, upon passing by a Russian church the other day, a priest sanctifying a car, flooding its new upholstery with the purest holy water, so that God may forever protect its gentle fender from the godless demoniac drivers racing all about the place. It’s all too endearing. She loves it. “Hurry,” she cries from the bathroom. “Or we’ll be late,” for a reservation at a local restaurant – Dastarkhan or something. “We have almost an hour,” I call from the bed, lying supine in my casual day-dress (flannel T-shirt with tropical patterns, cargo shorts filled with nothing, and I didn’t even bother to take my shoes off), my head propped on a pillow so I can see the television between my feet. “But it’ll take us twenty minutes to get there.” I can see her (the wall is opaque, but my mind is not), face masked in clay, hair up in curlers, scrubbing, washing, spraying. Getting ready, as she calls it. She’s an addict, a veritable disciple of the church. Even now, I can hear her through the bathroom door, shut and facing away from me, over the television, over my children’s screaming and loud music from the room just behind my head. When I first came to this city, this Almaty, it went by the name Alma-Ata, and was the capital of its nation. Perhaps this was a burden too tough to bear, or perhaps the renaming offered a sort of rebirth. It’s much nicer now. Sometimes I find myself incredulous: this is not the city I once knew! Where are the swift violent rainstorms that slash and tear the orchards and city gardens? What happened to the plays, the shouting and belligerent Russian musicals? The indignant waiters? I remember the hotel concierge, Tuleev, standing at the door, watching my parents
argue and bicker, a smirk pasted just underneath his pinstripe mustache. Such was my first sojourn here. I was a child of eleven, too nervous and needy to journey beyond my parents’ meager reach. I didn’t mingle with the locals. No soccer with the kids at the park down the street. No sledding on the mountaintops or swimming in the freezing streams. Only my parents. My mother’s shrill nagging spreads a haze of intolerability about my memories of Almaty. My father’s gruff snorts of disapproval and his stunted, clipped manner of argument (only rarely treading near the subject of debate) litter those busy city streets, mingle with the rush-hour soundtrack of horns and yelling in foreign tongues. We saw an opera while we were there. It wasn’t in English, but I tried my best at first to follow the story, then at least wanted to “appreciate” the music (as much as an eleven year old can), then after the better part of an hour resigned myself to following instead the ceaseless back and forth between my mother and father. They divorced two months after our stay in Alma-Ata. It’s not that they were any worse on vacation. Their marriage had been falling apart for years, and had they not been raised in traditions opposed to divorce, they would have split long before my voice began to crack or my underarms grew even one scraggly pubescent hair. I think, what it is, is I expected from such a foreign place some escape, some peace and quiet. A break. (My lucky brother was eighteen and in college, attending a summer program at Yale, when we left for that abysmal Alma-Ata.) But now it’s so peaceful, so friendly. I don’t know what to tell my wife. She’s standing there, by my bedside, robed and sparkling from a fresh shower, asking, “Are you coming, Rog? Jesus, we’ve got to leave now if we want to get there on time.” But I’m not moving. “Come on,” imploring, then angrily, “Fine, we’ll eat without you.” She gets dressed and ventures across to our children’s room. I hear muffled voices, then someone (my wife) turning down the music. A few more dampened pleas to “get ready” and youthful declarations to the contrary, and then she’s back over here, shocked to see I’m still in bed. Earnest now, she says, “Are you coming?” How do I tell her no?
n the Corner of Michigan and Monroe Laura Wellington
issy Laura Wellington
anabi* Hope Schaeffer
Do you really love me? I knew it was too good to come true, The lofty aspirations, the happy, giddy dreams For a bright and promising future now hopelessly Dashed to bits on the treacherous reef of our Entangled deceptions, stubbornness, PRIDE. When we began that walk through rosy morning-lit hills, Who expected the oppression of this dark valley trek? I can make it, I haven’t given up, if only you’ll stay by my side Step by faltering step, mile after wavering mile. I can only just make out The light at the end of the Tunnel— Don’t leave me now, don’t let it be snuffed out Forever. Don’t let it end, love. We are complete as long as we have each other, We are whole as long as we abide in each other’s arms. You burst into my gray life Like an unexpected, unsolicited hanabi Of warmth and color and life. Are you sure you have to fade so quickly? Before the smoke has even begun to dissipate, Before I can begin to recover from the blinding beauty and Wonder of you? My beloved, don’t forget me here on the ground, Aspiring to the heights of your rapid ascent. I’m afraid to look down… Afraid of what will happen the day you aren’t there To catch me.
*( hanabi means “firework” in Japanese, and is a compound of “flower” and “fire”).
erkins Benjamin Winter
It begins with a muted gasp as the doors open. Interminable longings for pancakes Plague the lost souls standing in line-The grand opening of another restaurant. One can almost hear soft shoulder-flesh ripping From a bite of irony-The meddling agenda of some exec in his office Claiming that the Midwest needs more fast food establishments. The dining room is all green upholstery, Crude stains already accumulating, Populating Pine-Sol factories with workers-Mass-produced mahogany around the world. Boom. Here comes the bomb To take you all out for dinner. I think Iâ€™ll squeeze this putrid, flee-ridden establishment Into a liquid composed of human entrails and shriveled maggots.
trange Ashley Kleinsorge
Strange The things you notice when youâ€™re afraid. Adrenaline impatiently slaps away illusions Delusions of peace, Happiness. Your eyes click images as your body braces: An angry fist pistoning forward, Puckered scars on his knuckles, And the way his eyes turn to ice, When he rages.
ntitled Katibeth Lee
ntitled Krista Goodman
hat They Don’t Tell Us
The lies we hear about ourselves— false information placed on shelves. What of changes made to the history books? Does this effort give things a positive look, to make it seem as though no harm was done to the minds of God’s daughters and sons? Chained in the lower level of ships, broken bodies touched hip to hip. Gasping for breath, running low on air, souls losing hope, hearts filling with despair— friends dead and dying all around. When the ships docked in the towns, dragged to the platform, put on display The time had come, Separation Day. One Day Sale. Buy. Trade. For lives, small price paid Child torn from mother, parents in the field to toil night and day ‘til cash crop they yield. Watching the treatment They receive and give Wishing to trade skin so life they can live Old generations die, new arise— the same despair read in their eyes. Each day they wake to loss of hope; their young swing lifeless from ropes. Looking in the mirror, they hate what they see. Yet dark skin equals sin, but they don’t wish to be judged that cruel way so nightly they pray, singing hymns into God’s right ear. Free our children from this fear. Deliver us from our trials and pain.
The next generation tries to reign braver than the ones before, demanding equality, beating on Injustice’s door. In some hearts doubt, fear, and self-hatred lie— capturers of souls that refuse to be denied, causing hatred for the reflections that meet their eyes. For glimpses of happiness, they willingly die. They want to give in to society’s lies. They too want the white skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. Dreams come to life in another generation born. That of my mother and father still torn by memories of the past, hoping to be free at last. Drugs become a welcome sight, blinding their eyes to the plight. Words their hearts fear to speak; a key to the past they tried to seek— styled their hair, changed their clothes— expressions of individuality they would never know. But behind that pseudo expression lied their real obsession, to be what they can never be blonde-haired, blue-eyed. Passing their needs on to me and my generation, Oh, the frustration! We must straighten our hair, makeup our skin— the brighter the better the easier to fit in. I look in the mirror hating what I see. False hair, false eyes, this is not me. Life is a game of pretend, false reality. I know the truth beyond what They want it to be. I feel the Nubian Queen in my heart desperate to play a part. Into my soul she cries,
Donâ€™t believe the lies. Let your head rise. Walk straight as a steeple. Rejoice in your dark hair and dark eyes my beautiful Black people!
Man Was Walking Down a Street Charli Anderson
Most of the trees were still dead from winter. Jutting out from the corners of his eyes, the staggeringly barren canopy of branches above the street did little to diffuse the brilliant sunlight blazing down on him. Everything above and below was illuminated to such a blistering degree that the street itself seemed to be radiating and he couldn’t look at anything beyond himself for more than a moment. He simply shut his eyes, started walking, and hoped for the best. He continued on this way, oblivious to everything but the feel of earth beneath his steps and the sound of birds permeating the space above him, thinking. He couldn’t get the light out of his mind. It was impossible. “All this sunshine. It seems early for spring.” He shot a brief, thoughtful glance up into the tree above him. For the first moment he was greeted by an ebony web of branches and the small population of birds entangled in them. The sun glared. His eyes welled with tears and soon the birds became foggy, abstracted silhouettes. He shut his eyes again. “Even the birds are acting funnier.” He mused for a moment and then decided, “They seem a bit flighty.” He laughed out loud. Alarmed, the birds took off. He didn’t bother opening his eyes to see, but he could hear the erratic splattering of some substance onto the ground all around him. He laughed again. He kept walking, however he didn’t get two steps away when his left foot sank into something and he was thrown off balance. “Oh, damn it, now I’ve stepped in some.” Regaining composure, he shot his eyes open and looked down to see the mess he had stupidly walked right into. He expected to see his shoe completely covered in the mess left behind. He was wrong. It was a baby bird; a lifeless, shapeless clump of blood and premature sagging flesh that looked more like a pile of bird shit than anything anyway. Staring down at the burst little body underfoot, he hoped vainly for a moment it was just the light playing tricks on him, but there was no mistaking it. He didn’t need all that sun to recognize that the legs jutting awkwardly out from one half of the glittering, bloody mass and the limpid little sliver of gold on the other half had, until moments ago, given shape to something living and purposeful. He could only stare. It struck him at how remarkably well the sun contoured the
split organs and entrails displayed in zigzags on the sidewalk. He could discern with visceral precision how well the fresh fluids soaking the bird’s purpled skin reflected the sunlight. It glistened. No, this was definitely a bird. He swore aloud. Raw, yelling, “I’m sick of Spring! All this talk about how it’s “rebirth” and renewal and how life is starting over. “ He paused, not quite sure where the outburst had come from. He looked down, addressing his feet directly now. “I’m sick of hearing about how we’re supposedly in some fucking glorious, flowering cusp of life and all I can do is stumble around with my eyes shut and step on things.” Frowning, he looked around for something to sweep the deflated little body off the edge of the sidewalk. “Some fucking spring anyway. Not a single leaf anywhere. Fuck it. I’ll just use my goddamn hands.” He stooped down and hesitated. A few feet away he noticed a small sky blue egg half shattered, half smooth. He took the good half, saturated with embryonic fluid still, and began scraping away the body. Half of it moved, yet the other half was embedded too deeply into the concrete where he had stepped to be moved. He leaned closer to try again. Face inches from the body, he could effortlessly smell the fermentation of the bird’s flesh. A breeze blew that seemed to give new life to the stench and it was so strong he had to stop scraping. The bile rose in his stomach. “Shit.” Gagging, tears sprang to his eyes. “I guess I’m just so moved by spring and all of ‘nature’s beauty’ I can’t help but cry every time I open my eyes! Fuck this!” He threw the good half of the eggshell down and it shattered into little pieces around the carcass. He furrowed his brow and stormed off, trying to wipe the bird’s juices from his hands. “Someone else will have to deal with it.” At first, only one ant came up, feeling its way through. It found a spot it liked and set to work compartmentalizing the remains for easy transportation back home. Soon, another came. And then, another. And another. Eventually, the remains were completely corroded and out of the way so that no one had to step in them. Even the bits stuck deep down into the sidewalk.
ndymion and Selene Hope Schaeffer
The crickets never cease. Their methodical, scraping lovliness Is haunting in the moonlight. What did that beautiful spirit do When her lover withered away Til nothing but a cricketâ€™s song Was left her? What did that golden lad do When he thought his problems Were solved forever, when he Was granted eternal life, But in the end, not eternal youth: And nothing but a cricketâ€™s song Remained?
athering Gold Casey Henderson
Slow down. You have no destination, No need to rush off, and besides – The clock is two days slow. You have time. “Consider the shining alligator,” Says the slippery, segmented bug at your side – No. That’s not right. But somehow you cannot recall the words Or where you thought you needed to go – instead, You simply smooth down your ruffled pinafore And gracefully accept a new cup of tea.
aiting to Rise Lauren Greenspan
I can feel the dough beneath my fingers press into the crevices of my hand. I knead and pound, the way my mother did and my grandmother before her, forcefully ravaging the mixture of sugar, flour and yeast to produce the sweet bread. The recipe is known well to me, a tradition I can remember, manifest and taste. Our history, though slightly distant here is sensed in the aroma of Hallah, and all the pounding. All that is left, all that one can do now, is wait for the yeast to rise.
he Box Katy Heubal
When I was a child it was small, about the size of my tennis shoe box. I wasn’t allowed to watch it much. Only an episode of Power Rangers here and there, usually on a grey rainy day when I was stuck indoors. But other than that it pretty much sat in the dark deserted living room, silent. When I was a teenager it was medium, about the size of a small Papa John’s pizza box. I was glued to it, my blue eyes always fixated on the multicolored screen waiting in anticipation to see if Ross and Rachel would end up together or if Debra and Ray would ever move away from his crazy parents. Even during the daytime (when I didn’t have school and the stupid soaps were on) the TV was still illuminating as I tried to defeat the evil Bowser. The TV was alive and shinning bright, while I sat in the dark. When I was an adult it was large, about the size of the box my office desk came in. It was used on a regular basis. Always at 6:00 p.m. on the dot, I sat on the couch while it shed light into my world telling me about the war, the economy, and the environment. Only on rare occasions was it there for joyous purposes. Only when I was really down and needed a break was it used so I could sit in the dark again.
plat Goes the Weasel Laura Wellington
ntitled Bo Burasco
ea Claire Bowman
one continuity flows as sea anemone polyp swims to rock phase into sessile being to spend days on the floor grasping at falling particle feasts small black eyes peer from inside the venomous tangle of psychedelic pink a haven for fish the beginning of my dream about hiding
n-Betweens Amy Reynolds
I stand in the dark place. I am waiting for her to remember me, so that I might escape, for a spell, into the sunlight of her imaginings. She is my jailer, my sister, my home, my tormenter, my mistress. She is my whole world, but I am only a small part of hers. It is not crowded, where I wait. Sometimes, rarely, I will find the others she has forgotten, or misplaced, or chosen to ignore. I will speak with them, and those words are precious, for they are my words, and all she will ever hear of them will be the dim echoes of realization that something has changed. She is very sensitive to these small changes, and in her humility she rarely takes credit for them. I would not mind if she did, though. Honestly, I would not mind. The light floods me and I step forward into the scene. The stage is only half-prepared for my arrival—at the edges of my vision I can see her painting the setting, peopling it with background figures who drift on the currents of her will. I am familiar with this setting: a royal ballroom with a dais at one end and massive double doors at the other. Crowds of beautifully-dressed people churn facelessly around me. They are only slightly more mobile parts of the background, and as such mean little to me. But on the throne sits the king. In the context of this tale he is my master and he has a name, a history, a personality of his own, but he is not as welldeveloped as I am and so does not move when I wave to him of my own volition. He blinks, though, and smiles a little. That is all the power he has, at least in this situation. At other times, when it is just us two alone, she is more lenient with him, and he and I may weave the plot ourselves—or small bits of it—while she watches from a distance and scribbles notes. For now, though, he sits and waits to be important. For now the spotlight is on me. Literally. I take a step forward, my jester’s bells jingling and glinting in the light. The crowd of nobles draws back with appreciative noises. I fling out my arms and stand on tiptoe, posing for
them all, and then I begin my routine. There are several places where I have to stop, hold myself perfectly still while she tries to figure out what to have me do next. I can feel her fingers hovering over the keyboard like birds of prey about to dive. She never was much good at writing action, and because she is nervous now, uncertain, she freezes me in place with such force that I can hardly breath. Very rarely does she let me construct my own routines, for all she’s so bad at them. Dialogue, though, is another matter, and soon after I have finished the painful process of tumbles, tricks, and stunts, I find myself capering among the crowd, ready to use my wits and tongue at my own discretion. She relaxes, allows me a little more freedom. I use my liberty carefully but viciously, and she is delighted by the results. All too soon, though, the room dims, the motion slows, and I find myself standing once more in the dark place. With a sigh I sit down, my bell jingling—for in her absent-mindedness she has left me in full costume. The darkness is full of her, though, and her attention hovers over me as she reads through the just-finished scene. I may be called upon at any minute, depending on whether or not she decides to continue in-sequence, depending on how strong the inspiration burns in her at the moment. Suddenly she turns her entire focus on me, catching me off-guard. She finds me sitting in melancholy with my legs crossed on the non-existent floor, and leaves me there. Like an unobtrusive servant she skirts the edges, constructing on the basics of setting: a room in the palace, no more than hours after my performance. She gives me no instructions, no script, only watches from beyond the walls. I sit up slowly. She didn’t plan it this way, but then she often doesn’t. For all she is a tyrant, she knows how to get the most out of her subjects, and I can’t quite hate her for that. As I stand, I realize she’s put me in nondescript black trousers and a dark blue shirt. My black hair, free of its bells, is now combed back into a tight tail. Simple black boots on my feet, the soles
unnaturally quiet against the marble. I can feel how intensely she’s focusing on every detail of my appearance, and my body responds to her precise shaping. In the dark place I only ever retain the vague outlines of my official description—tall, thin, dark hair. But now my arms are slender and long, my neck almost tickles as she sculpts my collarbone, and now the slightly hollow cheeks—I am aware of them for the first time—and the thin eyebrows that frame my deep green eyes. It is a strange, intimate feeling, as if a pencil were being taken to my contours as gently as a finger caressing my spine. I shiver, and she knows I shiver. She smiles and peers into my eyes, and in a rare flash I can almost see her, standing before me as solid as I am, a pen in one hand, the other hand at her waist. “What is it you want?” I ask her, speaking softly. She lifts the pen. I regard it as the genie must have regarded his lamp— home and prison at the same time. With the pen, she writes upon the air between us, I just wanted to say thank you. For all you’ve suffered on account of my plot, for all you’ve lost in order to have a sympathetic back-story, for all the ridiculous things I make you do and wear and say. Thank you. I stand there a moment, uncertain how to respond. “I live because of you,” I finally stammer, reaching out a hand to touch the lines of ink which hover before my face, “because of this.” She shakes her head, and again lifts the pen. I assure you, my friend, it is quite the other way around.
tarting the Car in Snow Rob Darrin
I wedge my fingers and the side of my leather clad hand into the packed snow, marring the shell, finding the edges of the door. Once cleared it cracks and opens, Some of the powder spills over inside, but the time capsule within is pristine. I turn the key. It wheezes for a prolonged second before rumbling into life. Like a forgotten relic, snow and ice entomb itâ€”my 2001 Dodge Stratus. It roars now with a strange strength, There is fire inside, somewhere, I know, but whatever cogs and sprockets, charging pistons churn, and however pulsing sparks occur: This is a mystery to me. Sitting at an acute angle to the dashboard, Legs splaying, one foot outside the slightly open door At the mercy of the elements. I hear its overworking engine, desperate to shake clear the cold from its metal heart. Behind, it jettisons its stale breath onto the bumper of a Cutlass Supreme also cold also covered. My breath, swirling, pixilated vapor, curls and rises to be revealed in that cold winter sunbeam. Wind can take it away, but here, in peace, it lazily drifts, almost warm.
ncertainty Emi Griess
I will be an artist yet you’ll see Hours each day to make my talent grow Again that stroke, that line, that melody Until, by heart, each in and out I know Fingers follow choreography Muscles meld to carry out the task A hundred times, embed in memory Until perfection dance within my grasp Artists in communion with the gods Tools to lay on mortals heaven’s kiss To them the world gives up its full applause To stand among them burns my dearest wish But with the snap of just one fragile bone My heart’s desire would die before it’s grown
or a Blue Barista of the Front Porch Peter Johnson
Your eyes tend to brush my glances away All the care saved up for the coffee beans, Never quite noticing what my smile means These lightning hands upon the counter sill Swiftly, softly lighten my morning grey. A single spunky hair strand outwardly leans Surprising the senses completely still A weight in my chest for the easy way Where your eyes, lovely, may tenderly chill.
wrecked this ship myself in an arid month Allison Stagner
I wrecked this ship myself in an arid month simply to lounge my driftwood limbs on an obliging bed of sand. A silly, sun-doped thing I was, sweltering slow and unassuming. Then, in an hour of giddy confidence, a merman charged onto the smooth shore and caught me up like catch in his slick-coiled net, starfish fodder and barnacled shipwreck dripping steadily from his trouser pockets. He did not say I was beautiful; I was not. But he pulled me beneath the bellowing dome of marine, and drank from the lucent void of my mouth and kissed my oxygen starved eyelids with the sad, mossy smile of half-love, his famine snatching and graceless. Schools of speared fish, conchs with their stony parcels, indigo ribbons of eels: all rose up from my flailing feet, each weeping for easeful sleep amongst the blackened nests of reeds. He rested my belly on a makeshift bed of benthos, whistling salted untruths into my lungs, winning me over with the weight of water until every hazy, wave-drenched particle of my body scattered into the tumultuous whirls of his sodden green sea-cry and churned to colorless foam on the coast.
Later, in an hour when each movement felt anew – painfully unanchored – I fashioned from my unraveling topsails a parched blanket of nonchalance. So warm, so faint – it fit perfectly over my driftwood limbs.
Match Discarded Rob Darrin
Would you rather the wheel be the end instead of the beginning? Would you rather have eternity shatter before us? I saw the mirror for what it is, Not for what it reflects, shining without reality. Perhaps you would rust the nebulous edge of a soul Or corrupt the ingrained path of a mind. Would you rather me exist for a cheap knock off? On the edge of a highway somewhere between Atlanta and Seoul, A white lace weaves itself into tangled weeds and litter. She holds her head at an angle, Inquistive or with a crick? Is there pain lurking at 90 degrees? I saw it once. When I lie upon the basement floor, Cold concrete sucking warmth, I become one, sharing heat with something larger than myself. Speak, I can hear. Fog squatting in low fields, do you find its closeness comforting? Or does it suffocate you? I looked down and saw A match discarded by the wall. Head gone, scorched down its sides, Long flakes of wood curling upon themselves. I wonder who abandoned him. The flame must have been bright and strong. It didnâ€™t burn long.
ooking Down Amy Reynolds
Looking down from above makes you realize how much God must love to go unseen. The thrill of watching invisibly, the power of imagining that you can reach out, grab doll-sized people in your hands, make faces at the tops of heads that will never look up at you. They act as if they are unseen, alone, cut off, never knowing about your nose pressed to the window on the third floor high above, never knowing that seen, they are not alone. But you realize that in seeing, it is you who are alone. If you see what no one else does and go yourself unseen are you anything more than the eyes that watch with no one to watch them in return? In looking down, you make them not alone, you connect your eyes to their lives, tethering them with your vision, an unnoticed anchor of existence with no one to anchor you in return.
lmost Hope Schaeffer
What is love? If it can move mountains, Can it move the ocean and continent That are separating Me from you? What is love? If it is a bond, not easily broken Through fire, flood, famine, A bond that not even death can destroy, Why is my heart torn out and lying in the dirt? What is love? If it is a feeling, Why is it so hard to feel your presence Tonight? What is love? If it is a declaration, Youâ€™d think our revolution would have startedâ€Ś. What is love? If it is the greatest virtue, Why am I a miserable wreck, Constant tears coursing down my faded face, Mapping out the desolation Of my arid heart, In desperate need of you for Revival? What is love? If it overcomes all, Why are we still Separated, Me from you?
Colophon Windfall was founded in the fall of 16 by students and faculty. Windfall contains the creative works of Truman State University students. All submissions are judged by a blind jury of students, and consideration is given to each work solely on its artistic merit. This issue of Windfall was designed using Adobe InDesign. Illustrator, and Photoshop CS2. The font used throughout the magazine is Gill Sans MT, point 11 for body copy, Bodoni MT Poster Condensed, point 18 for author names, and Bodoni MT Black, point for headings. Five hundred copies of the volume were printed by ADR in Wichita, KS.
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