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TULANE REVIEW | F A L L

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The Tulane Review fall 2013

EDITOR in CHIEF Daphne Zhang ART EDITOR Sonja Daniels

Monika Daniels DESIGN EDITOR Jack Waterman POETRY EDITORS Meredith Maltby

Sam Patel PROSE EDITORS Jonathan Dale

Lauren Baker Lauren Kornick READERS Nathan Bernstein, Elaine Chang,

Malia Cumming, David Preda, Allison Saft, Frank Spiro, Gabrielle Taper, Ella Weiner, Ruth Winkler, Alex Zinsel Cover art by Mackenzie Budd. Full image: page 49. ISSN 2166-5001 ISSN 2166-501X The Tulane Review is a literary and art journal published by the Tulane Literary Society twice a year. Submissions are judged by review boards in an anonymous selection process and final choices are made by the editors. For submission information, consult the submission guidelines on the last page or visit review.tulane.edu. Funding for the Tulane Review comes from the Undergraduate Student Government of Tulane University and the Tulane Literary Society. The works published in the Tulane Review represent the views of the individual artists and are not the expressed views of the Tulane Literary Society, Tulane University, or its Board of Administrators. Copyright Š 2013 by the Tulane Literary Society. The Tulane Literary Society reserves the right to reprint the journal in part or in its entirety for publicity on the web and in print. All other rights revert to the author or artist at the time of publication. The Tulane Review acquires first North American serial rights.


Contents Gallery I | Poetry 8

First Syllable | Janice Zerfas

9

Free Refills | Janice Zerfas

10

Obelisk | Trevor Tingle

11

Lucky Romeo | Trevor Tingle

12

Gold Paint Melancholy | Monika Daniels

13

Shallow End | Mercedes Lawry

14

Untitled | Allison Saft

16

Chimney | Laurie Patton

18

Waking to Crow Call | Mark DeFoe

19

Due Diligence | Mary Crow

20

Two Tanka for Yoko | R.G. Robins

21

Note on Spurious Sources | Kenny Williams

22

Haircut 1966 | Dylan Carpenter

24

No Tattoo So Fine as a Swan & Floral Candelabrum | Dylan Carpenter

25

Tides | Ken Holland

26

Casualty | Dennis Trudell

27

There is Smoke in the Greenwood | Christopher Kuhl

29

The Fate of Countries Lies in Their Geographies | Clara Changxin Fang

31

Losing Language | Clara Changxin Fang


Gallery II | Art 32

Melbourne Dumpster | Nils Westergard

33

Murdock, Perth, Westen Australia | Nils Westergard

33

The Good Doctor, Perth, Western Australia | Nils Westergard

34

Blue Front Café, Beonia, MS | Jeffrey Alfier

35

Kyparissi Blues | Michaela M. Lovejoy

36

Degulpta | Sallie Bailey

37

49 Days | Jéanpaul Ferro

38

Katelyn and Madisin at the Chapel | Billie Whittington

39

Courtney in the Yard | Billie Whittington

40

Brianna in the Shop | Billie Whittington

41

Reagan Dancing | Billie Whittington

42

The Peripheral Side Table (The Disused) | Thor Oren

43

#quickfix | Katrina Rattermann

44

Coyanosa, North of FM 1450 | Jeffrey Alfier

45

Coyanosa, South of FM 1450 | Jeffrey Alfier

46

Quiet Time | Isabelle Mouton

47

Parasite | Alyssa Delly

48

Exclusive Diary | Nayoung Jeong

49

“energy is flowing in all directions” | Mackenzie Budd

50

Did I | Jasphy Yiran Zheng

51

God and Us | Jéanpaul Ferro

52

Untitled | Rafayel Stepanyan

53

Far Bond | Myrna Shaker


54

Say When | Brittany Arnold

55

Untitled | Brittany Arnold

56

Trozong Interlude | Michaela M. Lovejoy

57

Cocoon | Nayoung Jeong

58

Encounter | Nayoung Jeong

Gallery III | Prose

59

This Medieval Age | Wynne Hungerford

70

Women Who Haunt the Halls | Joe Baumann

76

Lambs | Michael Phillipps

78

Crossing the Atlantic | John Robinson

84

Hostages | Sean Eakins

92

The Reason I’m Here | Janet Benton

99

The Plague of Gingy | Lisa A. Sturm


| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

First Syllable Janice Zerfas

Ah, Ah, she explained when they asked where she was going on this wanton ill-gotten passion beyond all knowing ride, meandering by the rides. The first syllable of the place she admired was like opening her throat when she didn’t know an answer or a rune. The first syllable was like finding the peach curry in the cupboard she had forgotten or the cardamom and honey, misplaced. She might never sleep nor rest again, good for her she thought, how crazy to ever want sleep in the first place unless it was to dream of pearls in his almond eyes, his violin-shaped skull. She was a connoisseur of pearl, amethyst, jade, aquamarine, tiger’s eye, beeswax, ordinary nickel and dime, hidden in her belly button, dangling from her tongue, ear lobes, tips of her fingers, upper nostril, and in her hair as nits. No need to wash; there wasn’t any water there, just desert, full of sandstorms, like the tilt-a-whirl that repeated its same ill-begotten angle on its own non-stop momentum. Someone had left it on, and I love you, he said, he was glad she was on it. You will never sleep nor rest again in his turbulent air, heading for what’s the name of this country? Her friends inquired. What does it import? Such a ridiculous question, she thought, when what can you import, naked singsong?

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Janice Zerfas

Twilight cedar wings begin to doze, the motors of the rides are still grinding in the asphalt smoke, temperatures hazing in late-August so fireflies still make the stars come to the soil, good time to walk through the fun house so the pictures rise and fall around your face. Your eyes are made of lace anyway, so look closely, she would tell her friends. Your face changes each time he says he loves you, or when you tell him you are going to Assyria, and he laughs. You’re like a two-for-once coupon. He has an 18 wheeler, could take you there easily, roll over in the time that’s needed for finding her sandals or pulling her hair into a ponytail: free refills. Her face roils over in the light dark in the mirrors: this is a casket that will have to be closed, a swimmingly drowned girl, bloated larger than a wine cask, the side that floated face down in the water perched and bruised with fish bites, and the sun cracks along her neck and backside, too late for an overly washed pink bandana or blue jeans to hide. Found in the drain spill along the lake, cold at least drowning made you one with something. Then the line of a hand overhead, the line of a crow’s wing, a harrier, a crew of cedar wings, and she’s not cold now, the hand moves in the mirror, her hand, pulling on her hair, feel lukewarm at least. Don’t scar your pretty face, she hears a momma beg her daughter. They look like fish bites, like you are dying. Can you wake up, she says to her sleeping hand, time to walk to the next level, don’t be so numb, wake up. You’re bird bait, carrion fever, heart slipping through the pulse of the harrier and then her.

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Obelisk Trevor Tingle

The flogging jib before the captain’s command, the boy rushes forward on the bow. His stomping body belays your planted feet. Paralysis of the mind, it is past time to haul in the line. The stem is a beast tearing at the water with white foaming teeth as the ship comes about twisting mouths and hands. The obelisk of the sun is unmoved by the nimbus fisted toss of clouds and the brief world about to turn beneath its reach. The boy has no words. Your eyes hold no answers. And the flag, like jazz gone mad.

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Lucky Romeo Trevor Tingle

His father was Guinean, his mother Jamaican. She raised him in New York City on jerk chicken and a healthy alimony. He took himself very seriously and spoke with an impediment. When he told you of his heritage (and he never failed to speak of his heritage) you assumed his speech pattern an exotic song. He stood in the middle of the dance floor barely moving, Heineken in one hand, the other smoothly swaying, just waiting for you.

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Gold Paint Melancholy Monika Daniels

Noon, fall, the air cold fresh clear, tangible as the oak tree she was conceived beneath. Icecubes’ pale brightness melts the ache of Fall, he wonders about the passage of time. Flaky, gold paint melancholy with burgundy wishes, the taste of childhood so young and absent. She doesn’t need your help to tie her laces, she’s gone, with leaves crunching their symphony beneath spinning wheels. She can count to one-hundred she said around a mouthful of peanut-butter and jelly. He wiped her sticky fingers held the feel of her when the door slammed, wood smoke, bonfires, absence of tears. The whispers knit between naked branches, shhhh, Nymphs won’t take her. Shhh, catch a secret, hold a golden strand laughter translates mourned memory. Pink helmet there quickly gone, fall’s wish vanishes by white mailboxes, the road bend. What of impression can be held of something soft? intangible? She’s there, Nymph held in sticky palm. The road hard and soft enough to fall onto.

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Shallow End Mercedes Lawry

Fear is a rook and a tendril, a vacant cup, a cinnamon thief, a frayed hysteric. Polluted waters fester and froth and anyone voyaging forth will begin to lose heart. No river or lake or wide ghost-sea where little pieces of the damned can be swallowed. Just this: wary, wounded, hands reaching for the surface in the wavy blue cathedral.

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Untitled Allison Saft

The spaces between the staff lines unfurl in dizzying patterns that still cannot elude your analphabetic eye. You are the elusive chord in a progression that delights and confounds to the limits of waves and vibrations scraping the edge of walls of perfectly constructed tradition, too hot for the trained ear to press against and too real to render in abstractions. Your fingers weave steel into threads of lightning across a sky scarred by a pale light — bursts of cosmic dynamite cracking against the mechanical dance of skin upon metal upon wood — for they hold the point where all has converged, from which all flows in arpeggios and major scales. I watch forests catch fire in your eyes and hold onto the oceans that pour forth. You are not the desert you purport to be — disappointments numbered in grains of sand fail to weather you but are crushed to diamonds in the weight of a smile that swallows all sound and somewhere between dissolve and ignite the ink etched in my

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skin that has colored the spaces between your collar bones with auroras made of ribbons of breath you have drawn complicit from my lungs.

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Chimney Laurie Patton

When they were thirty, he bought her the house with the striped chimney — an eighteenth-century sign that a Tory lived within. Not thinking of revolution, but escape from despair, she was charmed by the stripe and healed by the trees. “Don’t strain yourself,” she says later to his eighty-year-old frame, only half visible as he slides into the fireplace to open the flue, which has been shut since the last time he gave her a party. He pulls it downward. Two birds’ nests and a petrified squirrel fall on his face and shoulders. She screams and then laughs. The fire is lit. The party continues. Later 16


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at the Taj Mahal he says to her, “I bought you the house, but a marble tomb would be too much, even for me.” “Don’t strain yourself,” she says. “An old chimney is all the monument I need.”

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Waking to Crow Call Mark DeFoe

He wakes to the coughing caws of crows, bringing word of that other world, that land of lightning blasted trees, roadside carrion and broken corn stalks in fog gray fields. They call a staccato nasal challenge, “Brothers and sisters. We are here.” And you who slumber in downy comfort, eyes glued with last night’s tears, come and find us, tramping across the iron-cold furrows, if you dare. The cooing of doves is gone. In the crows’ raucous music he hears the rasp of life. And he hears his own wheezing breath and grins. “Good morning. You cocky glossy bastards. I am up. I am up. I am at ‘em.”

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| Poetry |

Due Diligence Mary Crow

I. what is that crackle, moon churning slowly on its axis to convulse my body, what sparks the electric leap from limb to limb as my closed eyes flicker open, prattle of fingers in their first interrogations, what is the juice that tongues my arteries till they blurt out little enormities.

II. asking to close the circle, make myself up, outmaneuver kingdoms wired together, wake from rivers foaming through streets and mud oozing like lava into houses till they are dark as Goya’s black paintings — only a tiny dog in one corner drowning while I am shining, a Stranger, among the s’s of a mineral silence

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Two Tanka for Yoko R.G. Robins

A lithe shadow taunts the margin of my dream. I know that shape, that pale splash of midriff as taut as a sudden gasp, delighted. When she trailed after Otousan then I saw the same sloped back, languid gait, mirrored. Who knew he could inform that delicate shape?

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Note on Spurious Sources Kenny Williams Hell was a fair place. The water of the lake was blue. - Olive Schreiner

The lake opened between Alps like a sudden eye. The eye was blue, which you don’t need me to tell you. I have to say it for myself, just as I have to tell you I had to hear all the great requiems in a single day, starting after breakfast and going way past dark, all that grief and majesty belching out the window, all that green growing distance from God close to me as my bones while I lounged in wicker between the stumpy blues of Virginia. All that morning the chaise was white, but this goes without saying. The fence was white and the dogs, half-asleep at my feet. You know that sad extra hour that lurks in the clock, where time is luminous but dull? It was that hour that whole day, the sky white and blank as a sheet staved with old phone lines, the devils’ unwritten chorale. The angels in Hell must remember what they are on days like that and cry out, in a single voice, unaccompanied but in praise of something there’s no word for except maybe for ‘Home,’ the humilities of heaven soaring up on either side, the lake between them a burning vocal line, cut off like a river of fire at the knees.

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Haircut 1966 Dylan Carpenter

Outside in the cul-de-sac through the pane slashed with rain I worked to forget I saw a Chevrolet pull quick round as my mother cut my hair down. * It was almost right around May her eye began a sort of renaissance. Sure the obsession was optics when the object in view was her paramour. I recall her palaver about refraction, the liturgical way which surface

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phenomena like light on rainwater slashing the pane mattered to her. * Distended shapes shifted. Suspended momentum & energy on the precipice of eloquence.

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

No Tattoo So Fine as a Swan & Floral Candelabrum Dylan Carpenter

I said the pigments in the ink were metal. You shot a smile. I didn’t know the reason why you asked for that fancy candelabrum in the picture you handed me. The petals like frozen waves, weren’t holding any candles, but then again the antique thing sure seemed like it had seen better days. It was easy at first. You didn’t need a tennis ball to squeeze away the pain. You looked away & kept real still until I reached those way out & creepy swans. Then your chest arced up quick. You turned your chin & saw how the blood was running down: Raw but I tried to comfort you. Skin’s not dead.

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Tides Ken Holland

What she’s discarded She no longer thinks about What she’s kept She touches once again A strand of black pearls The silence of her house Winter’s long solstice The furl of her voice, fragile and blue What she’s discarded She touches once again What she’s kept She no longer thinks about

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Casualty Dennis Trudell

“You know I was down there, New Orleans, Katrina,” she said in no Southern accent: black woman holding her palm out for coins on a sidewalk. “What, ignorin’ me all over again, stranded in misery? Misery!” It was the word that convinced her each time that it was true. She began crying; she wasn’t completely sober. “Kat-rina!” she repeated, shuffled a block, received a quarter, two dimes, wad of gum. She stood mute, waited. “Nine-eleven,” she heard murmured. It was her, and she said it again. And again, louder. “Nine-’leven! Please! Widow of nine-’leven. Husband cleanin’ them Trade Center toilets, urinals. . . .” She inhaled raw pain that shuddered her. This woman in stained coat believed what she claimed. No one in this city or the past three knew her as anything else than ways she begged, until huddling and numbing herself against the hurricane, planes, loss in Iraq: “Good man. Love of my life you sent over there. Shipped over. From me an’ 26


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our two littles. Whose daddy came back in bits-of-pieces.” People stared or looked away. Or both. Her voice rose: “Bits! Pieces that road bomb tore. An’ what I do now? What I do now?” She’d leaned against a wall. Slid down to sidewalk, palm still extended, the other with what felt like a snapshot: man smiling in uniform. She sat with him ripped from her life and their kids’ until a cop moved her along. She limped half a block, durned, limped backwards. “My daddy,” she wailed. “Out there, back then –” Oh, she’d borne this so long and far. “They beat Daddy so bad that I still feel it! I was his Honey Girl. Called me Honey Girl. ‘How’s my Honey Girl today?’” Her voice fell and rose, like nightsticks. Nightsticks seen hurting a prone man again, again, again, on television news. Her palm received two coins, shook so hard one fell to cement. She stared there at something else, Rodney King’s one open eye. “Honey Girl --” he tried to say.

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

There is Smoke in the Greenwood Christopher Kuhl

There is smoke in the greenwood, a snake wrapped around the callow trees, strangling the lithe heart among the sweet-voiced leaves. There is a tear in the wind’s eye, in the winged flight caught at the tip of the sky and torn; blood in the oak’s heart, the dispirited worm chained, a part of the hollow heart’s core, scorching the roots, the innocent vine. There is smoke in the greenwood, in the pure, frail heart of a sapling, sweet saplings, a wood torn apart.

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The Fate of Countries Lies in Their Geography Clara Changxin Fang

Washington DC/Shanghai Outside the Portrait Gallery the sidewalk reeks of urine. Magnolias burn white in the darkening twilight like plastic bags floating in the Wangpu river, they call this ghost fishing. Who knew the humidity would remind me so much of home.

Beijing/New York Both known for bad weather — blizzards obscuring high rises sidewalk grilles of summer mom & pop on the tar beach near Time/Tianamen Square the radio says best to stay indoors —

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Chengdu/Phoenix In a taxi in Tempe the driver informs me los chinos en las tiendas venden ropa como papeles and ruffles his shirt to prove its insubstantiality. The local cuisine is known for peppers & pig guts, meat boiled in a red sauce — one calls it chili, the other hot pot. I lament the lack of vegetables.

China/US In either place it’s Made in China. But the weakness of the RMB means it’s cheaper in the USA. In either place coal is king and water is to be had at a price. The difference between the free and unfree is but 99%

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Losing Language Clara Changxin Fang

First it was writing. A blot in the brain that would not cohere on the page. Was this one preceded by a bird or a tiger? How many crosses and hatches are inside this house? The letters home become riddled with roman text, vowels garnished with a dash to indicate the tone. The diary entries peppered with foreign names. Next came reading, sentences with the breath let out of them, melodies with the notes dropped at crucial intervals, entire stories ruined by holes in the fabric. One by one, the concepts fell out of my head like rice leaking out of a torn pocket. Dreams now come to me in English. I write poems in English. I make love to you in English. My love, you have made me lose even what I took such pains to learn. What I want to tell you is beyond words, beyond even the intimacy of mother tongue, my tongue pressed to the softest part of your skull where the vowels reside.

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Melbourne Dumpster | Nils Westergard Stenciled wheat paste

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| Art |

Top: Murdock, Perth,Western Australia | Nils Westergard Bottom: The Good Doctor, Perth,Western Australia | Nils Westergard Latex paint on wall

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Blue Front CafĂŠ, Beonia, MS | Jeffrey Alfier Photograph

34


| Art |

Kyparissi Blues | Michaela M Lovejoy Photograph

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Degulpta | Sallie Bailey Felt | 7”x 10” 36


| Art |

49 Days | JĂŠanpaul Ferro Photograph

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Katelyn and Madisin at the Chapel | Billie Whittington Gelatin silver print | 8� x 10�

38


| Art |

Courtney in the Yard | Billie Whittington Archival inkjet print | 8� x 10� 39


| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Brianna in the Shop | Billie Whittington Gelatin silver print | 8� x 10� 40


| Art |

Reagan Dancing | Billie Whittington Archival inkjet print | 8� x 10�

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

The Peripheral Side Table (The Disused) | Thor Oren Forged and Welded Steel, Paper Pulp, Maple, Muslin, Hardware | 13.25” x 13.25” x 62” 42


| Art |

| Katrina Rattermann Porcelain, glaze, gorilla glue, rubber band, plaster, insulated foam | 7� x 4�

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Coyanosa, North of FM 1450 | Jeffrey Alfier Photograph 44


| Art |

Coyanosa, South of FM 1450 | Jeffrey Alfier Photograph 45


| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Quiet Time | Isabelle Mouton Acrylic and charcoal on wood panel | 24” x 24”

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| Art |

Parasite | Alyssa Delly Lithograph | 21 ½ “ x 14” 47


| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

| Nayoung Jeong Ceramics | 36” x 39” x 46”

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| Art |

| Mackenzie Budd Mouth, honey, light

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Did I | Jasphy Yiran Zheng Color negative

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| Art |

God and Us | JĂŠanpaul Ferro Photograph

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Untitled | Rafayel Stepanyan Mixed media | 4’ x 2’ x 5” 52


Far Bond | Myrna Shaker prisma and oil pastel on black paper | 18” x 26”

| Art |

53


| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Say When | Brittany Arnold Flameworked borosilicate glass | 48” x12” x 12” 54


| Art |

Untitled | Brittany Arnold Copper and brass

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| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Trozong Interlude | Michaela M. Lovejoy Photograph

56


| Art |

Cocoon | Nayoung Jeong Ceramics | 37” x 22” x 78” 57


| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

Encounter | Nayoung Jeong Mixed media | 11” x 14” x 6” 58


| Prose |

This Medieval Age Wynne Hungerford

I found the hit man’s contract in Leviticus. Sometimes my mom hid important things in the Bible and I was relieved to find that yellowed piece of paper after two hours of searching. I chomped it between my teeth so it wouldn’t fly away, which was a downside of having my very own golf cart. Once, I was zooming along with my most successful report card sitting beside me, enjoying the company of my hard-earned Cs, and this whopping gust came out of nowhere, sucked that paper into the sky. I pulled over and gripped the steering wheel like it was a long-lost relative and said bon voyage. After the wind died down, I couldn’t find a trace of my good grades anywhere. But I made sure to clench my teeth plenty hard on that executive contract. If there ever was somebody in need of a hired killer, that somebody was me. I had the road to myself, since it was too early in the year for picking. Old View High-way, if you followed it far enough, led to juicy strawberry patches and there was only traffic dur-ing ripe season. One passing car honked. It was the six Fulchers with the newest baby sprawled in the mother’s lap, head leaning out the window and its one tooth get a nice wind-chill. Every-body was used to me and my golf cart. I was luckier than most kids, having my own set of wheels. My name was spray painted on the side in electric blue. Little Angus. I got deemed that early on because I didn’t talk until my fourth year, just mooed. My mom said my heart was a green, green field. I wouldn’t have goose-chased a hit man for anybody else. There was a gravel lot beside the road and I parked in front of a small warehouse. I’d found the address in the phonebook, one of those places you pass all the time but never really look at. I took the key out of the ignition, which was my mom’s rule so nobody would steal my hotrod. It was a steppingstone responsibility, meaning that it should prepare me for life’s bigger tasks. A thunderhead ballooned. About three hundred gargoyles sat in the gravel. A neon sign hung in the warehouse window, and the red light of CONCRETE DESIGNS spilled like cocktail sauce. The gargoyles were different sizes. Some were squirrel-sized and others couldn’t have fit in a bathtub. One had a face like my Aunt Marty, rolls of skin gathering around the neck, and another looked like he’d gotten a finger in the ear. Some horns 59


| Tulane Review / fall 2013 |

were dainty as bananas. Others, curled snail-tight. I walked among the army of gargoyles and touched the concrete heads, still warm from the day’s sun. Rippled spines on their backs. Little demon tails curved toward thun-der. I stuck my hand in one’s open mouth and felt pointed nubs for teeth, and a tongue with raised taste buds. I half-expected the creature to bite my fingers off. Behind me, a man said, “Can I help you?” I zipped around, ready to respond, but that paper was still in my mouth. It retained the smell of cigarette smoke and sandalwood cologne. I held it out and asked, “Are you the hit man named Mr. Ricci?” He stepped back. “You’ve got the wrong guy.” “We’ve got business, you and me.” He tried to walk away, saying, “I need to get back to work,” but I forced that contract into his hand. He felt the spit-bogged edge, and arched his faint brows. His hair was thin and pure-blond like comet streaks. His white T-shirt hung limp over narrow shoulders. Gray dust the same color as his eyes covered his hands, boots, and blue jeans. I said, “You’ve been served.” Rubbing the back of his neck, he said, “Looks like you got me.” He looked at the paper and let out a low whistle. “That would be my dad you’re looking for.” “Can I talk to him?” “He’s passed on.” “Huh,” I said. “Who’re you then?” He introduced himself as Duff Ricci, the owner of CONCRETE DESIGNS and son of Ulysse Ricci. I didn’t realize that my hit man might’ve been dead. I should’ve considered that, since he was already middle-aged when my grandpa befriended him. “So you don’t kill people?” I asked. Duff stared at the contract for a solid minute. “Sorry, I haven’t seen his handwriting in so long.” He wiped his hands on his jeans, saying, “I’m in a different line of business from my dad. I always had different interests, which he didn’t appreciate, but there you go. Thought I’d gotten rid of him, but every now and then somebody shows up wanting to see him, to have a drink for old time’s sake. I tell them to pour that drink on the ground and it’ll sink to his bones eventually.” I never won a science fair ribbon, but I wondered if Duff didn’t make those gargoyles be-cause that was how he perceived his father and maybe he was trying to work out some lingering issues. “You might get yourself in trouble looking for hit men like this,” he said. “I can’t imagine what a girl your age would need one for anyway. School bully maybe?” 60


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I said, “It’s my mom’s ex-boyfriend. I was hoping your dad would blow his brains out, because your old man owes me. It’s all in the contract.” Duff cocked his head to the side, squinting. I explained how my grandpa used to eat ricotta shells at Mr. Ricci’s old Italian restaurant. There was a smoky back room used for gambling and basement-brewed liquor and pretty girls. Dice rolled over tabletops and little shot glasses jerked back. Extra-garlicky breadsticks filled baskets on each table. The place was on the corner of Whippoorwill and Ruby’s Run, kudzu smothering trees out back. My grandpa struck up a friendship with Mr. Ricci and paid him five thousand dollars once to have somebody killed, but lucky for me, my grandpa never called in the hit. He told me this story when I was little, still mooing, and I made sure to remember it. You never knew what information could save your tail down the road. He didn’t mentioned who he wanted dead, but it very well could’ve been his own wife since she ended up brain-damaged over a knock to the head, and nagged him about crop circles for all eternity. There were no specifics in the contract, probably for security reasons. There were phrases like “no refunds, no excep-tions” and “communication with outsiders concerning this transaction is expressly forbidden” and “thank you for your business.” I figured that with proof of purchase, I could cash in. Duff put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “First off,” he said, “I couldn’t stand that restaurant. I’m glad it’s no more. I can’t tell you how many nights I sat on a barstool and lis-tened to old men talk shit, pardon my language, when I should’ve been doing schoolwork. Sec-ond, I don’t mess around with this stuff.” “Shoot,” I said. “That’s my one chance at helping my mom, and you don’t even care. There’s no way I could raise the money to pay somebody else.” He said, “Well, what did this ex-boyfriend do exactly?” “You should talk to my mom. She pretends like it’s okay but I know she’s wrestling some dark animal.” Duff’s hair glowed in the increasingly gray light. Rain moved closer. He said, “Maybe you should bring her by, I don’t know.” Droplets made dark spots on the gargoyles’ heads. I smiled, knowing Duff would be on our side. He didn’t seem one lick Italian, but you couldn’t blame a person for looking so plain and honest. There was a break in the clouds, one little triangle of sunshine, and it lit everything in a flash. Rain slid down the gold beam. I jumped in the golf cart to head home and Duff said, “The devil’s beating his wife.” My mom shouted hello when I walked in, wiped her hands on a rag, and poured lemon-ade in a tall glass for me. The pads of her fingers were wrinkled, and I knew she’d sat weary-eyed with her hands in the soaking tray 61


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for too long, cuticles soft as pudding. Rain drummed the roof and our two cats cozied up on the dry porch. One dripped pus from a popped abscess. We ate lima, kidney, and green beans for supper. My mom decided on a whim that we should eat the canned food in the back of the pantry, which had been sitting there since before I was born. I wouldn’t have minded meatloaf with ketchup and onion, but I didn’t say anything. She wore her lavender scrubs from work at the veterinarian’s office. Every time she twisted to pop her back, dog hair took flight. We sat on the living room carpet after eating, my mom playing solitaire and me filing her toenails. We didn’t have a television anymore thanks to Capers, her ex-boyfriend. We didn’t have a stereo, either, or the fancy speakers that rested on the bookshelf. He even stole the noise ma-chine that my mom gave me for Christmas a few years earlier, which I had listened to every night. Desert wind, waterfall, distant thunderstorm, chirping crickets, and tropical birds helped me sleep. When you closed your eyes and listened, you could be anywhere in time or place. For-eign sounds could free you from a regular life. You didn’t have to be in a cramped house sur-rounded by bamboo, raccoons talking outside your window, and a hoot owl declaring its suspi-cion of mankind. I said, “Can we go somewhere tomorrow?” My mom pulled a poodle hair off her tongue and said, “What did you have in mind?” “I know somebody who wants to meet you. He’s really nice.” The solitaire game was looking pretty bad and she bit her lower lip, saying, “Oh, really?” I told her about meeting Duff, how his gangster dad was dead. She whined, “Little Angus.” With her toes, she flicked over some of the playing cards. “If you weren’t such a blessed miracle, I’d have to say you were a pain.” She hugged her knees to her chest. “We’re going to be okay. You know that, don’t you?” “I’d feel better if Capers was worm food,” I said. She reshuffled the cards. I grabbed her left foot and finished my filing, so she could wear sandals when meeting Duff and show off her persuasive feet. The next morning, I helped her pick out a skirt and sweater. My mom complained that it wasn’t comfortable, but that was her fault for wearing scrubs all the time. She claimed that all this was crazy, that I shouldn’t be snooping around for killers, that she was only visiting Duff to ask forgiveness for my behavior. Rash, rash, rash. My skin felt fine all over, minty-cool even, but that’s what she called me. We took the golf cart, mainly because I wanted to be able to leave her there, forcing those two together, and partly because her car had no distinguished character. However, the golf cart’s sleek design made a lasting impression. The moon was already a smudge of cement overhead. 62


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A dog limped down the road, which I would have picked up on any other day and chauffeured around, seeing as dogs were too heavy to get windswept. A couple was loading a king-size gargoyle into their truck bed when we arrived. My mom made eye contact with the creature and gripped my arm. Duff patted their truck before his customers drove off, then he walked toward us. He said, “They’re regulars,” which proved how many unique individuals made up the world. Duff studied the orange flowers on my mom’s sweater. Shook her hand. Wiped sweat from his forehead. Shifted his weight. He offered to show her the inside of the warehouse, the bags of concrete mix and molds. He explained how he tapped the outside of the mold with a rub-ber mallet to get rid of bubbles in the concrete, and my mother nodded, her eyes already widen-ing like they did when Capers was nice and nothing had gone wrong yet. I heard her quietly apologize for my busting in the other day and him saying it was alright. Instead of following them inside, I went to the nearest gas station to look at magazines and buy a two-dollar jaw-breaker. I didn’t head back until it was the size of a peanut, my tongue stained confetti colors and mouth in need of a good oiling. They didn’t even notice my absence. I honked the shrill horn and heard my mom and Duff on top of the warehouse. They sat in lawn chairs, passing an apple back and forth. One hour and already a piece of fruit shared both teeth marks. Real cahoots. Maybe Duff would come around after all. My mom wouldn’t admit that she picked bad men for us but that was the truth. They promised to be good father figures and supportive husbands, which must’ve been printed on a poster somewhere because everybody recited the same preamble. After they disappeared, cheated, stole, or dented the stove with a steel-toed boot, my mom pretended like nothing so aw-ful had happened. It left you wondering how many times a heart could rupture before giving up. Most men promised to better our lives right away, but Duff hadn’t made any offers. Somehow that was the most helpful thing of all. My mom spat apple seeds at me and, beep beeping, I dodged them quick as the roadrun-ner. They climbed down a ladder on the side of the warehouse, my mom’s toenails reflective as mirrors. Her sandals clacked. I was feeling downright proud of myself and that feeling continued when Duff locked up the warehouse and said he’d like to show us something. We scooted into the cab of his pickup, nudging sharp tools away from our feet, and I sat in between so that I caught every side-glance. I got whiffs of hardworking armpit from Duff, which cleared my si-nuses, but he rolled the window down enough to flap everybody’s hair. The only time Capers probably broke a sweat was lugging our television to his car. We drove about fifteen minutes to downtown, which consisted of Main 63


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Street, a railroad track, an antique mall, city hall, two shut-down barbershops, one surviving barbershop, a hard-ware store owned by the Fulchers, a cafe where the playhouse actors argued over coffee, a tux-edo rental store, and a small deli. Once, I got a free wafer-thin slice of blood tongue and the taste propelled me to royally spit-up in a patent leather shoe. Too bad there wasn’t a hit man supply store. Or an electronics store or else we could’ve bought a new television, since I was beginning to miss the sound of those fitness infomercials my mom watched. Butt-flexing changed a lot of lives. We got out of the truck and followed Duff. They thought I didn’t notice, but I saw their hands brush and Duff look at his boots. We stopped in front of city hall. “What are we looking at?” I asked. He pointed at the top of the building and said, “See those clogged gutters up there? You can tell there’s mortar damage because it’s all discolored.” “Have you thought any more about killing?” I asked. My mom glared. He scratched a piece of concrete off his neck, not answering my question, and said, “Gar-goyles would’ve fixed that.” This struck my mom as hot stuff, caused her to whimper and ruffle her hair. Once, we were at a scrubs outlet store and she did the same thing when a male nurse exited a changing room shirtless. She high-stepped to the bathroom. I followed her, pressed my forehead to the stall door, and ask if I should call an ambulance. She whispered that she’d gotten wet and needed me to find her some new underwear. Accidents happen to everybody. My mom controlled herself, thank goodness, while Duff talked about gargoyles. He ex-plained how they kept rainwater off a building, how they were more than decoration. A lot of people misunderstood them, which had been the case since the Middle Ages, and some believed they were faces of evil and were going to be ushers during the Rapture. Gargoyles were basically rebels of their time, going against all the boring church angels. Duff said the real function of gar-goyles was protection. He stuck his hands in his pockets as he spoke, looking at the building but also looking beyond. He kicked the ground and said, “I just find it interesting is all.” My mom said, “I can picture them up there.” “You can?” he asked. She nodded. “I don’t know why,” he said, “but I always seem to notice what’s missing, not what’s there.” They drank beer in our living room that night. Duff walked from room to room, com-menting on how nice everything was, but I wanted him to ask about the square of carpet that was lighter brown than the rest, discolored 64


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from having the television on it for so long. I wanted him to know that Capers didn’t deserve his own sorry life. Duff only brought it up after my mom sent me to my bedroom. Code for private talk. I checked on my little frogs, which lived in a glass bowl on the bedside table. I swirled the water with my finger, rustled them from sleep, and saw a dead frog’s pale floating belly. Green jelly surrounded the body. I whisked it to the bushes outside, and said sayonara. I sat on the bed and focused all my energy on hearing the living room conversation. Closing my eyes made it easier. My mom listed stolen things. Duff asked, “What did he need the money for?” She only said, “Pills,” but you could feel the word rise from a stinking underworld, gross and bloated like the dead frog. She didn’t mention that Capers once slept on our couch for three days straight, woke up, and forced my mom to cook him a whole Thanksgiving turkey, he was so hungry. No silverware or plates. Only greasy fingers, which ran through his greasy hair. Boiling vats of grease, his eyes. Bones tossed into the sink. She didn’t mention that he broke open my piggy bank with a hammer, and left with the bills and silver coins. She didn’t mention that, in the only picture taken of us three, his eyes were rolled back in his head. She did choose to mention that he fixed the brakes on my golf cart once, when they first were dating. Capers’s bad acts said something about his own heart, but it also said something about my mom because she stayed. It made sense why she would hold those details back. Embarrassment. What person could let such bad things unfurl and still call themselves good? Duff said, “I’ve seen it rough, too.” My mom said, “I remember your father from the restaurant. He wore the biggest watch.” “People joked that I wasn’t really his son,” said Duff. “We were so different. But mail still comes for him, these goddamn sweepstakes and free vacations in Hawaii. Every now and then, I wish that were still an option.” Two long gulps of beer. Bubbles rising, falling. “Little Angus gave me that old contract,” he said. She sighed. “I guess it wasn’t hidden well enough.” “You’re lucky to have her.” Something moved outside. My ears twitched. Duff said, “You hear that?” He walked across the living room and creaked open the front door. He waited, silent, and my vision sparked from lack of oxygen. More movement outside, footsteps, bushes swishing to-gether. I opened my eyes long enough to look out the window, and I prayed not to see Capers’s chicken-skinned face framed in the paint-chipped window. He wasn’t there. I jumped off my bed, slammed the window shut, and jumped back in bed. I worked my way under 65


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the blanket, kicking sheets free. My mom came in the room, saying it was probably a wild dog. “It’s okay,” she said. “Just get some sleep. Duff is here now.” I missed my noisemaker, but it wasn’t very long before I heard kissing in the next room and then Duff say goodnight. Like desert wind, his kindness was exotic. The next day, I unplugged the golf cart from its battery. Fully charged, it could reach thirty-five. I put on a pair of cotton gloves with the fingertips cut off and said aloha joyride. My mom was busy picking out clothes for her date with Duff that night. She didn’t mind me cruising for a while. I wiped the nylon seat, cleaned the windshield, and knocked a spider egg sack loose from the dashboard. I jetted off, wondering if I should join the mafia one day. I passed the Li’l Cricket and saw an injured squirrel flopped beside a newspaper dis-penser. They wouldn’t have to come up with a nickname for me, since I already had one that would look good in the headlines. I whipped into the last open parking spot and an old man raised his middle finger, as if I was going to run him over. A sale on whole milk drew the crowd. I jogged to the squirrel’s side and realized that a back leg was broken. For a few minutes, we got chummy. Talking about the price of gas and the benefits of having fur. I pulled a peppermint out of my pocket and let the squirrel lick the sweet pinwheel, which caused a hopeful chirp to rise in its fragile chest. I found a piece of cardboard hanging out of a trashcan, using it as a stretcher to carry the little guy to my passenger seat, and I assured him that a little cruising never hurt any-body’s mood. Except, I looked up and the golf cart was gone. I searched the parking lot. I squinted up and down the road. I went inside the Li’l Cricket and asked the shoppers if they’d seen anything, but they just eyeballed the hurt squirrel and made rabies claims. The manager shooed me outside. There was nothing I could do, aside from walk-ing home. That was a thirty-minute affair. The squirrel weakened under direct sunlight so I left him by a tree, said farewell buckaroo. He was slipping away, that much you could see in his limp pitch-black whiskers. I was a poor life coach to rodents and a failure at stepping-stone responsi-bilities. I’d forgotten to remove the key. I told my mom everything, but she didn’t raise her voice like I expected. Instead, she called Duff and whispered some things over the phone. He came over, gray powder covering his body. Goggles spared his eyes. That blond hair pointed in every direction. He had been filling a mold for a concrete statue of a girl and boy holding hands, which a lady had ordered as a present to herself. The kind of thing that would gather moss in a garden, forgotten over time. Duff brought us a small gargoyle, which he carried by the neck and rested on the front porch. It had a dog snout and a mean lip. 66


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The eyes were the worst part because they looked melted. He took one step in the living room and left a gray footprint on the floor. He immediately drew back on the porch, hands on his hips. The wrinkles around his eyes were packed with sandy particles, dark gray fissures, and he breathed hard through his nose. “You think it was your ex?” he asked. My mom twisted the bottom of her shirt into a knot. She nodded and said, “I think so.” Duff hadn’t shaved that morning and he had a fine layer of platinum stubble, and when he moved his head, his jaw glittered with distant stars. “Okay, okay,” he said, nodding, talking to himself. His eyes moved back and forth, trying to catch up with his minnow thoughts. He left the doorway and got into his truck. The engine gurgled. I dashed outside and jumped into the truck before my mom said a word. He said, “You can’t come.” I said, “If you’re going to kill him, I want to watch.” “No.” “But I can tell you where Capers lives.” Duff looked at my mom standing on the porch. The gargoyle crouched at her feet, snarl-ing at the world. Duff kissed his hand, then raised it toward her. He looked like a ghost entirely gray. Nails hardened with concrete. His fingertips touched the windshield, a sight of pure long-ing. I had never seen anything like that in my entire life and could hardly believe it happened. Finally, a gesture that my mom deserved. I felt a moo rising inside of me, like a patriot’s cry, and let it break loose from my inner grazing lands. We backed into the street and drove away, my mom shriveling into a rearview mirror dot. Duff didn’t break the speed limit once or roll through a stop sign or get hysterical. I gave direc-tions one turn at a time. For this place, I didn’t need a phone book. The map was embedded in the dunes of my brain. My blood pumped for the sake of our crusade and for those throughout time, ones of revenge and religion, the beautiful and the grotesque. “You never killed anybody before, right?” I asked. He shook his head, adding, “I don’t think my father ever killed anyone, either. Other peo-ple did that work for him. He just looked at his big old watch, wanting to go home if he was at the restaurant and wanting to be at the restaurant if he was home. It works that way for most people, always wanting to be someplace else. Even this guy is playing the game, using pills to go from this world to another. It’s not something I admire in any man.” His nose flared. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.” “I knew already.” A box of nails jingled by our feet and he said, “I’m not sure what I’m 67


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going to do.” We turned right and entered a community of houses in the woods. A creek ran nearby and sometimes, I looked out the window and saw it spill over slick rocks, churning white in pools. I don’t know why crazy people talked about nymphs. If they were real, they’d drown in that water and wash up dead on the mica-flecked bank. Everything was damp. Red spray-paint marked some trees. We weren’t far from my house, but the air was cooler and maybe the era had changed somewhere along the way. Capers had brought me and my mom there once for a barbecue. My mom stayed in the kitchen for a while, preparing a tray of sliced tomatoes, onion, dill pickle, and lettuce. I wasn’t allowed inside. He claimed there were too many valuables I could break. He put on a white chef ’s hat and lit the barbecue, while I sat on a stump. He kept throwing me cans of soda, saying that I must’ve been thirsty. He squashed hamburger patties against the grill with a silver spatula, looking at me the whole time, and when we sat around a card table to eat, bloody juice dripped from the burger onto his hands and snaked down his forearms. I left my burger alone and Capers said, “You don’t eat your own kind, Little Angus?” My mother went back in the kitchen to wash dishes. When I asked about the bathroom, Capers pointed at the trees. I pawed through branches, found a spot behind a low magnolia. I pulled my pants and underwear down, crab-walking for a minute, and my hands slipped on pine needles. I fell on the ground, which was spongy from my pee. Dirt stuck all over my legs. I tried to brush it off, thinking there should be a girls’ guide to peeing outdoors for times like that, and when I looked up, Capers was watching. He balanced a smoking piece of charcoal on the spatula. He flicked it at me and the charcoal hit my thigh, burn-ing like nothing I had ever felt. It left a black, charred circle on my skin. I stuck a cool leaf on the burn before pulling up my pants, which I later peeled away, crying. I never told my mom be-cause I didn’t want her to pretend like it never happened. Duff parked on the side of the road, hiding the truck from the windows of Capers’s house. Our shoes sunk into the soft ground and gnats, wanting to make bug-art in the cave of my ear, tickled my face. We crouched. I followed Duff’s lead. There was nobody in the yard. More trash had accumulated since the last time I’d been there. Coolers were arranged in a circle around a fire pit, and resting in the center of the fire pit was the key to my golf cart. Each cooler held a differ-ent kind of trash. Soggy egg cartons, crushed beer cans, sopping wet clothes. A dead chihuahua rested in the Budweiser cooler. There was a brown spot over its right eye. I held Duff’s hand and he didn’t let go. I saw my golf cart sitting under a tree. The engine was gone and so were the tires. The upholstery, which I had replaced for my birthday one year earlier, was shredded. Stuffing fes-tooned the ground like poor clouds. No 68


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point in looking closer. We moved over to the house, and looked through the bedroom window, which had a bare mattress on the floor. Used matches scattered. Orange prescription bottles stood on a dresser. We crept to the next window and looked into the living room. Capers sat in a recliner with propped feet and cradled head. His jeans were unbuttoned and inside a jumbo-sized flannel shirt, his arms looked brittle as dry twigs. He stared at the ceiling with wide-eyes, like they weren’t big enough to take in the whole vision. An unlit cigarette trembled in his left hand. His right fist opened and closed, opened and closed. In a hushed voice, Duff said, “I couldn’t hurt someone like this.” I listened to the creek run. “A man like this is already dead.” I thought of how different a barbecue with Duff would be, how an afternoon could smell of charcoal and still be okay. I held his hand and gray dust warmed between our palms.

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Women Who Haunt the Halls Joe Baumann

Twenty years after her mother dies, Geraldine Plotkin is lying in her own hospital bed, dim light from the setting Arizona sun filtering through the venetian blinds covering the lone window. Through the slats she can see an endless parched plain of dust. She is lying down, her woozy, cottonfilled head trying to clear a ringing in her ears, when a nurse walks in who looks exactly like her mother Natasha. Not her mother as she would have been as a young woman, or even the vibrant forty-five year-old who shaped Geraldine when she was a teenager, the woman with the moist, perfect skin that didn’t wrinkle even when she smiled as they talked through the evening hours waiting for Geraldine’s father to return from work. It isn’t the woman who taught her about contraceptives and alcohol, nor is it the woman in the faded photograph Geraldine kept on her dresser, the one she never looked at directly in her own adult years because of the pangs of hungry guilt that shot through her stomach when she did meet its frozen, warm gaze. No, the mother she sees is the seventy-something widow with wiry gray hair who often burned it by leaving her oversized curlers in too long, forgetting they were there as she got lost in the talk shows she watched in the early afternoon from her place on the floral-print couch, too tired and weak to reach out and search for the remote. The woman whose mouth, craning open and shut like a bellows, was always cracked with thirst. The woman whom Geraldine had thought looked like a wrinkled, wizened clown in her casket, dusted with heavy make-up, her hair brushed and flattened against her scalp in a wispy, uncooperative poof. Her mother smiles and says hello, her voice silky like a tropical drink. Geraldine remembers this voice, despite the fact that it creased and faded, becoming a violin scratch as her mother grew ill. A pair of wrinkly fuchsia scrub pants surround her mother’s thin legs, threatening to slip away from the bony hips that hide behind the slick material. Her mother’s coat-hanger shoulders hold up a white starched shirt decorated with flecks of color, and the sleeves slump loose around the sagging, spotted skin that gathers in a whorling pattern around the knobby elbows. “Something to drink?” Her mother waves a wobbly hand at the cart before 70


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her. Instead of bearing little white cups of pills and liquids, the two-tier metal cart is lined with glass after glass of water, from champagne flutes to highball glasses. Geraldine can make out a large Erlenmeyer flask in the middle of the lower tray towering above the others like some translucent obelisk. It catches the setting sun along the lip, turning the top of the flask into a shimmering, glinting ring. Geraldine stares at her mother’s mouth and swallows, feeling a scratchiness in her throat. Her mother’s lips are so dry they seem caked with flour, thin and anemic and limp, the skin curled and flaking. Deep scabbing cuts sink into the pale flesh around the corners. She spreads her mouth in a wide smile and one of the cuts cracks open. Geraldine watches a thin line of blood emerge and trickle down her mother’s chin like juice from a nectarine. Natasha reaches out her arms, which tremor as they grab hold of the cart’s handle. The shuddering vibration carries into the cart, and the glasses, crammed in so their edges touch one another, begin clanking as if hundreds of people are toasting one another. The noise becomes loud, groaning into Geraldine’s ears. But it doesn’t fade; instead, the clinking grows stronger, fatter. Geraldine reaches up her hands and covers her ears, her skin cold and droopy. Her white hair is scratchy against her fingers. She shuts her eyes, knowing that she looks exactly like her ghostly mother, and she wonders how she managed to get so old. The sound of the glasses continues to fill her, and Geraldine feels bloated, as though with each tiny ding she grows, and, like a stretching balloon, she will soon burst, exploding out into the hospital room with a sharp pop. When a sudden silence fills the room, she flicks her eyes open. Natasha is standing at the foot of her bed, the cart of glasses behind her. Her mother’s hands press against the threadbare blanket. “I’m sorry, sweetheart,” she says, her voice soothing aloe. Geraldine feels herself deflate. “I know how much that bothers you.” After Geraldine’s father died, Natasha drew the curtains across the windows in the house and never reopened them. She yanked the bulbs from every overhead light and bought straw-covered lamps for every room. Geraldine had to screw the bulbs in; in her mother’s shaky hands, the metal screw threads kept rattling against the fixtures. The house was cast in a perpetual gloom, a muted dusk that carried on for hours every day, the shag carpet catching the amber glow in such a way that made the hallways look like the desert land outside, sandy stretches of desolation and accumulating dust. Geraldine and her mother would eat dinner in the living room, their eyes shadowed by the dimming sunlight, their forks glistening with the tears of nightfall. 71


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Natasha’s pinkish fingertips are inches from Geraldine’s toes. “Were you ever scared of dying?” Geraldine asks. Her own voice surprises her, feels full, flush with velvety liquid, as though her throat has suddenly been coated with soothing platinum. “Of course I was.” “Oh.” Her mother smiles again, her cracked lips stretching like rubber bands. “We’re all scared of death in some way, at some time. I was always afraid. Terrified.” “Why?” “It seemed like a lonely thing, I guess. Stuck in a box by yourself in the ground. No one to talk to, nothing to eat, or drink.” “I’m sorry.” “Don’t be.” “Are you still scared?” Geraldine watches her mother sigh and look toward the window. She follows her mother’s gaze. The sun hangs low, a plump blood orange descending in the sky. “No, not really. It’s a funny thing, death.” “What’s it like?” “Fuzzy. A peach.” “Is it cold?” “No, not really. It’s cool, like nightfall with a wind blowing in your hair, or when the water starts peeling off your body when you climb out of a pool. Tingly, like that.” “We never had a pool. Why not?” “Who wants to care for those things?” “I guess no one.” Marshy light is filling the room, and it shimmers off the tile floor. “What happens now?” Geraldine asks, swallowing. She feels a build up of saliva on the inside of her cheeks, and she is thirsty. The sensation cuts through her, and she wants to ask her mother for something to drink. The sun has almost set and night wind is picking up, dust lacing across the window, sprinkling the room with its rusty taste. The rug grew bare from Geraldine’s pacing. She would pass the collage of photographs her mother had hung along the wall, family portraits and Geraldine’s school pictures, staring at them and stepping from one to the next, watching her own face evolve. Her nose grew pointier as she aged, pimples erupting like landmarks on a map and slowly disappearing. Her eyes fell away from one another and her hair darkened. She became more like her mother. 72


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The long ponytail disappeared in favor of a stylish curve that hugged her ears. While her mother moaned, she would wish her father were still alive and rue turning down the whimsical, roughshod marriage proposal she’d faced at nineteen years old when she was still without a college major. The boy had run off when she’d nearly fainted when he got down on one knee and she’d never seen him again. She’d been heartbroken, bedridden for a week, and it took a friend actually pulling her by the arm to get her to actually go to class, to eat, to remind her that there was a life feeding the trees and bushes and garbage bins. She’d called her mother, who had told her to never spend her life wading through the muck of someone else’s problems, and that she’d better start seeing the light of day and drinking vodka in dive bars if she ever wanted to be happy and not wind up waiting tables at a chain restaurant or showing her tits to sleazy businessmen in a strip club off the interstate. Geraldine laughed at that and told her mother she loved her. She heard Natasha inhale a cigarette that was probably crowded with too much ash on the end, and they hung up at the same time. She stared at the photographs, remembered her mother’s smooth face, her lips puckered around her cigarettes. How her hands eventually started shaking as Natasha reached up for the smooth white sticks, trying to connect the flame of her lighter to the cigarettes. They ate Thanksgiving dinner together every year, and the year before her mother was stranded on the couch by the painful tremors their faces were full smiles as their wineglasses touched, trembling with music and pink liquor. “Will I see you?” Geraldine asks, her fingers tight on the hospital blanket. The sheets are itchy and wrinkled, as though they’re a size too big. Natasha swallows, her neck the texture of a turkey’s wattle. Her eyes are milky, filled with cataracts. She grips Geraldine’s foot and turns it like a lever, smiling toward her. “Maybe. I don’t know.” Her voice is calm, dripping like thick honey. The sun is grazing through the blinds, so many laser beams, and it catches Natasha’s wrist like a bracelet. “Do you miss Daddy?” Geraldine asks, her voice squeaking. “Of course. All the time. You haven’t called him that since you were a little girl.” A pause, and the sun shifts, the rays moving up the bed. “You haven’t seen him?” Geraldine’s pelvis throbs, and she shifts her weight. “I never said goodbye.” “No one did.” “No one did.” Natasha smiles, her grin weary and crinkled. 73


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“I’m sorry,” Geraldine says. She tries to run a finger through her hair, but the IV buried in her hand catches on her scalp. “Don’t fuss now.” The anticholinergics made her mother thirsty, drying up her mouth and leaving a sandy feeling, she said. Geraldine often imagined what her mother’s tongue must feel like against the husky roof her mouth. The doctor tried different drugs, switching from Akineton to Norflex to Mephenamine, but the dryness wouldn’t go away. Her mother never experienced the expected constipation or the rare—and, for Geraldine, most feared—hallucinations and memory problems. No, her mother always knew exactly who Geraldine was when Natasha would look up at her and ask for another glass of water. She always asked for one whenever Geraldine came into the room. And Geraldine would always fetch it, taking in a breath and turning from her mother as she marched to the kitchen, filling glass after glass, watching the pearl-colored water stream from the faucet and turn clear as it settled. She caught herself imagining freedom, unchained from her mother’s thirst, picturing the empty couch where she could spread out, crack her toes and feel the air conditioning limbo across her cheeks. Geraldine imagined getting herself a cat that would sit on her chest and purr. She would fall asleep with light shining around her, the windows open and a breeze churning in. Some man, a husband who loved her and did the dishes after every meal, would bring her a drink and they would laugh and watch their favorite television shows every night. Geraldine wouldn’t worry, and wouldn’t grow old alone. She would only think of her mother in her rarest moments by herself. But then, glass filled, she’d turn back to the living room with a sigh, staring at her mother’s careful smile, the quaking shoulders and vibrating hips. Geraldine would kneel in front of her mother and Natasha would take the glass in her hands, and when she was done drinking it down, emptying it into her throat, she’d hand the cup back to Geraldine, lips curling into a thankful curve, telling her that she was a good daughter. Natasha walks to the window and fiddles with its tilt wand. She sends the fading sunlight dancing across the room in smooth waves, like the beam of a lighthouse is scanning the room’s contents. Geraldine feels lightheaded and strains her neck to keep her eyes on her mother’s hands. “I’m sorry, Mom.” “I told you not to be.” “But.” Her vocal cords strain. They are dry, cutting. “But I have to be.” “Why?” Natasha is staring out the window. A haboob is rising like a brown cyclone, a tidal wave crashing toward them that will cover them in 74


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sucking sand. “You know. Don’t you know?” “Of course I do.” Her mother’s words leave condensation on the window. It disappears like a thought bubble. “Everyone has to be sorry for something.” Heat, Geraldine thinks. She feels heat running through her fingers, a warmth that then evaporates, leaving her with a clammy shiver. Her mother turns to her. “You’ll be fine, sweetheart.” The light is drifting away, a shadow crossing over Natasha’s eyes, a raccoon’s mask. “You’ll be okay.” “I don’t want to go.” “I know. I know. No one ever does.” Geraldine tries to sit up, but she can’t. Her arms are shaky. “Why am I here?” Natasha wafts to the bed, grips her daughter’s hand. “Drink up,” she says. Her fingers are transparent, gelatin, her smile cool and saffron. Night is falling, the sun etched behind a distant mountain. Natasha’s body casts a long shadow across the room, over Geraldine’s own, which she can no longer feel. Her toes tingle, her lungs are breathless. “You’re on your way. I’ll be here. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to drink up. Drink it all up.” She squeezes her daughter’s hand as the haboob drapes the room in sand.

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Lambs Michael Phillipps

Orla withdrew the knife from the jar and spread the mint jelly. Then she set the toast slice before her son. It shone like Ireland itself in the middle of his blue plate. “Go ahead,” she said. “It won’t bite.” When Michael tilted his head down, all his freckles seemed to run together. “But I like rhubarb jam,” he said. “Give it a try,” she said. Mint was all she had left. As he lifted the toast, a bicycle bell rang outside, the postman passing. For a moment she could hear the tires on gravel, crunching closer. But when the bell rang next it was farther off. He hadn’t stopped. No letter. She hung her head. The bell dinged. No letter again. With sudden energy then, the boy said, “It isn’t half bad!” “What’s that?” she said, but he’d just taken a big theatrical bite and now his mouth was full. He chewed as if his jaw were a loose wheel. That was because he was still so young; he couldn’t control his jaw muscles with the precision of an adult. Liam had been that young too, once. It was hard for her to believe he had grown and gone off, or that Michael, too, would one day. Michael’s chewing made a sound like distant marching soldiers before he swallowed with the long slow rise, like a salute, of his Adam’s apple. “I said it’s good.” He wiped his mouth with the back of a wrist, showing his pink palm. Orla reached for him and rearranged a shock of his hair. It was fine and dense with a chestnut glow and the feel of stiff silk. Her little lamb. She tried to picture him as a middle-aged man coming to visit one day with his children, but lacked the imagination. The distant postman’s bell rang again, now almost beyond hearing. “Don’t worry, Mum.” Michael reached across the table to drape his free hand across her knuckles. He squeezed and she felt the warmth of his young blood. “And what would I worry about, silly prince?” 76


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The boy sat up straight and said, “Liam will write.” She could not see it on account of the tablecloth, but sensed he had crossed his legs in an effort to appear adult. “It’s probably just a busy time,” he said. “You know how they move camps.” He was right; they surely have moved camps, and Liam needed time to settle in. She’d been fretting over nothing, as she tended to do. She smiled at Michael and took an easy breath. “Yes, Liam will write soon,” she said. And then, just as her anxiety eased, a sound caught her ear. It was not the postman’s bicycle or the boy’s chewing or any routine sound. She notched her gaze downward. Something infinitesimal and dark, like a smudge, had alighted and become trapped in the jam where Michael had set down his toast. The child didn’t notice as the creature, buzzing, tried to free itself. Orla had seen trapped insects before, in a spill of syrup or cooled cup of tea. But for some reason this one struck her differently and, all at once, a sensation like lace threading her ribs, in and out, in and out, made her shudder. She rubbed her chest and, as if suddenly prodded, stood from the table. Michael, who was at that moment lifting this very slice of toast, looked up at her. They locked eyes but said nothing and, as they held each other’s gaze, the insect went still. Orla leaned over to remove the toast from the boy’s hand. He snorted when he saw what was in it. She set it aside, turned her lips round as a button, took the child’s head between her palms, and kissed him on the scalp while he held his own arms up in awkward protest. Finally then, without tending the dishes resting in the deep shadow of the sink, she turned and walked down the flickering hall toward her own dark bedroom where, on a small oaken side table that her husband had made before he, too, had died in a war, her Bible rested, dog-eared and well-thumbed, its soft pliable pages as thin and translucent as shavings of human skin.

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Crossing the Atlantic John Robinson “You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see. You hang around cafés.” — The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway for Luke Reynolds

On a hot and stuporous late summer day, August 31, 1972, I left America for Europe with my first wife, Dianne, aboard the steamship, S.S. France. Before departure, I had seen the great vessel anchored beside the other famous ship of the era, the Queen Elizabeth II. Both were docked at Pier 84 on 44th Street in New York City. The sight of these two boats moored opposite each other was an imposing, almost unnerving spectacle. It reminded me how large and deep the sea that we were about to traverse actually was. When I first boarded the magnificent French ocean liner, I fought the urge to announce to anyone within earshot that infamous line supposedly uttered by a Titanic seaman, “Not even God can sink this ship,” but was too spooked by the grandiosity of the moment to challenge the Fates in what was already a brazenly ambitious odyssey. I was full of excitement, anxiety, fear, and resignation as we slowly sailed down the Hudson River. The excitement derived, of course, from the new adventure at hand; the anxiety from the consummate performance I expected of myself as a fledgling novelist; the fear of the ship sinking, and the resignation of leaving the United States for a long period of time. The last emotion was the easiest to reconcile. I had resigned my job, after four years of teaching social studies to African-American 8th graders in the inner-city of Chicago. I had accepted this teaching post in 1968 to avoid service in the war in Southeast Asia, a war that I believed to be both illegal and immoral. And although I ended my tenure at Bryn Mawr School with some sadness, I was eager to start anew. I wanted-against family wishes--to become a writer. The plan was simple. My wife had secured a job teaching Occupational Therapy at a hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland, and while she worked during the day, I would stay home in our rented flat and write a novel. We were in our 78


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mid-twenties, and we knew it was an opportunity given to few. We welcomed it without hesitation. It was the Age of Nixon, the Vietnam War and, it seemed to me at the time, futile civil disobedience. All protests seemed hopeless in the late summer of 1972. I believed President Nixon was a sociopath, and his administration corrupt. I also believed he would easily win reelection that fall; I believed he was invincible, and I hated the American people for making him so. In other words, I believed the political situation in my own country hopeless, and since I was convinced politics defined a nation’s character as much as anything, I no longer wanted to live in the United States. Nixon was a crook, I thought, as the boat passed the Statue of Liberty and headed into open sea. He will never be defeated or apprehended, I declared to myself. Time to move on to a better world. The summer before I had tasted new freedom and another perspective on living while touring Mediterranean countries. I felt liberated and refreshed by what I witnessed and experienced. And I knew there was a hallowed tradition for my expatriation. From the Romantics to the Realists, writers left America for Europe. Now I wanted out. Perhaps for good. So I left my homeland, and like so many American writers had before me, I departed with bitterness and with hope. Though I had possessed some nautical artistic knowledge at the time I boarded the S. S. France, I was ignorant of the ship’s rich history. For instance, ten years earlier it had transported Leonardo de Vinci’s Mona Lisa from the Old World to the New as part of the masterpiece’s American exposition, and six years later, Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams made a transoceanic trip along with other famous personages. But all this was part of a long and revered tradition. Famous literati often took passage on great ocean liners as they moved back and forth between continents, most notably members of the Lost Generation. Hemingway traveled many times as a passenger, often with one of his wives, and it has been reported by witnesses that Marlene Dietrich first met him--dramatically and romantically--aboard my ship’s distinguished predecessor, the Île de France. His longtime friend and rival, Scott Fitzgerald, who often traveled the same route, also found transatlantic romances during the 1920’s. Though I was at the time unacquainted with these and many other connections to Modern Artists, I never forgot what I witnessed at dinner in the ship’s spacious and elegant dining room the first night out to sea. An elderly woman had collapsed at a nearby table, and I watched as her unconscious body was carried aloft by waiters and conveyed out of the dining hall. Her body was taken into the infirmary where, shortly after, she was pronounced dead. I never learned her name; I was only fascinated that the ship possessed a morgue. It was not until some twenty years later I learned her identity — or rather her famous association. I read a story in a national magazine about a beautiful, wealthy 79


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young woman who had had a shipboard romance with Scott Fitzgerald. She had been a flapper in the twenties, and all her life traveled to Europe by sea aboard the great ocean liners. Perhaps she had taken many lovers during those voyages, or maybe Fitzgerald was her only affair. The article noted she died the way she lived, in style and luxury, sailing aboard the S.S. France toward Southampton on August 31, 1972. Although unaware of that particular literary coupling, I had checked the ship’s manifest and found the names of two important American writers: Lionel and Diana Trilling. I knew who they were, and I took it as a good augury that they were aboard--though I never saw them during the voyage as they traveled First Class while I was billeted just above steerage in Tourist Class. At the swimming pool, we made friendships with other twenty-something couples and singles, all American. They were, like us, starting new lives, and because of this similarity of purpose, the bonds of these friendships — within a very short time — became strong. And even though we were all headed to different European countries, there was a sense of comradeship, and of gravitas. This grew out of a sense of mission, and ill-defined danger as we crossed the North Atlantic. It was an historic moment in the history of the United States. With the military draft ended, the country’s youth could finally attempt something their Depression Era parents could not: they could renounce the shackles of conformity in exchange for a life pursuing freedom of the soul. These soulful pursuits largely fell into three categories: artistic, intellectual, and altruistic — and were the direct result of a liberal arts college education coupled with the new affluence of the 60’s and 70’s. These unique circumstances allowed the nation’s youth to postpone, for a time, the need to make a living after schooling was done. Though some generations before us had embarked on similar journeys, none had the sheer numbers of dissenters as we. Almost all of the young passengers chose to live and work in a foreign country. Aboard ship there was a sense of being cutoff from not only country, family, and friends, but from the familiar and secure. There was an urgency to our mission, even if that was only to attempt something different for a few years. Whatever the purpose for the expatriation, the goal was the same: to start a new life far from the birth country. We were both excited and intimidated, and those emotions drew us closer during this short voyage. We had arrived at an important crossroad, and therefore our connection was intense and binding. It was as if we had adopted a surrogate family, and it was not surprising given this brief but ardent intimacy that many of us stayed in touch for many years after our transatlantic adventure, long after destiny had revealed the fugitive design of our lives.

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Dianne and I spent most of our days en route to Europe either reading in the ship’s library, playing chess at a table along the promenade, or sunbathing, stretched out on lounge chairs on one of the many decks. One day in the library, I was asked a question by a fellow passenger concerning my writing, a question that for years, no matter how I responded to it, left me feeling awkward and inadequate. Usually the question was articulated: “Have you published anything yet?” But since we were in the ship’s library it was imparted this way: “Is there anything of yours I might find on these shelves?” “No,” I said. “Have you published anything I should be aware of?” “No, I haven’t published anything. I’m truly on my maiden voyage,” I said, hoping the clever nautical image might mitigate the sinking in my heart. “So: you plan to live in Edinburgh, Scotland and write your first novel?” “That’s the plan.” At this point the inquirer would either indicate his disbelief in the plausibility of such a task, or over-enthusiastically endorse my kamikaze career choice. Neither felt good. Sometimes, the response was in the form of a question laced with skepticism, “Isn’t it quite difficult to publish a novel these days?” Or, at other times, the dreadful optimistic line: “I can say: I knew you when.” “Well, I think that’s just great,” my fellow passenger told me then. He was of the optimistic school. After all, he himself was traveling aboard to start a new life contrary to society’s norms. Why would he dare to doubt so audacious a plan? Over the years either response to my attempts to become a writer left me feeling small and foolish. If I confronted smug skepticism, I wanted to prove the reaction wrong, but knew that that task would in all likelihood require years to accomplish, and therefore by the time I finally had proof that my quixotic quest was not pretentious folly, the perpetrator would have long forgotten his transgression. If I found optimism, I wanted to reprimand the interrogator, reminding the fool who encouraged my effort — a stranger he just met — that it was difficult, and a next-to-impossible burden to write, let alone publish a book in America, or anywhere else in the world. I was an intense young man back then, proceeding often without humor or irony, my ridiculously difficult blueprint for success. I could see it on my face when I looked into a mirror. My passport photograph taken a year earlier before my summer trip to the Mediterranean, showed a somber 25 year old young man wearing a dark mustache. I stared unsmilingly back at the photographer, my eyes filled with a stubbornness born of grave purpose. I’m wearing a dark navy pea-coat, giving me the appearance in the picture, my mother-in-law once remarked, of an itinerant sailor denied leave. 81


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The ship’s crossing was uneventful until the penultimate day. The night before docking in Le Harve, I awoke shaken by bad dreams only to find the conscious world as unsettling as the unconscious. The room yawed. Sounds of explosions, as if the ship were under a mortar attack, intermittently punctuated the silence of the night. While Dianne slept undisturbed, I silently got into my clothes, quit the room and ascended — holding firmly to the guard rails — a narrow stairwell to the main floor to investigate. Upstairs, I walked jaggedly the length of the large dining hall, and as I went, I glimpsed out the large windows where the dark ocean roiled and crashed against the great liner. My first reaction was: we are in trouble. “It’s just a moderate sea,” I was told by a young male cocktail waiter in response to my barely disguised fretful inquiry. He was an American, looking splendid and somehow doomed in his white livery. He barely made eye contact as he stood above a small table where he polished silverware. There’s nothing moderate about it, I thought as I watched the vessel’s prow rise out of the ocean, and then precipitously fall, landing with such force that a shudder reverberated throughout the ship’s hull. I clung for support along an interior wall as I made my way toward the few who were still about at that late hour. “It’s the North Atlantic,” I was told by another passenger, a middle-aged British gent at the ship’s bar. “That’s damning in itself. But there’s nothing to worry about. Best to retire. You’re low enough in the ship so that you won’t feel the rocking much. Pity those in first class, if you can. I’d follow my own advice, but I’m an insomniac and therefore doomed like a vampire to walk the night.” Though uneasy, I took his advice and managed a few hours sleep amid the rocking and pounding. But the next morning, with the seas at last relatively calm, I alone made it upstairs to breakfast as Dianne’s sea sickness that final day kept her bed ridden for the better part of it. As I listened with a rising sense of nausea to some self-absorbed and self-appointed navigator of the Seven Seas holding court at my breakfast table for the few who emerged unscathed into the dining room --“We hit something last night...big...it was soft, but very large and dangerous”--I suddenly realized I was incapable of either chewing or swallowing the part of a croissant I had bitten off. Unobtrusively as possible, I fled my table and wandered out of the mostly deserted dining hall, looking desperately for a refuse bin in which to spit the contents of my mouth only to realize I had, unbeknownst to myself, chewed and swallowed the croissant sometime during my search. My next move was instinctive, as I was later to learn. The best way to fight an onslaught of sea sickness is to get outside. Weakly, I climbed stairs leading to the top deck. Once there, a French attendant named, “Joseph,” wrapped me mummy-like in a thick blanket as I lay facing the largest clear sky I had ever seen. Though the air was cold, the sun was warm 82


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and before long I fell fast asleep. When I woke whatever vestige of sea sickness I possessed had vanished. I felt suddenly refreshed and liberated, ready to dock in Southampton, England, and begin the journey northward by train to my new home in Scotland. That one day of crossing the storm-ridden Atlantic to begin my new life had been rocky, and I believed--from the moment the ship began to violently shake--it was in some way symbolic of the rough journey that lay ahead. I felt from the outset my odyssey challenged fate, the gods, and good common sense by embarking on something that held so little hope of success. Rather than feeling like Odysseus navigating dangerous waters on a journey of inevitable glory, I instead, as I boldly marched across the wide promenades of the S.S. France, felt inadequacy shadow every step. The trip through the storm in the North Atlantic wasn’t a metaphor or a portend for what awaited me on land, I nervously told myself on the final day of the voyage. Though I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get to where I wanted to go, I held fast to the notion that the struggle would be negligible if I just believed in myself, and worked hard every day. Besides, I might get lucky, effortlessly succeeding where so many before me had failed. I silently repeated these mantras when the ship landed in England, and continued repeating them on the boat train to London. And I repeated them again when I boarded the next train at Kings Cross Station, all the way northward to Edinburgh, Scotland. It was like saying Rosary novenas from my Catholic childhood, and by the time we arrived at Waverley Station, I half-believed they were true. Like a novice priest with unutterable doubts, I desperately clutched the threads of my half-beliefs, letting no one at the altar suspect I was losing faith well before the congregation had arrived. But ready or not, the shaky beginning of my novitiate had come to shore.

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Hostages S. Eakin

Day One: The black velvet hood was quite elegant, he thought, impenetrable but oddly enough, rather comfortable. He blinked uncontrollably from the explosion of daylight that blinded him after the hood was yanked off his head. His eyes watered as his mind fought the fatigue of being whisked away like human cargo, unable to sleep for…how long? Now he sat uncomfortably in a primitive chair, a hostage. He immediately looked down at the handcuffs that bound him and smiled. Standard American police issue. Very welcome and very unassuming. Thoughtful ransomers were far preferable to dumb thugs in the echelon of bad events that could happen to rich people. Besides, he would hate to think that he had been relegated to mere kidnapping status as a target of opportunity. He needed them to be smart—and greedy, but not too smart. An unanticipated bucket of water shocked his senses into his new reality, now seated in in front of him with a broad smile. “Señor Stafford,” the smile said sympathetically, “I regret this awkward introduction, but I trust you understand that I must command your utmost attention at this moment.” It was an articulate voice, probably educated in the States. “But of course, Señor, these things happen,” the hostage replied in a friendly manner that defied the circumstances. “And to whom do I have the honor?” “You may call me Number One,” the blurred vision responded. Early forties, the hostage judged, portly but well dressed in designer khakis and matching hiking boots. The bourgeoisie has upgraded, he thought momentarily. “Very pleased to meet you, Number One. You may call me Number Two,” he said, licking water that trickled down his face. It was high on minerals, probably well water. No refrigeration, he concluded. He was in the jungle; his immaculate, starched white shirt was soaked. “But, Señor, we both know you are not Number Two and that you are not pleased to meet me.” Number One chuckled, obviously intrigued with the unexpected interaction. “You do yourself an injustice, Number One, I am always pleased to meet 84


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smart people on chance encounters.” The hostage addressed his captor with a clear head now. “Besides, and with all due respect, Señor, we both know Number One is not your real name either.” Number One leaned back in his chair, puffing on an oversized cigar as he scrutinized his hostage. “I see your point, Señor, but still, I already have a Number Two,” he explained sympathetically, continuing the banter. “Well, there you have it,” the hostage quipped smartly, “this is clearly a case of mistaken identity.” Number One burst out laughing, pleased with the game. “I think not, because I know your real name, Señor Stafford Simon.” “With all due respect, Number One, you know the name of the man you hoped to have kidnapped. Sadly, he is already dead.” “How c-can that be, Señor Stafford?” Number One’s eyebrows rose with sudden alarm. “Because, Number One,” the hostage countered respectfully, “the moment Stafford Simon was reported kidnapped, his attorneys publically announced that he had been killed, and they received a sizeable sum for keeping this minor misrepresentation to themselves. They then immediately transferred all of Stafford Simon’s holdings into trust for his wife and children, under the condition that the trust could not make hostage payments for any family member, ever. By the way, Number One, did you kill my driver? Of course you did, poor soul. Such a terrible loss, really,” he continued, shaking his head in sorrow. “He was an extraordinary chap, recruited years ago because he had no family and no traceable history.” “I am sorry, Señor, but your driver had to be shot. It is part of the process, as you Americans say… I am sure you understand this. Besides, we both know that he was a very skilled man, a threat to your captors. Where did you find such a man?” The hostage hung his head with apparent remorse. “He was English, a young, handsome magician and escape artist performing in a circus when he was recruited for security services. I dare say that he is making a cameo appearance in my casket about now. When you have the time, Number One, if you could check the local headlines, I would love to hear about the funeral arrangements.” Number One considered the request as he drew on his cigar. “The kidnapping of a man of your stature will certainly produce many headlines.” His eyes twinkled triumphantly. “And I am sure your wife of twenty years will be happy to hear your voice.” Number One pulled the hostage’s iPhone from his shirt pocket and punched the number to his wife’s cell phone. “Now, Señor Stafford—” “Make that ‘Number Two,’” the hostage interjected officiously. “We must 85


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avoid confusion with the incumbent Number Two,” he said seriously, making imaginary quotation marks in the air with both cuffed hands. “Actually, it’s quite easy to understand a mistaken identity,” he chattered on. “No one even knows that I am dead yet.” Number One stepped forward quickly, grabbing the hostage by his silver hair and wrenching his head back in one motion. He glared menacingly into the eyes of his captive, exhaling smoke to irritate him. “Señor Stafford, why do you play these games with me?” “It is Number Two to you, Señor,” the hostage whispered hoarsely. Then, feigning a sudden surge of fear, he said, “Please, Number One, let me speak to my wife.” Number One released a handful of hair with exasperation, then pressed the call button displayed on the iPhone. Expectation hung like humidity in the air as a slight clicking sound counted seconds required to beam a new voice into the musty room. The speaker sputtered to life with a mechanical ring, followed by the sad voice of a distressed woman. “I will be unavailable for several weeks after my dear Stafford’s funeral,” she choked. “You can remember Stafford by donating to his favorite charities at our office.” Click. “Very touching, don’t you think, Number One?” The hostage gingerly wiped away a tear with shackled hands and a melancholy look. “Do you believe people will really send money?” he asked innocently. Number One’s face turned crimson with rage. He slugged the hostage with a beefy right fist to the left cheek, then yanked the chair out from under him, dumping him onto the dank concrete floor. “I will kill you,” he seethed. The hostage rested on his back momentarily; pulling his knees up and digging his bare heels into the floor, he pushed himself to a sitting position in the corner. He felt his cheek tenderly, locating the warm flow of blood trickling down his jaw, then gradually pushed himself into a standing position. He stared back at Number One, his cuffed hands now holding up a single forefinger. “I will kill you, Number Two,” he grammatically corrected his captor in a gentle, pedantic voice. The wooden door behind Number One opened magically, then slammed shut after he exited with a military dispatch. Day Two: “How long?” Number One asked his subordinate. “Since you left, Señor,” the subordinate responded with wide eyes, himself surprised. “No movement?” Number One asked with a sharp look at the younger man. “None, Señor.” 86


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“Has he eaten?” “No, Señor.” “Have we made contact?” “No one returns our calls, Number One.” The soldier shrugged sheepishly. “What do we do now?” Number One took another look before he shut the flap that covered the peephole. In the far corner of the small room, his hostage sat naked in a lotus position, seated on neatly folded clothes. He appeared supremely placid, almost comatose. His arms extended over his knees, palms up, his back straight, his eyes closed. The handcuffs lay stacked on the floor in front of him. “Did you uncuff him?” Number One’s voice rose with suppressed anger. “No, Señor.” Number One nodded curtly at the door, which the assistant immediately opened, shut, and locked behind him as he entered the room. Number One upended the hostage’s chair, which still lay on its side, then took his own seat, expecting the noise of his entrance to produce some flicker of movement. The bloody, swollen face of the hostage remained intractable. “I must admit, Señor Stafford, you have planned your life well,” Number One said with a grumble of respect. “It is a shame I will have to end it.” He pulled copies of headlines printed from the Internet out of his breast pocket and read aloud to the statue in front of him. “Wealthy Investor Mistakenly Killed by Kidnappers, Local Businessman Killed in Bungled Kidnapping.” Number One sighed in dismay. “It says here that my men and I are incompetent and that you left all of your money to a trust fund which is prohibited from paying ransom for any member of your family.” The captor nodded to himself, feeling alone. “Very smart, Señor Stafford. But is it all true?” The hostage sat like the sculpted replica of a nude monk, detached from the world around him. Number One wondered what world he was inhabiting right now, suppressing a random urge to join him. Then abruptly, almost involuntarily, he blurted, “Number Two?” The monk’s eyes woke with a glow of intelligence and a welcoming smile as his persona reentered the room. “Now, that wasn’t difficult, was it, Number One? Good morning. I hope you are as well today as I am.” The voice was strangely cheerful, almost hypnotizing. The hostage pulled his head with one hand and pushed his chin up with the other, aligning his spine. A loud crack ricocheted off the walls, making Number One wince. “Señor Stafford…” The hostage defiantly held up his index finger again. “No, no, no,” he chided, as if talking to a child. “I do not wish to kill you, but you leave me no choice.” Number One finished his sentence harshly. “You cannot kill a spiritual man, Number One, you can only release him 87


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from this untidy world. Besides, that wouldn’t be profitable, would it?” Number One twitched, a fish hooked on a lure. “I did not know you were such a spiritual man,” he replied simply, fishing for more. “And I didn’t know that kidnappers were religious,” Number Two responded, pointing at the gold chain on the neck of his enemy. Number One grabbed it by reflex, holding the crucifix that hung from it. “I am not a kidnapper, I am a businessman.” “Forgive me for the slam, Number One,” Number Two said wryly. “How many kidnapping transactions have you concluded successfully?” “Twenty-two. And I will torture you until you make it twenty-three,” Number One sneered in frustration. “What are the odds that a good Catholic businessman wants to torture an innocent Unitarian?” Number Two closed his eyes again, as if to transport away. “The problem is that I am already officially dead, even cremated,” he continued. “After all, it’s on the Internet. It must be true. Sadly, Number One, no one can afford to believe that I could be resurrected. It is a charming compliment of course, but far too embarrassing and expensive for those in the know. Putting the wrong body in an ash bin is quite a liability in the States. And despite her grief Stafford’s wife will soon recover from his untimely departure with the help of a very large trust fund that allows her to maintain her exorbitant lifestyle, and even her boyfriend. If she must choose between her wardrobe or the release of her already dead husband, you lose, Number One. Not that the attorneys would ever let her do otherwise, lest their complicity would be exposed.” Number One leaned back in the rickety chair, placing splayed fingertips together in contemplation of his options. “And why is it that I should not just kill you now for convenience and closure, Number Two?” “Obviously, because it would be highly unprofitable for a smart businessman,” Number Two responded quickly. “And how could it become profitable to me?” Number One asked, his curiosity piqued, his motivations exposed. Number Two paused for a moment. “Number One, may I ask how much were you ransoming me for?” “One million American dollars.” It was a standard of international commerce everyone knew. “Personally, I am insulted, Number One,” the hostage responded with indignation. “I would never have requested less than a three-million-dollar ransom for me.” Number One leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees intently with his head down, rubbing the back of his neck. “And what does that mean, exactly, Number Two?” “It means that you need to treble your ransom, or I will be sorely offended 88


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and I will refuse to help you.” Number One’s eyebrows rose. “And who would you now refer me to in this negotiation?” he asked. “Why me, of course, Number One. For a fee equal to one half of the increased proceeds.” Number One’s face softened into a slight smile. “That is reasonable, Number Two, but I require more.” His voice turned serious. “What else?” the hostage queried, himself now curious. “You owe me a press release to restore my reputation, Number Two.” Number Two went silent again, withholding a response too quickly for a request so important to his captor. “I understand, Number One,” he grudgingly conceded. “I will make it good. I can make arrangements tomorrow.” “And who can make arrangements for you in your dead state, Number Two?” Number One asked in a provocative tone. “Why, my mistress of course. Who else could there be? Now spare me some time to meditate, won’t you, Number One? Business negotiations are always tiring.” Satisfied with the simple logic of his reply, Number One left the room and barked orders to his subordinates. Day Three Number Two drove the Hummer on a muddy trail that followed the rain forest perimeter as he whistled Yankee Doodle Dandy. The road gradually merged into a crumbling, one-lane asphalt road pockmarked by heat and rain. Number One sat in the passenger seat, seemingly relaxed in a stoic, military sort of way. He held a fashionable Glock 9 mm on his lap, anxious to conclude this rendezvous in a manner that recovered his ransom and his reputation. Two guards rode silently behind them. Within two hours they were pulling into a fashionable shopping center south of Rio, barely, and occupied by earlymorning traffic. Number Two parked the Hummer and ran to a small outdoor bistro. The guards began to pursue him, but Number One stopped them with the wave of his hand. He had already spotted a black stretch Lexus in the parking lot, parked next to the bistro. A tall, shapely brunette elegantly dressed in widow’s black with a stylish hat and a daringly short skirt sat alone on the outside veranda, elegantly contrasted against a white linen tablecloth. She was clearly waiting for Number Two. Number One watched the scene closely as the brunette stood to embrace the hostage like a schoolgirl in anticipation. The couple locked lips in a long, salacious kiss that even made Number One smile with envy. The hostage turned and made a sweeping gesture toward an empty seat for Number One, inviting him to join them. The woman in black held up a bottle of champagne to celebrate the 89


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return of her lover. It was an entirely civilized gesture which Number One genuinely appreciated, as if he were enjoying a backstage introduction to actors in his favorite play. Number Two introduced her as “Number Three” in good humor, as she extended a jeweled hand to greet Number One. Her accent was American and her smile radiant. She greeted Number One fondly and thanked him profusely for his safe care of Number Two. As they chatted, Number Two excused himself and quickly retrieved one red and one blue duffle bag from the Lexus, sliding them deftly beneath the draped tablecloth under the watchful eye of the guards. Number One drained his champagne with a toast to the couple’s good health, then turned to his hostage with intense anticipation, signaling his men that he was ready to leave. “Number Two, it is time to conclude our business,” he said bluntly. “But of course, Number One.” The hostage smiled, pulling the blue bag out for inspection. He produced a small key to unlock the bag and quickly revealed neatly stacked bundles of money to his captor. “One hundred fifty stacks of one hundred Ben Franklins each, my good man. One point five million in ransom, a fifty percent bonus for a job well done. My bag is identical, of course,” he volunteered as he patted Number One on the shoulder and slid the bag back under the table, handing him the key. “And let’s not forget this,” the brunette cooed, pulling two envelopes from her purse. She leaned over the table to deliver one to Number One, posing an unexpected distraction of eye-popping cleavage that left him speechless. Meanwhile Number Two opened the other envelope with aplomb, standing up to read it aloud, champagne glass in hand. “This press release is dated yesterday. From: Stafford Industries. For General Distribution. Stafford Industries executives confirmed today that they have paid $3.0 million to the terrorists reportedly responsible for the death of the company’s founder in order to procure the release of other employees not restricted by the covenants of the family trust, according to management.” “That should increase your next ransom letter, old boy,” the hostage offered, tipping his glass in a toast to his guest. Number One grinned as he placed the envelope in his pocket. “It is very good, Number Two,” he said, pulling the Glock out of its holster. He pointed it at the hostage. “But as a businessman, I must be compensated in full for putting up with your insolence. You will give me both bags. I will leave you and your lovely companion alone. Otherwise, I will kill you for the arrogant prick you are, and I will take her with the money. I do not know why this beautiful woman needs you, anyway.” Number Two gasped. “I must protest, Number One…” “No, you don’t,” the brunette interjected in a pragmatic tone, now suddenly 90


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in charge. “So, you haven’t told him, dear?” she questioned the hostage with a scowl. The hostage slumped and shook his head, handed a red and blue bag to Number One in a moment of protest. “Actually no, my dear. Candidly, I presumed that he should have figured it out by now. ” Number One stood frozen, not wanting to wait around but too curious to leave the conversation. The brunette eyed him apologetically. “Allow me to explain, my dear Number One. You killed the real Stafford, my poor, late husband,” she said sweetly. “Now, there was a real prick, mind you, so I hope that I have satisfied your sense of justice. This is my lover and driver, who switched places with Stafford shortly after our entourage deliberately attracted the attention of your spotters. Your people were very effective,” she complimented him in a gracious manner, “and contracting with them directly would have been rather crude, don’t you think? Attracting the attention of a capable predator like yourself had a certain flare, and it allowed nature to take its course. Well, with a little help from my friends.” She winked at Number Two. “Now I have plenty of money tucked away in a trust fund. So, let’s not argue, Number One. Please take both bags, with my appreciation, and let’s just stay friends.” The luscious lips suddenly gave way to a wicked smile as she took the last sip of champagne and added, “Quickly, Number One, as you are being filmed, and the local authorities are already on their way.” Number One stood frozen in disbelief as the distant sound of a police siren rippled through the air. His men grabbed both satchels and hustled him through the parking lot hastily, throwing the bags into the back of the big vehicle as Number One climbed into the passenger seat. The Hummer squealed out of the parking lot in a cloud of smoke, amid shouts of victory. The babe poured the last of the champagne for herself and her lover as he kissed her hand gently. “Was there anything else that I should have told Number One?” she asked whimsically. Number Two considered her question as the bubbles tickled his throat. “Not to leave in anger, my dear, it creates such bad karma,” he offered lightly. The explosion rumbled the table and sent a plume of smoke up in the distance. Number Two pulled out another red and blue satchel from under the table and nodded toward the waiting Lexus. “I understand a tour on the Amazon is grand this time of year, dear lady. What do you think?” “Tell me I don’t have to keep calling you Number Two,” she said, feigning a sense of dread in her voice as they walked to the sedan, “and that you will always stay in my driver’s seat.” “I was kind of getting used to being Number Two, my dear, but I am sure we can find something more to your liking,” he responded, pulling on his chauffeur’s hat and sliding behind the steering wheel. 91


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The Reason I’m Here Janet Benton

My parents grew up in New York City apartment buildings where adults whispered of genocide and war. At kitchen tables ringed by heads leaning forward, parents and neighbors widened their eyes and emitted oaths of despair. New arrivals slept on rugs. And despite constant work and scrimping, everyone’s wallets were always thin. In such a world, who had the time or the patience for tenderness? Yet hopes rise with each generation. Auburn-haired Barbara and darkhaired Sam fell in love, married, and moved to Connecticut. They had a son, Jacob, who was healthy and smart. Sam was in medical school. Barbara was an art teacher, then a mother at home. The family they were creating was a soft spot, a declaration of other possibilities. With my sister’s birth in 1960, they believed their family was complete. And for her first few months, Julia played her part. She unfurled capacities like a hardy flower warmed by the sun—holding up her head and turning it side to side, shaking a rattle as if to announce a celebration, rolling over and expressing her triumph with a chortle. To her toddler brother she brought delight, much as a puppy would have, or a fuzzy pillow made for him. When Julia was three months old, Sam took photographs of her stretched on her belly in blue footsie pajamas, thin-necked and lizard-like. Julia’s bent arms propped her torso a few inches off the ground; her neck held up her pert face; her eyes looked straight into the camera and seemed to say, “Aren’t I something?” This was her peak of aliveness. One evening, as her family sat around and watched her, she even tried to sit up. Then her petals began to curl inward. Some days she didn’t wave her arms and legs or smile when people made amusing faces. She didn’t make sounds, didn’t react to stuffed animals shaken above her. “She has a cold,” Barbara observed, which made sense for a week or two. “She isn’t getting enough sleep,” Sam noted next, but more sleep had no replenishing effect. By the end of her fifth month, Julia was turning her head sideways when my mother leaned over the crib. “Why doesn’t she look straight at us anymore?” Barbara asked one Sunday as they read on the couch while Jacob and Julia napped. Sam shrugged and said, 92


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“Babies go through phases.” He returned his attention to the medical tome in his lap. My mother drew her children and tucked the drawings into thick portfolios. She moved a charcoal pencil across large sheets of paper. She moved her graceful arm in wide strokes, as though opening her wings, then in small strokes, as though pushing aside a strand of hair. She needed the drawing, and the painting she sometimes found time for, the way a caged hamster needs its wheel, as an approximation of the freedom she was meant to have. She drew Julia and saw that my sister stayed still more and more often, eyelids half-shut. She saw that Julia rarely even batted at the wooden mobile that hung above her crib. Barbara brought the baby to the pediatrician for a checkup, citing these facts as evidence of a developmental delay. Dr. Cravett, a tall, middle-aged man with a thin face and a pleasant manner, inquired into bodily functions and took measurements. With his long-fingered, uncalloused hands, he held a clipboard and made notations. Julia was eating and excreting, growing and gaining in weight and height. “Your baby is perfectly normal,” he announced. To disdain a mother’s observations was de rigeur for a man of science. So in a small apartment on the grounds of a mental hospital where Sam was completing his residency, my parents went on caring for Jacob and Julia. Julia was a dear baby, gentle and uncomplaining, but Barbara knew it wasn’t normal that she hardly cried, hardly reacted to anything. Two-year-old Jacob asked why the baby didn’t respond, and Barbara said she didn’t know. But she began to believe that Julia had a sub-par mind. One chilly March evening when Julia was ten months old, as late winter’s crusty, dirty snow melted and drained away, Sam’s uncle came to dinner. He was a neuropsychologist and esteemed professor who’d flown in to speak at a nearby university. Uncle Arthur was keenly attentive to Julia as she lay silent, curved into the slope of Barbara’s body, following nothing with her eyes. With his thick glasses, large ears, and inquisitive face, he looked very much the scientist, one whose intelligence was boosted by a caring disposition. Sam jokingly referred to the baby as “Julia Jelly,” and Uncle Arthur did not laugh. Later he followed Barbara into the children’s room at bedtime and watched as Barbara changed Julia’s diaper. Briefly he placed his large hand on Julia’s forehead, where Barbara had already noted an appearance of swelling, seeming to investigate something. “She’s not normal, is she?” Barbara asked. But she didn’t want to be right. Arthur licked his lips, then pressed them together. Finally he spoke. “Have you told her doctor?” “He says there’s nothing wrong.” A prickling began on Barbara’s arms as she pinned the diaper closed and slid Julia into her pajamas. Though the room 93


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was warm, she shivered. “She’s not developing normally,” Arthur said, his large, brown eyes narrowed by somber suspicions. “You tell her doctor she needs a thorough exam.” Lying in bed with my father later, my mother repeated what Arthur had said. Sam reached across the sheets and held her hand. But still she felt herself floating. * The next day was March 21, when the Gregorian calendar declares the resurgence of spring. My mother called for an emergency appointment, and soon afterward she entered an examination room and placed Julia on the table, where she lay limp. At last the doctor determined the obvious. Julia was nearly deaf, he said. Her muscles were weak, and her head was accumulating fat. She appeared to see only from the sides of her eyes, which explained Barbara’s earlier observation. Pursuing an unspoken hypothesis, Dr. Cravett opened a drawer and removed an ophthalmoscope. As he switched on the light at the end of the tube-shaped instrument, my mother saw the trembling in his hand, and an ice floe of fear overtook her abdomen. Was Julia going blind? Dr. Cravett shone the brightness far back in one eye, then the other, and pulled in a breath. He returned the tool to the drawer. When he addressed my mother, his face was a study in grim lines. “When can your husband come to the office today?” “His shift ends at four.” My mother’s voice quavered. “Please come back with him at four-thirty.” The man’s facial expression was closed, like a night-blooming flower that had clamped shut against the glare of the sun. “Can you give me an idea of what’s going on?” Barbara pleaded. She lifted my sister’s warm body from the exam table and pulled her heavy form close. “It’s very serious,” said Dr. Cravett. “It’s best if I tell you and your husband together.” * Time did strange things for my mother that afternoon. Like someone waiting to be hung, she felt the minutes passing with tortuous slowness, yet on the clock the hours moved toward four with appalling speed. At last, with Jacob at a neighbor’s house, she and Sam and Julia entered an examination room. Dr. Cravett sat waiting. I can picture my father’s expression, a grimace that could have been interpreted as a smile. His lips were peeled back, showing his teeth. He was bracing himself. Barbara stood beside him, looking at the doctor in a wooden chair dwarfed by his long body, trying to figure out what the doctor was hiding. Julia lay on the exam table, motionless, her full-featured but expressionless face exuding an inexplicable sweetness, her curly brown hair bringing forth notions 94


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of a Renaissance cupid. “Are you both—uh—Jewish?” the doctor asked, face growing pink. “Yes,” Barbara affirmed, wondering where was he going with that line of inquiry. “What does that have to do with Julia’s health?” Sam asked. His religious identity had been best kept private in his professional life; his family had even changed its surname from Meltzer to Miller so that Sam and his older brother could apply to medical schools without being subject to quotas that were perfectly legal. The doctor cleared his throat. “She has cherry-red spots on her maculae.” Neither of my parents had any idea what this meant. “She has Tay-Sachs disease,” Dr. Cravett tried. Still both stared without comprehension. Then my father’s olive-skinned face began to pale. Later, he told Barbara that he’d dimly remembered a lecture on rare mutations. “It’s a genetic disease,” the doctor persisted. “She has a recessive gene from each of you.” “I should have realized,” Sam said. The doctor shook his head side to side. “Not really. It’s very rare, though not as rare among Ashkenazi Jews. Still, this is the first case I’ve seen.” “What does it do?” Barbara asked, her voice sounding high and peculiar in her ears. Dr. Cravett unfolded his tall frame from the little chair and stood. He looked out the second-story window, then back at my parents, wearing the wince and the determination of a man about to jump. “We don’t know much, but we know it’s progressive and fatal. Her cells can’t excrete a kind of fat. The fats destroy the nerves, the brain—she can barely see now, and her hearing is weak.” He paused, then dove again. “All that will get worse. She’ll live to three at the most.” My mother couldn’t get the words to make sense. Fatal? Live to three at the most? She started to sweat and held onto the examining table where Julia lay, unknowing. This baby had grown in her belly and nursed at her breasts and wasn’t going to have a life. A wave of dizziness smacked her. She looked around the room to locate the sink against one wall, in case she needed to vomit. My father rubbed his hands into his eyes. Dr. Cravett bent his head to make notes in Julia’s chart. When my father raised his head, his eyes sparkled under the fluorescent lights. He leaned his tall form against the mint-green, cement-block wall. “Um,” he started. Nothing more came out. Dr. Cravett cleared his throat again, then stepped toward the metal door and opened it. Turning back, he said, “I’ll get you some information on hospitals.” And he was gone. 95


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When the door banged shut, Julia shot out her arms and legs and began to cry. Barbara lifted my sister and pulled her close. Fitted into her own private harbor, Julia grew calm. “She can still hear loud sounds, honey,” Barbara said to Sam, as if this might hold off her baby’s fate. “The startle reflex is very basic,” he replied. “Even simple organisms have it.” Barbara sat hard on the examining table, suddenly wary of having her feet on the floor, as though it might give way. She watched Sam pull a handkerchief from his pocket that she had cut and sewed, washed and ironed. He wiped his upper lip and forehead. “Now it all makes sense,” he said miserably. But Barbara was far from thinking that anything made sense. “Are you sure Dr. Cravett is right? Why would this happen?” An expanding ache rose into my mother’s head. She pressed her cheek against Julia’s and felt the baby’s hand shift on her shoulder. The tiny, gripping hand. “Why would God do this to us?” she said, stifling a sob. “We each have the gene.” She nearly yelled in reply. “But how does Dr. Cravett know it’s that disease? And what if he’d figured this out earlier?” Sam shook his head side to side. “The red spots in her retinas. The disease is incurable.” He raised his lower lip over his upper one and sucked. The gesture meant he didn’t want to talk any more. And at that point he didn’t know much more than she did. But this didn’t matter, because Barbara wasn’t really listening anyway. Instead she was badly craving Sam’s arms around her. She wanted to curl into his familiar odor of musk and bitter coffee. She wanted that embrace to transport them, wanted to wake up in bed beside him with all of this erased and a regular day beginning, with Jacob patting her shoulder to urge her out of bed, Sam pulling on his pants and shirt in front of the closet, Julia waking in her crib and calling out in bird-like sounds as she used to. But just when Barbara slid from the table and began to move toward Sam to make all of that happen, the doctor knocked on the door and strode into the room. Beads of sweat dotted the skin above Dr. Cravett’s upper lip, the sides of his thin nose. His hand shook as he reached toward Sam with a slip of paper. “Only two children’s hospitals in this country take these cases,” he said. “They have waiting lists, so you should call soon. One of them is near here. In Simsbury.” “When will she need to go?” Barbara asked the doctor. It was Sam who replied, in a way that she never got over. “What’s the point of keeping her at home? She’s only going to get worse.” 96


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He clamped his hand onto Barbara’s shoulder and moved it back and forth in an imitation of comfort. She stiffened against his touch, staring at his smooth face, his full lips, his shock of wavy, dark hair. Dr. Cravett pulled the small, wooden chair toward the wall Sam leaned against and sat. “I’m not suggesting she be hospitalized right away,” the doctor clarified. “There’s no hurry from a medical point of view. Eventually she will start having seizures—probably by the age of two—and by then brain damage will be considerable. She’ll become completely blind.” When no one else spoke, he offered, “And paralyzed.” “So by that point, taking care of her will be—” began Barbara. “You’ve got a young son, I recall.” His gray-blue eyes focused on her. When she nodded, he said, “Not possible. Breathing and swallowing will be compromised. She’ll need care around the clock.” “So you think maybe by—” she started, but Sam interrupted. “Why wait? The hospital can take much better care of her.” When Barbara stayed quiet, he wiped sweat from his forehead and continued, looking at her. “People want—we’ll want to move on.” Soon he’d be searching desperately for cures, giving Julia all sorts of medicines that might stem the deterioration of her brain or halt the storage of fat, pacing the halls of his medical school and hospital, questioning everyone he could. But right then Barbara couldn’t keep looking at him. She turned her gaze to see Julia’s head against her shoulder, the nostrils expanding with each gentle breath, the rosy face that was very much alive. Julia’s weight against her was an anchor. And Sam wanted to move on. Another sob got stuck in Barbara’s throat. Her ribs wouldn’t expand when she breathed. Dr. Cravett directed his next words to Barbara. “You’ve got some time left,” he said. “She’s not even”—here he looked in his chart, and his face brightened, eyes widening and cheeks rising—“ten months. It appears that she’s getting excellent care at home.” Sam let out a long breath. “When should we hospitalize her, then?” he asked. Dr. Cravett put down the manila folder and brought his hands to a peak in front of his lips. “I usually suggest letting the mother decide.” At those words—kind, surprising, sensible—Barbara’s ribs unclenched. She took in a breath, pressed her lips onto Julia’s scalp, and exhaled warmth onto the baby’s head, receiving Julia’s talc-like smell in return. A chorus of voices passed in the hall. Dr. Cravett looked up at a round clock near the ceiling, then back at the assembled family. “I could have seen it sooner,” he admitted, standing up and walking toward the door. “But it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome.” He stopped with his hand on the door handle and spoke more softly. “I’m sure you 97


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know that nothing will.” Sam nodded, his face long in the cheeks, though knowing this wouldn’t stop him from trying. But Barbara was astounded. How could there be nothing? No medicine? No method? Absolutely nothing? When the door hit the frame this time, Julia didn’t startle or cry. My father stood against the wall across the room. To Barbara the space between them seemed threatening, as if a wild dog crouched in it, and her chest had been torn open, its rib bones gaping outward, leaving her heart visible, beating and raw, a ready morsel for those gleaming teeth. What could protect her from that ferocious distance? Then Julia let out a snore against Barbara’s shoulder, and Sam’s long legs moved him to the exam table where Barbara sat. He leaned to push his head against hers, and he folded her and the baby into his arms. So for one last moment, two years before I was born, the three of them existed in harmony, a unity of genetic material that hadn’t worked out so well this time, but still loving each other, still connected and whole. At least that’s how I like to imagine it.

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The Plague of Gingy Lisa A. Sturm

Dovid Raviv had never intended to bring any sort of shame to himself or his family. On the contrary, he had always believed himself to be the kind of person who would one day be known as a man of honor and wisdom. From an early age, he used his intelligence and skills of persuasion to win the esteem of both adults and peers. His teachers at the Bait Avraham Yitzchok Yeshiva in Jerusalem often called his parents to commend them on raising such a fine Ben Torah. His grasp of the Talmudic texts was exemplary, and the questions he posed showed great promise, the signs of true scholarly potential. At the age of twenty-two, he began dating with the intention of finding a wife. Unlike most of his friends, he was accustomed to speaking with girls. All through his adolescence he had surreptitiously participated in flirtations with young women, meeting them on the public buses or on the curb in front of the cinema as they waited to view films that in his circle were considered off-limits. He told jokes to make them laugh, attempting to convince them that he was not the straitlaced Orthodox boy he appeared to be. Occasionally he was able to convince a blossoming, wide-eyed innocent to grant him a kiss on the cheek or a parting embrace, and this he viewed as a victory. These girls giggled and batted long eyelashes as they stood admiring his sapphire eyes, which smiled quizzically as he spoke. But then the bus would arrive at a stop or the ticket holders’ line would move inside, and he would be left alone, with a waft of strawberry musk cologne and a longing that made his body ache. At twenty-three he chose his wife, a stunning dark-haired nineteenyear-old with smoldering chestnut eyes and a figure so shapely that it could not be hidden beneath the modest clothes she wore. She was not the wealthiest girl to be suggested to him, nor the most highly educated, but she was by far the most pleasing to the eyes, and certainly of a kind temperament. “I’ve got brains and education enough for both of us,” he told his mother of his decision, “and if need be, I could leave the yeshiva and work some day, but where will I ever find a blossom so pleasant and gentle. As the Talmud says, what is inside is like the outside—and with Malca, both are beautiful.” 99


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Less than two years later, it was hard for him to recall what wind had extinguished the flame. The youthful light that used to fill her eyes had been replaced with something flat and empty, and her melancholy seemed to seep into every crevice of their life, coloring it a charcoal gray. While he had always been adept at charming young women, Dovid now felt impotent when it came to Malca, for nothing he did brought laughter to her eyes or a curl to her lips. Never being one to share his troubles with others, he began taking long walks, hoping for a solution to manifest. One summer day as he meandered through the winding paths of Mount Hertzl, a solution appeared at his side. In Israel they would call her a gingy, but Dovid believed this buxom strawberry blonde from Baltimore who smiled easily and laughed too often must surely have been heaven-sent. “Why are Orthodox men all so conventional?” she mused. “I must be honest and say that I find them difficult myself. It’s not easy to live in a small religious community. Even in Jerusalem, sometimes I question whether it’s worth all the sacrifice to be cloistered with the closedminded.” “Exactly!” She beamed up at him, gently brushing her long ginger mane back off her shoulders, a few stray curls falling against her freckled nose. She suggested they sit down for a moment on a bench in the shade. “Hope,” she said, and he looked puzzled. “My name, it’s Hope.” He laughed out loud and extended his hand. “Dovid,” he said, waiting to see if she would shake his hand, or if even this was not something that was done in Hope’s world. To his delight, not only did she extend one hand, but she used both of her hands to hold his own in a jolly embrace that he had seen only in pictures of American politicians. She leaned back against the bench and stretched out her legs, exposing the bare skin of her calves beneath a denim skirt. When the gentle Jerusalem breeze sent several strands of hair into her eyes, she smoothed it behind her ear, exposing a line of five silver looped earrings that ran up her earlobe. “I’ve never seen these sorts of earrings, at least not up close.” He leaned forward and glanced down the immodestly low-cut blouse into a hidden treasure of white lace. “They look great on you,” he whispered, almost touching her ear. Hope saw his hesitation. “Oh, you can touch them if you’re curious. It won’t hurt me. I’ve had them since my identity crisis in college. I left Judaism behind for a summer and lived on an Ashram in Massachusetts, doing yoga and meditation, eating a vegetarian diet—and I pierced my ear. I actually used to have a nose ring too, but my mother made me take it out. Here…” She pointed to a spot on the right side of her rounded nose. “You 100


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can still just about make out the scar.” Dovid leaned in toward Hope, examined her nose, and then ran his trembling fingers up along the row of silver loops. When the row ended, his fingers traced the rest of her ear. As his hand met the flesh of her neck, she exhaled deeply, and he knew that he had found the answer. Things progressed rapidly after that. He offered to drive her back to her hotel, and she invited him up to her room. Once he knew that Hope was definitely going to take him to her bed, he was impatient to have her. He found himself pulling the buttons of her blouse with such force that one flew across the room. “I’m on the pill,” she whispered. “I don’t suppose you brought condoms.” “No,” he said, placing his mouth over hers so that she would say nothing more. He didn’t bother removing his own clothing or even her skirt—he was a married man there on urgent business, and once he made his way inside of her, he paid little attention to whether or not she was also enjoying his movements. When her high-pitched moans began to reach him behind his wave of motion, he could contain himself no longer. Once finished, he sat up on the edge of the bed smiling broadly. Hope wrapped her legs around him and kissed the back of his neck. “I’m here for the rest of the week if you’d like to do any more sightseeing.” “Oh, just until the end of the week?” A look of disappointment fell across his face. “I’m leaving tonight for Eilat; it’s really a shame.” It was a lie that flowed like honey from his lips. That night as his wife served him his dinner, she leaned in close and mouthed, “Tonight is my mikvah night.” He knew that according to Jewish law, the mikvah visit should never be postponed or delayed, and it was always followed by marital intimacy. He anxiously considered whether or not he would be able to perform yet a second time in the same day, but then brushed the worry aside. He was a star pupil, an overachiever; of course he’d be able to perform. He remembered the sweet mikvah nights of their first year, when his young bride was eager—trembling at his touch, waiting with anticipation as he chose his mouth’s next point of contact. That night as Malca and Dovid performed the marital act that was expected, Dovid tried desperately to block out the memory of the freckled nose and orange locks that seemed to be mocking him in the darkness. It was five days later that the symptoms began. Dovid noticed a burning sensation on Shabbat and attributed it to the fact that he hadn’t bathed that day. After reciting Havdalah, the candlelit ceremony bidding farewell to the Sabbath and welcoming in the new week, he excused himself to the bath101


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room and showered beneath a pounding spray of hot water, soaping and re-soaping his genitals in an attempt to wash away his discomfort. In the morning he walked groggily from his bedroom to the kitchen and was jolted awake by the itching and pain in his groin. His heart began pounding as he realized that this ailment could very well be his punishment, a plague to teach him the error of his ways. He had never experienced such discomfort and had no friends in whom to confide his symptoms and ask advice. He pounded the counter with his fist, furious—first with Hope for carrying such a disease, and secondly with himself for not thinking to take the proper precautions. Panic set in as he realized that he might very well have passed his affliction on to Malca. In that case, what would he tell her? How could he possibly explain his actions? Could there be any other explanation for his discomfort? Would the medical clinic tell her the truth? What then? He stood in the kitchen staring at the sink, his mind racing, perspiration gathering on his face and neck. When Malca padded into the room, he nearly jumped out of his skin. “How are you feeling?” he asked with lowered eyes. “Fine,” she responded as she set a kettle of water on the stovetop and pulled a loaf of bread from the cupboard. Dovid tiptoed around his wife, afraid that his actions might alert her to his condition, or worse—that she would show signs of it herself. His day passed painfully slowly as he hoped and prayed for healing—healing that was elusive. Waking the next morning with the same symptoms, he made his way to the neighborhood medical clinic. With each step he felt the inseam of his pants scraping against his manhood, sending a burning sensation through him. He stopped several times to try to rearrange himself to create less friction, but there was no escaping his clothing. During his prayers that morning, he had again asked God to bring him healing, but thus far his prayers had not been answered. As he walked into the waiting room chewing nervously on a fingernail, Dovid found that he was not alone. Both his wife and his kindhearted neighbor, Nate Horowitz, were at the far end of the room. The two, seated across from one another in orange plastic chairs, were engaged in a serious conversation, and neither one glanced up as he entered. He noticed Malca shifting uncomfortably in her chair, arranging and rearranging the beige twill skirt beneath her. He knew then that his worst fear had been realized. She, too, had contracted the disease and would now question him about the source of their plague. His heart pounded against his rib cage, and he was about to slip back out of the clinic’s front door when he 102


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observed something unusual in his neighbor’s behavior. Nate moved uneasily in his chair, rubbing the inside of his left thigh and pulling on the fabric of his black pants as if he were attempting to free himself from the polyester fibers. Dovid’s eyes widened with understanding. If Dovid’s curse had come courtesy of Hope, and if he transmitted it to Malca on her mikvah night, then Nate must have caught it from… Was it possible? His Malca had been unfaithful? But that would explain everything. And it would also mean that this terrible situation was not even his fault! After all, his affair was only a desperate search for comfort in response to her infidelity, her sin! He had only been reacting to his wife’s desertion. It was all beginning to make sense. Or perhaps Malca had contracted the plague from Nate, and Dovid had gotten it from her! Then his infidelity was totally inconsequential! Dovid cleared his throat loudly, causing them both to turn. Each one took the opportunity to squirm against the orange plastic that cupped their bottoms. “How did you know to find me here? Is something wrong?” The lines of worry that had begun to settle across Malca’s forehead seemed to deepen with each word. “Your questions are ones that have Talmudic depth. Who knows why the Holy One brought me here to this clinic at this particular moment, to find the two of you squirming in your chairs, pulling at yourselves as if you’ve both been visited by a Russian whore.” Nate rose from his chair and tried to interrupt, but Dovid simply raised his voice. “Nate, is this why you couldn’t eat lunch with us last Shabbat? Was it too uncomfortable for you to sit at my Shabbat table and eat my food when you had intimate knowledge of my wife?” “Have you gone mad?” Malca was on her feet, standing between the two men. Her chestnut eyes burned with outrage. “There’s nothing between Nate and me! We happened to arrive here together, and I was just talking with him about his wife’s migraines—she gets them like me—that’s all!” Turning to face Nate, she said, “Please forgive…” Dovid interrupted. “He should forgive? You’re looking the wrong way. I’m the one from whom you need to seek forgiveness! Your behavior is grounds for divorce!” “Dovid, please! Lower your voice. Whatever problem I am here for,” she blushed crimson, “I can assure you it has no relationship to Nate. I am a religious woman. How could you suggest such a thing?” He pushed Malca aside so that he could look into Nate’s eyes. “Nate, tell Malca why you’re here; then maybe she’ll understand.” “Fine. If this will settle it. It’s a bit embarrassing.” 103


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“I bet,” spat Dovid. “Last Shabbat I went with my family to visit my sister-in-law who lives in Safed. That is why we were unavailable. We took a long walk in the afternoon, down the rocky slopes, and I foolishly slipped and scraped my legs on some rocks and thorns. I thought nothing of it, but as the days wore on, I noticed there was an infection. I need antibiotics. It’s truthfully quite uncomfortable.” “Hah! What a story,” mocked Dovid. “Let’s see it.” “What?” Nate was incredulous. “Malca, avert your eyes. I want to see it.” “Dovid, you and I have been neighbors for several years, but I’ll not stand here in the clinic and lower my pants for you!” “Why not! If you’ve got nothing to hide and if it will clear my wife’s good name, then I see it as your duty. The Talmud says you should run to help your fellow Jew.” “Unfortunately I think the best way I could help my fellow Jew would be to drive you to the psychiatric hospital.” Noticing Dovid shaking his leg and fingering his inner thigh, he added, “Tell us why you’re here again?” Infuriated, Dovid began pulling at the waistband of Nate’s slacks. The two struggled for a moment before Nate freed himself and then in total exasperation raised his hands in the air. “If this is the only way to end this foolishness, then what do I care.” In one fluid motion he unbuttoned his pants and lowered the zipper, releasing his trousers to his ankles. Malca couldn’t help but look, as she had never seen a man, other than her husband, in his underwear. Both Dovid and Malca recoiled in disgust. The infection on the outside of his right thigh and the inside of his left was hideous to look at. A nurse with short, bleached blond hair and a lab coat sauntered into the room and chuckled at the scene. She shook her head and said, “This is something that regretfully was left out of my Jewish education. Rabbis, are you trying to make a determination about whether or not a female nurse can treat such a wound?” She eyed the infection on Nate’s legs. “I’d say yes. What do you think, madam?” she asked, glancing at Malca. Malca covered her mouth to prevent the others from seeing her smile. Nate’s legs were paler than anything she might have imagined, and they reminded her of the partially plucked chickens her mother would toss into the sink for Malca to de-feather before transforming them into a rich Shabbat stew. Nate quickly raised his pants, muttering, “I have a crazy man for a neighbor,” and followed the nurse down the corridor toward an examination room. He paused midway down the hall, turned on his heels, and addressed 104


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Malca. “I’m sure that the reason he is here, his plague, it has nothing to do with you. You have my sympathy.” Malca bit her bottom lip and averted her eyes. She didn’t want him to see the depth of her sudden understanding of the situation. She eased her way back into an orange chair, and Dovid struggled into one directly across from her. He realized that leaving and giving himself time to think through what had just been revealed would be most prudent, but the discomfort in his groin kept him solidly in the seat. In that moment Malca felt old—old enough to have a husband cheat on her, old enough to recognize the dark shame in his face. “Who was she?” she asked so softly that both of them had to wonder if she had actually spoken.

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Contributors Jeffrey Alfier is a five-time Pushcart nominee and the author of The Wolf Yearling (Silver Birch Press) and Idyll for a Vanishing River (Glass Lyre Press). He is the founder and co-editor of San Pedro River Review. Brittany Arnold is driven by her compulsion to be constantly making things. Composing body ornamentation that pushes the scale of what is considered traditionally wearable, she is concerned with the body’s capability to regulate and experience feelings through physical manifestations. She creates interactive devices, often referring to the body that aim to probe curiosity and call attention to the mechanisms of human communication. Born and raised in Virginia, she studied Crafts and Material Studies at the Virginia Commonwealth University. She currently resides in Richmond, Virginia. Sallie Bailey is currently a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is pursuing a major in Crafts and Material Studies with a concentration in woodworking and ceramics, and a minor in Art History. Joe Baumann is currently a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, where he serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Rougarou: An Online Literary Journal. His work has appeared in SNReview, flashquake, Prick of the Spindle, Hawai’i Review, and is forthcoming from Oblong, matchbook, and others. His first book, Ivory Children, was recently produced by Red Bird Chapbooks. Janet Benton received her M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and has been a writer and editor for thirty years and a writing teacher for eighteen years. One short story was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Open Fiction contest, and Glimmer Train published her interview with novelist Valerie Martin. She has cowritten documentaries on Philadelphia history for History Making Productions, of which Fever: 1793 won a 2013 Emmy for Best Feature Documentary. Founder of The Word Studio, she offers support and guidance to writers. Clients have won fellowships, obtained agents, been published, and won awards. Her nonfiction has appeared widely, including in a New York Times column, Modern Love. She’s been awarded fellowships from the University of Massachusetts, Oberlin College, and the University of California at Davis, and attended two writers’


colonies, including Cottages at Hedgebrook. Benton lives outside Philadelphia, where she is completing a novel. Mackenzie Budd is an artist that works with themes of illusion, ritual, and perception by staging ephemeral experiences for herself or the participant. Installation, performance, sound, and video are some of the mediums through which she expresses ideas. Mackenzie is heavily invested in altering consciousness in order to facilitate the expansion of positive vibrations. She believes “every human being is an artist.” Dylan Carpenter is co-editor of the Starover Blue Review and currently a student in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His poems have appeared in the Corium Review and Leviathan. Mary Crow’s new book of poems, Addicted to the Horizon, was published in 2012. Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Colorado Council on the Arts, a Colorado Book Award, and three Fulbrights. She also translates poetry; her most recent book is Vertical Poetry: Last Poems of Roberto Juarroz (2011). Monika Daniels is a sophomore at Tulane University studying English and Anthropology. She plans to concentrate in Creative Writing, and enjoys food and llamas. Mark DeFoe is a Professor Emeritus of English at West Virginia Wesleyan College where he teaches in Wesleyan’s low-residency M.F.A. Writing Program. His tenth chapbook, “In the Tourist Cave,” was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press. He is the winner of the 2005 Chautauqua Literary Journal’s national poetry competition, and was awarded two Individual Artist Grants from the West Virginia Commission for the Arts. In 2009, he won the Tennessee Chapbook Award. He lives with his wife Jeanne in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Alyssa Delly began her studies at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia, where she formed a keen sense of representational color and form. In 2009, she transferred into the more expansive and contemporary art curriculum at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, where she will graduate from the Painting and Printmaking department this spring. As part of a U.S. Foreign Service family, Alyssa applies a unique multi-cultural perspective to the arts. She also focuses on nature’s cycles: creation, life, decay and regeneration. She strives to incorporate these elements into her work. Samuel Eakin was born into an academic family, but was not inclined to pursue an academic career. He entered college without completing high school, then dropped out to pursue business and soon developed a particular knack for complex transactions. By age 21, Eakin was residing in Washington, D.C., as advisor to E.F.


Hutton, numerous federal agencies, and major companies in the market of renewable energy, regularly testifying before Congress in that capacity. He founded Eakin & Co. in 1987 and began a 25-year career acquiring and restructuring companies. He has written monthly editorials in local newspapers for several years. Clara Changxin Fang has had her poems published in Poet Lore, Willow Review, Flyway, Cold Mountain Review, and Verse Daily, among others. She has been a finalist for the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award (Red Hen Press) and the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize (Washington Writers Publishing House). She received her M.F.A. from University of Utah and a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University. She was born in Shanghai, China, immigrated to the US when she was nine, and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland where she works as Sustainability Director at Towson University. Jéanpaul Ferro is a novelist, short fiction author, and poet from Providence, Rhode Island. A nine-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared on National Public Radio, Contemporary American Voices, Columbia Review, Emerson Review, Portland Monthly, Arts & Understanding Magazine, Saltsburg Review, Hawaii Review, and others. He is the author of All The Good Promises (Plowman Press, 1994); Becoming X (BlazeVox Books, 2008); You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers (Thumbscrew Press, 2009); Hemispheres (Maverick Duck Press, 2009); and Essendo Morti – Being Dead (Goldfish Press, 2009),nominated for the 2010 Griffin Prize in Poetry; and Jazz (Honest Publishing, 2011), nominated for both the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize and the 2012 Griffin Prize in Poetry. He is represented by the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. Ken Holland, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has had poetry and prose published in numerous literary journals, most recently in Rattle, Confrontation, Southwest Review, Texas Review and The Comstock Review. He has won or been a finalist in several writing contests. For a day job, he has the good fortune to earn a paycheck by working for one of the Manhattan publishing houses. Wynne Hungerford has published work in The Whitefish Review, The South Carolina Review, Edible Upcountry, the anthology What We Remember, What We Forget, and Montana Public Radio’s program Reflections West. She was a poetry finalist for both the NFAA YoungArts contest and the Norman Mailer College Poetry Prize. Wynne recently graduated from the University of Montana. Nayoung Jeong was born and raised in Korea. She currently works and lives in Providence, Rhode Island. She is a ceramist, sculptor, and painter based on performance and installation in cultural and historical identity. Her work is processoriented to gain an understanding of the questions that are stemming from her memories and emotions, and to create something familiar in unfamiliar culture. She received her B.F.A. from California College of the Art, and is working on her M.F.A. at Rhode Island School of Design.


Christopher Kuhl has taught music theory and history, theater history, and literature at Mississippi University for Women, and English at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Though retired due to illness, he is working on a manuscript for a freestyle haiku collection. His other interests include studying higher mathematics, pen and ink drawing, reading spiritual directions and practices, theology, and classical Greek and Hebrew. Isabelle Mouton is an artist living in Richmond, Virginia, and is currently a senior in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Painting and Printmaking department. Primarily a paper artist, she uses various painting, drawing, and printmaking methods to explore human dualities such as the relation between body and spirit, waking and sleeping, life and death. Mercedes Lawry has published poetry in such journals as Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Rhino, Nimrod, Poetry East, The Saint Ann’s Review, and others. She’s also published fiction, humor and essays, as well as stories and poems for children. She’s received awards from the Seattle Arts Commission, Hugo House, and Artist Trust. She’s been a Jack Straw Writer, a Pushcart Prize nominee twice, and held a residency at Hedgebrook. Her chapbook, “There are Crows in My Blood,” was published in 2007, and another chapbook, “Happy Darkness,” was released in 2011. She lives in Seattle. Michaela M. Lovejoy is a junior majoring in International Development and African studies. She is currently abroad in Ghana. She is an avid traveler, and when she is not abroad she is planning her next trip. Her Canon is always close at hand to capture the passing beauties that pervade her adventures. She sees the richest moments of life in the most ordinary of circumstances and hopes that her photographs can inspire the same vision in others. Thor Oren is a senior in the Sculpture department at Rhode Island School of Design. He is primarily interested in creating forms and images using gesture and the materials’ physical capabilities to convey a given emotion or line of thought. Laurie Patton is as professor of religion at Duke University. She teaches early Indian religions, comparative mythology, and religion and literature. She has had two books of poetry published: Fire’s Goal: Poems from the Hindu Year (White Cloud Press, 2003) and Angel’s Task: Poems in Biblical Time (Station Hill of Barrytown in 2011). Her translation of the Bhagavad Gita was published in 2008 in the Penguin Press Classics Series. Michael Phillipps lives in New York City where he supports his writing with a day job as an attorney and as a busking gypsy jazz guitarist. He received his M.F.A. in Fiction Writing from NYU and has been published in over a dozen literary journals. His short story, Lambs, is the opening of his first novel-in-progress.


Katrina Rattermann challenges the stereotype of the traditional ceramic cup by forcing it into an arrangement using contemporary building materials. Material mimicry and the suggested conflict between high and low expose our relationship to ceramic objects and our preoccupation with style. R. G. Robins is a native of Dallas, Texas, and an academic drifter who occasionally does something worthwhile like writing a poem. He now finds himself teaching English and American Studies at the University of Tokyo, which is only about seventy miles and a mountain range or two from the small town in Yamanashi where his wife, Yoko, grew up. John Robinson is a novelist, playwright, essayist, memoirist, and short story writer, who lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, the Sewanee Review, the Cimarron Review, the Hawaii Pacific Review, the Rhode Island Review, Epiphany, The Bitter Oleander, theNewerYork, Colere, Zymbol, and more. He has contributed political commentary, created an award-winning drama, appeared in various anthologies, and written and lived in three countries: Scotland, Spain, and the United States. Allison Saft is a sophomore who studies English and Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Originally from Media, Pennsylvania, she lives in Austin, Texas. While at school, she participates in Phi Sigma Pi, WTUL, and SAPHE. She also self-identifies as a writer, a musician, and a mediocre-at-best glass artist. Myrna Shaker is a 19-year-old college freshman. She is an aspiring artist and poet. Her work tends to address many social and political issues across the globe, especially focusing on women’s and children’s rights. She is currently an online artist volunteer for the United Nations. Recently, her artwork and poems have been featured in several high school magazines. During her junior year, the district annual art showcase awarded her with first place in printmaking. Currently living in California, Myrna is planning to major in fine arts, and possibly minor in psychology. Rafayel Stepanyan currently lives and works in Richmond, Virginia. Employing complex visual languages that explore abstraction, composition and the technical approach, his works reflect an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and understanding of the world around him. With an impeccable curiosity towards history and the human condition, Rafayel finds his environment both humbling and incredibly dynamic as he pursues a B.F.A. in the Painting and Printmaking department at Virginia Commonwealth University. Lisa A. Sturm is a columnist for the News-Record of Maplewood and South Orange and coauthored the book From the Wise Women of Israel: Folklore and Memoirs with Doris B. Gold (Biblio Press, 1993). Her columns and op-ed pieces are archived on her blog, www.bringmorelove.wordpress.com. She recently completed her first novel, Life on the Other Side, which was born out of her experiences as


an inner-city psychotherapist. Her short stories and creative nonfiction have been published in Moment Magazine, The New Jersey Jewish News, The Jewish Standard, and The New York Jewish News. Currently, she is a psychotherapist in a private practice. Trevor Tingle has tried and failed to sail around the world. He lives with his wife and son in New Orleans. He has been published by the Natchez Poetry Contest and Jersey Devil Press. Dennis Trudell of Madison, Wisconsin, has recent and forthcoming poems in Saranac Review, Hopkins Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Perceptions Literary Magazine, and more. His book, Fragments in Us: Recent & Earlier Poems, was published by University of Wisconsin Press. He edited Full Court: A Literary Anthology of Basketball for Breakaway Books. Nils Westergard is a 21-year-old artist from Richmond, Virginia by way of D.C. and Belgium. His paintings and murals can be found throughout the U.S., Australia, and Europe. He tackles political subjects and traditional portraiture. As a film student, he creates music videos and is currently in production of his thesis film, a street art animation through the alleys of Richmond. Billie Whittington received a B.S. in Clinical Laboratory Sciences from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2000 and M.P.A. from Louisiana State University in 2005. Billie has worked in healthcare for 14 years and has maintained a passion for photography. In 2012, she began her formal education in photography at Tulane University. Billie currently resides in southeast Louisiana and photographs her personal depiction of southern culture. Kenny Williams holds degrees from UVA and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared most recently in Rattle, Lake Effect, Barrow St., Fence, and Sonora Review, and is forthcoming in the Kenyon Review. Janice Zerfas has a Ph.D. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. She teaches composition, creative writing, and developmental writing at Lake Michigan College, and has been published in many small press magazines such as Indiana Review, Driftwood, McGuffin, Crazy Horse, Many Mountains Moving, and Red Cedar Review. Jasphy Yiran Zheng is currently a sophomore studying photography at Rhode Island School of Design. Interested in conceptual and public art, she concentrates on using photography as a method to solve problems and clear up confusion in life.


Submission Guidelines The Tulane Review accepts poetry, prose, and art submissions. Poetry and prose submissions should be sent electronically to litsoc@tulane.edu and be included as attachments. Hard copy submissions will be accepted, and should be sent to Tulane Review, 122 Norman Mayer, New Orleans, LA, 70118, but will not be returned. Please submit no more than five poems and limit prose submissions to 4,000 words per piece. Hard copy submissions should include the artist’s e-mail address. Art should be submitted electronically to tulane. review@gmail.com in high-resolution format. Please include dimensions and media form. Please include a cover letter with biography for all submissions. The Tulane Literary Society normally acquires first North American serial rights but will consider second serial publication. For more information, visit our website at review.tulane.edu.

Tulane Review Fall 2013  
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