| review.tulane.edu |
| Fall 2014 |
The Tulane Review fall 2014
EDITORS in CHIEF
Elizabeth Gaffin Lauren Wethers
ART EDITOR POETRY EDITORS
Julie Martin Meredith Maltby Samantha Patel
Lauren Baker Lauren Kornick
Cover art by Devin Reynolds. Full image: page 52. ISSN 2166-5001 ISSN 2166-501X The Tulane Review is a literary art journal published by the Tulane Literary Society twice yearly. 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 of this issue or visit review.tulane. edu. To view this issue on the web, please visit issuu.com. 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 ÂŠ 2014 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 7 8 10 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 24 25 26 28 29 30 32 33 35
a line | Tessa Barkan The Car Accident | Adam Scheffler a short history of rain | David Filer A Hundred Dead Languages | Chelsea Kerwin A Poem In Which Everyone Is Guilty | Clay Cantrell Consumed | Andrew Jarvis El Paso | Benjamin Aleshire big falls | Elena Botts Anti-Adolescence | M’Bilia Meekers Meteor | Benjamin Aleshire Unit 213 | Liz Clift Drawing Inward | Dixon Hearne Spring Theater | John Grey alcoves | Elena Botts Notes on a Garden Reading | M’Bilia Meekers Dear HP | Carolyn Canulette Loyal MP | Christopher Barnes Saskia Tannenbaum | Jake Koch Bellboy | Benjamin Aleshire Every Poem Is A Paul Rudd Romantic Comedy | Jake Koch Blueprint | Mark Defoe
Gallery II | Visual Art 39 40 41 42
The Island | Mia Funk Counterpart VIII | Samantha Fortenberry Counterpart II | Samantha Fortenberry Donuts | Kristina Bjornson
43 44 45 46 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 58 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67
Abstraction | Kristina Bjornson The Three Guitar Players | Ernest Williamson III Split | Erica Lipoff These Icy Strands of Frost | Xinwei Che Infinite Distress | Hannah Chertock Untitled | Hannah Chertock Inventory | W. Jack Savage The Road Not Eaten | Madeleine Byrne Donâ€™t worry honey itâ€™s just spilled coffee | Devin Reynolds The banana bread is pudding | Devin Reynolds Caged | Vanilla Kalai Anandam Wrapped in Red | Vanilla Kalai Anandam Specimen 22 | Megan Tamas Specimen 37 | Megan Tamas Socializing at the Beach | Ishiah White Two Women in Rome | Ishiah White Autumn | Mia Funk Waiting II | Mia Funk Mountain Man | Lindsey Flanagan Palehound | Luke Oberlander and Zach Visotsky Untitled | Natalie Shyu Two Old Conglomerates | Lauren Skelly
Gallery III | Prose 69 74 77 84 89
Beemoor Village | John Hearn Our Evening Protocol | Brad Cobb Give Me Your Tomorrows | Robert McGuill The Whole Thing is Like This | Jason Hill Unfinished | Anita Haas
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
a line Tessa Barkan
unbroken, a line of gravestones and a sister mother father unbroken in a line, for the very first time, in years. a sister mother father, a hand in mine soil and grime under fingernails, a sister mother father in an unbroken line.
The Car Accident Adam Scheffler
Cleves, Ohio – 7th of July
At the road-side next to the badger-mess, the sinking sun is coming right through the leaves of the tree. He says the word to himself aloud – tree – listening to boys still lighting off fireworks, gazing blankly at the far powerplant’s rising clouds – it is summer near the river, everything is green, the tractor is wound up in leaves, sprouting white flowers at its rusting tips. Today, everyone’s heading to the lake, to bust their way past security and wade right in, still holding their beers. Not him. He has just walked five miles to place a plastic lily and a tinsel windmill at this goddamn cross, white and
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
wooden and staked by the roadside because, fifteen years ago there, for a second, someone was careless. Cars rush past him honking. An eighteen wheeler slacks off dirt. Finished, no destination in mind, he puts out his thumb, knowing nobody would feel safe to stop with that white zippery scar sliding all the way down the side of his skull and, after waiting a minute, hikes on toward the distant McDonalds arches, tiny and held high as a steeple, dark wind tugging at his sleeves. Sun has almost set. Somewhere, another old barnâ€™s letting light in a thousand places into its body.
a short history of rain David Filer
it only fell when it became too heavy for the clouds to bear * and then it had no choice gathering where it fell clinging to anything it could disappearing when there was earth to soak into
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
* someone likened it to tears but by then the clouds had blown on beyond the horizon and sunlight reflected off the wet streets * in one part of the country it raised rivers above their banks and there were second thoughts
but when a single drop fell from the blooming rose everyone knew it was a gift
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
A Hundred Dead Languages Chelsea Kerwin Their solitude is complete when snow gusts through the dilapidated hall of mirrors illuminating the wind it rides in spirals. She gardens and skins rabbits, the princess aged and no one arrived. Still, the dragon surveys the plateau flying low and without urgency. There has been quiet in this fog for a hundred years. He sees colors, grey and green in foggy shapes, all still. At night they watch the stars, him with his wings bent into spokes tucked up, gleaming. She listens to the tiny and miraculous bones that pop between his teeth. Such small birds, but what noise is made and echoes. It may not be wisdom, but he loves what she loves, gold, a smoke-blotted sky,
a burning city. There is a fire in his gut that renders a hundred dead languages. For him, the stars are falling deeper into the solid dark, and he follows them. It is true that she feels him loosening beside her, his silver eyes dull and hazy like dust in the light, or ice melting on the surface of the pond, from pure white to grey to a mere brief skin both clear and freezing cold.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
A Poem In Which Everyone Is Guilty Clay Cantrell Corn wraps a town with an upward escape. Like a baron’s final crew cut before his Byronian escapade. The smell of rot is so strong it makes me gag. I like to gag, though, and I walk among the dead strewn about the landscape a century ago. It’s my favorite game. I pick up the skulls and let them talk. One says why’d you let them plant all this corn out here? Another: stay with us, no one will find you. A century ago, a malaria baron built an empire of peasant tongues. His bones and their bones rattle gratingly from a foot hill. It makes me gag to think of the reasons. I got a crew cut when I was ten years old and I cut my hand with scissors. I am a creature obsessed with a hemorrhage landowners feel, kids with crew cuts feel, the insane corn itself feels. The smell of rot here is strong.
Consumed Andrew Jarvis
The salmon smoke bellowed, and cedars uprooted, when land slid into earth. And she swallowed herself when the sunken longhouse folded within the fog. The carvings of fathers, the unwoven weavings, it unraveled their art. Into absence, the home of all the gatherings, she framed it for nothing. So this is consumption, when ground opens its mouth and chews all its covers. It steals your hunger, takes your cravings away, and leaves you digested.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
El Paso Benjamin Aleshire
the path the trail: Dust rising in the shape of a ship over the sand— Ships passing where there is no water. Voices where there were no voices. Silence
where there was laughter
passing, passing, a city blooms.
It’s been centuries,
In the night it’s so quiet
I can hear the bullets falling.
City Hall Park
big falls Elena Botts
why are you so stallion spray and the salt water in my nostrils filling up my mouth tasting like blood but not the color crimson of blood or the dripping substance nosebleed post-seventh grade catfight nor the life of it thrumming veined almost a sound no, only the taste, bitter as tenements in the midnight standing abandoned except for a few lonely heroin addicts and some squatters also screaming of heaven hacking on cigarettes we are holding them and immersing ourselves still breathing so loud and your freckled predestination in the shadow of the rocks binds the river as it falls, wrends the rapids until we are making silences between us alright like i am celestial and you are a colour in the sky that barely appears in the nighttime and i write letters to you like you are a stranger but that is because you have been strange and lonely and one last flower in a garden after dark pale and indeterminate through the early hours of the morning, closing only when the birds begin to speak and the people rise, undressing and redressing the wrongs theyâ€™ve kept close to their chests all night long, the moon sings a song for you and i know it and you know it and that must be all. is that all? it must be all. and still i count the days until we enter a new earth, and still i count.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Anti-Adolescence Mâ€™Bilia Meekers
queenly gazer into silver mirrors bitter caretaker of apple orchards thin wrinkle finder
connoisseur of foul anti-ageing cream so much effort to shrivel up again cloaked crone peeling a bushel of red-skinned red delicious fruit like a spindle around and around in your palm
hater of white snow
and all things cold and wet in a northern winter
you know the axeman will not come
for three weeks
and you will have to settle
for electric heat
a girl may wander
to your threshold this time
cheeks reddened by the wind if you can
to take her in
Meteor Benjamin Aleshire
They say, meteoric rise
but it reads as an insult:
Stone ships sailing through millennia alone
only to descend in flames
as they finally enter the garden.
This brutal aspect is so moving
to the human heart, it makes
lovers fall upon each other like armies,
I dreamâ€” of meteors rushing backwards through history,
a fiery baptism rewarding them
with an eternity so clean,
the only politics
Church St, Burlington, VT
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Unit 213 Liz Clift
Luna moths plastered themselves to the door overnight, their spring green bodies ranging in size from the length of your fingers, to the breadth of my palm, and we counted six living, and three dead on our doormat, and we wondered what had brought them to us – we had no porch light, no windows facing the apartment hallway, only the bright white of our door, like the thirteen identical doors on this floor, none of which were covered in moths, and because we could make no sense of it, and because we both believe in sharing dreams, in case they come true, we googled the symbolic meaning of Luna moths, then just moths, found mythology about moths and rebirth, the renewal of the spirit, and we sat on our balcony with whiskey lemonades, talking about losing faith in God and capitalism, while the long heat of early August bore down in the heavy, wet blanket way familiar to anyone who’s ever lived in the South, with humidity so thick there’s almost no need to drink water. We watched a storm form over Appalachia, where a murderer can disappear for years,
and show up one day at a gas station to turn himself in, where once conquerors believed the continent ended, and later we scoop the bodies of the dead moths into our hands, lay them down again in the pots of our porch tomatoes.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Drawing Inward Dixon Hearne
A bracing chill claims wood and field that yesterday basked in teasing splendor, a backward glance of Indian summer. Now sullen trees, nearly naked, brave the winds of an early autumn. Houses string in yellow spangles along the lanes and country traces, under graying skies and waning days, holding back the sting of bitter frost, the breath of winterâ€™s yawning, stirring hearts to sweet communion, minds to wistful musing: marking the solstice, pondering its arc, and finding gladness where there once was none.
Spring Theater John Grey
A tongue, an apricot, streaking motorcycle, thinning hair on a sunroof head... what says spring the loudest? Maybe me, I’m beginning to look theatrical in shorts, rehearsing Hamlet on an outdoor stage, with stick for sword, tee-shirt for vest “Alas poor Yorrick” whistle the song sparrows. A groundhog at the far edge of the field muscles in on theater. And where’s Ophelia? Smoking a cigarette down by the porta-johns? Live it up while yon can, suicide blonde. A director with a red brow, hyacinth, traffic stopped for ducks to cross... where is the desire I read so much about? Maybe it’s a desire to know one’s lines when the time comes. Such aspiring hands these. From pruning climbing rose to stabbing step-fathers, from Prince of Floribunda to irresolute Dane, already imagining the moonlight and the crowds who wouldn’t know the Bard of Avon from the beer they drink in heaven... spring, a worthy answer to “to be or not to be.”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
alcoves Elena Botts
iâ€™m alone in hotel rooms, the corners feeling of wallpaper memories twisted like ghosts fitted in too-small spaces and the little leftover pieces of lemon soap. why are you not just now dying, scraping the erosion of your soul with your full moon hands into the chasming waterfall? this is a poem for the little lost backends of your feet and how the weeping ghost trees hold still when you look at them oh how they hold still and create spaces in between them for a kind of infinite sunshine like some days i feel moderately human but regardless nothing nothing frees my wild leaping soul like the sea inside of me and you when you is my own peripheral blue eyes and the horizon nudging at my soles and the dull thrumming thunder beneath my bones. this is an hour-long rainstorm and i am the repeating night over the city as the clouds drift and the stars pull a deep black nothingness out of the alcoves of the universe.
Notes on a Garden Reading M’Bilia Meekers back behind the cinder block wall sat tight in the middle of the city damp in the dark we gathered slices of watermelon and cans of cheap beer I can’t remember garden wired we listened to poet women speak about fisting line after line under flashlight mosquitoes snacking our thighs bloody vessels rooting beneath the skin and hum of heart within vibrating like bees’ wings beating out the art of forgetting uneasiness lost curling toes into clay and found again in reading female bodies slunk about
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
like black orchids every moon bloody every body born again sheltered at the garden reading in the bad part of town
Dear HP, Iâ€™m freezing spoons tonight.
You left me
one black dress sock, two wine-colored welts.
My neck is speckled strawberry, blood pulling / blood pooling. My back, a tic-tac-toe board.
xoxo, your move.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Loyal MP Christopher Barnes
Frowners Department Store Milton Keynes 2056 6251166 ÂŁ Everlast 3F Boxing Punch Bag 44.99 ----------------------------------------------------To Pay
----------------------------------------------------11/04/14 12.11 4161 345 1455 1156 Cretin of dear-bought house masters, His credit-lines ransom esteem, Hanky-panky too. The call-girl hair-splits policies that Uncommonly add up to him.
Saskia Tannenbaum Jake Koch
In the summer of ‘97 I had just earned, by atypical means, my birding badge in my penultimate year as a North American Peanut Scout.
Thirty-three badges a man, I was completely and irrevocably in love, Whirling in the ocean of Saskia Tannenbaum’s bleached hair.
Saskia was dimensionless—a black hole, a rattlesnake—omnidirectional.
Saskia knew nothing about birding. Yet, She is the badge I adorn the proudest.
Saskia Tannenbaum has a kanji for the word “honey” tattooed on her left wrist and three freckles that form a small triangle just above her right eye.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Saskia’s favorite movie was the old Godard film “Une Femme Est Une Femme” which she would often quote right before falling asleep:
“Est-ce une tragédie ou une comédie?”
When she finally passed, she collapsed into a Franz Kline painting, Black, White, and Grey.
Saskia was a cactus wren, dimensionless, a black hole, and most importantly, a rattlesnake.
Bellboy Benjamin Aleshire
What is it that you really guard
behind the vault-like doors
of your heart? (Vast atriums flooded
with pale sun echoed
with a pounding rhythm)
What I carry
is far too heavy to be borne alone:
I could never ask you
to take it from me.
Royal St, New Orleans
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Every Poem Is A Paul Rudd Romantic Comedy Jake Koch STOP STOP writing oceans of poetry about the spaces between wings on dragonflies STOP writing poetry about the grasslands, About windswept landscapes of imagery of lost meaning and impossible proportions.
Poems everywhere, plaster of Paris, of Saint Germain, Poems about growing up as a scene kid in wealthy suburban neighborhoods, of the great Jub-Jub bird, Lewis Carol kissing scenes projected onto bed sheets tacked on brick walls Frumious lovers, galumphing in sync.
In your neighborhood there are poems annotating themselves with slinking fingers and sling shot arms, ears pierced with syntax.
There are only so many synonyms for â€œpleaseâ€?. My Poetry knows none of them. I speak silk strings with stinging punctuation, Visible verbiage with assaulting annunciation.
This Poem is for beatnik kissers For midnight movie watchers For the innumerable rotations of my ceiling fan For the beautiful interracial couple across from me,Â feeding each other gummy worms and Gatorade. Maybe this is what poetry is.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Blueprint Mark Defoe
In my sleep, I lean over the plans of a stucco bungalow in a played out West Texas town, house bleaching bone white, dry leaves scraping across the dusty driveway. Awake, it is a house of conjure, a fabrication drug up from dream. Yet I believe I have fashioned its well-appointed kitchen, the walnut essence of its many-leveled living room, where guests turn and raise a glass and toast to an honest, decent life well-made. Sometimes it transforms to a marble mansion, citadel of Ante-bellum opulence, erected by imported stonecutters small hard-muscled men who end each day with wine and cheese, who roll their eyes at local girls and let me act the part of foreman. My house has a hidden room I found once, a ballroom, a vaulted atrium of light. I stood there once in awe, opening that sudden door into possibility.
I know cloud and concrete, dreaming or waking, crafter of doorpost and roof beam, entrance and shelter, seeking to master each measure. That room is there for me to find, where songs are shaped from emptiness. The Lord, they say, was a carpenter, and watched the shaving pile at his naked feet. True, what I build is a small thing, but it is my given task.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
The Island | Mia Funk Oil on canvas diptych | 64” x 102”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Counterpart VIII | Samantha Fortenberry Photograph
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Counterpart II | Samantha Fortenberry Photograph
Donuts | Kristina Bjornson Oil on canvas | 6” x 8”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Abstraction | Kristina Bjornson Oil on canvas | 12” x 18”
The Three Guitar Players | Ernest Williamson III Acrylic, oil, charcoal, and ink on paper | 20” x 40”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Split | Erica Lipoff Photograph
These Icy Strands of Frost | Xinwei Che Steel, human hair, an old clock, a dysfunctional door | 5’ x 2’ x 8”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Should I hold them in my hand They will disappear In the warmth of my tears, Icy strings of frost. -Matsuo Basho
Infinite Distress | Hannah Chertock Photograph
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Untitled | Hannah Chertock Photograph
Inventory | W. Jack Savage Fine point and colored pens on acrylic paper | 9” x 12”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
The Road Not Eaten | Madeleine Byrne Collage | 10” x 12”
Don’t worry honey it’s just spilled coffee | Devin Reynolds Staedler pens on stonehenge paper | 8” x 8”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
The banana bread is pudding | Devin Reynolds Staedler pens on stonehenge paper | 8” x 8”
Caged | Vanilla Kalai Anandam Photograph
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Wrapped in Red | Vanilla Kalai Anandam Photograph
Specimen 22 | Megan Tamas Earthenware clay, glaze, nylon fibers | 7” x 3” x 2.5”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Specimen 37 | Megan Tamas Porcelain | 9” x 5.5” x 3.5”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Socializing at the Beach | Ishiah White Paper, ink, and collaged paper | 6â€? x 8â€?
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Two Women in Rome | Ishiah White Paper, ink, and watercolor | 6” x 8”
Autumn | Mia Funk Study for oil on canvas | 39” X 32”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Waiting II | Mia Funk Oil on canvas | 64” X 51”
Mountain Man | Lindsey Flanagan Photograph
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Palehound | Zach Visotsky & Luke Oberlander Three screens on French Speckletone “Madero Beach”, Edition of 50 | 15” x 22” 65
Untitled | Natalie Shyu Color pastel | 9” x 12”
Two Old Congolmerates | Lauren Skelly Stoneware, porcelain, earthenware, various glaze elements, slips, and glazes
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Beemoor Village John Hearn
I’m sixty-two years old, a kid, still, in the eyes of most of my neighbors here in the Beemoor active retirement community. My guess is that the median age of the residents is north of eighty. When I see their white, bent bodies by the swimming pool, I guess they are older than that. Their flesh and bones are fragile and their senses are weak and failing. Every now and then one will ask me to help them out in a small way that requires lifting or driving or seeing. So I’ll move a flat screen television and its stand a few feet back from the pull-out sofa in anticipation of a daughter’s visit. Or I’ll drive to the post office so that a birthday card will arrive on time. Or I’ll read aloud a letter, written with a trembling hand by a once close friend, dying now and saying good-bye. Two or three of the old ladies ask me directly for these minor favors. Initially, they try to pay me a dollar or two for helping them out. “Please, take it,” they insist, extending a spotted, bony hand holding the cash. “Buy yourself a beer,” they say, knowing through the active gossip grapevine that I’m usually on my balcony and always with a beer, and as though it were still possible to buy one – a decent one anyway - with a dollar or two. There is one neighbor I lend a hand to from time to time, but I don’t wait for him to ask. I take the initiative to approach and offer my assistance. Howie Mann is eighty-three and weighs maybe a hundred and ten pounds. On the table by his recliner is a picture of his wife Jeanne and him on their wedding day. He is considerably taller and heavier and hairier and happier looking inside the small brass frame. Howie owned a dry cleaners outside of Boston, back when more people had their clothes dry cleaned. He and Jeanne lived a comfortable life. A life without children. “Not because we didn’t try,” Howie tells me with a smile. “It was just God’s way.” By the time he reached his sixties, he was exhausted halfway through each workday. By then, the new machinery, with technology designed to protect the environment, was no longer affordable, so he had to spend big bucks to rent it. The high school kids he hired to work the counter and deliver the clothes were no longer reliable, so he was forced to hire older, more expensive help. And the competition had opened stores in better locations, strip malls more heavily trafficked by middle class consumers than was the largely abandoned downtown site of his store. But Howie realized what was happening too late. When he finally sold Ace Dry Clean69
ing, it was worth very little, and by then he had taken out a costly second mortgage on his home. Howie and Jeanne headed to their retirement in Florida, but it wasn’t the retirement of their dreams. There would be no ocean view, no evening sunsets over the gulf. They bought a 792 square foot, one-bedroom condo in Beemoor, a modest complex of long cinder block and stucco buildings housing over 10,000 people in 6,000 units. They weren’t on the water, or even close to it, but it would be a new start, their last new start. On the morning after moving in, Howie found his wife of forty-three years on the floor of the tiny kitchen, dead from a brain aneurysm. Beemoor includes one-hundred buildings, arranged in a large rectangle, each containing sixty one and two bedroom condos. There are twenty housing associations, each consisting of five buildings – called “enclaves” – each with its own motivational, new-age, holistic designation. That is, each has a name meant to give its residents a sense of accomplishment or belonging or hope or… God only knows what. On signs and stationery and the official website, each name is always followed by an exclamation point, I guess to show how enthusiastically involved we all are with our enclave and its assigned focus. They are called such things as Affiliation! (which Howie and I call “Alienation!”), Transformation! (“Transplantation!”), “Rejuvenation!” (“Resuscitation!), “Optimism!” (“Onanism!”) and on and on. Howie refers to the “Hopeful!” enclave as “Ho-ful!” because, he says, it’s loaded with promiscuous women who are constantly trying to get a piece of him. That’s how he puts it, “Those bitches from Ho-ful are always trying to get a piece of me.” He grabs at his eighty-three year old crotch as he says it, a result, I believe, of the rap music video station I hear him watching most evenings and, perhaps, a touch of dementia. In any case, I can’t bring myself to join him on this one. First, I’ve seen no evidence that these women are interested in him. Second, I do not believe they are promiscuous. I’ll bet most of these octogenarians have had sex with only one or two guys, probably only their husband(s). Also, these women would be my mother’s age if she were still alive, and it just wouldn’t feel right to refer to her cohort as “hos”. Finally, I’d be surprised if Howie’s “package,” as he calls it, is in working order and therefore even worthy of unwrapping. If he is correct about the motives of his alleged suitors, they must indeed be hopeful. Howie and I live on the top floor – the third floor – of the first building in the “Well Deserved!” complex, which we call the “Hell, Deserted!” enclave. On Howie’s eighty-third birthday, which was three weeks ago, I brought him a beer. Not just any beer, but one from my refrigerator’s top shelf, which is where I keep my Southern Tier IPA. “Happy Birthday,” I said, handing him the opened bottle. “It’s early in the day for this, isn’t it?” he asked, referring to the fact that it was not yet 10 a.m. “But it’s your birthday, bud, and, besides, your bedtime is fast approaching. What is it, again, like 5:30?” I exaggerated, but only slightly. He knew that my own bedtime wasn’t much later than his, but was kind enough to not mention it. As we drank, I handed him a birthday card. My search for a funny one failed. I read every card in the ‘humorous-elderly’ columns at the online card stores and 70
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | realized that greeting card writers assume all old people have a nonexistent sense of humor. So I chose a racy one designed for men with at least a middle-aged level of testosterone. The cover had an otherwise naked woman in black stockings on a bed with a phone to her ear. The caption read, “Talk dirty to me.” The inside was blank, so I wrote, “From the girls at Hopeful.” It elicited a hushed chuckle from Howie and a muted pang of guilt from me. I told him we were just starting to rock the party and extended a hand to help him get out of the recliner he sat deep within. “We’ll be gone for a couple of hours, Howie, so take a pee,” I advised, wanting to lessen the likelihood that he’d pee his pants, which he sometimes did, particularly after drinking beer. In the middle of a strip mall half a mile from the complex sat Sunshine Dry Cleaning. I met with the owner two days earlier and asked a favor, and was there with Howie on his birthday to collect it. When Ben came out from the back of his store, I introduced the two men to each other and the tour began. A lot had changed during the twenty years that Howie left the business. The solvents contained less harmful chemicals and the muck and sludge byproducts were disposed of in safer ways, in deference to the environment. The technology had been digitized and made greener, with scores of ceiling fans that sucked out fumes while adding to the noisy drone, and new presses that blew up pants and shirts with steam until they looked like balloons made of fabric. I found the presentation interesting but could tell that Howie did not. He offered a gracious number of “wows!” and “things have really changed,” but he seemed to get lost in the constant noise and pungent odors and puffs of steam. We thanked Manny, the owner, as he handed us each a calendar. Howie asked for a plastic clothing bag as an additional memento. On the front of the bag, in yellow print, was the message, Sunshine Dry Cleaning: We’ll brighten your day! “Did you enjoy the tour, Howie?” I asked as we stepped into the bright sunshine. “I did. Thank you, Jack. It’s been a great birthday.” “The celebration ain’t over yet, buddy, we’ve got one more stop.” We walked two doors down to the Barefoot Garden massage parlor. Howie entered reluctantly. A Chinese immigrant named Tina had agreed to give him a massage, despite his frailty. As I handed him over to her, he glanced at me with the fear I once saw in a child’s eyes, when he was being left with a stranger. “Relax, Howie, this will be fun,” I told him as I turned and left the storefront. I spent the next twenty-five minutes in the plaza’s bar. It was a dive that served only locals so I wasn’t surprised when it had neither Southern Tier nor Sam Adams. I ordered a Jameson on ice. The bartender, who was busy on the phone arguing with a girlfriend or wife, left me alone. I thought about the terrified look in Howie’s eyes moments before and chalked it up to the prospect of being touched by another human being, and a female yet. In the two years since we became friends, I had never known him to come into physical contact with anyone, except on those occasions when I held his arm to steady him or grabbed his hand to extricate him from his recliner. No hugs from one of the old ladies. Not a handshake from an acquaintance. Not a palm on his shoulder when a nurse brought a stethoscope to his 71
chest. I remembered being sixteen, in a darkened movie theater, a wreck over the prospect of holding the hand of my date, the first time I would take a girl’s hand into my own. I hadn’t considered how distressing this experience could be when making Howie’s birthday plans. I had thought only about the basic need – the fundamental human experience - and the true gift of being touched by another. I was sipping my second whiskey when I remembered the kid whose eyes once stared at me like Howie’s just had. Four-year old Joshua was the son of a woman I dated thirty years ago, back in my hometown in upstate New York. He and his mom offered me what I understood – correctly, it turns out - to be my last real chance to have a wife and family. One morning I was dropping the boy off at his day care facility. This was the first day that he would be in a new room, at a different time, with unfamiliar staff. He squeezed my hand tightly as he begged me not to leave him. I said I must. He lowered his head and sobbed. I noticed a teardrop – the biggest I had ever seen – fall from his cheek and splash onto his brown shoe. As I removed my hand from his, he pleaded with me again, but this time only with his wet, fearfilled eyes. That evening, I asked how his day had gone. “Okay,” he replied. “Did you learn anything new?” “Yes.” “What?” “You can cry so hard,” he answered in a quiet voice, “that your tears fall all the way down to your shoes.” I got back to Barefoot less than thirty minutes after I had left Howie for his halfhour massage, but he was already outside, standing in the doorway, waiting. “You look like a kid again, Howie,” I lied. He appeared more lost than when we left the dry cleaners. He was pale and unsteady on his feet. I took his elbow as we walked the few steps to my Jeep, and helped him into the passenger seat. As I circled the vehicle’s front end to get to the driver’s side, I heard Tina’s voice calling my name. Her head extended from the business’ partially opened door. I walked over. “So sorry, Jack, but you can’t bring him back.” “Sure, Tina. I won’t.” As we pulled out of the parking lot, Howie asked what Tina wanted. “Well, she opened the envelope I left for her and told me the tip was too generous. I said that was nonsense.” I decided I’d find out what had happened at another time, but couldn’t help wondering what he could have done. Piss over the massage table? Shit over it? Talk dirty to Tina? Accuse her of wanting a piece of his package? On the drive back to Beemoor, Howie leafed through the calendar. I quickly glanced at it as he turned the pages, each offering a colorful postcard view of Florida: a bright, yellow, eastern sun, its light marking a path across ocean waves; an orange, setting sun, through a loose tuft of sea grass, sitting just above the gulf. Back at Beemoor I gripped Howie’s arm as we walked to the elevator, escorted 72
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | him to his unit and lowered him into his chair. I asked if he was okay. “I’m fine. And thanks, again, Jack. I appreciate it.” I decided to check on Howie the next afternoon. As usual the door was unlocked and, as usual, I walked in. The recliner was empty. The bathroom door was open. He was on his bed, in the clothes he had worn the previous day. The Sunshine Dry Cleaning bag was over his head, duct taped around his neck. Taped to the front of his shirt was a note addressed to me. Jack, This is my nightly dream: It’s dark and I’m running as fast as I can. Downhill. Gravity increases my speed to the brink of falling, rolling… into a footballsized pool of dark liquid that sits directly in my path. It appears heavy and placid like syrup or a viscous oil. The air is thick with…a stench of some kind, putrid and unfamiliar…a wretched decay. I cannot stop. If I attempt to turn, I’ll fall and slide or lurch into the pool. If I remain on my feet, I’ll run into the pool. I cannot imagine anyone being able to swim in that black muck. I could dive in, to give the impression I’m not frightened by what awaits or to avoid the indignity of sliding in on my backside, but no one is watching. I have no one to impress. And no dignity to protect. I am alone. And I am very sorry. Your friend, Howie
I spent the next week on my balcony, watching neighbors coming and going during their rare trips outside, wondering what they were thinking, what they were feeling. On a rainy afternoon I returned to the strip mall to ask Tina what had gone so wrong. “He was crying, Jack. Crying. Loud. Like a baby. He couldn’t stop. He was on the table. I put my hands on his back and he cried and cried.” “I’m sorry, Tina.” “I think he frightened another customer who had come in early for his appointment, but left.” “Let me pay you the money you lost,” I replied as I took a thin, folded packet of bills from my pocket. “No, no. Just don’t bring him back.” “Okay. I won’t.”
Our Evening Protocol Brad Cobb
There is that brief period after awakening when the mere thought of alcohol repulses me. I must coax myself toward it like a frightened child must be persuaded into a dark room. But in that short space, images of you of our evening hurtle across my mind like falling stars. And you are here, with me, again. I remember our saunters, through shimmering blue dusks when the world was speckled with fragments of shadow. As we walked the serene and meandering streets of our picturesque town, I never failed to be struck by your beauty. One could describe it as somber and composed, immune to anything so feeble as time. I admired the nape of your neck, the glimmering sheen of your hair beneath the pearled beams of withering sunlight, your green eyes of geisha-like passivity. You almost seemed unvanquished. The strap of your purse would always remain over your shoulder, and your lovely pale hand was forever buried in its depths, holding, I knew, that diminutive thing that kept you shackled to the past and grounded in the present; it must have possessed the fathomless power of a talisman. My God, you are never more beautiful, more glorious. And not only to me, it appeared, for you are beginning to draw wolf whistles from passing cars. I supposed they were one of your new acquaintances. You ignored them because I was there, and I did as well. We would pass the tavern that place where men played dominos and told those funny stories, and I would say, “Let’s go in and have one of those drinks!” I could never remember the name so I would add, “You know, the ones with Irish whiskey and lime juice!” I was always so excited by every little thing. Elation was my practice, and I held to it with desperation and diligence. In those days I constantly told myself that anything was possible, even that during one of our twilight strolls we might turn down a lane we had never explore (though he knew every street in town) and find ourselves in some altogether new place; suddenly liberated, if you will, from our leaden yoke. I could never seduce you to share in my excitement. You are far too clever for such a ruse. I would always pull out a chair for you at our favorite table and look around the place as though it were my first time seeing it. 74
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | The antique bar was backed with those thick mirrors, three of them, each separated by mahogany columns carved with women who looked like figureheads on the prows of ancient ships. There was a billiard table, a jukebox, a pinball machine, a mounted deer head. And there were always men smiling at you, some so bold as to wink. There were ones you certainly knew, and others who had only heard the rumors. That night, I excused myself to go to the restroom and saw a rather intense looking man, a stranger in town, walk past our table and furtively slip you his number. You were the picture of composure when you took it, showing not so much as the rudiments of your smile. With you there was never any brazen sluttish behavior. I assumed he would be one of the men you would briefly leave with during your own, more solitary, nightly excursions which took place well after our walks. When I awoke in the wee hours, as I always did, you were never there. But I never failed to look for you, nor to wait. I never panicked because I knew you would return with the sun, silent as the dawn you moved through and utterly collected, betrayed only y the merest clues; a smudging of your makeup, a minor tussling of hair, a button left undone. I would belt down six drinks to your one, until finally you would place your free hand (the other remained in your purse) on mine and say in a low desperate voice, “Please.” And in only a moment we would be on Main Street. I would point out old buildings we had seen a thousand times and exclaim, “Beautiful!” People we had known our entire lives would see us approaching and become strangers, quickly looking away or casting down their eyes so as to appear not to have noticed us. They became deaf to my loud electrified voice. Remember the old theater our town was blessed with? The lobby had those beautiful tile walls and that elegant red carpet. We would always sit in the balcony, and no matter how ridiculous the fil, I would sit on the edge of my seat as though witnessing a cinematic masterpiece capable of transforming lives with its images. An actor would recite a random line, and I would ball my fist and declare, “Yes!” through clenched teeth, as though they had summed up the very meaning of existence in one sentence, and we were at last free. Those that were seated around us would eventually move. Remember? You would watch, seemingly nonplussed, as you were by everything except that tiny fetish in your purse. As we passed the liquor store, I would always say, “I believe I’ll stop off for a nightcap!” You never replied with anything other than a look of forbearance. Remember the proprietor, with his huge beard and pockmarked face which looked like a moonscape? He always seemed so uncomfortable with the new me. He would look at me as if I were a plague carrier. I suppose the frenetic conversations, where only I spoke, disturbed him; they must have seemed to have no end and would last until you would walk over and lay your hand on mine and once again say, “Please,” Please. The word never crosses my mind without my thoughts turning to you. I would consume the contents of the bottle on our journey home then remember little. The next day I would sometimes recall bits and pieces; a world faintly aglow with moonlight, you guiding me with your hand, snatched of manic speeches, staggering towards our front door over the cement walk that led to it, the smell 75
of the knee-high weeds on the other side. As usual, I would awaken later in the darkness of our bedroom, always bereft of my former enthusiasm, knowing you were gone, but, as I said before, I never failed to get up and seek you. You can imagine my surprise on the night I found you in the living room. Everything was brimming with a silence that I could imagine as only existing in a vast wasteland. Of course, there was the regimental ticking of the grandfather clock pendulum, but, though technically it met the criteria for sound, its forlorn nature only accentuated the silence behind it. You were seated on the couch, as motionless as a stone idol. Your hand was outstretched, palm up; upon it laid the figure from your purse, that relic from our past. It was a little soldier, a child’s toy; it held a weapon and looked as if it might suddenly march forth and defeat an entire army single-handedly. I approached and looked down at it for what seemed like a long time. Your gaze never wavered either. Your eyes shed no tears. When your voice finally came, it crumbled like a brittle leaf. “He was so warm…His skin was so soft…Sometimes I can still smell him.” I had no words to offer. Neither a sympathetic embrace. Nothing. I turned and walked back to our bed while all the beautiful falsities that endowed the world with a semblance of order, groaned beneath the weight of your words and began to tumble, one by one, through a fearful void. I placed my head beneath a pillow, and my entire body heaved with sobs. Was it that night you left and disappeared forever, or the one after? My mind wanders. I remember you though, and our evening walks. I see you so vividly; even now as I prepare my stomach for the revolt that is to come. The rim of the glass grows closer to my lips. Afterwards will come something that masquerades as resignation, and further on, you will both grown vague and ill-defined, then finally disappear, poof, as though a sorcerer had snapped his fingers.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Give Me Your Tomorrows Robert McGuill
You didn’t think we were right for one another. Correction. You didn’t think I was right for Amy. You didn’t want us to tie the knot, and even though you were polite enough to keep the words to yourself, I felt your disappointment the day we walked down the aisle. But that was all right, you know? I understood. Amy was a college girl, scholarly, and the thought of someone so young and pretty and brimming with talent hooking up with the likes of me—a carpenter, a nobody—must have seemed perplexing, if not, at least in a small way, disheartening. I remember the evening we were first introduced. It was a dinner at Amy’s favorite restaurant. Your gaze fell to the missing pinky on my right hand when I lifted my wine glass to propose a toast, and you winced at it—aghast, I’d imagined—wondering what sort of husband and provider I could possibly be with a full one-tenth of my tool-wielding ability permanently out of commission. You must have thought to yourself, Oh dear Jesus! A nine-fingered carpenter? What has our daughter gotten herself into? But you learned later the digit was lost in a childhood accident, not through professional ineptitude, and that while I was, indeed, handicapped, I was still considered a worthy craftsman by men who knew my work. I didn’t have your education—I dropped out of college my third year—and I know this concerned you. But being the good, decent people you are, you set aside the wistful disappointments of my intellectual shortcomings and focused instead on the positives of my character. Things that would bring at least a modicum of comfort when you imagined your daughter mucking her way through life with a disfigured laborer at her side. I was mature. I earned a good tradesman’s wage. And, for what it was worth, I was (despite the missing finger) a man whose imposing size left no room for doubt that, should Amy ever fall into harm’s way, I could protect her. So how did I come to let you down on that count, too? How could I have allowed such a tragedy to happen when the one thing in the world that you expected of me, I was unable to deliver? You’ve cautioned me not to talk about the incident this way, not to punish myself for it. But how can I not? You entrusted your most precious possession to me, and I failed to look after it. Failed in the most grievous and unforgivable way. I should have driven straight through town that morning and waited until we were in the mountains before I stopped for coffee. Had I listened to Amy—had I held off 77
until we got to Copaxi to buy the things we needed—none of what happened would have happened, and your daughter would still be alive. But I had no patience, you see. That was the problem. I’m no good in the morning without coffee, and I acted like a little boy, whining and pestering, until Amy gave in with an exhausted sigh, and went along with the notion just to shut me up. She’d laughed, mocking me as we pulled into the lot, and put on a snarky face and said, Okay, okay, stop and get your drink, you coffee fiend. But as long as we’re here, let’s fill up, and get a lottery ticket, too. Luck was something Amy and I believed in, ridiculous as that might sound. It’s one of the things that made our lives together so much fun. Whenever we took one of our weekend drives through the mountains, we always stopped along the way and bought a lottery ticket, making a point of telling one another how lucky we were, and how lucky we were going to be when the millions came rolling in. We never doubted the truth of it, either. We never saw anything but blue skies and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. So how could everything have gone so wrong, I wonder? How could a stopover for a cup of coffee have ended in disaster? *** The 7-Eleven was bustling that day. A typical Saturday morning with folks coming and going—many, like us, grabbing bags of ice and bottled water and cigarettes, on their way to their favorite weekend picnic spot. I pulled into the first open pump at the gas island, and when we jumped out of the Jeep, Amy came round and snatched the nozzle from my hand, insisting that I be the one to go inside and buy the provisions. It’s you who needs the coffee, she’d scolded. So you do the girl work. I’ll handle the duties at the pump. I’d laughed when she said that. We’d both laughed. I’d turned and walked away, then turned back again, midstride, to see the silly, taunting, girlish smile on her face. I bought the ice and the bottled water, the coffee I couldn’t wait for, and because Amy had been such a good sport about the whole thing, I picked up a box of those little chocolate donuts, too. The ones that look like they’ve been dipped in candle wax. The clerk behind the counter joked with me as we waited for the lotto machine to spit out the ticket, admonishing me to remember his face when the numbers paid off. I’ll be looking for my share of the winnings, he said. So don’t forget who sold this to you. He was not an attractive man, this clerk—gangly in an unathletic way, with a pockmarked face and tiny, black, button eyes. So as the printer gave with its quick mechanical stutter, releasing the slip of paper into his waiting fingers, I told him, no problem. He could count on it. He wasn’t dealing with some run-of-the-mill chiseler here. *** I was walking across the parking lot with a plastic bag clutched in either hand when the explosion struck. But just before it punched through the air, nearly knocking me off my feet, I saw the red SUV slipping past on my left, toward the street. It seemed to be taking its time. Drifting almost. Like a boat that had slipped its moorings and was sneaking out to sea. The police report put its speed at 10 to 12 mph based on 78
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | calculated viewings of the store’s security tape. But even now, in retrospect, those numbers seem oddly out of synch with my own recollection. I would have sworn it was crawling. Inching along. But maybe it was one of those moments we’ve all been subject to, where time seems to draw out certain events, holding them up to the bright light of the classroom window, then turning to us, as if it were some whitehaired professor, reminding us in painstaking detail that one improbable fuckup can not only ruin, but usurp a man’s life. Anyway, there it was. The SUV. Passing me on the left. Leaving the lot in no particular hurry, when the driver—a smallish, sharp-featured woman of about 30— dark quaffed hair, blue silk scarf fluttering at her neck—began to scream. I have to say I didn’t pay attention at first. I’ve been around enough barroom louts, hate-filled street preachers, and abusive toy-store parents that I’d long since lost the urge to rubberneck when low-lives felt the need to drag their troubles to the curb. But when I saw the red SUV begin to swerve, still drifting, toward the filling station island, and heard this woman shouting about her brakes, I suddenly came to attention and all of my senses awoke, snapping to full alert. My eyes raced to the gas pumps where a black Silverado pickup truck stood directly in the path of the woman’s SUV. The man who owned the pickup truck was lingering at his own pump, and I could see that he hadn’t yet noticed her. He was minding his own business. Filling his tank. His head was down, and the brim of his dirty yellow ball cap shaded his face. There was plenty of room between the man’s Silverado and the exit to the street—enough for two cars to pass if the situation had warranted it—yet the red SUV slunk toward the black Silverado as if it were being drawn by a magnet. I remember looking across the island, trying to find Amy. Hoping to catch her eye, though why—the reason, if I’d even had a reason—I couldn’t quite say. I remember telling you she looked up at me and smiled just before the crash. But I believe now that I could have been mistaken. That I could have simply wished it. I recall looking for her. Looking, then turning back to the SUV. But I’m uncertain, now, whether I saw her, much less noticed something as small and intimate as a smile. I remember the red SUV slipping closer and closer to the Silverado, moving at this preposterously slow pace—a pace that allowed a thousand different courses of action, and a thousand different outcomes—and then, in what was surely the most avoidable accident I’d ever been witness to, ramming into the truck’s back bumper. The chain of events that followed seemed impossible. Yet, it happened. The air erupted, time snapped like stretched rubber band, and the long elastic moment that I’d been a part of came rocketing forward in a calamitous explosion. The SUV collided with the Silverado, and the Silverado lurched forward, smashing into the pump, knocking it off its concrete pedestal. In the moments that followed, hell broke loose. The gas line ruptured, fuel spewed into the air, and a spark ignited somewhere in the tangled guts of the damaged machinery, setting the entire island ablaze. I couldn’t find Amy in the terrible conflagration that followed. I thought she’d been knocked clear by the explosion. But then she appeared in the midst of the boiling orange flames, dancing and shrieking. The dislodged pump had toppled onto her, pinning her against the quarter panel of the Jeep. So there was nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. Nothing to do but stand there and watch in horror as the scene played itself out. I keep going back to that moment in my head, you know? I can’t help it. I keep 79
rewinding the film in my brain, and looking at that SUV just before the collision. And I keep hearing that woman whose window was down, whose face was clearly visible to me, shouting about her brakes. And a voice in my head screams back at her. What are you doing? What the fuck are you doing! Shut up about the goddamn brakes already! Grab the wheel and steer! Steer clear, you idiot! There’s an antique shop that abuts the east side of the 7-Eleven parking lot. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s an old gray, two-story Victorian that sits high up on a grassy embankment. But have you ever noticed what separates this antique shop from the 7-Eleven parking lot? A retaining wall. A retaining wall four feet high made of blackened railroad ties that have been set into the heavy earthwork of shop’s front yard. And I go back to this in my head. I think of this wall made of five-inch-thick railroad ties, backed by ton upon ton of dirt, and I ask myself how this woman, this— forgive me—this stupid bitch with the supposed failing brakes, chooses to steer her SUV not into the wooden wall, which would have immediately arrested her progress, but into a bank of open gas pumps instead? Who does this, I want to know? Who in his right mind does this? You’ve pled with me not to think this way. Not to ask what if? You’ve counseled me, kindly, to not allow myself to fall prey to the past because it’s over. Behind us now. And there’s no way we can go back in time and change it. You, Jim, smile gently when you say these things, as if I’m one of your students, and you, Marian, nod with a mother’s affection, agreeing with him because if anyone knows anything about turning back time, it’s Jim. He teaches physics at the College, after all. He’s written books about the subject. Trust him, you tell me. This is his wheelhouse. He knows. And yet, I can’t be convinced. You’ve both called it a freak accident. Something that can’t be explained away with reason. But this is where we differ in our opinions. The accident was freakish, yes. You won’t get any argument from me there. But it wasn’t a freak accident. There was logic at play. A pattern of cause and effect that governed the entire spectacle, and it began with two untimely choices. Mine, first, to stop for coffee when Amy begged me to do otherwise. And second, Dianne Wilson’s for choosing to run into a deadly bank of gas pumps rather than a wooden wall. Forgive me, Marian. Forgive me, Jim. But freak accidents don’t kill people. People kill people. I have no recollection of dropping the plastic bags I was carrying. But they must have fallen from my hands when I felt the explosion because, by the time I’d reached Amy, they were empty. My fingers were outstretched, grasping at what they couldn’t touch. Searching the orange ball of flame for a way in that didn’t exist. Amy begged me to pull her free. She screamed Help me! Help me, I’m going to die! But the searing wall of fire refused to let me pass. For all my love, for all my strength, for all my force of will, I could not find a way to get her out. You held my bandaged hands in yours when you came to see me in the hospital. You touched the blisters on my face and looked into my singed eyes with an overwhelming sadness. You told me I’d done all I could do, and that I needed to let it go now. That Amy was at rest, and that she had gone on to whatever reward nature lays up for us poor frail creatures. You said that I needed to honor her memory by moving on. By forgiving those who needed forgiveness. By making peace with myself. But how can I? I watched her burn, for God’s sake. What I saw that day will never leave me. *** 80
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | It was a bum—wait, I’ve lost the words—a homeless a Gulf War vet, sitting on the sidewalk in front of the store, who’d extinguished the flames. He was minding his own business, his back against the brick wall, his face to the sun, when the fuel pumps blew. He was the only one among us who’d had the presence of mind to leap up and slap the big red EMERGENCY button bolted to the side of the building, choking off the flow of gas to the island. This sainted man—Simmons, was the name stenciled on his fatigue jacket—later visited me in the hospital, where we chatted, awkwardly, until the nurse came to clean and dress my wounds. He’d wanted to wish me peace, he said. But as he’d made ready to leave, he paused briefly and told me that the smell of the fire had brought him back to the war. Back to a time he’d hoped to forget. His eyes went slack when he said this, and for a moment an eerie silence crept between us. The smile he’d worn when he’d first walked in vanished then, replaced by the solemn, battle-weary face of a veteran. I believe he intended to shake my hand when he said goodbye. But when he saw the bandages, he backed away and saluted me instead. *** Amy had leaned forward and put her hands over her face as the flames attacked her. It was the last thing I recall her doing. She looked as if she were shielding her eyes from the site of something horrific—Death perhaps, who was no doubt standing there at her side, waiting to spirit her away—and there was nothing I could do to comfort her. Nothing I could do to assuage her pain. You were the ones who told me to remember the good things about our life together. To hold onto what was precious, or risk having the bitterness of my grief destroy it. You held up Amy’s sense of humor as an example. As if I needed reminding! Do you recall how silly she could be, you said? How self-deprecating? Do you remember the practical jokes played, and the ridiculous songs she loved to sing? These were the things that were important now. The acts of the living. The small, absurdly beautiful things we did in life without ever thinking about them. Death was nothing special, you said. All men died. It was our living deeds that made us immortal. When you said this I sat back and put my finger to my mouth, wondering whether Amy had ever told you about the lost fawn. The one who’d come to us out of the forest while we were away in the Sangre de Cristos one weekend, fly-fishing. It had wandered down to the water from the woods, grunting nuh-nuh-nuh, and as it approached us Amy set her fly rod in the grass and knelt and held out her empty hand, and the tiny creature (too young to know the danger of what it was doing) nuzzled it, as if it were its mother’s neck. We were on our way back to that same little lake in the mountains the morning of the accident. We’d planned to picnic there, and enjoy some late afternoon fishing if the clouds stayed high and the weather held. Amy was bouncy with excitement. She was in a lather to get there so she could tell me something—some giddy secret she’d been holding onto since we fell out of bed that morning—only she never got the chance, because we never got any further that day than the 7-Eleven parking lot. *** By the way, Marian, I found the lottery ticket the other day. The one I’d bought while I was in the store that morning. I’d forgotten I even had it. But after the gauze 81
and tape came off my hands and I’d begun to work my way back into my old routines, I came across it in a pair of dirty jeans. I was turning out the pockets, getting ready to do the wash, and there it was. In a rumple. I felt like I’d been kicked in the heart when I saw it. This is your lucky day, I could hear Amy saying, dangling the secret over my head like a little girl promising to share a cookie. It’s your lucky day, Mr. Coffee Fiend, only I’m not going to tell you why until we get to the mountains. But we never made it to the mountains. So, of course, I never learned what the secret was. Oh, I have my guesses. (What man in love with his wife and longing for a family, wouldn’t?). But that’s not the same as knowing, is it? The investigators concluded that Dianne Wilson had stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake. They’d filed a fifty-four-page accident report, and in it Wilson was said to have told the police, “My brakes, they wouldn’t stop.” One of the investigators asked if it were possible she might have stepped on the gas by mistake, and she’d responded, “Anything is possible.” Anything is possible? When I read those words I flew into murderous, pig-eyed rage. Maybe it was the speculative quality of the statement. Or the fateful resignation of personal responsibility. Or even Wilson’s perceived belief that she was now as much a victim as Amy. But whatever it was, I wanted to kill her. Strangle her with my own burn-scarred hands. *** Six months after the accident, Dianne Wilson stood before a judge and pled guilty to reckless driving. It was you, Jim, who argued for leniency in the case. Marian was there, too, of course, and just as sincere as yourself in not wanting to see that wretch of a woman sentenced to prison. What would be accomplished, you asked the judge? Ms. Wilson had a husband. Children of her own. What good would it do any of us to heap tragedy upon tragedy? I wasn’t the only one who wept that day in the courtroom when you talked about Amy. How she came into this world the day you published your first book, and how, on the day of her death, you had just released your fourth. You spoke in metaphor, voice cracking, as you explained the strange cyclic ties between your daughter and yourself. You told the judge, and anyone else who would listen, how it struck you that your work and your daughter’s life were “continuous.” That they were now, and would forever be, bound together as a kind of story. You said Amy was a woman who believed in the positives of life, and that out of the tragedy of her death, she would have wanted something good, something hopeful to follow. We were all moved by your compassion, Jim. Your magnanimity and understanding. I looked at you there in your blue suit and red silk tie, your gray hair as neat and ordered as something from a silver service, and thought yes. Yes, of course. You’re right. We should all be forgiving here. We should all forgive, and find strength in what remains behind. But the judge’s anger was as raw and towering as my own, and when he turned from you to Dianne Wilson and explained to the woman in the coldest voice I’d ever heard that prison time—considerable prison time—seemed, to him, the more appropriate sentence, my heart instantly flip-flopped, and I prayed to God he would utter the words that would send her away. 82
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | I studied the judge’s expression as he lowered head and patted it with his liverspotted fingers. I waited, trembling, as his weary eyes pored over the paperwork that lay before him. I wanted him to hand down the verdict that would damn Dianne Wilson to a life behind bars. Destroy her world as she’d destroyed mine. But when he raised his sallow face and glared at her, I knew, somehow that it would never happen. And I was right. I’m going to go against my better judgment, the white-haired magistrate grumbled bitterly, and do as the family asks. He paused, and drank from a water glass the bailiff had placed on his desk. You’re going to walk, Ms. Wilson, he said. But not because of the court’s leniency. You owe your freedom to Dr. Larkin’s eloquence. That, and his family’s compassion. I bit my tongue when I heard this. I bit my tongue the same way you bit your tongue long ago when Amy and I announced that we were getting married. I wanted to leap up, scream bloody murder. Curse the world and everyone in it. But I didn’t. I didn’t breathe a word—not then, not ever—about the verdict, or Dianne Wilson, or Amy’s secret. I just sat there, quietly, when the gavel came down, and told myself that I needed to be strong. I needed to protect you, now, because you were all I had left. I told myself it was like the lottery ticket I’d found in my jeans after the bandages had come off my hands. The ticket whose numbers I’ve never bothered to check. I told myself to leave it alone. Walk away from it. I told myself that sometimes the price of knowing was simply too high.
The Whole Thing is Like This Jason Hill
Today, the hottest day of the year so far, Erin sits by the window of the restaurant where the affair will end. Alan is late. On the TV screen behind the bar, a report on the heat wave melds seamlessly into images of Guantanamo Bay. Palm trees, shuffling orange jumpsuits, rifles. The hard sunlight smashes through the window and illuminates the consequences of Erin’s mistake like a verdict. In the early stages of the affair, doubts and fears were swept aside by novelty. Erin was unprepared for the excitement Alan’s attention generated in her and the ravenous way they fell upon each other like teenagers. The comparison presented itself to her one day after the two of them, exhausted, shimmering with effort and climax, fell onto the floor and lay there for almost an hour, talking of their bodies and watching dust motes float through the sluice of sunlight that divided the unused room at the back of Alan’s house where his wife’s winter clothes and child’s outgrown clothes hung waiting for the next season or sibling. The room that day, with its paneled walls and gauzy curtains pulled back to glimpses of leaves, was not so different from the isolated cabin on the lake where Erin and Christian Doyle spent every afternoon they could in the summer after high school. Then she was a teenager. Now she is thirty-seven, Alan forty-two. Both times the furtive pace of things left her immobile, filled with the energy of possibility and charged with hope yet unable to do anything more than allow the sweat on her breasts to cool and memorize the perfect details of the day. Now Alan arrives, pulls out a chair (–Hot as an oven out there). The sleeves of his shirt are rolled up. He pushes them to his elbows and uses a paper napkin to dab small drops from his forehead, briefly exposing the sweat-darkened roots of his sandy bangs. The air conditioning in the restaurant is poor. Sweat slides down Erin’s chest and she bellows her shirt with plucked fingers. Alan picks up the menu and glances at it before using it for a fan. His mood influenced by misapprehension, he smiles at her, producing the dimples that once drove her wild. For a time, all she can focus on is the phrase he used, its failure to capture the intensity of the heat and the situation. She starts listing others, trying them out, searching for something. Common metaphors pile on top of each other in a scramble to apply themselves to the moment but none of them work. They are easy and simple and so over-extended and useless that they harbor no meaning or 84
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | perspective. They are only ways to say it is hot. Instead she selects another and whispers to herself, surprised by the starkness of the image. The heat and her situation make her feel like a detainee. Erin blames the affair on the entropic state of her existence, on the endless succession of sameness overtaking her once powerful desire to be always in motion, constantly exposed to new and varied experiences. Briefly, they had shared such experiences at the start of the affair. (– Remember how perfect it was in the Spring? Cloudless, cool. The evening was sharp as crystal for the program at the kids’ school) While Connor accepted congratulations from the other parents on June’s performance and Katy helped Rex remove the fake beard, Erin and Alan stood at the back of the room and traded sarcastic observations on the program, the outdated decorations in the auditorium and the joys of parenting. As she laughed and the sparkle in Alan’s eyes grew into intent, the night began to feel like a masquerade, as though she was wearing a mom costume, maintaining a persona to which she owed no allegiance. The very wrongness of her thoughts mingled with the realization that she’d never been approached so directly. Not since the kids, not that she recalled or recognized at the time. Since its brief retreat under the affair’s influence, the feeling of living in limbo has only grown worse and become coupled to never-ending uncertainty and fear of the power others hold. She cannot stop herself imagining Connor finding her and Alan in flagrante delicto, their animal presence filling the same home she could not help but see in its state of future emptiness, each scene predicting and foreshadowing the other. There were, lately and suddenly, inescapable premonitions of a life grown quiet as a crypt and empty as a desert when her children leave in six years’ time or she and Connor discover that they have exhausted their conversational reservoir. She thinks of her and Connor (–Why bring him up? We don’t have to talk about your husband. Or my wife. –Of course we do. Connor and Katy.) growing older despite long regarding their love like the fountain of youth. She fears the time when no one needs her anymore in the way that she has only lately come to recognize. She sees the same need in Alan’s pale and pleading eyes, and though she aches with guilt as the muscles of his face slip into shock, it is not for him. (–It feels like love, Erin. –It isn’t. It’s only infatuation. Infatuation with something different.) Instead (–You can’t tell me you don’t feel something. –Not like you want me to.) it is because of the sinking sensation in her chest like an iron duck whenever she thinks of Connor and June and Eli discovering her. She repeats the phrase like a detainee and pictures herself in orange, imagines the sun and the heat as Caribbean. The comparison settles her with its exaggeration. It diminishes her apprehension in a familiar fashion. The year of hers and Connor’s engagement, when they lived in a three-room, second-story apartment, they deployed similar tactics. One door to the apartment led directly into the bedroom and the heavy concrete walls actively disputed what little light made its way past the windows. Connor constantly said the apartment was like a bomb shelter or a bunker and for a while finding new ways to describe their dismal quarters kept them sane. They blocked the door with her drafting table and a heavy curtain and forgot to worry, reveling in their togetherness. Its shadow with Alan is the bitterest portion of her betrayal. At the counter, a man orders a Blue Moon and arranges it precisely in front of 85
him. He takes the citrus wheel from the glass’s rim and lays it on a square napkin placed just-so with its sides and corners carefully in line with the angle of the table. His face is wide and pink and his head is closely shaved on the sides, leaving only a spiky strip of blonde hair atop the pink face, straining against yellow-tinted sunglasses. When he is done with his ritual, he mutters to his beer. Looking at him, Erin feels outsized in her despair. The construction that describes her situation will not come. Words uttered by others in similar moments, cheap phrases and clichés, cannot measure up, cannot support the architecture of her life’s reality. She feels that she owes him the truth as her co-conspirator yet each time she starts she fails. It is like everything has to be translated, as if attempts at understanding are blocked, the ability to hear meaning lost. She wants to be direct but the language of emotion always resorts to simile. She turns away, crossing her arms in defiance as Alan reaches a hand across the distance of the table top. She thinks briefly that she must invent new devices, an individual vocabulary, with whole new phrases that bestow meaning with their first use like Adam naming the animals. Yet even as she struggles she knows this is nothing novel or fresh. Elsewhere in this same city another couple is making the same mistakes she and Alan have made. And somewhere else, another couple is having the same conversation. It is only her involvement, her need to elevate their common affair that makes demands of the particulars and incidentals that lend new life to a story as old as the hills. This phrase comes to her unbidden, rushing her back to a garden wedding with Connor, the two of them relaxing under a shade tree during the reception and Connor asking Erin’s great-uncle E.B. how long he and his wife had been together. The conversation was fulsome with the tone of hope and charity that occurs at weddings, simplicity turned into poetics. But they were caught off-guard by E.B.’s declaration that he’d always known his wife was for him because he experienced inside, behind his sternum, an un-nameable thing as old as the hills when in her presence. The phrase caused her to stop and consider the oft-heard words anew, looking at the surrounding hills, asking the age of each and wondering what might it be like to possess or commune with such a sensation as time on the geologic scale and to credit the presence of another with this sorcery. She has never felt that way with Alan and wonders whether their trickery, which for a time made everything old feel new again, has cost her marriage with Connor the ability to conjure it. Recently, Connor’s treatment of her has cooled with suspicion and injury. Looking past Alan to the impeccably eclectic signs on the wall, Erin relives for a moment her panic of two days before when Connor, standing over the sink scraping plates into the garbage disposal, remarked how she and Alan had lately become as thick as thieves. He said it without looking at her, his tone somewhere between a question and an accusation, hinting at abandonment and the possibility of infidelity as he’d recently come to understand it, guided by Erin’s changes in moods and bearing on certain days when she might disappear for hours or when her cell phone fell quiet and she could be seen casting repeated nervous glances at it. Connor’s expression was so apt it struck her in the chest. They were conspirators, thieves of time and affection. Fresh understanding tore into her, opening her to a flood of similar moments. It was as though she was living each of them, every true usage of the phrase since its first utterance. Where before there were only words there was now, within her and weighing on her, the humility of understanding. 86
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | How ridiculous she feels for thinking she must find something original, for thinking her situation so singular as to demand new expressions. She covered her reaction to his words by slipping behind Connor and putting her arms around his waist, kissing his neck and pressing her cheek between his shoulders, offering false assurances and disavowals of interest in anyone else as he rinsed the remains of the meal away. She knows she has been incautious. Jayna, the ex-wife of a mutual friend, told Erin that she should be more careful, that anyone who saw her around Alan could tell from the sexual energy between them that they wanted to fuck like rabbits. Erin relayed Jayna’s warning to Alan one afternoon over a hastily arranged lunch that would leave them both tired and desperate from the restraint public spaces required. He laughed it off. She tried to laugh with him but instead grew angry at him for not taking it seriously, then angrier still at herself for being so obvious. (–Why are you bringing that up again? Jayna’s not exactly a role-model, Erin. Besides, isn’t the phrase ‘breed like rabbits?’) The truth was that Jayna’s comment reminded her of June and Eli and the hutch they’d kept until two summers ago. The image of her children’s innocent absorption with the rabbits contrasted with hers and Alan’s clandestine frenzies and she was nearly sick. (–The point is the way she said it, where my head was when she did. The meaning changes when you don’t just hear it but experience it. –Like “slick as a ribbon?” –Don’t, Alan.) Alan forces a weak smile that withers in the heat. She refuses to meet his eyes, looking instead out the window at the passing pedestrians. A woman carrying an umbrella for shade. A man pulling a clothes rack hung with suits wrapped in plastic bags. She locates her children at that moment according to the permanent schedule she carries in her head. A shudder runs through her despite the heat. Slick as a ribbon was Erin’s mother’s favorite way to describe her daughter’s shoulder-length, chestnut hair. For the longest time they were only words, something her mother said and eventually wore out through constant use, introducing her daughter to strangers with it as though she were some prize specimen at the fair, the silkiness and sheen of her hair important scoring factors. For Erin, it conjures the need for approval and reciprocating judgment that consume the hard-fought stalemate in the mother-daughter relationship. She knows for Alan it is something else, something primal. She shared that phrase with him on a windless summer afternoon when the sun shone down and lit up the fine, sleek layers of her hair while they sat together in Riverfont Park. After, she would sometimes catch him repeating the phrase nearly silently, an incantation or charm to preserve a perfect moment. He would do this too when they lay facing each other, the power of the phrase compelling him to reach up and lightly brush wayward strands away from her face and over her ear. He said it when they would part after a too-brief rendezvous left them both feeling hollow, as if using the words could ward off a day like today. Erin turns from Alan’s nearly-mute and stubborn refusal. She stares out the window but the brightness brings tears to her eyes and she looks back to the counter where the pink-faced man in dungaree overalls and heavy-soled boots sits, faint beads of sweat dotting his forehead. Like nitroglycerin on a stick of dynamite. The image rises, summoned by the man’s volatile appearance, restrained but 87
readily yielding to a spark or charge, just when Alan finally hears what she has been trying to tell him (–Just like that? Like nothing ever happened?) The whole predicament feels instantly explosive to her. She senses confusion and realization building inside Alan with energy like a fission reaction, emotional separation at the subatomic level. It promises to devastate everything around her, poisoning the air she breathes with a radioactive half-life in proportion to the length of their time together. (–Nothing did happen. It was never real, Alan. Like a dream.) She watches Alan and waits. She thinks of Connor in front of the sink. She thinks of Katy, whom she met only once, introduced by Alan the night of June and Rex’s performance. She had a slender beauty that Connor later described as elven, like an elf. Erin realizes that explanations are confined by words and phrases and their meanings or lack of. The inadequacy of her attempts to create a true picture of this moment between her and Alan, Alan and Katy, her and Connor, and within herself. Everything around her is suddenly visible from a distance and she sees how encapsulating this moment has become, how years from now it will sum her experience of the affair like an epitaph. No, she thinks, It is not like that, it is that. All of it, the entire effort to describe, to render, to communicate. She has no idea what else there is to say.
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Unfinished Anita Haas
Ryan first wrote the novel when he was at university and in love with Julia. It told the story of John, a young student in love with a beautiful society girl named Dorothy. The story had a happy ending. He sent it to a few publishers without much hope and with the expected friendly rejections. When he finished his engineering degree and long after he had got over his infatuation and heartbreak over Julia, he pulled the manuscript out of its temporary grave in the bottom drawer of his desk, and reread it. It now occurred to him what was wrong. It seemed immature to him. He could no longer relate to the hopeful innocence of first love. He changed the character of Dorothy (based on Julia) from a lovely promising girl to a cynical bitch. The wedding bells at the end were replaced by a stern paternal warning against the glitter of a pretty smile. This time he didn’t send it anywhere because he felt it might betray too much bitterness, and he didn’t want his friends to recognize too much. Also, he thought of himself now as an engineer, having found a good job in a respectable multinational. After marrying Kate, he settled into a routine of family, home, kids and job. One day, when Kate was cleaning the study, she came across the manuscript. Ryan laughed it off as a young man’s pretense of writing the great American novel. But something twitched inside as he said it. Kate read it. As a schoolteacher, she was always trying to encourage Ryan and their sons to read or take interest in cultural activities. She had discovered a new facet of her husband, and although not thoroughly impressed by the quality of the work, felt she should cultivate this side. Ryan, on the other hand, felt a strange nakedness at his wife’s discovery of the story inspired by his first love. ¨Nah. It´s just a load of crap.¨ But he read it again one night when Kate was out, over a big tumbler of whiskey. He saw the answer now. It had to end with the arrival of a good woman. It needed it’s Kate. Now, at the age of thirty, he felt he had so much more wisdom to impart. How ridiculous and silly his first attempt seemed now. Ryan’s desire to become a great writer had been reawakened. He was sure he had important things to say. He was just waiting for the BIG INSIGHT. He barely read 89
now, but he remembered how he had devoured books as a youngster. How the greats had inspired him, tutored him in the ways of the world. He was certain that he knew more about life now than before, but what if he discovered later that his wisdom was wrong? This was one of his great worries with his children as well. He tried to teach them by example. But was that enough? Was it the right example? Other people didn’t seem to worry so much. Maybe the example he was giving his sons was too materialistic. He was following his father’s footsteps. Teaching them sports, and values about getting a practical education so as to get a well-paying job. The culture part he had left to his wife. He decided that this was the message he wanted to give his boys and so that was how he proceeded with the story. Convincing himself of the moral value of this new version, he proudly presented it to his wife one Saturday morning at breakfast. She smiled and agreed that it was a good story to show the children. The protagonist, after having flirted with evil Dorothy (the society girl), gets his heart broken as a good lesson before he is rescued by Mary, a good-hearted, churchgoing, girl-next-door type. “Well, there you have it.” he said, a little too loudly, and challenged his offspring to a game of baseball. “Why don´t you try publishing it in Christian Today. They love these kinds of self discovery, repentance stories.” Self discovery? Repentance? Was that how she saw the work? Something made Ryan vascilate. Something told him it still wasn´t what he had hoped to achieve. But for now it was just right. For now it served its purpose. After the divorce, the big court battle over the house and alimony, and the bitter disappointment over his secretary, whom he felt was the cause of Kate’s leaving him, Ryan saw life differently again. He was standing at a bar, enjoying a whiskey, and watching a football game on TV. He was 36 now, graying at the temples, and quite a bit heavier than before. He lived in the big city, in a small apartment. He traveled a lot on business, and found himself staying in hotels, often accompanied by some woman he met. Tonight was no different. But tonight the woman wasn’t the typical forty-something divorcée. Tonight he had chatted up a young university student, obviously out on a personal dare, looking for some experience. Her name was Vanessa and she dreamed of being a writer. She wrote for the university newspaper and had published a few stories in literary journals. Ryan spent the night with her in his hotel room, talking about her stories and his stories. He told her his problem with his book. “It just never seems to be finished.” he said. He never saw Vanessa again. But his meeting her caused a change in the direction of his life. He pulled out the now yellowed copy, and got to work on it. He started reading a lot more and drinking less. On his own, in strange cities, he would take a stack of books with him instead of waiting in bars for women. He decided his style needed altering. The story needed intrigue and more dialogue. He took the main character out of his university surroundings, aged him ten years, gave him a wife and two young kids, and a job in a big multinational. This way Ryan knew he could finally tell the story he needed to tell. The story of deception, disappointment, falling out of love with the mother of your children, and 90
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | the whole fake veneer of modern, middle-class life. The protagonist, (whose name had changed from John to Phil, because John was too common and besides, Kate’s new husband’s name was John and he was a real asshole). The updated character, Phil, was less naiive now. A man of the world. He smoked, made sexist jokes, and drank hard liquor, while chatting up floozies in nightclubs. Dorothy (the beautiful society girl, remember) was now reduced to one of these, but this time Phil was always in control of the situation, and she always begged for more. In this version. At forty, Ryan moved in with Shelley, a 38-year-old divorced mother of two, whom he had met at a support group for separated people. What had made him go there? Several of the guys at work were going through divorces and some had mentioned that it was a good place to meet women. And maybe it was the fact that he missed his kids. They were teenagers now, and Kate and her new husband had moved with them to another city, so he only saw them at Christmas and in the summer a bit. Somethng in him needed a family again. But Shelley’s kids were girls, and he never got close to them. He couldn’t help but compare Shelley to Kate, to Julia, and even to some of the women he had met in bars. She was pleasant, short, round and dark, and wanted to please him. He couldn’t say he was in love with her. Maybe that was why he never felt moved to marry her. But he did feel she deserved his respect, and maybe that was the reason why he pulled out the manuscript again and began sifting out the more cutting misogynist details. Phil developed a rather good relationship with one of the bar girls named Rose. They had almost a brother-sister relationship that Ryan debated about changing into something solid and lasting. He decided he would wait. And see. Four years later, Ryan suffered a crisis. His new boss, a young upstart named Phil, called him into his office one day, and informed him his services were no longer needed. After twenty years. At least they gave him a good payoff. He did what he had heard a lot of men in his position did. But he never thought he would do it. He left Shelley and went to Mexico to live like a rich, old hippy. He had invested well, so he could live in moderate luxury for the rest of his days if he was careful. He had his pick of pretty women too. He felt a bit bad for Shelley, but now he was glad he had never married her. Lately she had been getting a bit cranky anyway, and she was putting on weight. He began to fraternize with other middle-aged expats like himself. Well, maybe not so much like himself, as he began to discover there was a whole world out there he had been unaware of. He’d been too busy working his ass off for his ungrateful company. His new circle of friends was a collection of eccentric intellectuals. Well-traveled polyglots. Ryan felt slightly intimidated at first, but they were fascinated by him in their own way; a well-off, American executive in their midst. He took Spanish classes, and listened in on their long nightly discussions about literature and politics. Soon he started taking part. Some of them were writers too. And so he updated his old text to show them. The first thing he did, of course, was change the name from bastard Phil, to Jim, his dad`s name. His father had died recently, and any antagonism the protagonist felt towards his father in the story was removed, considered juvenile. 91
Ryan was eager to include some of the new universal truths he had been collecting since his being sacked and his arrival in Mexico. He added a few years onto Jim. He took him out of the multinational and turned him into a British journalist who spoke Russian and quoted Shakespeare (later, when Ryan discovered Oscar Wilde, he quoted him instead.) Jim’s friends were an odd collection of transvestites, political refugees and opera singers. It became a testiment to true love as Rose, now changed from a common bar floozy to a fellow journalist, fell in love with Jim. But Jim, an honorable chap in this version, not wanting to hurt her, let her down easy, and did not take advantage of her feelings for him. Ryan had decided that this version would be a condemnation of middle-class values and business, as Jim uncovered scandals and corruption in multinational engineering firms. He felt embarrased by the naiive writing ... especially the part about the good wife and family. He cut out the whole chapter about family values. His new friends were very positive and gave him a lot of constructive criticism. He realized these people knew a lot about a lot about which he knew very little. After corrections, some of his friends suggested a few magazines to which he could send some of the chapters. But Ryan was still retiscent. He wasn’t completely convinced even now that this was the definitive version. There was just so much left in the world he wasn’t sure about, although he always acted overconfident. Like a good businessman. One day Gary, his oldest son, came to visit. He had finished college, and wanted to meet his dad again. They got along very well. The young man was kind of a hippy, something that Ryan would have opposed vehemently, or laughed off ten years before, but now he was proud that his son could hold his own among his new intellectul friends. After his departure, Ryan fell into a mild depression, regretting deeply the years he had lost with his sons. He changed Jim`s name to Gary. Jim had seemed kind of stuffy anyway. And he added a long lost son. This was tricky to add, because it involved having to add an ex-wife again. But he didn’t want the whole Kate-white-picket-fence-package, so he revived Dorothy, and grafted his now softened memory of Julia onto her. She went from vixen to a pretty but simple rich girl who later never recovered from Gary´s rejection, and descended into alcoholism. His friends read the new chapter with interest, but he noted a lurking smile among them. He felt they were not taking him as seriously as before. They no longer recommended publishers. Ryan was getting a bit bored of their pretentious conversation anyway. He began noticing how when someone wasn’t present, the others would tear his character apart. They were just snobs after all. When one of the older members of the circle didn’t show up for a few days, the others joked that he was either on a bender or had found a young boy to please him. They all had a good laugh. But then a neighbour found him dead from a heart attack. Ryan felt sick. But the others didn’t seem to feel remorse at what they had said. Ryan was now fifty. He was getting older and he could feel it. He had been drinking far too much whiskey these last six years. He was fat and out of shape. He decided not to return to his bar after one day when he entered and one of the more flamboyant old homosexuals called out to everyone’s amusement. “Hey Ryan! How’s the life story coming?” Then the news arrived. Twenty-six year old Gary had been killed in a skiing accident. 92
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 | He didn’t go back for the funeral. There were too many people he didn’t want to see. For six months he stayed in his room and drank. He wrote long verses about deception and death. He decded that Gary (his character) should experience something like this, so he relived and included some of the tormented feelings he hadn’t really examined when his own father died. He changed the character’s name to Allen (the dead journalist from his group of friends), and basically added a lot of Allen’s personality as well. He modified the transvestites, political refugees and opera singers into back-biting gossips, and thus added a tinge of criticism about intellectual snobbery. He went native. Within a year he found himself married to the young girl who had been cleaning his room. Her family was overwhelmed with gratitude and accepted him as a kind of godfather. It made Ryan feel good that he was helping this humble family financially, and to be part of such a loving and down-to-earth group. Rose reappeared in the story but this time not as a journalist, but as a vulgar, uneducated shop-assistant with a big heart and an even bigger family. Allen recognized the goodness in her and married her, finding true happiness. It was five years later when Steven, Ryan´s younger son was sent for. He traveled to Mexico with his wife Betty, leaving their baby daughter with Kate. Ryan had been found dead in his dingy hotel room by the owner. Only a few things had been found in his possession. One of them was a tattered old manuscript with a lot of crossing out in the last chapter. Not much was known about him. The only information Steven could glean from the landlady was that Ryan had spent copious amounts of money on his last wife and her family. When he realized they were using him, he began drinking heavily again and, when the money ran out, she left him. Several months before, he had installed himself here, and drank himself to death. “And he owe me last month rent.” she snarled. Back in their hotel room, Steven and Betty tried deciphering the manuscript for any clues to this aloof man’s life. It was so stained and greasy that they couldn’t make heads or tails of who the protagonist was; John, Phil, Jim, Gary, Allen .... or who the bad guys or good guys were; the middle-class family, the businessmen, the bohemians, the poor peasants ... Steven recognized elements of something his mother had commented on once. “Apparently he made us listen to some story he had written about a guy who had to study hard to get a good job ... but I guess he changed his mind about it, that part is all crossed out.” Betty, tired from squinting, sighed and sat back. Looking at the crossed out page of the last chapter, she took her husband’s hand and said quietly, “We’ll bury it with him.”
| TULANE REVIEW | FALL 2014 |
Contributors Benjamin Aleshire is an artist based in Louisiana and Vermont. His poetry and essays have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Poetry East, Barrow Street, Burlington Free Press, the New Orleans Gambit, and many others. A recipient of a Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council, Benjamin founded Honeybee Press, serves as assistant poetry editor for the Green Mountains Review, and teaches Integrated Book Arts for the Flashbulb Institute. Vanilla Kalai Anandam is a New York native whose work has been exhibited at Carnegie Hall and Parsons: The New School, and was recognized as a featured artist in T.A.G.’s “Green Light” exhibition at the Creative Time Gallery in New York. Her art can be found in The Postscript Journal, Teen Vogue, Silent Voices, and Vogue Italia among others. Christopher Barnes’ first collection LOVEBITES is published by Chanticleer. Each year he reads at Poetry Scotland’s Callender Poetry Weekend. He also writes art criticism which has been published in Peel and Combustus magazines. Tessa Barkan is a senior at Tulane University. She loves poetry that allows a reader to derive meaning in ways the poet could never have thought of. She thinks that poems are rewritten each time they are read. Kristina Bjornson is a senior at Tulane University. She is double majoring in mathematics and studio art with a minor in art history. Although she loves to create art, after graduation she will be moving to Denver, Colorado to work as an actuarial analyst. Elena Botts grew up in Maryland, and currently lives in Northern Virginia. She has been published in over twenty literary magazines in the past few years. She is the winner of four poetry contests, including Word Works Young Poets’. Her poetry has been exhibited at the Greater Reston Art Center. Check out her poetry book, a little luminescence at allbook-books.com. Her visual art has won her several awards. Go to o-mourning-dove.tumblr.com to see her latest artwork. 95
Madeleine Byrne is a junior at Tulane University. She is studying communications, art history, and gender and sexuality. Madeleine was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She likes to collage and paint in her free time. Madeleine is also a runner and a popcorn enthusiast. Clay Cantrell is an MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of Memphis. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Toad, New Delta Review, Midwest Quarterly, and others. Many of his poems draw inspiration from a film he is making about the underground catfish trade in west Tennessee. Carolyn Canulette is a third year English major/psychology minor at Tulane University. She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and intends to die there. She has been writing all of her life, but discovered her intense love for poetry writing (specifically) in high school. Xinwei Che is a Rhode Island School of Design sculpture major who works primarily in fabric, wax, steel and found remnants. In her studio practice, she focuses on the notion of physical spaces as loci for the memory and clothing as architecture for the body. Her works often have a bizarre, haunting familiarity of something that was lost and never found. She has exhibited in Singapore, the United States and the Netherlands. Hannah Chertock is a photography major at Virginia Commonwealth University. She recently exhibited two pieces at Adah Rose Gallery in Kensington, Maryland. Her photo series “This is Still Me” was published in The Medical Literary Messenger at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her photo “Infinite Distress” was awarded Honorable Mention in the Nora School of Photography 2012 Competition. Find her at hannahrenae1.wix.com/hannahrenae or www.facebook.com/ hannahrenaephotography. Liz N. Clift grew up in the American South and currently lives in Colorado. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Passages North, Hobart, and The MacGuffin, among others. Her short story “Like Birthday Balloons on Lockers” was previously published by the Tulane Review. Brad Cobb lives in England, Arkansas. He is an ardent book collector and is currently working on his first novel. Mark DeFoe is professor emeritus at West Virginia Wesleyan College where he teaches in Wesleyan’s low-residency MFA writing program. Widely published, DeFoe won the 2005 Chautauqua Literary Journal’s national poetry competition and his work has been nominated three times for Pushcart Prizes. In 2009 he won the Tennessee Chapbook Award. His tenth chapbook, In the Tourist Cave, was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press. David Filer lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Marlene Anderson. Marlene created and directs The Imani Project, working with villagers in coastal Kenya on HIV/AIDS prevention, orphan support and related issues (www.imaniproject.
org). David’s most recent books are The Fear of Love, from Plain View Press, and Housekeeping, a chapbook of sonnets from Finishing Line Press. Individual poems have been published recently in The Cafe Review, Windfall, and Tiger’s Eye. Lindsey Flanagan is a senior environmental studies major at Tulane. She loves the outdoors and spent the fall semester of her junior year abroad in Cape Town, South Africa where her photograph was taken. Samantha Fortenberry is a photographer from Scottsboro, Alabama. Her focus on the everyday normal is fused with a sense of slight surrealism that’s achieved by portraits with a twist. She is constantly learning new techniques to improve and show off her view of the world around her. With a camera in her hand, you’re sure that you’ll get a chance to see the world as she does. Mia Funk won a Prix de Peinture - Salon d’Automne de Paris, has shown at the Grand Palais, was selected for the Sky Television’s Portrait Artist of the Year, Celeste Prize, and won a Thames & Hudson Prize. Her paintings have been highlighted on television and are held in several public collections, including the Dublin Writers Museum. Her fiction has been recognized by the Momaya Prize, Hilary Mantel Short Story Prize and Doris Gooderson Prize. Find her at www.miafunk.com. John Grey is an Australian-born poet, playwright, musician, and Providence, Rhode Island resident since the late seventies. He has been published in numerous magazines, including Weird Tales, Christian Science Monitor, Greensboro Poetry Review, Poem, Agni, Poet Lore and Journal Of The American Medical Association, as well as the horror anthology What Fears Become and the science fiction anthology Futuredaze. He has had plays produced in Los Angeles and off-off Broadway in New York. Anita Haas is a Canadian teacher and writer living in Madrid, Spain. She has published three books on film, a novelette, poems, articles, and stories in both English and Spanish. Most recently, her work has appeared in Literary Brushtrokes, Falling Star magazine, and Red Dashboard Dime Novels. Dixon Hearne lives in Madison, Mississippi. His work has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been anthologized in the Texas Review Press Southern Poetry Anthology: Louisiana, v.4 and is forthcoming in Down the Dark River. He recently received a 2014 Spur Award for poetry. Other poetry appears in New Plains Review, Big Muddy, Weber: The Contemporary West, and elsewhere. He is currently at work on new poetry and short story collections. John Hearn is a teacher at Jamestown Community College. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including Social Science Quarterly, Religion and Politics, Epoch, River Styx, The Washington Post, and The Buffalo News. He is co-author of Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq (Casemate, 2011). A Glimmer Train honorable mention for the 2013 Short Story Award for New Writers is among his commendations.
Jason Hill studied creative writing in the MFA program at Spalding University. He holds a BA in English from the University of Kentucky and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Connecticut. He has lived in Providence, Boston, Jersey City and Louisville. His current whereabouts are unknown. Andrew Jarvis is the author of “Choreography,” “Sound Points,” “Ascent,” and “The Strait.” His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, San Pedro River Review, Stonecoast Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, and many other literary magazines. He was a finalist for the 2014 Homebound Publications Poetry Prize. He also judges poetry contests and edits anthologies for Red Dashboard, LLC. Andrew holds an MA in Writing (Poetry) from Johns Hopkins University. Chelsea Kerwin is a second year MFA candidate at Bowling Green State University. In 2013 she was awarded the Devine Fellowship through BGSU. Jake Koch is a communications and arts management major at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois who loves writing alt-lit poetry. When Jake is not working at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, he is either making pizza or Google image searching the phrase “really cool dogs.” Check out his poetry/art blog at jaakoch. tumblr.com. Robert McGuill lives and writes in Colorado. His work has appeared in more than fifty literary magazines worldwide, and been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes. McGuill is a Narrative Fiction Contest winner, Glimmer Train stories finalist, Machigonne Fiction Prize finalist, and Best of the Net nominee. His short-story collection, “The Outskirts of Nowhere,” was selected as a semifinalist in the 2014 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest. Erica Lipoff is a senior at Tulane from Philadelphia. She works part-time as an advocate for marginalized populations who cannot afford legal representation in Orleans Parish. Through her photography, she aims to redefine the prison complex by reducing cell space to an abstracted version of form and line. M’Bilia Meekers is an English major at Tulane University. She is the 2011 poetry winner of the Faulkner Wisdom Competition and her work has previously appeared in Poet Lore and The Killer Whale Journal. She hopes to attend an MFA program next year. Luke Oberlander and Zach Visotsky formed Relative Ink, a screen-printing collective aimed at practicing and preserving the original non-digital approach to screen-printing in 2012. The artists carry out the tradition of hand-cutting screens in rubilyth and pulling all posters by hand. Palehound is the duo’s second gig poster for a band appropriately named Palehound. Their posters commonly feature dogs, dogs smoking cigarettes, and dogs sniffing packs of cigarettes. Relative Ink enjoys rock’n’roll, mojitos in the morning, and starting ruckuses.
Devin Reynolds believes art has no middle, beginning, end or rhyme to its reason: like everything that is everything, our conceptualization of context in time is nothing more than time spent. Here, there and gone tomorrow. His ink drawings represent a moment of pause in time and context, physically and conceptually. W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and educator. He is the author of seven books including Imagination: The Art of W. Jack Savage (wjacksavage.com) Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California. Adam Scheffler grew up in California, received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is currently working on finishing his PhD in English at Harvard. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, The Massachusetts Review, Colorado Review, and many other journals. He is the winner of River Styx’s 2014 International Poetry Contest. Natalie Shyu is a sophomore at Tulane University studying ecology and evolutionary biology and studio art. In her free time she enjoys being outdoors and exploring New Orleans’ thriving art and music culture. She looks forward to broadening her knowledge of studio art through her studies at Tulane. Lauren Skelly is a ceramic artist born and raised on Long Island, New York. Skelly studied at Adelphi University where she received her BFA in ceramics and MA in sculpture. Her passion for clay drives her to workshops and conferences throughout the United States and Italy. Currently Skelly is finishing up her MFA at Rhode Island School of Design, where she currently explores materiality, fragility and decorative processes. Megan Tamas was born and raised in Mount Juliet, Tennessee to two veterinarians who taught her to appreciate the value of and admiration for the natural world. She received her BA in Visual Art (focusing on sculpture) in 2013 from Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. She is a current sculpture graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. She blends natural materials with artificial ones to recreate and incorporate the organic world into her work. Ishiah White is currently a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, majoring in sculpture with a concentration in environmental studies. This semester she is studying abroad in Rome, Italy as part of the European honors program. Stepping out of the studio has been an important part of the semester, as her work is influenced by the new environment, different culture, and abundance of art in Rome. Dr. Ernest Williamson III has published poetry and visual art in over 500 national and international online and print journals. Professor Williamson has published poetry in journals such as The Oklahoma Review, Review Americana: A Creative Writing Journal, and The Copperfield Review. Some of his visual artwork has appeared in journals such as The Columbia Review, The GW Review, and Fiction Fix. Currently, Williamson is an assistant professor of English at Allen University.
Submission Guidelines The Tulane Review accepts poetry, prose, and visual art submissions. All submissions should be uploaded via Submittable (www. submittable.com) along with a cover letter and biography. Our Submittable form can be accessed through our website. Please submit no more than five poems and limit prose submissions to 4,000 words per piece. Visual art should be submitted in high-resolution format of at least 1 MB. Please include the title, dimensions, and media form. 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. Contact us: Poetry & Prose | firstname.lastname@example.org Visual Art | email@example.com