The Crucible Spring 2017: And Still

Page 1


And Still . . .

cru·ci·ble ˈkro͞osəb(ə)l/ noun

1. a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures. 2. a place or occasion of severe test or trial. 3. a place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new.

“The Crucible borrows its name from UNC’s first student magazine, which served what was then the Colorado State Normal School from 1892 to 1920. We chose the name to honor both UNC’s heritage as a teachers’ college and its students of today and tomorrow. Like its counterpart in chemistry, The Crucible purifies its contents; it challenges its contributors to test themselves and to strive for flawlessness in their future creative ventures.” —The Crucible, Volume 21 © 2017 by United Student Literary Voices All rights reserved by respective authors. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. The views expressed in this book do not necessarily reflect the views of The Crucible staff. Printed in the United States of America First Printing, 2017 United Student Literary Voices University of Northern Colorado Campus Box 109 Greeley, CO 80639 Cover art (“From Dust Comes Life”) by Jessamyn Hutchins Interior designed by Lashanah Tillar and Jessamyn Hutchins “Crucible” definition courtesy of


Lashanah Tillar


Danielle Rich


Hannah-Jayne Duran


Jessamyn Hutchins


Kathryn Derby


Maddie Siegle


Jordan Baca Cyrsta Clow Amy Golden Ashley McDonald Erika Siebring Kaila Ward

LETTER FROM THE EDITORS Dear Reader, First, thank you for picking up this copy of The Crucible. It was a whirlwind ride getting this together; not just because of the feels involved. As this is our last semester at UNC, we wanted to go out with a bang. The title, “And Still,” derives from our desire to carry on the story. That is, while we’re leaving, there will always be excellent editors to continue the narrative. We would also like to thank the staff of The Crucible for working with us to put this together, despite our awful nature. Their excellent tastes, work ethic, and team skills leaves us confident in the future of The Crucible. A special thank goes out to the others who made this edition possible. First, a thank you to our wonderful advisor, Lisa Zimmerman, for continuing to support and encourage us to become better readers and editors. We would like to thank Student Senate, TCBY, Cafe Panache, and Chipotle for helping us raise funds so that this edition may exist outside of the computer. Thanks to Elizabeth Strong and Karen Janata of the English department for putting up with our incessant requests to send out emails for advertising. We also need to thank Write for Market for supporting our endeavors. Lastly, and most importantly, a big thank you to the fantastic writers and artists featured in this edition.

Lashanah Tillar & Danielle Rich Lashanah Tillar & Danielle Rich Editors-in-Chief

TABLE OF CONTENTS Poetry Madeline Campbell

The Stars That Fell From My Right Ear


Sarah Julian





Kayley Jelinek



Gabrielle Moore

The Stalker


Sarah Killorn

Domestic Bliss Makes Me Sick


Kathleen M. McCann



Before the Trees Came Down


Ketchup Bottle: He Asked Me for a Love Poem The Minstrel


Rachel Padro Kaila Ward


Fiction Sarah Killorn

Chasing Corpses


Jordan Yates



Jessamyn Hutchins

Two’s A Crowd


Shannon Bushby

The List I Will Give My Next Boyfriend, When He Asks Me About My Past Post Prom at the Eat’n Park


Jennifer Parks


Creative Non-Fiction Lashanah Tillar

The Blacker the Monday


Visual Art Cyrsta Clow

Ascending Zion

Jessica Perez


Kaitlyn Lempp Calvin Shepherd & Ethan Funk-Breay Lashanah Tillar

Title Page 13

Chief Joseph




The Wilderness: A Tryptic


Carl and Karl


Parisian Tour


the stars that fell from my right ear Madeline Campbell

there are little ziplock bags of minced stars we pour into our ears at night they churn in our breath until they become the words we burn when they roll off our tongues and into the firepit well I’ve bitten close to three holes in my tongue by now Just trying to hold them in the words we save in the cage of our teeth are the words we cherish I’ve been cherishing and cherished my whole life but sometimes the words spill out they kiss the page, running their hands down the precise straight blue of college-ruled paper and I grasp at them trying to lift fistfuls of the black ink like trying to pull water from a lake there are chipped bits of it dried under my fingernails, and I pick at them stars are always falling from my ears these days they can’t stay down any more than the words caught between my molars

10 Crucible | Campbell

galaxy Sarah Julian

Sometimes I still see you, quiet, hazy, round-eyed child nose pressed firmly against the fixed glass of eternity; stars spraying past your face in that too-real space-ship of a life— the one you chose to inhabit, dear, all those years— and still cannot escape.

Julian | Crucible 11

bleeding Sarah Julian

Maybe it was the flowing blood-wine of our (somehow) wildly entangled somnambulant, wintry imaginations. Maybe nothing but death-cold dreams of dying forever etched upon your soul in all your bone-drawn, breathless ecstasy, amid the twilit hovering of December, with the cold pale remote beauty of your skin still racked by the smell of death.

12 Crucible | Julian


Jessica Perez Visual Art

Perez | Crucible 13

the blacker the monday L a s h a n a h Tilla r


ama braids my hair. The callouses of her yellow-stained fingers brush back and forth against my temple. On the TV, Saved by the Bell is starting: “When I wake up in the morning and the alarm gives out a warning…” My butt has become numb, and I squirm to get some feeling back into it. “Quit movin’!” She grabs a piece of hair and yanks my head back. My neck aches in protest. It’s this way every morning—the aches, the show, the reprimand. Hands ghost over my scalp, and a fierce throbbing settles in my head. “I’m hungry,” I whine. She doesn’t miss a beat. “Then get you a breakfast sandwich after.” Mama is never late in her response. Sharp retorts live on the tip of her tongue, ready for attack. My clumsy eight-year-old mind cannot keep up. Or withstand. “Shoulda ate before you sat down.” I can feel her breath on the bare canyons of my scalp. “I just woke up.” I’m not sure if it’s a statement or an excuse. She makes a sound. No, not a sound, the sound—air flying back into compressed cheeks, a smack of the lips. Uh-huh. Suddenly, her hands leave my head. “Done,” is all she says. I spring to my feet and rush to the bathroom. When I look in the mirror, a black figure stares back at me. Her hair is half-cornrowed, half-straight, just liked she asked. But, it’s not like she wanted. The girl in the mirror looks nothing like 14 Crucible | Tillar

Beyoncé in Say My Name. Not with the coarse hair, skin like dirt, and nose like Kenan. I bite back tears of frustration as I take in the disappointing image. I look around, affirming I was alone, then muttered a word that would get me ten spankings and no TV for months: “Bitch.” Once the word escapes, I turn to the door wildly, as though the mere whisper of the insult will cause Mama to materialize, belt in hand. The terror evaporates a little as the seconds tick by. Slowly, I go about finishing up my normal routine. My head still throbs, and I can only hope that it lessen throughout the day. Later, if I’m lucky, I can dunk my head in a bucket of water, and pretend to be disappointed when I come home with ruined hair. “Hurry up! You gon’ miss the bus,” Mama shouts from the kitchen. I rush into the living room, backpack in hand. Mama waits by the door. “What you think?” she asks. I swallow the nasty words that brewed inside me. “Thank you,” I say because all little black girls know to say thank you unless they want their asses whooped. Then I’m out the door, the only thought in my throbbing head: destruction.

Tillar | Crucible 15


K a yley Jelin ek

He sinks in the oceans of wild flower

As the trees lean in to hear

In the morn of the meadow,

He thinks of the undeniable love

Humming a horse’s melody

Between the moon and the sun

Dew returns to the stars

Yearning for one another

He had watched them all night

But then he envisions the sea

The stars glimmered

The moon would kiss

And the dew gleams back

So slightly before

He wonders

Chasing the sun again

Where does the snow go?

He hopes his little girl

The creatures whisper around him

Will find the love not

He thought of his little girl

Of the moon and the sun

Pouncing around,

But instead

Whispering his heart’s song

Of the stars and the morning dew

16 Crucible | Jelinek

the stalker G a b r ielle M oo re

Her hair blows lightly in the wind, like out of a book I wrote. She dismisses me and dismantles me, like out of a movie she directed. But I am making myself the producer and I don’t like the ending of her script. I’d rather set up an old projector, stop her from moving, and display images on her. The projection of my fantasies is more tasteful than the picture of spoiled roofies spilled on her red rug. A parasite by any other name would smell as sweet. Don’t tell me she is just a person She isn’t a person, she is perfection! My perfection! Created from a self-performed lobotomy, where I took a rusty knife to peel back the scalp, stab the skull, and gingerly mutilate any of her blemishes from my benign brain, that burdens her as my only savior. I don’t like to share my toy with others.

Moore | Crucible 17

domestic bliss makes me sick Sarah Killorn

You may wear your heart on your sleeve,

and let red drench the crisp white

but conceal it under a suit jacket.

Hold your dignity like books on your head,

balanced, sturdy, there for all to see.

You are composure.

Adjust the table setting,

Discuss the unfortunate cloud cover.

Say so much and yet

nothing at all.

Empty words echo in your ears.

You are a lie.

Take long walks with

no real destination.

Remain on the periphery of life.

Cold unchanging marble

ready to face this world


You are a coward. 18 Crucible | Killorn


Kaitlyn Lempp Mixed Media

Lempp | Crucible 19

chasing corpses Sarah Killorn


he scent of damp pavement mingled with the smoke in Simon’s lungs as he came upon the entrance to his flat. Usually he’d put his evening cigarette out against the doorframe and go right in, but tonight there was something keeping his feet planted firmly on the welcome mat. The unsaid things were starting to stir in his mind, bite his brainstem, warn him to keep his mouth shut. You’re supposed to take us to your grave, they told him, and there wasn’t enough nicotine in the world to shut them up. Now pacing in front of the door, Simon took another puff of his cigarette and cursed under his breath. This whole thing was eating him alive. All because Simon ate things alive. People, specifically. It was a bad habit he’d picked up a few years back, and there weren’t any therapists in town who treated cannibalism, or none he’d found in the papers at least, so the chances of him stopping anytime soon were little to none. And that would have been fine if it wasn’t for Mark. Mark who’d been Simon’s flatmate for the last ten months. They’d reached a point in their friendship at which Simon was either going to tell him this dark secret over a lovely candlelit dinner or he was going to make Mark into a lovely candlelit dinner and consequently have to start paying the rent on his own. Again. But maybe Mark wouldn’t care. Maybe he’d be alright with it and they could just continue their symbiotic 20 Crucible | Killorn

flatshare until the lease was up. Or maybe Simon should just go rent a hotel room and OD in the bathtub. “Fuck it.” He flicked his cigarette onto the pavement and put it out with a few twists of his shoe before taking a breath and opening the door. Simon was welcomed by the usual warzone of his and Mark’s flat. Dishes rested precariously on top of piles of books while wine bottles, most containing cigarette butts, preoccupied almost every other surface. With all the popcorn, magazines, and pizza boxes on the ground, they’d both forgotten a long time ago what the actual colour of their carpet was. Among the chaos was Mark, seated on the couch in his pajamas, a controller in hand and bare feet propped up on the coffee table: the exact position Simon had left him in that morning. “Hey,” Mark greeted, eyes flicking away from the TV for half a second. Dammit. Why couldn’t he have gotten into a car accident on his way to work or something. “Hey.” Simon closed the door before shrugging off his coat and laying it over the back of a loveseat. He took a few steps to get a look at what Mark was playing before rolling his eyes. “Tetris still? Are you kidding me?” “What? Just because you suck at it doesn’t mean I can’t play.” “Okay but it’s literally all you play.” “No, it isn’t.” “Solitaire doesn’t count.” “Why not?” A sound erupted from the game that prompted Mark to toss his controller to the other side of the couch. He glared at Simon. “Great, look what you did.” “I think you’ll survive,” Simon assured him before going into the kitchen to prod around the fridge for a bottle of merlot. God, this was going to suck. How did he even go about bringing this up? Hey, Mark, you’ve been living with me for about a year, and I just wanted to let you know that I’ve secretly been killing people in our back garden and cooking their flesh in our kitchen! Also could you do the dishes when you get a chance? With a sigh, Simon took a few indulgent sips of the alcohol before re-entering the living room and sinking into the loveseat. “So-” “So you’re buying dinner now? Good.” Mark picked the controller back up and started a new game, content with this compromise. “I want pizza. Extra pineapple.” “I’m not buying you a pizza.” “Why not?” “First of all, you put the grossest possible topping on it so I can’t have any. Second, it’s all you’ve eaten for like the last month straight.” Distantly, Simon wondered if that would affect the way Mark tasted at all. Killorn | Crucible 21

One giant breadstick. Mark paused the game so that it wouldn’t distract him from making this very important point. “People who don’t like pineapple on their pizza are weak. You’re weak, Simon.” “And you’re delusional,” he stated before taking another swig of the wine. It would probably be better for both of them if he was at least a little bit drunk. “What’s an acceptable pizza topping then?” Liver. Preferably belonging to a female between the ages of 22 and 27. “Mushrooms.” “Mushrooms?! Are you—” Mark scrubbed a hand over his face. “In what universe are mushrooms ever a better choice than pineapple?” “This one. Now, will you shut up for two seconds and let me tell you the thing I was going to tell you?” he interjected before Mark could get another word in. Mark made a face but grabbed the bowl of chili that was resting on the coffee table and leaned back in a position that vaguely said, ‘I’m listening.’ Words, Simon. Just form words into sentences and it’ll be over before you know it. He cleared his throat and began. “We’ve known each other for awhile now, Mark, longer than any flatmate I’ve had before—” he’d made the last three into casseroles, “and I think it’s time I finally told you—” the bowl of chili came into Simon’s line of vision and his heart sank to his feet. “What is that? Where did you get that?” Mark’s brow furrowed at the sudden edge to Simon’s voice. “From the fridge? I know you usually don’t like sharing your stuff but there was barely any left. What’s the big deal?” The “big deal,” as Mark had so cavalierly put it, was that the meat in that chili belonged to their late next door neighbor who’d been listening to The Beach Boys until four in the morning a few days ago. And in that moment, Simon was certain he should have OD’d in a bathtub. “Dude? You okay?” “Me? What? Yeah! Never better! What were we talking about?” Simon asked before downing half the bottle of wine. Mark kneaded a particularly tough piece of meat between his molars, the popping sound permeating the entire living room. “We were talking about your chili, which is kickass, by the way. Like, I understand why you never share now.” He spooned more of it into his already full mouth as the reddish liquid dribbled down his chin. All Simon could do was watch in a mixture of fascination and horror. “What did you want to talk to me about?” “Oh, um…” The spoon scraped against the bottom of the bowl and sent a shiver up Simon’s spine. “Yeah, I forgot what I was going to say actually.” 22 Crucible | Killorn

After a few moments of Mark looking like he was going to press the subject, he shrugged. “Whatever.” Simon then finished the bottle of merlot in a single gulp and stood, leaving its empty carcass at the foot of the loveseat. “I’m gonna go out tonight. Need some fresh air.” “Oh,” Mark said, setting down the bowl and picking up the controller again. “I was about to start playing The Evil Within. Sure you don’t want to stay and chase corpses around for a few hours?” Simon did, in fact, plan on chasing corpses that evening but not from the leisure of a couch. “You go ahead,” he said, slipping his still-damp coat back on. “I’d hate to distract you anymore than I have.” “‘Kay, cool, see you later.” Mark’s full attention was back on the TV, allowing Simon to slip out of the flat unnoticed. Once the door was shut and Simon’s feet were on the doormat once again, a wave of relief washed over him. Well that didn’t go exactly to plan. But at least he wasn’t cleaning Mark’s blood off their already destroyed carpet right now. Simon’s pocket buzzed, and he pulled out his phone to reveal a text from Mark shining across the screen. Pick up some groceries—you’re cooking from now on. M With a smirk, Simon replaced his phone, put a cigarette between his lips, and went to go find dinner.

Killorn | Crucible 23

primer Ka th leen M . M cCa n n

Love the world as yourself; that you can care for all things.

The art of living is not the nimble touch, the practiced plate-spinner: threatrics twirling overhead. It is how one handles the coin: sorrow and joy, in the palm.

24 Crucible | McCann

-Lao tzu

before the trees came down Kathleen M. McCann

-fearing the chronic angers of the house‌ -Robert Hayden For a glimpse of the sea a young girl vaulted their trunks. Shimmied, up through the highest branches, over the rabbits in their home-made hutch, her own house full of discord below.

McCann | Crucible 25

the wilderness Kaitlyn Lempp

Colored pencil on paper 26 Crucible | Lempp

Lempp | Crucible 27

28 Crucible | Lempp

quietus Jordan Yates


eath is a man draped in a big wool blanket, with a trimmed white beard and a splash of wrinkles across his face. He stands like a sunset—a veneer of warmth fractured over a moonless heart. He extends a knobbled hand towards me and in a calm, measured voice, informs me that it’s time to go. I tell him that I have to grab my bags—I have to pack my bags—and that I haven’t quite prepared because, you see, there’s a chance I’ll forget something and I can’t just up and leave so he’ll have to be so kind as to give me a minute. He cocks his head and says I don’t need bags. I don’t need to bring anything. I tell him that well, at the very least, I have to grab my keys and a jacket because I’ve been known to not commit to things so there’s a chance I’ll back out on this one too and I’ll want to come home and how awkward would it be if I didn’t have my keys to get back into my house? His eyelids shutter for a brief moment. He asks if we’ve ever met. If we know each other. I holler from the other room as I shove my belongings into bags that I’d considered visiting him a few times before, but that I hear he only sells one-way tickets and that I’d never been so intrigued as to see how a man like him lives that I’d be willing to leave my home and never return. I laugh. I tell him that I’m finally ready to buy a ticket. He watches me dart from room to room and space to space, gathering various items with no apparent value while I ramble on. Yates | Crucible 29

I explain to him that I need all my favorite pairs of shoes because I can never predict which I’ll want to wear and I need my favorite books because I know I’ll want to read them again and I need that sheaf of papers with scribbles on them because those are good memories I wouldn’t want to leave behind and sometimes I pause to take a good, long look at a picture and quietly laugh to myself before I carry on— He coughs. His thin lips speak but his eyes already know. He doesn’t think I’m ready to go. I pause. My eyes drop and regard the piles of everything strewn around me. A picture of my sister and me. My old Converse. That fiction book I got when I was ten and have read so many times that the pages are falling out and I can recite every single line from memory. I start to cry. Every fiber of my being wants to bolt out that door and follow him down the stairs to an outside where the day is freezing but I don’t even need a jacket. Where ringing phones go dead on lines. Where yesterday doesn’t matter because I never again have to repeat the same motions I have one hundred thousand times before. Grocery shopping. Laundry. Phone calls. Grocery shopping. Laundry. Phone calls. I could press my feet into the soil and propel myself a million miles in the air, floating on the unfettered freedom of a massless mind for several thousand eternities until even he ceased to exist. The man between me and the door is the doctor with the immortal shot, the keeper of Medusa’s head. I can gaze into those somber eyes, fall into his arms and live forever just how I am, just how I am. But for all the forces propelling my feet towards that door, there is always one too many holding me in place. I glance down at the picture on my floor and it stares back, my sister’s eyes speaking more than her lips could. I shake my head. I tell him that I’m so sorry for inconveniencing him, but that if he would be so kind as to come back another day, I would appreciate it. I add that I promised a friend I’d call them back and that it would be awfully rude of me if I failed to do so before we left. I wave him goodbye. He nods and limps off down the hall, his blanket swaying behind him like a cape with no wind. I press the door shut. I face my upturned room and my fingers grasp at the papers scattered across the floor—drafts, stanzas, chapters marked to the moon in ink. 30 Crucible | Yates

With a sigh, I pull myself up straight. I still have so much work to do.

Yates | Crucible 31

Dang, Carl!

Did they leave you out here again?

There was an emergency this time, Karl...

There’s always an emergency.

This is the last time. They won’t leave me behind no more.

I hope so. You know every time we have to stop off at E-arth for you, I end up late for work.

What is it that you do again?




two’s a crowd Jessamyn Hutchins


e asked you too?” I’m not gonna lie—I feel a bit cheated. I’ll bet Barry’s rolling in his grave, laughing at the joke he’s pulled on me. I’m supposed to be the prank, not the pranked. And the worst part? Whoever this guy is, he’s doing a way better job than I am. I glare at him from the shadows of my hood. He’s just standing by the freshly disturbed pile of earth, hunched over a massive scythe. He says nothing, watching as everyone throws white flowers on the mound. Nobody wants to stand near him, so they’re all huddled on the other side of the grave. They’ve been giving me nasty looks all afternoon, trying to convey how poor my taste is. They’ve never really understood Barry’s sense of humor. But they don’t dare glare at this guy. He’s terrifying. I take a step closer to him and bend down to try and get a glimpse of his face. “No, seriously. Who are you? Barry didn’t say anything about asking anyone else to dress up.” It’s weird enough he asked me. It seems like overkill. I take the opportunity to share my pun, getting nothing in return. The mysterious figure can’t be James. He would have laughed at my joke. Besides, he’s right over there with Cynthia crying all over his shoulder. Darwin’s arranging the flowers so that they’re all in a straight line, sinking into the loose dirt, and Jackie is nowhere near tall enough to be this guy. Aunt Claudia takes a moment to sneer at me from across the grave. Hutchins | Crucible 35

“Hmmph,” I mutter. I cross my arms and puff out my cheeks. I feel the white face-paint cracking. It was a five minute addition to the costume, and I’m surprised it’s lasted this long intact. I guess if Barry wants two of us at his funeral, that’s his problem. Looking back at Tall-Dark- and-Scary, I find myself admiring his attention to detail. Silky material conceals him. I can’t quite see where it stops and the ground begins. The mist creeping out of the woods at the edge of the cemetery isn’t helping any. “Can I hold your scythe?” I ask. Without a word, he holds the instrument out to me. I had no idea they were so heavy. I struggle to hold it and pose in my best imitation of his stance. I think he’s laughing at me. “Honestly,” Aunt Claudia utters. She glares at me until I return the scythe to him and hang my head as though ashamed. Uncle Lewis hands her a handkerchief so she can blow her nose and pat her eyes. I hope she gets a stye, just like Barry always wanted. Everyone begins to wander away, sniffling and hand-in- hand. “Coming?” I ask my partner in crime. His head is still bowed and his shoulders are shaking. “Hey, you alright?” I bend down lower, trying to see if he’s crying. No matter how low I get, I can’t see a face. I’m on my hands and knees, staring up into his hood, before I come to terms with the fact that there’s no face to see. The misty shadow of a black skull hovers in and out of view, laughing. If special effects were this good in movies, I’d piss myself. The only reason I don’t now is because I’m not sure I believe it. I climb to my feet, throwing my cardboard scythe over my shoulder. I think about whistling while I back up, but can’t think of any songs. He looks at me, the hood tilting my way. On the bright side, he’s not following me. The hood turns back to the grave. I look around for anyone else, but we’re alone. “You know… I’ll see you later.” He doesn’t move. I navigate backward through the cemetery, not daring to take my eyes off him. Something jabs me in the back, and I feel around behind me until I identify a decorative iron fence which probably encircles a family site. All I can think is how Barry wanted one of those little fences around his grave so dogs couldn’t get to it. There isn’t a fence around his grave. Just a barren patch of earth, with a dark figure standing over it. Pretty soon, I find myself walking right back up to him. He stares at the grave, and I stare at him. “Hey, can I see your scythe again?” His hood shakes. I reach out to touch the fabric of his sleeve, and he draws his arm away from me. I laugh, quietly at first, but it becomes that sort of laughter which leaves me doubled over and gasping. It’s the sort of laugh that was more 36 Crucible | Hutchins

valuable than gold to Barry. He was a biman who’d climb to the top of Everest if it would make someone laugh. Otherwise, he wouldn’t get out of his chair. Jokes were the only thing he put effort into. “You’re not here for me, right?” I wipe tears from my face. “So what? He being too lazy to get up out of his body and follow you? ‘Cause that wouldn’t surprise me.” His shoulders start shaking again. I throw off my hood and settle in to wait. He doesn’t make a sound, and I want to be silent and frightening like him. I just look at the grave and wonder when Barry will get up and let the guy finish his job. “It sure gets quiet in graveyards.” We’re still the only ones present. I keep wondering what Aunt Claudia is thinking. Hours are ticking by. I look to the woods when I hear a faint sound. The knocking doesn’t sound like a woodpecker though. It’s frantic, and rhythmic. I tap my foot along, scanning the tree line. I realize the tapping sound is emanating from a lot closer than the distant trees. My eyes come back to the mound of fresh dirt. I look at it for a while, listening as the faint tapping becomes sporadic, then softer. “Wait…” My eyes and ears finally come to an agreement. “Oh lord.” The flash of a silver scythe beats me to the earth. It rips through the air, past my shoulder, and into the loose soil. I feel the cold buffet of wind it forces aside on its descent. My hands and knees push into the ground only fractions of a moment later. Somewhere below me, Barry’s final, desperate knock cuts short. My mouth hangs open as I scan the empty space of his hood. He grips the tool with deft hands and pulls it out. He runs the blade along his sleeve to clean it of dirt. Shoulders still shaking, he turns to walk away. “You know… I’ll see you later,” Death says.

Hutchins | Crucible 37

ketchup bottle: he asked me for a love poem Ra ch el Pa d ro

You know the slow and volatile suspense of ketchup? That is our love—cracked deserts of fast food But then? Moderately volanic.

38 Crucible | Padro

the minstrel K a ila Wa rd

His voice hit me like the breath of God. How it assimilated my soul And rattled my bones, I knew it was not of this world. How it made my insides dance And my outsides freeze. How his voice flooded my ear like a symphony. My heart the drum. My ribs the violin strings. My lungs the flutes. As I inhaled his voice, I exhaled melodious notes.

Ward | Crucible 39

parisian tour Las hanah Tillar phot ography

40 Crucible | Tillar

the list i will give my next boyfriend, when he asks me about my past S h a n n o n Bu s h b y


umber two had red hair. It was always too long, and scattered across his dark brow like he had just come in from the rain. He always smelt like rain, or those purple flowers that used to grow at the pond where he took me to fish. Our days were bright sun in the fields, and kisses on the concrete floor by the corner store. Our evenings were sneaking out, or sleeping in his parent’s study with music on low. He was a drummer. We were the back of an anonymous red sports car, damp and unlocked in a gravelled lot. Or the dance, in the middle of the road, after a party we’d gotten bored of. He showed me Ursa Major’s seven brightest stars. He told me as long as they hung in the sky, and we were both alive, no matter what had changed for us, he would always love me. He’s still in our hometown, working hard, still in love with music, not still in love with me, though I can at least be happy with the fact that it took a long time for that to change. Number three had blonde hair. It was bright, and the first time he used to spike it up, the second time, much later, it grew darker in a mop across his forehead. He gave me hell, and I gave him worse, we were a tug of war that always ended in a tumble of breathing kisses and a single mattress on a messy bedroom floor. He liked to cook for me, to trick me into exercise in the form of dog walks, and that one awful, foot-damaging bike ride. He took me out to dinner in a French restaurant, where I was too young to drink the wine he bought us. I like to tease him and tell him I don’t remember The Good Life. I was always pretty sure that he was the One, and so are my friends because every time his name pops up on the screen of my broken phone, they prepare for all hell to break loose. He has a girlfriend now, and she can probably give him stability and sweetness, even though I know there’s a Bushby | Crucible 41

part of him that still thinks of my lips and our fights and the hook we’ve kept each other on. He calls me when he drinks and she isn’t around. Number four, he had curls. We were brief. We could have been something. Something real and steady. We never let ourselves feel too much. I was too unhinged then, never knowing what I wanted, never saying what I did know. He was guitars, and sex in portable showers, and my first bottle of champagne, and movies where we play fought over the name of the main actor. He won, but this is the only time I’ll admit that. I could have loved him. I think he said it once, in his garden in the middle of the night, but I think I told him he was drunk, and I think he forgot the next day. Or we just didn’t want to remember. It ended in confusion, but we got to stay friends. Well, friends that speak when they see each other, that will exchange a glance or a word that one or both of us will read too much into. He deserves something great, we both knew it was never going to be me. Number five, he had very short hair. But when I first spoke to him, it was long-ish, a complete mess actually. But he was achingly tall and knew just how to talk to me to keep me captivated. He actually would have been second on this list, but the internet was a welcoming barrier. So, after the fourth, we were a rush job. We were my first takeaway pizza, we were fajitas I told him I couldn’t eat, and I didn’t, watching Ferris and Cameron and Sloane in that damn Ferrari. We were long, long phone calls, and university, and joining the military, or at least trying that year. We were a text, about a kiss with a girl, that wasn’t me. He was my beating heart for a little while, it took me far too long to forgive him, but I did, and now he’s just a man that I used to know who will sometimes like pictures that I post online. Back to the comfort of the internet. Number six, he had light brown hair. But it was his eyes that everyone commented on. I’m still not sure what colour they are, maybe amber, there was some kind of glow. He was classically handsome, and our friends told me far too often, that he was too good for me. It made me feel bad, and it made me see him as something he was not. I thought he was interesting. He had three tattoos, in odd places, but he was quiet, and I found the combination unsettling. I wanted to prove people wrong, and I worked at what we had more than I knew I could. We were a one bedroom apartment with high ceilings and sloping floors. He was tan slippers, and a weekend uniform of pyjamas and ruffled hair. He bought me a car, but he turned down the car radio volume, and didn’t like my driving. We didn’t work, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying on my part. He gave me a ring, but didn’t preface it with words, and less than a year later I gave it back. A few years on, I would see him in bars and be drunk and embarrassing, and he would be polite, and sweet, and quiet, and I would never for a second regret the five minute conversation where I took my life back. Number three came back here for his second round. It was something kind of breath taking, and it made me remember what happiness and passion could be, 42 Crucible | Bushby

however short. He worried that he was the reason that I left number six. He wasn’t. Number seven, he had blonde shaven hair. He was tattoos, and piercings and bad, humiliating decisions. He wasn’t good enough for me, and that’s not a vanity thing. I had been alone for too long, and just wanted to feel something again. He was an old friend.Well. Someone I knew. He tapped at a window at a time in my life when all the doors felt locked. We cooked eggs together, and steak, and ate takeaways, and watched movies and boxsets and stayed inside. We were terrible together, but mostly I was terrible when I was with him. I let him hurt me, but don’t worry, just emotionally. My friends were frustrated with me because I was forever changing my mind and forgetting to stay broken up. He’s the only person that I would erase from this list if I could because he gave me nothing except breakfast recipes and my typewriter. On his birthday, I bought him a vintage video game console that he had when he was a child. On my birthday, he cheated on me. In a few years, he’ll either be in prison or worse. I’d like to say it will be a shame, but you’ll know from reading this that I’m far too honest to be a good liar. I don’t like to end on a sour note, but for the moment, the list is paused. There are plenty of in-betweens, people who were kind to me, people who I was unkind to. There are ones that are still around, like the tall, musical one, who was once best friends with number five, who is talented and kind, and who has been unfailingly decent to every version of me, even the worst ones. There’s the guy that I lost my virginity to, who had no fingernails, who was bitter when I lost interest a few years on and said mean things about me to my brother. There is the one who was there straight after number seven because he knew that I needed him; he had sent me flowers on my birthday and we used to write letters when he first enlisted in the army, even though he had a girlfriend at the time. There’s a little bit of bad in all of us, myself included, and I’m not proud of some of the things that I’ve done, but I know that the majority of it has contributed to this woman, typing this out, in a studio apartment, in some university town, some place. I guess what I want you to understand from this list, number eight, is that sometimes, we fall in love. Or we think we do. Or we don’t even think we do but we think we’re doing the right thing so we do it anyway. We have our pasts, and you will have yours, unless you, number eight, are a reverend or something. The thing is, the reason that all of these relationships have ended, the thing that you may or may not have noticed is that something was missing, and they say you should always look after it. Number one.

Bushby | Crucible 43

post prom at the eat’n park Jen n ifer Pa r ks


wo limos, one black and one white, pull up to the red light in front of restaurant row. “They’re all the same, you know?” Preetha says, looking across the parking lot to where the limos wait. I make a face. “The limos?” “The beautiful people.” “Oh,” I say. Behind Preetha, the Eat’n Park sign glows around block letters announcing, “THE MERRY BERRY MONTH OF MAY – STRAWBERRY PIES ARE HERE!” “They’ll come in,” she says, “with their sequins and chiffon and their matching ties. Like they’re doing the world a favor or some shit.” She holds up what’s left of a glowing cigarette and gives it a wave. “Gracing this town with their presence.” She passes me the cigarette, and I take drag. A long one with my eyes closed. “Yeah,” I say, passing it back to her. Across the street on the hill, perched in darkness, sits the old convent and her cemetery. Their stone faces watch Preetha and me, two high schoolers on break from their minimum wage restaurant job. Preetha takes one last inhale, then lets it fall. “Fucking prom,” she says, smoke pushing out with every syllable. She stubs the cigarette out under her shoe, twisting it a little too hard against the asphalt. I hold out the pack for another, but she shakes her head. “I’m gonna need something stronger tonight.” 44 Crucible | Parks

I start to cough. “What you have in mind?” I say, my voice getting all wheezy and high-pitched, like it did sophomore year. She reaches into the open window of her new Pontiac Grand Prix and pulls a Gatorade bottle out of her bookbag. She leans back against the side of the car and smiles at me. A little devil smile. Too white teeth against her dark skin. I lift a brow. “That’s your idea of something stronger?” Preetha shakes the bottle a few times, then twists off the orange cap and lifts it to her lips, swallows. She grimaces a little, then hands it to me. I notice the paler than usual purple liquid inside. Preetha smiles her little devil smile again and says, “I poured out half the Gatorade.” “What’s the rest then?” I say. “Absolut.” “No shit.” A breeze blows up against my legs – the late spring kind – where the air is warm, but the earth at your feet is still cold, like it hasn’t yet caught up to the season, or doesn’t want to. The light in front of the restaurant turns green, and I watch as the two limos, one by one, make left hand turns. On their way in, maybe for that slice of pie. Just as I take a swig, Lester, the manager tonight, comes out the back door, pushing it so hard the doorknob slaps against the brick. His eyes dart around the parking lot until he finds us. “Yunz plan on coming back to work?” I pass the bottle back to Preetha and straighten up, but she just keeps leaning against the car, giving Lester this insolent look. “We’ve got thirty-six seconds to go,” she says, without looking at her watch. “Boss.” She takes another swig. Lester stands there, his mouth guppying open as he tries to think of a come back. He gives his head a shake and stares hard at me instead. He knows I need this job more than she does. “When your thirty seconds are up, I want you up front. S’time for Belinda to go home.” Then he’s back inside the door before I get to say anything. “Here,” Preetha says, pushing the bottle at me. “You’re gonna need this.” “Why?” “Belinda’s hosting,” she says. “Dammit.” I lift the bottle to my lips and tip it back. Two hours later, the restaurant is full. It’s standing room only in the waiting area. A few prom-goers linger outside the door, smoking. The glowing ends of their cigarettes pulse, the heartbeat of yet another generation of high school seniors, pretending for the night they have somewhere to go. From behind my perch at the hostess stand, I can almost read their minds. They’re looking at their watches and glancing inside, contemplating the wait here versus the wait at the Boston Beanery in the mall. The Beanery has decent food but won’t get you “seen.” Its crowd is that odd mix of thirty-something local has-beens Parks | Crucible 45

and last year’s seniors, out to dinner with the girlfriends they haven’t quite figured how to shake off – or how to hold onto. Two or three of them look up toward the mall, on the hill behind us. One of them breaks away and steps inside, drops a quarter and a dime into the payphone. After a minute, he hangs up and walks back out, shaking his head. They’ll stay here, they decide, wait for something to open up. Limos circle the lot, dropping off load after load of yuppie spawn in rented tuxes and four hundred dollar sequined dresses, before parking in the deserted lot behind the old Rax. On any other night, I’d be frantic; alternating between checking the laminated seating chart and running to the back to see what tables were cleared or just about to leave. But tonight, I’m sort of entertained by it all. I take another swig from Preetha’s bottle, then stash it back underneath on a shelf about knee high, next to a neat stack of menus and a basket of cheap crayons. When I stand up, I’m face to face with Taylor Thomas, star point guard of the basketball team. I lean on the hostess stand, my hands keeping me balanced, and stare, unblinking, at his perfectly coiffed head of blonde hair. The knot of his tie is relaxed a little and he’s got the sleeves of his rented shirt rolled up in that way only guys like him can pull off. Taylor lives on the opposite side of town from my coal patch, in Preetha’s neighborhood, where the houses have real bricks on the side instead of our fake, shingled ones. It’s the third time, if I’m remembering right, that he’s come up to the hostess stand to ask about his table. He’s already changed his request from “non-smoking” to “first-available,” so I don’t know what he wants from me now. I drop my chin to my hand. “Yeah?” “How much longer?” He says something else, but I don’t listen. Behind him, his girlfriend, Tara, is pattering away to her best friend, Erica. She’s complaining about the boutique shop and how it took them three times to dye her shoes the right shade to match her dress. Aubergine, she says. In junior high, Tara spent entire study halls snapping set after set of these little colored triangles onto her cheerleading shoes. To match my uniform, she’d said. “We’ve been here forever,” Taylor says to me now. I kind of yawn at this, and say, “Forever’s a really long time.” He doesn’t smile. Real slow, chin still in hand, I roll my eyes down toward the seating chart, like I’m studying it. Then I hold up a finger. “Lemme go check.” I push away from the hostess stand and weave to the back, looking for Preetha. I find her just outside the kitchen, at the beverage station, filling a table’s worth of drink orders and placing them on a tray. “I need a table.” The words come out in one breath, clinging to each other. I press my back against the wall opposite 46 Crucible | Parks

from her and close my eyes. “Dude,” Preetha says. “You’re smashed.” “No.” “Yes.” “Maybe a little.” I remember Taylor then. And Tara and Erica and aubergine. The beautiful people. I open my eyes and tell Preetha about them. She laughs. “Let’s leave,” I whisper too loud. Preetha picks up a glass of Coke and takes a long sip. “And go where?” I shrug my shoulders. “Anywhere but here.” I watch her refill the glass and place it back on the tray. Just then, Lester rounds the corner and I push off the wall. He gives Preetha a quick glance, then steps toward me and stops, his too-close eyes tracing a line from my knees up to where my polo shirt buttons. He stares for a beat too long, then says, “You want to tell me why my district manager just called? Saying his nephew has been waiting over an hour for a table?” “Taylor?” “Yes, Taylor.” Just behind Lester, I watch Preetha roll her eyes. I fight back a smirk and squeak out something like, It’s prom, and, We’re really busy. Lester leans in, his heavy cologne all but strangling me, and says, “I don’t care what night it is, or how busy we are.” He points a finger at my chest. “Fix it.” “What an ass,” Preetha says when he leaves. She takes another drink of Coke, refills it again, then picks up the drink tray. “Meet me in five.” “Where?” “My car.” I sway a little back to the hostess stand, stopping once to steady myself against a waist-high planter of fake ferns and elephant ears. Taylor, Tara and Erica, and some other tall guy that I assume is Erica’s date, are waiting for me when I get there. They’ve got that We pulled rank on you look smeared all over their faces. I reach down for Preetha’s bookbag and stuff the Gatorade bottle inside. “You got that table now?” Taylor says with a smirk. He can’t help himself. “As a matter of fact, I do.” I smile, watching the exchange of smug, satisfied glances and high fives. Then I sling the bookbag across my shoulder and walk as fast as I can to the back before ducking into the kitchen. Arnie, the cook, watches me open a refrigerator and pull out a commercial-sized can of whipped cream. I tuck it, along with two of those napkin-wrapped utensil sets, inside the bag. Then I lean in one more time and pull out a square box, before kicking the door closed. He lifts an eyebrow, but says nothing. I keep moving until I’m in Preetha’s Parks | Crucible 47

car, her bookbag and the can of whipped cream tucked in at my feet. “What’s that?” she says, noticing the box on my lap. “Strawberry pie.” “Whipped cream?” “Of course,” I say, like we’ve done this before. Preetha shifts the car into first and steers around to the entrance. “What’re you doing?” “Victory lap,” she says. I lean around her and look inside. Through the glass, I can see them. Taylor and Tara and all the rest. The beautiful people. Still standing there and waiting. Waiting for me. Waiting for something. A car in front of us stops to unload two more prom dresses and a set of tuxes. Preetha pulls around them, and out of the parking lot up to the intersection. When the light turns green, she punches the gas and drops the clutch, and we go peeling out onto the four-lane. I grab the box of pie and hold on.

48 Crucible | Parks

chief joseph Jessica Perez Visual Art

Perez | Crucible 49


Shannon Bushby is a British writer, with a degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester, and literacy teaching experience under her belt. She is currently working on a book length manuscript of fiction and has most recently had poetry published by The Grief Diaries. Catch her blog online at www. Madeline Campbell, originally from Washington state, is a UNC student who loves reading and writing. She dreams of teaching English overseas, and writing books of poetry. Maddy’s heart lies with her two cats, two dogs, and miniature donkey named Buddy. Cyrsta Clow is a senior sociology major at UNC with a secret love of taking naughty pictures of nature. Jessamyn Hutchins is a writer and artist who has worked with The Crucible for four years. She is also an editor at Paperweight Editorial, which can be found at Kayley Jelinek is in her last semester of her undergraduate. While studying English Education, Kayley has had a passion for creative writing since her early years of elementary school. As an author, Kayley enjoys writing of her childhood and her connection to wildlife and nature through poetry and creative non-fiction. Sarah Julian is a first-year graduate student at UNC, where she revels in the glories of literature and performs feats of compositional acrobatics via the limitless magic of caffeine. Sarah hopes to pursue the madness that is higher education 50 Crucible | Notes

through a Ph. D. following her most enlightening experiences at UNC. Her work has previously been published in The Tulgey Wood, the Great Plains Review, and The Penwood Review, and she cites Shakespeare as her greatest muse. Kathleen M. McCann is a lyric poet who lives in Weymouth, Massachusetts by the sea. Her new poems are forthcoming in Green Hills Literary Lantern, and The Louisiana Review. Gabrielle Moore is a Freshman Theatre Studies Major at the University of Northern Colorado. She began writing poetry, plays, and short stories about a year ago and has greatly enjoyed it since. She also enjoy acting, directing, and performing improv. Rachel Padro has been known to absentmindedly scribble poetry in the margins of student essays. She now grades digitally. Hailing originally from southwestern Pennsylvania, Jennifer Parks now lives on a small patch of bluegrass in central Kentucky. A busy working mother of three and part-time MFA student at Eastern Kentucky University, Jennifer enjoys spending her free time carpooling, revising her novel, and heading out for the occasional long run. She is a past contributor for the Bluegrass Writers Studio blog and serves as the current non-fiction and poetry editor for the literary journal, Jelly Bucket. Her poems have appeared in cahoodaloodaling and an anthology by Accents Publishing. Jessica Perez is a culturally diverse artist that carried her roots over to the United States in 2013. She draws realism and emphasizes distinctive facial expressions. Her work has been recognized locally and nationally. Through her art, Jessica aims to share cultural appreciation, open people’s eyes to the beauty of simplicity, and unify the human race in westernized societies. Jessica is currently pursuing a double degree at the University of Northern Colorado, working towards a B.S. in Business Management, a B.A. in Business Economics, and an Entrepreneurship minor. Calvin Shepherd is a junior at UNC. He dreams of being a comic book writer working his favorite characters. Besides writing and directing films for film production club, he writes comics for artist Ethan Funk-Breay. Ethan Funk-Breay is a sophomore at UNC. He is working to be a comic book artist. Together they are working on six different comics in multiple different genres including a sci-fi western, horror, superhero and fantasy. Lashanah Tillar is studying semi-hard as an English major with a minor in writing at UNC. She loves exploring different mediums and creating horrific monstrosities known as Genre Monsters. Her works has appeared in previous editions of The Crucible, and she has a poem forthcoming in Firewords Quaterly. She is also an editor at Paperweight Editorial, which can be found at paperweighteditorial.tumblr. com. Notes | Crucible 51

Kaila Ward is a English Education major with a minor in Film at UNC. From romance to horror, she enjoy several genres of literature but find a particular love in the poetic world. While she is often seen running around campus, it is not unusual to spot her with her favorite book, The Great Gatsby. After all, a girl’s best friend is F. Scott Fitzgerald, right? Jordan Yates is a freshman theatre education major seeking an endorsement in English education at the University of Northern Colorado. Though she has no previous publications in fiction, her nonfiction has been featured on Huffington Post, Fatherly, and Apple News. Quietus, in part, draws upon her own experiences with mental illness.

52 Crucible | Notes