Copyright © 2016 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, 2016 United Student Literary Voices Campus Box 109 Greeley, CO 80639 www.crucibleunc.weebly.com Cover art: Lashanah Tillar Graphics: Jessamyn Hutchins “Crucible” defintion courtesy of Google.com
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.
A friend told me a rather amusing story about how she once held her seventh grade English class emotionally hostage. When tasked with reading a l o u d a p e r s o n a l e s s a y, m y f r i e n d o p e n e d w i t h , “ M y d a d h i t s . . . ” H e r e , t h e entire class waited with bated breath as she continued, “the dance floor like a m o n s t e r. ” A s I m u l l e d o v e r w h a t i t m e a n t t o t e l l a b e d t i m e s t o r y, I t h o u g h t b a c k t o her tale and the reaction of her audience as they were hopelessly ensnared a n d t r i c k e d b y h e r c u n n i n g d e l i v e r y. To m e , t h e i m p o r t a n c e o f t h i s t a l e l a y not with the reactions that occurred after she finished her sentence, but with t h e b r i e f p a u s e i n t h e m i d d l e t h a t u n s e t t l e d h e r p e e r s a n d t e a c h e r. D u r i n g this pause, I imagine a thousand thoughts raced through the minds of her audience as they anxiously waited for her to finish. I b e l i e v e t h i s p a u s e a n d a n x i o u s n e s s i s a t t h e h e a r t o f t h e b e d t i m e s t o r y. A s y o u r e a d t h r o u g h t h i s e d i t i o n , I h o p e y o u e x p e r i e n c e t h i s l o n g - s u ff e r i n g , borderline torturous sense of anxiety as you wait for each tale to end. In the end, perhaps you will breathe a sigh of relief or look around nervously to see of anyone else predicted the punchline. A special thank goes out to all who made this edition possible. First, a t h a n k y o u t o o u r w o n d e r f u l a d v i s o r, L i s a Z i m m e r m a n , f o r c o n t i n u i n g t o s u p p o r t a n d e n c o u r a g e u s t o b e c o m e b e t t e r r e a d e r s a n d e d i t o r s . We w o u l d like to thank Student Senate and TCBY for helping us raise funds so that t h i s e d i t i o n m a y e x i s t o u t s i d e o f t h e c o m p u t e r. T h a n k s t o t h e w o n d e r f u l assistants of the English department for putting up with our incessant req u e s t s t o s e n d o u t e m a i l s f o r a d v e r t i s i n g . We a l s o n e e d t o t h a n k S i g m a Ta u D e l t a a n d Wr i t e f o r M a r k e t f o r s u p p o r t i n g o u r e n d e a v o r s . L a s t l y, a n d m o s t i m p o r t a n t l y, a b i g t h a n k y o u t o t h e f a n t a s t i c w r i t e r s a n d a r t i s t s f e a t u r e d i n this edition.
Lashanah Tillar Lashanah Tillar Co-Editor-in-Chief & Visual Director
Editorâ€™s Note Dear Readers, To b e g i n , t h a n k y o u f o r p i c k i n g u p t h i s e d i t i o n o f t h e C r u c i b l e . I could go on for hours about how much work our team put into this, b u t h o n e s t l y, I f e e l l i k e w h a t y o u a r e c u r r e n t l y h o l d i n g p r o v e s e x a c t l y that. I n t h i s s p a c e , I w o u l d a l s o l i k e t o t h a n k t h e o ff i c e r s a n d t h e n e w m e m b e r s o f t h e C r u c i b l e f o r d e v o t i n g t h e i r t i m e a n d e n e rg y t o h e l p i n g u s r e a c h o u r g o a l t h i s s e m e s t e r. We w o u l d n â€™t h a v e b e e n a b l e t o d o t h i s without you. I truly hope that you enjoy the submissions chosen for this edition and will consider sharing your work with us in the future.
Danielle Rich Danielle Rich Co-Editor-in-Chief
staff Editors-in-Chief Danielle Rich Lashanah Tillar
Vice President Hannah-Jayne Duran
Treasurer Maddie Siegle
Secretary/Graphic Designer Staff Jessamyn Hutchins
Social Media Director Jordan Baca
Faculty Advisor Lisa Zimmerman
Page Editors Kaila Ward Amy Golden Kathryn Derby Cyrsta Clow
Table of Contents poetry Mackenzie Dwyer Cody A. Conklin Lana Bella Beauty Kussoy Giavoni Riley Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas Kristin Emanuel
Joint RSVP to Death Our Flying Bird-Sky Demonstrably I better Fly Ablution The clocks of hope Erlebnisse A Guide for creating the perfect gilded guardian apparition So Soul Becomes mirror Insomniacâ€™s Lullaby
2 3 4 7 9 10 12 14 16 17 19
prose Hannah-Jayne Duran Sarah Killorn Bill Spencer Amelia Moseley Brianna Frentzko Jordan Baca
Morpheus Shrugged Cornea Removal 101 Three Divertimentos I buried my heart behind the shed Pigs A Story for the Rain What we think at night
22 26 28 37 41 50
art Amy Golden Trevor Thomas Cyrsta Clow Jessamyn Hutchins
Sunday Morning Polish Peer See Me Half-Hour Galaxy
Title Page 1 21 57
Poetry Trevor Thomas
1 Crucible | Thomas
Joint RSVP to Death We could carve our names in the final stave When our blood becomes rain and rain is still; We could toss ourselves, shimmering, to our graves. We could slide like fledglings off wet windowsills Then seep past murky mud puddles and leave When our blood becomes rain and rain is still. When our eyelids turn purple like clouds each eve, When we gray like moon and yellow like sun, Let’s seep past murky mud puddles and leave. For our days walking the sunbeams are done. Our limbs cannot stave off the wooden planks When we gray like moon and yellow like sun. Let’s coin the moon and break the river-bank As we carve our names in the final stave. Let’s pretend we are rainbows, young and still blank, As we toss ourselves, shimmering, to our graves.
Dwyer | Crucible 2
Our Flying Bird-Sky Our flying bird-sky with a stellar crest, she tossed up the down of a cirrus cloud & bade us transcend it on our quest. Her wings dazzled our eyes, vast & so proud. The day was azure as we two were pure, old water & stardust in a cirrus cloud. We soared till a wing curved at time’s glass door. Its very bones glowed where night had broken, though the day’d been azure & still we felt pure. The bird’s beak-tip turned a fiery token & dipped to the ground for a sundown meal once all her bones glowed & night was broken. The bird puffed her smoky chest as we kneeled, teal crown lain to sleep while all waxed colder & dipped to the ground like sent-down steel. So we climbed the stars like silver boulders that bade us transcend them on our quest. We joined the sky curled in time’s shoulder: our flightless-bird sky with a stellar crest.
3 Crucible | dwyer
Cody A. conklin
One century has passed since the Fog invaded our unsuspecting solar system. For generations, life on Earth has been sheltered beneath the ground; away from the exhaustive darkness of above. So dense is the substance that has banished us to the depths that it appears almost aqueous in form, and is far less suitable for human life than is the open ocean. These days, many people have lived and died without ever seeing the Sun; some were born without a heart that yearns for the warmth of our star - a soul too small for the body in which it resides - and some were not strong enough to try. We who remain do so in a capacity that is undeserving of our past, and tragically devoid of a future. We were alerted to the approach of the interstellar cloud by three separate astronomers - two on Earth and one in the biodomes of Mars. They each noticed that the stars in the Western sky had begun to slowly disappear. For years, scientists debated whether or not this phenomenon would affect our view of the Sun. Opinions were so scattered that the possibility of danger became diluted in the solution of ideas, and out came a naive fascination for the coming cosmic winter. When it hit, it buried us both in darkness and a shadow of regret so vast that the two became indistinguishable Most Earthlings perished from denial when the Fog arrived. A few tried to enlighten mankind to the dangers that were upon us, but they just carried on, waiting for the sands
conklin | Crucible 4
of death to sweep them into its slumber. We who fled formed four colonies - three under the permafrost of the Antarctic, and one beneath the Alps - we lived quiet lives; afraid to alert the darkness overhead of our presence. Our new world had been fashioned by the quaint ghost of a life dearly remembered. There had been only six survivors from the Martian settlement. They had witnessed their lifeâ€™s work crumble, and had seen their brothers starve in the quiet of the night. With tears in their eyes they had boarded a ship bound for home, not knowing whether there was even a home to return to. For months, they sailed into the eyes of the horizonless; fearing only that they would catch a glimpse of its soul. We all remember the day that the Martians arrived. Three waning souls wept as they discovered our lights in the caverns, and felt the warmth of the Earthâ€™s core. Our welcome thawed their animate corpses, but their souls still shivered as though they were alone on a planet far away. One man progressed much faster than the others; his eyes as fiery as the forgotten Sun. Each week he presented a new plan to expose our convicted star from its iron curtain. Sadly, we were never persuaded to leave our comfortable dwelling. He pleaded for years, but his words were not enough, as we had seemingly resigned to our inevitable death beneath the world that had birthed us.
5 Crucible | Conklin
One day that man simply disappeared. We mourned, for he had been extinguished by our darkness. We all knew where he had gone - to the surface of our surrender. A group went above to search; desperate and afraid that we had lost him, had lost our hope. On the peak of the nearest mountain, they found his body - his eyes wide open and his headlamp still reaching into the empty heavens. He had kept a diary, and it lay beside him, open. It read: *
From the lungs of the lingering night comes the cold sigh of death, and, so, for one hundred years man was forced to hold his breath.
Conklin | Crucible 6
Cody A. Conklin
I better fly I open my left eye before my right. It just happens that way. I try to determine if I am still having that philosophical conversation with an American Redwood. He likes two sugars in his Earl Grey, mind you. Puzzlement is simply a more confident drowsiness. I decide to take the noble approach to my answer, so I yawn Iâ€™ve never yawned in a dream, I reason. Yes. I am awake. And now I will never know if the sunrise truly is more magnificent without eyes. My head has grown heavy during my slumber. Is it laden with wisdom? No: I still do not understand insurance companies. It must just be full of blood. As I look up I notice that I am outdoors. I canâ€™t seem to remember why I chose to sleep here,
7 Crucible | Conklin
In this red sleeping bag. I hate red. I am alone - my eyes tell me in a forest with yellow and orange curtains. But why? That I cannot answer from here. I must emerge from this cocoon, to ask the world myself. I shall start with that charming Redwood. He must know why I am here. *
Conklin | Crucible 8
ablution eyes with sight at angle, unhinged from the principle of motions, fingers volleyed from shakes to self-erasure, there was tranquility in the slithering ease of dreamscape-when the telling hot tear blinked down the wealth of her cheek, she rocked like a lazy metronome, losing the mechanical and timed tangent that all things dubbed themselves so artistically-over but for the hundred sparked stars dissolved in envy beneath the ablution of hysteria, thoughts soft and warm inside, heart ripped out and buried beneath memories of things yet to come--
9 Crucible | bella
the clocks of hope 1. The biological clock reminds me to get on schedule with the packets of pills, as if any time left is spent rendering my bone doped up and flesh animalized. This new language comes without filter or escape, like a timemarker which allows in time but holds back just enough in slivers of dream. Letting me see there is so much left to living. Letting me hope. 2. Winter takes me ice-fishing. I remember my grandfather huddled in a dark house, peering into the ice-pockmarked water, for that tug in the line. I, too, bundled inside a yawning hope, skating now and again on the glacial seascape. Infant eyes glanced at the small sundial hung on the shed, where waiting was my snare, yet, there was a durability to it that I seemed to need in the most essential way. 3. The caged chickens lay eggs. At last. It is only dawn when I scuff the bed waking from the oddly pitched sounds of pecking. I look out to the wired coop that is trapped permanently in the ashy air of the valley, thinking of those perfectly smooth speckled blue-green eggs. My tongue is tangled
Bella | Crucible 10
in the foretaste of the algorithmic clock of hope, even with eternal cracks on the shell. 4. My flesh shrugs under the plexiglass of sky where time puddles about the relentless green. Its border is drawn out and wide, no fireflies, just moon into grass, grass over skin, ink tattoos pried open from the inside of my wrist. Tonight, I sleep empty. When the ghost of eggs I’ll let spoil, when the fish eyes stay blue as its tail flops, when the ailing pills turn back to bread of reality, and when the hourglass hopes to reverse the hands of time.
11 Crucible | Bella
(n.) experiences in which we truly live A girl lies on her stomach, watching as the first flower blooms against the backdrop of a Rocky Mountain skyline. She waits in a daze, showering her skin with asphalt-scented rain, silently humming along to the sounds of a spring song. Then, somewhere on the equator there is another girl, plucking flowers from her garden, selling them on the side of the street. She has daydreams of standing on independent soil, waiting for the day she can bloom with American sunlight. Back home, a man wakes up and stares at his ceiling. The whooshing of cars rushing by his window becomes his morning anthem and when he gets up, there is nothing left but a rough outline of his sleeping body. This king sized mattress for a man with no queen. And it’s beautiful how in the dark everything seems brighter. How that couple, who sleeps underneath straw rooftops, plot constellations onto each other’s bodies. They sleep in the howl of desert wind and the feeling of cool sand fills every gap. He loves how her eyes become exploding stars at this time of night. When the heat is hot enough to burn her skin, there is a child singing into an AC, amidst green hues of floral curtains. Her parents believe that she is too fragile for sleeping alone and although she isn’t fully-grown, she is unafraid of diving into the ocean, head first. But fear only exists in those who haven’t conquered it and somewhere a boy is too afraid to sleep alone and trembles at the idea of saltwater, though he is a thousand miles away. He finds pieces of himself in untouched soil and fog filled forests, because the moon sheds away his demons and he can only breathe in frostbitten high-altitude air.
Kussoy | Crucible 12
In the echo of a crying infant, a mother holds her child for the first time. Her baby falls asleep against her chest and she listens to the soft inhales and exhales of newly formed lungs. And itâ€™s funny how in the same moment, a person can forget how to breathe, how the next time they go to sleep they may never wake up. But this is the world â€” a mystery that provides no clues, a shadow just out of reach, a never-ending moment of purity and confusion.
13 Crucible | Kussoy
A Guide for Creating the Perfect Gilded Guardian Gather this god, Thaw the thoughts, Mix the magic, Pound it in pots. Stir the scales, Dye them dark, Beat out the bones, Measure their mark. Char the claws Fry the fangs Dress this dragon Crush their chains. Slice the spines, Carve the charm, Whisk the wings, Hold the harm.
Riley | Crucible 14
Toss out the evil Drawn by death Spice with song, then Boil their breath Vent the voice Set to sing Calibrate calm Rise and ring Settle my soul Shake my sins Freeze my fears Weave my wins.
15 Crucible | Riley
carol lynn stevenson Grellas
In my sleep I find you pretending to be here and I almost believe it until I get nearer to your face where I’m able to see the bluish tint of death on skin but you’re speaking to me in some unusual way like whispering without sound though I understand you and you seem pleased about that yet I am asleep and nothing is verifiable when eyes are closed so I walk a little closer and you say how much you’ve missed me and I smile back and say I’ve missed you too. Somehow I know you believe me and I begin to hope that maybe this isn’t a dream so I try hard to wake but you’re holding me saying how glad you are that I’ve finally come… and I feel myself give up just long enough to miss the air that inevitably keeps us apart.
Grellas | Crucible 16
So Soul Becomes Mirror It is with heightened mysticism that we begin: a volcano birthing flowers—live young. Slather ourselves in ghost-honey to attract spirits that implore, delight. In this psychic shop a fresh nothing-smell that you cannot get underneath but that you can knead between finger and thumb— smoothness too real to believe. Pure jade bead just small enough for losing in pockets. Minerals that induce lucid dreams. Crystals that divine—pseudo-purify— how a soul might climb into glittering geodes and transfigure—butterflies feasting on possibilities. Radial symmetry. Rocks in their geological prime. The physics of wasted time.
17 Crucible | Emanuel
Peruse this gleaming array: display cases that we cannot reach the heft of an orbâ€” vaguely poetic, planetary in its opacityâ€”imagine how we might discover cloud within stone.
Emanuel | Crucible 18
Insomniac’s Lullaby down… down & deepening still: the hybridization of all things distant— merciless mesh of imaginings— thoughts the sun (never should have) nocturnalized: how moth & owl might meld together sharing the same frightened prescription for all of a night. eyes that flutter, transfix. transfigurations of sight. that stars might cartwheel like starfish suctioned onto flimsy black backdrops— too-close to losing their grip. that covers might turn to serpents, strangulate— asphyxiation of light. that shadows might feast on Heaven’s amniotic fluid— unbirth the day.
19 Crucible | Emanuel
realization that reality will become palpably unreal the deeper one goes into these ever-depths until ever-still.
Emanuel | Crucible 20
21 Crucible | Clow
Morpheus Shrugged Hannah-Jayne Duran
orpheus sat on a chimney, idly twirling his paintbrush in the hand not propping up his chin. His black hair stuck up on
one side like a bad case of bed-head, and his brown skin did nothing to cover up the darker circles beneath his eyes. It was early evening, the sun just about to set. The sound of people in town was starting to quiet to a low rumble, and no one noticed him sitting where he was. Down below him in the small village park was a young couple sitting on a wooden bench, close together but not touching. It was only their first date, and their pinky fingers barely brushed when they set them on the rough wood beneath them. “Cute, huh?” Morpheus glanced next to him. Standing on the rooftop was Cupid. He was a handsome man with curly blond hair. Contrasting Morpheus’ casual indigo hoodie, he wore a white suit jacket and dark pants. He had his short bow slung over one shoulder and his quiver hanging off a hip. Cupid turned to his friend and gave the quiet man a blinding white smile. Morpheus smiled back before standing up. He tucked his paintbrush behind his ear. Cupid continued to talk. “They were fun to match up.” he said, “I
Duran | Crucible 22
had to make the bus late, you know, just to arrange it. And then, from there, it was just so easy!” Morpheus nodded, leaping away onto the next roof. “Two little golden arrows and- Morpheus! Where are you going?” Cupid frowned as Morpheus stopped on the sloped shingles of the next house and waved for him to follow. The two jumped across rooftops until Morpheus came to a sudden stop. He dropped to his stomach and scooted to the edge of the roof, motioning for Cupid to join him. From there, they could see into the balcony window of a young woman, sitting on her bed, braiding her long hair. “Why, Morpheus,” Cupid smirked, “I never saw you as a peeping tom.” Morpheus turned his head and gave Cupid an insulted frown. He nodded again towards the woman and rose his eyebrows. “Yes, yes, I recognize her.” Cupid said. “What, didn’t you like being adored for once?” He put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Your work goes so unappreciated, I just thought you’d want someone to love you!” Morpheus shook his head and pulled his arm away from Cupid. He pointed at himself, at the window below them, and then made a sharp cutting motion with his hand. Cupid hesitated. “You know I don’t do that often. My arrows are hard to pull out.” Before Morpheus could answer, a loud shout came from the window below. “Morpheus! You’ve come to me!” The woman was now standing on her balcony, her arms outstretched. “Fly down to me, my beloved!” Morpheus stood up, his eyes wide. Hands fumbling, he reached
23 Crucible | Duran
for the pouch of golden sand tucked into his front pocket. He leaped silently down to the railing of her balcony and was instantly trapped in her arms. Morpheus leaned away from her kisses and sprinkled a pinch of the sand over her face. She fell instantly asleep and Morpheus caught her before she tumbled to the ground. He looked back up at Cupid and jerked his head, gesturing for him to follow. Then he turned and carried the woman to her bed. He faced Cupid as he came through the window and pointed at her. “Now?” Cupid asked, stalling for time. “I mean, she just looked so happy to see you! Don’t you ever wish-” Morpheus stamped his foot and pointed again. “All right, all right.” Cupid sighed and pulled off his jacket, handing it to his friend. Rolling up his sleeves, he placed a finger on the woman’s forehead. Moving it down to her sternum, he closed his eyes and took a breath. In a sudden pull, he grabbed the golden tip of an arrow and drew it from her chest. Turning, he handed it to Morpheus, who took the arrow and broke it in half. It dissolved into golden dust that he caught and blew around the room. He pulled his paintbrush from behind his ear and drew a few scenes into the dust before it settled. While his sand had put her to sleep, this dust from the arrow would give her dreams of romance tonight. In the morning, he’d be nothing but a half-hazy memory dismissed as a figment of her imagination. Cupid shook his head sadly and moved out to the balcony, closing the window behind the two. “Removing an arrow leaves a hole in the heart, you know. It’s very hard to find love after that.” Morpheus shrugged, stepping onto the balcony railing. He turned to the west, where he could just see the red and purple tints of the clouds that marked the end of the sunset. He’d have to get to work
Duran | Crucible 24
soon. Cupid let himself complain some more. “This is going to be exhausting! I’ll have to search all night for potential lovers for this woman.” He poked Morpheus in the arm. “I’m blaming you for this.” Morpheus rose his eyebrows in mock surprise and pointed at himself. He mimed shooting an arrow and pointed at Cupid. “Yes, okay, I shot it.” Cupid said, “But it was all for you!” Morpheus shook his head before giving his friend a sad smile. Cupid’s whole life was centered around romance. He would never understand. Morpheus was uninterested in love altogether. His satisfaction came from long nights of sleep and the fresh feeling of morning, from dreams created and fulfilled. He ruffled Cupid’s blond hair and then straightened up. The sun had officially disappeared over the horizon. It was time to get to work. With a wave, Morpheus turned and leaped from the balcony, catching the shingles of the next house and flipping himself onto the roof. Cupid sighed and leaned against the railing. “I’ve known you for centuries and I still can’t figure you out, my friend.”
25 Crucible | Duran
cornea removal 101 creative nonfiction - sarah Killorn
h i s d o e s n ’t h a p p e n e v e r y d a y a r o u n d h e r e , ” h e a s s u r e d me, taking his time unzipping the body bag, “This is pret-
The smell of embalming fluid clung to my skin as the corpse of an elderly woman was revealed to me. The blood weighing down her arms was thick and purple, sinking to the bottom of her muscles like mud i n w a t e r. A s t h e m o r t i c i a n s s e t o u t t h e i r t o o l s , m y e y e s t r a c e d u p h e r bloated form, but came to a halt at her nose. It was familiar in a way I d i d n ’t c a r e t o l i n g e r o n , e s p e c i a l l y o n c e I n o t e d t h e a r t e r i a l b l o o d oozing out of her nostrils. It took two men to lift her from the body bag to the cold metal table. Her loose flesh sloshed onto the surface, not quite solid but not quite liquid, as the younger mortician got to work. They’d left her in the freezer for too long, giving them only twenty minutes to harvest, a fraction of the time they were usually allotted. Anxious to begin, the m o r t i c i a n u rg e d m e c l o s e r, I s t e p p e d i n t o t h e g r o s s l y i n t i m a t e s p a c e of hovering above a person who is no longer alive, and he opened her eye. The tip of his blade dug into her cornea as I held back a flinch. “ Yo u k n o w, ” h e s a i d , v o i c e t r e m b l i n g i n t i m e w i t h h i s h a n d s , “ i f y o u brush your teeth every morning with your non-dominant hand, it’ll
Killorn | Crucible 26
help you become ambidextrous.â€? I m a d e a n o i s e o f v a g u e a ff i r m a t i o n . A f t e r t e n p a i n s t a k i n g m i n u t e s , h e p l u c k e d o u t t h e f i n a l f i l m o f c o rn e a a n d p l a c e d i t i n a g l a s s v i a l b e s i d e t h e w o m a n â€™s h e a d . H e d r i e d h i s forehead with his sleeve, content with his handiwork, and closed her e y e l i d s b u t , h a v i n g n o t h i n g t o c o v e r, t h e y l a y d e f l a t e d . N o w a n e m p t y v e s s e l , p u rg e d o f a l l u t i l i t y, s h e w a s r o l l e d b a c k i n t o t h e b o d y b a g l i k e the slab of meat she now was.
27 Crucible | Killorn
three divertimentos bill spencer 1. JusT Bill
ust Bill was one of those New Mexico Indians who lived in a manufactured house in the hills. At night, he worked in tur-
quoise and silver and listened to the baseball game on the radio. Come morning, Bill loaded his pickup and drove down the winding dirt road and across the plateau to the humming Interstate. There was a wide spot where the Highway Patrol cars pulled off sometimes. I t w a s n ’t l e g a l f o r B i l l t o s e t u p t h e r e , b u t h e d i d n ’t m u c h c a r e a b o u t that. He dragged out a display stand discarded from a movie house, a bigger-than-life-size cardboard cutout of Marilyn Monroe standing over the subway grate, her dress billowing around her hips. He put a chief’s feathered headdress on her, and sat down to wait for a car to stop and tourists to browse the goods on the blanket and peek at the Indian sitting cross-legged. All morning cars zinged past. Hardly anybody stopped, and when they did, nobody bought anything. By the middle of the afternoon the desert was baking. By the time the maroon Jaguar with New York plates pulled over and the man got out, Just Bill was feeling testy. He
Spencer | Crucible 28
hated the guy from the moment his foot touched gravel. He was a literary agent, Bill would find out later, but at this point he saw a skinny guy with floppy hair, a supercilious smile and wraparound designer sunglasses, and a chrome vapor-smoking gizmo flipping in the fingers of one hand. He stepped carefully coming over to Just Bill’s tattered blanket and Bill could see why: he wore Italian “driving shoes,” delicate handmade leather envelopes, enabling a pretentious asshole to pretend that he could better sense the optimum moment to change gears in the preferred automobile of pretentious assholes. As Bill expected, the guy tried to bargain over a couple items on the blanket, then, unable to screw the dumb Indian down, the smile still on his face, he turned to go. It had been a long, hot day, dry, nothing in it, and then this guy showed up. Bill found himself, as he sometimes did, in a just-don’tcare moment, which was one reason why they called him Just Bill. He flipped back a corner of the blanket, picked up his rifle, flicked off the safety. Cradling the Springfield easy and loose in his arms—not much was required, it wasn’t much of a shot—he took out the nearside, rear tire of the car. The sharp crack of the .30-06 boomed away across the desert. A couple seconds later, an echo bounced back from the rimrock. The Jag settled like a tall dog down on its haunches for a hard shit, and the guy jumped about out of his skin and came down facing Bill, an expectation of immediate death written clearly on his face. Bill was mightily pleased that the smile was gone, pleased at the dark stain at the guy’s crotch as he peed himself. Suddenly he felt friendly, even generous. “What,” Bill said as the far-off diminishing echoes rolled through the afternoon heat, “you didn’t see anything you liked?”
29 Crucible | Spencer
2. Tall Tree Tree turned out to be way more fun than I expected. “Look at that asshole,” she said, pointing to a newish white Toyota right on the bumper of the car it followed. The freeway was Southern California rush hour, two rows of beads on a string—everyone doing seventy with five car-lengths between. It was the first morning we started riding together. “I’m gonna call him Toyota 4Runner Tailgate Asshole.” Traffic bunched up as we neared the interchange. We came alongside and she checked him out. “Blue shirt, tie, Hitler mustache. I’d say he’s a dentist or a chiropractor. From the way he tailgates, I’d say he has an anal fixation.” At the neighborhood get-together where we’d met the week before, one of the guys asked her what she did, and she said she was doing research into causal opacity. His forehead wrinkled. “The invisibility of causes.” She looked at him narrow-eyed, the way I’d seen guys in the lab look when they were trying to read everything in a thin layer chromatogram. “The incremental development of ideas and the concomitant creation of definitive theory.” He excused himself. “You scared him off. What was that you said? “Just a bunch of shit I talk when I don’t like someone.” “Why not? He seems okay.” “Just don’t, that’s all.” A week later I found out the guy left his wife and I wondered what Tree might have seen in him.
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She and her husband, Wes, a Highway Patrolman, rented a condo two blocks away from Linda and me and our two kids. When I told her I worked in Technology Park, she said, “Hey, we should commute together.” She gave me her card. Trevigne Tibett, PhD. “Call me Tree. Or Tall Tree. Whatever.” She was my height, six feet even, rangy, pretty, maybe two or three years younger than my thirty-five. I called her Tree and she called me Driver, never anything else. Her typical morning greeting: “Hey, Driver, how they hangin?” She’d grown up with three older brothers, and she had a mouth like a long-haul trucker. A long-haul trucker who was analyzing signal processing for speech recognition. “Who the hell do you do that for?” “NDA.” It was her reply to all questions beyond the most superficial: Non-Disclosure Agreement. “If I told you who we were doing it for you’d start to think about why they were interested, and that’s what they don’t want you thinking about.” We couldn’t talk work, but we talked everything else. This was back when Obama was running for re-election against Mitt Romney. “Here’s the question,” she said on one of the days we discussed politics, “Do we go for Plastic Man, or will we be staggering around in a daze four years from now wondering who is John Gault? Some fuckin’ choice.” We’d been riding together for about six months when the morning came that she didn’t have anything to say. “Are you just going to sit there?” I asked after five minutes. “I might fall asleep at the wheel.” I felt her look over. “I think we should talk about fucking.” It had been there. In addition to being damn smart and a lot of fun,
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I couldn’t help seeing her on a physical level. “In general,” I said, “or each other?” “You and me,” she said. “Us. I think we should talk about fucking each other.” My stomach flipped. I’d been married for eight years, and all that time I’d been out in the world, at the office every day, to the East Coast a couple times a year, a couple trips to Taipei, Hong Kong and Guangzhou. You ran across women you liked, women who kicked you hard in the Id, a few women who let you know it was a possibility despite the wedding ring on your finger. The same thing always stopped me. I pictured how I would feel when I got home and looked into my wife’s eyes as she asked, “How was your trip?” I pictured the total trust on my son’s face in a snapshot on my desk. Nothing high-minded or honorable, I didn’t have religion. It was a simple thing: I knew I didn’t want to feel the way I knew I would feel, and I knew I would feel that way for a long time, probably forever. “I’m not really serious,” she said. “You’re not?” “Of course not. Jesus. My husband carries a gun for a living, we’d both be dead. But just between the two of us, what if we did fuck. What would you like to do most?” I finessed it. Even if we were only talking, it didn’t feel entirely okay. Finally I gave up a couple things. “Just hypotheticals,” I said. “Of course, just hypotheticals. Well here’s what I’d like, hypothetically.” She proceeded to tell me in the plainest possible terms using the crudest most direct language exactly how she wanted to be fucked— not made love to. “None of that romantic shit,” she made clear. “I’m
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talking good old-fashioned multi-positional pleasure fucking”—and what she’d like to do to me as I did those things to her—all hypothetically of course. When we got to her building, she laughed as she got out. “That was really fun, Driver. Congrats, you stayed wide awake the whole time.” Wide awake? I was vibrating. When I picked her up that night she started in again. “Hey, if we worked for the same company, know what we could do? Say we’re in a meeting in some conference room, and our chairs are close together…” She started with wandering hands under the table and went on to elaborate trysts in the supply room—“There’s a box of rubber bands on a shelf, those wide ones”—I never would have thought of using rubber bands that way. Then she went on to the kitchenette and bananas, packets of Sweet’N Low, crackers, peanut butter, candy bars melted in the microwave—it was a very well-stocked kitchen at her company. Sooner or later even sex talk can run thin. It’s not like the infinite variations possible with, say, Sonata form. The second week, we began to invent scenarios for doing it as we drove in traffic at speed. She would straddle me, but the question was facing me or facing front and handling the steering? And where would legs and feet go? We imagined the reaction of other drivers. “Toyota 4Runner Tailgate Asshole would hang on our butt,” she said, “then come alongside to see if what he thought he saw was really going on. Then he would try and get behind us again because he wouldn’t be able to let go, but this time somebody else would be back there, eyes bugging out, and they wouldn’t let him in. They’d bump fenders, it would be like a car chase in a movie.” “How big do you think the accident would be?” “Oh, shit. Who knows? It would be colossal. The way these fuck-
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ers drive? Maybe a hundred-car pile-up. Survivors wouldn’t be willing to say what happened. Nobody wants to be accused of being a sleazy peeper and making a bunch of people die.” Not long after that Tree and her husband moved to Long Island where a hedge fund had made here a big bucks offer. We still get Christmas cards from them. This year, as usual, she added a note: “Hey Driver, keep it in the high dollar lane.” “Tree was a strange one,” my wife says each year when she reads the note on the card. Strange and puzzling. A hedge fund and voice recognition? I still can’t figure that out. They couldn’t have possibly wanted her for her dirty mouth, could they?
3. Hub is Gone (In a major key) You come up with the perfect title, the next thing you know, someone steals it. Well, of course they don’t steal it, because no one but you knows what it is, and you can’t steal titles and ideas anyway because you can’t copyright them. If you could copyright ideas, Homer’s descendants would be suing Clint Eastwood over Iwo Jima. (Have you ever considered what a peculiar combination of sounds that is: Iwo Jima? You hear it, you see it, but not until you type it do you realize that it’s just damn weird. You know it’s some kind of a small jima—anything iwo has to be pretty tiny—but what’s a jima? Do you think, possibly, it might be a penis?) Anyway, I had hit on the title. It was just what I wanted. It spoke
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directly to my market, the twenty and thirty-somethings sitting around Starbucks with earbuds dangling around their necks. The earbuds are dangling because this target demo of mine is listening to that particular music they play in Starbucks that, for me, characterizes their culture. It usually features a female vocalist singing with an absence of emotion. No crescendo, no diminuendo, just an evenness, almost a monotone. It’s pleasant, and, depending, it can even be beguiling. It’s what a psychologist might call affective flattening. (Modulate to the minor) I was putting together a different book, not mine, pieces written by a friend who’d died. I’d flown up to Seattle to talk to some people and when the gathering broke up quite late, rather than ask for a ride somewhere, I’d walked down the street to one of those aging fringe of the inner city cracked linoleum motels. The sheets were clean, not clean and crisp and sort of stiff, like the ones you get at the Mandarin in Hong Kong or the Plaza in New York, but clean, and that’s all I ask. In the morning, the only place open at six was the Starbucks down the street (there’s a Starbucks down every street in Seattle, I think it’s an ordinance or something). I sat there with coffee and a bagel making line edits to a manuscript that had been written by an artist I had admired, a person I had loved like a brother, who knew when he wrote it that he was dying. But you can’t hold all that in your mind and get much done. I sat in Starbucks and listened to their music, looking up from time to time, watching them come in for coffee, wondering. Absence of affect. Was it a choice favoring simplicity versus the ornate, plainness rather than showy? Was it because they toked a bit the night before and now they wanted everything smooth and uninvolving? Or maybe if everything is everything and it’s all neither this nor that, you won’t be disappoint-
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ed, because after all, what’s this is pretty much the same as what’s that over there, and, ho-hum, whatever. (Transition back to the dominant) It took a while before I hit on the title for the thing of mine I’d been writing, just right for a first-person narrative for those kids at Starbucks—simple, flat, blunted affect. Then a few weeks later, waiting for the start of Woody Allen’s latest, the previews of coming attractions came up and there was my title, hijacked by Hollywood. (Finish on a flatted fifth) He died on me and left me here and I’m still pissed off about it. Now who’s around to make fun of me when I start feeling sorry for myself about something stupid, like that dumb title?
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creative nonfiction - Amelia Moseley
is skin is softer because of memory rather than touch. Pores have turned to gaping wounds where soft plush used to give
color to his skin. And in his plastic glass coffin, he lies in a state of childhood, comatose in the closet, his head permanently shifted to the left from being tucked under a chin. When my bunk beds were still stacked full with stuffed animals, and I still had a bunk bed, he was the King. Despite the discomfort of having his ceremonial tomb and medical bed next to my pillow, putting away the head of the plush kingdom seemed a sin. After all, he had already been on too many adventures to get stuck away in a dusty closet instead of reveling in the lives of his subjects. Which was ironic in a way, considering that his replacement, an identical but newer clone of the King, was a tyrannical Prince who withheld snacks and treats from his kingdom with the same discretion as a parent. Whether he was resting idly in his bed or ruling benevolently, the King had always been an adventurer. He had traveled far away from home, as far for him as it felt for me. Once, he was left without his escort back to his kingdom, trapped in a strange innâ€™s blankets. A kind lady bunny took care of me for the three long and terrifying days
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before the King finally returned home from his terrible adventure. He would not be left behind again, and double to triple checking was ensured to see that the King would never have to stay away from his kingdom for long. He went often to the loud home of the greatest aviators in the world, keeping close as the booming giants attended to their towering vessels of flight. The sky masters parted before him, letting the King and me wander through the great halls and stare up at the mighty beasts that the young pilots would soon take up to the skies. We visited often, since my father was one such sky master, piloting many a kind of sky beast or jumping from the belly of one of the looming monsters. One such adventure has been documented, but the framed picture left in a half bath seems less than worthy of the Kingâ€™s noble quest. The King had a great number of secret meetings with me. Cool to the touch, particularly between his ears, he and I would curl up beneath a great white cloak and talk psychically all through the night of what adventures I had been on and on the business of his kingdom. Other times he would steal me away just to comfort me from some horrible thing that had been said and to keep me company as I cried under the safety of our small blanket until the transgression didnâ€™t matter anymore. There was of course the time before the Prince arrived. Though dearly loved, the King began to fear that his appearance would make him unwanted. He called for aid, which I would find out later that my mother had answered. With the assistance of my mother, he ran away to the hiding of the guest room, where the portraits of relatives I never knew scared me from entering. While my mother was searching for a Prince to come and succeed the King, I searched far and wide for months (or what felt like it) to return his highness to his kingdom. The
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nights were cold, and my courage was tested for the first time without the support of my soft, steadfast protector. For a short amount of time, I think I was braver. I was definitely braver in my quest to find the King. And when I finally dared the guest room, I found him. I felt so cunning and proud going in. I could reach all the drawers in the dresser, and I was determined to look through them all. He was in a top one, hiding beneath a pile of sheets to keep away from anyone seeing him. I regretted pulling him out from his hiding place for a moment as the reality of his condition sunk in. Suddenly, the great holes in the Kingâ€™s chest and the greyed tone to his skin left me appalled. I thought I had found the wrong thing, confused at where his color had gone and why his holes were so big, suddenly aware of how old he had become. His tail was chewed from my nervous habits, and his ears tearing from where I squeezed them gently for their cold touch. I started crying right then, so sad at the sorry state the King was in because of me. I was so upset about not noticing sooner, wondering if I could have done anything to have slowed his aging process. So the Prince arrived for holding close in the night and conversing with under the white blanket that was becoming less and less of a shelter, and the King was placed in his bin, never to explore again. I resented the Prince, and so he personified everything horrible in the kingdom. Other stuffed animals tried to replace the noble adventures of their resting King, but no one could heal the weary state he was in and no one would change that I was slowly pushing all those adventures and power into the Prince. The Prince reminded me too much of his predecessor, and I kept returning to him for comfort until his soft touch started to blend with the Kingâ€™s. The bunk beds were torn apart and the kingdom began to wither, like all kingdoms eventually do. Yard sales and Christmas time do-
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nations came and went, whittling down the number of subjects until the importance of school overpowered the discomfort of sleeping with so many toys and a hard plastic bin by the pillow. A choice few true subjects remained, encouraging me and the Prince on as the bitterness began to fade between us before they too were taken off to storage bins in the attic or donated to younger rulers than me. And the King finally found himself moved off to a high mountainous shelf, where he could rest easy as I squeezed the Princeâ€™s ears and pushed his chin permanently to the left from being pushed under my chin. The Prince remained. He went on adventures, to college, for moral support. They were far less public than the epic tales of the King, and far more bittersweet after seeing his blue coffin or the picture sitting in the half bath of the journey to the great flight hall. Like his predecessor, the Prince is starting to grey. His pores are starting to show and his jacket is starting to look patchy. His ears are not chewed and his tail is largely intact (that is, if you ignore the stitching at the base), but signs of his age are starting to show. I donâ€™t know if the Prince will need a coffin like the King, or if he will go and join his elder brother aloft the high perch where the King sleeps. I hope at least that while the Kingâ€™s kingdom is done, when a new one is born inside my house, his weary old blues eyes might aid whatever monarch takes the throne in a second bedroom down the hall.
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a story for the rain brianna frentzko
n the end, his chubby feet dangle from the eagle’s nest and splash in the waters that rise and rise and rise.
“Fly Jay, fly!” Jay smiles down at his sister as she struggles against the waves.
Her head barely stays afloat, and the endless downpour masks her tears. “Pay-pay,” Jay giggles. “Look at me Pay-pay!” “Fly! Just fly!” Patience gasps over the sudden thunder. Jay reaches out a small hand, giggling, and Patience grabs it, managing to cling to the floating nest. “Closer to heaven,” Jay whispers to her. “You can fly Jay, you can.” She has nothing left. Nothing. Her hands tremble violently and her words sound like sobs. Nothing more. It is over. “We are flying Pay-pay.” Patience holds her brother’s hand tightly. * Moments before the end, there is nowhere left to flee. Water has swallowed even the rooftop. There is nowhere left but the tallest tree. The tree with the eagle’s
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nest at its top. Patience rows Jay over on the raft she has made from drift wood. A life raft made from broken homes. Their very own Noah’s Ark. They reach the tree and Patience forces Jay to climb. And climb. The water races them to the clouds. * “I’ll take the boat,” Uncle Rick explains, “and bring back help. You two stay on the roof.” “But—“ “But nothing.” “They’ve told us not to leave,” Patience argues. “You said you wouldn’t leave us!” “Situation just changed, girl. No one is coming.” “Mom wouldn’t want—“ “Martha isn’t here, is she? And there’s only so much room in the boat,” Uncle Rick shouts above the thunder. “You’re safer here than out there.” Jay begins to cry. Patience holds him to herself tightly, covering her face with long brown-gold hair so as to hide fear. She turns away from her Uncle Rick. “I’ll come back with help, Patience. Soon.” Uncle Rick is trying to reach her, but Patience doesn’t care. She refuses to turn towards him. She refuses to answer. The motor starts on the boat and then Patience hears Uncle Rick’s motions as he gets himself inside. He leaves them. From the roof Patience and Jay watch the boat battle the storm. They are wet and cannot see far through the rain. The rain blocks everything.
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“Pay-pay?” Jay murmurs. “Yeah baby?” “Tell me about flying again.” Patience whispers the story and rocks him back and forth. * The flood came because it has rained for a week nearly straight through. All the basements in town have flooded, as have the streets. The valley has yielded to a lake with the tops of homes and schools and stores and churches breaking the waters’ surface like reeds. All communication has stopped. Patience wonders if God has decided to flood the world again like in the time of Noah. Perhaps He feels that people have become too cruel. Perhaps He feels people don’t deserve the sunshine. The rain continues to fall without end. Nobody can help. No one knows. Or perhaps no one cares. * “Rains a lot here, huh?” Patience mutters darkly as she looks out the window. It is a month before the week of rain that will drown the world. Uncle Rick grimaces, “Occasionally.” She has never heard him put together more than three words at once. His big red hands play with the delicate fork. He should have a shovel instead. “I don’t want to go to school today, not in the rain. I’d rather stay with Jay.” “Suit yourself.” Her uncle turns over his bacon and eggs. The food makes her think of a giant yellow squid with red-white tentacles branching from its center. Uncle Rick eats one of the tentacles, and Patience imagines a scream of pain. She leaves him mutilating the squid.
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“Pay-pay!” “Hello Jay!” Jay shivers in time with the lightning and thunder. He has curled beneath his baby blanket. Mommy gave him the blanket. It was spring time and they were sitting under a cherry tree watching the birds. Mommy knew all the birds. Jay’s blanket is covered in robins, blue jays, swallows, and eagles. Mommy used to say that all people have a bird inside of them and that’s why, when people die, they get wings and become angels. Patience doesn’t know if she believes in angels. “Oh baby, nothing to be scared about.” Jay shakes a plump finger, “Yes scary—thunder boom boom…it’s like giant footsteps!” Patience cuddles next to him. The lights go out. Again. Jay whimpers. “Mommy used to say that thunderstorms were great opportunities,” Patience says slowly, patting Jay’s back and kissing his forehead. “Why?” “Because when there’s thunder and lightning people can do something very special.” “What?” “They can fly.” Jay’s eyes get wide with wonder, “Really?” “Well, you have to find yourself a great big nest—a bird’s nest.” “What kind?” Patience looks out the window, “Well, an eagle’s nest, of course,” she invents. “Then you climb up to the eagle’s nest and you believe really really hard—“ “Like Peter Pan and fairies?” “Exactly. And you hold on to that eagle’s nest and think happy
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thoughts.” “And say a spell?” “Yes,” Patience agrees. “A spell that reminds you that you can fly. Because we can all fly, of course.” “Can you just say the magic words inside?” “Yes, just inside of you but you must really, really believe.” “What are the magic words?” “Well, that’s the secret Jay,” Patience whispers into his ear as another crash of thunder shakes the house. “That’s why people don’t climb trees in thunderstorms, because if you don’t know the magic words it is dangerous.” “Because lightning strikes trees.” “Good boy, you remember!” Jay looks like a bird with all his feathers ruffled out. “So you can only go to fly when you know the magic words. And you can only find them when you have to find them.” “Inside you?” “Yes, inside you. And then you must find the eagle’s nest and climb and climb—“ “And climb!” “Yes.” “And then you fly?” “Only if you are very lucky, of course,” Patience says softly. “But if you can find an eagle’s nest during a thunderstorm and if you find the magic words inside and you really really believe, you will fly.” Jay falls silent for awhile, listening to the thunder. He doesn’t shiver anymore. “Pay-pay?”
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“Yes?” “Could we fly to heaven? With Mommy?” Patience cannot answer. She blames the rain for clouding her thoughts. She thinks the rain is somehow blurring her vision as well. * “Uncle Rick?” “Huh?” His typical response. They usually eat dinner in silence, but Patience cannot take the scrap of forks and knives and the chewing any longer. “Can you tell stories?” He gives her a look she recognizes now. She shouldn’t have asked. Uncle Rick continues to eat. Patience does the same in silence. But Jay doesn’t understand Uncle Rick’s looks yet. “Can you tell stories, like Mommy?” Jay says, looking up with wide brown eyes shinning. Uncle Rick drops his fork. Patience folds her arms tightly and stares at her plate. She doesn’t look at her uncle. They are eating steak and potatoes and green beans. Patience has arranged her plate with the steak as the bottom of a mountain and the potatoes are the snow on top. The green beans make the forest around the mountain. “Can you?” Patience pretends she is on her plate, climbing the mountain. Somewhere that is not here. It is her fault for bringing it up. “Eat your food,” Uncle Rick finally tells Jay. Patience keeps her eyes on the plate, but it doesn’t matter. She knows the look that is on Jay’s face. “Patience, stop playing with your food,” Uncle Rick suddenly barks. Patience jumps in her seat. “Just eat the damn dinner!” Patience begins to dismantle her mountain. The table returns to its
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usual silence. * Jay is crying in the night. Patience doesn’t want to go to his bed across the room. She can hear the crying, but she doesn’t want to go. If she goes she will cry too. Jay always cries in the night now. He has been crying since that day Patience tries to forget. The day of darkness and rain with shadows dressed all in black. She remembers monsters in the graveyard. She and Jay were the only ones who saw them. Shadows with human faces. The adults couldn’t see. The adults never can see. But she remembers the monsters hiding in the rain. She and Jay remember. Jay still doesn’t understand that the rain will never stop. The monsters close in around Patience in her mind. She pushes back against them. She will not remember. Patience has not cried yet. She cannot cry. She listens to her brother’s sobs in the night. Monsters hide in the darkness of this old house. Patience knows this. Monsters hide in every house. Jay is crying, and Patience does not move from her bed. Perhaps she is a monster too. * Uncle Rick moves their bags in roughly. He does everything roughly. He talks roughly, moves roughly, even sips coffee roughly. He is nothing like Mommy. “Here’s your room,” he tells Patience. “Where will you put Jay?” she asks. Uncle Rick shrugs. “He can sleep with me,” she suggests timidly. “Okay.” Patience surveys the white concrete walls. “In case of floods,” Uncle Rick explains, noticing her look of distaste.
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“Does that happen often?” “Nope.” He turns to leave. “Uncle Rick?” “Yep?” “You aren’t going to dump us in an orphanage, are you?” He looks at her hard for a moment. “I loved her, your mother,” he says finally before walking out of the room. Outside her window, Patience notices a very tall tree with a nest at the top. An eagle flies to it. She thinks this is odd. She doesn’t think eagles should be in West Virginia. It’s unmistakable though. She knows her birds. Her mother taught her to know birds. * Jay looks so small in the black suit. He should not wear it. It is a man’s suit and he is not a man. Patience looks small in her black dress when she looks in the mirror. But she is a woman now, and she will wear the dress. They sit together in the front row of the room. The coffin is closed. Patience thinks of vampires. People keep kneeling in front of the coffin. Most of them are crying. “Your mother was a lovely woman,” an old lady tells Patience. She doesn’t know the old lady. She doesn’t know anyone here. Jay has fallen asleep in his chair. Patience is glad. He doesn’t sleep anymore. He keeps remembering and waking up screaming. Patience hates the nightmares. Hers and his. The nice woman who is supposed to help them with the nightmares cannot make them stop. Only Mommy could ever stop the nightmares. “Tell yourself a story, Patience,” Mommy had whispered. “Tell yourself a wonderful fantastic story, and you will not be afraid.” Patience imagines that the little room is a magical castle. And all
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the people are sorcerers. And they are casting a spell that will bring Mommy back. Jay droops in his chair beside her. Patience lays him on her lap. Mommy always told her to take care of Jay. * It is raining. The other car swerves. No one can see anything. The cars collide. Patience and Jay are in the back seat. They survive. Mommy is in the front seat. She dies. Because of the rain it takes a long time for help to come. * Patience and Jay sit on their mother’s knee— he puckering his baby lips against the foggy window, she with brown eyes wide to catch the lightning. It is raining for the very first time after months of drought. “A good day for flying,” Mommy tells them. “A very good day.” “Could we really fly, Mommy, if we tried?” Patience whispers. Mommy looks at her with eyes the color of honey or amber or sunlight. “We all can fly, Patience, when we find it in us to try.” Outside the raindrops kiss every rooftop.
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what we think at night creative nonfiction - Jordan baca
’m lying in bed next to him, and he’s snoring softly toward the wall. I cried in the stir-fry tonight. Maybe it’s just that time of
the month. Maybe it’s something else. But I was looking down at the bowl of chicken, rice, and vegetables on my lap while he was bustling around the kitchen, and everything smelled so good, and the tears just started welling up. “Thank you. I love you so much, baby,” I said, thinking about the fact that he’s the first man who has cooked for me since I was in high school. My stepdad might have cooked once or twice back then. At least, I think he did. Before he left. Just a few days ago, I lay in the same bed, wide awake and wondering what I was doing here. With him. Who was he, anyway? And did he really know me? It’s almost been a year already, and I’m starting to wonder if things are ever going to feel like they’re moving. Like there’s something to be accomplished here. When was the last time I felt like myself? I go from school to boyfriend to family to choosing between them to wanting to leave everything behind to thinking it might be bearable after all, and then back to school. At what point did it become this cycle of everyone else’s idea of life? At what point did love become the dictator?
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I get up to use the bathroom. There’s an insatiable tingling in my legs, like I’m itchy in limbs that don’t exist. Like the only thing that would satisfy it is pulling out the little bones in my feet and scratching the insides of my muscles. He moans a little bit and shifts when he feels me move, muttering his dreams under his breath. The bathroom in his apartment definitely belongs to bachelors, despite the fact that a few of my things are clustered in one grimy corner of the shower. I don’t even feel like I need the bathroom. I walk back into his room and close the door quietly behind me. He’s lying in the middle of the bed now, which is a hard and thin platform of a mattress in one corner of the room. At home, my bed is soft and high up off the ground, a haven in the maze of stored furniture that’s accumulated since I left for college. At least here, there’s the option of having sex. He’ll probably make me dinner and cuddle me while we watch Netflix. And in that comfortable embrace, I’ll let things slip from my mind and try to ignore that anxiety pinching the fine hair on the nape of my neck. What’s going on at home? Is everyone ok? I’m constantly afraid that my life is seconds away from crumbling at my feet. I sit on the corner of the bed and unravel my headphones. Music could help, but I know it’s just going to start another avalanche of thoughts. Car Seat Headrest is my latest obsession. “If you really wanna know yourself, it will come at the cost of knowing no one else.” Will Toledo’s lyrics have a way of poking my bruises. This makes me want to cry every time I hear it. I start playing mindless games on my phone to avoid thinking too hard about it. He’s 24. Almost as young as me. He may be young, but he strikes such a chord with me. Could he be right?
51 Crucible | Baca
I can’t afford to buy music so I have to stream it, and an obnoxious ad ruins the moment.. Stupid fucking ads. I hate thinking about them. They’re everywhere. I’ve gotten into the habit of always looking for product placement in movies and TV shows. Of course that bottle of soda is facing the camera. Before I know it, it’s 3 a.m. A few days ago, I stayed awake past sunrise, eventually growing restless enough to take a walk outside. The early morning was nice and quiet, and the air was still cool and the birds were singing. The occasional engine turned in the parking lot, but it was peaceful. A few snails were racing shadows into the bushes. One was sure to lose, so I picked it up and it retracted into its shell for safety. I set it next to the mint plant by my boyfriend’s back porch. Slowly, it stretched its slimy body out and continued on its way into the plant, leaving a faint trail behind it. I wished I could have been treated the same. But now, the darkness is still whirling across the sky and lingering in the bedroom, where I’m questioning everything I’ve done for the past two years. My boyfriend is none the wiser. I keep telling him I’m happy. He knows I’m not, but I keep telling him anyway. It’s my way of asking him not to ask, because I really don’t know what the problem is. I suppose I had pictured things differently, or rather I hadn’t pictured them at all. The itching in my phantom limbs has abated, most likely because I’ve been distracting myself. It’s a small opening for peace. I decide to set aside my questioning and think back on the stir-fry. He’s a good cook, and I’m lucky I have someone who cares enough about me to cook for me. The skin on his back takes a paler shade of grey than the wall, and I can make out the shape of his tattoo: a dragon chasing its tail around a yin-yang. Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t know anything.
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I extend my hands until one slips under his neck, and the other over his side. His skin is so warm, and he melts into my arms. I kiss him on the shoulder. Answers arenâ€™t for the faint of heart, I figure, and I drift off to sleep.
53 Crucible | Baca
i buried my heart behind the shed bill spencer
mean, I had to do something with it. When I took it out it was like way more messy than I expected. Those bastards never
mentioned that. And it didn’t look at all like anything I’d ever seen on a valentine. I never thought to ask them what it would look like or what should I do with it, and they hadn’t told me. It was dripping, so I didn’t think about it, just slopped it in a saucepan since I was in the kitchen to start with. I guess I could have put it in the sink but there was already a stack of dirty dishes sitting there, silverware on top. So there it sat in a saucepan on the sideboard and the damn thing kept beating. They should have told me about that. They should have said oh, don’t be surprised if it keeps on beating. And I would have asked them why it did that. But they never said and I never had the chance to ask and they were gone. But mostly I would have asked them what the hell I was supposed to do with it once I had it out, and what was I supposed to do without it. I mean without having it inside me. I poured me a cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table and puzzled over that question and listened to it beat. The beating got to be just damned annoying. The saucepan was an
Spencer | Crucible 54
old one, it was my grandmother’s kitchen, originally, and everything was pretty beat-up, and the saucepan had dents and didn’t sit level on the sideboard, and what with the beating the saucepan was rocking back and forth and making a noise, like a clock or something. It got to be damned annoying. So after awhile I took the saucepan out to the shed, grabbed a shovel and buried it, the whole thing, drippy beating heart, saucepan the both of ’em. I went back in the house thinking I’d done pretty good, thinking I figured things out for myself, done what needed doing. I hadn’t been sitting long at the kitchen table when they come back, zooming up the drive in their fancy silver thing that didn’t look like no car I’d ever seen the way they done before. The three of ’em come walking in the kitchen like they done before with their big saucer-size eyes bulging out and those funny doo-dads sticking out on their heads, nodding and saying hi and all just like they done before. Where the hell you been I asked ’em, kinda rude, but then I’d felt under a certain amount of strain, everything that’d been going on while they were gone, the questions I’d had an all. I felt like they’d left me in the lurch. Been over to the next farm down the road, they said, trying to talk some hick farmer into taking out his heart, they said, and they were turning to each other, laughing. Well I done it, I told them. I done took it out and put it in my grandma’s saucepan, slick as anything. Oh yeah, they said, then where is it, show it to us. When I told them what I’d done with it they just laughed and laughed and laughed, all doubled over and laughing with big tears rolling down their cheeks.
55 Crucible | Spencer
It torqued me, it torqued me really bad, being laughed at like that. I could see they thought I was just a hick farmer. So I stepped outside the kitchen door, grabbed that good old garden spade and come back in and laid waste to those damn laughing aliens or whatever the hell they were. It wasn’t long ’till my grandmother’s kitchen was a hell of a mess of blood and insides. But I felt pretty good about it, so I shoveled them all into my grandpap’s wheelbarrow and went out and buried them behind the shed, too.
Spencer | Crucible 56
Half-Hour Galaxy Digital Art
57 Crucible | Hutchins
Biographies Jordan Baca: Jordan is a journalism major who is passionate about creative writing of all types. She is fascinated by the power of writing and art, and how it makes personal connections between ideas and people.
Lana Bella: A Pushcart nominee, Lana Bella is an author of two chapbooks, Under
My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016) and Adagio (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming), has had poetry and fiction featured with over 300 journals, 2River, California Quarterly, Chiron Review, Columbia Journal, Poetry Salzburg Review, San Pedro River Review, The Hamilton Stone Review, The Homestead Review, The Ilanot Review, The Writing Disorder, Third Wednesday, Tipton Poetry Journal, Yes Poetry, and elsewhere, among others. She resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever-frolicsome imps. You can follow her on facebook.com at /niaallanpoe
Cyrsta Clow: Cyrsta is a senior sociology major with a secret love of taking naughty
pictures of nature. If you havenâ€™t guessed, her favorite season is fall. All those trees losing their leaves... scandalous. You can see more of her photography skills in past editions of The Crucible.
Cody A. Conklin:
As an American raised in the United Kingdom, Cody A. Conklin was exposed to the value of perspective at a very early age. He enjoys writing short fiction and poetry laced with philosophy, and has authored one collection titled Mutiny (2015). His work has appeared in DoveTales and Firewords Quarterly, and he was a Semi-Finalist in the 2016 Bermuda Triangle Prize. He is a 24 year old US Navy Veteran who now studies Physics at the University of Northern Colorado. His website is www.codyconklin.com. You can also follow him on facebook at /codyc11
Hannah-Jayne Duran: Hannah-Jayne is an English Major in her senior year at UNC,
studying to become a librarian. She enjoys to read and write poetry of all kinds and fantasy and sci-fi short stories. She is the current Vice-President of The Crucible, and has really loved seeing all of the pieces that were submitted this semester. She is
flattered that her story will be placed beside these wonderful works of writing.
Since Mackenzie could read, sheâ€™s known a longing to make a mark on literature. But another landmark decision of hers was to drop out of the marksmanship Junior Olympics qualifying rounds so as to go earn her black belt and a concussion. Miraculously, then, her work this year has garnered numerous shortlist mentions, recognition from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and acceptances for publication in ten magazines.
Kristin Emanuel: Kristin grew up in the mountains of Colorado, but has also lived
in Texas and Minnesota. She currently resides in Arkansas, where she is pursuing a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in French. When she is not writing poetry, she is likely drawing cyclopean owls or narwhal chariots.
Brianna Frentzko: Brianna Frentzko is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writ-
ing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She taught English for three years on Navajo Nation, has traveled extensively around the world, and has three adorable cats. You can see her published work in Bluestockings Magazine, Words Apart, and Lion Tree Pressâ€™s Life on the Rez speculative fiction anthology.
Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas:
Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is an award winning writer. She is an eight-time Pushcart nominee as well as a four-time Best of the Net nominee. She is the 2012 winner of the Red Ochre Press Chapbook contest with her manuscript Before I Go to Sleep. She has authored several chapbooks along with her latest full-length collection of poems: Hasty Notes in No Particular Order, published by Aldrich Press. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of online and print magazines including: The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, Poets and Artists, War, Literature and the Arts and many more. According to family lore she is a direct descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson. Her website is www.clgrellaspoetry. com
Jessamyn Hutchins: Jessamyn is a writer and artist who has worked with The Crucibe
for four years. She is also an editor at Paperweight Editorial, which can be found at paperweighteditorial.tumblr.com.
Sarah Killorn is an aspiring detective with an inherent interest in
writing who plans to eventually publish a book under a pseudonym. She can most commonly be found in the darkest recesses of a coffee shop or anywhere with a steady wifi connection. Her favourite authors include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Roach, and Oscar Wilde.
Beauty Kussoy is a journalism major with the hopes of becoming an editor for some top-notch magazine somewhere in Europe. She is a graduate of Denver School of the Arts where she majored in Creative Writing and found love for poetry and its power to invoke emotion.
Amelia is an Army Brat, so her whole life has been spent on the move. Coming to UNC has been the most stable part of her life in comparison, which is about as stable as moving out into single, adult life can be. Still, she has learned a lot about herself, and about how she loves to create. Beyond just traditional writing, she also hosts two podcasts at StarCrossedGamers on YouTube.
Giavoni Riley: Giavoni Riley is a English Major with a History Minor at UNC. He is
obsessed with dragons and mythology and will teach anyone who’ll listen. You can often see him supervising the Coffee Corner in Michener or at the football games as a member of the Pride of the Rockies Marching Band.
Bill Spencer: Spencer has published fiction and non-fiction in the San Diego Reader
and West Coast Review. In Divertimentos, “Hub is Gone” references “Across this Silent Canvas,” the writings of Hubbard Miller, available online. His smutty, humorous (but totally vulgar) novel, “My Totally Crazy Love Life,” under the pen name Laurindo Jones, is up on Amazon, as is the more literary “Nikki This Hollywood Life,” pen name Vanessa Gordot.
Trevor Thomas: Trevor is a Freshman Theatre Education major at UNC. He is thrilled to be here at UNC exploring his passions. Although theatre and music are Trevor’s main aspirations, any kind of art is an inspiration to him, including photography. He shoots on the side and especially delights in shooting the splendor of the mountains and the setting sun. Instagram: @t_birdt
The Fall 2016 publication of The Crucible.