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Vortex 39

October 2012 Online Edition


Table of Contents

Fiction: 04... The Peeling of an Orange, Wells Thompson 10... Azure, Taylor Lea Hicks 20... With Friends Like These, Jessica Summers 28... A Rut, Alissa Michelle Sexton Poetry: 07... Heads or Tails, Emily Walter 14... Lunar Eclipse Over Soviet America, Aaron Paul Riley 27... Gray Disappointment, Wells Thompson Nonfiction: 30... The Gift of Muggles, Chase Night Scriptwriting: 16... Situation on a Staircase, Matt Martens 33... Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way, Lauren Fox Art: 09... Nostaligic Demise, Caley Pennington 15... Liberty, Marcus Holder 19... Nighttime Life, Callie Blair France 26... George: An Experimental Burned Portrait Series, Rachel Dawn Oliver 32... Wish, Caley Pennington 39... Vector Self Portrait, Ciara Long 46... An Unwanted Message, Brittany Madalone Visit Our Website for Our Media Publications: Jay Haynes - Music - Saw Man http://vortexmagazine.squarespace.com/storage/2012-2013/submissions/october-online-submissions/ Sawman.mp3

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Staff List

Editor-in-chief: Sarah F. Wilson Assistant Editor: Lisa Ference

Section Editors: Copy Editor: Savannah Moix Poetry: Colleen Ruth Hathaway Fiction: Lyren Grate Nonfiction/ Scriptwritting: Chase Night Media: Mary Mulford Art: Jessica Camp

Layout Editor: Allison Vandenberg Assistant Layout Editor: Ashley Thomas

Faculty Advisor: Garry Craig Powell Cover Art: “Wish” by Caley Pennington Best of Web - Art Winner October 2012

Judges Poetry: Chelsea Callantine Christopher Hall Taylor Neal Sarah Jane Rawlinson Fiction: Candace Baker Meghan Feeney Nicole Godfrey Emily Qualls Nonfiction: Hannah Bryant Kayelin Roberts Alissa Michelle Sexton Scriptwriting: Taylor Lea Hicks William “Tre” Sandlin III Alissa Michelle Sexton Media: Elizabeth Furrey Emily Walter Art: Meleah Bowles Calli Nicole Morrison Logan Whittington

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the Peeling of an Orange - Wells Thompson Fiction

I saw myself being created. I bet you didn’t. I also bet you didn’t see who created you like I did. That’s two for me, none for you. There, I’m better than you, smarter, too. What are you anyway? You look as if you were something at one point, but you got chewed up pretty badly. Life can do that to you . . . I guess it did it to me pretty good. You don’t talk very much, do you? Do you like being there? Pressed up against the wall, all moist and gross? Fine then, you know what, don’t talk to me. I’ll be fine, you’re clearly too cool for me and my . . . orange-iness. I was orange at one point, you should have seen me — I was the brightest color orange you’ve ever seen. My name’s Mr. Bob, by the way, not that you asked or anything. Freaking jerk! I really did meet the person who created me; He was much more talkative than you. I remember the moment I was made; do you want to hear about it? Well, I don’t really care, you don’t have anything better to do other than just sit there and rot, which you seem to be doing at an alarming rate . . . you might want to see a doctor about that, I don’t know, just saying. So, anyway, it started pretty abruptly, although, I don’t know if you can start anything any other way, but that’s how it started for me. I only had one eye at first, the left one. Out of it, I saw a man with brown hair and a beard. His skin was different colors: His face and hands were tannish-pinkish-brown, His chest was green, and His legs were blue. He looked really strange, maybe He was sick or something. To be fair, He was the only other thing that talked that I’ve ever seen (you’re welcome to chime in and make that different any time now) so maybe I’m just weird, but to me it seems more likely that something would have one color of skin like myself, rather than a choppy patchwork of clashing colors. He held me in the palm of his hand, which I filled out perfectly, being as beautifully round as I am . . . err, was. I can honestly say, without hyperbole, that I was the most spectacular thing He’d ever held or seen and neither he nor anything else in all of existence will ever know anything to be so spectacular or splendiferous for all eternity. And that’s why I’m better than you. Why else would he have made me the way He did? I must have looked so good with that one eye that he decided to make another, just like He had. In his right hand, He had a big pointy stick that cut through my flesh. I would have screamed, but He hadn’t carved out my mouth yet. All in all, it was a strange experience. The more He cut away of my skin, the more glorious light shone through the thick, rough veil that covered my newly made eye. Finally, the flab gave way and fell into the bottomless eternity, spinning head over foot in perfect time, like clockwork. That’s when I saw the color of my own skin, a most glorious shade of neon. A clockwork, neon orange falling into the abyss. Undoubtedly, it was visible from space. He then shifted his attention to cutting out a mouth for me. I don’t think I have to tell you that the space He created was massive. I could probably talk until you wanted to die. Or until you did die. Either way, I’m going to talk. I would tell you what He smelled like, but the goliath that held me didn’t cut me out a nose, which, by the way, is why I haven’t told you how much you smell, which I’m sure you do. I remember the first thing He said to me: “Hi. I’m gonna call you Mr. Bob.” “Why’d you name me that?” I asked. It seemed like a dumb name then, too. The weird thing was that, whenever I talked to Him, His lips would move at exactly the same time, like He knew what I was going to say. Either that or I’m the greatest ventriloquist that ever lived since I got to throw my voice into His throat and make Him talk at the same time as me without even touching Him. Yeah, let’s go with that one.

Anyway, when I said that, he replied, “I don’t know, the important thing is, I’m gonna eat your brains.”

“Don’t eat my brains!” I shouted at Him so resolutely that the ground shook with the violence of my yawp.

“Oh yeah? Well, why shouldn’t I?” He demanded demandingly, hungry for intelligence He could not truly comprehend. He wanted proof of some kind perhaps; He wanted me to show Him my magnificence. “Because I am the greatest orange in the world!” I said proudly. It was the kind of seeping pride you would only see from a glorious leader. The leader would be giving a speech in front of his beloved subjects during a time of great tension and war and need. As his people’s hearts were held in gloom, his glorious words would rouse them into hopeful bliss to overcome any obstacle they faced. He would probably be Roman, or Napoleon himself, or maybe even an elf (What? Elves are good speakers! I know they are! Shut up!). That’s the kind of pride I oozed with. I could hear the war

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drums behind me; I could see my flag in the wind. It’s as orange as I am, leaking only occasionally. Flags do that, right? I leak, so why shouldn’t my flag? I guess should probably be concerned about that; it ruins the good floors. “And?” He asked curiously. “Do I need to say anything else to you, sir?” “Well, first of all, your face is stupid.” “You made it.” “Touché, little orange, touché. Either way, you’re an orange, and whether or not you’re the greatest or worst orange on the planet, or completely average for that matter, you’re still going to end up the same way all oranges do: eaten. Also, being the best orange ever might be the single worst argument I’ve ever heard for not being eaten. I mean, really, if anything, now I just want to eat you more.” “You would eat me? You would deny the world of the magnificent Mr. Bob?” “I’m not denying the world of anything. You were brought into existence and into the world, and now, like everything else in it, you’re going to be taken out of it.” “Surely you’re joking, sir!” “I’m not joking at all; I am indeed going to eat your juicy, delicious brains.” I started to worry that maybe he was being serious. “I’m being dead serious,” he added.

“Well, don’t do that. I’m serious, that is not cool! If you don’t eat me, maybe we can still be friends.”

“Mr. Bob, it’s going to happen, it’s inevitable really. I made you and I’m going to eat you. You will be eaten. Nothing you can say or do will change that.” “But I’ve lived such a short life, the world will never know my greatness; they’ll never experience the genius I could provide. Flying cars, a television that puts you directly into the shows (aka, reality TV) — I’m telling you, man, I would change the world.” “You’ve already lived a longer life than most oranges, and a more fulfilling one, too. Oranges don’t usually get eyes or a mouth, or get used for puppetry. Most of them just get stripped naked and eaten before they can experience anything. You should be thankful you didn’t end up like them!” “I don’t know what I did to deserve this-“ “Be a delicious orange,” He answered, cutting me off so rudely even He probably felt embarrassed. “-but I’ll give you anything to not eat me.” I was prepared to give Him everything I had, too. Not that I had much, but hey, better than nothing, and probably better than anything that guy had. Punk . . . beard man . . . with a knife. “Ok then, what can you give me?” I swallowed my pride as I resorted to the only thing I could think of, prostitution. “I’ll give you all of my glorious orange skin, you evil punk, knife, beard man!” I wanted to eat my own brains after saying that. To think that I had just offered the greatest thing that anyone could ever hope to imagine, the only thing, in fact, that John Lennon couldn’t! My glorious flesh! “I definitely don’t want your skin; I’m just going to throw that away after I eat you. Come on, think for a second, you silly orange. What would I do with your skin? I can’t eat it, it’s too nasty for that, and since that’s all you have, there’s really nothing else that can prevent me from eating your brains.” “Well, fine then, old man,” I yelled in defiance. He had insulted everything about me and probably called me fat at

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some point, too. I was ready to fight Him to the death. No way He could eat me if He didn’t have any teeth, right? I was ready to take Him down to Funkytown and back! “Bring it!” I screamed. “Well,” he said, hiding his fear well, “I’m gonna eat your brains now. Good bye, Mr. Bob.” “I’d like to see you try to eat me!” After I said that, everything spun around and went black. So, that’s probably how I ended up here, in this moist dungeon, talking to you, a chewed up piece of . . . something. I’m telling you though, if He’d given me a fair chance, I could have taken Him. Legs would have helped, too. I tried though, which is more than most oranges can say! I’m still better than all of them. Let that be a lesson to you . . . whatever you are. Seriously, that whole rapid decomposing bit is really starting to wear my last nerve . . . or maybe that’s the acid around us . . . either way, let that be a lesson. I’m the greatest thing you or anyone else will probably ever see and I still got eaten, so I guess what He said was true. All oranges get eaten; it’s all just a matter of time.

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Heads or Tails - Emily Walter Best of Web Nominee Poetry The church choir on Hickory sings on persistently, but only in the memories of old men and their wives— once the road that led everywhere, now feeds cows and their babes, and the town that lived and lost many breathes no longer = Like the Tasmanian tiger you are extinct, and Like her you died through no fault of your own, and Like Blanche Evers you are merely a picture here or there, and Like all tales of woe only Fate herself wins at the end of the day, and That is that

The faith, the joy and the love is solid as a stone in the antiqued minds of these long settled emigrants— yet one coin must have two sides and always there was Blanche and the story of the ghost in the long black trench coat = Cortez killed Montezuma and brought down the Aztecs— Railroads built towns wherever they went and left them dry when done— Families are murdered in their homes and then no one will buy them— Little Blanche is killed by a nameless man and her town evaporates— That is that

Rare are the children who possess the hearts of naïve saints, for never was there a prayer for her that came from herself; always the suffering who had her prayers—even that man, who became personified Sin to those who had daughters = Snow White sleeps in a world of experience, where the woods are unseen and untraceable and the prince longs for a pleasure of sort that takes children to overreached levels of intimacy and reaps them of the precious treasure that all snakes lust for—and never are they waked— That is that Nothing saddens the soul more than a dead lamb, as Blanche was the oldest mind in the sweetest of hearts who never carped, cried, or moaned over her humble living of toil and hurt, one with bad luck and a mother who showered in the blood of steers— hard living with prayers sung for by the voice of a choir and brutal endings that fit no child of any kind

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= The man who was a ghost and the girl who is a myth— The choir who praised God and the people who knew Wrath— The countdown of one-by-one and the families who sequenced it— The years that never stopped moving and the atrophy that ceased a community— The elegy that hides behind better memories and the select few that remain to hide such sad songs— I’m afraid that is that.

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Nostalgic Demise Caley Pennington

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Azure - Taylor Lea Hicks Best of Web Nominee Fiction He was tall, lean yet muscular, with hair so fair it was almost red. His eyes were shining marbles of light emerald, experts at seeing into her soul. He was not tan, but not pale; freckles dotted his skin in the oddest of places. She used to occupy herself with memorizing their locations, tracing the lines they formed on his body. She especially loved to feel the square angles of his jaw, the lanky way his face shaped, and his nose curved almost to a point. His hair was even thinner than hers, but not quite as soft; she often fell asleep with her fingers tangled in it. She always fought him to keep it long; he always taunted her by cutting it short. The first thing she fell in love with was his hair. She was shorter than he was, but not short for a girl. Her hair was many shades of golden burgundy and shoulder length; his fingers were entangled in her locks wherever they went. Her skin was velvet ivory, her eyes a dark azure of bottomless thought. He was always getting lost in her eyes. Her body was thin, but her face was curved, almost heart-shaped. He could never get enough of the curve of her face and the sway of her hips; to him, the way she walked was intoxicating. Every move she made was fluid and thoughtless, as if she stepped without realizing. He loved to watch her move, but, above all, he loved to watch the glint of her eyes. It was her eyes he first fell for. He lived by painting, she by writing. They never shared their work. It was an unspoken law between them that artists could not co-exist as artists − they could be lovers, nothing more. Regardless, for years he had been trying to paint her, something that could embody the soul she had in her. He could never create the right colors to paint her skin, her hair, her eyes. Those eyes goaded him into agony when he thought of how he could not paint them. It was his life’s task to recreate those eyes. A sign came to him one day. She chassed into the kitchen with her usual bounce, running her hands down the front of his shirt and laughing in his ear. “Guess what?” “You won Miss America.” He turned, his face to hers, smiling as he kissed her. “This is serious.” She twirled to land on his lap, her cerulean eyes still sparkling with laughter. “Alright.” He laced his fingers around her waist. “I’m all ears.” “I know we don’t usually talk about work . . .” she trailed off, biting her lip in such a seductive way that he was forced to kiss her neck. She giggled, pushing him away and holding his face in her hands. They sat, eye to eye, until he managed to pull his gaze away. She sighed and dropped her hands to her lap, occupying herself with the fringe on her shirt. “I know we don’t usually talk about work, but my editor just called. A big publishing company wants to publish my manuscript and they want to put me on a four week book tour.” “Woohoo!” He snatched her up in an embrace, spinning her around the room. “You’re happy?” “Of course! You’re finally getting the recognition you deserve.” They came full circle around the room, him propping her up on the counter and leaning into her. “You’ve earned this.” “But it’s four weeks.”

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“Yes.” “That’s a month.” “Yes, I can count. So?” “So?” She pushed him back and hopped off the counter. “We haven’t been apart for more than two days since we met.” “Well, then I say it’s about time you got away from me.”

Her lips twitched. “Can you please be serious for one second?” He swung his arms and exhaled, falling into her. “Alright, I’ve got my serious face on. Go.”

“You really think we can last that long?” She glanced up at him with those big sapphire irises, kissing his shoulder as she did so. “I think we can do anything we need to in order to make this happen for you,” he breathed in her ear. “So, please don’t over analyze.” She nodded and buried her head in his chest, his arms around her. They stayed locked in their embrace until she was called away by the ring of the telephone. She left the next morning on an early flight. A month. He had a month to paint her. A month before she would come back and catch him doing exactly what they had silently agreed not to do. A month to do what he never could. He began the next day, brushes and canvases strewn across the house. He painted for days, canvas after canvas, tube of paint after tube of paint. He tried numerous techniques, numerous styles. He painted through the night; he barely slept or ate. When three weeks were coming to a close, he had finally accomplished something. It was a smaller canvas than he usually used, lighter paint because he had almost used it all up and been forced to stretch his resources. His larger brush had snapped, so he had broken in the tiny detail brush he had set aside for another piece. He had tackled the eyes first instead of last; maybe that was what had caused this piece to actually work. It wasn’t finished, but it was definitely on its way. For the first time in weeks, he allowed himself a night off. He showered, cooked himself dinner, and plopped down in front of the TV. After knocking off the empty tubes and broken canvases, the couch made a lovely bed for his tired body. He was asleep in minutes. He had many dreams that night, unusual for one who hadn’t dreamt in years. Each dream was a different version of her. No matter which version he dreamt of, those eyes were the same, staring through him as if to scold him. Each nightmare was worse than the last. He awoke in a cold sweat at 4:27 in the morning. He was no longer on the couch but sprawled on the floor, strewn over the canvases and trash from the past weeks. Everywhere he looked were those eyes, gaping at him. They were in front of him, next to him, beneath him. He scrambled from the room into his studio, directly to the painting. He froze when the eyes met his; he was rooted to the spot as it studied him. It was exactly what he had always wanted, but it wasn’t quite complete. There was something . . .

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missing. It didn’t flicker with life as it should. He picked up his brush and dipped it in the paint.

She entered the house a week later, tumbling over paint cans and canvas shards. She dropped her suitcases in the living room and crept toward the studio, anxious and excited to see him. She would tell him how the month away had changed her mind; perhaps the two artists could live as one. She tapped on the door with a gentle pat and received no answer. She knocked more forcefully, but no sounds came from within. She checked the kitchen and the bedroom, even called his name, but the house was eerily silent. Evidence of weeks of painting littered the floors, meaning he must have passed out in his studio again. She had no choice but to enter. She slowly pushed the door open, thrusting aside bits of paper and broken brushes. Pictures were scattered across the floor; photos of her, of them together. The lights were dim and psychedelic, blues with reds with soft yellows. In the center of the room was a large silhouette concealed by a sheet, easel legs poking out underneath. She made her way to the structure, hand outstretched. With a swift tug, she uncovered the canvas. It was all over the second she met her own gaze.

He had been at his dealer’s office, attempting to bargain for his newly finished piece. He had to get it out of the house, out of his mind. It was all he could think about and all he could see; something about that painting was not right. Since he couldn’t bring himself to destroy it, the only thing he could do was sell it. The empty canvas shell of his wife could not reside so close to the real one. He could not allow it. Having lost all sense of time, he had no idea when she would return home; but if he hurried, he could revert the house back to normal before she arrived. Then, when she walked in, she would ask what he had been up to for the past four weeks, and he could reply “Work,” and that would be that. He had never been more thankful for their unspoken agreement. He walked through the door and immediately spotted her suitcases. He searched frantically for where she had gone, even peeking into her den. As he was returning to the living room, he passed his studio door, which he had left closed in some sort of reverence for his sorcerous piece; the door was now ajar. He felt the overpowering aura oozing past the cracked door, a touch of golden hair visible in the red and blue shadows. He threw the door open and almost threw her over. She didn’t move as he circled her, sprawled on the ground. Her eyes were lifeless, the spark gone from those cobalt pools. Her skin was no longer an even ivory, her hair a dead tan color. It was as if her very soul had left. As if . . . He spun around as if on a turntable, hesitant to lift his eyes to the cover he knew wasn’t there. He met the shimmering eyes straight on. They were no longer the eyes of a close imitation. They were her eyes, her skin, her hair, her smile. He could see her soul straight through them, fixed in a cage of paint strokes and fabric. He had fashioned her prison with his very fingertips.

The police found him days later, clinging to her dead body in the very spot she had discovered herself.

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He was arrested, but the investigators couldn’t pinpoint the cause of death. It was as if the life had simply left her. When asked to give his testimony, he told the truth as well as he could fathom it. He was easily declared insane and checked into an institute for artistic souls. After a few years, the case was closed, no more evidence having surfaced. Azure, as the painting was eventually called, sold for half a million dollars. As his last painting, it also became his most successful. It was his life’s work, his pride, his agony, his love. He cried for her each night, cried for his painting. He wanted nothing more than to see it once more; to see her. It was his masterpiece.

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Lunar Eclipse over Soviet America Aaron Paul Riley Poetry

I watched a lunar eclipse in Soviet America— Watched as the world moved between fire and rock, And amendments to law killed freedom more With each tick of the clock And the kings of the world ushered in global perestroika. Darkness flooded the night as the fight broke out In New York and LA. Bloody boys and crying women Raised insurrection and sprouted a stem Of faith and hope in east, west North, south. The second revolution of mind and heart In the New World, similar to the one that started This lowering of the Iron Curtain of law over a free world. The playwrights fed from a reserve of lies Ideas of wealth, freedom, and mass produced goods To an impoverished lower class, while secretly they sat On thrones of glory and shining ivory and watched As the masses slaved and the middle class danced To overtake the lords and sit in their place enthronedAn endless cycle of births and deaths of the conglomerate greed Was just the distraction needed to enslave and maintain Power and wealth, and to create a world of law without Law, Where nothing is free but “nothing is wrong!” I saw On this night the dying light of the glorious moon in her abode above, And on this same evening the Tower of Babel of Marxist kings Came crashing down! to the earth in a pile of dollar bills and toxic assets. I saw the next evening a sliver of hope among the stars As old men together with youths danced for joy at the end of war: Swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, And a reawakening to Nature and freedom and creative thought! As the drug fog clears, the moon reappears and we all sit On rocks around the bonfire of burning flags. The eclipse stole away the senators’ play, And evil riches returned to beautiful, hand-sewn rags.

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Liberty Best of Web Nominee Marcus Holder

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Situation on a Staircase - Matt Martens Best of Web Nominee Scriptwriting SCENE ONE (Two characters approach a staircase. One is at the top. One is at the bottom. They both stand at their respective edge.) TOP: Why hello there. I see you are about to use the stairs. BOTTOM: Yes. In fact I am about to use these stairs. You see, my apartment is just beside you there, in the door labeled with the number 5 just above it. TOP: I see. That is most interesting. BOTTOM: I do wonder, what is it that you find so interesting about the fact that I live on the other side of the door beside you with the 5 just about it? TOP: Well, you see, I’ve only just moved here. It’s quite interesting that I should get to meet you now, as it it appears we are neighbors. My new apartment is positioned directly next to yours, just through that door behind me with the 6 above it. BOTTOM: My my! Interesting indeed. It’s so lovely to meet a stranger that is now my neighbor. I should love to shake your hand, as it is a custom around here to shake the hand of someone whom you have only just met. TOP: Well, that sounds like an excellent idea. I am familiar with this ritual, as it is one people also practice where I have just moved from. BOTTOM: Then, shake we shall! (TOP and BOTTOM both head towards the center of the staircase. BOTTOM now stands two steps below TOP who is two steps above BOTTOM. They shake hands.) TOP: Ah yes, this reminds me of home. Oh! How silly of me. This is now my home. I should have said it reminds me of the place I formerly called home. BOTTOM: Oh, ha ha. Do not worry. I will not tell anyone that you have made a fool out of yourself. I find no fault in your minor lexical error, and thus, I find no fault in you as a person. TOP: That is reassuring to hear. (They continue to shake hands without speaking for a moment. They stop shaking hands.) TOP: Well, thank you for the greeting as well as the hand shake. If you don’t mind, I should like to continue on my way. I was just about to retrieve some items from my car that actually belong in my new apartment. It is still quite barren as I have only just moved in a few moments ago. BOTTOM: Why yes, that does sound important. I do see a minor problem, however, as I am trying to go up these stairs and enter my apartment. My child is inside, and it is an optimal time for him to eat dinner. I should

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hate for him to go hungry much longer, not to mention that I myself am also quite hungry and would like to eat dinner with my son. However, all of this is hard to do because you are standing in my way on this staircase. TOP: I see. Well, that does seem equally important to my own concern. If I were hungry, and my child was hungry, I believe I, too, would want to get into my home as quickly as possible and prepare food for the both of us. BOTTOM: I am glad that you are so understanding of my situation. Since you are so familiar with my feelings, I would ask that you retreat back up the stairs, so that there is then room for me to pass. TOP: Oh. Oh goodness. Now you see, sir, if this were any other circumstance, I may take you up on your offer. But, if I were to go up the stairs, it would only put me further away from my car, which is where my possessions are stored. The only thing up the stairs is my empty apartment behind the door with the number 6 above it. BOTTOM: I’m not sure that I follow. TOP: I shall explain in more detail. The items that I use to survive, such as my bed, my clothes, my microwave, my utensils, my pots and pans, my food, and my beverage. Inside my house, I have none of these things. If I go up these stairs, I would go into a home that I could not survive in, as it does not contain all of the items I require to survive. BOTTOM: The alternative would then be what? Am I to retreat down the stairs? TOP: I do believe so, yes. BOTTOM: This would, just as you’ve described, deprive me of what I require to live. Inside my house are all of my possessions. My bed, my clothes, my microwave and oven, my utensils, my pots and pans, as well as the food I intend to cook and serve myself and my son are all up these stairs as opposed to down. TOP: In essence, sir, you are asking me to evaluate your life as more important than mine by requesting my returning up the stairs to allow you to pass. BOTTOM: Are you not, by that same logic, also asking me to evaluate your life as higher than mine by requesting me to return down the stairs and allowing you to pass? TOP: I am higher than you on the stairs, so, according to your wording, I believe I would say yes. BOTTOM: Your logic relies simply on the specific words I chose, not in the inherent meaning those words contained. If you do not start to make sense soon, I would be forced to ignore your presence in the future and shield my son from your influence. TOP: You say that assuming either of us ever get off of this staircase, which, at present moment, seems quite unlikely. BOTTOM: Quite. (A boy walks through the door of apt. 5.) BOY: Jesus Christ, Dad. Just walk down the fucking stairs, stop, wait for him to walk away, then come up the stairs. You do this every day. TOP: You have raised quite an intelligent son.

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BOTTOM: So it would seem. (BOTTOM begins to walk down the stairs, TOP follows closely behind.) BOY: (Heading back inside.) Everyone around here is fucking crazy. I wanna go live with mom. (Lights out.)

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Nighttime Life Callie Blair France

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With Friends Like These - Jessica Summers Best of Web Nominee Fiction

Dear Jackie – Oh, Jacklyn, it’s a wondrously dreadful place we live in. All these poor lonely people walking among us. Sure, the doctors talk with them and walk with them, but they always seem to be two steps behind. And that’s no pun at all. They’re always following my neighbors with silly inane questions, like “How are you today?” and “What kind of dreams did you have last night?” It’s no wonder Mr. Kaufmann gets so antsy – always with the blighted questions and never any answers . . . Mr. Kaufmann is a nice man, really. I went to visit him today in the lunchroom. They served up chicken and mashed potatoes again on those horrible little trays where nothing is even. As if we were children again. But Mr. Kaufmann is too smart – that kind of stupid could never get past his raggedy white hair and cockeyed blues. He reminds me of Grandpa, really, a kindly old man with a treasure trove of secrets who shakes a lot. Anyway, he pulled me to his table and told me a secret. Made me promise not to tell a soul because, (as he so eloquently put in bravado) it could “destroy the foundation of society.” He’s a very funny man. No secret can actually do that, can it? He tells me that this whole program we’re in is a government conspiracy. Like I said, he’s hilarious. He claims that there’s mind control chips in the pills, and that, by tarnation, if he had it his way, there’d be only four food groups: beans, bacon, beer, and a good ol’ fashioned can of American whoop-ass. I didn’t know they sold that kind of thing in cans. I wonder what it would taste like, or if the cans are recyclable . . .

Jennifer – it’s a hospital. Doctors follow everybody around here. It’s not supposed to be some magical fantastical land where lollipops grow on trees and get handed out for free. Plus, you think that everybody looks sad when they’re not talking to you. We’ve been over this a million times – people’s faces tend to be set on “MEH” by default. It’s nothing personal against you, but the other patients here have a lot more to worry about than trying to make friends. Worries like “Will I get better soon?” and “When will the doctors come back with the answers I need?” Questions you’ve been trying to avoid by attempting to make friends with said strangers. Don’t deny it. We both know the methods you use to delay the inevitable. Don’t worry so much. The doctors say we’re both doing fine, so that’s a good thing. They think that us writing to each other is very productive in helping us heal. So, no worries: we still have each other for the moment. I do worry about you being friends with Brian Kaufmann, though. Need I remind you the man was a POW who worked for the Special Forces, and claims to have gathered intel for the CIA while being tortured during the war. He’s not just broken – he’s an unstable live wire. The man thinks EVERYTHING is a conspiracy. Hell, he honestly thinks that the doctors here are communists simply because they won’t provide him any alcohol to drown his sorrows in. Your grandfather was a soldier, true enough, but at least he was reasonable. Heaven forbid they ever meet in the afterlife. I think Brian would only be met with – (oh, what did he call it that one time?. . .) - “a sucker punch of righteousness”. Seriously, this is the nonsense you buy on an annual basis . . . FYI, silly girl, the whoop-ass is real. The cans never were. Dear Jackie – you know me so well. In a lonely world such as ours, I’m glad to have a dear friend such as you to talk about things like this with. I will admit, it’s been a little scary to be in a place where I don’t know

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anybody. Hence why I simply call them neighbors; there’s no obligation for friendship, but the courtesy doesn’t hurt either. Besides, the doctors tell me there’s always a chance that we’ll find another friend to join our club. Oh, how I’ve always wanted a third Musketeer! There is one thing that troubles me, though: I don’t seem to remember how I got here. I keep asking the doctors about it, but all they’ll tell me is that it doesn’t matter HOW I came here – just that I’m here now. They tell me you’re doing just fine. And yet, they won’t let me see you or tell me where your room is, or even what floor you’re on. We’re only allowed to write, and some contact is better than none at all, they say. It makes me sad, really. My one true friend is somewhere in this building, and no one seems to want to help me reach her. To reach you. So sad for Mr. Kaufmann, too. I tried talking to him again today. Asked him if he knew Grandpa back in his war days, but he gave me this look like I’d just killed a kitten. He just kept backing away from me with his back to the wall, eyes never leaving my face as he pointed and yelled at me: “I knew it – you’re a spy! Who sent you? How much did they tell you?!” I guess one of the nurses pressed a button or something because suddenly all these doctors just kept pouring in through the doors. A couple had these odd-looking medical tools with some kind of clear liquid in it, and they kept crowding around him, just creeping closer to Mr. Kaufmann as he accused everybody of being in on the conspiracy. Asking us what we wanted from him. Begging for us to let him go. He looked so scared, like a beaten puppy huddled in a corner, but his eyes were so far away that I didn’t know if he was really there or somewhere else. And all I did was stand there while they put him to sleep and carried him away, strapped on a rolling bed. I don’t know what I did exactly, but I feel like I just ruined the only chance I had for a third-party friendship. I know you said he was broken, but to think that something I said may have caused him more pain is almost unbearable. And it makes me hurt for him. All I wanted was to get to know a little more about him, maybe help him feel better and not quite as lonely in the world. That’s what friends are supposed to do, right? But some friend I am. Instead of helping him, I go and open my big fat mouth, driving him to Crazy Town. Well, closer to it, anyway. So, I guess this means our potential third friend slot will have to stay empty until further notice . . . if only it were easier to make friends. Good thing we always have each other. And on the bright side, at least Mr. Kaufmann doesn’t think he’s an orange yet.

Jennifer – I worry about you sometimes. I know you want to make friends, but this is EXACTLY why I warned you about being friends with Brian. That’s not to say that your concern for him isn’t admirable. In fact, it’s actually a rare quality to find in the world nowadays, since people are generally selfish by nature. You’ve always viewed the world with an innocence only comparable with a child, the kind of optimism that people often lose as they grow older. It’s a state of mind that you strived to maintain, and one I vowed to help protect in the past. But we both know that this tends to read as altruism to a fault, and, unfortunately, this means that your goodhearted nature is bound to be taken advantage of. Again, not that it’s a bad thing. Not necessarily. My point was simply that I wanted you to be cautious about the people you let in. Contrary to popular belief, life is not a fairy tale. Even flowers have their thorns, and some creatures only live for the hunt. But as much as Brian’s beastly demeanor troubles me, I am sorry that you had to see him like that. I’m not sure if the main reason for my concern was made clear to you or not, but a big part of the reason why he’s a conspiracy theorist is because he has a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Rumors around the hospital include tales that he was tortured by spies during interrogations, thus why the doctors only ask those “silly, inane questions” to avoid any violent memory triggers. That, and there’s the one story going around where he supposedly once killed a guy with a napkin. Can you imagine it: some random guy getting a napkin (of all things) shoved down his throat just for spilling ice cold water on him. By ACCIDENT, even! I’m not

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quite sure how much of those stories are true, but if it’s anything like what people have told me about him, I’m keeping my guard up for both our sakes. Hopefully it’s just hallway gossip, and you’re not getting yourself worked up over a murderous madman. And hey, if it makes you feel any better, it’s not very likely that he would ever consider himself an orange – he looks too much like a prune. Still, another friend isn’t a bad idea. After all, making a new friend was one of the steps the doctors suggested we take as part of the healing process. So, I did us both a favor and made a friend for you. And before you ask, no, I’m not leaving you another doll like I did when we were ten. Remember that we’re supposed to be adults now. We came here to better your future, not dwell in the past. Do you remember that first night we came here, and you told me about hearing mysterious piano music being played? Every night since we’ve been here, at nine o’clock sharp, Debussy seems to echo in the hallways, lingering like a lullaby. It’s always baffled people where the songs came from, but since it helps the patients go to sleep at night, the doctors never bothered to remedy it. More likely, they felt it didn’t need one. So while you were napping, I decided to search for this “Mystery Musician.” And wouldn’t you know, she lives just down the hall from where you are? Her name is Annabelle May, and she’s another patient here. A trauma victim, just like us. Can you believe it? And when I introduced myself to her and explained our situation, she was very understanding. Very courteous and accepting. I think you’d really like her. You’ll never have to worry about being a chatterbox around her; she’s a very good listener and extremely patient. Of course, it could also be because she’s mute and talks via dry-erase board, but that doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we’ve found you a new friend. Someone new to talk to. But in return for finding this new friend, there is one favor I need to ask of you. A promise I need you to make: don’t try to find me. I am well aware of your wishes to put a face to a name, and it would be mutual if this were any other case of living as lifelong pen-pals. However, regardless of the fact that we have never seen each other face-to-face (and probably never will), you would do well to remember that our friendship was founded in mystery from the very beginning. Please believe me when I say that this is for your benefit, not mine, and any attempt to find me may destroy the magic of what we have. So, for my sake, try to enjoy our new friend’s company and our letters for the time we have left. Believe it or not, there may soon come a day when you might not need me so much. And when that happens, you’ll still have me in your heart while you live your life freely . . .

Dear Jackie – you were right: Annie is a treasure. She’s been so nice to me, the nicest anyone has treated me (besides you, of course). A bit quiet, perhaps, but you kinda told me to expect that. Not at all like Mr. Kaufmann. Word is he’s still in solitary, so needless to say I haven’t seen much of him lately. But there were so many details that you left out! For shame! You didn’t tell me her room was so amazing, all decked out in music sheets and paper cranes, or that the piano just sits there by the foot of her bed. Seriously! She’s got the longest flowing copper hair and prettiest shade of hazel eyes that I’ve ever seen on a human being. She looks so much like a porcelain baby doll, it’s hard to believe God actually made her that way! At any rate, we’ve been talking quite a lot lately, mostly about you. Namely about how your last letter really confused me. I knew you liked riddles, but this last one seemed a little off. The way you wrote it towards the end, it almost sounded like you might be dying. Are you sick? You’re not on a deathbed somewhere, are you? I know you asked me not to find you, but if you really are at Death’s door, I’m not sure if I can keep that promise. I don’t want you to die. You are my dearest friend, and my lifelong protector. You know how I get about lonely people. I couldn’t bear the thought of letting you die all alone. No one deserves to die like that. I tried asking Annie if she would help me find your room, but she seemed a bit hesitant. She furiously scribbled on her little white board, saying that she didn’t think you were dying at all, that she just saw you last week and that you were just fine. She told me that you wanted me to be happy and that you’re just worried

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about me. But that’s silly – lately, I’ve been more worried about you. After all, the last letter you sent me sounded more like the beginning of a last rite statement. It doesn’t make any sense. How could I not need you? You’re the first friend I ever had. Granted, my memories of our time together are blurry, but I still have all the letters you sent me, and I remember the little handmade dolls you used to make for me and leave by my bedside. It makes me feel terrible that I can’t remember your face, that all I have of you are just mementos. Please, my friend, let me find you. Please let me see you one last time. If it really is your last moment on Earth, I want to be right beside you when you go . . . Jennifer – I love you, but you’re an idiot. Have you not listened to anything that anyone has told you? I am not dying in a ditch somewhere. I don’t have terminal cancer. I’m not failing the healing program in any shape or form. I AM PERFECTLY FINE. And you are overreacting. Seriously! Don’t you “for shame” me! For shame on you! I’ve spoken with Annabelle, and, quite frankly, she’s more than a little worried about you. Before you wore her out with your irrational fears and vigilance, I warned her that you might try and pull some cockamamie scheme to scour the hospital for me and that you might be a little emotional concerning my absence. But it seems you have far exceeded my expectations. So, congratulations: it seems you are quickly becoming the crazy shadow lady who speaks to the dead. A little further down the rabbit hole, and you’ll be able to wear that special jacket with all the belts on it. Now look. You don’t have to find me in order to remember our friendship. I am not so shallow as to begrudge you for not knowing certain moments of your life. Besides, what you don’t remember are things I can easily fill in for you if you need me to. But you can’t depend on me forever; that’s what got us into this mess in the first place. It’s why we’re here. I want you to be able to live a life the way you want, not as a dependent upon my existence. Most of the decisions life throws at you shouldn’t be up to me. No matter what happens, we’ll still have each other, always will. And I don’t plan on leaving you forever; technically speaking, I am always with you. Just not in the way you think I am. For the last time, PLEASE. If you care ANYTHING about our friendship, about the healing process, and, most importantly, about your own state of mind, you will stop this foolish manhunt. I beg of you and ask you this only to protect you. If you continue to pry, you might find answers you’re not ready for, and I’m still not sure you can handle the truth just yet. Until you are truly ready, please let the healing process run its course. Just be patient, and I promise I’ll tell you everything. I swear it . . .

Dear Jackie – right now I am very hurt, and you have a lot of explaining to do.

I know you were trying to quell the whole thing, but the letter you sent me only sounded more suspicious than the last one. I knew you were hiding something. I could feel it in my gut. All night, I couldn’t help but remember all those times when you wrote to me about the people I knew. The looks on their faces when I asked them about you later. Those dumbfounded, slack-jawed, wide-eyed looks as if I was a monster on parade. They haunted me all night, taunting me. They knew something. They ALL knew it, and no one ever had the nerve to tell me about it. Not even the doctors. They just danced around my questions like they were things I should have already had the answer to. There was nothing in my head but all these thoughts just running together, set on repeat. It made me sick. I was so sick and tired of the lies. And I still am. Because I knew something was wrong, I knew I had to find the answer. So, tonight I went for a walk down all the corridors, passing all the rooms on each floor. I heard nothing but my heartbeat and the echo of my footsteps. I felt nothing but hurt and the lump in my throat. When I couldn’t find your name anywhere, I remember crying a bit. But I don’t recall if my tears were cold or warm – only wet. I don’t know how long I searched for you, or how long I ran. All I know is that I eventually stumbled upon Mr. Kaufmann, all bundled in the cushioned room with the window slot right open. He just kept looking at me with these crazy eyes, head

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tilted to the side, asking what I was doing there and out so late at night. I told him I was looking for you. That we’d been friends for so long, and that I never got to see your face the whole time I was here. Only able to write letters. Those blasted, stinking letters! He tells me that it sounds like I’ve got a conspiracy on my hands. That it might be one of those public secrets that people know, but never talk about because I’m the one the conspiracy’s about. And then he tells me that maybe, just maybe, this Jacklyn person never existed at all. I heard footsteps behind me, and turned around to find Annie holding up a sign with your name on it. It had a question mark at the end, and she was looking at me like she thought I was you. I told her that my name was Jenny, not Jacklyn. Her eyes went wide and she turned really pale. For the first time in years, sound came out of her mouth but no words. She sounded afraid, like somebody caught in an awkward situation with no idea what to say about it. She rushed her writing long enough to say “I’m sorry” before running off in the other direction, back towards her room. Mr. Kaufmann simply returned to his sleeping corner, muttering his I-toldyou-so’s as he went back to sleep. What the hell is going on here? Who are you? What are you?! Are you the reason I’m here?! You better tell me the truth because there’s no turning back now. Answer me, or, so help me God, I will end this once and for all!

Jennifer – I was hoping you wouldn’t have to find out like this, but then again I never knew a good way to reacquaint us formally or address the dilemma at hand. Honestly, there was just no good way to go about it. I mean, how does one really go about a topic like this? “Hi, I’m Jacklyn. I’m your alter ego posing as an imaginary friend who’s actually the mental leech causing the blackouts in your memory.” Yeah, I’m pretty sure that your ten-year-old self would’ve had a heart attack. So, let me explain. Remember when you were getting beat up by all those kids in the playground who called you a freak, and then all of a sudden you were standing over them and their bloody noses? That was me. Remember when you lacked a date for the prom and then, out of nowhere, you were the girlfriend of Danny Torres, the most popular guy in school? That was me, too. Any time you’ve had a blank spot in your memory was essentially a time when I was there to save you from falling. Or at least try to. Nobody’s perfect. If anything, we might be the farthest thing from it. You see, the doctors say that we have a condition known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID. It was once more commonly known as Split Personality Disorder. It’s a broad term, but I’ll paint it like this so you understand the situation. Normally, when people have troubles, they come in the form of a lemon. The natural response is to deal with it, make the best of it, and make lemonade. In cases like ours, the lemon is simply cut in half and left there. Just two halves of what should be a whole left to fester in their own existences. That lemon is us. When things got really rough for us, we split into two completely different people. Now for a time, yes, I liked being able to leave you notes, to make you aware that I existed. I figured that if people were their own worst enemies, that I could at least try to be your best friend. It was the least you deserved, after all the crap you put up with. But over the years, I watched you devolve. You became more dependent on my letters, shut yourself away from the world, and sank into a depression so deep that I had to be in control most of the time. And oh, how your neighbors whispered. Talks of you losing your mind and will to live. The last week that we lived outside the hospital, you didn’t leave your house for five days, and the police were called in the sixth because the neighbors thought you died. It was then I realized that I wasn’t helping you live your life – I was hindering it, allowing you to fade into complacency. And so, when the police left, I promptly marched us over to the closest mental health facility and checked

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us in. Told them not to let us out until we finished our treatment and were completely healed. They put you on antidepressants, and we were given the assignment of writing each other to jump-start the mental-meshing process. It’s a fact I know you probably hate me for now, but please believe me when I tell you that although I withheld my origins, I never once lied about any feelings between us. I have only ever wanted what was best for you, and, in your youth, it was protection you needed. But you are an adult now. It is I who have grown, while you clung onto the innocence of your former self. But you need the chance to grow, too, and put the past behind you. It is time to let go, my dear friend. It is time for us to heal. And if I must sacrifice myself to help you do so, so be it. As long as you recognize how much I care for you. And always will . . .

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George: An Experimental Burned Portrait Series Rachel Dawn Oliver

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Gray Disappointment - Wells Thompson Best of Web Nominee Poetry I was in search of what Cannot be found if you look And came across something perfect Save for one, small detail

As much as I hoped, it was not Something that could be overlooked Or that faded away with breaths exchanged But that lingered, throbbing in nights embraces

Still, hearts intertwined while bodies separated Grasps tightened, but we, but were restrained— Like a Splinter In my mind She was always there, as were her suppressions

So what should I have done In the Gray between love and instinct? What else but run and shatter her? To turn my head back in guilt

With my eyes filled with ex’s and why’s And her glances returning the same

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A Rut - Alissa Michelle Sexton Fiction

Lashes flecked with dust. Actually, bits of flower that drip down from your nostrils, musty from the yellow fairytale pages they were meant to live in. You smoke your pipe, moving on to brighter things than cigarettes. You’d like to close your eyes. Sleep, sleep, sleep, and allow all of it to just melt away into disassociation. If only you had originated in a child’s dream. Then maybe you’d be forgiven. Puff. Not much to say except the girl is standing next to the window, and I think she may jump out and you may just be so, so tired that you’re going to let her. Goodness. She’s going to do it. . . . and you grasp her wrist. Her shrills are issued from an antique radio that she’s had ever since she started being a little girl. You’ve dropped the pipe because it has become boring and you’re going on to bigger and better things. But that time was cool, you guess, when you smoked your pipes, but now you’ve moved on to bigger and better things . . . So now you like to smoke hookah. And you’ve tried all the different flavors enough times that there’s really nothing new but you sit there in that rocking chair, the one that her dad told her that he loved her in right before he killed himself. You press the mouthpiece to your lips and suck. She’s telling you that she’s going to jump out the window, and you may just let her, her cornflower hair thrashing about until she splatters her shell’s contents on the ground. You’re okay, you’re okay, and she may just jump out the window and now she’s screaming and maybe you’ll just let her because you’ve done this so many times and it’s just getting old. You tug her away, and she allows you to tug without fighting because this has happened so many times and it just doesn’t fucking matter does it? Because she knows that one day you’re not going to pull her, maybe, so she waits . . . and the window remains open and the wind blows her slip upwards and reveals her knobby patchwork legs and you’re laying on the floor naked in the house that she inherited from her father who shot himself in that chair with the squeaky rock. The days roll on, and you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself, besides smoking and keeping her from jumping out the window, so you occasionally try to fix the squeak but give up. And it squeaks.

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And it squeaks. And she tries to jump out the window and you consider letting her. But you can’t. It squeaks. The radioshow airs. You decide to take up a new habit. So now you’re smoking pot and that’s nice and all, but you’re running out of things to do and that makes you kind of nervous, so you stand outside the house and you’re naked. You need someone to see you. You hope somebody catches you and shakes some sense into you and tells you that you don’t have to keep saving the girl, but there’s nobody who knows that besides you and even you don’t know that. You do, but you know other things, too, and really knowing those other things is much more preferable because do you really want to let her jump out the window? You know that if you don’t catch her, she’ll find someone else to catch her, and then she’ll find another, and then she’ll find another, and another, and another, and another. So you take a slow drag of the joint and you just look straight ahead and hope that maybe the smoke will fill your lungs up until you’re inflated like a balloon. Then you won’t have to think about her tricking you into moving into the house where her father shot himself in the rocking chair on his porch. You stomp the joint to the ground and you walk past the chair that squeaks and you go out to her father’s pond, the one that he loved so much because the fish always favored his line, and you go in. You wonder if the fish will nip at your feet. You secretly hope that’s the case because it’s been a while since you’ve noticed sensations, since your skin responded to something other than nerves and her piano hands gliding over you as payment. The girl is probably jumping out the window back home, but that’s not your problem so you just start to swim. And you swim. And you swim. You go far. You forgot you were going. You can’t help but laugh, and a smile forces the sides of your mouth to wrinkle. Perfect. It’s so perfect. The lake becomes you, dripping into your nose, your eyes, your mouth. That man is sewn into your flesh – his beard, and his death, and the way he laughed when he never really should have. It’s all there. Back home, she may have left. Maybe she is splattered on the ground, grotesque flesh, rancid and sticky, broken hipbones lying about. Maybe that is the case. Or maybe she has walked off because she hates you, and you were a bastard, and one day she will come back. She will hurt you once again. But for now, you are in the lake. It is clear and there are little fishes underneath you, and at least there is something alive except for the girl, and the window, and the habits. You think that someday she will drown you because she tries to all the time, almost every day now. She is the huntress. The victim. She professes her love for you daily, but she’d never catch you if you jumped.

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The Gift of Muggles - Chase Night Best of Web Winner Nonfiction I only did it because I was hungry. Isn’t that how most crimes begin? Without a real choice? I was out of options. Everything I owned of value was already gone, sold outright or locked up in the pawn shop, waiting for the magical day when I found a job that paid enough to set them free. My fiancee’s ring. My dead grandpa’s watch. The camcorder I’d been using to make silly movies since high school. The flat-screen TV my parents gave me for Christmas. I’d managed to pay the rent and keep the lights on for another month, but if I didn’t buy groceries soon, next month would be a moot point. So I did it. I put up an ad on Craiglist and waited for someone to bite. It didn’t take long. We agreed to meet at the Barton Creek Mall in the immense, shadeless parking lot behind Nordstrom’s. I waited in my car with the engine off to save precious fuel. The thermometer in my dashboard claimed it was 108º. My shirt stuck to my back. Streams of liquid anxiety slid down my ribs and into the band of my boxers. The buyer texted that she was five minutes away. I couldn’t believe what I was about to do. How had my life come to this? I was a good kid. A smart kid. A hard-working kid. But it had been two months since my last paycheck from the job that gas prices wouldn’t allow me to keep. I lived in Austin. The office was in New Braunfels, forty miles away on one of the most clogged stretches of I-35. I was spending half of what I earned on the commute. So, I quit because I literally could not afford to get to work. I assumed I could always find temp jobs, but days went by without a call back from any of the agencies I had sent my resumé to. Weeks passed, and the phone only rang to let me know I was behind on my bills. And now here I was stealing from my children to feed myself. In my defense, these children were not even conceived yet, but the fact remained that I had been saving something special to share with them one day when they did exist, and now I was selling it to a stranger in a parking lot for a lousy sixty bucks. My phone rang. The buyer was here. Parked by the entrance where everyone could see. Just in case I was a serial killer and not a broke-ass twenty-something selling all seven hardcover Harry Potter books. I stacked the books – all in pristine condition, no pages bent, no corners stained with chocolate or cheese puff dust – gently on one arm, leaned them against my chest, held them there like a sleeping toddler with my free arm. The long walk toward Nordstrom’s began. I worried that my sweat was seeping into the covers of the books. I hoped that it was, hoped to give this woman some reason to turn me down. She was waiting by the back hatch of a beige minivan when I crested the lot. She was in her late thirties or early forties. Maybe old enough to be my mom, or maybe as little as a decade older than me. All I knew about her so far was that she had a ten year-old son who loved to read. She smiled when she saw me approaching with the books. She took them one by one from my arms, inspecting them in order of publication, and then setting each one gently in a box in the back of her van. The Sorceror’s Stone. The Chamber of Secrets. The Prisoner of Azkaban. The Goblet of Fire. It wasn’t until she picked up The Order of the Phoenix that I felt the lump in the throat. That was the first book I bought at a midnight release. That was the book my cousin and I took turns reading over the course of three days in our college apartment. Then there was The Half-Blood Prince which I devoured alone in a motel room in Corpus Christi during a very bad time. Finally, The Deathly Hallows went into the box. My arms were empty. The woman asked why I was selling them; had I outgrown them? Never, I said. I told her I had lost my job. Her husband had, too. It had been much longer than two months for him. Her son’s birthday was the following day. For weeks, she had been telling him not to expect very much; there simply wasn’t anything to spare. He took the news like a man. Never whined. Never asked for a thing. It broke her heart. When she saw the ad for my books, she knew it was just the thing. She sold pieces of jewelry until she had enough. He was worrying about such grown-up things; she just wanted him to get lost in another world for a little while. I assured her that he would. She closed the hatch. Promised he was the sort of boy who took care of his things, as though I were

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giving her a box of puppies and not inanimate objects. She gave me three crumpled twenty dollar bills, wished she could give me more. I just hoped that he enjoyed them as much as I had. She asked if she could give me a hug. I can’t remember her face now, but I will always remember that hug. Two sweaty strangers in a parking lot during the loneliest days of our lives. Two years later, I stood in a line around the corner from that parking lot with my girlfriend and our two best friends, holding tickets to the 1 a.m. showing of The Deathly Hallows, Part II. I had fantasies about seeing that woman, knowing her face again as soon as I saw it, but they didn’t come true. Even so, I saw him in the face of every pre-teen boy wearing Harry Potter 3D glasses that night, the boy whose mother had bought my future son’s birthright so I could buy enough cans of soup to live another month. In the end, I realized it doesn’t matter if my children read the exact same copies of the books that I had. We can buy new ones together, imprint them with our own memories. And when they ask why I don’t already own them if I love them so much, I will tell them this story about two ordinary humans who could not rely on magic to solve their problems so they relied on each other instead. It’s the best memory of those books that I have.

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Wish Best of Web Winner Caley Pennington

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Where there’s a will, there’s a waY - lauren fox best of web nominee scriptwriting

SCENE ONE (AT RISE: SALLY KANE, 26, and her husband, ROGER, 35, enter an old-fashioned and over-furnished sitting room dressed for winter weather. By their clothes you can tell it is sometime in the 1930s-early 40s. The door they enter through is on the far left. On the back wall there is a small couch and a bar, and, in front of them, are various chairs and side tables with knick-knacks on them.) SALLY: (Speaking to someone offstage.) Thank you. Can you tell Aunt Emily we’ve arrived? ROGER: (Helps SALLY out of her coat.) I’ll never get used to having honest-to-God servants around. It’s so Edwardian. SALLY: You should have been around when she still had a butler. (ROGER lays her coat on the back of a nearby chair, and does the same with his own. SALLY moves around the room, absentmindedly fiddling with the various objects on tables. Clocks, photographs, etc.) SALLY: I just can’t believe Ernest is dead. I just can’t believe it. ROGER: Heart attack at fifty-two. It’s terribly tragic. A week before Christmas, too. SALLY: (Rolls her eyes.) Roger, stop pretending like you’re sorry he’s dead. You barely knew him. And nobody liked him anyway. He was a terrible snob. ROGER: (Looks around the room nervously.) Sally! SALLY: What? Nobody’s listening. Nobody’s here. We’re half an hour early. ROGER: Yes, but your great-aunt could walk in any minute! SALLY: No, she won’t. She’ll make us sweat it for at least fifteen minutes. It’s psychology. It’s supposed to intimidate us or something. ROGER: I don’t think she needs any assistance with that. (Lowers voice.) Are you sure she called you all here about the will? SALLY: (Still speaking at normal volume.) Of course! What else could it be? And honestly, it’s useless. She’s going to give it all to Matthew. ROGER: It’s not like we couldn’t use that money, Sal. Please be polite to her tonight. It couldn’t hurt. SALLY: If I wanted to butter her up I would have left you at home, husband dear. She can’t stand the sight of you. Your problem is you never stand up to her. She sees it as a sign of weak character.

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ROGER: Your cousin, Matthew, doesn’t hesitate from telling her his mind, and she hates him, so . . . SALLY: Oh, that’s all an act! She secretly dotes on him. Thinks he’s just like her. And he is! Spiteful, petty, selfish(Her voice is getting increasingly louder.) ROGER: Sally, please! (Looks around the room again.) SALLY: Well, I just think it’s the absolute most for her to summon us all here to jockey for her favor when her son has just died! It’s macabre! It’s obscene! ROGER: It’s her money. Do you think Matthew will even show up? SALLY: Of course he will, the snake. I’m so glad I never let Aunt Emily talk me into marrying him! ROGER: (Rolls his eyes.) Not this again, please. SALLY: Well, it’s true! Don’t look at me like that, you know how old world Aunt Emily is. She sees herself as some kind of noble European monarch, keeping the bloodlines pure. (She waves her hands in a nonchalant way.) We’re not even actually related. My father was a stepchild, so we’re not even really Herrons. Anyway, I would never marry someone like him. ROGER: No wonder she hates me. I don’t suppose she can brag much about the son of a bank clerk and a secretary marrying into the illustrious Herron clan. SALLY: Well, she told me during our engagement party that she’s never trusted good-looking people because everything comes too easy for them. Then she said: (Affecting a posh, almost British accent.) ‘Well, at least he doesn’t come from money, so one has to assume he’s worked hard at something.’ ROGER: Good Lord. So, if I was uglier, she would be more inclined to like me? SALLY: More or less, yes. ROGER: (Glancing furtively around the room again, this time in an exaggerated, comical way.) Hurry, there may still be time to draw on a few unsightly moles. Did you bring your make-up bag with you? (They both start laughing, and then stop as they hear a knock and muffled voices from beyond the door.) SALLY: (Begins patting her hair and straightening her dress.) Oh, do I look alright?

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ROGER: (Sarcastically.) Good enough for Matthew, I suppose. SALLY: Roger, don’t forget(ROGER mimics zipping his mouth shut. MATTHEW HERRON enters. He is in his late twenties, dressed rather carelessly.) MATTHEW: Look what I found lurking outside! (JIM enters, 21, a thin young man dressed very fashionably.) SALLY: Jim, what are you doing here? JIM: Hello, sis. Hello, Roger. What do you mean what am I doing here? I’m family, aren’t I? I was invited, same as you. ROGER: Yes, of course. Good to see you, Jim. Matthew. MATTHEW: (Looks at his watch, sighs.) So, Roger, how’s business? ROGER: What’s that supposed to mean? MATTHEW: Still that bad, eh? SALLY: Matthew, shut up. JIM: Aunt Emily not down yet? ROGER: Not yet. MATTHEW: She hasn’t waited long enough to make us properly nervous yet. SALLY: (Laughing.) That’s what I told him! ROGER: (Visibly annoyed.) So, Jim, how have you been keeping? Still working on that novel? JIM: (Adds his coat and scarf with the others on a chair near the door.) Actually, I’ve just finished a play. I’ve got a friend in the industry that thinks it’s awfully good, and he wants to stage it. The only hitch is, we need some funds to get it started. MATTHEW: And so it becomes clear! How do you propose to talk Aunt Emily into giving you her money to finance a play? She was never, as I recall, overly fond of the theatre. JIM: But if she just gave it a chance! I brought a copy, and if I can persuade her to read itSALLY: Oh, Jim, you are such a moron. ROGER: Why are you here, Matthew? I don’t recall you being ‘overly fond’ of Aunt Emily, and you

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certainly don’t need any money. MATTHEW: Roger dear, I may not need the money but I certainly wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered. But, as a matter of fact, I just wanted to see my darling cousin, Sally, again. SALLY: Oh, please. ROGER: Not to comfort your great-aunt after the loss of her only child? JIM: Not much of a loss, was it? SALLY: Jim! MATTHEW: The boy’s right. Ernest was a boil on the ass of the world. SALLY: (Under her breath.) I guess it runs in the family. MATTHEW: (Grinning.) Now, that’s no way to talk about your little brother! I’m sure Jim will find his way in life one of these days. SALLY: You know perfectly well that’s not who IJIM: (Interrupting.) I wish you’d just read it, Matthew! Then you’d change your mind! It’s a tragic deconstruction of the plight of the everyman! MATTHEW: Is the “everyman” a spoiled, upper-class boy with no job and no talent, leeching off his father’s money? (JIM scoffs, furious, and moves toward MATTHEW. ROGER grabs his arm, holding him back.) ROGER: Put a cork in it, Matthew, honestly. SALLY: Well, I was telling Roger earlier that I can’t believe Ernest is dead. He seemed perfectly fit the last time I saw him. Didn’t he, Roger? Didn’t he look healthy? He did; he looked fine. MATTHEW: The way he drank? I’m surprised he didn’t pickle himself by the age of forty. JIM: God, he really was a mean, old cuss. Remember when he sold off all of Grandfather’s fishing gear, just because he knew I wanted it? ROGER: Remember his table manners? Just watching him eat soup was enough to put me off meals for a week. (EMILY enters abruptly. She is a formidable looking woman with gray hair perfectly arranged, and her clothes are very neat and conservative.) EMILY: I do hope you are not referring to my son, Roger.

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(ROGER is taken aback, tries to explain but is completely incoherent. MATTHEW and JIM are unsuccessfully trying not to laugh.) SALLY: (Gives EMILY a kiss on the cheek.) Aunt Emily! We are so sorry for your loss. Is there anything we can do? (EMILY ignores her, and turns to MATTHEW.) EMILY: Matthew, is it too much to ask that you dress like a gentleman while you are in this house? MATTHEW: Aunt Emily, how are you holding up? EMILY: Waking up every morning is a trial, Matthew. A trial on my spirit. JIM: Any idea about dinner, Aunt Emily? All I’ve had today was a nasty sandwich on the train; I’m absolutely starved. EMILY: (Looks at JIM with disdain.) Not yet. We haven’t had cocktails. MATTHEW: Oh, I think Roger’s had one or two already. SALLY: He had one scotch, Matthew! It’s freezing outside! (MATTHEW laughs and moves to the bar. He begins mixing drinks. EMILY sits down on the sofa. SALLY and ROGER sit on chairs on either side of her. JIM remains standing, fidgeting around the room.) SALLY: Aunt Emily, Roger’s business has picked up the last few months. He’s had several clients. Not large orders, but . . . EMILY: I suppose anything would be an improvement at this point. (There is a long awkward pause. SALLY sighs loudly. ROGER begins pulling at his collar.) MATTHEW: (Brings a tray of drinks to the sofa and hands them out.) Come now, Aunt, it’s not Roger’s fault that no one can afford cars anymore. And if no one’s buying cars, the manufacturers don’t need rubber. Tough luck, Roger. (ROGER doesn’t say anything, but is looking furious. JIM, who has been looking at a photograph on a nearby table and not paying attention, suddenly moves to the sofa and sits next to EMILY.) JIM: Say, Aunt Emily, I’ve got something you might like to read(SALLY, MATTHEW, and ROGER all begin speaking at once.) SALLY: I love that dress; did you have it made? MATTHEW: Have you been up to the new post office yet, Aunt?

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ROGER: The garden looks lovely, Emily. EMILY: (Waves her hand in annoyance.) Stop shouting all at once! What on earth is wrong with you all? Roger, it’s the middle of winter; what garden could you possibly have seen? (MATTHEW laughs and stands behind SALLY.) ROGER: I just meantEMILY: Oh, don’t bother. Jim, what were you saying about reading something? JIM: Well, Aunt Emily, I’ve written a play. MATTHEW: (Leaning over to speak in SALLY’s ear.) Here we go. JIM: It’s about a young man whose life is at a crossroads. The family farm has been foreclosed on, and he and his wife are forced to move to the city to find work. He begins working for the mob to make ends meet, and his wife is forced into prostitution(at this MATTHEW bursts into laughter.) EMILY: That sounds absolutely vile! And I’ll thank you not to mention such things in my house! (JIM is about to say more, but a bell rings.) SALLY: That’s the dinner bell! Thank God! (They all leave the sitting room. A moment passes, and MATTHEW re-enters the room, dragging SALLY behind him.) SALLY: What’s the matter with you? Don’t be an idiot! MATTHEW: Either you tell Roger, or I will. SALLY: You — you promised! MATTHEW: You think he doesn’t suspect something already? I know you wouldn’t leave him now, when he can barely support himself. But when I get the money, I’ll give it to him. Do you hear me? He can have it. On one condition. (He puts his hands on her shoulders.) SALLY: (Pushing him away.) I didn’t mean any of those things I said! Roger and I had just had a fight; I was distraught! I just needed to talk to an old friend! MATTHEW: Never mind. Let’s go before they come looking for us. (He leaves the room. SALLY follows him out. Lights to black.)

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Vector Self Portrait Ciara Long

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SCENE TWO (SALLY, ROGER, MATTHEW, JIM, and EMILY walk back into the dining room. They have just finished eating, and JIM is carrying a stack of papers.) JIM: It’s a really fantastic play, Aunt Emily, if I do say so myself. MATTHEW: And you have. JIM: I know it sounds very sordid and all that, but honestly, it’s really uplifting! A real triumph of spirit over the obstacles of modern life. EMILY: (She sits in a chair and the others sit around her.) Jim, I’m only allowing you to read this on the condition that you never, ever bring it up in my house again. (JIM gives EMILY a salute, and stands up to pass out the scripts to ROGER, MATTHEW, and SALLY.) JIM: Alright, Roger, you’ll read the main character. He’s a young farmer from Georgia named XavierROGER: Xavier? You can’t be serious. JIM: What? Sally, you’ll be his wife, Natalya; a beautiful but dangerously naïve Russian immigrant. SALLY: Oh, wonderful. JIM: And Matthew, you’ll read for Tony, the sinister and ruthless mobster. MATTHEW: Tony? I think I look more like an Xavier. JIM: (Looks thoughtfully at MATTHEW.) Hmm. Maybe. But Roger and Sally are actually married, so it will sound more natural. Them not being actors and all. ROGER: I’ll have you know when I was twelve years old I played a very excellent Captain Hook. I made the little girl who played Wendy cry, I was so convincing. MATTHEW: Oh, I believe it. (ROGER shoots MATTHEW an annoyed glance.) EMILY: Oh, do get on with it. We could be here all night hearing about the hardships Roger faced as a child. JIM: Right-o, Aunt Emily. Roger, you start. (He sits down and waits, excited.) ROGER: (Looks down and sighs.) Natalya, darling, how can this vast, bright city feel so cold and alone? MATTHEW: Pretty philosophical for a farmer. (JIM shushes him.) SALLY: Xavier, I wish we had never come to this awful place-

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JIM: (Interrupting.) Sally, you aren’t reading it right! You’re a Russian immigrant, remember? (SALLY looks as if she is about to argue, then sighs and looks back at the script.) SALLY: Xavier, I vish ve had never come to zis awful placeMATTHEW: I don’t think Sally knows what a Russian is. EMILY: Matthew, please stop interrupting. I would prefer to go to bed at a reasonable hour. ROGER: (Reading very halfheartedly.) Natalya, I have stared into the darkness of man’s soul. The things I have done — the things I have done. SALLY: You vill never know vat I haff suffered. Zat dreadful man Tony, he makes me — Oh for God’s sake, Jim! I am not saying that! JIM: But- (Looks at EMILY.) Fine. Keep going then. MATTHEW: (Clears his throat and reads with slightly more gusto than ROGER or SALLY.) Did I hear someone calling my name? Xavier, I have some news you and your pretty little wife will find very interesting. ROGER: Nothing from your vile mouth could ever interest me, Tony. MATTHEW: The boss is dead. Someone bumped him last night at the gin joint. Went face-down in a pile of nose candy as big as your head. EMILY: What on earth? MATTHEW: (To EMILY.) Someone killed him. EMILY: Oh. MATTHEW: (Returns to reading.) So, I’m the new boss, see? And let me tell you, there are going to be some pretty big changes around here. ROGER: All I know is, you probably killed him yourself, and Natalya and I are leaving as soon as we can. We’ve paid all the money back to you people. I don’t owe you a dime. MATTHEW: (Whips his hand up, pointed like a gun, at ROGER.) Not so fast, smartypants! I make the rules now, and I say you still work for me. Both of you. ROGER: You leave Natalya and me out of this you bas- (Looks at EMILY) Uh, you . . . bad man. MATTHEW: Xavier, you pathetic toad! While you’ve been busy playing messenger boy for that dead old fool, your wife has been on my arm every night! And not just my arm!

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SALLY: (throws the play on the ground.) That’s enough! Jim, this is horrible! ROGER: No, Sally, let’s go on. I’m quite interested in what Natalya has to say for herself. SALLY: (Stands up.) I can’t listen to any more of this. (She starts to exit.) JIM: But don’t you want to know if Tony killed the boss? SALLY: No! (SALLY exits. There is a long awkward pause.) ROGER: Well, let’s hear it, Matthew. I bet you know how the story ends. JIM: (Looks bewildered.) What are you talking about? He’s never set eyes on it before today! EMILY: Aren’t you going to go after her, Roger? She’s clearly upset. I’ve never seen her make such a scene in all my life. ROGER: (Stands up.) Actually, I’m going to have a drink. (Lights to black.)

SCENE THREE (Lights up on a bedroom, elegantly furnished. SALLY is seated on the edge of the bed, her faced turned from the audience. ROGER enters.) ROGER: Well, Natalya? What do you have to say for yourself? SALLY: (Turns to look at him.) You think it was too much? (She stands up and kisses him on the lips.) ROGER: No, darling, you were wonderful. I must say though, I’m surprised Matthew wasn’t more suspicious. (SALLY moves to the door and briefly presses her ear against it.) ROGER: Don’t worry, they’re both still in the sitting room. Damn Jim and that stupid play! SALLY: (She sighs and returns to sit on the bed.) Only Jim could write something that terrible and also come so close to ruining everything. I’ll just be glad when this weekend is finally over. ROGER: You can say that again. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this scheme. It just goes to show how desperate a man can get. SALLY: Roger, there’s no way it can go wrong. If everything goes our way, Matthew gives you the money, and we’re both off to California. He won’t say anything to anybody, he has too much pride. But if he doesn’t give you the money, then you’ll go to Aunt Emily, outraged at what you’ve discovered, and she’ll pay you off to hush up the scandal. Then, California.

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ROGER: I’m glad you’re so confident, at least. You know, all this sounded fine when you were telling me about it last week, but now I’m not so keen on the idea. I may not be fond of Matthew, but this just seems — cruel. Messing with a fellow’s heart. SALLY: Matthew doesn’t have a heart to mess with! This is exactly the sort of thing he gets up to when he’s bored. A few months from now, he’ll barely remember any of this happened. He’ll be too busy flirting with rich widows on the French Riviera. ROGER: Still, I don’t thinkSALLY: I don’t know why you’re suddenly so concerned about his feelings! He’s a snake! When I was seventeen, I got to go to my first really grown-up party. I was so excited. Aunt Emily talked Matthew into taking me. I think she knew that I used to absolutely hero worship him. When we got to the party, do you know what he did? ROGER: What? SALLY: He left me alone. He went off and got drunk with his friends, and left with some married woman. I had to call Father to come pick me up. It was the most humiliating night of my life; I’ll never forget it. ROGER: I agree, that’s not very nice of him. But Sally, if all this is part of some twisted revenge schemeSALLY: It’s not! I haven’t thought about that night in years! I’m just explaining that you shouldn’t treat him like such a delicate little flower. ROGER: Haven’t thought about it in years; is that the truth? SALLY: Well, practically. ROGER: And you’re being honest with me about what took place at his apartment, right? No fulfilling girlish fantasies of handsome, dashing Matthew? SALLY: God, no! Of course not! You think I would do that to you? And if I had, the plan wouldn’t work at all. Matthew only wants something until he’s actually got it, then he gets bored. Anyway, you can’t back out now, we’ve almost done it! (The door opens suddenly. JIM enters.) JIM: Almost done what? (SALLY and ROGER are both startled.) SALLY: Jim, for God’s sake, don’t you ever knock? JIM: Sorry. Aunt Emily sent me up. She said something about the family and dignity; I don’t remember exactly. I think she wants you to come downstairs. What on earth were you so upset about, anyway? If you really don’t want to read with the accent, you don’t have to. Of course, that will affect the impact of the play when we get to Natalya’s monologue about her longing for Mother Russia-

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ROGER: I think we’re done reading the play for a while, Jim. JIM: That may be for the best. Aunt Emily didn’t really seem responsive to it. What were you saying when I came in? What have you almost done? SALLY: Nothing, Jim, I-I’m just a little on edge. Overly emotional, I guess. JIM: Aaahhhh. (He nods and winks at ROGER.) ROGER: Why are you winking – no, actually, I think I’d rather not know. JIM: It’s alright, you can tell me! Do I have a little niece or nephew on the way? SALLY: Jim, go away. I’m begging you. I’m on my hands and knees. (ROGER takes JIM by the elbow and teers him toward the door.) ROGER: We’re just grateful we’re almost through with this god-awful evening. Tell Aunt Emily we’ll be down in a moment. (Lights to black.)

SCENE FOUR (JIM reenters the sitting room. MATTHEW and EMILY are still seated as they were before, except now they are holding glasses instead of JIM’s play.) JIM: They’ll be down in a moment. (He sits heavily in his chair.) EMILY: Jim, that chair is older than I am, kindly do not fling yourself into it. MATTHEW: How is Sally? JIM: Oh, she’s fine. Roger didn’t seem angry with her anymore. You know, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen them so much as hint at an argument. I’m no believer in marriage, but they seem to carry on well enough. MATTHEW: Is that so? I wonder what their secret is. EMILY: Jim, you may think yourself against marriage now, while you are so young, but I hope when the time comes, you will do your duty by the family. JIM: Oh, don’t worry Aunt Emily. (He leans toward her.) I think Sally may be already in the family duty way. Don’t say anything to her about it though. She’s still a little testy. MATTHEW: What?! JIM: (Sits up straight again and puts a finger to his lips.) Not a word! You didn’t hear it from me.

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MATTHEW: I was under the impression that things weren’t so picture perfect between them lately. EMILY: Matthew, it’s hardly appropriate to discussJIM: Oh, no! You should have seen them last weekend. I stopped by their place after dinner for a quick hello, and they were sitting in front of the fireplace, giggling! Giggling! What kind of man sits around on a Saturday night giggling with his wife? MATTHEW: Did you say last Saturday night? JIM: Yes, it was Saturday. I’d just had dinner with Chip Carmichael and his girl. MATTHEW: Are you sure it was Saturday? JIM: Yes, Matthew, I’m sure. I’m trying to tell you so. Chip Carmichael’s girl is an actress, and she was interested in reading my play, so we met upEMILY: Jim, if you’ve spared me nothing else this evening, spare me of the tale of your dinner with an actress, please. Matthew, why does it matter whether it was Saturday or not? MATTHEW: (Takes a long drink.) Oh, it doesn’t. It doesn’t at all. (SALLY and ROGER enter.) SALLY: Sorry, Aunt Emily. (They both sit.) EMILY: Are you quite recovered, dear? SALLY: Yes, I’m sorry. EMILY: Do you have any news you’d like to share with your family? SALLY: What? No! I – no! Why? EMILY: Jim seems to think you do. JIM: Aw, Aunt Emily, I told you not to say anything! ROGER: Jim, if you told everyone that Sally was having a baby, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sorry to disappoint. (MATTHEW drains his glass and stands up to pour another.) EMILY: Well, as it’s getting late, and everyone seems to be in need of a good night’s sleep, I’ll go ahead and tell you what you’ve been waiting all night to hear. JIM: About Ernest’s will? (Everyone looks at JIM in exasperation. MATTHEW returns to his seat and continues drinking, staring at nothing in particular, while ROGER, SALLY, and JIM lean in towards EMILY.)

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An Unwanted Message Best of Web Nominee Brittany Madalone

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EMILY: Yes, Jim, about the will. And I’m not sure why I had to sit through that horrendous play, as the will is already made out and I have no plans to change it. SALLY: You don’t? EMILY: That would require a lawyer, my dear. And that particular profession I would prefer to avoid for the remainder of my days. (EMILY pulls out a drawer from the table beside the sofa and removes a stack of papers. MATTHEW finally looks up, although he doesn’t seem particularly interested.) EMILY: Matthew, you inherit the house and the bulk of the inheritance. However, there is ten thousand set aside for JimJIM: (jumps a bit in his chair.) Yes! EMILY: -which he will have access to when he turns twenty-five. JIM: What?! That’s ridiculous! EMILY: You will receive a quarterly allowance, but anything exceeding that will need to be applied to Matthew, as your trustee. MATTHEW: Sorry, pal. JIM: But that’s four years away! I can’t wait that longSALLY: Oh, Jim, please! Let her finish! (SALLY presses her fingers to her temples. JIM slouches down in a sulk.) EMILY: And ten thousand to be invested in Roger’s business. ROGER: What? You can’t be serious! SALLY: Ten thousand? Why? EMILY: If it was a joke it wouldn’t be very funny, would it, Roger? Ernest had more affection for you than business sense, it seems. ROGER: I can’t believe it. I just can’t. I only met him a few timesEMILY: What you may not understand, Roger, is that we take our family very seriously. To allow one member to fall into ruin is to bring ruin on our name. SALLY: But, what about me? Don’t tell me Matthew is my trustee, as well. MATTHEW: Why, Sally, don’t you think I’m trustworthy? (SALLY looks at him, then quickly looks at her lap.) EMILY: The ten thousand is for both of you.

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SALLY: For both of us? So, I don’t get anything, is what you’re saying. Jim gets ten thousand to waste away on plays that no one will see and I get nothing? ROGER: Sally . . . EMILY: My son was old-fashioned in his thinking, as am I, which you will recall if you’ll calm down enough to remember yourself. Once you’re married, Sally, you submit to your husband. SALLY: Oh, wonderful. (She crosses her arms.) EMILY: (Stands up.) I think I’ll retire for the evening. You’re all welcome to stay, if you wish. (EMILY exits.) MATTHEW: Happy Christmas to all, and, to all, a good night. (JIM stands up.) JIM: Matthew, can we discuss my money, please? MATTHEW: Can’t this wait until poor Ernest is at least cold in his grave? JIM: It’s December. I’m pretty sure he’s cold by now. ROGER: Good Lord. JIM: Well, fine. I’ve got to go talk things over with my partner. Sorry I can’t stay longer. Lovely to see you all, as always. (JIM gives SALLY a kiss on the cheek, shakes hands with ROGER and MATTHEW, and exits.) SALLY: Roger, I think we’d better go now, too. ROGER: Fine by me. (He shakes hands with MATTHEW.) MATTHEW: Always a pleasure. Sorry you didn’t get what you wanted, Sally. (SALLY gives him a sharp look, and she and ROGER exit.) God bless us, every one. (Lights to black.)

SCENE FIVE (Lights up on the sitting room. The furniture is rearranged slightly, and many of the knick-knacks are gone, replaced with stacks of books and papers. There is a man’s jacket laid across the back of the sofa. It looks much more lived-in and less formal.) (MATTHEW enters). MATTHEW: I’m glad you two could drive up. (ROGER and SALLY enter. ROGER is wearing a military uniform.)

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SALLY: I’m sorry we couldn’t be here for the funeral. MATTHEW: With a baby on the way and a husband overseas, I’m sure Emily would have understood. Where is the little bundle of joy? ROGER: With my parents. MATTHEW: Too bad. I’d like to meet him. I hear he takes after Roger; lucky for you, Sally. SALLY: (Rolls her eyes and ignores him.) Have you heard from Jim? MATTHEW: Not since he left. I assumed he would write to you. SALLY: Last we heard he was in France, but that was ages ago. MATTHEW: I’m sure he’s fine. I’ve never met anyone with more pure dumb luck. (They sit down.) ROGER: Look, Matthew, I know the last time we were here things were a bitMATTHEW: Don’t worry about it. Water under the bridge. I’m glad you managed to come out on top, regardless. ROGER: The war business is booming, yes. What I mean is, I appreciate you giving us that loan. It really saved us. When the war is finally over, I intend to pay you back with interest. MATTHEW: And I expect you to. No need for thanks. I so rarely have a conscience; I’d prefer not to be reminded of it, especially not by such an upstanding gentleman as yourself. It’s embarrassing. ROGER: That’s not true. I’ve done a lot of things to be ashamed of. SALLY: We all have. MATTHEW: Never apologize for surviving, that’s what I say. We all do what we have to do. (There is an awkward pause as Sally and Matthew look at each other.) SALLY: Oh, let’s don’t be so melancholy. What have you been occupying yourself with, Matthew? MATTHEW: Well, Sally, I’ve been thinking I might write a play. SALLY: You’re joking. MATTHEW: Not at all! ROGER: What’s it about? MATTHEW: Well, it concerns a young farmer, forced to the big city with his beautiful, young wifeSALLY: Now I know you’re joking.

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MATTHEW: (Smiling at her.) Shows what you know. ROGER: (Stands up.) Sally, why don’t we go up and change? I’d like to call home before they sit down to dinner. (ROGER exits. SALLY stands up to follow him, but pauses at the door.) SALLY: I am glad to see you, Matthew. I’m glad you’re doing well. MATTHEW: You know me, I’m always doing well. SALLY: That’s really something. See you in a bit. (SALLY exits. MATTHEW looks at the door for a moment before picking up a notebook and pen from the table beside him.) MATTHEW: Act One, Scene One. On a rainy Saturday night in the city, a man answers the knock on his apartment door to a girl he knows very well. (Lights to black.) The End.

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The University of Central Arkansas Vortex Magazine of Literature and Fine Art Thompson Hall 201 Donaghey Ave. Conway, AR 72035 Torreyson Library 126, 201 Donaghey Ave. Conway, AR 72035 vortexmagazine@gmail.com

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VORTEX

Colophon & Judging The Vortex October 2012 Online Edition was created on a Macintosh iMac, using Adobe InDesign CS5.5 and Adobe Photoshop. Theme fonts are BlairMdlTC TT Medium and Calibri, with varying font sizes and styles throughout.

All pieces are judged “blind.� Judges and Section Editors only find out who submitted the piece after it has been selected for publication. Each piece will receive a vote of yes or no and must have a 75% rate of yes votes and approval from the managing editors to be published. Staff Members automatically vote no to their own works to ensure fairness.

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Vortex Magazine of Literature and Fine Art 39 - October Online Edition  

Vortex Magazine of Literature and Fine Art is a student published and run magazine from the University of Central Arkansas located in Conway...

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