Contents 3… Morgan Durden 6… John McKenna 10…Chase Froese 15…Ellen Bazzoli 18…Melissa Snyder 26…Greg Toreev 31…Jenny Lamb 36…Lizzy Larson 41…Nate Andrus
By Morgan Durden I Am A rose petal falls As spring time flowers blossom, Too bad I am blind. Birds chirp in the trees The wind howls in my ears, Too bad I am deaf. Exotic creatures Speak words in a melody, Too bad I am mute. Leaves crunch under my feet Sports underneath the hot sun, Too bad I am lame. A smile flips frowns A hug dries up a tear drop, Too bad I am broken. Although I am these, I still know what beauty is. It is still right here. Perfect harmony Is how nature runs its course. That is such beauty.
Steps To Failure Walt stared at the passing pictures across the TV with the little blue velvet covered box grasped between his fingertips of his left hand. Flipping channels with his right, he passed by a channel featuring a beautiful girl in a white bridal gown. She was covered in lace from head to toe and smiling from ear to ear. He looked down at his little, blue, velvetcovered box that fit perfectly in his palm. It was filled with a small treasure altered perfectly for a woman with small, slender fingers. A sad smirk broke out across his face. He looked up with longing eyes as if asking God to give him the strength to get through this. Four hours before that, tears were streaming down Ivy’s face as each facet of the diamond caught each ray of sunlight. She looked up at the sky as if to say a quick thank you to God. She looked back down and met his soft, loving eyes with a warm, brilliant smile. His eyes were locked on hers as he spoke those magic words. “Will you marry me?” “A thousand times, no.” Two days before that, Walt took her to dinner Jean Georges for dinner and told her to order anything on the menu she wanted. Price didn’t matter to him. She stared at the menu for a couple of minutes and looked around private room Walt had rented out. It was cozy, quiet and filled with vanilla scented candles. They made great conversation and laughed the whole night. But Walt noticed that Ivy’s eyes never met his. A week before that, Walt made a special lunch for Ivy and brought it to her work. He had spent all morning making Ivy’s favorite lunch. Grilled chicken with bruschetta on top and a small salad. He left her beautiful red roses on her desk with a lovely card saying how much he appreciated her when he arrived at her work. She was in a meeting with her boss, but she saw him through a glass window. She looked at him with her soft blue eyes and gave him a small smile, but quickly averted her attention away from him. Three days before that, Walt took her to see a movie that she had always wanted to see, Sherlock Holmes. They got popcorn and drinks before the movie started and made small talk. When he reached out to put his arm around her she quickly leaned down to grab something in her purse. Walt moved his arm out of the way, but after she came back up she looked at him and grabbed his hand and never let it go. After the movie was over, she pulled away her hand from his and quickly as she could. A month before that, they had gone to the beach for some surfing lessons and to go snorkeling together on the beach in Malibu, their hometown. Ivy and Walt were talking and laughing and enjoying every moment of their aquatic adventures together. But Ivy was always just a few feet away from Walt at all times. She never touched his hand or looked into his eyes. Three months before that, Walt and Ivy’s had gone to an amusement park. They stood close closely together and always held hands in line, but only when they were standing completely still. The moment the line started moving the Ivy immediately pulled away from Walt and moved with the line.
Four months before that, Walt had volunteered to help her make and decorate all the desserts for her sister’s bridal party. Her apartment kitchen was filled with the scent of baked goods. They made cookies, brownies, lemon squares, cake pops, a small pound cake, and a bigger cake covered in white fondant and purple frosted flowers. They dusted the brownies and lemon squares delicately in powdered sugar. They were laughing and kissing and having a great time. But the moment everything was all set, Ivy pushed him out the door. One month before that, Walt had taken her to a park filled with flowers and other beautiful green plants. They sat on the blanket and laughed and told funny stories about their childhood. Walt had made turkey sandwiches and brought and assortment of fruits and raw vegetable with dips. When the time had come for them to head home they got into their separate cars and drove away. Ivy had insisted on driving herself. Three days before that, Walt ran into her as she turned around, coffee in hand at the local Starbucks he looked into her big blue eyes and smiled. He asked her if she needed any help and what her name was. His smile was from ear to ear and didn’t focus on anyone else but her. He looked at her with longing eyes as if she was the only person in the room that mattered to him. He asked her out on a date right then and there. An hour before that, it was your typical, boring, average Tuesday.
By John McKenna Adoption Why? Why me? Why of all people did this have to happen to me? My parents said it’d be good for me. I disagreed. I didn’t want another brother; the one I had was perfect. The one I had was the best brother a person could ask for. I remember doing everything with him. We’d go fishing down at the pond half a mile from our house. We’d play cowboys and indians in the forest behind our house. We’d even spy on our neighbor who we thought was the most beautiful woman we had ever seen while she watered her garden. I was only eight at the time and my brother was five so it quickly became a secret agent game. She would always know when we were playing because we weren’t the quietest spies, but she’d kindly play along anyways. Eventually, we’d get bored of being spies and go back to cowboys and indians or another game. I had the best times with my brother, but that is all over. Its been three years, five months, two weeks, and a day since my brother was taken from me. We were scavenging for four-leaf clovers on St. Patrick’s Day when a driver passed out on his way home after “celebrating” and swerved off the road, pinning my brother to a tree. I was only nine and had no idea what to do. Yelling for my parents, I fell to my knees beside my motionless brother, completely hopeless. I grew to know nightmares of the horrid scene very well. Nothing was ever the same after he was gone. I didn’t eat for a week and rarely ever went outside. My parents must have seen my long days in a dark room alone which gave them the idea of a new playmate, a new brother. How could they though? Did they not love him enough that they would never replace him? Do they not care that their own son died way before his time? Yes, it created a big hole in our lives but it was not a hole that needed to be filled. None of that mattered I guess because they had already left to pick him up from the airport. They had done months of planning and arranged legal forms and did whatever stuff that goes along with adopting an orphan from Africa. All the while I rejected the idea and rejected them for doing it. I mean, I understood why they were adopting a child. I just didn’t want them to. The words of my mom as my parents were leaving to go get the kid kept repeating in my mind; “When we come back, you will have a new brother!” She said it with a smile as she truly was excited, but I didn’t say anything. I just looked down at the welcome mat. My dad patted my head and they left. I then ran to my room slamming the door behind me. I picked up anything and everything I could find and threw it to the opposite side of my room. I tore down all my posters and ripped them to pieces. I grabbed my pillow and started whacking my desk, bed, dresser, closet, anything. I finally gave out a loud yell at the top of my lungs and sunk down next to my bed, tears falling. Cradled, with my room a mess and feathers falling, I sat there crying, completely hopeless. I missed him so much. The next thing I could remember, I woke up to the garage door opening. I had apparently cried myself to sleep, again. I jumped to my feet and rushed to the window. My dad was starting to take a small suitcase and boxes out of the trunk of the van while my mom was sliding open the side door. My eyes glued to the opening created by the door as my mom smiling, reached out for the creature. First, I saw his hand grab her’s and then I
saw his little body jump down from the van. He wore a green and yellow striped collared shirt and looked timidly into this new world, staying close to my mother. His skin was noticeably very dark as he grasped my mother’s peachy white hand tightly. I admitted to myself he was a cute little guy, but that made me hate him all the more. My parents reassured me when they presented this idea of adoption that I didn’t have to love him right away but I would learn to. How could I love him though? My life was just fine without him. I didn’t need him. I didn’t want him. My mom and the kid disappeared below me, and I ran back to my bed in the cornermost part of my room opposite the door. Frozen, I listened intently. The front door opened and I faintly heard my mother talking in her high, cheery voice she uses when she wants to convince someone everything is great. I couldn’t make out the words but I could tell she was showing the thing around his new home. Moments later I heard her call my name, “Jack, honey, come down and meet your new brother!” I pretended not to hear her. “Jackson?” she called again except louder and more sternly. “What?” I snapped back at her. “Come here please!” I realized it was no use. If I had to live with the kid, I would have to meet him eventually. Deliberately slow, I got up, opened the door, walked down the hall, and began walking down the stairs. They were right in front of the stairs waiting for me. “Jack, this is Edgar,” she said with a smile and expectant expression. I looked at him. He was still holding my mother’s hand, but he kept his head down. After hearing my mother introduce him, he slowly glanced up a little to see my reaction. “Hi,” I said. There was a pause. My mother shook her head in utter disbelief that that’s all I said to my new brother who traveled all the way from Africa to live with us. But it didn’t seem to affect the boy. His eyes remained fixed upon me. Then, he let go of my mom’s hand and walked right up in front of me and looked up into my eyes. I was thrown off by the gesture but I didn’t move. I just stared back down at him as our gazes locked. Suddenly, a smile formed on his face and he swiftly wrapped his arms around me tightly. After the astonishment faded, it hit me that he had never experienced the joy of family before; he had never experienced the joy of a brother. Guilt came over me as I remembered all my selfish thoughts and stupid assumptions. I had formed this little boy into being such a monster when he really was the opposite. I did not take into consideration who the innocent child was and the hard life he had had thus far. It wasn’t until then that I realized we not only changed his life forever, but he would forever have changed ours. I then knelt down and smiled into his loving face, “Welcome to the family Edgar.”
Twist Roger swayed back and forth, heart pounding and palms sweating. You read this as a typical start to a poem, yet it intrigues you as to why Roger is like this. With no sleep, all he could do is think of his beautiful wife and newborn child. You start to learn more about Roger. You notice he’s a dedicated, loving husband. Due to combat and distance apart, he missed the birth of his new baby girl. Admit it, you feel sympathy for Roger. He missed his new baby’s birth. His time was nearing to get a break from normal service to use the webcam room. You now understand why he’s nervous. He’s about to see his new baby and wife. Thoughts flew through his head like birds in and out of trees. You read this imagery and simile and find it vaguely helpful in this context. What will the baby think of me? What will my wife think of me after all this time? You feel for Roger as he has doubts if his family still loves him. “Roger,” his superior called. His heart froze, skin ran pale. The anticipation begins to build. He subconsciously stood and approached the room, mind still racing. You begin to read faster. Anxiety, at this point in time, was greater than in warfare with bullets flying everywhere. A teaser, a stanza you don’t feel is necessary but don’t think too much about because you want to continue. He sat in front of the screen where his loved ones would soon appear.
The moment you and Roger have waited for is here. The monitor flashed as two figures materialized. You want, no, need to read on. He saw the beauty of his wife and new baby girl. They saw a man in an orange jumpsuit. And that my dear friends, is called the twist.
By Chase Froese Unwanted Surprises It started on a comfortably normal day. Maggie Tompkins walked into her tall office building in the heart of New York. Her straight brown hair hung over her light autumn jacket as she walked past the front desk and into the elevator, filled with the usual people on their way up to their offices in the massive publishing company. Maggie sighed a sigh of relief as she relaxed into the normalcy of the day. She had dreamed the night before about her 9th birthday when her mom had thrown her a surprise party. Maggie had never reacted to surprises well; she had collapsed and started crying when everyone jumped out, and all her guests had to leave. She had never quite managed to live down the teasing she still got from her younger brother. She stepped off the elevator along with the four other employees on the 14th floor; the editorial department. She quickly clocked in then walked over to her neat semi-secluded cubicle. As she approached her favorite quiet space, she stopped short with a quick intake of breath. On her desk there was a huge bouquet of crimson roses with a bunch of balloons floating over it. She looked around to see if anyone else had noticed this huge display. She was a bit early, so only a couple of people had seen the splash of red in her normally grey and beige cubicle space. She quickly walked over and pulled down the balloons, and tried to see if they would fit under her desk to hide, just until she could get rid of them. As Maggie was trying to stuff the belligerent balloons into the small space, fit only for a rolly chair, she heard a voice behind her. “Miss Tompkins?” it was the receptionist. Maggie spun around, feeling her cheeks turn the same shade of crimson as the roses from the embarrassment. “Umm, yes? Can I help you Cheryl?” She turned and stood up so the balloons were trapped under the desk by her legs, angrily bumping against them, moved by the air conditioning. “You have a meeting at 10 with Mr. Cartwright about the new initiative. He asked me to ask you if you were prepared.” As she spoke, Cheryl’s attention was only half on relaying the message, and more on taking in the scene in front of her. Along with Cheryl’s job as the receptionist, she also was the one who knew everything about everyone’s business. “Ah, um, yes, uh yes I am prepared, thank you.” Maggie stuttered as she tried to make it look like nothing was wrong, fully aware that the entire office floor would know by the end of the morning that she had been given roses and balloons by someone. Cheryl nodded, stopped a moment longer to memorize what she saw to more fully give a description to everyone who came her way, then walked back out of Maggie’s cubicle. Maggie breathed a sigh of relief as the uncomfortable lady walked away. She had never really liked how news traveled so fast around the office, especially when anything that wasn’t known from the start was made up. She decided to go get a cup of coffee to restore her morning routine. She rounded the corner and saw on top of the coffee maker a huge purple teddy bear holding a heart with her name stitched in cursive across it. She felt her cheeks go redder then they were before, and nearly dropped her favorite mug, a gift from her boyfriend Riley. Riley! That must have been who was doing these things. It couldn’t have been anyone else, she hadn’t dated someone besides him in years, her birthday was a couple months past, and her parents were on a cruise in the Caribbean for the year. Riley. But why? She knew he liked throwing surprise bashes and parties. The way he had asked her out was by creating a
scavenger hunt where she had to go talk to various people at her work, coffee-shop, and grocery store, say a password, and get another note directing her to the next person. They had been dating for the past two years and she genuinely liked him, though she still did not like to be surprised or embarrassed by him. She couldn’t figure out why he would do this to her, their anniversary was not until around Christmas. She grabbed the foot of the bear and dragged it off of the coffee maker. What was she supposed to do with this thing? She decided to go put it all out in her car before too many people came in and saw the gifts and started asking questions. She ran back to her cubicle and grabbed the escaped balloons, the bouquet, the bear, and decided to take the stairs down a couple floors so she wouldn’t have to face anyone she worked closely with, at least on the way down. As she headed back up the elevator, items stashed safely in the trunk of her car, she ran into her best friend Isabella McNally, affectionately nicknamed Isi. “Hey! Wait up” Isi said loudly as she struggled with the multitude of work bags and folders in her arms, and her fly away auburn hair. Isi was basically the opposite of Maggie; where Maggie was quieter, Isi never was at loss for words, where Maggie was organized and so never forgot a meeting or event, Isi was renowned for her late entrances, and where Maggie waited and watched to get to know a person, Isi was right up there in their face with a handshake and an introduction. Though the two were not similar, they really liked hanging together and jokingly said their opposite personalities tempered each other out and made both of them almost normal. Maggie filled Isi in on the morning, and the ever romantic and laid back Isi was super thrilled with the situation. “This is so great!” bubbled Isi. “Riley is totally the sweetest. Now I know you hate having anything out of place in your day, but look at this like an adventure! This is so cute! He really likes you to do all this!” “I know, but I really have no idea what this is all for.” Returned Maggie. “And you know I’m not going to be able to concentrate the rest of the day with this.” Isi laughed at this and told her to wait and see. As she sat back down at her cubicle and looked over emails for extra responsibilities, she tried to put the strange event out of her mind. The presentation at 10 was one of those new responsibilities and she needed to focus and do it well. But she couldn’t really concentrate on the job in front of her. She kept turning over in her mind, trying to think of reasons why Riley would plan this out. What if… no. she thought. We’ve had only been dating for two years, two years isn’t long enough to propose after, right? When she got up at 9:50 to go to her meeting, every person she passed would look at her, give a small smile and keep walking, probably having seen a staff memo from Cheryl. She felt so out of control and didn’t like the extra attention. It wasn’t as much what Riley was doing, as it was the fact that it was so public, and this was all some of the newer employees would know about her. Every friendly gesture was immediately seen as a poke at her expense. She presented on the new initiative, but it was not up to her normal standard of perfection. She was distracted and her boss, Mr. Cartwright pulled her aside after she finished. “Hey, Maggie, is there something wrong? You looked very distracted and a bit worried today. Are these extra projects I’m having you work on too much? I can probably give them to someone else if they are.” Mr. Cartwright said in his fatherly voice. He had taken special interest in Maggie’s impeccable work, and she suspected he was giving her the extra responsibilities so that she could be promoted to editor-in-chief when he retired.
“No, I’m fine. I’m really fine, today has just been an off day, that all. The next presentation will be better, and the extra work is not too much.” She replied, feeling a bit sorry for letting him down. “Alright, as long as you’re sure.” Mr. Cartwright said, “Keep up the good work.” He left to get on the elevator to return to his spacious, windowed office. She tried to get lost in her work like usual, reading manuscripts and writing notes for the author, but she just couldn’t concentrate on what was before her. By noon she had gotten little to no work done, and was still disconcerted about what Riley might do next. She went down a couple floors to the cafeteria and as she walked in, looking down, she noticed there was quite a lot more noise in this usually quiet and peaceful room. She looked up and the first thing she saw was Riley standing directly across the room from her, holding a single white rose and he had the biggest smile on his face when he saw her walk in. She walked over to him, “What are you doing here? What is going on? What is all of that stuff for? You know I hate surprises?!” He gave her a big, slightly lopsided smile. She had always loved that smile. He had gotten hit by a Frisbee on one of their first dates, and she had realized she really liked him as he smiled and laughed despite the scar it had made on his face. It had healed and moved one corner of his smile just a tiny bit down. “Maggie I know you hate surprises, but the only thing I could think of to show how much I care about you was to a big of a deal out of this moment.” Riley met her brown eyes with his deep blue ones, and shifted his weight from leg to leg. He took a deep breath, held out the rose and said, “Maggie, we have been dating for two years, do you want to date another year?”
Conformity “Be yourself” they say, But I know, Being myself means standing out. And one lone blip in a sea of perfect is bad. It means walking through noisy halls, Alone and quiet. “Be yourself” they say, But as the mirror throws back a reflection Of two eyes, a mouth, a nose. I stare deeply into the face of the Phantom twin across the glass. I don’t know who I am, how can I Be her? “Be yourself” they say, So I try to be different. The color of my hair now comes from a box, My clothes are from the old vintage shop Right down the way from Aeropostale, My brown comfortable flip flops are traded For uncomfortable black boots. I listen to unknown bands to be unique. But even my nonconformity has a name, I become like everyone else trying to be Different. “Be yourself” they say, But I start to like my new hobby of writing poetry, And my new friends who hang out and laugh together after school. Judgmental stares, accusing of conforming And being different Don’t cut quite as deeply. Still, when looking into the mirror of unknowns I don’t know me, Yet. So when they tell me, “Be yourself”, Maybe I’ll respond, I am me, I’m still learning and changing, But through every new wave of confusion, I am always me.
By Ellen Bazzoli Mirrors Mr. and Mrs. Hartfield climbed the stairs to go to bed after a long night of sitting with their daughter, Emmeline. The girl still sat in the family room facing the bay window, not noticing or caring that she was alone again, and completely lost in her own thoughts. Before that, Emmeline’s sisters had left with their husbands, worrying over how their little sister would cope, knowing full well how loyal she was and how much she would feel the hurt for years to come. She had very little self-confidence before and now they knew that any she had had would be shattered. Before that, the daughter stood dressed in white, staring out at the church that was completely empty save herself and her family, not letting herself fully process the fact that she had been jilted. The old church she had gone to as a little girl, looked bigger and less welcoming than it ever had before, now that she stood alone in front. Before that, the wedding party and guests waited quietly in the stuffy church while the bride insisted he’d come back. “He’ll be here. I know he’ll be here, Matt loves me, I know he’ll come back soon. Just wait a couple more minutes.” So they sat and waited for over an hour, not wanting to further injure the girl many of them had watched grow up, until her parents told them that they should probably leave. Before that, telling his close friends and family that he was just going on a five minute walk to calm his nerves, Matt slipped out the back door to the church, turned the corner, and ran. Before that, the same boy stood in front of his mirror, looking at himself in a rented tux, sweating like a pig. His hands were shaking, even as he tried to practice his most winning smile that he’d used in his senior pictures just a month before. However, he just looked like he was in pain. His friends didn’t seem to notice his discomfort; they laughed and joked in the background while Matt stood completely still in front of that mirror, a look of terror slowly contorting his face. Before that, Emmeline stood in front of her mirror, being dolled up by her girlfriends, mother, and sisters. All of them were talking over one another, exclaiming about how beautiful her brown hair looked curled, how perfect her ivory dress looked against her pale skin. She wasn’t really thinking about that at all, she knew she was in good hands. All she was thinking about was the boy just down the hall, thinking he was the greatest thing that had ever happened to her, and looking forward to growing old with the boy she’d loved since kindergarten. Before that, it had been the happiest day of her life.
The Get Over It Phenomenon They tell me they’re just friends. I believe it, I believe them. Mostly. I’m not jealous, he’s mine, right? But then his phone lights up over and over again, and I wonder. But our friends tell me to get over it. They talk all the time, they say they’re practically siblings. They even look alike, with their blond hair and blue eyes. I know they don’t like each other in that heart-pounding, jaw-dropping sort of way, so I should get over it, right? They say a guy with a girlfriend and another girl best friend is going to have World War III. But my friends don’t want a war torn Armageddon. So they tell me to get over it. What if that’s not possible? What is with this whole “get over it” thing… Get over what, feeling any sort of emotion? Feeling like you’re so afraid of losing him that your heart is about to just go on strike and quit working? No. Not possible I can’t do that. If you can, well, your soul has large chunks of ice in it. I can learn to accept it, but not get over it. So friends, who keep using that obnoxious phrase, stop. The air you’re using up could suffocate the Windy City. Just get over it.
Up a Tree Sitting in the heights of a tree is rather rewarding. Everything feels more alive… The wind is stronger. The footing? Unstable. The view? Breathtaking. But it’s different on the ground. I’m short. My view from the ground is not nearly as intriguing as it is at the top. The ground means stability. Always looking up at those taller… You can see less but more high definition. Everything in sharper focus, brighter colors. Looking down I see the black hose snaking through the rose bushes in full bloom. Along its winding path it could encounter the small bronze monuments to heroes, plaques dedicated to you, the “friends”, or the seat amongst the flowers for the girl now gone. ‘Round the base of the tree, the hose finds me on the ground. Down from my perch. Down to my five foot five sized self. Down at the bottom, glancing up at my tree.
By Melissa Snyder Searching A tree, ordinary at first glance. Look closely, encircled In a ring of dead grass, Green touching Everywhere else. Place my hand on the cracks Decorating her trunk. Each blemish weak And beautiful. Standing alone Waving her branches, Cut. Broken. Out of place In the shadows Of buildings and trees around her. Waving her branches, Searching, Desperate for sunlight Like the bee at her base Searching for a flower Among the dry, dying grass. The wind blows Soft and sweet, Tickling any body it brushes across. The tree with leaves quivering, Waves her branches harder than ever. The wind stops. The branches slowly droop back Into place. A single leaf falls. Finding sunlight, It sparkles as it drifts downward Free from the shadows.
Digital Ties “What do you mean you’re going to meet him?” Kelly jumped back from her locker as Allison slammed the metal door shut. “Are you stupid?” Allison had that crazed look in her eye, like the look Bruce Banner had before turning into the Hulk. “No, Al, I’m not stupid,” Kelly tried to sound confident. “We’ve been talking for a while, and we’re becoming really close, and…” she made the mistake of looking into Allison’s eyes; no other person had the ability to make someone feel so stupid with just a glance. Allison was Kelly’s best friend, and she loved and cared more about Kelly than her own family. But Al was simply an intimidating person. Her long, brown hair was always perfectly fashioned and her bright green eyes sparkled with motivation. Her voice wasn’t loud, but was always noticeable no matter how loud the room was. People were drawn to her; everyone wanted to be her friend. When Kelly had met Al on the first day of sixth grade, all she had been asking for were directions to the orchestra room. “That’s where I’m going; just follow me!” Al had said. Somehow that formed the inseparable bond that was their friendship now. Everyone knew Allison, so everyone knew Kelly. But Kelly preferred hiding behind Al and simply being “Allison’s friend.” Kelly hid behind anything she could. Her dark brown dyed hair always hung in her face so that her gray-blue eyes only peeked out from behind her long bangs. No matter how many times Allison told her, Kelly never believed that she was truly beautiful, accounting for the mass amounts of makeup she spent too much time applying every day. Keeping her wardrobe simple, Kelly wore skinny jeans and t-shirts every day. Allison tried to add her favorite neon colors to Kelly’s wardrobe, but Kelly was particular when it came to her appearance. Al’s eyes pierced straight through Kelly’s. She just wants what’s best for you, she cares! It’s not like you deserve her trust. Be happy she’s still here, Kel, come on! Kelly bit her lip and looked down. Without looking up she whispered, “You know how he makes me feel. I don’t want to lose what I have with him. And if I don’t go meet him, he might think I don’t care like I say…like I do.” “What you have with him? What could you possibly have with someone you met in chat room three weeks ago? You don’t know anything about this guy! His name probably isn’t even Tony! It’s probably Edwin or Stanley or…Hannibal!” Allison sounded exasperated, her voice growing louder. Kelly’s eyes misted, “You just don’t understand…” Good one Kel, that always gets ‘em. “Understand what? That talking to strangers on the internet is dangerous and stupid? ‘Cause I understand that pretty well,” Allison’s nostrils flared and eyes squinted; Oh no, look what you’ve done now…maybe you shouldn’t have told her... “Look, Al, I didn’t tell you I was going to meet Tony so that you could convince me not to,” Kelly looked everywhere but Allison’s eyes. “I told you because you’re my best friend and…I thought you would support me,” this time, with some hesitation, Kelly looked straight into Allison’s face and mustered up the best puppy-dog eyes she could manage. “Oh, don’t give me that crap,” Allison snapped back. Kelly sighed in defeat and looked away.
“You told me because you knew I would find out some way or another, and you’re smart enough to know it would be better coming from you,” Allison continued. “You probably also know, subconsciously or not, that this is a bad idea and you need someone more convincing than yourself to talk you out of going.” Kelly hesitated, allowing the tears and lump in her throat to subside before answering. Her thoughts were interrupted, however, by the three, overly high-pitched bells, signifying that lunch was over and classes would begin again in five minutes. “Kel, I love you, which is why I’m seriously not letting you do this,” Allison’s face was now serious, a hint of fear gleaming in her eyes. Not receiving a response from Kelly, she pressed on, “Kelly, I’m dead serious. Like, I’m not letting you go. It’s too dangerous. You don’t know this guy; you don’t know what he’s capable of doing or what his intentions might be…It scares me that you would even consider this. Are you even listening to me?” Now Allison sounded desperate. This startled Kelly; in all of the six years they had been friends, she had never seen or heard Al seem so anxious about something. The thought that she might be making a bad decision began to form in the back of Kelly’s mind, interrupted once again by the bells signifying that class had started, and that they were late. “Crap,” Allison looked up at the clock hanging on the wall. “This discussion isn’t over. I swear to God if you leave after school without finding me first, I’m calling your parents,” Allison gave Kelly one last stern look before turning and speed walking to her next class. Kelly stood, paralyzed, unable to comprehend what Allison had just said. Call my parents? Would she really do that to me? I mean, I know she doesn’t like Tony, but that much? Allison didn’t keep her dislike of Kelly’s parents a secret; she loved ranting on how rude and psychotic they were. While her parents weren’t actually crazy, their strict ways caused Kelly and Allison to think otherwise. They would ground Kelly for a month for little things like yelling at her sister or not cleaning up her dishes after a meal; they would secretly follow Kelly and Allison around on their shopping sprees to make sure they weren’t causing mischief; they would always complain about how Kelly wasn’t good enough or meeting up to their expectations. With these things in mind, Kelly decided that Allison was just trying to scare her. Slowly heading towards her class, now three minutes late, Kelly began conjuring up stories to why she wouldn’t be able to hang out with Allison after school; if Kelly simply told Al that she promised she wouldn’t go meet Tony but also couldn’t hang out, Al would definitely be suspicious. Deciding to go with a simple, “My mom’s being annoying and won’t let me do anything after school,” Kelly took a deep breath. You have to tell her you’re not going to meet him; otherwise there’s no way she’ll let you go. This is your chance to finally meet him! It’s just a white lie; you can tell her the truth later. Muttering a ‘sorry’ to her irritated teacher, Kelly took her seat in the back of the class. Great, fifty minutes of hell. Kelly hated history, but the class always gave her a chance to let her mind wander. Resting her chin in the palms of her hands, Tony began to flood her mind. Remembering their first messages with each other, her excitement grew in knowing that she was finally going to meet him. impalaluvr17: kelly, ur seriously so beautiful and sweet
muzikelly716: im not anywhere close to how sweet and handsome u r though impalaluvr17: why do u always have to put urself down?? impalaluvr17: im not lying when i say how much i like u. muzikelly716: i no. thats why i luv talkin to u. and im srry that i put myself down…i just dont see me the way u see me…im such a waste of space i cant even be happy unless im cutting myself…ur the only person who gets me, who luvs me for me muzikelly716: r u still there? impalaluvr17: kelly ur gorgeous, all the pics ive seen on ur profile are breathtaking, astounding. i dont care if u cut or if ur sad a lot or any of that. it makes u beautiful bc its who u r. i just want u to be happy, rlly I do. u mean so much to me, idc if we have only been tlking thru a chat room. i no u and u no me. im always here for u. just like ur friends r. dont forget them either. except ur one friend, al? who cares what she thinks of me? unless u agree with her…kelly I just hope u no if i can do anything to help i will…just name it muzikelly716: omg ur so great! i wish i could just hug u! impalaluvr17: if u want we can make that happen muzikelly716: how? impalaluvr17: meet me tomorrow. muzikelly716: idk… impalaluvr17: kelly I no how i feel about u and u say u feel the same about me. plz meet me. ive been dyin to just hold u in my arms impalaluvr17: r u there muzikelly716: yeah muzikelly716: ok(: ill meet u. where though? impalaluvr17: at the strip mall. after u get out of skool so, 330? muzikelly716: ok, thats fine! my moms cuming so I g2g! luv u! impalaluvr17: see u tomorrow(: impalaluvr17: i luv u 2 “Kelly!” Allison shoved her way through to crowd towards Kelly’s locker. The day was finally over. Kelly had planned on leaving right after school, but knew she had to wait for Allison before she left. I guess it’s fine if I’m five minutes late… “Thank God you haven’t left yet. So what’s up? What are you doing now?” Allison was clearly out of breath; she must have run here. “I thought about what you said and decided you’re right,” Kelly fought to keep her voice from shaking, but Allison’s smile gave her a surge of confidence. “I’m sorry that I freaked you out and I was going to offer treating you to coffee as an apology, but my mom is being super annoying and said I can’t do anything after school,” Kelly surprised herself with the lie and had to suppress her own pleased smile. “Well, I’m just happy you came to your senses,” Allison gave another half-smile, but something else was hiding behind her eyes. “What’s wrong?” Kelly asked.
“Nothing,” Allison chirped, trying to make her smile more convincing. “Just go straight home, ok? You don’t want to piss off momma bear.” “Good idea. I’ll see you tomorrow ok?” Kelly smiled and waved goodbye as she headed toward the parking lot. Kelly tried to convince herself that she had gotten away with the lie, but she knew Al had something on her mind. I wish I could tell what she’s thinking…she makes it look so easy when she does it to me! These thoughts slipped away as Kelly jumped into her car; her heart began to race and the butterflies began to dance in her stomach. Oh my God, I’m actually doing this. I’m actually going to meet Tony! As Kelly raced out of the parking lot, Allison stood in the shade of the building. Watching the exit, she spotted Kelly’s car. A look of panic crossed her face as she watched Kelly turn left out of the parking lot. As Kelly pulled into a parking spot in front of the video game store, she was almost positive that her heart was going to break through her chest. Wiping her palms on her dark blue skinny jeans, she put the car into park and slowly got out of her car. She didn’t know exactly where she was supposed to meet Tony, so she headed towards the café where she could get a strawberry smoothie while she waited for him to show up. As she walked towards the café, she reached into her purse and retrieved a small sheet of folded paper. Tentatively opening it, the smoky gray eyes and dark brown hair of Tony stared back up at her. Allowing a smile to form on her lips, she memorized every curve and shadow of Tony’s face, and then carefully placed the picture back into her bag. Entering the café, Kelly searched all of the tables. Not seeing any familiar faces, she entered the line to order her smoothie. As she stood in line, Kelly watched as people entered and walked past the shop, carefully inspecting each of them. It was almost her turn to order when a head of dark hair walked past the store. Thinking it might be Tony, Kelly hurdled out of line and towards the door. At the same time, a man entered the café. He looked to be in his forties, slightly overweight with stringy black hair and deepset eyes. The stubble of his beard was a bruised blue against his pasty white skin, and the stains on his off-white t-shirt matched the yellow that should have been the whites of his eyes. He smiled as Kelly walked towards him, revealing discolored, crooked teeth. “Excuse me,” Kelly muttered as she rushed past him, her mind set on the dark head of hair. “Kelly, wait!” the man gently grabbed her arm, bringing Kelly back into reality. “You are Kelly, aren’t you?” the man’s dark eyes had a kindness to them. “Uhm, yes, my name is Kelly. Can I help you?” Kelly allowed her voice to lessen and looked up at the man through her eyelashes. “You’re so much prettier in person,” the man smiled, hunger showing in his eyes. “I’m sorry, do I know you?” Kelly pulled her arm away and took a step back. “Let me buy you a coffee. Do you want to sit down?” the man gestured at a secluded table in the corner of the café. Kelly looked around, hoping there might be someone he was mistaking her for. Stopping herself from asking the café if there was another ‘Kelly’ present, Kelly forced a small smile, “I’m sorry sir, but I’m a little confused right now. I don’t know at all who you are. Can you be mistaking me for someone else?” “No, I don’t think so. You are Kelly Marks, correct?” Kelly slowly nodded. “Good, then let’s get coffee,” the man offered a warm smile and stepped into line. “Why don’t you get us a table?”
As the man turned his back to read the menu, a terrible realization struck Kelly. No, please God, no. Don’t let this man be Tony… Forgetting about the model whose picture was folded neatly in her purse, Kelly turned and abruptly headed out the door. Not sure if she heard her name being called, she quickened her pace and began to rummage through her purse for her keys. Oh God, this isn’t happening! Where are my keys? “Crap!” Kelly exclaimed as the contents of her purse went spilling over the pavement. “Crap, crap, crap…” she hurriedly stuffed everything back into her purse, still not finding her keys. “Where are they?” Kelly exclaimed to herself, panic causing her voice to raise a few octaves. “Leaving so soon?” the smooth, familiar voice caused Kelly to jump. Turning around, the man from the coffee shop was standing only three feet away from Kelly, holding her keys. “My, uh, my mom called. I have to leave. I’m so sorry…do you want money for the coffee?” Kelly tried sounding sincere, but it was becoming harder for her to pretend that she was calm. “Kelly, why am I getting the feeling that you don’t want to see me? What’s wrong?” his voice had changed; frustration began to break through the smoothness. “Tony, I’m sorry…this isn’t what I expected…” Kelly couldn’t look at him; she desperately just wanted to wake up from this nightmare. “Kelly, what’s wrong? You were so excited to see me and now you’re acting like you don’t want to be here. Please tell me what’s wrong. You know I can help; I help you all the time. You’re not being fair,” a mixture of hurt and anger shook his voice. Kelly didn’t know what to do. He sounded so hurt by her, and if this man really was Tony, it killed her to upset him. Nonetheless, Kelly knew this situation was a mistake, and she had to end things with this man before anything drastic happened. “Tony, I’m sorry. I…I only came today to tell you…” Kelly hesitated, desperately searching for a reasonable excuse. “Tell me what?” Tony insisted. “To tell you that…we can’t talk anymore. I think we both need to move on…” she let the words fall out of her mouth. Tony stared back at her in disbelief. Kelly looked down; she focused on a smudge on her shoe. “Where is this coming from? Did Allison put you up to this?” Tony whispered. Kelly looked up; he was glaring at her. “No, Allison didn’t do anything. She doesn’t even know I’m here, ok? This isn’t going to work, Tony. I’m sorry. Now, can I have my keys? I really need to go…” she was angry that he had mentioned Al. Kelly really just wanted to leave, and was irritated that Tony didn’t get it that she didn’t want to be with him. This wasn’t the Tony she was expecting; Tony was supposed to be cute and nice and…young. Audibly breathing harder, tears started streaming down Tony’s cheeks. Surprised at this reaction, Kelly cautiously reached out a reassuring hand. As her fingers barely touched the dark hairs on his arm, he suddenly grabbed her wrist. Gasping in surprise, Kelly tried to pull away. Tony held a firm grip, and looked her straight in the eyes. “What…what are you doing?” Kelly half yelled, half squealed at him. “I’m not going to be played again!” Tony yelled at her. “You told me you love me! Is this a game to you?”
Kelly was speechless. She stared back at him, fear and anxiety written all over her face. Tony waited for a response that never came. Obviously frustrated, he pulled on Kelly’s wrist and began leading her away from her car. With his free hand, he slipped her keys into his right, front pocket. “T…Tony?” Kelly pleaded. “Please let me go!” Not saying anything, Tony continued to lead her further and further away from her car. Reaching the end of strip mall, he jerked to the right, causing Kelly to trip and fall to the ground. “Get up!” he growled at her, yanking her wrist upwards and forcing her to jump back to her feet. “Ouch!” Kelly cried in pain. “Let go or…I’ll scream!” the idea finally came to her. “Help! Hel…” she began to scream before Tony slapped his hand over her mouth and slammed her into the brick wall of the building at their right. “Scream one more time and it’ll be the last sound you ever hear,” Tony’s face was only inches from Kelly’s; his breath smelled of onions and Diet Pepsi. Tears began to fall down Kelly’s cheeks and she closed her eyes. This is your fault. You deserve it. You should have listened to Allison…Allison! Oh my God she’s going to kill me… Reluctantly allowing him to lead her further down the side of the strip mall, Kelly contemplated putting up a fight. She could hear the voices of Health and Safety teachers in the back of her head, “If anyone ever tries to abduct you, make a scene and be loud.” Such obvious solutions seemed so difficult in the moment. Kelly knew that she had to do something, but what? Hearing some distant voices wandering from behind the strip mall buildings, Kelly knew that this was her chance. Tony must have also heard the voices because he slowed down, and then stopped to listen. As his face twisted in concentration, Kelly went for it. Stepping down hard on his foot, Tony yelped in pain and released her arm. As soon as her wrist was free, Kelly ran straight towards the back of the buildings. She could hear Tony’s hard panting and loud footsteps behind her, but didn’t dare look back at him. Nearing the corner that would lead to the backs of the buildings, Kelly was ready to start screaming for help. As she turned the corner, bright flashes of blue and red light instantly blinded her, “Whoa!” Kelly screamed, falling backwards and shielding her eyes. “Help! Please help!” she screamed, knowing Tony would be right behind her. “Kel!” a friendly voice called out to her, and she heard footsteps approaching. “Sweetie, are you ok?” Kelly was blinking excessively to bring back her vision, and a pair of bright green eyes came into focus. “Al!” Kelly moaned, relieved and confused as to what she was doing there. “Hurry! Get up! We have to go! He’s right behind us!” Kelly frantically shuffled to her feet, pulling on Allison’s arm. “Al, come on! What are you doing?” Kelly was trying to pull Allison along with her, but Al stood her ground and seemed to be trying to get Kelly to calm down. Kelly stared at her in awe, completely baffled as to how Allison could be so composed. Looking around, she saw Tony standing off to the side, engaged in a friendly conversation with a…police officer? Kelly saw that the flashing lights were coming from police cars. A few officers, looking sharp in their pressed blue uniforms, were standing around, casually talking to each other. Frantically trying to put the pieces together, Kelly’s eyes met Allison’s; looking disappointed and smug.
“Al?” Kelly whispered. “What did I tell you, Kelly Marks? Going to meet a guy from the internet is dangerous,” Allison lectured. “I saw you turn left out of school, and I knew you had, one, just lied to my face and, two, gone to go meet that guy! I tried calling your parents, but they didn’t answer. I wasn’t about to let you put yourself in that kind of danger, so I called the police. I told them what you were doing and that I was scared for your safety. As it turns out, my mom’s best friend works in the force, and she answered my call. As a little, private favor, I asked if it would be possible to not only send a cop to make sure you were ok, but to also scare the crap out of you. I guess things were slow at the station, because she agreed. Officer Kent over there agreed to help out and be our Tony,” Allison smiled and waved at “Tony”, and when she was done explaining, she simply stared at Kelly, politely smiling. After a few moments of letting this information sink in, Kelly realized what Allison had done. She wanted to scream at Al for scaring her so badly and putting her in that situation, but Kelly remembered that she had scared Al too. Biting her tongue and closing her eyes, Kelly sat down and rested her head in her hands. “Oh, your parents eventually called me back. Isn’t that their car” Allison pursed her lips and walked away as Kelly’s parents anxiously got out of their car and began talking with one of the police officers. Kelly looked up and caught her mom’s eye. Her mother slowly shook her head and glared back at Kelly. Sighing, Kelly dropped her head back into her hands. Just pretend none of this is happening; it will all go away. You have to wake up eventually. Gazing back up, Kelly surveyed the scene. Her parents were gaining information from the police officers that would be enough to ground her for the rest of the year; Allison was laughing with a middle-aged brunette-no dubitably her mom’s friend; “Tony” was chatting with some of the other police officers, now sporting a blue jacket and sparkling badge. Finally allowed to go home, Kelly climbed into the driver seat of her parents’ silver minivan (her dad would drive her car home-she lost the privilege to drive). As her mom began to scold her, Kelly looked out the window and tuned out all noise. As they stopped at a red light, something caught Kelly’s eye. Leaning against a candy-apple red 1964 Chevy Impala was a boy who looked to be about 17. His dark brown hair was tussled perfectly, and his cheek bones would allow him to model. Her mother began to drive as the light turned green. Watching the boy, he suddenly looked up and met Kelly’s stare. Behind his smoky gray eyes were the signs of abandonment and betrayal; the look of someone who had just been stood up.
By Greg Toreev An Uninvited Guest Like a frightened guppy Escaping to freedom through a hole in a net I sprawl out on the grass in the single spot of warm sunlight otherwise cloaked in the shade Cast by the reverent ash, silent at my back, With its thick, weather beaten bark, The grizzled armor that has withstood elements for millennia, Garnering deep scars in its protection of the mighty tree. As I sit basking in those pleasant rays, the wind Jealous of the appreciation shown to me by that astral flame, Envelops me, momentarily snatching the radiant warmth Before gusting on merrily, Satisfied at my temporary deprivation. Cerulean and cadmium flowers, standing on slender bodies And crowned with brilliance, Dance in the selfish breeze just beyond my reach, Offering their pollen to a diligent bee. Go beyond and you’ll hear the shameless exchanges between the tittering sparrow and the melancholy mourning dove, Completely oblivious To the fact that the world is an eavesdropper on their conversation. But perhaps not. They don’t seem to mind And neither do I.
Study in Scarlett “You go to hell Will Scarlett, and stay there.” Those hazy words largely drowned out by the beating I was taking dully echoed in my ears before I received the coup de grace: a rock hard fist to the side of my jaw that sent me flying into that cold, silent darkness… …I don’t know how long I laid there, must have been for at least a few hours judging from the glint of the pale moonlight on the broken bottles littering the dark alley behind the Black Stag. I pushed myself with my elbow, leaning my bruised back against the crumbling brick wall behind me. My head, still spinning with a dull, throbbing ache, tried unsuccessfully to piece together what had just happened from my fractured memory. The old man, the three hoods following him, me jumping in to save the poor geezer, the fight, and then seeing his face in the midst. Then emptiness. But that face, I’d know that face anywhere. Morgan freakin’ Corbally. Still hates me guts after all these years. Pisshead. I leaned my head back against the wall and took in a deep, ragged breath and let it out slowly, watching the vapor dance in the air and gracefully disappear into the crisp night air. Now, I try to be a good man, but I don’t normally leap into fights to stop gangs of punks from ripping off the elderly. But this was different somehow. Another sliver of memory rose into my mind, lasting only a few seconds, like the brief glow of a light bulb filament after it’s turned off. There was something else he said, at the end right before knocking me out. What was it? I racked my brain trying to remember. I don’t know why I felt so determined to recall that last line, but there I was, sitting in the alley of a decrepit pub smack in the middle of the dogdy end of southside Dublin pouring over in my mind the beating I had just taken. Suddenly, a glimmer. He said something about business. “…and especially quit screwing up my business…” As I thought about this, I came to realize that it wasn’t like a usual mugging. The target is always chosen on the fly, kind of like how a lioness picks out the weakest calf as she watches a herd. They had him, the old man, picked out. I remembered how they kept out of sight, how they looked at each other while approaching him from behind, as if to confirm their target. Why do you need three guys to mug an old man? It had to have been a hit. To any other person it would have seemed absolutely ridiculous, but in my bruised and shaken mind it was a clear as day. Just as the realization hit me a black Lincoln SUV whipped around the corner and screeched to a stop right outside the Black Stag. Two men stepped out of the car, one tall and sharp eyed, with a narrow face sporting a sneer and slicked back hair and the other a shorter, powerfully built man with a crooked nose and a shaved head. A jagged scar ran along his left cheek. They both wore dark coats, the tall one with a navy turtleneck underneath. “So who’s we after again Arch?” asked the shorter one in a deep raspy voice. His brogue was thick with the slight upturn of his vowels which marked him as a north Dubliner. Probably from Finglas, all the thugs come from Finglas. The Tall One pulled out a photo from his jacket, handing it to the Short One. “Guy by the name of Will Scarlett. Heard he’d botched our little operation, so the Don wants to bring ‘im in. Have a little chat.” Hearing my name, my mind began to race for an escape. That SUV was bound to have more goons in it and if I tried to leg it, especially in the state I was in, they’d grab me in seconds. I couldn’t lie in the alley either, they’d be sure to sweep the entire area when they
realized I wasn’t in the pub. The only shot I had was to try and climb the chain link fence in the back of the alley and try to get home. Oh God, I just remembered home. Jenny’s probably worried sick. Oddly, in this moment of imminent danger, I wondered if she had eaten anything. A part of me hoped mum was sober enough to fix her something, but the rest of me knew that she wasn’t in shape to do anything. She is probably starving. Starving and worried. What if they got to her? My mind was now flying all over the place a mile a minute, thinking of all awful scenarios. I had to get home. I slid sideways back into the darker recesses of the alley and using my legs, pushed myself up the wall until I was standing. In a rush of confidence and urgency I took my first step off the wall, only to have my leg give out underneath me as my foot hit the ground, dropping me onto the cold hard pavement. I pulled myself up onto my hands and knees, ready to try again when someone burst out of the pub door. “He’s not here, I haven’t seen him all night! His shift ended hours ago.” I recognized the clear, angelic voice right away. It was Claire Walsh, a new waitress at the pub. Heart throb of South Dublin I called her and there wasn’t a man alive who had stepped foot into that pub who would say otherwise. “I’m telling you again, his shift ended at five, he’s been gone for hours.” she snapped. “Where’s he now?” I recognized the Tall One’s voice as he yelled over her. “I don’t know.” Claire said cooly. “Yeah?” went Tall One “I think you’re lying to us. How about you Dag, think she’s lying?” “Like the bloody prime minister.” Short One growled. “Piss off you two. I’m not lying to you, I’ve got no idea where he went” Claire shouted. “You ought to show some respect miss, wouldn’t want to have to put a scratch on that pretty face of yours.” Tall One snarled. A sharp smack rang out in the night followed by a shriek. Anger washed over me, a rage spread through my chest. Like a sprinter out of blocks I shot out of the alley and turned the corner where I saw the Tall One with his hand around Claire’s throat, his outstretched arm pinning her up against the wall. “O, bastard!” I screamed flinging myself at the Tall One, knocking him on his back. I rolled on top of him and began furiously whaling on whatever part of him I could manage to hit before the Short One got me off with a kick to the chest. The wind knocked out of me, I lay sprawled on the pavement looking into the dumb but cruel face of the Short One, Dag I think I heard him called. The Tall One, Arch, picked himself up and looked me up and down. He pulled out the photo from his jacket pocket and, showing it to Dag, asked “This him, innit Dag? Has to be, look at ‘is hair. Guess we know why they call him Scarlett.” Arch laughed through bloody teeth. “Alright, guess we’ve got our man. Grab him and bring him to the car would you dear?” He said to Dag as he turned his back and walked back to the car. He stopped halfway and turned to Claire and tipped an imaginary hat in her direction “Night miss, thanks for the help.” he cackled “God I love my job.” Clair, too scared or shocked for words, watched as Dag heaved me up by the back of my jacket and dragged me into the SUV. I was thrown in the backseat between two large thugs, both of which had the butts of their Glocks poking out of their unzipped jackets. I definitely would not have been able to leg it. Arch and Dag got into to the row of seats in front of me and the SUV began to pull away. I heard Arch talking softly into a mobile phone: “Yeah, we got ‘im. Yeah, we’re sure. Positive. Alright see you.”
He turned to me from the row in front, smiling his bloody smile and sneered: “We’re going for a little visit. Have a little chat with the Don.” He looked at the thug to my right and gave him a slight nod and suddenly a black hood was pulled over my head and a handgun muzzle shoved into my ribs. Roughly twenty minutes later the car slowed to a stop and a door opened. A strong hand pulled me out of the SUV and twisting my arm behind my back I was led until a warm gust of air washed over me. A heavy sounding door closed behind me. Pushed ahead, I eventually arrived at some steps which I stumbled down before being sat down on a stool. My shroud was lifted and I found myself in a dark room with a long table in front of me. A light shone in my face. As my eyes became adjusted I could just make out the faint shadow of a person sitting across from me at the end of the table. An ember from a cigarette glowed dimly in the shadow. A hoarse, smoky voice spoke softly from within the dark “William Scarlett. Age 23. 5’11” “It’s six feet” I interrupted, then receiving a hard punch from somewhere behind me. “Five feet, eleven inches,” the voice continued “180 pounds. Born in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin in 1989. Father abandoned you at age 5, your ma’s a raging alcoholic and your young sister Jenny is just about to start secondary school at St. Mary’s. She’s a pretty one, now ain’t she?” “What do you want from me?” I asked. “Earlier today you botched a little operation of ours. A colleague of yours, Mr. Morgan Corbally, informed us .” The voice said. “Now, the man you rescued today was, how shall I say, a competitor of ours and being a businessman, I sought to eliminate said competition. Understand?” “Yes.” I replied, shifting my weight on the stool. “As you are by now aware, we know who you are. We know that you spent a time in the West End street gang with your friend Mr. Corbally where you pushed drugs for us. We also know that you’ve got quite the little record. Possession, larsony, assault.” The voice said mater-of-factly. “So?” “Mr. Scarlett, we feel that a person with your particular skill set could help us remedy the little faux pas you committed this afternoon. You see, the man you saved was Ian McQuaid, head of the Clerkwell Mob. He’s been out ordering our boys killed, and we want that to stop. Savvy?” “And?” The voice chuckled. “Why, Mr. Scarlett, you’re going to finish the job.” “And if I say no?” I blurted out “Remember Mr. Scarlett, we know where you live. T’would be a shame if poor, beautiful Jenny were to have an accident, wouldn’t it?” “I don’t even know who you are.” “Oh you do. Everyone knows the Dipper.” Donald O’Leary, commonly known as “The Don” or as the he likes to call himself, Donald the Dipper. It’s a stupid name I know, but just ask those he’s “dipped.” You see, Donny’s a bit of a historian and he just got a kick from learning about the Salem Witch Trials in which accused witches were “ducked,” strapped into a chair and dunked into a river for minutes at a time. He was so taken with the ingenuity of the Puritans that he decided to give it a try. Needless to say, he was a huge fan. After the meeting I was hoisted and pushed back up the stairs and into the backseat of another car, a black four door Lexus that must have been as old as I was. Arch got behind the wheel and Dag got into the passenger’s side.
Arch, tuning around, tossed a folder into my lap. Inside I found the picture of Ian McQuaid and a file containing every imaginable piece of information about him. Even knew his favorite cereal that he had each morning. “That’s him, that’s McQuaid. You kill him tonight.” Arch said nonchalantly, as if it were a grocery list. He eats in this dingy Dim Sum joint uptown. He’s eats in a back room, the paranoid wanker. You’re going to dress up as a waiter, walk in and bang, you’re off the hook.” “Just like that?” “Just like that.” Dag quipped with a smirk. We pulled up to the restaurant “Kim’s Dim Sum” and parked around the corner. Dag reached into the glove box and pulled out a handgun and screwed a silencer onto the muzzle and tossed it into my lap. “Alright, he comes in at 8:00 PM most weeks, here, this is the waiter’s uniform.” Arch threw over what looked like a karate uniform and handed me a hat. You’ve got about an hour. “Wait, so what about body guards? What do I do if he’s got guards?” “Take ‘em out too I guess.” Arch replied. “You guess? Is this how you two always work?” “Yeah, why?” Dag asked I just shook my head and slipped into my uniform. At seven thirty I slipped through the back entrance, the gun tucked into my waistband. Scanning the busy kitchen, no one seemed to notice me. I made my way to the restroom and kept watch through the small porthole in the door. At quarter till I saw McQuaid, the same frail looking old man that I saw the other day, walk through the dining room and make his way to the back. I followed him out and into the kitchen area where I got a glimpse of him heading through a red door and into a side room next to the walk in freezer. Taking a deep breath I started toward the room when I was stopped by a tiny Asian man “Where you go? Take this out to table twelve!” he cried handing me two bowls of hot dim sum. Panicking, I took the bowls into my hands and turned around, heading into the dining room where I saw a young man no more than 17, and handed him the bowls “Table twelve, sharpish” I growled at him. “Uh-uh, oh, alright.” he stuttered. Storming back into the kitchen, I made my way past the walk-in and stopped in front of the red door, reached into my uniform jacket, and flipped the safety off, pulling the gun out. I slowly reached for the brass door knob and turned it, gently pushing the door open. Stepping into the dim, smoke filled room, I leveled my gun and stepped in…
By Jenny Lamb Wind Sight Lying sprawled and content on a grassy hill Looking around myself, and then Down at the hot pavement lined with yellow stripes Then further down At a grassy soccer field with practice in progress. I try To understand what I am seeing.
I see the delicate legs of an unknown red insect crawling across my page I feel the sharpness and softness of the half dead grass all around me Is sight noticing every detail? I realize how the sun heats every color differently and How the it can give you insight To the things behind you In the form of morning shadows. But that is not all sight is. I look over and see the cars on the road And understand the coordination they need to all drive in sync Gears shifting, pedals moving, eyes watching. I look down toward the girls at practice running drills with perfect coordination Running, juggling, dribbling. Is sight seeing the big picture? But I am only on a hill What do the people in a plane see? Sight is understanding.
The blend of the minute and the massive. The wind does this well. It gathers nearby smells and faraway sounds Drawing all of them near to stationary people Giving them a fresh perspective Already in focus.
It's All Good In the Hood Miss Persimmon glided to the front of the classroom with her characteristically over cheery smile on her face. "Good morning boys and girls" she chirped. "Today is a going to be a very exciting day for us kindergarteners". I glanced over at Everett with a smirk on my face. Foolish educator, you are not in kindergarten, we are; was the silently communicated message. But then Miss Persimmon spoke again, and this time I was giving her words my full attention. She gestured to a tall boy standing next to her in a bored manner, and introduced him to the class as Elliot Johanson. She told us that Elliot had just moved to New York from Atlanta and that he would be joining us for the remainder of the year. Miss Persimmon carried on with the rest of her "exciting" announcements, but to be honest, I really didn't care about any of that. All I could think about was Elliot. He was dressed well for a boy in a navy polo and tan shorts. I thought he was the most handsome boy I had ever seen. That navy shirt really looked cool with his short white blonde hair and his blue eyes. But then I snapped out of it, just in time to hear Miss Persimmon say that the parts for our spring musical "Little Red Riding Hood", would be announced tomorrow. I wanted the part of Red. Red Riding Hood had been the book my mother and I read every night before bed when I was really little, and let's be honest Red is just an awesome character. Unfortunately, every other girl in class wants to be Red too. Especially Lyric. Lyric Sedgwick is literally the most annoying five year old ever, I am telling you that. We have gone to Kensington School together since we were both three and a half and in Miss Willow's nursery school class. Even then Lyric had been annoying, but now she is worse. She is just so messy. She never washes her hands before snack time and she even goes out and plays in the dirt looking for worms during recess. It is totally disgusting. But whatever. Miss Persimmon finished her announcements and sent us to our tables to work on an addition sheet. I hate addition. It's just hard. I know my numbers, but I always forget whether the dash or the cross means to add. Lyric was having no trouble with her sheet much to my chagrin, and once she finished the sheet she started talking to Elliot, because of course, knowing my luck he was put at her table. The rest of the day was pretty boring. The next morning I sat by Elliot for announcement time. Even he however, was not enough to distract me from the announcement about "Little Red Riding Hood". I sat there anxiously awaiting my part. I, Kenya Abbott would play Red Riding Hood for sure. I hoped. "The role of Red Riding Hood will be played by Patricia. The role of the wolf will be played by Elliot. The role of the woodcutter will be played by Everett. Lyric and Kenya, you will be playing trees in the forest" Miss Persimmon's announcement sent a shudder down my spine and a scowl to my face. I couldn't believe it. Not only was I not Red, I was a tree. A stupid tree that would inevitably get cut down. Whoop dee do. On top of the humiliation of playing a tree, Lyric was also a tree. We would have all our scenes together. The one good thing was that Lyric was not Red. That would have been unbearable. However this was still terrible, so obviously I did what any girl my age would do. I went and begged Miss Persimmon to change my part. I walked over to her uncertainly with a genuinely sad look on my face and asked her if there was anything else, a little more special, I could play. Miss Persimmon squatted to the ground to look me directly in the eyes and put her hand on my shoulder. She explained that she needed a few "special" girls just like Lyric and I to play trees in this play, and that maybe next year, if I did a really good job as a tree, I could get a bigger part. I was really upset now.
I had been sure if I just talked to her then she would have understood, but no apparently not. She tried to hug me, and tell me that a tree was still an important part, but I pulled away from her. Thankfully I didn't cry until I was home in bed under my red comforter. The next day practice for the play began, and I realized, with disgust, that Patricia knew absolutely nothing about the story of Little Red Riding Hood. She asked all these stupid questions like, "Why is Red even visiting her grandma?" and "Wait! He eats the grandmother?". It was a sad sight to see. The one good part was that Lyric actually looked like she might have been as annoyed with Patricia as I was. When it was finally time to practice the tree scene all we had to do was stand there while Elliot pretended to cut us down. It took a grand total of a minute to practice. It was a minute with Elliot but still, I was miffed. As I went back to sit in my seat to watch the other kids practice I noticed that Lyric had shifted seats and was now sitting right next to my spot. Normally I would have moved to the other side of the room had she done that, but today I had bigger problems than Lyric. "Psssst" she whispered to me. "What?" I asked, trying not to get my face too close to hers, she was still gross after all. "Why do you think Miss Persimmon picked Patricia? She stinks". I agreed with her and told her that we would probably never understand the mind of a weird adult like Miss Persimmon. She nodded her head in agreement. When it came time for Lyric and I to practice the allimportant tree cutting scene, we stood up on the stage while Elliot practiced cutting us down over and over again. It was extremely boring. The only somewhat interesting part was the music playing in the background. After four run throughs or so I became kinda fidgety, so I started rocking back and forth in my spot to the beat. Lyric noticed and started doing it too. She even added a little spin and fall to the rocking. After that each time we practiced the scene one of us would add something. Eventually it became a full fledge dance with spins, twirls, waving arms, and lumbering steps, that I would say we were both pretty proud of. As we walked out of rehearsal Miss Persimmon smiled at us and said, "Good job girls, very inventive, keep it up".
Inferno It starts with the strike of a match A fragile spark catches wind Its' strength is unknown as of yet Where there is smoke, there is fire. A fragile spark catches wind A blazing campfire now. Where there is smoke, there is fire Comfortable crackles and sounds. A smokey campfire now Shifting to a more powerful blaze Comfortable crackles and sounds Power is rising uncertainly Shifting to a more powerful blaze As gasoline is poured on the fire Power is rising uncertainly Whatever is about to transpire As gasoline is poured on the fire Its' strength is unknown as of yet Whatever is about to transpire It starts with a strike of a match
By Lizzy Larson Above Average Finally getting off the crowded bus was always a relief. Seeing his aunt’s beige, average looking house in Brooklyn was comforting after a long day of surgery at the hospital, inhaling pollution in the city, and being pressed against strangers in the bus. As he sauntered in the door, proud of himself for the impeccable 3 surgeries he performed today, he remembered how thankful he was that his aunt still let him live here. Hoping to engage in his favorite hobby, he pressed the top of the Xbox, putting the disc in and being sure the cases were all aligned and still in alphabetical order. He played, uninterrupted, finally 3 storm troopers away from facing Darth Vader, when all of a sudden: “Lester, I need to talk to you, please,” Lester’s aunt said from her office, two rooms away from where Lester was intensely playing Kinect Star Wars. Come on, the 27 year old man whose eyes were hooked on the television screen, flailing around, trying to finally defeat Darth Vader thought, Every time I am on the brink of subsequently decimating the unpropitious Empire, someone interrupts me. Nevertheless, he paused the game, promising that he would later return and finally defeat his mortal enemy, Darth Vader, although he had never met him. Jenny and Christine, little brown haired blue-eyed clones, were whispering to each other about some 5th grade drama going on at school as Lester walked in. “I have some exciting news, kids!” His aunt said. Lester found it slightly beleaguering, and yet still endearing that his aunt still included him in her usage of ‘kids’ even though he was far past the age of being called a kid by anyone. “Some exciting things have been going on at the adoption agency,” We’re all gathered in her office because “some exciting things” are occurring at her place of work? Lester thought. Don’t get him wrong, he loves his aunt, but sometimes he thinks of moving out simply because he is one of the greatest (well, if he’s being honest, the greatest) doctors of all time, and he should not be treated the same way as an 11 year old. But then he thinks of moving to New York City, a short 7.9 miles from Brooklyn, but somehow a world away, sleeping in an apartment, cleaning his own apartment and seeing the germs he had so long separated himself from, no one to save him if someone were to break in, and he mellows out and remembers how much he loves his aunt, uncle and cousins. “Well, I’ve been working on adopting a child to join our family, and finally, they contacted me and said they have a child for us!” His aunt seemed ready to explode, her face turning the color of spaghetti sauce, raising her voice higher and louder with every syllable. “I’m increasingly mirthful for you! Congratulations!” Lester said, trying to sound as sincere as possible, as he weighed all the possibilities of where the additional child would sleep. Well, clearly my room is illicit, Lester thought, their mother previously admeasured one room for the twins to sleep in, and Aunt Felicity and her always working husband, Uncle Frederick, repose in the room just above the kitchen. The child’s best option is clearly the basement. Perfect. It’s all settled, then. The twins jumped up and down, like how they did when they found out Justin Bieber was coming to New York City. Not that they were going to see him, but simply that they would be within eight miles of the man was enough for them.
“We’re going to have a sister!” yelling in that way girls do when they forget there are other people who are trying to keep their hearing intact. They ran out, chattering about how they would do her hair, what they were going to teach her, how she would love Justin Bieber, too. “Lester, honey, Frederick and I have been talking, and…well, I think you should sit down to hear this,” She said, not meeting Lester’s eyes that were looking at her the way he looks at his coworker, and probably best friend, Abby, when she asks if he can do another craniotomy on what is supposed to be his day off. “I think we’re thinking the same thing, Felicity,” he said, anxious to share his idea with her. “I highly doubt it, hon,” she said, still avoiding his gaze, “Frederick and I think it would be best for you to get your own apartment in the city.” All thoughts of his illustrious idea flew out of his head, and all he could think of was the time when his parents coolly told him he would not be playing piano in Carnegie Hall until he was nine. Except the actors in this scene were different. This time, his aunt was not the one consoling him, understanding and treating him like the boy he was, she was the one ripping his heart out, telling him something she knew would shake up his 170 IQ point brain. Somehow, he thought, she had lost perspective just like everyone else. She had bought in to the aspersion that I was immune to emotion. I was just that nephew who was freakishly intelligent, way above average, already a practicing neurosurgeon at 27, and wouldn’t move out of her house. “I’m so sorry, Lester.” Her deceptively angelic voice matched the contradicting way she consoled him while forcing him to move out. She seemed genuinely sorry, but could he trust this woman who was going to force him to do something she knew he was intensely afraid of? “I believe this is my cue to leave then, Felicity.” His hardened, cold voice pierced through the silence. He marched confidently out of her office, trying to hide the fact that he was already worrying what would happen if someone tried to break into his apartment. No one would be intimidated by a 5’6”, 137 pound man who said he was a neurosurgeon. Packing up his bags, he remembered the day he moved in: A short two years earlier, finally an official doctor, feeling incredibly proud of himself for becoming a doctor almost four years before anyone else his age would. Then, he was in anticipation of the wonderful doctor he would be and all of the friends he would have over when his aunt and her family went on vacation. Now, he had lived here for two years, had thrown one “party” to which only his friend, Abby, attended, and they ended up watching Star Wars, which is what they do every Friday night anyway, and had become one of the most acclaimed neurosurgeons at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Meticulously folding every one of his carefully pressed collared shirts, he placed them into the suitcase he had fearfully kept in the back of his closet. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to move out on his own, in fact it was a bit embarrassing that he was the only 27 year old, make that a 27 year old neurosurgeon who was making a lot of money, who lived in a housing development in Brooklyn with two 11 year old girls and two middle aged adults. It was more that, although he had always been independent, it had been his parents pushing him away because they didn’t know how to interact with their brainiac son. Once he confirmed his job at New-York Presbyterian, all he wanted was some stability. He had always been moving around, going to the best schools, never having real friends except for Abby, books being his friends when with his parents, and always attempting to speak normally, but using the words he had learned from his books. Now, the stability he had tried for for so long was being taken away. But somehow,
he couldn’t blame his aunt and uncle. They had been more than understanding, and, even though his immense fear of being attacked by someone if he lived alone was still there, he had to move out and face his fear sometime. His apprehension grew to anticipation as he realized that with all of the technology out there, he could not only get a high-tech security system and be protected from any person who would attempt to kidnap him for his brilliant mind, but also hire a cleaning woman so he could remain separated from the germs he desperately tried to get rid of. What neighborhood will I live in? He thought, I desire to be in close proximity to... “I love you, Les,” his aunt whispered from outside his closed door, “I know you will be great on your own, honey, and I’ll always be here for you.” “Thank you, Felicity.” Lester said, trying to decide how he felt about her seemingly heartfelt apology. He looked back at his packed up suitcase, surprisingly small, and yet carrying his entire life. Now that he had some perspective, he felt reassured, somewhat like when his aunt had talked to him after his disappointment at not being able to play at Carnegie Hall until the following year. Not nearly as frightened as he used to be, he began to think of solutions, other than a video camera. Maybe he could get a roommate who was a fellow doctor. Clearly, they would not be as good of a doctor as he was, because, let’s be honest, no one is; but at least they would have something in common. I could talk to Abby, he thought, losing some of his big vocabulary as he tried to get on the same level as other young doctors who lived alone, she knows almost everyone at the hospital. Doing his routine wipe of the doorknob with the hankie he keeps in his left pocket, he pulled the door open, and gave his aunt what felt like a thank you hug. Thank you for always being there for me when my parents just treated me like a little robot. Thank you for letting your 25 year old nephew move in with you even though he was making $200,000 a year. Thank you for forcing me to move out even though i never thought i could. He knew this wouldn’t be goodbye but nevertheless said, “I know you only want the best for me.” With that, he began to leave, losing some of his fear with every step. Walking into the twins room, he said, “See ya later, girls. I hope you eventually have a rendezvous with Justin Bieber.” They were enthralled in reading all about Justin’s girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and talking about how they would get him to break up with her, but Lester knew they heard him, and told himself that he would do everything he possibly could to somehow ensure they would meet him someday. He sauntered out of the large oak door, knowing this would not be the last time he would see this average looking, and yet beautiful, house since he would come back to get his suitcase, but still feeling sentimental. As he walked to the bus stop where he had spent exactly 2 minutes and 17 seconds every morning for the past two years, he looked at his watch, now on a completely different schedule. He had a feeling a lot of pieces of his life would be different. But, right now, he just had to wait for the bus.
The 21st Century See. You ask me what I see? I say yellowing, itchy, dry grass A blade breaking every second A moon reminded of better times When its light was shining on the world Cracked pavement Weakening with the pressure of every tire Harshly colored cars rushing past, A house with an American flag Without freedom, twisted around its pole Power lines that provide electricity But add to the bleak atmosphere With their discoloration Those trees, resting on the grass, Casting shadows, the portals Which appear to welcome any desperate soul To get away from this harsh reality Called the 21st century See. You ask me what I see? I say a cerulean sky Growing into its cheerful color as the day wears on The sun shining brightly and warming my skin Jubilantly shedding her light on the earth Brightly colored cars happy to add Their own bit of the rainbow to the color scheme That house over there with that wrapped up American flag Just to the right of it The perfect bright petunias, daisies, and ferns Creating that family’s perfect garden Trees, the solid trunk contrasting the free leaves, Wave to passersby, reminding them of the soft breeze Begging all to come outside and join them in this beautiful reality Called the 21st century
Celebrate The family Broken at the loss Of the beloved young brother. Their family minus one Each person pinching their arm Hoping to wake up from a nightmare. Trudging towards the building where, Surrounded by droopy, bleak colored flowers, His body lies in a mahogany box, Like a special exhibit at the zoo, Everyone looking. The children, playful and free, Invite others to join their celebration. People hold on to mourning Like they hold on to: The perfect job they lost. That voice saying “it just isn’t working out” still ringing in their head. The tragic miscarriage that broke a family. Their dreams, haunting them after all these years. The children continue their celebration, Thinking the flowers suggest a party. But maybe they’re not wrong after all.
By Nate Andrus Our World Wiggles Our world wiggles It can’t stay still. The leaves, they shimmy in an uninhibited dance. The grass, immovable molds under our bodies, as insects crawl about it. The earth itself, rotates as if its got somewhere to go. The cars, transport people as cargo being perpetually shipped. The people, move to and fro in uptight busyness forgetting the beauty of our wiggly world.
Jesus+Nothing=Everything Pulling her Ferrari into her house in Beverly Hills, Successful in the world’s eyes, and hers. Craving for security, and in need of nothing makes her Forget who gave her everything. His world seems hopeless Laying his weary head on the Pavement that he calls home. Hungry and cold, he forgets that He’s offered everything. He offers us everything, And wants nothing back. His cross did all the work, Will we ever stay on track? He is our everything. I try to grasp the equation, Like calc on a monday morn. So simple in form, and Complex in application. Jesus+Nothing=Everything.
Mr. and Mrs. The beautiful mansion cast a shadow on the landscape in front of the greek style columns. “Hey,” he said as he walked through the front door. His wife was sitting on the couch staring at her blank cell phone. “Hey, so I kind of lost my wedding ring,” she said while twiddling with her hair. “Wait, what do you mean you lost it?” he said. “Is it in the house? Did you leave it in the car? When did you last have it?” “Well, I think I lost it last week. Maybe thursday, no, no, no it was Tuesday. Or Monday, I kinda forgot that I lost it.” “Ugh come on, that was such an expensive ring.” “Ya, I mean I looked for it. I had Sally come over for a little bit to help, but we didn’t find it.” He glanced at her as she played games on her cell phone. “You never wore it much anyway,” he said. “Well I would just take it off when I work out, and then I’d sometimes forget to put it back on.” “You’d forget to put it on a lot of times; not sometimes, a lot of times.” “I can just get a replacement one without the diamonds,” she said. “Are you kidding? You know how much I sacrificed to get that ring? Do you remember the apartment in Brooklyn I was living in to afford that? There were days I couldn’t shower because there just wasn’t water!” “Well I’ve had to sacrifice too,” she said. “Oh yeah? Why don’t you list off some things you’ve given up?” Her cell phone kept buzzing like a hornet. “Hold on, Sally is calling me,” she said. “Oh, I’d love to talk to Sally!” He grabbed her phone, and chucked it against the wall. The shattered remains laid on the ground. She got up, grabbed her keys, and drove away.