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SYCAMORE AN ANNUAL OF POETRY, PROSE AND ART by Students of STLCC -Wildwood


Volume 6

2014

Editors Monica Swindle – Editor and Advisor Mark Weber – Art Editor and Advisor Christopher Candice – Faculty Editor Dawn Dupler – Faculty Editor Lisa Haag – Faculty Editor Patricia Feeney – Faculty Editor Debbie Ward – Copy Editor Jean Corea – Graphic Design

About the Cover Artwork by Kim Kordonowy Medium: acrylic and oil paint I painted this heron from a photo I took in Tampa, Florida. The bird glowed with back light while long afternoon shadows stretched in patterns behind him in the grass. I painted the composition in watery cobalt blue acrylic and then added brilliant colors and thick white oil paint while leaving parts of the acrylic underpainting intact. This layering added texture and interest to my subject. This technique is one I have experimented with for the last several years. I love showing the beauty of birds in nature.


About SYCAMORE Ancient Egyptian culture revered the Mediterranean sycamore fig tree as a symbol of immortality, with its fruit symbolizing mercy and compassion. A biblical mention of the sycamore fig references Zaccheus, in Luke 19:4, who climbed a sycamore tree so that he could have a glimpse of Jesus. Native American stories feature the American sycamore as having sacred properties. Some see it as a magical tree that symbolizes growth, persistence, strength, and endurance. Sycamore lore even appears in Missouri author Mark Twain’s most famous of novels, Tom Sawyer. Tom almost leaves a sycamore scroll for his Aunt Polly, but then thinks better of it and puts it back in his pocket. The sycamore tree is evident in our own Wildwood, Missouri community. The brown bark of the sycamore peels away to reveal its inner core, and during the winter the pale branches of sycamore groves stand in contrast to the grey and brown quilt of neighboring trees. The sycamore tree has inspired generations with its quiet, enduring majesty, just as our journal contributors inspire us by revealing eternal truths about the nature of life and love. – Layla Azmi Goushey

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WILDWOOD CREATIVE WRITING CLUB CONTEST LITERARY AWARDS Grand Prize Winner, Fiction “Body Slam’s Daughter” by Jason Wojtowicz Creative Non-Fiction Winner “Wretched” by Mary Loggia Fiction Winner “Return” by Oriana Wood Poetry Winner “Forms” by Elena Kang

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Artwork: Sarah Kennedy...................................................................................................... 4 “Body Slam’s Daughter” by Jason Wojtowicz (Fiction)........................................................... 5 Artwork: Connor Evans ....................................................................................................... 8 “Return” by Oriana Wood (Fiction)........................................................................................ 9 Artwork: Kevin Bullock....................................................................................................... 11 “Bruce, 1969” by Jason Wojtowicz (Poetry)........................................................................ 12 “Jokbo” by Elena Kang (Fiction).......................................................................................... 14 Artwork: Sherry Story........................................................................................................ 25 “Final Goodbyes” by Gregory Sandifer (Poetry).................................................................... 26 Artwork: Jonathan Hill...................................................................................................... 28 “Wretched” by Mary Loggia (Creative Nonfiction).................................................................... 29 Artwork: Dion Dion........................................................................................................... 30 “The Regret” by Oriana Wood (Creative Nonfiction)............................................................. 31 Artwork: Alexandrea Strake................................................................................................ 37 “Forms” by Elena Kang (Poetry).......................................................................................... 38 Artwork: Zoey Fiedler......................................................................................................... 39 “Highways” by Brent Phillip Barrett Jr. (Poetry)..................................................................... 40 Artwork: Kristin Perry......................................................................................................... 41 “Local News” by Charles Janik (Poetry)............................................................................... 42 Artwork: Kaitlyn Swartz...................................................................................................... 45 “Quiet Kitchen” by Bryan Rosinski (Poetry) ......................................................................... 46 Artwork: Frank Enger......................................................................................................... 47 “The Universe” by Bradley Bates (Poetry)......................................................................... 48 Artwork: Michelle Streiff..................................................................................................... 49 “Return” by Kendra Hefner (Fiction).................................................................................... 50 “On the Nature of ‘Flipper Movies’” by Charles Janik (Nonfiction).......................................... 53 Artwork: Arden Goewert.................................................................................................. 56 “Yo Te Amo” by Kendra Hefner (Poetry)............................................................................ 57 Artwork: Kevin Bullock..................................................................................................... 59

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artwork by SARAH KENNEDY | STLCC-Wildwood


JASON WOJTOWICZ | STLCC-Wildwood | Fiction

Body Slam’s Daughter

I

was never very good with members of the opposite sex. For example, in

the fourth grade Kelsey Brooks asked me to be her valentine. I ended up getting so nervous I threw up on her feet. Kids gave me shit for that for months, and safe to say, I did not have a valentine that year. Shoot to high school, and I had not changed very much. I was tall, chubby, uncoordinated, pimply, and most definitely awkward. I did not have a line of girls outside my house. Girls weren’t as easy to me as they were to most of the other guys I knew. All these other guys seemed to just get it. It was almost as easy for them as going up to a girl and saying, “Hey, it’s sex time,” and the girl being all like, “Oh, okay, let me just go grab my lady condom!” I think that might be a bad example, but you get my point. I’m just not that good. That’s why I was so surprised that Megan Solomon, one of the most attractive girls I’ve ever seen, even started talking to me in the first place. The first conversation we had went a little something like this. “Hey, how’s it going?” she asked as she took a seat next to me. Of all people, she sat down next to this guy? What are the chances? I had to think of something cool to say back to her. Maybe something funny. “Yeah, uh, not much,” I replied and then went silent for the rest of the class. They call me Mr. Smooth Moves. Anyway, over the next couple months, we would talk and struck up a friendship. We actually had a lot in common. We both wanted to be doctors, we liked Spearmint gum, and she even liked the same kind of music I did. I finally summoned the courage and asked her to hang out sometime. “Yeah, pick me up from my house Saturday night. It’s a date,” she said. I almost threw up in my mouth. I pulled up to her house in my car (a 1994 Ford Escort, which I would call my “Swaggin Wagon”), practically sweating through my shirt. Her house was huge, three times the size of mine. I walked up to the front door with flowers in hand because according to my mother “girls like that sort of thing.” I knocked on the door and almost immediately got an answer. That’s when I met him. The most terrifying man I have ever met in my life. Bobby “Body Slam” Solomon.

I always knew Mr. Solomon lived around town, him being a local celebrity SYCAMORE

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and all. I should have put two and two together. You see, “Body Slam” Solomon was the one of the world’s most famous professional wrestlers in the 1980’s. I remember seeing him on TV before he retired, hitting other grown men with chairs and throwing other grown men into wooden tables. His matches with Mack “The Smack” Thurman are still talked about today. He was a so-called “force to be reckoned with.” But what was he most famous for, you might be asking? He broke some poor guy’s neck. Who says professional wrestling is fake? Now, here was this 6’8”, 300-pound, 40-year-old man staring back at me. Sure, nowadays he’s balding and maybe a little fat. But let me tell you, I have still not met a more intimidating man. “Are you here for Megan?” he asked in a low tone. “Yup,” I said nervously as I tried to hand him the flowers. I realized what I was doing, and then put them behind my back. I held out my hand to introduce myself, but he just kind of looked at it. “Be back before 11,” Mr. Solomon grumbled. Megan came up from behind him and told this hulking figure not to wait up. As I pulled out of their drive way, he stood on the porch glaring at me. I felt like his piercing eyes were staring through my soul. Megan and I went to the movies for our date. She paid, not because her father was a millionaire, but because like a true gentleman I forgot my wallet. We sat through an eight o’clock showing of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It was not very good. I remember sitting there next to her as my sweaty hand grabbed hers. She looked at me and smiled, and I could have sworn my whole body was about to melt through my seat. When I drove her back to her house, I walked her to her door because according to my mother “girls like that sort of thing.” “Well, good night,” she said, and her arms opened for a hug. In that moment, I don’t really know what happened. My brain was like, “Yeah a hug probably is the best way to end this night.” But my hands were like, “Maaan, fuck that” and went straight for her chest. It was only a split second before the door opened, and there stood the man formally known as “Body Slam.” I realized what he was seeing, which was a teenage boy groping his baby girl, and slowly took my hands off her. “H-have a good night, M-Megan,” I stuttered

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out. Megan turned to go inside, sporting a confused and embarrassed look. Right before the door closed, she turned and smiled at me. I remember thinking, “Yeah, I’m in! Good-bye virginity!” And then I remembered this giant standing in front of me. Before I could walk away, Mr. Solomon picked me up and held me against the porch wall. Literally, two or three feet off the ground. He leaned in close, and I swear to you these were his exact words. “If you ever, and I mean, ever, pull that cowboy bullshit and touch my little girl again, I will end you. You might think I’m just kidding, but I can assure you I am not. I got monkey blood running through these veins, motherfuker. You don’t want to push your luck. Now get, out of here. I’m sick of looking at ya.” He dropped me down and slammed the door behind him. I felt like my legs were made of noodles as I walked back to my car. I remember on the drive home two thoughts were racing through my head. One was that I was glad to be alive and two confusion at Body Slam’s choice of words. Cowboy bullshit? Monkey blood? Was there really monkey blood running through his veins? Not more than two minutes after leaving their house, I got a text message from Megan. It read, “I had a lot of fun tonight. We should do it again :).” I slammed on my breaks and screamed. In that moment, I would have gotten that text message tattooed on my chest. Now here we are, one week later. I’m getting ready for our second date. Who knows? Maybe I’m good with the ladies after all. Have I learned anything from last week? Yeah, I guess you could say I have. Be a little more careful...especially dealing with Body Slam’s daughter.

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artwork by CONNOR EVANS | STLCC-Wildwood

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ORIANA WOOD | STLCC-Wildwood | Fiction

Return

I

flick on my blinker and pull through the traffic up the hill I’ve driven

countless times. New asphalt on the drive, new lights, new sign. So different, so much time passed, but so the same because it hasn’t been that long. I park in a space with brand new lines, a space I was never allowed to park in because “The hill’s hard to climb” and “Leave it for the customers,” but I don’t work here anymore, and I can do what I want. I climb the steps, still the same worn grey brick steps, past the same off-white siding, and the same red EMPLOYEES ONLY sign. Like I said, I do what I want. It’s the same door but a different handle, one that turns easily in my hand, not locked like it’s supposed to be. I hesitate, peer through the glass to confirm the entryway is empty. I step inside without knocking because I want a second, just a second, to get my bearings before I have to explain myself. I falter, facing the room, and the smells hit me first, wafting a wave of memories: hundreds, thousands of memories of things seen and said in this room, this building. There’s a new mini fridge but the same stained waffle iron, smelling recently used, and the same glass-front freezer with the labeled mistakes on the left side, second shelf. It hasn’t been that long, right? The front door falls closed behind me, slower than it used to be, tired, like me. It creaks in the same place though, and I hear movement in the next room and pause, someone wondering who’s walking in on their shift, perhaps thinking back, realizing they didn’t throw the lock behind them. The door doesn’t latch, and that’s different too. For it to latch, I guess, would require effort on my part, effort I’m not quite ready to give. Maybe they hear this, the non-latching and the silence, and maybe that makes them realize how weird this is for whoever’s come in and maybe that makes them nervous. A spoon is set down, clinking. I should call out, but I don’t. What if I don’t know them? But then footsteps; it’s him, I know it, and I’m glad. With him it was never just words, sometimes never words at all, and that was fine. It was glances, gestures, smiles, sometimes with lips and sometimes just eyes because I didn’t have to try, and he somehow still got it. He steps around the corner, and I feel my face change because he’s just the SYCAMORE

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same. Still the buzz and still the scruff and still the black Nike shoes. I know this. I do, better than anything else in this place: the custard shop on the hill, my first job, where adolescence became more mature, where I learned to count change and mix a concrete and pour syrup over shaved ice. He taught me those things, and I know him better than any of it. He stands there, eyes two years older, and looks at me, infinitely older. He doesn’t say anything, and for this also I am glad. Silence is easier. His eyes take in the roundness of my belly, the scars all up my arms, the solemnity of my face, and I know he doesn’t know me. He knows my name and who I was, but he doesn’t know me. He knows the eighteen-year-old I was that last time we laughed together and the seventeen-year-old barely before that, talking about school and plans and the boyfriend I wished was him but wasn’t, and maybe he remembers the sixteen-year-old that first met him, wide-eyed and awkward. But he doesn’t know the woman before him now, rendered frozen by his presence and the past he represents, not daring to move forward, a young foal, thin and wobbly and not sure how to take that first step. He sees the scars; maybe he’s heard I got them and maybe he knows how, but he doesn’t know why. He knows the hazel eyes, knows the color, but the ones he knew were always happy, content at least, and these are now weary and unsure and far too old for a face he knows should be young. The baby is unmistakable, and I’m sure there are a thousand questions, but he won’t ask because he doesn’t know how I’ll react. His life has gone on; his seasons have changed, his car either dead or destroyed because I don’t know that Ford out front. His school has commenced and released, commenced and released, his degree surely close to finished, his football team won and lost, his notebooks filled and replaced, and every day he woke and rose and looked in the mirror and knew who he was – a luxury I haven’t had and hardly remember ever having. That’s what captivity does to you. It makes you forget what life is. So maybe it’s not him who doesn’t know me, but me who doesn’t know myself. This thought – maybe the acceptance and maybe the rejection of it – has my eyes filling with tears, tears I’ve been too shocked to shed

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in what feels like forever. But he comes forward, and there are tears in his eyes too. There’s a sadness there I’ve never seen in him, so maybe he has changed and I was too blind and unwilling to see it. He’s close, and my hand goes to his arm to steady myself, but his arms are around me, and he says my name, and his chest feels just as I always thought it would. He holds me, and I cry, and his tears are in my hair, and we stay like that. We don’t speak because each other and together is enough and words are just too simple and just too complicated. Like closing the door after a long day and standing and listening to nothing because silence is easier. So in silence we stay.  

artwork by KEVIN BULLOCK | STLCC-Wildwood SYCAMORE

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JASON WOJTOWICZ | STLCC-Wildwood | Poetry

Bruce, 1969 Bruce sits in his corner Needle in his arm Picking away at his guitar Talking to nobody Talking to nobody about his glory days The days when he meant something The days when he got to play his music for people The days when he was recognized by the public Bruce knows those days are lost and gone. Bruce sits there quietly crying Tears rolling down his cheek Trying to write his last words Crying to nobody Crying to nobody about his existence Thinking he’s worthless and washed-up Thinking he’s meaningless and miserable Thinking he’s nothing and a nobody. Bruce just wants the end to come.

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Bruce stands up on his chair Feeling the tightness around his neck Whispering to nobody Whispering to nobody for the last time Saying goodbye to his cruel world He closes his eyes He sees his life, the good and the bad He smiles Bruce whispers to nobody one more time.

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ELENA KANG | STLCC-Wildwood | Fiction

Jokbo

B

lake watched the black and white ball as it bounced from knee to knee, to his foot, off his chest, then back to his knees again. The springtime grass in the practice field just down the hill from the high school was still brown. He let his mind wander to the ancestry books stacked neatly on the top shelf in his parent’s closet. There were four of them, hardback books. The covers were a pale green canvas with Chinese characters in gold. The whole book was handwritten in Chinese though his grandparents came from Korea. Not North Korea or South Korea, they had insisted, but Korea. Blake thought of what his father had said; the books would go to him because he was the first son. His father had explained how these books called Jokbo had been passed down from first son to first son since 1200. He said that each first son had a responsibility to take care of the books and to attend family meetings every ten years in Korea to update the book and plan the names for the next ten years. The next ten years? Blake wasn’t sure what he would be doing in the next ten minutes, much less the next ten years. For every Korean family, naming conventions were chosen ten years at a time for boys and girls. Each generation had a boy’s name and a girl’s name that HAD to be part of each child’s name, either the first or the second syllable. So Blake’s Korean name was Ki-won, and his brother’s was Ki-cheun. His sisters were named Sun-young and Sun-ae. As the first son, he would have to continue all this. And it wasn’t just the books. His father had explained that as the oldest son in the line, he had to protect the family name by being successful and keeping the family honor. Honor? Blake was having trouble keeping his ass out of detention. The harsh sound of the whistle brought Blake back to the present. He jogged over to where Coach Harrison stood next to one of the goals. The rest of the team was already there. “What the hell is wrong with you today?” Coach yelled. He threw his clipboard on the ground in disgust. “Practice would be over for the day, but since some of you can’t seem to hustle, you all get to run eight laps around the field.”

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Blake took off at a run, trying not to hear the groans of frustration and the occasional, “Thanks a lot, Blake.” They had been at it for two hours already. They had a right to be mad. His legs burned as he ran around the field. The other players seemed like they were standing still to him as his frustration gave him more speed than should have been possible at this point. Blake just ran without counting the laps until he heard the whistle blow. “Practice is over Blake; get your ass over here now,” Coach shouted through gritted teeth as he pointed harshly. “So Blake, care to take you head out of your ass?” Coach yelled so loudly the other players looked over their shoulders as they left the field, some with the slightest incline of the head. It was a sign they agreed with Coach, Blake knew. Coach’s arms crossed over his chest as he bent until he reached Blake’s height. His blue eyes met Blake’s gaze, and he lowered his voice. “If you don’t get it together,” he said, the corners of his mouth hard from words Blake knew he wanted to say, “I’m going to bench you, possibly cut you. Well, probably not that because then what would I do if my starters get hurt?” he asked with a shrug as he straightened and gave Blake a smile. Blake wandered up the hill to the high school building after he left the practice field. His teacher, Mrs. Hart, had asked him to come meet with her after practice. He paused for a moment on the steps. Above the row of glass doors, neon pink and yellow signs were posted for the sports teams. “Go Boy’s Soccer!” was written in dark colors with glitter around the letters. Blake stared at the sign as he forced a smile onto his face before he continued through the door. He stepped inside the school. The wide lobby was completely empty. The offices to the right were closed, probably locked for the weekend. The lights were off in the small chapel across from the door and next to the hallway leading to the classrooms. Blake walked down the hallway and stared straight ahead. He purposely ignored the posters of the varsity soccer team plastered on the walls. Each team member had a wide, proud smile and a soccer ball under the arm or on the ground with a foot on top. He walked up a flight of stairs and through the open door into Ms. Hart’s classroom.

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Ms. Hart sat at her desk with her reading glasses at the end of her nose and

a red pen in her hand as she wrote a note on the top paper of a thick stack on her desk. She looked up and smiled. She was young, just out of college and in her first year of teaching. Her dark red hair was long and wavy, and she had the slightest hint of freckles across her cheeks. She was nervous; Blake could tell. “Come have a seat next to me,” she said as she gestured to the chair at her side, “I would like to talk to you about your grade.” Blake nodded and sat down in the chair. He watched as Ms. Hart turned and pulled a paper out of a drawer in her desk. He could see the red marks all over the page, and the grade at the top read 53%. So much for honor to the family Blake couldn’t help but think as he stared at the math test he had taken earlier that week. He could hear vague words in the background as he focused on the grade. Her words were meaningless to him. He needed a translator like he would need to read those damn ancestry books.

“Come have a seat next to me,” she said as she gestured to the chair at her side, “I would like to talk to you about your grade.” “I’ve sent an email to your parents; hopefully we can figure out something that will make it easier for you. I will let you retake this test next week, so please make sure to study.” Blake caught those last words as his phone’s vibration in his back pocket brought him back. “Thanks for giving me this chance,” Blake responded automatically to Ms. Hart as his fingers twitched and inched their way towards his pocket and his phone. “Alright,” Ms. Hart sighed, her eyebrows raised, “I guess I will see you next week. You know I’m always here and you can always email me if you have any questions.”

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“Alright, I will be sure to do that,” Blake said as he pulled out his phone and

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read the text with a smile. Later that night, Blake stood in his room in his jeans and stared at the shirts laid out on his bed. He picked out a bright yellow shirt with the tags still attached and pulled it over his head before he looked in the mirror and made a face. He pulled the shirt over his head and dropped it on the floor in a pile next to the last two shirts he had tried on. Finally, he reached for the light blue t-shirt with the polo logo on the front. He looked in the mirror again and smiled at his reflection before he spun and walked out of his room and into the kitchen where his mom sat at the table with her work spread out.

“Mom,” he demanded as he put his hand on the table. “How does this look?”

“Good,” she said, her eyes still fixed on her papers.

“You didn’t even look,” Blake shouted as he stomped a foot.

His mom looked up. “It looks good,” she said again after a slight pause.

“You hesitated; that means it looks bad,” Blake said as he let his arms fall to his sides, “and I keep sweating. Why do I keep sweating? I told you this wouldn’t look good.” “No, no, it really does look good, I was just… just wondering where you are going?” his mother said carefully as she watched his face. “To Conner’s house to hang out,” Blake said with an exaggerated shrug. “I already told you.” “Yes, it looks really good, you should wear it,” she said, her eyebrows raised showing wrinkles on her forehead. “Be safe,” she added. “Make sure you don’t do anything stupid, and Conner’s here” Blake heard his father’s voice from behind him. “Are you sure you don’t have anything to study for? How are your grades?” his mother asked. “They’re good. I know already, I will be safe,” Blake said as he strode to the door. Thank God they hadn’t checked email, he thought.

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Blake stepped out of Conner’s car, and they made their way into his house.

Blake couldn’t help but let his eye be caught by the newly uncovered pool in the back. They walked through the front door and onto the wood floor of the hallway leading to the immaculate, white, carpeted living room. Conner’s sixyear-old sister jumped up from the couch she was sitting on, her show on the T.V. forgotten. She ran up to Blake and hugged him around his legs “Blake! You came today! Come play with me!” she shouted, a wide smile on her face as she grabbed his fingers and pulled. Blake refused to move and pulled his fingers out of her sticky fingers, very aware of the surprised look Conner was giving him. He thought to last week when he had been dropped off by his parents an hour before Conner found his way back home from a party the night before but at the exact time needed for them to make it to their soccer practice on time. He had played with her out of pure boredom. They made block towers and a pillow fort before Conner stumbled through the front door holding his head.

“Go back to your show and leave us alone,” Conner said with an annoyed sigh.

Blake stepped around the girl. “We’re busy,” he said as he turned his back and made his way down the stairs to the “man cave.” Finally downstairs, Blake heard the familiar squeaking of the man cave mascot’s exercise wheel from the corner of the room next to the refrigerator. The mascot was a little white mouse with black spots they bought from a pet shop that was selling them as snake food. He walked over to the cage, and the little mouse ran up to him, its eyes blinking expectantly, and Blake rummaged through his pockets in search of the cereal pieces he had tossed into them. He shoved the pieces through the bars of the cage and watched as the mouse picked up one piece in its paws and nibbled a bit before dropping the piece and grabbing another then repeating the pattern. Blake picked up one of the white game controllers and threw himself onto one of the worn couches and propped his feet on the empty soda-can-littered table in front of him. Conner turned on the T.V. and the Xbox. Blake stared at the screen; it was a war zone with blood-splattered walls and

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brain-eating zombies that never seemed to fail to rise again. Blake didn’t know how long they had been playing when he heard a knock on the basement door. He turned his head to see Luke with a wide smile on his face. Conner swore and stood as he tossed his controller onto the couch. He walked over and opened the door to let Luke in. Blake stood and stretched. It was completely dark outside now; they had played for hours. “Hey, look what I have,” Luke said as he produced a six-pack of beer from behind his back. “Where did you get that?” Conner asked as he took the pack and set it on the table before he took one out and cracked it open.

“I raided a party,” Luke said as he pulled out a can and opened it.

“Bring me one,” Blake shouted from his seat on the couch.

“Get one yourself,” Conner responded as he walked back to the couch and sat down.

“So, I heard Ms. Hart wanted to talk to you after school,” Luke said with one side of his mouth turned up. “She totally flirts with with you in class.” “Here man, you need one after practice today,” Luke said as he pressed a can into Blake’s hand.

“Don’t I know it,” Blake said after a sip. “Wonder what he has stuck up his ass?”

“I have a few ideas,” Luke said with a laugh as he sat down next to Blake.

“So, I heard Ms. Hart wanted to talk to you after school,” Luke said with one

side of his mouth turned up. “She totally flirts with you in class.” “She’s so old, but she’s always giving me better grades and bonus points. I turned in this one assignment a week late, and she still gave me full credit.” Blake said. “That’s not co-“ Conner started before he was cut off by another knock on the door. SYCAMORE

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“Hello,” a girl named Haley from their class said in a slurred voice as she pressed her forehead against the glass door. She was wearing shorts and a shirt that showed her abs when she lifted her arms to stretch. Behind her stood another girl, Sarah, and two guys, Ian and Justin. Luke jumped to his feet and tripped on his way to open the door. It was no secret that Luke had a thing for Sarah, a blonde girl who played on the girl’s soccer team.

“Hey, what are you guys doing here?” Conner asked with a slight turn of his head.

Haley let out a laugh as she stumbled slightly into the room. “We were just in the neighborhood and look what I brought,” she said brightly as she held out a bag. Justin took the bag from her and opened it to reveal a bottle of vodka. He opened the bottle and took a sip before he passed it back to Haley. Haley took a sip and handed it to Blake with a wink. Blake took a sip of it and grimaced at the taste. He passed it to Conner. Haley spun in a circle and nearly fell over. When they all laughed, she let out a loud laugh and wrapped her arms around Blake’s neck to steady herself. “Sorry,” Haley shouted before she took the bottle from Ian and took another big sip. Haley sat in the middle of the floor and pulled off her shoes. She tossed them across the room. One knocked a glass onto the floor. Conner winced when it broke.

“Hey, be careful,” he shouted at her as he started to stand.

“But what if I don’t want to be careful?” Haley asked him as she ran a hand along his leg.

Conner’s face froze as he grabbed her hand and threw if off his leg. Blake,

Justin, and Luke laughed as Ian made a choking sound and coughed as he held the bottle out to Sarah. Sarah grabbed the bottle and took a tiny sip before she handed it off.

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“Is everything okay down there?” Conner’s mother called from upstairs.

“Yeah, it’s all good,” Conner responded as he put a finger against his lip. “We need to keep it down,” he muttered. “They would kill me.” Haley walked up to Blake and put an arm around his neck. “You know, I would do anything you wanted me to right?” she asked. “I’ve always-” “You’re drunk,” Blake cut her off as he looked at his friends who simply stared at Haley. “You’re a meanie,” she said as she walked over and sat on Justin’s lap uninvited. “I bet you know what I’m talking about.” “Yeah,” Justin said slowly as he picked her up and put her on the couch next to him. “I think you need to chill out.” “I’m going to the bathroom,” Haley announced after a moment of silence. She stood and stumbled down the hall into the bathroom. She didn’t even bother to shut the door.

Haley walked up to Blake and put an arm around his neck. “You know, I would do anything you wanted me to right?” she asked. “I’ve always-” “Well, who wants to play some games,” Ian asked as he grabbed a controller and the bottle. “I do,” Sarah said as she took the controller from Ian, “and I’m going to win as usual.”

Blake laughed, glad that he didn’t have anywhere to be in the morning.

“Nope, I’m going to win.” “Coach begs to differ,” Conner said as he sat back and propped his feet up on the table.

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Blake smiled as his grip on the controller tightened, and he glared at Conner, who was oblivious. They played several games. Hayley never came out of the bathroom.

“I’m going to go check on Haley,” Sarah said as she stood up.

“Oh my god! Guys come here!” Blake heard a shout from the bathroom. He jumped up and ran the bathroom. The bathroom was small and light blue. The floor where Haley lay was white tile, the color horrifyingly close to the color of her skin. The tiles were splattered with different colored chunks and liquid that Blake didn’t want to examine too closely. He heard footsteps behind him but couldn’t tear his eyes away from the unnatural blue of Haley’s lips. Her hair was coated in vomit, and her body jerked as more spilled from her mouth.

“Oh, god. I need to… I’m going to be sick,” Justin muttered as he backed away.

“Haley, Haley, wake up,” Sarah said as she grabbed the other girl’s shoulders and shook them hard. “Oh, crap! Umm, let’s clean her up and let her sleep it off,” Conner said as he opened up a cabinet under the sink and pulled out a roll of paper towels. Conner wet a paper towels and handed one to Sarah and one to Blake. Blake stared at the paper towel in his hand then at Haley, who barely seemed to be breathing. He watched as Sarah attempted to clean up her face only for Haley to throw up yet again. Blake knew that she needed help, but he couldn’t help but think of his father. He knew this was something his father would kill him for. Blake thought about the contract he and all the other players had been required to sign before the start of the soccer season. It said that said if he were caught drinking, he would be thrown off the team. His father would kill him. Blake reached out and touched Haley’s face; she felt so cold. “She needs help,” he said loudly.

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“We’re trying our best,” Conner said as he paced.

“No, get you mom,” Blake yelled as Haley began to shiver under his fingers.

“But we could get kicked off the soccer team,” Conner started. Then he saw

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that Haley was shaking but not vomiting. “Oh, okay,” he said as he walked out of the bathroom. Blake sat and stared at Haley even when he heard the sound of running footsteps down the stairs. A woman started yelling about getting phone numbers and calling parents. He looked down at Haley. She looked worse, if that was even possible. He could hear sirens, and soon he pulled himself off the floor and out of the way of the paramedics. They picked Haley up and strapped her onto the gurney and left the house out the basement door. “I’m going to sue all of you,” the woman kept screaming. Connor’s mom tried to calm her down. She must be Haley’s mom, or stepmom, Blake thought. A man, her boyfriend maybe, walked over to where the boys stood.

“You could have killed her,” he shouted, fists clenched.

“She was drunk when she got here. She brought the vodka,” Blake said.

“And now you’re lying. Haley would never do that,” the man said, his voice rising.

His heart pounded as he pulled himself into the car. At least it was his mother, not his father, who probably hated him at the moment. The woman came over and pulled on his shoulder. “We’ve got to get to the hospital,” she said. “Forget these kids. We’ll deal with them later.” “You all need to call your parents and have them come get you,” Conner’s mother said with her hands on her hips.

Blake reached into his pocket for his phone and called his parents.

His heart pounded as he pulled himself into the car. At least it was his mother, not his father, who probably hated him at the moment. “She probably has alcohol poisoning. It’s very serious,” Blake’s mother said, her eyes trained on the road as she drove.

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“I could tell,” Blake said as he turned the radio up, an attempt to drown out

the thoughts in his head. “Mom?” he asked tentatively and stared out the window. The roads were nearly empty. “How does that kind of thing happen to a person?” “They drink more than their bodies can deal with. The body tries to get the alcohol out by throwing up, but sometimes the person drinks too much. I hope this has opened your eyes if nothing else,” she said, her voice suddenly harsh but also hoarse.

“It has,” Blake said as he stared straight ahead.

“Did you boys deliberately get her drunk?” his mom asked as the car came to a stop at the stoplight, its red glow the only other light on the street.

“No, she showed up that way,” Blake said. “We would never do that.”

“If you did, you could be charged with rape,” she said.

“Mom. We didn’t do that,” Blake said.

“Why were you drinking so much anyway?” his mom asked.

“Well, it’s nice to forget,” Blake said as the red light changed to green, a brighter shade of those pale green books.  

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artwork by SHERRY STORY | STLCC-Wildwood

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GREGORY SANDIFER | STLCC-Wildwood | Poetry

Final Goodbyes As if on cue, the cold wind blew On his grave. I sat and listened As the guns saluted him. The soldiers stood calmly still By the flag covered coffin. Our grandfather lay dead.

Memories flashed Through my head Tracing the cracks Of my brain.

Hope and confusion Remembrance and remorse Speak the pain I feel.

On the verge of tears I saw him. My grandfather as he was. The emotional wounds fresh and bleeding.

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Family leaving his final resting place. They’ll bury him today.

I look up to the sky And new tears fill my eyes At the corners Blurring my vision.

The soldiers fold the flag. They hand it over to my grandma. Shells given to my aunt.

A Korean vet, a war hero Buried forever.

As if on cue, the cold wind blew And I, I say my final goodbyes.

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artwork by JONATHAN HILL | STLCC-Wildwood

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MARY LOGGIA | STLCC-Wildwood | Creative Nonfiction

Wretched

I

’m sorry about the time I woke you when I was leaving for work. 5am is early, and I should have had my keys handy—you had just come home a few hours before sick, drunk, angry, and tired. I fumbled around as quietly as possible, but I tripped in the dark and fell to the ground. You told me to shut up; you didn’t want to be disturbed, but then I made a second mistake. I turned on the light; that’s when you lost it. You fucking bitch I warned you then you were out of the bed shaking me, screaming in my face, anger permeating your whole being. Your face contorted, filled with rage. I’m sorry, please, I’m so sorry. I just need my keys; I’m going to be late for work. Fuck you. Please don’t. You pick me up and throw me out of the room. My body hits the stairwell railing and my face the wall. The warm blood streams down into my eyes. No time for this. I need my keys; I have to be at work in half an hour. I’m afraid, but my keys are still in our bedroom. I knock, lightly pleading, I just need my keys. I’m going to be late. I’m sorry, please, if you give them to me you can go right back to sleep. Please, I can’t be late again. I really am sorry. I won’t do it again, please. The door opens. You don’t notice I’m covered in blood. You never notice when I’m hurt. You throw my keys at me hard; you are two feet away. The keys tear into my flesh, and oddly relief floods through me. I have my keys, and now I can go to work. Tomorrow, I will be more careful not to wake you. Tomorrow, I won’t forget my keys, but I will spend many tomorrows being sorry.

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artwork by DION DION | STLCC-Wildwood

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ORIANA WOOD | STLCC-Wildwood | Creative Nonfiction

The Regret I’ll begin by saying I’m sorry. Looking back, I see so many mistakes, so I’ll begin by saying I’m sorry. For the errs I committed, I’m sorry I was so stupid. For those you committed, I’m sorry you fell to that. When I think of you as you were, the person I remember was sweet. You were funny and fun-loving and even when you weren’t laughing, your eyes were. I liked that about you. I won’t say I loved that about you because we were both too young to love. We played with each other and with our sisters, with the neighborhood kids and our pets. Capture the flag, us on the same team, and I got tagged. You made it into Save the Princess. Soccer, the ball stuck in the bushes. You made it into a scavenger hunt; whoever finds the ball wins. Hopscotch, jump rope, tag, basketball. Everything was a game, every joke was funny, every smile was worth what it took. We weren’t too old to play, but there came a day when you thought we were. I’m sorry that happened so soon. I remember the day you were talking – no, bragging – about beating up some kid at school. “I gave him frickin two black eyes…” That wasn’t you, wasn’t the you I knew. “Why would you do that?” I asked.

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“He deserved it.” I’m sorry you thought that. I’m sorry, even if it wasn’t my fault, for whatever happened in your life to make you think that was okay. Even more so, I’m sorry you took the marijuana when it was offered to you. I knew exactly when you started that stuff because you became a completely different person. Maybe I was too boring; maybe I wasn’t “cool” enough. Maybe I was too much of a good girl, didn’t like the cuss words you brought home like trading cards. I’m sorry I couldn’t convince you. I’m sorry I couldn’t be right or wrong or whatever you wanted me to be. I’m sorry for the words I said that day when I got in your face and told you you were wrong. I’m sorry I used the words I did instead of taking the time to find the right ones. Maybe they were under the bush with the soccer ball. Maybe that day you found the ball before me you also found the words I never could. Maybe all the answers were under there too and that’s why I couldn’t find those either. I’m sorry for that. I remember the day you stumbled down the street, six months after we stopped talking, high as a Southwest jet. I almost went to your door. I got as far as the end of my driveway and stopped. I’m so sorry for that.

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I’m sorry I wasn’t brave enough. Years went by, and you lived right across the street, but you lived in another world. I held my tongue; I said nothing. I watched through the slats of my bedroom blinds, watched you grow up, grow taller, older. I watched you with your new friends, your “cool” friends, friends that had the same trading cards as you. I watched you hit high school a year before me, bring girls home, and go on dates. I watched you smoke on your front porch, shameless. I watched you get arrested. How many times was it? At least three. I watched as your hair grew out and got buzzed off countless times. I noticed you had stopped laughing. I’m sorry I never sought you out, even if you would’ve scorned me anyway. I’m sorry I didn’t try. I noticed when your mom left and took your sister with her. I noticed all the guys that moved in. I noticed the late night excursions, the cigarette lighter signals, the pickup trucks, the 3 am deliveries. I noticed the little boxes. I noticed how thin you’d become, how sick you looked, how secretive you were in public.

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I noticed you dropped out of high school. I noticed how your father scared you. I’m sorry I did nothing. I saw the police car, sitting, waiting, watching the street. I knew what was coming. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything. I was afraid. Not of your dad, heavyset and glaring. Not of the other men, with their tattooed necks, long sleeve tees and laceless shoes. I was afraid you would say what I dreaded. I was afraid you would say you hated me. I was afraid you would say I had caused – or at the very least not prevented – your problems. I was afraid you would question why I’d said anything at all. I was afraid you would say our friendship had been nothing. So I said nothing. I saw the police cars, saw the handcuffs. I heard your dad had been dealing heroine. I heard he’d been cooking meth in the garage. I heard everyone in the house was arrested. I heard someone escaped out the back. Was it you?

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I’m sorry you didn’t get out sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t try to help you. I’m sorry I didn’t confront your addiction when it first began. I watched it develop over years, growing into something you couldn’t fight. It was through my weakness that I failed. I saw the dumpster, the men in hazmat suits, all your possessions thrown away. It was too late to stop it. I saw your mom, a few weeks after the bust, and your sister. They approached me, looking for your dog, Sophie. Your mom said your dad had turned mean. She said she knew he was on something. That’s why she left. I can’t stop my racing thoughts – if I had supported you in your struggle from the start, could you have been a different person? Could you have, in turn, supported her? Could you have lent her the strength to drive your father out? Would she have stayed? Would the dealing and the cooking and the bust never have happened? If I go all the way back, if I had said something that very first day I sensed a change in you… Could I have saved you? I think I could have. I’m sorry I didn’t try.

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I thought of you last week, for the first time in a while. I logged into Facebook and searched your name. It was easy. Three mutual friends and the same hometown, and your face looking back at me. I didn’t add you; I just looked. A friend was there, asked what I was doing. “I had a crush on this kid in middle school.” “What? What the hell Oriana? He looks like a douche.” “He wasn’t always.” “What was so great about him?” The sad thing is, I couldn’t tell him. Because I couldn’t remember what was so great about you. Maybe you never were great. Maybe you had the potential to be, but no one was around to help you break through that wall. I’m sorry for that too. I’m sorry I was too afraid. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Forgive me.

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artwork by ALEXANDREA STRAKE | STLCC-Wildwood

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ELENA KANG | STLCC-Wildwood | Poetry

Forms The curved brown braid spine peeks through scales. Empty eye sockets and dried pursed lips; paper fan tail curved around a rock like my fingers around the amber glint of a prescription bottle.

Buried in the river’s silt one day, it could be a fossil; testament to decay. Needlessly, taken from the ground, poked, pieced together by a white robed scientist under lights humming like fly wings searching the meatless carcass.

I am some unrecognizable form. Wrong. Pieced together like my reflection in the fun-house pharmacy mirror---The creature behind the museum glass; mislabeled.

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artwork by ZOEY FIEDLER | STLCC-Wildwood SYCAMORE

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BRENT PHILLIP BARRETT JR. | STLCC-Wildwood | Poetry

Highways Cornfields at “Attention!” consume the unending, extending view while blue skies stain the horizon’s hue.

Aging bleached blacktop stretches broken and battered before me, laid to dry beneath the blinding summer sun, burning above me.

Lines like ragged wrinkles conjoin to form crisscrossing cracks; varicose veins on pavement; Time’s unwanted scars. So men lay tar to slow decay; the Botox of America’s highways. But you must look closer, for thoughts tend to hide. Someday you might find everything that lies inside.

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artwork by KRISTIN PERRY | STLCC-Wildwood SYCAMORE

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CHARLES JANIK | STLCC-Wildwood | Poetry

Local News ACCIDENTS The injured were transported by helicopter. The injured were transported by ambulance. The driver drove around the crossing gates before being hit by the train. The signals were operating. The signals may have malfunctioned. The occupants were thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene. They were not wearing their seat belts. The driver drove onto the water-covered road and was swept away by the current. Search efforts have been suspended for the evening. This has now changed from a rescue to a recovery operation. The victims could not swim and were not wearing life jackets. Alcohol may have been a factor. Drugs may have been a factor. The results of the toxicology tests will not be available for several weeks. POLICE BLOTTER Cash and drugs were found at the scene. Evidence in this case has gone missing. The suspect was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Members of a suspected theft ring were arrested. Police returned fire hitting the suspect. There has been a rash of armed robberies. There has been a rash of thefts at local businesses.

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There has been a rash of home break-ins while occupants were away. Crime statistics are up from the last year. Crime statistics are down from the last year. I guess we will have to start locking our doors. FIRES The fire victim was trapped by a locked door. The fire was caused by an unattended candle. The fire was caused by smoking in bed. The fire was caused by using a space heater. The fire was caused by a roofer’s torch. The fire was caused by an electrical short. The explosion was caused by a gas leak. Residents had complained of a strong smell of gas in the preceding weeks. When reached, the company spokesperson had no comment. LAW We cannot comment on pending litigation. I have not seen the charges. The trial is expected to take several weeks. The prosecution says they have solid evidence. The defense says the prosecution has no case. The jury is in recess for the day. Deliberations are expected to take a while.

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The jury was unanimous in its decision. Guilty! Not guilty! The jury was hung. A mistrial was declared. The defense vows to appeal the verdict. The damages awarded by the jury were reduced by the judge in the case. The judge was previously the subject of a recall election. POLITICS I will run a clean campaign. I look forward to debating the issues. This is not the first scandal for this politician. On tape the senator/congressman/alderman/mayor appears to be accepting a bribe. Unproved allegations of voter fraud were raised. Problems were encountered with the voting machines. Though not all precincts are in, we can declare a winner Several hundred uncounted absentee ballots were discovered. This could change the outcome of the election. I believe we got our message out there.

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artwork by KAITLYN SWARTZ | STLCC-Wildwood

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BRYAN ROSINSKI | STLCC-Wildwood | Poetry

Quiet Kitchen Wonder within the room at rest, Watch the fading of the day bring the dying of the night, Look upon the paling of the light. As my dog stares motionless at the senselessness of the door, She cares nothing of the end of the day and the calmness of the coming night, Wonder within a room at rest. Only the wailing of an ice box, sitting in the center, And the pale noise of the air conditioner drown the still room. Look upon the failing of the light. While the aroma in the air was just not there, The recall of the other quaint meals unrivaled through my head. Wonder within the room at rest What continues to sway every day you walk in this place Is the ongoing tick tock for the grandfather clock, Look upon the failing of the light. As I peer out the window to the world outside, Not one sound, not a bird nearby or a plane passing by, Wonder within a room at rest, Look upon the failing of the light.

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artwork by FRANK ENGER | STLCC-Wildwood

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BRADLEY BATES | STLCC-Wildwood | Poetry

The Universe I’m sitting here typing it down. I’m sitting here trying to remember my place, as if I’m so obliged to have one, to have an undeclared space in back woods no one knows where to find me. Like Salinger, I think I need space away from people to find my true voice speaking out into the universe of the known and unknown. The world shifts from an endless place to a pattern of one tree and its root system. Each of us stands alone at death, but like the root system, it has penetrable walls; our system contains love from all our friends and family. They help us along earth’s byway and into the home run of heaven.

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artwork by MICHELLE STREIFF | STLCC-Wildwood

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KENDRA HEFNER | STLCC-Wildwood | Fiction

Return

T

here is something about leaving a place that was once home. Your life goes on even after you leave. The lives of everyone you grew up knowing, they go on too. Nothing stops just because you left. Sometimes, you have to return in order to put this together; too often we just blindly believe that everything remains frozen in time until we return to it. Perhaps, instead of it changing, it is us that have changed. Sometimes simply saying “I don’t care” is not enough, and you have to go back in order to move forward. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is return. The once white exterior of the small church had long since yellowed from years of being abused by Missouri weather. In the dim December moonlight, the building seemed ghostly. I had seen this building many times before but never at this time of night. The mixture of shadows and moonlight contorted the image, making this building I had once sat in for two hours every Sunday morning look more like something out of a horror movie. I approached the building slowly, hugging myself tightly as the wind threatened to slice me into millions of pieces. A strange sense of déjá vu overcame me as I walked up the three steps leading to the entrance. Just inside the door, I could see the old bulletin board. It was still covered with papers and announcements, several of which were older than me. What I wasn’t expecting was the total lack of light. I had only ever seen the entryway of the church during the day when sunlight poured in through the windows. The only visible light came from the dim street lamps outside and a thin rectangle of light leaking out around a door in the back of the church. As I stood in front of the door, my hand tenderly turned the knob. I glimpsed around the main worship room, attempting to memorize every detail. Very few things had changed since I had last been here. There were still rows of individual seats bolted to the floor oriented towards the pulpit in place of traditional benches. A few feet to the right was the classroom I had once sat in every Sunday before worship. I wondered if the same posters still hung on the

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walls. A nostalgic piece of me longed to run through the rest of the building. I wanted to run up the stairs to the second floor where I spent my childhood making crafts with my two best friends or sneak away to the basement where my friends and I had once chased each other in the darkness. Turning my attention back to the present, I breathed deeply, inhaling the faint scent of dust and old-lady perfume, and pushed through the door. I blinked several times to adjust my eyes to the brightness of the room. The pastor that I grew up knowing sat by the wall, his head bowed and hands clasped together. It appeared as though he was the only one praying. It took a moment for me to process that every person in that room had once been my neighbor.

I chose the seat nearest to where the pastor stood, hoping to avoid the irrelevant conversations that everyone always seemed to enjoy jumping into. The pastor finally lifted his head and, for a split second, looked at me like I was a ghost. A mix of shock and awe crossed his features before recognition set in. Even after he recognized me, though, he still seemed slightly at a loss for words. Finally, he mustered a greeting and plastered the typical pastoral smile on his face. I stood there holding back a laugh as everyone seemed to realize all at once that I wasn’t just some random girl. Everyone spoke over each other, saying things like: How are you? You got your nose pierced! How’s school? Only the pastor stood and offered me a hug, talking over the others as he asked me questions. After about ten minutes though, he began the class. I chose the seat nearest to where the pastor stood, hoping to avoid the irrelevant conversations that everyone always seemed to enjoy jumping into. Still, I could feel everyone’s stolen glances toward me. Somehow, the class seemed to fly by, and yet an old part of me made it feel like it dragged on for an eternity. I glanced at the clock many times and was amazed that several moments had passed and groaning internally that hardly

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any time had passed. Once the pastor decided to end the class, I became overwhelmed with mixed feelings; out of habit, I was glad class was over but sad to leave my church behind again. Even as the pastor continued the discussion with me as we walked back into the dark worship room with its squeaky floorboards, I was mentally picturing every square inch of the building, recreating it all from memory. Giving one final hug to the pastor, we said our good-byes before I ran to my vehicle to escape the wind and the light snow that had only recently starting falling. As I drove away, I needed one final glace back. I was not expecting anything more than a ghost of what I used to know and who I used to be. Instead, I pictured it as I knew it. The old, yellowed building belonged there on that dusty road surrounded by corn fields. As the car turned the corner, the church was no longer in sight, but I still saw it when I closed my eyes. I held the image close before finally letting it go.

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CHARLES JANIK | STLCC-Wildwood | Nonfiction

On the Nature of “Flipper Movies”

I

use the term “Flipper Movie” to describe any film in which an animal is more human than its human co-stars. You’ve all seen this kind of film.

“Flipper Movie” is not my term. I stole it from my wife, who coined it to describe the genre. It stems from the 1960s films set in the Florida Keys and starring the porpoise Flipper. My wife’s parents would take her only to “Flipper” films when she was a little girl. Not Disney cartoons or other children’s films, just movies with that one constant, the cackling porpoise – films that were exercises in animal cruelty. Why, you may ask, would I refer to those lovable sugar-coated Florida ads as animal cruelty? It’s really very simple. The poor animal had to put up with people dumber than dirt (or water as the case may be). The story line hasn’t changed since the Lassie, Yukon King, or Rin-Tin-Tin days. For those of you too young to recognize the previous references: Lassie was a Collie dog who appeared in films and then her own television series; Yukon King was a Husky who worked with Canadian Mounty Sergeant Preston in the Yukon, duh; and Rin Tin Tin was the German Shepherd wonder dog of film, and much later TV, who started it all in 1920s silent films. The key ingredient of these stories was the human companion who would get into a mess from which the animal would rescue him. It may be a testament to the patience of these animals, but how can you explain the same people coming back again and again to see different films with the same story? I think it speaks to something in the soul. And I would guess that something is ugly and dark, as I will explain. The formula for the plot is simple. A devoted and intelligent animal has a master, usually a child, who is either the most unlucky person on the planet or who doesn’t have the sense God gave a Phillips head screwdriver. These kids are all named with diminutives. That’s fancy talk for nicknames ending in “y.” The names denote small or helpless individuals needing protection: your Billys, Bobbys, Timmys, Tommys, and the like. They are the kind of kids you SYCAMORE

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think will be lucky to become Bills, Bobs, Tims, and Toms. They have almost no chance of becoming Williams, Roberts, Timothys, and Thomases. The parents of these future victims entrust the care and supervision of their precious bundles to the aforementioned devoted animal. They may even tell the critter, “Now you take good care of (fill in the blank) while he crosses Central Park after dark.” What is the matter with these parents? Are they too busy drinking, gambling, or doing drugs to take their kids through dangerous areas? Maybe the kid is insured. Maybe the parents want the kid to meet an untimely end. The motives are never explored in the films. Such dark motives, monetary or sadistic, may be shared by the audience.

The victim-elect and animal companion venture into no man’s land where

What is the matter with these parents? Are they too busy drinking, gambling, or doing drugs to take their kids through dangerous areas? they seek the anticipated catastrophe. They are soon rewarded with the victim facing a life-or-death situation and pleading with the animal to help or get help. The usual action is for the brave creature to try to pull the child from danger by grasping a piece of clothing. This never works, of course, as the sleeve, pant leg, or jacket rips, leaving the victim not only trapped but exposed to the elements. This is particularly effective in a blizzard scene. The audience can bask in sadistic pleasure while the victim struggles, safe in the knowledge that all will end well in a “Flipper” movie moment. The audience is taken through a montage of the animal finding its way back to the family who sent the child to make his way in the harsh cruel world. The animal always seems to take longer and cover more ground on the way back. I wonder if that critter just takes this as a chance for sight-seeing or if it is into

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inflicting pain by delaying the rescue. Notice the filmmakers never use cats as the animal lead. A cat might stay at the scene and watch the victim expire. Perhaps a smarter animal, but more on that later. Reaching the parents or guardians of its now missing charge, the animal will spend countless minutes trying to get their attention. “Look, child A is always seen with its companion B, and here is B without A.” You would think the adults would put it together, but it takes time. Sometimes lots of time. Maybe they have to sober up, finish the current poker hand, or have that snack for the munchies. Could also be the hope that A is in a pickle. Again, dark. Finally, the adults notice and ask “Where’s the child?” Well, right where you sent him, into the heart of Muggerville with only a thin jacket (now obviously shredded, judging from the material hanging from the animal’s teeth) and a pet (also no longer with him). To this query the plucky animal squawks, or barks, or cackles. And the adult humans can suddenly understand this language? For example, their remarks go to: “Little Tommy is caught in a well!” “No, little Timmy just fell!” “No, little Billy was washed away by a swell!” These slow people finally get the hint and not a moment too soon (or late as the case may be). And off the whole troop goes in search of the child who is now so precious that the whole household (and often others) rush to save him when they could have avoided the problem in the first place if they had sent him off with competent adult supervision. They find the child, return him to safety, and thank the heroic animal for saving the child and incompetent family from their true fate.

You would think if the animal is smart enough, it would leave these Darwin

award runners-up for a more stable, or at least safer, household. Reduce the responsibility of having to pull some kid’s chestnuts out of the fire every week (or film) and be well fed and taken care of. But no, these animals are enablers of dangerous and risky behaviors for their masters. A cat companion would never bother. It might stay to watch the victim expire and then either feast on the carcass SYCAMORE

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or wander off to other amusements. Like I said earlier, cats seem to be smarter. I would bet that when that kid grows up and goes into a bar with his faithful animal friend (sounds like the beginning of a bad joke), you can bet his faithful animal friend won’t take away his keys. But be sure as shootin’ that Flipper wannabe will go for help after his master plows into a sign, tree, bridge, another car, or lands in a ditch. We should stop these animals before they impede the march of natural selection. Maybe it would force the parents and guardians of these kids to act more responsibly. It will also improve the quality of films for children.

Remember, stay safe, and don’t let a Flipper drink and drive, err dive.

artwork by ARDEN GOEWERT | STLCC-Wildwood

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KENDRA HEFNER | STLCC-Wildwood | Poetry

Yo Te Amo Escríbeme palabras. Dígame tú estás enamorado. Yo estoy falling in love. Bésame despacio, abrázame mi amor... mi cielo. This is not how I had planned. Yo estoy perdida aún tan llena. My thoughts, my feelings, are so confuso. The world showing colors so light. Both sides, every sight. Canta, my love I’ll sing it loud. Grita until my heart is termina.

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These feelings I did not intend. But now, across the world, I’ll send mi amor por tú. Put in a way we all understand I’ll love you until the very showing colors so light. Both sides, every sight. Canta, my love I’ll sing it loud. Grita until my heart is termina. These feelings I did not intend. But now, across the world, I’ll send mi amor por tú. Put in a way we all understand I’ll love you until the very end.

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artwork by KEVIN BULLOCK | STLCC-Wildwood

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artwork by CAROL MURRAH | St. Louis Community College-Wildwood


Sycamore: An Annual of Poetry, Prose, and Art