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Write On, Downtown

A Journal of Student Writing at the ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus

Issue 6

April 2012 Editors-in-Chief Rosemarie Dombrowski Catherine Rezza

Editorial Board Ximena Camarena Lopez Michael Contreras Cory Galvan Jayro Giron Rachel Morrow Shannon Murray Amy Ostroff Haley Shore Matthew Warzynski

Graphic Designer Deanna Johnson Mullican

Cover Photograph Ximena Camarena Lopez

Contributing Artists Ximena Camarena Lopez Sean Deckert Diana Lustig

Visit our companion journal at writeon.asu.edu


Write On, Downtown 2012: A Brief Introduction from the Faculty Editors Write On, Downtown has been the sole student writing publication of Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus since its inception in 2007. Its mission has and continues to be to showcase exemplary writing projects produced by students of all levels and across various genres – from freshman compositions, to creative writing pieces, to literary review and analysis. In recent years, the inclusion of an editing internship has not only enriched the quality and innovativeness of the publication, but the selection and editorial process as well. In short, Write On, Downtown would not be a sustainable, thriving entity without our student editors. As educators, our means of delivering curriculum and accessing printed materials continues to change, and as editors of Write On, Downtown, we recognize that in order to impact a greater student, faculty, and community audience, we, too, will need to adapt. This year’s editorial team took the first steps toward meeting those challenges by employing social media throughout the editorial process, and we hope to realize our ultimate goal of becoming an e-journal by 2013. Essentially, Write On, Downtown continues to be about emphasizing the strength and diversity of student voices on the Downtown Phoenix campus, and the contents of the journal serve as representations of their transformative visions.


A Journey: A collaborative work of the WOD student editors Downtown is calling me. “I’m not dead. I’m alive yet.” Come and explore these seemingly half-deserted streets, It calls. Slowly, I begin searching. Searching for Downtown. And I’m looking for a place to let my feet hit the pavement hard. I’ll wipe away my fears and start to count the cars; Where is this heart? Feeling for the rhythm of Downtown. The heat melts my fresh makeup. These old buildings can relate. Their beauty is aging, but their youth is just born. It’s eclectic. It’s alive. It’s a beat to Downtown. The noises are distracting, calling my name. Beckoning. Pulling. My feet scratch the pavement. My ears hear the sound. The music of Downtown. I smell the roast from coffee shops, the food from local restaurants, all part of the experience, The treasures of Downtown. Take me there and show me the color, The world’s best, Mighty Mango, Then come with me into the swirl of culture, the taste, the flavor of Downtown. Smog looms and I breathe in exhaust, But in every case progress has a cost, A heart seemingly lost that only some have found, A downtrodden heart, the heart of Downtown.


Acknowledgments The editors of Write On, Downtown would like to express our gratitude to Deanna Johnson Mullican, graphic designer for University College, for her continued partnership with the editorial team as well as her dedication to the production and publication of the journal. We would also like to thank Mary Ehret for her continued support of our celebratory luncheon and conference. Additionally, we would like to thank Frederick C. Corey, Dean of University College and Director of the School of Letters and Sciences, for his continued support of our endeavors. Lastly, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the faculty head of Languages and Cultures, Dr. Barbara Lafford, whose support, encouragement, and direction has been invaluable to us since the inception of the publication six years ago. We would also like to thank our wonderfully talented team of student editors whose passion and commitment inspired and expanded our creative vision and critical endeavors. Finally, we’d like to thank all of the student writers and photographers who submitted their work for this publication and who continue to make our teaching experiences on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus some of the most positive and enjoyable of our careers.


photo by Ximena Camarena Lopez


Contents DESTRUCTION An Instant Solution by Kaitlyn Knudson

11

Clutch by Alexandra Comeaux

15

An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military by Stacey Cope

17

Das Gehewr by Ryan Anthony

22

DEMONS Scarlet by Stevi Rollinson

27

Reed by Kaitlyn Knudson

29

Bullies and Villains by Jayro Giron

34

Sorrow, Fury, and Love by Carter (Alex) Pearl

39

DECAY Things Fall Apart by Kaitlyn Knudson

49

Rumors Said, Germs Spread by Stevi Rollinson

57

Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level by Elizabeth Brown-Moore

65


DECISIONS From Bio Class to the Bank: The Prep-to-Pro Athlete by Kenneth Crone

73

No Scalpels Necessary: The Value of Choice by Sean Deckert

78

Dear Dad by Alexa Haynes

83

DISCOVERIES I Got a Stripper for my Birthday by Trevor J. H. Saxman

89

My Grandmother by Shaunda Tsosie

93

Sound Off by Jayro Giron

Notes on the Contributors

97 103


photo by Sean Deckert


An Instant Solution by Kaitlyn Knudson

It was the same morning at the same place, but depending on who you were the story was very different. For a young adult named Seung Hui-Cho, April 16th, 2007 was a morning of redemption; he would gather his Glock 19 and Walther P22 in each of his hands, scribble the words “Ismail Ax” in red ink on his arm, and proceed to murder his first victim (Johnson, 2007). For Josh Wargo, it was a moment of eardrum-pounding, chest-swelling fear. He was sitting in class when he heard screaming, then gunshots, and he made the jump out of the two-story window along with his entire class (ABC News, 2007). For Ms. Bernhards, it was a morning of confusion. She walked toward her class, an upcoming exam on her mind, only to stop when she spotted 10 guards with assault rifles outside her building. And finally, for 32 people (students and faculty) it was the last morning they would ever experience (O’Connor, 2007). The Virginia Tech massacre was the bloodiest school shooting ever; it opened our eyes to the very real possibility that we or a loved one might face such a tragic, unexpected event one day. We have decided it’s time to take action. Horrifying stories of people like Cho haunt us; people with an unnatural desire to take lives and who kill with no empathy on their faces. And we are sick of it. We are sick of learning environments being turned into nightmarish scenes and of innocent students defenseless against these assassins. We share one common goal: security. Media coverage of the nightmarish Virginia Tech massacre brought back an argument from the grave: one proposed solution to the problem we face in protecting our schools is allowing guns on college campuses. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill on April 16th, 2011 that would have allowed certain individuals licensed to carry a concealed weapon: professors, school faculty, and students age 21 and older, to carry firearms on campus grounds (Shahid, 2011). In the wake of recent events, many other states are considering passing a similar law to allow guns on campus in some form—Utah being the first to pass such a law (Associated Press, 2007). 11


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Being a university student, I once had another student, as we discussed the prospect of guns being allowed on campus, tell me, “People kill people, not guns.” She was right. It is unfortunate that the gun is getting the blame for ending lives. Had the gun never been created, it is possible our concern would be about the psychopathic kid who brought a blade to school, or planted bombs. History proves that when somebody wants to wreak havoc, they will find the means to do so—their weapon of choice enables, but certainly it does not grow a brain and do damage on its own. Not to mention guns really can be helpful. It is a police officer’s, a crime fighter’s, weapon of choice for a reason. Phil Valentine, radio talk-show host and author of Right from the Heart, a book arguing for firearms in society, states that handguns are used 2 million times per year in defense against criminals, which is more than five times the number that are used to commit crimes (2003). Therefore, I understand the idea that people arming themselves or a loved one would enhance their sense of security. It seems completely unfair to surrender one’s firearm as soon as one steps onto campus, when at any moment some student with no regards for the rules (or human life, for that matter) might bring his or her gun to school. Truth is, being armed in such a situation would be beneficial—there is a chance the responsible, armed student or faculty member could take down the “bad guy” and save their own and others’ lives. The problem is that although we have heard a lot lately about these Cho-like kids, and Columbine-like massacres—they are actually pretty rare (which is good news, really). Although the media may lead us to believe otherwise, out of the 100,000 or so schools in the U.S., only 12 to 20 homicides occur each year. Actually, school violence has decreased by 50 percent in the past decade (Dedman, 2007). It turns out that the chances of a shooting actually occurring are outweighed by the potential for accidents that could occur because of allowing guns on campus. College campuses seemingly remain some of the safest places to live. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, 93 percent of violent crimes toward college students occurred off-campus (Meadows). However, if guns were allowed on campus this statistic could change—because, let’s face it: many college kids get drunk at some point. Nearly half of the 5.4 million college students in America “abuse drugs or drink alcohol on binges at least once a month,” according to a study done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in 2007. Alcohol was found to be involved in 95 percent of campus crime (Meadows). No matter how much of a “good guy” a gun carrier is, the possible combination of alcohol, drugs, and guns make it more likely for accidents to occur on campus. It is possible that a gun originally placed in responsible hands will fall into the wrong hands, too. Although only 10 to 15 percent of criminals’ guns are acquired by thievery, the possibility of the weapon falling into the wrong hands increases as more guns are made “available” (Noyes, 2011).

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An Instant Solution

Still, there is the idea that if we armed our schools there is a possibility we would never have to deal with shooters in the first place. As much as I wish this were true, it cannot be proven. There is a possibility this strategy could even backfire: Dr. Peter Langman, an expert on the psychology of school shooters, wrote the book Why Kids Kill after two young students attacked Columbine High School. Not only does he study the psyche of past shooters, Dr. Langman also faces a daunting task: every year he evaluates one or two potential school shooters, coming face-to-face with students claiming they might “go Columbine” or that they would like to kill because they are “really bored.” Dr. Langman found that 90 percent of potential shooters suffered from depression, and had suicidal thoughts. In most cases, it is not their own life that school shooters are worried about—it is taking other people’s lives. Many had an obsession with violent media; it is frighteningly possible that allowing other students and faculty to carry guns would make the scenario even more of an appealing video game-like challenge (Langman, 2009). Finally, in a poll conducted by the Arizonans for Gun Safety organization, 69 percent of those surveyed opposed the House bill that would allow guns on campus in Arizona colleges, and 56 percent of gun owners within the survey opposed the bill as well (Walker, 2011). The problem is that guns induce fear in many students and professors, and even if that fear is not always based on rational reasoning—Dr. Langman’s work, for example, proves that shootings are not in-the-moment, but planned out carefully–that fear will nonetheless remain. Arizona State University’s Professor Amelia Malagamba told me in an interview one afternoon that her fear of student violence would escalate if guns were allowed on ASU’s campus. She expressed worries it would “censor” her class, knowing that students had guns on them. “It will be censorship based on real fear of crazy reaction, which kills the whole purpose of teaching,” she practically shouted, eyes wide. What would happen if professors held back criticism because they were afraid? It may not be fair to demand that pro-carriers abandon their weapons. But it is also unfair to potentially take away value from students’ learning environment. Of course, we cannot accept the fact that an attacker will attack, shrug our shoulders, and say, “that’s life.” It would be better to never have to ask that a student or professor have to hold up their gun with shaky hands, and within milliseconds take down somebody who is spraying bullets all around them. Our campus security teams should be there when all else fails; maybe they should receive better training in order to better deal with situations such as a murderous student gunman. Ultimately, as stated by Dr. Langman, “Shooters have to be stopped before they can get to the school with weapons. This means a different style of prevention than physical security” (2009, p. 188). These bills being proposed across the United States may provide an instant feeling of security, but we are dealing with a situation that requires more than an instant solution. When somebody like Cho gets a hold of a gun and walks onto campus ready to kill, it should not be the beginning of our prevention efforts. 13


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References

ABC News. (2007). ‘Everyone started panicking and jumping out the window.’ [Video file]. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US Associated Press. (2007, April 28). Utah only state to allow guns on college. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com Dedman, B. (2007, October 10). Ten myths about school shootings. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com Johnson, J. (2007, April 18). ‘Ismail-Ax’: breaking the riddle. ABC News Nightline. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/ Langman, P. (2009). Why kids kill. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Noyes, D. (2011). How criminals get guns. PBS Frontline. Retrieved from http://www.pbs. org O’Connor, A. & Hauser, C. (2007, April 16). Virginia Tech shooting leaves 33 dead. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com Meadows, M. Why our campuses are safer without concealed handguns. Students for Gun Free Schools (SGFS). Retrieved from http://www.studentsforgunfreeschools.org Shahid, A. (2011, April 19). Jan Brewer, GOP Arizona governor, vetoes public university, college campus gun bill. New York Daily News. Retrieved from: http://www.nydailynews.com Valentine, P. (2003, September 12). Guns are good: ‘Right from the Heart’ excerpt extols benefits of firearms. World Net Daily. Retrieved from: http://www.wnd.com Walker, L. (2011, March 3). VA Tech shooting survivor talks gun safety at ASU. The State Press. Retrieved from: http://www.statepress.com

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Clutch by Alexandra Comeaux

There’s something to be said for the smell of dead fish and motorcycle exhaust on a Wednesday night, when you leapt passed rot, leaned over dumpsters, released clutch and tapped throttle— give a little more, you said, and I found that I could. See, even now, how you have consumed me? You are the fuel-stained, burnt rubber, metal deformity; the crushed headlights and cringing of brakes, the smoke-settled asphalt of a wreck. And me? I am flesh. We both know how this ends, so if I turn away, forgive me: it is only in fear that you will do the same, and I will never again know the destruction of a beauty so merciless, a hand so unflinching.

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photo by Ximena Camarena Lopez


An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military by Stacey Cope

Abstract This paper details the ongoing crisis of rape in the U.S. military. Over thirty years ago, the U.S. Department of Defense set a goal to enlist more women in the military, and as female soldier numbers began to raise it was clear they were not prepared to integrate. Since the Gulf War, the rates of rape of servicewomen have continued to rise with little intervention or punishment of their male perpetrators. In recent years, the U.S. military has made valid attempts to alleviate the high frequencies of sexual assault but with minor success. The lack of anonymity in reporting cases of sexual assault along with the fear of stigma keep many servicewomen from coming forward. The efficiency and ultimate victory of the U.S. military cannot be met until all members of every unit are able to perform their duties with respect and trust for their fellow soldiers. It is the Armed Forces themselves who encouraged and sought servicewomen for their war efforts; therefore, it must be the Armed Forces who ensure their basic human rights are being met.

An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military As women excel in the Armed Forces, the long-standing masculinized culture of the military stands as a formidable roadblock. The “boys club� mentality of the military is understandable as men certainly dominated it for hundreds of years, but this attitude can create a hostile and subordinate environment for women. This hostility is increasingly being translated into sexual assault and sexual harassment against servicewomen. The growing number of sexual assault cases leaves female soldiers feeling disconnected from their service and depletes the effectiveness of their military unit. Female soldiers are critical to the U.S. military and the war effort, yet are met with an exceedingly pervasive climate of sexual violence that has reached crisis proportions. In the last several decades, the U.S. military has made several strides to encourage more women to join the military and to strengthen their roles within 17


An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military

it. In 1973, the U.S. Department of Defense removed their 2% maximum restriction of women in the military as well as initiated strategies to better recruit female soldiers. These policies enabled an increase from 8.5% active female soldiers in 1980 to 14.5% in 2006 (Feitz & Nagel, 2011). Women can now succeed in a range of positions within the military and stand as an inspiration to women across the country. Yet even with their growing visibility, servicewomen are often considered second-class soldiers. Many female soldiers share the sentiment that they are seen as simply “stereotypes of women as passive sex objects who have no business fighting and cannot be relied upon” (Benedict, 2009). This misjudgment may partly stem from the law prohibiting servicewomen from participating in direct combat roles. Testimony from female and male soldiers alike attest to the reality that, due to the nature of our current conflict, there is no true “front line” resulting in most servicewomen’s involvement in direct combat situations (Feitz &Nagel, 2011, p. 119). Even still, the perception of a female soldier’s inferiority can have very dangerous consequences. The prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault within the military has escalated to crisis proportions. According to a report from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, “at least one-third of all women veterans have experienced rape or sexual assault during their service” (Wilson, 2010). This behavior and the environment it creates are not conducive to the success or confidence of military units. When reading the statistic that one-third of all servicewomen experience sexual assault, it is important to note that many incidences are not reported. Servicewomen may never bring their experience to light out of fear of stigma, that it will end their career, or that their case will not be believed or taken seriously. Since only 10.9% of reported cases result in charges against the perpetrator, female soldiers might be reluctant to report knowing the law is not on their side (Benedict, 2009). Currently the process for female soldiers reporting instances of sexual assault requires them to consult with a Victim Advocate. Victim Advocate personnel are much like military counselors, whose conversations with victims are not strictly confidential. Anonymity is scarce in these situations when all personnel and officers know each other and fear of word spreading is undoubtedly warranted (Tsongas, 2011). This lack of privacy accounts for the 80-90% of sexual assault cases in the military not being reported (Gibbs, 2010). Servicewomen join the military for the same reasons that male soldiers enlist; they want better life opportunities and to serve their country. Still, they are unable to feel the same camaraderie and trust needed to be confident in battle. The U.S. Department of Defense’s attempt to alleviate the lack of anonymity and stigma in reporting cases was to create the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) in 2005 and even more education and prevention programs in 2009 (Benedict, 2009). Unfortunately, despite their efforts, SAPRO has not made significant strides in ending sexual assault within

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An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military

the military. U.S. Representative and member of the House Armed Services Committee Niki Tsongas (2011) acknowledges that servicewomen “universally claim that they are unaware of their rights, and fear public ridicule, blame, or repeat offenses if they file a report against a fellow service member.” Even with earnest attempts by the Department of Defense to end sexual assault in the military, many service members feel they cannot come forward and remain isolated in fear and shame. Servicewomen must be able to rely on their commanding officers to make decisions that are in their best interest, in and out of combat. Unfortunately, when female soldiers do report cases of sexual harassment or sexual assault to their leaders, they are too often met with skepticism or even apathy. It is likely that these higher-ranking officers simply were not properly trained in how to handle cases of rape. Many future officers are trained at one of the four U.S. Military Academies, where the prevalence of sexual assault is nearly double the rates in the Armed Forces (Stalsburg, 2011). As cadets (officers-in-training), they are socialized into certain behaviors and develop a tolerance for violence and sexual harassment, a combination that can be toxic for servicewomen. This learned behavior then carries over into the Armed Forces as these cadets become officers, making it all the more difficult for female soldiers to feel secure in reporting inappropriate conduct (Stalsburg, 2011). The strong and tough “walk it off” attitude of the military leads some officers to outright ignore reports of rape, forcing the victim to continue working side by side with her perpetrator. One extreme case is that of Cassandra Hernandez, an Air Force cadet who reported three of her fellow soldiers for gang raping her, at which time “her command charged her with indecent behavior for consorting with her rapists,” while her perpetrators went unpunished (Benedict, 2009). Perhaps for some officers these cases are not a top priority; their top priority is managing the war effort. But how can officers expect their soldiers to fully contribute to their military unit and the larger war efforts if they can so frequently be victims of sexual violence with no mediation or support? The U.S. Military initiated their campaigns to increase the presence of female soldiers over thirty years ago. These efforts have made it possible for servicewomen to rise to positions of high-ranking officers, earn esteemed accolades for bravery and valor, and fight and die for their country. However, their potential has yet to be fully realized because of threats (and acts) of sexualviolence roadblocks. These roadblocks are not only dysfunctional and dangerous for the victims but the military as a whole. The crisis of rape in the military will not end until the culture of the military accepts servicewomen as equals to their male counterparts. It will not lessen until the fear of coming forward, the fear of dishonor, or, most importantly, the fear that nothing will be done is a thing of the past. Servicewomen have risked life and limb for their country, now it is their country that must step up and fight for their right to be the best they can be.

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An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military

References

Benedict, H. (2009, May 6). The nation: The plight of women soldiers. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103844570 Feitz, L., & Nagel, J. (2011). Deploying race, gender, class, and sexuality in the Iraq War. In M. Baca-Zinn, P. Hondagneu-Sotel, & M. A. Messner (Eds.), Gender through the prism of difference (4th ed., pp. 114-124). New York: Oxford University Press. Gibbs, N. (2010, March 8). Sexual assaults on female soldiers: Don’t ask, don’t tell. Time. Retrieved from http://www.time.com Stalsburg, B. L. (2011). Military academies: Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Retrieved from http://servicewomen.org/media/publications/ Tsongas, N. (2011, February 27). Sexual assault in the armed forces. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion Wilson, N. (2010). Culture of rape. Ms. Magazine, Spring, 32-35.

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photo by Ximena Camarena Lopez


Das Gehewr by Ryan Anthony

It’s past 2 a.m., pitch black; noise and light discipline. The attack helicopters are loud, but they stay far. A perfect night for trick-or-treat. It’s probably the sixth raid this year. “Outer cordon set,” mumbles someone on the two-way radio. “Roger. No one enters and no one leaves,” goes out the whisper from our end. “Tac team set.” “Roger. Just knock and search.” Easy. Yet I can hear my heart pound. Tinnitus probably; darn IEDs. “Fitehah! Enha la Amereecan!” “Open up! It’s the Americans!” Bang Bang! Crack! Boom! “Doggonit!! Suiter shoot!” I yell. “Where?” “In the effin’ house!!” Two and a half inches to the right, and I would’ve lost a patella. I am standing nowhere near cover and just now for the first time during the night … I feel alone. But I am not alone. My sister, my security, my saving grace is with me. My M4 service rifle. I smack its metal magazine just to make sure. It clanks back in “affirmative,” jolting me back into combat. “Doc! Smitty is down!” “Roger! Moving!” I reply. M4 is the new rifle being issued by the army. The shorter, carbine version of the ancient M16 musket that has been around since before Vietnam. It’s the weapon of choice in urban combat and the one I carried with me in Iraq. Every soldier is issued one and they all look alike. Alike, but not identical; you recognize yours as a father recognizes his child. Germans first used the concept of ‘rifling’ the smoothbore of a long gun, inventing the almighty Gewehr. This is precisely when Germany starts World Wars. Why wouldn’t one pick fights after acquiring such a brainchild? This child has grown now. A necessary evil, she safeguards our borders and the American way of life. That is how I was first introduced to her; passionate 22


Das Gehewr

love sparked instantly. After the initial romance though, like all loves, it comes down to hard work and learning to get along. My responsibility is to keep her clean and hers is to keep me breathing. Our relationship has grown during the war. I am learning to love her and she is learning to love me. She is jealous; spitting fire at everyone with an evil eye on me. She is faithful too, the only one I trust on these Arabian nights. She is always there and always ready to start something. My hands were made to fit her contours. Dark and smooth, cold against bare skin. She is a tomboy. Her perfume is not rose and jasmine, it’s frankincense and myrrh, bottom notes of fragrant oil and black powder. She is tough as a sergeant. Steel ribs and iron jaw. And such ferocity must stay on a leash. A black strap holds her intimately close to me, ready to tango. She is full of energy and vigor. Even on a leash she stays wild and reckless, loud and alive. She is as alive as I am alive. I am alive because she is alive. I learn to honor her. I learn to treat her like a sister. Like my best friend. She is mine. She is jealous but so am I. The weather is after her. I protect her and I bathe her. I scrub her with brass bristles. Then comes the cotton cloth, lightly dipped in the fragrant oil. Like suntan lotion, gently, it is laid on her. It covers her enough to make her gleam. It doesn’t soak her; she won’t enjoy that. That would make her cough. I do not want her sick! I am alive because she is alive. In the hands of trained men, the rifle is more than a mere firearm. Men who understand it is not the number of bullets fired that count, it’s the hits. As the crumbled German defense retreated from Normandy, such men held their ground to fight. Half the Allied soldiers on D-Day were killed by infantry, artillery and mortars. The other half by snipers. These snipers instilled fear in the Allies’ hearts. No one walked on that battlefront. Crouch! Bow to the man who is one with his gewehr. Ah yes, you must be one with the rifle. It is an extension of your body. You must treat her as you treat your arm or leg. When you go prone, she lies before you. You see what she sees. She leads, you follow. We both enter the house. Quietly and stealthily, slithering like a snake-- slow and low. I do not have to think what to do; it’s drilled in. I keep her in the ready position, constantly looking down the barrel. Seeing what she sees, following where she leads. We safely reach our injured comrade. “You alright killer?” “Ya. This eye-pro really works!” “Bleeding a little. Let’s get out.” No need to shoot tonight. We’ll raise hell some other day. Fun while it lasted, but the rifle was never mine to keep. She belonged to someone else. She was not given back; she was taken away. All good stories must come to an end, but absence makes my heart grow fonder. Still I am happy that she is happy. And I am happy that she is alive. And I am alive because she is alive. 23


photo by Diana Lustig


Scarlet by Stevi Rollinson

My mama tells me only old houses need paint. I’ve never seen a new house left naked— bare wood exposed, not painted. The nuns at school said it was a sin. They insisted shaving their heads was holy, too. Jesus wasn’t bald. A shade of scarlet, paired with my plaid, pleated skirt. I wore it to school mass, face hidden behind a hymnal. To the ladies room I was escorted. “All day” lip wear is hard to wash off, but I was beautiful for thirty minutes. So glorious those thirty minutes. Red on Marilyn. Nude on Twiggy. Self-expression silenced in its absence— confidence crippled. I’ll wear red, thanks. Call it a tribute. Jesus, forgive me, for I have sinned.

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photo by Sean Deckert


Reed by Kaitlyn Knudson

We all avoid that desk, the one by the beaten-up poster hanging by one of its corners that says, “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” That desk that he always claimed in the back of the classroom, that’s now cleaner than our desks and looking quite naked without its usual stack of books to dress it. Our desks are in the front of the classroom, closer to the door. They’re dressed with penciled penises drawn on their tops and globs of gum hanging from their bottoms, and we like our desks that way. But not Reed, Reed never put a pencil to anything but paper. Reed. Reed. We say his name with disgust. We still have to skillfully avoid him now, like we did back then, every time we see that desk. Truth is, we figured one day he would do something crazy, and we were glad that he did it to himself rather than to us. There were days when we halfexpected him to walk into our classroom and start burying our bodies in bullets like some crazy kids do, even though none of us would admit we thought that way. It’s because we would see him mumble to himself and stare out the window, stare into one of his books for hours … and look at us with those eyes that burned us like ants behind square spectacles every time he caught us spitting in our own books’ pages or putting them under our feet like we often did to make him upset. He once asked you to a dance. You should remember that day; you were sitting there with us, smacking your gum in your mouth, and stifling your laugh with the palms of your hands. We all watched as he walked in with a vase full of red roses and his hair slicked over, his glasses gone. But we weren’t fooled and, thankfully, neither were you. We had heard rumors all week that he was going to ask you, and we could just picture him quoting something from one of those books on his desk, Shakespeare, or something. No matter. Shakespeare’s dead so it didn’t matter to us. You are too good for him we said, when we heard the rumors that he was going to ask you. Don’t be modest; you know how badly the guys wanted to go with you, to get with you, to be in the same class as you so they could stare at you. We knew Reed didn’t have a shot in hell. But we were also afraid that maybe you would say yes by some sort of tragic accident, like maybe

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Reed

you would think he asked you if you wanted to throw out the plants, and you would look at the dying plants by Mr. Z’s computer and say sure, and Reed would get his way. We didn’t want Reed to get his way, because Reed was so different. Yes, we sometimes thought it was funny the way he would comment on everything in class, like he was the boss and not Mr. Z, the man with the PowerPoint and necktie. But we also thought it was rude, the way he’d continue to question Mr. Z when Mr. Z answered his questions with “it is what it is” and “because I said so,” because we liked Mr. Z. He gave us bonus points for showing up to class every morning and told us all the questions that would be on the tests, which we thought was the best way to prepare. Not that we prepared outside of the classroom; we had better things to do, like talk about each other’s lives and watch TV. That was where the real stories were, anyway. But Reed. What a freak. We could tell that he liked doing the work. Those days when Mr. Z would get sidetracked and talk about his favorite TV show or the game rather than droning on about Hamlet were the best; he would stand there staring at the ceiling, like his eyeballs were searching his head for something profound to say as he went on and on about this character he hated from this TV show. We all would make faces at each other from across the room, see how many times we could get away with pointing our middle finger at Mr. Z when his eyes rolled back in thought. You were winning at one point, we kept count. But Reed just sat in the back, staring at the pages of Hamlet like the words on them were about to vanish invisible-ink style, and all that would be left were the ones he saved in his memory. He asked why and how all the time, and sometimes that made us late getting out of class, because Mr. Z had to Google his questions. Reed never seemed happy with the answers from Google either, like he was above Google. He would always mutter that he wanted to hear Mr. Z’s opinion, what Mr. Z had to say about the book or the question he was asking. Mr. Z would get annoyed with him, too, telling him that this is what he had to say about the book, about the question. What was right here on Google, well, that was his answer. Oh, and I know you remember the way Reed would get upset when Mr. Z gave us all A’s for turning our assignments in! One time he even tore his essay in two, holding it in the air like it was a symbol of his sanity and in this loud, dramatic gesture, ripping the paper. We didn’t understand him; we thought it was fair, us getting all A’s. Because there is no right or wrong answer in life, and we thought we shouldn’t be forced to write about something we didn’t care about. So, we turned in essays about our favorite TV show and what we had planned for our future Pinterest boards and talked about what we had read on Facebook. I heard that one time you even turned in a story with only the words “Essays are boring” in it, rearranged three different ways and repeating itself, and got away with it. Mr. Z didn’t care, nobody in the school cared, nobody in the world cared what our essays had to say, and we sure as hell didn’t care, either.

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But Reed cared, and we were afraid he’d start getting other people to care. You know what that feeling was like, when you saw that the words on his paper were about the book in his hands, his own thoughts, and his own opinion on what we were supposed to have opinions on not long ago. We were afraid he would spark something in Mr. Z, that Mr. Z would start teaching again instead of just talking, that people would take the time to read our essays. What’s crazy is that when he first came here we thought he would fit in, believe it or not. We had heard stories that his family was rich, and Mr. Z had told us that he was moving here from another state. We talked about the other states with giddy, hopeful voices. Thought about their online classes and online teachers, how we could re-do an assignment over and over until we aced it, how we could use Google and SparkNotes and Wikipedia until we filled up the required pages. We thought about how unfair it was that we were trapped inside walls with whiteboards and desks and the smell of old paper. We thought of Reed as a sort-of superhero, one that would come into the school with authority and tell our principal that we, too, deserve to do our schoolwork from the comfort of our homes, so we can do better on our papers. We actually don’t care about our papers, though—we just want to sleep in, we admit it to each other in the cafeteria. We find that doing work is much more difficult on our own; we can squeeze decent sentences and interesting analyses out when we’re doing activities in class, or pulling information from the Internet that somebody else wrote, but on our own … well, the most we write is a text message or a sentence of 140 characters or less, or a status update about being sick of school. We show up with the hope that one of us has the answer to the questions that might be asked in the classroom (which used to always be Reed), and it’s good enough for us. We think about Reed a lot, a lot more than we’d like to think about him. His clean desk triggers a thought within us, a scenario of him pointing the gun at his freckled face, right between his two eyes, just above his nose. We picture him pulling the trigger, tearing his face in two just like he tore up his essay that day, all the words of Hamlet and 1984 and To Kill A Mockingbird, all our assigned readings and more, spraying out of his skull and getting lost in his blood. We wondered what he looked like when he was found, if he kept his glasses on or not. We were half-hoping they would show us his body at the funeral, but we were also relieved when they didn’t. We saw his parents there, at the funeral, with the same freckled faces and small eyes as him. They wore sad faces, so sad. Their tears ran between their fingers, down their arms, plummeted to the floor kamikaze-style. They cried to us, looked at us with confusion, and behind their own spectacles we thought we saw the eyes of Reed, glinting, burning us like ants. We didn’t like to see them cry, it made us all fidget and stare at our shoes. We didn’t do it, we wanted to tell them. We didn’t do it to him, it was all him, it was his choice. He could have joined us, he could have “friended” us if he wanted to. We’re actually very

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friendly once you join us. But Reed didn’t want to be friends with us. He wanted to be there, in the classroom, surrounded by those books and a 3D teacher and the stinky scent of White Erase markers and paper quizzes. We still think about their faces, his parents’ faces, although we don’t ever talk about them. We didn’t want to say anything to them at the funeral; we decided that it would be better if we didn’t, because it wasn’t our fault that Reed was gone. But now there is a rumor going around that you said something to them, and we want to know if it’s true. That you told them “I’m sorry.” And we’re wondering, why did you do that? Because it wasn’t your fault, you know. We want you to know that it wasn’t your fault. He did it to himself. We’ve noticed that you have stopped coming to as many parties as you used to, that you haven’t been online as much as usual, that you don’t play the middlefinger game with us anymore. We miss you. Just the other day we heard rumors that you didn’t want our classes to go online anymore, and that you were seen at that old person’s bookstore, buying books; you did this rather than come to the parties with us, rather than talk to us on online. We hear rumors that you spend your lunch breaks with your nose between the pages of Hamlet now; your essays consist of more than three words, even though Mr. Z isn’t reading them. We hate to say this—but if you keep it up, you might be on your own. And we don’t want that to happen to you. We think you feel bad about Reed because you talked to him, once. We’ve narrowed it down to that conversation you had the first day of school, when he was lost and looking for his lit. class, Mr. Z’s class. We were all watching when you two started to talk; we were all staring at Reed, wondering if he was going to be who we thought he would be. “We have class together,” we remember you telling him, after he asked you where to find the classroom. “But don’t worry about this class; we don’t do anything, just like the rest of them,” you added, and we all laughed. Reed’s face twisted. The corners of his lips drooped, his head cocked to the side, his eyes were filled with a pain and a passion we labeled as pathetic. “But I want to learn,” he said. That’s when we knew he would be different. We didn’t think much of it, but that’s when we should have started worrying about you, too. Because, thinking back on it, we saw an unmistakable twist in your face, too. Your head cocked to the side and, for a moment, we thought we could picture the mechanics in your mind moving, that you were considering what you hadn’t before. But we shrugged it off, because it happened so fast, and because we thought you shrugged it off when you laughed at Reed with us. We heard that some maintenance men were going to move that desk, finally. We all breathed a sigh of relief when they came and took it, took Reed out of the classroom once and for all. The day is going great and there’s even a rumor

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that by next year, everything will be online, and we won’t even have to force our bodies over here every morning. Mr. Z walks into class and says he doesn’t feel like being here today, so we’re just going to watch a movie. We’re all cheering, all but one of us … you. You’re over there sitting next to a now-empty corner and you’re staring at it. We understand that maybe you don’t feel the warmth of a human body next to you anymore, and that Reed isn’t there to block the sunshine coming out of the window for you anymore … but you’re acting strange today, the way you’re sitting there bending back the sides of a clean book. It’s making us uncomfortable. So, we’re asking you to stop. We’re asking because we care about you. Stop staring at the corner, because he’s gone, and you can’t do anything about it. You don’t have to read every book in the library to know anything about the world, okay? And we also want you to know that it’s not your fault, so why do we think that you feel bad about what happened? Because truthfully—we don’t want to say it out loud, but we’re all thinking it—it’s just easier now that we don’t have to walk around that desk. You turn the first page of the book over and we hear it; the movie hasn’t started and that noise of you turning the page is so loud right now. It’s crinkling and creasing and drives us crazy. It makes us think of Reed and we don’t like it. And you, you’re starting to worry us. Are you really going to start caring about Reed now, now that it’s too late?

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Bullies and Villains by Jayro Giron

When children hear the word bully, males and females picture different people. Males often describe a boy who is large for his age in both weight and height. He isn’t the brightest student in the classroom, but when it comes to picking teams during a sport in physical education, he is picked first. For females, the profile of a bully is rarely identical to that of males. Most of the time, a female bully is an attractive, well-liked girl. She can be considered a sweetheart to adults around her, but those who know her closely know of her two-faced identity and her ability to bring down another girl’s self-esteem not with violence, but with words. No matter who we are, the image of a bully can be narrowed down to a simple category, villain. Unlike the ones going about their silly schemes in comic books and movies, real-life bullies can be considered everyday adversaries for students. They’re the characters threatening many children and teens. Although, at times, it’s simple to determine the characteristics of a villain, it’s difficult to define what bullying is. Anne G. Garrett (2002), author of Bullying in American Schools, notes that it can be physical and involve some form of personal assault on another person whether it’s shoving, hitting, kicking, etc. It can also be passive which includes the spread of rumors or manipulation. The more common examples of bullying are, indeed, passive and they consist of taunting, teasing, and threatening (Garrett, 2002). Dan Olweus (2006), a psychology professor at the University of Bergen in Norway who is one of the world’s leading experts on bullies and their victims, characterizes bullying as a build-up of negative reactions that occurs regularly over a period that is directed at a student from another student. In his opinion, it is crucial to note the difference between peer conflicts and bullying. In peer conflicts, the argument or fight is accidental and not serious. In bullying, the two students are not friends and the danger presented to the victim is repeated so that the bully seeks some sort of control (Olweus, 2006). But are these kids labeled as bullies really villains? Villains are aware that their actions are harmful, hurtful, and overall unacceptable. How do we know that’s how most bullies think?

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In reality, bullies do believe that their behavior is actually acceptable and that, as Garrett (2002) suggests, violence and aggression is the way to deal with situations. From where does this belief originate? Many people think that bullies have low self-esteem, which leads them to hurt others. However, that’s where the general public is wrong. In fact, as verified in the Phi Delta Kappa, an online journal of professional educators, the most common myth that people have about bullies is that they have low self-esteems, when in reality, they have above-average self-esteems (Graham, 2010). There is very little evidence that bullies suffer from insecurity issues. More studies have proven that bullies see their actions as positive and tolerable and that they even have great egos (Graham, 2010). Garret (2002) concurs: because bullies seem to have a need to feel powerful and in control, they obtain that pleasure from inflicting injury and harm on others. Thus, leading to their inflated self-views. If the problem isn’t their self-esteem, then where does the issue start? As Olweus (2006) indicates, bullies act the way they do because of their home environments and the behaviors they learn from their primary role models, their parents. Some parents don’t know where to draw the line when it comes to bullying and child’s play. They find potentially dangerous situations acceptable (Garrett, 2002). Take, for example, an instance described in Bullying in American Schools. A principal in North Carolina witnessed two fifth-grade boys hold down and yell at a first-grade boy. Before the fifth-graders could do any physical harm to the first-grader, the principal intervened and extensively interviewed them. He then called the parents of the children. The parents of the fifth-grade students both found the behavior to be what they considered normal. They thought detention for their boys and an apology to the first-grader was enough to settle the problem. The parent of the first-grader, however, was infuriated. She demanded that the principal notify the police because she considered her child assaulted. In the end, there were no charges made. The principal ensured that the fifth-grade boys received a just punishment for their actions (Garrett, 2002). A few characteristics that derive from a child’s household make it more likely for him/her to become a bully. As reported in Pediatric Nursing, one aspect is parental modeling of aggressiveness. A child’s main role models when they grow up are his/her parents. If from an early age they witness abusive behavior between the parents or being directed to a child from a parent, a child is more likely to imitate that behavior. Children see that a domestic dispute between parents or some form of abuse towards siblings leads to eventual compliance from the victim. Therefore, this is a strategy that they use when it comes to dealing with classmates and getting what they want (Patterson, 2005). However, that abuse doesn’t necessarily have to come from a parent. Maria Martin, a Spanish psychologist, writes in Education Journal (2005) that fortythree percent of children who are bullies are the victims of bullying from

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siblings. The actions that are done to them are emulated when they become the aggressors in school. Parents view these acts of violence as sibling rivalry and decide to do very little about them. Not only does that abuse get absorbed by the child, but it also leads to a lack of parental warmth. When a child receives a more forceful, physical discipline from their parents, they report that they feel less affection from their parents afterwards (Patterson, 2005). From there, they go on to get that affection elsewhere. According to Garrett (2002), bullies see that affection is correlated with popularity in schools. They achieve what they make out to be kindness from the people who follow them or approve of their violent acts. A final aspect that originates from the home environment is the lack of attention and supervision children receive from their parents. Spending minimal time with their children or not giving them as much attention as necessary can lead to children gaining that attention through bullying (Garrett, 2002). When harming others, bullies attain the awareness of teachers, principals, and school faculty. Although their attention comes from negative actions, bullies still notice that these actions do lead to a response (Patterson, 2005). Nonetheless, even with big egos, bullies’ acts have lasting effects—on the bullies. For example, an issue that affects bullies is aggressive temperament. As Garrett claims, “Temperament refers to the basic tendencies by children to develop certain personality styles and interpersonal behaviors” (2002, p. 72). Bullies are serious control freaks who display obsessive and compulsive urges to bring out their aggressive tendencies (Olweus, 2006). Because their hostility frequently gets in the way, a high number of these children end up dropping out of school and performing below average in their careers (Garrett, 2002). Olweus (2006) points out that children who have been identified as bullies have a greater chance of committing delinquent acts. One study showed that sixty percent of students identified as bullies in grades six through nine had a criminal conviction by age twenty-four (Olweus, 2006). The consequences of bullying don’t end there. Olweus also asserts that bullies don’t have proper emotional development. They grow up to be generally unhappy people who suffer from anxiety and fear (2006). Not only do their emotional problems become an issue for the bullies, they also become a problem for those around them (Garrett, 2002). Bullies deal with their growing anxiety and mixed feelings by becoming abusive spouses and parents. They even become workplace bullies and often repeat the aggressive actions they used to do to classmates with their co-workers. Worst of all, bullies who become parents raise a new generation of bullies, creating another cycle of violence (Garrett, 2002). Parents don’t have to panic when they hear from teachers or school faculty that their child is behaving like a bully--because the behavior can be reversed. As reported in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, by providing active

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attention, taking a second look at their parenting practices, and not being overly lenient with their children, parents can help shift the views of potential bullies from negative to positive (Ball et al., 2008). School programs aren’t the only solution to the problem. Parents must be willing to be involved and cooperate with schools in order to successfully teach their children that certain ways of acting aren’t acceptable (Ball et al., 2008). By providing assistance to the bully, as well as the victim, we contribute to diminishing the issue of bullying. If we let ourselves believe that kids will be kids and bullying is a part of growing up, we’re doing nothing to fix the problem. There are numerous role models in homes, communities, and the media that kids mimic daily. Bullying won’t go away on its own. Adult involvement and positive behavior at home is vital to the success of any anti-bullying initiatives. We must all be engaged in a sustained effort to change the situation because, in the end, bullies aren’t always villains. What makes bullies distinct from the villains we see or read about is that bullies can be changed into better individuals. With simple, yet effective recommendations from professionals in the field to aid parents and several comprehensive bullying-prevention programs already in schools across the nation, we can help reconstruct the existing environments and behaviors that our children have come to see as normal and prevent them from being labeled as schoolyard villains.

References

Ball, H. A., Arseneault, L., Taylor, A., Maughan, B., Caspi, A., & Moffitt, T. E. (2008). Genetic and environmental influences on victims, bullies, and bully-victims in childhood. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 49(1), 104-112. Garrett, A. (2002). Bullying in American schools. North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc. Graham, S. (2010). What educators need to know about bullying behaviors. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(1), 66-69. Martín, M. (2005). The causes and nature of bullying and social exclusion in schools. Education Journal, (86), 28-30. Olweus, D. (2006). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Cambridge: Blackwell. Patterson, G. (2005). The bully as victim? Pediatric Nursing, 17(10), 27-30.

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photo by Ximena Camarena Lopez


Sorrow, Fury, and Love by Carter (Alex) Pearl

There was a scream outside his room. At least, Connor was fairly certain it was a scream. Trying to fall asleep in a single dorm proved just as hard as doing so with a roommate, with added difficulties of the ambience—the imagination tended to distort the mundane noises of his room into more elaborate or grotesque sounds, like footsteps, crying, or screams. Connor gritted his teeth and toyed with the thought of getting up and investigating, but ultimately decided that the sound was more likely to be some kid yelling for no reason at all, which seemed to happen often in college. A second part of his brain, however, interjected and reminded Connor that it was currently four AM on a Tuesday. Anything benign that would make a student cry out would have happened hours ago, if not days. He’d already pulled on a pair of gym shorts and grabbed a T-shirt before he was able to fully rationalize his journey into the dorm hallway, punctuating his train of thought with a justifying, I have to pee anyway. Connor poked his head outside of his dorm room, checking the hall cautiously. He checked his pockets for his keys and slipped into the hallway, making sure to catch the door before it closed to avoid slamming it. Rounding the corner and heading to the floor lounge, Connor heard no evidence of any parties, sport events, or any other student activity. As a matter of fact, he didn’t hear much of anything, and the silence and time of day combined to give him the unpleasant image of his being the first to find a formerly whole and living college student splayed out on the floor of the lounge, their life having ended with a slip on some spilled water and one final, lonely scream. In ten minutes, Connor would find himself frantically wishing that was what he’d found instead. The first thing that he saw when he opened the floor lounge door was Kelly, a business major from Ohio, huddled and sobbing in the closest corner of the room to the door. Before Connor could ask her what was wrong, he noticed the rest of the lounge—tables had been flipped over, chairs scattered, cabinets thrown open with their contents spilled on the linoleum floor. He did not notice the cause of the discord until he had dumbly closed the door behind him and looked up to see the three figures centered amongst the stilled havoc. 39


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They were humanoid, each with two arms, two legs, and a head, but the surfaces of their bodies consisted of what seemed to be black and grey static, with indistinct limbs and bodily features that were almost completely undefined, reminding Connor of solid shadows. They gave off a faint noise that sounded like a mixture of furious panting and dejected sobbing. Connor had time to stutter a bewildered “Oh my God” before the figures turned to face him. He heard Kelly’s voice to his right, but she spoke too hoarsely and too quietly for Connor to hear her properly. He turned to her, and found that she was pointing at something that he hadn’t noticed before, but distinctly wished he still hadn’t—hanging from the lounge’s ceiling fan was a human head, its spinal cord stripped of vertebrae and wrapped around the blades and body of the apparatus. As the fan rotated slowly, Connor was able to make out the face of an accounting major from Boston whom Connor had only known as Rob. “Oh … What’s this?” One of the solid-shadow figures cocked its head and leaned toward Connor predatorily. “Another friend? Another witness? Did we find someone else to confide in, wandering these dark spaces?” The figure moved forward steadily, the dark surface of its featureless face remaining focused on Connor as its slender hands reached out absently to graze the surfaces it passed. Connor decided that he had seen enough and turned, grasping the door handle and preparing to run with every bit of energy and control he still possessed, until a searing pain tore through his thigh and he collapsed, his teeth slamming together as his chin impacted with the linoleum. He turned to see the dark figure standing over him, writhing and clawing at its face with fingers still covered in blood and bits of skin, silent but for the angered sobbing it projected. Underneath him, Connor felt a warm, wet sensation and he found that he was unable to move his left leg. He realized numbly that his hamstring had been slit, from slightly below his left buttock down to the back of his knee. The acknowledgement of his injury caused the pain to double, but as he moved to frantically grab at his leg to apply pressure, he felt the gentle slither of several cool, smooth fingers wrap around his face. Connor’s chin was raised gently at first, but when he resisted, the figure wrapped its hand around his jaw and jerked his head up forcefully, so that Connor was now face to featureless face with the figure. “LISTEN TO US! STAY! DON’T LEAVE!” the creature howled, inches away from Connor, “WE’RE SO ALONE! WHY WON’T ANYONE LISTEN TO US? WE’RE SO TIRED OF BEING ALONE! WHAT DID WE DO?” The creature tore away, releasing Connor’s jaw and staggering violently back to the other two shades. Connor looked on as the three tore at themselves, convulsing on their feet and shrieking in agony. As they thrashed, Connor noticed movement from the corner of his eye— Kelly, whom Connor had completely forgotten about, was frantically motioning for him to join her in the corner of the lounge. Connor thought about pointing out to Kelly the current state of his leg, but realized, reluctantly, that he would feel much safer in the corner. 40


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Once Connor has managed to relocate himself, Kelly asked him frantically whether or not he was all right, to which Connor replied by silently removing his shirt and attempting to apply it, tourniquet-style, to his leg. As he worked, Kelly whispered to him hurriedly, “These things … I think they’re us. They’ve been putting on some kind of performance, and it’s like it’s about people being sad or rejected or angry or something. When they do, though … I mean, their faces change. I can recognize most of them. They’re some of the people in this building.” She choked back a sob. “Oh my God, but they killed Rob … They thought he wasn’t listening and they tore him apart. I don’t … Oh God …” Connor’s hands shook frantically as they attempted to tie a knot tight enough to cut off the flow of blood to his leg. “I don’t know where they came from,” Kelly continued, “I just showed up here with Rob because we wanted to watch Prime Time before we tried to go to bed and they were just here.” Kelly made as if to continue, but she caught her breath as the figures stopped. Their dark forms moved slowly, almost fluidly, like snakes, and the first spoke as if it was choking back tears. “You will listen to us,” it said, “We won’t be alone. We can stop shouting. No more lying, no more pushing away, no more pretending that we are intact when our innards are shattered beyond repair.” “You want us …” Connor coughed, surprised at the sound of his voice and the dryness of his mouth, “You want us to listen to you? That’s all?” The second figure gave a contemptuous snort. “We’re the Unloved. The Secluded. The Locked-Away. No one cares if we reach out. No one wants to hear us. Listening is harder than you’d think.” The third chuckled. “This one didn’t want to listen. His mind wandered. We showed him how it feels to be us.” It reached out a hand and swatted Rob’s head from the ceiling fan, shuddering delightedly as its thin, fleshy tether snapped and the boy’s skull landed with an ugly thud and rolled into the far corner of the lounge. Connor held back the urge to vomit and gritted his teeth, attempting bravado through the revulsion and pain. The creatures turned to him and Kelly as if to make sure they were listening, and then began to clear the upturned tables and chairs to create a space in the center of the room. “So what, these things just want attention?” Connor hissed to Kelly. He was still slightly frustrated that she still hadn’t offered to give him help with his leg, which was beginning to go numb under the makeshift shirt-tourniquet. Kelly stroked her hair nervously, glancing from him to the figures as they prepared. “I don’t know, they say that, but they seem just as angry as they are alone!” she whispered. “I don’t know if they want pity, or company, or, shit, I don’t know, like … vindication? Justification? They just—” “ACT! ONE!” the first figure bellowed, “SORROW!” Connor and Kelly fell silent as it stepped aside as the other two shades centered themselves on the makeshift stage of fluorescent-lit floor encircled by upturned furniture. There was silence as the two figures stared at each other. 41


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The second began to speak. “Pills. Guns. Gravity. Pfft. Boy.” Connor blinked, and when his eyes opened again the figure’s face had taken on the aspect of a middle-aged man. “Boy, those are pussy ways to die. If you have to give yourself up to God, you do it with a rope around your neck and a chair under your heels. Hangin’ is a man’s way to die.” The third shade, wearing the face of a boy Connor knew by face but not by name, gulped and nodded. Connor blinked again, and the second shade was gone, and the third was suspended in midair, its neck stretched and contorted by an unseen noose. The face of the boy was slack, as Connor imagined it would have been, but its eyes stared out as if aware, darting across the room and opening and closing, as if afraid. Out of the side of the boy’s head, a second face appeared, the man again, and he was grinning. There was a wail and the figure dropped. It rejoined the other two, and all three bowed. A cascade of blond hair fell from the head of the first as its face took the shape of a girl Connor knew, a nursing major named Lauren who lived two floors down. Connor had done laundry with her a couple of times. Kelly and Connor were forced to watch as another shade, this one bearded and smirking, shook an imaginary baggie flirtatiously and told her, “If you can’t pay, you know what to do.” The shade with Lauren’s face knelt in front of the unrecognized shade, and Connor attempted to look away as her head began to rhythmically bob forward and back. Before he could, however, the third shade appeared at his side and hissed. Connor looked back, but forced his eyes to glaze over until the shade’s ecstatic moan signaled the end of their “scene.” (Later, he watched Peter, a philosophy major from Chicago, do almost the same thing). There was Dennis, the psychology major, who touched himself furiously as the other two figures, wearing the faces of none other than Lauren and Kelly, laughed at him. He sobbed when he was finished, and the other two only laughed harder. There was Neil, the communications major, who screamed at the rest of his support group that they would never understand what he was going through, that they would never see him as he was no matter how sanctimonious or aloof they acted, while either side of his face formed the visages of a man and a woman, respectively, who shouted from his own head, “Failure! Quitter! Queer! Shithead! Pissant! Cockroach!” until he collapsed. Neil’s support group, which consisted of the other two figures wearing four faces each, began to repeat flatly, “There’s nothing wrong with you, you’ll get better, you’re a strong human being, there are people who love you, but not us, but do it for them, but not us, not us …” At one point, one unidentified figure curled into a ball on an empty space on the floor and shook. As it trembled, it uttered a choked, sobbing chant: “I love you. I love you. I love you.” The other two figures stood over it, at a distance. They were silent, and they wore no faces. The performances went on this way for some time. Connor absorbed the confessions of all of his classmates—how many of them wanted to end it all, 42


Sorrow, Fury, and Love

how many felt shame for feelings they couldn’t begin to express, how many felt guilt for trauma to which they themselves were victim. How many apparently wanted to take all the pills in the bottle, or shut out all human contact, or curl up and cry every morning, afternoon, and evening. Finally, as one figure wailed while another wearing a nurse’s hat cradled an imaginary infant in its arms and exited stage left, a third entered and brought its slender fist down on its head. The shade’s face, that of a philosophy major named Melanie, disappeared with a sharp crack when its head collided with the floor, and the figure that had smacked it down bellowed, “ACT! TWO! FURY!” With the shout, its face formed into the thickset jaw of a football player that Connor couldn’t quite place. It stalked across the stage, pummeling the two other faceless shades whenever they crossed his path and bellowing with primal rage. This continued for nearly a minute, until Dennis, the psychology major, approached the athlete from the side, raised his thin hand, and made a noise like a small explosion. A gout of fire blossomed from his outstretched hand, and the football player shade’s knee jerked sideways unnaturally. It continued to give its guttural ululations as Dennis emptied four more imaginary bullets into its chest, but gave an undignified whimper as the shade wearing Dennis’s face brought its fingers between the football player’s eyes and let loose the final round. Dennis laughed, looked around the stage as if searching for someone else to shoot, and then proceeded to shoot himself in a varied array of bodily parts before finally bringing the unseen firearm to his temple. The last shot was not gunfire, but a human roar. The three figures got up, arrayed themselves in a line for what seemed to Connor like the hundredth time that night, and bowed. Connor had tried to dig his fingernails into his arm to keep himself from drifting, but exhaustion and pain were beginning to set in with an oppressive cruelty. Eventually, he hoped that the figures would fail to notice his mind wandering and instead just tried to stay awake. Then, one of the figures formed his face. A Connor shade stood opposite a Kelly shade, and the Connor shade was grabbing frantically at its thigh. “Why the fuck aren’t you helping me? Huh? Are you too busy being scared and blonde and fucking perfect? Too fucking afraid to die? Let’s see how fun it is for you!” The Connor shade swept its arm in an arc under the Kelly shade’s waistline, which stood motionless for a second until its leg fell out from under it. She screamed and fell at the Connor shade’s feet as the real Connor sat transfixed. “Yeah, I’m afraid that I can’t help you because I’m just too fucking scared, Kelly, because I’m in the exact same goddamn situation as you are except that I haven’t received any sort of bodily harm!” The Connor shade raised its foot and stomped on the Kelly shade as she lay on the floor, continuing to shout, “What, can’t make a bandage out of your designer fucking clothing? Huh? Don’t expect me to help you stop the bleeding, because all I’ve been good for up to this point is stating! The! Obvious!” The last three words were punctuated by especially vicious strikes, until the Kelly shade lay still and her gasps

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Sorrow, Fury, and Love

stopped. As the Connor shade shuffled offstage, Connor heard Kelly to his right, “Jesus Christ, what the f-“ And the third figure was there. “LISTEN!” Its narrow foot shot downward and Connor heard a crunch. Kelly convulsed in pain and grasped at her foot, but the figure only shouted again, “LISTEN!” and brought its foot down again. This time, Kelly bit down on her hand and muffled her own scream. The third figure leaned toward her, but when she didn’t move and didn’t cry out, it moved to rejoin its companions to bow and commence the next scene. The three continued with various tableaus of abuse, denial, and rage while Connor and Kelly sat in silence. He could tell that she was choking back tears, but any evidence of her pain was gone when she spoke to Connor next. Her voice was quiet, steady, and Connor thought he sensed determination. “I think I know what these things want.” She paused, and took a deep breath. “My mom always told me that all anyone ever wants to be is loved. These things … They’re alone and bitter and vicious, but none of this was brought about by love. Right?” Connor glanced to the figures, which were all performing and hadn’t noticed Kelly’s aside. “So … what are you going to do?” He felt guilty for the pain that Kelly had experienced, but his own pain carried him far short of the point of empathy. A cold feeling had begun to creep up his side, and he tightened his makeshift tourniquet. “Something, which is more than you’ve done,” Kelly sneered, “asshole.” Business major Kelly stood up and limped slowly but deliberately toward the figures’ reenactment of Debbie the astronomy major beating her parents with a table leg. After a short time, they stopped and looked to her but said nothing. She grabbed the nearest by the wrist and let her fingers trail down into its palm, where the figure grasped them gently. It cocked its head in puzzlement. Kelly moved closer and wrapped her arms around the shade, and Connor heard her gently cooing to it. “It’s okay. You really don’t have to be alone anymore. You’re loved. I love you. You’re not alone.” The shade’s arms embraced her in turn. “Do you really think that we would know what to do with love when we found it?” the figure asked. “What? Well, I don’t—augh!” Kelly let out a frantic scream as the shade’s fingers began to dig into her back. Connor saw blossoms of blood pool around the fingers’ points and he attempted to rise, but his leg forced him back down again. “A world full of dangers, diseases, sorrow, and death, and we, the most fortunate - the college students, the accountants, the corporate suits, the doctors, the housewives and househusbands—create our own monsters, and are eaten by them slowly, alive, and bit by bit. And you think you can solve that with your love.” Kelly began to scream as Connor heard her shoulder blades and ribs begin to crack under the shade’s grip, and although her legs went slack, the figure would not let her go. Its face changed from nothing, to Dennis, to Neil, to Lauren,

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Sorrow, Fury, and Love

to Connor, to a dozen other faces, all smiling, as its hands slowly broke Kelly within their embrace. “These faces. Did you love them?” the faces asked as they changed. “These boys and girls that cried out for affection inside their fragile frames, did you ever plan to show them any tenderness before you found yourself afraid to die? Did you know more about them than how badly you wanted to fuck them, or what their majors were? Or did you whore out your affection blindly with the hope that you would live?” Kelly stopped screaming, and the figure let her slump to the floor. The only movement her body made was the steady stream of blood coursing down from the holes in her back as her heart faintly coughed its last beats. The three shades advanced toward Connor. “This force,” they said in unison, “this anger, this despair, this guilt, this madness, cannot be stopped. It will consume you and everyone bearing host to it. You are weak and will be consumed by the strength of your weakness. You don’t even need us to do it for you, even if we do … Hasten the process.” The first shade picked Connor up by his chin, its fingers still hot and wet with Kelly’s blood, and hoisted him to his feet. “No matter how many ears bear audience, no matter how many voices attempt to comfort, we will always scream in the dark corners of every mind. Let us fester, and we grow. And none of us think that you pathetic souls deserve to walk this earth.” Connor found himself looking into his own face, his own eyes, and saw himself sneer. “You should have listened. Not that it would have done you any good.” The next day, campus authorities found three students dead in their rooms. They told anguished parents and other officials that calls like this were uncommon, but triple suicides had occurred in the past. Typically, a pact of some sort is common in the deaths of these individuals, and that in enclosed and angst-heavy settings like college dorms, these pacts could be common. Of course, the policemen neglected to mention that the students had had very few connections with each other, had no histories of mood disorders, and were reportedly normal by testaments of their grief-stricken acquaintances. The most unusual part, of course, was the methods of death that the students had suffered: The first had somehow managed to mutilate and behead himself with a contraband switchblade, the second had crushed herself under a dresser, and the third had slit his own throat from ear to ear with a shaving razor. The most evidence of cult activity that the policemen could find were the words that each student had burned into their walls, presumably with a cheap lighter: “SORROW” “FURY” And “LOVE.”

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photo by Sean Deckert


Things Fall Apart by Kaitlyn Knudson

It’s easy for me to forget I’m a part of this earth when I can’t see it or feel it. Back and forth, back and forth, I remind my legs, push out, push in, push out. I wince at the effort they are making; boy, are they working hard to keep my tiny body in rhythm. Stop thinking of the pain, I tell my brain. Swoosh, my feet brush over sand and some of it crunches in my mouth. I’m still too low to the ground. My skirt puffs out like a parachute but I’m helpless to pull it down; my hands are busy gripping the cold metal chains attached to my seat. Strands of hair tickle my face, sunlight has tangled itself inside of my hair now and won’t come out, and the top of my head has become a hotplate within seconds. But I won’t let the heat get to me. The red playground is becoming closer and farther, then much closer and much farther. Voices are being muffled by the wind now. I catch pieces of different conversations each time my body lunges forward. I’m high enough in the air now to stop pushing my legs so hard, to just let go. I darken my world by shutting my eyes and my body’s motion of back and forth, back and forth becomes instantly scarier. Now there is nothing but something that looks like a pitch-black chalkboard in front of me. I can draw my own scene onto this chalkboard; I can look at whatever I choose. I choose to remember what happened earlier that morning, because it’s hard for me to forget. Mrs. Sale’s classroom comes to life. There’s my math test on my desk in front of me, decorated with the debris of my eraser; I am struggling to find the correct answer. Somebody has turned on the TV right in the middle of our test, and I’m looking up at it as the girl in the seat next to me starts to shake, and covers her eyes with her palms. She’s falling apart like those two buildings on the screen that everyone is staring at. I see them show the gray buildings before they start to crumble all over again, at one point the tallest buildings in the world, I hear the announcer say with a shaken voice. I look away, hoping to avoid it all, but I can’t avoid it. Because it’s everywhere around me, on every one of my friend’s faces, on Mrs. Sale’s face; they all wear the same pair of haunted eyes. Just like the pair of haunted eyes that was on Mommy’s face today. And on Daddy’s face. And maybe on my face, too.

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Things Fall Apart

Why? Suddenly I slip out from my seat and let go of the metal chains I’ve been clamping onto for so long. My sweaty hands scream for joy as cold air reaches the spots in-between my fingers. In the air, the wind cools off my cheeks, my arms, my feet, what sweet relief. I can’t see anything. Not even the black chalkboard I drew my own scene onto, not those pesky little rays of pinks and blues that sometimes shoot around in my head when I close my eyes, not the white sand or the red playground bars or the blue sky. All that remains inside of me now is a loud, freeing noise, and it bubbles up to my lungs and spills out of my upturned lips, Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! And nothing exists but this noise, this one noise that I didn’t even have to think up, and there’s nothing going through my mind about today or yesterday or tomorrow. There’s nobody that exists to scare me or make me sob or make me worry. There’s only this noise at this exact moment. But I’m about to hit the ground. Soon the chalkboard will come back into my mind and I’ll see what else I saw today, because my ignorant flight can’t last forever. When I hit that ground with a thud my knees and hands sink deeper into the sand than expected, causing me to panic. Causing my body to let out a scream as pain jolts through it. Causing me to remember the people I saw on the TV screen, jumping away from the crumbling gray and out of the camera because they didn’t want to wait for the buildings to completely crumble. Causing me to remember the way that they have been screaming lately. It started out small, but built up over time. It would go from why did you spend our money on that? to why did you spend my money on that? to it just isn’t enough right now to I can’t do this anymore to YOU’RE SO IMMATURE!!! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!!! And it always sounded the same to me: like hate. I see in my head the night that I smashed my face into my pillow, choking on it as I screamed and screamed and screamed, letting out every noise from my body. They never heard me, though. Two screaming adults always beat out one screaming kid. I take my place on my seat again, and continue going back and forth. In the air, I lunge my body forward, but don’t let go. I think about how it would feel to let myself fall, without my knees and hands to stop me in the sand. How it would feel to let my face sink into the sand instead, if I would worry so much about my face that I would forget about everything else. If I let myself just jump and fall, I wouldn’t have to watch them fall. Why? I understood the noises that came from their mouths when they screamed. But I still don’t understand why they existed. My house was full of beautiful noises for a long time. Like how Mommy and Daddy laughed together, in perfect pitch, and how they even picked on each other with love in their voices. Like the sound of Mommy’s heart pounding when she saw Daddy in a spiffy suit, dressed fancy to take her to dance one night a long time ago. I love you, they said to each

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Things Fall Apart

other. I love you, they said to me. I love you, I said to them. I’ve heard the beautiful noises they make. Like the sound of Mommy humming while she washes my clothes. When I close my eyes I transport myself to that scene. I can hear it now, that dull, noisy hummm that the old washer sang, and then Mommy’s high, soft notes in comparison. The smell of lilac and cotton, of our house. I’m peeking at her from behind the open door, watching her close her eyes and smell my shirt before she folds it. Her humming is pretty, but kind of sad, too. It’s soft and harsh, rising and falling, and I recognize the tune. It’s to a love song, Mommy’s favorite, the one that she danced to when she and Daddy got married. She always told me I danced too, pounding my feet up against her tummy in perfect rhythm, and I always laughed when I thought about it. Mommy sees me staring at her from behind the door, but she keeps humming. I smile at her and she smiles at me and she suddenly grabs my hands and pulls me into her and pulls my body around and around until we’re both dizzy and laughing and fall onto the pile of clothes on the floor that smell like home. And I ask her, right then, how come we dance all the time but not her and Daddy. How come they never dance anymore, how come they never swing each other around and laugh like they used to? Mommy gets up, picks up a shirt to fold again and tells me it’s because Daddy never asks her to dance anymore. Why? I erase that scene in my mind now because I want to think of another one. The last time I saw Daddy and Mommy dance. I hear the sound of Daddy’s laugh when he sees Mommy and me dancing around the living room to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” He has just come home from work very early and did not expect to see us with feather-boas wrapped around our necks and hairbrushes in our hands spinning and belting it out, I don’t think. And when he walks in we both freeze and he freezes, suitcase in hand, and everything is so silent save for Baby, there ain’t no mountain hiiiiiigh enough screaming in the background. And suddenly he starts to snort over and over again and his stomach is shaking and Mommy starts to swivel her hips, shake her head, and I’m just standing in between them with a big smile on my face. Mommy dances over to Daddy still shaking her hips and reels him in with her hot pink feather boa and Daddy throws his arms over Mommy’s neck and they are grinning and grinning and I just stand there and watch them. Daddy is being silly, imitating the lady on the CD with his mouth and he’s doing it so funny that Mommy has tears coming out of her eyes. And it’s so funny because at this moment I feel like being an adult isn’t much different from being a kid. But I don’t know what that feeling is like anymore, because they don’t act so silly with each other anymore. Erase, erase, I tell my brain. And that scene is gone and I’m still moving back and forth.

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Things Fall Apart

Another one is appearing. I see my kitchen entering my brain, on that one day when I had a history project due. I had it lying on the kitchen counter, all neatly handwritten in cursive, and Daddy came into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of milk. I noticed the milk was scary close to my paper so I reminded him to watch his elbow. I know, I know, sweetie he mumbled but he was too busy looking at the paper, circling all kinds of sections of it in red pen and fiddling with his tie. He’s nervous about something I think. So nervous that he goes to fix his tie again and ker-plunk there went his glass of milk all over my paper! Daddy’s face goes so red and he cries out he’s so sorry, and he tries to save my paper. But we both know it’s useless. I’m about to scream at him that I’m going to fail everything, but then he held up my essay dripping milk and said I hope your teacher has some Oreos on hand for when she reads this. And I end up laughing so hard my stomach and my back hurts. And I pretend I’m my teacher, dipping my Oreo cookie into my paper and muttering A+! Daddy calls me a goober as he wipes the counter clean. He scoops the broken bits of his cup into the garbage bin and sighs, one less dish to clean, he jokes. I tell him Mommy and I get the cups now because he broke his and he tells me he supposes I’m right, the last two cups are ours. Why? I’m getting higher in the air now, and the hairs on my arm are sticking up. I’m coming up with another scene. The white snow is turning brown outside our house. We’re sitting in the cold, cold house in blankets and jackets and nobody is talking. We would usually drink hot chocolate around this time, it is Daddy’s favorite, but Mommy didn’t buy any this year. Daddy is online again, like he was for most of the day. His hair is messy and I laugh at it but Mommy doesn’t. Instead Mommy explodes, throwing her blanket off of her and screaming It’s too damn cold in this house! Elena’s going to freeze to death, Amos! My daddy keeps staring at the screen but his fingers stop moving. I’m trying, Leah. Can’t you see that I’m trying? he says. It’s ok, guys, I’m trying to tell them. I’m perfectly warm, I’m perfectly warm until you moved, Mommy, I’m cold right now but if you come over here I’ll be perfectly warm. I want to change the subject. Mommy just needs to put her blanket back on and she’ll be okay. But her face is scrunching up right now, making her look like what I think she will look like when she’s a grandma. I always thought she was the prettiest mommy a girl could have. Everyone else at school had old mommies, but not me. Mine was pretty. But right now she’s staring at him with a wrinkly forehead and slanty eyebrows, making her look old and mean. I’ve never seen her looking so mean because that’s not who she is. Even when I was five and she caught me coloring hearts all over the wall in crayon, she kissed my forehead and told me it was beautiful. But I think if I did that right now she would yell. I feel like I’m the only one trying, Amos! Trying to make this work for us, trying to save our asses from freezing, for God’s sake, and I’m sick of not talking about

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Things Fall Apart

it, I hear her say as her teeth chop together. Leah, it’s not as easy for me as it is for you, Daddy shouts. You finished high school. I still have a semester to go if I ever can finish. You don’t understand how that still affects me in this economy, he says, it’s not easy— My scene is interrupted by the wind that’s slapping into my face; I’m up as high as I can get now. I open my eyes for a second because I don’t like to think about this scene. But I still think about it with opened eyes. Why is the house full of ugly noises now? Of crying. Of screaming. Of shouting. Of dead silence. Why don’t they love each other? Is it because they were too perfect? Because they were too powerful together? They used to make my Auntie Hayley, who Mommy says is too dependent on men, say words like “Well, some of us are just lucky” when they talked about each other. She said they were her “beacon of hope” one time, I heard it, one time when we went over to her house, Mom and I. She had been crying over another guy that fell out of her life. Now my mommy and daddy are falling. Once they fall, I don’t think they can ever be fixed. It is never going to be the same. Why? My eyes are closed again, and I’m back in the cold, cold room, watching Mommy’s face, a face so mad I can picture smoke coming out of her ears. Daddy is trying to make her better but he’s getting angry, too. I’m the only one that can save them right now, the only one on the outside, and I’m listening to them yell, trying to find a way in, trying to find something to say to cool them off. Daddy yells: What do you want me to do, Leah? I’ll sell the computer, if it will make you shut up god—dangitt, it’s not as easy as we thought it would be, let’s just admit it, okay? Maybe we should have listened to our parents after all, would that have made you happy? It all comes tumbling out of his mouth really fast and then he puts his forehead in his hands and shuts his eyes after saying that. His elbow is smooshing the keyboard, and a repeat of aaaaaaaaaaaa fills the page up. Mommy looks older than a grandma now, like a dead person, her face is so ashy. Well I don’t regret anything, if that’s what you’re saying, she says. I could have gone to college, remember? Could have taken that trip to France, could have had more security than this. But I don’t regret anything! So why do I feel like you do, sometimes? She points her finger at him. No, Leah, I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it at all. Daddy looks at me when he says this and I’m trying to mouth to him that geesh, Mommy looks scary, but he turns away too soon. That was your lifeline, Daddy. That was your chance to laugh, to smile, to cool off! I want to scream at him. Sometimes I just wish we would have waited, you know, Daddy whispers. I hear all of our teeth chattering, and the brown snow dropping off the roof. We never go dancing anymore, Mommy whispers. I didn’t know we could afford to, Daddy says. You sillies, you don’t need to go to the dance class to dance, I want to shout. You’ve done it before right in this very room, remember! Mommy drops back down to the floor and buries her face in her knees. Daddy’s

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face is still in his hands. And I’m still cold because nobody is sitting beside me to warm me up. And I’m still believing that I can save them, that it’s not serious, that everything will be okay. Why? Then it happens. I chalkboard what else I saw today, because it’s so hard to forget. Mommy is cutting my PB&J into a heart shape like she always does. I’m sitting on the counter, swinging my legs. Do you remember Auntie Hayley? Mommy asks me. Wasn’t her little house so cute? What one? I wonder. The one with the swings out back and the pool and the garden, Mommy reminds me. I’m trying to picture this place in my mind when Daddy comes out with a suitcase and a briefcase and his jacket and that’s it. And he’s staring at his shoes when he walks. And Mommy stares at my sandwich. And I’m staring straight at them both and I know something is about to happen, but I’m not sure why. Why does Daddy have the suitcase, I ask them. He’s going to be on vacation for a while, Lena, Mommy says to me. I don’t want him to go on vacation, who’s going to help me with my math homework? Daddy knows all about math, Mommy doesn’t know anything about it. Mommy can paint and draw but Daddy knows how to do math and I can’t have him being on vacation. Daddy looks at my face. His mouth is hanging open and he’s breathing really slow and his forehead is crinkled. Elena, he says. I love you so much. But there is only dead silence after that. Mommy is still looking at my sandwich. I turn to her. Mommy! I’m whispering, pulling at her shoulder. Mommy, tell Daddy he can’t take a vacation! Who’s going to help me at my math, Mommy! But she doesn’t say anything, she just keeps her mouth quiet and lets tears squiggle down her face and I don’t know why she lets that happen. They are both stiff, stuck, and struck with sadness. And I’m finally realizing just how long it’s been before they ever laughed together or poked fun at each other or danced. I think they forgot how to dance, they’re so stiff. Maybe they thought they were safe one time, a long time ago. Maybe they thought that they could never forget how to dance, or how to laugh. Maybe they got too comfortable. But now Daddy is hugging me and he’s picking up his suitcase and briefcase and he’s walking out the door in a rush, and I think I can hear his heart pounding so loud, all of our hearts are pounding so loud. Why? I love those two. I look up at them and see the world, look up and see strength, safety, see how it feels to not be scared of anything. But now they are falling apart. There is an attack on them and it feels like I never even saw it coming; maybe my eyes were just closed. There is an attack on me because there’s an attack on them. And I don’t want to watch it happen. I’m high enough now where I can jump again. But right before I’m about to, I catch myself and stay attached to my seat. No scenes come to my mind. Instead, I open my eyes and can see the white sand, the red playground, the blue sky again.

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Things Fall Apart

It’s not that simple, I can hear Mommy and Daddy tell me. Life is not that simple. Why? I think I know why. Because people live in my life. And they cry and smile and hate and love and shout and laugh and sing and screech. And they make me do all of these, too. And if I let my body fall out of my seat right now, I won’t be able to feel anything. Not afraid. Not confused. Not hurt. Not for at least a second, and maybe if I fall hard enough, not for a long time. But maybe I won’t be able to feel other ways, too. Like strong. Like brave. Like hopeful. What if I wasn’t ever able to feel how it feels to laugh ever again? To feel a smile stretch my face out and fill my insides with everything beautiful? What if it meant I could never feel my mom kiss my forehead and my dad tickle my stomach until it hurt? If I pretend that it’s just me that exists and nothing else, I won’t be able to hear Mom and Dad scream. But I won’t be able to hear them tell me that they love me, too, and that it’s going to be okay one day. So I plant my feet onto the ground, stopping my motion of back and forth. Because I know now that I want to live, to feel the ground under my feet, even when there are towers falling apart all over it.

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photo by Diana Lustig


Rumors Said, Germs Spread by Stevi Rollinson

Mr. Morris put the whole service on hold that Sunday. That’s when it all started … the flu epidemic of ‘69. Belting those hymn notes like an Italian opera star. Then, bam. Knocked Miss Mona flat into the aisle, landed sprawled over her belly-up. Even drooled on the poor woman, his mouth hanging open wide enough to see every silver filling. Miss Betty peeled off those dainty lace-trimmed Sunday gloves, and dragged the squealing Miss Mona out from under him by the armpits. All Miss Mona could do was pat down the sides of her pink tweed dress as all of Piedmont Methodist glimpsed her polka-dotted bloomers. Not a soul was missing from church that Sunday. If sweet Jesus Himself had walked through the doors, He would have been pressed to find a seat. When the town doctor came striding up from the back pew, glossy black hair parted and slicked over, Miss Mona’s cheeks went from pink to red. Miss Betty’s little brothers were still snorting like piglets under hand-covered faces at the thought of Miss Mona’s polka-dotted under garments. Whispers from all four corners of the church rumbled up to the rafters. The poor preacher stood up there looking more lost than the shepherd’s sheep he’d been preaching about. “If he went, he went singin’ to Jesus!” A deep voice declared from the back, fist up in the air. I rolled my eyes. This was all a little dramatic, if you ask me. My mama dabbed at her eyes with her silk handkerchief. Please. The man was not even dead … Most likely. “If ya gotta go, ya might as well go singin’ to Jesus,” someone else added. “Hallelujah for that!” The Doctor shook his head as he knelt over Mr. Morris—still sprawled on the floor, right where he landed. I couldn’t stop myself from glancing around the church, looking for my best friend Katie. I swear—every jaw in God’s holy house had to be hanging open. When I finally did find Katie, I stared across the aisle and tried to catch her gaze, but had no luck. I even tried doing a “yoo-hoo, over here” wave until my mama nudged my side with her elbow.

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Miss Mona limped over to a pew two rows ahead of us, pulled a tube of lipstick from her purse, and slathered it on behind a church flyer. When the Doctor glanced over, she rolled her eyes back into her head, and fanned herself. She even fell over on the pew side-ways, the back of her hand landing on her forehead like any distressed damsel worthy of the name. One broken nail and a bruised shoulder, and the woman lay limp, reclining herself on that hundredyear-old pew like it was her own plastic-coated living room sofa. After service, Miss Mona walked home to her cottage on Rosewood lane, flipped pages of novels poolside, applied her monthly henna rinse, and rolled fresh, coffee-colored locks into sponge rollers. An after-incident check-in call from Miss Betty turned into an hour-long conversation—naturally—complete with a mentioning of every name in Mississippi. Monday, Miss Mona grocery shopped, clipped the hedges, bleached the kitchen floor, and spent her evening laboring over a fiend of a crossword puzzle. How do I know all this? Miss Betty at church club. Told me—told all of us— every single detail. Miss Mona told Miss Betty everything, of course. When Tuesday came, six blankets layered over Miss Mona, the middle of August, the heat turned up, and she shook with the shakes like it was ten below in her bedroom. “You could cook an egg on your forehead, Miss Mona,” the Doctor said with the back of his hand resting on her face. “Mr. Morris musta passed you that bug. You’d be best stayin’ right here in bed for a while.” Miss Mona wore her cherry red lipstick. The woman could barely breathe, but she wore her cherry lipstick. After Mr. Morris went down like that in the good Lord’s house, Miss Mona was dreaming if she thought anyone was risking that kind of contagious fate in a town like Piedmont. But she kept the silver tube on her night-stand, anyway, ready to reapply in case anyone special stopped by. Only the Doctor stopped in that week. “Why, Miss Mona, don’t you look just lovely,” he would greet her each evening, take her temperature with a glass thermometer, and lay a cool wash cloth on her forehead. When he walked toward the door to let Miss Mona rest, his stride more drawn out than usual, Miss Mona would stop him, “Doctor, I’m too ill to be alone.” And so, he sat by her bed and read to her until the moon was in the sky, and the crickets sang outside. On Friday, the Doctor drifted off while reading; only made it half way through page twenty-two. His head slumped on his shoulder, his face covered in a whiskery shadow, his long eyelashes fanned out at the end of his closed eyelids. Miss Mona could not help herself. She up and pinned the Doctor to his seat, one scrawny, pale leg on each side of him, and planted her cherry coated lips on his. The Doctor twitched and squirmed, disoriented as he woke up, but Miss Mona didn’t stop. The woman nearly sucked his lips right off before he came out of his haze and kissed her back.

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On Saturday, the Doctor visited old Mrs. Walters. On a house-call, he pulled a kabob skewer from little Mikey Jones’ hand. He ate spaghetti for dinner, and did two loads of laundry before bed. On Sunday, like every Sunday, he went to service and took his son Bobby to visit his mother in the church cemetery. On Monday—on Monday, with the air conditioning blasting through the window unit at sixty-five degrees, in only his Fruit of the Loom briefs, he dripped in a hot fever-y sweat. Miss Betty was the Queen of Gossip. She would have made one hell of an investigative reporter. If Miss Betty was the Queen of Gossip, Miss Mona was her Lady in Waiting. Miss Betty abided by no rules and held nothing sacred … not even the business of her best friend. A merciless woman, if you ask me. “She tied him up, I heard,” Miss Betty said to the sewing club on Tuesday. “It’s not like we all didn’t see it coming. No surprise there.” This news was no surprise to me. Especially, since I saw the Doctor on Saturday with a familiar shade of red on his collar. I kept my lips locked. Let it go. I didn’t throw away the key, though. I could need it later in a town like Piedmont. “No surprise? The Doctor hasn’t dated for years! And her?” someone said from the far end of the room. “That red-lipstick wearin’ hussy, don’t deserve him one bit,” someone else said. “Mhm.” “Uh-huh.” “Got that right.” Miss Mona brought the Doctor chicken noodle soup every day that week. Her mama’s recipe. She about threw out her back pulling the oak rocking chair into the Doctor’s bedroom from the living room, so she’d have a place to sit by his bed. She hung curtains, and washed dishes. She cleaned, and organized, and mopped, and dusted. Navy blue walls, stained mahogany floors. All that was bright in the house was Bobby’s smile, hanging over the mantel piece in the portrait his mother painted the year she passed. When Miss Mona opened the blinds, she let the sun shine in; the way it hadn’t for a while. It didn’t make getting better any easier on the Doctor that Bobby was leaving for college that Friday. Heading to Ole Miss on a football scholarship. Eighteen years old, handsome like his daddy. The whole town knew the day was coming. Quarterback Bobby—smart, thoughtful, never caused much trouble. There wasn’t a girl in Piedmont who hadn’t drawn a heart around his face in the high school yearbook. Bobby wasn’t always prime real estate with the ladies. He used to have buck teeth and a sad, lopsided bowl cut back in grade school. The one thing he had going for 59


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him was speed. Bobby was the fastest boy in the class. It just so happened I was the fastest girl. We were relay race partners at the annual Spring Fair two years in a row. We were a team. A speedy dynamic duo. Best friends. Everything changed when he showed up on the first day of high school. His junior high braces were off. Turned out, behind all that crisscrossed metal was a movie star smile. His hair was shorter, and his skin buttery smooth. I had seen him all summer. We had played football in the park every Sunday. I couldn’t decide if Bobby was sexy before, or if I was late to notice. All I knew was that I was in love. When I dropped a hint to Bobby’s best friend, the rumor spread. Fast. Didn’t take long before we were a couple. He didn’t seem to realize he was a hunk until he made the Varsity football team as a freshman and got “groupies.” A band of teenage girls obsessed with “all things Bobby.” It was all downhill from there. But he was faithful, and I figured that was all that mattered, so I let it go, like my mama always told me to do. Bobby and I were inseparable for all of high school. With Bobby being so gorgeous and all, I dealt with some competition over the years, but I didn’t let it get to me. Martha. She didn’t even try to hide it. I knew she had a thing for Bobby when she baked him brownies for his birthday freshman year in February. She was a member of the church choir and one of those feminist activists. Bobby told me he thought she was a little loony. The girl wouldn’t even wear a bra under her dress. The boys at school didn’t mind the sight of her nipples drilling through her shirt, though. Martha was … well, gorgeous. Her hair was long and blonde and her skin was a flawless alabaster. Bobby didn’t seem to show any interest, so I let it go. Susie lived on my block, seven houses down. Bobby and I took walks in the summer. The summers in Mississippi were humid, but lovelier than anywhere else in the world. The Magnolias blossomed in the spring, and left their fragrance lingering ‘til the far end of summer. One day, Bobby and I were walking on my street. My eyes looked down at the old, cracked sidewalk as Bobby tucked a Magnolia flower behind my ear. Just as I looked up, Susie came flying down her steep drive way on her bike. Crashed straight into the trash cans on the curb. Bobby ran over to Susie, and knelt beside her. I thought I saw their eyes meet for a moment, but I told myself it was a look of pity from Bobby—I let it go. Katie had been my best friend since before we were born. She was born just nineteen days before I was. Our mamas were best friends, too. They always told us they pressed their pregnant bellies together to introduce us before we were born. Katie lived the street over on Cypress lane. She spent a lot of time with Bobby and I. She pretty much did everything with us. My mama called her the third wheel, but only when she wasn’t around. She and Bobby became best friends, too. I was thrilled for a while. Then, Katie became Bobby’s “go-to-girl” for advice, and everything else for that matter. I admit I was a little jealous. I always had thought I was his go-to-girl. But I didn’t want to show my jealous

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side. Nobody likes a “Jealous Janet” so, of course I let it go. I mean, Bobby still loved me, it wasn’t a big deal. Plus, I trusted Katie. She knew her boundaries. Thursday night, the Doctor was feeling well enough to help Bobby load up his old Chevy. Everybody knew he would have helped his boy pack even if he ended up flat on the ground like Mr. Morris. When it came time to watch Bobby chug away the next morning in that beat up truck, the Doctor kissed him on the forehead and hugged him for what had seemed like minutes; finished with one of those grand-finale, firm handshakes. Nobody had seen the Doctor’s face like that since the day he buried his wife. Before Bobby clunkered off down the highway, he had a few more good-byes to make. Hand slick and sweaty on that steering wheel, spreading those sweet, sick germs. Neither he nor his daddy thought twice about spreading sick germs, got a little caught up in the moment; forgot about the sick germs altogether. On his way out, he stopped at Martha Humphrey’s house. Then, Susie Goodman’s. Then, Katie Sullivan’s … Oh, it’s a wonder her didn’t run out of gas before he even left town, all the stops he made! Some people think he did it on purpose. As a farewell statement maybe. Something to be remembered by. Some people say he wanted to cut contact from tiny Piedmont altogether. Four girlfriends? Lord musta been helping that boy. To pull something off like that in a town of two-thousand: A true miracle. I would never have guessed. By the time he got around to coming to my house, I was standing there in the front yard. I had been waiting on him for twenty minutes. I told myself I wouldn’t cry when he left. I knew I would anyway, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to work with a little motivation. The sun was right overhead. My eyes squinted as he chugged up in that old beat-up, pile-a-junk. He gave me that big smile; his eyes crinkled in their corners as his mouth drew upward. He grabbed both my hands, laced fingers, and held them as he kissed my mouth, right there on my mama’s door step. It only took me one second to taste it. “What kind of lip balm have you been wearin’?” I asked. “I like it.” “Mint, the same kind I’ve always worn.” He licked his lips, and smiled. “You know that, Ruthie.” I stared up at him, and stepped backwards. The taste—it wasn’t mint. It was grape as grape got. In fact, Katie wore the same flavor. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’d stolen her purple tube of gloss. It had to be the same brand he was wearing. There was only one drug store in Piedmont, and that’s the only place it was sold. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to end up throwing bricks at each other in the front lawn like Miss Betty and her last boyfriend. Oh no, no. No fights were on the day’s agenda. I just gave him a tight squeeze, and sent him off. Didn’t kiss

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him again. The first taste of grape gloss on his lips had been enough for me. I waved goodbye in the middle of the street. Put on my sad face. And just when he got far enough, I stuck up a nice, French-manicured middle finger. Three days passed. Saturday, Sunday, Monday. When Tuesday came, I coughed, I ached, I couldn’t move. I told my sweet mama a lie. I knew lying was a sin, but I had no choice. I couldn’t bear to tell her I kissed Bobby when his daddy had been ill all week. Turns out, Katie was also home in bed, too … sick. So were Martha and Susie. If I didn’t risk tossing my cookies in route, I would have marched myself over to Katie’s. I was that furious. When my mama asked how I thought I got sick, I told her I shared a milkshake with Katie on Saturday. She didn’t ask questions. She just left the bedroom with the Doctor’s phone number on a piece of paper clutched in her hand. The Doctor didn’t answer. She tried three times. By Wednesday, I was running a ferocious fever. When my mama had a sick baby, she transformed into a superhero. Faster, stronger, she could even read the small print on the back of the medicine bottle with no help from young eyes. When she up and got into her Impala to drive over to his house on Cottonwood Lane, I knew I was sicker than I thought. Twenty minutes later, she was back. I sat by the door, looking through the front window, pressing my hot face against the cool glass. I could tell by the look on her face as she stomped through the grassy lawn. Heaving those nyloned knees up, pulling her heels out of the soft ground every couple of seconds, purse swinging every direction. “The Doctor is gone,” she said, as she slammed the door behind her. “I can’t believe it.” Well, neither he nor Miss Mona had been at church on Sunday, after all. I figured he was still too sick to be out. I figured Miss Mona was holding his hand bedside—the whole sappy lover’s bit. If the Doctor had gone somewhere, Miss Mona went with him. No way she hadn’t. Miss Mona didn’t have anything keeping her in Piedmont. The woman was unmarried and … well, ugly. Poor thing. Bless her heart. She hadn’t worked a day in her life. Lived in the house her grandmamma left her, and lived on whatever else she inherited. Spoiled. Those two had left town. They didn’t tell a soul before they did. Left me sick—after Bobby did what he did. Oh, I would have screamed if my throat wasn’t red and raw. My mama called Lynn Sullivan to check on Katie. I knew my mama really called to see what Lynn knew about the Doctor and Miss Mona. Lynn said she heard somebody saw them at a gas station the town over. The back of the Doctor’s Camaro read “Just Married” in white paint. When my legs gave out in the entry way, my mama let out a shriek—the last thing I heard before everything went black. Pins and needles. Like a thousand pins pressing into my skin. Not painful at all, but they sure woke me up. The pin-points tingled. My face felt hot the way it did 62


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after a jog in the summer sun. Sweat beads dripped from my hair line. I could feel each pump of my heart in my cheeks. “Dunk your head, Ruthie!” I recognized my mama’s tone. She had the same one when I ran my Beetle into the tree at the end of the street. She had the same one when that tornado came through a couple years back. With that, I gasped in a large breath, filling my cheeks like a balloon. I sunk my body under the water with one jolt. Pins and needles stuck me again. This time they stung. I opened my eyes. The ice cubes were more like little ice balls now, floating at the surface of the tub. My hair floated around my head. I liked the way my skin was a blue-white color underwater. I knew I looked just like a mermaid, all pale, hair flowing. Two arms grasped my shoulders, pulling me up from the water. I gasped for air. The satisfaction of the humid air rang through my senses. An uninvited thermometer stabbed through my lips and poked under my tongue. The back of my mama’s hand landed on my forehead, flopping around up there like a dying fish. When the Doctor finally came back from his little “honeymoon,” I was sick. More than sick. My mama even had the preacher come over to say some prayers with me. I could tell she was the real kind of worried. Everybody was. I knew the Doctor felt terrible about leaving me ill. I knew he left on a whim. It wasn’t like he even knew I was that sick when he left. “I had no idea,” he kept saying over and over. What I wanted to tell him was that I had already forgiven him. I couldn’t say it because I couldn’t get the words across my lips. I couldn’t muster the energy. The Doctor told me in a cheerful tone that Katie had made almost a full recovery. The Doctor really did have “no idea.” He hadn’t an idea about what Bobby did. He had no idea what Katie did to me. Martha and Susie were hussies, but they hadn’t hurt me like Katie did. I was more upset with Katie than Bobby. Deep down, I knew Bobby had been doing me wrong for a long time. I had been letting it go to save myself the trouble. But Katie had betrayed me. Betrayed me hard enough to make me realize it was time to stop letting go. Then, I did let go … somehow. My eyes couldn’t fight anymore. They shut again, and I was a mermaid. Swimming, swimming.

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photo by Sean Deckert


Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level by Elizabeth (Liza) Brown-Moore

Keep her steady, keep her level. Six short words; simple to repeat, easy to remember, and soothing to my soul. Of all the sayings my father has used in the course of his life, “tap-er-light,” “you bet’chum red rider,” or the silly ones he invented himself when he was having a good time, like “he-whale-uh,” his most profound will forever resonate in my mind— Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. He coined the phrase one blustery fall afternoon as he and I circled the skies above Bisbee, Arizona in his rented 182 Cessna. We were descending through thick black clouds. Pelting rain was making a pinging sound as it bounced off the body of our plane. We had to circle the airport twice; another plane in front of us had first dibs on the airport’s only runway. The air was “choppy,” my father said, a kinder term for turbulent. I was not easily comforted at his attempt to give the illusion our circumstances were somehow less dangerous; I was scared to death. My small skinny fingers clutched tightly around the co-pilot’s inactive steering wheel. It was all I could do to keep my little body from bouncing around in my seat. As the wings dipped up and down in the bumpy thin air, I heard my father quietly say “keep her steady, keep her level.” His words were barely audible over the sounds of the whirring propeller, but there was no mistaking the aura of calm and control that seemed to envelop the airplane’s cab. I silently repeated the words I heard my father say to himself. “Keep her steady, keep her level.” And soon thereafter we were making a final approach to a safe landing on the gravel runway. My fear of flying has not diminished in the many years that have passed, but just as a pacifier does for a baby, the mere repetition of his words sooth me any time I am faced with life’s scary moments. Like the skies we were landing in that day, my relationship with my father has had its own share of turbulence. My father was not as forgiving as my mother in my transgressions of youth. Mom could turn her head to many of my most memorable moments, like sneaking out at night through the small hand crank bedroom window or smoking cigarettes with the maids in the downstairs

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laundry room, and for most of my teen years she never expressed much of an opinion to my strange dress code and heavy makeup. She wrote these antics off as “stages,” believing firmly I would eventually come around and be a strong, independent woman. My father didn’t share in her faith, he could see no further than past his sad memories of a teenage sister he lost to men and alcohol. I spent most of my growing years seeking his approval, not understanding I was distancing myself from him further with bad grades, large breasts, heavy makeup, and clothes that made me look and act much older than I really was. Finally, at the age of eighteen I threw in the towel, dropped out of college and got married. I became everything my father expected of me—nothing. He was not surprised or disappointed, but I am sure my mother was. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. Time and age have a way of healing many wounds and eventually my father and I reached a silent agreement to forgive, but not necessarily forget. My divorce from a man he did not care for and his own subsequent parting of the ways from my mother are probably the most contributing factors to the camaraderie and friendship we forged later in life, and which today bring me to this building where Dad has made a final landing. The big, white heavy door that I face is always locked; there is no entry or exit for anyone who doesn’t know the sequence of random numbers that make the tumblers turn. The sign above the doorbell says “please ring for attendant.” Sometimes the lady behind the sliding glass window will come from the back office and say hello, most of the time she hits the buzzer and I enter. It’s easier now, they recognize me, they know who I am and why I keep coming. It’s important to be recognized, to be let in, so you can also be let out. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. I prefer to be buzzed through and not have to talk to anyone, spared from the jibber jabber and fake smiles I am forced to endure for someone else’s benefit. “Welcome back. He’s doing great. He’ll be so happy to see you. He’s such a sweet man. We just love him.” This idle chatter is mostly for the benefit of the next poor bastard who has parked his car in the space marked ‘future resident’ who now sits in the lobby, waiting to tour the place where his loved one will be treated with dignity. I cringe every time I hear this phrase; it sounds like something a mortician would say as he tells you how beautiful your loved one is going to look when he finishes his work. I’m not ready to equate death with Alzheimer’s. I can’t go there yet. This repository for old pilots like my father has a different interpretation of dignity than I do. How can you have dignity with a hole in your pants exposing a small part of your genitals? How can you look good if your hair isn’t combed or your face is full of scratchy gray whiskers? I suppose I will have to come to terms with the fact that personal grooming is done when it’s convenient, when they don’t have fifty other soldiers to take care of, or when they know in advance

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someone from the family is coming to visit. My little brother was right; don’t tell them you’re coming. Let’s see what five thousand dollars a month REALLY gets you. My little brother is usually right; it’s why I trust him. He understands empathy and he can feel my pain. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. The nurse’s push of a button leads to a loud buzz, followed by the click clack of locks unbolting. I have to move fast or the ten second allotment for pressing down on the metal bar will expire and I will have to deal with one of them. The thunderous bang of the heavy door behind me reminds me I am now on the other side, in their territory, locked in. I could be one of them if I were not able to convince the nurse it’s ok to let me out. I HAVE TO BE NICE TO THEM. I’ve seen what happens when you get in but you can’t get out. The short, stubby lady with the purple hat, ruby red lips pursed around her toothless gums. She’s hunched forward in her wheel chair, her leathery hands holding the rubber tires, her determined gaze straight on at the big heavy door, poised to take off like a jockey at the gate. Her purse is wedged between her knees, her wool socks are folded neatly over her bony ankles, which look out of fashion when worn with the glossy black heels that are planted firmly on the chair’s metal folding footrests. She’s waiting for someone to open THAT door; she told me, I need to go out THAT door. She thought I would be the one to set her free; she wasn’t about to miss her opportunity to bolt. A sad smile is all I can give her, any strength and courage I can muster has to be saved for dad. She senses I won’t be the one to find her miracle today and as if to remind me of that, she rolls here wheels back and forth, back and forth, seemingly telling me she has become nothing. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. I find my father sitting in a chair on the porch outside, smoking his cigarette gazing at the brown picket fence that surrounds him, not really understanding what he sees or what he is looking for. I see his lips mumbling words, trying to make a connection to something. But he can’t connect the dots because he has Alzheimer’s, and it is this distinction that allows him the privilege of residency at this place. The pieces of his life are stored by the people here who take care of him until God finally decides his time is up. There are sounds of other voices around me. I am fairly certain the sounds I hear are not joyous, for there is rarely any sound of laughter here. Dad is wearing his gray V-neck pullover and his blue hard hat is sitting firmly on his head. He’s in uniform, hard at work, occasionally getting up and walking the length of the grounds, North to South, South to North. As I continue watching him, I have to clutch the wood railing that surrounds the deck. I need the splintery boards to hold me just a little bit longer as I prepare to greet him and not be disappointed when he doesn’t know who I am. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level.

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I love the soft wool sweater he has on. He’s carried this with him for a large part of his life. If it wasn’t stuffed in the side pocket of his worn leather golf bag, it was draped over his arm or tied around his neck, always ready for the un-expected summer rain or the icy winter winds. The sleeves are hanging loosely from his elbows; the once tightly knit wool appears to have given way to years of wash and wear. If we were playing golf today, as we used to do in previous years when we got together, those baggy sleeves might interrupt his swift, steady swing. Today, that’s no longer a concern. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. I’m relieved my older brother had the presence of mind to make sure Dad had his sweater when he brought him here. He is not as close to Dad as I am; he is not as concerned as I am of the little incidentals that might make a difference to Dad’s confused state of mind. My brother’s worries are more profound, more mature. He worries about where the money’s going to come from to keep Dad here, what corners have to be cut, how much more can we up the dosage of Prozac to keep Dad from beating up the other men. My brother’s thoughts are not like mine, wondering if Dad is in a pain he can’t convey, or how much longer before he’s smothered to death by the plaque eating his brain. My older brother is focused and practical; he loves differently than I do. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. Dad’s hard hat probably looks funny to others, but not to me. I smile at him from my safe distance, watching him inspect the corners of his open pit mine. This area he is in is not a yard, it’s a copper mine, and his big white Ford company truck is parked outside, behind that brown fence. Dad knows he has to wear his hard hat when he’s out of his truck, mining safety laws require it. His silver curly hair that used to glisten in the early morning sun as he stepped up to the tee box for the first swing of the day has succumbed to the weight of the tough plastic hat and the tightness of the strap holding it in place. It’s comforting to me knowing he is safe, and if he should fall, or if the cigarettes he has started to smoke again after twenty years should cause him to get dizzy enough to faint, his hat will soften the blow to his head and protect his brain, hopefully keeping the plaque from shattering. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. I tell myself it’s time, time to interrupt his work, time to say hello, time to try to find the words to explain the unfamiliar face about to stand before him. I’m not sure how to do all of this, or how to get past the feelings of guilt for not taking him home with me. How am I going to live with myself when I leave here tonight, using the nurse as my decoy for escape, knowing I will be lying to him when I tell him I’ll be right back. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. In my moment of worry and self-torment, as my legs want to buckle and tears start to gather in the wells of my eyes, a nurse has appeared at dad’s side.

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I realize when she nods at me that she remembers me from last month. She’s holding his elbow, guiding him towards me, whispering something in his ear. This is the part I dread every time, waiting to see if the look of confusion in his shimmering blue eyes will pass, hoping for a smile. I know the day will come when the nurse is too busy with someone else to tell Dad who is here, but that doesn’t appear to be the case today. Slowly, cautiously, the smooth lines that time has left on his face begin to form the circle of a smile. My arms reach out. I wait to feel his silky smooth whiskers on my cheek, and I am relieved when he says, “Hello daughter, where have you been?” As we sit together Dad and I know something has gone very wrong. Our bond has been ruptured and cannot be repaired, but still, I tell him I love him. As a child I was spanked for lying, as a teenager, I was always grounded, but today when I whisper in his ear and tell him everything will be ok, my lying is justified. I don’t want to tell him we lost the game, it’s time to leave the field. I want to continue to be his benevolent daughter who comes each month to nurture him, but truth be told, I am nothing more than a helpless observer. There is not much I can do, and I can’t seem to make him understand I still love him dearly. When I do finally leave here, I call my mother. Her voice is calm and trusting. She tells me I am a good daughter, she tells me I should be proud and to stay strong. She tells me, essentially, to keep her steady, keep her level.

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photo by Sean Deckert


photo by Sean Deckert


From Bio Class to the Bank: The Prep-to-Pro Athlete by Kenneth Crone

Duke University has always been synonymous with college basketball success. When many people think of college basketball they think of the Cameron Crazies, with Coach Mike Krzyzewski roaming the sidelines. Since Coach K has been at Duke, he has won four national championships, made it to 11 final fours and has 78 NCAA tournament wins, which is the most ever. One thing that stands out from what Coach K has done compared to the likes of, say, John Calipari, is that he recruits the top players in the nation but keeps them around for usually three to four years. They develop chemistry together the way no other school can, especially those who have players who leave after one season. It is the fact that the whole team is greater than the sum of its parts. The best example of this team concept was the 2009-2010 national championship team. The Duke starting lineup had three seniors and two juniors. Those two juniors have stayed for their senior seasons, leading a team deep into NCAA tournament again. None of these players are likely to be elite NBA players, and some may not even make an NBA roster, or even pursue an NBA career. Coach K described his team perfectly, “I’ve said throughout the year they were good, then they were really good, then they were really good with great character. But I told them [after the championship game] before we said a prayer, that: ‘You are a great team’” (Schlabach, 2010). It was their character and their chemistry that put them over the top in the NCAA tournament, not necessarily their overall talent level. If talent and hype won championships, John Calipari’s teams would win every year. In 2009, Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats had three of the best freshmen in the country, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Drew Bledsoe. This team had so much hype; it was as if you could let them cut the nets down before the season. But the team did not live up to the hype, eventually losing in the Elite 8. However, unlike the Duke Squad, the three fabulous freshmen bolted for the NBA. There was no way they could have replicated the years and time spent to develop the chemistry and character the way Duke had. The players had a different mindset; they were more focused on the fame and riches that awaited 73


From Bio Class to the Bank: The Prep-to-Pro Athlete

them in the NBA. Their stop at Kentucky was just a speed bump on the way to the NBA. Coach K’s strategy of recruiting players who want to stay for a long time has paid off, just look at his career accomplishments. What would you want, a great player who will leave after a year, or a team who can grow together for four years? For a long time, these types of freshman players were allowed to enter the NBA draft directly out of high school. Some success stories are Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwight Howard, and Kevin Garnett. These players came into the league very raw, but eventually matured into superstars. With every success story, there are failures, such as Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and Shaun Livingston. Now these players would not be allowed to enter the NBA. According to the 2005 collective bargaining agreement by the both the NBA and the NBA Players Association, the rules for entry into the NBA draft changed. “The player (A) is or will be at least 19 years of age during the calendar year in which the Draft is held … at least one (1) NBA Season has elapsed since the player’s graduation from high school” (NBPA, Player Eligibility and NBA Draft, Section 1(b) (ii)). This change affected an old rule that stated as long as players completed high school and forfeited their college eligibility, they could enter the NBA draft and have a chance to compete in the NBA. Since the rule changed in 2005, many of the top high school players in the nation go to college for only one season and then leave for the NBA. Many of these players would have entered the draft following high school. This has created the One-and-Done era in college basketball, where there is much more pressure on both recruiters and coaches to make it work in a very short period of time. The age-old basketball values of team first and chemistry built over a long period of time are now shown the door in favor of acquiring high talent individuals. While the chemistry might not be as important, the hype put around these players is immense. It is as if they are limited time offers at a store. They are only going to be around for a short while, so franchises must get them while they are hot. It also puts the concept of the student athlete in question, seeing that these players are only going to be there for one season, academics might become an afterthought to the most of them. Is this new rule good for the NBA and college basketball? College basketball thrives on having the best high school players in the nation, and they have the choice to attend almost any university they want. They can go to school on full ride scholarships, and basically are treated as kings the moment they step on campus. For coaches, getting one of the top recruits is a key to instant success. It can be a job saver for many coaches. In the college ranks, one stud can put a team on his back and they can go on a magical run deep into the NCAA tournament. Dwayne Wade led his Marquette Golden Eagles to a final four berth, and Carmelo Anthony took his Syracuse Orangemen all the way to a national championship. Not only are these athletes winning games for their schools, they are growing up in the process. Attending college is one of the most rewarding experiences in anyone’s life. Those who have attended school know 74


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exactly the meaning of this. These players grow up immensely at school, even if they are only there for one year. They learn to live by themselves, accept consequences for their actions, and do their own laundry, not to mention anything they learn in the classroom. College can be a life changing experience for people, and it teaches them who they really are, and who they want to become. Without this time in college, most players would not have the necessary maturity to excel in a grown man’s professional sport. College coaches really have a duty to groom these boys into men, and prepare them for whatever life they choose to lead, whether it is in basketball or elsewhere. Even more important than nurturing these players is to just acquire them for a different benefit, money. If these players do not attend school, universities around the country lose money. These players bring the schools national attention, ticket sales, merchandise sales, and maybe a deep run into the NCAA tournament: all things that net schools millions of dollars. Without them, the schools lose a lot of money that could be invested into their athletics program. College presidents will put thousands into recruiting budgets to acquire these players with the hope they will return the favor in the long run. Not only does this new One-and-Done rule affect college basketball, it has a large effect on universities, their presidents, their fans, and, indirectly, their budgets. These players can bring a lot to college basketball, and schools go through a lot to have the ability to recruit these players. What does it take? Money and time, and the top schools are spending more and more of it every year to get the top-level athletes. Kentucky, who had three One-and-Done players starting for them in 2010, spent $434,095 on basketball recruiting that year, according to Kentuckysports.com (2011). Kentucky is a public university, where most of its money comes from state funding. The state is currently trying to overcome a $165 million deficit in Medicaid. It is not a sound financial decision to spend about a half a million dollars a year on basketball players when millions of elderly people across the state are suffering from lack of medical care. The university has the right to do what it wants with its money, but with many schools suffering across the country with class sizes and overall funding, basketball-recruiting budgets should be reduced to compensate for more pressing issues. If coaches were not as pressured to recruit the top athletes, the budgets would go down, thus freeing more funds for academics and overall university improvements. These schools would only have to recruit one or two top athletes per year, not an entire team worth of them. By letting these players go straight to the NBA, it not only saves the schools thousands of dollars a year in recruiting, it also allows college coaches to focus on what most of them do best, coaching basketball. They can create a team from a group of young men, who can grow together over three or four years. The players who are not necessarily destined for NBA greatness usually make the best teams, because they truly play for love of the game. Look at the Butler

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Bulldogs of the past two seasons. Butler is a member of the Horizon League, a mid-major conference that usually does not have the chance to recruit the top players in the nation. Their coach, Brad Stevens, preached to his players if they played with heart, and as a team, they could beat anybody. With no real “superstar” players, this team basketball got Butler to two consecutive national championship games. The first year they lost to Duke. That game was considered one of the best games of all time, with Butler barely missing a half-court shot at the buzzer. Basketball was meant to be a team game, and a great team cannot be built in one year, because chemistry cannot be recruited.

References

Article x - player eligibility and NBA draft. (n.d.). National Basketball Player’s Association. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from http://www.nbpa.org/cba/2005/ article-x-player-eligibility-and-nba-draft Novy-Williams, E., & Eichelberger, C. (2011, March 10). Kentucky basketball leads nation in money spent on recruiting. Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from http://www.kentucky.com/2011/03/26/1685078/kentucky-basketball-leadsnation.html Schlabach, M. (2010, April 6). Coach K cements place among the greats. College Basketball Nation Blog - ESPN. Retrieved May 3, 2011, from http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/10341/ coach-k-cements-place-among-all-time-greats

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No Scalpels Necessary: The Value of Choice by Stacey Cope

Abstract This paper investigates the harmful surgical procedures performed on hundreds of intersexual infants every year. The effects of these practices are both physically and psychologically traumatizing to the individuals involved. Surgery continues to be held as the standard procedure for intersexual patients in order to “normalize� the appearance of their genitals. Most surgeons believe if intersexual patients are left with their birth genitals they will be ostracized and lead less successful lives. Gender assignment surgery is done without the consent of the intersex child and, at times, without the consent of their parents. Even if the parents do give consent, they are often not provided with all the possible options and outcomes of such procedures. Gender assignment surgery holds many physical risks for intersexual patients including loss of genital sensitivity, loss of reproductive abilities, and painful scar tissue. Along with the physical dangers, many intersex patients feel a loss of trust in their doctors and the medical community. Free will is absent for intersex babies often leading to feelings of powerlessness and inferiority.

No Scalpels Necessary: The Value of Choice Each day is filled with a multitude of choices. Every morning, one might choose which outfit to wear, what to enjoy for breakfast, or which morning news channel to watch. Most people are grateful for the many choices presented each day and view them as basic human rights. One population is being denied these basic human rights of choice with forced cosmetic surgery. These people are referred to as intersexual. Doctors nationwide are deciding which gender an intersex baby should be (male or female), not in spirit—but physically, with invasive surgery. Surgical gender assignment is performed five times a day, leaving nearly 2000 children a year scarred physically and psychologically (Haas, 2004). Surgical gender assignment for intersexual infants produces unnecessary physical risks, destroys trust, and robs children of a momentous choice. 78


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Intersexuality is the term used to describe a number of various conditions in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit into the standard definitions of male or female (“What is intersex,”n.d.). There are chromosomal variations (an individual’s cells shares XX and XY genes) as well as different physical manifestations considered “ambiguous genitalia” (such as a large clitoris or no vaginal opening). These variations occur in about 1 in 100 births when considering the entire spectrum of differences (“How common,” n.d.). There are dozens of conditions that involve disparities in one’s chromosomal and/or genital structure, some of which do not appear until after puberty. Typically, the response to children born with any genital irregularities is to perform corrective surgery to make the genitals appear as normal as possible, as well as to provide lifetime hormone supplements to counteract any chromosomal differences (Dreger, 1998). Surgical gender assignment is performed with good intentions. Doctors and parents assume they are doing the child a favor in correcting their abnormality at an early stage. It is assumed the child will have a more difficult, traumatic adolescence living with their birth genitals. These assumptions have very harmful repercussions. These surgeries are risky, may be irreversible and frequently decrease genital sensitivity. Cheryl Chase, founder of the Intersex Society of North America, explains, “Surgery destroys genital anatomy and many intersexual children are subjected to repeated surgeries, over a dozen in some cases. Genital surgery disrupts the infant’s erotic development and interferes with adult sexual function” (Laurent, 2003). “Normalizing” surgeries are not performed because there is anything medically wrong with the child. These surgeries are purely cosmetic and for aesthetic purposes. It would be considered barbaric to give an infant any other kind of cosmetic surgery, yet this one holds as standard medical procedure. Any time a person is put under anesthesia there are significant physical risks, yet this happens to hundreds of children a year for the sake of attractiveness. Gender assignment surgeries are arbitrary, painful, and far too dangerous to go on as the standard medical practice for intersex individuals. The day of a child’s birth can turn from joy to fright for parents of intersexual children. Since intersexuality is so rarely spoken about, most parents do not have the first idea of what their options are or how to proceed. In this situation, the most important trait is open and honest communication about all aspects and options of intersexual life. Unfortunately, this is not typically the case. In some cases, the doctors have not even received consent from the parent (let alone the child) before performing gender assignment surgeries. Alice Domurat Dreger (1998) explains in her article, “Ambiguous Sex-or Ambivalent Medicine,” that many clinicians believe revealing the truth to either the parents or the child later in life will only complicate an otherwise successful surgery, and that it would be too hurtful for the family to deal with. The loss of trust is severely damaging to intersexuals. Their very identity is hidden from them, which increases feelings of shame when discovered later in life. Most doctors follow what is known 79


No Scalpels Necessary: The Value of Choice as the “concealment-centered model,” which is the practice of gender assignment surgeries while giving as little information to the child, and even parents, in order for that child to properly develop their assigned gender. This model encourages surgery as soon as possible so as to alleviate the parent’s distress and society’s discomfort with sex variations (Dreger, n.d.). Dandara Hill is an intersexual who received sexual assignment surgery shortly after her birth. Aside from the physical affects, Dandara feels mostly scarred by the lifelong secrecy. Dandara explains, “They were told not to tell anyone about my uniqueness. I would be fine, they were reassured, as long as they kept the truth from me” (Wilchins, 2002). A life built on lies can devastate one’s sense of control, future relationships, and self-confidence. What choices are left for a grown intersexual who received gender assignment surgery? Doctors and parents made the choice for sexual assignment, not the individual whom it will affect the most. Free will, power, and autonomy have been taken away and are not easily regained. After irreversible surgery and a life of deceit, the central path to autonomy comes from open communication and acceptance. This is the only way that future intersexuals will have a greater chance at free will. If doctors were open and honest with parents and informed them of all options while putting them in touch with other intersexes and their families there would likely be less shame, remorse, and nonconsensual surgeries for intersex babies (“What does ISNA,” n.d.). There is no empirical evidence to suggest that any individual who has received surgical gender assignment is “better off” psychologically than any intersexual who receives no surgery or waits until later in life. On the contrary, a person who is allowed to take control of their own destiny, has weighed all the risks and options, and has spoken with other individuals in their same situation is likely to be more emotionally sound (“What evidence is there,” n.d.). The ability to choose one’s very identity dictates one’s ability to assert authority in all other aspects of life. Taking away an intersexual person’s right to choose their identity is condemning them to a life of self-doubt. Gender is a social construction. The definition of male and female is decided by the world we live in. Our society has rather strict designations for how a man should appear and how a woman should appear. Doctors have now become the ultimate social constructionists with gender assignment surgeries. When an intersexual baby is born, their doctor will decide which gender they will be and how their body will reflect that. The surgery (or more likely surgeries) is complicated, dangerous, and purely cosmetic. Patients’ expect the medical community will “do no harm” and uphold the most ethical practices; this is not the case with gender assignment surgeries. The loss of trust could lead intersex individuals to ignore any medical problem in order to avoid the same doctors who deceived them. These surgeries decide how an individual will view themselves and the world around them. That decision can and should be made only by the person occupying that body.

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References

Dreger, A.D. (1998). “Ambiguous sex”—or ambivalent medicine? The Hastings Center Report, 28(3), 24-35. Dreger, A. (n.d.). Shifting the paradigm of intersex treatment. ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna.org/compare Haas, K. (2004). Who will make room for the intersexed? American Journal of Law and Medicine, 30(1), 41-68. How common is intersex? (n.d.). ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna.org/faq/frequency Laurent, B. (2003). Intersexuality—a plea for honesty & emotional support. AHP Perspective. Retrieved from http://www.ahpweb.org/pub/perspective/intersex.html What does ISNA recommend for children with intersex? (n.d.). ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna.org/faq/patient-centered What evidence is there that you can grow up psychologically healthy with intersex genitals (without “normalizing” surgeries)? (n.d.). ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna. org/faq/healthy What is intersex? (n.d.). ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex Wilchins, R. (2002). A girl’s right to choose: intersex children and parents challenge narrow standards of gender. National Organization for Women. Retrieved from http:// www.now.org/nnt/summer-2002/intersex.html

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photo by Sean Deckert


Dear Dad by Alexa Haynes

Dear Dad, You are the best dad a girl could ask for. I don’t know anyone that is as hardworking, supportive, and loving as you are. Growing up, I was always a “daddy’s girl.” I wanted to play outside in the yard with you, sit on your shoulders, or style your hair in every way possible. You would ask to see what I learned in dance class, and then I would giggle uncontrollably when you tried to mimic my ballet moves down the hall. I specifically remember one night after ballet. I was seven, and Mom was driving Jenna and me home from the dance studio. We stopped at a red light and Mom turned to the backseat and said, “Hey look! Dad is driving in front of us!” A smile was instantly across my face, but was quickly wiped away when Mom noticed the cigarette in your hand. I know that you have a stressful job; it must be hard to supervise as many people as you do. You continue to work your butt off so you can provide for our family. You are paying for my college, Jenna’s wedding, and all of Mom’s medical bills. I never feel the stress of finances because you are always there to cover the costs. Mom’s cancer and your own health problems have affected you. Watching Mom battle cancer for the past six years has been the hardest struggle for our family. When your girls are doubtful, you are the rock. You offer a shoulder to cry on, ears to listen, and hands to help. You are always positive and remind us that our family will fight through anything. You have also dealt with your own health issues. You had prostate cancer three years ago, and you had to have your kidney removed last month. Between work, stress, and cancer, I don’t blame you for smoking. I understand that cigarettes are your outlet. It calms you down and lifts some of the weight off of your shoulders. When you are going through a rough time, you are more likely to smoke than to talk about your doubts and fears. I know you think you need to be strong for us, but you are hurting yourself in the process. Smoking a cigarette after a stressful day at work has slowly turned into an addiction. It isn’t your fault; nicotine causes changes in the brain, which makes cigarettes irresistible (Meeker-O’Connell, 2011). I realize that you have tried to quit so many times, and somehow cigarettes always creep back into our lives. Willpower is hard to hold on to when you have the temptation of going 83


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back to old habits. It is so much easier to keep your smoking habits a secret from everyone, including me, because you don’t have to confront your problems or justify your actions. You also know how much it hurts Mom, Jenna, and me. You know it breaks our hearts to see you smoke, and keeping your addiction quiet is your way of sparing our feelings. But the truth is that you do have a problem with cigarettes, and it is about time that our family confronts it. You have been told so many times that smoking is bad for your health. When you go to your doctor’s appointments, the first question they ask is, “Do you smoke?” Mom has done such an amazing job at keeping herself healthy despite of her cancer, and I want you to do the same. Smoking is the primary cause for preventable death, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates almost five million people die from a tobacco-related disease each year (2010). It brings tears to my eyes to think about you ending up in a hospital bed because of cigarettes. Quitting is the first step to becoming healthier and eliminating health risks. Trust me, I have heard quitting isn’t as easy as it sounds. If it were, so many people wouldn’t still be smokers. It is estimated that 70% of smokers want to quit (Smoking statistics-quitting smoking, 2009). Every time you have thrown out your cigarettes, you try to quit smoking all on your own. According to a NicodermCQ study, 90% of smokers who quit “cold turkey” will start again within six months (2011). Thankfully, there are many options and ways to help you break this addiction. There are over-the-counter nicotine products, prescription quit smoking aids, or programs you can become involved in. One option that I think stands out among the rest is the e-cigarette. An e-cigarette is a plastic cigarette that stimulates the act of tobacco smoking. When inhaled, the electronic device produces mist, which undertakes the appearance, sensation, and flavor of nicotine. Although nicotine is present, the e-cigarette is a much healthier choice. It would provide you the nicotine you crave, without exposing you to other harsh chemicals. The e-cigarette can be smoked in public places, even in hospitals. Studies have shown that this technology has helped smokers quit (Etter, 2010). E-cigarettes have a higher success rate than a nicotine patch or gum because the body is still able to perform the act of smoking. You may have to try a few of these methods before you find the best fit for you, but these could ultimately help you become cigarette-free. Smoking can take years from your life, and I am not willing to let you go that soon. I want you to live a healthy life, and I want you to be around to see your grandkids grow up. I don’t know what I would do without you, and quitting smoking is just one way to ensure you will stay by my side. I will always love you unconditionally. When I was seven, after I saw you smoking in your car, I laid in my room crying. You opened the door, sat down on my bed, and began to rub my back softly. When I lifted my head from my pillow you wiped the tears from my cheeks. You looked into my eyes and told me, “I promise I will quit because I love you.” I have held onto those words through the years, and all I ask now is that you keep your promise. 84


Dear Dad

References

Etter, J. (2011). Electronic cigarettes: a survey of users. BMC Public Health, 2010, Vol. 10, p231-237. Health effects of cigarette smoking. (2011, March 21). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov Meeker-O’Connell, A. (2011). How nicotine works. Discovery Communications. Retrieved from http://health.howstuffworks.com NicodermCQ. (2011). GlaxoSmithKline. Retrieved from http://www.nicodermcq.com Smoking statistics-quitting smoking. (2009). Healthy Living. Retrieved from http:// quitsmoking.pharmacydiscountrx.com

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photo by Diana Lustig


I Got a Stripper for my Birthday by Trevor J. H. Saxman

I have a confession to make; I keep a stripper in my closet. No jokes here; she sports waist-length, perfectly kempt shimmering brown hair. The green in her hazel eyes is highlighted by not only the green trim of her clothing, but by her accessories, which are the same mystifying green color. She is adorned in a swimsuit made of sparkling multicolored waves, using the green for the waistband and the straps. There is no need for her to wear too many clothes. Her attire is garnished with a white flower upon the upper left breast. The enclosure from which she surveys the world keeps her safe from dust and other dangers, entombing her in pristine and perfect condition. She is visible only through a clear plastic window. Don’t think of me as all bad; sometimes I even let her out of the closet and let her sit upon the shelf. She’s no good at making me money though. In fact, I only received money from her once. She is extremely dear to me. Believe it or not, “stripper” is my way of declaring her as my own unique possession. She’s not my first Barbie, but she is okay with that. We have had a rough history; I love her all the more though, my “stripper” Barbie and me. Now, let’s be honest here, the question you are pondering is why does this guy have a Barbie? Why does this five-ten, ripped example of an American youth have a Barbie? For what purpose could this man with hazel eyes like an emerald forest, abs of solid granite, legs of undefinable power and elegance, and the composure of a perfect yet humble gentleman keep a Barbie in his closet? The majority of my life, I have spent Christmas at my grandparents’. Every year we would pile in the car before the sun rose and drive till the sun went down. Then get up again the next day and do it again. To get to my grandmother’s house you have to go over a river and through the woods. Their neighborhood takes you back to the day when houses were built amongst the woods, not on top of where they had once stood. The trees are dense enough that you would never know that there is a major highway a mile away. The peace and the wonder of this place made for the perfect setting for childhood adventure and fantasy. When I was eight years old, my brother and I were in the middle of one of many childish taunting matches. Like the eight-year-old I was, my line went something like this, “Dear Santa, all Ted wants for Christmas this year is a 89


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Barbie.” Little did I know that my mother was close by, listening to every word that we said. On Christmas Eve, the whole family got together to celebrate the birth of Jesus and eat his birthday cake. Dense, heavy, moist cake, covered in a rich cream cheese frosting. Undoubtedly, the cake and sugar was of little help in getting us to fall asleep, but it was beyond delicious. Then, my brother and I along with two of our cousins, Cameron and Jaclyn, went upstairs to sleep. It’s kind of ironic that the harder you try to go to sleep the more awake you stay, yet the harder you try to stay awake the tougher it is to go to sleep. You close your eyes for an age, then you wake up and it’s midnight. You close your eyes for a lifetime, and then it’s two in the morning. You close your eyes again but for an eternity this time, you wake up and then it’s a quarter past two in the morning. One age, two lifetimes, and eight eternities later and it’s finally six in the morning and you can no longer stay in bed. Christmas morning is a day like no other. At five in the morning, restlessness surges through every fiber of my being, you might as well be holding back the wind. Reconnaissance missions are carried out with the stealth of ninjas. Peering eyes strain, as faces are pressed between the railings, taking note of every detail. Vibrant arrays of multicolored light illuminate the room below me. Presents shimmer and gleam as the smell of a live pine tree wafts across the room, a scent more enticing then the allure of the world’s most seductive perfume. In time, the next one to rise was my grandmother. Her first dutiful task of the day is to get the coffee going, because no one got to open presents until grandma and grandpa have had their cup of coffee. But the smell of coffee was merely the harmony to the orchestra of aromas about to unfold. The smell of sticky gooey cinnamon rolls expanded from the kitchen, filling the house. Grandma was also in the process of making sausage biscuits. These are the perfect combination of savory sausage and tangy cheddar cheese inside of bite sized flakey biscuits. Finally, it was time and lo and behold, this year there were two presents in the center of the room separate from all the rest. Written on them was “Ted and Trevor, open these ones first, From Santa.” How exciting—the first presents were for us, and we were going to open them! These had to be good ones. My brother and I sat down in the middle of the room and placed the presents on our lap. Anticipation was about to erupt; I could barely contain my self. The glistening sheen of the wrapping paper flashed between my fingers as my hands slid across the smooth surface. The rest of the family gathered around taking their places in the room. Casual questions about what we had there and “Oh, that’s from Santa” statements floated across the room. After what felt like ages, we were finally given the go-ahead to open. My fingers slid along the edges rooting out any folds to grasp. One quick pinch and paper was flying. Inside the paper was a blank box (typical!)—another layer to shell off. The air disappeared from the room, time stopped, and the world darkened. The cold hands of horror gripped me, while the faint sound of snickers moved amongst the adults. Resting inside of the box was none other than a Barbie. The blurry image of pink plastic 90


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flesh and blonde hair was the culmination of fear and terror. The one item I had never considered receiving had infiltrated my presents. I did not ask for this, a Barbie is a girl’s toy. The shame was unbearable, the indignity was intolerable, and the emotional strain was too much. I fled the room in tears, and retreated to a perch atop the stairs, far from prying eyes. Christmas was destroyed. The fleeting fantasies of a young boy had been swallowed up, mutilated, spit out, set aflame, reduced to ashes, and scattered to the four winds. Yet, Ted, who had previously been the object of the taunting, was unfazed. “Oh, Jaclyn, Santa must have labeled this wrong. This one is for you,” he said. I should have seen it coming, the audacious manner in which we were conducting ourselves. I was not ready that day to deal with the situation that I was in. The cold hard fact is that I was not able to take a joke. It is quite the joke really, two teasing taunting boys receiving the very object they used to ridicule each other. My parents thought it was a good joke, too. I found out later my mother went to enough trouble to coordinate with my aunt, who had two daughters, and acquired the two dolls for the prank. After I returned from my perch on top of the stairs, we had, more or less, a regular Christmas. I never really was as happy as I was when the morning started, but I did manage to have fun again. My parents told me that what I needed was a sense of humor. Once the joke was on me, I showed that I couldn’t take it. On my eighteenth birthday I was returning home from school, knowing all too well that the rumor about there being presents waiting from me was true. My car’s brakes squealed as I entered the driveway. The garage door hummed and rattled as it went up and down. I placed my hand on the doorknob, warm from the day’s heat, and slowly turned open the door. A quick “s” curve and there, I was facing the kitchen table in front of me. A banner was hung from side to side across the room. “Happy birthday!” I sat down at the table and, once again, sat facing a small rectangular box. This time there was no doubting what I was facing. There in front of me was a clear plastic and cardboard box. Printed on the box was a beach scene with friends walking around enjoying the party at the beach. There on the table stood the beautiful and elegant Teresa. Her waistlength brown hair shimmering, her hazel eyes sparkling, and her confident smile oblivious to the skimpy swimsuit. Now there was no denying it, this Barbie was for me. Yet there was no longer the emotional outburst that I had when I was a child. When I saw Teresa, I immediately flashed back to my first encounter years ago. Now, I was prepared; over the years I had developed and refined my sense of humor. Armed with this new weapon, I took the stage and openly embraced the doll before me. There was one more thing about this Barbie that the one long ago had lacked; there, tucked into her waistband, was a hundred dollar bill. “How about that? A stripper Barbie,” I said. Now, not only had I faced my humorlessness, I had made a joke out of it, too. 91


photo by Sean Deckert


My Grandmother by Shaunda Tsosie

The day when a government official and priest came to visit my grandmother’s home, her family lied about her whereabouts and hid her from being taken. That was the day my grandmother was out herding sheep down the canyon. I’ve known my grandmother to only give her thumbprint as her signature or her consent. She never felt pride from learning to write her own name or stepped into a classroom full of children her own age, excited to learn about Sinbad, Legend of The Seven Seas. Children were taken, more like stolen, from their families and homes and placed in boarding schools off the reservation, only to be acculturated into the Mormon or Catholic religion. Back in her generation, obtaining an education meant one had to be stripped of one’s identity: native language, beliefs, tradition, and culture. Their traditional hair bun they hold sacred, perfectly folded, wrapped, and then tied in reverence, was cut off with one snip of a sharp pair of scissors. The once neatly attached bun was then burnt along with many others. Traumatized, the umbilical cord to Mother Earth, Father Sky, and the Holy Ones became disgraced, dissociated, disoriented, and disowned. When speaking in their own language, lashes of a wooden ruler were inflicted upon them. In tears, my grandmother spoke, “We must have been a threat to the government because they came to break us and to civilize us, when we already have our own form of government for our people and our own way of life and religion.” At a strong age of seventy seven, my grandmother is of the Mexican clan and born for the Giant People Red Running into Water clan and her maternal grandfather’s clan is Water Edge and Big Water is her paternal grandfather’s clan. She says, “I was born when the snow on the ground was knee deep, during the month when the eagles are born.” The nearest hospital was more than eighty miles by horse and wagon. Unexpected weather conditions of either snow or rain made the dirt roads of the rough terrain impassable. Unsure of the exact date, it was the month of February or March and the year nineteen thirty-four or nineteen thirty-five that my grandmother took her first breath in her family’s hogan; a single room, circular earth home that both her parents and five siblings shared.

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My Grandmother

Soon after giving birth to my grandmother, my great grandmother died. After the passing of her mother, her father passed on within the same year from grief. As an infant, my grandmother was separated from her siblings, each of which were given to different extended family members. She was placed in care of her aunt, her biological father’s sister. Having three older sisters and two older brothers, she is the youngest of her siblings. She knew of them but never got the opportunity to know them, to establish a relationship with each of them. Never having a childhood, my grandmother was taught the importance of hard work and intelligence. “A moral, solid life is built from hard work and values,” she says. Growing up, every day was a preparation for tomorrow and the unexpected: given the responsibility of taking care of the sheep, cattle, horses, the apricot and apple orchards, and the large fields of corn, squash, melons, potatoes and beans; learning the up-keep of a home included the discipline of cooking nutritious meals, cleaning, and weaving. Tediously, without complaint, she obediently and diligently wove beautiful rugs the size of blankets. Her creations, the family’s only source of financial income was a reflection of her life filled with happiness and sorrow. The vibrant, bold, or soft colors she decided to use and the geometric shapes were a mirror image of her life story; her philosophy of life, her thoughts, her feelings, her attitude are all what developed and created a master piece of her own. Whenever my grandmother finished a rug, she carefully took it from its loom. With her trusty, sturdy horses hitched to the wagon, she traveled to the nearest trading post: the general store. Whenever the trading post owner bought a rug from her, he gave her store credit to purchase her necessities which included non-perishable food, material for clothing, hay and feed for the livestock, and for the long day’s drive home she snuck in a refreshing treat of a cold, tall, glass bottle of Coca Cola. Over the years, my grandmother’s known the meaning of having calluses hardening and roughing the hands like sandpaper yet ever so gentle enough to always offer a kind, helping hand. I have never known her to be selfish but always generous in love, compassion, and guidance. About the young age of four or five, I would hand my grandmother a brush. She would have a seat and I would effortlessly hop onto her lap and comfortably snug my little body between her thighs and knees. With a motherly instinct, if I so happened to move or become restless she would gently squeeze my little body. I felt her security. She massaged my tender scalp as she patiently, not harshly, ran the brush through my tangled hair. She advised and I sat and listened to her speak. At that young age, I may not have comprehended what she was emphasizing but as I got older, I gained reverence for her teachings. That was our time. I was to take care of my hair, for it is one’s sacred knowledge, discipline, and wisdom, which represents the beauty of rain showers and the promise of a rainbow. Presenting the four sacred mountains, the hair must be folded four times then wrapped and tied clock-

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My Grandmother wise representing the four directions. The hair tie is made up of twelve strands of white yarn made of wool, which symbolizes lightening rods that protect our people within the four sacred mountains in all four directions. It is my identity of being a child of the Holy Ones. Never is it to be cut or hung down loose. The only time and exception is when one passes on. In loneliness and in hardship, her faith has given her the strength to endure and persevere, which molded and shaped her to who she is today, my grandmother. A beautiful, enduring woman, lines of many years of wisdom and hardship outline her face. Her smile warms and enlightens. She disciplines in kindness and never withholds her love. From her direct matriarchal lineage comes my mother; an exact replica of her mother. My mother is of the Mexican clan and born for the Bitter Water clan, and her maternal grandfather’s clan is Tobacco People Red Running Into the Water clan and her paternal grandfather’s is Water Edge Clan. And I too am of the Mexican Clan. Through my matriarchal lineage, I come from a long line of resilient, enduring women. All that I am, and hope to be, I owe to my grandmother and mother.

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photo by Sean Deckert


Sound Off by Jayro Giron

Ellie sat on the curb near the corner of her street, tapping the concrete beneath her with the tip of her finger. It was quiet outside that night, something she knew a lot about. The usual night wind that rustled the tree branches and swayed the decorative chimes hanging on the porches was absent. Everything was still. Everything but her finger. She tapped the beat of a song she first heard when she was three years old. The tapping was Ellie’s bad habit, as her uncle would say. It never bothered her because for twelve years, she couldn’t hear the so-called aggravating tune. Ellie eventually took note of the noise she was unconsciously causing two weeks after her sixteenth birthday when a three-hour surgery gave her what she yearned for: a cochlear implant. Her long, honey brown hair covered the circular electronic device outside her ear for the first few days after the implant. She didn’t want to be exposed for who she really was. Several classmates of hers had heard that she was deaf, but no teacher ever confirmed it. Even though students had their suspicions, a talent for lip reading and a label that branded her as shy helped her pass for a hearing kid grade after grade in school. It was on a humid afternoon when the pavement was still drenched in rainwater that Ellie finally revealed the device. She only did it for Nicholas, who had commented that its pale lilac color made her resemble one of the picturesque Greek nymphs with an adorning flower in her hair they had been studying in English class. Trying to see if she could spot headlights coming down the street, she stuck her head out forward, but saw nothing. Her finger continued to tap the curb, and she accompanied the dry beat with a hum that added a refreshing melody. The song played in her mind as white noise that would add sound to the memories of her silent years. It was what played in her head whenever she’d recall the evening her mother was shot. Ellie halted her humming and tapping. The song wasn’t heard out loud, but it still caused an uproar in her head. She curled her fingers in, forming a fist and forced it onto the cement. When she pictured the evening of her mother’s death, she did not hear what her then-neighbors described as her mother’s chilling screams. She did not hear the ground-shaking thud of her mother’s body falling 97


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to the floor that sent vibrations into Ellie’s room, enticing her to poke her head out. And what enraged her the most was that she did not hear the gunshots, all three of them, that penetrated her mother’s chest and left shoulder. All she heard when thinking about that evening was the song. The aggravating tune. The unconscious noise. A flash of light came down the street. Ellie stood up from the curb, hoping it was Nicholas finally arriving to pick her up, but instead a beat-up white Chevy truck drove by. The gentle churn of the tires rolling on the parkway wiped the song from Ellie’s head as it drove away. Spotting unique sounds was almost like a game to her. Whenever she’d find one, she’d take the time to enjoy it and admire it, even if it was something ordinary like the clacks that high-heels produced on hardwood floor or the robotic swoosh of automatic-opening doors. The crinklelike crunch of a rolling tire was no exception. Another set of headlights made their way toward her. As the car came closer, she saw Nicholas behind the wheel. The car pulled up in front of her, and the driver’s seat window rolled down. “Ready for blast off?” asked Nicholas in his deep baritone voice. Although she could hear him now, Ellie stared at his lips and read them. They were visibly moist and colored a light shade of pink. They opened and closed at a steady pace, something she appreciated when her world was stuck on mute. Ellie looked down at the ground and half-smiled as she hurried to the passenger’s seat door. The seat made a pleasant popping sound when she sat on it, followed by a few slight squeaks when she reached for her seatbelt. She faced Nicholas, opening her eyes wider and raising her eyebrows higher to show a sense of eagerness. “Alright,” said Nicholas, getting a quick glance of himself in the rear-view mirror and then turning to face the road. “Let’s get this done.” Nicholas began to drive. The radio wasn’t on, but Ellie got her sound fix from the few coins that bounced in the crater of the drink holder as Nicholas drove. The mild clunk of the coins rustling around and hitting the plastic surfaces soothed her. “So Ellie, are you sure you want to be a part of this? It’s not too late for me to drive back,” Nicholas asked as he looked again at himself in the rear-view mirror. He shifted his eyes to the right and saw Ellie give him a proud, wide-eyed nod. “Alright,” Nicholas faced the road once again. “By the way, nice Ecko shirt.” Ellie let out a short and audible exhale. She had bought the shirt with Nicholas in mind, knowing he was a fan of the Ecko brand. It satisfied her that he noticed it. “Hey also, I’m sorry for what Stephen said to you in class today,” Nicholas said as he came to a stop. He gazed at himself in the rear-view mirror and shook his hair three times in different directions before looking back at the road and driving again. “I heard he was trying to force you to talk. Don’t worry, though. I straightened him out after I heard what happened.” Nicholas raised his right hand up and swatted it to imitate a slap. Ellie knew 98


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he didn’t physically hurt Stephen, but Nicholas often joked about having a tough guy persona. Ellie didn’t show it, but she was grateful that Nicholas was often there at her defense. Nicholas connected with Ellie after catching her reading his lips when they first met in eighth-grade because he had a deaf younger sister. Unlike Ellie, his sister was born deaf and didn’t get it from meningitis. She had him there, a small walk or a text message away, but she didn’t have him the way she wanted to have him. Ellie knew there was no chance at a relationship with Nicholas. Even though to her he came off as a prince, in reality, he was self-absorbed and vain. She ignored it but had seen it herself whenever Nicholas would try on a new outfit and model it in front of a mirror. That deep, loving gaze he gave himself would never be shown to anyone but him. His reflection was his relationship and Ellie had given up trying to change that. As the car came to another stop, Nicholas’ thumping foot caught Ellie’s attention. The thumping had a hard thwack sound, which caused her to shield her ears. Ellie didn’t find it as calming as the clunking coins. Nicholas kept an eye on himself through the rear-view mirror. “We’re almost there,” Nicholas said as the thumping gained speed. He turned to look at Ellie. She saw him biting his lower lip, a sign that verified he was nervous. Nicholas turned to the road and continued to drive. Ellie had been hiding her apprehension, but now that she saw Nicholas shaken up, she wondered if she was prepared for what was to come. Nicholas pulled into the parking lot of a gas station’s convenience store. Making sure that no one inside the store would see him, he parked on the side of the building. He shut the car off, which automatically unlocked the doors for him, but, like a reflex, he clicked a button next to him and locked them again. He reached his right hand for the glove compartment and pulled out two black ski masks. Ellie anticipated him handing her one, but instead he held on to both. “Listen, Ellie, I know you’re supposed to come along, but I want you to stay in the car.” Nicholas turned to face Ellie and saw her eyebrows descended at an angle. “I’m sorry, but I need you to be the getaway driver. If anything happens to me inside, at least you’ll get out of here fast and safely.” Ellie felt like pouting just to show how much this idea bugged her. She was desperate to join him. She wanted to witness it all, hear it all, but she held back. “I’m only asking you to do this because it would make me feel better, knowing you’re safe and all,” Nicholas’ tone grew calmer. Not wanting to refuse him, Ellie nodded in agreement. Nicholas smiled and reached his hand out to touch her cheek. His fingers tickled her with much-needed warmth. “Thanks,” he said, drawing his hand back away from her. “Besides, this could be something The Goddess would punish you for.” Ellie’s tender emotions dissolved.

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Nicholas stared at himself through the rear-view mirror. Ellie noticed a slight gleam in his eyes. He put on a ski mask after placing the other on the edge of his seat and then looked at himself another time. The gleam was gone. Ellie searched for comfort. She tried to gaze at the subtle beauty of Nicholas’ lips, but they were concealed under the ski mask. She looked down at her feet, disappointed that she couldn’t see his lips and that she couldn’t join him. Nicholas opened his door and hopped out of the car. He continued to hop in place as he took in deep breaths. After a few seconds, he stopped, but he remained standing. Ellie was concerned that he wasn’t moving, but she didn’t focus on it. Her agitation at the moment overwhelmed her. She started tapping her finger on the dashboard. The song was coming back. It wasn’t long after that that Nicholas paced to the convenience store’s entrance. For several minutes, Ellie sat in the passenger seat of the car, still somewhat thrown off by Nicholas’ last comment. It had been awhile since he had brought up The Goddess and now Ellie was left thinking about her. The Goddess was how her mother used to refer to Helia, her father’s real wife. It was a difficult concept for her to grasp when she was a child, but she knew it meant her father was a married man with another life. Before her mother’s death, Ellie noticed that her father wasn’t around much and she would see him only once a month. Her mother radiated joy on the nights he spent with them. But once her mother was gone, so was he. Ellie never saw him again, and even though it didn’t bother her because she barely knew the man, she wanted to hold on to a piece of the past. Her Uncle Damien, a man who had grown up with bitter emotions toward his family, gained custody of Ellie after her mother died. He told her that Helia was The Goddess because she was a successful lawyer who had authority and power. Compared to her mother who had worked as a housekeeper in a hotel, Helia was indeed a goddess. Uncle Damien would often taunt Ellie with stories of how it was The Goddess who had her mother killed once she learned of her husband’s second life and it was also her who, through her power and privilege, caused Ellie to go deaf. “She’s a real goddess,” he would tease, “and she cursed you with meningitis. Made you go deaf. Then, a few months later, she took your mom’s soul.” As ridiculous as it sounded to Ellie now, she believed the tale to be fact when she was growing up. Ellie loved making noise around the house when her mother was around. The Goddess, in her enduring wrath, must have punished Ellie by taking away the two things she loved the most, her mother and sound. The ski mask hung from the edge of the seat. The song was still playing in Ellie’s mind. She tried to block out the flashback of the evening her mother was shot. Instead, she focused on The Goddess, a woman she never saw or met, but she had puzzled together distinctive aspects from certain people to create an image in her mind. The Goddess had Uncle Damien’s spiteful hazel eyes and his face-twisting disturbing smile. She had Nicholas’ vanity and good looks. And she had Ellie’s long, honey brown hair. She was perfect. She was indeed a goddess. 100


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Ellie stopped the song from playing in her head. Taking the ski mask from the edge of the seat, she put it on. She came here to be a part of this, to listen to this, and not to be pushed back by a fragment of a myth she no longer believed in. Her hand pulled on the door handle and she exited the car, gently closing the door behind her. One giant step after another, she made her way to the entrance. In the corner of her eye, she spotted Nicholas through the glass door. With her newfound energy, she pulled the door open. “Ellie?” asked a puzzled Nicholas as his and the cashier’s attention went to her. Nicholas was holding up a metallic black gun at the cashier’s face with his right hand and a clear plastic trash bag semi-full with bills with his left hand. The cashier was an older man, probably around his forties, with a thick mustache and an accompanying goatee. He had lines all over his face and also heavy lavender bags under his eyes. Shoot the gun, Ellie thought. The situation was visibly frantic, but she wanted to hear the gun go off. It would erase the song from her mind. “What are you doing here?” blurted Nicholas. But Ellie didn’t see him speak. Ellie saw the cashier twist the gun out of his grasp as Nicholas’ hand trembled from losing hold of it. She saw the cashier turn the gun around and point it at Nicholas. “Get out of my store!” hollered the man behind the register. Shoot the gun, Ellie thought. It wasn’t in Nicholas’ grasp anymore, but she didn’t care. She needed to hear it. “Easy, man,” said Nicholas, dropping the bag of cash. “Easy,” he reached down and picked up the bag. “Here, have your money back.” Shoot the gun, Ellie thought. As the man reached for the bag, Nicholas extended his arm trying to grab the gun away from the cashier. Then, Nicholas froze. The cashier began to wiggle his index finger on the trigger. Everything was still. Everything but his finger. It was a deafening explosion. A resounding bang. A thunderous boom. Loud couldn’t begin to describe the volume. It yelled. It bellowed. It roared. Nicholas’ body lay on the ground. It was covered in an assortment of whitepetal flowers that his hand had knocked down from the display of bouquets near the counter. Ellie approached the body. Droplets dripped from her eyes, each one more graceful than the one before. A stream of blood flowed out of his neck, calm in nature but vicious in force. Its waters, in a delicate splash of ruby, were clear and reflective. It was a scene of beauty that suited Nicholas well. Ellie lowered her head to get a view of herself, but found it difficult as her tears drowned her vision. She walked back to the where she had been standing, letting her body descend down into a curl as she faced the transparent doors. It was too much. The sounds echoed, bouncing off the walls and striking her ears. She heard the gunshot replaying in her head. She heard nearby police sirens getting closer and louder by the second. She heard her voice, an earsplitting low-pitched mutter that caused her body to shiver and jolt. She heard it all, now wishing she hadn’t. She had it all, now wishing The Goddess had just taken it away from her. 101


photo by Sean Deckert


Notes on the Contributors

Ryan Anthony, 27, is a junior pursuing a degree in Applied Biological Sciences: Wildlife Management and Restoration Ecology. He grew up in Pakistan and moved to America at the age of 18. He is an army veteran who has served two tours in Iraq and plans to work with the Game and Fish Dept. or as a curator in a zoo. Elizabeth (Liza) Brown-Moore, 52, was born in a small town south of Tucson, Arizona. She has been accumulating credits over several years in the School of Letter and Sciences. Her motto in life continues to be Keep her steady, keep her level. Alexandra Comeaux, 20, is a junior on the Pre-Med track majoring in English literature. She is from Sacramento, California and believes poetry to be a way of making sense out of the chaos of life and learning to control the overpowering – and oftentimes grief-filled – experience of being human. Stacey Cope is an undergraduate studying Sociology in the school of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Kenneth Crone, aka Kenny, is a sophomore in the Walter Cronkite school of Journalism and Mass Communications. Jayro Giron, 20, is a Phoenix native and is in his second year as a Film and Media Studies major at ASU. In the future, he wants to be a television screenwriter in children’s programming or animation. Alexa Haynes, 19, is from Sacramento, CA. She is a sophomore majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. A strong believer in setting high goals for oneself and striving to achieve them, she plans to have a successful career in Public Relations.

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Kaitlyn Knudson, 20, is in her sophomore year at Arizona State. She is from Gilbert, Arizona and is majoring in English Education. Kaitlyn’s motto simply comes down to this: writing is what makes me happy and is what both keeps me sane and makes me a bit insane. It’s a way in which I hope to contribute to a little part of the world. I think everybody should find what that way of contribution is for them, for their sake and for ours. Carter (Alex) Pearl, 20, is an Arizona native and a sophomore majoring in Journalism. Ambitious in nature, he hopes to rule the world one day, but he’ll be satisfied with simply becoming an adolescent psychologist. Stevi Rollinson, 19, is a sophomore double majoring in Creative Writing and Special Education. Her family moved around a lot when she was growing up, so she identifies her hometown as many different places. In the future, Stevi plans to be an English teacher and a writer on the side. Trevor J. H. Saxman, 20, is a junior in the Pre-professional Health Sciences program. Trevor hails from Glendale, AZ. His future plans are to obtain a PhD in Biochemistry and eventually attend medical school. Shaunda Tsosie is a junior in the Nursing program who grew up in Spider Rock, AZ. Her personal philosophy was inspired by the following quote by Horace Bushnell: The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the more significant and the higher in inspiration his life will be.

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photo by Ximena Camarena Lopez


photo by Sean Deckert


An Instant Solution by Kaitlyn Knudson

It was the same morning at the same place, but depending on who you were the story was very different. For a young adult named Seung Hui-Cho, April 16th, 2007 was a morning of redemption; he would gather his Glock 19 and Walther P22 in each of his hands, scribble the words “Ismail Ax” in red ink on his arm, and proceed to murder his first victim (Johnson, 2007). For Josh Wargo, it was a moment of eardrum-pounding, chest-swelling fear. He was sitting in class when he heard screaming, then gunshots, and he made the jump out of the two-story window along with his entire class (ABC News, 2007). For Ms. Bernhards, it was a morning of confusion. She walked toward her class, an upcoming exam on her mind, only to stop when she spotted 10 guards with assault rifles outside her building. And finally, for 32 people (students and faculty) it was the last morning they would ever experience (O’Connor, 2007). The Virginia Tech massacre was the bloodiest school shooting ever; it opened our eyes to the very real possibility that we or a loved one might face such a tragic, unexpected event one day. We have decided it’s time to take action. Horrifying stories of people like Cho haunt us; people with an unnatural desire to take lives and who kill with no empathy on their faces. And we are sick of it. We are sick of learning environments being turned into nightmarish scenes and of innocent students defenseless against these assassins. We share one common goal: security. Media coverage of the nightmarish Virginia Tech massacre brought back an argument from the grave: one proposed solution to the problem we face in protecting our schools is allowing guns on college campuses. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill on April 16th, 2011 that would have allowed certain individuals licensed to carry a concealed weapon: professors, school faculty, and students age 21 and older, to carry firearms on campus grounds (Shahid, 2011). In the wake of recent events, many other states are considering passing a similar law to allow guns on campus in some form—Utah being the first to pass such a law (Associated Press, 2007). 11


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Being a university student, I once had another student, as we discussed the prospect of guns being allowed on campus, tell me, “People kill people, not guns.” She was right. It is unfortunate that the gun is getting the blame for ending lives. Had the gun never been created, it is possible our concern would be about the psychopathic kid who brought a blade to school, or planted bombs. History proves that when somebody wants to wreak havoc, they will find the means to do so—their weapon of choice enables, but certainly it does not grow a brain and do damage on its own. Not to mention guns really can be helpful. It is a police officer’s, a crime fighter’s, weapon of choice for a reason. Phil Valentine, radio talk-show host and author of Right from the Heart, a book arguing for firearms in society, states that handguns are used 2 million times per year in defense against criminals, which is more than five times the number that are used to commit crimes (2003). Therefore, I understand the idea that people arming themselves or a loved one would enhance their sense of security. It seems completely unfair to surrender one’s firearm as soon as one steps onto campus, when at any moment some student with no regards for the rules (or human life, for that matter) might bring his or her gun to school. Truth is, being armed in such a situation would be beneficial—there is a chance the responsible, armed student or faculty member could take down the “bad guy” and save their own and others’ lives. The problem is that although we have heard a lot lately about these Cho-like kids, and Columbine-like massacres—they are actually pretty rare (which is good news, really). Although the media may lead us to believe otherwise, out of the 100,000 or so schools in the U.S., only 12 to 20 homicides occur each year. Actually, school violence has decreased by 50 percent in the past decade (Dedman, 2007). It turns out that the chances of a shooting actually occurring are outweighed by the potential for accidents that could occur because of allowing guns on campus. College campuses seemingly remain some of the safest places to live. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, 93 percent of violent crimes toward college students occurred off-campus (Meadows). However, if guns were allowed on campus this statistic could change—because, let’s face it: many college kids get drunk at some point. Nearly half of the 5.4 million college students in America “abuse drugs or drink alcohol on binges at least once a month,” according to a study done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in 2007. Alcohol was found to be involved in 95 percent of campus crime (Meadows). No matter how much of a “good guy” a gun carrier is, the possible combination of alcohol, drugs, and guns make it more likely for accidents to occur on campus. It is possible that a gun originally placed in responsible hands will fall into the wrong hands, too. Although only 10 to 15 percent of criminals’ guns are acquired by thievery, the possibility of the weapon falling into the wrong hands increases as more guns are made “available” (Noyes, 2011).

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Still, there is the idea that if we armed our schools there is a possibility we would never have to deal with shooters in the first place. As much as I wish this were true, it cannot be proven. There is a possibility this strategy could even backfire: Dr. Peter Langman, an expert on the psychology of school shooters, wrote the book Why Kids Kill after two young students attacked Columbine High School. Not only does he study the psyche of past shooters, Dr. Langman also faces a daunting task: every year he evaluates one or two potential school shooters, coming face-to-face with students claiming they might “go Columbine” or that they would like to kill because they are “really bored.” Dr. Langman found that 90 percent of potential shooters suffered from depression, and had suicidal thoughts. In most cases, it is not their own life that school shooters are worried about—it is taking other people’s lives. Many had an obsession with violent media; it is frighteningly possible that allowing other students and faculty to carry guns would make the scenario even more of an appealing video game-like challenge (Langman, 2009). Finally, in a poll conducted by the Arizonans for Gun Safety organization, 69 percent of those surveyed opposed the House bill that would allow guns on campus in Arizona colleges, and 56 percent of gun owners within the survey opposed the bill as well (Walker, 2011). The problem is that guns induce fear in many students and professors, and even if that fear is not always based on rational reasoning—Dr. Langman’s work, for example, proves that shootings are not in-the-moment, but planned out carefully–that fear will nonetheless remain. Arizona State University’s Professor Amelia Malagamba told me in an interview one afternoon that her fear of student violence would escalate if guns were allowed on ASU’s campus. She expressed worries it would “censor” her class, knowing that students had guns on them. “It will be censorship based on real fear of crazy reaction, which kills the whole purpose of teaching,” she practically shouted, eyes wide. What would happen if professors held back criticism because they were afraid? It may not be fair to demand that pro-carriers abandon their weapons. But it is also unfair to potentially take away value from students’ learning environment. Of course, we cannot accept the fact that an attacker will attack, shrug our shoulders, and say, “that’s life.” It would be better to never have to ask that a student or professor have to hold up their gun with shaky hands, and within milliseconds take down somebody who is spraying bullets all around them. Our campus security teams should be there when all else fails; maybe they should receive better training in order to better deal with situations such as a murderous student gunman. Ultimately, as stated by Dr. Langman, “Shooters have to be stopped before they can get to the school with weapons. This means a different style of prevention than physical security” (2009, p. 188). These bills being proposed across the United States may provide an instant feeling of security, but we are dealing with a situation that requires more than an instant solution. When somebody like Cho gets a hold of a gun and walks onto campus ready to kill, it should not be the beginning of our prevention efforts. 13


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References

ABC News. (2007). ‘Everyone started panicking and jumping out the window.’ [Video file]. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US Associated Press. (2007, April 28). Utah only state to allow guns on college. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com Dedman, B. (2007, October 10). Ten myths about school shootings. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com Johnson, J. (2007, April 18). ‘Ismail-Ax’: breaking the riddle. ABC News Nightline. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/ Langman, P. (2009). Why kids kill. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Noyes, D. (2011). How criminals get guns. PBS Frontline. Retrieved from http://www.pbs. org O’Connor, A. & Hauser, C. (2007, April 16). Virginia Tech shooting leaves 33 dead. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com Meadows, M. Why our campuses are safer without concealed handguns. Students for Gun Free Schools (SGFS). Retrieved from http://www.studentsforgunfreeschools.org Shahid, A. (2011, April 19). Jan Brewer, GOP Arizona governor, vetoes public university, college campus gun bill. New York Daily News. Retrieved from: http://www.nydailynews.com Valentine, P. (2003, September 12). Guns are good: ‘Right from the Heart’ excerpt extols benefits of firearms. World Net Daily. Retrieved from: http://www.wnd.com Walker, L. (2011, March 3). VA Tech shooting survivor talks gun safety at ASU. The State Press. Retrieved from: http://www.statepress.com

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Clutch by Alexandra Comeaux

There’s something to be said for the smell of dead fish and motorcycle exhaust on a Wednesday night, when you leapt passed rot, leaned over dumpsters, released clutch and tapped throttle— give a little more, you said, and I found that I could. See, even now, how you have consumed me? You are the fuel-stained, burnt rubber, metal deformity; the crushed headlights and cringing of brakes, the smoke-settled asphalt of a wreck. And me? I am flesh. We both know how this ends, so if I turn away, forgive me: it is only in fear that you will do the same, and I will never again know the destruction of a beauty so merciless, a hand so unflinching.

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An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military by Stacey Cope

Abstract This paper details the ongoing crisis of rape in the U.S. military. Over thirty years ago, the U.S. Department of Defense set a goal to enlist more women in the military, and as female soldier numbers began to raise it was clear they were not prepared to integrate. Since the Gulf War, the rates of rape of servicewomen have continued to rise with little intervention or punishment of their male perpetrators. In recent years, the U.S. military has made valid attempts to alleviate the high frequencies of sexual assault but with minor success. The lack of anonymity in reporting cases of sexual assault along with the fear of stigma keep many servicewomen from coming forward. The efficiency and ultimate victory of the U.S. military cannot be met until all members of every unit are able to perform their duties with respect and trust for their fellow soldiers. It is the Armed Forces themselves who encouraged and sought servicewomen for their war efforts; therefore, it must be the Armed Forces who ensure their basic human rights are being met.

An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military As women excel in the Armed Forces, the long-standing masculinized culture of the military stands as a formidable roadblock. The “boys club� mentality of the military is understandable as men certainly dominated it for hundreds of years, but this attitude can create a hostile and subordinate environment for women. This hostility is increasingly being translated into sexual assault and sexual harassment against servicewomen. The growing number of sexual assault cases leaves female soldiers feeling disconnected from their service and depletes the effectiveness of their military unit. Female soldiers are critical to the U.S. military and the war effort, yet are met with an exceedingly pervasive climate of sexual violence that has reached crisis proportions. In the last several decades, the U.S. military has made several strides to encourage more women to join the military and to strengthen their roles within 17


An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military

it. In 1973, the U.S. Department of Defense removed their 2% maximum restriction of women in the military as well as initiated strategies to better recruit female soldiers. These policies enabled an increase from 8.5% active female soldiers in 1980 to 14.5% in 2006 (Feitz & Nagel, 2011). Women can now succeed in a range of positions within the military and stand as an inspiration to women across the country. Yet even with their growing visibility, servicewomen are often considered second-class soldiers. Many female soldiers share the sentiment that they are seen as simply “stereotypes of women as passive sex objects who have no business fighting and cannot be relied upon” (Benedict, 2009). This misjudgment may partly stem from the law prohibiting servicewomen from participating in direct combat roles. Testimony from female and male soldiers alike attest to the reality that, due to the nature of our current conflict, there is no true “front line” resulting in most servicewomen’s involvement in direct combat situations (Feitz &Nagel, 2011, p. 119). Even still, the perception of a female soldier’s inferiority can have very dangerous consequences. The prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault within the military has escalated to crisis proportions. According to a report from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, “at least one-third of all women veterans have experienced rape or sexual assault during their service” (Wilson, 2010). This behavior and the environment it creates are not conducive to the success or confidence of military units. When reading the statistic that one-third of all servicewomen experience sexual assault, it is important to note that many incidences are not reported. Servicewomen may never bring their experience to light out of fear of stigma, that it will end their career, or that their case will not be believed or taken seriously. Since only 10.9% of reported cases result in charges against the perpetrator, female soldiers might be reluctant to report knowing the law is not on their side (Benedict, 2009). Currently the process for female soldiers reporting instances of sexual assault requires them to consult with a Victim Advocate. Victim Advocate personnel are much like military counselors, whose conversations with victims are not strictly confidential. Anonymity is scarce in these situations when all personnel and officers know each other and fear of word spreading is undoubtedly warranted (Tsongas, 2011). This lack of privacy accounts for the 80-90% of sexual assault cases in the military not being reported (Gibbs, 2010). Servicewomen join the military for the same reasons that male soldiers enlist; they want better life opportunities and to serve their country. Still, they are unable to feel the same camaraderie and trust needed to be confident in battle. The U.S. Department of Defense’s attempt to alleviate the lack of anonymity and stigma in reporting cases was to create the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) in 2005 and even more education and prevention programs in 2009 (Benedict, 2009). Unfortunately, despite their efforts, SAPRO has not made significant strides in ending sexual assault within

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An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military

the military. U.S. Representative and member of the House Armed Services Committee Niki Tsongas (2011) acknowledges that servicewomen “universally claim that they are unaware of their rights, and fear public ridicule, blame, or repeat offenses if they file a report against a fellow service member.” Even with earnest attempts by the Department of Defense to end sexual assault in the military, many service members feel they cannot come forward and remain isolated in fear and shame. Servicewomen must be able to rely on their commanding officers to make decisions that are in their best interest, in and out of combat. Unfortunately, when female soldiers do report cases of sexual harassment or sexual assault to their leaders, they are too often met with skepticism or even apathy. It is likely that these higher-ranking officers simply were not properly trained in how to handle cases of rape. Many future officers are trained at one of the four U.S. Military Academies, where the prevalence of sexual assault is nearly double the rates in the Armed Forces (Stalsburg, 2011). As cadets (officers-in-training), they are socialized into certain behaviors and develop a tolerance for violence and sexual harassment, a combination that can be toxic for servicewomen. This learned behavior then carries over into the Armed Forces as these cadets become officers, making it all the more difficult for female soldiers to feel secure in reporting inappropriate conduct (Stalsburg, 2011). The strong and tough “walk it off” attitude of the military leads some officers to outright ignore reports of rape, forcing the victim to continue working side by side with her perpetrator. One extreme case is that of Cassandra Hernandez, an Air Force cadet who reported three of her fellow soldiers for gang raping her, at which time “her command charged her with indecent behavior for consorting with her rapists,” while her perpetrators went unpunished (Benedict, 2009). Perhaps for some officers these cases are not a top priority; their top priority is managing the war effort. But how can officers expect their soldiers to fully contribute to their military unit and the larger war efforts if they can so frequently be victims of sexual violence with no mediation or support? The U.S. Military initiated their campaigns to increase the presence of female soldiers over thirty years ago. These efforts have made it possible for servicewomen to rise to positions of high-ranking officers, earn esteemed accolades for bravery and valor, and fight and die for their country. However, their potential has yet to be fully realized because of threats (and acts) of sexualviolence roadblocks. These roadblocks are not only dysfunctional and dangerous for the victims but the military as a whole. The crisis of rape in the military will not end until the culture of the military accepts servicewomen as equals to their male counterparts. It will not lessen until the fear of coming forward, the fear of dishonor, or, most importantly, the fear that nothing will be done is a thing of the past. Servicewomen have risked life and limb for their country, now it is their country that must step up and fight for their right to be the best they can be.

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An Incomplete Unit: The Crisis of Rape in the U.S. Military

References

Benedict, H. (2009, May 6). The nation: The plight of women soldiers. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103844570 Feitz, L., & Nagel, J. (2011). Deploying race, gender, class, and sexuality in the Iraq War. In M. Baca-Zinn, P. Hondagneu-Sotel, & M. A. Messner (Eds.), Gender through the prism of difference (4th ed., pp. 114-124). New York: Oxford University Press. Gibbs, N. (2010, March 8). Sexual assaults on female soldiers: Don’t ask, don’t tell. Time. Retrieved from http://www.time.com Stalsburg, B. L. (2011). Military academies: Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Retrieved from http://servicewomen.org/media/publications/ Tsongas, N. (2011, February 27). Sexual assault in the armed forces. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion Wilson, N. (2010). Culture of rape. Ms. Magazine, Spring, 32-35.

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Das Gehewr by Ryan Anthony

It’s past 2 a.m., pitch black; noise and light discipline. The attack helicopters are loud, but they stay far. A perfect night for trick-or-treat. It’s probably the sixth raid this year. “Outer cordon set,” mumbles someone on the two-way radio. “Roger. No one enters and no one leaves,” goes out the whisper from our end. “Tac team set.” “Roger. Just knock and search.” Easy. Yet I can hear my heart pound. Tinnitus probably; darn IEDs. “Fitehah! Enha la Amereecan!” “Open up! It’s the Americans!” Bang Bang! Crack! Boom! “Doggonit!! Suiter shoot!” I yell. “Where?” “In the effin’ house!!” Two and a half inches to the right, and I would’ve lost a patella. I am standing nowhere near cover and just now for the first time during the night … I feel alone. But I am not alone. My sister, my security, my saving grace is with me. My M4 service rifle. I smack its metal magazine just to make sure. It clanks back in “affirmative,” jolting me back into combat. “Doc! Smitty is down!” “Roger! Moving!” I reply. M4 is the new rifle being issued by the army. The shorter, carbine version of the ancient M16 musket that has been around since before Vietnam. It’s the weapon of choice in urban combat and the one I carried with me in Iraq. Every soldier is issued one and they all look alike. Alike, but not identical; you recognize yours as a father recognizes his child. Germans first used the concept of ‘rifling’ the smoothbore of a long gun, inventing the almighty Gewehr. This is precisely when Germany starts World Wars. Why wouldn’t one pick fights after acquiring such a brainchild? This child has grown now. A necessary evil, she safeguards our borders and the American way of life. That is how I was first introduced to her; passionate 22


Das Gehewr

love sparked instantly. After the initial romance though, like all loves, it comes down to hard work and learning to get along. My responsibility is to keep her clean and hers is to keep me breathing. Our relationship has grown during the war. I am learning to love her and she is learning to love me. She is jealous; spitting fire at everyone with an evil eye on me. She is faithful too, the only one I trust on these Arabian nights. She is always there and always ready to start something. My hands were made to fit her contours. Dark and smooth, cold against bare skin. She is a tomboy. Her perfume is not rose and jasmine, it’s frankincense and myrrh, bottom notes of fragrant oil and black powder. She is tough as a sergeant. Steel ribs and iron jaw. And such ferocity must stay on a leash. A black strap holds her intimately close to me, ready to tango. She is full of energy and vigor. Even on a leash she stays wild and reckless, loud and alive. She is as alive as I am alive. I am alive because she is alive. I learn to honor her. I learn to treat her like a sister. Like my best friend. She is mine. She is jealous but so am I. The weather is after her. I protect her and I bathe her. I scrub her with brass bristles. Then comes the cotton cloth, lightly dipped in the fragrant oil. Like suntan lotion, gently, it is laid on her. It covers her enough to make her gleam. It doesn’t soak her; she won’t enjoy that. That would make her cough. I do not want her sick! I am alive because she is alive. In the hands of trained men, the rifle is more than a mere firearm. Men who understand it is not the number of bullets fired that count, it’s the hits. As the crumbled German defense retreated from Normandy, such men held their ground to fight. Half the Allied soldiers on D-Day were killed by infantry, artillery and mortars. The other half by snipers. These snipers instilled fear in the Allies’ hearts. No one walked on that battlefront. Crouch! Bow to the man who is one with his gewehr. Ah yes, you must be one with the rifle. It is an extension of your body. You must treat her as you treat your arm or leg. When you go prone, she lies before you. You see what she sees. She leads, you follow. We both enter the house. Quietly and stealthily, slithering like a snake-- slow and low. I do not have to think what to do; it’s drilled in. I keep her in the ready position, constantly looking down the barrel. Seeing what she sees, following where she leads. We safely reach our injured comrade. “You alright killer?” “Ya. This eye-pro really works!” “Bleeding a little. Let’s get out.” No need to shoot tonight. We’ll raise hell some other day. Fun while it lasted, but the rifle was never mine to keep. She belonged to someone else. She was not given back; she was taken away. All good stories must come to an end, but absence makes my heart grow fonder. Still I am happy that she is happy. And I am happy that she is alive. And I am alive because she is alive. 23


photo by Diana Lustig


Scarlet by Stevi Rollinson

My mama tells me only old houses need paint. I’ve never seen a new house left naked— bare wood exposed, not painted. The nuns at school said it was a sin. They insisted shaving their heads was holy, too. Jesus wasn’t bald. A shade of scarlet, paired with my plaid, pleated skirt. I wore it to school mass, face hidden behind a hymnal. To the ladies room I was escorted. “All day” lip wear is hard to wash off, but I was beautiful for thirty minutes. So glorious those thirty minutes. Red on Marilyn. Nude on Twiggy. Self-expression silenced in its absence— confidence crippled. I’ll wear red, thanks. Call it a tribute. Jesus, forgive me, for I have sinned.

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photo by Sean Deckert


Reed by Kaitlyn Knudson

We all avoid that desk, the one by the beaten-up poster hanging by one of its corners that says, “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” That desk that he always claimed in the back of the classroom, that’s now cleaner than our desks and looking quite naked without its usual stack of books to dress it. Our desks are in the front of the classroom, closer to the door. They’re dressed with penciled penises drawn on their tops and globs of gum hanging from their bottoms, and we like our desks that way. But not Reed, Reed never put a pencil to anything but paper. Reed. Reed. We say his name with disgust. We still have to skillfully avoid him now, like we did back then, every time we see that desk. Truth is, we figured one day he would do something crazy, and we were glad that he did it to himself rather than to us. There were days when we halfexpected him to walk into our classroom and start burying our bodies in bullets like some crazy kids do, even though none of us would admit we thought that way. It’s because we would see him mumble to himself and stare out the window, stare into one of his books for hours … and look at us with those eyes that burned us like ants behind square spectacles every time he caught us spitting in our own books’ pages or putting them under our feet like we often did to make him upset. He once asked you to a dance. You should remember that day; you were sitting there with us, smacking your gum in your mouth, and stifling your laugh with the palms of your hands. We all watched as he walked in with a vase full of red roses and his hair slicked over, his glasses gone. But we weren’t fooled and, thankfully, neither were you. We had heard rumors all week that he was going to ask you, and we could just picture him quoting something from one of those books on his desk, Shakespeare, or something. No matter. Shakespeare’s dead so it didn’t matter to us. You are too good for him we said, when we heard the rumors that he was going to ask you. Don’t be modest; you know how badly the guys wanted to go with you, to get with you, to be in the same class as you so they could stare at you. We knew Reed didn’t have a shot in hell. But we were also afraid that maybe you would say yes by some sort of tragic accident, like maybe

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Reed

you would think he asked you if you wanted to throw out the plants, and you would look at the dying plants by Mr. Z’s computer and say sure, and Reed would get his way. We didn’t want Reed to get his way, because Reed was so different. Yes, we sometimes thought it was funny the way he would comment on everything in class, like he was the boss and not Mr. Z, the man with the PowerPoint and necktie. But we also thought it was rude, the way he’d continue to question Mr. Z when Mr. Z answered his questions with “it is what it is” and “because I said so,” because we liked Mr. Z. He gave us bonus points for showing up to class every morning and told us all the questions that would be on the tests, which we thought was the best way to prepare. Not that we prepared outside of the classroom; we had better things to do, like talk about each other’s lives and watch TV. That was where the real stories were, anyway. But Reed. What a freak. We could tell that he liked doing the work. Those days when Mr. Z would get sidetracked and talk about his favorite TV show or the game rather than droning on about Hamlet were the best; he would stand there staring at the ceiling, like his eyeballs were searching his head for something profound to say as he went on and on about this character he hated from this TV show. We all would make faces at each other from across the room, see how many times we could get away with pointing our middle finger at Mr. Z when his eyes rolled back in thought. You were winning at one point, we kept count. But Reed just sat in the back, staring at the pages of Hamlet like the words on them were about to vanish invisible-ink style, and all that would be left were the ones he saved in his memory. He asked why and how all the time, and sometimes that made us late getting out of class, because Mr. Z had to Google his questions. Reed never seemed happy with the answers from Google either, like he was above Google. He would always mutter that he wanted to hear Mr. Z’s opinion, what Mr. Z had to say about the book or the question he was asking. Mr. Z would get annoyed with him, too, telling him that this is what he had to say about the book, about the question. What was right here on Google, well, that was his answer. Oh, and I know you remember the way Reed would get upset when Mr. Z gave us all A’s for turning our assignments in! One time he even tore his essay in two, holding it in the air like it was a symbol of his sanity and in this loud, dramatic gesture, ripping the paper. We didn’t understand him; we thought it was fair, us getting all A’s. Because there is no right or wrong answer in life, and we thought we shouldn’t be forced to write about something we didn’t care about. So, we turned in essays about our favorite TV show and what we had planned for our future Pinterest boards and talked about what we had read on Facebook. I heard that one time you even turned in a story with only the words “Essays are boring” in it, rearranged three different ways and repeating itself, and got away with it. Mr. Z didn’t care, nobody in the school cared, nobody in the world cared what our essays had to say, and we sure as hell didn’t care, either.

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Reed

But Reed cared, and we were afraid he’d start getting other people to care. You know what that feeling was like, when you saw that the words on his paper were about the book in his hands, his own thoughts, and his own opinion on what we were supposed to have opinions on not long ago. We were afraid he would spark something in Mr. Z, that Mr. Z would start teaching again instead of just talking, that people would take the time to read our essays. What’s crazy is that when he first came here we thought he would fit in, believe it or not. We had heard stories that his family was rich, and Mr. Z had told us that he was moving here from another state. We talked about the other states with giddy, hopeful voices. Thought about their online classes and online teachers, how we could re-do an assignment over and over until we aced it, how we could use Google and SparkNotes and Wikipedia until we filled up the required pages. We thought about how unfair it was that we were trapped inside walls with whiteboards and desks and the smell of old paper. We thought of Reed as a sort-of superhero, one that would come into the school with authority and tell our principal that we, too, deserve to do our schoolwork from the comfort of our homes, so we can do better on our papers. We actually don’t care about our papers, though—we just want to sleep in, we admit it to each other in the cafeteria. We find that doing work is much more difficult on our own; we can squeeze decent sentences and interesting analyses out when we’re doing activities in class, or pulling information from the Internet that somebody else wrote, but on our own … well, the most we write is a text message or a sentence of 140 characters or less, or a status update about being sick of school. We show up with the hope that one of us has the answer to the questions that might be asked in the classroom (which used to always be Reed), and it’s good enough for us. We think about Reed a lot, a lot more than we’d like to think about him. His clean desk triggers a thought within us, a scenario of him pointing the gun at his freckled face, right between his two eyes, just above his nose. We picture him pulling the trigger, tearing his face in two just like he tore up his essay that day, all the words of Hamlet and 1984 and To Kill A Mockingbird, all our assigned readings and more, spraying out of his skull and getting lost in his blood. We wondered what he looked like when he was found, if he kept his glasses on or not. We were half-hoping they would show us his body at the funeral, but we were also relieved when they didn’t. We saw his parents there, at the funeral, with the same freckled faces and small eyes as him. They wore sad faces, so sad. Their tears ran between their fingers, down their arms, plummeted to the floor kamikaze-style. They cried to us, looked at us with confusion, and behind their own spectacles we thought we saw the eyes of Reed, glinting, burning us like ants. We didn’t like to see them cry, it made us all fidget and stare at our shoes. We didn’t do it, we wanted to tell them. We didn’t do it to him, it was all him, it was his choice. He could have joined us, he could have “friended” us if he wanted to. We’re actually very

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Reed

friendly once you join us. But Reed didn’t want to be friends with us. He wanted to be there, in the classroom, surrounded by those books and a 3D teacher and the stinky scent of White Erase markers and paper quizzes. We still think about their faces, his parents’ faces, although we don’t ever talk about them. We didn’t want to say anything to them at the funeral; we decided that it would be better if we didn’t, because it wasn’t our fault that Reed was gone. But now there is a rumor going around that you said something to them, and we want to know if it’s true. That you told them “I’m sorry.” And we’re wondering, why did you do that? Because it wasn’t your fault, you know. We want you to know that it wasn’t your fault. He did it to himself. We’ve noticed that you have stopped coming to as many parties as you used to, that you haven’t been online as much as usual, that you don’t play the middlefinger game with us anymore. We miss you. Just the other day we heard rumors that you didn’t want our classes to go online anymore, and that you were seen at that old person’s bookstore, buying books; you did this rather than come to the parties with us, rather than talk to us on online. We hear rumors that you spend your lunch breaks with your nose between the pages of Hamlet now; your essays consist of more than three words, even though Mr. Z isn’t reading them. We hate to say this—but if you keep it up, you might be on your own. And we don’t want that to happen to you. We think you feel bad about Reed because you talked to him, once. We’ve narrowed it down to that conversation you had the first day of school, when he was lost and looking for his lit. class, Mr. Z’s class. We were all watching when you two started to talk; we were all staring at Reed, wondering if he was going to be who we thought he would be. “We have class together,” we remember you telling him, after he asked you where to find the classroom. “But don’t worry about this class; we don’t do anything, just like the rest of them,” you added, and we all laughed. Reed’s face twisted. The corners of his lips drooped, his head cocked to the side, his eyes were filled with a pain and a passion we labeled as pathetic. “But I want to learn,” he said. That’s when we knew he would be different. We didn’t think much of it, but that’s when we should have started worrying about you, too. Because, thinking back on it, we saw an unmistakable twist in your face, too. Your head cocked to the side and, for a moment, we thought we could picture the mechanics in your mind moving, that you were considering what you hadn’t before. But we shrugged it off, because it happened so fast, and because we thought you shrugged it off when you laughed at Reed with us. We heard that some maintenance men were going to move that desk, finally. We all breathed a sigh of relief when they came and took it, took Reed out of the classroom once and for all. The day is going great and there’s even a rumor

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Reed

that by next year, everything will be online, and we won’t even have to force our bodies over here every morning. Mr. Z walks into class and says he doesn’t feel like being here today, so we’re just going to watch a movie. We’re all cheering, all but one of us … you. You’re over there sitting next to a now-empty corner and you’re staring at it. We understand that maybe you don’t feel the warmth of a human body next to you anymore, and that Reed isn’t there to block the sunshine coming out of the window for you anymore … but you’re acting strange today, the way you’re sitting there bending back the sides of a clean book. It’s making us uncomfortable. So, we’re asking you to stop. We’re asking because we care about you. Stop staring at the corner, because he’s gone, and you can’t do anything about it. You don’t have to read every book in the library to know anything about the world, okay? And we also want you to know that it’s not your fault, so why do we think that you feel bad about what happened? Because truthfully—we don’t want to say it out loud, but we’re all thinking it—it’s just easier now that we don’t have to walk around that desk. You turn the first page of the book over and we hear it; the movie hasn’t started and that noise of you turning the page is so loud right now. It’s crinkling and creasing and drives us crazy. It makes us think of Reed and we don’t like it. And you, you’re starting to worry us. Are you really going to start caring about Reed now, now that it’s too late?

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Bullies and Villains by Jayro Giron

When children hear the word bully, males and females picture different people. Males often describe a boy who is large for his age in both weight and height. He isn’t the brightest student in the classroom, but when it comes to picking teams during a sport in physical education, he is picked first. For females, the profile of a bully is rarely identical to that of males. Most of the time, a female bully is an attractive, well-liked girl. She can be considered a sweetheart to adults around her, but those who know her closely know of her two-faced identity and her ability to bring down another girl’s self-esteem not with violence, but with words. No matter who we are, the image of a bully can be narrowed down to a simple category, villain. Unlike the ones going about their silly schemes in comic books and movies, real-life bullies can be considered everyday adversaries for students. They’re the characters threatening many children and teens. Although, at times, it’s simple to determine the characteristics of a villain, it’s difficult to define what bullying is. Anne G. Garrett (2002), author of Bullying in American Schools, notes that it can be physical and involve some form of personal assault on another person whether it’s shoving, hitting, kicking, etc. It can also be passive which includes the spread of rumors or manipulation. The more common examples of bullying are, indeed, passive and they consist of taunting, teasing, and threatening (Garrett, 2002). Dan Olweus (2006), a psychology professor at the University of Bergen in Norway who is one of the world’s leading experts on bullies and their victims, characterizes bullying as a build-up of negative reactions that occurs regularly over a period that is directed at a student from another student. In his opinion, it is crucial to note the difference between peer conflicts and bullying. In peer conflicts, the argument or fight is accidental and not serious. In bullying, the two students are not friends and the danger presented to the victim is repeated so that the bully seeks some sort of control (Olweus, 2006). But are these kids labeled as bullies really villains? Villains are aware that their actions are harmful, hurtful, and overall unacceptable. How do we know that’s how most bullies think?

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Bullies and Villains

In reality, bullies do believe that their behavior is actually acceptable and that, as Garrett (2002) suggests, violence and aggression is the way to deal with situations. From where does this belief originate? Many people think that bullies have low self-esteem, which leads them to hurt others. However, that’s where the general public is wrong. In fact, as verified in the Phi Delta Kappa, an online journal of professional educators, the most common myth that people have about bullies is that they have low self-esteems, when in reality, they have above-average self-esteems (Graham, 2010). There is very little evidence that bullies suffer from insecurity issues. More studies have proven that bullies see their actions as positive and tolerable and that they even have great egos (Graham, 2010). Garret (2002) concurs: because bullies seem to have a need to feel powerful and in control, they obtain that pleasure from inflicting injury and harm on others. Thus, leading to their inflated self-views. If the problem isn’t their self-esteem, then where does the issue start? As Olweus (2006) indicates, bullies act the way they do because of their home environments and the behaviors they learn from their primary role models, their parents. Some parents don’t know where to draw the line when it comes to bullying and child’s play. They find potentially dangerous situations acceptable (Garrett, 2002). Take, for example, an instance described in Bullying in American Schools. A principal in North Carolina witnessed two fifth-grade boys hold down and yell at a first-grade boy. Before the fifth-graders could do any physical harm to the first-grader, the principal intervened and extensively interviewed them. He then called the parents of the children. The parents of the fifth-grade students both found the behavior to be what they considered normal. They thought detention for their boys and an apology to the first-grader was enough to settle the problem. The parent of the first-grader, however, was infuriated. She demanded that the principal notify the police because she considered her child assaulted. In the end, there were no charges made. The principal ensured that the fifth-grade boys received a just punishment for their actions (Garrett, 2002). A few characteristics that derive from a child’s household make it more likely for him/her to become a bully. As reported in Pediatric Nursing, one aspect is parental modeling of aggressiveness. A child’s main role models when they grow up are his/her parents. If from an early age they witness abusive behavior between the parents or being directed to a child from a parent, a child is more likely to imitate that behavior. Children see that a domestic dispute between parents or some form of abuse towards siblings leads to eventual compliance from the victim. Therefore, this is a strategy that they use when it comes to dealing with classmates and getting what they want (Patterson, 2005). However, that abuse doesn’t necessarily have to come from a parent. Maria Martin, a Spanish psychologist, writes in Education Journal (2005) that fortythree percent of children who are bullies are the victims of bullying from

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Bullies and Villains

siblings. The actions that are done to them are emulated when they become the aggressors in school. Parents view these acts of violence as sibling rivalry and decide to do very little about them. Not only does that abuse get absorbed by the child, but it also leads to a lack of parental warmth. When a child receives a more forceful, physical discipline from their parents, they report that they feel less affection from their parents afterwards (Patterson, 2005). From there, they go on to get that affection elsewhere. According to Garrett (2002), bullies see that affection is correlated with popularity in schools. They achieve what they make out to be kindness from the people who follow them or approve of their violent acts. A final aspect that originates from the home environment is the lack of attention and supervision children receive from their parents. Spending minimal time with their children or not giving them as much attention as necessary can lead to children gaining that attention through bullying (Garrett, 2002). When harming others, bullies attain the awareness of teachers, principals, and school faculty. Although their attention comes from negative actions, bullies still notice that these actions do lead to a response (Patterson, 2005). Nonetheless, even with big egos, bullies’ acts have lasting effects—on the bullies. For example, an issue that affects bullies is aggressive temperament. As Garrett claims, “Temperament refers to the basic tendencies by children to develop certain personality styles and interpersonal behaviors” (2002, p. 72). Bullies are serious control freaks who display obsessive and compulsive urges to bring out their aggressive tendencies (Olweus, 2006). Because their hostility frequently gets in the way, a high number of these children end up dropping out of school and performing below average in their careers (Garrett, 2002). Olweus (2006) points out that children who have been identified as bullies have a greater chance of committing delinquent acts. One study showed that sixty percent of students identified as bullies in grades six through nine had a criminal conviction by age twenty-four (Olweus, 2006). The consequences of bullying don’t end there. Olweus also asserts that bullies don’t have proper emotional development. They grow up to be generally unhappy people who suffer from anxiety and fear (2006). Not only do their emotional problems become an issue for the bullies, they also become a problem for those around them (Garrett, 2002). Bullies deal with their growing anxiety and mixed feelings by becoming abusive spouses and parents. They even become workplace bullies and often repeat the aggressive actions they used to do to classmates with their co-workers. Worst of all, bullies who become parents raise a new generation of bullies, creating another cycle of violence (Garrett, 2002). Parents don’t have to panic when they hear from teachers or school faculty that their child is behaving like a bully--because the behavior can be reversed. As reported in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, by providing active

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attention, taking a second look at their parenting practices, and not being overly lenient with their children, parents can help shift the views of potential bullies from negative to positive (Ball et al., 2008). School programs aren’t the only solution to the problem. Parents must be willing to be involved and cooperate with schools in order to successfully teach their children that certain ways of acting aren’t acceptable (Ball et al., 2008). By providing assistance to the bully, as well as the victim, we contribute to diminishing the issue of bullying. If we let ourselves believe that kids will be kids and bullying is a part of growing up, we’re doing nothing to fix the problem. There are numerous role models in homes, communities, and the media that kids mimic daily. Bullying won’t go away on its own. Adult involvement and positive behavior at home is vital to the success of any anti-bullying initiatives. We must all be engaged in a sustained effort to change the situation because, in the end, bullies aren’t always villains. What makes bullies distinct from the villains we see or read about is that bullies can be changed into better individuals. With simple, yet effective recommendations from professionals in the field to aid parents and several comprehensive bullying-prevention programs already in schools across the nation, we can help reconstruct the existing environments and behaviors that our children have come to see as normal and prevent them from being labeled as schoolyard villains.

References

Ball, H. A., Arseneault, L., Taylor, A., Maughan, B., Caspi, A., & Moffitt, T. E. (2008). Genetic and environmental influences on victims, bullies, and bully-victims in childhood. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 49(1), 104-112. Garrett, A. (2002). Bullying in American schools. North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc. Graham, S. (2010). What educators need to know about bullying behaviors. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(1), 66-69. Martín, M. (2005). The causes and nature of bullying and social exclusion in schools. Education Journal, (86), 28-30. Olweus, D. (2006). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Cambridge: Blackwell. Patterson, G. (2005). The bully as victim? Pediatric Nursing, 17(10), 27-30.

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photo by Ximena Camarena Lopez


Sorrow, Fury, and Love by Carter (Alex) Pearl

There was a scream outside his room. At least, Connor was fairly certain it was a scream. Trying to fall asleep in a single dorm proved just as hard as doing so with a roommate, with added difficulties of the ambience—the imagination tended to distort the mundane noises of his room into more elaborate or grotesque sounds, like footsteps, crying, or screams. Connor gritted his teeth and toyed with the thought of getting up and investigating, but ultimately decided that the sound was more likely to be some kid yelling for no reason at all, which seemed to happen often in college. A second part of his brain, however, interjected and reminded Connor that it was currently four AM on a Tuesday. Anything benign that would make a student cry out would have happened hours ago, if not days. He’d already pulled on a pair of gym shorts and grabbed a T-shirt before he was able to fully rationalize his journey into the dorm hallway, punctuating his train of thought with a justifying, I have to pee anyway. Connor poked his head outside of his dorm room, checking the hall cautiously. He checked his pockets for his keys and slipped into the hallway, making sure to catch the door before it closed to avoid slamming it. Rounding the corner and heading to the floor lounge, Connor heard no evidence of any parties, sport events, or any other student activity. As a matter of fact, he didn’t hear much of anything, and the silence and time of day combined to give him the unpleasant image of his being the first to find a formerly whole and living college student splayed out on the floor of the lounge, their life having ended with a slip on some spilled water and one final, lonely scream. In ten minutes, Connor would find himself frantically wishing that was what he’d found instead. The first thing that he saw when he opened the floor lounge door was Kelly, a business major from Ohio, huddled and sobbing in the closest corner of the room to the door. Before Connor could ask her what was wrong, he noticed the rest of the lounge—tables had been flipped over, chairs scattered, cabinets thrown open with their contents spilled on the linoleum floor. He did not notice the cause of the discord until he had dumbly closed the door behind him and looked up to see the three figures centered amongst the stilled havoc. 39


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They were humanoid, each with two arms, two legs, and a head, but the surfaces of their bodies consisted of what seemed to be black and grey static, with indistinct limbs and bodily features that were almost completely undefined, reminding Connor of solid shadows. They gave off a faint noise that sounded like a mixture of furious panting and dejected sobbing. Connor had time to stutter a bewildered “Oh my God” before the figures turned to face him. He heard Kelly’s voice to his right, but she spoke too hoarsely and too quietly for Connor to hear her properly. He turned to her, and found that she was pointing at something that he hadn’t noticed before, but distinctly wished he still hadn’t—hanging from the lounge’s ceiling fan was a human head, its spinal cord stripped of vertebrae and wrapped around the blades and body of the apparatus. As the fan rotated slowly, Connor was able to make out the face of an accounting major from Boston whom Connor had only known as Rob. “Oh … What’s this?” One of the solid-shadow figures cocked its head and leaned toward Connor predatorily. “Another friend? Another witness? Did we find someone else to confide in, wandering these dark spaces?” The figure moved forward steadily, the dark surface of its featureless face remaining focused on Connor as its slender hands reached out absently to graze the surfaces it passed. Connor decided that he had seen enough and turned, grasping the door handle and preparing to run with every bit of energy and control he still possessed, until a searing pain tore through his thigh and he collapsed, his teeth slamming together as his chin impacted with the linoleum. He turned to see the dark figure standing over him, writhing and clawing at its face with fingers still covered in blood and bits of skin, silent but for the angered sobbing it projected. Underneath him, Connor felt a warm, wet sensation and he found that he was unable to move his left leg. He realized numbly that his hamstring had been slit, from slightly below his left buttock down to the back of his knee. The acknowledgement of his injury caused the pain to double, but as he moved to frantically grab at his leg to apply pressure, he felt the gentle slither of several cool, smooth fingers wrap around his face. Connor’s chin was raised gently at first, but when he resisted, the figure wrapped its hand around his jaw and jerked his head up forcefully, so that Connor was now face to featureless face with the figure. “LISTEN TO US! STAY! DON’T LEAVE!” the creature howled, inches away from Connor, “WE’RE SO ALONE! WHY WON’T ANYONE LISTEN TO US? WE’RE SO TIRED OF BEING ALONE! WHAT DID WE DO?” The creature tore away, releasing Connor’s jaw and staggering violently back to the other two shades. Connor looked on as the three tore at themselves, convulsing on their feet and shrieking in agony. As they thrashed, Connor noticed movement from the corner of his eye— Kelly, whom Connor had completely forgotten about, was frantically motioning for him to join her in the corner of the lounge. Connor thought about pointing out to Kelly the current state of his leg, but realized, reluctantly, that he would feel much safer in the corner. 40


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Once Connor has managed to relocate himself, Kelly asked him frantically whether or not he was all right, to which Connor replied by silently removing his shirt and attempting to apply it, tourniquet-style, to his leg. As he worked, Kelly whispered to him hurriedly, “These things … I think they’re us. They’ve been putting on some kind of performance, and it’s like it’s about people being sad or rejected or angry or something. When they do, though … I mean, their faces change. I can recognize most of them. They’re some of the people in this building.” She choked back a sob. “Oh my God, but they killed Rob … They thought he wasn’t listening and they tore him apart. I don’t … Oh God …” Connor’s hands shook frantically as they attempted to tie a knot tight enough to cut off the flow of blood to his leg. “I don’t know where they came from,” Kelly continued, “I just showed up here with Rob because we wanted to watch Prime Time before we tried to go to bed and they were just here.” Kelly made as if to continue, but she caught her breath as the figures stopped. Their dark forms moved slowly, almost fluidly, like snakes, and the first spoke as if it was choking back tears. “You will listen to us,” it said, “We won’t be alone. We can stop shouting. No more lying, no more pushing away, no more pretending that we are intact when our innards are shattered beyond repair.” “You want us …” Connor coughed, surprised at the sound of his voice and the dryness of his mouth, “You want us to listen to you? That’s all?” The second figure gave a contemptuous snort. “We’re the Unloved. The Secluded. The Locked-Away. No one cares if we reach out. No one wants to hear us. Listening is harder than you’d think.” The third chuckled. “This one didn’t want to listen. His mind wandered. We showed him how it feels to be us.” It reached out a hand and swatted Rob’s head from the ceiling fan, shuddering delightedly as its thin, fleshy tether snapped and the boy’s skull landed with an ugly thud and rolled into the far corner of the lounge. Connor held back the urge to vomit and gritted his teeth, attempting bravado through the revulsion and pain. The creatures turned to him and Kelly as if to make sure they were listening, and then began to clear the upturned tables and chairs to create a space in the center of the room. “So what, these things just want attention?” Connor hissed to Kelly. He was still slightly frustrated that she still hadn’t offered to give him help with his leg, which was beginning to go numb under the makeshift shirt-tourniquet. Kelly stroked her hair nervously, glancing from him to the figures as they prepared. “I don’t know, they say that, but they seem just as angry as they are alone!” she whispered. “I don’t know if they want pity, or company, or, shit, I don’t know, like … vindication? Justification? They just—” “ACT! ONE!” the first figure bellowed, “SORROW!” Connor and Kelly fell silent as it stepped aside as the other two shades centered themselves on the makeshift stage of fluorescent-lit floor encircled by upturned furniture. There was silence as the two figures stared at each other. 41


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The second began to speak. “Pills. Guns. Gravity. Pfft. Boy.” Connor blinked, and when his eyes opened again the figure’s face had taken on the aspect of a middle-aged man. “Boy, those are pussy ways to die. If you have to give yourself up to God, you do it with a rope around your neck and a chair under your heels. Hangin’ is a man’s way to die.” The third shade, wearing the face of a boy Connor knew by face but not by name, gulped and nodded. Connor blinked again, and the second shade was gone, and the third was suspended in midair, its neck stretched and contorted by an unseen noose. The face of the boy was slack, as Connor imagined it would have been, but its eyes stared out as if aware, darting across the room and opening and closing, as if afraid. Out of the side of the boy’s head, a second face appeared, the man again, and he was grinning. There was a wail and the figure dropped. It rejoined the other two, and all three bowed. A cascade of blond hair fell from the head of the first as its face took the shape of a girl Connor knew, a nursing major named Lauren who lived two floors down. Connor had done laundry with her a couple of times. Kelly and Connor were forced to watch as another shade, this one bearded and smirking, shook an imaginary baggie flirtatiously and told her, “If you can’t pay, you know what to do.” The shade with Lauren’s face knelt in front of the unrecognized shade, and Connor attempted to look away as her head began to rhythmically bob forward and back. Before he could, however, the third shade appeared at his side and hissed. Connor looked back, but forced his eyes to glaze over until the shade’s ecstatic moan signaled the end of their “scene.” (Later, he watched Peter, a philosophy major from Chicago, do almost the same thing). There was Dennis, the psychology major, who touched himself furiously as the other two figures, wearing the faces of none other than Lauren and Kelly, laughed at him. He sobbed when he was finished, and the other two only laughed harder. There was Neil, the communications major, who screamed at the rest of his support group that they would never understand what he was going through, that they would never see him as he was no matter how sanctimonious or aloof they acted, while either side of his face formed the visages of a man and a woman, respectively, who shouted from his own head, “Failure! Quitter! Queer! Shithead! Pissant! Cockroach!” until he collapsed. Neil’s support group, which consisted of the other two figures wearing four faces each, began to repeat flatly, “There’s nothing wrong with you, you’ll get better, you’re a strong human being, there are people who love you, but not us, but do it for them, but not us, not us …” At one point, one unidentified figure curled into a ball on an empty space on the floor and shook. As it trembled, it uttered a choked, sobbing chant: “I love you. I love you. I love you.” The other two figures stood over it, at a distance. They were silent, and they wore no faces. The performances went on this way for some time. Connor absorbed the confessions of all of his classmates—how many of them wanted to end it all, 42


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how many felt shame for feelings they couldn’t begin to express, how many felt guilt for trauma to which they themselves were victim. How many apparently wanted to take all the pills in the bottle, or shut out all human contact, or curl up and cry every morning, afternoon, and evening. Finally, as one figure wailed while another wearing a nurse’s hat cradled an imaginary infant in its arms and exited stage left, a third entered and brought its slender fist down on its head. The shade’s face, that of a philosophy major named Melanie, disappeared with a sharp crack when its head collided with the floor, and the figure that had smacked it down bellowed, “ACT! TWO! FURY!” With the shout, its face formed into the thickset jaw of a football player that Connor couldn’t quite place. It stalked across the stage, pummeling the two other faceless shades whenever they crossed his path and bellowing with primal rage. This continued for nearly a minute, until Dennis, the psychology major, approached the athlete from the side, raised his thin hand, and made a noise like a small explosion. A gout of fire blossomed from his outstretched hand, and the football player shade’s knee jerked sideways unnaturally. It continued to give its guttural ululations as Dennis emptied four more imaginary bullets into its chest, but gave an undignified whimper as the shade wearing Dennis’s face brought its fingers between the football player’s eyes and let loose the final round. Dennis laughed, looked around the stage as if searching for someone else to shoot, and then proceeded to shoot himself in a varied array of bodily parts before finally bringing the unseen firearm to his temple. The last shot was not gunfire, but a human roar. The three figures got up, arrayed themselves in a line for what seemed to Connor like the hundredth time that night, and bowed. Connor had tried to dig his fingernails into his arm to keep himself from drifting, but exhaustion and pain were beginning to set in with an oppressive cruelty. Eventually, he hoped that the figures would fail to notice his mind wandering and instead just tried to stay awake. Then, one of the figures formed his face. A Connor shade stood opposite a Kelly shade, and the Connor shade was grabbing frantically at its thigh. “Why the fuck aren’t you helping me? Huh? Are you too busy being scared and blonde and fucking perfect? Too fucking afraid to die? Let’s see how fun it is for you!” The Connor shade swept its arm in an arc under the Kelly shade’s waistline, which stood motionless for a second until its leg fell out from under it. She screamed and fell at the Connor shade’s feet as the real Connor sat transfixed. “Yeah, I’m afraid that I can’t help you because I’m just too fucking scared, Kelly, because I’m in the exact same goddamn situation as you are except that I haven’t received any sort of bodily harm!” The Connor shade raised its foot and stomped on the Kelly shade as she lay on the floor, continuing to shout, “What, can’t make a bandage out of your designer fucking clothing? Huh? Don’t expect me to help you stop the bleeding, because all I’ve been good for up to this point is stating! The! Obvious!” The last three words were punctuated by especially vicious strikes, until the Kelly shade lay still and her gasps

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stopped. As the Connor shade shuffled offstage, Connor heard Kelly to his right, “Jesus Christ, what the f-“ And the third figure was there. “LISTEN!” Its narrow foot shot downward and Connor heard a crunch. Kelly convulsed in pain and grasped at her foot, but the figure only shouted again, “LISTEN!” and brought its foot down again. This time, Kelly bit down on her hand and muffled her own scream. The third figure leaned toward her, but when she didn’t move and didn’t cry out, it moved to rejoin its companions to bow and commence the next scene. The three continued with various tableaus of abuse, denial, and rage while Connor and Kelly sat in silence. He could tell that she was choking back tears, but any evidence of her pain was gone when she spoke to Connor next. Her voice was quiet, steady, and Connor thought he sensed determination. “I think I know what these things want.” She paused, and took a deep breath. “My mom always told me that all anyone ever wants to be is loved. These things … They’re alone and bitter and vicious, but none of this was brought about by love. Right?” Connor glanced to the figures, which were all performing and hadn’t noticed Kelly’s aside. “So … what are you going to do?” He felt guilty for the pain that Kelly had experienced, but his own pain carried him far short of the point of empathy. A cold feeling had begun to creep up his side, and he tightened his makeshift tourniquet. “Something, which is more than you’ve done,” Kelly sneered, “asshole.” Business major Kelly stood up and limped slowly but deliberately toward the figures’ reenactment of Debbie the astronomy major beating her parents with a table leg. After a short time, they stopped and looked to her but said nothing. She grabbed the nearest by the wrist and let her fingers trail down into its palm, where the figure grasped them gently. It cocked its head in puzzlement. Kelly moved closer and wrapped her arms around the shade, and Connor heard her gently cooing to it. “It’s okay. You really don’t have to be alone anymore. You’re loved. I love you. You’re not alone.” The shade’s arms embraced her in turn. “Do you really think that we would know what to do with love when we found it?” the figure asked. “What? Well, I don’t—augh!” Kelly let out a frantic scream as the shade’s fingers began to dig into her back. Connor saw blossoms of blood pool around the fingers’ points and he attempted to rise, but his leg forced him back down again. “A world full of dangers, diseases, sorrow, and death, and we, the most fortunate - the college students, the accountants, the corporate suits, the doctors, the housewives and househusbands—create our own monsters, and are eaten by them slowly, alive, and bit by bit. And you think you can solve that with your love.” Kelly began to scream as Connor heard her shoulder blades and ribs begin to crack under the shade’s grip, and although her legs went slack, the figure would not let her go. Its face changed from nothing, to Dennis, to Neil, to Lauren,

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to Connor, to a dozen other faces, all smiling, as its hands slowly broke Kelly within their embrace. “These faces. Did you love them?” the faces asked as they changed. “These boys and girls that cried out for affection inside their fragile frames, did you ever plan to show them any tenderness before you found yourself afraid to die? Did you know more about them than how badly you wanted to fuck them, or what their majors were? Or did you whore out your affection blindly with the hope that you would live?” Kelly stopped screaming, and the figure let her slump to the floor. The only movement her body made was the steady stream of blood coursing down from the holes in her back as her heart faintly coughed its last beats. The three shades advanced toward Connor. “This force,” they said in unison, “this anger, this despair, this guilt, this madness, cannot be stopped. It will consume you and everyone bearing host to it. You are weak and will be consumed by the strength of your weakness. You don’t even need us to do it for you, even if we do … Hasten the process.” The first shade picked Connor up by his chin, its fingers still hot and wet with Kelly’s blood, and hoisted him to his feet. “No matter how many ears bear audience, no matter how many voices attempt to comfort, we will always scream in the dark corners of every mind. Let us fester, and we grow. And none of us think that you pathetic souls deserve to walk this earth.” Connor found himself looking into his own face, his own eyes, and saw himself sneer. “You should have listened. Not that it would have done you any good.” The next day, campus authorities found three students dead in their rooms. They told anguished parents and other officials that calls like this were uncommon, but triple suicides had occurred in the past. Typically, a pact of some sort is common in the deaths of these individuals, and that in enclosed and angst-heavy settings like college dorms, these pacts could be common. Of course, the policemen neglected to mention that the students had had very few connections with each other, had no histories of mood disorders, and were reportedly normal by testaments of their grief-stricken acquaintances. The most unusual part, of course, was the methods of death that the students had suffered: The first had somehow managed to mutilate and behead himself with a contraband switchblade, the second had crushed herself under a dresser, and the third had slit his own throat from ear to ear with a shaving razor. The most evidence of cult activity that the policemen could find were the words that each student had burned into their walls, presumably with a cheap lighter: “SORROW” “FURY” And “LOVE.”

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photo by Sean Deckert


Things Fall Apart by Kaitlyn Knudson

It’s easy for me to forget I’m a part of this earth when I can’t see it or feel it. Back and forth, back and forth, I remind my legs, push out, push in, push out. I wince at the effort they are making; boy, are they working hard to keep my tiny body in rhythm. Stop thinking of the pain, I tell my brain. Swoosh, my feet brush over sand and some of it crunches in my mouth. I’m still too low to the ground. My skirt puffs out like a parachute but I’m helpless to pull it down; my hands are busy gripping the cold metal chains attached to my seat. Strands of hair tickle my face, sunlight has tangled itself inside of my hair now and won’t come out, and the top of my head has become a hotplate within seconds. But I won’t let the heat get to me. The red playground is becoming closer and farther, then much closer and much farther. Voices are being muffled by the wind now. I catch pieces of different conversations each time my body lunges forward. I’m high enough in the air now to stop pushing my legs so hard, to just let go. I darken my world by shutting my eyes and my body’s motion of back and forth, back and forth becomes instantly scarier. Now there is nothing but something that looks like a pitch-black chalkboard in front of me. I can draw my own scene onto this chalkboard; I can look at whatever I choose. I choose to remember what happened earlier that morning, because it’s hard for me to forget. Mrs. Sale’s classroom comes to life. There’s my math test on my desk in front of me, decorated with the debris of my eraser; I am struggling to find the correct answer. Somebody has turned on the TV right in the middle of our test, and I’m looking up at it as the girl in the seat next to me starts to shake, and covers her eyes with her palms. She’s falling apart like those two buildings on the screen that everyone is staring at. I see them show the gray buildings before they start to crumble all over again, at one point the tallest buildings in the world, I hear the announcer say with a shaken voice. I look away, hoping to avoid it all, but I can’t avoid it. Because it’s everywhere around me, on every one of my friend’s faces, on Mrs. Sale’s face; they all wear the same pair of haunted eyes. Just like the pair of haunted eyes that was on Mommy’s face today. And on Daddy’s face. And maybe on my face, too.

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Why? Suddenly I slip out from my seat and let go of the metal chains I’ve been clamping onto for so long. My sweaty hands scream for joy as cold air reaches the spots in-between my fingers. In the air, the wind cools off my cheeks, my arms, my feet, what sweet relief. I can’t see anything. Not even the black chalkboard I drew my own scene onto, not those pesky little rays of pinks and blues that sometimes shoot around in my head when I close my eyes, not the white sand or the red playground bars or the blue sky. All that remains inside of me now is a loud, freeing noise, and it bubbles up to my lungs and spills out of my upturned lips, Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! And nothing exists but this noise, this one noise that I didn’t even have to think up, and there’s nothing going through my mind about today or yesterday or tomorrow. There’s nobody that exists to scare me or make me sob or make me worry. There’s only this noise at this exact moment. But I’m about to hit the ground. Soon the chalkboard will come back into my mind and I’ll see what else I saw today, because my ignorant flight can’t last forever. When I hit that ground with a thud my knees and hands sink deeper into the sand than expected, causing me to panic. Causing my body to let out a scream as pain jolts through it. Causing me to remember the people I saw on the TV screen, jumping away from the crumbling gray and out of the camera because they didn’t want to wait for the buildings to completely crumble. Causing me to remember the way that they have been screaming lately. It started out small, but built up over time. It would go from why did you spend our money on that? to why did you spend my money on that? to it just isn’t enough right now to I can’t do this anymore to YOU’RE SO IMMATURE!!! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!!! And it always sounded the same to me: like hate. I see in my head the night that I smashed my face into my pillow, choking on it as I screamed and screamed and screamed, letting out every noise from my body. They never heard me, though. Two screaming adults always beat out one screaming kid. I take my place on my seat again, and continue going back and forth. In the air, I lunge my body forward, but don’t let go. I think about how it would feel to let myself fall, without my knees and hands to stop me in the sand. How it would feel to let my face sink into the sand instead, if I would worry so much about my face that I would forget about everything else. If I let myself just jump and fall, I wouldn’t have to watch them fall. Why? I understood the noises that came from their mouths when they screamed. But I still don’t understand why they existed. My house was full of beautiful noises for a long time. Like how Mommy and Daddy laughed together, in perfect pitch, and how they even picked on each other with love in their voices. Like the sound of Mommy’s heart pounding when she saw Daddy in a spiffy suit, dressed fancy to take her to dance one night a long time ago. I love you, they said to each

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other. I love you, they said to me. I love you, I said to them. I’ve heard the beautiful noises they make. Like the sound of Mommy humming while she washes my clothes. When I close my eyes I transport myself to that scene. I can hear it now, that dull, noisy hummm that the old washer sang, and then Mommy’s high, soft notes in comparison. The smell of lilac and cotton, of our house. I’m peeking at her from behind the open door, watching her close her eyes and smell my shirt before she folds it. Her humming is pretty, but kind of sad, too. It’s soft and harsh, rising and falling, and I recognize the tune. It’s to a love song, Mommy’s favorite, the one that she danced to when she and Daddy got married. She always told me I danced too, pounding my feet up against her tummy in perfect rhythm, and I always laughed when I thought about it. Mommy sees me staring at her from behind the door, but she keeps humming. I smile at her and she smiles at me and she suddenly grabs my hands and pulls me into her and pulls my body around and around until we’re both dizzy and laughing and fall onto the pile of clothes on the floor that smell like home. And I ask her, right then, how come we dance all the time but not her and Daddy. How come they never dance anymore, how come they never swing each other around and laugh like they used to? Mommy gets up, picks up a shirt to fold again and tells me it’s because Daddy never asks her to dance anymore. Why? I erase that scene in my mind now because I want to think of another one. The last time I saw Daddy and Mommy dance. I hear the sound of Daddy’s laugh when he sees Mommy and me dancing around the living room to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” He has just come home from work very early and did not expect to see us with feather-boas wrapped around our necks and hairbrushes in our hands spinning and belting it out, I don’t think. And when he walks in we both freeze and he freezes, suitcase in hand, and everything is so silent save for Baby, there ain’t no mountain hiiiiiigh enough screaming in the background. And suddenly he starts to snort over and over again and his stomach is shaking and Mommy starts to swivel her hips, shake her head, and I’m just standing in between them with a big smile on my face. Mommy dances over to Daddy still shaking her hips and reels him in with her hot pink feather boa and Daddy throws his arms over Mommy’s neck and they are grinning and grinning and I just stand there and watch them. Daddy is being silly, imitating the lady on the CD with his mouth and he’s doing it so funny that Mommy has tears coming out of her eyes. And it’s so funny because at this moment I feel like being an adult isn’t much different from being a kid. But I don’t know what that feeling is like anymore, because they don’t act so silly with each other anymore. Erase, erase, I tell my brain. And that scene is gone and I’m still moving back and forth.

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Another one is appearing. I see my kitchen entering my brain, on that one day when I had a history project due. I had it lying on the kitchen counter, all neatly handwritten in cursive, and Daddy came into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of milk. I noticed the milk was scary close to my paper so I reminded him to watch his elbow. I know, I know, sweetie he mumbled but he was too busy looking at the paper, circling all kinds of sections of it in red pen and fiddling with his tie. He’s nervous about something I think. So nervous that he goes to fix his tie again and ker-plunk there went his glass of milk all over my paper! Daddy’s face goes so red and he cries out he’s so sorry, and he tries to save my paper. But we both know it’s useless. I’m about to scream at him that I’m going to fail everything, but then he held up my essay dripping milk and said I hope your teacher has some Oreos on hand for when she reads this. And I end up laughing so hard my stomach and my back hurts. And I pretend I’m my teacher, dipping my Oreo cookie into my paper and muttering A+! Daddy calls me a goober as he wipes the counter clean. He scoops the broken bits of his cup into the garbage bin and sighs, one less dish to clean, he jokes. I tell him Mommy and I get the cups now because he broke his and he tells me he supposes I’m right, the last two cups are ours. Why? I’m getting higher in the air now, and the hairs on my arm are sticking up. I’m coming up with another scene. The white snow is turning brown outside our house. We’re sitting in the cold, cold house in blankets and jackets and nobody is talking. We would usually drink hot chocolate around this time, it is Daddy’s favorite, but Mommy didn’t buy any this year. Daddy is online again, like he was for most of the day. His hair is messy and I laugh at it but Mommy doesn’t. Instead Mommy explodes, throwing her blanket off of her and screaming It’s too damn cold in this house! Elena’s going to freeze to death, Amos! My daddy keeps staring at the screen but his fingers stop moving. I’m trying, Leah. Can’t you see that I’m trying? he says. It’s ok, guys, I’m trying to tell them. I’m perfectly warm, I’m perfectly warm until you moved, Mommy, I’m cold right now but if you come over here I’ll be perfectly warm. I want to change the subject. Mommy just needs to put her blanket back on and she’ll be okay. But her face is scrunching up right now, making her look like what I think she will look like when she’s a grandma. I always thought she was the prettiest mommy a girl could have. Everyone else at school had old mommies, but not me. Mine was pretty. But right now she’s staring at him with a wrinkly forehead and slanty eyebrows, making her look old and mean. I’ve never seen her looking so mean because that’s not who she is. Even when I was five and she caught me coloring hearts all over the wall in crayon, she kissed my forehead and told me it was beautiful. But I think if I did that right now she would yell. I feel like I’m the only one trying, Amos! Trying to make this work for us, trying to save our asses from freezing, for God’s sake, and I’m sick of not talking about

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it, I hear her say as her teeth chop together. Leah, it’s not as easy for me as it is for you, Daddy shouts. You finished high school. I still have a semester to go if I ever can finish. You don’t understand how that still affects me in this economy, he says, it’s not easy— My scene is interrupted by the wind that’s slapping into my face; I’m up as high as I can get now. I open my eyes for a second because I don’t like to think about this scene. But I still think about it with opened eyes. Why is the house full of ugly noises now? Of crying. Of screaming. Of shouting. Of dead silence. Why don’t they love each other? Is it because they were too perfect? Because they were too powerful together? They used to make my Auntie Hayley, who Mommy says is too dependent on men, say words like “Well, some of us are just lucky” when they talked about each other. She said they were her “beacon of hope” one time, I heard it, one time when we went over to her house, Mom and I. She had been crying over another guy that fell out of her life. Now my mommy and daddy are falling. Once they fall, I don’t think they can ever be fixed. It is never going to be the same. Why? My eyes are closed again, and I’m back in the cold, cold room, watching Mommy’s face, a face so mad I can picture smoke coming out of her ears. Daddy is trying to make her better but he’s getting angry, too. I’m the only one that can save them right now, the only one on the outside, and I’m listening to them yell, trying to find a way in, trying to find something to say to cool them off. Daddy yells: What do you want me to do, Leah? I’ll sell the computer, if it will make you shut up god—dangitt, it’s not as easy as we thought it would be, let’s just admit it, okay? Maybe we should have listened to our parents after all, would that have made you happy? It all comes tumbling out of his mouth really fast and then he puts his forehead in his hands and shuts his eyes after saying that. His elbow is smooshing the keyboard, and a repeat of aaaaaaaaaaaa fills the page up. Mommy looks older than a grandma now, like a dead person, her face is so ashy. Well I don’t regret anything, if that’s what you’re saying, she says. I could have gone to college, remember? Could have taken that trip to France, could have had more security than this. But I don’t regret anything! So why do I feel like you do, sometimes? She points her finger at him. No, Leah, I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it at all. Daddy looks at me when he says this and I’m trying to mouth to him that geesh, Mommy looks scary, but he turns away too soon. That was your lifeline, Daddy. That was your chance to laugh, to smile, to cool off! I want to scream at him. Sometimes I just wish we would have waited, you know, Daddy whispers. I hear all of our teeth chattering, and the brown snow dropping off the roof. We never go dancing anymore, Mommy whispers. I didn’t know we could afford to, Daddy says. You sillies, you don’t need to go to the dance class to dance, I want to shout. You’ve done it before right in this very room, remember! Mommy drops back down to the floor and buries her face in her knees. Daddy’s

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face is still in his hands. And I’m still cold because nobody is sitting beside me to warm me up. And I’m still believing that I can save them, that it’s not serious, that everything will be okay. Why? Then it happens. I chalkboard what else I saw today, because it’s so hard to forget. Mommy is cutting my PB&J into a heart shape like she always does. I’m sitting on the counter, swinging my legs. Do you remember Auntie Hayley? Mommy asks me. Wasn’t her little house so cute? What one? I wonder. The one with the swings out back and the pool and the garden, Mommy reminds me. I’m trying to picture this place in my mind when Daddy comes out with a suitcase and a briefcase and his jacket and that’s it. And he’s staring at his shoes when he walks. And Mommy stares at my sandwich. And I’m staring straight at them both and I know something is about to happen, but I’m not sure why. Why does Daddy have the suitcase, I ask them. He’s going to be on vacation for a while, Lena, Mommy says to me. I don’t want him to go on vacation, who’s going to help me with my math homework? Daddy knows all about math, Mommy doesn’t know anything about it. Mommy can paint and draw but Daddy knows how to do math and I can’t have him being on vacation. Daddy looks at my face. His mouth is hanging open and he’s breathing really slow and his forehead is crinkled. Elena, he says. I love you so much. But there is only dead silence after that. Mommy is still looking at my sandwich. I turn to her. Mommy! I’m whispering, pulling at her shoulder. Mommy, tell Daddy he can’t take a vacation! Who’s going to help me at my math, Mommy! But she doesn’t say anything, she just keeps her mouth quiet and lets tears squiggle down her face and I don’t know why she lets that happen. They are both stiff, stuck, and struck with sadness. And I’m finally realizing just how long it’s been before they ever laughed together or poked fun at each other or danced. I think they forgot how to dance, they’re so stiff. Maybe they thought they were safe one time, a long time ago. Maybe they thought that they could never forget how to dance, or how to laugh. Maybe they got too comfortable. But now Daddy is hugging me and he’s picking up his suitcase and briefcase and he’s walking out the door in a rush, and I think I can hear his heart pounding so loud, all of our hearts are pounding so loud. Why? I love those two. I look up at them and see the world, look up and see strength, safety, see how it feels to not be scared of anything. But now they are falling apart. There is an attack on them and it feels like I never even saw it coming; maybe my eyes were just closed. There is an attack on me because there’s an attack on them. And I don’t want to watch it happen. I’m high enough now where I can jump again. But right before I’m about to, I catch myself and stay attached to my seat. No scenes come to my mind. Instead, I open my eyes and can see the white sand, the red playground, the blue sky again.

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It’s not that simple, I can hear Mommy and Daddy tell me. Life is not that simple. Why? I think I know why. Because people live in my life. And they cry and smile and hate and love and shout and laugh and sing and screech. And they make me do all of these, too. And if I let my body fall out of my seat right now, I won’t be able to feel anything. Not afraid. Not confused. Not hurt. Not for at least a second, and maybe if I fall hard enough, not for a long time. But maybe I won’t be able to feel other ways, too. Like strong. Like brave. Like hopeful. What if I wasn’t ever able to feel how it feels to laugh ever again? To feel a smile stretch my face out and fill my insides with everything beautiful? What if it meant I could never feel my mom kiss my forehead and my dad tickle my stomach until it hurt? If I pretend that it’s just me that exists and nothing else, I won’t be able to hear Mom and Dad scream. But I won’t be able to hear them tell me that they love me, too, and that it’s going to be okay one day. So I plant my feet onto the ground, stopping my motion of back and forth. Because I know now that I want to live, to feel the ground under my feet, even when there are towers falling apart all over it.

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photo by Diana Lustig


Rumors Said, Germs Spread by Stevi Rollinson

Mr. Morris put the whole service on hold that Sunday. That’s when it all started … the flu epidemic of ‘69. Belting those hymn notes like an Italian opera star. Then, bam. Knocked Miss Mona flat into the aisle, landed sprawled over her belly-up. Even drooled on the poor woman, his mouth hanging open wide enough to see every silver filling. Miss Betty peeled off those dainty lace-trimmed Sunday gloves, and dragged the squealing Miss Mona out from under him by the armpits. All Miss Mona could do was pat down the sides of her pink tweed dress as all of Piedmont Methodist glimpsed her polka-dotted bloomers. Not a soul was missing from church that Sunday. If sweet Jesus Himself had walked through the doors, He would have been pressed to find a seat. When the town doctor came striding up from the back pew, glossy black hair parted and slicked over, Miss Mona’s cheeks went from pink to red. Miss Betty’s little brothers were still snorting like piglets under hand-covered faces at the thought of Miss Mona’s polka-dotted under garments. Whispers from all four corners of the church rumbled up to the rafters. The poor preacher stood up there looking more lost than the shepherd’s sheep he’d been preaching about. “If he went, he went singin’ to Jesus!” A deep voice declared from the back, fist up in the air. I rolled my eyes. This was all a little dramatic, if you ask me. My mama dabbed at her eyes with her silk handkerchief. Please. The man was not even dead … Most likely. “If ya gotta go, ya might as well go singin’ to Jesus,” someone else added. “Hallelujah for that!” The Doctor shook his head as he knelt over Mr. Morris—still sprawled on the floor, right where he landed. I couldn’t stop myself from glancing around the church, looking for my best friend Katie. I swear—every jaw in God’s holy house had to be hanging open. When I finally did find Katie, I stared across the aisle and tried to catch her gaze, but had no luck. I even tried doing a “yoo-hoo, over here” wave until my mama nudged my side with her elbow.

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Miss Mona limped over to a pew two rows ahead of us, pulled a tube of lipstick from her purse, and slathered it on behind a church flyer. When the Doctor glanced over, she rolled her eyes back into her head, and fanned herself. She even fell over on the pew side-ways, the back of her hand landing on her forehead like any distressed damsel worthy of the name. One broken nail and a bruised shoulder, and the woman lay limp, reclining herself on that hundredyear-old pew like it was her own plastic-coated living room sofa. After service, Miss Mona walked home to her cottage on Rosewood lane, flipped pages of novels poolside, applied her monthly henna rinse, and rolled fresh, coffee-colored locks into sponge rollers. An after-incident check-in call from Miss Betty turned into an hour-long conversation—naturally—complete with a mentioning of every name in Mississippi. Monday, Miss Mona grocery shopped, clipped the hedges, bleached the kitchen floor, and spent her evening laboring over a fiend of a crossword puzzle. How do I know all this? Miss Betty at church club. Told me—told all of us— every single detail. Miss Mona told Miss Betty everything, of course. When Tuesday came, six blankets layered over Miss Mona, the middle of August, the heat turned up, and she shook with the shakes like it was ten below in her bedroom. “You could cook an egg on your forehead, Miss Mona,” the Doctor said with the back of his hand resting on her face. “Mr. Morris musta passed you that bug. You’d be best stayin’ right here in bed for a while.” Miss Mona wore her cherry red lipstick. The woman could barely breathe, but she wore her cherry lipstick. After Mr. Morris went down like that in the good Lord’s house, Miss Mona was dreaming if she thought anyone was risking that kind of contagious fate in a town like Piedmont. But she kept the silver tube on her night-stand, anyway, ready to reapply in case anyone special stopped by. Only the Doctor stopped in that week. “Why, Miss Mona, don’t you look just lovely,” he would greet her each evening, take her temperature with a glass thermometer, and lay a cool wash cloth on her forehead. When he walked toward the door to let Miss Mona rest, his stride more drawn out than usual, Miss Mona would stop him, “Doctor, I’m too ill to be alone.” And so, he sat by her bed and read to her until the moon was in the sky, and the crickets sang outside. On Friday, the Doctor drifted off while reading; only made it half way through page twenty-two. His head slumped on his shoulder, his face covered in a whiskery shadow, his long eyelashes fanned out at the end of his closed eyelids. Miss Mona could not help herself. She up and pinned the Doctor to his seat, one scrawny, pale leg on each side of him, and planted her cherry coated lips on his. The Doctor twitched and squirmed, disoriented as he woke up, but Miss Mona didn’t stop. The woman nearly sucked his lips right off before he came out of his haze and kissed her back.

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On Saturday, the Doctor visited old Mrs. Walters. On a house-call, he pulled a kabob skewer from little Mikey Jones’ hand. He ate spaghetti for dinner, and did two loads of laundry before bed. On Sunday, like every Sunday, he went to service and took his son Bobby to visit his mother in the church cemetery. On Monday—on Monday, with the air conditioning blasting through the window unit at sixty-five degrees, in only his Fruit of the Loom briefs, he dripped in a hot fever-y sweat. Miss Betty was the Queen of Gossip. She would have made one hell of an investigative reporter. If Miss Betty was the Queen of Gossip, Miss Mona was her Lady in Waiting. Miss Betty abided by no rules and held nothing sacred … not even the business of her best friend. A merciless woman, if you ask me. “She tied him up, I heard,” Miss Betty said to the sewing club on Tuesday. “It’s not like we all didn’t see it coming. No surprise there.” This news was no surprise to me. Especially, since I saw the Doctor on Saturday with a familiar shade of red on his collar. I kept my lips locked. Let it go. I didn’t throw away the key, though. I could need it later in a town like Piedmont. “No surprise? The Doctor hasn’t dated for years! And her?” someone said from the far end of the room. “That red-lipstick wearin’ hussy, don’t deserve him one bit,” someone else said. “Mhm.” “Uh-huh.” “Got that right.” Miss Mona brought the Doctor chicken noodle soup every day that week. Her mama’s recipe. She about threw out her back pulling the oak rocking chair into the Doctor’s bedroom from the living room, so she’d have a place to sit by his bed. She hung curtains, and washed dishes. She cleaned, and organized, and mopped, and dusted. Navy blue walls, stained mahogany floors. All that was bright in the house was Bobby’s smile, hanging over the mantel piece in the portrait his mother painted the year she passed. When Miss Mona opened the blinds, she let the sun shine in; the way it hadn’t for a while. It didn’t make getting better any easier on the Doctor that Bobby was leaving for college that Friday. Heading to Ole Miss on a football scholarship. Eighteen years old, handsome like his daddy. The whole town knew the day was coming. Quarterback Bobby—smart, thoughtful, never caused much trouble. There wasn’t a girl in Piedmont who hadn’t drawn a heart around his face in the high school yearbook. Bobby wasn’t always prime real estate with the ladies. He used to have buck teeth and a sad, lopsided bowl cut back in grade school. The one thing he had going for 59


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him was speed. Bobby was the fastest boy in the class. It just so happened I was the fastest girl. We were relay race partners at the annual Spring Fair two years in a row. We were a team. A speedy dynamic duo. Best friends. Everything changed when he showed up on the first day of high school. His junior high braces were off. Turned out, behind all that crisscrossed metal was a movie star smile. His hair was shorter, and his skin buttery smooth. I had seen him all summer. We had played football in the park every Sunday. I couldn’t decide if Bobby was sexy before, or if I was late to notice. All I knew was that I was in love. When I dropped a hint to Bobby’s best friend, the rumor spread. Fast. Didn’t take long before we were a couple. He didn’t seem to realize he was a hunk until he made the Varsity football team as a freshman and got “groupies.” A band of teenage girls obsessed with “all things Bobby.” It was all downhill from there. But he was faithful, and I figured that was all that mattered, so I let it go, like my mama always told me to do. Bobby and I were inseparable for all of high school. With Bobby being so gorgeous and all, I dealt with some competition over the years, but I didn’t let it get to me. Martha. She didn’t even try to hide it. I knew she had a thing for Bobby when she baked him brownies for his birthday freshman year in February. She was a member of the church choir and one of those feminist activists. Bobby told me he thought she was a little loony. The girl wouldn’t even wear a bra under her dress. The boys at school didn’t mind the sight of her nipples drilling through her shirt, though. Martha was … well, gorgeous. Her hair was long and blonde and her skin was a flawless alabaster. Bobby didn’t seem to show any interest, so I let it go. Susie lived on my block, seven houses down. Bobby and I took walks in the summer. The summers in Mississippi were humid, but lovelier than anywhere else in the world. The Magnolias blossomed in the spring, and left their fragrance lingering ‘til the far end of summer. One day, Bobby and I were walking on my street. My eyes looked down at the old, cracked sidewalk as Bobby tucked a Magnolia flower behind my ear. Just as I looked up, Susie came flying down her steep drive way on her bike. Crashed straight into the trash cans on the curb. Bobby ran over to Susie, and knelt beside her. I thought I saw their eyes meet for a moment, but I told myself it was a look of pity from Bobby—I let it go. Katie had been my best friend since before we were born. She was born just nineteen days before I was. Our mamas were best friends, too. They always told us they pressed their pregnant bellies together to introduce us before we were born. Katie lived the street over on Cypress lane. She spent a lot of time with Bobby and I. She pretty much did everything with us. My mama called her the third wheel, but only when she wasn’t around. She and Bobby became best friends, too. I was thrilled for a while. Then, Katie became Bobby’s “go-to-girl” for advice, and everything else for that matter. I admit I was a little jealous. I always had thought I was his go-to-girl. But I didn’t want to show my jealous

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side. Nobody likes a “Jealous Janet” so, of course I let it go. I mean, Bobby still loved me, it wasn’t a big deal. Plus, I trusted Katie. She knew her boundaries. Thursday night, the Doctor was feeling well enough to help Bobby load up his old Chevy. Everybody knew he would have helped his boy pack even if he ended up flat on the ground like Mr. Morris. When it came time to watch Bobby chug away the next morning in that beat up truck, the Doctor kissed him on the forehead and hugged him for what had seemed like minutes; finished with one of those grand-finale, firm handshakes. Nobody had seen the Doctor’s face like that since the day he buried his wife. Before Bobby clunkered off down the highway, he had a few more good-byes to make. Hand slick and sweaty on that steering wheel, spreading those sweet, sick germs. Neither he nor his daddy thought twice about spreading sick germs, got a little caught up in the moment; forgot about the sick germs altogether. On his way out, he stopped at Martha Humphrey’s house. Then, Susie Goodman’s. Then, Katie Sullivan’s … Oh, it’s a wonder her didn’t run out of gas before he even left town, all the stops he made! Some people think he did it on purpose. As a farewell statement maybe. Something to be remembered by. Some people say he wanted to cut contact from tiny Piedmont altogether. Four girlfriends? Lord musta been helping that boy. To pull something off like that in a town of two-thousand: A true miracle. I would never have guessed. By the time he got around to coming to my house, I was standing there in the front yard. I had been waiting on him for twenty minutes. I told myself I wouldn’t cry when he left. I knew I would anyway, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to work with a little motivation. The sun was right overhead. My eyes squinted as he chugged up in that old beat-up, pile-a-junk. He gave me that big smile; his eyes crinkled in their corners as his mouth drew upward. He grabbed both my hands, laced fingers, and held them as he kissed my mouth, right there on my mama’s door step. It only took me one second to taste it. “What kind of lip balm have you been wearin’?” I asked. “I like it.” “Mint, the same kind I’ve always worn.” He licked his lips, and smiled. “You know that, Ruthie.” I stared up at him, and stepped backwards. The taste—it wasn’t mint. It was grape as grape got. In fact, Katie wore the same flavor. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’d stolen her purple tube of gloss. It had to be the same brand he was wearing. There was only one drug store in Piedmont, and that’s the only place it was sold. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to end up throwing bricks at each other in the front lawn like Miss Betty and her last boyfriend. Oh no, no. No fights were on the day’s agenda. I just gave him a tight squeeze, and sent him off. Didn’t kiss

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him again. The first taste of grape gloss on his lips had been enough for me. I waved goodbye in the middle of the street. Put on my sad face. And just when he got far enough, I stuck up a nice, French-manicured middle finger. Three days passed. Saturday, Sunday, Monday. When Tuesday came, I coughed, I ached, I couldn’t move. I told my sweet mama a lie. I knew lying was a sin, but I had no choice. I couldn’t bear to tell her I kissed Bobby when his daddy had been ill all week. Turns out, Katie was also home in bed, too … sick. So were Martha and Susie. If I didn’t risk tossing my cookies in route, I would have marched myself over to Katie’s. I was that furious. When my mama asked how I thought I got sick, I told her I shared a milkshake with Katie on Saturday. She didn’t ask questions. She just left the bedroom with the Doctor’s phone number on a piece of paper clutched in her hand. The Doctor didn’t answer. She tried three times. By Wednesday, I was running a ferocious fever. When my mama had a sick baby, she transformed into a superhero. Faster, stronger, she could even read the small print on the back of the medicine bottle with no help from young eyes. When she up and got into her Impala to drive over to his house on Cottonwood Lane, I knew I was sicker than I thought. Twenty minutes later, she was back. I sat by the door, looking through the front window, pressing my hot face against the cool glass. I could tell by the look on her face as she stomped through the grassy lawn. Heaving those nyloned knees up, pulling her heels out of the soft ground every couple of seconds, purse swinging every direction. “The Doctor is gone,” she said, as she slammed the door behind her. “I can’t believe it.” Well, neither he nor Miss Mona had been at church on Sunday, after all. I figured he was still too sick to be out. I figured Miss Mona was holding his hand bedside—the whole sappy lover’s bit. If the Doctor had gone somewhere, Miss Mona went with him. No way she hadn’t. Miss Mona didn’t have anything keeping her in Piedmont. The woman was unmarried and … well, ugly. Poor thing. Bless her heart. She hadn’t worked a day in her life. Lived in the house her grandmamma left her, and lived on whatever else she inherited. Spoiled. Those two had left town. They didn’t tell a soul before they did. Left me sick—after Bobby did what he did. Oh, I would have screamed if my throat wasn’t red and raw. My mama called Lynn Sullivan to check on Katie. I knew my mama really called to see what Lynn knew about the Doctor and Miss Mona. Lynn said she heard somebody saw them at a gas station the town over. The back of the Doctor’s Camaro read “Just Married” in white paint. When my legs gave out in the entry way, my mama let out a shriek—the last thing I heard before everything went black. Pins and needles. Like a thousand pins pressing into my skin. Not painful at all, but they sure woke me up. The pin-points tingled. My face felt hot the way it did 62


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after a jog in the summer sun. Sweat beads dripped from my hair line. I could feel each pump of my heart in my cheeks. “Dunk your head, Ruthie!” I recognized my mama’s tone. She had the same one when I ran my Beetle into the tree at the end of the street. She had the same one when that tornado came through a couple years back. With that, I gasped in a large breath, filling my cheeks like a balloon. I sunk my body under the water with one jolt. Pins and needles stuck me again. This time they stung. I opened my eyes. The ice cubes were more like little ice balls now, floating at the surface of the tub. My hair floated around my head. I liked the way my skin was a blue-white color underwater. I knew I looked just like a mermaid, all pale, hair flowing. Two arms grasped my shoulders, pulling me up from the water. I gasped for air. The satisfaction of the humid air rang through my senses. An uninvited thermometer stabbed through my lips and poked under my tongue. The back of my mama’s hand landed on my forehead, flopping around up there like a dying fish. When the Doctor finally came back from his little “honeymoon,” I was sick. More than sick. My mama even had the preacher come over to say some prayers with me. I could tell she was the real kind of worried. Everybody was. I knew the Doctor felt terrible about leaving me ill. I knew he left on a whim. It wasn’t like he even knew I was that sick when he left. “I had no idea,” he kept saying over and over. What I wanted to tell him was that I had already forgiven him. I couldn’t say it because I couldn’t get the words across my lips. I couldn’t muster the energy. The Doctor told me in a cheerful tone that Katie had made almost a full recovery. The Doctor really did have “no idea.” He hadn’t an idea about what Bobby did. He had no idea what Katie did to me. Martha and Susie were hussies, but they hadn’t hurt me like Katie did. I was more upset with Katie than Bobby. Deep down, I knew Bobby had been doing me wrong for a long time. I had been letting it go to save myself the trouble. But Katie had betrayed me. Betrayed me hard enough to make me realize it was time to stop letting go. Then, I did let go … somehow. My eyes couldn’t fight anymore. They shut again, and I was a mermaid. Swimming, swimming.

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photo by Sean Deckert


Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level by Elizabeth (Liza) Brown-Moore

Keep her steady, keep her level. Six short words; simple to repeat, easy to remember, and soothing to my soul. Of all the sayings my father has used in the course of his life, “tap-er-light,” “you bet’chum red rider,” or the silly ones he invented himself when he was having a good time, like “he-whale-uh,” his most profound will forever resonate in my mind— Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. He coined the phrase one blustery fall afternoon as he and I circled the skies above Bisbee, Arizona in his rented 182 Cessna. We were descending through thick black clouds. Pelting rain was making a pinging sound as it bounced off the body of our plane. We had to circle the airport twice; another plane in front of us had first dibs on the airport’s only runway. The air was “choppy,” my father said, a kinder term for turbulent. I was not easily comforted at his attempt to give the illusion our circumstances were somehow less dangerous; I was scared to death. My small skinny fingers clutched tightly around the co-pilot’s inactive steering wheel. It was all I could do to keep my little body from bouncing around in my seat. As the wings dipped up and down in the bumpy thin air, I heard my father quietly say “keep her steady, keep her level.” His words were barely audible over the sounds of the whirring propeller, but there was no mistaking the aura of calm and control that seemed to envelop the airplane’s cab. I silently repeated the words I heard my father say to himself. “Keep her steady, keep her level.” And soon thereafter we were making a final approach to a safe landing on the gravel runway. My fear of flying has not diminished in the many years that have passed, but just as a pacifier does for a baby, the mere repetition of his words sooth me any time I am faced with life’s scary moments. Like the skies we were landing in that day, my relationship with my father has had its own share of turbulence. My father was not as forgiving as my mother in my transgressions of youth. Mom could turn her head to many of my most memorable moments, like sneaking out at night through the small hand crank bedroom window or smoking cigarettes with the maids in the downstairs

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laundry room, and for most of my teen years she never expressed much of an opinion to my strange dress code and heavy makeup. She wrote these antics off as “stages,” believing firmly I would eventually come around and be a strong, independent woman. My father didn’t share in her faith, he could see no further than past his sad memories of a teenage sister he lost to men and alcohol. I spent most of my growing years seeking his approval, not understanding I was distancing myself from him further with bad grades, large breasts, heavy makeup, and clothes that made me look and act much older than I really was. Finally, at the age of eighteen I threw in the towel, dropped out of college and got married. I became everything my father expected of me—nothing. He was not surprised or disappointed, but I am sure my mother was. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. Time and age have a way of healing many wounds and eventually my father and I reached a silent agreement to forgive, but not necessarily forget. My divorce from a man he did not care for and his own subsequent parting of the ways from my mother are probably the most contributing factors to the camaraderie and friendship we forged later in life, and which today bring me to this building where Dad has made a final landing. The big, white heavy door that I face is always locked; there is no entry or exit for anyone who doesn’t know the sequence of random numbers that make the tumblers turn. The sign above the doorbell says “please ring for attendant.” Sometimes the lady behind the sliding glass window will come from the back office and say hello, most of the time she hits the buzzer and I enter. It’s easier now, they recognize me, they know who I am and why I keep coming. It’s important to be recognized, to be let in, so you can also be let out. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. I prefer to be buzzed through and not have to talk to anyone, spared from the jibber jabber and fake smiles I am forced to endure for someone else’s benefit. “Welcome back. He’s doing great. He’ll be so happy to see you. He’s such a sweet man. We just love him.” This idle chatter is mostly for the benefit of the next poor bastard who has parked his car in the space marked ‘future resident’ who now sits in the lobby, waiting to tour the place where his loved one will be treated with dignity. I cringe every time I hear this phrase; it sounds like something a mortician would say as he tells you how beautiful your loved one is going to look when he finishes his work. I’m not ready to equate death with Alzheimer’s. I can’t go there yet. This repository for old pilots like my father has a different interpretation of dignity than I do. How can you have dignity with a hole in your pants exposing a small part of your genitals? How can you look good if your hair isn’t combed or your face is full of scratchy gray whiskers? I suppose I will have to come to terms with the fact that personal grooming is done when it’s convenient, when they don’t have fifty other soldiers to take care of, or when they know in advance

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someone from the family is coming to visit. My little brother was right; don’t tell them you’re coming. Let’s see what five thousand dollars a month REALLY gets you. My little brother is usually right; it’s why I trust him. He understands empathy and he can feel my pain. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. The nurse’s push of a button leads to a loud buzz, followed by the click clack of locks unbolting. I have to move fast or the ten second allotment for pressing down on the metal bar will expire and I will have to deal with one of them. The thunderous bang of the heavy door behind me reminds me I am now on the other side, in their territory, locked in. I could be one of them if I were not able to convince the nurse it’s ok to let me out. I HAVE TO BE NICE TO THEM. I’ve seen what happens when you get in but you can’t get out. The short, stubby lady with the purple hat, ruby red lips pursed around her toothless gums. She’s hunched forward in her wheel chair, her leathery hands holding the rubber tires, her determined gaze straight on at the big heavy door, poised to take off like a jockey at the gate. Her purse is wedged between her knees, her wool socks are folded neatly over her bony ankles, which look out of fashion when worn with the glossy black heels that are planted firmly on the chair’s metal folding footrests. She’s waiting for someone to open THAT door; she told me, I need to go out THAT door. She thought I would be the one to set her free; she wasn’t about to miss her opportunity to bolt. A sad smile is all I can give her, any strength and courage I can muster has to be saved for dad. She senses I won’t be the one to find her miracle today and as if to remind me of that, she rolls here wheels back and forth, back and forth, seemingly telling me she has become nothing. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. I find my father sitting in a chair on the porch outside, smoking his cigarette gazing at the brown picket fence that surrounds him, not really understanding what he sees or what he is looking for. I see his lips mumbling words, trying to make a connection to something. But he can’t connect the dots because he has Alzheimer’s, and it is this distinction that allows him the privilege of residency at this place. The pieces of his life are stored by the people here who take care of him until God finally decides his time is up. There are sounds of other voices around me. I am fairly certain the sounds I hear are not joyous, for there is rarely any sound of laughter here. Dad is wearing his gray V-neck pullover and his blue hard hat is sitting firmly on his head. He’s in uniform, hard at work, occasionally getting up and walking the length of the grounds, North to South, South to North. As I continue watching him, I have to clutch the wood railing that surrounds the deck. I need the splintery boards to hold me just a little bit longer as I prepare to greet him and not be disappointed when he doesn’t know who I am. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level.

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Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level

I love the soft wool sweater he has on. He’s carried this with him for a large part of his life. If it wasn’t stuffed in the side pocket of his worn leather golf bag, it was draped over his arm or tied around his neck, always ready for the un-expected summer rain or the icy winter winds. The sleeves are hanging loosely from his elbows; the once tightly knit wool appears to have given way to years of wash and wear. If we were playing golf today, as we used to do in previous years when we got together, those baggy sleeves might interrupt his swift, steady swing. Today, that’s no longer a concern. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. I’m relieved my older brother had the presence of mind to make sure Dad had his sweater when he brought him here. He is not as close to Dad as I am; he is not as concerned as I am of the little incidentals that might make a difference to Dad’s confused state of mind. My brother’s worries are more profound, more mature. He worries about where the money’s going to come from to keep Dad here, what corners have to be cut, how much more can we up the dosage of Prozac to keep Dad from beating up the other men. My brother’s thoughts are not like mine, wondering if Dad is in a pain he can’t convey, or how much longer before he’s smothered to death by the plaque eating his brain. My older brother is focused and practical; he loves differently than I do. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. Dad’s hard hat probably looks funny to others, but not to me. I smile at him from my safe distance, watching him inspect the corners of his open pit mine. This area he is in is not a yard, it’s a copper mine, and his big white Ford company truck is parked outside, behind that brown fence. Dad knows he has to wear his hard hat when he’s out of his truck, mining safety laws require it. His silver curly hair that used to glisten in the early morning sun as he stepped up to the tee box for the first swing of the day has succumbed to the weight of the tough plastic hat and the tightness of the strap holding it in place. It’s comforting to me knowing he is safe, and if he should fall, or if the cigarettes he has started to smoke again after twenty years should cause him to get dizzy enough to faint, his hat will soften the blow to his head and protect his brain, hopefully keeping the plaque from shattering. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. I tell myself it’s time, time to interrupt his work, time to say hello, time to try to find the words to explain the unfamiliar face about to stand before him. I’m not sure how to do all of this, or how to get past the feelings of guilt for not taking him home with me. How am I going to live with myself when I leave here tonight, using the nurse as my decoy for escape, knowing I will be lying to him when I tell him I’ll be right back. Keep Her Steady, Keep Her Level. In my moment of worry and self-torment, as my legs want to buckle and tears start to gather in the wells of my eyes, a nurse has appeared at dad’s side.

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I realize when she nods at me that she remembers me from last month. She’s holding his elbow, guiding him towards me, whispering something in his ear. This is the part I dread every time, waiting to see if the look of confusion in his shimmering blue eyes will pass, hoping for a smile. I know the day will come when the nurse is too busy with someone else to tell Dad who is here, but that doesn’t appear to be the case today. Slowly, cautiously, the smooth lines that time has left on his face begin to form the circle of a smile. My arms reach out. I wait to feel his silky smooth whiskers on my cheek, and I am relieved when he says, “Hello daughter, where have you been?” As we sit together Dad and I know something has gone very wrong. Our bond has been ruptured and cannot be repaired, but still, I tell him I love him. As a child I was spanked for lying, as a teenager, I was always grounded, but today when I whisper in his ear and tell him everything will be ok, my lying is justified. I don’t want to tell him we lost the game, it’s time to leave the field. I want to continue to be his benevolent daughter who comes each month to nurture him, but truth be told, I am nothing more than a helpless observer. There is not much I can do, and I can’t seem to make him understand I still love him dearly. When I do finally leave here, I call my mother. Her voice is calm and trusting. She tells me I am a good daughter, she tells me I should be proud and to stay strong. She tells me, essentially, to keep her steady, keep her level.

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photo by Sean Deckert


photo by Sean Deckert


From Bio Class to the Bank: The Prep-to-Pro Athlete by Kenneth Crone

Duke University has always been synonymous with college basketball success. When many people think of college basketball they think of the Cameron Crazies, with Coach Mike Krzyzewski roaming the sidelines. Since Coach K has been at Duke, he has won four national championships, made it to 11 final fours and has 78 NCAA tournament wins, which is the most ever. One thing that stands out from what Coach K has done compared to the likes of, say, John Calipari, is that he recruits the top players in the nation but keeps them around for usually three to four years. They develop chemistry together the way no other school can, especially those who have players who leave after one season. It is the fact that the whole team is greater than the sum of its parts. The best example of this team concept was the 2009-2010 national championship team. The Duke starting lineup had three seniors and two juniors. Those two juniors have stayed for their senior seasons, leading a team deep into NCAA tournament again. None of these players are likely to be elite NBA players, and some may not even make an NBA roster, or even pursue an NBA career. Coach K described his team perfectly, “I’ve said throughout the year they were good, then they were really good, then they were really good with great character. But I told them [after the championship game] before we said a prayer, that: ‘You are a great team’” (Schlabach, 2010). It was their character and their chemistry that put them over the top in the NCAA tournament, not necessarily their overall talent level. If talent and hype won championships, John Calipari’s teams would win every year. In 2009, Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats had three of the best freshmen in the country, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Drew Bledsoe. This team had so much hype; it was as if you could let them cut the nets down before the season. But the team did not live up to the hype, eventually losing in the Elite 8. However, unlike the Duke Squad, the three fabulous freshmen bolted for the NBA. There was no way they could have replicated the years and time spent to develop the chemistry and character the way Duke had. The players had a different mindset; they were more focused on the fame and riches that awaited 73


From Bio Class to the Bank: The Prep-to-Pro Athlete

them in the NBA. Their stop at Kentucky was just a speed bump on the way to the NBA. Coach K’s strategy of recruiting players who want to stay for a long time has paid off, just look at his career accomplishments. What would you want, a great player who will leave after a year, or a team who can grow together for four years? For a long time, these types of freshman players were allowed to enter the NBA draft directly out of high school. Some success stories are Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwight Howard, and Kevin Garnett. These players came into the league very raw, but eventually matured into superstars. With every success story, there are failures, such as Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and Shaun Livingston. Now these players would not be allowed to enter the NBA. According to the 2005 collective bargaining agreement by the both the NBA and the NBA Players Association, the rules for entry into the NBA draft changed. “The player (A) is or will be at least 19 years of age during the calendar year in which the Draft is held … at least one (1) NBA Season has elapsed since the player’s graduation from high school” (NBPA, Player Eligibility and NBA Draft, Section 1(b) (ii)). This change affected an old rule that stated as long as players completed high school and forfeited their college eligibility, they could enter the NBA draft and have a chance to compete in the NBA. Since the rule changed in 2005, many of the top high school players in the nation go to college for only one season and then leave for the NBA. Many of these players would have entered the draft following high school. This has created the One-and-Done era in college basketball, where there is much more pressure on both recruiters and coaches to make it work in a very short period of time. The age-old basketball values of team first and chemistry built over a long period of time are now shown the door in favor of acquiring high talent individuals. While the chemistry might not be as important, the hype put around these players is immense. It is as if they are limited time offers at a store. They are only going to be around for a short while, so franchises must get them while they are hot. It also puts the concept of the student athlete in question, seeing that these players are only going to be there for one season, academics might become an afterthought to the most of them. Is this new rule good for the NBA and college basketball? College basketball thrives on having the best high school players in the nation, and they have the choice to attend almost any university they want. They can go to school on full ride scholarships, and basically are treated as kings the moment they step on campus. For coaches, getting one of the top recruits is a key to instant success. It can be a job saver for many coaches. In the college ranks, one stud can put a team on his back and they can go on a magical run deep into the NCAA tournament. Dwayne Wade led his Marquette Golden Eagles to a final four berth, and Carmelo Anthony took his Syracuse Orangemen all the way to a national championship. Not only are these athletes winning games for their schools, they are growing up in the process. Attending college is one of the most rewarding experiences in anyone’s life. Those who have attended school know 74


From Bio Class to the Bank: The Prep-to-Pro Athlete

exactly the meaning of this. These players grow up immensely at school, even if they are only there for one year. They learn to live by themselves, accept consequences for their actions, and do their own laundry, not to mention anything they learn in the classroom. College can be a life changing experience for people, and it teaches them who they really are, and who they want to become. Without this time in college, most players would not have the necessary maturity to excel in a grown man’s professional sport. College coaches really have a duty to groom these boys into men, and prepare them for whatever life they choose to lead, whether it is in basketball or elsewhere. Even more important than nurturing these players is to just acquire them for a different benefit, money. If these players do not attend school, universities around the country lose money. These players bring the schools national attention, ticket sales, merchandise sales, and maybe a deep run into the NCAA tournament: all things that net schools millions of dollars. Without them, the schools lose a lot of money that could be invested into their athletics program. College presidents will put thousands into recruiting budgets to acquire these players with the hope they will return the favor in the long run. Not only does this new One-and-Done rule affect college basketball, it has a large effect on universities, their presidents, their fans, and, indirectly, their budgets. These players can bring a lot to college basketball, and schools go through a lot to have the ability to recruit these players. What does it take? Money and time, and the top schools are spending more and more of it every year to get the top-level athletes. Kentucky, who had three One-and-Done players starting for them in 2010, spent $434,095 on basketball recruiting that year, according to Kentuckysports.com (2011). Kentucky is a public university, where most of its money comes from state funding. The state is currently trying to overcome a $165 million deficit in Medicaid. It is not a sound financial decision to spend about a half a million dollars a year on basketball players when millions of elderly people across the state are suffering from lack of medical care. The university has the right to do what it wants with its money, but with many schools suffering across the country with class sizes and overall funding, basketball-recruiting budgets should be reduced to compensate for more pressing issues. If coaches were not as pressured to recruit the top athletes, the budgets would go down, thus freeing more funds for academics and overall university improvements. These schools would only have to recruit one or two top athletes per year, not an entire team worth of them. By letting these players go straight to the NBA, it not only saves the schools thousands of dollars a year in recruiting, it also allows college coaches to focus on what most of them do best, coaching basketball. They can create a team from a group of young men, who can grow together over three or four years. The players who are not necessarily destined for NBA greatness usually make the best teams, because they truly play for love of the game. Look at the Butler

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From Bio Class to the Bank: The Prep-to-Pro Athlete

Bulldogs of the past two seasons. Butler is a member of the Horizon League, a mid-major conference that usually does not have the chance to recruit the top players in the nation. Their coach, Brad Stevens, preached to his players if they played with heart, and as a team, they could beat anybody. With no real “superstar” players, this team basketball got Butler to two consecutive national championship games. The first year they lost to Duke. That game was considered one of the best games of all time, with Butler barely missing a half-court shot at the buzzer. Basketball was meant to be a team game, and a great team cannot be built in one year, because chemistry cannot be recruited.

References

Article x - player eligibility and NBA draft. (n.d.). National Basketball Player’s Association. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from http://www.nbpa.org/cba/2005/ article-x-player-eligibility-and-nba-draft Novy-Williams, E., & Eichelberger, C. (2011, March 10). Kentucky basketball leads nation in money spent on recruiting. Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from http://www.kentucky.com/2011/03/26/1685078/kentucky-basketball-leadsnation.html Schlabach, M. (2010, April 6). Coach K cements place among the greats. College Basketball Nation Blog - ESPN. Retrieved May 3, 2011, from http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/10341/ coach-k-cements-place-among-all-time-greats

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photo by Ximena Camarena Lopez


No Scalpels Necessary: The Value of Choice by Stacey Cope

Abstract This paper investigates the harmful surgical procedures performed on hundreds of intersexual infants every year. The effects of these practices are both physically and psychologically traumatizing to the individuals involved. Surgery continues to be held as the standard procedure for intersexual patients in order to “normalize� the appearance of their genitals. Most surgeons believe if intersexual patients are left with their birth genitals they will be ostracized and lead less successful lives. Gender assignment surgery is done without the consent of the intersex child and, at times, without the consent of their parents. Even if the parents do give consent, they are often not provided with all the possible options and outcomes of such procedures. Gender assignment surgery holds many physical risks for intersexual patients including loss of genital sensitivity, loss of reproductive abilities, and painful scar tissue. Along with the physical dangers, many intersex patients feel a loss of trust in their doctors and the medical community. Free will is absent for intersex babies often leading to feelings of powerlessness and inferiority.

No Scalpels Necessary: The Value of Choice Each day is filled with a multitude of choices. Every morning, one might choose which outfit to wear, what to enjoy for breakfast, or which morning news channel to watch. Most people are grateful for the many choices presented each day and view them as basic human rights. One population is being denied these basic human rights of choice with forced cosmetic surgery. These people are referred to as intersexual. Doctors nationwide are deciding which gender an intersex baby should be (male or female), not in spirit—but physically, with invasive surgery. Surgical gender assignment is performed five times a day, leaving nearly 2000 children a year scarred physically and psychologically (Haas, 2004). Surgical gender assignment for intersexual infants produces unnecessary physical risks, destroys trust, and robs children of a momentous choice. 78


No Scalpels Necessary: The Value of Choice

Intersexuality is the term used to describe a number of various conditions in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit into the standard definitions of male or female (“What is intersex,”n.d.). There are chromosomal variations (an individual’s cells shares XX and XY genes) as well as different physical manifestations considered “ambiguous genitalia” (such as a large clitoris or no vaginal opening). These variations occur in about 1 in 100 births when considering the entire spectrum of differences (“How common,” n.d.). There are dozens of conditions that involve disparities in one’s chromosomal and/or genital structure, some of which do not appear until after puberty. Typically, the response to children born with any genital irregularities is to perform corrective surgery to make the genitals appear as normal as possible, as well as to provide lifetime hormone supplements to counteract any chromosomal differences (Dreger, 1998). Surgical gender assignment is performed with good intentions. Doctors and parents assume they are doing the child a favor in correcting their abnormality at an early stage. It is assumed the child will have a more difficult, traumatic adolescence living with their birth genitals. These assumptions have very harmful repercussions. These surgeries are risky, may be irreversible and frequently decrease genital sensitivity. Cheryl Chase, founder of the Intersex Society of North America, explains, “Surgery destroys genital anatomy and many intersexual children are subjected to repeated surgeries, over a dozen in some cases. Genital surgery disrupts the infant’s erotic development and interferes with adult sexual function” (Laurent, 2003). “Normalizing” surgeries are not performed because there is anything medically wrong with the child. These surgeries are purely cosmetic and for aesthetic purposes. It would be considered barbaric to give an infant any other kind of cosmetic surgery, yet this one holds as standard medical procedure. Any time a person is put under anesthesia there are significant physical risks, yet this happens to hundreds of children a year for the sake of attractiveness. Gender assignment surgeries are arbitrary, painful, and far too dangerous to go on as the standard medical practice for intersex individuals. The day of a child’s birth can turn from joy to fright for parents of intersexual children. Since intersexuality is so rarely spoken about, most parents do not have the first idea of what their options are or how to proceed. In this situation, the most important trait is open and honest communication about all aspects and options of intersexual life. Unfortunately, this is not typically the case. In some cases, the doctors have not even received consent from the parent (let alone the child) before performing gender assignment surgeries. Alice Domurat Dreger (1998) explains in her article, “Ambiguous Sex-or Ambivalent Medicine,” that many clinicians believe revealing the truth to either the parents or the child later in life will only complicate an otherwise successful surgery, and that it would be too hurtful for the family to deal with. The loss of trust is severely damaging to intersexuals. Their very identity is hidden from them, which increases feelings of shame when discovered later in life. Most doctors follow what is known 79


No Scalpels Necessary: The Value of Choice as the “concealment-centered model,” which is the practice of gender assignment surgeries while giving as little information to the child, and even parents, in order for that child to properly develop their assigned gender. This model encourages surgery as soon as possible so as to alleviate the parent’s distress and society’s discomfort with sex variations (Dreger, n.d.). Dandara Hill is an intersexual who received sexual assignment surgery shortly after her birth. Aside from the physical affects, Dandara feels mostly scarred by the lifelong secrecy. Dandara explains, “They were told not to tell anyone about my uniqueness. I would be fine, they were reassured, as long as they kept the truth from me” (Wilchins, 2002). A life built on lies can devastate one’s sense of control, future relationships, and self-confidence. What choices are left for a grown intersexual who received gender assignment surgery? Doctors and parents made the choice for sexual assignment, not the individual whom it will affect the most. Free will, power, and autonomy have been taken away and are not easily regained. After irreversible surgery and a life of deceit, the central path to autonomy comes from open communication and acceptance. This is the only way that future intersexuals will have a greater chance at free will. If doctors were open and honest with parents and informed them of all options while putting them in touch with other intersexes and their families there would likely be less shame, remorse, and nonconsensual surgeries for intersex babies (“What does ISNA,” n.d.). There is no empirical evidence to suggest that any individual who has received surgical gender assignment is “better off” psychologically than any intersexual who receives no surgery or waits until later in life. On the contrary, a person who is allowed to take control of their own destiny, has weighed all the risks and options, and has spoken with other individuals in their same situation is likely to be more emotionally sound (“What evidence is there,” n.d.). The ability to choose one’s very identity dictates one’s ability to assert authority in all other aspects of life. Taking away an intersexual person’s right to choose their identity is condemning them to a life of self-doubt. Gender is a social construction. The definition of male and female is decided by the world we live in. Our society has rather strict designations for how a man should appear and how a woman should appear. Doctors have now become the ultimate social constructionists with gender assignment surgeries. When an intersexual baby is born, their doctor will decide which gender they will be and how their body will reflect that. The surgery (or more likely surgeries) is complicated, dangerous, and purely cosmetic. Patients’ expect the medical community will “do no harm” and uphold the most ethical practices; this is not the case with gender assignment surgeries. The loss of trust could lead intersex individuals to ignore any medical problem in order to avoid the same doctors who deceived them. These surgeries decide how an individual will view themselves and the world around them. That decision can and should be made only by the person occupying that body.

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References

Dreger, A.D. (1998). “Ambiguous sex”—or ambivalent medicine? The Hastings Center Report, 28(3), 24-35. Dreger, A. (n.d.). Shifting the paradigm of intersex treatment. ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna.org/compare Haas, K. (2004). Who will make room for the intersexed? American Journal of Law and Medicine, 30(1), 41-68. How common is intersex? (n.d.). ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna.org/faq/frequency Laurent, B. (2003). Intersexuality—a plea for honesty & emotional support. AHP Perspective. Retrieved from http://www.ahpweb.org/pub/perspective/intersex.html What does ISNA recommend for children with intersex? (n.d.). ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna.org/faq/patient-centered What evidence is there that you can grow up psychologically healthy with intersex genitals (without “normalizing” surgeries)? (n.d.). ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna. org/faq/healthy What is intersex? (n.d.). ISNA. Retrieved from http://www.isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex Wilchins, R. (2002). A girl’s right to choose: intersex children and parents challenge narrow standards of gender. National Organization for Women. Retrieved from http:// www.now.org/nnt/summer-2002/intersex.html

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photo by Sean Deckert


Dear Dad by Alexa Haynes

Dear Dad, You are the best dad a girl could ask for. I don’t know anyone that is as hardworking, supportive, and loving as you are. Growing up, I was always a “daddy’s girl.” I wanted to play outside in the yard with you, sit on your shoulders, or style your hair in every way possible. You would ask to see what I learned in dance class, and then I would giggle uncontrollably when you tried to mimic my ballet moves down the hall. I specifically remember one night after ballet. I was seven, and Mom was driving Jenna and me home from the dance studio. We stopped at a red light and Mom turned to the backseat and said, “Hey look! Dad is driving in front of us!” A smile was instantly across my face, but was quickly wiped away when Mom noticed the cigarette in your hand. I know that you have a stressful job; it must be hard to supervise as many people as you do. You continue to work your butt off so you can provide for our family. You are paying for my college, Jenna’s wedding, and all of Mom’s medical bills. I never feel the stress of finances because you are always there to cover the costs. Mom’s cancer and your own health problems have affected you. Watching Mom battle cancer for the past six years has been the hardest struggle for our family. When your girls are doubtful, you are the rock. You offer a shoulder to cry on, ears to listen, and hands to help. You are always positive and remind us that our family will fight through anything. You have also dealt with your own health issues. You had prostate cancer three years ago, and you had to have your kidney removed last month. Between work, stress, and cancer, I don’t blame you for smoking. I understand that cigarettes are your outlet. It calms you down and lifts some of the weight off of your shoulders. When you are going through a rough time, you are more likely to smoke than to talk about your doubts and fears. I know you think you need to be strong for us, but you are hurting yourself in the process. Smoking a cigarette after a stressful day at work has slowly turned into an addiction. It isn’t your fault; nicotine causes changes in the brain, which makes cigarettes irresistible (Meeker-O’Connell, 2011). I realize that you have tried to quit so many times, and somehow cigarettes always creep back into our lives. Willpower is hard to hold on to when you have the temptation of going 83


Dear Dad

back to old habits. It is so much easier to keep your smoking habits a secret from everyone, including me, because you don’t have to confront your problems or justify your actions. You also know how much it hurts Mom, Jenna, and me. You know it breaks our hearts to see you smoke, and keeping your addiction quiet is your way of sparing our feelings. But the truth is that you do have a problem with cigarettes, and it is about time that our family confronts it. You have been told so many times that smoking is bad for your health. When you go to your doctor’s appointments, the first question they ask is, “Do you smoke?” Mom has done such an amazing job at keeping herself healthy despite of her cancer, and I want you to do the same. Smoking is the primary cause for preventable death, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates almost five million people die from a tobacco-related disease each year (2010). It brings tears to my eyes to think about you ending up in a hospital bed because of cigarettes. Quitting is the first step to becoming healthier and eliminating health risks. Trust me, I have heard quitting isn’t as easy as it sounds. If it were, so many people wouldn’t still be smokers. It is estimated that 70% of smokers want to quit (Smoking statistics-quitting smoking, 2009). Every time you have thrown out your cigarettes, you try to quit smoking all on your own. According to a NicodermCQ study, 90% of smokers who quit “cold turkey” will start again within six months (2011). Thankfully, there are many options and ways to help you break this addiction. There are over-the-counter nicotine products, prescription quit smoking aids, or programs you can become involved in. One option that I think stands out among the rest is the e-cigarette. An e-cigarette is a plastic cigarette that stimulates the act of tobacco smoking. When inhaled, the electronic device produces mist, which undertakes the appearance, sensation, and flavor of nicotine. Although nicotine is present, the e-cigarette is a much healthier choice. It would provide you the nicotine you crave, without exposing you to other harsh chemicals. The e-cigarette can be smoked in public places, even in hospitals. Studies have shown that this technology has helped smokers quit (Etter, 2010). E-cigarettes have a higher success rate than a nicotine patch or gum because the body is still able to perform the act of smoking. You may have to try a few of these methods before you find the best fit for you, but these could ultimately help you become cigarette-free. Smoking can take years from your life, and I am not willing to let you go that soon. I want you to live a healthy life, and I want you to be around to see your grandkids grow up. I don’t know what I would do without you, and quitting smoking is just one way to ensure you will stay by my side. I will always love you unconditionally. When I was seven, after I saw you smoking in your car, I laid in my room crying. You opened the door, sat down on my bed, and began to rub my back softly. When I lifted my head from my pillow you wiped the tears from my cheeks. You looked into my eyes and told me, “I promise I will quit because I love you.” I have held onto those words through the years, and all I ask now is that you keep your promise. 84


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References

Etter, J. (2011). Electronic cigarettes: a survey of users. BMC Public Health, 2010, Vol. 10, p231-237. Health effects of cigarette smoking. (2011, March 21). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov Meeker-O’Connell, A. (2011). How nicotine works. Discovery Communications. Retrieved from http://health.howstuffworks.com NicodermCQ. (2011). GlaxoSmithKline. Retrieved from http://www.nicodermcq.com Smoking statistics-quitting smoking. (2009). Healthy Living. Retrieved from http:// quitsmoking.pharmacydiscountrx.com

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I Got a Stripper for my Birthday by Trevor J. H. Saxman

I have a confession to make; I keep a stripper in my closet. No jokes here; she sports waist-length, perfectly kempt shimmering brown hair. The green in her hazel eyes is highlighted by not only the green trim of her clothing, but by her accessories, which are the same mystifying green color. She is adorned in a swimsuit made of sparkling multicolored waves, using the green for the waistband and the straps. There is no need for her to wear too many clothes. Her attire is garnished with a white flower upon the upper left breast. The enclosure from which she surveys the world keeps her safe from dust and other dangers, entombing her in pristine and perfect condition. She is visible only through a clear plastic window. Don’t think of me as all bad; sometimes I even let her out of the closet and let her sit upon the shelf. She’s no good at making me money though. In fact, I only received money from her once. She is extremely dear to me. Believe it or not, “stripper” is my way of declaring her as my own unique possession. She’s not my first Barbie, but she is okay with that. We have had a rough history; I love her all the more though, my “stripper” Barbie and me. Now, let’s be honest here, the question you are pondering is why does this guy have a Barbie? Why does this five-ten, ripped example of an American youth have a Barbie? For what purpose could this man with hazel eyes like an emerald forest, abs of solid granite, legs of undefinable power and elegance, and the composure of a perfect yet humble gentleman keep a Barbie in his closet? The majority of my life, I have spent Christmas at my grandparents’. Every year we would pile in the car before the sun rose and drive till the sun went down. Then get up again the next day and do it again. To get to my grandmother’s house you have to go over a river and through the woods. Their neighborhood takes you back to the day when houses were built amongst the woods, not on top of where they had once stood. The trees are dense enough that you would never know that there is a major highway a mile away. The peace and the wonder of this place made for the perfect setting for childhood adventure and fantasy. When I was eight years old, my brother and I were in the middle of one of many childish taunting matches. Like the eight-year-old I was, my line went something like this, “Dear Santa, all Ted wants for Christmas this year is a 89


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Barbie.” Little did I know that my mother was close by, listening to every word that we said. On Christmas Eve, the whole family got together to celebrate the birth of Jesus and eat his birthday cake. Dense, heavy, moist cake, covered in a rich cream cheese frosting. Undoubtedly, the cake and sugar was of little help in getting us to fall asleep, but it was beyond delicious. Then, my brother and I along with two of our cousins, Cameron and Jaclyn, went upstairs to sleep. It’s kind of ironic that the harder you try to go to sleep the more awake you stay, yet the harder you try to stay awake the tougher it is to go to sleep. You close your eyes for an age, then you wake up and it’s midnight. You close your eyes for a lifetime, and then it’s two in the morning. You close your eyes again but for an eternity this time, you wake up and then it’s a quarter past two in the morning. One age, two lifetimes, and eight eternities later and it’s finally six in the morning and you can no longer stay in bed. Christmas morning is a day like no other. At five in the morning, restlessness surges through every fiber of my being, you might as well be holding back the wind. Reconnaissance missions are carried out with the stealth of ninjas. Peering eyes strain, as faces are pressed between the railings, taking note of every detail. Vibrant arrays of multicolored light illuminate the room below me. Presents shimmer and gleam as the smell of a live pine tree wafts across the room, a scent more enticing then the allure of the world’s most seductive perfume. In time, the next one to rise was my grandmother. Her first dutiful task of the day is to get the coffee going, because no one got to open presents until grandma and grandpa have had their cup of coffee. But the smell of coffee was merely the harmony to the orchestra of aromas about to unfold. The smell of sticky gooey cinnamon rolls expanded from the kitchen, filling the house. Grandma was also in the process of making sausage biscuits. These are the perfect combination of savory sausage and tangy cheddar cheese inside of bite sized flakey biscuits. Finally, it was time and lo and behold, this year there were two presents in the center of the room separate from all the rest. Written on them was “Ted and Trevor, open these ones first, From Santa.” How exciting—the first presents were for us, and we were going to open them! These had to be good ones. My brother and I sat down in the middle of the room and placed the presents on our lap. Anticipation was about to erupt; I could barely contain my self. The glistening sheen of the wrapping paper flashed between my fingers as my hands slid across the smooth surface. The rest of the family gathered around taking their places in the room. Casual questions about what we had there and “Oh, that’s from Santa” statements floated across the room. After what felt like ages, we were finally given the go-ahead to open. My fingers slid along the edges rooting out any folds to grasp. One quick pinch and paper was flying. Inside the paper was a blank box (typical!)—another layer to shell off. The air disappeared from the room, time stopped, and the world darkened. The cold hands of horror gripped me, while the faint sound of snickers moved amongst the adults. Resting inside of the box was none other than a Barbie. The blurry image of pink plastic 90


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flesh and blonde hair was the culmination of fear and terror. The one item I had never considered receiving had infiltrated my presents. I did not ask for this, a Barbie is a girl’s toy. The shame was unbearable, the indignity was intolerable, and the emotional strain was too much. I fled the room in tears, and retreated to a perch atop the stairs, far from prying eyes. Christmas was destroyed. The fleeting fantasies of a young boy had been swallowed up, mutilated, spit out, set aflame, reduced to ashes, and scattered to the four winds. Yet, Ted, who had previously been the object of the taunting, was unfazed. “Oh, Jaclyn, Santa must have labeled this wrong. This one is for you,” he said. I should have seen it coming, the audacious manner in which we were conducting ourselves. I was not ready that day to deal with the situation that I was in. The cold hard fact is that I was not able to take a joke. It is quite the joke really, two teasing taunting boys receiving the very object they used to ridicule each other. My parents thought it was a good joke, too. I found out later my mother went to enough trouble to coordinate with my aunt, who had two daughters, and acquired the two dolls for the prank. After I returned from my perch on top of the stairs, we had, more or less, a regular Christmas. I never really was as happy as I was when the morning started, but I did manage to have fun again. My parents told me that what I needed was a sense of humor. Once the joke was on me, I showed that I couldn’t take it. On my eighteenth birthday I was returning home from school, knowing all too well that the rumor about there being presents waiting from me was true. My car’s brakes squealed as I entered the driveway. The garage door hummed and rattled as it went up and down. I placed my hand on the doorknob, warm from the day’s heat, and slowly turned open the door. A quick “s” curve and there, I was facing the kitchen table in front of me. A banner was hung from side to side across the room. “Happy birthday!” I sat down at the table and, once again, sat facing a small rectangular box. This time there was no doubting what I was facing. There in front of me was a clear plastic and cardboard box. Printed on the box was a beach scene with friends walking around enjoying the party at the beach. There on the table stood the beautiful and elegant Teresa. Her waistlength brown hair shimmering, her hazel eyes sparkling, and her confident smile oblivious to the skimpy swimsuit. Now there was no denying it, this Barbie was for me. Yet there was no longer the emotional outburst that I had when I was a child. When I saw Teresa, I immediately flashed back to my first encounter years ago. Now, I was prepared; over the years I had developed and refined my sense of humor. Armed with this new weapon, I took the stage and openly embraced the doll before me. There was one more thing about this Barbie that the one long ago had lacked; there, tucked into her waistband, was a hundred dollar bill. “How about that? A stripper Barbie,” I said. Now, not only had I faced my humorlessness, I had made a joke out of it, too. 91


photo by Sean Deckert


My Grandmother by Shaunda Tsosie

The day when a government official and priest came to visit my grandmother’s home, her family lied about her whereabouts and hid her from being taken. That was the day my grandmother was out herding sheep down the canyon. I’ve known my grandmother to only give her thumbprint as her signature or her consent. She never felt pride from learning to write her own name or stepped into a classroom full of children her own age, excited to learn about Sinbad, Legend of The Seven Seas. Children were taken, more like stolen, from their families and homes and placed in boarding schools off the reservation, only to be acculturated into the Mormon or Catholic religion. Back in her generation, obtaining an education meant one had to be stripped of one’s identity: native language, beliefs, tradition, and culture. Their traditional hair bun they hold sacred, perfectly folded, wrapped, and then tied in reverence, was cut off with one snip of a sharp pair of scissors. The once neatly attached bun was then burnt along with many others. Traumatized, the umbilical cord to Mother Earth, Father Sky, and the Holy Ones became disgraced, dissociated, disoriented, and disowned. When speaking in their own language, lashes of a wooden ruler were inflicted upon them. In tears, my grandmother spoke, “We must have been a threat to the government because they came to break us and to civilize us, when we already have our own form of government for our people and our own way of life and religion.” At a strong age of seventy seven, my grandmother is of the Mexican clan and born for the Giant People Red Running into Water clan and her maternal grandfather’s clan is Water Edge and Big Water is her paternal grandfather’s clan. She says, “I was born when the snow on the ground was knee deep, during the month when the eagles are born.” The nearest hospital was more than eighty miles by horse and wagon. Unexpected weather conditions of either snow or rain made the dirt roads of the rough terrain impassable. Unsure of the exact date, it was the month of February or March and the year nineteen thirty-four or nineteen thirty-five that my grandmother took her first breath in her family’s hogan; a single room, circular earth home that both her parents and five siblings shared.

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Soon after giving birth to my grandmother, my great grandmother died. After the passing of her mother, her father passed on within the same year from grief. As an infant, my grandmother was separated from her siblings, each of which were given to different extended family members. She was placed in care of her aunt, her biological father’s sister. Having three older sisters and two older brothers, she is the youngest of her siblings. She knew of them but never got the opportunity to know them, to establish a relationship with each of them. Never having a childhood, my grandmother was taught the importance of hard work and intelligence. “A moral, solid life is built from hard work and values,” she says. Growing up, every day was a preparation for tomorrow and the unexpected: given the responsibility of taking care of the sheep, cattle, horses, the apricot and apple orchards, and the large fields of corn, squash, melons, potatoes and beans; learning the up-keep of a home included the discipline of cooking nutritious meals, cleaning, and weaving. Tediously, without complaint, she obediently and diligently wove beautiful rugs the size of blankets. Her creations, the family’s only source of financial income was a reflection of her life filled with happiness and sorrow. The vibrant, bold, or soft colors she decided to use and the geometric shapes were a mirror image of her life story; her philosophy of life, her thoughts, her feelings, her attitude are all what developed and created a master piece of her own. Whenever my grandmother finished a rug, she carefully took it from its loom. With her trusty, sturdy horses hitched to the wagon, she traveled to the nearest trading post: the general store. Whenever the trading post owner bought a rug from her, he gave her store credit to purchase her necessities which included non-perishable food, material for clothing, hay and feed for the livestock, and for the long day’s drive home she snuck in a refreshing treat of a cold, tall, glass bottle of Coca Cola. Over the years, my grandmother’s known the meaning of having calluses hardening and roughing the hands like sandpaper yet ever so gentle enough to always offer a kind, helping hand. I have never known her to be selfish but always generous in love, compassion, and guidance. About the young age of four or five, I would hand my grandmother a brush. She would have a seat and I would effortlessly hop onto her lap and comfortably snug my little body between her thighs and knees. With a motherly instinct, if I so happened to move or become restless she would gently squeeze my little body. I felt her security. She massaged my tender scalp as she patiently, not harshly, ran the brush through my tangled hair. She advised and I sat and listened to her speak. At that young age, I may not have comprehended what she was emphasizing but as I got older, I gained reverence for her teachings. That was our time. I was to take care of my hair, for it is one’s sacred knowledge, discipline, and wisdom, which represents the beauty of rain showers and the promise of a rainbow. Presenting the four sacred mountains, the hair must be folded four times then wrapped and tied clock-

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My Grandmother wise representing the four directions. The hair tie is made up of twelve strands of white yarn made of wool, which symbolizes lightening rods that protect our people within the four sacred mountains in all four directions. It is my identity of being a child of the Holy Ones. Never is it to be cut or hung down loose. The only time and exception is when one passes on. In loneliness and in hardship, her faith has given her the strength to endure and persevere, which molded and shaped her to who she is today, my grandmother. A beautiful, enduring woman, lines of many years of wisdom and hardship outline her face. Her smile warms and enlightens. She disciplines in kindness and never withholds her love. From her direct matriarchal lineage comes my mother; an exact replica of her mother. My mother is of the Mexican clan and born for the Bitter Water clan, and her maternal grandfather’s clan is Tobacco People Red Running Into the Water clan and her paternal grandfather’s is Water Edge Clan. And I too am of the Mexican Clan. Through my matriarchal lineage, I come from a long line of resilient, enduring women. All that I am, and hope to be, I owe to my grandmother and mother.

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photo by Sean Deckert


Sound Off by Jayro Giron

Ellie sat on the curb near the corner of her street, tapping the concrete beneath her with the tip of her finger. It was quiet outside that night, something she knew a lot about. The usual night wind that rustled the tree branches and swayed the decorative chimes hanging on the porches was absent. Everything was still. Everything but her finger. She tapped the beat of a song she first heard when she was three years old. The tapping was Ellie’s bad habit, as her uncle would say. It never bothered her because for twelve years, she couldn’t hear the so-called aggravating tune. Ellie eventually took note of the noise she was unconsciously causing two weeks after her sixteenth birthday when a three-hour surgery gave her what she yearned for: a cochlear implant. Her long, honey brown hair covered the circular electronic device outside her ear for the first few days after the implant. She didn’t want to be exposed for who she really was. Several classmates of hers had heard that she was deaf, but no teacher ever confirmed it. Even though students had their suspicions, a talent for lip reading and a label that branded her as shy helped her pass for a hearing kid grade after grade in school. It was on a humid afternoon when the pavement was still drenched in rainwater that Ellie finally revealed the device. She only did it for Nicholas, who had commented that its pale lilac color made her resemble one of the picturesque Greek nymphs with an adorning flower in her hair they had been studying in English class. Trying to see if she could spot headlights coming down the street, she stuck her head out forward, but saw nothing. Her finger continued to tap the curb, and she accompanied the dry beat with a hum that added a refreshing melody. The song played in her mind as white noise that would add sound to the memories of her silent years. It was what played in her head whenever she’d recall the evening her mother was shot. Ellie halted her humming and tapping. The song wasn’t heard out loud, but it still caused an uproar in her head. She curled her fingers in, forming a fist and forced it onto the cement. When she pictured the evening of her mother’s death, she did not hear what her then-neighbors described as her mother’s chilling screams. She did not hear the ground-shaking thud of her mother’s body falling 97


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to the floor that sent vibrations into Ellie’s room, enticing her to poke her head out. And what enraged her the most was that she did not hear the gunshots, all three of them, that penetrated her mother’s chest and left shoulder. All she heard when thinking about that evening was the song. The aggravating tune. The unconscious noise. A flash of light came down the street. Ellie stood up from the curb, hoping it was Nicholas finally arriving to pick her up, but instead a beat-up white Chevy truck drove by. The gentle churn of the tires rolling on the parkway wiped the song from Ellie’s head as it drove away. Spotting unique sounds was almost like a game to her. Whenever she’d find one, she’d take the time to enjoy it and admire it, even if it was something ordinary like the clacks that high-heels produced on hardwood floor or the robotic swoosh of automatic-opening doors. The crinklelike crunch of a rolling tire was no exception. Another set of headlights made their way toward her. As the car came closer, she saw Nicholas behind the wheel. The car pulled up in front of her, and the driver’s seat window rolled down. “Ready for blast off?” asked Nicholas in his deep baritone voice. Although she could hear him now, Ellie stared at his lips and read them. They were visibly moist and colored a light shade of pink. They opened and closed at a steady pace, something she appreciated when her world was stuck on mute. Ellie looked down at the ground and half-smiled as she hurried to the passenger’s seat door. The seat made a pleasant popping sound when she sat on it, followed by a few slight squeaks when she reached for her seatbelt. She faced Nicholas, opening her eyes wider and raising her eyebrows higher to show a sense of eagerness. “Alright,” said Nicholas, getting a quick glance of himself in the rear-view mirror and then turning to face the road. “Let’s get this done.” Nicholas began to drive. The radio wasn’t on, but Ellie got her sound fix from the few coins that bounced in the crater of the drink holder as Nicholas drove. The mild clunk of the coins rustling around and hitting the plastic surfaces soothed her. “So Ellie, are you sure you want to be a part of this? It’s not too late for me to drive back,” Nicholas asked as he looked again at himself in the rear-view mirror. He shifted his eyes to the right and saw Ellie give him a proud, wide-eyed nod. “Alright,” Nicholas faced the road once again. “By the way, nice Ecko shirt.” Ellie let out a short and audible exhale. She had bought the shirt with Nicholas in mind, knowing he was a fan of the Ecko brand. It satisfied her that he noticed it. “Hey also, I’m sorry for what Stephen said to you in class today,” Nicholas said as he came to a stop. He gazed at himself in the rear-view mirror and shook his hair three times in different directions before looking back at the road and driving again. “I heard he was trying to force you to talk. Don’t worry, though. I straightened him out after I heard what happened.” Nicholas raised his right hand up and swatted it to imitate a slap. Ellie knew 98


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he didn’t physically hurt Stephen, but Nicholas often joked about having a tough guy persona. Ellie didn’t show it, but she was grateful that Nicholas was often there at her defense. Nicholas connected with Ellie after catching her reading his lips when they first met in eighth-grade because he had a deaf younger sister. Unlike Ellie, his sister was born deaf and didn’t get it from meningitis. She had him there, a small walk or a text message away, but she didn’t have him the way she wanted to have him. Ellie knew there was no chance at a relationship with Nicholas. Even though to her he came off as a prince, in reality, he was self-absorbed and vain. She ignored it but had seen it herself whenever Nicholas would try on a new outfit and model it in front of a mirror. That deep, loving gaze he gave himself would never be shown to anyone but him. His reflection was his relationship and Ellie had given up trying to change that. As the car came to another stop, Nicholas’ thumping foot caught Ellie’s attention. The thumping had a hard thwack sound, which caused her to shield her ears. Ellie didn’t find it as calming as the clunking coins. Nicholas kept an eye on himself through the rear-view mirror. “We’re almost there,” Nicholas said as the thumping gained speed. He turned to look at Ellie. She saw him biting his lower lip, a sign that verified he was nervous. Nicholas turned to the road and continued to drive. Ellie had been hiding her apprehension, but now that she saw Nicholas shaken up, she wondered if she was prepared for what was to come. Nicholas pulled into the parking lot of a gas station’s convenience store. Making sure that no one inside the store would see him, he parked on the side of the building. He shut the car off, which automatically unlocked the doors for him, but, like a reflex, he clicked a button next to him and locked them again. He reached his right hand for the glove compartment and pulled out two black ski masks. Ellie anticipated him handing her one, but instead he held on to both. “Listen, Ellie, I know you’re supposed to come along, but I want you to stay in the car.” Nicholas turned to face Ellie and saw her eyebrows descended at an angle. “I’m sorry, but I need you to be the getaway driver. If anything happens to me inside, at least you’ll get out of here fast and safely.” Ellie felt like pouting just to show how much this idea bugged her. She was desperate to join him. She wanted to witness it all, hear it all, but she held back. “I’m only asking you to do this because it would make me feel better, knowing you’re safe and all,” Nicholas’ tone grew calmer. Not wanting to refuse him, Ellie nodded in agreement. Nicholas smiled and reached his hand out to touch her cheek. His fingers tickled her with much-needed warmth. “Thanks,” he said, drawing his hand back away from her. “Besides, this could be something The Goddess would punish you for.” Ellie’s tender emotions dissolved.

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Nicholas stared at himself through the rear-view mirror. Ellie noticed a slight gleam in his eyes. He put on a ski mask after placing the other on the edge of his seat and then looked at himself another time. The gleam was gone. Ellie searched for comfort. She tried to gaze at the subtle beauty of Nicholas’ lips, but they were concealed under the ski mask. She looked down at her feet, disappointed that she couldn’t see his lips and that she couldn’t join him. Nicholas opened his door and hopped out of the car. He continued to hop in place as he took in deep breaths. After a few seconds, he stopped, but he remained standing. Ellie was concerned that he wasn’t moving, but she didn’t focus on it. Her agitation at the moment overwhelmed her. She started tapping her finger on the dashboard. The song was coming back. It wasn’t long after that that Nicholas paced to the convenience store’s entrance. For several minutes, Ellie sat in the passenger seat of the car, still somewhat thrown off by Nicholas’ last comment. It had been awhile since he had brought up The Goddess and now Ellie was left thinking about her. The Goddess was how her mother used to refer to Helia, her father’s real wife. It was a difficult concept for her to grasp when she was a child, but she knew it meant her father was a married man with another life. Before her mother’s death, Ellie noticed that her father wasn’t around much and she would see him only once a month. Her mother radiated joy on the nights he spent with them. But once her mother was gone, so was he. Ellie never saw him again, and even though it didn’t bother her because she barely knew the man, she wanted to hold on to a piece of the past. Her Uncle Damien, a man who had grown up with bitter emotions toward his family, gained custody of Ellie after her mother died. He told her that Helia was The Goddess because she was a successful lawyer who had authority and power. Compared to her mother who had worked as a housekeeper in a hotel, Helia was indeed a goddess. Uncle Damien would often taunt Ellie with stories of how it was The Goddess who had her mother killed once she learned of her husband’s second life and it was also her who, through her power and privilege, caused Ellie to go deaf. “She’s a real goddess,” he would tease, “and she cursed you with meningitis. Made you go deaf. Then, a few months later, she took your mom’s soul.” As ridiculous as it sounded to Ellie now, she believed the tale to be fact when she was growing up. Ellie loved making noise around the house when her mother was around. The Goddess, in her enduring wrath, must have punished Ellie by taking away the two things she loved the most, her mother and sound. The ski mask hung from the edge of the seat. The song was still playing in Ellie’s mind. She tried to block out the flashback of the evening her mother was shot. Instead, she focused on The Goddess, a woman she never saw or met, but she had puzzled together distinctive aspects from certain people to create an image in her mind. The Goddess had Uncle Damien’s spiteful hazel eyes and his face-twisting disturbing smile. She had Nicholas’ vanity and good looks. And she had Ellie’s long, honey brown hair. She was perfect. She was indeed a goddess. 100


Sound Off

Ellie stopped the song from playing in her head. Taking the ski mask from the edge of the seat, she put it on. She came here to be a part of this, to listen to this, and not to be pushed back by a fragment of a myth she no longer believed in. Her hand pulled on the door handle and she exited the car, gently closing the door behind her. One giant step after another, she made her way to the entrance. In the corner of her eye, she spotted Nicholas through the glass door. With her newfound energy, she pulled the door open. “Ellie?” asked a puzzled Nicholas as his and the cashier’s attention went to her. Nicholas was holding up a metallic black gun at the cashier’s face with his right hand and a clear plastic trash bag semi-full with bills with his left hand. The cashier was an older man, probably around his forties, with a thick mustache and an accompanying goatee. He had lines all over his face and also heavy lavender bags under his eyes. Shoot the gun, Ellie thought. The situation was visibly frantic, but she wanted to hear the gun go off. It would erase the song from her mind. “What are you doing here?” blurted Nicholas. But Ellie didn’t see him speak. Ellie saw the cashier twist the gun out of his grasp as Nicholas’ hand trembled from losing hold of it. She saw the cashier turn the gun around and point it at Nicholas. “Get out of my store!” hollered the man behind the register. Shoot the gun, Ellie thought. It wasn’t in Nicholas’ grasp anymore, but she didn’t care. She needed to hear it. “Easy, man,” said Nicholas, dropping the bag of cash. “Easy,” he reached down and picked up the bag. “Here, have your money back.” Shoot the gun, Ellie thought. As the man reached for the bag, Nicholas extended his arm trying to grab the gun away from the cashier. Then, Nicholas froze. The cashier began to wiggle his index finger on the trigger. Everything was still. Everything but his finger. It was a deafening explosion. A resounding bang. A thunderous boom. Loud couldn’t begin to describe the volume. It yelled. It bellowed. It roared. Nicholas’ body lay on the ground. It was covered in an assortment of whitepetal flowers that his hand had knocked down from the display of bouquets near the counter. Ellie approached the body. Droplets dripped from her eyes, each one more graceful than the one before. A stream of blood flowed out of his neck, calm in nature but vicious in force. Its waters, in a delicate splash of ruby, were clear and reflective. It was a scene of beauty that suited Nicholas well. Ellie lowered her head to get a view of herself, but found it difficult as her tears drowned her vision. She walked back to the where she had been standing, letting her body descend down into a curl as she faced the transparent doors. It was too much. The sounds echoed, bouncing off the walls and striking her ears. She heard the gunshot replaying in her head. She heard nearby police sirens getting closer and louder by the second. She heard her voice, an earsplitting low-pitched mutter that caused her body to shiver and jolt. She heard it all, now wishing she hadn’t. She had it all, now wishing The Goddess had just taken it away from her. 101


photo by Sean Deckert


Notes on the Contributors

Ryan Anthony, 27, is a junior pursuing a degree in Applied Biological Sciences: Wildlife Management and Restoration Ecology. He grew up in Pakistan and moved to America at the age of 18. He is an army veteran who has served two tours in Iraq and plans to work with the Game and Fish Dept. or as a curator in a zoo. Elizabeth (Liza) Brown-Moore, 52, was born in a small town south of Tucson, Arizona. She has been accumulating credits over several years in the School of Letter and Sciences. Her motto in life continues to be Keep her steady, keep her level. Alexandra Comeaux, 20, is a junior on the Pre-Med track majoring in English literature. She is from Sacramento, California and believes poetry to be a way of making sense out of the chaos of life and learning to control the overpowering – and oftentimes grief-filled – experience of being human. Stacey Cope is an undergraduate studying Sociology in the school of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Kenneth Crone, aka Kenny, is a sophomore in the Walter Cronkite school of Journalism and Mass Communications. Jayro Giron, 20, is a Phoenix native and is in his second year as a Film and Media Studies major at ASU. In the future, he wants to be a television screenwriter in children’s programming or animation. Alexa Haynes, 19, is from Sacramento, CA. She is a sophomore majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. A strong believer in setting high goals for oneself and striving to achieve them, she plans to have a successful career in Public Relations.

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Kaitlyn Knudson, 20, is in her sophomore year at Arizona State. She is from Gilbert, Arizona and is majoring in English Education. Kaitlyn’s motto simply comes down to this: writing is what makes me happy and is what both keeps me sane and makes me a bit insane. It’s a way in which I hope to contribute to a little part of the world. I think everybody should find what that way of contribution is for them, for their sake and for ours. Carter (Alex) Pearl, 20, is an Arizona native and a sophomore majoring in Journalism. Ambitious in nature, he hopes to rule the world one day, but he’ll be satisfied with simply becoming an adolescent psychologist. Stevi Rollinson, 19, is a sophomore double majoring in Creative Writing and Special Education. Her family moved around a lot when she was growing up, so she identifies her hometown as many different places. In the future, Stevi plans to be an English teacher and a writer on the side. Trevor J. H. Saxman, 20, is a junior in the Pre-professional Health Sciences program. Trevor hails from Glendale, AZ. His future plans are to obtain a PhD in Biochemistry and eventually attend medical school. Shaunda Tsosie is a junior in the Nursing program who grew up in Spider Rock, AZ. Her personal philosophy was inspired by the following quote by Horace Bushnell: The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the more significant and the higher in inspiration his life will be.

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Profile for College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

Write On, Downtown issue 6, 2012  

A Journal of Student Writing at the ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus

Write On, Downtown issue 6, 2012  

A Journal of Student Writing at the ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus

Profile for writeon
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