“Why?” “Because I said so.” “...But why?”
Published at York College of Pennsylvania Spring 2011
Y? Magazine Masthead Sarah Spidle - Princess
Christopher M. Hartlaub - Firefighter
Leo Brunetti - Racecar Driver
Autumn Darbrow - Artist
S. Virginia Gray - Veterinarian
Lindsay Antolick - Ballerina
Jenna Reim - Lawyer
“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book', thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?’” ~Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
“All children, except one, grow up.” ~J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy
Table of Contents Sorted by Genre 1-2
Editor’s Note Fiction Lindsay Antolick
A Freshly Roasted Ham A New Toy St. Aehr’s Academy Mary Speaks to Emma Fumble Fingers Curls The Bravest Damn Man in Baltimore The Scarecrows Undead Youth
3 4-5 9-15 23-26 39-43 45-48 50-55 66-70 74-75
Jenna Reim Curtis Smith
Nonna Talks to God Makeshift Christmas Little Devil Ritalin Daze Parenthood Vowels Eider Court in Frederick, MD Securing a Child’s Future
6-7 17-18 28-31 35-38 57-59 61-65 84-86 94-95
Adam Hartlaub Janise Eidus Meg Lambert S. Virginia Gray Tami Rasel
Non-fiction Vitto Grippi Autumn Darbrow Curtis Smith Leo Brunetti Shauna Armitage Bitsy Sanders Michelle Pease Ivan Baiao
Poetry Christopher Hartlaub S. Virginia Gray Susan Johnson Autumn Darbrow Sarah Louise Foster Taylor Mali Danielle Schafhauser
In Praise of Rain First Spring Simbaâ€™s Praise Song To a Golden Friend Upon a Witching Hour Like Grandmother, Like Daughter No Max This Morning Hummingbird Seen From a Long Way Off Breakfast
8 19 21-22 32 44 76 56 73 78 88
Art and Photography Mollie Fenby Lynn Bolinger Alissa Shue Sarah Spidle D.J. Greenholt Melody Martin Autumn Darbrow Lindsay Antolick
Family Christmas Carmen Wedding Bear Bats Flower Bats Daniel Brendan Heliconius Hecale Butterfly Thompson and I Excited with a Toy Dog Chubs
16 60 72 20 27 71 33 77 34 49 87 89
Editor’s Note “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” —1 Corinthians 13:11 How depressingly true this statement is. The longer I live, the more I come to terms with the world of Adulthood as a place of judgment, whether right or wrong, just or unjust. It is one of those wicked playground dreams where a bully pushes you down the slide and, by the time you reach the bottom, you realize you’re bare naked. The other children point and laugh, mainly because they forget that they are composed of essentially the same things underneath their clothes. Their jeers are backbone-shackling and enslave one’s appearance with conventions. They peal and echo, forcing you to wake up and reflect on how the surrounding world perceives you. Adulthood, at its finest, is a world we are vomited into by revelation. It is that pencil-point in time, so individual and completely personal, where we stand face to face with our social awareness. Our minds expand and we comprehend empathy, sympathy, even apathy. Yet almost instantaneously, we realize that we ourselves are being observed, judged, and related to. This is our Road to Damascus each of us has been converted on, unwillingly. This is the trail we follow on this starless night, having no bread crumbs as our backsliding guide. Adolescence becomes a long-winded synonym for “lost” or “alone,” and growing up seems poisonous and irreversible. But there is a remedy. The quote is a two way street. We bastardly reject our childish ways as we become men and women, but, if we choose to be children, we have the capability of conjuring them again. Ian MacKaye once sang a great line: It’s not how old I am, It’s how old I feel. We can revel in unresolved thoughts, with abstract eyes. We can swallow our shame and run bare-ass through our cornfields and meadows. We can speak in a tongue only the heavens can hear. With these moments, we fill our pages and we step backward, for childhood is not in the age. – M.C. Hartlaub
A Freshly Roasted Ham | Antolick
A Freshly Roasted Ham Lindsay Antolick
Chubs is a bulldog. He slobbers a lot. He walks with a strut and eats everything in sight. One day, he was walking down the street and smelled something delicious. He started drooling as he followed the scent. “What could this be?” he thought. It was like nothing he ever smelled before. As he was making his way across the street to follow the tracks of the smell, he spotted Pepper. Pepper is a know-it-all poodle. Chubs saw Pepper put his nose in the air and knew that Pepper would try and beat him to the mouth-watering smell. It was on. Pepper turned the corner as Chubs galloped after. Being 70 pounds was not helping Chubs win the race. The curly haired obnoxious poodle was running so fast, but Chubs was determined. He chased Pepper across the street and into a yard with a nice house. The smell was so over-powering. Chubs ran as fast as he could. He ran into Pepper knocking him out of the way while he made his victorious leap into the window of the house. Chubs found the source of the smell- a freshly roasted ham. He couldn’t wait to get his jowls around it. Pepper jumped in the window after Chubs, but it was too late. The ham was devoured in seconds. Chubs was the reigning champ, the victor, the conqueror of the smell. It was a great day for Chubs, his ego, and his gut.
Antolick | A New Toy
A New Toy Lindsay Antolick
Every once in a while a really great toy comes along. Chubs had plenty of toys, but not one that was extremely special to him. He had Mommy’s old bunny slippers, but they were now missing ears, eyes, and tails. He had a Frisbee, but he chewed on it too much that it broke in half. Chubs wanted something new. A fresh toy that he could chew on for hours and also play with Mommy and Daddy with; he wanted a ball. And not just any ball, a tennis ball. He had seen the neighbors playing with a light green ball that bounced so high it seemed to touch the sky. Chubs was amazed at how the furry ball bounced and threw so well. It was love at first sight. For weeks, Chubs daydreamed about playing outside with the neighbors’ tennis ball. He would lay in the yard picturing himself jumping up and snatching it right out of the air. But with his stubby legs, he knew that that leap would never happen. The day grew dark and it was time for Chubs to come in. “C’mon Chubs,” yells his Daddy, “Time to come in.” “Dinnertime, Chubs, c’mon boy,” hollers Mommy. But Chubs doesn’t budge. He stays in the grass, lying towards the neighbors’ house. Mommy and Daddy could see how sad he was. They could sense his longing. “Huh, he always comes running in for dinner. I wonder why he keeps staring over at the neighbors. I hope they didn’t notice him drooling at them,” Mommy says. -4-
A New Toy | Antolick “I bet I know why. It’s that tennis ball. He’s been watching it all day. His head would move back and forth with each toss of the ball, so I got him something while he was outside playing and you were finishing up dinner. I’ll be right back,” Daddy responds. He runs into the living room and back into the kitchen with a bag in his hand. “Is that what I think it is? Aww, honey, he’s going to love it!” Mommy says. Sure enough, Daddy bought Chubs his very own tennis ball. They call him in from the yard again; this time telling him to look at his surprise. Chubs turns his head and sees the bright, green ball in Daddy’s hand. He jumps up and charges for the ball, knocking Daddy over. He immediately shoves the ball into his mouth and starts chewing. It was as tasty as he hoped it would be.
Grippi | Nonna Talks to God
Nonna Talks to God Vito Grippi
Most nights I lie in bed listening to the sounds of burglars breaking into our home. My mind creates the sounds of a crow bar snapping the deadbolt, splintering wood sometimes they come through the back, shattering the glass on the sliding door that enters into the basement. I hear the creaking of steps as they climb to the second floor, make their way into the kitchen. I hear the rustling of silverware, papers, washcloths falling to the floor. On these nights, when the fear becomes more than I can handle, when my hands sweat and my heart tumbles and sinks into my 5-year-old belly, I rise from the bed, stand at the edge of my bedroom door and take a deep breath. My parent’s room is at the far end of the hallway, and I know that by now, Anthony, my younger brother, has already nestled himself into the warmth of their bed. I count to three, take a deep breath, and leap across the hall, pushing through my Nonna and Nonno’s door. I feel safe with my grandparents because their room is covered with pictures of the saints. My Nonna has a gold frame hanging on the wall with a bowl attached to it. She fills the bowl with the holy water she gathers in little plastic bottles at Mass on Sundays, or even sometimes when we go Saturdays. The endless faces of saints and Jesus mingle with my family in the picture frames she arranges on her dressers. Some of the frames show pictures of my brother and me, and my two cousins who still live in Italy. Others show Nonna’s sisters, her brother, my parents keeping company with San Domenico, Padre Pio, countless -6-
Nonna Talks to God | Grippi other grainy images of pink-lipped faces outlined by the auras of their halos. On her nightstand she splays out tiny cards that look like the baseball cards my Nonno buys me at Zeigler’s Hardware across the street from our restaurant. Only these cards have pictures of saints on them too, and short prayers written in Italian on the back. I come to my grandparents’ room at night and lie with my Nonno while Nonna shuffles around the room to kiss each one of her saints. She lights candles when she prays, even though everybody tells her she shouldn’t do it and that one day she’ll burn the house down because she falls asleep when she’s talking to God. My Nonno says he wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes and thinks he’s at his own funeral because the room is all lit up with candles and my nonna is kneeling at the foot of the bed praying. “Ma, come fare?,” he says, what can I do, putting his hands together like a prayer and shaking his head back and forth. He lies on his side facing me with a smile on his face. I breathe in the icy, burning smell of his aftershave. “Cosi di pazzi,” he says, the actions of crazy people, and before long he is snoring, the smirk still on his face. But I stay awake, mesmerized and drowsy by the ritual and the flicker of candlelight around the room. Nonna starts with the pictures on the walls. She stops at each saint and picture of Christ and does the sign of the cross. Only she does it different than I was taught because after she reaches the Holy Spirit part and touches her right shoulder, she doesn’t put her hands together like she’s going to pray. Instead, she kisses her hand and touches the picture and kisses her hand, and touches the picture and kisses her hand and touches the picture. She continues the process countless times, increasing the speed as she goes. It’s the same process with every saint picture that hangs on the wall. Dozens of them. When she’s done with the hanging pictures she moves on to the saint cards. She picks each one up individually and kisses it. She kisses those really fast too, like she does when she kisses me on my neck, right below my ears. She kisses the pictures really fast and then rubs them all over her body like the man in the Irish Spring commercial, only she doesn’t whistle, she whispers rapid-fire prayers as fast as her kisses, then returns to a quick round of kisses before placing the card back on the dresser. When the kissing of the pictures is over, she eases down to her knees beside the bed and rests her elbows on the mattress, rosary beads twine around her small, bony fingers. She closes her eyes and continues with the whisper prayers, even faster now, and I don’t know exactly what she’s saying, but I know that she’s praying that God will look after all of us and that the restaurant will be successful and that everyone will be healthy, and that no harm will come to our family. I know she says these things because she moves her lips like this all day long, when she’s knitting or eating, washing the dishes and clothes. And when I ask her what she’s saying I feel like nothing bad can ever happen to me because God owes my Nonna a lot of favors for all the time she puts in.
Hartlaub | In Praise of Rain
In Praise of Rain Christopher M. Hartlaub Your trickle-kisses on happier
world Friend. I
your speak to
St. Aehr's Academy | Hartlaub
St. Aehr’s Academy Adam Hartlaub
As they ran through the halls of an old English-styled mansion, boys and girls in uniforms scattered towards the cafeteria. Chattering and clicking of forks and spoons ensued around the lunchroom tables as various conversations took place. Two boys enjoyed discussing the similarities and differences between their activities considering they’re a grade apart, Allen in 6th grade and Roberto in 7th. Allen in particular described the new activity he had this morning during his field day class. Allen’s class explored the outside surroundings and collected different plant and leaf samples for later usage in Science class. He and Roberto both enjoyed discovering new things. Conversations continued in the cafeteria, as Allen’s friend Emily, another 6th grader, walked over with her tray of food to sit down with them. “Hey Emily! How was your class this morning?” Allen said with a smile. “Hey Allen, hi Roberto” Emily smiled back, “Science class was pretty cool. That class is a breeze for me. How about you guys?” “I had a field day today, which was pretty cool. We got to explore the outside and collect plant samples. What’d you guys do in Science class?” Allen replied. Emily nodded, “Oh, that sounds fun. Well we started learning biology-type stuff. Kinda interesting.” Other kids in the lunchroom started stirring up. It was getting louder and more rambunctious. “Yeah, I had a math class this morning”, Roberto interjected, “I’m not so good at -9-
Hartlaub | St. Aehr's Academy that stuff.” Allen looked over at Roberto, “I’m sure I could help you with it. I’ve got a pretty good handle on math”. Roberto looked over at another table where a tall stocky boy named Harold smeared sloppy Joe meat on some girl’s chair, and proceeded to laugh at her. “Remember last week when he tried that on you, Allen?” mentioned Roberto. “Yeah”, nodded Allen “Good thing I spotted it before he came back over. I cleaned it up before it created any conflict.” Allen’s sighing expression changed to shock as he saw a big glob of mashed potatoes fly toward Emily’s head. “Look out!” he yelled, as she turned around only to get slapped in the face by a heaping scoop of mashed potatoes. It squished right in her eyes and nose, and got stuck in her hair too. “Eww, it’s gross, Get it out. Get it out!” Emily wailed. Normally Allen avoided any type of conflict, but he swelled with rage when they hit his friend Emily. “Ha-ha, we got it in her stupid red hair. That’s what she gets for being good at Science. She IS a science project. Ha! Ha! Ha!” bellowed out Harold. He always picked on kids smaller than himself. He’s old enough to be in at least 8th grade, yet he’s stuck in the same year as Allen and Emily. Harold’s bigger, tougher, and also dumber than most of the other 6th graders. Allen got up out of his chair and grabbed the leftover pudding-filled pie off of his plate. He marched over to where Harold was, and looked up at him in disgust while Emily sulked behind them. Roberto watched from afar. He anticipated things going sour really soon. Harold towered over Allen, “What are you gonna do about it, you skinny little runt? You gonna save your little girlfriend?” Allen turned red with embarrassment and frustration, “She’s not my girlfriend…” Allen clenched the pudding pie in his fist, ready to smash it into Harold’s face. Just as he winded back to throw it, the school principal walked up behind them. Allen lunged in to smash the pie, until Harold tripped him. Allen fell backwards; the pie went into the air and landed right on Principal Lipton’s head instead. “What is the meaning of all this?” he yelled at the boys. “Aw, we were just havin’ some fun Mr. Lipton.” Harold whined. “No excuses!” scowled Mr. Lipton, “Clean this mess up, and get to my office! Immediately!” As the bell sounded, Allen looked around in disgust at the mess that was left of the cafeteria. All the other students were scooting off to class while he stayed with Harold to clean up the disaster left behind. Allen sighed as he proceeded to shuffle on over to the custodial closet. An old man was standing outside the closet with a mop. “Guess you’ll be needin’ this.” he suggested as he handed the mop to Allen. “Thanks…” Allen replied as he sloshed right back to the mess. “Great. Could this day get any worse?” -10-
St. Aehr's Academy | Hartlaub “Maybe if you weren’t so lame and had to get us caught by Lipstick,” complained Harold. Allen looked over questioningly, “Lipstick…?” “Yeah”, said Harold “Lipton, his lips are always so bright red. Don’t you ever notice that shortstop?” Allen rolled his eyes in disgust, “Can’t say that I have honestly.”. As he continued to mop up the mess, Allen felt a sticky wad of gum mesh to the bottom of his shoe. “Oh fantastic” he muttered, “You know, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place if you just left people alone Harold.” “What was that, Chicken-breath? You wanna come closer and say that?” mocked Harold. Allen shrugged, “No, not really… Look. Can’t we just finish cleaning this up? We’re already late to class.” Harold motioned a nonchalant hand gesture, “Whatever, like I give a crap about that stuff anyway.” Allen sighed and continued to clean up the mess, “No, of course you wouldn’t.” Two chairs sat across from the desk of the recently perturbed principal, as he sat there signing pink slips. The door opened as Allen and Harold proceeded into his office to sit down. They tried to scoot the chairs as far away from each other as possible within the confines of this small office. “Well boys,” declared Principal Lipton as he continued to write, “This is not how we behave at St. Aehr’s. You need to respect the rules and treat others with respect. It sounds like detention is the adequate reprimanding for your little disaster earlier-“ Harold interrupted, “It was all Allen’s fault! I tried to stop him!” Allen jumped in before Harold’s lies ruined his name, “But wasn’t cleaning the whole cafeteria punishment enough?” Mr. Lipton intervened “That’s enough. I’m assigning you both to detention this afternoon.” Allen gulped with nervousness. He never had detention before. “Hah, this’ll be easy. I’ll be sure to keep Allen in line Mr. Lipton” snickered Harold. Allen rolled his eyes in disgust at Harold’s behavior. “Easy, eh? “, glared Mr. Lipton as he raised his eyeglasses “Well then, I can always assign harsher punishment.” Allen stuttered, “N-no. That’ll be fine.” Allen shuffled his way out of the office and back to class late. He interrupted a reading session in his English class as he opened the door. The whole class stopped and gave him strange looks as he walked in. “Allen, I’m surprised to see you so late. Would you care to explain?”, the brown curly-haired teacher addressed him as he walked in. -11-
Hartlaub | St. Aehr's Academy Allen nodded, “No Mrs. Brinkman, I’d rather not right now.” “Well then” she replied, “Go ahead and find a seat. Hopefully this won’t happen again.” Allen felt all the other kids in the class staring at him as he walked toward the back of the class to the only remaining seat. The other kids sat in the back rather disillusioned. They were too busy listening to their iPods to pay attention to the reading they were supposed to be doing. Allen shuffled through his backpack trying to find the book they were reading. He grabbed it out, leaned over at the kid next to him and asked, “Hey, do you know what page we’re on?” The other kid just sat there and listened to his hidden headphones. “No talking in class”, Mrs. Brinkman said aloud as Allen slinked back into his seat. “How could she even see me from way up there?” he thought, “I can’t even read anything she wrote on the board from here…” For the remainder of the class, Mrs. Brinkman called on the kids that sat near the front. Allen kept raising his hand to answer questions, but she never even noticed him in the back. “Aw man” Allen shrugged with disappointment “I can’t even participate in a class I enjoy…” Emily had her field day class later in the afternoon as well. Other girls teased her for missing passes during softball. Someone hit a homerun out of the outdoor grounds while she guarded 3rd base. The ball flew above Emily’s head, way out beyond the grounds of St. Aehr’s. Emily reacted upon instinct to go look for it. She spent what seemed like forever looking for the ball, and had no luck finding it. One of the gym teachers spotted her from afar and called out, “What are you doing way out here? Not trying to leave school are ya?” “No mam, I was just looking for a ball that got hit way out here.” Emily spoke up. “Uh huh, sure you were. You do realize we have plenty of replacement balls available. There’s no reason for you to be out this far. Kids your age these days, there’s no telling what you could be up to out here” scolded the teacher. “Ugh! That is such crap! I was only out here to get a stupid ball back I can’t even find. Why am I getting the third degree here?” Emily replied with disgust. “That’s enough from your sassy mouth there young lady. You’ll be spending your after-school time in detention. Maybe that’ll teach you to stick around.” Emily crossed her arms in disgust, “God, that’s so unfair.” Bells rang again as all the kids left the classroom buildings of St. Aehr’s to return back to their dormitories. Emily walked down the empty halls towards a door marked Room 406. She opened the door, only to notice that Allen and Harold were already sitting in there as well. “Allen! How’d you wind up in here?” Emily said with surprise. -12-
St. Aehr's Academy | Hartlaub Allen rolled his eyes towards Harold, “I could ask you the same thing, Emily.” “Ahem. Silence. This is detention. I highly suggest you do something productive,” scolded the supervising teacher, “I have to step out momentarily. You are all to stay here for the duration.” He proceeded to walk out the classroom door. Emily opened up her science book out of her backpack, “Well, I might as well get some reading done while I’m stuck here.” “Good idea”, nodded Allen as he sat in a desk next to hers. “Hey lemme see that!” Harold grabbed the book out of Emily’s hand and held it up in the air. “Give it back Harold!” she cried out. “What, this book here? Too bad nerd, I’m gonna use it for my cat’s litter box,” teased Harold. “Just ignore him,” sighed Allen “Maybe he’ll leave us alone.” Emily rolled her eyes in disgust. “Here, we’ll use my book,” Allen suggested as he pulled his science book out for them to study from. Harold started ripping pages out of Emily’s science book and rolling them into tiny balls. “You’re gonna have to replace that you jerk! I need it for class!” Emily yelled at him. Harold pulled a straw out of his backpack. Allen continued to flip through his Science book and hold it over for Emily to look at too. Splat! A huge ball of spit hit Allen in the back of the head. “Knock it off Harold!” yelled Emily. “Come on you pansy, aren’t you gonna do something about it?” agitated Harold. Strides of annoyance pumped through Allen’s veins as he continued to ignore Harold. “Come on, do something you wuss.” chanted Harold as he spit more wads at the back of Allen’s head until he was completely covered in them. “Errgh! Knock it off Harold!” Allen finally snapped at Harold and threw the wads back at him. Harold got up out of his seat and behind Allen’s. “Get up.” he yanked Allen out of his seat and pinned him up against the wall. “Leave him alone, Harold!” Emily cried out as Harold punched Allen in the stomach. “Atomic wedgie time!” he teased as he pulled Allen’s underwear out up over his head. “Ha-ha, oh man. He’s got whitey tighties! What a dork! Ha ha ha!” Harold continued to torment Allen. “Please Harold! Just knock it off already. You’re hurting him!” Emily insisted. Roberto happened to walk by the hall outside after basketball practice and overheard them. Allen tried to fight back with Harold, but he had him completely pinned down. Allen was completely red with frustration and embarrassment. -13-
Hartlaub | St. Aehr's Academy “Man,” Allen thought, “I can’t believe Emily saw my underwear.” Roberto ran into the room and tackled Harold off of Allen, and the three of them managed to escape while Harold was knocked down. Allen, Roberto and Emily ran across the plaza towards their dormitories. They stopped to breathe once they felt they were out of sight. “Well…” panted Emily “I guess this is where we part ways for now”, as she headed towards the girl’s dorms. “Yeah.” wheezed Allen while he held his cramped sides, “I guess we’ll see you tomorrow morning.” “Sounds good.” nodded Emily, “Thanks for your help earlier Roberto!” “Anytime.” Replied Roberto, “That’s what friends are for.” He and Allen headed towards the boys’ dorms as they waved goodbye to Emily. As Allen and Roberto went to bed that night, they talked about what all happened that day. Roberto eventually fell asleep, as Allen stayed awake staring at the ceiling and thinking “Why did my mom have to send me to this school? I just want to go home…” The next morning Allen and Roberto were waiting for the bell to ring outside their homeroom class. Emily noticed them from afar and walked over to greet them. “Good morning Allen, hey Roberto.” She smiled as she sipped her orange juice. “Hey Emily.” Allen half-smiled as he rubbed his eyes. “Did you sleep okay last night Allen?” Emily said with concern. “Eh, I think he was still asleep when I went to bed” sighed Roberto. “Yeah… I’m okay.” Nodded Allen. Harold marched down the hallway to where the three of them were standing, “Well look who it is!” Harold chuckled, “If it isn’t Captain Whitey Tighties and his little crew!” Allen frowned with embarrassment. “Cool it, Harold.” Roberto stared him down. Harold pushed Allen into a locker and laughed, “Ha-ha, little wimp!” Allen fell down against the wall as Roberto yelled out “Hey, watch it!” Little did Harold know that Principal Lipton was hovering right behind him. “I see what’s going on here.” The Principal looked down firmly at Harold, “You are to report to my office immediately mister.” “Aw man,” shrugged Harold as Principal Lipton dragged him into his office. Emily helped Allen up off of his feet and brushed him off. “Thanks for being so brave Allen.” She smiled as she leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. Allen felt a rush of joy overcome him. He couldn’t help but smile as he gently rubbed over his cheek with his hand. -14-
St. Aehr's Academy | Hartlaub “I’ll never wash this cheek again...” Allen smiled pleasantly as he walked hand-in-hand with Emily down the hallway while the bell rang. She looked over at him and smiled. “You know,” he said aloud “This place might not be so bad after all.”
Fenby | Family Christmas
Family Christmas Mollie Fenby -16-
A Makeshift Christmas | Darbrow
A Makeshift Christmas for a Messenger Girl Autumn Darbrow
A red velvet bow with three gold jingle bells hangs on the handle of my doubledoor, wooden closet. The tan carpet I’m kneeling on offers sharp, green needles and flashes of gold and silver tinsel. Here and there, embedded into the carpet, are colored stains from days of lying on the floor, coloring with markers missing caps and accidentally spilling paints. This Christmas is an early one spent in the house. My room is only half-finished. The top part of the walls are a light ballerina pink, but the bottom half still shows the light blue, cigarette smoke-covered walls from the previous teenage-boy occupant. In the corner is a two-rung, wooden book case with various plastic toys on the top. A picture frame of yellow sunflowers sits in the corner of the first shelf, barely visible, behind a stack of yellow and white drawing paper, the means to relinquish frustration and boredom. In the middle of the picture is a younger, more pure version of me, and there is a large grin on my face. I’m on my knees in a purple nightgown with a picture of cats playing in flowers on it. My brown Christmas bear with a red, plastic heart is standing in my lap. To the right of me is my own homemade Christmas tree. My tree consists of about six to ten branches that I gather from the tree farm discard pile, and they are stuck in my red beach bag with white palm trees. Looking back now, a Christmas tree inside a beach bag may have been the first clue to an abnormal life. The drawstring of the bag holds the branches together, and the “tree” is propped in the crack of my bookshelf and closet door -17-
Darbrow | A Makeshift Christmas so it can stand. I use my own stash of decorations, which are strewn about my “tree.” The white garland is very haphazardly placed with multi-colored, m&m lights weaving throughout the garland and branches. Red ribbons are tied on and varying colors of stuffed, ornament bears hang about. Clipped on the very top branch is a cardboard cutout of an angel, colored from crayons, with a halo of gold glitter. I made that one myself. I was always so proud of my “tree.” It’s interesting to think that my favorite Christmas hobby at that age died way before my spirit. Maybe I should’ve paid attention to those falling pine needles. Things started turning for the worse after that Christmas. My parents’ marriage officially went out the door. My dad was kicked out of the house. He told me not to worry. He’d be around a lot, but that wasn’t a comfort to me. Over the years, he’s had many different homes. I don’t remember all of them, but I do remember the apartment he bought off of Princess Street in York City. He got it for real cheap since it had been in a fire and was pretty damaged. There were three floors. The bottom had a bathroom, kitchen, his room and the living room. The upstairs had a bathroom, too, my room and the boys’ room. Nobody went on the third floor. There was no reason to. He did a lot of work to fix the place up. The kitchen floor needed new linoleum and the stove was broken. He fixed those. New carpet had to be put down because of the flooding. He was able to get a hold of some furniture for in the living room, too. He left the original carpet in my room. It wasn’t ruined, but there were obvious damages. The curtains had to be thrown away. I had two dressers that he bought for me and a nice bed. I was daddy’s little girl. The boys’ room was much smaller than mine. They had a little dresser, a really big dresser that held all of their toy cars and two twin beds. The bathroom upstairs wasn’t finished. It would never be finished. For the longest time, I was scared to sleep in my room. I wanted to sleep in the living room near my dad where I felt safe, but I eventually spent a couple of nights in my own bed until my bedroom window was busted out. I spent the rest of the years that he lived there sleeping on the couch, but I was ok with that. We got to see him every other weekend and every holiday. We were lucky enough to have him still around, unlike some other kids. It wasn’t always a pleasant experience changing parents, though. They were going through a very bitter divorce, and I was the messenger girl most of the time. My mom would tell me bad things about my dad, and my dad would tell me bad things about my mom. Most often than not, I was to relay mean comments back and forth as if I were a telephone, not their child. Those messages replayed in my head many times. Watching them bicker was like watching the pine needles fall from my tree. There was nothing I could do about it but sit back and watch their relationship die. That was the last Christmas I gathered branches to make a mini Christmas tree for my room. The needles fell from my little tree, while they also fell from the lifelong commitment my parents had made. I had been pricked too many times, and, now, Christmas just isn’t the same.
First Spring | Hartlaub
First Spring A Sapphic Stanza for Stella Mae
Christopher M. Hartlaub
Aptly, all the children, like grapes, cluster near. Anxious feet shift silently, braking noise. Their curiosity? From the tips of fingers tickling new toes.
Bolinger | Bear
Bear Lynn Bolinger -20-
Simba's Praise Song | Gray
Simbaâ€™s Praise Song S. Virginia Gray It has never felt wrong to hold you to my bare chest, let your limp limbs settle around my collar bone, soft and constant. The cold touch of your eyes has never startled me awake, although the tickle of your tail may fuss my sleeping from time to time. I remember a time before you, full of mermaids, songs and shiny things. But those times passed, just as your time is beginning to crawl, and you have made me into the person in the mirror. Heroes to worlds beyond the skin and bone, we cannot have the greatness we once claimed. Here that doesnâ€™t matter. High tides are coming in fast. My nerves no longer trust -21-
Gray | Simba's Praise Song
the lessons we learned together; fighting off dragons, conquering oppressive empires. They are yellow floaties, now too small to hold my head high. But there are new arms held close around my neck, so bare. They lift me afloat, whisper how to kick and bob with the tides. The imaginary shores of victory known only to you and me begin to fade behind. Solid islands loom across the blue horizon. Do not think that I would leave you. The tragedy would be too much to bare. It is my turn, my old friend, my new love and guide beside me, to carry you along the journey of my life; to keep your stitching taut and your fur cloth clean and fuzzy. We have not grown apart, we are merely a less frequent thing. For you know my love for you has crossed all borders, and will not be shaken by real world threats. And you will always watch out for me with unblinking eyes, unalterable resolve on your face, and a hidden mane of memories, never to be left behind.
Mary Speaks to Emma | Eidus
Mary Speaks to Emma An excerpt from War of the Rosens
On a sweltering August day, Emma wipes her brow and gathers up all her courage as she enters the churchyard of the Immaculate Conception Church, directly across the street from the Projects. For so long she's been longing to enter this forbidden territory. Since the Rosens aren't great Jews, she figures, why shouldn't she learn a thing or two about Catholicism, which seems so wonderfully exotic, with its notions of original sin and sainthood, and its beautiful depictions of nearly naked Christs nailed to the cross. But what if by just entering the Church she becomes a Catholic? For one thing, her parents would never forgive her, since her mother frequently says that the Rosens -- even Emma's father -- are "ethnically Jewish, and proud of it," even if they don't believe in God or observe Hannukah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or Passover. She adds, "And don't be fooled. Daddy may not show it, but he feels exactly the same way," and she tells a story about how when Leo was young, he got into a wild fistfight with some men who said "kike" and "hymie" in front of him. Emma isn't sure that she believes the part about her father's great Jewish pride, but she definitely believes in his wild temper, since she's observed it firsthand many times. And that's precisely why she also knows that he'll kill her if he ever finds out that she's about to venture inside the Immaculate Conception churchyard. Nevertheless, walking as quickly as she can, she tells herself that as long as she remains in the churchyard and doesn't actually set foot inside the church, nothing terrible -23-
Eidus | Mary Speaks to Emma will happen. Still, her heart beats so hard that her chest hurts. So far so good, though. Nobody is around: no stern, frowning nuns; no dreamy-eyed monks; no nosy Catholic kids from the Projects. She walks for a few moments, her heart thudding in rhythm with her footsteps, until she enters a yard hidden by a high brick wall dense with ivy. Has she come upon God's garden? No, it's too run down, the grass scraggly and wayward, an abundance of dirt, and no flowers. Surely if He exists, His garden would be in constant bloom. Even more quickly, she walks along a narrow dirt path bordered by a few large trees offering intermittent shade. Swatting at a mosquito circling her face, she wonders why, if, as her late Grandma Thelma (her mother's mother, whom her father couldn't stand, and who died two years before of a stroke) always declared, the Jews are supposedly the chosen people, it's the Catholic kids who have the most holidays off from school, and who receive tons of gifts at Christmas. Emma's friend, Rosemary Mammano, frequently tells Emma about the things in which Catholics believe. They're so poetic that Emma is consumed with envy. Emma wants to be a great poet when she grows up, like Poe, Shakespeare, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose great works her father reads aloud to her on nights when he's in a good mood. "How stern are the woes of the desolate mourner/As he bends in still grief â€Ś" he reads, from Shelley's "Bereavement," in an actor's confident voice, suited for whatever role he takes on: booming Othello; mischievous Puck; mad, bereft lover of Annabel Lee. Why, then, isn't her father able to appreciate the poetry that's part and parcel of Catholicism? Catholics believe, for instance, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings, and yet really one supreme Being, and isn't that as marvelous an idea as Poe's fantastic raven who quoths "Nevermore?" She swats again at the mosquito, and it flies off. She stands still for a long moment, smoothing her baggy navy blue shorts, relishing the hot sun on her face, even though her fair, freckled skin is likely to burn. That's another reason to envy the Catholic kids, at least the Italian-American kids like Bobby Gaglione, whom she has a crush on, because their deep-toned, olive skin doesn't immediately turn bright red in the sun. Also, the Catholic kids are so tough and cool, saying "shit" and "fuck" with abandon, since by confessing to a priest once a week, they're granted total absolution -- another poetic idea, if ever there was one. The narrow, dirt path leads Emma to a section toward the back of the yard that's somewhat better kept, although there are more weeds than grass. To her right stands a plain-looking white building, with a tiny, murky wading pool in front. This must be where the monks live, those chubby, pale, bald old men, and the equally pale, bony, melancholy-looking young men she sometimes sees walking around the outskirts of the Projects in their long brown robes and sandals. She walks even faster, in case one of them should appear, and question her motives for being here. And that's when she comes upon the statue of the Virgin Mary, who reigns there all alone, with no baby or adult Jesuses, no angels or cherubs, to keep her company. One afternoon not too long ago, a sixth grade boy -24-
Mary Speaks to Emma | Eidus riding the elevator with Emma leaned toward her. "When a man puts his thing inside a woman," he whispered excitedly, "a baby comes out. But virgins like God's mother," he added, "can have babies without the man's thing." Right on the spot, Emma decided that virgin-motherhood -- surely the most enviable poetic notion of all -- was the state she wanted to achieve when she grows up. Emma stares up at the statue. Mary seems larger than life, towering above her as though the top of her head actually touches the tip of Heaven which, according to her parents, Emma isn't supposed to believe in. Mary has wide-open hands that promise so much in the way of tenderness and touch, with long, tapered fingers that seem to glow. Her skin is ivory and luminous; her mouth benevolent and full. She looks as generous and kind as Glinda the Good Witch in the The Wizard of Oz, whom Emma adores because her voice is like liquid silver. Sometimes, when Emma's alone, she recites Glinda's lines in dulcet tones, "Click your heels â€Ś there's no place like home â€Ś " She imagines herself, hand in hand with Dorothy, transported through the skies to that warm and loving place called Kansas. Emma pictures Mary gathering her up in maternal arms, tenderly smoothing her hair and stroking her forehead. Mary would never get migraine headaches and vomit, the way her own mother does, or grow sad and depressed and say that all the Rosens, including Emma, are "destined for lives of Doom and Gloom." Mary would stick up for Emma and not just stand by helplessly, wringing her hands and looking at the floor when Emma's father hits and hits her, when Emma's screams are so loud she doesn't understand why neighbors don't come pounding on their front door, to rescue her. Emma closes her eyes, and it occurs to her that this is a perfect opportunity to seek guidance about things that trouble her. Pressing together the palms of her hands, enjoying the sensation of the wild-growing grass tickling her ankles, she silently asks Mary how best to win the heart of black-eyed Bobby Gagliano. And how can she start doing better in math, her worst subject at school? And is there any way to prevent May, who hates her guts, from calling her names and smacking her and punching her -- not unlike her father? And can Mary help her to figure out once and for all how to stay out of trouble with her "hotheaded" father, which is how her mother describes him when he's not around? Finally, Emma asks silently, "And how can I learn to be a good Jew, when I don't even know if God is real?" She doesn't dare add, "I don't even know if you are real." Emma waits for Mary's answer. Mary is silent, and her beautiful, good-witch eyes reveal nothing of her thoughts. Emma presses her palms together so tightly her wrists ache. Way too much time seems to be passing. She wants to look at the Timex she proudly wears on her wrist, a gift from her father for her tenth birthday, but she doesn't dare, in case Mary gets insulted. At last, just when Emma is about to give up hope, Mary begins to speak. In a wise, soft, musical voice, she says, "Bobby Gaglione likes you a lot, as much as you like him, but he doesn't yet know how to show it. Boys mature more slowly -25-
Eidus | Mary Speaks to Emma than girls." Emma is grateful that Mary speaks so intimately to her, although it is weird that a statue can talk. Is she willing Mary to speak, by yearning so much for her to do so? Are her desires that strong? Whatever the reality is, she's already figured out before today that the world is sometimes a very weird place, a place where people's actions and words often don't make sense, and she's had no choice but to accept the reality of such a world. In a honeyed voice like a lullaby, Mary continues, reminding Emma that although she may not be good at long division and fractions, she's "exceptionally literary," which coincidentally is exactly what her father says. Mary urges Emma to stand up for herself with both May and her father. At the same time, she tells her to be patient with them. Again, Emma waits. Mary has answered all her questions but the one about being Jewish, and Emma wants to smack herself for having asked it. But just then Mary says, in a clear, strong voice: Don't worry now about how to be a good Jew. One day you'll understand. And then, you will be what you wish to be. Emma feels exhilarated. "Thank you," she whispers, dropping her hands to her sides, beginning to walk so fast that she's nearly running, heading for home along the run-down path, past the muddy little wading pool and the lonely-looking white building. She swats again at a mosquito, possibly the same pushy one she encountered earlier, and this time he lands on her forehead and takes a bite, but she's far too happy to care. Exiting the churchyard, she looks left and right to ensure that her secret journey will remain a secret, and she promises herself that she'll be back.
Bats | Shue
Bats Alissa Shue -27-
Smith | Little Devil
Little Devil Curtis Smith
We’d decided to skip trick or treat. Our son, having just turned three, didn’t seem ready to tackle such a complicated concept, the night’s implicit civility light years beyond our current battles with slapping and pushing and bawling, limp-limbed protests. He’d shown little interest in candy and even less in autumn’s requisite coats and hats, and the prospect of wrangling him into a costume was enough to justify our wait-until-next-year attitude. Not wanting to be thought of as party poopers, we reminded ourselves that our previous two days had been chock-full of Halloween shenanigans—the tepidly paced and thankfully tame local parade, our son’s preschool party where his modest outfit—a red wool cap with puffy horns and a Styrofoam-tined pitchfork—had lasted less than two minutes before being tossed aside, their added bulk hindering his headlong immersion into the frenzy. Anyway, he’d gotten a huge kick from simply greeting our own trick-or-treaters last year, our night spent chuckling at the Pavlovian desire that surged through him with each doorbell ring. After dinner, we performed a cursory cleanup of the visible areas of our living and dining rooms. Glancing out a window, I spotted our eight-year-old neighbor pacing her porch. She nibbled her set of plastic fangs, fluttered her cape, impatiently slapped her plastic pumpkin against her thigh. As six o’clock neared, my wife and I settled onto the couch, our son on our lap, and explained what was about to happen. “Happy Halloween,” we coaxed. “Happy Halloween,” he echoed meekly, his eyes distant and uncomprehending. -28-
Little Devil | Smith And like any good post-modern father, I set out on a course of secret worry, vexed once again by the rigidity of milestones, by the self-serving yet unwinnable game of peer comparison. Surely there were children his age who grasped the big picture of trick or treat, and what piece of the puzzle was my boy missing . . . and would this missing piece soon be picked up or was it a clue of something more sinister, the first dropped stitch in what would become a tear in his fabric of understanding? My concern over his unwillingness to crawl was abated when he walked at ten months. By two he’d counted to fifteen and recited the alphabet, but how many libraries and craft classes had we bailed out of, the parents of that child, the one who stormed across the reading circle and snagged story lady’s goose puppet, the one who dumped every liquid-carrying vessel in sight before we could even button his smock. At the playground he was the king of all things risky, a kinetic daredevil, yet he rarely spoke beyond simple demands and emphatic statements of the obvious. There were many days I walked home, fretting over the involved and detailed conversations I’d just had with little girls no older than him, pint-sized princesses who waited for their turn at the swings with a patience that seemed downright eerie after another frantic morning with my son. Normal—never had such a bland concept so thoroughly dominated my thoughts, but was my son, you know, normal? The call of concrete-stomping feet announced the invasion’s first wave. Ever curious, our son joined us in the foyer, peeking out the door as a collection of Power Rangers and a misplaced Darth Vader picked through our candy dish. “Happy Halloween,” our son said after we closed the door, and as it had the year before, his excitement increased with each subsequent visitor. Less than a half hour into the proceedings, our boy was jumping and shrieking, “Happy Halloween!” with a vehemence that amused the older kids and bewildered more than a few younger ones. His first escape was a bare-footed bolt between our stoop’s goblins, a zooming path across our yard and straight into our neighbor’s house where he got as far as their dining room before my wife caught him and lugged his kicking, protesting form back to our house. The second flight saw him opt for the opposite direction, a hardcharging scramble that ended with a tumble into a flowerless flowerbed. Inside, a deal was struck. I would take the boy out with the stipulation he must wear his outfit. To our surprise, he acquiesced, even allowing us to adorn him with the complete ensemble of red pants and red sneakers and red fleece pullover. He picked up his pitchfork and, hoisting it to the stars, rumbled boldly into the fray. We weren’t prepared. We had no plastic pumpkin to hold our booty; no flashlights or glow sticks or reflective clothing; no itinerary of houses to hit, our only compass my boy’s forward-focused steps. The sycamores had dropped half their leaves, and in this starker backdrop, the neighborhood’s old-fashioned lampposts stood out, cones of harsh white we scuttled between, our long shadows trailing us into the light before leading us back to the dark. A hint of -29-
Smith | Little Devil wood smoke hung in the air, a chill for my fingers and nose. Our street was relatively quiet. I offered a salute to a squad of camouflage-clad boys, nodded sympathetically to a mother who lingered on the sidewalk and quietly urged her sugar-riled son to say “Thank you.” I spotted a familiar face from summer’s pool days, but there was no time to chat, my little devil already outpacing me, drawn by the next block’s bustling activity. A demographic fluke, the cluster of young children inhabiting the block paralleling ours, and as we ambled up the murky cross-street, a dreamy scene gelled into focus. Smiling strings of orange lights hung from the porches, the skull-like glow of jack-o’-lanterns on the stoops. Plastic skeletons dangled from mailboxes. Bedsheet ghosts haunted the trees. Ballerinas and cowboys and gypsies flitted beneath the streetlamps. The homeowners, no doubt exhausted by the up-and-down calisthenics of answering their doors, simply sat on their porches, their candy tubs by their sides. Wonderful, the night’s sounds, no cars to beep or rumble, no parents yelling after wayward children. Just a tender hush rippling with unchanged voices and trampled leaves. Onward, little devil! Bent at the waist, my boy charged forward, his horns pointing the way, his abandoned pitchfork now my burden. We shared the sidewalk with raucous elementary-school boys, with near-adolescents who worked the street with dour precision, with high schoolers in last-minute costumes out on a lark. Somehow my son became entangled in a host of cardboard-winged fairies, and before I could rein him in, we were detoured onto a walkway where the fairies offered shy greetings and sincere thanks while my demon wormed between their legs and attempted to gain entrance to yet another house. Snatching a handful of fleece, I plied him away, our exit made across a lawn spotted with discarded candy wrappers—brightly colored testaments to childish impatience, littered reminders of how swiftly the admonitions of adults could be forgotten. Back on the sidewalk, my boy’s unmannered beeline ushered him past padded football players, taildragging dinosaurs, a queen in a golden crown. Sometimes I gazed down at him, and I was struck by the fact that, despite his size and wet diaper and lack of social graces, he had crossed the boundary from baby to little boy, and how fitting, his trundling march through this magical night of children, his brushing past boys and girls he would soon be as tall as, whose place he would take on future Halloween nights just as surely as another perplexed and amazed little devil would take his. A neighbor commented on my pitchfork, but our exchange of pleasantries was cut short because the devil wouldn’t heed my call, his horns momentarily absorbed by the sidewalk throng. Dodging a caveman, sidestepping a pair of pompom-rustling cheerleaders, I fell in line behind my boy. My parent’s worries were temporarily abated, the concept of normal melting in this brisk night of disguises and indulged impulses, and with this welcomed change in perspective, I began to let go of my view of life as a crow’s-flight journey from one checklist achieve-30-
Little Devil | Smith ment to another. Instead, I allowed myself to become immersed in eveningâ€™s holiday vibe, more truthful than Christmasâ€™s universal cheer, more realistic than New Yearâ€™s artificial nostalgia and quickly forgotten resolutions. Surrounding us now were the rudimentary images that would follow my son through his life, his first introduction to the true, meaningful milestones that would mark his place in this world, his flirtations with the dark undertones of disguise and death and fractured reality, the wonders of tasty treats and harmless shivers. My little devil lumbered fearlessly into the night, happy just to be in the mix, the newest player in this frightening, grinning dance.
Johnson | To a Golden Friend
To a Golden Friend Susan Johnson One For the money You were worth it. Twenty dollars spent at a carnival booth Yielded hours Of mute companionship. Two For the show In my imagination. Your aimless paddling in that clear glass bowl Emanated life And simplicity. Three To go Away Your body hitches a ride on the porcelain express Though your memory Lies ever in my heart.
Daniel | Spidle
Daniel Sarah Spidle -33-
Greenholt | Heliconius
Heliconius Hecale Butterfly D.J. Greenholt -34-
Ritalin Daze | Brunetti
Ritalin Daze Leo Brunetti
Childhood memories are supposed to be nostalgic. The memories of being care free can brighten any day. I missed out on these memories. Growing up with A.D.D wasn’t fun. It made school difficult, it made me an outcast even with friends; it also meant spending my childhood being controlled by Ritalin. What a horribly helpful drug. Plenty of parents have no problem giving it to their children, few realize the impact it will have. Few wonder about what long term problems it may cause. Ritalin does more than just help children focus in school; it robs them of their personality. As early as I could remember I was always more mischievous than my friends. Just like my father at a young age, it was not uncommon for curiosity to take hold of me. It was in third grade that my parents took me to go see the doctor about my “problem.” I still remember that day as the last time until high school that I wasn’t in a daze. We had to drive a long way to see that old man. In fact, we went back to our old town near Rochester, NY from our new town in central NJ. It was a long drive for a doctor’s visit, somewhere between four and five hours. When we finally arrived to his office, I was taken into a stale, unremarkable room. White washed walls void of emotion. The only feature I remember about it is the big mirror on the wall. I know now this was the window my parents watched me through, but as a child I was intrigued, wondering why there was a large mirror in such an empty room. This older man, the one we drove five hours to see, sat me down and began testing me as if I was in school. My parents told me it was important to do my best, so -35-
Brunetti | Ritalin Daze I tried my hardest to concentrate. When he gave me challenging questions I gave him my full attention, however, I felt like I was drifting away when his questions got easy. I was quizzed on everything from English to math. Before I knew it, I was told to go play and my parents walked into the empty room. When they came out they didn’t speak. We left in a silence that still haunts me. It wasn’t until we arrived home after another long drive that my parents sat me down to talk. They tried to explain to me how I was different. They tried to explain how I would have a harder time understanding things than my friends. Then they talked about the pill I was going to start taking every day. It was supposed to solve all my problems in school. I didn’t know at the time that it would cause me more problems in the long run, but even if I had, I trusted my parents and knew they only looking out for me. The next few years of elementary school, I didn’t really notice any affect from the drug. I was less hungry than usual, but overall I didn’t pay much mind to it other than taking it in the morning and at lunch. When I started to do better in school without added effort, I thought this pill had answered my prayers as a student. It wasn’t until middle school when I noticed how the Ritalin was really affecting me. As everyone started to form their cliques and make friend that would last them through high school, I would be withdrawn from most activities. I had my friends, and I still played with the others, but I had this overpowering feeling as if I was always in some sort of daze. As if the feeling of isolation from having A.D.D wasn’t enough for my young mind, this drug forced a lonely existence on me. I felt oblivious to the world around me. I would walk the halls almost like a zombie, no emotion, just getting to where I needed to go. Every day for the next three years of middle school would begin the same; I would wake up, take that yellow pill, and head for the bus stop. Somewhere between leaving my house and arriving at school, I could always tell when the medicine would begin to take effect. My normally frantic mind would suddenly turn blank and calm. At that time I would feel robbed of my imagination and creativity. This pill was the reason, but I could not bring myself say so. I had always tried to my parents, and they made it apparent that this pill was important to my future. While I did not have a bad life in any sense, I always felt off. I always felt as though there was something missing, an emptiness. While I was no longer distracted in the classroom, I no longer got excited. The emptiness gave way to sadness, and during a time when kids can be cruel it was abundant. I didn’t tell my parents, I didn’t want to disappoint them. They had put my on a pill to fix my problems, I kept thinking it was my fault new problems were arising. While I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, but the reactions which people could get out of me made middle school terrible. Friends turned on me when I began to be viewed as unpopular. Others stopped talking to me when they became targeted themselves for trying to cheer me up. This pill, which left me so withdrawn, had -36-
Ritalin Daze | Brunetti now left me void of anyone who had known me before I started taking it. I would often times get home from school and dread the countdown until the next day because it meant going back to the feeding frenzy, pre-teen bullies and popularity contests. And then high school. I had high hopes that I would be able to blend into the crowd once I got to my new school. Sadly I was mistaken. This new school brought many problems that were only made worse by this pill. My peers began dating, relationships became the focus of my few friends. We would talk about who we liked, who we thought was attractive, and the normal guy stuff. The difference was when my friends would go up and talk to the cute girl in the hallway; I would simply be focused on the next class on my schedule. Walking through the halls, head down, I tried my best to stay off the social radar. The only thing worse than being withdrawn and picked on, is withdrawn and un-noticed. It was akin to being a ghost floating through the halls. My final two years on Ritalin were the worst. During these years, I became shut off from everyone around me. While I was growing up, I always remembered my mother saying “bad things come in three’s.” These two years were no exception. The first event to affect me was my Grandfathers death. Even though I come from a large family, this was the first death I had experienced. What made it difficult was how close I had become to my only grandfather. When he passed away, I had no idea how to handle myself. I stuck to myself as usual and didn’t seek out my family in that time of need. I kept hoping someone would come console me. I kept wishing my parents would see what his death had done to me. Unfortunately, everyone had grown accustomed to these withdrawn side effects of the Ritalin. They noticed my quiet behavior, but figured it was only the medicine. What they didn’t know that inside of me, all I yearned for was some form of connection. When this connection didn’t come, I began to feel as though I wasn’t worth their attention. I felt rejected. The second event was my sister leaving for college. I was never especially close with my sister, but she always found some time for me. It wasn’t much, but it meant the world to me. Being in the same room as my sister and her friends made me feel like I was a part of something. She was the popular, social savvy person I wanted to be. She was my connection to the average teenage life. When she left, I knew it meant her friends wouldn’t come over anymore. It meant one step closer towards seclusion. I didn’t expect how much I would miss her. Without her in the house, I was left alone with my parents. They did their best to fill the gap, but at such a weird age, I couldn’t relate to them anymore. Without my sister, and parents that constantly worked late, the house was empty constantly. When I would come home to an empty house, knowing my parents wouldn’t be home for hours, I was as empty as the house. The third event, the one which caused the most pain, shook me to my senses—my father’s fight against cancer. He tried to hide the truth for a few weeks until they knew what the full situation was. When I was finally -37-
Brunetti | Ritalin Daze informed it was as if I could see a bomb falling towards me. At that age all I knew of cancer was that it killed people. I used my medicine as an excuse so I wouldn’t have to deal with the problems. A few people would occasionally ask me if I was ok, but it was more out of courtesy than concern. In a weird way, my father’s cancer was a blessing in disguise. It was hard watching my father put up with round after round of chemotherapy. Inside, I knew it was even harder for him to experience it. He would often times be so exhausted by these chemo cycles that he would spend days at a time in bed. It was all this time he spent in bed that really helped me. With time off of work and no energy to be active outside our house, we began to form a bond which I hadn’t felt since third grade. I began to realize just what I had been missing out on for all those years. It was my father’s struggle to live that sparked my own struggle: Live life. When I look back on the years which I was in a Ritalin daze, it is hard to remember a lot of my adolescence. I missed out on a lot of common childhood experiences. I feel robbed of a close relationship with my parents. Overall, those years of my life seem to blur together in such a manner that it is often difficult for me to pinpoint certain memories. I blame all this on the daze which the Ritalin kept me in for all those years. I blame the zombie-like state of mind which I couldn’t escape from. Most of all, I don’t blame my parents who thought they were doing the best they could for me. I don’t blame them for listening to a doctor. Everything in my life has contributed to who I am today, but I also cannot help but wonder where I would be without that daze clouding my mind. I wonder where I might be if I was upfront and honest to my parents about its effect on me. Nothing can be done to change the past, but if one person’s past can change another’s future, it was worth enduring.
Fumble Fingers | Lambert
Fumble Fingers Meg Lambert
You know that kid who always gets picked last when the neighborhood gang splits up into teams to play games after school? And you always feel real bad for him, but at the same time you don’t want him on your team, so you don’t pick him either? Well, that kid would be me. My name is Tyler Marley, but you won’t hear anybody call me that besides grown-ups. Around here, I’m known as Fumble Fingers. I guess some kids are born with the natural ability to catch a ball, but I certainly don’t got it. Whenever we get together to play baseball, or basketball, or football, no one ever wants me on their team ‘cause if the ball’s coming my way, you can betcha I’ll drop it. I don’t know why it is, but I can just never seem to keep a hold of the ball, whether I’m trying to catch it with a glove or my own bare hands. As a result, not only do I get picked last every day, but I also get stuck in right field, or on the sidelines, or if there aren’t enough kids to play and my team’s got no choice but to sub me in, no one passes to me. Which I guess is just fine ‘cause it saves me the embarrassment of dropping it, but it makes the game awful boring. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother showing up to play, ‘cause I’m sure the other fourth graders would be real relieved if I didn’t. To make matters worse, a blond-haired, blue-eyed, freckled girl named Maddie Lawson just moved into the neighborhood, and she’s started coming to our games. At first it was great ‘cause when she first showed up, nobody wanted a girl on their team, so it was -39-
Lambert | Fumble Fingers the first time ever I didn’t get picked last! Second-to-last might not sound so great to you, but it was a big step up for me. But that changed awful quick once the boys saw how this girl played. I’ve never seen someone so quick in my life, and she never drops the ball, ever. Now the guys love having her on their team, and I’m always picked last, again. It’s real embarrassing when a girl can play better than you. In fact, just last week when we were playing baseball, Maddie stopped what would’ve been the winning run for the other team, even after I blew it. She was playing first base ‘cause that’s one of the most important spots on the team, and of course I was right field right behind her, where the ball never goes. But every now and then the batter will hook it, and it comes flying at me, and I’ve got no chance of catching it. To be honest, it’s awful scary to have a hard baseball heading for you, so it makes it hard to concentrate on catching it. I just wanna make sure I don’t get hit. So when Miles Julio sent that ball flying my way last week, I put my glove up to guard my face, hoping by some miracle the ball would land in it. But of course it didn’t. It landed a couple feet short of me, and I just stood there like an idiot, covering my face with no idea the ball had already landed until my teammates started screaming at me. When I put my glove down and saw what was going on, Miles was already past second base, heading for third, destined to make that winning run. But all of a sudden Maddie was there in front of me, quick as a flash, leaving her post at first base to save the game. She scooped up the ball and whaled it at home plate, and I’ve never seen a ball thrown so hard or go so far. Billy the catcher grabbed it out of midair and tagged Miles out before he could step on the plate, and Maddie was the hero of the day. I’ll tell you, that was probably the most miserable moment of my life, ‘cause I hadn’t just blown it, I’d needed a girl to save my butt. The boys weren’t going to let me forget that one for a while. “Nice play, Fumble Fingers!” called out Rich Davis, the pitcher and team captain for every game we play. He’s kinda like the leader of the neighborhood gang, and always makes sure he never gets last pick ‘cause he takes pride in his winning streak and having me on his team would mess everything up. Rich has never lost a game, and everyone looks up to him, which I don’t understand ‘cause he’s really mean and always yelling at everybody, especially me. I don’t like Rich much, but I keep that to myself, ‘cause I guess I’m just lucky he lets me play at all. Well I left that game right after ‘cause I didn’t wanna stick around and get teased for what had happened, but I didn’t wanna go home yet ‘cause I knew my mother would ask me how the game went, just like she does every day, even though she knows I hate answering ‘cause I never have anything good to say for myself. Since today was especially bad, I hid out behind the gym, taking my frustration out on a plastic Coke bottle lying on the ground. I kicked it hard against the wall, with enough force that it would bounce all the way back to me so I could kick it again. It made me feel better, until I heard someone ask me what I was doing. Then I just felt stupid and -40-
Fumble Fingers | Lambert embarrassed as I turned to face Maddie Lawson, who had come looking for me after the game. “What do you want?” I asked angrily. I wanted to be left alone, and I especially didn’t want to talk to Maddie. It was bad enough to be bested by a girl, but to be teased by her too? I couldn’t take that. Maddie looked annoyed at the tone to my voice. “I was just asking what you were doing. You disappeared so fast after the game, I wanted to make sure you were okay.” This made me even angrier. “Of course I’m okay,” I replied. “Why wouldn’t I be? Go away, I’m busy.” I kicked the bottle again for good measure, hoping she’d leave. She didn’t. “You’ve got a good leg,” she said, watching the bottle sail through the air, then bounce back off the wall. I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly. “I what?” I asked. “You’ve got a good leg,” she repeated. “You know, for kicking. You’re kicking that bottle pretty hard.” “What’s your point?” I asked, kicking the bottle again. For some reason I didn’t mind so much that she was watching me now. “You ever play soccer?” she asked, twirling a strand of sandy blonde hair around her finger, her bright green eyes following the bottle as it connected with my foot. I scowled, annoyed again. “Yeah, we play it sometimes, but I always get stuck with goalie.” I hate being goalie, but so does everyone else, so of course that’s what I get. Everyone else gets to run around the field while I stay in the huge goal that’s impossible to cover with my scrawny body. Whenever the offense gets near me, they always manage to kick where I’m not, and even if I do get to the ball in time, of course it always slips through my fingers. “That’s a mistake,” Maddie commented, still watching me. I refused to make eye contact with her and keep kicking the bottle. “You shouldn’t be goalie, everyone knows you can’t keep your hands on the ball.” The bottle lands on the pavement with a dull thud as I abandon my game and angrily whip around to face her. “Yeah? I don’t need to hear that from you. I’m outta here.” I tried to storm off angrily, but as I brushed past her, she grabbed the sleeve of my T-shirt and stopped me. She had an awful strong arm for a girl. “Not so fast, Fumble,” she said, pulling me back. I glared at her for using my nickname, but she didn’t notice. “You didn’t let me finish. What I was going to say was, you shouldn’t be goalie, you should be on defense. With how hard you kick, you can get that ball away from the goal and so far down the field the other team won’t stand a chance.” I paused, and thought about this. When I played goalie, I would always watch the kids playing defense on my team, praying they would keep the ball from coming near me, and they normally did ‘cause there wasn’t much more to it than stealing the ball away from the other team and kicking it as hard as they can down the field. I felt -41-
Lambert | Fumble Fingers like I could do that…if I was given the chance. “Yeah, I guess that’d be cool,” I responded. “But like I said, I always get stuck with goalie. No one ever wants me playing on the field.” Maddie smiled widely at me. “Well I guess you’re in luck ‘cause after the game today, Rich said I should be the other team captain next week, and I could decide what game we play,” Maddie said. “And I’m just thinking that I wanna play soccer, and have you on my team.” I looked at her uneasily. “You actually want me on your team?” I asked, unsure. But though I couldn’t believe it, her grin was so big that I knew it was true. “Absolutely,” she said. “Just you wait until next week. You’ll show ‘em all.” So here it is next week and sure enough, as the gang all gathers on the field, Rich announces Maddie as the other team captain, and Maddie announces that today, we’re going to play soccer. A mixture of excitement and nervousness churns in my stomach, making me feel sick. I know I’m gonna end up on Maddie’s team ‘cause Rich will make sure of it, but I wonder if she’ll really let me play defense. “I get first pick,” Rich says, as always. After calling Miles to his side, it’s Maddie’s turn. “I pick Tyler,” she calls out, and everyone stares. I don’t even get it at first, ‘cause I don’t even recognize my real name. “You mean Fumble Fingers?” Rich asks, his eyes wide with surprise. He points his finger at me. “That guy?” Maddie reveals that wide grin again. “Yup. That guy.” She beckons for me to come stand next to her, and I can’t believe it. Not only was I not picked last, but I was actually picked first! No one else can believe it either, but as I stand by her side, I’m beaming like the sun. After the rest of the teams are picked, the fourth graders are in for another surprise: Maddie’s not sticking me with goalie, she’s putting me on defense. “Maddie, are you crazy?” Rich asks, looking angry. “It’s an honor to be chosen as a team captain, and I’m starting to feel like I made a mistake with you.” Maddie laughs lightly. “You may have made a mistake, but only ‘cause you’re gonna get beaten,” she replies easily, jogging out onto the field. “Come on, let’s play!” “Like that would ever happen,” Rich scoffs at the idea of losing. As everyone takes their places on the field, I can’t help but feel sick to my stomach. There’s a lot riding on this game, and I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t want to let Maddie down, and I certainly don’t want to prove Rich right. Almost as soon as the game begins, I’m faced with Rich kicking the ball my way. Instead of getting anx-42-
Fumble Fingers | Lambert ious, I think about last week, and how I took my frustration out on that bottle, and the way Maddie was impressed. Rich has an evil grin on his face as he gets closer to me, and I refuse to be intimidated. I smile right back and run at him, aim my foot for the ball, and kick it out of his possession. It goes flying through the air and decently far down the field, to the surprise of everyone watching, except for Maddie. She cheers for me as Rich glares in disbelief. While the other team’s players are stunned, our offense takes possession of the ball and kicks it right to the goal, scoring our first point of many. For the rest of the game, Rich tries to avoid me when taking the ball down the field, but I’m always ready and waiting. I steal the ball from him seven times—believe me, I counted—and kicked it far down the field for our offense to take over and score. We only play for a half hour, and with a minute left on the clock, Rich is desperate to score. But his team is down by five, and they have no chance of coming back so fast. As he charges toward the goal, I know I can let him take a shot and it wouldn’t matter, he’d still lose, but I want to play my position right. At the risk of making him angrier, I block him as he heads toward the goal, but he manages to kick the ball past me to the corner of the goal. Billy, our new goalie, blocks it, though, and throws it out to me with a grin. “It’s all yours, Fumble! Kick it out of here!” “Pretend it’s Rich’s head!” Maddie calls out from down the field with a giggle. Rich glares and starts running for me, but I wind up and kick it all the way down the field before he can get to me. It makes it to Maddie, who takes it to the goal, and scores another point before the time runs out. “We won!” Billy shrieks, jumping up and grabbing the top of the goal, swinging from it like a monkey. “Wahoo, way to go Fumble!” Rich sneers at me, but I don’t care how mad he is, ‘cause I just can’t stop smiling. Maddie runs up the field towards me and I hold out my hand to give her a high five. She ignores it and flings her arms around my neck in a hug. “You were amazing, Tyler!” she says when she pulls back. “I told ya so!” I laugh nervously and carefully push her away so the guys don’t have something else to pick on me. I glance over at Rich to see if he’s going to say anything, and am surprised to see the anger gone in his face. He comes over and slaps me on the back, a little too hard to be totally friendly, but at least he’s smiling. “Maybe you’re all right, Fumble,” he says, while all the rest of the kids gathered around nod in agreement. “I think you’ve earned Team Captain and the right to choose the game for next week. Whaddya say?” I am grinning ear-to-ear as I reply, “All right! Can we play soccer again?”
Darbrow | Upon a Witching Hour
Upon a Witching Hour Autumn Darbrow A Banshee howl and a Banshee scream, warning of impending doom, hangs on the moonlight gleam. Upon the witching hour, in a dark room â€˜round half past four, my childâ€™s small bosom falls and her sweet breath is heard no more. The angel of demise stole my baby away despite my bellowing cries to let her stay. The angel of my essence, cherished cherubic child I adore, Was too soon stolen from meblue eyes, sweet smile gone forever more. The cancer transpired swiftly. Its fury unfurled and ravaged my sweet child, my only baby girl. -44-
Curls | Gray
Curls S. Virginia Gray
They had a good spot, a tolerable spot, the tolerable spot by the window. The breeze forced through the bars, pushing the stench back to the stale and silent center of the boxcar. Here there was a limbo, where the pollen of late spring and smog of the gasping engines joined, and for a moment you could breathe. The thickness of the outside smells clung to the tongue, almost choking the man, although he held in his irritated coughs for fear of waking his daughter. Even so, it was a vibrant, beating, welcome odor for them both, combating the four-day stagnant rot that hung over the rest of the passengers. The wind tussled her hair, and it was that which kept her and her father by the barred hole. The moving air was good for her, and she was good for everyone. She held the attention of them all, accountants, butchers, poets alike. Even in sleep, her image was enough to keep them preoccupied, keep their minds off of the stench and gnawing hunger. Her soft pink dress faded to a smoke-grey, her school stockings in shreds. Her black taps, bought polished and new just for this journey, now scuffed and cracked as if they were hand-me-downs to the fifth generation. But that was not what the passengers saw. The grime and dirt stopped just beyond the edge of her white lace collar, leaving only her round little face, framed in radiant golden curls. If such simple beauty could survive unmarred through this trial, then something good must come of it. If this journey could not mark her, nothing would. ---45-
Gray | Curls Her grandfather left them as she slept, her father holding her up in protective silence. A barber, whom they had only met at the train station, tried to lift the old bookkeeper to this feet, but there was no effort, no motion left to the body. He looked on as his father’s limp, ever-staring face dissipated into the dark, pushed to the opposite corner of the car. To those who piled the body in the corner it was death number 17, but to the girl’s father it was a mentor, a legend, a man. It was the body which had lifted the rafters of his birth-home into place, the body which had been the first to lift the chair at his bar mitzvah, the body which proudly held scars of the Great War. It was the body of the man who he had honorably become himself. The girl’s curls shifted and tumbled over his face as the train curved along through the Black Forest, bringing his gaze away from the engulfing shadow of the corner. He could not weep. He would not, for fear of waking his beloved daughter. Not for her sake, but for theirs. She would rub her sapphire eyes and look to him. She would say where is food, and he would have no answer. She would say where is drink, and he would have no answer. She would say where is Momma, and he would have no answer. And now she would say where is Grandpa. And he would give no answer. He would kiss her paling cheek and hold her tight, brace her for what she would realize to be true. He could not bear the thought of her anguish, let alone bring it to fruition. He was her protector, no matter the conflict or evil. He would not bring her to such pain. He brushed her hair back into place behind her soft ear and settled himself back into a bearable position, making sure not to wake her. --She awoke on her feet to the sound of dogs. Tugging and shoving engulfed her forward motion, cries and commands bombarded her ears, but all the broke through to her were the dogs. They were hungry. She pictured beyond the sliding boxcar doors the old shepherd dog of Franc Hilmen, the town butcher whom she had not seen since the last train had left town two weeks ago. Living on the scrap marrow of the day’s meat orders, the shepherd roamed as a predator in the streets. The older boys took it as an act of honor and courage to survive teasing and baiting the old dog. His eyes would glaze as he barked and bit at them like a beast on the end of a chain; savage, vengeful, and determined that to gain his meal he would take it by force. She had decided after one baiting, which she passed going home from tutoring, that she would bring something for the old dog each day. She pitied the poor thing and knew she could sneak in some extra braunschweiger in her sandwiches without punishment. She wanted to help because she could. He was hungry, she was not… These dogs were hungry. And now she was hungry too. Her stomach growled as they did. But perhaps it was just the air of the boxcar. Once outside she would escape the stifling thickness which had held them captive for so many days, find her senses, and with them perhaps a good meal. Yes, a nice big meal, maybe even a picnic -46-
Curls | Gray was waiting for her beyond the train doors. Her Uncle Swen waiting to wrap her in a bear hug. Her father must have snuck out before her to surprise her, lift her up and fly her through the orchard trees to the table, where there would be bread and jams and Aunt Maryâ€™s family goulash recipe and maybe even some mince meat pie. And strudel, lots of apple strudel. The slight whiff of baking apples which she caught from her daydream disappeared as the reality of their destination came into view. The only trees in sight were skeletal silhouettes looming behind the far edge of barbed wire fences. Row upon rows of sagging, splitting hutches filled the space within the wire, emptying and silent. No color seemed to touch the landscape, or the people within it. The soldiers who met them at the gates were hard, chalk-faced, and blank. She wondered if this was where the bad soldiers went to be punished, since the good ones always seemed to be in town playing with her and the other children after tutoring hours. Only the men holding the dogs, whose coats were caked in grime and saliva, had any expression at all. Impatience; none of them would even glance toward her as they forced along the panic of the men and women flooding from the train cars. She felt surprisingly calm among them, taking in this new place as mud splattered up from the puddling ground and the constant moving feet of those around her. The muck hung heavy in her curls, their golden shine caked over, forgotten. After passing a man whom she felt to be a kind of Moses, parting the sea of people through the middle, she realized her father was nowhere to be seen or heard. It surprised her, not that he was gone, but that she was not so upset by it. She noticed what a mess she was from all the tousling around and was glad he could not see the state of her. She knew how sad it made him when her hair was dirtied. He tried to keep it so well for her. They began moving toward one of the far buildings made of brick instead of molding wood. As they passed the last of the plank houses, she glimpsed a sunken face through a slit in the door. She wondered why it looked so fearful, why they all seemed so afraid. She had seen the soldiers at the gates and along the group of them, pushing them along. But she knew, even if they were the bad soldiers, they were soldiers all the sameâ€” there to protect all the people. Perhaps the adults around her had just forgotten their tutoring. They needed to remember, to be reminded of who those soldiers were, and what they meant to the people of Germany. Just before she lost sight of the pale sky and found herself in the dark of the brick building, she saw in the distance, at the pinnacle of the grey, dank landscape, her ray of hope. She planted her feet as firmly as she could and gave a stern and resolute salute to the red banner which lazily fluttered in an unnoticeable breeze. She stood waiting for those around her to see and understand, to know that it was alright. They were in Germany, they were surrounded by Nazi soldiers. They must be safe here. But no one stopped, and her firm stance gave way to the hustling crowd, drawing her into the black entrance. -47-
Gray | Curls She only make out one thing among all the chatter and cries. They were to have a community shower. It was as if the sun had erupted through the roof and onto her beaming face. A shower! She could clean her hair so nicely before she found her father again. They might even have a nice new set of clean clothes for her after they had all finished. Clumps of mud and crusting dirt began to fall to the floor from her smiling, bouncing head as she heard the doors of the shower close. Her smile grew ever wider as she lifted her mass of entangled curls, looking up into the faucet head hanging above her. There were still some around her whispering in fear, but she knew better. They were in the care of the Nazis now. Nothing could happen to them here.
Thompson and I | Martin
Thompson and I Melody Martin -49-
Rasel | The Bravest Damn Man
The Bravest Damn Man in Baltimore Tami Rasel In 1968 I was a ten year old living in Baltimore. My family aspired to be middle class, but in reality, we struggled financially for most of my childhood years. One form of cheap entertainment for our family was when the summer carnival arrived in town. Each June this traveling carnival would appear at our local park, stay a week, and then disappear until the next year. My two brothers and I began to be excited as each school year ended because we knew that in a few weeks we could once more return to the carnival, ride all the exciting rides, and--if money allowed--play games. My mother, who read the local paper religiously, had read an article one evening; an article about a new form of entertainment that would be at that carnival that summer. The carnival was bringing along a 600 pound baboon and they were offering one hundred dollars to any man who could stay in the cage with the large animal for more than five minutes. One hundred dollars was a lot of money to our family in 1968; it could even buy a used car back then, and we needed a new car badly. The car we had was not very dependable, my mother always joked, “That ole car runs on prayers, not gasoline.” I didn’t really understand what she meant at the time. All I knew at that age was that in order to get our car started: the family would all get into the vehicle and my dad would push it down a hill as he ran beside it. Once it began rolling on its own, he would jump into it, step on the gas, pop the clutch, and it would miraculously start--if we were lucky. It wasn’t until years later before I realized that you could actually start a car with a key. When my father got home from work that evening, my mother excitedly told him -50-
The Bravest Damn Man | Rasel about the baboon at the carnival; she was ecstatic about the possibility of my father winning a hundred dollars. He mulled it over for a few hours, and then emphatically announced to the family at dinner that night that he was going to get into the cage with (as he called it) â€œthat monkey.â€? He too wanted that hundred dollars bad, but the money was not really the issue, oh no, it was about the challenge and proving his manhood to Mom. My father was a large man; he was over six feet tall and weighed about 190 pounds of pure muscle. He had been an Iron Worker since he was twelve years old. Having grown up during the depression, his father took him to work as soon as he felt Dad was old enough and strong enough to earn a wage that would help out the family income. Years of being an Iron Worker had given him enormous bulging muscles; his body was extremely tanned from working in the sun, and his skin always felt like a leather belt. If anyone one could take on that huge monkey it was my father; in my eyes, he was not afraid of anyone or anything. For the next few weeks we talked about how dad was going to beat up that monkey, or at the very least, stay in the cage the entire five minutes; it was the topic of every dinner conversation at our house. My mother was already checking out cars that she could spend her winnings on. She had seen my father in bar room fights for years, and she had no doubt that he would come out of the victor. The day the carnival was coming to town was finally approaching. My two brothers and I could not sleep the night before; we talked half the night about what rides we were going to ride and what games we wanted to play. We played each moment out again and again in our conversation. We dreamt of tasting cotton candy, lemonade, and candied apples so much our stomachs hurt from the illusion alone. The night the carnival arrived, we all piled into our old car--hopefully for the last time. We drifted down the hill holding our breath, crossing our fingers, and saying a prayer until my dad popped that clutch and we heard the roar of the engine. We all cheered; we were finally on our way to a night we had been anticipating for weeks. When we arrived at the carnival, my father announced that he was going to fight the baboon before we could go ride any rides. I was a little disappointed, but figured five more minutes would not kill me. I knew my parents would be so excited about the hundred dollars if they won, that they would spend the entire evening at the carnival celebrating; we might even get to play a few games and win some prizes--prizes that were a treasure to a ten year old. When we got out of the car, my parents quickly walked back toward the trunk. They reached in and pulled out three large containers of Vaseline; we kids had no idea what was up at that time. Dad, who was already wearing his cut-off jean shorts, pulled off his shoes and shirt and threw them into the trunk. My mother then beckoned each of us to come and help smear Vaseline all over my fatherâ€™s body; apparently the two of them had planned their strategy the night before. They had decided that if my father was all greased up with the Vaseline, -51-
Rasel | The Bravest Damn Man the 600 pound baboon would never be able to hold onto my father; Dad would just slip right through his hands, lasting the entire five minutes, and we’d be a hundred dollars richer. My father was ready, all three Vaseline jars lay empty on the ground, and so we walked the short distance to the cage. The cage was surrounded by spectators, all yelling and pointing toward the huge monkey. No one had ventured to take the challenge to get into the cage with it. The men who worked at the carnival were encouraging those present; they were yelling, “give it a try, he won’t hurt you, show the little lady what you’re made of!” Their words fell on deaf ears; apparently no one had dared to volunteer. As we approached the cage, I began to hold my head high; I knew my dad was the bravest of them all; he was not the least bit afraid to get into that cage with the mammoth feral animal. The sign hanging over the cage door stated that the baboon’s name was Fred. Fred was sitting quietly in the corner eating several bananas; he was ignoring all the eyes starring at him and fingers pointing at him; food was obviously more important than fans. Fred was huge; he had red fur all over his body. The paws that were holding the bananas seemed as large as a baseball glove. Dad quickly stepped up and proudly volunteered to take the challenge of staying five minutes in the cage with Fred. The carnival men (who had looked at my father questioningly—obviously wondering why he was so greasy and shinny) gave Dad the following instructions: remain as quiet as possible while in the cage, stand perfectly still and the baboon might not even notice your there. As I listened to the carneys I knew that five minutes would be a breeze. These men did not know my father very well; he had come that night prepared to fight. My Uncle Ike always said, my dad was the best bar room brawler in all of Baltimore. My mom hated when my uncle made those comments in front of her church going family. Dad would just laugh at her, and then tell Uncle Ike to pay no attention to, “the holy rollers!” After a few minutes of instructions, my father finally climbed into the cage with the baboon. Fred, who had been sitting innocently in the corner and still eating his bananas, was now watching curiously as this strange man climbed into his domain. He immediately got up, dropped his fruit on the ground, and started sniffing the air. It was as if he had smelled something peculiar--possibly he smelled all that greasy Vaseline. He continued to sniff the air as he moved cautiously closer to my father; he inched along slowly--he got closer and closer. As the large animal moved within a couple feet of where Dad was standing, my father put his hands up in front of his face and made two fists--just as I had seen the boxers do on television so many times. Dad positioned his feet firmly on the ground a few inches apart, held his fist up closer to his face, and began dancing back and forth from one foot to the other; I couldn’t help but think that he looked just like Muhammad Ali. My brave father was ready to strike that animal at any moment. We kids were all outside the cage yelling and screaming, “Come on Dad, hit him, fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee!” We had heard Dad and my Uncle Ike chant those same words over and over as -52-
The Bravest Damn Man | Rasel they watched the fights on television every Saturday night. Fred did not seem at all afraid; he was still sniffing the air curiously, and moving closer, until he was standing right in front of my father. Fred just stared strangely at my dad who was dancing back and forth in front of him. All of a sudden, as if Fred understood my dad’s strange dance and hand jesters, quickly pulled back his own arm and punched my father square in the face. Dad spun around--his legs twisting like a pretzel--and then he quickly dropped to the ground. The crowd began to gasp, some were yelling instructions to my father to get up, while others were actually cheering for the baboon (apparently not everyone in town liked my father). Fred then quickly pounced upon my dad’s torso, not even giving him a chance to retaliate. The two of them, monkey and man, just rolled back and forth across the bottom of the cage; my father seemed as if he was desperately trying to escape the huge ball of red fur. Dad pushed Fred hard away from his chest, and the 600 pound baboon finally fell backwards. My father quickly jumped to his feet, and what we saw when he stood up amazed my brothers and me. The crowd was laughing hysterically, because as Dad got to his feet and faced the audience outside of the cage, we could all see that he was covered in straw, dirt, and what appeared to be baboon dung that had been laying all over the bottom of the cage. The Vaseline had caused everything to stick to his body, as if he were covered in glue. His lips were swollen and bleeding, and it looked as if he could no longer see out of one eye. The carnival men were yelling at him, asking him if he wanted to get out of the cage; letting him know he still had three more minutes to go in order to win the money. My dad shook his head back and forth, and mumbled some words out of the side of his mouth as he spit out blood; he was telling those men that he did not want to get out--he was in this for the duration. Over the next few minutes I watched my tuff rugged father wrestle that baboon to the ground, only to have the monkey overpower him, and then continuously beat my father repeatedly with his large hairy hands. Every once in awhile, Dad would get free and try to crawl quickly away on his belly, only to have Fred grab his ankles and pull him back towards him; my father’s face dragging along the ground through the dung and dirt all the way. My mother just stood outside of the cage and yelled, “beat him Robert, get up and beat him!” Her compassion overwhelmed me; she was determined that we would not leave the carnival without that hundred bucks. After what seemed like an eternity, at least to a young child watching her father being beaten up by a giant monkey (a child who just wanted to ride the rides and eat cotton candy) the men finally opened up the cage door and dragged my father out. Mom ran up to greet him with a huge goofy smile on her face. She just kept yelling, or rather singing, “We’re getting a new car.” The carnival men--who seemed a bit more sympathetic about my father’s condition--kept -53-
Rasel | The Bravest Damn Man asking him if he was alright; questioning my dad as to whether they should call an ambulance for him. Dad just started swinging his arms, telling everyone to leave him alone, and yelling that he was fine. He got up off the ground and began stumbling out of the horde of people that had gathered; word had spread quickly over the carnival ground to come and see the man getting pulverized by the baboon. As Dad finally emerged from the crowd, we could see the hay and straw stuck to every part of his body. His face and hair seemed to be covered in baboon poop; it was even running down his sweaty greasy chest. As he spoke, he was spitting out pieces of straw, dung, dirt, and blood--along with a few chipped teeth. His one eye was purple and completely swollen shut. His front tooth was obviously missing, and his arms and legs were scratched up severely. As Dad got closer to us, the stench from the baboon poop was overwhelming; I quickly covered my nose along with the rest of the group. Women were backing away and looking at him with disgust in their eyes, while men were patting him on the back and praising him. Mom didn’t care about the smell, she was happy; she had just won a hundred dollars. She picked up my dad’s arm and put it around her shoulder, as if to help support him in his weakened state. She yelled at us kids to help him where we could. We all piled around him proudly, and began to walk slowly toward the car. I suddenly realized we were not walking toward the rides. The rides I had waited so patiently for; the very reason we had come to the carnival; the only thing my brothers and I had dreamed about for weeks. I stopped dead in my tracks, my feet refusing to go on, and I quickly yelled out to both of my parents, “WAIT! We can’t go home yet-- aren’t we going to ride the rides?” My siblings seemed to be nodding their heads quickly in agreement, hoping that my parents would come to their senses, turn around, and walk in the opposite direction—back toward the carnival. Could they be serious, no cotton candy, no candied apples, no soda, no games? As I stood there defying my parents with my hands on my hips, Dad looked down at me with his one eye that was still open, baboon poop still dripping off his chin, and blood trickling out of the side of his swollen mouth, and growled very slowly, “We…are…going…home…now!” He was obviously in no mood for a debate. We never went to the carnival anymore that week; it took my father a few more weeks to even recuperate from his visit with Fred. By then, my mother was happily driving around town in her brand new (well new to us) black and white Volkswagen bus. However, the next summer when the time rolled around, we were once again excited about the carnival, once again anticipating its arrival, and once again dreaming of cotton candy, candy apples, and lemonade. Fred never returned after that summer with my dad; rumor had it after the night my father was beaten so severely by him, they shut the show down. I imagined that Fred was somewhere sitting peacefully in the corner of his cage, and happily eating all of his bananas. The stories from that evening spread in our community through the coming years. Some told of how Dad bravely beat up the baboon, and some dared to say my father actually lay on the ground and cried like a baby. But -54-
The Bravest Damn Man | Rasel those of us who were actually there, and those of us who had witnessed the big event, we knew what really happened. We all saw the brave, greased up, bloodied-beaten man that emerged from the cage that night; a man who was covered with straw, as well as dirt and baboon poop; a man who had spent exactly five minutes and ten seconds with a 600 pound monkey named Fred. I knew as I saw that large tanned dirty man lay on the ground that night outside of Fred’s cage-- one eye swollen shut, blood trickling out of the corners of his mouth, refusing any help from the spectators--I knew that my dad was, and always would be, exactly what my Uncle Ike always said about him, “He’s the bravest damn Irishman in all of Baltimore.”
Foster | No Max This Morning
No Max This Morning Sarah Louise Foster our voices echoed thru misty morning bounced around trees slid across the creek “here kitty, kitty here kitty!” Shrill on the “here” bobbing down the “kitty” no peace this morning we paused for the answering “meow” our ears met a treetop cacophony every bird sang happily undisturbed and so we knew no gray shadow rumbling purr in our arms no Max this morning uncanny cat sense beyond our ken had warned our call was not for breakfast no vet this morning -56-
Parenthood | Armitage
Parenthood Shauna Armitage
I hear the creaking of mattress springs being compromised; I check my cell phone and it’s 5:30 a.m. That’s right, 5:30 in the morning. The sun still sleeps, but unfortunately for me, my son does not. Ryder gently pats my face as I wobble up the stairs and place him in his pack’n’play. Elmo entertains him for 30 minutes while I pass back into oblivion. His little voice alerts me that Elmo is done, and now it’s time for breakfast. By the way, it’s Saturday. Now as I write, my boy is jetting back and forth across my living room, leaving utter destruction is his wake. However, he is, for the moment, allowing me to get some work done, which is not always the case. The clean-up will have to wait until he has passed out for the evening—when most things in my life get accomplished. Sometimes he just wants a hug, and other times he wants to climb the stairs. Usually when I am working, he wants to help me type, which I think is cute, but chances are that my professors will not agree when they are trying to read my work. Most traditional college students complain about their insane work load, crazy work schedule, and intense level of stress—imagine if you had a child in addition to all that. This is my second bachelor’s degree, so I don’t fall into the traditional college-student mold, but I have all of the same obstacles—and then some. I work about 25 hours a week. Like most other college students, I wait tables at night and on the weekends. I spend the same amount of time in class as other students (more I would argue) and I have the same amount of -57-
Armitage | Parenthood homework. Time management is always an issue. In order to accomplish all of my assignments, I usually do them a few days to a week in advance. (Weird, right?) On days that I don’t work, I drive back home, play with my son for a few hours, concoct something for dinner, and send him off to bed. Then I spend a few hours on coursework and usually retire between 12 and 1 a.m. My human alarm clock will go off at 6—if I’m lucky. On Saturdays, Ryder and I spend the entire day together: apple picking, raking leaves, or just going to play on the swings. Same drill for nighttime on the weekends: put baby in crib, do homework for hours, attempt to sleep. On Sundays, I work all day. I’m lucky to have such a great support system because not all mothers can boast that. My husband has the baby during the day while I’m in class, my parents watch him while I am at work, but every other moment I try to keep him at my side. Monday mornings are full of anecdotes from my classmates’ eventful weekends; my latest nights aren’t evenings spent out, but cuddling an angel who often evolves into a monster when a tooth is taking far too long to pop through. My earliest class is scheduled so far into my morning, it’s practically midday. Sleeping until 8 a.m. is sleeping in for me, and you have no idea how wonderful sleeping in until 8 a.m. can be! I wouldn’t call myself an adult learner. I’m only 23. I can’t even rent a car yet. But being a mom and a fulltime student poses challenges that are unfathomable to the average college student. I commiserate with the heavy class load, hectic work schedule, and lack of sleep. In addition, I am responsible for the well-being of my little one: A responsibility which not only means simply keeping him alive—like a cactus or a fish (which consequently, I cannot do)—but paying attention to him, teaching him, and nurturing him as well. Ryder can be a handful, especially if I am otherwise occupied with such things like brushing my hair or cutting up grapes. He loves my curling irons and needs to be watched closely when I am getting ready in the morning so he doesn’t grab a hot one by mistake. When he does get a hold of my styling tools (the cool ones of course), it just reminds me how he closely observes every single little thing I do. He tries to brush and curl his own locks, just like Mommy does. When I am running around the kitchen trying to come up with enough food to satisfy his little tummy, he knows exactly where to find the snacks. Not only can he open the cabinet, crawl in, and throw everything out onto the floor—he can now pick out the snacks that actually do belong to him, which makes trouble for me when I give him fruit, grilled chicken, or other healthy fare that I have taken extra effort to prepare for him. Ryder will sit in the high chair and feed himself (he has become quite the independent little man as of late) and when I try to teach him the signs for “more,” “please,” and “thank you” all I get is that devilish grin that says, “I couldn’t be bothered with that nonsense! My hands are occupied at the moment. Silly Mommy!” After lunch we head to the toy boxes to play. Yes, boxes. Plural. There are blocks, and books, and stuffed animals. There are soc-58-
Parenthood | Armitage cer balls, and bouncy balls, and bats. Ryder has a skill for pulling every toy out of every box and planting them strategically around the living room so there is no free space left to walk. He stacks his trucks in front of the child gate before climbing it and attempting to throw himself over, escaping the baby prison that I have created for him. After a late night of homework, an early wake up with an oh-too-happy child, and a long morning of baby chasing, it feels like the kid as no off button, and I may never sleep again. The time does come, however, when he decides to recharge, and the moment I have been waiting for finally arrives. My boy is a champ when it comes to naptime. He talks to his stuffed giraffe, Zimmy, for a few minutes and then puts himself to sleep. Even though I have been waiting for this moment all morning, after only 30 or 40 minutes, I miss him terribly and eagerly wait for him to wake up again. Now I can hit my mountain of homework or, if I have been particularly diligent all week, open a book or pop in a movie until I hear “MumMum!” called out from the bedroom. Walking in, I see that little mass jumping up and down on his bed, giraffe in mouth. Those big blue eyes smile the second he catches sight of me, and Zimmy drops to the floor as Ryder’s dimples make an appearance. Peals of laughter ring out as I hoist my boy into my arms, and suddenly it’s easy to remember why I am tackling motherhood and college for the second time. The challenges of a demanding lifestyle are rewarding. I excel in all of my classes because my other commitments force me to prioritize. I am looking forward to graduating—again—and securing a career position in the spring. “What’s a greater accomplishment than that?” you may ask. Just a week ago, my son learned how to walk. Yesterday, he ran.
Fenby | Carmen
Carmen Mollie Fenby -60-
Vowels | Sanders
Vowels Bitsy Sanders
A is for apple. In one fluid motion, Lorenzo’s long arms lift me from the ground to the branches hovering high above us. Even at the age of four, I know the things I want in life, and on this day, it is a golden delicious apple. Examining each piece of fruit closely, I inch over each one’s surface for imperfections—wormholes, bruises, soft spots—I want nothing to do with any apple that isn’t suited to be painted into a fairy tale. My pre-school teacher taps her foot impatiently below. The rest of the class is waiting on the bus while I select my souvenir. Lorenzo laughs, “She just knows what she wants, lady—nothing wrong with that in this world,” his heavy foreign accent fascinates me. “You need to hurry up though, angel—Lorenzo’s arms are getting tired.” “A little higher, please,” I say, hoping to spend just a second longer in this unfamiliar atmosphere. The leaves tickle my arms as I reach for my prize—the perfect yellow apple. It seems to drip off the branch and into my hands as I carefully tug it. Lorenzo lowers me to the ground. I keep it close to my chest as my teacher leads me to my assigned seat on the bus. She instructs us not to eat our apples until we get home, but I can’t wait. Each time the bus hits a bump, I sink my teeth deeper and deeper into its flesh. I smile as the juices stream down my chin and on to my bright red shirt, satisfied that I was so particular in my choosing. When we get off the bus, my teacher sternly asks me why my face and hands are sticky. But the apple core hanging out of my pocket gives me away. -61-
Sanders | Vowels E is for effervescent. “You don’t need to give them a whole one for this trick, see?” I watch as my older cousin, Brian, tears open a packet of Alka-Seltzer tablets with his teeth. Even at the age of ten, I know that what is about to happen is something that
shouldn’t. But I’m ten and Brian is sixteen—a six-year gap labeling Brian the almighty bearer of knowledge and me the worthless peon who should be grateful to even stand in his presence. The entire family arrived at the beach house just yesterday, and already Brian was asked to babysit for the afternoon while the adults go shopping. I kick my heels against the wooden bench and watch the seagulls dive for pizza and popcorn as helpless tourists squeamishly dodge their line of fire. Brian breaks the chalky white tablet into halves. I watch the dust fall through the cracks of the boardwalk. I’m still confused as to what “trick” he is referring to, but I think he’s just glad to have someone there to witness his antics. Brian smirks at me and asks if I’d like to feed the tablet to one of the seagulls desperately pecking at a full trashcan a few yards away. I decline, explaining to him that she doesn’t look sick so she doesn’t need the medicine. He shrugs and chucks it in the bird’s direction. The bird swallows the halved tablet without hesitation. “Now watch,” Brian orders, a hint of satisfaction in his voice. The bird begins walking in awkward circles, nervously pecking at her mid-region, which seems to be expanding slowly. I watch, just like he ordered, as she takes off in flight toward the beach, swaying in zigzagged patterns in the ocean air. She’s suspended only for a moment until she crashes into the sand. Brian laughs. I run to the edge of the boardwalk. My eyes widen. I watch, just like he ordered, the rise and fall of her chest as it slows to nothing. She stops moving, but her black eyes remain wide open. Later that evening, my parents ask me why I didn’t eat anything at dinner. The sounds of broken sobs from under my makeshift bed sheet fort give me away. I is for interstate. The sun starts to set, and I’m still waiting for my father to come pick me up from rehearsal. The weather seems too bitter and cold for late March. Even at the age of twelve, I still haven’t been able to accept that bad things can happen to good people. I watch his car’s headlights streak across the windows of the middle school lobby, and I gather my backpack and jacket. He has dinner waiting for me in the backseat of the car, and I manage to take a few bites of a burger while my sister tells him about her day. I don’t feel like participating. I pull my hands in my -62-
Vowels | Sanders sleeves, wrap my arms around my body, and lean my head up against the window. Tuning out the conversation off the classic rock on the radio, I watch the signs directing us to I-83 South pass by. We merge. The conversation directs itself toward me, but I pretend like I’m asleep. My dad and sister both fall silent in the front seat. My thoughts are clouded. It frustrates me, but I enjoy the smoothness of the highway ride—the lack of jerks and bumps—its predictable direction. The next time I open my eyes, we are in a parking garage at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I lag behind on purpose as my father and sister charge forward. I press the same button to summon the same elevator to take us to the same floor. I say hello to the same nurses and push open the door to the same room. My mother smiles, “Hi honey, how was your play rehearsal?” Her voice is kind and familiar, but my eyes focus on the countless tubes extending from her fragile body. I begin to panic. I know, as her daughter, that I should stay—but the air in the room tastes too sterile and stale and suddenly, I can’t breathe. I need out. I quickly turn to leave. I spread my books out in the lobby down the hall— watching out the window as hospital staff hustles and bustles about the lamp-lit courtyards below. The nurse at the desk asks me if I’d like anything—a snack? Some paper? A nice book, maybe? But my silence gives me away.
O is for opportunist. “And trust me when I say that tomorrow we will be exploring one of the most complex concepts in the subject of chemistry. I’d highly advise you not to miss class—for whatever reason.” Mrs. Erdman slides her big glasses down the bridge of her nose and narrows her eyes in my direction. This action is imitated by the eyes of every other student in the room. Even at the age of fifteen, I still forget that living in a small town means that everyone knows your business. I lean back in my desk until the bell rings, not wholly unaffected by her warning and the mocking glares of my classmates. The following morning, I’m picked up promptly at 9AM by Tristan in his burgundy Buick Skylark. His car smells of cloves and coffee; immediately I feel at home. I’m the first passenger in the car, soon to be joined by others. “You have the directions, right?” he asks. I pull them out of my pocket and he points to the glove compartment, -63-
Sanders | Vowels “The tickets are in there,” he shakes his head. “Are you sure your parents are cool with you skipping school for this? I don’t want to be charged with kidnapping or anything.” I give him some run-of-the-mill spiel about “carpe diem” and important life experiences. Seeing Weezer on the day of their album release is something I would, most likely, never get to do again. He nods in agreement. “There’s hope for you yet, Sanders.” The other members of our excursion included Hannes, the German foreign exchange student, who earlier that morning, faked one hell of a puke-session, causing his host parents to rule school out for the entirety of the week, and Mark, a former classmate home from college on spring break. The excitement heightened as we waited the seven hours in line before the doors to the venue open. As we try to occupy ourselves in line, Tristan asks me if I regret my decision of missing the lesson on one of the most “complex concepts in the subject of chemistry,” and my proud grin gives me away.
U is for underdog. “Is Bitsy Sanders here?” I analyze her tone, and I already know that I’m going to be in for a long year. “Ah ha, here she is,” Mrs. Miller gingerly taps her wrinkly fingers on my desk as if I were deliberately hiding from her. “Now, Miss Sanders, are we still going by the name ‘Bitsy,’ or have we grown up a little bit?” Even at the age of seventeen, I knew that I would never take well to people patronizing me in front of my peers. My peripheral vision indicates that nearly ever jaw of every student in the class has hit the floor, in anticipation of my retort. I don’t give her the satisfaction. As the year progresses, I begin to hate her pinched facial features more than anything. Unlike everyone else in this Honors English class, my papers are returned to me smeared with red ink—no comments, just huge red question marks littering each paragraph. I secretly give her the nickname “The Executioner.” Surprisingly, it catches on, and quickly becomes her code name. I wrack my brain, trying to think of reasons as to why this woman has me on her blacklist. I draw nothing but blanks, and my interest in writing slowly becomes non-existent. At the end of the year, she wishes all a good summer vacation and hands us each a paperback copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Inside, she has written each of us a personal note. Mine reads: I’m sure you’ll find this particularly useful, Miss Sanders. My classmate leans over and asks what my note says. The polite thing to do -64-
Vowels | Sanders would be to show him the note and let it roll off my shoulders, but at this point, my anger overrules all of my other emotions. My two middle fingers raised rigidly in the air, pointing in the direction of Mrs. Miller’s desk give me away. Y is for yearning. It becomes clear the moment I wake up on an unfamiliar couch, wearing only a t-shirt that was not mine, clutching a Buzz Lightyear action figure tightly, that I breeched a certain barrier in my youth. I scramble to wrap a blanket around the naked half of my body. Where the fuck are my underpants? Quickly, I feel my breasts, noticing that beneath the t-shirt, they are uncovered as well– and who the hell stole my bra? Minor panic ensues. I look to my left. A bucket lined with a black garbage bag sits on the floor beside me. Taking a deep breath, I hesitate to look any further, but I do. It’s empty. I feel relieved, although not completely and not for long. Questions with no answers pulsate through my brain as I silently scan the room from end to end. I am getting nowhere– still more naked than I care to be, in an apartment that isn’t mine. My stomach twists into guilty knots, and its contents have nowhere to go but up and out. The bucket is no longer empty. Eventually I locate my clothes—laid out on a chair nearby. I dress myself, empty the bucket outside, collect my things, and leave. Buzz Lightyear in one hand and my bag in another, I walk up the street until something looks familiar so I can navigate myself home. How did you let this happen to yourself? The question taunts and follows me for nearly twenty blocks. As I approach the front door of my parents’ house, I wonder what they’ll think of their daughter now—hair encrusted with vomit, clothes laced with the scent of booze. They would have been prouder of the daughter who ate the apple, who enabled the seagull slaughter, who left the hospital room without so much as a word, who skipped school for a concert, who flipped off her English teacher. In those moments before I push open the front door, I want nothing more than to time travel backward and make the necessary changes in order to make me the better version of my present self. But, I realize that we are born as something we cannot wholly change.
Rasel | The Scarecrows
The Scarecrows Tami Rasel
“Here are some of your father’s old pants and shirts—use these to make your scarecrow.” “I love the fall, Mom,” Alice said as she began stuffing straw into her dad’s old britches. “Yea, it’s my favorite time of the year, too.” Alice’s mother smiled, “now, let’s get these scarecrows finished and on the porch; I have work to do.” Mother and daughter worked enthusiastically together for another hour. They stuffed straw in the worn-out clothing and tied up the ends of the arms and trousers with small pieces of twine. When they were finished putting their creations together, they used tempera paint to add scary faces. With the task finally complete, they stood back—arms folded—and admired their handiwork. Alice’s mom had created a female-looking scarecrow; she used one of her old wigs for hair, a woman’s felt hat she found at the local goodwill store, and tied a cooking apron around the front side. Alice had worked just as hard to make her scarecrow resemble a male. She used her dad’s worn out straw hat, fastened one of his leather belts around the waist, and attached a pair of men’s boots on the end of the pant legs. Satisfied with their work, they propped the two scarecrows up in metal lawn chairs on the porch next to the door. Now, Alice thought, everyone who enters our home can be -66-
The Scarecrows | Rasel entertained at the sight of them. Later on, as mom fixed dinner for the family, Alice played ball outside by herself. The evening air was cold and windy and the sun was quickly going down. As Alice strolled up on the porch to get out of the chill of the wind, she glanced over at the scarecrows seated by the door. Funny, she thought, they looked different somehow. Though she and her mother had tried to make the faces look scary on the straw-stuffed creatures, they had turned out to look pretty silly instead; her mom had even joked about how they looked just like their elderly neighbors down the road. Now, however, with the sun disappearing quickly behind the hillside, the straw couple looked eerie, as if their facial expressions had magically changed—becoming evil in their appearance. “That’s silly,” Alice whispered—trying to reassure her self. “They are exactly the same as they were earlier today.” Laughing at her crazy imagination, she went inside the house to see if supper was ready. After a dinner of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, she and her brothers sat at the dinner table to work on their homework. Afterwards, Alice went upstairs to take a shower and was in her bed by 8 pm. Alice was in the fifth grade at the local elementary school. Being the only girl in the family, she had a room all to herself while her brothers shared one across the hall. Because the boys were now in middle school, they got to stay up one hour later. Though Alice thought the rule was unfair, her parents were sticklers for bedtimes. As she lay in the darkness of her room, she could hear the sound of the television blaring in the living room below. Her yellow lab, Sandy, was stretched out and snoring loudly on the floor next to her bedside. Before long, Alice drifted off to a peaceful slumber. What was that noise? Alice wondered, opening her eyes with a jolt and searching around the room. Sandy was standing at the bedroom door barking into the darkness of the hallway. “What’s wrong Sandy? Do you need to go out?” Alice couldn’t believe it was early morning already—it seemed as if she had just fallen asleep. Glancing over at the clock on her nightstand, she noted it was only midnight. “Sandy lie down!” She snapped at the dog. “Go back to bed! We’re not going out in the middle of the night.” Sandy was now growling and snarling; refusing to avert her attention away from the hallway. Alice could hear strange noises that sounded as if someone was scuffling around on the floor below. Mom, dad, and the boys must be asleep in their rooms by now, she thought. As the noise grew louder, she began to feel alarmed—believing that someone had possibly broken into the house. When they heard a loud bang, Sandy took off out the door and flew down the stairs—howling all the way. I’ve got to warn everyone, Alice thought. -67-
Rasel | The Scarecrows Climbing cautiously out of her bed, Alice slipped on her robe and quietly crept down the dark hallway to her parents’ bedroom; she refused to take a chance by turning on the light for fear it might alert any stranger of her presence. Feeling along the wall, Alice tried to get to her parents as quickly and silently as possible. When she finally reached their door, she slowly turned the knob, pushed the door open, and stepped inside. Letting out a huge sigh of relief, she rushed to her mom and dad’s bedside. Their bed was empty however; her parents were nowhere in sight. Alice could still hear the dog barking and carrying on at the bottom of the stairs; her heart now felt like it was pounding through her chest. Where are my parents, she wondered; what if something was terribly wrong—why didn’t they come for me? Alice made her way back out of the bedroom door and once more worked her way through the dark hall to her brothers’ room. Throwing open the door, she peeked inside and looked around frantically—there was no sign of either one of them. When she stepped inside, she immediately noticed the bedroom felt oddly colder than usual. Searching around the room, she soon realized the window was wide open; cold air was rushing in. Her heart sank; her brothers had disappeared also. Sandy’s barking suddenly stopped; the house was completely silent now. Alice could feel her pulse racing and hear her own heavy breathing—a sound she tried hard to squelch for fear the intruder would hear it also. Though she was terrified, she knew she had to be brave and force herself to go down the stairs and find out where everyone had gone. Creeping softly down the steps, she tried not to make too much noise. “Here Sandy,” she whispered, “here girl.” There was no sign of the dog. Finally reaching the bottom of the stairs, she cautiously turned the corner and gasped. Alice couldn’t believe the sight before her eyes. Sitting in the hallway—as if placed there to taunt her—were the two empty lawn chairs she and her mother had placed the scarecrows in the afternoon before. Alice’s legs began to tremble. She wanted desperately to flee back to the safety of her room and hide in the closet until her parents came to rescue her, but fear kept urging her on. When she reached the kitchen door and turned the corner to enter, every nightmare Alice could ever conjure up in her mind suddenly became a reality. Seated at the kitchen table were the two scarecrows that she and her mother had created as a fall decoration. “Come on in, Alice,” smiled the female scarecrow, “we’ve been waiting for you.” Alice could feel the nausea welling in her stomach, her throat grew tight—she was positive that she was going to faint at any moment. -68-
The Scarecrows | Rasel The strange straw-stuffed creatures stared at her with an eerie smirk on their faces. Alice thought they appeared even more evil than they had looked when she last saw them the evening before. The man, the male scarecrow, the one Alice had created herself, suddenly stood up and began to wander over to where she stood frozen. Alice quickly glanced around the room searching for any signs of her family, but they were still nowhere to be found. As the creepy scarecrow got even closer, Alice caught sight of the back door and made plans to escape. “Don’t make things difficult for us,” the male scarecrow muttered. “Your brothers regretted that,” he glanced toward the other scarecrow as he spoke, and they both shared a hideous laugh. Getting within a few inches of where Alice was standing, he reached out, with what appeared to be a gloved hand, and placed it firmly on her shoulder. “NO!” She screamed, breaking away from his grip, and took off toward the door. Reaching the back door, she turned the knob quickly, threw it open, and escaped out into the cold, night air. She ran as hard as she could in her bare feet over the lawn and into the nearby road—refusing to look behind her for fear the scarecrows were gaining on her. Alice hurried down the dark, lonely road, one hand clasped tightly over her mouth to smother any desire to scream out for help—fearing her captors would surly find her. As she ran through the cold, windy darkness, with only the dim light of the moon occasionally peeking out from behind a cloud to light her way, she noticed something large lying in the middle of the road up ahead. When she got close enough to see the object more clearly, tears began to sting her cheeks, and she could no longer resist holding in the screams of terror she had been feeling. As she wailed into the blackness of the night, she glanced down at her feet where her faithful dog, Sandy, was lying helplessly in a puddle of her own blood. Alice dropped to her knees, bent over the animal, and buried her face in the dog’s yellow fur. “Sandy,” she cried out in agony, “I’m so sorry.” Giving up, no longer having energy left to fight off the horrifying scarecrows, Alice lay down beside the dog’s quivering body and began to cry harder than she ever had in her entire life— pleading to the heavens for someone to help her. A few minutes past by, and Alice suddenly heard the sound of a car approaching. Sitting up in the road, she could see the headlights coming straight toward her. Jumping to her feet quickly and waving her arms frantically in the air, Alice began to scream as loud as she could for the car to stop. As it began to slow down, she raced toward it. “STOP!” she begged. “PLEASE, HELP ME!” The car came to a screeching halt in the center of the road. Alice ran up to the driver’s window. Out of breath and gasping for air, she struggled with every word. “Please!” she cried, “you’ve got to…” she took in a deep -69-
Rasel | The Scarecrows breath and let it out, “to help me!” Alice pointed over to where Sandy lay. “Help my dog!” As she tried to catch her breath, she finally glanced into the window of the car and got a good look at the driver. Dropping to her knees, she began to whimper after catching sight of him. Sitting inside the car sat the male scarecrow with his evil companion seated beside him. “Get in Alice!” The car door swung open, and he stepped outside. “We’re tired of playing these games.” Alice’s body could no longer move; paralyzed, she knew her legs could carry her no further. Lying down helplessly on the cold gravel, she closed her eyes, and began to shudder with fear. “ALICE! GET UP!” She heard the demanding voice calling. “IT’S TIME TO GET UP!” Alice couldn’t bear to open her eyes and see their heinous faces anymore. “Come on!” The voice continued. “Get up! You can’t lay there forever!” Realizing she had no other choice, Alice slowly opened her eyes to confront her adversaries. When she looked up and saw the face peering down into her own, a smile spread across her face and her heart leaped with joy. “You’re going to be late for school if you sleep another minute!” Alice’s mother shouted, slightly shaking her daughter on the shoulder to wake her. “Didn’t you hear your clock buzzing?” Propping herself up on her elbows and glancing over at the doorway, she saw her dog, Sandy, wagging her tail and waiting patiently for Alice to get out of bed and join her for a brand new day.
Flower Bats | Shue
Flower Bats Alissa Shue -71-
Fenby | Wedding
Wedding Mollie Fenby -72-
Hummingbird | Foster
Hummingbird Sarah Louise Foster Hummingbird of elfin size, Do you take a fairy riding? Hovering above my head Waiting for a passenger? Does she glide-float down to you? Decked in gossamer and flowers Wafting scent of nectar sweet, Sprinkling air with fairy's dust? Clasping her arms 'round your ruby neck, Hides her glossy head in your feathers bright. Away you go shimmer-flying, Dipping, diving here and there. Until you slow... And land, Losing your weightless burden. Gently she lays a hand on your head, Kisses you with a fairy kiss. Hummingbird of elfin size, 'Tis you who takes a fairy riding.
Bolton | Undead Youth
Undead Youth Zachary Bolton
I think everyone else might be the crazy ones, not me. When mommy and daddy took me to the doctor, he told them I contracted the craziness. I never heard of the craziness before. I started to get really hot after that. I would sweat all night and mommy would have to give me an ice cold bath, but it still felt like summer time. Every day I woke up with a headache and no strength. I couldn’t go to school and see my friends anymore; I couldn’t go to gym class or eat chicken surprise on Thursdays. The only good thing about not going to school was not having class with Mrs. McGruder. She was such a mean lady. One day I watched her smack my friend Tommy with a ruler because he forgot his homework. Two days later I ate her. I don’t know why everyone screamed when I did so. I’ve never been so hungry. After that odd man bit my arm in the street, I’ve been hungry all day. Mommy was taking me to the doctor when we bumped into Mrs. McGruder. She wasn’t feeling well either. Her and mommy were talking about how I could make up my work when a bright light flashed in my eyes. When it went away, mommy and McGruder were standing over me with Doctor Kibble. I always laughed when I heard his name because it made me think of the man who made Max’s dog food. They were asking me if I was okay, but I was so hungry. McGruder looked like a lollipop. Only she didn’t taste like cherry or banana like the ones I got for being good. She tasted gross, but the hunger went away. But only for a little -74-
Undead Youth | Bolton bit. I was so hungry. Hungry. Hungry. Hungry. Just like the Hungry Hungry Hippos. I loved that game, but now I can’t play it anymore. Daddy kept it on the top shelf in the closet and he is not around anymore to get it for me. I thought that when I bit him, he would end up just like me. But he didn’t, he just stayed dead. Mommy yelled at me like she did when I got in trouble. She threw things at me. I tried to call out to her. Why mommy why? But she got away and I haven’t been able to find her since. I was all alone in our house with no one to take care of me. I tried to make food for myself but I kept getting sick. Maybe I am not making it right. I didn’t know there was a special way to make cereal; I always just thought mommy poured it into a bowl with milk. I tried to go next door to Mr. Brown’s house, but he wasn’t there either. No one was in their homes anymore. No one was around to protect me. I heard the cops coming, but I hid. Last time I saw them they took my brother James away and never brought him back. They are mean-faces. They also looked funny, like giant chicken legs with hats and guns. I was so hungry that I wanted to try and bite one of them. Some other people got there first. I guess they have the craziness and are hungry as well. When I tried to join them for dinner they growled at me. They were scary, scarier than those movies daddy always used to watch. Their teeth were all bloody and parts of their faces were missing. Now I just roam the streets looking for someone to take care of me. When it used to rain, I got really cold. Now, I can’t feel much. Every now and then I will see someone else who looks like a pizza or a cheese stick but they either get snatched by other crazies or they run away from me screaming bloody murder. I smell my mommy’s perfume. It must be her; no one else wears the stuff from the pink bottle. I try to run but I have no energy. All I can do is shuffle across the street that is covered with broken glass and kool-aid. Daddy would always tell me to not cross the street without looking both ways or holding someone else’s hand. I haven’t seen a moving car in days and no one wants to hold my hand. There is a back alley behind the pizza shop where mommy and daddy would take me on Fridays after ballet. That is where the smell is. At the end there is a crazy enjoying a hoagie. I want food so bad. The crazy turns and it is mommy. I think she smiled at me. Mommy lets me munch on the hoagie and I am okay for the moment. We shuffle away, happy that we found each other once again. Now we just need more food.
Darbrow | Like Grandmother
Like Grandmother, Like Daughter Autumn Darbrow I wear bandanas like you used to, mother says, and I enjoy eating stale or slightly burnt food, just as you did. We say the same phrases and make the same faces that she would swear that her mother, was not completely dead but partly living inside me, and I take pride in that. I wish so badly I could have known you but Iâ€™m even more thankful you are the reason I live today, and I canâ€™t wait for the day your face is no longer just a picture to me.
Brendan | Spidle
Brendan Sarah Spidle -77-
Mali | Seen From a Long
Seen From a Long Way Off Taylor Mali Those who have waited at the lake's edge, a summer afternoon of swimming cut short by the darkening clouds, and watched the rain advance in a line across the surface of the water, seen how the spattering reveals the place that once was still and now is not, know how it feels to be overcome by what you cannot change â€”sorrow, but also joyâ€” how you sometimes see them both from a distance coming, and know they will soak you through and through, yet never be ready for what it feels like when they do.
Jake | Reim
Jake Jenna Reim
I never appeared as what you would define as normal. I was short and disfigured. My left leg was shorter than the right and my hands appeared as though they were slipping off my wrists. My back was crooked. After numerous surgeries, I walked straight and could stand up right in public, but at home I was plagued to a back brace and leg braces. I never felt normal. I was a mutant that some crazed scientist had created. I was just a living experiment. The majority of my bones in my body contained metal in them. My fibula in my left leg was completely metal. On the outside there were faded scars, but on the inside I felt the true damage. Condrodystrophy and Scoliosis literally controlled my life. I hated living this life. I hated being on this Earth. That is, until I met Jake. “I don’t see you as a diseased girl,” he would say. “Rather, I see you as an imperfect, beautiful butterfly that just has to learn to spread her wings and fly.” He was right. When we were together, I had to face one of the toughest surgeries: an ulna lengthening on both of my arms. It was the third time I needed this procedure.. I felt so ugly for needing and prayed the surgeon would put it off until I was out of school. My family, however, prayed that the surgery be done immediately so I could regain full use of my hands once again. Jake was my only comfort. He was the only one who understood what I feared and why. With double the bars hanging out of arms, the girls at school would only see me as an even bigger mutant. He supported me when I needed him to the most. I met the love of my life when I was fifteen on the back of the school bus. I was in -79-
Reim | Jake the ninth grade when I met my soul mate. I remember walking onto the bus in my ridiculous high school uniform: a pink jumper and white cardigan. My entire life, I attended an all-girl academy in Manhattan, New York. I was use to getting on the school bus every morning seeing sleepy-eyed, cocky girls. Who knew that in high school, our buses actually went to our brother school St Joe’s. There he was in his khaki pants, blue shirt, and white tie. He was your average bad boy. He sat there with his green Jansport on his lap. Me well, I was your shy little girl. I got on the bus with my blue backpack and took the seat in front of him. He tapped me on the shoulder, “hey, I’m Jake.” He said to me. “Hey,” I said back. I couldn’t believe the bad boy was talking to me. This had to be some sort of a joke. “What’s your name?” he asked. “Gia,” I said. “I’m a freshman at Nativity High.” “That’s cool.” He said. “I’m a freshman too. Today’s my first day.” The bus pulled up to St. Joe’s. “Catch yah later, Gia1” I was in utter shock; there wasn’t a prank being played that I was somehow the subject of. I walked into my first period class that day on cloud nine. I was so excited that a boy had actually talked to me. I could not pay attention. My teacher, Sister Cressona, had no problem pointing that out to the class. “Gia Lawson! Get off of cloud nine, and pay attention to Algebra!” I tuned her out of after that comment. I hated nuns; I concluded they just were not normal. But then again, I was not normal either. I could not wait for the eighth period bell to ring. When it finally did at 2:30, I ram to get on the bus. I just couldn’t wait to see his skater boy, messed up brown hair and mesmerizing green eyes. “Hey there girlie, how was your day?” he asked me as soon as I got onto the bus. “Good,” I said. “How was your first day of high school?” “It sucked; there aren’t any chicks. I mean, what’s the point of going to school if you can’t see people of the opposite gender? That’s part of your educational experience.” “Using big words there, aren’t ya,” I teased. “Tell me, Jake, what kind of ‘educational experience’ are you referring to?” “You know, social interaction, learning together,” he said. I gave him the strangest look. I knew he was kidding himself. “Okay fine, I need something other than ugly, old, fat nuns to look at!” He had me laughing the entire ride home. When it came to my stop, he got off with me. “What are you doing?” I asked him. “I only live a few streets over, so I figured I’d walk you home.” I felt a rush coming over me. I could not shut up the whole way home. I’m glad I didn’t stop talking though. There were a lot of things I learned about Jake. -80-
Jake | Reim Jake himself was just like me in ways too. Only he was born healthy. He was born into an unloving, abusive family. His father, a violent alcoholic, regularly beat his mother and sons. Jake’s mother stayed accepting the abuse from her husband. I learned that there were days when Jake never went home; rather, he stayed at his grandmother’s house with his brother Jason. Living with his grandmother was not much better than living at home. She only let them sleep on the couch. I could tell that he was hurting. Jason took the brunt of it, though. He ditched school on a regular basis, was addicted to drugs, and was always depressed. The only person Jason loved on this earth was his brother. Jake was his best friend. When we reached my doorstep, we said our goodbyes. “See you tomorrow, Gia,” he said to me, flashing his beautiful smile. I stood there, amazed, watching him leave to go “home.” I couldn’t believe the similarities between us: only my pain was physical and could be seen. His was emotional and kept inside eating at him. I guess you could say that this was the start of a beautiful friendship. It was love at first sight. We became inseparable. Wherever Jake Ryan went, Gia Lawson followed. We were known as the “two cuties of ninth grade.” On Valentine’s Day, he sent flowers to me at school. Usually, only the boyfriends of seniors could do that. It was some kind of special privilege. Somehow, Jake bent the rules. We were close friends. We told each other everything, including things that scared us the most. Jake had a lot of fears. He feared for his mom a lot, but mostly he feared for the life of his brother. Jason was getting worse. He was to the point where no one, including Jake, could get through to him. One day when Jason went home to visit his mom, something terrible had happened. His father pulled him aside. He had his report card in his hand. Jason had been caught cutting classes. With his report card came a letter from the principal. It was not a nice letter; the principal at St. Joe’s was a real asshole. His name was Father Luke. Father Luke wrote a letter threatening to expel Jason for his tardiness and his lack of responsibility. He said Jason was a loaf, an arrogant drug addict, and a worthless child. That letter set off Mr. Ryan, the abusive alcoholic. Mr. Ryan beat Jason so hard until his eyes turned black and swollen,. He beat him with his fists until his nose finally broke. Then he took a belt and whipped him. When Jason came back to his grandmother’s house, the back of his shirt was covered in blood. “What the hell happened to you?” his Grandmother asked. “Did the cops finally beat your sorry ass?” I was there when Jason came home. He gave his grandmother the finger. Jake pulled me out of the house, fighting tears. We walked until we hit my block in complete silence. I was -81-
Reim | Jake in shock; Jake had tears streaming down his face. He could never let his grandmother see him cry. He was afraid to show any emotion. My mom let him stay at our house that night. He just sobbed through the night. I knew deep down Jake could not live in that household anymore. I had this strange feeling that he would run away and never come home. It scared the hell out of me. The next few days were not any better. Jake still remained distant. Jason left and had not returned. No one knew where he went. Jake was lost without him. After a week when Jason had not returned, Jake and I went out looking for him. I took off and searched the neighborhood. Jake left and went into the city to check with his drug buddies to see if he knew where he was. No one knew where Jason had gone. Jake began to blame himself for his brother’s actions. “I should have stopped him,” he began. “It’s completely, my fault my brother ran away. I’ll never forgive myself.” “Don’t say that Jake,” I said to him, trying to comfort him. I was at loss for words. How do you console someone who is blaming them self for someone else’s actions? “He’ll be fine, Jake. He may just need some space.” “I know Jason,” he said. “He’s not coming back.” I tried to hold him, to soothe his pain. He just rejected me and left. I guessed I would never understand what he was going through. We came from different backgrounds. I never lived in an abusive home. I watched him walk around the corner, praying that tomorrow he would return. He didn’t. I sat around all day, looking out the window. I was afraid to go to his house and knock for him. I was afraid he would get into trouble for having a girl stop by without asking his grandmother’s permission first. I prayed for him. I prayed all day and night that he was okay. Two weeks went by, and my doorbell rang. There Jake was, looking down at the ground. “Where have you been?!” I yelled at him. “You scared me.” He was silent. He had sadness in his eyes. He looked like he had not slept in days. “Jake, are you okay? What’s wrong?” I asked him. He stared at me for a moment and finally spoke. “I found Jason,” he said in a cold voice. Something was not right. “Oh thank God,” I began. “Where was he?” “Hanging in his closet.” He handed me a note. It read:
Jake | Reim Dear Jake, I’m sorry for this but U can’t live like I do anymore. I wanted to be loved by my whole family and I never was, I wanted to find true love and I never did. I know that what I’ve done is not the way to solve my problems. I took the easy way out. I’m a quitter. I’m so sorry Jake. I’m sorry I wasn’t the person I should have been. I should have protected you and I was selfish. I cared solely about myself. Please know that you were the only person I ever truly loved. I hope you can forgive me. Jason I started crying. I pulled him in close. He was shaking. He cried on my shoulder, hard. That was the last straw for Jake. He was alone. He had no one else. I’ll never know what it feels like to lose your best friend because I still had Jake. I’ll never know what it’s like to be alone, Jake still walked on this earth. Jake had known the pain. He wasn’t okay. He would never be okay again. This happened over two years ago. When no one believed in Jason, Jason ended his own life. Two years ago, I feared for Jake. I still fear for Jake. I fear he will walk the same road.
Pease | Eider Court
Eider Court in Frederick, MD Michelle Pease
The end of the school day was when life began. Even at eight, I could hardly be contained and content within four cement walls. Point out the adventure in a chalkboard. I had better things to do with my time: neighborhood bike races, video games with friends, and neighbors Sean and Chris were always fun, too. The three of us, and I guess my sister too, drowned the majority of our childhood in every possible escape. Life was always more fun when it was a competition, but suddenly less fun when you were defeated. But life only began when the school bus dragged its way back home to Eider Court in Frederick, Maryland. Mom and Dad worked long hours, so Grandma and Grandpa were always home to greet my sister and me. This had been the routine since we lived in Alexandria. I would drop my books off on the counter and give Grandma a kiss and tell Grandpa what I learned in school. “Today we learned about metamor-sis.” “Metamorphosis, Michelle. And why?” “For our caterpillar experiment!” I exclaimed with pride. “Boy, schools have changed since I went.” He rolled his eyes and offered an exasperated sigh. Anyway. Sean and Chris were knocking at my door before I reached them myself. Dragging -84-
Eider Court | Pease my little sister along, we fluttered around the cul-de-sac before deciding what to do. We were young, and the world contained a multitude of possibilities. Yet, we settled within the boundaries we were given without question. After all, Mommy and Daddy knew everything: what was right and what was so wrong. Somehow, the mundane became exciting with every fresh day. Chris was a year older than me, and he knew everything. He mimicked his brother in looks, but his personality was much more rational. I suppose you could say they were both destructive boys. But what boy isn’t, really? Bruising and screaming were merely a part of our daily search for adventure. Strangely enough, or perhaps normal to me, I carried the torch of masculinity too. I preferred dirt and scraped knees to ponies and Barbie dolls. My hair was thick and ragged and I never cared for hair clips or pretty ponytail holders. Oh, and I hated pink. My sister was the quiet one, the youngest out of us all. She and Sean were in the same grade together, so she was closest to him. She had a tiny frame with a sunshine smile and hair the color of the dreaded school bus. I’m off-topic again. “Kickball!” Sean shouted his suggestion. He collapsed onto the cement below us with a thud. “Get up!” Chris demanded. His brother stuck his tongue out, and Chris kicked him in response. “Let’s explore the house!” I beamed. The house was newly vacated. For some reason it never held families for longer than a month. Rumor had it that it was a witch’s cave, where devout magic-practitioners put strange curses on the rocks outlining the backyard. If you touched one, you could possibly shrink to a foot tall, or grow to be at least twelve. But reality held that when the house was empty, rebellious teenagers would use it as a place to hang out and smoke. Sometimes we found relics from these late night parties and put them in our safe box: a hole underneath the fire hydrant at the bus stop. We discovered at least three lighters, complete with lighter fluid, and a box of cigarettes. Nobody told the adults. They didn’t need to know any of this. “Nah, my mom doesn’t want me walking around in there.” Sean kicked at the ground. He sounded eager, but uncertain. In this, I saw my opportunity for manipulation. “Aw, come on. If your mom finds out, tell her it was my idea,” I insisted. I wasn’t ready to deal with any thought of consequence. I had an impulse, and needed to act it out. I felt the call of life, and I needed to embrace it! Chris was sold by my lame attempt at persuasion. Brittany merely shrugged. As long as she didn’t get in trouble, it was fine by her. Sean remained stubborn. “I don’t know.” “Come on, kid. You’re coming with us.” Chris made the decision for his little brother. He tugged him off the ground and pushed him toward the front lawn. -85-
Pease | Eider Court I don’t remember exactly what happened inside the house. I remember a rag-tag kitchen with all the electrical wiring cut. As we ascended up the stairs, we found two boxes of cigarettes and a lighter – again. I explored an empty bedroom, while Chris looked at a randomly chosen bathroom. In the toilet, he found two cigarettes. All the wiring throughout the house was cut. Our footsteps echoed in the silence that engulfed us. Brittany was scared because she couldn’t turn the lights on. Sean grabbed her hand and promised he’d protect her. I love the innocence in that memory. Everything was so simple, so straightforward, back then. I remember stepping to the window and pressing my hand against its cool glass. The world was in front of me. There was so much to explore before Grandma had dinner ready. Cucumber valleys and cerulean skies, beckoning me to jump into their arms. Come, Michelle. The time to live is now. In ten years, you will be a whole other human. Your fingertips will dance with words that ask for a prosperous future. You will be oppressed by a rural land offering nothing to your small sense of freedom. What do you want out of life? Find it now, learn it now, live it all now. In an hour or some other miniscule passage of time that seemed to have lasted days, the four of us ventured home. We were next-door neighbors, so if any of us needed a release from homework, we could dawdle fifty feet to the next door and ask, “Are Sean and Chris home?” “Are Michelle and Brittany home?” The task was never difficult. If not in the evening, then tomorrow held a new rack of possibilities. As I look at this photo of me stumbling haughtily off of bus 259, I can only remember what I had then, and what I lack now. All these seemingly useless memories that flood my sanity all scream for one thing: confidence. When I was eight years old, stepping off that bus into life, I was confident. I was willing to face danger, even a week without dessert, if it meant spending an afternoon roaming the development with my three greatest friends. Who I was is who I am, and who I hope to be again.
Excited with Toy Dog | Darbrow
Excited with Toy Dog Autumn Darbrow -87-
Schafhauser | Breakfast
Breakfast Danielle Schafhauser This morning I woke up, I couldn’t find a cup I looked here and there. I looked everywhere. No bowl, no spoon, no plate, I was going to be so late. Oatmeal I decided, I made it now, before my stomach rumbled like a cow. I ate it quick, I ate it fast. I grabbed my books and was gone in a blast. I stepped outside, the ground was wet. Touched the step, I hadn’t yet. And then I took a fall, books and all. I hoped the neighbors didn’t see, because I’m sure they would have laughed at me.
Chubs | Antolick
Chubs Lindsay Antolick -89-
Smith | Caravan
Caravan Curtis Smith
Angela sat in the backseat of her parents’ packed-to-bursting van. Stacked boxes of dried fruits and shotgun shells cut her little brother from view. He was probably sleeping, which was fine with Angela, the tears he’d been blubbering since their mother had woken them before dawn finally silenced. Sparky? Angela whispered, not wanting to wake her brother. Sparky, the family’s excitable terrier, scrambled his way from the abandoned passenger seat and clambered onto Angela’s lap. Good boy, she whispered, stroking the curly locks framing the dog’s dewy, black eyes. She reached into her windbreaker pocket, retrieved a stick of her father’s venison jerky and snapped off a brittle chunk. Sit, she said. Her treat-holding hand rose, a coaxing which lured the dog’s front paws from her lap, a trembling, begging pose he held until his jaws snapped the jerky from her fingers. They repeated the ritual a half dozen times until the stick was gone. Satisfied, Sparky hopped over a water purifier, a collection of various-sized rubber boots before settling back into the passenger seat. A gray fog pressed in upon the vans and pickups collected in the community center’s lot. Like most of the other vehicles, a hitched trailed weighed down their van’s rear. Angela’s parents and the other adults, their forms whittled to indistinct shadows, stood on the dewy baseball field beside the lot, their heads lowered, their hands linked in a prayer circle. In the center, the prophet raised his arms, and the sleeves of his robe hung like the wings of a bird yearning to take flight. The circle broke, and the adults moved in an un-90-
Caravan | Smith called square dance, a reeling from couple to couple, exchanges of hugs and handshakes and kisses. Angela cracked her window and listened to the sounds of their laughter, the women’s impromptu singing of “Amazing Grace” as they emerged from the fog. Strange, Angela thought, rolling up her window, the morning’s mood, a twisted Christmas, the adults giddy and euphoric, the children shrinking into the background, quiet observers who understood this was not their day. Back in the car, her father started the engine, her mother still humming as Sparky curled onto her lap. With a strained groan, the car crept forward. The piled-high provision beside Angela shifted. She braced the seat’s cardboard divide, not wanting the boxes to topple onto her brother. Her father took his place in the procession of taillight-flashing vehicles, a caravan of believers. Like the others ahead of them, they paused at the lot’s exit. Angela’s father rolled down his window. The morning’s chill reached into the car. Goosebumps rose on the bare skin of Angela’s arms. From her perspective in the seat directly behind her father, all she could see was the prophet’s torso. She studied the faded stain on the robe’s front – ketchup, gravy perhaps – and when he laid his hands on the roof to bless the car and their journey, his billowing sleeve exposed the checkered flannel shirt he often wore to their youth group meetings. As her father put the car in gear, the prophet rested his palm against Angela’s window. The meat of his hand turned white, and the ghostly impression of lines and calluses lingered on the glass after he’d pulled away. Angela studied him through the smudged impression. She recalled the weight of that hand, its gentle yet insistent pressure as it pried apart her knees the night her parents were late picking her up from Bible study. My beautiful, obedient lamb, he whispered, his stubbly cheek burning against hers, the fight in her limbs melting into limp surrender. Eight weeks ago, on a sticky-warm Sunday of early September, the prophet had declared the time had come. Halleluiah! Angela’s focus had not been on the prophet’s sermon but on the bright sunshine outside the windows, a white butterfly flitting between the last daylily blooms, her reverie shattered by the adults leaping to their feet, the community center’s folding chairs clattering to the floor, the room blossoming with tearful exaltations of joy. Halleluiah, brothers and sisters! The next day, the buying and selling frenzy began. FOR SALE signs sprouted on the congregation’s lawns. Angela’s family made nightly trips to the Home Depot, the other believers often stumbled upon when they turned a corner, public scenes of barely contained ecstasy, their heaven-praising hands raised to the store’s girdered ceiling. The cashiers joked with them at first, but as the weeks passed, they simply eyed them with increasing suspicion as their checkout scanners chirped. The believers sold their houses, a glut on the market in which few received their asking price, but none of them bothered to haggle, the buyers’ initial offers pounced upon with giddy abandon for Angela’s family and the rest of the flock were headed to a shimmer-91-
Smith | Caravan ing future where faith would be the only currency that mattered. On the main road, their trailer rattled behind them. An overblown breadbox balanced on two wheels, the trailer was packed tight with axes and shovels, firearms and ammunition, ropes, a pair of machetes, lanterns, generators, casting nets, rice and flour in twenty-pound sacks, waterproof matches, clothes that would see Angela and her brother through puberty, enough vegetable seeds to sustain a murder of crows. Angela had helped her father pack the trailer, a chore that seemed haphazard at first but soon transformed into the workings of an intricate, lifesized puzzle, Angela perched atop her father’s shoulders, the final box of canned pears wedged into a ceilingscraping nook. When they bolted the trailer door, Angela thought it was all more than necessary, her father’s typical overkill. Now, as they passed through the sluggish hush of town, their only company the pre-breakfast dog walkers and huffing joggers, she felt horribly unprepared, naked in a way that had nothing to do with clothes. How would the end come? The Lord had given the prophet the gift of the hour but had withheld His means. The elders debated whether the wicked would perish in fire or ice, nuclear war or plague or drought, conversations that struck Angela as both morbid and peculiar, the adults willingly divorcing themselves from the only reality they’d ever known, the actuality of flesh just a footnote to the rapture that awaited their saved souls. The prophet’s last few sermons had hedged from such images of annihilation, hinting that what awaited the outside world may be a fate which kept bodies and cities intact but which would drown the disbelievers in a flood of pornography and greed and Godless humanism. One way or another, the prophet claimed his flock would be spared, be it in the next world of God’s kingdom or in this one, all of them safe in their fortified compound high in the hills. Angela rested her hand against the window. The fading imprint the prophet had left dwarfed her outstretched fingers. They passed her school, the library. The football stadium and the playground and the movie theater. They’d never return – this was the only solid truth Angela could cling to, and she focused on this lone, immutable nugget until it hardened in the pit of her belly. With this knowledge, everything outside her window faded to dust, vaporized, consumed not only by the fog but also by a world-leveling magic worthy of the Old Testament and the promises of Revelations. Halleluiah. Silence is golden, my lamb, the prophet had whispered, his breath smelling of half chewed meat and damp forests. In the front seat, her mother hummed the opening notes of “I Shall Be Released.” Her father joined in on the second verse, and soon, they were both singing. Sparky yowled a piercing, tail-wagging accompaniment. They passed Angela’s best friend’s house, the one with the creaking porch swing Angela loved, a laundry chute which rose like a hollow tree through the house’s innards. Angela turned, watching the house fade into the mist, and she wondered how long her friend and all the others in town would remember them. When would their flock be swal-92-
Caravan | Smith lowed by the drudgery of uncounted days, by the milestones of birthdays and funerals, weddings and graduations? Perhaps only then would Angela and the others in their caravan become what the prophet had promised theyâ€™d soon all be, spirits released from this world. Â
Baiao | Securing a Child's Future
Securing a Child’s Future: Afterthoughts of a cruel documentary
Picture a child 12 years of age, his soft round eyes colored as the earth. Now look down into his hands and the shot gun he holds between them; this is a reality in many third-world countries. A new generation should, after all, be intelligent enough and able to carry their own guns to defend themselves, right? All of us still recall a glimpse of the world from the eyes of our childhood: colors bursting everywhere, a field of innocence surrounding us with joy and love. No war, no worries, no problems. How are we so disconnected from these children? Why do they feel the need to carry these weapons? What are they missing? There’s something we haven’t given them, something we have received but apparently failed to give: a love for one’s self. For someone to explore and learn about themselves is a story as significant as any a master storyteller could weave. It yields a belief in the goodness of others, the ability to build a life without fear. It rescues us from fragile questions, from monstrous dreams to a state of puerility. We explore, inspired anew each day, and find strength to fight for fairness. We fight for a world of equality for those who will inherit it. A child has a great perspective. Infusing our -94-
Securing a Child's Future | Baiao reasoning with that of a child’s, we try to make sense of the world around us. We observe the vibrancy of the browns and greens of the earth, the deep blues of the ocean, the whiteness of the moon and clouds that gaze at us from above. The colors a child sees are as radiant as the sunshine we bask in and glisten like the moonbeams that touch the water’s surface. They inspire and have the ability to move thought through curiosity. How can we trade this perspective for a gun? Here, now, it is our task to raise this next generation in love and peace, preparing them not to meet our expectations or follow in our footsteps, but to impact our world in a positive way. A child is not just a person who will grow up and raise a family; a child is a person who will invest in his or her own future. We will be dead and gone, but our children will be the ones in our predicament. We can’t just tell them what is right and what is wrong, but we need to encourage them to produce from their own internal fountain of creativity, less we hinder them from being a greater generation. We know their potential. You can feel their good vibes surrounding us—that positive energy that flows from their hearts. I think we feel that connection because, even though we have our difficulties and our problems, we still carry that inner child with us. Childhood is a great tapestry and, together, each of us makes up the intricate interwoven threads. Each of us has that innate desire to explore and discover the beauty of our planet, but we must nurse it and nurture it—for the sake of a future. Any future at all.
Girl With a Dandelion Lindsay Antolick
Daydreaming Mollie Beth Fenby
Brother and Sister Adam Hartlaub *Adam is also the creator of the shark and frog prints that bookend this magazine.*