Issue No. 7

Click the (+) to read or view each submission.

A’Janae Sombade - Another

A Story Not Told

I grew up on the corner of Rosa Parks.
A place where everyone on the block had a mousetrap for a tongue.
On this block the sky was always blue
until when the stars seemed to riot about who ran the streets.
I am seven years old.
and I’ve already watched bodies drop to the thought of a new day.
saw the horizon split its cornrows into holy scripture sung on resurrection day,
but today was different.
today I would have watched my mother get her tongue pierced without a needle,
instead with his angry fists,
I would notice the way her trail of tears fell
once she saw me standing there
this time, I wished my stepfather’s heart would’ve felt the same.
Still. and cold.
a heart buried 24 feet inside him
I wish he could feel my tears.
how they danced across every bloody knuckle, cracked upon the frame of my mother’s face
I knew I had seen blood.
it was his way of breaking her imperfections until they became a risk not taken.
I remember when everything was silent.
I closed my eyes.
afraid to open them cuz all I could see was his pipe and needle.
injecting some type of spiritual relief into his veins.
I couldn’t explain how much I loved him in this state of being.
He wasn’t sober, but he was content.
He was still.
and with his every heartbeat I could feel all the ounces he ever inhaled.
I could see the leftover hand prints blotched purple on her face.
Looked like the galaxies when sun burst into flames.
Momma tells me her and daddy were just playing a game.
Said these discolorations did more good than harm.
That affection isn’t always pleasant
I wanted to believe her but when her voice would rise it would
sound like a prayer that wasn’t answered.
But there was nothing like the silence she spoke.

A’Janae (Sombade) is a Detroit poet, songwriter, and published author. Her works have been featured on WDET Radio and in InsideOut Literary Arts Anthologies. A’Janae is the runner up in our Spring/Summer Submission Contest.

Jack Dove - Bedtime

Bedtime

The tides of stress seem to rise with the moon,
And choppy ocean waters crash against the wall.
On this fateful evening in early stormy June,
The tidal wave of bedtime starts the nightly brawl.

Thirst, hunger, and fear coincidentally appear;
Stories, songs, and lullabies continue on into the night.
It’s long past bedtime and yet she hasn’t shed a tear,
But now the wave is crashing, with no calm in sight.

Drops of the sea pour down her innocent freckles and cherub cheeks.
Lightning illuminates those tears in her fiery, ocean-blue eyes.
I can hear the sea toss and turn in her piercing shrieks.
I want her to sail safely to dreamland, so I pray to the ocean and the skies.

Eventually I rescue her from the churning, murky sea,
And we drift off to sleep, seeking morning’s soothing tranquility.


Poetry has become an outlet for my emotions. I am a busy guy, but writing poetry really relaxes me. I like self reflection, and mostly write about my family and me.  I play three sports, have two sisters, two dogs, and live in CT

Dmitry Blizniuk - Another Chance

Another Chance 

the menacing jaws of dirty snow
rotted on the sidewalk.
a strange thing I saw: spring.
uncanny, magical, damp transfiguration.
a monster in a gas mask
tore the ugly facepiece off
and appeared as a long-haired damsel,
emaciated like a starving louse,
green pimples all over her forehead and cheeks.
another girl, in jeans and a leather jacket
pasted all over with silver lizards of zippers
bounced down the subway steps
like a seductive ball
bye-bye!
sliced in two by the fresh air
I breathed on the vista of sobs and blisters,
of pulsing impressionists.
the drizzle sent wandering kisses.
a puddle – the bedpan for a taxicab –
was fragrant with petrol; it planted in my brain
the broken jigsaw puzzle from childhood:
a blue car washed a day before
is shredding the alley like a snub-nosed shark;
the engine is started, and we’re heading for the sea
and I’m hopelessly in love with a quick, sly girl
with a squirrel tail.

yes, my friend
it’s spring.
again it regrows its feminine arms
like crabs regrow their missing claws.
wet blueses are hung on the balconies and branches,
like drying baby jackets,
and my head swims to the music of testosterone
and the beetles of cars are speeding away
on the revolving vinyl disks of the wet roads,
escaping the insolent crows.
this is a new life,
and we, repeaters,
are given another chance
again

***
The late afternoon sky glowed like a freshly washed wound.
Behind the open window of the first floor room
(the frame was cracked
like an ancient prosthetic limb,)
a short-haired kitten of a girl
was plinking out a ridiculous tango
on a terribly out of tune piano.
The melody was sagging,
coming apart at the seams.
The sounds scurried backwards,
then walked sideways, crab-like,
and I, like a number on a snooker ball,
felt the earth beneath my feet slide.

(translated by Sergey Gerasimov from Russian)

Carter Vance - Reprise in Blue

Reprise in Blue

The victims of history speak not
to their plight, they speak not
through arrows and gunshots,
through shirt factory fires,
through schoolhouse stands and
rural church steeple bombings.

They do not speak, for they are
gone: no labour law reform, no signed bill
of housing redress, no so-called progress
shall make them whole.

No signal can cut through the
white noise cloth down draping
post-to-post in passage rites,
warnings unheeded by the number-crunching clan,
except in their moments of unearned regret.

Except in their mirrored lenses making
new liberal order of darker voids,
starring deep not long into the cold maw
depths of the thing, but to some
construction of tabulated script, some

monument made in ignorance of due
cost on plains of gold where greater
men than they shall ever hope to be
starved for lack of compass to guide
to berry bush and water spring.

They stare not into grim meaning of
coin collections, nor into spindled red
lines on FHA maps, nor into the
thin ice-water stew they ladle-heap
upon the cups and plates of sickly figures.

They stare not; they cannot face the victims,
the bombings, the fires, the bullets, the arrows,
they cannot face the calm wake of them
all the more.

They cannot stare too deep to history’s gaze,
it is too disorderly.

Still, voices emerge from riot smoke,
casting arms and rising as a last
held note of Coltrane, of Shorter, held
in blue midnight shade of strung
Christmas tinsel.

They go unheeded as ever, but
cease not.

It makes nothing the better,
but has some conscience

at least.

Carter Vance is a student and aspiring poet originally from Cobourg, Ontario, currently studying at Carleton University in Ottawa. His work has appeared in such publications as The Vehicle, (parenthetical) and F(r)iction, amongst others. He received an Honourable Mention from Contemporary Verse 2’s Young Buck Poetry Awards in 2015. His work also appears on his personal blog Comment is Welcome.

Dakota Hensley - Internal Scars

INTERNAL SCARS

The pain hurts deep inside.
The scars aren’t physical.
You don’t know if you’ll be the same afterward.
You know that you’re more aware now.

Rejoice!
You have scaped that bad relationship.
You didn’t get too hurt.
You managed to escape.

But you can’t help but blame yourself.
“I was so stupid.”
“I should’ve seen it.”
“I’m so weak.”

You’re not.
Love blinds all.
If you escape from abuse,
you’re one of the lucky ones.

Rejoice!
You are amazing.
You are wonderful.
No one can say otherwise.

You have a right to express your emotions.
You are not a wimp.
You’re not a monster for speaking up.
Your abuser is the monster.

You are amazing.


My name is Dakota Hensley and I am eighteen years old. I will be going to KCTCS in Cumberland this Fall. I live in Southeast Kentucky in Harlan. My favorite book is Catcher in the Rye and my favorite author is Harlan Ellison. I like writing and music. I can be found on Twitter at @wormholepoet.

Kristine Anderson - Dirt

dirt

she holds her life in her own hands-
dirt she is eager to brush off.
gravel, sand, silt, and clay piling up in her palms
with the pebbles she collected
as a child but can’t remember why.

as much as she’d like to
wash her hands of the whole thing,
she sees her sister’s face
in the residue water couldn’t erase.

her fingers were once branches
for baby birds to learn to fly.

and when she clenches
her fists, finally letting the dirt
slip through, she watches longingly
the seeds that drop into the ground,
furiously hoping the rain will
come soon and allow them to sprout.

her hands, stained brown and cracking,
could only hold so much for so long.

Kristine Anderson is a student at Wayne State University, pursuing a dual degree in English and Dance. They believe that art in all forms is the most important method of understanding ourselves and understanding one another. You can find Kristine dancing in a studio, reading and writing in a book store, or walking their dog Maisie.

Noah Hale - Phantoms in the Window & Sheep

Phantoms in the Window

It is a haunted house by the boneyard;
The shambled swamp of boards and plastic eaves
That flutter in the wind plumes of plushy cushion.
In the window there’s a painted picture,
A swab of white and grey on a dusted canvas,
That is milky and larthy.
It moves, changing face and eye color,
Until it retreats into the corners of the home.
I begin to relate but
I look at the clouds and
I know they birthed the pale pity.
I am haunted by Mother Earth in day
By a mother who has died to night.


Sheep
I count one less sheep
Every night I am to sleep;
Perhaps they dwindle in number when
The smoke is smothering the air or
When my window is caked with smog–
They are all black.
I count one less sheep
So that before I sleep
I keep the cotton-courtman
On watch.


Noah Hale is a sixteen year-old living in Delmar, Delaware in the yellows tracts of rural life. I hope to expose the conditions of industrial society and the facts of city life to the people who live away from the machines. I’ve been an intern for my local paper, an assistant to the Society of Classical Poets, and an advocate for my local library.

Lauren Maddox - Flesh into Nothing

Flesh into Nothing

Open your mouth.
Slowly fit your hand,
Starting with two fingers,
Until your whole fist can slide
Down your throat and pull out
Your beating heart. Hold it in your work-rough
Hands and press in on it with furious good intentions.
Feel the honey sticky-sweet down your arms.

The copper wires of my father’s beard
Were white by the time he met me.
If I could have saved my mother
From what he would do to us,
I might have.

(Squeeze out the blame with the honey—
I am not the one who fucked the man).

Once you have pressed the pulsing flesh into nothing
Between your palms, you will
Be baptized sticky-clean.
Do not wash your hands after this.

I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee at Martin studying Creative Writing and French. I am also currently the editor of the campus literary and arts magazine, BeanSwitch

Sarah Sabner - Cold Night Smell

Cold Night Smell

It was a cold green summer night when he picked her up from the alleyway, all wet from a downpour. He smothered her in his coat, and with his hands hard around her neck, kissed her deeply and brought her home for good. She a complete stranger with a presence that his mind could not make borders for, she reeked of a wild, damp fury.

When she became his it was a struggle to get out of bed, to untangle his body from hers. Often, when she moved across the room he would look at her and she would sense him intuitively, turning her whole being towards him. Her intelligence frightened him in these moments because she seemed quicker, sharper, more alert. His mind did not work this way.

She did not admire herself in the mirror, her beauty far beyond anything he had ever known he couldn’t tell whether she knew this or not. When he brought her food she grabbed at it without hesitation, no move she made without purpose; if there weren’t anything she needed she would sit still and relaxed, her hair the colour of blackstrap molasses.

He left her alone in the house when he went to work, he sometimes imagined her screaming wildly with other men: the flat-nosed guy in the local shop, or the small African postman. In his business he could not focus, he looked her up online endlessly, even though he knew she didn’t exist there, he wondered about her real name, he could tell she wasn’t who she said. He imagined other identities for her, based on things she’d spoken about; as if random conversations were clues to her being in the world.

He would drive himself crazy, ruminating: how she could just show-up, like a lost object. He created pictures about their future together – was this an attempt to keep her? He asked how she would like to decorate the property; he wants her to make a mark. When he speaks this way she says she likes things the way they are; he searches every part of her for a sign she’s holding back, maybe something bad happened to her when she was a child? The fact she wants everything to remain the same unsettles him to the core.

When he comes home from work she always meets him at the street-door, her lips searching before he even has time to put down his gloves and keys. Lately, he wonders whether she meets him here so urgently because she has something to hide, like she’s been busy clearing away the evidence: burying her shit.

“Hello, Mr.,” she says. The shape of her eyes, almost Egyptian, though she is English. Her waist and hips in a navy-pleated skirt; he watches her move, she pulls off his coat without care for its quality, he hears the lining tear as strands of her sweet, thick hair get entangled in his watch. He yanks his wrist, her eyes widen: her body retracts and opens-up when he hurts her. He pushes her down on the lower step, then puts everything into her mouth, he is all the way in the hollow of her throat; her body twitching and crouching, he notices that she has made small damp patches on the floor. Did she pee? He pulls her by the hair upstairs; she prefers it this way, she stares lost into the unknown when he is too tender. He pushes her face, she hisses and pulls him inside her. He wonders where she goes in these moments; she seems a member of a secret sect, part unknowable like all sharp women are. He only ever treated woman like this before that he thought below him. When she is finished she curls up in a ball and lies still like a coiled foetus. – Well Goodnight Then, he says.

She dreams of lost city-streets in Istanbul: dark passageways and half-men in the shadows. In her purse, alongside the nightstand, is a small purple string key ring. A pointless item, but she keeps it with her and who knows the reason?

One night he wakes to find her vomiting in the corner of the bedroom. She is bent over, gagging and holding a large brown bucket. As she leans forward the notches in her back rise against her flesh. Her protruding spine, the open mouth, a clicking sound deep within her stomach: the scene is unnerving, she has always been an image of health. In the first month they met she had some mass removed from her uterus; she was told it may be still possible to have children, she didn’t seem to care, she got up that very afternoon and left the hospital; rosy. He argued with her in the car on the way home: asking why she wasn’t concerned about her fertility – did she not want to have babies? He became obsessed. He felt subhuman in this moment, all nervous system, oh how she drove him mad with insane thoughts, degenerating him to create ugly, precious fantasies, mostly of a sober domesticated kind. He no longer recognises himself, he aches for the days of culture over monstrosity.

She seems very unwell, she’s stuffing her long puny fingers deep inside her throat, she is panting heavily, grabbing for air, and her eyes are streaming with run-mascara; the whites of her eyes haemorrhaging spidery red vessels. Her hand prods manically, her knuckles shiny with saliva; her whole fist is now in her throat. Raw. She shudders, like a wasp has moved up her spinal fluid. He touches her on the small of her back – “are you ok? I have to leave now”. She retches again and this time it’s not dry, she spits-up a pile of black hair, it looks pubic. Colour returns to her face and she walks to the bathroom, turns on the tap, her lips under the fresh stream of running water. She walks back to him and kisses him with an open mouth, she smells curdled.

When he returns from dining with clients, he opens the door, unsure of what he may find. The air smells of defecation, he opens all the windows and doors and searches as frantically as he does for her virtually. She is nowhere, she is gone now completely, oh how she is irreplaceable! He knew this, feared this day would come. He reaches for the whiskey, he keeps it for visitors, he hasn’t drunk since 2009, but he cannot go on. He gulps it in one go and pours another, his insides aflame, just like he remembers.

But wait – in his peripheral vision he sees a shadowy figure dancing across the grass. It’s his lover. She is on all fours, pulling herself up on fully stretched legs and arching her back in the shape on an inverted-U, as he approaches her through the glass doors she flattens the front of her body and raises her rump in the air. She is rolling on the frost-dew grass; she is writhing and rubbing herself in a manner that fascinates him. She turns her head and smiles. Something is wrong she is no longer his. Her bones are amiss. They are chiseled-out incomprehensibly. Direct. Her lips are no longer kissable; her nose is a light-pink stub. She is blacker and bushy, she darts across the lawn, in a slinky unconscious way, that he has never seen in any female.

He runs towards her unbalanced, he reaches out to her and is attacked with blows from her sharp, clawed forepaws; she spits and growls at him and then retreats towards the Ancient Sycamore. For once it is she who is very much in charge of what is happening.

Her clothes are there in a small pile on the lawn. She has picked up speed now; she is so fast; sleeker, fitter. She is darting and narrowing, darting and narrowing, running further away from the house. Her lace scarf is trailing behind in the wind. All humanity shed. She looks back at him. Oriental eyes glistening. Feline femme fatale. Then in a flash…she is gone through the thicket, it is almost 1. A.M.

With mania flapping in his chest he picks up her belongings from the lawn: her burgundy silk maxi dress, gold hooped earrings and suede sandals, and folds them on the kitchen table, finishing the bottle.

Days, and then a week pass-by and still there is no sign. He has taken to working on the kitchen counter, his lap-top looking out towards the garden, every third minute his eyes wander to the glass doorway, hoping, he has even taken to praying to an unknown entity. These days he cannot sleep, to the new night sounds of shadow and teeth, he can hear the screams of copulation outside. Beasts! He wonders whom she is with? More stuck nights pass and he replays the reels of their romance in scenes. Indignant he wonders whether when she’s out roaming she considers how lucky she is? He thinks he can still have anyone.

This morning he gets up and looks out through the glass door like he does everyday, and on the ground, sitting in a puddle of jellied blood, is a mangled chunk of pink meat. He looks closer: it is long, pink, fleshy. His eyes go wild, is he seeing things? Is it human? Did she trap and kill it? He cannot tell. She left this for him as a present. At last she is back! He sips from the bottle of whiskey and with tears in his eyes roars out an inaudible sound, a wailing from times uncivilised; just like the screams he hears in the sleepless middle-night. Uncontrollably he pleads with murky hope that one day she will see sense, admit the truth of her whoring, come back.

bio: I believe there’s another world, but it’s in this world; when it’s in close the dream falls into details.

Christiana McClain - Tears or Sweat

Tears or Sweat

Our skin holds on to certain things. Secrets and regrets. Mysteries, tales, and years full of discovery. I believe that all souls dwelling in this skin should figure out what’s holding them together. Discover what they’re really made of. I’m not talking about the mere scientific elements that put together the epidermis. Nor am I talking about poetry, or our skin being made of milk and honey or dipped in glitter and gold. See, I’m thinking of a history of bondage, of centuries of free labor, of violence, of separation and displacement. Of arms intertwined, latched onto others, to resist lovers and children being ripped from them. Of screams pouring out for mercy over cracked open flesh. Of bodies torn apart for the consumption and profit of others. Our skin reminds them, the ones who are not residents of this skin, with brutal clarity of our supposed worthlessness. And these same outsiders, those who have locked us out of their world, ceaselessly ponder on our mystique. Some even ask about the secrets of our skin. They want to know how it glows underneath the sun and why it never cracks under the pressure of age. I say it’s the laughter and the joy stored within our skin. The cackles between gossiping women in beauty salons. The fingertips running across naked bodies of young lovers, as they lay next to one another, talking wishfully of a future together. The moist kisses from praying grandmothers and smothering hugs from sweaty deacons on Sunday afternoons. See, I’m thinking of all its possessions. And I’m thinking about how I nearly missed it. How watching his skin showed me my own. Ebony and rich and heavy in flaws. I could see that his skin held my whole horizon.
*
It started as a normal and boring day, the first time I saw him. He came storming through the doors of my family’s store with a stiff walk, like a proud soldier. Storming isn’t the right word really, he wasn’t even that gentle. His black, nearly blue skin made a violent kind of statement. The kind that snaps necks, forces eyes out of their sockets, and steals all the moisture from open mouths. Each step he took matched the rhythm of beating thuds pounding against the insides of my chest. I opened my mouth, swallowing gulps of air. My God, he was perfect.

Standing with his legs shoulder width apart, he posed like a king. As if this town was his palace, and we were all mere peasants to him. Caught in his rapture, I nearly forgot that this store and the entire town, belonged to my great grandmother. Her first husband established it when she was around nineteen. Eatonville, the first and only black town in the US by 1887. Only six miles from Orlando, but millions of miles away from technological advancement and pop culture. When her husband died, he left everything to her. This store, 132 acres of land, and a brick house that looms over the town. She remarried years later, twice. The first man died in some sort of storm. The second man was a local resident, a real respectable man. She got pregnant two months after the wedding and that’s how my family tree began.

This store is divided into three parts. The right side holds locally grown fruits and vegetables. The left side holds all home supplies, health items, and beauty products. Behind the counter is the third and best part of the store. There I count the forty-five thin lines in each of the wooden panels of the floor. I watch old and oblivious women stagger in, tripping over the sunken part of the floor. I eye the dying the insects in the corner of my windows, tangled inside spider webs squirm and shake themselves ferociously. The only white flowers that grow in the town rest on my window, boring me with their depression. They’d spend all of Spring time blooming only to lean tiredly against my screen, as if the weight of their petals were far too heavy for stems to carry. Ancient and dust riddled bottles of alcohol wait on the shelves behind me. Old men would come stumbling in eyeing the liquor, promising to buy a bottle with the next paycheck, every paycheck. Packs of cigarettes hung over my head, I had to use a stepping stool to get to them. I was reaching for them almost every hour. These people fear everything except lung cancer.

This town has no charm, but a fiercely charged aura of regret and alcoholism. It’s home to the poor and mostly black, apart from two or three unfortunate white families. Houses are dressed in missing windows covered only by sheets. The sun takes its precious time descending from the sky, drenching the town in an obnoxious dark red hue. The air, thick with humidity, cigarette smoke, and cheap cologne sticks to your skin until you’re dripping with it. On any of these unnamed streets, your ears become prey to untuned instruments and raspy voices belting out old blues songs. Sad brown faces, indistinguishably moist from tears or sweat, roam aimlessly up and down the streets. Every summer break I spent working in that store, I often wondered if I’d ever see a face that showed the difference.

So, when he appeared before me wearing that sweat soaked black T-shirt and a tired smile, I had to smile back. He knocked softly on the counter with the knuckles of his left hand and propped one elbow on the counter, tilting his head to the side. He had a tattoo of a small girl with barrettes and plaited braids and a dimple on her left cheek. Her eyes glared at me from the inside of his forearm. Pulling out a towel from his back pocket, he wiped the dripping sweat from the sides of his neck, and exhaled so softly it rang in my ears like a whistle. I needed the towel more than he did though. I felt like I was raining.

His eyes were practically black, lifeless, and hard like the ones sewn into the faces of stuffed animals. His lips, full and purple, made out like a throne for me. On the right side of his cheek, a thin and dark scar stretched from the bottom of his ear to the corner of his upper lip. Every time he grinned it danced like an upside down Double U.

“Do you always stare this hard at customers?” He asked, interrupting my thoughts.
“No, only at the ones I never seen before.” I answered. “You always this rude to folks when you first meet ‘em?”
“No. You’re the first.” He answered with a smile and walked slowly down the aisle of fruits. I pressed my body onto the counter, trying earnestly to stick my neck out so that I could watch him. He dug into the barrel of lemons picking out the one with the darkest yellow tint. He held it up to me, with a sly grin, and said “the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice”. I shook my head and told him that cliché didn’t apply to lemons. He told me it applies to everything and everyone.

“You keep talking like that and folks gone think you belong here.” I said. “Everybody got they mouths wide open, yapping away. But ain’t nobody saying a thing different from the other. And I don’t know you or why you came to Eatonville, of all places, but if you was searching for something, you in the wrong place. You ain’t gone find nothing here. This place has a way of killing dreams before they even begin.”
He stood before me with his hands moving in the air as if he was playing a violin on his left shoulder. He swayed his head from side to side. I rolled my eyes and laughed despite myself.
“Eatonville is just along the way for me,” he said after dropping his hands to his side. “But I see plenty reason to stick around longer than I should.”

Before I could respond, he ordered me to ring up a pack of cigarettes. He walked through the rest of the store, picking up a pack of original Skittles, Arizona Tea, and that lemon. I rung up the items and handed the bag to him. Tossing a ten-dollar bill on the counter he mumbled for me to keep the change. As he walked out of the store, I shouted after him “come back soon”. He turned over his left shoulder and smirked at me.
*
I waited eleven days for his return, but he never showed. Instead, my only friend Shelby came to visit me. Being the descendant of the town’s founders closed me off from most people. They labeled me a local celebrity and I was a source of speculation to them. Shelby was the only one who treated me like a person. She had light brown skin, a very thick red afro, and dark freckles on her entire face. I’d play imaginary connect the dots across her cheeks, nose, and forehead. It’d come out like a very tall leprechaun or disfigured unicorn, depending on how far I could get without her snapping fingers in my face.

I asked her if she knew my guy, the one with the scar. That question sent her eyes rolling to the back of her head as she clutched her imaginary pearls. In a thirsty tone, she told me that his name was Reggie. She said he moved into town two weeks ago after he showed up with a wad of cash. He rented the most expensive room down in her Uncle Chuck’s Inn. All she knew was that he carried a camouflage duffle bag and spoke to everyone with please and thank you’s. She paused, looked over both of her shoulders and moved closer to me. “Girl one night after I grabbed toilet paper and soap from Uncle Chuck,” she started. “I caught Reggie yelling and shoving Johnathan Miller, you know one of the whites.” I shook my head and she pointed in a circular motion around her head. Johnathan Miller had a bald spot right in the middle of his head. Hair grew everywhere but there.

“Anyways Johnathan was going on about calling the cops if Reggie didn’t do as he said. I must’ve made a noise because they both noticed me. Reggie smiled and turned Johnathan loose. They both acted as if nothing happened.”

As far as she was concerned, anybody tangled up with one of those Miller boys was no good. He was bad news, she repeated several times, no matter how polite he seemed. But it had been years since a storm last hit Eatonville and it was time for some excitement.
*
After seventeen days, I finally saw him again.

I locked up the doors and bolted out the back of the store. The sky was cold and black, as if covered by a dark blanket. Turning down the second street, the one with only one light at the end of the road, I spotted Johnathan Miller and his friend. They were dressed in black slacks and unbuttoned white shirts, passing around a pint of liquor wrapped in a brown paper bag. They looked vaguely familiar, in the way that grocery store clerks are. Vulgar curse words and laughter spilled from their mouths. The whistling didn’t start until I had nearly passed them.

“Look at that, the town’s princess think she too good to speak to little ole us.” Johnathan shouted. His friend sighed in agreement. “You ain’t gotta be scared baby, I just wanted to see how you was and maybe walk you home.”

I shook my head and mumbled that I was okay, I could make out on my own. He didn’t believe me though, because I had to pick up my pace when I heard extra footsteps behind me.

I was at least two more streets away from home. Ahead of me were only abandoned houses. I knew I couldn’t make it. Still, I broke out into a sprint. Before I passed any of the houses, Johnathan grabbed a fist full of my hair and jerked my head back. The other seized my arms and pinned me against the house. He was dark brown and taller than Johnathan with a brush cut, under the moonlight he appeared like a shadow. Across from me on the opposite street was a field of trees and small bushes. I wished I had run into those instead.
Johnathan, wrapped both hands around my neck, and squeezed it, grinning eerily. He grabbed my hands and pressed them against his dick and asked, “You ever felt something this big before?”

I lifted my eyes to the sky when the shadow guy reached up my shirt and gropped my breasts. I started to scream, but he pulled from under my shirt to punch me in my stomach. “If you don’t shut your fucking mouth, it’s gone be more where that came from.” He told me. Still, I made several attempts to shout, even when fists slammed into my face.

Pulling at my hair and digging into my neck. “Didn’t I tell you to shut the fuck up?” He shouted at me. But the grunting and struggling continued.

They were unzipping my pants when Reggie marched past us. He had turned down the street, coming from the direction of the street light and ran into us. With one foot in front of the other, shoulders straight back, chest erect, he walked as if following instructions. He looked over his left shoulder at us and paused. With their hands still inside of me, they eyed him.

“This ain’t got nothing to do with you.” Johnathan barked. “Keep it moving.”
Reggie stared at me, in silence. They questioned him again.
“You retarded?” The shadow man asked. “Or just plain stupid?”
Reggie stayed still, staring at me. Then as if realizing he was late for an appointment, he nodded at them and briskly walked away.

When he was out of sight, they resumed prying me open. Their fingers cold and hard from the iced liquor they held earlier. I cried out loud for help, nearly weeping.
Johnathan leaned in real close to me and told me that he had been dreaming about what was between my thighs for so long. He said he never had royal pussy before. That’s when Reggie reappeared, over his shoulder with a large and thick stick, like the branch of a tree, behind him. Once he got closer, with his left hand he held his index finger vertically across his mouth to me.

Then stepping behind them, he swung the stick from left to right, hitting the backs of their heads first. He hit their kneecaps next and that brought them down. Like a well-trained fighter, he stepped on the back of the shadow man. I heard something thud, like a bowling ball when it’s been dropped by weak hands. Johnathan put up his fist, but when Reggie moved to swing the stick, he jumped backwards.

“I see you got it all confused.” Johnathan said. “These streets belong to me. Your black ass ain’t running nothing over here.” He spat up on the ground and wiped the sides of his mouth.
“You ain’t gotta rape nobody to prove you in charge.” Reggie replied, taking several steps toward him. There was silence.
“What, you think you superman or some shit?” Johnathan said with a laugh. “Well, this ain’t over, Superman.” He said in a mocking tone, walking backwards. “You gone pay for crossing me like this. I promise you.” He stared at me and then jogged away from us.
Reggie stepped closer to me and lifted his hand to wipe blood from the side of my mouth but I flinched and quickly pulled away from him. He lifted both hands in the air as if to apologize. He pointed to my pants and turned away from me, staring down at shadow guy on the ground. I zipped up my pants and pulled my shirt down. We stood in silence until I finally looked up at him.

“I won’t ask you if you’re alright, because I know you ain’t.” He paused and turned to face me. “I wish I had a explanation, a good enough reason for why some of us are like that. Men like that they sometimes blend in, and it’s hard to see them coming. They try to hide that part of themselves too. But it always comes out, and it ain’t pretty.” He turned away from me and lightly kicked the body. “Black women, the most unprotected and disrespected.” There was a thick silence and then he said, “I never know if it’s the man’s fault or our own.”

He leaned over the shadow man using two fingers, feeling for a pulse. I backed away from him. I wrapped my arms around myself like I was hugging my body. I moved only a couple of feet before I heard another set of footsteps. Tears swelled up in my eyes, I knew he would come back for me. I turned over my shoulder with panic, discovering it was Reggie. He nodded at me and stood a few feet behind me, with the stick over his left shoulder. I turned back around and continued to walk, listening as his steps followed. The next time I looked back at him, he stared straight ahead, moving only his eyes to stare down at me. He stayed like that until I reached the steps of my home. I walked inside my door, upstairs to my room, turned on my light, and peeked my head through my curtains. He nodded at me again, and disappeared down the street.
Every day after that, he’d be standing on the steps of the store after I got off work, leaning against the railing with a cigarette between his lips. Trailing behind me, no matter the hour or the different routes I’d take, he was always there.
*
After twenty-seven days, he started to fall in beside me. No longer walking in a straight line with his chest to the sky, but with his eyes focused on mine.

I learned that he was a real skeptic. He believed the government was behind 9/11, that Diddy sold out Biggie for Illuminati, and that Tupac never really died. With wide and starry eyes, he spoke of visiting the Grand Canyon, Great Wall of China, and Lincoln’s statue. He told me about the time he got arrested for selling CD’s outside of a gas station at seventeen years old. They gave him the choice between time in jail or time in the army. He laughed to himself, saying inmates had more free will. He’d been enlisted for only two years and already growing tired of it. I made him promise to write me letters despite his protesting that we were no longer in the thirties.

He once threw his arms out beside him with such vehemence, I thought they’d break off. With his face to the sky, eyes closed, he exhaled. I stopped in my tracks to watch him. He tilted his head forward and squinted his right eye, opening the other. His face stuck like it was in the middle of a wink. He motioned with his left hand for me to come to him. I dragged my feet like cedar blocks closer to him. He coached me into perfect form, telling me to open my arms and lift my head and breathe in deeply.

We stood on the side of the road like black scarecrows, listening. Seemed like I had become fluent in the private language of gods. All around me, nature was chattering. I heard the wind crashing against the bark of trees with anger. Leaves swaying next to each other, promised not to fall from their branches too soon. The grass cried out in agony underneath the weight of houses and buildings. Right there in the middle of that road, something snapped inside me. The world that I had known before him shrunk into a trifling sized cluster of memories.
*
Well into the last month of summer, we decided to join Shelby and her newest boyfriend at The Muck. At first glance, this club appeared as a house. And truthfully it once was. There was a large hole in the roof concealed only by cardboard boxes and wool blankets. A black color was ghosting from underneath the awful gray paintjob. Shutters hung loosely from the windowless frames, making the interior of the building visible. Cheap chandeliers with flickering electric candles swung from the ceiling. Most people had their heads hanging outside the frames, attempting to catch a cool breeze. The entire house sat slanted to the right. Part had sunken into the ground, leaving one side higher than the other.

Four black men stood on stage behind a guitar, keyboard, and two microphones. A sad and sultry voiced crooned painfully to slow music playing from the instruments. Couples gripped each other, grinding in a trance. Women burying their faces into the necks of their men. Men grasping a palmful of their lady’s rear end.

Reggie sat at a table directly across from me, towards the back of the room, in the middle of the floor. He wore black jeans and a white V-neck that exposed his chest. He held a small glass of brown liquor which he shook around and then tossed in his mouth. He swallowed and grinned, with a look of hunger lying in his eyes as he stared at me.

Standing to his feet, he reached for both of my hands and pulled me behind him. On the floor, I draped my arms over his shoulders, my hands cupping the back of his neck. His hands positioned safely on my waist. I grabbed his hands and placed them on my butt. He laughed nervously and nearly pulled away, but I tightened my grasp around him.

We swayed back and forth for three songs until the band switched to upbeat tracks. Then our bodies were smashing into each other. Raising my hands above my head, his hands gripping my thighs, my back against his chest. His cool lips moved across my neck. He turned me around to face him. I tilted my head back staring at his lips. He lowered his head, pulling me in closer to him, I could taste the hot air from his mouth. I was only centimeters from his lips when screeches tore us apart. Terror stricken screams cut through the air, like nails scratching into the surface of chalk boards.

Johnathan and his gang of friends had stampeded into the club. Dressed in all black, waving small black guns in the air. They flipped over tables and threw glasses against the wall. Johnathan jumped behind the counter of the bar, pulling the bartender by the back of her neck. “Open the fucking register or I’m gonna blow your brains out,” he shouted at her. And when she refused, he smacked her head on the counter top, twice. He lifted her face and a stream of blood slid down onto her black uniform.

Reggie flipped over the table and yanked me to the ground. Kneeling behind it, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911. In a stressed whisper, he said that there was robbery taking place at The Muck and the men had guns. I pointed to the back exit. The door already opened by the crowd of people who had managed to escape. He pushed me to run. I turned around to see if Johnathan had noticed us. His hands were deep into the cash register, while his friends stood in front keeping watch. I bolted out of the door. I heard Reggie running behind me. He screamed “don’t stop running”, but I couldn’t leave without him. Panting heavily, I stopped behind an abandoned brown Cadillac near a tree.

As soon as he appeared in the door frame, a gunshot sounded off. There was a paralyzing ringing in my ear and a puddle of redness seeping through his shirt. He folded over slightly and stumbled out of the door. He pressed his hands to the wound and held it to his eyes, checking to see if he had actually been shot.
Johnathan approached Reggie from behind, pointing the gun at the back of his head. Reggie’s eyes scanned the landscape, and landed on me. He mouthed something to me, but I couldn’t read it. His shoulders relaxed, but only a little. I watched as he moved slowly, speaking to Johnathan, but the ringing continued and I couldn’t hear him. Johnathan threw his head back and opened his mouth to laugh. The other guys rushed to Johnathan and pulled on him. Something was happening because their mouths were moving quickly. He stayed still with the gun on Reggie. The guys tugged on Johnathan again, forcing him to move. As he was backing away, he peeled back the trigger. Rushing from behind the car, I made it to Reggie just before his face touched the ground.

That’s when it occurred to me, the only thing our skin couldn’t hold was a bullet.
*
His head dropped forward and into my hands. The weight of his limp body knocked me to the ground and on my back. I felt his skin, moist and slick, soaking the inside of my hands. That bullet dug its way through his skull, carving one small hole in the middle of his forehead. Making the first and only imperfection on him. The skin around the wound curled itself back, making the hallow entrance of a pit, like the tops of ant hills. Red and pink liquids crawled down the middle of his face, covering his nose, mouth, and shirt. I tugged at his body, gathering all of him onto me. His leaking forehead rested in the crevice of my neck, the tip of his nose rubbed just under my collar bone, and his torso lapsed between my legs. Holding the back of his head in one hand, I jabbed my nails into his back with the other, and pressed his body closer to me. Digging my heels into the ground, I pushed against Earth, trying to move us behind the car.

I flipped his body onto the ground. His eyes stuck open, wide with a look of surprise. I placed my hand over them and swiped his eye lids down. Turning my head to the side, I felt a lump crawl up my throat and force open my mouth, letting the vomit roll out like a newly unclogged drain.
*
After what seemed like hours, the police came from every direction. Two cars pulled around the back, while the men on foot traveled through the back door. All guns aimed at me. Flashlights pointing in my face, blinding my eyes. They screamed for me to turn his body loose, but I wouldn’t let him go. Wrestling me to the ground, they handcuffed me and put a boot on my neck. They shouted, “don’t fucking move or I’ll shoot you,” but I couldn’t move anyway. Slammed next to his face, in my own vomit, I stared at that scar on his face. I let the sobs rip from my chest, shaking me violently. They yelled for me to stand to my feet and to stay quiet. It took two of them to get me in backseat of the car. There, I stared at the clock.

He lay there, fragments of him spreading onto the ground, for four hours. They taped the area off, filled it with more policeman, and massed a crowd around the scene. But they never once covered him up. Like a stray dog slain in the street, he remained exposed.
*
After cutting him open and forcing hands down his pockets, they uncovered his real identity. Wesley Reginald Bishop. He was twenty-one years old and Absent Without Leave from the army. One of the cops recognized him immediately, said he saw his picture in the wanted files a few days ago. He joked that Reggie was so black, he had to double check to see if he had accidently printed his picture in black and white.

The whole town was excited by the news of his death. Spreading rumors like wildfire. Some said he’d jumped a guy while on duty and hopped ship as soon as he could. Others said that he had killed his captain. I heard once that he sold guns illegally and sold drugs. Women stood around shaking their heads with their arms folded, saying they always knew something was wrong with that boy. If he wasn’t such a thug, they explained to each other, he wouldn’t have never ended up getting shot. Respectable men don’t end up in those kinds of situations.

I never made it out of Eatonville. My horizon stretches no further than the insides of the store to the walls of my house. And when I’m asked about the secrets of my skin, I tell them about Reggie and that night we stood in the middle of that road, with our faces to God. I talk about our arms being intertwined, latched onto the others, to prevent two lovers from separation. I preach about my dreams of his fingertips, our naked bodies, and my wishful thinking. Mostly though, I speak of walking silently down the streets, our usual route to my house with my face indistinguishably moist, with tears or sweat.

Christiana McClain is a graduating senior at Spelman College from Houston, Texas. She credits Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston as her inspiration for writing and reading literature. She one day hopes to publish a collection of short stories and essays.

Gabriel Parker - The Puppet

The Puppet

Nathan Miller found the whole affair rather worthless. Hundreds of men on each side fighting over a tiny little town. The main street consisted of one general store. Its proprietor, if he was still alive, would have already been robbed by one side or the other. To have so many die over so little was waste. His passion had been severed months ago leaving only a cold calculating heart behind. Now he only looked at this war in the numbers. The number of men who would die tomorrow would probably be less than 150 making it a nameless battle over a nameless town.

Across the pasture he could see the fires of the British. Their heat was stolen before it reached him and the sight only made him colder. Even the stars seemed to have died on the eve of this battle, their usual gaiety obscured by a thick film. Tomorrow his outfit would be tasked with eradicating the redcoats. Unfortunately the territory provided little cover for their usual hiding, and they would be forced to use the standard style of warfare. This revelation should have brought fear to Nathan, but that had been one of the many casualties in this bitter fighting.

Sitting at his post guarding the camp he had time to think. He thought about how he enlisted because of Daniel, his best friend who was killed in what had come to be known as the Boston Massacre. That original fervor had long since perished replaced with a sense of habit. Every day he woke up at the same time, and every night, except those when he had patrol duty, he went to bed at the same time. In her weekly letters, his sister begged him to come home now that his year of service had been completed, but excluding that short interlude when he was busy reading her letters, the thought of quitting never occurred to him. The routine in which he swam never allotted time for thinking about the future, and when he was on patrol, the only thoughts seemed to be focused on the past. Nathan would stare entranced into his own mind, only a member of a small audience watching the great tragedy leading to this moment.

His shift passed without incident, this was hardly a surprise as very few of the lobsters would resort to that “dishonorable” sort of attack. Nathan had met one once, the idiot of a soldier had gotten himself captured and Nathan was assigned a shift at guard duty. Looking into that face, full of anger and loathing, reminded Nathan of blackberries in the market-all some people know is the taste of it, they never feel the thorns on the bush. The soldier had been traded in some exchange the next week, but those eyes and matching red coat had frequented Nathan’s dreams.

The horizon was the first indicator of the blood that would be spilled that day. The red seemed to be gushing from slashes across the sky, nature’s premonition. The bugle woke Nathan up with its tinny cry. Then time seemed to rush until he was standing in line for battle. It was almost as if the hulking behemoth of battle had drawn a deep breath and everything else, including time, rushed into it.

Then they began to march. Nathan’s feet moved in time, controlled by the drum as sure as a puppet is manipulated by his strings. Bullets flew, he saw men to the right and left fall, their bodies only a shell before they hit the ground. He was sure he fired, but he couldn’t remember the action specifically. The only thing Nathan was sure of was the drums, the ever-controlling drums parading him to his death.

Then the drums were gone, replaced by a new sound-silence. The silence engulfed him as a wave of cold crashed over him, paralyzing his mind. His mind flickered in and out of consciousness, seeing images of hell, then of boys playing soldier, and finally a bloodied field strewn with husks. A rough feeling pressed up against his back, and looking up he realized he was under a weeping willow, one of the only trees on the plain. Nathan knew the revelation should have brought questions, but he couldn’t grasp any. Every avenue of thought brought him back to the pain, like some sadistic labyrinth.

The battle was over, he could tell that. The only red seemed to be on the ground, those walking around were brown or blue-coated. One of those looking for survivors seemed to be making his way over to Nathan. The man fading in and out of view reached Nathan and called out. His voice sounded like a beautiful concerto but Nathan could not make out the meaning behind the music.

Two more of the medics arrived, one with a makeshift stretcher. The concerto grew in magnitude. The sound was too much. Nathan wanted to cover his ears, but he couldn’t; his arms seemed to belong to someone else, they had mutinied in protest to the pain. The medics rolled him over onto the stretcher facing him toward the field. The pain shot through his body and overcame the last shred of drive keeping him awake. His last sight was of dead burying the dead.

Gabriel Parker is a student at Southwest Covenant Schools in Yukon, Oklahoma. He enjoys directing the school plays, and hanging out with the younger kids. He is 17 and has lived in Oklahoma his entire life.

Gabriel Parker - Waiting for Escape

Waiting for Escape

He was waiting for the bus. The wind cut right to his heart, but there it found only a coldness which it did not know. The street was empty and dead, boarded up storefronts leapt out at the stranger, but he was trapped in his own head, unable to even imagine the street in all its glory. He could tell, though, that the years had not been kind.

It seemed a local gang had claimed this as their territory, their symbol stuck out around the street. Green, such a beautiful color distorted in their ugly banners; he remembered his mother, her usually green eyes full of a red rage.

That had been eight years ago. Those eyes hadn’t bothered him since. Now, he was out on his own, seeing the country, visiting the places America had to offer. At least, that was what he told the girls he tried to pick up. In some of the smaller stops, it even had the audacity to work. Then he was forced to play a part he never intended on getting. The women always left quickly.
He wished the bus would come sooner. He wanted to leave this p
lace in its squalor and filth, but exit was unattainable. A little voice, carried on the wind, tickled his ears. A moment later, the boy appeared from around the block. He was a lively little kid, and he was dragging a less lively father behind him. With steps as if running to the candy store, he bounded over to the stranger.

“Howdy there, Mister. What are you doing here? Dad, always tells me not to talk to strangers, but you don’t seem too bad, besides Dad’s right here so how much harm can you do?” All this was said in the span of one breath, and forced out so quickly that the father hadn’t even had time to extend his hand in the customary greeting.

Taking the man’s hand, the stranger responded to the energetic boy. He spoke evasively, as if screening each word for fear of the retribution it might incur. “Hello there. I’m travelling around, wherever I feel like going. I had to get away from some things, and this seemed like a good way to run.”

The words he spoke seemed to die as soon as they left his mouth, and the wind presented their lifeless husks to the man and his son. Upon hearing the shells masquerading as words, the man drew a protective arm around his son. In a voice that had lost its edge due to a new-found fear, the man asked the stranger, “Running away, from what?”

Like the opening up of an old wound, the stranger’s mind flashed back. Back to a time before the nameless parade of decaying cities. Back to a time when he could look at a ruin and imagine a masterpiece. Back to a time before.

“Honey, come down to dinner. Mr. Doherty and his daughter are here. I would like you to meet them.” The call rang through the house like the dinner bell it represented. David put down his homework, the work load had doubled now that it was his senior year in college. He was to become a lawyer, his mother had seen to that, and was enrolled at the college not quite four miles down the road.

It was odd for his mother to have company over, especially when he had homework, and a brief question almost occurred to him, but it flew before he could taste it. As he made his way down the wooden steps, he was able to net the question dancing in the wind of his mind, “Did she say daughter?” His mother had never let a female into the house, in fact, she was wholly opposed to letting him ever meet anyone of the opposite gender. She had even chosen the house they currently lived in because of the proximity of the all-boys college down the road.

That hadn’t stopped him from meeting girls, it had only limited his knowledge of the opposite sex to Lucy, the only girl on his route to school. After their first awkward meeting, when she was waiting on the sidewalk in front of her house, they had established a firm routine. They would meet in the morning and walk the remainder of his path to school together, to talk. She would then go to the all-women college two miles further down the road, where, in the afternoons, David would pick her up and walk her back to her house.

Since that first day almost two years ago, one David would remember forever, Lucy had only missed their daily commute once. When David knocked on her door, an obviously sick Lucy wrapped in a cream bedsheet appeared. Her brown hair, which she rarely touched, stuck out at odd angles from her head. Her eyes, usually a light blue that reminded David of a beautiful sky that he wanted to stare at and name clouds, were as dark as a storm. Her posture, usually slouched and uncaring, was bent by the weight of the sickness. Lucy might as well have been standing in the portal to David’s mind, instead of that old white door, for that was when David never again wanted to leave her side. He ushered her inside. That was the first time David had to lie to his mother about Lucy, as he had stayed with her all day, caring for her.

The debrief with his mother that day was rough. David was sure his face had turned into a picture of Lucy standing in that doorway looking like wilted flower, but he made it through without revealing his secret. After that day, their morning commute grew into something neither of them thought it would ever be – needed. David began going to bed earlier with the hope that he would shorten the time until he could see her again, but instead he would lie awake in bed thinking about everything they had talked about in those two short periods they had been together. It was almost as if everything else in his life was a vast sea, and the two walks he had with Lucy were the only land he could rest on.

As David reached the bottom of the stairs, he returned to his earlier thoughts of Mr. Doherty and his daughter. Making his way to the kitchen, his nose grabbed hold of a new smell; it was sweet, almost sweet enough to taste, but it also had a sort of fresh smell, like a just-picked orange.

Following the scent to its source, he entered the dining room. There his mother stood next to a man who, although he was of average height, looked short because of how round he was. He was balding, yet exuded great confidence, as if he was a god among mortals. David realized that whenever they had company over, his mother seemed to exude a similar confidence. Standing next to the man was a young lady, around the same age as David. She had curled brown hair going to her shoulders and large brown eyes. Her face, meticulously cared for, was unblemished and the white skin seemed to be as soft as snow. To David, who had only his mother and Lucy to compare to, this girl was the full embodiment of beauty.

David’s mother, her green eyes studying his face, presented Mr. and Miss Doherty. The party sat down to a dinner of pork loin, a rare occasion, with great flourish. The parents sat at one side and conversed, seemingly with the sole intent of leaving the younger members of the party out of the conversation. Seizing the opportunity, the young woman introduced herself properly, “I’m Elizabeth, and that’s my father. He owns a large oil company.” The words seemed to flow like water in a brook and for most of the evening David, a man of few words himself, was enthralled to listen to the rising and falling of her voice, like laying on the sand and listening to the sound of the waves hitting the beach. Then the effect wore off and he started paying attention to the meaning behind the words, then the meaning behind the meaning of the words. Like the dimming of the landscape as the sun goes down, her beauty began to fade before his eyes. By the end of the night, David wished he would have been content only to hear without listening.

After the guests had left, his mother inquired into David’s thoughts of Elizabeth. “She was pretty, but I didn’t like what she had to say, which to me sounded a lot like nothing.”

“Don’t be rude,” the green eyes flashed, “I’m sure that you only need to get to know her better. When she comes back next week, I want you to try and understand what she’s saying. Get to know her, maybe you two will hit it off.”

So the dinners continued. With each consecutive dinner, time seemed to drag its feet more and more. With each consecutive dinner, David’s thoughts turned more and more to Lucy and having dinner with her. With each consecutive dinner, David expressed his deepening displeasure of the company; and with each consecutive dinner, David’s mother scheduled another one.

Meanwhile, Lucy grew more and more bold in her expressions of affection, and David even noticed that she started brushing her hair. They grew closer and closer every morning and afternoon, David even started sneaking out to be with her. Then one afternoon as they were talking, Lucy suddenly stopped. David turned to her, and before his lips had time to form the obvious question, they were engaged in another task, a job in which they had no experience and therefore allocated all thought processes to. David had a new feeling to fall asleep to. After this impromptu moment, Lucy expressed interest in meeting his mother, and David reluctantly agreed, though a tingling bell in the back of his head warned him not to.

That night Elizabeth and her father came over for dinner again. Afterward David again expressed his displeasure. But this time, the subject of marriage came up. The green eyes, full of feline intensity, stared into his own, willing him to submit. David was disappointed that he hadn’t seen the reason for these dinners sooner. When he refused, the eyes flashed in anger. “You will marry that-“

The doorbell chose this moment to call out its introduction, and with a sudden feeling that he was falling David knew who it had to be. His breath left him and, on the way out, whispered “Lucy.”

His mother threw open the door to a rather small, young lady who had taken the last two hours to get ready for this moment, but Lucy was not ready for the animosity that greeted her in that doorway. In the face of hostility framed by the doorway, she was only able to eek out, “Hello, my name is Lucy,” before she trailed off, afraid she had somehow already said too much.

David’s mother stared at Lucy. The mind behind the hot green eyes was preoccupied, as if processing some complex math equation, until suddenly all the variables made sense. The conclusion was reached. Hatred and malice contorted her face into a mask of hate. With vehement exhalations that never got much farther than, “You, you, you stole him from me,” she grabbed Lucy around the neck and yanked her like a ragdoll across the threshold. David fell down to the floor, unable to act in retaliation to this monster of hate that his naivety had created.

Lucy’s gasps became shallower and shallower as her throat was crushed. Her cries went unanswered, and then her blue eyes, those eyes that David could stare into for hours, glazed over and the gasps stopped. Her body hit the floor with a thud that David knew would haunt him for the rest of his life. With the object of the hate gone and only a shell left to remind her, the mask was taken off and only his mother remained.

“Go get the car, we need to go dump this thing somewhere no one will find it.” The words fell on brittle ears and broke them. David stared at the body of the girl he loved and wept, unhearing.
“You’re, you’re a monster.” He was finally able to get it out after what felt like an age of silence. Then, with intensely calculated movements, he stood up and walked out the door.

The man repeated his question, his grip tightening around his son. “What are you running away from?” The bus rolled up to the stop with a precision only possible in machines.
As David stepped on the bus, the word, full of the fervor of pain, reached the ears of the man and his son. “Myself.”

Gabriel Parker is a student at Southwest Covenant Schools in Yukon, Oklahoma. He enjoys directing the school plays, and hanging out with the younger kids. He is 17 and has lived in Oklahoma his entire life.

Alyssa Williams - Double Exposed

 

Alyssa Williams – “I strongly believe there is a lot of beauty in the world waiting to be seen, but it is impossible for someone to see it all themselves. Photography makes this beauty more accessible for people to enjoy and admire in their life. Furthermore, I believe there is a lot of beauty that goes unnoticed. Using photography, I have the power to encourage people to admire the splendor in thing that are not inherently beautiful. Things that are underappreciated or overlooked are now admired and appreciated through my photography.”

Merveille Adomou - Phase Two

 

My name is Merveille Adomou, I’m 17 years old and I currently attend Montgomery College in Maryland. I’ve been into photography for about 4 years now and it’s honestly been one of the best learning periods of my life. I love turning a simple image into a complex one because it always reminds me of the many aspects of photography. My passion for photography has not only broadened my creativity but it has also inspired others as well. I always want my photos to speak to people and allow them to interpret it in their own way!

Gretchen Gales - Independence Day & Passed

Independence Day

It was the fourth of July and suddenly
My friends and I drove down to the local
Walmart before sunset to buy
Firecrackers and sparklers paired with names
Cheap as mediocre day time strippers:
Sea Blue Shell, Rose Blossom, Lavender Butterfly.
Back at Marie’s cul-de-sac
We made a circular shrine to the summertime and
Looped the tiny rockets in a spiral
A lighter was shoved in my hands
And against ancient warnings from when I was green with innocence,
I ignited the night.
The color-changing sparks rocketed up to the sky and then plummeted
Down, drooping, dying
Like the willow trees they flirted with on the way, which may explain the dirty
Looks we got from Marie’s middle-aged
Deaf neighbor you’d imagine hoards raw chickens in his fridge and a small tub of
Worms shoved in the last free space in case the chickens got hungry
As he watched
The show, we expected him to complain that
The lights were too loud.


Passed

A Bible stage right,
oxygen
tank stage left,
a breathing
tube slithering up the side
wasn’t worth two decades
of loneliness.
A typewriter in three days she wouldn’t need
Passed on instead to me.

youth featured artist

wes matthews, youth featured artist

adult featured artists

adult featured artists