Blue Car

Posted on: June 27, 2013


Note: the author would like to dedicate this story to his aunt and uncle, Donna and Donald Creer.
It was the bane of Carl’s existence. It kept him up at night, and when he finally fell asleep, it haunted his dreams. It mocked him. It confused him. It sparked his curiosity and stole his heart.

That. Blue. Car.

Carl’s first memory was of him scaling a chair, getting on the tips of his toes, and looking at it through the kitchen window. Not once did anyone get inside, wash it, or pay it any mind. It drove him nuts.

Through the years he’d grown familiar with the unfamiliar car. He knew how long it was: 159 inches. He knew its exact color: Pantone 14-4481. He knew how the sun made the hubcaps shine like diamonds. But most of all, he knew nothing.

That was going to change tonight.

“I’m going to dinner with some of my girlfriends tonight, Carl. Do you think you’ll be fine by yourself for a couple of hours?” asked his mom.

Carl tried to hide his excitement as he coolly nodded his head. He’d been begging his mom to let him stay at home alone for a few months, and his perseverance had finally paid off. Since the divorce, she didn’t get out much anymore. To Carl, it seemed like she was always at work or at home – and he was right.

With his mom out of the house, Carl had the opportunity to stake out the blue car for longer than he ever had before. When he was younger, he used to sneak into the kitchen late at night to see what the car was up to. One time, his mom walked in on him and immediately burst into tears. He misses his dad so much that he’s looking for him out the window, she thought.

Being older and wiser, Carl was better at sneaking out of his room at night, but with one eye on the car and the other on his mom’s bedroom door, it was too stressful. Besides, other than the car, the only constant in Carl’s life was his relationship with his mom, and he didn’t want to risk making her cry again.

Carl’s mom paced the apartment. She was a tornado carrying debris of excitement, worry and anxiety.

“Don’t open the door for anyone, don’t leave the apartment and don’t stay up late watching the fuzzy channel,” she told him before she kissed him on the forehead and walked out the door. Carl wiped away the kiss residue as soon as he heard the locks click. He usually didn’t mind a good forehead kiss, but this one was a weird mix of sweat and lipstick.

He set off to gather materials.

Binoculars? Check.

Lukewarm liter of Mountain Dew? Check.

Fruity Pebbles? Check.

Go time.


--9:12 PM--

Other than witnessing someone step in the dog poop Mr. Jenkins forgot to pick up, there wasn’t anything exciting for Carl to report.


--10:08 PM--

Having so much Mountain Dew on hand proved to be a bad idea. This was never more apparent as Carl watched his pee stream create bubble islands inside the toilet bowl.


--10:44 PM--

Carl shoveled another handful of cereal into his mouth. He knew his time was running out. His mom could walk through the door at any second. He dug into the cereal box hoping to find a toy inside. The noise managed to drown out the sound of a car starting, but it couldn’t muffle the screeching tires that followed.

Carl’s head popped up just in time to see a blur head down the street. He jolted out of his chair and clumsily watched the blue car turn right on Clark St. through the wrong end of his binoculars.

“Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god!” was all he could manage to say. 

To keep up with his mind, he began to pace like his mom. The decision to chase after the car on his bike was easy once he came to terms with what would happen if his mom came home and didn’t find him. 

Just in case, he rushed into his room, balled up some clothes, and put them

under the covers to make it look like he was sleeping. If his mom was preoccupied enough to think Carl was three feet tall with a lopsided head, it just might work. He downed the rest of his Mountain Dew and took off. 

He felt boundless as he sped down Clark St. He had never been this close to solving the mystery of the blue car. He had never felt this free. The cold night air stung his eyes as he scanned the street. He was so focused, so excited, so willing to do whatever it took, that he didn’t mind the pee running down his leg and onto his bike pedals. The Mountain Dew had gotten him this far; the rest was up to him.

He stopped to rest.

He asked himself half-jokingly, “If I were a mysterious blue car, where would I go?”

A familiar noise nudged at his ear, shaking him from his personal interrogation. It was something stronger than a giggle but not quite a laugh. He stood stiff, hoping to hear it again. Then, to his right, he heard it. This time, he knew exactly what it was.

“Mom?” he whispered to himself.

Carl looked across the street and spotted her draped in the arms of some man he’d never seen before. He pulled her close and they began to kiss.

“Mom?!”

This time he screamed it. She jumped back from the man and searched for Carl. She saw him across the street. His eyes were full of tears. His shirt was drenched in sweat. And his shorts were stained with pee.

His mom took a step, but before she could utter a word, he hopped back on his bike. A cocktail of emotions surged through his body as he sped off. He had chased after a mystery only to stumble upon another, more baffling one. He pedaled faster, riding off to nowhere in particular.




Photograph by: Jaemin Riley
Written by: Justin Grady

Bury Their Own

Posted on: June 24, 2013


Anna sits with her legs crossed on a wrought iron bench in a cemetery, slouching forward with her elbows on her knees, smoking a cigarette. She wears a black ensemble finished with a leather jacket and high-heeled ankle boots. A silver chain hangs from her neck, bearing a cross that sways with the breeze. Her hair spills over her back and shoulders, forming a feathery frame around her face. Her lipstick stains the filter of her cigarette and Kohl eyeliner emphasizes the almond shape of her eyes. She savors her next drag, pulling the smoke between her lips and into her lungs as if it would save her life.

Cigarettes remind her of her mother who never looked or smelled like a smoker. She was an entrepreneur with a knack for palm reading and dream interpretation. Unfortunately, she wasn’t very good with finances and her relationship with the IRS was tense. She had her first stroke at the age of forty-four and then one every spring until her heart failed four years later. After she died, Anna longed for a connection, something to keep her close not only in thought, but also in body. Lighting up became a sacred ritual, an invocation of the dead, but her mother never came. Anna didn’t take it personally.

Anna crushes her cigarette with her boot on the brick path before picking it up and tossing it in the trash. She stuffs her hands into her jacket pockets and makes her way over to a tombstone nestled beneath a dogwood with tender pink blossoms. The epitaph reads: Lydia Marie Wilcox. An angel so loved by God, He took her for Himself. She was ten years old when she died in 1962. Anna looks up past the grave marker at the spectre sitting just beyond it. She is wearing a white dress with puffy short sleeves, black dress shoes, and a blue headband that holds back her blonde ringlets. The ghost is glaring at Anna, her hands crumpling fistfuls of her dress as she holds back tears.

“Hello, Lydia.”

Anna greets her with a gentle volume as if approaching an injured fawn. Lydia buries her face in her hands and sobs, her tiny shoulders shaking beneath the weight of a life unlived and a crime unsolved. No one suspected that her father drowned her in the bathtub, not even her mother. He supplied the police with a diary full of entries suggesting Lydia lost the will to live. He was smart enough to remove the pages that recounted his late night drunkenness, resulting in physical beatings that Lydia endured, but never deserved.

The sad tale floods Anna’s mind after she places her fingertips on the tombstone. She grimaces, taking back her hand. She watches Lydia’s ghost wail with a force and passion equal to her grief, but the sound is distant and goes unheard by all except Anna. She walks around the grave marker and sits down on the ground, leaning against it. The branches of the dogwood tree rustle in the wind, a natural white noise that folds over Lydia’s sobs.

The first time Anna experienced a transmission like this was six months after her mother’s death when she went to visit her grave. She knelt down on the grass and pressed her forehead against the name etched in stone. It felt like a dream sifting behind her eyes. She saw her mother sitting at the kitchen counter, staring blankly through the window. Anna felt awash with dread as her mother suddenly grasped her head, trying to stand only to lose her balance and fall to the floor. It was her mother’s first stroke, but Anna hadn’t been there. She pulled away from the tombstone, gasping for breath as sweat coated her upper lip.

The visions began happening anytime she touched an object belonging to her mother. Hidden pieces of her life unfolded before Anna’s eyes: the constant drinking, the chain smoking, the prescription painkillers. But Anna experienced more than images; she could perceive feelings, thoughts, and memories. Underneath her mother’s addictions was a thick floor of regret, which Anna chose not to explore. It’s true that knowledge is power, but ignorance is bliss.

“What can I do for you?” Anna asks Lydia’s ghost, pressing her palms together between her thighs to warm them.

Lydia lifts her head, wiping her face of snot and tears with her forearm. She licks her lips and looks at the grass, contemplating her answer.

“Do you want me to tell someone what really happened to you?” Anna suggests.

Lydia shakes her head, sniffling as she mumbles, “No, that’s not important to me.”

“What is important to you?”

“I don’t want to be alone.”

Anna folds her left arm over her chest, propping up her right elbow on her left hand as she fiddles with the cross hanging from the chain around her neck. There’s no way to help Lydia cross over to the next world, but she can show her how to make a world of her own.

“If you want, you could stay with me.”

The ghost’s eyes widen and her lips part in surprise.

“How?”

“You see my cross? If you close your eyes and imagine the most beautiful place, we can put it in there. You can live there and I’ll always be close by. I won’t be able to come inside, but you can come out whenever you want.”

Lydia clasped her hands in front of her heart and squealed, “Can it be a big white house? With a cat and a dog? I promise I’ll take good care of them! And I’ll bake cookies every day and read books all the time until I fall asleep!”

Anna smiles, nodding with approval. Lydia jumps up and down before closing her eyes and vanishing into thin air. The cross is cold and heavy now, bearing Lydia’s soul and her new world. Anna heads out of the cemetery, lighting up another cigarette.

Deep drag.

Sweet invocation.




Written by: Natasha Akery
Photo by: Whitney Ott

Plump Insides

Posted on: June 20, 2013


We moved to Evergreen Pond the summer before sixth grade. Ours was one of the first houses finished in the rural subdivision, built on lush wetlands in the basin of Mt. Rainier. The night we moved in, I curled up on a mattress in the empty dark, and found my thoughts drowned out by chirping. Hundreds of thousands of frogs called Evergreen Pond home. Listening felt like gazing up at a starscape. Some notes dragged and reverberated across the whole spectrum, while others glimmered in the distance, mere hints that they existed. I snuck out from underneath the sheets and shoved the pane window open.

Out of the same pond crawled my nemeses, the lizards and salamanders. They posed no threat and scurried away from footsteps, but as larger targets they were more likely to meet vehicle bumpers. And as more house lots were sold, the neighbors multiplied and the carnage mounted. Each day that summer I passed fresh carcasses pulverized into the road. Their silver bones were like strands, and they had more guts than seemed possible in such a small creature. Pink, knotty, bulbous messes strewn around their pancaked bodies, still plump as if ready to carry on without their shells. Their desecration revolted me, and I wished they’d go extinct.

When the first school bus heaved up the road in September, the dead lizards were slipping into memory. Too many cars and shiny headlights, too many lawn mowers butchering the grass, Roundup and powders and pellets seeping suburban death into the soil. I rejoiced their disappearance.

What wasn’t steamrolled and gutted across my path, was the slow muting of my frog orchestra. Each summer from the first, the sound would fade further away, until you had to open the window to hear it. Until you had to make sure the TV was off. Until you were lucky to hear one call-back and answer in a night, and even then you couldn’t be certain it was real. I was too young, and my world still too black-and-white, to realize that the same maladies could destroy what I loved as much as they could what I hated.

“We have a question you should ask!” Lisa whispers through perfect, bleach-white teeth. Her less perfect and pretty friend Tara stands next to her.

We are in Mr. Wilson’s sixth-grade classroom, a place I would love if I were alone. We’re in the middle of an Egyptian unit, so the walls are covered in hieroglyphic drawings and sarcophagus portraits. After lunch Mr. Wilson sits on the stool next to the chalkboard and reads to us. He has a collection of Time magazine covers from the last two decades ringing the room like a wallpaper border. His voice is soothing and even, like my mother’s, and I stare up at the covers and pick out my favorites. Candice Bergen, September 1992. I love her hair.

I can’t do my hair. Part of a long list: I can’t put on makeup, pick out cute clothes, I don’t know what a blowjob is. Lisa knew this list instinctually since the moment I showed up at school. Lisa and Tara were born on the same street. They’ve been classmates since kindergarten. Clueless and gawky, I’m the perfect target for their 12-year-old angst.

Lisa slides a blank piece of paper across my desk. “It’s for the Question Box,” she points out. The Sex-Ed unit is looming a week away, and The Question Box is an anonymous depository of queries on bodies and intercourse. “Write down, how do lesbians masturbate?”

“Because you’ll need to know,” Tara adds.

I stare at the paper, its blankness reflecting my own. I am so dumbfounded I don’t hear Mr. Wilson step up behind my chair and stare down at Lisa and Tara over his neat black moustache.

“We were just suggesting a question,” Lisa explained, nudging Tara to nod.

“If you have a question, you can ask it yourself,” he said, his even voice pulsating with condescension. “Tabitha is not your scribe.”

For the first time that school year, I saw Lisa’s ears flush.

Two months later the bullying would escalate, and my parents would sit down with the school administration. Mr. Wilson was there, glaring at the principal with the same exasperation.

“Tabitha isn’t the problem here,” he pointed out. “Have you considered kicking out the sadistic brats disrupting the kids who deserve a safe classroom when they go to school?”

“If she can’t handle being around normal teen girls,” the graying principal said, “maybe it would be best if she left.”

Mr. Wilson slammed his hands down on the conference table and walked out of the room. I transferred out of the school. We would never see each other again.

“Mom’s on the NEWS!” Six months later my little sister Brianna pounded up and down the stairs, hollering to the whole house.

“Huh?” She caught me in the kitchen, snacking while I waited for dinner. Brianna had just returned from junior cheerleading practice at my old school.

“There was a King 5 news van, and the camera guy came right up to our car!”

“Mom?” I called, “what happened?”

My mother slumped into the kitchen. She looked as though she had just slammed a glass of her own bile.

On TV, the anchorman was shoving a microphone through the window of our minivan.

“Did you know Ken Wilson?” he demands.

“He was my daughter’s teacher,” she replied. In an instant the camera was rolling and big reveal: “Did you know he was molesting boys from his church, including his own foster child?”

Mom turned off the TV, tossing the remote as if it bore responsibility. “Just last month I saw him at Safeway,” Mom said to me, still staring past the kitchen, past the pond, out into some distant ether. “He was buying groceries for his mother, because she couldn’t drive any more. He asked how you were doing.”

Those were the last words on the subject. But I couldn’t forget. The truth about Mr. Wilson infected me, and quickly tinted the world into a hideous shade of doubt that I could not shake. Every time I saw a man and a child—my band teacher, the father across the street—a voice crept into my consciousness: what if…? Could he be…? Who else was a monster? And what was wrong with me, not being able to see who someone really was? What hideousness couldn’t I see inside of myself, I wondered on loop. The questions shrunk my sense of self and worth to a husk. I had to be defective, I thought. I was simply too stupid to know how. I waited, sunken over the bridge between 12 and 13, waiting for the proof that I didn’t deserve to exist.

The revelation that evil is a cop-out for understanding evaded me. I couldn’t understand that Mr. Wilson could be the only person to stick up for me, that he would buy groceries for his ailing mother, that he would abuse children. The good and the bad get choked by the same poison.




Photograph by: Jaemin Riley
Written by: Tabitha Blankenbiller

Los Niños

Posted on: June 17, 2013

When you go to meet Antonio at the park near your grandmother’s house, you see that same family again—the dad in his baggy pants and white t-shirt pushing his two kids on the rusty swing set. The little girl shrieks as he pushes her swing higher. She points her tiny velcro shoes to the sky and flings her head back, tossing her pink sunglasses into the dirt. Her dad laughs and pushes her again. The boy is clinging on for dear life, gritting his baby teeth.

De qué tienes miedo?” the father laughs, and slows his swing.

You sit on a picnic table. You see Antonio on the other side of the street waiting for the traffic to clear. In your pocket, you have the paper from the doctor folded small as a thimble.

“Yana!” Antonio calls, coming your way. “So what is this you want to tell me?”

Your throat tightens.

“Tonio, where do you think this is going?” you say.

“You mean us? “

Si.”

“Did your dad call? Are you going back to the states?”

“No, not that. I mean, sometime I’ll leave. I don’t know when. But where do you think we’re going? You and me?”

Your father sent you to Nicaragua at the end of the school year as punishment. As if probation wasn’t enough—one stupid mistake, and you were slave to your PO, picking up trash and peeing in a cup. And then for a week you were free, until your dad called his mother. But Nicaragua hasn’t been so bad. You like it, except for the food. And not knowing when you’ll go back home. You had a one-way ticket.

“The truth?” Antonio says, shuffling his feet. “Don’t freak.”

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” you mutter.

“What?” Antonio says, not understanding.

“Nothing.”

Es verdad—we’ll be like that, con los niños.” He points to the family at the swings. “I want to marry you someday. Someday when we’re not fifteen. Maybe when we’re seventeen.”

The little girl is leaning backward in her swing, reaching for the sunglasses just out of her grasp.

You pull the knot of paper from your pocket and hand it to Tonio. He unfolds it, but no flash of understanding crosses his face.

“What is this?” he asks.

“It says I’m pregnant. I took five tests. I didn’t believe it. But the doctor’s one—well, it’s true. Blood doesn’t lie,” you say.

“What are you going to do?”

“You mean we? What are we going to do.”

Si, I mean, I’ll support you, whatever your decision,” Antonio stutters.

It had happened the day you came back from the mall, when your abuela wasn’t home. Your cousin had said, “Prima, you better watch it with that boy,” as you sneaked into your bedroom, but you just laughed. Tonio wasn’t a boy, and you weren’t a child, either.

Now you aren’t so sure.

Antonio is dragging his shoe, making shapes in the dirt. The family at the swing set has gone. You see the girl has left her sunglasses.

Tonio gives you a little pat on the knee and mumbles something about needing to get home. You watch him dart back across the busy street, then you retrieve the glasses from the hollowed out space below the swing. You turn them over in your hand, brushing off the dirt. Each lens is shaped like a heart. You hold them up to the sun, and the rosy plastic gleams in the light. You know Tonio won’t run off. He’ll do his duty, whatever you decide that might be.


                                                                         ***

Your abuela is small and wrinkled. She holds a cigarette in one hand and an orange soda in the other as you and your cousin stand on the front porch and tell her the news.

“I tried to warn this one!” your cousin says.

“Shut up,” you say. You aren’t afraid of your grandmother, and you aren’t ashamed, either. Abuela birthed eleven children, the first at only thirteen. What can she say? In comparison, you are practically ancient.

“How far along?” Abuela asks.

“Three months?” you guess. Abuela grunts.

“Have you been sick?”

“I thought it was the food. I’m not used to it.”

“Don’t insult Abuela’s cooking like that!” your cousin says.

“Shut up,” Abuela says. Your cousin rolls her eyes and chips the polish off her thumbnail with her teeth.

“How could she know? She’s skinnier than when she got here, though that’s not saying much, gorda,” your cousin says.

“This happens sometimes,” says your grandmother. “What do you want to do? And the boy? What does he want?”

“I know what I want. But I don’t have any money,” you say.

Your grandmother and cousin are quiet.

“Are you sure? This is not your America. We could call your father,” Abuela finally says. She coughs into her knobby elbow.

You are sure.


                                                                        ***

The procedure costs nearly a thousand dollars. You don’t know where your grandmother got the money. There is pain, but afterwards, you feel a lightness that lifts you above it.

You and your cousin push your twin beds together. Your cousin buys pink hair dye and hot fries. You spend the afternoon experimenting. When she goes to a movie and leaves you alone, you look at the ceiling and ignore the text messages Antonio keeps sending you. You stretch the pink sunglasses to fit your own face and stare at the exposed light bulb until you see floaters. You notice there’s a scratch on one lens at the bottom of the heart.

When Abuela appears in the doorway, you don’t move.

“Are you going to talk to that boy, Yana?” Abuela asks. “He is sad and happy, but you cannot forget the sad.”

You peer at your grandmother through the sunglasses.

“It’s not his body. And soon I’ll be back in the United States. I don’t owe him. This isn’t my life here.”

“So you are a ghost.”

“I’m something.”

“You’ll break those glasses, nieta. They are for a child.”

“Maybe I am a child,” you say.

“Not anymore,” Abuela says, closing the door.




Photograph by: Whitney Ott
Written by: Dot Dannenberg

Tragedy In Wonderland

Posted on: June 13, 2013


May 09, 2013

East Village, Wonderland

Humpty Dumpty, the famous ham-handed egg, has been charged with the murder of his wife and two children by Wonderland authorities.

Humpty is known as an easy going and amicable egg by his East Village neighbors. “That’s why it’s so shocking,” explains Alice, a frequent visitor to the village and personal friend of the Dumpty family, “He was always so kind, and he never seemed to quarrel with anyone in the village.”

While the family was enjoying breakfast, an argument began between 17-year-old Hefty Lefty, Dumpty’s oldest son, and Humpty. According to neighbors, the two were having a debate concerning the origins of the Dumpty family. Hefty, known as an innovative free-thinker, claimed that the family must be able to trace its ancestral roots back to the “chicken,” a prehistoric animal that supposedly inhabited the area that is now the East Village thousands of years ago.

“He just snapped,” explains the Walrus, one of Humpty’s neighbors. The Walrus reported loud yelling coming from the house at around 9:30 a.m. this morning to East Village authorities. It was clear that this was not some common spat between father and son says the Walrus.

Another neighbor, a local carpenter and life partner of the Walrus, claims to have overheard some of the argument. According to the Carpenter, Humpty yelled the following comments at his son after listening to the young egg’s theory:

“I will not tolerate such blasphemous comments under my roof! Chickens! Evolution! Lies! Absolute lies! You are not my son! Do you understand? You are dead to me!”

In an attempt to calm the situation, 38-year-old Margaret Hatcher Dumpty, Humpty’s wife, is reported to have explained that she believed the theory to not be completely absurd, and that they should be proud as parents to have such a clever child. Following the calming attempt, 12-year-old Chiquita Bonita, Humpty’s daughter, reportedly expressed her agreement with her mother’s statement.

“Yep, that’s when he really lost it,” says the Carpenter. According to East Village authorities, Humpty used a large iron skillet to brutally massacre his wife, son, and daughter. “It wasn’t a pretty sight,” explains the Caterpillar, the first investigator on the scene, “…there was literally not a single place that you could step without getting yolk all over you. I think there’s still some on my underside.”

Quickly following the violent slaughter, Humpty was witnessed fleeing his home by neighbors. He was last seen headed west along a wall just outside of Cheshire Forest.

Before his murderous rampage, Humpty did have a reputation for being somewhat eccentric. The Hatter, a colleague of Humpty’s, recalls hearing Humpty make some strange rants of his own years ago. “Yes,” recalls the Hatter, “Humpty was yelling about creating his own vernacular of sorts… Weeehehe… Oh yes, he claimed verbs to be angry but himself to be the master of all. Words bent to his will and he willed words to mean as he pleased. Tea became time and I became late after drinking of time and woo….” The Hatter, a victim of severe mercury poisoning, fled the interview before providing further explanation. However, Alice corroborates the rant in question.

Humpty abandoned his war on semantics after a life-threatening debate with the Queen of Hearts, the ruler of Wonderland. Though he never claimed that the word “queen” actually meant servant, the Queen of Hearts believed he would, and in Wonderland, such potential for a possible offense is as illegal as making an actual transgression.

Two policies have been cited in discussion concerning the Dumpty family murder: the decree that free speech will not be tolerated and the concept of divine right. Wonderland, the most irrational and confusing of the imaginary monarchies, is governed, not surprisingly, by the most neurotic despot in contemporary politics today, the Queen of Hearts. The Queen of Hearts, characterized as a highly erratic, paranoid maniac, invokes a number of nonsensical policies to maintain her rule of Wonderland. Amongst impressive political policy innovations such as ‘pre-execution’ for possible crimes committed, the queen also invokes several tried tyrant classics to maintain ‘amicable concord’ within her kingdom.

Technically speaking, Humpty was upholding the law while brutally murdering his family. The Queen of Hearts claims that the basis for her and her ancestor’s rule is one of divine right, deriving their right to rule directly from the will of the mystical Jabberwocky, the supposed creator, or god, of Wonderland. Furthermore, Jabberanity, the Jabberwocky faith, advocates creationist ideologies. So, to speak of evolution, or a chicken coming before an egg, is technically blasphemous and illegal, and of course, is punishable by death before or after being expressed.

With regard to the Dumpty family slaughter, the Queen of Hearts made the following statement:

“Indeed, this is a tragic day for Wonderland. The Dumpty’s were a strong, hardworking family whose patriotism was beyond question. However, I cannot condemn the actions taken by Mr. Dumpty. His son, Hefty, made several blasphemous comments, and both Mrs. Dumpty and Chiquita supported those blasphemous comments. Such comments cannot be tolerated if we are to remain in the great Jabberwocky’s good graces, and it is both my and this kingdom’s opinion that the actions made by Mr. Dumpty were made in the best interest of Wonderland. Therefore, I am granting Humpty Dumpty a full pardon for his crimes.”

Following her statement, the Queen of Hearts returned to her castle, despite the objections of several aggravated citizens.

The White Rabbit, the East Village’s district attorney, was unavailable for comment due to being “late for a very important date.”

Humpty was unavailable for comment concerning the pardon due to suffering from a fatal fall while evading authorities. Humpty Dumpty died at the age of 43. All of the queen’s horses and all of the queen’s men could not put Humpty back together again.

I am currently awaiting sentencing for intending to publish this piece. The Queen is the absolute best ruler. Long live the Queen!

Tweedledum - Wonderland correspondent



Photograph by: Whitney Ott
Written by: Hunter Hirsch

Don't Look Up

Posted on: June 10, 2013


Phil stole cautious glances beneath the desk of his boss’ secretary as he waited to see what this impromptu morning meeting was all about. She rearranged her legs, briefly exposing a floral pattern that reminded Phil of his daughter’s childhood bathing suit. Then he realized the secretary was probably the same age as his daughter. This epiphany stunned him like a cockroach caught under a kitchen light.

Phil immediately lost interest in the secretary’s undergarments, but not before she traced his gaze to her nether regions. He snapped out of his trance to find a look of disgust on her face. He did what any man would do in that situation. He stared down at his dark-leather dress shoes.

For the record, Phil has never let his bouts of lust spill into the real world. He always felt the effort was greater than the pleasure, so he satisfied his sexual needs through monthly rendezvous with his wife and the privacy of his evening shower.

Phil ran all of life’s little decisions through a similar cost-benefit analysis; affairs, meals, children, you name it, he crunched the numbers and came to a logical conclusion. This created a complacent life for he and his family. At least it did, until Pam, his wife, found Facebook.

Their marriage was quite comfortable before Pam discovered that “God-damn-mother-fuckin website,” as Phil referred to it. They had sex at least twelve times a year. They slept in the same bed. They ate breakfast together every morning. Compared to their circle of friends, they were John and Yoko. Then Pam began her virtual high school reunion.

Their nightly dinner conversation shifted from discussing current events to Pam rambling on about her long-lost friends. It was a barrage of pointless information and dangerous comparisons.

“Becky married a lawyer,” Pam would say.

“Good for her,” Phil would respond.

“The Johnstons went to Paris last Christmas,” she would say.

“Good for them.” he would respond.

It went on like that until Pam’s dissatisfaction grew too large for Phil to ignore. He ran the figures and decided it’d be better to give Pam a more enviable life than face their impending divorce. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fit to climb the corporate ladder, and that is exactly why he was summoned for the impromptu morning meeting.


--

Pam scoffed as she scrolled through Samantha, her high-school nemesis’, vacation photos. She spent last Christmas in Paris, the previous summer in Peru and the spring before that in Jerusalem. God had been good to her, and Pam hated him for it.

“How does a preacher’s wife get to travel the world like Carmen Sandiego?” Pam would ask herself, completely overlooking the fact that Samantha and her husband were doing more evangelizing than vacationing.

When she failed to gain a sense of superiority from her former frenemy, she decided to find the boys who brought her into womanhood. The first who came to mind was the captor of her virginity. His name was Ed Redfield and he checked every box of the high school heartthrob stereotype. He was athletic, charismatic and classically handsome. He embodied everything Pam had stopped looking for by the time she agreed to marry Phil, and judging by his profile picture, he still had “it.” What he didn’t have was a wife.

“Single!? That’s shocking,” Pam wrote in her first private message to Ed.

It became the first of many once Ed responded, “I know, RIGHT!? I used to be irresistible!”

Pam conveniently left out Ed when she relayed her Facebook findings to Phil. She stuck with pitting Samantha’s family against her own. She could tell by the tension in Phil’s shoulders that these passive suggestions were getting through to him, but his attempts to improve their family’s financial and social status couldn’t keep up with Pam’s Facebook Feed.

As the weeks progressed, so did Pam and Ed’s virtual flirtations. Their distance made it as harmless as Phil’s panty peeks, until a fortuitous business trip brought Ed within a $20 cab ride of Phil and Pam’s doorstep.


--

The cockroach emerged from the kitchen drain and sought shelter beneath an overturned cereal bowl. It gave a ten count before sticking its antennas out to survey the terrain. Satisfied with the noise level and lack of lighting, it began its ascent to the kitchen counter.

The roach was on a standard reconnaissance mission. Its objective, find a food source and leave a trail of pheromones for the rest of the colony to follow. Like all members of the animal kingdom, aside from humans, survival was its only concern.

The roach bounded from ceramic dish to metal utensil until it successfully breached the rim of the sink. Without a moment of hesitation, it scurried perpendicularly to the floor along the stained-wood cabinet doors.

The kitchen became illuminated by fluorescent light once the roach landed on the faux-mahogany gel mat, as if it had tripped an alarm. It remained motionless as articles of clothing began sailing through the air, sporadically covering the ceramic tiles below.

The roach darted between the shirts, pants and delicates, attempting to reach the living room undetected. It stopped beneath the thin veil of a satin thong after a pair of dark-leather dress shoes appeared in the entryway.

The roach stayed completely still until a nude middle-age woman flung herself off the equally unclothed male she was straddling. Her force sent the man and his chair crashing to the ground in front of the roach.

The roach made a final break for the carpet-lined room. It saw one of the dress shoes lift high out of sight as it passed the fallen man’s head. The roach kept its eyes down and sprinted towards its destination as fast as its legs could carry it.

The roach was lucky to be in motion after the dress shoe returned to Earth. As for the man on the floor, well, he looked up.



Photograph by: Jaemin Riley
Written by: Mark Killian

Die, My Darling: Letter From An Inmate

Posted on: June 6, 2013


Dear Sophie,

I want to start off by saying thank you for your letter. I don't really receive many visitors or phone calls these days, so it's always a treat to hear from a kind stranger now and then… even though I rarely ever respond. Perhaps you caught me on a good day.

I read your letter probably 50 times - not because you asked me anything that hasn't already been asked, but just because I like to think hard about things before I write them down. I've always been that way, though - even with talking. I think hard and I talk slow. I'm just going to go down and answer all your questions in the order that you wrote them.

My childhood: Well, as you probably already heard, my family didn't have much when I was growing up. We never stayed at one place for too long, and we moved to a different apartment almost every year. (The media and DA would use this as evidentiary support for my "instability".)My parents worked very hard to support my brother and me, but they both worked fairly low-paying jobs. To this day I take more pride in being the daughter of a school teacher who delivered pizzas on the weekends than if I were the daughter of a billionaire who sat on his ass all day. Myparents’ strength taught me not to feel sorry for people. They taught me the importance of manual labor and the pride that goes into earning a dollar. My mother's gambling problem resulted in me being excellent at maintaining my finances. I would save money to go on trips to different countries - I love traveling.

Was I abused as a child? Yes. I already know where you're going with this. "Maybe if she hadn't been abused, or maybe if her parents made more money, she wouldn't be in prison for murder." I'm not sure what to tell you. I murdered someone. And the fact that I was sexually abused as a child is just a coincidence. Some people like to use their trauma and abuse as an excuse for their own lack of common sense, but the truth is, I know what I did was a crime. It's not that I don't feel bad about it, it's simply something that needed to be done.

Yes, I always did have a fascination with sex crimes and serial killers and the psychology behind it all, which I'm sure is just me subconsciously playing "detective"; symbolically trying to put the pieces together for the illnesses of my family and why I fell victim to such an unfortunate crime as a child. It's true, my upbringing is extremely similar (and in some cases worse) to that of some of the famous serial killers of the last century. Unfortunately, I will be made a stereotype for this. "If you're abused as a child, you're going to end up killing people." It's not true. I always knew better. I guess there are just some people in this world who can't cut a break.

Did I really murder my husband? Well since you asked so nicely….

I'm just going to lay it all out there for you, Sophie. I'm not crazy. There were never any voices inmy head telling me to kill this person or that person. I never fantasized about killing anyone. I simply did what I needed to do because I wanted to survive.

The whiskey took him a few years before, and the man who used to be my husband had become a monster. He was cruel and physically violent towards me. There were more than several occasions when I believed, with every part of me, that he was going to kill me. I waited for him to kill me, until I couldn't wait anymore. My husband, the love of my life, would only return when the monster would go to sleep (pass out, rather). This was the only time he was at peace. This was the only time I was stronger than him. This was when I killed him.

It was painful. I had even thought that perhaps we could die together. He looked like the man I loved, but he wasn't. The man I loved was gone.

Why wasn't the hammer ever found? Well, first of all, yes - it was a hammer. But I don't know why it was never found and I couldn't tell you what happened to it.

How does it feel to murder someone?

I should disclose that nothing I could say will ever make you understand exactly what it's like to kill someone. Sometimes I actually have to remind myself of what I did. Murdering someone… it's interesting. Once it happens, you're no longer who you were. You become a different person. It's like you're reborn. I've read some creepy shit about men murdering women one after the other so that they could "cleanse" themselves and continue to start off on a clean slate with every dead body they racked up. That's not the kind of reborn I'm talking about. I mean, when you murder someone, you're kind of murdering yourself, too. You will never again be who you were. La mort n'a peut-être pas plus de secrets à nous révéler que la vie? Hm...

How do I feel now? Everyday is a bit of a waiting game. Before, I wouldn't have known what to do with myself, and I probably wouldn't have been able to handle it. I try not to think much, and I try not to feel much. I've made a couple of friends here, I study languages, and I enjoy reading. I lift weights, too.

Well, I hope this letter was helpful to you, and I hope you do well on your presentation. It sounds like a very interesting class. Have you written any other inmates? Perhaps I know them. Ha - bad joke.

Sincerely,
Q

P.S. - No, I hate Kerouac.




Photography by: Jaemin Riley
Written by: Rebecca Lee


Waiting

Posted on: June 3, 2013



Harry didn’t appear worried, so I wasn’t worried. The car wasn’t moving particularly fast when it struck him, so he escaped with a just broken ribcage and some heavy bruising.

"Don’t worry kid, I’m fine. Besides, I’m so close to the end anyway, getting killed by a car would just be one more life experience for me.” Harry chuckled.

“C’mon now, Pop.”

“Look, there’s no reason to take death so seriously. People fear death for two reasons. One is regret, but regret is only something to fear if you have a future. I don’t have much of that left. And once you can accept your past, you can accept death. The other is ego and I’m far too aware of my own insignificance to believe that my dying should cause any kind of apprehension.”

This was the conversation I had with Harry a few months before the doctors diagnosed him with dementia. It was a rapid and sudden deterioration. Soon, he had lost the mental faculties to even relieve himself independently.

It had always been just Harry and me. My parents left me for unrelated but equally selfish reasons, though I was so young when they left that they existed only as unwelcome wraiths in my memory. So Harry, my grandfather, took on the burden of caring for me, but I found myself unable to return the favor when the opportunity arose.

He was angry, not at me for putting him in a home, but at Death for having deceived him. Harry had long accepted his own mortality and was prepared to go quietly with Death when the time came. Instead, Death chose to let him live, but with one foot out the door. Since Harry’s deterioration was purely of his mind – his body remained as strong as one would expect of a veteran Marine and former steelworker – he was left with the capability to live but not the capacity to do so.

The nursing home was sterile in its setting, but with the necessary facilities, the nurses impassive but effective. Paul, the man next door, was a frequent visitor, having mistaken Harry for his brother. Otherwise, the residents generally kept to themselves, though they gathered in the television room every afternoon for an hour of mandatory “community time” – all there, but none quite present.

Harry oscillated between madness and lucidity. Whenever I visited, which never seemed often enough, he assured me he knew who I was. I didn’t doubt that he recognized me as someone he knew, but I was never sure he could name me if I asked. I never asked. It was far more comforting to pretend that our bond transcended the constraints of biology.

He continued to tell stories, as he always had. In his moments of clarity, he spoke longingly of Abigail, the grandmother who passed before I was born, but whom I felt I knew intimately thanks to Harry. In those moments, it was as if nothing had changed when in fact, so much had. In his more absent states, he spoke incomprehensibly about the war to no one in particular.

“Have I ever told you about Margaret?”

“No Pop, I don’t believe you have.”

“She was the other woman. My one lasting regret. I spent my entire life trying to live without regret, so when I met her, I didn’t think I had a choice. I’d been married to your grandmother for almost ten years at that point. But, I thought that if I didn’t act on my feelings for Maggie, I would never properly love Abigail, that I would always wonder what could’ve been. I was wrong. When I realized it and came back home, your grandmother forgave me and took me back, of course. No one would’ve blamed her if she hadn’t. But she did. I never went astray after that, but I wish I had understood sooner that some desires are best left unexplored. Certain regrets are more unbearable than others.”

Harry had spoken too articulately for his story to have been a product of his dementia, but disbelief at the man to whom these types of weaknesses could not have seemed more remote was the natural reaction. As he stared out of his window, never having turned his head as he spoke, I realized Harry wasn’t looking for a response or forgiveness from me. Yet, here he was, confessing.

There was a long pause. Somehow, the buzzing of the fluorescent lights overhead enhanced the silence. They gave off an artificial white that seemed to penetrate the entirety of the nursing home. We were both sitting, facing the room’s double windows that looked out over the city park across the street. The heavy floral curtains swelled hesitantly as the air conditioning unit kicked on, letting out a grunt and whir.

“I wish you had met her, your grandmother,” he finally said, turning to me. “She would’ve doted on you like no one else could.” For the first time in a long while, Harry smiled.

Harry never mentioned Maggie again. I asked him once more about her, out of morbid curiosity, but he had no idea who I was talking about.

Soon he became more and more laconic and eventually the stories just stopped, both anecdotal and fantastical. The vast silence overwhelmed me with regret as I realized I’d already had my last conversation with him. But because of Harry, I had hope that that feeling would one day pass.

After Harry died, I spent most of my free time in the park where we had spent countless hours playing chess, neither of us having the heart to end the game. I watched the old people in their final stages of this existence, living out what remained of their lives in quiet mirth, patiently awaiting their turn to move on. I recognized their expression of contented acceptance and wondered if they’d realized, like Harry had too late, that the world was not black and white, not even in life and death.





Photograph by: Whitney Ott
Written by: James Mo

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