1:1 - Kayla King

Posted on: December 31, 2015

Interviewed by Mark Killian
Welcome back to another edition of 1:1. I’m at Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in New Hampshire, seething with envy as I wait for Kayla King’s graduation ceremony to conclude. I’m surrounded by golf courses, spas, mountains, and even freaking dog sleds!

But most importantly, this is where Kayla has been attending writing residencies as an MFA candidate at Southern New Hampshire University. Today, she becomes an MFA recipient, and she’s agreed to put off her celebratory spa treatment for a few minutes to tell us what inspired beautiful stories like Penumbra, Calculations, Exulansis, and the Gray and Shaw series. Here she comes now. Better douse my jealousy with this final finger of whiskey.

1:1000: Hi KAYLA!


KAYLA KING: Hi, Mark! What’s up?

1:1000: My blood alcohol level. JUST KIDDING! But seriously, let's start from the beginning. When did you realize you want to dedicate your life to writing?

KK: When I was in middle school I wrote quite a bit of poetry, but it wasn't until my senior year of high school that I realized I wanted to be a writer. I took an Experimental Writing class and fell in love with fiction! Then I went to college for 1/2 a semester for interior design before finding a writing program at Buffalo State College.

1:1000: What was it about this class that made you realize how much fun writing can be?

KK: Up until that point I'd never tried anything other than poetry, but finding the right story made me realize how exciting it could be to create characters and worlds from my own head. Though it was only 14 pages, that story gave me more inspiration than anything that year. Also my teacher was oh so encouraging. I think I was the only one who actually cared about the class, and he saw that. Also my best friend was in the same class so that made a huge difference.

1:1000: What was this awe inspiring story about?

KK: It was a fairytale retelling called THROUGH. I've since taken the idea and created an entire world that will (hopefully) span a series of 5 books. The first two are completed, but are in dire need of revisions. It took all of my favorite characters from childhood and changed them into new people. I guess it was my way of figuring out what would happen post-high school...

1:1000: So when you say “characters” from high school, are we talking fresh takes on established fables, or real people with notable personalities?

KK: The latter.

1:1000: Is this best friend of yours one of the characters?

KK: He often pops up in the strangest of places--something another character might say or do that reminds me of him after I go back and reread what I've written.

1:1000: Is he still writing?

KK: He is! It's strange. I don't think ten years ago when we became friends that either of us imagined we'd be writers. He's written a few short stories and poems and great letters from his time abroad in Spain this past summer.

1:1000: Then why is he not writing for us?

KK: I’ll have to ask him, but I think he’s scared of Pinterest.

1:1000: Yes you will. This can be off the record if you'd like, but does this friend of yours inspire the Gray and Shaw stories?

KK: Actually, no. I've never had this question before, because I think people just assume we're dating. We definitely say we're soulmates, just not in a romantic way. He is actually the inspiration for EXULANSIS. I think there is a line in that story where it says you don't have to be IN love with a person to love them. And I think this kind of platonic love doesn't always make for the kind of heartbreak I give Gray and Shaw--spoiler alert.

1:1000: Why did you decide to go against Cupid’s wishes and kill Gray and Shaw’s relationship? Do you feel any of the pain you imposed on you readers?

KK: Strangely, because I began with the end of their relationship in a non-1:1000 story called Valhalla, it was not as emotional as another I've been working on, which is the actual day Shaw leaves. In Valhalla, there is some time since they've been apart. The wounds are starting to heal, but are ripped open when Grayson buys Shaw's published book. I read a snippet at my last residency and a few people did tear up, and they didn't even know Gray and Shaw. I think the more you know about them, the more heartbreaking it becomes.

1:1000: And where can your Grayson and Shaw fans read this, Valhalla?

KK: Hopefully, in the publication of the contest I submitted it to, but win or lose, I will be posting it on my site in the not-so-distant future. Follow me on Twitter for updates.

1:1000: Let's talk a little bit about your residency. As someone who sold their soul for a steady paycheck, I’m interested to know what it’s like to throw caution to the wind and focus solely on fiction?

KK: It's great! And a little bit scary, too. I love getting together with other writers and talking about writing and books and words. It's beautiful, but residency puts you in such a vulnerable position. You give away your work and listen to others discuss it in front of you. Good and bad. It's not always easy to stay in the "cone of silence." Ultimately, feedback makes us better writers, and there are times I've had to remind myself that while sitting and waiting ALL week for my peer workshop day.

1:1000: It's amazing how much other people’s opinion can help.

KK: Too often, I think we're blinded by the fact that WE wrote the stories to see their flaws.

1:1000: Amen. Too close to the canvas. So are residencies part of a grad program, or are they separate things?

KK: My MFA is low residency, so for the past two years I've gone to NH for two residencies a year. They last a week and have peer workshops, craft workshops, readings, etc. And then when we return we have deadlines each month to send work.

1:1000: That sounds like the academic experience of my dreams!

KK: It was great!

1:1000: If I wasn't already buried in student loans from advertising school, I would give it a shot. Alas, maybe in another life.

KK: Yes, student loans. Those will kick in about six months after the new year begins.

1:1000: Then let's not dwell on that sobering reality. Outside of academia, what shapes your writing? Books? Movies? Television? Music? Dance? Alcohol?

KK: Definitely books and movies! I've been obsessed with the movie Comet. It feels like what I'm trying to accomplish with my Gray and Shaw stories. And I do believe it was Hemingway who said "write drunk, edit sober."

1:1000: I always get that backwards.

KK: As far as inspiring books as of late, I loved The Bell Jar and am currently reading 10:04 by Ben Lerner. If I'm struggling while working on my upcoming novel, Dream Catchers, I often read Neil Gaiman or Scott Westerfeld. I'm most definitely classified as a bibliophile.

1:1000: That's a good classification for someone in your line of work. Back to the writer behind the words, what life events have shaped your writing? What's your family makeup? Have you ever used writing to get over a hard time?

KK: I have an amazing mom and stepdad who give me endless support, plus a younger sister and brother. In my writing I often focus on the idea of leaving and I'm sure this has some psychological roots grounded in my past. So I guess I would say my writing has always helped me get through the difficult times in my life. 

1:1000: If it's not cutting too deep, can you vaguely share some of these difficult times?

KK: Sure. I've never had the best relationship with my father, and much of my writing about tough relationships comes from this. The novel I'm working on has an aspect that deals with difficult familial relationships. While Camryn's father is not exactly like mine, much of what Camryn feels comes from my own feelings. Another event that still comes through in my writing is from high school. In tenth grade I had a large group of friends, about six girls who I'd pretty much survived high school with, and one day they all got up from the lunch table, and left me to eat by myself.

1:1000: Oh Kayla! I would offer you a sip of my third Bulleit, but I’m afraid I just finished it.

KK: That’s quite alright. I'm just so happy I didn't have a Facebook at the time, because this was right when cyberbullying was becoming a big deal and it was difficult enough dealing with them in person, let alone on the Internet.

1:1000: People always talk about how writing about the things that trouble us makes it better, but does it ever make it worse for you?

KK: When I go back and read my writing and see the scars from those wounds still present--that's when it hurts. Thinking I'm over it, but knowing I'm not, that's when the writing hurts.

1:1000: That is a painfully beautiful realization. Getting back to a happier topic, romance seems to also play a big role in your writing. How have your personal romantic relationships shaped stories like Gray and Shaw?

KK: I haven't experienced anything as heartbreaking or long-term as Grayson and Shaw's relationship, but that's what is so fun about their stories. There actually might be more truth in Calculations than any Gray and Shaw story. Their stories started because of a creative writing class I took at Buffalo State College. There was a guy who wrote these beautiful stories about women he'd loved. And I was in love with his writing. Sometimes Shaw reminds me of him. Also the song that Shaw plays for Grayson on the train the first time they meet is by his favorite band.

1:1000: Did the man match his writing?

KK: We parted ways after that class and I haven't seen him since. So I think often the Gray/Shaw stories might be my imagination still running wild with something that never came to fruition. I think at our core, writers are wonderers, and sometimes I wonder about the “what if” and that inspires me more.
1:1000: It's a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we get so many stories out of "what ifs." On the other hand, it makes us constantly question our actual life. No wonder I … so many writers drink. It’s like, "SHUT UP, VOICES!"

KK: I think it is interesting that so many people assume writers are always writing about themselves--as in every word is truth--When maybe we're just writing about our shadow selves, the people we might've been.

1:1000: I know I prefer my shadow self. He's a hell of a guy.

KK: My shadow self doesn't watch nearly as much Netflix

1:1000: HA! Same. My shadow self was probably in one of your residencies, so you've got that over me.

KK: I think I remember your shadow self from one of those interesting dinner chats.

1:1000: Not likely. I’d be too busy stuffing my face with all the New England shellfish my student loans could afford. Anywho, I know you’ve got a big evening of celebrating ahead of you, and dogsledding is on my bucket list, so let’s wraps this up with a final question. Aside from continuing to be a part of 1:1000, what does post-grad life look like for Kayla King? Both your real and shadow self.

KK: Right now I'm applying to fellowships, hoping I can continue in academia. I would love to teach creative writing. Long-term I'm hoping to one day get my novel published. I'm hoping to travel more. But I definitely know I'll be writing every day. And maybe complete a Gray/Shaw novel.

1:1000 For dummies like me, what all does a fellowship entail?

KK: It depends on the fellowship. Most often it is funding for a year (maybe more) for your writing. Some of them require you teach. Some don't. I would love to land one that gets me some teaching experience so I can get a permanent teaching job. I think they're trying to help artists focus on their art.

1:1000: What a beautiful world it would be if more artists could do such a thing.

KK: What a world indeed.

1:1000: Well, Kayla, your fellows at 1:1000 are rooting for you. However, we cannot yet pay you. Whatever you do, don't sacrifice your art for a marketing job. Stay the course!

KK: That's the goal!


Posted on: December 29, 2015

I like to remember the way Camryn looked when she made creatures in the snow, arms spread wide like the wings of those honey bees she always loved. In those moments she seemed more wild than I could ever be. She seemed free.

“Kane’s party will be so beyond,” Camryn says. Her hand brushes the fabric of my pale pink skirt, which once belonged to a ballerina.

Late spring snow nestles in Camryn’s hair and eyelashes as we climb the steps to Kane’s place.


“Did I make this weird? Did I ruin your perfect last snow day?” Camryn had asked, snow settling around her.

“What about Aislyn? She’s pretty. She goes to parties. She kind of looks like me, you know?” I’d said, because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

And all Camryn had been able to say was,“That’s so fucked up, Len.” And it was.

I focus on that moment as Kane hands us drinks. He disappears into a group of his party goers. He doesn’t see the way Camryn brushes Aislyn’s hair over her shoulder.

“Why do you drink it like that?” Aislyn asks when I spoon the liquid into my mouth.

I smile and stir a lime around my gin fizz, trying to mask the taste of the gin.

“It’s how she drinks her tea, too,” Camryn says. She nudges Aislyn, but smiles at me, and I wonder if it’s because of all those things I’d said.

I could never love Camryn the way she needed me to.

I knew Camryn loved me before she told me. The months between that moment and today feel so full of what I feared would happen. The knowing ruined everything. It was always so much easier to pretend things didn’t have to change, that we never had to change.

“You know I can’t do change,” I say. It’s not a real response because there was never a real question.

“You’d never try,” Camryn says, between sips of her own drink. The way she says those words sounds wrong, too sharp; too much truth for this moment.

Instead of smiling and nodding my head, I tip my drink back, and swallow the rest in one gulp.

“Len, you don’t have to,” Camryn says when I take another shot of gin from some nameless guy.

“I’m trying,” I say. “Just like you wanted.”

“Don’t,” Camryn says, grabbing my hand.

I think she tries not to hold it like she loves me, but I feel it anyway. She’s gentle, but won’t let go. After everything, I know she doesn’t want me to leave her. Camryn needs us to be together, even if we’re only friends. Even if she wants us to be more.

I wonder if I’d feel different in another time or another place. Sometimes I look at my shadow and wonder if she is in love with Camryn. And if that’s true, I hope our shadow selves are happy. But I know shadows aren’t enough because I can never love Camryn that way.

When I pull away, her hand still reaches for me, but I can’t be here with her.

I grab another drink and make my way to the other side of the living room. I take one shot, and then another. The floor shifts beneath my feet, and I understand why our friends drink. Though I don’t know what weighs them down, I know they must like to feel themselves flutter; their pulse and their limbs and their wings. Maybe they need to feel free, too.


“Are you drunk?” Kane asks. I wrap my arms around his neck and use him to anchor myself to this spot and this moment and this life.

“I know, Kane. And I just need to tell Camy, because she needs to know,” I say.

“Yeah? Why don’t we find Cam then?” he asks, helping me weave through the people as they drink and dance.

For some reason I can’t remember when we became friends with Kane. I wonder if he knows what Camryn said, what Camryn wants; all the things I’ve tried to forget. I open my mouth to tell him, but the words aren’t there because they’re not mine.

I try again, but only one word spills out, Camy. Her name sounds distant even though it leaves my mouth and my lips.

When I use her nickname, Camryn cries, but it’s not drunk crying. I’ve been to enough parties to know the difference between drunk crying and real tears.

“Let’s get you home, Len,” she says. She wraps an arm around my waist and we move through her words so slow like swimming underwater. “I’ve got her,” she says over her shoulder, and I know she does.

We’re out the door and on the street with the sidewalk beneath our feet. It moves in waves as we walk. Camryn asks, and I remember she was never the one to cry.

“I’m sure you want me to say I’m sorry. Maybe I am. Maybe I always will be,” I say.

“Let’s not do this, Len. Not when you’re like this.”

Her words float into lines trying to make themselves into hexagons. They close around us like dwelling walls, like honeycombs ready to keep us together.

“I remember growing up listening to I’m sorry, and it never made anything better. So I’m not sure saying the same thing to you would change anything.”

“And you hate change,” she says. She helps me up one step and then the next. I know we’re at her dwelling place because of the way the door creaks.

“They’ll only make me feel better.”

“You’ll feel better tomorrow,” Camryn says. She tucks her Gram’s quilt beneath my chin, and the flowered squares sway and grow over my shoulders.

“You said, I don’t know how to not be in love with you. Remember?” I ask.

“I’m sorry,” Camryn says.

“Well I don’t know how to be in love with you, can’t pretend everything’s the same anymore.”

“Don’t you know people change?” she asks from the edge of the bed.

All this time I think Camryn’s tried too hard to keep her heart untouched. I don’t think she ever meant to give so much away to me, because when she looks at me, I know she’s not all there anymore. I think we’re both scared of never being whole.

But I don’t tell her this.

I find the outline of my shadow self cast on the wall beyond us. I give my words to her, hoping she’ll know what to do with them.

Written by: Kayla King
Photograph by: Anthony Delanoix

Into the Dark

Posted on: December 24, 2015

My father and I exited the back of the house and headed out across the field to kill the only thing that I had ever loved.

That morning had been chilly and now with the sun covered up by clouds, the cold had turned bitter and biting. The sky was gray, shot through with streaks of pale green the way it got just before a big storm was about to hit. It hadn't started yet, but when it came it would drop the temperature even further, the wind howling and whipping the window shutters and lightning scorching the tops of the trees leaving them with shattered branches, the remnants scattered at their roots looking like amputees gaping down at their lost limbs.

I knew Milo was sick and needed an operation that we couldn't afford. I understood this, but couldn't bring myself to accept it. When I looked into his eyes all I saw there was love. That love should have made me want to end his suffering, but instead I held on tighter, because after he was gone it would just be me and my father alone in the house, the two of us silently skirting around each other like ghosts.

It wasn’t that my father didn’t care for me. He had never raised his hand in anger, and I had never gone to bed cold or hungry, but he kept a large part of himself locked away from me and from everyone else. I don’t know if he had always been this way or only became so after my mother died. Sometimes it felt as though he didn’t know quite what to make of me—instances where he seemed utterly at a loss, like the time as a small child when I had bawled for hours over the loss of a plastic, toy horse. He stared at me like I was some strange creature he couldn’t comprehend. Eventually he left me there to cry myself to sleep. Some might consider his actions cruel, but I think he was simply confused and unable to cope with situations that would have fallen to my mother had she not vanished from my life before I even knew I was in the world.

Milo had been my father’s solution to the problem. The day he brought the black and brown puppy home was the happiest of my life. I suppose most would argue that a dog, no matter how affectionate, was no substitute for a mother’s love, but to me Milo was the world. He would walk with me in the morning along the dirt path that lead out from the front of our property and met up with the paved road where I waited for the bus. In the afternoon he would be sitting on the front porch when I got home from school and would come bounding across the lawn to meet me. We grew up together, and in a lot of ways I thought of him more as my brother than my pet.

He was still bigger than me, even with all the weight he’d lost from the cancer, and I heard my father grunt several times while carrying Milo in his arms as we made our way to the tree-line that marked the beginning of the forest that bordered our property.

This had been our favorite spot to play. The field behind the house was for planting and therefore off limits, so Milo and I spent all our time wandering around the woods with me skulking through the trees pretending to be a ranger while he chased squirrels and rabbits and gophers and once a very agitated skunk that made him stink for weeks afterward.

We had seen so many things there.

A family of deer drinking from a pool, the parents flanking either side of their fawn that was barely half the size of Milo and still shaky on its new legs. A black bear trudging through the stream snatching fish out of the water like they were standing still. Wolves howling in the distance and Milo howling back like he wanted to join them.

There were also those simple, everyday occurrences. The sweet perfume of flowers in the springtime and the earthy aroma of dead leaves in the fall. The satisfying crunch of snow and ice underneath our feet in winter. The summer sun streaming in through the branches casting angular patterns of shadow on the ground.

These were moments that wouldn’t have been the same if Milo hadn’t been there at my side to witness them with me.

When we reached a small clearing circled by a ring of birch trees, my father stopped and set Milo on the ground.

“This is a good spot,” my father said. “You’ll have no trouble finding him here to visit after we put in a marker.”

I nodded, not sure of what to say. I knelt down and nestled my hand in Milo’s fur; he lifted his head a little and looked at me.

“He’s your dog. You ought to be the one to do it,” my father said as he unslung the .22 rifle from his shoulder and held it out to me.

This was the way of things for my father. Something he understood better than crying toddlers. It had been his daddy’s way, and his daddy’s daddy before that.

I shook my head at him. “I can’t.”

My father put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry it has to be this way. I wish there was something more we could have done, but it isn’t right to let him suffer.”

“I know....” I said, choking back a sob that caused my whole chest to hitch forward.

“Say your goodbyes and give him some peace, son.”

I nodded again and took the rifle from him.

My father stood there for a moment like he was about to say something else, but instead turned and headed towards the house without looking back.

I laid the gun down next to me in the grass and stroked the top of Milo’s head. He was staring up at me again, gazing straight into my eyes with that love that made me want to hold onto him as tightly as I could and melt into the ground so that we would always be together.

The first drops of rain began to fall.

I put my arms around Milo and pointed my face towards the sky waiting for the storm to come...waiting for the rain to turn the earth to mud, and swallow us both up forever.

Written by: Peter Naughton
Photograph by: Garrett Carroll


Posted on: December 22, 2015

This is how you Instagram Christmas.

First, you need to decide what your color scheme will be. There’s the traditional red, green, and white, but that’s kind of yawn-inducing and will figure prominently in a lot of Instagram photos.

Metallic seems like a good bet, with the warm glow and cool glint of gold, silver, pewter, and copper. It picks up a lot of glare, and the glossiness of it is somehow too shiny and artificial, even for you.

Settle for bold and interesting, a modern blend of candy pink and soft mint and rich, regal purple. Plus, you know, anything can look Christmasy. Ribbon you used for your — for Jonas’s last birthday gift, a jar of sprinkles next to snowman cookies, mulled red wine and boozy, amber cocktails.

Remind yourself not to say you are “settling.” No one is settling.

You have to find those moments. The slivers of each day that are flawless, whether they are shaped by God’s hand — or, more than likely, yours.

You have to place each ornament in the perfect spot on the tree, backlit with the right color of bulb. This may require redoing your Christmas tree multiple times because each time, you think maybe you’ll wake up from the nightmare and Jonas will be next to you, Christmas tradition in progress.

Bake a lot. If you are not sleeping or taking pictures, something should be in the oven or on a cooling rack. Make cookies and tarts and brownies and cakes. Purchase more sugar than should legally be allowed in one household. Use that weird new app Boomerang to make glorified .gifs as you whisk ingredients and make light, airy clouds of powdered sugar.

Don’t forget to artfully stack the dirty, batter-rimmed mixing bowls and spatulas because life is messy, but it can still be like, peak messy. 

Christmas presents can be wrapped (and posted!) while you’re baking. Select a matte, solid wrapping paper and go crazy with curled ribbons, elaborate bows, decorative pine cones, and recently-harvested sprigs of your neighbor’s holly bush.

Arrange gifts in towers or flat lays, with handmade gift tags and ornate calligraphy. If he’s paying attention, Jonas can make out his name at least a dozen times over. Some of the boxes are empty, but most aren’t: new cufflinks, a fancy pen, a copy of The Martian on Blu-Ray.

Will he remember it was the last movie you saw together? The last experience you shared before he cleaved your life in two, the perfect half of the Before and the desperate hollowness of the After? The residual warmth of the happy Before haunts you and teases you, and you will do anything to get it, to get him, back.

Your first Christmas together you were huddled together, a shrill ice storm whipping through the neighborhood that morning. When it died down, you walked into the yard and the world shimmered and sparkled.

Just for Jonas, and not Instagram: cut off one of the branches on your Christmas tree, throw water on it, and put it in your freezer. Make sure it’s not lying on top of anything else or you will end up with branches that get stuck to like, Otter Pops and frozen peas. You can ask your best friend’s husband to construct a stand for it and then awkwardly overhear their conversation, which includes Todd saying you’re going through a rough patch and need support and his husband David replying that you’re being coddled and need a reality check before you go totally mental.

Just shake your head because you never understood what Todd saw in David, and this was for Jonas, for the perfect Before he needs to see from you again.

Be ready to spend Christmas alone, with your iPhone and the perfectly-staged photos and messes. Be ready for each moment to be exactly what you want, the only thing you can control. 

Hear the doorbell ring, feel the adrenaline surge into your veins. You are the sun in the center of his galaxy. His path may be elliptical, he may be as far from you as his orbit allows, but he is forever circling you, forever connected to you, and he will always come back around.

You open the door, ready for an embrace, an apology, a cropped square of happiness and the mess right out of frame.

It’s not Jonas, but David.

“Todd doesn’t know I’m here,” he says, “I said I was getting Starbucks.”

“Are they even open?” You ask, because it is the only reasonable response.

“I don’t know,” David rubs his left eyebrow, a nervous twitch you never realized you noticed. “You’re his best friend, Katie. You’re miserable, and you’re alone, and you and I will never be best friends.”

“Merry Christmas, David,” you begin to close the door.

“A thousand times, you could have told Todd you don’t like me. Why didn’t you?”

“I don’t see it,” you say, “but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s just not for me to see.”

“He would have listened,” David says, and his brown eyes grow bleary and distant. “He loves you more.”

“Maybe. But we’ll never find out. We don’t even need to ask,” you say.

“We’ll never be best friends,” David repeats, “but you can’t be here, miserable and alone and pretending everything is still fine. Come over. We’ll get drunk on cranberry margaritas and play an Elf drinking game.”

You do not take pictures of your Christmas sock-clad feet in front of the television, Will Ferrell’s tall frame ruling the screen.

You don’t capture the second pitcher of cranberry margaritas toppling from the kitchen counter onto the floor, sticky puddles like blood from some kind of holiday horror movie.

And you definitely don’t immortalize Todd’s absolute failure at red velvet cheesecake, a soggy mess that the three of you promptly spit into napkins.

You leave your phone in your purse, and you miss Jonas’s curt, impersonal text: a Christmas tree emoji.

This is how you have the best Christmas of your adult life.

Written by: Erin Justice
Photograph by: Sophie Stuart

Bonus Time

Posted on: December 17, 2015

“Meredith. Over here.”

Meredith turned towards the sound of the voice and saw Catherine waving to her from the table in the corner. She shuffled her way across the busy cafe and flopped her weary body into the booth. Hot coffee sloshed over the top of her cup, singeing her hand and staining the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

“Shit.” As she reached for the napkin container she upended her purse, dumping the contents onto the floor.

“Double Shit.”

The two women scrambled to pick everything up and sop up the coffee. When they were done, Catherine took a sip of her herbal tea and smiled a perky smile.

“Mondays. They’ll get you every time,” she said.

“My entire life is a fucking Monday,” replied Meredith. She surveyed her friend. Baby weight gone. Hair styled. Clothes unwrinkled and unstained. Makeup. Who in the hell has time to put on makeup? It’s like she isn’t even a parent.

“I’m sorry,” said Catherine, her voice chipper and grating.

“Catherine, you know I love you, but seriously, some days I want to stab you. What is your secret? How in God’s name do you find the time to put on makeup when I can’t even manage to brush my hair?”

“Well, you know, you’ve got to manage your time.”

“Seriously? That’s it? I spent an hour today removing M&M’s from the heating vents and your answer is ‘to manage your time’?” Meredith’s voice seethed with frustration.

Catherine glanced around to see if anyone was eavesdropping. Her face got serious. She motioned for Meredith to lean in close and dropped her voice to a whisper.

“Do you really want to know? I use Bonus Time.”


Meredith glanced at her phone, double checking the address on the GPS against the piece of paper Catherine had given her. Everything seemed to be entered correctly, and Catherine had warned her about judging the place based on its appearance, but this still seemed like a mistake. She worked her way down the dilapidated white fence until she came to a gate. Behind the gate was a small overgrown yard and a house, rickety and paint-starved. Just as she was about to flee, a woman, young and comely and draped in a delicate gossamer dress, opened the door of the house.

“Meredith, please come in.” The woman’s voice was like a cold breeze, raising the little hairs on the back of Meredith’s neck and turning her exposed flesh into dimpled chicken skin. Meredith took a deep breath and thought of Catherine and how relaxed, how together, she always was. She wanted that. She needed that. She took another deep breath and stepped through the gate. Once inside the house the woman closed the door behind them.

“How did you know my name? Are you…” Meredith started to ask, before the woman cut her off.

“No. I am his assistant. He is in there.” She pointed towards a door. “He is expecting you.”

The man behind the desk looked to be in his early fifties. He wore a navy blazer with a crisp white shirt. His dark hair was beginning to gray on the sides. Neither ugly nor handsome, he was the type of guy you could see ten times a day and not remember.

“Not what you were expecting?” he asked, and once again Meredith’s skin turned to goosebumps. “Would it be easier if I had on a black hooded cloak, scythe in one hand, hourglass in the other? Or perhaps if I looked like Brad Pitt?” The man laughed, a throaty chuckle that almost made Meredith regret coming here. But she stood, silent and terrified yet firm in her resolve, staring Death in the face.

“I am assuming that Catherine filled you in on how this works?” he asked.

She thought back to their hushed conversation in the cafe.

“What is Bonus Time?” Meredith asked.

“This is going to sound crazy, but hear me out. You get this watch. And on this watch is a button, and when you press the button, everything stops. Like Zach used to do on
Saved By the Bell. But for real.

Everyone and everything is frozen in time. And you can use that time, Bonus Time, do whatever you want. But there’s a catch.”

“What catch?”

“For every twenty-four hours of Bonus Time you use, you lose one month at the end of your life.”

“An entire month? For using just one day? That’s seems like quite the markup.”

“Give up a month of sitting around a nursing home, drooling all over myself, for twenty-four glorious hours all to myself right now?” Catherine took a sip of her tea. “Doesn’t seem like such a bad deal to me. Just make sure you don’t go overboard.”

“Yes, she explained everything,” Meredith said.

“Good,” said Death. He pulled a silver pocket watch from the inner pocket of his blazer and dangled it by the fob. He pushed a contract across the desk. “Just sign here, and you’re all set.”


“My God, Meredith, you look fantastic,” said Catherine as she sat down at the their usual corner table.

Meredith smiled, and with a steady hand, raised her coffee in a mock toast.

“To Bonus Time,” she said.

“You haven’t been overdoing it, have you?”

“No, not at all. I only use a little at time, and I’ve been keeping track.” She pulled out her phone and looked at her notes. “I’ve used just under four days so far. And besides, I’ve got good genetics on my side. All my grandparents made it to their nineties.”

Meredith took a bite out of her scone just as she saw the two people enter the cafe. The man she wouldn’t have noticed right away, but the woman she would have known anywhere.

Meredith gasped.

“What is it?” asked Catherine.

Meredith tried to talk but fear gripped her throat. Frantic, she pointed towards the two people that were headed towards her, but Catherine didn’t seem to see them.

“It’s time to go Meredith.” The woman’s voice was frigid.

Catherine put her arms around Meredith’s mid-section and pulled up and in repeatedly, trying to dislodge the scone from Meredith’s throat.

“I’m sorry it had to be this way, Meredith,” said Death. “But if it’s any consolation, this is better than the car accident you were originally scheduled for.”

Written by: Ben Cook
Photograph by: Jennifer Stevens

The Grey Forest

Posted on: December 15, 2015

It’s late fall, maybe even winter by now. I don’t know, I can’t even tell you the date. I only know the seasons by my surroundings. Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees, making it feel even more cold and barren than it already is.

Fortunately, the area is dry, which makes gathering firewood easier. In a few weeks, the cold will set in, and I’ll need all the warmth I can get. This is probably my last chance to hunt for food, too. Maybe I can get lucky and find a deer, or at least something larger than a squirrel. I could use the meat.

Let me give you the grand tour of my little forest camp. Behind me is the makeshift shelter I built out of an oak tree that fell not too far from here. I used the thinner, flexible branches to tie everything together. The roof is made from mud and leaves. Not the prettiest, but it keeps me pretty dry, except in the harshest of storms.

On the other side of camp is my fire ring. Fire is both the life giver and the protector of my area. Larger predators, mostly wolves, shy away from my camp because I always keep a roaring fire at night. I don’t know whether it’s the heat or the light that keeps them at bay, and frankly, I don’t care.

And finally, we have my food locker. Again, made of wood, I store my smoked meat in it. I know the smell of food will bring in more animals than I care to deal with, so I do my best to cover the smell with ground up plants and such. Lichens do a fine job, as do pine branches. In the weeks, months, however long I’ve been out here, it seems to work – sort of.

This is a good spot, as we’re close to the river. Nothing says survival quite like fresh water and a good supply of fish. If you don’t like fish, you’ll get used to it. Just avoid eating the pike, they taste awful. As for the rest, just make sure you give them a thorough cooking over the fire; it gets the fish taste out.

You look like you have some questions again. Hold off on them for the time being and let me tell you a little about me. Years ago, an earthquake devastated my home town, shaking everything to the ground. I’d just gotten out of college--I’m an engineer--and had found my dream job when everything was taken away.

No shame in leaving a place devastated by disaster, right? Well, I thought so too, that is until I received word that my brother died. The fool didn’t know what he was doing and ended up dying when a steel beam fell on him. He was helping in the rebuild, you see. You might call it survivor’s guilt, or whatever fancy term they teach in Psych 101, but I know it should’ve been me. He didn’t have the experience, the training that I had.

Shortly after, I left America and went overseas for a bit, living from hostel to hostel, like a drifter. My favorite place was Ireland. The people there were full of life and understanding. Some saw the pain, deep down again, yet never try to coax more out of me than I was willing.

Another good stop was New Zealand. I stowed away on a cargo ship to get there. The ride was terrible, but the island itself was amazing. The punchline of that story was I intended to go to Australia and mixed up the ships. Either way, it was well worth it. Just don’t call the locals Kiwis. It turns out they really hate it.

My last stop was to return home, to face up to everything I was running from. When I got there, I saw the community had been rebuilt. I had an overwhelming sense of pride, but a great deal more shame. I should’ve stayed and helped, not run away. If I had, my brother might still be alive.

All of that, it’s in the past. I’m doing my best out here, trying to make peace with what I’ve done and how I lived my life. Can’t say it was the best way to live, but at the time I always made the choices I felt were right. I’m sure, since you’re here with me, you’ve been faced with a lot of those times too.

That brings us back to where we are today. Everyone who ends up here did so because they couldn’t accept that guilt they had. Think of this forest as a crossing, the roaring river below my camp the final hurdle if you will. No one knows for sure when the time will come to take the plunge and swim across, but I have it on good authority you’ll know. As me for, I’m not ready yet, far from it.

Tell you what, it’s getting late and there’s not enough food for both of us here. If you’d be so kind as to grab that rifle over there, I’ll teach you how to survive in this place, I call it The Grey Forest.

You want to know my name? My name’s not important, not anymore, but I’ll be your guide. Stick close to me and you’ll be okay. And one day, in the future, maybe you’ll be ready to take a swim to the other side.

What’s on the other side? I couldn’t rightfully tell you, but I’m sure it’s a place better than here. Now, enough questions. Night’s coming, and we have a lot to do. Let’s go.

Written by: Jeremy Croston
Photograph by: Garrett Carroll

Someone Once Loved

Posted on: December 10, 2015


Can I call you Jim? It’s been so long since I’ve called you anything at all that I’m not sure how to address you now. You have had so many other names, so many other faces. I guess it doesn’t matter what you look like, or what I call you since I don’t even have an address to send this letter.

I am writing because I just can’t help but think of you, and it surprises me to find you here in my head. You are supposed to play a big role in this day. I’m supposed to want you here.

Your absence will be jarring to some of those in attendance. They will note that I am without a chaperon to escort me on this well-worn path. They will say it’s a shame - she grew up without. It’s a shame - she doesn’t have someone now. They expect a man who loved me to lead me into the arms of a man who promises to love me forevermore.

The details of the day are committed. The tables and chairs have been arranged on the rooftop terrace. They sit waiting for us to feast and celebrate, above the city and under the stars. I will be on his arm. I will wear a white dress and a smile. I will be watched by all who love me and some who will learn to.

I will take a new name again.

The first name I wore was the one you gave me. That name belonged to a different girl, one I find hard to recognize now. She was small and quiet – a splintered girl, who never spoke above a whisper. She had started out whole before being broken by your indiscreet hands. She used to laugh and chatter incessantly – sweet toddler giggles, hushed by poison secrets.

If my mother had walked away after making love to you that night near Stanley Park, would I have had a different name? Would I have been a different girl?

I took a new name in high school - just walked in and introduced myself as someone else. I left you behind. I was not going to be defined by your actions anymore. You were a past better forgotten, and I was ready to start fighting for myself. I needed a new name to match my new strength. A new name and a new voice - I was done with choking on my tongue, done with whispers and secrets.

I would let them say what they needed to say, but their words wouldn’t touch me anymore. They toss around sterile adjectives used to categorize, to give them some ownership over my life. They sit in their voyeurs’ castles and know that they have done well. They have labelled me appropriately. Let them stroke their own genius ego; I wasn’t going to define myself by the slippery touch of their saliva slick fingertips. They can keep their fickle praise and condemnations and apply their literary interests to a new sad story.

I was finished with being their survivor.

Now I am ready for a new name. I stand in my white dress, on the cusp of reinventing myself. A third name, a third girl. This new name I will borrow from my best friend. I want it to change more than my signature. I want the goodness of him to seep into me - to become mine, like his name.

I wait to enter the room and walk through their collective gaze - alone. I try not to think of you. Instead I want to imagine her – the woman I will become once I reach the end of the aisle. She is a wife and mother. She is careful and kind. She will build a good life - the sort of life your influence had denied her so long ago. She will be ready to face you and then to let you go. She doesn’t deny that you were, and she knows your hands helped to shape her. The blunt force of you left its marks and they are now her marks.

I try not to think of your absence – after all this time I shouldn’t mind. I try not to think of the kind of girl I would be had I grown up with you. A ghost of a girl, a blindly swollen shape like the white asparagus we will serve to our guests tonight, pale and bloated, grown in the dark. Instead, I try to remember that the best thing you ever gave me was that absence. You left, and green came back into my life, thick and sweet and full of hope. You let me go, you let me grow and blossom away from your greedy hands.

If I saw you now would I know any part of you? Would you know me?

I have the same freckle on the corner of my mouth that I had back then. I have decided it is pretty. I know my bad back comes from you, and my fidgety nature. I know you also left me the nightmares that return every August, cutting my summer short. My eyes are the same green as the toddler you knew – almost yellow. Would you see yourself in them?

The tables are set, the cake has been iced. The guest are all assembling in their colourful dresses and silk suits - tropical birds, perched above the grey city. I will smile and converse. I will hold his hand and kiss his mouth, prompted by the clinking of crystal glasses.

I will walk alone down the aisle.

I will stand tall while I do. I know that I am better able to give myself away than you ever were. I never belonged to you at all.


Someone once loved.

Written by: Sarah Scott
Photograph by: Sophie Stuart

A Mother Could Love

Posted on: December 8, 2015

When they laid the howling baby on her chest, Marlena squinted hard, and said, “No, no, clean her up. You can clean her up now.”

“Ma’am, we cleaned her already. You can hold her,” said the nurse.

“Her face. There’s still blood on her face.”

“It’s her skin. It’s a birthmark. It’s not blood,” the nurse said, squeezing Marlena’s arm. “She’s perfectly healthy.”

The nurse urged Marlena to count the baby’s fingers and toes.

“See? She’s perfect. She’s a beauty.”

On her chest, the baby had stopped wailing. Marlena closed her eyes and cried as the doctor stitched her up.


Flora’s birthmark resembled a map of China. It began in her hairline and swooped down to cover her right eyebrow, eye socket, and cheekbone. The birthmark was a warm red, the color of the pomegranate seeds her mother ate with yogurt at breakfast.

“Stop staring at yourself,” Marlena scolded her daughter.

Flora pulled her eyes away from her reflection in the metal tea kettle.

“People will think you’re vain. Nobody likes a vain girl.”

“Okay, Mama,” Flora said, and poured hot water over her instant oatmeal.


They say the devil spat on her / No she was in a fire / It’s not a burn it’s a deformity / She’s so ugly / I heard she had a tail when she was born but they cut it off / No one knows who her father is / I bet his whole face is red like that / Don’t touch it / it’ll spread onto your hands if you do / Like poison ivy / Doesn’t it hurt / It hurts to look at / Ha Ha Ha / A face only a mother

could love

Marlena came home from her shift to find Flora sitting on the living room floor with a box of photos.

“It’s not nice to snoop through people’s things.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I only went to your closet to borrow a scarf...”

Marlena lifted an album from the box. Its cover was puffy, printed with a floral design.

Marlena in a cheerleading uniform.

Marlena at the prom with permed hair and the captain of the basketball team on her arm.

Marlena, standing next to a cousin on Halloween, her face painted white like a ghost.

Marlena stood and rested her hand on Flora’s dark hair.

“I’ll buy you a new scarf, if you want. Put the photos away when you’re done,” she said.


Flora ran her hands over the shelves of items--t-shirts with characters from crude cartoons, necklaces with spikes, spinning displays of nose rings.

The girl behind the counter, who had purple hair and a cropped KISS t-shirt, leaned across the display case and lifted Flora’s bangs with a long, black fingernail.

“Hey, no offense, but I can hook you up with something to cover that, if you want.”

Flora combed her bangs back down with her fingers. She felt herself blush. When this happened, she always imagined her whole face turning the color of her birthmark. She should go. What was she even thinking coming in here?

The reaction she trained herself to have, ignore the jerks, just leave, rose to the surface. Flora pressed it back down. The girl with the KISS t-shirt didn’t seem like a jerk--at least not the usual kind. Her eyelids were caked in grey glitter. She peered at Flora like a stylish raccoon.

“What did you have in mind?” Flora asked.

“There’s this stuff I use to cover my tattoos when I have to see my grandma. Works pretty good.”

The girl pulled a crumpled receipt from a trash bin behind the counter and scribbled Dermablend on the back.

“Sucks, but not everyone can handle the real me. You get that, right?”

Flora took the receipt and slid it into the back pocket of her jeans.

In Sephora, a luminous salesgirl with a fluffy afro squeezed the forty-dollar concealer on a sponge, then dabbed it on Flora’s face.

“I won’t do the whole area--that’d be more than a sample--but you can see how it kind of covers the redness?”

Flora looked in the mirror. A small section of her birthmark now looked grey--almost purple-undertoned. As if she’d been punched in the cheek.

“To achieve full coverage, you’d probably have to use more layers,” the salesgirl said, her berry colored lips pursed in uncertainty.

Standing in line, Flora plucked a bottle of black nail polish from the impulse rack and left the expensive concealer in its place.


“Now remember, these are just the proofs. If you want to order prints or digital files, your parents have to place an order by the fifteenth.”

Mrs. Carson passed around the slim envelopes, and Flora’s classmates began to critique their senior portraits.

Ha--I look good in a tux.
My hair’s sticking up!
Ugh, my Grandma’s gonna want like, eighteen copies.

Flora slid the photos an inch out of the top of the envelope. Then another. This couldn’t be right.

Instead of the screaming red of her birthmark, a smooth, pale cheek. A white eyelid. An eyebrow that matched its partner.

She was looking at a stranger. No--not a stranger, her mother. Her mother’s face stared out at her from behind her own strategically swooping bangs.

Flora turned the photos over in her hands.

Flora Alvarez. Harding High School. Premium Retouch - Prepaid. 


Flora tore the proof sheet into thin strips and rolled each one into a ball. One she flicked across the classroom. Another she dropped in a toilet in the second floor bathroom. A third she tucked into an empty milk carton on its way to the cafeteria trash. One she chewed into pulp.


Flora took the Northeast Regional into the city. She told Marlena she was going to a museum to do research for a school assignment. If her mother had known it was for a college interview, she’d have insisted on driving her.

The letter from Columbia lay folded on her lap. Across the aisle of the train car, a young boy tugged at his mother’s sleeve.

“Mama--Mama--that girl--” he whispered, pointing at Flora.

Flora angled her body towards the window. The refrain would never stop, but she wouldn’t let it ruin her day. Not this day, when she was so close to solidifying her escape.

“Mama--” the boy hissed again, “Look! She’s just like you.”

The mother looked up from her laptop to engage her son. She wore a sparkling wedding ring set and an expensive looking suit. Her birthmark, which covered not just one eye and cheek, but both, was the same deep red as Flora’s.

“Yes,” the mother murmured to her son. “She is very beautiful.”

“She’s a beauty,” the boy agreed in sing-song, flipping the pages of a coloring book.

The conductor announced that they would arrive in the city in seven minutes.

Flora turned towards her reflection in the train window and began braiding her hair, lifting one strand at a time, securing her bangs away from her face.

Then she shifted her gaze, looking through the window instead of at it, to the graffitied buildings blurring by. After all, nobody likes a vain girl. 

Written by: Dot Dannenberg
Photograph by: Sophie Stuart


Posted on: December 3, 2015

At the bird refuge the bird keeper introduces them to Octavius the owl.

“An owl can turn it’s head 270 degrees,” the bird keeper says. The owl looks right at the mother, never losing eye contact. Octavius is perching on the keeper’s arm, his stick-thin leg bound by medieval jesses.

“Is he heavy?” the son asks, because the bird is as tall as his torso and seems massive.

“No, only about five pounds. Owls are mostly feathers and air.”

The small crowd around the bird watches Octavius poop. It splatters in a white blob on the concrete floor and everyone laughs.

After the educational presentation, the mother redresses her kids in their outdoor wear, because it is still cold, still winter. She takes her thumb and finger and pinches off a slug of snot from the daughter’s nostrils, and wipes it discreetly on her sock.
At night, the mother puts the kids to bed, and a peace fills the house. The father puts on the TV but the mother dozes off before the show is done. Upstairs on her bed she notices about a dozen white, downy feathers around her pillow. She thinks so little of the feathers at the time. They fall slowly from her hand into the garbage.


“But the show isn’t finished yet,” the children yell but the mother turns off the TV just the same. She makes them put on their boots. Outside the snow is falling thick from a white sky. The snowflakes are as wide as loonies, as soft as veiny clouds. Pieces of sky flake down and touch them until they are covered.

The next day the mother walks to pick the children up from school. The air is warm and they are overdressed so that as they walk home, her arms become full of moulted coats. They stop at the park, where the ground is soft and wet.

“Hoot...Hoot!” says the son.

“Hoot! Whoo!” says the daughter as they swoop toward her with arms wide open.They ask for pushes on the swing, and they go so high the chains slack.


Unbelievable things happen every day. She sits beside her son, and they munch carrots while they read a library book about nocturnal creatures. Part way through the story, her son jumps in and finishes the sentence.

“You can read?” the mother asks and the son brushes off her astonishment.

In the early summer, her children wake her up one morning, and the mother’s eyelids are so heavy they don’t want to open up. Something jostles her awake, and she is confused.

“What is this?” she asks. Her son and her daughter are both covered in white and grey feathers. They look at her politely, with no hint of a surprise. She tries to brush the fringes off like someone would brush flour off clothes but most of them stay put. It is unbelievable.

For breakfast she makes them oats. They have stopped eating it cooked like a porridge, and now wanted it raw like a muesli with bits of margarine and nuts mixed in. They play outside but come back in after to watch TV.

“What were you guys up to?”

“We were just looking for squirrels and mice,” the son says, and his pupils are large against his golden brown irises. It used to be so loud in the house, chaos reigning every day, but now the children move around like ghosts and all is silent.


When she held her newborns tight to her chest, they reminded her of plucked chickens, ugly and pathetic, and yet she carried them everywhere. She felt an ache in her bones when they weren’t close. She even held nursing babies on her lap while she peed. She never put them down, those damn screaming toddlers; she balanced them on her hips.

Those souls had flapped and kicked the inside of her womb. Tiny bones had held her pinky so tight. The feelings weren’t just love, but innate desperation too. Before, when they were just her little children, they asked to hear her heart. She would kneel down, and each would take a turn pressing their ears up against her chest.

In return she got to listen to their hearts. The skin on their chests smooth and pale against her big ear, their ribs delicate as the bones of birds. They asked her to tap out the quick beats so the movement of fluid pumping became tangible and real to them. They could see the rhythm of those wings inside.


One night in early fall, she climbs the creaky stairs to say good night, but the kids are not in their bunks. The bedroom window is an open maw; she sticks her head out and watches her owls perch on a sturdy branch of a Manitoba Maple. That her children had changed was undeniable. Their growth was thrilling and heartbreaking.

Her children had used her. They’d needed to because she’d birthed them helpless with undeveloped frontal lobes and no viability what-so-ever. She’d asked for it really, wanted them to pluck the very feathers from her back if they needed them. She felt something unnameable when her babies came out from inside of her. It felt the most like jumping-up, like pushing a weight against gravity. For a long time after their birth, she carried a tangible weight around with her. She feels a larger echo of that now, with her insides on the outside for everyone to see.

Written by: Elisha Stam
Photograph by: Phillip Wolt

The Front Door

Posted on: December 1, 2015

I was always surprised by the long drop to the ground from that window, no matter how many times I did it. I would lie with my stomach on the window, my legs stretching down as far they could before I would let myself drop to the grass. I hit the bushes most of the time, and almost always lost my shoes, but every now and then I would just miss and land with shoes intact. On those nights it seemed luck was with me. Strange, but when I left the house by the window, life's forbidden possibilities seemed so close at hand. Grandpa must have known I escaped. I think he planted that bush there to make it harder for me, but he never said a word. Doug was always there, waiting in the dark with a tender kiss.

That night we were headed to a party at Roger's house, a ten minute walk. Roger’s parents lived in the center of my little town -- alcoholics who always seemed rumpled and sad. They encouraged Roger's friends to hang out there by ignoring all company. The house was dingy, but you could tell it used to be nice -- a white wood-frame 50's style home with oversized rooms and lots of character. The back part of the house was added on later with narrow halls and lower ceilings. It felt like a cave, the perfect hangout for us.

That night the blender was making margaritas in the kitchen; Mrs. was doing the honors. It was rare to see her out of her bedroom as she was quiet -- not shy, just closed off. Her presence that night was explained by the fact that some relatives of Roger's were coming over and she wanted to see them. They were attending A&M, which made them celebrities. I had a secret dream of going off to college. I never mentioned this to any of my friends. I didn't think they would understand the urge to leave this town.

Doug got me a special margarita with sugar on the rim. He took care of me that way. It was a nice touch, but it made it messy to drink. We were asked to sit around the living room with the parents. Seemed to be the price of the special drinks that night as Mr. and Mrs. had never said a word to us before. We usually just went to the back of the house with the TV on mute and the hard-rock music on so loud we felt it, or we sat around on lawn chairs in the garage where an old ping-pong table sat untouched. I never even saw a paddle. Roger would have the music blaring from his crudely made plywood speaker cabinets housed in trunk of his car. The treble speakers were under the dashboard inside. It was a serious system, if unattractive. With all this heavy metal, not much talking went on. But this evening we were sitting around the living room and it was very uncomfortable, like being in a police lineup. I kept getting sticky sugar fingers, which I tried to wipe off on the sofa when no one was looking.

Mr. and Mrs. were asking what each of us planned for the future. Doug was planning on becoming a welder since he heard it paid real well. Jeff was thinking along the same lines, but he one-upped Doug saying he wanted to do the underwater kind. Roger did not know and said so with annoyance. Just as the question was about to get to me, the phone rang. I was relieved and disappointed in the same instant.

With the distraction of the phone, Roger dragged us to the garage avoiding the margaritas so his parents wouldn’t trap us again. He had beers in the ice box outside. Tonight Roger decided the stereo system had to come out of the car so we could hear it properly. This took an incredible amount of effort--things were cut and reassembled. Roger was proud of that system. After he got it out and working again, requiring some electrical tape and wire stripping, Ozzy Osbourne started playing. We’d seen him live two weeks before after camping out for tickets overnight. We were still all about the bat eater.

By the time we were all getting lazy and stoned, a small, nondescript sedan pulled up. Out stepped a young couple about twenty years old. They seemed deliberate in their movements, or maybe I was just in slow motion. They said they didn't have much time. They just wanted to stop to say hello. They seemed so goal-oriented in that one statement. The tension in the garage went way up and the music went down. Everyone wanted to impress them. Sentences were complete, voices were loud enough to be heard. But mostly, we all wanted to hear what their life was like. They had one more year to go til graduation, and they were already getting offers from Amoco and Conoco, not as welders but engineers. They didn't stay long -- half an hour at most, and Mrs. never made an appearance, but they made an impression on me.

We all were a little depressed when they left. The party kind of fizzled. We felt empty, without purpose. What were we working towards? It was a long, silent walk back to my window. I was bad company and I don’t know why I tried to hide it. Getting back in was always harder, but we had it down. Doug would lock his fingers together and I would step into his hands as he flung me up. Tonight I said, "I got it, you can go". I don't know if he understood, but he nodded as he turned to leave. I waited a bit, and then decided to just go in through the front door.

Written by: Deborah Dwight Brown
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal

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