Still Life: Moving the Jobs to Mexico

Posted on: May 31, 2016

As Tom and Millie packed their home into boxes to move into her grandparent’s rental unit, they struggled with the furniture. Not much would fit into the smallest U-haul trailer which Tom had rightly said was not big enough, but he also eventually admitted the smallest was the only one they could afford. They promised each other they would come back for the rest of their things.

Millie had heard the gossip around town for weeks. “They’re moving the plant to Mexico. All the jobs. Everyone will be let go.” For a couple weeks, she pretended she hadn’t heard a word. When the whispers reached the Sunday school class, she decided to ask Tom. On the way to his mother’s for Sunday dinner, she squared her thoughts to ask about it after the meal. “You’re quiet, darlin’,” he said.

She smiled, “Oh, well I’m just thinking about the week ahead. The kids have so many things going on I’m hoping I can keep up with it all.” She hoped her face did not betray her white lie, and she willed herself to smile at him.

Millie and Tom had been an on-again, off-again couple since they started dating her sophomore year of high school. Tom had already graduated and was working at the factory in town. They had met at a football game when her brother Rob punched Tom’s friend Dan over the discovery Rob and Dan were dating the same girl.

Tom’s job at the factory was pretty good. At least it was steady money. He made enough for the two of them, but by the time she dropped out of school, it was no longer enough since the family had grown to five. She had a son during the summer between her sophomore and junior years. When she started her senior year, she learned she was pregnant with twins, and that was most of the reason she dropped out.

They lived in a rental house in an older part of town; they did the best they could to make a home for the kids. They had five children now, and Tom worked odd jobs with his brother on the weekends when he could. There was a time when Millie had watched a few children besides her own, but that was before she had the fourth.

During dinner at his mother’s house, Tom’s dad pulled out the topic Millie was holding back. “So, Tom. What will you do when the plant closes?”

“Well, we don’t need to worry ourselves with talk about things that aren’t going to happen,” Tom insisted. Tom’s mother signaled her opinion by clearing plates and asking for Millie’s help in the kitchen. Millie walked away carrying a bowl containing the leftover green beans and heard his father insisting, “Tom, that plant is closing. You will not have a job come…”

“Now, Millie, honey. I know you are taking good care of those kids. But you need to prepare yourself for this,” his mother pushed. Millie stood amidst the partially filled dishes feeling as if she had better eat something more. Then again, she felt fiercely defiant. If Tom felt concern, he would have said something. As if this issue were not enough, Millie felt the rising tide of doubt; she recognized it as the same nagging uncertainty that had visited her since they started dating all those years ago.

Millie tried to keep a brave face but wasn’t sure what brave faces really looked like. Smiling felt wrong. She also tried to keep listening to her mother-in-law whose tone was no longer one of conspiratorial planning or maternal concern, but instead one of insistence for acting resolute, and Millie did not have resolve in her wheelhouse.

“Now, Millie. You and Tom must think about how you will care for these children when he is out of work. Unemployment will be coming in, but it won’t start immediately, and it certainly won’t be enough for all of you. How will you keep up with the rent and the grocery bills, and heaven forbid what if one of you gets sick?” Tom came into the kitchen as his mother made this final point. He took Millie’s arm as he glared at his mother, “Come on. Get the kids and get to the car. We are not staying. Let’s go.”

Fortunately, the children chattered the entire way home across town. Millie believed she could keep her tears at bay until she could be alone. Tom’s jaw fluttered from the gnashing of his teeth, and she knew by now to leave well enough alone.

When the children were hungry, Millie made them bologna sandwiches on leftover hamburger and hot dog buns. The children ate while Millie folded laundry and Tom watched television. Bath time happened despite Millie’s detachment, and the children found their beds without incident.

Instead of going to bed to lie in the darkness beside Tom’s frustration, Millie sat on the tattered sofa to wallow. In the event the plant closed, she imagined it would be some time from the announcement of the closing until Tom would be pacing the floor. Six months came to her, and she grabbed at the certainty it promised. Six months would give her time to save up some extra. Maybe she could start keeping kids again. They’d have to move. Her grandparents had a house they could rent. She knew they would be cramped, but she also knew her grandparents would be reasonable. She could work with her grandmother and earn a little extra money. She could start now, and in six months, they’d be ready. Just as she felt she had a sense of how this could work, the sun rose and the day began.

She heard Tom’s alarm clock, so she headed to the kitchen to make the coffee and his lunch. She heard the shower, so she changed her clothes in the bedroom. She found her courage in the children’s tousled awakenings and met Tom in the kitchen to wish him a good day. He left without speaking, but he did manage to kiss her forehead.

After the four oldest children caught the bus to school, she turned on the television expecting to hear a recipe on the local morning news. It was then she heard, “Plant officials wrapping up production and closure details. All jobs moving to Mexico. Employees receiving details. Plant to close in eight weeks.”

Written by: Elizabeth Savage
Photograph by: Garrett Carroll

A Proud Grandfather

Posted on: May 26, 2016

The smell of freshly brewed coffee lures me out of bed. I pour a cup, grab my wedding magazine, and walk outside to join Ken’s grandfather, Mr. Hamilton, on the porch. I sit down next to him on a handmade porch swing. I turn my head in the direction that he is looking and see a tall, broad shouldered, tanned man wearing a faded blue swimsuit. He is standing along the shoreline while the waves collide with his ankles. There is a blue board beside him, held up by his muscular arm.

“Ken was an amazing surfer. I wish he would give the waves a try again. His accident has scared him from returning to his passion, but I think if he went out there, everything would come back to him and he could take any wave that came his way.” Mr. Hamilton’s voice brings me back to reality. I try to concentrate on the conversation.

Mr. Hamilton shares Ken’s adventures of surfing. He starts with Ken’s first wave and hesitates at the tragic part: Ken’s accident. Mr. Hamilton’s eyes tear up, and I squeeze his hand.

“It’s okay, Mr. Hamilton, Ken has already told me about it. I’ve read the articles. You don’t need to share this part.” I give him a soft smile.

He puts his hand up in objection, “No, no, no. You don’t know the real story. I must share this with you.”

I sit back on the porch swing nod for him to go ahead. I look through the railing poles to observe Ken’s figure as I listen to Mr. Hamilton’s story of the accident.

“He took a magnificent wave. As he was about to escape from the billow, the lip of the wave slammed his head, knocking him off his board. The strength of the wave enveloped him and drove him head first into the coral reef. The lifeguards ran out to help him. When they brought his unconscious body out of the water,blood streaming out of his head from the gash, I never thought he would live.” Mr. Hamilton pauses to take a deep breath. “I thought Ken was dead.” His eyes shimmer with tears. I twist my engagement ring and thank God for Ken’s life.

I wish Ken never had to experience this part of his life. It ruined his fearlessness and left him with horrible symptoms that come and go. I think about the month after the accident--sometimes he couldn’t remember my name. He’s always tired now. He used to be the first one out of bed each morning, brewing the first batch of coffee. Now he naps during the day to try to fight off the fatigue and confusion that hits him by afternoon.

“He used to be brave and excited for where life would take him,” Mr. Hamilton adds, “but the accident ruined that. I believe if he swims out and takes a wave, he will remember his journey and all his success, all the medals he won.”

“Well, I think today might be the day,” I say, stretching my hand out to him to help him up. We walk towards the railing and Mr. Hamilton squeezes my hand in excitement. He can now see Ken swimming out into the ocean.

“Do you know why his parents named him Ken?” Mr. Hamilton asks while we wait for Ken to find the right wave.

“No, why?” I ask, eager to hear the story.

“Because ‘Ken’ means clear water. My daughter thought that it would be a perfect name for her baby boy. From the day he was born I could see it in his eyes, he had so much potential to be a great surfer. He could conquer any water he wanted to.” Mr. Hamilton smiles, his eyes glowing.

Ken floats in the water, the sun kissing his skin, and Mr. Hamilton keeps talking, about the Triple Crown, about the Mavericks Big Wave Surf, which he won at just seventeen.

As Mr. Hamilton continues his praise, I stare out at the ocean and notice a different movement in Ken. He’s sitting broadly on the board. I watch him shift his body, open his arms, and start swimming. Then I notice the large wave that he is trying to catch.

Ken turns his muscular body around, facing inland, and starts to swim toward us. Mr. Hamilton points out toward Ken and we descend the porch stairs to move closer, onto the sand.

“He’s going to do it!” Mr. Hamilton exclaims.

Ken swims faster and faster. He embarks on the wave, stands on his board, and sails through the barrel with a familiar confidence and control. Mr. Hamilton is ecstatic. My heart swells with pride for Ken, and I realize that this is the day that will change our lives forever. A feeling of relief washes over me. We can stop dwelling on the past and move on with our lives.

Ken clears the wave and throws a fist up in the air as he hollers in excitement. As he celebrates his victory, I notice his body rocking back and forth on the board. He slumps forward. My body tenses.

Ken falls sideways off his board into the waves. A lifeguard runs into the water, calling for others to help. I break away from Mr. Hamilton and run, burning the soles of my feet, and throw myself into the water. The waves splash over my head, making it difficult to reach Ken.

A large man pulls me out of an overpowering wave as it pushes me down. He carries me out and sets me on the shore. I look up and see a lifeguard’s bronzed, stern face looking down on me.

“Leave it to the professionals,” the man says in a deep southern accent.

He grips my arm so I can’t return to the ocean. His fingers dig into my sunburned skin, and I try to escape when he lightens his hold. Over and over again he stops me, and tells me to stay on the shore.

“Let me go!” I seethe, but in return he pushes me down on my knees. I am helpless on the scalding sand.

A few minutes later, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I look up and see Mr. Hamilton pointing toward a figure in the ocean. It gets closer and closer. Now it is so close to me that I can touch it. It’s Ken.

Written by: Kimberly Kupres
Photograph by: Blake Bronstad

Faerie Road

Posted on: May 24, 2016

A peculiar path wound through the fields behind Beaugenveu Estate. It was a long path that no one ever walked for fear of never walking back. Despite never being used, the grass on the path was always cut while the grass surrounding it grew vigorously. As was the way of Faerie roads.

The youngest Beaugenveu daughter, Alice, had grown up hearing horror stories about the Faerie road. She used to watch the path from her bedroom window night after night and wonder if what her nanny said was true. This sort of thinking was what drove Alice to walk the path one sunny, Sunday afternoon, and her cousin was either stupid enough or courageous enough to go with her.

"This is it?" Lena sighed. "I thought it would be more impressive."

"This is it," Alice confirmed. Lena gave it another disapproving look. Doubt crept up Alice's spine the longer Lena stared. "Come on. Staring doesn't do anything," she said, stepping onto the path. Lena was quick to follow.

High tendrils of grass swayed around the path like a green ocean. Like gleaming golden rays of sunlight, dandelions stood out against the green. The air of unease that had surrounded them slipped away with each step as the house grew smaller and smaller, leaving them smiling and laughing. Everyone was wrong; there was nothing scary about the path. Nothing at all.

The path stopped where the old family cemetery began. Both stared at the ancient iron gate for many moments before Alice spoke. "Let's have a look around," she breathed. Lena shrugged.

The cemetery was small with crumbling graves. "No one's been buried here since the path appeared," Alice whispered. "Said it was too dangerous."

They danced around gaping holes and fallen stones before coming to the center of the cemetery. A large brush cropped out of the ground and loomed over their heads. They stopped and stared at it for several moments.

"It looks like you can go inside," breathed Lena. A small fissure, more open in some places than others, ran between the two bushes. Beyond was darkness.

Alice nudged Lena in the back. "Go on then," she said. Lena stared at the gap, hesitant. "What are you waiting for? An invitation?" Alice laughed. Her cousin's mocking was not something Lena would put up with, so she brushed away the thoughts of danger beginning to cloud her mind and stepped into the bush.

Alice followed close behind and the two girls spread out in the small area. "How very mysterious," Alice laughed, looking around. Lena glanced around as well but her eyes stopped as they landed on a gentleman kneeling before a gravestone. "Do you think faerie-"

"Alice," Lena hissed. Alice quieted and turned to see what had disturbed her cousin. Her eyes quickly found the gentleman. He was watching them with eyes the color of silver and hair a glowing gold.

"Miladies," he greeted, slowly standing, brushing dirt off his opulent clothing. The unease Lena had felt before stepping in the bush washed over her again. There was something dangerous and also delightful about him. Lena wasn't sure which scared her most.

"I'm sorry, we'll leave." Lena grabbed Alice's wrist but her cousin wouldn't move. She was staring at the man as if he was the only thing in the world.

"You needn't." A shiver of terror raced down Lena's spine, and she tugged on Alice.

"We have to go." Alice didn't budge.

"In fact," continued the man. "I was just looking for a partner. I was on my way to a ball at my brother's kingdom." He smiled at Alice. "Do you like to dance?" A smile broke across Alice's face.

"Yes," she breathed, stepping towards him.

"Then come with me." He offered a hand and Lena pulled back on Alice, terror fully consuming her now. Alice kept walking, reaching for the man's hand. Lena felt her fingers slip from her cousin's arm, and she fought for grip. As Alice's fingers wrapped around his, she disappeared. Lena stared at where her cousin had just been standing with wide eyes.

"Would you like to come to the ball too?" the man asked Lena. His charm did not fight through her fear, and she whirled, tripping out of the bush.

Lena raced back to the path. Her pounding feet matched the frantic beating of her heart. Alice was gone, captured by a faerie. The path was just as dangerous as the stories said.

Clouds gathered with alarming speed and lightning shattered the sky. Rain began to fall in torrents and the world blurred until Lena didn't know up from down. She pushed forward, unsure of where she was, or where the path was, but determined to keep going.

Suddenly the rain dropped away as a canopy of leaves sheltered her. The forest unveiled itself around her, dark and foreboding. Lena jogged slowly down a random path, her waterlogged skirts weighing her down. She needed to get back to the estate, to tell Uncle Pete that Alice had disappeared, to send people out to find her. Could anyone be rescued from a faerie, though?

The forest was unfamiliar territory and somewhere in her heart, Lena knew she was hopelessly lost. She wouldn't let that seep into her mind, though. There was hope somewhere. There had to be.

A stick snapped behind her, and she whirled. She couldn't see anything through the murky light of the forest. Lena started on when a growl rumbled behind her. Again, nothing revealed itself to her. Lena remembered the hunt's master talking about wolves that lived in the forest. The thought continued to fuel her fear.

As if on cue, a giant wolf lunged from the shadows. Lena reeled back, screaming. Two other wolves followed the first. They slowly began to circle her. Ragged sobs began to rip from Lena's throat. She was going to die, in the middle of a forest, no one knowing where she was. She closed her eyes and waited for their attack.

Silence filled the forest clearing and Lean slowly gathered the courage to open her eyes. The wolves were gone. Lena felt her legs give out, and she hit the ground. Hopelessness filled her and she sobbed.

As she sat there, a hand patted her on the shoulder. "The ball would be much more fun than this." She looked up, finding the faerie man behind her. Lena nodded despite herself. "Come with me."

Written by: Cameron Mitchell
Photograph by: Kyle Hemmings

The Opposite of Fall

Posted on: May 19, 2016

Cara never got used to the uneven cobblestones. This city has been around since 753 BC, you’d think they would have mastered pavement by now. Her thoughts echoed in her mind as she navigated the narrow, sloped alley way. She couldn’t afford another fall. She gripped her messenger bag with one hand, while the other cradled the black knit scarf around her neck. The early morning chill in the March air already had soured her mood.

She emerged from between two brick buildings and noticed that the light above the Pastores’ door was on. I’ll have to remember to check on Signora Pastore tonight. Since moving to Rome eleven months ago, Cara and her husband had become close with their elderly neighbors, Signor and Signora Pastore. Signora Pastore joked that Cara was like the daughter she never had. Their two sons, now grown, had gone to live in America. Cara and Gregory’s presence balanced out their universe.

At the end of their vialetto, Cara exhaled as the sunlight touched her cheeks. Glancing at her watch, she realized that she could slow her pace—a rarity. Morning wasn’t her moment to shine. Though she loved her job, she had not adjusted to the schedule of nine-to-five work and doubted she ever would. Cara’s background in both art history and translation had made her the perfect candidate for her position. Her tiny office at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica was her sanctuary: by staring at documents related to old things, she could avoid thinking about new ones—or their absence.


Gregory savored the smell of coffee in the morning. He carried a cup to his first class nearly every day and sipped it as his students meandered in. Though Rome reminded him of Manhattan in its aggression and masculinity, the eighteen-year-olds he taught did not carry the same frenzy in their bodies that their New York counterparts did.

Clapping his hands together once, he addressed today’s group of seventeen. The class reached capacity at twenty, but one thing Gregory’s Italian students did share with others around the world was the propensity of a few select people to be absent on days when quizzes were being given. “What did you think of the ending of The Dead? Was it satisfying? Did Joyce tie up the loose ends in the ways you expected?”

“Professore, what are these lose ends, as you say?” Alberto’s English was not as strong as that of the rest of the class. The class was to be taught in English, but Gregory often had to explain colloquial American phrases to the locals in their native tongue. Gregory sometimes marveled at his own situation—born and raised in New Jersey, but now teaching Irish literature to Italian undergrads.

“It is an expression, Alberto. Did Joyce give all of the information that you, as a reader, desired? This is something for you all to keep in mind, classe, as you do today’s quiz. In two pages, explore what Gabriel and Gretta can teach us about the nature of love. Begin now.”


Cara’s cell rang just after lunch. The corner of the empty pizza box dangled over the edge of her desk, taking up more space than warranted by the single slice it had housed. Her notes were splayed in a fan-like pattern across her desk as Raphael’s La Fornarina eyed her curiously through her laptop screen. She hesitated just long enough before grabbing the phone. Only she would notice its multiple rings.

“Hey...” Her tone softened as she redirected her attention.

“So, I was thinking, how about I make that quinoa dish you like for dinner and we can catch a movie?” Gregory’s deep, calming voice had always had a slightly hypnotic effect.

“Uh. Yeah…that would be great. I won’t get home until seven though,” Cara responded.

“That’s fine. Your feast shall await,” he said with a laugh.

“Oh by the way, can you check in on Signora Pastore? I meant to see if she needed anything.” Cara’s mind drifted to their neighbor who recently had had surgery.

“Sure, see you tonight, love you,” Gregory replied.

“You too.”

He never asked why it took her an hour to get home when they lived ten minutes away and she finished at six. She never volunteered. Cara had been the nurturer until last fall, always giving and trying to please. Fate had reversed their roles. Grief is not an equalizer, but a reorganizer.


At five after six, Cara left work and headed in the same trajectory as she did every day. At seven after six, Gregory knocked on Signora Pastore’s door. At six fifteen, Gregory’s phone rang. It was Cara’s number, but not her voice. Instead a woman said in broken English, “Signor, your wife has been injured. She promise she is okay, but we wait for you. Come to Chiesa degli Arcangeli.” Later, Gregory could not remember hanging up his phone, whether he said goodbye to Signora Pastore or running towards the church.


Cara hadn’t seen the two teenage boys run up behind her. Their first meeting was one of physical connection. One slammed into her left side, knocking her to the ground. Her knees throbbed as she heard one of the boys laughing. Her palms stung. She remained frozen on the ground as they made their getaway. She began to weep, not only for this fall, but the one that came before, the one that took her future, their future.

Gregory dashed up to Cara and a middle-aged woman sitting beside her on a bench, handing her tissues. Cara started sobbing again when she saw him.

“Some kids pushed me and I fell. It caught me by surprise,” she explained. Gregory examined her wounds, and confident they weren’t serious, placed his arm around his wife. She rested her head on his chest, his chin nuzzling the back of her wavy hair. They sat wordlessly for an eternity of moments.

“She would have almost been here by now.” Cara’s whisper broke the silence. Michaela had been due on the first day of spring.

“I know, I know. . .” Gregory said softly, kissing the top her head. “Let’s go home.”

As they walked up the uneven cobblestone alley into the darkness, Cara noticed that Signora Pastore’s light was still on. A tiny green bud in the flower pot by her door stood like a sentinel, a harbinger of all that was yet to come.

Written by: Lauren Jonik
Photograph by: Jennifer Stevens

When Nothing Counts

Posted on: May 17, 2016

Gore wants to be a stuntman. Delilah wants to come with. Gore keeps telling her it’s not like that, none of the guys were bringing their girls. The policy is a strict No-Girlfriends-Allowed.

The two of them are on the Ferris wheel. It’s stuck again.

“I have to get out of here,” Delilah says, kicking the air as though it were water. “My mother’s driving me crazy. Bessie’s leaving for the convent next week and busy with her replacement sisters, so now it’s just me and Mother…you know last week, she dipped soybeans in bleach and had me hide them in every corner of the house? To kill off the critters, she said…but of course, critters don’t eat soybeans, so now they’re just sitting there, browning, these little rotten poison pills.”

Gore looks out over the fields. The line where the hills meet the horizon looks like it’s been drawn in by a paintbrush. The square red barns, haystacks singed orange, cows on trim green grass—all of it could’ve been inside a production studio. Brought to you by technicolor.

“I’ll make sundaes for us every day. You love my sundaes, Gore.” Delilah takes his arm and nuzzles it. “Sundaes with lime and coconut swirl for dinner, chocolate mousse for dessert.”

The boys in the carriage below are trying to get their attention. They’re banging against the glass with their fists. They’re making lewd signs with their hands. They’re thrusting their hips and wagging their tongues and waving their arms like monkeys.

“Oh, Gore,” Delilah says, her face now buried completely in his chest, “take me away.”

The fire department is assembled at the base of the Ferris wheel. Before the firefighters can begin their rescue, they must raise the ladder—before they raise the ladder, they must navigate the fire truck through the amusement park. Obstacles include: lake-sized patches of mud, roller coaster tracks, two adjacent tilt-a-whirls. Their biggest challenge is the crowd of booths near the entrance—inside these booths, pinstriped employees sit like puppets, looking up at the Ferris wheel as they spool cotton candy out of floss, dip hot dogs in corn batter.

Next to the firefighters stands Ms. Bristol, Gore’s teacher. Ms. Bristol recently advised Gore’s mother to hold him back until he could read at an eleventh grade level. When Gore learned of this, he walked straight to the fairground and played the high striker game until his arms went limp. It was a nice feeling, the hammer coming down. The bell shivering once it was hit. The puck rocketing up, speeding skyward, a ball of mercury in a fever-pitched thermometer.

Ms. Bristol was responsible for today’s last-day-of-school field trip. Over the years she’s chaperoned this event, she’s had to be counselor, arbitrator, nurse—now all she could do was wait, clutch her hands to the rim of her sun hat.

They should’ve closed the ride the last time this happened. The youngest Wilson boy had been alone on it, right at closing. For weeks after, he had nightmares of the circle detaching from its lateral support arms, rolling down the hill, gaining traction like some great hamster wheel. A rumor got around that, since then, the Wilson boy was sleeping with a blankie; the boys who beat him up are the same who, in the carriage below, are pounding heavier. Mouthing more aggressively.

This wasn’t the first time they’d taunted Gore, though their preferred target was his brother with the spine brace. If Gore’s father ever found out about the teasing, he’d show them. Gore’s father, a mechanic, could lift anything. One time he came home late and, arms swinging, scooped Gore in one hand and his brother in the other. Gore remembered his father’s fingers spreading under his ribcage, fitting into the trenches between the bones. When his brother started moaning about his back, and his mother begged for them to be put down, his father only raised them higher—almost to the ceiling, Gore stretched out every muscle in his body, testing his wingspan.

“We can be real adults together, Gore.”

Gore looks at Delilah, startled. Reality’s pretend, he wants to say. A real-life stuntman had once come to the auto body shop, and that’s what he’d said. Gore could tell he was a stuntman just from his muscles—the man could’ve lifted a whole Chevy if he wanted to. While Gore worked on the car, the two of them talked. The stuntman had lots of advice, about Hollywood, about agents, about executing a perfect backflip. At one point, the stuntman tossed some nuts and bolts on the ground like jacks and said, When nothing counts, might as well take a risk.

Delilah draws a heart on the corduroy of his pant leg. “Let’s have a baby, Gore.”

Gore leans forward and presses his hands against the glass. He’d done higher. The fences were around ten. The willow tree in the school ground was about this height, so was the telephone pole. The window of the silo had been even higher, though that leap had ended badly.

He looks back at Delilah—Delilah looks real pretty and plush, there, facing the sunset. They’d been an item for so long, he’d forgotten how nice her features were. Those soft creases on her lips. The rosebuds under her cheeks. Was it the light, or had she started wearing makeup?

The boys below had fogged the glass and, in the cloud, drawn two stick figures—one small Gore-boy, one small Delilah-girl—engaged in something obscene.

Gore looks out and stands. He takes a small step forward, pushing his weight against the glass door until it opens. Wind rushes against his face and neck. He reaches above to steady himself and slings one leg over the sill, then another. Positioning his feet squarely below his shoulders, he tenses his calves for impact.

Last step, Gore thinks, is to close your eyes—close them tight enough to see little stars behind your lids.

“Watch me, Delilah.”

Written by: Frani O'Toole
Photograph by: Siyan Ren


Posted on: May 12, 2016

Naamah stood atop the city wall, gazing out over the hills and the sea. She was twelve years old, the age of gifting. She waited for her mother to summon her.

The night before, she had a dream that a giant egg cracked open and the yolk spilled out, flooding the land and many cities. She saw people drown in rivers of gold, reaching for the sky as they cried out to God. Naamah was frightened when she awoke; she wrapped herself up in a blanket to find comfort in sunrise. Dreams are important, but Naamah could not bring herself to tell her mother or father, for she also saw them die in the dream.

“Naamah, the Ziz requests your presence. It’s time to go,” her mother said, hands resting on Naamah’s shoulders from behind.

“Mama, has Jubal returned from the Ziz?” Naamah asked. Her half-brother had ventured out to receive his gifting some weeks before.

“He returned last night, but he is overcome. Your father says that he has been consumed with crafting strange objects from string and bone. He has not revealed the nature of his gifting to your father or his mother.”

They held hands as they descended from the city wall and approached the small caravan of traders that would lead Naamah part of the way to the Ziz.

“My gift was given by the Leviathan, so I cannot tell you the nature of the Ziz, but she is known to be kind to those who come to her with an open heart,” her mother said.

Naamah’s other brother, Tubal Cain, helped her into a cart. Naamah noticed her father, Lamech, in the distance with his other wife, Adah. He looked away from Adah for a moment and locked eyes with Naamah, offering a smile and a nod before disappearing into their home. She tried not to be jealous of Adah, who possessed most of her father’s attention now that she was pregnant.

Naamah watched Tubal Cain and her mother embrace, then he climbed into the cart with her, taking the reigns.


It took three days to reach the trade town by the sea. Tubal Cain was an artisan; he created beautiful figures from copper and iron. People came from far and wide to purchase his animal renderings and statues of the Great Creatures. Their family lived well because of him.

The caravan came to a stop on the northwest side of town where they would pitch their trade tents. Naamah hopped down from the cart and gazed out over the sea, at the mountain on the other side of the harbor.

“Are you taking me to the Ziz, brother?” Naamah asked.

“No, you will go alone,” he said.

“But how will I know where she is?”

“You’re looking at her. She is the mountain, Naamah,” Tubal Cain said with a hushed voice of reverence.

Naamah looked back at the mountain.

“The Ziz knows you are here. She will come to you, but you must meet her halfway.”

Tubal Cain led her to a small boat with a single oar and held her hand as she stepped inside. She took the oar in her hands and watched the ripples form on the surface of the water, dread setting in.

“Mother’s blessing from the Leviathan extends to you. You will be safe.”

Tubal Cain gave the boat a shove and Naamah dipped the oar into the water and made her way toward the mountain.

The Ziz, the great bird of heaven, stood in the middle of the sea. What looked like a mountain was her body, and she extended ever upward past the clouds. She could not see the great bird’s head. For a moment, she felt dizzy and grasped the sides of the boat to keep from falling forward.

Then, the Ziz lowered her head from the canopy of clouds. It seemed to take hours for her to dip down toward the sea, the tip of her beak touching the surface of the water and rocking the boat with waves. Her eyes were the size of wagon wheels and the feathers of her orange crest blocked the sun. There was a voice that resonated in Naamah’s chest. The tears fell from her eyes and she smiled, her heart full.

“What is this sound, this beauty welling up inside my soul?” Naamah asked the Ziz.

“I give you the gift of song,” Naamah heard the Ziz say. “You will sing of creation and of heaven. You will sing of dreams and of what will come to pass. You have already seen, have you not?”

Naamah recalled her dream, the golden flood drowning cities.

“You must sing to one who is coming, to one whom you will love. He is not yet born, but you will hear his cry soon.”

Naamah thought of Adah’s swelling belly, and the jealousy dissipated. A feeling of love and responsibility took its place.

“When will I give him the song, holy one?” Naamah asked.

“When he is gifted, but he will not come to me nor will he receive his gift from the Leviathan or the Behemot. His gift will come from on high, but you must sing it over him.”

The sky began to shift from blue to orange to a deep, dark pink before violet spread a blanket of night and stars.

“I will lift you up to the throne of the Creator, and I will teach you to sing.”

The Ziz took Naamah into her beak with care and lifted her head from the sea up toward the sky. Naamah felt her soul tremble within her, felt songs begin to well up in her throat. She could feel her half brother’s song growing like a vine from her heart as images of the great flood played behind her eyes. Naamah closed her eyes, feeling heaven envelope her with a sacred chill, and the first note of that song left her lips. The first note would be his name.


Written by: Natasha Akery
Photo by: Anthony Delanoix

The Disappearing Heart Technique

Posted on: May 10, 2016

My boyfriend’s been dead for two months. Perhaps the hardest part of it all is the fact that he left so much behind for me to deal with, yet took nothing of me with him. Love notes, clothes, the vision of him in my bed. Sharing a bath towel because we loved having each others’ smells on us. I was blindly, foolishly, and debilitatingly in love with him, and now I have no idea what the fuck to do with myself.

It hurts too much to think about the happy memories, because I know they’re never going to happen again. I try to focus on the struggles, the arguments, with the hope it will make moving on easier. Even when I force myself to consider all of his flaws, I think about how much I loved those, too, and how I wish I’d expressed that to him better while he was around.

I hate that I’m haunted by him, but he cannot be haunted by me. I find myself wondering how this happened, or rather, did it happen at all? How is it that we were together, here, kissing, laughing, talking, only two months ago, and now we’re not? Did I dream it? Was he ever really here? Have I simply woken up?

I made him a mixtape for his birthday. I had no idea what to get him. I made him a card to go along with it that said:

“Happy birthday, Peter -

I made you a mixtape.

I don’t always know what to say to you, but I know how you make me feel, which is so many things. I hope when you listen to it, you’ll feel all the things I feel, too.


He wasn’t a romantic person. His gestures of affection were quiet and simple, yet they were observant of my needs. When he read the card, he didn’t say anything. He had a small smile on his face, and he walked over to me and held me. I loved him so deeply in that moment. I’ve had trouble remembering what he smelled like. I think maybe it was something sweet… with that hint of saltiness that comes from all burly, heavy-lifting men.

A few weeks after his birthday, I took the ferry to ________ _________ to see him. When I walked into his house, the birthday card I’d written him and the mix tape were sitting in the same place they were the last time I’d been there. “Did you get to listen to the mix tape yet?” He said no. That was the last time I went to his house. I rarely ever took the ferry before we started dating. In retrospect, I think the only time I ever rode it was for when I was going to see him. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to ride on one of those again without instinctively feeling like I would eventually be arriving at his house.

When I think about the last time I saw him, at my apartment, I think of all the things I would have said and done differently had I known it would have been the last time I was going to see him. We argued that night, although the reason for the argument has disappeared from my memory. I think it was just tension that had built up over time, finally combusting from something as stupid as not being able to agree on what movie to watch. It’s hard to make peace with the fact that this was our last moment together.

I’ve felt so heavy in my heart since then and have let it weigh me down. I’m tired of my eyes being swollen from crying all the time. I really thought it would be easier for me to move on from this if I convinced myself he was dead, but all it does is romanticize a remarkably unromantic relationship.

As for the “love notes”, it was just one little post-it that said “I LOVE TAMARA” because I asked him to demonstrate his handwriting, and he asked me what he should write. No clothes either, except a shirt he outgrew and had completely forgotten he’d given to me. Such small things that meant everything to me, while the birthday card I wrote him was probably tossed in the trash long ago.

I thought his gestures of affection were quiet and simple, and observant of my needs, but I never understood why he would squirm anytime I touched him. He usually humored me, but always made it a point to tell me how obligated he felt having to simply hold my hand in public. He never listened to the mix tape I made him either. It was a quiet enough gift to feel so incredibly sentimental to me at the time, but simple enough to convince myself now that it was just a piece of shit gift.

In a way it does feel like he died. It doesn’t seem like the person I was in love with exists anymore, but perhaps he never existed at all. The last time he contacted me, he told me he missed me and thought about me, but needed to think things over. Four days later, a seemingly disconnected phone line and a social media profile that has apparently vanished. There was never a goodbye or an explanation; he truly ceased being in my life. I find myself shaking my head during the day, in a way that says “Damn, how did I let this happen?” I’m fascinated by the prospect of caring for someone so little that you can actually make yourselves completely disappear from one another.

It still hurts, obviously, but less because I miss him, and more because I’m disappointed in my judge of character. I willfully opened the gates and welcomed harm. I’m beginning to learn the benefits of bitterness while suffering the repercussions: Skin thickening, heart hardening.

I never liked riding that fucking ferry anyway.

Written by: Rebecca Lee
Photograph by: Marshall Blevins

Just Let Go

Posted on: May 5, 2016

October 1972

Heck Hansen gripped the wheel so tight that his knuckles were as white as the snow swirling around him. With visibility down to mere feet, he was driving more on instinct and adrenaline that anything else. Despite the freezing temperatures, sweat soaked into the band of his Stetson and dripped down his forehead. The wind whipped down Rabbit Ears Pass in frenzied gusts, hitting his beat-up pickup truck head on with the ferocity of a boxer swinging for a knockout. Heck knew he should turn back, that his chances of making it up and over the pass in weather like this were slim to none.

But he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

The call had come early. Too early. Sarah wasn’t due for another six weeks. It was one of the main reasons they had decided he should hire on with the C-Bar for the fall round-up. The timing seemed perfect. The wages he earned would be enough to pay for all of the hospital bills and see them through the winter in their little place near Stagecoach. As rough as three weeks away would be during her final trimester, if it assured him of the next four months at home, it would be worth it.

Heck tried to keep his mind on what little he could see of the road ahead, but his thoughts kept drifting back to the past few hours. He had been riding nightwatch, making lazy and slow circles around the herd. The cows were restless. Heck figured it was because of the full moon, so bright it cast long blue shadows on the ground. He heard the chatter of coyotes off in the distance, eerie and beautiful, but they were too far away to be a threat. He stopped on a rise, admiring the immensity of the land. It was then he spied the dust trail, kicked up by a truck hightailing it towards camp. Deep in the pit of his stomach, Heck knew the truck meant something was wrong. There was no other reason for anyone to head out here at night. He put spurs to his horse and raced back, choking on fear the whole way.

When he got there, Mr. Carson, owner of the C-Bar, was standing around the fire with a few of the hands. Heck swung down from the saddle.

“We got a call from the hospital in Steamboat, Heck. Your wife’s gone into an early labor, and she’s having complications. Grab your gear. I’ll drive you back to your truck so you can head out,” Mr. Carson said.

“Is she okay? Is the baby okay?” His words laced with fear, Heck didn’t recognize the sound of his own voice.

“I don’t know, son,” Mr. Carson replied, putting a fatherly hand on his shoulder. “Get whatever stuff you need.”

The cowboys offered prayers and words of encouragement as Heck quickly packed his things.

“Watch out,” said Tell, a grizzled old cowhand who had been herding cattle in Northern Colorado since the Depression. He looked off towards the mountains, and the clouds gathering behind them. “There’s a storm moving in. Pass could get tricky.”

Tricky it was, but Heck plowed on, his resolve as firm as the bunched up muscles in his forearms. He searched for any discernible landmark, but his headlights showed nothing but a white blur. Even the moon, so full and bright earlier, had been erased from his view by the storm. Exhausted and afraid, he inched along.

His tires found the ditch on the side of the road before his eyes did. Heck threw the truck into reverse and tried to back up. The tires spun wildly. He got out and assessed the situation. He tried to dig out the right front tire but the snow was already building up in drifts. He knew he was stuck. Heck grabbed his gear out of the bed and climbed back into the cab. He shook out his bedroll and climbed in, and piled his saddle blankets on top. The wind howled and raged. Sleet and snow battered the window above his head. Sprawled across the bench seat, quivering with cold and fear and exhaustion, he thought of the ocean.

Heck had only seen the ocean once, seven years back. That once had been more than enough.

Fresh from high school, and unsure of what he wanted to do in life, he had tramped across the land, hitchhiking and hopping trains, and seeing what there was to see. Drawn West by the summery sounds of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, he ended up just north of LA.

Hypnotized by the mighty expanse of the Pacific and the slow undulations of its waves, he was taken by surprise when the undertow sucked him in. For three long minutes--minutes that felt like forever--he struggled, tumbling end over end as he searched for blue sky and sun. The waves, thunderous cascades of churning white water, crashed down on him. His lungs burned. His limbs ached. And then, just when he thought he couldn’t survive another second, he felt someone grab him, pull him to the surface, and swim him back to shore.

The lifeguard hovered over him.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I … I think so,” said Heck.

“That was a close one,” the lifeguard said. “Now this might sound weird, but if that happens again, don’t struggle. When you get stuck like that, you lose your bearings and sometimes you’re fighting the whole time to go the wrong way. So instead, just let go.”

Heck thought of the lifeguard’s words. He closed his eyes and let his exhaustion overtake him. He dreamt of the ocean, of tremendous waves that battered him, that pulled him under. But in his dream, when the water pushed him down, he let go, and was lifted out of the water by a giant invisible hand.

Heck awoke six hours later to sunlight, stillness, and a silence so profound it resonated in his soul, like the voice of God himself. The storm had passed. He climbed out of his truck. The snow had drifted into a giant wave that engulfed the passenger side. He looked around. Beartooth Peak sat off to his right. He had almost made it to the top of the pass.

A faint rumble cut through the quiet, growing louder by the second. Heck watched as the plow truck worked its way up the road. When it pulled up next to him, he could barely hear the driver over the roar of the diesel engine.

“You Heck Hansen?” the driver yelled.


“Climb on in. There’s a woman and baby girl anxious to see you.”

Written by: Ben Cook
Photo by: Samuel Zeller

The Gum Wall

Posted on: May 3, 2016

An amusement park can collect a horrifying amount of chewed gum over the course of a season. Sure, the regular cleaning crew would scrape off whatever they saw, or more likely, whatever they felt like, during their early morning shifts, but there was always more. This realization hit Dan hard when he pulled the short straw and wound up on gum duty on his last day of work for the year. Dan’s manager handed him and Antwon two long handled metal scrapers and two buckets and ushered them out of the supply closet and into the weak September sun.

“We should start on the wall,” Antwon said as he took off towards the Thunderstorm.

Dan grimaced, “Why? That’ll take forever.”

“Exactly. Better now than three o’clock when the sun will be hitting us right in the face. I had gum duty last year, trust me.”

So Dan trusted him and they went to the edge of the park where the old wooden rollercoaster sat. They hopped over the railings that normally divided riders into a twisting line and went to the front. At some point in the now distant past someone decided to stick their chewing gum to the wall that divided the line and the loading zone, and it started a trend that was still going strong. When Dan rode the coaster for the first time as a scared ten-year-old, his older brother had told him it was like a wishing well. You made a wish and then stuck your gum on the wall. Dan eagerly complied, making a wish that he wouldn’t puke from fear. Now he felt like puking at the thought of all of the chewed gum he was about to get involved with.

“Well, dig in,” Antwon said, expertly scraping the pieces on the far end so that they dropped in his bucket with a tinny plunk.

Dan joined in, trying to mimic the technique, but still having to pick some off the ground with his gloved hand.

“You know these are people’s wishes we’re throwing away, don’t you?” he asked Antwon.

“Yeah, so I’ve heard.” Plunk, plunk, right into the bucket.

“Kind of makes you feel bad, doesn’t it?”

“Nope. If they’re making me work like this, I don’t care if they don’t come true.”

Dan stopped. “Do you think they won’t come true if we scrape them off?”

Antwon rolled his eyes. “No, I think they don’t come true because it’s gum.”

“So you’ve never wished on gum?”


“What about on a penny in a fountain?”


“A shooting star?”

“Listen man, I make my own luck.” Antwon continued scraping, each piece making less and less of a sound as it hit the growing pile in his bucket.

Dan scraped too, but with less enthusiasm. He looked down to the edge of the wall. A dab of neon orange stood out, right as the wall gave way to the platform. He had put it there three months ago. That night, he hung around the park after his shift with his friend Josh. Dan managed to talk him into riding the Thunderstorm three times in a row. Most of it had to do with Marissa, the girl who worked the control booth. On the first two rides he couldn’t catch her eye. But on the third time through the line, he stuck his gum to the wall. Sure enough, when he was loaded into his seat and looked her way, she had seen him. He smiled. She smiled back.

“This stuff isn’t going to fall off by itself,” Antwon said, staring at Dan.

“Right, sorry.” Dan renewed his efforts. His body removed gum, his mind replayed the summer. He had meant to talk to her, but all he managed was an occasional “Hi, how’s it going?” She was always on her way somewhere and he never had anything to say that could keep her in the same spot.

Now his time was almost up. This was the last day for the seasonal crew. As the gum piled up in his bucket he thought up things to say to her, but none of them sounded like they would lead anywhere. He could ask her about her fall semester, or music, or he could just up and ask her out. But then again, his one piece of luck was about to be scraped into a bucket. Dan tried to maneuver his way in front of Antwon, but as the hour wore on they ended up shoulder to shoulder at the edge of the wall. He eyed his orange piece.

“Hey Antwon, how exactly do you make your own luck?” He asked, nervously eyeing his scraper.

“I dunno. Whatever it is I really want, I go after it. Maybe I have to scrape gum to get there, but that’s the price you pay for having dreams, man.” He reached in front of Dan and dislodged the last of the pieces. Dan watched as the little blob of orange fell into the bucket and disappeared among the others. “Come on, I bet we can get Kiddy-Land before lunch.”

Although Kiddy-Land seemed like it would be worse, the regular cleaning crew had obviously paid it more attention, so Dan and Antwon arrived in the staff room early. As he grabbed his lunch bag from his locker, another crew came in. Dan looked up and saw Marissa. He fumbled around for a moment, giving her time to get her things. When she walked past him, he called out to her.

“Hey, Marissa?”

She turned. “Yeah? Dan, right?”

He smiled. “Right. Hey, are you busy after work today? I was going to go out and meet some friends downtown. Do you want to come?”

She hesitated, looking over at the girls waiting for her. “Uh, no, sorry. I’ve already got plans.”

“Oh. Another time, maybe?”

“Yeah, maybe.” She turned and left, faster than she normally moved.

Dan looked down at his lunch, feeling more like puking than eating. A hand clapped him on the back.

“That was rough,” Antwon said, in a laughing kind of condolence. “Come on, let’s eat.” Dan followed him back outside. They sat at the edge of the plaza, Dan keeping his back to the rest of the crew. He sighed a lot and Antwon worked to keep him cheered up. Maybe it was his jokes, or maybe it was just the crisp early fall air, but by the end of lunch he was ready to get back to work. Maybe one morning scraping gum wasn’t enough to get the kind of luck he wanted. But just in case, he got a piece of gum out of his pocket and stuck it in his mouth, chewing it into a perfect, sticky blob.

Written by: Leslie Martin
Photograph by: Jennifer Stevens

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