|Michael Dunn, East Hall
I Remember Love
by Elyse Draper
I remember strong hands, vices of flesh. I remember a deep baritone voice, melodious in its intimidation.
I remember hollering through the house: ‘Have you finished all your chores!’… a statement not a question.
No apologies; they are a sign of weakness. Maybe in war, but not with your child, they are a sign of strength.
You had to learn, and relearn, how to survive. What
priorities are there, to survive with a small child holding your hand? Tiny hands wrapped around muscular fingers, little
eyes brightly asking you to never let go. Not something taught in the Marines, not something learned in Korea. I remember
watching you drink until the memories were numb—giving me glimpses of endurance, when you carry pieces of your friend’s
shattered body embedded in your own. I can see you, wishing you could rip apart your own flesh to pull together lost lives,
lost souls … after all they would have done the same for you: Ooh-ra.
I remember ‘I love you’ was impossible, but I would never miss your voice, Sarge, cheering
me on from the sidelines. When you smiled the world would stop turning for a second, making me feel vertigo. When you scowled
the world would speed up with my heartbeat; what was coming next? Proficiency does not apply to a little girl covered in paint,
proud of her pictures on the wall. Anger? No, but god you laughed … I remember you teaching that little girl irony.
I remember snow: white, frigid, bitter … squealing for sled rides to last longer. I remember
sitting on a hill of wheat waiting for the sun to ignite the sky, as it kissed us farewell. I remember curling up under your
arm, being held, as everything turned violet, in the fading light. I remember being carried, warm and safe. I'll always remember
… knowing love, means never having to hear it … no apologies necessary.
Elyse Draper’s inspiration and understanding of the darker side of literature, and life, is drawn from the intimate experiences
she has had in coping with hospice work and terminally ill patients. That knowledge brings humanism to her plots and unexpected
emotions to her character development. She is the author of Voices of Autism: Stories
of Courage, Comfort and Strength; Ladies of Horror 2009; has illustrated several others, and has three novels finished,
a fourth in progress.
Poverty Marks: Nobody’s Story
by Maryte Gurekas
I’m supposed to write this composition and it’s supposed to be about something that
really happened over the holidays. I’m not allowed to make any of it up. Lots of things are always happening at my house,
but mostly it has to do with my dad, so here goes:
Dad drives up in a big,
old white Buick. He looks like Spencer Tracy, crooked smile and all, as if he's got something up his sleeve. Mom is still
at work doing the evening shift at Seagram's. She’s washing whisky bottles. She wears a white uniform and always comes
home smelling awful. I used to think she was a nurse, but my brother Rick told me how dumb I was to think that.
On the very same day, Rick
and I fish out dad's empty spruce beer bottles from under the sink and sneak off and sell them for a quarter a piece. They’re
special because they are refillable. Dad drinks spruce beer as much as he drinks real beer. The bottles are cool, too. They
have metal pins attached to the sides, and you can spin the top real fast. The seal part is red like the bulb of the rubber
enema thing under the bathroom sink. Dad’s not too pleased we sold them, said he needs the cash for gas money. So we
give him the money.
Dad says he’s taking
off to Toronto. Says he's got to go. There are friends with drink waiting, maybe even a job. Says he's going to be somebody.
A week later he’s
still gone, so mom washes his clothes and packs them in garbage bags. I think, hey, maybe he’s dead or something. Rick
says, “We won’t get to cash in any more bottles with him gone.”
So we take his clothes and sell them to this guy in the next city who has a store that smells like old dead
people. I feel we're selling off Dad. Rick says, “We made five bucks, so
stop your whining.” Then he says we should walk home and save the bus money, too.
Except that night Dad comes home. “Never got on the highway,” he says. He gets real
mad about the clothes. He smacks mom in the head ’til she cries and screams, then he grabs Rick and shakes him. Dad’s
practically crying himself while he's doing it. He wants the five bucks from the clothes, and man, he gets it. He leaves,
and Mom says, “He'll be back when he's not so agitated.”
Mom says to me: “Go to bed.” Rick tells
me it was a good thing we walked because now at least we have the bus money to buy food.
I'm just glad Dad isn’t
dead. Everything will go back to normal now that he's nobody again.
Maryte Gurekas is a Canadian of Lithuanian
heritage. Her work has appeared in Canadian and U.S. journals and often reflects a sensibility to her Lithuanian roots. She
is editor and publisher of Morgaine House, teaches drama, and works with special-needs/at risk children. She lives and writes
in Montréal, Québec.
How I Learned
by Denrele Ogunwa
I had not expected to cry, had sat dry
eyed through the church service. Then we'd reached the graveside and they slowly lowered in the coffin. "My father is dead."
The bald declaration flared in my mind and stung like a rude, hard slap. I felt the hot tears well up inside me then and leak
down my face. I don't know whether they were tears of sorrow or relief.
The morning after the funeral, I stand
in the kitchen watching my mother preparing breakfast. She works quickly and silently, cutting the yam into rounds. Her strong
hands press down on the knife, breaching the tough bark skin to slice smoothly through the sticky white flesh.
I fetch a large bowl, fill it with water
and handful of salt and place it near her on the counter top. She pares the skin off each round, careful not to get the sap
on her skin and places the denuded flesh in the water.
This is how I learned to cook. Watching
my mother, strong and silent, going through the motions. "Now you do it," she would say and I would copy her while she gave
instructions and words of encouragement. She takes out a big pot, fills it with water, places it on the stove, then slips
the yam pieces into the water, adds salt and a little sugar, covers it with a lid.
She'd always been the silent one, running
the house efficiently and without fuss. Her demeanor the calm, unruffled surface of a deep, deep well. I had often wondered
what lurked beneath, whether she had consciously decided that this is who she would be - reticent, capable - or whether she
had always been this way. Sometimes I've wondered what would happen if she let the carefully constructed damn of her
emotions break. Would what flooded out of her consume us all?
"You are too much like your father", she
would say to the younger, more carefree little girl I was. Bored by the silence, I chattered away about school and the latest
cool song and how much I loved her pepper soup.
My father had had plenty of mourners.
He was always at the centre of things, surrounded by friends and curious about others. He was the one people came
to with hare-brained, get-rich-schemes, or a problem, or to share a beer and chat. He was always there to lend an ear, or
whatever little money he could spare. He was a good man. He had lived a good life. It had been a good funeral.
Mum thinly slices paprika, scotch bonnets,
onions, tomatoes and sautés them in a frying pan. I get six eggs and whisk them gently with a fork then, at her signal, pour
them into the pan and she scrambles the mixture together until the eggs set.
I tidy away the debris and mum does the
washing up. She misses dad. How could she not? They'd been together 43 years. I try to imagine what it must feel like to be
her and I can't.
I want to ask her if she really never
knew. If she never wondered why I'd stopped being like my father. I want to tell her about those nights when my 12-year-old
self would lie in bed wide-eyed and frozen with fear, waiting for the bedroom door handle to turn, for my father to appear,
his shadow a hulking shape across my bed. I want to tell her that this is how I learned to be silent.
I clear my throat and my mother's back
stiffens. "Mama," I say, bracing myself for the damn to break, for the flood to come.
By day, Denrele Ogunwa is a mild mannered Web site and content writer/editor; by night, she writes preposterous stories
and a good few poems. Sometimes she performs them, sometimes she sings. She also writes a blog about nothing in particular.
Her work has been published in many journals and anthologies including IC3: The Penguin Anthology of New Black Writing
(Penguin, 2000), Velocity: The Best of Apples and Snakes (Black Spring Press, 2003) and A Storm Between Fingers
(Flipped Eye Publishing, 2007). She blogs at http://braincandy.tumblr.com
by Kim Teeple
middle of the jungle we came upon a terrible crone stirring something in a black kettle over a fire made of twigs, yah mon
she mumbled over her pot, and the Jamaicans all laughed and said drink, drink, it’s mussel stew, it’s for love.
Yah mon, they all sang out and the crone poured her stew into jars.
We stripped off our clothes and all made
love on the jungle floor beneath the dripping palm leaves. Well, no, that was just my imagination. But I started to think
about my husband’s best friend, how he looked naked, what it would be like to make love to him in the jungle.
guide took us to a cave. Bats covered the ceiling and the Jamaicans sang yah mon, yah mon and disturbed the bats. So instead
of my husband’s arm I reached for his friend. And we made love in the cave against the stone, bat wings fluttering like
leather against my skin. Well, no, that was just my imagination.
Later we ate on the beach we had lobster and
jerk chicken and drank rum punch, and the Jamaicans sang yah mon, yah mon. We skinny dipped in the ocean, all of us, even
the boy who served the lobster. Parrot Fish nibbled our entangled arms and legs, and the smaller fish slipped around us, between
us, as we made love tasting each other’s salty lips. Well, no, that was just my imagination.
morning I packed my bags filling them with jars of Mussel Stew.
Kim Teeple lives by a creek in Minnesota. Some
of Kim’s stories can be found online, at Salomemagazine.com, Edifice Wrecked, Insolent Rudder, Temenos, and
Elimae, Literary Mama, and Dogzplot. She also has a story in Duck and Herring Pocket Field Guide,
and a story forthcoming, in the anthology: Blink Again Sudden Fiction from the Upper Midwest (Spout Press).
by Annette Rasmussen
The clock blinked its neon numbers, 2:00, 2:01, 2:02. Megan couldn’t sleep. Again. Hadn’t been able to since Jason’s
murder. Well, that was not exactly true. She often dozed off driving , reading or eating dinner. Any activity that had her
sitting down would put her to sleep... but once she laid her body down she could not, for the life of her, keep her eyes closed.
Jason had been found lying
down. On the front lawn of all places which was totally against the Neighborhood Association Policy. You’d think that
someone would’ve seen it- the body or the murder!
Popsy, their rat terrier was barking her head off- her nose wet with blood, the detective told her. Graney, the 16 year old
next door was practicing with the other members of his band called the Bats from Hell. Enough said. It would’ve been
a challenge to hear yourself breathe much less Jason’s screams, what with the Bats from Hell wailing and Popsy’s
nonstop yelping. If Jason had even screamed.
Megan could not, even now, imagine Jason screaming. It was not his style but then neither was being stabbed 14 times. Megan
shook her head as if this would break up the heavy clouds of thought and give her space to sleep. 2:05, 2:06.
She rubbed her belly swollen with their child.
“You must get sleep,” the obstetrician warned her, shaking her finger like Megan’s mother shook hers.
“You must go on,” her mother said. “Life is for the living.”
She was right about that. Jason had been living before the murder. The weird thing about murder is it’s not natural.
Its not like a heart attack or cancer where you can say, “ah, God took him, it was his time.” Obviously God was
asleep on the job when some punk ass creep snuck out of Hell to go looking for Jason walking Popsy. If it were a stranger.
The detective kept asking if
it was possible he was having an affair. Was it possible? What did he mean by that? Possible is an unnerving word to use when
it comes to affairs… or murder. 2:09, 2:10.
Aggh! The cramps seemed to be coming every ten minutes. But it couldn’t be labor. The pregnancy wasn’t far enough
She remembered the period
during which she might’ve conceived. Jason couldn’t get enough of her. They had sex in the morning and in the
night for several consecutive weeks. And not only that but suddenly he was into foreplay, wanting to make out anytime his
body accidentally rubbed against her. It was as if they were electrically charged or surrounded in a cloud of pheromones where
the slightest trigger would harden his ardor and whoosh, he’d have her lying on the floor. It certainly wasn’t
possible, my dear detective that he was having an affair. He was hot for me. 2:12, 2:13.
But then, just as quickly as he had started the intercourse extravaganza, he stopped it. But then he also got killed. He might’ve
started up again if he hadn’t been dead. 2:14, 2:15.
No, it wasn’t possible he was having an affair. They had found the murder weapon. A butcher knife. No, she didn’t
have one she told the detective. She didn’t tell him Jason had sorted through their kitchen supplies a month or so earlier
to collect some stuff for a “friend”, some coworker who had suddenly moved out.
Megan couldn’t remember
the friend’s name… funny. She wasn’t even sure if was it was a man or a woman 2:16, 2:17.
Agh! The pains seemed a little too regular for Megan. And they hurt. It was like someone was just stabbing her over and over
“Baby, I love you
so much,” Jason had said before she left for the grocery store the night he was murdered.
“I know you do,” she said, riffling through her purse, looking for her keys.
“I mean it, baby…I’m going to make it up to you.”
“Make up what, for God’s sake? Hey, what do you want for dinner? Ground round is on sale but I’m craving
something a little more exciting- like prime rib, unless that’s too bloody”
“Speaking of blood, you’re not on your period, are you?” he had said, wrapping his arms around her and pressing
his groin against her butt.
God! If only she had stayed and played. But she was hungry. For food. She said no to his offer and left for the grocery store
as if that was the most ordinary thing in the world to do.
“I’ll be back in 20, ” she had called out the jeep’s window as she pulled out. It was 40.
Miguel, the butcher. Always ready with a package just for her. Oh, and it was always so hard. Impossibly so. She missed Jason
most of all, but still, the way Miguel had put his broad, callused hands over her soft breasts as she fell, helpless against
the cold, metal table in the meatpacking room…Now she knew she wasn’t in labor because how could you be in labor
and horny at the same time? She put her hand between her legs... Miguel.
Except he hadn’t been at the store that night. That was why she was gone so long. She’d been waiting for him.
She still missed
him. The grocery store manager said he’d gone back to Mexico. But why would he have done that? He had loved her, hadn’t
he? Jason certainly loved her. Didn’t he? An affair? Well, anything was possible, she thought, turning over and propping
a pillow under her big belly for support. She tried to conjure up memories of Miguel’s machismo expertise in making
love but any visions kept shifting into pictures of Jason’s bloody body crumpled on their front lawn.
She rubbed her belly as another stabbing pain shot through her. She wondered if the labor pains would ever go away or
if they would continue on, forever, even after the birth of their baby. Who could she ask? Her mother? Her obstetrician? Ahh,
the detective. He liked questions. What was his name…Fyodor something…..?
Annette Rasmussen is a psychotherapist, mother, writer. She
has had over a dozen poems published, a fable, May’s Garden and a short story The Passion of
a Psychotic Housewife.