ADELAIDE FOUNDERS / FUNDADORES
Independent Bimonthly Literary Magazine Stevan V. Nikolic & Adelaide Franco Nikolic
Revista Literária Independente Bimensal
Year III, Number 9, Volume Two, September 2017 EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR-CHEFE
Ano III, Número 9, Volume Dois, setembro de 2017 Stevan V. Nikolic
ISBN-13: 978-0-9992148-8-6 firstname.lastname@example.org
MANAGING DIRECTOR / DIRECTORA EXECUTIVA
Adelaide Literary Magazine is an independent Adelaide Franco Nikolic
international bimonthly publication, based in New York
and Lisbon. Founded by Stevan V. Nikolic and Adelaide GRAPHIC & WEB DESIGN
Franco Nikolic in 2015, the magazine’s aim is to publish Istina Group DBA
quality poetry, fiction, nonfiction, artwork, and
photography, as well as interviews, articles, and book PORTUGUESE LANGUAGE EDITOR / EDITORA PORTUGUESA
reviews, written in English and Portuguese. We seek to
publish outstanding literary fiction, nonfiction, and Adelaide Franco Nikolic
poetry, and to promote the writers we publish, helping
both new, emerging, and established authors reach a BOOK REVIEWS
wider literary audience. We publish print and digital Heena Rathore
editions of our magazine six times a year, in Septem- Jack Messenger
ber, November, January, March, May, and July. Online Ana Sofia Pereira
edition is updated continuously. There are no charges
for reading the magazine online. Scott Morris
A Revista Literária Adelaide é uma publicação CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS IN THIS ISSUE
bimensal internacional e independente, localizada em
Nova Iorque e Lisboa. Fundada por Stevan V. Nikolic e Laura Solomon, Brenna Lemieux, Lisa Brognano,
Adelaide Franco Nikolic em 2015, o objectivo da revista Amanda N Jourdan, Anders M. Svenning, Jeanne
é publicar poesia, ficção, não-ficção, arte e fotografia DeWitt Voorhees, Lisa Rutledge, Jack Coey, Emily
de qualidade assim como entrevistas, artigos e críticas Peña Murphey, Monica Harn, Taylor Garcia, Lucas
literárias, escritas em inglês e português. Pretendemos Milliron, Jessica Widner, Krista Creel, Carolyn L.
publicar ficção, não-ficção e poesia excepcionais assim Bell, Jonathan Maniscalco, Jamey Genna, Mather
como promover os escritores que publicamos, ajudan- Schneider, Danielle Richardson, Skyler Nielsen,
do os autores novos e emergentes a atingir uma
audiência literária mais vasta. Publicamos edições Mike Dorman, Janel Brubaker, Maryetta
impressas e digitais da nossa revista quatro vezes por Ackenbom, Toni Morgan, Edith Boyd, Dana
ano: em Setembro, Dezembro, Março e Junho. A edição Hunter, Fred White, Jonathan McRay, Danielle
online é actualizada regularmente. Não há qualquer Richardson, Dalton Bryan Monk, Donna Stramella,
custo associado à leitura da revista online. Vern Fein, Idalis Nieves, Dominic Laing, Ape Big-
gles, Connor Simons, Ray Fenech, Gale Acuff,
(http://adelaidemagazine.org) Patrick Hurley, Martina Reisz Newberry, Chris
Fields, Bob Varghese, Natasha Zarine, Donny
Published by: Adelaide Books, New York/Lisbon Barilla, Alicia Cole, Lisa Favicchia, Benjamin
e-mail: email@example.com Schmitt, Charles Dutka, Frederick Pollack, Jack
phone: +351 918 635 457 Brown, Scott Laudati, Mary Crow, Catherine
Copyright © 2017 by Adelaide Literary Magazine Cates, Patricia Hanahoe-Dosch
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written
permission from the Adelaide Literary Magazine Editor-
in-chief, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in critical articles and reviews.
CONTENTS / CONTEÚDOS
EDITOR'S NOTES THE APOLOGY by Janel Brubaker 104
ADELAIDE BOOKS By Stevan V. Nikolic 6 GO FISH by Maryetta Ackenbom 108
BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE by Toni Morgan 111
FICTION / FICÇÃO THE GRAVERS LANE LOCAL by Edith Boyd 116
PIECES OF GRAY by Dana Hunter 121
THE ORPHANAGE by Laura Solomon 8
ADELE by Brenna Lemieux 13
DERB JOSSI by Lisa Brognano 19 NONFICTION / NÃO-FICÇÃO
THE AUCTION by Amanda N Jourdan 26 BOOK COLLECTING AS A SPIRITUAL 128
EXPERIENCE, by Fred White
THE BEAUTY IN BEREAVEMENT 28
by Anders M. Svenning UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE 133
by Jonathan McRay
THE LADYBUG by Jeanne DeWitt Voorhees 36
HUNGER PANGS IN AN AMERICAN HOME 140
NOT FUNNY by Lisa Rutledge 42 by Danielle Richardson
LOVER’S QUARREL by Jack Coey 44 THE CUT DOWN by Dalton Bryan Monk 142
THE PAINTED BOX by Emily Peña Murphey 47 TRAINS by Donna Stramella 145
THE POSTING by Monica Harn 50 FIRST CLASS by Vern Fein 147
THE BIG NIGHT by Taylor Garcia 53 GROWN-UP CHILD by Idalis Nieves 148
THE BURNING TREE by Lucas Milliron 57 THE WORLD’S SEXIEST TIME MACHINE 152
by Dominic Laing
THE DANCER’S AFFAIR by Jessica Widner 61
BREEZE FACE by Ape Biggles 156
THE SUGAR POT by Krista Creel 67
SKATEBOARDS AND A SHEEPDOG 72 POETRY / POESIA
by Carolyn L. Bell NANCY MOREJON’S POETRY 160
Translated by Connor Simons
VOID by Jonathan Maniscalco 77 PLATONIC LOVE by Ray Fenech 162
BALM by Gale Acuff 170
THE THINGS PEOPLE SAID 79 WALKING by Patrick Hurley 176
WERE ALWAYS ABOUT THEMSELVES LOTUS by Martina Reisz Newberry 178
by Jamey Genna MORE by Chris Fields 182
ON THE SANDS OF LIDO by Bob Varghese
FOR BOTH TOGETHER by Mather Schneider 82
THE OTHER SIDE by Danielle Richardson 84
A TREE NOW DEAD by Skyler Nielsen 86
“36” by Mike Dorman 90
ABOUT THE OLD MAN by Skyler Nielsen 99 184
TAPESTRY by Natasha Zarine 186 Front cover photo:
FALLEN SEEDS by Donny Barilla 190 THE DOORS IN MATA PEQUENA II- By A.F. Nikolic
ICE CREAM TRUCK by Alicia Cole 192
WHEN I REALIZED I COULD BE UNSEEN 193
by Lisa Favicchia
TRACK 18 by Benjamin Schmitt 195
MY NOTEBOOK by Charles Dutka 198
ROMANCE OF THE MASK 200
by Frederick Pollack
INDIAN POINT by Jack Brown 206
YOUR SUNDAY BEST by Scott Laudati 209
WHAT WAS THAT CITY by Mary Crow 212
INTERVIEWS / ENTREVISTAS
AN AFTERNOON WITH RAYMOND FENECH, 216
A Writer, Journalist, Publicist, and Educator
THE INCIDENT OF THE MYSTERIOUS PRIEST: 228
And Other Stories,
By Raymond Fenech
EMOTIONS / EMOÇÕES: 229
Poems & Thoughts,
By Pierre Sotér
IT MAY BE BETTER: 223
Poems & Thoughts,
By Pierre Sotér
BOOK REVIEWS / CRITÍCAS LITERÁRIAS
CATALOG OF EVERYTHING: 231
And Other Stories, By Peter K. Wehrli
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY / ARTE & FOTOGRAFIA
CELLAR – Photography by Catherine Cates 232
by Patricia Hanahoe-Dosch
Stevan V. Nikolic
Our September Issue brings 111 authors on 600 All titles are published in paperback and eBook
pages in two volumes. Thirty-nine poets with over format and offered through Ingram for bookstore
120 poems, fifty-three short stories, nineteen distribution in the US, and through Amazon.com,
nonfiction pieces, one excerpt from a novella, and Barnes & Noble, and other major retailers for
three photo presentations will be quite enough to online sale worldwide. Optionally, we do hardcov-
keep busy our readers until our next issue in No- er editions with or without dust-jacket. Addition-
vember. ally, we offer the possibility of translating books
into Portuguese and Spanish and publishing short
Although it is impossible to separate any of the -run paperback editions for distribution in
published pieces, I would like to recommend bookstores in Portugal and Spain.
DAWN, a photo presentation by young and very
talented Portuguese photographer Viktor Tegner, We offer to our authors two unique publishing
an essay by Fred White titled BOOK COLLECTING contract options which guarantee full transparen-
AS A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE, a poem by Carla cy of the pre-print and post-print publishing pro-
Sofia Ferreira WHAT IT TAKES, and DERB JOSSI, an cess, and generous royalties paid in a timely man-
excerpt from the novella “The Jossy Farm” by Lisa ner.
When starting Adelaide Books, we didn’t expect
It seems that every new issue of the Adelaide much interest for our new project. Didn’t make
Literary Magazine brings yet another novelty. Our any estimates how many books and how often we
last (July) Issue was our first bi-monthly publica- would like to publish. However, the attention our
tion after two years of going out quarterly. With new endeavor received from the authors made us
this (September) Issue, we are announcing the think big. In the first month of its existence, Ade-
launch of the ADELAIDE BOOKS. laide Books released four titles, with another four
to be released by the end of September, and two
ADELAIDE BOOKS, an imprint of the Adelaide Lit- more set for a release in the Fall of 2017 and
erary Magazine, was founded in July 2017, with Spring 2018. So, the decision to put out four
the aim to facilitate publishing of novels, mem- books a month came naturally, on its own, and
oirs, and collections of short stories, poems, and that is just about what we are doing.
essays by contributing authors of our magazine.
Authors interested in publishing with Adelaide
We believe that in doing so, we best fulfill the Books can contact us and/or send their queries
mission outlined in Adelaide Magazine – “to pro- and proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org.
mote writers we publish, helping both new and
emerging, and established authors reaching a
wider literary audience.”
I took the job in the orphanage on a whim. I lived hinge and a stoic looking woman appeared in the
in Peckham and had been working in a café in doorway. She held out her hand for me to shake.
East Dulwich. Walking home from work one
evening I had seen the advertisement in the or- “Hello”, she said. “I’m Marian, Marian Ham-
phanage window. mond.”
Looking for fulfilling full-time work? “Hi”, I said. “I’m David. I rung this morning about
We are now hiring individuals the vacant position.”
to help in our orphanage.
You will be assisting with the “Come in”, she said, stepping to one side.
day to day running of the orphanage.
If interested phone 20 8693 2766. Entering her office, the first thing I noticed was
that the walls were adorned by photographs of
The next day I phoned the orphanage. A gruff babies and young children that I assumed were
voice answered after three rings. the adoptees.
“Hello can I help you?” Sitting at her desk, she paused and looked
me up and down, then gestured towards a seat
I took a deep breath. opposite. Obediently, I sat. Butterflies danced in
my stomach. This was more daunting than apply-
“I’m enquiring about the job”, I said. “My name’s ing for the café job had been.
“So what makes you think you’d be suited to
“Great. You can find us at 232 Lordship Lane. working in an orphanage?” she asked.
Bring ID and 2 references – one character refer-
ence and one work reference. Can you come in at “I’m really good with children. Could you please
around 4.30 today.” tell me a little bit about the role?”
I said that this would be fine, as I could go after “You will be helping us with the care of the chil-
my café job had finished. dren.”
During my lunch break at the café I called the “That sounds fine to me”, I said. She then stared
father of my friend Heidi and asked for a charac- at me with a cold look. The thought occurred to
ter reference. He said he would write me one me that this woman hadn’t smiled or laughed in a
and send it through via email. At 4.30 I headed long time - years maybe decades.
to the orphanage. The door swung open on its
She stared at me again.
“So, do you want the job or not?”
“Sure,” I said “Ill give it a go.”
She handed me some forms.
“This is the job description and contract. Can you I sat down next to a baby who was crying and had
start on Monday?” an empty highchair tray. Picking up a piece of
toast I put it in her chubby hands and she ceased
“Not a problem.” I said “Thank you for your time.” crying as she started chewing on it with her only
two top teeth. With jam smeared on her face she
I held out my hand for her to shake hoping to grinned at me.
extract some warmth from this woman - She ig-
nored my gesture. I wanted to shine some light into the existence of
these children. Their lives were so dark and
At home I set about reading the paperwork she gloomy with no fun or laughter that it sent a shiv-
had given me, the job description first. The con- er down my spine.
tent was very rigid and formal in style. Sentences
such as ‘Must be at work 15 minutes before your I read the next instruction on the piece of paper
shift starts’ and ‘You must make sure the children Marian had given me.
are well behaved and quiet at all times’ But the
one that took me by surprise the most was ‘No After breakfast all children must be gathered to-
affection to be shown to the children at any time.’ gether in the main dining room.
I supposed they had their reasons for their poli- I managed to usher them haphazardly to the main
cies but it seemed a bit draconian. I signed the dining room as per instructions. All the children
contract - the wage was seven pounds an hour - sat around the tables noisily talking amongst
less than I was getting at the café however I’m themselves, but the atmosphere changed as soon
sure this would be a more satisfying job. I felt as Marian entered the room. The poor tots
sorry for the children (no affection – how brutal!) looked frightened and immediately became si-
and hoped that maybe I could make a difference
in their harsh lives. Monday rolled around and I “Well children,” she exclaimed “It’s Monday and
got up at 6am to be at work by 6:45am. Entering you have had all weekend to clown around. Like
the orphanage, it was chaos. I walked to the office the rest of the world you have to go to work, we
to meet Marian she didn’t even say hello just have twenty two cars arriving today that will need
shoved a piece of paper in my hands proclaiming cleaning inside and out and if I see any mucking
“This is the morning routine, it needs to be fol- around like last time you know what will happen.”
lowed to the tee.” Then she walked out.
A visible shudder ran through the children. I whis-
Looking at the list the first thing on it was; Break- pered to Lettie one of the other staff
fast in the dining hall all children must eat all that
is given to them. “What will happen?”
I walked down the hall to find the kitchen, en- “The dreaded time out room,” she said in a
couraging the children I walked past to follow me. hushed whisper “I’ll show you later.”
They dutifully obeyed. Entering the dining hall I
discovered three long tables with children sitting “Right get to it.” Marian said as she exited the
impatiently while two frazzled looking staff mem- room.
bers were darting around serving breakfast. I
walked into the kitchen to see how I could help We all filed out of the dining hall to the laundry.
where I found what I assumed to be the cook Stacked against the walls were about thirty plastic
madly spreading margarine on a row of toast. She buckets – they were filled with cold water. Taking
glanced at me and then said “Can you get the jam some of the buckets outside, I saw about twenty
out of the fridge please.” cars parked in the carpark. The children had duti-
fully followed us outside, carrying equipment.
Helping her to spread the jam I then took plate- Lettie squirted a drop of dishwashing liquid into
fuls of toast out to the tables where the children each bucket and with woeful expressions the chil-
all grabbed greedily as if they hadn’t eaten dren set to cleaning the cars.
properly in months. Plastic cups of water were
intermittently spilt across the tables, water gath- I grabbed a spare scrubbing brush and set about
ering in puddles and dripping to the floor. helping.
Lettie came over and tapped me on the shoulder. With that she turned on her heels and strode off.
“No,” she said “Marian doesn’t let us help the I stood outside the door in shock, I could hear the
children with their jobs.” boy’s wails from inside the cell like room. I felt
Lettie’s hand on my arm. “C’mon.” she said gen-
I couldn’t watch, it seemed so wrong - a cold tly. “There’s nothing we can do Marian is the only
morning with cold water the children becoming one with the keys. It breaks my heart too.”
saturated and shivering.
I took the time to have a look around the rest of
“So tell me about this time out room” I said to the orphanage, I discovered the nursery where
Lettie. the babies were occupied. They sat three or four
to a playpen like chickens in a coop. They looked
“C’mon I’ll show you,” she answered. miserable, half- heartedly playing with dirty look-
ing broken toys, that looked like they had come
Following her inside we walked through the laun- from the dump.
dry, down the hallway, turned left and came to a
door painted black with a wire mesh glass win- I spoke to the first lot closest to me and they
dow. Opening the door, Lettie and I walked in- looked at me with hope in their eyes. One of
side. The room was completely bare and as dark them stretched out her arms for me to pick her
as night because the walls were also painted up. I instinctively reached down to pick her up,
black. ignoring the policy that children were not to be
shown affection at any time.
On the opposite wall to the door was a small high
window with bars letting in only a minimal At that point I didn’t care, the child needed a hug
amount of light. and I was a firm believer in the power of love and
affection in a cold cruel environment. The little
“So what’s the story with this?” I asked girl smiled at me and snuggled into my chest like
it was the first hug she had had in a long time, if
“This is her punishment room,” came the reply. ever.
“This is where the children get sent when they’re
naughty, they don’t have to do much for Marian It was then that the plan started to evolve in my
to put them in here, sometimes for hours at a mind that I would have to report this lady to so-
time.” cial welfare because what was going on here was
“But that’s child abuse!” I exclaimed.
I went to help the cook prepare lunch. The chil-
“Nobody knows what goes on here, Marian keeps dren all filed in at twelve o’clock, wet, cold and
it all hush hush. If you want to keep your job I looking exhausted. Lunch consisted of deep fried
suggest you keep your trap shut about what goes luncheon sausage, no fruit, or any of the nutrition
on in this place. Marian doesn’t take kindly to children need. They got a miniscule portion each -
blabber mouths.” however they scoffed it down like they were
starving and appeared unsatisfied afterwards.
As I stood looking into the room shocked at what I
had heard, a child’s pleading reached my ears. The little boy who had been locked in time out
Coming down the hall, turning the corner, Marian came in and sat down. He had tear mark stained
approached dragging a child no older than three cheeks. I went to the kitchen to get him his lunch.
or four behind her. It was then the cook informed me that she had
had strict instructions from Marian that he wasn’t
We stepped aside as Marian shoved the child into allowed any lunch today. I saw red and decided to
the room slamming the door shut and locking it slip him some of my lunch. I sat down next to him
with one of the many keys attached to the lan- and gave him some of my lettuce and marmite
yard around her neck. sandwich with the other kids looking on longingly.
Turning to us she spat “The dirty little brat soiled Lettie, Sharon and I cleared up after lunch. We
himself, you would think by that age they would then took the children to their beds for their
be able to control their bowels, well he can sit in afternoon nap. As we were walking back down
his dirty pants and think about it. Lettie come and
get me in three hours, I think that will give him
enough time to learn.”
the stairs I asked Lettie “So do the children get She tapped away at the computer keyboard and
any of the profits from the clients who got their an image of the nursery came up with me picking
cars washed?” up the crying baby earlier in the day.
“Hell no.” came her reply “Marian keeps that for “You broke the no affection rule.” tap tap tap
herself.” I was shocked. went her fingers. “Then you gave that boy some
of your lunch.”
At the end of the day I took myself off to Marian’s
office to sign out. Motioning with the pen in her I stared at her as she stared back at me. “Look.” I
hand towards the chair she indicated for me to sit said slowly “I really don’t think this job is going to
down. I sat. be for me.”
“So how did you find your first day?” she asked “Yes, well that was to be expected.” She an-
swered. “You obviously don’t have what it takes
I hesitated. What should I say? I hated it - it was to work here, you’re too soft. I’ll put your wages
the most disturbing day of my life. for the day into your bank account however you
will not be receiving the whole day’s pay as you
“Fine.” I lied. broke the policies.”
“Well.” She said turning to her computer, she I didn’t bother to reply, I rose from my chair and
turned the screen towards me. walked out leaving the door open behind me I
couldn’t wait to get out of there.
“Do you realize I have security cameras in just
about every room?” Once home I made myself a cup of coffee, sitting
at my laptop I wrote out the events of the day
Silence thickened in the room. It dawned on me vowing to myself that I would take the infor-
then that I was in trouble. I remained silent. I mation to social welfare the next day.
wasn’t going to explain myself to this horrible
The following day I called up social welfare and About the Author:
made an appointment. I was given a slot with
Kylie at 3pm that same day. I waited until 3pm Laura Solomon has a 2.1 in English Literature
then made my way to the social welfare office. (Victoria University, 1997) and a Masters degree
Kylie sat down behind a desk shaped like a bean in Computer Science (University of London, 2003).
and gestured for me to sit down on the other
side. Obediently, I sat. I handed her the notes Her books include Black Light, Nothing Lasting,
and she read over them slowly her eyes slowly Alternative Medicine, An Imitation of Life, Instant
widening the more she read, her mouth hanging Messages, Vera Magpie, Hilary and David, In
open. Vitro, The Shingle Bar Sea Monster and Other
Stories, University Days, Freda Kahlo’s Cry, Brain
“This all sounds very horrific”, she said. “Thank Graft and Taking Wainui.
you for bringing this to our attention. Rest as-
sured that this matter will be thoroughly investi- She has won prizes in Bridport, Edwin Morgan,
gated.” Ware Poets, Willesden Herald, Mere Literary Fes-
tival, and Essex Poetry Festival competitions.
“That’s great”, I said. “Thanks very much for your
assistance.” She was short-listed for the 2009 Virginia Prize
and the 2014 International Rubery Award and
On the way home I called in at the café at which I won the 2009 Proverse Prize. She has had work
had previously worked and they gave me my old accepted in the Edinburgh Review and Wasafiri
job back. (UK), Takahe and Landfall (NZ). She has judged
the Sentinel Quarterly Short Story Competition.
I saw the report on the six o’clock news.
Her play ‘The Dummy Bride’ was part of the 1996
Orphanage manager Marian Hammond was to- Wellington Fringe Festival and her play ‘Sprout’
day brought to justice following more than a dec- was part of the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
ade of abuse towards children. Interviews with
staff combined with CCTV footage showed chil-
dren being locked in seclusion rooms for up to
twenty hours at a time, children being denied
food, children being made to do slave labour with-
out pay and children denied all affection. Marian
refused to give a statement, appearing without
remorse. She was stone-faced in court. She was
sentenced to five years imprisonment. All children
have now been placed into caring foster homes.
I was happy with this verdict and wondered
whether Marian would learn her lesson in jail.
A few weeks later the young boy who was locked
in seclusion came into the cafe with his new fos-
“Hey”, he said, reaching out his hand to me. “It’s
the man who gave me a sandwich when I was
He gave me a big smile and said he was happy
now and well cared for. I was pleased that at
least one strand of the story had a happy ending.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, Adele wakes to “Rob’s out running before the snow starts,”
see a handwriting in front of the clock: Myra and speaks Myra. “Wants to get a few miles in.”
Rob home, it tells: Yes! But when did they? She Stretches her arms and walks across to the flat-
chews her knuckle: Myra in Chicago (and Rob). glass.
She foots to the ground and walks across. A hand-
writing on the sink-top mirror: Christmas tomor- What is this in Adele’s hands? For burning, yes,
row—yes! The Christmas come-and-stay. This is and she walks across and puts two sheets in the
the because. Smile and another handwriting (Joe, burner, beside the coffee maker, and she scoops
yes, this is Joe’s lettering): Take a shower, put the brown coffee crumbs and pours the water. Fill
pajamas away. If you’re dressed, you’re already to line five, the handwriting says.
clean. Not dressed. Joe and his clean handker-
chief smell. Deep breath (Dr. Folsom says). He “How much you think we’ll get?” speaks
wrote these, yes, (warm shower water, sham- Myra.
poo), towel and the closet door tells: It’s winter.
Pants and long sleeves to stay warm! So she “Four cups,” she speaks, waterfalling. But
sweaters and turtlenecks and slacks and downs if Myra wants to drink? “You want some?” But
the stairs. she prays for the no because where is the note?
Myra(!) at the kitchen table-slab, with a “What?” speaks Myra.
book. Chicago, yes, and likes calendars. A smile
from her and what way did you sleep? The red button presses.
“On my back,” Adele speaks. And to the “Oh,” speaks Myra.
icebox for the ingredients. “You want me to burn
you some bread?” she speaks. And what is the The speech is broken—Adele faces toward
sweet red sauce? “We have this too.” Glass cold her daughter, Myra has the something-isn’t-going
in her palm. look and what has missed her? Coffee, Rob in
snow, ocean driving—what? A recipe book on the
“No thanks,” speaks Myra. “Just had a table-slab, all the bananas freckled: her mother,
smoothie.” The book closes. her mother’s end. The last months, at Adele’s,
Myra a child, and every day something: burners
Ice cream shows itself, not in the world, in on at night, the bath spilling over—she won’t
her mind—smoothie. The mornings before vaca- shower and she’s wet herself and Myra wants to
tions, and Adele up and down the stairs with Sun- go to friends’ houses, never stays and if there
screen? Umbrella? Towels? while Joe and Myra aren’t bananas for the milkshake, her mother
eat at the table-slab, giggling at her hurry. But throws a ladle, a fork, the knife one time and
never a beach stay without the must-haves, the what to do, it is her mother. (And Joe carries her
sheets and shampoo and camera. to the car, carries her down the stairs, doesn’t
ever yell even when Adele does.) She doesn’t
remember breakfast, wants another milkshake whole wheat, too, with ginger and sesame. You’ll
and another and Adele’s whole life is buying ba- love it,” Myra speaks. She’s folded into the cart,
nanas and Myra’s scared to eat them and when pushing the packages into new places. “What
she dies everyone breathes relief—no. The bana- does it say for the waffles? Do we need regular
nas here. Myra grown. But Adele won’t let her- too?”
“Give me a second!” speaks Adele. The g.d. list.
Myra walks across and takes a paper from
the note-making pile. “We should make a grocery Myra offers to check. “My handwriting’s terrible,”
list,” she speaks. “It’ll be a zoo in there.” she speaks, leaning in. NO. Adele can do. She
twists to hide the list but too much and knuckles a
Adele heads “yes.” Turns to the cabinet for redhair shelf-setting sugar bags.
a handle-cup. Deep breath (Dr. Folsom). Does
Myra always speech so fast? The zoo, something? Myra sorries.
“…the usual, I’m guessing?” Myra speaks. She “You don’t have to sorry for me,” Adele speaks
unsits the stool and walks across to the big cup- and where is her breath? So many shopping bags
board. “Mom, I think you can stop buying coffee and carts and why add more sugar bags when it’s
for a while,” she speaks, shelf-pushing. so full inside?
The big cupboard. No. She hurries across “I need to breathe,” she speaks and pushes to-
and door-pushes—almost bare-shelf—too much ward the green EXIT and the back-and-forth
telling in there, and Myra will just upset. She doors. Clean, bright air to her nose and Myra’s
doesn’t want to care her. “We drink it,” she fingers to her arm and the apron without his sug-
speaks, door-closing, Myra-pushing toward the ar hurries to them with “Can I hold that at the
table-slab. “Just buy everything.” Food store has checkout for you,” his words steaming. He hands
hardened so much: color, sounds. But she still the cart. Snow bits twist from upstairs.
does it. She still foods them.
“I’m so sorry,” Myra speaks to the apron, and
The burner pops the two breads and her pushes the cart to him.
heart fastens. “Shit,” she speaks.
“It’s just breathing!” Adele speaks. “There’s no
Myra hands her shoulder. “Gets me every space in there! I can’t even—” where was the
time, too,” she speaks. damn thing to speak? “I can’t—” her hands flap
but nothing sticks on her tongue.
Lines and crowdeds and all the carts and
wheels. She steers to the baking and Myra speaks Myra shoulder touches her but she shakes it off.
whether the list tells all-purpose flour or whole
wheat. Adele eyes the ingredients: yeast, two “I wouldn’t take it for free!” she speaks. There is a
sticks butter (unsalted), sugar. better thing to speak, she knows, but it is uncom-
ing. “I know to use money. I needed to breathe.”
“Have a holly-jolly Christmas,” tins the air (she The cart rolls away inside with the redhair apron
understands, yes, but how to speak that?). and she looks it (all the ingredients!) and some-
thing bumps her and her hip hits the ground,
“Whole wheat’s on sale,” speaks Myra, frog cold—a woman with a full cart and big, sorry-
standing for the down shelf (women pushing by). saying eyes, handing her mouth, the cart metal-
“Two for five—that’s good.” She sacks one, tall above Adele.
stands. “I’ll get some anyway, even if we don’t
need it for the waffles.” Into the cart. “Is she going to be all right?” the woman speaks
(hip bone fire).
The list, now. Yes. Yeast—cell phone talker bumps
her. Focalize. The flowers (the Mariott’s foliage Myra speeches the woman, leans to lift Adele
icebox—no. Powder.). Deep breath (Dr.— (where is her balance?).
“There’s this great bread I can make with the “You let them get away,” Adele speaks, hip-
rubbing, looking the ingredients. The redhair has
“Let’s go,” Myra speaks. They walk across showering been? She walks across to the bath-
(tugging) to the Volvo and seat. Myra stares at room and sees a handwriting: If you’re dressed,
the wheel. you’ve already showered. Joe’s letters. Yes. She
looks: turtleneck, sweater, khakis. But when did
“The key,” speaks Adele (the starting con- the shower?
Downstairs: front door sound—Joe? What
Myra eyes at her. “I know, Mom.” She key time? She walks across to the hall and Myra
turns. “You can’t do things like that,” she speaks. speaks from down. She downs two stairs: Joe at
“I can shop alone if it’s too much but that could the coat tree.
have gotten us arrested.”
“How’s she doing today?” he speaks to
Too quick. Speeching too quick. Myra. Red-cold face.
“I do the shopping,” Adele speaks. “I can Myra head-shakes and speaks a whisper.
do the little things, it’s not always so full inside.”
“I know, honey,” he speaks. He hugs her. “I
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Myra know.”
speaks. She road-turns and the blacktop hums
beneath and, yes, this relaxes. This is the summer Myra little-girl hugs, hair under his chin. He
-trip, too, the down-the-coast and Joe singing pats. Yes. Her family.
Beach songs and Myra behind and licorice: teeth-
stuck always, in the car. And Joe’s hand on her “I’m glad you came home,” he speaks.
knee, his one-eye-shut when he sings God only
knows what I’d be, and later, the first night in the Myra coming home to live, she knows. Not
beach house. She opens and the garage, the Chicago. Something with coffee in the kitchen,
driveway. They stop. something with teeth. Teeth cleaning.
“I’m sorry, Myra,” Adele speaks. “I don’t “I didn’t realize how bad it was,” Myra
feel all the way today.” speaks. “She seems okay on the phone.”
Myra nods, leans and pushes the unbuckle. The phone—no. It has hardened too much.
“I should have realized,” she speaks. “With a She tries not to.
snowstorm coming. And Christmas. But I can help
you from now on.” She door-slams and walks “She doesn’t want you to worry,” he
across for Adele—but no. Chicago. This is Mary- speaks.
“Look who’s up from her nap,” speaks Rob, from
“But when you go home,” Adele speaks. the living room door. Myra looks, Joe looks.
Myra lifts Adele’s arm to help (hip fire).
“You’re home soon,” Adele speaks. She downs
“We’re moving here, remember?” Myra more stairs, with the railing.
speaks. She door-shuts and they walk across.
“Rob got hired with Dr. Gladstone. He can clean “Snow’s getting serious,” Joe speaks, patting My-
your teeth now.” ra. “I told everyone to go home.” He slides an arm
around Adele’s back, kisses her head.
No. This is new. Inside, her coat hangs on
the coat tree and she ups the stairs for a nap. And here: yes. The collar of Joe’s button-shirt up
close, frayed. The kiss after work: yes. His coffee
Upstairs, after the nap, on her dressing desk, a takes straight, his shirts hang in the closet to face
notebook. She opens. Myra coming home to live the window. A chain of yeses: one leads to the
(& Rob)! it tells. Her handwriting. She walks rest. The refrigerator sound: Myra in the kitchen,
across to the bed and seats. Other pages: she opening the door: orca whale song, yes, and egg
knuckle bites. One percent milk, it tells on one prices always climbing and the bread-burner has a
page, check dials on stove, shower? (hip fire). Has crumb drawer that’s full whenever she looks. Yes.
And now: Joe’s collar and smell and Myra at the
fridge, with dinner talk plans—what if the others
came, too, collar, fridge, coffee-crumbs smell, hot
air blast from a sealed summer car? Everything She can lip balm and socks and chocolate.
would be yes. Everything together again. Walgreens. Yes.
Joe steps her to the kitchen table-slab and kisses She downs the stairs and takes her coat from the
again and seats her on a no-back chair. He speaks tree, quiet. Myra lids pots in the kitchen, smells
he will build a fire and Rob speaks he will help. lift out. Adele hats and gloves and boots from the
Myra speaks she will make tea. closet. She walks across, quiet, and on the door a
handwriting: Tell Joe where you’re going. Do you
“Mom,” she speaks, “can you chop these for the have your phone? But she is goning for just a
casserole?” She tables a slicing board and three quicken, just to glove and candy Myra.
greens, hands Adele a blade.
Outside, it winds sharper than she thought and
“What are we making?” Adele speaks. She blades she cries (but not a real cry, no). She will
the waxy green skin, blades out its insides. Walgreens. She boots the snow (hip fire) and arm
-swings for the blood warmth. Her back wind-
Myra unskins potatoes into the sink. She presses and the snow giddies in the neighbors’
slips—the blade bites her hand. She mouth-holds. light-strings. How pretty is winter, yes. Pretty (the
“Same as always,” she speaks, around the hand. whole thought, neat)—she holds the word. Night
“Waffles, egg casserole, home fries—Christmas soons around her and she boots down the side-
Eve special.” She hand-shakes over the sink. walk and thinks Walgreens, yes. Walgreens. She
speaks it to herself so she can hold it. It stretches
Christmas Eve—Yes. Joe home early. The her cheeks into a smile—Walgreens.
snow. (Hip fire)—the ingredients. She blades the
insides more, blades the green into small chops, After a while, her sweat starts under the
scrapes the insides to the corner. layers. She boots over a snow street and eyes a
brick house with a blue door—but no. Where?
“Here,” speaks Myra. “I’ll get that for you.” She boots to the street market—the street mark-
She carries the board to the dump, scrapes the er—but the name stranges her tongue and she
insides. She tables it in front of Adele. “The recipe head-shakes to remember. Walgreens. She pock-
says finely chopped,” she speaks. “So hack those ets her hand for—what? The notebook, yes. And
babies as small as you can.” she pages with her gloves (hard), but the night is
almosting and the snow blocks. The pages wind
Adele heads “yes.” The recipe—her recipe. together and she shuts the notebook. Walgreens,
Christmas Eve casserole—tomorrow Christmas is. she repeats but it hollows, it losts. Her face winds
Presents. But nothing is bought, she knows, noth- (deep breath, like Dr. Folsom). She boots away
ing has wrapped, and it’s the dream from the from the sign, turns out of the wind.
Marriott: reception about to start but nothing
ordered, nothing cooked, no flowers to spread. The roadlamps brighten and the snow
She head-shakes: no. The blade here. The greens. frenzies in them. Walgreens, she wonders,
where? Her hip fires and her legs brick. Snow
“Going for a second,” she speaks to Myra heaps up to her shins and her neck sweats from
and ups the stairs, walks across into the bedroom. effort. She unhats herself for air. She slows and
Snow sifts outside the window. She eyes the mir- her eyes flake when she opens them—the flakes
ror: a handwriting: Gifts for Myra & Rob in Joe’s eye her when she opens them. She boots, one
closet. And she handles the door and they are boot at a time, her lungs tight. She looks: blue
squares, red-wrapped. She seats on the bed. door house. No. She hats again, tries to remem-
ber—Walgreens, yes, but where? Candy and
But what from her? What for Myra? Myra, socks for Myra, and lip balm, but where did the
she wants to show Myra how much she. How the right roads?
sight of her. A thing for Myra to open—to gift
Myra a thing. But where to get it? The notebook She boots to the curb and seats, bottoms
seats beside her and she pages it. Myra coming the snow (wet through her pants). She hand-
home to live! and Directions to grocery and holds her head. (I want to hold your head, her
coffee: water to line 5 + three scoops. She pages head sings.) To her fork-hand, lights grow and she
it back more. Joe likes orange juice, no more
wine, Directions to Walgreens. Yes: Walgreens.
sees a car. It parks in front of. The window downs.
A man inside, church clothes and a wife beside.
“Are you all right?” he speaks.
“Just sleeping a minute,” she speaks—no
need to panic.
He finger-rubs his mouth. The woman
speaks something and the man speaks, “Can we
offer you a ride home?”
She unseats and speaks she’ll be fine and
she feels the tear-cloud behind her eyes—how to
get home? She couldn’t even direction them.
“Would you like to get warm at least, sit in
the back for a minute?” the man speaks, a gold
around his finger.
Yes. Warmth. Then maybe she could direction
them, but what if she asleeps and never homes
again? What about Myra and Joe? She heads
“yes” and reaches for the handle and behind an-
other car lights. She turns to eye it. Joe outs the
passenger door and Myra outs the back and they
boot to her and speak all together.
“What were you thinking?” Myra speaks.
She arm-wraps Adele. “How long have you been
out here? Are you crazy? You could walk on the
But no—Walgreens. Adele tries to speak
Joe hands Myra’s arm. He arm-wraps Ade-
le and speaks if she okays. His collar, his smell.
She thinks of straight coffee and window-facing
Myra speaks to the car man and he offs.
“Let’s get you home, sweetheart,” speaks
“This isn’t okay, Mom,” Myra speaks, tear-
voiced. “You could have—you really scared us.”
They boot to the car. “Why didn’t you tell some-
They help her boot. Joe helps her seat be-
hind with him.
Rob wheels the car and speaks, “I think we
could all use some hot cider.”
Joe hands her through her glove and she thinks of About the Author:
his handwritings on the walls and mirrors. Joe
knows: Joe understands. Brenna Lemieux is the author of two poetry col-
lections, The Gospel of Household Plants and
“You have to let us help you, Adele,” he speaks. Blankness, Melancholy, and Other Ways of Dying.
“We’re all here to help.” She lives and writes in Chicago.
She heads no. “I’m fine,” she speaks. She unpock-
ets her notebook and pen and pages to the end.
Casserole ingredients, it tells.
“You’re not fine,” speaks Myra. “You could
have frozen to death.”
“I don’t want to care you,” she speaks. She
can’t find the right thing. She can never find the
“Mom,” speaks Myra, turning to the be-
hind. “Of course I care. We all care.”
Adele sees in her eyes that she knows.
“Everybody knows?” she speaks.
Myra nods. Joe nods.
She eyes her notebook. She pens, Everybody
knows. Now what?
“And it’s okay,” speaks Joe, fingering the
page. “Write and it’s okay.”
Adele eyes the page, neat-lined. Where
will this be tomorrow? Joe hands her shoulder
and she eyes the window. The glass fogs and the
car stops. The blinker clicks loudly in the quiet—
summer, daylong car trips to the beach, and Myra
little. The last hours, cranky and stale-aired and
too many candies in the teeth and dozing and
then the click: Joe turning off the highway. The
click a current in them, Myra sitting up in the
backseat, leaning forward, all of them eyeing the
windshield and breath-holding, almost, because
the clicks and then the turns and then the house,
a whole beach week, blank—a ring in the sand,
maybe, an ear infection. And the car hot, heavy
with bags, and the smell of luggage from the attic
and the excitement fringed by the chest-hummed
worry that no matter how much she’s packed
(sunscreen, towels, camera), no matter how many
notes she made, Joe and Myra will need some-
thing she has forgotten.
(excerpt from the novella, The Jossy Farm) deeper to red and black and even purple layers.
He uncrossed his arms and lowered one hand and
Derb walked across the acreage through a wild clutched these colors—soft soil suffocated—but
patch of light green stems but the orange flowers he uncurled his fingers as he stood up and
were closed in triangular shapes anticipating the scraped them across the jut of his hip. The dirt
storm. He passed a border of grass and came to a hit his boots. He liked to let go of the earth.
steep slope and looked up it. Then he removed
his hat before climbing Square Betty, a hill like a The rain was fixing to come, and he needed to be
box. on his way to the chicken coops; he turned side-
ways and slapped on his hat. His posture was flat
“Huh ah oh,” he said, standing on top bent over bone. He had a sunken-in stomach and a pushed-
panting. With his hands on his knees, he mum- out pelvis. His legs were not the straight kind; his
bled, “Who wants to own land?” He lifted his thighs veered backward and his calves curved
head and looked out. forward. His knees were onions embedded with
pebbles. Tan trousers were obliged to cover what
The land was a loaf of bread one way and a loaf of they covered, latticework, and he never rolled
bread the other. Everything below and behind them up to walk through a creek. Under his hat
him was smeared-robin sky, red-brown, and his hair was shiny gray with comb marks. He ad-
somewhere the downpour bounced off bean justed the brim and looked at the sky.
leaves. The air had a cinnamon smell and the
coming rain mixed the scent of hens into it. Thick What crooked square dance did it matter if folks
gray and thicker black clouds filled the sky, except called him lazy old man Jossy married to robust
for a dazzling blue line on the horizon. Since the Rita, the only woman who could make a mean
hill pushed her corners halfway above the hori- corn casserole? Sure, during the dry spells the
zon, this line was level with the middle of the bean fields needed watering and so did the
slope, coming into it on the left and coming out lettuce beds. Some afternoons he hunched him-
on the right. If Derb had been standing on the self on a stump to carve twigs. Tomatoes need
ground he would have called it The Sword straight poles, people told him, and plants will
Through The Box Trick. This was Nanahoma, wilt while you look on. In all his years of farming
though, a place with more farm chores than men he had never planted a crop on time. On the back
wearing hats to do them, and nobody could un- porch he strummed the ukulele at midnight if he
derstand his fascination with the circus. was restless. Hissing cats came out of the woods.
He had never taken one lesson.
His head hung down, and the beats of his heart
became the bottom of his chin. He stared at the Plain and simple he had a pure burden: a brown
hill, stared at his boots. All the hills on the place patch of farm. It had a limp lawn that surrounded
were waxy orange that could be dented down a white wooden porch. From the porch you could
see five sections of field coming together like
patchwork. Squash was sown every third year in loosened and fell onto the gravel. She walked
the far field because of the angle of sun, and from back on the grass, wringing her hands until a fine
the porch any crop sown appeared to grow on the mist of hay powder floated down the length of
horizon. Derb knew how far farming had thrown her apron. She had left biscuits baking in the ov-
him from the horse he actually wished to ride. He en.
used to talk to the cows about it. They mooed as
he whispered with his head against their bellies, Outside the house, she drew her eyes along the
milking them the old fashioned way. “A man like arrows of sun coming over a diamond-shaped
me was never meant to enjoy this soil, this brown patch, no strawberries yet. She pushed back the
heap here.” If he had told Rita the things he dis- screen door and took the sun as her blindness
cussed with the cows she would have said no man into the house.
has revelations while milking.
By midday she stepped onto the porch and closed
No more milking, though. Not since his thick-as- her eyes. The noon sun always warmed her
an-oak decision. He had sold their cows, calling throat and she could smell the booty of the
them dizzy cows, for hens, which he called bol- breeze, the white and pink flowers that smelled
stering animals. The cows had lost their sympa- like roses. She stood on a loose, moaning plank,
thy for his predicament of being tied to the land and if she shifted her weight, it moaned more.
and he had lost his patience milking them. A long When her throat felt melty she placed one hand
time ago he had come home sweating after going above her eyes to shield them as they came open.
through with the sale, and when his wife saw a Quickly she flung that hand down, smacking it
net of hens against his back, slung over his shoul- against her other fingers and clapping. She
der, she swung up her apron and piled biscuits clapped, clapped, clapped until the hens danced
into it and went outside, aiming one after the off the porch.
other at the oak. For more than thirty years Rita
had been disgraced, not having an equal number “That Derb gives me hens,” she shouted. “Good
of cows as her friend Ida Mae. cows all gone.” If she clapped extra the hens
would step up their waddling and trip on the long
Over the years the eggs had become oblong un- bumpy roots of the oak in the bluish matted
derstandings between man and hen, but not be- grass. Some of their feathers swayed into the
tween his wife Rita and the whitest chicken. Eggs grooves of the tree and got stuck there. “Don't
were fragile or they were beyond that and broken he have no sense to keep a cow? His whole an-
or they were in between that and cracked. Stiff cestry,” she said and licked her lips, “ain't worth a
hay made a bed for the brown speckled ones be- twig.”
ing brought to town; the hay was in a crate with
straps for carrying. This morning the farmer set True as the rain and dirty as the mud, Derb had
out as the sun curled through the sycamores. never been seized by booklearning. He had a
Rita reached him as he kicked his first stone up hereditary mental famine. His relatives used to
the main dirt road. The hen with the rough feath- bump along in the bed of the farm truck past the
ers had mocked her by laying late, after Derb had schoolhouse. At a slow roll they eased out their
already gone. “Hold your stride, you skinny arms to pat the bark of at least forty trees toucha-
man!” Her bosom hung over the apron band and ble from where they sat on the hay bales in the
she wobbled off the grass onto the gravel with a Ford. Their fingertips would bleed on the way
single brown egg. back to the farm and their eyes would be sore
from the line of gleam they had seen on the stee-
Breathless, she dug her fist into the hay and felt ple bell.
for a spot to put Betsy Lou's eleventh-hour oval.
Warm to the touch, the egg was rather small and Same as now, Derb had been fencepost narrow as
Rita set it deep down out of sight and withdrew a boy. His teacher did not reckon that such a nar-
her hand from the scratchy hay. On the side of row human being could hold food and water and
the crate she pressed three quick pats as good learning all in the same rod of flesh. She took all
luck for the eggs; the hay sticking to her wrist the books away from him and told him not to
worry. He had grown up with his own way of
doing things, relying on his hands.
Derb could spend his time, easy he could, just “So you see, it didn't matter none that she put the
carving and learning new tricks to perform with pie down in front of him because he just looked
Son, his knife. To see the new tricks, the children glum down at it and asked why was his coffee
from the close farms would leap over lush brush cold.” Some women could say a few words while
and run through a pack of weeds, jumping over wetting the thread between their lips and some
stumps, sticks, and underground storage cellars. had to keep quiet. It all depended on their level
They would skid through the creek and get their of skill.
wet ankles caked with dirt on the backroads.
They would never run around things, but only With or without cows Rita was a better quilter
through them or overtop. When the tallest boy in than Ida Mae. Of course she wanted beasts, her
the group was able to see the Jossy farm over the own fresh milk, but homely poultry was what
next hill, he would shout for everyone to stand came up on her porch, not cows. At the end of
still and rub their ankles together until the dry dirt their visits Ida Mae would gather up her patches
flaked off. Derb could always sense that they and put them into a square box that had a floppy
were on their way and would head to the barn to rope handle: “Got to get home to my cows, dear,
find his old fashioned book strap. Without nicking and you best wait on your hens till their morning
a single binding, Son could cut the strap, and not laying, I reckon.” Rita would say, “Don't trip
one book would tumble down as it fell away. down the stairs, dear.”
The closest thing Rita had to a knife that never Once Derb had nicked a twig in the wrong place
nicked a book was a needle that always stitched a because the women had said goodbye so loudly.
quilt. Her wrists quivered while she quilted. Ar- They had been cackling about melon rinds and
thritis. It revolted against her. She would clear canning berries and then the conversation had
her throat and sigh, and with a curled fist floating stopped short. Ida Mae had hobbled down the
in the air, pull the quilt away from her bulbous stairs with her basket banging against her big
eyes. After hours of stomping fabric against one round hip, and when she had come to the tree
palm to flatten it, her fingers felt like crippled where Derb was carving a small barn, she paused
miniature elephant legs. and watched him carve the door. Then she shook
her head and said, “You fool.”
All farmwomen quilt. All farmwomen cook, tend
kitchen, wash trousers. They adore quilting over How many times had Rita said to Ida Mae You got
cooking, mending, washing, tending. the better farmer and I got my hopes washed
Ida Mae, whose pigs and geese glowed under
moonlight, lived on the next acreage twenty miles “Married a fine, finer man than yours, I reckon
south of Right Angle Farm, the Jossy’s place. Rita yes,” Ida Mae would reply. “And butter needs its
and Ida Mae quilted together on the white wood- beating if you ask me.”
en porch twice per week while they bickered
about butter. Both their great-grandmothers had Six rusty horseshoes were nailed on the wall
churned as children, winning contests. Derb usu- above the sofa. The cushions were sunken in at
ally stayed under a far off tree and paid the wom- opposite ends but the middle one was plump and
en no mind, though their voices shot to him, fresh not a bit faded. Rita sat at one end examining
and tart, and broke the peace he was feeling from what she had sewn yesterday. “Oh gee my no,”
having the warm sun on his elbow and a good she said and ripped out the stitches. She would
gray shade on the bird he was carving. He would destroy to a certain extent, and then hold herself
hear them talk about their lazy husbands and back. She moved into the kitchen and found
then they would hush. something else to do.
When something occupied a woman's hands she The Jossy home was small and simply furnished.
did her talking at the same rate as she did her The kitchen had a round wooden table and not
sewing; if she stopped to knot the thread, she much else. Through the window the sun spread
broke off her story, and the moment she poked over the biscuits that had been set aside to cool,
the needle into the fabric again she would say,
warming them again. She never felt the urge to which had cooled to her satisfaction; she tilted
break off a piece and nibble at it like some wom- the pan until half of them were piled on a blue tin
en did. Derb was out at the silo and she would plate.
send him a fat meal when the little children ar-
rived to take the tray. A boy with buck teeth and With the towel wedged in her apron she hobbled
a girl with blonde braids came each day and back to the den to take up her quilt. Everybody
tapped on the door; Rita paid them by lowering said the den was a sluggish den, a small space
gigantic cookies onto their small open hands. that would just as soon trip you to enter it as
Lately the boy had had a long face, so Rita had leave you be. The highlight of the room was a
decided that when they came today she would handmade chest. It was three-feet high and six
peek out the window. long with a farm scene on two of the three door
panels that went across the front, the middle
Within the hour she was watching them go down panel plain. The chest was under the window and
the porch steps and walk over the bumpy roots of light slanted onto it.
the oak and stop under the branches. Then the
girl kissed him and he gave her the cookie. With a Rita remembered how the woodworker and his
cookie sticking out of her pocket and one shoved son had carried the chest unevenly down the hall,
in her mouth, she walked ahead with the tray with the father's end higher than the boy's, both
while he reached up and yanked a leaf off the low of them wiping their brows when it was put down
branch, tore it in two, threw it down, and then in the den. She recalled that day clearly. Feelings
ran to catch up with her. The two children would don't die in three short years, this much she
start school next season and then Derb would knew, and not this alone, for wise folks say good
have to come up to the house for his juice and memories stack up the same way fruit in a basket
bread and pork. does. She knew why feelings did not die. It was
because a genuine feeling could not be stabbed
Into a deep copper pan with dull iron handles she by any of the organs inside of a person, on ac-
boiled a handful of flat beans. They were from count of the heart being shaped like a strawberry
last season's crop, one of the few bags left in the and just as soft.
freezer. As the water heated the pan rumbled.
It had happened three years ago, a sort of sweet
Soon she drained the pan and set the beans in a fuss, and the weather had been gray-yellow. In
bowl. She crammed corn into a metal food tub front of her stove she had stood watching the mill
and covered the kernels with water to soak out man's muscles easing the low chest through the
the silk. To poke out any remaining silk she used screen door and setting it down on one end, for
one of her longer needles. She grinned and his boy to rest. He had tipped his hat in the direc-
boiled the corn. Whenever she boiled the needle tion of the stove but his boy had not worn one
by mistake, it became shiny and warm. and had just nodded.
While the corn boiled she polished the chrome of “Watch it there—turn it thettawez, boy, that’s it,
the toaster. The toaster only heated the left slice, you’re doing fine, come on now—easy, easy—
leaving it pale and flimsy. “But that's no waste of under the window—easy, easy—thud.”
time,” she said of polishing, “for it keeps the
kitchen.” She lifted her bosom and dented her The whole town stood in their shoes. Folks used
waist to curl a towel through the apron band. the phrase standing in your shoes to mean every-
“And if a woman don't keep the kitchen, the one stopped what they were doing and hurried to
kitchen ain't kept, and then the farm folds.” some new event, driven by their own sense of
witnessing all the spunk in farm life. They arrived
By peeking over the pot through the steam at a and eyed her deluxe doll of a thing, surprised that
surface of slowly erupting bubbles she could tell the wood of an Osage orange tree could be
the corn needed to boil longer, and so she re- tamed. Rita had already filled it with spare can-
placed the lid, immediately making the rumble dles and linens and handwritten crop-planting
less loud. Singing in a high whisper she moved calendars, which a little boy happened to find
over to the counter and touched the biscuits when he tried all the doors. Then he showed his
mother the paper with all the dates on it, and she For the entire first year that the chest was in
told him to put back other folks record-keeping Rita’s possession, he had come once a week to
and hush up. stare at the empty panel, choosing to walk the
distance from his mill to their farm when it
The four short legs of the chest squatted on the poured, thundered, and the world looked purple-
rug and people were tightly packed, either stand- gray. How many times had he refused to wrap
ing or kneeling. By the way the older women himself in Rita's quilt, though he was soaked to
were angling their necks, Rita believed they were the bone? He would tip his soggy hat and go
noticing how well she had shampooed her rug, down the short hall. Kneeling on the rug, he
and was not surprised to see some odd sandals would rub the smooth panel from the top to the
pressing into the fluffiness of it. A few foreign bottom like stroking the nose of a horse. Then he
women wore small crate shoes with antler buck- would pull his hand away. Then he would thrust
les because they had come from the creek where it forward to slap his own work. When he was
they had been washing the clothes of their hus- ready to leave, the world was black, and the rain
bands, sons, and male relatives. These refugees was white against it. Putting on his wet hat he
wanted nothing to do with any modern advances would stand on the porch saying, “No, I don't
that were less precise than human hands, and for need any, thank you,” to the coffee she was hold-
some reason they referred to washing machines ing out to him, to warm him before he jumped
as small post offices. One of them removed her into the rain.
peasant shoes, knelt down, and dragged her
apron over the wood. The look on her face was For the duration of the second year, he had come
wide and smooth. If she had known the etching only once a month, on days when the sun went
would be as bumpy as a washboard she would haywire and the clouds blocked it in short spurts.
have lugged her basketful of trousers into this
room. All the damp clothes were on the porch in At the start of this year, the third since she had
the sun and she fretted they would get moldy or received the chest, Rita had wondered how often
dry wrinkled. he would come and in what kind of weather.
That was nine months ago. He had been keeping
The mill man tucked himself close to the curtain himself away. It was obvious that the prayers of
to watch everyone. The heat from the window the peasant women had not yet been answered.
came onto his shoulders. He smacked his lips For three years they had been gathering down at
together. the creek not only to wash their clothes but to
hold hands and ask God to inspire the mill man so
The woman put her shoes back on and turned to that he could finish what he had started. They
him. “Dear mill man,” she said, “you've outdone would appoint a different woman each time to
what your papa used to do.” stand on a rock and shout, “The crafty man's all
tortured, Lord, not having nothing to carve in that
All the town knew that he kept his work inside his bare, bare place. So we pray for him now be-
heart, just like he stored his tools in a sack. And cause we love our neighbor.” Most of them had
even though he loved difficult woods, he had known an empty feeling at some point in their
suffered this time, more than any other. His heart lives.
was sinking and would not stop sinking. If he had
told the woman in her awkward shoes about his To the right of the empty panel was a little wood-
sinking heart, she would have said, “You'll die en farmer with his hands on his hips surveying the
standing up,” and then she would have stamped leafy crops. Rita called him Pawnee Bill because
her feet to prove it. her great-grandmother had grown up in the Wild
West era. “My granny had me climb up and
It was Artisan Pang—that deep feeling—that hol- hear,” Rita whispered to the walls. “Folks sure
low feeling of having worked hard without reach- did call him spectacular. He even called himself
ing a level of calm love for what the wood had darn good. He was full of confidence like a cow-
become. He had given Rita Jossy the chest with boy is.”
two beautiful panels and one blank one. His mind
All alone in the den she talked out loud as if it was Putting the phone back on his ear he had shout-
good for memories to come alive once in a while. ed: “We’ll do our best to come, thank you, Rita.”
“Granny stole something of Pawnee's. His poster
right off the side of a pig farmer's barn.” Neither of them came and Rita always had the
party alone. “Oh my King of Heaven,” she would
The fabric in her lap was curling up and she roar, “I got the furniture of a queen. Sit me
stretched it out. “But the menudspit,” she said. down, somebody. Oh Lordy, sit me down.” After
“They'd spit on the tops of their boots because plopping herself on the couch she would stam-
Pawnee Bill was so handsome.” mer, “I reckon he'll come this year.”
The quilt twisted over her wrists as she threw the For the past two years the party had lasted about
lower part over her ankles. “When I was born an hour while Rita sat on the couch across from
granny wanted Pa to name me after Pawnee Bill's the chest quilting and recalling the shape of the
wife. Pa said I'm calling the girl Rita for no reason mill man's head. She knew that a man's head got
but I like Rita and want it Rita. His mama's much more oval as he got older and that a man's
mama’d seen May ride the broncs. Brave,” said face wandered between satisfied and hungry all
Rita, "like a hill knows it’s higher than you are.” his life. (His pockmarks would not have grown
deeper in nine months.) It comforted her to
She looked across the room at the chest. The know that he had the prayers of the peasants, but
farmer on the left she called Guthrie since her other than those kindhearted people, nobody
sister lived there, old and unmarried. “Guthrie,” made it their business to bless Rita's furniture. In
she said, “I've got to tell you my sister has no fact, she continued to suspect jealousy from the
pretty side.” other farmer's wives by their manner of shucking
peas in her presence; the peas would practically
Guthrie was crouching holding a hat no bigger bounce out of their bowls. The only real hope
than three watermelon seeds. It had a purpose, these other women had was that the passage of
though, a darn fool fine one. The mill man had time would weaken Rita, until she took her furni-
been trying to depict the act of fanning the un- ture for granted like the rest of them.
derbellies of two hot oxen. He had done it too
sweet precise, Rita thought, too sweet precise. It The screen door squeaked. Derb had come in
seemed that every time she kneeled on the rug from the barn's dim light to square himself in the
and got close to that hat, her eyes were swept den's jamb. His cheeks were like long pear
cool, as if the little etched man got her, too, with halves. His teeth were short and neat. He always
his dandy fanning. stopped at the door to fill his eyes with the sight
of the chest. Rita did this too but for another
In about three months she would bake a Lemon reason. From the jamb, the couch did not exist,
Lopside cake and top it with curling slivers of lem- only the chest. A person standing at the door
on rind. For the past two years she had marked bending a twig through his fingers would not have
the anniversary of the chest by driving down the seen a person sitting on the couch quilting. That
right number of candles into gooey gold frosting. twig was going to be a little ladder for a trick.
With her mouth open above the candles she
would laugh and the flames would flicker and go Derb walked into the room and sat at the oppo-
out without having been officially blown on. A site end of the couch. He put the twig in his lap
shallow dish of potato hash would be simmering while he took off his hat and set it on the plump
on the stove as she shoved the spatula into her middle cushion between them. He could see a
apron and picked up the phone. “While I’ve still sparkle in his wife's eye. He almost didn't see it,
got me some breath in this old body,” she had but then he saw it because he had to reach at his
said last year, “I'll bake that chest a cake.” She ankle and itch the bone. While tilting his head
had also said, “Bring your boy. We need a strong beside his knee, he plainly saw the sparkle in his
boy to help with the candles.” wife’s eye.
The mill man had held the phone aside to call out Rita saw Derb watching her. How different, she
to his son over the roar of the rip saws asking his thought, that he’d finally found his eyes in a hay-
boy about taking a break for a silly old party. stack.
Rita had been remembering the very last time About the Author:
when the mill man—who was almost as thin as
Derb—had squeaked in through the screen door. Lisa Brognano has two master’s degrees, one in
He had knocked, but she had kept herself so still. English and one in Art. She has taught high school
It had taken all her courage just to uncross her English and Art. Fifteen of her poems and seven-
ankles as he came down the hall. teen of her articles on the arts have been pub-
lished. Currently, she lives with her husband in
“Oh, I came to see you,” the mill man had said, New York.
standing in the jamb. “I came to touch you.”
“Well my gracious,” she’d said from the couch,
“well my gracious.”
He came into the room and saw her there, with a
spool on her knee, and his face got red because it
had been so quiet as he came down the hall. He
said, “Oh you’re sewing,” and tipped his hat.
When he took it off, the tops of his ears were red
but starting to fade to their normal color.
He turned his hat in his hands, gripping it in differ-
ent places along the rim. He thought he had been
staring at the wood nonchalantly, until she said,
“You got your eyes glued.” Then she parted her
lips in the same way a teacup is pulled away from
its saucer. “I’ve got fresh lemonade and it’s cold.”
Before he could shake his head to say no, no, I
best be getting back, she dropped the spool. He
held it out to her.
“Is it mine? You've given me so much already.
Maybe that’s why you've come. To take it all
back. Yes, I reckon you have. Do you smell my
corn loaf? I set it out to cool.”
Amanda N Jourdan
She must have had grandchildren. rake propped against the white, wooden shed,
and my stomach churned.
That was the only explanation I could offer
for the white plastic car with the blue-and-red I remembered seeing her rake the front
stripes sitting atop one of the cardboard boxes on yard last fall, gathering the spiky gumballs that
the lawn. I had never met the grandchildren, but had fallen from her trees. I remembered asking,
then again, it wasn’t as though I’d had any real at the coaxing of my parents, if she needed help.
place doing so. I had been apprehensive, not from a lack of a de-
sire to help her, but because I didn’t really know
The gray sky mirrored the despondency her or whether she would want my assistance.
that had settled within me. I folded my arms, She had politely declined and continued raking on
hiding in my sweatshirt from the chilly fall day her own, with difficulty visible even to me.
and the hollow feeling it brought with it. I turned
away from the boxes and toward the other peo- Now, I looked away from the rake, away
ple gathered; most of them were congregated from the wheelbarrow and garden hose, from the
around two central figures, one with a micro- tables and chairs and the pictures that had once
phone and the other holding a small, wooden hung on the walls of the now-empty house.
stool over his head. There was something wrong with all of this. Why
was everything being sold? Didn’t her family want
“One-dollar bill, one dollar,” said the man it?
with the microphone. He spoke so quickly that
his words slurred. My own family was standing near me. I
overheard my parents talking and noted that they
A woman near the front of the group held were looking at the woman holding the sign with
up a small white sign with the number “9” written the “9” on it. She’d amassed a small pile of items
on it in black marker, and the man with the stool from picture frames to teapots. I glanced back at
pointed to her. my father, who nodded toward the woman.
“Here in the front,” said Microphone Man. “That’s her granddaughter.”
“Two, anyone, two dollars? Two dollars two dol-
His companion pointed to someone else,
near the middle of the crowd.
“We have two. Can I get three? Three dol-
lars, three dollars?”
I turned from the scene and resumed
my gradual circle of the yard. My eyes fell on the
About the Author:
Mandi Jourdan is the co-editor of Whatever Our
Souls and the co-founder of Bloodstone Press.
She graduated from Southern Illinois University at
Carbondale with a BA in English/Creative Writing.
Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in four
anthologies by Sinister Saints Press, Aphotic
Realm, 9Tales, Digital Science Fiction, and The
Colored Lens, among others. She can be found on
Amazon and on Twitter (@MandiJourdan) or at
THE BEAUTY IN
Anders M. Svenning
Judy Tremont stroked her dying husband’s hair. cried, and remembered Halifax and St. Augustine.
Augustus had been sick for nearing five years and
now the end was near. His gray hair, combed by Those were her brightest and most vivid
Judy’s long, manicured fingernails which were memories of Augustus, and they were the memo-
feathery and light, had the ambience of a man ries by which she wished to remember him. Not
wishing to depart his shell. in this state of sickness.
Days and nights, Augustus while semi- The linoleum floor was cold under her feet
unconscious tossed in a rapture that could only and the floral wallpaper—red roses and eucalyp-
be the dance of a dying man; for, as Judy Tremont tus—was ambient and serene. Outside, snow was
watched her husband lingering on the cusp of falling, white and pleasant. She found herself fin-
death, she heard the whispering of the vast plane ishing her cup of chamomile, set the cup in the
which claimed the departed, and she feared it sink to be washed, and went upstairs to Augus-
and loathed it. She thought if Augustus knew how tus’s side, the hardwood flooring creaking, the
close he was to death, which was to her so near house settling, and then she sat on the edge of
that it sent shivers up her spine and put goose- the bed and sang:
bumps on her skin. She thought not; no, he did
not know, this poor man, this collection of flesh, The road is open, for the men
how close he was to the everlasting.
who walk alone, but for a time
She stoked his hair and cooed him. He
turned over by the will of a weightless spirit, his with them are the songs of tragedienne.
eyes open and moist, and told her in a voice frail
and final that he loved her. Augustus Tremont The blood had run from Augustus’s face and his
died, his eyes closed, and his breath let out, moist face was pale and peaceful. Her song went un-
and thick onto Judy’s face. Judy could hear the heard. She could not even hear the words; it was
tea kettle singing. She was making tea for herself as if her voice were a ways away.
and would try to have Augustus drink a little. But,
he was gone; the tea kettle whistled and she went She lay down in bed and went to sleep. A
downstairs, leaving her departed husband on his vague presence then filled her senses. She knew
deathbed, went into the kitchen, and poured her- she was asleep, but she could distinguish a person
self a cup of chamomile. The sweet chamomile in the room. The person walked from the door-
filled her sinuses and pores. She would have to way to Augustus’s side and it seemed—no, it
call someone—the hospital, the morgue. But, that felt—as if the man took something from Augus-
could wait. Now, she wanted to drink chamomile tus’s front pajama pocket and deposited it in the
and sit and think for a while before she went man’s own. The sallow apparition continued out
upstairs and stoked Augustus’s hair some more, of the room, descended the staircase, went into
the kitchen, and by some form of sentience Judy
knew he had a cup of chamomile and disap-
peared, vanished into the ethereal substance
from which he came.
Judy’s eyes opened and it was night. The snow but she knew she would tell Betty because she
continued to fall and was accumulating on the was a friend and a good friend at that.
window sill. Before long she closed her eyes and
fell into a sound sleep. “It happened yesterday evening,” said Ju-
She studied the inside of her closed eye-
lids. While sleeping, she became conscious and “A tragedy, but life is the obstacle, not
felt Augustus’s body warm beside hers. He was death.”
lying on his back. Dreaming but aware, she
thought of the sallow man, Augustus, and the Judy wished she agreed. It seemed some-
morning, and she felt Augustus’s body become how selfish of her to think that she was robbed of
light and cool, and then felt it rise up and exit Augustus, that he deserved more time on Earth,
through the window; she thought the room but who was she? A woman, simple, plain, and a
smelled of firewood. She awoke to the light of widow.
day, turned over, and noticed that Augustus’s
body was still there. She would have to make a “You have the best tea, Judy, I assure you.
phone call. The best tea.”
Downstairs, the chamomile tasted good, Judy got her tea from the same apothecary
the room spacious. her whole life. A small place downtown that was
an emporium of herbs and holistic, natural medi-
Judy Tremont made two phone calls that cine, which for the life of her Judy had no idea
morning, the first to her friend Betty Silverman how to administer. It was captivating—the jars of
and the second to Bethesda Hospital North. She herbs like sarsaparilla, dried rose buds, and valeri-
sat in the kitchen waiting for her friend to arrive an root. But, she stuck with her chamomile not
and though the lingering presence she had felt just because it tasted good, but because it was
the night before was still in her memory, she the only herb she knew anything about in the
knew it was only a thought, a hallucination. What whole store. Walking into Mary’s Apothecary, one
more could it be? An angel? By God, did she be- was taken by the subtle scents of herbs, which to
lieve in the supernatural? She thought she better Judy seemed a sort of mystical occurrence, the
start believing if she wanted to see her beloved olfactory particles and motes of light absorbed in
again and she poured another cup of chamomile. the furtive ambience, the collected botanics.
This was her third cup this morning. It was near-
ing ten A.M. Judy took a sip of her chamomile, which
was still hot. A sense of recalcitrance went
The doorbell rang, Judy went to the front door, through her. She had invited Betty, but something
and opened it. Betty Silverman stood there with a was far too ordinary about the scenario, as if this
bouquet of roses in her hand and her pocketbook Sunday morning were a day straight out of a
on her shoulder. Snow was falling and clung to cache of normality. It was far from normal. Au-
her shoulders and hair. gustus was dead and there was nothing she could
do about it.
“Come in,” said Judy.
Betty Silverman was saying something, but
“Bless you, Judy, bless you. If this isn’t a Judy did not hear her and spoke sharp and loud
day for blessings, I don’t know what is.” so that Betty would cease her attempts and prov-
ocations of closure and philosophy, and said, “I
“Chamomile?” had a dream.”
“Please.” “A dream?” said Betty Silverman. “A good dream
or a bad dream?”
She poured a cup of tea for her lifelong
friend and contemplated telling her of the dreams Judy said, “I don’t know, but a dream.”
she had had. She somehow felt compelled to
keep it a secret, as if those types of dreams were “Well? Do tell.”
meant for the dreamer and the dreamer alone,
Judy looked into her teacup and saw fila-
ments of chamomile floating in the yellow liquid.
“I was lying in bed next to Augustus and it felt as and she noted the sarcasm. It would take an orac-
though somebody came into the room and took ular someone to get through to the youth of this
something out of his pocket, went downstairs, age, she thought, and led them up the stairs,
had a cup of tea, and then was gone. I felt Augus- which creaked and groaned. Judy opened the
tus’s body rise and exit the bedroom window and white wooden door and she saw Augustus, peace-
that was it.” ful in bed where she had left him. “There he is,”
she said. “Be careful with him.”
“Dear God. You poor thing.”
“We will, miss,” said the other of the two.
“It was homely and nice and I didn’t feel “You don’t have to stay here and watch. We’ll be
afraid. I woke up, had a cup of tea, and called quick and we won’t touch anything.” The bigger
you. And then I called Bethesda Hospital North.” of the two men opened up the stretcher and said,
“One, two,” and on three they picked up Augus-
“Dear God. You poor thing.” tus, whose head lolled to the side and Judy
thought he looked heavy, old, and quite lifeless.
“And then you arrived in what seemed His sumptuous head was leaving this house for
sixty seconds later.” the last time and she would never stroke his hair
again in the same way, in the way she had stoked
“Dear God.” Betty Silverman gaped at Judy it twelve hours ago, when he said his final words
and Judy could tell she was trying to think of to her, subtle, airy, and warm. The two men
something to say but nothing would come up. heaved Augustus Tremont down the stairs. Judy
watched the ambulance drive away through the
Judy finished her chamomile, got up from snow. She went back into the kitchen to find
the kitchen table, and set the cup in the sink. Betty Silverman waiting at the kitchen table. The
cups had been washed and put away and Betty
“I’d say it’s a miracle, an angel. He’s in seemed eager to speak but said nothing. Judy
heaven. He must be.” sensed Betty’s trying to use her seeming and in-
nate ableness to enliven the moment as if it were
“He was a good man.” one of her beaus but Betty did not say anything
“You poor thing.”
“If you are so inclined,” Judy said, “would you like
Judy felt patronized. Perhaps a lifetime of being to go for a walk?”
alone and sleeping with men half your age, a ten-
dency of Betty Silverman, came with its egotism. “It’s snowing,” Betty said, “but sure. I think
Judy Tremont did not judge her friend—she never a walk would be good about now.”
had—but something in the way she said it, “You
poor thing,” made Judy’s heart skip, as if the de- Judy dressed according to the weather—a
parted were trying to communicate. Maybe it was heavy coat, red scarf, and earmuffs Augustus had
a good thing to have Betty here, she thought. She bought her for her birthday years ago—and they
keeps me company until Bethesda Hospital North went outside into what was becoming a clear
gets here and then she will leave and I will take a afternoon. I’m going to need to reorder my life,
bath, a cool bath to cleanse myself. I will go for a Judy thought, thinking Augustus was her center
walk in the evening through the snow and feel and that her life was for him. Restart with an
Augustus beside me as if we were in our twenties ubiquitous happiness that no death can collapse.
again, and then I’ll come home, have tea, and The wind blew the snowfall into a frenzy and it
relax, and then I’ll go to sleep and imagine Augus- was too cold to go for a walk, but what else was
tus was there with me. there to do? The house was empty, quiet, as if
disorder had been vaporized and an uncanny
The door bell rang. lightness took its place.
“It must be Bethesda Hospital North,” Judy That was what death was, Judy reflected. A
said, and it was. transposition of order and disorder, the Universe
taking responsibility for its own actions, its own
“Where is the corpse?” asked a young man
in blue scrubs.
“Augustus is upstairs in his bed,” said Judy,
virile phenomenon. Virile, under her feet, the from youth radiated through him, Father taking
snow crunched, crisp, and Judy thought, God, him fishing along the Hudson River, Father show-
how unearthly. ing him how to throw a baseball, experiences
idiosyncratic and youthful.
The only son of Judy Tremont lived in Chi-
cago, Illinois. He received a call from work at four Now, a definite tear separated him and his
in the afternoon. It was the third phone call Judy father. Not just one, Franklin thought, but two.
Tremont made that day. “I’ll be down tomorrow,” One: the scape between the living and the de-
Franklin Tremont said. “I’ll catch the morning parted. And two: five hundred miles between
flight.” He had not visited his home state of New Chicago, Illinois and upstate New York.
York for over ten years and had not kept in close
contact with his parents. He called only on birth- Boarding the 757, Delta flight 3019B, he was
days and Christmas, but he loved his parents very breaching the easier and more immediate of the
much to the extent that any son would and they two fissures. In about two hours, he would land in
received his calls with open hearts and they were Laguardia Airport, rent a car, and drive north
on good terms ever since he moved to the Windy three hours to arrive in the small town of Carmel,
City. Two wives and two kids later, Franklin Trem- New York.
ont was just starting to realize what his first and
immediate family meant to him. It was too late. Carmel reabsorbed him upon his arrival; it
Too late to get to know his father, Augustus rekindled a lost childhood that was once so real
Tremont, on a more intimate level. The first reac- to Franklin Tremont and it redefined him. The
tion he had upon hearing of his father’s death brisk air of Carmel was not like Chicago’s. Here,
was guilt and remorse. He never believed in God. you breathed and Carmel breathed back. It was a
God was like a breeze that tousled his hair and jovial reciprocity that tended toward the notion
went on to greater things, Franklin thought, and Franklin was having in recent months—take the
that was not to say he was not philosophical or kids out of Chicago. It was realistic, finding a job
thoughtful on the subject. Eighteen years of Sun- in the City, commuting the three hours from Car-
days left a pretty real taste in his mouth regarding mel to New York and being closer to his parents;
the Holy Trinity, the trifecta that was going to now, just one parent, his mother, who when she
deliver his soul to Heaven and had delivered his called seemed laconic and at the same time ap-
father’s not twenty-four hours ago. prehensive.
Now, he drank wine in the evenings when Franklin Tremont pulled up to the familiar
he got home from work and over dinner prepared house, the house in which he grew up, and turned
for him and his sons by his wife, Trish, but it did off the rental. He walked to the front door. His
not signify the blood of Christ and the bread he breath was visible. He breathed out fumes of
ate was not His body, and when he closed his warmth, steam. He knocked on the mahogany
eyes at night thinking of tomorrow’s coffee, door. Judy Tremont opened it and did not smile.
breakfast, Trish and his two sons, one five years She did not waver nor did she look inviting. She
old, the other six, he fell into sleep so deep it was looked sick.
Judy thought her son, thirty-five years old,
Everlasting life was not a hopeful notion to looked in his heavy coat with the collar turned up
Franklin as it was to many Catholics throughout ostentatious. Yes, she reflected, he looks like he’s
the world, it was fact. Like a drop in a bucket, life from Chicago; a city boy we seem to have raised.
and willpower oscillated out like ripples and be-
came one with the greater entity that was the “Hi, Ma.”
Universe. He did not converse on topics such as
religion. A modest man, Franklin Tremont, was Judy moved to the side and said, “Come in
quiet and kept to himself and as he saw it power out of the cold. It’s freezing and you’re letting the
was in silence. An idea gained momentum and heat out.”
substantiality that way. It was physics and
he knew he had the right idea. Iconoclast images Franklin Tremont moved from the out-
doors to the warmth of his childhood home. He
took off his coat and hung it on the coat hanger.
“Glad to see you got here in one piece. How was Christmas and down there was only heat and
the flight?” greaseballs.” He was trying to make his mother
laugh. She was not biting. “In all actuality,” he
“It was swell, Ma, swell.” said, “we have it the best up here, where there
are seasons. You like the seasons, don’t you? The
“Would you like some tea?” change?”
“Coffee?” “Yes, sure, honey. I like the seasons.” Judy
was far off, thinking about the man she had mar-
“Haven’t any.” ried, the never-ending laughter and warmth, and
thought of his body in the morgue with the other
“Shucks.” bodies, ichor and insects, and said, “You know, I
was hoping he would outlast me. That sounds
“How long will you be staying?” selfish, doesn’t it? That I would go first.”
“I’ll be leaving tomorrow afternoon.” “No, it isn’t,” Franklin said. “That’s hu-
man.” A serpentine shiver slithered up his spine.
“That’s okay.” “Don’t be ashamed. Some people around the
world celebrate death, like the Mexicans.”
“How are you feeling?”
“I don’t want to hear about Mexicans,”
“Cold and brittle.” Judy said. She then let out an elephantine trum-
pet laugh and tears started coming from her eyes.
“It’s good to be home,” Franklin said. “The “I remember when we got you that jacket for
circumstances could be a little better.” Christmas, the one with green stripes on it and
how Augustus said it looked so girly.”
“Come into the kitchen, Frank. Welcome
home.” Judy sat at the kitchen table. She had a “I remember that jacket,” said Franklin.
cup of chamomile. “Augustus is gone,” she said. “Dad took it out of my closet when I was asleep
“But, it was a long time coming. That was the and donated it to the Salvation Army. I liked that
worst of my problems, seeing him in that state. jacket.”
Now, all I have to worry about is my osteoporosis
and my orthopedic well being.” Attentiveness exchanged places with mel-
ancholy in Judy’s eyes. Franklin noticed color
“Do you have pain?” coming into her cheeks like she was blushing and
was revitalized by the change. If it was one thing
“Every day.” Franklin could not ascertain it was if his mother’s
life would better or worsen now that his father
“Rats.” was gone. She took care of him five years
throughout his sickness and yet avoided attrition.
“Betty Silverman was here earlier when
they took Augustus away. You remember Betty, “Everything is going to be all right,” Franklin said.
“Oh, I know everything is going to be all
He remembered her well. The feline eyes right,” Judy said. She sounded a bit absconding.
and straight teeth. He felt by her, however, a little “Oh, I’ve been so astute throughout this whole
put off, as if she had a sort of innate vanity. “I time and finally he’s left me.”
remember her. How is she?”
Franklin Tremont thought of fate. Some
“Verbose, as usual.” people wished the departed luck and went about
their lives with glee. Some did not. Some clung to
“Typical. I remember the last time I saw the departed and felt stark avarice all the while.
Betty. God, it must be twenty years ago now. We “Do you still go to church?” Franklin asked.
went to a museum in the City. I forget which. She
told me she was envious of Nefertiti.” Judy said, “No.”
“That sounds like Betty. She’s always got
an eye out for who’s better or worse off.”
“Like that one time she went down to Is-
lamorada for Christmas and came back saying
it was the worst time of her life. She liked a white
Franklin thought of his first girlfriend. She sang in expanse before her eyes opened into exquisite
the church choir; she was an alto and sang well. If fear, which was bordered by loneliness and apa-
it was one thing his mother needed it was sound, thy. She felt guilt and embraced it for the lack of
music, something to keep away the silence. “I’m Augustus’s body and remembered a present Au-
going to get you a stereo system.” gustus had bought her for no reason at all, just
because he loved her and wanted to see her
“A stereo system? I don’t want one.” smile—a tapestry with a green woodsy scene, a
deer drinking from a stream. She could not re-
“It’s going to be so quiet in here. You need member why she did not like it. It was something
something, some music, something. I’m going to from Augustus. She should have been happy and
get you a stereo system with six disk changer and accepting, shown that she liked it when she did
you can listen to Edith Piaf, how does that sound? not. The tapestry hung above the mantle for two
In 2016 Anno Domini.” weeks before she took it down, rolled it up, and
placed in the garage. Augustus never mentioned
“I don’t know how to work a stereo sys- it. He must have thought it trivial, a bygone throe
tem.” that his wife must have been experiencing regard-
ing the tapestry. Women, he must have thought,
“It’s easy. You don’t even need an allen and ten years later he would roll over in bed and
wrench.” breath in Judy’s face his final words, a spiritual
telecommunication between two aged and im-
“Okay. Buy me a stereo system and I’ll perfect lovers.
listen to Edith Piaf.”
Judy opened her eyes. The digital clock read 2:32
“That’s more like it. Something to alleviate A.M. She was not tired. However, she was. She
the silence.” wanted the morning to come so she could have a
reason to rise and drink tea. The Earth claimed
The total stillness of night shook Judy everybody, downtrodden as was its nature. Time
Tremont with abrasiveness. Franklin was in his was the only factor, the when and where and
childhood bedroom. She could not get to sleep. how of death. Not the if. No, not the if, she
The room was warm and she felt well but the thought. Not the if. Judy had a subtle but provok-
silence and the empty spot beside her kept her ing grasp on death; she knew the material body
cold. She lay on her back, her eyes closed. Judy was just that—material—and that when it died
saw images flash by in her mind’s eye. The Statue the mind expanded into the realm of whatever
of Liberty. Augustus, twenty-five years of age. It inclination the individual had in store—intellect,
was eerie and noiseless. creativity. She remembered her youth while lying
in bed. How inferior she felt to the other girls be-
Judy did not think of herself in all her sev- fore she started reading Plath and Shakespeare.
enty-six years of life as a victim. Now, the melo- That was her first awakening. Literature. And
drama of victimization sifted into her like a winter then, her second realization was that she was a
chill. It was uncomfortable and she was uneasy. stickler for “good boys.” One night of Everclear
The friends of her youth still had their husbands with Ray Richards in 1945 was all she needed to
save Rita Purcell, a childhood friend who lost her figure that out. Augustus came along in 1950 and
husband to massive stroke and never remarried. she knew she found a real man. She found, in
Judy remembered the incident well. She thought youth, boys debilitating; and Augustus seemed to
it would be quite simple for Rita. Rita Purcell was alleviate some pressure and the mystery of sex
young then and could remarry. But, the postmor- became a very real thing and she started stand-
tem depression was too much. She skulked and ing, her back erect, with more confidence after
was not seen often henceforth. Judy Tremont meeting Augustus, a sense of pride in her bones,
feared the same would happen to her. She did which now had grown frail and porous. Youth had
not want to fall out of camaraderie. I should start been a noble venture, she reflected, it nearing
attending church, she thought; and then dis- now 3 A.M.
missed the thought as desperate and sappy.
What travesty death was. It came and it went,
coldhearted. It left nothing in return. The depart-
ed were the departed and that was that. The dark
Insofar as reminders, she had behind her home a watched Franklin. He was the victor. She had suc-
dense wood through which Franklin used to play cumbed to his wishes. She did not want the ste-
in his youth, a gentle stream not one hundred reo in her house and thought that Augustus and
yards east of the home. Fish were far from insuffi- Augustus only was the envoy to happiness.
cient in that stream. Many times Augustus took
Franklin there to fish. They caught trout. Some- Franklin stood. “Piaf was debutante.”
times they caught nothing. But Franklin always
came back with a smile on his face, sat at the “I don’t know what that means,” Judy said.
kitchen table after fishing, and had a cup of hot
chocolate. “Just listen. You know this song.”
Lying in bed, she thought if Franklin re- She did. It was one of her favorite Edith
membered the poems he used to write. He must, Piaf songs, “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” She felt
she thought. There was shoebox full of old poems like crying. She did not want to cry in front of
he had written. They would comprise a tome if Franklin. He was so wrapped up in his stereo sys-
they were put in one book. She had no clue tem. A sham. Augustus’s headstone was occupy-
where she had put that shoebox and thought ing her thoughts. They bought two adjoining plots
somewhere in this big house was a plethora of at the local cemetery. Augustus was being laid to
childish verse and made a mental note to search rest next week. “Franklin, are you coming to the
the abode for them, to resurrect her son. She funeral?”
could not deny it. Franklin had become a man of
honor. But, there was, she realized, this day, a He paused “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” “Of
certain innocence lost; a tentativeness that she course. Trish and the two kids will be there, too.”
loved in him was gone. He was full of witticisms
and idioms. “Good, because I don’t want be alone in a
big cold cemetery with Betty Silverman, Rita Pur-
Teleportation to better times and better places. cell, and the priest. I don’t want to think you’ve
Death, youth. It made no difference. People forgotten us.”
changed and people never did. She was en-
sconced and so was Franklin by Augustus’s death. Franklin had the intention of buying a bouquet of
How ensconced they were there was no telling. chartreuse daisies and laying them on the grave.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” he said, and started up the
Franklin Tremont searched his pockets for Piaf song again. A precocious wave, compassion,
the instruction manual of a one-hundred and took Franklin to his mother and he held her tight.
eighty watt stereo system, now installed in Judy It was as if he were willing away the apathy, a
Tremont’s living room. “It’s simple,” Franklin said, deportation.
“once you get used to it.”
Judy had already picked out the casket, an
Judy was standing poised, observing Frank- ebony casket, which would house Augustus. The
lin. He was fiddling with the six CD changer. From previous night, she had come to a realization. She
the garage, he had gotten all her CDs. There were wanted nothing of the world. That morning she
few. Sinatra, Ravel, and of course Piaf. He put in a unhooked her phone. She was not expecting calls.
CD and hit play. Piaf’s voice came in over the And she did not want absentminded calls from
speakers. some telemarketer to off-end her meditative train
of thought. But, the fear remained with the reali-
“How’s that for sound?” Franklin asked. zation. She yearned for a sense of transparency; a
means to elevate. She caught herself the previous
Judy stood, apprehensive. She had not night thinking about the emasculation of saints—
listened to music in years. that was her last thought before sleep—and a
feeling, delinquent and apathetic, overcame her
“The silence would debilitate you,” Frank- upon waking, a feeling that attempted to destroy
lin said. oscillating memories, Augustus, strong tea and
snowfall and warm clothes, the memories actual-
Judy did not speak. She stood, listened, ized and quite captivating.
and shifted her weight one foot to the other and
She had dreamt of villas that morning before
waking and titivating chateaus, which danced in
her vision like illusions. The finality of seasons,
children prancing and birds flocking. Picturesque
and taunting, the image stayed for many seconds
and she wanted to penetrate into the expanse
and dillydally in the garden. Eloquent clouds were
vivid in her dream and held substance, as if they
could congeal into Godhead and defeat, eviscer-
ate any foe, any villain that came to pass. Judy
had met her deadline. Fate was showing her this
stable and perfect vision and she made a pact in
that dream with herself that she would not tell
anybody about it—there was now only the inevi-
tability that she traverse into and evoke within
these illustrious memories before they did evapo-
About the Author:
Anders M. Svenning was born in New York, New
York. He started writing seriously at the age of
nineteen and has now been published in many
literary magazine throughout the United States
and abroad. Some of the most recent include The
Wagon Magazine, Siren’s Call, and Futures Trad-
ing. Anders currently lives in Palm City, Florida. He
is the author of short story collec-
tion Nonpareil (Tule Fog Press).
Jeanne DeWitt Voorhees
Mabel Hopkins and Norman Chadwick tied the Mabel had a steady job as the most efficient sec-
knot on November 23, 1981. The wedding was at retary the headmaster of the nearby St. Phillip’s
the Hopkins family homestead, then occupied by Episcopal prep school had ever had the good for-
Mabel’s Uncle Willie, the snuff king of Ryefields, tune to hire. She also coached all the school plays.
Mass. A crony of Willie’s, a justice of the peace, The headmaster, the Reverend Mark Goodwill,
performed the ceremony. Norman never went to was fond of repeating that the school would fall
church, and wouldn’t countenance a church wed- apart without her, even as he reluctantly parted
ding. with the modest salary she browbeat him into
Most of the people in the community of
Ryefields thought it was a match made in Heaven Once she and Norman had become a perma-
and said so, in the various sidewalk and over-the- nent item, Mabel quit her job. After three weeks
fence discussions that were a mainstay of village training her replacement at St. Phillip’s to her
mythmaking. Thirty years old and alone in the exacting standards, she threw herself into the
world (except for Uncle Willie on Mabel’s side), peach business. Soon she was turning out peach
Mabel and Norman had found each other. chutney, peach preserves, and peach pie for Nor-
man’s farm stand. Mabel was a real go-getter.
No one knew much about Norman, except that
his father, Zeke, had been the sole surviving off- From his grandfather, Norman had inherited the
spring of Luke and Norma Chadwick, and had left orchard and the panel truck, as well as a tired old
Ryefields some forty years previously after some house that eased in a westerly direction. Mabel
kind of argument. No one really knew what it was couldn’t wait, she said, to get her hands on the
about, but rumors abounded. Zeke had had no tilting house and re-do it from cellar to attic—just
more contact with his parents that the town was the two of them, working together, one room at a
aware of. Then one day, a couple of years after time, starting with the kitchen which carried the
Luke and Norma died together in their sleep, Nor- same pervasive, too-sweet smell of overripe
man had just drifted into town from somewhere peaches as the van. Mrs. Plaisted, who held court
out west to take up the reins of his grandfather’s at the combined grocery-post office, had been
work. He’d settled in smoothly to tend the fair- heard to remark that even Granddad Chadwick’s
sized peach orchard, hauling his produce to Bos- coffin had smelled peachy.
ton himself, in his 1963 Ford Econoline panel
truck which smelled faintly of fermenting peach- For the wedding party, Mabel made corsages
es. He sold the surplus at a busy roadside stand in out of white rayon flowers with little ribbon
front of the house. Off season, when he wasn’t streamers on which she lettered “Mabel and Nor-
pruning peach trees, he canned the snuff with man” and the date. She made vases from Orangi-
Willie, which was how his acquaintance with Ma- na bottles to set on the card tables in Willie’s
bel had shifted into overdrive. front parlor for the reception. She made flowers
for the vases out of fabric scraps and discarded been on the eve of her wedding. She’d moved
telephone wire, carefully matching fabrics with most of her belongings to Norman’s house earli-
the colored wires. Mabel just reveled in creating er. The new tenants moved into her apartment
beauty out of throwaways. She was ahead of her the next morning, as she left for Willie’s, and Nor-
time on the recycle trail. Mrs. Plaisted was sure, man collected her antique spool bed to replace
she told her husband, that Mabel would soon find the one Granddad and Grandma Chadwick had
a use for all those peach pits. died on. Now, she didn’t feel, somehow,
Mabel’s church friends and academic associ- As if she belonged in Norman’s sunset-drawn
ates, Willie’s lodge brothers, Norman’s wholesal- house, even if he didn’t appear to have returned.
ers and Grange cohorts—just about the whole
town—turned out, the women to cry at the wed- Willie gave her space…and Norman’s old job,
ding and the men to make off-color jokes at the drying and packing the snuff. Mabel, however,
reception. discovered that she was allergic to snuff. She’d
never spent much time around it before. The mi-
They went to Cape Cod for the honeymoon. nute she set foot in the barn, where the snuff was
Norman bought Mabel a little prism. She hung it drying, she began to sneeze. She couldn’t even
from the rearview mirror of his old Ford Econo- park her car in the barn. She sneezed when she
line to remind them of the sunshine that would unloaded Willie’s work clothes from the hamper.
fill their lives. It swung back and forth, beaming And she sneezed at noon when he came in and
out rainbows as they drove. sat opposite her at the table in the clothes he
refused to change for lunch.
Three days into the honeymoon, while Mabel
was out on the beach collecting shells to glue on Willie told her she was next to useless if she
mirrors and picture frames, Norman left…took off couldn’t work with the snuff. His was a small but
in his ancient Ford Econoline with the Cadillac thriving business, with orders from Tupelo to Tas-
emblem welded to the grille and the Fleetwood mania. He was damned, he said, if he’d pay her
insignia on the rear door where it should have for the housekeeping—after all, he was giving her
said Ford. He’d done a professional job, filling in room and board free. Besides all that chatter of
the holes from the Ford logo with fiberglass, then hers bored him silly.
painting over them. He left a note, pinned to the
pillowcase with a tie tack Mabel had decorated Mabel left.
for him with a tiny periwinkle shell. He didn’t real-
ly like shells, he said, he was sorry, she kind of Her old job with the headmaster was, of course,
bored him. filled, and she didn’t feel up to looking for anoth-
er. Instead, she packed up her clothing and art
He took the traveler’s checks. supplies—the same gear and the same suitcase
that had travelled to Cape Cod and back— and
Mabel couldn’t believe it: boring? She belonged leaving the rest of her belongings at Willie’s, she
to the Book of the Month Club; she read the went to live at Sol Pine’s Cabin Community on the
Christian Science Monitor every day; she Kept Up. edge of town. At first, she went through a low
period, where she just sat in her cabin. Sol gave
First, she sat stunned. Then she wept. Finally, her a weekly discount because it wasn’t the tour-
she wired her great uncle for bus fare back to ist season, and he paid her for cleaning the cabins
Ryefields. The bus only went to Newburyport. he did rent. When she wasn’t cleaning cabins,
She cried the whole trip. Willie was too busy with which was most of the time, she sat and ran a
the snuff to come and get her, so she spent the little wind-up plastic ladybug across the scarred
last of her ready cash on a cab and a box of Kleen- and be-ringed bureau top. Back and forth it went,
ex. She cried all the way to Ryefields, too, with buzzing furiously, slowly sliding one foot forward,
the cab driver trying to comfort her. then the other.
She went to her uncle’s because she really had She went to the Congregational Church every
nowhere else to go. Her last night in her Sunday, as she always had, with her head held
cute little apartment over Bill Carson’s garage had
high. She could feel them whispering about Nor- Now and then, in a burst of her old spirit, she
man leaving her before the marriage was a week made cute little cards, decorated with watercolor
old. “Tossed out before she had a chance to grow flowers and the shells she’d brought back from
stale,” they joked. She overheard similar com- Cape Cod. Amid the shells and flowers, she wrote
ments. The joke was on them: Norman thought directions for operating the Community’s various
she’d already gone stale. Norman thought she machines: Coke, ice, washing. She wrote detailed
was a bore. Attending the regular women’s Circle instructions for removing the commonest stains
meetings, but couldn’t think of anything to add to from travel-ravaged clothes, and posted them
the talk. “What do you think, Mabel?” Smile, nod, beside the clothes racks of every musty cabin. She
shrug. She didn’t want to bore them. So, she said was a regular Heloise of the working-class travel-
nothing. She avoided eyes in general now. er.
Soon, though, she was bored herself, going to Sol stuck non-skid vinyl flowers on the bottoms
those meetings and never saying a word. She sat of all the bathtubs, and Mabel wrote:
in self-incarcerating silence, drinking her coffee
and choking down the driest cakes she’d ever “These daisies have a calling;
eaten. She didn’t remember any of the Women’s
Circle members ever making such dry cakes: choc- They won’t do you harm;
olate sawdust, marble sawdust and lemon saw-
dust, all dryer than memory. She drank gallons of They keep you from falling,
coffee, just to swallow the cakes.
And breaking your arm.”
Then she’d go back to Sol’s and wind up the
ladybug. Norman had completely vanished. He didn’t
even show up in Ryefields when the holiday sea-
She tried the toy on every surface of the cabin. son began its inexorable approach. It occurred to
She lay flat on the carpet, chin on the floor, to get Mabel that someone should drain the pipes at his
an eye-level view of the creature’s performance. house. She still thought of it as his house. It was
It didn’t work so well on the carpet because of no concern of hers. Norman, wherever he was,
the worn spots, and the cigarette burns. It would should have thought of that. Maybe the heat was
move slowly across the low pile, its high-pitched on. Maybe there was fuel. Maybe there was a
buzz becoming the mow of a petulant cat as it fuel bill. Who would pay it, she wondered. Maybe
labored over a scuffed spot. Mabel strained with Mrs. Plaisted had looked after all that. Maybe
it, willing it to move on. On the tile of the bath- she herself would check on it. Sometime.
room floor, the ladybug tended to slip. She could-
n’t quite get down to its level, either; the room She continued to go to church, sitting in the
was too small for her to stretch out. Once, she back pew and beating a quick exit after the bene-
cracked her head on the basin while straightening diction. On the first Sunday of Advent, a family
up to rewind the ladybug. group lit the candles on the Advent wreath during
the service. In a few years, it might have been
So the bureau became its racecourse. She could Norman and Mabel and a couple of little Chad-
crouch on the floor, her nose resting on the bu- wicks. Not now. By the third Sunday, she couldn’t
reau top, eyes following the whirring creature bear to watch another family group lighting the
that proved to her that something in this world candles. She stayed in her cabin. She stopped
still moved at her command. She made bets with going to church altogether. She’d had enough of
herself. Could she wind it enough to make it go the sideways glances, and pity enough for herself,
from the scorch mark to the tumbler ring without didn’t need anyone else’s. She summoned up
over winding? She developed a fear of over wind- enough of her old self to set up the tree in the
ing. With the second hand of her no-nonsense church narthex for the Sunday school to decorate.
Timex, she timed its plodding from the carved It was her traditional job, and Mabel felt the tug
initials “LJL + PRL” to the mark that looked like of responsibility. But she didn’t stay to chat or
dried blood—was it L’s or P’s, she wondered. answer any nosy queries.
Probably cough syrup.
Sally and Sol invited her to Christmas dinner
at their house. She said she was spending the day
with Willie. They pretended to believe her. Willie “Oh, Mabel, we missed you,” the Reverend
never celebrated Christmas, although he always Goodwill’s missus gushed in January.
sent her a card signed, “Uncle WM.” He usually
went hunting, season or not. But Mabel had al- Did they? She skipped more meetings. By late
ways had her Christmas family of St. Phillip’s January, she ceased her church activities altogeth-
boys; she had been Mother Christmas to those er. She stopped setting her hair. She sat and
students who were unable to go home, wrapping watched the ladybug buzzing and sliding across
a gift for each, and cooking up a traditional New the bureau top. It had an almost unquenchable
England Christmas dinner. Her cornbread and vitality once she’d wound it up. She was winding
sweet red pepper stuffing was renowned. all her own juices into the ladybug. None left over
It became a chore for Mabel to clean cabins on
Wednesday mornings then shower and do her Some people still called, reluctant to give up on
hair and dress for Women’s Circle. Her friends her, but fewer and fewer now. Mabel had head-
would all be chatting about Christmas, a magpie aches, a cold, an allergy, too much work. Finally,
chorus of gifts, shopping complete and incom- the calls trickled to a stop. She had to get ahold of
plete, menus, husbands, mothers, sisters, nieces. herself, the neighbors said. She’s not the first
But mostly husbands. woman to be jilted or whatever, even if it was on
It was the Christmas season when Mabel had
always come into her own. She’d shown up at An editor from a small newspaper, who hap-
meetings in the past laden with new decorations pened to stay the night at the Cabin Community
made from pine cones and milkweed pods, felt while researching alternatives to glossy motels,
scraps and bottle caps or slightly used wrapping saw her signs and spot-remover advice. He asked
paper. This year, Mabel had no ideas. The shower her to write a neatness and cleaning column for
stall poetry had been her swan song. Mabel’s his newspaper. He liked her folksy style. Mabel
creative talents had up and vanished along with did not think she was folksy. “Do it, Mabel,” said
Norman. Sol’s wife, Sally. “It will give you a new interest.”
“Mabel, didn’t you bring anything?” someone “Maybe,” said Mabel, and scuttled back to the
asked, trying to make the situation appear nor- ladybug. She wound it quickly, and as quickly for-
mal. got the editor.
Mabel chewed on a forkful of dry pound cake. Sometime around ground hog’s day, Mabel no-
ticed her hands. The skin was scaly. Her wedding
“Thought you’d have saved some of those ring shone form behind cracked knuckles, mock-
peach pits,” Mrs. Plaisted said with thinly dis- ing her. Why hadn’t she removed it? She tried,
guised glee. Mabel swallowed, yawned and swal- but her knuckles were swollen from the cleaning
lowed again. work and lack of attention. She held them out,
momentarily divorcing them from her own body.
“Advent calendars, did you make one this Whose hands were they? They weren’t Mabel
year?’ the sexton’s wife interjected desperately. Hopkins’s hands; they were Mabel Chadwick’s.
That’s where they came from, from the futile,
Mabel gulped coffee, swallowed again, and quiet Mabel who had supplanted Mabel Hopkins.
shook her head. She left early. The women agreed Mabel Hopkins had lovely hands, everyone said
that they’d tried everything they could, Mabel so.
was just a lost cause. No one wanted to suggest a
psychiatrist. “You have beautiful hands,” the Headmaster
used to say, watching the pale ovals tap dance
On Christmas morning, she drove over to across the typewriter keys. The nails that mes-
Willie’s, entered by the cellar door, and spent the merized her now had never known polish or buff-
day alternately watching TV and dozing. She ers or creams. They were ragged. She tugged in
skipped the women’s circle meeting after Christ- panic at the ring. Should she remove it, she might
mas, too. transform back to Mabel Hopkins again. The ring
stuck stubbornly at the skin-stretched, flaking him before the highway patrol did. According to
knuckle. Mabel Chadwick jumped up, turned, the article, he’d been lying not far from a beat-up
stared at the room. She glanced at the mirror, at Ford Econoline panel truck, practically a collec-
an image she didn’t recognize; some strange sor- tor’s dream, the reporter enthused. This classic
cery had erased Mabel Hopkins. In her place was vehicle, strangely, lacked registration plates. The
a woman with a face the sepulchers hue of a fad- van had a Fleetwood logo on the cargo door. A
ing Easter lily. prism hung from the rearview mirror. In the
man’s pocket were a St. Christopher medal and a
Now, both Norman and Mabel were missing. mass card with a picture of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus. The police were trying to trace him.
She glanced down at the ladybug sitting silently
on the bureau top, its gluttonous mechanics Mabel wondered why he never told her he was
waiting for her gift of life. She wound it up, hold- catholic.
ing it to her ear, listening…to the whirr of the tiny
motor as it measured off seconds of her wasting She re-read the article. She’d consider assisting
life. the police, she thought, but not right now. She
checked the date. It occurred to her that some-
A hard second look at the mirror convinced her. thing besides Norman had been missing from her
It is a mirror. And that is Mabel. Mabel Chadwick. life these last few months. A slow Madonna smile,
Boring, empty Mabel Chadwick. Her cracked indicative of her new status, lit the corners of her
hands, he chewed fingertips, reached tentatively mouth, drew them hesitantly upward. She
to stroke the cheeks…tried to smooth the furrows smoothed down her apron with wondering
that had formed between the eyebrows, patted hands, already protective.
the life-drained hair. Searching.
Mabel Chadwick took the ladybug out of her
A soft thump, then stuttering. She looked at the pocket. She put it on the bureau and watched it
ladybug lying on its back on the carpet. Un- plod across the burn mark. She tried it on the
watched, the poor thing had wandered off the carpet, and when it stuck, she sighed. She tucked
bureau. Its whir had static in it, a little hiccup. Z-z- it, still running, in her pocket and went outside.
z-t-t-z-z-z. She bent and retrieved it, gently strok- She wound the thing up and set it down on the
ing the red plastic carapace as the motor pavement. Starting her car, she rolled backward,
stuttered to silence. Tucking it in her pocket with then forward into her slot. She didn’t even hear
the vague aim of keeping it warm, she went off to the crunch.
With a purposeful step, Mabel walked back into
Guests occasionally left newspapers and maga- her cabin to gather up her belongings. The
zines in the cabins, and Mabel hoarded them, no peaches needed her attention. Had Norman stuck
matter the content. She took them back to her around, she might’ve had to raise the new addi-
own cabin, smoothed them out and folded them tion according to his apparently lapsed beliefs.
properly, then read them. Uncle Willie was proba- People had a habit of getting their religion back
bly enjoying her monthly book club selections; he when they had kids, and Mabel Hopkins, whose
hadn’t forwarded any of her mail, even though he people came over on the Mayflower, wasn’t
knew where she was. She couldn’t get up the en- about to raise her child Catholic.
ergy to face the postmaster, or go to the library,
so she had nothing to read but discarded periodi-
Toward the end of February, she opened a week
-old sensation-seeking supermarket tabloid. A
story, dated Tucson, caught her eye. There was a
muddy picture of a body, cowboy hat covering
the face. The reported had dubbed him the De-
sert John Doe in a story that rated national atten-
tion because the man didn’t carry any identifica-
tion—and because the vultures had discovered
About the Author:
Jeanne DeWitt is a Mainer whose first short story
appeared in the Portland Sunday Telegram when
she was 10. She dropped out of the University of
Maine years later and began writing ads for Ma-
cy's. Since then, she has written features about
subjects from pigeon races to school drug prob-
lems. Her short stories have appeared in two uni-
versity literary magazines and a Long Island news-
paper. While living on Long Island, she was a
member of the Ashawagh Hall Writers Workshop.
Jeanne has a BA from Long Island University and
MA from Middlebury College. She is working on
her first novel.
I took a seat across from a man with black hair, a just couldn’t take any chances. This is a decision I
matching mustache, and eyes as icy blue as my can’t go back on, obviously. Unmasking the illu-
late partner’s. sion would take away any career I have.”
He sipped from a steaming cup. “Mr. Smythe, I “You might want to spend some time reflecting
presume?” on what you’ve had. What we’ve had. Because
this charade can’t last. The makeup giving you an
“That’s correct. I gather you’re a relation of Bill olive complexion is also gonna give you perma-
Brown.” nent hives.”
The British accent fit for a king disappeared. “Maybe so. In that case, I’ll just enjoy this second
“Sam, it’s me.” life while I have it.”
The beer stein I’d been drinking from too early in “And what am I supposed to do?”
the day slipped out of my grasp and shattered on
the floor. “What have you done--?” Bill chewed his lower lip. “Take up comedy. Find a
straightman of your own.”
He shushed me before I could call him by name
“I’m tired of getting paid to do nothing more than “People will never accept me as the klutz. You
trip over myself for laughs. I studied at the Royal know that.”
Shakespeare School, for crying out loud.”
“Then say that after my death, it felt wrong to
“And I trained right alongside you. I’ve been right replace me, so you’re going for dramatic roles.”
there for twenty years. Yet I didn’t fake my own
death. Not only did I not do that, I didn’t not warn “Thanks for choosing my career path for me, Bill.”
my right-hand man about my plan. I didn’t let him
wonder how he was gonna go on without me.” As “You can handle it. You’re an actor. You need a
I finished, rage scalded me from the inside out. challenge. To find yourself again. We’re not a pair
of Siamese twins.
“I’m sorry, Sam, but you have a natural talent for
every kind of comedy. I couldn’t risk your perfor- “What are we now?”
mance of grief being unconvincing. I knew the
cameras would be watching you.” “I’m your late partner’s previously unknown twin
brother. You met me in London, and we struck up
“Gee, Bill, thanks for your confidence in my acting a long-distance friendship. You can write to me at
abilities.” I got in his face and whispered through this address." He slid and a slip of paper across
gritted teeth. “And thanks for the compliment the table.
about my comedic skills, especially since I spent
two decades as your straightman.” “No. Thanks, Mr. —“
“Now, Sam, I’m sure you would’ve pulled it off. I “Willis. Simon Willis.”
“Thank you for the generous offer, Mr. Willis, but
your tastes are too fine for me. Any connection I
would have to you would be due only to your
resemblance to my late partner. Knowing you’re
so similar yet so different would make the rela-
tionship too painful for me to continue.”
My chair screeched across the floor as I pushed it
under the table and left the café.
About the Author:
Lisa Rutledge’s work was published in the Scarlet
Leaf Review. In addition, between 2006 and 2008
several of her poems and stories were published
in The Legacy, the creative arts journal at West
Texas A&M University (WTAMU) in Canyon Texas.
From WTAMU, she holds an M.A. in English. Lisa
currently teaches academic writing there.
Rod couldn’t have told when he first noticed her Monday through Friday at about 2:25 Rod crossed
through his windshield signaling him to stop at the intersection, and some days they would inter-
the intersection of the middle school. It wasn’t act, and some days they wouldn’t. If Rod hit it
being stopped that annoyed him, but how she wrong, he arrived when she shut down all the
stopped him, that annoyed him. She was bossy. lanes to let the buses out. After the buses cleared,
Two days ago, Rod started his job of driving Betty she waved the right turn lane and the left turn
home after school from the hospital. Betty was a lane until they cleared, and then, started the
disabled adult who attended a program at the traffic in both directions, and Rod was on his way.
hospital that was on the school schedule so she
got out the same time the buses got out. The It started the day Rod was trying to beat the bus-
shared schedule set up encounters between the es, and as he went through the intersection, she
crossing guard and Rod. She walked straight to- waved her hands up and down meaning: “SLOW
wards him and jabbed her arm out at him like a DOWN!” Rod was insulted she criticized his driv-
punch, and after he stopped, she spun on her ing. The next day when he went through, he
heels like a ballerina, and waved the buses looked at her, and read her lips, “Twenty miles
through. Rod was annoyed as the yellow buses per hour,” she said, and his injury was worsened.
flashed by him one after the other. What he did- After this their relationship escalated when she
n’t appreciate, at least at this point, was how walked straight toward his car and signaled him
complex this intersection was. There was a two to stop with a stiff arm like a running back would
lane driveway going into and out of the school, a give a tackler, while glaring at him until he did so.
right hand turn lane in the road going into the Rod felt belittled. The guard glared at Rod, and
driveway, the road going towards the hospital Rod wanted to prove he wasn’t intimidated, but
where Rod sat fuming, a left hand turn lane going lost his nerve, and dropped his eyes. To feel
into the neighborhood across from the school, better about his humiliation, he nicknamed her
the road heading in the opposite direction from “The Traffic Nazi.” Rod thought of himself as a
the hospital, and the road coming out of the good person, and was somewhat ashamed of the
neighborhood. That’s six balls the guard had to thoughts he was having. He thought of saying
juggle, and she did it with flourish and command. something out the window driving by going fast
She waved and pumped her arms with great vigor enough so he wouldn’t have to deal with a re-
while leaning over towards the motorist with sponse or giving her the finger which wasn’t
pointed index fingers as if she had to conjure the much more mature than the passengers on the
energy and intelligence for the motorist to do buses. He tried reflecting on why she annoyed
what she asked. When they disobeyed, she threw him the way she did, and as best as he could fig-
her arms in the air, incredulous, and exclaimed, ure, he didn’t like taking orders from a woman.
He realized as well that if he was having bad feel-
“It’s not that hard, people!” ings about her why wouldn’t it be reciprocal? It
got so Rod believed she waited until she saw his people mad at her, and he remembered the sad-
car before she shut down the lanes to let the bus- ness in her face. Samantha came into the room.
es out. But then a funny thing happened. As he
watched her he began to marvel at her command “Do you mind if I lower the shade?” she
over so many others from so many different asked.
spots: one person on foot orchestrating thirty or
forty people in automobiles and buses with split Rod sat across the table from Samantha.
“It’s only supposed to be in the fifties to-
“It’s like a ballet,” he thought. morrow,” she said. Rod ate corn.
Several hours after he drove through her intersec- “Is there enough butter on your corn?” she
tion, he was picturing her in his head. It was her asked. Rod nodded.
execution he found so remarkable. He thought
about Samantha and how she always wanted to “You won’t forget to mow the lawn tomor-
ask permission. “Do you mind if I change the row, right?” He pictured the guard in the middle
channel?” “Is it all right to have peas with the of the intersection with cars and buses all around
steak tonight?” “Would it all right if I met Barb for her with her left arm stiff with a vertical palm, and
a drink after work?” He smiled to himself as he her right arm energetically waving cars to make a
pictured the guard charging out of the bedroom, left turn with authority on her face.
and knocking him down, as she strode out the
door to command fifty cars when to stop, turn, “Sure. In my winter coat,” he joked.
go. Like a general in battle there was no question,
hesitation over her order. Like a matador after “Maybe you should wait then.”
the kill, she strode to the parking lot regaled in
the cheers of the crowd. He looked forward to “I was joking.”
seeing her tomorrow.
“It might rain though.”
He saw the flashing blue lights and when
he got close enough saw her talking to a cruiser. He saw the guard with snow falling and the wind
Traffic was stopped, and the cruiser drove off. She blowing mowing in shorts and a tee shirt.
immediately took command, and let the buses
out. As he watched her, Rod thought he saw a “Is your steak rare enough?”
sadness in her face, but she spun away from him
to direct in the opposite direction. The following “It’s fine.”
night he read this in the paper: Disrespect for
Traffic Guard results in citation. “Would you come with me to the nursery
while I look for flowers?”
A city traffic guard at the Foster middle school
reported to police a driver who swore an epithet Rod was silent.
and made an obscene gesture after failing to obey
a traffic direction. Based on the information pro- “Are you annoyed?”
vided by the guard, police were able to locate the
offender at a residence and serve a citation. The “There’s a book sale at the library,” he
name of the offender is withheld at this time. said.
Rod felt angry someone would treat her “Yeah for two days. Why can’t we go Sat-
this way. Then he admitted he had feelings to- urday morning? You know I get nervous driving
wards her that weren’t any different, but he fur- on the highway.”
ther recognized he didn’t act them out. He
thought being that authoritative, she would get “If you only knew,” thought Rod.
It was two days later he was the car she
stopped after letting the car in front of him go
through, and the car slowed down, and she went
to the driver’s window to see if everything was all
right, and Rod saw a tattooed hand grab her arm,
and the car sped up so she lost her footing, and
ended up on the ground. A bus drove in front of
Rod to keep him from following the car, and he About the Author:
got part of the plate number. He thought it was a Jack Coey lives in Keene, NH.
Dodge Dart. He got out of his car, and went to the
guard, and helped her up.
“Get back in your car,” she yelled.
“But I’m a witness. I have part of the plate
“Get back in your car. You can’t block the
He went back to his car, and drove to the hospital
to pick up Betty.
Sergeant O’Toole sat behind the wooden desk. He
had red hair.
“I saw the man grab her arm and knock her
to the ground.”
Sergeant O’Toole wrote on a clipboard. He looked
up from the clipboard.
“The plate numbers were 178-62 and I
don’t know the last one. It looked to me to be a
Dodge Dart or something similar. Didn’t she have
an incident with some guy?”
“What ever was in the paper.”
“I would be willing to testify.”
Sergeant O’Toole smiled.
“How did you know it was a man?” asked
O’Toole. Rod froze.
“I guess I didn’t.”
“Thank-you for coming in. We’ll contact
you if we need anything further.”
It was a couple of days later he saw her. He
turned down the soup aisle in the market, and
she was pushing a cart with another woman. He
froze, and watched the women. They warmly in-
teracted; he saw the tattoo. “Now I know why she
was sad,” he realized.
Emily Peña Murphey
After my Abuelo Isidro passed away, María Elena But once I’d left the ranchito and started crossing
began to nag at me, “When are you going to get over the ruts and washed- out barrancas , she
rid of the old man’s stuff? It’s useless, and it’s gave up chasing and watched from a distance as
cluttering up what little room we have in this my tires threw up a cloud of dust. I had the
pinche casa!” thought that perhaps she too missed my grandfa-
ther—for a long time after we buried him she
How could I tell her that for some crazy reason I seemed to be expecting him to come home—and
felt sentimentally attached to his things, even now she knew that what little remained of him
though they were just old junk? The old man had was being carted away. They say that animals
lived with our family for so many years, and it have a special sense for such things.
gave me a feeling of comfort to see some of his
belongings around—like part of his spirit was still I shrugged off these ideas and turned my atten-
here in our home with us. tion to driving.
But now that he’d left us, my woman, who had “Let’s hope the old hija de puta makes it to the
fed and cared for him for so long, seemed to want mercado!” I said to myself, knowing she was low
to be completely free of him. So one Friday on gas.
morning I took a blue plastic tarp from the back of
my pickup, went into the pitiful little corner that I finally came to the shoulder of the blacktop and
Abuelo had called his “workshop,” and gathered knew the ride would soon be smoother. As I
up everything that was there—tools, auto parts, turned onto the pavement, a blonde-haired grin-
broken toys he promised to fix for the kids; pretty ga wearing dark glasses sped by in an expensive
much all old basura. I took it from where it sat on convertible, looking like something I saw years
shelves and hung from hooks on the wall, threw it ago in a movie. Well, they have pretty much tak-
all down into the tarp, and hoisted the bundle en over the old town, but there’s no denying that
into the bed of the truck parked out front. their wealth is a godsend to the local people! I
eased the pickup’s wheels over the edge of the
I said to my wife, “Since today’s a busy one at the asphalt as the sports car vanished over the hori-
market in San Miguel, I’m going to take this stuff zon. Some miles further on I arrived at the city’s
down there and see if I can unload it and come outskirts and headed toward the center, making
home with a little extra plata.” my way through bustling traffic toward the old
“Good idea!” She replied. “And good riddance to
it!” As luck would have it, I found a good parking
place and arrived at the market building just in
The old Ford wheezed and chugged as I started it time to get the last good spot—not far from the
up and headed down the bumpy hillside toward stall where those fake Huicholes sell over-
town. Our half-blind perrita Santa noticed that priced Indian crafts to the tourists. I knew that my
I was leaving, and ran along after me a short way.
granddad’s old stuff wouldn’t make a very good After I’d sat there with no sales for several hours,
showing next to theirs, but I spread my tarp on the number of customers visiting the market be-
the ground and on it I arranged what I had in the gan to taper off and some of the vendors started
best way I could manage. packing up to leave. The smells of food from the
comedores at the rear of the building were
Some old fan belts and lengths of chain, a few tempting me—it had been a long time since
rusted pairs of pliers and other tools, a jug of breakfast!
transmission fluid, glass jars of screws and nails,
old cans of paint, a half-empty carton of ciga- I’ll give it ten more minutes, I decided. Then
rettes; I spread them around on the blue tarp for whatever’s left is going into the big trash barrel
the people to see. Once I was done and glanced next to the shrine of la Virgencita outside.
over it all, the only thing with any color to it was
Abuelo’s old wooden humidor—a small oblong It’s odd, but just as I had that brief thought of
box he once said had come from his own grandfa- Nuestra Señora, a shabbily dressed old gringa
ther. Its battered coat of cream-colored paint came walking along with a basket of groceries,
was decorated with curling leaves and red and and when she looked over the collection on my
blue flowers. The hinges were broken, and it was tarp she slowed down and stopped. She’d noticed
lined on the inside with crumbling brown leather. something.
But as far back as I could remember, Abuelo him-
self had never smoked or even so much as owned Pointing to the painted humidor, she asked me,
a cigar. “Señor, cuánto cuesta este?”
Perhaps the flowers on the box’s lid might appeal It’s the one thing you can bet they all know how
to a woman, I thought; maybe she’ll see it as use- to say in Spanish!
ful for a place to keep her jewelry.
“Treinta pesos,” I replied, having no English at all,
I unfolded a broken-down chair someone had left and setting a price muy caro to see how much she
behind and sat down to wait for business—of could afford.
course, there wasn’t much. A couple of kids who
had a few monedas wanted to buy the cigarettes. “Yo la quisiera comprar.” The woman said. “Es
I knew they were underage, but I sold them to muy bonita y bastante vieja.”
them anyway. After all, I came here to get rid of
things, not to enforce the law! Just like that! Didn’t even try to bargain with me!
We agreed on the deal and she gave me a ten and
An elderly farmer wearing an old-fashioned a twenty and thanked me. I was glad that I’d held
straw hat bargained me down to practically noth- off throwing it in the trash!
ing on the tools. I could tell he was poor. He
shook my hand and gave me a toothless grin be- Then I wondered for a moment if there was some
fore he hobbled away carrying the stuff in a plas- special value in the box that I hadn’t seen—
tic bag I’d brought along. maybe it was un antiguo and worth a lot more
than I’d asked for! But as I wrapped the old hu-
Let him take them, I thought. From one old man midor in a piece of heavy brown paper, I decided
to another, and may God bless him with a long to accept the thirty pesos as a gift from God and
life! not worry about being cheated. As she stood
waiting before me, I had a feeling that the Nor-
For hours I sat there while a lot of people passed, teamericana was simply someone who liked old
but they all glanced at my things and walked on— things and had an eye for beauty. Who knows?
I was starting to feel like I’d become invisible! Perhaps she’d accepted my asking price because
Well, of course, old junk isn’t what people come she sensed the affection I felt for the old box,
there looking for. The Mexicans come for vegeta- nearly the last of my grandfather’s worldly pos-
bles, fruit, freshly made tortillas, sweets, cheese. sessions!
The Norteamericanos want pretty baubles to take
home for souvenirs—“artesanías,” as they call The gringa walked away carrying the bundle, and I
them. gathered up my old tarp with its unsold contents
and headed for the mercado’s door. On my way