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Published by lscupforms, 2021-04-19 13:17:41

Uproar 2021 Literary Arts Magazine

The Barbartu pushes me through the door, back into the pink room. “Fate is funny like that. Have a
nice day!”

She disappears into the back room. Well. What a fat load of shit.
“What a fat load of shit.” I turn to face Shala.
“That was fast.” Shala stands up, handing me my purse. “Didn’t go well?”
“Told you I was gonna be in the four percent,” I say, pushing past her to the door.
“What’d she tell you?” Shala follows me back out into the fluorescent sunlight, rubbing her hand on
my shoulder. “It’s okay.”
“Sheesh, I haven’t even told you yet.”
Shala laughs. “Sorry. I like to prepare for the worst.”
“She pretty much didn’t tell me anything. Just told me what time I was going to meet my match and
then exiled me.” I shrug. “It’s whatever. I’m still hoping for a meet-cute.”
Shala stays quiet, deep in thought. I keep walking, very decidedly not glancing at the time.
“Well,” she finally says, “when are you meeting them?”
“Five-thirty,” I say.
“Today?” she nearly shrieks.
“Yup.” I look around. “So, where to next?”
Shala’s muzzle is nearly split in half by her grin. “Liz, that is so great. I’m so happy for you!”
I pat her arm. “Calm down.”
“You’re going to find your match and you’re not even the least bit excited?” Shala asks.
I look away. I’m not, but I can’t say that. Shala’s really into this whole romance business, has been
since she was a kid. Her mom loves love too, running away from her family on Earth to start a new life in a
colony, looking for interstellar love. Of course, it didn’t really work out for her—the first alien she threw her-
self at knocked her up and left her high and dry (Shala’s the product of that union). They both still believe, no
matter what happens. Shala’s been through a million partners, ranging from cybernetic to aliens even I can’t
fathom an attraction to. And they all leave her, having gotten their fill of one of the galaxy’s few halfies. Sha-
la still hopes, though. I can see it in her eyes. How she’s resigned herself to fixing me up with true love if she
can never have it.
The stupidest part is that none of this is real. There’s no way some random matchmaker in the shop-
ping district can know who I’m destined to fall in love with and settle down. Nobody can know that kind of
stuff, no matter how much Shala believes in it. We all have to live our own life, regardless of what expecta-
tions are held against us.
But I can see how much it means to Shala, and if it means that much to her, it means that much to
me.
“I am a little excited,” I say. “Where are we gonna start looking?”
Shala squeals, grabbing my arm and hauling me into the central area of the shopping district. She
turns to me. “Close your eyes.”
I close my eyes, trying to hide my grin. She’s so excited. Her muzzle is locked in a huge grin, and
the puffy skin around her eyes is perked up in a full-face smile.
“Okay,” Shala says. “Pick a direction.” She then forcefully spins me a few times.
Thoroughly disoriented, I point half-assedly to my left. Shala squeals. I must’ve picked well.
She bounds down the corridor, leaving me in the dust. “Come on, Liz! True love awaits!”
I laugh, following her. “Oh my gosh, wait up. Your freaky long legs are outpacing me.”
Shala smiles, bouncing in place while I catch up. “This is so exciting. What time is it?”
I check. “It’s five-twenty-seven,” I say. “Where should I go? What should I do?”
Shala pushes me into a shop with a few people in it. “Go! I’ll stay out here!”
It’s silly how excited she is. Her pink-purple skin is flushed, dewey with excitement. While I was in
the matchmaker, she braided some of her hair, just loose little face framing pieces. It suits her. She’s grinning
whole-heartedly at me, all seven feet of her. I wave lightly.

46

She rolls her black eyes, gesturing for me to get on with it. I look around. I’m not really sure what
the protocol is for meeting one’s match in public. Should I start asking around? Hello, have you been to a
matchmaker lately? No, that’s stupid.

An impact jolts me from my thoughts—the store attendant looks at me, horrified, a now empty bowl
in her hands. All down my front is the poor girl’s lunch, some sort of blue tuber pasta. It smells like shallots.

She’s shorter than me. That’s the first thing I notice. The second, and arguably more important is that
she isn’t any kind of alien I’ve ever seen before. She’s got some sort of plating around her eyes, but they
move and emote with her. Her shoulders are broad and square, but her waist tapers in dramatically. She’s got
the same taloned hands Shala has, but her skin is a completely cold-stone grey. She’s looking at me with hor-
ror, her eyes trained on the blue globs falling off my shirt and onto the floor.

“Oh my god. I’m so sorry.” She flails backwards. “Let me go get something to clean this with.”
“It’s okay.” I catch her arm, steadying her. “No worries.”
I glance at the clock. 5:30.
She disappears behind the counter, rummaging around. I think about this short girl, about us dating,
maybe even moving in together. I think about going shopping with her on a weekday, looking at silly clothes
and trying on sunglasses we’ll never wear. I don’t feel anything. No butterflies, no fireworks. It doesn’t feel
like I’m meeting who I’m supposed to settle down with. I turn around and leave the store.
Shala’s still sitting there, looking up at the artificial sky. “Hey,” I say.
She looks down at me. “What happened?”
I shrug. “I split some body oil on myself. Didn’t meet anybody. Knew the matchmaker was a hack.”
“Awfully chunky for body oil,” Shala remarks. I glance away.
“It’s whatever,” I say. Shala scans the store behind me, no doubt seeing the attendant. I wonder what
she’s thinking. is she going to make me go back in? Apologize to my match? Make me pick her up for dinner
at 8:00?
Shala looks at me. I mean, really looks at me. Her eyes are so big and dark, looking me over and tak-
ing me in. My stomach flips. My arms vibrate. I feel like I’m floating, unconnected to the floor. It’s like when
the gravity disengages as you’re leaving orbit. Maybe I can set my clock back a minute, make it 5:30 again.
Maybe it’s still 5:30.
“Let’s go get you some new clothes,” she says finally, linking her arm with mine. She’s looking up
at the light panel so I can’t really see her face, but her ears are growing plum. “Maybe we can try on some
sunglasses.”

First Place Prose

47

A Poem for the Ships Still Stuck at the Dock
Walter Zogg

The bee's buzz alarms the intruders sneaking in
for a sliver of honey, and I know it frightens you,
but it is better to attempt and get stung than
trudge on with an empty babbling stomach.
You yearn in quiet places. A brook’s smooth
chatter is louder than the words escaping your lips.
Whispering to the world will not bring you
the vision which floats whimsically in your dreams.
I hear your deep desires but no one else does.
Your voice could lull a ship of sailors
to their ultimate demise, if only you sang out
the song that’s trapped, sad and alone
inside your lungs. It deserves to sail far and wide,
wind rushing by as it yodels and belts.
The clock has struck and struck again waiting
for the day you emerge, so wrap yourself
tight in bubble wrap to keep the stings from sticking,
and bolt for the glinting honey shining just out of reach.
When the stings get through, don’t let them deter you,
even if you swell the size of a ship,
keep your feet stepping towards the glimmering honey.

48

Murder in the First Degree
Hannah Beach

This evening at 11:32 p.m. I put cyanide in my husband’s glass of whiskey. I know, I know, what a
cliché and obvious way to kill someone. But cut me some slack – I’ve had a jam-packed week at work. Plus
my nephew’s fifth birthday party is on Saturday, and I have yet to purchase a gift. The strain really has been
too much lately, and I had to put an end to something – namely, my husband’s ability to breathe. He looked
relatively peaceful, though, lying in a recumbent posture on the antique Persian rug. Almost as if he were
sleeping.

“Meredith!” Diane’s grating shriek tore through the house, and I turned to see her and Gillian come
barreling into the sitting room. They both paused on the threshold, hands over their hearts and gasping dra-
matically.

“I thought you liked this one,” said Gillian, mousy brown curls bobbing, with the air of a mother
gently chiding her child. I shrugged in response.

“Guess not.”
“Good lord, you really did it.” Diane swept her bleached-blonde hair out of her face, the glint in her
eyes suggesting she was more thrilled than shocked at the prospect of a dead body. “I must admit, when you
called me saying you were going to kill him, I sort of took it as hyperbole.”
I gestured to my husband’s body, smiling wryly. “Does this look like hyperbole to you?”
“Uh-uh. Nope. Not at all.” They shook their heads in unison, staring at me with slight frowns. Diane
and Gillian were my oldest and closest friends, if such a warm and intimate term as “friends” could describe
our chaotic relationship. We had met in college during a wild night that involved neon lights, tequila shots,
and a Cher impersonator, and our mutual indifference towards academics solidified our alliance. Nowadays,
it was mainly HOA meetings and margarita nights that kept us united, but I knew they were loyal enough to
keep this particular minor incident under wraps if I asked them to.
“Well?” I stared expectantly.
“Well, what?”
“Are you gonna help me dispose of the body?”
“Oh, is that why you called us?” Gillian looked at me, her large brown puppy-dog eyes even wider
than usual. I sensed something in her gaze that I hadn’t seen before, but I couldn’t quite place it.
“No, I called you to come bake cookies with me,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Yes, of course that’s why
I called you! I don’t know what to do with him, and if he lies there any longer he’ll start decomposing.”
Gillian and Diane looked at one another hesitantly, and then the latter tossed her purse onto the near-
by leather armchair. “What the hell,” she said, throwing up her hands in surrender. “We always did say we
were the type of friends who would help each other ‘hide the body’. I just always assumed that was a figure
of speech. Gillian, go and get some trash bags. We’ll wrap him in those until we can find something more
permanent. Meredith, help me get him out onto the landing.” Despite Diane’s perfectly styled, PTA mom
looks, she wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty when necessary. I took both limp, heavy arms while she
grabbed the ankles, and we began lugging him over the thick, coarse carpet. It proved to be slow going, as
my husband’s torrid love affair with bonbons and booze hadn’t done him any favors physically. “So what did
he do to warrant such an end?” Diane asked through a series of grunts.
“Nothing in particular,” I gasped, narrowly avoiding the sharp end table. “I was just fed up with him
in general… his stupidity, misogyny, his annoying little habit of leaving every light on in the house. It wasn’t

49

what they call a ‘crime of passion’, but it wasn’t exactly premeditated either. I don’t suppose I really thought
too hard about it. I just couldn’t stand him anymore, the old devil.”

“Now Meredith, what did we say about calling him the devil?”
“That it’s an insult to the devil?” I chuckled at my own joke, in doing so forgetting to tell Diane
about the slight uneven floorboard in the hall. Her Louboutin heel caught the edge, and down she went, tak-
ing my husband and me with her. She shrieked like a banshee, weaving a tapestry of obscenities as artistic as
it was shocking. But who was I to talk about shocking? I had just murdered my husband. When Diane re-
gained her footing, both her lipstick and good humor were spoiled.
“For the love of all that is good, WHY did you have to kill him UPSTAIRS? You couldn’t have
offed him by the front door? Or maybe in a deserted field somewhere? Or over an open grave?”
“I suppose I could have, but then we wouldn’t be getting this wonderful bonding time now would
we? C’mon, we’ve got to get him down the stairs.”
She huffed indignantly, unamused by my sarcasm as we carted our burden down the staircase, depos-
iting him in a heap on the spotless white tile. Gillian met us in the foyer, that same expression in her eyes
from earlier that I couldn’t seem to place. Her arms were full of black trash bags which we wrestled around
my husband’s flaccid frame. As I pulled the bag up and around my husband’s neck, I felt a strange unsettled-
ness beginning to form in my stomach. His lifeless eyes gazed accusingly up at me, as if he were only para-
lyzed and conscious of everything we did. An unexpected shudder washed over me as the first tiny twinge of
remorse reared its unwelcome head. I wasn’t used to feeling unsure of my actions, and I didn’t like the sensa-
tion one bit.
“Meredith? Meredith! Stay focused!” Diane gave my arm a smack that shook me from my internal
dissonance, and I gingerly shut my husband’s eyes and finished the task at hand. We took him out to my SUV
that was parked behind the dilapidated shed and dumped the body in the trunk, as you do. I took one last look
at the bulky mass that once was my husband, recalling every malicious thing he had ever done. That helped
considerably, and I shut the door of the trunk with a decisive movement that shut down my doubts as well.
Temporarily, at least.
“Au revoir, darling,” I murmured. “I’ll see you in hell.”
We dumped him unceremoniously into the lake, and as I watched the dark blob sink irrevocably into
the frigid depths, I felt relief flood over me in powerful waves. I was rid of him, fully, finally, and I filled my
lungs with air that tasted of freedom. Of course, it was entirely possible that the police would find him if he
were reported missing, and that would, in turn, lead straight back to me. This was my first murder, after all,
and I hadn’t exactly tried very hard to cover my tracks. If questioned, I’d probably find it difficult to conceal
my hatred of him. I wasn’t about to play the grieving wife in order to avoid arrest. Whatever. I was past car-
ing at this point. Let the future bring what it would.
The three of us drove back to my place in relative silence, the hum of the engine and static from the
radio the only sounds that permeated the weighty stillness. Gillian and I stood in the foyer as Diane retrieved
her purse from the chair on which she had thrown it not two hours before.
“Why don’t you two stay for a spell?” I turned with my hand on the doorknob. “I’ve got some fabu-
lous 1952 Dom Perignon we could crack open, celebrate my newfound freedom.” I smiled and struck a fes-
tive pose, but my enthusiasm wasn’t returned. Neither woman smiled back, and I once again saw that peculiar
look in Gillian’s eyes, although this time it had taken up residence in Diane’s gaze as well.
“I’ve, um, I’ve got to get home,” faltered Gillian, fidgeting with a loose thread on her creamy white
sweater. “Eddie will be waiting up for me. He can’t sleep if I’m not home. I’ll see you both on Thursday at
book club though!” She smiled timidly and made for the door, disappearing into the darkness.
“I guess it’s just you and me then, hun,” I turned to Diane, swiping a couple of glasses off the side
table and making for the sitting room.
“Actually,” Diane said hesitantly, “I should be heading back too.”
“What? Why?”
“Well, Bill’s out of town and the kids are home by themselves, so I really shouldn’t stay any longer.”
She twisted her hands together, fiddling with the gaudy rings on her fingers.

50

“Oh, c’mon, Diane, don’t be such a goody-goody. The kids being home alone hasn’t ever stopped
you from staying out all night before, so I don’t see why it should now. It’ll be a riot! We’ll pop some cham-
pagne, pretend we’re twenty-two again, and live our best lives.”

Diane still stared at me, still unsmiling, that strange, strange expression in her eyes.
“No,” she said finally, pulling her coat tightly around herself. “No, I’ve got to go. Sorry. I shouldn’t
have – I wasn’t – I’m sorry.” She turned without another word and left, leaving me with empty flute glasses
and a sour attitude.
“Geez, I guess I’m the only one in the mood to party,” I said to no one in particular. I kicked off my
shoes and made a beeline for the liquor cabinet, whistling cheerfully to myself as I grabbed the Smirnoff, No.
21. Ah yes. Perfect. I ensconced myself in the chintz armchair by the hearth, warming my outsides with the
fire and my insides with the vodka. It was as I sat there that I finally placed that strange look I had seen in
Diane and Gillian’s eyes. It wasn’t sympathy, as I had originally thought. It was fear. Fear is what I had seen
in my two best friends. Well, what did I expect? I was a murderer. I guess I just thought that maybe they’d be
a little more empathetic to my plight. They had, after all, always told me to leave him, and so I did. I left him.
What difference does it make if it was at the bottom of a lake? At least I got creative this time. I swirled my
drink and stared at the fire, suddenly struck with an intense surge of loneliness. Wait… what? Loneliness?
Really? I’d thought that maybe this time around I wouldn’t feel it. That I’d finally feel whole, feel like my-
self. Oh well. I suppose it was only a fifty-fifty chance after all. Dammit. I sighed, downed my drink, and
reached for my phone. I swiped to unlock it, and opened the Tinder app. All right then. Time to find number
six.

51

Sweet Ending
Cheri Winters

As I lie on the cold metal sheet,
My body frigid and bare, withering
And weak, having wrestled with death, lungs
No longer wheezing for the last hiccup
Of breath, remembering the dreams of sunbeams
Toling during the day and remembering the twinkling
Flickering stars, in shimmering gold, in fuselage
Silver, and in apocalyptic red, painted profusely
Into the night, remembering the piquant paths
Only your teeth-filled kisses found and bound,
Remembering the burnt gold plume of fire
Defrosting the profound sorrow of hoarfrost. Remembering
The agony of this annoying atrocity, a stainless steel
Drawer, draining crimson ink from my spewing indigo
Vein. As I lie in my intention of infuscate blood, deep
In the darkness of dread, I do not crave
The bloody busted bone, nor the doom of whimsical
Wrinkling veins but crave the featherlike, firmament
Future of forever. At this moment, my rutilant soul
Grows suddenly splendid, my sparkle awake. My inner
Self strays to the glary, canary-yellow neon mortuary
Sign, a sunburst of semitransparent skyline, reposing,
Knowing, my vital red fluid is the lineage
Of strawberry jam.

52

Situation & Circumstance
Zoila Espinoza

I would like to tell you how the 12-year-old coke addict punched the nurse in the face, but I am not
sure if it really happened.

That day started out the same as the rest. Woke up at 8:00 A.M. to get our blood pressure checked.
Mine was always low due to my nightmare medicine, so every morning I had to go three rounds with the
monitor. We then were directed to the cafeteria for breakfast, in a single file line of course. I never went be-
cause I did not like to eat. What I did like to do was sit on the couch right by the window, where I could see
the skyline and write.

“Why are you always in here, child? Put some meat on those bones, baby!” Miss Ray shouted from
the opposite hallway, meaning no one else but yours truly.

I couldn't help but smile and skip to the nurse’s station to meet her there. She was thin with long
hair. A zealot (I never found out to what group though) who always drank black coffee. Miss Ray was the
only nurse I liked because she understood empathy, truly, not like those people who describe themselves as
empathetic just to walk past a homeless person.

“Pen, please.”
She handed it to me and went about her paperwork.
Miss Ray and I had this interaction every morning. Patients were only allowed to use these three-
inch pencils. We were given no erasers, because we could possibly try and burn ourselves with them. And
the crappy pencil usage was limited to the main room, where all the nurses would watch us, and we had to
give them back after. You know, so we didn’t go to bed and try to stab ourselves with them.
Everyone came back from breakfast, and I was once again agitated. Isolating myself every morning
was the only thing that could ground me in a place like this. It was called a behavioral center, as if behavior
was something that could ever be objective. Nobody here misbehaved though. Well, not before they got
here, they didn’t. Hating ourselves or hating life was the only misconduct we’d committed. I was just an
incredibly afflicted person, grasping at straws to comprehend a reality that I didn’t feel I belonged in whatso-
ever. It always made me feel out of place. It always hurt me. I guess my methods at grasping these straws
were a little vulgar, I’ll admit. Cutting into my skin and stimulants on the weekends never failed me before.
One day, I woke up here. I don’t want to belong in this place, but I know I do.
“All right everyone, time for group therapy,” Theresa, the talk therapist, said loud enough for us all
to hear. “If you decide to go to your room instead, you will not get any dessert at dinner. I mean it.”
She wasn’t old but she didn’t have her whole life ahead of her either. Every instruction, opinion,
and action from her was dressed in an eye roll and a sigh. She didn’t like her job, but she wasn’t the type of
person to aspire or change. We all followed her into the little room where all the little chairs were placed in a
circle.
Theresa started, “Okay so today we’re going listen to this song. It’s called ‘I Fall Apart’ by Post
Malone.”
Holy shit. Kill me now.
“And after we get through it a couple times, I’m going to have you guys write about what makes
you fall apart.”

53

All I could think about was how Theresa definitely needed some music recommendations. My urge
to stay unnoticed though was greater than my urge to berate people who had bad taste, so I kept my mouth
shut.

“Does anyone want to share?”
I sure as hell didn’t. After listening to such a bad song repeatedly, I couldn’t have been less apathet-
ic.
“What my dad did to me. What my dad did to me makes me fall apart. And everything I did because
of everything he did, that makes me fall apart,” Matthew shared. He talked about smoking weed like it was
his wife. He never dabbled in other drugs because he respected weed too much. He walked around the hospi-
tal with no shoes, just socks, and when I wore a red sweatshirt one day, he showed me the Blood handshake.
“That’s very good, Matthew. Thank you,” Theresa responded.
“I wanna share,” Annie said. “My momma used to work the corner. When I was ten, she put me on
that same corner. I have my gammy now, so I’m too strong to fall apart, but it do make me sad sometimes.”
She held her head down the entire monologue and picked at her fingernails.
“Thank you for your vulnerability, Annie.”

“What can I get ya?” the lunch lady asked me.
“Just the side of mashed potatoes.”
“Shut up and eat your food,” I could hear Miss Myah yelling from across the cafeteria. She carried
around her clipboard everywhere, not because she was mandated to write down where we were every hour of
the day, but so she could slam it on a surface when we got on her nerves. Some of the nurses here didn’t care
to hide how worthless they thought we were.
I sat by Annie. She had a chicken breast and chocolate milk on her tray. Her eyelids were a thick
blue. A couple days ago she figured out if you put crayons in water for a couple seconds, you can use them
on your face like makeup. The rest of the girls in the hospital started using the method. “What a bitch,
right?” she said. “Dakota told me Mr. Victor threw his clipboard at him and called him a retarded fuck cuz
he found a pencil in his room. We were thinking about going fucking crazy during movie night tonight. Treat
these nurses the way they treat us. What do you think?”
“Y’all remember what happened to me on Sunday,” I said. “I was only supposed to be here ten days
at first, now it’s 12.”
On Mother’s Day, we were brought all kinds of art supplies so we could make cards for our moms. I
never liked my mom. We always blamed each other for ruining each other’s lives. But I got to think about so
much here, I realized how time was fleeting and nothing lasted forever. I couldn’t waste time hating her. I
kind of stopped hating myself too in the process. When I first got here, she told me she’d see me on Moth-
er’s Day, so yeah, I made her a shitty sappy card. When visitation time came around, I was never called.
During phone time, she didn’t answer her phone. I laughed at it first, then seconds after I found myself tear-
ing the card into pieces and getting a chair stuck in the wall. It cost me two more days of my life.
“I mean, we’re not being serious,” Dakota said. “But it’d be nice” He was sitting next to Annie, but
I didn’t notice till he spoke. He was shorter than me and really insecure about it.
“Yeah,” I told him.
After lunch we always had outside time. This time of day was ranked before isolating morning time.
The “garden” area was placed in the middle of the hospital. It was the size of a college classroom with a cou-
ple wooden benches. There was no escaping, and they didn’t let us forget it, but watching the trees dance for
ten minutes every day made my problems insignificant. Trees live on the mantle of the earth. The roots go
low and deep, and they plant foundations. They are not still. Stillness is bad; it’s never changing or evolving.
Instead they’re grounded, but they grow. They never bother anybody, no matter how much the world bothers
them. I’d like to be a tree.

54

The rest of the day had insipidly gone by. I was in my room getting dressed after my nightly shower.
My room door opened. It was Mr. Victor.
I instantly grabbed the pillow on my bed to cover myself, wearing only undergarments.
“I’m changing. Leave!” I gasped, digging my pillow as if it was a beacon of safety.
But Mr. Victor just stood there. It couldn’t have been more than a minute, but in my distress, it felt
like a lifetime. A weird lifetime. An embarrassing, gross, unfair lifetime.
Mr. Victor smiled. I made the mistake of looking him in the eye. His stare was wicked, and it sent a
chill down my spine.
Mr. Victor slowly turned around and closed the door behind him.
It was fine. I wasn’t upset. These things happen. We still got checked on during shower time to
make sure we’re not drowning ourselves in the sink. It’s always female nurses who do the checking though,
especially in the part of the building where the girls sleep. It was an accident; he made a mistake. It could’ve
been a lot worse. I was grateful.
I made my way to the day room for movie night. I thought partaking in this gregarious nonsense
would be a healthy coping mechanism, but with every step I took my skin crawled a bit. Sitting there in si-
lence like I was okay made me want to pull my teeth out one by one. The thoughts I was having would’ve
been described as insane by anyone, but I don’t think I’d ever been more calm or self-aware.
I found myself in front of Dakota and told him. “Let’s do it.”
“Huh?” he asked, with brows furrowed.
“That idea you and Annie had at lunch. It’s either that or I’ll single handedly put the three-inch pen-
cil through Mr. Victor’s jugular and spend my life in jail.”
I didn’t have to say what happened. I think when something bad happens to someone, it kind of ra-
diates off of them. You don’t have to see it with eyes alone or hear of it with ears alone. The trauma leaves a
trail behind them and it can be felt. This place emanated that incredibly.
He stood up on the chair, put his hands around his mouth, and yelled, “RIIIIOOOOTTTT!”
All the kids including myself went silent for a second. Jamie broke that silence when she threw her
chocolate milk at the wall. It was followed by Matthew shouting “Fuck twelve” repeatedly and Annie punch-
ing every square inch of the walls surrounding us.
“If y’all don’t stop right now I’ll make sure you never get out of this place!” Mr. Adam shouted
from the nurse’s station.
I hadn’t done anything yet. I completely forgot that this was my fault. There were about 20 13 to 16-
year-olds going batshit, needing so badly to let something out. I needed to let something out, so I picked a
chair and threw it.
“Stop!” Miss Myah yelled. “Stop this right now before y’all get booty-juiced.”
“I haven’t felt a good high in a while, I wouldn’t mind!” Mackenzie responded with a sneer and
wink. Mackenzie was only twelve and addicted to coke. This was really funny to me, and I couldn’t stop
laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Miss Myah asked me sternly. The question seemed to dangle my intangible
freedom in front of my face. “You know I saw you throw that chair. This the second time you be throwing
chairs. Put your arm out. You either get the shot or you spend the next two days in the seclusion room.”
The seclusion room had a stiff mattress on the floor with a fitted sheet. That’s all it had. No matter
who stayed there, it was never cleaned. I didn’t have to think about my choice. I put my arm out immediate-
ly.
The sedative started doing its job when I saw Mackenzie punch Mr. Victor in the face. At this point
they called in back-up nurses, and the kids were wearing themselves out. I stood there drained yet strangely
invigorated. I was really high, and it felt good, and it made me pensive. This was how I liked myself. I never
did anything good while sober. I felt bad about what I did. I wasn’t mad at anyone anymore. I wanted it to
stop. I had never forgiven or forgotten anything that’s been done to me. Over time, it put a nasty bone in my

55

body, and it was time to rip it out. I grasped the straw. There was only one that really mattered, and I finally
caught it.

“Hey, Miss Myah.” I waved at her for her attention. “Look, I’m really sorry. Mr. Victor kind of sex-
ually harassed me a couple hours ago and it pissed me off, “I whispered harshly, slurring on my words. “I
don’t care anymore, though, because the past is immutable.”

She pitied me like a stray cat and waited a while before responding. “Alright… head to bed now
darling” was all I got from Miss Myah.

“I forgive Mr. Victor. I forgive the world. I forgive myself,” I whispered while stumbling back to
my room. I laid on my little bed. It felt my body was melting into it. I fantasized about it being dirt and my
little limbs being seeds. Seconds later I drifted off and dreamed about it.

56

Aquarium
Steffie Moy

Where he stands in front of the Aquarium, little ocean
critters wiggle along the slow silken current.
With coffee-dampened shirt front, his Gut growls
inside the soft sounds of footsteps and the hum
of blue, white lights. Fish float, curve and dance
his brain lightly among shimmers of azure light.
Inside, translucent Heart yellow clouds numb over
green barriers among sand beige rocks, crimson, blue
corals, undulate stinging memories asking, who
hides among the waving fronds? He asks the Eyes
watching from behind green leafy walls, a breathing
tired profane Pulse, counting seconds of Clock.
Yesterday she was intubated. Can the small avoid
superior hunters searching out prey? His mind
wavers, weaving amongst old, colorful thoughts
past, now nebulous, pretending a different outcome,
the better, happy one. Mortal weakness renounces
new growth now under water. The low illumined
shadows oscillate Days drowned lonely of silence,
acting husband until she crosses the threshold,
unknowing and faltering briefly at the entrance,
is Done.

57

No Surprises
Christian Gonzalez

I spent a short time in my car, savoring every second I had left before I had to clock in. I was stuck
with the shift that nobody ever wanted: the Sunday, when the crew members were required to work the whole
day until 9:00. Nobody would spend twelve whole hours at a fast food joint, though I suspected that nobody
wanted to work a twelve-hour shift anywhere.

“Damn it,” I said, pulling my hair back and setting my Chipotle hat on my head. I hadn’t even start-
ed my shift yet, and I was already tired of today.

I walked across the lobby to clock in. I was on time. I may have been an unmotivated employee, but
I was always on time, which was more than I could say about the other employees. My workstation partner,
Arthur, was always late, fifteen minutes late every day. By now the manager of the store was sick of scolding
him, so she just came to terms with the reality that he was never going to show up on time. Though I could
not say that I blamed him. He treated the store with the same amount of respect that it treated him. Walking
to the back, I saw Lalo, who was usually the first person I saw every morning on the weekends.

“Como esta, Chino?” Lalo said, as a smile formed under a thick mustache. Lalo strongly resembled
Mario from Super Mario Bros. He was frying chips and listening to Mexican music that I’d heard since I was
young.

Lalo had worked there longer than anyone, but every year he swore that it was his last. He had been
saying that for a long time now though, long before even I started working there. His situation was that of a
lot of Mexicans immigrants. He worked his ass off here and sent a large portion of his paycheck back to
Mexico to his family. A shitty check here in the states was actually a pretty nice sum back in Mexico. This
was the land of opportunity. I was also an immigrant, but I was raised here since I was a kid, so I felt more
American than Mexican and actually had papers. Even with all that, I could see that the American opportuni-
ty was just a mirage.

I made my way to the back where that dishwashing station was and where they kept the aprons.
Turning the corner, I saw Mike, who quickly turned around to hide something. Mike was the type of person
that everybody liked. Sometimes we would hang out at his apartment after work. He didn’t speak a bit of
Spanish, and most of the workers didn’t speak any English, but he always kind of knew what the other work-
ers were saying. Looking over his shoulder he saw me and turned to face me. He was coughing and a hint of
smoke was rising above him. His eyes were red.

“Oh,” he said, bringing his hand in front of him revealing a pen, but not the type of pen that you use
to write with. “Chino! What’s up, bro?”

“Nothing much,” I replied, walking past him to retrieve the apron. “Just got here. You?”
“Nothing much,” he said, smiling widely and extending his arm with the pen in hand. “Wanna a
hit?”
“Sure thing.” I took a long hit off the wax pen and exhaled a cloud of milky-white smoke. I began to
cough. It was usually a good idea to get high before work. Made the time being here more manageable. Made
time pass by more smoothly. “Thanks, man.”
I went to my workstation. I was prep. That was my job, so I spent most of my workday there. On top
of the workstation there was a speaker that you could connect your phone to and play music. That was one of
the plus sides about working prep. It reminded me of a window in a classroom, something that you could
look to while you were working to remind you that freedom was just within reach. I pressed shuffle on my
playlist. First song to play was “No Surprises” by Radiohead. I placed the cutting board on the table on my
station and started cutting the vegetables. In my head I was going along with the song.

58

Chop, chop.
A heart that’s full up like a landfill.
Chop, chop.
A job that slowly kills you.
Chop, chop.
Bruises that won’t heal.
Chop, chop.
You look so tired, unhappy.

59

A Letter To You
Quetzalli Guadalupe

Sweet tangerine, you normally follow my every footstep.
Sweet tangerine, where have you been?
Two days have passed and it’s your birthday. The sweet
chocolate cake is waiting for you to dig in.
It’s adventure time. You get in the ride and hold onto
the bars and wait for the drop.
You wait till the sun goes down to explore.
I hear your tiny footsteps creep in the night
until there’s nothing but silence.
Sweet tangerine, the tree you grew up on misses you.
Sweet tangerine, the sweet chocolate cake is starting
to mold.
The orange in your skin is beginning to fade and the rotting
smell coming from your body is killing the foundation.
Let my rusty hands be your shield and your home while
you run through the wilderness.
You can’t hear the voices from the ones that love you,
but they are reaching out their hands ready to catch you.
Sweet tangerine, let the two of us be one again like lovebugs
leeching off of each other’s breath.
Sweet tangerine, I am growing wary, waiting forever and
sooner or later,
I’ll be the one rotting.
Sweet tangerine, when will you be back?
Sweet tangerine, when would you have enough?

60

In the Dark
Vanessa Aguirre

I picked at the chipping red polish on my fingernails. It wasn’t that great, but I didn’t expect much
from a stolen dollar-store nail polish. I glanced at the spot on the carpet by Syd’s bed, a red smudge the size
of a quarter. I had accidentally knocked the open nail polish off her bed when we were hanging out a couple
days ago. Syd asked me if I had a crush on anyone while she was painting my nails. It served as a good dis-
traction though, because she didn’t ask again. I offered to try and clean the stain out, but she told me to leave
it. She said it “added character.” That was one of the many things I liked about Syd. She was just cool like
that.

I smiled at the memory and ran my fingers over the stain. I lay down on Syd’s floor. Looking up I
could see the glow in the dark stars she stuck all over the ceiling. I listened to the playlist she’d put on for us
to get ready to. I was waiting for her to come out of the bathroom.

“Okay,” Syd said, the door opening into the room. “How do I look?”
Syd was pretty. The kind of pretty where she didn’t have to try. The kind of pretty that made your
heart beat a little faster. Her curly hair framed her face perfectly, and she wore a cute crop top with black
shorts, which was fitting for the warm summer evening.
“You always look amazing,” I said, and I meant it.
“You’re sweet,” she smiled. “I ordered the Uber. Are you ready?”
“I guess,” I said, letting out a sigh.
She gave me a look. “C’mon Val, it’ll be fun! And you can meet people we’ll go to school with,” she
pleaded, grabbing the lip gloss from her desk and applying it in the mirror.
Syd was the one friend I’d made since moving into town. I had transferred to a new high school for
senior year. The fact that I’d met someone as wonderful as Syd was a blessing. What were the odds of us be-
ing neighbors? We’d hit it off and spent the summer hanging out together. Now she was insistent in making
me go to a party before the start of the semester. Parties weren’t really my thing, but it was hard to say no to
Syd.
“Do you want some?” she asked, waving the tube of lip gloss in her hand. I nodded and stood up
from the floor. I held my hand out, but Syd shook her head.
“Let me do it,” she said, stepping closer.
I parted my lips and held my breath as she swiped the wand over my mouth. I tried to look anywhere
but her face, which was hard to do considering the circumstances. I could feel warmth creep up my neck and
into my cheeks when she ran her thumb along the side of my mouth.
Her phone dinged. “Perfect,” she said, stepping back and checking her phone. I finally took a full
breath.
“Let’s go. Our ride is here.”
The ride to the party was relatively short. Syd made light conversation with the driver. She asked
about his day and about any interesting stories he had. Syd had a charm that made her easy to talk to. There
was never an awkward moment with her around. When we got to the house there were already cars lining the
street. The air was heavy with humidity and the thump of music coming from inside. As we walked up to the
door, I could see red Solo cups littering the perimeter of the porch. The door swung open, revealing a sweaty,
disheveled-looking guy.
“Yo, Syd! I was wondering when you would show up. You look good,” he said obnoxiously, looking
her up and down. I cringed.

61

“Hi, Aaron.”
He stepped back and held the door open. His eyes lingered on Syd’s back as she walked past, not
even trying to be discreet. The house was warm and filled with people. In the corner of the living room there
was a beer pong table set up. A pair of guys cheered as one of them made his shot into a cup. The mix of mu-
sic and voices engulfed my senses. Around us people clinked shot glasses together and threw them back. Aa-
ron led us to the kitchen and made us drinks: sprite and vodka.
“I’m a good host, huh?” he said to Syd and handed her a cup. He turned and offered me one too. I
took it but had no intentions of drinking.
“So,” he said motioning towards me, “you’re the new girl.”
“I guess.” I shrugged. I wondered how he knew that.
“Her name is Val,” Syd said and turned to smile at me. Aaron’s attention was already busy with a
friend who came to greet him. Syd rolled her eyes and took my hand. She tugged me towards the middle of
the living room where everyone was dancing. We stood close, the space was crowded, and we didn’t want to
lose each other. Syd twirled me around, and I laughed as we swayed to the beat of the song. I felt shocks run
though me when her hands found their way to my hips. We danced together for a couple songs. My cheeks
ached from smiling. Then, a friend of Syd’s came up to us.
“Syd, thank god you’re here,” she said, grabbing onto her shoulder and shouting over the music.
“Can I borrow you for a second?”
Syd looked at me, but I waved her forward. I could survive ten minutes without her.
“I’ll be right back,” she said, leaning close to my ear, before leaving with her friend and disappearing
into the sea of bodies.
I moved away from the crowded living room and back to the kitchen, which had fewer people. I
scrolled mindlessly through my phone for a couple minutes. Unfortunately for me, Syd’s absence was some
drunk dude’s invitation. A guy stumbled over to me and whistled to get my attention. I ignored his attempt,
which prompted him to get closer.
“Hey, you look like you could use some company,” he slurred. His breath reeked of alcohol. I leaned
away from him.
“I’m not interested,” I stated, hoping my clear response would be enough for him to leave me alone.
Instead, he lingered.
“What are you? A dyke?” he sneered. I froze and felt my blood boil.
“Fuck you,” I said and walked away. The word echoed in my head, familiar and angering.
I maneuvered through the groups of people, looking for any sign of Syd. While walking through the
living room, a girl tripped and spilled her drink all over me. She slurred out apologies, but I assured her it was
fine. I wasn’t angry, just over the night already. On my way to look for a bathroom, I finally ran into Syd.
“Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you,” she said, looking down at my shirt. “What hap-
pened to you?”
“It was an accident. Where’s the bathroom?”
Syd led me to the bathroom and locked the door behind us. She looked through cabinets until she
found one that had towels inside. She handed one to me, and I tried to dry myself off as best I could.
“So, are you having fun?” she asked, and I shot her a glare.
“I want to leave. This place sucks,” I said, dabbing the towel over my shirt in front of the mirror. It
came out harsher than I intended, but I hadn’t wanted to be there in the first place.
“You haven't even given it a chance yet,” she said, crossing her arms.
“How can I?” I said, motioning to the large stain on my shirt. We were interrupted by frantic knock-
ing on the door, followed by a muffled “hurry up”.
“Let's stay just a little while longer,” she insisted, putting her hands together and mouthing a please.
“Fine,” I said shortly, giving in.
I followed Syd into a big game room, and we both took a seat on an empty couch in the corner. Aa-
ron walked in and announced a game of Truth or Dare. He found a seat across from us and smiled too big at
Syd. Everyone gathered around each other. Aaron hushed the room and went over the rules. People got dared

62

to take shots or take off their clothes. Someone even jumped from the second story window into the pool in
the backyard. Somehow, Syd got dared to “seven minutes in heaven” with Aaron. I looked at Syd. She was
hesitant, but with everyone in the room cheering her on, she got up and left the room with him. My heart
dropped. I didn’t want to imagine what was happening behind that door. I needed some fresh air.

I found my way outside. I closed the front door behind me, the sounds of the party now muffled.
There was a nice breeze, and I took a minute to catch my breath. I moved some cups aside with my foot and
took a seat at the edge of the porch. I was enjoying the silence. Looking up at the sky, I could see stars. I
scratched the rest of the polish off my nails.

“What's up with you? You look like a sad puppy,” a voice said, breaking the quiet.
I jumped, startled by the unexpected presence. I looked to my left, where the voice had come from.
There was a guy leaning against the side of the house smoking a cigarette. He held his hands up in defense.
“Thanks,” I muttered sarcastically. Damn, was it that obvious? He shrugged and didn’t push, which I
appreciated. After a couple moments, I broke the silence.
“I have a crush on my best friend,” I blurted out. I wasn’t sure why I was telling him this. Maybe
because he was a stranger, and I would probably never see him again. But it felt nice to say out loud, finally
admitting it to myself.
“Oh yeah, definitely been there,” he said, taking a drag from his cigarette. “Who is he?”
“She,” I said, watching for his reaction. I held my breath in anticipation.
“That makes things so much more interesting,” he said, the corners of his mouth pulling into a mild
smile. He came closer and leaned against the railing of the porch. He was wearing a band t-shirt and vans. I
noticed that he had a septum piercing. Holding the cigarette in his mouth, he pulled up the sleeve of his shirt.
He revealed a small pride flag tattoo. I immediately relaxed.
“Wanna smoke?” he offered, holding the cig out towards me. I shook my head.
“No thanks. I don’t smoke cigs,” I replied. He nodded and took one last hit.
“Good, they’re bad for you,” he said, tossing the rest of the cig on the ground and snuffing it out with
his shoe.
“When did you know you were gay?” I asked. I didn’t know when I would get the chance to ask
someone else.
“I’ve always kind of known,” he said shrugging. “Oh, and when I saw the Red Power Ranger, that’s
when I knew for sure.”
I laughed.
“What about you?” he asked. I thought about it for a second.
“The Hex Girls from Scooby-Doo,” I said, remembering how in love with them I was.
“That’s valid,” he said smiling, and moved to sit next to me. I scooted over and turned to face him.
We were closer now and I noticed that he was wearing a little eyeliner under his eyes. It looked cool.
“Have you ever kissed a girl?” I asked. I felt no judgement from him. He made it easy for me to ask
about anything. He was one of the only people I’d met who was openly out.
“No. Have you ever kissed a guy?”
“No.”
I was relieved in a way, to know someone could be so sure of themselves. Without needing to exper-
iment and prove it. It’s like he could read my mind.
“Do you wanna test it out?” he offered. I laughed and looked at him. I waited for him to say he was
joking, but he didn’t. He raised his eyebrows and tilted his head at me.
“Are you serious?”
He nodded and held both of his hands out.
Fuck it. What did I have to lose? I took them, and we both turned to face each other fully. I nodded,
and he leaned closer. He smelled like a mix of cigarettes and cologne. I tilted my head to the side, and our
lips met for a couple seconds. The kiss was warm, and his lips were slightly dry. I felt nothing. We parted and
looked at each other. Some of my lip gloss had transferred onto his lips.
“Still gay,” he said, shrugging.

63

“Me too,” I said, for sure.
We settled back. He reached into his back pocket and took out a small joint. He lit the end of it with
his lighter and puffed out smoke. He offered it to me, and I took it. We’d already kissed. What more was
sharing a joint? We enjoyed the silence for a while, passing it between us. Syd came out eventually, finding
me.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked. Her hair was disheveled, and her eyes looked wild. She had her
phone out and showed me the screen. The Uber was pulling up.
I nodded. I took one last drag and handed the joint back. I waved goodbye to the stranger. He whis-
pered a quick “Good luck” as I left.
The car ride home was quiet. The events of the night whirling in my head. My heightened state of
mind did little to cut the tension. Syd sat with her eyes glued to her phone for most of the ride. I stared out of
the window and picked at my nails. The moon was full, and there was no traffic at this point in the night. The
soft hum of the radio and the occasional voice of the GPS filled the silence. When we got to Syd’s house, she
invited me to stay over. I had no excuse, and the thought of having to deal with my mom for coming home
late wasn’t appealing, so I agreed.
We got ready for bed and slipped under the covers. I claimed the spot on the side of the bed against
the wall. We just lay there in the dark for a couple minutes.
“I kissed that guy,” I blurted out.
“Who? Marco? Isn’t he gay?” she asked. We both shuffled on our sides to face each other. Her eye-
brows were furrowed.
“Yeah,” I chuckled. “He is.”
“How was,” she trailed off, “that?”
“It was whatever,” I said, shrugging. “He had pretty good weed though.”
“Yeah. I bet,” she replied, eyeing me. She pressed her lips together. I looked away.
“How was ‘seven minutes’ with Aaron?” I asked, finally. I wasn’t looking forward to the answer, but
I knew she wanted me to ask. I glanced back at her.
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” she said, putting a hand over her face. “He drooled on me when he tried to
kiss me. It was not a good time.”
I put a hand up to my mouth to stifle my laugh. A weight I didn’t know I had instantly lifting off my
chest.
“Ew. Gross,” I said, and meant it.
“Yeah, he’s not really my type,” she said.
“Good, he looks like he has a fishing selfie as his profile picture,” I joked.
Syd snorted, and we laughed together. The air in the room became lighter. Once we settled, a com-
fortable silence stayed. I stared up at the ceiling. The little artificial stars offered a nice resonating glow. It
was comforting.
“Why’d you kiss Marco?” Syd asked after a while.
“Just wanted to test something out,” I said honestly.
“What’d you find out?” she asked. I glanced over at her. She was looking at me intently.
“He’s not my type either,” I breathed out.
“What is your type?” Syd asked softly. I felt my body warming up. I couldn’t meet her eyes, she
made me nervous. I looked down at my nails and thought my answer over.
“Girls,” I whispered back, like a secret. I met her gaze, hopeful, trying to gauge her reaction. A cou-
ple seconds went by. My heartbeat was loud in my ears, when she finally answered back.
“Me too.”
My breath caught in my throat. Syd smiled warmly. I couldn’t help but smile too. We both rolled
onto our backs and cherished the quiet. There wasn’t anything else for us to say. I felt full and light. I looked
up at the sea of glow in the dark stars again. I never noticed how many Syd had put up there before. She shuf-
fled closer and laid her head against my shoulder. I welcomed the warmth and melted against her. I fell asleep
thinking of pretty girls and stars.

64

Arbol
Mateo Latapie Trenkenchu

My hands hover atwixt the sun and the
mist who lithely lazes upon lakes and leaves
then spends her time nestled near my crooked
crags with which she scratches her back,
a feline entwined as I spin a yarn,
a tale of two children tackling themselves
through drifts of sludge and snow to find each
other traipsing, tilting their heads towards a towering tree.
My rind, slaughtered with skeeving scabs and burly bumps,
reels their gazes up and up, higher and higher,
until my skin splits, shooting and sliding without
any mind or malaise towards some prickly predator.
Their hands haughtily hamper my breath, cover
my shins before bruising my belly. They latch
lazily onto my shoulders, clasping clawfuls of carrion,
green grasped and gouged, threads torn
from a silent statue.

65

The Itch
Alec Talenta

It started off as an itch, bothersome
as an ant bite, day in and day out, easily
ignored but ever-present and growing.
Despite how slight the itch, my joy
hung by a thread and with a gentle
breeze could be sent careening away.
My hound was the only reprieve I had,
and with the loss of him
the itch became a twitch,
unavoidable and unpleasant, with
each occurrence making bleak days grim.
At night I sat at the table, tears cascading
and the 9’s cold steel barrel scratching
the roof of my mouth, waiting for
a twitch, a bang, and the fading of light.

66

Shutters of Light
Dorian Scott

Anna caves in her stomach, revealing the fleshly valley of bones. Her body is nearly frozen, yet her
stretched lip corners twitch. The wet air hissing through her teeth ruptures the humming of the AC in the
room. I wait for a perfect moment where her eagerness meets my unexpected capture. Slowly her lips release
their hyper-extended pull, crawling back down her mouth. Her belly receives back the breath of life, refilling
her natural shape. I press down on the camera, propelling it into a cascade of images. Thirty images of perfec-
tion.

“Why’d you wait so damn long?” she asks, sitting up off the chaise.
“Because,” I say, viewing the camera screen, “that pose was so forced.” She kicks off her shoes,
making them skid across the wooden floor, then walks over to me.
“Hmm, I don’t look half bad. Let’s do another with my hair down.”
I walk with her back over to the chaise, then jump on it. She lays on the pillow, looking to her right
with her left hand under the pillow. I stand over her, trying to decide whether I want half of her body in the
shot or a close up on her face. The viewing screen on my camera shuts off, then flickers in and out. A white
screen appears, barely showing me the image of her.
“Are you going to take the picture?” she says.
“Give me a sec. I’m having issues with the screen.” The camera comes back, showing her squinting
at the camera and her mouth open with only her two front teeth visible. I freeze. Why is she giving me that
face? She leans closer to the camera, biting her lower lip with her whole upper teeth.
“So, do I look like her?”
“Huh?” My camera screen flashes as if the camera flashlight is facing me. Explosions of stars dart in
every direction like the sparks of someone wielding. I wipe my eyes with my palms, then, for some strange
reason, I’m across the room with my back against the wall and the camera back on the stand. Anna is gone.
I look through the viewfinder, seeing my old friend Sherry combing her bleached-blonde hair with
her fingers on the chaise. Her red dress is tight around her body. The folds of her waist protrude out, and her
face is layered with foundation. Some of her pimples poke out through her makeup, creating a whiteish rocky
hill across her face. She throws the left side of her hair behind her and the other side forward. When I back
away from the camera, she’s physically there.
“I’m ready, Damion. How’s my face?” She looks towards the wall to her left, with her mouth slight-
ly open. I zoom in to her neck, viewing the separation of the color of her peachy neck and whiteish face. “Is it
hideous?” I zoom back to find her looking straight into the camera. I fear she’ll gag at the sight of the battle-
field on her face.
“Just stay still, Sherry. I can always edit them in post.” Her body slightly slouches, then her eyes
move down a few centimeters.
“Mhmm.”
I take her picture. In the flashes of light, she vanishes in a blink of an eye. A loud thud that sounds
like boots slapping wood makes me look to my left. Sherry is tapping the floor with the tip of her boot as she
looks out the window. Her hair is now a dark brown, short, resting over her shoulders. She’s petite, wearing a
glittery black sweater, jeans with a black-colored crucifix stitched on the back pockets, and brown pointed-

67

toe boots. I barely can see her thin jawline, alongside her bulging cheekbone. The skin around her knuckles
tightly adheres to her bones.

“Sherry?”
“Yes, Damion?”
“I’m ready for your picture.” Her boots clap the wood, making them echo in the room. She sits in a
metal chair, leaning back with her head over the backrest with her hand over her stomach right behind a table
with various prescribed pill containers. Colorful pills, varying from tablets, capsules, lay around the bottles.
“Are you okay?”
“Starving,” she says. I reach into my pocket, pulling out a half-empty bag of peanuts, present it to
her, then she puts her hands under her forearms. “No, thank you.” Her hands pull the sleeve down, exposing
more of her shoulder, revealing three vertical cuts in the skin.
“You’ve been cutting again.”
“Just,” she says, exhaling air out her mouth and covering her shoulder, “take the picture, please,
Damion.” I aimlessly press down on the camera, curious to know what’ll happen if I don’t look through the
viewfinder. Unfortunately, it’s the same momentary blindness. My eyes fade back into focus. The room is
empty, and the window blinds are closed. Suddenly someone behind me grabs me with their right arm over
my shoulder, while their left arm wraps my stomach.
“Whoa!” I say.
“Did I scare you?”
“Sherry?’
“Uh, who else?”
She turns me around, then pinches my cheeks. Her hair is long, blonde, but her brown hair is grow-
ing out of her roots, plus her skin is a light color goldish bronze. She has gained back some of her weight in
her face and body. There aren’t any bulging bones emerging through her skin. I can’t keep myself from look-
ing up and down, viewing her white bathing onesie. “It’s been a while. Three years I think,” she says.
“Yeah! You ghosted me. Where’d you go?”
“Sorry, I was going through some shit, but now I’m back.”
Out of nowhere, two men come in the room, both wearing yellow-tinted aviators and the same purple
swimming trunks. Their facial hair is short, and the edges are sharply trimmed. I don’t know who they are,
yet I’m already annoyed by their presence. They remind me of Instagram models who attend lavish parties
with a plethora of drunkards and stoners in them.
“Sherry, who are these guys?”
She doesn’t reply but lightly holds my hands. “I’ll see you later, then?”
“Please, wait.” I watch them walk away with her, heading towards a bright white doorway. The
doorway’s light swallows them, then consumes me back standing over Anna. My camera goes off, making
her cover her eyes with her forearm.
“Hey!” she says, frowning with her arms crossed. “Wait till I’m ready.”
“Sorry, my finger slipped.”
The image isn’t bad, but I erase it for her sake. I aim the lens vertically, just barely getting enough of
her upper body. I can’t get enough of her beauty. Her hair, body, and face remind me of Sherry, but Anna’s
snappy attitude is a pain to deal with. I take two photos and present them to her.
“They’re perfect,” she says. She takes a light hold of my arm and repositions to a sitting position.
“Hey.”
“What?” I say, a bit loud and quick.
“I’ve noticed you haven’t been your usual hyper self at all today.”
“Sherry is deep on my mind.”
She lets go of my arm and tucks her hand under her leg. “Should I leave and come back later?”

68

“If you want to.” There’s a silence between us. I walk back over to my camera stand to place the
camera back on it. When I turn around, she’s still sitting. “You’re not leaving?”

She looks at the window then comes over to me. “Come with me,” she says.
“Where are we going?”
She laces her fingers in my hand. I hesitate to close my fingers down on them.
“Maybe we’ll go walk in the park or eat lunch at some random restaurant. I think you should stay out
of the studio for a while.”
While we walk away from the room, I turn my head slightly to look behind me. She gently pushes
my face forward with the index finger of her other hand.
“Yeah,” she says. “Maybe a few weeks will do.”

69

For You, I Would Sleep in (a Bed of Nails)
James Kahla

For you,
I would love a never-ending nosebleed,
might even plug my nostrils
and let the thin warmth dribble
down my throat, keep up good
appearance, smile through tomato-
sauce teeth and nod strong to the pew.
but I wanna learn suffering isn’t care.
and for you,
I’d say fuck my femur, smash fractures
down the column of the bone like splayed
roots going down and dig out a pale-hued
splinter, spiked toothpick to drag whatever
sinew or muscle you’re working on,
tussling through, out of your tooth,
but I wanna learn nothing’s worth that.
And for you,
I’d wear splintered clavicles like sprawling
nets of spider webs, coughing blood
right up. Hell, I could enjoy it as sport
and try to work up a cackle, looking like
a porcupine laughing from its hind.
But I wanna learn that bearing isn’t owning,
And for you,
I’d slam anvils into my knees, roll my eyes
and shrug off the way my fibula cleaves
straight into Turquoise American Spirit scented
incense sticks that you’ll defuse embers
of into the rank and sour white rods sticking
through the soles of my shoes. I'd wear bloody
holes into the heels of my boots,
but I wanna learn empathy over synthesis.
and for you,
Christ, I’d clip my arm flab to my chest,
get emo kid black in the kidney, slam steel
slicing through my teeth and head, go
right back to the bottle and lighter,
put a chip and a slice on each of my cuticles,
smoke my lungs to kettle black, bruise my

70

heart back and forth into a matching pot
And pan set, and goddammit,
for you,
I’d settle for less,
compromise in pain,
but I wanna learn
to rise without
barb-hooked tethers
keeping me the same.

71

Smoke
Gabriela DeLa Puente

The noise from the club, though still loud, becomes dull as the door falls closed behind me and I
step into the alleyway. I let out a breath of relief and move to sit on the steps leading away from the club.
The smell of trash is putrid, and I hug myself as a cold breeze flies by. I trace my collarbone with my thumb
to distract myself from the cold. Coming out tonight in this dress was a mistake, but, as always, Jesse insist-
ed, so I gave in.

I hear two cats fighting deeper in the alley, and I look in their direction, but it’s too dark. I stare into
the blackness as a chill runs through my body.

The door to the club opens, and for a moment the music is clear. I whip my head around to see who
I’ll be dealing with. I let out a breath once I see Jesse. She gives me a half-smile and leans against the railing
along the steps. The smell of the trash is nulled as Jesse’s smell of smoke takes over the alleyway.

She pulls out a lighter, and her thumb triggers the beautiful orange flame that illuminates her face.
The light is gone as quickly as it appears. Jesse sniffles and itches her nose with the end of her lighter as she
pulls out the pack I bought her earlier that day. She’s been smoking double what she was a week ago because
she and her boyfriend broke up. He hated her smoking.

She flips open the pack with her sharp acrylic nails. It’s easy because the pack is already halfway
gone. The cigarettes are moving around in the pack as she shakes it, trying to isolate one stick. When she
gets one alone, she pulls it out with her mouth and slips the pack in her jacket pocket, the leather making a
noise that usually makes a situation awkward, but she doesn’t acknowledge it. She never lets anything faze
her, almost as if she believes that would be letting someone else or society win.

With another swipe of her thumb, a bright orange flame casts light on her face again—her hand cups
around the end of her cigarette and the tip of her flame. Once she sees the white paper turn black and bright
embers rest on the end of the stick, she extinguishes her flame with a raise of her thumb. The lighter disap-
pears into her jacket pocket, and I’m forced to listen to that ugly sound again.

I watch the flames get brighter, and I wait to see the smoke flow out of her mouth like artwork. She
tilts her head back ever so slightly, and I watch the rush of smoke flow up into the black of the night, only
illuminated by the weak light above the club door. Watching Jesse smoke is always so disappointing. She
doesn’t leave room for the smoke to be beautiful.

I’ve always loved watching the smoke dance through the air off the edge of my father’s cigarette. He
never put any force behind an exhale as Jesse does. I would watch the smoke just pour out of his mouth, al-
most like a liquid.

“Didn’t have fun in there?”
I look back to meet her eyes, but she isn’t looking at me. She’s looking at the busy street beyond the
alleyway. My pointer finger and thumb start pulling on the skin of my neck, stretching it out as far as I can.
“I did. I’m just getting tired. I’m ready to call it a night, honestly.” I look forward and then down at
the steps in front of me. I push my skin back into place, and I pull it out again.
I can feel her eyes on me now, and there’s a certain tension in the air that wasn’t there before. “Let’s
just go eat,” she says. “It’s not even midnight yet, Claire. Better suck it up.”
I twist my skin as it’s stretched out.

72

I look up at her, but she’s already moving down the stairs. She’s made the decision, and I’m forced
to follow close behind as she flicks her cigarette on the ground, and I stop to snuff it out with the front of my
heel.

She’s the only one who calls me Claire. A part of me believes she only does it to spite me. I go by
my middle name, Marnie, because I was named after my mother, who I have spent my entire life trying des-
perately hard not to be. I corrected her in the beginning, but now I’ve just grown used to the uncomfortable
feeling of hearing the name.

“Are we close? My heels are killing me, and you said earlier we wouldn’t need to Uber.” It’s dark,
but I’m sure I saw her roll her eyes.

“Well, that wouldn’t be a problem if you’d twinned with me and wore combat boots, but whatever.
We’re almost there.” She says it lightly, but I can hear the spite in it. I cross my arms and move one hand to
rub the skin around my collarbone.

“Sorry.” I look down and count the cracks in the concrete as we walk. She bumps me with her el-
bow, and I feel relief wash over me at her sign of forgiveness.

“It’s okay. Next time.” She looks the happiest she’s been all night, and I let out a breath. I let my
hand fall to hold my arm for some warmth.

I can see a familiar food truck with picnic tables just ahead. Jesse walks ahead of me and turns. “You
came here as a kid with your folks, right?” I walk up to her and look over the scene I spent so much time at
not too long ago.

“Not exactly. I came here with a neighbor when my dad was rough with my mom. Think she felt bad
seeing me sit out in the hallway waiting for it to be over.” The lights are just as warm as I remember, with
families taking up a few tables laughing and enjoying their meals together.

We walk up, and Jesse orders our classic grilled cheeses as I take in the nostalgic smell of grilling
cheddar and mozzarella mixing with the garlic butter. When I was young, I saw this place as salvation, like it
was my only hope of being happy at that age. This is the only smell all night that has overpowered the smell
of smoke from Jesse.

Jesse and I sit at one of the picnic tables and bask in the warmth radiating off the lights hanging over
the tables. I look over at her, and she seems to be taking in the cozy aesthetic happily. I want to know how
she knew I came here as a kid, but I know better than to ask. She’ll get angry and overreact, and I’ll have ef-
fectively ruined our peaceful moment.

Jesse’s name is called, followed by our order, and she walks up to the truck to grab our food. On her
way back, I look at the food, and the packaging hasn’t changed with our sandwiches sitting in red plastic bas-
kets with white parchment paper. It’s simple, but I like it. It seems to encompass the place as a whole. It
doesn’t try to be more than it is.

“Two classic grilled cheeses with a side of pickles and two sodas” She puts the large tray holding
everything down, and I start grabbing at our meals as if I’m setting the table.

I’ve situated our eating area as Jesse sits across from me and turns her sandwich basket a few times
analyzing her sandwich. She stares at it for a second, almost as if waiting for something to happen. Then her
eyes go wide, and she smiles with only her top teeth making a shiver go down my spine. Now she’s rummag-
ing through her pockets and her wallet.

She seems to be looking for something as I chew my first bite. I swallow. “What are you looking
for?”

She looks up to meet my eyes and smiles. “Our extra flavor.” She lifts a small bag of white powder
and pries the bread from the cheese to sprinkle two lines in her sandwich.

“Holy shit, Jess. You can’t do that here,” I say in a hushed whisper. I’m hyper-aware of all the fami-
lies surrounding us as I stare at Jesse’s bag of coke.

73

“Oh my God, Claire, can you just relax? You don’t have to be so uptight all the time. No one will
notice.” Jesse’s calm air from earlier has disappeared. Her face is flat. She’s bored with me.

She glances down at the sandwich and then at me. I can feel sweat forming on my back despite the
cold air. My hands are gripping at the skin on my neck, stretching it as far as it can go. I don’t want it. I didn’t
come out tonight to get fucked up on coke. Jesse’s tired of waiting. She grabs my sandwich, and I watch the
bread break apart as her nails cut through my bread. She sprinkles two lines in my sandwich and pieces to-
gether the bread proudly as she pushes the now cold sandwich back towards me.

I pick up my sandwich and watch Jesse dig into hers like an animal, taking more bites before she’s
gotten the chance to swallow previous bites. I look back down at my grilled cheese. The cheese has cooled
and gained a solid shape, the toast is broken apart and shoved back into the cheese. What was once a pleasant
garlic smell is now making me nauseous, all I can smell now is chemicals. I take a bite trying to ignore the
burn of my nose, a gust of wind hits us and I almost spit it out from the gag and chill running through my
body. But I don’t. I chew it and swallow.

I lift my head, and my fingers curl at the sensation of prying my face from the couch as a dried sticky
liquid is stuck to my face. I’m covered with a thin layer of sweat, and my arm is numb from sleeping on it. I
try to push myself up and fall back into the puddle as my arm collapses underneath me. I feel two arms pull
me into an upright position.

“About time you’re awake. You’ve been out for almost twelve hours.” I hear Jess, but I can’t see her.
I lean back into the couch. My arm is still numb, and I wanna wait until I can feel it. I see the light through
my eyelids, and I wince.

“Claire, come on.” I feel a push on my shoulder, and it feels like my whole body moves at the force.
I think the skin around my eyes is being pulled at, and suddenly the light is assaulting. I open my eyes, and I
can feel my arm waking up. I recognize Jesse’s living room and her soft leather couch under me.

“Geez, Claire. You went crazy last night. Here, drink this.”
I grip at the water bottle and immediately start chugging it, ignoring the water spilling out the sides
of my mouth. I finish the bottle and start gasping for air. The sudden rush of cold air on my throat makes me
cough.
“What the hell happened?” When I ask, I remember. I remember the grilled cheese, going back to the
club we’d just left, the drinks, the guys.
“I’ll go get you some coffee.” Jesse leaves, and I tap my fingers to my face watching the clear string
connect my finger to my face. I grab a kitchen hand towel from Jesse’s living room table and roughly wipe
down my face. The room smells like smoke, and I can see a butt in her ashtray still smoking. I rub the palms
of my hands into my forehead.
“Here. Drink your coffee, and I got you a banana.” She puts the tall mug on the table in front of me. I
can’t believe things got so crazy last night.
“Where did we go last night?” I ask.
“We came here and had a few shots. I think the coke is what fucked you up like this.” Liar.
“Did I eat the whole sandwich?”
“No, you only had like half of it.” Liar. I ate the entire sandwich because you made me take it with
me to the club. You made me finish the whole sandwich while you ordered us another round.
“Still feel like shit, though.”
“You’ll get used to it. I’m gonna take a shower. Here.” I look up from my mug to see her handing
me a cigarette. I can almost see my father offering my mother a cigarette. I take the cigarette, and she lights
it. I stare at the black paper and embers at the tip. The smoke dances up into the air like a stripper. Beautiful,
but not to be touched. I’m not going to get used to it.

74

I’m angry at her for lying to me, for manipulating me with coke. But I’m so tired and my headache is
pulsating so loudly I don’t have it in me to do anything about it. It’s not the first time, so I don’t know why
I’m so surprised. I’ll never get used to it.

I sit drinking my coffee, watching the smoke float, and follow the end of the cigarette as I move it to
manipulate the smoke. I’m such an idiot. I’ve been so focused on not becoming my mother, but Jess ended up
making me just like her. I hear the shower turn on, and I snuff out the cigarette in the ashtray. I watch the
smoke stop as I destroy the cigarette.

Mom’s still with him. She’s never walked out, not once. I refuse to make the same mistake. I down
the last of my coffee and order an Uber to go home. I find my heels in the kitchen and grab them, carrying
them as I walk out the door. I won’t give her the chance to get me used to it.

I can still smell the smoke on me from being in Jesse’s apartment for so long. I can’t seem to escape
the smell no matter where I go. I learned a long time ago that smoke is the kind of smell that lingers.

75

Al cruzar el naranjal
Viviana Camarillo

My father sits still in the stone bath
where we were all baptized,
his tiny hands reaching out
towards the mountains where hungry ghosts live,
the wind stirring dust and citrus to wake the other children,
a sweet sensation concocted to wake the dead.
Fresh stains follow my grandmother from the well to the stove,
And her soft face sticks out of the window.
Her head is slightly bowed,
praying that her child does not grow stiff.
My grandfather stands tall and strong
like the navelina trees he tends to,
his fingers covered in sticky strands of pulp
as he grinds the thick slices into juice.
The uneven table is set for seven,
and the thirsty clay cups wait to be filled.
A stack of warm tortillas sits neatly
in the center, waiting to embrace salted flesh.
The sun begins to push through the grey clouds,
its rays mimicking the shade of the plump navelina.
My father tells me that mornings like this were created by God.
Mornings like this are the reason he believes that gold grows on trees.

76

Contributor’s Page

Vanessa Aguirre is a creative who is limitless in her love for the arts and the moon.
Hannah Beach is a sophomore English major in a long-term relationship with good food and classic
literature.
Viviana Camarillo is a Media Production major with a passion for Stevie Nicks, dachshunds, and
herbal teas.
Gabriela DeLa Puente is an English major who makes exclusively bad decisions.
Andi Doty is a sophomore New Media major who occasionally talks to the voices in their head.
Emily Goff is an interstellar traveler and peddler of stories, hailing from out beyond Antares.
Christian Gonzalez is a sophomore English major with a dream of publishing a book one day.
Quetzalli Guadalupe is majoring in English and loves writing and storytelling.
James Kahla is an Outdoor Tourism and Recreation Management major with a love of Dr. Pepper
and firm beliefs in radical hope and punching Nazi’s.
Maryam Khan is an English major with a passion for stories in all forms and a love for cats.
Emma Lev is an aspiring English major perpetually annoyed that she hasn’t gotten the magical ad-
venture promised by all those young adult novels.
Lindsay Miller is a History major with a passion for stories and art, and a firm belief that YouTube is
an essential part of any writing process.
Steffie Moy’s world of words are live puzzles.
Johnson Nguyen is an aspiring graphic designer who enjoys playing games and reading in his free
time.
Sophia Sierra Quintero is the exact kind of Political Science major that somehow turns every con-
versation into a political discussion.
Dorian Scott started writing fiction by looking at various character portraits on Pinterest.
Alec Telenta is a US Army Veteran and English major with aspirations of teaching English in Japan.
Mateo Latapie Trenkenchu is an aspiring English major with a penchant for flubbing one-sentence
bios.
Angie Grajales Villada is an aspiring artist with a passion to paint the world around her.
Brysa Ward is a junior Arts major with a passion for history and stories of all mediums.
Cheri Winters strives each day to be as amazing as her furbaby, Saddie, sees her.
Amy Young is a full-time Humanities and English professor at LSC-University Park who was a stu-
dent in Kari Breitigam’s class Arts 2316.
Walter Zogg is a sophomore who loves to listen to audiobooks while playing Animal Crossing in
bed.

77

Acknowledgments

The faculty sponsors and student editors would like to thank Shah Ardalan, President of LSC-
University Park, for his advice and support, as well as Kathy Sanchez, Vice President of Instruction,
who, as a former English professor, we know reads every piece. We’d like to thank Kari Breitigam for
being the art judge and a great art professor who encourages her students to submit their powerful piec-
es to the magazine. Also, a thanks should go to Sarah Ray and the students and staff at Student Life.
With Covid 19, this year was particularly difficult finishing up the magazine and we can honestly say
that it may not have happened without the Division 1 Justice League superheroes who stepped in and
got to work. They are Jona Anderson, Priscilla Arteaga, Carmelita Garcia, Tabitha Shanley, Blair Do-
erge, and Diego Medrano. Thank you for the numerous WebEx meetings, the plans and the pep talks.
To put it simply, y’all rock.

Finally, we’d like to thank our friend and founding faculty, David Miller, who has been a faculty spon-
sor for the magazine for the last nine years. It was his idea to start with a contest to pick the name of the
magazine. It was his kindness and general Zen calmness which helped make our meetings enjoyable.
The magazine would not be the same without him. Thank you, David.

Submission Guidelines

Uproar, the student literary arts magazine of Lone Star College-University Park, is published every
spring. Any LSC-University Park student may submit pieces.
1. The submission deadline for the 2022 edition of Uproar is November 1st, 2021. Late submissions

will be saved for the following school year’s selection process.
2. Only LSC-University Park students who are enrolled in a credit course may submit. Magazine staff

members also may submit.
3. The selection process is anonymous. Authors should not put their names anywhere on written piec-

es; names should only appear on the submission forms. Artists must put their names on the back of
their pieces.
4. Only original, unpublished works are accepted. Simultaneous submissions are permitted as long as
you notify us if your piece is accepted somewhere else.
5. All entries must be listed on an Uproar Submission Form. Students should use separate forms for
writing and for art. Maximum entries per person: six poems, three short stories/essays and eight art
pieces.
6. Short stories/essays should not exceed 3,500 words in length. Word count must be included on the
first page.

Contest Information: Every piece submitted will be entered into the Uproar Contest. Entries will be
judged by faculty members, who will select an art piece for the cover and first, second and third place
winners in poetry and in prose. First through third-place winners will receive gift card awards worth
$100, $75 and $50, respectively. The artist who creates the artwork selected for the cover will receive a
$100 gift card.
The Uproar advisors are Professor Amy Young, who can be reached at [email protected],
and Professor Greg Oaks, who can be reached at [email protected]

78

Uproar Submission Form

First Name: __________________________Last Name: ______________________________
Student ID Number: __________________Phone Number: ___________________________
Street Address: _________________________________________________________________
City: ______________________________State: __________ Zip: ___________________
Email Address:
____________________________________________________________________

You may submit multiple pieces on one form, but use separate forms for art and for writing. Limit:
six poems, three short stories/essays and eight art pieces. These submissions are: Art ! Writing !

Titles
1. _________________________________________________________________________
2. _________________________________________________________________________
3. _________________________________________________________________________
4.__________________________________________________________________________
5.__________________________________________________________________________
6.__________________________________________________________________________
7.__________________________________________________________________________
8.___________________________________________________________________________
9.___________________________________________________________________________

Please write a one-sentence bio to be published in the magazine if your piece is selected. (Example:
James Bond is a freshman Criminal Justice major with a love of martinis and a license to kill.)
____________________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________________

Authorization

I hereby warrant that the written pieces or art submitted with this form are my original works and
that I own any copyrights that may be applicable to them. I authorize Lone Star College-University
Park and the staff of Uproar, the college literary/arts journal, to mechanically and electronically
publish the above submissions and display the art pieces as they determine to be appropriate, sub-
ject only to any additional written instructions which I may furnish.

________________________________________________________ _______________

Submitter’s Signature Date



Vanessa Aguirre
Hannah Beach
Viviana Camarillo
Edna Corona
Gabriela DeLa Puente
Andi Doty
Zoila Espinoza
Emily Goff
Christian Gonzalez
Quetzalli Guadalupe
James Kahla
Maryam Khan
Emma Lev
Lindsay Miller
Steffie Moy
Johnson Nguyen
Sophia Sierra Quintero
Dorian Scott
Alec Telenta
Mateo Latapie Trenkenchu
Angie Grajales Villada
Brysa Ward
Cheri Winters
Amy Young
Walter Zogg


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