Space Baby by Talia Idelson

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Eliza’s eyes grew wide at the world. The space around her was light and airy, she floated up and around the little room in the aircraft. Her face was soft, cheeks glowing and red. Her lips were thin and moist, but no breath escaped them.

For a moment everything was silent in the little white room with no windows. The baby floated higher. Everyone stood about the little child in a dome below her, waiting. Eliza’s mother had sat up, was staring almost angrily at her baby. Her eyes wanted to command the child to breathe.

And then a cry rang out. Bubbling from Eliza’s mouth a shrill, joyous cry that echoed throughout the tiny room and into the ears of her family, the astronauts, the doctors. Everyone had been waiting for this moment, and it had come. In only a moment, the scarily silent room became abuzz with laughter, crying, shouts, and whoops. Eliza’s mother silently sobbed in a corner, watching in wonder as her beautiful baby girl bounced around the room, crying gleefully.

Then it was time to take Eliza out of the room she was born in, to show her a world much bigger than the one she already knew. A universe.

    Carried in the arms of her mother, Eliza was led to an enormous window at the front of the aircraft.

    “Look, Eliza,” her mother said. “This is my world. And now it is yours.”

    Eliza cried again. But through her glassy tears, Eliza could see the world. She saw the dark sky with smudged stripes of purple and pink. She saw the sun’s bright rays and the moon’s pale, mysterious reflections. She saw the planets, which she would one day explore. And the infinite stars were reflected in her wide, elliptical eyes.

    Eliza slept in her cradle. A large paperweight held her blanket down and she snuggled into it. Eliza’s mother watched her newborn with sunken, hollowed out eyes.

    “You should get rest, your girl isn’t going anywhere.” The doctor gave an encouraging smile.

    “She won’t go anywhere, but I’m already gone. We’re years away from Earth; you know I won’t make it.”

    “We don’t know that. I’m not making any predictions yet. Hold on for your baby, for the future of space science. You’re making history!” the doctor insisted.

    Eliza’s mother smiled sadly and lay down on the floor next to her baby’s cradle. Her skeleton curved around the walls of the little cage. She cried. Her tears all gathered in the deep circles under her eyes. Bubbles of the salty liquid floated off of her face and made it looked like the walls were crying, too. Her face was a waterfall that didn’t flow. She was a broken woman.

    And they had made history. Even if both Eliza and her mother died, the first baby had been born in space.

   

Add It Up by Stina Trollbäck

She's leaning against the black metal banister with a thermometer in hand.
    She's trying to add it up.
    I'm adding it up. The average body temperature hovers around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's normal to be as low as 97 degrees, and 99 degrees is normal too. That's a two degree range. And each one-degree causes a big shift. 97 plus two is still normal. 97 plus three degrees means the chills and insomnia start.
    Though, of course, Papa had 97 plus eight degrees, which is pneumonia. He kept shivering and looking at me and every time he shivered I would move a step away but then I would ask to take his temperature again just to make sure and he got mad. And when he got mad I would start drawing a picture and when I drew a picture he said I was just like his mama and then I would get additionally mad on top of his mad, and he would ignore my mad because he said it doesn't help to feed anger with anger. He said that his mama would've been proud of me and that was that, but I stayed mad because I didn't know her and it hurt. It hurt the most because I couldn't bear to swim into the stories that he poured out because I was afraid of the burden of having to carry all his stories second-hand and to not ever hear it from him again, so it was easier to not listen when he spoke of his mama. I sat next to his bed and asked to take his temperature again and he would lift his tongue and I would put the glass thermometer there and then I would look at the number after two minutes and subtract five from 105 and tell him it was just a fever, and he would blink and say I was too kind to become a liar. You're together all the time and your blood is fifty percent the same, only your blood is eight degrees colder. But you've never thought of yourself as a cold-blooded person like a shark, so this is very uncomfortable for you now and you don't like to think that you are ectothermic and need his endothermic warmth, but you touch him to take some of his heat anyway because you do need him.
    Papa liked to say that we are all like sharks, and I guess that still works because he could just be a Great White shark as those are partially warm-blooded, and I'd be a Hammerhead.
    I crawled into his bed at night because he wasn't contagious he swore he wasn't and so did the doctors, so I curled up next to his feet because they stayed cold even when his temperature was that high and his feet weren’t ticklish so I could feel the pulse of his blood in the middle of the night if I woke up afraid and know he was alive and that eight degrees had nothing on him.
    But the eight degrees won eventually because he was too nice and let the eight degrees stay and I'm not as kind as he thought I am so I started yelling at the doctors because they always added the eight degrees and they were the ones who made Papa believe that his insides were melting so clearly that he let himself melt, and you begin to lose yourself a little after that point. It all becomes bitter like thawed metal and diesel and green tea and you pour packets of sugar on your tongue to make the bitter feeling go away but you can't help being bitter at everyone and especially at those eight degrees because if he had subtracted five it would have just been a fever and if he had subtracted six that would have been 99 and that would still be normal, so the bitterness doesn't thaw, you just swim into the bitterness because you are a cold-blooded Hammerhead shark and that's what you do. You swim. I'm swimming.
    She swam in the tiny pool of liquid bitter Mercury that had spilled out of the glass thermometer when she broke it.

Untitled Short Story by Miyu Simpkins

 photography by Todd Hido 

photography by Todd Hido 

 The shrilling bell for second period had rung, bouncing around the halls of Hubbard Brooks High School, and the congested corridor that was filled with chatter had soon dissipated, as the kids shuffled inside their appropriate classrooms. A young boy was still at his locker, pushing his glasses up his nose bridge, and hastily rummaging through his bag. He heard the sound of footsteps, and before he could turn around, someone had yanked his bag, and the young boy tumbled to the ground, his glasses skidding across the hall. All of the sudden, the cracking sound of his glasses erupted, followed with a cackling laughter. 

    “YO, get up,” the older boy had scoffed, kicking the younger boy’s stomach, and all he could do was crumble further into the ground, trembling in fear. The older boy had laughed again, and gripped the frightened boy, tears streaming down his round cheeks.

    “Dexter,” Another voice approached, and the young boy, through his tears, saw a blurry vision of Maya, pushing past the boy who attacked him-Dexter, a senior, who was notorious for bullying incoming freshmen.

    “Back off Maya, this is between me and that little twig,” Dexter grit his teeth, drawing near the shaking young boy.

    Maya rolled her, eyes, stepping in front of the crouched freshman. “Go back to class Dexter. You don’t wanna go to summer school for the fourth year in a row don’t you?” She pouted mockingly, crossing her arms.

    “Whatever…” Dexter trudged away from the two of them, slowly disappearing from their sight as he turned the corner. 

    “You okay?” Maya smiled, reaching her hand out, and the boy clasped onto her, as she pulled him up. 

    “I am now, thanks to you,” He smiled shyly, bending down to pick up his book bag.

    Maya checked her watch, and groaned. “I have to go to my Spanish class. I’m glad you’re okay. Don’t be afraid, not all of us are bad.” Maya smiled brightly, waving to the boy, who was completely in awe of the girl who had just saved him. 

    Maya ran to her second period class, and ignored the stares she got as she walked in, and made her way to her seat, next to her best friend, Liana.

    “Do you have a note Miss Soprano?” her teacher called out.

    “No, I was saving a freshman from getting beat up,” Maya shrugged, taking out her notebook from her backpack.    

    Her teacher smiled, and shook her head. “You can’t always save the day Maya,” 

 

    The day had gone by quickly, and after Maya finished debate club, she went home to smell fresh marinara sauce wafting towards her. 

    “Dinner’s almost finished if you’re hungry,” Her sister called from the kitchen.

    “I’m starving,” Maya sighed in relief at the thought of home made food. “You’re a goddess Jen.” Maya was exhausted, she had 3 AP tests that day, and dealt with college meetings whenever she had a free period. Nonetheless, she had gotten up, and tirelessly set up the table for her dad, mom, and sister for dinner. 

    Her  family gathered around the dinner table, and while her parents were talking, Jen and Maya were whispered on about their day at school.

    “Oh my god, this girl tried to steal money from my bag today…” Jen rolled her eyes, twirling her spaghetti with her fork.

    “What? What happened? Did you tell your teacher? Did you call her out? If you didn’t, I will,” Maya was hysteric, the thought of her sister being in the slightest of danger had always bothered her. Jen was younger than her, and ever since they were babies Maya had always protected her, since Jen was her only sister.

    Jen laughed, nudging Maya playfully. “Calm down, you’re too over protective. And yeah, I told the principal and she got detention for like 3 days,” 

    “Good,” Maya sighed, continuing to eat the pasta her sister had made. “Oh and your marinara sauce tastes awful,” Maya teased, and they giggled, continuing to talk about their day.

    

After dinner, Maya went into her bedroom, and started to do her calculus homework, when her sister knocked on her door.

    “Hey, can I borrow your black strapless dress?” Jen asked, nervously biting her lips.

    “Yeah… sure. Why? Where are you going?” Maya asked, putting down her notebook.

    “Jackson Leeman is having a party tonight and I don’t have anything cute to wear.” Jen smiled, with a dreamy look in her eyes.

    “Isn’t Jackson the one you have that massive crush on?” Maya mischievously teased, swirling on her chair. Jen didn’t answer, and bashfully looked down, her cheeks flushed.

    “Just be careful, it’s late... Don’t do anything stupid, I wouldn’t let you go, but I know you’re gonna hate me if I get in the way of you and jaccckksssonnnn,” Maya sang, and went to her closet, digging around for that dress. She wanted to lecture Jen more, but she was only a year younger than her, so she just reluctantly handed her the dress. Jennette squealed, thanking Maya, and ran back into her room. 

    

    It was 3am, and the sound of the ticking clock was the only audible noise that had ricochet around the room. Maya was in deep slumber, when she heard someone knock on her bedroom door. She languidly rose from her bed, and opened the door to see her sister with black tears flowing down her face. A jolt ran down Maya, and she was no longer tired after seeing the sight of her crying sister. Maya grabbed her sister’s wrist, led her to her own bed, and Jen sunk into Maya’s airy bed.  The only thing Maya heard was her younger sister’s muffled whimpers. And through the dark room, the moonlight had revealed Jennette’s cold, shuddering body, melting with the velvet duvet. For a long time, Maya had just sat there, stroking her sister’s hair, letting the inky atmosphere consume them both. Jennette lifted her head, wiping her tears, and her swollen eyes had painfully pierced into Maya’s solemn ones. 

    “What happened…” Maya whispered.

    “Ja-Ja… Jackson…” Her voice was tremulous, barely audible.

    “What did he do…”

    “I-I-I step… I stepped aw-away from m-my drink for a-a minute… an-and next thing I-I-I knew ev-everything was so bl-blurry, and Ja-Jackson was on top o-of me…” She choked on her own tears, shook her head, and her breathing began to quicken. “I-I tried getting hi-him off…” 

    Maya embraced her, and felt her sister’s small frame shivering once again. Tears began to well up in Maya’s eyes, tightening her grip on her sister. 

    “I’m sorry… I should’ve never let you go... “ Maya’s throat began to squeeze, guilt churning in her stomach. It was not long until sleep had submerged them, while they were still in each other’s arms. 

 

    The next day, Maya told Liana what happened to her sister. Jackson was senior in their school, and seemingly “one of the nicest guys”.

    “Are you gonna do something…” Liana whispered, twirling her fingers around, looking at her best friend apprehensively. She knew that Maya can get a little over protective sometimes, especially when it comes to her sister. Maya looked backed at her and raised her brow. Liana knew that Maya had something in mind.

    “Speak of the devil…” Both of them watched Jackson walking into the cafeteria, approaching people, and greeting them. Sure enough, he had come toward the two of them.

    “Hey ladies. Just wanted to let you know I’m throwing a party tonight. Only seniors invited,” He winked.

    “Oh… Jackson I dont thin-” Liana was abruptly interrupted when Maya kicking her legs.

    “We’re there,” Maya smiled.

    “Great!” Jackson laughed. “My house, at 10. See you guys.” He knocked the table, and walked away.     

    “What are you doing?” Liana asked, confused as to why Maya would even want to be near Jackson’s party.

    “Maybe Jackson would like to feel weak, and vulnerable… make him feel what he did to my sister...” Maya’s voice was low but vehement, filled with hatred and vengeance.

 

    That night, it was foggier than usual, devouring the houses on each street. The street lamps lit the cloudy roads, and through the hazy gray fog, one house was illuminated through the mist. Maya and Liana made their way into Jackson’s house, and was immediately thronged by loud adolescents. 

    “Find Jackson!” Maya yelled through the crowd, and Liana nodded. Before Maya could blink, Liana was engulfed by the flood of people. Maya pushed past the dancing teens, elbowing those in her way.

    “Maya!” She heard Liana’s voice from across the room, and made her way towards her friend’s distant voice. She soon caught a glimpse of Jackson, who was in the kitchen spraying his friends with an exploding soda bottle. 

    “Can you distract him for me?” Maya pulled Liana towards her, making sure no one can hear. Liana nodded and made her way towards Jackson. They began to talk, and Jackson put his cup down on the kitchen counter. Maya saw this as her chance, and swiftly made her way to Jackson’s cup, covertly pouring a powder into his drink. Liana saw that Maya had gave her a sign that she was done, and ended her conversation with him. 

    Maya watched Jackson, laughing with his friends, grabbed his cup, and lifted it to his lips, as he drank what was inside his red cup. He winced, put his drink down, shook his head, and started talking to his friends again.

    “Let’s get out of here,” Maya tapped Liana, and soon enough, they were out of the house, back at their own homes, as if nothing happened that night.

    

    The next day at school, Maya had walked into school, and suddenly sensed an unexplaiable weight that she felt on her shoulders. The air was dull and everyone around her wore a grim facade. Someone had tapped her, and when she turned around, it was Liana. Her face was gray, her eyes dous, and lips dry.

    “Are you okay?” Maya asked, putting her hands on her friend’s arm. Liana grimaced, moving away from her.

    “Maya… Jackson died last night…” Liana said.

    Maya’s stomach fell, and was drowned in her empty thoughts, a cold shudder washing through her blood. Was this a joke? Her mind paced faster and faster, and suddenly everything became vague, her vision swelling.

    “Wh-What…?” 

    “Maya, what the hell. How much of that did you put into her drink? He-He apparently went crazy last night, and ran out his house… A-and ran into some c-car that didn’t see him be-because of that f-fog…” Liana whispered, her breath cold. Maya stood there, in disbelief, a whimper coming out of her. 

    “I-I can’t be around you… Y-You never should’ve done that Maya…” Liana’s face hung, walking away from Maya. 

 

    Before Maya knew, she was taken to the police station for investigation.

 

The bright blue lights flickered above Maya’s head, the harsh edges of the shadows had swallowed her eyes, and the only thing visible was her quivering, pale lips. The cold metal below her legs had sent a shiver up her body, and all she could feel was the heavy air compressing against her head. 

“I-I just wanted to help my sister…” she muttered.

A Normal Tale of a Vermillion Woman by Annalise Edwards

iris_apfel.jpg

A Normal Tale of a Vermillion Woman and Her Viscid Friends

I walked by a woman at the Bergen Street subway station today. The ground was covered in old chewed up gum blackened by dirt and grime from years of shoe soles stomping on them. People don’t think about chewing gum that’s been spit. People don’t really think about chewing gum at all.

The woman wore a bright orange trench coat the color of the bottom of a goldfish cracker bag, only made out of ratty yarn and cloth patches covering moth-bitten holes at the armpits. Her hair was black and sharp, as though she was some kind of cartoon character made from blocks of color. I couldn’t see her eyes- they were covered by sunglasses covering her face from the end of her bangs to the middle of her cheeks. She had a crooked nose and thin red lips, like how I’d always secretly imagined Cruella de Vil. I was made of water vapor to her- she saw me as a blurry mist in the distance, hurriedly passing through me to escape the incoming rain. 

As she trod by, I heard brief exclamations slipping out of her lips:

Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen… 

She was looking straight down, her neck at a perfect right angle to her hidden spine under the crumpled orange cloth blanketing her body like the hide of a sheep. Through the coat’s large sleeves, two of her carefully manicured fingers appeared, pointing at the blackened spots on the ground of the station. 

Eighteen, nineteen, twenty… 

My eyes followed her fingers until she reached the exit, gracefully clicking up the stairs and out of view.

Monet's Undead and Annoyed Wife by Kimberly Sanford

Monet’s Undead and Annoyed Wife

Camille rolled her eyes. In her frail arms she carried five paintings of various sizes, one of which stabbed her arm as she walked. Shuffling her feet along the dirt path, she kicked up dust and looked down as it covered her shoes. Camille’s eyes caught the corner of a painting but she darted away her vision quickly, she was not interested in looking at any part of them anymore. She made her way to a bright green bridge which arched over a pond littered with lily pads. As she reached the peak of the bridge, she laid down the paintings across the railing. One by one she walked passed them, pushing them over the edge and into the water, bothering the sleeping lily pads with ripples of anger. Camille’s hands shook slightly as she flipped one painting and then the next with distaste. Her eyes rolled again, she could still see the paintings at the bottom of the water. She would have to wait for the dirt to settle before they would be hidden from view.

Rolling Hillside Valley Days by Kimberly Sanford

Rolling Hillside Valley Days

Her silver hoop earring was caught in grass and as she rolled on her side it was pulled from her ear. Groaning with her eyes closed, she reached behind her and patted the ground in search of the earring. After about four or five pats she left her hand behind her and decided it wasn’t worth it. Slowly she opened her eyes and stared blankly at one blade of grass, watching it stand idly, waiting for it to be blown in the wind. “Hi,” she whispered to the green spear. The wind finally came by and made the grass dance, a little wave in response to her greeting. With this, she smiled. A dimple emerged only on her right cheek and quickly receded once her satin lips went back to their emotionless position. Groaning once more she moved her weight onto her hand and further until she was sitting upright, her back curved and chest deflated. The wind picked up again and she followed the tops of rolling hills with her eyes like a roller coaster, up and down and up again until they went off too far into the horizon for her to see. Her head made its way back to the center point of her view for a moment before looking down at the grass by her side. “I’ll see you later,” she said, petting one blade with her finger, not knowing whether or not it was the one she greeted in the first place.

Acetone by Kimberly Sanford

Acetone

Carefully he placed the soaked brush against his dry nail, still fragrant from blue acetone. As he sat by his bedroom window arched over his desk, so focused on a dollop of violet polish, a dual toned sound rang out in the distance. Maybe it came from the harbor; he’s heard it all his life yet he never knew the source. His left hand shook more than his right, which was holding the brush steadily. He exhaled and placed it down just below his cuticle, dragging it down to the tip of his nail and repeating the step two more times. With the third swipe, a drop of eggplant lacquer came flooding over the side of his finger. “Damn it,” he’d whispered, defeated yet again. After picking up the bottle of polish remover, he dipped a Q-Tip into the blue liquid and ran it precisely over the smear, making the mistake unknown to onlookers. He dropped the Q-Tip down on his desk and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes and waiting for the sound to come again.

Immortal Night by Anastassia Kolchanov

I read an article on a website about making pen pal packages and decided promptly that I want a pen pal too.

This isn't the first time I've had the desire to communicate with someone across the world, but I'm certain it won't be the last.

I announce my ambitions to my mother, who I was certain would support me.

Instead, she shakes her head.

"You don't have time for a pen pal. You have other things to do."

I frown and this time I shake my head.

Up the stairs into my room continuing my monotonous life.

 

My window overlooks a canal that isn't particularly clean. The water is a little murky and pieces of trash bob their floating bodies across the current. I see my neighbors across the way with their cerulean curtains. If the canal had clean water running through it, I imagine it would be the color of those curtains. I open my window and stick my head out to feel the rain slither across my cheek. A thunderstorm was crawling in my direction, but I do not close the window and sit obediently inside.

 

I watch as the clouds silently taint the pristine grey sky. They unfurl like dark sails. As I lean on my hand, the swollen tears fall from my eyes and from the sky.

The storm continued to pour the freshwater upon the roofs of the houses across the canal. Concentric circles were swallowing the murky waters whole, and I felt myself being absorbed by the vibrations.

Idla comes in and immediately charges at me.

My head is no longer feeling the pulsations of the rain. The tears are dripping from the tips of my hair and melt into the soft gaps of my skin.

"Isa you're absolutely soaked! What were you thinking? "

She talks to me like I'm 10 even though we're both in high school.

"I wanted to be in the rain."

Idla sighs and grabs a towel hanging on the back of the armchair. I feel my feathery hair being ruffled.

Idla squats in front of me and her eyes are pleading for truth.

They ask me if I'm okay. I shrug. They ask me again. I decide not to answer.

Idla leans on the wall on my right. Waterfalls are streaming down the window.

 

Night has come to snatch me away. I awake curled in my own hands. Idla is smiling and smoking out of the window.

The cool air of night is breathing on my neck. I cock my head to the side.

"You're gonna die that way, you know that right?"

Idla scoffs and continues smiling to herself.

I've always found her smoking so strange. It’s the complete opposite of the image that she presents to the world.

Here's a photograph of Idla:

She was recently accepted to Yale and will start in the fall.

She has beautiful thick locks of hair and has a passion for volunteer work.

She likes the colors of fall.

She likes to rock climb.

She likes to help at the farmer's market on Saturdays.

She likes to smoke.

It's one of the two things that I can't stand about her.

 

You never seem to realize how much paper weighs, until you stack it. Placed in a bag and rolled over onto one side, I am overturned like a turtle desperately wanting to move again. My school bag is pulling me into the hazardous clutches of gravity. Absolutely helpless.

 

Idla walks past me, still in her robe. How mature of her.

I look up at this idol of mine. She's lucky. Idla doesn't have class at 8 in the morning.

She smirks and leaves me to my own devices.

 

Few minutes later, out the door with some old Keds on my feet, I walk motionless and silently. I'm making my way through the depths of space. My street is quiet in the morning, save the skateboarder who just rode by me with only an umbrella in his hand.

 

I think he goes to my school.

At the train station, I feel every rivet moving beneath me. They are doing construction, and my train moves by breathing heavily and breaking into beads of perspiration.

The bright lights in the tunnel remind me of surgery.

Clouds drift by faster than the words leaving my head. I talk to myself as I take a left down the street and run.

My passage of escape is blocked by a stocky man walking slowly smoking a cigarette much like Idla does.

I don't like him or the way he inhales the toxic fumes or the way he drags his feet across the sidewalk or the way he slouches deep within his own spine.

I move past him in an awkward manner, and my feet resume punching holes in the sidewalk.

Three blocks.

Two Blocks.

One.

The same beads of perspiration I saw on the train now created a delicate necklace across my own chest.

I see two women silently looking at me as I sprint the last several feet.

Their eyes trail my breathlessness, evaporating in the dull morning.

 

Fluorescent light penetrates my skull and I don't feel anything. I am numb and cold from the hours sitting in cramped school rooms with tired teachers teaching tired students. My body feels like orbiting the earth and flinging itself out into space.

I walk down the hall to reach my locker. In a drugged stance, I am dazed by the dial on my lock. I feel a tap.

Nothing of it.

I feel another tap.

My head circles my neck to accompany the motion that stimulated my delayed reaction.

I am still in outer space.

It was Idla, as usual.

She was smiling, as usual. Her arm was around her girlfriend, Iris. As usual.

"Hey, there."

I nod my head.

"Hey are you here? On Earth?"

I shake my head.

Iris stares into my forehead. Maybe she notices the small pimple that erupted earlier this morning. Maybe she sees my lame attempt at braiding my hair. Maybe she sees what I am thinking.

In any case, I feel embarrassed.

 

The courtyard of my school is precariously tiny, but it's where I like to eat my lunch. There's a small crevice between the building and our singular tree that I squeeze into.

Through the fence, I see two nuns sitting on the bench waiting for the bus. One of them has a green bag, much like the grass that would grow in the courtyard in the spring.

One of them is wearing grey sneakers, and the other nun is wearing black slip on shoes. The nun with the black shoes complains about the holes in her shoes. She laughs as she tells the nun with the grey shoes that her family had bought them for her only a year ago.

The nun with the grey shoes is surprised and shakes her head in disbelief.

The nun with black shoes looks up at me and smiles.

She radiates pure kindness.

Her eyes seem as clear as a glass of water fresh from the tap.

I quickly turn away, my cheeks burning up like a leaf caught in a fire.

It's the kindness of such genuine people that intrigues me and makes me wonder how she ended up accepting God's grace. Did she turn to religion when she hit rock bottom? Was she a reformed alcoholic? Did she foresee a prophesy?

All of these questions orbit the nun with the black shoes and the nun with the grey shoes. But I'll never know the answers to any of them because they've stood up to board the bus that finally came.

 

I'm walking by the canal, looking at the murky water. It bobs up and down slowly, frowning at me.

It is night again. The horrors of school and my everyday interactions are behind me. I'm holding in my hand a book of poetry. The pages are dampened by the mist settling upon the ripples and the waves.

The dark fog is clinging to my skin, cleansing out the sadness from my pores. I hear the faint rustle of my hair.

My body moves like the currents, shifting its size and perception with the seconds of time.

A window opens behind me, and I descend back to the earthly realm.

Idla has opened the window in her room to smoke her nightly cigarette. Darkness cloaks her face, and the small orange ember at the tip of the deadly nicotine emits a knowledgable light. The bellows of smoke reach toward the sky, losing its shape and disintegrating into abstract formations.

I like to look at smoke, but not when it comes from Idla. She's poisoning herself.

I turn my back in her, and stare at the canal once more. I'm itching to feel the coolness of the water. My skin aches to be cloaked in the dead of the night and to dissolve in the particles of murky uncertainty.

There are some stone stairs that lead themselves to a small floating platform on the water. The houseboats sometimes dock around here to refuel.

Feeling mischievous, I go down the stairs with a fast paced urgency. I am now standing below the pavement my feet had touched moments ago. The wooden dock seems to be rotting away, disintegrating into the night.

I open my book, and my fingers fall upon William Blake's "The Tyger":

 

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye l,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

 

In what distant deeps or skies.

 

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand, dare seize the fire?

 

I look up again to catch a glimpse of the fiery orange eye floating in front of the third floor of our house. Idla's hair cascades across her hunched back as she leans into the night. She looks like she's about fly.

 

I come in through the back doorway. It goes into the small foyer just in front of the kitchen.

It has a small fireplace that we like to sit by on cool nights such as this one.

Except the fire is roaring in the fireplace, and there is no one around it.

Flames leaping out, almost licking the mantlepiece.

Stars in my eyes, dazed and puzzled, I walk around the kitchen.

My feet lead me up to the stairs, slowly sinking into the sagging wood like sand.

I call out for Idla’s name but my voice seems to float into the void that I call my home.

I reach the second floor, where my mother is usually working.

Poking my head through the studio and the bedroom

lead to the creation of an air of angst.

Planets of doubt filling my head, I start my second ascent.

My hands are turning fiery, burning holes in my sweater.

My eyes are turning orange, burning holes in the banister of the circular stairs. 

I reach the third floor, and my feet are dying for an answer. 

The door to Idla’s room is almost closed, almost shut out like the white noise running around in frantic circles inside of my bulging head. 

I push the door open with hesitation, holding my breath as though I were performing surgery. 

Idla is nowhere to be seen. I see a thin trail of grey smoke tearing its way through the orange room. 

My fingers are burning holes through the cigarette that had been put out only moments ago. 

I look out the window, and then jerk my head down. 

An ember, a single eye stares at me in the mist of the soggy night. 

It has come to take me away. 

A Hidden Yellow World by Kimberly Sanford

 

A Hidden Yellow World

An olive painted house sat silently adjacent to a dirt footpath. Canopied by trees and littered with foliage, the path opens up to a wheat field outlined and criss crossed by marshy streams. In the horizon there are houses like the olive one, large, dominating, overbearing of the land around them. As though it was an afterthought, a little yellow shed is perched next to the woods that blocked off the dirt road. Although the layout was peculiar, there was something intriguing about this scene. With a closer look at the shed, chipping paint is visible around its base. The wind screamed and then died down to a whimper, taking more pieces of the flaxen flecks with it. An equally damaged seaweed colored roof restlessly weighed down the structure, the ribbons of wind that broke through it howled inside before they left. Behind the battered wooden door resides a world consumed by vines and photographs; moments in time captured and never seen again by those who created it. Vases that once housed potted plants had shattered to the floor many years ago; they left behind chalky pieces that would not be reunited with one another. Two wooden chairs were juxtaposed in front of a desk that matched the roof. An album lays open on the desk, two girl recur throughout the storyline of images. Never smiling, never laughing, but never sad; always contemplating or staring with emptiness. They seemed content together, always laying on one another or sitting closely. They were never kissing in the pictures. Journals full of art overflowed a dresser aside the desk. They never wrote. Not a single word resided in the shed. The shed held their mystery with it, whoever they were. It will forever be perched in a scene behind an olive house that sits silently next to a dirt footpath into another world. And they will remain mysteries.

(this is one of the stories from a book I am currently writing, hopefully the full collection of stories and poems will be published by the end of the school year.)

Gurgling Flamingos by Stina Trollbäck

When my older brother, Ibo, told me five minutes ago that there is mildew in the basement, I said that mildew looks like the sound of an electric screwdriver. He shook his head at me and walked out of my bedroom.

My younger brother, Orion, is a pink song. When he blinks his eyes I see coral pink music notes. He is a magenta treble clef when he slams the door to the bathroom by accident.

When my dad buys groceries, he sounds like my mom’s hands look when she folds empty cardboard boxes. When he puts his shoes on, he sounds like the firm fabric of a red pleated skirt.

I stand up. I walk to my older brother’s room.

“Can you empty the dishwasher today, Ibo?”

Ibo doesn’t answer. I walk to Orion’s room.

“Orion, can you empty the dishwasher?”

Orion says he has to shower.

I go to the kitchen.

 

When my mom told my dad about the mildew in the basement, she looked like the straps of denim overalls. She told him she was worried Orion would tell friends at school and that their moms would think our house is dirty. She likes to hide these things. My dad calls it “bending bushels of barley.”

 

Ibo comes to the kitchen a few minutes after I finish emptying the dishwasher.

“Ibo, your footsteps sound like overcooked eggplant.”

“Are you wearing pink mascara, Annika?” he replies.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

I walk past him, back into my room.

 

I hear my dad come home with grocery bags that rustle like the color of poppies, and I hear him unloading the groceries the way my mom folds milk cartons. I hear him tell my brother that the mildew cleaner is coming tomorrow morning.

Ibo walks back upstairs.

 

My mom comes home from her office at the museum a few minutes later. I hear her nod of acknowledgement to my dad. I hear the popping milk bubbles in the bowl of cornflakes with blueberry jam in front of her when she sits down.

I know that she is sitting with cobalt blue posture at the dinner table and that my father is sitting on the kitchen counter grading white papers.

Orion’s door opens. He runs out and down the stairs to the kitchen.

His voice is the loudest in my family, like fuchsia. “Mom, I painted part of Annika’s wall today!”

I feel my mom start smiling. “What color did she let you paint?”

“She said I had to do pink--” he raises his voice, directed at me, “which was annoying. But it looks really good. You guys should go look at it.”

I laugh, look at my wall, and come downstairs, too. “If you don’t like pink, you didn’t have to paint at all.” He doesn’t know I think of him as music.

My mom touches my back as I walk over to the refrigerator.

My dad adds that he’s only gotten to paint big red shapes.

“Vermillion shapes,” I correct.

My mom says that maybe I can paint the basement when the mildew is gone.

I tell her that she and dad should do it.

They shrug.

 

My mom and dad build an imaginary line of pillows between them when they sleep; it is as fixed as the amount of air between the basement ceiling and the basement floor.

 

Ibo doesn’t want to paint a part of my wall. He sees the paint on my wall as tangible discomfort, but I doubt he knows he sees it that way.

He stands in my doorway. The incandescent light in the hallway rims his frizzy, dark hair with a halo of yellow.

Ibo asks me to come with him to the deli down the street.

Mom fell asleep looking like a blue bell while putting Orion to bed.

We walk past my dad, who is shaving over the kitchen sink with a red razor. My dad tells us he has ten dollars in his back pocket.

Ibo looks at me with raised eyebrows.

I take the ten dollars from my dad’s back pocket. The bill is crumpled like a dry, crushed poppy.

“You should wake Mom up, she’s in Orion’s bed,” I say to him.

“She must be tired then. Maybe it’s best I leave her there.” He gives me a faint smile.

We walk outside.

“What are you getting at the deli, Ibo?” I ask.

“Ice cream.” His skin is as uncomfortable as sandpaper. He’s walking at a pace much more violet than his usual indigo.

The lampposts on the street are reflecting yellow light onto the ground, complementing Ibo’s pace.

I think Ibo feels like he is a secondary color. He used to be primary and blue, but he doesn’t know he has turned purple.

He is walking a half step in front of me.

“Don’t try to fix them, Annika.” His voice is dry.

He doesn’t think that when our mom rolls her shoulders back she looks like our dad when he is chopping chives.

He buys his ice cream.

He doesn’t think that Mom dropping her keys looks like Dad taking out his contact lenses.

I buy lemon sparkling water in a glass bottle. “They’re the mildew,” I say.

“What?”

“Mom and Dad are the mildew.”

“The mildew will be gone tomorrow,” he says.

I walk faster.

He doesn’t.

I am being absorbed by the yellow light from the lampposts.

Ibo walks in the deep purple shadows from the trees, and I don’t feel my eyes trying to distinguish the shades of purple.

 

When I wake up the next morning, the mildew cleaners are are already leaving. I hear them talking to my mom.

“Keep an eye out for traces of mildew within the next few weeks. Mildew spores can remain in the air and resettle on surfaces. You’ll want to schedule a follow up procedure -- one cleanse is not likely to eliminate. Watch out for musty smells everywhere in the house, not just in the basement.”

My mom nods and thanks him as she closes the door. When she locks the door, her ring finger has one less ring than usual.

She reaches out to brush my cheek with her fingers as I pass her.

I walk to the basement. There are splotches on the ceiling and wall where the mildew was. It looks as if my mother and father, cobalt blue and poppy red, have been scraped off the wall with a butter knife. The splotches sound like a electric screwdriver.

 

My mom doesn’t ask my dad to help her take down bowls from the top shelf anymore; she gets a stepstool.

 

I hear the coral and violet sounds of my brothers in the kitchen, and I feel figmented mildew spores drifting through the doorway as I pull the basement door closed behind me.

I lean against the kitchen doorframe.

Orion bangs the silver teapot on our stove with his elbow while reaching for a mug. Boiling water spatters across the counter. A few sizzling drops land on his fingers.

Ibo’s shoulders vibrate like a tuning fork as he laughs at Orion.

When Orion stops waving his hand around like a kite in a tornado, he fills a bowl with water and submerges his hand.

“That was graceful,” Ibo says.

“It’s Mom’s fault,” Orion quips. “She was hogging the bed all night, so I slept weirdly. My spine hurts.”

“Sure.”

“I swear, Ibo! Also, look. My bacon pieces look like a fortress.”

“I don’t see it.”

“You have no imagination.”

“What do you mean I have no imagination? You’re my imaginary friend, Orion!”

“What?”

“I control you.” Ibo smirks.

“I’m real! Ibo stop it!”

“No, you’re not. I made you up.”

I walk into the kitchen.

“Annika, tell him I’m real!”

Ibo stands up and walks upstairs.

Orion frowns and swishes his fingers around in the water bowl. He is making the water eddy, creating miniature whirlpools as magenta drips from his fingers.

I sit and watch him in buttercup yellow silence.

My dad walks down the stairs smoothly like a ripe raspberry being rinsed. His red presence reflects on the white walls in the kitchen.

“Good morning,” he says. He looks tired. His teeth are stained light blue from arguing with my mom.

My mom comes downstairs. She does not look tired. She looks at me, then at Orion.

“Annika, have you eaten? Orion, are you still hungry? I can make scrambled eggs.” Her teeth are stained red.

“I burned my hand, Mom!” Orion squawks.

“I’m fine,” I say.

My mom gives Orion an ice pack and fixes his hair.

We sit evenly spaced around our round, grey dining table.

When Ibo walks back into the kitchen, he disrupts the even spacing, squeezing his chair between mine and Orion’s.

Our silence swirls in circles on the table; our colors mix and create jarring white flecks and blurs. The rainbow-white-grey starts to float and wriggle around the room.

I can taste the dissonance.

Everyone is still, but the tension is squeezing my fingertips.

Ibo makes eye contact with me. He looks at my parents.

 

He breaks the discordant stillness: “One of you needs to move out.”

 

The pink of Orion’s cheeks reflects in the water that is swelling in his eyes. I hear his breath trembling.

“You’re nineteen. You move out.” My dad’s tone sounds like a bitten red apple.

My mom’s voice follows, “You can’t say that to us –”

“I never –”

“Maybe if you –”

“I’m just saying that we can’t live like this.” Ibo’s squawk is resonating.

Orion is crying. He’s making us pink and anguished.

I feel my neck elongating to match my mothers. My shoulder blades are tensing.

My dad’s teeth are clenching like a bird closing its beak.

Orion’s gurgling breath is turning us into flamingos.

I can feel tears gurgling behind our eyes.

We are a flamboyance of flamingos standing around a gurgling pond. We’re turning white, shivering. Our legs are snapping. We are each flapping one wing.

“You don’t have a right, Ibo. You don’t know what–”

“Allen –”

“Stop it.” I cut my mom off. She is still looking at my dad.

Tears dribble down Orion’s pink cheeks.

“Come,” I say, and I stand up. The rest don’t stand until I’m by the stairs, ready to walk up.

Orion pushes his chair away from the table and follows me, then my mom does. Ibo and my dad stand at the same time.

We walk to my room.

My lungs are deflating.

Silence.

I sit down on my bed.

My fingertips are ice.

They stay standing.

I point at my wall.

My mom notices first. “Why did you do that?” she asks, open-eyed.

There are spattered white and grey paint build-ups coating much of my yellow, pink, red, blue, and purple painted wall. The big colorful shapes have been tarnished by the stale clusters.

Ibo smiles. “It’s supposed to be mildew,” he answers for me.

My parents are flamingos, melting in the doorway.

I’m crying. “I feel contaminated,” I say.

They nod.

A Trilogy by Kimberly Sanford

Keaton Henson Wallpaper.jpg

 

A Trilogy

Them

The car sat peacefully on the side of the hill. Just slightly off the road, it was oriented a peculiar way. Dragon’s breath poured from the inside out, dancing in the windless sky until it disappeared. The tawny fields remained silent as they watched the scene from a distance. Telephone lines snickered and zapped between the ribbons of smoke that enveloped them. A lanky man stumbled out of the box with red streamers running across his face, neck, and down his arms. He didn’t yell. He didn’t cry. He inspected the glass mosaic before crouching down at the seam of the road and the dry grass. Before reaching into his coat pocket, he smudged the red ink from his skin onto his pants. His phone emerged. Soon after he made a call, another box came trotting down the road, past the same tawny fields he was running away from. He got in and shrunk into the horizon.

Him

A pulsing in my neck woke me up, along with a stream of blood dripping into my eyes. I felt my lungs getting weighed down from smoke with every breath I took. I had to get out. I began to reach for my seatbelt when my hands turned to static. My eyes rolled back into my head and the smoke overtook my good judgement. I was losing myself again. My hands kept buzzing but I was able to release myself from my restraint. I came crashing down onto the roof of my car, groaning as I tried to take my weight off of my neck. The passenger window was completely shattered; I kicked the rest of the glass out before shimmying my way through onto the grass. I ran my fingertips against the shattered windshield before backing away, taking in every detail. Watching the smoke that once filled my lungs disintegrate into the still sky. I ambled over to the road and sat down to call a taxi, I wrapped my bleeding hand with a rag that was shoved into my coat pocket. I sat, my mind was quiet until a black car came to a halt in front of me.

The Other

A call came in, some guy needed to be picked up on the side of the road about ninety miles outside of town. I hopped in the car and sped past the town square, past the farms, past the open plains. I was staring at the road until a black cloud caught my attention from the corner of my windshield. It wasn’t just one or two streaks, a whole trail of black dust kicking up in the distance grew closer as I got further from the world I left behind. Weaving between hills and creeks, I followed the road until I saw an overturned car, overcome with smoke and ash. A slender man in a suit was sitting on the side of the road, his hand was hovering over his beard. I pull over and the wheels shriek mildly against the torn up road. He got up without removing his gaze from the ground, and got in the car without putting his seatbelt on. We drove off. He wrapped his arms around himself.

(this is one of the stories from a book I am currently writing, hopefully the full collection of stories and poems will be published by the end of the school year.)

A Restless Dreamer with Shattered Bones by Kimberly Sanford

A Restless Dreamer with Shattered Bones

His hands shook by his side as he laid in bed that wintry day.

 

The broken record of heavy rain on the window turned to ice once it made contact with his icy shell.

 

A blanket of cloud cover sealed him in from his neighborhood outside that was ringing with sirens of urgency.

 

He remained alone in bed where his brain contorted in its cage until there was nothing left except a spiderweb of electrical currents and static.

 

His heart accelerated from his back to his ribs, running into the walls on both sides until it broke through and tipped over the cliff of his chest and relaxed again.

 

The mess around him paid no mind to his presence as he had stayed in bed for days and moved very little.

 

He allowed for his subconscious to chip away at his reality every night until his eyes ripped open with fear as his heart began hitting the barriers again.

 

This cycle continued until the worry had aged him in a matter of weeks.

 

He had gotten to the point where the beating of his heart against the cement blockade of his ribs eventually shattered every fragile item around it after breaking through.

 

When this happened he remained in bed, with the mess around him still oblivious to his shattered bones.

 

This was when I intervened.

 

As I cleaned the chaos around him, I wept for the restless dreamer.

 

When the debris was gone I left him.


He remains there today with no mess surrounding him, the disarray that lingered could not be cleaned.

(this is one of the stories from a book I am currently writing, hopefully the full collection of stories and poems will be published by the end of the school year.)

Goodbye by Kimberly Sanford

Goodbye

    I watched his pickup truck kick up dirt as I stood on the side of the road. The ringing of him yelling “get out!” continued in my ears until his tires disappeared into the horizon. I rubbed my eyes, tears collecting at the brim of my waterline were tainted with dirt and dust. I looked beside me. My little sister was crouched down, staring at a snail that was moving its way towards his truck. She reached down and stuck out one finger before caressing its shell. I sighed and looked down both sides of the road, one way I had already travelled, the other I had yet to. I turned back to my sister as she pulled on my dress, signalling for me to come inspect the snail with her. I looked not at the creature that captivated her attention, rather, I was staring at the way her big eyes rarely blinked and how strands of her unkempt hair laid across her face.

    I took her delicate hand, stuck out one finger, and placed in on the ground in front of the snail’s path. The snail crawled onto it, and as my sister gasped in awe I picked her up and began my way down the road, knowing that I would not see his tires in the horizon any time soon.

 

(this is one of the stories from a book I am currently writing, hopefully the full collection of stories and poems will be published by the end of the school year.)

Dust to Dust by Kimberly Sanford

 

Dust to Dust

I was looking out the window one quiet night when I saw a girl in the window next to me, staring outside just as I was. She had short, light brown hair and a cold pale face. I on the window ledge, her sitting on the floor, she stared past me as I continued to inspect her. Frail fingers and elegant nails brought a skinny cigarette to her lips. My face contorted watching her, she couldn't be more than 17 years old. Nevertheless, she took a drag and let out an exhausted stream of smoke with her face still expressionless. She leaned farther out the window and I caught a glimpse of her robe. Fuzzy and pink, it contrasted with her silvery complexion. When she released the cigarette from her lips I was met with a gleam from porcelain teeth.

 

"Aren't you a little young for that?"

I asked, more forcefully than I intended to.

 

She kept her uncaring gaze and ashed into the wind.

 

She continued this waltz, bringing the tube to her lips, inhaling, and cautiously placing it back in her twig fingers to exhale. My face changed again, slightly startled that she wouldn't answer me when I was only a foot away from her.

 

She suddenly turned to me and exhaled again. Her face disappeared behind a cloak of smoke before she reappeared, lightly smirking at me.

 

"Maybe" she answered.

 

A blush rose to the tip of my cheeks. She retreated from the window's ledge, but before I could tell her to come back she was already there, holding out a cigarette to me.

 

I took it and waited for further instruction.

She just looked again and said

 

"I'll see you tomorrow"

(this is one of the stories from a book I am currently writing, hopefully the full collection of stories and poems will be published by the end of the school year.)

His Story by Kimberly Sanford

  I tossed my empty soda can into one of the garbage cans that waited silently on the side of the road. As I sped past another house it occurred to me that I probably should’ve put the can into a recycling bin instead. Considering that it was only one or two houses down, I dropped my foot off of my skateboard and onto the pavement, applying more pressure until I came to a stop. I turned around to walk back. I started noticing the little things around me that were blurred ribbons in my peripheral vision just moments ago. A small black bird sat perched on a crape myrtle tree in the middle of someone’s lawn, two ceramic deer statues looked to the tree from the lawn next door. To my right there were more quiet homes, empty shells that housed sleeping families and sheltered them from the cool autumn night. To my left was a world beyond what anyone in those families would understand; the woods. I could sense monsters in the distance, watching me like predators from behind their wooden shields. A cold whisper crawled up my neck and dragged its way down to my wrist. I came back to the garbage can, the soda can was slumped atop a sealed trash bag that sat inside. I picked it up and chucked it into the blue bin beside it, the crash of metal cans vibrated around my head before disintegrating behind music that rang out through my headphones. 

    I turned around again, tossing my board back onto the pavement. Placing one foot on it, I rolled it forward. I looked around as I tried to take in more from the eerie scene I found myself in. Silence poured into my ears as the song on my phone ended and a new one was about to begin. A smile inched onto my face and my eyes closed lightly with bliss when I heard the next song come on. I couldn’t wipe that smile off my face if I wanted to. It was as if the monsters stopped lurking, the black veil that fell over my night was lifted and I was safe among the still air. I pushed off; sending myself whizzing down the street again, missing the details around me until the sound of wind rushing past me almost overtook the streamers of music flowing between my headphones.

 

(this is one of the stories from a book I am currently writing, hopefully the full collection of stories and poems will be published by the end of the school year.)

 

Silent Miracle

by Temma Schaechter

 

 

    Every morning, at 7:08am, the alarm clock rings. And every time the clock strikes 7:08am, I grunt, roll over, and swear I die a little. After fifteen minutes of Regina Spektor’s All The Rowboats on replay, I finally stumble out of bed. I throw on the clothes I prepared the night earlier, apply a smidge of makeup, and leave the house.

    Backtrack. Every morning, at 7:08am, my alarm clock rings. My throat produces a low, deep grunt, I use my perfectly functioning somatic nervous system to roll over, and I swear I die a little. After fifteen minutes, nine hundred seconds, nine hundred thousand milliseconds, sound waves echo from a 2-inch silicone box, and I finally use my perfectly functioning somatic nervous system to stumble out of bed. Bone by bone, with little unnoticeable movements, my body compresses and releases until I am out of bed, hair disheveled, eyes squinty and stinging, wanting nothing but to let my perfectly functioning somatic nervous system lay back down.

    This morning, I lay in bed. The alarm clock rings at 5:08am. I do not move. I smile, still half-asleep, at the sound waves bouncing out of the 2-inch silicone box, dancing little jigs around my too-small, too-cramped, miracle room, with its deep, miracle, chestnut-brown floors laid out by interior designers, bought at some hardware store, coming from a mysterious truck from some woodwork shop where the chestnut-brown wood was chopped from an aging tree in the amazon.

    This morning, I smile when I feel every limb in my body stretch slightly, and I smile when I feel my clumsy, yet perfectly functioning body, roll over and stumble out of bed. This morning, I smile when I tie my shoes, and notice my miracle configurations of skin branching out of my sweaty palm.

    This morning, I leave my apartment at 5:24am. I smile when I hear the ding! of the elevator that I hear every morning at 7:26am and never notice.

    This morning, when I leave my apartment, I spread out my arms and I take in the world. I smile as I inhale the perfume of New York mornings that I’ve stopped noticing: the subtle blend of the sweet dripping dew, and the pot-smokers at the corner by the 1 train, who now that I think of it, touch each other inappropriately every single morning for hours.

This morning, the city is silent. This morning I notice the silence.

Sunny Socks

by Stina Trollbäck

It’s hazy and there is a woman in my apartment. I am on the black metal porch. I can see her through the window. She is washing dishes, and I think she’s humming. The walls inside are light yellow, like my socks, which are rolled down to look like little donuts, and like my bowtie. The window is foggy around the edges and low to the ground, but I still need to stand on my tippy toes to watch the woman.

*    *    *

Now I am sitting on a metal chair on this metal extension of my new home, and I am looking out over the canal and the canoeing people. The chair is cold and leaving patterned imprints in my pink-yellow skin.

*    *    *

The lady is walking towards me. She is crouching next to me. She is talking to me in her normal voice, pointy and mellow. That voice is as familiar to me as sleeping. She’s always here. I’m supposed to call her something, but I don’t remember the word.

*    *    *

She asks me if I want to cut off my ponytail to have short hair like the rest of the little boys here, but I shake my head and tell her I like the yellow ribbon that ties it together. She asks me if I am okay, and I shrug because I don’t remember the word to explain that I don’t like sitting by myself on the porch. I don’t like thinking because my thoughts go to places that don’t exist in real life, and I have to come back from that place eventually. She smiles and says she loves me, and I feel sunny like my socks for a second, but she gets up and walks back into the house after she pats me.

*    *    *

My eyes are heavy but it’s too light out to sleep. The lady says I can only sleep when it’s dark, but I think it’s okay to sleep whenever, because when you sleep, it is dark.

*    *    *

The words I didn’t remember:

Mom

Lonely

Clarence

by Lucy Sydel

I stepped on an old man’s foot today. He had brownish-gold wire rimmed glasses and brown hiking boots lined with mustard yellow laces. I tried to say I was sorry, but he wouldn’t look up. I pictured the toes crunch up inside his boots, saw his hands ball up, saw the wrinkles on his forehead from thinking, saw the wrinkles near his eyes from smiling, saw the shine of his bare scalp. I heard the quick intake of a short breath, I felt the quick intake of guilt, weaseling its way in my ears and behind my eyes and through my fingernails which were rimmed with gray-black dirt and dust.

I think he was a dancer, when he was my age. And for him, walking was dance. And running, and smiling, and worrying, all dancing. Colors danced, lights, slamming doors, toasters with toast, and olive-green olives with toothpicks in them. He saw everything. Just not people. He was so focused on the clacking of the wheels against the train tracks, that he didn’t react to his foot. Or at least, he didn’t outwardly react. But I felt those bony remains of scuffed dancer’s feet tense up in defense.

Maybe he still dances, by himself.

Maybe I had smushed his dancing when I smushed his feet. I didn’t want to have done that.

I switched train cars.

I am walking past a shoe store, but then I stop walking. I see a pair of brown boots. They have yellow laces. They could walk up the appalachian trail or down by a muddy river or across a rickety wooden bridge. Those shoes could run or dance or speed-walk, or just stand still in the middle of a crowded train station and urge a young girl whose name is Mabel Rowe step to on his toes.

I am speed-walking to math class and I am thinking about him. His name is Clarence, now. I am in math class, and I am thinking about Clarence. He has a bird. The parakeet’s name is Willie.

And now I remember more. I do remember a woman, too. She was even older, too. Her hair that color where it could be blond but it could be gray and they have meshed into one and it could go either way and I wonder what color she thinks it is and how often she gets it cut and why is it no longer than her earlobes and if she likes it that way or if she wants to have that kind of hair that is curly but never a mess and down to her shoulders, swinging when she spins around in her swivel chair that she has at her desk in the office.

I think she was a teacher, when she was younger. And for her, teaching wasn’t just history. It was teaching Clarence to make split-pea soup. Teaching him to tie his shoes the other way, to lie on the hardwood floor with hands raised to the ceiling and his eyes closed, listening to Ella Fitzgerald or Bill Withers or Aretha Franklin. It was teaching herself how to listen. It was teaching herself how to dance with him when that was all he wanted to do. It was teaching herself to convince him he needed a cane and then let herself succumb to the kind of walker that had tennis balls on the back two legs. She didn’t even like tennis.

And what if Clarence had finally pulled together enough strength to leave his cane at home, lying at home on his red and yellow leather couch which he only bought because he liked the tongue-twister “red-leather yellow-leather red-leather yellow-leather.”

And what if my toe squashing had reduced all hope of discarding that wooden cane which Cynthia had painted green with small golden dragons. Oh and yes, Cynthia is her name.

And what if they couldn’t waltz together in the kitchen anymore after a particularly good lasagna.

And what if they never got married and they just lived together but they wanted to get married now, but my toe crushing had put the idea that he didn’t have much longer into Clarence’s head and that they won’t have much time.

I have two minutes before the end of the school day. I put my notebook inside my folder and my pen inside my notebook and my folder inside my backpack; I am ready to leave. Easily the most attempts to open the locker lock. Easily the least words spoken in weeks. Easily the biggest steel-cabled cage in my stomach snaring the specks of dread and weaving them into a remorse scarf that I can wear around my neck so everyone will know. Easily the hardest it’s been not to think too much.

I am running to catch the bus uptown, and I see it leave the station and I can see the toddler in the back with his knees on the blue plastic seat and his elbows propping up his face and I see him see me run and I am slowing down but he is speeding up inside the bus away from me. I wonder how Clarence would see the little boy. Clarence would be sad because he never had a little boy. No, he would not sad. He would most definitely be happy to see the unwrinkled face, reminding him of the unwrinkled boy he was. But no, again, because he likes his wrinkles. Because in the creases around his eyes are 89 years of laughter.

And I waited for the bus home for fourteen minutes.

I see a tiny sparrow pick up a large hamburger bun on my way home. I turn back but nobody is there to laugh about it with me.  

There are seven flights of stairs in my apartment building.

It took me twelve steps to walk from my front door to my fridge.

I ate four mini blueberry muffins.

I thought about Clarence seventeen times.

Cynthia only came up four times.

I ask google. I type in Clarence and Cynthia, but all that comes up is this animated television show on cartoon network and how to win a seven day Norwegian Cruise. I try to look in my mother’s phone book but the dust makes me sneeze too much and I know that if she got home and found me in the corner of the living room and sneezing, wearing my ugly reading glasses and looking for some 89 year-old guy who I’ve never spoken to, I might have to explain myself. But my words feel horizontally propped up inside in my throat and I don’t think I could push them up and out because they will just fall down inside my stomach and get digested and nobody will hear them and if they do they won’t listen or they will think they are listening but they aren’t hearing, really.

It is 5:42 PM.

I find myself outside staring up at the orange ginko tree, lit up with the glittery-yellow-gold street lamp. I find myself staring over the metal grating and looking at the leaves mixed with crumbs of pizza and ends of cigarettes and scraps of lined paper.

I am picturing Clarence and Cynthia in blue cloud shaped bubbles. Sometimes they shine when the bubbles collide, sometimes they sizzle and rain upwards into the sky and sometimes they attach when they meet to make an empire of bubbles, or bound over each other or repelling each other. And after exploding and sizzling and raining and attaching and bounding and repelling they want to go home and take a nice warm bath, maybe a bubble bath, and drink bubble tea and listen to an audiobook.

Clarence’s worst fear is becoming senile.

Cynthia needs to retain that lasagna recipe but she’s worried it might be tangled up along with the plum pudding recipe and the grilled artichoke recipe and the broiled salmon with a hint of rosemary recipe.

And I am still outside because it feels like Cynthia’s long maroon nails are tapping on the inside of my skull and behind my eyes and behind where my ears meet my jaw. And if I stay out here underneath the tree and the lamp and the navy blue cotton sky and the metal grating and the pizza crumbs and the hole between my thumb and index finger in my blue and white gloves and my frizzy light brown hair and my puffy purple jacket that was too much money and keeps me too warm so I am sweating and shivering at the same time and the wind is passing in between my woolly gloved fingers and the wind is pooling up inside my eyes and the wind is making the sound of the ocean in my ears, if I open my mouth I taste the wind and it tastes like listerine.

If I stay out here, eventually I will find them. It is 9:49. Mom should come home at 10. I check my phone. No one has texted me. I bend my neck back to stare up into my windows, darkened by the navy-blue above. It is 9:58. I rush upstairs and into my room. I hear the key in the lock, the door swing open, the door close gingerly shut. I am in bed now. I lie awake under my patchwork blanket in my scratchy woollen sweater and my dark blue jeans that are too loose around the knees.

It is the weekend now. I either think too much and it is about Clarence or I can’t think at all, moving in some sort of red strawberry jam that closes in on my brain if I walk too fast or if I breathe too quick or think too much, which is unfortunately what I do.

I decide to take the C train again. I just want to be moving really really fast without having lifting my legs. I figure, Clarence and Cynthia took the train once, so they could very possibly take it again.

They are not in my train car. I see the doors open. I briskly walk to the next train car. The doors close. I see no faces that register with me. The doors open. Next car. No one. Next car. No one. Next car. No one.

It is 168th street. It is 8:00 PM. I have not found them.

It has been a week. There are between 42 and 44 seats in a train car (depending on the model). The colors of a train are silver and black and red. The colors of the seats are yellow and red and orange.

I am tired of the open-close doors, tired of not talking while I watch everyone around me talking, tired of following brown hiking boots in a crowded times-square station up and down flights only to get lost and confused and tired, I am tired of being tired and coming home to find myself sorting my sock laundry, or brushing my tangled hair which will only just frizz up again, I find myself sitting in the shower even when the hot water has run out, opening up the pantry even when I am not appetized by the sad arrangement of pita chips and ritz crackers, I find myself finding myself in annoyingly monotonous situations, I find myself not being able to find out why I don’t feel the need to raise my hand in math class even when I am the only one who knows the right answer, I find myself getting tired and getting angry and shutting myself up especially when I have really important things to say, I find myself riding the train and looking for them and only seeing my pimply chin in the reflection of the dark fingerprinted windows across from my yellow subway seat.

I am walking home from the train station. I have gotten off two stations two late because I was thinking about how itchy my wool turtleneck sweater is.

I am walking home and thinking about sweaters and the mechanical pencil I lost today, and pencil lead and this kid who once ate a pencil eraser in fifth grade because he thought that was how to make friends. I see a pair of brown boots. I am tired, and they are lost in the crowd again. I see a wine-red beret that Clarence would buy if he saw it in a thrift store, but only if it was on sale. I see the long neck of a man who thinks that posture translates into confidence because he read an article about it in the newspaper. I am tired, and my eyes lose focus of the beret and neck and boots.

I look up into the darkened sky and feel a raindrop. My umbrella is at home laughing at me and my leather shoes that aren’t very happy in the rain. I am waiting for the street light to change. I see the boots. I lift my eyes.

What do I say because I need to talk but I haven’t spoken anything of importance in the last week and I keep digesting my words instead of puking them out. I need to say something because this is my only chance. “Hi, excuse me,” could work. Or “Hello I was wondering . . .” Or even “Hey can I ask you a question?” Except I don’t have any questions to ask him except for if he would show me old tapes of him dancing, or his wedding photos, or if he would let me feed his parakeet Willie, and I don’t know if he would be weirded out by those questions but then again he might not be because Clarence is nice and would understand and would feed me corn chowder and put on Bob Marley records, or Chopan records, or even 70’s disco records if he was in the mood.

And all that comes out of my mouth is, “Hello.”

And all that Clarence does is glance in my direction and guess that I wasn’t addressing him.

And then say is “Wait, Clarence, I hope that your foot is feeling okay because I didn’t mean to step on it, but I see that you aren’t using your cane, so I guess that’s a good sign, right? But wait, Clarence don’t go because I know this sounds like really really weird and all and I’m really sorry but I was just wondering if I could like come to your house and see your red and yellow leather couch and maybe Cynthia could tell me all about the day you guys met and I know you might not know me, I’m Mabel, but --  ”

And in a navy blue voice that sounded like the engine of a tractor he cut me off and mumbled something inaudibly and angrily that sounded faintly like Polish or Russian or maybe even Bulgarian or something. And Clarence, who might possibly not be Clarence anymore, he crossed the street. I watched him walk for three blocks until his wine-red beret was clouded with black umbrellas and the back of tall people’s heads.

What's the Story, Morning Glory?

by Charlotte Force

So, what's the story morning glory?

6:26AM I feel like I need to tiptoe around in my heels. It feels like I'm the only one awake in the world.

6:27AM First sign of life spotted: a man checking emails in his car.

6:30AM Dog walker #1 spotted.

6:33AM Turned my music off because I remembered that mornings have a special sound too.

6:46AM Dog walker #2 spotted.

6:46AM The leaves by Philosophy Hall have started to light up. Some early morning photosynthesis is happening. Magic.

6:47AM The birds seem more audacious than they do during the day. They're quieter though.

6:48AM Impatient book enthusiasts are sat in front of the library, waiting for it to open.

6:52AM Sighted: an early bird that literally scored a proverbial worm

6:55AM Impatient gym enthusiasts are sat outside the gym, waiting for it to open.

6:58AM The sky through the leaves looks like twinkling stars

7:00AM Dew looks like pieces of fallen starlight.

7:11AM The facade of the library is fully illuminated.

7:12AM Spotted: the day's first sunbather, catching the mild morning light.

7:13AM Nurses, runners, and commuters abound.

7:14AM The morning coffee cart is up and at 'em.

7:15AM The middle of College Walk is a strip of light stretched over Low Library - it hadn't quite reached the steps though.

7:17AM I can hear the leaf-blowers a block away. Maybe that's just the city waking up.

Razi by Allison Abrams

    This past weekend, I had the opportunity to perform onstage at Avery Fisher Hall with my international Jewish chorus for teens called HaZamir. The chorus is made up of precisely 350 nerdy, Jewish adolescents who are obsessed with the sounds of Sondheim and whose lives revolve around the culture and religion of Judaism, as mine does.

For three days, all members of HaZamir participate in an annual festival that takes place in an old-fashioned hotel in the Catskills- the Hudson Valley Hotel and Resort- which still looks like it did during the Jewish-domination era of this once-vacation hotspot of the mid to late-20th century. For three days, we vigorously practice and perfect our two hours worth of repertoire, which contains pieces varying from ancient, Yiddish, cantorial works to modern, Middle-Eastern, Israeli pop sounds.

Being an international choir, having over 26 chapters in the United States and in Israel, there is one group of people in particular that always stands out to me: the native Israelis. For three days, these chapters straight out of Israel struggle over the complex syntax of the English language, trying desperately to make friends by being funny, yet sensible, in an entirely different language. The Hebrew language is so far away from English; it’s like comparing Catholicism to Zen Buddhism. To speak Hebrew requires intense, guttural sounds, like the rolled or flipped R’s, and the infamous, throaty, Jewish “Chhh”.  The Hebrew language expresses a dramatization of impatience and “chutzpah” (ballsy-ness), traits synonymous to true Israeli and Jewish character.

As I used to be nearly fluent in Hebrew (although I have forgotten a lot throughout my years in a public high school), I managed to befriend a beautiful, curly-haired, olive-skinned girl from Kfar Saba, a small town near Tel-Aviv. This girl I came to know really well in those few days is named Razi Shemesh- “shemesh” meaning sun in Hebrew, which perfectly matches her bubbly, smiling personality. (I will never forget her imperfect set of teeth, the big, yet impressively beautiful, spaces within her smile that reminded me of my own set of teeth, which I always self-consciously describe as an “accordion”.) Razi actually got to sing a solo in one of our songs, “Mishaela”, an upbeat, Middle-Eastern choral arrangement in Hebrew based on an actual Israeli pop song by Achinoam Nini. It matches Razi’s unique, raspy, jazzy, Yemenite voice, perfect for the little riffs and artistic scoops required of such a song. We sat next to each other during rehearsals and we would whisper about the girls around us in Hebrew, making such snide, typically Israeli remarks like “Ma Yesh La?” (“What’s with her?”).

I melted with joy when I finally got to hear Razi sing her solo onstage at Lincoln Center. When we walked off for the second half of the performance, Razi was still evidently nervous about how well she did. I noticed her uncertainty and so I held her hand and face gently and, shaking her, exclaimed: “At lo maaminah kshe hayah madhimah!?” (“You don’t believe how incredible it was!?”).

I feel like I particularly connected with Razi that weekend because I miss my connection to Israel in perhaps a painful way. I miss the likeable language and the constant exposure to Israeli culture I once had. I attended a Jewish private school for 9 years of my life before high school, where I was exposed to native Israeli teachers and classmates, constantly wishing I was born a tan, beautiful, curly-haired Israeli girl, like Razi, who could speak Hebrew fluently with her parents at all times. Sometimes I feel as if I had been born in the wrong country, while, as Razi confided in me, she wishes she could live among the excitement and diversity of New York City. What I got out of that weekend was not only a strong friendship with Razi, but a new sense of what defines my American Jewry and Razi’s Israeli Jewry.    

Here is a link to the original song “Mishaela” by Achinoam Nini, just to get a sense of what true Israeli music is like:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbPztdl7jLo