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FICTION

Symphony Upon Deaf Ears .................................................................................................................... 1


Nina Winemiller

Reconciliation.............................................................................................................................................. 8
Quinn Kelly

Mai Truong ................................................................................................................................................. 11


Nicole Pacheco

Slap ................................................................................................................................................................ 22
Tom Leveen

Immigrants Revenge ................................................................................................................................ 31


Brandon Riddle

Ring Within the Labyrinth ..................................................................................................................... 38


William Leschber

CREATIVE NONFICTION
Nothing to Lose ......................................................................................................................................... 45
Robin Silverman

Catrina .......................................................................................................................................................... 48
Victoria Scher

Elaine at Nine ............................................................................................................................................. 52


E.B. Howard

From Communism to Freedom ............................................................................................................ 56


Simona Irimiciuc

ART
On Point ....................................................................................................................................................... 63
Teressa Rini (Sharpie on Paper)

Lost in Thought ......................................................................................................................................... 63


JC Campbell(Watercolor)

Tweaking Nature ....................................................................................................................................... 64


Jeff Scruggs (Watercolor)

Sunshine Eternal ........................................................................................................................................ 64


Demar Douglas (Oil on Masonite)

Filament Broken and Yet No Darkness .............................................................................................. 65


Eleanor Bennet (Digital Photography)

The Human Decay .................................................................................................................................... 65


Kyle McDonald (Watercolor)

Untitled ......................................................................................................................................................... 66
Andrew J. Lopez (Digital Photography)

Dancers ......................................................................................................................................................... 66
Miriam Weisburg (Acrylic)

Trapped ........................................................................................................................................................ 67
Eric Anderson (Digital Photography)

Staircase ....................................................................................................................................................... 67
Debbie Gardner (Digital Photography)

Heart of the Canyon................................................................................................................................. 68


Jessie Jordan Kagel (Digital Photography)

POETRY
A Honeys Bee............................................................................................................................................. 69
Dinesh Sairam

God ................................................................................................................................................................ 69
Demetrius Burns

Textile............................................................................................................................................................ 70
Stephanie De La Rosa

Warren Park D ........................................................................................................................................... 70


Wadzi Muzwidzwa

We Dash to the Beach Mid-Storm ...................................................................................................... 71


Jen Mehan

Lust Takes a Trip in the Fall ................................................................................................................. 71


Jannelle Drummond

Meadows With No Clocks ...................................................................................................................... 72


Craig Froman

Interviews With White ............................................................................................................................ 73


Katie Menzies

Avoiding Aphids ........................................................................................................................................ 73


Shawnte Orion

SCRIPTS
Housebroken ............................................................................................................................................... 74
Stuart Bousel

Yellow Ribbon............................................................................................................................................. 90
Lovinder Gill
Inspiration Image by Mohinder Gill

THE BEST OF CANYON VOICES


A Note from the Publisher ..................................................................................................................... 104
Julie Amparano

Meet the Editors ........................................................................................................................................ 103


Kyle Stiemsma Josiah Cantrell Brittani Alexander Cori Zimney Arthur Morales

SYMPHONY UPON DEAF EARS


By Nina Winemiller David stood, his violin in one hand and his bow in the other. At any moment, the curtains would open, rushing the stagnant backstage air over him. He was told it was a full house, but he could never be sure until he saw them packed-in, just past the bright lights. The backstage reeked of dust, drifting down from the rafters. Many of the floorboards shifted when tread upon, and the curtain still used the weights system as opposed to the more modern hydraulics. It was not the most logical of places to perform, but there was sentimental value throughout. From its age-darkened burgundy curtains to its greying green room, all of it evoked memories. Among the most vivid, the subtle shift of bone beneath soft skin weighed down and bent to time; the slow pump of exalted bloodturned-rosin on an old mans heartstrings. It was an old theatre, turned symphony hall for just this one night, just as it had many years ago for that old man, when David had also played. Even then, the dusty mural on the ceiling had seemed to rival the Sistine; its flaking pastel portraying scenes of fantasy and flight, more than able to capture the wide-eyes of a youth. No doubt the forever-still dancers and angels were familiar to all, and to some over-used, but they remained assured in their long-lost beauty. This night, he was supposedly playing a set of his most highly regarded pieces; the audience expected this. It was why they came, after all, to this decrepit place, to hear all of the most standard of David Hargreaves songs in his very last performance for the professional stage. The last piece that he played would be completely unknown, completely unexpected, and perfectly woven into the set; no pause or expression to reveal its identity until the audience had already been captured by it. David had this song in his head since the day he realized what music truly was, the first time he had picked up his most prized possessions, at the time, covered in dust and rosin. Tonight, he would share it at last, and retire at long last and at what seemed such a young age from the light of his life. He couldnt take it anymore.
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He couldnt take the fact that the people he gave all his love to only applauded at the end. That his life was dedicated to this thing of which he had only the simplest knowledge. That all he felt upon the stage and let loose into the music, he could not even hear. All those feelings had been building inside him; he wanted to know the music as the audience knew it. He couldnt. It was impossible, only an ever-dimming dream for him. The closest he could get was the ringing in his fingertips, the palpable bubbling up of these things that were leading towards tonight. This would be the climax of his life, that moment when the sound stopped, but the vibrations of noise continued on for just that extra second in the palm of his hands. That moment, it would be his alone and was only a curtain pull away. He was ready to release his burdens. For the majority of his life, he had been called a phenomenon, a 20th century Beethoven, a prodigy despite the odds. People were full of the belief that he played his music for their sakes, for their enjoyment; that he expressed himself for their benefit, to beat some manner of odds stacked against him. By his own admission, Davids reasons were much more selfish than that. He picked up that violin because he was satisfying a curiosity. He played it into the night because he was intrigued. He had to. He had no choice in the matter. In the same way that one cannot live without air, he could not live without the movement of his arm carrying the bow along the lines, stringing together his own personal symphony of sounds that caused the indescribable feeling in him, a feeling no words could ensnare, even though he could not hear it. There were times when he raged, when pouring life onto those four strings would bring no justice. When he pulsed and tore at his useless ears until they bled and stained his hands. At those times, David thought of throwing it all away, smashing his violin into the floor, snapping his bow. He came close, but every time he picked them up and made as if to thrust them to the floor, he realized that he could only ever hold them in a way poised to play. He was imprisoned by the very things that gave him freedom. Things that allowed him to float on air, gave him the feeling in his hands that urged him on, and the music in his head that would never cease. It had been such a long and arduous road. He would have never thought, twenty years ago, that he would be standing upon this stage. Even more surprising, was how much and
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how little time had passed since he first found the violin. David remembered the cool morning air, and the sun shining through the windows and causing the surface of the ocean waves to reflect its gold. The cold marble chilled his young bare feet as he approached his grandfathers violin case. The rosewood display encased fourteen violins of notable quality, from renowned Stradivarius to the tonal del Gesu. How young he was, everything in the memory seemed larger than life; colors were brighter, the furnishings and the violins towered over him. He could not recall where he had found the last violin, or whether he had pulled it from the display himself, but he did remember the feeling of it in his hands, which he relived every day. He remembered the sticky rosin dust coating his hands, floating in the sunlit windows. But the sheen of the polished wood could still be seen beneath the residue: a bright white-gold against dark mahogany brown. It was unforgettable and fleeting all at once. At that time, he had not known what to do with it, this precious thing. He had seen his grandfather play, the old decrepit man suddenly filled with vigor and youth. He would stand straighter, cane placed aside in favor of wood and horsehair; the lines on his face would, for the duration of a single piece, no longer appear so deep. It was this that planted the seed in Davids mind, whose vines pulled him into the room overlooking the shore to pluck the thin wire strings suspended over rich wood, vines that pulled upon his wrists like puppet strings. His hands had met that sound. For his grandfather, the sound was met through the ears; sound was fleeting, as well as the youth brought forth by it. David has always regretted never knowing his grandfathers voice. He could only recall memories of his grandfather: an old man, rich and young at heart who was always hiding a smile. He and his grandfather rarely spoke in words; David, unwilling to stretch his under-used and underdeveloped voice, and his grandfather rarely needing to exchange words in order to speak. It made the rare exchange of words more memorable in Davids mind. Still tuning his grandfathers instrument now his behind the stage, he recalled the words given to him just before his first performance in this same theatre. Both of us are painters of a sort, David. A painter paints his pictures on canvas, but musicians paint their pictures on silence. The old man looked at him, his expression open but undecipherable to David, who was only focusing on the movement of his grandfathers lips waiting to catch the added words, Sometimes even despite silence. He then gently took the instrument shared between them and plucked the strings. Perfectly in tune, as always, he had said, and then walked to his seat in the house.
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Most of the sounds that had comprised Davids life had entered through his hands. His first voice was no exception. Perhaps he had felt other voices, but none as recognizable as hers. It was the only other sound that called to his fingertips. The words he read off her lips he could not bring to the surface, he could only recall the same urge, the same curiosity, that bade him pluck on thin wire string; unknowingly, he had placed his fingertips over the side of her neck, softly. She was Clara, another one of his grandfathers pupils. She did not startle, but had David looked at her eyes, he would have seen plainly the words she did not speak. She was still, long enough for David to realize what he had done without thinking, but then she placed her hand on his, encouraging him not to pull away. From then on, when she stood mere feet away from him singing as she tuned her cello, he could feel the sound of her voice. It was then he learned the truth that lay in the running gag of all string musicians: the most skilled cello players could only ever be women. When he signed this to his grandfather, the old man could not hide his fond laughter, and then relayed the only thing upon which he and David ever disagreed. One day, you should tell Clara this; she wants only to sing, it seems, like too many other young girls. But the sound in his hands which reawakened with her every word would not let him ever wish to remove her voice from his life. All too soon, despite the silent plea in his hands, her voice was gone and all he retained was the memory in his hands. Throughout his life, he found himself remembering it once more, though fading. He only had the words he read off her lips, not even her own: If music be the food of love, play on. For years after she left, David considered himself in limbo. He could not remember much, only his hands becoming calloused from playing and faces changing colors under bright lights. He could not remember breathing, eating, or sleeping. It seemed like a dream. He did not notice when all the facets of his life became dull; when two disheartened souls released their son to the life he was not prepared for, when flames engulfed his sanctuary over the water and he could only save what was already clutched in his hand, and when he was the only one left standing below the willow trees in May above his buried mentor. Only he, the violin, and the bow. And then, after years, seeing graffiti on a head stone, he awoke free from his dream ready to restart. Repeat after me: I am free.

The moments between David and true freedom were dwindling as he began to apply rosin to the hairs of his bow in order to play for the full house. He remembered the first time that he sold out every seat in a symphony house, learning there had even been a scramble for tickets. It surprised him to learn that he didnt care much. He would have played even to a house of empty seats. He didnt care whether or not people liked him or his music, or if he sold out every house he ever played for. All he cared for was the scent of rosin dust left in the air, sticking the sound in his hands, and the ringing he felt throughout his entire self. He played simply for the sake of hoping to quench that undeniable thirst inside himself. It commanded him to play, so he could do nothing, aside from obey. The years he had spent in a trance were erased. He could no longer deny himself what he wanted, what he needed; it just so happened to be what everyone else wanted of him. They wanted emotion, they wanted youth, they wanted to be renewed. They wanted music, and that was something David could give. He continued to play on stages in front of them, but never for them. He played for himself, as he would breathe for himself. To stop would be the end of him. He had come to terms with the fact that it couldnt last forever. One night, after a performance, he was walking home to the empty flat he called his own. It began to rain, drenching the city and causing its lights to haze euphorically. David had ducked into a small bar, never to see the fairy lights that flew that night. There were a few patrons scattered around small tables clutching both bottles and the safe haven of the roof over their heads. A few more entered, also with the intent of waiting out the rain. The bar glowed with cheap neon, washing out the light upon the faces of the colorful bottles and pale patrons. David sat near the door, not keen on staying longer than he had to. Then the blue curtains, which he at first mistook for a poorly painted wall, opened slowly, jolting harshly where they scraped the ceiling. A figure walked out. A dim spotlight flickered to life, revealing her. Davids eyes lit up. How little shed changed, and how beautiful she still looked. She seemed despondent; it was only when she began to sing that she glanced up over the room. Pangs of sadness hit him, making each attempt to draw in air more futile than the last. He could not hear her. He left the bar just as the rain slowed to a stop and continued into the chill night. The experience brought forth a new piece, which, riding on airwaves he hoped would be
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heard; he dared wish that her own song would reach her ears. Even then, pouring the nights into notes, he could not escape the hollow feeling deep within himself. The music had changed. He had changed. She had not. All these things had led to this moment. This very moment where he stood in position to play, and he was trembling in anticipation. The curtains had not opened. He wondered how thick the curtains were, but smiled the thought away. The decorum of the art, no matter how revolutionary, was to appreciate the audience more than the art itself. At least to put up the front of doing so, he would not begin to play until the proper moment. He could not help but feel adverse to such thought. In time, the audience would forget him, and his music would be forgotten. Not to him. Never to him. It was always indented in his hands, never to leave. Even in death, he could picture the tips of his skeletal fingers engraved with sound. Others, the audience, those who praised him, could hear sound and noise. He could feel it, just as he could suddenly feel the rush of air from the grand curtains pulling away smoothly to each side of the stage. As he never before was, he was nervous. This was the end. Not of him, not of music, but of searching. He had found his new reason to live balanced on the strings of a violin, to share all he could in his music this one last time. He recalled the words he read off her shaking lips: You keep saying that you are selfish. But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places. Or so says H.A. Overstreet. But Ive learned to stop believing in the men of quotes. Quotes keep telling me it should hurt to breathe at small moments like this, but I guess not all that Ive been hearing is true. Seeing you again, I cant help but breathe a little easier. The recollection died away with the applause and he once more raised his instrument. David began to play. His eyes closed; he had no need to see the strings, to hear what those in the seats were hearing. He had long ago memorized the songs that lay deep in his bones, but as always, every renewed reverberation was felt. His first notes rang true, flowing through the proscenium like warm syrup given wings, the notes given new life.

The set began and ended, conveying the shores of his grandfathers house, the old mans smile when he lifted the bow in a familiar grip, a womans hands over cello strings, her voice just beyond sounds reach, wet leaves sticking to vandalized gravestones, and an unknowable song unheard by pale faces As of that undistinguishable moment, when he weaved together the last familiar notes into the unknown, a mans life was being supported by the dexterity of a wooden bow. David began to be heard, to be known by countless strangers. His first airy gasp of the world echoed deep in the scrape of his bow across the strings. Rosin dust floated from past memories to stain the stage. The lips spoke words he never could hear and moved with the movement of his arm. Claras voice echoed towards the audience through Davids hand. The same white-gold shine off the dark wood of the violin was shown by the slightest tilt of the instrument. Those dreamy, euphoric years of shallow life relayed through the honest tones of the minor key. Though his heart beat and he selfishly took air into his lungs, he did not breathe. He did not breathe until he reached his reason for doing so: the overture, the change into the major key. It awoke like lightning in his hands and the pulses barely felt in his fingertips ran through the current of his life. His essence became song. The audience was hushed, enraptured by the flowing song, disturbed by the truth released in staccato rhythm. His song was poetry on air; it was the sound of a thousand emotions gaining freedom. His notes wove themselves into the air, hanging themselves on what silence they could find. And with their realization, there was only music remaining. Music, as with life, was indescribable in all its purity. Something came over David as he played, the very same realization that had startled him all those years ago: Music was all he ever had to give, and though he could never hear it, music was being made.

RECONCILIATION
By Quinn Kelly Ironically, the smoke hurts my eyes. Thats why I smoke alone and always outside. Most smokers are inconsiderate by nature and just dont have the sensitive eyes I do. I blow my smoke into the outdoor ceiling fan. I scan our backyard and chuckle at how pathetic it looks without landscaping. Its basically a mud hole from the late summer rains and I know our dumbshit dog is going to be tracking it in the house for months. The clouds spilling over the mountains tell me we wont see the end of it anytime soon. Arizona weather is moody a thought I contemplate often. Im stalling the trip back into the house. Cigarette breaks might be the only thing keeping me sane. Somehow I know I'm being asked to do more than I'm capable of. The challenge exhilarates me for a moment, so I take a deep drag, flick the butt into the mud, curse under my breath and walk into the house. My parents were furious when I eloped with a 35 year old with two kids. This situation only validates their materialistic views. We had no money then and we still dont. I was only a boy then and I still am. At 23, I was only a decade older than her teenage girl. It was an impossible situation and I knew I would get no respect. I couldnt possibly be a dad to these kids; hell, I was practically her third kid. So I fought. I fought for my marriage and I fought for my kids respect. I have spent the last two years protecting our kids, seeing them through high school, keeping them away from drugs seemingly impossible tasks but we did it. When we found out her daughter was killed in a car accident, I had no idea what would be asked of me. Im not sure whats worse: avoiding conflict or fighting through it just to see what I built crumble with one accident. Since the accident I creep silently around the house- careful not to stir her. The stillness in the house is oppressive today. My wife hasnt left her bed for weeks. A child without a parent is called an orphan. But there isnt a word to describe a mother who loses her child because the thought is too fucked up to think about. At the bottom of the stairs I stop to think about how I am going to do this. How the hell I am going to ask a broken woman to be strong for a night? Ask her to hold it together and interact with people? I had no choice but to arrange a potluck service tonight for our daughter at our house because we just dont have the money for anything else. I walk softly into the room and discover the outline of my wife in the bed. I lay down cautiously next to her. The grief is palpable and I realize how painfully underequipped I am to
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comfort her. I place my hand on her back. She starts to sob uncontrollably. I am reminded that my cross to bear is nothing next to hers. I can do nothing right now but simply be present. Words are worthless in moments like this. I hold her for hours. Its time, I whisper. She says nothing and walks into the bathroom, softly closing the door behind her. I sit on the edge of the bed and wrestle with my inadequacy. Did I say enough? Hold her for long enough? Should I cancel this fucking thing and let my wife heal? I pick up an old t-shirt off the ground and pull it over myself. I feel cloaked in failure and guilt. My friends are out riding dirt bikes and getting laid. Im here in the thick of grief and pain, taking care of a broken woman. Our friends start to pour in and help out: bustling about and dishing out food. I see my parents walk in and sense they immediately feel out of place in this low-income situation. They sit uncomfortably on our hand-me-down couch. I see my dad silently judging my friends that are smoking outside next to the mud pit. Its fitting, really, but they would slit my fathers throat if I asked them to. My folks cant hide their disappointment. In some way, this situation only adds to their resentment. If I had married who they wanted, they wouldnt have to feign grief right now. No one in my family has the guts to say it to me, but I know they think the accident was my wifes fault. Bad parenting, getting knocked up by a dead beat no one dies like this in wealthy suburbia. Only the poor bury their children. Deep down I know the pity my mother exudes only masks her jealousy. She wishes her husband would defend her the way I defend my wife- though at this point she wouldnt trade her Benz for it. My wife comes down the stairs like a ghost. Her face is emotionless. My folks get up to approach her. I get up and circle them like a shark. The look on my face communicates to everyone in the room they better tread carefully around her. The rest of the night I stand behind her like a bodyguard. I repeatedly whisper how proud I am of her in her cold ear. The struggle and conflict seem to never end. We couldnt afford a proper funeral. We will barely be able to pay our mortgage next month. Im sure I will have to spend the next few months trying to drag my wife out of bed. I might have to get two jobs. I will have to carry a load few 27 year olds ever have to. She will be cold to me and reject me in a way I will have to endure for a time. I hope that if I ever hit rock bottom that she would do the same for me. Maybe she wont. My parents are confused why I would choose a life that is so turbulent. The ups and downs of our relationship have become part of our history now. We forgive, we reconcile. Then hurt each other again. We forgive, we reconcile... I walk our last friends out and thank them. My wife lies still, a corpse on the couch. I dim
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the light and sit on the edge of the couch next to her. I push the strands of hair behind her ear. She smiles with her eyes closed. I keep pushing the hair behind her ears until there is no hair left to corral and tears are streaming down my face. Her cold hand holds my face. She says nothing but the touch comforts me in a way I desperately needed. I scoop her up and carry her up the stairs. She feels lifeless and depleted in my arms. I tuck her in and she is asleep before I can kiss her forehead. On the patio I light my last cigarette of the day. Even the dog needs a fucking vacation. This shit is hard relationships, life. So I fight. Honestly, I dont have much else to offer. Her and I, we only have grief and each other. I am my beloveds and my beloved is mine.

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MAI TRUONG
By Nicole Pacheco New York City, Winter 1998 One day youll realize how beautiful this time really was. The first time my grandmother said those words to me I was seven years old, crying and angry over the disaster I caused. I remember that day so clearly. The sky was gray and full. Even before the rain, the air was thick and made your clothes cling to your skin. There was a chill that made your bones ache; much like the weather today. Grandma got her annual cold at this time every year. Normally my mother and she would be doing all the cooking but I had to fill in for her; and tonights dinner was especially important. My fathers boss and his family would be joining us. They had a son a year older than me who my mother would often tell me I was meant for. At that age I never really understood what she meant. All I knew was that I had to be on my best behavior when he was around. Jon Chau. I didnt like him. He could be as rowdy and loud as he wanted while I had to sit quietly in my most uncomfortable dress. Tonight my duty was to make the Banh Bo Nuong for dessert. It is important to show our guests that you are a good girl, is what my father told me. How could they think I was anything other than a good girl? I would only speak when spoken to and would hardly even move when they were around! But I knew better than to question him. The Banh Bo Nuong is one of the hardest desserts to make in this world! You have to follow the recipe just right or it wont rise! You must use exact measurements and be sure not to over whisk the batter! My mother shouted instructions at me the whole time I was making it. That was my mothers idea of helping me. It is supposed to be a bright green, chewy, coconutty tasting cake. Not my favorite but Jons. I pulled my cake out of the oven and cut into it. It was brown all the way through and heavy as a brick. My mother screamed! You useless girl! I helped you step by step! How could you have messed it up?! Now we will have no sweets for our guests! This is a disaster!

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She stormed out of the kitchen and left me with my failure. Tears spilled out of my eyes and my cheeks burned hot. I hated her! And she made me hate myself. With all the yelling my grandmother woke up from her nap and came into the kitchen. My grandmother was my best friend. She understood me more than my parents ever could and she was patient with me. She grabbed the cake and dropped it into the trash. She wiped my eyes with her sleeve and put the mixing bowl back in front of me. Try again. I started to throw all the ingredients into the bowl and mix them as fast as I could. There wasnt much time left before our guests would arrive. Slow down! You are learning Mai. Take your time. Soon enough you will be able to do this with your eyes closed. You will do it perfectly each time. I need to do it perfectly today! Grandma, cant you just show me? You are doing fine. Keep going. I made it in silence this time. My grandmother watched me with a slight smile on her wrinkled cheeks. Her face was aged and her body fragile but when she smiled she looked no older than I was. While it was baking (forty-five minutes exactly!) I sat with her and watched her draw. Her long thin fingers held the charcoal delicately as she made soft lines on the paper. I stared at those strokes so intensely that I didnt know what she was drawing until she finished and I looked at it as a whole. It was the most beautiful flower I had ever seen! What kind is it? I asked her. Youve never seen a red lotus before? I shook my head. Well. The lotus grows in muddiest waters. The stock rises from the waters and reveals the most beautiful fragrant crimson flower! But this flower only shows its beauty for three days. Then each petal falls silently back into the water, one by one, leaving only the center. The center grows and matures and then it too falls back into the water. And from it the next flower begins.

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Her flower had all of its petals. They were big and silky and looked like they might melt if you touched them. The stock was thick and strong and the center held the small seeds that would start the next flowers life. I wanted to see a real one growing from the mud! The timer brought me out of my trance. I rushed to the oven and took the cake out. It was green this time but a pale green and weighted only slightly less than a brick. I hate this! I mess it up every time! Youre improving. I need it to be right! The Chaus will be here soon and it has to be right for them. I grabbed the bowl and started mixing again. Each time you do the motions without appreciating what you are creating, it will lose its magic. Id appreciate it if it worked! Im almost out of time! Tnh yu ca ti, one day youll realize how beautiful this time really was. the microwave steals me back from my memories. That was twelve years ago and those words still play in my head all the time. Its hard to see the beauty in my burnt TV dinner. Can you even consider soggy gray fish and lump of hard rice dinner? This food seems to be the perfect simile for my new life here. If you can even consider it a life. This city is so full of energy, full of people and excitement but Im just not a part of it. Its hard to accept that the life youve dreamt of isnt turning out how you thought it would. Ive been staring at this canvas for hours and nothing. The other students in my class have a point of view and they tell stories through their work! They come in with something even more breath taking each week. I come in with more paintings of the huge glass buildings or of Central Park. My teacher tells me I need to find my inspiration. He wants more of me in my art. I dont want to see something so exact on your canvas. I want you to give me something I cant find anywhere else! Looking around at the tiny dorm room, that I have called home for the past three months, with its chalk white walls and mystery stained carpet its hard to find anything
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here inspirational. How do I give him me when I havent figured out who I am here? I can hear girls laughing with each other as they walk down the hall. They never invite me to laugh with them. I cant remember the last time I laughed Finally the clouds have burst and their cold tears run down my window. The rain is the only thing that is the same as back home. The rest of it I have to forget about. There is no going back home. This is my home now. Da Lat Vietnam, Fall 1990 I love my art teacher! She let us use real paints today! Sixth grade is so much better than fifth. The old art teacher never let us use paint. We got to paint for the whole hour too! And what did you create today? my grandmother asked me smiling. I ran to my bag and pulled out my painting. I was so proud of it. I set it on the table for her and waited. In the middle of the paper was a huge tree with a bright blue trunk and bright purple braches with orange leave in the shape of birds. The sky was black and silver and the grass was a deep red. I couldnt wait to hear what my grandmother thought! But then my father came home from work. I always tried to hide my art projects from him because I knew he didnt approve. He saw it and snatched it away before my grandmother had finished looking at it. What is this trash? I painted it father. I said nervously. You painted it? What use is this?! Jon would not want a frivolous girl! My mother had come in to greet my father. She took one look at my painting and scoffed. You stupid girl. Can you not even pick proper colors? Without saying another word to me he threw it in the trash. I walked quietly to my room trying to hold in the tears until I was at a safe distance. I wanted to stay hidden forever but my mother called me out to help her prepare dinner. Now this is how you should be spending your time my father said as I was making the rice. I tried to fight it but a single tear snuck out. The dinner was silent and seemed to go on for days but I was finally permitted to go
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back to my room. As I passed my grandmothers bedroom I saw my miscolored tree hanging proudly above her nightstand. She must have liked it even more than I had hoped! Da Lat Vietnam, Spring 1994 There was an art competition for all 10th 11th and 12th graders in the area. I hadnt wanted to submit any of my paintings. I didnt think they were good enough and I didnt want to embarrass myself or my parents. Nonsense! my grandmother shouted, Your paintings are wonderful! If you do not submit at least one I will be so disappointed! She was half smiling when she said it. I dont think my grandmother was ever disappointed in me and I knew if I chickened out she would just smile and say, maybe next time or something like that but I submitted just one anyways. It was the night they were going to announce the winners. I invited my parents hoping they would at least come see my painting since it was being displayed for the public. They never wanted to see what I brought home. I invited Jon Chau too thinking that if he was there maybe my parents would be more interested. They called the finalists to the stage and I was one of them! Fourth was called then third and second There were only four of us on stage so that had to mean And first place goes to Mai Truong! I couldnt help but squeal in excitement! I had won! Out of so many people! I couldnt believe it. I looked out into the crowd for my family My parents had not come. Jon of course was not amongst the people cheering either. My smile fell to the ground. I wanted off of the stage as quickly as possible. I ran to the stairs and then I saw her. My grandmother was standing there beaming holding a big bouquet of our flowers. I told you tnh yu ca ti Da Lat Vietnam, Summer 1997 How wonderful would it be to paint every day? To be in a place where people appreciated and encouraged you? To know, that even though I am a girl, I can have any life I wanted? I go to that place in my mind often. I keep the brochure and application under my
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mattress. I pull them out and drift away whenever I get a moment alone. Columbia University. School of the Arts. How wonderful! My teacher had given it to me on our last day of class in June. I want to go so badly but I know its impossible. Tnh yu ca ti, what is that you are looking at? My grandmother caught me daydreaming. She walks over and takes the paper from my hand. She studies it a while then smiles and leaves the room. I sigh. I hope she wont tell my father! A moment later she comes back into my room with a pen. If you do not try I will be so disappointed. Da Lat Vietnam, Fall 1997 I knew what was coming. Jon Chau has never asked to speak with me alone before. In fact he has hardly ever spoken to me before. As we walked through the garden I notice my parents faces watching us from the kitchen window. Like two goldfish in their small bowl. Their eyes were practically popping out of their heads. This is what they want. This is what I was meant for. I had known what my mother meant by that for years now. Suddenly, with not a single warm note to his voice, he asked me. I looked at him; his eyes were blank and seemed far away. He was not nervous or excited or even happy about hisproposal. How could I tie myself to this boy forever? we came inside and he told my parents the news. I have never seen my parents more proud of me! And for the first time I saw my grandmothers face lose the private smile she always had for me. I have disappointed her. Da Lat Vietnam, Winter 1997 It is that time of year. The bone aching chill cutting through my window forces me to get up. I go to the kitchen and start heating the water for morning tea. Im sure my grandmother will want mint to help relieve her sinuses. I set the table and put out our favorite cups. The early morning is always my favorite time of day. Everything is so still and perfect. The pot whistles cutting the quite air but it is not the only new sound. I can hear my parents troubled voices coming from my grandmothers room. The air changes again and the chill invades me. The outside world fades away and I am just my body. I can hear only my heart beating and can feel the blood as it pumps through my veins. Its peaceful here,
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warm. Its just as its supposed to be. Mai. Mai? My mothers voice was soft. My parents had come into the kitchen and were standing in front of me. Their faces confirm what I never wanted to be told. The pot fell to the ground and the smell of mint overtook the room and stung my eyes. Da Lat Vietnam, Spring 1998 Wedding plans is all anyone can talk about in my house. August 3rd! That will be the happiest day of my life! What a perfect date for a wedding! Those are my mother sentiments. Mine are not so spirited. I need to go for a walk. I have been going on many walks lately. My whole life has been taken over by wedding plans! I told my mother I walk to maintain my figure. She is very understanding and glad to see me acting so sensibly. These walks are my only escape. I check the mail on the way back in. There is a large stone white envelope with my name on it. Why am I receiving this? All wedding things are addressed to my father or Jon And then I see it. Printed in the corner, in the most beautiful blue I have ever seen, are the words Columbia University School of the Arts. I had forgotten all about my application! I havent painted since I got engaged. You are to be my wife now Jon had told me, and I will not have my wife trifling with such nonsense. I tear it open as quickly and carefully as I can. I rush over the words then try to slow myself down so I wont miss a thing. Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into Da Lat Vietnam, Summer 25th July 1998 The wedding is only a week away. This will likely be my last walk alone as a single woman. Everything has been a blur. I couldnt even tell you what the flowers will be. My mind has strayed back to my daydreams of New York City. Of painting every day! I had gotten in. I had been given a scholarship. I never should have opened that letter. It hurts
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a million times more now than it had before. Knowing that Im good enough and that they want me makes me miserable. I am not meant for that life. I honor what will likely be my last walk alone and decide to take a different path today. It is unusually cold and there is no trail the way Im going. I get small cuts on the top of my feet. My sandals are not meant for adventure. It is worth it to see the beauty of this place. The thick tree trunks shoot up to the sky and their lush leaves dance among the clouds. Each vine and flower seems so perfectly placed. I take another step, my nose pointing at the sun, and my foot gets soaked. There is a muddy pond that prevents me from going any farther. The dreary water seems so out of place here. Why are you here?! Why are you stopping me?! Youre messing everything up! I screamed at the water. I hated it! Why did it have to be here and cut my last walk so short?! Doesnt it realize this is all I have left? I fall to my knees, splashing mud up onto my dress and cry harder than I have ever cried. What am I supposed to do now? I sat there for a long while before I thought I was able to face my parents. Id have to explain to them why I was gone so long and why my dress now needed cleaning. I wiped my tears with my sleeve and lift my head. Thats when I saw it. A green stock rising from the water holding up the most beautiful, fragrant crimson flower I have ever seen. A few of its petals have already fallen but I cannot imagine it ever being prettier than it is right now. Da Lat Vietnam, Summer 26th July 1998 I packed my bag late last night after everyone went to bed. This morning I woke up before the sun. I silently got dressed and walked through my house one last time. I stood in my grandmothers room for a long while and realized that her spirit was no longer there. I am not leaving her behind, she is with me, I can feel it. I wanted to take another look at my parents but I was too afraid that I would wake them so I just left. The sun is barely starting to rise over the earth and my plane has started boarding. I did not leave a note. I had an awful picture in my mind of them getting here before my flight and taking me away. I will call them from my new home; my new life. They probably wont even notice Im gone for some time. They call my section and I take off into the sky.

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Da Lat Vietnam, Summer 27th July 1998 This is the most people I have ever seen! The sidewalks are full and the streets are packed with cars concealing still more people. My small map and horrible sense of direction have gotten me horribly lost. Everyone seems so busy I dont want to bother them. The buildings are even taller than the tallest trees back home! And there seem to be trees on top of the buildings. This is the strangest place I have ever seen, and I love it. It is so much more than I had imagined. I finally find my school. My school! I still cant believe Im here. A girl about my age with blue spiked hair shows me to my dorm room. So youre new to the city huh? How can you tell? I said softly. The look of terror, I tried to calm my eyes, I had it too when I first got here. It goes away. I smiled, not knowing how to respond. Im Amy. Very nice to meet you. My name is Mai Truong. Well very nice to meet you too, Mai Truong she said in an unfamiliar tone that made me think it wasnt very nice for her to meet me. I live right next door if you ever need anything, ok? Then she walked out and left me to explore my new home. White walls, beige carpet, a small bed, a mini fridge, and a microwave. It is wonderful! The worst object in the room is the telephone. It mocks me. I hadnt left a note and I needed to call them Father Im sorry. Im okay but Im not coming home. How dare you disrespect this family! You will come home and make this right! Pray Jon will still have you! But I will not have him. Father Im not coming home. I have to do this! Dont you want me to be happy?
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Selfish girl! Do you not care for your family?! You are coming home! Get to the airport and I will book you a flight. Im sorry father. I cant. New York City, Winter 1998 There is a pounding on the door that forces me to lose the staring contest with the blank canvas. What is with the stench?! Amy yells as she barges through the door. She finds my neaten fish dinner, plugs her nose and points to it, This is the culprit! Looks delicious! I have learned that her insincere tone is called sarcasm and Amy is very sarcastic. Come on, let go grab some pizza. I cant. I have to finish my painting. You mean you have to start your painting. See! I need to stay here. The smell in here Is going to turn all your paints black! I shook my head at her extreme exaggeration and turned back to my canvas. It will still be here when you get back. I promise! And with that she dragged me out into the world New York is so different from Vietnam. This city is mostly gray and cold but its beauty radiates off of the tall buildings. There is a potential and hope here that was nowhere to be found in Vietnam. Maybe all the colors and plants hid it. Life is hard here but I am not afraid of hard. It is what is easy that scares me. I couldve married Jon Chau, made my parents happy and had my whole life taken care of for me. I cannot think of anything more miserable! I may not
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have found my true happiness here yet but I know it is waiting for me. See the smell is almost out of here now! Amy said when we got back. Now go paint! Once again I was left alone with the canvas. My paintings need more of me in them. I am in one of the many tall gray buildings in the city, so I paint it. I have painted many buildings for class before. I dont think the fact that I live in this one will be me enough. My teacher also tells me that I lack inspiration. I sit and stare for a while more and then I realize what I need to do. In the middle of the canvas stands my tall gray building with its hundreds of small dark windows. Wrapping around the building is a strong green stem. At the top of the stem, at the top of my building, is a huge red lotus flower. I used the most vibrant red I could find and it pops brilliantly against the dull gray. At the bottom of the building lay two of its large, silky petals. This flower has only recently begun its life. I went into my bedroom and set the painting down next to two others I treasured. The first, the charcoal lotus my grandmother drew at our kitchen table when I was just seven years old. The second, my miscolored tree I painted in the sixth grade that my grandmother had kept for so many years. This new painting was me. I had remembered my greatest inspiration. She would be proud.

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SLAP
By Tom Leveen Helene Haley ignored a cramp in her side as she raced through renegade chaparral, poking stubbornly out of cracks in the cement beneath her feet. The cramp bit down with terrible teeth near her kidney, forcing Helene to stop and massage the pain away. Helene gingerly stroked her cheek to soothe a lingering sting, the memory of her fathers slap constricting her lungs. She choked on a rising sob and forced herself to breathe deeply, hating herself and debating whether to turn toward home or not. She chose to wander down the path instead; her father would be waiting whether she turned back now or spent the entire day away from the house. Even if he were gone when she returned, the respite would be temporary. He was relentless. Thirteen years had taught her that much. Hed wait as long as it took.

Call the police, she thought. Call someone. Cmon, Hell, call anyone . . .
Shed exhausted the option of running away six months ago. Helene had made it as far as Meikos house, a mile away, when Mr. Haley had roared up in his piss yellow Corvette and physically dragged her screaming into the vehicle. And when they got home Helene surveyed her surroundings and realized she was near Roosevelt Park. She plodded toward it; the park offered water fountains and shade, small comforts. Hunky guys played football on a grassy expanse at the east end of the park. Around a picnic table, a birthday party was underway. The playground teemed with children, hysterical on the jungle gym and swings. A family of three spread a quilt down on the grass and began unpacking a basket of food. Helenes gut twisted as she watched the family laugha father, mother, and little boy. Twice the mother bear-hugged the boy, tickling him mercilessly until he squealed for release. After unpacking the basket, the father began tossing a Frisbee back and forth with his son. Helene imagined joining the family, if only for the afternoon. They could play and laugh. She had done neither for a long time. Delighted and sickened, Helene turned and began walking home. Her fathers wrath would be epic.
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# Helene tightened her chokehold on the pillow in her arms, and bit down to prevent a cry of terror and agony as Haleys weapon snapped against her unprotected skin. She heard the rough leather belt slither snake-like through Haleys hand as he stood over her. He pausedthen lashed out one final, brutal blow. Now get cleaned up for gods sake! Youre cooking dinner tonight. And then I want to see your homework, do you hear me? Helene nodded, ignoring her bangs tickling her nostrils. Good, Haley barked. And from now on, you think twice about running out on me when Im talking to you! Helene heard him step out of the room and slam her door. Trembling, she pulled a sheet over her aching body. Autumn dusk beamed through her window, lighting up dust motes and throwing several dark vertical stripes across the floor; Haley had mounted bars outside her window after her attempted runaway. Helene pulled her legs up against her body in a fetal position, knowing there was nothing to be done now; she could only breathe deeply and try to regulate her heartbeat. The immediate stinging would soon dissipate, leaving heavy purple knots to deal with later. With luck, Haley was done for at least a few weeks, his senseless wrath temporarily sated. Helenes thoughts turned to her mother. Anne Haley was a chronic alcohol abuser, and as a result, the court had awarded sole custody to Mr. Haley during the divorce and required Anne Haley to seek treatment for her sickness. Failing that would jeopardize any opportunity to see her daughter again. A year passed, and Helene heard nothing. No phone calls, no letters. Helene tried to hate her mother, to blame Anne Haley for her own predicament, but the attempt failed. Anne Haley had beenstill was, presumablya drunk who paid more attention to her liquor than her daughter. Helene guessed it was Mr. Haley who had driven her to it, and the cunning bastard had waited until she was at her depth before announcing a divorce. So whens dinner? Haley shouted from the living room. Helene swung her sore legs from beneath the sheet, pulled on a pair of black sweatpants, and stepped unsteadily out of her room. She cooked steak and canned corn for dinner.
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# After dinner, Helene quickly finished her homework and entered Haleys home office. Haley fed paper into a shredder: resting on one edge of his desk, thin white strips dropped into a recycling wastebasket. You finish your homework? Yes. Helene handed him several sheets of math. Haley gave it a cursory glance and shoved the paper back at her. Good. Get to bed. Okay, Helene mumbled. She looked down at her feet, preparing to leavethen froze. She could see into the recycling wastebasket, filled with white lacy paper. Amid the tangles, some print was yet visible. Helene stared at several strands of overlapping paper on which she could read several typewritten characters:

Lo e alw s, yo moth r, nne


Helenes head jerked up. Haley wasnt looking at her yet must have sensed her intrigue; his hand shot out across the desk and grabbed a purple envelope. He crunched the envelope in his fist and tossed it into a waste can. He wasnt fast enough. The handwriting on the envelope was unmistakably Anne Haleys. Haley scowled. Well? Get out of here, dammit! You son of a bitch, Helene whispered. Haley slowly pivoted on his office chair. Pardon me? For the first time in her life, Helene was not cowed. Why didnt you tell me? she demanded, amazed at the edge in her voice, the angry strength building in her limbs. She would accept his beatings without protest, and she would obey his every whim, but she could not stand by and allow himhim, this bastardto keep her from her mother. Haley stood and took one step toward her. Helene instinctively backed away, staring into his chest. Haley put his hands on his hips and glowered down at her.

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What did you say? he enunciated. The words were a dare; she was sure. Hed heard her perfectly. Go on, Haley said silently; go on and stop me. I kept your mother from you for this long, and I can do it for the rest of your life. Because I hate you both. Helene screamed and threw a fist toward his face, her knuckles slapping solidly against his mouth. For an instant, Helene could feel his teeth mashing against his lips. Haleys head cranked right, then spun toward her. . . . Bitch. Haley lunged. Helenes bravado ended. She squealed and stepped backward, narrowly avoiding his outstretched arms. Helene turned and ran blindly through the house, feeling Haleys thumping, maddened footsteps behind her. She turned into the kitchen, searching for escape. The kitchen door led into the garage, so Helene scrambled for it, past the counter where the remnants of their dinner lay in a domestic pile by the sink. Haley bore down on her, an enraged Minotaur, causing the plates to clatter mildly and rattling a butcher knife soaking in an oily frying pan. Helene grasped the knob in her hand for one moment before Haley crashed into her, expelling her breath in one near-fatal cough. His arms encircled her midsection, her ribs bending beneath his grip. Suddenly she was airborne, slung easily to one side. Helene crashed against the tile countertop. The counters edge cracked terribly into her hip, shooting agony down her leg. The grease-stained plates shifted uncomfortably nearby. Haley spun her around with one hand and forced her head down into the stainless-steel sink. Haley was screaming unintelligibly, punching into her lower back and sides as Helene struggled to maintain consciousness. Haleys blunt, powerful fist sank repeatedly into her kidneys and spine, causing cold flames to lick the inside of her throat and her feet to lift inches off the tile floor. She heard one of her ribs crack. Helene went numb to the beating. She twisted her head in the middle of a plea for forgiveness, but her voice was cut off beneath his punishing fists. Helenes vision fogged as she focused on the frying pan, and the brown handle of the butcher knife protruding from it. She stretched out an oddly steady hand, pulled the blade out of the pan, and watched its gleaming edge drip thick gobs of grease and water. She wrapped her fingers around the handle, staring at it for an eternity.
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In one fatal heartbeat of time between blows, Helene twisted her hips and shot out her right hand like a projectile. There was a moment of sickening resistance before the blade plunged into Haleys midsection. Haley froze, one hand upraised in a fist that slowly relaxed. His facestill contorted and crimson, screwed into what had been angerclearly registered silent pain. He looked down at the handle protruding from his ribcage and stumbled backward. Helene stood motionless against the counter, watching with horrible clarity as Haley cupped his hands beneath the knife but did not touch it. Ohshit, he stated, and it almost made Helene laugh. It sounded as though he had forgotten to start a load of laundry. Helene slid along the length of the counter toward the doorway to the living room, abrasions and lumps on her back catching on the counter like sandpaper, watching as Haley collapsed. He stretched out one arm, trying to find purchase against the wall to slow his decent. His head angled down, staring incredulously at the knife. Thick red fluid seeped through his shirt. At the sight of it, Helene gasped and rushed for the doorway, but fell to the ground with a crash, her legs useless. She pulled herself through the doorway, dragging herself toward her bedroom, away from the dying man. Her legs were dead trunks, less useful than if they had been missing altogether. She slunk into her room, pushed the door shut with one weak hand and fell unconscious. # A sound crept on sharp-clawed paws into Helenes consciousness. Huhhhhhl . . . Helene, prostrate on the floor, forced her eyes open. At this angle, she could see beneath her door. A shadow danced morbidly in the hall. A scrape. Fingernails against the door. Huhhhleee . . . Nausea washed through Helenes torso. The scrape sounded again, scratching at the
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wooden door. Huhleeene . . . ohhh gawwwwd . . . Haleys voice was moist and phlegmy, almost a gurgle. Bloody fingers crept between the door and the carpet. Helene was about a foot away from the fingers, her chin resting on the floor. The fingers crawled away. A sharp pound on the door made her jump and back away. Huhlene . . . honey . . . help me . . . The muscles in Helenes face went slack, and she lurched to her garbage can and vomited, knives of hot iron blistering her throat. Huhlene, please . . . I luhve yuh . . . please . . . Helene spat into the can and wiped at her mouth. He was still alive. The thought burrowed obscenely into her mind. Still alive. You have to help him. Hell,

you cant let him die . . . why didnt you run out the front door, you could have let him fucking rot . . . !
A wracking sob jerked her attention back to the door. Haley moaned and wept miserably, now choking and gasping between pleas. The red-stained fingertips pried helplessly at the bottom of the door. Cant make phone, Haley burbled in the hall. Hans unna work. Cant geddup. Helene stared at the door, supporting her weight on quivering arms. Her entire body ached and groaned, her right side bright with searing pain. Heleeeeeeeeeene! A terrific screech. Helene clamped her hands over her ears. Stop it! Helene screamed. Stop it, stop it, stop it! She kicked meaninglessly at the doorjamb. With one final thud against the door, the shadow in the hall ceased its profane dance.
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Trembling, Helene released the grip on her skull. Haleys body, unconscious or otherwise, lay against the door. There was no way out of the room without disturbing him. If he was unconscious, she didnt want him to wake, and if he was dead, she didnt want to touch him. She had to get out and call for help. But his corpse

You dont know hes dead, Hell.


She blinked blankly, realizing she was effectively trapped.

Even now hes in control, she thought. Even now.


Helene gasped as a deeply rooted pain in her lower back took her breath away. Whatever damage Haley had done, it was critical. She swallowed bile and climbed carefully to her feet. The distance to her bedroom door seemed to grow with each step she took toward it. She grasped the knob in a damp hand and pulled the door open. Haleys torso fell past the threshold. His eyesopen, dry, and darkstared up at Helene. His face had blanched; his hands cramped around the handle of the knife sticking out of his sternum. Black blood congealed around the wound. Helene stared down at the apparition with utter disbelief, unable to break her gaze away from this thing that had once been her father. Helene stepped forward, her bare foot catching on Haleys cold, gray arm. She screamed and danced awkwardly away from the body and lurched down the hall into the kitchen, following a trail of blood. Maddened, Helene grabbed a cordless phone from its base and raced outside, clutching the phone to her chest. The night was beautifully cool, the air sweet and clean. Helene crashed into the soft lawn and dialed the phone with numb fingers. Nine-one-one, what is your emergency? Helene stared emptily into the street. I killed my dad, she said. What? Is someone hurt? Hello? Helenes side was a cauldron of ice spikes and fire, the pain bright and alive. She tried to
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find a comfortable position in which to pass out. Gray drapes seemed to be dropping over her vision as she heard the operators voice asking questions Helene could not answer. The phone, still on, slipped from her hand and she fell back into the grass. The last thing she heard were sirens. # Mr. and Mrs. David Miller picked up their son Jimmy between them and swung him high in the air. Jimmy, six years old, screamed and laughed. His parents laughed too. It was a moment Rockwell might have painted. They set Jimmy down near a picnic table and proceeded to unpack lunch as Jimmy rushed off, giggling hysterically. Helene Miller watched him go with an envious grin. Hes a good boy, right, Dave? Oh yeah. Hes the best. David kissed her on the cheek. Has a good mother, thats the ticket. Helenes smile grew wider. They kissed again and Helene looked into his eyes. Theyre a fathers eyes, she thought. David reached into the picnic basket and pulled out a softball. He lobbed it to Helene, who caught it with a juggle and a giggle. Toss this to him, David said. I think weve got a little jock in the making, here. Helene smiled at him again and walked toward the playground as David began unwrapping sandwiches. Roosevelt Park hadnt changed over the years, Helene realized as she stepped through the lush grass. She paused, drinking in the sights. It was fifteen years ago, she realized as she watched Jimmy running around the swing set on the playground. Fifteen years since Helene shook her head. Its the past, Hell, she reminded herself. No charges filed, no trial. The police contacted Anne Haleywho had been sober for eight months before that terrible nightwhile Helene recovered in the hospital from a laceration to her liver that could have been fatal. Shes lucky to be here, a doctor had
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murmured to Anne Haley, and Helene had heard. Helene finished high school and college, Cum Laude with a B.A. in sociology, met David Miller and married soon after; and these days, Helene often called Anne Haley Grandma. Helene grinned and continued walking toward the playground. Jimmy! Helene called, shielding her eyes from the autumn sun. The hem of her shorts tickled her tanned legs. Helene yanked up a strap on her tank top and called to her son again. The day was beautiful, the sun warming her whole body. It had taken years for David to get her to wear shorts and tanks, but now she was proud of herself and enjoyed showing off her body for him. Jimbo! Come on, were eating! Jimmy waved, but did not leave his post at the swings. Helenes clutch on the softball tightened as she strode toward the playground. Jimmy Miller was waiting patiently for his turn on the playground equipment as Helene gripped his arm and flung him around to face her. The softball fell from her hand, forgotten, and tumbled into the grass where it lay like a relic. Did you hear me? I said were eating! Dammit look at me when Im talking to you! Helene slapped her son.

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IMMIGRANTS REVENGE:
A creative adaptation of the song The Mariners Revenge by the Decemberists By Brandon Riddle

The blackness migrated from the flame of her small lighter. Her resulting shadow wrapped over the weathered face behind her, unconscious under the overpass. She stood for some time flicking the lighter off and on, off and on, dimly revealing the desert around her. The imposing figure on the sloped riverbed below raised its feathered arm, and with an open palm, pointed towards the old man beside her. He was awake. "We are two bad people, you know." The young woman's voice spoke with the detached tone of a dining room dinner. "That rumbling above, those cars? They are our heartbeat. The rotten weeds below? Our unfortunate past. Yet," she said, "Here we are." The moonlight lay stagnant in the starless night. "There are no cars, joven. Quin es usted?" The rasp of a voice under a lifetime of liquor and drugs rose from the old man like thick scum from the bottom of a barrel. "No, no, amigo. You do not want to disgrace my language today." "Who are you?" He tried to squint his eyes through the tears of blood and sweat that dribbled from his head. "It is a crime in itself that you do not remember me. Though, I was a very small girl at the time so I can forg -" "Mi hija?" The old man growled with laughter the way a thunderstorm approaches a town. "If that's what this is, you should know I have no daughter." He found his hands bound behind him; his shoulder creaked up to wipe the bodily liquids that dangled from his splintered lips. "No. God forbid you have any blood on this Earth that isn't under you as we speak." "Then cut these ropes so that I may be free." The old man nudged her leg with his elbow and expectantly looked up at her. She lowered herself to sit next to him, making no motion toward his freedom. "If you are keeping me here, then tell me of my guilt so I may judge you as well." The old man attempted to shift his feet but they, too, were bound by rope. He eyed the young
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woman. "Joven, talk." The young woman flicked her lighter on, revealing the faintest outline of the being below. The old man craned his neck but said no words. The two people, and figure beneath, breathed the same air. "It does not tell me what it is." She lowered her brow and tried to judge the figure under the overpass. It was big, though its height was difficult to judge at this angle, in this dark. "You should ask it." The old man glared into the black, illuminated only by the faint whisper of the moon and struggling flame of the lighter. "No." "I think you should. I'm curious myself." A few moments of hesitation, then the old man tried to yell down, but only a rusty cough laced with streams of his own voice corrupted the air. His lungs filled back up and he waited for a response. The figure meticulously raised its right leg, stopping as if perched on a table, and stomped down with a force that caused the bells on its side to rattle with such clamor that the old man bellowed in fright. The lighter flicked off. "You see, that is all I get out of it, too." she said, watching the old man attempt to hide his head between his knees. "But come, amigo. This is not about that thing, no. There is a girl in your past. Anna was her name." The old man raised his head to look at the thing below. The outline of a giant with too large of a head. "You do not like it? I do not like it either. Let me speak and you will be free of it. A premonition has told me it will leave once my time with you is done. So please, escchame." The old man nodded his head and relinquished his eyes from below, muttering, Rpidamente. The young woman spoke as if narrating her own dream. "When I first saw you, you were just another hired hand for some cartel. Spending all your dirty money on drugs and girls, I'm sure of it. My father had just passed- of what I cannot say." A warm breeze slid under the nostril of the young woman, causing her to cough briefly. "Yet there you were that Easter day. The life of the party. So lively and dashing. Not one
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person did not admire you, the stranger that some forgotten cousin brought along." She glanced down at the old man and stroked his hair, soaked with fluids. "She took you in that night. Bless her soul, she was frightened and alone, and you," she said, "You were full of promise to her." The old man spoke with a smile and eyed the young woman, though his voice spat with fear of the thing below. "I was full of promise to many young women." "Not like this one." She trailed off in a distant memory. "Not like her." The figure again raised its leg and rattled the ground below, prying the young woman from her trance. "My mother took you into our home. My home. The home of my father. Her bed still lingered with his scent. I wonder if you could feel him there with you. You would not have liked it very much." She paused momentarily. "As the days passed, you proved to be just another scoundrel from the streets, promising my mother freedom from the cartels." She looked at the old man and laid her hand on his shoulder. "Her face absolutely glowed from your false hope. I knew it even then, but she was so sure, so hopeful of escape." The old man pressed his arms close to his body, rocking his torso slightly. "Yes, now you're remembering." The young woman said. "One night you and my mother planned it all out: how to escape the country and live without fear. I stood holding my poor mother's hand, clutching at it, trying to save her from your evil." The old man tilted his head toward her, but did not look at the young woman. "Selling everything we owned for cash, we were to follow your cousins for free - out of the love of your heart, no doubt. The three of us as a family." The daunting figure below rattled once more. "The desert was hot and full of unsavory creatures." She let her phrase drift. "Your cousins never arrived, but no matter. You knew the way and my mother believed in you. I have no doubt you knew the paths, already well-tread. The gallons of water were too heavy for my little arms to bear, and we were soon down to only three. But that did not matter to you. You never planned for a life with us, did you?" The young woman picked up a small stone and gently tossed it in the air, catching the tiny rock on its plummeting return. "I p-promise you, La Famiila was us-" The old man stopped as the young woman brought her arm around his neck and put her finger over his lips. The old man tried to squirm within his bonds, but she held tight. "Yes, yes, I know. They were using you for the small
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fortune that my mother owned. All what? Not more than a few hundred pesos I should think. Though, I imagine even cartels need money for shoelaces every now and again." The young woman drew him in closer. She clenched her index and thumb around his cracked lips and slowly twisted. "My sweet and innocent mother did not sense your danger. Even if she had, what was she to do? You could have used her any way you saw fit. She was walking to her El Dorado. Fresh fields and new family. We would live again. But your mind was not with her." She released the old man's lips. "My mother, your lover, fell to her knees in the heat. Groveling at your feet for your water. You did not even look at her. You cabrn. And do you remember what you did to her? I think you do. Say it. Tell me what you did so you may be judged." "I... I left." "You left? You left? No, amigo, you spat on her and said 'aqu est tu agua'. Here is your water. You took her money from her pocket and then you left her, patting me on your way." The imposing figure from below stomped its leg yet again. The rattling of bells crawled within the desert air like the quiver in the old man's spine. The young woman withdrew her arm from the captive. "I lay with her for two days, trying to chase the sun away with brush and clothing, using the gallon of water you did not bring with you to try and make her better. The water merely trickled out of her mouth. She was dead when you left her." "The second night I curled up next to her body. Asleep, she came to me in a dream. I did not see her, no. Only her voice wandered through the halls of eternity. I knew it was her and not my dream. Call it instinct, miraculous, or a lie, but I heard her. The voice pulled me in close and whispered in my little ear, 'Daughter of mine. You must find him. You must crack him. You must boil his blood as he did mine and leave him choking on the dirt of his cursed grave.'" The young woman flicked on the flame of her lighter. "Her voice was lost in agony. She is not happy where ever she is." "Left to die motherless and hopeless, I wandered the desert on the third day. Mostly to avoid the awful odor that had started, I do admit. But I survived your execution," she said. "How thoughtless of you." The old man swallowed dry spit.

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"I was found by a religious humanitarian group north of the border. The Breath of God, they called themselves." She flashed a smile. "They gave me food and water. A place to heal, physically and spiritually. I pointed them in the direction of my mother. I never asked if they found her. They did not have the heart to deport me so I stayed with them, finding others who were left to die in the desert. I think the survivors found my face a comfort. Though your name often reached my ears." "For nine years I worked and lived with the group. Different faces and different skins passed but I remained. Picking up information on you and your kind. Despite the care of these saintly people, not a single night passed when I did not hear the words of the mother's cry." The young woman bowed her head so that her forehead was pressed against the old man's temple and whispered, "You must find him. You must crack him. Boil his blood as he did mine and leave him choking on the dirt of his cursed grave." She listened to the soft wind flowing beneath the overpass until it ceased. "One day I found a man tattered and confused. He pleaded for help, so of course I took him in. I began speaking to him and in his delirium he confessed that he was a coyote, a human smuggler. After I eased his thirst he realized his mistake and tried to explain. Though only in my company, I calmed him. Then," she said. "I joined him." The eyes of the old man fell from both the figure and the young woman, and he curled his knees into his body. "I must have lead hundreds of people across the border in hopes of working with you just once. I helped many reach their wanted lives, yes. I left many people behind to their deaths, yes. Such is the life of a coyote. To find you, I became you: cruel and merciless. Humanity has little place in my tale." The being below filled the void left by the wind and rattled its bells once more. "I lived with the other coyotes, walked as one of them. They were surprised to see a girl lead but I knew the land better than anyone and they respected that. Many were not bad, not like you at least, just struggling to get by - hardly better off than the people they were smuggling. Some, however, were wicked. After four years I came across two men with familiar faces. "Hermanos." The old man whispered. "Brothers, yes. They said you disappeared from them some time ago."
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The old man stared off in agreement. "Nine nights ago our friend here stood over me in my sleep amongst my fellow coyotes. It was as silent as it is now, and it studied the camp for some time. It stepped right over me, the foot barely lifting off the ground, and with one in each hand, it silently plucked your brothers and ran into the desert with such a speed. The thing crossed over me in its dash and I saw the two men. The fear on their faces was like Lucifer himself had come for them." The young woman felt the body next to hers tremble as the figure below slammed its foot. "I lay awake until sunrise, watching the horizon for signs of the giant. Then, before the sun woke the others, it appeared next to me, pointing toward the east. I do not know what God it belongs to, but it is not mine. Why I trusted it, I cannot say. Still, I followed its directions that day and every night it altered my course. Yet for eight days I came across food, water and shelter. And every night I had visions. Awful things." The old man peered into the figure, the fruitless abyss. It stared back. "On three high mesas stood three proud villages alive with hard working people. At the crest of night, giant beings stomped the roads. Some had heads of large horns with the faces of mutilated pigs. Some had heads of eagle with ears as sharp as knives. Others were knotted planks of wood with slits for eyes. All however, caused the homes to jump and the bells on their legs rattled with more poison than any snake's tail I have ever heard. These giants moved like every joint was crumbling rock, yet the speed was incredible. They traveled in the villages, pulling out certain people and carrying them away. Those people did not look like kind people. You know," she mentioned, "you do not look like a kind person." The old man thought he saw the figure inch carefully closer. "I awoke from these dreams with my clothes soiled, but still trusting the giant," the young woman said. "When the sun was at its height today, I sought refuge under this bridge and I found you curled up like a filthy present just for me. It has stood there ever since." The young woman looked into the eyes of the condemned. "You are not from my country, are you?" she asked. "My father was Hopi." The old man's voice strained. "Tales of the Kachina. I am sorry for what I've done."

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"His blood flows in you." His voice trembled. "Kachinas live within us. They know," he said. "You must believe me! I am sorry! I am sorry for your loss, for your life! Please, cranme!" The young woman flicked her lighter on and exhaled a short laugh. "Find him." "Forgive me!" "Crack him." The being marched up the slope as if it were a thousand year old tree that suddenly remembered its own limbs. The ground bent mercilessly to its will. "Joven, you must believe me!" The young woman brought her lighter down to the old man's shirt. "Boil his blood as he did mine." The shirt erupted in flames that were hardly doused by his sweat and blood. The young woman saw the reflection of the figure in the old man's eyes. Red. Black. Yellow. Green. The kachina was all of these. "Padre nuestro que ests en los cielos santificado. The old man roared with the same intensity as did the bells rattling from the figure. "Hoy el pan de este da y perdona nuetras." The roar simmered into a whimper and the being's reflection grew too large for the eye. The young woman backed away from the heat and found herself next to the kachina. They watched the flames boil the old mans blood. When the tongue of the flames vanished and all but a few embers blew away, the old man's chest went up, then down. Hardly noticeable, but there it was. He was alive. "He is all yours, Seor," she said. The kachina reached for the old man and scooped him from the sloping ground with one arm. The kachina paused for the young woman to whisper the last words the old man would hear. "Leave him choking on the dirt of his cursed grave." The old man's eyes searched her face for a brief eternity. The kachina rolled the old man in his hand and leapt into the starless night. The desert shook, the moon-filled sky went black, and the bells of the kachina were replaced with the wails of a thousand wicked men. The young woman climbed onto the overpass above and began walking south, awaiting atonement from her own God.
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RING WITHIN THE LABYRINTH


By William Leschber The winter winds of some brisk yesterday blew through the winding walls of downtown, pushing each darkly clad stranger into another cold tomorrow. Theos night thus far had felt uncanny and rimmed with fog. It was time to go home. Every year when the loose leaves of autumn fell and filled all the dark corners of the city, Theodore never failed to think of all his old roads that led up to today. Walking into the head wind, he found himself lost in dj vu. This was not an unwelcome feeling and always somehow brought out of him the most potent thoughts of nostalgia which usually led to spurts of fevered writing and long feelings to document all that ran away in the gray maze of his mind. Deciding to give in to the pull of his reminiscence, Theo dropped down onto a park bench, pulled out his worn, familiar pen and began to set his thoughts between the pages of his small, spiraling pad. Lost thoughts, old words, and riddles in the reams poured out in his writing as if an elapsed memory had converged into new consciousness giving access to ripe fruits of inspiration. It was an odd happening. Yet every time this occurred, Theo treasured it. Previous episodes of the like left him with amateur epic poems and faux journal entries from lost heroes of history. He wanted to live as they did, but Theo found himself living in a modern cubicle world with more molehills than mountains. I want to see the great mountainsmountains, Theo thought. Its closed here. You have to move on. A voice broke out of the fog. Theo stopped. He pulled his head up from under the impassioned spell. The security guard, who seemed to be the one who spoke, turned away to walk onward. What an unsettling sight, he thought. Actually, first he internally declared, Im simply sitting here writing, not bothering anyone, and you have to interrupt to kick me out of a public park! Ridiculous. Then, Theo thought it a bit unnerving that the guard had no face. Or maybe it was more accurate to say, the guards face had turned to an obscuring angle so Theo could not make it out as he pulled his head up to look. It felt dreamlike; like the flash fleeting moment where the human shades of dreams turn away just as you look in their direction. Theo hated that dream. He looked at his watch. 11:11. Theo also hated being late. Kate had told him to be home before midnight. She was one who would lose herself to worry and since their courtship was merely beginning, Theo strove to satisfy her whims, even ones he thought unnecessary.
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Theodore shook off the taint of the faceless dream guard, made a quick wish and then turned upon his heels to leave. Deciding to exit through an unfamiliar path, he crossed over a small footbridge that led out of the main courtyard and continued to make his way home through the wooded park. These uncanny nights often called out to him for exploration. Even though it was late and he needed to get home, Theo invariably preferred to take a road home he had not traversed before. Regularly taking a different route, he would still make it home in time to satisfy Kates worry and feed his cat, Iris. Iris had been named so because of Kates displeasure with pet names longer than two syllables. He had wanted to call her something mythic, like Ariadne or Eleusis, but his newfound love felt those names to be cumbersome. Kate didnt often take the long way around. The name Iris had been a way to meet in the middle. Noble, mythic and simple: Theo liked things of that lot. What he did not like was to disappoint his hungry cat. Iris liked her last meal at 11:30 sharp. Tonight shed be disappointed. He moved on, alone in his wandering. While travelling this untaken road Theo passed further into Falstaff Park, which was quite deserted. How eerie it is to wander through parks and playgrounds empty of their childrens play. Unfilled swings played only with the wind. A carousel lit yet abandoned behind closed hours. Vacant seats fixed next to vacant concrete chessboards. Theo wondered who won. The only activity in sight was the solitary gliding of an ice-skater in the rec center rink that rimmed the edge of the park. Even that was silent and behind glass. Theo had fallen thorough the ice onceit felt like only yesterday. The emptiness of his evening had serenity about it. Light green leaves shimmered wet with fog and shined on the path that led deeper in. Orange light poured off the park lamps, swirled through the graceful mist and landed on Theos shoulders before he again passed beyond into shadow. He thought this way would let him out on to Avalon St, which would quicken his homeward travel. Instead the park path bent and opened into a great garden. With blossoming interest Theo strode into the beautiful expanse of the unexpected flowery knoll. At one edge of the garden, he came upon a labyrinth symbol adorning the end of a small knee-high concrete wall that rounded the knoll. Well isnt that curious? He recognized the symbol. He had come upon it before within the walls of an old coin shop. The shopkeeper had told him that labyrinths should never be confused with mazes. Mazes are things to get lost in, and labyrinths have but one path. This must be a sign. At the circular swirling marker, Theo chose to turn and follow the wall instead of exiting the way he was headed. At the other end of the foot-high wall was another end-capped labyrinth and upon it lay a charging cell phone. How odd. Taking an extended look around, Theo slowed his breathing to attempt to hear if any one was about. He saw no one. He heard nothing. Hello. Theo said aloud. Light
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condensation landed on his ear and offered the only answer hed get. Hellois anybody there! The strange feeling of being watched swept over Theodores being. Why was this so familiar? Have I been here before? Curiously, Theo picked up the phone. He checked the contacts: none. The text messages: none. There was one photo of a man taking a picture into a mirror, but the operators face was out of frame. How long have I been out here? Theo checked the time on the phone. 12:34. Dammit, Kate is going to be so angry! Thinking he would rescue it from the trapping web of the lost and found, Theo pocketed the phone and hurried on his way. As he came to his neighborhood the fog continued its swirling dance. Now it blew in thicker sheets than it had before obscuring the lines between buildings and blurring the ends of his regular road home. To Theo it seemed as if hed walked much further than it normally would take to get back, and this worried him. Then the phone rang. Hello, Theo answered hesitantly. Theo? The voice that rang out from the other end sounded disturbingly familiar. Yeswho is this? Theo asked in a cold tone. I dont know if Im able to tell you that, but Im calling to help. Help? Who is this? When no answer came Theo continued on insistently, I know your voice; it sounds like my brothersGod rest his soulWho are you and how did you know to reach me on this? This isnt even my phone. Theo asked as his stomach filled with icy apprehension. His night had already held enough odd ends to spook his imaginative mind. He was not in a place for practical joking. He wanted answers. Listen, Theodore! Time is short, and it bends differently here, so be quiet and listen. I do not know how long this line will hold. I do not know if I can reveal who I am. That may alter things. Im not really sure how things work here. I do know that you must listen. You have travelled into the gray space. I can try to guide you out, but that may not be possible anymore. Are you messing with me? Is this some kind of joke? No. Hey! Im already a bit uneasy. Ive had a long day. I cant see twenty feet in front of me because of this damn fog, and now you are jerking with me! Who is this? Mike from
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work?! I swear if you are Theo, its me! I mean, its you. Theos pupils dilated in disbelief and adrenaline. Everything around seemed to slow down. The wind grew unheard. Time ticked a slower tock. Beneath his feet, Theo felt a ripple roll up from under him. His eyes swung round to take in a scene unchanged, but undeniably different. The voice continued, You are talking to you, yourself, but a you from a space far beyond the one you are in now. I know thats strange and outside of the realm of possibility, but I am outside your realm and I promise you its true. You arent fooling me, Theo said half-heartedly and unconvinced. I dont believe you. Just try! The voice demanded in a way that made Theodore think of his father. Ok, if you are me and here to help, why dont you come out from whatever space you are in and get me home? We cannot meet, but we can communicate through these fog conduits, if the circumstances align. And in this instance, I ensured that they would. Sometimes meeting in these spaces causes a rifttoo many rifts may shake the fabric. The last time that happened there were no yesterdays. A long pause separated the two voices that were one. The white noise of the wind returned. Theo began again, You are really freaking me out because you sound the way I sound when I tell the truth. What the hell do you mean fog conduits? Remain calm, Teddy. What you hold is not a phone. It may look that way to you because Ive turned it to appear so. Within the Pitch-Mist communication is unkind. There will come a time, if you make it out, when you will make a call, as I have now, to help another Theo. You will know then when to place the talking tether. I dont even know if you are speaking English! I hear your words but I dont understand. And I dont want you to tell me to calm down! What the hell is going on? How did I even get here if Im not in my neighborhood? I dont fully understand the winding ways of the new world weve entered, yet I know this: there are beings, entities that defy the way life is perceived on Earth. One such entity is the Pitch-Mist. To the untrained eye these travelling doorways go unseen as shadow clouds passing over open water. They move and breathe across interspaces and if they set down, a temporary bridge extends. The details are unimportant now. What is important is
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that you passed through a door that shouldnt have been opened to you, and you cannot go back. This kind of door only opens in one direction. I dont know why but we passed through. Im sorry. Sorry! For what? What do you mean, youre sorry! No, no, no Listen, Ted, you have to hold it together. Ive been telling you this for the last hour, you have to remain calm. Things are spinning away, I can feel it. I may lose you soon. But remember this; the paths in here can fold and wind on forever. If you get lost in the fog, and you will, do not circle in, just stop. This is very important. Follow the string. You will find your way with helpbut you must wand definitely dontre you therthe beas The voice that was as familiar as the one inside his head cracked and faded until the line clicked and then drew silent. Theo swallowed shallow hurried breaths, and felt frozen in his fear. All of his senses sharpened in the scared rush. He looked upon the surrounding serpentine swirl with utmost clarity and yet could not see a fathom in front of him. The mist was thicker now. He breathed in the damp taste of it. As it gathered across his tongue he pulled back in his mind and was reminded. He thought that no water ever tasted like the well he drank from as a child. That cold mountain water-cradle held a quench that tasted like a cool morning on the threshold of fall. The hovering moisture felt that way as he licked it away from his lips, fertile yet edging decay. The cement underfoot seemed to be fractured and uneven. It extended into the fog then appeared to break apart all together and continue on into gray dirt. How long had this road not been kept? The sound of his light thudding footfalls within the white silence of the wind reminded him how solitary his journey had grown. Yet, Theo didnt feel alone. His watch read 12:21. It was later than it ought to be. Theo lit a cigarette and tried to take a second to catch his racing thoughts. The smoke blew away from him quicker than the wind at his back would normally carry it. This troubled him further. How would I know I was crossing? Would I make it home in time? When will I get home? Theo asked aloud and the surrounding gray fog said nothing back. His words bent around his tongue in a way that was new. The words came out with the same meaning and yet their sound had turned inward, then circled towards a noise unnamed to the his ears. Now Theodore grew truly afraid. The edges of his hand that held the cigarette appeared to be flowing into the darkness the way of the smoke. Too fast. Nothing would come back from the great pull that Theo stood upon the edge of. Or so he thought. Something moved in the darkness beyond. It felt as if some vast force had stood up. His wits were fraying. Tired of being swept along in uncontrollable vast and
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strange current, Theo knew he needed to do something. The phone flashed back into his hand. He redialed the only number listed, the one that had called him. At the end of three rings she answered. Hello. This cannot be his voice dropped off. Theo? Kate... you sound so far away. What do you want? Why would you call me now? Its been ages. What she said hit him like a gale force wall of wind. It bowled him over, and blew away any strings he thought he held to the world he knew. He could not form words. With drained speech that seethed Kate continued, I cant believe you would call after disappearing the way you did. Where have you been? I got lost, Theo said in a broken tone. Im sure you did. You always were. TheoI cant do this You are too late. Not that it really matters but did you find, Iris? No. Well, I was worried when she left the night you didnt come home. Not that I care anymore. Its 3 a.m. for Christs sake. I gotta go. Happy trails, you monster, I hope you found what you were looking for. She then hung up forever. He felt closer to the emptiness around him. With the weight of his world vanishing, Theo stumbled into a seat on the ground. Do not circle in, just stopdo not circle in, just stop. These are the words I said. He was unaware of how long he remained there. It seemed a long string of hours. Of nothing but grey rolling ground all around, and the circling skies rounded in fog. Another ripple shifted underneath him. He looked into the direction of the pulling winds and thought that maybe that was where he was supposed to go. Theo felt something approach. Iris appeared with a quick flick of her tail. Then she spoke, That way lays the maze and
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the void. Do not journey there unless you wish to become more lost. By now Theo was beyond any argumentation. When he spoke his level voice said, Iris, I wanted for so long to be among the great told tales, but now I just want to go home. Can you help me get back home? Iris spun a small circle and revealed a ball of string that pulsed in all the spectral colors of light. With distinction, Iris sent the orb spinning away from the wind. She turned her knowing eyes from the vanished spheric string and let them rest with warmth on Theo. Thats just it. I have. We are among the great mountains now. You are home.

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NOTHING TO LOSE
By Robin J. Silverman Inside the dream I prickle with panic. Flames fill the apartment long, greedy tentacles consuming everything in their reach. I know nothing will survive. I run around, as though through Jell-O, seeking something precious I must save. But what? I search frantically through my room, my mind. What is it I cant bear to lose? I struggle awake, fear and sweat clinging to me. I lie there, trying to understand what the dream means, to decipher what possession could be so important. Im a college student, living in student squalor. I have nothing of value. Years later, an explosion blasts a family I know awake. A gas leak forms a fireball that tears through the house, launching the sleeping parents, waterbed and all, into the night sky. They come down through a tree, which breaks their fall, and land in a wading pool in the crater that had been their backyard. He, who sleeps naked, seeks a way to cover himself. She, extremely nearsighted, fumbles for her glasses to look for her children. Miraculously, all of their injuries are minor. Even the family pet, discovered several days later in the rubble looking like a cartoon cat with its paw in a light socket, survives. But every thing cars, roof, walls, furniture, appliances, knickknacks, clothes, keepsakes is gone. Its my fire dream come true. Im horrified at the magnitude of their loss. Twenty years after my fire dream. I have a home, two Hondas, a Power Mac. I live in a different sort of squalor, born of lack of control over my cohabitants husband, child, dog rather than of poverty. I have so much more to lose now. I sometimes have variations of the dream with the same frantic search for the thing whose loss will devistate me. The dream fills me with dread. Every time, I awaken feeling theres something I cant bear to live without. But, again, what? In my waking mind I ponder, If my house burns down, what possession would I risk my life to save? Sentimental Im not. I take after my mother, who abhors clutter. And like my mother, getting rid of stuff I no longer want or need gives me a sense of control. Im more
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concerned with preserving the endangered space in my home than filling it with keepsakes. While my husband creates a shrine to our daughter, building it with old pacifiers, discarded teeth, the tubes the surgeon removed from her ears, I eject as much as I can outgrown clothes, useless tchotchkes packing them into boxes destined for Goodwill. Sometimes I look around the mess that is my home and wish for a tornado to blow everything away (I live in Kansas, after all). The toys never played with. The books long since read. The countless scraps of paper my daughter brings home from camp or school. Still, I wonder: How would I feel if, like the exploding family, I lost it all? After the relief of having my loved ones intact wore off, would I mourn the loss of my possessions? Would I replace them all, as that family did, with newer, bigger, better? I read an article about using video cameras to record the events of our lives. The writer muses about exchanging the enjoyment of the event be it vacation, graduation or sunset for the ability to preserve it on tape. Her conclusion: Were so busy recording things we forget to experience them. I dont own a video camera. I do have hundreds of photographs that serve as a record of my life. Sweet sixteen, senior prom, wedding, pregnancy and everything in between and beyond. Maybe theyre what Im searching for in the dream. It would pierce my heart to lose those first pictures of my daughter, all cheeks and hair and eyes, or the ones that capture her delight at getting her own puppy for her seventh birthday or of that puppy standing guard over her as she lies on the couch recovering from her tonsillectomy. But even those are just things. Images of experiences I hold forever in my soul. If I lose the photos, the experiences are mine to keep. Its the living thats important, being present and experiencing the dailyness of life. Forty years after my fire dream. I have a bigger house and more possessions. These days, Im more interested in divesting myself of stuff than accumulating it. I remember when my mother reached this stage in her life. I thought her morbid when she started passing down her possessions to me and my sister the 50-year-old Russel Wright dishes; the almost-complete set of crystal, rainbow-colored drinking glasses; the copper-trimmed wooden salad bowl she got as a wedding gift from her sister, who died years ago. Now I understand. My possessions, especially my four-bedroom house, weigh on me. Theres too much: space to fill, maintenance needed, attention and time required. The heft of my stuff seems to increase as my time left on earth diminishes. It seems such a waste to spend my remaining years consumed by the need to replace the fence, paint the family
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room, clean the chimney, mud jack the front stoop. As I age, nostalgia wanes. After my mother dies, I realize that having her things doesnt lessen my pain at no longer having her. My memories of her comfort me; her dishes dont. Deciding to throw things away cards from birthdays long past, photos of occasions I barely remember, clothes I dont wear gets easier. What am I saving them for? I used to think I needed to save things as a record of where Ive been. Now I realize I carry what matters inside me. Ive suffered the pain of parting with things I couldnt live without Fifi, the stuffed poodle from a favorite aunt whose leg I ripped while using her to pummel my sister; Moody, the toy giraffe from a dear cousin, stolen off my desk in first grade; the pearl ring my grandmother bought at a pawn shop for my eighth birthday, vanished; a yellow Mustang, my first car, inherited from my grandfather, driven until it would go no farther. Just things. No significance, really, other than the ones I assigned them. Their true value lay in their connection to people, my loved ones, who remain a part of me as long as I live. Maybe Ive misunderstood the dream all along, interpreting it too literally. Maybe my inability to find something to save is the point. Through the years, Ive learned to appreciate everyone I have my family, my friends and the accumulated experiences, some painful, some joyful, of nearly 60 years of living. A life well lived, filled with love and loss. What more do I need? I have nothing to lose.

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CATRINA
By Victoria Scher Brightly painted homes dot the hillsides of Guanajuato and splash against the gray cobblestone roads and cathedrals in Puebla. Weavers in Chiapas dye fabric by hand to embroider tropical flowers onto pillowcases and blankets. Devotees to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, prefer to see her image cloaked in the colors of the flag, the colors of food stalls in markets. Merchants in Mercado Merced in Mexico City have a strategy for making their tomatoes look a more vivid red and their chiles an enticing green: they place colored plastic over lamps that project the colored light onto the produce. If life in Mexico writes poems to color, death in Mexico bows deeply to all that wilts and the beauty which remains steadfast. There exists a special bread for the deadpan de muertoswhich appears on street vendors carts beside the Fall pomegranates and the early mandarins. Families buy and eat it for dinner with a cup of hot chocolate throughout the entire month of October. An ode to the dead, the dense sweet bread fills the stomachs of the poor and the rich alike. I buy a few pieces at Superarma, the highpriced chain grocery store in my upscale neighborhood. Its sweeter and softer in the open-air markets, where women hawk their homemade versions to passers-by. The bread is buttery, sugar granules glistening against the toasted outside. Pan de muerto originates with the Aztecs, whom the Spaniards discovered celebrated the passing of their queridos to Quetzocoatls great heavens on the universal prayer day for all departed souls. The day my family buried my grandmother, in the same cemetery in which her parents lie side-by-side, and seven brothers and sisters scattered throughout, a trio of musicians played odes to the dead. A guitar, an accordion, a violin. Standing in the midst of gravestones, the trio allowed their instruments to wail, accompanying with voices on only a few special songs: on this day, Cielito Lindo becomes a song about heaven rather than the literal blue sky. Fake flowers, the petals dyed blends of pink, red, and purple jut out of the ground the undertaker watered with sweat as he broke the earth. It is a desert graveyardnot dead because of the people lying beneath headstones, who are very much alive and singing with the trio, although we cannot hear them. It is a desert graveyard because the earth refuses to seep in the water that falls every June, July and August. This land was once submergedthe peaks of the rocky mountains shadowing my home long ago lay lonely in darkness, far from the oceans surface. I know this because I find fossils of seashells half-buried near cacti and rattlesnake holes, and my friends father, an archaeologist, narrates the story of the desert through the perspective of a seashell encased in rock millions of years old.

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Inside Mexican homes, families dedicate altars to their deceased loved ones. My boyfriends grandfather keeps a picture of his son, gone these last two years, in the kitchen by the stove. He cooks meals of chicken and rice with fried bananas and drinks cans of Pepsi, eating with one working daughter during the week and sharing with his full family of children and grandchildren on weekends. He is a serious man, full of oldfashioned advice about the tasks men and women should learn to do and a sharp tongue for those who commit the stupidities of youth. He stops by the black-and-white image of his son once a day to share a greeting. Larger-than-life skeletons stroll through Avenida Madero, the heavily-trafficked pedestrian street in Mexico City which leads to the sinking Cathedral. The walking skeletons are the smiling side of death. The Grim Reaper also lives on Avenida Madero, a stone-still figure cloaked in black on street corners and the centers of plazas. The peak of his hood stands pointed, and I cant see a face hidden in the depths of the hood. Our destiny, the side of a box reads in black ink. A can lies by the Reapers feet, a few coins gleaming at the bottom. I waved at the Grim Reaper once, and he waved back. The walking skeletons, or the Catrinas, wear frilly, floor-length dresses appropriate for a tight-laced Catholic wife of an old Mexican poltico. Wide-brimmed hats adorned with crows feathers shade their faces from the sun. The Catrinas parade up and down Calle Madero all year long, their numbers increasing in October as the Day of the Dead approaches, charging just a few centavos for a picture taken with them. Mexican artists have taken to portraying the Catrina, the national symbol of death and the Mexican Day of the Dead. Catrina was envisioned by the lithographer Jos Guadalupe Posada in the late 1800s. Created initially as a satire of the stereotypical Porfirio Daz upper-class woman, Catrina did not become the national symbol of death until painters like Diego Rivera and Jos Clemente Orozco incorporated her into their busy scenes of Mexican life. Diego Riveras mural Dream of a Sunday in Alameda Park depicts every kind of Mexican life in one popular Mexico City Park. The white upper-class gentleman walking arm-in-arm with a woman holding a parasol. The brown middle-class mestizos mix of indigenous and Europeanflying kites, sharing picnics, feeding bread to pigeons. The indigenous family standing on the fringes of the portrait, looking on. Catrina smiling obliviously, mixed in with the crowd. I once went to an art exhibition of Catrinas engaged in a variety of daily tasks. Skeletons dressed to go out on the town, pink circles on their cheeks and false eyelashes glued above gaping eye sockets. Catrina lounging on a hammock, a lemonade beside her, a laptop perched on her lap, the many bones of her fingers poised to type emails and poems. A smiling Catrina sitting at a coffee shop reading a novel. Catrina in a blue apron,
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her fingers wrapped tightly around a watering can held lovingly over a pot of daisies. A polka-dot bikini clinging to her bones as she poses for a picture holding a margarita and wearing sun glasses. Earrings somehow dangle from Catrinas ears, despite the lack of cartilage to latch onto. Carina sits on the ground with her legs crossed, practicing yoga, serenity somehow apparent on her face even without eyes and muscles that extend and retract with emotion. Love letters in a basket for Catrina. My mom gave me a birthday present last year: a tile of a Catrina sitting on a park bench, skeletal birds and leafless trees surrounding her. She wears a pink-and-purple dress, much like the kind I wear in the summer. Waiting for Mr. Right, it reads at the bottom. My grandmothers altar holds a bouquet of Hersheys kisses, a can of 7-UP, a bottle of tequila, a portrait taken of her in Hotel Victoria in Chihuahua City circa 1929. It seems meaningful the Hotel Victoria was the elegant setting of dances throughout her young womanhood, and that her best portrait was taken at the base of the hotels grand staircase. Sixty years later I was born, and she was the first to cradle me in this life. The Hotel Victoria burned sometime in the 1970s. I feared death in an unrealistic, debilitating manner for twelve months of my life. The fear came on swiftly, one day when I realized relationships end and it is normal to part ways forever during life. My grandmother physically gone, my first love disappeared. For about one year both incidents seemed similar; I never spoke to either again, and I couldnt tell if time led me closer or farther. Then, I desperately needed to know where I would go, how the Earth began 4.6 billion years ago when pitch darkness cloaked the mountains of my hometown. Scientists say the depths of the oceans, where sunlight cannot reach but we suspect puny, sucking creatures to live, remain more mysterious than the planets. Our skin covers the frightening whiteness of our bones so we dont have to see bareness each day. Catrina wears her costumes in great fun and earnestness, death a lighthearted play for her after the existential seriousness of life. She can live out the roles she always intended to play and never had time, so her wardrobe is as full as I desire my own closet to be in this life. Cocktail dresses for parties and weddings, light summer dresses for the desert heat, wool sweaters for the northern freeze. I cant stand seeing the Grim Reaper in front of the metro station closest to my apartmentOur Destiny doesnt strike me as funny. I wave, trying to cross an abyss. The altars line the main student walkway for a mile at the National Autonomous University of Mexico City. For about a decade now, the University has encouraged students to make their family altars public, creating at once a cultural museum and a heartfelt tribute to the University family. Students of this university are family and their loved ones by extension. The altars fill an entire avenue on Ciudad Universidad with flowers, photographs, personal items, and the abundant treats of this Earthmangoes,
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candy bars, cans of soda, tequila, papayas. I visit one November 2nd, a day before Im to fly to Cancun for a week-long break. Life-size and miniature Catrinas are everywhere: live ones grinning at me as I walk through the rows of altars, fake miniature models standing among bouquets and personal items in the displays. It is a brisk night in Mexico City. Ciudad Universidad lies in the southern reaches of the city, a forty-five minute metro ride from my apartment in the Roma neighborhood. We hold hands as we wander the altar-lined walkway, stopping at altars that seem to contain a distinctive attraction. On one an entire graveyard is mapped out with miniature gravestones, tiny bouquets of flowers lying at headstones, and bands of musicians standing in clusters just feet from one another. An altar dedicated to genocide victims holds post-its with prayers of peace. Everyone is invited to write a message. A collage of nameless Holocaust victims forms the backgroundno Catrina is present. The political messages are surprisingly few along the walkway, considering Mexicos most prestigious university historically forms the nations most important political activists. Most altars are personal, thousands of stories contained in photographs, coded messages, food, colored paper and grinning Catrinasall lost to me and every other visitor. Poems always hold a meaning for the writer, but what we, the readers, take away changes from person to person. We bring our personal stories to the altars, and even if we cannot know the facts behind the altars dedication, in this way we all partake in each others death. Cemeteries fill on November 2nd, the Day of the Dead, the way department stores crowd during clearance sales and Mass on Christmas Eve draws freshly-enthused Catholics. I do not wish to romanticize death in Mexico. I can cry at the thought of my skin wrinkling and thinning, eventually decaying until I am bones. I admire the way Catrina discards the existential burden, and I view her presence as a popular movement to celebrate life and death, which cannot exist one without the other.

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ELAINE AT NINE
By E.B. Howard

There comes a time when a person realizes how significant a name or a number can be. For me, it was twenty-five years ago; the name was Elaine and the number was nine.
It was on a particularly wet and cloudy day that Elaines story came to mind. It had been some time since I had had anything other than a sub-conscious thought of her. I was all of seven years old and attending elementary school when I first became aware of Elaine. She was nine years old, and two grades ahead of me. Not only was she two years older than I, she was also much larger in size, seeing as I was a very petite little girl. If I reminded everyone of a little doll, Elaine reminded everyone of a great Olympic champion. In my mind, she was. She seemed to be strong and energetic, and could run faster, throw a ball harder, and could catch a ball better than any boy. Being that we werent in the same grade, I cant say that we were actually friends. In fact, at times, she intimidated me. Whenever she walked on the playground, it was with a ball under her arm and her head held high, as if walking in to take charge. She had an air of confidence that was as strong and as stiff as our starched, white, uniform issued blouses. In her presence, I felt the word fear, because I always thought that if there was ever a confrontation between us, she would win hands down. Not that that ever came to pass; in fact, if Elaine was ever mean to me, it has long since been forgotten. As I remember her now, she was all braids, and multi-colored barrettes, with almond shaped brown eyes, a beautiful caramel color to her skin, a fabulous smile, and long muscular legs that sported thick, white bobby socks. She had an essence that said she was in command. Simply stated, she was a pretty and nice young girl. It would be a while before I would come to understand that for me, that same young girl would someday come to represent appreciation, gratitude, and life itself. I do not remember the date; I only know that one day while at recess she fell down on the playground. We attended a private Catholic school, and our playground consisted not of lush green grass, with wonderful sprawling, leafy shade trees, and a bounty of playground equipment; instead, it was the asphalt church parking lot. The only shade came in the late afternoon from the grand, mammoth sized church and its towering steeples, as the sun headed west. It was black, hot, and it did not say welcome. When you fell down on such a playground, you could feel it. Scraped knees, scraped hands, and lots of Band-Aids and antiseptic were par for the course. On that particular day, we did not know that Band-Aids and antiseptic would not be enough for Elaine. We did not know that what she needed was far more complicated than that. We only knew that Elaine
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came back to school on crutches. There always seemed to be an elephant in the room, that certain something that no one wanted to talk about. In this case it was our classroom and our teacher, Sister Mary Bertha, wasnt doing much talking, nor was anyone else of authority, at least not about Elaine. She would simply say that Elaine was getting help and would quickly change the subject. Instead of asking questions, we jumped rope, played hopscotch, ran relay races, bounced the balls playing two square, and picked our teams for Red Rover. Elaine remained on crutches. I had asked my mother if she knew about Elaine, and as I remember it, she did not. Then one day, we all found out. The elephant in the classroom was about to be addressed. Elaine had gone into the hospital. Her leg had been amputated. Elaine had cancer. When youre seven years old, you dont really have a perception as to what cancer is. I know I didnt. Whenever the subject was brought up, Sister Mary Bertha would say that everything would be alright and to keep her in our prayers to God. As I sat in our classroom each day, along with the chalkboard and what was written on it, I would also look at my teachers face hoping that it might give me some kind of a clue as to what was going on with our schoolmate. It didnt. Instead, what I noticed was her long grey robe, and black and white habit, as she steadily swayed back and forth writing our lessons on that chalkboard. She was a master at hiding her emotions, so as not to upset her students. She was a pro, as all good nuns are. We as children had all kinds of ideas as to what was happening; we whispered, we thought, we took it all in. Whether you are a child or an adult, not knowing the facts about a particular situation can cause ones imagination to take flight in all different directions. What my imagination told me was that somehow, falling down on that pavement caused Elaines cancer, and if she got cancer, what would happen when we fell down? After all, didnt we all fall down at one time or another? Did that mean we were next? In my seven year old mind, it was a question for the ages. How I wished we had had grass and not the sharp cutting edges of that asphalt. Darn that asphalt! With its white striped lines, its oil stains, and its hot steaming surface, it seemed to me that it was the enemy. I do not recall how much time had passed, but we would see Elaine again as she returned to school; somehow, it was different. She no longer seemed to be in command, and she was not there long enough. Not too long after that, she left school again. Then one day, with the sun filtering in through the windows, as we sat quietly in our neatly lined rows, staring at oddly clean chalkboards, an announcement was made; Elaine had died. The following night I laid in my bed trying to figure out how it was that a nine year old,
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with so many miles to run and so many balls to throw and catch, could simply die. I tried to picture her smile, hoping that the memory of it would penetrate the darkness and the stillness of the room. At that moment the door opened, and in the same way that the ray of light entered from the next room, my mother came in. As usual, she helped to pave a path of understanding for me by explaining what had happened. She sat at the edge of the bed and explained that the fall hadnt caused Elaines cancer; it was the cancer that had caused her to fall. And no, that didnt mean that everyone has to get cancer; it just happens. With those words came to what I now understand to be a pivotal moment in my life. With Elaine being nine years old and I being seven, I could only hope to get through the next two years so that I could eventually turn nine, and surpass that crucial age, so as to go on with my life. It was then that I started what would turn out to be a yearly ritual for me. It went something like this, Dear Lord, thank you for letting me be seven, please let me be eight. The following year it went, Dear Lord, thank you for letting me be eight, please let me be nine. Then I turned nine, and I was at that crucial point. It was as if I had been in a small boat traveling through a narrow and treacherous strait, and if I could just steer clear of the rocks and over the rough waters, I would be free to sail on. So this time I said, Dear Lord, thank you so much for letting me be nine, please, please let me be ten. I turned ten, and I gave a big sigh of relief. In being ten, and so relieved that I had made it past that crucial age of nine, I discovered that with each year that passed I enjoyed each one even more, and was so grateful that I got to experience this thing we call life. It was truly a joy to behold. It was twenty years later that I would find myself talking of Elaine and the impact that she had on my attitude towards life. It happened at work, as I watched the clouds roll by on that particularly wet and cloudy day. My boss, who was also my very good friend, was in despair, because in a few years she would be turning forty. She hated her birthdays with every year that passed. Her mood seemed to match that of the weather outside, so I thought it was time to tell her about Elaine. As she listened to my story and became familiar with my yearly ritual which I still performed every birthday, she declared, What a sad way for a child to grow up, always being so afraid that you have to pray for another year of life. I explained to her that I saw it in a different way. To be so aware of the fact that you have the opportunity to enjoy all that this life has to offer, to appreciate it, and to look forward to each year, was indeed a gift. It was a gift that was given to me by someone who never got to realize that she had done so.
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I kept my eyes on my dear friend as she walked back to her office; then I turned back to look beyond the wall to wall windows that stood before me. The wet asphalt on the parking lot took me back to that other asphalt parking lot from so long ago. It reflected the movement of clouds, passing cars, the changing colors of the traffic lights, and people walking in various directions. As I savored the moment, I thought about those things that are sad, and those things that bring joy, and people who come into your life, and those who one day leave. I was glad that instead of dreading the idea of turning a year older, I actually looked forward to it and rejoiced in that fact. And I thought about Elaine with her braids and multi-colored barrettes, her almond shaped brown eyes, her fabulous smile, and the age that she would have been at that time. She would have been turning thirty, and Im sure quite happy about it. I wish she had lived a longer life, but she didnt. Instead, I learned a lesson and decided to take it forward, and yes, to keep saying that prayer. I said it this past birthday, and I will say it again on my next birthday, and so on, and so on, and so on, hopefully for many years to come. Elaine at nine, was that pretty and nice young girl, who for me, became even more. For me, the name Elaine and the number nine, will always represent the ability to learn, to behold, and to appreciate.

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FROM COMMUNISM TO FREEDOM


By Simona Irimiciuc Communism: a word that weve heard many times in our history books and in the news, but most people never really understand what it truly means to live in a state of communism. My family does, and if it were not for their journey, namely my fathers journey to America, I would never have had the freedom to achieve all of my accomplishments I have today. His sacrifices and bravery gave me the opportunity to experience the simple luxuries in life, to travel abroad as a student ambassador, and to attend and graduate Arizona State University at the top of my class. This is my fathers story. My fathers and mothers names are Dorel and Cornelia Irimiciuc. They are both from Suceava which is in Bucovina, Romania. My familys story began twenty-seven years ago in our home country of Romania, located in Southeastern Europe. At the time, Nicolae Ceausescu was the head of the state and the leader of the Romanian Communist Party. Since 1967, his regime was increasingly brutal and rigid, spanning over several decades. The rules Ceausescu imparted were restricting and demoralizing with the threat of grave punishment, even death, for those who did not comply. Ceausescus regime compensated for Romanias substantial growth in debt by taking away water, electricity, and food from the citizens of Romania. Romanians were made aware that electricity would be turned off two nights a week for five hours. Even so, the communists did not abide by the already-restrictive schedule, and people spent significantly much more time in the silent darkness than they were promised. While most homes had wells within walking distance, apartment complexes, on the other hand, only had access to water two to three hours per day, and during that short time, people filled up their bathtubs, pots and pans, and anything else they could find. They later heated up the water for bathing and cooking. The good meat was exported, leaving chickens and pigs neck, head, feet, tail, and internal organs on Romanias store shelves for purchase. Unlike the freedoms we experience in the United States, the communist government controlled Romania from grocery shopping and media to religion, marriage, and contraception. Families routinely woke up at early hours of the day so that they could wait in extensive lines for basic foods like rice, milk, oil and sugar. Only 2.2 lbs. (one kilogram) of flour, oil, and sugar was allowed per person each month. Not many households had the luxury of a television, but the few that did only received one channel, which portrayed Ceausescu and his wife Elena in a false light. The news praised the dictator and his wife as if they were gods, highlighting all of their accomplishments and visits around Europe, which strategically kept the people of Romania nave to actual
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governmental practices. My family is a people of faith and practiced the religion of Baptist Christianity. The communist government did not agree with any form of Christianity, considering those who practiced it a minority class. Some churches were demolished, and Christians were forced to pray behind closed doors in secrecy. My family and other Christians were discriminated against, making it difficult for them to find jobs and earn decent grades in school, no matter how hard they worked. Due to the governmental desire to increase the birth rate, only women over the age of 45 and who had at least four children were eligible for contraception and abortion, and there were penalties against unmarried people and couples without children. A sense of secrecy and distrust clouded the country of Romania, especially among those who wanted to speak against the regime. Regular citizens were paid or granted favors to become spies for the communists. Friends, fellow church-goers, and even family betrayed each other in secrecy, including those who did not believe in the regime but needed the money or specific favor. Living in a society of fear and terror, my father was determined to provide a better life and future for our family. In Romania, my father Dorel started working as a mechanic at the age of sixteen. He worked at the mechanic shop for twelve years amidst constant, random shortages of water and electricity, often with no heat during the bitter cold winters of Romania. My dad was greeted at work every day by a sign that hung on the wall with big red letters that read: LONG LIVE THE ROMANIAN COMMUNIST PARTY, THE MOST DIGNIFIED HUMAN SYSTEM THAT PEOPLE HAVE EVER KNOWN! My moms brother, my Uncle Mircea Hostiuc, was the first in our family to escape to America, the freedom land. It was unheard of at the time; he was only 19 and escaped with two of his close friends. Their bravery planted further seeds of courage in our home village of Ipotesti. Although it was forbidden and extremely dangerous to cross the border, many Romanians tried to escape from their homes during the oppressive regime.

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From America, Uncle Mircea sent beautiful presents luxuries that no one had ever seen before! Family and friends had a childish joy over clothing, perfume, sunglasses and watches. My father wore hats and t-shirts with the words U.S.A. or America printed on them to work with great pride. Naturally, such an act was frowned upon; however, he continued on with the hopes that the land of freedom would one day be his and his familys as well. Through all the hardships they faced in Romania and signs of hope from across the Atlantic Ocean, my parents minds were made up they wanted to go to America. They first tried to leave Romania legally through the American Embassy in the capital of Bucharest, Romania, but they were told that the wait would be a minimum of five years. On their way out of the embassy, a strange man approached them and took their picture. My parents were frightened, and as they walked away from this man, my mother Cornelia swiftly looked back and saw that he was following them. This incident made my parents realize that they were under scrutiny and had to be extremely cautious. In the meantime, my moms cousin, my Uncle Daniel, worked as an engineer in a factory near the border, and he was secretly building a four-passenger submarine to help people escape. He spent his nights secretly in his garage and kept it from his own family. He built the machine in pieces and stored them in different places until it was ready to be assembled. When my parents received word that the submarine was ready, they knew it was time. My father created an escape plan with three friends from church. They would cross the Danube River into Yugoslavia. The four men drove to the city of Orsova, a place on the Danube Shore. From there, they planned to cross the river in the submarine. When they arrived in Orsova, ahead of them was already a family who was trying to escape with the help of Daniels submarine. Sadly, the family was caught, and Daniel was sent to prison for three months, where the conditions were labor-intensive and inmates were treated like animals. My father and his friends were forced to turn back. Once my dad returned to his place of work, he was arrested and discovered that security forces had followed the men and listened in on their phone calls for months leading up to their attempted escape. He and his friends were put on house arrest and had to report their every move. My father was only allowed to go to work and home, and under no condition was he allowed to leave the city of Suceava. The failure on his first attempt did not weaken my fathers determination to escape. He rounded up two friends Cornel, who went the first time, and Doru, who was his coworker and very best friend. Since my dad was unable to contact Daniel directly when he
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was released from prison, my mother and Dorus wife, Viorica, took a train to meet Daniel in person and discuss what needed to be done. When my mother and Viorica returned and shared all of the information with their husbands, the men planned a second attempt. The three men trained for months to be in good physical condition, worked hard and made further sacrifices to save money, and on July 9th, 1984, the journey began. My dad pretended to be ill. He received permission to go to Iasi, a nearby city, to see a doctor. The doctor was a friend and in on the escape plan. The men used an elaborate plan to meet in Iasi by train. From the train stop, the men could see the river, which was wider than they had imagined, and Cornel changed his mind and turned back. My father and Doru continued on. They took a train to the capital, Bucharest, where my dad called home to let my mom know he would be having surgery, as they had planned. This bought him a couple days from work, so he could begin the escape. When they arrived in Orsova, they met my Uncle Daniel, who agreed to take them to the Danube Shore. For the great risk Daniel was taking in helping them escape, they paid him 20,000 LEI each, an incredible sum of money at that time, that they had saved up. Daniel told them that the weather was not favorable it had not rained for three to four months. Without rain, there was no possible way to escape, so he suggested the best friends return to Suceava and come back when the forecast showed rain. The men did not want to turn back after coming so far and were led up a mountain which neighbored the river to wait for rain to come. They waited in a small shelter that had been built previously by other fugitives. Uncle Daniel supplied the men with basic essentials, like food and water. From their vantage on the mountain, my father and Doru had a clear view of the river; they saw the Yugoslavian Border and a bus stop, which would be their meeting point once they made it across. Guards and soldiers densely populated the river shore all day and night with orders to shoot anyone who tried to cross the river. The two best friends waited four long days, but regardless of the high risk, there was only one option for them: head west to America. Rain began to fall on the fourth day. The men bowed their heads, prayed for safety, and thanked the Lord for the Promised Land. Soon, Daniels friend came to take the men down the mountain for their journey. The factory Daniel worked in produced electricity through the turbines in the Danube River. Daniel gave the two well-intentioned fugitives uniforms of factory workers to wear as a disguise. Daniels team made sure to distract the guards and disconnect the
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telephones from the speedboats, so that the guards would not be able to call for help in case they were to see my father and Doru in their attempt to escape. The men successfully made it through the factory to the other side and stood at the edge of the river. They each had a small bag of belongings tied to their waists. Without wasting any time, Doru began swimming, and seconds later, my dad was right behind him. The Danube River, at this time and location, was about one mile wide, icy cold, with fast currents going at approximately 20-30 miles per hour. It was raining and dark, making it impossible for the men to see anything. After over an hour of swimming in the fast and icy water, my father made it to the border at about midnight. Once he hit Yugoslavian land, he was pale and shivering violently from the freezing water. He changed his clothes and struggled to make it to the bus stop, asking several strangers for directions. The specific bus stop where the two best friends decided to meet was empty. Tragically, Doru never came. My dad waited for several hours before someone noticed he was a fugitive and turned him in. He was taken to the police station and held in jail for 20 days for trespassing. Once he was released, my dad, along with the other fugitives, underwent an interviewing process. Most of the Romanian runaways were put on a bus and sent straight back to Romania. My dad and only a few others passed the interviewing process and were transported to a United Nations refugee camp in Belgrade, Serbia for four months. It had been over a month, and my mom was sick with worry over her husbands whereabouts. She feared the worst and began to believe my dad was no longer alive. Finally, my father was able to reach a phone and call to let the family know he was alive. My grandma, Marita
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(my moms mother) answered and could not believe that someone would call and pretend to be Dorel. My dad pleaded that it was really him, and he was alive! My mother, my grandma and grandpa, Maftunea and Ion (my dads parents) and the rest of the family cried tears of joy. However, for my father, it was bittersweet, and he was saddened to bring Dorus wife, Viorica, the bad news of her husbands unknown whereabouts. To this day, what happened to Doru sadly remains a mystery. In the refugee camp, there were people from all over Eastern Europe, including Albania, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and several other countries. The refugees were regularly checked up on and had to abide by a schedule. From camp, they had to apply for sponsorship in America so that they could leave Europe. Refugees could apply for sponsorship from friends, family, an organization, or a church. My father applied for sponsorship through my Uncle Mircea. After four long months in the refugee camp, my fathers application for sponsorship was accepted. He was then sent to Italy for almost two months, and after a few more minor struggles, my father finally stepped foot in New York City for the first time on November 7th, 1984. From New York, he flew to Arizona where my Uncle Mircea helped him begin a new life for him and his family. It was two years later when my mother, Cornelia, my seven-year-old brother, Marius Lucian, and my older sister, Cristina, at 18 months old, arrived in the United States of America. [See photo-Marius and Cristina] My family was finally reunited. Another couple years later, two more little miracles arrived, 15 months apart me and my younger sister, Martha Maria. [See photoMarius, Cristina, Simona, Martha] In 1989, the streets of Romania rejoiced at the collapse of the communist era. Romania was no longer filled with terror. Our home country returned to its scenic beauty, rich in art and history. Though most will never know the suffering and persecution of living in the Ceausescu regime, there are far too many who do. This story is to pay respect and acknowledge those who endured the suffering of this era. It is to those who made an attempt to escape, successfully or unsuccessfully, and to all those strong families who stood behind their heroes.
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In loving memory of Doru Cojoc

I am filled with gratitude for all of my family members who were involved in this heroic story my fathers incredible bravery and mothers unmoving support. Had it not been for my fathers courage to pursue a life of freedom for his family, I would not have had the opportunity to have the successes I hold today. My familys journey to America gave me the freedom to accomplish my goals and dreams without the fears that my ancestors faced. My successes are daily reminders of my freedom and the blessings that have come with it. And at the age of 22, my successes are nowhere near their finale. The legacy of my fathers bravery has given me the sense of duty to make something significant of myself in todays unpredictable world, and that is exactly what I intend to do. [See photo above Simona Irimiciuc]

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On Point Teressa Rini


Sharpie on Paper

Lost in Thought JC Campbell


Watercolor

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Tweaking Nature Jeff Scruggs


Watercolor

Sunshine Eternal Demar Douglas


Oil on Masonite

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Filament Broken and Yet No Darkness Eleanor Bennett


Digital Photography

The Human Decay Kyle McDonald


Watercolor

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Untitled Andrew J. Lopez


Digital Photography

Dancers Miriam Weisburg


Acrylic on Canvas

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Trapped Eric Anderson


Digital Photography

Staircase Debbie Gardner


Photography

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Heart of the Canyon Jessie Jordan Kagel


Digital Photography

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A HONEY'S BEE
By Dinesh Sairam I've watched upon a silent Honey Bee, From tree to tree and day to nightHe moves like what the winds could be, In ceaseless, solemn flight. He never stops to pause or takes his rest, And rides the land in flying reach, He sips on every flowers breast, And pours them each to each. At thousand hundred flowers does he eat: The roses and ivies in sway; To hives he brings the yellow sweet And waits another day. And you, desperately watching inner soul, Of quaint notice to fair and form, Do gather Love in times of foul, Like Bees at Nature's Balm.

GOD
By Demetrius Burns There is hope for a tree that falls, And we cut down God a long time ago Only to leave her there As we wandered about in pride Cutting down others As a form of evangelism.

While She became a rose.

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TEXTILE
By Stephanie De La Rosa I am born, cast and thrown Of threads plucked off The mountainside, spun, unspun. Coarse fingers warp and weft And twine my sinews across the rod. I drown in red, yellow like the sun, White like light, and Maya blue, And the threads of my life Stretch tighter than nerves On coca leaves, pachacuti, The next baktun; looming end. Hands bleed history into The rich fibers they preserve, Whisper their fears into My ears, and ask their bread From my beaten, knotted ends. I pass through so many hands. Hands cracked and bowed from Crafting me, from embellishing With silken threads, adding tags That begin with Hecho en

WARREN PARK D
By Wadzi Muzwidzwa Grasshoppers hid that Harare summer. The heat needled our backs as we hunched over the earth for any flicker or break. They saw our thirsty feet soliciting of their sodden soil and shrank beyond peripheral. Our eyes snapped back and forth, necks elastic, knowing they were there because the grass shivered, though there was no wind. All the way back to the house, we cupped them between dusty hands, glad to have something wholly ours, though inconsequential. We pulled off their wings so they could not escape us, and did not understand why they died shortly thereafter, eager as theyd come.

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WE DASH TO THE BEACH MID-STORM


By Jen Mehan the rain melting our backs with many warm flirtations. Hands locked, we jump puddles, fleck grit to skys layer. We shiver our weight of showers, arms and stamped dirt; the sand rebels against the rain, often couples mid-air. We dive to salted refuge, wonder if drops would disrupt a fishs silence; how far from surface one must absent turbulence, that shaking wonderment. Abruptly, we plunge to shore, trace the softness of the indulgent land, and the sand and surf shrouding our feet, recede. We search for surprises or ourselves, reflected in the foreign, settling for crabs and shells, weeds, starfish, bottles, conch. The day ends. We find no more marvels, and last drops of rain fall from our feet as those last footprints stain.

LUST TAKES A TRIP IN THE FALL


By Jannelle Durmmond Should I pay in tears Or sleepless nights To catch a ride down The rolling waves of your forehead? Or to dive into a sea of azure Using your pupils as my life raft. I sun myself on the smooth, milky curve of your cheek. Then traverse the expanse of your nose Resting in the deep cavern above your lip Inhaling cherries alive in bloom. Ill pay in heart aches And insecurities To extend my trip to The broad plains of your chest
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LUST TAKES A TRIP IN THE FALL cont.

Turning my ear up against heavy vegetation. I will compose a love song To the rhythm of life Beating against your ribs. The same one well dance to When hair borrows gray And bashful memories conceal MEADOWS WITH NO CLOCKS Themselves from light. By Craig Froman Lean on my last nerve. Ill endure the haunting A heron hovering For the pleasure of grasping flighting in sunlit skies The handle at your side. winged breath in angel visions It steadies me there are journeys with no footprints While our feet skim cobblestones feathered wings in life's flight over meadows with no clocks And our breath shimmies before us. only the trafficked flitter of butterflies only the roaring call of songbirds I wont demand change how the soul seeks rest For raised voices and regrets, songs of the Sabbath If given pass to cross no warring factions The bridge leading to your contentment. feathering fractions The rough terrain leaves me sweaty Sing me songs of the meadowed millpond mirrors And weak. of melted anxieties drip dripping down Ill toll until tell me what life should feel like Ive reached the peak, breathing surely not this over-burdened fight In your essence not this darkened screeching night Watching it swell in my abdomen. I want the feeling of lifting flight soaring over worlded wonders With no more to give now breathing cloud crystals Ill get lost fly me over meadows with no clocks In the wilderness of your thighs time there rides on a heron's wings And stumble over The ridges in your kneecap, Using the winding river Flowing down your calf as my guide. Kneeling at its bank, Ill quench my thirst Before I settle into the warmth Between your toes, Hiding from the cold burn of rejection.
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INTERVIEWS WITH WHITE


By Katie Menzies 4. once I was spread so thin inside a moment that I almost disappeared I was in the leaky eyes of the soldier in the creases of the mothers open mouth tilted up towards the teeth of the screaming toddler I was in the glare of the puddle reflecting the square of sky from the door left open 7. I am worn in spring by a tall woman and I am trailing behind her when I am cotton or delicate and mobile but I am also stationary at home along the lines of her body when the sun catches her dress and shows a indigo shadow of her knee The shakers used to paint my guts all over their straight boxed houses wear me over their ears they were the ones who helped me let go of all my pain showing me how discipline cleans the soul of its mold how the heart can become steel wool 8. I have to wear a cast otherwise my body falls out of itself and ill drift away like a hundred boats in a hundred directions I sleep in the bathtub because it makes me feel like a clam like I have my own porcelain coffin I pretend that I am a lion sleeping under the opal sky of an abalone shell completely sure of my musculature

AVOIDING APHIDS
By Shawnte Orion Surrounded myself with silk plants because I hate funerals even for azaleas. My failures camouflaged by synthetic foliage that requires no water, photosynthesizes nothing never bends toward the sun. Left in the corner of the room to decorate my imitation of life also rooted in Styrofoam soil. My plastic world that never needs to be repotted into a larger existence
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HOUSEBROKEN
By Stuart Bousel Characters: MARRA, a cute upper class girl in her late twenties KANSAS, her husband PIERRE, his best friend DIONNE, her best friend ANN, Dionnes sister-in-law RANDOLPH, a piano dealer NOTES: The Piano is never seen but is always just offstage, or in the audience, forcing the actors to create it through focus and intentions. It does, however, often announce its presence with a jangle of piano chords (rather like a dog barking), and its movement could also be suggested with lighting and additional sound effects. Settings should be suggested by key props and lights and should change with cinematic quickness. The whole thing should happen at a fairly frenetic pace except where the action requires a bit of a breather. Housebroken (Black. We hear a sudden and thundering piano chord. The light snaps on to reveal MARRA, standing center in her designer pajamas.) MARRA: (to the audience) We got the piano on Wednesday. By Saturday night he had already tried to escape twice.

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(Another jumble of chords. KANSAS comes racing in, similarly dressed for bed as the lights rise to reveal their tastefully bland apartment that appears to have been just slightly ravaged by a large wild animal. They run around, looking through doors and windows, in an extreme state of panic.) MARRA: Did you see where he went? KANSAS: No. Im checking the back door. MARRA: Ill take the front. KANSAS: Weve already locked the front. MARRA: Im talking about the windows. KANSAS: Were on the 3rd floor, Marra, you dont thin MARRA: I dont know. If we left one open, maybe KANSAS: The only one we left open was MARRA: In the bedroom. KANSAS: Run! Ill lock the back door. (They separate. MARRA runs to a window facing the audience. She opens it, looks out.) MARRA: (to the audience) I look out the window, thinking Ill see him laying in pieces on the sidewalk, but there is nothing there. Im so relieved; its surprising. I didnt realize I loved him so much already. (KANSAS races back in.) KANSAS: Did you find anything? MARRA: (starting to cry) Theres nothing out there! KANSAS: (rushing over to hold her) Oh God, Marrano! Dont cry!
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MARRA: Oh Kansas! I cant believe we lost him already! KANSAS: Oh honey, its its not our fault MARRA: Of course it is! Its because he didnt love us. KANSAS: Are you crazy? Of course he loved us. MARRA: Then why did he go? (There is a sudden jumble of piano chords. Both look up, startled.) KANSAS: What was that? MARRA: (overjoyed) Hes back! (Another jumble of piano chords.) KANSAS: Youre in a lot of trouble! MARRA: Oh Kansas! KANSAS: Bad piano! Bad boy! MARRA: Kansas, dont yell at him! KANSAS: Marra, hes not going to learn anything if we dont discipline him! (to the PIANO) Bad boy! Bad Piano! Bad! MARRA: (soothing) Honey, its late. Lets just leave it till the morning. KANSAS: If hes still here in the morning. MARRA: (Trying to minimize the situation now that everythings okay) Weve locked all the doors and all the windows. Theres nothing else we can do. KANSAS: (still pissed) We can send him back. MARRA: Its Sunday. KANSAS: First thing on Monday then. (to the PIANO) You hear that? You either shape up or youll be sitting with the other Steinways in the shop window.
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(No response from the PIANO. A long pause. MARRA puts her hands on KANSAS shoulders.) MARRA: Come on, honey. Lets go back to bed. (They start to leave. Suddenly, there is the sound of particularly nasty chords being struck on the PIANO. MARRA and KANSAS turn as a unit.) MARRA: Oh no KANSAS: Great. Now whos gonna clean that up. (Crossfade. KANSAS and MARRA are in their bedroom, getting ready to return to bed.) MARRA: (to the audience) We go back to bed. Kansas is riled up. His general anxietydisorder in full gear. He complains about his leg hurting and how the piano is going to give him a heart attack at thirty. (to KANSAS) You dont really want to send him back, do you? KANSAS: Of course not. I was just angry. MARRA: Remember what they said at the shop: it takes time to break these guys into a new home. We just have to be patient. KANSAS: I know. I just figured a used piano well, we wouldnt need to go through all this But I guess we do. (after a moment) Though of course, we could always just get a puppy or a a car or something. MARRA: (a bit perturbed) Well sure, I guess. Thats not exactly special or different or anything but you know we could be just like everybody else. KANSAS: (smiling, indulgently) Marra, we are just like everybody else. MARRA: (firmly) No, were not. (beat) God, I hope were not. (They both stare out at the audience, looking vaguely troubled. After a
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moment, KANSAS reaches over and takes MARRAs hand, squeezing it. Crossfade to the kitchen the next morning. MARRA enters, eating a bowl of yogurt and granola.) MARRA: (to the audience) The next morning everything seems better. The sun is shining, birds are singing in the trees outside, and I am eating the best granola and organic yogurt with imported peaches ever. But it doesnt last. KANSAS: (offstage) OH SHIT! (MARRA almost drops her bowl, but doesnt move, just listens as KANSAS yells, interrupted by various loud, jangled piano chords) Bad! Bad! Bad Piano! Bad Boy! Bad fucking mother fucking piece of shit fucking damn fuck shit piano fuck! MARRA: (to the audience) And thats the clean version. (MARRA heaves a sigh and exits. Crossfade to a gym locker room. PIERRE and KANSAS enter, changing into their street clothes.) KANSAS: I dont know. I feel like maybe Marras being way too coddly with the thing, but then I also feel like Im being an asshole about it all. PIERRE: You havent sent it back yet. I think youre being very patient. KANSAS: Well, if I did Marra would be heartbroken. PIERRE: Shed get over it. KANSAS: Shed make me pay for it every step of the way. PIERRE: And youd put up with that? KANSAS: Thats life when youre married, man. PIERRE: I wouldnt know. (PIERRE discretely leans into his gym bag does a line of coke. KANSAS, not entirely comfortable with this, nervously glances around.) KANSAS: Jesus, Pierre, its only one. PIERRE: One thirty. (he stretches) Wanna get a beer?
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(Crossfade to a nice little sidewalk caf. MARRA and DIONNE are having coffee.) DIONNE: It sounds like such a nightmare. MARRA: It really has been but I refuse to give up hope. DIONNE: Good for you. MARRA: Thanks. Im so glad you agree. Kansas is trying to be as supportive as possible but his patience is wearing thin. DIONNE: Well, men just process things differently. MARRA: Like with utter violent rage? DIONNE: As long as its not towards yousure, why not? Just remember: this is all harder for him. After all, the piano is a reflection of Kansas. And the problems youre having with it mirror the problems with him. MARRA: Really? I I never thought of it that way. DIONNE: (very sincere, without a trace of bitchiness) Youre not a symbolic thinker like I am. MARRA: (deeply thoughtful) No. Youre right. (brightening) But how insightful youve been, Dionne. I knew there was a reason I needed to have lunch with you. (They smile at each other, very happy to be friends. The lights crossfade to KANSAS and PIERRE sitting in a bar drinking cosmos and chain smoking.) PIERRE: So have you even thought about getting a piano wrangler? KANSAS: Well, yeah, of course, but, Marra PIERRE: Oh, man, I knew it. KANSAS: Women are very sensitive about that kind of thing. PIERRE: So she shot you down? KANSAS: I havent even brought it up with her.
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PIERRE: You are such a pussy. KANSAS: Pierre. Im not a pussy because I try to respect my wifes feelings. PIERRE: Dude. Youre a pussy because you dont respect your own. (belching, but in a gentlemanly fashion) Im sure you can find a polite way to bring up what you both need as a couple, without hurting your wifes needs as an individual. There is, after all, a polite way to do everything. (to the barkeep) Hey, Pablo! Another round please. (to KANSAS) You hearing me? KANSAS: Yeah. I guess. PIERRE: Stop being so bummed, Kansas. Itll all work out okay. KANSAS: I know. I know. Its just pianos, man. You know? PIERRE: Yeah I do. (sagely) Thats why Im a guitar guy. (The lights crossfade to DIONNE and MARRA, walking through the park together, sharing an ice-cream cone. Some kind of fruity flavor.) DIONNE: So, I have an idea for you. MARRA: (looking around) Do you think people think were lesbians when we share the ice cream like this? DIONNE: My sister-in-law is really boring, shes like normal as hell MARRA: Thats not very nice, Dee. DIONNE: No really, believe me, we went to Thanksgiving there last year and the patterns on their flatware was just likeHello, Im from a hope chest. Anyway, shes a bore but shes also a piano wrangler and apparently shes one of the best. MARRA: A piano wrangler? Are you serious? DIONNE: Dont get offended. MARRA: I cant believe you think I need to get outside help for this. DIONNE: I dont think it could hurt. MARRA: (getting upset) I cant believe I cant handle my own baby grand piano! DIONNE: Marra, its okay. Everybody knows theyre difficult.
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MARRA: But Kansas and I arent everybody, Dee, were special. Were young and were smart and were talented and we should be able to do this; this should be easy. DIONNE: Its not about winning, Marra. Its about your piano. (stopping, taking MARRAs hands tenderly) Honey, I know it hurts your pride, your needs as a woman, but its okay to need help. You want this piano to really belong to you, right? (MARRA nods, tearfully) Well, then you know what you need to do. (DIONNE exits.) MARRA: (to the audience) And so we call Dionnes sister-in-law, and schedule a night for her to come over. Which, since I burst into tears on the phone, takes about half an hour longer to do than it should. But, well, anyway, its Wednesday. (A doorbell rings. Crossfade to KANSAS opening a door. He is dressed in semiformal attire, as if he was going to a cocktail party. ANN steps in. She is neatly dressed and has a professional manner.) ANN: Hi. KANSAS: Hi. Ann? ANN: Yes. Kansas? KANSAS: Thats me. Come inside. ANN: Thanks. (A long pause. Silence. They smile at each other, but its like a stand-off.) KANSAS: (abruptly) Well, follow me. (He turns and walks. ANN follows, looking just vaguely skittish. Crossfade into the kitchen, where MARRA is making appetizers, a fairly large and elaborate
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amount. Shes slightly overdressed as well, and way too chipper.) KANSAS: Honey. This is Ann. MARRA: (big smile, hand outstretched) Hello! Welcome! Thank you so much for coming! Welcome! ANN: Thanks. MARRA: I made some avocado and feta something or others. I read about them in Sunset or Real Simple. Please have one. Theyre supposed to be fabulous. ANN: (cautiously, sensing their underlying panic) Im sure theyre great. KANSAS: Would you like some wine, Ann? ANN: Im okay, thank you. KANSAS: Are you sure? Im going to have some. MARRA: (to ANN) Youd better have some. Kansas hates to open a bottle and not finish it. KANSAS: (handing ANN a glass of wine) Its a great year. Drink it slowly and you can taste volcanic ash in there. ANN: Thank you. (she sets the glass aside, untouched) So, Dionne tells meMARRA: Oh my God! Dionnes just great, isnt she? ANN: (totally thrown for a loop by this) Yes. Yes she is. MARRA: Weve been friends forever. Almost one or two years. We worked at the samePR firm. Did she tell you that? ANN: (slowly) No she just told me about the piano. You are the couple with the piano,right? KANSAS: Yes we are. (he downs his glass of wine) Another? ANN: Im okay. MARRA: Dont badger her, Kansas, just because you have a drinking problem. (she hands him ANNs glass). Here. (to ANN) Im sorry, we must seem totally ridiculous to you. ANN: What? Oh no. Not at all.
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KANSAS: Its just that, well (he exchanges a brief glance with MARRA) were not were not usually (He doesnt finish. MARRA shrugs and looks at ANN for sympathy.) MARRA: Im sure you know what were going to say. ANN: Youre not usually the kind of people who this sort of thing happens to? MARRA: (taking ANNs hand with extreme gratitude) Thank you. ANN: Its okay. Nobody ever thinks they are. (beat) Can I see the piano, please? (They cross into the living room as the lights shift.) KANSAS: We moved everything to the other side of the room after it broke the aquarium. All the truly valuable stuff is now in the office or the dining room. ANN: Why the books against the wall? KANSAS: Those were actually the first things it nailed. ANN: Trying to re-arrange them? KANSAS: No, trying to destroy them. Throwing them on the ground, out the window, into the toilet MARRA: But that only happened once, and only because Kansas tried to put them back. KANSAS: The piano doesnt seem to mind them as long as we dont put them too close. ANN: I see. What about you? MARRA: Us? ANN: Does the piano mind you? (KANSAS and MARRA exchange looks. KANSAS drinks some more.)
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MARRA: Well, he wont let us put things on him. KANSAS: Yeah, and sometimes he makes these noises like (THE PIANO suddenly emits a series of harsh, atonal chords. ANN nods, taking it all in.) MARRA: (carefully, after a moment) And once he sort of hit Kansas. With his cover. (quickly) But I think it was just an accident. KANSAS: (low, angry) You think that because you dont want to admit the truth. MARRA: (to ANN) So, all in all, I wouldnt say that he likes us. ANN: I see. Well. Why dont you give me a few minutes alone with him, okay? MARRA: So you think you can help then? ANN: Ill do my best. (Crossfade to MARRA and KANSAS sitting alone in the kitchen. KANSAS is on his second bottle of wine.) MARRA: (to the audience) Its been over two hours. Two hours that weve been hiding in the kitchen waiting to hear what we know will probably be bad news. I keep thinking: what have I done to deserve this? I keep thinking: why does even the simplest thing have to be so complicated? I keep thinking: Its been over two hours. (to KANSAS) Its been over two hours, you know. (KANSAS just shrugs) Maybe we should go in there. (another shrug) Youre completely wasted arent you? (ANN steps in. MARRA and KANSAS look at her expectantly. ANN sighs.) ANN: We need to talk.

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(A moment of pantomime as she explains the situation. Perhaps some dramatic music swells up. Suddenly KANSAS screams.) KANSAS: That stupid piece of shit! MARRA: Dont scream, Kansas, thats only going to reinforce everything Anns been saying! KANSAS: (turning on her) How can you defend this thing, Marra? Havent you listened to anything? He HATES us! He LOATHES us! MARRA: He just doesnt understand! KANSAS: Oh he understands enough to look down on us! (to ANN) What was that you said? Were not worthy of playing this dumb thing? ANN: He doesnt think youre worthy of playing himthat doesnt mean you actually arent. KANSAS: Right, just like when someone says, Youre attractive, youre just not attractive to me. That basically adds up to Youre ugly. ANN: (calmly) When you act ugly you are ugly. (beat) The same is true for vulgarity. (A long moment. The air has been sucked from the room. KANSAS looks at MARRA, then at ANN, then at the PIANO, then back at ANN. ANN gives her customary sigh.) ANN: Look, I know its hard to hear something like this. No one likes to know that theyre thought of as KANSAS: (just slightly combative) Vulgar? ANN: Low. Coarse. Unrefined. Whatever you want to call it. The point is, no one likes to be thought of that way, least of all, Im guessing, people like KANSAS: Us? MARRA: Kansas! Ann is on our side, remember? ANN: Well, technically, Im on the pianos side, but thats only because I want him to have a good home here.
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KANSAS: Why? MARRA: What do you mean why? KANSAS: I mean, why do we want to keep this piano anyway? If, as Ann says, he thinks hes too good for us than we should just let him go be where he wants to be. MARRA: What are you suggesting? KANSAS: I dont know. How about taking him to the park and leaving him there? MARRA: Its a piano, Kansas, not a child, it cant fend for itself against the elements.One good rain and the finish would be destroyed! KANSAS: Its summer, Marra. Hell be fine! MARRA: Why are you being such an asshole? KANSAS: Why do you care about this thing more than me? ANN: (shouting to be heard) Listen, both of you, please! (silence; they both look at her) In situations like this, what I recommend is contacting the Pianos previous owner and seeing if they have any insight. KANSAS: And if they dont? ANN: Well, then maybe theyll take him back. Anyway, there isnt much more I can do. This isnt a case of an untrained piano or a new one that doesnt know any better. This piano is willfully shutting itself off from you. Its a matter of personality conflicts. MARRA: So what are our options? ANN: Learn to live together. Thats pretty much it. (ANN exits. The scene shifts into KANSAS and MARRA getting ready for bed.) MARRA: (to the audience) We get ready for bed that night and Kansas doesnt talk to me. He doesnt even complain. He often looks worried so that doesnt bother me. What bothers is me is when he doesnt look worried; when he doesnt have anything on his face at all except for a big fat blank, locking me out. Im going to go back to the store tomorrow. (KANSAS looks at her.)
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What? (He shakes his head and turns his back to her; a moment.) Love you too. (Crossfade to the piano store. MARRA walks in from the street accompanied by the tinkle of the doorbells, looking around for RANDOLPH, the proprietor. He is a reserved, clean looking man wearing a suit and carrying a feather duster. He dusts fairly continuously.) RANDOLPH: Hello. Come to buy another piano? MARRA: Ah, no, Im afraid not. Were having a hard enough time with the one we already have. RANDOLPH: Ah, well sometimes that is the case. You do know we dont take returns, yes? MARRA: Im not looking to return him. RANDOLPH: Oh? Good. Thats a long and pointless conversation we wont need to have then. So what can I do for you? MARRA: I was wondering: is there any way to get in touch with the previous owner of our piano? RANDOLPH: Im afraid that all adoptions are closed. MARRA: I understand that, but, well, how do you expect anyone to successfullyraise one of these things if theres no background information or RANDOLPH: And why do you think it would matter if there was? MARRA: Because then wed know what we were getting into. RANDOLPH: Well, if you did then it wouldnt be a risk! MARRA: (a little mystified by this) Owning a piano shouldnt be a risk. RANDOLPH: How can it be anything else? (beat; slightly condescending:) I understand its not working out. Maybe you dived into something for all the wrong reasons, yes? But theres no going back now, and theres no easy solution. If there were, it wouldnt be music. And what were dealing with is something that makes music. Have a nice day.
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MARRA: (refusing to be deterred) Listen, maybe if I knew more about what made the piano act this wayRANDOLPH: It would appear that you are what makes it act this way. MARRA: But we cant be solely responsible. It does have a history, after all, and that has to inform some of its actions, right? I mean, I dont understand why youre not helping us here, our hearts are in the right place even if were not RANDOLPH: remotely worthy of owning a piano? MARRA: THATS NOT TRUE! (beat) What about us makes you say that? (He looks at her. She pleads with her eyes. He sighs.) RANDOLPH: Madam, I am but a simple piano salesman. I cannot solve your identitycrisis for you and my wares were not created for the purpose of making you feel special. If you chose the piano because you assumed it would fit comfortably into your life then you are a fool. If you want to rise above that then I suggest you start by accepting the piano for what it is and stop treating it as a glorified table. Otherwise, just get rid of him. MARRA: (sulky) You dont take returns. RANDOLPH: No we dont. (beat) Now, is there anything else I can help you with today? (MARRA doesnt answer him. He turns away and starts dusting something.) MARRA: Were not bad people, you know. RANDOLPH: No, youre just not terribly courageous ones either. (looking at her over his shoulder) I mean have you even tried to play him? MARRA: How could I? Im too scared to RANDOLPH: Exactly. (going back to dusting) Music is a risk, Madam. Not an accessory.

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(He moves on. MARRA stands there, speechless, pissed, and progressively thoughtful. The lights crossfade back into the apartment. MARRA goes to center and stands there, looking out at the Piano.) MARRA: Hi. Please dont Ive got something to say, and Im hoping youll listen. I know you dont like us very much (The PIANO sounds a few sarcastic notes.) or at all but still, I was hoping (The PIANO is quiet. Behind MARRA, KANSAS enters, unseen by her. All her attention is focused on the PIANO.) MARRA: Look, I know. I know Kansas and I, were not what youre used to (The PIANO starts to cut in but she keeps talking). Youre not what were used to either, okay? And fine, Ill be honest: were not even sure why we bought a piano, I think we just wanted to look cultured (The PIANO sounds a single, sharp chord.) I mean, I think I just wanted to look Im an idiot, okay? (KANSAS visibly reacts to this, but remains quiet.) Im compensating for something and Im not even sure what it is or who Im trying to impress. (As she speaks she moves slowly towards the PIANO.) And I know its not attractive. And I know its driving Kansas kind of nuts. And I know there are probably tons of people youd rather be living with. But for better or worse, you got us. (The PIANO sounds a note, but its less abrasive than usual.) And believe it or not I do really want you for the right reasons and Im not, like the worst piano player in the world. And Ill promise to get better, if you just give me a chance. (KANSAS is watching her, rather moved in spite of himself.) I mean, I cant unless you do, so help me appreciate you. (She puts her hand out to the PIANO.) Please. A long moment. THE PIANO doesnt respond. KANSAS watches. MARRA remains hopeful, and the lights fade on her.)

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YELLOW RIBBON
By Lovinder Gill

Inspiration for Yellow Ribbon by Mohinder Gill

FADE IN: INT. STUDIO - NIGHT A hand grabs a long thin paint brush. The brush dabs a little yellow oil paint and then some orange paint. It mixes the two together. It dabs a little more yellow paint and mixes them until it gets just the right shade of yellow. The hand paints a curved yellow line across a canvas.

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MATCH CUT TO: TITLE CARD: The brush disappears and the yellow line continues to form a ribbon. PULL BACK to reveal the title: A Support the Troops type of Yellow Ribbon. MATCH CUT TO: EXT. MIXON HOUSE - DAY A yellow ribbon on the back of a pick up truck. We follow a body that wipes the screen to see MO MIXON [65] standing a few steps above. Mo smiles and opens his arms to his grandson, JOEY MIXON [18]. MO Cmere, boy. JOEY Hey, Grandad. They hug. Mo kisses his grandsons head. FADE TO BLACK. MO So, what you gonna do? FADE IN: INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT A hand splashed with an assortment of colors picks up a cup of coffee and takes it to the lips of a young MO MIXON [24]. He waits for an answer.
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LUCUS JONES [23], a handsome black man with a high and tight cut, contemplates an answer. SUPER: 1967 LUCAS I dont know. He takes a sip of coffee. LUCAS I mean, I guess Ill do what I have to. The room is a tiny dump that is littered with paintings of all shapes and sizes. This is Mos home and he looks so much a part of it that it feels like if he moved, we would be left with an empty white silhouette of where he was. Lucas, on the other hand, looks strangely out of place. His perfectly ironed Army uniform is in glowing contrast to the chaos around it. LUCAS I just... I just dont know if I can kill someone. Lucas looks off into space. A tear rolls down his face and falls off his cheek. MATCH CUT TO: EXT. FOREST - DAY SILENCE. A red drop of blood falls onto a green military uniform. A wide-eyed Lucas looks down and sees it. He touches it with his finger. He looks around and sees nothing but thick brush. He looks up and sees a dead Vietnamese SOLDIER hanging over a branch
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above him. A WHISTLE. And then the sounds of gunfire, jets and screams EXPLODE all around. Lucas slams his back against a tree. He looks right then left and then right again. Chaos surrounds him. He sees something. CUT TO: INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT Mo looks right at Lucas. MO Just keep your head down, man. EXT. FOREST - CONTINUOUS Lucas leans his head against the tree. He sees something out of the corner of his eye and looks. Some bushes rustle about twenty feet away. Lucas looks up to the sky for help. His answer is another drop of blood onto his cheek. He flinches. He takes a deep breath and tries to keep it together. He pulls his rifle close to his chest. He looks to his right at the bushes again. They move ever so slightly. INJURED SOLDIER (O.S.) (pain) HELP ME! Im hit! Im HIT! The Voice came from Lucas left. He sees bushes move where the INJURED SOLDIER is laying. A bloody hand reaches up for help. He looks to his right and sees a VIETNAMESE SOLDIER stand up and run toward the injured soldier. Theyre about fifty feet apart.
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Lucas doesnt think. He reacts. His training takes over. He jumps up and pulls his rifle to his shoulder. He has a clear shot. The Vietnamese Soldier is in his sights. His finger tightens around the trigger. He grits his teeth. His eyes squint... His mouth and eyes open. He cant do it. Lucas tosses his rifle down and takes off after the Vietnamese Soldier. The Vietnamese Soldier SCREAMS as he runs. He raises his knife over his head to strike down with. He reaches the Injured Soldier and stops. The Injured Soldier is close to death. Hes accepted it. He looks up into the Vietnamese Soldiers eyes. They share a look for a second. The Vietnamese Soldier puts down his arms. He cant kill this man. The Injured Soldier smiles, relieved. The Vietnamese Soldier smiles. Hes suddenly tackled by Lucas. They fall to the side and wrestle. Lucas rolls on top of him and grabs the hand with the knife, pinning it back with his hands. A GUN SHOT. INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT Mo shivers as if he hears the shot. He stands and looks out the window. The huge window frames his fragile silhouette like a painting. INT. MIXON HOUSE - DAY The older Mo turns from the window and looks at Joey. MO Well? SUPER: Present Joey pulls old paintings out of a room that is now used for storage.
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JOEY I cant remember. MO Describe it. JOEY Its an abstract. Ive only seen it once but Ive always remembered it. MO Flattery will get you nowhere. Joey smiles as he pulls out a huge beautiful painting of an uprooted tree. He pauses and looks at it. JOEY Whats this called? Mo looks over. MO Uprooted. JOEY Thats it? An uprooted tree and you call it uprooted? Mo points to the canvas. There are tiny figures of refugees in the background.
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MO Its about refugees who have been uprooted from their lives. Joeys eyes widen. He nods. JOEY Very cool. Mo pulls the painting down. MO Not cool. Pain. These people lost everything much like the tree. Joey pauses. He turns back to other paintings. Mo turns back to the window and looks outside at... EXT. STREET - DAY [1967] Lucas, full of excitement, talks to Mo. LUCAS Id get to see the world. MO The crappy parts of the world.

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LUCAS Only sometimes. Mo stops. MO You dont even support the war. LUCAS Its the right thing to do. MO Dying is not the right thing to do. LUCAS Ill be a college graduate, they probably wont even send me to the battlefields. MO Are you out of your mind? Theyre running out of bodies. Theyll send anyone they can. Lucas turns and walks away. LUCAS You dont understand. Mo grabs him.
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MO Make me understand. LUCAS A mans got to do what a mans got to do. SLOW FADE TO WHITE: The words A mans got to do what a mans got to do dissolve onto the screen. Theyre written with a paint brush filling up the screen. MATCH CUT TO: INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT The words fill up a canvas. Young Mo looks at them angrily. SERIES OF SHOTS: Mos eyes are bloodshot. The paintbrush rapidly mixes colors. The brush slams paint over the words in all different colors. Mos arms flail about as he paints. The brush flashes across the canvas. Mo paints with brushes in both hands. They throw paint about the canvas with no rhyme or reason. Mo pauses and looks at the canvas. The words are completely covered now. The painting is a jumbled mess. Mo drops the brushes and grabs the paint with his hands. He slaps it on the painting and rubs it around with his hands. Hands grab more paint. More is slammed on the canvas. A gun shot. Mo shivers as if he feels it.

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EXT. FOREST - DAY Lucas freezes. His eyes widen. He falls over. The Vietnamese soldier is in shock. He trembles as Lucas falls on him. He pushes Lucas off. His hand trembles with the gun in it. He looks over at the injured Soldier. Hes dead, too. The Vietnamese Soldier is devastated. He gets to his knees and looks at Lucas dead body. The Vietnamese Soldier turns and vomits. Tears fill his eyes and mix with dirt as they crawl down his face. IN SLOW MOTION: The Vietnamese Soldier slowly stands. He pauses and looks down on what he has done. He grabs his rifle and uses it to hold himself up. FREEZE on that shot. DISSOLVE TO: An abstract painting of the soldier standing. INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT Mo stands back and looks at the painting. Paint is all over Mo. It covers his hands, arms, torso, and face. Its as if he and the abstract painting of the soldier are reflections of each other. Mo picks up a glass of whiskey in a trembling hand. He forces it down as he looks at his work. Mo throws the whiskey across the room. FLASH CUT TO: INT. MIXON HOUSE - DAY Joey pulls out a painting.

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JOEY This is it. He pulls out the painting of the soldier. Mo is confused. MO What? JOEY Can I have it? MO What? Why? JOEY I dont know. Ive always felt drawn to it. Joey admires it. Mo smiles. JOEY Its powerful. JOEY Id like to take it with me.

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MO Where? Joey pauses and puts the painting to his side. He stands up straight. JOEY To Iraq, Grandad. I enlisted this morning. The smile falls. Mo is in shock. MO What? Why would you do that? Joey pauses. JOEY A mans got to do what a mans got to do, Grandad. Mos eyes widen. EXT. MIXON HOUSE - DAY Joey admires the painting as he walks to his truck. He puts it in the bed of the truck. Joey pauses and looks at Mo. JOEY Thanks, Grandad. He waves. Mo raises his hand, still in shock. Joey gets in the truck.
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CLOSE on the painting. The truck pulls away and we see the yellow ribbon again. FREEZE on the yellow ribbon. FADE TO BLACK. ROLL CREDITS.

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Welcome to the inaugural Best of edition of Canyon Voices. This issue is the culmination of the blood, sweat and tears of our extraordinary student staff, and it features selections from our first five issues of our one-of-a-kind online literary magazine. And my how weve grown. What started out in its first semester with a staff of 10 students solicitingno, beggingfor content that would fill our pages has bloomed into a project that features approximately 50 students and nearly 1,000 submissions of visual arts, poetry, scripts, fiction and non-fiction each semester. But dont be fooled by our regional sounding title. The artists of Canyon Voices come to us from far beyond Arizona borders. Submissions now come from as far away as India and France. Our ranks include experienced award-winning writers who bolster our mission: serving as a platform for emerging voices. For this edition, I am proud of the six students who took on the Herculean task of culling through the thousands of submissions we have received over the past three years to come up with the work youre able to enjoy in this edition. But we are not done. This spring, Canyon Voices will release its first printed edition of the magazine featuring the Best of selectionsa tradition we intend to repeat every five issues. So, please enjoy the art in this edition, and tell the world about us. Let them know that Canyon Voices is a place where their voice will reverberate through the ages.
Julie Amparano is the founder, publisher, and advisor of the Canyon Voices Literary team. Serving in the School of Humanity Arts and Cultural Studies at ASUs New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Professor Amparano oversees the school's Writing Certificate and teaches a variety of writing courses that include scriptwriting, cross-cultural writing, fiction, persuasive writing, and others. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles in 2006 and is working on a collection of short stories.

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Kyle Stiemsma is a senior editor for Canyon Voices, determined to turn this online world of literary talent into print for the first time. He has been dreaming of this E-book for over a year and is deeply thankful for the wonderful team of editors he has been privileged to work with. He is currently packing up his life, preparing to finish his B.A. in English and Certificate in Writing at ASU and move to Vancouver, British Columbia where he will begin his graduate career in January 2013. A lover of words with a passion for seeing the world and loving the people in it, his ultimate goal is to make his life one of the greatest stories this world will know. Brittani Alexander is pleased to have worked on The Best of Canyon Voices. She would like to thank the talented team of editors with whom she worked. Without their efforts, the "Best of" would have remained a pipe dream. In addition to Canyon Voices, Brittani has been working on a series of bilingual children's books she hopes to one day publish. She will be graduating in May of 2013 from ASU with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Spanish and English Composition. Arthur Abdiel Morales is an English Major at Arizona State University through the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. He will graduate in the spring of 2013 with a degree in English and a Writing Certificate. This semester he was given the honor to work with Kyle Stiemsma, Brittani Alexander, Josiah Cantrell and Cori Zimny to create a Best Of issue. After carefully going through the archives, the board of editors selected pieces from past issues to be published in an E-book. Arthur is very excited to share this E-book with avid readers and those who treasure the beauty of art. He would also like to thank Julie Amparano, the Publisher.

Josiah Cantrell has been with Canyon Voices for over a year. His time at ASU has been spent pursuing ministry with Christian Challenge and working toward his degree in English. The Best of Canyon Voices has been an extraordinary experience, allowing him to apply the skills he has learned and see how much he and others have grown together through this publication. He considers it an immense blessing to end his college career with a finished product that acknowledges the fact that hard work pays off.

Cori Zimny plans on being a student for life, currently majoring in English with a minor in History at the ASU West Campus. She started editing in high school and critiquing content and grammar has been a part of her daily life since. As an editor of the Best of Canyon Voices Literary Magazine Issue, she is really excited to see the best literary works of the past five issues published in an eternal print edition. After a semester of reading and rereading the work from contributing authors over the past two years, the pieces chosen epitomize literary. She hopes you enjoy the poems, artwork, stories, and scripts as much as she has this past semester.

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