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The Boathouse Writers

Number Two

Published By:

The Boathouse Writers

1120 McCormick St.
Green Bay, WI 54301
Copyright© 1992
All rights reserved

Typeset By: Accuracy Typesetting and lmagesetting

Printed By: Van Lanen Printi ng
Green Bay, WI

Cover Reproduction from 1881 - Brown County Plat Map

Special Thanks to Linda and Angie Kimps

Published in part with financial support from:

John and Clare Miller Fou ndation
The Stone Tower Associates
Jess Mi ller Productions
John Wall Enterprises
The Mudford Group

Big Ed and the Powers of Intuition ... . . .. ................. . ..................... . ..... .. .... 5
James P. Moran
Wolves; The Wife: On Parenting ... •... . . . ....... . . . .... . ..................... . .. .... ... .. I 8
Deborah Robbins
Co wichan Bay . .... . .... . .. .. ... •. .......... . . . . ..... . ... . . .... . . ... . ...... . ..... .. .. . . . ... 22
Tom Chu rchill
Excerpt from Old News .. ............ •....... .. .. .... . . ..... . . . .. . .................. ... .. .. 23
Frances FitzGerald
For Me; Lost Child; Child's Song; A Prayer .. .... .. .................................... . ... 26
Christine Seroogy
Burled .............. . ............................. . ................................ . .... . .. 30
Karen Matzke
from Brother's and Sister's . .... . ............................................. . .. . . . .. . . . ... 35
Tom Chu rchill
Yes ls Beller Than No ..................... . ... . .. . .. . . . .. ..................... .. .... . .. .. . 4 l
Dee Sweet
What They W ill Remember; Pahoto's J~ock Pile .. .. .. . .. ........ . ................. ... .. ... 46
Rainy-Day Dreaming; Muta/is Mutandis ... . ....... .. ............................. .. .... . . 49
Michael Harry Reetz
The President's Cake ... . ......... .................... .. .................................. . . 50
Kathy Gokey
Peshtigo - The River of the Wild Goose ..... ......................................... . ..... 58
Deborah Robbins
Beware of Flying ... . ....... ...... . ........ •.... .. .. .. .. . ... . ............... . .... . .... . ..... 62
Patricia Oerozier
No Charge .... . . .. . ... .. ... . . .. . .. .. .. ... . . . . ... . ... . . ......... . . ... . ... . . . . . ...... . . . . . ... 67
Kristine Lendved
Symphonic Clash .. ... .. . .... ... .... . .............. . .. . ................... . . .. . ... . .. .. .. .. 74
Michael D. Wright
Conservative .... . . .. . .. . . ........ •................. .. ............................... . ...... 75
Estella Lauter
Dead Dostoyevsky . ... . .. . ............. . ........ . .. .. ................................... . .. 77
Frances FitzGerald
Labor Day . ... .. ..... ................... .. . . .... . .. ... ............................ • ... . . . .. 80
Lori Renard
T he Drawing; The Sparrows; Sno w Flc1/ws .... . . ... ... .. ....... . .... ..... .. .. ... . . •. .. . . ... 98
Patrick Moran
/\ Drink of Water . . .. ... . ... .......... . ..... . .. . . . . . . . . . ... •• .............. . ... . .......... 101
Anne Kasubos ki
Clear Sky Woman; Harry the Hose (circa 1940) ... .. .............................. .. .. .. 108
Spinning in the Hollow (Dani's Poem) ....................... .. . .. ................. .. .... l I l
Michael Harry Reetz
From Chestnut to Pearl .... ...... . .............. .. .. .... ... . ............... . ....... ... .... l 12
James P. Moran
T he Effect of W eather on th e Rosewater Family .. . . . . .. .. . . .. ...................... . . . . . . 124
Ka th y Gokey
This, the second book by the Boathouse Writers,
is an achievement in continuity. The writers
presented here may have regional lies,
but we hope our voices transcend those borders.

]. Moran
Jim Moran

"Hey Keith you wanna catch that, man? Grab me a beer on your way. "
I pulled Lwo cans from the fridge and threw one in the living room. I
picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Howdy, is this the Keith Williams residence?"
"Welt , how are you Mr. Williams? This is Clarence Powell calling from
Dallas, Texas. How's everything up there in '\Nescawnsin', tonight?"
I popped my beer and sat on the kitchen cou nter. "I'm fin e, Clarence, how
are you?"
"Jes dandy. Say, I suppose the weather's getting kinda cool up there these
days, huh?"
"Oh, a bout sixty-five today, not too bad." I wondered if he had magazines
to sell o r something.
"Sixry-five, oh boy. It's still ninety down here. Leaves Startin' to turn, I
"Yea h, they're turning all right. " I looked out the window to make sure but
it was too dark. Seemed like a long call to make just for a weather report.
"Ah hear it's pretty up there this time oi year, Keith. "
"Yes," I said, "yes it is ." He had a pleasant twangy voice, and if he was
willing to ramble I figured it was his dime. "Lotta real nice colors, yes sir. Leaves
turn down there, Clarence?"
"Naw, not really. Cools off some, though . You been livin ' up there a long
time, Keith ?"
Now we were getting to it. Time shared condos? IRA's?
"Yes , all my life, Clarence."
"Yah, that's what I heard. Keith , I'm with the Mid-West Milk Producers
Company. We make milking equi pment for twenty states. Got six locations in
the country. I hear you know milking equipment pretly well."
W hoa! Milking equipme nt? A ha lf-gallon carton was a ll the milking
equipment I knew. What the hell? Maybe it was a survey.
"Sure, I know lots about milking equipment, Clarence. What do you want
to know?" I took a long drink a nd put my feet up on the kitche n table .
"Ha ha, that's the spirit, Keith. You still work for that little dairy in your
neck of the woods, Happy Holsteins?"
"Uh , no no. I left there a while back." Suddenly this d id not seem like the
kind of survey I was meant to get involved with. I decided to slide off the hook.
"I got into my brother's construction business. He needed the help and I uh ,
wel l I switched."

Jim Mo ran

"Fa mily first, that's a wonderful tra it, Keith . Very unselfish of you. I heard
you really made things go at Hols te ins. Too bad you had to leave. What's a fe lla
to do, eh? Do you miss it?"
"Oh yes, terribly. Well, not too bad. I mea n I'm happy."
I pul led out the phone book a nd flipped to the W 's. Funny how you never
look up your own name. My roommate Da le walked in pointing at the receiver,
eyebrows ra ised. I covered the mouthpiece and whispered, "Shut up and get me
another beer. I'll tell you later."
"Ever think of getting back into the business, Keith?"
Will iams. I knew there was a s hi t-load. Here it is: Williams - Keith a nd
Jenny, 4855 Za nder Road. Christ, that was way out near-
" Keith?"
"Yea h? Oh! Yes, l mean s ure I think about it, Clarence, but I got a good
job here with my brother."
Dale kicked my leg. "You ain 't got a brother. You ain' t even got a job.''
I smiled and raised my middle finger.
"Keith, I' m gonna be straight with you , son . We're looking for a plant
s upervisor down here. We think you got a s hot at 'er. Could you be talked out of
that cons truction company for the right money?"
"I'd have to think about that, Cla rence. How'd you hear about me,
"M ilk Producers Monthly magazine. That article a few mo nth s back o n
how fast you guys install machinery at farms. I know you were runnin' that
outfit at Happy Holsteins. See' my boss, Big Ed Groves works on intuitio n lotsa
times. An' it works. Hell, I've seen him look at a guy and say, "that's it. " Now
we'd want you to run a plant for about sixty men. Shit, Keith you could start at
fifty grand a year. Could you handle s ixty men? "
1 had been holding my breath while he talked and I let ou t a long s igh . " I
don't know, Cla rence. l really haven't run a crew a nywhere near that big. I
wouldn't want to bite off too much. "
Dale shook his head and walked out of the room.
"Hey, don't be modest Keith. You'd get some trainin' . Just come clown here
a nd intervievv. I think we ca n change you r mind. "
"J'm not sure. I guess 1'111 kinda settled here. I never been to Texas before."
"l-1111 mm111 ."
This was weird. I could n' t find a job in two months, and this sucker won't
let me not ta ke one . This Keith Vvilliams guy must have been impressive. I
hoped I wasn't screvvin' him over too bad.
"If you never been to Texas, how do you know ya won't love it? Huh
Keith? Am I. right?" he yelled.

Jim Moran

"Well, right, I guess."

"You married, Keith?"
"Ahal Got a house?"
He sounded overjoyed. "There ya are, son. You ain't settled. We'll fly you
down here Friday. Meet Big Ed. You can see the town, have a nice dinner and
make up your mind. Can you say no to that?"
He was excited. Hell, I was excited. NO\·Vwhat vvould I say? He had some
good points. Assuming I was Keith Williams of Happy Holsteins. there was no
reason not to go. A bold and wild plan was forming in my brain. One detail
"Say, Clarence, you didn't see me in that January issue of Milk Producers
where I was sittin' on that cow, did you?"
"Huh. No, why?" he laughed.
"Oh. I was a little embarrassed about that. It was from the Christmas parry
and I'd had a few."
"Oh, who cares? No, to tell the truth , we don't know what you look like. If
you come you 'll have to give me a description."
"Yes, son?"
"If you're will in', I'll give 'er a try."
"Hey, I knew you'd come through. Keith," Clarence bellowed. "Just give us
a chance and I know you'll take the job."
"Now I'm only sayin' I'll come down, Clarence. I can't promise nothin'."
If that wasn't an understatement. This could be the shortest interview on
record. But hell with it. That was the point, and I could use a vacation, even a
short one. Clarence told me what flight I would take and the other particulars,
and after assuring me I wasn' t making a mistake, we said our goodbyes a nd
hung up. I hoped he wouldn't be too disappoi nted. I wondered what kind of
motel I would be staying in.
"What the hell are you getting into?" Dale asked me as 1 sat on the couch.
"These guys want me to go to Dallas, so I'm goin'," I replied.
"And do what?"
"Make milking equipment or something, I guess. I tried sayin' no, but
Clarence wouldn't let me."
"Clarence will stick your ass in jail for impersonating someone else, man.
You don't know diddly about milking machines."

Jim Moran

"So I blow the interview, get a free meal and a night out in Dallas . I can
bulls hit through a couple of hours. Give me a ride to the airport Friday noon,
okay? Hope my su it's clean. 1' 11 need a tie, Dale."
Dale laughed. "You're nuts , Keith . They' ll hang you if they find out. If they
do, I don't know nothing about it." He waved a finger at me.
"Ha, makes two of us. They won't find out. God, Dale, they want Keith
W illiams, I'm Keith W illiams. I tried saying no. It' ll be a trip." I rubbed my
hands together. "I wonder where the Cowboy's Cheerleaders hang out?"

I picked up my boarding pass at the Un ited window and we walked down

the corridor to the gates. I drank two beers on the way to the airport.
Dale walked alongside. "You ca n back out, you know. I'll bet they kill you
for this."
"Knock it off, Dale. J said I'd go. I'm going. It'll be great. I spent yesterday
at my cousin Earl's farm ."
"And what did you learn?''
"Oh, Earl's dog had pu ps. Will you pick me up tomorrow afternoon?"
"Call first. They'll probably only give you one call. "
"Here's your gate, Keith."
"Ah yes. I'll bring you a cowboy hat."
We shook hands. He backed away waving a nd grinning.
1 headed up the tunne l to the plane. Glancing at people around me I
wondered of any of them were going to an interview pretending to be someone
else. No, forget that. Don't think about that. It's just a joke. I would simply, "not
work out." I would be friendly and vague, unsure, overbearing. God, those were
my strong points.
I ha nded the s tewardess my ticket and found my seat. A window, alright. I
put my bag overhead, took off my coat a nd sat down. I even had a briefcase.
There wasn't much in it but it looked nice. Big exec. I smiled. I was used to a
leather pouch and a hammer.
I really had taken some notes at Earl's. They were pretty sketchy but 1
could get by. I mean , I couldn't be a total ass. I just wanted them to end up
smiling politely at me a nd saying to each other, "he wouldn't have worked , we
Man, what was I doing? This was crazy. When would we take off? I
loosened my tie. Where is the drink cart? Clarence was to meet me at the
airport. Some s upper club-lounge combo called the Admirals Club. I hoped the
food was good. I-le sure sou nded happy. This would be easy. I could always do

Jim Moran

a food poisoning act if things went sour. Yeah, yeah. I breathed deeply a few
times. "Guess who's coming to dinner?" I laughed out loud.
I looked out the window. It was like a nice little quilt. Fa rmlands were laid
out so sq uare. Anything could happen. I cou ld find some nice woman at the
hotel a nd run up a tab on Big Ed Groves' account. I wondered what Big Ed was
like. If he went on intuition I was okay. If they had too much background on me
the re cou ld be some deep shit. But I had to be up, e n th us iastic, and stupid. I
could do this, I knew it.

After c hanging planes in St. Louis, I got nervous again. I went through my
notes and tried to plan what I vvould say. Generalize, that was the rule. No
specifics right away. If 1 could get started, they might not s uspect. Shit, \vho
could know? But what if they were really sharp? No. You don't send plane
tickets to people you've never met. It was too perfect. But what if, if. No, forget
it. Just do it and enjoy it. I ordered another beer a nd pulled a magazine from the
seat in front of me. An hour later the pilot announced we vvere over Dallas.

Th e a irport was monstrous. It was like a s ma ll city. I thought I would get

off and walk to the Admirals Club. Instead, there was a little s huttle to take. I
got on this subway with a bout a million other people and we rode to the main
terminal. Texas. I thought I caught a whiff of oil on the breeze. It was a plane
refu eling. The temperature was about eighty-five a nd I was sweating heavy
duty. I kept tightening my tie a nd smoothing it out.
Inside, I wandered down huge hallways watching for signs. Everybody had a
cowboy hat on . God , they looked stupid. Suits a nd cowboy hats are like
swimming trunks a nd construction boots. What was the point? Then, there was a
sign for the Admirals Club. I stopped. It was too close. I turned around and found
a bathroom. I washed my face a few times. In the mirror I stared back at me. The
humor of the whole thing was blowing away like mist. I was in Dallas! W hat the
hell was I doing here, really? vVhy d id I think this could work? Maybe I would just
leave, hide out someplace until morning a nd catch the flight back. I combed my
hair fiercely. I should have got it cut. It looked too long. I looked worried.
A guy walked into the restroom and headed for the urinal. He was flabby,
sixtyish and had a tall brown hat on. It fit him though. Was it Andy Devine? His
face was long and sunburned. He wore a gray pin-stripe s uit. l has to get out of here.
"Where you from, pardner?" He has walked over a nd was using the sink
next to me.
"Wisconsin." I could hardly choke it out.

Jim Moran

He turned quickly. "You ain' t Keith Williams?" he exclaimed.

"Clarence?" I gaped at him.
"How ya doin', boy?" He grabbed my hand and wrung it. "Gawd damn, I
tole Big Ed I'd go look for you, but how are ya?"
"Fine, Clarence, fine. How are you?" I tried to smile a nd he kept shaking
my arm.
''Jest dandy, now. Great to see you. Glad you came. How's the flight?"
"Well fine, thanks. Glad to be here."
"Shit hovvdy, what a coincidence. Come on, Big Ed's waitin' to meet ya."
He put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed it. "We heard a lot about you."
Grinning wide, he turned and vvaved, "come on."
I took a breath and followed until we got to the door, glanced back and
saw my bag and briefcase. I ran back and grabbed it.
"You're nervous, Keith." Clarence pointed at me and chuckled.
"Well I guess-"
"It's okay. It's a good sign, means it's important to ya." He punched my
"You bet, Clarence." I punched his arm.
"Ha ha," he laughed. "That's a boy, come on."
Clarence had me put my bag and briefcase in a locker. J didn't feel real
good about that, especially when the key went in his pocket.

"Looky here. Went to the bathroom and saw this fella sprucin' up for ya."
Clarence had one <=trm around me, the other raised, summoning a waitress.
Big Eel took up most of the table, his girth settled deep into the booth. On
the top of the table rested two huge forearms the size of hams. He had a wide
creased face with the jowls of a beagle. A few hairs were carefully combed
across the top o f his pink scalp. Thick bifocals made his eyes bulge and blink.
He had the smile of a catfish. I hoped I would not disappoint him too much.
Next to him was a brainy type looking guy: dark suit, skinny, slick hair, and
those weird glasses that don't cover all of your eyes. He would be someone to
worry about.
They made a faint gesture at standing but I beckoned them sit back.
"No use sta nding on my account." I stuck out my hand. "Glad to meet
you, Big Ed. " His grip was tighter than Clarence's. I squeezed as hard as I
could. He liked this.
"Thatsa way, Keith. Damn glad to meet you. I can tell you got guts."
If you on ly knew, Big Ed. "You're a good judge of cha racter I can tell," 1

Jim Moran

He laughed. Clarence laughed. The brainy guy laughed. This was a good
start. We could all laugh all the goddam way through for all I cared.
Big Ed slapped the brainy guy on the shoulder. "Keith, I want you to meet
our head of accounting, Gary Ronalds." He gave him a nudge and a wi nk.
"Welcome to Da llas, Mr. Williams. So happy you could come." He took
my hand and pressed it lightly, kind o f like a sissy.
"Call me Ke ith , Gary, or Mr. Ronalds." He smiled quickly, more like a
Clarence and I sat, we ordered drinks and got down to b usiness. Big Ed
insisted I sit next to him. I b roke into a sweat and had to mop my face a few
times. They all sa id it must be the weather. I agreed. We talked weather and
football , so I felt pre tty safe. I could talk football with a nybody.
Then Clarence sa id, "Didn't I hear you played a little ball at Madison
when you we re the re?"
"Who told you that?" I said, not th inking.
Clarence looked s urprised. "Well I guess I read it in the write-up on you in
the Milk Producers Month ly." He scratched his nose. "Thought I read you was
on the football tea m."
"Oh yeah , yeah. I thought you meant baseball. Sure, I played footba ll. Oh
yesiree. Always think about it this time of year."
"What position d id you play?" Gary asked.
Did he know? It could be an innocent question . I couldn't tell from his face .
''Tight end," I replied. ··veer offense, didn't catch too many passes. Lousy coach."
They nodded appreciatively. I was still safe.
"Wisconsin went to the Liberty Bowl that year if I remember," Clarence
sa id, sipping a Rob Roy.
"Oh yes," I to ld him. " It was exciting as hell. W e were up for it, you bet. " I
punched the a ir.
"Who won?" Gary asked.
"Did you play?" asked Big Ed.
"Oh, let's sec." I could fee l sweat mounting on my eyebrows. "Colorado
won, uh, a close one." Panic slid around the corners of my brain.
Clarence ra ised a finger. "Wasn't it Illinois, by a lot?" he asked timidly.
"Of course." I slapped my forehead. "Illinois, how could I ever forget?" I
ch uckled. "We urn, well we played Colorado at the end of the year to clinch it,"
I blurted out.
Th is was bad. They were all staring confused. The panic pushed arou nd
my eyes, creating a binocular vision.
"l didn't play in that bowl game because I blew out my knee against
Colorado. I always think o f that as the last game of the year. Y'know, the

Jim Moran

hospital. the shots." I summoned up a shudder and they all sat back. Big Ed
nodded seriously. I could see again.
Big Eel put a hand softly on my shoulder and said, "the knees. Always the
knees. How'd it happen?"
"Slant pattern. Third and twelve in the fourth." I traced a line in the table.
"! went up for the ball and two guys put their helmets into my legs. I woke up in
the locker room."
"Broken?" Clarence asked.
They were buying it. Even Gary seemed to be. I took a drink and stared at
my glass."! completely tore the left ulterior rotator cuff." I turned to Clarence."!
was on crutches for six months." Something a bout that didn't sound right, but it
just came out.
He shook his head. "It's a shame," he mumbled.
"Hey!" I slapped the table, startling them. ''That's history. I went to
Holsteins right after graduation. I can walk, even run a little. That's history,
right? Right Big Ed?"
He got a big grin. "You bet. Keith. We a in 't here to mope. Let's go put on
the feed bag." He pounded the table.
"Hear hear," said Clarence, leaning over to clink Big Ed's glass.
I mopped my forehead and smiled. "Maybe I'll hit the men's room, first." I
drained my gin and tonic and slid it across the table.
Big Ed a nd Clarence strolled off to the dining room. Gary said he should
make a pit stop too, and followed me in. I really wanted to be alone to get my
act together and go over my notes.
As we leaned into the urinals Gary asked, "Does the knee ever bother
you?" He was staring at the wall in front of him.
"The knee? Oh, the knee. No. I mean sometimes. Arthritis, that stuff. "
"Keith." He cleared his throat, looking over his stupid glasses at me. "The
rotator cuff is in the shoulder. Baseball pitchers get torn rotator cuffs." He tilted
his head and glared dovvn at me. "\Nhy are you lying?"
Here it comes, I thought. Canned before supper even. Would they call the
cops? I couldn't keep this shit up anyway. We hadn't even discussed cows.
Christ! I tried to smile. I felt like I was watching myself watch Gary. The
bathroom had shrunk and it was just him absorbing space. So I looked at me,
and I looked very uncomfortable. Perhaps I has erred slightly in coming here. I
had to talk! How much time had gone by? Hours! No, no. I was going to
apologize a nd leave, but from somewhere deep in my head I said, "Well ," and
sighed. "My grades were poor so l had to leave the team halfway through the
season . I was having a great year so it was hard to quit, but I felt school was
first and ... " I dropped my head and shook it slowly. Then I glanced at Ga1y.

Jim Moran

He smi led, then laughed. "You tell a good story. I appreciate a guy who
can think fast on his feet. You had me going with that knee business until you
said rotator cuff." He chuckled again. "Be careful with that one. I like a fellow
with an imagination, but Clarence might not feel that way, or Big Ed." Gary put
his hands on his hips. "You were right though, school's first. You've got good
judgment, Keith."
"You're a sharp man , Mr. Ronalds," I pointed at him.
He walked down to the bathroom door and held it for me. "Let's go chow

The restaura nt in the Adm irals Cl ub was plush as hell. The carpets were
thick and black and there \Vere chandeliers like wagon wheels all over. There
were lots of dividers between the tables so it was like a maze winding through to
our seats.
I was thinking the plan would be to slowly piss them off or just disappoint
them in me generally. At least I could eat now, so I would get something out of it.
I sat next to Big Ed who was ordering drinks. I asked the waitress for my
Tanqueray and tonic in a tub this time and took a menu from her. I scratched
my neck and pondered the appetizers.
When the drinks came I asked for a shrimp cocktail with six shrimp, just
for effect. And doesn't Clarence trump me and ask for eight? The most
expensive thing on the me nu was a Black Angus porterhouse steak at forty-two
bucks. It promised to be over Lwo inches thick. So I got it. And mushrooms and
salad and soup and potatoes a nd peas and sour cream and coffee and milk and
rolls. I turned to Big Ed to catch his face a nd he slapped my back and said,
"Good choice," and ordered the same.
I said, "\Nhat about wine?" pointing to a Burgundy at almost eighty a
bottle on the list.
"I think it's a fine idea," Ga1y a nswered.
Clarence wondered if one was enough.
Obviously r was not pissing off anybody. r elbowed Big Ed and asked, "So
what about this job?" I figured on plunging right in.
"Think you ca n handle it?" he said, swirling olives around in his Martini.
"I don't know, what do I do?"
"Supervise sixty men in a twenty-tho usand square foot plant. Oversee
production of equipment. Be responsible fo r installation. \Nork with the union.
Keep sales higher each year, a millio n and a half to start. Maintain sales reps.
Contact all the local dairies regu la rly." Big Ed stabbed an olive and sucked it
down. Then he stared at me .

Jim 1\IIoran

I stared back. "No problem." I drank deep on the Ta nqueray a nd looked at

him again. "I 'll adjust. "
Cla rence pounded the table. "Confidence ! Did I tell you , Ed? He's got it.
He's the guy."
Big Ed sucked another olive and smiled a t Clarence. He nodded once.
"But Lhen aga in maybe I couldn't handle it. It's a big jump. Who knows?"
I figured I'd let 'em see both sides.
"Now, now," chided Clarence. "You said no problem and I believe you.
You'll be a natural."
Come on , I though t. What is this? Grill me ! Anybody ca n say, "No
problem." I turned to Ga ry. "1 don't like unions," r blurted out. ''Too ma ny
He ra ised a pa lm. "Ne ither do I. but we can' t avoid it. The whole plant
isn't union, though. Your office staff would be non-union."
"Sti ll, my daddy was a union man," I said. "We cou ldn'Lbe without 'em,
yes sir."
I hadn't called my own man, daddy, since God knows when , but I'd heard
somewhere that that's what they said down here.
Gary nodded. "That's true. Union's got us a good wage in the beginning.
Say, Keith, we use Phillips equ ipment, a nd we're satisfied, but it's getting old. In
your position , what would you replace it with ?"
He sa id this more to the others than me. It seemed it· wns a n important
questio n because they all gla nced a t each other, then to me.
I pu lled a t my lower lip. " I don't hold much with Phill ips, I d unno." I
fi nished my d rink and eyed them over the top o f my glass.
"What's wrong with Phillips?" Clarence had taken this personally.
Relieved a t the wedge I'd created, I drove on. "You all can use that crappy
stuff if ya want to. I'd buy Patz equipment, the whole plant." I waved my glass
nonchalantly. The one thing I'd learned from Earl's farm was that Patz made
the most expensive equ ipment around. "You wanna be the best, you buy the
"That stuff costs a n arm a nd a leg," Gary protested.
"Hey, you want to make a mil a nd a half next yea r? W hy not two? Or
three?" I sat back a nd shrugged. "Whatever."
Clarence and Gary were not pleased. They closed their mouths and
opened them again . They looked at Big Ed. He looked at his plate, then studied
I felt like laughing. I did ii. They were thinking l was some kind of bad
dream. We would eat supper and they would very nicely tell me I was the wrong
guy. I would feign s urprise, disappointment. I wou ld be crestfallen. Would they

Jim Moran

reconsider? No. And l would take a taxi to the motel and hit the town, hard.
Was this a piece of cake or what? I smiled up at Big Ed.
He reached out a fat hand, grabbed my shoulder and squeezed. "Has this
boy got the balls of a Texas Longhorn or not? Goddam, let's get the best, 'eh?" He
slapped his hands together and chuckled. " ! like it, Clarence. Patz is the way to go.
I been thinkin' about it, but I wasn't sure until right now if we had the man to run
it. Keith, you're a hell of a straight shooter. I like it. Gary, Clarence, what do you
say? Is that a balls to the wall move? Three million, huh." He clinked my glass.
Clarence was a little stu nned. Christ, I was a little stun ned. He coughed
and drank some water.
"Gutsy idea, Keith." Clarence grinned.
I think if Big Ed was happy, he was happy. Gary was more mechanical.
"Bottom line, with the proper strategies and balanced cost effectiveness
guidelines, a thorough feasibility analysis should yield the desired results."
"So vvhat are you sayin'?" Big Ed wondered.
"Hell of an idea, Keith." Gary shook my hand. "The parameters are
"Sure they are , sure." I slumped in my seat.
When the food came, I got a new idea. I cut the huge steak into monster
pieces I could barely fit into my mouth. l poured ketchup on it. l spilled my
milk. I used a cup and a half of sour cream on my potato, saving the ski n which
I tucked into a roll with wads of butter and crammed in my mouth letting drips
roll down my chin. Half of my soup I sucked from the bowl. When the waitress
came and asked how everything was, I answered with a full mouth sending a
volley of carrots across the table .
Nobody noticed. T hey were worse than me, munching and slurping,
tearing meat off wi th fingers.
Clarence was using a chicken wing to push peas onto his fork, then
gestured at me with it, spluttering, "goo foob, eh?"
Gary was a shoveler with his nose down close. W e no longer existed while
his mouth was working. And Big Ed used two hands. Food with the right, drink
with the left, back and forth, a small mudslide of crumbs a nd liquid trailing
down his tie. They were loud! My Goel, my mother would toss these slobs down
the backhall steps. I was losing my appetite.
"Like baseball?" Big Ed asked out o f the side o f his mouth .
"Yeah." I chugged a glass of wine and belched.
"Good, basketball?"
"No, I lied," and poured another glass.
"Me either. \!\That vvould you wear to work, usually?"

Jim Moran

"Smart, be one of the crew."

"!do n' t want to be one of the crew. I' m the damn boss."
"Of course, jus t look tha t way. Would you ever date a member of your
office staff?"
"Only if she' ll keep it quiet," I laughed.
"Uh huh." Big Ed chewed carrot sticks and celery like a woodchuck, not
even seeing me.
Damn them ! Couldn't you piss these people off? What did it take? They
were not gett ing the message. Was I too vague? I had done everythi ng short of
ins ulting them to their faces.
Big Ed had cleaned his p l ~He and was about to eat Clarence's potato. I
leaned toward his ear. "Take it easy the re," I whispered.
J-Ie sat back a nd turned his head , pushed up his glasses a nd s ta red me up
and down . He breathed in . "Thanks Ke ith , I really should watch it," he sa id
softly and patted my arm.
I felt like he ll. I finished o ff my gin and tonic and watched waitresses for a
"Wanna hear a joke, Clarence?" Clarence was trying to unbutton the top
of h is pants.
"What?" He crossed his a rms and lea ned forward. "Yeah , I like a joke.
Jeez. you can tell jokes too, huh?" he nodded to Big Ed.
I didn't th ink I remembered it a ll , which was perfect. Even if I did, it was
dumb but it was about Texas . so I gave it a shot. First, I poured a glass of wine
and finished the bottle. I began to fee l very comfortable.
"Well, this fe lla from up nor1h visits Texas for the first lime. He's stayin' in
a big hotel. His room is the size of a small duplex. So he heads down to the bar
and it's gigantic ..,
Gary started snorting with his hand over his mouth and I wanted to cuff
him , but I went on.
"This ba r goes on forever. So the guy walks up to the bar a nd he's still
looking around when the bartender comes up. "\,Ye do everything big down here
in Texas," the bartender says. Then the guy gets a beer, and it's bigger than a
pitcher. "Everything's big here in Texas," the man tells him . The guy has a few
beers, gets pretty d runk, a nd asks for di rections to the bathroom. Off he goes
down a long hallway, but turns left instead of right and walks into the swimming
pool. Well, he starts waving his arms and screaming, "Don't flush it, don't fl ush

They roared, they stomped, they banged their iists a nd blew food across
the table at each other. Ga1y had .:i coughi ng fit.

Jim Moran

This was the craziest damn n ight I'd ever spent. I never met anybody who
liked that joke. When the dishes were cleared, J ordered a cigar and more wine.
Clarence a sked for another Rusty Nail.
"Better \.Vatch that stuff," I to ld him .
He winced a nd changed his order to coffee. Tell me to mind my own damn
business. W ho would've fi gured. I slid down in my chair blowing smoke rings at
Gary. I was getting drunk.
It occurred to me that there v,1as big moment coming up. A last question I
had to answer. They were going to hate me. r could not see them letting me put
it off until morning.
Making a mad dash for the gate a nd jumping on a plane would not work.
They had stashed my bag in a locker somewhere. Maybe we could just forget
about it. Maybe they would be too drunk and I could leave town and change
my phone. Yes! I would lie a nd say I' ll be back in a week. Two weeks.
Disappear, make myself-"
"Ke ith ?" Big Ed had my shoulder.
Not now, Big Ed , not now. Don't say it.
"Keith, I got a feelin' about y'all a n ' it's a gooclun. You're sharp. You ain't
afraid to take a chance." Clarence and Ga1y leaned forward, smiling. "You shoot
straight and you stand tall."
It sounded like he was gonna make me a Texas Ranger.
"Now make us all proud and tell me you'll become the newest member of
Mid-West Milk Producers."
Big Ed was grinning like a rat tra p. I thought of my days as a boy scout, when
troopmaster Hagle asked if I would join the secret Indian order of the broken
arrow. I was one of the worst scouts ever born. Why me? Hadn't I stuffed my face,
told horrid lies and jokes and spent their money as fast as I could? I had been
brash and vague, and dra nk a gallon of alcohol. I had burped and smoked and
farted and told them what to do. All the ugliest facets of my character had been
either ignored or answered like I was some damn snake charmer. How had this
happened? \Nhy did they like me? I had done my worst and they loved it. Raved!
And then I was struck with it. I peered into Big Ed's waiting face, and to
Clarence a nd to Gary. They wanted me ! Like I was. I could be me and that was
all they wanted. Shit, if I was really me, I'd be even nicer. How could I say no?
These oafish, giddy gluttons were my people! I wrung Big Ed's hand.
"You got me," I yelled.
We all whooped a nd la ughed and clinked our glasses. I don' t think I've
ever felt better.

Deborah Robbins

my grandmother's kitchen can't exist

rooms homes families
when something vital goes
but this poem is a time machine
th is poem is time

you must pass through her husband's life

to get to my grandmother

a double rutted driveway

and three ceme nt steps take you
into a back porch
bigger than ho uses occupied
by shelves a nd tools and machines
parts of mach ines boots and clothes that smell
of o il a nd mud and fi sh
symbols of his trades
ma uls squares levels rock

touch nothing here move quickly pas t

the cave that hides the cistern

three more uneven s teps

s mell her coffee
Half-and-ha lf tobacco harsh biting
sweet yeasty bread
heat always heat
simmering baking vvashing and ironing
everyone always in the kitchen
everything in the kitchen
tas te everything here

what do you remember

what do you see

o ilcloth wooden chairs grey linole um

painted cupboHrds run your fin gers over
every s urface feel the grit

Deborah Robbins

lye soap leaves behind

jars empty and full
soft lumps under clamp towels
ashtrays always someth ing to clean
being cleaned

knives and spoons and rolling pins

the bite of bleach and starch on Monday
yeast hot sugar and spice
on Friday stacks of baking
to the church each Saturday
orange cards note specia l recipes
boots steam as they dry
work clothes and mud
and oil
Tuesday in the garden Wednesday night
at the grange the home farm
to visit the old aunts on Sunday afternoons

it's still mostly rock

but the uncles' ghostly voices
echo from the bear caves
glacier-stacked boulders
lit by kerosene
they call their games stud
five-card draw
the aunts giggling gi rls
play strip poker in the parlor
compare their breasts the width
of hips who can ha ndle
Lwins early widowhood run a farm
with sisters
never marry

home again
to that stove
bigger than a cadi llac

Deborah Robbins

I grew in a place
where wolves were still possible
there was wild magic there
territory domain
a wolf would have felt at home

Deborah Robbins

women are lizards

at home everywhere
eating what's available or left over
shedding each skin as it dries becomes
changing color
to match the drapes to su it decor
or mood
or purpose
how can a child be taught
to do what's right
for no re\.varcl because it's right
the child nm chosen uninvited
tripped in the game
finds no meaning in the experience
when fitting in
seems most appropriate
paybacks come to those who wait
some days Morn's invisible
clinging to a sunny window for half a day
creeping across the ceiling
making her own monocular way
blending in
exacting her ovvn sma ll vengeance

Tom Churchill

When my Uncle Mac was s till alive he took my stepdad and me fishing in
Cowichan Bay, in a rented flatbottom boat with a two-speed inboard engine.
His caterpillar eyebrovvs l"'vvitched when he ta lked, drawing attention to a face
that was lined and generous. Parts of o ne ha nd vvere missing and he rolled his
tobacco with great skill , licking the paper, spinning the cigarette a final time,
then lighting it with a kitchen match that flamed inside his cupped hands. He
wore steel-rimmed glasses and worked as a printer, loyal to the Canadian
Legion: a picture of him with his uniformed friends at a convention stood on the
mantle in their living room. He'd been wounded in a war and was much older
than Aunt Sylvia , the only one of my mother's sisters to have no natural
children. She had a worn , tanned complexion, the \vrinkles around her eyes so
compelling, I knew I could trust her with a ny secret, if I were the kind who had
one, wh ich I was n't.
The hills rose abruptly on a ll sides of the fjord-like bay. \Ne caught one or
nvo small springs. It was uns pea kably bea utiful to be fifteen and in charge of
the boat. Everything was going fine until my stepdad said, as we \Vere coming
in, "Throw out the clutch." I never understood the logic of 'throw out' when you
meant, push in . There was a momentary con fusion and loss of dignity as I
reached and yanked upward on the vertical clutch. Then he was at the helm,
the fish still flopping and bleeding hotly in the bottom of the boat.
Uncle Mac and Sylvia lived near Duncan in a gray, unpainted house
surrounded by mock orange, lilacs, peach trees a nd salmon pink roses that my
dark haired aunt tended all year long, doted on by her husband, wearing
longjohns and elastic braces to hold up his jeans. Much of what I have recorded
here, if chance or accident had a llowed me to be Aunt Sylvia's son, could easily
have led to a hea lthy child hood.

Excerpt from OLD NEWS, a novel in progress
Frances E. FitzGerald

Mary Ann didn't have the energy to get up from the guestroom couch. She
would lie here a moment before washing her face , getting into bed. Just for a
little rest. There was an afghan folded over the back of the couch and Mary Ann
pulled it over her. She turned o n her side a nd pulled her knees up. The blanket
was thin and she felt the cold again .
Sleep came abruptly, a suffocating presence. Mary Ann dreamt of a house
where there was order, where accumu lated dust hadn' t muted the shine of
wooden surfaces. There were crystal goblets and linen napkins on the supper
table. Colored prisms of light shimmied off the dining room chandelier. Books
were aligned neatly on shelves; magazines and newspapers were lined up in a
rack next to Daddy's chair. The colors were so much richer: the lavender in the
wallpaper, the mahogany beams across the ceiling, the honey-colored sunlight
washing across gleaming, hardwood floors .
She dreamt of her brother Billy's closet. She slid the closet door open.
Usually his t\vo good suits hung there but now there was only one. She wanted
to ask her mother where Billy's other suit was but Mother was resting.
The cook was suddenly in Billy's bedroom, her back to Mary Ann.
"Do you know where Billy's suit is?" Ma1y Ann asked.
The cook turned a round, a fierce look on her red and weathered face.
"Why, it's on him, what do you think?"
"But where is he?"
"He's in the back room, where he's been all night. Why don't you go say
hello to your little brother?" she asked , turning her back to Mmy Ann again, a
cruel smile in her voice.
Mary Ann was standing just outside the door of the back room, but she
couldn' t hear anybody. "Billy?" she ca lled. Was he napping? It wasn't like him
to be so quiet. Maybe he was being punished for something. Mary Ann would
read him a story to cheer him up. He was only six and he didn't read as well as
she did.
Mary Ann was standing just inside the door of the back room. There
wasn't anybody else there, only a long box set across the table. The silence in
the room had a pulse of its own . She walked up to the box and saw Billy lying in
it, only his chest a nd head showing. wearing his best suit. There was a rosary
threaded through his fingers.
"Why are you saying the rosary?" Mary Ann asked in a whisper, already
knowing. Billy didn't even know how to say the rosary. There were too many
prayers to remember a nd he could never keep track.
His face looked waxy. His mouth , usually wide with laughter, was now
pinched and bluish. His hands were small and his wrists jutted out from his suit
sleeves. Mary Ann compared them to her own wrists, which were plump and

Frances £. FitzGerald

smooth. She never said so out loud, because it would be boasting, but she
thought she had perfect wrists, not bony and sharp like skinny people's wrists.
Billy needed a new suit. Mary Ann couldn' t see his pant legs but she knew
they didn't reach his ankles.
She looked again at the rosary.
"You don't want this, Billy boy," she sa id, and the rosary became The
Wizard of Oz, his favorite story, and she was trying to fold his hands a round the
book. But his fingers were limp, they wouldn't grasp it. She balanced the book
atop his chest.
She wondered where Billy's soul was. She used to tell him ghost stories
and then tease him vvhen he was frightened. But maybe Billy was a ghost now.
The walls started breathing, the wa lls started humming, a chorus of Billys,
Billy's songs and Billy's taunts and Billy's shouts, they had seeped into the
room, they were spilling out from the wallpaper.
Mary Ann's eyes were everywhere. She saw him dashing across the
doorway, a flash of his white-blond hair, smelled acrid dust and the bracing a ir
of the outdoors.
She held the black-beaded rosary tight around her fi sts. Hail Mary full of
grace the Lord is with thee. Hail Mary, hail Ma ry. Protect me from sin . Protect
me from spirits.
She was in the basement, wandering through da nk and cold storage
rooms. The blood hammering in her ears, her mouth trembling with dread and
hope, she opened each door ready to see him, his face flushed and blue eyes
bright and hot as the sun. The walls throbbed with his noise, a sound like his
high and hurried voice.
Then she was in the treehouse, off-limits ever since Billy fell out of it. She
half expected to see him there, chewing forbidden bubble gum, coloring pictures
of wild animals from Africa, or lea ning out the tree house wi ndow, on the
lookout for bad guys.
"Billy?" Mary Ann whispered as she crawled in on her hands a nd knees. It
was a tiny, wooden structure vvith one narrow \.vindow. A threadbare throw rug
covered part of the floor. His wild animal drawings were tacked onto the walls:
tvvo lions, a gorilla pounding its chest. There was an old radio that didn't work.
The walls were silent. She sat, rooted to the spot. Mother and Father a nd
cook were at the base of the trunk, looking up. Their faces vvere angry and they
were shouting but she couldn't make out what they were saying. She opened
her mouth to tell them she was waiting for Billy but the words got strangled in
her chest and only soundless air came from her lips. The people began to get
smaller, the house got smaller, the tree was hurtling up into the skies. She felt
him behind her, just a glimpse of one thin wrist, he was pushing her out the

Frances E. FitzGerald

doorway. She tried to hang on to the branch but her fingers didn' t have the
strength, she didn't have the voice to cry out, she tumbled downward, the earth
pulling further away, terror exploding in her heart.
\iVhen Mary Ann awoke, her eyes darted to the corners of the room,
nervously, expecta ntly, a lifelong habit. She was cold and her chest hurt. She
got up stiffly, went to her room a nd slipped under the covers with all her clothes
on. She curled up and covered her face with her hands. She was tired, God
knows she was dead tired, but she was reluctant to sl ide back into sleep.
Sometimes sleep just made her more tired.

Christine A. Seroogy

when ra in
splatters the grass
a nd churns the sky
i see
small feet
step softly down
to the staircase window
the tossed
ba re branches
o f the autum ned trees
i fee l my skin
blaze hot
my chest
tremble with breath
there is nothing before
nothing after
the image
sta nds alone
as i stand
the house is empty
the beams creak
a nd i feel safe
with the wind
with trees lashing
their twisted limbs
they know what i
don't dare to see
and for me shake
huge fists to the sky

Christine A Seroogy

She wanted
to roast marshmallows
with matches pocketed
from the kitchen shelf.
She didn't cry out
when her fi ngers
blistered red.
Her eyes darkened,
a fire' s black embers.
I thought she was dead.

I buried her here,

under this tree.
With a stick I dug
into the meadow soil.
The roots of the trees were shallow.
a tangled coffin in which she lay.

Now, twenty years later

I find her poetry tacked
to the prickly ash,
hear her whimper
when the fireflies dance.
In the dark. I sneak to the tree,
with my fingers scratch the ea rth.
I hear her song
as she rocks
her doll to s leep.

Christine A Seroogy

I stand on the hill ,

the knot of my gra ndfather's land
passing through my hands.
A loam, fine, dusted with sand,
my mother's toes su nk
deep into furrows her father
plowed with horse and sinew.
Work and care locked
his lips tight. By the time
I came around few words
slipped through the thin bars.

I plant foxglove and delphinium

where once golden oats
nourished his heart.
As my toes settle
in the powdery soil.
l feel the string tighten,
vibrate with a child's song
sung low to the dandelion
and hear a shrill whistle.
the thud of hooves,
the snap of reins.

Christine A Seroogy

Chiseled to a point
the feathers preened
three long rows
of silky red
spear the heavens

Does it pierce
its target
or drop unfelt
a sigh burrowing
in beach sand

Karen F. Matzke

Slim sits perched in a wheelchair, no legs or thighs. Just a torso that ends
at the pelvis, pant legs tucked underneath him. He has lost a lot of weight in his
old age . He looks a grayish color with silver white hair that hasn't been combed
"I don't get much company a nymore. Especial ly the young ones," Uncle
Slim says, referring to all the cousins. He's glad to see me. Can't quite get the
name at first, but when I tell him which brother I belong to, the name springs
from his lips a nd he is pleased with himself.
"Have a cold beer," he says. "And I'll have o ne too. Hell, it's after noon so
there's no harm in it."
In the refrigerator l fi nd a half loaf of bread, pickles, cheese, an open can
of sardi nes, and plenty of cold Blatz beer. I grab two bottles, pop the caps off
with the bottle opener nailed to the side of the cupboard and sit across the
kitchen table from him. He pulls his wheelchair up close, tucking his imaginary
legs under the table.
Slim takes a long swallow of beer. "Ah, that hits the spot. So how're the
folks?" he asks.
''Good. They' re both doing real good. /\t least I don't think they have any
complaints this week."
"Seen your dad just last week as a matter of fact," he says. "He's driving
school bus ever since he retired. Says he likes it okay."
"He does. Keeps him busy and out of Mom' s ha ir. She likes that. They'd
probably drive each other nuts if they were home together all clay."
"Ya, Jack gets out to see me once in a while. That's nice 'cuz I can't get too
far anymore you know." He pats the arms of his wheelchair. '"Him and Bob and
Matt and Bernie, they a ll come out to see me yet. Keeps me company. So \vhere
you working now?"
"At the bank. I've been there going on eight years and I'll probably be
there forever. But I like it. Good money."
"And your brother, what was Jack telling me about him? "
"You mea n Brian? He got a new job working for the city. He also had
another baby, o r l should say his wife did. Little boy named Jason."
"Ya that's right. Jack did tell me that." He takes a long swallow of beer.
"You ain't still livin' at home, are you?"
"No. I've been on my own a long time now. I've got a nice little duplex
over on the east side. I like it."
"So what brings you out here anY\vay? Can't be an old man like me."
"Actually, Uncle Slim, I came to ask if you have a ny old family
photographs. I was looking through the handful Dad has and he thought you'd
have more since you' re the oldest in the fami ly."

Karen F. Matzf?e

Slim stretches his right hand toward the center of the table where his
cigarettes lie. The nails are long, untrimmed, very yellow. Dirt embedded
underneath them. How he's changed since Dot died. As if she had kept his
fingernails clean. He grabs the pack, pulls a cigarette to his lips, reaches in his
pocket for a lighter and draws the smoke in hard.
"Boy oh boy. That's a tough one. I know there are some around here. Dot
would' ve been able to find them in a flash, but hell if I know where they are. Let
me go check in the closet."
He rolls his wheelchair into the bedroom. The house is quiet and I can
hear the steady drip of the bathroom faucet. Doors open and close. A box falls.

Slim is the oldest of twelve kids in Dad's family. Six boys. Six girls. His
real name is Walter but family stories have it that he was skinny as a string
bean as a kid and kept his nickname long after he outgrew it.
He married Aunt Dot after returning from World War JI. Her full name
was Dorothy Rose, but everyone called her Dot. As kids we thought their names
were hysterical, Slim and Dot. They were a very special aunt and uncle to all of
us. Never having kids of their own, they spoiled us rotten. Their reason for
never having children was one of those carefully avoided subjects: fema le
Slim a nd Dot had a basement full of toys and games. A full-size pool table
with balls, cues, and even the little blue squares of chalk. A football game that
vibrated the players up and down the field when you plugged it in. A pair of
stilts, a record player, and even a pogo stick. We thought they had everything.
Aunt Dot always had cookies, cake, pop, and candy in the house for us.
Dot passed on about three years ago. Had a heart attack in her sleep and
went just like that. "Great -..vay to go," everyone had said. But I' m not so su re
any way is great. Slim lost both legs over the past several years. Lost them bit-
by-bit to diabetes. First a foot, then take a little more off, then just under the
knee. Now the other foot and a fall breaks open the shortened leg. More has to
come off. Things aren't healing. f\ little more here, a little more there.

"Here's one." Sl im rounds the comer, an old photo album on his lap. "I
know there are more around here somewhere, but it'll take me a while to find
those. Dot couldn't have hid them too far away."
I take the book and open it carefully. Several black picture corners that
have come ungl ued with age fall to the floor.

Karen F. Matzke

"This here is Dot's book. Most of these pictures I took while I was in the
service and sent back to her. She put them all in the book. That's me in my
uniform . And that guy was from Kentucky. A real nice guy. Look here's Matt
playing his guitar."
"Wow, he looks like James Dean with that cigarette hanging out of his
mouth," l say. "You guys were pretty handsome in your day."
I t3 n1 the page carefully, afraid the pictures will spill out. Slim lights
another cigarette. Takes his time filling his lungs a nd holds the smoke in a
"\Nhat was it like being in the big war? I don't remember Dad ever talking
about it. It must have been pretty scary for the fami ly having two boys in it."
"Nothing I'd ever want to do again. That's for damn sure. I didn't have to
go, you know. Could've gotten a waiver to stay home and work the farm. But I
used to fight so with the old man that J was just as glad to get avvay. I was
young. I thought it would be exciting or something. At least better than livin'
with the old man. So off I went to spite him, even though it just about killed Ma.
"I was in the invasion of Normandy. On a tanker, just off the shore. The
whole sh ip was full of fuel for the trucks. There weren't a lot of us on that ship.
We sat there a ll night listening to shots knowing just one bullet could turn us
into a billow of smoke. We tried playin' ca rds, but we were too nervous even to
do that. So we a ll just sat there waitin' for the orders.
"! had myself figured for dead that night. Yup, had myself dead. Made my
peace with God and the old man." He snubs out the cigarette. "Hmph! Funny
how that stuff works. I still hated the old man when I came home. Didn't take
me long to forget my peace.
"Anyvvay, when we invaded the beach it was a blood bath. The water was
so red. As red as your shirt there. But l made ir. Made it out alive and in one
piece. And look at me now. I come back and they start cuttin' me apart. Lost
both my legs in the encl anyway.
"\i\fe went into those camps you know. l was there for that. Nothin' you
really want to remember or talk about. That's for su re. Anything you've ever
read or heard, it was worse. I'll tell you somethi ng, you can't look at life the
same way <ifter something like that. It sure put us cocky boys in our place. I've
got some pictures from those camps around here somewhere too."
''You do! Goy, I'd love to have you find those for me. "
"Oh , that's nothin' you'd want to see. Bod ies stacked up like cordwood. I
can remember ta kin' the pictures because we just couldn't believe it ourselves.
Surely no one back here would believe it. But I don't think I ever showed too
many people ." I-le lights another cigarette. "Now get your crippled old uncle
another beer. "

Karen F. Matzke

1 get up and move toward the refrigerator.

"What kind of car you driving these days?" he asks.
"An Escort." I grab two more bottles, the caps fall to the floor as I pop
them off.
"Get pretty good gas mileage with that?"
As the conversation shifts I realize Slim doesn't want to tell me any more
old stories or look any deeper for photos. I decide to come back another day in
search of more family history.
We have another beer and ta lk about the dry weather, his broken radio,
the chipping paint on his house. During my drive home I think fondly about all
the family visits I'd experienced as a child and what a living history I have in
my family. I'll come back in search of more pictures, more stories. I'll tap the
other relatives, too.
I saw my relatives often when I was younger. Times were tough and
money was tight, so visiting family was our entertainment. Mom and Dad would
pack all of us kids in the car on a Saturday or Sunday and off we'd go to visit
one relative or another. Tvvo of my uncles had farms and that's where everyone
usually ended up. 1 reme mber days a t Uncle Matt's farm up on the ledge just
outside of town. Sometimes there would be four or five families out at his farm
at the same time. We'd play in the barn, chase the cows, swing on a rope in the
hay mow, pick green apples in the horse pasture. and pet the newborn kittens
we'd find tucked into hard-to-find corners. I remember one time when we were
jumping back and forth across the cow gutter in the barn and I slipped and fell
in. Mom said it served me right for doing something so stupid and I'd just have
to suffer with the stink until they were good and ready to go home. I had to stay
outside even after it got dark. Another time I got stuck inside an old threshing
machine we weren't a llowed to play in and Uncle Slim finally came to get me
out. I felt like I was in the re for hours. I ripped my pants and cut my leg, but I
knew better than to cry.
When milking time rolled arou nd out at the farm, we "city pups" were only
allowed to watch, but even that was fun for us. Sometimes the aunts would
whip up something for us to eat. After dark we'd run around the yard playing
chase or kick-the-can. Then \•Ve'd a ll cra m together in the beds upstairs. The
adults would sit around the kitchen table swigging on beers, talking, and
smoking cigarettes. We'd be upstairs laughing about them or telling scary
As I grew older I became more interested in the conversations that wen t
around the kitchen tables. Nixon 'vvas president a nd something they all agreed
on (maybe the o nly thing they all agreed on) was that there was noth ing worse
than to have a Republ ica n in the White House ... He was destroying the family

farm, the worker, squeezing the middle class out altogether ... Jimmy Hoffa and
Johnny Cash, now there were some fine men ... They could hold the country
together... Union s were good ... Teamsters the best ... Money was nothing but
trouble ... The on ly way to save your soul was to go to church faithfully and pay
you r church dues ... Prices were outrageous and you could hardly afford to keep
your kids in shoes anymore ... There was nothing quite like a Dodge ... And why
would anyone in their right mind want to travel so far from home.
As the years passed, Carter would save the country . .. Kids have no respect
for adults anymore ... Can you believe they'd ticket a priest for drunk driving? So
what if he has a nip or two, he's a good man ... Don't let your wife work ... Why
would any woman want to? ... Skirts are too short... Hair is too long ... Imagine
anyone getting a divorce ...Family and a cold beer are at the heart of life
itself. .. Work hard ... Live good ... Andjust be damn sure you don't get caught

I never made it to see Slim, to hear more stories, to collect more photos .

Three nights ago Dad called to tell me Slim had a stroke.

"He's doing okay," Dad said. "Holding his ovm. Talking. Seems to know
Then another stroke. This one on the other side of the bra in . His heart
stopped briefly, but they revived him. There's some activity yet. Can't tell how
bad he is. l wonder what is going through his head, I know wh at he'd say to me
if he could. "I have myself figured for dead. Yup, have myself d ead. Made my
peace with God and the old man."

Tom Cllurcllill

They drove to the little farm just up the highway from Wapato. There was
Uncle Manuel's rusty pickup parked in back, under the cottonwood and next to
the barbeque pit. "You could hear that beast squeal a ll the way down the road,"
Andy remembers. Uncle Manuel was behind the truck. Already they could smell
the pig shit on his boots; then they pulled in and he was there with a couple of
the older guys and three or four little kids, getting underfoot. Looked like they
were sticking a stake down the pig's throat so it wouldn't bite anybody. The
stake stops the squealing pretty well. One of the older guys ca lled out, "We
could use some young bucks in here with some real muscle." So, to hell with it,
they didn't even change their pants or their shoes, just wandered over to the
pickup. Gene's dad, Felix, was there, directing a little kid from down the road
where to position the dishpan under the pig's head. The porker was a big one,
maybe two or three hundred pounds, his bristly side matted with crap, his legs
tied up with rope. Uncle Manuel was up on the pickup bed beside the pig, busy
with the wire he had fixed through a hole in the pig's ea r, the n wrapped around
the pig's mouth. Must have come loose on the trip over, that's why the ungodly
screaming just before they pulled in.
Gene's brother Glen was on a rare visit from his Canadia n island with his
nevv \.I.fife, and Gene wondered how he was taking it. He stood on the back
porch, rubbing his jaw, probably thinking when wou ld be the appropriate time
to bug on out of there. But it was good that he came down once in a while, no
matter that this pig roast would put him right off his feed. Gene's ma came out
on the porch, wearing a little rouge on her worn cheeks, maybe competing with
Vergie. Glen' s new vvife, who was a knockout.
"Who's strong enough to hold this damn pig here?" Uncle Manuel called
out, though they knew who he meant. So Gene and Andy hefted their way up
into the pickup and each took a pair of tied up legs. Man, the pig sh it odor just
about trashes your brain. Andy's eyes were rolling in his head, a nd they would
be laughing if they were telling someone outside the valley at this moment, but
it's impossible to laugh when that stink drills its way into your nostrils. Andy
says 'you know some of the old men around that place are pretty rank, but they
talk about Manuel like he was king of the manure pile.'
The pig would be kicking the slats out of the truck if he weren't tied up.
One time they'd seen one of the young guys assigned to the legs untie too quick
when he thought the pig was dead, and that pig got loose, tore around the
compound for half an hour before he bled all over everyone and keeled over in
the neighbor's tomato plants. This one was trembling with rage a nd fear. The
wire from the hole in his ear went to the pickup railing, then wrapped around
his muzzle and was doing the job of holding him in place. Gene's dad had his
long thin killing knife aimed at the jugular, and just then someone lit the big

Tom Churchill

barbecue pit and it went off with a whoosh ! Gene's brothe rs, Stan a nd Steve,
not much younger than Gene and Andy, took on new light from the flames as
they la id the springs from Gene's o ld bunk over the coals. They heard that
horrible death gurgle fro m the pig's throat, then there was like an earthquake
routing all over the fl esh so that for a moment you thought he was going to lift
you right off the truck bed with his fina l energy. You hear the blood pouring out,
splattering the pan like oil dropping from a crankcase, then quickly the
splattering turns to the sound of thick fluid rising up. "Throw in that vinegar,"
one o f the older guys said. "Stir it around, stir it around. Got some barbeque
sauce? Oh. that's the best part, you dip you r meat in that and it makes you
strong like a horse." Yeah, sm e, Uncle, they think, and later some dodo would
be going a fter the blood. He would car it and his voice would drop way down
like he'd got instant manhood.
Gene glanced at the porch. Glen was not there; his ma was taking a smoke
break, her graying hair catch ing the rays of early evening, booming down
through the hills.
The blood had bottomed out, the porker was dead. But they held off
releasing the binding on the legs. One of Gene's sister's got the hose and they
jumped off the truck, Gene's new jea ns were messed with pig shit; he wouldn't
be dating in those for a whi le. Andy took off for home for his special knife he
kept for pig roasts; Gene had o ne, too. but it was always being bo rrowed for
othe r uses, the symbolic value t<J rnishecl.
It was there in his d rawe r. I-le took it to the shop where Glen was
sharpening one of his carv ing tools, pretending to be deeply involved, but Gene
could sec he was shaken . Gene took a stone to his hunting knife. Gene shook
his head like , 'Jesus Christ, this is one ri tual I can do without.· "Do you want me
to cut you a piece?" Gene asked him. "Already ate in town, thanks," he said_
The pig had to be gutted first. He was on his back; one of the old men was
bent over, had a knife in his anus. cutting right up through the chest cavity.
Someone else with a huge plastic bag catches the gu ts, an enormous mass of
steaming, twisting entrails that--if nothing e lse had--turns the little kids off,
some of the girls and boys turning away saying, "Oh, gross !" but wanting to be
there. Good for show and te ll a l the grade school next Monday. The pig carcass
is turned a nd washed, turned and washed , the hose hitting into the hide,
spraying rainbows. It was not too complicated from there. They each had their
knives. You cut a slab, he cuts a slab, she cuts a slab, plenty of meat; actually a
ton of meat it seemed like.
Pretty soon there was less light, with the sun dropping towards the
mountains in the west and the old guys sitting comfortably with cups of
whiskey. sipping and ta lki ng quiet ly. 'They talked to each o ther, never to us,'

Tom Churchill

Andy remembers. The meat sizzled on the bed springs over the barbeque fire.
Someone dipped his meat in the blood a fter it was cooked and made a big deal
of it, telling his buddy it tasted powerful. t1y ing to convince his nevv steady girl
to do it, too. "No way," she said. Gene and Andy a nd his brother, John, and
Gene's brothe r, Sta n, had part of the fa mily picnic bench. The meat was
wonderful ; the odor lingered in the ai r. The old men were taJkjng. "Is that your
boy, Gene, Felix?" one of the uncles from town asked Gene's dad. They were
right beside the younger o nes. "Yes," his dad said. "And that's my other boy,
Stan. " The young ones d id n't look at the old guys, just listened. "Well, he's got
to be quite a strong boy."
"They're both stro ng boys," Fel ix expla ined. "The both of them wrestling."
"Is that so?" "Oh , yes, very strong boys. And that's Andy, that's John. Both of
them wrestle, too. " "I'm not s urprised , with uncles like that. Didn' t these fellows
work Torres' farm last yea r?" "All but Gene and Andy, they were at Nak Nek."
"Oh, yes. They're all good workers." "Might be better if they all was up in
Alaska next year." "You can help them?" "I think Brendel needs a guy for fork
And when the young guys heard "fork lift," they started to perk up. Their
eyes were cutting this way a nd that, hoping, hoping. None of them could forget
110 degrees, fucking hop fie lds. Driving those loser trncks into town at 5:30 in
the morning to pick up the winos; working the whole day, half the time sleeping
in the warehouse they were so tired at the encl of the clay. "Yeah, I think he
needs a new fork lift driver." "One of these young guys, you think?" " It would be
good to ask around, you got connections up there, Felix." "Yes, we'll see, maybe
the whole crew of them up the re this year. We'll see."
The loya lty between those olde r guys was almost frightening. Gene and
Andy sometimes wondered if the younger guys could ever be as close as their
fathers. They'd neve r been bitten as hard as the other generation, but
sometimes the unexpla ined longing they felt ca me right from the fact that the
young ones could never ta lk to their fathers. Gene listened to Felix, he respected
him. He couldn't imagine talking to him about a girl, for instance.
He saw his dad hi t his khaki shirt pocket for the ghost of his cigarettes that
he 'd been off for two months, rub h is ha nds over his slick, black haired scalp.
His dad's feet in his little black shoes were caressing each other, rubbing back
and forth ; that mea nt he was deep into some story. And, s ure enough , '"'hen
Gene looked back at them, Felix a nd two o thers were grinning at some tale one
of the ancient ones was telling in d ia lect, surely about island girls with beautiful
skin, glossy ha ir.
Suddenly he cou ld smell Vergie's perfume, and she and Glen were walking
around, saying quick goodbyes. He smelled Vergie, she kissed him, he was still

Tom Churchill

wearing Glen's coat. He'd taken it off to do the pig, now he didn't want to give it
back to him. For one second Glen hesitated, like maybe, maybe, but he
followed through and lifted it from Gene's hand. "You come and see me, man ,"
he said qu ietly a nd Gene knew he meant it. Yeah , one day, he would come and
see what it was like to live on an island. Vergie waved at Felix, Gene could hear
the stretch and creak of nice things under her dress. She was like another set of
fluids inside that dress, so full of motion he had to keep reminding himself,
Married, remember? To your brother, remember? There are rules. And just like
that, before he could start to feel seriously bad for lusti ng a fter her. they were
gone out of their lives again. He had wanted to talk to Glen about art. He don't
know anything about it. and Glen made his living carving beautiful things,
strange masks that moved Gene almost to la ughter and tears, but he did not
know what they meant. He wanted to know what Glen was doing, wanted to
feel the pieces he was doing now that showed up so powerfully in the photos
Glen took of them, but still called out to be touched. He had made these great
carved animals . much like the tribes do up there, all sirring under his house to
'keep it warm,' Glen said.
So his brother had made it. And he might, too. Anybody has right to a
home and a job, and a future. Sounds dumb to say it to yourself. He had a brief
view of himself in a classroom at college, there was a guy at the board talking
about Latin America. No . the Philippines? Well, maybe. Fi nd out about their
The older guys were toasting themselves with whiskey. Andy was holding
up pretty well after Uncle Manuel had come and sat next to him with his green
goo he had in his plate that he got from the skull he and another duffer broke
open to "get the really good stuff."
"How about you other boys?" he asked and they turned him down as
quietly as they could . Pretty soon he ambled off with his plate and his cup of
whiskey and the air around their table eventually became breathable again .
"Alaska," Felix said dreamily.
"Well ," Andy said. "Maybe this is where we came in. Anybody got any
beer money."
Gene moved with him towards the house . "I left twenty bucks from
working those smudge pots in the sugar bowl. If Ma didn't find it yet, she can
consider it a loan. "
The old guy at the Ranch Tavern gave them the case out his back door,
warn ing them as usual he could lose his license. They drove to Andy a nd John's
place in W<ipato. The moon was out, just enough light to help them through a
game of hoops, two on Lwo, under the drooping basket they'd put up on their
garage. Later, ti red and sweaty, each with a can of beer, they sat on the grass

Tom Churchill

next to the rabbit pens, rabbit eyes burning in the light of the moon as they
munched behind screens in their pissy straw. A hen squawked from across the
yard, dream ing a nightmare of skunks. You could see new s prouts beaming up
out of the ir garden, and beyond the newly developing apple trees ran a greenish
horizon, the roll of ancient hills.
"So who gets the fork lift job?" John asked.
Right away Stan said, "Oh, that's Andy's, he's the fi rst driver in the world
discovered old man Torres' trucks got t\"10 set of brakes."
They came right down off their elbows, laughing on the grass. Two
summers ago, Torres told Andy, "You know how to drive? Take that truck into
the warehouse, my driver's hungover, sick as a dog." So Andy gets in this big
truck, but he's only driven automatic and ·whe n he sees the clutch, he thinks it's
the left side brakes. You got the right side brakes and the left side brakes. He
drives it all the way into the warehouse like that, ramming the gear shift,
basically driving it all the way in low, c ramming on left side, then right side
brakes, and when he gets to the warehouse he quizzes the man running the lift,
"Hey, my left side brakes don't work worth a shit, can you give me a hand?" The
guy climbs up on the side of the truck and looks at Andy like he's retarded.
Andy's pumping away on the clutch , complaining that his brakes are out of
balance. The guy went to the phone to call Mr. Torres to tell him he had an idiot
for a driver, but by that time Andy had lurched the truck all the way back to the
fields again.
"Not as bad as poor Bobby," Andy said, "remember, he fell right out of his
truck, fell asleep, just fell right out, there wasn't a door on hi s side. Lucky he
was all in convoy, we'd never have saved him. "
They cracked open three more beers, told a few more stories. Compared
lottery numbers for about the hundredth time. No one was scared, they said.
Not too much.
"Three ninety-four," Andy's brother informed then quietly and Gene
wondered, 'How long before my brother gets his? How many months you nger is
he? And, three ninety-four, is that high or low?'
"So I go to Alaska for three months, l won't even know if I'm in the army
or not until I see my mom's face at the airport," Andy said.
"You said it. Man, I haven't even tried to think about this goddam lottery."
"You better start. My number is not good," John said clea rly, like Gene
might not understand what three ninety-four meant.
Gene listened to Andy: "Anyway. l'm all day trying to get a meeting with
fuckin' Counselor Nimrod to see what the chances are of lasting out the
summer. He walks right past me today in the hall withou t s peaking. like I am
dirt. Pacific Rim class of his. te lls the class Roosevel t knew about the sneak

Tom Churchill

attack, tells the class 'many' Fili pinos collaborated with the Japs. l told him, 'so
what, MacArthur forgave them.' And man he got reel. Piss on him, one day we
drop a candy bar in his gas tank."
"What's his car?" Gene asked.
"White Escort wagon, sucky car. Why?''
"You really were thinking of a candy bar in his gas tank. Arc you nuts?"
"Of course I was. One of them Butterfingers, long and thin."
"And when the engine blows up it'll be his wife driving and she forgot to
strap the baby in the car seat."
"And that's one less of those Nimrods to bug my friends."
"You gonna graduate with us?"
"We'll see. But no wa lkin' across the auditoriun1. I rn n graduate just as
well at home watchin' te levision. You ca n prance across with your robe a nd a ll
your fami ly out there eatin' it up."
"Maybe Betty and my sisters. And I got my old Zorro cape somewhere."
"That would be nice, wear a jock under it with a red ribbon ," Stan said.
Andy was still burned about the counselor. "God, that Nimrod, you know
when he advises, he's got it lined up that Filipinos make good sailors, so he
brings out the Navy brochures when they go in."
"What do we do in the Navy. wait tables?" Gene asked him.
"He thinks that's a step up. I'm freezin' with that wind coming in."
"A week from tonight we're on that plane, don't forget."
"Can't wait." He stood up, stre tching. "Alaska Airlines Flight 28, baby,
taking off." He let out a fi na l burp, wa lked over by the barn and Gene could
hear him pissing for a long time before he pushed into the house and closed the

Dee Sweet

It had been a long time since Gus Devereaux had seen the inside of the
Mahnomen County jail. The last time had been when he rode over with Cecil
Monroe to pick up his twin daughters, the teen-age terrors, Rayda and Roleen.
They had been caught stealing candy from behind the cou nter at the Dee-Lux
Theatre in Ponema. Rayda \•Vould distract the attention of the manager (she \.Vas
born for this job) while Roleen would reach over a nd grab a half dozen boxes of
Raisinettes or Goobers. Officer Barteau thought it would give them a good scare,
spending some time in a jail cell, waiting for their father. Both Gus and Cecil
agreed that the only one who may have been frightened by the whole
experience was probably Officer Barteau. The Monroe twins had don't-care
walks and their hearts went cheap for a ride in a new car or a glimpse of the big
city. Many times Gus heard Cecil threaten to lock them in the woodshed until
they were old a nd ugly.
Gus Devereaux, on the other hand, didn't spend much time getting in
trouble--he left that to the others who were plenty willing at the White Earth
reservation--especially the young Indian men who tried to emulate their cousins
in the city--the AIM riff-raff. That day when Officer Sarteau told Gus he had to
let the repossessor into his home to take his furniture away, the o ld man was
mortified. He had never, even in his wildest dreams, ever imagined himself to be
on the wrong side of the law. He was glad his wife Eva wasn' t alive to see him
reduced to such a crusty level of wickedness--surely his heart wou ld not be able
to withstand the torment. And all for a new box spring mattress!
His plan had been fairly simple. Applying for a loan was something Gus
thought he could manage. He'd bought his first car that way, with Eva's father
agreeing to co-sign for the loan . Eva had arranged the whole complicated
transaction and Gus had driven the '56 Pontiac Chieftain all over the
reservation that day. He had been especially proud to show the relatives that
the hood ornamenr--a head of a stoic Indian brave--did, in fact, shine in the
dark when the headlights were on.
"Payments comfortable for a fixed income" the loan officer had told Gus
that day in the Ponema Federal Savings and Loan. The application had been
difficult for Gus to comprehend, so he asked the lady at the desk to he lp him.
The loan officer was pleasant enough for a white lady except she spoke too loud
when she read over the application to Gus. He wasn't deaf. I-le just didn't know
about collateral or garnishment.
"Have you ever been indicted for a crimina l offense?" The woman's
glasses were attached to a black cord and rhey sat on her huge chest like two
coyotes on a cliff. She looked like an aging Betty Boop to Gus, but even then, he
thought how beautiful she must have been as a young \Noman. She waited for
his reply as did a couple of nosy old women, who had stopped to gossip in the

Dee Sweet

bank lobby. They both stopped talking and waited for his reply. Gus wondered
if he should mention a multitude of misdeeds that he had comm itted. Keeping
incorrect change. Double parking. The newspapers he'd occasionally steal from
Red's cafe counter. He felt like an axe murderer. 'vVas he under oath? Gus took
a chance and answered no to the question.
"Have you ever defaulted on a bank note? " Audrey Steffenson was the
loan officer's name, according to the nameplate on her desk. He r hair was
probably dyed to make it look as brown and as free of gray hairs as it did, Gus
thought. She probably spent a lot of money keeping herself young. Gus didn't
have the heart to tell her it wasn't vvorki ng so well.
"Not to my knowledge," Gus answered. The woman looked at him oddly.
She touched her hair once or twice and then looked at the old man over her
"Sir, I believe you'd know if you had defau lted on a loan. It means to be
delinquent on any loan agreement."
"Oh. " G us watched the L-vvo women walk av.ray, having grown tired of
listening. "I still say 'no' then, I guess. " Gus was a little confused. His maxim
was not working. When dea ling with the Blue-suits, say what you th ink they'd
like to hear. \Natch their eyes and wait for the answer to come into your head.
And above all, "yes" is better than "no". Gus waited for the next question a nd
tried to pay close attention to Audrey's eyes.
"Do you have any collatera l" Audrey Steffenson made checks all over the
application and then waited for Gus to reply. Gus wa ited for his answer to
come, but nothing sounded right to him. Collatera l? He looked out the window
a nd watched a car splash water a ll over a woman trying to cross the street. She
said something and Gus smiled. He cou ld read li ps .
"Stocks, bonds? Anything to claim?" Audrey was getting impatient. Gus
would have to think ha rd on this one. He didn't want to disappoint her but he
had no clue what collateral was. What did it have to do with his loa n
application for a new box spring? He had promised himself last winter that
come spring he would go to the ends of the earth to buy himself a decent
mattress. Gus Devereaux bega n to weigh the prospects of a chronic back
problem with completing the loan application.
"What about furniture? Chairs, e nd tables ...Your furn iture could stand as
"Sound good to me," G us said enthusiastically, "Chairs, encl tables .. . I got
it all."
"Sign here, please." Audrey pushed the application in fron t of Gus a nd he
carefully wrote out his name. The new box spring was as good as his. Yes sir, it
would please him to no encl to wake up without a backache tomorrow mo rning.

Dee Sweet

As she walked over to one of the tellers on her businesslike way, Gus surprised
himself with a romantic thought about Audrey Steffenson, whether out of
gratitude or simply for his amusement, he did not know.
It didn ' t take long for Gus's luck to turn on him. Only weeks later, Gus
was sweeping the porch steps and he was brought to his knees by a pai nful
tightness in his left shoulder. It hadn't been critical--Cecil Monroe teased him
on the way home from the hospital, "A week in the HorsePistol and you're still
as ornery as ever."
The n the letter from Owen Mills Lumber, Gus's employer fo r some 23
years, suggested he retire two years sooner than he'd planned:
"Please be informed that Owen Mills holds a policy of mandatory
retirement for a ll employees except supeivisory management, at age
62. But in view of your recent illness, we must require immedia te
dismissal (with due severance) from you. We believe this action to
be taken in the interest of your health and in the limits of our liability
as your employer ... "
When Gus bega n to miss loa n payments, he knew something bad would
happen. He expected Audrey Steffenson to come to his house and insult him.
He began to prepare for her visit, washing the windows and tidying up the living
room. He even changed the quilts on his new box spring mattress, should she
want to sec what the loan was indeed for . Gus almost looked forward to her
visit, thinking he might ask her to join him for supper.
Officer Barteau was disgusted at the way the bank had handled the
situation, and as he stood in the doonvay watching the repossessor weasel his
way around Gus's ho me, he looked embarrassed. The repossessor stormed into
the house as though Gus Devereaux would t1y to climb out a back window,
casing the old man's home with a fiercely determined look in his eye.
"What in hell ... ?" The repossessor had looked at Gus's furniture and acted
as though he had bee n ambushed. He looked beneath the scraps of cloth Gus
had placed o n the end tables. There, beneath a kerosene lantern a nd a Velvet
Tobacco can was a peach crate tu rned on its side. Gus's coffee table was a rain
barrel sawed in half. His finest piece of living room decor were the matching
lawn chair a nd chaise lounge that he had bought at an auction, the webbing
half gone but replaced with pieces of fabric carefully woven to match the
pattern. In total. Gus's "collateral" was worth no more than $15.00. counting
the rest of the kerosene leh in the lantern on the end table.
Ju stice had been swift. Gus Devereaux, accused of Joa n default and
"fraudulent representaeion of one's worth," was placed in Mahnomen County
Jail. The deputy on duty that night thought the whole matter was silly and could
hardly believe that the repossessor could be so vengeful towards the old man.

Dee Sweet

Gus Jay on the bunk in the jail cell, getting used to the idea that he was a
jailbird. when he heard a commotion in the front office of the jailhouse. He
heard voices say "political prisoner," and "victim of circumstance," and Gus
knew who'd come to his rescue. How much could one man take? Gus
Deverea ux, a t age 60, had become partners in crime with the infa mous Monroe
twins. Surely his late wife had a part in this cruel twist of fate. Gus held his
head in his hands and waited for the worst to come.
"And you call yourself an officer o f the law. Why, this is a n outrage.
Holding one of our honored e lders behind bars. Have we not s uffered the extent
of the white man 's cruelties? Must you continue to belittle and berate our
people with your twisted sense of justice?" Roleen Monroe, a true orator with an
ear for the fine art of ridicule, had been given the go-ahead from her Uncle
Cecil. Rayda whispered to Gus that they were there to "bust him out" and since
they couldn't come up with the bail money, they would use the next best thing:
shame and disgrace and the threat of media exposure. Gus pleaded with Roleen
to go home a nd get Cecil, but she said the best was yet to come.
"Now, wait a minute, Roleen ," the deputy tried Lo calm her down, ''It's no
federa l offense. Why, Gus'IJ be out of here by Monday." He laughed, trying to
share the comedy of the situation with Gus. Gus felt sorry for the deputy, as he
watched Roleen continue her tirade.
"You have so casually imprisoned o ne of our lcciders and for what?
Because he is unable to pay for a place to rest? He h:is s uffered the greatest of
indignities--the desecration of his ancestra l lands. And you place him behind
bars because you wors hip a Sealy Posturepedic?" Roleen s tood inches away
from the deputy, gla ring at him with all the finest grace and fin esse of tricks ter
theatrics. He r swagger became more confident and her fis t-clenching reminded
Gus of a movie he saw, called "Billy Jack". Oddly enough. Gus found himself
grinning with Rayda, waiting to hear more of the shame and disgrace he was to
"Of course. you know what this means, don't you," Roleen watched the
deputy shift his weight like an altar boy found napping. "You force us to petition
our warriors." The deputy suddenly looked pale a nd uneasy, not quite sure if
she was serious o r not.
"For the love of Mike, Roleen," the deputy moaned, "I don't need this." He
tugged at his collar. "I'm only part-time."
"Yes, Russell Means and the rest o f the AIM warriors should arrive at a ny
mome nt. "
Rayda whispered a cue to her sister, "Channe l 4 News team."
"And of course, Channel 4 News team." Roleen s uddenly took great
interest in her fingernails. "Investigative journalists cat this sort of thing right

Dee Sweet

up." Gus began to take greater inventory of the situation. He'd be on T.V.? No
kidding. First Iron Eyes Cody, then Gus Devereaux.
"Look," the deputy tried to take control of the course of the situation, "I'll
make some phone calls, Roleen. Just don't get excited." He threw his arms up in
the air, muttering that he should have taken that security job at the slaughter
Before he knew it, Gus Devereaux was a free man again, walking arm and
arm with the Monroe twins out the front of Mahnomen County Jail. As he
walked out the door, he turned to the deputy and said, "Remember the Alamo,"
and winked a t the haggard young man. They all howled about that one when
they got to the car. On the way back to White Earth, Gus found himself feeling
very indebted to the girls. The Monroe twins had made Gus Devereaux feel
worthy of some dignity.
He thought that probably had some connection to this notion of collateral.

Michael Harry Reetz

Thick mandarin rnoon-

its nacarat face-
ha ngs on the shore .
Light-quakes flitter-
Choppy black water.
Below The Big Dipper
we bang across the Bay.
The four of us,
bunched together,
shiver wind in the back
Cap Sandbar's boat.
We wrap coats and sweaters
arms and legs
around the girls
Dani burrows into your side.
I cup my hand over Rosie's ear.
Inside the break-water,
foam the white of January,
engines exhaust.
We sway on the oil-drum dock
wave out good-byes to The Cap.
Like cottonwood seed they tumble
into the camp bed you fold.
Moist canvas. The pale orange
lantern-light. Your gentle hand
checks warm foreheads.
You know, this is what
they will remember.
Not the Magic Nursery doll
or the Barbies,
but this cool August night,
a Bay soaked wind,
enough stars to guide
ten thousand ships
and the four of us.
all bunched and shivering
in the back of Cappy's boat.

Michael Harry Reetz

Thin, earth-browned
fingers cling to a small ax.
dried grapevines snap
under his ox-blood broga ns.
A field mouse bolts
from its rusted tin home,
her pink clinging babies
tumble li ke bombs
on the sandstone.
He sits on The Great Bou lder
where The Old One once sat
to ponder his drea m name:
The stone carrier."
Pahoto removes his shoes and socks
rests his feet on the cool flat stone.
There was a place,
back there.
before the fighting.
A white house on a lake,
screened porch and a swing;
big leafy trees
sagging in the sun.
Those sponge-hot summers
fishing bluegills
and pumpkinseed.
Swimming Walpole Island
with Ma rie and Cora.
Mud tu rtles in the river
drove the catfish upstream
but the bullfrogs
owned the lily pads.
Those long dark wi nters-
coal piles on the snow.
Tangled jimsonweed crunched
under Granclfalhcr's boots,
his tracks erased
by the long wood toboggans.
Two-pound coffee cans

Michael Harry Reetz

of sa nd and diesel fuel

burned all night on the ice.
He'd skate wirh his sisters
until some man from \Nashington
picked the ball with his number.
Pahoto turns over
the flat stone under his feet,
finds the leather pouch and the tin.
He smooths his fingers
over Grandfather's fading words:
"Spirits, whom we have always obeyed
here cause the sky now to open
and place the waters all in our power
for we are warriors- away, away."
The ax head smashes
pieces of shale.
A dog tooth necklace
tumbles from the tobacco tin.
Pahoto spits
on the flat black stones
and drea ms no more

Michael Harry Reetz

Thunder claps shake house and day

dreams salt from my head.
\i\Tater drips from swollen roof
runs down the pane.
I must check the pails
they are sure to be full.
Outside, trees shake like dogs
water from their leaves.
I dump five gallon buckets
of rain to keep
the basement dry.
Grnvel steams. Hundreds of night
crawlers lay scattered like twigs,
stretched out-some thin as stri ng
longer than my shoes.
I return to damp co111fo1t
of day bed,
licorice nips and Irish coffee,
If Ned the fisherman was alive
we'd pick up those worms,
store them in a box tucked cool
between layers of wet newspaper.
He'd put the box
in his old Fridgedaire
and vve'd wait
for a hot,
June morning.
Ned would spin
factory yarns
'bout he and Pa,
their young days
at Cutler-Hammer.
And with the s un
burnin' hot
on our necks
we'd drink
sweet iced tea
and feed the bass
off Shooter's dock.

Kathy Gol~ey

Things are getting worse. It's been almost fo ur months since I came back
here and everything is getting worse. For the first three months l was numb. I
got through the days doing what I had to do automatically like a robot, a
zombie. I slept through the nights without dreaming or waking. Then three
weeks ago that all changed and this incredible unhappiness settled in. It's like a
huge tightly wound ball in the pit of my stomach. I can feel it if I press in just
the right place, just below my ribs. If I could reach in there and get a hold of it
and turn it around until I could catch the end of it, maybe I could start to
unravel the thing a nd get it out of there or at least make it smaller.
What a morning, a few more wraps around this ball. I swear every
segment of this family had someone stop in here, they just kept drifting in and I
had the distinc t feeling that they were all worried or sad about me. It wasn't
anything I could put my finger on at the time, but after that little talking to
Grandpa just had with rne, well, everything is starting to make sense.
Four months ago, vvhen I came back here, I should have called a family
meeting and just spi lled my guts a nd told them everything. That's probably what
I should have done instead of just showing up here in the middle of the night
with two kids and our clothes shoved in pillow cases and grocery bags and just
telling Grandpa and Grandma that it was impossible for me and the kids to live
with Don any longer. They took us in and never asked me one question. After
three weeks Grandpa said, "Jacklin you are not a frivolous girl. If you feel that
you can't go back, then you are to stay here forever if you like, or we can fix up
the old house for you and the kids. It wouldn't take much. As for a job for you,
v,rell we need someone to keep the books for the cheese factory and the gravel
business. You can work out of here or the old place, whichever you wish. You
don' t have to take the job. we'll find someone else." I told him I'd rather have
my own place, and yes, yes I'd take the job and 1 thanked him.
"You' re welcome," was a ll he said. He, nor nobody else in this family, ever
asked me one question about the mess I've made of my life.
That's why I can't understand why they're all in such an uproar about
yesterday. I pack my kids up. leave my husband and drive home clear across
this state, move in here and nobody says anything. Then I do one dumb little
thing yesterday and they're a ll acting like they' re worried that I'm losing IIIY
"Now don't go getting snippy," Grandpa said to me. "You don't have to get
defensive with me. The only reason I stopped in to talk to you about this a'tall is
because I believe that when a person is unkind to someone smaller or weaker,
it's because they're unhappy with themselves. Now, that's all I'm concerned
with here, is that you're unhappy with yourself. Don't go reading a nything e lse
into what I've just said. I know I'm not easy to talk to. I never did get the hang

J<alfly Gol~ey

of talking personal. But there are a lotta people here who love you, so you just
pick someone out you feel comfortable with and you talk this through . You
gotta get happy again right away. You gotta do this for your kids' sake."
I didn't a nswer him. 1 couldn't. We sat at this table and finished our coffee
in silence. I couldn't look at him after he said that either. I just stared out the
windovv. But I could feel him staring at me, with his eyes full of won)', tiying to
figure me out.
Finally he got up and took his cup over to the sink, and when he started
for the door I got up too, and walked with him. Just before he opened the screen
he turned and hugged me. And I could feel 23 years of love oozing from his
body. I wanted to tell him that part of the reason I feel so bad is because of him
and G randma. I wanted to tell him that one of the reasons I stayed married and
tried to make it work for as long as J did was because T didn't want them to
know I was unhappy. I didn't want them to worry or feel sad about me and now
that's what they and eve1yone else in this fam ily was doing. I wanted to tell him
that I didn't leave and come back here until I made myself admit I had to get
my kids out of there, until I made myself admit that that' s probably why God
gave kids two parents, so that if one is crazy or cruel that the other parent
morally had to take the kids away. I wanted to tell him how sad it made me to
see my kids so happy here and Jesus, I wanted to say that I was n' t unhappy for
any of the reasons they all thought I was. But I couldn't tell him any of that
while he hugged me and told me what a "fine girl" l was, because if I wou ld
have said one word I would have s tarted crying. And if I ever start crying I know
1 will never be able to stop.
I don' t know how Grandpa heard about yesterday. He doesn't concern
himself with such things , not ever. I suppose Bozee or one of my sons
mentioned it to him. No, the way everyone's been dropping in here they
probably told someone e lse in the family and that someone told someone else
and by the time Grandpa heard about it, the whole incide nt was probably
ti..visted and blown out of proportion.
The whole incident was just a Sanity Saver. That's how I think of these
little lies 1 tell, as Sanity Savers. Maybe I am unhappy with myself, hell I don 't
know, I can't sort that Ollt. Bllt Grandpa is wrong about Bozee , I wasn't unkind
to her. Jesus, I haven't sunk that low.
Bozee is my allnt, Grandpa's sister. Sixty years ago. when she was eight
years old, she fell off a porch and hit the side of her head on a kerosene can .
After that she never grew very much, never developed, not physically or
mentally. My Allnt Bozee is a 68-year-old, gray haired, wrinkle-faced, skinny,
little eight-year-old kid.

Kathy Golwy

When I was a teenager and would complain about her, Grandpa would
say,"Oh don't be fussin ' about Bozee. You're forgettin' she's just eight years old.
You acted that way when you were her age. all kids do. Remember she's had
lotsa practice being eight. She knows how to do it real good. So stop your
fussin ', she's just pullin' your tail. Just don' t let her get to you a nd you be kind
to her. "
She lives right across the road from here, on the farm where she was born ,
where she hit her head. She lives there with he r sisters, Aunt Liz and Aunt Jesse.
I know exactly what happened over there yesterday. Liz a nd Jesse would
have gotten Bozee dressed and fed , and they would have done their morning
chores, and then they would have gotten into Bozee's exciteme nt.
You see, Bozee has a calendar (someone brings her a new one every
December from the co-op), and on this calendar she marks, in red crayon , a ll
the important events for the whole year. Every month has two elates circled and
carefully labeled with her peculia r printing. The calendar hangs in their kitchen,
right next to the picture o f the Last Supper.
Our mother did this when Bozee was real young. I've heard the
explanation of the calendar a dozen times. "The rest of us were gro\ving up a nd
getting on with our lives and Bozee wa s just staying the same. There were no
schools back then for kids like her, there wasn't a nything fo r them. Our mother
thought she should have something of her own. Something that would make he r
feel important, that she had control of, a nd that she could look forward to.
Nobody knows for sure how it came about. There are severa l explanations
in the family for it, but for whatever reason, the second date marked in fo r July
on that calendar has always been the 18th. And that is a lways the president of
the United States birthday.
Bozee start talking about this right after the fireworks a re done with. Then ,
on the 18th, she bakes the president a birthday cake from her mother's favorite
reci pe. \ Nhen she's fin ished someone always "mails" it to the White Ho use.
"God help us if some July 18th we have a substitute mailma n out he re."
(This is my cousin Ian's fear now that he's grown up. When he was a kid he got
into baking the President's Cake just a s I did.) "If that package ever leaves he re
this \·vhole family is going to do time in a federal pen. Does anyone know how
long you get for trying to poison a president?"
But I know yesterday, the aunts told Bozee to come over he re and get my
boys and bring them back there to help with the cake baking. They would have
told her to be extra nice to them and say something n ice to me. I know Liz and
Jesse so well I can hear them , "Bozee, remember to look both ways before you
cross the road and remember to take time to say something nice to Jacklin,
cheer her up, honey, and you be nice to the boys."

Kathy Gol~ey

"Oh Jacklin, you look real pretty today," she said as s he came bouncing in
Nothing could be further from the truth. I've lost weight, I need a haircut,
and no amount of makeup seems to cover the dark circles under my eyes.
v\Thile she waited for Steven and David to finish their brea kfast s he rattled
on about what is involved in the cake baking.
"Room temperature, that's the secret. The eggs have to be room
temperature. My mother always sa id that. That is very impo rtant, very very
important. Liz and I set the eggs out last night. I jus r touched them, they' re
room temperature all right."
My sons are delighted with Bozee, just as I once •vas, jus t as I usually am .
But right then tha t eternal child's voice was grati ng o n my nerves.
"Bozee, Bozee I have an idea. We can do it he re, we can bake the
President's Cake right here at my house ."
David said that. Fra il asthmatic vulnerable David. The reason I had to
come back here. Steven and I would have survived, but I don ' t know what
would have happened to David. David with his huge, dark, old-ma n eyes.

"Jesus , keep this kid in here. I can't stand listening to him breathe. I'm
trying to read the paper and I ca n't even concentrate with him wheezing in
Don stood in the kitchen doorway holding David our in front of him , at
arm's length, as if the child were repulsive. Wha t a contras t the two o f them
were. Don, blond, big boned, muscula r. David , dark, thin, small for his age,
fragile looking, hanging there from h is fath er's huge hands, trying to breathe in
quiet little gasps, trying so hard not to cry. He was not a llowed to c1y. BOYS DO
NOT CRY. Begging me with his eyes to help him.
As Don walked across the kitchen he shook David a nd ordered him to
clear his lungs and to brea the norma lly. When he got to the sink, where I stood
frozen, he pushed the child at me. David's little a rms and legs wrapped around
me in a strength that would have impressed his fa the r. I could feel his heart
pound. His congested lungs heaved his chest in a nd out.
"If you wouldn't baby HIM, if you'd make HIM eat. If you'd teach HIM
how to cough, he'd be normal. But no, for some sick reason you are determined
to spoil HIM."
Every time Don said him , he poked David's back for e mphasis. Every time
he did that, David pressed aga inst me harde r a nd hung on tighter, as if he were
trying to melt into my body.

Kathy Gokey

When Don reached the kitchen door he stopped and without turning
around he said in a quiet controlled voice, "You keep him in here, keep him out
of the living room. I've had the clamnclest clay. All I want to do is relax and read
the goddamn paper. Now, is that aski ng too much?"
I knew then, when after five minutes, I stil l co uldn' t peel that fo ur-year-old
frame from my body or get his head out of my neck, when I couldn't make eye
contact with him to soothe him and tell him everything was OK, that was when
I knew I had to get him and Stevie, blond , husky, little Steven, my baby who
was standing in the doorway silently watching us, 'vvaiting for me to make
everything right, then I admitted that this all had to encl.
"Vve're not going to be staying with Grandma and Grandpa anymore. The
men are clone fixing up this house and we're going to be living here from now
o n. I know it isn't as nice as our other house , but I'm going to be doing some
more painting and wallpapering, and I kinda like it. I'm going to be working
here , too, right in that room off the kitchen. ln this ho use there will be no
spanking, or shaking up or hollering. In this house you can do as you please,
\·veil, almost as you please."
That first night here I was awakened by David shaki ng me frantica lly.
"Mom, mom, wake up," he whispered, "you gotta get up now! Steven wet
his bed, you gotta change him qu ick, you gotta change h is bed, qu ick! "
I sat up a nd tu rned on the light. David stood there, pleadi ng with his eyes
for me to act, to save his pissy little brother who stood whimpering by his side.
"Hey, hey, it' s OK" I told the m. "You don' t have to whisper, everything is
W ithout getting out of bed, I pulled the sopping wel pajamas off of Steven
and threw them into the ha llway.
"Those can stay there until morning, nothing can hurt that floor. " I picked
the tee shirt I'd worn the day before from the floor a nd as I sli pped it over
Steven's head I told them, "His bed can wait until morning, too, I'm not getting
up for nothing. You guys can sleep in here for the rest of the night. Now get in
here, I'm so damn tired."
As we la id there in the dark, I told them aga in that there would be no
spanking or shaking or hollaring or mean talking in this house. I told them again
it was OK to have an accident, to cry, to be afraid of the da rk, to be ::1 little
sassy, a little messy. I told them again, "This is your house, you can do as you
please here."
"I forgot Mom," David sa id just before he fell asleep. I could hea r the re lief
in his voice a nd I could feel his whole body relax as if he had set something
heavy down, something he'd been carrying for a lo ng time. His breathing
seemed quieter, less labored.

Kathy Gokey

I couldn't get back to sleep. I laid there between those kids and the
nu mbness I'd fe lt for the past three months was replaced by this incredibly
complicated sadness.
"Bozee say we can bake it here," David begged. "Say yes, please, PLEASE.
This is our house and we can do anything we want here."
We all watch Bozee think. It's strange but we all do it. My Uncle Chet
noticed this years ago.
"Watch this, watch this," he said in a half whisper as he sat up. I must
have been 14 or so, it was a fall Saturday afternoon and we were all sitting or
laying around Grandpa's back yard. A broken tractor belt had brought our
potato picking to a halt. It had been decided that my Uncle Pat would make the
trip to Miller's Garage for a replacement. From the pickup truck he had just
hollered, "Bozee, wanna come a long? Wanna go for a ride? I'll buy you an ice
cream cone."
Everyone there quit talking or dozing. All the aunts, my uncles, Grandpa,
Grandma , my mother, Ian, all stopped what they were doing and turned and
silently stared at Bozee.
"It's the damndest thing," Chet whispered, "You just notice, pay attention
after this, this happens every time she has to think. Whoever is around stops
what they're doing and concen trates with her, as if they can help push the
thought through her damaged brain. 1'111 not kidding you, it happens every time.
And every one of us does it, even the goddamn dog. Now watch, now watch.
\/\!hen she unscrews her face and relaxes those skinny little shoulders and starts
breathing again, well, she's done thinking. And everyone knows it, even if they
don't know they know. Now watch, they'll all go back to where they were before
she had to grind out that thought. Once she exhales and relaxes they won't
even wait to hear her answer."
After Bozee's shoulders dropped and she started breathing again, her face
turned to normal and she said, "Will we be back before dark? Liz is going to
make popcorn and Kool-aid, when Lawrence \iVelk comes on the television, so I
gotta know."
Before she said that everyone was back talking or dozing. "Isn' t that the
queerest thing? You just notice, it happens every time, every damn time."
Chet shook his head and laughed. Then he laid down and closed his eyes.
Both David and Steven stopped eating. They put their spoons down and
watched Bozee think. And I watched her, too. And oh God how I willed her to
say no. Because all of a sudden I remembered the mess the President's Cake
produced. There'd be burnt pans from scalding milk and melting chocolate and
butter. There'd be a half dozen sticky bowls. She has to beat the egg whites and
the egg yokes separately. She has to whip the butter. And the frosting, God she

Kathy Gokey

chops nuts and browns coconut and browns some more butter. Jesus she has to
sift the flour three times. When she's done with that cake, besides a sink full of
burnt pans and sticky bowls, the re's a fi lm of flour covering every fl at surface in
the kitchen, there's batter and frosting on every cupboard door handle and
every stove knob. Jesus, she spil ls and splatters and with a three and four year
old helping her it would be worse than ever. Oh God I wanted her to say no.
But she didn't. The aunt's suggestion that she be extra nice to the boys
must have made its way through her head. When she unscrewed her face and
relaxed her shoulders and exhaled she said, "Well, I guess I can make it over
here. lf you really want to, David, yes. yes, I can do it here. I know how real
easy. Sure, I can do it here. But I gotta go home and get my eggs. You gotta
come and help me. There's lotsa eggs."
I suppose while they were going after the eggs I should have ca lled Liz and
Jesse a nd told them, told them what? That I just couldn 't stand the mess, that I
just couldn't stand listening to Bozee's yappy little voice for four hours? Well, I
couldn't do that. I suppose I could have lied and said I was sick, or I had to go
to town or something.
But David was so happy about baking the damn thing here. He's slowly,
just over the past three weeks, stopped clinging to me and he's voluntarily
talking to people and going off without me. This was the first time he suggested
using his house (let's play at my house), words he'd never been a llowed to say
before, words he never dreamed of saying before. So while they were across the
road, getting the room temperature eggs, I came up with a solution , A Sanity
"Oh Bozee," I said when they walked in , "while you were getti ng those
eggs, Lady Bird called and said I was to tell you that the President loved the
cake you sent him last year. He really did. But Lady Bird was hoping you'd do
her a favor just this year. You see, the President's favorite cake in the world,
next to yours, is Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge." I took the eggs from her and
handed her the cake mix 1 had take n from the cupboard. "Now, Lady Bird is so
busy she hasn't had time to bake him one for five years now. She asked me if
just this year you wou ld mind making him the chocolate fudge instead of your
mother's. Ir was real important to her that you would do her this favor. Oh , and
Lady Bird also said to tell you the President is having trouble with his teeth. The
dentist says no frosting. Lady Bird was wondering if you'd mind just sprinkling
this coconut on the cake." I handed her a package of coconut.
David and Steven and I stood there and watched Bozee. When her
shoulders relaxed and she exhaled and her face unscrewed and set tled into a
smile she said, "Well, OK, sure sure, if 1hal's what she wants me to do, sure."

Kathy Gokey

They made the cake from the mix and the mess was manageable and it
only took two hours. Bozee supervised the whole operation.
"Yap, yap. yap. Stir it like this David. watch me , like this now. No, no.
Stevie, you have to wait your turn, just wait. Don't touch Steven."
David even laughed out loud when Bozee scolded Steven for eating the
"This is very important, Steven. We have to use this all, you'll ruin the
recipe. Spit it out right now. Spit it in my hand."
While she blotted the chewed coconut on her dress and sprinkled it on the
cake, David laughed out loud.
W hen the cake was finally in the oven, they created a birth day card for
Mr. Johnson. And when they were fini shed and the cake was done I helped
them wrap the package and we wa lked to the mailbox to "mail" it to the white
Walking back here l picked up Steven and carried him.
"Mama , I love Bozec," he said as he reached over to pat her head.
"I do, too, Steven, l do, too," I answered and I meant it. I put my arm
around her shoulder <rnd pulled her close to me. We walked back to the house
that way. Me ca rrying Steven, Bozec with her arms around my waist, and David
running around us in circles kind of singing and hollering. "I love you, too,
Bozee, I love you, too.'' And that's a ll there was to it.
When 1 was a teenager, acting up, being a real pain in the ass, Grandpa
had one of his "talking to's" with me. I snipped, "You know I'm not Grandma. "
He answered, "That, Jackli n, is the first sensible thing you've said in a long time.
You , my girl, vvould not make a parch on your grandmother's apron. I'm not
expecting that much from you. Hell, I' m a reasonable man. I just want you to
behave and I wa nt you to think a bou t what I've just said. "
lie a lways ends his talking to's wit h that, "Now, you Lhink about what 1
just said." Well, I am thinking and this time Grandpa's wrong. I wasn't unkind
to someone smaller and weaker. Hell, that isn't me.
"There's lotsa people here that love you." Well , I know that. He didn 't have
to tell me that. "Pick someone out and ta lk this through .'' No way, absolutely no
way. I was right not to say anything when I came back here. I knovv Don so well
and I know all their people so well, they cou ld never understand. How could
they? How could people who stop and help Bozee think ever understand Don?
"You gotta get happy for your kids' sake." I know that. I knew that without
him telling me. It's just l don't know how to.
But if these kids would sleep for another hour, if that phone wouldn't ring.
if nobody else would stop here, if I could just sit here in peace and quiet for one
ho ur a nd gently pull on the end of this SITing that I've just caught hold of. ..

Deborah Robbins

Maggie O'Neil ... could only be recognized by pieces of jewelry in her hands,
which had been given by her lover.
Thomas Williamson - survivor

ancient sea bed
crad le song
step upon a stone
tha t screa ms beneath your feet
Castle Marvelolls Castle Perilous
you have lost something
consumed by anger a nd possessed

fire missed this place

but ash clotted the air
the heated limestone buckled
forming a ridge
a high place outside the city
a monument

you must learn to banish hope

exist in performance
obscure nigh t watches
when a ll is still
and nothing sleeps


in the smoke-filled forests of our initiation

do we see the sun or evening sta r
the dreaded night
pa st or still to come
and are these beasts
the empty sna keskin in the p ress
between smooth stones

Deborah Robbins

curses the whisper of new scales

you have lost something

who shall we conjure--

mother earth or fath er fire
\Nater wind
bones of a new soil

wind and fire topped

the pines and cedars
directed later growth
wa ter and earth
change the land
but along the ridge sumacs darken
each autumn the color
of old blood

I ll

my mother's parents died

quick painless
in sleep almost
a photograph
Grampa's wedding su it
mimics a ga ngster's
the hat with its wide, soft brim
hides his face
Gramma's chin burrows into
her rea l fur collar
rustle of wind splash o f water
a jar of honey we swim
like flies in the awfu l heat

a chain o f grandmothers da ncing

with satyric consorts
before prophesy mate with an animal
we dance in shadow

Deborah Robbins

the women in white walk

the green scent of cut grass
moldering leaves

loon water-1..vitch screa m

columbine jewclweed
once opened
these blossoms may not close

my fourt·eenth Christmas
is a brocade bathrobe
teepee-shaped small hint
of a body mostly blue
and gold overly green
and too stiff for comfort

an Indian princess
stalks these battlements


dark crucial hou r

before dawn blinding
heat at noon alteration
of sound air desire
quiet madness of women
an indescribable perfume

to a sparkling afternoon
and one vague night wasps
in fruit jars snakes
in paper sacks you have
Jost something yes

Deborah Hobbins

pine birch cenLury-old cottonweeds

massive on the ridge
gray limestone
the idiot fire
sile nt and dark
new growth of weeds each spring
bloodroot razorgrass

the moon is a man with many daughters

cruel and kind
heat lightening no thunder

fire strode these treetops

like a conqueror caught them
across the bay and to the north
Porte des Morre
the Door of Death
thinking water could save them


the limestone ridge split

from the lower pastures
when fire across the bay
cracked and warped the bedrock

the same day Chicago burned

trout boiled
in these cold-flowing streams

useful farmer woman

with floured arms can you
contai n the fire

Patricia Derozier

She pulled off U.S. 2 onto the side road at about one a.m., the headlights
on the Fiat catching the green s ign : "Seney 45 miles.''
Ever s ince Escanaba , she'd been toying with whether or not to s tick with
the main highway north to Marquette or take the Seney stretch: narrower,
nearly deserted compared with U.S. 2, guaranteed to cut forty -five minutes off
the drive.
Tired after six hours behind the wheel, neck cramping and overdosing on
trees, Marta opted for the shorter route. Had it been January, s he'd have
sh unned the little highway that ran through forty-five miles of low-lying swamp.
A breakdown under winter conditions could be dangerous, but in mid-August
with a nearly-new car, the most threatening natural phenomenon Marta could
discern was the heat lightning that crackled far away in the sky.
According to the original plan, s he s hould have been in Marquette hours
ago. But in the original plan , she and Brian were making the trip together. not
her doing a solo run from Detroit to Marquette.
Flexible. Gotta be flexible. lf you're going to throw some doofus out of
your life, you need to build a few extra hours into the blueprints.
She lit a cigarette. Okay, if not today, it would have been soon, beca use
she'd been playing tag with the truth for months now. He'd pushed it to this
point, not her.
Feeling happy, Brian? Have a drink.
Feeling bad? Have a drink.
Not sure how you feel? Hey, have a drink.
The little fair yesterday had started out as fun. Good food , the original
artwork better-than-average, the small groups of performing musicians
genuinely delightful.
Eve1ything was fine until he'd ins isted Marta have her fortune told.
"I don' t like that kind of stuff. " She could hear her own voice in her head
now, whiny, a nd Marta cringed at the memory.
He'd pushed, the edges on his words already slurring, and to appease him,
she'd acquiesced and found herself staring into blue-white eyes that s tood out
in startling contrast to the deep brown face of the old woman.
"You ... you' re ... "
"Blind." The old woman finished the statement for Marta. "Yes, my child,
Sister Teresa is blind to the world that you see, but I am able to sec other worlds
with absolute clarity."
Oh Goel, hokey-pokey or what? Mmta could hear 13ria n s nort and felt her
own face fl ush with embarrassment for both herself and the fortun e te ller.
"Now give me your right hand. dear, and I will tell you what I see there."

Patricia Derozier

Bria n leaned on her chair and Marta could feel his breath warm on her
neck, the familiar sweet smell of wine wrapping around her face and fi lling her
"You will soon take a long journey." Brian's snorts had graduated to
guffaws. "But ... " Here the paper-dry thumb that was circling Marta's palm like a
small insect hesitated . "... you must be very careful. Beware of flying ... "
Brian lost his balance, driving Marta forwa rd into Sister Teresa, the three
of them ending in a tangle on the ground.
V\lhen they'd disengaged themselves and helped Sister Teresa back on to
her metal folding chair, Marta fumbled in her purse and pulled out a five dollar
bill which she pushed into the old woman's hand. "I'm sorry. Very, very sorry."
"Remember, my dear, beware ... "
"Yes, yes .. .! know. Beware of flying." Marta had her arms around Brian
and was a lready pulling him through the circle of curious gawkers.
And so, that's it, she thought. No more Brian, no more pretending those
hangovers were nervous stomachaches or just a touch of the flu. No more
glasses of wine in the shower a nd no more six-packs to celebrate even the most
mundane of daily events.
No more Brian.
A good time to start fresh. A whole weekend in Marquette with her old
roommate from college. Maybe she'd even buy a bottle of champagne to
celebrate. Poetic justice.
She broke the remainder of the ride into segments in her mind. Forty-five
miles to Seney, another forty to Gwinn, then just under forty to the outskirts of
Marquette. Two more hours.
She d rove with her left arm draped outside the window, sometimes
opening her hand to let the wind slide through her outstretched fingers. If she
held them open long enough, the air felt solid, like cool rods of glass running
between her fingers.
Marta increased the pressure on the accelerator and watched the needle
climb from 55 to nea rly 70. V\lhat the hell, she though t. Hit a deer at 60 or hit a
deer a t 70. In a car this size, it doesn' t really matter. It's too late at night for
deer, anyway. Glad I took this road. At 70 miles an hour, the little car feels like
it's flying.
Nope, nope, nope, she corrected herself. Not flying. Beware of flying,
remember? I'm just moving hellaciously fast.
A few miles in, the tall unbroken stands of trees that had fl anked the
highway for hours gave way abruptly to low tangles of bushes on either side of
the road.

Patricia Derozier

Good-bye forest, hello swamp. This is what made the Seney stretch so
treacherous in the dead of winter: nothing but swamp cut through the center by
a two-lane highway. The headlights on the Fiat kept a consta nt yellow pocket of
light a head of the car, but beyond that, absolute darkness. White lines flew out
of the black night, like teeth on a giant concrete zipper rushing endlessly by.
She realized she was squi nting and had been for some time. The air was
full of small bugs and the windshield was peppered with little patches of green
and brown.
Must be a hatch on , she though t, and hit the washer knob.
She was blind. Water sprayed across the glass and the wiper blades
spread a t:hick melange of wet insects across the windshield . She pulled her foot
from the gas and held the washer knob while a steady stream of water flushed
the window.
It cleared gradually, going from dirty wet translucence to streaks and
fin ally clear save for a few stubborn spots that clung tenaciously to the glass.
When she could see again, Marta realized the car had drifted dangerously close
to the gravel shoulder.
She pulled back to the center of her own lane with a long sigh, unaware
that she'd been holding her breath, eased the speedometer back to fifty and
held it there.
How far have I come? There were no landmarks in the area, only long
stretches of sameness.
"Damn!" She squealed and jerked her left arm up. Someth ing struck her
forearm in the fleshy part, right be low the elbow and Marta had the brief
sensation--she wasn't sure if she saw it or merely felt it--of something black
ricocheting from her forearm to her shoulder and out of her range of vision.
What the hell was that? She didn't care how big they grew mosquitoes in
these parts, that was no ordinary little bug.
\tVhatever it was, it packed a wallop. She looked down at her arm and,
hooking her left thumb around the steering wheel, rubbed at the welt that was
already the size of a fifty-cent piece and nearly as hard.
A june bug? How could it be a june bug? This was the middle of August.
She hung her arm out the window again, hesitated, a nd then pulled it
inside the car and cranked the window half-closed.
Oh brother, she thought. Midnight on the moors or what? All we're missing
is the Hound of the Baskervilles.
She fiddled with the radio, trying to get a clearer fix on the station out of
Green Bay and was rewarded with faint tinny music. Too low through here, she
thought. She ran the dia l from top to bottom and back and found only a
religious broadcast and a country-western station. After the third chorus of

Patricia Derozier

something that had to do with worn-out boots and one more beer, she turned
the radio down, finding as much comfort in the luminescent green glow as in the
low murmur of other voices.
Something black and of uncertain shape moved behind her, its reflection
sliding quickly across the lower half of the rearview mirror.
"What the ... ?" The sound fell from her lips. Whatever she'd seen, it was
inside the car, not outside. She looked quickly over her shoulder, but saw only
her luggage, an M.S.U. sweatshirt draped over the two bags.
The bug. The damned ka mi kaze June bug or whatever it was must have
bounced into the back seat when ILhit her arm . She glanced into the mirror off
and on again for the next few miles, but saw no further movement.
She was not stopping, nol out in the middle of nowhere to hunt down a
bug in the back seat. It couldn't be that much farther to Seney. They would
have at least one streetlight and she could stop and let the little hitchhiker out.
Boy, what a story he'd have to tell his buddies.
Except, from what she'd seen in the mirror, it seemed so big. Judging from
what? A quick flash in the mirror illuminated by the tail lights? Yeah, right
Marta. You've captured Rocky the Flying Squirrel.
It's a bug, you dope. A stupid disoriented bug that's just a little confused
to find himself riding in a sports car.
Worry a bout the bug later, she thought. Worry about driving right now.
She was traveling no more than 40. Marta had the uneasy sensation of
being locked in place, going neither forward nor back, regardless of what the
speedometer indicated.
She was gradually aware that the radio was buzzing and crackling, her
electronic thread to the outside world stretched to the snapping point. She
twisted the dial until it clicked off and shifted her weigh t in the seat, wiggling
clown to find a more comfortable spot.
The buzz and crackle continued, but from somewhere behind her. This
time when she looked into the rearview mirror, she could sec movement behind
her suitcase. Keeping her eyes on the road, she swung her right arm behind her,
flailing at air and then pounding on her sweatshirt. There was a burst of loud
crackling, as though she'd smacked a lot of loosely-crumpled alumi num foil ,
and then silence.
Did I get it? She wanted badly to pull off the road, but there was no way to
judge if she was on a rise or a dip in the highway, a straight stretch or a curve.
Any vehicle approaching from the rear would be on her before her hazard lights
were visible.

Patricia Derozier

Okay, Marta, worse case scenario: you' re dealing with a giant moth and it
will eat your entire sweatshirt before the town of Seney. You'll live. Pull over
and you might not be so Judy
Grow up. It's a lousy moth, but even as she repeated "lousy moth" to
herself, she fe lt her spine contract, curling in on itself like a frightened cabbage
bug. It was behind her, whatever it was, behind her and in the dark. She
imagined she could hear it breathing, its rough inhale-exhale rhythms matching
her own.
She held her breath: silence. She strained to hea r any sound that didn't
belong in the car and heard nothing.
Thank Goel, she thought. I must be almost through. It can't be but a few
more miles into Seney.
She wondered what else good old Sister Teresa would have told her if
Brian hadn' t knocked the woman off her chair. "A long journey." Eight hours
from Detroit to Marquette is a long journey. ''Beware of flying? "
A burst of sickening heat flashed in Marta's chest and spread through her
body in waves. Beware of flying what?
Something--wings?--caressed her neck briefly, then wrapped themselves
tightly around her face.

Kristine Lendved

The sunlight seeping in under the curtain woke her, slowly. Morning. She
came sluggishly to consciousness. Su Z. I am. Su Z Boyd. It was not time yet to
open her eyes. What day. Thursday. Work. What time. She rolled over to face
the clock and opened her eyes and as she did she saw the woman's face. The
round o of her mouth, the widening of her eyes, the lacy tips of her fingers
retreating from the glass of the windshield. The screech of tires as Su Z hit the
brakes. No charge . they said. An accident. Woman running into the street after
her child. Who Su Z hadn't seen either. Dead, that woman. Pregnant and dead.
A.M. 11:00 the clock said. Su Z reached under the bed for the bottle of tequila.
She sat up a nd let her feet dangle over the side of the bed. All her veins
ached. Her blood felt poisoned.
"Suppose I should feed this hangover," she said.
She got out of bed. Took a long frothy shower and got dressed. Called a
cab to take her down to Al's.
"You look kinda green today, girlie," said Al.
His chipped tooth smile bobbed in front of her in what sure as hell looked
like a Jeer.
"Call me by my name, Al." she said.
"Come on . Where's my hash? Can't you see I'm perishing here?"
"Comin' right up. Girlie."
Al giggled a nd made a mad dash for the kitchen.
After he had fed her and poured her a fihh cup of coffee AJ looked at her
hands, curled arou nd the white china mug and asked, "How's biz? "
"1 don't do people I know, Al. Don't even think of coming down."
His grin looked like pain on his face. He was embarrassed. "I thought it
was 'Heaven's Up'," he said, tittering. Not getting a laugh he went to busy
himself with his sweet rolls.
So. So I work in a massage parlor. That doesn't mean every dick on wheels
gets to take a pot shot at me. She looked at Al's back, his rounded shoulders
tight in his white shirt. He was just curious. He didn't mean any harm. They a ll
wanted to know-what-went-on-up-there. They all thought sex was dirty. If you
could call it sex. What she did. It wasn't like she was a hooker. She didn't fuck
them or anything. Those men just came in, mumbled something, turned their
backs to her. She just had that one look at their eyes to tell. Hot or bleary or
lonely or blue. Turn me o n, baby, or just touch me. How's that feel? Is that
good? Yes? You like it? Is there anywhere else that's stiff? Anywhere else I
should rub?

Kristine Lendved

She stopped at the Bottle Shop o n the way to work a nd bough t a twelve-
pack o ( Old Sty le Light. As she hit the third step on the wa y up to Heaven she
co uld (eel, a lready, that the heat was a beast. A monster. In the windm·vless,
a irless, mattress-lined upstairs . She wished she'd worn something gauzy,
somethi ng cooler. Ruthie was sitti ng cross-legged in front of the televisio n set,
tank top plastered to her sides, remote control changer lying in her lap.
"You late," said Ruth ie.
" I know. Anything on television?"
Ru thie pointed the channel changer at the television and blin ked through
the stations, soaps, game shows, ca rtoons, Mr. Ed.
"Wanta beer?" Su Z a sked.
"Naw. But yo u can toss me o ne of those ca ns of ice tea."
Su Z sat on the couch , h eld her beer bottle first to he r forehead, then to
each o ( her temples. Ruthie pressed her can to her cleavage and gasped at the
"I don't know ·why Baby can't spring for one of those movie channels,"
said Ruthie. "Or a VCR, that's what we need. Watch fil thy movies all day long,
maybe work up a little enth usiasm fo r this piece of shi t job."
They heard the street door open, a foot on the sta irway. Su Z ra n he r
ha nds through her hair. Ruthie roughed her nipples with her fingers to make
them sta nd o ut. Sounded like three people. Maybe four. Little early in the day
for a b<-Khc lor pa rty, but who's to know. They put on their inviting smi les. They
wa ited. Th ree cops in blue cleared the door.
"Su Z Boyd?"
"That's me."
Su Z was shaken . The female cop looked so familiar. It must have
something to do with that woman and the accident. That was it.
The cop read Su Z her rights.
Took he r downtown.
Booked her for prostitution.

Busted , busted, busted. Morning again. Awake. Su Z opened her eyes.

That woman's face . She rolled onto her stomach , th rew her arms wide across
the bed, fe lr the drai n of saliva from mouth to pillowcase. She reached (or the
bottle of tequila. Not today. Stay sober. Her head honked at her. Okay. Just a
mouthful. Just one mouthful. Just enough to get out of bed.
She crawled straight down to Al's.
'' Hash," she said. "Hurry."

Kristine Lendved

Al shoved the order into the kitchen and came back to wipe the counter all
around her coffee mug.
"You just missed your old boss," he said.
"In the flesh. All of it."
" He ask about me?"
"No. He seemed kind of preoccupied. He had a sweet young thing with
him. Male variety."
Al leered at her and winked. Su Z looked away. Not such a big secrer, Al,
and certainly not one I want to share -..vith you. Su Z took a deep breath and
swore she could smell Baby. His lingering aftershave and cigars. The damp of
his palms moistening the counter-top. A piggy, that Baby. But, he had come
right down and bailed her out of jail the day she was busted.
She had taken a cab directly to Big J's a nd got drunk and stayed drunk for
three solid months. All a blur to her, the hearing, the trial. She had stayed
mostly nose to beer, humming little tunes to the froth in her glass, wearing the
same clothes for days, sleeping in them, waking in chem. Oblivious to the battle
waged in the community between the Citizen's for Decency and Baby. When
the judge had banged his gavel and pronounced her guilty what she had mostly
wanted to say was-not-so-loud. Please . My head.
Those were the old days. Those days were done.
"AL I'm starting a new job today."
"With a hangover like that?" he asked, placing the plate of steaming hash
directly under her nose.
"I 'm kinda used to it," she said, peevishly, using her fork to scu lpt the
mound of hash into small , rolling hills, to quickly and efficiently bring it to
eating temperature.
"I'm going to be a bartender."
Al dropped the shiny napkin dispenser he was filling.
"What is so unbelievable about that?"
"Still working with your hands, I guess, in a way."
He flinched as though she had lobbed something heavy at his head. She
chose not to dignify his remark with a reply and fell to sullenly eating her hash.
Five minutes later he came to warm her coffee.
"Where ?" he asked. Contrite.
"On Broadway." She spat it at him. Hoping there \.Vere a few potato
particles left on her tongue. "Red's Well Kum Inn ."
"Doesn't Carver own that joint?"
She nodded.
"Baby's money man?"

Kristine Lendved

She nodded again. He seemed sorry to hear it.

"It's a job, Al. A respectable job. Come on down and see me. I'll buy you a
"Maybe I'll do that," he said. "Just be careful."
"What do you mean?"
"Certain people might try to take advantage of you."
"What people?"
The first few hours were hell. Her feet hurt, her back hurt, s he couldn't
remember what was in what cooler or what anyone was drinking or what
buttons were for which flavor on the soda gun. Finally she found a way to stand
that was comfortable, leaning on the back bar. hand dangling over the edge. She
could push off a nd build up a little momentum when she had ro go wait on
somebody. Yeah. She could get into this. A regular citizen. Dal's Ms. Jane Doe
to you, sucker. Smi le a little, flirt, laugh over her shoulder.
The guy walked in about fifteen minutes before her shift was over. He was
tall and good-looking, somehow familiar, fine dark hair falling over his forehead
and around his ears.
"Su Z? Isn' t it? "
She nodded, puzzled, confused.
"You don't remember me?"
"1. .. uh ... no."
"Guess you never did get much of a look a t my face. That's a clue."
Su Z looked down at her feet and blushed. Oh, Al.
"You used to express a powerful fondness for my shoulders. though." His
voice was husky, insinuating.
"\i\lh at can I get you?" she asked. She looked cold and direct into his face.
"I'd like a Budweiser. And a Beam rocks. And whatever you're drinking.
Don't be mad, Su Z. I'm happy to see you."
"And what?"
"My name. Ben. What time you get off?"
Twenty minutes later she was sitting next to him. I-le told her jokes. He
flatte red her. He cajoled and pleased here. He bought her a bag of potato chips.
Su Z felt so good. She felt like she could see the shiny light at the end of the
tunnel. Goin' straight, I' m goin' straight. This nice man some good omen, good
angel. Six beers and two hours later the double sewn seams on their jeans made
little kissing noises as their thighs rubbed together. One more beer caused their
forearms to fuse. He put his lips right next to her ear and said, "Let's go."

Kristine Lendved

It plain made her giddy. She hadn't so much heard the words as felt them,
a vibration, the flick of his tongue. Oh, warm pretty kisses, his bourbon-
sweetened breath in he r mouth . His fingers pinching softly down her neck, a
caress. Unbuttoning. To revea l her colla rbones. To reveal the fu llness of her
She sl ung her purse over her shoulder and walked out the door. As he was
unlocking the car she realized she hadn't even said goodbye to the other
bartender. Shit. Winning friends and influencing people.
When she got into the car he took her hand, kissed it and dropped it into
his lap.
"Where's your bedroom?" was the first thing he a sked when they got to
her apartment.
She lifted her hand in the direction of the bedroom. He made a beeline for
it, kicking his foot into the lion's paw of the end table in the living room, setting
the vase of white gladiolus to rocking from side to side. Wate r splashed over the
top and onto the newly polished wood. It pooled a nd glimmered ghostly, silver.
Not here. She got a rag to wipe it up. She went back to the kitchen to get a beer.
The interior of the fridge seemed too bright. She looked out the window at the
darkness, sl ugging at the beer, running her hand over her belly, loosening her
own clothes.
She wanted kisses. She wanted the sweet ache. The itchy tension . He
should be out he re. Two da rk shapes, moving closer.
"Su Z? Where are you?"
"Wa nt a beer?"
"I want you. To come here ."
She went reluctantly and leaned in the doorframe. He was naked to the
waist and face-down on the bed. He hadn't even pulled the spread back. The
street lamp light pushed into the room to illuminate him, a soft luster, a marble
form. She did remember those shoulders. Oh, Lover, so strong. I fee l like a
sculptor when I touch you. Isn't that what she used to say? She sat on the bed.
She to uched him. He moa ned. The hot, metallic smell of lust came roiling off of
him . Belt buckles. Suddenly she was dizzy, confused. Lost in time. This could
be a ny one of numberless days or nights. Man face down on a mattress. Hot
smell in the a ir. His face. What d id his face look like?
She ran her fingerti ps over his back in frivolous little ci rcles. She marched
them up and down his spine. He groaned. Like she was really giving him a
"Ask me," he said.
"Ask you what?"
"If there's anyplace e lse ... "

Kristine Lendved

"That's s tiff?"
"That you need to rub."
She hated him. She reached a round him for his buckle. His pa nts were
already undone. As s he pulled them down over his buttocks he lurched up to
knees and forearms. She gazed with distaste at the gleaming wh ite of his
quivering cheeks. All right. Okay. She climbed up behind him, her legs around
his legs, her groin pressed against his ass. She grabbed his dick with both hands
and gave it to him good. He came in a smeary, staining spurt. Collapsed and
buried his face in the pillow. She went a nd sat at the head of the bed. The spill
of streetlight fi lled her face. Surely now. Watery kisses. Collarbo nes, breasts,
panties. He ro lled over and sa t up, zipping and buckl ing his pa nts as he did so.
''They're wrong, you know. It is just as good when you don't have to pay
for it."
He ruffled her hair with his hand. He hopped out of bed a nd pulled his
sweatshi rt· over his head. She noticed that he had left his shoes on.
"See ya 'round, Su Z."
Su Z tore the spread off and threw it in the corner. She sat wide-legged on
the bed, her own unsolved lust a dark cramp inside. She felt so dirty. Cheap.
What was it. Money. Services rendered. Dirty. A dirty business. This wasn't
business. This was her room. It wasn't what he did. It was what s he did.
She found his cigarettes on the floor. She didn't smoke, but s he s moked
these one by one down to the fi lter. rt didn' t make her a ny sicker than she
a lready was. She thought about that woman. She thought about the hus band
and the li ttle boy. Who cooked dinner for them. Who changed the s heets. Who
picked that child up from school. She thought about Baby. She even thought
about AL
Final ly she thought abou t Su Z Boyd. Killer. Prostitute. Drunk. She
reached under the bed for the tequila. There's a knife in the kitchen, Su Z.
Bonte of sleeping pills in the bathroom. An accident, the police said it was an
accident. Please, my head, not so loud. Never fucked them. O nly my hands.
Theses hands. The slice of the razor. A drink, take a drink. Shil. She threw the
bottle o f tequila a t the wall. It s ha ttered. Shards of glass glitte red a ttractively on
the floor.
At 6 a.m. s he called a cab to Al's.
"You look awful , Honey," he said. "Hash?"
"No. I need something new today. Give me eggs. over easy. Bacon, raw
fries. Toast."
"How about a glass of orange juice?"
"Arc you are all right? Su Z?"

Kristine Lendved

She wanted to cry. She would have given anything to heave herself over
the counter and into Al's soft chest and just sob and sob. Him patting her
awkwardly on the shoulder.
"I've never seen one woman look so sad ," said AL "Let me buy you
breakfast, Su Z."
"Breakfast," he said. "No charge."

Michael D. Wright

The s ky
on th is October day
is low, a jumb led
of grey on grey.
The filtered light,
ever cha nging,
gives a sense
of moodiness,
furrows the brows,
a ma tronly protest
to the outrageous
outfits of the s umac
and s uga r ma ple.

A stand of trees
heckles the sky.
the wind makes
them da nce like d runke n
revelers at Carnival;
this d ay the ir
morta lity forgotte n.

Estella Lauter

Henry ("Red") Loomis, 1884- 1969

If they only but knew it

he used to say
sharpfaced slightbuilt man
whose red hair showed through grey
at nearly eighty years--
he knew more than "they" did
whoever they were.

Hadn't he had three wives

lost two in childbirth
watched his third son kicked
by his favorite horse
given up his o nly daughter
to be raised in town?

In those days, all a man had

was his fami ly and his farm.

Married the third wife

out of spite a nd chivalry
and swept away her s hrewis h fau lts
with just o ne line:
if you only knew
what she went through
in London in the war.
She at least would never leave him.

Before he knew it
he'd settled for a life
of pigs a nd chickens
church on Sunday
an occasional trip to Florida.

When the house began to sag

and the barn developed holes
he'd long since lost
his proud straight back

Estella Lauter

and yet he knew what others didn't

sat in judgement on them
arrogant old cuss
ha ndsome old man who meant
to hold together what he loved.

Frances E. FitzGerald

I fell in love with a dead guy, which wasn' t the smartest thing I ever did.
I was sick of dating. There's so much to find out in so li ttle time: Any past
or present wife? Any kids? Any vile diseases? And speaking of vile diseases, did
you vote for George Bush? It'd be easier just to hand the fellow a questionnaire
a nd be done with it.
That's what I did on my last date, which is longer ago than I will admit
publicly. Over dinner. my date, Joe, started talking about his whiny ex-wife and
I started talking about my selfish ex-boyfriend. Face it: That stuff gets real old
real fast.
So I whipped out my pen, jotted down some pertine nt questions on my
dinner napkin, and handed it to Joe. On my way out, I could hear him reading
aloud: "Do I leave the toilet seat up? Is my mother just like June Cleaver? ff I
start going bald, will I comb three long strands over my scalp? "
It was kind of a weird thing to do, I see that now. But I' m just not cut out
for dating. I'm cut out for writing out questionnaires on restaurant dinner
napkins, an activily for which there is not any great call.
So I retreated in to a world of books. It started out innocently enough. I
was reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Now, there's a guy
you 'vvoulcln't have to make small talk with. Just bring up landladies. and you'd
have that conversational ball rolling just fine.
Like any impressionable individual, I was moved by his powerful
eloquence and tragic sensitivity. Dostoyevsky has a narrative drive that'll make
your socks roll up and down. I don't meet too many guys like that.
I fe ll for him hard. 1 just went crazy over that Russian melancholy. To tell
you the truth , chronically miserable live guys get on my nerves. But in a dead
guy, tragedy is kind of appealing. It's artistic.
I went home to tell my parents.
"Mom, Dad ," I said as we all sat dovm for dinner, a nice, Midwestern tuna
casserole with peas. ''I'm in love. This guy is everything I ever dreamed of.
Brilliant. Passionate. Maybe a little crazy. But the karma's right."
My parents were thrilled. Mom got up from her chair and hugged and
kissed me. Dael's face got all gooey and he grabbed my elbow and said, "Oh,
thank God, you finally got someone."
"\Nhat's your young man's name? " Mom asked, after composing herself.
Now, I' m not so young myself, and God knows Dostoyevsky isn't. But r
decided not to nitpick.
"Fyodor Dostoyevsky."
'That guy's dead," my Dad said. He didn' t look gooey a nymore. He looked
"Well, yes, he is dead. But he's very sensitive and articulate."

Frances E. FitzGerald

"Sure, maybe he's articulate in Russian, but he can't speak English," Mom
said. "Maybe he just landed a brilliant interpreter. Maybe his stuff was really
'see Jane run,' and the translator whipped it into shape."
"Russian, English, what does it matte r?" my Dad said. "The guy's dead.
He's not vvrit:ing in any language."
"I don't mean to be disrespectful, Dad, but I think you're being a little
superficial. Dostoyevsky has a beautiful soul."
"Yeah, but it's detached from the rest o f him . That's what happens ·when
you're dead."
"Dead, dead, dead. Is that all you can think of?" I asked. ''I never
recognized this morbid streak in you before. Dostoyevsky's spirit lives."
"Who' ll pay the bills, honey?" Mom asked. " I know they've got anti-
discrimination laws up the ying-yang, but I don't know any place that'll hire a
dead guy."
"Maybe his books are still worth something. Maybe if I approached the
right people, I could get some of his work on the s tage. Maybe dinner theater.
Maybe The Brothers Karamazov as a musica l."
Morn turned pale. She never liked those Karamazov boys. Much too rough
and unwholesome.
Dad slouched down in his chair. Mom stared into her lap. I was the only
one still eating my casserole. As I was chasing a pea around the plate with my
fork, Mom asked, "How can I plan a wedding? What if he invites his friends?
They're probably all dead, too. How can I plan a menu? W ho knows what those
people eat?"
Well, .I bowed to parental pressure a nd gave up on Fyodor. It was
probably a lousy idea anyway. I mean , it's not as if I could take him anywhere .
I started thinking about my last elate. I felt bad about sticking Joe with the
questionnaire. He was actually kind of appealing, a lthough a little too tidy for
my taste. But he was living, which now, in my newfound wisdom, I began to see
had its advantages.
I swallowed my pride and called him . "Hi .loe," I said, "I'm the woma n
with the questionnaire. Do you want to meet for lunch?"
There was a long pause on the other end. Geez, he's still mad, I thought.
Who could blame him?
"It's like this," he said finally. "I've been reading Tolstoy."
"Good writer, " I said, "But boy! Who ca n keep track of the names! "
"I've fall en deeply in love," he said.
"What's this got to do with Tolstoy?"
"I've fal len in love with Anna Karenina, " he said. "I just don 't think I could
go out with another woman."

Frances E. FitzGerald

"Yeah, she's okay," I said. "Beautiful and classy and sexy, if you like that
kind of thing. But of course, she is fictional."
"You're just like everyone else," Joe said bitterly. "I've finally found my
soulmate, and all anyone can say is, 'She isn't real.' Well, no one's perfect."
That was several weeks ago. Just last week, I got my d inner napkin back in
the mail, with a ll the questions filled in. Under "What do you li ke to read?" Joe
ha d written, "On ly non-fiction. Nove ls too heart-breaking."
I think I'm going to call Joe tonight. I think we have a lot to talk about.

a play in one act by Lori Renard

MATTY, a black woman in her mid-thirties
SUE, a white woman in her twenties
DANA, a black woman, very pregnant
THE DOCTOR, a white man, middle-aged

T ime
Labor Day, somewhere in the nineties; morning and early afternoon

I nterior beau ty salon, of the sort that is found in a larger store, or shopping

Scene l

(The lights come up on the beauty shop. MATTY is on the outside, struggling to
open the gate-like door. She fumbles with keys, carrying money bags as well.

The shop lights are dim as MATTY slides open the door and moves through the waiting
room/reception area; this area is separated from the resl of the shop by a reception desk
that stretches more than half-way across the narrow part of the long room.

MA TTY moves quickly to the cash drawer, placing the money bags on the desktop.
MATTY is drawn and tired-looking yet, dressed a little outrageously, she looks
young and fashionable, too. She glances at her watch.)

MATTY Ooo! Late.

(THE DOCTOR walks into the shop, wearing surgical garb.)



(THE DOCTOR moves into the shop, toward her; MATTY holds up her hand, and
he stops. MA TTY (ighls to hide her anxiety from him. MATTY begins Lo put money
Into the cash drawer of the reception desk.)

MATIY W hat are you doing here?

Lori Renard

THE DOCTOR We're not finished.

(Pause for a beat--MJ\TTY, unnerved, continues lo work with the money.)

MATTY I've got no time. (Another beat. MATTY forces herself to fool? him
straight in the eye.) I've gotta get the lights. You just gonna hang out here?
Keep an eye on the money bags for me.

(MATTY turns to go get the lights.)

THE DOCTOJ'< Oh, then you do. Trust me.

MATTY You' ll just have to wait your turn .. .(MATTY returns, grabbing the
money-bags, then heads for the bacl~ room, off-st:age.)

TI-IE DOCTOR You've got no time. (THE DOCTOR seals himself in the
waiting room. The lights come up further as THE DOCTOR thumbs through a
magazine. SUE enters the shop; she wears a long coat. SUE wanders through the
wailing room area, looking at the photos on the wall. She is unaware of THE
DOCTOR'S presence.)

SUE Hello? Anybody home? (A photo of a woman with a terribly chic

hairstyle catches her eye. She lets out a gasp.) Jesus ...

(MATTY reenters the shop through the back doorway, she does not notice SUE.
MATTY nearly trips over a pile of cardboard cases.)

SUE Hello?


SUE Is anyone here?

MAITY You scared me!

SUE Anyone in charge, I mean?--Sorry if l scared you.

MATTY I 'm in charge.

SUE Really!

Lori Renard

(MATIY, about to say something, changes her mind, mo\fing instead to set the
money-bags beside the cash drawer.)

SU E Oh ! Yes, of course ...

MATTY I'm running a little late. (MATTY glances ne1vously at the waiting
room area, and THE DOCTOR stands, attentive. MATTY busies herself with the
money and the cash drawer, and the lights on THE DOCTOR go out.)

SUE You do take walk-ins. Don't you?


SU E Oh , good. I' m--! don 't seem to be too organized lately.

MATTY No problem. Got a ny ideas?--Wait. Ooo. Turn your head, a

second ...Yeah, like that. I could give you a geometric cut that'd knock you out--
you know? Asymmetrica l.

SUE Oh , no. You mea n, one of those styles that's shorter on one side
than ... ?

MATTY Uh-huh.

SUE No. I couldn' t. I mean, I like them on other people, but. .. well , Roger
would kill me.

MATTY Men. I could just give you a trim, I s'pose .

SUE No. No, please. I need a change. Really.

MATTY Well, the n. How 'bout a perm? We could leave it long--

SUE Curls? (Looking at MATTY'S short afro) l.. .I don't know.

MA TIY Not like mine.

S UE I didn't mean to imply ...

Lori Renard

MATI'Y How about a little loose curl? Use the medium-size rollers and
then layer it a little?

SUE Not too short? (SUE takes a cigarette from inside her purse and lights
it.) It's just that Roger would have a fit...

MATTY He your husband?

SUE Boyfriend. He's not really a sexist. Roger. Boy, he can be pretty
ornery sometimes, though.

MAT fY Da mned cases ... (MATTY is looking at the stack of cases, located
almost in front of the bacl? doorway.)

SUE What?

MAITY Just tell him, "Roger, necks're hot, and nobody's ever gonna see
mine." Them cases arc in the way. I gotta 1r1ove them .

S UE 1--1 wasn't afraid that you'd give me--that you'd do my hair like
yours. I wasn't.

MA ITY You just. .. take off your coat, and we'll wash your hair. (Moving
towards the stack of cases.) Boss sees these on the floor, I'll be in big trouble.

(SUE removes her coat and hangs ii on a coatrack as MA TTY lifts a case off the
slack and moves it, with some difficulty, lo a shelf SUE wears a nurse's uniform. )

MA1TY (exerted) Ooo. I'll get the rest, later. (MATfY takes a plastic
clothing cover from the station and hands it to SUE.) Now you just put this on--
(Alfl\ ITY freezes, staring al SUE'S unifonn.)

SUE Are the cases heavy?

(MATTY looks to the wailing room area as Lhe lights come up on THE DOCTOR,
sealed; he shrugs his shoulders and looks at MATIY, shal?ing his head. The lights
on THE DOCTOR go down. SUE puts the plastic clothing cover over her uniform.)

SUE (cont.) Looks a lmost like a h ospital gown.

Lori Renard

MATTY You a .. .a nurse, arc you?

SU E I'm gonna be. I'm s til l a stude nt. nut I work on the floor, already.
Wha t's in the cases?

MA1TY Shampoo, cond itioner. I-lair products. Equipment, sometimes,

Come over here , we'll wash you r hair. (MA 7TY leads the way to a sink but
before reaching it, she is overcome with something that makes her swoon a little;
MA TTY reaches the sink and leans against it.)

SUE Are you all righ t?

MATTY Yes. Fine , fine. Come on over.

SUE You don' t look fi ne.

MA TTY Little under the weather, is all. Nothing serious.

(SUE seats herself al the sink.)

SUE /\re those ca ses heavy?

MA TTY I gotta work. (Defensively) That's part o f the job. The cases.
So ... You' rc gonna be a nurse?

SUE Uh-huh.

MATTY Just lean back, as far as you can. Rest your neck on this ... There.
Water too hot?

SUE No. No t a t a ll. (SUE leans bacl?, relaxing, as MATfY massages her
scalp. ) Ah ... That feels wonderful!

M1\TTY Sometimes we need to be pa mpered , a bit.

SUE My mother used to do that. Rub my head, a t the temples.

MATTY I could cut my own hair, but I don't. I like to get fussed over once
in a while.

SUE I'll be doing this for patients. I guess.

Lori Renard

MAITY What goes around comes around. Nurses can be real nice, too.
Really. You don't want to be a doctor?

SUE No. I don't want to be a doctor.

MATTY Well, you should. (Wraps towel around SU E's head.) You could
show 'em a thing or two. Bedside 1mmner--they can be real pricks. Come on,
over here.

(SUE follows MATTY to a station; SUE regards MATTY with curiosity and a bit of
wry humor.)

SUE (Seats herself) You ... know some doctors?

MA TTY Not really.

SUE I've met a couple. At the hospital.

MATTY I met one.

SUE (Interested) Oh?

MATTY I have to go get the perm, in back. Be right back ...

SUE Were you in rhe hospital?

MA7TY Uh-huh.

SUE Recently?

MA7TY Nothin' serious. Recently, yeah. Be right back. (MATTY nearly

trips over th e stack of cases before disappearing into the back room.) (Calling
from O.S.) I sure hope I haven't offended you ...


MATTY (OS) Sometimes Tforget I' m talking to a customer, I swear.

Lori Renard

SUE I just hope your experience wasn't too bad!

(DANA, who is ve1y pregnant, walks into the shop. SUE wotches her with a
growing unease as DANA moves through the waiting room area, looking at the
photos on the wall.)

DAN/\ Pardon me ... The shop open today?

SUE Yes. (A beat.) When ... ?

DANA Excuse me?

SUE Nothing.

DANA When am I due? Is that it? (SUE nods, gratefully.) Next week.

SUE Do your breasts hurt?

DAJ\!A Right now? (Considers this) Not right now. Sometimes, though.
Feels like I'm wearing clothespins, sometimes. (A beat.) So who's running the

SUE She's in the back.

DANA Good. Thought I got the date wrong, it bein' a holiday.

(MATTY wall's into the shop from the back room, giving the slack of cases a little
kick as she walks around them; she carries a small box.)

SU E Holiday?

DANA It's Labor Day.

(Th e lights come on in the wailing room area. MATTY lool<s to THE DOCTOR,
who sho/,es his head ironically.)

MATTY Labor Day ... Damn.

Lori Renard

(M1\TTY begins to laugh with biller irony. She moves closer to the waiting room
area, to THE DOCTOR, who starts lo laugh along with her. DANA and SUE
watch M J\ TTY with curiosity.)

DANA (to tvfAITY) I think I'm a little late, maybe?


(MA TTY stops laughing, and her expression changes to one of horror; the lights on THE
DOCTOR go out. MATIY lool~s as if she's about to fall over. DANA swoons slightly,
putting a hand on her stomach and leaning on the counlerlop of the reception des/~.)

SUE (to MATTY) Are you a ll right?

DANA Yeah, oh ... yeah. I'll be fine. (Grimacing slightly) But I think it's
gonna be time. (Smiling) Yes, it's time, all right. I've been feelin' kinda maybe-
ish, since last night. (Moving with care) I'll. .. I'll call, for another appointment ...

SUE You'll be okay?

MATTY Is there someone to drive you? Can I call--?

DANA My husband's jus t our there (gestures) , looking ar toys. He's been
teasin' me about having this baby on Labor Day ...

MATTY You take care of yourself. You hear?

DANI\ I'm fine, really. It's my third. Fact, I'd stay and get my hair done,
there's plenty of time , but I don 't know if I could sit stil l. Say .. .I'll be back soon,
okay? I wanna have my hair straightened.
(MATfY moves quickly to the reception desk and hands DANA a card.)

MATTY You bring this with you, you'll get 10% off.

DANA Thanks.

(Dl\NA waves to them as she walks out of the shop.)

SUE I'm sure she'll be a ll right.

Lori Renard

MA ITY Course, she'll be all right. (A beat. Both women still watch the
entrance as if DANA were still in sight. M1\TTY grabs a roller from the station.)
People have babies every day. (Laughs) Even today.

SUE What's so funny?

MATTY Nothin's fu nny. Who says it's funny? Hand me these sponges,
one atta time. (MATTY begins to roll up SU E's hair. )

SUE I wonder if she's going to St. Pau l's?

MA 7TY St. Paul's?

SUE Uh-huh. I work at St. Paul's. (A beat.)

MATTY You know Dr. Simons?

SUE Ll mmm ... I'm new in town ... You knm.v, I haven't worked on any one
floor long enough to get to know people. (MATTY looks anxiously towards the
wailing room area as the light comes up on THE DOCTOR, who stands, listening
intently.) Si mons?--

MA1TY What kind of nurse you gonna be?

(The light on THE DOCTOR goes out .)

SUE I'm not sure. Haven't made up my mind, yet. Thought maybe I'd join
the Peace Corps. Where'd you get that dress?

MATfY Guess.

SUE In the mall? (MA TTY grins, shaking her head.) It's great.

MAITY You like it? Goodwill!


MATTY Two bucks!

Lori Renard

SUE Well, it looks brand new. Turn around ... (MAITY turns, embarrassed
yet pleased, as SUE turns in her chair to watch. SUE lights a cigarette.)

MATIY Pretty funky , huh? For an old lady?

SUE You're not old. Why, it's right in style, too!

MATTY Styles come back. Does look new, though, doesn't it?
suppose I could have one of those smokes?

SUE Certainly. (Hands MATTY a cigarette.) Sure fooled me.

MATTY Huh? (Lighting the cigarette, her hands shaking)

SUE The dress.

MATTY With a little imagination, you can fool 'em all. Some decent shoes,
a belt. Hosiery. Fooled 'em about my age, too. To get hired. Lopped off a good
ten years, just like that. (Relishing the cigarette) I haven't had a cigarette in

SUE I've never been to a Goodwill--(snapping her fingers) OB,



SUE Sure! That's him. Dr. Simons. Obstetrician. About forty-five, fifLy?

MATTY Yeah. (Softly) That's him.

SUE He's supposed to be wonderful.

(The lights come up on the wailing room area and THE DOCTOR moves toward
them. He stops at the threshold of the shop.)

SUE Of course .. .(carefully) if you've had a bad experience ...

(MATTY notices THE DOCTOR; she swears under her breath and fumbles with a
roller, then very deliberately turns away from him, concentrating on the task before
her. The lights 011 THE DOCTOR go out.)

Lori Renard

MATI-Y We're gonna give you ... some pretty long blond curls ... Just like a
princess. Sure. Princess Goldilocks.

(The lights go out.)

Scene 2

(The lights come up 011 the beauty shop an hour SUE's hair is rolled up, and
MATTY stands behind SUE's chair.)


SUE Look, I' ll pay you. For your time. I'm sorry, please. Take them out.

MATTY Jesus Christ!

SUE 1--l just don't know what l want--

MATTY You' re not gonna look like Angela Davis! Damned straight, you
don't know what you \.Vant--white women come in here, wanting perms, look at
me like --like I'm gonna put a bone through their nose!

SUE But a permanent...(upset) is so--

MATTY And, and black women, getting the ir hair straightened! (SUE
begins to c1y as MATI"'Y pulls rollers out of her hair.) And don't look at me like
I'm the one doesn't belong here!

SUE No, you don't understand. I've been so--emotional, lately. That
woman who was in here earlier. 1 feel so strange--

MATTY Belter get used to it, Honey. Black people.


MA TI"Y You more afraid of what's inside me or you? That's what I'd like to

Lori Renard

SUE No ... (weakly) stop--stop it. .. !

MATI'Y (MATTY wa/l{s to the stacl< of cases and begins to lift one.) People
like you just duck, every time you see your shit come flying in your face. You
neve r get hit with it. (The lights come up on THE DOCTOR in lhe wailing room.)

THE DOCTOR How heavy is that?

(MA TTY allows a groan to escape, but she continues to put the cases on the shelf.
The fights go down on THE DOCTOR only after MATTY has disappeared inlo the
back room. SUE wearily watches her re~eclion in the mirror.)

SUE (Calling) ARE YOU ALL RI GHT? (Her voice begins to shake.) You
feel. .. sick. Don't you? (Pause.) I'm going to leave, now .. .

MATI'Y (05) No .. .

S UE Rea lly, I have to go. I'm not feeling too well, myself. I had pa ncakes
this morning ... from a box? Aunt Je mima, I think. That might be making me feel-
-I bought the wrong kind, too. The kind you have to add your own eggs and
milk to? If you can afford eggs and milk a ll the time, what do you need a
pancake mix for? (SUE stands, begins to remove the clothing cover.) (Calling)


SUE Wh at?

(MATTY rushes in, distraught.)

MATTY No, don't leave! I'll --! can at least dry your hair!

SUE All right. Okay.

MATI'Y At least let me dry your ha ir?! (MATTY nearly trips over the
remaining cases, in her haste.) These gotta be moved. Now! (MATTY goes to
work on the stack, compulsively; she is driven.) Dangerous ... in the way .. .

Lori Renard

SUE What's happened? (A beat.) You really should tell--someone. (MATTY

works swiftly, not acknowledging SUE.) Look (unne1ved), I'll pay you, and I'll go.
(Digging for her wallet) You gonna be okay? I could ca ll someone for you--


SUE Simons?!

MATfY Called it an abortion. Wasn't! Called it a ... Spontaneous ... ?!

SUE Spontaneous abortion.

1\lfA'ITY Told the nurse to write that down. On the report. (A beat.)

SUE I' m--l'm sorry.

MATTY I'm not. I'm not sorry. What you sorry about? I didn't want no baby.

SUE Lots ohvomen miscarry.

MATTY I did what I could, though. Q!.1it smoking--You sorry about what
you should be sorry about? Nurse Peace Corps? Th is ... some kinda missionaiy
work? (Pause.)

SUE This is crazy ... !

MATTY When you walked in here, the way you looked at me. I was
carrying the, the keys. The money-bags. You asked me if anyone was here,
anyone in charge . .. (A beat.) Remember?

SUE Well, that--that's not ... !

MATTY (MATTY returns lo the tasl< of lifting the cases, again.) You
seemed .. .surprised. You know?

SUE You sound convinced--if I've offended you, somehow... I'm sorry. (Pause.)

MATTY Me, I got a problem with blondes. Blonde people. (MA1TY pauses in
her work. She gathers courage.) I did call him, though. The doctor. Last week, when
I first saw blood. Called him, said: Should I stay off my feet? He said, If it's gonna

Lori Renard

happen, it's gonna happen. Said if something's wrong, if. ..the fetus is damaged--
that's the word he used, I b'lieve. Damaged --then my body might get rid of it.

SUE l don't get it. Why call? If you didn' t want the baby? I wouldn't ca ll.

MATTY (MATTY has gone bacl~ to lifting the cases.) I don't know. I saw a
little blood, and I called. I had to work! Is that such a crime?! DAt'v!N! (MATTY
drops the case that she has been lifting.) But when I lifted some of the heavier
ones I know, I can remember whe n I was ... hoping. (Sitting on the case, giving
up some private battle.) I was ... filled ... with hope. (MATTY is crying; she sits on
this last case of the slack. She stops abruptly.) Called him again. This
morning ... Guess l was in labor.

SUE Today? This happened?!

MATTY (MATTY stands, moving l'O lift the final case; it is a heavy one.) Lot
of blood. I was worried about the bills, I've got no insurance. I didn' t wa nt to go
to the hospital, but I got scared ...

SUE Put that down. (Ang1y) Now!

MATTY Part of the job. Boss gets mad ! (Then:) If I don't gotta move them
now, why'd I have to move 'em ... then? (SUE nods, understanding this; she helps
MA TTY wilh lhis one, and the two of them get il on the shelf with relative ease.
MATTY ollows herself to be led l'O a chair. She speaks with the unease of someone
who is more accustomed to listening.) Doctor told me to come to the emergency
room, he'd meet me there. I said, No. I got no car. He made some comment
about how he couldn't come and pick me up, but I could bleed to death.

SUE You were alone? What about--the father?

MATTY I don' t need him. (Less firmly) !--didn' t want to call him I guess.
He can barely take care of himself, much less--so I called a cab. Before the cab
got to my place, I thought it was ... all over. Thought I felt it leave--my body. But
I'm still bleeding, see, so I get in the cab, thinking, go have it checked out,
Matty. Worry about bills later. Cab driver don't know the way to the hospital--
first day on the job, a nd I'm doubled up in the back seat givin' him directions
and he's telling me how awful, how horrid, his first night was (in a white nasal
accent)--"! ca n't tell you what a strain it's been, tnJ/y a strain ... " Should've

Lori Renard

listened to my mother. She used to say, "Baby, don't go a nywhere without a

rubber. Don't go for the nevvspaper, without o ne."

SUE (La ughing) She had you, though .

MATTY And rubbers break. (THE DOCTOJ~ enters from in the bacl? room,
and wall?s towards MATTY and SUE--MATn' grabs onto the chair, terrified.)
Then he comes in--!

SUE Who? The--the doctor?

MATTY Simons, yeah!

THE DOCTOR (Glancing at his watch) Am I late?

MATTY (MATTY grabs SUE's hand.) The nurse is real nice, telling me
how to breathe so it won't hurt so much ... (MATTY begins to breathe deeply,
rhythmically.) Then he comes in, pats me on the head doesn't explain nothing,
opens me up and rips it out! (The DOCTOR holds up a fetus .)


MATTY Holds it up ... That's all he. says, "SEE THIS?" I--I don't even know
what it is at first, it's all bloody ...The n he tosses it into a bowl--

SUE (Horrified) Oh no, oh no--he shouldn' t have ... he should have been
more ... They do that, show it to you, to let you grieve, but. ..

MATTY (MATTY stands, enraged, (acing THE DOCTOR.) And it WASN'T


TH E DOCTOR Oh, no. Of course not. Nurse? Take a look at

this ... Remarkably undamaged, eh? You might want to hold onto this one. (THE
DOCTOR is now standing over MA TTY.) Now see? I could hardly have brought
all these big machines over to your house. Could I? (Pause. MATTY closes her
eyes. appears to be praying, swearing or both. THE DOCTOR walks to the shop's
entrance.) You take care of yourse lf, now. You hear? (THE DOCTOR wallzs oul
o( the shop; as he leaves, the lights come baclz up on the waiting room area, lo
brighten the entire shop.)

Lori Renard

SUE (Upset) There are two kinds of--two tenns, here. One is--sponta neous
abortion, a nd the other is elective. You h<1cl a spontaneous abortion. /\ miscarriage.

MAITY And then I know that there, there goes my little girl. My girl with
the big brown eyes , pretty as her daddy's. l wouldn 't be ta king her to work with
me, when she got big eno ugh. Keep the scissors and stuff up high, so she can' t
get to 'em and ... a nd she'd never ask to get her hair straightened, no. Never. It'd
be curly and pretty. (Pause.) But. .. I didn't want h er. (Crying, now) Did l?
(SUE shakes her head, and shrugs. SUE holds MATIY in her arms as MATIY
cries openly for a moment. Long pause, as MATIY collects herself and moves out
of SU E's arms. The two women fool~ al each other, suddenly all too aware of the
fact that they barely know one anot.her.) Whe re'd those cigarettes go? (Moires
away from SUE, who hands her a clgarelle. MATTY lights il.) Hey .. .you suppose
if I were blonde, it would've been a misca rriage? (Pa use.) Okay, not fu nny. I'll
hush up, now.

SUE l've got an a ppointment next week. They a ren't going to call
it ... spontaneous. (Long pause. MAITY stares at S UE in surprise.)

MA ITY Ooo, Girl?

SUE Sue.

MAITY Sue . You--let me ta lk too much, Sue. You ever have a baby? (SUE
sha l~es her head.) Richard know a bou t this?

SUE Roger.

MAITY This Roger, he's a decent guy? Likes your hair--

SU E Fuck him .

MATTY What?!

SU E Fuck them all !

MAITY Ooo, Honey ... Sue. You' re too youn g, to be so messed up.
SUE So you're the only one, now? With problems? I'm not even sure it's

Lori Renard

MATfY Would he marry you?

SU E I don't know. I don't know what I'm gonna do, next week. I have an
appointment.. .How can I marry him if l 'm not even sure it's his?!

MATTY He would, though? Marry you ? (SUE nods) Betcha he's a real
sweetheart. Roger. (SUE shrugs, then nods her head, slowly.) And a son of a
bitch probably too? Sometimes ... (MATTY leans toward SUE and speaks with
hope and soft-spoken surely.) You just may find out about all that, huh? Come
tell Malty. Huh?
Maybe not. Who's to say? That's all right. You'll maybe feel mad ... Sorry for
yourself, off and on. 'Less you should decide to stop it, but ... (MATTY smiles in
surprise al the memory) There'll be days, too, when ... you'll wake up in the
morning and, I don't know. The light' It look different, somehow. The juice, now,
the juice'!! taste so good!

DANI\ (DANA walks in, grinning sheepishly, and MATTY and SUE turn lo
look at her.) Knock, knock! (Giggles shyly) Guess who's still here? (Palling her

MA/fY You all right?

DANI\ Sure. Doctor says I ju st gor a lirtle excited, is all. False alarm.
Damn ... you shoulda seen the look on Joe's face when 1 asked him to bring me
back here.

MATTY Well! Have a scat, all right? You make me nervous, standing

SU E (Standing quickly) 1-- 1 have to be going ... (SUE fumbles with the
plasl/c clothing cover, and MATTY moves to help her.) I'll pay you, for your time.

MA TTY You paid. (SUB digs money out of her purse and tries t:o get
MATTY lo take it.) You paid. Besides, I didn't do much. Did I? (MATTY and
SU E fool~ al each other for a moment. SUE looks away, embarrassed and shaken.)

SUE I guess .. .l still don't know what I want. (SUE gets her coat. MATTY
gets another card, and hands it to SUE.)

MA TTY You be sure and come back, when you decide. Whatever. 10% off
with that ca rd. Promise?

Lori Renard

(SUE looks as if she is about to say something: instead, she turns and leaves the

shop. MA TTY stands, watching after her for a long moment.)

DANA Hey. You got a paying customer over here ... Remember? Besides, I
haven't got--well, God knows whether I've got all day, or not.

(MA TTY lllrns towards her; DANA has seated herself at the station that SU E has
just left. MATTY is vety tired and preoccupied, until she spol:s something at th e

stallon that mal~es her smile a little.)

M.AITY Well, now... I'll just get that girl's books out of your way (moves the
books). I 'maginc she'll be back for them, soon. Well, you can just take your business
elsewhere, you think you're gonna rush me. (DANA laughs, delighted) It'd be your
loss. though. Don't let this kinky head fool you .. .I can straighten hair like nobody--

DANA Oh, no. Nothing like that, just a cut. (Glancing at herself in the
mirror). What, did I tell you I wanted it straightened? That's right, I did.
(Laughs) Joe said that if I so much as de-curled one hair on my head, I'd have
to find myself another man. Damn men ...

MATTY (MATIY looks at her for a moment, pleasantly surprised.) Ooo. That
right? Now, ain't that so? Damn men , resisting change ... So, you just want a cut--
Wa it a minute. Turn your head a second ... just like that. ..Ooo! I got a style for you
that's gonna make that baby come out and say, "Look at my Mama!"

DANA Great! (Laughs) Say .. .(admiring) where'd you get that dress?

Lights go out. The End.

Patrick Moran

Every day my memory of you becomes

more and more obscured. It's as if someone had
originally drawn your picture with a soft lead
pencil, capturing the details of your C<"llm
face. As the clays, weeks and months passed
you moved out of focus, the hand came back
and with the oils and sweat thick
on its fingertips it carefully rubbed
the drawing away. The bridge of your nose,
your ear and the curve of your lower lip
all consumed into a dense gray landscape
that easily s hrugged off what it once was.
And now when I see you after many years,
please understand and forgive me if I stare.

Patrick Moran

In the morning
I am in the habit of reading
by a window that has a birdfeeder
near it.
Every move
I make, eve1y sip of coffee,
eve1y lit cigarette, eve1y
scribbled word
the sparrows, and as quickly
as they fly away they
Do they
continually remember and forget
that I am there by the window
mouthing the words
of this poem
or are they just cautious
in the wake of survival?
How cautious
should we be
in our struggle, the fear of
intimacy, the fear of solitude;
is there a ground
beneath our feet
strong enough to hold us?
Qr are we constantly running
from place
to place
leaving before the ea rth crumbles
away into memory's empty
If there was
an answer the sparrows would
have it, but before we can ask
them they are gone.

Patrick Moran

how you break

how you crumble
into drops
how you gather
like a riot
into every
nook and cranny
of the
Slivers of moonlight
in the air
Algebraic tears
from the sky
and the crystallized
on memories

J\nne Kasuboski

Minna could not reach the latch on her bedroom window from her
wheelchair and so she sat in the sti flin g gloom. a fly buzzing overhead, not
caught yet in the sticky flypaper. No matter; her hands and feet we re always
cold a nyway.
Wizened African violets hunched in chipped clay pots on the sill. Poking a
gnarled finger into the soil on l'he end pot-"Inky Pink" she thought that one was
called--Minna could not recall when they had last been watered. She could tell
by the flower but it had been a long time since the crusted containers had
brought forth any blooms.
The soil was bone dry. How long had it been? She tipped her tumbler of
tepid liquid into the pot. Maybe it wasn't too late.
Minna cupped her hands around the ins ulated jug of water that her
youngest boy had fetched just befo re he went to do his morning chores. Slowly
she filled he r glass and slid the pitcher towards the lamp. so she wou ldn't have
to look at it. Minna loathed that jug. knew Tom didn't understand why.
It had appeared one raw March day when she was sick. She couldn't help
getting sick, cou ld she? It was partly her fault, she still felt a bit guilty. Her water
wasn 't cold enough, Minna told Tom. it wouldn't last her through the day. Poor
Tom , already harried with two new heifers calving and a broken barn cleaner,
slammed ice cube trays around in the kitchen, and Minna could hear ice shards
tinkling to the floor, then the sound of them being ground underfoot.
J-Iurrying back into her bedroom he mutely handed over her usual carafe,
so packed with ice and desti tute of water that it would be hours before enough
'Nater accu mulated to swallow her medicine.
Minna sobbed once, unable to stop the tears that trickled down her
cheeks. Tom turned around then a nd headed back to the kitchen, returning with
her usual mix of ice and wa ter.
Bu t later that ahernoon he had gone and gotten her the insulated water
jug, its boxy orange presence an assault to her senses. And he took away the
frosted cut-glass carafe that had belonged to Minna's great aunt. It had come
vvith the great-aunt from the old country and had been given to Minna upon her
engagement. It had stood on Minmi 's dresser for 60 years, filled with fresh water
da ily, with never a nick or scratch in 1·he entire time that Minna had lived in this
Tom explained the marvelous featu res of the new jug--how ii was balanced
so it wouldn't tip, how the gra iny plastic cou ldn't slip from her grasp.
Minna held her tongue, wanting to point out that the many facets and the
frosting on her carafe served the same purpose.

Anne Kasuboski

And. Tom continued, there was the super-thick insulation. Her d rinking
wate r would stay chilled all day, and she, Minna, would not have to wait for
him to come back to the house to replenish he r glass with ice.
Unless, o f course, she got up a nd got her own, Minna knew he was silently
adding. She could, she knew. She could if she had to. But it was so hard. She
was so stiff and full of pain. It was much easier since her fall and the broken hi p
to sit in the wheelchair and shuffle from room to room, letting the newspapers
and the dust take over her once-spotless parlor. They were down to using just a
few rooms now in the crumbling house with the fifteen-foot cei lings and
Victorian fussiness. It had been a Jong Lime since Minna had been in her sewing
room, o r climbed the stairs to the bedrooms, 'vvhere so many of her possessions
were packed a\.vay. It would be comfo rting to wrap up in the double wedding-
ring qui lt her sister Emily had pieced, but at least it was safe in the sati ny cedar
chest Tom had labored over in shop class. Ted 's lette r sweater was the re too.
along with Emily's rabbit fur muff.
The pho to postcards that trickled back from Paris and Marne from the
Great War, with her brothers forever young, were tucked away in the old black
walnut ro ll-top desk. Her eyes migh l sti ll be good enough to pick them out.
But the arth ritis had won out. Joi nts that were eigh ty-odd years o ld just
wore out; they did that.
Dr. Kli ngbeil lectured her eve1y Lime he saw her, just the same.
"Mrs. Jorgenson , if you do n't kee p trying to move, the joints will freeze up
for good," he would begin.
Minna winced as he rotated her kneecap, assessing her progress.
" It hurts."
"I know there's some discomfort, but it should lessen. a nd so will the
stiffness. if you exercise regularly."
"But it hurts," she insisted.
"You don't really need the wheelchai r," the doctor repeated, a nd added,
"Quitti ng won't get you up and about."
Minna knew Tom wanted to ta ke her wheelchair away, too. She had
overheard him on the phone mention ing it to his sister Mabel, his brothers Art
and Joe. But he wouldn't dare. He would never speak up to her.
Minn<i glanced at the streaked glass, at the clematis twined around the
window fra me. She was not hot, but it would have been so lovely to have the
honey scent of the clematis, "Lincoln Star" rhat one was, wafting th rough her
bedroom, to feel the moisture in the breeze, and hear the birds again, the
mourning doves and the cardinals. That, and getting a drink of water.
Minna didn't think anyone would understand about the water. \!\That she
really longed for was the water d rawn up fresh from the well, fresh and cool

Anne Kasuboski

from the aquifer underneath the farmhouse. lt tasted so good and Minna felt at
ease, knowing that it was pure and clean, untainted with the che micals they
had to use in town to make the water safe to drink. But if you let it sit, it went
flat and its e ffervescence vanished; ice cubes did nothing to bring it back. That's
what she really missed; going a nd getting a glass of fresh water as often as she
wa nted th roughout the day, when her throat tickled from the dust and the acrid
fumes of the wood-burner.
Minna wheeled herself out to the spacious kitchen, the uneven and
loosened floor-boards creaking under her wheels. Tom had left the inner door to
the porch open. so a glorious breeze drifted in , bearing the scent of the rambler
roses outside the porch steps.
It's a lmost July, Minna thought. Somehow June had slipped by her. She
had missed the lilies-of-the-valley completely, had missed Me morial Day, and
never once tho ught of asking anyone to bring flowers to George's grave or to
Ted's, her middle boy that had died you ng of polio. So many years they had
both been gone, Ted over thirty years a nd George twenty-five. But no one else
had remembered either. Certainly no one had offered to take her to the
cemetery. She would have liked once more to see their graves, see how the
headstones were weathering, and where she. too, would lie someday, next to
George. Such a pretty little cemetery, with their plot on a little knoll where you
could gaze into the hollow where Pa's place was, farmed now by her nephew.
So stra nge to think that they were a ll gone, a ll her brothers and sisters. All
swept away, some before their time, she thought, like Felix. He had been just a
few yea rs o lder a nd they had chummed together until the influenza hit in ' 18,
and he was gone in the matter of a week. They had lost Henry the same year at
Chateau Thei rry. to mustard gas a nd a gangrenous leg. Appendicitis had taken
Alice in '31, when folks were careful about getting a doctor. It was far too late
when Alice's husband had, reluctantly, called Dr. Farber to come out. And
Romy had escaped the woes of the Great Depression altogether; in '28 Peck's
delivery truck, one of the few motor cars in town, had caught him as he
stumbled home after sampling Arnie Neckash's homemade brew one fine
April mo rning.
Yes, Minna was the youngest a nd they had a ll left he r behind, all eight
of her brothers and sisters.
It's a perfect day for a picnic, Minna decided, and a lmost wept
knowing she would never go on a picnic aga in and si t on the grass to eat.
Cookouts were so silly, all that carrying things back and forth , just to eat on
a table in your back yard. A real picnic was a grand thing.
Always on Independence Day Pa would stop work, even if he was
haying, so they could go to town for the parade and then stop halfway home

Anne Kasuboski

a nd picnic by the quarry. Minna would help Ma spread the glossy wh ite
line n c loth , Ma 's initials embroidered in crimson thread in o ne corner. They
wo uld ecH ha rd boiled eggs and fresh ba ked bread with bu tte r, c risp sour
pickles, ca nned last summer, as well as the las t of the canned peaches . Ma
a lways baked a cake, usua lly chiffon--Pa's favorite, o r hi ckory nut--Minn a's.
Pa wou ld carefully lower the stonewater jug into the spring that bubbled
water up from the bottom of the quarry, so they could drink their fill of cold,
sweet water.
Then they just sa t, even the boys. It was the only time Minna could
remember them a ll just sitting, doing nothing.
"We arc here, mein liebchen," Pa would say, putting his gnarly ha nd
over Ma's a nd looking her in the eye, a nd Minna never could figure out,
until so ma ny years later, wha t he ha d 111ea nt.
"M inna," a voice ca lled through the ha llway. "You awake?" It sounded
like Elsa from next door. Her footsteps c reaked closer as she prowled the
house. Min na wheeled down the hallway to intercept her before she poked
too deep.
"I'm co111ing," she called, her voice raspy with dust and phlegm.
"Oh, there you are," Elsa sighed, pausing to anchor a loosening curl on
he r tightly pin-curled head, a nd push up the s leeves of her pink tenycloth
jogging suit.
"I' m sorry I can' t s tay long. My da ughter-in-law needs me to stay with
her baby. !' 111 a fra id there's no t e no ugh ti111e to do your ha ir today, Minnie.
It'll hcive to wait ' ti! Monday."
Minna didn't know which she minded most, being called that
ridicu lous nickname, or not having her hair done. She looked fonva rd each
week to having it washed and set, having gentle fingers massage her scalp,
and feel the warm water sluicing through, washing away the grime. It
reminded her of when, as a child, Ma wou ld sit and brush Minna's long,
long cu rls a nd then braid them into a glossy plai t. But those times had been
so brief. Her ma ha d died when s he w<'ts e igh t, ci nd her sister's hands were
never as gentle.
"O h?" said Minna. "I see ."
Elsa whis ked a round Min m1's dining room ta ble, stra igh tening up the
piles of newspapers and clearing off breakfast pla tes.
·'It's all right," Minna told her. "No need to clear my table."
"Well." agreed Elsa. "If you're sure you can manage. I really need to
get along." With that she wiped her hands on the dish towel that was lying
on the table, gave Minna and the table one last hesitant look, then bustled
out the door.

Anne Kasuboski

Elsa's red pickup crunched down the driveway, c reaking as it hit the
rut tha t a lways fo rmed in the d ip in fron t of the windmill. George had gotten
the old Ford really stuck there in the spring of '4 1, when Art was just a baby.
It was one of those sloppy, bluste ry March days. Art had the c roup so bad,
and she had to leave Joe watch him--he was only s ix--because George made
her sit behind the wheel and s teer. He was hitching up the team and plowed
right into the pump, knocking off its spout, while the team had trampled her
new pie plant, started around the windmill's legs.
The water did always tas te the best right from that pump. George
a lways la ughed when she told hi m that, but Minna sti ll be lieved it.
She would go and get herself a good long drink Minna resolved. A good
long drink from that pump was just what she needed. La ying her cane
across the arms of her wheelcha ir, a nd clutching her tumbler, Minna rolled
over to the porch door. She un locked the screen and pushed herself onto
Her knees locked, would not bend at first. She was sweating by the
time she reached the bottom of the steps, her wool sweater binding her at
the neck, the sunlight fierce upon her forehead.
But oh, the a ir, the wonderful air! She leaned against the newel post,
gulping in great lungfuls. Freshly cut alfalfa and damp, tilled earth, wild
roses and the cowyard, and fa in tly, the marsh; it al l poured in to her.
" I ca n do it," she said out loud , her voice sounding hesi t;,r nt to herself.
She eyed the lawn, looking for gopher holes and bits of branch that might
trip her. She was much bener on level surfaces. She tried not to lurch as she
walked towards the back of the house and the windmill , but she was so tired
a lready.
Minna stopped and looked back at the house, leaning heavily on her
cane. She listened to the blackbirds and, far off, Tom's tractor as he raked
hay. She still could not smell the clematis, nor could she see it from here, for
a tangle of bindweed, its small pink trumpets imitating the cle nrntis blooms,
had taken its place in the sun. Her peonies though , were poking their scarlet
a nd salmon heads through a sea of lambsquarter that engulfed them.
The lawn was overlong; s he remembe red that her grandson had take n
the spark plugs from the lawnmower earlier in the spring, and had not yet
brought them back. Trapped dew seeped into her bedroom slippers. Her
a nkles were always so swollen with retained water that she avoided her
shoes, whose tops c ut cruelly into her fl esh.
As s he passed the back of rhe house and into the open she could feel
the breeze riffling through her hai r and caught the tang of smokc--a grass
fire somewhere. She scanned the horizon but saw no discrete pl ume of

Anne Kasuboski

smoke dirtying it. If he r neck had not been so stiff she would have studied
the clouds.
Minna was glad no one cou ld sec her, gasping her way across the
lawn. How on earth, she wondered, could anyone connect this dumpy old
woman in spotty slacks and pilled swea te r with the woman who used to
stride this path tov,rard her rhubarb patch, skirts swishing, newly iro ned
a pron s me lling fresh as sheets hung in the sun.
Ar last the windmill was in reach , a nd Minna slumped heavily agains t
its frame. catching her breath. Despite the breeze the windmill remai ned
silent, and she could feel no vibrations. Peering upward, the frozen wheel
caught her eye, the wooden slats missing or rotted, the gears frozen with
rust. The re would be no help pumping the water there.
Minna pulled herself upright and stepped the rest of the way to the
pump, willing herself the strength to work it. Her cane dropped softly into
the tangle of weeds at her feet as both hands grasped the handle a nd
dragged it up. Up as high as her chest, a nd back down, up and down . Six
times s he heaved and pushed, bu t a ll that can1e out the bent spou t were a
few flakes of metal and dirt.
Pausing, she gasped for breath , a rm s tingling and trembling with
fatigue. A soft moan whistled through her half-open mouth. Eyes closed, she
ga thered he r strength for one last try. Sweat tickled her forehead, a nd her
glasses felt s lippery with it.
Seizing the handle, she yanked o n it aga in. Minna could on ly lift it a
few inches, and then it wou ld not budge; its joints were as frozen as her
Swaying gently, Minna leaned heavily o n her cane, making it dig
deeper into the earth. She peered into the weeds, searching for ruby stalks of
rhubarb. It had been a lmost three years since the accident and s ince s he'd
been out here, but maybe it had s urvived. Even if she could get no water,
maybe she could get some rhubarb and take it back for Tom. He loved a
good rhubarb pie.
Poking her cane into the tangled clump, she tried to dis tinguish he r pie
plant from the coarse burdock that so closely resembled it.
She dared not bend down to look a t it close r, for she might not be able
to pull herself up again. Reachi ng down as far as she could, she grabbed a
handfu l of leaves and stalks and p ulled. Crushed burdock leaves sen t their
rank juice down her arm. The few rhuba rb stalks she had gras ped were pithy
a nd spindly a nd grassy green. The burdocks had stole n their moislu re and

Anne Kasubosk

She tried to snap a stalk in half. It was dry and rubbery, with little
juice. But what else did she have?
She swayed again a nd again, pulling up handfuls of burdock and
rhubarb until she finally had ha lf a dozen s talks, all she could c lasp in one
Minna tried not to think of the long walk back s he started out. She was
very thirsty now, her lips dusty and cracked from the unaccustomed wind.
Why hadn' t she taken a drin k before s he left the house? Pa using, she
nibbled on the end of a rhubarb stalk, thinking the tartness would make he r
mouth water, but spat it out in disgust. Her mouth was now gritty and sour,
a spoiled sour, like curdled milk. She spat again, but could not make her dry
mouth water enough to get the m.vfulness out.
Eyes fixed on the porch, she shuffled through the grass, not tiying to
pick her feet up anymore. She was so weary novv, her \1o,1hole body aching
from the effort of keeping herself upright. Why had she ever gotten out of
her chair? Such a foolish old woman she was!
When she reached the porch a nd ho isted herself up the sagging steps
she was trembling wilh fatigue, and s he could barely keep he r balance as
she dropped into the wheelchair. She could not remember being that tired,
except fo r the summer before George died, when he had been taken ill. She
had take n his place on the threshing crew.
Arms shaking, she rolled herself into her bedroom and to the dresser,
and at last seized the cup off of it. She let the flat water trickle down her
throat, washing the grit and the sou r into her stomach.
She heard the sc reen door slam, and the qu iet shu ffle of Tom's fee t.
"Mother?" He called , poking his head around the corner. His ha ir v.ras
gray with dust and his face smudged, wirh large circles underneath his eyes.
"You okay?"
Minna nodded.
"You need some more water? Anything else? I gotta go to town and get
parts for the haybine, I'll be gone for a while."
"No," Minna replied. "No, I don 't need anything."
When he had left, Minna stared at the wilted, dusty rhubarb sta lks In
he r ha nd. They were too dried ou t, too bitter to be a ton ic for a nyone.
Slowly she rolled over to the garbage pail and dropped them in.

Michael Harry Reetz

In I 837 a French trapper named La Pointe, growing tired of the Canadian winter,
decided to work his way south around the big lake. He eventually settled in
Wisconsin, at "The Prairie of The Dogs," where he made a living trading pelts and
fishing lures with a local band of Chippewa Indians in exchange (or blan/?ets, seed,
and land. One day La Pointe traded bear sl?ins and a musl?et for Clear Shy
Woman, my great grandmother.
(For Tech-0-M eh-Good of the l<cncstino Tribe-Hairhills, Pembina)
She has heard
the Good Spirit's voice
in an insect's hum.
Knew well the Woodland Trickster
and the tiny forest spirits
who dress in moss clothing
and run laughing
as they escape the rain
in petals of trillium.
She has sa t
in rhe shade of basswood
chewing a stem of Indian pipe
and through half closed eyes
she has seen her gods
si nging and dancing
by the thousands
on a sun ray.
Now. battered and undressed,
bones crumble to clust-
an unknown Ojibway grave.
For every frog
a Lhousa nd tadpoles
For every wrong
a thousand reasons.
W e have allowed the weeds
to deceive the depth
and the truth drown
in the black pools
of her Red eyes.

HARRY THE HOSE (circa 1940)
Michael Harry Reetz

Raw November, dawn--

vvrought iron green--
on a Junea u Park bench ,
the morning edition
"Devvey defeats Truman"
covering his face,
Harry The Hose,
his battered lungs
no longer able
to exchange the air,
passed in a cold
Milwa ukee sleep.
He roosted at Mary Douklc's Tap,
across the yard from the pla nt.
After twenty years in the core room
at Cuttler Hammer,
all that coal dust and ammonia gas,
the company had to let him go.
Hundred dollar severance.
Got no use for a weak o ld hacker.
With his scat pay
Ha rry bought a slot machine
and a Ba lly Hoo pinball.
They split it all,
the money, fifty-fifty.
But Mary kept the coin door keys.
until someone's alderman,
Hilary "It' s your nickel" Stone,
dropped a dime down town.

Sto ne left Harry the pinball,

Ma ry gave him back the keys,
bu t the slo t,
a quarter-a-play Mills
Busting Cherry,
ended up in the mud
at the bottom
of the Kinnickinnic River.

r\llichae/ Harry Reetz

"America's favorite
nickel's worth of fun,"
the True Confessions
advertisement read.
Harry rolled
the shiny new,
twenty four select,
" B-52" Wurlitzer
across Mary's
cracked linoleum.
"That sure is swell.
And it sounds grand.
But who owns the thing?"
the city assessor,
a Stone man,
dipped his jerky
in the beer.
Harry's jukebox
didn't earn a penny
in the basement
property room
at city hall.
He stashed all his loot
on a dark shelf
in the fruit
cellar of his mother's
two story frame,
a Victorian on State Street.
That's where they found it,
in a pickle jar
tucked neatly behind
her stewed tomatoes:
Johnny-One-Note bar coasters
and a ring of brass keys,
six red tokens
"Good for one drink",
two hundred forty two,
toffee colored,
buffalo-head nickels.

Michael Harry Reetz

We trudge the narrow path

dog Speckles makes daily,
between mother's bird feeders
the chickasaw plum trees--
clown the snow-covered hillside
sliding into Peterson's ravi ne .
My heavy barn boots break
through dry white ice.
We walk the drainage ditch
and remember gushing Spring:
Waters turned reddish-brown,
that gouge ancient limestone,
splash bottom in Hungry Hollow.

In a field, atop Howard's hill,

blanched stubble--
last year's corn pokes
through winter cover.
Dani battles wind to keep hold
her bright orange snow-saucer.
Bunched together, legs crossed,
Indian-style we fly
the icy Hollow snows.
Dodge the clay clumps
a nd wire-elm saplings
between prickly-dried
bull thistles a nd goldenrod.
Yesterday's powder blazes
from the spinning platter,
and our laughter--
puffy white clouds in Jan uary
ca n be seen for miles.

James P. Moran

The Major crouched inside a blue dumpster a nd stared down the narrow
alley behind the old abandoned creamery. Rusty milk ca ns like spent cannon
she lls lay strewn along the way. The late a ngle of the sun lit up the second floor
apartments and sleeping rooms.
The Major was watching a pile of cardboard , an accordion of shadows in
the half light that was lying on the weedy asphalt ground near the dock. Two
hours he had kept watch, and now his feet were numb a nd prickling, fa lling
asleep. He cursed their wea kness and kicked them against the side of the
Once, he had stood motionless for half a day in the Marne River, roiling
dark foam freezi ng around his armpits. When the e ne my regiments had passed
he had tromped for hours returning to his lines. Trying to run now, he got side
aches and dizzy. It was embarrassing that such a perfect mind had to
accommodate a second class body. It was pity there were no wars going on .
The pile of cardboard moved.
He pushed the lid of the dumpster open slightly and watched arms, then
legs a nd fina lly a head emerge from the heap like some corrugated tortoise
comi ng to life.
Danny peered around slowly. He wore a snap-brimmed hat with the top
ripped open. Matted, ash colored hair stuck out like clumps of crabgrass. He sat
up a nd gazed a t the sky. The sun had nearly set. Da nny climbed on to the
loading dock and untied a rope from his waist. He picked up a piece of brick
which he tied to one encl. He lofted the brick up to the bottom step of a black
a nd rusted fire escape a few feet overhead. It c lan ked a nd fell through the rung.
Da nny eased down the rope and pulled the ladder toward him. It squeaked
loudly and he glanced around, then climbed up quickly a nd yanked it up
behind. Four stories up, he stepped onto the roof of the buildi ng and was gone.
The Major cra ned his neck to see. "Son of a bitch." Down th e alley he
sile ntly crept toward the dark, brick building. He removed his belt and leaned a
pallet up against the wall. Standing on this, he swung at the ladder a few times
before he hooked it. Slowly the Major crawled up the metal rungs. The city grew
out around him as he moved upward. Each time the stairs creaked, he stopped
a nd waited. Occasional cars wishing by were al l he heard. It was getting dark.
On the whole side of the crea mery there was not a single windovv.
"God , this is better than Masada," he muttered.
The Major was panting hard and his side hurt. His knees were killing him,
bu r· he had reached the top. He should not be so out of breath, he thought.
What if someone was waiting for him and he had to fight? No, Danny vvas the
only o ne up here. Skinny o ld Danny and his collection of cigarette butts. The
only weapon he might have would be a book of matches.

11 2
James P. Mora n

It was a three foot drop from the ledge to the roof of the creamery. There
were a few stacks and vents, and a brick enclosure with a sma ll doorway in the
center of the roof. Danny sat against the door smoking.
"Evening, friend." The Major leapt down to the roof.
"Hey!" Danny jumped to his feet. He flattened against the door, arms out.
The n he picked u p a rock and raised it over his head.
"Take it easy, Danny. You know me." The Major took a step fonvard.
"Get away," he hissed. "Who is that, Major? How'd you get up here? This
is my place."
"Set the rock down, man. Do you need the whole damn building? " The
Major advanced slowly, his arms up.
Danny lowered the stone. "How did you know I was up here?"
The Major chuckled softly. "! been watchin'. You haven' t been sleeping in
the dumpster, so I wanted to know where you found a place to stay."
"Who e lse knows?" Danny took a step closer.
"Relax, if I don't wanna be seen, I'm not. Nobody knows." He chuckled
again. "It's our secret."
"Look, Major, anybody else starts comin' up here and the cops will kick us
out. I got a good thing here. I don' t wa nt you messing it up." Danny stared out
from the brim of his hat.
The Major pointed at Danny. "I've been behind German lines, nobody
catches me, and they ca n't make me talk."
"Hah, that was then . You gotta be q uiet up here at night. "
T he Major walked away to the east end of the roof. He got down on one
knee and looked over. There was a big gravel parking lot, then the railroad
tracks heading north and south , beyond that some twisted cottonwoods and the
river. It gli ttered silver from the downtown lights on the other side. 1\.vo tugboats
were docked down to the right by some warehouses.
"You could defend this place from an army."
"Why would you want to, Major?"
"I'm just saying if you had to."
Danny walked back to the doorway. "I'm goin' inside."
The Major followed after him . "Don't you need a llght?"
Danny was disappearing down a long stai nvay. "I know where I'm going,"
he called back.
"Lead on then, I'm right behind. " The Major descended slowly with a hand
on either wall. They felt smooth like enamel and cool to the touch .
They passed a landing and went down another night. It was getting
warmer and there was a musty, attic sme ll. Danny pushed open a wide meta l
door a nd they passed into a va st room with squat brick pillars. Up in the rafters

James P. Moran

a few bats squeaked a nd stirred. Far over to one side was a row of small broken
windows. Jn the middle of the room was a freight elevator. Their footsteps
echoed as they walked over to it. Everything was shadows.
Danny lit a match and found a candle somewhere. He set it on a table
made from a wooden keg. The Major saw 21 pile of newspapers laid out with a
ratty blanket for a pillow. The walls of the elevator were wood.
"Aren't you afraid of this elevator movin', Danny?"
"Capacity's six thousand pounds. I don't weigh no three tons, Major.
There's a piece of tarp there for a cover. It's a little greasy. "
"Just remember, this is my place. It's the best place I ever had. Nobody
finds out if you keep quiet. I'd kick you out, but then everybody'd know."
"I don't squeal, Danny. Besides, there's enough room for two."
The Major sat down and pulled the tarp over his legs. He took off his
jacket and rolled it up.
Danny lay down on the newspapers and rubbed his eyes. He had the soft,
round features of a school boy; eyes, nose and mouth all in the lower half of his
face like a small child. Reaching out, he pinched the flame and it went black,
with only the tiny orange glow of the wick and then it was gone.
"You stay on your side," Danny warned him.
"Um hum. " The Major was already fanning the battle plans that sent him
to sleep, divisions taking their positions and marching, marching.
In the morning, Danny woke the Major early. They had to be down the fire
escape before it got too light and the police cruiser made its last pass in the
street below. He warned him not to come back until after sunset.
The Major agreed. I-le didn't care for taking orders from someone like
Danny, but it made sense. The empty creamery was a great place to be with the
weather turn ing cold.
Danny's first stop of the day was the newspaper machines on the corner,
where he could read the front page through the glass. Sometimes, if he pounded
the machine hard enough, he got a quarter or a nickel. Then , there was a
banker who threw nearly a whole cigarette to the ground on his way into work.
Danny scarfed it up and saved it for after he scoured the canne1y loading docks
for spoiled vegetables.
The Major headed for a service station restroom that he knew was
unlocked. He felt it was important to move one's bowels once a day. Plus, there
was hot water. From there he walked the t\.YO miles to the library a nd vvaited on
the concrete benches for it to open. He watched secretaries hurrying down the
street to work.

James P. Mora n

At noon, they met at the Salvation Anny. There was free soup; thin, with
chicken bones. You had to be there early because it got crowded and it might be
the clay's only meal.
Down on the third floor where al l the refrigeration rooms were, the Major
and Danny boiled a mess of corn on the cob over a sma ll fi re. They sat down o n
th e rooftop wolfing it down and watchi ng the stars slowly peek o ut.
"Do you ever get squash from the ca nnery?" the Major asked. He finished
another cob of corn and ·wiped his mouth on his jacket sleeve.
"No, never." Danny tore open a packet of salt and dumped it on the ear,
then reached into his shirt for another. He had lifted a pocketful from the diner
down the bl ock .
"Pity, squash would be nice."
Danny paused between rows. ''Cooks too long, lt would be smokey."
The Major stared at the darkening sky. "Or steaks. Steaks on charcoal.
God, I haven't had a real piece o f meat for months. We need meat for winter,
Danny." He poked at the sky with his corn cob for emphasis. "This food doesn't
stick to your guts. The Sally runs out of soup half the time and the canning
season's nearly done. Vve need a plan!" He threw the cob across the roof.
"Well. " Danny pulled a bent piece of cigar from the breast of his jacket
and straightened it carefully. Then he lit it and blew smoke rings at the sky. "I
don 't really care for your plans, Major."
"What's wrong with my plans?"
"You scrawl this stuff on tiny pieces of paper smaller than a matchbook,
and expect me to read whatever it is you wrote on there. Defenses for an attack
on the creamery, for example. What the hell good is that?"
"You never knmv, Mr. Know-it-all smart ass."
"Yesterday you drew a plan for a radio tower to receive broadcasts. Keep
your stupid plans to yourself."
"I'm lookin' out for our safety, Danny. You have no sense for preparation
or security."
"Major, we're not under siege. You know you scream in your sleep
"What?" the Major yelled. "I do not." He stood up and faced Danny. "I'm
not screaming," he pointed down at him. 'Tm just giving orders to my men."
The Major was well over six feet tall and nearly fifty pounds heavier than
"What men?" Danny squashed out his cigar and looked up.
"From the war, I'm dreaming I'm in Belgium leading the troops. Besides,
you farl in your sleep."
"I didn't invite you here, Major," Danny laughed.

James P. Moran

This was true. The Major was pissed off that he hadn' t been there first. It
was his job co scout out new quarters. It was such a huge place, why hadn' t he
figured it out for himself? It didn't matter.
"Forget that," he said. " I've got a new idea." He bent clown confidentially.
"We'll have all the meat we want," he whispered.
"Sure." Danny closed his eyes.
"I've been thinking a bout this." The Major sat next to h im . "There is a
truck that delivers to Crambo's Grocery every Thursday. Nothing but frozen
meat." He held out his hands as if Danny could see it. "Oh, I got a few details to
work ou t', but ... " The Major rubbed his neck and pulled out the tiny pencil from
a pocket in his long tattered coat.
"Pl1:111s a re too complicated, I'm not interested." Danny pinched the top of
his nose and blew it off to one side. He stood up and made for the doorway. He
rubbed his arms. "Could be frost tonight. "
"You don't need to tell me. " The Major slowly stood up and followed
Danny. "My leg's been stiff all day."
Inside on the stairs, Danny lit a candle and down they went, their
shadows long a nd wavy on the wall.
"Were you ever a major, Major?" he asked over his shoulder.
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"Nothing. Were you?" Danny stopped at the doorway a nd gla nced back.
The Major was leaning a bll on the brick wall as he ca me clown the stairs.
"I was s upposed to be. I was with the Ninth Army in the Ruhr Va lley. It was
early forty -five."
"So what were you?" Danny waited.
"Get inside, I've got a plan to tell you."
Danny headed straight for the big wooden elevator. He set the candle in a
wine bottle on the keg. "Like a real living-room eh, Major? The first nights I was
up here I slept in the sta irwell. The whistling breeze kept me awake. and them
damn bats. It was just too much dark for one person."
The Major lay down on his pile of papers. In his mind , he was stuck
between distracti ng the driver o f a meat truck and keeping up with the Ninth
Army. His feet were sore, swollen. Lately he could not sleep on his side because
his shoulde rs got so stiff and he could barely get up. What w.-is wrong? He was
only sixty-one. He blew out the candle as Danny lay watching him. "I was a
lieutenant," he said into the blackness.
"Oh," then, "do you think there are any ghosts in here?" Dan ny asked.
The Major pulled the tarp up to his neck. "There are ghosts everywhere."

James P. Moran

The Major emerged from the a lley a nd spied Danny sitting on a park
bench 1:e1 lking to Herman Bass, a sometime baker who claimed he was once a
rose maker at the Pfister Hotel in MilwaLtkee. He strode up to the bench and
sat, without looking at them.
" It's a ll set, Danny. "
" Hey?" Danny turned towa rd him .
The Major turned and looked at Herman. " J want to talk to Danny, you
wanna come back later?"
"What's this, Major? Herman and me was talkin'. He don't have to leave ,
he's a good guy. Say what you' re gonna and go."
AmiHbly, the Major said , "He's a great guy. He's a hell uva guy. You wanna
bea t it for a few minutes, Herma n? Dismissed!"
Herma n ra ised his eyebrows a nd stood up. "Sec ya, Danny," a nd he
walked off.
Danny watched him for a moment, then turned on the Major. "You know,
you and me ain't chums, we ain' t pals." He shook a finger at him. "You got
something to say, wait ' til tonight." Then he noticed the Major's clothes.
"W here'd you get that weird outfit?"
The Major was decked out in a pair of bl ue and white checked trousers.
They were cuffed up about six inches. His shirt once belonged to a tuxedo, it
was ye llow. Most of this was covered with a pea-green canvas coat that had a
line of fa ke fur a t the collar. Hi s black boots were replaced with a pa ir of white
wingtips. There were no laces.
"Ah, you noticed." The Major sat back a nd smiled. "Not exactly
government issue, but hell," he lea ned forward and whispered , "from now o n
we're in disgu ise. Let's walk." And he stood up.
"Not me," Danny replied, bu t stood anyway.
From his coat pocket the Major produced a blue cloth baseball hat. He put
it on. "Nice fit , huh?"
"For a pumpkin head like yours, yes," Danny told him. "Where we goin' ?"
"/\long the river, come on. "
They crossed Pearl Street a nd ma de for the coal piles nea r the river bank.
The a ir b lew stiff against their backs a nd smelled of sulphur.
"I' m not even interested in wha tever it is you got planned, Major." Danny
was kicking a rock as he walked.
"Once a week a truck pulls up to the back of Crambo's grocery store," the
major started. "The driver gets out and goes inside a door. He's in the re about a
minute, then he comes back o ut and ope ns the truck." The Major began
chopping the air as he talked. "He makes about three trips with a hand cart,

11 7
fames P. Moran

and after the third trip a stock boy comes out to make sure it's all in and the guy
" I am not interested." Danny pulled a two inch cigar butt from his inside
jacket pocket and put it in his mouth. then sat clown on the broken concrete
The Major sat next to him. Behind them, the huge coal piles rose up
almost four stories high.
He went on. " the driver is inside the store around three minutes with each
load. The truck door is wide open. We go up to the truck, grab a box of steaks,
tum around and head down the alley."
"What if it's not steaks? What if it's a box of chicken?" Da nny pondered.
"You had a box of chickens lately that that would bother you?"
Danny shrugged.
"Okay. From the alley we cut between the gas station and the metal shop.
You know that little passage there?"
"Who doesn't?"
"The driver, I hope. Then we cross Elm Street and go down the church
driveway, take that alley to the back end of the North Bar, climb up the stairs,
go in rhe porch door along the hall and down the front steps. Ectrl Canby is
cleaning the ba r then, so the door is propped open. To 13roaclway from there, we
can run lo the trai nyards. there." The Major pointed to the rows of tracks and
empty box ca rs northward up the river to the left. "We ca n lose anybody in
there. " The M ajor was breathing hard.
"Whal if the driver doesn't make three trips?" Danny tapped the ground
with his finger.
"We'll go after the first one anyway."
"What if he comes out too soon?"
"We run, drop it and run:·
"Hah. The stock boy could recognize us. \!\That if someone's goi ng by in a
car? They cou ld see us."
"Disguises . Da nny. The Sally throws out some great stuff. I fou nd a
pinstripe su it full of white paint. It's better tha n the one you have."
" ! don't think so."
"Look, from now on we don't even talk to each other on the street. Keep a
low profi le. Don't hang out."
"Oh, for chrissakes, Major. I never said I'd even do it."
"They could be T-bones, Danny. Think of it." The Major rubbed his hands
and closed his eyes.
"I don't know, that's a lot to get caught for.'' Danny scratched his cheek.

James P. Moran

"Come on, man, show some guts," the Major shouted. "We can live like
kings. The store can afford it. We used to be tax payers, they owe us. It's small
thanks for risking my life in a war for this country. They' ll never miss it.
Barbeque. Danny, Barbequel ''
Danny took off his hat and pur it on again. He cracked his knuckles.
"What if the door's locked to the North Bar?"
"J fixed it. A little trick I learned in France."
"When do we do this, Major?"
"Six clays, next Thursday."
Danny's stomach groaned and grumbled. "Okay."
The Major grabbed Danny's hand and wrung it. "See you at the creamery,
sixteen hundred hours." He turned a nd ran off.
"Aye. aye," Danny said.
Tha t night, sitting atop the creamery, they laid their plans. Or rather the
Major did and Danny listened. The Major had drawn out a map of the streets
on the asphalt rooftop with a piece of bright red lipstick. The buildings were
marked with chunks oi wood. Empty beer cans denoted bars and the creamery
itself was a gallon milk bottle. Two small cucumbers were meant to be Danny
and the Major, and he had found an old windshield scraper to push the two of
them along from spot to spot on the map. They discussed a lternate routes.
They must scout the store each day to know the patterns, the Major
pointed out. From a dista nce they could observe every move me nt. Danny
suggested a dry run but the Major nixed that idea.
"Don't you remember Pearl Harbor? If someone did steal the plan, it could
be noted by spies who would tell all."
..What spies?" Danny wanted lo know.
"Stock boys, who knows? They're not as dumb as they look, loitering out
back, picking up garbage."
"You are nuts, Major." Danny shook his head.
"Hahl We'll see. I'm off to sleep." and he walked over to the door and
disa ppca red.
Danny smoked his last butt, got up and brushed off his pants then
followed the Major inside.
Monday evening Danny crawled up the fire escape and jumped dovm to
the roof. "I been thinkin' about this grocery store business, Major."
The Major looked up. He had been adding clumps of grass to his map to
give it a more authentic touch. "Don't think, follow orders. Danny, every day
that you get something to cat you think it's a bad idea. When you don't, you
can't wait. Let me worry about it. "

James P. Moran

Da nny said nothing and walked over to the doorway. \!\Then he was gone
the Major stared after him.
Later that night, the Major walked the route they would take and timed it
by the clock on the St. Blaze chu rch tower. It did not seem so hard in the dark.
The M.-1jor started his evening climb to the roof a little later each night. He
had to stop for a breath half\vay up. His knees and feet hurt him and his arms
got sore. \i\lhen he finally got to the top he a lmost rolled on to the roof and lay
there panting like a dog. On the Wednesday before the "assault", he went to
s leep and suggested Danny follow su it.
"Late r," Danny told him. "\file gots lots of time in the morning. It's at ten
o'clock, right?" He had found a Playboy in the junk somewhere and was
studying the pictures closely.
"Nine fifty-five! " the Major roared. "Timing, timing, you could blow the
whole mission, stupid. "
Danny went back to his magazine.

It was dark when the Major first opened his eyes. H is left leg ached above
the knee. The old war wound.
On leave in northern France , they had occupied a vacant house and
started d rinking wine . The Major stumbled o ut the back door to take a leak and
fell on a garden rake which perforated his thigh. It was never properly fixed , and
when it healed, it became a barometer for cold weather.
He got up and limped to the windows and looked out at the river. It
steamed in a flowing ribbon down below.
"Danny, today's the day," he called walking back.
Danny •vent for coffee at the Top Hat restaura nt a few blocks from the
creamery. He was wearing the gray pinstripe the Major had gotten him. It had a
nice vest and looked pretty decent if you didn't notice the long smear of paint
running a ll the way down the back. The Major headed off for his favorite
O n the Major's orders they \Nere not to meet until nine-thirty at the corner
of Bleeker a nd Seven th near Dale's Barber Shop. They would not speak, but
start wa lking together down Seventh until they reached the cannery. Then they
could take alleys most of the way to the grocery s tore parking lot in ten minutes.
There vvas a fence to sit behind and vvatch for the truck.
It was a bright chilly day. The Major was disappointed. Overcast was
bette r, less to see. But he was ready. The leg pained him and he worried that
running would make it worse. There could be no c hanging plans. That loafer
Danny better be on the corner, he thought.

James P. Moran

He arrived three a nd a ha lf minutes late. "Morning, Major." Danny smiled

and wiped his nose on his sleeve.
He nodded and they walked together. The Major wore a brown beret and a
pa ir of green s unglasses he'd found in the la undromat. His long black suitcoat
covered a pair of ankle-length bib overa lls.
Just as they turned down the fence line before the store, a blue Cadillac
pulled into the parking lot. The window buzzed down and the driver tossed a
lo ng ciga r out. It was still burning. Instinctively, Danny flew across the lot. He
plucked it up, wiped it on his jacket and stood there puffing away.
" Idiot'! " the Major hissed. "Get over he re."
Danny held the cigar at arms length, beaming. He chuckled nnd strolled
back to the fence.
The Major's face shook with a nger. "You ... Civilian !" he choked out. He
grabbed the cigar from Danny and tossed it in a big d umpster nearby.
"Hey, that's mine," Danny called.
He took two steps to the dumpster when the Major grabbed for him and
fe ll. He did manage to catch the tail on Danny's jacket pulling him down on top
of him. The Major pushed him off then rolled o n him, pinning him to the
"Look, stupid, we got a job to do. Don 't screw it up now. I'll buy you a
whole damn box of cigars when we pull this off. Now get behind the fence with
me or I'll break your arm."
"That was a good cigar, Major. " Danny twisted to get away. "Lemmee up."
"You in with me or not?"
The Major rolled off and they crawled behind the fence. Both of them were
"A whole box you said, Major." Danny coughed.
The back door to the grocery store was thirty feet from the fence. Behind
them was a warehouse that was boarded up. Through a knot-hole the Major
watched for the truck.
"You could have ruined our timing. Plus, the stink would have attracted
attention , and thin k of a ll the people who saw you run into the pa rking lot. " The
Major glared at Danny. "Low pro file, remember?"
"You owe me. " Danny crouched down next to him.
A white truck came down the street and turned into the driveway. It pulled
up even with them.
"Okay, okay, okay," the Major whispered. His eyes narrowed. "This is it.
Just follow me when I say go." He got into a squat and put his hands on the
fence .

James P. Moran

Danny stiffened and glanced around behind him.

The driver got out and walked around to the back of the truck. It had a
trailer maybe twelve feet long. In red letters on the side was written, "Dick Van's
Qµality Meats. Slam on Your Brakes for Dick Van's Steaks."
The Major nodded and they stood up. The back door of the store opened
a nd a stock boy ca me out. He said hello to the driver a nd they started to talk.
Da nny and the Major dropped back down.
"You sa id they never came out," Danny hissed.
"He didn' t. " The Major's head wrinkled up.
"You're breathing too loud."
"You are."
"Shut up. "
"ls that an orde r?"
"You' re da mn right."
At last, the stock boy walked back to the door and opened it. The driver
swung a lever on the rear door of the truck and pulled it open. He tugged out
some large, brown boxes wrapped in plastic. But the stock boy held the door for
him and waited outside.
"This was a stupid idea, Major."
The Major kept quiet. It was a bri lliant idea. Who were these buffoons
gabbing away out here? This had never happened. God, and his feet were fa lling
It smelled like fall , the Major thought, and burning leaves.
They jumped.
"Fire," aga in .
The d umpster was pouring gray clouds of smoke. Da nny leapt up.
"Hang on." The Major grabbed the back of Danny's coat.
The driver ran to the dumpster and the stock boy vanished into the store.
"Cha rge! " the Major yelled, and they scaled the fence to the truck. Danny
got there first and grabbed the biggest box he could handle. He th rew it at the
Major a nd knocked him down. He reached in again, his breath steaming from
the cold a ir.
At that moment the stock boy flew out the door, fire extinguisher in hand,
but never saw them. Danny found a good sized box that said prime rib and took
The Major was up and running, fast. More voices were yelling fire, and
Da nny turned a nd raced down the alley. The Major had al ready cut' down the
narrow way between two buildings and Da nny followed. Across the street a nd
down another a lley they flew.

fames P. Moran

The Major took the back steps 10 the North Bar lwo at a time. Danny
missed the turn and ran straight down a lley after alley u ntil he came to the tall
grass by the river and threw himself on the ground. He lay there panting for a
long time .
Down the front stairs to the bar and the open doorway to the street, the
Major bounded. He vvas a fraid he would burst, his lungs ba nged in his chest.
Only when he got to the trainyards did he realize he was alo ne, a nd he got very
worried. The carton must have weighed thirty pounds. He threw it in a boxcar
and crawled in. He was too dizzy to move. His arms ached and his fingers were
frozen from the package. When had he lost Danny? Had the police caught him?
Best to stay put, he figured . Stay put until dark.
It took them six trips to carry a ll the meat up to the roof. Then they
stashed it on the third fl oor in a corner under some boa rds. Laugh ing li ke glddy
childre n, they went back to the elevator and fell asleep.
The next night the Major sat looking at the sky. Fear. It was that horrible.
wonderful fear that carried him all those blocks up and down stairs. Fear that he
hadn' t known since the war. That was it, wasn't it? His body moved like the
machine it was forty years ago. He \.Vas sore as hell when he got up that
morning a nd he would be for days, probably. But it was what he needed. A
terror of bei ng caught to pump the adrena line like the old days. What a plan! If
on ly some of the guys could have seen this. He tore o ff a huge pink bite of mea t
and chewed it slowly, savori ng the textu re against h is teeth, watch ing the stars.
"We need some rolls with this," He pointed h is bone a t Danny.
Danny was done eating, and the Major had partially kept his promise and
bought him a package of five cigars. Coronas. He u mvrapped one carefully a nd
rook a glowing stick from their little fire. He lit the cigar, puffing deeply. "This is
the life, Major."
The Major crawled to the edge of the roof and peered over, into the street
below. He studied one building for a long time. Then he crept back.
"I believe," he said, "the bakery could be taken by a bold, frontal attack."
Danny shook his head and laughed, and b lew smoke rings in his face.

Kathy Gokey

Our farm is right across the road from my Grandma a nd Grandpa

Rosewate r's. Pa bought this place in 1933 from some Chicago bootleggers.
He used to run sugar fo r them. Three or four times a week, late a t night,
he'd make a trip in his picku p to W ashburn county. Way back in the woods
he'd drive into a barn, load up, then using the back roads, sometimes with his
lights off, he'd d rive back here and unload that suga r right into our cella r.
Running suga r is how Pa got the money to buy this place.
Minnesota 2 1 was the name of the moonshine made here. "Not a
hangover in rhe batch !" was what the bootleggers claimed. It was a popular
brand. No corn or rye used in making it. just pure artesian well water and beet
I know a ll this from stories Pa tells. Some times when he sits in his chair
after su pper he will be in a good mood LO ta lk. W hen the mood strikes h im he
will tell stories about the moonshiners. Or he'll explain why our house is the
way it is. Why it's set way back from the road, why it has only one door and
on ly two windows, why the porch ru ns all the way a round the place, why the
chimney rises so high above the roof top, " ... when they cooked in this cellar
tha t chimney lifted the steam so high you couldn' t smell a nything un til you got
over to Deerfield county, no sir." He'll explain about the room in the cellar with
its piped-in water and ils drain in the floor that runs into the creek in our back
pasture. "That's why the well is by the house a nd not the barn where it belongs .
.. . that's why you kids have to haul water for the a nima ls." He' ll fini sh with that,
as if a n expla natio n will ease o ur disli ke for th is end less chore.
Yes, if Pa is going to share a ny of his thoughts they will be about this.
Most of the time he sits in his chair after supper and just rocks and smokes his
pipe and listens to the radio. He works ha rd a ll day a nd does no t like a lot of
noise . He is a quiet man.
Pa was born in 1900 righ t across the road from here. He's a powerful ma n
with wide shoulders and a narrow waist and a fu ll head of curly brown hair. He
is saved from handsomeness by the Rosewater pa le blue eyes that arc pressed
deep to the sides of his h uge nose. Ma was born in 19 12. She has a pretty gentle
face and she is a gentle woman, short, with tiny ha nds and feet, and a huge
bosom that reaches fro m her chin to her waist. Her stringy, brown hair is always
escaping from the bun at the back of her neck.
Since he bought this place Pa has built a granary and a machine shed. We
have 15 mi lk cows. some calves. pigs, chickens, rwo Belgian work horses na med
Duke a nd Ea rl , several ba rn cats and a clog na med Sooner.
Pa brought the dog home as a pup and for two days my brother Peter and
I argued about what to name him.

12 4
Kathy Gokey

"You haven't decided on a name yet? I' m tired of this arguing. Decide, yoll
have to name him sooner or later. "
"Sooner! His name is Sooner," Peter yells to Pa.
Peter was born in 1933, three years befo re l was. He's a handsome boy,
eve1yone says. he has taken the best from Ma and Pa. I do not know who he
acts like, takes after, as they say. He ru les Ma and me and, even though we've
never said so, \<Ve're both glad for it. He is an easy master.
My brother has ideas and opinions about everything. When Ma makes
pickles she must put a n onion in each jar; Peter likes them like this. If she is
frying pota toes, he pulls a chair over to the stove and takes over. He likes the
potatoes a certain way. He uses a tin can that has both ends removed to cut
them up. Chop, chop, he attacks the potatoes in the big black skillet. He adds a
little more lard, a little more pepper. He llfts them gently with a spatula to see if
they are brown enough to t urn.
I love to watch him eat. I envy him the joy he takes from food, and I try to
copy him. No matter how I try, I do not like the onion pickles or the peppery,
greasy potatoes o r the pickled pigs feet Uncle Bennie brings o r the dumplings
Laurie Hamilton makes and sends over especially for Peter.
I believe my brother was born knowing things. He knows where there is an
apple tree in the middle of our woods. He knows where to cross the creek
without getting into the bloodsucker beds. He knows where to stand in back of
the barn and holler so it will echo three times. "HELLO," he roars through
cupped hands. "HELLO hello hello," the world answers him. He knows how to
get from o ur farm to the Hylock place, going through fi elds and woods to get to
the back of Mrs. Hylock's melon patch.
We find a wire basket with a sliding cover and a long handle up in
Grandma Rosewater's attic. "It's an old collection basket from the church." "No
no it's a popcorn popper," Peter a nswers rnc. Grandma gives him the popper
and a handful of popcorn. Peter plants the corn and harvests a gunny sack full.
After supper he lets me rub two of the dried ears together to remove the
kernels. He slides the basket over the cookstove, back and forth back and forth.
We have the popcorn before we go to bed.
Peter and I sleep in the attic. It is just a cubby hole big enough fo r our bed
and a dresser. Our good clothes hang from nails pounded into the bare studs.
When Pa has money he will finish this room. He will put a window in and
e lectricity up here. He will block off the cavernous east a nd west c rawl spaces
that groan and whistle in the night. Some day this room will be heated, but for
now Pa cut a hole in the floor to let the heat from the wood stove below rise up.
I am terrified of this room. I do not come u p here alone. If I am sick I lay in Ma

Kathy Gokey

and Pa's bed during the day, downstairs, in the bedroom that has no windows.
The attic does not frighten my brother.
Peter has a fort. I have no memory of him building it. It is down in the
gully where Pa dumps the stones we pick each spring from our fields.
Across Lwo wagon loads of stones he has laid some old barn boards. The
back is filled in with sand and more stones. The front has a piece of old canvas
nailed Lo the roof edge. Inside he has buried syrup pails even with the smooth
sand floor. Here, wrapped in our old socks and scraps of worn out clothing, he
stores his collections of arrow heads and Indian pennies. One pail holds his
tobacco and cigarette papers and matches. There is a fire pit outside the canvas
flap where sometime we roast pota toes, sometime we watch the fire and smoke
cigarettes. This is where we eat Mrs. Hylock's melons.
Peter does not like school. A couple of times a week he comes late or
leaves at noon or docs not show up at a ll. It is almost as if he cannot bear to
stay here. Peter cannot read.
Our ma is a school teacher. After she graduated e ighth grade she wenr to
County Normal Teacher's Academy for two years. Gefore she married Pa she
ta ught the school where Peter and I go. Ma helps Peter with his school work. I
sit and listen whenever she gives him his lessons and I learn to read before I
start school. Ma ls a n excellent teacher but still Peter cannot read.
We try to keep it from him , but when Pa hears of the skipping he whips
Peter with his razor strap. Pa's face gets red and his eyes get wild and he swears
that he is going to kill Peter. During the whippings the tables and chairs, even
the water bucket, get tipped over. Hollering a nd swinging the strap Pa chases
Peter around the house until there is no place left for him to hide. Then Peter
cowers in a corner and Pa whips him. While this is going on Ma is crying and
pulling on Pa . She begs him to stop it, stop it. She tells him that he is doing no
good. While this is going on I sta nd mute. I ca nnot breathe or move. I wet my
pants. The whippings affect Peter least of a ny of us. He still skips out of school.
Teacher moves Peter back a grade and me ahead t\-vo grades. He moves
over one row. I move over two. I am to help him with his reading.
"The little red fox ran up the high hill. The little red fox hid in the hen
house. The little red fox jumped over the brown bull. The little red fox, the little
red fox.'' Over and over I read to Peter and he looks at the pictures and
remembers what the fox is doing. Teacher is happy. Peter comes to school every
day but he sti ll skips out or arrives late.
When he is late teacher punishes him. He cannot play at recess. He must
run around the school house 100 times.
Laverne and Rosey Ketchmarak wait for Peter by the far corner of the
building. They make a chair with their arms a nd carry him the back distance.

Katl1y Gohey

They are waiting with their chair when he rounds the corner and they carry him
again and again.
This is how our lives are. I am sure everything would have continued this
way if it had only rained. You see, if it had rained, then Pa would not have been
able to plow the back pasture. If it had rained, Mrs. Hylock would not have
been able to pick the last of her melons. If it had rained, Howie Kiley would not
have been able to install the watering cups in our barn.
But it is a beautiful day and after lunch Peter leaves l'hc school yard. He
has to check if Pa's plowing has turned up any arrow heads or clay pipe p ieces.
He has to beat Mrs. Hylock to her last harvest. But first he checks out the
amazing watering system that we've been eagerly waiti ng .
Finished with his morning work, Pa drives the team into the barnyard and
unhitches the horses from the plow and orders them to "go go." Released from
their load, Duke and Earl, exhausted and hungry, eagerly trudge into the empty
barn. Their huge shod hooves strike sparks on the cement floor. Their dragging
harnesses make jingle bell music. Heads down, single mindedly, they clop clop
back to their stall where they know food and water and rest await them.
Peter does not hear Pa drive into the yard. He is lost in the task of
effortlessly supplying fresh water for the stock. By depressing the metal disc that
sits up in the center of each cup, he performs a task that just this morning took
the two of us, working non-stop, an hour to complete. He has been busy. He
has filled every cup by every stanchion. He has filled the three cups in the calf
Peter is back here finishing up filling the horses' cups when he becomes
aware. Duke and Earl lift their heads and see something scurrying from their
stall. Spooked, they whinny and snort and scream . In unison they rise up on
their hind legs. Earl's huge hooves come down and catch the intruder and kick
him into their stall. Here they both stomp a nd kick and scream and whinny and
stomp and kick until Pa gets back here and grabs their reins and WHOA,
vVHOA, \IVHOAS them as only he can. He talks them calm while he backs them
out of the stall and leads them out of the barn. Then he is free to come back
here and claim Peter's lifeless broken body.
If it had rained none of this would have happened. If it had rained our
lives would be so different. If it had only rained. But it didn' t rain, it is a
beautiful day.

.'J 1



!IS 3fi



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