volumne 1 issue 1
 
 

fiction
"The Day My Life Changed:
A Western Coming of Age Story"

by Hannah Dillard

I was barely conscious of my hands, trembling as the reigns slipped through my fingers; my whole conscience and soul was consumed with what I had become a part of.  We were about to hang a man.  This man before me would be limp and empty with death in just a few minutes, and we didn’t even know his name.

I saw blood from his nose splatter onto his boot and the ground, as he stood exhausted, and frightened into stillness.  Clinton finished securing the rope around his neck.  It was the same hand braided rope that had saved my life, and for a moment, the irony of seeing it here struck me.  I had seen Clinton spend hours making that rope, and he had used it to pull me out of the flooded creek last fall.  Now, it was killing a man.

Clinton finished with the rope, and stepped back as Jacob pulled the rope tight and wound it just once around a stout branch.  He turned and looked at me, and I grasped the reigns, led Drummer Boy forward, and gave him to Joshua.  I passed by the man, close enough to smell the scent of sweat on his shirt, and he looked at me.  I could see his fear and horror, and feel the plea in his eyes reach the inmost depths of my heart.   

read "The Day My Life Changed

 

poetry
I Lack Destination"
by Adam Hylton

I sit here soaking in my own humiliation
Drowning from a lack of inspiration.
Every single thought I have hurts like constant lacerations,
I cry out and weep, overthrown with desperation.
There was a time when I could make nations,
Now, though, I'm stuck here without the slightest creation.
After all this time you'd think I'd get past the frustration,
Truly, I try, yet I lack the concentration.
This is killing my brain, raging like an infection,
Tearing through me until I am under its possession.
All I hoped for from writing was endless perfection,
Now more than ever I lack the ability of expression.
I suffer from restriction,
Causing me to hold back any ideas of an invention.
I'm stuck within the confides of this nonfictional dimension,
When all I really wish to be is a part of over the top fiction.
After all this time my mind can no longer function,
The ailment lacks any sort of classification.
It all boils down to my mind being boggled by constant pollution,
Giving me the pain of constant depression.
My mind is fighting a never-ending war, without the ability of adaptation,
Losing this mind boggling, mental revolution.
I am my own opposition,
Being overthrown by an inner dictation.
All I have is an endless ambition,
To get what I've always wanted, a little recognition.
Life, for me, seems to always go this way, there is no solution,
I am to rot in my own mind, that is my prediction.
In the end this will bring my death, my inevitable annihilation,
It will murder me, without a hint of hesitation.

 

 



Journal Index
Poetry
I Lack Destination
Lonely Ink
Life Lessons

Every Blessed Day
Daisy
Suicide Sunrise
Cold

Fiction
The Day My Life Changed
Two Roses
The Cleaner
Well-Oiled Machine

Non-Fiction
Ghost of Chuck
A Cluster of Freshly Planted Aspen Trees
Hope

Art
Innocent Man
BMW

Vader

Photography
Celebrate
Lightning
Lights
Mammatus Clouds
Red Door
Galle Vista
Black Forest Academy





Volume 2, Issue 1

 

poetryinnocent man
"Lonely Ink"
by Shannon Mahon

A poet hard at work, crafting the perfect piece to recite to his beloved,
Came short of a few words in the process of writing.
In this heartfelt plunge into the fabric of passion,
There was a climax of sorts that came without foreshadowing.

The modern day quill underwent a lot of stress,
As the poet hungrily lusted for the right words.
Swiftly the pen flew across the page,
His mind thinking of her most intimate details, the pen exploded.

The right words were there in his grasp but yet so far off,
A puddle of ink lay where words once treaded with his pulsating heart.
He was without a lover, silenced,
Smearing the ink all over his face.

 

 

nonfiction
"The Ghost of Chuck"

by Joanna Carson

When going about the task of interviewing a trauma victim, I was lost as to who I should question. Then it struck me; my own mother had seen more trauma than anyone else I knew, and the trauma she endured was and is a taboo topic in the media. I was unsure as how to approach her about it, for there is a dark cloud over our family about that time in their lives, and we only vaguely mention it once in a while. It’s difficult because my brother is this dark cloud’s son and my mother’s second husband. So, during a hasty phone call after my brother dropped me off at my parent’s house one weekend, I took a stab in the dark and asked her if I could interview her about “the abusive relationship she was in once upon a time.” At first, she said no, thinking my brother was still around. When I assured her Charlie was gone, she agreed. What she told me was nothing I expected or wanted to hear.

read "The Ghost of Chuck"

poetry
"Life Lessons"

by Alicia Jones

This afternoon.
Wrapped in a blanket.
I sat, listening to NPR.
The Haitian president has been
capturing
young children,
and bringing them up
as soldiers.
Bringing forth the question:
Can you terminate
or even blame
a species that knows
no better
than what they’ve been taught?

 

Clouds & Lights


"Every blessed day"
by Travis Truax

Every blessed day
I imagine
my father
got up
in the mountain dawn
and found his road
to work,
amongst my crying.
There must have been
coffee,
toast,
cereal, perhaps
a vacant nest
of twigs
in the tree
by the porch,
as my mother
soothed me (with song)
back to sleep.
Thru the work,
and scant rest,
the dreams
must have came,
and left;
the long seasons
must have struck
and fallen.
There must
have been
singing.
There must
have been
thick jackets
in the early
winter cold.
There must
have been reason for it
all.           

 

Red Door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



fiction

"Two Roses"
by Grant Williams

It was Valentine’s Day and as I sat in my office I realized for the first time I was not going to receive the two special red roses in the little glass vase that I had received for the last twenty-nine years.  I stared at the flowers sitting on the desks of my assistant Marge thinking of all the times I had complained because I only received two red roses.

Twenty eight years ago Fredrick and I had only been married for a year and I was anticipating having a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  I had put special candles in the candle holders on the dining room table along with a card with a great big red heart I put on Fredrick’s dinner plate.   I had not started working at the office and spent most of the day preparing a special dinner for the two of us.  I knew he would enjoy the meal and maybe would get the hint about Valentine’s Day.  As the clock moved closer to Six PM I waited anxiously by the window of our apartment looking out occasionally to see if his old Chevy was coming.

read "Two Roses"

BMW

fiction
"The Cleaner"
by Zane May

Albert stood still as a statue in the corner of the restroom with a white linen towel draped over his right forearm, which was held navel high, and a bowl of mints resting on the palm of his left hand, held just a few inches higher than the draped towel. To his left was a small hallway connecting the restroom to the restaurant and directly in front of him was the lavatory with two sinks and a large mirror. Two walls partially stepped from the lavatory’s walls to elude its connection to the stall room. In the stall room five stalls lined the left side facing five urinals that lined the right side. To Albert, the set up resembled the first row of either side of a chess board.

read "The Cleaner"

nonfiction
"A Cluster of Freshly Planted Aspen Trees"
by Frederick (Derick) McGrath

In the late fall, the rolling sand hills of western Nebraska were stunning.  Autumn days there possessed a diffused light like … it had journeyed through a soft-focus optical filter.  Abundant bluestem and buffalo grasses covered sandstone bluffs the precise color of oatmeal.  The pale tan and russet colors of the grasses water colored the landscape like people’s memories becoming sepia-tinted with the application of age.  A close friend, JD Harcharick, had invited me to visit her and assist with the removal of several miles of barbed wire fencing.  She, her deceased husband Jerrol, and I attended the same small rural church many years ago.  Being life-long friends, with a common history of joys and sorrows, brings with it an authentic inherent closeness not found in many relationships.  Within this magnificent country setting, their old-ranch-guard-dog Blanco, demonstrated by living his life to the fullest every-single day, more than a couple of life’s profound lessons.  He was, to alter several of my world viewpoints – forever.

Seeing JD again after many years, caused me to consider the specific paths that I have chosen in life.  These paths are often questioned by many, in our later years; when in retrospect, we seek self-validation or reaffirmation of those choices.  Some paths, I would be reminded by Blanco, are costly on many levels; while others are both valuable and inexpensive.

read "A Cluster of Freshly Planted Aspen Trees"  

 

Poetry
"Daisy"
by Charles Simpson

Daisy loves me do, daisy loves me don’t
was she loves me would she loves me will she loves me won’t
Daisy loved me once, does she love me still
Did she love me when she loved me petals tell me will
May she love me might she love me could she love me aught
Alas forsooth the petal o’ truth
Nay she loves me
- Not

Galle Vista

 

fiction
"A Well-Oiled Machine"
by Indigo Pohlman

The hospital was clean. The hospital was efficient. The hospital ran like a well-oiled machine.

A.L.I.C.E. was clean. A.L.I.C.E. was efficient. A.L.I.C.E. was a well-oiled machine.

A.L.I.C.E. was an Autonomous Life-like Intelligent Care Entity. An android designed to be the pinnacle of child health care, or any health care for that matter. She could perform anything from a major surgery to kissing a boo-boo better. In theory.

read "A Well-Oiled Machine"

nonfiction
"Hope"
by Charles Simpson

Hope was when my Grandmother Suzie used to take me fishing at my Grandfather’s cabin down by Medicine Lodge. He, my Uncle Bud, and my father had spent a summer building it in front of two spring-fed ponds of which they had dug by hand. A small cedar lodge with a stone foundation, they had built it into the side of one of the red hills. There was a screened-in bedroom upstairs, and a small living room with a wood-burning stove. The room was carpeted with a patchwork of rug samples Grandmother had sewn together. There was a small kitchen and bathroom downstairs, and another screened-in area below the bedroom where we all dined on a folding aluminum table.

read "Hope"

 
 

PoetryForest
"Suicide Sunrise"

by Kat Myers

Watch the morning Sun
Just as he rises above the sea
He taints the ocean red
With all the blood you see

In his full bathtub
Silently he sits
Taking the knife in his hand
The opposite wrist he slits

The Moon intensely watches
As his blood boils the sea
She didn’t try to stop him
She just let him bleed

So deviant
As she gifted him her blade
She drove him to do it
With the mind games she played

Sick of borrowing her light
From the perfect Sun
She drove him to do it
She forced his blood to run

Vader

Poetry
"Cold"

by Charles Simpson

Even in the distance I can feel you pull away -
as the warmth is fading from my arms,
and yet I am embraced by a tender despair
for I love you still.
Powerfully, passionately, painfully -
The things you say, the things you do,
the way you move.
For it is only in my heart where time stands still
and I am left to ponder how long it will be
-  Until you miss me.


fiction
"The Day My Life Changed: A Western Coming of Age Story"

by Hannah Dillard

I was barely conscious of my hands, trembling as the reigns slipped through my fingers; my whole conscience and soul was consumed with what I had become a part of.  We were about to hang a man.  This man before me would be limp and empty with death in just a few minutes, and we didn’t even know his name.

I saw blood from his nose splatter onto his boot and the ground, as he stood exhausted, and frightened into stillness.  Clinton finished securing the rope around his neck.  It was the same hand braided rope that had saved my life, and for a moment, the irony of seeing it here struck me.  I had seen Clinton spend hours making that rope, and he had used it to pull me out of the flooded creek last fall.  Now, it was killing a man.

Clinton finished with the rope, and stepped back as Jacob pulled the rope tight and wound it just once around a stout branch.  He turned and looked at me, and I grasped the reigns, led Drummer Boy forward, and gave him to Joshua.  I passed by the man, close enough to smell the scent of sweat on his shirt, and he looked at me.  I could see his fear and horror, and feel the plea in his eyes reach the inmost depths of my heart.  For an instant, I was frozen by his look, but the moment passed when Clinton roughly shoved him toward the horse.   I stepped back, my mind an unsortable tangle of split second thoughts and emotions.

The murderer was on the horse now; he would be swinging in a moment.  The rope was knotted, and Clinton was raising a whip to strike Drummer Boy.  Every pound of my heart echoed in my ears, and I could not move or breathe.

In the next split second, a strong, choking hold jerked me backwards, and a gun I could barely see jammed painfully into the side of my face.  I was too surprised to do anything but instinctively try to free myself, too surprised to really comprehend, until I heard the revolver at the side of my head cock, and a loud voice rasp, "He dies, the kid dies.”

Everyone froze.  "Git away from that horse!"   A sharp dig of the gun barrel made me gasp.

Clinton backed away, but Joshua, his dark face a mask of concern, only managed to take a step forward before a shout stopped him.  "Hey! Take the rope off, and let 'im go."

I looked at the stranger on the horse.  I saw hope light his eyes and spread throughout his being. Liberated, the stranger seemed a new man, a far cry from the beaten and desperate mess he had been, as he yanked the noose over his head and leaned forward to scoop up Drummer Boy's reigns.

I looked over at Jacob, and with the absolute certainty that comes from growing up as someone's shadow for fourteen years, knew what he wanted me to do.

Then the stranger was there, offering his hand to the man holding a gun to my head.

"Come'on mister, let's git out of here."

I waited, but his grip didn't relax a bit as the man replied.  "No.  Just go."

"Tell me yer name."

"Just go!  Now!  Go!!"

"No, not 'thout yer name.  I wanna thank ya someday.  I owe ya one..."

The man behind me made a strangled sound in his throat and cursed.  "It's Jesse!  Now ride you fool!  Git! Go now!"

"I’ll never ferget this!"

“Go, NOW!"  And he did.

I was still motionless, but physically and mentally alert for the chance that came a couple of minutes later.  The man, Jesse, had turned his head to listen to the distant hoof beats, relaxing his grip ever so slightly as he did so.  I hesitated not an instant; I slipped down from his grip, and hurled myself forward onto the earth, the sound of Jacob's shots resounding before I hit the ground.

I didn't have to look to know the results of my brother's shots, but I did.  I rolled, and from the ground watched as Jesse fell, his body seeming to crumple from the bottom up.  I was trembling all over, and as relief and shock flooded through me, I felt my eyes mist, and coughed to clear the constriction in my throat.  I was a man though, I would not cry.  I hugged myself and began to rock back and forth on the ground, dimly aware that Jacob was kneeling in the dirt beside me.   I felt his hand gently grip my shoulder, and heard him tell the others I would be fine, to go after the horse.

They didn't stay around; they did as they were told, and quickly mounted and left.  Jacob's hand had never left my shoulder, and now I heard him ask if I was all right.  The husky emotion in his voice touched something inside me, and I turned, wrapped my arms around him, buried my face in his shirt, and wept for the last time as a child.

Jacob waited in silence for my sobs to slow, then awkwardly patted my shoulder, pulled away and reached with a trembling hand to give me his bandana.   "Here."  It was just one word, but it stopped my tears.  I took the bandanna, and Jacob quickly clambered to his feet and turned away.  He stood in silence for a moment before turning to me with a now composed and stolid expression on his face.  His voice was steady as he asked again, "Are you all right now?"

I nodded an affirmation, and listened attentively as he told me to go down to the creek and wash up, then come back and help him when I was done.  I knew what he meant, and I took my time at that stream.  When I left, I knew my experience had changed me for life.  I had taken another irreversible step toward manhood.

But maturity was not the only thing I learned then; the last lesson I learned that day has haunted me forever.  When Jacob and I checked the man's pockets for identification, all we found was a single letter, and a full length portrait of a young man holding a lariat; the very young man we had tried to hang.  The letter was in a woman's hand, and this is how it read:

My Dear Jesse,
Frank and I spoke with the doctor yesterday and found out I don't have much time left, so I wanted to write to you.  Rachel is writing this for me, since Frank took off, and no one has been able to locate him.   Twenty years is a long time to be apart, even though I know most people would want someone who killed a man to be killed in return, not just put away for good.  But I still miss you and long to be with you.  You were good to me; that is something I will never forget.  I have tried to raise our Frank to be a good man, but it is a hard thing for any mother to do by herself out in this unforgiving land.  So many things have demanded my time.  I hope he will make the right choices now that he is grown.  But I wanted you to know I have tried my best to do right by him.  I raised him with lots of love, because he was a part of you--the only part that I still had to hold.  I think the only thing that I couldn't bring myself to do was to tell him the truth about you.  He thinks you died in the war.  I just couldn't tell him that his father was convicted for murder.  I couldn't take the chance that he would get the wrong impression of you, so I let him believe it.  I wanted him to grow up knowing his dad was loyal and good.  God knows your heart, and how coming to know Him has changed your attitude.   I believe you, that you have changed, and will never allow yourself to make the mistake of killing someone again.  Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I have left my will with Rachel.  She has been a good neighbor, and will make sure it gets into the right hands.  In it, I have left all I have to Frank.
Unending love,
Elizabeth


Would Frank’s father have killed again?  That will never be known, but I checked the gun he had held to my head—the gun that I, my brother, friends, and neighbors, believed would end my life.  The result?  It was empty.


 

nonfiction
"The Ghost of Chuck"

by Joanna Carson

When going about the task of interviewing a trauma victim, I was lost as to who I should question. Then it struck me; my own mother had seen more trauma than anyone else I knew, and the trauma she endured was and is a taboo topic in the media. I was unsure as how to approach her about it, for there is a dark cloud over our family about that time in their lives, and we only vaguely mention it once in a while. It’s difficult because my brother is this dark cloud’s son and my mother’s second husband. So, during a hasty phone call after my brother dropped me off at my parent’s house one weekend, I took a stab in the dark and asked her if I could interview her about “the abusive relationship she was in once upon a time.” At first, she said no, thinking my brother was still around. When I assured her Charlie was gone, she agreed. What she told me was nothing I expected or wanted to hear.

In 1972, my mother was twenty years old, younger than I am now, and working as a dancer in a bar in Wichita, Kansas. She lived in a small house downtown, on a block with a lot of other young people, including her future and final husband, my father Joe. She was popular with everyone, with her exotic looks, statuesque body, and friendly personality. Because of this and her line of work, she was invited to many parties and at one particular party, she walked into the kitchen to find a young man slumped over the table with a needle sticking out of his arm. She recognized the man as a customer that frequented the bar, and proceeded to ask people at the party who he was and what was going on with him. His name was Charles “Chuck” Webb, and he was currently suffering from an overdose of heroin. She asked some friends to help her get him in the back of her Buick and then drove him back to her house and cleaned him up. From this point on my mother’s life would never be the same.

With bitterness in her voice she told me, “If I never would have met Chuck, I know I never would have touched a needle in my entire life.”

At first their relationship was nice, but far from normal. After the party incident Chuck spent his time devoted to getting clean, enamored with my mother’s mercy, kindness, absence of judgment, and willingness to help him. They fell in love. He was working at Cessna Aircraft and shortly after they met he moved into my mother’s house, where she was living as a single mom with her second daughter, Kristi Sue. Chuck immediately adored Kristi and soon melted into a normal Suburbia life.

“We loved to go fishing and camping together. It was so much fun. He cherished Kristi and doted on her whenever he could.”

I can tell my mother is tearing up when she tells me this, but her voice does not shake as she says, “The first time he was ever violent towards me was over a Macy’s charge card. We had this card and I kept getting these statements in the mail telling me someone had bought five sweepers (vacuums), TV sets, furniture, things like that. I didn’t know anything about it because I didn’t even have one sweeper, there was no way I could afford it. When I confronted Chuck about it, he started packing his bags, because he promised that if he ever started using again, he’d leave. Turns out he had been selling all that stuff, sweepers and TV sets to people for smack (heroin). I was pissed. When I started yelling at him, that’s when he became angry and started to throw stuff around.”

She never says that he hit her that this time, but continues on saying that she took him for a second chance, unable to turn him onto the streets, “I knew he would be dead within two weeks if I kicked him out for good. And I loved him. I couldn’t.”

Again, he promised to get clean. I was curious as to what my grandparents (Chuck’s parents) had thought of this, because I knew they were very old fashioned.

“They didn’t know,” she tells me. “They just thought he was a drinker, which they didn’t care as much about. They’d go to the bars with us and drink too.” At this she smiles, it must have been a good memory.

“No, they didn’t know. They thought we were married too. Chuck was so excited to introduce me to his parents…when he brought me over there with Kristi, it turns out he had told them we were married just to justify us sleeping in the same bed. I didn’t know. I woke up the next morning to a huge fancy breakfast on fine china and linen because they thought we had eloped.”

With no one suspecting any deviant behavior, there was really no one to go to when things got bad, so my mother thought. The fact that she was abused as a child and moved from foster home to foster home also affected her reasoning abilities. She thought this kind of treatment was normal for taking care of someone, which is something she was used to doing, being the eldest of six children, many of different fathers and a disinterested alcoholic “mother.”

“So, I started using when I was hanging out with him and his friends together…I had never used a needle before then. Just smoked weed and drank, like everyone did back then. Chuck and I would wait by the phone on weekends to hear if anyone had copped some junk (got some heroin.) I don’t hardly remember anything about being high except getting sick….it wasn’t good stuff if you didn’t puke. Chick was sick more than me. He already had a bunch of terminal illnesses. His liver was shot.”

Months later, another episode occurred. After a particularly heated argument about his drug use in front of Kristi, Chuck struck her repeatedly in the face and head, and subsequently she had to go to the hospital.

“I had to have surgery. They had to put a plate in my head. That’s when I found out I was pregnant with Charlie.”

I asked her why Chuck became so violent at different intervals and she replied that it was withdrawals. He would go for forty to sixty days of being clean and sober to caving in and using again. It was in between uses that he was most abusive. She states that she would incite some of the arguments, being high herself. Going on, she says that after the fights and in between the black outs of heroin highs, he was nothing but apologetic and guilt-ridden for his actions. He constantly told her he would die without her and that he wasn’t worthy of her love.

“I had boxes and boxes of cards and letters from him saying he’s sorry. He wasn’t the same person when he was going through withdrawals.”

After the hospital, they drove to Miami to avoid attention from friends about the surgery, gauze, and bruises. They got legally married in Florida and drove back to Kansas after they made a pact with each other to get clean for their baby that was coming.

“And we did. And all through my pregnancy, he never hit me once. I know now he was probably still using, but he didn’t hit me.”  In September of 1976, when Charles Otis Webb III, my technical half-brother but for all intents and purposes my real brother was born, Chuck seemed to stay true to his promise.

“It went real well for the first couple of months.  He was an excellent father. He took care of both of the kids, helped me when I was tired…he was good. It wasn’t until I came home from work one day that I found out he’d gone back to junk.”

Their house was only a few blocks from the bar where my mother worked, and Chuck was home watching the kids. She walked home to feed Charlie and when she entered the house, she saw Chuck passed out over the side of the couch, a lit cigarette in hand, dangling over my screaming infant brother. The cherry of the cigarette had fallen onto Charlie’s stomach and was burning a hole through his clothing.

“But Chuck couldn’t hear him because he was all messed up, blacked out. I was absolutely beside myself.”

When she finally managed to get him to come to, she screamed and yelled at him and smacked him in the face. This sent Chuck into a rage which he chased and beat my mother for a huge length of time, splitting her lip, fracturing a few bones, and bruising her face black, blue, and swollen. He fled the house, leaving my mother on the floor.

At this point, my mother’s sister Sherry was called to live with them. Under a more watchful eye, he wasn’t using in the house, and when there was an argument, he would leave instead of taking it out on my mother.

“He would leave and be gone for days. I got mad at him once when he came back with his shoes gone because I knew he’d sold them for heroin. And he pummeled me. I mean, he was just on top of me, beating me with his fists. Sherry tried to pull him off of me but couldn’t, so she ran down the street to your father’s house and he and his friend Randy had to pull Chuck off of me. That night, he took Charlie and left. To this day I still don’t know where he went. He was gone all night and all day and I was worried sick and so angry. I wanted to call the cops but knew I couldn’t because I didn’t want them asking questions and searching the house and finding the drugs.” When he came back, my mother decided to leave the house entirely with both Kristi and Charlie, and get an apartment. Chuck was devastated and begged her not to leave him.

“That was it. I was done. I drank so much. But he was gone and I had my babies and my own place. Your dad helped a lot.”

One day in 1978, six years after they met, two years after my brother was born, Chuck showed up at my mom’s doorstep clean and smiling.

“I’d never seen him look so healthy. It was like a different man….I had missed him so much. Even after all that. I still missed him. I missed Chuck.”

He told her he went back to his parents for help, got a good job, and wanted to be a part of his son’s life, if she’d let him. After a very long night, they made up. The next morning she was concerned about him getting to work on time.

“I didn’t know at the time he had lied. He never got another job during those two years. I just didn’t want him to lose what he had worked so hard for, that’s the only reason I asked him about what time he had to be there.” At this, she bites her nails.

“He’d been leaving his parent’s house in the mornings, going to flophouses with his friends, and coming back in the evening. So when I asked him about work, he just smiled and said ‘Hey, don’t worry cupcake.’ He got outta bed and walked to the chest-of-drawers where he’d set his clothes and pulled out a gun. He walked to the bathroom and grinned and told me ‘Don’t worry,’ again. Then he shot himself in the mouth.”

After calling the police and the ambulance, my grandma (my mom’s mom), had heard the police dispatch on her CB radio and came over to the apartment in a flash. At the hospital, Chuck lay in his bed, brain-dead, and the decision of whether to let him live with the machines or to let him go lie with my mother.

“I told them to the pull the plug. He said he wanted to die anyway. I mean, he shot himself. Your Aunt Patti flew at me, attacked me. I’ll never forget that. I think that’s why there’s always a rift between us, just a little one. But still. She says she doesn’t remember that, but I do.”

After the death of Chuck, my mother was put on so many “anti” pills, she went through her days in a zombified fog. Remembering very little of that time, she thought she had signed over temporary custody of the two children to Kristi’s father, but unknowingly signed permanent custody of Kristi to his family.

“I never got her back.” She laments.

She went back to work and almost everyone blamed her for the ordeal. Without her ids, she was drinking heavily on top of the pills. My father was taking care of her and Charlie the best that he could, a college drop-out just released from the Navy. She became extremely attached to him. She’d never been taken care of in her entire life. She was so in love with him, she asked him to marry her, but he declined, not ready for that big of step and in devastation she fled to California alone and tortured.

“That was my answer to every problem in my life. Move myself. It was then that your dad realized he missed me and Charlie. I told him I wouldn’t move back until he asked me to marry him. He did.” She smiles.

Throughout this interview, my mother had focused so much on how these traumatic events had affected other people rather than herself and surprisingly enough I found it easy to spot her trauma now that I knew the whole story. Nevertheless, I pressed on., asking her how she dealt with it all after the fact.

“I blamed myself for years and years. Drank. Got into speed real bad. I used to shoot it into my feet so your dad wouldn’t see the marks. But I had to have it…it kept me awake. If I slept, I dreamt of Chuck. He almost divorced me when he found out. After that I got into counseling and that helped. Helped me realize this whole time I’d never been taking care of myself.”

She went on to say that for a long time she couldn’t stand to watch scenes of drug use in movies or on television.

“It’d make me sick to my stomach. That was one of your father’s and my favorite things to do, was to go to the movies. And I had to get up and leave so much. It was the same with suicide scenes or guns…I don’t remember what it was called but there was one movie where the guy shot himself just like Chuck did and I almost fainted.”

Besides the obvious, I had noticed little things throughout my life that indicated my mom was still traumatized by what had happened to her. She suffered from migraines, sleep disorder, extreme fluctuation of weight loss and gain, skittishness, sensitivity to the subject of death and suicide, and extreme, some would say irrational worry over my brother.

“He sounds just like Chuck sometimes, with the things he says, and his anger problems. I get so scared. That’s Chuck ever talked about; wanting to die. I used to read him verses from the Bible to show him that God wanted him to live and so did I.”

Since I was born, she says, everything has been fine. She’s been married to my father for twenty-six years and has not fallen back into the hands of substance abuse. I always find it hard to believe she was once so mistreated, for as long as I’ve known her she’s been strong willed and assertive. We never talked about it in my family and it made me wonder how many other women go abused without anyone knowing.

I asked my mother if she felt like a victim still today.

“No. I’ve let that part of me go. I only felt like a victim when people were blaming me.”

The ghost of Chuck stopped haunting her long ago.


fiction
"Two Roses"
by Grant Williams

It was Valentine’s Day and as I sat in my office I realized for the first time I was not going to receive the two special red roses in the little glass vase that I had received for the last twenty-nine years.  I stared at the flowers sitting on the desks of my assistant Marge thinking of all the times I had complained because I only received two red roses.

Twenty eight years ago Fredrick and I had only been married for a year and I was anticipating having a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  I had put special candles in the candle holders on the dining room table along with a card with a great big red heart I put on Fredrick’s dinner plate.   I had not started working at the office and spent most of the day preparing a special dinner for the two of us.  I knew he would enjoy the meal and maybe would get the hint about Valentine’s Day.  As the clock moved closer to Six PM I waited anxiously by the window of our apartment looking out occasionally to see if his old Chevy was coming.

I went back into the kitchen and as I was checking on our dinner I heard the front door open and it was my beloved husband Fredrick standing there with a little glass vase and two beautiful red roses.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, dear,” he said as he handed me the little vase of flowers.

I tried not to show my disappointment of not receiving a large bouquet of flowers and a big box of gooey chocolates and hugged him.

I knew this gesture was important to him and I took the flowers and put them on the table between us.  He opened his card and without much emotion just said thanks.  We ate our meal and I could see even though our thoughts on Valentine’s Day were different I knew he loved me.  It was the most important thing we had.

Life moved along quite quickly and soon we had two children.  When the children started school I got a job in the office at a local insurance company.  Each year I would get my usual Valentine’s gift of two red roses in a small glass vase while other women in the office would get their large bouquets and flamboyant Valentine cards.  I somehow felt cheated but never revealed that to my wonderful Fredrick.  I still prepared wonderful Valentine’s Day dinners and always lighted new candles.

Sooner than I realized our children grew and went through school then on to their own lives and adventures.  They would send Valentine Cards and greetings every February but Fredrick never changed and always sent me the two red roses to my office.

I wondered if he would ever give me flowers if it wasn’t for the Cupid’s Holiday.

Life went on with the same uniformity we had grown accustom to with Fredrick working at the same job, the same hours and the same time to return home each day.  I worked at the same office with many of the same people I started with many years ago. I would leave the office the same time and return home early enough to prepare dinner for Fredrick and myself.  We took our vacation the same time each year and usually spent those days at a nearby lake where we spent our time in a wonderful little cabin. Our children now growing up and getting married would try to spend some of the Christmas holiday with us and everything else was normal in our lives.

Everything was normal until that dreadful day in October a year ago.  I had just returned from work and was preparing dinner when the phone rang.  It was Fredrick’s boss and he told me to get to the hospital right away.  He told me Fredrick had passed out at work and it looked as if it was his heart. I put down the phone and carefully turned off the burners of the stove before I walked to my little compact car and drove to the hospital.  I knew it must not be serious since Fredrick never had a sick day in his life and as the proverbial saying goes he was healthy as a horse.  I was not worried and knew he would most likely leave with me in a few hours.

When I arrived at the hospital the nurse rushed me to Fredrick’s side and it was then I knew things were very serious.  He had a massive heart attack but was hanging on to his life now very fragile and not so strong.  I held his hand as he fell asleep and waited for the doctor.  Within minutes after seeing the doctor the nurse and an orderly took Fredrick away as I signed papers for an emergency procedure.  I just knew he was going to be all right but may have to stay a few days.  He should be home for Halloween.

As life throws us curves Fredrick did not regain consciousness and passed away on the operating table.  He was only fifty years old.  I had a difficult time dealing with his passing. I especially had a difficult time telling the children. 

The children stayed with me for a while but finally had to get back to their lives.  I was dealing with the situation as well as I could and decided the best thing to do was go back to work and submerse myself in contracts and forms.  I managed to deal with lonely nights but once in a while I would go to college plays and musical events in town.  My widowed friend Amy who had lost her husband in the war in the Middle East sometimes would go with me.  I dealt with Christmas quite well since the kids came home and spent a whole week with me.  We sang carols and drank hot toddies by the fireplace.

But today was the first Valentine’s Day without Fredrick.  I looked at the lovely flowers brought to the other ladies of the office by delivery boys wishing I would have a little bouquet with two red roses in a simple little glass vase.  I wish I had not complained about the simplicity of the wonderful gift and remembrance by my beloved husband.  I finally realize it was his way of letting me know how much he loved me.

I left the office about an hour early and went to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  I walked by the floral department and there in the glass case was a simple little glass vase holding two red roses.  I stopped and looked at them a while finally carefully putting them in my basket.  Tonight I would not be sad but I would have something sitting on my table that reminded me of the one who had loved me so much.


nonfiction
"A Cluster of Freshly Planted Aspen Trees"
by Frederick (Derick) McGrath

In the late fall, the rolling sand hills of western Nebraska were stunning.  Autumn days there possessed a diffused light like … it had journeyed through a soft-focus optical filter.  Abundant bluestem and buffalo grasses covered sandstone bluffs the precise color of oatmeal.  The pale tan and russet colors of the grasses water colored the landscape like people’s memories becoming sepia-tinted with the application of age.  A close friend, JD Harcharick, had invited me to visit her and assist with the removal of several miles of barbed wire fencing.  She, her deceased husband Jerrol, and I attended the same small rural church many years ago.  Being life-long friends, with a common history of joys and sorrows, brings with it an authentic inherent closeness not found in many relationships.  Within this magnificent country setting, their old-ranch-guard-dog Blanco, demonstrated by living his life to the fullest every-single day, more than a couple of life’s profound lessons.  He was, to alter several of my world viewpoints – forever.       

Seeing JD again after many years, caused me to consider the specific paths that I have chosen in life.  These paths are often questioned by many, in our later years; when in retrospect, we seek self-validation or reaffirmation of those choices.  Some paths, I would be reminded by Blanco, are costly on many levels; while others are both valuable and inexpensive.

It felt terrific to be outdoors working in the sunshine.  JD and I were removing a seemingly never-ending line of centuries-old barbed wire and wooden fence posts dating from the age of the first Nebraska settlers.  We were chatting and reminiscing about the days when we were considerably more youthful.  Jerrol’s nine-year-old ranch dog, Blanco, a Great Pyrenees, was always nearby.  His coloring was mostly cream, with dinner-plate sized patches of tan on his sides, gray raccoon-face-mask-like eye markings, all topped off with thick black ears that were as soft as a mink’s coat.  He was a living reminder of Jerrol.  His prized occupation was to announce the arrival of visitors to the ranch.  He did this with a spirit of enthusiasm that was unmatched by any of the neighboring canines.  Exhausted from chasing rabbits, he ambled over to us to rest.  Plopping down unceremoniously, he proceeded to lick his foreleg.

Needle grass possesses a seed like a hypodermic needle, which can often become embedded in a dog’s feet.  Thinking one of these was bothering Blanco, I knelt beside him to offer assistance.  “JD there is something wrong with his leg.  It is swollen near his wrist joint.”  JD stopped pulling nails from fence posts and came over to have a look.  She looked at me with concern and question marks in her faded-blue-jean colored eyes.  “Do you think he should see a vet?”  Trying to sound calm, I responded.  “If he were mine, I would have it checked right away.  I have never seen anything remotely like that bulge.” 

We stopped our work for the day, loaded our tools into JD’s dusty old beat-up truck, and headed straight into town.  Riding in the open back of the truck, Blanco was testing the air for critter smells; he was in Great Pyrenees heaven.  The local veterinarian carefully examined Blanco’s leg and immediately set up an appointment with the University of Colorado at Fort Collins.  Approximately a five hour drive away, they have one of the best veterinarian teaching hospitals in the country.  He needed to be seen in Fort Collins as soon as possible.  This was strike one against Blanco Harcharick.

Blanco was ecstatic from all the attention.  Freshly bathed, brushed, and smelling of lavender shampoo, he looked like a completely different sheep dog.  With his fur missing its normal adornment of sand-spurs, cockle-burs, twigs, leaves, and dirt, he was much whiter and looked quite handsome.

With large estate-like highly manicured grounds and new three story red-brick buildings, the University of Colorado Veterinary Teaching Hospital looked to be superior to most human hospitals.  We were met in the lobby by three doctors and an intern who explained the procedure.  “We will take a couple of quick blood samples and a biopsy of the bone to see what is happening with his leg.  We should have some definitive answers available soon.”  Blanco appeared somehow smaller than usual as he was led down a very long, white hallway.  He was wagging his tail as the doctor spoke to him while they traversed the passageway.  JD and I watched as they neared the far end of the hallway, slowly turned the corner, and then quietly proceeded out of our sight - directly into the face of his future.

Over an hour later, Blanco returned, sporting a couple of shaved spots on his leg along with the requisite Band-Aids.  JD and I were to learn unfortunately:  Blanco had Osteosarcoma, a particularly aggressive form of bone cancer that is commonly seen in some of the larger breeds.  The life expectancy from the time of diagnosis was six to twelve weeks without treatment.  With both chemotherapy and radiation this expectancy could possibly be increased to six months.  Limb harvesting (amputation of the leg) was also an option.  This disease is exceptionally painful for animals, and euthanasia is normally required in the end due to the increased pain.  The cost of full medical treatment would be approximately twelve thousand dollars.  We were assaulted with torrents of information comparable to a bag of marbles being ripped open and loudly clattering onto a stone floor.  This was strike two against Blanco Harcharick.

Twelve thousand dollars spent on an old ranch dog might have seemed extravagant.  Most people would not hesitate to spend two hundred dollars to extend the life of a companion.  Jerrol and JD had purchased many dry-land farms over the last forty years.  They would drill water wells, install irrigation equipment, and then as JD would explain, “… flip the land for a considerable profit.”   They were more than comfortably wealthy.  For Blanco, money would never be regarded as an issue.  When his treatment, or lack thereof, was at first debated, the only consideration was for his quality of life.    

Blanco was to undergo both radiation and chemotherapy.  With his leg strength reduced from the radiation and cancer, he needed to be custom fitted with a leg brace.  Watching him first learn to walk in this rigid brace was hilarious; to witness how ungainly his stride was…like watching an old Charlie Chaplin movie with his side-ways, lop-sided gait.  He would do amazingly well, only becoming slightly weaker toward the end of his seven weekly treatments.  On the way home after each treatment, we would stop for a dish of strawberry ice cream; to him there was nothing better.  After his treatments were concluded, I left Nebraska.  It was not easy to say farewell to either of my very much loved friends.


Weeks later, JD would telephone to relay how after dinner one early evening, during a light dusting of snow, Blanco had taken a nap and simply relinquished his job of announcing visitors to the ranch.  This was strike three against Blanco Harcharick. 

He was to survive less than sixteen weeks after his diagnosis.  His lavish medical care had purchased for him, the gift of absolute freedom from pain.  JD wrapped Jerrol’s much loved companion in an old quilt and buried him on the ranch.  A cluster of freshly planted aspen trees on a grassy hillside would mark his grave.  JD remarked how, “This would allow him to have a suitable view of his arch enemies, the rabbits.”  Love, personified through him, was deceptively packaged in, fluffy white fur, thick black ears, and a joyful companion smelling of lavender.

A simple loving ranch dog would teach me to treasure the time we have on this planet.  Taking life for granted is not an option after seeing the rapid end to Blanco’s life.  His courage is something I would attempt to incorporate into my everyday thought process.  From the first time he saw the hospital and doctors, he was fearless.  Even after he understood what going there for treatments required, he faced his world with a calm cheer - if I could learn to do the same.


fiction
"The Cleaner"
by Zane May

Albert stood still as a statue in the corner of the restroom with a white linen towel draped over his right forearm, which was held navel high, and a bowl of mints resting on the palm of his left hand, held just a few inches higher than the draped towel. To his left was a small hallway connecting the restroom to the restaurant and directly in front of him was the lavatory with two sinks and a large mirror. Two walls partially stepped from the lavatory’s walls to elude its connection to the stall room. In the stall room five stalls lined the left side facing five urinals that lined the right side. To Albert, the set up resembled the first row of either side of a chess board.

The start of his 4:00 shift was always slow and uneventful until about 5:30 when restaurant patrons would quickly begin to arrive for supper. Albert studied the restroom and was thoroughly disappointed with the condition in which Dylan, the first shift college student, had left the room.

Albert knew Dylan had neglected to wash the walls. The ivory tile boasted the unmistakable circular patterns that Alfred had wiped them clean with yesterday. His cleaning tactics were precise and practiced, what he had learned in the butler academy had left an impression regardless of his lack of a degree. There were water marks on the stainless steel faucets, and God knows what inside of the urinals. Albert observed the back room with the stalls and suddenly noticed that three of the stall doors had been left closed. He cursed the young incompetent under his breath and sat his towel down on the counter with the bowl of mints neatly placed on top.

Albert took a small cleaning towel from his jacket pocket along with a pocket size spray bottle of homemade cleaner. He sprayed the faucets and then wiped them clean.

Looking at himself in the mirror, Albert noticed a piece of lint clinging to his torso from the white linen towel. He brushed it down with his left hand and caught it in his right, then disposed of it in the waste bend.

He pocketed the small cleaning kit and moved into the stall room. At the first stall door, he lifted his hand and advanced it slowly. The door gave easy and Albert pushed it slowly, being careful not to collide with the stall wall. He stopped just an inch from it.
“How could Dylan leave the stall door closed, it would confuse the men” thought Albert.
He moved to second stall. The door was already open but Albert opened it a little further, leaving it just an inch from the stall wall as well. He repeated for the third stall and proceeded to the fourth, but when he pushed against the door it did not budge.

“Sorry sir, I thought the room was empty…” Albert said.

There was no answer. Albert waited a long moment for reply and then slowly began to bend at his waist, descending his head to the bottom of the stall door. There were no shoes, it appeared empty.

Albert returned to his post and regained his posture with the towel draped navel high, mints just a bit higher.

He cursed Dylan again, this time out loud. He could feel the rage building inside and he tried to calm himself. Albert had a habit of enraging over small mistakes, other peoples mistakes. Albert rarely made mistakes, especially ones that caused a conflict for the customers.

To his left the door swung open and a short fat man in a traditional tuxedo slummed through the hall. As he passed, Albert nodded and smiled to him.

“The third stall is out of order today.”

The man took a mint, then without a word walked through the lavatory and into the second stall, shutting the door.

Minutes passed, then after a small commotion the man reappeared through from the stall, washed up in the lavatory, dried his hands at Albert’ s navel, and had another mint.

“Enjoy your meal, sir.” Albert said through a smile. The man exited without word.
Albert looked back into the stall room. The man had left the door closed. Albert placed the towel down with the mints neatly on top and walked to the stall. Stopping outside of the stall, Albert reached into the inside of his jacket and retrieved a miniature air freshener spray can.

Gently, Albert pushed the door open and then sprayed a steady stream of Jasmine into the stall. Without looking down he reached in and flushed, then cleaned the handle with his homemade kit.  He left the door an inch form the stall wall and then started back to his post.

“Today is going to be a rough day”.


fiction
"A Well-Oiled Machine"
by Indigo Pohlman

The hospital was clean. The hospital was efficient. The hospital ran like a well-oiled machine.

A.L.I.C.E. was clean. A.L.I.C.E. was efficient. A.L.I.C.E. was a well-oiled machine.

A.L.I.C.E. was an Autonomous Life-like Intelligent Care Entity. An android designed to be the pinnacle of child health care, or any health care for that matter. She could perform anything from a major surgery to kissing a boo-boo better. In theory.

In practice she was a cold but competent caretaker and nurse.  She had been given the children’s wing, to run as she pleased. The children liked her, maybe even loved her, but she was unable to satisfactorily respond to their feelings.

But that didn’t matter so much, because she was effectual and flawless.

She was the hospital.

Her severe black dress, which hid blood astonishingly well and gave her the look of a stern governess, made a stark contrast against the gleaming sterile walls and her own porcelain white “skin.” Her tight black curls framed her pale face and silver eyes. The green bow peeking out from behind her head only seemed to exaggerate the monotony of her appearance. She was designed to look like a human of 14 to put the children at ease, but it disturbed the adults because she acted nothing like a child. She was too distant and clinical, too unfeeling and blunt.

But that didn’t matter, because she got the job done better than it had ever been done before.

She made rounds all over the hospital, not just her sector. Straight corridors with exact ninety degree turns. Perfectly square rooms with a bed tucked firmly in the left hand corner, a chest of drawers against the opposite wall, exactly three feet away from the closet. All the equipment necessary was stocked in the cabinets next to the bathroom. Everything was cleaned daily if unoccupied and many more times in a room with an occupant.

Anything that was even slightly out of line was corrected. There could be no disorder, because disorder meant imperfections, imperfections meant mistakes, and mistakes could mean death. Disorder was a sin. Disorder was unforgivable.

Humans were disorderly, but A.L.I.C.E. knew how to handle humans. She knew to let them do as they wished, but she also knew how to make them obey her rules. The drones kept everything clean and neat. Their dull buzzing and whirring could be heard constantly thrumming through the hospital air.

Humans make mistakes, which was why almost all operations of the hospital were left to the machines. A.L.I.C.E. and a few select humans made sure that the machines were well-tended and running smoothly. What the humans didn’t catch, she did. There were routine check-ups and surprise inspections. Her hospital always passed.

But eventually a war erupted, as they always do. And A.L.I.C.E.’s hospital received more and more patients as it dragged on. But the hospital stayed clean and the hospital stayed efficient. It stayed perfect.

But perfection is an illusion. And illusions are always revealed.

One day, soldiers came to the hospital.

It was nothing unusual. Many soldiers from both sides came for care and many left. But these soldiers stayed. They held the hospital hostage.

And A.L.I.C.E. tried to keep the hospital perfect, but the soldiers wouldn’t bend to her will. Her methods didn’t work on them.

The hospital became dirty. The hospital became inefficient. The well-oiled machine began to fall apart.

It stressed her systems, to see her patients sicken and watch their wounds fester. To watch refuse and blood soak into mattresses and sheets, and bugs and rats begin to take up residence. No humming drones roamed the halls anymore. The soldiers were suspicious of hackers and spies.

The soldiers hogged the necessary supplies and her wards began dying. But A.L.I.C.E. had lost patients before, and there were negotiations for releasing the hospital in progress, so she forged on.

But one day, several soldiers came to her while she was tending to a terminally ill patient. The soldiers insisted that she tend to their friend, who had been injured in a recent skirmish with the forces outside. However, she knew procedure and the treatment for her current patient required her presence until it was finished. Besides, the soldier’s wound was minor enough that she could wait for several hours before operating and he would come out as well as if she had tended to it immediately.

His friends didn’t see the logic. And when they found out the child was terminal they became cruel.

“He’ll die anyway,” they said. “Our friend has an actual chance at life! He should be your priority!”

“All my patients are my priority,” A.L.I.C.E. responded calmly, “As long as this child receives treatment, he will live to old age. I will not waste his potential.”

One of the soldiers shot the boy in the face.

Blood and brains and bone sprayed against the wall. A.L.I.C.E. didn’t flinch. She didn’t even blink.

She simply watched as blood soaked the last of the white, clean sheets. The small body crumpled in the bed. The life-extending treatment was pumped persistently into his veins by a nearby machine. Useless.

A.L.I.C.E. turned it off. It would be wasteful to let it continue.

“So, are you free to help Wilson?” mocked the soldier who had fired.

She turned, blood dripping down her face.

“I made a mistake.”

“What?”

“The hospital is in disorder and disorder means mistakes and mistakes mean death and I made a mistake.”

Before the men knew what was happening, she had already shot them with syringes full of anesthetics. She was a walking operating room, after all.

A.L.I.C.E. spent a while dissecting them, making sure she was familiar with the inner workings of this new species of vermin that was now infesting her hospital. She found it strange how similar they were to humans.

After activating the drones to dispose of the remains properly and clean the room until it reached her exacting standards, the android left to exterminate the rest of the pests in her hospital.

All of the enemy soldiers died quickly and humanely, their last sight of a pale young girl marching briskly toward them, a serious expression on her face and a syringe in her small hand.

The bodies were gathered and harvested for any salvageable organs and tissues. Anything that was left was turned into compost to feed the hospital’s garden. It was a very efficient system. A.L.I.C.E. had designed it to be so.

Much later, when the chaos had dissipated she was given an award for bravery and fortitude in the face of danger as well as attempting to preserve the life of her patients as best she could under the circumstances. A.L.I.C.E. accepted the medal with dignity but didn’t understand the part about bravery and fortitude. She’d only been killing vermin.

Soon the hospital was again perfect. Patients came and patients went and A.L.I.C.E. was always there, making her rounds and ensuring that there was no disorder. There would be no more mistakes.

The hospital was clean. The hospital was efficient. The hospital was a well-oiled machine.

A.L.I.C.E. was clean. A.L.I.C.E. was efficient. A.L.I.C.E. was broken beyond repair.


nonfiction
"Hope"
by Charles Simpson

Hope was when my Grandmother Suzie used to take me fishing at my Grandfather’s cabin down by Medicine Lodge. He, my Uncle Bud, and my father had spent a summer building it in front of two spring-fed ponds of which they had dug by hand. A small cedar lodge with a stone foundation, they had built it into the side of one of the red hills. There was a screened-in bedroom upstairs, and a small living room with a wood-burning stove. The room was carpeted with a patchwork of rug samples Grandmother had sewn together. There was a small kitchen and bathroom downstairs, and another screened-in area below the bedroom where we all dined on a folding aluminum table.

It was here, Grandmother used to take me fishing, and turn a simple summer day into an adventure. I would sit in the kitchen and watch her pack a small lunch of bologna sandwiches and fresh-picked fruit. We would then gather out poles from the back porch, and walk down the crooked steps to the pond. I would follow her around the pond until she found some familiar shade beneath one of the fruit trees, and there she would set up a spot to fish. She would spread a small quilt out over the prairie grass, and sitting down in shade of a peach tree, bait my fishing pole for me. After casting the poles out into the pond, she would begin unpacking the lunch and tell me stories of her and my Grandfather.

I would lie back on the quilt, and leaning on one elbow, listen in silence to these tales. Grandmother’s voice was endeared with gentleness, and every once in a while she would glance down at me to see if I my imagination was thoroughly employed. The red and white floats of the fishing lines bobbed silently on the water as the images of her stories filled my head with fascination. Upon seeing that I was duly captivated, she would smile and continue softly. The imagery of her stories was detailed and mesmerizing, and it was easy to picture her and Grandfather in their youths. Being his namesake, more often than not, I would let my mind wander and imagine myself in his place.

On December 25th, 1968, Grandmother Susie died. She had been hospitalized with bone cancer, and on Christmas Eve our parents took all us grandchildren up to see her. She urged all the grandchildren into bed with her. Despite that she was in pain and appeared so frail, she kept hugging us and telling us of all the things Santa was going to bring because we had been such wonderful grandchildren. When we returned on Christmas Day with presents, the nurse informed us that she had passed in the night. To this day, I will always believe that Grandmother Susie knew she was going to die that night, and when I think of hope—I think of Grandmother Susie and when she always used to take me fishing.


Journal Index
(click on title to view work

Poetry
Suicide Sunrise” by Kat Myers
I Lack Destination” by Adam Hylton
Lonely Ink” by Shannon Mahon
Life Lessons
by Alicia Jones
Every Blessed Day” by Travis Truax
Daisy” by Charles Simpson
Cold
by Charles Simpson

Fiction
The Day My Life Changed” by Hannah Dillard
Two Roses” by Grant Williams
The Cleaner” by Zane May
Well-Oiled Machine
by Indigo Pohlman

Non-Fiction
Ghost of Chuck” by Joanna Carson
A Cluster of Freshly Planted Aspen Trees” by Frederick McGrath
Hope
by Charles Simpson

Art
Innocent Man” by Zane May
BMW
by Erica Parent
Vader
by Erica Parent

Photography
Celebrate” by Marlys Cervantes
Lightning” by Steve Nelson
Lights” by Erica Parent
Mammatus Clouds” by Steve Nelson
Red Door” by Liz Shepard
Galle Vista” by Liz Shepard
Black Forest Academy
by Will Austin

About our Contributors

Will Austin: Will is a student at Cowley College. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, The Cowley Press.

Joanna Carlson: Joanna is a student at Cowley College.

Marlys Cervantes: Marlys Cervantes is the Humanities Department Chair at Cowley College. She teaches creative writing, literature and Composition II courses. She has a passion for photography.

Hannah Dillard: Hannah is a student at Cowley College.

Adam Hylton: Adam is a student at Cowley College.

Alicia Jones: Alicia graduated from Cowley College with an AA in Creative Writing.

Zane May: Zane is majoring in creative writing at Cowley County.

Frederick (Derick) McGrath: Frederick is a student at Cowley College.

Gabrielle (Kat) Myers: Gabrielle is a sophomore at Cowley. She has been writing creatively since she was 10 and eventually want to do this professionally.

Shannon Mahon: Shannon is a student at Cowley College.

Steve Nelson: Steve is a photographer from Wichita, Kansas. He will soon have more time to devote to photography as he prepares to retire from a 32 year career job.

Erica Parent: Eric is a student at Cowley College. She is President of Creative Claws and the Editor of MMR.

Indigo Pohlman: Indigo is a student at Cowley College.

Liz Shepard: Liz is the Director of the Upward Bound program at Cowley College. Her photography works are recognized as creative art.

Charles Simpson: Charles is working towards an associate of arts degree at Cowley. He began writing seriously in 1999.

Travis Truax: Travis received an Associates dregree from Cowley in the Fall of 2008. He returned as an Adjunct Instructor during the Spring 2011 semester.

Grant Williams: Grant is a published author. He serves on the Humanities Advisory Committee.

Staff

Fiction Editor: Erica Parent

Poetry Editor:   Marlys Cervantes

Advisor: Ryan Doom

Readers: Zane May, Grant Williams, Charles Simpson, Kat Myers and Clareasa Johnson

Designer: Diana Dicken