Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dead Point

"Dead Point"
by Jessie Baum

The bell rings. Walking home from school, one hand on her backpack strap, one swinging. Ditch the bag. Pulse racing as she climbs the fire escape of a building not her own. Walk across the roof—sun directly overhead. Shield her eyes and clamber onto the wall on the edge of the roof.

Dead point. Exhilaration; flat somehow, feeling her heartbeat throughout her body, building to a strange high.

Panting slightly as she starts down fire escape on the other side. Stops in the middle of the fire escape. Cool shade, pressing her back against the damp cement. Crouch, then lie down on the crusty black bars. Looking up at the sky. Waiting. Sigh. Breathe even. Resting now. Maybe not. Not today…

No, they’re coming. She can hear their sneakers crunching the broken-up tar below.

She crouches up. They're rounding the corner. Getting into view.

Her breath comes faster. Heady feeling. Chest compressing.

They're joking and laughing too loud. There he is.

They walk into the alley, right under her. She can see their hair. Zoom in on him. He has terrible dandruff. Feel the perverse satisfaction. See, no one is perfect, least of all you. Watch again. Feeling the pain in her heart as he pulls that girl closer, hand staying on his waist as if glued there. They light up and the sweet smell drifts up. Resists coughing and/or holding breath. Told him to stop that stuff… he’s so stupid, then why do I want to be with him still? Still love—no. Impossible. Never. Love stopped the day I followed him here… Knew it was stupid, then why... Suspected the other girl, saw him here with her, this one’s a slut too—she doesn’t love him, better then, he doesn’t deserve you—maybe, maybe, he didn’t—no but then I loved him and made sacrafices but he—he wouldn’t give this up. He said he’d stopped, maybe he did and I saw him when he’d gone back—no. DON’T KID YOURSELF.

Rule #1—don’t lie to yourself. Why are you here?

The girl's shaggy hair moves closer to him. She whispers something.

Why do I want him? Why do we always want what’s worst for us? She presses her face to the iron.

He hit on me in class the other day. I was sure. He is so twisted. So sick. Stay away… The pain hits. His face, his gross scalp, lost forever.

Never. He could still come back… but he won’t.

Him and Slut make out. She has curly hair. Everyone else is reduced to slurring.

Her hatred churns ger stomach. He is not allowed to make her feel this way. Not allowed. The light floaty feeling that hit her even though she didn't want it is gone. She is grounded. She gets up. No one hears. She turns and takes one last look before climbing. Dead Point.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My God It's Gregory Shaw

"My God It's Gregory Shaw"
by Alana Mohamed

Bellsville. Erase from your head any thoughts of nicely trimmed lawns and white picket fences. Think of withered apartments full of junkies, would-be musicians and high school drop-outs. Picture a place where you held a minimum wage job by day and partied all night long, dancing and drinking with the local bands that didn’t care (or just weren’t good enough).

You’re at a show with Bill, a janitor at the local supermarket where you man the cashier register. You and Bill spot a quirky-looking kid with dirty hair and a long trench coat. He lugs a guitar around and is never without his meek shadow of a friend who could only be distinguished by his half-mohawk, half-mullet hair style. They’re pretty well-known around town, but you don’t know why.

You snicker with Bill as you watch the kid trip over wires and struggle to plug into his amp. He doesn’t look like he eats much.

“Does he eat at all?” you muse to Bill.

Bill shakes his head and says, “I heard he lives off his girlfriend and he’s a junkie. He’ll probably be dead in two months, or whenever she decides to leave him for a real man.” Bill flexes, showing just how muscular he is.

All of a sudden feedback attacks your ears. he kid is on stage with his guitar and his quiet friend clutching a bass. They are joined by their gigantic drummer. You laugh at the sight and leave after ten minutes. The music was horrible; the singing was horrible; the whole set was horrible. You and Bill get drunk and the rest of your night consists mostly of making fun of that shitty band.

Five years later you’re still in your supermarket. The kid passes you by and you stare flabbergasted, knowing his autograph could make you millions. You aren’t alone. A crowd of people gather behind him.

“Gregory Shaw, my God it’s Gregory Shaw!” They scream, while you ring up a box of maxi pads for $7.99.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Mask

"The Mask"
by Delia Taylor

“I'm tired of this crap... You said you would stop. I don't think I can do this anymore!” she exclaimed.

“But it's for our own daughter, Jullian! Why can't you understand that? She needs this, we need this! Don't you want to keep our baby girl alive?”

Jullian sat in her chair and stared at Paul as if she'd never met him before.

“I think you're addicted to it, Paul. What about last week, huh? When you drew all that damn attention and almost got your face on NY 12?”

Jullian stood up and walked away from the table with Katherine in her arms. Paul grabbed her. This was how things had gotten. Ever since Katherine developed her disease, their lives had turned into endless bickering, constant cursing, and the ever-frequent “Why don't you act like the man in the family?”

“Maybe someday I will,” Paul would always answer. Jullian never expected him to make good on his word the way he did.


Two months after receiving Katherine's diagnosis, Paul woke up, took a long look at his slowly fading baby girl, and knew that he'd chosen the right path. He put on a black mask and got his gun out of his sock drawer.

He reminded himself of how it would go. First, he'd tell his wife, “I just need to clear my head.” Then he'd drive off to the nearest Commerce Bank. And it wouldn't be for the free pens or the red lollipops.


Jullian stood in the door frame crying off her makeup.

“You can't do this, Paul!” she cried. Paul was used to this. He was done yelling, done fighting a battle he couldn't win. “But don't you see how much better Katherine's gotten lately? She's smiling again, Jullian. I haven't seen her smile in so long. I'd forgotten what it looked like...”

“But that doesn't give you the right to keep breaking the law!”

Paul wrapped his arms around her waist, like he did when they were in high school. “To me it does,” he said.

He kissed her on her cheek once like he used to. He patted Katherine's head. He looked in his wallet, which had grown in size since he'd... switched professions.

He grabbed his keys and took the black mask—it was his shelter, the assurance that he'd have enough to pay for his daughter's medicine. It was the thing that filled him with adrenaline and kept his heart beating at an unnatural pace, in unnatural places, late at night.

He put the mask on and suddenly had a very clear conscience.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Comes of Cameras

"What Comes of Cameras"
by Chelsea Kronick

Aiden was scared. His hands were shaking, his breath was coming in short gasps and his t-shirt was sticking to his underarms, bunching up. He tugged at his shirt and kept walking, ignoring the giant claw marks in the soil and avoiding the huge trees torn up from their roots, despite the jelly-like quality his knees had taken on.

Fifty feet away and it was a straight shot. The camera lay near the mouth of the cave; sunlight glared off the cracked lens and the broken flash bulb glittered—crushed powder scattered around.

Forty more feet and Aiden was hyperventilating. He saw nothing but the camera as he broke into a run. He slipped and scrambled up the hill; shale tumbled down behind him, making enough noise to wake the beast sleeping inside the cave.

Fifteen feet and Aiden stopped. Paralyzed. The amber eyes of the creature watched him patiently from the semi-darkness. He switched to a slow approach, eyes jumping back and forth from the giant black head to his broken camera.

Ten more feet and the beast still hadn’t moved; it watched him with a critical eye.

Aiden stopped five feet from the camera. The animal began to move forward, stalking him like prey, and he couldn’t move. The smell of his sweat and fear drifted towards the creature on a breeze that chilled him to the bone.

The creature moved forward. In the dim light, Aiden saw only the amber eyes and grinning teeth of a giant dog, one that approached with tantalizing slowness.

The tears started to run down his face as the animal circled him, sniffing closer and closer. His knees finally gave out and he collapsed to the ground. Instinct took over and he brought his hands up over his head, protecting his neck.

For eons he stayed like that, his fear too great to allow him to raise his head or open his eyes. Pain shot through his knees, his back, his elbows and his neck. But he still couldn’t move.

And then he felt cool moisture. Something was licking his ankle, his shoulder, his hand. The beast was eating him!

And then he was up. And before he could look, the puppies were tumbling over each other in their hurry, and the black she wolf was laughing, tongue lolling, one lip raised in a snarl as if to reprimand him for scaring her pups. And Aiden was running, sliding down the hill, camera forgotten and it was only when he got home that he stopped to wonder.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Intentionally Bad Writing

On 8/21/08, inspired by the work of Amanda McKittrick Ros, we in the Workshop intentionally wrote the worst scenes and stories we could.

Here they go:

  1. Miranda von Salis "A BAD STORY"

    Sherri woke up and the smell of Sharpies hitting her nose like a spike. Not one of those tent spikes but the kind from the medieval days that has the barbs on them and the knights or whatever would stab each other with them. And, if you can imagine one of those spikes being stabbed up your nose, or just anywhere really but especially on your face, then you know how Sherri felt. Now add to that the painfully, excruciating pain that is the strong and unforgiving stench of a recently unopened Sharpie opened for the first time then you know exactly how Sherri felt. Exactly. Sherri stood up and felt the warm mush of cold cheese and sauce between her toes. Looking down, she noticed the extra large sausage pizza from the night before. The pizza that she did not remember buying but that she assumed was from yesterday because it wasn’t there when she woke up yesterday at 9:04 (she slept in). And apparently she bought a pizza yesterday too.

    Disengaging he toes from the mysteriously placed pizza she began her morning ritual of her ritual preparations for the day. Today was like every other day, other than the pizza, so she got ready in the same way. Because she was getting ready in the same way she did the same things as she did yesterday, minus the pizza. When she was as ready as she was on every other morning that she could remember except for perhaps a few mornings on which she stayed in bed, she left the house. As she stepped in to the hall she had a flashback from her past.

    She was little, maybe 5 or 6 but she could have been 7, and she was in charge of watching her baby brother Lucas while their mom went out to the library or something. Lucas was fussing and Sherri calmed him down. This memory did not pertain to her current life or situation in anyway but she remembered it. While she was deep in thought about this memory she was not paying attention to what she was doing. She was so deep in thought about her baby brother Lucas, who hadn’t called her in a while anyway, she began to cross the street without looking both ways(which in general is a bad idea unless you are really, really busy and have somewhere very important to go at a very specific time or if you see a friend on the opposite sidewalk and want to go say hello and catch up). Because of this lack of judgment, Sherri did not see the truck coming. So, for Sherri, today was not like every other day because she died and you only do that once if you are lucky.

  2. Alana Mohamed "A Bad Day"

    The day before yesterday after last month’s block party before this month was a bad day. Ellie was with her mom and her dad and her little brother and her aunt, who was a really annoying person, and her boyfriend, who was like God, only not. Her aunt was a really annoying person, so she didn’t have children or a husband, she just had herself. Actually, she had a house and a car, but it was a small house and a bad car, so that proved she was a really annoying person.

    Anyways, it was a bad day because she, meaning Ellie and not her aunt, or her mom, or even her little bother, who was sometimes mistaken for a girl because he had not yet reached puberty, but her as in Ellie had acquired a mondoginormous, scarlet period-like mark, only bigger than a normal period, on the tip of her nose so she looked like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer AND it was the block party and block parties are always bad because one of Ellie’s friend or neighbors always received some sort of violent action, like a shanking or a shooting. But mainly it was because of her red dot. Oh, and that and that and her annoying aunt.

    Her annoying aunt exclaimed boomingly when she saw it, about how unfortunate-looking she happened to be that day and how it was no different than any other day. Ellie would have liked to shead many a tear because of this distressing, wounding, painful, injurious, malicious, spiteful, vindictive, barbed statement, but her boyfriend was with her, only he was nodding his head in agreement, so she did and then her little brother let out a stentorian laugh and then everyone joined in to create a collective stentorian cackling. Ellie was terribly discomfited.

  3. Katie Waldron

    "May we gracefully trot through the endless seas?" I questioned my bosom buddy as she gazed into the unmistakenably sky-seemingly spray painted by a graffiti artist with a pearly puffs of cumulus clouds.

    "Yes! That is a magnificent plan. Afterwards, shall we linger upon the vast sands of the beach cleverly named Coney Island?"

    I briefly pondered her previous statement. What an interesting formation of words. I once again admired the sky. It was beginning to darken like there was a prevailing storm in the midst of our exceedingly perfect day.

    "Our day has been foiled!" the babbling broad stated.

    "Yes, I do believe our day will be dampened, both literally and figuratively, by incoming precipitation."

    So, we laid lazily upon the couch in a daze much like the many warriors lost in the Battle of Gettysburg.

  4. Kylah Shenkin

    Mitchell sat on the steps of the sanctuary waiting for Anthony's arrival as a cadaverous geriatric waits for their impending passing. He knew there was no stopping it, but he still wanted to flee and hide out from doom. As Mitchell contemplated actually attempting to go on the lam, Anthony made his dreaded appearance. Mitchell and Anthony's gazes met, and between them passed a mutual blend of detest and loathing.

  5. Maureen Tant "A."

    The brown creamy color of his eyes, like an amber-brown crayon from the number 64 box, hit me as would a train collision, with one heading due East at 80 mph, and the other westbound at 60 knots.

    I walked, and it stunned me.

    "Do you see the road?" I soundlessly uttered, "It is the unending labyrinth of my dapple-hued soul in the spider-webbing aura of their id."

    "Who?" he verbalized intensely.

    "The ones who walk down upon it," I replied, thesaurusly, indicating the rare and genuine decisiveness of our epoch, the smoothened pebble of a Jones Beach penguin who diets on cabbage and frail mustard plant.

    They doth not take to strangers, and are seldom seen--they take up wing and invert themselves, adopting the subtle visage of a delicate gull--those gulls of the sea. In face of homosapien influence they strap themselves into that full-bodied mask, as so many do.

    But it was presently departing time, and the alluring knave thought not of sunset, so he took a wing of his own, just as the penguins of that proverbial Jones Beach in my mind.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bar Fight

"Bar Fight"
by Silvan Carson-Goodman

Guy: I think that he was in love with her.

Guy2: Why would you think that? It looked like just another bar fight to me.

Guy: Maybe, but didn’t you see the look in his eyes? They were so full of pleading. He was there for more than just flirting, if you ask me.

Guy2: So they had some sort of history, is what you’re saying?

Guy: Possibly, but maybe it was love at first sight. Isn’t it more interesting if he saw her from across the room early in the night and their eyes met? Then the fire in his heart grew every time he saw the twinkle of her smile or the subtle way her wrist flicked when she grabbed her beer. Until he just couldn’t stand it anymore and he had to talk to her, not knowing that her two-hundred-pound weightlifter boyfriend was waiting in the wings.

Guy2: He was probably just her ex or something.

Guy: Yeah, probably.


Girl: Guys.

Girl2: They are ridiculous! Getting into fights over nothing!

Girl: I know! She clearly wanted nothing to do with that guy. It all would’ve ended peacefully but her boyfriend had to step in and start a brawl over nothing.

Girl2: Well, over her.

Girl: Over nothing! I mean, what makes her so special?

Girl2: Is this about Fred?

Girl: Well he never stands up for me! The other day some guy on the subway knocked me down and Fred didn’t do a damned thing.

Girl2: Maybe he’s just not that kind of guy.

Girl: Oh every guy is that kind of guy! Is it me, am I just not worth fighting for?

Girl2: No, you’re a real catch.

Girl: Well Fred doesn’t seem to think so… you know what? I’m breaking up with him. Screw Fred!


Bartender: Every night, every goddamned night with this shit. And they always break something. Either a stool, or glasses, or something that leaves little pieces scattered all around that I have to clean up!

Patron: (Chuckles)

Bartender: What are you laughing at?

Patron: You’re complaining to me.

Bartender: So?

Patron: Well it usually goes the other way now doesn’t it?

Bartender: All right, you have some complaining to do, Miss?

Patron: Well, I thought I did, but after what I just saw the world seems too funny to have any problems.

Bartender: Something funny about violence to you?

Patron: Oh no. It’s just that… well, that was my ex! He was too wasted to realize that the girl he was talking to wasn’t me! (Busts out laughing)

Bartender: Every goddamned night.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Living Things

"Living Things"
by Miranda von Salis

It was the last straw, when the plants moved into the den. When the brand new flowerpot, still clinging to its price sticker, appeared on the coffee table in Russell’s den, he knew she had to be stopped. He turned around and went right back out the door. He shouted out the kitchen window to the garden:

“Amy! Get in here!”

“One minute,” she shouted back, but Russell wasn’t waiting. He had waited through thirty years of marriage and he wasn’t waiting one minute more to reclaim his den. He walked back, grabbed the pot that held one very pink and very unhappy looking blossom and tromped back to the back door. He couldn’t see her when he first stepped outside, but knew she was there. He shouted: “They are taking over, you crazy woman. What were you thinking? Where am I supposed to put my coffee?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said as her head popped out from behind a large hibiscus in the corner of the yard. “It’s only one pot, and look at it, it will be so pretty when it gets over the re-potting.”

“I don’t care. I don’t care! That wasn’t the agreement!” He dropped the pot onto the patio, not even looking down when he heard it crack. “You said you’d leave me the den. I put up with this absurd hobby because you said you’d leave me my… Oof!” Russell tripped over a pot of rosemary. That only worsened his mood. Amy just stared at him.

“You knew this is what I did when you married me,” she pointed out.

“That’s why I bought the house with the yard!” he said, furious as he picked himself up and started walking towards her again. Amy backed up and drifted behind the hibiscus again as if he would forget she were there.

“You are getting rid of those plants today!” Russell shouted, “or moving them all out here! I really don’t care what you do as long as I get my damn house back!” He rounded the corner to face Amy.

“Get rid of them? You don’t just get rid of a living thing, Russell, and I won’t do it.”

“Like hell you won’t,” Russell said, reaching for the hibiscus, “I’ll teach you and your awful plants a lesson.” His face was red from shouting. But Amy looked up, rage boiling in her eyes.

“Awful! They’re not awful! They bring beauty and joy to the world! Unlike you! What’s wrong with them? That they take up space? You take up space too, and you don’t see them complaining about you!”

She was alive and screaming and Russell was scared. “Amy never gets mad,” he thought, terrified. “That’s why we are such a great team. I do what I do and she forgives me.” He was beginning to wish he had never bothered about the coffee table. “It was only one plant,” he tried to reason with himself, but then he remembered that the living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathrooms and even the hallways had started with just one pot. “Once they move in…” he thought, enraged.

“They don’t complain about me because they can’t talk!” he yelled, so loud he was sure that the whole neighborhood had heard him. He moved towards her and for an instant he thought he saw her eyes show fear but a second later, they were filled with hatred. She stepped to the side nimbly as he kept coming at her.

A minute later, the only thing he could feel was the moist soil and the pounding on the back of his head. He rolled over onto his back and thought, “She hit me on the head, hard.” He was astonished. He vaguely remembered her going to yoga classes a few years ago but that didn’t help explain his current situation. He tried to look around but everything was out of focus. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the fuzzy outline of his wife, a few feet away, watching him. He watched her shape straighten and move towards him while shifting dizzyingly in and out of focus.

“You can’t try to make me get rid of who I am,” she said quietly.

“Just… just get rid of the ones in the house.” Russell tried to persuade her, but his mouth was too dry. His tongue felt like it had doubled in size. He figured he must have bitten it on his fall because it was also throbbing painfully.

“If that’s what you want,” she responded so quietly that he could barely hear her. “I think we should live our lives separate from each other.”

Russell couldn’t believe it. She wanted to divorce him over some lousy plants? What was her problem?

“I won’t allow it,” he managed to say through his damaged mouth.

“I didn’t think you would,” she said. “You’re too old fashioned for a thing like divorce. Luckily that wasn’t what I was talking about.” Russell was confused but his head hurt too much for him to think too hard. He had no idea what she was talking about, and by the time he saw the blade it was too late.

“I’m going to free myself anyways,” she said as she plunged the metal trowel into his neck.


Careful not to track blood on her freshly mopped kitchen floor, she made her way through the kitchen to wash her hands before she sat down to write a quick note to Russell.

–Please water the hibiscus. A-

After leaving it on the table she headed upstairs to change and pack a bag. “I think I should go on a vacation. I feel as if I am outgrowing this tiny house,” she said to the Thanksgiving cactus on her bedroom windowsill.

“When I come back, I’ll call the police.” And she grabbed her passport and headed out the door. Amy was going to India.

Friday, May 16, 2008


by Katie Waldron

I’ve outlived my parents, wife, siblings and friends. My once tender skin has turned to leather; my teeth have been replaced by dentures, my raven-black hair with a cigarette-yellow tinged gray. I’m trapped in this wrinkled prison of an old man.

Two weeks ago, I was given a death sentence; last night was supposed to be my last dream; these may be my last words. (I mean those words, “last words,” literally.) At the end of my sentence, I won't be given a final meal as prisoners are. My last supper'll be a Meals-on-Wheels.

Ten years ago, I might have been bitter. Not because I was in my prime—not nearly. But I had something to live for: a wife who I was sharing my “golden years” with. About that term—I suggest all the AARP commercials stop using it. I demand they explain what exactly is golden about not being able to sleep for eight hours and needing to pee every three.

I was going to be a war hero. When the war came, I dropped the hero part—it was hard—and started relying on charm. That got me halfway through my 20s. Then that petered out; I needed to be something; I settled on journalism. I was never very good. At forty, other then having my wife, I had... well...

The only one of life’s questions I have really answered is that there are no answers. Ah, the irony—one for God, none for humans.

Consider this a legacy on the nightstand, not a suicide note’s goodbye.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Everyone Faces Beasts

"Everyone Faces Beasts"
by Miranda von Salis

Kay breathed in the moist earth as he lay spread out on the forest floor. He rolled over and squinted at the dim sunlight fighting to get through the trees. A twig snapped somewhere and Kay’s ears perked up. As he pulled his exhausted body up into a sitting position he noticed that his heart was drumming into his ribs and he twisted around. Whatever it was that made the sound, he hoped it was something friendly because he wasn’t ready for another fight quite yet. He had never thought living on his own would be easy. Not seriously. He had always had dreams of being eaten by wolves and not having any food. It was true that he did a lot of running away from things but it was better than actually getting caught. No one just sits there and lets an animal eat them.

It had been two years since he’d wandered out here. He spent a lot of time in the beginning avoiding being found. The search parties were sweeping the area for weeks until he worked his way deeper into the woods and they gave up on him.

He was thinking about all this so deeply he barely even noticed the squirrel jumping out of the bushes to the left of him and scampering through the clearing. He body relaxed when he saw he was in no danger and he lay back into his previous position. As he watched the green glow shift and change above him he began to think about the last time he had wished there were other people. This also happened to be the last time he had been eaten by wolves, not exactly EATEN by WOLVES but nibbled at by a bear. It was almost the same thing. Kay’s shoulder stung and he touched it lightly as if to make sure it was still there. Reassured that he was still in one piece he settled back down and soon he had dozed off happily.

His dreams raced; the squirrel turned into the bear. It then lumbered over to his body still sleeping stupidly in the middle of the clearing. He silently cursed his lack of common sense as he made desperate attempts to wake his body up. The bear however wasn’t worried about his body but on the “him” that was wide awake and aware of the fate he faced. He jumped up and the bear rushed at him growling and snapping. He tried to dodge the huge jaws but just as before the bear latched on to his shoulder. Kay felt a surge of pain and looked up terrified as the bear melted into the image of his mother. It was only then he shouted in fear and agony.

She shook him and he felt his bones rattle.

“How’d you find me!” he shouted at her. His voice not as cracked by disuse as he had found it when he had tried to talk a few weeks ago. Kay tried in vain to push her away but the icy grip of her hand on his shoulder clenched harder. Her sharp, bony fingers dug in to his flesh like the teeth of the bear she had come from. The bear she was supposed to be to make this dream normal, tolerable.

“What did I do honey? I thought we could be a family. Why won’t you just let me be happy?” said the haunting, slender figure in front of him.

“I came here to escape you!” Kay shrieked, his voice climbing. His mom’s face contorted into the angry grimace from so many of his childhood memories. The roar of a bear tore out of his mother’s petite body.

Kay awoke with a start and looked around. He was in the same clearing as before but now it was dark. Above, the moon was shining in the dark, its outline fuzzy behind the clouds. “She wasn’t here,” thought Kay, relived. Then he said aloud in his broken voice, “She was never here,” and almost began to chuckle.

The bear in the corner looked surprised and confused but then it made up its mind and just looked angry. “Holy crap!” thought Kay, scrambling to get up and run to a tree. He could wait it out as long as he wasn’t on the ground. He was a second late because the bear charged just as he started to move. He cried out as the bear grabbed his ankle and dragged him to the ground. With a thunk he hit the forest floor and rolled over. Trying to kick the bear with his free foot he started to cry. The face of death looked hungry. Why’d he have to be so stupid and sleep in the middle of the clearing? Why didn’t he look around when he first woke up? Had he really learned nothing since he had made his home here? Was this the way he was going to die? The bear put both its paws on Kay’s shoulders and Kay thought, “Damn, he’s heavy,” before giving in.

His mom never found out what happened to her oldest son or why he decided to get himself lost in the woods. At least for her there were some days when she didn’t think of Kay, but if she had known she would have cried. Lucky for him, Kay didn’t know this.

Friday, March 14, 2008


by Silvan

“The bubbles fizz up, reaching for the freedom above them that they will never attain. Because they disperse into the air as soon as they escape their liquid prison. Plip... Plip.”

“Are you going to drink your soda or not?”

“Oh, I’m going to drink it. It will be digested before it even knows what hit it.”

“Could you not....” I don’t think James heard me as, true to his word, he had already chugged the whole soda and was licking any remaining drops from the inside of the bottle. It was his usual routine to dedicate himself so much to this activity that he completely forgot about the surrounding world, sometimes ending up lying on the ground, squirming, in his endless battle with the glass. I had tried to say something to James in the past. In a school where you are already the most ostracized weirdo, it doesn’t help to be seen at the lunch table with the kid who's so weird he doesn't count, who flails around sucking on a soda bottles.

James is my best friend, but he’s a weird kid.

“So what are you doing today?” James asked. He had given up on the bottle and was sitting up as if nothing happened. “Cause if you don’t have any plans I have something I really want to show you.”

“Sure. Can I stop at my house first though? I wanna get some stuff if we are going to be roaming across the city.”

“How did you know we were roaming across the city?” he asked.

“James, whenever you want to show me something it's never close by.”

“Well, now that the secret is out, meet me at three-thirty at the F train. Think you can manage that?” When James proposes these excursions it always feels like he’s daring me, but he should know by now that my life is very, very dull. I welcome the sense of flair that he brings.


The door is propped open. Classroom doors are always propped open before a class. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember if I have ever seen someone close the door. But the doors are always closed when the classes are in session. So who is doing all this closing? I wonder if there is some goulish imp who wanders the halls making sure that all the doors are shut when we are learning. Maybe that’s why we aren’t allowed to wander the halls...

There are people sitting around me. They don’t pay attention to me but they are definitely there. I can hear the rabble around the guy behind me. It seems that he has farted. I can smell the tuna fish that the guy next to me was eating. Apparently they didn’t have time to wash his hands before coming to class. I can see Sophia’s hair in the seat in front of me. It’s very pretty....

The teacher starts talking and my gaze shoots to the window on my left. Maybe the two things are connected in some way. It’s a beautiful day. There are birds flying across the pure blue sky. They look like seagulls; they’re not pigeons. Those are the options in New York. It’s a bird watcher’s nightmare. It must be nice to be a bird, flying up in the clouds, wind whipping at your face. I’d like to be a bird, maybe something fierce like a hawk. That is an extremely unoriginal thought. Hell, that kid two rows in front of me is probably thinking the exact same thing right this second.

“So does anyone have any idea what Marx was saying in that last passage?”

“Wow, that is the most cliche teacherism I have heard in a while. I didn’t know teachers still said stuff like that.”

Every head turned to me as I realized that I had just said that out loud.

“Well, I’m sorry my teaching methods are boring you, Doug.”

“No, it’s... I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for what? I’m sorry that my brain let that one past the filter.

In the end no one cares about the one time the quiet kid smart-mouthed the teacher. I get let off with a warning and by the end of the day all the other kids have forgotten about me again. I walk out of the school through all the people and they don’t look at me. I knock into them by accident and they don’t notice. I mean, I get it, no one cares about me. But this is just cold. Before I know it I am out in the light of the sun. It feels really good. I take a left. I usually take a left. Because my house is to the left and I usually am going to my house. There are times when I take a right, like when I am going to James’ house (James’ house is to the right).

The door opens when I push it as it is known to do; I run up into my room and throw my bag down.

“Mom! I’m going to go hang out with James!” I yell from the top of the stairs.

“Ok honey, be back for dinner!”

I run back out the door. I can’t step on the cracks. If I step on the cracks then something very bad will happen. Everytime I put my right foot down, the angle at the front of my shoe must point at the top left corner of the sidewalk tile. I used to only be allowed to step on the white parts of crosswalks, but that was too easy. So now I can only step on every other white bar.

Slightly down the block stands James, with two guys I recognize from school. They look like they might possibly be angry with James, and they look like they are quite definitely larger then him.

The guy on the right asks, “So how are you James?”

The guy on the left ascribes to the more silent school of menacing.

“Oh you know, can’t complain,” James says.

“We’re here about the money you owe us.”

“Seriously? You followed me all the way from school just for extortion? How very mundane and thuggish of you. Though to be honest, I’m touched. It’s sweet that you guys would want to be close to me…”

“Shut it! If you don’t cut out that wise-ass shit then this situation is going to have to get violent.” Shit!

“Oh, I don’t think you big guys want to push little ol’ me around. I have a friend who would not be happy about that. You definitely don’t want to involve him.” Double shit! Does James know I’m here? Did he see me?

Pleasedonotpointmeout pleasedonotpointmeout pleasedonotpointmeout plea… “You see, my uncle is in the mafia and if he hears that two punks are pushing around his dear nephew, then…” A punch came out faster than Sonic the Hedgehog on speed and landed square in James’ gut.

“Do you ever stop talking?” Another fist struck across his face and sent him to the ground. He was beat before it even started. James threw out some bills. The guys took the money and left.

“Shit! God damn.” I ran to him while he picked himself up. “Shit, shit. Shit! James, are you ok?”

The tears streaming down his face mixed with the blood from his nose and split lip.

“Oh, hey Doug. Didn’t see you there. Yeah, you know me, cool as a cucumber. Just hanging. Low and lazy and all that jazz.” The blood dripped into his mouth. He spat onto the sidewalk and shot me the biggest grin I’d ever seen.


The train tilts to one side, then the other. Me and James are sitting across from each other in silence. His face is puffy but clean. The blood has washed away and the bruise on his cheek is covered by the ear flap on his hat.

“So why didn’t you ever tell me that you were having trouble with stuff like this?” I ask.

He avoids my gaze, instead looking out the window at the industrial buildings passing by. The scenery changes to residential and back again.

“How’s that girl you like? What’s her name again?” he asks. He snaps his fingers in that way that people do when they are trying to remember something, three times. “Oh right, Sophia. Really gorgeous blonde hair right?”

Auburn, actually. But that’s not important right now.

“Can we just talk about you for just one second? I want to help you.”

He turns to me and is serious all of a sudden.

“You can’t help me. That’s not what you made me for.”


“I’m not real, James. You still don’t get it? I’m your imaginary friend. When did you meet me?”

“What?! Two thousand and three!”

“Exactly. Right after you first saw Fight Club. And you thought to yourself, ‘I want that.’” This is really confusing. “And that’s what I am. The one person you can talk to. The one person who doesn’t step all over you. The extroverted yang to your introverted yin. You feel so bad for me getting beat up but you don’t even realize that it was you under the fist and not me.” James has started to raise his voice and raise himself out of his seat. “See, this won’t even hurt me!” He rears back, slams his head into a subway pole and falls to the floor whimpering in pain, tears streaming down his face. I reach down and help him into the seat next to me.

“You’re real.”

“Yeah… hey, we’re at our stop.” His tears dry up and he leaps out the doors.

He runs down street after street. I can barely keep up.

“James! Where the hell are we going?”

“Don’t worry. We’re almost there, it’s awesome!” He turns a corner and stops short. Right there in front of his glowing face, nestled in between a run down hovel and an abandoned warehouse is… nothing.

“James, it’s an empty lot.”

“I know. Isn’t it great?”

Friday, February 1, 2008


by Alana Mohamed

Eyes closed and fists tight, Jordan breathed heavily. Her body was curled in a ball. From afar she looked like a shuddering mass of flea-market clothes. Her floor was littered with the self-made confetti of her most recent exams and term papers. To anyone else the papers would be meaningless. To her they meant the difference between passing and failing life. And she had failed…four times over. Each shred of paper was worth twenty of her tears. How could she be failing so badly at…everything?

Her bed, which took up most of the space in her room, was unmade and full of used breakfast plates and cups half full of orange juice and coffee. She hadn’t slept on it in weeks. Usually her bed was her floor, her pillow was whatever text book she was studying from, and her dreams were equations her mind struggled to retain during the night.

The air around her was freezing cold. She was wearing all the clothes she owned plus her winter jacket and gloves. Usually she wasn’t this cold. Her apartment was bad, but not so horribly frigid that her bones had to knock against themselves for warmth. Her heat had been turned off for the first time in her life. Her parents usually paid for all her apartment’s expenses, but after last Sunday, it appeared they had decided their money would be better spent elsewhere. Perhaps on a new house or boat?

“A mistake,” Jordan banged her head against the wall, “it was just a mistake.” A mistake that had cost her dearly. All she had was in her pocket, a twenty dollar bill and a few loose bills. Pay as a waitress may seem fine when you’re living with your parents, but here, it didn’t fly. With what she made, she’d only do well with a cardboard box or a garbage bin.

Jordan buried deeper into herself, descending into dark thoughts her mind seemed to be shooting at her. The feeling of being overwhelmed was the only thing that kept her on the ground and not tumbling into complete hysteria. Her lights were off in an effort to save money and only a ray of light graced her one-room apartment. With her eyes closed all she saw was never-ending black. It consumed and confused her until she couldn’t tell which way was up. She kept herself there, locked in eternity. She could feel her world crumble and she could see all the events that had led up to this moment. Disconnected pictures flashed through the emptiness, like a film gone awry.

Scene one was the nice man from the restaurant waving a wad of bills at her. Jordan could see her eyes light up in greed. It had seemed like a good idea at a time, but what was it? She still couldn’t remember.

Scene two was her boyfriend with his brows furrowed and his mouth contorted in fury as his large hand held her dainty one in front of her face. His promise ring was missing, gone with the oath, “Forever, be mine.”

Scene three was one she dreaded the most because it was the one she saw the most. Jordan Taylor, with drunken hands outstretched towards her loving family, looking every bit the mess she was after she realized what the loss of the promise ring had meant. She saw her mother’s eyes well with tears, while her father’s filled with rage. Her little sister’s eyes, however, held the most rattled, scared expression.

Shame filled Jordan’s personal hell. She allowed herself to sink into the feeling, like an old coat. She’d have to get used to it. She felt so hopeless in her dark womb of guilt, anger, fear, and pressure. When had everything become so hard? She started to sway back and forth, forcing herself against her wall. She wanted to fall, really fall. Not just fall into the back of her head. Her head was too unpleasant a place. Could she fall through brick? She felt as though she could. The pressures of the world could close in around her and pound into nothingness.

A dull ache had formed at the back of her head and she started to throw herself back into the wall with vigor. She could fall, she knew she could fall. “I can do anything I set my mind to,”’ Jordan laughed bitterly. It was the first joke the room heard in a long time. She stopped, suddenly aware of how pathetic she was. She used have friends and family to laugh with. She used to have a boyfriend to keep her warm and safe. Now she was cold, alone, friendless, and laughing maniacally to herself. She stared at the retreating ray of light and knew that all she had was gone.

A knock at the door made Jordan’s twitchy figure jump. She smoothed out her clothes with her hands and tried to regain some morsel of dignity. Whoever was at that door was the last person she had left. Whether it was her landlord, a new neighbor, or just her imagination, she was determined to make a good impression. Still slightly shaky, she managed to maneuver her way around text books and pens to open the door. She held her breath and wondered if whoever had knocked was still there. She heard a hesitant, half-hearted tap and instantly the door swung open. The filtered light from the hall was bright in her eyes and it took her a moment to realize who was there.

Standing tall, with a shy smile on his thin lips, was the person she least expected to see.

“Jace!” she screamed, delighted and overwhelmed. She flung herself into his outstretched arms. She smiled into the warm cotton-covered crook of his neck. “What are you doing here?”

“I missed you. I was worried. And I know I shouldn’t have left you at such a bad time. I was just upset that you lost the ring and wouldn’t tell me what happened. But I know that’s not important. You’re important. Forgive me?” His muffled words filled her with a warm light feeling. Suddenly she felt that it wasn’t over. She could make peace with her family. She could talk to her professors. She could fly tonight and not fall. In Jace’s arms, Jordan was dizzy with euphoria. She felt like she could do anything. But could she only do anything with him?

Jordan looked up into Jace’s eyes. She shook her head no and watched his smile slip into uncertainty. “I need a friend, but that’s it.” The strength in her voice surprised even her.

“Oh, well. If you need anything, you know where to find me.” Jace braved through a
smile and gave a supportive pat on the back.

“Actually, I could use a phone.” Jordan felt embarrassed to be asking for favors so soon, but this needed to be done. She waited patiently as Jace worked his way down into the depths of his pockets and emerged with a small flip phone. She dialed the number she had dialed so many times before with a feeling of apprehension.

“Hello? Mom, we need to talk.”

She could make things right.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Everything Is Blah

"Everything Is Blah"
by Kylah Shenkin

The Tuesday third-period P.E. class gathered at the track outside of their high school. Avery was stretching. Spencer walked up.

“Hey Ave,” Spencer said. Avery looked up.

“Hey Spencer,” Avery replied.

“Are you gonna go to track today?” Spencer asked.

Avery sighed, “Yeah, it’s what I always do.”

The P.E. teacher Coach Millman walked up to the group.

“Alright kids!” Coach Millman yelled. “We’re gonna start today by running! Let’s go!”
Most of the kids groaned. The class started to run. Avery sprinted in front of the group.

One Mississippi… Two Mississippi… Three Mississippi… Four, Avery thought. She focused and tried to get herself to run faster.

“Avery,” Spencer called from the crowd. “Ave! Wait up!” Avery slowed and turned to look behind her.

“Sorry, I was kind of focused,” Avery said when Spencer got up to her.

“What’s wrong? You’ve been acting kind of weird lately, and you only get focused like that when something’s wrong.”

“Spence, how long have we been friends?” Avery said.

“Since sixth grade, so like five years,” Spencer said.

“Right, so if something was wrong I’d just tell you. Can we get back to running?”

“Fine,” Spencer said. He started to run faster. Avery picked up her pace too.
Avery wasn’t lying when she said nothing was wrong. Technically, nothing was wrong, but nothing was right either. The only way Avery could think of to put it is that everything was blah, but no one seemed to understand what blah meant. It means that Mondays I have soccer practice, Avery thought, Tuesdays are track, Wednesdays are also soccer practice, Thursdays are track again, Fridays I hang out with my friends, nothing varies, maybe every once in a while we hang out in a different place but that’s it, and then it seems like I don’t have time for any of the other stuff I like to do. I really like to play guitar, and I used to play a lot, but I can’t remember the last time I actually played.

When high school started, without realizing, Avery made a lot of decisions. In middle school she had done a lot of extra things: she ran track, played soccer, played guitar, and she was a part of her middle school’s student government. When high school began, though, she started on the soccer team, and when Coach Millman found out that she was good, she didn’t have time to play guitar anymore, and she didn’t get a chance to join student government. She couldn’t stop thinking about how she had given up things she loved. She wanted to do other things, but she didn’t know how to make the change.

Avery started to run faster. She kept pushing herself. She wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around her. Again.

“Ave! Ave!” Spencer called, but Avery couldn’t hear him. She was rounding the track with Spencer doing his best to keep up with her. Avery started to feel something in her ankle but ignored it and weaved through her classmates. She didn’t really care about whatever was going on with her ankle; she just wanted to run and not think. Spencer slowed down; he was panting.

Pop! Avery screamed and fell to the floor. The second Spencer saw her fall he sped ahead of the rest of the class.

“What is it?” he asked.

“My ankle,” Avery answered with pain in her voice, her eyes starting to tear from the pain, as the rest of her classmates arrived and circled around her.

“Well, let’s get you over to the bleachers,” Spencer said. Spencer helped Avery up and when she put weight on her ankle she yelped in pain. Spencer and another guy from the class carried Avery over to the bleachers and set her down.

Through the pain, wheels began to turn in Avery’s head. This might make things a little less blah, she thought.

Avery was back in school the next day. She was struggling to juggle her crutches and her books when Spencer walked over to her.

“Hey,” He said.

“Hey,” she said as she turned to face him.

“How are you?”

“Not so bad. I’ll be on crutches for a few weeks.”

“Good thing it’s not worse.”

“Yeah,” Avery shrugged. “Could you help me get my books into my bag though? It’s hard with the crutches.”

“Sure, what books do you need?” Spencer started to look through Avery’s locker.

“Bio, Global, and English. You know it’s weird: like ten people I’ve never even spoken to today have come up to me to make sure I was okay.”

“Yeah,” Spencer said as he put the books in Avery’s bag. “A friend of a friend told me that you broke your leg in two places.”

Avery laughed and picked up her bag. Spencer and Avery started to walk. Spence sighed, “So are you ever going back to track?”

“My mom doesn’t want me to. I’m not sure about it yet. I definitely want to join some clubs since I’ll have some extra time. Music and probably something else, but I haven’t decided what yet.”

Spencer smiled, “Cool Ave. You’re really good at guitar.”

“Thanks. This is my stop,” Avery said in front of a classroom. She groaned, “Bio. But, yeah I think the change will be nice.” Avery started to walk into the classroom.
“Maybe I’ll take up drums,” Spencer said.