Friday, October 22, 2010

"The Skirt Incident"

by Alana Mohamed

It was morning-ish. I say morning-ish because the things you'd usually connect to morning -- sun, people, bumper-to-bumper traffic -- weren't present at 6am on the BQE. Dad had a meeting and was dropping me off to school a bit early. Three hours of wandering around Brooklyn wouldn't be that bad. The half-dead Toyota Camry warmth was all I could ask for this monring.

Then the car stopped.

It stopped nowhere near my school. We were at the corner of Dekalb Avenue and some street that definitely was not anywhere near my school. I looked at my father. He looked at me. He clicked the door unlocked.

"I'm late for work."

"Uh... okay."
"Just head to school yourself; I'll see you at home tonight."

And out the car I went in my skirt and boots and leather jacket. It was a cute outfit, but it wasn't hiking-through-Brooklyn approved. I had barely made it a block before fantasizing about the school's gym sweatpants. They were large, unflattering, unsightly, and very warm. By the seventh block I had been followed by a man in a van who insisted that the back of said van was the safest place in the world -- and another on foot who thought it was perfectly acceptable to stroke my leg.

Ten blocks later I decided I deserved breakfast. That part was okay. Rejuvenated, I strolled outside and took my time getting to school. I had all the time in the world.

I got to school and swiped in my ID card, but then --

"Young lady!"

The scratchy smoker's voice pierced the lazy quiet of the school lobby. I knew that "young lady." It's the "young lady" you get when a teacher decides she doens't like your attire for the day. Don't turn around just keep walking --

"Excuse me!"

I turned around. I smiled. My skirt fell just above my knees, perfectly acceptable. There's nothing she can do to me, I thought. Oh, how naive I was.

"You," the teacher spat. "Your ass is practically hanging out of that skirt. Dean's office now."
* * *

And so I found myself victim to another teacher's PMS, sitting in the dean's office, being told I'd need to trade in my brand new shiny iPhone for a pair of those aforementioned sweatpants. They no longer looked appealing though. They looked about 10 years old, smelled of mothballs, and probably had some elderly love juices sprayed on them.

I refused. They yelled; I yelled; they yelled some more. "Could I just pull the skirt down at little so it covers my knees?!" I'm not sure how sane I would seem if I had to explain to them my whole hike to Brooklyn Technical High School, how my father had abandoned me on the street. I pulled down my skirt to shor Mr. Dean and Ms. Teacher. More outrage. More yelling. What was said wasn't quite impertinent, because most of it was unintelligible. I'm not sure if they understood it. They were very excited and excitable.

Because of this "skirt incident" as it's come to be known among a close circle of friends and now you, I spent a good hour and forty-three minutes in the dean's office, waiting for my mother to pick me up from school.

I feel a bit wimpy that my first altercation with school officials was over a skirt -- and not something as ridiculously bad as, like, drugs or sex or injuring someone, But it's a start.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"The Pansies"

by anonymous

It was a hot, sticky day. David and Montgomery lounged on the tan couch. Every three minutes, David shifted ."If I ever get out of here, I will never get a leather couch," David thought.

Montgomery looked more comfortable, presumably because he was thinking about his own couch, at home, which was not made from a cow and always covered by a clean cotton sheet.

Both boys felt suctioned into the cushions. They faced a choice: shift their weight and learn that they had cemented to the sofa, or remain where they were forever, never to know. Meanwhile, the contestants on TV sizzled, sliced and diced their way to personal salvation in “Kitchen Stadium”. There was a new mystery ingredient, one that had thrown the Japanese and Indian chef considerably: leeks. Too easy, thought Montgomery.

Ugh. "Iron Chef is not conducive to thought," thought David. Conducive? Conductive? Whatever. As the gracious host, David had allowed Monty to choose the program, something he was currently in deep regret about. After flipping at considerable length, Monty had settled on the food channel. So what if it was a Monday in august? There had to be something better on, like Nickelodeon. Or Wii. David stretched his hand towards the remote, customs be damned.

Down in the much cooler basement, David’s sister Rose was having a similar bout with temptation. The basement walls were stark navy, and there was a furry maroon carpet on the floor. Rose, a girl of unpleasant skinniness with short ink-black hair, was sitting watching Pretty in Pink.

There was a bare light on in the hall, where unfinished pine steps led up into the room of the leather couch. That was where David sat stiffly and Montgomery lounged sexily. Or so it seemed to Rose. She didn’t know what idiot inside her had prompted her to tie her hair back (it was really too short, half had come out, while the other half jutted out of her head like a blunt spike), or made her think seriously of shaving her legs for the second time that week. They were stubbly where her denim shorts ended. She looked at the sea glass vase on the low table. There was a rose in it. Surely one petal wouldn’t hurt. And it would taste so good. It was dislodged, chewed and swallowed, in rapid succession. Rose was on her third petal, chomping away, when she heard the doorknob.

“Hey,” said Monty. “Can we please go downstairs? it’s so hot.”

“Umm…” David had wanted to go down to the basement for a while, but back in Kitchen Stadium they were getting into judging (which was really more like tasting) and he just didn’t want Monty staring at Rose. Ick. David had his father’s golden wavy hair and his mother’s separated eyebrows, but no guy, much less Monty, ever looked at him. What a colossal joke.

The boys reached the basement and entered the room just in time to see the couple on screen kiss.

"Eww, it’s The Breakfast Club all over again," thought David.

"What makes her think she can be a ginger?" Montgomery asked. He mouthed the word ginger as he looked at the screen. Then he looked at David’s cute sister. And what makes her think she can have dark hair with those eyebrows?

In her mind, Rose was giggling cheekily. I think he’s into me! Her cognitive squeals and slight flush drew David’s attention to Montgomery, who was watching Roses ridiculous ponytail like he wanted to grab it.

"Here we go," he thought.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"The Great Four Guardians"

by Christopher K.

[Circa 2009. End punctuation by Christopher K. -- ed. ]

Everyone thinks gods are a myth but...

They would be wrong.

When God created the World via the Big Bang Effect and the first Act of Evil took place, with Adam and Eve eating the Forbidden Fruit placed by a Fallen Angel named Lucifer who wanted all the power to himself: God created men known as Guardians.

Crafted to assist him in the defeat of Lucifer, they each carried one of the elements that made God who He was: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, Darkness, Chaos, Twilight, Balance, Nature, Existence, Cosmos, and Ultima.

Each person had a mate to reproduce with so with every new child the element would pass to the kid as well. What was the point? To keep Lucifer and his minions in check and the world safe. Back to the main issue...

These four kids were children of Guardians and soon figured out they were needed to carry on their father's work: Zane Eison Hatake of Fire, Blaze Eison Hatake of Fire, Alister Rizon of Light, and Getsu Fuhuma of Existence.

These four would one day be known as The Great Four. In 1583 they discovered that they each had a symbolic relationship with one another. The great war in Japan in the early Edo period took place in the year 1611 and ended in 1614.

The Great Four fought in that war to prevent an evil Warlord named Kazwki Ino-moto and his 10,000 troops from taking over Kyoto. The Great Four only had 500 in total to help the cause. Even though outnumbered severely.... They still had their powers which they mastered but unfortunatly the Warlord also had a gift. Power of Darkness he had.

The result? Total destruction... of the Warlord's men!!! As for the Great Four against Kaz.. A dead draw.

But legend says Guardians permanently never die.. will they return? If so, is this still a myth?! or True? you choose! end?

[300 film is released in 2007; Last Airbender film is released in 2010. -- ed.]

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Graffiti BS"

by Yossi Halpernin

"The G Train From Smith-9th Streets to Long Island City" as appeared in New York Times 1/10/08

The Smith-9th St. station is deserted at night the tracks clear of workers and the platform free of cops. This makes it a great place to go tagging. The trains come every twenty five minutes you time it right you got four minutes to find a spot twenty minutes to tag one to get away.

We are in the first four minutes looking for an empty space to tag. I don’t want to buff someone else’s tag so I find an empty space. I do an outline of my tag SCOPE and fill it in. I look at my friend David he’s almost done with his tag SPIKE.

“You're done Dom?”

“Almost Randy.”


“Hey you.”

I turn around and a man who looks like he’s homeless approaches us he then pulls out a badge.

“What were you doing on the tracks?”

Before I can say a word or even think of what to say David opens his mouth.

“We weren’t doing graffiti.”

“How do you know I’m stopping you for graffiti?”

“Are you psychic?”

“That’s why you are stopping us.”


“You don’t know that.”

“I stopped you because you were on the tracks. Why were you on the tracks?”

We are both speechless. Time seems to slow down and drift away.

“So you were doing graffiti.”

“No” we say.

“So why were you on the tracks?”

“We were crossing to get to the Manhattan side.”

“This is the Brooklyn side.”

“I mean Brooklyn side.”

“Brooklyn or Manhattan side.”



“If you were just crossing why were you walking on the tracks?”

“We needed to get to the front car.”

“Well this is actually the back.”


“Well we thought it was the Manhattan side and that would have (would of) made it the front.”

“I thought you wanted the Brooklyn side.”




“Brooklyn Manhattan uptown downtown front back you're confusing me.”

“What’s confusing?”

“You should know were you are going.”


“We needed to go further into Brooklyn and went to the Manhattan platform by mistake and we need to get the front car but accidentally went to the back car.”

“Ok. Just one thing. I saw you climb down onto the tracks and then twenty-four minutes later climb back out again before a train came. Are you telling me you weren’t doing graffiti?”

“We weren’t.”

“Then what were you doing?

“We were trying to get to the next station since we missed the train.”

“So why did you turn around and come back?”

“We realized that the station was too far and closed.”

“Closed or too far?”


“Too far.”


“Which one?”


“We reached the station and it was closed. So we turned around and came back.”

“Which station?”

“Not sure.”

“The one over there,” David says, pointing.

“Ok. I have news for you kids. Stations don’t close. They're open twenty-four seven.”

“Well it was empty so we assumed it was closed.”

“Actually we never made it to the station. Half way there we turned around and went back.”

“Because it was too far.”

“Too far? Or closed.”

“Too far.”

“Ya too far.”

“Ok let me see IDs.”

“For what officer?”

“We weren’t doing graffiti.”

“Sure you weren’t. Why were you on the tracks?”

“Because we didn’t want to break the law.”

“You didn’t want to break the law.”


“We went on the tracks to smoke.”

“Smoke what.”


“Because it’s illegal to smoke on the platform.”

“What brand?”


“Newport I mean Marlboro.”

“Marlboro or Newport.”


“I was thinking Marlboro but I said Newport.”

“You sure? Or were you smoking Newport and he was smoking Marlboro?”


“I had Newport he had Marlboro.”

“Ok. Let me get this straight. He was smoking Newport you were smoking Marlboro and when I asked you, you said Newport but meant Marlboro. And this whole time down there you were doing graffiti."


“I mean no.”

“You're confusing me. Let me see the packs.”

We look at each other and pretend to look through our pockets.

“Where are the cigarettes?”

“Oh we must have (must of) left them on the train tracks.”

“Better go get them.”

“No, you're not going any where. No more games. IDs both of you.”

“But why?”

“We weren’t doing graffiti.”

“Sure you weren’t. IDs.”

We both reach into our pockets and find our IDs and are about to hand them to the officer.

“Why are your hands like that?”


“Like what officer?”

I look at my hands then at Dom’s hands and realize that our hands are almost completely covered in paint. I guess we forgot to wipe the paint off.

“Show me your hands. What’s that on your hands?”

“Not sure.”

“Looks like paint.”

“How did it get there?”


“Finger painting.”

“Finger painting. Aren’t you boys a bit old for finger painting?”

“The teacher made us do it at school.”

“School. It’s Sunday.”

“You have school on Sunday.”


“Sunday school.”

“Really? So what did you paint?”

“Christmas trees.”

“It’s July.”


“You're painting Christmas trees in July.”


“And you.”

“Painting trees too.”



“So you were in Sunday school this morning painting black Christmas trees and blue Santas in the middle of July.”

“Can’t bullshit a bullshitter sir.”

“It’s from graffiti.”


“It’s from graffiti.”


“We were not doing graffiti.”


“We went to go look at graffiti.”

“You went to look at graffiti? Then how did it get on your hands?”

“We accidentally touched it and it happened to be wet.”

“Ya we touched it to have a better connection with it.”

“You know how tactile contact can connect a person to an object?”

“Ok so let me get this straight. First you told me that you were crossing the tracks to get to the Manhattan side then you change it to the Brooklyn side. Then you tell me you needed the front car then the back car. Then you tell me you need to get to the other station but the station was closed and then it was too far. Then you went on the tracks to smoke a cigarette but neither of you know what brand. Now you're telling me you went to look at graffiti and accidentally touched it and also touched it to feel a tactile connection to it."

“I think it’s obvious that we were doing graffiti.”

“I think that’s obvious too.”

“How old are you two?”



“Do your parents know you're out this late?”

“Well sort of.”

“He’s sleeping at my house and I’m sleeping at his house.”

“Yes or No?”



“I'm taking you in and having a long talk with your parents about graffiti and sneaking out.”

Yossi Halpernin can be reached at Xskateboy12X [at] aol [dot] com.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Dugie's Teeth"

by Lucy Snyder

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and reached far -- for the snooze button. I touched down to lay flat on the bed and stretched every muscle. I opened up my eyes really wide, smiled big and moved my eyebrows up and down. Finally I had the energy to swing my legs over the side of the bed and stand up.

I walked to the bathroom, examined my tired face in the mirror, and filled the sink up with cold water. I opened the cabinet door, grabbed the face wash, and squeezed the soap-smelling solution into my hand. Then, as I was applying the stuff to my face, I remembered something. I remembered yesterday afternoon.

I was lying in that uncomfortable chain covered in uncomfortable plastic. The air conditioner was blasting in an uncomfortable way. The way they kept my mouth propped open with pieces of plastic was so uncomfortable. But it was all worth it because I was going to look so good.

It had been about 16 hours since they finished. I slowly washed the scrub off my face, keeping myself in suspense. It was a Friday morning and I hadn't checked the clock. I assume I was running late. I put the tube back into the cabinet and pulled out my same old Crest "Vivid White" toothpaste --

-- that toothpaste with false claims. I had been using that toothpaste ever since that day five years ago that I had realized that my brushing habits had left my teeth a great amazing yellow color under my braces. I would look in the mirror and smile every night before I stuck the toothbrush in my mouth and think horrible things. My yellow teeth were disgusting, unattractive, horrible, gross, unattractive and repulsive.

No one said one word to me about them but I knew what they thought in their heads. At every checkup, Dr. Moskowitz would say, "These teeth are beautiful! Beautiful, Dugie!" But they weren't. Five years of whitening toothpaste and nothing was different. Until today.

I looked at that clean face in the mirror and smiled at it. My lips were still touching and my heart was beating fast. I looked down into the sink. I smiled more, more, so that my teeth could meet the air. Breathing faster and faster and faster. I looked up and I was beautiful.

I had almost expected one of those trite moments from cartoons when a rock star smiles and the audience is blinded. But no, this was much different. I was no sleazy long-haired celebrity who only wanted fame and fortune. I had a pretty face and I was a nice girl. But now I was someone new. When I parted those lips, I didn't just have a new confidence, I had the confidence of someone else. I didn't look different. I looked amazing.

I wasn't going to eat breakfast so I put the toothbrush away. I put on one of my favorite outfits and complementary makeup. I could not wait to get to school. I hated school. My best friends weren't from school; they were from the neighborhood. I did have many acquaintances at school and these were the people I guess I wanted to see. I just wanted to see people. I just wanted people to see me. "The new me."

Friday, May 21, 2010


by Katie Waldron

The elevator doors opened.

"A little elaborate," Luke thought as they closed quickly behind him. Why couldn't the interview be in the lobby? Or on the tenth floor, even... It had to be on the goddamned 35th floor of the building.

He flew solo until the fifth floor. Then, a balding businessman entered the elevator, followed by three pencil-skirted women. One of the skirts glanced at the balding man and Luke's especially plump partner, the man who was accompanying him to his interview: Mike. The woman then glanced nervously at the "maximum capacity" sign.

700 lbs.

By the 17th floor, an entire new cast of similar-looking characters had replaced the fifth-floor folk. Luke couldn't help but wonder if a couple of, ahem, robust people would meet the capacity of 700 lbs. They had to be at least 200 each.

Mike, the guy who had suggested him for the job, elbowed Luke in a "there's something witty coming" sort of way.

"You'd think they'd make the capacity bigger in the KFC headquarters, right?"

Luke forced a "ha" out. If he had to be subjected to Mike's humor for another two floors, he hoped that the elevator would drop.

It did. Pummeling fast to the ground, shaking violently with a faint burning smell in the back.

The passengers yelled various colorful unmentionables as the burning smell became more of a reek and Luke suggested everyone jump with the aid of the handrails. When he was 12 and he found out elevators weren't floating boxes, his grandmother told him, "If they drop, you can jump, that's what the bars are for."

As they careened toward the bottom, faster and faster and faster -- the screams got louder and louder and louder --

-- everyone began jumping.

His grandma lied.

Luke laid there on the bottom of the shaft, his skull reeking out of the top of his head. The elaborate doors fell and crushed the butchered remnants of the bodies. Some passerby lost his lunch when he peeked in past the "do not cross" yellow tape.

The nervous pencil-skirt walked back from a successful interview and looked down at her competition with a brief, grimy superiority. She thought: "Take the stairs if you want the job," like her grandma said.

Then she lost her lunch too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"4:00pm Date"

by Marilyn Carlin

I call her my 4:00pm date.

It's the perfect relationship -- I'm walking my dog, she's kicking up dust on her way home from school, all shiny black pigtails of irony and scuffed Docs.

Always pigtails. Always Docs. Always that Barney-purple backpack stamped with the initials "JMR." That was as much of her name as I knew.

At first, we would just walk past each other, heads turned, eyes down, protecting our egos. But we couldn't help noticing each other -- I coughed; she sidestepped. Acknowledgments of each other's presence. Teenager speak.

After a few weeks, she started asking to pet Beauregard. Her voice was rasped, lower than the voice you'd think she would have. It fit. We got to talking about school. I started calling her Punky Brewster, you know, because of the pigtails. I mean, also because she had these giant gazoombas, for her size at least -- a lot of people don't know this, but that chick who played Punky's were so big she had to get them removed partially.

My sister Amy really liked Punky -- the real one I'm talking about, not JMR who I started calling Punky. I didn't mind watching it when I was growing up because I wanted to hang out with her; that's how it is when you're younger. Meanwhile, Punky/JMR started calling me "Mike," even though my name's not Mike. She said I looked like a "Mike."

If she were a dude I would punch her for aligning me with the name of the kid who stole my markers and my lunch money every day in elementary school, but it was okay because she was a chick, plus with her the name had a different feel. It got to the point where I would wait by the front door, leash in hand, head turned, until I saw her coming up the grass-lined suburban beige cement path. I timed it perfectly so that I wouldn't miss her. Miss our date.

The other day I saw her talking with a friend, waiting for the bus. She saw me and smiled and waved and her friend tapped her shoulder (too hard!) and squawked something about me and called her Jen. Jen. Jennifer. I needed to know if it was her real name.

* * *

So now it's 4:00pm, Bo's scratching at the door and the leash is in my hand. I don't see her so I wait. Five minutes. Ten. Twenty. Now Bo is lying down, whining, and my homework is remaining undone and I'm about to leave anyway when I catch a glimpse of shining dark pigtails and a flash of purple. She's here and everything makes sense. I clip Bo's leash on and push out the door.

I would run, but I don't want to seem to eager. Nobody likes an eager beaver. I catch up to her two houses down.

She waves, smiles, and throws a dazzlingly mundane: "Hey Mike, what's kickin'?"

The atmosphere is charged with hormonal goop.

"Hey Jen," I smile as she bends down to pet Bo, who is already nuzzling his nose into the denim at her knee.


"I thought we could try real names for once. Like, 'Hi, I'm Jake Harper, and you're Jen Something-or-Other--'"

"Jen isn't my name."

I stare down at the hand I've extended, in mock jest, ready to shake just like I'd been taught in the "Professionalism in the Workplace" seminar my mom had made me go to when I got my first job at Subway.

"But the initials on your backpack, you know, 'JMR?' It fits."

She stares at me, squinting at the sun. She suddenly looks very tiny, like she's going to break.

"JMR: 'Joseph Mitchell Ryan.'"

I mull it over -- I mean, I've heard of gender-androgyny but this is kind of ridiculous.

"Your name is Joseph?"

"He was my brother. He was killed. Car accident. It was three years ago. Some asshole driver plowed into the side of my mom's minivan going ninety-five in a thirty-five."

She stars crying. I don't know what to do. Punky Brewster never cried.

"We walked away with cuts and bruises. He died on impact."

She's inches away from me. I can smell her strawberry lip-gloss and shampoo and all I can think about is the awkwardness radiating off of me in big, Barney-colored waves. I put my hand on her shoulder.

We stand like that for a few seconds. I whisper an apology, knowing it changes nothing but hoping that it'll make everything better anyway. Like my "sorry," my words, will un-kill her brother and un-drunk the driver like a magic trick.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" I try.

She hedges: "Yeah, yeah, oh, definitely, yeah."

"Same time same place?"

She half-nods and walks away. My 4:00pm date, over.

"Hey, wait!" I call out. "If it's not Jen, what is your name?"

"Punky Brewster," she smirks, tossing a pigtail over her shoulder.

"Alright, Punky. Cool!" I yell, my attempt to save face failing.

Punky freaking Brewster. What have I gotten myself into?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Ridiculous Hero Journeys"

by Julia Rittenberg

Sam crinkled her nose as they walked.

"I still don't see why you like butterscotch."

"Come on, Sammie, I never say anything about that Zac Efron you love so much," chided Dave.

"Shut up! I dont even like his movies. Just him. I can just tell that he's a good person."

"Whatever you say, vanilla-eater."

"That's not even an insult."

"It could be."

They sat down at their curb. After a few minutes, an obnoxious SUV drove up. "Say hi to your boyfriend. I won't mind," assured Dave.

Sam hurried to her young love; Dave noticed a slight limp. He stored it for later.

When Sam returned, aglow with teenage hormones, he had decided on his opening question.

"So what is the redeeming qualify of the latest model?"

"He likes that I wear the same pants everyday. American Eagle is also his favorite store."

"What a winner."

"I will disregad the sarcasm and instead agree with you."

"Has he made you conservative, or something? Where the hell did you get that sweater?" Dave pulled at the neckline and saw a flash of discolored shoulder.

Sam pulled it up quickly, hoping to bypass the possible revelation. "I borrowed it from Mom. I didn't want to get cold."

"Why are you bruised?" The normal laughter in Dave's voice was replaced with concern. "Your skin is tougher than Mom's oatmeal cookies. What happened?"

"Nothing. Matthew's dog is a little too friendly sometimes. He jumped on me kind of violently."

"You're such a liar. There's no dog."

"Yes there is!"

"There might be, but it's not the dog."

"Yes it was."

He poked her shoulder. Sam winced. "Right. A dog did that. It was Matthew, wasn't it? Did that bastard rape you?"

Sam knew the look in her brother's eyes. If she didn't tell him the truth, Dave would concoct one of his ridiculous hero journeys.

"I'll tell you! Just don't interrupt. She braced herself. Why hadn't she called the police? Or told their parents?

"On our date last week, Matthew took me to the park where we first met to be romantic. It was really cute, don't you think?"

Dave looked furious.

"Moving on. Some guys came up and tried to mug us. When they found we had no money, they were all like, 'Oh, we'll just get our money's worth some other way,' looking me up and down all creepy-like. I guess instinct took over or something when they tried to grab me, because I totally freaked and beat the crap out of them. Obviously, one cannot leave battle without some scars, so I have a shoulder bruise and my foot hurts, so I'm limping."

They sat in silence.

"Are you mad?"

"I can't say I'm not a little incredulous, but awesome job! I'm really proud of you. Mom and Dad would be too."

"You don't think it was stupid?"

"Of course it was, but you held your own and came out great. This also makes me think better of Matthew. He's not intimidated by your bad-assery?"

"No. He said it was an excellent fight." She sighed. "I think I'll tell Mom and Dad tonight."

"Great. We'll put on some Sinatra to calm 'em down, and they'll be telling this at cocktail parties withing a month."

They got up from the curb and started walking.

Sam crinkled her nose. "I hate Sinatra."

"I love him. Tolerate it." He bumped her shoulder.

"Ouch!" she complained. "I may have skin as tough as bricks, but I am a dainty child."

"I said Mom's oatmeal cookies."

"Same thing, really."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"The Tool Shed"

by Lauren Garrett-Joly

Dad creeps slowly down the steps into our basement workshop, one of his and my favorite places to spend our time. This is where we can fully embrace our "manly man-ness" together. To prove it, Dad is wearing overalls, Timberlands, and has quite a bit of overgrown stubble on his chin that he has purposely chosen to ignore this Saturday morning.

Dad is an obvious country man at heart, though he chose to stop speaking like one since he met my mother. Growing up in New Jersey, he always naturally kept up that tuff-gruff, I'm-a-man persona. The beard thing was a part of this, of course, but he told me he really kept it up to look like Bruce Springsteen.

"So Dad, what exactly are we building today?" I ask as he makes his way down our rickety basement stairs. He grunts, ignoring my question as he acknowledges our surroundings. Our basement, unlike most, is not caked in cobwebs, dust and soot, but instead is generally pretty clean. You can even see the burgundy color of the wooden steps, which until I attended my friend Jimmy's bar-mitzvah (yes--in his basement), I didn't realize was an enviable feat.

But Dad isn't grunting at the shine of the wood, he's grunting at the very unorganized set of tools we've been collecting down here (since I was 7, which then I could only look at, not touch). I had always figured Dad appreciated this, being that this was the only quadrant of the house that wasn't constantly kept tidy. (We do live with 4 females after all.) So I took pride in the disheveled look of our tools and I thought Dad did as well. Apparently not.

"Could we not actually build anything today dad, and maybe just break things apart?" I ask.

I laugh quietly to myself at how impulsively destructive that idea sounds-0but we're initiating our inner man here, so why not?

"I've been really frustrated recently, Dad; mainly since I'm pretty sure I bombed all my finals. So I figured that would be a fun way to let off some steam, you know?"

Silence from Dad. He just kinda sways from his right to left foot, blankly staring into space, and barely listening to anything I say. I sigh. This, for some non-apparent reason, does catch his attention.

"You know, sport, why don't we just skip woodworking today? I'm just pretty worn out from the week, alright?"

"Uh, yeah, no problem, Dad," I reply, with a purposefully good amount of disappointment in my voice. He doesn't seem to notice this either as he walks back up the stairs, leaving our fortress of manly bonding behind. He must have other things on his mind.

* * *

The next morning, our normal pancakes-for-Sunday-breakfast routine doesn't commence. Instead we (being my 3 sisters and I) are brought to the living room, with Mom and Dad sitting on the couch across from us.

Mom hesitates at first, but finally sighs and announces: "So, your father and I are getting a divorce."

I look over at my 3 younger sisters, hoping they don't burst into tears, because if they do, I definitely will. But they simply look confused, their blue eyes deep pools of unhappy surprise.

I stare angrily at Dad especially. I don't blame Mom for this; she's not the man of the family. But apparently neither is he.

"How, why, how could you do this? Why are you splitting our special little almost perfect family apart!?"

"Hey now, Michael, don't you dare go blaming this whole thing on me. This was all your mothers do-" Dad turns to my sisters, saying in a kinder tone of voice: "I mean, a decision made equally by both you mother and I."

"Oh now that's a load of bull!" I shout, angrily arising from the couch. "Last time I checked, divorce isn't the manly thing to do, Dad!"

"What is all this man talk about, son? What, are you trying to prove something to me? Look, if you're gay, you're gay. It doesn't make you any less of a man. I mean-"

Mom cuts in: "What? Michael, why didn't you tell me?"

"What, no, what are you talking about!? I'm not gay, alright? What are you, like trying to sway the accusations away from yourself now Dad?. 'Cause its not going to work. God."

I sit back down on the couch and let my hands sink into my waiting palms. I begin to feel the urge to grab a saw from the basement and carefully cut my heart out with it, but of course I don't because Dad would say: "Now son, thats no way to use a tool."

And I would reply "No Dad, your right. Instead you used it to slice apart your relationship with the mother of your children. Way to be a manly man."

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Untitled 2010"

by Silvan Carson Goodman

Fire leaps from one chair to the next. Rapidly devouring the last memories of checkerboard upholstery. The flames hungrily lick at the ceiling, and I can't think about anything except what's down the hallway. I run, slamming through a door with my shoulder. I run down the hallways faster than when me and him were young, and I would let him win the races.

I kick his door open and I am blasted in the face with a billowing cloud of smoke. I can hear his wheezing, raspy breaths.

"Mike!" I shout. No response. I run to his bed; it's empty. He is on the ground; he was trying to crawl to his wheelchair.

I hoist him into my arms and lurch out of the room. Flashes of doors and fire and smoke go by my eyes. I don't register any of it until I am out on the lawn.

I can't hear or see the flashing chaos around me; I can only see his face. I place the soot-covered hunk of flesh gently in the grass.

He doesn't move. I touch his hair. He doesn't make a sound. I grab his shirt and I shake him. He doesn't breathe... or cough... or do anything. My tears fall on his damned useless legs that finally finished the job.

* * *