Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ophelia by Sarah Barlow-Ochshorn

The brisk wind didn’t breach Ophelia’s silver parka as she ambled along the beach with Richard at her side. He ran along, occasionally making a detour to investigate a far off sound, but loyally returned every time. Her grey hair whirled in the wind, as it was out of its usual bun. She let herself free on the beach.

“You know Richard,” Ophelia said, scratching the place behind his furry ears that she always scratched, “I think it’s time for me to talk to Joan. This fight has to end sometime.”

Richard barked his agreement, and then ran off to chase a seagull. Ophelia looked out at the Atlantic, admiring it’s rambling waves, breaking wildly at the shore. She turned to leave. “Richard,” she called out,
“It’s decided. Let’s go to Joan’s.” She started to walk back, Richard falling in line a minute later.

The path to Joan’s house was short, but Ophelia stopped to admire the statuesque oaks along the way. “Richard, when I first moved to Nantucket, the trees were smaller. Not much, but definitely smaller.”

They reached the tiny cottage and Ophelia opened the door. She knew it was always open for her, or at least it used to be. The living room was cozy, and smelled of cinnamon. “Hello dear!” she called out, causing Joan to poke her head out of the kitchen.

“Ophelia, why are you here?” She walked out, wiping her hands brusquely on her overalls, green eyes piercing Ophelia’s hopeful face.

“Darling, I wanted to talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.” Joan turned and walked to the back of the house.

“Come on Joan!” Ophelia followed her down the hall. “It’s been two weeks since we talked. I wish I could do something to make this right.”

“I’m afraid you can’t. You’ve kept this a secret from me for too long.” Joan shut her bedroom door in Ophelia’s face.

“I told you, I didn’t know he was married until I found the ring!”

She pushed open the door and found Joan sitting in an armchair, hunched over and old photo album, yellow pages stained with fresh tears. “How could he have done that, and never told me?” She wept.

Ophelia came and put her arm around Joan’s shoulder, glancing at pictures of Joan dancing in a wedding dress… with Harold.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


by Molly Buffington

The town was just like every other in the West: tumbleweeds, a saloon with a couple drunks staggering around a barmaid, a poorly guarded bank, horses, a sheriff nailing "Wanted" signs to a board, women in bonnets buying groceries... the works. None of them saw what the man surveying the town did.

Women turned their heads and batted their eyelashes at him. He seemed to walk aimlessly, just a clean-cut cowhand, still retaining some youth, with swaying light red hair and icy blue eyes. The sheriff nodded his head to him.

"Howdy, stranger."

The man, a little surprised, tipped his stetson. "Howdy."

He tried to walk on but the sheriff, an older man with gristle-y, grey-tinged hair, grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

"You new to the Lone Star State?"

"Yes sir," the man lied.

"I'm Lawrence, local law enforcement."

"Joseph Robertson, sir. Here on business with my family's farm. Be gone in a few days."

That seemed to satisfy the sheriff. "Enjoy your stay, son," he said, smacking Joseph a little too hard on the back as he walked on.

Joseph wiped his brow. There was no way this Lawrence could have seen through him. No, it just wasn't possible. He continued walking and reached the board with the "Wanted" signs.

"Fast Jack," a man in his mid-40s with jet black hair and a gold tooth. Wanted for battery and defying law enforcement, $50 reward.

"Quick-Draw Stevens," white-blond with a crooked nose, train robbery and horse thieving. $150 reward.

And how could he not notice? "Billy The Kid," a cocky choice for an alias, brown-haired, baby-faced, wanted from the Grand Canyon to the Mississippi for everything from cattle rustling to armed robbery to murder. $500 reward, dead or alive.

Joseph's eyes grew wide at the last charge. "I didn't commit murder," he mumbled.

The town looked like a good enough place to settle down. He had money, freedom, power. A great deal of power. He would always have that.

He looked behind his shoulder to see if anyone spotted him staring at the posters and then shook off the fear, swaggering over to the saloon. He subconsciously checked his gun: still there, still loaded. He pushed the door and glanced around. Friendly barmaid, a few poker games, several ladies dolled up for business. He nodded to himself. He liked it here.

He sat at the bar and stared at himself in the mirror. Over his ear, a tuft of his hair was brown instead of red. How had he missed that? He concentrated, digging deep into his guts and willing himself to change. Shifting was never easy, always painful. Anyone passing by would think he had terrible indigestion. It took a good 30 seconds of focusing and chanting under his breath. But when he looked up his hair was all red, his eyes were all blue, and he looked nothing like the man in the poster.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"The Dried Tomato"

Vaqueros in Brooklyn, NY
by Angela Pailevanian

Six in the morning, Ruben woke up for his shift at The Dried Tomato, a sandwich shop in the Lower East Side. Ate breakfast, brushed his teeth, put on the weird-looking hat, and off he went to ride the subway to work.

"Ruben, you're late!" Alice said. She was like the veteran of the place. Eighty years old and still working. With at least 20 grandchildren.

Ruben apologized and ran into the back to get his apron. Conversation continued amongst the workers.

"Hey Riley! Have you caught the kid that threw a baseball through your window?"

"No! I can't even fix it, I'm two months behind on rent. I swear that kid's gonna get a beating when I find out who it is!"

It was noon. People were pouring in. The orders were accumultaing quickly.

"I want a turkey bacon sandwich, hold the mayo."

"I want a chicken sandwich on wheat bread, and fries on the side."

"I want a large coke, with a bacon sandwich, no tomatoes though."

Around 2pm, a boy walked in. He had on a Led Zeppelin shirt. Green eyes. Dark skin. Looked like he was ready to kill somebody.

"Welcome, what do you want to eat?" Ruben asked.

"You want to know what I want? I want to know why my father left. But you can't tell me that, can you? Nobody can. Not even my momma. Now she's three months behind rent, he aint paying a dime and we're gonna get evicted."

"Oh. Well I'm--"

"You have any idea what it's like to grow up without a dad? Watchin' my momma struggle every day, not comign home. She's got five kids. Six including me. I'm the youngest."

"How long has he been gone?" Ruben asked.

"Oh, he was gone before I was even born. Momma said she met him at a bar out in Buswick years ago."

"What's your momma's name, son?"


Could it be? The Ayleen he met in Vaqueros 15 years ago? The boy had Ruben's eyes, Ruben's nose, Ruben's slick straight hair. But she never told him anything, never called him. They broke up just as soon as they had gotten together.

Ruben stayed silent for a moment. Then he said: "Man, if I found my father now, he gon' wish he never left my momma."

Ruben shook his head and tried to stay focused on the food: "What do you want to eat, son?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Turkey and Me"

by Sara Anis

I don't usually throw up. But the one time I did, wow that was crazy.

It was Thanksgiving night. I was seven. My mother and I were planning on taking a trip to Chandler, AZ right after dinner with the family.

Now, my family is from the Middle East, we aren't really know for cooking the best turkey in town. My seven-year-old stomach would agree on that one. That night, well... I don't know what it was. Probaby nasty for one. Anyways!

My mother and I get on the Greyhound planning to have a smooth ride to Chandler and then BOOM! -- the twists and turns start acting up. I really wanted it to be a good trip, I really did. Too bad the turkey had it in for me.

So there I am, about to throw up, when I notice everyone on the bus watching me. Now being the proper young lady I am, I turn around, gently snatch my mother's cashmere sweater, and let it out.

Gross... maybe. But I actually thought I was being pretty polite. That trip was a bummer, and I can honestly say that turkey and me have never been the best of friends since.

Sorry Mom.

Monday, May 2, 2011

'Ironman' by Lauren Garrett-Joly

This month, the Park Slope B&N group did a character/conflict workshop.

One writer created this character: 
       Male, Age: N/A, Half Robot, likes to listen to metal.

Another devised this conflict: 
       His robot-half is sophisticated, so it looks like a human, and his girlfriend, who doesn’t know his secret, forces him to come to a pool party.

And Lauren Garrett-Joly wrote the following piece: 

“432 please hurry up! We‘re going to be late!” my girlfriend of 1 month, 29 days, 18 hours, 65 minutes and approximately 8.769 seconds, whines.

My timer has been slightly incorrect these days. And it doesn’t even have the decency to display milliseconds. What have I become? Being half-man (I use the term ‘man‘ for all intensive purposes; only referring to gender, since my age is unknown), half-robot, I have always been addressed as 432.

432 is the number printed on the inner most corner of my eyeball, which I always (and slightly annoyingly) see when I use my advanced peripherals. Now the average teenager, like Marla for example, might find this name choice a peculiar one made by my “parents”, who she believes live in a cozy home in Canada and allowed me to move here to Upstate NY alone as both an experimental trip (which isn’t exactly incorrect), and a reward for good behavior. But the name 432, along with the lie about my so-called parents, has ironically instead upped my “cool status” among the human teenagers; because most of my peers apparently think my name is some new-age angst effort to be less of a conformist to modern society and its labels.

I personally see nothing wrong with names, in fact I sometimes rather long for one, but then I become confused by these human emotions and I block them out, literally.

“Marla, could you explain in detail how one could be late to his own party?”

“Ugh, don’t be sarcastic with me, okay? I’m just a little nervous. I mean this is like your coming out party!”

‘Coming out party’. This term does not compute with my system.

“Coming out from where?” I ask.

“Ha-ha. Just hurry up” And with that I hear her expensive Jimmy Choo heels click-clack-click-stomp-lift-swoosh-fly over and into sliding door pool entryway-stomp-click-clack-squish onto slightly wet patio, proceeding to a distance (presumably by the pool) where my highly-sensitive ears can no longer hear.

I take as deep a breath as possible for my body structure, because at this point I feel nervous, which is very new to me. The sensation of nervous feelings suddenly erupting in my brain and stomach (what are these called by humans? Butterflies?) most likely stems from my current predicament. I am completely unsure of how to reveal my true identity: namely my iron-metal hybrid somewhat bullet-proof torso, to all of my high school classmates.

Hmm. No matter. I realize that I will just have to somehow compute a plausible and simple solution in the; as-humans say “heat of the moment."

I put in my ipod device (one of my closest friends), pressing play on the Metal play list I’d created, which was literally recorded sounds of clanking metal and/or iron. As always, this seems to calm me down.

I enter the outside pool quadrant. A flock semi-pubescent teenagers are spread over the lofty terrace and in the pool, some of which turn to look at me. Many hold red plastic cups, most likely filled with variations of expensive vodkas mixed with sugary juice-drinks. I spot and approach Marla, who is standing near some chairs, scantily clad in a paisley string-bikini. Her pale skin glows in the now approaching moonlight. One of her obviously drunk female comrades giggles, burps, and then feels the need to inform me that her “spirit-animal is like totally like, a gay man."


I am wearing an Ed-Hardy t-shirt. Marla, ignoring her babbling friend, smiles at me and says “Hey, 432, about time! I was just about to take a dip. How about you ditch the shirt and join me?” She squeezes my left buttocks, which is much more hard and firm than the average male‘s (of course, since it is a hybrid of iron and fake flesh), a quality she seems to like.

“I can not.“ I reply in a less firm tone of voice than usual.

“Um, why?” says Marla. She too now looks nervous, as well as confused, probably fearing embarrassment.

Oh. No. This is the moment I previously mentioned.

My mouth opens but no sound travels out. Everyone awkwardly blinks at me expectantly. So I abort to Bing mode. Similar to the entertaining commercials (that I actually kind of enjoy, because I can relate to some the fictional characters. You know, the ones who begin to randomly incessantly shout facts and terms?); my brain scans references to the words ‘robot’, ‘iron’, ‘metal’, ‘half man, half-Click. I blink. ‘Ironman; popular action-adventure film starring Robert Downey Jr, based on DC comics, also song by Ozzy Osborne’ reads against my eyelids. Perfect. Once again, in a matter of seconds, my highly skilled mind has solved the problem.

I straighten up, and declare loudly; “I am Ironman."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Chick Chick"

by Oscar Guerrero
I ate some questionable fried chicken from a questionable restaurant, in a questionable street in a questionable area east of LAX. My uncle is a steward at the airport, or something along those lines, so we picked him up from Terminal 20. He greeted us with a "Look how big you've gotten?" and a "Did you lose weight?" and the question we were all waiting for, "Are you hunrgy?"

He stuffed us in the car, took the wheel, and jammed his foot on the pedal until we were going 40 in a 15. "I know a place!"

Before we knew it, it was past nine and we had driven for two hours. "I think we missed it. It was supposed to me fifteen minutes from the airport." We gazed at him but bit our tongues, as we couldn't refuse his hospitality for offering to pay.

Then we spied a place: "Chicky Chicky," with bright flickering neon lights that, as Simon & Garfunkel put it, "split the night."

The menu varied from fried chicked to spicy fried chicken. Everyone ordered the spicy fried chicken but I, being the weakest of stomach of the family, couldn't help but be weak and submissive so as to stand out and get the chicken that was lacking in the spicy area.

So the cashier, this plump Hispanic woman with a Jennifer Aniston haircut and too many rings to count, followed our commands. In a matter of seconds, the food was ready. We had drinks, the chicken of spicy and non-spicy variety, and a little container overflowing with ranch sauce.

I ever-so-cautiously clenched my teeth on the ever-so-salty chicken. I chewed slowly. Save for a few bones it wasn't bad. The feast had officially begun, as everyone was grabbing for a leg, or a nugget, or a wing, and chewing, and savoring, and swallowing, and gulping, and of course digesting.

We finished the meal, payed a surprisingly large bill, and got in the car to say, "This wasn't so bad."

My dad drove tmie, going 25mph under the speed limit. But even at that speed, I felt a pressure in the center of my torso, building up, slowly, but surely.

Then there was rumbling, and sweating, and the next thing I knew, my mouth was erupting white chunks of legs, nuggets, wings and other body parts of the fowl type.

And it was everywhere.

My shoes, my jeans, my Revolver shirt (which I had so carefully and lovingly preserved), and even my mother's dress (which she had carefully and lovingly preserved)... Not to mention two car seats, a bit of the window, and even some of the steering wheel.

Everyone gave me the stare they had previously given my uncle, but they bit their tongues, and kept driving, and driving and driving, and just ignoring the smell.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Chapter 1—I am Born"

by Cassy Sarnell
Jennifer Louise Boyle was born on September 27, 1992. She had stunning blue eyes and little ringlet curls. Her mother, Karen Celia Boyle, had been at the hospital for 6 hours, counting the hour of doctors sticking needles in her to numb the pain. Her father, Matthew Louis Boyle, didn’t see either the mother or the child for exactly 24 hours after the baby’s birth, at which point he exclaimed, “Well thank god all the right parts are in all the right places,” which I resent.

It never occurred to a young Jennifer that there was anything wrong with her. She was not especially “girly,” but not especially “tomboyish,” a term I resent.

The first clue she had that she was less-than-perfect was while watching Motocrossed with her now-ex-best friend. She was sitting there, watching, when I spoke up for the first time.

“I want to marry her.”

Jennifer, not one to keep anything to herself, shared this with her now-ex-best friend: “I want to marry her.”

“Ew. Are you gay?”

Neither of us knew what the term meant, so Jennifer looked it up.

“I’m straight,” I told her.

“I know… Are you my imaginary friend?”


“Are you… me?”


“What’s your name?”


“Well, I thought I was Jennifer. But you’re me. So whatever your name is is also my name.”

I thought about it. “James. I’m James.”

I was born 8 years later, on June 15, 2008. James Louis Boyle. I had hair cut too short to form ringlets, and dreary blue eyes. My mother, Karen Celia Boyle, wouldn’t look at me. My father, Matthew Louis Boyle, wavered between joking that now he had the son he’d always wanted, and staring at me with a look that said, "How did this get so wrong? How did you get so wrong?”

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Thumbs Down, Bro"

by Christina McCarthy

The line went on for hours. Hundreds of children lined up side by side as their skin boiled from the summer sun.

Anthony was getting anxious as they approached the top of the mount. Super Speed. The most outrageous water slide in the state of Arizona. It took you down faster than any loopy slide in the park, with the sharpest turns and steepest drops.

"Hey, Chubbs, relax," Greg said to Anthony.

"I can't help it; we've been waiting all week for this, and it's so hot I want to be in the pool already," Anthony said.

"I am actually a bit nervous about it."

"Why? You're retarded. It's going to be sick."

"Well, hate to be the one to share this with you, but I am quite a bit more aerodynamic than you," said Greg. Anthony rolled his eyes and moved ahead in line.

Greg continued, "Maybe I will just wait until you go and when you land in the water you can give me a thumbs up or down so I can decide if I want to go through with it."

"Yeah, okay, whatever you want."

Before long, Anthony was next up. Greg gave him a quick reminder to give him a signal before Anthony jumped into the tube slide head-first. Greg took a few moments to look around. He hadn't realized how high up he was. The view unnerved him.

"Holy shit!" he heard a girl scream from below. He leaned over the rail to see the pool filling with blood and he went into panic mode. He ran down the metal spiral staircase past the crowded line feeling nauseous from the speed and fear. His heart was beating in his throat and he thought he was going to puke. Ever since he was little he was known to be a nervous vomiter.

When he finally go to the pool, Anthony had been taken out but there was a crowd around him filled with panic. He must have hit his head on the bottom. The paramedics tended to him and Greg couldn't see his body. The entire water park seemed to freeze around the scene. Once you drowned out the shaky voices crying for help, the park was silent.

The seconds seemed like hours. A voice yelled out, "He's breathing!" Then there was a loud splash in the bloody pool. Greg looked over to see... Anthony, naked, bringing his head out from under the red pool water.

"What the fuck!" Anthony yelled. "First my trunks get stuck on base bolt in a turn, now the water is like toxic?"

Anthony climbed out of the pool, reaching for a towel, as Greg's stomach turned in shock at the red and relief at his friend. Anthony wrapped the towel around himself.

"Thumbs down bro, all the way."