We are pleased to announce the winners of the first annual writing contest!
Poetry: Gloria Keeley for her poem, “Billie”
Fiction: Chandler Vannasdall for his story “End of the Line”
Click for more poems, stories, and photos from our fantastic Fall, 2016 authors to the right–under Who We Are!
And the amazing photo above, “Fall,” is by Suzanne Notario. More photos by her appear in the genre sections! Suzanne’s first photography course was in Fall 2013 at City College of San Francisco. She discovered a whole new world of creativity, and has been taking photography classes here ever since.
The winning poem chosen by Cullen Bailey Burns
By Gloria Keeley
Thelonious played Black Crow
low and slow
strange fruit still echoes
blackened in the cold hard sun
night fell on
the slip knot of moon
color lines drawn on
the maps of trees
magnolias budded white
sway with the gentle breeze
music of washboards and harps
far from plantation mansions
in the backwater’s dark strut with
the taps of shoes
before the wolves hunt,
the black locusts buzz
gospel singers tune
their collective voices
the fruit gathered neatly
beneath the darkening shade
headed toward heaven
the horns blow Dixie
And the winning story chosen by Jackie Davis-Martin!
End of the Line
By Chandler Vannasdall
Rambert sits cross-legged near the back of a crowded city bus. He dreads the long commute home, because after this bus reaches its final destination, he still must catch two more crowded busses before he can rest. He takes tiny sips from his flask, hidden in his sleeve, in order to ease the stress of his workday. Rambert looks up from the newspaper he just struggled several minutes to fold in the perfect shape for reading the article he saved to read last.
While carefully observing the long dark smudges of ink on his left hand, he notices just beyond his focus sits an elderly lady. She is sitting with her arms crossed over her chest under a faded pink shawl, her mouth tightly pursed in a scowl, and her hair curled up like that of a dainty but dedicated 1940’s housewife.
Rambert stares at her and begins to imagine all the horrible discomfort and displeasure that this old woman must feel, cramped into the same mechanic cage as he is. He begins to imagine how she must be so disgusted by the harsh reality of the four young school boys, giggling, huddled around looking at nude photos of the same celebrities in the same teenaged TV shows they will undoubtedly watch with their siblings when they get home. He imagines how her soft ears are getting bombarded with brutal words. People forming phrases so profane, and so near her head that she is forced to imagine the kind of violence these young people speak about to one another as if commonplace. Rambert wishes he could kick everyone of these people off the bus for the way they are behaving in her elegant presence.
The bus clears out some, and Rambert now lowers his newspaper without reading the article he had saved previously, uncrosses his legs, and with a sharp exhale begins to carefully walk towards the front of the bus. He glances a little longer than normal at each disappointing group of millennials as he passes them, believing that if he could position himself nearer to the old woman and match her disapproving scowl he will be able to save her from the struggle of her commute.
He finds an empty seat and carefully slumps back down into the hard plastic seats as he takes another sip from his flask, and crosses his other leg. Rambert is now so dialed in on defending the honor of the lady now just a few seats away; he notices a very young couple standing a block away on the bus route. The couple is smoking the end of a joint and caressing one another with glazed over eyes, smoke stained fingers gliding through one another’s hair. Rambert now sees that the young man is covered in piercings and tattoos and the girl is not covered in very much at all, and he now wonders what the sweet old woman must be enduring. Her feeble arms suddenly unfold and he shares his disapproval of the couple’s demeanor, because Rambert knows that the elderly lady stuck on this circus of a bus would never have tolerated this kind of public behavior and never stood for this grotesque display of mutual disrespect if only she could even still stand on a moving bus.
The same young girl, although at this point in the ride there are many empty seats, sits on her boyfriends lap. Rambert stares coldly and starts to even feel embarrassed for the old woman and her honor, as the young man sticks his tongue down the throat of his girlfriends and slowly slides his hand up her shirt. The old woman’s pursed lips now fall agape, in the uncertain shock and disbelief that Rambert feels he fully shares with this woman by now, and uncrosses his legs to match her physical response.
The bus is now approaching the last leg of the long route out of town, and the last of the rotten and unforgivable proprietors of these so-deemed public atrocities exits the bus. Only Rambert, the old woman, and the insistently unbiased driver of the bus now share the silver space. With the departure of the deviants and the last sip of his flask, Rambert is now able to relax. He uncrosses his legs, stretches his arms, picks up the treasured article from his perfectly folded paper and his eyes slide across the gray page in the total silence of the once chaos-filled chrome coffin the two quietly endured for over an hour.
Rambert begins to pack up his briefcase and buttons his brown jacket, noticing the bus slowing to approach the first station in his travel. He stands and walks past the woman. As he is passing he leans his head down, smiles sincerely at his stranger-friend and nods his head. Rambert steps carefully onto the dark wet cement, lights a cigarette and begins to walk to his next bus stop six blocks south.
The old woman is still sat on the bus Rambert had left moments ago, and is not moving even one of her meek, little muscles despite the once silent bus driver now shouting “Everyone off!” for the third time to an otherwise empty bus. The driver, now in her full state of frustration, walks back to the woman and begins to nudge her right shoulder, still speaking loudly at her “Excuse me!“ the old woman now slumps over onto the linoleum floor as cold as her flesh, eyes wide, and mouth still stretched open, and the bus driver’s mouth finally opens as wide as the woman’s and screams.
The ambulance arrives in a storm of red steaming mist, matching the brake lights against the fog on the back of the bus. A young man in all white is sprinting up the steps of the bus, skipping half of them and leans down immediately to remove the woman’s pink shawl and examine her. With water in his eyes the young man glances up at the bus driver and now softly speaks through his teeth, “Dead…for three or four hours”. And Rambert removes his hat and steps carefully onto his second bus, crossing his legs in the dotted reflection of the next ride’s rear window.