Category Archives: News

Colliery

At the MoMA there is a series of photos, black and white,
Bernd and Hilla Becher who captured old steel mills, toppled
tipples now destitute. My heart is a braitch hole, once full now
excised of any valuables, cavernous drop through earth.

Fingers pick me over, break away the slate from the good coal.
Uniform pieces of anthracite so when heated I might burn
efficiently. Our purpose is limited: fuel the fire for those
who will forget our ash. The best poor man’s country stripped,
carted away by lokies, thirty at a time. Coal mine no. 9

These photos hang quiet, their reverence is a taunt.
Each frame remembers I am from the stepping stones
of industry, remembers that I am just a girl from south
of the mountain. Did the Bechers know how they
commemorated forgotten things? The resolve
of my lonely mountain towns, ugly from strip mines?

Oh, there are valley creeks converging in me, mine
run-off lays waste all these years later, the mud is xanthic,
smelling of peat and sulfur—this is my yoke. Tears ooze,

like oil, to leave stains upon my collar.

Written by: Dominique Whitman

Dominique Witman is a SF transplant who has been living in and enjoying the city for over six years. She is a part of the CCSF community and is currently studying English. She enjoys exploring identity and cultural differences within the US through her poetry.

Mother of Pearl Rosary

My brother Herbert and sister Luisa laughing
Sitting and swinging on a church gate
A black robed priest, wearing a crucifix,
swearing at them, to get down
Confirmation day, white dresses
Wearing a white carnations corsage my mother had given me
No indication of oncoming storms on that sunny May day
No indication of how our faith would be tested
No indication of oncoming heavy rains
My mother drowning in winter
Riding in the back of my father’s olive Volkswagen,
with my brother Herbert and sister Luisa
Drunken father, speeding Volkswagen
Terror of crash
After my mother’s death,
He broke down, crying
He neglected to put food in the refrigerator
I was a hungry child, searching for sandwich ham
Opening an empty white refrigerator
Finding only dismay and a bottle of cheap Italian dressing,
to hungrily gulp down
Under an apricot sunset
I walked along a crumbling seawall,
in need of repair
Broken heart
in need of repair
This pier has become my anchor
Dolphins joyfully leaping in ocean waves,
my consolation
Broken faith
White adobe church of my youth mocking me,
as I knelt on my knees to pray

Written by: Rocio Ramirez

Rocio Ramirez is a Counselor who works with families. She has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Certificate in Expressive arts therapies. She has been a Presenter for IVAT, Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Trauma, in La Jolla. She has recently presented on the use of Sandplay therapy and Collage with Domestic violence survivors. She is currently writing a book on sandplay therapy and art therapy with disenfranchised populations. She is always happiest when she is next to the sea.

Crossing

A new tongue cuts through the canyon,
where the dusty road dodges.
The water dims with the red sun.
We did not build the bridge,
but our toes sparkled across it
until we heard the creaks
of someone else’s back.
We did not build it,
nor did we keep it from crumbling.

Written by: Matt Luke

Matt Luedke is a former editor of Forum who continues to be inspired by the writing community he’s found through CCSF. He has also been published in Prairie Light Review and Ripples in Space. Links to his published works are at mattluedke.com.

Who Are These People and What are They Doing in My Living Room?

Your mother’s brother stands
in the foyer, che this, che that
accents of Argentina eja he says
en vez de la ella de Mexicanos
Tall and thinning, ruddy faced
white beard groomed

Su tía esta arreglando todo
Couches, tables, chairs aligned
in an oval lace covers
crystal dusted and untouched

The couple on the couch squints
at us, points an index finger
back and forth
morena at mi pareja
güera at her mother
güera morena yo les dije, es la hija de mi hermano

tía Anita frustrated
the daughter
of my brother who is not here
Mi hermano, sí, moreno

You feel they want to turn
to me if they could
and you are no response
we are all seated in our place
eating tiny white cakes
and a candle for tia’s
birth; feliz cumpleanos
sing Mañanitas
Beto y Maricela on their tiny space
heads moving from side to side
from Mascota, Pueblita of familia no one says where we are from
Mascota of the mountains I told you, she is the daughter

of my brother

Who are you? they want to say to me.

As we talk about where we come from

Blue eyes Brown eyes
Dark haired hija Mother once blonde, now grey
speaking perfect Mexican Spanish
And I say, soy pura judia knowing this has to be a lie
generations of undiscovered paths
rapes and some intermarriages

am only Jewish
And the cousin of tu tía on the couch
without missing the bite going into his mouth
que lastima sobre el holocausto
Yes, too bad
because there is no time
to search for other
phrases
Unless sitting on my stiff backed chair
eating my piece of cake about to fall
off the spoon

I say si, estamos juntas como maridos
pero diferente
I could take my beloved
across the patio below
with children and forgotten
toys, away from pristine crystal and lace
because we are together
but not really a married couple

so how can we fit this into idle afternoon conversation?

Written by: Carla Schick

Carla Schick, educator, Queer Social Justice activist. Their works have appeared in Gathering of the Tribes, Earth’s Daughters, California Quarterly, & Invisible Ink. They received first place in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry prize (2012, 2018). Theirpoetry will appear in the next issue of Milvia Street.

Copy of Spitblossoms_#_Capricorn_Visual Art

 

Art title: Capricorn,

By: Spitblossoms AKA Carlos Ortega-Haas

CCSF student, Bay Area born and Tijuana-raised, Spitblossoms is a visual artist and successful musician who has always found joy and meaning in realizing his artistic visions and sharing with a community of artists. For Spitblossoms, art is a meditation, release, source of pride and sustenance that helps him perfect his vision, overcome hardship, and continue to push forward to achieve his goals and dreams.

Ode to the Olive Trees

Hardened after decades of adaptations
deep rooted desert strains
a tantalizing sun, scintillating
leaves in air that steals your breath, ghosts
Of children hidden to fight wild hamsin winds—
Climb boughs, deflect the scratches made by rough bark,
Fall over into toughened earth, catapult
stones at the armed men waiting at the barbed-wire fence.
Rows and rows of irregularly spaced
crooked gnarled branches growing into eternity
a grove of olive trees, children behind
an unmovable rock, calls to the Jordan river.
In Bethlehem the tree that has survived the longest
would take only seconds to destroy—
A hack saw electric style to the tree’s trunk
An explosive bullet in a young boys leg
Children surge to the forbidden border
a stream of rubberized smoke, burning tires
a slingshot of stones against barrier
barbed wire and the wall, earth cleared
Where sacred olive trees once stood, an opening
to aim rifles at the marchers’ heads, an armored
tank oversees roads Palestinians cannot travel
Military tear gas to upend the bodies moving toward the wall
Families, whole villages gather to harvest the olive trees
In the shade, a claim to their lands, women sit
Embroider starlike patterns into black cloth
reds that bleed, reds that refuse removal
while settlers from illegal outposts trample
the harvest, steal the olives left behind when harvesters flee
danger. The olives shaken from these ancient trees
press into the finest oils, the daily flow of resistance.

Three hundred year old trees
steadfast against the scars
etched into strong untainted wood, the people
continue to the march of return, raise their hands
with gestures of drawing their faces
on the maps of villages their grandparents recall,
forced removal and release incantations

Al-Quds
Einabus
eternal spring
Isdud
Lydda
sumud

the keys to their homes
in their pockets
Jibata
Al-Quds
Al-Asqua Mosque
the Prophet waits their gifts—
olive seeds, oil
hands that caress ancient

roots.

Written by Carla Schick

Carla Schick, educator, Queer Social Justice activist. Their works have appeared in Gathering of the Tribes, Earth’s Daughters, California Quarterly, & Invisible Ink. They received first place in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry prize (2012, 2018). Theirpoetry will appear in the next issue of Milvia Street.

 

Excerpt from The Storytaker

Scratch, scratch, scratch. Click, tap, tap, click. 

Pencils on paper. Fingers tapped table-tops with no particular rhythm. The days were too short and too valuable to make music while deep in thought. 

People scrunched up their faces, which were red and frustrated. Tongues bled under the pressure of teeth. No one spoke, no one looked at anything but the swirls of marble on the ceiling and the notebook in front of them. Everyone was in their own world, even while so close together, and they had to keep it that way. 

Little dictionaries lay on the desks, people’s hands ripping through them like wind. Their gazes darted up and down the pages, becoming desperate. Some spent hours on a single sentence, a comma, a conjunction, an adjective. It was common knowledge that a good use of adjectives was a way to get through the day alive, or at least with a less fatal punishment. 

Shelves and shelves of dull-colored books lined the Sanctuary of Word. Some of them didn’t have pages yet, just covers waiting to be linked to a story. Others were half full. Then there were some gaps in between the books. I shivered at the sight of these lost stories. 

Someone vomited all over their notebook, bits of half digested food bleeding through their carefully selected words. They didn’t look much older than me. The person, whose gender I couldn’t tell from rows and rows away, muttered something under their breath, something like a number. Then they just stared into their ruined notebook, eyes full of fear and irritation. The Writer glanced up at the clock overhead, anticipating their coming doom. 

It was a solid hour until midnight, but here, the minutes rushed by as quickly as fire catches. 

I wanted to comfort them, but I felt as though there was a wall between us, like the screen of a mirror. That mirror being what held the reflection of my future self. 

1,000 words per day. Starting from age thirteen, this was life. Tomorrow, I was set to become one of the thousands of Writers who struggled to write marvelous tales every day. I would pick up a pen and start to write. One of those many seats would be mine. 

“It’s just two pages!” Ms. Penn, the head of the house I lived in for my earlier childhood, had taken to assuring me ever since my twelfth birthday. I would never forget that morning, when I’d woken up screaming from a dream where my hands became spiders and I couldn’t write, and then a Guard beat my head with a book until I woke up. 

Ms. Penn never helped with her attempts to comfort me. They just made me think about how much she was wrong. She hadn’t mentioned the additional 130 words I had to write to live in a decent place without rats crawling around, which was practically everywhere except the Sanctuary’s boarding houses on the edge of town. Ms. Penn also failed to bring up the fines you’re given for spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. Then, and most terrible, the Block, where a Writer went when they had nothing left to write, or couldn’t come up with anything good or sensical. Those people were known as Blocked. Their books were removed from their shelf, the words inside of them concealed from the world forever. 

I swallowed hard, balling up my writing hand, my right, into a fist. I dreaded the moment it would hold a pencil, the words it would be forced to etch onto the page. After years and years of tossing and turning in bed, dreaming up stories I’d write in this hall, nothing seemed like the one I really wanted to write. I knew I’d have to write something. The only way to escape this was to finish one’s story, usually hundreds of pages long, have it released to the public, and have people know who I am. There was no other way. 

The clock tolled eleven, time for me to go through the door all the way down the hall. At least that was what the letter I received that morning had told me to do. I didn’t know what was to happen, but I had a feeling I was going to be meeting a Storytaker. 

The Storytakers ruled the Empire of Word, and controlled the Guards. They decided the fates of all Writers, and the values of their stories. Rumors told that the burning of bodies in the Block below the Sanctuary, and the paper from the stories burned by the Storytakers in their tower above was why this place usually smelled strongly like smoke and ashes. 

I walked slowly down the aisle separating the rows and rows of desks. People muttered abstract words and metaphors madly to themselves as they watched me pass, no doubt planning to use my image for one of their stories. In this place, so dull and fear-filled, there was no way to get inspiration other than from your own writing or people coming in from outside. 

I finally reached the end of the hall, and the door, which was not just a door, but a gigantic book. It had a shimmering gold cover and I could see coarsely cut pages sticking out from the top along with a pale red bookmark with the words “Take the Pen” written in puffy gold letters. 

I looked around at the rows of Writers closest to me. No one glanced up from their work, now used to my presence. Shouldn’t I ask one of them if I could borrow a pen? What if I surprised them so much with my question that they forgot an important idea they had? I didn’t want to be the reason someone got sent to the Block that day. 

I glanced back at the sign. Take the pen, take the pen… I began to search. Under the shelves, near the door. Beneath the desks, making sure my shoes didn’t squeak against the floor and cause a disruption. I began to get frustrated. Was this a test of intelligence, or just a simple thing I had to find to get in? Would I be fined with words if I couldn’t figure this out? Yes, that was probably it. An attempt to mess me up on my first day. 

I pictured it in my hand, ball-point, gold as the book. Don’t ask me why, but somehow imagining things gets my thoughts straight. What did I want? A pen. Where could I find it? I didn’t—

Click. Shuffle. Shuffle. 

The bookmark slipped into the book and disappeared. The bookshelves beside the book slid sideways. In response to having more room, the enormous glowing cover of the book opened to two blank, slightly yellowed pages. 

I pressed my hands against the smooth parchment. I twisted my head around to find the people were still not looking at me. Did they have to deal with the same mysterious entrance the day before their ceremonies? I returned my focus back to the open book, tracing my hand to the place where the pages were bound together. There was no opening, no way to worm my way through. I started turning pages, which were heavy and easy to crease due to their intense largeness. And then, after what felt like hours of turning, I reached the back cover where, sure enough, was a little gold door. I pushed on it and it gave way, creaking on hinges of gold coil. 

I laughed as I stepped through. I was coming through a book! Could I possibly be inside a story? 

Creak. Whoosh. Creak. 

The pages of the book all fell into each other as the book closed with a loud thump and the bookcases slid back into their places. The back cover of the book gleamed. But from what light?

I whirled back around, seeing a fog of eery white light hanging in the air a few feet away. 

I walked towards it. With each step a slight whirring in the distance got louder and more intense, while the light or fog or whatever you call it denser and overshadowing the looming darkness. 

I turned my head every which way, expecting to see a Storytaker’s eyes staring back at me mysteriously.

I’d never seen one before, and no one had ever described them to me. There had been stories about people who’d died out of terror in a Storytaker’s presence. Even though there was no saying whether or not these stories were true, there was no denying that they were creatures most people in the Empire did not want to meet.  

The white haze continued on. I walked faster and more impatiently now, the humming growing louder, almost like the very projected purr of a cat. Suddenly I realized I was passing through a ball of the pearly white fog, in the center of which was the most peculiar fountain I’d ever laid eyes upon. 

The water was the same cloud-white as the light that had led me there. The liquid moved around in waves, hence the sound of an animal in content. The waves were bodiless dancers. They crashed, circled around each other, dived deeper into the water and produced bubbles which rolled around on the surface like marbles until they hit the walls of the fountain. I squinted at the walls, which seemed to be made up of books with heavy stone covers so tightly connected that no water leaked through. Without realizing I was doing it at first, I reached out and touched some of the water riding a wave. It was warm and soothing. I took only a drop or two out on my finger, and realized that even though I’d brought it out of the light, it was still the same white it was in the pool. The substance was almost like milk, although it smelled of ink and parchment dunked in a contaminated lake. 

I wiped the substance off on my dress, a white stain soaking into the fabric of my skirt. Maybe the liquid was contaminated. 

“It is the Wordpool,” said a voice behind me. I had no time to murmur a greeting before I was face-to-face with a stout man in a pale navy suit and thin wisps of white hair peeking out from behind two small, triangular ears. His eyes were worlds of white, thin of a mouth and pale cheeks rid of any redness or emotion. In his hands was a single pen dripping with jet black ink. I watched as he leaned over the pool and touched the tip of the pen to the water, writing upon the surface. 

Venus 

He stopped suddenly, watching as a white wave carried my name away. The ink fought against it, weaving for a moment around bubbles and small ripples and waves in an attempt to escape. But it could not fight against the oncoming larger wave, which pulled it down into the water without mercy. 

For a few seconds afterward, the water was slightly grayer than before, but even that took its turn to fade. 

“A reminder that all stories will be gone someday, as they all follow the tides of fate and, of course, time.”

But that wasn’t a story! I wanted to protest. 

He continued, “The Wordpool also tells us that we have more stories to write. There will always be a blank page for humans to fill. We can’t ignore emptiness, no, blank pages create voids in our hearts and cracks in our character. Our job is to turn the emptiness into somethingness, although we become part of the emptiness in doing so.”

He knows, I thought, the reality settling in like a storm cloud in the horizon of my mind. He knows it’s only a matter of time before I go to the Block. 

I followed his thoughtful gaze to the blank body of water and I suddenly realized that yes, it would be so satisfying to cover it up with words. It became so frustrating to just stand there and watch the blankness that I forced myself to look away. The man noticed my averted gaze and nodded. 

“Although, what really and truly is empty is up to the Writer. And of course, the Storytakers.” 

I ran through his speech again, fast forward to the very last word. I was pulled out of the philosophical tangles of madness I’ve just been bombarded with. “Wait— aren’t you one?”

“A Storytaker? No, I am your Counter. During inspections I will ensure you have written all that is required. The Storytakers are much too busy to explain to a child the importance of the Fountain.” 

“So why am I here then?” I asked, ignoring his insult. As much as I enjoyed coming here through a book and listening to this mysterious man’s narrative, more appealing was the idea of going back to the apartment complex and getting settled in my new home. 

He narrowed his eyes at me. 

“You are here,” he replied, in a reprimanding tone, “to complete a task. It is a way to set you on your journey to Writerhood.” 

I looked at him skeptically. Could it be more confusing than the one I had to do to get in there? And I still didn’t know what had triggered the book to let me in. I’d never heard of a book taking pity on someone before. Ugh! I didn’t think I could take any more puzzles today. They criss-crossed in my mind, overlapping like the lattices of a pie. 

But the man did nothing but simply give me the pen, the actual pen he’d used to write my name. 

I held it in my hand. It was smooth and silver, heavy. I felt a strange energy rushing up my arm, my throat, into my brain and back down again. I had no idea what its purpose was. 

I looked to the man for further instructions. 

“Write something.” He said it so simply, hurling the unexplained phrase at me like I knew he would. 

 

“Where?” I asked. “And what?” My politeness had somewhat gone out the window since I’d learned he wasn’t one of the most powerful and revered beings in all the land. 

“One word,” he replied, “Right there.” He pointed to the fountain, which at the moment contained only a few soft ripples, as if waiting for me to approach. I looked at the liquid parchment, and back at him. 

“But it’ll just go away after I… The word will be gone and won’t matter?” 

He didn’t say anything, but when I kept looking at him he finally decided to elaborate.

“It will matter to you.”

The pen suddenly felt much heavier. 

“After you write, you may leave the way you came. The door will be open,” he instructed as I stepped towards the fountain, the pen shaking in my hand, little droplets of ink shimmied up my arm. 

“And remember this: While creating something out of nothing, be sure not to lose yourself if you wish to have your way.” 

He disappeared behind the now thick curtain of white and then became one with the darkness. 

I was alone. I stared at the water. 

I reached over the lipped rim of the fountain and positioned the pen above the center of the mountain of white liquid. My hand had stopped shaking. The energy running through me all rushed into it, steadying it, empowering it. 

I took a deep breath. 

And I lowered the pen to the water. 

Written by: Emily Maremont

Art title: Eyes on Sunset

Artist:  Brooke

The Body of Stone

The island had been declared “surplus federal property” for five years, the legal way of saying it had been hollowed out and deserted of soul. The government had spent years trying to keep its “worst of the worst” inside. But when we returned as the island’s rightful owners, the same government wanted to keep us out. The soullessness was now something to be protected.  Throughout it all, the only beings that came and went as they pleased were the birds (including the namesakes of the island, the pelicans).

Fifty years later, you can only tell we were ever there from the graffiti on the watertower. Some might have heard a few headlines through their headphones on the audio tour; maybe that Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda visited us to draw attention to the cause. But fewer people know that we children were there too, and no one at all but me knows what really happened to Yvonne.

She and I met in the morning by the schoolhouse, under the bright gray January blanket of clouds. Yvonne wore her mother’s blue sweatshirt that sagged below her waist. The sleeves flopped beyond her hands as she bounced down the road. On the days when she wore a denim jacket and an orange bandana headband like the adults, she looked older, maybe even sixteen. Someone old enough to actually understand what exactly our parents meant by “fascist,” or why Nixon was one. But today, Yvonne simply wore a bright orange hair clip instead of the bandana.

I called her name above the roar of the bay winds whipping across the island, and she turned my way with stray hairs flowing across her freckled, smiling face. We had just learned that we had today off from school, so the possibilities were endless.

On school days, one of the adults might teach us how to make beaded jewelry (the traditional Ohlone way with clam and snail shell beads, not with European glass beads). Or we’d get a history lesson, like when Yvonne’s father, the leader of the whole occupation, told us about California’s history. My heart shriveled in fear when he introduced our class to the state-supported death squads who killed thousands of our people so that white men could search the Bay for gold. My trembling hand grabbed Yvonne’s during his story, and I worried that the squads might return someday. But she sat up straight and narrowed her eyes like the squads had never left. Like she was staring them in the face.

My favorites of the school days were when we learned the legends of our ancestors. Back home, I was partial to stories of the future: for weeks, I’d pretended myself as the Indian priestess who married Captain Kirk on a recent episode of Star Trek. My parents didn’t like that episode (my mom said something about “perpetuating noble savage narratives”), but I was just happy to see an Indian in space. I wondered: maybe if retaking this island within sight of San Francisco was too controversial for the white world of the U.S., there might instead be a new planet out there that we could call our own? If we could wait that long, maybe everyone could all get along? Still, as much as I preferred to imagine the future, I enjoyed the wonder of the old legends more than the horror of history lessons.

First, there was the Miwok legend of the creation of the world. According to the legend, water covered the entire world, except for Mount Diablo as the first spot of land. Then, our class learned the Chochenyo legend of Kaknu and the Body of Stone. Kaknu was part human, part bird, and a great hero. Despite being a powerful fighter, he knew no fight on the surface of the earth would free his people. So he folded his bird wings inward and dove down, through the sky and deep into the earth to the underground lair of an evil king. The lair was littered with the bones of Kaknu’s people, who the evil king was holding captive and feeding to his minions. Kaknu confronted the king, who had a body made of stone, and Kaknu defeated him in battle by striking the weak spot on his neck. Only then was the world above safe for Kaknu’s people to live freely.

On that cold January morning, Yvonne skipped over to me and playfully twisted her body back and forth, arms wrapping around herself one way and then the other. “Mount Diablo?” she asked me right away, shorthand for our secret game. While the other kids usually threw footballs on days off, we’d developed our own game based on the Miwok legend. We pretended that history was quickly reversing, like spinning a record around in the wrong direction and listening to the music backwards. The world was reverting back to being covered in water as it had been at creation, and we had to climb higher and higher to avoid the bay waters creeping up the island. Had this been back at school in the city, we’d have been too old for playing pretend. But the roaring wind, the lifeless prison buildings at the hilltop, and the oblivious city in the distance stirred something mythical into the air that allowed us to be however old we felt like being.

“Let’s do it,” I replied. We raced down to the docks, where our game began.

The docks were always busy, with boats delivering donations of food and supplies throughout the day. Our security force, which called itself “The Bureau of Caucasian Affairs,” staffed the docks to make sure no threats made it ashore. The Coast Guard had initially tried to blockade us, but eventually its boats just sat back and watched us from afar. I didn’t like the idea of them overseeing us all the time, but my mother said that I’d get used to the surveillance. “They are trying to scare us away with their eyes,” she said.

A particularly high wave rocked a boat carrying boxes of canned food. Yvonne and I stared as the wave grew and grew, ever taller until it was a tidal wave, splashing up on the dock toward us as it sought to cover the whole world. We scrambled up the hill, skidding on asphalt, hoping to outrun the next wave from the grasping bay. “Careful!” an adult yelled after us. “We’re avoiding the water!” Yvonne yelled back, and we ran on.

The next building up the hill was the officer’s club. The abandoned remains of a bar, a dance floor, and a bowling alley haunted the inside of the building.

“What is it?” Yvonne asked as I stared through its windows. “What do you see?”

The lingering traces of life and joy from the empty social club swirled together, and materialized into a group of ghosts. No whispers of isolation or genocide hid in their shared laughs, quick kisses, or intertwined hands; instead, the betrayal and pain of their world was fermented into a delicacy and splashed into their clinking glasses. They drank to the blaring, blissful promise of liberty and justice, for all– all at their party.

“Ghosts,” I said, turning to Yvonne with my eyes wide. “They want to trick us into their ghost world and trap us there. It looks fun from the outside, but you get caught and never want to leave.”

Yvonne grabbed my arm and tugged. “No! I won’t let them get you!” The gusting wind pushed us toward the door of the club, but we held on to each other and managed to escape farther up the hill.

At each bend in the path, we stopped to catch our breath and spoke through the same script: “It’s so beautiful up here.” “I can see Oakland.” “Wait– did you hear that?” “It’s the ocean. It’s still rising!” “Run!”

A few breaks later, our uphill dash ended at the cellhouse. The only way to keep going up was to go inside and climb up its three stories.

“We have to be quiet in here,” I whispered, sensing the spirit of isolation inherent in the walls.

Yvonne nodded back. “The evil on the island is at its strongest here,” she agreed.

We ducked inside the cellhouse entrance, but froze at the echoing footsteps of a prison guard ghost. If he caught us, we might be whisked away into his past, locked away from our families in the present. We pressed tight against the wall. Our breathing quieted and we squeezed each other’s hands, palms sweating.

When the footsteps receded, we took off for a spiral staircase down the row of cells. It was too far for a single dash, however, so we turned a corner and hid again to catch our breath and listen if the source of the footsteps had heard us.

Heart pounding, I looked to my side. I peered inside a tiny nine-by-five foot cell, trying not to awaken the dormant bones of the skeleton still trapped inside. “Corrections,” they were starting to call prisons recently. I swallowed. Could there be something inside me that was wrong, and needed correction? I thought of the Coast Guard drifting in the bay, and feared that the white world could find something, if it wanted to hard enough. My stomach sank.

They called this place The Rock, I suddenly remembered, and a chill went down my spine. “Yvonne,” I said. “The Rock. The Body of Stone.”

Her face froze and she grabbed my shoulders. She locked eyes with me. “We have to go. Now.”

I desperately wanted to go too, and for this all to be over. I envisioned our walk back down the hill to the schoolhouse and to the world of our parents, then back to the world of our old schools in the city. Maybe it would be less scary to learn real history after all. I’d had enough of the legends coming to life.

Yvonne had a different destination in mind, however. She looked around the corner for anyone approaching, then raced up the nearby stairwell.

“Yvonne!” I called. “Where are you going? I thought we were going down now!”

“No, we need to go up!” she yelled. “Otherwise the Bay will swallow us or the ghosts will trap us or the Body of Stone will–”

“That’s all over!” I said. “At least it’s over for me.”

“It’s not over!” she said. She slipped on a stair in her excitement, then recovered and raced further upward.

“Yvonne, come back!” I said, climbing a few stairs after her.

She reached the top level of cells and ran along the row. At this point, she was as high as any of us was ever going to get.

No one has ever believed me when I tell them what I saw next. Yvonne lost her footing a second time, this time sliding dangerously beneath the railing. I screamed her name, and she tried to hold on to something, but she slid completely out. Out, into empty space.

The only ones that could come and go freely from the island were the birds, I remembered, as Yvonne suddenly began to transform. Her tangled brown hair twirled into elegant white feathers, and the loose clothes hanging from her arms unfurled into graceful wings. For a moment, I thought she would spread her wings to descend safely. Instead, I saw her eyes narrow as she held her wings in tightly, and dove ever faster toward the hard concrete of the prison floor.

My scream tore out of my face. “Yvonne!”

Somehow:

Yvonne flew past the floor, slicing through the solid ground and burrowing deep into the Earth.

As an adult found us and yelled in the echoing cellhouse for a first aid team, Yvonne’s fall finally came to a stop in a vast cavern. The cavern was filled with human bones, thrown there by the white death squads a hundred years before. “Help! Is anyone here?” she yelled. But her voice echoed in the cave, without a response. I heard her voice and those of the first aid team echoing, but I could only shudder in a corner.

As her father held her motionless human body on his lap in a small boat and the outboard motor roared back to the hospital in the city, the Body of Stone emerged from behind a pile of bones with a stomp that shook the whole cavern. He roared at her, and she shivered. The roars filled my head for countless nights.

As her grieving parents decided to stay in the city, leaving the occupation without its leader, Yvonne fled from the Body of Stone and hid in a side cavern. Left without her, I had no games left to play anymore, on the island or otherwise.

As the rest of the occupation gradually withdrew from the island, leaving it deserted and lifeless once again, tears of despair seeped from Yvonne’s eyes. The stomping of the Body of Stone grew closer and quaked the rock against her back. On a boat back to the city, I wondered if it would be the rising water, the ghosts, or the prison that would catch me first.

Then:

As the occupation of the island inspired the growing Red Power movement across the country, Yvonne wiped her tears away, noticing that her arms were still wings. She then realized who she was: Kaknu, the bird-human hero. She helped me realize who I was as well: someone who didn’t have to wait for a new planet to fight for fairness. I created a new major for myself once I got to college, gathering and preserving my people’s stories.

As activists occupied more of our historical lands and won legal victories for Indian education, healthcare, and religious freedom, Yvonne fought the Body of Stone, evading its blows with her wings. She found a bow and arrow left in the cavern, and shot the Body of Stone in the weak spot on its neck. It fell with a monstrous thud. I had not been able to join her in the fight underground, but I was able to join it in the university halls. Maybe the fights were one and the same, after all.

All the while, Yvonne kept the ghosts of the academia parties from luring me into their insulated world, and helped me outrun the waves and cells that had chased us.

But what I wished for more than anything was to feel Yvonne tug at my arm again. To see her bounce down the steps calling my name. To hear her asking me, “What do you see?”

To be however old we wanted to be.

Written by: Matt Luedke

Matt Luedke is a former editor of Forum who continues to be inspired by the writing community he’s found through CCSF. He has also been published in Prairie Light Review and Ripples in Space. Links to his published works are at mattluedke.com.

Art title: Mountain on Ashes

Artist: Xiao Xiao

Xiao Xiao is from Xiamen Island, China and has called California home for the past decade. She studied Computer Science and just started to take classes in photography. She loves to think about co-op living, mental health, and living between two cultures. Find her at @xiao.xiao.o_o

 

Escape Artist

The moon was an escape and a trap. My life is this way; frying pans to fires to frying pans.

I shook a frying pan full of eggs over the burner. Rick, who lit his cigarettes from the stove, pushed me aside, leaned down, blond hair hanging over the flame. He singed a few hairs up front but didn’t catch fire. It was hard to tell what was lighting what, the flame or the man.

Rick and I lived together. He was a heat-seeking missile, and I tried to stay out of his aim. The house sweltered when he was in it. He rarely wore a shirt. I used to love the scar that ran over his pectoral muscle, passing close to the nipple. “A shiv made from a toothbrush,” he’d said proudly. The bullet he wore around his neck on a chain swung near the blue-yellow flame. It was a live bullet. “It’s for a certain someone,” he often said. “I’m saving it.” Longingly, I watched it swing. Swing-swing. But it didn’t go off.

I went to the moon to escape Rick. It wasn’t a prison yet. 

The moon was just a couch in the mudroom that had nothing else in it but a dart board. No darts, bullseye worn almost to invisibility, but still there. Still there. Flame and cotton and needle were involved by this time. After injecting myself I curled into my own mind on the couch. And swing-swing went the bullet of my mind over the flame that was Rick. Someday it would go off, straight into him and out the other side.

He stood talking. You burn the toothbrush bristles so they melt into one, rub the sides against a rock until you get a blade that cuts. He touched his scar. When he spoke he spat out great raspberries of flame, or so it seemed to me. They curved, those flame-words, beautiful, solar flares through the skylight’s night sky, not so much meaning anything as embodying meaning itself. 

“Look at the state of you,” he said into my face. “This is some disgraceful shit.” Smoke billowed, dragonlike, from his nose. I smiled. He’d been cremating me, a little each day, and soon I would be nothing but ash. But on the moon-couch, ice crystals formed on my body, and for the duration I was protected from the heat.

 

I got a taste for the cool at work. I worked at a construction site, often just a grinning hole in the earth, where I sometimes showed prospective buyers the shapes made by construction tape and explained their potential. The foreman thought I had the right blend of street smarts and refinement because I came from education but I’d been living rough for years. I could talk to the crew in clipped, slangy patois out of one side of my mouth and I could talk serious of the building’s integrity and practicality out the other. 

Things started to slip long before I was fired. At the market I thumbed the embossed numbers on my credit card before handing it over. My father sometimes paid it off, sometimes not, and I wouldn’t know until I tried. I began to forget the names of people I was talking to, and to break off mid-sentence and stare, and to sidle in with dirty, wrinkled shirts. I styled my hair in cornrows, but I had white teeth that were straight like tombstones and that counted for something out at the site, where I existed between two things. I was an ambassador between creation and consumption, and the politics of each.

Before things started slipping I sat on some sandbags. Right and left foot swinging in the August heat. Swing-swing. Star came by. Star handled heavy machinery like the rest of the men. She said “What the fuck” about my bruised eye and mouth. I shrugged, too lazy and sad to make up a story. No mistaking the provenance of that kind of injury.

“Ever been to the moon?” she said. She tossed me something, a bag with a little trapezoidal pill that was strangely cold to the touch. In an alley behind the site I crushed it and inhaled it. There was a gift shop across the way full of figurines. A terrible pain shot down my throat and into my brain, but then, all at once, I traded places with myself, and where my feelings had been I now had the power of freeze. The figurines in the gift shop began to move. There was a sea lion, and a bear, and a stag. They turned toward me as one, then changed places while I stared. They were either glass or wax or maybe ice, like my hands and feet. When I opened my mouth, I swear icicles fell to the ground with the angel sound of breaking glass.

“What is this stuff?” I asked Star back at the site.

“Ice-nine,” she said. “You like it?”

“Like in the book?” I said.

“What book?” Star eyed me in a way that could have been wry or angry or covetous. I traversed the rest of the workday in delirium.

I was out of the frying pan. I didn’t need Rick, der freischütz, his bullet staring at me like a third eye from his chest like it had special plans for me. 

After work Star took me to a building with other people in it. Star said, “What’s up,” and it wasn’t a question, and the black man with the one blue milky eye said “What isn’t,” and it wasn’t a question either. We sat in a little Bermuda triangle and watched our thoughts eddy around the drain and disappear. Star had huge arms with big muscles and each had a tree tattoo that was really a woman. Across the street was a travel agency with a sign in neon that read, What is Jesus doing today? Just a question, no answer.

The walls and windows rimed over with ice while we sat like chessmen.

I could fuck Rick when I was on the moon. Fate is chiastic and has its own bilateral symmetry, is what I was thinking while Rick’s cheeks pinked. I made an X behind his back with my arms. Fate is the good curve on the axis that has an equal and opposite bad. The thought was the kind I had while we were fucking; abstract to the point of meaningless, but I could kill time looking for meaning in my sentence-mazes. Rick couldn’t follow me here, so I was alone. I was empty on a cosmic scale, but dark matter hunkered, humming, in the crevasses, watching, intelligent and dangerous, seething with potential energy.

Why stay with him wasn’t even a question. He was the parasite I lived with. His inane violence—his general inanity—was a chronic condition. He was a sad and fragile man who was made strong by fear, and I found this impulse useful. Sometimes my anger was the engine that kept my life moving, and kept catastrophe idling.

“I’d die without you,” he whispered into my neck. Head on his chest, I imagined my hair burned into a toothbrush shiv, honed and entering his flesh, cutting deep and permanent.

 

“Welcome to the moon,” said Star every time I met her in that apartment, which I realized was where she lived. She moved the beaded curtain aside for me. The beads in her hand were music. I felt the beads shuddering through my skull.

“The moon and Mister,” said Milk-Eye Man, and his eye was a moon that looked everywhere and nowhere. One eye vicious, the other eye frozen in benign surprise.

“That’s his name?” I said.

Mister and Star and I mainlining ice-nine in the dull hours of the day. Blankets and beads strung between doorways. Each shot was a brick in my palace of ice and quartz. My mind was the Fortress of Solitude. The center of the palace had a dead lake. It was liquid mercury, trapezoidal in shape, and disappearing into it meant complete invisibility. An ordinary tree grew on the roof garden above the travel agency, but while on the moon it became a great portentous flame tree. The flowers fell orange around its base, and strange, pendulous fruit like testicles dangled, swinging. Swing-swing. Little acrobats did a ladder act down my spine in rhythm with the swinging testicles and the thoughts in my head were the bubbles in a glass of champagne; sometimes they dislodged and I watched them rise and surface and pop, and then I no longer remembered them. 

“Why don’t you move out?” Star indicated the finger bruises like a necklace stretching ear to ear and behind the ears.

“Moth, flame?” I guessed.

“Naw,” she said.

I thought. The thought slid around the ice in my brain. “He’s my punishment,” I said finally. She didn’t ask for what. We all have that unforgivable thing. She reached across and caressed me. “Let me be your punishment,” she said. She pulled me next to her. She had hard and soft parts on her body. I liked the difference. Being with her was a terrible thing, and darkly pleasing.

Mister coughed once, a sound that seemed to come from far away.

“He’s going to kill you.” She whispered. She sounded more excited than sad. 

“Or I’ll kill him,” I said.

“I’ll back that,” she said.  “Tell me how to help.”

Out of the fire.

 

In the cool I could stow my rotten-lemon memories or look at them head-on and it made almost no difference. My mother’s first suicide attempt became the size of a suitcase that fit neatly into the overhead bin. Or I could pull it out, examine the contents, rummage and rearrange, check items off the list. I found her. I was seven. The bathroom, all white, with a Jackson Pollock of blood sprayed on the wall. It was beautiful. Sick, I looked at the bloody artwork. Mom held her arms to quell or hasten the bleeding and looked, imploring, into my eyes. I dropped my Powerpuff backpack and we looked at each other for an ice age before I started screaming. The event split my life in two. To this day I toggle between the halves.

The second time I was called out of school. Before my father sent a car, a nurse talked to me. Your family needs you right now, and I nodded and swung my legs beneath the office seat, swing-swing. I  couldn’t stop wondering what my mother’s eyes had been imploring, that first time. Please help me or please let me die—which one? Your mother needs you to be a big girl, said the nurse. How? SWING-SWING until a loose leg of the seat broke and I fell to the ground. The nurse wiped my cut, placed a Band-Aid over it.

The third time I had almost finished my dissertation, entitled By Tooth and Talon: Unimodal Narrativity in the Spatial Replacement of Colonized Bodies. 

My father’s text message: It’s happened. Come home.

I still don’t know what he meant. I never went home. She’s still a Schrödinger’s mother, alive and dead simultaneously. Mom… mom, says my sobbing heart. Forgive me, mom. But I feel nothing, I just know “mom” is the shape my feelings would take if I had them.

Pack the suitcase. Put it away. Light the lighter, boil the pill. Another brick in the palace of ice.

 

Star and I were fired at the same time. The only surprise was how long it took management. In the office, a melancholy man missing almost all of his hair wanted to teach us a lesson.

“How many days has it been since you’ve been to work?”

He waited. Star made a show of counting off on her fingers. 

When it became clear he expected an answer, I said, “Thirteen?”

“That’s right. Is that acceptable employee behavior?”

This time we remained silent.

Mr. Melancholy cleared his throat. “OK. I’m letting you go of course. I’d offer back pay but you frankly haven’t earned it.”

Star and I left the site in a strange glee. We got immediately cool in her apartment.

“You ever ‘jump the moon?’” she said. Her tree trunk arms loose behind her head in our makeshift hammock—blanket tied to girders.

“What’s that?”

“That’s when you mix ice-nine with firefly. It’s hardcore. It’s off the hook.”

Mister said, “Don’t do it, girl,” and his non-milky eye had real concern in it.

I sighed a long sigh. I was happy with the current arrangement. But I wasn’t.

We jumped the moon. Star mixed it up and I felt it flow through my queered veins, and I said, “Today’s the day.”

“What day?” she said.

“Chekhov’s bullet,” I said.

“You mean—”

“It goes off today,” I said.

While I watched the flame tree became something else. A gale force shook its fruit and leaves. The air turned violent in my throat. A strong wind could topple all of this, all of us, the whole fucking city, the grinning construction site that never became a building, this House of Fecklessness, exploding all the figurines in the gift shop, until all that was left was myself and Rick, his screaming jack-o-lantern face and endless consuming need and the freshness of his fire. The dead lake within me became a churning ocean, sweeping me up on my feet.

The tree out the window swung its pendulous fruit until the wind stripped the leaves and fruit and sent them hurtling through space. My heart was the wind, a wind that screamed, destroying and purifying as it went.

“Let’s go then,” said Star, her face going malevolent with love.

We went to my house.

Rick was watching Complete Blackout on TV.

“That’s him?” Star said, incredulous.

“Who’s this,” said Rick.

Star feinted at him and he recoiled.

I pushed her aside, got up into his face. I breathed on him, and he stepped back. 

“Come on,” I said. “Put your hands here.” I indicated my throat. “See what happens.”

Rick whimpered. He shook his head.

“Do it,” I ordered, and he stepped forward, pressing his thumbs into my Adam’s apple, rest of the fingers behind my neck. Squeezed. Before my eyes went dark I saw him start to cry.

My head tipped up. I was close to unconsciousness. I wasn’t sure if I wanted him to kill me or Star to kill him before she killed me. I let my hands fall to my sides. Clouds began to fill my ocular cavities. Sounds pulsed. I felt confusion. I felt relief. I felt, strongly, that a change was cresting very nearby. 

“Mom,” I tried to time when my body gave up.

And then Star was beside us. I fell to the ground with a slap. My breath was ragged. The ice-nine and firefly zinged in confusion around my body, into my hands and toes and brain, through my spleen. My body was a city. The arteries were clogged with traffic. The city of my body was about to explode. Sewage, building pressure, was about to erupt through all the city manholes over the buildings and cars and foliage and people. I don’t know what she meant, I thought crazily, I don’t know what she was trying to say.

Star punched and punched. She was wearing brass knuckles. I didn’t know when that happened. She punched Rick into a rag doll. Stop, I said, but didn’t because no noise came out. 

“Motherfucker,” said Star. She was kicking now with steel toes. It wasn’t Rick she was kicking. It was someone else.

I grabbed the not-kicking ankle and she stopped, breathing hard. I shook my head. I think I shook my head.

She got the message. She sat. She started to cry. I didn’t know if Rick would survive but he wasn’t dead yet. His ribs heaved. His lifeless bullet had broken from his neck and lay inert between us. All three of us were sad and small. Rick with his bullet, Star with her brass knuckles, me with my smug masochism. We all enact our revenge on a weaker one. We were a rock-paper-scissors of deferred misery.

“She’s dead,” I wheezed. “I know she’s dead.”

“She’s dead,” Star said through her sobs. “He killed her.”

“She killed herself,” I said.

Star nodded. “Maybe,” she said.

We weren’t talking about the same person. It didn’t matter.

“Don’t leave,” Rick said in the tiniest voice. “Please don’t leave me.”

He wasn’t talking to me.

Above us all, the real moon swept through the frame of the skylight. It pinned us to our lives like insects pinned to felt.

Written by: Saramanda Swigart

Saramanda Swigart has an MFA from Columbia University, with a supplementary degree in literary translation. Her short work has appeared in Oxford Magazine, Superstition Review, The Alembic, Border Crossing, Ghost Town, The Saranac Review, and Euphony. She lives in San Francisco and teaches at City College of San Francisco.

Art Title: Splitting Headache 

Artist: Suzanne Notario

My photographic journey started seven years ago when I took my first photography class at CCSF. This course ignited my passion for making pictures. It has become a way of expressing myself while capturing moments in time with my camera. 

 

Unscheduled Stops

Click. Click. Gear shift. Gear shift. 

Entering Seattle City Limits.

It was 2:59AM.

 

Inside a 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse, a passenger was staring out at the steel and asphalt of I-5 glimmering with the remainder of what had been torrential rain. Often, this section was snarled with traffic, but the streets were empty, and the night was growing no younger—they were not so young themselves, certainly not young enough to drive with such fearlessness, he nearly 30 and she 25, the best of friends, with few responsibilities and plenty of time, it would seem.

Gunmetal melts to red in the near distance—the shimmer of rain caught the lights of brakes, and if one could listen to each car perhaps there would be a collective “Ugh, why?? It’s 3AM!” She said it too, for they had been unlucky enough to find themselves parked on the University Bridge, which at least has a stunning view of the city from pole position in this more-boring imitation of a race track starting lineup.

 

Click. Click. Sparks, and a brief glow.

The incense of a clove cigarette drifts sweetly out the window into the night. 

It is 3:07AM.

 

“I can see the apartment from here,” said she, pointing.

“Too bad. We live on the bridge now. We’re never going to get out of traffic.” He ran a hand through his hair.

“They died the way they lived. Stuck on the bridge for no reason.” She exhaled the smoke through the window, watching the wispy grey embrace the greater charcoal of the sky.

 

Klaxon. Static. BZZZZZZT.  “MOVE IT ALONG!” 

 

A sleepy, rain-dotted police cruiser’s light bar flashed as its associated cop blared its siren to life and waved them through. She had leaned out the window to take a photograph of the night sky, but been cut short by the end of their unexpected sojourn upon the high bridge that carried I-5 south into the city center. They had begun to reopen the bridge, one car at a time, with no explanation given as to why traffic had been stopped. It did not matter, The Mitsubishi Eclipse, urged forward by its impatient driver and passenger, left the others behind, and the lurid light of brake lamps gave way to sodium streetlight and sudden darkness under the Roanoke underpass, where suddenly time stopped.

 

It was 4:01AM.

Click. Click. The track ended and eternity began.

Ink-dark rainwater, unshimmering and unlovely, lay in wait there, and by its leave were the tires sundered from the grip of asphalt. Gone was the hum of the road, and after a split second eternity, angular momentum took care of the rest—thrice it spun the surprising lightness the Eclipse across all the lanes—of traffic, had there been anyof the still-empty fore-dawn freeway. The crush of metal and concrete never broke the silence, for though the nose of the car comes into contact with the concrete retaining wall, it is with an almost comical, gentle “bonk.” No more force than a high-five or a fist bump. Astonished, they stared at each other. The track changed. Traffic approached.

 

Click. Click. He restarted the engine, and shifted.

It was 4:03AM.

And all was well.

Written by:  Kristin Wenzel

Writer, artist, Tolkien scholar, world traveler, updog enthusiast, amateur karaoke idol—your local art-weirdo and brunch-loving, fun-having extrovert.

 Art title: BART Train of Sardines

Art by: Bianca Joy Catolos

Bianca Joy Catolos is a graphic designer based in the Bay Area  with a passion for drawing and illustration. She illustrates to document memories, stories, and assets of life in a quirky, abstract and colorful way to share and commentate how she sees people and world. Bianca is a digital artist with a traditional background in painting and often mixes the two to create endless worlds and scenes to fuel the imagination.

The Prophet

When I met him, I thought Larry was my dream guy. He was intense and intellectual, and he wasn’t very tall, but I could get past that. I could get past a lot of things about Larry, from his attitude toward wait staff—impatient—to his taste in clothes—lacking—and even to his penis size—underwhelming. What I liked best about Larry was the way he talked about Heaven, like we were both going to get there, like this crappy college town we were still chained to as restless thirty-somethings wasn’t all there was out there. I hadn’t much thought about it before, but what Larry said made sense to me—I’m not a homosexual, I only drink a beer or two on weekends (and on weeknights when I really need to, which really isn’t as often as it used to be), and I even have my own Bible. See, the thing about Larry was that he believed in me, got me to think about what I could be and where I’m going instead of what I am and where I’m staying. That kind of thinking is important to a person like me. Keeps me moving through the world so I can focus on getting to the next one.

I remember Larry used to talk a lot about deserving. What he deserved, what I deserved, what humanity deserved. Larry said he deserved a lot; I don’t think I deserved much, but Larry said I deserved him, and that was good enough for me. He’d leave small tips at restaurants and say that was what poor people deserved. I didn’t really understand that, but Larry told me I’d get it someday when I got to Heaven. He also said I’d understand why he shouted at women in short skirts out the window of his van, and why ancient civilizations like the Aztecs and the Egyptians fell. It’s all about deserving, he told me, deserving and sin. The less you sin, the more you deserve. Simple as that.

Larry used to talk to Jesus a lot. I’ve talked to Jesus too, but he never talked back, not like he did to Larry. Larry told me that Jesus explained things to him in a way that opened his eyes to the whys of this world.

When I asked Larry why he told me these things, he said it was ‘cause he needed me, that I had a part in all this. I was the clay to his pottery wheel, and he needed to open my eyes before he could be sure he could open anyone else’s. He needed to be sure he could do it and do it right before he went out in the world and spread the Word as Paul reincarnated (I tried real hard to find my Bible after he said that ‘cause I couldn’t remember which one Paul was, but I realized it didn’t matter; all that mattered what that I believed Larry was Paul, and since I knew Larry, I supposed I knew Paul too).

I asked Larry how long it would take before I was “finished,” before he could go out and tell more people what Jesus was whispering in his ear.

“Soon,” he told me.

“How will you know?” I asked.

“I’ll know,” he said, “and you’ll know. It could be tomorrow, or it could be months from now, but we’ll know when we know.”

And that was good enough for me.

And for several weeks, things went on like that—meaning, nothing much changed. Larry and I were still having the same conversations about Jesus and Heaven and deserving, and he was even starting to talk about moving in together—Jesus told him that would be alright, so long as we continued to keep the premarital sex to a minimum, only when he absolutely needed it. Larry gave me one of his Bibles to borrow until I found mine, and I finally figured out who Paul was. Things were like they were supposed to be.

One evening, I had been digging around really diligently in my apartment, and I finally uncovered my dusty Bible at the bottom of a box of old books and photographs in my closet. I decided to go over to Larry’s apartment and return his Bible right away, since he would probably be needing it to study up for the next time Jesus gave him one of those pop-quizzes he likes to give on the verses. So I drove over, went up the stairs, and knocked on the door. There was no answer, but I knew that the lock on Larry’s door was broken and he hadn’t had time to call the locksmith to fix it, what with all the talking to Jesus he’d been doing lately, so I just let myself in. I heard noises coming from Larry’s kitchen that sounded like he was watching pornography on his laptop while making dinner again. Jesus told him that was alright too, so long as he absolutely needed it. So I followed the sounds and walked straight into the kitchen, but when I saw Larry in there—Heaven forgive me—I dropped the Bible.

There was Larry with another woman bent over the countertop. When they heard the heavy Book hit the floor, they both stopped their noise-making and looked over their shoulders at me in shock.

“What are you doing?” I demanded.

“I’m doing Paul’s work,” he answered. “This is the only way to teach the truth.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, not expecting to understand his answer.

“It worked with you,” he replied simply, and I did understand.

“Did I deserve this, Larry?” I asked in a small voice.

He didn’t answer this time. He just looked at the woman and continued to thrust, right in front of me.

And that, friend, is why I stabbed Larry twenty-six times with a meat fork. If you ask me, he deserved it.

Written by: Kayla Wilton

 I received my English degree with a Spanish minor from CSU Stanislaus in spring, 2019, and I will complete my creative writing certificate at CCSF in spring, 2020. Writing is my passion, but I also dabble in drawing, painting, photography, and performance. My work has appeared in Penumbra Literary Magazine

Art title: Bird of Pride

Artist: Travis Yallup

Travis Yallup is a contemporary realist who lives and works in San Francisco. He has studied art at various colleges and universities over the past eleven years and has developed a preference for drawing and painting in a variety of mediums. His  focus usually comes from life, photos, and collages and he often draws an inspiration from influences such as Andrew Wyeth and Vija Celmins.