By Daché Rogers
Image: Lyra Walsh Fuchs ’19
Josie trilled as she walked down Iberville Street, switching her hips and switching her voice from head to chest, head to chest until she felt almost dizzy. She practiced her scales after she caught her breath again, making her way past Marais Street and towards North Liberty. It was hot, hot enough for her to walk quicker so she would get back to the House and out of the midsummer New Orleans sun. The pavements she walked smelled of something sour and were littered with garbage, and the heat only made the sights and smells worse.
Sometime in the couple of years she’d been living in Storyville, Josie had become acquainted with the streets and places of the small district. Iberville Street itself, where cars clanked by and people strolled in silence, marked the boundary between Storyville and the rest of the city. The street she walked drew a line between who she now was and the type of person she used to be, but she walked it as if the city was all the same—except it wasn’t. The New Orleans she’d grown up in was something much less interesting, much more dignified, somehow more confined, than the mere sixteen blocks that made up the place she now called home.
By Jack Reibstein
Image: Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco (Dedham courthouse, 1923)
As a certified dead person, I can say with the utmost certainty that there is no triumph in agony. When the electric current traveled through my body and arrived at my brain, it boosted it like jumper cables would an engine, unlocking its full processing power before crashing it completely. I scanned through eternity like a panoramic photo while my scalp fried in that Charlestown jailhouse. I listened to it all at once: the thousands protesting on the Boston Common at the moment of my execution, the bombs detonating at United States embassies across the world in the days to come, the six shots that sent two innocent men to their death on a warm April night in 1921, and even a needle scratching a vinyl imprint of the 1970s Joan Baez + Ennio Morricone pop tribute, “Here’s to You (Nicola and Bart).” All of this within a fraction of a second.
In that song, Baez cantillates over a crestfallen church-organ:
By Jack Reibstein
“Well, it didn’t just get up and walk away,” his parents told him as a boy. But he knew better. Sometimes they did. Sometimes things just left.
That night, after all the scraps were scraped into the disposal, and all the coats were claimed at the bannister, he stared into the black nothingness above his bed and struggled to quantify all the time in his life he’d devoted to searching for things he’d never find. Legos, socks, homework, laundry cards, keys, pens… They served him one moment, and left him the next. When he was younger, he would clench his teeth and ball his fists when these things disappeared. He could feel them poking and prodding his patience, a phantom pain from a misplaced wallet burning in his pocket, the laughter of a pair of forgotten tickets echoing in his ears.
He never felt this frustration around people. A person cannot be lost. They are too large, in both a physical and impactful sense. Only things vanish. People do not.
By Will Bellamy
Image: “Ladder to Heaven,” by Julian Johnson.
They were packed together. In the row ahead of them two people were smoking and talking and the smoke kept slipping between the seats and coming into their own row and Mary Meyers hated that. She hated that they’d gotten these seats and she hated that her husband, Gary Cleveland Meyers, could sleep through the smell and all the talk. Well, no: she didn’t hate that. Hate was no good. Yes, come to think of it, she did not hate that both she and her husband were accountants, or that their boss had sent them in prime Christmas season to New York for a week-long conference at Navistar International’s prissy HQ on the company’s upcoming budget for 1961. Not her. She just knew that this is how it always was—certain events and things just had to be endured, thought about. And suddenly she remembered that they would need a cab when they landed, and she tensed up at the thought of waiting outside of the United terminal in the rain in the line for one of the yellows. Add it to the list, she thought. And in the warm and dimly lit cabin she sighed, thinking that she should, for maybe just the last time, get up to stretch in the aisle.
By Anna Schwab
Image: “9 x klingeln,” by Johannes Geuer, 1976.
It was July. The afternoon light was slowly sinking behind the sand dunes. She was standing alone in the ocean foam. She was whittling away at a piece of driftwood, the woodchips falling with the wind. She was watching a catamaran slowly circling its mooring.
A knock at her ankle. A flash of light. A whisky bottle. Jack Daniels, with the label peeled off. She picked it up. There was a message inside with wet ink stretching spiny spores on the page. “We have figured everything out,” it said. She read the words aloud. She tossed them around in her mouth, said them one by one, said the syllables two by two saving the last for the rush of hot air and the cool snap of the t.
There was no number, no address, no name. Just “we.” She knew she did not belong to that we. The knowing we the everything we the we that wrote these words in a cheap bottle of whisky and threw them into the sea. A message in a bottle! The moment was taken by the importance of it all, by that sometimes illusion of future prospects.
She went home. Her father was sitting at the dining room table, grading summer-term papers. She told him about the message in the whiskey bottle, about the mystery of the we, of the we have figured everything out. Send one back, he said. Try sending your own message, he said, see if you can reach someone. At that idea she felt the shift, the maybe sea change of her life in watercolor.
So she went back to the beach with the whiskey bottle but this time it contained her own message sealed tightly in a plastic bag.
I am here
it said. At the bottom:
By Claudia Schatz
Image: “The Little Owl,” by Albrecht Durer, 1506.
We can’t change the channel. “This is why they used to put buttons on TVs,” Dad said, studying the reporters on screen. They chattered over him, gesturing.
“What did you say?” I said.
He shook his head. “Darn remote. Well, it’ll show up.”
It wasn’t so bad at first. Our TV is always on anyway, but it’s not usually stuck on the news. After a few hours it starts to bug me. No matter where I stand in the house, I can hear it. It never stops talking.
* * *
I took the first gun today. I found the key in the top left drawer of Dad’s dresser and unlocked the tall wooden cabinet and picked it up, holding my breath–well, not exactly holding my breath, but I don’t know, I couldn’t breathe that well. I walked through the house to the back door, out across the yard covered with old grey snow, into the woods behind the house. The sound of the TV faded behind me–the first silence I’d heard all day.
I knew Dad would be home soon. We had planned that morning to make Mom’s sauce for dinner, the one with sausage and oregano. Then we’d turn on the radio and see if we could beat our record for emptying the dishwasher: three minutes and forty-one seconds. I would have to do my math homework while Dad fiddled with the stereo, making up words to the songs he doesn’t know. “That’s how it goes, right?” he always teases.
“That music doesn’t go so well with isosceles triangles, Dad,” I say, tapping my paper.
acute angle we have here.”“Triangles?” Dad would switch off the radio and sit down at the table with me. “Well, what
“Dad, no,” I moan. “No puns.”
He laughs. “All right, big guy, let’s show these triangles who’s boss.”
Dad was not home yet, though, and the sun had sunk so low that only the tops of the trees were still golden. I walked fast, my fingers freezing on the metal, until I found a good spot. I carved out a hollow with my pocketknife and left the gun in the earth and pushed the dirt back over it, then the snow, then a layer of pine needles. Safer already.