By Marjean Harris
By Ayse Bayiryüzü
Letter to Labels
By Kelly Habegger
It has been eighteen years since you entered my life and can I please request a little personal space? You always seem to stalk me. Whether I travel to another country, stay in one place and explore what it has to offer, or simply walk around campus, you always like to tag along and stamp another word onto my body. You never seem to leave my side whenever I try making new connections. You always enjoy watching me struggle with the consequences of the marks on my body and how they affect the interactions I try to build.
Since I was a young child, you’ve been assigned to me. I barely knew what you were doing until later on in life. I grew up being the “Director’s Daughter” and that’s all you ever put on me for fourteen years. You called me out for it and made sure others knew that too. I lost a ton of confidence because of your assigned work; did you know that? Do you remember that time when you sat on the steps while I comforted a friend, the other watching my movements and speech before telling me subtly that I did the wrong thing. Right then and there you stamped on “Worst Friend Ever.” Why did you do that? There is no need to put that on me; I tried! Was I wrong for trying to help someone that I care about? What about that time you stamped “Idiot” all over my body because of my attempts to get a better grade in a class, causing me to scratch and itch? Maybe you should get a better ink.
You’ve been harder to avoid since I moved away to college. I fear the marks you put on me since the day I was born. All I see are your stamps in the mirror, your eyes peering over my shoulder, your malicious grin. You’re ready to put more on me; I know you are. Every time I demand a restraining order for you, you manage to find a way around it. I cannot see you and that is the worst part.
I will ask one more time now that I send you this letter. Stop tailing me to my classes and to my visits with family and friends; stop making me feel useless and lost in this world. Your marks have burned into my skin and caused irritation. I have tried countless times to stop you and I am not about to lose this war. You will not win. I will not lose to your labels — not now, not ever.
Your Favorite Loser
Have you ever tried to think back and grasp your memories? I am sure right now you are trying to visualize a particular past event. Well, then we are not really different from each other.
Here I am, stuck in the middle of Lawrence, feeling isolated from the rest of the world. I am over 4,000 miles away from London, but it feels more like four million miles. I can’t stop gazing at this gloomy-looking fountain. The siphon has stopped pouring water into the basin. Not only is the fountain dried out, but the plants and trees also seem withered and brown. Butterflies lie on the ground, and squirrels hide from the people and heat in their burrows.
My dad used to talk about what a romantic and dreamy person I am. I could be physically present at a certain place but mentally in a different universe. That is why he used to call me Luna, which means moon in Latin. I believe that names have an impact on your personality, and I guess that is the reason for me living in a different world in my mind.
As I sit by the dried-up fountain, it seems to transform into the glamorous fountain in Regent’s Park, London. All the shades of the rainbow are mirrored through the water streams. The sunshine lets the leaves of the trees sparkle like thousands of emeralds. Butterflies are gliding with their majestically fanned out wings and lead me to the Queen’s Mary Garden, my favorite place. The essence of the roses always take me back to the times me and my dad spent with my mom. I can smell the different fragrances: apple, lemon, or even honey. They have the most extraordinary names like Princess Alice, Song and Dance, Remember Me, and my favorite one, Keep Smiling. If you think I made all of it up, go and see yourself. The flowers are dancing and splashing rain water. Squirrels are dangling from Oak to London Plane, and everything seems lively. One day before I came here to KU, my dad and I spent the whole day here.
“You’ll go there and make me proud!” were his exact words. “Don’t make the same mistakes I did.” All of a sudden something ripped me out of my thoughts.
“Luna, Luna!” It was Isabelle. “I have been trying to catch your attention for a really long time now, but you kept staring at this fountain.…”
“I’m so sorry!” The fountain still looked the same, but at least I knew it could take me to my home and my dad, whenever I wanted. I just have to remember the smell of the roses and everything seems to be colorful again.
“Are you coming or what?” she asked me. “Have you been in your own little world again?”
“I’m coming. Wait for me!” She was already at the other side of the campus, but I closed my eyes one more time to give my dad one last hug.
by Marjean Harris
She didn’t fully understand why they had moved and now lived in a basement. But she did know that her mother was going to school to be a nurse, there was a nice grandma-like lady living upstairs, and she got to go across the street to the museum prairie. She was afraid to go to the deep woods beyond, but she loved the tall thick grass and flowers. No other kids went there, although there were kids around in the neighborhood. There was that boy who lived on the corner in the big house. She thought he must be rich, and she knew he had a father because they played out in the yard sometimes.
It was scary to be at a new school. Sometimes she wanted friends, but she felt kind of mixed up about it. Most of the time, she didn’t look at anyone and just stayed behind her long curtain of dark brown hair. As soon as she got home from school, she put some Ritz crackers and vanilla wafers into a baggie, dug out leftover celery sticks and an apple core from her lunch sack, picked up her book, and headed across the street. She always made sure there were no cars coming and even more importantly to her, no other kids or even grownups around.
She made her own path deep into the quiet grayish brown tall grass. Golden bees and orange butterflies hid against the yellow clumps of flowers. The pokey leaves and sticky spider webs did not deter her. She had tripped a couple of times over long grass and dried-out stems lying flat on the ground. Soon the prairie enveloped her and she made it her own.
There was now a special place for her in the middle of great falling sunflowers, crisscrossed and tangled into a canopy. Inside there was soft darkness with shifting spots of light. Wispy brushes atop tall grass waved lazily. Down below were rusty pointy stars and drying flowers turning to dust. The sky blue above held floaty puff clouds and sometimes a blackbird, hanging up high, wings beating against the wind.
Settling and munching salty and sweet, she listened to the hazy heat. Raspy droning filled the air, soft and then so loud it hurt her ears. She thought the choir was made up of crickets and the green jumpy bugs with fairy wings. There were also grasshoppers, nervously catapulting around. She imagined they were tiny flying dinosaurs with their scaly plates and big eyes.
She was surrounded by an aroma that smelled like bread toasting and mud all at the same time. If she put her face close to the grassy mat and dug with her finger, she could feel the cool earth below. There were narrow bumpy tunnels veering off here and there. The tops of the tunnels were soft, and she was careful to not disturb the creatures burrowing below. Eventually, she fell into her book, ending in a warm sleepy dream.
When her mother called her name, she sat up. Carefully offering the celery sticks and apple core into the black spotted green leaves and withering brown stems around her, she took in return a tiny bouquet of fragile white daisies, dark berries, and a cluster of pink.
by Ryan Fritz
Mini Novel Contest Winner
There was once a dinosaur. Now long forgotten.