By Martin Olson
Somehow, Jacob Wilde kissed Chastity Goldbern in his college dorm room, standing between the dresser, which hid bottles of liquor beneath its clothes, and the desk, whose drawers collected friends’ lighters and empty packs of cigarettes. Somehow he sat at her side and held her hand, even as she cried for his addictions and weaknesses and condemned his soul. Somehow he won the approval of both her midwestern parents and the majority of the ghosts of her ancestry, and somehow he settled down with her in Bantam, Nebraska, where she worked telling dysfunctional children Mommy and Daddy may be going to Hell, but there is still plenty of Jesus left for you. Somehow, they conceived and raised a child, Dennis Mitchell, to adolescence, and remained stable enough to serve as a loving foster family. But that is where their miracles stopped.
On the television, the afternoon news botched a convenience store robbery in Lincoln, shooting the clerk in the face before he even opened the register, then fleeing the scene empty handed, just to be killed in a confrontation with police less than a mile away.
By Rebecca Epp
“What are you going to do today, sweetheart?” my grandfather inquires as I take a seat at the table next to him and start spinning the Lazy Susan. Filled with spices, sugar, sauces and spoons—why is it called a Lazy Susan? “I don’t have any concrete plans,” I say as the balanced disc moves with the slight touch of my fingers.
“Did you want something to eat?” my grandmother asks. She thinks I’m too skinny. Probably because she is fat. She bustles about the kitchen in her flower patterned apron between her two ovens. Why she needs two I do not know. There are three people living and eating here. No need for two.
“Did you hear what I said, dear?” I look up to see her staring at me like I was infected with a social disease. Like I was not quite all there. Concern mixed with pity. Like the way she looked at my mother. “No thanks, Grandma.”
She starts muttering something in German. Grandpa looks up and says something in reply. Something like ‘Leave her the hell alone’ I imagine. Or ‘What are we having for supper tonight’.
By Megan Siebert
“Syd, roll your window down a couple inches.” Sydney obeyed her mother and shut the passenger door of the car, squinting up into the bright gleam of the unnatural cross perched on the spire. Jesus didn’t die on a titanium cross. He died on some criminal-fit wooden posts. For our sins. Thank God.
Stop touching your stomach, she reminded herself as she followed her mom and brother up the cement steps to the tall oak doors of the church. An old man pressed his thin lips together and crinkled the corners of his eyes in greeting as he slowly hauled open the door for Sydney, but his welcoming expression went unanswered as she sailed by him into the foyer with her eyes down and her knuckles tangled together in front of her ribs. She wondered if the other church members bustling around the green carpeted lobby noticed her gliding around on tiptoes. She wondered what each whisperer guessed to the next about why Sydney Benton seemed slightly strange this morning. She wondered if they could detect, with each step, the weight of something that didn’t even breathe yet roosting impatiently just behind her navel.
She slid into a pew next to Ellie.
“Hey,” Ellie yawned.
When would Sydney have to tell her friends about her drive downtown last night? How she almost went to the Walgreens in Obispo Plaza but had panic attack about seeing Jen’s mom there again? When would she confess that the old man at the CVS had looked at her with such disappointment that she started crying? Like it was her own grandfather or something. The pew was particularly hard this morning.
By Kelsey Ortman
Shewa could hear running water, delicate flowing at the edge of her mind. She tried to turn her head to look for it, to reach her hand out and touch it, but her body was too heavy to move. Her lips and throat ached for cool water and her skin felt stretched and parched. Again, she attempted to lift her head, and this time it moved with her effort. The water suddenly seemed more distant; a far away river. Every thought in Shewa’s head fought for the water and struggled to grasp it as it trickled farther and farther away. The gurgle slowly blended into soft voices that seemed to echo in a deep space. Light gradually shone red through her eyelids and she lifted her lashes to see blurry figures glide across her vision.
“Look. She moved. Do you think she’s waking up? Put the paper away.”
Shewa blinked slowly and tried to focus her failing eyes on the looming shapes standing around her. Her heart skipped as she made out the tall figure of her sister, long limbs and spine straight as if there were a rod running through her body. Shewa tried to call out to her, then remembered with confusion that Abeba had died years ago, along with the rest of her/ her sister and hers generation. Suddenly her head seemed to clear. Her age came rushing back through her shrunken muscles like the mudslides that tore down the mountain in the rainy season. A soft breath of air pushed out of her lungs. She felt so weak. So heavy.