Exit109

Online Edition

2012-2013

Staff
Editor-in-Chief, Justine Jackson Assistant Editor, Emil Morris Design Manager, Autumn Pittman PR Coordinator, Caleb Reed Copy Editor, Paul Davis Copy Editor, Matt Parr Staff, Lisa Garcia

Mission Statement: Exit 109 is Radford University’s student-run literary arts magazine. The magazine exists to publish creative work by RU students and to foster an appreciation of literature and art by bringing that work into the community. Legal Disclaimer: The opinions, ideas, and views expressed in this publication in no way reflect those of Radford University.

Table of Contents
1 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 17 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 40 41 43 Introduction Editor’s Note Un Sonnetto Sulla Absurdity Oculus Obscura Memoriana Cohesion Black and White Photo Paper Just A Shape The Beauty of Fall in Radford Bus Stop Never Told You Pearls Virgin Creepy Up Close A Mind Full of Lost A Great Misunderstanding Desire Hot Heels 5 O’Clock Shadow Bump in the Night Staccato I Am Alive Tree of Imagination Malbec A Mouse Among Giants Riley Un-kept Promises The Vase Emil Morris Justine Jackson Ian Simpkins Nicholas Chamberlin Abigail Odendhal Meghan Rhodes Mallory Burton Kayla Dauberman Miriam Emille Paul Davis Saera Alley Melissa Chenault Abigail Odendhal Dalton Heath Jed Anglade Jesse Daniels Kayla Dauberman Kayla Beggarly Halle Edwards Fredrick Brindle Abigail Odendhal Jed Anglade Emily Traylor Mallory Burton Ian Simpkins Meghan Rhodes Lyndsay Coker Abigail Odendhal

44 52 53 54 55 56 56 57 61 62 63 64 65 69 70 71 74 75

Arm of the Elephant War and Terror Snowfall Wintertide 460, 220, 81 Home in the Mountains Downtown Radford Ink, Pain, and Tears RU Confused Engines Electricity Furry Inconvenience “Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels” I Am Not That Man Sweet Spot Bloom Where You Are Planted With One Last Breath At Dawn Giving Up

Paul Davis Ian Simpkins Justine Jackson Halle Edwards Ian Simpkins Holly Mckittrick Holly Mckittrick Reid Nelson Derek Reynolds Derek Reynolds Christopher Skiles Mallory Burton Jay Rimmer Derek Reynolds Mallory Burton Tara Cooley Justine Jackson Kyley Doty

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Dear Reader,
The smartass is back for another reign of terror at Exit 109. I could censor myself and write a sappy, sentimental editor’s note, but it’s the final production night and my final year as editor. Let’s just be honest with each other. Exit 109 wants to leave a mark here on campus. We want to be known as the offbeat publication that showcases our university’s diverse talent and creativity. We have purpose and we sure as hell have a burning passion for literature and the arts. If our publication can touch just one person’s life, open their mind to new experiences, or encourage them to share their own works with the world, then we’ve done our job here. Contributors, I cannot thank you enough for your submissions. Without you, this magazine is not possible. Our supporters also help back us through their kind words of encouragement and spreading the word that Exit 109 does, indeed, exist on campus and that you should consider submitting your work. Finally, the staff members deserve a high five or a fist bump – if you’re into fist bumping – for their hard work on the magazine and more importantly, for putting up with me. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my two years with this publication, you have to be determined, fearless, and above all else, care. That’s what it takes to create a magazine like this one. And you know what? I think we did a pretty damn good job. Peace, Justine Jackson

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Un Sonnetto Sulla Absurdity
Ian Simpkins
Running down the hall feet on the ceiling trip on the light plummeting to the floor The dog floats by and asks on your feelings about the big red mustachioed door Tickle his whiskers and he’ll let you out but no telling what’s in the grass today Jabberwocks yesterday gruesome and stout indeed though it shall be a quaint foray Blenders abounding as the door swings wide whirring humming darting by in a flash In search of other creatures apt to hide biding their time in the towering grass Take time to ponder this story absurd and find there is fun in playing with words

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Nicholas Chamberlin
Black asphalt bakes, green trees sway, Sitting on the beach of an infinite summer A good buzz, a clean swell, You can’t waste time when you have eternity Warm skin, soft lips, We’ll stay young forever Youthful exuberance, doldrums blowing in, This looking glass has broken Crisp winds, cool summer’s love, Just as fast as you cooled yours, The winters as harsh as reality Short, sweet, bitter, reality.

Oculus Obscura

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Memoriana

Abigail Odendhal
In the land of Memoriana, Where all is sweet and everlasting, I dipped my head in a cool spring, As clear as the images that now leapt and danced in front of me. Once faded like tarnished silver, Now gleamed in my mind As all five senses crashed against the sea-wall of age, Drenching me in waters of innocence. And as the drops rolled off onto lush velvet grass, My hair grew long and untouched And my body was small and unmarred Once wearied from too much knowledge. Two women approached me. And with each step their faces grew round and rosy, Years falling away like a mask. And the little girls dressed me in lace and satin. Then crowning me with honeysuckle vines, We created a kingdom in honed out mountains And made thrones out of magnolia trees. And those who we thought lost forever To the desolation and uncertainty of the world, Found their way into ours. They smiled and laughed And we all danced to the sounds of fireflies And feasted on honeysuckles and rose water. Then into the cool breeze and quiet laughter Came a sound cracking peace like glass. Alarmed, we scattered from Reality’s troops. For it would have been a losing fight Facing present with past. And it took them all— Those I loved and lost in an untimely fashion And the bliss of ignorance that I once wished to hurry. And then I awoke, covered in the faded photos of a lost battle with time.

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Cohesion
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Meghan Rhodes

Black and White Photo Paper
Mallory Burton
Staring at this picture of you and I, over two and a half years ago neither of us would know. Pressure builds behind my eyes as they glaze over with that familiar, slippery sadness. One of those out-of-the-movie, falling back, black and white glossy papers swirling into someplace where we stood, fulfilled, untroubled. You kissed me on the cheek; I threw my head back and laughed, right as the camera flashed. My thoughts scratch what is trapped inside this wooden cage,
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but all that is freed is the whispering word: why. Why does my smile not shine like it does inside this rectangular shrine? A shiny paper skeleton of what used to be.

Just A Shape

Kayla Dauberman
In infancy it’s just a shape that we have frozen, and chew on, thanks to our parents. In preschool it’s still just a shape that we use to stack, throw, and play with, thanks to Fischer-Price. In our K through twelve years it becomes more complicated, not only used for playing, but now used for learning thanks to our teachers. It now has a diameter, a radius, a center, and a circumference. In adulthood it becomes a shape that we beg for because we think we are ready. It now has options. Gold or silver, stone or no stone, promise or engagement, life or divorce. It’s no longer a Fischer-Price toy. It’s no longer an object in a math equation. It is a shape that becomes life changing.

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The Beauty of Fall in Radford
Miriam Emilie
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Derrick and Angela sat together on the cold bench, huddled in large coats, waiting for the 16th street bus to carry them downtown. Best friends since 6th grade, they had worked together for the last four months at Starbucks. Today, unlike all of the other days at the bus stop, Angela tried to get herself under control after the devastating news. She wiped a smudge of mascara from under her left eye and choked down another sob. The tissue, crumpled in her palm, had begun to turn the color of the leaden sky. “I’m sorry, Derrick,” she said. “I mean, Christ, I thought I could hold up better than this.” Derrick reached out and touched her shoulder. His cigarette had burned clear down to the butt, but he took another drag anyway. As he exhaled gray smoke into the chilled air, he flicked the cigarette into the wet, shining street. He looked in the direction from where their bus would be arriving and glanced at his watch. He gave Angela’s shoulder a squeeze.
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“It’s okay,” he said. “You know they said it was pretty quick. I mean, from what I heard, Mike hardly felt anything at all.” Brushing the hair out of her eyes with her hand, Angela turned and watched Derrick pull his body deeper into his coat. She was hesitant to speak as she reached up and wiped another line of smeared makeup from her cheek. “Bullshit,” she said through another sob. “How does a person who is launched through a windshield and flung 50 yards from the crumpled mess of his car not feel any pain? I fucking hate these people who try to console everyone with lies. I mean, honestly, he had to have felt something.” “I don’t know, Ang,” Derrick responded, staring at the sky. “I don’t know what lies are and what truths are anymore. I know one thing. I wish Mike’s death was a lie.” “Me too. I miss him. You know, I told him three days ago to start wearing his seatbelt. I just felt something weird.

Something . . . what’s the fucking word . . . prophetic?” Leaves, like veined fossils, clattered at their feet. Derrick shook a few away that had snagged in his shoelaces and lit another cigarette. “Can I ask you a question?” “Shoot,” Angela said, lighting her own cigarette and reaching into her purse for another tissue. “Were you guys more than friends? I mean, you know . . .” A smile appeared briefly on Angela’s face, then vanished. “Yeh, we were.” She was looking at him now. “We were, well, there’s no better way of saying it. We were fuck friends. But it was better than it sounds. Remember when he came over last Monday? Stood you up for that movie?” “Yep,” Derrick smiled. “Fucker’s idea and I sat alone in that theater feeling like a douchebag.” “He came over that day, you know. We got high, watched some stupid B movies, laughed, had sex, got high again, laughed some more, fucked some more. But he never left, you know, without holding me. You know, just holding me close. That’s

the way he was. He’s . . . he was like that. Comfortable. Right.” Derrick thought about that. He watched the bus — a large silver brick on wheels with an ad wrapped around it — turn the corner onto their street three blocks away. He combed his fingers through his hair and took another deep drag from his cigarette. “He told me he was in love with you. I never believed him. I didn’t think he could love any girl. But, I suppose he did love you. I’d say that’s far greater than being someone’s fuck buddy.” Angela wiped her eyes, tried to summon to her face another brief smile, but couldn’t. New tears surfaced. Between sniffles, she nodded, stared down at her boots. A tiny storm of leaves danced at the lip of a sewer drain. “Yeh, I know. I loved him, too. Goddamn asshole goes and . . . he . . . why’d he do this to me? I’m so angry right now.” The bus to 16th street squealed to a halt in front of them and hissed. The door swung open and heat like a warm hand brushed by them. Derrick smashed his cigarette under his shoe, plucked Angela’s cigarette from between her lips and took a
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long last drag. He pulled her to him. She was trembling with both the November chill and the hurt she was trying to conceal as she pressed her face into his neck. “I don’t know why this happened, Ang. I wish it were all lies. If I were to bet on it, though, I’d say he was in a lot of pain before he died. But I hate thinking about that shit.” Angela looked up at him, nodded, blew her nose, and tried to smile. They climbed into the bus, the door swinging shut behind them. On the sidewalk near the empty bench, a boy in a bright red sweatshirt crouched and picked up a stray crimson maple leaf, waved it at his mother, and smiled brightly as they moved on.

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Never Told You
Saera Alley
I remember the first time I saw you. You walked out of those double-doors, And all I could think Was how beautiful you were. I told my sister she should be friends with your sister, Just so I could get to know you somehow. I never told you this. I remember the first day I met you Just a week later. You came and talked to my friend, But all I could do was sit there Looking at you. I never told you this. I remember the first class we had together. Biology. Your favorite. I was so excited to finally get to know you. I never told you this. I remember the first time you yelled at me. I made a joke, But you took it seriously. The next day, I was forgiven, But I felt guilty for weeks. I never told you this. I remember the first time I heard you sing. I said, “Good luck!” and you smiled. Your voice rang through the classroom, Booming, Strong. My heart warmed. I was so proud of you. I never told you this. I remember the first time I saw you act. You danced around stage, Having the time of your life. I wanted to watch you forever. I never told you this. I remember the last conversation I had with you. “Are you coming to see the play tomorrow?” You asked. “I got the lead!” “Of course I am!” I said. Your excitement to be on stage Was so clear on your face, But it couldn’t compare to my excitement To see you there again. I never told you this.

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I remember the second I heard the news. My mind went blank, And the only word I could choke out Was, “Okay.” Then I cried. For days, I cried. I love you so much, But I never told you this.

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Pearls

Melissa Chenault
I am clinging to my father’s leg, rubbing my thumb across the vertical ripples of his faded blue jeans. I am skidding home from school, eager for open arms, form and grade in hand. I am impatiently waiting for my father to finish his cigar on the front porch. I watch the smoke curl from his lips and nostrils, counting seconds until he comes inside to me. I stand on the coffee table, in the center of the room, dancing and spinning in my mother’s old heels and a string of pearls, asking: Daddy, am I beautiful?

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Virgin

Abigail Odendhal
The sun sets casting an eerie hue along the street. A mix of excitement and uncertainty fills the crisp cold air, And I leave the table to press my face against the cold window. They are early this year, these socalled trick-or-treaters. And I dip my mind into forbidden imagination, Outwardly judging but inwardly, oh so deep down, Envious of the plastic jack-o-lanterns And the mesh sequined wings of a young fairy Who doesn’t care that they were only a dollar from the value mart. I repeat Jesus’ name three times as a tall, black, pointed hat seems to glide past my window. I am confused at the innocent laughter coming from underneath its evil sleekness. Ugly masks dripping with blood race down the street, and I cringe and then scoff, Realizing dumb little boys only like to scare. My eyes dart to Cinderella and I sigh in awe, then, catching myself, I want to shout, “You should be in church! Yeah, you think
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you’re so lucky! I get candy too! So there!” But I don’t shout. Instead I watch eager little fists rap on front doors and smiling neighbors drop delicious chocolate and tootsie pops into already bulging buckets. I am told this is the Devil’s holiday. It must be true because that is what mom and dad say. Does that mean that if I were to slip on a tutu and grasp a wand, I would melt like the witch in Wizard of Oz? Wizard of Oz. It is strange how my parents condone that movie. Maybe the evilness has gone out of it with time. After all, it must be old because it’s in black and white. I take one last look at this forbidden scene and turn back to my cocoa And my mom finishing my harvest costume. The Virgin Mary.

Creepy Up Close
Dalton Heath

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A Mind Full of Lost
Jed Anglade
Oblivious, ignorance Curious, to the thoughts that coincide with her own She wants to own them but doesn’t know how, yet She explores She knows In all sense this is wrong But she senses Mind gone Body on And soul screaming for Transcendence Please take her away from the contravention of physical attraction Replace them All she wants is peace But can’t ignore how she feels between the sheets Wet Tears streak down her cheeks as she asks this one question Am I right to believe, that what I know and feel and have faith in, what’s real Is it right? Is it fine? What I believe to be ok, may be unholy in so many ways
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What do they mean when they say, we are sinners? Ignore the teachings, of teachings, of teachings Impulse and risk the moments of our existence The path that she should follow she clouds her own vision Why should we be saved from those known as villains? The grip on her holds, she sips to let go Body and mind are out of sync The soul lies in wait as she strips in front of his gaze And later she’ll go home, bend her knees and pray

A Great Misunderstanding
Jesse Daniels
What occurred between us was harmless. At least, I thought so. Your presence felt like a magnificent dream. However, all dreams have to end. We returned to reality, the modern world, And everybody hated us, on her side. I knew she would not like what we became, But she forbade it and tore you away. Even though this dream was brief, I miss everything we shared. I miss the gentle caress of your fingers in my hair. I miss your warm arms engulfing my body. I miss the immediate smile on your face When I appeared. Your long brown hair used to brush against my face While your wide smile fluttered my stomach. The gentle embrace of your voice calmed my darkest troubles As those green eyes gazed upon me. Now, it is completely different. We cannot even speak to one another Unless she does not know. I am not even allowed to see you anymore. However, she is my girlfriend, And I am sworn to her. I promised myself years ago To stay with her forever. I am sorry for all the trouble Our little act caused. It ruined our friendship And the trust of many people. But I would do everything again in a heartbeat. You carved a special place for yourself In the middle of my life, And I miss having you there. I want our relationship to work out Because every friendship is worth saving. Especially the one we shared.

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Desire

Kayla Dauberman
I want you, like peanut butter wants to be on top of jelly. I need you, as much as the desert needs the rain. I want you, like a screaming child wants its mother. I need you, as much as the ocean needs the moon. I want you, your peanut butter and my jelly on top of each other. I need you, my rain and your desert soaking into each other. I want you, your innocence and my screaming while we hold each other. I need you, you are my ocean and I am your moon, guiding each other.

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Beep…beep…beep. My cell phone alarm goes off, and I furiously tap my fingers on the phone to snooze it. I rub my eyes and notice that not only am I naked, I am not in my own bed. What the hell happened last night? My little black dress is crumpled on the floor at the end of the bed; my heels are on either side of the room. Other than my shit everywhere, this room is spotless. I check the time on my phone. 12:04. I am going to be late for Geology again. Thinking of Professor Daniel - who I’m pretty sure is as old as his beloved fossils - chewing me out in front of the class for the third time while I am naked in some stranger’s bed makes me throw up in my mouth. Or perhaps that was the hangover coming on. I scramble out of bed and pray I make it to the bathroom before – “Oh God.” I cover my mouth with my hand. My knees hit the cold tile of the bathroom floor, and I hug the toilet bowl harder than the time I hugged grandpa before he passed away. If Pop-pop could see me now! He’d probably tell me that I couldn’t

hold my liquor and that was my mother’s wimpy French heritage kicking in. He’d put one hand on his hip as he waved them from side to side, then he’d use his other hand to twirl an imaginary wine glass like a ‘Frenchie fag’ as he’d say. He’d flash a toothless grin. I loved that old racist bastard. My reminiscing of Pop-pop comes to a screeching halt when the bathroom door flings open. I assume this is the guy I slept with last night. Not too shabby for tequila induced romance, but he looks older. He must’ve been a senior. “Hey, here’s some Advil for your headache. I’ve got coffee downstairs, if you want.” He leans in the doorway. “Your clothes are on the dresser.” After he said that I realized how I must’ve looked to him, naked hung-over chick from last night with terrible sex hair puking in the bathroom. I feel the blood rush to my cheeks. “Thanks.” I wipe some vomit from my mouth. “No problem, Krista.” He smiles and
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walks down stairs. Who the hell is Krista? My name is Amy! Either he doesn’t remember me at all, or I lied my ass off last night. I don’t usually need a reason to lie to some one-night stand, so I better haul ass out of this guy’s place. I get dressed, carry my heels, and hold my chin up high. I was a pro at the walk of shame; I liked to call it a stride of pride. Sometimes I’d turn down a ride home just so everyone could see me walk back to my apartment. Girls called me a slut, and all the guys knew they could get me home if they paid for all my drinks. I’m young. What the hell do I care? Obviously it mattered last night. I walk downstairs to see what’s-his-name reading the paper. Seriously? Reading the paper? What college guy does that? Maybe he’s majoring in journalism or something. I remember when Pop-pop used to get up every morning and read the paper. He would take the comics away from me and say, “You know what’s really funny? Watching a midget trying to grocery shop.” “Shut the hell up, Dad.” My mother laughed. “Don’t you have a date with some old, rich dummy?” He adjusted his glasses. “Yeah, Ma, you look like a hooker,” I
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added.

Grandpa spit his coffee all over the table, and my mother said nothing. That’s when I joined the family tradition of saying whatever the hell you want and not caring who hears. “Hey there.” What’s-his-name takes a sip from his coffee cup. “Hey.” I am so confused. Usually I just grab my clothes, lie to the guy, and tell him I’ll text him later – even though I haven’t given him my number – and go home. Ma used to do it all the time with her boyfriends, except she was much better at it. She knew how to peg those rich guys, get a free meal, drink expensive wine, and escape before they even knew she was gone. “There’s a cup on the counter. Creamer in the fridge.” He continues to look at his paper. I notice how much older he really looks in the light. He’s got that dark salt and pepper hair, and his face seems dark like it doesn’t matter how many times he shaves, he’s still got a shadow. The light shows the signs of wrinkles forming around his eyes and mouth. This is probably why bars and clubs are so dark inside. “This is a big place,” I say, looking around. “Where are your roommates?” “Roommates?” He laughs. “You’re

funny. This is my place. You didn’t believe me last night when I told you I owned my own home?” He looks at me over the top of his paper. “Guys say crazy things to seal the deal in the bar.” I shrug. “I suppose they do.” He takes another sip from his coffee mug and checks the clock on the wall. “I’ve got to get out of here soon, and I’m sure you are already late for work.” Work? I haven’t worked since I was a camp counselor at summer camp. I’m too sober to lie my way out of this one, so I’ll just keep the conversation on him. Might as well enjoy the free coffee. It’s better than the 7-11 crap. “Where are you headed?” I start to pour coffee into my mug. “I’ve got an interview at the University at 1:00. An old geology professor is retiring and they need someone to take over for next semester.” My heart jumps into my throat and I spill hot coffee all over my hand. “Shit!” I pull my hand close to me and feel what’s-his-name come up behind me. “Are you alright?” He touches my hand. “Yeah, I’m fine.” I run my hand under

the cold water of the sink that he turned on for me. No dirty dishes or empty Ramen packets are in this kitchen. I have got to get out of here. “Listen, I’ve got to go.” He hesitates. “But, I really enjoyed last night, and I’d like to see you again sometime, Krista.” I really wish he’d stop calling me Krista. Who in the world does this guy think I am? Doesn’t he know how one night stands work? I think about the way he might look if I show up into his classroom one day, ready to learn about rocks, or whatever geology is. “Um.” I stare at the growing red mark on my hand. “Let’s just call this what it is, okay?” “I see.” The disappointment in his voice clings to the already awkward silence. “Well, can I at least give you a ride home? You said last night you lived in Weston Heights; that’s only about 10 minutes from here.” Ten minutes? That means I am in a real neighborhood with people that have real jobs, and not streets with rundown frat houses and apartment complexes. Weston Heights is a freaking town house community that’s two blocks away from my real apartment building. My apartment doesn’t even have a fancy name like Weston
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Heights. It’s just a basic four-floor square brick building with a cheap box fan in each window. The whole thing’s owned by the University housing department. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” “So you want to walk all the way home?” “Sure, it’s exercise.” “In stilettos?” He asks sarcastically. “Just come to the University with me. You said Weston Heights is right up the street from there.” Sure, doing the walk of shame next to a potential faculty member who would end up teaching me sounded just peachy, but then I think… better not. Suddenly this isn’t just a one- night stand anymore, and I have to come up with a damn good lie to get out of this mess. “Why not just drop me off at the corner of Jefferson and Lawrence Street; it’s not far from where I live.” “Oh, I see.” He adjusts his bow tie. “Don’t want to be seen with a nerdy guy?” Do adults really worry about that kind of stuff when they enter the real world? “No, it’s not that. I just…” I hesitate. My mind goes blank, and I can feel my hands start to sweat. I’ve run out of lies to tell this guy. If this was any other night, I
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could’ve just grabbed my shit, been out the door, and back at my place by now. “Look, I don’t know what the hell I told you last night, but I’m not Krista whoever the hell you think I am. My name is Amy. I’m a sophomore at the University and probably one of your future students. So, if you want to keep your job that you don’t even have yet, you should probably just drop me off at my shitty apartment that is not in Weston Heights. Okay?” What’s-his-name just stares at me with his mouth hanging open. “Oh shit,” is all he can manage to get out. “You’re… you’re over eighteen, right?” “Just turned twenty. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to jail.” “Okay.” He runs his hand through his hair. “I’m just going to take you home. I don’t really want to hear the truth anymore.” “Sounds like a successful one-night stand to me.” I smile. “You’re something else.” He grabs his briefcase. I don’t know if he is reciprocating the sarcasm or if he’s just pissed about me lying to him. The car ride is mostly silent. He drops me off at the corner of Hampton and Bolling Drive so we won’t be seen together, but I also won’t have to walk so far. Nice guy.

It’s too bad we’re the number one plot for a bad porno, minus the pizza guy. “Thanks, and if it’s any consolation from the bits of memory I do have, last night was pretty fun.” I reach for the door handle with one hand and hold my heels in the other. “Here.” He puts a slip of paper in my hand. It’s his number. Is this guy for real? “Why don’t we just call it what it is?” He smiles. “I’ll see you around.” “Maybe on campus.” He laughs as he drives away. I take my stride of pride down Bolling Street to my shitty apartment. I hold my six-inch glitter heels in my hand; they are my hot heels. My mother had a pair too; they were open-toe and black with straps. Any night she put them on, I knew she was going to hook up. It’s a pretty screwed up tradition to pass down, but what the hell do I care?

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5 O’Clock Shadow
Halle Edwards

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Bump in the Night
Fredrick Brindle
The noises coming from next door sound like panicked cattle being fried in an old sci-fi movie. I would say cow, but either the noise is being reverberated through thin sheet rock or she is just faking it that hard. Either way the pulsating bellows have been given a pluralistic quality. I fantasize about calling the police. It’s funny how one sleepless night can turn one sadistic. I would love to see the lovers’ faces turn redder as they explain to an officer that the anonymous caller only thought he heard a murder.

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Staccato

Abigail Odendhal
This empty room’s got me caged Open windows on all sides. My man at the desk Music thumping in my ears A sonic attack in my brain. Trying to drown out Another tuneless song. Staccato! Staccato! Now! Now! Then silence. The music goes up and up! The hairs on my arm go with it Standing on end. The prickling sensation gnawing At my tender skin. I pinch and prod Yank and pull. The song, monotone, continues. Staccato! Staccato! STACATTO! I tremble in frustration As soundless screams Keep in time with a now thudding heart And an impatient song growing louder. Thump! Staccato! Scream! Thump! Staccato! Scream! In perfect harmony Of terror and liberation. I am no longer the composer
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Of this symphony But an instrument Following pages of lines and notes All flat and minor. It is now a question of survival. I let the music drag me to the end, Racing through to the final lines of chaos And a repetitious finale. Once…Twice…Three times. And then it’s over And the sounds slowly diminish As it vibrates off the walls, fainter, fainter. Thump Staccato Scream.

Jed Anglade
An alarm goes off, my mind alert I extend outward, the sound stops The same movement reaches for a texture completely different I lift it up and touch it to my lips, liquid falls No taste but it’s absolutely gratifying This musk surrounds my brain, my energy, my skin The cloth is soft, its stench in complete memory of me I flip open the blinds atop my face and survey the matter that makes sense I am alive

I Am Alive

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Tree of Imagination
Emily Traylor
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Malbec

Mallory Burton
Sipping dark crimson, Swirling in a glass so thin and delicate. I wonder how it does not break against the thick gulp of the liquid suctioning against the smooth glass spout, as the stream of liquid that smells like rich, dark fruit is Poured from heavy blue glass, bottled with the intention of making it look old. Or is it me, that feels so old? Water droplets in a glass ring left on the antique cherry wood, and I look, from where I sit cross-legged on the floor and (try not to) think even this glass of wine has left something behind. Sipping dark crimson, Weighing on my tongue, Bitter in my throat, Bad for my teeth, but somehow Good for my heart, and Light on my soul.

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A Mouse Among Giants
Ian Simpkins
Towering over me are so many stacks of books, Stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks of books. The musty smell of old paper reaches my nostrils, as if through the air I could assimilate the dust coated words, absorb them through my skin.

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Picking one off a stack close by I leaf through. The scratch of the paper leaves a lingering tingle rippling through me. The silence hangs thick like a cloud

muffling even my faintest footfalls. Wandering among mountains of paper and ink names begin to leap, cry out.
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Frost, Joyce, Heinlein, Bradbury, Falkner, Twain. Giants whose shadows might easily engulf a mouse, like myself. But still I chew these Pages. Devour them for all they’re worth. Tasting the bitter ironies and sweet allusions. Until the day that I too am granted a minor seat at their table.

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Until then I wander in awe of the Goliaths. Lounging, waiting,

for some young impressionable mouse, apt to gnaw and burrow. So that they may nurture him, and if he be truly quick witted, bestow upon him their most intimate secrets.

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Riley

Meghan Rhodes

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Un-kept promises
Lyndsay Coker
“Please, just do this for me.” Those six little words escaped her quivering lips– such a powerful statement, coming from such a delicate, young girl. She thought she was asking such a simple question. It’d be an easy request for anyone who really cared about her, that much was obvious. “Please, just do this for me.” Those six little words took him like a freshly sharpened dagger – the only thing strong enough to stab right through this unbreakable man. At least temporarily. Her one and only dream was finally coming true, all because that little girl had built up the courage to let those six little words come together at last. She watched anxiously and excitedly as he crept up those three squeaky stairs that led to the kitchen. Such a familiar sound associated with such unpleasant memories, now to be replaced by this one – the one she had been hoping, waiting, and dreaming of for years. “I’ll do it just for you, my little princess” – His promising words molded into her memory instantaneously, and replayed in her head for the rest of her life. For a brief moment, she thought all the troubles in the world were gone. After all, this was her only trouble. What else do you have to worry about when you’re nine years old, other than bed time? That wide-eyed little girl, once full of fear, was now full of assurance. But even quicker than her overbearing joy had formed, it vanished. She’d never understand why such a beautiful person inside and out would choose this lifestyle. Am I the problem? Doesn’t he love me? She’d ask herself. Doesn’t he care? She’d talk to her mom, her counselor – anyone to get answers. But nothing and no one ever had the right ones.
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“Honey, he has a problem,” they’d try to explain. “It’s something called addiction – his body needs this in order to get through the day.” What? No he doesn’t. These harsh words were so hard to fathom. To her, he was everything. Everything she could’ve ever wanted. All she knew. All she loved. All she cared about. But to him, life revolved around that aluminum blue can.

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The Vase

Abigail Odendhal
I am a vase broken over and over. I constantly set myself up too high, Even though I know I will fall again, cracking into millions of pieces. I rebuild this jigsaw yet again. But it does not hide the lines that are cracked open. It sustains itself in between times of shattering With false hope that the large and small shards Will somehow grow stronger with each break; That the tiny slivers will somehow become a part of a bigger picture And hide itself in a panorama of lush and ever-flowing tranquility. But inside, this vase is hollow, With nothing to softly cushion it when the shelf of my mind quakes. It sways precariously, tipping right, then left, and finally forward, Basking in the calm, quiet fall, before the inevitable crash. And what was once one piece is now two. And what was once sure of itself lies in exhausted shambles. I gather myself up, dropping pieces too small to see. Yet these parts are essential to the whole being that was once carefully crafted and flawless. I have no use for self-promises of renovation. Just leave me down here so the next fall won’t hurt so badly.

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Terra’s brother, Jake, had returned from Afghanistan two weeks ago, and he had said very little to her about the war. If she had wondered about his missing arm, she was too timid to ask him about it. Mama had told her he had lost it in the battle, but Terra didn’t know what that meant. On television, she sometimes saw the news reports and in those reports, she would often see the columns of smoke and the ruined cities. The reporters called it war, contingencies, and very often they would stand behind their big ice-cream-cone microphones and say that the war had escalated. One morning, at breakfast, Terra ate pancakes that Mama had made. They were her favorite kind, big and fluffy with the little blueberries inside. Mama always made sure the pancakes were warm, and she always slipped huge slabs of butter between each cake before drowning them in maple syrup. As Terra shoveled another bite into her mouth, she watched Jake shuffle into the kitchen. She stopped chewing and stared at the place where his left arm used to be. Jake usually wore a long-sleeve shirt to cover
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his wound, but this morning he must’ve forgotten to put it on. Terra couldn’t stop looking. She thought it resembled a short elephant’s trunk, the end curled in like nostrils. She tried to look away, but as Jake passed, what was left of his arm swung limply. She chewed and swallowed, mesmerized by what she was seeing. “Stop looking, Tart,” Jake barked as he opened the refrigerator and leaned in. “Where the hell is the orange juice that was in here yesterday?” Terra didn’t answer. She couldn’t take her eyes off the elephant trunk dangling at his side. She watched Jake turn slowly to look at her, his face souring. She saw his eyes narrow and watched his face go a shade of pink. “I said quit goddamn looking at my arm, Tart.” Tart. That’s the name he had given to her when she was just three. He had come to her room to kiss her goodnight. Lying in bed, reading and finishing off a pack of sour gummy worms, she had arched up to

kiss him. He kissed her back and told her she smelled tart. That’s when the nickname stuck. But now, in the kitchen, his elephant arm swinging, the name didn’t sound the same. It sounded darker, more venomous. Terra snapped her eyes to her plate and began shoveling more pancakes into her mouth. Jake slammed shut the refrigerator door and stormed out of the room. She tried to forget what she saw, but the more she tried to erase it from her mind the more curious she became. At the bus stop, Terra’s best friend, Jennie Owens, was showing off her new galoshes to everyone. Terra loved Jennie, but she hated it when Jennie showed off new things. Terra didn’t have new things and today of all days — the day after she saw Jake’s wound and made him yell at her – Jennie had to dance around with her brandnew boots. She twirled and kicked, gloating and laughing as she bragged about how expensive and beautiful they were. “They look too big for you,” Terra remarked. That was a lie. They were a gorgeous shade of blue with an intricate pattern of small yellow flowers that looked like tiny lemon polka dots. Jennie, one foot in the air to show

the boots off to her friend Samantha, spun around to face Terra. She smirked and grunted. “You’re just jealous,” Jennie snapped. “I’ve never ever seen you with boots like these.” “Yeh, well, they’re ugly.” Terra turned her face and crumpled up her nose. The insult would have to do because she did not at all think they were ugly. “At least my brother didn’t get hurt in some stupid war like yours did.” The words stabbed into Terra’s heart like the hot edge of an iron. She felt her eyes grow wet, but she tried her best to choke back the tears. The last thing she wanted to do right now was show Jennie that she was at the edge of crying. “It isn’t a stupid war,” Terra said, her voice quivering slightly. “He was defending our country.” Jennie grunted again, clicked her tongue. “Yeh, but my dad told me your brother lost his arm and that’s why he had to come back. So, he’s not defending anyone now.” Terra felt the first of the tears fall to her cheeks. She could feel her face getting hotter. It must have been beet red by now. “So what? That doesn’t mean
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anything,” Terra growled, crossing her arms at her chest. “You don’t even have a brother or sister.” “If I did, they wouldn’t be missing a body part like your ugly brother.” She was furious, hurt, and jealous; she felt a ball of heat curl into her throat. Making a fist with her small right hand, she plowed her knuckles into Jennie’s mouth. Jennie shrieked and fell to the ground, her blue, flowery boots shoved into the air above her. Hot tears of rage streaked her face, and she could taste their salt on her lips. She jumped on Jennie. She had intended to grab a fistful of her hair and yank as much as she could from her best friend’s scalp, but Samantha, astonished at what she was witnessing, pulled her off. Jennie was on her feet then, holding her mouth. She swiveled in her new boots and took off running down the street. She stopped after several yards and swirled back around, a rivulet of blood trickling from the gash above her upper lip. She yelled back at the girls, “Your brother’s crippled, the war’s stupid, and I’m telling my dad on you, Terra. Stupid dumb armless brother of yours!” In the back of the bus, the potholes in the road made Terra’s body leap to the
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ceiling. The cracked, green leather seat hurt; it made her cry even harder. She had hit Jennie because her brother was crippled. He was, to her best friend, an armless mutant back from the war. There in the back of the bus she began to hate Jake. The world, a hot white blur, zipped by in yellow and green, rainless clouds in the sky like black balloons deflating. “How’d Jake lose his arm?” Terra’s mother shut off the rattle of the sewing machine and looked over at Terra, who sat at the table with her doll. Terra was combing its hair back from its eyes with an old comb her father had given to her just before he died two years ago. She stroked the doll’s forehead, licked her thumb, and tried to rub away a scratch from its pale cheek. “I told you, Terra,” Mama said, running loose thread through the rungs on the machine. “He lost it in the battle.” Terra let out a long sigh and set the comb next to a plate on which sat a halfeaten bologna and mayonnaise sandwich. She listened to the wind outside hiss through the kitchen window. She was growing tired of everyone pretending that she was a baby, that she was incapable of knowing anything

about anything. She suddenly thought of Jennie’s bloody mouth and suppressed another urge to cry. “Why do you always treat me like a baby? I know something happened. I’m not stupid.” Terra’s mother pulled more thread across her tongue and, without looking up from the sewing machine, told Terra that a battle was like what the reporters talked about on T.V. “I know that,” Terra said. “But I don’t get it. Why do people fight? Why would someone want to do that to Jake?” “I really can’t answer that, sweetie. There are a lot of mean, evil people in this world who we have to watch and keep from doing bad things, even if that means using violence.” Terra was braiding her doll’s hair. She thought about that word: violence. In her history class they were learning about World War II and that evil dictator who had killed millions and millions of innocent people. How could someone be so awfully mean? “Is it like those Jews Hitler killed?” “Sort of,” Terra’s Mama answered. She stopped threading the sewing machine and turned in her chair. “We fight terrorists now. They are just as bad as Hitler and there

are countless numbers of them. But listen, Terra, I don’t want you bothering Jake about all this, okay? He saw a lot of crazy stuff over there.” “Okay,” she said. She tied a ribbon at the end of her doll’s braided hair and set her down next to her daddy’s comb. In her room after lunch, Terra lay down on her bed and stared up at the ceiling. She thought about Jennie and her bloody mouth. She suddenly found herself angry with Jake again. Why did he have to go and lose his arm? Why’d he of all people have to go to war? That her best friend might never talk to her again was the entire fault of her brother and his gross elephant-trunk arm. “Stupid Jake.” Outside she could hear him cutting wood: thuck, thuck, thuck. Gathering and chopping wood for the fireplace used to be her daddy’s job, but, when he died, Jake took over the chore. Before he was sent back from the war, the pile of firewood, which had always towered against the edge of the barn, diminished quickly. Mama tried to use the axe, but it was heavy and awkward and the task overwhelmed her. Even the small hatchet she had bought to make the chore easier proved to be too difficult to use.
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Terra of course was both too young and too feeble to cut wood, and, after a few months, Mama and Terra relied only on a small space heater for warmth during the winters. Even with the heater at their feet, the cold winter permeated the house and left them quivering under piles of quilts and comforters. It became difficult to manage without anyone here to help them. But they got by. “That’s right,” Terra said to her doll. She lay on her side now stroking the doll’s hair. “Don’t need Daddy or Jake here. We can get by fine by ourselves.” Thuck.Thuck.Thuck. Terra wondered how he was able to do all that work with only one arm. If she wasn’t so mad at him, she might be impressed. The sound of the hatchet slicing into the wood stopped and Terra heard muted voices outside. Curious, she got up and went to the window. Standing at the chopping stump, Jake held the hatchet in his right hand. He wore a long-sleeved UCLA sweatshirt, the left sleeve twisted and tied off at the nub where the other arm used to be. To Terra’s astonishment, he was in conversation with Jennie. A white bandage covered the place where Terra had hit her. Terra whirled around and whispered to her doll, “What is she doing here?”
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She carefully, stealthily unlocked the window and slid it upward. It whined as she lifted it, but she was sure neither Jake nor Jennie had heard anything. Jennie was flapping her hands around like she always did when she talked. “. . . just wanted to tell her I’m sorry,” she was saying. “But she still shouldn’t have hit me. If she wants to come out and say . . .” Furious and ready to burst into tears, Terra turned and bolted out of her room. She ran down the stairs and through the front door, which was open to let in the unseasonably cool spring air. She felt something heavy like a large rock on her chest. She wanted to run around the side of the house and hit Jennie again; this time she would make it count. She would lunge at her even before Jake could do anything with his one good arm; she would pummel Jennie with both fists while she sat on top of her until her entire face was completely covered in blood. Running down the long gravel driveway, she yelled, “I hate you Jennie! I hate you Jake!” The image of Jake’s elephant-trunk arm materialized in her mind. She saw it swinging in front of her. She started crying again, and she hated herself for that. She was

not a baby. She knew that people killed other people in war. She knew that Jake lost his arm because war was violent, because people did mean things to other people, even if those people were the nicest people on earth, because . . . because . . . Sprinting down the dirt road that led away from her house, her feet kicking up red dust behind her, she stopped. She bent over to catch her breath, ragged gasps in the cool afternoon. Because . . . She crumpled to the ground and covered her eyes. Everything came out then in sobs: the reporters in Afghanistan talking about the invasion, Jennie’s boots and the bandage over her upper lip, Jake’s arm, Mama’s inability to provide answers because she didn’t want to scare her baby. Daddy. His comb. “I’m . . . not . . . a . . . ba . . .” Through the blurred vision of her tears, Terra watched the dirt road ribbon through the empty fields on which gold bales of hay had been rolled and left for the farmers to store. A sudden gust of wind brushed past her; she stood, turned, and faced her house. It was easy to pull the arm out of the doll’s body. It popped right out. She

looked at the place where the arm had been attached. It was hollow and there was no blood, no elephant trunk. It was the plastic hole where all plastic arms fit in all plastic dolls. The arm, bent at the hinge in the elbow, lay next to the doll. Terra sat in her chair, her legs curled under her, staring at the doll and its detached limb. Terra heard a sound behind her at the door. She could smell her brother’s awful cologne. He had always worn too much of that stuff, and while she hated the smell, it was that aroma that had always conjured him to her mind, especially when he had been away all those miles across the world. “Tart, you okay?” She didn’t respond. “Jennie told me what happened.” Terra heard him move toward her; her bed creaked under his weight. “Is that supposed to be me?” He asked. “What?” “The arm.” Realizing that he was referring to her doll, Terra swept her hand across her desk. The doll, the arm, and the comb sailed to the floor at the corner of the room. She tried to keep from crying, but the tears came anyway. She was angry at herself and wished
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she could hide. “I hate her, Jake.” She heard herself say. She wanted to take the words back, but they were there now like a skulking shadow in the room. “Do you want to know what happened? I mean, do you want to know how I lost my arm?” “No.” She thought about her response before she said, “Yes.” Terra turned her wet, red face slightly and regarded him from the corner of her eyes. He had taken his UCLA sweatshirt off and replaced it with a fresh gray t-shirt. His right hand was dirty from cutting wood, his hair a sweaty matted mess on his forehead. “We were patrolling a mountain pass in a Humvee in Afghanistan.” “What’s a Humvee?” Terra asked. “A truck,” Jake said. “We were in a truck driving through a mountain pass. I was the squad leader in charge of my platoon, so it was my job to keep watch and make sure everyone was safe. I heard a sound like poppoppoppop. My group was leading a convoy of trucks, and I stuck my hand out the window to signal the others to stop.” Jake’s voice broke off and he plucked a few sawdust slivers from his jeans. Terra
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was looking down at her hands in her lap. She listened but couldn’t look up. “I got out of the truck and told the others to sit tight. I had my rifle out and decided to walk a few clicks ahead to recon the area. And that’s when a huge white flash threw me to the ground. It was the loudest sound I think I’ve ever heard. And the pain on the left side of my body was intense. It was brief, though, ‘cause I passed out. “The terrorists hit us with something. Mortar. A bomb. A missile. Who the hell knows? All I know is that I came to after being knocked out awhile, and a sergeant named Williams and some new kid, Derrick . . . I think that was his name . . . they were carrying me to another truck. On the way, I surveyed what had happened before I blacked out. My truck — the one I was in before I got out to patrol — was engulfed in flames. And as I passed by I could feel the intense heat emanating from it.” Terra didn’t ask what emanate meant; she kind of understood. Jake scooted toward her and leaned his face to hers. “My best friend, Daniel, and his brother were in that truck,” he said in a low voice. “They burned to death. I realized that Dan had tried to climb out, even with his body still burning.”

Terra was crying again. She shrieked at him to stop. He did. He sat back up in her bed and looked down and touched the end of the stub of his arm, wincing. “Is that how you lost it? From the white flash?” Terra asked, wiping away fresh tears. “Yeh, that’s how it happened.That’s the kind of shit we went through. I just lost my arm. I was the lucky one.” “I’m sorry . . . Jake.” Terra realized in that moment, looking in her brother’s eyes, she didn’t hate her brother anymore. She never hated him. She threw her arms around him. He hugged her back with his good arm. The other arm hung limp at his left side, and she allowed it to touch her, realizing she was not at all grossed out by its rubbery, loose skin. “I’ll go over and talk to Jennie later,” Terra said, sitting back in her chair. Jake smiled as he got up from the bed and walked to the bedroom door. “Jake,” Terra said. He turned to her. “You know you look like an elephant.” Jake gave her a puzzled look. “What do you mean?” “You have a small elephant’s trunk where your arm used to be. It’s kind of cool.” Jake touched the place where there

once was joint and ligament and muscle and smiled again. “I never really thought of it that way,” he said and turned and left Terra at her desk. Terra gathered the doll, its limb, and the comb from the corner of the room and lay down on her bed. She held the plastic arm in front of her face, twisted it between her forefinger and thumb. With a snap, she reattached the arm to the hollow place on the doll’s shoulder where it used to be. She bent the arm back and forth at the elbow, then picked up the comb her daddy had given her and stroked the doll’s hair back from its eyes.

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War and Terror
Ian Simpkins
I hear them talk. All of them, Friends, family, strangers, All of them say the same things: That what we’re doing helps, makes the world a better place. My friend Larry, a marine through and through, tells stories of running the .50 calibur turret on a Humvee in The ’Stan, enemy tracers zipping by his head. My Uncle, a career Army Staff Sergeant, tells stories of riding in the passerger seat of a similar Humvee as an IED jettisoned white hot pieces of shrapnel inches from his face, singeing the crotch of his fatigues. Stories like these aren’t new. My father recalls the stories. His friend Lou, a grunt in Vietnam,
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who served three tours, told stories of being the point man deep in the jungle. Of watching as his friend was decapitated by a booby trap. A machete tied to a sapling, where he himself had been patrolling before they paused to have a cigarette. The people we’re fighting tell similar stories of loss, injury, and other indescribable emotions. Of righteous causes and the right thing to do. Everyone talks: some stories, some threats, some condemnations, but all of them talk.

Justine Jackson

Snowfall

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Wintertide

Halle Edwards
As we traversed the mountain slopes, The scenery changed from scraggly, windwhipped trees, Desperately clinging to the last of their fall leaves, To tall, proud evergreens, Built to weather the worst of storms. As we climbed higher, Delicate flakes of snow began to dart across our vision. The breeze swirled them in intricate paths, Winding around bare tree branches, Until finally coming to rest as a light dusting on the ground. As we climbed higher still, The whispering breeze became a howling gale. The delicate snowflakes transformed into an aggressive blizzard, Engulfing us in a field of white. Gone were the scraggly trees with their falling leaves. Gone were the evergreens, once so proud and confident. All had disappeared. All had been erased. As we emerged from the storm, The scenery changed once more. A thick white powder blanketed everything in sight. Hoarfrost clung to spindly branches, Forming foliage from ice. Here, autumn was gone. Jack Frost had blown his mighty breath And claimed the land as his own. Here, winter had put down its icy roots. Here, I was home.

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460, 220, 81
Ian Simpkins
Passing through Appamattox I picked up Brahms as he thumbed down the highway harmonies, accompaniments, and intonations all in tow. Lynchburg appeared as Brahms turned into the Chili Peppers who knew not where to go, only that they took it slow. Seeking peace of mind, they had drifted away before Bedford. There then gone, the little towns slip by like the meaningless pop groups who, crammed in like sardines, are all hitching a ride to Thaxton. They pass in and out of fashion as quickly as the small copses which zip by my windows. As the mountains creep into view, hulking corpses of giants piled on the horizon. A group of boys bum a ride through Roanoke. They called themselves The Three Pickers. Sadly, I had to eject them in Salem, because all they would tell me was that the storms were on the ocean. Thoughts of home abound as I shuttle one last lonely soul, calling himself Paul Simon. He told me a beautiful, touching story about a poor boy, his lover, and the diamonds she wore on the soles of her shoes. Simon stayed with me all the way into Radford. As we parted he turned and calmly said, “Don’t wear your passion for your woman like a thorny crown. If you’re not careful, you’ll start slip sliding away.”

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Home in the Mountains
Holly Mckittrick

Downtown Radford
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Holly Mckittrick

When getting your first tattoo, you need to make sure that you are prepared for a lot of pain and suffering but also a lot of enjoyment as well. However, you are an eighteen-year-old kid who’s excited to get out of high school, so you choose to ignore most of the steps. First, you need to select something to place on your body. Now being a nerdy male, you decide to get the Autobot logo from the old Transformers show in the 1980’s. You’ve been into Transformers since you were a little boy, and you’re excited at the fact that you can finally have it always be a part of you. You want the red, white, and blue robot head on your shoulder, just so you can live your dream of being an Autobot as well. Its rigid shape and sharp edges will let you live your dream. Sure, you understand that it will forever be fixed on some part of your body and that some people will be prejudiced towards you because of your tattoo. But that doesn’t bother you. No, you’re excited at the chance

to do something on your own, like voting, only in this case the choice matters. Secondly, after picking your Autobot art to be, you find the artist. Yes, they are actually called artists. Some people probably think that they are the scum of society, and some of them actually are. There are gems, however, that are artists, and these are the ones you want to find. Now, you can drive around and try to a find tattoo shop and do research on who will take care of you, or you can be an idiot, Google “Tattoo artists in Sterling, Virginia”, and get a slew of people who are going to abuse you for your cash. You check a few sites until you eventually come across something interesting: Comes a Time Tattoo Parlor. Ironic on how it was called Comes a Time Tattoo Parlor, considering it was your time to actually take this bold step and get this art attached to your body permanently. You look at their artists and at the work that they have done in the past. Being a foolish eighteen-yearold, you write up a proposal to an artist
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and eagerly wait for a reply. Eventually you get one and set up your appointment date: Father’s Day. On your dad’s fateful day you eagerly drive to the artist’s parlor. You enter the dark office. Nice leather couches surround a table with binders of pictures in it from past customers. You find your tattoo artist, Flash, and you sit down in the large chair provided. You are surprised by Flash’s looks and his name. Who’s named Flash? Apparently a fifty-year-old man who looks like he belongs on a bike instead of a tattoo parlor. Flash gets to work placing the template on your arm and preparing the ink. You should realize at this point that getting a tattoo is painful. Very painful. How painful? Well, look at it this way: According to many tattoo parlors, the average rpm of their machines are around 9,400. If we look at some specs on some cars, a G35 Infinity can reach cruising speeds around 2,500 rpm, depending on a road. So, you already have a machine that is running more than three times as fast as a car. However, this number doesn’t tell us how painful it actually is. No, in order to do that, we need to look at the average
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cycles per second for tattoo machines. Most artists vary in how fast they run their machines but most set their “rigs” to 100110 cycles per second. A cycle is when the needle goes down and then up. So, if the needle is hitting the skin half of the time of the cycles, we see that the needle hits the skin 50-55 times in a second. Now, it’s a little more painful. The last thing we need to look at is how big these needles are. The average needles used for the large lines that surround the tattoo are classified as “5RL.” Now again, different tattoo artists use different needles, but for the sake of your Transformer tattoo, you assume it’s a 5RL needle. The 5RL needle is almost five inches long, and the tip of the needle that digs into your skin is about 1 inch long and about 1/16th of an inch in diameter. So, to get a tattoo, you will have an inch long tip going into your skin that is 1/16th of an inch in diameter about 50 times a second. The pain is indescribable – literally indescribable. You could say that it feels like thousands of bees stinging your arm over and over again. You could say that it was like getting a shot in the same spot over and over again as your arm grows number. For me, the pain was

burning hot. Each time the needle digs into your arm you feel as if your arm is going to melt off as it’s annihilated by the searing pain. You don’t shed any tears, but the pain is more excruciating than anything you have ever experienced. You see a giant poster on the wall in front of you that tells you not to cry, which helps push you to hold the pain in. It’s worth it; it’s going to be worth it. That’s what you keep telling yourself as you get the tattoo of your dreams. You go through three long painful hours, which means that the needle went in your arm about 180,000 times. It would be more, but thankfully, Flash went to a lighter needle for coloring your Autobot logo. You look at your new art and now finally shed a tear. It’s beautiful. You don’t care what other people will say – it’s beautiful to you. You wipe your tear and go to pay, hand over $350 of your hard earned cash, shed another tear, and you go on your way. You spend the next few weeks taking care of your new precious piece of art. You constantly apply the cool ointment, keep it aired out, and always gingerly protect it while in the shower. After a few weeks, you

go out and show off your new art. Your parents deny the existence of your new tattoo, your friends laugh with glee at it, but you don’t care. It’s your pride and joy. A year passes. You decide to get the Autobot’s adversaries logo on your other arm. You go to a parlor; the artists take a look at your arm and laugh. They ask how much you paid for the tattoo and laugh at the answer. You ask them what’s wrong with your prized tattoo. “Kid, you got ripped off for shit,” an artist tells you. You are confused and decide to get your other tattoo first. After another three hours of hard pain, you look at your new art. It’s magnificent; everything about it is beyond beautiful. You look at your other tattoo and feel rotten. Flash ripped you off. How shocking, considering he had the most trustworthy looks in the whole state of Virginia. It takes you a year, but you eventually muster up the courage and hard earned cash to purchase a replacement tattoo that will cover your abomination. Now, you have two tattoos on your shoulders: the good side of the Transformers and the bad. You are proud of your art and
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should always be proud of your art. If you aren’t proud, well then, you’re screwed. These tattoos are going to be on your body forever, and you have to deal with that. Or you can get laser surgery to remove the tattoos but that’s another whole world of pain, and you don’t want to deal with it. No, you should love your tattoos. If you don’t, go to a respectable tattoo artist and get them to fix them up. That’s the last step. You need to love your tattoo, whatever you get. If it’s a Transformer, then love it. It will remain a part of you forever. The people around you may act differently towards you, but they’ll eventually get used to it. Don’t flaunt your tattoos, they are your own prized possession, and only you, and the people close to you, should be allowed to see them. Good luck, and try not to cry.

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RU Confused Engines
Derek Reynolds
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Electricity

Derek Reynolds

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Furry Inconvenience
Christopher Skiles
The cat Always likes to jump on me When the record is almost done; And I have to go, get up, And put on another one. I do not know why this is I do not know why this is so Maybe silence Is what she likes to hear The most.

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“Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels”
Mallory Burton

I read this quote the other day: “Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels.” Well then you’ve obviously never tasted my dad’s Cajun chili, or his pork barbeque, or his mac ‘n’ cheese. And apparently you’ve never gotten the munchies, and then been treated to a home-baked brownie with milk, and you get seconds. And maybe you’ve never had such a horrible, awful, very bad day, that you could relish in the first sips of a Shiner Bock, and drink until you’re full, or drunk. So I assure you, vulnerable, self-conscious, female target; there are many things as good as being skinny feels.
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“Nice pants, faggot!” The year is 2004. It is an autumn evening, and I am standing in a McDonald’s parking lot in my hometown of Richlands, Virginia. A rustic gentleman in a beatenup Ford pickup has decided that my jeans mark me as a homosexual. This is a shock to me: my internal feelings tell me that I am a straight man, but my well-fitting jeans (not skinny or girl jeans, mind you) apparently say otherwise. If you can spot a homosexual by his pants, how can anyone stay closeted? Does American Eagle know that they’re effectively making the denim equivalent of gaydar? This isn’t anything unusual for where I grew up. Rustic gentlemen in beaten up Fords aren’t known for their fashion sense or their diplomatic abilities. Nor was this the first time anyone had decided that I was gay. The shadowy threat of homosexuality looms large in Southwest Virginia. There was the time that a toothless man standing at the counter of a gas station decided that my friend and I were a gay couple, just because we were in the store together; I didn’t

mention the fact that he and his friend were hanging out at the counter together. There were also the numerous times that people in the stands yelled general orientation queries at members of my high school marching band; marching band uniforms are as sure a sign of homosexuality as certain jeans. Never mind the fact that several people would prove their heterosexuality in the band buses on any given trip. I’m horrified to think what my childhood would have been like if I had actually been gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, but being tall, redhaired, and nerdy made me stand out enough in school as it was. Southwest Virginia is not a place that takes well to differences. I never wanted to play sports, or to hunt or fish, so I’ve never had much in common with much of my hometown crowd. In high school, freshman year, a football player by the name of John Yost approached me. I can’t remember when or why, exactly; I can’t recall what would have put us together in that hallway, and I can’t

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imagine what would have put me on his radar. On game-day Fridays, the football team would wear their jerseys to school, striding through the halls like kings. So of course I knew who he was. Regardless of the reason, there we were. We’re standing there, and John asks me if I had ever thought about trying out for the football team. “No,” I answered honestly. I never thought about it. It never crossed my mind. If I went to a football game, I spent my time in the stands with the marching band. The only time I belonged on the field was during halftime. The notion of crossing over into his world was absurd: I didn’t speak the language or know any of the customs. I hated running, and I barely liked going outside. There could be no place for me in that world. Life is hell there if you don’t fit in. Oh, Southwest Virginia, that haven for pickup trucks and high school football. I have never loved either. They are V8 engines, Cummings and Powerstroke, and great black clouds of exhaust; I am four door, four cylinder Japanese sedans. They are Friday night football, the gridiron, the lights, and the mud; I am marching band and library books. The only reason why homosexual epithets are used as pejoratives is because
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they imply a lack of manhood. The concept of manliness, of masculinity itself, is so closely tied to a certain catalog of behavior: if you don’t do these things, then you are not a man. If you do not behave how we think a man behaves, then ipso facto, you are not a man. It’s the same principle at work when a man is called girly or womanly for whatever reason. You cannot be both a woman and a man; therefore, if you act like a woman, you cannot be a man. Freud would have a field day with all this castration anxiety. Our Ideal American Man has a strict code of behavior that he must adhere to. He must be surrounded by friends, but they musn’t discuss lofty, sensitive subjects, such as friendship and feelings. He must have a wife or girlfriend, but he musn’t be overly servile to them, lest he be considered “pussy whipped”, to borrow a term of multi-layered vulgarity. He may have short hair or long, but heaven help him if he takes too much care of it. He must have the right American car, and he must take care of it himself, in its entirety; he may gather a group of friends to assist him, but they must drink the right American beer while doing so. He must, in the warmer months, carry out the ritual of grilling meat, and he will be judged by his output. Our society dictates how a man

should dress and what he should drive, who he should know and how he should know them. Society lays out these precepts, and the Ideal American Man will have every item on this checklist marked off. I have never been that man. Society has its rubric with all the categories; I have been judged by this rubric and have been found lacking. I don’t say this out of a sense of self pity. This is no “oh woe is me” moment; if anything, I say it out of a sense of pride. I have never been that man, nor have I ever tried or wanted to be. When that pickup driver called me and my friends faggots, we turned it into a joke. This was eight years ago, and my friends and I can still yell “Nice pants, faggot!” to each other, then we laugh and laugh. It’s funny to us because we know better. We’re a diverse group of people, as diverse as it gets in Southwest Virginia anyway, and we know that the things that make us different also make us interesting. I am lucky to have grown up in a very openminded enclave within southwest Virginia. In my family, my mother has always (for the most part) been the breadwinner in our family. And so, the idea of a strong woman isn’t terrifying to me. If anything, I find it admirable; strong women provide and nurture, they heal and they earn. And my

father, even though he does have a great store of automobile knowledge, has never been the Ideal American Man either. He can fix a car, but then he’ll come back in the house and read books. He can build something with his hands, but he’ll also sit on the back porch and feed stray cats. He is quiet but not closed off. I have never doubted my father’s love for me. My family has never been that Norman Rockwell family, or whatever our modern equivalent is, and I love them all the more for it. Coming from such an open-minded family, I have never been comfortable with racism, sexism, classism, or any other form of arbitrary discrimination. How could I end up with some sort of classist feelings of privilege or superiority? My family straddled the line between lower- and middle-class, sometimes wobbling from one class to the next. I never had the requisite closet full of Tommy Hilfiger or Nautica, no Nikes on my feet. My family has always driven older cars, and sometimes only my father’s vehicular know-how has kept them running. I never looked down on other people who also lacked those things. I usually just looked at them from across the lunch room table. And sexist? Holy shit! No chance there. How anyone can be prejudiced toward the gender that gave them life is beyond
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me. With all the wifebeaters and deadbeats I would come to know, it’s a wonder I didn’t end up sexist toward my own sex. I grew up surrounded by ideal specimens of feminine strength. The list is immense: one grandmother, an Air Force wife, the matriarch of a young family, living in Spain by age 20; another grandmother, a business partner to her husband, carrying on their ventures even after his death; my childhood doctor, a tiny, forceful Indian woman who healed my noxious childhood ailments; and chief among them, my own mother, who worked long hours for absurdly low pay while obtaining several college degrees. How could I, a son, a grandson, a brother, descendant and proud product of womanhood, grow up to objectify women? How could I possibly let commercials convince me that women are trophies that I must collect and display? To my eyes and ears, commercials want me to be a shitty person. According to Hardee’s, I should react with shock and horror if one of my friends makes biscuits for me and others, and I should want a chicken sandwich after I see an attractive woman smearing one on her face. I would be indescribably excited if my friend baked me biscuits, and I would offer that attractive woman a napkin and a look of disgust. Kia’s commercials tell me
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that I shouldn’t feel emasculated by driving a sensible, four-door sedan; I just need to imagine myself driving around a race track, bikini babes bouncing, Motley Crue blaring, and all is right with my testosterone. Commercials for Klondike bars tell me that listening to my significant other is a chore, and I deserve a reward for doing so. And don’t even get me started on those Slim Jim commercials. My family has taught me that it’s okay not to fit in, and it’s okay not to try to fit in. They’ve taught me that what is inside of a person matters: judge the content of their character, not the color of their skin, nor the content of their wallet. Be who you are, they taught me, but make damn sure that “who” is worthwhile. And so, when external forces try to tell me who I am, I will tell them they’re wrong. When the TV tells me who to be, I will tell it where to go. I will continue to love and care. I will continue to be honest and open. I will continue to wear jeans that fit.

Derek Reynolds

Sweet Spot

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Bloom Where You Are Planted
Mallory Burton

My family is my rock, a mountain of love covered in grass and moss that never dies; the flowers are wild and grow where they choose. The freedom of this rock I spring from gives me all I need. “I love you” is never too far away, and I would never have to ask to hear it. My father, an old tree, reaches out its branches embracing the wisdom around us in the wind, then pours it back into the soft moss under my toes. My brother, a river rushing by us, offering an ecosystem of information at each and every turn. My sister, the lilies dancing with the river, bending beautifully with a grace no one will ever match. My mother, the iris of beauty, who gave me my eyes, stands tall and blooming, surrounding the big, knotted tree, complementing it perfectly and watching its branches reach into the river, brushing reassuringly by the lilies that sway me. All of this, inked on my arm and etched into my heart, like the reminder on the old farmhouse wall, “Bloom where you are planted.”

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Harold was 80 years old. He was never a happy man. Being born with a disability that rendered him unable to move independently or care for himself, he was destined for a painfully stagnant life. With the passing of both of his parents having occurred by the time he was thirty-two years old, he was turned over to the state as a numbered patient in a nursing home. He had seen the same four walls every day for more than half of his life. For most of his life, Harold had an ambition to find love. He was interested in puppy love or the common dramatics of a typical courtship. He simply wanted to experience true love with the woman of his dreams. For anyone else, it would have been an attainable goal, but for Harold, it was as impossible as becoming ruler of the world. Harold had all the time in the world, yet none of it was his own. It was all monopolized by the doctors, nurses, and therapists who encouraged him to keep himself in stable condition, though he could never see a reason to preserve his life. He made the baskets out of Popsicle sticks

the activities director forced him to craft whether he liked it or not through a fake smile of gritted teeth. Harold never bothered to reciprocate the phony interest. Harold’s only consolation was in the middle of the sleepless nights in which he envisioned the true love he would never know in reality. She was an angelic figure of golden hair and sapphire eyes. She had a smile that was encompassed by a heavenly glow, not unlike that of the Christmas lights he could see outside his window. He could barely remember a time when Christmas meant something to him. They had all been the same, except this one had a slight difference. Television news was calling for the end of the world as dictated by the Mayan calendar. According to meteorologists, an asteroid was scheduled to hit the Earth that very night, which Harold knew from a glance at the daily newspaper this morning was Friday, December 21, 2012. Within moments, news swept through the institution like a tornado. Nurses and the evening staff began to rush

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frantically about the building in an attempt to get everyone to the bomb shelter that had been in the basement of the building since its erecting in the wake of World War II. Harold thought this incredibly stupid. “The world is ending,” he thought to himself. “What good will a bomb shelter be?” It wasn’t that Harold didn’t care about the end of the world. In fact, he considered himself to be sadder than most about the situation. “Why have I lived this long for my life to have had no meaning?” Harold asked himself as he was rushed into the bomb shelter. He could see from the emptiness of the vast, steel-walled room that he was the first to arrive. He heard the nurses leave the room and the iron door shut behind them. Expecting them to return with another hysterical patient or two at any moment, he closed his eyes and waited. Knowing that his inevitable end was near, his mind drifted to memories he hadn’t recalled in a long time. He thought of his parents and his school days. He thought with sadness of how his classmates poked fun at him. He didn’t remember being that bothered by it at the time as it was the norm. For some reason, he was deeply affected
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now. He was equally stirred when he recalled the friendship of Gerald, the one boy in school who didn’t take verbal jabs at his crooked reach or struggled speech. Gerald was the only friend he ever had and the only one he believed was worth having. They remained friends through their school years and into adulthood. After high school, Gerald went off to college and after Harold’s parents passed away, he was admitted by the state government to the nursing home, never to see his friend again. Gerald was the only one to whom Harold confessed his desire for true love as well as his doubt of ever finding it. “It will happen when you least expect it,” Gerald assured him. “But what if it happens too late to enjoy a life with her?” Harold questioned. “Even if you are lying on your deathbed and the love of your life walks in just in time to hold your hand for your last breath,” Gerald said somberly, “Your whole life will be worthwhile.” While Harold quickly dismissed his friend’s false optimism as the dumbest thing he’d ever heard, it was a statement he never truly cleared from his mind. He opened his eyes and looked around for a moment. He was alone.

Shouldn’t the nurses be coming back with the other patients by now? Quickly dismissing the moment of confusion, he closed his eyes and carried on with his thoughts. The images of his dream girl in her white robe were suddenly interrupted with a huge thud followed by the sound of a seemingly never-ending explosion. Henry opened his eyes, startled, certain it was over. But it wasn’t. Sounds of the explosion had ceased and he was still here. The lights were off in the bomb shelter, but he was sure he was still alive. From the distance, he heard someone approaching. It wasn’t from the door where he had been brought in but at the opposite end. He didn’t even know there was a door at that end of the shelter. He called out and although there was no answer, he could still hear someone approaching. Just then, the lights came back on and he saw her. She didn’t speak a word but talking wasn’t necessary. Harold knew who she was. Her smile, her eyes and hair, and the light she projected were all unmistakable. Harold opened his eyes and rubbed them. They weren’t playing tricks on him. She was there. He could see her, smell her, and hear the ruffle of her white silk gown as

she took a seat beside him. Without knowing how, Gerald had been right. As he slipped his hand in hers, he took a deep breath. He smiled and slowly exhaled. Eyes didn’t open the next day. No more breaths were taken and no more words were spoken. Trees no longer swayed in the wind, and waves never crashed on the shores again. The mountain peaks were flattened and burned. The earth transformed from a bright, burning blaze into a cold, dark sea. Flood extinguished the raging fire that had turned the crumbled remains into ash. Debris and corpses floated in the mockingly calm sea that had overtaken the land. Acidity and pollutants had even taken the life out from under the sea. The only movement that was executed or sound to be heard was the sloshing of the cold corpses against one another and the material objects that once held some significance in individual’s lives. Laughter would never again be shared, secrets told, smiles exchanged, company enjoyed, or love made. The asteroid had taken every life, every love, and every memory in only a moment. But in that moment, his last moment, Harold had found love and peace. The world had ended.
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At Dawn

Justine Jackson

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Giving Up
Kyley Doty
Sleeping open-eyed in bright, waiting for a cool kiss, he dreamed of time, and so time passed. Half in fantasy, under a sun... that’s where they found him.

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Special Thanks On behalf of the Exit 109 staff, I would like to thank the following: Geoff White, the Assistant Director of Student Media, for his encouragement and support of the magazine; the wonderful Student Media Family – The Beehive, Radio Free Radford, ROC TV, The Tartan, Whim, and SMADs; Dr. Donald Secreast, our advisor; President Penny Kyle for allowing us to print in color; Autumn Pitman for her spectacular job on the cover and overall design of the magazine; Emil Morris for his beautifully detailed comic that captured the spirit of this magazine; Caleb Reed for being one hell of a PR guy; Paul Davis and Matt Parr for putting up with my tyrannical copy editing schedule; Dr. Tim Poland for recommending me to apply for the Editor position (and calling me a smartass); the English and Art Department for helping to promote the magazine; the brave souls who read at the Fall Poetry Reading; our supporters, our Radford community; and most importantly – our contributors who shared their creativity and imagination with the rest of us. Thank you. Oh, and the reader. You. You’re pretty cool too. Thanks. J.J.

SPECS:
Size 8x8 inches Typeset in Minion Pro Cover Stock: Boydun Gloss Paper Stock: Boydun Satin Printing by Creasey Printing Services, Springfield, IL

CREDITS:
Typefaces used: Minion Pro Gill Sans Ultra Bold Courier Belta Bold (by Antipixel) Aracne Condensed (by Antipixel) La Belle Aurore (by Kimberly Geswein) SF Movie Poster (by ShyFonts) Ginette (by philing.net) Cleanwork (by Magique Fonts) Capture It (by Magique Fonts) Mom’s Typewriter (by Cristoph Mueller) Subway Novella (by KC Fonts) Times New Yorker (by D.o.c.s) Paper stock textures by www.fuzzimo.com

Exit 109 is looking for your poetry, prose, paintings, photographs, drawings, comics, and other creative works for the 2013-2014 edition of the magazine. You can submit your work at www.radford.edu/~exit109 Questions? Contact us at exit109@radford.edu

Exit 109, the Online 2012-2013 Edition

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