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WAYNE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
The Writers' and Artists' Magazine
Wayne Community College
Goldsboro, North Carolina
Volume 29, April 2013
This twenty-ninth volume
is dedicated to
for her dedication to the arts
and her many years of teaching excellence
she will be missed.
Cover Heather Williams
Art Connor Hardy
& Miranda'rae Carter
Prose David Sager
Poetry Candice Lancaster
JefF Williams Ashley Merrill Crystal Burnett
Dean Tuck, Associate Editor
Rosalyn Lomax, Editor Emerita Marian Westbrook, Editor Emerita
Kathryn Spicer, Editor Emerita
Educational Support Technologies Department
Majena Howell, Ken Jones, and Ron Lane
Student Government Association
The Artists and Writers
No part of this magazine may be reproduced without permission.
Copyright 20 1 3 Renaissance
Views expressed are those of the individual contributors and do not
necessarily reflect the views of the editors of this institution.
Parts 1 *Canclice Marie Lancaster, AA, ^
Gilbert-Chapel Poetry Award Winner
Here I Am Again 1 *Candace Marie Lancaster, AA ^
The Spider in the Shower 2 *Shari Berk,
Gilbert-Chapel Poetry Award Winner
Esteemed Speaker on a Rainy Night 2 Shari Berk
Peace at War 3 Donald Wallace, AE
Interstate KLW41 4 Kristy Ware, AAS
Lawn Mower Wheels Through Time 4 Tom Jordan, CE
Red Archer 5 C.J. Underwood, AA
Peek-a-Boo 6 Courtney Howell, AA
Fear 7 Travion Lewis, AA
Trees at Sunset 7 Brittany WiHis, AA
The Chronicles of a Midget Tamer 8 Heather Williams, AA
Kobi on a Rainy Night 9 *Shari Berk
Seeking Shelter in the Old Barn 9 Margaret Helms, Faculty
All the Pretty Horses 10 Jeff Williams, Faculty
Poppy 10 Sadie Goulet,AA
A Flash of White Dives Into the Woods 11 *Candace Marie Lancaster, AA
Paddling on the Neuse River, NC 11 Jacqueline Kannan, Staff
Not the Face of E.D 12 *Shari Berk
Winter Swamp 12 Karen Hartley, Staff
Sunset at Pond 13 Karen Hartley, Staff
After September 13 Kristy Ware, AAS
Summer Swamp 13 Karen Hartley, Staff
Four Ways of Looking at Leaves 14 *Candace Marie Lancaster, AA l$t
Sunset at Swansboro 14 Don Magoon, Staff
Big Fish Out of Water 15 Heather Williams, A A
When Prince Charming Flees 16 Adore Clark, A A
Squirrel at Duck, NC 16 Karen Hartley, Staff
Winter Pond on Buckleberry Road 17 Karen Hartley, Staff
Once Loved 17 Travion Lewis, AA
Looking at Stars 18 Adore Clark, A A
Bird 18 Sadie Goulet, AA
Mellissa's Song 19 Kristy Ware, AAS
Admire the Beautiful 19 Summer Woodard, AA
Church is No Sanctuary 20 David Sager, AA 5$
The Lady 22 Anika Rawlinson, AA
Happy 22 Heather Aycock, AA
Pilot and Son 23 Amy Graham, Faculty
Journey to the Past 23 Heather Williams, AA
Warren Hardy Farms 23 Connor Hardy, AAS ^
Resting Crab 23 Miranda'rae Carter, AAS ^
Monarch Caterpillar 23 Connor Hardy, AAS 3$!
Kure Beach Pelican 24 Brittany WiUis, AA
Support System 24 Kasey Phillips, AAS
Spring Flower 24 Sergio Aguilar, AAS
A Peony from my Garden 24 Margaret Helms, Faculty
Mushrooms Growing 24 Connor Hardy, AAS ^
Kure Beach 24 Brittany Willis, A A
Bug in My Garden 25 Tom Jordan, CE
A Hydrangea 25 Summer Woodard, AA
Sunset Flower 25 Summer Woodard, A A
Sunset Photo from Topsail 25 Miranda'rae Carter, AAS
Sight of the Sound 25 Heather Williams, AA
Porch in Burnsville, NC 26 Karen Hartley, Staff
A Clownfish from the NC Aquarium 26 Summer Woodard, A A
Christmas Water Tower 26 Sherry Cranberry, Faculty
Flower in Hand 26 Kasey Phillips, AAS
Me, Myself, & Id 26 Sadie Goulet, AA
And Now Who Will You Love? 27 Kenesha Gray, AAS
His eyes were human pink 29 Jeff Williams, Faculty
An Elephant from the NC Zoo 29 Summer Woodard, AA
Garbage Hero 30 Adore Clark, AA
This Is Our Spot 32 Byron Barwick, AAS
Two Barns 33 Sherry Cranberry, Faculty
Masquerade Passion 34 Anika RawHnson, AA
Revelation of Tears 34 Heather Aycock, AA
The Wash 34 *Shari Burk
Circle 34 Sadie Goulet, AA
False Hope 35 Travion Lewis, AA
Cause, Effect, and Consequences 36 Susan Bunkley, AA
Frozen Water Fountain 37 Connor Hardy, AAS 1$[
Heritage 38 Kristy Ware, AAS
Cupola 38 Candace Jones, AA
Whitney 39 Nicole Denise,AA
GOLDSBORO Sweet GOLDSBORO 39 Nicole Denise, AA
Life's Unexpected Changes 40 Tina Sharpe, AAS
A Tribute to Last Year's Contributors 42 Renaissance Editors
From Civilian to Marine Recruit 43 David Sager, AA 3$
US Flag over Confederate Fortress 44 Tom Jordan, CE
Sun Bear 45 Nicole Denise, AA
Grandmom and Son 45 Nicole Denise, AA
Pyre 46 Ashley Merrill, Faculty
Cloud Over Wayne County 47 Karen Hartley, Staff
Mama, I Lied , 48 Sierra Kornegay, AAS
Capture the Moment 48 Summer Woodard, A A
Rise of the Shenobie Wolf Clan (excerpt) 49 Adam Payne, AA
Kitten from Beach 52 Miranda'rae Carter, AAS ^
^ Award Winner * Member of Margaret Baddour 's Creative Writing Class
I am the Emerald City
sprawling over the skyline,
a relentless beacon of light
glittering into the atmosphere.
I am an airplane
splitting the sky in two.
Boundaries mean nothing before me
as I command the aerospace.
I am the bass line
pulsing beneath your melody
rattling your heart
inside your chest.
I am an ocean wave
relentlessly pounding the shore
shaping the coastline
into an asymmetrical heaven.
Candice Marie Lancaster
Here I Am Again
The dull, checkered floor
stretches out for a hundred miles
distorted over hills and valleys.
Foggy grey glass boxes me in.
I scream without sound until it shatters
Raindrops the color of sewage
fall around me in torrents.
Paper cranes squawk and screech
as the colorless sky presses in.
A machine spits and spews
and gives chase.
My feet chadned together
can't move as fast as my heart.
An earsplitting hum vibrates my mind
my thoughts shaken, not stirred.
The machine is on my heels
gnashing and gnarling
but then it's time to clock out.
^ Candice Marie Lancaster
— after G. Apollinaire
Wet windy rain hampers turn out
lecture hall gathers familiar faces
they wave, hug, chat smiling at strangers
friendly ambience filled with hats, umbrellas
The lecture begins.
h Slower (61) l^-fe '^A'^yJI C^ore^)
A spider crawled into my bath
1 smirked at it — "You do the math,
mortgage unpaid by you not 1,
but 1 am larger, so you must die."
Only one of us prevails
to tell the morning shower tale —
Grand-daddy longlegs flushed down the toilet bowl
tissue-crushed, flattened, no longer whole.
Peace At War
Q Ji AT ost war stories you hear
r y 1/ i start off with something Hke
"Charlie was everywhere..."
or "Back in 'Nam..." or my personal favorite,
"It was me against 100..." They also usually
end with some heroic statement like, "And that
is how I saved the town of Al Bashier!" or "And
that is how I lost my favorite right leg!" This
story, though, is different. In this story no one
saves the world, or even a small town, and no
one definitely loses a leg. That story comes later.
No, this story is quite the opposite.
My first tour in Iraq was nothing like my
second tour, or my subsequent tour in Afghani-
stan. It was exacdy like everyone tells it: hot,
dry, and not pleasant. We had to eat MREs
and had no real showers and blah, blah, blah. I
won't bore you with the details. I will tell you
that every now and then, a young specialist like
myself at the time would be assigned the equally
monotonous task of "Base Defense and Obser-
vation," which was a fancy word for guard duty.
Normally, this was not something you wanted
because of the schedule. The roster said that
the shifts were eight hours on and eight hours
off, but what you don't know is that that eight
hours on was on tower and the eight hours off
was sleep, muster, inspection, travel to and from
towers, and additional instructions and report-
ing. Really, it was eight on and four off.
Most of the time I was placed on the in-
famous "Tower 4," which looked out over a
bombed out field that had not seen life since the
first Gulf War. That being said, the emptiness
made for some spectacular sunrises over the city
of Al Taji. That is something I will miss very
Every morning, just as the sun was coming
up, I would stand in my tower and hear the lo-
cal Mosque playing the call to prayer over the
loud speakers. The melodious half-sung, half-
yelled call in Arabic really made feel like, for a
second, I was not in a war torn country. The
call usually lasted for 10 minutes, and then the
person, whom I can only assume was the leader,
said an actual prayer, and it was over.
Standing there, listening to what I could
only understand as music and looking at some
of the most vibrant and truly breathtaking sun-
rises I have ever seen, made me feel as if it were
all somehow scripted. I felt like I was in a mov-
ie and the production director did an amazing
job. I wish I was a better writer or had better
words to truly convey to you just what a sur-
real and peaceful time those moments were. I
wish I could go back and experience that feel-
ing again, not worrying about the things that
we take for granted today here in the United
States. Don't get me wrong, I love this coun-
try, but sometimes I feel sorry because a lot of
people here are missing out. Some sad people
let truly unimportant things stress them in such
a way that they need to be medicated. You often
hear about the simplicity of war. It truly is. Yes,
the actual fighting can be chaotic and extremely
fast paced, but you are not always fighting. In
war, you don't have to worry about bills getting
paid, babysitters for work, and making sure
your wife has her shoe of the week. You worry
about simple things like who is going to try to
kill your comrade today and what mission you
are going to execute. Though it is not a con-
stant or even truly frightening worry, it is, in all
honesdy, a simple one, and in that simplicity we
start to look at the world around us and truly
stop and "smell the roses." We can take some-
thing as simple as a morning call to prayer, and
look at it for what it tnily is, and take unimagi-
nable comfort in it. If you ask a solider what his
scariest moment was, you will get a story about
a moment in war, but ask him what his most
cherished or profound moment was, and it will
be the moment after his scariest. And that, chil-
dren, is what war truly is. ♦♦♦
I am afraid, but not alone as I travel down the road of my existence.
My pothole filled, cracked, uneven one-way street.
As 1 go down, I pass by side streets that I have traveled down many a time.
I pass by What Happened Way and 1 see Loser Lane.
There goes Bad Choice Boulevard — I've been down there a lot.
Heartbreak Hotel is there, and I have spent some time there more than once.
Bad Choice has had other buildings added to it over time.
Money is funny & Credit won't get it. Lending Institution has opened up.
I see the Bad Hair Day Salon is still in business.
Of course the Take Out Cafe is up and running.
But my destination on this road is a new one.
I'm searching for Opportunity Drive.
It's not a big street, and if I am not careful, I could miss it.
It's around here somewhere; I've seen it before.
I just didn't go down it like I was supposed to.
I hope it's not too late to go down it now.
But knowing my luck — it will be under construction when 1 get there.
I've thought long and hard about why things happen the way they have
and I still have found no answer.
For a while now my mind has been imprisoned,
no longer able to function as it should,
fear clings to it like a heavy blanket of fog in the morning.
My decisions have become unclear, my thoughts not my own.
Fear of me someda\
through a pain much
than what I have faced.
Fear that I will never recover from this deep hurt
and forgive the one that inflicted me with it.
Fear that the load I bear upon myself will snap my will
driving me to do something that I know I will regret.
Fear of enormous rage that refuses to leave me
clouding my dreams with dark deeds.
Fear turned me into something I'm not, blackened my heart,
and covered it with a solid wall .
Fear has settled in my soul.
Here I sit where nothing can get to me. . .
Nothing can touch me. . .
Nothing can hurt me. . .
Trees at Sunset
/f I ever elect to pen an autobiogra-
phy, this title may adorn its cover.
As a domestic engineer, I have answered
the call of the universe to tame the midg-
ets with whom I dwell. This task is not
for the meek! Little boys smell like mush-
rooms, regardless of your efforts to coun-
ter their essence with proper hygiene and
Listerine. Their behavior is redolent of
The Lord of the Flies, and I grow weary of
the perpetual Nerf warfare that pervades
my home. My husband and I refuse to
negotiate with terrorists and insist that,
as with most adversaries, victory can only
be achieved by way of wits.
I propose that prospective parents
should complete a certification program
prior to conception. To drive a car, fly a
plane, captain a vessel, practice law or
medicine, clean teeth, draw blood, teach,
operate a business, and countless other
endeavors, you must first complete a cer-
tification process and be issued a license.
However, to become a mother or father,
you need only... Of course, once "x"
concludes, the impending experience is
a trial in human behavior and survival —
yours and theirs.
I feel that I would have benefited
greatly from a certification process or, at
the very least, a brochure. This is not the
way that my journey has gone, but some-
thing has kept me from failing miserably
en route. As a "stay-at-home-mom" for
the last few years, I have relied on criti-
of a Midget Tamer
cal thinking skills to maintain my san-
ity home. I have mastered the part of
the mender, tender, nurse, cook, baker,
photographer, housekeeper, bookkeep-
er, laundry maid, dishwasher, chauffer,
chaperone, tutor, cheerleader, story-teller,
stealthy imposter (e.g. Tooth Fairy, Santa
Claus, Easter Bunny, etc.), event coordi-
nator, dictator, diplomat, judge, jury, ref-
eree, warden, and yes, midget tamer.
This litany of roles is abridged only to
comply with the maximum word-count
for this essay, but I digress. Having a hus-
band who serves in the active-duty Air
Force presents a unique financial situa-
tion that I like to refer to as "The Pit-
tance." Yet, somehow, I have managed to
discern needs from wants for well over a
decade, and we are neither starving nor
bankrupt. The home that we own is one
Hollywood film crew away from being
a remake of The Money Pit. This too
has required that I summon the critical
thinking skills of an accounting samurai
to keep us consistently domiciled.
To track our spending and manage
debt, I have meticulously utilized color-
ful Excel spreadsheets and maintain that
I could chair the House Budget Commit-
tee with ease. Under my stern command,
cable, landline phone service, trash pick-
up, gym memberships, and name brands
would be eliminated for all Americans!
On the other hand, maybe I should just
focus on the black and red of my own
budget a while longer. ♦♦♦
1 on a Rainy NigU
Smell of wet dog soothes my ache
Missing dear friends afar —
Kobi's rain soaked fur takes me away
when I don't know where they are.
I run my fingers through her scruff
scratch her ears — hug real tight
Loneliness made of lesser stuff,
she gets me through the rainy night.
. . .terrified of fire,
running from a burning barn,
streaks of flaming wood like rain,
an Appaloosa writhing,
only fear in his eyes,
painted stallions jumping
onto the safest ground.
We throw them to the lions,
against their very nature,
. . .frightened of war,
climbing hills from a flood,
hurricane pouring wrath onto the field,
they whinny and neigh
calling fury and flight,
mares pushing foals
onto the highest ground.
throw them against Jire and steel.
Who understands the courage,
. . .startled by gunfire,
charging towards a caisson,
bullets falling as stones from hell,
men living and dying
by the courage of steeds,
horses driven steadily
onto the killing ground.
who sees the mysteries
in a galloping horse's eyes?
Poppy Sadie Goulet
A nasli of Wliite Dives into tlie Woods
I follow it through the brush.
The smell of earth and sleeping things
fills my lungs with an air of retired summer.
The browns and reds and oranges
make it easy to follow the girl,
whose hair is the color of raw silk,
as she dances over sunken logs.
Fallen leaves rustle like paper beneath my feet.
Tangled twigs catch my clothes and hair.
Ahead of me, she laughs with ease
comfortable in the unbroken forest air.
The dying world behind us grows quiet
as the symphony of nature
rises towards crescendo.
She pauses in the clearing, untouched by fall.
Plush green grass blankets the ground
and cardinals leap in trees heavy with dogwood.
Fragrant wildflowers dance in the breeze.
She turns to me grey eyes filled with grief.
"How could you have forgotten me?"
3^ Candice Marie Lancaster
Paddling on the Neuse River, NC Jacqueline Kannan
Lapsed poetry I fail to rhyme
methods of my predecessors,
concrete images possess time
in latinate word precursors.
Leave obvious behind, I'm told,
emotions evocate from themselves,
my heart betrays secrets I hold,
would fill up histrionic shelves.
Surrendering to who I am,
mediocrity I create.
Attempting other forms a sham,
I fail, can barely imitate.
We — the human race
Are as a rainbow
Separate and together
As the bands of color flowing
Equal and different
As the brightness of each hue
Permanent and flexible
As the shape and flow of the arc
Beautiful and unique
As the sight of one across the sky.
It is rare to see either one come together
But when it happens
It is a breathtaking sight
Both shine more brightly after a storm
Both are a gift from God
Karen Hartley May God bless us all.
S wamp, Wayne / Johnston County Line Karen Hartley
Four W^ays of Looking at Leaves
—After Wallace Stevens
Caressed by the v^^ind
leaves applaud you at your worst.
They are your biggest fans.
Splayed out to catch the rays
fingers reaching towards the sky
devout before the sun
changed by cold and scab
the leaves curl up to die
a mosaic of the season.
They bargain with the tree
trading sap for sun
^ Candice Marie Lancaster
Sunset at Swansboro 01-12-13 Don Magoon
Big Fish Out of Water
/— T| jT y mother spent her en-
r yX/l ^^"^^ ^^^^ Miami, Florida
«^ ' where she developed an af-
finity for the beach. As young children liv-
ing in Miami, we grew up appreciating and
enjoying it as much as she did. My younger
sister, brother, and I would spend hours play-
ing in the sand and the shallow waves. How-
ever, with each visit, one constant became
obvious: we were never allowed to swim. I
would beg her to allow me to go in deeper
water, reassuring her confidently that I could
swim, but I could never convince her.
On the car ride home fi:om school one day,
I was thrilled to hear that she had enrolled
me in swimming lessons! I began in the out-
door pool soon aft:er and quickly progressed
through the different skill levels. My godfa-
ther joked that I was like a "big fish out of
water" because I would swim every chance
I could. However, during the summer after
I turned eight, I had my first taste of water-
related fear. Normally, I would float past the
first breaking waves and maintain my posi-
tion there, a safe distance from the shore. I
suppose arrogance had caused me to ignore
that position, and I floated carelessly further
and further from the shore.
To this day, I am not sure if I had fallen
asleep or just lost track of time. Something
inside me clicked, and I sat up quickly and
looked around. My heart began to beat rap-
idly as I realized I was dangerously far from
the shore. Looking back, I could see my
mother as a tiny figure waving madly in my
direction. Panic consumed me, and I was
overwhelmed by the gravity of my situation.
I had never covered the vast distance before
me in any swimming setting. I slid into the
water and began to tow my raft behind me.
Kicking and stroking with every breath, my
imagination ran wild, and I became terrified
of being attacked by a shark.
I can still remember the impact from the
first breaking wave as I approached the
shore. The connection to my inflatable raft
was severed instantly. Tossed like a rag doll
from one violent wave to the next, 1 had no
idea which way was up. The salt water was
burning my nose and throat as I tried in vain
to hold my breath. Finally, I felt gritty sand
strip the skin from my hands and knees, and
I could hear my mother screaming my name
repeatedly. She must have been crying for a
while because I remember her shaking while
she held me. I struggled to look around and
gain my bearings because the salt was sting-
ing my eyes and I was coughing uncontrol-
lably. I realized that I had drifted nearly out
of sight from our spot on the shore.
We both cried and I asked my mother why
she didn't yell for me or come get me. She
replied that she had never learned how to
swim and she stood there paralyzed with
fear, knowing there was nothing she could
do to help me. A little while later, on the
drive home, she told me about my four-year-
old cousin that I had never known. He had
drowned in a hotel swimming pool, and it
was a terrible tragedy that my mother's fam-
ily had never really recovered from. She said
she understood some of what my Aunt Bar-
bara must have experienced when she made
it to the pool and pulled her lifeless baby
from the depths below the water slide.
My mother's fear of the water, coupled with
the heartbreaking passing of her nephew,
had motivated her to empower her own
children with the vital skill of swimming. I
never knew my cousin, but I chose to honor
his memory and follow my mother's exam-
ple with my own boys.
Wlien Prince Ckantiing Flees
The witch has won. Prince Charming fled
And left me here to perish
So though I've waited far too long
My freedom I'll not relish
That stupid prince, that filthy coward
How could he run away?
I'm the princess. He's the prince
He's supposed to save my day
But in his boots, he started shaking
When he saw the dragon
So he turned around and ran right back
And hopped into his wagon
So the sword he left upon the ground
I grabbed with my free hand
I decided then I would not die
Until I made my stand
The dragon knew what I thought
And he laughed right in my face
"Now look here, my dear," he said
"Your prince has fled this place."
I just smirked and took my sword
And plunged it through his chest.
He looked shocked, then looked at
And you can guess the rest
I smiled then, till I saw the prince
He was riding with Snow White
And I knew then that growing up
Those fairytales weren't right
My step-mother was always right
Just how much
He'd be willing to put up a fight
Winter Pond on Buckleberry Road, Princeton, NC Karen Hartley
The broken heart that took so long to heal.
Now mostly numbed to the pain he will forever feel.
Traces the scars that line his back.
Where the one once called love laid knives to rest.
Recalls the memories of happiness and joy long past.
To only have them taken over by the pain and anguish that followed.
Out of hate and anger came the tears.
To ashes and dust now the happiness contained in future years.
Now looking forward with eyes reddened with pain.
Denied what he once had and now may never again gain.
I lay in bed looking up at stars,
Just giant balls of gas
No more magical or mysterious
Than a sleight-of-hand trick
By a street corner magician.
Galaxies that stretch farther than
The distance between me and him
Can calm a restless soul
Longing only for the stillness
Of a starry night.
Leaving me only to wonder
Where has my ceiling gone?
Twirling in the sunlight
On a perfect day her arms outstretched
To receive his love
Warmth fills her soul as she glides
On a beam of happiness and hope
She laughs out loud at the silliness
Of her sight to all around who will
Witness her bUss
She has found joy in the peace of
Her existence and her very essence
Sings out in a chorus to the tops of the
Clouds circling above her head like
Soft swirls of cotton candy
With patience and humility that one gets
Through the loss of self-worth and
She says — This is good
Her soul is at rest in the knowledge
Of who she is and what her life is really
And she smiles
Twirling in the sunlight
Admire the Beautiful
Church is No Sanctuary
3$t David Sager
here are three types of people on the trees. Some hid among the parked cars.
r planet Earth: those who believe
in the paranormal, those who do
not, and those who believe because of expe-
rience. I fall into this third group. While
what causes the phenomenon remains a
matter of debate, I do know that "ghosts"
exist, and this is my story.
When I was ten years old, my family
attended a newly started church in a previ-
ously empty church building on a dead end
road out in the country. The church prop-
erty was bordered on two sides by woods
and on the right side by a brick house with
a wrap-around driveway. The house and
church properties were divided by a small
ditch, small enough for children to easily
hop across, and the ditch was bordered on
the church side by dogwoods. Larger trees
ran along the road in front of the church
and the house. A security light stood at the
street in front of the church, and another
one stood at the end of the driveway of the
neighboring house on the side closet to the
church. The lights were bright at night, but
the ample trees cut the light and made the
parking lot and surrounding area very dark.
When the church services were conclud-
ed, it was common for the children to rush
outside and begin various games to social-
ize and pass the time while parents talked
inside. The choice of game often depended
on the number of participants and the time
of day. After the midweek evening service,
it was always dark, regardless of the time of
year, so hide and seek was a favorite choice.
One summer night, the attendance of other
children was low, but that did not deter the
handftil of us, my brother included, from
playing hide and seek. A car was selected
as base, the seeker was chosen, and off we
scampered to hide. A couple of children
dashed behind the church into the total
darkness of the lot between the building and
My brother and I had a different strategy;
we ran to the dogwoods bordering the little
ditch. Then, we each selected a tree and at-
tempted to disappear into the shadows be-
neath by merging with the tree-trunks.
I was on the side of the tree opposite the
church and had a clear view over into the
yard across the ditch. My ears were tuned to
the loud counting of the seeker, listening for
when he would begin his search and where
he would go. I was counting on his initial
pursuit of those behind the church, so I could
immediately dash from my relatively close
hiding spot to the safety of base. When the
seeker finished counting, though, he did not
immediately go where I had hoped but be-
gan to make slow rounds of the parking lot,
staying close to base, probably expecting that
those hiding in the back would eventually try
and make a dash for base, giving themselves
away. It was while I was waiting for him to
roam farther away that I saw the ghost.
A couple of years earlier, my father's
step-father had died. Since we lived in east-
ern North Carolina, and the step-grand-
father lived in Memphis, Tennessee, I had
only seen him twice in my young life that I
could remember, and one of those times was
at the funeral. He was a tall man, balding,
with wisps of white hair, a drooping white
mustache, and thick black spectacles. As a
boy, he had injured himself delivering large
blocks of ice for customers, and so he limped
about with the aid of a cane. As an adult, he
worked for the city of Memphis although I
am not sure of his specific function. When
he died, the family all converged on Mem-
phis to pay respects. The flmeral was a sim-
ple affair, and meeting all these relatives I
had never seen before (nor have seen since)
made a greater impression on me than any-
thing else. I remembered these few things
about this man who raised my father. I re-
count all of this to help show the peculiarity
of my ghostly experience.
As I stood pressed against the grainy
smooth bark of the dogwood, gazing into
the neighboring yard, hstening to the cica-
das and crickets, movement at the back of
the house caught my attention. The blue
security light filtering through the leaves
of the various trees along the neighboring
driveway seemed to coalesce before my very
eyes into the shadowy form of my dad's
step-granddad, complete with droopy mus-
tache and spectacles. Upon seeing this, it
was like time froze for me, and the sounds
of the night suddenly stilled. The phantom
floated a few feet ofl^ the ground, made its
way along the driveway from around the
back of the house, and headed towards the
street. At first I wondered if it was headed
towards me, and then I saw it was merely
following the path of the driveway. Then
I wondered if anyone else could see this.
Where were the other hidden children? Did
the seeker see it? Staying still and quiet, I
watched to see what would happen, while
refijsing to give away my hiding spot in the
middle of the game. If no one else did see
the spirit and I interrupted the game on ac-
count of it, I was sure the ridicule would
not end for many weeks. The ghost contin-
ued its path down the driveway, still more
shadow than consistent form. Eventually, it
reached a point where all shadow dissolved
into the unobstructed light from the bluish
security lamp, and as it was made of shadow,
the spirit also dissolved. I'm sure this entire
event only lasted a matter of seconds, but to
me it seemed like a lifetime. Right about
then, I heard the seeker run off to chase an-
other hider, and I quickly made my way to
base, as did some other players.
As we stood there waiting for the game
to conclude, I was lost in reflection. While
the other children had just had another
night like so many before, my life had been
changed in the matter of moments. I no-
ticed my brother was being quieter than
normal, but I wasn't about to ask him if he
had seen anything, not while everyone else
was around. My mind continued to replay
the events. Why would the ghost of some-
one I had only seen once while living, bur-
ied years earlier and nearly a thousand miles
away, appear in the driveway of a house next
to a church out in the middle of the country,
and do no more than make a brief appear-
ance? No words uttered, no eyes focused,
just a quick trip from the darkness of the
back of the house into the light near the
street. Was it an accident? Was it an unspo-
ken message? Was it imagination?
When our parents were ready to go, my
younger brother and I piled into the family
car, and we left for home. Once my par-
ents were lost in their own conversation, I
broached the subject with my brother. "Did
you see anything, uh, unusual out there to-
night?" He looked at me almost defensively.
"Maybe. Why? What did you see?" was his
response. I think neither of us wanted to risk
being the subject of mockery, so we treaded
ever so carefully into the subject. After more
probing questions, it became mutually obvi-
ous that we had both seen the same thing.
This revelation removed personal concerns
about an over-active imagination, or going
crazy, but created many more.
To this day, my brother and I both refer
to that experience when the subject of ghosts
comes up, and more often than not it is met
with doubt and mockery unless someone
else involved in the discussion has had his
or her own experience. I don't blame the
doubters. I didn't believe in ghosts either
until seeing one for myself We have never
found any answers to our personal questions
about the occurrence. Why? Why then?
Why there? Why us? Why haven't we had
any similar experiences since? I am glad that
there have been no repeat performances in
my life, either by ghosts or by other super-
natural phenomena, but I wish I knew more.
Maybe one day I will know, possibly when
I visit my own grandchildren years after my
who is that mysterious woman?
She provokes wonder.
She stands out in the world where she is not understood.
Who is that interesting woman?
She wears femininity to its finest.
She indulges herself in education.
She has genuine manners.
Who is that beautiful woman?
Her smile is hypnotizing
Her modesty causes silent attraction.
Her essence is purity.
Who is that stylish woman?
Her eyelids are rainbows.
Her lips are colored red.
Her frocks are classic.
Her shoes are skyscrapers.
Who is that lovely woman?
She is gentle.
She is classy.
She is astonishing.
Happy Heather Aycock
Notable Photo Contest Entries
"Spring Flower" - Sergio Aguilar "A Peony From My Garden" - Margaret Helms
Notable Photo Contest Entries
And Now Who Will You Love?
/I I ^^'^ ^ S^^^ '^^^ window and
/ U / see the humid sunhght and the
^•^^^y birds chirping and flying lazily
to tree branches as if they were suffering from
heat exhaustion, all I can do is think about
my children. I think about how much I miss
them and miss being about them. Then, I
begin to think about how cold I feel, as if
chills were running up and down my body.
I wish that I could go home; I wish that I
could go outside and breathe in the fresh air.
I long for so many things, and when I think
about my life, I've learned to love myself, my
life, and the people that truly love me.
Two years ago, I was happy. I mean, not
your typical happy, but I was very pleased
with my life. A short, brown-skinned wom-
an, with short choppy hair, chocolate colored
eyes, a svelte body and seductive looks, I have
always been a man's fantasy and a woman's
jealousy. Nobody could tell me that I was
not fine, especially Nick. Nick Braswell and
I were involved for six years and had three
children: Nyshaun, Rah'Meer, and Alaysia.
I also have a seven year old son, Anthony,
whom Nick accepts as his own. Nick prom-
ised me the world, and I was working hard
to earn my place as "wife" in his heart and
on paper. I used to love the way his Hershey
chocolate skin would caress my body as we
made our children, how beautiful his snowy
white teeth looked as he smiled at me before
we kissed deeply, how he was an excellent
provider for our family, and how his love for
us made me feel euphoric.
I was so in love with him and prayed for
him to become my husband, but that prayer
would never be answered. The pain that I
now feel about our love is unbearable; the
love that I once felt has been replaced by ha-
tred and betrayal. How could he cheat on
me and move on, as if what we had and what
we shared together was nonexistent? Nick
and I not only had history and three beauti-
ful children, but we also shared a secret that
I had decided to take to my grave, out of my
undying love and respect for him, a secret
that I thought would keep him with me for
the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, things
between us changed drastically, and as far as
Nick is considered, he is dead to me.
"Ms. Bryant, are you sure that you want
to make this decision?" the doctor asked me
with the look of concern and disappoint-
ment. "There are preventive medications
and diets that will ensure that you live a
long, healthy, and prosperous life," he said
reassuringly, patting me tenderly on the
"I'm fine. Dr. Kenneth. I don't need any
medicines at this moment, but when I de-
cide to, I will let you know." The conversa-
tion between my doctor and me continues
to replay in my mind, and still, even today, I
am filled with disbelief and embarrassment.
I wish that I could go back to 2009 and undo
my decision. My sobs were interrupted by
a knock at the door; the nurse arrived to
drug my system with more treatment. The
nurse was an older woman, with vanilla skin
and wrinkles on her face that showed signs
of wisdom, but her eyes sad and depressed.
"Morphine for the pain and Amoxicillin for
the infection, Ms. Bryant; I am also going to
give you something to help you sleep. Your
family will be here shortly before visiting
hours are over with." She handed me the
medicine and my paper cup of water, helped
me hold my cup as I forced the bitter toxin
down my throat, and settled back against
the pillows. She asked me if I needed any-
thing else before she gave me a bed bath, but
I could not respond. I shook my head and
tried to turn onto my side. All I could do
was just lay there and wait to die.
My mother sat by my side and held me
as if it were the day I was born. My children
were too young to understand what was oc-
curring, but I asked for them to be with me
at Kitty Askins. The lies that parents have
to tell their children I now understand be-
cause these are the same lies that I now tell
my own children. "Mom, when are you
coming home?" Anthony asked with tears
in his eyes. "Mommy has a cold, Anthony.
So I have to be here for a while, but I want
you to look after your brothers and sister. I
want you to be strong for them and I want
you to know that I do love y'all and I always
will," I told him while crying. How does a
mother say goodbye to her children, to her
family? This was not right, or fair for me to
go through this! I was only twenty-six years
old. I should have had my entire life ahead
of me! Still, I asked for Nick. I wanted to
see him. I wanted to hear him tell me that
he was going to be my support and that he
would never leave me, that he could not see
how he could go on without me. I wanted
him to hold me and kiss me, to assure me
that we were in this together because of our
bond. But, of course, Nick rarely visited.
Friends told me that Nick couldn't come to
terms with my dying. He couldn't see me
As the months passed, as I continued
to lie on the bed at Kitty Askins, I thought
about my life and my heartache and my chil-
dren. As I lay there, in my early tomb, I felt
that my time was about to expire. I thought
about my friends in Goldsboro and all I had
touched, and then I wondered about where
they were now? No one was there for me ex-
cept for my family. Nick was with Kendra;
he left me for her, and they are happy now.
My children are the reasons why I should
have fought this condition, but I was not
strong enough, not even for them.
As tears flooded from my eyes, I gently
closed them, and I began to see angels. I
saw my grandmother, and I could hear her
calling my name towards the light. But I am
not worthy. I am not worthy to experience
how beautiful it is there in that paradise they
call "home." I could feel myself slip into a
deep sleep, and I could feel God's hands pull
me up and carry me home.
My spirit now looks upon my mourn-
ers; my spirit now kisses and holds my chil-
dren. My spirit now watches over Nick, as
he mourns for me, speaking of his regrets,
telling his friends and anyone that would
listen about how he will never love another
as he loved me. On the day of my funeral,
as the sun shines its magnificent rays on the
town of Goldsboro, I watched my children
play, and I saw the love of my life grieve for
me. I whisper to Nick in his dreams, whis-
pers of love and innocence as I tell him that
I will wait for him as I watch for him on
Earth. I want to say to him, even as I feel
my soul slip away from me, "and now will
you love? Did you ever love me at all? Will
Kendra ever feel for you what I felt in spite
of it all?"
But Nick and I share a secret that no
other woman will love him for, but I know
soon, he will meet me here. I will see him
again in the light, and that he will be mine
forever because the one thing strong enough
to keep us together was also strong enough
to cause my demise, and that is AIDS.
Now, my good friend Kenesha writes
this, the final chapter of my life as she con-
tinues to grieve over my untimely death.
But she and everyone must know that they
must not grieve over me because I am no
longer suffering. I am gone, but not for-
gotten, so they should be happy for me and
be patient because they will see me again. I
will continue to watch over them and wait
for them, for all good things must come to
an end. ♦t*
lbs- Were- piok
the last time I saw him,
smell of paint and menthol,
vodka, old oranges,
a trash bag filled with clothes.
Old Vargas crouched low,
still white teeth in yellow
light, the old look
of hound and hunter,
in his hand red chalk,
worn as old scrimshaw,
as violent as murder,
the drawing carved
roughly into the cracks,
fingers fast and blurry,
food stamps in jars
holding open wooden doors.
His eyes were human pink
necrosis, ancient scars,
his face like a legend,
his face of weathered stone.
/bite down on my tongue, trying not
to let another gasp escape through my
lips, trying to show that it doesn't hurt,
doesn't bother me as punches and sharp kicks
rain down mercilessly on me. Though I can't see
my attackers with my eyes closed and head bent
down into my chest for protection, I can feel
their delight. With each cry and gasp, a shiver
of delight goes through them and kicks are re-
newed with more strength, more ferocity. They
don't care that I am hurt; this is only a game to
them. They know they won't get caught just as I
know that this won't be the last time they come
after me. The only difference is that this time
I won't cry out for their sick enjoyment, I tell
myself, but it's hard as one unlucky blow lands
in my gut. I grunt a little and tell myself that
it didn't hurt as they laugh. It didn't hurt, ei-
ther, at least not as much as the cruel words they
keep shouting at me. Words that no one would
ever repeat in front of even the worst company,
or maybe not since they were yelling them at
me. Like poisonous darts, their words hit me,
their venom working into my mind and heart.
Worming its way in deep, so that I believe it too.
Whoever said the sticks and stones bit obviously
never had to go through something like this.
Finally they tire of their fun and with one
last kick to my head they walk away laughing.
I lay there for a while trying to find the will to
move, every part of my body aching. As I sit
up I can still feel each blow, each place that was
kicked, punched, shoved and stepped on. I feel
like an old man as I try to stand up, knowing
that tomorrow I will feel even worse than I do
now. Thankfully nothing seems to be broken
which is a blessing since I wouldn't be able to
pay a doctor's bill. I quickly gather my things,
which my attackers have thrown all over the
ground, some of them smashed and destroyed.
They're not much — a rusted grocery cart, an old
blanket, a few now dented tin cans and a small
number of other things — but they are all I have
in this world.
I pick up my little cloth bag and toss it into
my cart. It used to hold a few dollars in coins
I had managed to scrounge up, but now they're
all gone, spoils for my attackers. I decide it is
best to move to the other side of the park just
in case they choose to come back. I've seen it
happen before, luckily not to me but once I saw
them come back and I hid in the bushes as they
went after another victim. They come here al-
most every night, young men with nothing bet-
ter to do than beat up those who can't defend
themselves. They always come in groups too,
sometimes as many as six at a time. They corner
one of us while the others run and hide, and
thrash us until they grow tired of it and leave.
I've seen it happen too many times to count.
I walk over a couple of yards to pick up my
last treasure, a small music box that managed to
survive the attack. It's metal instead of porce-
lain, like many are, with a figurine of a puppy
that lost its tail long before I found it. Most
people would just have thrown it away or left it,
scratched and dented as it is, but I liked it. It re-
minded me of myself in a way. Before I can pick
it up, though, another hand grabs it and I look
up and see a young man. He's younger than I
am but not by too many years and I can't help
comparing our appearance. His clothes look a
little worn but not nearly as worn as mine. His
skin and hair look healthier too and probably
don't smell like I'm sure mine do. I can tell he
has money or had money. This is the third time
I've seen him here this week, but he's never ap-
proached me or any of the others until tonight.
The young man holds out my music box to
me and smiles. I hesitate for a moment, trying
to understand what he wants. When he doesn't
draw his hand back, I snatch the box away from
him and hurry back over to my cart. I don't
want some stranger touching my treasures. He
looks at me a bit perplexed as I walk away with-
out saying a word. If he was expecting a "thank
you" he's sorely mistaken. Things like that are
few and far between in this world, just another
thing we can't afford. If he's become one of us
he'll learn that too eventually.
He just stands there as I walk away, push-
ing my cart in front of me; I don't look back.
I walk until I am on the other side of the park
and begin going through the garbage looking
for anything still good that someone might have
thrown away. I find a brown paper bag with
the name "Noah" written on the front in blue
permanent marker. Inside I find half a peanut
butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, a fruit roll-
up wrapper and an empty juice box. I take the
sandwich and apple and leave the rest in the
trash. It's not much but it's more than I had
I notice an old baby doll lying at the bot-
tom of the trash basket. Its clothes are torn and
dirty, a few fingers are missing on the right hand
and the hair on its head has a bald spot. I pick it
up and instantly decide to keep it. I never liked
dolls but it seems to smile at me as I place it in
my cart. I feel like a hero to this little doll who
someone else thought was garbage.
It's been about an hour so I wander back
over to the other side of the park. I figure my
attackers won't be coming back at this hour,
plus my bench is over there anyway. I'm al-
most to it when suddenly I hear shouting and
laughter. I hide my cart behind some bushes
and cautiously creep up to where the noises are
coming from. No one sees me but I see them,
six of them. One is on the ground while the oth-
ers stand over him kicking, and punching. The
one on the ground lets out a gasp as he is kicked
on the stomach and I realize it is the young man
from earlier. My attackers, now his, have come
back only to find a new target.
I turn back around, ready to leave before
they notice me as well. I feel no guilt about
leaving the young man to his fate. I'm sure if
we switched places he would do the same. I
think about how that may have been why he
approached me in the first place. Suddenly I
hear a scream and quickly turn back around to
see the young man holding his leg. There is a
knife in one of the attackers' hands. I watch as
the attackers laugh and the one with the knife
tries to stab the man on the ground again. At
the last second the man rolls away but not fast
enough and the knife grazes his shoulder. He
lets out a moan and grabs it and again his at-
I realize that if this continues the young
man may die either from blood loss or a seri-
ous injury that the attackers are sure to inflict
soon. I don't know why but I run towards them
screaming and shrieking at the top of my lungs
as if I have suddenly been possessed. They spin
around with disorientation and confusion paint-
ed on their faces. I pick up some rocks and be-
gin throwing them at the attackers. They hold
up their arms in an attempt to shield themselves
from my attack, then take off running when I
begin to come closer and start throwing larger
When they are finally out of sight I stop yell-
ing and turn my attention to the young man. I
realize he is worse off than I thought. His leg is
bleeding along with his shoulder, nose and hands,
his face is all scratched up and he has a black eye
forming already. I have no idea how much in-
ternal damage there is. He groans again and I
notice he is no longer conscious. I've never seen
a beating this bad before and I grasp he needs to
go to the hospital. I rush back to my cart and pull
it to where the man is. I empty it a little, hiding
my things under a bush and lift: him into it. He's
heavy and I have trouble maneuvering him in as
painlessly as possible but once he is in the cart I
place my blankets around him.
I take oflF then, pushing the cart towards the
closest hospital I know of When I arrive I burst
into the waiting room and everyone turns and
stares at me. One of the nurses rushes over as
I start yelling for help, trying to calm me down
and get me to leave. She only glances down
when I start pointing to the young man in my
cart. A policeman who happens to be in the
room tries grabbing my arm but I pull away,
shouting still. Finally, the young man lets out
another groan and they realize that he's there.
They immediately go to him, realizing that he is
not garbage like they first thought.
Now suddenly everyone is shouting and a
few other nurses rush over to the young man.
They are lifting him out of the cart and on to a
stretcher. They take him away and I am forgot-
ten for a moment. I slowly take my cart while
they are distracted and leave the way I came.
When they finally remember me I will be long
gone. As I'm walking away an ambulance speeds
past me, its sirens blasting as goes towards the
hospital. When I finally make it back to the
park I place my things back into my cart then
lay down and close my eyes. I fall asleep to the
sound of sirens in the distance. ♦♦♦
^ k ^ uring the summer months when I was a
/ J teenager, my friends and I had a certain
JL — ^ meeting spot where we would always
end our Saturday nights. A country crossroads sur-
rounded by tobacco fields, no homes for nearly three
miles in any direction; the isolation made it the per-
fect location for our shenanigans without disrupt-
ing the peace that comes with a quiet country night.
One corner of the crossroads was a small grass plot,
roughly one-half acre in size, with two old tobacco
barns. This was our spot where we parked to em-
bellish our stories on the grass between the barns.
The two tobacco barns were of the kind rarely seen
now but once were numerous across eastern North
Carolina — tall, mostly constructed of wood, square
in shape, usually no more than thirty feet by thirty
feet. One barn leaned slightly due to a busted sup-
port beam. We dubbed this barn "The Leaning Barn
of Tobacco," a bunch of farm boys trying to show
off our education and razor sharp wit. No one else
thought the name was all that fianny.
A typical Saturday night at the barns start-
ed around 11:30 and could last well into the wee
morning hours. After dropping off our dates (if we
were lucky enough to con some girl into actually ac-
companying us out), we would gather at the barns.
Ladies were not brought to the barns: this was our
men's club. The only light we had, other than our
headlights, was the moon and stars. Most of our
vehicles had quite a few years on them before we ac-
quired them, so using the headlight as a light source
was almost never done; besides, we knew what we
looked like. Sitting on the hoods of our cars or the
tailgates of our trucks, the evening news was de-
livered, and some of the dumbest jokes known to
man were told. One such comical gem goes like
this, "How many hunting dogs can you fit into a
phone booth?" The punch line was decided by the
joke's teller, "23" but the next time the joke was told
the number may only be "7." Not exactly Saturday
Night Live material. Looking back, it was great!
One August Saturday night, a vehicle pulled up
to "our" barns, and someone inside yelled, "Hey,
what are you guys doing on this piece of proper-
ty?" We tried to determine which of our buddies
was using an unknown car to try and pull a prank.
but after a few seconds of intense staring, we real-
ized we didn't recognize car or driver. At first there
was nothing but the sound of the crickets and the
running engine of the unknown vehicle. No one
spoke for close to a full minute, and then as if I was
somehow secretly elected the spokesman of our club,
I replied, "Who is that?" The stranger seemed an-
noyed with my response and yelled back, "None of
your damn business! Why are you guys here?" By
this time I had slid off the hood of my white 1976
Camaro with a suavity and country cockiness that
would have made the Duke boys of Hazzard County
proud and began my strut towards the stranger's ve-
hicle. The light provided by the moon and stars was
not very bright, and I was still unable to recognize
the stranger in the car.
As I got closer, I realized there were two people
in the vehicle, not one as I had originally assumed,
and a little of the cockiness went out of my walk.
Once I reached the driver's side window and leaned
down a little to see in, I realized the second passenger
was in fact a woman. The previously lost cockiness
now returned. I also realized I knew this woman,
sort of anyway; she worked for my dad at a local
farm supply store. She was the living definition of a
wild woman, and I had always thought she would be
the perfect woman to answer a few questions I had
concerning the opposite sex. She was in her early
twenties, her makeup overdone, her hair fluffed-up
and wild. Her cleavage was in full view, and her cut-
off jean shorts were cut short enough that you could
just make out the edge of her underwear. She wasn't
quite in the same league as Daisy Duke, cousin of
the previously mentioned Duke boys of Hazzard
County, but she was close enough for me. I had to
maintain my cockiness!
I have no idea how long I had been standing
there, both my hands on the edge of the driver's
door window, looking at her when the driver yelled,
"HEY!" I quickly snapped out of my teenage fan-
tasy world and looked him squarely in the eyes, real-
izing I knew him as well — not on a friendly basis,
just by reputation. He was known as a hot-head, al-
ways looking for trouble, and me looking right past
him and staring at his passenger didn't do anything
to soften his demeanor. Once again he asked, in a
louder, now aggravated tone, "Why the hell are you
guys sitting here?" I replied, in a very calm and even
voice, "It's ok, we know the owner of this land and
he knows we hang out here on Saturday nights." I
am still not sure if it was what I said or how I said it,
but that is when he reached below the seat.
I first saw the grip of the pistol, brown with
wood grain pattern. The grip also had grooves for
each individual to help the shooter maintain a prop-
er grip during firing. I clearly remember thinking,
"I am about to get shot and those grips are going to
help him with accuracy." Once the pistol was fully
removed from under the car's seat, accuracy would
not have been very hard to achieve since there were
less than eight inches from the tip of my nose to exit
point of the gun's barrel. Next, the bullet chamber
and barrel revealed themselves, both gray. The pis-
tol itself looked like a cheaper model, those wood
grain grips were obviously plastic, but I could see the
heads of the bullets in the cylindrical chamber, and
I had no doubt it could get the job done. The term
Saturday Night Special had never meant that much
to me before, but now I fiiUy understood.
My brain was beyond overload. My flight or
fight response kicked in, but I couldn't run; Daisy
Duke was sitting right there, and my buddies were
watching from about thirty feet away. I couldn't
fight either. He had a gun for God's sake, and I
hadn't even brought a knife to this gun fight. My
brain struggled against itself, trying to make the best
decision to save both ego and life. Every muscle
tensed from indecision. It was at this point I real-
ized the driver was saying something to me, I could
see his lips moving, but I couldn't hear any words,
nor could I hear the running car engine or the chirp-
ing crickets, nothing. My eyes became fixed on the
pistol's trigger and his finger, resting there awaiting
I could easily tell by his facial expression, squint-
ed eyes, and furrowed brow that whatever he was
saying to me was not meant to be used in church the
following Sunday morning, but still I could not hear
a word. After what was only a few minutes of con-
stant lip movement, he placed the pistol back under
the seat, snatched the car's gear shifter into drive,
and flattened the gas pedal to the floorboard. Both
he and Daisy were gone. I stood there attempting
to regain control of my racing thoughts, took a very
deep breath, said a quiet prayer, and walked back
over to my buddies with the same cockiness I used
walking away. To this day I have no idea what he
said to me, and I never saw Daisy again; she quit
the farm supply store the following week. My bud-
dies were all amazed at what they had just witnessed.
I had stared down the barrel of a gun and walked
away unharmed. The fact that they did not know I
was completely frozen with fear and confusion has
always been my little secret. All they knew was that
I had stood my ground in the face of danger and
planted our flag on our spot! ❖
I'm on a quest to find myself,
To reveal my true face,
To reveal my soul
To reveal my dreams,
To reveal my love.
To find my desire that hides within my mask.
To find w^hy I hide my soul from the outside.
To find the key that hides within my heart and unlock
The chamber in which my passions are held prisoner.
To find why I must find myself is to find me.
The gunshot fires
To the rhythm of my sobs.
The tears from my eyes
And my mourning heart
March down my cheeks
As in a bright brigade.
The longing shifts restlessly
In a redirected attack,
Just under the surface of my wet eyes.
And I know that renewed clarity
is taking me there.
To a revolution
Heather Ay cock
Tornado touches down on windy street
as sudsing washer hums
rain cascades diagonally blowing sheets
whilst thunder drums.
I place on plastic hangers clothes to dry
retire as Clock ticks Tomorrow night
behind locked doors til day arrives
pleated skirt and tee behind which to hide.
It's so dark as I stand by myself
cold, desolate, unforgiving,
unyielding to that which is my nature
the scars too deep the pain too near
I push all away in constant fear.
"Let the darkness take me," I say,
no longer feeling the strength to keep it at bay.
My frame sways, vision swimming,
driven to my knees by the heavy burden.
In the void I heard the call soft and light
that sent familiar warmth into my soul now broken
at first ignoring it, content on letting the pain
I suffered destroy me completely.
Then a shining light thrust into my life,
an outstretched hand reached down into the depths
appearing before me a being shrouded
in light and wings of shadow
my gaze blank as the burdens were lifted
and the fear began to dispel.
Finding my will knowing even past death
I would follow, for in her
I felt she could fill my empty hollow.
By her side I stayed for protection, for help,
and aid of any form, but also for a love
that I feared would never come.
The time did come, it almost seemed like fate,
broke open our hearts and shared a passionate embrace.
My fear no longer present, I looked forward to the future
and failed to notice that her demons stayed with her.
Hidden from view by a smile and empty promises,
fed by doubt and fear, she was pulled away
as I was forced to watch in the distance.
Eventually I was left to stand alone again
not on the edge of oblivion as before,
my ghmmer gone I returned to stone
making the despair in which once again I reside,
my unholy sanctum in which I hide.
rhe actions of children influence the
direction in which their Uves will
inevitably flow. For most children
it is impossible to view the big picture that is
life. Children can only see the moment they
are living in. No matter how many times adults
caution children; their minds cannot conquer
anything life throws at them. It is not until chil-
dren reach adulthood that they can look back
down the timeline of their life and see exactly
where it all started going wrong.
As a child my brother, Nathan, had a ten-
dency to act out in class. Teachers tend to just
punish a child for misbehaving rather than look
for the root of the problem. Had one teacher
bothered, he or she would have ascertained that
Nathan could not read. By the time Nathan
was in second grade, he had discovered that if he
acted out, the teachers would send him out of
class. Nathan would rather be in trouble than
let his friends and classmates know he could not
read. In Georgia the school system has a say-
ing, "no child left behind," which literally trans-
lates to all children are promoted to the next
grade whether they deserve to be of not. Na-
than spent more time in the principal's office
and in-school suspension than in his classroom;
therefore, he fell even farther behind. Once a
child has been labeled a troublemaker, teachers
cannot or will not see past this; the child is a
lost cause from this point on. Sometime around
the fourth or fifth grade our mother put him in
a private school. At this point Nathan was so
convinced that there was no other way to get
through school that he continued to be a nui-
sance every day, all day. Therefore, nothing had
changed except for the location.
As a preteen he was put back into the public
school system. His behavior caused him to be
kicked out of every school that he was trans-
ferred to. Finally, the board of education said
enough is enough. By this time the board of
education had set up a school for children of
all ages who were labeled trouble. This meant
a troubled fifth grader would be in classes with
a troubled eleventh grader. Nathan was con-
stantly coming home bruised from fighting. At
some point in this school year some police of-
ficers came to Nathan's school to look for drugs.
One of Nathan's so-called older friends just hap-
pened to have a joint on him that day. Being
younger and not quite as bright as the other boy,
Nathan agreed to hold onto it for the older boy.
Needless to say, Nathan was found in possession
of the marijuana. He was only in the sixth grade
when he was arrested for possession of an illegal
substance on school property. Our mother was
new to the whole legal system; being naive, she
did not get him an attorney, and on top of that
she told him just to tell the truth. Nathan told
the truth and got sent off^ for a year to a juvenile
While at this facility Nathan endured more
pain than most of us can only imagine. He was
raped repeatedly while he was there. When Na-
than returned home, what good was in him had
all but vanished. The system had taken a bro-
ken child and sent home a shattered teenager.
We knew something had happened, but he just
would not open up to anyone. Our mother took
him to many psychologists to get him help; still
Nathan would not open up. This left the doc-
tors with only two choices: dope the child up or
let him stay the way he was. This was the begin-
ning of Nathan's love affair with drugs.
When it came time for Nathan to go back to
school, the school district would not allow him
to enroll, forcibly making him a drop out in the
eighth grade. During his early years he was a
pupil at every private school in the county; thus,
they did not want him back. Our mother and
his father had long since been divorced, leav-
ing Nathan in a one-parent family. Around the
age of fourteen, Nathan was home alone most
of the time with all the pretty colored pills the
doctor had prescribed. Unsupervised, Nathan
began experimenting with drugs and girls. For
more than ten years Nathan could not keep a
girlfriend longer than a week. They did not
leave him; he always kicked them to the curb.
Nathan had his first child around the age of fif-
teen, a little girl named Nadia.
As a young adult Nathan's life really did not
see much improvement. We had another broth-
er, John Mark. John Mark died when Nathan
was a young adult. After a loss like that, a whole
man can be crushed; there is not a word strong
enough to explain what a loss of this magnitude
can do to an already shattered young man. We
were all so crushed at this point that there was
no way for any of us to be there for Nathan. It
was all we could do just to get ourselves through
the day. Nathan returned to jail many more
times and got a few more girls pregnant. At the
local jail house he is known as a frequent flier,
meaning he was regularly in and out of their fa-
Nathan is now in his early thirties. He still
lives at home with our mother. However, he
does leave for a week or two to go shack up with
his flavor of the week. I should note Nathan is
married however; they were only together for less
than one month before she left. Nathan is an
alcoholic, and he eats Xanax (doctor prescribed)
on a daily basis like they are candy. Nathan has
been to jail more than thirty times. Nathan has
five children that we know of He only gets to
see one of the five on a regular basis: his oldest,
Nadia. If it was not for our mother, he would
not even have contact with Nadia.
Ml of this could have been avoided if his
teacher had only taken the time to find out what
was causing a boy of seven to misbehave on a
daily basis. It is negligent for a school board
to promote moving children forward to grades
they are not ready for. Had just one person
from the school district been there for him, he
could have had a totally different life. ♦♦♦
FrozenWater Fountain at The First Pentecostal Holiness Church in Goldsboro
Connor Hardy ^
Sitting around the kitchen table,
my grandmother, my mother, and me.
Smells of home cooking fill the air.
Listening to stories about days past.
People and places long since forgotten
returning to our thoughts in memories.
I remember when I was a little girl.
How I longed to be at this table
Wishing for the day when I would
be old enough to sit and take my place.
Now, I long for the time when I was small.
My head in my mother's lap as she rocked me.
Only pretending to fall asleep so I could listen.
Praying for the day when
I would be just like them.
Days long gone, memories to cherish,
dreams to pass on.
One day there will be a 4th generation.
To come and sit and fill her soul with the
sepia lineage of family and friends.
Every woman has a life with a song to sing, but still I don't cry if life isn't fair. I guarantee that life
can't hold a bowl of knowledge that didn't fit our full, stubby size. I call the gospel of truth to be
announced like a debut of song where everyone could have the greatest love of all. People, listen to
us, and listen to the craft we build of our song, song, sooooooooooong! True, that.
Life's Unexpected Changes
June 2007 was a very hot and sultry day.
I arrived home and made my way up-
stairs into my apartment. Once I got
inside, I felt exhausted. My heart was pound-
ing. I thought to myself, maybe the reason that
I am breathing so heavily is because I am out of
shape. I remember holding my chest and think-
ing, something is not right. My boyfriend re-
pUed, "You should go to the doctor for a physi-
cal." I just put it in the back of my mind and
continued putting the groceries away. A couple
of months went by, and I was looking for a new
job. I applied at Sunrise Assisted Living, which
was a retirement home. I had interviewed and
was asked to take a TB skin test, which was re-
quired in order to work for the company. I was
hired and immediately started training. I grew
very fond of my new job. I worked hard, inter-
acted with the residents, and worked overtime,
even on weekends. One afternoon when I ar-
rived at work, I felt an uncomfortable sensation
in my chest. I decided to take my temperature.
It was 102 degrees. I just casually took two Ty-
lenols and went back to work. I said to myself,
Tina, your shift is almost over. Tomorrow you
can go to the emergency room. The next morn-
ing I was seen at the Pineville Medical Center
and treated for bronchitis. I still managed to
work and take my medication. Over the course
of two weeks, I didn't see much improvement.
I returned to the emergency department and
was told I had pneumonia. I just recall feel-
ing disappointed. I had never been hospitalized
before and besides, I was ready to get back to
work. I stayed in the hospital for three days and
was sent home on antibiotics. I also was told to
drink plenty of fluids. Meanwhile, I was stuck
sitting home feeling terrible. I could not Ue
down without feeling as though my lungs were
going to collapse; all I could think was. What in
the world in going on with me^
Stage One: Confusion — I was having a hard
time grasping the fact that I was hospitalized
and taking antibiotics for almost a month, and
still there were no changes in my condition. I
quickly returned to the emergency department
to report shortness of breath. The nurse took
my vitals and noticed I was already in the hos-
pital's system. "You were here recently, weren't
you?" "Yes!" I replied. I was informed that it
would be necessary for me to stay for further
evaluation. The process started all over again. I
was hooked up to machines and received antibi-
otics through an IV. After being in my room for
several hours I was told I would have a minor
procedure done called a bronchoscopy, where
a flexible tube containing a fiber optic camera
would be inserted down my throat. A small
sample of lung tissue would be sent off^ to the
lab to look for specific organisms. The doctor
came back and told me she had the results from
the chest x-ray and bronchoscopy.
Stage Two: Relief — I would finally have an
answer. I was told I had inflammation in my
lungs, and because of the itchy reddish purple
bumps on my knees, it was possible I had Sor-
coidosis. It is characterized by the development
and growth of tiny clumps of inflammatory cells
in diff^erent areas of your body, most commonly
the lung, but sometimes other parts of the body
as well. The doctor informed me that I had to
take Prednisone, which is a corticosteroid that
would help with my breathing and inflamma-
tion in my lungs. I was discharged and sent
home to follow up with a specialist. I automati-
cally assumed I would get better after taking the
steroids. I was wrong.
Stage Three: Frustration — ^A couple of weeks
went by, and my fever returned. My lungs pro-
ceeded to get worse, and those reddish purple
bumps were spreading all over my left leg and
elbows. Once again I returned to the emergency
room, where I was admitted. The doctors had
no clue what was wrong with me, so they just
concentrated on getting my fever to subside. I
was hospitalized for five days and was becoming
very agitated. I was four hours away from fami-
ly, and in desperate need of them. My boyfriend
suggested I check out of Pineville Medical Cen-
ter and into Pitt Memorial Hospital. I agreed
because I would have more support and maybe
the whole process might move a little faster for
me. Once I arrived at Pitt Memorial Hospital,
I had some of the same tests repeated. I was be-
ing treated by a rheumatologist who specializes
in autoimmune diseases.
The rheumatologist was reviewing my re-
cords and came to the conclusion that my symp-
toms were similar to Lupus, an autoimmune
disease which causes your immune system to
attack healthy cells and tissues. Lupus can also
damage many parts of the body. I just wanted
closure. Could this be Lupus? My rheumatolo-
gist suggested I have an open lung biopsy to
confirm the diagnoses for Lupus. I refused and
was discharged and sent home with another pre-
scription for Prednisone. I could no longer walk
without feeling as if I was going to pass out. I
went to a primary doctor and was told that my
oxygen levels were only at about 72%. I needed
to be on oxygen at all times until further notice.
I made an appointment to see the rheumatolo-
gist. We had a disagreement about how much
time had been wasted and both agreed the best
thing for me was to be readmitted back into the
hospital for the open lung biopsy. The biopsy
never confirmed if I had Lupus, but the rheu-
matologist was certain it was Lupus. I was dis-
charged and sent home with a new medication
to take along with the prednisone.
Stage Four: Depression and Anger — Even-
tually, I returned back home to Charlotte, North
Carolina where I had some improvement on in-
home oxygen and portable oxygen tanks. I was
in my early twenties and already taking medica-
tion and on oxygen. Just when I thought things
could not get any worse I broke out in a rash
all over my body. Depression kicked into high
gear. I didn't want to be bothered. I would not
answer my phone for days. I stayed in the house
for weeks. I only went to doctor's appointments.
My skin had dark splotches everywhere, on my
chest, back, arms, and neck. Dry yellowish skin
flaked from my face. I picked at my face con-
tinuously, which made it much worse. I tried
prescription creams and lotions that dermatolo-
gists prescribed for me, but nothing seemed to
work. I was itching all the time. I scratched
my armpits until they became so infected they
would drain pus. I had an open lesion in be-
tween the creases of my groin and buttocks. I
felt like a monster. I became so suicidal that I
was unable to sleep. I vividly remember lying
in the bed trying to sleep but I was unable to. I
could only hear the harsh sounds of growling in
my ear. The growling was so intense I could feel
the breath from the demons literally on my ear
which had me so uneasy. I thought I was going
insane. I was being tormented. I cried out to
God and asked for help.
Stage Five: Acceptance — Finally I went to
see one last rheumatologist, who diagnosed me
with mixed connective tissue disease, an uncom-
mon autoimmune disorder that causes overlap-
ping features of primarily three diseases: Lupus,
scleroderma, and polymositis. People with
mixed connective tissue disease are often first
diagnosed with Lupus. I continued taking my
medication although I still had another setback.
On my birthday, July 9, 2008, I was admitted
into the hospital for severe nausea and vomiting,
sinusitis, acute renal failure, and malnutrition. I
was so fragile and drained that doctors were un-
sure about my prognosis, but with the help of
my father and support from my family, I began
to fight like a lioness fighting for her cubs. I had
no clue what I would come to endure.
In the end, I would come to learn that in
life you will experience certain challenges that
will take you through many different stages, but
those events are shaping and molding you into
a greater person. I truly believe that I had to
endure all of this is order to learn how to have
more patience. Maybe I will help someone else
with my story, ♦t*
Tools of the trade:
Three tails of a mouse
Silhouette of Iwo Jima
A cup of coffee
The last three hours
someday we'll dream again
you are my friend
to be celebrated
laugh if you must if my pains give you pleasure
nothing meant to stay will fall
he said he loves me
and the strangers danced
I wish violence ended like nightmares do
declining into love
A day in the life
Set the stage, take off
Paris 1945, autumn, Champs-Elysees —
Jason the cowboy knight, Shetland pony
Magic lights, thunder cloud, curious dog
Chance encounter — a girl and her snake
"Who am I?"
The forbidden bacchanal dropping forever green
Thirst, life blood, turn and twist
Death of a dream, the end of the day
Show down, bloody tears
Forget here — here, there be monsters.
The Cabin of Oz:
Biscuits and coffee?
Sunday morning conversion?
Subway faces !
My good sense lost in my head.
From Civilian to Marine Recruit
rhe US Marine Corps is a military or-
ganization: it does not work if it is
staffed with civilians. It must turn ci-
vilian volunteers into Marines, but before it can
turn them into Marines, it must first turn them
into recruits for the purpose of initial training.
The recruit is taught that he or she is less than
all those around him, civilian or Marine. The
civilian aspects are stripped away and torn down
to leave the raw recruit, who is then rebuilt into
a Marine. The first thirty-six hours are the most
important part of this process. It is a psycho-
logical assault, a dehumanizing approach to re-
move any sense of self-worth or individuality.
All the senses are attacked and the comfort zone
This process begins the moment the bus or
van carrying the civilian volunteers enters onto
the base. The slow drive through the base to
the processing building builds an ominous sus-
pense, intensified by warnings of the driver and
chaperone of what will transpire. Most arriv-
als are planned for dusk and late into the night
as sleep deprivation is a key part of the attack
on the psyche. As soon as the vehicle arrives in
front of the processing building, drill instruc-
tors spring into action. The quiet of the bus is
shattered by screaming drill instructors simul-
taneously shouting contradictory and comple-
mentary orders as they grab and shove the soon
to be recruits out of their seats and into neat
rows, feet planted firmly on the infamous "yel-
low footprints." Even after all volunteers are out
onto the yellow footprints, the drill instructors
continue their verbal and physical assaults. The
volunteers are given warnings about what is ex-
pected from them and that quick obedience to
orders is all that matters.
From the yellow footprints the volunteers
are rushed through the large double doors into
the processing building and lined up in a near-
by hallway where they make a quick phone call
home to deliver a standard message that they have
arrived safely and will send further word when
allowed. They are then herded into a classroom
to wait for the rest of the volunteers, who will
be arriving during the next twelve hours. Large
bodies are crammed into tiny chairs and heads
are ordered down onto the desk, a cramped and
uncomfortable position to maintain for hours.
Any noise or attempt to look around attracts the
wrath of the attendant and passing drill instruc-
Then, exhaustion and subsequent disorien-
tation set in, as well as self-doubt about the wis-
dom of the person who has immersed himself
or herself in this situation. During the course
of the night, more and more civilians trickle in,
shocked and disoriented, having gone through
the same sequence of events but even later into
what should be their sleep time. There is no
clock and only small windows in the room, so
those without a watch are at the mercy of their
imaginations concerning the passage of time. It
is tempting to stare as the other volunteers ar-
rive, but no one wants to draw the ire of the
drill instructors. Eventually, the room is full
and faint light begins to show in the small win-
At this point, fresh drill instructors are un-
leashed on the disheveled and bleary-eyed vol-
unteers. Personal items are demanded from
pockets to be held in storage for the duration of
boot camp, and threats are invoked, enumerat-
ing legal consequences of hiding any past mis-
deeds from the Corps, regardless of what the re-
cruiter counseled (recruiters make sure nothing
serious shows up in official records, and then
advise potential recruits not to say anything
about any other possible legal troubles in their
personal history). Various potential recruits
will come forward to list past sins, lest they be
found out later. Only after the recruit gets out
of boot-camp does he or she find out there was
almost no way for the military to find out any-
thing the recruiter didn't, which is why the re-
cruiters counsel what they do.
Once this part is out of the way, potential
recruits are herded over and through one ad-
ministrative hurdle and hoop after another. Pa-
per work must be signed off and personal effects
must be catalogued and stored away. Military
gear and personal care items of all types must
be catalogued, issued, and stored. All of this
is accomplished for hundreds of fresh potential
recruits in a matter of two days with machine-
like efficiency. From one station to the next,
bewildered and exhausted teens are shifted and
handed a new external identity, one that will
take the next three months or more to be inter-
The most agonizing and striking part of this
process other than the initial arrival is "The First
Haircut," in which the hair is reduced to a buzz
cut. The boot camp haircut accomplishes three
things. The first and most important aspect of
the haircut is to accomplish the same thing the
uniform accomplishes: uniformity. There is no
room for individuality in a military unit, and
different hair lengths and styles are a primary
source of expressing individuality. A second ac-
complishment is hygienic in nature. Living un-
der harsh conditions and in close proximity is a
breeding ground for all sorts of bugs, like lice,
and germs. Removing a potentially conducive
environment for lice is healthy. A third accom-
plishment is the degrading aspect of the actual
haircut as the practically robotic military bar-
bers roughly shear the still exhausted potential
recruits with all the care of a butcher chopping
meat. It is only the extremely fortunate who
emerge from the chair without nasty cuts and
scrapes across the scalp, and none emerge with
any hair to speak of
By the end of the first thirty-six hours, the
new Marine recruit is allowed to crash into bed
as a transformed entity. Gone is the individual,
with his or her personal style of dress and ac-
centuation. It its place, at least through appear-
ance, is a uniform cog in the military machine.
From head to toe, he or she looks like the other
unit members to the left and right. Now that
the process of turning the civilian into a recruit
is complete, the process of turning the recruit
into a Marine may begin. ♦♦♦
US Flag Over Confederate Fortress
He's a likeable heart just to say, mama, dada. Snuggling up in blankets is the only world he knew, just
to rest in his bed thinking about peace, and in peace he cares to stay. Many road parks, lanes, district
schools, and highways are where his friends are rhyming and rapping along just to know the ABC's.
He stretches his arms of love to know where his parents be. The little tyke hears a familiar call, "Sun
Bear, papa's here. Time to come home." What else you see in him, a child's place is where he rests and
plays, he could come out any other day. To all Sun bears just be true, remember; you're just a child —
don't grow too soon.
Grandmom and Son Nicole Denise
^ a * he day was too hot, the stillness in-
^ / side the house too hollow to do any-
thing else. Aaron opened the screen
door to the sound of cicadas calling
like a rattlesnake's hum in the distance, sweep-
ing his hair out of his face as he checked his
watch. Four-thirteen. An hour and a half until
Scott would be home from his girlfriend's house,
the rumble of the exhaust barely quieted before
their mother pulled into the driveway. Scott
didn't give a damn what Aaron did as long as he
kept quiet, and the sunbleached grass just felt
like thorns when it brushed his toes, through his
sandals. The bike was a beat-up hand-me-down,
but anything was better than the house.
Aaron discovered the path that winter,
through sheer boredom, a longing for anything.
A lone pane of unbroken glass had flashed at
him through the trees, and he had made out
the remains of a driveway over a drainage ditch.
A path leading into nothing, the nothing of a
weatherbeaten one-story, windows like lifeless
eyes. Aaron had no idea whose land it was, or
if it even belonged to anyone, or if anything re-
mained inside. It was only a destination at the
edge of the town, and that was good enough.
Everything good was gone. The planks of
the porch had been pulled up, leaving a strange
grid of rotting supports. A splintered gap in the
roof let in a shaft of sunlight, burning off a pool
of rancid rainwater. Aaron shouldered through
the quiet, hands in his pockets. In a graffiti-
stained corner he found a pile of crushed beer
cans, the butt-ends of cigarettes, a tattered lawn
chair. All the panes of glass in the house were
broken now. That last reflection, that burst of
brilliance like the beam of a lighthouse in the
stillness, had been gone for months. Holes in
the walls showed where the house had been
looted for copper, for anything left, besides a
sagging recliner upholstered in drab brown and
white. Even the seat had been torn as though
the promise of a single penny dropped from an
unsuspecting pocket hadn't been passed up.
"Hey! Hold still."
Aaron's head jerked up and he tossed his
hair out of his face again, mouth set. He glanced
back at the ruined porch he'd had to pick over,
judging the distance to the bike, before he
squared his shoulders. The puddles were easy to
avoid, but the muted creaking beneath some of
his steps made his footfalls light.
They were in the backyard, the pair of them,
a boy and girl. The boy looked to be a year older
than Aaron, the girl a year or two younger. They
were in the doorway of a sagging barn, holding
something up into the light, squinting at it. It
reminded Aaron of the dusty smeared glass in
his grandfather's garage, bottles of ancient cola
with names he didn't recognize — the reek of
the chewing tobacco, warm and viscous in red
plastic cups. Aaron shuddered, then opened the
back door, his gaze locked to the pair of them.
The grin on the boy's face dropped into a
small smile, quick as an eyeblink. "Hi," he said,
as the girl began to move behind him, her arms
crossing over her chest. Her grin was gone like
it had never been.
"Hey," Aaron said.
"This your place?"
"Sure," Aaron said, leaning against the back
door frame. The only appliance left in the aban-
doned kitchen was a rusted-out chest freezer
older than Aaron's mother. "Sorry the butler
didn't greet you, it's his day off."
The girl covered a snicker behind one hand,
her fingertips ending in unpolished nails, a fist-
ful of black bangles wide against her slender
wrist. "Shame," she said, dropping her hand
again. The grin was gone, but the corner of her
mouth had turned up.
Aaron was ten minutes late getting home,
but so was Scott, so neither of them cared.
The first real day of summer. Jack was going
to come by with Bren and they were going to go
somewhere, anywhere other than this town.
As a joke. Jack and Bren had helped Aaron
sweep the beer cans out, to clear up the rainwa-
ter, but they'd gravitated back there four days
later, then spent all the lazy days of summer
they could there, bringing the cheap frozen sug-
ar-water popsicles their mothers kept stashed in
the bottom of the freezer, the ice melting practi-
cally as soon as they opened them. It was their
place until the first really cold day, until the day
half the roof fell in and Jack nearly fell through
a rotting floorboard, and then they just huddled
together in the kitchen, blowing on their fin-
gers and daring each other to stay until dark and
enter the pitch-black barn without a flashlight.
They made up elaborate ghost stories, about In-
dian burial grounds and abandoned sad-eyed
widows, blood feuds and desperate thieves, un-
til the words just fell into the soft tilt and sway
of their bodies as they watched the camp lantern
and wished for anything else.
Aaron wasted time, wasted and wasted until
the light was dying, and then the phone rang.
The voice on the other end, rushed, feminine,
asked if Aaron's mother was home, and when
he stammered through the negative, she took a
"It's awful. It's awfiil."
Aaron got on his bike after that, pedal-
ing until he was drawing air so rapid it rasped
against his throat, standing as he pounded down
the pedals. He knew she was there, and she was;
Bren stood in the shadow of the barn, her head
down, even once Aaron walked up to her, his
hands in his pockets.
There were no words in him. Aaron had
been so full of words, so many lies and dreams.
but that was nothing in the face of this.
She looked up at him, her fingers digging
white crescent-moons into her wrist, her eyes
drowning. Nothing and everything. Jack was
Nothing and everything.
Aaron nodded, digging his hands harder
into his pockets. He took a deep breath, glanc-
ing over at the house, the rotting, tumbled-
Scott was never going to miss the lighter,
and Aaron knew that. Aaron took it out and
flicked it on, and the fire danced, reflected in
Bren's drowning eyes. He reached over and took
her hand, and the white crescents turned blood-
red, but she followed as they walked to the sag-
ging back porch and sat down on the steps one
"I want to burn it down. I want to burn ev-
"That won't fix it."
Bren shrugged. "It's that or me," she whis-
pered. "I feel like I'm falling and there's no
Slowly, Aaron wrapped his hand around
hers. "Then I will be." ♦♦♦
Cloud Over Wayne County
M (till (I, I LieJ
Mama asked me a question tonight and
Mama told me to be honest with her
but I still hed
Mama I have a secret to tell,
but I'm scared
Mama I really want to tell you
but I don't want you to be mad at me
Mama if I tell, what will happen. . .
Mama I'm sorry I lied to you,
I'm sorry I'm keeping secrets from you
even though you said be honest
Mama I'm sorry I just can't tell you right now
but I promise I wdll tell you soon
But I know it's gonna hurt me to tell you the truth
It hurts me to lie to you and to hurt you by lying
Mama, please say that you love me and
I'm sorry that I lied
The Sons and Daughters of Middle Earth Four: Rise of the Shanobie Wolf Clan
Chapter 1 - Mileena's Choice and Sentwoa's
Tears after Milia and Sentwoa were
wed, things started to change. A
new age had started to awaken: the
age of the Shanobie wolf clan, a dark and
dangerous clan of wolf warriors far more
dangerous than the Sindikye wolf clan. Their
purpose was not to enslave, but to battle un-
til the end of time. Sentwoa, the wolf em-
peror who had completed his journey, was
reminded that after the Sword of Alexander
was brought back to the grave of Alexander,
Alexander's presence was somewhat brought
back to life. It came to pass that when Alex-
ander's sword was returned, he himself was
reborn back to his old self, somewhere in
the forest of time and peace. Sentwoa was
amazed to hear this report from one of his
generals, who came back from the forest and
said to Sentwoa, "My lord, I have witnessed
a man who somehow has been reborn. It
is Alexander himself, the one who was also
known as the shadow knight Lord Reign."
"This is amazing, but how is it that this
warrior, my old friend, can come back to
life?" said Sentwoa, looking confused.
"Because, my lord, his sword had some
kind of power surrounding it when he came
back to life. Should I have my men go and
get him there in the forest? He is still there
even as we speak," said the general.
"Yes, send some of your riders to go and
pick him up. Bring him to me when he gets
here. Go now," said Sentwoa.
The general sent out his five riders to
go and pick up Alexander. When Mileena
heard this, she was surprised to know that
her old love, the love of her life, had come
"My queen," said Sentwoa, "Alexander
has returned. It seems his sword had some
sort of power to bring him back to life."
"I see. This is wonderful to know," said
Mileena. She was so happy and she wanted
so badly to go back to him, but she was al-
ready married to Sentwoa.
A few hours later, Alexander came into
the throne room of Sentwoa and Mileena.
They were watching him as he came down
the way. Mileena's heart started to beat
harder than before, as if her old feelings for
Alexander were coming back to her.
"My friend. It is good to see you alive.
Welcome back," said Sentwoa. He went
from his throne to Alexander and hugged
him and said, "This is a great day; my friend
and ally, back from the dead. How do you
feel, my friend?" asked Sentwoa.
"Ah, Sentwoa. It is good to see you as
well. I see that the prophecy has been ful-
filled, and you and. . .oh, Mileena. It is good
to see you again, too. I am glad you did
this for us all and for me. Thank you," said
When Alexander saw Mileena, his blood
began to stir, his heart began to beat faster,
and he wanted so much to hold her again.
"Alexander, my old love. I am glad you
are back. May I see you a moment, alone?"
"Of course, Mileena. I mean, your maj-
esty," said Alexander.
They went into the hall, and after a mo-
ment, Mileena hugged Alexander in her
arms. She didn't want to let go, but Alex-
ander said, "No, your majesty. We must
"Shhhh... don't call me that. I missed
you so much. It's been thousands of years
since I held you in my arms. You were all
I could think about ever since you died.
Please hold me," said Mileena.
"I can't. You are with my friend Sent-
woa, and I told you, this is what had to hap-
pen. Yes I do want to hold you in my arms
again, but no matter how much I want to, I
can't, it wouldn't be right. Sentwoa is. . ."
"Sentwoa is not the one I love more.
You are! Don't you see? We are meant to be
together. I need you and I want you," said
"How can you say that after all this time?
I thought I made it clear to you that you
were meant to be with him. It was hard for
me to admit it, but it's the truth. You can't
just leave him. It will break his heart, and
I know that because I saw the anger in him
when I fought as lord reign. I saw fire in his
eyes, more determined than anyone I have
seen in my life. I never had that look before.
Please, try to understand. He loves you. He
has always loved you. More than anyone,
even me," said Alexander.
"I know that. But still, I love you more.
Please don't leave me," said Mileena. "I love
you more than anything. I wanted to run
to you the moment I saw you. Please let
But before she could finish, Sentwoa
entered the hall. He noticed Mileena and
spoke to her and said, "So, you were never
in love with me, were you?" said Sentwoa,
looking at Mileena. "Why didn't you tell
me you still loved him? You could have.
And now I...argh...ahh. Sorry, but I have
to go," said Sentwoa, before running away.
"Oh no. Not him. Not now," said Al-
Alexander saw the look in Sentwoa's eyes.
It was the look of the Shanobie wolf
"What is it, Alexander? Why did Sent-
woa run?" asked Mileena.
"He heard us. The wolf warriors have
strong hearing and strong senses. They can
hear anything from a far distance, to miles
away from a city. When he heard you and
me talking, my guess is that the Shanobie
wolf inside him started to awaken."
"But that's impossible. How could that
happen to him? I know what I said was the
truth, but... now I know why. He is mad
at me for saying what I said," said Mileena,
Mileena was upset with herself for what
she said to Alexander, but she couldn't help
it. She was deeply in love with Alexander
still. But she still needed to tell Sentwoa
the truth, so she went after him up to their
room and saw him standing there by the
window. She said, "Sentwoa, I am so, so
sorry for what happened downstairs, but I
couldn't help myself. I still love him, but I
also love you as well. But the truth is, I love
him more. I am sorry, but it is the truth."
"For years, I have tried to fight my in-
ner weakness, even hide from some of the
people I know and love and care for. Even
from you, my queen. But when I heard you
and Alexander, it started to awaken again.
Now, I am afraid that I may not be able to
stop. I will need to battle with some of our
enemies, the bad, the dangerous, and the
worst. It's the only way to fight it. But if it
keeps eating away at me, I don't know how
long it will take to get away from me. I hope
you understand. Yes, I am upset with you
about what you said, but I understand," said
When Mileena heard this she started to
cry. "Oh, Sentwoa. I am sorry. I am so
sorry. Please forgive me. I do love you, and
if I must, I will not go back to him. I will
stay here with you," said Mileena.
Sentwoa went from the window to Mi-
leena to hold her in his arms. He also was
sad about what happened, but then he start-
ed to feel the change inside of him.
"Mileena, I...ah...ahhh...no. No. No,
not now! Mileena! Run! AAAAHHHH!"
Sentwoa started to back away from Mi-
leena, a pain in his chest and muscles, and
suddenly, his eyes began to turn black, his
hair began to turn as well, and then he ran
toward the window and crashed through.
He ran into the forest and changed into a
Shanobie wolf. He ran for days, through
thundering storms, trying to keep himself
away from the ones he loved most. When
he got to the kingdom of Caro, he stopped
and then began to change back. He then let
out a loud wolf's howl.
"Oh no. What have I done?" said Sent-
Chapter Two - Sentwoa's Worst Night-
A few days later Sentwoa ended up in
the Kingdom of Caro. King Caro himself
saw Sentwoa, whose clothes were torn. Caro
sent out his guards to get Sentwoa and bring
him to the castle.
"Emperor Sentwoa, our king Caro wish-
es for you to come to his castle and speak
with him. Shall we take you to him?" said
the Captain of the Guard.
"Yes. I need to speak with him at once.
Take me to him now," said Sentwoa.
When Sentwoa arrived in the castle,
Sentwoa could still feel the darkness inside
trying to get out. He tried to hold on as best
as he could. When he saw Caro, he was at
"Prince Sentwoa Wolf, or should I say.
Emperor Sentwoa Wolf? Welcome back
to the kingdom of Caro. Guards, leave us
now," said Caro, dismissing his royal guard.
"Sit beside me, Sentwoa. We have much
to talk about."
"Yes, your majesty," said Sentwoa.
"Please, call me Caro. We are friends af-
ter all, and I am one of the men who helped
educate and teach you all that you know. So
tell me, what brings you to my home?" said
"The Shanobie Wolf. That's what
brought me here. I started to turn into a
wolf in my own home in front of my wife,
Mileena. I crashed through a window and
raced through storms trying to avoid any-
one I cared for getting in the way. You see,
my friend, this monster inside me wants
a battle, a conflict of any kind, but not to
enslave; it wants to defeat anyone it fights
with. I wouldn't blame you if you wanted
me to leave," said Sentwoa.
"No, my young friend, you are among
friends here, and I know what you speak of
For centuries, my people have been in con-
tact with yours. The first time I saw one was
when I was leading a team of wolf warriors
through the forest of time and peace. One
of them showed signs of fear and anger. He
then started to howl loudly and then started
to turn. How he became like that, I am not
so sure, but I knew of a way to cure him,"
"How? Please tell me. I want to know."
"I cured him with the Sun Sword, by
placing it to his heart and letting the blade's
power cure him. He was cured in less than
a second. I believe it can cure you. Would
you like to try it?"
"Yes, please. I need to be cured of this.
I don't want to be a Shanobie wolf forever,"
"Very well then. Guard?"
"Yes, my lord?"
"Bring me the Sun Sword at once. We
need it here now for our friend. Do we still
have it here?" asked Caro.
"No, my lord. It was hidden away in the
kingdom of Zeldoc. Remember, you asked
for it to be sent there for safe keeping."
"I see. Then we need to get it back. Send
out one of the guards and knights to retrieve
the sword and bring it back here. Go now!"
"Yes, my lord. We will report back when
we have it," said the guard.
"Sentwoa, you look tired. You need to
rest. Go to the next tower on the south side
of the kingdom. You will be safe there un-
til my men come back with the sword. Go
now and peace be with you."
"And also with you, my friend," said
Sentwoa left the castle and headed to-
ward the tower, and on his way, he saw
Queen Reeshel, Caro's wife. She went up to
him and started to greet him.
"Sentwoa, my goodness you have grown.
It has been years since we last saw you. Wel-
come back," said Reeshel.
"It is good to see you again, too, your
majesty. I am sorry for being so tired, but
I haven't slept or eaten in days. Your hus-
band, Caro, is sending me to the south tow-
er to have some rest, but if you can, could
you send some men to send me some food
and water? I would be most grateful," said
"Of course. I will send them at once.
Have a good rest, and by the way, whatever
is going on with you in your life, I am sure,
deep in my heart, that you will get through
it. Farewell," said Reeshel.
Reeshel's heart was soft and gentle toward
Sentwoa, and Sennvoa felt at peace. When
he got to the tower, he felt the Shanobie wolf
inside him again. He said to himself, "Why?
Why me? Why did this have to happen to
a man like me? I wish I could stop it, but I
don't know how."
He went into the room and saw the man
behind him carrying the food he requested.
but when the men entered, Sentwoa felt the
Shanobie wolf about to come out. Then he
said, "Men, thank you for this, but you need
to get out right... ahh...Ahh...AAAAH-
But before they could leave, Sentwoa
transformed again into the Shanobie wolf
His fingernails became like sharp claws,
and then in a split second, Sentwoa clawed
through all of the men that were around
him. He cut through all four of them like
a knife through butter. The blood spilled
over the room; body parts fell to the floor.
Suddenly, Sentwoa changed back. He saw
the mess when his eyes opened. His worst
nightmare of killing had begun.
He then ran downstairs through the
kingdom and the palace gate. Caro saw him
through his window and said, "So, Sentwoa,
your nightmare has begun. Run as far as you
can, and I swear to you, I will cure you."***
Miranda 'rae Carter ^