Summer 2021 Issue
CREATIVE PIECES FROM BUDDING WRITERS IN CENTRAL OHIO
It’s a classic story: man meets woman, man and woman fall in love, man and woman get married and have a kid. That is basically what happened to my parents, except there are a few extra pieces to the puzzle: man cheats on woman with some random girl, woman files for divorce and says she wants full custody over her kid. Then, where we are now, the man says that he wants custody over his kid. In case it was not clear, I’m the kid. And I absolutely cannot stay with my dad.
He used to be a good dad. He took me to places where we did fun things, just us. We’d call it “one-on-one times”. Our favorite thing to do was bowling. I remember when I was young he would always force me to practice my “bowling stance.” I used to hate that he made me do that. I thought it was so embarrassing that in the middle of the floor surrounded by other kids I had to practice something that came naturally to others. But I later realized that he was only doing it so that I would not be embarrassed when my ball rolled into the gutter. That was the kind of dad he used to be. Keywords: used to be. Slowly, as I got older, around twelve, my dad stopped taking me out to places. I had originally thought that this was because I was simply getting older, so he thought that I would not want to go out as much. I now know the real reason: he was cheating on my mom and, the way I see it, me as well, since he was breaking up our family.
I’ll never forget when I found out that he was cheating on us. My mom was on a week-long business trip in Cleveland, so it was just my dad and me at the house. It was a Sunday night in summer, and I had gotten home from my friend's house early. My friend’s older brother dropped me off, so I guess my dad did not hear me come into his study to say hi to him.
What I did hear, however, was my dad saying, “Bye, baby, can’t wait for our date tomorrow,” into his phone.
I remember being so excited about my parents going on a date because lately, they had not been talking very much. I immediately texted my mom about the date to get the details.
When she texted me back, “Date? What date?” I felt something drop inside me.
I needed to know the truth before the feeling got any worse, so I found my dad and asked him what his plans were for tomorrow. When he said he did not have any, I knew something was going on. The feeling of dread dropped a little more. I was not the kind of kid who lied or stole from her parents. I never had been and I did not plan on becoming one now. But this was too important for morals. When my dad stepped out of the study, I grabbed his phone and looked at his past calls. His last one was to a contact named “Christi.” The feeling dropped some more. I remember at that point, I already knew what was going on. I was smart enough to put two and two together, no matter how bad I did not want to. I found my dad sitting at the kitchen island, leaning on the counter eating a sandwich. Mom picked out the countertops. She says the kind of stone she chose looks homey. He did not deserve that.
“Get off the granite,” I said to him.
He looked up, surprised his thirteen-year-old daughter could speak to him with such force.
“Who is Christi?” I asked him, not bothering to beat around the bush.
“Who?” he replied.
I have always been able to tell when my family members lie to me, even though it rarely happens. My dad had always tried to force his face to look extremely confused as if he thought that doing that would throw me off his trail. He tried it then. It did not work.
“When were you going to tell me? Tell mom? That you were cheating on her?” I demanded.
“Okay, I don’t know what you heard-” my dad started.
“Are you or are you not cheating on mom?” I asked him.
I think that that is when he started to give up. On him, on mom, and on our family. On me. How does a parent give up on his kid? I think that it was at this moment he decided that it was not worth it anymore to try to lie to us. We were not it. It was also at that moment that I had decided to detach myself from my dad. He had already chosen a twenty-something Pac-Sun cashier over us, so I didn’t really feel bad about it. From my point of view, he no longer has a daughter, even though my mom still makes me address him as “Dad” when I see him.
That’s what I called him when I saw him at the courthouse on January twenty sixth, a week after my fourteenth birthday. I was now legally old enough to choose which parents I wanted to have custody over me. While my mom and I never actually talked about who I would choose, I thought it would be a pretty clear decision. My mom and I met him outside the courthouse. He brought Christi. Wonderful. It was freezing outside, as it typically is in mid winter in Ohio, but dad would not go inside the courthouse, for some reason.
“Let’s go” I said to the three of them.
My dad stared at me for a couple of seconds, a little too long. It was as if he actually thought that I would choose him.
My dad and I used to have this thing where we would stare at each other for as long as possible without laughing and whoever laughs first loses. We never lasted very long.
This time I did not bother playing the game.
I walked into the courtroom and sat down in the very front, leaving an open seat for my mom.
When we all got there and the official proceeding started, I zoned out. When the time came for me to formally declare who I wanted to stay with, I thought it was going to be the easiest decision of my life. I stood up and was about to say, like I had rehearsed in my head hundreds of times, “I would like my mother to have custody over me”. But when the judge asked me that question, the one that would change my life forever, I paused. It was only for a second, but I paused. He did not call me on my birthday, all he did was send me one of those texts that make balloons pop up all over your phone screen. He did not come to awards night, which both of the parents of all the girls on my lacrosse team came to. But he must still care, right? Why else would he want custody? Why else has he not looked away from me once, the entire time I have been standing up here?
I did a really dumb thing then. Years after I did this I would always wonder what made me do it.
I turned to my dad and asked him, barely audible, “Do you want me?”
I have no idea what I expected him to do or say, but when he nodded his head, something clicked. After all he had put my family through, he was still a part of it. No matter how much I wished he could take back everything he has done, he was still a part of it. A part of me. So I chose both of my parents. Split custody. I did not care exactly how the time was split up, but I knew that I could not do what he did. I could not walk away from us.
Snapshot of a Cruise
“Beach? You want beach? White sand beaches!” I try to turn around as we walk past the tourist and taxi checkpoint, but my older brother plants himself in between me and the unseen voice. I shove him out of the way, ignoring cries of, “Hey, stop it! Mom, did you just see what she did?” At the age of eighteen, one would think that calling upon mom for help would be a thing of the past, but that does not seem to be the case. I hear the exact same inquiry come from two men dressed in bright blue collared shirts and khakis. From the point of view of an Ohioan coming from a bitterly cold December, complete with armies of black ice and far too few snow days, this attire seems odd to be worn in the Caribbean, but I assume the tour guides have become acclimated to the climate, after living on the British-owned islands for their entire lives. I have always wanted the perfect beach “snapshot”, as my dad calls it, or picture, as everyone else in the universe, calls it. Turquoise waters and white sand beaches were the primary reasons that I agreed to get ripped away from my friends and go on a stifling two-week cruise with my family, complete with old people playing shuffleboard and bands playing records from eons ago.
Did You Bring It?
Pearl eyes Jace wearily, as though afraid her very presence will be too much for him to handle. Afraid he will walk out the room wordlessly, as he has so many times before.
Pearl opens her mouth to begin.
“Did you bring it?” interrupts Jace, feigned disinterest painting his face. He does not look her in the eye.
“Of course I did. I always come for you, don’t I?” inquires Pearl with only a hint of offense.
She waits for him to respond.
She hopes he will respond.
He does not.
He never does, not anymore.
Pearl crosses the kitchen and pretends not to notice the way Jace steps back at her march. She stops halfway across the cherrywood floors. They have been stained such a deep red one might think they were filmed with dried blood.
“It’s just instinct. He’s just protecting himself,” she thinks.
She meets him and is met with a held-out hand. Palm up. There are three feet of space between them, just enough for Pearl to give it to Jace without them touching. Without having to sense one another.
Pearl looks down at it, then at his extended hand.
“Do you think about it? The night you gave this to me?” she asks. “Because I do. I think about it all the time. When I wake up and when I work out and when I eat dinner and when I shower. When I’m falling asleep and when I stay up all night and when I take Adderall. All the time. I think about it and you all the time.”
Jace refuses to look at her. The bloody floors have suddenly become of peak interest to him.
“No. I don’t think anymore. Ever,” he says with an exorbitant amount of sarcasm. His cold wit cannot hide the way his eyes flash at her mention of the drug.
Pearl feels hopeful at this, but that quickly turns to guilt. He’s lying. She knows it. She knows this was his defense mechanism. She remembers a time when he made her a promise to work on it. Just for her. That time has long since passed.
“I wish you’d look at me,” she tells him.
Honestly trumps all. That’s what her mother always used to say. Her mother had hated Jace, though. She’d hate him even more now.
Jace tenses his jaw and wiggles the index and middle fingers of his extended hand. He is tired of waiting for her, it seems. He has been tired his entire life.
“Okay. Okay,” Pearl sighs, almost inaudibly.
She drops it in his palm, which snaps close as soon as the metal touches his skin.
He nods and looks up at her, for the first time in over a week.
Pearl’s heart absolutely lurches. He’s looking at her! His eyes are the same, soft and inviting, such a strong contrast to the rest of his physical being. Maybe he will try to make amends. Maybe-
Jace walks over to the sink in the corner of the kitchen, dropping it into the open drain while maintaining eye contact.
“What are you-” Pearl starts, but is cut off by the deafening cry of the built-in garbage disposal, now turned on by the fingers of Jace.
“No! Stop, what are you doing?” She yelps, met with nothing but his gaze, which has hardened since a few moments before.
I was a lie, his kind eye contact. Another lie.
He walks out of the room, leaving the sink churning violently.
As soon as he is out of sight, Pearl runs to the sink and turns off the disposal, peering down into the drain. But she cannot see it. She knows there’s no point. Gold is known for its softness. And the gold used to make her now surely mangled wedding band was no different. She stares at the drain, slumping to the floor. She feels the apartment vibrate. Jace has left their home.
Images: A Collection
Curtains open on a scene in a park with JACOB lying on a park bench and CASSIE standing to the side
JACOB covers his face with his hands
“Oh, Cassie! Woe is me!”
CASSIE (visibly annoyed and hushed)
“Can you stop, please? We’re in public. You’re making a scene.”
JACOB sits up violently
“Perfect! This is a moment the public must see!”
JACOB jumps in the air and the spotlight falls on him
“People of Central Park, all eyes on me!”
Curtains open on DAVINA and CLARE lying on the ground outside at night
“It’s two in the morning, Clare. When’s this thing gonna show up?”
“Just wait. Wait, please. Keep looking up. It’ll be any minute now. I promise.”
DAVINA rolls her eyes
“Yeah, you’ve been saying that for hours, Clare. Hours!”
“Hey, I said, eyes up! As in the sky. Henry David Thoreau would despise you.”
DAVINA begins to open her mouth but is cut off by CLARE
CLARE, pointing at the sky
“Dav, shut up and look!”
Curtains open on MARILYN stood, staring down at QUINN, knife in hand, and QUINN tied to a chair, crying
“Darling, would you please stop sobbing? For your sake. And the kids’.”
QUINN begins crying louder
“Jesus Christ, Quinn, you’re going to make me cut your tongue out. Now, is that what you want?”
QUINN hiccups and shuts his mouth immediately, shaking his head frantically
“Perfect. Now, listen. I’m going to tell you our story. Our past. You do remember, don’t cha, darling?”
QUINN nods his head, frantically
“Yes, you always were a swell liar. Well, not good enough. Not this time”
MARILYN steps aggressively towards QUINN with her knife raised
Curtains open on RAINE and RORY on a roof, with RAINE standing on the edge
“Raine, seriously stop right now. I’ll help you, we can figure it out. Or, I swear to God, I’ll call mom.”
“Go on then, do it! I’ll have jumped before you can open the phone app!”
RAINE edges closer to the edge of the building, her back to RORY
RORY balls her fists, taking uncertain, quiet steps towards RAINE
RAINE, back still turned
“Stop. Go away! I don’t want you here!”
“Raine, I promise no one will find out. You don’t have to do all... this.”
RAINE spins around suddenly
“Really, Rory? God, you are stupid. The body’s been bleeding all over the freaking bathtub and we have no clue how to get it out. Or clean human blood from tile, for that matter. And you really, really think no one will find out? Jesus, I knew I should’ve killed you instead of her.”
Curtains open on KATERINA doing turns in a ballet studio, music playing loudly
The spotlight lands on a door to the right, but KATERINA does not notice it and keeps turning
CARMEN storms in through the door, looking around then locking her eyes on KATERINA’s moving body
CARMEN waits for KATERINA to be at the top of a pirouette, then runs up and pushes her back hard
KATERINA yelps and crashes into a mirror, shattering it
KATERINA, looking up from the floor
“Carmen? What- I- What are you doing!”
CARMEN, seething, stares down at KATERINA before rushing out of the studio door once more
The spotlight falls on KATERINA, sitting on top of crushed pieces of mirror, blood pooling at her feet
Roan Barker is a freshly turned eighteen-year-old who recently graduated from her hated high school in a small town in Ohio. She resides in her stuffy family home with her twin brother Theo and mother, a loose term, Caddy, though Roan is positively itching to pack up and leave. Roan has friends, many friends, but she often gets their irrelevant names mixed up in her head. This has never happened with Quinn, though. Roan could never mix up Quinn, the only person from Roan’s high school whom she feels can hold up to her standards and the only person who Roan might actually be sad about if they were to die. Quinn is cool. Smart, too. And that is enough for Roan, who believes the intimate parts of one’s personality are best kept inside. Roan’s prized possession, which always sits on her windowsill, is her copy of “The Greek Myths”, the novel that instigated her love for the mythological and academic world. Roan has been accepted into the highly prestigious Columbia University in New York City and plans to attend after summer’s end. Roan is extremely smart and always has been. This is the foundation for her beloved ever-growing sense of self confidence that can come off as god-complex-like, at times. Inability to connect with another human on a genuine level aside, Roan believes she is quite good at all other things. She despises those who refuse to learn, absolutely needs to become the most successful person in her family, and is only afraid of remaining as she is: cooped up in a horrible town with her horrible family. Including her twin brother, who she forever curses herself for not eating in the womb.
Theodore Barker, Theo for short, and is eighteen years old, a few blasted minutes behind his twin sister. He lives in his cherished childhood home in a quaint town in Ohio with his mother, Caddy and sister, Roan. Theo is friends with the whole school, it seems, and he loves it, every part of it. The highschool environment is one in which he thrives, and he is absolutely crushed to be a graduate. His mother, however, the one constant light in his life, has kept him optimistic about his future. This teddy bear, Franklin, has also served him well, so well, in fact, that it is in his pile of things to pack for college. He did not even want to apply, but the community college in town was his best bet to stay close to his mother while not turning out a total loser. He hated thinking about the future, though. It scared him massively. All he wanted was to stay home forever, but modern society, his biggest enemy, looked down upon this. Theo was very, very nice and his friends and mother say that this will take him far, whatever that means. This caused him to clash multiple times a minute with his twin sister, Roan, who he cannot wait to move away from.
The Sting of Betrayal
Today, I thought about it seven times. I counted. Seven. Seven times I thought about being successful. Though, I do not just wish to be successful, no. That is what everyone thinks they want: money, fame, security. Bleh. No, I will become the most successful person in my entire family. I need to. No going around it. I have been dreaming of this for years now, but today was different. Today, I had the interview that could either help me achieve or force me to destroy this need. I was not worried, though. This was all I have ever lived for. Every single SAT prep class, internship position, and mock trial comp made me absolutely positive that I would ace this face-to-face meeting with the Editor-In-Chief of Vogue Magazine. I was good at this craft, changing my personality to please whomever I was speaking with. Coming up with lies on the spot to earn me brownie points. While these traits may have rendered me the most hated person in my household, it did not matter. I was ready. So I manufactured my expression into one of quiet confidence, the type I know my interviewers would appreciate and admire, and went into the room. And could you believe it? And there was no one there. Not one blasted soul. Nothing but an empty glass desk and a scrap of paper to greet my perfectly prepared self. And on the paper? Oh, how I remember it so well! A single sentence stating that the position had been filled, the interview canceled! No apology, no sign-off, no number to call to sort things out! A complete and utter scorn! A betrayal! A failure! I failed.
Two: The Eternal Torture Of The Wait
Three: This Is Going To Take Time
Four: Shoot and Dispute
Five: Unconscious Soul
Six: Pistol Problems!
Seven: What Lies In The Aftermath?
Eight: Guilty Until Proven Guilty
Nine: Waiting Room
Ten: The Good And The Bad That Comes To Those Who Wait!
Letters to a Woolf
I do hope you are well,
I hope this letter finds you well. I have been studying your literary works for some time now, and I found myself wanting to speak with you about a number of topics, specifically those which you write about in your essays: the role of females and class struggle. Regarding the first conversational point, women in society, you will be pleased to find the esteem for which women are held has increased significantly since your authorial years. We are now allowed to take part in all branches of the military as serving members. Presently, a sizable percentage of the armed military is female, highlighting the tremendous progress made since your time. Further, female writers as a whole have made great strides in the literary world. You write about how female writers are often overlooked and scorned by readers and other authors. In recent years, however, many of the most celebrated and popular authors have been women! Ah, what triumph. Additionally, females are encouraged to read and write in modern times, with book clubs and writing organizations becoming increasingly popular for young girls. Indeed, as a writer myself, I can personally vouch for the vast number of female authors I have held as icons and role models since childhood, highlighting the remarkable steps taken towards female empowerment recently!
Redirecting to the topic of class struggle, the changes made since your writing are less straightforward than those made in the sphere of women’s equality; vast improvements regarding class are evident in current times, but various negative side effects taint the modern world. Examining the positive stance, the custom of the past in which specific jobs and duties were more or less assigned to each class have dissolved. The majority of occupations are available to people of all walks of life, with a weightier emphasis on credentials within the employment process. This development allows citizens to pursue their occupational desires, free from the pressures of their social class. Additionally, the strife and struggle with which hopefuls attempted to rise in class in the past have lessened. Climbing the social ladder has become a relatively common practice for those with privilege and good fortune. If provided with the correct circumstances and practice, one can make the weary journey from lower to the middle to upper class over time, providing himself with the better quality of life now synonymous with the term “American Dream.” Even still, it is rare to find light without a tinge of darkness, and the realm of social classes is no different. I regret to inform you, Mrs. Woolf, that in the modern age, a few aspects have turned sour. Recent developments in the media have allowed almost anyone to make every aspect of their lives public. Through wide-spread photos and embellished words, those who live lavish lives can easily share their good fortunes with the world, creating jealousy and contempt from the less favored. The shortcomings of the current age do not stop there, however, as the gaping space between social classes has spread, due to modernization as a whole. Since new technological advances are developed daily, the blessed few can keep up with the expensive changes, making purchases to increase their already elevated quality of life. The less fortunate are still not able to afford niceties and, therefore, stay stagnant in their low social class. In fact, wages have been steadily falling in many areas of the world, only increasing the colossal wealth and social gap. So, there you have it: a glimpse into the crystal ball of our future, complete with the good, the bad, and the trepidation-inducing middle-ground where most aspects of society, including female and social roles, lay.
I hope this letter has provided you with a sliver of comfort and security in knowing the vast effect your writing has had on future generations.