Hilario is a teacher with the Corpus Christi Independent School District. His parents were initially migrant workers. They instilled in him a work ethic. He considers himself indigenous of Mexican descent.
I'm bored and really not looking forward to doing my work. In my procrastination I am allowing my mind to wander. I think of the horror that our ancestors must have gone through 500 years ago when 90% of our population was wiped out by small pox and the massacre society that the Spaniards brought. Our people were forced to abandon the fields resulting in massive starvation. The Spaniards raped the women at will and fed our children to their dogs. Their religion was forced upon us while their priests pillaged our land. Our sacred texts were burned and our temples were destroyed. The Spaniards tried to destroy our culture and our religious beliefs as they committed genocide against our people. Yet, we survived. We are the children of the sun and there's nothing that can destroy us.
Jon Gregory worked for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram for 18 years. His poems, short stories and essays have been published in The American Dissident, The Dallas Review, Contexas, The DFW Poetry Review, the Austin International Poetry Festival's annual anthology, in Map of Austin Poetry e-zine, and elsewhere. He has a B.A. from Texas Lutheran University, where he won two short-story prizes from the English department and was associate editor of the literary magazine; and an M.A. from Corpus Christi State University (now Texas A&M-CC).
As my cool, efficient car
Cut a metal swath
Through a brisk night
Of early spring,
I saw a muscled mastiff,
A strong, joyful machine,
Dart across the road
And narrowly out of peril.
Suddenly I saw his mate,
A virtual clone,
Eyes dazed and gleaming
With the pleasure of the chase.
I dared not stop
To see the living
Complete the race alone.
Karen has been writing as long as she could hold a pen. Her works can be seen in several literary magazines and websites including Nowhere Poetry & Flash Fiction, Tuck Magazine, Pif Magazine, Unlikely Stories, Tuck Magazine, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. She founded the Aransas County Poetry Society and hosts a monthly Open Mic in Rockport, Texas. She has a Kindle edition book of poetry, Stumbling to Breathe. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Gnashing Teeth Publishing.
My husband wears his red-brown skin like a badge of honor. It wasn’t always so. He tells me stories of being young and of difference, being teased and hit for that difference. He tells me of finally feeling the first hints of acceptance when he got his “Indian Roll Card.”
flowers push hard against earth,
brown sandy loam gives way to
a impetuous green, stroked all
night by moonlight before fracturing
into pink and white and petals, splayed
open, inviting insects to dive in, butts
in the calm Spring breeze, partaking
of the nectar, satisfying their buzz
the slideshow sky is a lesson in
cloud physics, cumulonimbus reposing
in naked delight across the stratosphere,
unashamed of it’s virga, it’s streak
exposed for the world to see
my husband ambles around our
small acre, imagining where to place
the much-talked-about fire pit which
never materializes; there is salt water
coating our windows, forcing us outside
to see the eruption in our yard, the
stickers and stinging nettle reaching out,
cleaving onto our soles, our pant legs,
their hope for reproduction depending
not only on the wind, but on our wandering
my daughter is studious in her bedroom,
her online classes keeping her engaged
beyond the four walls of our home, a
hope for the continuation of our version
of normal continuing beyond this Spring,
our ancient imperatives echoing inside of us,
the innate knowledge of Spring as a bringer
of futures, where Death is not welcome
Matthew Rosas was born in Corpus Christi, TX. He is the author of The Legend of
Mariquita and Other Short Stories, and of the upcoming novella, Praying not to
Fall. Matthew’s short fiction story, “The Angel” was featured in The Bilingual
Review of Arizona State University. He studied Short Fiction and Flash Fiction
with Inprint Inc. in Houston, TX. Currently, Matthew lives in Houston and serves
in education at George I. Sanchez Charter School.
On Saturday mornings, my brother and I would wake up early, before cartoons, while there was still static on TV. We’d sprint straight to our parent’s room, jump on their bed, bounce up and down, and yell out “Dad is it time yet?” His first answer was always a barely audible, “Five more minutes hijos. Just five more minutes.” We’d leave. The same scene would repeat four or five more times until he finally would say, “OK, go brush your teeth and get the rods ready.”
I hated getting the fishing rods. It was dark and sticky outside. Worse than that were the millions of roaches, June bugs, and moths flying around the spotlight just above the garage door. Even if I managed to avoid being hit by one, my big brother would catch a bug, put it down my shirt, and watch me scream for mercy. I hated roaches the most. Too bad they loved Corpus, and our garage. Once we got all the rods out, we’d tie the sinkers and hooks to them. Then, we’d grab the tackle box, net, and some mesh lawn chairs, and toss it all in the back of our cigarette-butt-colored station wagon. Dad would come out about then. His eyes still seemed shut. Once in the wagon, he would open the glove box, grab his black brush, and comb down the hair sticking up on the back of his head.
On the way to the fish pass, Dad would stop at Shipley and get half a dozen glazed doughnuts. They were still hot and mushy. It was always the same. Saturday breakfast was Shipley. Sunday was barbacoa tacos on corn tortilla. My mom put ketchup on hers. She’s from Falfurrias.
Our 30-minute drive seemed like hours. I would stare outside the window and let the rising sun heat up my face. As I watched the telephone poles pass, the song “Baker Street” would usually come on. Dad would whistle along with the sax. My brother would doze off with his mouth open.
The fish pass was a stretch of water between the Bay and the Gulf. Once there and parked, my brother and I would unpack the rods, gear, and chairs. My chair was the smallest. My Dad would check our rods to make sure the lines were tied right. We would search the ground for a dead fish or some bait that someone else left behind or dropped. My Dad would cut up what we found and bait our first hooks. We’d sit and wait for a nibble. The air would start to warm up and smell like salted sewer. Normally, we were lucky and caught a few. Mostly Croaker or Perch. Perch were good for cut bait too. Every now and then we’d get really lucky and catch a Redfish. They fought the hardest and tasted the best. If our lines got tangled, our Dad fixed them. If we caught a catfish, our Dad would take it off. Their fins had needles on them that could poison you to death, but he wasn’t scared.
After a couple of hours, it was time to go. My Dad and my brother would clean the fish we’d caught. I’d load the station wagon back up. The drive back seemed even longer. It was sizzling in the station wagon and damp sand would be stuck all over me. My fingers smelled like rotten fish.
Once at home, my mother would come outside to greet us and see what we caught. My brother and I would rinse the fishing rods with the water hose, and then put them back in the garage. There were no roaches in the afternoon, but there were plenty of cicadas. I hated cicadas cause they’re so loud and don’t seem to know how to fly. Usually, I’d get one of those down my shirt too. Why couldn’t they be quicker, like dragonflies?
After we all showered, my mother would make us bologna sandwiches served with chips, pickles, and strawberry soda. Dad would get bottled RC. Once done with lunch, the men would head to my parent’s bedroom. Dad would switch on the window air conditioner to freezing level. My brother and I would lie down on a giant orange pillow in the middle of the floor. Dad would change the TV dial to Spanish Wrestling, lie with us, and instantly start snoring. I’d stretch my bare feet, plant them on the cool wall and doze off, blanketed by pure happiness only a six-year-old can feel.
Paul McCann was born in College Station, TX. After attending the University of Texas at Austin, he went to Texas A&M University where he received his doctorate in 2003. He then moved to the coastal bend where he has lived for 14 years. He has authored two books. In 2008, Race, Music, and National Identity was published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press and in 2012 his first collection of poems, When the Wood is Green was published by Slough Press. His poems have appeared in The Berkeley Poetry Review, Bayou, and Argestes. He teaches Creative Writing at Del Mar College. He currently lives and writes in Rockport, Texas with his wife and two children.
I can easily go back
and sandle my high school linoleum
as greasy hairs and pimply faces
glide by in their secret fascism.
Easier perhaps than even last week...
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2020
Skylar is a local actor and college student. She’s a novice writer and would like to advance her craft. TUB MIRE is her first published work.
There is a cozy town named Mentisdolum. With its greenery and thick fog, it is one of many towns and cities clustered on the outer rim of the bathtub. The tub is filled with swampy water that stretches beyond the horizon. It stands like an ancient monument to a time that no one remembers.
Tom looks over the edge, gripping the damp fence and pressing his feet firmly to the tub. Down below, eight miles away, he catches a glimpse of what looks like a green field through the thick clouds. What is it like down there?
He scrapes his finger back and forth through moss on the fence, letting it build under his nail. Dozens have been lost to the unmerciful trip down, and now he’s about to go. It’s commonly said that joining the Vanguard is something that’s only done by three types of people: the brave, the broke, and the bored. Tom wants to believe he’s the first type, but he’s probably more akin to the last. The thought of spending his whole life as just another moss farmer or beekeeper scares him way more than the long drop down into mysterious land with no hope of ever returning. Besides, the population cannot sustain itself on the rim, and everyone will die if they can’t establish new colonies. So, it seemed better to volunteer and be thought of as a hero.
“Thomas,” A man calls out. “Suit up!”
He steps away from the fence and flicks the moss from his finger.
This will be both his first and last time abseiling all the way down. He puts on his harness and gloves and takes one last look around. He’s leaving his mother behind, but she will be taken care of, he tells himself to relieve the guilt. And she has her candle making hobby.
He begins his descent. It’ll be at least four hours before he reaches the ground. He looks down at a view that no longer induces vertigo. Staring over the edge has been a favorite pastime since he was accepted into the training program and given access to the outer fence.
Two others are descending alongside him. “Hey, how are you guys doing?” he yells to them.
They are slightly above him and on either side. One of them gives a reassuring-sounding response. It’s Abi. She’s the first woman to make this descent, and she hasn’t been able to think about anything else. They initially weren’t accepting women into the program. Obviously, women would be needed to establish future colonies, but the current rate of survival during descent coupled with unpredictable living conditions below made them reluctant to consider sending a woman. Even so, Abi isn’t someone who takes no for an answer. The other person is Doug, not as memorable as Abi, but Tom had seen him before.
The wind is too loud, and they can’t understand him, so the descent continues uneventfully. Four hours later, they reach the bottom with no injuries aside from heat rash and a little chaffing.
Ground level isn’t as otherworldly as Tom had expected. He takes his glove off and presses his hand against its surface. It’s somewhat rough, almost like a white stone, and it’s warm from where the setting sun has been hitting it.
“So, what the hell were you saying up there?” Abi asks as she approaches, gleefully swinging her knee pads around like a child that’s been cooped up inside for too long. “Me and Doug were taking bets that you had already lost you mind.”
“I appreciate your concern,” Tom replies, smiling for the first time since he began this trip. “But my mental health is still as intact as ever. So, who won the bet?”
“I did of course,” Doug chimes, raising one eyebrow at Abi in a peculiar way.
“I see,” Tom answers, not quite sure what just took place.
Two men approach and lead them to a camp. A hand-carved sign reads Camp Praevalus. After a meal they’re escorted by another group to Camp Litore. By this time the sun is all but gone. The journey so far had been lackluster. They were warned of dangerous animals and plants, but they hadn’t seen anything more interesting than a bird so far.
There are torches lighting up the entrances to each of the tents and people sit near a communal fire. They are talking about what they did before they joined the Vanguard. It’s gotten too dark to travel, so Doug and Tom go their tent. Abi, being the only female, gets a tent to herself.
The next morning they make their way to Camp Evanescent. This is the last stop before they will be sent out to stake ground for a new campsite. It’s really happening, Tom thinks to himself. All the years of training are finally paying off. He is about to be a part of history. They all are. And he will tell his grandkids about it, assuming he lives.
It doesn’t take long however to notice that everyone in this camp is somber.
“What do you think is wrong with these guys?” Doug asks, squinting as he looked suspiciously at the camp’s many inhabitants from the corner of his eye.
“This camp is the farthest out,” Abi says, looking pretty somber herself all of a sudden. “It’s setting in that we’re really never going back.” She had been bubbly the whole time, and the change in mood upset Tom.
More escorts meet them with another man in tow.
“This is Leon,” one of the escorts says. “He’ll be in your group now.”
Leon has messy hair and a round face. He is somber like everyone else. The escort leads them to a tree line at the edge of the camp
“Why is everyone here so somber?” Tom asks.
Without hesitation the escort answers plainly. “Because none of the groups we send out come back.”
“What do you mean they never come back?” Doug demands. “No one? Are you telling me you’re sending us to our deaths? You expect us to just go knowing this? Doesn’t somebody have some idea as to why they don’t come back? Shouldn’t you be doing something to prevent it? I mean, hell! Stop the damn expeditions until you figure out what’s happening to people!”
The escort doesn’t flinch. He replies matter-of-factly. “We used to send large groups, but now we send only three or four. Too many casualties with larger groups. With small groups there are fewer casualties, and we figure someone will eventually make it back and tell us what happened.”
“What happens out there?” Tom asks.
“We have no idea. We thought it was wild animals so we sent in large groups with weapons. Then we thought it was toxic plants or gasses, so we tried masks. Ever since that first mission all of our troops have been instructed to come back at the first sign of danger, but even so. . .”
Tom takes this all in. There’s no way to turn back now. The government won’t let them back up anyway because they don’t want people to know that the Vanguards are a suicide squad.
Then again, Tom thinks to himself, this could just be some kind of half-cocked way for the government to be trying to cull the population, but what would be the point in that when we’ve already made it this far? If anything, preventing that possible outcome is just one more reason these missions are a necessity.
There’s a long silence, but no one bothers asking what will happen if they refuse to go. Tom assumes he knows the answer, and the rest of them may have come to the same conclusion.
We’ll probably all just be killed if we refuse. We’re obviously expendable anyway and the only way anyone would agree to this is if staying was also guaranteed death.
None of them say anything. It’s clear from their faces that they all know going back isn’t an option. Leon is the first to begin walking. Doug goes next. Tom gets the feeling that Leon had heard this all already and had time to come to terms. Tom and Abi just watch them until they begin to disappear from view, then almost simultaneously they begin to follow suit.
About an hour in, something drops to the ground in front of them with a thick thud.
They pause, prepared for anything while also having no idea what to expect. The grass is too high to see exactly where it landed.
Another something goes flying, barely missing Tom’s head. It is green, but it’s moving too fast to get a good look.
Leon takes a long dagger from his bag.
There’s a screech and something else comes flying in their direction. It hits a nearby tree and plops to the ground. Leon lunges and stabs it with his dagger. It oozes a sticky liquid. At the same time they hear a loud guttural chirping and the tree limbs above them start to shake aggressively. Tom looks up to see a long-armed creature baring its teeth.
“It’s a monkey,” Leon says in a relived sigh as he stands. He holds up some kind of green fruit on his dagger. The liquid drips down his arm. “Some of the guys at the camp told me about them while I was waiting for you to arrive. They said they caught one once.” He pulls the fruit off and chucks it hard back at the monkey. He misses, but the animal disappears into the treetops. “When there’s one there usually more and they’re territorial so that probably won’t be the last thing we get thrown at our heads, but they aren’t a real threat. Just don’t get close enough to one to get bit.”
Leon puts his dagger away, and they look in the treetops as they continue. When they reach an empty field, they are cautious. Doug sticks his leg out from the cover of the foliage and slides his foot back and forth along the ground, edging his way further and further into the field. Leon’s eyes frantically dart around searching for anything out of the ordinary. Tom’s pulse races faster than it did when they were jumped by the monkey. They wait a few minutes, listening and observing.
The grass is a few inches high and billows peacefully in the wind. There are more familiar-looking trees across the way. A shadow passes over the field. It may rain soon. “It’s almost worth turning around just to report how far we’ve come,” Doug says somewhat hopefully.
Abi agrees. “We could mark this spot for a camp when someone comes back.”
“As if the big empty field isn’t marker enough,” Doug retorts teasingly “Maybe it really was some super poisonous pollen, but the plant is out of season. Who’s to say this whole field wasn’t filled with deadly dandelions that are all shriveled up now?”
Doug continues to shuffle his feet as he slowly moves further across the billowing field, just in case. Abi and Leon carefully make their way behind him inspecting the ground for any signs of unfamiliar plant life.
“If that’s the case we could probably come back with a bigger team to dig up this field before they’re back in season,” Tom says, also beginning to feel hopeful again.
But there are no remnants of dandelions or of anything else.
“I don’t mean to be macabre, but I had kind of expected to find bodies,” Abi says. “Not that I’m complaining.”
No one finds it macabre though. They find it comforting. They laugh.
Tom scans the field.
When he looks back, Abi, Doug and Leon are gone.
He spins around looking for them. They are gone but that is not possible. They could not have just disappeared.
But they are gone.
He stays there for hours. No one returns. Not knowing what to do, he heads back to camp. They cheer his return. “You are the first!” they yell. “The first!”
A team escorts him back to each base and then eventually back up to the rim of Tub Mire.
He is a hero and travels through every town. There are bigger celebrations at each stop as word spreads of his return. They ask what happened. He can’t tell them because he doesn’t know, nor does he know why he was spared. So, he never says a word about what had happened down there, and people are happy.
Time passes. People call him Father and gather to hear him speak once a week, so he makes up a story about a man he met down there.
“And the man said ‘though shalt not leave the tub for I have provided everything for you and to leave the tub is blasphemy.’ Think about what he said. To leave this tub you are saying God, holy creator, I have decided this is not enough. I want more. You cannot provide for me as well as I can provide for myself.”
He shakes his head. “If you leave the tub, you are leaving his mercy, and you are doomed. There’s a reason the rest of the world is down below us. This tub was created for us. To lift us up out of that wretched world. Away from the path to destruction! It’s hard to get down there for a reason. Don’t you think, our God, would have made it a little easier if he wanted us to go down there? He made it hard in order to save us. And now we betray him and throw our lives away. And for what? More land? Well at what cost is that land coming? How many lives have we already lost to that land? Do you want your children growing up in a place that’s capable of swallowing up men whole? The same land that stole your husbands and brothers and sons? Ladies and gentlemen pray with me. Let us bow our heads and say the prayer of the Lord, and as we do this let us keep in our minds those who have strayed. And let our loss be a reminder that the danger is very real and the danger is very near and if we do not heed the word now and teach our sons and daughters to respect and appreciate that which has been so lovingly created for us we will all suffer the consequences.”
Father Tom bows his head and begins to chant a prayer in a similar but older sounding language. The congregation follows suit.