Cadence Skye Harrison has Texas roots dating back six generations. She currently resides in Corpus Christi with her three year old son, Everett, who would legally change his name to Batman should she allow it. She spends most of her time amid the palm trees of TAMUCC while she works full time, studies Creative and Professional Writing, and serves as the Associate Editor of Nonfiction for The Windward Review. She was recently a recipient of a HAAS Writing Award for her work completed in Fall 2018 and is a perpetual student of life. She is an avid lover of Mother Nature, yoga, coffee, and kindness.
Heal me beneath the moon and the sea.
May the crashing waves devour my fears
and wrap me in a cocoon of the unknown,
spun like a dreidel of silk and sound
as harmonies of locusts lull this loud dream.
Blood orange moon, mother moon, longest of the century,
gleam unto my bare breasts that have changed shape
in aging and nourishing of my sweet babe;
see me for not the hundreds of versions there are that exist of me within each stranger,
but for who I am. Who I am.
A wandress shifting shadows,
morphing under the wings of sky,
soles of my feet calloused from kissing the red Texas dirt,
pulling the earth toward me as if it were an Afghan in the dead of winter’s night.
An Afghan knitted by the hands of my great grandmother who lived through The Great Depression,
starved through poverty, hunger knowing no race.
She praised her God on a day when she had animal fat to cook in her beans,
trekked across dry desert, cactus country, shielding her cooing infant from the blistering sun,
all to give me this life. This life.
With only the fire cracking and smoldering mesquite branches to warm my bones.
I sharply inhale this vision, and exhale the realization of permanence:
because of her, and the bloodline coming before me,
because of these ancestors who fought for this life,
healing under this moon,
because of them, I am eternal.
There are no obscurities when it comes to grief.
It is simply a part of you.
It’s the pit of a stone fruit, lying in the center of your perfect peach.
It’s the light leaking out from a break in a cloud,
causing shadows to dance on your brightest moments.
It’s the aging of your hands,
worn and weary,
with the creases growing more evident as the years pass,
reaching for that peach – that tender, ripe peach – wishing
they could share it with you over a bowl of Blue Bell.
It’s their soft leather chair,
mahogany, and impressed with the memory of their seat,
remaining empty on Christmas Day.
It’s celebrating their would-be birthdays on a cedar plank deck
built inches above the Gulf,
with no one there to blow out the candles,
besides the brackish bay breeze.
It’s finding old photos
and wanting to share them with the world,
because then – maybe – it would stand as a testament
of their life’s meaning.
But it will never suffice for feeling their laughter
fill an entire room,
or picking Fredericksburg peaches
on the side of the road,
or having them walk you down the aisle,
all dressed in white,
on your wedding day.
No, there are no obscurities
when it comes to grief;
it is simply a part of you.
as my twenty-seventh lap around the great star comes to a close, i am humbled by the beauty earth holds, gentle and cosmic in the palm of my hands; by the fragility of existence in this form, fleeting and weightless; by the binding force of love that resides within each of us, waiting to be awoken; and within all the dreams sung by the hum that my bleeding heart beats i welcome peace and stillness, yet remain open and willing for my soul to be stirred, never shying or shielding from the rain but allowing it to wash over my bones, and flesh, and eyes to pour out the hundreds of paths i chose not to walk, and breathe into the one i plucked, the fruit of what is. this path i’ll water and wander for all of my years to come, for i’ve only just begun the story that has yet to be spun.
Once a speck of stardust, then a sprouting seed,
blooming from the verdant, velvet covered leaves.
Your size a Meyer Lemon, canary and so sweet,
your skin the perfect hue, heart a steady beat.
Gentle in this iris, curled up serenely,
your rosy cheeks and chin, drawn down to your knees.
The beauty of becoming: budding, bittersweet,
eclipsing space and time, when our eyes finally meet.
Petals lending warmth, awaiting your first breath,
an act that will transcend, even my own death.
Carter Little is an avid horror fan who grew up in Colorado. Currently he lives in Corpus Christi and writes stories with his black cat Jinx.
Published by Black Cat Books 2023
All rights reserved by Carter M. Little
Reproduction during Copyright pending period is ill advised and just totally not cool. So, don’t steal!
He noticed it only subtly at first. Maybe he’d move his arm, or one of his fingers, and it wouldn’t follow. It wouldn’t keep up. He’d move his head, and of course, in the act of moving his head, be unable to track the movement of his shadow but he knew it didn’t move at the same rate he did. It moved a little slower. Because it had to mimic. God forbid he ever found out where the thing came from. Damn him if he ever did find out. Because it was just there. Not one day, then the next. The next it was there. Whatever IT was. Or is. He’ll never find out now, because it got him. Just like it gets all the rest.
The day was shiny, blue, reminiscent of every other gorgeous sunny day that anyone’s ever had anywhere. A jogger with his dog had stopped for the dog to expel and graze for a moment, and the canine looked up at our friend, the subject of our story who may remain nameless, as his name is irrelevant to the story, because it’s happened over and over again and I can guarantee you my friend, it may happen again and you aren’t safe if you think it could never happen to you. Well this nameless individual, whose name was actually Timothy Werner, corny name, right? Decided later on that this dog looking up at him wasn’t the thing that caused it to follow him. Because he had continued on past that jogger in that park down the path where he was headed just to walk. He wanted to clear his head, and the day was gorgeous like I’ve said before. He was enjoying his walk, and never did really notice that the dog had looked up at him until he gruelingly played that day over and over in his head for some sort of answer, some sort of clue. As he stepped on the blacktop his shadow acted just like a shadow should, based on the scientific principles that rule and govern the presence of light and the interruption of photons. Acted just like a shadow needs to so one can believe reality is truly governed by a set of invisible unwritten laws that act in the infinitesimal omnipotence of a true law. And his shadow went bobbing along as he strutted down that path towards the few trees the park offered as shade. Usually nestled in this shade was the wild human that inhabits every municipality that’s ever hosted an economic hierarchy. Today the bottom echelons of this omniscient class were elsewhere, and the thicket of trees was vacant. Our friend, Timothy, decided he’d like to sit under one of those trees. Something he thought on par with a connection with nature, or at least one he could fathom with his citified concrete jungle upbringing. His mother panthered around every high-end store she could find, and his father crossed the rugged terrain in a black automobile fit to kill worth as much as most people’s homes. He’d tasted their luxury, and wasn’t doing too badly himself in his own career, which isn’t relevant to the story. The relevance lies back with that tree he decided to sit under. Which was the only strange thing he could remember doing that day. So, there he sat, under that tree. On top of a board left there as a seat from one of the feral humans that normally occupied the space under that tree which he currently inhabited. He sat there for a short while and watched as the sun moved slowly in the sky and his shadow moved with it. He remembered in that moment, later on as he wasn’t necessarily conscious of his immediate wandering thoughts, that he watched his shadow and became fascinated with it. He watched as the sun moved above him and the shadow moved over each blade of grass, one at a time, slowly scraping across the slightly rough slightly furry blades. It was mesmerizing, until he noticed one of the ruffians was encroaching and he figured he’d better make a quick escape.
` So that’s all it was. He sat under a tree and ended up with it following him. In the throes of his later madness he played the day over and over again in his head, like I said before, trying to figure something out that would explain how him sitting under that tree, right then, right there. Just existing in that space, that place in time. Just existing gifted him the consequences that he was currently dealing with. He had no Idea what was on the other side of that board, or what was beneath it. He had no idea what extracurricular activities the feral humans were involved in. All he did know, the only thing he could figure out, was that was the only obscure out of the ordinary thing he’d done that day. And it was the next day when the insanity began. Although he hadn’t realized it. Much like the dog’s gaze bending upwards towards him as he walked headfirst into his fate, the first subtle signs were so subtle he didn’t notice them for what they were immediately and it was only after recollecting those days that led up to his madness that he realized his shadow had become more solid. It was a subtle thing, and it was still disappearing. Acting and behaving just like it should. He didn’t notice, as he stood there at the gas pump, that his arm that splashed across the ground painted of black silhouette didn’t retract when he moved the arm above it and shoved the nozzle of the fueler into his tank. He was too busy staring across the fuel kiosk at the ragged broken-down truck that housed a down on their luck couple who were having a quiet argument in the privacy of that truck. The thought sauntered across his mind’s eye that he shouldn’t have stopped here–that he’d have had plenty enough gas to get back into a better neighborhood. He was so fixated on this couple and the potential danger of his surroundings that he completely ignored the fact that arm strewn across the ground didn’t move until he grasped the completed fueling nozzle and placed it back on its rest. It retracted just like a shadow should, and he looked at bright expansive daylight lit concrete where the rubber of the soles of his shoes and of his tires both hit the pavement connecting their greater forms to the lesser silhouette of their shadows. He observed the elongated and nearly comical effect the late afternoon sun had on the car beside him, the effect it had on the cars shadow. It looked to him as though the car were made of many great mountains and his own, strewn across the parking lot in tandem with the cars, looked like a great island attached to a long slender peninsula. It was then that he noticed his own shadow seemed a trifle darker than that of his vehicles. This wasn’t something he noticed immediately either. His subconscious picked up on it, and he even said to himself absentmindedly “Oh my shadow seems darker, it must be the way I’m standing” and never gave it a second thought as he pulled the car door open glad to be rid of the sound of blustering romance.
The next time his shadow misbehaved was slightly less subtle. Or maybe it wasn’t. After wracking his brain for any remanence of a memory after the darkened shadow and the arm that didn’t move that he didn’t see, that only you the reader know about, he couldn’t find a single one in the latter periods of his madness. Only you the reader will know, as I tell you now, that the disease that plagued our subject, our friend. This individual whose life we are peering into, progressed slowly. It permeated only the absent of his mind, the very deepest recesses and corners and never allowed itself to be observed, until it wanted to of course. I could tell you of each of the other times the shadow didn’t move, or how it began to like to stay in a singular position at certain times, for as long as it could before it inevitably had to disappear before it was discovered. A disembodied shadow, could you imagine? Anyone who saw that would scream. Or laugh, or both. Or freeze. Really there’s no telling. Our guy, the guy we’ve been talking about, the first time he saw it he wanted to do both. He wanted to laugh because he thought it was a prank. Of course he did, anyone in their right mind would think it was a prank. A floating shadow, come on. Seriously? Could you imagine? But that faded quickly as he looked around and realized there was nothing there to cast the shadow. No major light source. He was looking at a shadow in a softly lit room staring down at him from the wall while he lay on his bed.
Staring might be the wrong word to use, because of course the thing had no eyes. Glaring might be a better choice. Because the terror that ensued as our guy, this individual the story is about, realized there was nothing to cast the shadow and no earthly way for the thing to reasonably exist he let out a little shriek and instinctively turned the three-power lightbulb–which he’d always preferred over a conventional bulb–up to the highest notch blanketing the room in heavy comforting light. He wasn’t exactly sure when the shadow had receded, or where it had gone. It seemed benign enough, the interaction. And it was easy for him to resign the experience to a combined lack of overwork and sleep deprivation as he’d been stressed out at his job that, while probably interesting to him, isn’t very important to the telling of this story. This rationalization he chose to employ comforted him and removed his worries about the terror that had suddenly gripped his kidneys and tightened his chest, and gave him finally enough comfort to find sleeps embrace, but not without the typical deluge of unrelenting thoughts that now included every so often the terrifying presence of this obscure shadow of his own creation that had cast itself in an ungodly and physically impossible manner.
Thoughts of the strange occurrence with the shadow followed him into the next day, and at every turn he followed his silhouette as it painted itself across many canvases. Once the coffee counter where he followed the exact path of his arm as it carried the decanter across that counter and poured the dark liquid–which also cast a shadow–into an awaiting cup. The next was at his desk, and the thought of the former night’s incident had flashed harrowingly through his mind, and he watched, as the papers he held in his hand that he intended to file scattered flutteringly towards the ground casting many different shadows, and he caught sight of his own. It was a puny thing. Nothing more than a large splotch on his chair as the office lights that were to cast a shadow were directly above him. It didn’t seem very supernatural. It certainly didn’t menace him or show any signs of dementia or malice. It just looked like a shadow. And our subject felt silly for feeling the fear he did at that time. Sitting on top of a benign splotch of darkness he shook his head and picked up his papers and went back to concentrating on his menial proletarian existence.
And he was successful. He successfully concentrated on the mundanity and civility of the office he worked at surrounded by the other smartly dressed, crisp young professionals who he couldn’t imagine having the same kinds of problems that he did with love and life and women. Married men who cared and loved and were loved. Somehow, he was able to convince himself these people who surrounded him were of that plane, the plane of happy living and joy. The plane of exuberance and elation. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to apply the same denial into ignoring that terrible feeling of being followed that seemed to strike him every time he was walking somewhere alone. He never felt it when someone else was around. Then again, why should he? If someone werearound why would you get the funny feeling something was following you. You only get that feeling when you’re alone. Something he quickly realized was a luxury he was no longer allowed. To be alone.
It was the worst in his home. A feeling of being followed can also be interpreted as a healthy sense of self-preservation that’s a crucial aspect of the human condition. The necessity for that primal urge ends at the threshold of a locked door, or it should at least. One would only be so safe to assume that once they put themselves behind a locked door whatever’s there behind that door along with them would be removed from whatever’s on the other side, and if there were something maleficent on the far side of the door the individual on the locked side of the door would be safe from that evil that floated on the opposite side of the door. Thoughts like these of rationalizations and reasonings, bargaining with himself. I’m crazy! No I can’t be crazy! I swear someone’s here with me!
He’d have these thoughts, rationalize with himself. Argue with himself, and finally submit to his own needs and search his apartment again for the umpteenth time for some trace of someone. Someone or something that would explain the maddening feeling of being watched and followed. Subconsciously he knew, he knew what was really there. Subconsciously he was fully aware of his shadow and the fact that it followed him everywhere. Subconsciously he knew the shadow had stopped growing and receding like a shadow is supposed to. He knew all of these things, but he denied them for as long as he was able to. Denied them until the denial became his reality and when his paradigm shifted suddenly his psyche couldn’t handle the strain. When he finally came to the realization that his shadow was solid. That it was just there, and it would always be there, glaring at him. Staring. Mocking him. He couldn’t handle his unwanted company and he began trying to sever ties with his shadow but nothing worked. How can you cut off what isn’t actually attached?
Darkness was his answer. He knew it would come for him eventually, he knew it would do something. He knew it would try. Try Something. What something was he didn’t want to find out. And so, he sequestered himself into darkness. A modern hermit stuck in the darkness of his own mind. He walled himself up in that apartment where he’d lived so benignly for so long. Sitting in the darkness both metaphorical and physical so his shadow could not exist for fear of what it may do. He sat that way, as his apartment grew filthy and infested, as he chose to see nothing and wouldn’t brighten the space for any reason whatsoever. Nobody came, nobody questioned his disappearance until the smell became unbearable and the neighbors called the police. Thinking him dead and decomposing they had the landlord open the door.
There they found him sitting in a circle of his own waste muttering “NO LEAVE ME ALONE YOU’RE GOING TO LET IT OUT” He said these words over and over again in rapid succession as the police tried to reason with him. Then he raised the weight he’d had that had anchored him to reality. The only thing in his possession that he thought might be able to stop the beast if it ever truly escaped.
He heard them scream, and he heard the blasts of several rounds of gunfire and felt the fiery sear of his retribution tear through his emaciated body as he fell.
Perhaps they set him free.
Catie Barber graduated from Richard King High School in 1996 as Catie Vasquez before moving to Austin to raise her family in 2003. There, she homeschooled her four children until the sudden death of her 10-year-old son, Christian. For the past eight years, she’s worked for The Princeton Review in various roles, the most recent as Market Director. In her free time, Catie enjoys navigating life as an older parent to a 4-month-old infant and two teenagers, and she loves to paint along to Bob Ross episodes with her husband.
The message said
Your daughter has been found dead
With a bag of cocaine located next to her
Please give us a call
To identify her body
My fear response has never been to
Fight or run
It has always been the absolute and abrupt
Board-stiff lack of movement
I said no
Over and over
Like a chant to bring back the dead
Or travel through time
Though the words were muddied
By dry tears
Choking my throat
As they clawed their way out
My husband stirred
Asked what was wrong
I didn’t move
I read the words over and over
White letters cast out from a green thought bubble
Such a common morning task
To check one’s phone
We had no conversation of substance
For more than a year and a half
Before these letters introduced themselves
To my eyes
Sunk my heart
Into my bowels
The freeze thawed from my body
The shaking and shrieking
And I felt my husband’s hands around my pregnant waist
His sobs pushing deeply into my back
I wondered silently
How I would live through this again
Her voice on the other end
A soft and scratchy
Brought my tears to the front
Poured out of my body
Straight from my heart
That was almost crushed from the reality
Of what I read
The sounds that came from my mouth
Made no sense
But the message wasn’t reality
Like a police officer texting wasn’t a reality
At my most vulnerable
She told me she loved me
Over and over
And apologized for some stranger’s terrible prank
That felt very much like it was scripted for me
And this isn’t diminished
By her message twelve hours later
Telling me that the phone call I made to her
And that I should not expect emotional support
Because I am an adult
And it isn’t her job
Charles's poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction have been published in a variety of reviews and anthologized in a number of books, and he has written two plays and a novel, CHAGFORD REVISITED. See his website. Read a longer bio at the end of this section.
Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. I drew my curtains closed, unable to enjoy the pretty clouds. I lay back down.
I had come to dread them.
Purple clouds have become a harbinger of doom, a sign that trouble was on the way.
They meant my father was coming.
Every single night. Purple clouds. Blushing sky. My father’s visits. Every friggin’ night.
Perhaps I should explain. My father is dead—he died about a year ago. At first, everything was, well, not fine—you don’t feel “fine” because your father died—but things were normal, in the sense that my family and I were grieving—tears, fond memories, missing him. You know—the way normal people feel when someone they love dies.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!—there came a knocking on my bedroom door. Then, a voice said, “Mark me!”
“Pop,” I hissed. “Be quiet. I’m coming.” I felt silly—Diana, my wife, can’t hear my father. Apparently, I’m the only one who can. But he bangs on our bedroom door every night, and every night, I’m afraid he’s gonna wake her up.
I got out of bed and shuffled quickly to the door.
“Pop,” I started to say, but then I tripped and fell into the laundry basket.
“YELP!” Daisy the beagle, who’d been peacefully sleeping between the bed and the doorway, didn’t seem to be hurt, but I’d scared the hell out of her.
“My hour is almost come…” Pop continued, trying unsuccessfully to speak in a creepy voice.
I left the room, closed the door, and confronted him in the dining room. “Pop, I know. ‘Sulfrous and tormenting flames,’ blah, blah, blah.”
“You don’t like Hamlet?” he asked.
“Not when you quote it every single night,” I said. “At midnight.” I walked right through him (on purpose, because he hates that), went into the living room, and sat down in a chair.
“I failed raising you,” he said, sinking dejectedly into the chair next to mine. “No appreciation of culture. I bet you haven’t even noticed the purple clouds are a reference to ‘The Raven.’”
“Nope,” I said, reaching down into the cabinet between our chairs and pulling out a bottle of Scotch and two shot glasses.
“See, in ‘The Raven,’ the narrator’s bedchamber had curtains made of purple silk,” Pop continued.
“I don’t care.” I poured myself a shot of Scotch.
“So I made the clouds purple because….”
“If you keep talking, I’m not going to pour you any of this,” I said, gesturing with the bottle. Of course, he can’t drink, being a spirit and all, but he says he can still smell. He appreciates it when I pour a shot for him.
“You are a horrible, undutiful son,” he sniffed. But he stopped trying to talk about Poe and the Raven. “Is that Highland Park?” he asked, looing suddenly cheerful.
“Yes,” I said. “Diana got it for me special, for my birthday.” I picked up my glass, taking a small sip, letting the rich flavor roll around my tongue.
“When’s your birthday?”
“Today,” I said, giving him a baleful look. He’d never remembered even when he’d been alive.
“Hey,” he said defensively. “Time functions differently in the spiritual realm.”
“Shenanigans. I call shenanigans. I don’t believe you.”
He bent over, took a long sniff of Scotch vaper, pointedly not responding. I let it go.
Finally, he said, “So, how’s Diana? The boys?”
“The same as they were last night, Pop.”
“Oh,” he said. “I guess so. Then he was silent.
I just waited. Pop came for the same reason every night. And it’s not to check on his daughter-in-law and his grandkids, whom, to be fair, he doted on when he was alive. And it sure wasn’t to check on the wellbeing of his only son. Me.
That’s not how haunting works. No, ghosts haunt people because they have unfinished business with the living. That’s me. Pop haunts me because he extracted a solemn promise from me on his deathbed, and, as far as he’s concerned, I haven’t delivered on the promise.
“Have you heard anything?” he finally asked.
“I’m surprised it took you this long to ask.”
He looked offended. “That’s not the only reason I come,” he said. “I care about my grandsons. I love my daughter-in-law. And you did promise….”
It was a promise I had regretted making every single night.
“The Promise” isn’t want you think. It’s not about vengeance, or telling somebody he loved them, or a secret treasure to make sure my three boys had money for college. Nope, it’s about a book manuscript.
Yep, the deathbed promise he extracted from me was to get his book manuscript published. It had been his life’s work, his dream.
“Pop,” I said, compassion cutting through my irritation. “Yes, there’s news.”
He sat upright in his chair. In case you’re wondering what ghosts look like, he looks pretty much the same as he did when he was alive. At least that’s the case for “manifestations,” the technical term for a personal haunting—when someone from your past keeps appearing to you.
Yes, I looked it up on Wikipedia.
“There is? When are they going to publish?”
He looked so eager, so hopeful…as sleep-deprived and irritated as I was, I felt bad.
“It’s not good news.”
My father’s manuscript wasn’t some literary tome—a genius novel or a collection of poems. After he’d died, he’d told me he’d met both John Kennedy Toole and Emily Dickinson, and that they were both very positive about how well received their posthumous works had been. Nor was his book on a nonfiction topic that might gather interest—not a book on birds or woodworking or winemaking.
No, the title of my father’s magnum opus was The Hitherto Unnoticed Influence of Aramaic Linguistic Structure on the Development of Early Christianity in Syriac Cultures. Try finding a publisher who’d even lookat a manuscript with that title.
“What did they say? Did they want a rewrite?”
“They’re not going to request rewrites from a dead author, Pop.”
“That’s true. But you could say you understand the project and tell them you’d be willing to do any necessary revision.”
“They have to want to publish the book in the first place.”
Pop sagged. “They didn’t care at all?”
“They said ‘While the scholarship is insightful, the small market for a specialized work such as this isn’t large enough to justify the expense of publication.”
He was silent for a while—something he never was when he was alive. Then he looked at me, a pained expression in his blue eyes—eyes the same color of gunmetal blue that mine are. “So I guess that’s it.”
As gently as I could, I said, “That was the last press that publishes books on Early Christianity.”
“I don’t understand. My students always said the subject was fascinating. Said ‘it sounds boring at first, but when you get into it, it’s interesting.’”
I didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry.” It sounded lame even as I said it.
“I guess my ideas won’t live on. They’ll be forgotten,” he said.
“Pop, we remember you. We love you. As long as any of us draws breath, you won’t be forgotten. Diana puts your picture up on the family ofrenda. She even leaves whiskey and pan dulce out for you.”
“It’s not the same thing.”
Now I felt hurt. Not remembering my birthday was one thing. Not caring that I loved him and remembered him was ….
“I don’t mean it like that. You, your family, your mother….they mean the world to me. But I’m talking about my professional life, my work, the things I spent hours working on during the workday.” He looked at me, making eye contact. “You want to think the work you did matters.”
“That makes sense,” I said.
“Well,” he went on. “I can’t fault you. You got off to a slow start, but I have to admit that you’ve done everything you can to get my book published.”
I tried to ignore the crack about the “slow start.” Apparently, he’d expected me to start sending out manuscripts the afternoon I got home from his funeral. I was still pretty deep in grief when he’d started haunting me, three months to the day after his death. “I really did try, Pop.”
He stood up, crossed to me, and put a hand on my shoulder. Of course I couldn’t feel anything, but I appreciated the gesture. “Thank you, son. Thank you for trying.”
He turned and started walking to the door.
“Pop, they did say ‘the scholarship is insightful.’”
He turned back, a sad smile on his face. “That’s editor-speak for ‘I’m not interested but I’m trying to be kind about it.’” Then, he said, “Good bye, son.”
I watched him go. He never opens the door and leaves; he toddles over to the front door and just…dissipates.
He was starting to dissolve into mist when I said “WAIT!”
Resolving into a more solid form, he turned back and said, “Yes?”
“The whole time you’ve been haunting me...nearly a year…you’ve never once said ‘good bye.’ You’ve said, ‘Keep trying’ or ‘Don’t be lazy’ or you’ve tried to dictate snarky replies to editors who rejected your book. But not once, have you ever said ‘Good bye.”
He shrugged. “I have to let go.” Then, more gently, he said “I probably shouldn’t have made you promise in the first place. If I had pushed myself a little harder, been a little more focused, I would have sent the book out myself. Maybe if I’d been alive, it would have been harder to reject it.”
“So that’s it?”
“Yes,” he said, coming back over to me. He cupped my cheek in his ghostly hand. I wanted to believe I felt his caress, but I didn’t. “You really have been a good son.”
“No,” I said. I couldn’t believe it. Sure, I was irritated that he woke me every night. I’d come to hate the color purple, especially in clouds, even though it had been my favorite color my whole life. I’d bitched about the time and energy it took to format his manuscript so it looked like a book, to find potential publishers, to send out queries and sample book chapters. I’d hated telling him when I got bad news.
But I also got to spend a part of every night with my father, a man I loved even if he drove me crazy half the time. In the midst of my grief, I’d gotten my father back.
And now, he was leaving, this time for good.
“No, what, son?”
“We haven’t tried foreign publishers,” I blurted out. “What about some in the Middle East? Where they still speak Aramaic?”
He shook his head sadly. “I think you’ve tried hard enough, son. Time to let go. Time for you to get a good night’s sleep.”
“But Pop,” I said, trying to clutch his arm so he wouldn’t go. Of course I went right through him when I tried to grab him.
“Please stop doing that,” he said, “It tickles.”
“German!” I blurted out.
That stopped him. “What?”
“German. A lot of the scholarship on your subject is in German. Maybe we could get your book translated into German.”
He threw his hands up, his ‘surprised’ look when he was still alive. “German? I was at a conference once and met a man named Kirchdorrfer. Said he was interested in my ideas. Maybe he’s still alive.”
“I can find out,” I said. “I’ll find him on the internet. And I’ll look for a translator, too.”
He looked at me for a long time, an odd smile on his face. “Thank you, son.”
I wanted to be casual but was choking back tears when I said, “I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
He nodded. “Tomorrow, then.” He took a step, and said, “And one more thing. Tell Diana I appreciate the empanadashe puts on the ofrenda for me. But tell her I really don’t like pineapple. Tell her I prefer pumpkin.”
Then he slowly dissipated into a purple mist and was gone. I went over and peeked out the window, looking up at the purple clouds and the blushing sky.
I’ll see you tomorrow, Pop, I thought, went back into our room, and slipped into bed beside my still-sleeping wife.
Thirty-three thousand tons of steel,
She slogged through the gray seas,
Like an arthritic aunt,
Determined to cross the street without help,
Graceless but reliable.
When Uncle Sam invited her to the dance,
The dance called World War II,
She was not his favorite niece,
He told her to dress,
So she could take care of sea planes.
She stumped gracelessly across the Pacific,
Where out-of-ammo pilots aimed planes
At her thick hull.
She wasn’t pretty,
But she was tough,
Shrugging off attacks,
Giving better than she took.
She sank sixteen enemy ships,
Put thirty more out of action,
Shooting enemy aircraft out of the sky
While performing more than 400 rescue missions.
Like sailors, Ships get medals—
She was awarded two,
And the admiral made her
All she wanted to do
Was make her Uncle Sam proud.
But was obsolete before she got home from the dance.
But her Uncle Sam was a thrifty fellow,
Figured she’d gotten all gussied up
Why not invite her to a different ball?
“It’s an honor,”
He whispered in her ear,
“You’ll be a test platform.
We’ll put new weapons systems on you,
To see if they work.
You’ll be the first to try everything.”
She didn’t quite trust,
The lascivious, tempting sound
Of Uncle’s voice,
Gamely, though, she agreed.
Her sailors kneeled worshipfully on her decks,
Holystoning each teak plank,
Polishing her brass,
Painting her deck,
And she hoped that,
Just once, she would be
The belle of the ball,
When they ripped wood off her fantail she cried,
Blushing when they bared her bare steel bottom
For all the world to see.
She howled when they cut a huge hole
On her fantail
Plunging a missile magazine into her depths,
Leaving a launcher sticking up out of her bottom.
It was embarrassing.
None of her ship friends even knew what it was.
The first missile
Made her decks burn like no ships’ decks
Had been burned before.
She hadn’t been built to take this kind of abuse,
But the same hull and decks
That shrugged off Japanese zeros
Because she wanted to make her Uncle Sam proud.
She cried at the burns,
On her beautiful teak decks.
Her Uncle had other concerns, though,
The Soviets were putting things up in the sky,
Out in space,
And the Navy had to track them,
So he added three more decks
To her already top heavy frame,
Looking like a short, heavy woman
Forced to teeter about on six inch heels.
Decades came and went,
But she was always game,
They cut out launchers,
Added others launchers,
Uncle Sam called her up,
She could hear tears of joy
In his voice.
“The Cold War is won!”
He breathed excitedly,
“We command the seas.”
Then, an embarrassed cough,
“Um, and we don’t need you anymore.”
She wanted to plead,
Promise to be useful,
But he had already hung up.
She was the oldest line ship in commission,
For more than forty years,
She’d taken everything they’d thrown at her,
Dive bombers, enemy ships,
Missile platforms, radar—
And now they were done.
All that is left of her now,
Is a plaque and a ship’s bell.
The steel melted down now for other things—
Maybe a girder on an overpass,
The steel in a building,
Maybe a playground Jungle Jim,
Or maybe the razor blade you shaved with yesterday.
Her eternal reward
For forty-five years
Of faithful service
To her Uncle Sam.
The Gods of the North warn
Hell is a hot place.
Do bad, and you will burn,
Smelling brimstone in a fiery pit
South Texas sun blazes like an angry god,
Sweat runs rivers down my back,
My pale skin burns, red, so I must hide from the Sun,
Shield myself from the wrath of Thor
With sun hats, and sunblock,
While he burns my plants,
Evaporates lakes and rivers,
And slays even the toad
Crossing the parking lot,
Who dies, then swells up,
A grotesque balloon blistering on asphalt
This is summer.
Gods of the South snicker at the North,
Bask in the heat of Thor’s wrath,
Do bad and you will freeze,
In a dark cold place,
Old Sol, the Sun, has grown weak
Forgetting Chicago in January.
I must work outside,
Stand in waist high snow,
Try to use a metal wrench
When it’s twenty below zero.
The wind shoots down from the North,
Knifing my heart through the long underwear,
And heavy jacket. My hands, numb, can’t work
With gloves on,
But can’t work when they are frozen.
This is winter,
Quetzalcoatl’s anger is everywhere,
My southern bones fear Aztecs
More than Vikings,
Can always take clothes off,
But can’t put on enough to keep warm.
If I have to choose hell, I’d rather be Aztec than Viking,
Would rather burn than freeze.
Copyright Charlesa Etheridge
Pink granite swells billow
From the barge dock to the distant island
Crimson sun slowly melts on the horizon
Perfect stillness on the water
Socially distanced fishermen
Sit on the barge dock
Still, but charged
Ready to pounce
If a fish bites
Mosquitos are biting
Fish are not
A perfect, still tableau
The only motion
A dark haired girl
Twirling happily by herself
Singing sweetly in Spanish
Her small sweet song providing
Just the right compliment
To the stillness
Peace is punctured
By a red Chevy Avalanche
Barreling down the barge dock
Poorly muffled engine
Drowning out all other sound
A whoop from the driver’s window
Truck cuts its wheels
Tires spin on the concrete
Cuts circles, marring the dock
Spinning, smoking tires
Blackening the air
Replacing the salt-scented air
With eau de burning rubber
PIeasant smells, pleasant sounds
Driver loses control for a second
Truck lurches straight at the little girl
Her song stopped
Wheels catch at the last second
Barely missing the songstress
By a yard
Driver never sees her
Just keeps spinning his tires and whooping
Angry the father of the girl yells
He and another man
Stride angrily toward the truck
Driver notices, and leaves
After a minute or two
The sound is gone
But the smoke remains
The moment is broken
The sea is still pink granite
The sun a dissolving crimson disk
Fishermen still fish
But the tiny songstress sings no more
I’ve always been taught, that if somebody is hungry, you feed them. It’s a basic act of human decency. Forget the politics. Forget trying to analyze the situation that made them hungry. Forget blame. If someone is hungry and you have the ability, you help. It goes doubly if there are children in need.
This past weekend, my wife, Diana and I went with a couple of people to do some relief work at one of the camps in Matamoros, Mexico where asylum seekers are waiting for the chance to enter the US legally. Along with our priest, Father Jonathan, and a friend named Donna, we took a car full of gifts donated by our church—air mattresses, cook pots, and a couple of hundred pounds of food. We were also armed with a generous cash donation from the parishioners to buy needed materials once there.
Our first stop after leaving Corpus was the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, about a 2 ½ hour drive...
Self-proclaimed desert rat Chuck Etheridge was raised in El Paso, Texas. After a stint in the
US Navy keeping the coast of Southern California safe from the threat of enemy invasion, he
attended the University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Christian University. In addition to his
time in the service, he has worked as an actor, a convenience store clerk, a Rent-a-Poet, and a
catalog copy writer before finding respectable employment as an English teacher, first at
McMurry University and, later, at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. His poetry, fiction, and
creative non-fiction have been published in a variety of reviews and anthologized in a number of
books, and he has written two plays that have been produced. His first two novels, Border
Canto and The Desert After Rain, were published by Fine Tooth Press. His comic
novel Chagford Revisited recently appeared in the UK and is available in the States on Amazon.
His most recent work has appeared in Corpus Christi Writers, Switchgrass Review, and Level
Land: Poems for and About the I35 Corridor.. See his website.
I call her up.
“Put on your dress and shoes.”
“I can’t,” she says. “Prom is cancelled.”
“I know. We’re going to have to Social Distance.”
“But I worked extra hours to buy a tux
And you and your Mom spent weeks finding that dress
And it’s prom night. We’re going to dress up
Even if it’s cancelled.”
“Let me ask my mom.”
The next voice is not friendly.
“Dylan,” her mom says, “I thought you had more sense.
I thought I could trust you.”
“You can, Mrs. Wilson.
We’ll dress up
Stay six feet apart
Stay on the front porch.”
Ominous silence on the other end
“Okay,” her mom says
But I’m going to keep my eye on you.”
As if she wouldn’t have even anyway.
I need Dad’s help putting on a tux
There’s this weird elastic thing
Called a “cummerbund”
And he has to tie my tie.
I use a red bandana
As a facemask,
Looking like a bandido
Taking health precautions.
Takes a lot of pictures,
Says, “You look so handsome.”
I shrug, embarrassed
On impulse, I go into Mom’s cabinet,
Grab a Mason jar,
Fill it half full with water,
Fill the other half with wildflowers from the garden
And drive to her house.
She is standing on the porch,
My heart stops
She is more beautiful than I could have imagined
Standing in a dress of some blue-green color
Short in the front, but not too short,
Touching the ground in the back,
She looks like a princess
In those Disney movies she loves
Only she’s real,
And only six feet away
Somehow, she’s found a face mask
That matches her dress
And strappy heels,
Her green eyes twinkle
I ache to close the distance
But I can’t
So I set the Mason jar full of flowers
On the porch
Her mother, plastic gloved,
Gives the jar the once over
With Clorox wipes
And brushes away a tear
I step to one side of the porch,
Take out on my phone
Turn on Spotify
“May I have this dance?”
Cheeks raised behind the mask,
She says, “Yes”
Going to the other side of the porch
And we dance
And we twirl
And we laugh
And I don’t care
That prom was cancelled.
In my mind
We dance arm in arm
Charles's poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction have been published in a variety of reviews and anthologized in a number of books, and he has written two plays and a novel, CHAGFORD REVISITED. See his website.
Comino, Chili, Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
The Five Pillars of Wisdom
The Torah of South Texas Cuisine.
Comino, rich, dark brown,
Called “cumin” by some,
Brings the heat,
Opens the airways.
Chili, the deep warm red,
Which is not the same
Salt, the Biblical spice,
The covenant of friendship,
Helps the tongue tell
One flavor from another.
Pepper, glorious in blackness,
Makes flavors sharper--
Use it sparingly.
Garlic, faintly yellow granules,
Opens flavors up,
Spreads more evenly through food
Than its fresh cousin.
This sacred five,
This holy quinity,
The five-fold ministry,
The building blocks of life.
Together they manifest
The list goes on,
Carne al pastor…
The only debate,
How much of each to use,
Or hand-written recipes
A sacred trust.
You can’t use too much comino.
My oldest son says
“You add comino until
Your ancestors rise from the grave and say,
‘Ja, mijo. Basta,
‘That’s enough son.’”
And then you add
A couple of shakes
If your wife enters the house,
And can’t smell comino
When the door opens,
You didn’t use enough.
Welcomes impure thought;
Divergence from the path of righteousness,
Yields delicious deviations.
Want to entertain heresy?
Remove the comino,
Add onion powder
And you have brisket rub.
Want to stay sacred
But veer away from doctrine,
Creating an apocrypha,
Still holy, but not quite pure?
Remove the chili
Add tempting turmeric
And a bit of oregano,
And you have sazon.
I share the Gospel with you
In all its glory,
Spread the Good News:
Chili, Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder,
Comino’s holy name.
Chelsea Brotherton studied English writing at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi. She won the 1st place undergraduate creative writing 2019 Haas English Writing Awards for a small collection of poetry. A Houston native, she is and enthusiastic Corpus Christi transplant.
Here’s to you, and trying to forget
My father, who art in nowhere.
Your face, barely seen, burns in memory,
Damned be your name.
My father who art in nowhere,
Would you know your children’s faces?
Damned be their names.
Yours was mine, but erased from me.
Do you know your children’s faces?
Have they been hidden from your kingdom?
You were mine, and erased yourself-
May your hell be as it is in my earth.
I try to hide you as I forge my kingdom,
But daily your ghost creeps back to me.
May your hell be as it is in my nightmares,
Your ghouls the faces of your forgotten children.
Your ghost creeps back to me,
And I cannot forgive your trespasses.
The faces of your forgotten children,
I imagine them happy in your absence.
I cannot forgive your trespasses, oh father.
Abandonment is an ever-weeping wound.
I imagine myself happy in your absence,
And in moments of temptation, I let myself.
Abandonment is an ever-creeping wound,
Climbing spine and occasionally finding brain.
In moments of temptation I let myself
Be delivered from your evil.
Here’s to you, and trying to forget
Your face, barely seen, burns in memory.
I relapsed today
into my old ways.
It’s been five months
since I left this pit-
I was conditioned to ignore
His words, convinced of their emptiness-
Leaving me just as empty.
I would be more
To make up for him. I was sure
If I could make the right meal
Or speak gently enough
Or wear something sexier
That he would be happy
Enough to treat me like it.
I’m not sure what made me walk away,
But I’ve spent five months trying
To figure out what I’m worth
In my independence, my singularity.
I have been failing, pining
After sweet words and squeezed thighs.
But today it happened, a shame
I thought I had forgotten.
Like when I brought Peter home from the shelter,
The way he auto-cowered at the mere flinch
Of a finger- he still does this sometimes,
And today your words burrowed
Through my ears, banging around pinball
Style, knocking my stomach over,
Punching holes in my brain.
“Another bitch that cares
about nothing but herself”
“I hate all you whores”
And my reply?
I was my dog, cowering in a corner.
And I am sorry
For you, but it’s not my damn job.
Mostly, I’m sorry for myself.
And I’m writing this down
As a reminder, that the next time a man calls
Me a cunt on a second date
(or a 400th)
To say “I’m sorry”
But to follow it with
“But you can fuck right off.”
Christian Garduno’s work can be read in over 100 literary magazines. More about Christian at the end of this section.
I sat all day on my ergonomically-correct office chair in my corner office, ignored all janitors and groundskeepers on the way to my bad-ass leased car in the parking lot, bought some gas pilfered all the way from God only knows where, and made it home by 5:45.
Time to let the wifey cook dinner from scratch, turn up the game while she checks the kiddos’ homework, does all of everyone’s laundry, folds it, irons it, puts it away—in between, I ask her if she can grab my charger—bathes the children, gets their day ready for tomorrow. Then, when she finally hits the couch, I have her ask me about my day. Well, really, I just Googled stuff all day, went over the Thompson account with Williams, but by then, we had to cut it short because it was lunchtime, which the company paid for, naturally. Came back to the office, talked about the game with Anderson until it was break-time, grabbed some free coffee from the break room, mentioned to Amanda in Accounting that her Pilates is certainly paying off (Mmmmm) and if she could add me on FB (the OTHER account I have on the down low).
Finally, it was time for me to shove random papers into my briefcase (I don’t even know whats in there LOL). By the time I hit the elevators (entirely oblivious to the cleaning crew coming in to wash the toilets, sweep the carpeting, wipe down the elevators, toss out the stale coffee, prep the filter for the morning, etc.) I saw Jameson, and I owed him one, so I broke out the company card and we tied on a quick-double shot at Nippley’s. While talking about how plump that waitress’s tush is and how one day—one fine day—he’s gonna ask her out and hit that, I slam my drink and I says to him- No way, man, dream on; he laughs even harder, saying: When I brutalize them cheeks, I’m gonna send you a selfie of me hitting that fo’ sho’!!!
Whew, I laughed all the way across the freeway, all the way to my off-ramp, all the way down the street (where I saw some sad sap waiting for public transportation, so I splashed him), and just before I hit the corner, I slapped that garage door opener, slid the SUV right into my space, left my briefcase—I never need that damn thing—and as I turned the key into my extravagant home, I thought—Whew!! Man, that Jameson is one funny-ass dude!!!!
I was on the house-phone in the kitchen
you were looking out over the Mendenhall Glacier
watching three bear-cubs romping below
seems like you said that for an hour
It'd be a good time for you to swim back to shore for sure
I got your telegram last week, I keep it hidden away in my composition book
Giovanni’s back along the coast
read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2022
I like this song because you like this song
why is that so wrong
I like who likes me
is that wrong
So go ahead, pull the pin
& let’s begin again
falling back half-asleep to the black & white
Liz Taylor movie on cable TV
I call all the dreams you save
one mass grave
and I can’t tell if it’s you
or the hydroponic THC
You crook your index
and I’m at your feet
you blow an eyelash
and I’m on the floor
There go the wolves
here come the buzzards
make sure to tell the ravens
my heart is left of center
The story begins and ends in the graveyard
which I knew at the time…
I even thought about that after my first Bloody Mary
such irony at 38,000 feet above the earth.…
not exactly a time to lose your marbles.....
praying to keep from looking out the window, out over the clouds, what agony
crying for mother, swearing my full name, every iota devoted to landing
clenching the armrests in gasps
Touchdown and I couldn’t jump off that plane quick enough
a lay-over margarita, and I spilled it magnificently
meeting Emily by chance, sunfalling by enormous glass windows
exchanging books, numbers & looks
Holding court in a mansion, stepway to the hot tub & shower
pool table inside, fire place outside
blowing speakers and neighbors away, 91.1 FM Berkeley radio-
props, man, props
vikings and raiders
getting lost in The Old City
free BART weekend
La Val's has closed
N Judah all the way down
the Spunset, Funston, Great Expectations
All songs are sad when you’re in love
who would want it any other way?
He still sings in the shower-
like who does that anymore??
and why do you sing in that faux British accent?
makes no sense whatsoever
and why do you cry when you play Willie Nelson records?
I swear, you are so weird
You read too much Plath, you know
She can really get to you
She’ll lead you down a life of Sundays
All love is doomed, it’s primordial.
She’s a sailor
guided by brittle stars
and the chorus of waves
sailing on the banks beyond
the barking sands
She is underway
over mountains of ocean-
At the helm of her own soul
anchored only to Heaven itself
Counting every wave on the Ganges
every tomb is another womb
and every time you're checking out
another soul is perfectly checking in-
it's just the rooms we rent...
Find me some buds before too long in the afternoon,
anywhere you are can make a mighty fine saloon,
when the beach is your backyard,
you don’t have to look very hard,
so give me a flash, let’s make a splash,
Gulf of Mexico’s always got plenty of room
read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Christian Garduno’s work can be read in over 100 literary magazines. He is the recipient of the 2019 national Willie Morris Award for Southern Poetry, a Finalist in the 2020-2021 Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Writing Contest, and a Finalist in the 2021 Julia Darling Memorial Poetry Prize. He lives and writes along the South Texas coast with his wonderful wife Nahemie and young son Dylan.
Masha wanted to be cosmonaut
she wanted to fly far, far away
just her and Dmitri
and wave farewell to all the Field-Marshals
but now she’s stuck missing something inside that she never ever had
Dmitri, he is, how do you say--
expert with electronics
Masha was scared to death of the GULAGS
one night they take you away and in the morning, you never existed
she prayed for her and Dmitri, that they would make it out
and then she prayed if they couldn’t make it out together
then at least he would make it out
Dmitri, he would remember me
even after everyone else forgot
Masha often thinks of memories that are not her own
like a library book on loan
but it’s not entirely her own fault
she’s can’t risk looking back and turning into a pillar of salt
Dmitri, meet me in my dreams, we can still fly away
Christian Garduno’s work can be read in over 100 literary magazines. He is the recipient of the 2019 national Willie Morris Award for Southern Poetry, a Finalist in the 2020-2021 Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Writing Contest, and a Finalist in the 2021 Julia Darling Memorial Poetry Prize. He lives and writes along the South Texas coast with his wonderful wife Nahemie and young son Dylan.
(originally published in Syncopation Literary Journal, Nov 2022)
I’m pretty sure this was all your idea-
you were beaming with pride over it
when you thought of it
back in June
you were like- let’s go to your brother’s in Virginia for the holidays, dear
and without looking, I said- do you know what all that would entail?
I mean, I’m not saying I wouldn’t wanna see the fam and all, but damn
You were wiping down the counter, your left shoulder slightly up-
It would be nice- a little road trip, asking directions lol,
and anyways, it’ll be a quaint quiet white little Christmas…
the…left a gap in the conversation I knew better not to even touch
You pursed your lips- well, the thing is, I’ve already been saving up
and requested the time off work, and I emailed him last week saying we’d be there
everything’s been settled, but there’s just one little caveat, my love
I exhaled- and what would that be?
You started a pot of coffee- it’s just that we all kind of came to the consensus
that it would be better if you didn’t play any Dylan this year, that’s all
we all know how much he means to you, but it really isn’t holiday music, is it?
I inhaled- how about for Christmas, I give you all the gift of getting Dylan?
You started wiping down the same counter you wiped down before-
Darling, read the room a little, you know? How about Janey Mitchell? Everyone likes her, right? Why don’t you make one of your little playlists with her music? Do you want milk in your coffee tonight? I know it’s been giving you gas lately
Exasperated, I said- just sugar and who the hell is Janey Mitchell? Did you mean Joni Mitchell? Wow, way off!
You combed your hair behind you ear with your hand- Oh, honey bear, don’t be so upset, you know who I meant- I really like that one she sings about California, so soothing, she’s like “I love California!”
I took the coffee- that’s not even how that song goes, and my playlists are CURATED, and what do you mean caveat? How many people have signed on to this?
You looked over your cup- Well, I wouldn’t want to say everyone, but everyone
I put my cup down on the coaster- Everyone?!
You looked me in the eye- well, not everyone, I guess the cats might like it, I dunno, look, my love, we just all remember that Fourth of July weekend when you did like an 80-hour non-stop commercial-free Dylan deep dive and well, I’m just gonna say it, sweetheart, I don’t think he can sing very well, that’s all, I suppose if he sprinted for some vocal lessons and found his range, he could be alright…
The…left a distance between us
Your eyes widened- No! Don’t do it!
My chin was raised in defiance- I grabbed my laptop and made a playlist right then and there: BOB DYLAN @ XMAS @ VIRGINIA and I emailed it to the coalition
We did take a road trip that holiday season, we did have to ask for directions, the snow was falling in Virginia and best thrill of the entire year was when we walked into my brother’s warm house and I yelled out-
Alexa, play BOB DYLAN @ XMAS @ VIRGINIA and she said ‘ok now playing’
Christopher Ashworth is a senior at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He has always enjoyed the Arts. His current artist expressions are poetry and prose.
I am broken
And I refuse to believe that
Someone loves me
I can see how this could be confusing, but
A broken heart can be healed
Is pure fiction
There isn’t a fish for me
Once I am old and wise, I’ll tell you that
I’ve got my own back because
Takes precedence over
Hear me out:
Once upon a time
Someone broke my heart
Keep my head up because
My father says
Crying makes you weak
My ex says
Love comes and goes
I cannot say for certain
Love finds its way
Hope is lost and
No longer will I sit here and act like
I know what I am doing and
It will eventually show that
I do not put forth effort
And do not assume that
I know what I am
Clara Tamez was born in Corpus Christi. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Incarnate Word in English and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Kingston University London. More about Clara at the end of this section.
“Would you still love me if I didn’t have teeth?”
“Did you wake up with them gone or did you get into an accident?” Jaydon’s voice sounds a little hollow as it always does over the prison phone line. “Or were you born without them somehow?” He laughs and I imagine the curl of his lips as he pictures a me with no teeth or the laugh I would have gotten if I told him I had no hair, or had been magically transformed into a chicken. I loved the laugh I would have gotten with that one.
“All of the above. Start with me waking up without them.”
“It would be freaky. I’d be more worried about the trauma inflicted on you, waking up with puddles of teeth in your lap.”
“Hah! I imagined they just disappeared. Now what if I got into an accident and they all fell out?”
“That’d be some accident.”
Questions that used to be for fun are now a welcome, necessary distraction for both of us. I give him scenarios and he goes through as many as he can in fifteen minutes. Sometimes, we get thirty, if no other inmates are waiting.
These calls are a lot better than they used to be. The first one was: “Luna, you need to help my mom with Ada.”
I didn’t want to at first. That was what he did, and he would continue doing it. Until I heard the bail amount. Then, I marched right up to Raul and demanded he make me full-time. I don’t think he knew why I asked, or cared, just assumed I was desperate to save up for college.
I press the phone into my shoulder. “Ada, finish your applesauce, please. I’ll be right back.”
At the dining table, Ada nods. She moves her spoon as if it’s heavy. Her face is the unusual one compared to her siblings. Jaydon’s skin is deep brown, and when he stands in the sun he glows. Ada’s skin is the color of sand, barely darkening at her forehead. Where his nose widens, hers turns up. The only thing similar is the brow. Heavy lids that blink only when they need to and eyelashes so long they curl into the eye, like yesterday; I held her while she cried and I flicked one out with my fingernail.
I step into my room and the door creaks when it closes.
“You know how old people have sets of fake teeth? Guess we’d have to get you some,” he continues.
“Mmm. But would you still love me?”
“Yeah. What about you, would you love me?”
A pause. “Yes.”
After that, it’s silent for a while.
I run my tongue around my whole mouth. When I was younger, I feared that thinking or saying something over and over would make it come true. If I thought about the devil long enough, he would appear in my room. But none of us can ever predict reality. I couldn’t have.
The prison ends the call abruptly as it often does, without even a chance for a goodby.
Thirty minutes later, I walk back to the kitchen and grab my lunch box. I peek at the inside and take out a half-eaten granola bar and crumpled napkins. A big stain ruins the bottom from my last day of school. Instead of eating at the cafeteria, all us seniors went to the McDonald’s on the corner and signed each other’s yearbooks with greasy French-fry fingers and hearts and promises to keep in touch. The full thermos of soup jostled around and spilled.
The refrigerator has leftovers neither me nor Mom want. It wasn’t very good to begin with since I don’t know how to cook. The microwave at work only functions at half power but it’ll have to do today. I grab a baked chicken leg.
Behind the refrigerator door, Ada’s bowl is empty and her spoon rests next to it, licked cleanly.
“Ada? Are you in the bathroom, sweetheart?” Silence. I zip up my lunch box.
“Ada?” The bathroom is empty. “I know you can hear me. Are we playing hide and seek?”
She’s almost three but she doesn’t say much. Definitely doesn’t ask, “Why is the sky blue?” like what I read online that kids might start asking at this age. Maybe we both fear the day she does, since I won’t know what to tell her, what would be appropriate to introduce.
“Oh! There you are.”
She’s standing in the doorway to my bedroom looking in. She could be looking at a number of things: my old pink dollhouse now crammed full of books, old knickknacks I can’t let go of like a robotic dog that moves its head side to side when you press a button. She turns my way and widens her eyes.
Two weeks ago, the last time Jaydon was here, we watched a documentary. His surprise that he’d hinted at over text was a bag of microwavable popcorn with extra butter, two hot chocolate packets, and a movie he pirated. We lay perfectly still so my bed wouldn’t creak and every few minutes switched who held the phone so our arms wouldn’t hurt.
I want to study English in college, so the film was about linguists discussing the hardest and least spoken languages in the world. Jaydon fell asleep after thirty minutes, his breath sweet and salty and his head heavy on my shoulder. I was warm off the hot cocoa and with him and that slightly fuzzy film, I felt like I had everything.
One of the languages covered is spoken by the Pirahã people in Brazil. They don’t have words for numbers, colors, or past or future tense. They don’t understand abstract concepts like people leaving and if you can’t see or physically observe something it doesn’t exist.
Jaydon is Ada’s favorite sibling and I keep waiting for her to throw a tantrum or ask where he is. Each time she bites her lip and furrows her brow in some kind of thought, I immediately prepare answers that she could understand—he went away for a while but he’s going to come back. We’re all working really hard on it. None of us like this arrangement any more than you do—but once she’s done thinking all she does is blink. Like now, for her I didn’t exist a few moments before. Every time I enter the room, she looks at me like I’m new.
Clara Tamez was born in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1994. Her love of literature began as a child reading Emily Dickinson’s Poetry for Young People. She has traveled through Greece, Italy, France, Malta, Iceland, Scotland, and England and spent most of her childhood writing songs and filling up sketchbooks. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Incarnate Word in English and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Kingston University London. She currently resides in San Antonio, Texas
Coffee Cat has lived in Corpus Christi all her life and graduated from Texas A & M University as a first generation college student with a Bachelor's degree in English. More at the end of this section.
When I was a Kid I told myself
I’d never live past 25
Diagnosed with Demons
The prescription was church
I folded the pages of Bibles
Into the shape of pills
Desperate to quell the monster
In my head because
If the bandages from the
Priest’s mouth don’t
Heal your broken mind
It’s your fault
For rejecting the lord
When I was a Kid
I told myself I’d never live past 25
Stigmata nothing more than a
Symptom of my failure
I didn’t want to be stitched up
But held together by human arms
When I was a Kid I told myself
I’d never live past 25
My blood boiled from
A baptism based on
Biblical Blasphemy of giving my
Life to the lord
What’s the point of being alive if
Your life isn’t yours anyway?
When I was a Kid I told myself
I’d never live past 25
But the other day
I woke up two years past my
Two Degrees and
Not a dime
Not fully alive
But not dead either
Tell me what it's like to be alive and not just survive.
Tell me what it’s like to know you’ll always have food at home
And have a home
To call home
Tell me what it’s like to be content.
Tell me what it’s like to drive down a little street
And pull up into a driveway.
Tell me what it’s like to have the keys to a house,
How does it sound when the door unlocks?
Tell me what does it smell like?
Does it smell like the cigarettes and gunpowder from the
Apartments above and below?
Or does it smell like citrus?
Tell me what it’s like to have a yard and a garden.
Tell me what it’s like to have a barbecue in the backyard
That lasts late into the night.
Tell me what it’s like to have a home.
Tell me what it’s like to be alive and not just survive.
And I’ll tell you what it’s like to survive and not be alive.
Poison me with the hope that one day I too can be alive.
Coffee Cat has lived in Corpus Christi all her life and graduated from Texas A & M University as a first generation college student with a Bachelor's degree in English. She currently works as a technical writer. Her novel DON'T DIE is available on Amazon. Summary: Anastasia Adira has read, watched, and heard countless stories with the same trope: do anything for love or save the princess. Two formulas that never seem to get old. As much as he enjoys a good romance, he never thought he’d be a part of one. Galaxia knows love as a word he can’t spell or recognize on the page. All it is, is something his clients say to him after a night of business and nothing more. When the two meet, the real story begins. BUY ON AMAZON
Cynthia Breeding often wonders if she was born in the wrong century. She has a love/hate relationship with technology and has an avid interest in medieval history. Most of her books are historical romances with a bit of paranormal thrown in now and then. She also loves sailing and horseback riding. Cynthia is a well-established romance writer with 49 novels and novellas available.
By the devil’s own horns, he hadn’t expected Abigail Clayton to be so beautiful. The information he’d gotten on Sayer’s new bride hadn’t said much. Luke Cameron narrowed his gaze at the woman who’d just stepped off the train. She wore no bonnet and the sun made her golden hair glow like a halo, brightening her eyes to the deep blue of the Pacific. She had the face of an angel, softly rounded with a pert nose. Not that Luke had any experience with angels. Gunslingers rarely did. But…he studied her face again. Her mouth was definitely not angelic. The full lips, right now gathered in a pout, begged to be kissed. He pushed the thought away. He was here to see who would come for her now that Sayer was dead...
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21st century history teacher Elizabeth O’Malley wakes up in a Texas barn in 1849 wearing only a black silk negligee. When she’s discovered by Texas Ranger Miguel de Basque, he thinks she’s a prostitute from a Fort Worth brothel…perhaps suffering from amnesia,
given her wild tales of where she’s from.
Elizabeth O’Malley was falling, gliding through mists, hurdling downward, the air getting darker until all was pitch. She reached for something to grab onto, but met only swirling vapors as she spiraled on. A speck of light dawned ahead, silhouetting the shape of a flame-haired woman dressed in white leather. The vision became engulfed in a web of blue and green strands as Elizabeth rushed forward. She put her hands out to brace herself and swept right through the mesh, landing with a solid thump onto a floor, bumping her head in the process.
“Ouch!” Rubbing her forehead, she slowly opened her eyes. She was lying face down in a pile of fresh hay. Her nose twitched. The smell of horses filled her senses. A stable? She must be dreaming, but this felt so real.
Behind her, a horse gently nickered and stamped a hoof. Elizabeth rolled over and sat up in front of a box stall. The dappled gray who looked at her had large intelligent eyes set in a broad forehead and well-placed small ears, cocked forward as he leaned over the half-door to nuzzle her.
Trembling, she stood and stroked his muzzle. The horse felt real, but she often dreamed of horses, or at least she had until sexy men began appearing in her night visions, and she always dreamed in vivid color.
She looked down. She was still wearing the Victoria’s Secret black bra and thong with the chiffon wrap her traitorous fiancé would never see. She certainly did not need to relive finding Edward in bed with a Barbie look-alike. Not that she should have been surprised, she grimly reminded herself. Edward was drop-dead gorgeous and had enough Bad Boy attributes to make him alluring to any female. Better she had found out about his promiscuousness now than later.
Elizabeth fingered the leather strap on her wrist from which a Native American wood-carved fetish dangled. Her history students had given it to her yesterday, before the start of the Chirstmas holidays, along with a beautiful dream-catcher. The kids loved to tease her about her passion for the Old West, but they’d gotten caught up in the era after she’d brought in vintage John Wayne films and Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns. The fetish probably wasn’t the right accessory for her black lace, but she had not wanted to take it off. Just as she started to close the chifforn wrap, not that it covered much, she heard a sound. She whirled around and gasped.
A half-naked Indian teenager stood not two feet away, close enough for her to see a slight bead of sweat on his upper lip. It was uncanny how authentic this dream felt—probably the result of seeing too many of those western films. He wore a breechclout and leather leggings. Colored beads hung around his neck and his bare chest. A hawk feather was braided into his long hair and he had the blackest eyes she had ever seen. He looked like a hungry wolf stalking its prey. Instinctively, she took a step backward.
The Indian took a silent step forward. “I could have counted coup, you know,” he said. “Touched you without your knowing I was here. But I wanted you to know.”
Elizabeth drew another shaky breath and tried to cover herself more fully. Why in the world would she be nearly nude in her own dream? The Indian’s glance traveled from her face to her breasts and a small smile played on his mouth. A hard mouth, thin-lipped and straight-lined. She took another step backward and bumped against the wall of the stall. Trapped. The wall felt real, too. Some dream.
He came closer and reached over to touch her copper hair. “Fire Woman. You must have much magic. Your eyes are the color of our forests—a blessing from the Earth Mother.” He touched the diamond solitaire at her throat with a finger. “A shining star from the heavens. Yes, you have much magic.”
Elizabeth held herself still, hardly breathing. This would be a really, really good time to wake up. “I don’t have magic. Where am I? Who are you?”
Drawing himself up, he said proudly. “I am called Swift Hawk. My father is a Comanche chief.” He twisted a strand of her hair around his finger. “To my people, a woman with flaming hair has much power. Many even fear her.”
She smiled weakly. Good Lord, a Comanche? She had conjured someone from the fiercest of all the Plains Indians to dream of? The finest light cavalry in North America, some said, and the most dangerous fighters. They loved to fight and feared nothing. Well, except maybe a woman with red hair. Feeling ridiculous to be so deep into the dream, she raised her chin.
“Take your hand off me if you don’t want to feel my wrath.”
Swift Hawk laughed and his hand dropped to her shoulder. “I said many fear you, Fire Woman. I do not. I am the son of a chief. I will claim you as my woman and have much honor and power among my father’s people.” He grasped her head in his hands and leaned forward to kiss her. She pushed against him, hard.
“Don’t you want to know where I came from?” she asked, trying to stall him.
He looked surprised. “The Great Spirits sent you. I do not question them.” He glanced down at her breasts again. “I like what they’ve clothed you in, too.” His hand slid down to stroke a breast.
She needed to something to stop this—closing her eyes, she screeched at the top of her lungs.
Suddenly, he was yanked away. Elizabeth felt cool air surrounding her. Slowly, she opened her eyes and then quickly closed them again. She could not have seen what she thought she had. Clearly, her mind was bent on fantasies tonight.
Tentatively, she peered out from behind her tousled hair. The man—her rescuer, she assumed, for the Indian boy was gone—was breathtakingly handsome. Far too good-looking to be real and very much like the delectable man she’d encountered in her sleep a couple of nights ago. She might still be dreaming, but this was much, much better. The stranger’s blackish hair curled just above the collar of the open neck of his shirt and a part of it fell across his forehead, giving him a roguish appearance. She almost reached out to brush it back for him. His eyes were warm brown and deep-set above high cheekbones and a straight nose. He had the most sensuous mouth she had ever seen. Definitely kissable. Well, of course he would. She was dreaming! He was tall, well over six feet with broad shoulders. With the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up, she could see tan, well-muscled forearms. Her gaze traveled to his tight fitting jeans and she tried to ignore the bulge lodged there. She focused on his well-developed thighs. Big mistake—better to look down. The boots were hand-tooled. Cowboy boots. Real ones. She really had to stop reading romance novels about the Wild West. Cowboys and Indians. Her students would get a real laugh!
“Who are you and how did you get into my barn?” His voice was deep and resonant and held a note of authority. A man would think twice about crossing him, she thought and almost giggled. She certainly had conjured up her perfect cowboy. And all man. She couldn’t resist extending her dream-fantasy just a little longer…
“Elizabeth O’Malley,” she said and gave her dream man her best smile, the one her best friend, Brooke, said made her look alluring. “And you are one hot fantasy.”
The man blinked and let his gaze travel slowly over her body and back to her face. A corner of his mouth twitched. “Happy to oblige. My name’s Miguel.”
Elizabeth became uncomfortably aware of how much of her body was exposed. She drew her wrap closer which caused her fantasy to grin. It was a lopsided grin, giving him a definite Bad Boy look. Obviously, her dream-mind hadn’t quite learned its lesson about Bad Boys. But it was only a dream—
“How did you get into my barn?” he asked again. “You don’t look like you’re from around here.” His glance lingered on her breasts. “Are you a working girl?"
Working girl? Did he mean prostitute? This dream was taking an ironic direction given the fact at twenty-four she was the oldest virgin she knew. Her fantasy man sounded dangerously real. She could almost feel the heat radiating from him. She crossed her arms over her breasts. “I’m a teacher.”
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Excerpt from Bedroom Blarney
“Vodka martini, extra dry. Two olives.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Coming right up.”
As the bartender moved away to get her drink, Eve O’Connor closed her wet umbrella and plopped it alongside her satchel on the empty barstool next to her and pinched the bridge of her nose to relieve tension. TGIF had never sounded so good. Her art classes had been crap today. Not one high school kid had taken notes on value and hue in color and they certainly had not cared about line and space in composition.
Given the array of video games on smart phones and tablets, it was getting harder to get her students interested—let alone keep them interested—in something as mundane as classical art. Little wonder newbie teachers lasted less than two years in many cases. She had even contemplated changing careers herself, but Joe, her worthless ex-husband, had gambled away her savings before she’d caught him and she was still paying off the cost of the divorce. Besides, she had almost ten years invested in Deer Hill High School.
“Why so glum?” a male voice asked behind her. “It is Friday, after all.”
copyright Cynthia Breeding
read more of this story in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology.
Most mornings Cytnthia Giery goes out at sunrise to walk with her dog, Sophia
Another gray morning, spent walking under the harbor bridge. I have a weird fascination with the angles of this structure... and found something new to me... the balloons painted on one of the support structures.
I almost skipped going over the bridge, but the fog lifted for a bit. It was so gray and misty, but still a nice walk. Then the fog rolled in again
A cold Saturday morning at Bob Hall Pier - love the blues and oranges. Sophia cutely convinced several walkers to pet her, so it’s a perfect day if you’re a dog.
Took a quick walk at the Corpus Christi Marina and caught a pretty bird right at sunrise. And ... there is just something about the wispy fronds on a palm that make a cool silhouette
Driving home from our morning beach walk - where it was QUITE chilly - BB sized hail. Neato. I guess it’s winter. Took pics of the piles in my backyard. The cat was not impressed and the dog has had enough of the cold for this morning.
Morning walk around the CC Marina — and I just loved this tree. Then we went to the old Oso Pier that has been falling to pieces. Sophia was very interested in SOMETHING under the bridge, but I have no idea what it was.
It was gorgeous at the beach this morning — very little wind — so I was really enjoying the walk. Sophia ran into a big, lab/Golden friend to play with and they were romping like crazy in this cooler weather. HOWEVER, they got a little wilder than they should. Sophia rolled over and then somehow came up wrong. She was limping so our walk ended about half way. Got her into the car, home, fed and now she’s resting. Pretty sure she just twisted wrong but with her back injuries I gotta be extra cautious. Sigh.
Addition: she limped out to the backyard to lay in the sun and finish her chew from yesterday.
Good morning from Bob Hall Pier. There was an odd bank of clouds surrounding the area but it was still a nice, chilly walk. I found 4 complete sand dollars and told a mom with kids where I’d put them. The kids were THRILLED when they “found” the sand dollars. It makes me happy
Merry Christmas from Bob Hall Pier —- it was chilly but oh so pretty
It was FREAKING chilly this morning. The north wind was blowing so hard and the humidity made the chill waaaaay more than I planned for. However, Sophia LOVED the weather. Except when the wind blew her over TWICE while attempting to poo. I laughed because I am a horrid dog mom
Yesterday at Whitecap Beach - it was beautiful. Possibly because I hadn’t been there in so long, but it’s still very pretty. Yes, I get there waaay too early, but the dawg pack has to play. Sophia chased, jumped, rolled and swam with her pack. Life is good
The weather has been incredibly beautiful this week, so, naturally, my favorite place is at the beach. Such a shame to HAVE to walk in this beauty. Sigh ...