Manuel Ruiz is a life-long Texan with a passion for reading, video games and music. He works in IT, plays in an 80's band, and owns way too many toys. He writes teen and adult fiction, usually with a supernatural twist, and loves to keep his readers on their toes. His novel The Sugar Skull is about 17-year-old Ricky Luna, who wants nothing more than to finish school, win the hand of his best girl, and get away from his troubling home life. Then there is a midnight visit from a strange young girl
What is it, Grandma Bea?"
"I went to see a few friends from the neighborhood. I covered almost ten houses across three different streets over seven blocks. Three different people saw or talked to that little girl last night. And those were just the ones that wanted to admit it."
"They saw her, too?"
"Yes, some did. Mrs. Blackmon down the street said that she also heard the little girl chasing after her cat, but it was Janie that had the best information."
"The nosy one that's always asking about Mom?"
"Yes, that one. Well, her nosiness helped for once. She asked the little girl where she lived like I did, but after she pointed and told her, Janie kept pressing her. She asked her where exactly. She told her on Creek Street on the corner."
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Mariah Massengill is a coastal bend native, having spent most of her life in Aransas Pass. After a year exploring the big city life in Sydney, Australia, Mariah came back to the bend to continue her education, having most recently completed her Bachelor of Arts in theatre from TAMUCC in 2020. Currently, Mariah is a creative writing graduate student at the University of Houston-Victoria. She uses her love for prose and poetry in her field of theatre, where she enjoys writing, translating, and adapting plays.
Porous, shiny skin
glides smooth over his palm
Pert fitted peel
yields with the giant’s pressure
Perfumed citrus fruit
splits bare before hungry eyes
Perky segmented flesh
judged by a wagging tongue
Not sweet enough.
READ MORE BY MARIAH IN CORPUS CHRISTI WRITERS 2022
Michelle Eccellente Stevenson is a mom, wife, abstract artist, writer, TEDx Speaker, and Founder of Cultivate Caring. The bulk of Michelle’s career was spent in the training and development sector, working for major corporations as an educator. She now spends her time trying to make sense of the world through art and writing. Color and mood define her visual art pieces and themes of humanity bind Michelle’s literary works. She invites you to join her on social media @CultivateCaring and @MESStudioArt.
There is no winner when we
Don't listen to each other
Hearing only our voice
Too distant a target
A single blowing leaf
Hurled into the sky
A whirlwind of leaves
Whipped into a
Frenzied tornado of
Noise and chaos
The cacophony of noise coming from the back office printer was a mechanical beast, spitting out, collating, and stapling pages. It cut into the orderly hush of the library. She came here for the exquisite, sanctuary-like silence. Snatching up her weighty bag, she stormed towards the stairwell. Damnit, I thought the library would be quiet. What are they making copies for anyway? Isn’t everything digital now!?!?
Mona Schroeder is a writer and former librarian who lives in Corpus Christi, Texas. This excerpt is from a novel called Random Acts about Cecilia Kendall, a woman struggling to put her life back together after a great loss. Determined never to be hurt again, her solution is to shut out the world until a chance encounter forces her to reconsider her choices and to wonder if one random act might begin to be healed by another.
Cecilia Kendall watched the mid-morning El Paso sun slip through the closed blinds in her breakfast room. It was determined, always trying to sneak in where it wasn’t wanted. She poured herself another cup of coffee—black. She took it that way now – strong, black Colombian coffee, unpolluted by milk or cream or sugar or by international cream substitutes that were supposed to spice up one’s life by drinking them.
She sat at the table and thumbed through the mail without interest. Richard had brought it in for her one last time before packing his bags and leaving. She supposed she would have to retrieve it from the mailbox herself from now on which would mean changing out of her bathrobe, something she was reluctant to do. She wondered if she could persuade the mailman to shove it through a slot in the door if she had one put in. Or would she have to put in a whole new door?
Cecilia made a mental note and resolved to check into it later. Groceries, too. She could have them delivered – not that she needed many. Coffee and some frozen dinners perhaps. There was a certain morose appeal to the thought of her self-imposed solitary confinement – at the idea of mail being silently thrust through the door, of hermetically sealed frozen dinners forced through the mail slot one at a time. The coffee might present a problem, but that could be worked out, she was sure. Maybe Juan Valdez could schlep it over on that donkey of his.
Schlep. Where had that word come from, she wondered? She wasn’t Jewish, wasn’t anything really. She hadn’t been to church in years. “Schlep,” she repeated aloud, rolling it off her tongue slowly. It was not a word she would normally use, but today was not a normal day, not the morning after her husband of seventeen years had left her.
Yet the knowledge that Richard would not be coming home to her today or perhaps ever again did not move her, not in the way she would have thought a year ago. A year ago everything in her life had changed with one single act. Another drive-by shooting. Only this time the victim hadn’t been a stranger who died. This time a gun had claimed the life of someone she loved, her fifteen-year-old son Josh.
It should be a law of the universe that no parents be forced to survive their children, Cecilia thought. Without Josh, she felt as if a part of her were missing – the best part. What was she now? She wasn’t a mother, no longer a wife either. She had quit her job, her friends, and her husband had quit her. She had no close living relatives. She wasn’t someone’s daughter or sister or aunt or niece. What did that make her? She was 37 years old and had no label, an unsettling thought.
Cecilia reflected on all the ways she had tried to fill the hole that Josh’s absence had left in her life. Alcohol. Xanax. Valium. Even, unbelievably for her, an affair. Although “affair” was a rather grandiose term for the experience. Would 30 minutes in a cheap motel count as an affair? Nothing had transpired that night worth a scarlet letter. She’d had more interest in the brightly wrapped condoms the man had produced – and certainly more contact. Latex lust in the 21st century. Safe sex. Was sex ever really safe? Was any contact with another human being completely safe?
She hadn’t thought of the affair as an act of betrayal or even of revenge, more as an unsatisfactory attempt to hold the memories and the awful emptiness at bay for a few moments. An act of survival. The knowledge that Richard had been having an affair for some time had not failed to penetrate her otherwise dulled consciousness, but it hadn’t been a motivating factor for her. Cecilia couldn’t blame Richard, not really. Their own love-making had become almost nonexistent in the past year, and so when she had detected all the signs of an unfaithful husband – traces of lipstick, a hint of unfamiliar perfume on his shirts, his socks worn inside out as if hastily put back on – she hadn’t been shocked. Disappointed maybe, in a philosophical way. But was it disappointment in Richard or the fact that he didn’t bother to hide his indiscretions any better than he had? She could accept infidelity but not carelessness?
After Richard left, Cecilia hadn’t cried or asked “Why me?” She knew that long before he left her, she had left him. She hadn’t made it a physical separation, but it had been there nonetheless. As the door closed behind Richard, she had felt sadness, tinged with a certain relief. She felt free, but from what she wasn’t exactly sure – free from obligations perhaps, from unspoken demands, free from the guilt she felt every time she looked at him, wishing that she could love him again but knowing that she couldn’t.
Richard would probably ask her for a divorce soon. One thing generally followed another like that, like a child’s game of dominoes careening wildly across the floor. Impossible to stop once started. Cecilia wasn’t afraid of divorce, but she didn’t like the sound of it, the finality of it. The “ever after” without the “lived happily” part in front. Now it was simply “lived.”
Looking down, Cecilia realized that she had sorted the mail by habit – bills in one pile, personal letters or cards in another, and junk mail set aside for recycling. She shuffled through the bill pile again – gas, electric, two phone bills. Two? She examined them more closely. One was hers, but the other was to a Meryl Stephenson at 224 Flynn, instead of 244. The mailman had made a mistake. Wondering if there were more, she thumbed through the mail again. Sure enough, more envelopes addressed to Ms. Meryl Stephenson or Charles Stephenson, same address – a card, an application for a credit card, and an envelope from a doctor’s office. She wondered how long she had been getting this Meryl person’s mail. Should she return it? Would Meryl or Charles be worried, waiting for their phone bill, wondering what could have happened to it?
Cecilia sighed. She supposed she would have to return it. It would mean changing from her bathrobe into street clothes, putting on shoes, running a comb through her hair, but she would have to do it. All that trouble because of a simple mistake. A nagging sense of decorum forbade her from taking the mail down the street in her bathrobe and slippers. It would give new meaning to the word “schlep.”
copyright Mona Schroeder
Read more great fiction like this in Corpus Christi Writers 2018
NANDITA BANERJEE grew up in India and now lives in Houston. With degrees in English Literature and Education, she spent years teaching in India, in the US and in the UK. Learn more
For the nth time
my reflection has not changed—
eyes still shine,
complexion’s a trifle sallow
my smile fixes it—
it’s all birdsong, all sunshine
in the bureau mirror.
Why he turns away—
that strange expression
when I try to meet his gaze?
Where is his stark admiration—
his raw honesty—
when every inch of him
screamed, “You are ravishing.”
Repulsed by my imperfections?
He said we had a deep connection—
fire in my eyes turned him on.
Has that flame burned out?
Or has his love slowly died?
Nausher Nash Banaji
I am a Photographer of Skin + Stone, I am a Poet of Black + White.
I am a disciple of the Renaissance in the church of Beauty.
The human body in its finest, or in its weakest, state is magnificent and enduring. The nudes of Greek and Renaissance artists were intended not as depictions of beautiful bodies but of beautiful souls. They connoted heroism, integrity, and virtue. As for me, I feel most liberated creatively when I am able to capture the emotions that reside in a human form. Nothing conveys the expressions of the human heart like the body.
I photograph the beauty of skin and I photograph the beauty of stone.
there is a waft of Chanel in the air
the room is bare and you aren’t there
I see a flash of fabric, a shimmer of skin
i feel the burn somewhere within
I hold the doors to the night ajar
I feel the cold of the northern star
I bottle the memory of your scent inside
To remind me what’s true, what’s lies
In the end it is all just a speck in my eye
I just want to take a moment to say goodbye
I know I made a mistake coming here again
I remind myself of what, where and when
In a dream and a prophecy, barely a trace of that place in me
I look in the mirror and all I see, the ebb and flow of memory – NausherNash
Don’t kid yourself, darling, we’ve seen you before
you come up every generation to ‘reset’ and ‘restore’
you were the baying mob as Joan of Arc burned
you chanted death as Pontus Pilate turned
you rejoiced as the semites were taken away
you did nothing when Lincoln and Martin were slayed
you watched as Gandhi was shot to the ground
what did you do when Rabin was downed
don’t kid yourself, darling, we know who you are
nobody cares to read your memoir
my plane is boarding and I hear the engines roar
I’m feeling my heart soaring like before
hearing the bells outside my cell
feeling the freedom they foretell
goodbye darlings, it’s been nice
to each their own paradise
go someplace else and beat your drum
just because I’m beautiful doesn’t mean I’m dumb
the decay of the heart and the heartbreak of decay
what do we pray for, to whom do we pray
did a glance in the mirror take our breath away
for those we forgot and those we forgave
the ebb of tides, the wrath of waves
until we find beauty we will always be slaves -
Neesy Tompkins was born in San Antonio but left for Port Aransas as soon as she graduated from High School. She and her then-husband ran a shrimp boat for several years. Later, she was employed in the restaurant and bar industries where she met many colorful characters that are reflected in the stories she writes. It wasn’t until attending college, which was possible because of a Hurricane, that she was acknowledged as a writer by her winning of a National Essay Contest with her story entitled “The Gift.” She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications and a Minor in History in May 2017, which is utilized in her current self-employment as a social media manager and advertising agency for local Port Aransas businesses. Along with writing, photography of the Island she adores is a passion.
It was like any other day, the day my father died. Oblivious to the crying and runny noses on the other end of the phone line, it seemed surreal, like the way talking sounds through the fog across a ship channel, muffled. With shaky voices, they talked of arrangements.
Voices repeated that he was really gone, as I tried to comprehend how I was supposed to act. And this huge sense of nothingness overcame me, like trying to stay adrift through a dark sea of bitterness and disappointment, blindly searching for an answer that is not there as I attempted to feel what they were feeling.
After the funeral, after the law books and business had been divided and before returning to the Island, my share of possessions resulted in a cardboard box filled with ships that my father had collected throughout his years, always on his credenza shelves in his law office collecting dust. Some metal, others bamboo, and even an oil painting in cobalt blues of a Spanish galleon tossed upon stormy seas.
The box went into the storage room of my old mobile home, in the place I stored things that I didn’t care to see. A junk room, cluttered with bird feathers and seashells, a rusty ironing board and old photographs of a life long ago known that had somehow changed so drastically to have tossed me here on this Island known as home for so long.
Home, such a strange word. How to define home? I was not born here but knew I belonged here. Here with the harsh Winters and a chill that reaches down the corridors of your heart, yet the ocean gave me comfort, like a warm blanket and a buffer between the world and me.
Until that day in August and a storm that drove in unsuspected, so only a few pair of clothing changes were taken as I loaded up for higher ground.
A week passed, holding my breath, stuck in a city with concrete and buildings that obliterated any chance of viewing a sunset. With an aching heart I returned, knowing that what was left might not be much after seeing video after video of first responders on social media, some of them close to my street but never my street exactly. Prepared for the worst, my feet trampled heavily through still wet and muddy ground, and a stench that was almost as unbearable as the mosquitos dive-bombed any flesh left uncovered.
My old mobile, what was left of it, lay on its side, white walls fallen like broken wings in the mud, weighted down by sewage and stinky mud. Everything was covered in a putrid brown color, the stench of rotting fish and seaweed halfway up the sides with wires exposed. Ironically, the kitchen shelves and dishes in the cupboards stood untouched, coffee mugs ready for a new morning and a new day. Searching through remnants for anything that might be salvaged, a few dead birds lay in awkward positions pointed the way on the saturated ground to where a book lay open. It was the only book found, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, pages still damp, barely legible and opened to expose a line reading “Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid”. And I started to cry. One of those long moaning cries that comes with the pain of letting go, and giving in.
It is odd the things that come to mind when you are searching through an invisible list, panicked at not recalling all the things stored that don’t float to the top like cream; the ashes to my old cat that had just passed a few months earlier, a tiny box of my daughter’s baby teeth, the bin of my grandmother’s crocheted tablecloth.
As I raced trying to recall what else I was searching for, it was with panic that the ships came to mind. The box of my father’s ships. Why did it matter? It mattered because that was all I ever had of my father. His dusty old ships that lay placid on a dormant wooden credenza in his office where the only light they ever saw was from fluorescent bulbs. Perhaps he collected them as his secret wishes of someday sailing the world from the bow of a schooner, free as the wind. And perhaps he knew that under my care, somehow those dusty ships were one step closer to the Ocean where they belonged. Yet, on that day when the wind came from the South, hot and humid, and the sweat dripping from my brow, the stench of death perforating through my clothes in the rising heat, I could not find his ships.
Looking back on that day now, it seems the Hurricane stirred up many things left hiding under the surface. Although nature can sometimes be relentless and cruel, she is always honest. And like the churning waters of a hurricane displacing things no longer useful, the ships under my care and possession had been tossed back into the Ocean and away from me. Perhaps it was my time to let go of things. His ashes, he wanted them scattered in the sea. Maybe someday that will be honored.
Months later, things are looking better. I have returned to the place where my family dwells, where his ashes sit on top of a mantle, collecting dust and far from any body of water. I too am far from the Sea because for now, that is where the currents have taken me. At times when I visit my old place by the Ocean, I still look for a sign of a toy mast, a tattered sail somewhere lodged on a tree limb that I somehow overlooked. Still nothing.
I like to think that somewhere on the horizon a few small toy ships bob on an Ocean of mirrored glass, sailing off into the sunset, because that’s what ships do best. I like to think that people are like ships, passing one another if meant to, never knowing where the tides and currents will take you. And perhaps someday, I will catch a glimpse of one of those ships that used to sit on my father’s credenza, doing now what ships do best, sailing free. That, I like to think, is the reason my father entrusted me to inherit his beloved ships, perhaps because he knew they would be one step closer to the Ocean that he so admired.
For my father, I pray he has found peace, perhaps riding on the high seas of a Spanish Galleon of a cobalt blue Ocean, free like the ships he used to collect. And as for me, I am no longer afraid of letting go. That is the lesson this Hurricane brought me, no fear.
Many moons ago, I tried making Austin home. The music scene was great, not so great when your musician partner is in search of that golden spotlight. But where is home?
So I returned here, Port Aransas, where my compass always pointed. Since 1978, my internal compass has always brought me back here.
The other day, someone who has long been barred from my page, posted a joke about me on her page (a good friend of mine sent it to me)....and it said "Look what Hurricane Hannah washed in" with a photo of a dinosaur and my name misspelled on the photo. (Niecy)
At first, this upset me but after great thought, I agreed that I have been blessed with many years of life, stories, great friends and music, and proud of it.
I've been lucky enough to watch Port A before it was commercialized, back when neighbors took care of each other when in need. Back when horseshoe crabs were a common sight, back when Island RV consisted of 3 muddy rv spots and that old bald-headed Pete was its keeper. Back when in the dark of February, we all looked forward to Spring Break and the business it would bring in because we were all so tired of eating fish all Winter. Back then we truly were a tribe and Dwayne Matthews took care of us all.
Yes, call me a dinosaur and I will proudly say that I have been blessed with many years and stories.Yes, I have commercial shrimped, and I sank a boat once. I have been married to two Johns. I've done some things I'm not too proud of, but I've done a lot of good for others too.
Every so often when the moon is full like tonight, a song will drift down through clouds with silver lining and highlight a part of my life long-covered with dust. Tonight, it was a reminder of Austin and the amazing Nanci Griffith whose clear, honest voice reminds me of Texas Hill Country and strong Texas women, the voice of hope. Clarity, like this night when those memories return with the song of yesterday.
So, to that person that brought up the dinosaur thing, yes. I am. Am proud of the music I've enjoyed and all these years spent here, and the silver ribbon of life with its ups and downs, the rivers, ravines and the water that forges your presence here on this earth; and the great friends I've made along the way, even those who left for the search of that spotlight.....and on this night, on this "Once in a Blue Moon" night, in her glow I bask and listen to the wind, and smile at all the memories, in the place that has always been my constant. Goodnight, Port Aransas.
I saw the monarchs passing through in large numbers, as they follow their ingrained path in life South for the Winter. In the sand dunes they were resting by the hundreds on dried sunflower stalks, soaking up the last rays of sun at the end of the day, as cars speed by but oblivious to their royal presence.
But who would notice with people getting paid on Fridays and the bustle of the start of weekend, but I did. And it made me feel special and sad at the same time as the awareness of golden days of life are ever present.
As I tilt my head up, I taste the fresh sea breeze with the glow of sun on my face and give thanks for this journey and for given time to be here, right now at this moment watching these beauties make their journey fearlessly to their resting place.
Feeling blessed beyond measure.
This is how I will remember you, Port Aransas. Before the oil storage tanks and before the dredging. Before the desalination plants and huge oil tankers.
I will remember the way you look at sunset, when the stars have just risen and the air hums with nightfall. Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, even when those men are intent on destroying the beauty of this special place for the sake of the money that will line their pockets.
It is Christmas and the Harbor is filled with the sounds of Carolers from boats. Festive lights decorate masts and beams as slowly they glide through the marina, and if only for tonight peace fills the air with community. Tonight we stand together, intact, hot chocolate being served and the scent of peppermint from candies given freely by groups.
Silent night, holy night where dolphin roam freely in pristine, calm waters. I will remember this night for all that is held dear is about to change as the darkness of greed and current administration recklessly maintain the advancement of facilities destined to scar this special place and scrape away all the natural goodness.
But on this special night, people were joyous and the World was good and all was well as the boat parade Christmas lighting ceremony brought families and neighbors together to celebrate the Christmas season. Pray for Port Aransas.
Copyright Neesy Tompkins
Me and this old porch.
Last night I watched the fireworks from my old porch for the last time as FEMA retrieves their loaner at the end of this month.
I don’t own the land where this old porch sits, the land where my old cat Pepper is buried and where I have resided for over 19 years.
Many memories from this old porch.
I leave my old tomcat Pepper here in his grave but the porch will go with me. Pepper, never forgotten and always in my heart.
To freedom, fireworks, whiskey and making new memories.
Anybody have a chainsaw I can borrow?
Passed by the stores shortly after Thanksgiving Dinner, which in my family really means lunch because everyone has other places to rush to.
Got to see my little brother ten minutes as he is married now so they rush in for a cameo visit and out to spend Thanksgiving at her family’s house promising to return, which they never do.
So my daughter, Tahnee, and I get in the car and drive; drive to nowhere in particular but with the music on and the cold air coming through the windows cracked with cars whizzing by, and let the sour words always spoken inevitably at the table as the sweet rolls are passed around, roll off our backs and out the crack of the window into the fast moving air with the fast moving lanes with the others rushing to get to some sale before Christmas rushes in.
We listen the sounds of the music that calm down the surroundings as the day comes to a close and spend time together sipping on pop and grateful to escape the roar of rush together. And tomorrow I return to the sea, as she, the extension of me, continues to remain here in this fast moving City. Bittersweet.
Nick Martinez is a native of San Antonio, Texas, where he attended UTSA and obtained a Bachelor’s of Art in English. During high school and his time at UTSA, Martinez discovered a love for writing and academics. His love of academics brought along his desire to obtain a Master’s of Arts in English, which he obtained from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in December 2015. Outside of writing, Martinez teaches high school English at the sophomore and senior level. Martinez currently resides in George West with his wife and two cats.
“What were those things?” Sarah asked, her voice shaking with the fear. She placed her hands onto the man’s shoulders and squeezed, wanting to make sure he was still there. Blood dripped down her long blonde hair and onto her torn white shirt, but she didn’t notice.
“I’m not sure,” Raven answered, trying to keep his voice from quivering. He had to be strong for Sarah, no matter what. Blood streamed from a wound on his left knee, creeping its way down his leg and into his sock and shoe, creating a squishing sound that mingled in with the sound of the sewage that ran past them. The wound was deep but he kept walking; his pride and adrenalin dampening the immense pain that pulsated throughout his leg. He placed his left hand upon hers, his thumb caressing the back of her hand painting it with their intermingled blood. He held his revolver in his right hand, thankful that he always carried his keepsake with him.
“Just promise me that you won’t leave me alone,” Sarah whispered as she placed her forehead upon his back. Neither he nor she noticed that her blood was dripping onto his blue shirt, which she had bought him for their anniversary.
“I won’t leave you.”
“I’m so tired.”
“We can’t stop,” he said, squeezing her hand as they made their way around a corner. Cold air rushed past them as they entered the new corridor. He had no idea where they were going; all he knew was that they had to get out of there. He took a deep breath, much to the agony of his ribcage. He felt his sides with the back of his right hand and counted—three cracked and broken ribs on each side. “We’ve got to keep moving.”
She moaned, holding a hand to her head. She remembered a face—a horrid face, the flesh peeling off of the muscle, which was detaching off of the bone itself. The very thought of it sent a wave of fear through her soul, causing her to move closer into Raven’s back. The shivers racked her body as the fear filled her. “Please, baby? Please? I can’t go any further.”
He slowed to a stop. “Okay, but only for a few minutes.” He turned to face her. His soft green eyes scanned her, searching for any wounds. She sighed in relief and slowly collapsed to her knees, her sky-blue eyes falling shut. He quickly knelt besides her, despite the stench and agony of his wounded knee. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. “You can’t fall asleep, baby, not right now.”
“But why not? It’s so comfy here.”
Raven smirked, knowing she would never be caught calling a sewer comfortable. Then he sighed and looked around. He remembered hearing the alarms and the screams, and the terror that the creatures brought.
They were eating dinner at a downtown Italian restaurant, Sarah’s favorite. It was their anniversary. He remembered hearing the sirens and wondering why the air raid alarm was going off when there hadn’t been a raid—for his whole life. The other patrons talked louder as panic started to spread, yet he was slow to respond to the danger. The only thing on his mind at that moment was Sarah, the one person that he truly loved and would do anything for. The screams of people outside broke them from their perfect night out. Women and men screamed at the top of their lungs. He ran to a window. A massacre was happening in the streets. The dead had been brought back to life and they were hungry. Their flesh was rotted and the muscle was peeling apart from the bone. He watched as a man tried to save his wife by spreading his arms out in front of her and yelling at the approaching dead. A zombie ripped one of the man’s arms out of the socket and beat him with it. The others attacked with a barbaric strategy: go straight for the kill, don’t let the target get away. They tore the flesh clean off of the muscles of their victims as they bit down upon their necks. They went for the quick kill in most cases, ripping out the jugular and having a quick meal instead of toying with their victims. One of them saw Raven and screeched, signaling the others that there were more to feast upon.
Raven ran back to the table and pulled Sarah into a tight embrace, tears cascading from his eyes. Three of the dead rushed through the door in a blitz, nearly tearing the door off of its hinges. The patrons of the restaurant screamed in pure terror.
The dead went straight on to the attack. They slashed through the staff members torsos and bit at their throats, spraying the ground and tables with fresh blood. Some of the waiters tried to fend them off with their trays, which only angered them. They dug their nails into the waiters’ wrists and pulled them in close before they bit down on their necks and twisted, tearing the entire muscle open and exposing their gullets. Blood showered over them. Anyone that was left alive dared not to make a sound. Raven held Sarah close, her body shaking in terror. The sound of a roaring engine passed overhead, catching the attention of the patrons and the dead. The dead screeched at the sound as if they wanted an explanation for the noise. Bright flashes filled the restaurant accompanied by loud explosions that ripped through the air, sending chunks of metal, brick, and wood flying and penetrating into the dead and the living.
The planes were dropping bombs to stop the onslaught. The military knew that many victims would die as well as they zombies, but the generals had decided there was no other option.
The blasts sent concrete and body parts flying through the air. A block of cement slammed into Sarah’s forehead, slashing across her brow and coating the ground with her blood. The ground crumbled and opened into a large hole in the street which stretched outwards to engulf the ground beneath the restaurant. Tables and chairs plunged into the darkness while the dead screeched and tried to grip onto anything to hold their ground, yet nothing they grabbed was stable enough to hold their weight, their screeches following into the abyss as they fell into its depths.
Raven and Sarah held onto each other as they too descended into the depths of the hole, not knowing where it led to or what dangers they would face within it.
“Sarah, we’ve got to keep moving,” he whispered as he shook her. She merely nodded and cuddled closer to him. He sighed and picked her up as he got to his feet, his muscles and bones tensing up after having rested for more than a minute. He knew she shouldn’t be sleeping, but he had no other option. He positioned her onto his back, his left arm resting beneath her to hold her steady.
He slowly moved down the tunnel, the extra weight upon his back causing his pace to slow even more than before. The stench of the sewage grew stronger with each passing moment. He felt that they were close to the end of the tunnels and the landfill on the edge of town due to the increase of the stench. The sound of dripping water on concrete echoed throughout the passageways as he turned a corner. A smile spread across his lips as he saw a light at the end of the tunnel. He maneuvered Sarah into a better position upon his back as he walked towards the light. “We’re almost there, baby.”
He whistled as he shuffled down the tunnel, dragging his left foot behind him for his knee had completely given out on him. He wanted to rest but he knew he had to keep moving. He whistled a melody as he shuffled along, a melody he had thought of a month after they had been together. He had never been musically inclined, yet he had whistled it for her while they lay in the grass after a picnic, and she instantly fell in love with it. She would whistle it to herself in times of complete silence, smiling and blushing to the knowledge that they always had each other to rely on. His heart swelled with joy at the thought of her. He whistled louder as he became lost in thoughts and memories of holding each other and enjoying the warm summer days.
A loud screech ripped through the tunnels and broke him from his thoughts. His eyes widened. He held his right arm out and tried to hold the revolver steady, yet his body was shaking in terror. At the other end of the tunnel one of the dead was looking right at him. It screeched against and rushed toward him in an animalistic shuffle. Raven smirked and chuckled, his pounding heart steadying as he aimed at its head, glad that it was only one. Another wave of screeches flooded the tunnels and bounced off of the walls, echoing into a chorus of chaos. Chills ran down his spine. “You’ve got to be kidding me…” he whispered as his eyes widened, his heart rapidly beating as terror filled his soul. The dead poured out of the passages further down the tunnel, their crazed eyes showing their hunger.
He wanted to run, to run and never look back, yet he was too scared to move. Tears fell as he faced the coming onslaught. He sank to his knees and looked to the ceiling. “I’m sorry Sarah. I’m so sorry.”
Tears dripped onto the stone cold ground. His index finger pressed down upon the trigger, firing round after round at the dead. Blood and chunks of muscle flew off of the bodies with each impact, yet it wasn’t enough to slow them. The dead pounced upon them and attacked, ripping at their jugulars and flesh. Raven screamed as his eyes were plucked from his skull; his throat punctured and torn to shreds, just as his chest was slashed by the hungriest of the lot. He tried to scream and struggle away, yet the multiple hands upon him kept him still and penetrated his skin under his diaphragm.
An animalist dying growl tore through his lungs and up to his Gods as his life drained from him. Then he felt nothing more.
The dead pulled at his bones and the sound of his sternum being broken in half filled the corridor. The claws punctured his stomach and heart. They pulled his arms and legs loose, and pulled out his intestines. His blood pooled around his body and mingled with the crimson liquid that dripped from Sarah’s equally broken body.
One of his hands fell from his wrist as two of the dead chewed on his arm. It fell palm-down onto one of Sarah’s severed hands.
Norman Delaney taught history at Del Mar College for many years
During my years of teaching and researching history, I have had to deal with a lot of bad writing along with the good. It is all too easy to be fooled. One such occasion occurred on February 2, 1970. William Red Fox’s Memoirs of Chief Red Fox had recently been published by McGraw-Hill at a time of renewed interest in Native American history and the book subsequently became a best seller.
READ THE REST IN CORPUS CHRISTI WRITERS 2022
Olivia Noble is a writer, painter, and Humanities major at Yale University, and an erstwhile resident of Corpus Christi. She attended King High School and took English classes from Joseph Wilson.
Play the moth game, inspired by the short stories of V. Woolf. The game goes like this: walk around from room to room until you have enough dead moths to fill each hand, which comes to about a cup and a quarter in a standard glass Pyrex. Another word for a double-handful is a yepsen. This group of moths you’ve picked up is now your first friend.
Draw with a pinched-out match tip on the white bottom of your sink. Turn the disposal into an unblinking all-seeing eye. This friend is good for staring contests and quick moralizing glances. It will look at you until its lids become runny. (The disposal should not be a new friend. It is loud and old and eats too much.)
Anything can be a friend if you try hard enough. Two faucets running in different rooms are now in conversation. Sometimes it’s unwise to interrupt, but even on bad days you can always listen.
You can find them while you’re drinking your maple milk at the window. On the streets all of your new car friends have snub-noses, like cats. The Volvo can be a little distant but at least it’s direct.
Take off your shoes and arrange them in a clutter that you would never have left – oh, look, a friend must have kicked off their shoes in a hurry. It works, I promise.
Cut the bottoms off a few yellow pears and set them on their new stable bases. Look carefully for the bumps and brown marks that could be freckles, or even real dimples. Say, “I have missed seeing all your lovely faces!”
The moth collective is jealous now. Be on guard with your new friends. Their disapproval is a heavy thing.
One day you may wake up and find that the shirts on the clothesline are already such well-intentioned friends that you didn’t even have to clip them up yourself. Their pale cuffs tumble and wave from the lawn. Pour the rest of your milk, which is now too warm, over the side of the porch and into the hostas. They might be taking things a little fast, but who are you to object?
copyright Olivia Noble
Paul Gonzales is an award winning journalist for The News of San Patricio weekly newspaper as well as a filmmaker. His novella, I Wear My Sunglasses at Night, is available on Amazon. His novella, Once Upon a Time in Rehab, are being reviewed for publication. He is working on the second novel of his Koufax series while seeking agent representation. He spends what little free time he has with his wife and three children who live with him in Corpus Christi.
Thunder rumbled overhead as Noah looked up and down the street. He stood his guitar case up beside him and pulled out his phone. Just then a car pulled up and rolled down the passenger side window.
“You call an Uber?” the driver asked.
Noah nodded and slid inside the back with his guitar. The driver’s eyes focused on Noah’s cloud, which was just above his head.
“That thing gonna leak?”
The cloud was dark grey and rumbling, so Noah could see why the guy was worried. “No. Not here.”
The driver cleared his throat and shifted the car into drive.
Noah looked out the window as the monochrome buildings blurred by, not how he remembered them, but how he saw them now. He felt the worn edges of his old guitar case and thought about her favorite pair of jeans. The ones with soft white tufts of busted threads jutting from torn holes exposing slivers of her knees and thighs.
The club was nearly empty the night he met Sophie. It was an open mic night which were usually only filled with performers doing bad poetry readings, even worse stand-up comedy and every once in a while a decent singer plucking through new material. Noah showed up every Tuesday night, much to the chagrin of Mike who ran the show. To say Mike wasn’t a fan of Noah’s sorrowful renditions of pop tunes would be a major understatement as shown every time he made his way to the sign-up table.
“Can you play something a little upbeat this time? A little catchy? Know any Miley Cyrus or sumthin’?” Mike asked him that night.
“I’ll see what I got,” Noah replied as he signed his name on the form laying on the table where Mike sat.
“Yea. Right,” Mike said staring up at the light grey cloud bobbing over Noah’s head, illuminated with random white pulses. “You go on third.”
Noah nodded, the cloud mimicking his motion, and set the pencil down. He turned and smacked his guitar case into a girl standing behind him he hadn’t noticed.
Their clouds bumped, leaving a thin crackle of electricity between them.
“Damn, I’m sorry,” Noah said slowly, his eyes meeting hers. “I, um, didn’t see you there.”
Sophie tucked her head down and grinned. She looked up at the cloud hovering above his head through stands of blonde hair cascading from underneath her beanie.
“It’s ok,” she gushed. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
The cloud above Noah’s head inched towards hers as she made her way around him to the table to sign up. Noah shuffled to one side and then nervously walked away, wanting to say more, but his mind was a clean slate.
He found an empty table near the stage and sat down, leaning his guitar case against a stool. Noah watched in the distance as Sophie awkwardly looked around, nodded to a few people she obviously didn’t know, then darted off towards the bathroom, her cloud a few inches behind playing catch up.
When Noah got on stage he looked out into the small crowd and adjusted his guitar. Scanning the audience twice, he finally saw her. She was in the back of the room underneath the Exit sign, which bathed her and her cloud in a gorgeous red glow.
His cloud rumbled overhead.
“This one’s for Mike,” he uttered into the microphone as Mike, now standing by the stage, rolled his eyes and shook his head.
The slow, gentle twang of his fingers across the old strings of his guitar filled the room. Noah leaned in close to the microphone and closed his eyes. The opening lines of “Wrecking Ball” slowly escaped his lips. It was a solemn version of the pop song; it’s verses changing tone under the tutelage of Noah’s longing, sullen deep voice.
Sophie grinned, her eyes glistening with neon satisfaction.
Thunder rolled from her cloud softly as she passed him making her way to the stage lugging a bright pink keyboard that was nearly as tall as she was. Noah got up from his seat to help her, but bumped his guitar case and it slammed onto the floor, causing the few people in the room to stop and stare at him. By the time he leaned his case back against the stool she was on stage. After a few moments of setting up she sat and brushed the hair from her face, adjusted the mic and took a deep breath.
“This is an original,” she said gently into the mic not looking at the small crowd. “I call it, “Bethesda’s Nighttime Parade.”
Noah watched as her fingers skipped across the keys and listened as her lips slowly parted and released thoughtful, fantastic words into the air. The song was an upbeat, somber tune about a little girl who thought a nearby train was a parade at night. She wished she could join the parade, but it was always her bedtime when the train would pass, so night after night she missed out. Then, after her parents tucked her into bed on night, she snuck out of her bedroom and hopped on the train, which, as it turned out after all, really was a parade. There, she marched with elephants and bears and a big band where she played trombones and trumpets and danced with the jugglers and waved at the night watchman and lighthouse keepers.
The last verses told of the sun coming up and her telling the ring master that she needed to get home because she missed her folks. With a bright grin and a flick of his wrist, they were engulfed in a mist, and she opened her eyes and she was alone, but she was home.
She rubbed her hands nervously on her torn jeans as the small crowd applauded.
The cloud above Noah’s head grumbled loudly as the Uber driver turned to look nervously at Noah and his cloud.
“I should probably get out here,” Noah told the driver. “It’s not too far of a walk now anyway. Thanks.”
The car quickly pulled over and Noah got out, his dark cloud bumping the roof of the vehicle producing small strands of white lightning as it did.
Noah sighed and glanced up at his pulsing cloud in disappointment.
“I can’t take you anywhere,” he thought as he took a step down the sidewalk.
A passing car was blasting a familiar song and Noah’s attention snapped his neck to follow and saw Sophie behind him. Their clouds sparked a hello to one another.
“That song,” Sophie said. “I want that one playing at my funeral.” It was David Bowie’s “Modern Love” coming from the car, now fading away. “Do you know any Bowie?”
“Why are you asking me?” Noah asked, now walking backwards to face her.
“You’re the funeral singer.”
“So you think we’re going to live a long, loving life together? And then just assume I’ll outlive you?”
“I’ve lived a hard life, dude. I eat ice cream like crazy. You have no idea.”
“Wow. So hard.”
“So, what about it? I want that Bowie song.”
Noah stopped and their eyes dove into one another’s. Lighting zapped across the short distance between them.
Sophie laughed and skipped ahead of him. As he turned to follow she was gone again and he was left standing alone with his guitar case underneath a rumbling cloud.
His phone vibrated in his pocket and he pulled it up to his ear.
“This is Noah.”
He talked as he walked down the empty sidewalk. It was bright, sunny day but the cloud, now larger than before he got into the car, provided some much needed shade. The call was from one of the funeral homes he worked with. They had requested a new video about the services he provides for their website and they had uploaded it a few days ago.
Noah was now walking into a small warehouse art space following Sophie. On one side there was a white backdrop with some cameras on tripods. On the opposite side was the same setup but with a green screen instead. A table with some computer monitors on it sat near the entrance.
“Well, what do you think?” she said, her arms outstretched as she twirled.
Noah spotted some boxes of children’s toys in the corner. “Impressive. What is it that you do here again?”
The corners of Sophie’s mouth curled upwards “I just make YouTube videos. For kids.” Noah nodded. “Remember, I was telling you I was hanging out with my sister and my niece was on her phone just watching these videos of toys dropping into buckets of soap. Toys talking. It’s sort of weird, but kids love it.”
“Right, right. And you and your band, the Bed Bugs, record songs. See, I pay attention.”
“I guess you do. But anyway, this is where the magic happens.”
“I can see. Awesome.”
“So let’s talk about this video of yours.”
Before Noah knew it he was playing some songs in front of the green screen as Sophie walked back and forth between two cameras watching the monitors. After a few hours he found his mouth pressed against hers, their clouds sending thin white streaks of lightning between one another.
Noah stopped. “Wait. Just so I know, you’re not going to put some weird stuff in the background are you?”
Sophie shot him a surprised glance. “Of course not, dummy.”
“Just checking.” he said as he leaned back in.
The funeral director on the phone said that while the video was definitely “unique,” the response the funeral home had received was phenomenal.
“I had some help,” Noah said. “I’ll look over the client list after I’m done here. I appreciate the call.”
Noah winced as a bolt of crooked lightning singed his hair followed by rolling thunder.
He could see the cemetery gate up the street from where he stood and reached out his hand, searching for hers.
Sophie took it and yanked him forward. She was wearing her favorite old jeans but with a new red pea coat he just bought her. She was grinning wildly and laughing.
Their clouds were now just small white puffs floating above their heads.
“Come on, Noah!” she said. “It’s not going to be that bad I swear.”
Noah shuffled his feet in contempt. “Can we just do it some other day?”
“Uhg, you’re such a puss. My parents are super cool, you’ll see.”
Noah pulled her close.
“Can’t we grab a bite to eat? Maybe go catch a movie?”
“Baby Shark” erupted from Sophie’s vibrating pocket.
“Is that seriously your ring tone?” Noah laughed.
Sophie held her finger to her mouth and answered the phone. She stepped a few feet away and Noah watched her pacing back and forth. Her hair was blowing slowly in the breeze, her small puffy cloud swayed above her beanie back and forth like a feather refusing to fall.
She nodded, said something into the phone, slid it back into her pocket and returned to him.
“You’re lucky, buster,” she said with a mock frown, bumping into his shoulder. “Dad had an emergency work thing.”
“Well, shoot,” he said sarcastically.
“Shut it,” she gently kicked his shin. “I just really want them to meet you.”
“I know, I know. I’ll meet them soon enough.”
Her hand slipped into his but he noticed it was hard and rigid. Noah glanced down and saw the guitar case in his grip. The cemetery gate was standing before him.
Walking up over the hill he could see a small gathering of people under a large green tent. He sighed, lowered his head and made his way towards them.
The priest nodded to him as he came up to the side of the podium. He set his guitar case in the grass and popped it open quietly, the sobs and sniffles the only sounds on that day. His cloud was larger than it had ever been and nearly black. As he pulled out his guitar and slid the strap over his shoulder, he could feel the drizzle against his face.
He saw Sophie’s band mates. Some of her friends he’d only met a handful of times. And, there, in the very front row, were her parents. The ones he never met. The ones that never met him.
Noah stood, took a deep breath and, underneath a pouring cloud, strummed his guitar and sang.
I catch a paper boy
But things don't really change
I'm standing in the wind
But I never wave bye-bye
But I try, I try
There's no sign of life
It's just the power to charm
I'm lying in the rain
But I never wave bye-bye
But I try, I try
I heard the beeps first. Machines placed around me somewhere in the dark buzzed, whirled and wheezed. Then I felt the needles sticking out from my skin pumping fluids through my veins, all of them swollen. My skin was sore. My chest was separated under bandages and stitches and blood and exposed marrow and healing arteries and I wondered what color my blood was down in there. I imagined the highways of vessels crisscrossing under my chest plate turning the blue blood red as it was exposed underneath the still fresh wound splitting my chest in two even pieces, soaking up the stale hospital air. With eyes closed and hands still, I tried to feel around the room. Tried to sense someone or something. My ears listened. My nose sniffed. Eyelids twitched. Only machines and tubes that dripped and flowed and stabbed and the one that breathed for me. I had nothing else to do but sleep. But I didn’t do that.
I lay there staring out a window that faced another wing of the hospital. Dirty peach. That was the color I came up with. That was the color of the brick caked onto the ancient hospital. Nurse. Jell-O. New sheets. Dirty peach. For days that was it. I could hear the nurses whisper about my lack of visitors and how a bad heart at such a young age was such a shame. And I lay there thinking and looking out the window and listening to my new heart hammer on the inner walls of my chest.
When I got home I could see my neighbors peach tree from out of my bedroom window. Overgrown and filled with rotting peaches. He once asked me if I liked the fruit and I had told him no. So I watched the tree from my bed, my body still too weak to move about much, so alone in my house watching autumn transform the landscape, it was the same view. Rotting peach. That was the color I came up with.
There was a cake on the break room table already cut and missing pieces when I walked in. The boss and the other two employees leaned against the counter laughing and shouting, showering themselves with chocolate. They noticed me and offered some of my welcome back surprise cake. “Surprise!" I thought. “There’s still some left!”
My desk was almost bare except for my computer monitor and my pencil holder, which was the opposite of how I left it. Full. I was able to return to work as long as I took over Feather’s secretary position. She had gone into labor three days ago and still hadn’t blessed us with Rocko Firth Shapiro Warren. For some reason that’s what I figured its name would be, but I hadn’t paid attention enough to even know what the sex of the baby was. I just needed to get out of the house. My chest was still tight and sore so I couldn’t do any hard physical activities. Not that my former activities at the office could be anywhere near the realm of being called an activity much less be referred to as physical. So I sat and answered phones, took messages and from time to time I found myself staring out of the window facing the street. One minute I would be helping clients fill out forms, then the next I was watching the passersby scuttle across a cold, wet street through a foggy, ice covered window.
I blamed my lack of attention on the drugs I had long since stopped taking. And at night I felt like an old tin chamber in the shape of a man with warm coals glowing deep inside. It was a calming, lonely feeling. Then I began seeing places I hadn’t ever seen before play against the insides of my eyelids as I counted breaths in an effort to sleep. And they played on, even when I did manage to sleep. Street signs. Stores. People. All too real, familiar, yet alien. And when sleep eluded me and my eyes were open, images danced on the darkened ceiling and walls of my bedroom.
The doctor’s office was cold. The hard white sheet of what must be butcher paper was pulled across the examination table and wrinkled underneath me, making a loud rustling sound that filled the empty room. A nurse walked in.
“Everything seems fine,” she said through pale, dry lips. “Your body’s taking to the transplant quite well. Just don’t do any strenuous activities and don’t exert yourself too much.”
I nodded and began to button up my shirt. “Umm, excuse me nurse,” I said in a voice much lower than I had planned. She looked up from her clipboard. “Sometimes it feels like…well, my heart beats harder than I think it should.”
She lowered the clipboard to her hip. “After what kind of activities?”
I straightened up concerned. “When I’m just, like, driving or sitting at my desk at work. Even when I’m sleeping. It doesn’t hurt or anything, it’s just hard. Harder than usual. And sometimes loud. Is that normal?”
The nurse smiled, causing the corners of her eyes to make crow’s feet. “Oh yes, that’s normal. You’re just not used to your new heart yet. Some hearts have more muscle than others. Like people. Some more, some less. You must have gotten a strong one. But don’t worry sugar, you’ll get used to it. Oh, and don’t forget to sign out at the front. Thank you and have a good day.”
I got up to my feet and counted the thumps. Normal. It’s normal she said. But it felt hot and hollow down inside. Past the other parts that squeezed and pushed and filtered and breathed. The warm coals down inside the chamber pulsed like they were reaching and grasping out. I walked out with my fingers crawling across my chest trying to figure it. My thoughts rummaged through my innards like a lost explorer in a jungle. There was a voice. Louder and louder the closer I came to the exit.
I was called back in. I forgot to sign out.
The following day I found myself looking over city maps as they flashed on my computer screen from behind my secretary desk, studying the street names and memorizing the turns and landmarks. Some sounding strangely familiar, others completely new. Satellite images from space slid out of the printer and I poured over them as if I knew what it was I was looking for. I glanced up from the screen to the clock then back to the screen then back again as my fingers clacked away on the keys.
My boss stepped in and said he had a doctor’s appointment and that I would be left in charge for the rest of the day. I watched from my secretary desk’s window and waited for him to pull away in his fancy car before sending the phone calls to the answering service and grabbing my bag.
I began finding myself in places I hadn’t been before, but every step taken was increasingly familiar. I controlled only my eyes and mouth. My steps took themselves. Sometimes into alleys and back out again. Over sidewalks and across intersections. Sometimes surefooted, sometimes lost or confused. And after a day’s walk around foreign neighborhoods, following work usually, we’d mark our place and start from there the next day, my feet and I. Today our mark would be a street lamp.
I’d yank and curse like a mad man in the night until reluctantly my feet would give up control and we’d walk back to the car. Under highway lights and moonlit skies we’d drive back home. It had been a few days, almost a week now, but it was habitual. The relinquished control of bodily movements to uncover some meaning behind the walking and running and turning and pacing and stopping. Lungs pumping under my still newly imported muscle. That was it. The strings that pulled these marionette’s legs onward. It was the fist-sized core buried inside this cavity of bone and blood that drove my body through the streets. Wanting. Searching. Lost out there like myself.
My foot pressed down on the accelerator firmly. The street lamp marker flew by. My hands turned the steering wheel to the left and to the right. I managed to slow down the car a bit to at least maintain some sense of control over the situation before we killed ourselves, my heart and I. The maps and streets and blue colored roads and pixilated treetops passed before my eyes as my hands flipped blinkers on and turned corners and my feet pumped the gas and brake simultaneously, skipping and lunging in front of houses and apartment buildings and laundromats and record shops.
I just stared out the windshield, shrugging my shoulders, as crowded sidewalks stared back in confusion. Then my car veered into a parking space and screeched to a halt next to a meter with a brown bag placed over it. My chest felt as if was about to burst. Shotgun blast thumps pounded the insides of my chest plate. I tried to get out but my hands had fully turned against me and refused to release the wheel. My feet remained planted to the floorboard of the car. I watched out of the window as people continued to pass. I studied and browsed and stared as my chest exploded beneath the long vertical scar that ran down my torso. Something was here. This was my destination, but where was the X that marked the spot? What is it that brought me here? Seconds ticked past as my eyes bounced back and forth through the crowds. Was it a boy? A girl? A pet? A house? A car? A store? What?! My eyes refused to blink and began to burn red. Fingers gripped the wheel and sweat trickled down my brow. My pupils dilated.
Across the street, a girl holding a shopping bag with a large, crooked red X printed over some sickly models wearing barely anything, slid into view. My chest froze. My new heart was silent. My hands reached for the door handle. My eyes, engulfed in flames, studied her every move. Her walk. Her flowing hair. Her hands. Clothes. Nothing was familiar about her but her.
My feet stumbled over themselves and over the asphalt. My chest bounded me forward in unyielding steady pounds after the girl marked with an X. Cars honked and drivers yelled as I stumbled towards her like a drunk chasing booze, a bullet chasing its target. I had never seen her before but I could feel a connection bursting from within. So hot and boiling and bubbling and shifting. Waves were washing over inside me causing my skin to burn hot. She was on her steps now fishing for her keys with the bag sliding down her forearm. My eyes were focused beams. I bumped and shoved my way through the people littering the sidewalk, excusing myself without looking away from her. Their curses grew silent. Violent gestures blurred and faded. My hand reached out. My heart made its ways through the bones and tissue and pressed firmly against my skin. My feet stopped. I stood behind her as she opened her building’s door. My shoulders pumped forward viciously.
My hand reached out further and fingernails scraped old paint. The door had closed behind her.
My upper body stopped. My mouth open, yet silent. My eyes welled-up from the steam bellowing inside, searching for release. My breath came back rigid, thick and quick. My hand twisted the doorknob frantically. It didn’t turn.
But, from the other side of the door, a heavy thumping sound could be heard. Muffled but still audible. And my chest cavity lashed out a cry of hope. Blood rushed through my body at breakneck speeds causing color to leave my skin for a moment. I became a washed-out ghost pressed against a stranger’s door. A stranger who shared the same heartbeat I could now hear clearly as the pounding grew louder. Closer. Closer. Closer. And my eyes watched a blurred figure grow larger through the decorated glass.
Cautiously she drew herself closer. The explosions grew louder. And slowly the sounds fell into time with one another as the door creaked open. First a face. Eyes. Nose. Lips. Her deep red hair framing gorgeous features. Her torso pumped her forth, out of the doorframe onto mine like amazing magnets and our chambers connected beneath our sweaters. Smashing chests and meeting scars. A beautiful collision. Fire was everywhere.
And our lips met. She clawed my waist with wanting fingers. My hands gently cradled her face. The threads of our sweaters intertwined and knitted themselves into one. Their belts unbuckled and leather whipped about. Their shoelaces twirled below them like snake lovers crazy with lust. And her lips called and mine answered. Our beats finely tuned instruments in this two-piece orchestra bathed in flames and burnt foliage. Strangers here underneath the falling leaves of autumn.
I could feel her lips curl at their ends as they pressed against mine. Her chest kicking hard and violent against my own. Exchanging beats and thumps and pounds and pushes and pulls and explosions and pumps and pulses.
Our hearts meet once again.
READ MORE GREAT WORK by local writers in CORPUS CHRISTI WRITERS 2020
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.
More difficult, I can go back further
to a rainy school day,
water lapping the gutter walls,
shallow rivers in the car rider line, nameless lakes
in the geography of the parking lot.
The rain taps on my yellow slicker cap.
I hear but do not feel. Do not feel
the cold water dripping to my ears,
dripping to my shoulders. Inside!
The classroom is splashed with color.
Purple onion hippos, green toothless alligators, yellow ducks, the brown
of an oddly placed camel—all contrast to the grey
of an October sky.
But I never owned a yellow slicker,
never owned the rubber boots stacked in my cubbie,
the rubber boots that let this toddler splash
recklessly to and from my mother’s car.
Fact! I never had such a wardrobe
but nevertheless, the yellow slicker is hung neatly
on the hooks of my memories.
I can go further back to a recording studio.
There is a cigarette balanced beneath the frets.
To the baby on the floor, the music rises like the smoke,
shifting, changing shape, reforming again.
Music in leering faces
that could be watchful angels or watchful demons.
Once again, no such studio exists, no guitar
not even the cigarette. I have never been a musician.
I have never been the baby on the floor pulling at the frayed ends
of a shag carpet. No one is playing.
No one is listening.
Nothingness seems so unstable—a condition that cannot be maintained
because I keep finding pieces of myself in all these vacant spaces.
Finally, a baby on stage is dressed like a potato.
He is a potato with many eyes,
a patina of Crayola dirt.
The audience sings. The child cries and slaps his own face.
He is rescued from his self-awareness.
He was there on stage
then he wasn’t.
Gruesomely Catholic, as I speed by to see
nailed and bleeding.
Curly hair bunched on his muscular shoulders,
He looks motherly gazing toward heaven.
The late summer cotton is high,
Thick around His torso, surfing waves of
A family waits outside of Holiday Beach.
One of the two adults has fallen,
weary with death, he waits for Simon passing,
Simon in a flatbed truck, in a minivan, hay hauler or hummer.
The sugar cane is in full pitch
drunkenly leaning against the wind;
snapped, broken, but alive,
though no rows, no columns
no hypnotic blink of the gaps
to lose myself in.
There is a coquettish lavender at the Austwell turnoff,
stickered in paisley flowers
where a girl’s name is already lost in the reedy stems.
The ordered soy bean plants await the trim.
The earlier the cut—
the larger the yield.
The simple, humble protestant stands
before my Dairy Queen approach,
but still he demonstrates a weakness for ceremony,
an altar of white roses, lilies, peony.
So the hogs pant heavy before
The August corn.
A mother and three piglets will worry the farmer
who dreams of thousands that scurry
unnamed in a labyrinth of shadows.
They bite. They chew. They dig.
They hide in the darker business of the living.
Born in Taft, Texas, Patricia Alaniz is the 13th of 14 children. She graduated from Taft High School. Then graduated from Bee County College with a cosmetology license. She has been married for 26 beautiful years. The couple has been blessed with 4 children and 2 grandchildren. Patricia has devoted 12 years of her life to working with children with special needs. She can frequently be found writing a new poem down. Her love of reading and writing poetry began when she was a teenager. In college, she joined a poetry club, and one poet said her poetry was not poetry. Hurt and embarrassed, she threw away her poems. Her love for poetry never died, and she started writing again a few years ago. Her current focus is on the process of putting her poetry into the form of a book to share with the world. WHISPERS OF LOVE POETRY should be available soon. Patricia's poems are inspired by the lives of those she holds dear. Patricia's poems are written to take you away into a world of passion, love and hope. They will leave you breathless! Yearning to read more!
No.. she was not your typical girl.
As a matter of fact..
She was far from being ordinary.
Born to be a rebel!
Set in her own majestic ways.
Destined to be queen of her throne!
Her fate laid recklessly..
In the hands of her own chambers!
The only alpha of her kind.
Bound to fight alone!
Refined by her own prosecution!
Perfection was not in her name.
For a true leader is not bred without flaws.
She was fierce!
Chaotically out of control!
Her life was never simple.
But she held her own!
And she wasn't afraid.
Because fear did not exist in her world.
did it run through her veins!
And when things got tough!
Well.. she got tougher.
And if war is what you seek!
Then war is what she gave!
Her life was never simple.
But she held on!
And she survived!
So next time you see her..
Do not question her behavior.
And don't be so quick to judge her!
For you know nothing of her kingdom!
Nor will you ever know..
The hell that her crown has been through!
He was a hard-headed
Who roamed alone.
He wanted nothing more,
than to be left alone.
He was a non-dreamer,
Far from believing in fate.
From believing in love!
Was everything he was not.
Everything he never knew..
he ever wanted.
in a world made of dreamers.
She was good,
and she was kind.
She would soon..
be the light
that would save him from his darkness.
Little did he know,
that she would soon change his world!
She came into his life
like a flame that blazed out of control.
A fire that burned so deep into his soul.
She became the air,
he could not live without.
And every day he spent with her
he fell even harder.
And when he kissed her lips,
it was like water had tamed his flame.
Like rain had cleansed his soul.
And when he held her in his arms,
it was as if…
time had no meaning.
Almost as if…
It did not exist at all.
For every moment he lived,
he lived for her.
And every breath that he took,
he took for her.
He found love.
He found hope.
He found his reason to live!
Without her.. Life meant nothing.
She was the center of his universe.
That lit his way.
and his laughter.
his only need.
I am a child
who was born special.
So I get lost
without my schedule.
I need your love
and guiding hand.
I pray each day
Sometimes I cry
and start to scream.
No, I don’t mean
to make a scene.
I don't like noise
if it's too high.
And that is why
I start to cry.
And if the light
is way too bright.
I might get up
and start to fight.
I do not mean
to be so mean.
if I start to scream.
I just get scared
and so uneased.
don't point, and yell at me.
My world is fast
and all so hazy.
I beg you please
don't call me crazy.
It bothers me
when people stare.
And when they act
like I'm not there.
Talk about me...
sometimes you do.
I'm next to you.
How I wish
you only knew.
That all I want
is to be like you!
My bones are frail
just like a stick.
Don't you know,
I was born sick?
And though I try
my best to talk.
Still you shrug,
and tease and mock.
I'm the one
that you ignore.
I bet you thought
I wasn't sure.
I'm not a toy
that's numb, and broken.
I am a child
with words unspoken.
I heard you yell...
"Run! here she comes!"
Your painful words
can't be undone!
All I want
is to go play.
But when I do,
you run away!
I'm sorry if
I make you scared.
Please be my friend
and treat me fair.
I am a child
whose world seems dark.
So please won't you,
open your heart!
Sitting here alone,
messing with my phone
Trying to figure out,
what's the fuss about!
Caught up in a stare,
clicking here and there.
What's this here I see?
Gadgets new to me!
Beauty by click.
Oh, so many tricks!
Hey now.. look at me!
Loading Apps for free!
Making me so small.
Sometimes even tall!
Let's me Beautify,
every flaw to hide.
Oh look, here's a light,
I can use at night.
Wow.. look at this app.
it's a Google map!
Text a telegram,
right on Instagram.
Listen to a song
while I sing along!
Take another pic,
Hurry.. Make it quick!
Now leave me alone!
Cause I'm messing with my phone!
Originally from West Virginia, Pete Adler has spent the past 49 years in Corpus Christi. He retired from the industrial supply business in 2013 and began devoting all his time to his passion, collecting and selling vinyl records and music memorabilia as Stone Eagle Rhythm & Vinyl. In 2019, he sold his inventory to Carlos Cooper and Hybrid Records of Corpus Christi and has recently emerged from pandemical isolation to travel, play poker and compile his collection of found poems, each line taken from an internet news site headline, all the while following his mantra: Learn to live; live to learn.
... for STP
I raise his haggard frame,
my hand at his spine, feeling the ribs press back
through tarpaper skin,
hold the rasp of his lungs in my palm,
each breath the hiss and crackle
of a Lightning Hopkins 78...
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