Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

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Heart-Shaped – Part 1

Mira lies flat on her grandmother’s bedspread, staring straight up at the off-white plaster of the ceiling above her head. Her finger grip reflexively into the patchwork bedspread underneath her as she idly listens to the sound of her grandmother hurrying around in the next room. She resists the urge to sigh, or groan, or check her phone again, or give any other solid indication that she is horribly, unspeakably bored with her first extended-family visit since the semester had started. Only a freshman, and coming back from the dorms already felt alien and strange. Part of her wishes she’s stayed on campus, not that she had much to do there either. She turned her head to look down at the quilt, her eyes unfocused so that the blocks of colored fabric became hazy and the patterns shifted and swayed.

“Think this is the right one!” came her grandmother’s voice as she entered the room again. Mira leaned up onto her elbows to greet her. In her grandmother’s hands she held a plain brown shoe box. Mira is sure she’d seen it before, maybe stacked up in a hallway closet somewhere. Or maybe she’d stacked it up when they’d helped her grandmother move into her new condo in the retirement community. Something like that.

“Pictures?” Mira guesses, rising to sit up fully on the bed.

Her grandmother nods, shaking the box’s contents a bit for emphasis, “Mmmhmm. Just old pictures. Have I ever shown you these before?” The older woman takes a seat right beside her and places the box in the space between them. Dust has settled so thick it covers the lid like a wedding veil.

“Dust has settled so thick it covers the lid like a wedding veil.” Photo from Drawing Near – Blogger

“I don’t think so.” Mira’s seen plenty of old family photos in albums, but can’t ever recall anyone dragging out a box like this.

“Might as well, right?” Her grandmother says, “Got a few hours yet until your Mama gets back.” Her grandmother wipes the dust off the box with a long sweep of her shaking hand, and then lifts up the lid to reveal the photographs stacked below.

To be continued

Stray Dogs – Part 3

Her mother called a few days later, asking for help with cleaning out the house. Too big of a job to do with only one hand, she said. Andrea almost refused.

Andrea sat silently in the driveway for a long moment, before finally going inside. Her mother greeted her at the door, hugged her, and then immediately began giving her instructions on what needed to be done around the house.

“You’ve been so much help since I hurt my arm, Andy.” Her mother said as she pulled a box of junk of one of the shelves, “Don’t know how to thank you.”

“Could you give me an honest answer about something? If so, I’d call it even.”

“…Of course.”

“Why’d you tell me that Paul wasn’t my father? Better yet, why’d you tell him?” Katherine seemed caught off guard, like she’d expected Andrea to say something else. Anything else.

“I-I couldn’t live with that sin anymore, you have to understand. I had to tell the truth. They put Paul on that transplant list and I realized I wouldn’t have forever…”

Well, Now I’ve got to live with it too. Andrea wanted to say, but didn’t. She didn’t say anything at all. She had to live with a lot of things these days.

“I always told myself I was going to wait until you moved out, so he wouldn’t try to take it out on you too.” Somehow, that made it worse. “But then he got sick, and somebody had to take care of him… I never wanted to drag you back into the mess I made.” As far as Andrea could tell, that was what her mother had done since the moment she was born, and yet she couldn’t shake the urge to protect her.

“It’s…fine, mom. Don’t worry about it.”

Photo from BHG.com

After what felt like an eternity, they worked their way into the kitchen. Andrea was wiping down the counters, when she heard her mother make a tiny sound of confusion behind her, as she riffled through the cabinet below the sink. When Andrea turned around, her mother had a bottle of anti-freeze in her hands. The bottle of anti-freeze.

Andrea couldn’t breath. Her blood ran cold.

“What’s this doing here?” she asked, “Andrea, do you know why this is in here? The last time I checked it wasn’t- Are you alright?”

“I-I, uh, Paul asked me to bring it in from the garage. When I was taking care of him.”

“Why would he do that?”

“He, uh, said something about getting rid of a stray dog.”

Her mother stares at her for a moment, “Right. That… sounds like him. Well. Take it back out there when you get a chance, I don’t want it in here around the food.” she said, brushing past Andrea on her way out of the kitchen.

“Where are you going?”

“Sorry, honey. I think I just need to lie down.”

Now that she was alone, Andrea leaned heavy onto the counter she’d been cleaning, her shoulders shaking with silent sobs.

End. 

The Only Thing

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

–Gloria Steinem

Photo from Clipart Library

 

There’s a sort of thrill

In a well-worn notebook

And a secluded corner

Scribbling out half-formed ideas

With ink stained fingers.

Don’t get me wrong—

Confidence is no friend of mine—

But in these moments

I almost feel it:

Like I could almost do anything

But I can definitely do this.

 

As I stare at a blinking line

On an empty word document that’s been open for hours

Trying to decide what order

That my thoughts should go,

So they fit perfect like puzzle pieces,

And maybe I’ll get it wrong

The first dozen or so times,

And everything I do is still singed with self-doubt.

But I realize,

There’s nowhere and nothing else that I’d rather be.

Video Game Streaming Bigger than HBO and Netflix Combined?

 

combologo_474x356

According to a study conducted by SuperData Research, Video Game streaming content— such as “Let’s Play’s” in which gameplay is overlaid with player commentary—has accrued a massive viewership that far outperforms other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Over 600 million viewers worldwide tuned into Video Game content in 2017 compared to the 235 million combined subscribers of more widely known streaming sites like HBO, Netflix, Hulu.

Of course, the more traditional streaming outlets do require a monthly subscription fee for use which can act as a barrier to entry for some users. The main sources of gaming-related videos, such as Youtube and Twitch, are largely ad-supported services that let viewers tune in for free. Still, these kinds of numbers are hard to ignore when you’re considering how viewers now get their entertainment. It’s certainly not just kids tuning in, either. Superdata’s research puts the average age of viewers at around 33 years old. It also states that nearly half of all viewers are women. “Lets Play” videos and other such gaming content has become a massive contender in an already crowded media landscape.

But can it last? Gameplay videos exist in largely untested legal waters at this point, with many unsure of how copyright laws may affect them in the long term. Currently, most would consider this type of content to fall under ‘fair use’ which allows gameplay video creators to monetize and in some cases make a living off of their work. However, some companies, such as Nintendo, have more restrictions on how their games can be used in Lets Play videos and what kind of content creators are allowed to monetize. Many videos uploaded onto youtube in particular can be disrupted my the site’s automatic copyright claim algorithm. No major court cases have been filed about copyright and video game streaming have been filed yet, but with all the growth that the industry has seen in recent years that may change at any time.

In a Quiet Moment

Photo from tagmagazine.com
Photo from tagmagazine.com

So many bodies melded by proximity
dancing close but still yet alone.

Bright red insecurity worn on your sleeve
like a nerve laid bare on purpose.

Telling yourself you’ve got it together,
a hurried mantra in stranger’s mirror image.

Sobering up under the beaming fluorescents—
sickly pale but you don’t know why.

It hits like a bullet in the temple
right beside where rationality lingers.

What does that hollow future hold,
and will there be assigned seats?

Not now, not now.
Can’t the revelation wait?

Stray Dogs – Part 2

The burial was worse than the service, somehow. Paul’s sister, Helen, glared daggers at Andrea and her mother while Pastor Marlow made his (blessedly short) final statements. Even when Andrea glanced down at the fresh grave, she could still feel her looking. Helen had been very vocal in her dislike of Kathrine throughout the years, but her ire for Andrea was decidedly more recent. The truth about Andrea’s paternity had been floating around for less than a month, Helen still considered it a major mark on her family’s name. She and Paul were cut from the same cloth.

Watching the first shovel full of dirt be tossed onto the casket felt like ripping out stitches before the wound had completely healed, but Andrea did not cry.

Katherine wrapped her arm around her daughter’s shoulders, pulling her close.

“Are you alright?” Katherine asked, her voice was steady but she was shaking.

“I’m fine.”

Andrea was the first to leave, as soon as she thought no one—excluding maybe Helen—was looking.

 

Andrea wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of returning to her new apartment. It was still too unfamiliar to be comforting, but her only other viable option was spending the night in the house she used to share with Paul and her mother.

She didn’t understand why her mother had told the truth, nobody wanted to know it.

She drove slowly without really meaning to, stopping at a gas station to wander the aisles for what felt like an hour. Every moment felt stretched out and heavy. Guilt ate at the back of her throat when she smiled genuinely at the cashier for complementing her dress.

Didn’t he know it was a funeral dress? (Didn’t she?)

 

When she pulled into her building’s parking lot, she noticed Helen standing a few spaces down. She leaned against her grey Buick with a cigarette in her hand. She stalked toward Andrea’s car as soon as she’d climbed out.

“What are you doing here?” Andrea asks, “How’d you get my address?”

“It’s all your mama’s fault, you know that?” Hellen was a few inches shorter than Andrea, but her presence still managed to loom, “My brother’s blood is on her hands.”

“Da- Paul wasn’t murdered.” Andrea told her, trying to back away. Helen followed. “He drank himself to death. We all know that. He was sick. He’d been sick for days…”

“That woman drove him to it!” Helen was close enough that Andrea could smell the whiskey on her breath.

“Why are you here, Helen? What do you want?” she asked, though she already knew the answer. She wanted a fight. If her mother didn’t have a cast on one arm, she likely would have taken this aimless aggression to her.

“Making my brother raise another man’s child! All these years!”

“Yeah. Sorry he spent all those years beating someone else’s kid.” Andrea spat, it hardly mattered what she said. Helen wasn’t really listening.

“I mean, of course he drank. What man wouldn’t drink if their wife was sleeping around!”

“He was a drunk way before he knew I wasn’t his.”

“He always knew! We all knew!” Helen jabbed a bony finger into Andrea’s collarbone, “The whole town knew your mother was a wh-“

Helen hit the ground before Andrea even realized she had shoved her. She looked like the impact had drained all of her spitting rage. Without it, she just looked like grieving old woman who needed something to blame.

“You know, I thought you might have a little more loyalty to the man who raised you. I heard you were taking care of him those last few days. Guess you ended up just like your mother.” Helen said, like a calm statement of a fact.

Andrea ran inside before she could say anything else. Her dog greeted her as soon as she was inside the apartment, blissfully unaware of what had just transpired. The huge mutt had been the first thing she’d gotten for her new apartment. She always wanted a dog, despite Paul’s deep distain for them. She’d picked up the dog—Trevor, she’d called him— from the local pound a few weeks before. The same day her mother had told her the truth about Paul. The same day her mother had told Paul that same truth. The same day she’d called Andrea from the emergency room with a broken arm and finger shaped bruises on her neck, claiming that she had fallen down the steps.

That had been a hell of a day.

She wandered aimlessly into her bed, just as she heard what was probably Helen’s Buick peel out of the lot. Trevor climbed into bed beside her, pressing his wet nose into the junction between her neck and shoulder.

            “God, I never wanted any of this to happen…” she whispered, to no one in particular.

(To be continued.)

 

 

Photo from Cesar’s Way

Through the Walls – Part 2

Photo from Life’d

The particular curve of Iris’ smile began to work its way into her paintings, the melody of her song stayed behind long after she stopped singing, playing through her head on an endless loop. She hadn’t had it this bad in a while. It was a dangerous state to be in for someone like her, too much uncertainty in it.

Much to Drew’s surprise, it’s Iris that strikes up a conversation first after yet again stumbling into each other in the hall.

“So you’re an artist?” she asked, after nearly a month of getting tiny glimpses of stacked canvas behind a hastily shut door, the curiosity had gotten to her.

“Oh. Yes. I am.” Drew stammers for just a moment before regaining her composure.

“Can I see some of your paintings? Please?” Iris peers around past her shoulder to get a better look inside the room.

“…Sure.” Drew nervously wonders if Iris will somehow recognize the exact color of her eyes swirled into the paint of her latest piece (a part of her almost hoped so, it’d taken her ages to mix that color exactly. Such an odd shade of blue.) “My room hasn’t been cleaned in… a while.”

“I’m sure it’s not so… Oh.” She trailed off, distracted suddenly by the sight of scattered art supplies, chipped coffee mugs full of paint-water, old take-out boxes, and whatever else had managed to make its way to her bedroom floor.

“Warned you.” Drew nervously raked a shaking hand through her short-cropped hair, as Iris lost interest in the mess in favor of picking through a pile of mostly-finished pieces. Napoleon growls lowly but doesn’t get up from his spot in the corner.

“I wish I could paint.”

“Well. I wish I could sing.”

“…You’ve heard me sing?”

“Thin walls.” She says, and Iris gives her an odd sort of look that she can’t quite identify, then she went back to the looking through the canvases. Almost as if she may have been searching for something in particular.

“Don’t you ever paint people? Everything here is so… abstract.”

“Not since… probably art school. Models are expensive, and I don’t have the money.”

Iris’ eyes lit up like that’s best news she’s ever heard.

“Really? Would you paint me?”

Drew felt an odd mixture of excitement and worry bubble up in the pit of her stomach, “Are you sure you’d want me to do that?”

“Yes! God, yes. I’ve always wanted a real portrait of myself done. I might even come up with a way to buy it from you once you’re finished…” she said, sighing dreamily. Drew tried to swallow the newly formed knot in her throat, but to no avail.

“Well. Then. I’m sure we could work something out.”

End. 

Why Watch the Worst Movies Ever Made?

Photo from Study Breaks Magazine

Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult classic The Room is widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. It is near incomprehensibly bad. The acting ranges from hysterically inept to downright unsettling, the dialogue doesn’t make sense, and Wiseau seems to have no idea what a director is even supposed to do. The entire thing is so strange and poorly conceived that it seems like it came from another dimension. It made less than 2,000 dollars in its original run at the Box Office.

The Room is also, by many people’s standards, wildly entertaining. To a point that theaters continue to hold screenings of it to this day. James Franco is even producing a biopic about the movie’s creation

There’s no shortage of similarly terrible movies, either: Troll 2, Sharknado, every film Ed Wood ever directed, the list goes on and on. They aren’t good movies by any traditional sense of the term, but they sport legions of loyal viewers anyway—including well-known actors and filmmakers of critically acclaimed films. Similar to Franco’s look at The Room, Tim Burton directed a 1994 movie about the life and career of Ed Wood.

The question is: what draws people to watching bad movies?

There are plenty of answers to that question—primarily related to the unintended comedy that these sorts of movies produce, but I can’t help but wonder if the current state of the mainstream movie industry has anything to do with it. In world where many of the movies released are focus tested for mass-market appeal, it can be nice to watch something like The Room or Plan 9 from Outer-space. There’s a certain aspect of earnest creativity that these movies display. For some people, that can even be endearing or even inspiring. The creators of famously bad movies may not have been successful in anything they tried, but at least they tried something.

Fight or Flight

Photo from IMBd
Photo from IMBd

Val had come back to the apartment with bloody knuckles and eyes like a rabid dog. Not the first time Benny had seen her like this, not by a longshot. He wondered idly where she’d been the last few hours. If Val was looking for a fight, he doubted she’d found it in the vicinity of their own upscale neighborhood.

“All that blood yours or…?”

“Piss off, Ramirez. I’m not in the mood.” She spat out his surname like it left a bad taste in her mouth.

“Really? ‘Cause you seemed so upbeat when you walked in.” He could see her snarl in response as she stalked past him on her way to the kitchen. The layout of their shared apartment made it so he barely had to crane his neck to watch as she turned on the faucet and placed her injured hands under the flow of the tap, “Seriously though, what happened?”

“Jesus, just leave me alone. Don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Fine then. I’ll leave you alone,” he said, trying to re-focus his attention on the news article he’d been trying to read before Val’s return had interrupted him.

Val left her hands under the water until the bleeding seemed to stop, then patted them dry with a paper towel. She stayed there at the sink, taking slow shaking breaths. There’d been a fight. There must have been. Val had punched walls before, but that was usually the end of her anger. Whatever (or whoever) she’d hit, there was definitely something left unresolved.

Benny lasted just over a minute before annoyance and curiosity won out, “Are the cops going to get involved? If so, I’d really like to know in advance.” The neighbors already gave him dirty looks in the hallway—the old lady in 422B still clutched her purse closer when he walked by—so if the police showed up at their door it was unlikely they’d assume the officers were after the pretty daughter of a southern socialite.

“No. I mean- I doubt it. Stop worrying about it. Leave it alone.”

Val uncorked a bottle of painfully expensive wine from the fridge and poured it into a chipped coffee mug. The wine had been a Christmas gift from the partners at his mother’s law firm, but that didn’t seem worth bringing up. Another argument. Pick your battles, Benny. (Red wine was something he only really pretended to like, anyways.)

“Stop worrying about it? The reckless shit you do affects me too, y’know,” he said, slamming his laptop shut much harder than he’d intended too, “You’re my friend, Val.”

Val takes a long chug of her wine and snorts back a laugh, “Jesus. Way to make this about you, Ben.” She still stood at the counter, focusing her attention on her now shaking hands. Nervous energy seems to pour off of her in waves.

“How can I make it about anything else if you won’t even tell me what happened?”

“Fine! You want to know what happened? Here’s what happened: I was drunk and stupid and some prick at the bar stared getting—I don’t know—handsy, I guess. Wouldn’t leave me alone.” She stood in the doorway to glare at her roommate proper, “I overreacted, alright? But I don’t think he called the cops. You happy now?”

Benny felt his heart sink, “No. Jesus, Val, why would that make me happy?” he leaned forward like he wanted to go to her aid now, and Val took a defiant step back.

“Forget it. Please just forget it.” She said, before stomping to her bedroom with the wine bottle in tow.

Crashed

It’s a funny thing, realizing you might be an awful person. Seems like something that usually happens on your death bed. Maybe I should be thankful I’m getting it out of the way early. I can just revel in it now. Maybe I’ll steal candy from a baby on my way home. As soon as I get out of this goddamn hospital.

I woke up this morning with almost a hundred missed calls and unopened text messages. Liam crashed his car. Did you hear about the accident? Hey Cass, just making sure you’re okay. You’re Liam’s girlfriend, right? Liam’s in the hospital. Are you and Liam Brennan still together? I’m so sorry about Liam! He’s in the hospital on Pembroke Av.—St. August’s or whatever. Liam crashed his car. Liam crashed his car. Liam crashed his car.

So now I’m standing over a sleeping Liam Brennan, a good catholic boy in a good catholic hospital with five broken ribs, and an insidious little part of me is just wondering how long I should wait to break up with him now.

His mom is pacing the floor; she looks like she’s aged ten years in a day.

“Well, at least his face is okay.” I say, trying to lighten the mood. His mother does not laugh. Or acknowledge that I’ve said anything, really, “…I think I’m going to go sit in the waiting room.”

“I’ll let you know when he wakes up.” She says, what she probably means is ‘Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’

An old woman gives me a pitying look in the hallway, probably because I look like I’m about to be sick. I’d been rehearsing that break-up conversation in my head for two weeks. I think we should see other people. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m not ready for something serious. Your parents hate my guts. You’re a great person, Liam, it’s not about that. It’s just not working out. I think we should see other people. I think we should see other people. I think we should see other people.

The totally empty waiting room would’ve been much better, if not for the 4-foot-tall painting of Jesus on one wall. Every chair is facing it. Every single one. Or maybe they are supposed to be facing the TV, which is also on that wall, but the Jesus painting is what commands my full attention. Maybe it’s because I’m just not used to that sort of thing. I come from a family of what I would call ‘cultural Christians,’ we celebrated all the holidays and ignored all the commitment. I try to focus on the wallpaper instead: old, floral, peeling in one corner but mostly intact. These chairs must’ve been carefully picked to match up to those flowers, because they’re the same color exactly.

A horrible wailing breaks the silence and my eyes instinctually dart over to the painting as if it might be the source of the cry. Realizing it’s probably coming from the emergency ward is almost enough to make my skin stop crawling. Not Liam. Sounded like a lady. I think the painting’s eyes are following me.

“It was an airbag, not a freight train. He’ll be fine.” Sometimes saying shit like that out loud helps. Not this time.

I want to leave. I want to get out of here right now. The smell of antiseptic is burning my nose and Jesus won’t stop looking at me and—

The door to the waiting room screeches open and Liam’s mother pokes her head inside.

“He’s awake, if you want to come see him.”

 

 

Photo from Chronicle Live

Through the Walls – Part 1

Photo from Life’d

Drew Gardner lived in a room on the top floor of a decrepit old house, situated on a street she didn’t feel entirely safe walking down after dark. She meant to move somewhere more upscale and ‘artsy’ when she had the money. If she ever had the money. Stacks of canvases took up most of the space in the apartment, leaving just enough room for her and the dog to exist alongside them.

The dog was a mean, snapping little thing, a strange looking mutt whose parentage was inconceivable just by looking. She’d named it Napoleon, despite a friend’s insistence that accounts of the historical figure’s short stature were exaggerated. He’d followed her home one day and never left, keeping her company while she painted. Drew had etched out an unsteady existence like that, selling almost enough paintings to pay her rent and then making up the rest with the help of a temp agency.

And then the girl moved in. It was inevitable, of course, that someone would eventually take the room next to hers over after the last tenant, Johan, had been evicted for unpaid rent. Drew ran into her in the hall that first day, a beautiful girl carrying a box marked “FRAGILE” and humming melodically to herself.  She smiled radiantly at her as she passed, and Drew thought of nothing but that smile for the rest of the day. For weeks she heard a woman’s voice filtering in from the adjacent room. It wasn’t quite a pretty voice, a bit too high and wandering in and out of proper tune, but nevertheless it was an interesting voice. The sort of thing you’d hear on albums that were relegated to the ‘novelty’ section of a record store. She saw the girl occasionally but never mustered anything more forward than a polite greeting when the two of them met in the hall. She had to be careful with that sort of thing.

Drew finally found out her name, Iris Henderson, on a dropped piece of mail downstairs, then instantly felt ashamed for looking.

Glory Days

My mother asked if I miss High School

I told her, “Not really,”

What I wanted to say was,

Hell no

But I do miss piling seven people

Into a car that seated four on a good day

And praying that we wouldn’t get caught,

I miss my first creative writing class

God, it felt like a revelation,

I miss every over-wrought 3 am conversation

And how, for a moment, we thought we’d figured out

Every intricate detail of the universe,

I miss laughing too loud at all those in-joke we had

That hadn’t really been funny in the first place,

And I miss the people

I don’t talk to anymore

Because maybe proximity

was the only thing holding us together in the first place,

But I don’t miss High School, exactly.

Just the few paper-thin moments of glory

That are entangled in those four years

Which is not quite the same thing.

And then my mother asked

If I’d ever go to the class reunions,

And I said,

“Nah, probably not.”

Bureaucrapsychosis

Photo from Shutterstock

“psychosis, noun: a serious mental illness … characterized by defective or lost contact with reality…”

–Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary

 

She might be beautiful if she’d smile,

Change her perfume from “Trying Too Hard.”

She slid a form across the counter—

Mahogany; everything there was mahogany—

So our hands couldn’t meet.

 

As I turned, I saw the counter’s edge

Where the veneer curled away,

Exposing plywood in unflinching fluorescence—

God forbid they put in a window—

I thought, “That’s the most honest thing here.”

 

I swear I glimpsed our world on that piece of tape:

Government center with an AC unit rattling somewhere overhead,

Streets, grocery stores, barber shops where customers—

That’s all they are in the grand scheme, really—

Prattle on politics, pay with plastic backed by green paper.

 

All hanging loose with no root in the veldt,

No grasp in grass with cricketsong,

Nor toe in shimmering lake—

Favoring corroded pipes running to parks—

Claiming victory as it’s bucked.

 

Could we meet in the veldt?

If I leapt from the street’s end,

Would you hold my hand—

Forget perfumes and forms—

Would you smile?

Live Bait

We had hours yet
before the sun would rise.
I was nine, maybe ten years old,
too young to fully appreciate a silent lake bank
and not having anywhere to be.
I shivered bone-deep in the early air.
My father said he was glad we could make it out–
Before all the tourists took the good spots.

A tiny electric lantern
shined a soft halo of blue light around us.
Dad smoked in stony silence
while I fumbled with my Disney-branded fishing rod.
I told him that I felt bad for the nightcrawlers
that we skewered onto the end of our hooks.
He said that sometimes he did too.

I reeled in a bluegill—
Nothing huge, but still—
My first ever catch with no assistance.
Dad asked if I’d like to keep it.
I told him my fishbowl wasn’t big enough.
He helped me get the hook out
despite the frantic thrashing.
I tossed it back into cold, blue-green water.
For a moment, I appreciated the silence.

We packed up just as the sun began to rise.
I could hear birds chirping in the background.
Dad handed me a Styrofoam cup—
Still half-full of fat grey earthworms.
“You can let them go, if you want.”
I dumped the cup out into a nearby patch of upturned earth
and watched the worms writhe their way out of sight—
Pretending that the birds wouldn’t get them.

 

 

Featured Image from Tennessee State Parks

Stray Dogs – Part 1

Photo from The Independent

Less than twenty people showed up to Paul Bennett’s funeral. Andrea had counted, twice, before her attention shifted to watching her mother. Kathrine Bennett had been on-edge since the moment that the doctor declared her husband’s time of death, stuck in full throttle as she tried to make arrangements with what little savings she had and hoped the life insurance policy would cover it later. She hadn’t slept in days. During the viewing, she’d been fluttering all around the funeral home, adjusting flower arrangements with the one arm that wasn’t stuck in a sling at her side. She sat a few feet away from Andrea at the end of the pew, eyes trained on the man in the casket rather than the one on the stage. Andrea didn’t look at the body. She couldn’t.

Pastor Marlow, the spindly little man standing at the podium, had all the stage presence of a glass of lukewarm tap water, but he was the only minister in town that would agree to be there. If he could even be called a minister. Was a minister without a congregation still a minister? Andrea wondered.

It didn’t matter, really. He was Baptist, he was ordained, and he’d agreed to be there. That had been enough for her mother. Katherine had always been willing to overlook a lot of things, when it came to men (but not denominations.)

“The lord has plans for all of us,” he stuttered, “and we don’t, uh, we don’t always understand what those plans are…” Andrea didn’t consider herself to be particularly religious, but she could appreciate a good sermon on its own merits. This was not a good sermon.

There might have been a good sermon, if Paul hadn’t put a round of buckshot into Pastor Morrison’s cocker spaniel a few years back, or broken Pastor Jacobs’ nose. But there really wasn’t much that could done for his reputation post-mortem.

A woman in a dark blue dress leaned forward in the pew behind her, clasping her shoulder in a way that was probably meant to be comforting. Andrea belatedly recognized her as someone who’d worked with Paul nearly a decade ago.

“I was so sorry to hear about your daddy, hope you’re holding up alright.”

Haven’t you heard yet? Seems like gossip spreads like disease around here, Andrea thought, giving the woman the most sincere smile-and-nod that she could muster, Paul Bennett wasn’t really my father.

What is CTE and Why is it a Problem

Most people by now have heard of a neurodegenerative/brain disorder called CTE: chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This disorder is very common with those who have competed in contact sports like football.

Aaron Hernandez, former tight end for the New England Patriots and convicted murderer who committed suicide back in April, was found to have had stage 3 CTE after his brain was studied by Boston University. At the young age of 27, Hernandez is one of the youngest people to have the disorder since CTE’s discovery.

This news doesn’t take away from the fact that Hernandez murdered one person and may had killed two more. Hernandez however, is now one of the 112 former football players to have their brains studied post-mortem. Out of the 112, 111 had some type of CTE. That means that most likely, 99% of former, current, and future NFL players will have some type of CTE.

Don’t forget that football isn’t the only sport to have a issue with CTE.  Soccer, Hockey, MMA and Professional Wrestling like WWE have had former athletes posthumously diagnosed with CTE. Even MLB had a player diagnosed with CTE after his suicide in 2012.

Currently, there are multiple lawsuits dealing with concussion settlements. However, those who had played in high school and college but didn’t make it to the professionals don’t have a lawsuit. It can affect a high school student after a few years of participation in the sport. In 2010, 17-year-old Nathan Stiles died after playing in a football game in which he took several blows to the head. He would be diagnosed with CTE, the youngest reported case to date.

The doctor who discovered CTE, Dr. Bennet Omalu, once said that he wished he had never met Mike Webster, legendary NFL center and first person to be diagnosed with the disorder. Many players after hearing about the effects of CTE have retired, and those include Jake Locker and Patrick Willis. Some even regret playing the sport and even the great Bo Jackson discourages his children from playing the sport that made him famous.

Talk about CTE will never stop, but football and wrestling aren’t just going to stop tomorrow. It is encouraged to know about the effects of CTE before playing a contact sport and know most likely, you will have some type of it. That is the price of chasing riches and fame.

Big Damn Beautiful World

When she finally takes off that

God-awful sweater her grandma made—

The one with the cross-eyed kittens,

Foreign fruits that might be apples,

And no sense of season or dignity—

That no one likes but she wears anyway

For Grandma’s sake—

 

When all that’s left is a thin, snowy shirt

Through which all is clear as ice-capped peaks—

Where the whisper of the river climbs unfettered

Over trembling blushes of leaves,

Cupped palms of valleys,

And undressed trees yielding to the breeze

To rest at the summit and roll back down—

sweater
“She finally takes off that god-awful sweater her grandma made.” Photo from: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/91/9a/91/919a9144344e1996f967fc1cea459840.jpg

When she can dance without being whipped by knitted sleeves,

Exposing her teeth as a smile spreads—

The stars peeking through bare limbs

Where the crisp night sky cradles them,

Lays them down on the grass—

She cries out in delight

For this big damn beautiful world.

Like Nihilism, but Less Depressing

depressed
“I find a sort of comfort in the idea of a chaotic, unknowable cosmos.” Photo from: http://academyofideas.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/nietzsche-caspar-david-friedrich-468×375.jpg

When I was younger, it terrified me
To look at the universe as some brutal, uncaring thing.
I expected it to be organized and meaningful
Like all the little quirks
Mom expected me to grow out of.
(Neither I nor the universe
Ever lived up to expectations.)

I don’t worry over fate quite so much, anymore.
Now I find a sort of comfort
In the idea of a chaotic, unknowable cosmos.
It’s like realizing
That the prison walls are cardboard,
That the steel bars can crumble in my grasp.

Maybe there is some unseen structure to it all,
But maybe there isn’t.
Maybe it doesn’t matter—
At least, not the way I thought it did.