Archive for November, 2010

And the Answer Is . . . , By Erica Wilkie

And the Answer Is . . .

On one of the surveys I recently filled out, one of the questions was “What is one thing you want to understand more?” (or something like that).  I didn’t answer it in the survey because I knew that would take quite a bit of thought.  I’m not even sure that I will be able to actually put in words what I’m thinking, but I’ll try.  I would like to understand people.  Now I realize that’s a very broad statement, so I’ll try to encapsulate it a bit.  Why are people mean?  Why are people bitter?  Why are people so self-focused?  I realize not all people are mean, bitter and self-focused.  But I’m sure we all know quite a few who are.  What is so frustrating (frustration comes from lack of understanding . . . hence, my wanting to understand.) is that these people assume that their attitudes, their behaviors, their actions don’t affect anyone else in the entire world.  Pure ignorance.  Even if you are a single person, with no children and no family to speak of, unless you’re a hermit who NEVER leaves your house, you do affect others.  In your daily life, you affect others, whether you’re aware of it or not.  Cashiers in the grocery store, co-workers, people you pass on the street, people you talk to on the phone.  How selfish can you actually be to think that the poison you’re spewing will not seep into anyone else’s life?  Everyone knows how good it feels to get a random smile from a stranger on the street.  A cheerful good morning from the McDonald’s cashier (even when you’re going on 5 hours of sleep and you’d give anything to NOT be driving to work at 6:30 in the morning).  Our lives intertwine with so many others on a daily basis; I think if people would stop for just a second before making that derogatory statement or that sarcastic comment or forgetting to say thank you or not smiling back at the stranger, so many people would benefit.  How many times have you left your house and been in a perfectly pleasant mood until you pass that ONE person in the grocery store, or on the street, or standing behind you in line, or the rude customer service rep on the phone and all of a sudden, you’re mood is sunk.  When did simple pleasantries become a thing of the past?  When did it become ok to be an asshole to whoever, whenever?  Where did common courtesy and respect for others go?  This is what I would like to understand.  “Misery loves company”?  How ’bout “do onto others.”

I realize there is another aspect of people I would like to understand and that is lack of responsibility.  It is the cancer of today’s society.  People are incapable of taking responsibility for themselves and their actions.  It’s really very sad because, again, it not only affects you, but the people around you.  Mainly the people directly involved in your life.  Really, what is so hard about saying you did something wrong?  What is so hard about telling somebody you’re sorry that you’ve hurt them, wronged them, betrayed them?  I admit, I’m not the best at saying I’m sorry.  I’m not the best at admitting I was wrong or that I’ve hurt somebody.  It’s a blow to the pride, no doubt.  But come on, at some point, you grow out of that.  At some point you HAVE to reach the level of maturity that allows you to stop planning your own personal pity party and deal with the fact that you’ve fucked up, and you need to fix it.  We can’t control other people’s feelings; this is sometimes a hard concept to face.  But, we can have an impact on people’s feelings.  Saying you’re sorry for a wrong you’ve committed, saying you understand that person is hurting and even though you might not be able to make it right, you understand, and you want to support them.  And then realizing the behavior that caused that wrong to happen in the first place.  Was I being selfish?  Was I just being oblivious?  Is this something I can prevent from happening in the future?  The human soul is resilient, but not impenetrable.  Words do hurt, and lack of words can also hurt.  When somebody has wronged you and they take no action to correct that wrong, that hurt and disregard can penetrate the soul.  It can make the wounded desensitized, therefore acting in disregard and causing more wounding, a vicious circle.  Everyone has had pain, in some form.  Maybe you were abused as a child, maybe you were completely ignored.  Maybe you were used, mistreated by friends, family, strangers.  We learn the things we live, but we’re not incapable of changing.  Why continue to punish other people for the pain you’ve experienced?  Why not, instead, reach out to people?  Why not look inside yourself, recognize your failures, your limitations?  It’s scary, no doubt.  It’s scary to think that you can disappoint you.  When you’ve felt so much disappointment from all others in your life, why would you then want to put yourself in a position to disappoint yourself?  I get that.  Is that what prevents people from taking responsibility?  Isn’t knowing that if you dig into all the shit you’ll eventually come out with a diamond worth hurting for a bit?  It’s so easy to blame everyone else.  It’s so easy to blame a dad who wasn’t around, or a mom who was abusive, or the first boyfriend who took advantage of you, or a best friend who betrayed you, or a spouse who left you.  I can take that pain, I can take those hurts and become a bitter, angry, broken human being who only wants to continue hurting others.  Or I can take that pain, I can take those hurts and learn from them.  Learn how not to repeat the pattern.  I can pretend I have no responsibility to change, but why?  At the end of the day, when all those you’ve hurt have left you, when all you have is yourself to deal with, what happens then?  When nobody trusts you anymore because you’ve lied, you’ve betrayed, you’ve destroyed, then what?  Who will you go to then?  When you’re whole life has revolved around you, and you’ve pushed everyone so far away that they couldn’t even reach you if they tried, what will you do?  A word of advice from one entirely imperfect person to another: fess up (to your wrongs), give up (control), let go (of all the past pains and hurts), and forgive (those who have wronged you).  People will not think you’re weak if you admit to your shortcomings, to your mistakes.  We all have them.  We are human and we are fallible and the strongest thing you can do is to BE fallible, but BE responsible.

Stop to see the amazing imperfections all around you.   Keep living, keep learning, keep loving. 

Thanks for reading.

Shadow Game, by Emilee Rueda

Shadow Game


Chapter 1

          It’s nine in the morning. Allen Shadow is sitting handcuffed to a chair in the psychiatrist’s office, at the State Correctional Facility. Dr. Bellows walks in dressed in black slacks and a green blouse. She takes a seat behind her desk and takes some files out of a drawer. She glances over them quickly and then looks up to see the prisoner across from her. He has a forest green jumpsuit on, and it makes his hazel green eyes jump out at her with mystery.                  

            “Hello Mr. Shadow. I am Dr. Bellows. I’ve been assigned by the judge to evaluate you to see if you’re competent to stand trial.”

            “I am aware of that,” says Allen, an annoyed look on his face.

            “Now, I understand that you have been charged with the murder of a 32 year old woman named Allison Coy. Are you also aware of that?”

            Allen adjusts himself in his seat and frowns.

            “Yes, sadly, I am also aware of that. But you have to understand,” Allen starts, but then is cut off by Dr. Bellows.

            “Allen, that is exactly what I am here for. So please, explain everything you can remember.”

Allen straightens up and leans in towards Dr. Bellows.

            “Okay, I was seeing this girl, Sofia. We were rather close. We were together for almost a year. I was very in love with her. She had this light brown hair, crystal blue eyes, and one mean set of…uh…any ways, she was gorgeous.”

Dr. Bellows feels the warmth in her cheeks and notices she is blushing.

            He continues, “So, we went out to this bar. We were just having a few drinks, and Sofia got up to use the bathroom. After a couple minutes, this chick walks up to me, taps me on the shoulder, and I turn to see what she wants, you know. Well, she lays this big wet kiss on me and then just walks away. I get up and follow that chick, just to see why she did that. I finally catch up to her and she turns and kisses me again. I push her back and ask her what the hell she was doing!

            She says, “Do you love that girl you were here with?”

            I tell her, yeah!

            Then she says, “Well I’m sorry but that little bitch is dead!”

            “I go blank for a minute, trying to register what this lady just said. I run to the bathroom to check on Sofia. I’m banging on the door…no answer…I push the door open…check the first stall…nothing…check the second one…I see blood everywhere. It’s on the floor, on the toilet…and there she was…beautiful Sofia…lying curled up on the side of the toilet. It looked like she had been beaten in the head with the toilet seat back. There was blood all over the walls, on the floor, it was everywhere! I couldn’t believe what was happening!”

            Dr. Bellows could see Allen was starting to cry.

            “God, I really miss her. She even looked beautiful dead.”

Allen then tries moving his handcuffed hands to try and imitate what he was talking about. “I go to her, put her head in my arms, blood is oozing from her ears, her nose, everywhere. She was slightly breathing, but was far too gone to ever come back. At that moment, rage filled my entire body like never before.”

As Allen is talking, Dr. Bellows is writing things on a legal pad. As he is speaking about Sofia’s beautiful dead body, he looks up at Dr. Bellows, watches her slowly bend down to pick up her pen which dropped. He licks his lips, and just watches her. He adjusts himself in the chair again and continues.


            “After that, all I can remember is having a cork screw in my hand, full of blood…and Allison is laying on the floor in front of me…Gurgling and gasping for air. Then the cops came, and now I am here.”       

            Dr. Bellows looks up at him confused.

             “Mr. Shadow, when the cops arrived on the scene, do you know that the only dead body there was Allison’s. There was no body in the bathroom…no blood…no signs of foul play whatsoever! They’ve tried looking Sofia up, but you can’t seem to come up with a last name for someone you dated for a year-“

            The prisoner becomes frustrated and begins to shout.

            “Are you trying to tell me I am lying? That she didn’t exist! Our love was so strong, I didn’t need her last name…we were beyond names.”

Dr. Bellows gets up to go to her filing cabinet. As she does, Allen glances at her business card which is lying on the desk right beside him. While she’s shuffling through drawers, he memorizes her home phone number, continually saying it in his mind. Before she turns around, he gives a slight grin and lick of his lips as he watches her from behind. Once again, he adjusts himself in his chair and puts a little frown back on his face.

            “Well, can you tell me why, why on earth, there was no sign of Sofia at all?” Dr. Bellows says as she searches through the file in front of her.

            “Do you want to know what I really think?” Allen lowered his voice and his eyes started to fill with tears.

            Dr. Bellows nods her head…then she takes her eyes off of the file and glances at his eyes. She still can’t seem to shake the feeling that he’s being truthful. She’s trying hard to remain professional, but she can’t help her compassion for the guy.

            “I think that with an angel like Sofia, God had to snatch her up right away, body and all. So he could protect anyone else from witnessing such an angel involved in such a tragedy.”

            A tear falls from his eye and he begins to sniffle. Dr. Bellows takes a tissue and gently rubs it under his nose. After a brief moment of making eye contact, Dr. Bellows focuses on the clock behind Allen. She notices the time and remembers another appointment she has in about five minutes. “Well Allen, I am sorry but our time is up. I will not be seeing you anymore. I have recorded our meeting today, so Dr. Anderson is filled in on today’s session, since he is going to be evaluating you from now on.”

            Allen begins to panic. “What, why?”

            “I am transferring to another facility. But don’t worry, you’ll like Dr. Anderson, he’s very good.”

The guards come in and uncuff Allen’s hands and feet from the chair. Allen takes one more glance at the business card. Dr. Bellows gets out of her chair and is tempted to shake his hand, but resists.

            “It was a pleasure Allen; I hope things work out for you.”

            “Oh, they will, I’ll see you soon,” he mysteriously states.

Allen gives a smile and walks out. Dr. Bellows replays the words in her head over and over. “I’ll see you soon.” She shakes it off, grabs her jacket and heads out the door.

                                      Chapter 2

Dr. Bellows has arrived back home after her day at the State Correctional Facility and after meeting Allen Shadow. She lives in a small town in an old farm house that her father passed down to her when he died. It’s a three story home, the third floor mainly used for storage. The outside of her home has endless fields of nothing. Her nearest neighbor lives about a mile away. Dr. Bellows walks up a narrow brick path and grabs her key out of her purse to unlock her front door. The house resembles something that should have been abandoned long ago. The windows rattle if it’s just a little windy and the brown paint is peeling and chipping away. There are two large pine trees to the left and right of the front porch. She walks up the steps and unlocks the door.

            Upon entering her house she smells her Air Wick wall spray. She has autumn harvest spray in there now. She also smells the chuck roast which was in the slow cooker since this morning. After setting her keys down, Dr. Bellows looks above her old brick fireplace and sees her wedding picture. It has been almost three years since she became a widow. Her husband, Steve Bellows, was in a horrible car accident coming home one night. He was on life support for about a month when Dr. Bellows had to make the decision whether to keep him on the life support. She chose not to and has had a very hard time living with herself ever since.

            Dr. Bellows takes a seat on the couch and grabs the remote. She flips stations a few times when “Gone with the Wind” catches her eye. It was her and Steve’s favorite movie. She gets up and walks down a small hallway to the kitchen. She went for a typical farm house theme, chickens and pigs. Even her clock has a pig face right in the center and says oink for every hour that passes. Dr. Bellows takes a plate out of the top shelf of her old wooden cabinet and makes a plate of the chuck roast, pours a glass of Merlot and sits back on the couch.

            She is so tuned into the movie, she only takes a few bites, finishes her wine and empties the rest down the garbage disposal. Now, same as every night, she heads up stairs to change in to her nightgown. Tonight Dr. Bellows has chosen the pearl blue lacy one. Steve always liked that one, but she always thought it made her look old. She crawls into her satin sheets and covered her self up when all of the sudden the phone rings.

            “Hello?”  (No answer so she says it again.)


            “Is this the infamous Dr. Bellows, Dr. Angela Bellows?”

            “Yes, and who is this?”

            “I told you I’d be seeing you real soon, remember?”

            All the blood seemed to drain from her body. She recognized the voice on the other end.

                                      Chapter 3


          “Is this you Allen?”

            Allen whispers, “I’ve been thinking about you.”

            “How did you get this number? You can get into a lot of trouble for this you know!”

            He begins again, “Like I was saying, I’ve been thinking about you and now I know why I can’t get you out of my mind.”

Dr. Bellows isn’t really sure what to do at this point. She grabs her cell phone with her other hand and thinks for a moment about calling 911. But then she realizes, he is after all in jail, so why not see what he wants.

            “Okay, Allen, I will give you 5 minutes.  Got It? 5 minutes, so you better have a good reason for calling me.”

            “I can’t get you out of my mind because you remind me so much of Sophia. I really need to see you again. I think you could help me get over her. Help me to not be bitter about what happened to her.”

            “Allen, you’re not making any sense. I can’t see you again. I cannot help you. You have a new doctor, and he will help you.”

            Dr. Bellows glances at her alarm clock. Its little digital lights are flashing green numbers at her. It’s telling her that it is 1:10A.M.!  She’s feeling the fear go through her body. Quietly, she starts to walk to each window and door of the house to make sure they are locked.

            “Allen, how are you calling me, I thought prison rules say that you can’t make phone calls after nine o’clock?”

Now she realizes that there was no operator asking her if she’d like to accept the call, when she picked up the phone. She’s a little more frantic now, making sure all the doors and windows are locked.

            “Well, Dr. Bellows, that’s a good question.”

            She hears him pause to take what sounded like a puff of a cigarette.

            “You see, I am not in prison anymore. I am at your back door.  So why don’t you show some manners and LET ME IN!!” His stern voice scares Dr. Bellows. Her heart is racing.

            She looses control and begins to scream. “Stay away from my house! Stay away from me!”

Dr. Bellows hangs up the phone and rushes down the stairs to the back door and sees that it’s wide open. She’s panicking now. She feels the sweat pouring down her face. Opening a kitchen drawer, Dr. Bellows grabs a large steak knife and begins to walk through the house. All of the sudden, the phone rings. She grabs it and glances at the caller ID. The name Angela Bellows shows up.


            “ Hello?”

            “I hope you don’t mind me using your cell phone? The one I had just died.” His voice sounded close, too close. She figured if she could reason with him, she might get out of this situation.

            “Okay Allen, you have my attention, where are you and what is it you want?”

            “You and me, we are going down to One Eyed Fish,” he commands.

            “The bar?” Dr. Bellows asks.


Just then Allen appears behind Dr. Bellows, puts his hands around her, knocks the knife from her hand and grabs the phone.

            “Now, let’s go up stairs and put something nice and appealing on.” He gives her a little pat on the butt.

            Dr. Bellows tries to convince him and pleads, “We don’t have to leave; we can stay here and talk.”

            Allen shouts, “Like I said, go upstairs and change!”

He shoves her in front of him and as she walks up the stairs to her bedroom, he follows close behind and caresses her butt. Dr. Bellows almost resists but then tries to remain calm and tries to hold back the tears that began falling down her cheeks.

                                        Chapter 4


Dr. Bellows frantically searches for something to wear! She tries to gain some kind of control over her emotions, while she continues to search for a dress. Finally, she spots something. Dr. Bellows finishes dressing; she puts her navy blue cocktail dress on. She used to wear it when she and Steve would go for fish fries on Friday nights. She comes out of the bedroom and Allen just stares at her. He licks his lips and nods his head with approval. They both go outside and get into her car. Allen demands that she drive, but she doesn’t want to because she is shaking so badly and is afraid she may crash. She tries to think of how she will make her escape at the bar. Meanwhile, Allen can’t stop staring at Dr. Bellows. While she drives, he slowly starts rubbing her leg and thigh, and Dr. Bellows tries to keep her dress from rising any higher. The trip to the bar was in silence. Dr. Bellows was trying not to cry but just couldn’t stop.

Finally they pull up to the bar. Allen gets out and goes around to the other side of the car to grab Dr. Bellows. She stumbles to the ground with fear when he grabs her out by her shoulder. They walk up to the bar. As they are walking, Dr. Bellows makes one last attempt.

            “What are you going to do to me?”

            Allen looks at her and gives her the same grin he did that morning at the prison.     “Nothing, I just want to talk. I want us to have a good time. I think it would be good for us.”

            They enter the bar, which unfortunately, is completely empty except for the bartender.

            Allen pulls out a stool and motions for her to sit.

            He whispers in her ear, “Now, if you so much as wink or anything to try and give a signal or whatever, I will kill you! So, sit down, be cool, and this will all be over soon.”

Then he regains his composure and proudly says, “Now, what do you drink, my lady?”

Dr. Bellows ordered Jack Daniels on the rocks. She drank about one and a half glasses, and tried speaking to Allen several times but he just ignored her. She was a little buzzed now and was starting to relax a bit. She was figuring this guy just wanted to have some drinks, probably sex and then he’d let her go back to her life. She could deal with that.  She was strong enough to be put through that.  Dr. Bellows only hoped it would be as short and painless as possible.  She then felt an urge to use the bathroom.

            “I need to use the bathroom.”

            “I will go with you,” said Allen. It’s the first time he looked at her since he ordered drinks. All the while he was kind of staring into space.

            Dr. Bellows touched his shoulder reassuringly, “No, I’ll be okay, just wait here, I promise I’ll be right back.”

            Allen chuckled a little. “Yeah, that’s what Sophia said, and she never came back. No, I am coming with you.”

Dr. Bellows gets up and sees Allen get up behind her and follow her. She enters the bathroom with him right behind her. She figures this is it, she will be raped here. She goes into the stall and sees that Allen is still right behind her. He starts kissing her and putting his hands all over her, in places she hadn’t been touched in years. All of the sudden, she sees Allen’s face with this blank expression.

            “Allen? Allen? What is it?”

            He looks at her with this confused expression. “Where’s Sophia?”

            “What? I don’t know what you’re talking about?” In Dr. Bellows mind, she is trying to think back to her training and remembers a disorder that causes disorientation. She searches her memory but can’t think straight. Allen is getting more frantic.

“What did you do to her?”

Dr. Bellows sees him; he’s looking at the bathroom stall next to the one they are in. He slowly begins to walk over to it. She tries quietly walking to the door. Allen opens the bathroom stall and begins to breathe very fast! He screams at her.

            “How could you do this? Why? Why?”

            “Allen, there’s nothing there, what are you talking about?”

            He begins to walk to her, shaking his head in disbelief. “How could you kill her? I loved her. Why?”

Dr. Bellows figures this is her chance and makes a run for it out the bathroom door. Right as she runs out and is about to yell for help, Allen rushes her from behind and drags her back to the bathroom and throws her to the floor. He knocks her over the head with the toilet seat back, and continues to beat her for a moment. Then Allen runs out the bathroom door. Dr. Bellows tries to see where he went but she’s blinded by the blood dripping down into her eyes.

Allen goes behind the bar and grabs a cork screw. The bartender asks him what he was doing, but Allen ignores him and runs back to the bathroom. The bartender goes to the phone and decides to call 911… Allen runs back to her, raises the cork screw, and stabs her repeatedly in the neck! Then he moves on to her chest and head!

            Just then the police pull up. They charge through the bar doors and head straight to the bathroom. They shout for Allen to drop the cork screw, which he does. They slowly walk to him, take him down to the floor and put him in hand cuffs. They call in for an ambulance. The ambulance comes and tries to revive Dr. Bellows, but it is too late. She lost far too much blood.

            The cops put Allen in the car. They begin driving away. One of them decides to ask Allen what happened.

            “Well, there was this girl Sophia. I was very in love with her. Her and I go to this bar, and…”

            Allen begins the story he has told many times, and decides this would be a good time to begin a new game.

Topsy-Turvy, by Jessica Gleason


Beauty’s Blessing, Christopher A. Neuburg

Bless me with your bright beauty

A light awakening my night

Float, fall to find me

Rest beneath as a worm

Come collect me calmly, quietly

Where I wait, I am a pebble

Along the road you grace

Simple saint inside your chapel

Daily dream of drowning

Sinking in your ocean

Resting on your sea bed floor

An ancient Spanish galleon

Always I am amazed to find

Your charm never changed

You are the sun I revolve around

Bless me with your bright beauty

Booked, by Shamika Johnson

My love, my loyal one, realize

I know you like a book

The pages of your heart are filled with characters

Your flaws on the cover are what I admire

Chapter by chapter I grow to love you unconditionally

I book marked my favorite part about you

Forever you’ll be cuffed in my hand.

Never Let Me Go, by Unsook Quinn

Entry 2011 Phoenix

Unsook Quinn "Never-Let-Me-Go" Art

"Never-Let-Me-Go" by Unsook Quinn

Black Lab, by Lois Koel

Entry 2011 Phoenix

"Black Lab" by Lois Koel (Art)

"Black Lab" by Lois Koel

Jessica Lynn Skalla, Poetry

Entry 2011 Phoenix


Ever since the beginning of time

Human minds realize everything

As something

We don’t like to accept that NOTHING

Could have brought about something

We have never experienced NOTHING


To us

Is always something

But maybe there is a sense of nothingness beyond our universe

But we can’t comprehend that

Because NOTHING is always something to us.

And if we find NOTHING

We may not recognize it

Because at that time it will become something.

And so the vicious circle begins again.

Now that we have identified this new something

What is beyond that?


Samantha Bielicki, Three Poems



When someone’s feeling hopeless,
I try to give them a little hope.
Because life is hard and worthless
When you sit around and mope
When you look back at your past,
Don’t dwell, regret, and yearn.
Take a look at your mistakes,
And from them try and learn.
Don’t sit around and be pessimistic
Twist it, turn it, be artistic.
Learn to laugh off little things;
Open your heart, spread your wings.
Life’s gonna hand you a lemon,
Be strong and take it.
Some people pursue happiness,
But I choose to create it.

That Girl

She’s the girl too sad to cry,
Too down to shed a single tear.
She just holds it all inside
Locked away with fear.

She’s the girl too scared to scream,
Too terrified to yell,
So she’ll just bite her lip,
Hold her tongue, and she won’t tell.

She’s the girl too mad to care,
Too angry to give attention.
So she’ll keep it to herself
And not give it a mention.

She’s the girl that goes unnoticed,
You probably look right past her.
She looks fine from the outside,
But inside she’s a disaster.


You are the virus;
You hacked your way in,
Burrowed into my brain
and soaked through my skin.

Now you’re nearly everywhere,
Tugging my heart and soul,
But for the first time in a while
I’m starting to feel whole.

Am I wrong to feel this way?
Or are they wrong to judge?
For some reason with you near,
I float rather than trudge.

I know I’m better off without you.
I could pull a match and strike it.
I’ll admit, you’re bad for me,
But I’ll also admit, I like it.

Child With Ducks, by Jessica Gleason

Entry for Phoenix 2011

Photograph "Child with Ducks" by Jessica Gleason

"Child with Ducks" by Jessica Gleason