Archive for the ‘Creative Non-Fiction’ Category

A Walk in Our Shoes, by Sarah Krolikowski

The sun was going down and the ground was starting to freeze. I held my sister close to me and whispered, “I’ll keep you warm Lily.” Mom had left us again, supposedly to find us food. She smelled of cigarettes and sweat and I noticed the dark marks on her arm again. This meant another night on the streets, to fend for ourselves. If she did come back, we knew she’d be strung out again. At least she’d come back to find us at some point, unlike our dad, who was stuck in a cell and couldn’t leave.

I wrapped my sister in the extra clothes we had and put socks on her hands. There was no way I was going to let her freeze. I told her we had to start making the voyage. Her eyes filled with tears, but she found enough strength to stand up. “Everything will be okay,” I lied. My plan would allow us to make it through the night though, if trouble is avoided.

We made our way to the grocery store, walking swiftly to stay warm. Inside, the colorful fruits and vegetables immediately caught my eye. I stopped at the apples, inspecting them for imperfections, like any other customer would. The apple was alright, so I stuffed it in my coat pocket. Next stop was the carrots because I knew my sister loved them. As we passed, I knocked a bag onto the floor, and stuffed it in my jacket as I got up. Lily looked at me with sad eyes, as I grabbed her and headed for the door. She was old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, but too young to know the swiping skills.

Nearby was a park, where we found a bench to rest on momentarily. I gave her the carrots and she immediately gorged on them. I ate the apple to the core, and licked my sticky fingers clean. My confidence peaked as I saw her filling up on her healthy snack. It was fuel for me to keep pushing on. “You done for now?” I asked, as I got up and extended a hand to her. “Yeah,” she said quietly as she grabbed my hand and sluggishly rose.

As we continued the journey, I noticed a forested park area in the horizon. “It’s better than a park bench”, I thought to myself. The trees were very close to each other, which would serve as protection from the elements. I sat my sister down and gave the carrots back to her so she could eat the rest. I let her know we were building a fort, like we used to when we were young. She smiled and sprang up, excited to help me. We scavenged twigs and leaves to create our home for the night. To a passerby it looked like a pile of leaves, but it would keep us hidden.  After our fort was made, I tucked her in with leaves and extra clothes we had in our bag. She dozed off almost immediately.

Sleep came easy for Lily, but for me, it seemed virtually impossible. No matter how tired I was, I had to figure out the next plan of action. Every day was a new day to bring us trouble or hope. “Maybe we will run into our mom and she will have food for us and a warm place to take us to?” I thought to myself as I pulled out a picture of my family. In the photo, the sun was shining, with no clouds in sight. That was long time ago though. Whatever was in store for us, I knew my little sister could rely on me. I would make sure trouble didn’t follow her, like it chased our mother.

The Holographic Charizard, by Jake Raffaelli

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having moral principles. It was a foreign word in my childhood, but it was about to unexpectedly have a huge influence on my development as a person.

I was always a slightly awkward child. I had a couple friends, but instead of hanging out with them I often chose to stay indoors doing my own thing. My older brother, on the other hand, was a cool, rebellious teen at the time. He had his group of friends who were also rebellious, and I wanted to fit in with them.

One day I got the chance to prove myself. I was hanging out with my friends: Sasa, Dejan, Nick, and Adam. We were hanging out upstairs in the apartment hallway area, a place in which we frequently gathered. They were comparing their Pokemon cards, which is something I was never very into. I was more into Dragonball Z than Pokemon, but that’s neither here nor there. Nick, who wasn’t really my friend, he just hung out with my friends, kept bragging about his favorite card he had just gotten.

A holographic Charizard.

While zoning out from the constant bragging delivered by Nick, I remembered a trick my brother once taught me. It was a simple, nifty little trick in which you slip the card into your sleeve while no one is looking and the card simply disappears.

I started off small, taking only the cards that come in every pack, the cards that you have ten copies of. I felt so sly, nobody noticed that a single card had gone missing. My confidence

was growing, cooking up a storm. It was time I went for the unprecedented card.

The card was so precious to Nick, he hovered over it like a hen hovers over her egg. I felt as though he’d never let it out of his sight. After a few minutes had passed, Adam was feeling courageous. He challenged Nick’s Charizard with some minuscule card.

Nick laughed arrogantly, “Ha! That card is nothin’ compared to my CHARIZARD!” He reached for the card to shove it into Adam’s face once more, but the podium beneath Nick had suddenly collapsed.

The card was in my sleeve.

Nick lost his cool. As he ran home to his mom, I went inside and showed the card to my brother. He was pleasantly surprised, and placed the treasure into the little safe he had for all of his best cards. Suddenly I heard Nick’s mom outside.

I joined the others back outside, so I wouldn’t look guilty. His mother was hysterical, screaming so loud it must have echoed for miles.


My story didn’t budge.

“I don’t have his card; I don’t know what happened to it!” I responded innocently, shaking with fear.

Finally my mom came to the rescue, “Jake is a good kid. He would never have taken that card!” she explained; all the while I snuck back to the safety of our apartment.

The guilt consumed me after my mom had said that.

I begged my brother to give me the card so I could return it, but he insisted that everything would fly over soon enough. The guilt was eating away at me like maggots feeding on a dead body. After reflecting on this moment for months, something good finally came from it. While my brother influenced me to do something bad, I learned that it wasn’t worth it. That’s when integrity began to replace guilt’s consumption within me, and I began to grow into a better person.

Well-Groomed Wonder, by Laura Rodriguez

I sat waiting patiently on the cold hard bench while staring at silvery white and cream veins of the marble floors. I examined people passing down the long bland corridor judging them even thought I knew I shouldn’t. I could hear the tapping of their heels across the floor. Gentleman with long dress coats shuffled past in a rush to their hearings. Women burdened with their own weight in paperwork hurried by. It seemed as if everybody had a place to be and should have been there ten minutes ago.

At that moment an African American woman appeared through the long elevator doors. Her flawless ebony skin was surpassed only by her impeccably groomed hair. She moved down the hall with the ease of a ballerina, dangling an oversized bag on her right elbow. She held her forearm outward and upright as if to display the medium tear dropped ring that sat proudly atop her hand. Her French manicure gleamed as her left arm adorned with a beautiful gold and diamond bracelet swayed with each step. As she moved closer I could see she was wearing a fashionable cape jacket and freshly pressed tailored pants. Gliding even nearer I was amazed that her ability to move in five inch stiletto heels despite being heavy set. Her essence must have demanded admiration as I noticed several people walk past her then glance back for a second look. Her appearance was so polished and well put together that I imagined her to be a CEO or possibly even a lawyer. The only noticeable imperfection about her was a crescent shaped heliotrope mark hiding beneath side swept bangs near her left eye. She drew quicker and began to smile and I could see perfectly straight brilliant ivory teeth.

While smiling back, “Good morning” I nodded.

As she paused, “Hi do you know where room 711 is?” she inquired.

“I think it’s that room over there.” I gestured as I corrected my posture.

“Thank You!” she said, “Do you know if that’s where I can file a restraining order?”

Startled by the question I raised my eyebrow “Sorry I’m not sure but I think so.”

She appeared a bit hesitant at first as she glanced down the hall. Making her way to room 711 she took a deep breath and paused before pulling the handle and walking in the room. With a newfound realization that the mark under her eye was probably a bruise, I couldn’t help but wonder why someone of this stature would be abused. Had I ever heard of Queen Elizabeth being hit? Of course not, and this situation seemed equally unfathomable.

I spent most of the day thinking about that woman. Wondering what her situation was and if she was now safe. I contemplated why at first sight I hadn’t assumed she was there for a restraining order. We were right outside the doors of the room where they were filed. Was I so prejudice that I assumed someone so proper couldn’t be touched by violence? Of course I was! I had been groomed since I was a child to believe that violence coexisted with poverty just as respectability did with wealth. At first glance that woman had demanded respect so I categorized her as I had every other person that walked past me. Now every time I find myself classifying a person I remember the well-groomed wonder and how she taught me to never pass judgment so quickly.

Work Out Place by Christopher Koester

Before entering my sterile sanctuary of fitness, I must first pass through two whispering, automatic doors where I am then greeted by my membership card reader. Upon entering, a powerful gust of cold air from the building’s air-cooling unit blows across me like a windy storm. To the far left, I am able to see rows upon rows of treadmills. Most of these fitness machines are occupied with runners, joggers, and even people who are just seeking a slow steady walk. The distant sound of steel clanging against steel from heavy barbells, dumbbells, and counter weights being dropped creates an encouraging ambiance. Looking down, I can see the floor is squeaky clean, and the slightest aroma of chlorine fills the vicinity and covers the machines of the recently cleaned. Around the corner to my rear is the gym’s cooler. That’s where many spend their final moments after a long, hard work out before exiting the gym.

The Critically Lauded Josue Bernal, by Kieran Villoth

            Josue is, simply put, a strange little man. Recently having turned eighteen, he is now an adult, although neither his persona, nor body type, would indicate such maturity. Josue is almost unbelievably skinny; to such an extent that I am almost convinced he can fit beneath the crack between a door and the wall.  Despite this, he swears that he has a six pack, but will not let anyone see it. Josue is also fairly short. I have not personally measured him, but I would imagine he stands somewhere around 5’5. 

            Josue always seems to wear a shirt or jacket worth at least a hundred dollars, and a ten dollar pair of jeans. He is very proud of the way he dresses, for some unknown reason. He also has glasses, as he is entirely blind without them. His favorite way of loitering is to lean back on a wall, fold his arms, and watch the people walking past him. He often greets people while using this stance. When walking in a group of people, he stays off to the side, and talks the entire time so nobody else can get a word in. On occasion, he will forget what he was talking about mid-sentence, utter an inhuman slur of sounds, and continue to walk without acknowledging that it had even happened.

            Somehow, Josue is extremely confident. He claims that he would be a fantastic boxer, or Mixed Martial Arts fighter. These are blatant lies, but he continues to speak them. He is also extremely proud that he is being trained to be a manager at a local Wendys. He is so proud of this, in fact, that for the past month and a half, he has mentioned it every single day, holding his soon-to-be managerial position over his head as if it were a trophy.

            I met Josue during my junior year of high school, in Journalism class. Our teacher was sitting in the back of the class, staring blankly at the wall, and not at all watching his classroom. I was sitting there, minding my own business, and doing my classwork. Then Josue ruined it all. He chose the seat next to me, and sat in it.

            “Hey.” said Josue.

            “Hey.” I responded.

            “What’s up?” he asked.

            “Nothing really.” I said dryly.

            “You know, Nickelback is my favorite band.” said Josue.

           Josue claims he was joking when he said that, and just trying to start conversation, but I only half believe him. What I do believe, however, is that this is one of the two ways he knows how to start conversations. He either blurts out something personally insulting, or repeatedly says “hey” over and over. These are the only ways I have ever seen Josue start a conversation, and I sometimes worry that he doesn’t understand human interaction.

            I don’t know why I am Josue’s friend. I do not respect him, or appreciate his company. Josue is sometimes tolerable, and very rarely, he is actually enjoyable company. Most of the time, however, he is a complete and utter mystery. He does not act the way other humans do, he has unmatched pride, and he never shuts his mouth. I do not understand Josue, nor do I think I ever will. I don’t know if anyone ever will. In fact, I do not know if Josue even truly understands himself. He is too strange, too awkward, too… incorrect. In a world full of cogs and gears, working together to create something bigger, Josue is a rubber duck. He blocks the gears, interferes with their work, and nobody has the slightest idea how he came to be here.



The First Time, by Brian Van Handel

People remember their first time for the rest of their lives.  Some people grasp that first love and let it grow. I remember my first time just like it was yesterday.

            It was a warm September day. The sun was beaming and the weather forecast for the day called for a high in the low to mid 70’s. Of course, like any other day in Wisconsin, there was a chance of scattered showers throughout the day. Growing up in Wisconsin, I had learned to expect the ever present chance of a spattering of rain. This day seemed like any other September day I had experienced hundreds of times over. Little did I know, my life would be forever changed on this day.

            My girlfriend, Christie approached me and questioned, “Are you doing anything today? If not, do you mind taking a road trip with me as I have some business to take care of?”

            “How long would we be gone and what do you have to do?” I asked.

            “Most of the day and don’t worry we will have fun as the business aspect is the shortest portion of the trip,” explained Christie.

            Not sure what was going on, but knowing that I had no plans and had only been dating Christie for a little while, I figured I would play along. “Sure, do I need to bring anything?” I inquired as I approached the car.

            “Just yourself, honey!” she belted out.

            Of course, this peaked my interest. What business did she need to take care of? Where were we headed? Is this girl really into me? All great questions that I hoped would be answered by the end of this trip.

            We had been on the road for over two hours and I had little luck in prying any piece of information out of Christie as to where we were going and what the intentions were when we arrived there? I knew that we were heading north on I-43 and a warm breeze flooded the vehicle with the faint smell of burning leaves. Traffic wasn’t horrible, but mildly congested. I continued to try and pry out any bit of information from my, suddenly much quieter, girlfriend. There was no cracking this girl. She was just not giving up anything.

As we passed Sheboygan, my thoughts raced at where this journey was headed and what we were going to be doing. I guess she wasn’t kidding that the business aspect would be the shortest part of the trip. I conceded that I would just have to wait until we arrived at our destination to see what she had up her sleeve.

“Are we close yet?” I sighed.

“Patience honey, it will be worth the wait,” she said in a sultry voice.

Now the anticipation was killing me. What could it be? I again sat back into a now suddenly uncomfortable bucket seat and waited in eager anticipation. All of a sudden, the car slowed to a snail’s pace. We were caught in traffic in what seemed like a line of vehicles waiting to pay a highway toll. I thought to myself, Wisconsin does not have toll roads. I realized that there was a Packer game going on and unfortunately, we were arriving at what seemed to be the same time as people going to the game were arriving. The breezy, sunny day now seemed like a distant past as we had been in the car for what seemed like enough time to fly Florida and now were stuck in traffic. Being somewhat frustrated at this point, I exclaimed, “I sure hope we are close to wherever it is you are taking us!”

Not daunted, she replied, “Patience honey, we are just about there.”

All of a sudden, out my window gleams the shining beacon of NFL history, known as Lambeau Field. I have never witnessed her grandeur in person before. She is majestic against the clear blue skyline and is the envy of all football fans nationwide; even though most will not admit it. All these people were flocking to her, as if she was some sort of super model. Tom Brady may have Gisele Bundchen, but Packer fans have Lambeau Field. When Gisele has long since left Tom, Lambeau Field will still be the loyal companion to all Packer fans. I abruptly realized I was staring out the window when I looked back at Christie and she was smiling. Puzzled, I inquired, “What are you smiling about?”

Proudly she said, “This is our destination and the business I have to take care of is attending today’s Packer game with you.”

I was floored. I was about to experience the pinnacle of what every Packer fan strives for. The love affair is completed and the connection grows stronger once you have been able to witness your beloved team on its hollowed ground.

The anticipation on that day continues to be a memory that I wish I could capture and duplicate. It was this day that I realized my first love was something to be cherished. In the short time that we had known each other, Christie knew me well enough to know that this would be something that I would remember for the rest of my life. My love for this woman started on this day. I grasped that love and let it culminate into a lifelong commitment. This was the women who I would marry.

It is true, everyone remembers their first time.

Friend or Foe, by Dawn Utech

Her sun-kissed golden looks were deceptive. With her East Coast, à la Kennedy[1] aura she cast a spell upon everyone with whom she met and chose to spin her magical charismatic web upon. Unfortunately, you learned too late that she was the master director of all whom she knew. As if, with cement blocked feet, you were firmly planted on her chess board. Yet, because she said, “Hello, Gorgeous!” every time you met or sincerely pledged her devotion to you because “You are the best!” you didn’t know you were just a pawn in her grand design. You felt wanted, included, important. To be her friend was like a golden ticket. But, instead of winning the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory[2], you won a place in the inner circle of one of the most popular of cliques.

It all started on a perfect, blue sky day. Instead of relishing poolside in the warmth of the sun, I chose to get chores done; which included laundry. The laundry room was located on the lower third level of the three-family home right next to the in ground pool. You took the outside, twisty turning steps down to the small, musty room that held the washer and dryer along with castoffs from former tenants; old suitcases stained by mildew, a king top spring mattress and rusty, once bright beach chairs stood forlorn and threadbare. This is where I saw her for the first time. On the hottest of summer days she floated in the pool; glistening and suntanned on a pretty green blow-up raft. Nearby a glass with tiny water droplets gently sliding to the bottom of the glass stained the patio wet.  This glass lay just out of her reach as she floated on the inviting water, her hand lazily playing in its coolness. The ice cubes rustled in the superb Chardonnay as they melted while crying for shade to protect them from demise. A glass of Chardonnay was like an accessory to J.C.; comparable to a necklace worn by CoCo Chanel[3]. Never be without.

I knew her Roommate, Peter, (my neighbor) and he always asked how she and I have never met. Different schedules, I presumed. I discovered less than a year later, from another J.C. victim that J.C. had been deliberate in us not meeting; the first of her competitiveness attributes to be verified by someone other than my own suspicions. But, here and now, standing poolside, I was being invited to join the queen (in her own mind) and become instantly the closest of friends. “Put on your swimsuit and get your butt in this pool! I am so glad we finally get to meet! – I won’t take, No, for an answer!” –Like everyone, I felt compelled to join her. I was equally intrigued to find out who was this infamous J.C. as I was desperate to cool off in the sparkling pool.

From the safety of our dark lens sunglasses, as women often do, we eyed each other up and gathered our first impressions. Her hair beginning to dry from the sun and wind took on a brassy, store box color blonde. She was above average in height with a slender build. You could see that she had once been athletic, but her definition was lost due to the habit of daily golden wine. J.C.’s upper front teeth were slightly crooked and when she let out her big laugh you could see she was missing a second bicuspid. I couldn’t help think to myself, “This? This is the woman I have heard so much about? The woman who has men falling at her feet… Paralleled to Helen of Troy[4]? – She looks pretty average to me!” – Aha! That was part of her lure to the web she wove. Being attractive, yet average gave her leverage by not being too threatening as far as looks were concerned. She could easily be your gal pal while she secretly plots to steal your pride, kindness, reputation and your boyfriend.

As you get older, and meet new and different people, you start to learn to discern who is and who isn’t going to be a good friend. I should have known that this new friend was more likely to become the frenemy of a lifetime. J.C. was always super enthusiastic about an idea or plan, but usually was a no show when the time came and she was needed. She seemed genuinely supportive in arranging a blind date for you with the greatest guy she just met – where, in truth, it was only to get him off her back now that she was done with him. Of course, you would feel a fool once the truth is known, but she would lure you back in and you would tell yourself that you will be wise and never be duped again. But, alas, only to run afoul in a new plot that includes your presence and particular naïveté. You couldn’t find comfort as you saw other friends lie in her path of destruction. Nor pity, because you knew that all concerned were smarter than the game being played, yet played it anyway.

It took a family health emergency to remove J.C. from the inner circle. It wouldn’t have mattered. By this time she had run out of excuses, money, and people to deceive. The departure came before a complete and total uprising took place that was destined to start. I wonder to this day, if she really had to return to her family’s home town, or, had she realized that she had played her last game. Her web had been blown apart by the strong forces of the wind of truth. We had finally learned, as young adults, that people will show you who they are…believe them the first time[5].

[1] 1960’s President family; Kennedy era

[2] Dahl; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 1964

[3] CoCo Chanel -French Fashion Designer 1910-1971

[4] Helen of Troy – Greek Mythology; most beautiful woman in the world

[5] “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

― Maya Angelou

ESCAPE, by Mary Jones

“If one says ‘Red’ – the name of color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.” — Josef Albers.

The Red Door--from Mary Jones by Billy Knight and with his permission--9-13

“The Red Door” by Billy Knight used by Mary Jones, with Permission

Red is my favorite color; also one of Scorpio’s, which I proudly boast as my astrological sign.  It immediately draws me in, like a moth to a flame.  It’s energizing, powerful, ornamental, and obtrusive, represents sexuality, and is the color of the highest arc of the rainbow.  It evokes action; stop, pay attention, incite, heed, usher.  It lures and jabs my inner most precious feelings and private thoughts, and makes my heart race, as if I’m riding a horse running at full stride or watching the final seconds of a close basketball game.

The hue of the door entices me, and my degree of desire for the unknown rouses me to take action.  Some would be intimidated by the deterioration, but somehow that beckons me.  The passion to investigate leads to burning motivation and in turn, the driving question, what is held within?  What mysteries and treasures are waiting to be discovered inside this seemingly abandoned shed, with a door of the most striking red hue?  The blistering sun and torrid rains have battered it, paint peeling, revealing a plethora of shades underneath.  Jet-black stains streak down the front, but I’m lured, nonetheless.  It halts me in my tracks, as if I’d been snatched out of a blissful daydream by screeching brakes.

As I gaze upon it, my hesitation about opening the door swiftly moves to the forefront. Will bats fly out?  Are raccoons or squirrels residing inside?  Is it infested with spiders or wasp nests?  Then again, shelves lined with fascinating trinkets and treasures, perhaps antiques, anxiously awaiting rediscovery, may exist.  The eagerness to explore tugs my most basic curious nature, and I grasp the charcoal black weathered handle.  It is smooth and worn, like my favorite jeans, and dirty and greasy, from years of use.  As it slowly swings open, the hinges squeak, like the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, and the grating noise causes me to cringe.

I have no idea how much time has elapsed since someone was last inside.  At first glance, with filtered light shining in, the space appears empty.  It’s dingy and smells a bit musty, and I sneeze, the sound startling me.  I pause, and quickly peer over my shoulder to see if anyone has heard.  It’s just me.  I am relieved, and because I know I’m alone, I cautiously continue my investigation.

I turn back and my eyes adjust to the dimness.  I observe cobwebs dangling between beams overhead, the fine filaments, wispy, like clouds on a warm summer day.  The floor is made of wooden planks, four inches wide and six feet long, running parallel to the door.  They’re covered with dry leaves and small twigs, and they crunch and rustle under the soles of my favorite brown boots as I enter.  I’m surprised to see the inside of the door isn’t red.  It’s hoary, and a beautiful shade of raw umber, similar to a watered down cup of coffee.

I recognize a variety of items hanging on the walls.  To the left, hand tools including hammers in various sizes with different colored handles, some wrapped in black electrical tape, hatchets, levels, planers, screwdrivers, ratchets, wrenches, some antiquated, and vises.  On the right, spring-released animal traps, with nothing in them, and I laugh inwardly, relieved.  I glimpse a metal lawn rake with a broken handle, as well as a spade, shovel and hoe.  A rusty sickle, dangles precariously on a nail, rocking gently back and forth, like a pendulum on a grandfather clock.

An old rickety ladder, with some of the risers snapped in half, is gingerly hanging on two bent hooks.  A few tin cans, labels still affixed in muted colors, and glass baby food jars with screws, nuts, washers and nails, are placed on top of horizontal boards; make shift shelves, so they won’t topple over, spilling their contents.  I recall my father, and how he organized his own workshop.  There’s familiarity, which elicits a sense of pride in this simplistic approach to organization.

Ripped and tattered newspapers lie haphazardly in the left corner, smaller pieces scattered throughout, gnawed by mice to build their nests.  Some rusty beer and soda cans in the opposite corner, and miscellaneous odds and ends.  A wooden three-legged stool, standing two feet high, proudly occupies the middle of the space.  It reminds me of a soldier, solid, stout and strong.

There are a few things on the wall I don’t recognize, and I yearn to know what they are.  Past and present collide when I utilize my phone to take a few photos.  I press the button, and the click of the shutter booms, like a firecracker, inside the small space.

I’m extremely cautious.  My instincts tell me to leave everything undisturbed.  It’s possible these things have been forgotten, but they don’t belong to me, and proper judgment says better to leave all as is.  I finish taking my photos, glance around briefly, step outside, and slowly shut the door.  The latch falls into place, as it has countless times previously; it knows exactly where it’s supposed to be.

I retreat a few feet and focus on the front of the shed again.  I stare, with appreciation and longing, and soak in the serenity of the structure.  It is profuse with history well beyond what I’ve found inside.  There are stories I don’t know, a lifetime of secrets, laughter, joy, pain, sorrow, tears.  It inspires me, and makes me long to know who, what, why, when and where.

I quietly depart, my heart bursting with excitement, knowing full well I’m destined to return.  Maybe I’ll bring someone, but more than likely will come alone.  Sometimes the best gifts are the ones I discover on my own and selfishly choose not to share.  They become priceless, precious, even palatine, because of the memories they hold.

My life needs this amazing, purposeful, tiny structure with the red door that takes my breath away.  It’s a place I can call secretly call my own.

It is my escape.

World War III, by Lauren Tatum

Shortly after the birth of our son, my boyfriend and I began having huge arguments. We were always at odds about how to distribute the various duties that come with parenthood and running a household. Though we had talked about how we wanted our lives to be once our bundle of joy arrived, we never really talked about specifics. As a result, our relationship deteriorated rapidly, and I feared for my son’s future perception of his parents as a cooperative unit.

“I told you I would need your help,” I said to S., “lots of it.”

“I am helping,” he said, hands slowly curling into fists. “I pay the bills; I go to work every day. You really expect me to come home to cook and clean, too?”

“Yes!” I shouted at him, pouring all of my frustration, post-pregnancy aches and pains and resentment into the word.

“Do you realize that I’ve been holed up in a one-bedroom apartment with no one but a newborn to talk to for three months?” I screamed, “When do I get a break!?”

“I go to work every day, how am I supposed to feel when I come home and you bombard me with your demands?” His words hit me like a slap in the face. I was so shocked I could hardly move.

“Demands?” I whispered.  “Are you fucking kidding me!? You promised me that you would help! You said I could count on you. Now, all of a sudden, my sincere request for help is a fucking demand? How dare you! How dare you call my asking you to keep your promise ‘demanding?’ ”

By this point in the conversation, S. has had it with me he began throwing various objects – the PS3 controller, the remote – just about anything he could get his hands on. Next thing I know, he’s kicked a hole in our bedroom wall. I realized that this argument was heading toward the point of no return, so I took a deep, slow breath and tried to regain my composure.

“What the hell did you do that for?” I asked, as calmly as I could manage. S. grabbed his coat from the closet, spat on the floor between my shoes and stomped out of the apartment for a cigarette. Thirty seconds later I heard him banging his fist against the iron railing that surrounded our balcony. Slowly, I returned to the bedroom, where my previously sleeping baby boy had just woken up, blissfully ignorant to the fact that World War III just taken place 10 feet from his crib. Cradling my bleary-eyed baby, I whispered, “It’s alright, baby boy. Mama’s gonna make it all better. I won’t let this happen ever again. Fighting is bad, Jensen, and Mama won’t make you witness it ever again.”


The front door squeaked slightly as S. reentered the apartment.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I just don’t know what came over me. It’s just…when I come home…I dunno. I guess I just wanna relax and not have to think about anything for a while, you know?”

I just stood there, staring at him, too exhausted to fight or complain or to go into detail about how and why his behavior was 100% unacceptable.

“You said you would help me, S.,” I said, my tone soft and even, “and you’re not holding up your end of the bargain.”

The struggles in my relationship with S. continued for some time, but I have kept my promise to Jensen. I never again let myself lose control or raise my voice to my son’s father while Jensen is within earshot.

The Winter Man, by Steve Kuzma

Like a dusty key left unused to a door that ceased to exist anymore, the winter man waited for a winter that ceased to arrive. His snow removal equipment lay scattered in barns with no purpose but to rot. The fields which had brought joy and wonder all those years ago now lay overgrown and listless, waiting for the feel of a snowmobile track.  No one appreciated the winter anymore and the winter man would have none of that. He always sat waiting, waiting for the snow to come back. The winter boots he wore curled and cracked in a sun that seemed to never set, his face red from the snow winds that had battered his face long before. The times had changed around a man, but the man had not.

The winter man held on to the snow, its wonder and mystery were never to be forgotten.  The years flipped by and society forgot more. The winters of time seemed only like a history lesson that had battered the people instead of something that was to be enjoyed. The farm he resided on, too, was like the winter: dwindling into the past, it coated with rust and tarnish.  The clock of time ticked on, but before all had failed and time expired, the winter man’s waiting had stopped. So long had passed but the sky had grayed and a miracle fell from the sky. Blanketing the ground, his farm seemed as if it were new again. Society panicked and snarled at the sight of the winter, but the winter man was back into his grove.

The barns were lighted and glowing in the darkness of the night. The equipment roared to life and the snow continued to fall. Tracks from his snowmobile graced the fields that had lain listless for so long. The snow waged on, and now society waited. Like a kid afraid of the night, society was in fear of the snow. Locked in their homes, glaring at their T.V’s, society’s turn to wait had arrived. … They were locked within the hands of winter and it was up to them to find their inner winter man.