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Summer 2014 $8.99
The Path
A Literary Magazine
©Elaine Westphal
The Path
A Literary Magazine
Summer 2014
“Somewhere Over the
rainbow”
The Path is taken by all writers. The Path to Publication can
be long and arduous. This publication is dedicated to straightening
and shortening that path. Please enjoy the work of authors who have
chosen to take the path to publication.
Editor-in-Chief
Mary J. Nickum
Managing Editor
Dian Butler
Founding Editor
R. J. Buckley
Assistant Editor
Caitlin Demo
Copyeditor
Pattie Angelucci
Book Reviewer
Eva Willis
Contributing Authors:
D. E. Z. Butler
Richard Lloyd Cederberg
Holly Day
Tatjana Debeljački
Claire T. Feild
Linda McCauley Freeman
Madison Feyrer-Melk
Debra Scala Giokas
Ina Goodling
John Grey
A.J. Huffman
Michelle Lommen
Dennis Maloney
Joan McNerney
Budd Nelson
Rachelle Parker
Catherine Becker Reynolds
Tom Sheehan
Bobbi Sinha-Morey
Jamey Temple
Elaine Westphal
Tim Wilkinson
Changming Yuan
Advisory Board:
Pattie Angelucci
Dr. John G. Nickum
Catherine Becker Reynolds
The Path is published with the purpose of
providing quality works to the reading
public. It is our wish to also provide a venue
not only for established authors, but to open
another door for new writers to make their
entrance into the literary world.
Submission guidelines can be found at the
end of the book, after the contributor bio
information.
Correspondence should be directed to the
Editor-in-Chief, Mary J. Nickum,
mjnickum@thepathmagazine.com
Published semi-annually. Single copies,
$8.99 (Arizona residents add sales tax).
Ezine, $3.99. For libraries $10 per issue.
Subscriptions: $18 per year
website: www.thepathmagazine.com
ISBN:
ISSN: 2165-9540 (print)
ISSN: 2167-1737 (online)
Copyright 2014
The Path to Publication Group, Inc.
All rights reserved.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Volume 4, Number 1 Summer 2014
The Path, a photo 7
Literacy Puzzle 8
Poetry 9 Poetry
Dedication 10
R. Elaine Westphal 11 Poem
Claire T. Feild 13 Two Poems
Michelle Lomman 15 Two Poems
Ina Goodling 17 Four Poems
Bobbi Sinha-Morey 20 Three Poems
Linda McCauley Freeman 22 Poem
Debra Scala Giokas 23 Poem
Joan McNerney 25 Poem
Holly Day 27 Six Poems
Tatjana Debeljacki 31 Poem
John Grey 32 Three Poems
A.J. Huffman 36 Poem
Dennis Maloney 37 Four Poems
Rachelle Parker 41 Poem
Chanming Yuan 42 Poem
Jamey Temple 43 Poem
Catherine Becker Reynolds 44 Poem
Poetic Essay 46 Poetic Essay
Tom Sheehan 47 Letter to a Sweet-Smelling Woman…
Young Writer’s Corner 49 Young Writer’s Corner
Madison Feyrer-Melk 50 Blood Hound
Essay 79 Essay
Mary J. Nickum 80 Food Insecurity and World Hunger
Short Story 92 Short Story
Tim Wilkinson 93 Rainbows and Revelations
Tom Sheehan 98 Locked in a Syzygy at Home
110 Banjo
D.E.Z. Butler 127 The Golden Gate Bridge
Budd Nelson 135 Escape from the Shadows
Richard Lloyd Cederberg 147 Therapy Session…
Book Review 152 Book Review
Eva Willis 153 The Night Circus
Contributor Bios 156
Submission Guidelines 162
Advertisements
"Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an
amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a
master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as
you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the
monster and fling him to the public."
---Winston Churchill
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The Path
Photo: Ina Goodling
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Solution will be published in the Winter issue of The Path
Poetry
Maya Angelou
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:
Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m.
EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not
belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life
as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior
for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely
appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is
looking down upon us with love.
Guy B. Johnson
This issue is dedicated to Dr. Maya Angelou
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R. Elaine Westphal
My Pot of Gold
They say at the end of every rainbow, there is a pot of gold
And so I began my eager search many, long years ago.
It started on a sun-filled morning in the Springtime month of
May
When all of nature bloomed and the newborn bunnies played.
By afternoon the storm clouds gathered
Dark, foreboding and bold,
I knew that now I’d have my chance to find my pot of gold.
On a hot and humid day in the middle Summertime,
I strolled along a woodland path under the pungent pine
And stopped awhile to rest and dream beside a murmuring
stream.
When I awoke the storm clouds gathered
Dark, foreboding and bold,
I knew that now I’d have my chance to find my pot of gold.
When the golden days of Autumn came and the vivid leaves
blew down,
With scents of wood-burned smoke and apple cider all round,
I watched while storm clouds gathered
Dark, foreboding and bold,
I knew that now I’d have my chance to find my pot of gold.
It is now bleak mid-Winter when snowflakes fill the air.
I sit beside the crackling fire and nestle in my chair
Reminiscing of days gone by, of true and faithful friends,
Of a loving family, and a husband’s devotion that never ends.
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My “rainbow” is filled with grateful love, as much as it can hold.
It was when I searched within my heart; I found my pot of gold.
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Claire T. Feild
Over the Rainbow
Over the rainbow, the sky
refuses to bow, for
the sky is jealous of
the diversity of
color it admires.
But the sky is forgetting
that the bridge of
its false teeth is
huge—and that
it has a variety
of colors like
the rainbow.
Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree
Once a year, she sheds her bark,
our getting to know her true self
our quiet surge into her new
essence, our slight sweeping
hand movements over a novel
enlightenment welcomed, her
over the rainbow hues becoming
so tall that they beckon us to a
monumental escape from the
commoners, the other trees
who’s hardened canker sores
sit as apathetic as the elderly do
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when dementias as insidious as
death penalties arrive, the spires
of sludge marching on aged
neurons, the end of death row.
Rainbow Eucalyptus
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Michelle Lommen
Desperate Lovers
We meet in dark silent restaurants
On a bench next to each other
Warm long legs close
Clutching of disparate lovers
The colors vary
In the window there is light, the river
In the back, brown tables are covered with white napkins
Folded like birds flittering for freedom
In nature we would be trapped
In a snowy ravine, you touch my breast
Holding each other face to face
Coldness surrounds our love
My Power Is My Weakness
Sun is shining
On my black and white bikini
You and me
Were playing chess
You smiling
Knowing you are the stronger
Negotiator in the end
Me trembling inside
Not willing to give in
Leaning forward you whisper
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Think, Michelle
Think, how you can do this
Suddenly I realize
My power is my weakness
Photo by Ina Goodling
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Ina Goodling
Rivers of the Heart
For Georgia Pruitt
The best of times when I was young
Still flowing through my veins
And the best of friends as rivers run
Are like two common drops of rain
The laughter and the songs once sung
Still echo through the years
And tender moments as rivers run
Are streaming down in tears
That place we shared, so warm in the sun
Is here, is ours to keep
And a loving thought as rivers run
Is still flowing pure and deep
In the stillness when the day is done
Reflect as time goes by
For each moment as the rivers run
Slips past so fast, but don’t let the rivers dry.
Memories
The clouds aglow with silver lining
Are damp still from the evening's April showers
And now outside I take pleasure in finding
The remnant drops like diamonds on the flowers
Though not a single white jasmine among the bouquet
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Those fragrant little stars that give me hope
Can be found here on this dreary day
To help give me the strength to cope
And I can still smell their misty grace
That comes to mind across the years and plains
And that brings me back to my childhood place
Beyond the hills and before the rains
The where and when I still hold to now and here
Even as the moon of my memory wanes
I still cling to even as the jasmines cling so dear
To my heart and strongly through the rains.
Amaranthine
I close my eyes to this crimson pain
Turn away from the turquoise whispers
And the lies of an amber mind
Violet words written in blood
Across the perfect ivory of my soul
Scarlet scars and silver swords
Blue moon and maroon
An ebony stranger, sexless
Opal eyes veiled in teal
Seeking out that cerulean tranquility
Amidst the ashen ruins
Of this obsidian nightmare
Where bronzed memories tarnish
Under a faded denim sky
A burnt sienna insult
Darkening my indigo thoughts
My ruddy anger pales
As magenta moments go
Passing into mauve
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As tired as jade and as
Indifferent as beige
Purple poems and lavender lullabies
Yet no mind has known
No eyes have seen
What all my deepest dreams have been
Amethyst
Azure
Or aquamarine
I know they’re somewhere in between
For a painter-poet lost in love
My dreams are
Amaranthine.
Journal Entry
April 11th, 1993
(written when I was 12 years old)
As the last sweeping rays of sunlight stream in through the
shadowing pines, the sparkles of golden gravel path make the
great sky highway up to the wild blue yonder. On through
soaring clouds, above the shimmering stars, taken on by rainbow
hopes, carried witherly by stardust dreams, setting forth on
moonbeams, welcomed by the sunset shades, passing through
the Pearly Gates. Beyond our dreams, beyond our hopes and
tomorrow's plans, on to our destined future. On and on, past the
dawn, and into the golden sunset. Taken through Imagination is
the road that leads to Somewhere. Wherever it be, all our dreams
will soar free, anonymous forever.

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Bobbi Sinha-Morey
The Tip Jar
Message in a tip jar is left
for the copperheaded waitress,
tired and sharp-worded, a
tightly-lipped smile hiding
badly chipped teeth. She keeps
her mind the way men keep
a knife, keen to strip the game
right down to her size. She
swallows her eggs cold, has a
thin spine, and tells lies. She
understands the necessity for
pain, slaps a wet rag at the
truck drivers if they complain.
She turns away the smaller
tips out of pride, and her
hands are nervous, curled,
ready to scrape. Her flat blue
eyes are like an isolated lake.
The Alchemy Of Food
Holidays run together like
ungrooved rivers, and I
forget what they are for;
this is how my mother’s
death changed the alchemy
of food. When she lived she
gave us memories, she gave
exile the bite of bitter herbs.
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To every celebration she
matched a flavor, and in
more ambitious days she’d
clip recipes, knew how to
decipher tastes of other times.
God’s word drifted in fragrant
soups, and she’d fashion a
prayer from a piece of dough.
Now that she’s not here she
left her favorite cookbook
behind, its spine loose with
age. The fit of her old apron
is not my size, and the shape
of the family has now been
swallowed into other lives.
My Body, An Old Friend
My body, old friend, why
are you so unforgiving?
What should I say to my
body that can never bear
children, this used violin?
Every night it strenuously
cries out from its secret
cave, so stiff and resistant,
clenched around an empty
space. It is born of detach-
ment, lacking a sweeter
grace for such a small life.
Now there is a hole in its
sky, once the property of
living, of every valuable
thought. In my impatience
I wait for the sake of what
only the body can do for
itself.
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Linda McCauley Freeman
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
She had the ruby shoes
that sparkled, and the gingham
dress, the basket and the dog.
But first she had the dream
of a different life. A dream
to live somewhere else
over the rainbow even.
She didn’t know that dream
would take her so far
down such a foreign road,
that her best friend would be
stuffed full of himself,
the other two: scared
and hollow. That the four
of them, and her little dog, too,
would discover all they
wanted they already had.
Rainbow
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Debra Scala Giokas
San Francisco
Halfway home from Hawaii,
the land of rainbows:
we walked up and down
and up and down
and over and under hills
where cool nights and warm days
met us with good mornings
of 18 silver dollar pancakes,
Swedish and stacked at Sears Fine Food,
his shaped like a smiley face
with Lingonberries for eyes.
At the Embarcadero: Pier 39,
windy wharf, singing seals, cotton candy skies,
swirls of Ghirardelli squares and circles
of taffy barrels in crayon colors:
colors of rain and sun and grass,
pleasing like Painted Ladies,
in Postcard Row.
Those games of yesterday in the arcade:
fortune tellers, telling futures
on slips of papers from machines,
turning copper pennies into trolley cars,
ding ding, ding ding, they sing,
in the background,
and our photo booth printing,
honeymoon us in black and white.
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Like the cookies we found,
after we walked up and down from Chinatown:
looking at lanterns, linens and lace,
but these were heart-shaped,
sealed tightly in a white paper bag,
oh, there must have been a pound,
they never melted, so we took them home,
over another rainbow:
New York bound.
San Francisco
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Joan McNerney
Birthday Present
I wanted to bring back the
best gift from the country
for you, just for you.
I wanted to.
Some sky would be nice,
lots of lovely sky with
light fleecy clouds.
So I rushed all over
shops and bought the
biggest shiny box and
looked for a perfect bow.
All shades of blue, violet
with red and yellow.
An entire rainbow of
colored ribbons for the
box to put this sky into.
Then on the bus my bow
fell apart. Somewhere,
someone stepped on the box.
It's all crushed and dirty.
By the time we got to
the city it was late. Did
my sky fly away?
The box is empty now.
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I wanted to bring back the
best gift from the country
for you, just for you.
I wanted to.
Birthday present
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Holly Day
Lection
Beyond the curve at the edge of the world, there is a monster
that knows
who you are, an awful thing with claws and teeth and too many
eyes to miss all the bad things you do. It is watching you now.
It has an eye dedicated entirely to watching you.
There is a book that your parents are writing and it’s
all about you, a list of all the terrible things you’ve done
since you were born, a laundry list of evils. When you are old
enough
they will present this book to the monster, and it will decide
if you’re worthy of passing on to adulthood. Your parents
may intervene on your behalf, but they probably won’t. They
know
that the monster only takes bad children, and they
can always have another one, they can try
for a good, well-behaved child next time.
Just a few children, bad children, never get to grow up,
disappear into the night
from their bedrooms, dragged out the window and presumably,
all the way
to the very edge of the world, where the monster lives. Who
knows what the monster does with all the children it drags back
to its lair? That’s not really the question
here. That is the wrong question. This, this is what you must take
back with you today: Try to be good. Sit still and don’t fidget.
Pay attention when I’m talking.
Don’t lie.
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Caipora
You can’t count on nature spirits to find
babies wrapped in old sheets, by the side
of the road and under the trees, gasping for their first breaths
not quite alive, simply abandoned. You can’t count
on fox-headed women, sylphs with cow tails
to be there to find babies left behind
in rest station bathrooms on lonely country roads
to come just in time to stop those tiny cries
to save those tiny fingers twitching in lines of ash
left by cigarettes burning out on wet tile.
Birds Fly Highest
take my eyes out of their sockets
let my spirit fly free. split me wide.
split my bones, scrape out my marrow
fly with me. This body cannot hold me
anymore.
Moving Day
The old house slides past the windows, disappears
in the rearview mirror, turns the corner
and it’s gone, that whole part of our lives together
in that place, the backyard where I carried my baby around each
night,
waiting for him to be able to see
the millions of stars suddenly visible on stark winter nights,
the stunted flowers I grew from cheap seed packets, the way
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the baby clothes fluttered on the laundry line
printed with bright-colored cartoon monkeys and puppy dogs.
He sleeps between us in the front seat, so quiet, unaware
that he will never see that back yard again, that he will never see
the children from this neighborhood again.
There are so many miles ahead of us, so many miles
of empty, unfamiliar country, flat, yellow plains, small,
unfriendly towns
rest stops full of hollow-eyed people and old people
who ask too many questions, concrete cities where flowers
rarely bloom
and the residents only come outside at night. Three thousand
miles
to hold onto and believe in
promises of white beaches, seabirds, and no more snow
almost seems like too much to ask.
The Ecstasy of the Babirusa
she roots in the mud, turning over clumps of sod
with her shovel-like nose. nostrils twitch, she finds
the thick wriggling grubs hiding just below the surface
works them free with a pink slab of tongue
rolls her eyes heavenward in complete satisfaction.
she shuffles off to fur-lined den, to the six
squealing babies nestling inside, drops to her knees
with a loud exhale of breath and carefully rolls over
onto her side. the piglets sense her return
even in their sleep, tiny snouts seek out
an engorged teat to latch onto, seal themselves to her
in an infant’s suckling embrace. she succumbs
to their yearnings, rolls her eyes heavenward
in complete satisfaction.
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Yama-inu
There is plenty to eat on the higher slopes. The corpses
lay all along the path, frozen forever in various positions of
despair,
some huddled into themselves for the last vestiges of hopeless
warmth, others
spread out in full as if to embrace inevitabilities. There is no
shortage
of bones to gnaw up here, high past the clouds and in perpetual
frost.
Someday, when the world is warm enough to melt this ice,
the dogs that never were will have to find another place
to hunt, will have to climb past the spread of plants sprouting
from seeds that have lain dormant for millennia
will have to find shelter from first-ever rainstorms and flesh-and-
blood wolves
lured ever higher by the long-dead explorers finally
beginning to decay.
Wolves
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Tatjana Debeljacki
EYES
In them you will find
What I really am – the eternity.
Wishes of my non-being,
Face full of wrinkles,
Light souls and spring happiness.
No remorse in the core of reason.
Let go of me, without saying my name!
I do not count on you anymore.
You were not ready to
Exist carelessly,
Glitter unintentionally and
Reign unnoticed.
With this love we are fighting for loneliness.
You are imposing new forms to the wind.
How complicated is this simple love …
The thought, legitimate or silly,
Strengthens the games of boredom through you!
Memory is suicide of the oblivion.
Withered lie warns imagination with the fresh truth.
Out of the mere deception,
Starry nights I offer in my eyes.

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John Grey
CIGARETTE GUY'S MORNING
It’s a day that smells of cheap cigarettes,
abandoned tenements and their flapping yellow signs
warning of rodent infestation.
It is a body odor day.
A smug day. Up the nose day.
I start it with my irregular two step
across the bedroom floor.
Then the neighbors get involved,
filling the windows with disheveled hair,
portly guts, torn nightgowns, scratched butts,
and that first dirty white trial of cigarette smoke.
I earned this day. I own it.
Crack open a fist, grab a coffee cup
stained like plague skin, boil water in a rusty kettle,
wipe grease from dim-lit brow,
slump in a chair, suck caffeine through
a stodgy nipple of sunlight.
And then reach for a cigarette. My brand.
The cheapest kind going.
So cheap, label not only says,
“Smoking causes cancer.”
It adds, “Lucky you.”
It’s a day when the woman in the apartment next door
flushes a toilet in my left ear,
screams at her husband and her teenage son
to get out of fucking bed.
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It’s my first acquaintance with the “f” word today.
But there’s plenty more where that came from.
“Where’s my cigarettes?” growls the out-of-work truck driver.
Then he pisses for what seems like an hour.
And the kid starts talking smack to that sagging muscle-man.
“I didn’t steal your fucking cigarettes.”
A missed slap. A surly, “Don’t you talk that way to me.”
Must be time for my second coffee. Or my second cigarette.
Go get the paper. Pore over the skinny want ads.
I burn a hole in page three with my ash.
I'm too ugly to wait tables. Too dumb to clerk.
Wasn't a bad fighter once. Won three close ones.
Lost one bad one. Bloody eyes, split lip, bruised cheeks,
and a cigarette dangling out of my mouth.
Trainer lit it ‘cause my hands were broke.
He must have wished it was a dynamite wick.
Check better be there when the mailman comes.
Otherwise, I’ll be smoking the sports section.
Chick across the hall’s not bad looking when It’s dark.
And it’s always dark across the hall.
Screwed her twice. Laid back on the crumpled sheets after,
smoked more than we talked.
She’s married to some guy who gets out in a month.
If she’s pregnant, I’m dead, she says.
No big deal. I've been worse.
There was the time I was out of cigarettes for a whole week.
It was a month before my head, my gut, my nerves, forgave me.
It’s a day that knows just how yesterday did it.
A match will get lit. Tobacco will sizzle and paper burn.
A filter-tip will cool down with spit.
A nose will blow rings around what oxygen can do.
Lungs will smother another canary in their coalmine.
Light up, inhale and exhale,
for tomorrow we cough.
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DEAD ROCK STAR BLUES
I’m driving home down 95,
twiddling with the radio dial,
seeking out the hard rock station,
amid all the dance and salsa and hip-hop.
At last, that familiar guitar solo
I’ve heard a thousand times before.
And the screaming voice,
the pounding drum kit.
It’s the guy who overdosed at 27.
And the one whose body
gave out at 34 on bass.
Nice solo, bad acid trip.
Next song, another obituary column.
Cancer.. .funny how wasting away
never comes out as “What a waste.”
And then it's the car crash singer,
and the hung-himself instrumentalist.
Now a woman takes the mike.
I’m trying to remember where she's buried.
And a guy…still alive I believe...
but not so you’d notice.
I sing along, can’t help myself,
but it's more obituary column
than radio station.
Hard luck or hard drugs,
the long gone have all the good tunes.
Then, for a change, they play something brand new.
Song's dead on arrival. That’s the living for you.
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FLYING WITH MY WIFE
Yes. the aerodynamics elude me.
We have conquered the air and I leave it at that.
There's one child crying — it's his first time airborne.
But the rest of us are as calm as if tanning by the pool.
Look at those clouds. We've brought them to their knees.
And forget the sky above, it's the sky below that accepts
our victory, reteams with wind in keeping birds aloft.
No I don't understand thrust and lift and drag.
But nor does the guy with head down in a Robert Ludlum
thriller.
Or the woman thumbing through a copy of Time magazine.
Or the old man on his third beer - well maybe he does.
But we've won a war and they didn't even tell me there was one.
Gravity can drop TV sets from ten story buildings
but it lost out to a 747. It's like a jockey doesn't know
the insides of a horse. And I drive at the behest of what
an engine does but I cannot Even marriage - twenty years
of air-miles - is a mystery I accept with the ease of my wife
saying, "I'll have the steak tips" as the stewardess inquires,
and I opt for the chicken. If I thought about it, maybe
there was a time when men and women lived apart
and they felt grounded. No. that can't be It.

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A.J. Huffman
I Am Ruby
slippers. Brilliant mythical glitter
creation. I was designed to fit
like a second skin. I am magical
transportative device, your portal
home. I am temporary,
borrowed from a dream.
Tap me three times,
and we will both disappear.
Ruby Slippers
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Dennis Maloney
Reflections in the Rear View Mirror
An age when young men
prowled the highways
in souped-up jealopies
with a slant 6 or V-8
and gas was 35 cents
When I was a kid
we didn’t have a car
but I remember
those 50s commercials
on the black and white TV
—trust your car
to the man
who wears the star,
the attendant in the
crisp uniform and cap
The ad said they
would put a tiger
in your tank
Now every time we
absent-mindedly fill up,
we fill our tank
with the oil leaking
into the creeks and
swamps of the
Niger Delta,
feel the noose tighten
around the neck
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of Ken Saro-Wiwa,
the gas the runs
our cars so efficiently.
The oil platform
engulfed in flames,
oil we are hooked on
choking estuaries
from Louisiana to Alaska.
Objects in the mirror are
closer than they appear.
Broken English
In the middle of the cold war
and near the end of Vietnam.
A Japanese friend and I
stroll the Kanazawa harbor
and find a ship blazed
with a hammer and sickle
carrying tree trunks
from some taiga forest.
Is this our enemy?
The evil warned about
since childhood,
that we crawled under
our desks to survive?
We meet a sailor
grabbing a smoke
and converse in
broken English
and find he is not so evil
just a working stiff
hoping for a bit of shore leave
to buy his son
a stereo and
smuggle it back home.
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Summer of Love
The department store signs
declares it is the summer
of love in 2009
and the displays
are full of peace signs,
jewelry, granny beads,
peasant blouses, headbands,
and scarves.
How far from
the summer of ‘67 and
the Haight with
Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane,
the Dead and Quicksilver.
The Diggers providing
food, clothes and spirit.
A few months when,
in our innocence
we thought love
and goodwill
would change everything.
At home I filled
my mother’s old pans
with dye
and soaked the folded
and rubber-banded tee shirt
into colors creating
tie-dye patterns of
infinite design and
tried to decipher my
own young world.
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Shepherd
Dawn. The sparse crowns
of the olive trees
come alive with color.
At the end of summer
the brown fields are
barren and full of dust.
A shepherd sits
on the hillside
tending two dozen sheep.
He has never traveled
farther than his legs or
a mule can carry him.
Not much happens here
but he knows the land
and his flock
better than himself.
For hours he sits in silence,
what thoughts fill his head?
Shepherd and sheep
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Rachelle Parker
WAKING AND KNOWING
Purple, orange, yellow
Swirl around me
My gone cat
Running fallow fields
Fast, faster, fastest
Chased by rainbows
In a redwell
I carry a baby
My coworker’s boy
Over the darkness
Into astral flight
Floating life to life
Wearing natty wigs
Throwrugs of clouds
Under their feet
Both my grandmothers
Sit and watch
Holding up nines
I’m waved in
Landing on sheets
Back from somewhere
My heart knows
Of the pitfalls
And rich soils

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Changming Yuan
Convergence
His presence is falling upon me
More forcefully than a summer shower
Down pouring right from heaven. Everywhere
My mind wanders around will hung
A rainbow high above my absence
It is this wet metaphor that has balanced
All the yang elements in my heart with the yin
Ones outside my bloated selfhood
YingYang
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Jamey Temple
Yellow-Broken Road
My Korean daughter is a professor of photo albums
studies their story-less, weathered slides
gives lectures on history,
mostly hers.
She writes backstory with shrinking crayons
paints scenes with nubby fingers
taps punctuation with her red-slippered foot.
Her fairy wand points to maps,
oceanless and focused,
builds gilded castles with well-stocked libraries
alphabetized by searchable answers.
We present Tin-man smiles
to a four-year-old’s flighted fantasy,
our idealism dulled
by her brief birth history
translated by the social worker
who named her.
Our notes read
There is no place
like home
where she presses
rainbow stickers.

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Catherine Becker Reynolds
The following poem appears in the manuscript of my novel Last First Days,
which is the story of a young serf, Mitya Kiriakin, in Old Russia. Yuri
Denisovich Veresov, an atheist and anarchist, is the fictional poet. He was
Mitya’s maternal great grandfather, who died an obscure death in
circumstances unknown to his family.
Chapter 42 of Last First Days, entitled “A Married Man”, was published in
The Path, Volume 2, Number 2, Winter 2012.
---Catherine Becker Reynolds
If I Believed
If I believed,
I would have no need of churches,
These cold stone museums you have built
To keep Him in.
If I believed,
I would find Him in the fields,
Where he was born some lost day long ago,
When the first man beheld the first flower.
If I believed,
Life would hold no fear.
I would be step outside,
Into the Church Without Walls, the Cathedral Without Windows,
Into the Museum of God,
And know that He held me like a wild rose against His face.
Then joyful my death,
To know I slept in His fragrance.
If I believed.
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--Yuri Denisovich Veresov
b. Tuesday, May 26, 1702, Chernika Selo, Russia
m. Devorah bas Yehosue Melnik, Sunday, August 28,
1720
d. (?) 1727
Old Russian100 Ruble Bank note
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Poetic
Essay
"The task of a writer consists in being able to make something out of
an idea."
---Thomas Mann
Letter to a Sweet-Smelling Woman
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Tom Sheehan
Letter to a Sweet-Smelling Woman Waiting Words
Ah sweet marrow ganglia matter of mind what
inviolable pleasure brings me to my computer this time of night
in the moonspill mooncream what draws me this way and that
from my outer to my inner am I all questions in this
mushrooming quiet and dark of night this sound of dead foxes
hanging thinly with leaves the den not returned to mother
hunted while hunting and dogged down this deep of night this
dread of sleeping while my mind can still move its way over
the wave of things can extrapolate conjure figment articulate
touch smell know once again the musk I could die for right now
this instant this eternity for my nares have the memory of
fingers and the dry pulp beneath my nails is your residue of love
I cannot manicure away ashes of our fire.
I see suck words on lips I see the drip of syllables
phonetics of some word rock buried in you as deeply as mine
sunless and miles deep past the six hundred miles an hour that
our impulses travel from mind to extremities of selves to fingers
of satisfaction to fingers knowledge to lips say to eyes move to
pits of breast set into teeth like caraway seeds (oh I love the
working memory as my tongue worries a pit like a cavity
beginning –I form words for you at the touch) what tangible
ghost of nights past is near me touching like grass or a spider
web not quite there who the spirit travels its hands and lips and
words against my ears my self my all as if Chapman’s Homer
has its speech and touches to me I I am alone atop Darien this
abominable night though I have shares and am shared oh shared
by madness oh stung by stars and simple grass
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Oh, listen believe me daughter of words holder of the
precious word rock I am moonmaster starriser suncatcher
burster of cometing yea a farmer plugging word songs but a
listener of your night watches walker of your dreams the evil-
doer doing done that far thin voice of a star moving on you oh
dream death at morning light ah it is lonely the fox is dead I
hear the dogs cry above the clash of leaves the horn empties its
wail on wind the den not returned to the young wait cold and
hungry the burrow walls close in in cool pneumatics the ferret
comes slowly at first teasing his mouth waters saliva runs
oozing like sperm his back arches he tingles Oh love I’d love to
come to your mouth to have your lips holding me is volcanic
thought, furnacing the blade of your tongue is ever merciless;
why are you so unkind to me why cut memory’s cut do my
veins intrigue you my capillaries crawl like others crawl except
when you lose your tongue, you are mad! mad! But I bid you I
bid you come to me once—all mouth, all imagination, all
energy. I would know no other night nor own one. I am
doomed; pusher of thought, darer of deeds, worder of words, I
am doomed who such lip when such thigh take the angle of my
eye, lest I lose that nearing breast—bring your mouth where
you’ve caressed, use your tongue as gallant blade my private
parts to invade
I, moon master, master of words, roper of stars, brander
of herds of Pegasus flock, beg your tongue; talk let it be known
beneath your bone. I love your curves and wanting nerves sleep
comes, now sifting through me, pushing its delights into the
barest ends of me—the torture of a sugar remembered, thighs
intersect triangle of nerves coming away slowly, as a rusty sled
downhill, excruciatingly lovely from the pitch of parting
Once I shot at a doe and oh! I missed! I missed!

Young Writer’s
Corner
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Madison Feyrer-Melk
Blood Hound
Short Story
The howl of a dog has always scared me. The way it
echoes through the most silent of nights, low and clear, ringing.
The sound always makes my heart beat faster, thumping loudly
in my chest until I am sure everyone around me can hear it. A
steady thump it makes, in perfect rhythm with the dog’s howl.
Thump, howl, thump thump, howl, thump thump, howl, thump.
When I was nine, my father was murdered. No one knew
why. Our quiet neighborhood was turned upside down with the
murder of a simple man all for the money in his wallet. A few
coins, a few dollars, is that really what his life was worth?
I still remember waking to my mother’s screams, running
down the hall to see what was wrong, and finding my father’s
body lying on the kitchen floor next to my screaming mother.
Tears were pouring down her cheeks, mixing with the blood.
There was a big gash down his chest, the blood splattered on the
white floor tiles, sticky and wet on my bare feet. I did not fully
comprehend what was going on and while tears streamed from
inside me, I continued to call for my father for days after the
murder. I heard a dog howl in the background, loud and eerie as
I gazed down on his mangled body. Mixed with slamming doors
as the neighbors ran to see what was wrong. Howl.
Not too long after the murder, my mother and I began
going to therapy sessions two towns away with a nice man
named Dr. Hanson. Every Thursday, we could be found in that
stuffy office building. I would wait quietly as Mom met with
him after I did, wondering why she always came out with her
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eyes red and puffy from tears. I asked Dr. Hanson about her and
he just told me that she was sad and that she missed my father.
“She is getting much better sweetheart, don’t worry.”
Better and better, actually. I believe she came to treasure our
Thursday therapy and encouraged me to arrive with her early.
She kept insisting that it was the one time she could escape the
wicked world she lived in and visit a new, different one.
“Perfect.” She smiled before entering Dr. Hanson’s room. She
started coming out smiling instead of crying. While I knew she
was finally escaping her sadness and I was happy for her, I hated
it there.
Yet nothing changed for me. I did not find therapy the
same helping savior Mom did. I found it to be a drag, something
boring and something to dread. It was not that I was afraid. No,
it was because I was never the type to sit down and spill out my
feelings to anyone, not even my own mother. I turned everything
inward and whenever something did come out, it was in the
force of anger and cracked like lightening against black storm
clouds in monsoon season. Dr. Hanson said with a smile,
“You’re a hard egg to crack, Olivia.” But I just answered,
“There is nothing to crack.”
Dr. Hanson encouraged talking between my mother and
I, and it would be lying to say that she didn’t try. I guess it must
have been hard to speak of something that still haunts your own
nightmares, especially when that someone you’re talking to is a
nine-year-old girl. Yet, a year passed and Mom and I still never
had a proper conversation about what happened. I was fine with
this. I was content to play house with my friends at school, to
dream of my ambition to be a famous singer, and to draw
pictures that Mom always hung on the walls.
Tyler came into my life when I was thirteen years old.
Maybe it was through a family friend of a friend of Dr. Hanson.
Or maybe they were related? It was something that I never really
looked in to, for I had Tyler and that was all that mattered. I just
didn’t care. All I know is that Dr. Hanson and Tyler were
somehow related by a daring evil called friendship. However it
happened, we met at my mother’s birthday party and I realized
that my life was not all bad. It was a fantasy come to life, my
dream come true in a way. Tyler was a true Prince Charming;
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athletic, smart, and handsome, with a smile that completely
melted my heart.
Yet, it was not this fabulous complexion that attracted
me to Tyler. I had never been the type of person to obsess over
the opposite sex or to even be the type of person with a lot of
friends of the same sex. I mostly kept to myself, save a few
noticeably different people. I was attracted to things out-of-the-
ordinary. Tyler met this somewhat “dream” of mine with his
abnormal—although, I convinced myself, wonderful—
personality. It stated, loud and clear, I am Tyler Bennet and I
will be your friend, your protector and your passage to change.
Now, Tyler was not as cheesy as my first thoughts when we met,
but I became accustomed to relating Tyler with friendship. Tyler
with relationships. Tyler with love. Tyler with perfection. Tyler
with happiness. Tyler with me. It was the way my brain became
hotwired to work. When we began dating in my freshmen year
of high school, when I was fourteen, my thoughts were only
reinforced.
I became a more social person, although I never felt
comfortable with big crowds. Tyler introduced me to the world
of God and how mighty He is. Tyler was always intrigued by the
whole idea of the greatness of God and had his heart set on
becoming a pastor, like his father. I attended church with Tyler
and, while he attempted to show me how wonderful life could be
on earth and in heaven, with the help of God, I found myself
more fascinated with the whole heaven verses hell idea. How
terrifyingly beautiful is the concept of a place of perfect and a
place of pain? How hard to grasp, yet what an easy concept. The
good are rewarded and the bad are punished. It was as simple as
that. Tyler was able to explain what he expected his heaven to be
in such stunning detail, that I became overcome with wonder
about the other end of the stick. What was that place like? The
unknown was something I wanted to know.
Sometimes, on Sundays, I would wake up early, my feet
pink from the lasting cold in my house, and join Tyler and his
family for church. I would put on a nice outfit that old people
would approve of; in other words, I would ditch my normal
ripped jeans and T-shirts for something like a skirt and dress
shirt. It was never much, but Tyler always told me I looked good
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when I cleaned up. He never meant to hurt my feelings, but
sometimes I did wonder if he liked me the way I was. I
wondered if he wanted me to change.
The week before my birthday, I did this routine and then
hurried out to the car, where I slid in the passenger seat beside
Tyler. He immediately asked me if I had slept well. I told him of
course. “I know you like it, but I’ve always found that house of
yours kind of…I don’t know…creepy?”
I shrugged and took his warm hand in my cold one.
“Yeah, but its home. I like it.”
“And you’re always so cold.” He said over me, pressing
my fingers to his lips and kissing them as his eyes stayed glued
on the road.
I smiled. “I just need a little warming up.” I flirted,
twisting my fingers with his. It felt so familiar to hold his hand
in mine, but it was not like in the movies, nothing like my
friends. Our hands were not like puzzle pieces that most of my
friends claimed to have felt with their boyfriends. It was
something that had never really bothered me, unless I thought of
it. In that case, I never thought about it.
I didn’t think about a lot of things during my relationship
with Tyler. I guess that was how I managed to deal with having
someone so perfect when I knew I was not at all. It was a
wonder Tyler and I were still together; my friend told me every
day and my mom often questioned if I was happy. Of course I
was; how could I ever be happier? “If you were with someone
more like you?” Mom once said. That, of course, brought out a
burst in me and I yelled and she yelled and we both ended up
crying and hugging but I never touched the subject again.
Tyler smiled and we pulled into the church parking lot. I
had never seen the point of going to church every Sunday, but I
knew that it was supposed to make one a better person and Tyler
always did, so I never questioned it. I walked with Tyler to
where his family was already standing and we all walked in
together. His dad’s friend, another preacher, met us at the door.
He shook my hand and I smiled. Tyler did not hold my hand, but
folded them behind his back and put on a genuine smile, so
unlike my own.
Throughout the mass, I allowed my mind to wander like
every other time I went to church with my boyfriend. I loved to
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go, honestly, I did. I just enjoyed it for different reasons. I liked
how Tyler felt comfortable with me around his family and how
he smiled widely when people talked to us and I knew he loved
to explain things about his religion to me, even when I didn’t
ask.
Tyler had always been the one to answer questions for
me before I asked them, trying to be helpful and anticipate my
fears, but in the end just bothering me. Of course I never said
anything because I knew he was just trying to help me. That’s all
Tyler ever did was try to help me, but I never really felt helped. I
just felt like he was starting to control my life and I was helpless
except to hang on and be pulled along with him.
That is not how it was in the beginning. In the beginning,
Tyler and I perfectly balanced each other in a way I had never
seen nor heard. It was wonderful; he was my savior in so many
ways. I could spend weeks without seeing him and then when
our eyes met, everything would still be perfect. We were the
perfect yin and yang. And yet as time went on, I began to feel
myself being pressed on all sides from the boy I had been with
for years.
“—hell.”
The words of the preacher stopped my thoughts and my
mind was quickly cleared and left empty, ready for focus. I did
not command it to do so, but it did anyway and I found myself
tied to the word he spoke. Hell. The concept I so often
questioned in the dead of night in my dead, haunting house. And
suddenly, I surprised myself in actually listening to what the
preacher was saying.
“The devil has always been fighting to gain the upper
hand on this world. He temped our Lord Jesus in the desert,
trying to convince Him that down is the right way to go. Every
day, each one of us is faced with choices, with temptations that
can pluck us from our path toward heaven and push us toward
hell. The devil will try to convince us in any way he can, to
move away from our Lord. Sometimes, these temptations win.
Evil wins and we give in. Do something bad. Do something evil.
Commit a sin. Once this happens, many believe their path to our
God is over. They deicide it is too late to turn back and instead,
they cower in fear. Fear of what will happen when their time
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comes. Fear of our Lord, perhaps. But there is nothing to fear. It
does not have to be this way.
“Our Lord God is almighty and forgiving, no matter the
circumstances. He will always be there for each and every one of
us, ready to guide us back to his path. God wants us to be good.
God loves us all so very much that He sent His own son to
redeem our sins. You cannot find a greater love. The point I am
trying to make is that no matter how hard the devil tempts us, no
matter if we commit a sin or just find ourselves questioning our
faith, God is there for you. He is there and ready to forgive
anyone who really wants to be forgiven. He is merciful and
mighty…and He is forgiving. Remember, He will forgive you. If
you ask for it.” That was the end but my mind was still cranking
and when I joined Tyler in the drive to breakfast, I decided to
actually ask him a question.
“Tyler?”
“Yeah, babe?”
“I was just wondering about what the man said in church.
About the devil and…and about hell.”
“Do you mean how people can be set on that path and
then ask God for forgiveness and just turn right around?” I
opened my mouth to tell Tyler, no that’s not what I meant, but
he just continued talking. “It’s more than that, Olivia. Its more
like, hummm. Well, its more like if you want to be forgiven,
God will forgive you, no matter what. It doesn’t matter what sin
you commit, if you want forgiveness, He’ll give it to you. Does
that make sense?”
“Yeah, but that’s not what I’m asking.” I said.
“Well, what are you asking then?”
“I'm asking…well, I’m not really sure. I guess, I don’t
know. I guess I’m just kind of wondering what hell is like.”
“What hell is like?” Tyler’s eyes flickered from the road,
to me, and back again. “You want to know what hell is like?”
“Not exactly…well, maybe. I just feel like everyone
always talks about heaven and I know you do. You’ve given me
the image and everything about your heaven, but I want to know
about hell. Is it like the Greek Underworld with fire and eternal
pain and…what’s that one story? The one with the bird pecking
out somebody’s liver every day—”
“Prometheus?”
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“Yeah him. Thanks.” I smiled, folding my hands across
my lap. “Is that what hell is like?”
“Well.” Tyler cleared his throat and shrugged. I watched
his handsome face as he thought of how to respond and I
couldn’t help but notice how uncomfortable he seemed. “No one
really knows what hell is like, Olivia. People don’t want to
know. Its not something most people talk about. Not something
most people like to discuss.”
“Okay, so what do you think hell is like?”
Tyler pulled into the restaurant parking lot and parked
the car, killing the engine and the background noise. He looked
at me. “Personally, I believe it is kind of like that. Like the
Greek myths, I mean. It is horrible and bare; a wasteland. Maybe
there is fire or rocks and stuff but I think that everyone down
there doesn’t even notice. I think all they feel is pain. They are
put in eternal pain. And I believe that everyone down there
deserves it.”
I was silent not because I didn’t understand or didn’t
have anything else to say, but because I didn’t really have
anything else to say to that, specifically. I still wondered about
the whole concept of hell. I wanted to know. I wanted to know
the unknown. Just what Tyler said didn’t really explain it all.
And I wanted to know.
Tyler started to get out of the car, but I quickly said,
“What if someone doesn’t mean to be bad? Then do they go to
hell?”
He shut the door. “Meaning…”
“Someone does something bad and ends up in hell when
they didn’t mean to be bad in the first place.”
“They ask forgiveness if they made a mistake and God
forgives them. They don’t go to hell.”
“But, just say they do.” I continued, pressing on. “I
mean, say…something inside of them that was out of their
control makes them do something entirely evil but they didn’t
want to.”
“Olivia,” Tyler chuckled. “That doesn’t make any
sense.”
“Yeah, it does. What if some other part of the person
made them commit the sin and so they have no idea its wrong
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because that other part is making them think its right and…” I
trailed off when Tyler started laughing.
He kissed my forehead. “First of all, you are confusing
me bad right now. Second of all, people can’t have two parts.
They have one part; them.”
“I’m just saying—” I was cut off when Tyler pressed his
lips against mine. I closed my eyes and kissed back, while inside
I felt like I had not had my question answered, at all. Normally, I
loved it when he would cut off my words with a kiss. I thought it
was utterly romantic. But right then, I just wanted him to take
me seriously. And what if someone did have two parts? No one
is saying that they can’t…so they can, right?
Tyler smelled of his familiar mixture of clean shirts and
colognes and I breathed in heavily. I touched his hair, but I
noticed that something was missing. It was like the normal spark
that ignited when we touched, was gone. When we broke away
and walked inside the restaurant, I bit my bottom lip, trying to
taste what I normally tasted, but my tongue enjoyed nothing.
Nothing. The flavor was somehow gone.
I live at the very end of Third Street, in the huge old
house with the big driveway and ancient looking iron gates,
vines growing up the sides of them. The house normally scares
off people who come to call, but for me, it is home. I love the
feeling of walking down the creaking hallways to my attic
bedroom, the feeling when I look at the old playing cards I had
stuck in the cracked mirror on the wall of the kitchen, the feeling
of the warm sheets after mother has finished washing them as
they quickly cool down.
The house belonged to my grandmother, and her mother
before her and her mother before her. In other words, it was a
very old house. Very, very old, passed down through the
generations. That is how it ended up with my mother. That is
how it will eventually end up with me. Just the thought of this
house potentially being mine is something that has always
excited me. I wanted to own something so run-down, so creepy.
It was a growing pleasure when my mother told me of how she
would leave it to me.
We moved into it soon after my father died and my
grandma moved into a nursing home. My mother said the move
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was actually a way to change our life and to start fresh. “To give
you more opportunities, Olivia,” she smiled when we pulled into
the large, circle driveway with the moving trucks behind us. I
guess her dream for greater opportunities for me did succeed, for
I met Tyler and I became a person of the big crowd of people of
which everyone wished to be a part, yet I was never the one who
spoke up in front of a group or even spoke my mind aloud. I
watched and wondered, mostly. But Mom did not notice and I
could tell she felt accomplished when I announced my month
anniversary with Tyler. Now, although she did often wonder if I
was happy, I knew that Mom still was super excited when our
one-year rolled around and then the next and the next. The next
was approaching.
I knew, however, the real reason for our move. Even
then, I knew it was because she missed Dad too much. Because
she could not stand to live where the murder happened. She was
scared and wanted to be closer to something familiar to her. It
did bring her away from her past horrors and to a new, fake
world of happiness that I could plainly see she enjoyed. She
loved living in our house.
It is always cold in my house, even if the sun is blazing
down outside. The cold, somehow, warms me. I go home when I
am cold. I go to the cold to escape the cold. That is just how the
blood pumps through me; cold. The house sent pleasant chills
down my spine whenever I stepped inside. So lovely. Beautiful.
Silent. Cold.
When I turned eighteen, my Mom surprised me with a
huge party. When I was sixteen I had a the “sweet sixteen”
party, so I had never expected such a grand occasion just two
years later. I had been planning a small night-out with my
girlfriends but it ended up being a huge party with practically the
whole school there. Like the wonderful boyfriend he was, Tyler
arrived perfectly on time with a large bundle of plump, red roses
in hand. He was so perfect, looking the equivalent of a god in a
sleek tuxedo. The days when I treasured him just for his looks
was long gone and I found it a shock to see him as such a
handsome man again, as if I was seeing him for the first time.
Out of surprise, I was unprepared for the crazy growl of
partying that followed my arrival at the restaurant, and while my
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friends guided me through the amazing thing my mother had set
up for me, it was Tyler who kept me on my feet. I had never
been someone who fit in well with big crowds and, normally, I
stayed away from it all. The only times I was ever with huge
masses of people was when I was with my boyfriend. He always
did a marvelous job of keeping me popular and talking and, most
of all, interesting. My eighteenth party was no different for how
Tyler acted…but it was different through my eyes.
The music was all from my own iPod, per my friend’s
request, but it all still seemed foreign. I knew it was all for me
and my mom and my friends had probably put a lot of effort into
it, but the second I stepped inside the restaurant and everyone
jumped out and yelled “Surprise.”, I got an uneasy feeling. Of
course, Tyler was there for me. Tyler did a fantastic job of
keeping me at ease in the big crowds and involved in the
conversations. Whenever I found myself trying to slip away to a
more deserted part of the now packed restaurant, I found Tyler’s
hand slid around mine and pull me back.
He really did do a masterful job. But I found myself
annoyed by it. I hated how he was so persistent, having me stay
in the crowd always pulling me back when I wanted to get away.
The music was starting to give me a headache and all I wanted to
do was take a five-minute break. Tyler grabbed my wrist and for
the first time, I pulled it away and walked out to the hallway. I
thought he might follow me and even prepared a short speech in
my head of what I was going to say to him, but he never came. I
returned to find him still smiling and laughing, as if I had never
left.
“You alright, Olivia?” He whispered in my ear, sliding
his arm around my waist.
“Yeah, fine.”
“You just needed a break?”
I breathed out and thought of my words carefully.
“Something like that.” I smiled, finally.
It was at the end of the party when I was shocked into the
reality of the building blocks of my boyfriend and forced to now
recognize how much we differed. When the clock ticked to
midnight, Tyler now pulled me aside from the hustle and bustle
of the inner crowd. With politeness and courtesy only he knew
how to do, Tyler told me: “This has been an awesome party,
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Olivia. I have to go now, though, I have a previous commitment
I also need to honor.”
My heart immediately seized up and I whined, “Why?” I
had been doing that a lot lately. Complaining about all of Tyler’s
“previous commitments” and how they eat away at my time with
him. Senior year was supposed to be a drag but at my little
school, they work us like horses on the highest profit ranch in
Texas. I treasured every second I had with him; I yearned for it.
It was my break from the reality of the world, in a way that I
could never explain, even to myself.
“There is a children’s activity day tomorrow at my
church and I’m volunteering. I need to be there at six.” He said.
“Come on Tyler, I wanted to go out afterward. You can
sleep tomorrow, please?” I squeezed his hand and tilted my head
in a complaining fashion. “I want to go out. Just you and me,
please?”
Tyler kissed my hand and shook his head. “I’m sorry,
honey. I want to be alone too…I just can’t tonight.”
I knew it was a losing battle. I sighed and shrugged at
him and Tyler kissed my forehead and I twitched. He told me he
had a wonderful time. “Me too, thanks for coming, Tyler.” I
smiled, the corners twitching, trying to pull it down.
“I wouldn’t have miss it for the world, baby.” He cooed
before walking out and hopping in his car.
I didn’t even watch him leave.
Like every other time my dedicated boyfriend had
another plan, I let him go. I realized, just like every time before,
that he was dedicated in many different ways to many different
things. To his family, his friends, his girlfriend, his church, his
God. But for some reason, this time, it felt very different when I
saw him driving off. The happiest day of my life suddenly had a
heavy weight anchored to it and we were nearing open sea. I was
realizing how I ranked with Tyler’s feelings and, maybe, starting
to actually listen to my own. I felt like I had let go of him
completely. I had let go of him forever.
The weekend of my birthday was toward the end of my
senior year. I began using this, plus the fact that I was now an
official grown-up and had the ability to vote in the next election,
to my advantage. I stayed up and out until morning and
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wandered aimlessly through town on the darkest of nights,
hoping to pick up some gossip or see some ghosts, maybe. I
hung out with friends, but I mostly hung out alone.
What I wished to accomplish through these walks
remains a mystery to me. Maybe it was just a burning pleasure to
be alone in the dark. Or maybe I was looking for something
exciting to happen in my life. Or maybe I was silently angry and
frustrated with Tyler.
It had been so long since I questioned his attitude. In fact,
I could not remember a time when I did question it. He had
always been the ideal man in my eyes and I had never once
questioned his judgment. Maybe that had just gone to his head. I
knew it had to mine. I was just done with his constant “other
commitments” and I often wondered where I really ranked in his
life. I wondered if maybe he was getting bored with me and if I
was not all that he had expected me to be. I knew that I
sometimes wondered it about him.
It was these nightly walks that brought me to discover a
part of the town I never had visited before. I had driven through
it many times, but never stopped to look around or explore. One
of my midnight outings led me to The Dinn, a small pub
downtown that let occasional underage drinking slide, but I
tended to stick to red punch or maybe a cherry coke. My favorite
was the thick smoothies that the bartender would sometimes
make for me. They were thick and slid easily down my throat,
coating it in the red dye. The Dinn was stuffy and small; it
smelled like the old, drunk men it housed; the counter was small
and the tables around it smaller. I loved it.
I made a tradition out of every Tuesday night. I would
leave whatever unfinished studying or homework I was doing
and head down to The Dinn for a drink, maybe a beer if I really
felt like rebelling. The bar tender or other old men entertained
me with stories or card games or books from the dark shelf in the
back of the pub.
More out of habit than want to share it with him, I told
Tyler about the place. I avoided the whole drinking underage
thing as well as the location and the name. I was not trying to lie
to my boyfriend, just delay his reaction to something I
personally enjoyed. I had a feeling that it would be shot down
quicker than I could defend myself. I think he thought it was
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going to be a cute little café with pink curtains and white booths
and the smell of chocolate in the air because when Tyler saw the
place I intended to spend the evening, he became furious.
“Please, Olivia.” He took my hand in his own and held it close to
him. “Stop trying to be so cool and lets just find somewhere else
to hang out.”
“You haven’t even been inside yet, Tyler, and I’m not
‘trying to be cool’.”
“You’re acting way out of order. You’re…being so
unlike yourself.”
“How the hell am I being unlike myself?” I yelled,
suddenly feeling the need to tear out his hair and slap him across
his once perfect face.
“You’re being such a little rebel. What happened to the
girl I once knew? Stop being—whatever you are and live a
little.”
“I am living.” I argued, yanking my hand away. It was
weird hearing such hurtful words spitting from his mouth and,
while some part of me was telling me that he was only trying to
help me, another part screamed at me to hit him.
“Olivia, whatever happened to make you want to rebel,
tell me. I can help—”
“I’m not rebelling.”
“Listen to me, please, just listen.” Tyler reached out for
me but I turned my back to him and crossed my arms over my
chest. Tyler breathed out loudly and I assumed that he was hurt
by the action but I did not feel bad. I was hurt by his actions. “I
love you Olivia, no questions asked. But you seem to be slipping
into some unknown black pit. Is it because you are finally
eighteen? Because you are finally a legal adult? I’ve been one
for quite some time and you don’t see me sneaking off into some
rundown pub.”
I found myself fuming. Something scratched at my chest
and I whirled my head around. “Well aren’t you just perfect,
Tyler? Huh? You think that everyone is below you, don’t you?
That you are on top of the world. You and your mad football
skills and ‘A’ plus brain? I mean come on. The town’s favorite,
yeah, but not everyone’s like that, OK? Some of us are just
normal people who make normal decisions that don’t always
benefit the entire world.”
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“Olivia, I’m not talking about me, okay? I’m talking
about you.” Tyler said, stepping towards me. He shook his head.
“But let’s be honest, you would be better off if you were more
like me.”
I laughed, sarcastically. How did he not realize that he
just pushed it way too far? I practically growled at him. “Oh.
God’s little boy aren’t you? Well, not everyone is as good and
perfect as you and your dumb church ways.”
No one insults Tyler’s church. I had seen him go off on
other people before, but he had never, ever gone off on me
before like he did following my nasty comments. He had said
hurtful things earlier, but that was out of his overly protective
streak. Now, he was yelling full out like boyfriends yell in
movies just before the break up that tears the girlfriend’s heart
apart.
“You don’t understand a damn thing about my church,
Olivia. I have tried so hard to teach you, to try and save you and
show you how wonderful it is to know that my God is always
with me, that He always has my back, but all you’ve ever done is
push me away. All you’ve ever done is push God away. Why not
just give Him a chance to prove His greatness?”
“Who the hell cares if I reject your God, Tyler?” I
screamed. “I just don’t believe, okay? I’m sorry, does that help?
I don’t need a god to be happy.”
“I’m saying you do, I’m just trying to help you, Olivia.”
“No you’re not, you’re just trying to make yourself feel
better. You’re worried about what I’ll become without your
God.”
“Yes I am.”
“Well, I don’t give a damn about what you think. I can
go to hell for all I care.” Of course, I had no idea what I was
saying. I did not really know how the whole heaven-hell thing
worked and that was because I never got the chance to figure it
out, but I knew that it would hit Tyler hard and hurt him. Just
what I wanted.
“Who are you?” Tyler yelled. “Who are you, Olivia?
Where is the girl I met so many years ago? How long have I
known you? Five years, isn’t it? And you’ve been the love of my
life for almost four. Where is the girl who cares about my beliefs
and cherishes them as I cherish her? What happened? I don’t
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know how you ever ended up here or why in the world you made
the choice to come back, but you better get your head screwed
on straight before this all comes and bites you in the butt. You
are an amazing girl, Olivia, I know that, but do you? I need you
to stop being so insensitive to my feelings.” Tyler angrily spat.
“Stop being insensitive to your feelings? You idiot, do
you know how many times you’ve insulted me? You’re the best
boyfriend I’ve ever known; even compared to everyone I have
ever known. You’re the only boyfriend I’ve ever known. OK?
But you are not perfect. Stop trying to run my life, it’s mine for a
reason.”
“Well if your running it then you might as well know that
you’re about to crash real soon.” He spat before turning back to
his car and starting the engine. He stuck his head out the
window. “Get in.”
I blinked. A weird feeling came over me and I realized
that my heart was not torn like in the movies. Instead, I felt more
alive than I had in a long time. I turned. I walked towards The
Dinn. Over my shoulder, I called, “Go home, Tyler. I’ll see you
tomorrow.”
I don’t think I ever attended church with him after that.
The Dinn was more crowded than normal, something I
found quite annoying and I pushed my way to the bar. I ordered
beer and the bar tender did not object, but quickly served my
drink. I took the cold glass in my hot hands and walked to the
back wall of the place, where there were less people and I felt
more comfortable. After draining the glass, I debated getting
another but instead found myself attracted to the bookshelf next
to the table at which I sat.
I was not exactly sure what it was that drew me to stand
in front of it, but I found myself staring at the title of a thick,
black leather book. There was no name on the side, so I slipped
it out and blew off a layer of dust. The title was typed crooked
and hard to read. I had to turn to get better light so that my eyes
could decipher the words; The Book of Blood, by Augusto Reid.
I pulled out the chair at the nearest table and sat down,
crossing my legs and propping the book up on them. I only had
to flip through a couple of pages to know that this book was
something I should not be holding. Augusto Reid’s introduction
to his collection only confirmed my suspicion:
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Reader,
This is a collection of stories of upmost horror that I
have had the honor of collecting over the years. They are not
meant for the weak, the young, or the queasy. They are not
meant for the good. They are meant for the ones who crave to
disappear from the world they know and visit a place where evil
triumphs. Evil triumphs in these stories, good is always the
losing victim. This collection is not for the lighthearted. Not for
entertainment. Not for people who enjoy life. It is for escape.
And through my hunt for these stories, I have found it is often
inspiring.
Please enjoy leaving this world as I have done, and I
hope when you return, you find your life forever changed.
-Augusto Reid
I shivered and looked around me, wondering why I
suddenly felt like I was the only one in The Dinn. A strange
feeling overtook my body, possible curiosity, probably not.
Although the therapy had ended years ago, Mom always talked
of how she could escape this world through calm breathing and a
good book and some quiet music, something she learned in
therapy. Mom told me this, I think, because she wanted me to
also find a way to escape the world when it hurt me. I looked
back at The Book of Blood. I knew Tyler would be absolutely
disgusted by my even considering opening this book and reading
of such evil people and I believe it may have been for that reason
that I continued on.
The Dinn became a way for me to keep my relationship
with Tyler on edge and I will never be sure if this was done by
accident, or on purpose. In his absence, I met a man by the name
of Eugene Smith. We first met when I had been reading The
Book of Blood, a few days after Tyler and I fought. I was leaning
against the wall when he pulled up a chair next to me, curious as
to what I was reading.
I quickly tilted the title away and did not respond. “I
know that book.” He said, tilting it back down. I let him and
while he flipped through a few pages, I studied him. He
resembled a man in the book, with the same dark mussed hair
and chocolate brown eyes that held an almost wild look to them.
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I was honestly stunned and called out the resemblance in an
accidentally rude way. Eugene laughed, messing up his hair
slightly more. Then he smiled and introduced himself with a
strong handshake that sent crazy vibes through me.
“Would you like a drink?” He asked, standing.
There was no hesitation in my positive answer.
Every Tuesday, Eugene and I would meet to play cards,
to talk, to relax, to get away from the world. He told me dark
stories he had been told as a child, stories of a mad man who
chopped off pieces of a captured woman to feed to his children,
stories of a knife-obsessed man who stabbed and killed his wife
before slicing her up, stories of a group of men and women alike
who would meet up to grave-rob and collect the pieces, and
gangs of people who killed in the most horrid ways possible.
Maybe this alone should have scared me away, but it never did.
Something inside me pushed away the nausea that first appeared
and turning it into a feeling of intense curiosity—a curiosity that
led me to fall in love with the dark, gruesome tales.
Tyler was mortified when I told him the tales Eugene
told me, although I never mentioned the storyteller’s name. It
was as if I could not force myself to say “Eugene” to another
human being, no matter how hard I tried.
As a Christian man through and through, Tyler despised
it all. He tried to stop me from returning to The Dinn the day
after I told him the first story. “It is not healthy for you, Olivia,
stop going there. I’ve told you before.”
“Back off Tyler, I’m not doing anything illegal.” I would
insist, pushing him away the next time he tried to kiss me. I
never told him of the drinks Eugene and I often shared. I knew
that Tyler drank every now and then at the big parties thrown by
the most popular of his friends, but it was always in a
“controlled setting.” Yeah, raving parties, real controlled buddy.
“I don’t sneak out at night and go to smelly pubs and drink.” He
snapped. His reactions just led to me pretend I never drank. And
I never did hard core. Either the bar tender or Eugene would
always tell me when enough was enough. Eugene always looked
out for me.
Slowly, Tyler and I became more distant and I began
regretting the times I had with him and treasuring the times I had
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with Eugene Smith. It was as if Eugene was replacing Tyler and
the feeling was foreign and half welcomed, half not.
It wasn’t that I didn’t still like Tyler, because I did. It
was my birthday disappointment and his reaction to my so-called
rebellious change that led me to see him as not right for me. He
was too dedicated to too many things that often clashed with me.
Yet, I guess that was the boy I had fallen in love with so long
ago. So what had happened? I argued with myself sometimes,
late at night, looking at the stars. I argued how Eugene was not
perfect and how Tyler was perfect. But did Tyler have stories of
bloodthirsty women who would lure men into their homes only
to cut them open and roast their hearts? No. Did Tyler know the
darkest and most thrilling of all tales? No, but Eugene did.
One would think, with the past experience of my father’s
murder and my intense fear of dog howls, that I would hate
anything to do with the dark side of things. Yet, I loved it. Why
do you think I loved the creepy house I lived in? Why do you
think I liked the feeling of heavy darkness, when it cloaked me
and tried to suffocate me? It was as if a deep monster inside me
was clawing, trying to get out, begging me to read more, to listen
more, to see Eugene more. Eugene was the master of darkness.
He said when he was little, he had become fascinated with the
concept of life and death and that had led him to the opening of
such gruesome tales. Sometimes, I would lie late at night in my
bed and wonder how he managed to come up with these stories.
Sometimes, I wondered if it was because he was one of them.
I finally broke up with Tyler. It was not pretty and
involved a lot of yelling on my part and a lot of yelling Tyler’s
part. And Tyler never yelled…well, never much. But we both
agreed it was best. Tyler was dating another girl within a week. I
thought maybe he had begun liking her long ago; I remembered
the way he introduced me to her at somebody’s birthday party.
She was practically everything I was not, pretty much who I was
when Tyler and I first met. It was me, unchanged. I took it as a
compliment he’d found those type of people—my type of
people—so attractive. My friends asked and I knew almost
everything and thought that I would care, but I didn’t. “It was
almost four years.” They complained. I shrugged. Why not?
They asked. Because, I was dating Eugene within a day.
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I told no one about my secret boyfriend but often met up
with him after school. He never drove me in his car, something
that once would have bothered me, but now I like how I could be
in control. We would drive out of town and down country roads,
speeding high over criminal speed and never getting caught.
Those were my favorite dates, when I could just get away from
the world and roll all the windows down and drive not on gas,
but on adrenaline.
One night, I snuck back home under the cover of
darkness, hours past the already ridiculous curfew my mother set
after one of these crazy drives. The best part about my dates with
Eugene was that I never had to give him a ride home. I had no
idea where he lived, but he always told me that he would walk
home. I would park the car, get out and lock it, and kiss him
goodnight and when I would turn back at my door, he would
already be gone. It was mysterious and wonderful.
Up in my room, I leaned against the door, breathing hard,
thump thump, and looked across at the window. It had been a
crazy night. I still remembered Eugene’s cries of joy when my
car speedometer hit one-twenty and a police siren blared behind
us. Sheer luck allowed me—I mean us—to escape. I gazed out
the window. Beside it was a tiny cracked mirror, a mini replica
of the one downstairs. I had even placed identical yellowing
playing cards in it. In the mirror, I could see my reflection. My
face was dotted with sweat. My eyes were bloodshot. My hair
slick and matted. My make-up smeared.
I looked like an animal.
I looked like a monster.
I decided one night that I wanted to start telling Eugene
stories. I had read the rotting Book of Blood too many times to
count, and could recall the tales in vivid detail, picturing the
murders as they happened. Sometimes, I felt like I had lived
them too. The one I could picture most clearly, the one I found
the most interesting, the one I almost felt an almost emotional
attachment to, was the one that reminded me of my boyfriend.
It was the story of a handsome man who used mind
games and his charm to enchant young women, convincing them
to venture out alone with him to deserted areas in whichever
town they were. There, he would use a large, freshly sharpened
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kitchen knife to slit their throats and collect the blood in plastic
water bottles. Once the bodies were drained, he would bury them
and leave them to rot as he drove away with his new drinks.
I came up with my own stories, children of the ones in
The Book of Blood. A man who used mind games to convince
people to commit suicide to get fresh meat and keep his own
hands clean. A woman who lived in the vents of an old hotel and
whenever someone spent the night in room one hundred twenty-
four, they would end up dead.
I was great at horror, Eugene told me.
I was great at it and I loved it. So charming in such a
horrible way. But it spurred something else inside me. The
monster began scratching at its chains once again.
To describe what was in the book would be like asking a
mother to describe what she loves about her daughter or a father
to describe what he loves about his son. It had too many
qualities, too many amazing qualities to count. It was filled with
blood and gore and people being broken or cut up. Full color
images of the mutated body. People killing one another for the
lust of blood, people torturing one another, people eating one
another. I, the monster, loved it all.
It was gruesome, but I suddenly did not shrink away at
the thing, but instead dived closer. Eugene would run his fingers
through my hair as I spoke, smiling and kissing my neck. He
was the only one to whom I told these stories, of course, for
everyone else I knew would call me crazy. Call me mad.
I felt I had finally figured out who I truly was. I wasn’t
perfect like Tyler. I wasn’t the perfect student my mom had
wanted. I wasn’t the admiring girlfriend Eugene thought I was. I
wasn’t even real. “I” was gone. Something had eaten her and I
knew that she was never coming back. The things I learned were
beyond anything else, especially the lovely horrors that I now
treasured. The monster inside of me growled lowly when we
were together, like a giant hound with blood dripping down its
huge fangs. It was a sense of discovery of the unknown, the
exact discovery I craved.
It was outside a quiet restaurant in the busiest part of
town where the monster first actually used her grip on the wheel
to gain control. Eugene and I had been sitting outside at the little
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round table with the plaid tablecloth for some time, sharing a
pizza, when a voice I had known so long ago spoke. “Olivia?”
I turned in my chair to see Tyler standing outside the
fence, holding the hand of the pretty girl I knew he had liked for
a while. He looked better than he had when I had last seen him at
school, more relaxed and he practically gleamed. She held his
hand like it was the link to the world. I guess I looked that
pathetic when I first began dating him as well.
I felt an itch inside me when I lay eyes on him. The
monster roared and snarled at me, tugging at her chains and
snapping at her cuffs. She longed to be set free. She longed to
roam the countryside and feast on her share of life, instead of
being locked up.
“Hi, Tyler,” I said without blinking. My eyes narrowed
and I felt my fingers twitch towards the simple dining knife
sitting on the napkin next to my plate.
“You’ve met Alicia?” He said, nodding at his girlfriend.
I smiled as best as I could with the monster pulling at me
from the inside. “Hi.”
Tyler shifted his weight and looked slightly confused.
“What are you doing here?”
“Eating an entire pizza by yourself, are you?” Alicia said
at the same time with a sly smile. I knew that she knew of Tyler
and my long relationship and maybe that was the reason she was
so cold to me. It didn’t matter—not when I had been the one
who initiated the break up.
“No, you idiot,” I snapped, looking back at my
boyfriend. Eugene was leaning back in his chair with his arms
hooked behind his back, a smug look on his face.
“Calm down Olivia, geez.” Tyler looked at me, shaking
his head a little bit. He took Alicia’s hand and there was a
fleeting second when I wished I could be holding his hand again.
But then the monster yapped and I swallowed the feeling, it was
gone. The monster crept down again and bit at her cuffs.
“This is Eugene,” I said after a minute or two of silence
when the only sound I could hear was the seemingly far off
conversations from the other tables and clinking of knives and
forks on plates. My boyfriend did not speak but leaned forward
in his seat and, folding his hands on the table, sized up my ex-
boyfriend like he was a piece of meat.
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I looked at him too and Tyler exchanged a look with
Alicia. They said nothing. This caught me by surprise because I
knew Tyler was polite. I had been his girlfriend for almost four
years and I knew that he always had a smile to show to a new
person and always introduced himself nicely with a strong
handshake. How was Eugene any different?
“What?” I snapped.
“Who is Eugene?” Tyler said, before Alicia could open
her mouth with, I am sure, a smart and sassy comment.
“Who do you think?”
“I honestly have no idea.”
I could not believe he was being so rude. I turned around
in my chair to look at my boyfriend and apologize but I found
the seat empty. I blinked, surprised. The chair was perfectly
straight and the plate was clean, the napkin rolled up, and no
sign whatsoever that Eugene had been sitting there a moment
ago.
“Uh, the waiter over there.” I spoke quickly without
thinking, letting my mind focus on where my boyfriend was.
“Oh, okay.” Tyler said.
“Thank goodness, for a second there I thought you were
going mad or something.” Alicia said sweetly, smiling. She
didn’t even give me a change to reply with the sarcastic
comment I had in mind before tugging Tyler off down the road.
“See ya.” Tyler called, hesitantly, over his shoulder.
I watched them for a moment before the deep voice made
me jump.
“Olivia?”
Eugene was leaning forward in his chair, just as he had
been when I had last looked at him, hands folded and everything.
“Eugene, there you are.” I let out a breath of air. I must have
imagined his disappearance and Tyler was probably just acting
jealous. Of course. “Shall we go?” I stood and offered him my
hand.
Eugene threw the money on the table and stood, taking
my hand. We walked out to my car, leaving the waiter to clean
off the table. He cleared away the pizza stand and the remaining
pieces, about half the pizza to be exact. He cleared away one
plate full of grease and another perfectly clean one, placing the
one crumpled napkin on the stack.
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I was going to drive home, but the monster inside me had
different plans. I could feel a tug pulling from within, begging
me to stay out. She led me out of town and down a dirt road,
behind a cornfield, where she finally parked and killed the
headlights. With the main light source gone, moonlight flooded
over the hood of the car, igniting it with a beautiful silvery color.
I leaned against the headrest and Eugene stirred beside me.
“I have a present for you.” He said, reaching under the
seat and pulling out a wrapped cardboard box. I recognized that
box from the cluster of them in my own garage. Eugene placed
the box into my outstretched hands when it touched my skin,
memories snapped by quickly, in slides just fast enough for me
to see them. I could smell the fizzy drink I had in my hand when
I had wrapped the box earlier that day.
Eugene smiled at me as I unwrapped his present,
beaming at me with his too straight white teeth, little dimples
around his cheeks. He was just as every imaginary perfect
boyfriend I had ever created. I slit the tape of the package with
my long nails.
It was inside, just as I knew it would be. A long, newly
sharpened butcher knife— one with a smooth wooden handle
and a shinning blade that reflected the little light dotting the
inside of the car. I fingered the blade, just as I had done in the
store when I bought the thing. Eugene took my hand. “Do you
like it?” He asked.
“It could not be more perfect. So beautiful.” I smiled,
looking at the eyes of my boyfriend. As my soul searched deep
into his eyes, I watched them flash and he was gone. In another,
instant he was back. His hands were cold in mine and empty,
almost as if there was nothing there.
The monster inside me let out a low howl that grew into
a sharp snap. She was crouched in attack position breathing in
and out slowly and steadily. Her heart beat faster and faster,
thump thump, thump thump. Suddenly she bolted forward,
springing from her hind legs and thrusting her clawed paws
forward in a swift motion, her razor sharp teeth cutting through
the chains around her neck in a jagged line, barking madly. She
tore apart the cuffs around her paws and stretched them out,
pawed at the ground a little and bolted forward once more. I
flung the car door open and jumped violently out, as if
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something burning hot had struck me, and she looked at the
moon and howled.
“Feed her, Olivia. Damnit, stop hiding from yourself and
just feed her, already.” I heard Eugene say from the car. I turned
my eyes to him but he was gone. Disappeared like a puff of
smoke and melted away into the night.
Yes, it was time. I had ignored her for too long. She had
been caged too long. It was time to stretch our legs and stretch
our claws. I picked up my phone from where it had fallen and
dialed the number of the one and only person I knew who could
never ignore a distress call, even if it was from his ex.
“Hello?”
“Tyler?”
“Yes?”
“It’s, um, Olivia.”
“I know, what is it?”
“I need help. Please, Tyler, I know we broke up but I
need you now.”
“Isn't that uh…boyfriend…of yours with you now?”
“No, I’m alone out behind the Smith’s cornfield. Please,
I really need somebody to help me.”
“Alright we’ll be there in ten minutes.”
She caught him before he hung up the phone and, in a
daunting, do-not-even-think-of-questioning-me sort of way,
spoke, “I don’t want her to see me like this. Can you come
alone? Please, I really need your help.”
Silence answered, voices in the background, but she told
me not to worry. He would listen. He could never ignore a
distress call, no matter the circumstances. “I’ll be there in ten
minutes.”
I could see Tyler’s car in closer to fifteen minutes,
probably because he had been driving the speed limit and not
fifteen over like I had been. He was taking it slow past the
cornfield, lights on dim in an effort to hide from the Smiths. It
was just a Tyler-ish move and we laughed aloud, my monster
and I. Typical Tyler, not able to refuse a chance to help
somebody whose life could be ending. I knew he would come so
it didn’t matter my life was just beginning.
The Path
Path to Publication Group
74
I stood, bathed in moonlight. The night was very clear
and the open field where I stood was easily visible. The moon
was definitely showing signs of waxing again. I could tell by the
way its perfect ball shape was cut off to one side, the left side,
almost down to half. Eugene was there beside me, but he was
not there. He stood tall and supportive and then he was gone. He
existed, but he did not exist.
Tyler stopped his car a little ways from mine, leaving the
lights on when he got out and hurried towards me. “Olivia? Are
you okay, what happened?”
I let out a breath of air, opening and closing my eyes. She
was in control. No, no, she was not in control. I had been so silly
to try to distinguish her from me, me from her. We were one and
the same; there was no escape from it and no denying it. We
were Olivia. We were in control. We were one, the monster and
I, both with one hand on the steering wheel, sharing eyes,
sharing a voice, sharing a body, sharing the need to kill.
Tyler continued, “What is it, that boyfriend, maybe? Did
he hurt you?”
“No, no he didn’t hurt me. He would never hurt me.”
“What is it then?” Tyler asked, trying hard to mask his
annoyance with patience, but I had known him for too long for
his games to work on me. I had loved him for too long for him to
be able to fool me.
“I…I just need someone right now.”
“Couldn’t he help you then, Olivia? Seriously, I had to
cut out on Alicia and she normally doesn’t mind but when it’s to
go to another girl, such as my ex, what is she supposed to
think?”
“Trust you, maybe?” I snapped, thinking of how much I
had once trusted him and how now, we, the monster and I, were
here alone with him and I was ready to do anything but trust
him. “I need help from someone who knows things like you
know, Tyler. I don’t know what it is but I’m feeling like such a
worthless thing. I have no purpose, none at all, Tyler, none at
all.” A single tear rolled down my cheek. Well, to Tyler it
looked like a tear anyways, but I knew it to be salvia dripping
from the monster’s fangs as she posed for attack.
“Olivia, you do have I purpose—” Tyler started.
Blood Hound
Path to Publication Group
75
“Not without you.” I suddenly cried out, cutting his
words off. I stumbled forward, keeping one hand clenched
behind my back, and tried to look as helpless as I could, but
knowing that we were not helpless at all. I kept one hand behind
clenched around cool wood. Tyler caught me as I tripped
forward, just like I knew he would. He hugged me, running his
hand through my hair and rubbing my back. I hugged him,
swiftly moving my clenched hand so that he felt nothing and
stationing it behind his back at an angle.
“I’m always here for you, Olivia. You will always be a
special person in my life, even if we did break up. Honest, you’ll
always be a friend.”
“What about Alicia?” I fake sobbed, looking up at the
moon, a grin forming on my face.
“She understands friendship. I’m here for you, you are
not alone.”
The man on the moon transformed into a wolf, howling
at itself and the grin tickled my cheeks. I dropped it and
mumbled into his shoulder. “You’re right, I am never alone.”
But I did not mean Tyler. I did not mean my mom or my friends.
I did not mean anyone, because I meant my Eugene and my
monster. I meant myself. I was never alone because I had me.
Tyler pulled me away and looked at me. I saw him open
his mouth to say something in response, but we were too quick
for him. The monster licked her rough tongue across her lips and
kissed him. The spilt second that his surprise and shock deemed
him immovable was the same second I thrust my arm holding
the butcher knife into his back.
Tyler cried out, obviously in a state of shock, his eyes
bulging and his body sagging on top of me. We pushed the knife
in harder, grunting in pleasure. Blood flooded my mouth but I
didn’t gag. I didn’t spit it out either. I swallowed. It tasted better
than his soft, warm lips in which I used to feel comfort. Better
even than Eugene’s imaginary lips, that remained my comfort. It
tasted better than anything I had ever had before, salty and thick
and a sticky warm.
Tyler struggled to remain standing, let out a final attempt
for breath before slumping forward, ceasing to breathe. I pulled
my new knife out from his body and pushed him off of me. He
fell backwards and hit the grassy ground with a thick, wet thud. I
The Path
Path to Publication Group
76
admired the blade of my knife, no longer reflective and shiny,
but soaked in clumpy red. It was sticky. It could have been
mistaken for dark red paint, except for the smell. The smell
found my nose and I inhaled deeply, closing my eyes and
basking in pleasure. I stood up, wiping some blood that had
trickled down my chin. My old boyfriend lay broken on the
grassy ground, which was quickly being soaked, turning into a
puddle of deep red.
What had compelled me to bring that knife down was
deeper than just my monster inside me. It was deeper than
Eugene’s insisting me feed her. It went deeper, way deeper.
Engraved on my soul and there was no escape and no regret. It
was who I was; who I am. The monster…the monster was at
fault here. But so was I, so was Olivia. We were one…one mind,
acting together. Whatever she did, I did. Whatever I did, she did.
It was no longer a “her” and a “me”, but a “we” instead. She and
I were one person, one being. She had known it all along inside
of me, her constant howls and clawing proved it to be, I just had
never seen it until now. All the little monster had needed was a
key to set her free.
I felt no remorse when I gazed at Tyler’s slumped body,
his surprised eyes open wide, and a look of pain etched in his
face. His lips were frozen in the form of our kiss, cracked, with
drying blood. I kneeled next to him and kissed him once more,
licking the blood from the crevices in his lips and wiping my
own on his crisp white shirt, leaving a smudged red-black stain.
His lips were already starting to become cold like the night air.
The monster growled, low, deep in her throat as she
gazed upon the body that I knelt before. Eugene was suddenly
beside me, holding my hand. I felt no feeling in the hand he
held. He looked at the body as well, smiling. “My girl fed her
pet.”
“No. I fed myself.” I answered, standing straight and
squeezing his hand. I kissed his cheek, feeling nothing, but I also
felt his warm flesh. We could talk more tomorrow about it. I
knew that we would. I still needed to add my own fine tales to
The Book of Blood. But for now, I wanted to live in the moment.
A light tug indicated his departure and Eugene was
gone. Back inside me, I think.
Blood Hound
Path to Publication Group
77
With him gone and my eyes watching Tyler’s frozen
body as the warmth leaked faster from it, I found myself
thinking of my father. I thought of the gashes he’d had, and how
beautiful they had looked. They had looked beautiful; I knew
that now. Actually, I believe I had always known that, since the
day it had happened. I had never really been scared of what
happened. That was why I had not cried and why therapy had no
effect. Dr. Hanson would just say I was a hard egg. No, I was no
egg—not at all. That day, I had received the last piece of my
soul, a friend I had not seen or cared about until now. My pet.
Me. My monster. The monster had protected me, that is what
had happened.
For the first time, I understood my father’s death, but in a
way I could never explain to anyone. The monster that lived
inside of me now, had once lived inside another. Her cousin,
maybe; more likely just one of her pack. And, that was why my
father had died, because someone’s monster wanted to break
through. One of her—one of my—pack members had wanted to
break free.
My monster whimpered, looking at me with her big,
round eyes. Lips pouting. Fangs dripping in a steady, gloppy
stream onto the grass. My monster deserved the same as their
monster, I decided. I sat back down on my calves and gave us
the go-ahead. We made the same slashes I had seen on my
father, on Tyler. We were an artist, the creation beautiful, and
painted of red paint. The blood splattered warm and sticky over
my hands once and caked his white shirt in what I knew would
soon become a crusty rust color.
We stepped back to admire our work. It was a true
masterpiece—we both knew it. He lifeless form lay twisted, an
already drying, but still clumpy wet gash in the middle of his
back where the knife had first entered. Other cuts and jagged
lines wove their way across his body, the blood around them
fresh and fresh smelling. I knelt down and breathed in, pleasure
forming my smile.
My little monster whimpered and then growled once
more. We leaned down and, on all fours, I leaned over Tyler’s
misshapen body and we ran our rough tongue across the wounds,
like a mother comforts her young. It was thick on my tongue and
jagged along the lines where I stuck my mouth into his flesh and
The Path
Path to Publication Group
78
inhaled deeply, biting off bits of flesh, already cold, but soaking
in warm blood.
We were hungry. The thought crossed our mind that our
meal lay in front of us, and she told me that it would be the best
way to cover what we had done. Yes, his girlfriend would worry
when he did not call her tomorrow and the search would begin
when he turned up missing. Soon he would be found and all
blame would turn to me, all signs would turn to me. We would
be to blame. We needed to hide him. Crash his car maybe. And
then send dear old Alicia a call.
I touched the wound.
“Do it.” She hissed, egging me on, her teeth dripping
with salvia, bubbly and shiny. “Do it.”
I bit my bottom lip and looked at him, narrowing my
eyes, thinking. Considering. My stomach growled to match my
monster’s throaty growl. I smiled, lips still stained sticky red
from the blood I had drank before.
The monster climbed to all fours and threw her head
back, howling up at the bright moon, arching her neck and
letting out an eerie echo that bounced off the corn around us.
As we slumped our shoulder and lowered our head, I
heard a dog howl in the distance and I shivered. My heart beat
faster and faster, pounding against my rib cage and shaking my
entire body. She snapped at me. We arched our back, stepped
forward and then let out a mighty howl and burst forward,
attacking the kill. Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
Knives
Essays
H. L. Mencken
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The Path #7

  • 1. Summer 2014 $8.99 The Path A Literary Magazine ©Elaine Westphal
  • 2.
  • 3. The Path A Literary Magazine Summer 2014 “Somewhere Over the rainbow” The Path is taken by all writers. The Path to Publication can be long and arduous. This publication is dedicated to straightening and shortening that path. Please enjoy the work of authors who have chosen to take the path to publication.
  • 4. Editor-in-Chief Mary J. Nickum Managing Editor Dian Butler Founding Editor R. J. Buckley Assistant Editor Caitlin Demo Copyeditor Pattie Angelucci Book Reviewer Eva Willis Contributing Authors: D. E. Z. Butler Richard Lloyd Cederberg Holly Day Tatjana Debeljački Claire T. Feild Linda McCauley Freeman Madison Feyrer-Melk Debra Scala Giokas Ina Goodling John Grey A.J. Huffman Michelle Lommen Dennis Maloney Joan McNerney Budd Nelson Rachelle Parker Catherine Becker Reynolds Tom Sheehan Bobbi Sinha-Morey Jamey Temple Elaine Westphal Tim Wilkinson Changming Yuan Advisory Board: Pattie Angelucci Dr. John G. Nickum Catherine Becker Reynolds The Path is published with the purpose of providing quality works to the reading public. It is our wish to also provide a venue not only for established authors, but to open another door for new writers to make their entrance into the literary world. Submission guidelines can be found at the end of the book, after the contributor bio information. Correspondence should be directed to the Editor-in-Chief, Mary J. Nickum, mjnickum@thepathmagazine.com Published semi-annually. Single copies, $8.99 (Arizona residents add sales tax). Ezine, $3.99. For libraries $10 per issue. Subscriptions: $18 per year website: www.thepathmagazine.com ISBN: ISSN: 2165-9540 (print) ISSN: 2167-1737 (online) Copyright 2014 The Path to Publication Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • 5. TABLE OF CONTENTS Volume 4, Number 1 Summer 2014 The Path, a photo 7 Literacy Puzzle 8 Poetry 9 Poetry Dedication 10 R. Elaine Westphal 11 Poem Claire T. Feild 13 Two Poems Michelle Lomman 15 Two Poems Ina Goodling 17 Four Poems Bobbi Sinha-Morey 20 Three Poems Linda McCauley Freeman 22 Poem Debra Scala Giokas 23 Poem Joan McNerney 25 Poem Holly Day 27 Six Poems Tatjana Debeljacki 31 Poem John Grey 32 Three Poems A.J. Huffman 36 Poem Dennis Maloney 37 Four Poems Rachelle Parker 41 Poem Chanming Yuan 42 Poem Jamey Temple 43 Poem Catherine Becker Reynolds 44 Poem Poetic Essay 46 Poetic Essay Tom Sheehan 47 Letter to a Sweet-Smelling Woman… Young Writer’s Corner 49 Young Writer’s Corner Madison Feyrer-Melk 50 Blood Hound Essay 79 Essay Mary J. Nickum 80 Food Insecurity and World Hunger Short Story 92 Short Story Tim Wilkinson 93 Rainbows and Revelations Tom Sheehan 98 Locked in a Syzygy at Home 110 Banjo D.E.Z. Butler 127 The Golden Gate Bridge Budd Nelson 135 Escape from the Shadows Richard Lloyd Cederberg 147 Therapy Session… Book Review 152 Book Review Eva Willis 153 The Night Circus Contributor Bios 156 Submission Guidelines 162 Advertisements
  • 6. "Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public." ---Winston Churchill
  • 7. The Path Path to Publication Group 7 The Path Photo: Ina Goodling
  • 8. The Path Path to Publication Group 8 Solution will be published in the Winter issue of The Path
  • 10. The Path Path to Publication Group 10 Wednesday, May 28, 2014 Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family: Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love. Guy B. Johnson This issue is dedicated to Dr. Maya Angelou
  • 11. The Path Path to Publication Group 11 R. Elaine Westphal My Pot of Gold They say at the end of every rainbow, there is a pot of gold And so I began my eager search many, long years ago. It started on a sun-filled morning in the Springtime month of May When all of nature bloomed and the newborn bunnies played. By afternoon the storm clouds gathered Dark, foreboding and bold, I knew that now I’d have my chance to find my pot of gold. On a hot and humid day in the middle Summertime, I strolled along a woodland path under the pungent pine And stopped awhile to rest and dream beside a murmuring stream. When I awoke the storm clouds gathered Dark, foreboding and bold, I knew that now I’d have my chance to find my pot of gold. When the golden days of Autumn came and the vivid leaves blew down, With scents of wood-burned smoke and apple cider all round, I watched while storm clouds gathered Dark, foreboding and bold, I knew that now I’d have my chance to find my pot of gold. It is now bleak mid-Winter when snowflakes fill the air. I sit beside the crackling fire and nestle in my chair Reminiscing of days gone by, of true and faithful friends, Of a loving family, and a husband’s devotion that never ends.
  • 12. The Path Path to Publication Group 12 My “rainbow” is filled with grateful love, as much as it can hold. It was when I searched within my heart; I found my pot of gold.
  • 13. The Path Path to Publication Group 13 Claire T. Feild Over the Rainbow Over the rainbow, the sky refuses to bow, for the sky is jealous of the diversity of color it admires. But the sky is forgetting that the bridge of its false teeth is huge—and that it has a variety of colors like the rainbow. Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree Once a year, she sheds her bark, our getting to know her true self our quiet surge into her new essence, our slight sweeping hand movements over a novel enlightenment welcomed, her over the rainbow hues becoming so tall that they beckon us to a monumental escape from the commoners, the other trees who’s hardened canker sores sit as apathetic as the elderly do
  • 14. The Path Path to Publication Group 14 when dementias as insidious as death penalties arrive, the spires of sludge marching on aged neurons, the end of death row. Rainbow Eucalyptus
  • 15. The Path Path to Publication Group 15 Michelle Lommen Desperate Lovers We meet in dark silent restaurants On a bench next to each other Warm long legs close Clutching of disparate lovers The colors vary In the window there is light, the river In the back, brown tables are covered with white napkins Folded like birds flittering for freedom In nature we would be trapped In a snowy ravine, you touch my breast Holding each other face to face Coldness surrounds our love My Power Is My Weakness Sun is shining On my black and white bikini You and me Were playing chess You smiling Knowing you are the stronger Negotiator in the end Me trembling inside Not willing to give in Leaning forward you whisper
  • 16. The Path Path to Publication Group 16 Think, Michelle Think, how you can do this Suddenly I realize My power is my weakness Photo by Ina Goodling
  • 17. The Path Path to Publication Group 17 Ina Goodling Rivers of the Heart For Georgia Pruitt The best of times when I was young Still flowing through my veins And the best of friends as rivers run Are like two common drops of rain The laughter and the songs once sung Still echo through the years And tender moments as rivers run Are streaming down in tears That place we shared, so warm in the sun Is here, is ours to keep And a loving thought as rivers run Is still flowing pure and deep In the stillness when the day is done Reflect as time goes by For each moment as the rivers run Slips past so fast, but don’t let the rivers dry. Memories The clouds aglow with silver lining Are damp still from the evening's April showers And now outside I take pleasure in finding The remnant drops like diamonds on the flowers Though not a single white jasmine among the bouquet
  • 18. The Path Path to Publication Group 18 Those fragrant little stars that give me hope Can be found here on this dreary day To help give me the strength to cope And I can still smell their misty grace That comes to mind across the years and plains And that brings me back to my childhood place Beyond the hills and before the rains The where and when I still hold to now and here Even as the moon of my memory wanes I still cling to even as the jasmines cling so dear To my heart and strongly through the rains. Amaranthine I close my eyes to this crimson pain Turn away from the turquoise whispers And the lies of an amber mind Violet words written in blood Across the perfect ivory of my soul Scarlet scars and silver swords Blue moon and maroon An ebony stranger, sexless Opal eyes veiled in teal Seeking out that cerulean tranquility Amidst the ashen ruins Of this obsidian nightmare Where bronzed memories tarnish Under a faded denim sky A burnt sienna insult Darkening my indigo thoughts My ruddy anger pales As magenta moments go Passing into mauve
  • 19. The Path Path to Publication Group 19 As tired as jade and as Indifferent as beige Purple poems and lavender lullabies Yet no mind has known No eyes have seen What all my deepest dreams have been Amethyst Azure Or aquamarine I know they’re somewhere in between For a painter-poet lost in love My dreams are Amaranthine. Journal Entry April 11th, 1993 (written when I was 12 years old) As the last sweeping rays of sunlight stream in through the shadowing pines, the sparkles of golden gravel path make the great sky highway up to the wild blue yonder. On through soaring clouds, above the shimmering stars, taken on by rainbow hopes, carried witherly by stardust dreams, setting forth on moonbeams, welcomed by the sunset shades, passing through the Pearly Gates. Beyond our dreams, beyond our hopes and tomorrow's plans, on to our destined future. On and on, past the dawn, and into the golden sunset. Taken through Imagination is the road that leads to Somewhere. Wherever it be, all our dreams will soar free, anonymous forever. 
  • 20. The Path Path to Publication Group 20 Bobbi Sinha-Morey The Tip Jar Message in a tip jar is left for the copperheaded waitress, tired and sharp-worded, a tightly-lipped smile hiding badly chipped teeth. She keeps her mind the way men keep a knife, keen to strip the game right down to her size. She swallows her eggs cold, has a thin spine, and tells lies. She understands the necessity for pain, slaps a wet rag at the truck drivers if they complain. She turns away the smaller tips out of pride, and her hands are nervous, curled, ready to scrape. Her flat blue eyes are like an isolated lake. The Alchemy Of Food Holidays run together like ungrooved rivers, and I forget what they are for; this is how my mother’s death changed the alchemy of food. When she lived she gave us memories, she gave exile the bite of bitter herbs.
  • 21. The Path Path to Publication Group 21 To every celebration she matched a flavor, and in more ambitious days she’d clip recipes, knew how to decipher tastes of other times. God’s word drifted in fragrant soups, and she’d fashion a prayer from a piece of dough. Now that she’s not here she left her favorite cookbook behind, its spine loose with age. The fit of her old apron is not my size, and the shape of the family has now been swallowed into other lives. My Body, An Old Friend My body, old friend, why are you so unforgiving? What should I say to my body that can never bear children, this used violin? Every night it strenuously cries out from its secret cave, so stiff and resistant, clenched around an empty space. It is born of detach- ment, lacking a sweeter grace for such a small life. Now there is a hole in its sky, once the property of living, of every valuable thought. In my impatience I wait for the sake of what only the body can do for itself.
  • 22. The Path Path to Publication Group 22 Linda McCauley Freeman Somewhere Over the Rainbow She had the ruby shoes that sparkled, and the gingham dress, the basket and the dog. But first she had the dream of a different life. A dream to live somewhere else over the rainbow even. She didn’t know that dream would take her so far down such a foreign road, that her best friend would be stuffed full of himself, the other two: scared and hollow. That the four of them, and her little dog, too, would discover all they wanted they already had. Rainbow
  • 23. The Path Path to Publication Group 23 Debra Scala Giokas San Francisco Halfway home from Hawaii, the land of rainbows: we walked up and down and up and down and over and under hills where cool nights and warm days met us with good mornings of 18 silver dollar pancakes, Swedish and stacked at Sears Fine Food, his shaped like a smiley face with Lingonberries for eyes. At the Embarcadero: Pier 39, windy wharf, singing seals, cotton candy skies, swirls of Ghirardelli squares and circles of taffy barrels in crayon colors: colors of rain and sun and grass, pleasing like Painted Ladies, in Postcard Row. Those games of yesterday in the arcade: fortune tellers, telling futures on slips of papers from machines, turning copper pennies into trolley cars, ding ding, ding ding, they sing, in the background, and our photo booth printing, honeymoon us in black and white.
  • 24. The Path Path to Publication Group 24 Like the cookies we found, after we walked up and down from Chinatown: looking at lanterns, linens and lace, but these were heart-shaped, sealed tightly in a white paper bag, oh, there must have been a pound, they never melted, so we took them home, over another rainbow: New York bound. San Francisco
  • 25. The Path Path to Publication Group 25 Joan McNerney Birthday Present I wanted to bring back the best gift from the country for you, just for you. I wanted to. Some sky would be nice, lots of lovely sky with light fleecy clouds. So I rushed all over shops and bought the biggest shiny box and looked for a perfect bow. All shades of blue, violet with red and yellow. An entire rainbow of colored ribbons for the box to put this sky into. Then on the bus my bow fell apart. Somewhere, someone stepped on the box. It's all crushed and dirty. By the time we got to the city it was late. Did my sky fly away? The box is empty now.
  • 26. The Path Path to Publication Group 26 I wanted to bring back the best gift from the country for you, just for you. I wanted to. Birthday present
  • 27. The Path Path to Publication Group 27 Holly Day Lection Beyond the curve at the edge of the world, there is a monster that knows who you are, an awful thing with claws and teeth and too many eyes to miss all the bad things you do. It is watching you now. It has an eye dedicated entirely to watching you. There is a book that your parents are writing and it’s all about you, a list of all the terrible things you’ve done since you were born, a laundry list of evils. When you are old enough they will present this book to the monster, and it will decide if you’re worthy of passing on to adulthood. Your parents may intervene on your behalf, but they probably won’t. They know that the monster only takes bad children, and they can always have another one, they can try for a good, well-behaved child next time. Just a few children, bad children, never get to grow up, disappear into the night from their bedrooms, dragged out the window and presumably, all the way to the very edge of the world, where the monster lives. Who knows what the monster does with all the children it drags back to its lair? That’s not really the question here. That is the wrong question. This, this is what you must take back with you today: Try to be good. Sit still and don’t fidget. Pay attention when I’m talking. Don’t lie.
  • 28. The Path Path to Publication Group 28 Caipora You can’t count on nature spirits to find babies wrapped in old sheets, by the side of the road and under the trees, gasping for their first breaths not quite alive, simply abandoned. You can’t count on fox-headed women, sylphs with cow tails to be there to find babies left behind in rest station bathrooms on lonely country roads to come just in time to stop those tiny cries to save those tiny fingers twitching in lines of ash left by cigarettes burning out on wet tile. Birds Fly Highest take my eyes out of their sockets let my spirit fly free. split me wide. split my bones, scrape out my marrow fly with me. This body cannot hold me anymore. Moving Day The old house slides past the windows, disappears in the rearview mirror, turns the corner and it’s gone, that whole part of our lives together in that place, the backyard where I carried my baby around each night, waiting for him to be able to see the millions of stars suddenly visible on stark winter nights, the stunted flowers I grew from cheap seed packets, the way
  • 29. The Path Path to Publication Group 29 the baby clothes fluttered on the laundry line printed with bright-colored cartoon monkeys and puppy dogs. He sleeps between us in the front seat, so quiet, unaware that he will never see that back yard again, that he will never see the children from this neighborhood again. There are so many miles ahead of us, so many miles of empty, unfamiliar country, flat, yellow plains, small, unfriendly towns rest stops full of hollow-eyed people and old people who ask too many questions, concrete cities where flowers rarely bloom and the residents only come outside at night. Three thousand miles to hold onto and believe in promises of white beaches, seabirds, and no more snow almost seems like too much to ask. The Ecstasy of the Babirusa she roots in the mud, turning over clumps of sod with her shovel-like nose. nostrils twitch, she finds the thick wriggling grubs hiding just below the surface works them free with a pink slab of tongue rolls her eyes heavenward in complete satisfaction. she shuffles off to fur-lined den, to the six squealing babies nestling inside, drops to her knees with a loud exhale of breath and carefully rolls over onto her side. the piglets sense her return even in their sleep, tiny snouts seek out an engorged teat to latch onto, seal themselves to her in an infant’s suckling embrace. she succumbs to their yearnings, rolls her eyes heavenward in complete satisfaction.
  • 30. The Path Path to Publication Group 30 Yama-inu There is plenty to eat on the higher slopes. The corpses lay all along the path, frozen forever in various positions of despair, some huddled into themselves for the last vestiges of hopeless warmth, others spread out in full as if to embrace inevitabilities. There is no shortage of bones to gnaw up here, high past the clouds and in perpetual frost. Someday, when the world is warm enough to melt this ice, the dogs that never were will have to find another place to hunt, will have to climb past the spread of plants sprouting from seeds that have lain dormant for millennia will have to find shelter from first-ever rainstorms and flesh-and- blood wolves lured ever higher by the long-dead explorers finally beginning to decay. Wolves
  • 31. The Path Path to Publication Group 31 Tatjana Debeljacki EYES In them you will find What I really am – the eternity. Wishes of my non-being, Face full of wrinkles, Light souls and spring happiness. No remorse in the core of reason. Let go of me, without saying my name! I do not count on you anymore. You were not ready to Exist carelessly, Glitter unintentionally and Reign unnoticed. With this love we are fighting for loneliness. You are imposing new forms to the wind. How complicated is this simple love … The thought, legitimate or silly, Strengthens the games of boredom through you! Memory is suicide of the oblivion. Withered lie warns imagination with the fresh truth. Out of the mere deception, Starry nights I offer in my eyes. 
  • 32. The Path Path to Publication Group 32 John Grey CIGARETTE GUY'S MORNING It’s a day that smells of cheap cigarettes, abandoned tenements and their flapping yellow signs warning of rodent infestation. It is a body odor day. A smug day. Up the nose day. I start it with my irregular two step across the bedroom floor. Then the neighbors get involved, filling the windows with disheveled hair, portly guts, torn nightgowns, scratched butts, and that first dirty white trial of cigarette smoke. I earned this day. I own it. Crack open a fist, grab a coffee cup stained like plague skin, boil water in a rusty kettle, wipe grease from dim-lit brow, slump in a chair, suck caffeine through a stodgy nipple of sunlight. And then reach for a cigarette. My brand. The cheapest kind going. So cheap, label not only says, “Smoking causes cancer.” It adds, “Lucky you.” It’s a day when the woman in the apartment next door flushes a toilet in my left ear, screams at her husband and her teenage son to get out of fucking bed.
  • 33. The Path Path to Publication Group 33 It’s my first acquaintance with the “f” word today. But there’s plenty more where that came from. “Where’s my cigarettes?” growls the out-of-work truck driver. Then he pisses for what seems like an hour. And the kid starts talking smack to that sagging muscle-man. “I didn’t steal your fucking cigarettes.” A missed slap. A surly, “Don’t you talk that way to me.” Must be time for my second coffee. Or my second cigarette. Go get the paper. Pore over the skinny want ads. I burn a hole in page three with my ash. I'm too ugly to wait tables. Too dumb to clerk. Wasn't a bad fighter once. Won three close ones. Lost one bad one. Bloody eyes, split lip, bruised cheeks, and a cigarette dangling out of my mouth. Trainer lit it ‘cause my hands were broke. He must have wished it was a dynamite wick. Check better be there when the mailman comes. Otherwise, I’ll be smoking the sports section. Chick across the hall’s not bad looking when It’s dark. And it’s always dark across the hall. Screwed her twice. Laid back on the crumpled sheets after, smoked more than we talked. She’s married to some guy who gets out in a month. If she’s pregnant, I’m dead, she says. No big deal. I've been worse. There was the time I was out of cigarettes for a whole week. It was a month before my head, my gut, my nerves, forgave me. It’s a day that knows just how yesterday did it. A match will get lit. Tobacco will sizzle and paper burn. A filter-tip will cool down with spit. A nose will blow rings around what oxygen can do. Lungs will smother another canary in their coalmine. Light up, inhale and exhale, for tomorrow we cough.
  • 34. The Path Path to Publication Group 34 DEAD ROCK STAR BLUES I’m driving home down 95, twiddling with the radio dial, seeking out the hard rock station, amid all the dance and salsa and hip-hop. At last, that familiar guitar solo I’ve heard a thousand times before. And the screaming voice, the pounding drum kit. It’s the guy who overdosed at 27. And the one whose body gave out at 34 on bass. Nice solo, bad acid trip. Next song, another obituary column. Cancer.. .funny how wasting away never comes out as “What a waste.” And then it's the car crash singer, and the hung-himself instrumentalist. Now a woman takes the mike. I’m trying to remember where she's buried. And a guy…still alive I believe... but not so you’d notice. I sing along, can’t help myself, but it's more obituary column than radio station. Hard luck or hard drugs, the long gone have all the good tunes. Then, for a change, they play something brand new. Song's dead on arrival. That’s the living for you.
  • 35. The Path Path to Publication Group 35 FLYING WITH MY WIFE Yes. the aerodynamics elude me. We have conquered the air and I leave it at that. There's one child crying — it's his first time airborne. But the rest of us are as calm as if tanning by the pool. Look at those clouds. We've brought them to their knees. And forget the sky above, it's the sky below that accepts our victory, reteams with wind in keeping birds aloft. No I don't understand thrust and lift and drag. But nor does the guy with head down in a Robert Ludlum thriller. Or the woman thumbing through a copy of Time magazine. Or the old man on his third beer - well maybe he does. But we've won a war and they didn't even tell me there was one. Gravity can drop TV sets from ten story buildings but it lost out to a 747. It's like a jockey doesn't know the insides of a horse. And I drive at the behest of what an engine does but I cannot Even marriage - twenty years of air-miles - is a mystery I accept with the ease of my wife saying, "I'll have the steak tips" as the stewardess inquires, and I opt for the chicken. If I thought about it, maybe there was a time when men and women lived apart and they felt grounded. No. that can't be It. 
  • 36. The Path Path to Publication Group 36 A.J. Huffman I Am Ruby slippers. Brilliant mythical glitter creation. I was designed to fit like a second skin. I am magical transportative device, your portal home. I am temporary, borrowed from a dream. Tap me three times, and we will both disappear. Ruby Slippers
  • 37. The Path Path to Publication Group 37 Dennis Maloney Reflections in the Rear View Mirror An age when young men prowled the highways in souped-up jealopies with a slant 6 or V-8 and gas was 35 cents When I was a kid we didn’t have a car but I remember those 50s commercials on the black and white TV —trust your car to the man who wears the star, the attendant in the crisp uniform and cap The ad said they would put a tiger in your tank Now every time we absent-mindedly fill up, we fill our tank with the oil leaking into the creeks and swamps of the Niger Delta, feel the noose tighten around the neck
  • 38. The Path Path to Publication Group 38 of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the gas the runs our cars so efficiently. The oil platform engulfed in flames, oil we are hooked on choking estuaries from Louisiana to Alaska. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Broken English In the middle of the cold war and near the end of Vietnam. A Japanese friend and I stroll the Kanazawa harbor and find a ship blazed with a hammer and sickle carrying tree trunks from some taiga forest. Is this our enemy? The evil warned about since childhood, that we crawled under our desks to survive? We meet a sailor grabbing a smoke and converse in broken English and find he is not so evil just a working stiff hoping for a bit of shore leave to buy his son a stereo and smuggle it back home.
  • 39. The Path Path to Publication Group 39 Summer of Love The department store signs declares it is the summer of love in 2009 and the displays are full of peace signs, jewelry, granny beads, peasant blouses, headbands, and scarves. How far from the summer of ‘67 and the Haight with Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Dead and Quicksilver. The Diggers providing food, clothes and spirit. A few months when, in our innocence we thought love and goodwill would change everything. At home I filled my mother’s old pans with dye and soaked the folded and rubber-banded tee shirt into colors creating tie-dye patterns of infinite design and tried to decipher my own young world.
  • 40. The Path Path to Publication Group 40 Shepherd Dawn. The sparse crowns of the olive trees come alive with color. At the end of summer the brown fields are barren and full of dust. A shepherd sits on the hillside tending two dozen sheep. He has never traveled farther than his legs or a mule can carry him. Not much happens here but he knows the land and his flock better than himself. For hours he sits in silence, what thoughts fill his head? Shepherd and sheep
  • 41. The Path Path to Publication Group 41 Rachelle Parker WAKING AND KNOWING Purple, orange, yellow Swirl around me My gone cat Running fallow fields Fast, faster, fastest Chased by rainbows In a redwell I carry a baby My coworker’s boy Over the darkness Into astral flight Floating life to life Wearing natty wigs Throwrugs of clouds Under their feet Both my grandmothers Sit and watch Holding up nines I’m waved in Landing on sheets Back from somewhere My heart knows Of the pitfalls And rich soils 
  • 42. The Path Path to Publication Group 42 Changming Yuan Convergence His presence is falling upon me More forcefully than a summer shower Down pouring right from heaven. Everywhere My mind wanders around will hung A rainbow high above my absence It is this wet metaphor that has balanced All the yang elements in my heart with the yin Ones outside my bloated selfhood YingYang
  • 43. The Path Path to Publication Group 43 Jamey Temple Yellow-Broken Road My Korean daughter is a professor of photo albums studies their story-less, weathered slides gives lectures on history, mostly hers. She writes backstory with shrinking crayons paints scenes with nubby fingers taps punctuation with her red-slippered foot. Her fairy wand points to maps, oceanless and focused, builds gilded castles with well-stocked libraries alphabetized by searchable answers. We present Tin-man smiles to a four-year-old’s flighted fantasy, our idealism dulled by her brief birth history translated by the social worker who named her. Our notes read There is no place like home where she presses rainbow stickers. 
  • 44. The Path Path to Publication Group 44 Catherine Becker Reynolds The following poem appears in the manuscript of my novel Last First Days, which is the story of a young serf, Mitya Kiriakin, in Old Russia. Yuri Denisovich Veresov, an atheist and anarchist, is the fictional poet. He was Mitya’s maternal great grandfather, who died an obscure death in circumstances unknown to his family. Chapter 42 of Last First Days, entitled “A Married Man”, was published in The Path, Volume 2, Number 2, Winter 2012. ---Catherine Becker Reynolds If I Believed If I believed, I would have no need of churches, These cold stone museums you have built To keep Him in. If I believed, I would find Him in the fields, Where he was born some lost day long ago, When the first man beheld the first flower. If I believed, Life would hold no fear. I would be step outside, Into the Church Without Walls, the Cathedral Without Windows, Into the Museum of God, And know that He held me like a wild rose against His face. Then joyful my death, To know I slept in His fragrance. If I believed.
  • 45. The Path Path to Publication Group 45 --Yuri Denisovich Veresov b. Tuesday, May 26, 1702, Chernika Selo, Russia m. Devorah bas Yehosue Melnik, Sunday, August 28, 1720 d. (?) 1727 Old Russian100 Ruble Bank note
  • 46. The Path Path to Publication Group 46 Poetic Essay "The task of a writer consists in being able to make something out of an idea." ---Thomas Mann
  • 47. Letter to a Sweet-Smelling Woman Path to Publication Group 47 Tom Sheehan Letter to a Sweet-Smelling Woman Waiting Words Ah sweet marrow ganglia matter of mind what inviolable pleasure brings me to my computer this time of night in the moonspill mooncream what draws me this way and that from my outer to my inner am I all questions in this mushrooming quiet and dark of night this sound of dead foxes hanging thinly with leaves the den not returned to mother hunted while hunting and dogged down this deep of night this dread of sleeping while my mind can still move its way over the wave of things can extrapolate conjure figment articulate touch smell know once again the musk I could die for right now this instant this eternity for my nares have the memory of fingers and the dry pulp beneath my nails is your residue of love I cannot manicure away ashes of our fire. I see suck words on lips I see the drip of syllables phonetics of some word rock buried in you as deeply as mine sunless and miles deep past the six hundred miles an hour that our impulses travel from mind to extremities of selves to fingers of satisfaction to fingers knowledge to lips say to eyes move to pits of breast set into teeth like caraway seeds (oh I love the working memory as my tongue worries a pit like a cavity beginning –I form words for you at the touch) what tangible ghost of nights past is near me touching like grass or a spider web not quite there who the spirit travels its hands and lips and words against my ears my self my all as if Chapman’s Homer has its speech and touches to me I I am alone atop Darien this abominable night though I have shares and am shared oh shared by madness oh stung by stars and simple grass
  • 48. The Path Path to Publication Group 48 Oh, listen believe me daughter of words holder of the precious word rock I am moonmaster starriser suncatcher burster of cometing yea a farmer plugging word songs but a listener of your night watches walker of your dreams the evil- doer doing done that far thin voice of a star moving on you oh dream death at morning light ah it is lonely the fox is dead I hear the dogs cry above the clash of leaves the horn empties its wail on wind the den not returned to the young wait cold and hungry the burrow walls close in in cool pneumatics the ferret comes slowly at first teasing his mouth waters saliva runs oozing like sperm his back arches he tingles Oh love I’d love to come to your mouth to have your lips holding me is volcanic thought, furnacing the blade of your tongue is ever merciless; why are you so unkind to me why cut memory’s cut do my veins intrigue you my capillaries crawl like others crawl except when you lose your tongue, you are mad! mad! But I bid you I bid you come to me once—all mouth, all imagination, all energy. I would know no other night nor own one. I am doomed; pusher of thought, darer of deeds, worder of words, I am doomed who such lip when such thigh take the angle of my eye, lest I lose that nearing breast—bring your mouth where you’ve caressed, use your tongue as gallant blade my private parts to invade I, moon master, master of words, roper of stars, brander of herds of Pegasus flock, beg your tongue; talk let it be known beneath your bone. I love your curves and wanting nerves sleep comes, now sifting through me, pushing its delights into the barest ends of me—the torture of a sugar remembered, thighs intersect triangle of nerves coming away slowly, as a rusty sled downhill, excruciatingly lovely from the pitch of parting Once I shot at a doe and oh! I missed! I missed! 
  • 50. The Path Path to Publication Group 50 Madison Feyrer-Melk Blood Hound Short Story The howl of a dog has always scared me. The way it echoes through the most silent of nights, low and clear, ringing. The sound always makes my heart beat faster, thumping loudly in my chest until I am sure everyone around me can hear it. A steady thump it makes, in perfect rhythm with the dog’s howl. Thump, howl, thump thump, howl, thump thump, howl, thump. When I was nine, my father was murdered. No one knew why. Our quiet neighborhood was turned upside down with the murder of a simple man all for the money in his wallet. A few coins, a few dollars, is that really what his life was worth? I still remember waking to my mother’s screams, running down the hall to see what was wrong, and finding my father’s body lying on the kitchen floor next to my screaming mother. Tears were pouring down her cheeks, mixing with the blood. There was a big gash down his chest, the blood splattered on the white floor tiles, sticky and wet on my bare feet. I did not fully comprehend what was going on and while tears streamed from inside me, I continued to call for my father for days after the murder. I heard a dog howl in the background, loud and eerie as I gazed down on his mangled body. Mixed with slamming doors as the neighbors ran to see what was wrong. Howl. Not too long after the murder, my mother and I began going to therapy sessions two towns away with a nice man named Dr. Hanson. Every Thursday, we could be found in that stuffy office building. I would wait quietly as Mom met with him after I did, wondering why she always came out with her
  • 51. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 51 eyes red and puffy from tears. I asked Dr. Hanson about her and he just told me that she was sad and that she missed my father. “She is getting much better sweetheart, don’t worry.” Better and better, actually. I believe she came to treasure our Thursday therapy and encouraged me to arrive with her early. She kept insisting that it was the one time she could escape the wicked world she lived in and visit a new, different one. “Perfect.” She smiled before entering Dr. Hanson’s room. She started coming out smiling instead of crying. While I knew she was finally escaping her sadness and I was happy for her, I hated it there. Yet nothing changed for me. I did not find therapy the same helping savior Mom did. I found it to be a drag, something boring and something to dread. It was not that I was afraid. No, it was because I was never the type to sit down and spill out my feelings to anyone, not even my own mother. I turned everything inward and whenever something did come out, it was in the force of anger and cracked like lightening against black storm clouds in monsoon season. Dr. Hanson said with a smile, “You’re a hard egg to crack, Olivia.” But I just answered, “There is nothing to crack.” Dr. Hanson encouraged talking between my mother and I, and it would be lying to say that she didn’t try. I guess it must have been hard to speak of something that still haunts your own nightmares, especially when that someone you’re talking to is a nine-year-old girl. Yet, a year passed and Mom and I still never had a proper conversation about what happened. I was fine with this. I was content to play house with my friends at school, to dream of my ambition to be a famous singer, and to draw pictures that Mom always hung on the walls. Tyler came into my life when I was thirteen years old. Maybe it was through a family friend of a friend of Dr. Hanson. Or maybe they were related? It was something that I never really looked in to, for I had Tyler and that was all that mattered. I just didn’t care. All I know is that Dr. Hanson and Tyler were somehow related by a daring evil called friendship. However it happened, we met at my mother’s birthday party and I realized that my life was not all bad. It was a fantasy come to life, my dream come true in a way. Tyler was a true Prince Charming;
  • 52. The Path Path to Publication Group 52 athletic, smart, and handsome, with a smile that completely melted my heart. Yet, it was not this fabulous complexion that attracted me to Tyler. I had never been the type of person to obsess over the opposite sex or to even be the type of person with a lot of friends of the same sex. I mostly kept to myself, save a few noticeably different people. I was attracted to things out-of-the- ordinary. Tyler met this somewhat “dream” of mine with his abnormal—although, I convinced myself, wonderful— personality. It stated, loud and clear, I am Tyler Bennet and I will be your friend, your protector and your passage to change. Now, Tyler was not as cheesy as my first thoughts when we met, but I became accustomed to relating Tyler with friendship. Tyler with relationships. Tyler with love. Tyler with perfection. Tyler with happiness. Tyler with me. It was the way my brain became hotwired to work. When we began dating in my freshmen year of high school, when I was fourteen, my thoughts were only reinforced. I became a more social person, although I never felt comfortable with big crowds. Tyler introduced me to the world of God and how mighty He is. Tyler was always intrigued by the whole idea of the greatness of God and had his heart set on becoming a pastor, like his father. I attended church with Tyler and, while he attempted to show me how wonderful life could be on earth and in heaven, with the help of God, I found myself more fascinated with the whole heaven verses hell idea. How terrifyingly beautiful is the concept of a place of perfect and a place of pain? How hard to grasp, yet what an easy concept. The good are rewarded and the bad are punished. It was as simple as that. Tyler was able to explain what he expected his heaven to be in such stunning detail, that I became overcome with wonder about the other end of the stick. What was that place like? The unknown was something I wanted to know. Sometimes, on Sundays, I would wake up early, my feet pink from the lasting cold in my house, and join Tyler and his family for church. I would put on a nice outfit that old people would approve of; in other words, I would ditch my normal ripped jeans and T-shirts for something like a skirt and dress shirt. It was never much, but Tyler always told me I looked good
  • 53. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 53 when I cleaned up. He never meant to hurt my feelings, but sometimes I did wonder if he liked me the way I was. I wondered if he wanted me to change. The week before my birthday, I did this routine and then hurried out to the car, where I slid in the passenger seat beside Tyler. He immediately asked me if I had slept well. I told him of course. “I know you like it, but I’ve always found that house of yours kind of…I don’t know…creepy?” I shrugged and took his warm hand in my cold one. “Yeah, but its home. I like it.” “And you’re always so cold.” He said over me, pressing my fingers to his lips and kissing them as his eyes stayed glued on the road. I smiled. “I just need a little warming up.” I flirted, twisting my fingers with his. It felt so familiar to hold his hand in mine, but it was not like in the movies, nothing like my friends. Our hands were not like puzzle pieces that most of my friends claimed to have felt with their boyfriends. It was something that had never really bothered me, unless I thought of it. In that case, I never thought about it. I didn’t think about a lot of things during my relationship with Tyler. I guess that was how I managed to deal with having someone so perfect when I knew I was not at all. It was a wonder Tyler and I were still together; my friend told me every day and my mom often questioned if I was happy. Of course I was; how could I ever be happier? “If you were with someone more like you?” Mom once said. That, of course, brought out a burst in me and I yelled and she yelled and we both ended up crying and hugging but I never touched the subject again. Tyler smiled and we pulled into the church parking lot. I had never seen the point of going to church every Sunday, but I knew that it was supposed to make one a better person and Tyler always did, so I never questioned it. I walked with Tyler to where his family was already standing and we all walked in together. His dad’s friend, another preacher, met us at the door. He shook my hand and I smiled. Tyler did not hold my hand, but folded them behind his back and put on a genuine smile, so unlike my own. Throughout the mass, I allowed my mind to wander like every other time I went to church with my boyfriend. I loved to
  • 54. The Path Path to Publication Group 54 go, honestly, I did. I just enjoyed it for different reasons. I liked how Tyler felt comfortable with me around his family and how he smiled widely when people talked to us and I knew he loved to explain things about his religion to me, even when I didn’t ask. Tyler had always been the one to answer questions for me before I asked them, trying to be helpful and anticipate my fears, but in the end just bothering me. Of course I never said anything because I knew he was just trying to help me. That’s all Tyler ever did was try to help me, but I never really felt helped. I just felt like he was starting to control my life and I was helpless except to hang on and be pulled along with him. That is not how it was in the beginning. In the beginning, Tyler and I perfectly balanced each other in a way I had never seen nor heard. It was wonderful; he was my savior in so many ways. I could spend weeks without seeing him and then when our eyes met, everything would still be perfect. We were the perfect yin and yang. And yet as time went on, I began to feel myself being pressed on all sides from the boy I had been with for years. “—hell.” The words of the preacher stopped my thoughts and my mind was quickly cleared and left empty, ready for focus. I did not command it to do so, but it did anyway and I found myself tied to the word he spoke. Hell. The concept I so often questioned in the dead of night in my dead, haunting house. And suddenly, I surprised myself in actually listening to what the preacher was saying. “The devil has always been fighting to gain the upper hand on this world. He temped our Lord Jesus in the desert, trying to convince Him that down is the right way to go. Every day, each one of us is faced with choices, with temptations that can pluck us from our path toward heaven and push us toward hell. The devil will try to convince us in any way he can, to move away from our Lord. Sometimes, these temptations win. Evil wins and we give in. Do something bad. Do something evil. Commit a sin. Once this happens, many believe their path to our God is over. They deicide it is too late to turn back and instead, they cower in fear. Fear of what will happen when their time
  • 55. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 55 comes. Fear of our Lord, perhaps. But there is nothing to fear. It does not have to be this way. “Our Lord God is almighty and forgiving, no matter the circumstances. He will always be there for each and every one of us, ready to guide us back to his path. God wants us to be good. God loves us all so very much that He sent His own son to redeem our sins. You cannot find a greater love. The point I am trying to make is that no matter how hard the devil tempts us, no matter if we commit a sin or just find ourselves questioning our faith, God is there for you. He is there and ready to forgive anyone who really wants to be forgiven. He is merciful and mighty…and He is forgiving. Remember, He will forgive you. If you ask for it.” That was the end but my mind was still cranking and when I joined Tyler in the drive to breakfast, I decided to actually ask him a question. “Tyler?” “Yeah, babe?” “I was just wondering about what the man said in church. About the devil and…and about hell.” “Do you mean how people can be set on that path and then ask God for forgiveness and just turn right around?” I opened my mouth to tell Tyler, no that’s not what I meant, but he just continued talking. “It’s more than that, Olivia. Its more like, hummm. Well, its more like if you want to be forgiven, God will forgive you, no matter what. It doesn’t matter what sin you commit, if you want forgiveness, He’ll give it to you. Does that make sense?” “Yeah, but that’s not what I’m asking.” I said. “Well, what are you asking then?” “I'm asking…well, I’m not really sure. I guess, I don’t know. I guess I’m just kind of wondering what hell is like.” “What hell is like?” Tyler’s eyes flickered from the road, to me, and back again. “You want to know what hell is like?” “Not exactly…well, maybe. I just feel like everyone always talks about heaven and I know you do. You’ve given me the image and everything about your heaven, but I want to know about hell. Is it like the Greek Underworld with fire and eternal pain and…what’s that one story? The one with the bird pecking out somebody’s liver every day—” “Prometheus?”
  • 56. The Path Path to Publication Group 56 “Yeah him. Thanks.” I smiled, folding my hands across my lap. “Is that what hell is like?” “Well.” Tyler cleared his throat and shrugged. I watched his handsome face as he thought of how to respond and I couldn’t help but notice how uncomfortable he seemed. “No one really knows what hell is like, Olivia. People don’t want to know. Its not something most people talk about. Not something most people like to discuss.” “Okay, so what do you think hell is like?” Tyler pulled into the restaurant parking lot and parked the car, killing the engine and the background noise. He looked at me. “Personally, I believe it is kind of like that. Like the Greek myths, I mean. It is horrible and bare; a wasteland. Maybe there is fire or rocks and stuff but I think that everyone down there doesn’t even notice. I think all they feel is pain. They are put in eternal pain. And I believe that everyone down there deserves it.” I was silent not because I didn’t understand or didn’t have anything else to say, but because I didn’t really have anything else to say to that, specifically. I still wondered about the whole concept of hell. I wanted to know. I wanted to know the unknown. Just what Tyler said didn’t really explain it all. And I wanted to know. Tyler started to get out of the car, but I quickly said, “What if someone doesn’t mean to be bad? Then do they go to hell?” He shut the door. “Meaning…” “Someone does something bad and ends up in hell when they didn’t mean to be bad in the first place.” “They ask forgiveness if they made a mistake and God forgives them. They don’t go to hell.” “But, just say they do.” I continued, pressing on. “I mean, say…something inside of them that was out of their control makes them do something entirely evil but they didn’t want to.” “Olivia,” Tyler chuckled. “That doesn’t make any sense.” “Yeah, it does. What if some other part of the person made them commit the sin and so they have no idea its wrong
  • 57. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 57 because that other part is making them think its right and…” I trailed off when Tyler started laughing. He kissed my forehead. “First of all, you are confusing me bad right now. Second of all, people can’t have two parts. They have one part; them.” “I’m just saying—” I was cut off when Tyler pressed his lips against mine. I closed my eyes and kissed back, while inside I felt like I had not had my question answered, at all. Normally, I loved it when he would cut off my words with a kiss. I thought it was utterly romantic. But right then, I just wanted him to take me seriously. And what if someone did have two parts? No one is saying that they can’t…so they can, right? Tyler smelled of his familiar mixture of clean shirts and colognes and I breathed in heavily. I touched his hair, but I noticed that something was missing. It was like the normal spark that ignited when we touched, was gone. When we broke away and walked inside the restaurant, I bit my bottom lip, trying to taste what I normally tasted, but my tongue enjoyed nothing. Nothing. The flavor was somehow gone. I live at the very end of Third Street, in the huge old house with the big driveway and ancient looking iron gates, vines growing up the sides of them. The house normally scares off people who come to call, but for me, it is home. I love the feeling of walking down the creaking hallways to my attic bedroom, the feeling when I look at the old playing cards I had stuck in the cracked mirror on the wall of the kitchen, the feeling of the warm sheets after mother has finished washing them as they quickly cool down. The house belonged to my grandmother, and her mother before her and her mother before her. In other words, it was a very old house. Very, very old, passed down through the generations. That is how it ended up with my mother. That is how it will eventually end up with me. Just the thought of this house potentially being mine is something that has always excited me. I wanted to own something so run-down, so creepy. It was a growing pleasure when my mother told me of how she would leave it to me. We moved into it soon after my father died and my grandma moved into a nursing home. My mother said the move
  • 58. The Path Path to Publication Group 58 was actually a way to change our life and to start fresh. “To give you more opportunities, Olivia,” she smiled when we pulled into the large, circle driveway with the moving trucks behind us. I guess her dream for greater opportunities for me did succeed, for I met Tyler and I became a person of the big crowd of people of which everyone wished to be a part, yet I was never the one who spoke up in front of a group or even spoke my mind aloud. I watched and wondered, mostly. But Mom did not notice and I could tell she felt accomplished when I announced my month anniversary with Tyler. Now, although she did often wonder if I was happy, I knew that Mom still was super excited when our one-year rolled around and then the next and the next. The next was approaching. I knew, however, the real reason for our move. Even then, I knew it was because she missed Dad too much. Because she could not stand to live where the murder happened. She was scared and wanted to be closer to something familiar to her. It did bring her away from her past horrors and to a new, fake world of happiness that I could plainly see she enjoyed. She loved living in our house. It is always cold in my house, even if the sun is blazing down outside. The cold, somehow, warms me. I go home when I am cold. I go to the cold to escape the cold. That is just how the blood pumps through me; cold. The house sent pleasant chills down my spine whenever I stepped inside. So lovely. Beautiful. Silent. Cold. When I turned eighteen, my Mom surprised me with a huge party. When I was sixteen I had a the “sweet sixteen” party, so I had never expected such a grand occasion just two years later. I had been planning a small night-out with my girlfriends but it ended up being a huge party with practically the whole school there. Like the wonderful boyfriend he was, Tyler arrived perfectly on time with a large bundle of plump, red roses in hand. He was so perfect, looking the equivalent of a god in a sleek tuxedo. The days when I treasured him just for his looks was long gone and I found it a shock to see him as such a handsome man again, as if I was seeing him for the first time. Out of surprise, I was unprepared for the crazy growl of partying that followed my arrival at the restaurant, and while my
  • 59. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 59 friends guided me through the amazing thing my mother had set up for me, it was Tyler who kept me on my feet. I had never been someone who fit in well with big crowds and, normally, I stayed away from it all. The only times I was ever with huge masses of people was when I was with my boyfriend. He always did a marvelous job of keeping me popular and talking and, most of all, interesting. My eighteenth party was no different for how Tyler acted…but it was different through my eyes. The music was all from my own iPod, per my friend’s request, but it all still seemed foreign. I knew it was all for me and my mom and my friends had probably put a lot of effort into it, but the second I stepped inside the restaurant and everyone jumped out and yelled “Surprise.”, I got an uneasy feeling. Of course, Tyler was there for me. Tyler did a fantastic job of keeping me at ease in the big crowds and involved in the conversations. Whenever I found myself trying to slip away to a more deserted part of the now packed restaurant, I found Tyler’s hand slid around mine and pull me back. He really did do a masterful job. But I found myself annoyed by it. I hated how he was so persistent, having me stay in the crowd always pulling me back when I wanted to get away. The music was starting to give me a headache and all I wanted to do was take a five-minute break. Tyler grabbed my wrist and for the first time, I pulled it away and walked out to the hallway. I thought he might follow me and even prepared a short speech in my head of what I was going to say to him, but he never came. I returned to find him still smiling and laughing, as if I had never left. “You alright, Olivia?” He whispered in my ear, sliding his arm around my waist. “Yeah, fine.” “You just needed a break?” I breathed out and thought of my words carefully. “Something like that.” I smiled, finally. It was at the end of the party when I was shocked into the reality of the building blocks of my boyfriend and forced to now recognize how much we differed. When the clock ticked to midnight, Tyler now pulled me aside from the hustle and bustle of the inner crowd. With politeness and courtesy only he knew how to do, Tyler told me: “This has been an awesome party,
  • 60. The Path Path to Publication Group 60 Olivia. I have to go now, though, I have a previous commitment I also need to honor.” My heart immediately seized up and I whined, “Why?” I had been doing that a lot lately. Complaining about all of Tyler’s “previous commitments” and how they eat away at my time with him. Senior year was supposed to be a drag but at my little school, they work us like horses on the highest profit ranch in Texas. I treasured every second I had with him; I yearned for it. It was my break from the reality of the world, in a way that I could never explain, even to myself. “There is a children’s activity day tomorrow at my church and I’m volunteering. I need to be there at six.” He said. “Come on Tyler, I wanted to go out afterward. You can sleep tomorrow, please?” I squeezed his hand and tilted my head in a complaining fashion. “I want to go out. Just you and me, please?” Tyler kissed my hand and shook his head. “I’m sorry, honey. I want to be alone too…I just can’t tonight.” I knew it was a losing battle. I sighed and shrugged at him and Tyler kissed my forehead and I twitched. He told me he had a wonderful time. “Me too, thanks for coming, Tyler.” I smiled, the corners twitching, trying to pull it down. “I wouldn’t have miss it for the world, baby.” He cooed before walking out and hopping in his car. I didn’t even watch him leave. Like every other time my dedicated boyfriend had another plan, I let him go. I realized, just like every time before, that he was dedicated in many different ways to many different things. To his family, his friends, his girlfriend, his church, his God. But for some reason, this time, it felt very different when I saw him driving off. The happiest day of my life suddenly had a heavy weight anchored to it and we were nearing open sea. I was realizing how I ranked with Tyler’s feelings and, maybe, starting to actually listen to my own. I felt like I had let go of him completely. I had let go of him forever. The weekend of my birthday was toward the end of my senior year. I began using this, plus the fact that I was now an official grown-up and had the ability to vote in the next election, to my advantage. I stayed up and out until morning and
  • 61. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 61 wandered aimlessly through town on the darkest of nights, hoping to pick up some gossip or see some ghosts, maybe. I hung out with friends, but I mostly hung out alone. What I wished to accomplish through these walks remains a mystery to me. Maybe it was just a burning pleasure to be alone in the dark. Or maybe I was looking for something exciting to happen in my life. Or maybe I was silently angry and frustrated with Tyler. It had been so long since I questioned his attitude. In fact, I could not remember a time when I did question it. He had always been the ideal man in my eyes and I had never once questioned his judgment. Maybe that had just gone to his head. I knew it had to mine. I was just done with his constant “other commitments” and I often wondered where I really ranked in his life. I wondered if maybe he was getting bored with me and if I was not all that he had expected me to be. I knew that I sometimes wondered it about him. It was these nightly walks that brought me to discover a part of the town I never had visited before. I had driven through it many times, but never stopped to look around or explore. One of my midnight outings led me to The Dinn, a small pub downtown that let occasional underage drinking slide, but I tended to stick to red punch or maybe a cherry coke. My favorite was the thick smoothies that the bartender would sometimes make for me. They were thick and slid easily down my throat, coating it in the red dye. The Dinn was stuffy and small; it smelled like the old, drunk men it housed; the counter was small and the tables around it smaller. I loved it. I made a tradition out of every Tuesday night. I would leave whatever unfinished studying or homework I was doing and head down to The Dinn for a drink, maybe a beer if I really felt like rebelling. The bar tender or other old men entertained me with stories or card games or books from the dark shelf in the back of the pub. More out of habit than want to share it with him, I told Tyler about the place. I avoided the whole drinking underage thing as well as the location and the name. I was not trying to lie to my boyfriend, just delay his reaction to something I personally enjoyed. I had a feeling that it would be shot down quicker than I could defend myself. I think he thought it was
  • 62. The Path Path to Publication Group 62 going to be a cute little café with pink curtains and white booths and the smell of chocolate in the air because when Tyler saw the place I intended to spend the evening, he became furious. “Please, Olivia.” He took my hand in his own and held it close to him. “Stop trying to be so cool and lets just find somewhere else to hang out.” “You haven’t even been inside yet, Tyler, and I’m not ‘trying to be cool’.” “You’re acting way out of order. You’re…being so unlike yourself.” “How the hell am I being unlike myself?” I yelled, suddenly feeling the need to tear out his hair and slap him across his once perfect face. “You’re being such a little rebel. What happened to the girl I once knew? Stop being—whatever you are and live a little.” “I am living.” I argued, yanking my hand away. It was weird hearing such hurtful words spitting from his mouth and, while some part of me was telling me that he was only trying to help me, another part screamed at me to hit him. “Olivia, whatever happened to make you want to rebel, tell me. I can help—” “I’m not rebelling.” “Listen to me, please, just listen.” Tyler reached out for me but I turned my back to him and crossed my arms over my chest. Tyler breathed out loudly and I assumed that he was hurt by the action but I did not feel bad. I was hurt by his actions. “I love you Olivia, no questions asked. But you seem to be slipping into some unknown black pit. Is it because you are finally eighteen? Because you are finally a legal adult? I’ve been one for quite some time and you don’t see me sneaking off into some rundown pub.” I found myself fuming. Something scratched at my chest and I whirled my head around. “Well aren’t you just perfect, Tyler? Huh? You think that everyone is below you, don’t you? That you are on top of the world. You and your mad football skills and ‘A’ plus brain? I mean come on. The town’s favorite, yeah, but not everyone’s like that, OK? Some of us are just normal people who make normal decisions that don’t always benefit the entire world.”
  • 63. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 63 “Olivia, I’m not talking about me, okay? I’m talking about you.” Tyler said, stepping towards me. He shook his head. “But let’s be honest, you would be better off if you were more like me.” I laughed, sarcastically. How did he not realize that he just pushed it way too far? I practically growled at him. “Oh. God’s little boy aren’t you? Well, not everyone is as good and perfect as you and your dumb church ways.” No one insults Tyler’s church. I had seen him go off on other people before, but he had never, ever gone off on me before like he did following my nasty comments. He had said hurtful things earlier, but that was out of his overly protective streak. Now, he was yelling full out like boyfriends yell in movies just before the break up that tears the girlfriend’s heart apart. “You don’t understand a damn thing about my church, Olivia. I have tried so hard to teach you, to try and save you and show you how wonderful it is to know that my God is always with me, that He always has my back, but all you’ve ever done is push me away. All you’ve ever done is push God away. Why not just give Him a chance to prove His greatness?” “Who the hell cares if I reject your God, Tyler?” I screamed. “I just don’t believe, okay? I’m sorry, does that help? I don’t need a god to be happy.” “I’m saying you do, I’m just trying to help you, Olivia.” “No you’re not, you’re just trying to make yourself feel better. You’re worried about what I’ll become without your God.” “Yes I am.” “Well, I don’t give a damn about what you think. I can go to hell for all I care.” Of course, I had no idea what I was saying. I did not really know how the whole heaven-hell thing worked and that was because I never got the chance to figure it out, but I knew that it would hit Tyler hard and hurt him. Just what I wanted. “Who are you?” Tyler yelled. “Who are you, Olivia? Where is the girl I met so many years ago? How long have I known you? Five years, isn’t it? And you’ve been the love of my life for almost four. Where is the girl who cares about my beliefs and cherishes them as I cherish her? What happened? I don’t
  • 64. The Path Path to Publication Group 64 know how you ever ended up here or why in the world you made the choice to come back, but you better get your head screwed on straight before this all comes and bites you in the butt. You are an amazing girl, Olivia, I know that, but do you? I need you to stop being so insensitive to my feelings.” Tyler angrily spat. “Stop being insensitive to your feelings? You idiot, do you know how many times you’ve insulted me? You’re the best boyfriend I’ve ever known; even compared to everyone I have ever known. You’re the only boyfriend I’ve ever known. OK? But you are not perfect. Stop trying to run my life, it’s mine for a reason.” “Well if your running it then you might as well know that you’re about to crash real soon.” He spat before turning back to his car and starting the engine. He stuck his head out the window. “Get in.” I blinked. A weird feeling came over me and I realized that my heart was not torn like in the movies. Instead, I felt more alive than I had in a long time. I turned. I walked towards The Dinn. Over my shoulder, I called, “Go home, Tyler. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I don’t think I ever attended church with him after that. The Dinn was more crowded than normal, something I found quite annoying and I pushed my way to the bar. I ordered beer and the bar tender did not object, but quickly served my drink. I took the cold glass in my hot hands and walked to the back wall of the place, where there were less people and I felt more comfortable. After draining the glass, I debated getting another but instead found myself attracted to the bookshelf next to the table at which I sat. I was not exactly sure what it was that drew me to stand in front of it, but I found myself staring at the title of a thick, black leather book. There was no name on the side, so I slipped it out and blew off a layer of dust. The title was typed crooked and hard to read. I had to turn to get better light so that my eyes could decipher the words; The Book of Blood, by Augusto Reid. I pulled out the chair at the nearest table and sat down, crossing my legs and propping the book up on them. I only had to flip through a couple of pages to know that this book was something I should not be holding. Augusto Reid’s introduction to his collection only confirmed my suspicion:
  • 65. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 65 Reader, This is a collection of stories of upmost horror that I have had the honor of collecting over the years. They are not meant for the weak, the young, or the queasy. They are not meant for the good. They are meant for the ones who crave to disappear from the world they know and visit a place where evil triumphs. Evil triumphs in these stories, good is always the losing victim. This collection is not for the lighthearted. Not for entertainment. Not for people who enjoy life. It is for escape. And through my hunt for these stories, I have found it is often inspiring. Please enjoy leaving this world as I have done, and I hope when you return, you find your life forever changed. -Augusto Reid I shivered and looked around me, wondering why I suddenly felt like I was the only one in The Dinn. A strange feeling overtook my body, possible curiosity, probably not. Although the therapy had ended years ago, Mom always talked of how she could escape this world through calm breathing and a good book and some quiet music, something she learned in therapy. Mom told me this, I think, because she wanted me to also find a way to escape the world when it hurt me. I looked back at The Book of Blood. I knew Tyler would be absolutely disgusted by my even considering opening this book and reading of such evil people and I believe it may have been for that reason that I continued on. The Dinn became a way for me to keep my relationship with Tyler on edge and I will never be sure if this was done by accident, or on purpose. In his absence, I met a man by the name of Eugene Smith. We first met when I had been reading The Book of Blood, a few days after Tyler and I fought. I was leaning against the wall when he pulled up a chair next to me, curious as to what I was reading. I quickly tilted the title away and did not respond. “I know that book.” He said, tilting it back down. I let him and while he flipped through a few pages, I studied him. He resembled a man in the book, with the same dark mussed hair and chocolate brown eyes that held an almost wild look to them.
  • 66. The Path Path to Publication Group 66 I was honestly stunned and called out the resemblance in an accidentally rude way. Eugene laughed, messing up his hair slightly more. Then he smiled and introduced himself with a strong handshake that sent crazy vibes through me. “Would you like a drink?” He asked, standing. There was no hesitation in my positive answer. Every Tuesday, Eugene and I would meet to play cards, to talk, to relax, to get away from the world. He told me dark stories he had been told as a child, stories of a mad man who chopped off pieces of a captured woman to feed to his children, stories of a knife-obsessed man who stabbed and killed his wife before slicing her up, stories of a group of men and women alike who would meet up to grave-rob and collect the pieces, and gangs of people who killed in the most horrid ways possible. Maybe this alone should have scared me away, but it never did. Something inside me pushed away the nausea that first appeared and turning it into a feeling of intense curiosity—a curiosity that led me to fall in love with the dark, gruesome tales. Tyler was mortified when I told him the tales Eugene told me, although I never mentioned the storyteller’s name. It was as if I could not force myself to say “Eugene” to another human being, no matter how hard I tried. As a Christian man through and through, Tyler despised it all. He tried to stop me from returning to The Dinn the day after I told him the first story. “It is not healthy for you, Olivia, stop going there. I’ve told you before.” “Back off Tyler, I’m not doing anything illegal.” I would insist, pushing him away the next time he tried to kiss me. I never told him of the drinks Eugene and I often shared. I knew that Tyler drank every now and then at the big parties thrown by the most popular of his friends, but it was always in a “controlled setting.” Yeah, raving parties, real controlled buddy. “I don’t sneak out at night and go to smelly pubs and drink.” He snapped. His reactions just led to me pretend I never drank. And I never did hard core. Either the bar tender or Eugene would always tell me when enough was enough. Eugene always looked out for me. Slowly, Tyler and I became more distant and I began regretting the times I had with him and treasuring the times I had
  • 67. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 67 with Eugene Smith. It was as if Eugene was replacing Tyler and the feeling was foreign and half welcomed, half not. It wasn’t that I didn’t still like Tyler, because I did. It was my birthday disappointment and his reaction to my so-called rebellious change that led me to see him as not right for me. He was too dedicated to too many things that often clashed with me. Yet, I guess that was the boy I had fallen in love with so long ago. So what had happened? I argued with myself sometimes, late at night, looking at the stars. I argued how Eugene was not perfect and how Tyler was perfect. But did Tyler have stories of bloodthirsty women who would lure men into their homes only to cut them open and roast their hearts? No. Did Tyler know the darkest and most thrilling of all tales? No, but Eugene did. One would think, with the past experience of my father’s murder and my intense fear of dog howls, that I would hate anything to do with the dark side of things. Yet, I loved it. Why do you think I loved the creepy house I lived in? Why do you think I liked the feeling of heavy darkness, when it cloaked me and tried to suffocate me? It was as if a deep monster inside me was clawing, trying to get out, begging me to read more, to listen more, to see Eugene more. Eugene was the master of darkness. He said when he was little, he had become fascinated with the concept of life and death and that had led him to the opening of such gruesome tales. Sometimes, I would lie late at night in my bed and wonder how he managed to come up with these stories. Sometimes, I wondered if it was because he was one of them. I finally broke up with Tyler. It was not pretty and involved a lot of yelling on my part and a lot of yelling Tyler’s part. And Tyler never yelled…well, never much. But we both agreed it was best. Tyler was dating another girl within a week. I thought maybe he had begun liking her long ago; I remembered the way he introduced me to her at somebody’s birthday party. She was practically everything I was not, pretty much who I was when Tyler and I first met. It was me, unchanged. I took it as a compliment he’d found those type of people—my type of people—so attractive. My friends asked and I knew almost everything and thought that I would care, but I didn’t. “It was almost four years.” They complained. I shrugged. Why not? They asked. Because, I was dating Eugene within a day.
  • 68. The Path Path to Publication Group 68 I told no one about my secret boyfriend but often met up with him after school. He never drove me in his car, something that once would have bothered me, but now I like how I could be in control. We would drive out of town and down country roads, speeding high over criminal speed and never getting caught. Those were my favorite dates, when I could just get away from the world and roll all the windows down and drive not on gas, but on adrenaline. One night, I snuck back home under the cover of darkness, hours past the already ridiculous curfew my mother set after one of these crazy drives. The best part about my dates with Eugene was that I never had to give him a ride home. I had no idea where he lived, but he always told me that he would walk home. I would park the car, get out and lock it, and kiss him goodnight and when I would turn back at my door, he would already be gone. It was mysterious and wonderful. Up in my room, I leaned against the door, breathing hard, thump thump, and looked across at the window. It had been a crazy night. I still remembered Eugene’s cries of joy when my car speedometer hit one-twenty and a police siren blared behind us. Sheer luck allowed me—I mean us—to escape. I gazed out the window. Beside it was a tiny cracked mirror, a mini replica of the one downstairs. I had even placed identical yellowing playing cards in it. In the mirror, I could see my reflection. My face was dotted with sweat. My eyes were bloodshot. My hair slick and matted. My make-up smeared. I looked like an animal. I looked like a monster. I decided one night that I wanted to start telling Eugene stories. I had read the rotting Book of Blood too many times to count, and could recall the tales in vivid detail, picturing the murders as they happened. Sometimes, I felt like I had lived them too. The one I could picture most clearly, the one I found the most interesting, the one I almost felt an almost emotional attachment to, was the one that reminded me of my boyfriend. It was the story of a handsome man who used mind games and his charm to enchant young women, convincing them to venture out alone with him to deserted areas in whichever town they were. There, he would use a large, freshly sharpened
  • 69. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 69 kitchen knife to slit their throats and collect the blood in plastic water bottles. Once the bodies were drained, he would bury them and leave them to rot as he drove away with his new drinks. I came up with my own stories, children of the ones in The Book of Blood. A man who used mind games to convince people to commit suicide to get fresh meat and keep his own hands clean. A woman who lived in the vents of an old hotel and whenever someone spent the night in room one hundred twenty- four, they would end up dead. I was great at horror, Eugene told me. I was great at it and I loved it. So charming in such a horrible way. But it spurred something else inside me. The monster began scratching at its chains once again. To describe what was in the book would be like asking a mother to describe what she loves about her daughter or a father to describe what he loves about his son. It had too many qualities, too many amazing qualities to count. It was filled with blood and gore and people being broken or cut up. Full color images of the mutated body. People killing one another for the lust of blood, people torturing one another, people eating one another. I, the monster, loved it all. It was gruesome, but I suddenly did not shrink away at the thing, but instead dived closer. Eugene would run his fingers through my hair as I spoke, smiling and kissing my neck. He was the only one to whom I told these stories, of course, for everyone else I knew would call me crazy. Call me mad. I felt I had finally figured out who I truly was. I wasn’t perfect like Tyler. I wasn’t the perfect student my mom had wanted. I wasn’t the admiring girlfriend Eugene thought I was. I wasn’t even real. “I” was gone. Something had eaten her and I knew that she was never coming back. The things I learned were beyond anything else, especially the lovely horrors that I now treasured. The monster inside of me growled lowly when we were together, like a giant hound with blood dripping down its huge fangs. It was a sense of discovery of the unknown, the exact discovery I craved. It was outside a quiet restaurant in the busiest part of town where the monster first actually used her grip on the wheel to gain control. Eugene and I had been sitting outside at the little
  • 70. The Path Path to Publication Group 70 round table with the plaid tablecloth for some time, sharing a pizza, when a voice I had known so long ago spoke. “Olivia?” I turned in my chair to see Tyler standing outside the fence, holding the hand of the pretty girl I knew he had liked for a while. He looked better than he had when I had last seen him at school, more relaxed and he practically gleamed. She held his hand like it was the link to the world. I guess I looked that pathetic when I first began dating him as well. I felt an itch inside me when I lay eyes on him. The monster roared and snarled at me, tugging at her chains and snapping at her cuffs. She longed to be set free. She longed to roam the countryside and feast on her share of life, instead of being locked up. “Hi, Tyler,” I said without blinking. My eyes narrowed and I felt my fingers twitch towards the simple dining knife sitting on the napkin next to my plate. “You’ve met Alicia?” He said, nodding at his girlfriend. I smiled as best as I could with the monster pulling at me from the inside. “Hi.” Tyler shifted his weight and looked slightly confused. “What are you doing here?” “Eating an entire pizza by yourself, are you?” Alicia said at the same time with a sly smile. I knew that she knew of Tyler and my long relationship and maybe that was the reason she was so cold to me. It didn’t matter—not when I had been the one who initiated the break up. “No, you idiot,” I snapped, looking back at my boyfriend. Eugene was leaning back in his chair with his arms hooked behind his back, a smug look on his face. “Calm down Olivia, geez.” Tyler looked at me, shaking his head a little bit. He took Alicia’s hand and there was a fleeting second when I wished I could be holding his hand again. But then the monster yapped and I swallowed the feeling, it was gone. The monster crept down again and bit at her cuffs. “This is Eugene,” I said after a minute or two of silence when the only sound I could hear was the seemingly far off conversations from the other tables and clinking of knives and forks on plates. My boyfriend did not speak but leaned forward in his seat and, folding his hands on the table, sized up my ex- boyfriend like he was a piece of meat.
  • 71. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 71 I looked at him too and Tyler exchanged a look with Alicia. They said nothing. This caught me by surprise because I knew Tyler was polite. I had been his girlfriend for almost four years and I knew that he always had a smile to show to a new person and always introduced himself nicely with a strong handshake. How was Eugene any different? “What?” I snapped. “Who is Eugene?” Tyler said, before Alicia could open her mouth with, I am sure, a smart and sassy comment. “Who do you think?” “I honestly have no idea.” I could not believe he was being so rude. I turned around in my chair to look at my boyfriend and apologize but I found the seat empty. I blinked, surprised. The chair was perfectly straight and the plate was clean, the napkin rolled up, and no sign whatsoever that Eugene had been sitting there a moment ago. “Uh, the waiter over there.” I spoke quickly without thinking, letting my mind focus on where my boyfriend was. “Oh, okay.” Tyler said. “Thank goodness, for a second there I thought you were going mad or something.” Alicia said sweetly, smiling. She didn’t even give me a change to reply with the sarcastic comment I had in mind before tugging Tyler off down the road. “See ya.” Tyler called, hesitantly, over his shoulder. I watched them for a moment before the deep voice made me jump. “Olivia?” Eugene was leaning forward in his chair, just as he had been when I had last looked at him, hands folded and everything. “Eugene, there you are.” I let out a breath of air. I must have imagined his disappearance and Tyler was probably just acting jealous. Of course. “Shall we go?” I stood and offered him my hand. Eugene threw the money on the table and stood, taking my hand. We walked out to my car, leaving the waiter to clean off the table. He cleared away the pizza stand and the remaining pieces, about half the pizza to be exact. He cleared away one plate full of grease and another perfectly clean one, placing the one crumpled napkin on the stack.
  • 72. The Path Path to Publication Group 72 I was going to drive home, but the monster inside me had different plans. I could feel a tug pulling from within, begging me to stay out. She led me out of town and down a dirt road, behind a cornfield, where she finally parked and killed the headlights. With the main light source gone, moonlight flooded over the hood of the car, igniting it with a beautiful silvery color. I leaned against the headrest and Eugene stirred beside me. “I have a present for you.” He said, reaching under the seat and pulling out a wrapped cardboard box. I recognized that box from the cluster of them in my own garage. Eugene placed the box into my outstretched hands when it touched my skin, memories snapped by quickly, in slides just fast enough for me to see them. I could smell the fizzy drink I had in my hand when I had wrapped the box earlier that day. Eugene smiled at me as I unwrapped his present, beaming at me with his too straight white teeth, little dimples around his cheeks. He was just as every imaginary perfect boyfriend I had ever created. I slit the tape of the package with my long nails. It was inside, just as I knew it would be. A long, newly sharpened butcher knife— one with a smooth wooden handle and a shinning blade that reflected the little light dotting the inside of the car. I fingered the blade, just as I had done in the store when I bought the thing. Eugene took my hand. “Do you like it?” He asked. “It could not be more perfect. So beautiful.” I smiled, looking at the eyes of my boyfriend. As my soul searched deep into his eyes, I watched them flash and he was gone. In another, instant he was back. His hands were cold in mine and empty, almost as if there was nothing there. The monster inside me let out a low howl that grew into a sharp snap. She was crouched in attack position breathing in and out slowly and steadily. Her heart beat faster and faster, thump thump, thump thump. Suddenly she bolted forward, springing from her hind legs and thrusting her clawed paws forward in a swift motion, her razor sharp teeth cutting through the chains around her neck in a jagged line, barking madly. She tore apart the cuffs around her paws and stretched them out, pawed at the ground a little and bolted forward once more. I flung the car door open and jumped violently out, as if
  • 73. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 73 something burning hot had struck me, and she looked at the moon and howled. “Feed her, Olivia. Damnit, stop hiding from yourself and just feed her, already.” I heard Eugene say from the car. I turned my eyes to him but he was gone. Disappeared like a puff of smoke and melted away into the night. Yes, it was time. I had ignored her for too long. She had been caged too long. It was time to stretch our legs and stretch our claws. I picked up my phone from where it had fallen and dialed the number of the one and only person I knew who could never ignore a distress call, even if it was from his ex. “Hello?” “Tyler?” “Yes?” “It’s, um, Olivia.” “I know, what is it?” “I need help. Please, Tyler, I know we broke up but I need you now.” “Isn't that uh…boyfriend…of yours with you now?” “No, I’m alone out behind the Smith’s cornfield. Please, I really need somebody to help me.” “Alright we’ll be there in ten minutes.” She caught him before he hung up the phone and, in a daunting, do-not-even-think-of-questioning-me sort of way, spoke, “I don’t want her to see me like this. Can you come alone? Please, I really need your help.” Silence answered, voices in the background, but she told me not to worry. He would listen. He could never ignore a distress call, no matter the circumstances. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.” I could see Tyler’s car in closer to fifteen minutes, probably because he had been driving the speed limit and not fifteen over like I had been. He was taking it slow past the cornfield, lights on dim in an effort to hide from the Smiths. It was just a Tyler-ish move and we laughed aloud, my monster and I. Typical Tyler, not able to refuse a chance to help somebody whose life could be ending. I knew he would come so it didn’t matter my life was just beginning.
  • 74. The Path Path to Publication Group 74 I stood, bathed in moonlight. The night was very clear and the open field where I stood was easily visible. The moon was definitely showing signs of waxing again. I could tell by the way its perfect ball shape was cut off to one side, the left side, almost down to half. Eugene was there beside me, but he was not there. He stood tall and supportive and then he was gone. He existed, but he did not exist. Tyler stopped his car a little ways from mine, leaving the lights on when he got out and hurried towards me. “Olivia? Are you okay, what happened?” I let out a breath of air, opening and closing my eyes. She was in control. No, no, she was not in control. I had been so silly to try to distinguish her from me, me from her. We were one and the same; there was no escape from it and no denying it. We were Olivia. We were in control. We were one, the monster and I, both with one hand on the steering wheel, sharing eyes, sharing a voice, sharing a body, sharing the need to kill. Tyler continued, “What is it, that boyfriend, maybe? Did he hurt you?” “No, no he didn’t hurt me. He would never hurt me.” “What is it then?” Tyler asked, trying hard to mask his annoyance with patience, but I had known him for too long for his games to work on me. I had loved him for too long for him to be able to fool me. “I…I just need someone right now.” “Couldn’t he help you then, Olivia? Seriously, I had to cut out on Alicia and she normally doesn’t mind but when it’s to go to another girl, such as my ex, what is she supposed to think?” “Trust you, maybe?” I snapped, thinking of how much I had once trusted him and how now, we, the monster and I, were here alone with him and I was ready to do anything but trust him. “I need help from someone who knows things like you know, Tyler. I don’t know what it is but I’m feeling like such a worthless thing. I have no purpose, none at all, Tyler, none at all.” A single tear rolled down my cheek. Well, to Tyler it looked like a tear anyways, but I knew it to be salvia dripping from the monster’s fangs as she posed for attack. “Olivia, you do have I purpose—” Tyler started.
  • 75. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 75 “Not without you.” I suddenly cried out, cutting his words off. I stumbled forward, keeping one hand clenched behind my back, and tried to look as helpless as I could, but knowing that we were not helpless at all. I kept one hand behind clenched around cool wood. Tyler caught me as I tripped forward, just like I knew he would. He hugged me, running his hand through my hair and rubbing my back. I hugged him, swiftly moving my clenched hand so that he felt nothing and stationing it behind his back at an angle. “I’m always here for you, Olivia. You will always be a special person in my life, even if we did break up. Honest, you’ll always be a friend.” “What about Alicia?” I fake sobbed, looking up at the moon, a grin forming on my face. “She understands friendship. I’m here for you, you are not alone.” The man on the moon transformed into a wolf, howling at itself and the grin tickled my cheeks. I dropped it and mumbled into his shoulder. “You’re right, I am never alone.” But I did not mean Tyler. I did not mean my mom or my friends. I did not mean anyone, because I meant my Eugene and my monster. I meant myself. I was never alone because I had me. Tyler pulled me away and looked at me. I saw him open his mouth to say something in response, but we were too quick for him. The monster licked her rough tongue across her lips and kissed him. The spilt second that his surprise and shock deemed him immovable was the same second I thrust my arm holding the butcher knife into his back. Tyler cried out, obviously in a state of shock, his eyes bulging and his body sagging on top of me. We pushed the knife in harder, grunting in pleasure. Blood flooded my mouth but I didn’t gag. I didn’t spit it out either. I swallowed. It tasted better than his soft, warm lips in which I used to feel comfort. Better even than Eugene’s imaginary lips, that remained my comfort. It tasted better than anything I had ever had before, salty and thick and a sticky warm. Tyler struggled to remain standing, let out a final attempt for breath before slumping forward, ceasing to breathe. I pulled my new knife out from his body and pushed him off of me. He fell backwards and hit the grassy ground with a thick, wet thud. I
  • 76. The Path Path to Publication Group 76 admired the blade of my knife, no longer reflective and shiny, but soaked in clumpy red. It was sticky. It could have been mistaken for dark red paint, except for the smell. The smell found my nose and I inhaled deeply, closing my eyes and basking in pleasure. I stood up, wiping some blood that had trickled down my chin. My old boyfriend lay broken on the grassy ground, which was quickly being soaked, turning into a puddle of deep red. What had compelled me to bring that knife down was deeper than just my monster inside me. It was deeper than Eugene’s insisting me feed her. It went deeper, way deeper. Engraved on my soul and there was no escape and no regret. It was who I was; who I am. The monster…the monster was at fault here. But so was I, so was Olivia. We were one…one mind, acting together. Whatever she did, I did. Whatever I did, she did. It was no longer a “her” and a “me”, but a “we” instead. She and I were one person, one being. She had known it all along inside of me, her constant howls and clawing proved it to be, I just had never seen it until now. All the little monster had needed was a key to set her free. I felt no remorse when I gazed at Tyler’s slumped body, his surprised eyes open wide, and a look of pain etched in his face. His lips were frozen in the form of our kiss, cracked, with drying blood. I kneeled next to him and kissed him once more, licking the blood from the crevices in his lips and wiping my own on his crisp white shirt, leaving a smudged red-black stain. His lips were already starting to become cold like the night air. The monster growled, low, deep in her throat as she gazed upon the body that I knelt before. Eugene was suddenly beside me, holding my hand. I felt no feeling in the hand he held. He looked at the body as well, smiling. “My girl fed her pet.” “No. I fed myself.” I answered, standing straight and squeezing his hand. I kissed his cheek, feeling nothing, but I also felt his warm flesh. We could talk more tomorrow about it. I knew that we would. I still needed to add my own fine tales to The Book of Blood. But for now, I wanted to live in the moment. A light tug indicated his departure and Eugene was gone. Back inside me, I think.
  • 77. Blood Hound Path to Publication Group 77 With him gone and my eyes watching Tyler’s frozen body as the warmth leaked faster from it, I found myself thinking of my father. I thought of the gashes he’d had, and how beautiful they had looked. They had looked beautiful; I knew that now. Actually, I believe I had always known that, since the day it had happened. I had never really been scared of what happened. That was why I had not cried and why therapy had no effect. Dr. Hanson would just say I was a hard egg. No, I was no egg—not at all. That day, I had received the last piece of my soul, a friend I had not seen or cared about until now. My pet. Me. My monster. The monster had protected me, that is what had happened. For the first time, I understood my father’s death, but in a way I could never explain to anyone. The monster that lived inside of me now, had once lived inside another. Her cousin, maybe; more likely just one of her pack. And, that was why my father had died, because someone’s monster wanted to break through. One of her—one of my—pack members had wanted to break free. My monster whimpered, looking at me with her big, round eyes. Lips pouting. Fangs dripping in a steady, gloppy stream onto the grass. My monster deserved the same as their monster, I decided. I sat back down on my calves and gave us the go-ahead. We made the same slashes I had seen on my father, on Tyler. We were an artist, the creation beautiful, and painted of red paint. The blood splattered warm and sticky over my hands once and caked his white shirt in what I knew would soon become a crusty rust color. We stepped back to admire our work. It was a true masterpiece—we both knew it. He lifeless form lay twisted, an already drying, but still clumpy wet gash in the middle of his back where the knife had first entered. Other cuts and jagged lines wove their way across his body, the blood around them fresh and fresh smelling. I knelt down and breathed in, pleasure forming my smile. My little monster whimpered and then growled once more. We leaned down and, on all fours, I leaned over Tyler’s misshapen body and we ran our rough tongue across the wounds, like a mother comforts her young. It was thick on my tongue and jagged along the lines where I stuck my mouth into his flesh and
  • 78. The Path Path to Publication Group 78 inhaled deeply, biting off bits of flesh, already cold, but soaking in warm blood. We were hungry. The thought crossed our mind that our meal lay in front of us, and she told me that it would be the best way to cover what we had done. Yes, his girlfriend would worry when he did not call her tomorrow and the search would begin when he turned up missing. Soon he would be found and all blame would turn to me, all signs would turn to me. We would be to blame. We needed to hide him. Crash his car maybe. And then send dear old Alicia a call. I touched the wound. “Do it.” She hissed, egging me on, her teeth dripping with salvia, bubbly and shiny. “Do it.” I bit my bottom lip and looked at him, narrowing my eyes, thinking. Considering. My stomach growled to match my monster’s throaty growl. I smiled, lips still stained sticky red from the blood I had drank before. The monster climbed to all fours and threw her head back, howling up at the bright moon, arching her neck and letting out an eerie echo that bounced off the corn around us. As we slumped our shoulder and lowered our head, I heard a dog howl in the distance and I shivered. My heart beat faster and faster, pounding against my rib cage and shaking my entire body. She snapped at me. We arched our back, stepped forward and then let out a mighty howl and burst forward, attacking the kill. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Knives