Category Archives: Web Only

Shadowy Fiend

By: Eric Siegel ’16

There I stood, motionless, face to face with the shadowy fiend within my subconscious. Its radiant bloodshot eyes burn a hole within the inner fragments of my soul with every passing day. It is no surprise that I have grown frail with brittle bones from my decomposing brain. It is the foggy nightmare that will not go away and the foulest part is that all it wants is oozing red blood. This demon breathes inside me, it is something I cannot get rid of because it is me and all it wants is to be freed.

I am unable to recollect how long it has lingered inside my innermost depths; however, I have concluded that it has most likely been there since birth. The mere thought that I didn’t realize it was inside me sooner still shocks me to this day. I sometimes still wonder if I had discovered it sooner when it was still weak and confused could I have stopped it. Is it possible that I could have stopped all of this from ever happening? I still reminisce the time when I first came across it; it actually had the audacity to demand my friendship and I foolishly accepted it.

The recollection is in reality nothing more than a dream; it is the only time the demon is able to influence and haunt. It is able to construct the dreams into whatsoever it desires because when I pass out I go into its world. Such as the day that it acknowledged my existence. Maybe it was just afraid or maybe it was just waiting, whatever the circumstances for why it waited, I will never forget the first time those eyes met mine. No matter what physique it chooses, there are always those golden yellow cat eyes that always seem to stay bloodshot.

However, for this specific encounter it had picked something serene and heavenly; for it must have recognized that to not set off alarms within it would have to deceitfully appear as nonthreatening as possible. It did it spotlessly. I never suspected a thing, for what did I have to distress over within my very own dreams after having closed my eyes like any time before. Naïve was I to not fathom that a heavenly figure with those eyes could ever do any mischief. It had golden wings that had been attached to a human back and its skin appeared to burn in the night that surrounded it. At the time I was dumbfounded by the magnificence of such a creature.

Its excellence continued as it dazzled with its numerous tricks within the gloomy night sky with glittering stars that it had chosen for this encounter. Then just like that, without any signaling, it propelled itself to the ground and landed with a blast of wind that nearly pushed me off my feet. There it stood, wings tucked to its side, a mere couple inches away from my face, that I could only guess showed aguish. Indeed, I will confess that I was terrified; however, it did a great job because I could not see a hint of evil.

Time seemed to freeze like the lake does outside my house every winter. Who knows for sure how long we stood there without stirring the airborne smut still plummeting ever so slowly in between our intense stares. The only thing that appeared to be capable of shattering me from this trance was the realization that this creatures breath was now coming from its mouth ever more rapidly; I could observe it ever so vividly in this icy dream because it shown like a haze. It was undertaking what individuals have notoriously known how to accomplish for an extensive time. It was speaking to me and it was time to heed to what this creature had to say.

I permitted my ears to concentrate on the prompt undertaking of its rosy moist lips and was dumbfounded to discover that it wasn’t speaking at all, but rather, talking to me through its thoughts. I focused my thoughts to hear what it was saying and that is where I committed my first major mistake. It had tested and examined my stature up until this point that it had questioned for my hand in friendship. I was hesitant as I stretched out for its hand and allowed are hands to take hold of each other into a death grip of a handshake. This insignificant symbol of a friendship would be my collapse because this was the beginning of an exploding star; it was putting its blueprints into action. At that instant I sensed a tingling perception travel up my limb and spread to the shadiest depths of my body. Everything departed into a spiral of darkness and I lost all consciousness of this world.


By: Olabisi Alabi ’16

She steps out of the station

Squinting her eyes, rough lines on her forehead, eyebrows touching.

The sun fixated her fascination

On the top half of her face, clutching,

Her legs were going back and forth.

The cement is steady.

Her heart is quickly beating ,

Waiting for him. For the first time

Her eyes spot a man she recognizes.

She wants to tell him of her crime,

But all she does is stare and gaze.

She melts into his arms as he envelops her.

She is now safe in the comfort of her pillow.

In reality, it is him she truly prefers;

No other person.

They sit on a rock, staring into the sky,

Lost in each other’s thoughts, searching for the pieces

So they won’t have to say goodbye.

Time is running away from them.

Exhausted from the race,

They hold on to each other for support.

His soft lips brush against hers,

A cold shiver rushes down her spine.

She continues to hold on as their souls intertwine.

He tastes just like jolly ranchers,

Bursting with different flavors.

She’s falling deep.

Reality becomes an imposter and

They are forced to stop, wanting more.

Two Poachers — Web Only!

By: John Quirolo ’15

      The heat of the low rising sun spilled like blood over the African grassland, promising another blazing day. Two men, dressed in khaki pants and green cotton vests and carrying Ballard rifles, lunged through the tall, dry grass under the thin canopy of the short savanna trees. The older man took his callused hand and wiped it across a brow of crusty brown skin under the brim of his khaki safari hat. His voice was gruff.

      “Jesus Christ, she’s really burning today.” He took the hat off to wipe his bald head and slung the large Ballard rifle over a broad shoulder. A hundred beady droplets glistened and disappeared as he fixed the hat back onto his head. He took a look back at the younger man behind and grunted, “I didn’t bring you out here to work on your sun tan, boy. Get up here.”

      The boyish-faced man quickened his step. That son-of-a-bitch, he thought. Thirty Goddamn years out here, and he thinks he’s Jesus Christ or something. The sweat held in the thick blonde hair dripped along the sides of his face and down his neck, funneling into the crook of his back. He lowered his head. The vest covering his bronze skin was thick and soggy. He shrugged his shoulders, tightening his forearms under the steel African Express and pushed his way through the thick, brown grass.

      “Hey, Jacky boy,” the old dog grinned. “Don’t hesitate this time; aim, breathe, and squeeze.”

      He squinted and looked over, agitated. “I know how to handle my rifle. This isn’t my first time out here.”

      “Well, let me tell you something,” the old voice came from deep in the brush, where he was undoubtedly looking up the stalks of the trees. “I’m coming out of here with a pelt today one way or another. You pull a stunt like that again and you’ll find yourself on my carving board.” The old dog’s eyes went forward and he cocked his large, sunbaked head, listening, feeling for anything. When he saw it was nothing he began to creep through the heavy brush once again.

      “I’m not missing this time, Macrae,” Jacky said confidently. He blinked the salty tears from his eyes. His mind began to wander. I’m not going to let this asshole push me around; I know I can shoot and so does he.

      Jacky snarled back, “And let me tell you something. When I make the kill today…” Macrae stopped and threw himself right in Jacky’s face, gripping him tight around the collar. Macrae nearly took him off the ground. “When you make the kill?” his voice was heavy, growling behind clenched teeth. “Tell me something?!” His hold got tighter nearly cutting off Jacky’s circulation. “Kill? What do you know about killing? You couldn’t kill a crab leg, boy, now get something straight, and get this through your pretty skull; I’m in charge! Don’t you ever tell me what’s what out here! This savanna, every Goddamned thing you see out here? It’s mine! Nobody, not even Jesus Christ himself, could take it away from me.” His grip loosened and Jacky dropped, landing on the dusty ground amid cracking stalks of dry grass. Macrae stared at him for a second, then picked up his Ballard rifle and continued on.

      Jacky’s face tightened, angry and embarrassed. On their last hunt, his hesitated shot had missed, merely startling the lion away with a cloudy explosion of dust. He put his head down and patted the dirt off of himself as he got to his feet. He saw Macrae down a ways. He cringed, picked up his firearm, and skipped into a jog to catch up.

      Though Macrae often insulted his age and practically every mistake he made, Jacky was still a very talented hunter. But as gifted as he was, he was tired of everything. Unlike Macrae, Jacky was not a natural born killer. With every passing year he had become more disgusted with himself. He hated to kill. He knew it was not who he was and it seemed that every shot chipped away a piece of his soul. With every pelt, a layer of his heart had been stripped away. He knew that, like the savanna, it wouldn’t be long before his humanity would wither away.

      He snapped out of his daze to catch Macrae’s aggressive whisper. “Jacky!” He was on his knees, waving Jacky over. He got down right next to Macrae and crouched low in the thick grass, holding the end of the rifle low so as not to give anything away.

      “You hear that?” he whispered.

      Jacky perked up his ears, “No, what do you hear?”

      “A rustle up ahead.”

      “I think you’ve got the wind through the canopy,” Jacky whispered. The cluster of savanna trees and tall saw grass made it difficult. “I think you’re right, boy,” he said, scanning the entire savanna. “Alright, I’m pretty sure we’re good, but keep hush until we know what’s on the other side.”

      Not a word was spoken as they continued through the brush. As they stalked through, two paths formed in the bent grass. From the canopy above, the rays cut through the slits of the sharp needles, tracing shades like tiger stripes onto a thousand thin, dry stalks. Jacky’s eyes pierced ahead, but he saw nothing but brush and a labyrinth of savanna trees. The sweat was really becoming a nuisance for Jacky; it made his clothing very heavy, making it harder to hold the heavy rifle. He would’ve slung it over his shoulder but they were too deep into the brush now and danger whispered from every angle. Macrae’s rifle was drawn as well.

      The mighty instrument of thick American maple wood and dense steel was snuggled tightly in Macrae’s arms. He had Satan’s eye and a killer’s thirst that could only be quenched by the blood of the next kill. Jacky looked over. Macrae’s finger was gentle and comfortable on the trigger. They were in a slow creep, passing through the streams of tiger light. Jacky couldn’t believe what he was thinking but he turned his head over to Macrae and whispered, “Does it ever bother you how we make a living?”

      Macrae just sneered at him and looked back. “What the hell are you talking about boy?” He repositioned his grip and hocked a long stream of brown gritty spit out of his mouth. He swiveled the slug of tobacco back into the side of his lip. “Everybody’s good at something,” he continued. “God put me on this Earth for one reason, and that’s to kill.” He grinned, still looking ahead. “This is how I make a living and I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. The world needs people like me.”

      Jacky looked over and then brought his eyes back. That wasn’t a surprise, he thought. “The world needs people like you?” he asked.

      “That’s right.” He spit another long stream. “Now shut the hell up, you’re going to screw this up again.”

      Macrae was getting sick and tired of Jacky. He was distracting and consistently broke his focus. He clenched his teeth; seeing the baby face over his shoulder made his blood boil. To Macrae, the boy was useless, just excess weight that should be left behind. Under the surface, he would have loved to take the knife around his waist and jab it into Jacky’s thigh. This way he could pick up the pace and drag him back to the jeep on the way back. It was a fantasy, but in a mind like Macrae’s it wasn’t far from becoming reality.

      “Run home, kid. Seriously, you’re a waste,” he whispered. “I want to eat tomorrow, how about you? If I don’t kill today then I don’t get paid.” He was glaring and slowly drawing his rifle towards Jacky.

      “If I don’t get paid then I don’t eat tomorrow, so what’s the bigger crime? It’s an animal Jack, a thing, and you’re no better. Does it bother you how you make a living? Take a look at what you’re holding in your hands. That should give you a clue. You’re an embarrassment.”

      Jacky was furious now, his fingers were inching closer to the trigger. “You’re a real bastard, Macrae,” he scowled. In his mind, the thought of killing Macrae flickered like a slide show.

      “Don’t you ever compare me to you,” Jacky seethed. The venom from his words bit deep into Macrae. “I hate you, Macrae. You’re the thing! If I had the strength to kill you right now, I would. But I’m done, this is over for me, you’re right! I’m going home, and I’m never coming back!” If he killed Macrae he knew in his heart that all of the broken pieces would be mended, and he would never bring terror upon the savanna again. It wasn’t about the money for him anymore. The hatred between the two hunters was hotter than the African sun. “Let it go, Macrae,” Jacky said softly. “This has to end.”

      “I decide when it ends, boy!” he snarled. “Nothing is over till I say.” He turned the barrel toward Jacky.

      Jacky was done with all of it. He let out a long breath and his shoulders relaxed. “I’m out of here. Burn it all to the ground if you want, Macrae. I want nothing to do with it.” He took the barrel of his rifle from Macrae and turned his back to walk away. Before he knew it, he was struck on the side of the head with the butt of the old dog’s rifle and fell to his knees. A swift kick from Macrae’s boot collapsed him into the grass. Macrae picked up the rifle and threw it at the base of a savanna tree. He drew his right eye down the sites at the young man lying in a small puddle of blood on the ground. “After a while kid,” he grinned, “killing becomes just this easy.”

      “CRACK!” The sound pierced through the trees. Macrae hit the ground and threw his head forward. “CRACK, crack, SNAP!” It was a concerto of shrill rustles and an offbeat of thrashing steps. He couldn’t see it, but his old experienced ears took over. The savanna was silent but for the scratching that lay ahead. The grass held itself straight and stiff. A long growling yawn echoed through the tall grass and the maze of bony trees. Macrae took long, soft breaths through his nose, smelling the air, his eyes fixed on the sounds coming from up ahead. Under the shady stripes of sunlight coming through the canopy, he began to crawl ahead. Jacky saw his chance and slowly pulled himself towards his rifle. The knock to the head really made it hard for him to orientate his direction.

      Macrae heard the low grunts behind a small cluster of prickly trees not far ahead. He kept his head and body completely hidden in the saw grass. The fly buzzing on and off his crusty ears and the thorns piercing their way into his skin did not even come to mind. The sweat ran down every square inch of his head, trickling down to his eyelashes. He refused to blink. By the time he could see to the other side of the tree cluster, his arms and face were scratched and cut from thorns, sticks, and the course blades of the dry grass. He didn’t even notice as he slowly lifted himself up to peer into the clearing ahead.

      A pair of lions, a male and his lioness, stretched their long figures on a bed of dry grass stalks, revealing four pairs of scuffed black claws. The female shrugged into her natural frame and sat up, displaying short golden fur in the light coming off the canopy. The thick brownish-red mane of the male outlined a broad snout, exposing two dangerous glassy eyes. Surrounding the deep black of its pupils gleamed hues of hazel. It shook its powerful head, making the long hairs dance about. From his spot deep in the grass facing the beasts, Macrae began to lift his rifle. The lioness yawned tiredly, scanning the horizon. She slowly licked her left front paw and gently trotted away, disappearing into the brush. He could only see the buck lying on the grass. Jacky sat still by the savanna; his vision was blurred and the blood continued to seep from the side of his head. He leaned his weight onto the Ballard rifle, but he couldn’t lift it. He faintly saw the small dark shadow of Macrae perched in the tall yellow grass.

      On his knees, Macrae positioned the butt tight into his shoulder. He had done this routine a thousand times before. The sweat was streaming down, stinging his eyes. He blinked several times to make it stop. It was hotter than usual, he thought. The tweet of a weaver bird in the trees echoed through his ears, and it really annoyed him. He gently reached up and took the safari hat from his head and placed it on the ground. He shifted his stance and brought the heavy rifle up to his shoulders. Softly laying his cheek inside the wooden crook above the trigger, he squinted down the barrel, and he took a long deep breath.

      A small snapping of twigs and leaves close by caught his attention. He turned his glance away from the buck across the action of the Ballard. In a blink, through the high thick stalks of grass emerged long fangs bared and wet and a pair of red eyes glaring right into his. It was the lioness! Macrae’s heart dropped and his entire body shivered; her monstrous head was only three feet away. His body locked, trembling. Dry and dusty he whispered, “Clever girl.”

      In an explosive roar, the lioness pounded her heavy body onto Macrae’s, mauling his skull with her fangs. He screamed, violently lashing his body up to the sky. Her claws ripped through his skin, spilling his intestines onto the dusty ground. Macrae’s last vision was the darkness in the slimy stench of her jaws. By the savanna tree, Jacky saw her tail waving over the vicious thrashing in the brush. He closed his eyes, throwing his hands over his ears. He could still hear Macrae shrieking and the snap of his bones.

      Still disoriented, Jacky couldn’t quite stand. He attempted to throw himself up to his feet, but instead he fell to his knees. He vomited and painfully crawled through the brush, his one hand latched to the bloody wound and the other wrapped around the action of his rifle. Starting to come around, he tried to bring himself to his feet again. From behind, a large claw slammed into the crook of his back, crushing him right into the grass. His arms flew forward and the gun tumbled out of his hand and into the thick brush. He turned his head to see the hairy red tinsels shining in the sunlight. The heavy claw slowly clenched into his spine and Jacky cried out in pain. He reached his arms out, trying to pull himself from the pressing grip towards the rifle. The gleam through the canopy filled his eyes and he took a deep breath. He gasped and stretched his arms as far as he could. The fangs crunched, sinking deep into the back of his neck and flinging Jacky’s head into the ground. He closed his eyes and all went dark.

Damn the Steelers — Web Only!

By: Jeremy Quintin ’14
Concept by Ernest Quintin

      A man and his wife are taking a vacation. They’re traveling across the East Coast, from Florida to New York, visiting some of the most spectacular and richest resorts advertised to the public. The trip itself has nearly reached its halfway point, and so far it has been the spitting image of a relaxing getaway.

      The couple had planned the trip to allow themselves an escape from reality, from the ever-accumulating struggles of their lives. The man’s endless job and the woman’s routine of nothing had grown nauseating for the two. She felt that they deserved a retreat from the confines of societal repetition, and the husband could not have agreed more. Having agreed to this, the wife meticulously planned out their voyage, ensuring a schedule that would keep them both on track and thoroughly entertained with events, attractions, and sightseeing, for which the husband readily provided his credit card. The two tell each other that the vacation has been nothing short of a godsend to their nerves.

      Today they’ve arrived at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where they’ve checked into an exceptionally grand hotel along the beachfront. They’re told by some of the brochures in the hotel that in the morning, the beach transforms into a glimmering stage for the sun’s first act of the day. An absolutely spectacular sight not to be missed when coming to this particular hotel. How nice, thinks the woman. The man thinks nothing of it.

      Arriving in the late afternoon, they’ve decided to take advantage of the fine dining services that their hotel provides for them. They situate themselves in their room and head down to the adjoining restaurant that faces away from the beach, providing a view of the sunset. They’ve chosen to eat outside today since the weather is so wonderful.

      Unfortunately, everyone else has had the same idea. As a result of the packed deck, the waiter is forced to take the couple to a table at the far end of the outdoor dining area, slightly around the corner of the hotel and just out of view of the other customers. Although somewhat frustrating, the position they’ve been given still provides a complete view of the sunset as well as a railing over which the hotel’s pool, fascinating with its architecturally unique design, can be seen quite easily. All things considered, the situation is excellent, regardless of the minor disappointment. In a way, the table functions much like a private booth.

      The woman wears a long, white dress, white heels, a sunhat on her head and sunglasses over her eyes. While waiting for their waiter, she stares off into the sun, her hand propping up her head. The man is dressed in a white button-down shirt and khaki pants. He can’t help but wonder, even with her sunglasses on, how can she stare off into the sun without burning her eyes? She wipes underneath her frames. Maybe she is burning them. He attempts to make small talk, and she obliges him for a few minutes.

      After a bit, the man notices that it’s been quite a while since the waiter has been to see them. So far, all they have on the table are two glasses of water and some silverware. He takes into consideration the other customers all waiting to be served, but he also thinks that the two of them might be so out of view as to be easily forgettable.

      Just as he’s about to point this out, an overweight man walks up to the couple and slams his hand down on the table, rattling the two out of their conversational trance. He is not the waiter.

      “Hello, fellas!” he says with a gruff voice that tickles the husband’s ears unpleasantly. He wears a white, stained t-shirt, jeans, and on his head rests a Steelers’ cap, his unkempt grey hair sticking out from under the edges. A heavy scent of smoke lingers over the man’s body, upsetting the wife’s sinuses. She leans back. He leans in.

      “Sir,” says the husband, “my wife and I have just sat down to eat in privacy. This is our table.”

      “Hey, how about them Steelers, eh? What a great game!” says the man, now bending over and gripping the table in excitement. “Boy, I tell yah, I ain’t ever seen anything like what they pulled off!”

      “Sir, I’m sorry, but I’m not a football fan,” says the husband, trying to hold his temper. “Now if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to be alone with my wife. You’ll have to go find somewhere else to be, or else I’ll have to ask someone to remove you.”

      Just as he finishes speaking, the man reaches for a steak knife in front of him and swings it into the air. He manages to knick the husband’s arm as he jumps from his seat. The man grabs the husband and holds up the knife to his jugular before he can shout for help. The woman drops her hands to the table. She does nothing else.

      “Listen,” says the Steelers’ fan, “here’s two dollars.” He pulls eight quarters out of his pocket and shoves them into the husband’s hand.

      “I want you to go find a newspaper dispenser, pick up a paper, read it, and come back here so we can talk about the Steelers. If you don’t come back in fifteen minutes, or if I see you talking with a cop, I’ll kill your wife. Understand?”

      The husband feels his hands shake, covered with a cold sweat, uncertain of what he should do. Out of the corner of his eye he catches his wife lower her own shaking hands from the table to her lap. He starts to look at her, but before they can make eye contact he quickly changes his mind, turns around, and walks back to the hotel’s entrance. The Steelers’ fan peers around the corner to watch.

      As the husband walks inside, he goes out of view for a second. Right when the Steelers’ fan is about to look away, he catches sight of the man through a window talking with what looks like the hotel’s security.

      When he sees this, he drops the knife, grabs the woman and throws her over the railing into the pool. She hits the water, which drains into her mouth as she instinctively gasps for air.

      He jumps in after her and holds her head under.

Morgantown, West Virginia Part II


      My mother drew me out of my memories as she went on with her story.

      “He was away for a long time,” she said. “I guess the company store didn’t have it. Or maybe he didn’t want to go there. No one was supposed to know this man was coming. Of course, everyone knew. They found out as soon as he drove up to our house. However that dinner went, Dad was inciting hate just by looking for another job, just for daring to hope. But I didn’t know that at the time. I thought that it all hinged on that one dinner. Maybe that’s why I remember it so well.”

      “Dad got back from the store with only a half-hour to get himself ready before this man arrived. The doorbell rang while he was still in the shower and my mother sent me upstairs to tell Dad while she answered the door. I ran into the bathroom, staying just long enough to blurt out the news before I ran back downstairs to see what the man looked like who had stirred up all this fuss.”

      She smiles and stares down at the wheel of the car. Never at me, though. Not once as she tells me all of this.

      “He was unremarkable, needless to say. Looking back, he probably heard me yelling at my father. You could hear everything in that house. The desperation was probably as tangible to him as the chair he sat in. That’s probably why your Grandpa got the job.”

      She’s silent then. She checks her makeup in the mirror and looks over at me for the first time, but I get the sense that the story isn’t over.

      “What happened at dinner, Mom?”

      She looks back out at our relatives by the cookhouse.

      “I’ll never understand why you think any of this matters,” she says, but she continues.

      “Dad came down with his face bright red; I could tell he’d been scrubbing it with the brush. Beet red, understand? But no dust. Then, at dinner, I saw the dust peeking up at his collar. He’d only scrubbed the skin that would be visible. I pushed my meat around and hoped no one would notice. Everything would be all right, he’d get the job and no one in town would know this man had passed through.

      “But when my father turned his head, the dust on his neck left a big, grey smudge on his white collar. The city man noticed, of course, and mentioned it. My father laughed it off, but once my mother diverted the conversation, he excused himself. I saw him go into the bathroom. He must have checked his collar, because when he came back he couldn’t meet the city man’s eyes and conversation didn’t flow the way it had before.”

      She’ll never admit it, but I can tell this moment meant something to my mother.

      My boyfriend, David, comes from money. His family is an old name in the District. You know the kind: wealth is as much a part of their genetic code as bone structure or eye color. My family was always comfortable. We had to watch what we spent, but we still had what my Politics of Identity class would call disposable income.

      David and I have been together for three years, but I can count on my hand the number of times he’s taken me home to see his family. The first time I met them was at a restaurant. We were late, so his parents had already ordered for us. They asked all the typical questions I had expected: what I majored in and how David and I met.

      (The answer: history and at a Halloween party. He was Gatsby and I was a flapper, but I told him that I was dressed as Daisy, just to get his attention).

      I was saved from having to answer where I was from by the food arriving. Whenever someone asks me that, I always wonder how I should answer.

      The truth would sound something like this: Where I’m from? Well if you’re asking where I grew up, that would be Falls Church, near the east Metro stop. Family lineage is more complicated. My mother’s family were all coal miners in West Virginia, but my grandfather fled as soon as he could. My father, from Florida — the part that’s actually Southern, not the places that are basically just retirement communities.

      So you see, where I’m from depends on whom you ask. I’m Southern as far as the Civil War and Southern Living magazine are concerned, but you’ll never hear Florida belles lump themselves in with the hill folk.

      And if you consider that when someone like David’s mother asks you where you’re from, what they really want to know is your pedigree, then the answer becomes even more confusing: To the family we ran from, we’re traitors. To Oprah, we might be an inspiration. So, I’m sorry that I can’t give you a straight answer, Mrs. Marshall, but in all honesty, the jury’s out on whether I come from a family you could liken to Benedict Arnold or one that embodies the American Dream.

      So I was happy to be saved from that, until I saw what was on the plate in front of me. It looked like a steak, until I tried to cut into it. I kept hitting what felt like bone and when I tried to scrape the meat away, all I got were little slivers. I looked up to try and see what David was doing with his and saw his parents staring at me.

      “You’ve never eaten osso bucco before, have you, dear?”

      No Mrs. Marshall, oxtail isn’t usually something that graces the dinner tables of riffraff.

      “David, help her cut it,” she said and David leaned forward and cut my meat like I was a child.

      I have just been accepted to graduate school at UVA for history. I have attended entire lectures where I’ve listened to professors argue that most heritage and identity is imagined and just as subject to change across generations as our interpretations of history are. In layman’s terms, that means that what happened to me at that dinner shouldn’t have been a big deal. But knowing what I do doesn’t make the sense of shame and embarrassment I felt go away anymore than it made David comfortable bringing me home to his family after that.

      My mother taps me on the shoulder and hands me her room key.

      “I’m driving back,” she says. “You and Carolyn check out whenever you want to.”

      I tell Mom I’ll see her at home. We all agreed to drive back to Northern Virginia where Carolyn and I would stay for the rest of the week before heading back north. I kiss Mom on the cheek before I get out of the car. As usual, she gives no acknowledgement and drives away without even saying goodbye.

      I turn back toward the cookhouse and see all the women come out with their huge tins of food and set them on the tables.

      After making myself a plate, I wander out to the edge of Bernard’s property to the river I recall from my memories. I sit on the hill and stare down at the sliver of water that somehow seemed bigger to me as a child.

      I think of my grandfather, who is, of course, the reason I am here. I can’t remember much about him. I saw him on every major holiday from the time I was a kid, but less and less once I had started college. The first night after Mom called to tell me that he had died, I cried, and David acted like he was supposed to: he held me and said things I can’t remember now. But since then? Nothing. It scares me that someone I should be so close to can drift so far away from me that when I lose them completely, I barely feel anything at all.

      I look back and see Carolyn teetering towards me, softly cursing as her heels sink into the grass and she has to pull them back out again. I turn back towards the creek, imagining the two of us making that fort when we were little. I don’t emerge from my daydream until I can sense her sitting next to me, setting her plate and a bottle of beer between us.

      “God!” she says, as she takes a swig. “I need to drink to be with these people.”

      “Then why did you come?” I ask her.

      “Well, he was our grandfather.”

      “He did a lot for us,” I say.

      “I know that!” she snaps.

      We sit in silence for a while, staring at the river.

      “Do you remember when we used to play in this water?” I ask her.

      “I remember the fuckers who threw cherry bombs at us,” she answers.

      “I still have that scar on my back from where one hit me.”

      “I know. I see it every time you wear a bathing suit. It looks like a knot in your skin.”

      Another silence.

      “So how are you and Josh?” I ask.

      “Don’t talk to me about Josh.”

      “He’s good to you.”

      “Well, are you my sister or his?”


      “And David?”

      “All right, I guess. I don’t really know where I’m going with him.”

      She doesn’t know how to respond to this, so I start again.

      “Hey Carolyn, do you ever wonder how we’d be different if Grandpa had stayed here?” I ask.

      “Sure, I was thinking about that when I met Connie Stokes and her three kids. It’s scary isn’t it?”

      “I don’t know. I’m just thinking, here’s an entire side of the family that we’ve never really known and…I don’t know. I’m wondering what else I’m missing out on.”

      Carolyn looks at me, confused.

      “Would you want to live like this? Jesus, I can’t imagine it. Grandpa did us a favor. Three kids and she’s only twenty-one. I can’t imagine. I don’t even like kids.”

      “No, I mean…it feels weird, you know. We have a whole side of family and history that we don’t even know about.”

      “I don’t think there’s much to find out.”

      “Come on Carolyn, that’s Mom talking, don’t buy into that crap. There’s plenty to know.”

      Carolyn keeps staring at me to the point where it makes me uncomfortable. I can tell she’s waiting for me to say something but I don’t know what to tell her.

      “What do you hope to find out?” she finally asks.

      I don’t even know how to describe it to her.

      I have a friend named Amelia at school. Her entire family is Italian and when she goes out with a boy, she’ll never think of him in any serious way unless he is Italian too.

      She’ll attribute so many of her quirks or beliefs to being Italian, as if that explains everything, and every time she meets someone who turns out to be Italian as well she can talk to them for hours, doesn’t matter who they are.

      But I can’t point to anything like this. I have no community to return to or heritage to hearken back to. Amelia seems to derive so much sense of self from being Italian, but I have no similar compass to guide me, no people I belong to.

      I think of people like David’s mother, who fish for a pedigree I don’t possess. I wonder what such people think of me, or if I register at all without such a lineage. How do I explain to them that when you start over and try for something better, that that sometimes means leaving everything behind, even your history? How do you tell someone who can trace their ancestry back to the drafters of the Constitution, what it is like to feel as though you have just appeared? I can’t imagine that they would understand, but when you come from nothing, that’s what you also feel you’re headed towards.

      This is the question I ponder, but will never pose to Carolyn as we sit by the water: How do I know where I’m going, if I don’t even know where I’m from?

      I agree to drive back, since Carolyn got us here. As we drive in silence through the hills toward home, I stare out at the land passing us by and remember something my grandfather said to me years ago. It certainly isn’t my fondest memory of him, and really, in the scheme of my life or his, it probably isn’t anything important. But it’s all he ever said to me about this place I’m about to leave and will probably never return to.

      It was the summer after my junior year in high school, during a private conversation we were having about colleges that I wanted to apply to in the fall. Somewhere between my mention of Syracuse and Emerson, he asked me if I’d given any thought at all to West Virginia University, where he had taken night classes over 50 years before. I confessed that I hadn’t given it any thought at all. I didn’t tell him that to me, West Virginia seemed like a barren wasteland, full of nothing but hicks and mines and forests.

      My grandfather just nodded and told me he’d thought as much. But then he said something that I didn’t know what to make of, then or now.

      “It’s a shame, you know. Everyone’s leaving. It’s a dying place. When I was young, the youths were just starting to realize that there was nothing there for them, unless they wanted to go to the mine. So they started to leave. I left too. I never had any particular loyalty to that place either. But it calls to me, now that I’m older. And it seems sad to me that soon it won’t even be a place I could go back to, if I ever felt the need.”

Lingnan University – Web Only!

By: J. Preston Hildebrand ’12

Honk Kong Skyline

The Hong Kong skyline from the other side of the harbor, at the top of The Peak.

Temple in Shanghai

Temple in Shanghai we randomly found. We were very lost at the time.


While in Shanghai, I had to find the “best” Shanghai-style dumplings. Turns out they were in a Taiwanese restaurant housed in a mall built by a Hong Kong developer.


A picture of me in Busan, South Korea.

Great Wall of China

Me atop of the Great Wall of China.