Archives

Editor's Desk

Editor’s Note

Our October issue centered on the theme “Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast,” the idea being that we would focus on different kinds of adventures and adventuring. After the issue was published, I learned that one of the pieces in the issue, which dealt with personal struggle, could be seen as offensive or hurtful in the aftermath of the recent student suicide on campus. This reading of the text was not one that either the author or the editorial staff anticipated. But, the possibility of this interpretation is important and connects well to the theme of our current issue, “Perspective.”

The associations that a reader may bring to a literary work are often different than those that the author intends or imagines for the piece. Often, when readers’ lives have been shaken, their states of mind or points of view alter, leaving them open to make new discoveries in a work of art. Sometimes we are glad for the change and the fresh perspective that life can bring and sometimes not. Either way, a new point of view impacts the way we interpret what we read.

For instance, in my family, we have an annual ritual of reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol out loud. Each year, as I listen to the familiar story, I find myself connecting to different characters and responding strongly to new scenes. Some years, I am most taken with the Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge’s joy at seeing old Mr. Fezziwig. Other years, I reflect on poor Marley’s ghost and the torment that regret causes. One year, when my father was in Afghanistan, I focused most on the suffering of the Crachit family and the comfort offered by Tiny Tim’s hopeful cheer. My emotional state impacted which part of the story I focused on, and at the same time, the story itself influenced my perspective on my father’s absence. The power of Dickens’ story to offer many layers of meaning and my ability to hear A Christmas Carol with fresh ears each year is what makes our family tradition so valuable.

We can turn to literature and find an explanation, some comfort, or a challenge to our way of thinking. For me, this is what makes literature worthwhile. In the November issue of The Collegian, our authors have examined the way particular viewpoints and dispositions inform both a reader’s and a narrator’s perspective. I invite you to read the following pieces today and again a year from now. Your perspective may shift in the interim, allowing you to discover subtle nuances and greater meaning that escaped your notice the first time through.

Cheers,

Aileen Gray

The Charm City Circulator

by Kaitlyn Fowler

Pulls up to my windy stop
Purple, green, and white; a giant
Streamlined Barney bus.
Hey, “it’s fast, it’s efficient, and it’s free!”
Whoopee.
But it has a schedule, and schedules
Can be a bit…
Inconvenient.
So thinks the man in the North Face jacket
Who runs up to the stop,
Coarse black ‘fro bouncing along with his goatee,
Waving at the driver,
Too nice to slam his open palm on the glossy new
Paint
Of the bus.
The CCC slows for a second, but the clock ticks—
Off they go, leaving the man, his goatee,
And his North Face jacket
Behind.
“Hey!” he shouts. Sighs.
Pulls out his antiquated phone.
“Naw, I missed it.” His voice calls out, as if the person were
A million miles away.
Maybe they are. But I’m only a few feet away, sitting behind him,
Where he doesn’t think to
Look.
9:01am

Murderer

by Kasey Jones

It is inevitable
that bugs find a way in.
A brave brown one
dares to crawl up
the white wood
of my bed, lured
by the sweet strawberry stain
left from snacking.
When I go at it
with a book,
it springs like a small
pogo stick
a quarter of an inch
into the air.
I shoo it off my bed,
slapping and crushing him
on the paneled floor.
Yes, him.
Because something automatically
seems more alive,
becomes more personal,
when you’ve killed it.
Red bug juice spurts,
spreads in a messy pattern,
antennae torn from his head,
a broken crown.
And a small piece,
something inside
his tiny bug body
leaps one last time.

Wrong-handed

by Kasey Jones

In kindergarten,
my teacher—black hair
cropped and spiked,
maroon lips smiling—
tried to make me write
right-handed.
Left was wrong.
I knew from an early age
that I was wrong.
In my awkward right palm
I grasped a yellow pencil
with a bubble gum pink eraser,
not so sweet
when a mistake was made.
In my fingers:
a small, cube-like blue gripper
with dimples on all four sides.
Even with this device,
I couldn’t write past ‘A’
in the cruel alphabet.

Now, I’m still wrong.
But I’m not the only one.
Lefties are always surprised
by the discovery of another member
of the minority,
some pleased, some taken aback.
Yet I still cannot forget
that small piece of prejudice present
in a colorful, cheerios-smelling classroom.
I think about living
in a world of robotic righties,
corrected for using
the hand of the devil.

Overheard

by Kasey Jones

I like to eavesdrop
on people speaking too loudly
on the beach,
not realizing that the salty wind
carries their voices.
They sit too close anyway.
And as I’m trying to drift off,
with dreamsicle-scented sunscreen
and the sun on my back,
a bundle of conversation
pricks my ears,
clinging like grains of sand
to wet skin.
A wife is arguing
with her husband about his smoking.
You promised only one this morning.
Can we stick to that?
Okay, he agrees.

Their teenage daughter sits between them.

It’s vacation.
It’s not like your mother’s here.
Then, I could see why you’d smoke,
the wife continues.
This dig hurts him.
I can feel the weight
behind his strained sigh.
I don’t blame this man
for his stress.
With this wife,
I think I’d smoke too,
a big, fat, flavorful cigar.
I can’t help but wonder
if this is one of those vacations
meant to salvage a marriage.
A nagging wife,
her pushover husband,
and their silent daughter.
She closes a book,
on the same page as an hour before,
then, standing slowly
she walks down
to the choppy water.

Get ready for bed aerobics

by Alex Vidiani

Look at the wall, think of eyes closing,
eyelids made of lead, colors dropping. Wait
30 min for full effect. Once closed,
imagine instruments of torture,

exposed wrists, blue lines too close
to the surface, like victims in a
slasher flick. Open eyes once per min
for another 2 hours before trying again.

Turn lights off thenbackonand-
breathe like you out-swam Jaws.
Turn music on, remember you hate screeching
violins, forget you hate dead silence more.

Anna Baldwin

Moses Goodreau nd The Matter of The False Idol – Part II: A Stranger Calls

By Harris Allgeier

September 18th, 6PM, 13 days ago.

Everything seemed to slow down. Moses felt the adrenaline rush through his veins and his body went rigid. The small balding man prodding the pistol into his side pushed the metal tip of the firearm in further.

“I hope you’re not thinking of attempting anything foolish, Mr. Goodreau.” Moses gritted his teeth, exhaled and forced his tensed shoulders to drop.

“Who the hell are you?” The balding man kept the gun trained on Moses and went through his pockets, patting him down. Satisfied that Moses wasn’t packing heat, he withdrew the gun from Moses’ side, but kept it level with his head.

“Awfully brave to be asking questions at a time like this, Mr. Goodreau.” The bald man smiled. “But I respect that, to a degree.” He spoke with a thick Eastern-European accent. Something from the Balkans, possibly the Ukraine. “My name is Yuri, but that is not important. You are being taken somewhere. Where is also unimportant.”

“You’re pretty big on useless information, buddy. You wanna tell me anything worth my while? Maybe why you’re holding that piece on me?”

Yuri tilted his head to the side and chuckled, a singular guttural “ha” passing out the side of his mouth. Moses took a moment to size him up. He was short, maybe 5’4, but stocky and barrel-chested. He wore a tight-fitting button up that was in dire need of a wash and smelled of wet earth. His age was hard to discern; he had a thick, worn face, and the flesh under his eyelids drooped into two sets of wrinkles that exposed the pink gummy tissue surrounding the eye. As Moses sized him up, Yuri tilted his head to the left and muttered to the driver—something in a language Moses didn’t understand.

“Ako dlho?”

The driver curtly responded “Pätnásť. Zabaľte ho.”

Moses said nothing and watched as Yuri reached down to the floor of the car and produced a brown burlap sack.

“Mr. Goodreau, if you please.” He said, tossing the sack to Moses and gesturing. Moses slid the sack over his head. It smelled of cold damp dirt. He didn’t have much choice. He waited. Time slid by. Passing light filtered through the thick burlap weave. The smell of wetness, of soil, smothered Moses’ senses. They passed through a tunnel.  After an hour or so he felt the car stop. He started to shift in the seat, tugging on the sack. The sharp jab in his side let him know Yuri wasn’t too fond of the idea.

“Patience, Mr. Goodreau. A few moments longer.”

Moses grunted in assent as he felt himself being tugged from the car. He heard the crunch of gravel. Smelled musty earth. He felt himself pass through a doorway, then another. Several. He couldn’t tell how many. Suddenly he was very warm, his sweat making the bag cling to his neck. Moses wished he’d put on deodorant. Then the pushing stopped. He felt carpet beneath his shoes. A door creaked open, obscuring the muttering of one of the thugs. Then he heard the voice.

“By no means, by no means at all, my friend.”

It was a rich, lustrous baritone with a faint English accent. It reminded Moses of red velvet-backed chairs, roaring fireplaces, and large decanters of port. The voice spoke again:

“Take it off then, take it off.”

The sack was torn from Moses’ head. He squinted. The blinding fluorescent light illuminated a tall, thin figure standing behind a desk. As the room drifted into focus the figure became clearer. The man was draped in an ill-fitting dark blue suit. Moses had expected someone larger, a tubby man with a cigar and a cummerbund. The man before him was a good deal over six feet with greasy black hair plastered to a pale forehead. His suit hung off him like a wet towel.

Moses’ examination was disrupted by a heave of the thin man’s chest.

“Mr. Goodreau,” he began, “I suppose you’re wondering why you’ve been brought here.”

“May have crossed my mind,” Moses replied, narrowing his eyes and chewing his lip.

“It will be explained in good time, in good time, my friend. First allow me to introduce myself. My name is Oliver.”

“Is it now?” Moses sneered.

“Of course not, Mr. Goodreau. But we must have something to call each other now, mustn’t we?”

“Now look here, buddy, Mr…”

“Oliver,” Oliver chimed in.

“Oliver. Be straight with me. What’s this about? We can sit here and use false names and beat around the bush all damn night or you can cut to the chase and let me know what you want and we can start to do business.”

“Ah! Right to the heart of the matter!” Oliver blustered. “An admirable trait. And business is exactly what I would like to do with you. Your reputation as a man of… commerce precedes you.”

“Uh huh. I’m sure it does. So what do you want?” Moses spat.

            “Ah yes.” The thin man dragged a hand across a desk, picked up a small manila folder, licked his lips, and drew out a faded photograph. “You recently entered into the employ of one Chelsea Hopkins, correct?”

            “Why ask questions you already seem to know the answer to?” Moses tersely replied.

            “Because, in any business relationship it is important to establish trust, Mr. Goodreau. I need to know if you’re being forthright with me.” Moses took a deep breath, ground his teeth and set his jaw.

            “And the business of my clients is confidential,” Moses said, rising from the chair.

 No sooner had he reached his feet than he heard a “click”. He glanced over his shoulder; Yuri was standing a few feet behind him, the too familiar pistol pointed at his back.

            “Mr. Goodreau, please be reasonable,” Oliver said, spreading his palms open. “I think we can dispense with formalities.” Moses advanced towards the desk, heard Yuri quickly step up behind him, and felt the heavy breath on his neck as the pistol once again jammed itself into his ribcage. Oliver quickly waved his hand.

            “YURI!” he spat, his eyes widening. “Yuri please, there’s no need for violence. Mr. Goodreau will behave himself.”

            “No guarantees.” Moses said.  Yuri jammed the gun further into his side.

            “There is nothing stopping me from putting a bullet in your side, wise ass,” Yuri hissed. “You want to know what it’s like to feel your intestines empty right onto the floor?” He jabbed Moses again. Oliver stepped around the side of the desk. Yuri withdrew the gun and backed away into a dark corner of the room.

            “Yuri, please. Mr. Goodreau, we seem to have started off on the wrong foot. Allow me to get to the point.  You accepted a job offer from one Chelsea Hopkins to investigate the recent activities of Mr. Gibson Culver. I have a very vested interest in Mr. Culver and I would appreciate it greatly if-“

            “If I saw myself out?” Moses interjected. “And exactly how much would you appreciate that, monetarily speaking?”

            Oliver paused, raised a single eyebrow and let out a long, hollow chuckle. The sound seemed to emanate not from Oliver himself, but from something somewhere deep within his chest, something rich and raspy, something grotesquely secret.

            “Oh Mr. Moses, you misunderstand entirely. I do not wish you to abandon your current investigation. Quite the contrary. I would like to help you pursue it.”

“Excuse me?” Moses queried.

“Simply put, I, like Ms. Hopkins, have a considerable interest in Mr. Culver’s activities and I believe it would be beneficial to have someone looking after that interest for me.” Moses cracked his knuckles and bit his cheek. Suddenly with a quick, frustrated swing he brought his fist down on the metal desk.

“Mr. Oliver, I’ve had it just about up to here. I’ve been poked, prodded, kidnapped and threatened and I am finished with it. I’m finished blundering around in the dark waiting for you to get straight with me. But you won’t. You play coy and you let your little Slavic friend take pokes at me and I won’t have it. Either you can tell me what’s going on or you can shoot me, but I’m done with this dance so either learn a new step or find yourself another partner.”

“Mr. Goodreau! I am trying to be as straightforward as-”

“Try harder.” Moses said.

Oliver paused, thought something over and began again.

“Mr. Goodreau, Ms. Hopkins presented herself to you as Mr. Culver’s fiancé, yes?” Moses said nothing.

“Of course she did. There’s no need for your affirmation, I know this is how she presented herself. Well, Mr. Goodreau, would it surprise you at all to learn that is not the case? That in reality Ms. Hopkins and Mr. Culver have been apart for quite a few months now.”

“You don’t say?” Moses flatly replied.

“I do, I do say. The fact is that Ms. Hopkins’ interests are very similar to my own, and that neither she, nor I, have any great concern for Mr. Culver’s well-being.”

“And how, exactly, do you know this?” Moses asked.

Oliver chuckled. “Do you really think you are the first agent Ms. Hopkins has attempted to employ? The first person I’ve regrettably been forced to intercept?” Moses said nothing. Oliver waited a few moments for a response, shrugged and continued. “You are, by my count, at least the third person Ms. Hopkins has used to try to reach Mr. Culver.”

“In order to do what?” Moses tersely asked.

“Mr. Goodreau, I realize my vagueness is frustrating but believe me, it is better for both of us—better for you—if you know as little as possible. Suffice to say, Mr. Culver has come into possession of something that isn’t his, something that is mine. Something with a great deal of personal value that Ms. Hopkins would have for herself. This I cannot allow.” Moses said nothing. Oliver waited, again anticipating a question. “The object in question is an old family heirloom of mine. It is an idol, a small wooden statuette, an exaggerated bust of a man representing Ca’ius, an ancient pagan god of some nominal power.”

Moses smiled.

“What is this, a Bogart movie?”

“I’m highly aware of the… peculiar nature of my problem, Mr. Goodreau.”

“So why me? Why not just leave me alone? I don’t have anything you want, I didn’t know jack about this idol beforehand and I sure don’t know anything else about it now. I’m not even sure there is one. All I did was meet a woman and accept a job. That’s no reason for you to swoop in and abduct me.”

“True, we may have acted prematurely, but after… well, after the last two times, I thought it was better to act early and, you know, better safe than sorry and all that.”

“Better safe than sorry for what?”

“Mr. Goodreau,” Oliver began “Ms. Hopkins is not who she purports herself to be. She is a dangerous woman and merely by associating with her you have placed yourself in a greater amount of jeopardy than you could imagine. This idol, this thing, is very valuable to me. To me, and no one else. It has no market value. It is a personal possession and Ms. Hopkins seeks to obtain it only to do me a great sleight. You are known as a man of reason, a man who gets the job done and a man who can be bargained with. Your current status is of use to me. You have, if not Ms. Hopkins’ trust, then at least a marginal amount of her confidence, and that is worth its weight in gold. I will pay you double whatever Ms. Hopkins has offered and she need not know of your involvement with me at all. I want you to find Gibson Culver and discover his activities of late. Your reward will be handsome.”

“I see.” Moses said contemplatively.

“Now I would hate to have to resort to anything resembling violence, Mr. Goodreau, it’s really not my way, but if necessary Yuri here can be a very persuasive individual.” Moses looked over his shoulder. Yuri grinned in the corner.

“I think we may be able to do business, Mr. Oliver.”

“Splendid, Mr. Goodreau, splendid.”

Moses narrowed his eyes. “Only I’ll be taking my cut out of whatever that idol’s worth. You can tell me now or I can find out myself when I have it, but either way I know this payday has to be much larger than anything the Hopkins girl promised.”

Oliver smiled. “Of course, Mr. Goodreau. Very astute of you. The idol is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of five million dollars. Of course it could never be sold for that amount, it’s not exactly…” he paused searching for an elusive word, failing, he continued. “Well, suffice to say I think that two hundred thousand should cover it nicely.”

            “Better make it five,” Moses coolly replied.

            “Four,” said Oliver. “And need I remind you, Mr. Goodreau, that you are not in a terribly strong negotiating position here.”

            “Fine,” Moses smirked. “Four it is. So what do you want me to do?”

            “Find Mr. Culver, use Ms. Hopkins to get to him, pump her for whatever she can give you and when you’re sure of where he has stashed the idol, tell me before you tell her.” Oliver paused and smiled. “I think this will be a very profitable endeavor for us both. Now, if you don’t mind…Yuri, please show Mr. Goodreau out.

            The sack was pulled once more over Moses’ head and he was tugged out the door. In the background he heard something close, a briefcase maybe, and the wind howled outside.

Moses felt himself pushed back up a familiar path; he heard the doors swing open and shut. He waited and counted. One. Two. Three. As he reached four, Moses hit the step he knew was there and fell forward onto the gravel drive outside the building they’d emerged from. He heard Yuri and the other man yell something as he crumpled to the ground. He tensed his muscles, thought about his odds and waited. As soon as he felt a hand on his coat he reached down and grabbed a big fistful of cold wet pebbles and threw it. A sharp yell let him know he’d connected with something. He scrambled to his feet and tore the sack off his head. His eyes barely registered a large industrial building, fluorescent outdoor lamps illuminating the outline of a man rubbing his eyes with one hand, waving a gun erratically with the other and shouting while a darker, larger shape barreled towards him. Moses turned and ran. He could hear the man behind him screaming, the rapid crunching of two sets of feet blistering along the gravel drive as he delved deeper into the night, sprinting as fast as his legs would allow away from the light, away from the man waving the gun. He saw a fence, about sixty feet ahead, a small chain link barrier between him and a dense looking wood. He heard a bang, more yelling, this time more distant. He poured on as much speed as he had left. He was at the fence. He glanced over his shoulder. The dark shape was there, rushing towards him. A few feet behind it, the one with the gun jogged, arm extended, the barrel of the gun haplessly drifting like an errant moth. Moses gripped the fence, felt the cold metal dig into his palms and hoisted himself over. He stopped looking back and ran. He ran and ran and ran. He didn’t stop till he was well within the adjacent wood. The dark shapes, Yuri and the driver, were nowhere to be seen.

September 13th, 10 PM, 13 days ago.

Moses had found his way to a main road, Buckland Dr., and hailed a cab. He made a note of the street but doubted that a return would accomplish much. If the man Oliver had any brains he’d be long gone by the time Moses could get around to coming back. Moses took out his phone, an older model, and checked his messages. Five text messages and two calls, both from Janine. He ignored them and let the cab weave its way back into the city, listlessly watching the streams of traffic lights and billboards as the yellow car weaved its way into the densely beating heart of the city at night.

By the time he reached Janine’s apartment, Moses’ head was spinning. There wasn’t much he could do but pick up where he’d left off, but that’d have to wait till morning. As he trudged through the entryway he shed his coat, letting the gabardine grey thing fall to the floor. The cat would doubtlessly roll in it and Janine would almost certainly complain about his messy habits in the morning, but Moses was tired. Only as he made his way into the hall did he notice the smell.

It was sharp and tangy at first, then sour and rotten. Moses recognized it instantly and burst into a run toward the bedroom.

He screamed “JANINE!” as he threw the door open. The smell was thicker, deeper here and it almost suffocated Moses as he stepped into the room. He closed his throat as tightly as he could manage to keep the welling bile in his stomach down. He heard a nauseating squelch; there was a sticky pool at his feet. Moses fumbled for the light switch. As light flooded the room Moses clutched his chest, desperate to stop the emergence of swiftly rising vomit.

The cat was dead.

Good thing he hadn’t fed it.
_____

A few hours and several containers of bleach later Moses had extracted the feline’s remains from the apartment. Janine wasn’t responding to his calls or messages. He searched frantically for a note, turning over furniture, appliances, everything. There was nothing. No note, no obvious clue, no convenient matchbook or business card left behind. Terror welled within his chest. Memories of Janine, regrets, a thousand might-have-beens played across his brain in fast-forward. Moses sunk to the floor and thought over what to tell the police. His phone rang. He answered.

“Moses Goodreau?” The voice was unfamiliar, trembling, male.

“Yes.”

“I have her, I have the girl.”

There was silence. Moses’s face burned, his hand clenched the phone tightly.

“Who are you?” There was a pause. Moses heard heavy breathing. He repeated, louder “Who are you?” Silence. Moses shouted “What do you want?!”

The man spoke. “Tomorrow, 11 PM. Mulburnt Park. The first bench near the restrooms. Be there and bring the idol.

“What?” Moses exclaimed. “I don’t have the-” Moses heard a distinctive click. Silence. The call was ended. Moses slammed his fist into the floor. A new wave of sickness washed over him. He grabbed his coat and stormed outside.

He wouldn’t sleep much that night.

To be continued in Moses Goodreau and the Matter of the False Idol: Part 3

Drawing by Anna Baldwin

I heart chaos

by Alex Vidiani

The sirens sound. Ants march
on the capital, hands in their pockets.
They never miss a beat, feel the heat
of their 190-proofs with the cloths jammed in.

Smoke blossoms but they’re not blinded,
mind it, they know just where to find it:
this gold, this treasure, this right
said might they carry in their hands.

Pockets laden down, they return
to their ant-hills, safe havens. But
the fire spreads, always spreads
til they’re caught in its web.

Even if the fire was self-started,
the capitol wants the hills to burn.