The Cedarville Review 2023


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Volume 23, 2023 Cedarville University 251 N Main Street, Cedarville, Ohio 45314

Table of Contents IV Quiet by Abigail Moore 03 Madelaine L B Smith 01 foreword vi 01 ceramics 03 poetry The Fugitive for Mississippi by Meghan Wells 04 Rachael Mahaffey 02 Moonseed by Rachel Crane 05 Little Things by Rachel Noe 06 An Artist’s Perspective by Justin Kemp 07 Raft by Grace Thornsbury 09 To-Do by Anastasia Cook 11

V 13 fiction 33 nonfiction Funeral by Justin Kemp 15 Gratiam by Haley Kollstedt 35 Westminster Catechisms by Abigail Moore 18 Elternteil by Justin Kemp 37 Deadwinter by Corrissa Smith 13 Midging by Anastasia Cook 33 The Dealer by Benjamin Konuch 19 Prayer Circle Perturbation by Gabrielle Utrie 39 Safety in Stone by Emily Vest 29 His Favorite Name by Ellie Adams 42 Blacktop by Alayna Drollinger 44 Sea-Glass Knives by Corrissa Smith 45 On Desquamation by Alayna Drollinger 46

FOREWORD Welcome to the 2023 edition of The Cedarville Review! Many students and faculty have worked hard all year to bring this book into being: writing, reading, and revising; painting, polishing, and designing; and pouring their time and passion into creating a print copy. Hopefully this work will be one that lasts for decades, a Cedarville souvenir sitting upon your shelf, bearing wrinkled pages and annotations of student craft. The students who published their pieces here drew from their God-given gifts and followed His suit to create. In the Bible, God commanded His creation to work. He fashioned Eden to be unfinished, inviting mankind to complete His good work: to keep the garden, to give the animals names, to explore the world He made. Being stamped with God’s image, we craft beautiful things, sow thinking-seeds, and steward the words He gifted us, all the while glorifying Him. Think of the following poems and prose as proof God made us in His image. He is The Creator; we, His creation, are creators. Yet, God also commanded His creation to rest. On the seventh day, our Creator set down His work as a sample for how we should live. We should do the same. How easy it is for us as students and teachers and professionals to drown in our calendars and planners and to-do lists. How often we forget to enjoy the big and small ways God has blessed us. As you read this edition of The Cedarville Review, give thanks for the breath in your lungs. The weight of a book in your hand. The pause of peace to read. The ability to appreciate art, verse, fiction, and nonfiction. This is God’s gift to man: to take pleasure in our toil. Whether you worked on this edition or just took time to enjoy it, know that you bear God’s image and, as a result, both create and enjoy creation. We hope these stories and art inspire your work and remind you to rest and encourage you as you reflect on your identity in God. Your life, abilities, and time are but gifts you steward in this life to glorify God and draw closer to Him. As you read and rest and write—because you’re not done yet—steward well and look to your Creator. VI

VII Ghosts of Eastern State Penitentiary by Maxwell Bubnis

01 Good Luck—You Don’t Need It by Madelaine L B Smith Good Luck—You Don’t Need It is a functionalceramic tea set. This piece was inspired by the work of Mariana Baquero, and her use of text in ceramics. It was made using stoneware and fired to Cone 10. The writing that spans the set is from a letter given to the artist by her father before she started her freshman year at Cedarville University. CERAMICS

02 The Emotional Mug Series by Rachael Mahaffey This series is based on the idea that ceramic pieces convey a sense of humanity with their form from the way each element is named (foot, hip, lip, etc.) to how they are described (receptive, expressive, sympathetic, bold etc.). Understanding Mug Understanding Mug is a ceramic piece that is part of the emotional mug series. The goal of this project was to create a mug that exemplified the word understanding. The main elements that make this mug understanding are the soft rounded body, the scholarly draping of cloth, and the ear-shaped, receptive-looking handle. Proud Mug Proud Mug is a ceramic piece that is part of the emotional mug series. The goal of this project was to create a mug that exemplified the word proud. The main elements that make this mug proud are its puffed-up chest-like form, with a very vain draping of cloth, and a strong, almost stuck-up nose kind of handle.

03 Quiet by Abigail Moore Dead space at the end of a CD— Intrusive thought, Glimmering glance of guillotine gasoline. Snap Back Home. Tune it out. Track one — repeat. POETRY

04 The lad, plaid-clad and mud-spattered, reads Twain, huddled on a bench under the sputtering porch-light, aching from raking hay from sunrise to setting, feeding his grandfather’s Holsteins. An orphan, glaze-eyed and dip-mouthed. The boy mutters, “Huckleberry, Huckleberry…” Juices dribble to the dimple on his chin. If Grandpa wakes to catch me flipping pages and chewing chaw… He shudders. Tucking the book into bushes by the porch-step, he plunges into the woods. Robed in night, Nature groans like his grandfather after supper, its voice creaking over the heads of dulled pines, muted oaks, and damp maples. These trees crack their branches like the fingers of ancient patrons, reminiscing centuries. If only to startle them… Sucking in moist breaths of moss, lichen, and clouded North Star, he pounds through the leaves, scattering them like rustling spirits in a cemetery, awakening the katydids with his calloused feet, yodeling down Little Dipper to drench the trees, outrunning Orion and orphanage, sprinting away from the sunrise, flailing for Mississippi. If he catches me— The Fugitive for Mississippi by Meghan Wells

05 Moonseed by Rachel Crane I saw some grapes by the bank, Bluish-black on a twining vine. Teacher told me not to partake. The dangling delectables with hungering exterior enticed me. My mouth watered for a taste. Wasn’t my fault I wanted them. I grabbed a grape and ate it, grinned at Teacher’s gasp. My teeth pierced the fruit’s flesh, juice oozed off my chin, but the seed-blade stabbed me back. Down it traveled, tearing, torturing, conquering, cutting— mutual piercing from our duel. The fruit bested me.

06 Little Things by Rachel Noe Rediscover the Beauty in little things like You did as a child.

07 An Artist’s Perspective by Justin Kemp

08 Where rabbits traipse overgrown paths and foxes flit between leaf masses walks an Artist beneath the trees. Burnt orange hope now molding crunches beneath his boots. “Too damp… too ugly,” he mutters, kicking aside fistfuls which fell onto the path he forages in want of wild inspiration. When he comes to a rock iceberging from the earth, The Artist halts his aimless wander. A glance up to the trees from whence leaves like gold flutter. If only he could touch them before they’re soured by their tumbling descent to earth. “Ah! Of course!” The Artist reaches, cradles a leaf fragment in his palm before it can join the decay beneath his boots. Though cast off to survive the throes of winter— the leaf, caught before becoming yet another dead thing, retains dignity, beauty in his hand. A breeze snatches the leaf into its stream. What once adorned the greatest of trees, can yet reenter that golden haze.

09 Raft by Grace Thornsbury

10 With strands of promises I roped these logs together, fashioning endurance out of trees you planted for me to eat from. I set sail into darkness, only afloat by grace, or faith, or physics. Here in the wind, I fancy my raft could be a spaceship on this opaque night. I’m free-floating between the Leviathan pitch jelly sky above and the densely-packed glitter-sea blinking up. I’m suspended between two black eyes— holy and hellish corneas meeting making contact closer than close, staring each other down, and I am a corrosive eyelash. I thought you were trying to claw me out, but you’re scraping me in—“Can’t Help Myself,” says the robot, and it’s art, but you’ve been saying it for an earth-lifetime, and I’m not looking intently enough to know the good eye is the eye above. Nobody is, and still you weave promises and secure the knots when our backs are turned— and you planted the damn trees, and the raft is sailing! And still, we’d all prefer spaceships— oh, to drown in that glitzy, glamorous glitter-sea, to choke on luxury and vanity, some mechanical purpose, watched by endless refractions in this mirror maze we mistake for the stars.

11 To-Do by Anastasia Cook The greatest of poems is an inventory. —G. K. Chesterton

12 God be thanked for: • Peanut butter * Surely I do not deserve so noble a gift. • And mushrooms, raw • And mushrooms, sautéed * In olive oil or * Butter and wine with (optionally) * Sweet onions, diced * Bell peppers, any color * Carrots, shredded or thinly sliced * [To be stewed with beef and ladled over fresh rice] * [Or else a spare sauce, spooned over a salt-and-pepper-seasoned steak, done medium] • Yes, God be praised for mushrooms. • And celery— * Celery… * Whom not even my beloved peanut butter can redeem * Nor mask— • Blessed be God, for his tastes are broader than our tastes. • Thank God for sharp cheddar cheese • For diabetic foods: * Ice cream » Cone, whipped cream, and cherry, if preferred * Chocolate chips * Apple crisp * Malted milkshakes * Eggnog, frothy * Bread pudding • Almonds and spices • Cinnamon • Raisins • Mulled ciders, fellowship

13 FICTION Deadwinter by Corrissa Smith

14 This old building. I tuck myself into a corner and listen to it breathe. The walls rumble. Ventilation ducts whoosh and the generator throbs. This old building, it’s alive. Heart and lungs. One or two long fluorescent bulbs still flicker in each room, even though the lights are out and I’m in darkness. It’s like—no matter how little they care about this lonely old place, it’s gonna keep going. This old building is a schoolhouse, when it’s not deadwinter. I guess they have to keep some power running so the pipes don’t freeze over. Lucky for me. I’m wrapped up in a couple layers of jacket, but it’s usually not below freezing in here. Better than outside. You can hear the old building shudder in the wind, sometimes. Other times, it’s dead silent out there and you wonder whether anyone’s left alive, because when you look out the window, it’s pitch black. From time to time when the darkness shifts, you can see little warm windows in the neighborhoods, even from this distance. But the streets, they’re dark. We don’t waste power on streetlights, or traffic signals, or shop signs. All our light is gone. It’s like the world dies in deadwinter—everyplace except this old building.

15 Funeral by Justin Kemp People dressed in black with white faces line up to lay their contrition before the coffin. Piano keys, I think from my seat on the mossy bench a little way from the mourners. Piano keys danced upon by familiar fingers. Who will play it best…? I note my observation in the little black notebook that I always carry in my coat pocket. A burst of sobs draws my attention back to the funeralgoers. A plum shaped woman with gray curls swarming around her head trembles on her knees beside the coffin. The young man behind her bends over stiffly, yanking a handkerchief from his suit pocket to shove into her shaking hand. The Plum wipes her face gratefully and allows The Stork to pull her to her feet and guide her away. Is grief only appropriate so long as it is conveniently expressed? I write. Do we stifle other’s grief when it does not resemble our own? Do we stifle our own grief when it does not resemble other’s? Do we— A tap on my shoulder interrupts me. I snap my notebook shut, slip it back into my pocket, and turn to a stranger looking over my shoulder. His disheveled gray suit—matches his hair, must remember to write down—blends into the foggy field behind us. The old man’s face sags as much as his brittle frame, with only a cane supporting his spine. Nothing catches the sadness sliding down his wrinkled cheeks. His eyes remain glassy even as he looks at me. I tug my hat brim lower, hoping recognition won’t spark them to life. “Can I help you?” I say with a wan smile. The Drooper points to the coffin with a grunt. “How did you know him?”

16 “I never did,” I say truthfully enough. Is avoiding an uncomfortable truth as bad as selling a falsehood? Guilt pricks, prompting me to amend my statement. “But we were acquainted for eighteen years or so.” “Ah.” The Drooper nods. “He was my son. I never thought he’d go first.” “Accidents are a terrible shock.” “Yes. Yes, they are.” We hold our positions in silence. I stroke yesterday morning’s stubble, occupying tensed hands in seemingly calm repetition. The Drooper lets the stillness between us hang for a few seconds, then sighs and begins creaking toward the funeralgoers. The left leg, the one supported by the cane, buckles. I leap from my bench and grab him by the coattails before he can sink into the mud. “Thank you,” he gasps. “My knees. Not what they used to be.” None of us ever seem to be, I note but refrain from saying. “Good thing I was here to catch you, then.” He nods. “Would you mind helping me over to the coffin?” I blink slowly. I had not planned on approaching the coffin. Hovering in the funeral’s background seemed fitting to my relationship with the deceased. But how can I refuse to help an old man, even this old man? His son was not—what, not his fault? A stupid question. But even if I refuse, he probably won’t make it over. I think I don’t want to refuse, regardless. “Of course,” I say, painting on a smile. I was never as good with brushes as I am with pens.

17 The Drooper’s labored breaths warm my neck as he hobbles on my arm to the end of the piano keys. I adjust my collar with my free hand. I cannot in good conscience address the itchy stain growing in each armpit. I should have refused his request. Too close for comfort. Far too close. So many years. Time. Slipping away into the mist and now frozen almost as still as my eyes on the coffin. We inch forward for an eternity. Then we arrive. “Goodbye, my son,” says The Drooper, dropping a withered rose on the lid. Once he finishes, I pass off the Drooper to the Plum, and they totter away together into the mist. The Stork shoots me a glare before disappearing after them. Pay them no mind. They play their grief their way, and I will play it mine. I kneel until I can press my nose against the slick side of a black box. It smells like him. Somehow dark and plastic all at once. Perhaps a hint of the cologne he dashed on his collar every morning before work. A complicated smell for a complicated man. Complicated as my relationship with him, even in death. “Goodbye, Father,” I whisper.

18 Westminster Catechisms by Abigail Moore On Tuesday afternoons, we recite our Westminster catechisms to Mrs. Foster in our second-grade hallway. I repeat the line over and over again as she glares down at me, “God is a spirit and does not have a body like men.” I feel my stomach flip every time I say it. Mrs. Foster told us Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I picture him as a Crayola stick figure suspended helplessly on a construction paper cross. “Can you see God?” she questions. “No, I cannot see God, but he always sees me.” My face goes red. Mom told me the teachers lie sometimes. Mrs. Foster said that Moses and Abraham and Adam and Eve saw God. She said Jesus was God too, but my best friend Hope told me pictures of Jesus were idols and always covered them up during Bible class with heart-shaped sticky notes. “Where is God?” the last question of the day. “God is everywhere,” but I can’t see him. Mrs. Foster gives me a gold star sticker and releases me from her examination and back to computer class. Later that day I asked Miss Hathaway if she could see God, and she exclaimed, “Of course you can! He’s everywhere. Just look around. He’s everywhere!” But I couldn’t see him. So, I squinted at the words in my red-letter Bible, repeating L-O-R-D, L-O-R-D, LORD, LORD as if my breath alone would make him appear out of thin air, the way my brother said he did on the night he saw God.

19 The Dealer by Benjamin Konuch As I walked through the familiar creaky old door, I was struck by how much the bar seemed untouched from my memories. I hadn’t been inside it for over a year but still, it felt comfortable. The air was warm, yet not overbearingly hot. Soft jazz music played from a speaker in the back, and tables and booths were tucked away in private, darker corners of the room. The bartender was making a drink behind the bar for the lone patron, a man seated at the bar with his head down. Wordlessly, I slipped into a stool one seat over from the other man, and the bartender nodded a greeting paired with a welcoming smile. “Alex! Been quite a while! How have you been?” Those words hung on the air for a moment as I stared at the bartender, a man whose face and name I had forgotten months ago, and I didn’t know how to respond. After an awkward pause, I gave a slow shrug before pulling out my phone to distract myself, and he understood the sentiment. “I’ll be with you in just one minute.” I nodded in answer and looked down at my phone while waiting, staring at the blank screen without even turning it on. If I did, I knew that I’d see texts from people I couldn’t answer, missed calls from my coworker James about our conversation, emails about work that I couldn’t get done, and reminders on every app that I had about why I was in that bar in the first place. “Rough day, stranger?” I was startled out of my thoughts by an unexpected voice, and I realized I had zoned out as I stared at the wedding ring on my hand again. I put the useless phone back on the

20 counter and looked over my shoulder to see the man next to me peering at me with an inquisitive look. “Yeah, yeah I guess it is,” I said, trying to act uninterested without coming across as rude. I came here for solitude, not for awkward conversations with strangers. “Been having one of those myself,” he said, grunting in agreement. “But when things get real rough, I find that we often tend to even take the simple fact that we’re alive for granted anymore. After all, living with the people you got around you ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at, no matter how hard things get. Wouldn’t you agree?” I pursed my lips and closed my eyes for a second, trying to hold my composure together. I could feel my heart starting to race as my breath quickened, the room coming into painful focus as my senses felt sharpened, like I was moments away from a panic attack and this wasn’t helping. Maybe coming here was a mistake. Maybe I shouldn’t have— “Been difficult for you without her, hasn’t it?” His words, tinged with his hint of a Southern accent, cut through my thoughts with ease and my eyes flipped open. “Wh…what? How did you know?” “That ring of yours, you ain’t glanced up from it for a few minutes. No happily married man stares at their wedding band the way you were. So what was it, divorce? Death?” “Death,” I managed to respond, my voice coming out little more than a dry whisper as my hand clenched against the bar. “It’s been a year today.” “I see,” the man sighed. “I’ve been there myself, been there on the days when it hits harder than others. I feel your pain, friend.” I looked back at the man next to me in a new light, truly noticing him for the first time. He looked around my age, maybe in his late thirties, and was dressed in a plain, black suit. He

21 had a strange hat on, like something you’d see from the 1930’s. It wasn’t quite a fedora, but was definitely unusual. It covered up all but a few wayward wisps of graying hair, and dark blue eyes shone from underneath the brim. He had a mysterious, almost playful half-smirk on his lips that contrasted the seriousness of his words, and something about him suddenly struck me with an overwhelming sense of uneasiness. It could have been my imagination, but I swore I felt the temperature in the room drop. “See, I consider myself a… a dealer, of sorts. In fact, that’s what you can call me,” he mused, meeting my eyes. “I often trade with folks such as yourself. I find a way to give ‘em what they most desire in exchange for what they take for granted the most. You can say it’s a special gift of mine, really.” This turn in conversation threw me for a moment, and I found myself unable to respond as my mind struggled to process what he said. Then it clicked with a sickening realization, and I thought I understood. This man was some kind of seller, and I wasn’t that desperate to turn to his kind of “desires,” whatever those might be. I’d drink my share, sure, but taking drugs would go against everything Ella stood for. No, I would never defile her memory like that. “So tell me, Alex,” he continued quietly before I could give him a piece of my mind, “How would you like to see her again?” My breath caught in my throat and I felt my heartbeat quicken again at his words, despite the absurdity of them. As my anxiety spiked, I realized that this man, this Dealer, wasn’t at all what I thought he was. He wasn’t just insensitive, he was insane. I couldn’t get her back, I knew that much. That realization burned in my chest and made my mind struggle to form its thoughts just as the first time that realization had set in, and I think I knew that long ago. I knew I would never see her again. But before I could answer, before I could tell him what I really thought of him and his intrusive questions, the bartender chimed in. “Hey, Alex, sorry that took a minute. What can I get you, man?”

22 “What? Oh, um, I’ll have a double whiskey on the rocks,” I stammered, trying to collect my thoughts. “You got it, coming right up.” I turned back to the Dealer, and found him still watching me with that same look on his face, it was like he hadn’t even moved a muscle. I tried to swallow my growing anger and feign as much civility as I could muster, but I knew it wasn’t much. “I don’t think you understand, mister,” I began slowly, subconsciously clenching my hand around the phone I had set down. “My wife died a year ago. I was the one who found her body. I had to bury her. She’s gone.” “Still, you’d like to see her again, wouldn’t you?” he answered, taking a slow sip of the drink the bartender had placed in front of him. “I’m sorry, I don’t think you understand—” “Answer the question, friend,” he interrupted in an icy tone, setting his glass down on the counter with a sudden bang that made me jump in my seat. Startled, I looked back at him and saw something dark in his eyes that prompted me to answer before I even realized I was doing it. “Yes, yes of course I would. I’d give anything just to have another day with her but… she’s beyond me now.” Wordlessly, the bartender set my drink down and I nodded my thanks to him before the Dealer said another word. I took a sip, feeling the cool liquid burn as it went down, and it soothed my mind for a moment. This was what I really needed. This was the kind of distraction I was looking for when I came in, not some twisted conversation with some unobservant prick. “You’d do… anything?” the Dealer asked slowly, and that was the last straw. Something in me snapped and my vision swam as I whirled around to stare into that infuriating face

23 with that same inhuman smirk still stretched across it. “I did not come here for this!” I snarled, staring into that unchanging expression that made my blood boil. “I don’t know what kind of loss you’ve experienced, but what I had to go through, what I had to give up, has ruined my entire life. Everything is numb now, do you understand? Everything! Some days, I don’t even feel like living anymore and some days I pray that I would just have the courage to end it all right then and there. The only reason I haven’t is because I’m too much of a coward and I’m still too attached to the stupid memories she’s left behind! So, yes, Lord knows I would do anything just to see her again, just to have some glimmer of hope again, but I did not come here to have to hear this bull from some stranger who doesn’t even understand boundaries!” I hadn’t realized in the moment, but at some point in my outburst, I had started crying. Angry and ashamed at myself, I turned from him and brushed the tears away with my sleeve, and tried not to think about who I was starting to become. If my Ella could see me now, would she even know me, some washed up, suicidal loser trying to hide from himself and others with his drinks? God, what had I let this grief turn me into? “Hey, I’m sorry to ask this,” the bartender chimed in somewhat awkwardly to the Dealer, “But if you’re bothering one of my customers, I’m gonna have to ask you to either get another spot here or leave my bar. I think he’s been through enough already without your pestering.” “No… no, I’m the one who’s sorry,” the Dealer began slowly, and when I turned back to him, I saw that infuriating smirk had finally disappeared. Instead, he now wore an expression of cold indifference, the kind of look a child would give an ant before stepping on it. “I’m sorry to have bothered you, stranger. But you’ve given me all I needed. Thank you, and I hope you get to feelin’ better soon.” And with those odd last words, he walked out of the bar and I never spoke to him again. He left me alone with my drink and my worries, and I felt even worse then when I had first come in. My anxiety was no longer spiking, but I still felt it crawling at the corners of my mind. I was still feeling the sting of betrayal at James’ words that had first led me there. And whether I wanted to admit it, I was still stuck drowning in my mourning. But

24 now, I could feel another kind of uneasiness that I couldn’t understand. So tell me, Alex. How would you like to see her again? I finished off my drink and left after a few minutes. I couldn’t stay there, I needed to move. The Dealer’s words had gotten to me, and they were bringing with them the same flood of emotions and memories I was trying to avoid with James. I couldn’t handle this at the start of the day and I certainly couldn’t handle it now. I walked back towards my office building, keeping my hands in my pockets and my head down. It was snowing now, and the heavy snowflakes falling around me painted the world in a hazy white tint as I trudged along the sidewalk, and I could see my breath fog out in front of me. My mind was miles away from where I was, thinking about how to avoid the confrontation waiting for me at the office, thinking about Ella, and thinking about the impossible. I find a way to give them what they most desire in exchange for what they take for granted the most. Was it even possible? No, I knew it wasn’t. So why couldn’t I get those idiotic words out of my mind? Something dark on the sidewalk across the street stood out from the white haze of the snow and caught the corner of my eye, and I peered out across the street as I walked. I only managed to catch a glimpse of it for an instant before a passing truck obscured my vision, but what I saw was a glimpse of the Dealer standing motionless on the pavement across the lanes, watching me through the snow. That same smirk was on his face again, and I saw him tip his hat slightly in greeting. Then the truck passed, and when I could see to the other side again, he was gone. It had all happened in only an instant, and I thought maybe I had imagined it. But that brief distraction was all it took for something to slam into me.

25 I didn’t see it at the time, but hanging over the sidewalk was a hard metal bar that slammed into my forehead and knocked me flat on my back. Pain erupted from my head and blossomed through my entire body as my vision swam, then went dark. I didn’t even have the chance for my mind to register what happened to me, didn’t even have the chance to see what I had run into, before my vision blanked and my mind went numb. The last thought my mind showed me before I passed out was of the Dealer’s infuriating smile. “Alex.” I heard a voice, which was what finally woke me out of my unconsciousness, and it was immediately followed by a grinding, throbbing agony in my head. I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t think at all, really. All I could do was let out a pained groan and squeeze my eyes shut tighter to try and block out the pain. It didn’t work. “Alex!” Despite the pain, despite the fog that hung over me, I knew that voice. It took me a few moments to realize it, but when it clicked into place, my eyes shot open and I saw her face. My Ella. There she was standing over me, with that same soft smile on her lips, the one that would make me feel like I was home and I was safe no matter what kind of struggles I was facing. Her light curls were messy and fell across her shoulders in a casual, unkempt look, the way she had always worn it before the cancer had made those curls disappear. And those eyes, those piercing green eyes that would sparkle at me when she came home from work, those eyes that broke my heart with the sadness they held when she told me she was dying, those eyes were looking at me once again. “Ella…? Is it really you?” I breathed, reaching a shaking hand up to her face. I ignored the pain now. I could deal with it, as long as she was here. I didn’t know how this was happening, this shouldn’t have been happening. It was impossible. It was beyond impossible. And yet… here she was. Was this the work of the Dealer? Was that why he was watching me?

26 “Of course it’s me, silly, who else would it be?” she answered with a chuckle, quieting my mind once more as I felt the warmth of her cheek against my hand. Before I knew it, I was sobbing like a child. “But you—” “Shhh,” she quieted me, putting her own soft hand over mine. “I’m here, Alex. You’re fine now. You’re all right. Now, don’t tell me you’re gonna lie on that sidewalk forever, are you?” The tears turned into laughter as she pulled me to my feet, and I couldn’t hold myself back. I threw my arms around her and sobbed in joy as she held me against her shoulder, the pain in my head fading away into only a distant ache. She stroked my hair as she whispered that I was okay, that it was all right, and I finally just… let myself be held. For months, I had missed this. For months, there was an absence in my life that was my life. Without her, without my wife, I didn’t feel like I was truly living. But now she was back, and I realized I didn’t even care how it happened, how the Dealer, or whoever was out there, had done this miracle. All that mattered now was that she was here. Together, we turned around to head towards my car, and I glanced over my shoulder as we walked, half expecting to see the Dealer standing behind me. Instead, I saw the construction scaffolding above the sidewalk, the low hanging metal bar that had slipped lower than it should have been, and the little spot of blood on it from where I had banged my head. Then I felt Ella take my hand in hers, and almost immediately forgot about anything else. We went back home, to our home, where we belonged. It was a calming drive, and I felt the tension and the worry and the pain of earlier all just… melt away. When I pulled into the driveway I saw my elderly neighbor watering her flowers, and we both waved to her in greeting. I got out of the car and called out as we walked up to the porch, unable to contain my excitement, “Miss Reedle! Isn’t it a miracle? She’s finally back!” Almost instantly the smile on her face died away, and she took a step back from the fence, peering at me like I had lost my mind. “Who’s back, Alex?”

27 “Ella, of course,” I said, beaming. “She’s right here!” “Hello again, Miss Reedle,” Ella called softly, seemingly embarrassed about the attention. “It has been a while, hasn’t it?” But my neighbor just kept her eyes on me. She looked like she wasn’t even seeing Ella and peered at me with confusion and concern as she said, “Alex, are you all right? What’s that spot on your head? Oh gracious… are you bleeding honey? What happened?” Confused, I looked back to Ella, but she seemed just as perplexed as I was. “Miss Reedle, what do you mean? I had a bit of an accident, but I’m fine. I’m just happy to have my wife back after all these months.” The old woman’s expression melted into something more like fear than confusion after I said that, and she shook her head at me. “You need to call someone, Alex. You’re not well.” But that’s where she was wrong, I was the best I had been in months. The Dealer, whoever he was, had given me a way to get back what I needed most. And despite Miss Reedle’s good intentions, I didn’t need her anymore. Sure, she had kept an eye out for me in the last few months, but my wife was home now. I didn’t need anyone else. We went inside without another word and locked the door behind us. And for the first time, the house felt warm again with her here. The glow had come back, the sparkle in her eyes had returned and it filled the house with light. I felt happy, felt completed. As the two of us sat down on the couch and started talking like we used to, started holding each other like we used to, I realized I really didn’t need anything else. It was almost evening when there was a knock at the door, and it was quickly followed by the undeniable voice of my coworker, James. “Alex, you home?” he called through the door, his voice a little shaky. “You never came back to the office, and when I drove up your neighbor said you weren’t looking very good. Is everything okay?” I thought about getting up and going over to talk to him, but then Ella nestled closer into my arms and shook her head, and I closed my eyes and ignored him. The gentle smell of

28 her perfume tickled my senses, and the soft sound of her breaths so close to me blocked out everything else. “I know what it feels like,” James said again after about a minute, and I thought he had gone. “I lost Jenna three years ago, Alex. I understand your pain, that pain that never quite goes away. But you’ve been hiding for so long now, hiding from all of us who care about you, hiding from yourself. Please just open the door, Alex. You can talk to me, or we can just sit together but just… don’t keep pushing us away. Not anymore, you can’t keep going on alone like this.” But I wasn’t alone, not anymore. Eventually, his knocking stopped and I heard him leave, which was good. While I felt an initial pang of regret at sending him away, I knew deep down that if I had Ella, I didn’t need him either I didn’t need anyone. All I had to do was look into her eyes again and I’d know that I was home. I’m writing the details of my miracle out now at night as a plea. If anyone else out there has met the Dealer, I need to find a way to thank him. He gave me back my purpose, my joy, my light, and my love. Without Ella around, I suppose I had started to take even the fact that I was alive for granted. But he gave me a reason to live again, to smile again, and for that, I’m more grateful than written words can express. I’m tired now, and I feel a little faint, but my Ella is calling me to bed so I think I’ll stop writing here. My head still hurts a bit, but she says after a good night’s sleep, everything will be okay. And you know what? For the first time in four months, I believe that. Everything will be okay. I have my life back, and the Dealer hasn’t even asked for anything in return. Everything is going to be okay.

29 Safety in Stone by Emily Vest Between kalamon and koroneiki trees, the demi-god slung his bow over his shoulder onto the sling on his back. Gorham’s Cave loomed before him, a fanged smile feigning hospitality. It threatened to snap shut, grind him between its molars as he entered. But he would take what he came for, what he worked for, and leave richer. Without getting swallowed. He stepped forward, eyed the stalactites jutting from the cave’s lips. Through Gorham’s mouth he could see the statues, armor-clad, all backs turned to him, swords and spears and shields aimed into the gaping maw. The shadows cloaked their stone faces. His sandal nudged a shield—wooden, coated with mirror-bronze—abandoned. His face was stoic, steely, and steady. The olive oil on his chest gleamed golden in the dying sun’s rays, reflecting off the round bronze aspis. He heard the little owl’s hoot as the grove around him darkened. Taking from his sackcloth the cold and smooth vial gifted from his father, taking the strip of linen wrapped around the waist of his pteruges and wrapping it around his eyes, the demi-god entered past the rocky teeth—into the mouth. He left the mirrored shield on the ground behind. The cave was vast. He could tell from the echo of his footsteps. The hair on his forearms prickled up his skin. The air felt heavy. Yet, when he breathed in, the demi-god did not smell the earthy, mineral scents he expected, but a faint aroma of onions, tomatoes, and olives. Adjusting the blindfold over his eyes, tapping the bow still slung across his back, thumbing the vial in his grasp, brushing his fingers across the hilt of his extra dagger—just in case—he delved deeper. His sandals hesitantly grazed the ground as he felt the uneven floor, the rocks, the occasional stone foot. His heart leapt each time his hands reached granite arms and he

30 began counting them in his head, each soldier and hero who had failed to claim their victory or prize. But he would emerge like the singular sun, glorious as arrow piercing serpent, arms heavy with bounty. Clang! He swore as the metallic echo of whatever he tripped over reverberated through the cavern. He heard a hiss, and quick footsteps. The demi-god clutched the vial tighter. With heart pounding, he made a bet. “My lady!” he called, his voice replacing the previous echo. “I have a cure.” He waited. Blind. Bated breath. Listening. Ahead he heard a faint bubbling sound, and the rich smell of olives grew stronger. Finally, he heard the swish of silk, a gentle hiss, a shuffle a ways beyond. “Explain,” said a sibilating voice. The demi-god held out the vial. He could feel its warmth beneath his fingers, its power against his flesh. “My name is Kakos! I am the son of Apollo, the great god of healing. From my father, I demanded an antidote for the harm that has been done to you. I traveled across land and sea. I fought off monsters and bandits, and now I bring with me a gift.” He ended his speech with a flourishing bow, and a winning smile. The silent response left him fraught, but then she responded with a hopeful whisper. “Why have you done this?” The demi-god, regaining his composure, grinned. “I come from Aeolis. I know your parents. Your story. I know you weren’t to blame.” Slow footsteps approached. He imagined a trembling young woman emerging behind a marble pillar, soft face flickering in candlelight, eyes wide with yearning. He could

31 see a rippling silk dress draped over a delicate frame, bronze fastenings decorating ivory collarbone. His voice rose. “You didn’t defile Athena’s temple, and your curse is one a masterpiece like you was not meant to bear!” The footsteps staggered, stopped. “I saw your portrait in your family home. You were a vision. Blessed by Aphrodite herself! Gods were right to seek you, but Athena was wretched to tarnish your beauty over a trifle. But here”—he lifted the vial—“I have salvation. You shall be free with me.” “What of Stheno and Euryale?” asked the urgent whisper. The sound of silk caressed the floor as she moved towards him. “You shall no longer be tied to them,” the demi-god promised. He held the vial higher aloft, reaching it out to the approaching sound. “Those two gorgons will be but a distant nightmare.” “I shall leave them? I shall go with you?” The woman asked, a shake in her voice. “Yes,” he promised, voice rising, taking a step forward. “You need not be alone any longer. I will have you and protect you—from the gorgons, from Athena!” His skin tingled upon the brush of her smooth fingertips. With his other hand he trailed his nails up her arm as she delicately took the vial from his clutch. The stopper popped open. In his mind, he watched her put the glass rim to her full lips, the same ones of the oil-painting inscribed in his mind. He watched, through blindfold-eyes, her hair turn from serpents to velvety locks rushing down her back—her, from monster to goddess. He watched the island racing to greet him, the hero who broke Athena’s curse, saved the maiden, earned what no demi-god had before. Her hand softly grazed his face. “Open your eyes, Kakos,” she said. He reached and shed his blindfold with a jerk to look into the emerald eyes. His gaze traveled down her lips, neck, chest where a silver owl pendant rested on pale skin.

32 The demi-god’s eyes shot back to her face, met her eyes. And she smiled. Cruelly. “Look,” she said softly. The demi-god cried out as the sound of glass hit the rocky ground. Drawing his dagger, he tried to leap forward, but his feet were firmly planted. Stone. “You vile—” She lingered just out of reach, placed a delicate hand on the shoulder of a stone centurion who had his teeth and gladius bared. Her head turned towards another statue, on his knees, whose hands grasped the air, and another who groped, with back bent and belt pulled, something unseen on the floor. Then she watched him. The demi-god’s skin stiffened, his muscles seized, his arms grew heavy, his agonized cry ceased as his vocal cords cobbled. Before his eyes glazed over with rock, he saw Medusa, snake-hair coiling, silk dress swaying. She walked towards the bubbling stew of onions, tomatoes, and olives where four velvet pillows and four wooden bowls circled the cackling fire.

33 On the drives between sites, my brother Theodore would handle the navigation with an Ohio atlas spread over his lap and Google Maps poised for the next time we might return to cell service. We would park at schools, churches, gravel patches beside bridges, and I at least would pray no one would take offense. Open the van doors and trunk. Collect: waders, trays, forceps, vials, kick-seine. Tramp down to the stream access point. In, out. At the fourth site, a police officer giving his dog a break from the car asked us what research we were up to, and Theodore talked to him about larval insects and stream health and his professor. I listened, smiled from time to time, and kept counting off midges. I would look more official that way, I thought. But never an angry landowner appeared, not so much as a shotgun, and always our Honda Odyssey stayed where we had left it. I thanked God. You can know the midge larvae by their movement, wriggling from the center outward as though your forceps were already pinching them. Within a few seconds, the head end will have faced every possible direction, whether they float free in the water, lie in the substrate, or squirm between the tips of the forceps. Sometimes they look like worms, sometimes threads, sometimes supple like insects as their body segments rotate or contract at the joints. They thrash like this to stir up the water around them when their oxygen is depleted, distinguishing them from the decaying plant bits. The black fly larvae look similar, but have thicker and rounder head and tail ends, tapering in the middle. They don’t float freely as the midges do. Instead, they attach silk strands to twigs or leaves or the sides of the white plastic collection trays, looping themselves forward like sideways inchworms. You might also mistake the unsegmented nematodes for midge larvae, especially the small ones, thinner and shorter than an eyelash. NONFICTION Midging by Anastasia Cook

34 I kneel over the trays, my baseball cap turned around to shade the back of my neck, as Theodore takes notes on stream conditions, peers into his own trays, or replenishes them with matted leaves and twigs or substrate caught in his kick-seine net. He will plant the long-handled net on the creek bed and kick water across the front, dislodging stones and silt. The midges, nematodes, snails, shovel-headed planarians, beetles, backswimmers, and innumerable “fly” larvae—mayfly, black fly, dragonfly, damselfly, stonefly—drift in with the substrate. This is what slaps or clatters into our trays out of the net. Covered with water, it teems with living creatures. Theodore has a name for each one. While most midges carry some nondescript brown-gray color, I enjoy finding the red ones, called bloodworms, from time to time. Theodore says it’s hemoglobin that makes them red, and because of that, they’re better at surviving in oxygen-poor environments. They wriggle too, and are easier to discern against the silt and pebbles. I watch the sun gleaming off their ruby, wormy sides after I catch them, before I release them into my ethanol-filled vial, and they stop squirming. A water droplet enters the clear ethanol with it, rippling like the heat off August asphalt turned upside-down. The alcohol will discolor the worm in a minute or two, just as it discolors the dark, slow, tadpole-headed pupae. Once, taking the depth at the last site, Theodore sank past his knees in mud. I asked if he needed help. He tested the mud, trying to lift a foot, then nodded and said, “Yeah.” My own feet squelching, I stepped to the water’s edge, squatted with one leg in front of me to brace myself, and extended my hand. He grasped it. I began to pull backwards. It was strange to pull my older brother out of that mud. It felt like he should have been helping me. The mud glistened on his waders as he emerged. Below his knees, it was all black; it splashed like paint over his first few footprints. “What does it mean that it’s black like that?” I asked. “Anaerobic,” he answered. A few bloodworms and pupae later, we waded back through the tall grasses to pack ourselves into the car and head for home, out of the narrow, blindly-curving, gravel roads no minivan should ever have to drive on.

35 Gratiam by Haley Kollstedt

36 You hate this day, this weather. You hate the blinding sun, the icy wind in your face. You hate November, the absence of clouds, sleep deprivation, sore throats. You hate that you feel this way, you hate seasonal depression, industrial towns, suburban traffic. You hate gas stations. You hate that the first pump rejected your credit card and you’re already running late. You hate that you procrastinate. You hate running late. You hate yourself for being incessantly tardy. You hate your job. You hate yourself. You hate making left turns onto bustling roads. You hate that man behind you. You hate his glossy-rose Cadillac. You hate the scowl he flashes through your rearview mirror… get a move on! You hate that you sympathize with him. You hate that you were too much of a coward to make that left turn, so you went right instead. You hate being scolded by your GPS. You hate getting lost. You hate poverty. You hate pawn shops and cigarette butts. You hate driving in the city. You hate being angry. You hate the inability to forgive. You hate clocks. You hate 2 PM—but you’re thankful for it. You know the traffic will get worse, and you avoided its peak. You’re thankful for staying off of the interstate, this time. You’re thankful that you can take the scenic route home. You’re thankful that these nearly-bankrupt shops are still here, surviving, standing. You’re thankful for that right turn because you didn’t have to make the left turn. You’re thankful for the second gas pump that accepted your credit card without a gimmick. You’re thankful for the sunlight dappling autumn’s last leaves—those fighters. You’re thankful for your job. You’re thankful for November’s bite of invigoration.

37 Elternteil by Justin Kemp „Nacheinmal bitte!“ meine Professorin commands with a flourish of her dry erase marker. Though grounded in her Deutsch Akzent, multicolored professional attire for which I don’t have the vocabulary to describe supplies her with a hint of Einstein. Fervent gesticulation forces her to pull bobbed silver-gray hair out of her face every five minutes. „Denn so sehr hat Gott die Welt geliebt,“ wir sagen, squinting or tapping our fingers as we conjure words we’ve scarcely memorized and only voiced in falters. Imagine reciting a sentence you know, except in sounds you’ve only become acquainted with over the past two and a half years. Es ist schwierig. Aber nicht so schwierig since I’ve built up some intuitive German. I fumble for the occasional Wort or pronunciation rather than for every utterance. Now the hard part is building words into grammatical sentences instead of Denglisch Frankensteins. Inevitably, our recitation of Johannes 3.16 or repetition of vocabulary after Dr. Shaver’s Deutsch-Tennessee-country accented voice evolves into a linguistic discussion. Die Professorin will „Ahhh!“ sagt when Sam, Elsie, Angela, or I ask a question beyond our studies. Heute haben wir Familie Wörter gelernt: siblings, brother, sister, parents… „Eltern ist plural, ja?“ someone fragt Dr. Shaver. „Ahhhh, good catch,“ she replies with a knowing tilt of her head, sending her hair askew again.

38 She reminds us dass Deutsch macht no provision for broken families—Eltern, always plural, means parents. Parenting is a whole task only accomplishable by a pair abiding together. The word must be broken—Elternteil, „parent part“—to translate properly into the English singular, „parent.“ Furthermore, die Wort „Elternteil“ ist nur useful in official settings. It is a check mark on an application for a new school, not a descriptor to be proudly worn. No, pride is in being part of a whole which functions together for the good of their Kinder. German Translations • Nocheinmal bitte = one more time, please • meine Professorin = my professor • Deutsch Akzent = German accent • Denn so sehr hat Gott die Welt geliebt = Then God so loved the world • wir sagen = we say • Es ist schwierig = it is difficult • Wort = word • Denglisch = German/English, like Spanlgish • Johannes 3.16 = John 3:16 • Die Professorin = the professor • sagt = say • Heute haben wir Familie Worter gelernt = today we learned family words • Eltern ist plural, ja? = Parents is plural, yes? • fragt = asks • dass Deutsch macht = that German makes • Elternteil = parent part • die Wort = the word • ist nur = is only • Kinder = children