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Stories & Essays
...gone tomorrow
By jp Rodriguez
Barbie and the Burn Scars
_ By Dion OReilly
Bright Lights
_ By Nicole Exposito
Cricket Theory
_ By Sophia Alev
_ By Kate Delany
Fines Double In Work Zone
_ By Brian Stumbaugh
Guy and Doll
_ By John P. Loonam
_ By Erlynda Jacqui Chan
Lala's Diner
_ By Nicole Exposito
_ By Allison P. Boye
Love Story
_ By Cynthia Burke
Magic Bags and Forgotten Princesses
_ By Ken Goldman
_ By Benjamin Buchholz

Baking Bread and Other Subtleties
_ By Leland Jamieson
Corpus Christi
_ By Taylor Collier
Early Cold
_ By Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb
Ekphrasis at the Mall
_ By James Owens
Games In Your Uncle's Den
_ By Robin Stratton
My Spanish Rose
_ By Jose Rivera
Northern Lights, Southern Soul
_ By E.F. Kramer
Posted on Fifth Avenue
_ By J.R. Salling
_ By Naiya Wright
Summer Sojourn
_ By Cheryl Butterweck-Bucher
The Himalayan Sunset
_ By Rohith Sundararaman
Time Decays, Clots
_ By Kristine Ong Muslim
_ By Terrance Schaefer
Where You Rest
_ By Stephanie N. Barnes

Art & Photography
Bissan Alhussein
_ Paintings
E.W. Hung
_ Photography
Papa Osmubal
_ Drawings
Linda Pakkas
_ Drawings
Anastasiya Tarasenko
_ Paintings
Filip Wierzbicki
_ Paintings and Digital Photography
Nancy Xu
_ Paintings and Drawings


Barbie and the Burn Scars
By Dion OReilly

I can’t talk about my burns. There’s a door in my mind I seldom open: too many memories crowding—like Bluebeard’s wives in a darkened upstairs room, resigned but still somehow seeking to escape, to scream out into the light. People see my scars, especially my twisted left arm, my half a pinky with a tough, dead piece of nail on the end, and they think they want to know what happened, but they really don’t because when I start to tell the story and the words rush out, they just want to get away from me. They offer some platitude like, “Well, but look at you now, so vibrant and beautiful...” And I have to stop my story, like stopping the earth from turning, so painful to push the crying wives back into their room, as small and dark as a closet.

I should consider, I suppose, what my high school students must think when first they notice my hand, and then their eyes travel up my arm. They must think they are imagining things; they blink, and then see that my arm hangs at an odd angle and my skin is knotted and corded like bark, and that there are webs at my elbows and armpits. Since I ignore my scars, some of them never notice them. I have tight, ropy muscles in my limbs that tell a different story than one of a life stopped short. I imagine their conflicted minds must pause; their thoughts stutter and contradict as they seek to comprehend my confused appearance. But still they talk. In biology or gym, they comment on my scars. They are grossed out. They are disgusted. I’m so weird.

All in all, I figure it’s good for them. Besides, I have Shakespeare to teach, and Herman Hesse, and Homer, for God’s sakes, so I assume they’ll just get past it and learn to focus on formulating a thesis and passing my class. That’s hard enough. Ferejohn and I teach the most rigourous freshman program in the school. The parents appreciate it. They show up after school and talk to Ferejohn and me about how much their kids are learning.

Last year Barbie showed up. Her daughter Kelli is unnervingly silent. She never laughs, she never smiles. That’s hard for me because I consider myself hilarious. For better or worse, student laughter is a kind of gauge by which I measure my own teaching, so Kelli’s silence and stoicism is a silent, subtle irritation.

Even though she is Asian, Barbie has huge, round eyes. She has a little, clipped nose and huge breasts. She always wears tight tee shirts and jean skirts. Barbie follows me from my final meeting of the day into my classroom. It is five o’clock, and I have been working non-stop since 7:30 this morning. Barbie is smiling up at me. Her big eyes are luminous, her face is as open as the full moon, and she is smiling as if she has a special secret for me. Her eyes never leave my face, her smile never falters as she speaks.

“Kelli talks so much about you. She wants to know what happened to you. She says you start to talk about it (No I don’t. I never talk about it. I don’t like to talk about it, and can we please not talk about it right now?) But then you stop. She really wants to know what happened to you. The kids are curious. I think you should tell them.”

The air around me suddenly feels thinner. The wives in the unlit room start softly scratching on the door. I have a night class to teach, so I have only a few minutes to tell Barbie that I prefer not to talk abut my scars, and it might be just a bit too much for 9th graders to hear. Confused and agitated, but desperately dedicated to appearing professional and calm to the hyper-vigilant parents in this college prep program, I manage to end the conversation. Still smiling, Barbie departs, leaving a faint scent of apple perfume in her wake. My breath is pulsing at the top of my chest as I herd my books and binders together, jam them into several large book bags, and scramble to my next job.

Later that night, by the time I have fallen into bed and lie staring at the paisley patterns in the inky blackness, Barbie and her silent daughter have acquired long, Mormon skirts and silent open mouths like black, round stones. They have joined the faceless murmuring mob of wives behind Bluebeard’s door. I wait for the housewives to subside, give up, and tire into compliance. Then I deliciously surrender to memories of my childhood before I was burned. This is my room: the farm where I grew up, full of ancient, sentient oak trees, watchful guardian angels and sap green dreams of spring. Soon I am asleep.

Months have passed since Barbie ambushed me. I have grumbled about the incident to Ferejohn and a few of my colleagues. I really could not have been more offended, and my teacher buddies stoke my indignation with their silent sympathy, and wonder privately, I’m sure, exactly what the hell happened to my arms, legs, and feet that have left the skin marbled with flowing textures of fishnet and bread dough.

Meanwhile, I have enough to keep my mind busy and the unhappy wives of Bluebeard are hibernating. Ferejohn and I are reviewing applications for next year’s Academy. We have high standards and eliminate students based on their essays, GPA, or teacher recommendations. Our program is not for everyone. For example, Kelli’s sister, Teri, applied and her name was ruthlessly slashed from the list. She narrowly missed meeting our criteria. I growl a little when I see her name, and Ferejohn glances at me in empathetic amusement. I hear some mild pounding in my head as I remember the incident with Barbie. I reject Teri with pleasant, self-righteousness, and the door remains implacably and comfortingly slammed closed.

(Turn the page)