Table of Contents
and the Burn Scars
Fines Double In Work Zone
Guy and Doll
John P. Loonam
Erlynda Jacqui Chan
Allison P. Boye
Magic Bags and Forgotten Princesses
Baking Bread and Other Subtleties
Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb
Ekphrasis at the Mall
Games In Your Uncle's Den
My Spanish Rose
Northern Lights, Southern Soul
Posted on Fifth Avenue
The Himalayan Sunset
Time Decays, Clots
Kristine Ong Muslim
Where You Rest
Stephanie N. Barnes
and Digital Photography
I sit, squeezed in beside the other
expensive gifts—the drum kit, pool table, jukebox, electric
guitars—waiting for him. This basement I'm regularly shunted in
houses a wine cellar at the far end, affords a view of the Olympic
sized pool just beyond the door and is lined with enormous blue
marlin, gutted, behind glass, as if Santiago of The Old Man and
the Sea had been the interior decorator. For company, I've got
four dogs, yelping pedigrees, turned loose to sniff each other's
butts and try their luck at my crotch as I sit and wait.
It's fourteen past the hour, fifteen
past the hour, sixteen past the hour. Upstairs, I'm sure, in his
wing of the house, Jason's spread out on his bed like a shah,
boasting on the phone to the girl he's about to deflower at the
junior prom about how he's keeping his tutor waiting. Sixteen, as
close to twenty as I am to thirty, he's perceptive enough to know
that I don't keep coming back here for any noble love of teaching.
(The signs are blatant—my dinged up Chevy in his parents'
circular, water fountain punctuated driveway, my threadbare,
albeit funky, second hand store clothing). Perhaps that's why he
can't seem to look at me with anything other than a smirk on his
face, or as he did once after getting a tough vocab question
wrong, a wink and a quick scan over my breasts. Needless to say,
ours is not a partnership in the grand Plato/ Aristotle/ Alexander
the Great tradition.
I'm getting fed up, thinking about
clomping up the stairs to tell his grandmother that he's late for
our session again and listen to her usual moan of "Oh dear!
Whatever shall we do?" when a sound comes ringing out
of a little lighted basement room. It's Anna's room—Anna, the
maid who doesn't speak a lick of English but lets me in the house
with a smile every time I point to my chest and say: "English
tutor." Her bedroom is tiny, and the door always open, which
confounds me. I think if I had to live in this basement with the
drum kit and the dogs and the marlin, I'd want a barbed wire fence
and an armed sentry around me.
Tonight, through the open door, a
man's velvety voice rings in an obnoxious game show cadence,
"Vocabulario Dos. Los números de cero a cien." This is
the first time I've heard Anna practice language tapes, and
waiting on Jason who's still stalling, I find the scene strangely
touching—her quiet, diligent, solitary studying. The tape
volume's turned down low but outside the room, I can still hear
her pause and rewind, over and over, the scrape of the little
buttons being forced back down as she tries the words out for
herself—"ten, eleven, twelve." I feel embarrassed—she
must know I'm there and can't help but overhear, yet still she
continues, door ajar.
After single words, the man on the
tape gives her sentences to rehearse. "Three cats sit on the
bed." "She picks five apples at the market."
"Eleven girls are in the class." Anna doesn't so much
repeat them as she just mimics the rhythm of the sentences. She
rewinds and replays, rewinds and replays. I imagine that if she
could, she'd slow the man's suave voice down into slow-mo like
"Dieciséis. Sixteen," is
where Anna gets stuck. She tries the word a first time and it
comes out all soft mush, vowel sounds and gentle S's too close to
the Spanish. The second time is not much better. She's got none of
the hard jab of consonants necessary for English. She rewinds a
third time, with little improvement and I can hear something in
her voice getting frustrated with the tape or with herself or with
something else, something much larger, perhaps.
I look down at my watch. It's late,
so late I'm beginning to wonder if Jason is ever coming. Looking
over at Anna's room, I imagine her in there, lying on her stomach,
hovering above the tape player. It's then I remember I'm an
English tutor. Maybe I could help her get beyond "Dieciséis.
Sixteen," which she replays at that moment for what must be
the tenth time. Armed with my little smattering of "Dónde
está el baño?" and "Que hora es?" perhaps I could
be of use. I try to picture myself in a tiny maid's room far away,
floundering in foreign language lessons narrated by Regis Philbin.
Imagining Anna in there again, I begin to understand why she
leaves the door open. Open or closed, no difference.
I stand up. I walk over to Anna's
room, goose bumps prickling on my arms. Just outside the
doorframe, I wonder if I'll frighten her. Maybe if I grin, she'll
pat a spot on the bedspread next to herself and we'll begin.
Unintentionally, I throw myself into the doorway in a comic way.
Anna half rises from her bed, ready to play the maid again and
help me with something.
"No, no," I am about to
shake my hand and say. I am about to somehow blather out in
Spanglish that I've come to help her when I hear it—the
thud, thud, thud down the stairs. I don't turn around at the
annoyed sigh to face Jason, as always, shaking his shaggy blond
hair out of his eyes. Anna and I are still staring at each other,
locked in a wordless exchange as she, I think, begins to
understand. On the tape, the man is still yammering on though:
"Veinticuatro. Veinticinco. Veintiseis." Time hasn't
That's when Jason crosses in front of
me. "Man, is she at those tapes again?" He says and
grabs the doorknob. I look down at his hand, then back up at
Anna's face, still fixed on mine. "Here," Jason says,
shutting the door in one brisk liquid movement. "Why don't we
just close this?"
KATE DELANY’s previous publication credits include a poetry chapbook,
Reading Darwin, published by Poets Corner Press, and appearances in magazines such as
The Advocate, Along the Path, Barrelhouse, Burning Leaf, The Fossil Record, Jabberwock Review, Lilith, 13th Moon, Nomad’s Choir, Samsara, Spire Press, The Writers’
Exchange, and Writing Edge Magazine. She teaches in the English department at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey.