Editor’s Note

Everything is an attempt. My friend taught this concept to me last year, pointing to my favorite novel (the one I cherish above all others, the Holy Grail of books as far as I am concerned) and said simply, “That was just an attempt by the author. It’s all attempts.” 

I’d never thought of it that way. Of course, I knew the author was a writer like me, but at the same time, I believed they were nothing like me—they were beyond attempts, they’d made it! No more trying, just doing, and succeeding. I reckoned they probably never failed, or if they did, it was a different (cleaner, easier) failure. Certainly, if they failed—and that was a strong if—it was in a graceful way, not in the knee-scraping, plummeting face-first, head-over-feet failing that I am familiar with. 

But, of course they fail. Every day has its failings—we forget something, accidentally say something cruel, burn the sauce for the meat that is drying out in the oven, misplace a comma, spell the words separate, restaurant, and tired wrong on the first, second, and third tries. Three steps forward one step back, or maybe no steps at all because we laid in bed the entire day reading fanfiction.  

Life would be boring without our daily failings, without the challenge of trying to do better, without reaching, without attempting. It’s all attempts. 

Remember the best cake you’ve ever eaten, the one you hold all cakes against, for which you would do questionable things to taste again. Consider the album that makes you feel like your nerves are on fire when you listen to it, and it’s all you can do not to dance or cry or sing right out of your skin. Try to recall how you used to draw as a child, or the way you used to write your capital “E”s, your first poem, the first photograph you took on your mom’s purple digital camera, the worst piece of writing you’ve ever created, and the best one, too. They were all attempts, some more successful than others, but attempts just the same, and a laundry-list of failings came before them. And there are successes, too—the everyday attempts you think will be spectacular failures but turn out to be your most triumphant wins! We celebrate these attempts and are grateful for every person who sent them on to us. 

So here is our latest attempt: an online edition consisting of art and writing and interviews, each piece brimming with something we loved. As you read, imagine us, a staff of editors sitting around tables in the library in the dead of winter, doing our best to give all of the submitted attempts the respect they deserve and shine light on our favorites. I hope you’ll love them as much as we do.

May we all keep attempting, failing, attempting again, until we have something that someone somewhere might love just a little. 

Kath Richards 
Winter 2022

 

 

Winter 2022

Clubhouse At Night by Madeline Rupard

Editor’s Note by Kath Richards

Fiction

A Few Miles Off by Ella Jakobi (Inscape Contest Winner) 
A Bullet for the Renafern Man by Benjamin Vance
Thetis by Courtney Lehikainen
Wild Geese by Abby Knudsen

Nonfiction

One Clear Voice by Celisa Fullmer (Inscape Contest Winner) 
A Car Ride, Beastie Boys, and John Lennon’s Ghost by Evie Darrington
Vibrations Through Wire and Air by Kirsten Burningham
Two by Chloe Allen

Poetry

Translation of Relics by Elizabeth Tervo (Inscape Contest Winner)
Fragments from Ernesto and Leti by Isaiah Rubio
Relapse by Isaiah Rubio
Self-Portrait as Flying Turtle by Carol Berg

Art

Clubhouse At Night by Madeline Rupard (Cover)
Greenhouse Vending Machine by Madeline Rupard
Mardi Gras by Phyllis Green
Forever by Phyllis Green
Harmony by Phyllis Green
caves by Janessa Lewis (Inscape Contest Winner)
RESIDUAL I by Samantha Atzbach
Uprooted by Samantha Snyder
Fallen by Nicholas Rex
Unknown Body II by Katelyn Garcia
Sister Vol. 2 by Nicole Konecke
The Meek Shall Inherit by Pamela Parsons
riot grrrl! by Evie Darrington
The Fall of the Albatross by Sydnie Poulsen
Organic Bananas by Marissa Albrecht
University Place by Marissa Albrecht
When Elements Collide by Alexandra Mazzola

Interviews

Interview with Amy Leach by Fleur Van Woerkom
Interview with K.A. Hays by Ariel Hochstrasser

 

Irish Identity in Seamus Deane’s “Reading in the Dark”

by Peter Jasinski 

In Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark, Deane presents us with the childhood of an unnamed narrator who tells the story of his troubled family in postwar Northern Ireland. As the boy stumbles through the complexities and ironies of the adult world, he slowly increases in social and political awareness. The novel takes its title from a scene in which the boy, after the lights are turned off, tries to imagine the story he had been reading. The image of reading in the dark expresses the difficulty of reconstructing the past from fragmentary accounts available in the present: the narrator’s family history “came to [him] in bits, from people who rarely recognized all they had told” (236). He uncovers only a partial picture of the truth as he tries to put together the tragic, mysterious past of his family

The story is concerned with the complexities of how we know, particularly how we know ourselves. For the boy, knowing himself requires knowing and situating himself in his family’s history and Ireland’s history, both of which prove to be elusive. The boy’s search for identity parallels author Seamus Deane‘s broader attempt in his nonfiction to explore the mystery of Ireland‘s past and its present identity, an attempt which is particularly evident in Deane’s political work in the Field Day enterprise¹. It therefore may be tempting to read Reading in the Dark as a movement to produce a nationalist reconstruction of Ireland’s history. But in Reading in the Dark, Deane is nor attempting a simple reconstruction, or rereading, of Irelands history in the darkness of the present. Rather, Deane illustrates-char is, gives an aesthetic form to-the problems and paradoxes of defining Irish identity

As with many perceptions of identity, the model for Irish identity explored by Deane is built on binary oppositions. Binary oppositions are pairings of opposites-such as black/white, good/evil, masculine/ feminine-that allow for simplistic identification. Deane explores key binary oppositions that make up Irish identity, including Irish/English and Catholic/Protestant, that are inherited from history and perpetuated in present-day Ireland. When these binaries are aligned with good/evil, for example, and then used to construct identity, they can be and, indeed, have proven destructive. Although ultimately impossible to eliminate, such binaries form a destructive model of Irish identity. Deane seeks to find new, less-destructive approaches to these categories and the complex, heart-wrenching conflicts they represent. I shall discuss three binary oppositions that characterize Deane’s wresde with Irish identity, reading Reading in the Dark as an artistic expression of the political ideas found in Deanes nonfiction

That Deane would discuss the Irish identity through literary and not historical precedent is not surprising, considering the current conflation of the history/literature binary. Echoing Louis Montrose’s “Historicity of Texts, Textuality of History,” Deane asserts the impracticality of the history/literature binary: 

Literature can be written as History, History as Literature. It would be foolhardy to choose one among the many competing variations and say that it is true on some specifically historical or literary basis. Such choices are always moral and/or aesthetic. They always have an ideological implication. (“Heroic Styles” 45) 

For Deane there is no such thing as an unbiased history, and because histories are no more valid than fictions, no single version of history can be privileged over another. In an introductory essay to Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature, Deane applies his assessment of the history/ literature binary co nationalist literature. He argues that insurgent nationalists use literature “to create a version of history for themselves.” In such a manufactured history, 

their intrinsic essence has always manifested itself, thereby producing readings of the ·past that are as monolithic as that which they are trying to supplant. They are usually, as in Ire land, under the additional disadvantage that much of their past has been destroyed, silenced, erased. (“Introduction” 9) 

Deane acknowledges that the Irish need, but can never achieve, an accurate understanding of their past. At least, the effort to create to respond to the oppressors version of history with ones own is fraught with paradox. 

Nevertheless, conscious of the paradox, Deane asserts his own reading of history, which interestingly enough is concerned primarily with literature. In “The Production of Cultural Space in Irish Writing,” Deane maps out the “process whereby the urge to make what was strange-a recalcitrant Ireland-familiar, a part of the United Kingdom(120), an urge that I perceive as a move to unify the two binaries. Throughout the article, Deane points out the impossibility of merging several cultural binaries. In the late eighteenth century, Irish nationalists attempted to meld the “Gaelic-/ and English-language traditions in poetry, [ ] an attempt to reconcile in the field of literature what had become irreconcilable in the field of politics” (121). In the nineteenth century, Irish writing was seen as anachronistic,” in need of being “coerced out of its willfully nonmodern, even antimodern, condition so that it can be cleared for the initiation of modernity” (123). This coercion was done by simultaneously recording and thereby destroying (silencing) Irish folklore. But by the turn of the century, Ireland’s anachronism became seen “as a unique form of modernity, the form that was opposed to modernization and was, in consequence, culturally richer” (124). Writers turned to Celtic lore as a legitimizing source of anachronistic/modern lrishness, a move that only superficially represents the merging of Protestant and Catholic in the “Celtic spirit” by writers such as Yeats.² The fallacy of this move, meant to fuse Protestant/Catholic and Irish/English into a single Irish culture, will be discussed below. 

But first, let us turn to the novel. Given Deane’s view on history, we should not be surprised that history permeates Reading in the Dark. However, we should be hesitant to interpret the novel (despite its many historical allusions, ranging from Celtic myth to IRA uprisings) as a rewriting of Irish history in order to produce a more authentic, “historically accurate” Irish cultural identity. This is most clearly illustrated by the text the boy narrator reads in the dark, entitled The Shan van Vocht. The book’s political goal is to retell the rebellion of 1798. After he turns off the light, the boy would “lie there, the book still open, re-imagining all [he] had read, the various ways the plot might unravel, the novel opening into endless possibilities in the dark” (20). The boy’s access to the true story of Ireland is mediated by the text, which leaves open “end less possibilities” to its meaning. His imaginings are as important as the text in creating the story he reads. Indeed, he enters into this fictive world, conversing with the heroine, Ann, and refusing to leave her to fight in the rebellion. In the darkness of the present, he can rewrite “his tory” any way he wishes. The book cannot be expected to reveal a single, true History to the boy; rather, history is malleable, changed by the reader who participates in its creation. 

The Shan van Vocht is a phonetic rendering of an Irish phrase meaning “The Poor Old Woman, a traditional name for Ireland” (19). The boy’s reading is connected to the larger issue of connecting to a true history of Ireland. His text is Ireland, a repressed Ireland. As a translated text, The Shan van Vocht (or Ireland) is already linguistically and metaphorically removed from its original context, further complicating an attempt to read it aright. The boy’s participation in creating a version of history suggests that reconstructing Ireland’s history is likewise inextricably in accurate, requiring the reader to fill in gaps with her own narrative. At best, the reader can be conscious of the limits of a text and her participation in creating its meaning. 

If Deane does not attempt a portrayal of a single, true history in Reading in the Dark, he does use the novel to show how a politicized version of history perpetuates destructive prejudices, prejudices that, again, are based on binaries that deconstruct. The stereotypes that form reality in Reading in the Dark are based on the destructive Catholic/Protestant binary opposition, a dichotomy based on religious vocabulary that disguises political work. Considering this political manipulation, the Catholic/Protestant binary can be seen as being an arbitrary division of people. It may be surprising chat an Irish artist would consider the deeply rooted Catholic/Protestant division in Ire land as arbitrary, political, or destructive. But as Terry Eagleton, writing for Deanes Field Day enterprise, notes: 

All oppositional politics thus move under the sign of irony, knowing themselves ineluctably parasitic on their antagonists. Our grudge against the ruling order is not only chat it has oppressed us in our social, sexual, or racial identities, but that it has thereby forced us to lavish an extraordinary amount of attention on these things, which are not in the long run all that important. (26) 

While oppositional political binaries may be arbitrary and ironically parasitic (i.e., Catholic is defined as everything “not Protestant,” and vice versa), they are nevertheless undeniably real and, in Ireland, painfully destructive. In fact, Reading in the Dark illustrates how, as Deane states in a Field Day essay, the Northern Irish “communities have become stereo typed into their roles of oppressor and victim to such an extent that the notion of a Protestant or a Catholic sensibility is now assumed to be a fact of nature rather than a product of[ ] very special and ferocious conditions” (“Heroic Styles” 54). It is against the perceived “naturalness” of Ireland’s Protestant-Catholic division that Deane argues. 

Reading in the Dark opens up a space wherein we can see the artifice of dividing along the religiopolitical boundary of Protestant and Catholic. We see this particularly in how chis ideology (or politically informed “history”) is passed from one generation to another. The novel shows how various ideological apparatuses of the state (family, school, church) inculcate the boy with a destructive, politicized version of history. Deane shows the boy is at first innocent, unprejudiced; he must learn the ideological stereotypes in order to adopt the prejudices against the Protestants. Early in his life, the boy witnesses an accident in which another boy is run over by a lorry. One of the policemen, a Protestant, who is investigating the accident vomits at the sight of the dead body. The narrator feels the same “vertigochat the policeman feels and thus feels “pity for the man. But chis seemed wrong; everyone hated the police, told us to stay away from chem, chat they were a bad lot. So I said nothing” (11). In contrast to his sympathy with the enemy, the boy feels “scarcely any thing for [the dead boy’s] mother or the lorry driver, both of whom I knew(11). But a year later someone retells the story, this time with the policemen deliberately running over the boy. The narrator‘s sympathies transfer from the Protestant policeman to the Catholic mother and lorry driver, and the guilt of feeling pity before for the policeman is allayed. His feelings have been brought into conformity with his community’s stereotypes through a politically constructed version of history, reality, and nature. 

Since models of identity that depend on binary oppositions are arbitrary and destructive and focus our attention on unimportant differences, they should be abolished. But equally destructive can be the attempt to unify binary oppositions, as in the attempts to unify Ireland and England. Reading in the Dark’s epigraph, taken from “She Moved through the Fair,” compares the unification of England and Ireland to marriage: The people were saying no two were e’er wed / But one had a sorrow that never was said.” According to the poem, marriage, or the unifying of sexual opposites, results in the sorrow of one person in the pair. The parallel between marriage and the unification (cultural assimilation or appropriation) of Ireland and England is evident, with Ireland as the suffering, silent partner. As past efforts show, unifying Catholic and Protestant difference cannot be achieved through rewriting a new political version of history. Though rhetorically sophisticated, unifying oppositions ignores the real, oppressive conditions of present-day Ireland. 

Reading in the Dark refutes the historical attempts to unify the inherited, divisive stereotypes. Because of the negative results of trying to bring binary opposites together, there is no obvious attempt at political reconciliation between the Catholics and the Protestants presented in the novel. Continuing the marriage metaphor, the book the boy reads in the dark belonged to his mother before she was married. She had written her maiden name on the flyleaf. The ink had faded, but the letters were very clear. They seemed strange to me, as though they represented some one she was before she was the mother I knew(19). The boy later learns that his mother possibly went into her marriage knowing that her father, a strong nationalist, ordered the execution of her husband’s brother on false accusations of treason. The boy‘s parentsrelationship as a result is strained and fraught with suffering. The unifying of the two families should never have taken place. 

Instead of trying to unify opposites, Deane exposes ideology by blur ring binaries and, in a broader sense, opening up a gap wherein we can see ideology for what it is: a fraud. However, Deane also shows that exposing the artifice of ideology simultaneously destroys those that depend on binaries to construct reality. Reading in the Dark’s most engaging example of blurring binaries-and the destructive effects of doing so-is found in a story told by the boy’s aunt Katie. In the story, two orphans, a brother and sister, are sent by their uncle to live with the nanny. The girl “was dark, the boy was fair” (64). The orphans, Francis and Frances, are obvi ously a binary pair: male and female, light and dark. But when the nanny refuses to let them visit their parentsgrave, the distinctions that make them opposite begin to blur. The boy becomes dark-haired and the girl, fair. But when the nanny takes the children to a priest, they switch back before he sees them. Back at home, the children continue to change, until they change sexes: “The boy was a girl, and the girl was a boy” (67). After this, the children swap incidental features, like eye color and height, driving the nanny mad. Finally, the children change back and forth so rapidly before the nanny’s eyes, that she could no longer tell “which was the boy, which the girl” (71). The nanny remains mute the rest of her life. Through this tragic story-within-the-story, Deane comments on the danger of rigid dependence on oppositional metaphors that result in muteness and madness. 

Obviously, the binaries that form our metaphors are not only sexual; they may just as easily be political. In fact, the lesson taken from the story-that dependence on binaries is destructive-seems to apply not so much to gender, but, again, to Ireland’s political strife. According to Eagleton, “If the binary opposition between ‘man’ and ‘woman’ can always be deconstructed-if each term can always be shown to inhere parasitically within the other-then just the same is true of the opposition between those other virulently metaphysical forms of identity, Catholic and Protestant” (24).³

Ireland’s political strife is represented in the boy’s family. Paralleling the nanny’s experience, the boy’s mother witnesses the destruction of her constructed political reality. Just as the gender lines blur in Aunt Katie’s story, the lines between Catholic and Protestant blur in the mother’s world. Because the nanny in the story depends too much on binary oppositions, Aunt Katie says that a “blights on that family to this very day” (73). Because the boy’s mother has been taught to depend on Catholics always being good and Protestants bad, she also passes on a blight to her family when this model deconstructs. Her father ordered the death of her husband’s brother based on inaccurate information relating that the brother was an informer. Her knowledge of the execution shatters her association of the Catholic political cause with the right. Like the nanny, the mother descends into madness and muteness. That is, destroying the binaries that form an individual’s reality, and thus her identity, corresponds to a destruction of self. Likewise, if Ireland’s Catholics depend on the Other for defining the self, then destroying the Other (or even the binary) destroys the self. Again, Deane would point us to seek out new metaphors for understanding reality and the self. 

Reading in the Dark then is not so much Deane’s solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland, as it is his representation of the troubles there. He shows the complexity of the issues, without attempting to simplify them. By putting the conflict in an aesthetic form, Deane makes the novel do political work, exposing the false dichotomies set up by the Catholic/Protestant, Irish/English oppositions. Deane’s solution is articulated by Eagleton, who posits that Marx believed “that to undo this alienation [caused by class] you had to go, not around class, but somehow all the way through it and out the other side” (23). Deane, paraphrasing Eagleton, states, “The oppositional terms it [nationalism] deploys are the very terms it must ultimately abolish. Yet such abolition is not an easy, peremptory gesture. The divisions of English and Irish, Protestant and Catholic, must be lived through in the present” (“Introduction4). That is, throwing out the oppositions immediately may have extremely destructive implications. 

“Living through” the binary oppositions implies that we can no more ignore the arbitrary difference between them than we could ignore the differences between man and woman. Solutions to the conflict in Northern Ireland must deal squarely with the political realities of the present. At the same time, Deanes solution implies that another rewriting of history, meant to formulate a new present, is inefficient. Real history is always inaccessible to us; no number of perspectives will get us there. And we especially cannot expect to get at real history through literature, which is unavoidably based on ideology that masks over history with its own politically charged history. Instead of rewriting history, Deane exposes through the novel the destructive effects of the binaries on individuals. He also shows in literature-so perhaps it can be avoided in reality-what happens when the binaries break down. 

“Living through” does not mean to casually pass over the painful, difficult information. It is pursuing as accurate a version of the past, accepting the truth of it, even if it is incomplete, even if it is painful. In a pivotal chapter near the end of the novel entitled ”All of It?” the narrator pieces together the fragmented accounts of his family’s past that he has heard throughout his life. With a considerable degree of speculation, leaving some questions unanswered, he eventually arrives at a plausible history of his family that explains the mystery, the silences, and the heartache of his past. Though he has begun to understand his past and himself, the burden of the knowledge, which he shares only with his mother, is difficult to bear. The close of this chapter reveals the central mystery of the novel-the fate of the narrator’s paternal uncle Eddie and how his mother discovered the secret: 

Her father must have told her that; what he hadn’t told her, not until just before he died, was the truth about what had happened to Eddie. She knew it all now. She knew I knew it too. And she wasnt going to tell any of it. Nor was I. But she didnt like me for knowing it. And my father thought he had told me everything. I could tell him nothing, though I hated him not knowing. But only my mother could tell him. No one else. Was it her way of loving him, not telling him? It was my way of loving them both, not telling either. But knowing what I did separated me from chem both. (194) 

But telling, celling one’s own version of the truth, celling one’s pain, may be the only solution. The narrators mother tells him of a conversation between her and a Sergeant Burke, who comes seeking corroborating evidence for his police files on her father. Burke says, “Politics destroyed people’s lives in this place….People were better not knowing some things, especially the younger people, for all chat bother dragged on them all their lives, and what was the point?” (215). As if in response, after the conversation, the boy imagines a conversation with his mother, one that he wishes he could have: “What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you….What I dont know and you won’t tell, that does hurt me” (216). For the narrator, not knowing but imagining alternatives to the past is “worse than having just one set of facts, the one story that cancelled all the others, the one truth she could tell. But everyone who had been there was dead or in exile or silenced one way or the other” (216-17). If any healing is to occur in Ireland, full disclosure of the past as experienced by one generation must be passed on to the next. 

For Deane, part of living through the paradoxes afflicting Irish identity is to turn the conflict into art. Reading in the Dark perhaps does not give solutions to the troubles, but may be a solution itself. The memoirs of the unnamed narrator take us back through his personal history. As readers, we too live through the experience. We may not understand perfectly, but we understand better. While the narrator remains unnamed throughout the novel, we are left suspecting that the childhood of the narrator growing up in the 1940s in Derry shares at least some biographical features with Deane, also born in Derry in 1940. For Deane, telling his story, as mixture of fiction and history, is a constructive rather than destructive way of grappling with the impossibly complex emergence of the colonized from the colonizer. In the narrative, the binary oppositions that have long troubled the quest for Irish national identity and the identity of self in Ireland can exist side by side, they can dissolve, fuse into each other, or ultimately be abolished-with results that are instructive. By telling a story, Deane does not have to point fingers and perpetuate a cycle of retribution. By accepting and representing his past, he lives through it and emerges on the other side. 

¹Deane is one of the directors of the Field Day Theatre Company. Established in 1980, the company quickly expanded into pamphleteering and publishing. Field Day seeks solutions co the crisis in Northern Ireland by producing analyses of the established opinions, myths and stereotypes which had become both a symptom and a cause of the current situation” (Ireland’s Field Day vii). Deane has been the editor of the recently published Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature (1992). As might be suspected from the inherent social and political aims of Field Day, much of the theory behind their work leans on Marxist criticism, as apparent in the fifth series of Field Day pamphlets, Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature, a collection of essays by Marxist scholars Terry Eagleton, Frederick Jan1eson, and William Said. 

²Deane scares, Once the Irish revival had, through Standish O’Grady, Sigerson, and Years, established chat chis ‘Celtic spiritwas Protestant as well as Catholic, a form of Protestant dissent chat repudiated the modern world just as much as Catholic loyalty to ancient forms had resisted it, the cultural version of the solidarity of the Irish national community was complete” (Production 125). 

³Eagleton shows the parasitic nature as follows: “Catholic, of course, means universal; so there is something curious in using it to define a particular kind of national identity. There is a good Joycean irony involved in establishing one’s Irish identity by reference to a European capital. But the claim of the Roman Catholic church to universality is in any case only necessary once that status has been challenged by Protestantism, and so is no sooner raised than refuted, denying in the very act of assertion. Protestantism, on the other hand, is in one sense an aberration from such universal identity, an affirmation of national difference; yet it takes the historical form of a return to the pure universal essence of Christianity which the Church of Rome has supposedly contaminated” (24-25). 

Bibliography 

Deane, Seamus. “Heroic Styles: The Tradition of an Idea.” Ireland‘s Field Day. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986. 45-58. 

—. “Introduction.” Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature. Minneapolis: Uni versity of Minnesota Press, 1990.3-19

—. “The Production of Cultural Space in Irish Writing.” Boundary 2 21 (Fall 1994): 117-44. 

. Reading in the Dark. New York: Vintage, 1996

Eagleton, Terry. “Nationalism: Irony and Commitment.” Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. 23-39. —. Ireland’s Field Day. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986.

Riding the Bus

by Davey Erekson

 

Day 1 

The bus was silent. I leaned back in the uncomfortably small seats and breathed deeply. Long day. The hour commute from school to home seemed painfully long as the bus stopped and flipped its doors open every two minutes. I thought of all the homework that needed to be done and let my backpack sit on the floor to the left of me. My thoughts wandered through the events of the day, moved to my dreams of becoming an influential thinker of the future, fell back to a good-looking girl I had seen at work that day, remembered the discomfort the seats caused. I saw a man walk onto the bus and sit down in a seat near the front, his hat resting on top of his head like an alert cat. He fascinated me.

So I found a pastime: people watching. 

Day 2 

Everyone was silent again, the bumps on the road clunking under the tires and the screaming of the air conditioner creating all the noise in the vehicle. 

There were three others there. The first was a large man in dark slacks. His patterned socks clashed with his brown shoes—a man who thought he dressed nicely. He wore a golf shirt with “Toys Я Us” printed across the left pocket. His head looked awkward, a large melon on a stick, and his hands were too big for his arms. His breath came with effort, each blast of air ruffling the whiskers of his upper lip. 

The other two were married. They sat side by side, the man slender and kind looking. The woman was the kind of person you know is young but has the features of a fifty-year-old. A hardened fifty-year-old. Side by side they sat, silent. 

Everyone stared forward, rejecting any involvement with the other bus riders beyond the shared blue space. 

Day 5 

He was talking about men and women. I watched him, the man with a full beard and baseball cap. His voice whined.

“Well, all I’m saying is that men are inherently worse than women.” 

The bus driver answered. 

“Huh.” 

“I mean, men are users and liars, and they care only about physical beauty, whereas women look deeper. They care more about the kind of guy, and men are just losers.” The woman next to him began. 

“Well, I don’t agree. There are good people in—”

“You have to admit though, that women are naturally better.”

The driver mumbled. 

“University Mall, transfer point.” 

“Don’t you think women are naturally just better than men?” I couldn’t hear the driver’s reply and watched as the bearded man stepped off the bus. 

Day 13 

“Now don’t be mad if I break this.” I watched him take a pencil out of my backpack and asked, “What?” 

The thin wood snapped under his fingers. He grabbed three more pencils and I thought, what do you mean, “don’t be mad if I break this”? Those are my only—snap, snap, snap. The three pencils were in his hands in six pieces. 

He looked down at my human anatomy book, my backpack lying open to assault on the floor. 

“I want to take that class. Want to know why?” 

I grunted neutrally. 

“I want to learn to dissect humans.”

And he smiled what I swear was the most evil smile I have ever seen in my life. I decided to scoot over a bit. 

“You know what I want for Christmas?” 

Annoyed at the complete uselessness of the question, I answered. ttNo.tt 

“Five hundred dollars.” 

He paused to let this sink in. 

“Do you know why?” 

I paused, contemplated the question, and replied the best I could. “No.” 

“For a piece of machinery.” 

I pulled a book out of my bag and began reading intently, while he took my pen and shoved it in his pocket. 

Day 15 

An empty bus. Just the driver and me. I let my mind wander again, let my thoughts find an interest to lock on to. We jumped along the road, air straining through the roaring air conditioner, me shivering in the back seat. 

I thought about the ride, the accidental gathering of people who don’t know each other, forced into close quarters. I guess everyone has to ride a bus sometime. 

I wonder what kind of rider I was.

 

Davey Erekson is currently an open major at BYU. Because of his lack of understanding of how the world works, he plans on being a street guitarist in San Francisco for a time. He also enjoys watching birds. After serving an LDS mission, he plans on returning to BYU and finding a wife. This should make him very happy.

Preserving the Rhetorical Nature of Writing Centers When Going Online

by Lisa Eastmond Peabody

As of mid-September, 1999, there were 278 online writing centers linked to the National Writing Centers Association Website,” and the number is growing (Leander 3). With such swift advances in the world of technology, American universities feel the pressure to be on the cutting edge, which often means giving in to the pressure to go online before thoroughly considering options. Karen Rowan, writing center director at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, suggests that the excitement surrounding online tutoring is best served as an appetizer to a substantial entree of research and scholarship” (10). Yet online tutorials are taking place at an alarming rate, considering the lack of research and scholarship dealing not only with how the service is being accepted by student writers and peer tutors, but how the tutoring process itself has been altered by the Internet as a medium. With an understanding of writing center theory, it is clear that although the prevailing trend is toward Online Writing Labs (OWLs), a rhetorical shift has taken place that alters dialectic, discussion-based tutoring and often omits the holistic approach by eliminating handouts, reference sources, and forums for specific questions. 

Writing centers ought to provide a variety of resources, but they also ought to center around peer tutoring to accomplish their goals. Speaking of the ideal function of a writing center, Stephen North states, Our job is to produce better writers and not just better papers” (qtd. in Gillespie and Lerner 30). Part of this goal is accomplished by keeping the tutorial student centered. In theory, tutorials should be student owned. The tutor merely acts as a sounding board and facilitator of discussion. However, no matter what the student’s desires for revision include, a tutorial should never turn into a proofreading, editing session, for as Mary M. Dossin of SUNY Plattsburg points out, “Tutoring is valid only when it is part of the learning process” (16). Clearly, tutoring is challenging as it strives to adhere to these goals of writing center theory. 

Ideally, face-to-face writing center tutors work one-on-one with student writers for approximately twenty minutes to an hour, depending on the program, focusing first on the broad issues of organization and content, and second on sentence-level revision issues, keeping in focus the task of creating better writers and not simply better papers. In the Harcourt Brace Guide to Peer Tutoring, Toni-Lee Capossela outlines the broad-co-narrow focus that tutorials ideally use, starting with appropriate ness for assignment, then topical focus, followed by organization and development, introduction and conclusion, and finally, the surface features of grammar, usage, and style (12). This approach allows the tutorial to remain process based as opposed to product based. In addition to the global-co-local, process-based approach, in these face-to-face tutorials, tutors are able to clarify the roles of student and tutor, rely heavily on methods of questioning and reader response to facilitate discussion, redefine and clarify words and phrases as well as read the silences, facial expressions, and body movements of the writer, all part of a dialectical approach. Sarah Kimball, writing center director at the University of Texas, maintains that 

in the face-to-face session the questions are viewed as un-problematically ephemeral. Baker claims that because nothing is written down, the terms and concepts which they denote remain slippery, somewhat indeterminate; the tutor has not defined anything for the student; the tutor has simply attempted to help the student come to a workable definition for herself.” (33) 

In face-to-face tutorials, the dialectical tutoring process defines the roles of student as owner and tutor as facilitator in the learning process and demands interaction and recognition of nonverbal social cues in order to better the writer and not only the text. 

Depending on a tutor’s training, a tutor may facilitate this discussion and learning process in a number of ways. Many tutors make use of the Socratic method by leading the writer to conclusions about or solutions for revising the paper, through questioning. Both learning how and when to use indirect and direct forms of questioning is a key component of most tutor training in an attempt to draw student writers into interactive discussion. Additionally, tutors often use the reader response approach to engage the writer in thinking about the audience’s needs, thus clarifying and organizing the paper or arguments presented by the writer. Often tutors use a combination of these types of comments and questions, and because of the dialectical nature of the face-to-face tutorial, students have a chance to thoroughly defend or explain their reasoning or presentation of the paper, or express confusion at the tutor’s examples or questions, allowing the dialogue to be transmitted through both verbal discussion and nonverbal communication

Unlike face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials tend toward a local, product-based focus, void of vital discussion; in such tutorials, individual roles are often misunderstood, and questions or calls for interaction go unheeded. Online tutorials based in Online Writing Labs and email postings generally have students post their papers to the tutor with a brief overview of the assignment and, in ideal situations, two or three specific questions. Tutors then access the text and respond within a 24-48 hour period. If the purpose of a writing center is to allow student writers to improve basic writing skills through peer interaction, then the online tutoring process and the dialectical structure of OWL postings and email exchange tutorials should also maintain this function. However, Kimball suggests that “in working with student writers online, we are not merely transporting what we do in face-to-face conversation in our real-life writing center into cyberspace” (30). Jackson agrees that there may be rhetorical shifts in the peer tutoring process, saying that the face-to-face tutorial cannot be processed through fiber-optics, for both the writer and the tutor are real individuals, with real writing needs; it is an ongoing dialogue and indirect questioning, and the writer’s response.” Clearly then, if the dialectical tutoring methods of “on-going dialogue and indirect questioning, and the writers response” cannot be used in online tutoring practices, especially those based in email exchange or OWL postings, then the rhetorical structure of online tutoring must be different (1-2). 

Though posting via email or OWLs is convenient, it does not adhere to writing center theory and goals. David Coogan, an online tutoring program coordinator at SUNY Albany, says he has 

learned that if e-mail tutorials “work,” they change the meaning of tutorial work by challenging the rhetorical constraints of face-to face conferencing. In other words, by replacing talk with asynchronous writing, e-mail disrupts the most familiar boundaries in the writing center: shared space and limited time. fu a result, e-mail changes the conferences discipline by slowing it down (from 30 minutes to several days), and by collapsing the self into text where it becomes a rhetorical construct, not a social given. Interpreting student text, rather than the student, becomes e-mail tutoring‘s centerpiece. (1) 

OWL postings and email tutorials simply do not allow for both student and tutor to be simultaneously present in time and space. The online version of the peer tutoring process potentially omits the “peer” and makes what in physical writing centers is a discussion-based, dialectical activity, into an endeavor in which the peer becomes the expert, in a drawn-out dialectical endeavor, or one in which the writer is left with only “corrected text.” 

One problem that comes with the rhetorical shift of putting tutorials online is the misunderstanding about both the peer and the student’s role within the tutorial. Some writing center directors see this posting of papers as equal to the student who comes into the center, unfamiliar with the peer tutoring process, and asks to drop off a paper and pick it up again in a few hours after it has been “corrected.” Clearly, these students do not recognize their role in the process of revising their own papers. Joan Hawthorne of University of North Dakota’s Writing Center stresses that “‘our rationale [for not permitting such a process] has to do with wanting to work with rather than for the writer”‘ (qtd. in Moe 15). Tutors and writing center directors acknowledge that current online tutoring systems, especially OWL postings and email exchange, have the potential for such limited discussion, rhetorically changing the peer tutoring process dramatically. 

In online tutorials, unlike face-to-face tutorials, tutors are not able to read the student without an opening discussion or visual social cue, though many try to simulate it in a brief survey, to be completed before sending a paper in for a tutorial. Kimball notes that “this lack of information about participants’ attitudes and intentions makes a difference in a medium that seems like conversation” (5). That difference is what prevents dispelling the myth that students can simply drop off papers to be “fixed.” Often, then, the lack of dialectic discussion in online tutoring may simply exist because the students do not understand their role within the tutorial. 

When expectations are unclear not only are tutors left with only a guessing game, but the writer is often left with disappointment. Holly Moe, a peer tutor at Modesto Junior College in California, offers her experience with Smarthinking.com, a commercial online tutoring program, as a perfect example. Though enthusiastic about the possibilities of peer tutoring online, Moe found that the online tutor, when looking at Moe‘s writing, misread the prompt and offered me all the wrong solutions. Furthermore, he or she edited my sentences, changing my voice and meaning(14). In this case, the rhetoric shifts from dialectical discussion to disconnected expert advice where the tutor owns and corrects” the paper and then emails or posts the product to the waiting author, disrupting the bounds of peer tutoring practice and falling out of line with writing center goals. 

Unfortunately, this local, product-based approach to tutoring is not uncommon when time and space are not shared by both student and tutor. Undoubtedly, it is easier for the tutor to fall into the role of editor when the student is not present. This tendency toward the product-based approach has many writing center directors and peer tutors worried because it is not in harmony of the goals of a writing center. J. A. Jackson of Purdue’s Online Writing Center relates this fear: “The most frightening prospect of the online tutorial is that all one is left with is the writing and not the writer, the product and not the process” (2). This shift to editing rather than tutoring is especially easy because writing centers serve students from across the disciplines, and tutors certainly do not and cannot comprehend the content of such a wide range of texts. For this reason alone, tutors may assume that the student authors “know what they are talking about,” and revert to looking at formulaic concepts of structure, style, and grammar and usage, all part of a local focus

However, many tutors recognize this tendency to move an online tutorial toward a local, product-based focus, and attempt to interact with the writer by the familiar methods of questioning. Tutors may try to ask questions, both direct and indirect, to essentially help students engage in the learning process. Jackson admits, though, that unfortunately the tutor’s questions often go unanswered and there is hardly ever “follow-up feedback” from the writer (6). Again the rhetorical shift is evident as online tutorials move farther and farther away from the dialectic, discussion-based approach. 

However, online tutoring is not completely destined for failure. While it is clear that there are rhetorical differences between face-to-face peer tutoring and current online tutoring practices, overcoming some of these obstacles may be easily done, by shifting from postings on OWL and email, to more chat-based programs. Currently several universities are experimenting with programs such as chatrooms, Multiple User Dialogue or Dimension (MUD), and MUD, Object Oriented (MOO). All of these programs allow students and tutors to share virtual time and space, making way for conversation—questioning methods, reader response, clarification of roles, and so on. Working with programs such as MOO in conjunction with email or OWL postings also allows for the text to be present for both the student writer and the peer tutor. These simple changes begin to preserve the familiar dialectical tutoring approach of traditional tutoring as the practice is taken online. 

But even if they maintain the rhetorical nature of peer tutoring, online writing centers are not complete in their practice and goals without additional resources for student writers. Most offline writing centers offer many resources for students visiting their physical space such as reference books, handbooks, handouts, and knowledgeable tutors who can provide quick answers to specific questions. In response to the contrast between current practices in most online writing centers and the proposed holistic practice, Eric H. Hobson in the introduction to Wiring the Writing Center suggests that 

in their first forays online, many writing centers are creating themselves in the form of their antithesis, that nemesis writing lab. Put bluntly, many OWLs consist primarily of the contents of old filing cabinets and handbooks—worksheets, drill activities, guides to form—pulled out of the mothballs, dusted off and digitized…in addition to a reliance on these types of materials, by allowing—even encouraging—writers to make use of these online resources, many of these writers write in isolation. (xvii) 

If writing in isolation is the end product of these online programs based in OWL and email exchange and supported only by online versions of handbooks, then these virtual spaces fail as writing centers, which champion collaborative learning based on peer tutoring. Clearly, there is a need to preserve the rhetorical nature of peer tutoring as interactive, placing peer tutoring at the heart of online writing centers, but not offering it as the sole service, for there again would we be falsely presenting the concept of a writing center

Although peer tutoring is the main activity of a writing center, students also come in for the quick fixes offered by handouts, handbooks, reference books, and by asking tutors a few specific questions about a specific assignment, and these resources must also be preserved as part of a complete and complex writing center. Instead of tucking these resources away online, they should play an integral role in the service provided by an online writing center. Undoubtedly, students who have a question on common punctuation or even need to know where to start when writing about critical theory could use online handouts as a jumping off point for their writing. Additionally, if students have questions that go beyond what handouts cover, especially those dealing with style, online writing centers should offer links to the APA, MLA, and Turabian homepages, so that students can troubleshoot their own questions just as they would if handed a manual in the physical space of a writing center. Likewise, online writing centers need to offer access to dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, handbooks, and other such references. While interaction between student and tutor should attempt to remain discussion based in tutorials, much of the time student writers have a few specific questions that the tutor can answer directly or refer the student to a resource that contains the answers to those specific questions. These quick exchanges can take place via email or OWL in contrast to the more extensive chat programs where peer tutors and student writers can focus on discussion based tutoring. 

Empire State College, in Saratoga Springs, New York, has created a Writer’s Complex as part of their virtual library or “cybrarythat offers more of a holistic approach to putting writing center services online. Not only is this online writing center visually appealing (http://www.esc.edu/writer), but it offers a variety of resources besides just student tutor interaction. A student writer needs only to identify the type of help he or she needs and then click on that portion of the Writer’s Complex to access the support needed. Empire State College’s Online Writing Center, the Writer’s Complex, offers everything from the basics of essay writing to ESL resources, in addition to their Tutor’s Mailbox, which allows student writers to ask specific questions and/or submit their papers for review (unfortunately, not discussion-based review)

Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah, also offers a varied approach and achieves a more complete transfer of their writing center online as they keep peer tutoring at the heart of their services with additional resources provided to further support student writers. Though there are no handouts or links for students to access, Salt Lake Community College offers three styles of online tutoring—email advising, web board advising, and real-time advising. Each has a clearly defined purpose that attempts to meet an individual writer’s various needs, whether that be a full tutorial, an answer to a quick question, or peer feedback for several students (http://www.slcc.edu/wc/student/etutoring.htm). 

Finally, despite all the work that writing centers are employing to get their services online, the possibilities that accompany the internet as a medium for teaching composition are endless as new hardware and software are continually emerging, and undoubtedly, online practices will change with the ever-advancing medium. However, writing centers can not simply avoid experimentation and wait for someone else to figure out how to preserve the rhetorical nature of peer tutoring online while augmenting it with other resources. It is through experimentation that writing centers will discover the previously unknown pathways for transmitting writing center services online. Indisputably, we must admit as does Eric Hobson in quoting Diana George that 

the technology is here. We cannot ignore it. Furthermore, we already know that computer technology-the communication revolution-is more powerful than skillsand-drills work books on screen. What we dont know, I am convinced, is how this New Worldreally will configure our teaching and our tutoring. (ix)

Although the current trend in online writing centers is toward OWL and email posting tutorials, we have not seen the end of interactive, dialectic peer tutoring at the heart of writing center practice, and in fact, we will continue to see advances that help secure the rhetorical nature of peer tutoring as we are willing to work with computer microphones, web cameras, and so on. Michael D. McMaster, a social theorist, claims that “to make the shift in thinking [into the information age], we need the willingness to unlearn the old and the courage to grapple with the new and unfamiliar” (Murphey and Law 190). In essence, the near future of writing centers online is full of experimentation and offers plenty of room for research in both that which is currently being done in online writing centers and the many possibilities that are to come that will keep the rhetorical nature of peer tutoring, the holistic approach to writing center services, and the goals of writing center theory intact. 

Bibliography 

Coogan, David. “Email Tutoring, A New Way to Do Work.” Computers and Composition 12.2 (1995) 6 Nov 2000. <http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/ccjrnl/Archives/vI2/l 2_2hnnl/feature.htm.b

Cooper, George, Kara Bui, and Linda Riker. Protocol and Process in Online Tutoring,A Tutor’s Guide: Helping Students One on One. Ed. Ben Rafoth. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook: 2000. 91-101. 

DAngelo, Barbara J., and Barry M. Maid. “Virtual Classroom, Virtual Library: Library Services for an Online Writing Laboratory.” Reference & User Services Quarterly 39 (2000): 278-83. 

Dossin, Mary M. The ESL Quandary.Writing Lab Newsletter 20 (1996): 14-15. Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Need ham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2000. 

Hobson, Eric, ed. Wiring the Writing Center. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2000. Jackson, J. A. “Interfacing the Faceless: Maximizing the Advantages of Online Tutoring.” Writing Lab Newsletter 25 (2000): 1-7. 

Jordan-Henley, Jennifer, and Barry M. Maid. “MOOving along the Information Superhighway: Writing Centers in Cyberspace.” Writing Lab Newsletter 19 (1995): 1-6

Kimball, Sara. “Cybenext/ Cyberspeech: Writing Centers and Online Magic.” Writing Center Journal 18 ( I 997): 30. 

Leander, Kevin M. “Laboratories for Writing.” Journal for Adolescent & Adult Literacy 43 (2000): 662-68. 

Moe, Holly. “Web Study of Smarthinking.com.” Writing Lab Newsletter 25 (2000): 13-16. 

Murphey, Christina, and Joe Law. “Writing Center and WAC Programs as Info structures: Relocating Practice with Futurist Theories of Social Change.Writing Centers and Writing across the Curriculum Programs: Building Interdisciplinary Partnerships. Ed. Robert Barnett and Jacob S. Blumner. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999

Rowan, Karen. “Review of Taking Flight with OWLS: Research into Technology Use in Writing Centers.” Ed. James Inman and Donna Sewell.” Writing Lab Newsletter 25 (2000): 9-10. 

Fall 2021 Editor’s Note

Dear Readers,

Writing is a soul-baring endeavor, but nothing feels so vulnerable to me as sharing and submitting my work. By submitting, I choose to send a little piece of myself—my time, energy, efforts—to a friend or an abject stranger and say, “What do you think?”

It’s horrifying, maybe, or it’s exciting, or both, and either way you wait until you are inevitably accepted or rejected. Just like that, they want it, or they don’t. And if they don’t, you keep submit- ting, sending your work to dozens of journals (I have a friend who just got a story accepted after sending it to thirty-seven separate places) until, hopefully, your work finds the perfect home. And if it doesn’t, maybe you put the work in a drawer or a graveyard folder, but you keep creating because to succeed in this business is to persist. So thank you to all those who submitted, who hoped for a yes and got a no, who hoped for a yes and got one.

This year we’ve been archiving old editions of Inscape—copies that go all the way back to 1982, and there’s something thrilling about publishing online what hasn’t been seen for maybe forty years. This archival project has made me think of the journal as an artifact, a slice of a moment in time. It is a memento of a unique staff’s artistic sensibilities; it is the work of editors, writers, and artists, and made with the express hope of being read.

The collaborative work of making a journal is intense. On our end, we solicit submissions, critically read said submissions, hold weekly discussions, design and layout the edition, and work on countless other tasks that keep our operation running. Yet absolutely none of that would mean a thing if not for the writers, sculptors, painters, photographers, poets, and essayists sharing their work with us. Inscape would not exist without the people vulnerable enough to submit, and would exist for no one without you to read it.

This is a love letter to all the people who shared their work with us, to any person who worked on this journal at some point between now and 1982, to our current staff who worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to create this edition, and to the readers of Inscape—wherever you are in space or time.

Thank you for writing, for reading, for creating. I hope you enjoy this edition of Inscape as much as we do.

Kath Richards
December 2021

Warming House

By Randy Hawkinson

        It was early morning. When I answered the phone two people began  
talking on the other end. One said Ben had locked himself in the bedroom  
with her, and the other said to hurry. One thanked me and then they both  hung up
        My mom and dad walked into the kitchen. I told them. My mom  
sobbed and my dad peeled his pajamas off his belly.  
        My mom said she thought the doctor said Ben's mom was getting  
better. She asked what had happened. I didn't know. My mom sighed.  
Then my dad said that someone should call Ben's football coach at the  
University of Minnesota, that he could coax Ben out. My dad shook his  
head and my mom said we'll take some banana bread for Ben and Beth,  
and here, eat these doughnuts. Then we all drove over.  
        Uncle Ferdy opened Ben's door. He was holding a fifth of Old  
Forrester. He said nothing, then wiped his mouth on his sleeve. His red  
nose bobbed as he bit his lip. Then he smiled at me and I said Hi Booly  
to him.  
        The bedroom door opened into the living room, so everyone was there
A plant was tipped over on the carpet. Everyone walked around the dirtMy mom said my dad's name. Ben's younger sister, Beth, was sitting on  
the couch, crying
        One of the police officers, the younger one, mentioned the possibility  
of bloating or smell. He said in Vietnam he and some others came across  
this teeny little dead granny " gook" in her hootch. My mom pinched a  
bead on her rosary and said a prayer. He said she was puffed up fatter  
than a pig and stinking worse than anything he'd ever smelled. Then he  
and his partner and the doctor walked up to the bedroom door and asked  
Ben to come out. Ben told them to shove it. Then he called the doctor  
a liar. Someone said there wasn't enough air.  
        Father Lafontaine called out to Ben that there were rough spots in  
everyone's life. As he spoke he waved his white hands and moved his frocked  
arms in great slow arcs like someone rowing a boat in a dream. Ben swore  
and kicked the door and said sure, and to tell him all about it
        Everyone started talking, saying they knew what should be done. Ferdy  
took a drink and stomped his foot and grunted. The young cop, the heel  
of his hand smothering his squawking walkie-talkie, told Ferdy to cool his  
jets and take it easy on the circus water. Ferdy stumbled over to me and  
offered me a drink. I said I'd better not, Booly. Then he took one and  
said Ish, that's good, and wound his way through the bodies and round  
the dirt. Beth blubbered and bawled and my dad said we should call Ben's  
coach.  
        Then Father LaFontaine draped an arm around me and led me up  
to the door. Someone said someone open a window. My cheek cooled on  
the smooth varnished wood. I listened. The doctor said he wasn't a liarand then no one moved and I almost said Ben. My dad told the cops that  
when Ferdy got drunk on bourbon he turned into Booly Boolosh. Beth  
blubbered and gasped for air, and then the bedsprings squeaked. Booly  
who? the cop said, and my dad said Boolosh, Norm Boolosh, Minnesota's  
fullback. Then the bedsprings squeaked again and Ben said my name. His  
nose was plugged. He was inches away. He tried to clear his throat and  
say something
        Everyone started moving around and talking again. Ferdy tucked his  
bottle under his arm like a football, stiff-armed the air and plowed his  
way into the kitchen. The doctor paced. My dad wiped the back of his  
neck and said oofta, it's sticky in here, eh, and that this was a job for Coach  
Salem. Father LaFontaine swung his arms again and said Ben, my son, we  
know, we know, and the doctor said he wasn't a liar. The old cop lifted  
a hand above his head and said the humidity must be up to here. I leaned  
against the door and let my hand fall from my cheek. Beth tried to say  
something.  
        Ferdy walked back in carrying a bag of potato chips. The young cop  
said she could even be stinking and bloating now because it happens faster  
in the humidity and heat. Ben leaned on the door. He told Father  
LaFontaine that he could go plumb to hell.  
        He yelled it
        My mom pinched another bead and said a Hail Mary. Ferdy laughed  
and blew bourbon through his nose. Beth tried to stop crying. The young  
cop whispered was this a puzzle palace or what. His partner said it was  
just the frequency of this crap, that's all. Father LaFontaine touched the  
door and said to Ben that yes, yes, it's hard, but that we should let Him  
decide when-but Ben just yelled it out again and swore and kicked the  
door.  
        Nobody talked. My mom pinched another bead and the tips of her  
fingers turned red. Beth started bawling again. Ferdy mingled, offering  
chips. The officers peeled their uniforms off their skin, and my mom's  
fingertips turned white. Then Ferdy asked who remembered the words to  
"In the Cellars of Old Cloquet High."  
        Then the doctor yelled into the bedroom something about why he'd  
said what he did. Father La.Fontaine sighed. Someone's skin glistened. The  
young cop said he'd bet his left arm that she was puffing up like a  
baloo-but someone said someone please open a window. My dad wiped  
his face and said the solution was a phone call away. Beth shuddered. I  
lifted my fingers from the knob, and pressed the backs of them to the  
door. Ferdy started humming
        Ben said that he had to pee. He asked me if I would bring in an empty  
pitcher. He yelled that if anyone else tried to come in they were dead meat        The room was dimly lit from the closet light. Ben thanked me for  
the pitcher. His bicep jumped when he grabbed it. He asked me to lean  
against the door so it would click. The young cop said if he had it his way  
Booly Shmooly would be on his way to Duluth for the cure, and Ben  
wouldn't-but his partner said it was simply a matter of frequency        Ben turned away from me. He'd held it for a long time        His mother was all lumped under the bedsheet. Ben said oofta. Ferdy  
stopped humming and said there wasn't enough air around to dry a June  
bug's butt, and then started humming again. Ben put the pitcher on the  
window sill and squeezed me and said after he'd lifted weights and run  
sprints he just found her there. Here. He said he'd started shaking and  
then yelling and then Beth came in but he shoved her back out and locked  
the door. She'd called the priest. He said he'd strangle the doctor. Ben's  
square chest heaved. Ferdy began to sing. My dad asked why someone  
wouldn't just pick up the phone and call Ben's coach. Beth whimpered  
and choked, and the doctor said that what he'd told Ben was no different  
than what he'd told the Pollard boys about their father last week. My dad  
said Mother of Mary and one of the cops asked Ferdy what the hell his  
real problem was, anyway.  
        Ben's chest glistened, and then he held his breath too long and  
squeaked. He swore and coughed and looked at his mother. He pointed  
to the sheet over her face and said he didn't know what the hell else to  
do, and that the doctor had lied. Ben's fingers wiggled. He flexed his upper  
body and tried to clear his throat. The old cop said frequency.  
        Ben did push-ups. He asked me to count. His forearms bulged and  
the muscles on his back wiggled like snakes. He pushed and pushed and  
I counted out loud. The blue Chippewa throw rug wrinkled under his feetFerdy sang. Ferdy sang and sang and sang. When I said fifty Ben stopped  
and stood up. His chest was gorged. Then with the heel of his hand he  
tried to smooth the sheet that draped her. He patted one side smooth,  
but then the other side wrinkled, so he started shuffling back and forth,  
squeaking and pinching and patting and in different voices saying words  
and names and other things. He pointed to the pitcher and said who would  
believe it and pinched a wrinkle. His bottom lip turned inside out
        Ferdy sang the refrain and started over
        She was just lumped under the sheet. Beth bawled and bawled, then  
tried to say something, but a walkie-talkie squawked about a 10-41 in  
progress at Stella's Bar, and that a back-up and something else was needed,  
and then someone said someone open a window before they croak.  
        Then Father Lafontaine called out to Ben and said we know not the  
time or place. For a moment everyone listened. Then the doctor yelled that  
lying wasn't the word for it at all and the young cop again prophesied  
bloating and Ben, with his pumped pectorals and milk-jug forearms and  
striated back, pinched at the wrinkles and patted the lump and between  
squeaks talked fracture, saying things in different voices like so many radio  
stations crowded too close in the night.  
        Ferdy gurgled another verse.  
        And then Ben crumpled onto the bed. He breathed and looked  
around and said my name and looked at me. And I said his.  

The Phone Call

By Tim Hansen

         I was told at the time I was old enough to understand that  
I was the exact reincarnation of John Wilkes Booth, and that  
when I finally became a man, I would, discriminately of course,  
kill the President of the United States in the coldest blood  
imaginable. Having such an honorable duty hanging over my head, I began  
to collect the President's series of stamps, pasting each one in my book  
with youthful fervor. I really thought that I might see one of these famous  
gentlemen walking along the rocky paths of our commune and bean him  
with my slingshot. You can imagine what a traumatic blow it was to me  
to find out that my mother's notions about me were only so much talk,  
and that she and her guru friend had been thoroughly zoned at the time  
they'd told me. Being Americans, they never saw the need to renege on  
the lie when they were straight.  
        I sit on the end of Pier 39. Three sea gulls play tag high above. As  
I watch, the biggest of them cuts away from the group and dips sharply  
to the right. It hangs a moment in mid-air. For a second, I don't think  
it's moving at all. Then it tips one dingy grey wing and swoops in over  
my head.  
        Behind me, someone screams. I turn just in time to see the bird glide  
in and tear a crab cup from the hands of a fat woman in a purple polyester  
kimono. The woman shrieks and pouts. She stamps her feet and wigglesThe crowd oohs and aahs as the sea gull makes a smooth arc back into  
the sky. I turn my face to the sun and laugh out loud. I think this is funny.  
        It's carnival time on the wharf-mid-July and noisy. I like to hide  
in the noise. I stare at the water far below and imagine the dorsal fin of  
a friendly bay shark slicing its way through the water as the hungry machine  
separates my legs from my body. I suddenly decide that I'm going to wait  
all night for the shark if I have to. It's not a bad thought. It'll get me  
through the day.  
        A while later, I hear a scraping noise off to my left. I turn to see a  
sea gull skidding in for a landing. It's the same one that attacked the tourist. 
It's a big one, with a large bluish patch of feathers forming a ring around  
its neck. It looks at me for a moment, and then comes up beside me. We  
both stare out at the water. After a minute, the sea gull talks to me.   
        "Some day, huh?''  
        I look over at the bird. It ruffles its feathers and snaps its beak. I decide  
not to say anything. I'm in no mood to talk. It's quiet for a while, and  
then the bird speaks again. It has a deep voice. I decide it's a guy        "Your girl leave you? 
        My resolve melts and I speak. "How'd you know? " I ask.  
"I could tell," he says, scratching at the pier with his foot, or whatever  
it is birds have. "My old lady took off a while back."  
        "Really?" I say. " Where'd she go?"  
         The bird stares out toward Alcatraz, where the waves are just beginning  
to slap at the shore
        "South," he says, kind of lonely and far off.  
        "I didn't think sea gulls flew south," I say
        The sea gull leans his head back and lets out a sharp coughing soundI think he's laughing
        "Naw," he says. "She went down to Acapulco with another guy.        "Tough luck," I say
        ''Tell me,'' he says
        Together, we watch the shadows swallow Alcatraz. Then the bird jumpsHe drops straight down, wings at his sides. He almost hits the water. At  
the last second, he tips his wings and goes straight up. In another minute  
I can't see him anymore.  
        Later, the sun goes down. No sign of a shark. I decide to go home  
and sleep this off. Maybe kick back on the bed and flip through my stamp  
book. Maybe not
        Walking home, I wonder if Gloria is in Acapulco with another guy.  

        I awaken to the sound of trumpets. They herald my arrival. They howl  
the swallows back to Capistrano. They announce another glorious broadcast  
day on KBAY-TV. I open my eyes, stare at the TV, and close them again.  
The phone rings.  
        ''Hello?''  
        "Hi, Ter. Gloria. I've been thinking__'.'  
        "Yeah, I'll bet you have."  
        "Please don't be upset. Forgive me. I want you back."  
        "Sorry, chick. I'm strong now.''  
        "W-what do you mean?"  
        ''I mean__'.'  
        I wake up and answer the phone. It's my landlord. He tells me that  
if I don't pay the rent by five-thirty, he's turning off the power. I tell him  
to go ahead, and send in the sharks while he's at it. He hangs up        Some people call me a cynic.  
        By eight-thirty I'm out of bed and in my bug. I cruise up Van Ness  
to a Chevron station and fill the tank. I hit a 7-11 on Bay and pick up  
a six-pack of Classic Coke from a pretty Vietnamese girl with a  
Florida-shaped birth mark on her left cheek. I slide an Elvis Costello tape  
into my cassette deck and head over the Bay Bridge.  
        Gloria lives in a red two-story house in Berkeley, about half a mile  
from the school. Since it's on a hill, some of the streets parallel each other  
in layers, and there are at least three streets higher than Gloria's. I claim  
these streets as mine. I prowl.  
        Gloria's car is in the driveway. A blue Subaru GL. If she's gone to  
Acapulco, she didn't take her own car. That's a good sign, I guess.  
        Three little kids are playing with a Water Wiggle on one of the lawns.  
Each time I pass, they get a little more curious. After thirty trips up the  
street, parents begin to join them. After forty, the streets are deserted. After  
fifty, a cop pulls me over.  
        "May I see your license, please?"  
        "I'm looking for my girlfriend."  
        "May I see your license, please?"  
        "Okay."  
        He kicks me out of the neighborhood. I don't even get to see her.  
        I drive down to Tower Records on the wharf and buy fifteen records  
on my Mastercard. I get depressed on the way home and go back. I buy  
five more. In the car again, I start to cry. I take the records back and beg  
the clerk to let me return them. She says no way. She says no refunds. She  
wears leather pants. What does she know?  
        When I get home, I leave the records in the car. If they won't take  
them back, then I'm going to let them melt.  
        The phone rings as soon as I walk in the door
        "Terry?"  
        "Gloria." (I sound very cool and nonchalant here.)  
        "Baby," she says. "I need you. I'm ready to come back."  
        "I tried to tell you, Gloria," I say with a real sad tone in my voice.  
"But you wouldn't listen."  
        ''I know, I know,'' she cries desperately. ''I never should have scraped  
my key all the way up the side of your car.''  
        "Sorry, chick. I'm strong now."  
        "W-what do you mean?"  
        "I mean-"  
        I let the phone ring.  

        Once, in October, I was very sick. I locked myself in my apartment  
and refused to see anyone. Gloria used her key and came in anyway. She  
sat with me for two days, right next to my bed. She brought cold washcloths  
to bring down my fever. She read F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise  
out loud from start to finish. At night, when I started to shake, she climbed  
into bed next to me and held me.  
        I wake up in a sweat. The phone is ringing. My alarm clock has  
stopped, so I check my watch. It's two-thirty. The landlord has turned off  
the power early. I go to answer the phone, but my stomach climbs to my  
throat. The room tilts around me. The ringing is louder. I suddenly realize  
what I have to do. I figure if I go to the beach and hold my head underwater,  
the ringing won't be so loud. I head for the car
        I remember going to the beach once as a little kid with one of the  
communes. My mother was with a man in a torn-up army uniform. We  
were all down at the beach, and everybody took off their clothes and had  
a great time splashing around. The army man showed my mother some  
top-secret maneuvers on the dunes. I cried. Three or four really chesty girls  
came up to me, cooing poor baby and stuff like that. They scooped me  
up and took me out into the waves and threw me around like a sack of  
flour. I guess it was all right.  
        I tried to find my mother later on. I couldn't, and I thought I might  
start crying again, so I found my clothes, pulled on my pants, and set out  
across the dunes. I kept walking, holding back the tears, until I could see  
someone on the beach ahead. It turned out to be a little girl, about my  
same age, building a sand castle with empty Del Monte pea cans. I knelt  
down and started helping her. She didn't seem to mind. So we finished  
our sand castle, and it was a lot more fun than being thrown around like  
a sack of flour. Her parents owned a beach house that shot up from the  s
and like the trunk of a redwood. Her father came out and told her it was  
time to come inside for dinner. I was invited, and I remember that her  
parents were very nice people. I'm sure my manners were lousy, but they  
never let on. After dinner, the girl and her father and I went out to look  
at the sand castle. The tide had come in, and it was almost gone. The girl  
and I were all set to cry, but her father told us not to be upset, that the  
ocean was just taking back her own, as she did every night. We didn't  
understand it, but it sounded good. When I began to set off down the  
beach back to the group, the girl's father stopped me and pressed a  
five-dollar bill into my hand. I'd never seen one before. I went back over  
the dune and never saw them again. My mother took the money. I don't  
know what she spent it on.  
        So, I'm on my way to the beach. It's about a forty-five-minute drive  
in my bug. I turn up the tunes and coast along 101 at fifty-five miles per  
hour with the wind blowing steady from the east, and cooling expected  
later in the day. I sure hope Gloria doesn't get caught out in this heatHer Vuarnets might melt and stick to her nose.  
        Zappa comes on the radio. "Magdalena.'' I was thirteen years old in  
my Zappa days. It was just like any other phase, I guess, except when you're  
thirteen years old and you like Frank Zappa, you have a pretty fair chance  
of growing up diseased. I don't think I escaped in time; even a few years  
of Cat Stevens didn't help. Gloria still likes Frank Zappa, though she'd  
never admit it. I suspect she has a whole stash of Zappa and the Mothers  
of Invention in the back of her closet
        Anyway, after a while I get tired of coasting along at the designated  
speed limit and flick the hyper-space switch under my dashboard. The music  
of John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra playing the theme  
from Star Wars blares out of the two ace quality speakers I have mounted  
in the bug. I zip along through the stars, crushing planets like croutons  
and shooting Gloria with my lasers. I arrive at the beach in exactly forty-five  
minutes.  
        As soon as I pull into the parking lot, a phone rings. It's in a phone  
booth, blocking my way to the sand. But I'm brave, and I get out of the  
car and take a few tentative steps toward the beach. The phone continues  
ringing. I know it's Gloria, but I'm scared to answer, scared to think that  
she's been watching me and knows where I am
        Standing in the danger zone between the car and the phone. What  
do I do? I take a deep breath, grit my teeth on the seventh ring, and leap  
for the car. I land safely in the driver's seat and initiate take-off. John  
Williams and I are outa there. I laugh in triumph, the phone ringing in  
my ears as I fly down the highway. I'm pleased with myself.  
        I'm on the coast highway, heading south. I've got plenty of tapes and  
enough money to last for a while. I only wish Gloria could see how  
responsible I'm being with my life. A master of my fate, a ruler of mdestiny. Indiana Jones has nothing on me
        Up ahead, I see two white BMW's. Of the three available lanes, they  
occupy the inside and outside, travelling parallel at approximately the same  
speed. I am terrified. There seem to be two people in each car. Probably  
a group of weekenders down from Marin County, out for a pleasant picnic  
on the beach, complete with a metal picnic basket and straps to hold their  
wine glasses in place. I pop John Williams out of the tape deck and put  
in the theme from Mission Impossible. I sit up straight, turn up the stereo,  
scream real loud, and flip the hyper-space switch. I pass them easily, right  
up the middle. I refuse to live in fear
        The world outside stans to look less like northern California and more  
like southern California. I pull over at a truck stop to get some gas. I go  
inside to have a burger. I sip on a Coke while I wait. There's a guy in the  
next booth eating a salad. He's wearing tinted glasses and a red, white,  
and blue jogging suit. I lose my appetite. Just as I go to the counter to  
pay the check, the phone next to the cash register rings. One lady comes  
to take my money, another one goes to answer the phone. I want to tell  
the second lady not to pick it up, or at least tell the first lady to take my  
money. I begin to shake. I can't say anything
        The second lady holds the phone to her breast and scans the placeIn a panic, I throw my money on the counter and run. I burst out the  
door, dodge several gas pumps, and dive into my car. I'm outa there.  
        Gloria and I had been together a year and a half when she decided  
we should date other people.  
        ''Nobody special, Terry,'' she said, washing the dishes.  
        He's a millionaire. He's taking her to a basketball game on a Thursday  
night. Gloria hates basketball. I suggested a double date. Gloria scraped  
dried scrambled eggs from a plate.  
        Thursday night at seven, I was parked about a block down from  
Gloria's. A white BMW pulled up to her house. The guy got out, and  
he had on a red, white, and blue jogging suit. I figured he had to live  
in Sausalito or Corte Madera, that jogging suit netherland between the  
City and San Rafael. They still think jogging is chic there
        He went in and came out a couple minutes later with Gloria. He  
inserted her into the white monster and off they went.  With me in hot pursuit.  
        I've never been much of a basketball fan. I can probably name ten  
or more NBA teams, but I don't follow the games or anything. Still, there  
I sat in the parking lot, listening to the game on my car radio. Every time  
the crowd roared, I imagined that I could hear the Millionaire and Gloria  
cheering right along with them, refreshments of one kind or another  
sloshing into their laps. I'd have been inside watching them through  
binoculars or something, but I barely had enough money to buy gas.  
        By the time they came out, my back was all cramped, but I sat up  
bravely and followed them out of the parking lot. We headed over the  
Golden Gate and right down into Sausalito. The BMW pulled up in front  
of a massive condo, and I took cover in front of a semi-massive condo a  
block and a half down. Gloria and the Millionaire went inside. Twenty  
minutes later, I was out of the car and casing the joint.  
        They were sitting on the couch together, sipping wine and nibbling  
cheese. From my perch in a large, itchy bush, I shook my head. I'd always  
hoped nobody really did this stuff.  
        I sat tight until the guy started to make his move on her. I considered  
being cool and walking away from it all. I considered trusting Gloria to do  
the right thing. I considered getting in my car, paying the toll over the  
Golden Gate with my last two bucks, and going home to bed. I considered  
again and chucked a rock right through this guy's living room window.  
        I got out of jail five days later. Gloria wasn't waiting for me. She wasn't  
there to punch me in the arm, call me a big lug, and say she understood.  
She wasn't there to smile and say that she'd stay with me from that mo- 
ment on. She wasn't there at all.  
        So the sun sinks way too fast into the ocean, and I'm on the highway  
heading south. A sign tells me that L.A. isn't too far off. For a second,  
I consider turning around and heading home, but then it's too late.  
Everything slides downhill into L.A. Even me
        I fumble in the glove box for a tape, and finally latch onto one. It's  
dark in the car, and I can't tell which one I've got, but I figure it doesn't  
really matter. I figure wrong.  
        It's Lionel Richie: no one's cure for heartache. I listen anyway, because  
I feel I deserve the pain. Two weeks ago, I drove past a place selling wood  
stoves. A sign out front said:  
HEATING BILL OVER FIFTY DOLLARS
MASOCHIST
        I got all choked up when I read the sign. I drove straight to the Dairy  
Queen, where I bought a double chocolate-fudge sundae and dumped  
it on the ground in the parking lot, feeling very guilty. A masochist. That's  
me
        Lionel takes me within an hour of the City of Angels. I pull into a  
parking lot at a 7-11, go to the phone booth, and take the phone off the  
hook. Then I cry myself to sleep.  
        Three months after we'd met, Gloria and I were sitting on the couch  
at my place, watching Letterman. She was brushing her long, brown hair  
with thick, careful strokes. The brush would travel from the top of her  
head and move slowly down her back with a hollow, hushing noise. I asked  
her if I could try. She smiled and I moved behind her. Her hair tickled  
the back of my hands as the brush reached the end of each stroke. After  
a while, I dropped the brush to my side and ran a hand through her hair.  
Gloria reached back, and somewhere in the strands of hair, her fingers met  
mine. . . 
        Sounds of knocking. An ethnic guy with greasy, curly black hair is  
standing there, wearing one of those famous red and white 7-11 smocksHe is knocking and peering, peering and knocking. I sit up and roll the  
window down a crack. He doesn't waste any time.  
        "Hey man, you can't sleep here. This ain't no steenkin' hotel."  
        I make a quick mental calculation. Reseda, I think. No, not ResedaCorona. They still talk like this in Corona.  
        "I believe the term is mo-tel," I say.  
        "Huh?" he shoots back
        "Mo-tel," I repeat. "You take your car to a mo-tel."  
        "Tu madre," the guy says under his breath. "I got some friends who  
can move you to a mo-tel for sure!"  
        ''I'm sure you do," I say. "And I'd really like to stay here and meet  
them, but I've got a Circle K and two more 7-ll's to hit before I get full night's sleep."
        I back out fast enough to run over his feet if he's not quick. He isHe dives out of the way, and as soon as he hits the pavement, he's back  
on his feet with a big rock in his hand. He lobs it at my bug, hitting the  
back windshield and sending a spiderweb of cracks crawling to the roof  
of my car. I slam on the brakes, do a 360 for effect, and bear down on  
the guy. I hit the gas. He gets out of the way pretty quick, leaping up  
on the hood of a black Mustang. He twists around, trying to get my plate  
number. I keep my plates in the back window, and they fall down all the  
time. I give the guy one last laugh, back up, and get out of there
        I don't mind ethnics at all. It's stereotypes that bug me. 
        I avoid downtown L.A. altogether. I decide to hit the beach, so I get  
on the Ventura Highway and coast along in the slow lane. This is the  
territory where I spent a lot of my childhood. Gloria and I talked a lot  
about coming down here sometime, but we never did. So now I'm down  
here without her, and it feels good. The wind in my hair, the smog in  
my lungs, the spice of youth in my veins. It feels like death. Just like death.  
        There's a beach every other block down here, and not one is nearly  
as nice as it once was. I almost stop a few times. I want to find a beach  
without phones, where I can get some rest, but nothing feels right. Not  
alone.  
        I am overcome with grief. The last six months wasted without calling  
her once. My foot grinds into the gas pedal.  
        Bugs can be pretty fast little cars, if you're lucky enough to have a  
friend who can work on them. I'm lucky. I'm up to 95 miles an hour and  
my little car is hardly sweating it at all. Then I get it into my head to plow  
into the back of a semi. I can see the collision, hear the crashing of glassThe truck is up ahead, three hundred yards to the left
        I won't feel a thing
        I cross two lanes with a quick jerk of the steering wheel. Horns blareI reach 100 miles an hour with a little more effort. I feel like crying but  
I don't. I just want to get to the truck as fast as I can and atomize a few  
particles. Gloria may even come to the funeral. That might be nice.  
        Just when it seems I'm going to get my wish, and the truck is only  
100 yards ahead, I glance off to the beach on my right. I slow down so  
fast I nearly cause a pileup.  
        It's the same beach. There's my mother, and the army man. There's  
the four chesty girls. There I am, being thrown around like a sack of flour.  
        I signal and get off at the next exit, making my way back to the beachIt hasn't changed much. When you see something you haven't seen since  
childhood, it usually looks larger or smaller than your memory, but this  
beach looks about the same. There's a family with a hibachi, frying up  
steaks, and about ten teenagers playing volleyball. It's amazing, otherwiseThe sameness of it all.  
        Except for the phone booth.  
        It's white and blue, a rectangular closet up ahead on the left. I drive  
up alongside it slowly. And smile.  
        Someone has torn the phone from its brackets. It won't be ringing  
anytime soon.  
        I pull the bug onto a small, sandy patch of parking lot and get outIt's an unusually cool day for an L.A. beach, but warmer than I'm used  
to. I get out, slip off my shoes, and toss them back through my open  
window. This is the place.  
        I walk out on the beach. It immediately puts me in mind of all those  
novels and movies where people go back to the places of their childhood  
and learn new and important things about their lives. The volleyball crowd  
is moving to the soothing strains of Van Halen. Nothing new and important  
for me there. The mother of the hibachi family is reading Green Eggs and  
Ham to one of her kids, a little blond guy wearing a red plaid bathing  
suit. There may be something new and important there, but I'm not in  
the mood.  
        I walk out and let the surf wash over my feet. The water isn't too  
mucked up; I could probably even swim in it if I wanted to. But the thought  
of all those novels and movies comes back to me, and all the cathartic  
ramifications of bathing in my childhood memories keeps me out of it.  
I kick up some sand and walk down the beach.  
        I know where I'm heading, but I try not to think about it too much.  
My analytical mind is too busy wondering what it will mean if the house  
isn't there anymore. And if it is, what if it's run-down, with paint peeling  
from the rafters? The symbolic possibilities are astounding.  
        It's smaller than I remember. That doesn't mean it's small, not by  
any means, but memory's a tricky thing. It's a respectable,  
expensive-looking place, and the paint isn't peeling from the rafters. A  
couple of other houses have sprung up around it
        A man's voice comes to me from the balcony.  
        "Nice day, huh?"  
        He isn't old, probably in his mid-forties, wearing red OP shorts and  
a yellow sports shirt with a baby stegosaurus on the left breast pocket. I  
smile.  
        ''Nope, not too bad. Little warm, though.''  
        "Warm?" he laughs. "Kid, it's chilly today! You 're not from around  
here, I'd guess.
        "Up North.
        "Oregon, Washington?"  
        "No," I say. "Northern California. San Francisco."  
        "Oh," he says. "The Bay Area.
        It's always cracked me up how people say that like it's a dirty wordThe ''Bay Area,'' like it hurts them to say it. There was a time when San  
Francisco was known for its architecture and trolleys.  
        The guy doesn't say anything for a full minute. When he does, it  
isn't apologetic.  
        ''This is a private beach, you know.''  
        I look out at the waves. "No," I say. "I didn't know that."  
        "Yup," he coughs into his hand. "It is. You'll-"  
        Just then a really pretty girl walks up behind him and looks over the  
rail at me.  
        "Don't bug him, Daddy. He 's hardly a bum, you know." She smiles  
at me
        "Hi," she says. ''I'm Jenny.
        "Terry,'' I say
        The guy, who I guess is her father, looks at me distastefully. He doesn't  
want his daughter associating with any known "Bay Area" people        The girl walks down the back stairs and out onto the beach        "Jenny," her father warns, " I don't - 
        Jenny turns and looks up at him. The guy shuts up, and after a  
moment, he turns and walks inside
        Jenny looks me in the eye
        "Should I apologize for him?" she says
        "Is it your fault he's that way?"  
        She laughs. "Maybe. A little.
        We walk down to the edge of the water. She doesn't say anything for  
a while. I follow suit. Then, after a few minutes, she turns her face to the  
sun.  
        "The 'Bay Area,' huh? "  
        "Yeah.''  
        "I lived there for about a year and a half in '82....'.83. In San Rafael.  
Dad couldn't understand it. He said, 'Where are you ever going to find  
a man there?"
        "Was he right?"  
        ''I married a guy there.''  
        ''Is that an answer?''  
        Jenny laughs again. She has a nice laugh
        ''He wanted a ride to work. I wanted a husband.''  
        ''Oh.''  
        She traces a circle in the sand with her bare foot. ' 'You been here  
long?''  
        ''A few hours.''  
        "Staying long? 
        I smile. " Got any ideas?"  
        We sit on the beach for about an hour. The conversation is light, easyWhen it cools off a little bit, Jenny runs up to the house to get the hibachi  
and a couple of steaks. We fry them up and bake a couple of potatoeshave a little salad and some wine, and then go for a short swim. I use a  
pair of trunks belonging to her ex-husband, Jerry. We dry off just before  
sunset, climb one of the dunes, and watch the big guy go down. We're  
quiet for a while. Jenny pulls her knees up to her chin and rocks softly.  
        "You love her, don't you? " she says finally.  
        "Who? 
        "Whoever it is you 're running from. You love her.
        "What makes you think I'm running?"  
        Jenny just looks at me
        ''Gloria,'' I say.  
        "Nice name. You love her? 
        "Yeah.''  
        "Have you told her? 
        "Yes."
        "When was the last time?
        I hesitate a moment, then say: "Six months ago.''  
        Jenny nods. "I had a fern once. It didn't get enough sun in the back 
room where I kept it.' '  
        "Died?"  
        "Yeah.''  
        "We broke up," I say. "My fault."  
        Jenny turns to face me. "Really?" she says
        The tide comes in below us and the sound of the waves grows louder.  
A light, warm breeze starts up
        "Your folks rich? " I ask.  
        Jenny nods.  
        We talk until about three o'clock in the morning. Not too much about  
Gloria, a little about Jerry. Mostly we talk about music. Zappa and Hendrix,  
the Raspberries and Elton John, even Elvis Costello and Lionel Richie
        We sleep on the beach that night. At one point, I wake up shaking.  
Jenny holds my hand until I go back to sleep.  
        I don't dream
        At ten o'clock in the morning, Jenny takes me into the house. The  
place has changed quite a bit, but I don't really remember that much about  
it
        Jenny's father looks up at me distractedly from the kitchen table, where  
he sits reading the paper. Jenny leads me to the den and pushes me inside.  
She shuts the door, leaving me alone
        Alone, that is, except for the phone.  
        She answers on the second ring.  
        ''Hello? ''  
        "Gloria, it's Terry."  
        Silence.  
        "Gloria, I love you.
        Silence.  
        "I need you , Gloria. I'm sorry.
        At first I think she's going to hang up. Listening closer, I can tell she's  
crying.  
        "Where are you?" she asks.  
        ''L.A.''  
        "Terry?"  
        ''Yeah?''  
        ''Come home, Terry.''