A Cure For Your Post-World Cup Blues

Welcome to England ● by Michael Roberts

The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait four more years to see dramatic, exciting, world-class soccer.  England’s top-flight soccer league, the Barclays Premier League, has a new season underway and it is on television in the USA almost every weekend through May of 2015.  The drama unfolds over the course of a 38-match-week season in which three vital points for a win are at stake in every match; it isn’t a surprise these days for the season’s champion to be determined by a margin as small and fragile as a few points, so every single week is important to the various clubs’ ambitions.

World-class players, world-class goals, last-second heroics, last-second heartbreak, historic clubs, stadiums, and famous anthems sung by passionate supporters, high-powered local rivalries, upsets and blowout-wins, goals galore, promotion and relegation, and players from every corner of the world – these are just some of the qualities which make England’s Barclays Premier league the best ‘football’ league in the world, and so much fun to watch. As of mid-September, the BPL is heading into just match-week four, so there’s still plenty of time to catch on if you’re experiencing soccer withdrawal after this year’s wonderful World Cup. To help you get into it, here is a guide to last season’s top seven clubs, their outlooks for the current season, and how to catch them on television in the USA.

Manchester City Football Club: Last season’s champion, and certainly among the favorites to win the title again this year.  The club’s home color is sky blue and their manager/head coach is Manuel Pellegrini.  Until recently, they had mostly been known as the “pesky little brother” to Manchester’s most famous club, Manchester United, but everything changed in 2008 when the club was purchased by the wealthy Abu Dhabi United Group, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family.  This change in ownership resulted in the immediate purchase of Brazilian forward Robinho for a British record transfer fee of £32.5 million, and unprecedented spending sprees in the subsequent transfer periods ever since.  They have now assembled a world-class team full of experienced, international superstars and consistently challenge for all available trophies.  No longer just a “pesky little brother,” Man City is now a full-fledged powerhouse – a formidable opponent for any of Europe’s top clubs.  They scored a league-leading 102 goals last season, thanks to their confident, smart, attacking style of play.  After a summer which saw them strengthen yet again in the transfer window, there’s littke doubt they will find their top form and be competing for trophies at the end of the season.

Liverpool FC: Last season’s runner-up to the league title, and an outside favorite to win it this year.  Their home color is red, and their manager is Brendan Rodgers.  Although dominant in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, Liverpool FC hasn’t managed to win a league title since 1990.  In fact, the 2013-2014 season was the closest they have come to doing so.  While the league title has proven elusive, they have managed to win other major trophies to fill the void and have remained a competitive team yearly.  Having scored 101 goals in the league last season, they are not a team to be taken lightly.  Thanks to their stylish, quick, unselfish and passing-based style of play, many described them as also being the most enjoyable team to watch.  Uruguayan forward Luis Suárez, was perhaps the best player in the world last season.  Suárez’s Liverpool career has been riddled with controversies; however, he managed to stay out of trouble last season and produced his best football yet, scoring 31 goals.  This caught the eye of FC Barcelona, and despite Suárez biting an opponent at the 2014 FIFA World Cup while playing for Uruguay and earning a four month suspension (this being his third such infraction), they bought him from Liverpool for a whopping £75 million.  Liverpool used that money and more to uncharacteristically acquire nine players this summer to address three concerns: fixing the leaky defense, which was their major weakness, trying to fill the attacking gap left by losing a player of Suárez’s brilliance, and improving the quality of the depth of the squad.  As the new players settle, so, too, will Liverpool’s form, and we can count on a lot more wins.

Chelsea FC: Last season’s third-place finisher, but this year’s top favorite to win the title.  Their home color is blue, and their manager is José Mourinho.  The self-described “Special One,” Mourinho actually had a previous stint with the club from ’04-‘08, but after five seasons and two jobs elsewhere, the fan-favorite manager made his return to the London club last season.  Sometimes derided as a tactically negative and defensive coach, Chelsea managed a pretty healthy 71 league goals last season, though still a far cry from Man City or Liverpool’s tally.  Backed by the financial billions of Russian owner Roman Abramovich since 2003, Chelsea has annually outspent most other clubs during transfer windows.  They seized the opportunity to improve in critical areas again this summer with high-profile purchases of Spaniards Diego Costa, and Cesc Fàbregas, and others.  With three wins and 11 goals scored already, we can expect them to improve on last season’s goal tally, and just maybe earn a title in the process.

Arsenal FC: Last season’s fourth-place finisher and another team with an outside shot at the title this year.  The club’s home colors are bright red and white, and their manager is Arsène Wenger.  With 18 seasons at the Arsenal helm, the Frenchman Wenger is not only the club’s longest-serving manager, but the longest-serving manager in all of English football.  Dubbed “Le Professeur” for his studious and philosophical demeanor, he promotes an attacking mentality tactically, with the idea that football should entertain.  For many years he and Arsenal were reluctant to splash the cash in the transfer market, instead focusing on training young players and developing them into stars. That philosophy has changed somewhat in the last couple of years by necessity, with Arsenal buying a player last summer for a price in excess of £40 million, a player this summer with a cost of £30 million, and making a few other expensive acquisitions just to keep pace with the big spenders of the league. Having spent 17 weeks of last season at the top of the league table only to succumb to injuries and lose momentum, the club is looking for a big comeback.  With Chilean World Cup and ex-Barcelona star forward Alexis Sánchez joining them this summer, their ambitions are as high as anyone’s.

Everton FC: Last season’s fifth-place finisher and a team with top-four ambitions this season.  The team’s home colors are royal blue and white, and their manager is Roberto Martínez. Unable to compete financially with the other clubs in last year’s top seven, Everton exceeded expectations in Martínez’s first year as manager of the club after longstanding former manager David Moyes left the club to become the new manager of Manchester United.  Martínez installed an attractive, possession-based style of football which yielded quick and positive results with only one loss by Christmas.  Fifth place was the club’s highest finish in five years, and it inspired an uncharacteristic splash in the transfer market this summer with the club purchasing previously on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea for £28 million, and making a few other small-money acquisitions.  Cracking the top four this season will prove extremely difficult; nevertheless that is their objective and with Martínez’s tactical nous, they will definitely have a chance

Tottenham Hotspur FC: Last season’s sixth-place finishers and a top-four contender this season.  The club’s colors are white and navy blue and their manager is Mauricio Pochettino.  Finishing sixth last year was a major disappointment for Spurs; in the summer before the season started, they sold their best player for an unconfirmed world record transfer fee of £85 million to Spanish giant Real Madrid and went on a subsequent spending spree, buying two players for club record fees of £26 million each, plus a host of other expensive signings.  However, not all of them settled into their new lives in London quickly, which led to inconsistent performances on the pitch, and the mid-season dismissal of then-manager André Villas-Boas.  A temporary replacement manager was brought in but the turmoil continued, as the players didn’t seem to believe in or trust him, and nor did the chairman Daniel Levy.  After such a tumultuous season, Spurs named their new manager in Pochettino, and the task for this season will simply be quiet progress.  Establishing a style of play, gaining consistency and getting the star signings from the previous summer playing well would satisfy most supporters, with hopes of taking a bigger leap forward next season.

Manchester United FC: Last season’s seventh-place finishers and top-four hopefuls this season, with an outside chance at a title run.  Club colors are red, white, and black, and their manager is Louis van Gaal.  To suggest last season’s seventh-place finish was a disappointment would be an incredible understatement.  Under the tutelage of longstanding former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, between 1992 and his retirement in 2013, the “Red Devils” won 13 league titles and other trophies.  Supporters had gotten used to the club winning almost every year. The transition to Ferguson’s handpicked successor David Moyes, however, proved to be a rocky one, and perhaps it was inevitable that whoever followed Ferguson would fail due to the immense pressure to continue the tradition of success.  Not wanting to make a knee-jerk decision, the club kept Moyes on as manager until the bad results made his position untenable, and with four games remaining in the season, he was fired.  After a positive World Cup performance with the Netherlands and countless other jobs well done in his career, United made Louis van Gaal their new manager in the summer of 2014.  In a desperate move to vault them back into the elite echelon of the Premier League, Manchester United made several big-money purchases of players mostly at the midfield and forward positions, which were not necessarily their biggest problem areas.  They most needed help in various areas of defense, and the expensive defenders they did buy play the same positions as each other, and are injured or otherwise unfit to play yet, so they didn’t exactly address their most critical needs this summer.  However, they can perhaps compensate for the goals they will inevitably allow with the goals they will inevitably score; they acquired two very expensive forwards in Ángel Di María and Radamel Falcao, who are world-class talents, and who might just provide enough firepower to get them back to where they want to be.

For those who enjoyed the World Cup, there is more world-class soccer to be enjoyed.  America is very fortunate to have complete television coverage of every single game of the Barclays Premier League.  Not even the UK itself can boast that fact.  Live matches are generally shown early on Saturday and Sunday mornings and on Monday afternoons on the NBC Sports Network and are available to be live-streamed on the online platform NBC Sports Live Extra, for which there is also an app for mobile devices, for free as an added service for subscribers of participating television providers.  Now is as great a time as ever to get into it, so pick a team and tune in.

The Ryder ● October 2014

We’ve Always Been At War With The Multiplex

1984 at the Movies ● by Craig J. Clark

For evidence of what can happen when Hollywood Gets It Right, one need look no further than the year 1984, which yielded a batch of top-grossing films that also managed the feat of being rather good as films. (The lone exception in the top ten is probably Police Academy, which hasn’t aged well at all, but then again it wasn’t meant to.) Looking back on it from an era when sequels, franchises, and reboots routinely dominate the box office, it’s refreshing to note that only two of 1984’s top ten films were sequels –Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Sure, it’s also the case that seven of the remaining films spawned sequels of their own before the decade was out (the lone holdout, Footloose, had to wait 27 years before it was remade), but one can hardly blame studio execs for wanting to see if lightning would strike twice with properties like Beverly Hills Cop (the #1 film of 1984 by the time the December release finished out its astonishing theatrical run the following summer), Gremlins, The Karate Kid, and Romancing the Stone.

Of course, box office tallies only tell part of the story, which is why the IU Cinema’s “Hollywood Renaissance – 1984” series includes all kinds of cultural touchstones, from effects-driven spectacles to the cultiest of cult films. Topping the list is the film that came in second to Eddie Murphy’s wisecracking Axel Foley: Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (Oct. 25), which is also pulling double duty as a CINEkids screening. A film of such enduring popularity that it received a 30th anniversary re-release Labor Day weekend, Ghostbusters continues to captivate audiences thanks to the interplay of the leads (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Harold Ramis, for those people who have been living in a cave since 1984) and the terrific supporting cast (Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, and Ernie Hudson), not to mention the quality of the script (by Aykroyd and Ramis) that elevates it above the typical Hollywood product. Even the special effects, which were groundbreaking at the time, hold up their end of the bargain. Sure, they may look quaint to an audience reared on digital effects, and the pacing of the action scenes may seem a little slow to anyone who worships at the altar of Michael Bay, but I’ll take quaint over bombastic any day.

Coming in at #12 on the chart is Milos Forman’s Amadeus (Dec. 14), which won Best Picture along with seven other Academy Awards (with three more nominations besides). Based on Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning play, which Shaffer adapted for the screen (taking home an Oscar in the process), the historical comedy-drama tells of the intense rivalry that flares up between established court composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) and talented upstart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce), whose unbridled genius outshines Salieri’s workmanlike efforts. As one might expect, the music adds a great to the film’s power, so hearing the soundtrack through the Cinema’s Dolby speakers should be quite an experience.

Returning to modern times, at #44 is Sixteen Candles (Nov. 16), which was the directorial debut of former National Lampoon writer John Hughes. Previously, Hughes had written the Lampoon movies Class Reunion and Vacation, as well as Mr. Mom, but he was ready to stake his claim to the high-school comedy with Sixteen Candles, which made stars out of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, both of whom stuck around for his follow-up, The Breakfast Club. In this film, Ringwald plays a girl whose sister’s impending marriage causes her family to forget all about her 16th birthday, which would be mortifying enough for more teenagers. On top of that, she’s nursing a crush on the most popular boy in school and has to deal with the crush that the geekiest of the geeks (Hall, playing a character named Geek) has on her. As embarrassing as her plight is, though, it will be interesting to see how it plays compared to the scenes involving exchange student/walking stereotype Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe). That’s one aspect of the film that marks it as a product of its time.

[Image at the top of this post from “Sixteen Candles.”]

After Ghostbusters, the other CINEkids offering in the series is #54, The NeverEnding Story (Dec. 7). Directed by Wolfgang Peterson, who was coming off his first international success, 1981’s Das Boot, and based on the beloved children’s book by Michael Ende, The NeverEnding Story is about a boy named Bastian (Barret Oliver) who gets swept up in the saga of Fantasia, a magical kingdom threatened by “The Nothing.” As he follows along with the adventures of Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), who encounters all sorts of incredible creatures, both helpful and malevolent, Bastian finds that by reading the story, he becomes a part of it. One can hope that December’s screening will allow plenty of children (of all ages) to become part of it as well.

From "Neverending Story"

The NeverEnding Story

As the box-office chart gets down into the hundreds, the selections become more idiosyncratic, although no less influential. For instance, take #112, the Talking Heads’Stop Making Sense (Sep. 24 & 25), which is widely considered one of the greatest concert films ever made. Unlike some that look like they were thrown together on the fly, Stop Making Sense seems like it was meticulously worked out months in advance, but this doesn’t stop it from simultaneously feeling completely spontaneous. In fact, the joy in the performances is so apparent that everybody onstage appears to be having the time of their lives. I suspect this is probably because they were, and director Jonathan Demme and his crew were there (for a three-night stand at an intimate concert hall) to capture every note, look and gesture.

Stop Making Sense famously opens with David Byrne on a bare stage performing a solo acoustic version of “Psycho Killer” to a prerecorded drum machine track. From there, the other members of the band (Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz, Jerry Harrison) are added one at a time and the stage is pieced together in full view of the audience while they run through some of their early material. Once everything (and everyone) is in place, the nine-piece band concentrates on the polyrhythmic songs from the Speaking in Tongues and Remain in Light albums, accompanied by some incredibly striking visuals. (Every song has its own “look.”) The end result is a sight that no self-respecting music- or film-lover should miss.

From "Stop Making Sense"

Stop Making Sense

The same goes for #117, This Is Spinal Tap (Oct. 30 & Nov. 6), one of the most quotable movies you’re ever likely to see and a clear forerunner to today’s improvisation-heavy comedies. As devised by director Rob Reiner and actors Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer – who wanted the entire cast to receive a screenplay credit, but the Writer’s Guild wouldn’t allow it – the film charts the decline of a once-popular British heavy-metal act as it tours America, playing to dwindling audiences, coping with the disinterest of their American label, and dealing with internal strife. These are merely the dramatic underpinnings that inform one of the funniest underdog stories around, though. Even the songs, which the actors composed and performed themselves, are very funny and quite catchy. This Is Spinal Tap is a film that definitely goes to 11.

Finally, scraping the bottom of the box-office barrel – thanks to a botched release by a studio that had no idea how to market it –is Repo Man (Nov. 14 & 15), which comes in at #166 (out of 168 films released that year). When one thinks of ’80s cult movies, Alex Cox’s debut is one of the first that generally springs to mind. Set in a Los Angeles overrun by punks and hooligans (and where all of the food and drink comes in generic packaging), the film follows an aimless high school dropout (Emilio Estevez) who falls in with a somewhat disreputable group of repo men after being recruited by Harry Dean Stanton, who teaches him the ins and outs of the “repo code” (among other things). Meanwhile, there’s a rogue atomic scientist (Fox Harris) driving around town in a ’64 Chevy Malibu with two dead aliens in the trunk and it seems like just about everybody is after him, especially after a $20,000 bounty is placed on the car.

Cox’s script is fairly episodic, alternating between scenes of Estevez going on repossession jobs with Stanton and Sy Richardson (a much more intimidating mentor, all things being equal), the alien conspiracy plot (which involves a secret government agency, of course), and the criminal escapades of Estevez’s punk friends (who don’t think much of his present occupation). He also finds time to hit on U.F.O. researcher Olivia Barash (who works for the United Fruitcake Outlet) and listen to the wisdom of burnt-out mechanic Tracey Walter (who always takes the bus because he believes “the more you drive, the less intelligent you are”). All the while, cinematographer Robby Müller – who shot Paris, Texas for Wim Wenders the same year – captures the city in all its neon-lit, graffitied glory. As the IU Cinema’s program proves, it takes all kinds to make a film series.

The Ryder ● October 2014

In Loco Parentis: Curfews & Curlers

Curfew and Curlers

Student Activism in the Early 1960s

By Craig Forrest

 

Jan Simmons was not amused. After observing women students at breakfast in the Dobbs residence hall group cafeteria wearing short-shorts, hair curlers, and pink bunny-fur slippers, she immediately issued additional rules defining acceptable attire for women in their dormitories. As the new manager of women’s residence halls at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Simmons had the authority to impose her own standards of propriety on the undergraduates in her charge. She justified her expansion of the rules to ban hair curlers, bandanas, scarves, kerchiefs, hairnets, slacks, and shorts in cafeterias and lounges with the admonition that “our personal appearance is as important as our behavior and our speech in conveying to others the kind of people we are.” The women who had to comply with these new regulations were unhappy, but in that September of 1961 it appeared that they had no choice but to obey Simmons’ dictates or suffer the consequences.

women after dinner
Skirts were required for dinner so many students kept them on for after-dinner studying.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the University of Missouri, as well as every other institution of higher learning in the United States including IU (see opposite page), still operated under the legal regime of in loco parentis. This legal term translates literally as “in the place of parents,” and it defined the relationship between administrators and students as one of a legal guardian to a minor. Since at least 1866, courts had recognized the right of colleges to regulate the behavior of students in the same way that parents regulated their own children’s lives. From the founding of the earliest schools in the seventeenth century, American colleges had concerned themselves with the moral guidance of their students as a necessary component of education. In accepting the legal rights granted to them by the courts after the Civil War under in loco parentis to govern student behavior, college administrators were also accepting legal responsibility for their students. By the early 1960s, students in institutions of higher education across the country were subjected to a myriad of rules and regulations as the legal charges of their schools under this in loco parentis regime.

The bedrock principle of in loco parentis as a legal construct was an understanding that college students were minors who had no claim to constitutional rights enjoyed by adult citizens.

At the University of Missouri in 1960 for instance, campus rules reflected this view. In addition to rules that gave administrators the right to censor student speech and regulate the types of organizations allowed on campus, there were rules governing the daily activities of undergraduates.  Freshmen of both sexes were forbidden from operating motor vehicles in the city of Columbia, women students were subjected to nightly curfews, and females had to conform to a dress code that required them to wear skirts, blouses, and/or sweaters when out on campus or in town. These rules had been in place at Missouri for years, but during the early 1960s some administrators such as Simmons began to expand them in an attempt to counter the attitudes of a numerically growing student body—a student body comprised of a generation that had begun to openly question the very idea of in loco parentis on campus, and that would work in the coming decade to roll back campus rules.

In April of 1960, the student newspaper at Missouri, The Maneater, reported that administrators had voted to extend the ban on driving from freshmen to sophomores in the upcoming school year without consulting student government before the change. Their stated reason for the extension was poor academic performance by sophomores, and, much like a parent would have done, they contended that eliminating driving privileges would remove a distraction from schoolwork. Instead of acquiescing to the dictates of the administration, however, students fought this rule change through their student government representatives. The Missouri Student’s Association (MSA) sent a letter to the Board of Curators, criticizing the sudden change and lack of student input in the rule-making process. The curators, upon receipt of the letter, suspended the rule change for the coming year and sent the issue back to the administrative board for further review. The administrators dropped the issue, and sophomores were not banned from driving.

In the middle of the brouhaha over sophomore driving privileges, an unnamed former MSA president penned a guest column in The Maneater titled “Students Still Kids Officially.” The author of this column, although without referencing in loco parentis, challenged the administration to give students more of a voice in campus rules that governed their lives. He decried the administrators’ attitude that students were too immature to govern themselves, and suggested that the reason some students acted immaturely was because they were treated as adolescents incapable of self-control. The only remedy for this catch-22 situation was for administrators to acknowledge that college students were indeed mature adults, and include them in the rule-making process. In hindsight, the former student body president’s column appears prescient, because students did in fact take an active role in changing campus rules during the following years.

One of the most dramatic changes in rules at the University of Missouri in the first half of the 1960s was the rolling back, and even the elimination, of women’s curfews. In 1960, all female students were required to be in their residence by a certain time each evening. Freshmen women had to be in by 7:30 Sunday through Thursday night, and by 12:30 am on Friday and Saturday nights. All other females had a curfew of 10:30 on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, 11:30 on Wednesday and Sunday nights, and 12:30 am on Friday and Saturday. If a student accumulated more than twenty “late minutes” over the course of a semester, she would be “campused,” or grounded to her room between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. for a number of nights determined by a disciplinary committee. Beginning with the 1962-63 school year, the Association of Women Students (AWS) would successfully push for and succeed in getting many changes to these curfew rules. They were aided in their quest by the Director of Student Affairs for Women, Gladys Pihlblad, whose believed that women students should be given greater freedom on campus. She did not advocate for a complete elimination of hours for females at Missouri in the early 1960s, but she did express the opinion that AWS should be more involved in making the rules for women on campus.

The first change to women’s curfews at Missouri since before World War II came in the fall of 1962. Because of the growing number of female students, all-freshman female dormitories were to be eliminated in 1962-63. AWS proposed that freshmen women be given the same curfew as older females, in part to eliminate the difficulty of having to enforce a separate curfew on students in the same residence hall. The Committee on Student Affairs, made up of administrators including Pihlblad and the Dean of Students, Jack Matthews, approved this rule change. Whether the committee was declaring that eighteen-year-old freshmen women were as mature as twenty-two-year-old seniors, or just trying to streamline curfew enforcement, this constituted an expansion of freedom for women on campus.

By the end of the 1962-63 school year, AWS next began a campaign for “key privileges” for senior women. Key privileges allowed females with senior standing to be issued a key to their residence halls, essentially ending the curfew for those students. Women who wanted to participate in the program were required to get their parents’ permission, and that parental permission would be a first step in releasing the university, in part, from its in loco parentis responsibilities. Negotiations between AWS and administrators went quickly, and the key program went into effect during the spring semester of 1964 for seniors. During the 1964-65 year, AWS lobbied for an extension of key privileges to younger women, and juniors were included in the program during the 1966-67 academic year. Sophomores would be given keys in 1968. In the meantime, AWS was successful during the 1963-64 school year in pushing back the curfew for all women to 11:30 on Sunday through Thursday nights, and to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays. These changes to the curfew rules at Missouri over the course of only five years were the result of student activism—not an activism as well remembered as the higher profile and more publicized activism of the Free Speech and Anti-War Movements, but activism through student government organizations working within the system to effect change.

Simmons’ September, 1961 expansion of the female dress code regulations to residence hall cafeterias and lounges was confronted by a burst of activism as well. In the first week of October, women in the Dobbs group planned a sit-in style demonstration to protest having to dress up for meals. Their plan was for a large number of females to try and get served their dinner while wearing slacks and Bermuda shorts in violation of Simmons’ new rules. Unfortunately for the would-be protesters, Simmons got wind of the plot, and she declared that participants would be punished for “promoting a riot.” The students cancelled their act of civil disobedience, but by working through AWS and the Women’s Residence Hall Association (WRHA) they were able to entirely eliminate the dress code on campus by the end of 1965. Administrators in the first half of the 1960s responded to student pressure and agreed to relinquish their in loco parentis authority, and students continued to push for increased freedom from campus rules through their student government organizations.

By the late 1960s, however, administrators at Missouri and other colleges nationwide became more resistant to the increased demands by students for more freedom on campus. The resulting Free Speech Movement, which began at the University of California Berkeley in 1964, and the desire of students at Missouri to end the “intervisitation” ban, which denied the right of students to visit members of the opposite sex in their personal rooms, found administrators refusing to accept any more loosening of rules that would reduce their in loco parentis rights. In large part, this refusal was borne of the fact that the courts, which had established the in loco parentis regime making administrators responsible for their students as guardians, had yet to release colleges from that legal standing. Court cases in the late 1960s and early 1970s relating to student free speech would explicitly do just that, and only then did universities nationwide relinquish their in loco parentis role.

What the examples at Missouri in the early years of the 1960s show, however, is that even before the well-known Free Speech Movement students on college campuses were actively working to free themselves from in loco parentis controls. These efforts by students are not remembered today nearly as well as the higher-profile campus disturbances of the later 1960s, but they were just as important to students gaining their rights as legal adults as their later efforts. Even in the early 1960s, administrators were signaling their willingness to modify in loco parentis rules, but it was the activism of students that prodded them to do so. The student rights movement, which ultimately resulted in college students being recognized as citizens with constitutionally protected rights, had begun well before the Free Speech Movement appeared on campuses across the country. The better-known Free Speech Movement was actually an extension of these earlier battles for freedom for students on campus, not a spontaneous development with no connection to past events. Modern college students who enjoy their freedoms on campus should be grateful to their predecessors for their rights, and they should be on guard to defend them against current challenges, such as speech codes that restrict free expression, which have been instituted at many schools in the past twenty-five years.

Craig Forrest is a graduate student in History at the University of Missouri.

 

 

 

 

Big Talk: Young Adult Author Julia Karr

A Sixteen That’s Not So Sweet ● by Michael G. Glab

 

Julia Karr had a vision of the world in the year 2150. In this vision, she saw teenaged girls buffeted from all sides with messages that they should be sexy. If they’re not, well, they’re beyond help. In fact, in Karr’s fantasy world girls who hit the age of 16 are celebrated because they are now legal; that is, they can have sex, fulfilling all expectations — really, the only expectation.

Karr titled her first book XVI. The numeral is Roman, indicating what a momentous landmark it is to reach that age, as important as our world’s Super Bowl. In it, she lays out her dystopia in detail. XVI and its sequel Truth are Young Adult novels in the speculative fiction genre. Their main character is Nina, a rebel who is certain there must be something more for her than simply becoming a sex toy.

YA books with female characters generally are gobbled up by teenaged girls. But Karr has found the boys seem to like Nina and her story just as much as the girls do.

“They do,” Karr says. “I did a Library Talk up in Indianapolis. A teacher had brought in her senior English class. XVI was required reading for the class. Half of the students that came were guys. It was an underprivileged school. The thing that was wonderful was everybody had read the book. Most of the questions I got were from the guys. There was one guy who said ‘You know I never even bothered to read a book before we had to read this and I just couldn’t put it down. Afterward, I had one kid come up to me. There is a scene in the book where the police come and tear through Nina’s apartment, looking for stuff. This kid comes up to me , and he’s like towering over me, and he says, ‘That police scene, they really do that. How did you know that?’

“First thing I thought was, ‘Well, he knows they really do that, too.’ I said, ‘You know, I’ve been in that situation before. I’ve had them come and go through my house like that. So I understand it.’”

Thus proving one of Karr’s core beliefs: The writer is always writing. “You are even if you don’t think you are,” she says. “While you’re doing other things, your mind is constantly processing.” Even when Karr is pulling weeds in her garden, she’s thinking about her feelings, her situation, and filing those thoughts away in case she needs to use them in some as yet unwritten chapter. To write the scene in which the cops ransack Nina’s home, she reached back to the night when she (Karr) was 20 and the police were tearing through her apartment. The circumstances were funny, but the feelings she had that night came in handy nearly 40 years later when she was an author.

“It had to do with a spider,” Karr says. “A giant spider. I came home, there was a giant spider in my house. It was two o’clock in the morning. What do you do? I saw it and then it ran. It was just a small apartment, a studio apartment. I called my brother in law and I said ‘Come over there’s a spider…!’ He said, ‘It’s two o’clock in the morning — call the cops,’ and hung up on me. So that’s exactly what I did; I called the police and I said, ‘I don’t know if it’s somebody’s pet tarantula or what….’ We’re talking a giant spider. The police show up and, obviously, what do they think? We’re talking 1970 or so — she’s on LSD!

They tore my apartment apart. They looked through the drawers. They looked through everything. And they didn’t find the spider. Meanwhile, I’m perched on my bed, watching the door. I did not see the spider go out the door so I knew the spider was still in when they left.”

Some friendly neighbors came by to console her after the police had rousted her apartment. One of the neighbors eventually found and killed the spider. “That thing curled up into something the size of a jacks ball,” Karr recalls.

“So, I was able to use that — How you feel when the police are there? You feel powerless. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. I was able to put that in my story. What happened to me back then resonated with a seventeen year old black kid from a disadvantaged part of Indianapolis. So, you can connect with your readers if you’re honest about what you’re writing. It all comes down to honesty, and he connected with that. All that goes to say, guys read my books, the girls read ‘em, and they all have something to say.”

Julia Karr: Every writer writes differently. But when I’m just sitting there staring off in space and there’s a blank computer screen in front of me, what I’m usually doing is seeing what happens next. Case in point: I’ve been revising my recent work in progress. Here I am, writing this new beginning, a new opening for my story, and lo and behold, first paragraph, a new character appears! He’s definitely a foil for my main character. I’m like, ‘Whoa!’

I’m not giving anything away when I say there’s fencing in this scene. We’re talking the grand art of fencing which I know very little about other than the fact that Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts — in the greatest scene in the world — the two of them are fencing at the top of the cliffs in The Princess Bride. So, somehow or another, fencing seemed to work into my story and I didn’t know anything about it. I went to the library and got a couple of books out about fencing. If I were maybe 30 years younger, I might consider learning how to fence — and I might anyway! Who knows? But I’m reading these books and I’m learning and I’m thinking about it and I’m understanding some things about the rules of fencing and how opponents interact with each other. It hit me that at the end of a fencing match, you salute your opponent. You have your sword out to the side and you bring your hand up toward your chin in a salute. You’re not supposed to look triumphant. You’re not supposed to look downtrodden. Won, lost, whatever; you’re supposed to have a very even demeanor. I thought about that. I was visualizing. My main character has just finished with this bout and she’s going to salute this person.

Who is this person? Is it just some nameless opponent? Or is there some kind of history going on there? All of a sudden this character just popped up and said ‘This is who I am.’

Michael G. Glab: So, the book writes itself?

JK: It does. I think it was Handel who said, ‘I’m taking dictation from God.’ I have struggled putting words down on the page, more often than not, but I have also found myself in the zone where it’s more like I’m reading what’s on the page rather than typing. Your subconscious is an amazing thing and it definitely takes over. I’ve discovered this not only from this zonal writing which is wonderful and doesn’t happen nearly as often as writers would like it to, there’s also this strange coincidence that happens, this little bit of serendipity, where you write something in your early chapters and you’re not exactly sure why you wrote it and then you end up, as you’re writing the end of the book, and all of a sudden you realize how important that one little thing that you put in chapter two suddenly becomes. If you hadn’t put it in there, you wouldn’t have gotten to this point but you didn’t even realize it when you wrote it. That happens a lot. In some of the books I’ve read about writing, people talk about that. They say, ‘If something feels like it needs to be included, include it, because you can always cut it later. But you never know if it is going to be the hinge for your plot.

It’s kind of like the seventh Harry Potter book. J.K. Rowling was explaining and bringing to fruition and closing doors and opening windows of things that happened in the first six books, that you had almost even forgotten about. She knew she was writing seven books.

MG: She wrote in coffeehouses. Describe your writing space.

JK: I usually write at my dining room table. It’s just a circular table, I plug in my laptop, sit down, fight off the cats who feel like they have to lay on the keyboard. I’ve got my cup of tea. I like to get up early before the rest of the world is up, do a little bit of journaling, and then get into whatever I’m working on. So it’s dark out, the shades are drawn.

The thing is, the minute I see the sun, I want to be doing something outside. I want to be physically doing something rather than writing.

MG: Nina, your protagonist in XVI and Truth, turns 16 in the year 2150. What is significant about 16?

JK: In the book, girls become adults at 16. They are basically primed, by the media — and if any if this sounds familiar, I’m not surprised — by shows, by radio, by advertisement, whatever the means are at that point in time, a constant media bombardment — to be sexual. That they are sexual beings before they become people. The most important thing for a girl is to be attractive to the opposite sex.

MG: It does sound familiar because a lot of that goes on now.

JK: Exactly. That was one of the things that really hit me: If our society continues on unchecked — and, believe me, I’m not a prude; people are sexual beings — but girls at eight do not need to have push-up bras. Little babies don’t need to have….

MG: Underpants that say ‘Juicy’? I saw an ad for them the other day.

JK: Right. People don’t need to be sexualized. We are sexual. It doesn’t need to be the focus of who you are. Nina’s best friend, Sandy, in XVI, has totally embraced the 16-idea. Sixteen Ways is her favorite zine. She buys into all of their how-tos. She wants all the guys to want her. And the price for that is that she has no life. Nothing means anything to her except that.

MG: But at the age of 16 you’re so desperate for an identity.

JK: You are. And if you’re being bombarded by the media that tells you that your worth is tied up in your sexuality…. And that’s the thing about XVI: It’s not just the girls who are taking this in. It’s the guys. They are taught to see girls as sexual beings, not as people. The resistance, the underground in the book, are people that want to see the whole person, but even there, there are problems. And that goes into the second book, Truth, where these guys still are having a hard time because they are bombarded with the same messages that the girls are. You’re still looking at that girl as somebody who’s a sexual being or needs to be protected from rape, from being exploited. That’s a thing our society is currently grappling with. Teens are like the opening flower, if you will. What is it that you’re fertilizing them with? It’s ingrained in our society already. Honestly, when I was writing this, I was kind of despairing. We’re so close already.

MG: XVI came out in 2011 and Truth in 2012. As I was checking all the comments from your loyal readers on various book sites, they were saying, ‘There’s got to be more!’ It’s clear to everybody. Well?

JK: I know that Nina hasn’t left my brain because she keeps showing up saying, ‘Well, what if you did this? What if I went here?’ So, I have been fleshing out some ideas for a third book. It may be more of a companion book than a sequel. A couple of years will lapse.

MG: A website called Parental Book Reviews, which ranks books for teens, has these categories: Sexual Dialogue — you’re ranked Heavy. Sexual Content — Moderate, with mentions of rape. Profanity — Heavy….

JK: That’s puzzling because, you know, slang changes. I had different words for sex rather than….

MG: Maybe they were projecting: ‘Oh that’s going to be a dirty word in 150 years.’

JK: And it certainly was going to be a dirty word 150 years in the future.

MG: Violence — Moderate to Heavy.

JK: Yes.

MG: And here’s a catch-all, Other Notable Ideas — the site writes that guys have a say in girls’ pregnancies, whether or not they can have an abortion, etc. I don’t know if that’s a problem in the site’s view or what. Have you had any problems with censorship or banning?

JK: Not that I’m aware of.

MG: High schools are assigning your books.

JK: Yes. Some of my biggest fans are teachers and librarians. People that love it, love it. And people that hate it, hate it. All you have to do is go to Amazon and the first review is one star and that person willfully chose to misunderstand everything that I was talking about.

MG: You put your stuff out there, you take your chances.

JK: And it’s not yours anymore. You write it for yourself, but when you send it out there, it’s like sending your kid to kindergarten — you can’t make everybody in the classroom like him. And you can’t stand over the other kids in the classroom and say, ‘You, What do you mean you don’t like my kid?’ Same way with the books.

MG: When I write, there’s always someone I’m writing to. Do you do that?

JK: No.

MG: It’s not the same person all the time. It’s different people. I pick a face of someone I know and esteem and say ‘I’m telling you this story.’

JK: Oh, cool. That’s very cool. I don’t do that.

Nina’s story? I’ll tell you how she showed up. One day, into my head just popped a picture of a punk rock girl. Spiky hair. Different colors. Miniskirt. Lots of bracelets with studs on ‘em. Heavy eye makeup. Boots. She’s walking down a city street and she trips over a homeless man and just keeps on walking. She’s got her earbuds in, you know? And then she stops and she turns around and she looks at him and she thinks, ‘I have to do something for him. I have to acknowledge him. I cannot just leave him there any more.’ That was just like this little picture that popped into my head for five seconds.

MG: A personality came out of that vision.

JK: Right. Here’s this person.

That year I decided to do National Novel Writing Month, which is November. You get 30 days to write 50,000 words. One of their catch phrases is No Plot? No Problem. All you need is a main character and a location. I had a main character and I had a location — but it was New York City and I don’t know New York City. I’ve only been there once. I did live in Chicago for five years and I loved it. I turned 16 in Chicago.

MG: You were a high school kid.

JK: Well, I was a high school kid until I dropped out at the end of my sophomore year.

MG: A dropout!

JK: I’m a dropout. Went back and got my GED and I’ve done some college but I made my way with a part of a high school education.

I knew Chicago so I took my character Nina, my little punk rock girl, I sat down and I said, ‘Girl, you’re going to have to tell me your story because I don’t know what it is.’

I started writing. I knew a little bit about who she was; that she was somebody who was no longer comfortable with the status quo.

During the Lotus Festival, you have a wristband on. You walk up and you hold up your hand so that the ushers will see that you have a wristband and you can go in. You don’t have to say a word. So when I started writing this it was the first of November; Lotus had been over for, what, a month? That kind of worked its way into the story. Identification on the wrist – the story evolved from there. I wrote it in 30 days. I had my basic story. And I let it sit for a while and I went back and revised, and revised, and revised. That was 2009. It was just a dream. When I wrote it I said, ‘Wow, this is pretty good.’

[At the time, Karr was part of a critique group and had been working on another, unrelated book. She eventually scrapped the other book because it needed too many revisions.]

JK: So, in order to have something to show to my critique partners, I brought them XVI. And they loved it. They were like, ‘This is your book. Start tweaking and tightening it up and making it a book.’ Which I did.

MG: When your critique partners said, for instance, ‘You know, I don’t like this or that,’ how long did it take you not to want to strangle them?

JK: I’m pretty open to just listening and trying to understand from somebody’s else’s point of view.

MG: You don’t take criticism personally?

JK: The gals that I was working with on XVI, we would sit and talk it over: ‘Well, you know. I really don’t get this part,’ or, ‘This doesn’t sound right,’ or, ‘Would she really say that?’ or, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’ When choosing critique partners you have to choose people that you know want you to be better. They’re not your relatives, heaven forbid. Your relatives will read anything and say, ‘Oh my god, this is wonderful!’

I just recently joined a critique group that has some awesome authors in it, some published, some not published. They are hard. Which is good. They’re not lying to me. They want my work to shine and they know it’s not going to shine unless I hear the hard truth about what’s wrong with it. They’re not trying to rewrite it; they’re just saying, ‘This doesn’t work. I stopped reading here. Why are you doing this?’ They’re excellent. I absolutely love them. I don’t get emotional about critiques because I recognize I’m trying to get better. What do they say? If you think you’re a master, you’re not. I don’t think I’m a master. I just want to get better.

MG: What did you read when you were 16?

JK: Oh my! I was reading fantasy, I was really into science fiction for a while. Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert. I also was reading Michener. I was reading Ayn Rand. I started reading when I was three. I have an older sister and she could read and I wanted to read. So she taught me how to read. She would read to me and I would figure it out.

I even got my picture on the front page of the Seymour Daily Tribune when I was six years old because I was the youngest kid to go through the summer reading club. Yes. I hadn’t even started first grade yet. I always read. The Seymour Public Library was great. I went through the children’s room by the time I was 12. I had everything in there read. Then I moved on to westerns and mysteries. There really wasn’t a lot of Young Adult fiction back then. I can remember when I was in seventh or eighth grade, I wanted to check out Gone with the Wind. The librarian called my grandmother — I grew up with my grandmother — to make sure it was alright to check the book out to me.

Right now I’m reading all the Inspector Linley mysteries by Elizabeth George. I also am on a kick: I have decided to read biographies of all the presidents of the United States, including Benjamin Harrison, if there’s something for the 21 days that he was in office.

 

The Ryder ● September 2014

Curly Little Shirley Explains It All For You

A Luminous American Life ● by Tom Roznowski

 

In a curious way, Shirley Temple’s recent death at 85 resonated with popular culture as much as her famous childhood did. While turning her back completely on Hollywood and serving in far-flung outposts as a U.S. ambassador, Shirley Temple Black somehow managed to avoid both vicious gossip and the public eye. Hiding in plain sight, as it were.

Over the course of the 20th Century, media in various forms came to direct and define fame in ways that have made this type of anonymity virtually impossible. Because her early public career coincided with the emergence of sound movies, Shirley Temple would become the first celebrity for whom chronological aging became a serious inconvenience. Her film career began in 1932, the same year that the venerated vaudeville venue, The Palace in New York City, converted itself to a fulltime movie house. In the depths of the Depression, a quarter could buy you hours of escape in air-conditioned darkness. Standing all of four feet as she tap-danced, sang, and lectured cranky adults, Shirley Temple reminded a suffering nation that daily life could actually contain joy.

As exhausting as her schedule was, starting at age 5 with 16 feature films completed in three years, Shirley Temple achieved nationwide recognition without appearing on the stage. Her filmed performances ran simultaneously in thousands of theaters across the United States multiple times every day with a brand new feature being produced every few months. By the time Shirley Temple blew out the candles on her 10th birthday cake, she had appeared in 40 separate film titles. From 1935 to 1938, she was the top box-office draw in America.

Good thing, too. Because within just two years the American movie-going public would summarily reject this beloved and bankable star for the simple reason that she was no longer a little girl. With the increasing clarity of visual film images and recorded sound during this period, every half-inch of her growth was being notched on the door jamb. Fox Studios, anticipating that their investment had a fixed time signature, had altered her birth date by a year.

From today’s perspective, we can see that even as sound film multiplied access and more accurately replicated reality for audiences eager for escape, it also encased film stars and their human personas in amber. And all of this happened within the average American life span of Shirley Temple Black. The first Oscar for Sound Recording was awarded at the first Academy Awards ceremony after her birth. In 1932, just as she was getting in front of a camera, sound mixing was introduced. Then she sang “The Good Ship Lollipop” and “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” performances so definitive no one else even bothered. She held her own dancing on with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Not backwards in high heels but rather down a staircase in Mary Janes.

Shirley Temple’s popularity began to wane even before she reached adolescence. As you might expect, it all started with some bad decisions made for her by adults. She was initially the choice for the lead role in The Wizard of Oz in 1939, but Darryl Zanuck, head of Fox Pictures, refused to loan her to MGM.  He was very confident about Shirley’s upcoming release the following year; a picture you’ve likely never seen called The Blue Bird.

It became the first of four consecutive flops for three different studios.  Shirley Temple would then marry at age 17. A measure of just how completely she had vanished from the public eye was the fact that her subsequent divorce at 21 did very little damage to either her reputation or her career. Two weeks after the decree was finalized, she married Charles Black – very wealthy and not an actor. Then, poof! Even for the still curious, she was gone. Now she could finally smoke a cigarette in peace.

As film and sound recording became more technically sophisticated in the 1930s, screen characters were presented in ways that defied the passage of time, allowing audiences to permanently project their deepest fantasies. In 1955, popular culture would freeze Marilyn Monroe’s white dress in mid-air as she stood over a subway grate. This, and her death at age 36, conveniently banished the thought that she would have been nearing ninety when the dress was finally auctioned in 2011. Its entire reputation was based on a ten second movie scene. The winning bid was 5.6 million dollars.

The great blues singer, Bessie Smith, had been born just a generation earlier and also never saw 50. She at least had the advantage of leaving her best performances in the present moment. Legend has it that her voice was capable of putting some audience members into a hypnotic trance that drew them like zombies towards the stage. Afterwards, her scratchy Victrola recordings became sepia postcards from the trip. Already been there, thanks.

Over the course of the 20th Century and accelerating every decade, technology has narrowed the breadth of our imaginations. With digital formats in sound and film absorbing more and more creative presence, the work of interpretation is now increasingly being done for us. Illusion created in print or with black and white film can gently guide the senses and the emotions. But as every shade of color and every bit of detail is filled in, illusion is becoming a thrill with diminished impact. The effects extend far beyond the artistic. While it’s true that peaches imported from Chile are camera-ready and consumer-friendly, the process of transporting them across a hemisphere in real time comes at a high cost: It turns out they don’t taste anything like peaches.

This slow fade from the imaginative and the sensory began long before Shirley Agnes Temple drew a breath, yet one could argue the process took a pronounced leap with her first flop. The Blue Bird started production at 20th Century Fox Studios in the wake of MGM’s astounding success with their own film adaptation of a popular children’s tale. The production looked good on paper, at least in the contracts and publicity releases. While Judy Garland was a discovery, Shirley Temple was an icon.

The reasons for the failure of The Blue Bird now seem so plain with the perspective of time. Stark reality collided head on with advancing technology: Shirley Temple at 12 and in Technicolor. Her hair was no longer curled in ringlets. Her pouts were temperamental rather than charming. Her talents were suddenly considered pedestrian rather than precocious. At a time when Bessie Smith’s hypnotized subjects still walked the earth, the movie star was no longer worth the cheap price of admission. It’s the oldest vaudeville adage of all: Never follow a kid act.

 

The Ryder ● September 2014

 

Pull quote

The slow fade from the imaginative and the sensory began long before Shirley Temple drew a breath, yet one could argue the process took a pronounced leap shortly after she blew out the candles on her 10th birthday cake.

Magic Steeped In The Real

The Legacy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez ● by Will Healey

 

When Gabriel Garcia Marquez died in April at the age of 87, the literary world lost a giant.  The man best known for his 1967 masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude and the literary genre with which his name became synonymous, magic realism, left in his wake a trove of novels, short stories and essays that simultaneously communicate timeless truths of life and evoke the mysteries of the supernatural.

Garcia Marquez, from Colombia, was the most celebrated Latin American writer of his era, and one of the most revered writers of the last fifty years.  So towering were his works, that when he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, the Swedish Academy of Letters said “Each new work of his is received by expectant critics and readers as an event of world importance.” Writer William Kennedy famously called One Hundred Years of Solitude  the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” Telling a friend that I was finally going to read that novel after Garcia Marquez’s passing, he said, “it’s the history of the world told through the story of one family.”

Garcia Marquez started his career as a journalist, but gravitated to fiction in his thirties.  He had many celebrated works besides One Hundred Years of Solitude – his novel about a 50-year unrequited love, Love in the Time of Cholera; the short story collection The Leaf Storm; a tale about the epic reign of a fictional Caribbean dictator, The Autumn of the Patriarch; and News of a Kidnapping, a non-fiction book about a series of kidnappings carried out by Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel.

Garcia Marquez’s works were very much influenced by the times in which he lived, and he was unapologetically political.  He counted among his friends Fidel Castro and Bill Clinton, and was outspoken in his disdain for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.  Jonathan Kandell, in a piece for The New York Times marking the death of the great author, wrote that Garcia Marquez’s work “sprang from Latin America’s history of vicious dictators and romantic revolutionaries, of long years of hunger, illness and violence.” Kandell went on to quote Garcia Marquez’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech:  “Poets and beggars,” Garcia Marquez said, “musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination.  For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”

In some literary circles, however, Garcia Marquez was criticized for the fantastical elements in his writing, something Salman Rushdie (on whom Garcia Marquez’s work had a great influence), took issue with in a New York Times piece written shortly after the author’s death. Rushdie wrote that the fictional village of Macondo, the backdrop for the agonies and ecstasies of seven generations of the Buendia family in One Hundred Years of Solitude (modeled after Garcia Marquez’s north coastal Colombian birthplace, Aracataca), was similar to William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi.  Rushdie used the comparison to argue that Garcia Marquez, like Faulkner, created real characters inhabiting a real world.

“The trouble with the term “magic realism,” is that when people say or hear it, they are really only hearing or saying half of it, “magic,” without paying attention to the other half, “realism,” Rushdie wrote.  He goes on to say that if magic realism were just “magic,” then it wouldn’t have much effect on the reader.  Because anything is possible, the stakes are lower.  But, Rushdie says, when the magic is “rooted in the real, and is brought in to supplement the real, that’s when the fun starts.

Rushdie describes a famous scene from the novel, wherein a character dies from a single gunshot and a trickle of his blood leaves his house and serpentines up and down through the streets of Macondo until it finally stops at his mother’s feet.  According to Rushdie, the passage “reads as high tragedy,” because the impossibility of the blood’s purpose-fueled behavior, juxtaposed against the plausible event of a mother learning of her son’s death, takes on a higher, even spiritual meaning.  As Rushdie puts it, “The real, by addition of the magical, actually gains in dramatic and emotional force.  It becomes more real, not less.”

In another notable scene from the novel, the death of the patriarch of the Buendia clan, Jose Arcadio Buendia, is marked by a steady rain of tiny yellow flowers, so many that the next day “the streets were carpeted with a compact cushion and they had to clear them away with shovels and rakes so that the funeral procession could pass by.”  Jose Arcadio Buendia led the expedition that founded Macondo, and was a polymath of boundless energy.  His unquenchable thirst for knowledge ultimately drives him mad, but the solemn poetry of the raining flowers suggests that the heavens were paying tribute to a man who gave everything to try to advance the lot of his people.

True to Rushdie’s sentiments that the power of Marquez’s work lay in the real, I’m struck that the passage that had the greatest effect on me in One Hundred Years of Solitude didn’t contain anything fantastic or unexplainable.  Albeit tragic, masterfully written and heart-wrenching, this passage simply depicts a man’s final moments.

“On the way to the cemetery, under the persistent drizzle, Arcadio saw that a radiant Wednesday was breaking out on the horizon.  His nostalgia disappeared with the mist and left an immense curiosity in its place.  Only when they ordered him to put his back to the wall did Arcadio see Rebeca, with wet hair and a pink flowered dress, opening wide the door.  He made an effort to get her to recognize him.  And Rebeca did take a casual look toward the wall and was paralyzed with stupor, barely able to react and wave good-bye to Arcadio.  Arcadio answered her the same way.  At that instant the smoking mouths of the rifles were aimed at him and letter by letter he heard the encyclicals that Melquiades had chanted and he heard the lost steps of Santa Sofia de la Piedad, a virgin, in the classroom, and in his nose he felt the same icy hardness that had drawn his attention in the nostrils of the corpse of Remedios.  “Oh, God damn it!” he managed to think.  “I forgot to say that if it was a girl they should name her Remedios.” Then, all accumulated in the rip of a claw, he felt again all the terror that had tormented him in his life.  The captain gave the order to fire.  Arcadio barely had time to put out his chest and raise his head, not understanding where the hot liquid that burned his thighs was pouring from.  “Bastards!” he shouted.  “Long live the Liberal Party!”

Marquez/Castro

Marquez (L) And Fidel Castro

Garcia Marquez did not invent the genre of magic realism, but he certainly popularized it.  Countless writers today employ it in their work- Rushdie, Isabel Allende, Haruki Murakami, and Toni Morrison, to name a few.  His influence carries over into other media as well.  Watching the film Pan’s Labyrinth, which juxtaposes a strange world of mythical creatures against the harsh realities of the Spanish Civil War, it’s hard to imagine Mexican director Guillermo del Toro wasn’t influenced by Garcia Marquez.  Or take the famous raining frogs sequence in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 film Magnolia, which depicted the mysterious intersections of seemingly disparate lives. What makes Magnolia’s famous sequence work isn’t that the events in the film are so coincidental that, sure, frogs falling from the sky isn’t so far fetched; it’s that the characters that are all strangely connected are so real to us, and the dramas that play out in their storylines so human, that the frogs falling from the sky is an inexplicable moment of wonder that somehow rings true – Garcia Marquez’s personal recipe for successful, affecting magic realism.

Just four months on from his passing, and 47 years after the release of One Hundred Years of Solitude, it is still far too early to fully measure the scope of the author’s impact on the world. But back in April, when it became known that Garcia Marquez had finally succumbed to complications from lymphatic cancer and dementia, I wonder how many of his admirers checked outside to see that there weren’t yellow flowers raining from the sky.

 

The Ryder ● September 2014

The 38th Annual 4th St. Festival of the Arts & Crafts

● by Colleen Wells

 

Labor Day calls for cook-outs and a long weekend to enjoy the waning summer. For Bloomington residents it means something more. Labor Day Weekend ushers in the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Fine Crafts, an event coordinated by local artists. With roots stemming from a discussion between two local potters, the inaugural Fourth Street Festival was held in 1977 with the goal of showcasing local talent. The event has since blossomed to accommodate a variety of both greater Bloomington area artisans and those from around the country. Nearly 120 artists from states as far as New York and Florida will participate.

Now in its 38th year, the weekend’s event attracts over 40,000 visitors. It will run from 10:00ama to 6:00pm on Saturday, August 30th, and 10:00am to 5:00pm on Sunday at Fourth & Grant Streets. Artists representing a variety of mediums including printmaking, wood, leather, photography, fiber, glass and ceramics will display and sell their work.

Wendy Newman of Moab, Utah, has participated in numerous festivals for twenty-five years with her handcrafted, contemporary jewelry and was a juror for this year’s event. She spoke of the advantages of art fairs created by artists. “In my experience the shows that artists run are juried more fairly and of a higher quality than other shows.”

Another factor in the event’s success is the willingness of the artists to promote their own work. Bloomington resident and contemporary jewelry artist, Marilyn Greenwood, has been exhibiting her work at the show since 1990. She has her work on display at By Hand gallery, but is able to show a wider variety and her newest work at the festival. Through her marketing efforts the artist stated she “draws on people from Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati and Louisville.”

There will be other attractions including a music stage with bands offering tunes ranging from classical to blues. The kidszone will provide hands on art opportunities for children, and there will be additional community booths. All of the ancillary events run through the course of both days.

The Spoken Word Stage presented by the Writers Guild at Bloomington begins each day at 10:30a.m. with writers reading from several genres. Each presentation lasts a half hour. Since joining the festival in 2011, this addition has been both popular and unique. Tony Brewer, Executive Director for the Spoken Word Stage and Chair of the Bloomington Writer’s Guild, said, “To my knowledge 4th Street is the only arts festival in Indiana that offers a dedicated spoken word stage. Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, and many many others around the country have for years, and I have looked to them as a model for how ours might work.”

New this year is an installation located at Fourth Street between Kirkwood and Dunn. The piece is constructed of plywood with a waffle-like structure held together by friction without any bolts or screws. It was created in a workshop with mechanical engineering students at IUPUI-Columbus. Instructor Jonathan Racek, a Bloomington architect with a focus on sustainability and digital fabrication who teaches interior design classes at Indiana University, had spoken with colleagues about building a set piece for a fashion show put on by IU students. The arch was created with 3D software and fabricated on a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) router which Racek said is “like a robotic cutter.” The creation is approximately 8 feet wide, 8.5 feet tall, and 3 feet deep.

Of being tasked with making the piece for the fashion show, Racek said, “We really weren’t sure what that was going to be.” Soon to be exhibited at the Fourth Street Festival, the structure simply called “the arch,” will be at home alongside many other creative pieces.

Whether you are a regular visitor of the 4th street Festival, or plan to attend for the first time, you are likely to find something that resonates. It may be an intricate piece of metal jewelry, or a painting that speaks to you, but the 4th Street Festival is a place where artists and art are appreciated.

Brewer stated that the Poetry On Demand portion of the Spoken Word Stage “offers festival goers an opportunity to interact directly with artists in the act of creation.” This fits with the organizers of the festival’s vision of community involvement.

Commenting on shows where a dedicated staff works closely with the community, juror Newman stated, “These shows are a labor of love for the people who put them on and focused more on the art which is a treasure to have.”

 

The Ryder ● September 2014

Introduction To The Fiction Issue

A word about the words in this issue ◆ by Justin Chandler

It was a little over a year ago that we got the idea of putting together an issue that would showcase Bloomington fiction. I was immediately interested, not just because I write fiction myself, but because I knew that if anywhere could offer up an eclectic and brilliant collection of work, it was here.

I saw the fiction scene as existing in factions. I had been involved in the undergraduate and graduate writing scene at IU through various workshops and as an intern at Indiana Review. And I knew of other factions, like the writing group at Boxcar Books and the Writers Guild. I also envisioned some secret faction, writing in the shadows, plotting the upheaval of all we know.

I’m not so sure we’re ready to start soliciting work from that last group. But what intrigued me about a fiction issue was the chance to reach out to all these groups and see what kind of amazing kaleidoscope could be created when we put them together.

So, with way less time than we should’ve had, we set out to make that issue happen. Two weeks later, our deadline passed with zero submissions—not because no one submitted, but because our site had been hacked and our email accounts, perhaps due to protocol or maybe out of some existential dread, ceased for a period of time in the laborious struggle of being. When they came back online they were empty, and what I’m really afraid of? Is that in some alternative universe, maybe they still are….

Whatever. We pushed the fiction issue back to July 2014, to well, for you, right now. And this time around we, and the hackers, did it right.

I knew that we would get a unique mix of work. What I didn’t know is that picking such a varied set of stories would be so easy. I still find it kind of hard to believe we got this lucky. These stories are wide-ranging in their concerns, their characters and themes, and they are all really good. They deal with love, its possibility, its inevitability, and what happens in its terrifying absence. They deal with life, with the beauty of the known, and the provocative specter of the unknown. I think most of all they deal with people, trying to figure out what it all means, or for the first time realizing that they might not know.

A drawing by Ali Maidi accompanies each story. Ali is an artist and a Bloomington native who graduated from IU with a focus in Jewelry and Metalsmithing. Although he works with several different medias, he prefers drawing. Maidi currently works for the art and signage company, Moda Industria. Ali also drew the cover which presumably, you’ve already seen. Take another look. See — he’s good.

I’ve said way more than I wanted to already. Turn to page 14 and you’ll find the first of five stories by Bloomington artists. For you.

Illustrations by Ali Maidi.

The Ryder ◆ July 2014

Fiction: Ahmed’s Spring

by Cara Prill

11:11:11 on 11/11/11 was a long time from when they first met. Sarah had been barefoot, sitting on the back of a couch, when Ahmed fell in love. Of course, he’d been in the States awhile and seen plenty of feminine toes exposed in flip flops outside or trotting naked across the dorm’s lounge. Sarah’s, though, were smoothing the couch cushions beneath her, and Sarah was laughing in a way that gave him shivers. He watched her light hair fall across her mouth and stood too long staring.

David knew Sarah already and, for some strange reason, suggested to Ahmed that she would make a great match with Steve down the hall. They spent an afternoon deciding how to set it up, which meant Ahmed got to ask David lots of questions about Sarah, all for the purpose of helping out Steve.

That evening, after David invited Sarah and Steve to Ahmed’s room, the four of them spread out. David was in the chair, Steve against the desk, Ahmed on his bed, and Sarah on the floor. No matter how often Ahmed offered a pillow, Sarah just smiled and said she was fine. Pizza was delivered, late night talk shows ended, and Steve left to finish a paper. Eventually, David got tired and took off. Then Ahmed and Sarah stayed up through the night; she was still on the floor beneath the edge of his bed, so Ahmed hung his head over the side. Her face, below him, looked angular and perfect.

Ahmed liked counting the freckles on Sarah’s nose, twenty-four, twenty-five. He planned to be an accountant. Sarah studied religion. She said she liked knowing how people answered the big questions about life and death. Lately, she had a lot of questions about Islam. Ahmed prayed five times a day, or tried to. She said she loved how Muslims touched their heads to the ground in prayer. But he couldn’t pray in front of Sarah, and the only time he misused his prayer mat was when they sat by it together.

Sarah was doing her homework on Ahmed’s back while he bent over his laptop. He studied her feet against the black and gold corner of his mat. They were like shells, those pearl shells that shone. He touched them again to feel how soft they were. She readjusted her legs around his waist and tapped her pen on his back.

“Are you bored?” he asked her.

“No. This is nice, doing homework. Like this.” He felt her arms sneak under his elbows and around his waist.

He said, “You’re like a turtle shell on my back, you know?” She wiggled her toes and fingers in front of his computer. He felt completely crazy. “Sarah, do you want to kiss?” was what he’d been thinking of asking for a month.

“Yes.” She put her head on his shoulder.

“What?”

“Yes, I want to kiss you.” He stopped breathing, and she added, “That’s what you said, right? Under your breath? Oh, I mean,” she stuttered, “I’m sorry.”

He pulled her right foot off of his crossed legs, set it to the side, leaned over, and brushed his lips against her toes.

Ahmed had never been on a date before, not exactly, and not American style, so he studied up. David said that it wasn’t much different than in the old movies that Ahmed watched in his film studies class: take her out to a movie, out for pizza or a sandwich, pay for everything, maybe get ice cream. If it gets cold, offer your jacket.

So Ahmed wore his best leather jacket. He walked Sarah across campus and bought tickets at the little theater that played “artsy flicks,” as Sarah called them. But he was afraid she didn’t like the movie much. It was more serious than he expected, and she only laughed once. He wasn’t sure if he was holding her hand right either.

At the pizza place she ordered a sandwich, so he did too, except that he ordered the beef. She’d taken three large, adorable bites and had a mouthful of ham when he couldn’t stop himself and began to laugh. She reached up to her lip as if she had some sauce on it.

“No, no. It isn’t that.” He explained that he loved how she could be herself around him and order whatever she wanted.

Her eyes opened wide. “Oh, God,” she said, setting down the sandwich. “I forgot about ham!” He asked her to please not stop eating just because of him. He wasn’t sure if kissing an American who had eaten ham counted as eating ham yourself, but he was certain, ham or no, that kissing was forbidden in the first place, and he decided to think less.

He kissed her on the mouth later anyway. She was wearing his jacket, and they were hiding in a classroom on campus to get out of the cold. She smelled like leather, ham, and shampoo.

“You missed seeing Hamid and Zaynab. They came to your cousin’s wedding.”

Ahmed switched the phone to his other hand and turned his back to the bed. He started speaking in Urdu.

“How was it?” he said, trying to change the topic.

“Fine, Ahmed, fine,” his mother replied in Urdu, and then continued in English, “Why aren’t you calling Zaynab? She says you haven’t talked for a while.”

We haven’t talked for six months, Ahmed thought. “I think we’ve both been busy, Mom.”

“Well, I hope you’re not too busy to plan your wedding. We went to a lot of trouble, convincing her family that a Shi’a was welcome in ours after you two begged us to match you.”

Ahmed looked behind him at Sarah, who smiled before hiding her face under the sheet.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“You should have come home this break. If you’re not careful, Zaynab will forget what you look like and marry someone like Hamid!”

Ahmed wondered if his mother knew already. “Hamid isn’t bad looking.”

“Really, son, come home for your spring break. Don’t spend so long away. We can pay for your ticket.”

“I know. OK, I’m sorry,” Ahmed stammered, then said that he needed to eat breakfast before the sun came up. She sounded relieved that he was keeping Ramadan, and let him off the phone after that.

When Sarah said she thought he was speaking Urdu with his family, Ahmed relaxed, but then she laughed a little, telling him that eventually she realized he was just speaking English very fast. He didn’t get back into bed. He tried to remember what he’d said in English. Sarah answered that for him: “Hamid must be hard to talk about.”

After an awkward moment, they managed to discuss it, seated together on the edge of the bed. He was relieved to learn David had already told Sarah about Zaynab and his best friend. Instead of being jealous, Sarah seemed sad for him. She took his hand in hers. “Losing your sweetheart to your best friend,” she said, “is a good reason to not want to go home.”

Ahmed thought to himself that Sarah was a good reason to not go home. They hurried to the cafeteria to beat sunrise.

Not having homework over semester break and having the dormitory to themselves was bliss. It was going to be “Oh-one, Oh-one, Oh-one,” as Sarah liked to call New Year’s, 2001, and she was cooking dinner for him. He assured her that Ramadan had ended three days ago and he could eat at a normal time. Besides, he was very hungry. But she insisted they have a late night meal to stay up for the New Year. He was supposed to show up in the lounge at 9:30 p.m. sharp, with grape juice—“the kind that’s not fermented,” she said.

To pass the evening, he walked to the grocery store and back. When he went downstairs at 9:30 the lights were off, the TV—showing Times Square—was on mute, and Sarah had tall candles burning. Chicken legs and rice were on the end table, and she had arranged throw pillows on the floor. He held out the grape juice to her like a prize, for which he won a smile. He had never seen someone in blue jeans, a sweatshirt, and oversized socks look so beautiful.

After the ball dropped in Times Square, after they kissed for 01/01/01, after they cleaned up the dishes and lit more candles, Ahmed held Sarah on the couch. He lifted up on an elbow and took off her socks to count her toes.

“I have ten, same as you!” she said.

“I know, but these are special.”

She twisted around to face him. “What do you think you’ll be doing ten years from now?”

“I don’t know.” Ahmed thought about it. “Maybe I’ll be a wealthy accountant by then. Or maybe I’ll go into computers.” He wadded up her sock and threw it at the TV.

“Hey!” she said.

“It’s binary today, Oh-one, Oh-one, Oh-one,” he said, wadding up her other sock. “Maybe it’s a sign I should go into computers.”

She went to grab his hand, but he tossed the other sock across the room too. “My feet’ll be cold, computer guy!”

He smiled, “Well, I can keep them warm.”

She turned back around and spooned up against him. He maneuvered his legs around her toes like a sandwich.

“The coolest date,” she said, “is going to be all ones. Eleven, eleven, eleven.”

“That’s about ten years from now,” he said into her hair. “It’ll even have eleven-eleven, like the time, twice in that one day.”

“Ooh, you are so good with numbers,” Sarah replied.

He loved every compliment she gave him, even if he didn’t deserve it.

A ticket home showed up in the mail a couple of weeks later, and Zaynab called a week after that. It wasn’t so easy to talk with her again, not as easy as with Sarah even though Sarah and he could only speak English. Hamid had broken up with Zaynab because he wasn’t supposed to date, and Hamid, or “Chicken-Shit” as Ahmed began referring to him, still hadn’t returned his calls. No way would Ahmed want him at his wedding now, assuming he had one.

“I always thought I would have two children,” Ahmed replied to Sarah’s question. “A boy and a girl, or two girls. Because people don’t always value girls at home, but I would.”

From the chair behind him, Sarah rubbed his shoulders and kissed the top of his head.

“What about you?” he asked, as he tilted his head back to look at her.

She squeezed him with her knees. “I don’t think I’ll have kids.”

“Really?” He turned all the way around. “Why not?”

“I don’t know. I guess I never saw myself with kids, you know, as a mom.”

Ahmed shifted back into position between her legs and thought about it. “You are lucky you’re American. A Muslim woman in Pakistan would be expected to have children.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I would make a good Muslim woman.”

They sat quietly for a while, hands entwined. Then Ahmed laughed lightly after the silence. “I don’t make a very good Muslim man.”

Sarah said, “I don’t know about that! You observe holy times, and do prayer. You even pray in the stacks at the library when you have to.”

“That’s not what I mean. I always think I am too liberal, you know? Like I think Bush is wrong about abortion. I think women should be able to decide if they want to be pregnant.”

“You’re awesome,” she replied, giving his head a bear hug from behind.

Ahmed blew out his breath from underneath her forearms. Sarah released him and went back to rubbing his shoulders.

He said softly, “It’s just that I always thought I’d be too liberal to raise my children up as good Muslims, but I thought Zaynab, as a Shi’a, she would be more strict. She would make sure my children don’t end up too American.”

Sarah’s hands kept going, but she didn’t speak for some time. Then she said, “Would you raise them here? In America?”

“I’m not sure. Wherever I could get a better job. Probably here, but I’d like to be near my family too.”

Sarah slipped her thumbs under the neck of his T-shirt, caressed the hair along his spine, and pressed deeply into his shoulder blades. Someone knocked on his door, but Ahmed ignored it. Then he asked, “Why do American women hate hair on men’s backs?”

Behind him, he heard Sarah sniffle, and then say in his ear, “Because they’re stupid.”

The night he said what he had to say, Sarah made it easy for him. She didn’t cry or say he was making a mistake; she didn’t even get mad. There was one thing she did ask, though, after they stared at each other from opposite ends of the bed. She wanted to keep seeing him for one more month, up until Spring Break. Then it would be over.

And Ahmed agreed right away. He didn’t want it to end, not really, not with how he felt when he was around her, the way her face lit up. So for a few days they kept going. Eating at the cafeteria, watching some TV.

But he couldn’t stop thinking about the numbers. They were always there, counting down. He kept eyeing the leftover dates on his calendar, feeling as empty as each tiny square.

Ahmed sat at his desk with lined paper and his best pen. He had written a page already, trying to explain. If he saw her in person, he would never be able to do it. Or he wouldn’t do it right. He let his pen tell her that. He let his pen say how much he wished she could find a nice American boy to marry someday. But the whole thing seemed cold to him, like the weather outside. It was so cold and he was so lonely without her. She deserved something better. She deserved better words, better English, something that truly said how he felt about her and how he would always remember her. Because she was—had been—his life these last few months. She was warm, like spring. She was, she was….

Sarah believes in lucky days and lucky kisses, and she isn’t about to miss a New Year’s style moment on the luckiest day of the century.

“Meet me at the front of Eagan Hall. I’ll be there at 11:05. Be there, or be square!” she types, adding, “Oh, yeah, you already are square.” She hits enter, and wonders if his boss will read his Facebook. They might get caught!

She grabs her coat and house keys and heads to campus. A half hour walk from home, she is sitting on the steps outside their rendezvous point and grinning in the chilly weather.

“It’s your lucky day,” Sarah says when Josh takes her hand and lifts her off the steps. She hugs him and whispers, “Come on!”

They pretend to be nonchalant as a group of undergraduates passes in the hall.

“This one’s empty,” she says. “This was my old classroom when I took Buddhism.”

She sits Josh in the last row of the auditorium-style seating. They remove their gloves and coats, and he pulls out his cell phone which has the date spelled on its background.

“Hey! It says eleven-eleven!” Sarah beams at him. “Can you get it to say the time too?”

When that doesn’t work, they settle for watching the little time marked in the corner of the phone, but it can’t count down the seconds or rather, in this case, count up seconds. This means that to get their good luck right at 11:11:11 on 11/11/11, they have to start kissing at 11:11 and keep on kissing for at least eleven seconds. Josh kisses Sarah for longer.

Sarah kisses Josh again outside before he sneaks back to work. Then she wanders along the campus paths that connect her with the road home. Campus has changed a lot, she thinks, but this is the same brick path she took on a date with Ahmed ten years ago.

The last time she heard about him was from David the next school year. It was after 9/11, and Sarah had worried that Ahmed would have trouble flying home from his summer internship in Atlanta. But David said Ahmed called him in October, soon after the wedding.

Sarah knows that Zaynab has married well. There was a letter Ahmed wrote that Sarah keeps in her boxes from college. Before she met and married Josh, she would pull the letter out from time to time, especially whenever some dumb American boy had dumped her. Now, she doesn’t need to go looking for it, because she has read its last few lines so many times, she has them memorized. She wraps her coat tighter around her body and smiles.

You are the fresh spring breeze that breathes new life into all species. You are the rainbow after the torrential storm. You are the face that makes me smile. You are the reason someone, someday, will be glad that he came home.

Cara Prill grew up in southern Indiana, and like many others who have attended IU, she stayed put after college. Bloomington has been her home for 20 years. She leads creative writing workshops through Ivy Tech’s Center for Lifelong Learning and enjoys participating in the Bloomington Writers Guild.

Illustration by Ali Maidi.

The Ryder ◆ July 2014

Fiction: At The Edge

by Richard H. Durisen

“When angels fell,

Some fell on the land,

Some fell on the sea.

The former are the faeries,

And the latter were often

Said to be the seals.”

Orcadian Folklore, Anonymous

The drone of approaching Heinkel bombers echoes in the fjords. A fireball erupts when the first bomb hits, flinging bodies into the sea….

Rose awoke on her lumpy mattress, startled and sweaty. Large waves boomed against the rocks, and the grief that had clotted around her heart during a night of intermittent sleep melted and flowed back into her veins. It was the dream about the bombers that had awoken her. Previous dreams had presaged discoveries on the beach, and climbing out of bed, Rose asked aloud, “Mum, do ya have a gift for me today?”

After putting on her work clothes, Rose took the hemp sack with rope shoulder straps down from its hook and, in it, put a jar containing a rag moistened with vinegar. She slung the pack on her back and walked toward the ocean. Today, the fog had drawn back from the coast after dawn, and the sky was an unusually deep blue. Far out to sea, a Vickers Vildebeest biplane flew along the coast, patrolling for U boats.

The rolling hills of scrub and verdant grass ended abruptly at the water, as if loaves of bread had been carved in a ragged line. Rose’s house topped one of the nearest hills. The closest other visible building, Old Tom O’Malley’s house, was about a third of a mile away up along the coast.

Rose stood at the top of the precipice nearest her house. It dropped straight down into Donegal Bay off the Irish Sea and was part of the Slieve League cliffs. The locals called this particular cliff “Imeall”, which in Gaelic means “Edge” or “Margin.” Many an afternoon or evening, long before the troubles began, she and her sister would sit here to ponder the mysteries common among young Irish women –their bodies, men, America.

Something glinted below her, where the waves foamed over a rocky beach within the steep sides of a cove. The path down to the cove was treacherous, but Rose was well practiced from her childhood days. When she saw up close what was caught in a rough edge of the tide pool, a mixture of horror and elation raced through her body, and she wept.

She tied the cloth dampened with vinegar over her nose to mask the stench, hefted the object into the sack, and then began the climb uphill. As she approached her house, she recognized her brother in the distance, bicycling along the coast road for one of his frequent visits. Anxiety crackled through her. She could not let Sean reach the house before she did. She ran.

Back home, she retrieved the sealed container of lye and the key that she kept near the Book under her bed and hurried to the back of the house, to the large trunk beneath the eaves. She unlocked it and swung open the lid. The pungent air made her wince and cough a little. She unloaded her sack, took off the military cap, gazed longingly at the decomposing head festooned with seaweed, and laid it gently in the box. She sprinkled some lye on top of all the trunk’s contents and closed the lid. She also scattered some lye over the fluids leaking from between the thick wooden slats and paused for a moment. “They’re back together again, Mum, like ya said.”

Once back inside the house, she hung the hat behind a curtain that partitioned off one corner of the main room. She shut the windows on the trunk side of the house, cleaned up as best she could at the basin, and put water on for tea. Moments later, Sean’s wheels clattered on the path to her house.

“Darlin’ sister, ya need to take better care a the place. It smells to High Heaven, ya know.”

“The compost needs a bit a straw.”

“Straw? A healthy dose of buryin’ it needs… Well, I brought what food I could, an’ some laundry. Ya know how bad ‘tis with the Emergency an’ all. U boats. Patrol planes. As if a fisherman’s life isn’t hard enough. We ought ta leave this damn place. Go North.”

“Never.”

“People talk, Rose. ‘Tis hard to find customers for yer washin’ anymore.”

“Oh, they talk, do they?” Rose said, with a forceful “Heeeck!” at the end, a guttural sound, like a cat choking up a hairball. Her eyes flashed, “And what is it they’re sayin’?”

“Feck, ya know. Dumb rot. Yer a witch an’ all. Or a Selkie.”

“Selkie, me arse! Ya mean Finfolk! Sami! Heeeck! Like Mum!”

“Yeah, Rose, like Mother. God Rest Her Troubled Soul.”

“’Er soul isn’t troubled, Sean. Not the way ya mean it, anyhow.”

“An’ how would ya know that? She jumped off the damn cliff, she did. She’s as lost as Father was in the Great Storm a ’38, a Godfearin’ Man, Bless his Soul.”

“Ya don’t know it. No one saw ‘er. Went back to ‘er home is all she did.”

“Aw, Rose, ya know what they said about ‘er. They’re sayin’ the same about ya now. I fear someone’ll get a notion. And where’s Mother’s home, if not here?”

“Ya know’t in yer heart, Sean. Ya just won’t admit it.”

“Rose, ya talk crazy. She’s County Donegal right through.”

“Where’s ‘er folk then, Sean? How come Mum an’ Dad never talked about’m? Ya heard the stories of him goin’ out in the boat and comin’ back with ‘er. Mum’s from Inse Catt way back, an’ ‘er Folk are Lochlann Sami, the Finnar, belongin’ to the sea.”

Sean ignored Rose’s occult version of their family history and continued, “Rose, ya wander around all day mutterin’ an’ givin’ folks the eye. Ya sit on the beach whisperin’ to the seals. An’ at night ya stand on Imeall there keenin’ like a Banshee. Just like Mother, when Father died. Folks talk, Rose. Ya know what they think? About Mary?”

“Sean, I didn’t kill Mary. Heeeck! I’m guilty a other things, but not that.”

“Aw, Rose. Ya know. It’s people that’re saying, not me.”

They sat in silence for a while. Then Sean reminisced a little about their childhood and was surprised that she smiled thinly and even chuckled once. Before today, the weight of everything had seemed to crush the joy right out of her. They fell into a reverie and stared out the window at the horizon.

When Sean spoke again, it was to update her on the news: another volunteer from the village wounded, more difficulties with the food supplies, another Luftwaffe bombing of Dublin, rumors about when the Americans might enter the war.

“Oh, an’ Joseph says he needs his wash done quick this time, for Sunday Mass. He’s still sweet on ya, ya know, no matter how daft ya be, an’ even with all that’s happened. An’ I added me own best shirt to the load. The stain is a bit a blood from a scuff at the pub. Defendin’ yer name, if ya must know.”

“Certainly nothin’ new, that. Thank ya, Sean, but I don’t need defendin’. Tell Joe I’ll get his cloths to him quick this time. Tell’m he’s a good man too.”

They lapsed into another silence filled by the surf and by the distant barking of seals. Sean sighed and stood up to leave.

“Bless ya, darlin’ sister! May God Look Over Ya!”

“I don’t know about God. Heeeck! But Mum does.” Rose held up the wood carving of the Celtic knot that her mother had given her and that she always wore around her neck on a leather strap.

“I worry about ya being alone an’ all. I think it’s makin’ ya daft.”

“I’m not alone, Sean.”

Sean creased his brow. “The way ya talk, it scares me, Rose. I swear. Ya’ll make me a drinkin’ man for sure.”

“Yer already a drinkin’ man, Sean.” Rose paused and added, “An’ bless ya too. Yer concern touches me. Ya have Dad’s soft heart, but deep in yer soul I think ya got more a Mum in ya than I do. Ya just don’t know it.”

With that, he smiled, gave her a long hug, and left. Before he rode his bike down the hill toward the road, he yelled, “May The Saints Have Mercy, Rose, it stinks like the docks out here! When next I’m back, I’ll help ya with the compost!”

“Thank ya, Sean. Yer right. I’ll need a bit a help with that.”

Rose sat back down in the kitchen after Sean left and ran her fingers across the rough tabletop. Splinters poked at her fingertips, and she toyed with the hints of pain.

It had begun two years back, in 1939, on the night of Paddy’s send-off party. After mourning the loss of their parents for a year, Rose and Mary were ready to let go for an evening. When they arrived at the pub, they seemed, even to Rose, to be an unlikely pair. Each was beautiful in her way, but Mary was tall and solidly built, robust, with red hair and a ruddy complexion like her father and brother. Rose took after her mother – dark, exotic, and elfin. Her protruding almond-shaped eyes slanted slightly downward at the edges, and she had unusually pronounced webbing between her fingers and toes, a trait she shared with her mother.

Mary spent most of her time at the gathering sitting near the bar, talking and laughing with Paddy. Rose was the more spirited and mischievous of the two, and her deep brown eyes and long shiny black hair flashed with inner fire. She let herself be carried away by the music and drink, spinning her skirt out shamelessly on the dance floor, hissing into young men’s ears, and downing all the beer and whisky she was offered.

Paddy was going to war, one of the early Irish volunteers. He was the handsomest man in the village, desired by all, and betrothed to Rose’s sister Mary. Rose had been happy for them, despite the grim reports of war coming from the Continent, but tonight her spirit was set free by the alcohol. When Paddy left Mary at the bar to join the dancers, Rose whirled over to him through the crowd. They danced a vibrant reel together and everyone cheered, including Mary. Once the music stopped, Rose and Paddy laughed at each other through their drunken fog. Later, as the whisky overcame Rose, her legs began to buckle and she could barely stand. Paddy told Mary he would take her sister home and then come right back to the pub.

Since the loss of their father at sea and the subsequent disappearance of their mother, Mary and Rose had been living alone on the hill near Imeall, well outside the village. Paddy borrowed the baker’s lorry and drove it somewhat recklessly along the coast road. The final walk up the path to the house was strenuous, but Rose was light and Paddy strong. Her warm body next to his and her arms around his shoulders stroking his broad back stirred a sweet and dangerous yearning. At the house, he laid her tenderly on her bed, and she smiled up at him with half-lidded eyes. The Celtic knot lay between her breasts. He professed in tears that it was she he truly loved, not her sister. He had courted Mary just to be near Rose, but had been too afraid to approach Rose directly because of her wildness.

As she listened, Rose knew that she had wanted this to be true. She had often lingered over elaborate daydreams that ended with the two of them entwined like vines. She had even muttered to the Book a time or two, at the page of forbidden love, but never really believed there was any harm in it. Mary was her sister, a soul mate, and Paddy seemed totally devoted to her. Despite the spinning in her head, her stupor cleared enough that she could remember giving joyful consent. Their love was fierce and deep, and quickly consummated. Paddy had to reappear at the pub. He promised to write and straighten it all out, and she gave him the Celtic knot as a token of their new commitment. Paddy went back to his sendoff party and left early the next day for the Irish Guards.

It was a few months before Paddy’s first letters reached Mary and Rose, and they ignited a firestorm. Mary left the house in a fury to live with Paddy’s mother. She took to shouting dangerous things in public about the Book, about ancient chants and spells, about their mother teaching Rose the old Sami ways. Even though Paddy’s letter asked Mary to give the betrothal ring to Rose, Mary refused, appealing to Father O’Connell to exorcise the Devil from Rose and release Paddy from her spell. Rose ridiculed the priest but knew in her heart that her defiance vented from deep levels of shame and remorse.

The conflict raged for the better part of a year. In an effort at reconciliation, Rose asked Mary to meet her at Imeall one afternoon, and, to Rose’s surprise, Mary agreed. The sisters sat at the brink of the precipice and looked out toward the seal rock, trying to let the ocean breeze blow away some of the bad feeling. The betrothal ring on Mary’s hand sparkled in the Sun.

“How could ya do it, Rose? ‘Twas the Book, it was. Mother’s damn Book. Ya should burn it.”

“Don’t speak so a Mum’s Book, Mary. ‘Tis dangerous. But in truth, about Paddy, I love’m. ‘Tis no more Magic than ‘tis a human thing, ya know. I couldn’t help it. I feel a twistin’ in me gut about hurtin’ ya, but ‘tis in the world now. The Book only helped t’show what was.” Though her words held conviction, Rose felt mostly helpless as she stared out at the sea. A lone seal barked far away.

“Nae, Rose, by all that’s holy, Paddy’s mine. Father O’Connell, he says it. The whole town says it. Ya know what’s right, Rose. Ya know what our Father woulda said.”

Rose stood up. “Father were a good man, but I spit on the feckin’ priest. Heeeck!” And Rose spat on the ground. “Look a the sea, Mary. It don’t owe a thing to the Christ a Galilee. ’Tis the heart an’ spirit in all things, Mary. ‘Tis what matters. ‘An the sea says Paddy’s mine now.”

“The sea. Priests. Books. I spit on’m all, I do. Family, Rose! Yer me sister. How could ya betray blood between us? All me life, I thought ya loved me.”

“But, Mary, I love ya true, but what I feel about Paddy, it’s real too… If Paddy loves us both, maybe we both can have’m. ‘Tis a more common thing then people like t’say. ‘Tis only priests and matrons say it can’t be.”

With this, Mary’s face flushed crimson, and she jumped to her feet. “Rose, I won’t have any more a this crazy talk. If yer thinkin’ like this, yer no sister I know. ‘An I curse yer Mother’s Book. ‘Tis Devil’s work. She should not have given it to ya. It’s made ya witchy and dark like ‘er, it has. She’s no more me Mother, too. Poor Dad, God bless his soul. I’m goin’. I won’t speak t’ya no more.”

“Heeeck! Mary! Ya don’t know what yer sayin’!” Rose turned to the sea, “Mum, she don’t mean it!”

Mary started to leave. Rose, in desperation, grabbed Mary’s wrist and begged her to stay. Mary screamed and yanked her hand back. The cliff shifted beneath them after a particularly large wave. The rocks under Mary’s feet suddenly gave way. At the same moment, Rose lost her grip on Mary’s arm, and Mary toppled into the void beyond Imeall.

“Oh, Mary! Oh nae, Mum! Nae!”

The seals on the rock began to bark loudly, then jumped into the sea and swam toward the cliff. Rose collapsed, sobbing.

After heating a piece of toast over a burner of her stove, Rose began to work on the laundry that Sean had left. Being occupied with this mundane task kept her calm in the face of what she intended to do.

As she cranked the clean clothes through the wringer, a gull came looking for a snack in her compost pile and called out as if in answer to the squeaky rollers. Tears formed at the corners of Rose’s eyes. For someone with so much life squeezed out of her, Rose was amazed at how much and how often she was able to cry. She made a quick and thorough job of the washing before she lost the afternoon sunlight for drying. The clothesline was well away from the house, and a strong wind was blowing out towards the ocean. One by one she fought to attach the clothes to the line. It was as if all of them were trying to reach the sea.

Old Tom O’Malley had claimed that he saw the whole argument from his house and that Rose had bodily thrown Mary to her death. This seemed preposterous to some, because Rose was so much smaller than Mary, but it confirmed the worst thoughts of those who believed that Rose could summon unnatural powers. Rose pleaded for people to believe that Mary slipped on loose stones, and, in her grief, she swore it on her father’s honor. Although disconsolate at the growing losses in his family, Sean defended Rose, with his fists if he had to. He, with other fishermen, searched for Mary’s body by day, and by night he drowned his sorrow – for Mary, for Rose, for his parents – in generous amounts of Guinness and whiskey, to the point where Avril, his wife, left him and moved back to her family in Letterkenny.

Rose wrote to Paddy as clearly as she could about what had happened. She trusted in her pleadings with the Book and in Paddy’s love that he would believe her, but Paddy’s feelings became twisted by his own guilt, and in the end he accepted the version of the story written to him by his mother. In his last letter to Rose, a few months after Mary’s death, he condemned Rose for a witch, renounced his vow, and returned the Celtic necklace. A monstrous anger ignited within Rose, and she said fiery and explosive words, by candlelight, over the darkest pages of the Book.

Soon after, in June 1940, official news of a calamitous event cast the deepest shadows over the village and blackened Rose’s soul. As reported in The Donegal News & Derry People:

“Shortly after midnight on May 15, while carrying the 1st Battalion Irish Guards of the 24th Brigade, the H.M.T. Chrobry was attacked and set ablaze by German bombers near Skaanland, Norway. Paddy Maquire of the Slieve League region, originally of County Fermanagh, is officially missing at sea, presumed dead. All other volunteers in the 24th from County Donegal survived, but the following were injured…”

Paddy’s body was never recovered, but an eyewitness from the village said in a letter home that he had seen him blown clean off the vessel.

When she heard about Paddy’s fate, Rose detached herself completely from the world of ordinary folk. She wore the Celtic knot always, even when swimming in the sea, and she spent much of her time wandering alone on the beaches and cliffs, talking to the seals in the water, sometimes with the Book in her hands.  After the first time she had the dream about the bombers, a gift for her arrived on the beach in the cove near her house. A voice coming from the water told her then what she had to do to put everything right.

The clothes dried quickly in the strong breeze. Before sunset, Rose ironed them, wrapped them tidily in brown paper, and penciled Joe’s name on the bundle. She put Sean’s shirt on top and left it all on the shelf by the door. Then, with heavy heart, she turned to the task ahead.

“Mum, give me strength.”

Before the sunlight faded, a Waxing Moon, almost Full, rose over the hills and shone into the East windows. Rose gathered cleaning liquid and a candle for extra light, retrieved the army cap from behind the curtain, and sat at the table. She carefully removed the tarnished cap star of the Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick from the hat and cleaned the wool and the metal star as best she could. She rubbed some grease on the visor to bring out a shine. Rose walked, with the hat, back to the corner of the room and pulled the curtain back entirely.

Hanging there in the corner was an essentially complete battledress uniform of the 1st Irish Guards. It had rips, holes, burns, and stains that Rose did not have the material or skills to fix entirely, but she had done well enough to honor who and what it represented. She even had the boots and the Sam Browne belt with cross strap. She put the hat with the uniform and left the curtain drawn so she could see it all hanging there. Then she reached in the jacket pocket and pulled out Mary’s betrothal ring.

Rose went into her bedroom and brought out a sheet of paper, an envelope, her mother’s Book, and the key to the trunk. She set the cap star and Mary’s ring next to the Book in front of her. She paused a long time, not sure what to say. Sean would have a difficult time no matter what she wrote. By force of habit, beat into her by the Sisters of Mercy, she put her best Catholic schoolgirl English into the letter.

Dearest Brother,

I’m sorry to burden you, Sean. If the sea doesn’t keep me, bury me here, near Imeall. I’m leaving Paddy’s St. Patrick’s star and Mary’s ring. These were gifts. I didn’t steal them. Some night soon, nail them to the trunk out back, weight it with stones, and throw it over the cliff. I am not strong enough, but it must be done. I won’t rest in peace unless you do it. Please don’t look inside. You don’t need to know what’s in there. Bury Mum’s Book with me, so it causes no more harm.

Sean, you’re a blameless soul, like Father. Pray for us all in your own way. I hope Mum helps you like she helped me. If all goes as I’ve been told, there will be signs of healing, and you’ll know I’m happy.

Love,

Rose

When she was done, Rose put the letter, the star, and the ring in the envelope and sealed it. She picked up the Book. It glowed in her hands as she opened it for the last time and turned to the last few pages, the ones that dealt with the hardest things. She read the old runes in a whispery chant and invoked the names of her mother, Mary, and Paddy. She paused for a minute, added a few whispers for her father, and then surprised herself by reciting the Lord’s Prayer for him dutifully, like a good daughter.

The Moon was approaching the meridian in the Southern sky. It would soon be midnight. Rose got up from the table and went to the basin, in which there was still grey rinse water from the laundry. Leaving the Celtic knot around her neck, she undressed, got a washcloth, and fit herself into the tub. She cleaned herself slowly and thoroughly and brushed her hair clear of tangles.

When she stood up, with bubbles of foam slipping down her back and thighs, her skin shone like varnished wood in the combined light of the candle and the Moon. She dried herself and walked to the corner where the uniform hung. After gazing for a while at the marvel of it, she began to put it on. The wool felt scratchy as a hair shirt on her bare skin, and she relished the faint odors that clung to it, odors of death and the sea.

The uniform was oversized for her, but she cinched it up with cords. She grabbed the trunk key from the table and put it in the jacket pocket, hoping to make it more difficult for Sean to look in the trunk by taking the key with her. She wore several pairs of socks to make the boots fit tight, and, even with her hair folded up into the hat, she had to stuff in wads of paper to set it firmly on her head. When she judged by the location of the Moon that it was midnight, she went outside and walked to Imeall.

Lingering above the roaring surf, Rose poured out one long howl. As the echoes died away, she felt finally at peace again with the cliffs, the stars, the Moon, and the sea. Rose murmured the Sami words for Moon, Sea, and Mother. “Mannu… Mearra… Eadni.” As she leaned over Imeall and surrendered her balance, she called out: “I’m only half Finfolk, Mum, but let me be near ya always!”

At about noon the next day, Sean found and opened the envelope. When Mary’s ring dropped out, he felt a chill run down his spine. After reading the letter he started shouting his sister’s name and ran to the cliff. He scanned the coast until he saw Rose’s body wallowing in a tide pool in the cove. As he scrambled down to the beach, his adrenaline rush turned to dark bewilderment when it became clear to him that his dead sister was wearing an Irish Guard uniform. Although he knew that she had probably been dead for many hours, Sean dragged Rose from the pool and tried to revive her. Then he rocked her in his lap and let the tears stream out.

A plan solidified in his mind. He knew that if any of the villagers saw her dressed like this they would believe it to be a truly horrible form of devilment, confirming the worst that they had always thought about Rose and his mother. Although he was now thinking the same dire thoughts, he could not allow others to dishonor them.

Fortunately, Rose was relatively light, even wearing a wet woolen uniform. He slung her over his shoulder and held her there with one hand while guiding himself up the treacherous path with the other. When he got to the house, he laid out some rags and towels and put Rose’s body on the floor. He then gathered some of her work clothes, which he found lying next to the half full washbasin, and hurried back to the cliff and down the steep path to the beach. He drenched her clothes in the surf and returned to the house.

Changing Rose’s clothes was a challenge to his modesty, but he treated it as a funeral rite and tried not to dwell on her body. He did notice, however, that she had remarkably few bruises and contusions for someone who had jumped from a cliff. It also surprised him that she was not wearing the Celtic knot he had always seen around her neck for the past year.

The military hat came off easily in his hands. It was hard for Sean to believe it could it have stayed on her when she hit the water or when the violent surf tossed her about on the rocks. He found the key in the jacket pocket as he was folding the uniform, and he laid it on the table, with a passing hint of curiosity.

When Sean was done, he gathered up anything others might find suspicious – the uniform, the Book, Rose’s letter, the star, and the ring – hid them next to the trunk out of sight, and then pedaled into town. Sean knew that Rose wanted to be buried near the ocean and not in the Catholic cemetery, but he could not show anyone her strange letter to confirm her suicidal intent. Fortunately, although he had no concrete proof that he could share, it turned out to be an easy thing for the villagers to accept.

Rose was buried the next day, during a light drizzle, on a flat area down away from her house in the direction of Imeall. About a dozen people attended, mostly men showing their support for Sean. Several of them, like Joseph, had also been sweet on Rose, attracted by her exotic darkness and flirtatious nature. Three of the swarthy fishermen who had helped dig the grave, including Joseph, offered to shovel it in, but Sean declined. He told them he wanted to finish the job by himself, and he promised he would meet his mates later that evening in the pub for a proper grieving.

Once everyone was out of sight, Sean took the pile from next to the trunk and sat with it at the kitchen table. He put the letter, the star, and the ring aside, next to the key. The Book was bound in brown sharkskin leather, now splotchy with age. Celtic patterns lavishly embossed on the cover were interwoven with other symbology, embellishments that had a more eldritch look and seemed disquietingly familiar, as if from memories of childhood dreams. The pages inside were richly illuminated to suggest what the ancient runes on them might be about. What had seemed at first to be pages drab with age began to sparkle in extraordinary colors that shone from inside with their own radiance.

Sean’s trance did not snap until some time later, when he turned the last page and closed the Book. Although he could not read the runes in a conscious way, somehow the Book had made sense to him. “Mother a God, protect me,” he murmured. Then he heard the patter of a hard rain on the roof and remembered the uncovered grave. “God in Heaven. Feck! The time!”

Sean jumped from his seat and wrapped the uniform, the letter, and the Book in a dry cloth. Outside, he eased himself down into the muddy grave and laid the package gently on top of the coffin over where he judged Rose’s heart to be. He paused and surprised himself by whispering some sounds that came to him in a language he did not know. He got out and started filling the grave.

It took Sean a couple of days to sober up enough to honor Rose’s peculiar request concerning the trunk. He had already assessed that, in addition to stinking, it was extremely heavy and in some danger of falling apart due to a dampness that saturated the wood and oozed through the planking. So he showed up mid-afternoon one day in old clothes with a dilapidated wooden cart, material from old sails, lengths of rope, and pieces of netting. He went into the house to take care of a few things and noticed the key from the pocket of the uniform still sitting on the table. He stared at it for a while before realizing that it must be the key to the trunk. Up to that moment, curious though he was about the trunk, Sean had never dreamed of violating Rose’s wishes by looking inside. He had not forgotten about the uniform, and had ominous thoughts about the trunk’s contents, but had not wanted to know. Now, seeing the key before him, he decided maybe he was meant to.

Sean brooded over the trunk for several minutes, then finally inserted the key and turned. With a little jiggling, the rusty lock popped open. When he lifted the trunk’s lid, appalling sights and smells assaulted him. He stepped back and turned away, shouting “Jesus, Mary, an’ Joseph! The Fecking Devil, Rose!”

As best Sean could tell, the trunk contained the disjointed pieces of one or more human bodies, badly decomposed and partially liquefied by the lye. Sean grew dizzy from the gory bizarreness of what he saw. His lightheadedness was aggravated by the smell, which reminded him of the stench wafting from heaps of dead fish after a Red Tide.

As he stared, what he saw seemed to rearrange itself, with scintillating outlines tracing the shapes of the pieces as they once were. He could sense, without knowing exactly how, that there were two bodies, one male and one female, intimately commingled. A horror gripped him, even through his preternatural trance, as the skulls assumed the contours of Mary and Paddy’s faces.

Sean needed several hours over a quart of whisky, which he had providently brought with him, before he could act again. By the time he stirred, it had grown darker. The Sun had dipped down and the Moon, waning now, had not yet quite risen. Conventional morality and his unequivocal devotion to family, especially to his sister Rose, were at war within him. As he was about to take the last swig of whisky, a vision of Rose holding the Book appeared suddenly before his eyes. “Mother of God!” He put the bottle down. The vision faded, but a single compelling idea crystallized and pushed all others aside: his obligation of blood loyalty to carry out his sister’s last wishes.

Sean went outside, locked the trunk without looking inside again, and nailed the eight-fold St. Patrick’s star and Mary’s ring securely to the lid. He swaddled the trunk in the old sails and tied it tightly with ropes in the hope that it would not fall apart when it hit the water or was tossed by the waves onto the rocks at the cliff’s base. It was difficult, but he leveraged the whole thing onto the small cart. He pulled the ropes attached to the front of the cart like a horse. The Moon was now just clear of the hills in the East. Sean stopped the cart several meters from the brink, and he gathered up big rocks, put them in the netting, and secured them to the trunk to ensure that it would sink. He walked up to Imeall and looked over. The cliff shadowed the water from the moonlight. He could only sense the tumult below from its sound and from the saltiness wafting upward as seawater battered into tiny droplets. He walked back behind the cart and gave it a running start. There was no sound until the final splash.

Over the next few days, pieces of the cart appeared as driftwood on the neighboring beaches, but nothing of the trunk or its contents washed ashore. Sean eventually moved himself into Rose and Mary’s house. Rose’s grave was still unadorned, and he felt an urge to make the marker himself. He got a rectangular board of kiln-dried ash heartwood. It had a dark olive-brown color that made it look like leather. Sean borrowed some woodworking tools from a friend and began carving elaborate decorations around the name “Rose,” which itself was fashioned out of curving branches that sprouted leaves and braided vines to join the bordering patterns. Except for Rose’s name, it resembled what he had seen on the Book’s cover.

He had never done carving like this before, but he could somehow discern the pattern lurking just beneath the surface of the wood. All he had to do was trace it carefully with a newfound deftness in his fingers. As he worked, he couldn’t help noticing—with not a small amount of unease—that the webbing between his fingers looked more pronounced than it used to. “Feck! For sure, I’m goin’ daft, I am.”

The Third Quarter Moon rose up from behind the hills as Sean worked on the plaque well past midnight. Glancing out the window at the newly illuminated view, Sean was startled to see five figures standing over Rose’s grave, one at the head and the other four around the foot. Two of them had a smaller stature than the other three, with the shortest standing at the head of the grave. He watched, mesmerized, while each figure in turn bent down and seemed to touch the grave.

It occurred to him, through the amber haze of his drunkenness, that they might be some local hooligans bent on desecrating the “witch’s” grave. He jumped up and grabbed the oil lamp from the table, but by the time he got to the door, they were gone. He cursed aloud, “Bloody Wounds a Christ, what’s this now?” As he approached the grave at a brisk pace, Sean swung the oil lamp back and forth every way the visitors could have gone or might be hiding. When he reached the grave and shined the light on it to see whether any mischief had been done, he was brought to his knees.

There, on the otherwise undisturbed earthen mound, were five things: Mary’s ring, the cap star of the Irish Guards, Rose’s Celtic knot necklace, the rosary beads their father carried when he went to sea, and, at the very head of the grave, the Book. Despite all he had seen and experienced so far, Sean had managed to keep his inner keel fairly even. Now, he was pulled from his moorings by a tidal wave of new feelings.

The Book radiated brightly as if touched by St. Elmo’s fire, and it drew him in until he could see little creatures dancing in the flames. His senses heightened a hundredfold. He could discern every rock and blade of grass on the distant hills, feel the slight breeze lifting each hair on his head and arms, hear Old Tom O’Malley walking in his socks on the squeaky floorboards of his house.

Sean felt his capsized spirit right itself within these powerful new currents. He was at home in the world for the first time. The many arcane things his mother had told him as a child returned with a new significance. She had warned that if he let himself enter the Real World, he would never be able to leave it. Now the voices of his ancestors, going back to the dawn of time, whispered on the wind and filled his soul.

Seals barked in the distance. Sean got off his knees and walked to the top of Imeall. The rumble of the waves vibrated up through his feet and into his chest as if his pulse were just an extension of the churning sea.

With acuity he would not have believed possible before, he could see a small pod of seals in the water out beyond the edge of the cliff’s long shadow. They were all looking directly at him. He could even see the tiny images of the Moon glinting in their eyes.

They continued to bark. Sean smiled and called out to them, with a hearty laugh, “All right, all right, on with ya then.” As they swam away, Sean sat down at the edge of the cliff. Letting his legs dangle over, he watched the moonlight play on the waves until the first soft glow of dawn.

Richard H. Durisen has lived in Bloomington since 1976 when he joined Indiana University’s Department of Astronomy as a theoretical astrophysicist. He retired in the summer of 2010 after 34 years on the faculty, with over a hundred refereed scientific publications. Since retirement, after family, friends, and travel, he has devoted his time mostly to creative writing, including poetry and short stories. His work has appeared in 713 Flash (Kazka Press), Disturbed Digest, Illumen, and The Sentinel, the newsletter of the Monroe County Civil War Roundtable).

Illustration by Ali Maidi.

The Ryder ◆ July 2014

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