Strangers In A Strange Land: The Luminous Guidance of Roman Holiday

By Tom Roznowski

“Life isn’t always what one likes”: a line from Roman Holiday, the 1953 Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Pairing this with another timeless mantra, “Life is brief,” one might feel trapped beneath the weight of despair. We travel this path. We tear up maps. We remain lost until we’re found.

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo achieved considerable success during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Increasingly though, his populist and pacifist sentiments drew him into conflict with America’s dominant post-war message: that the material and manufactured would elevate our mortal souls.

The inevitable collision of perspective and policy occurred in 1947 when Dalton Trumbo was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee investigating Communist influence in the film industry. Along with Ring Lardner Jr. and Edward Dmytryk, Trumbo became one of the original Hollywood Ten, individuals whose names and talents would be blacklisted by the major studios.

In his appearance before the Committee, Trumbo refused to answer direct questions, remaining steadfast and unapologetic about his contempt for the inquiry. His comment about the sentence that would result in his incarceration for nearly a year at a federal penitentiary in Kentucky: “As far as I was concerned, it was a completely just verdict. I had contempt for that Congress and have had contempt for several since. That this was a crime or misdemeanor was the complaint, my complaint.”

Upon his release, Trumbo and his family moved to Mexico City. Exile from one’s homeland has informed and enriched the work of writers from Dante to Durrell. Separation from one’s origins will often focus the writer’s gaze upon life’s essentials as deeply-held values become more precious and their expression suddenly more critical.

During his time in Mexico City, Dalton Trumbo would produce perhaps the most resonant single work of his creative life. The screenplay would emerge as a light romantic comedy, oddly enough; carrying with it a far-seeing wisdom that had somehow eluded Trumbo during his years of political activism. It is ironic, yet somehow logical, that due to the on-going blacklist, this signature piece would be presented to the world anonymously. It was not until 2011, thirty-five years after his death, that Dalton Trumbo would finally receive formal writing credit for Roman Holiday.

Money and status alone cannot create meaning and happiness. Less can be more; in fact, less may be all there really is.

The film opens with a newsreel report about Princess Ann, a young royal-in-waiting in the midst of a whirlwind goodwill tour through post-war Europe. Her stress levels reach a saturation point in Italy, which in 1953 was still bearing the social and economic scars of the previous decade. The country’s rampant post-war inflation, with 10 American dollars being equivalent to over 6,000 Italian lira, serves as a running joke throughout the film.

In a strange way, the modest circumstances of daily life in Rome provide a common ground for the film’s two disparate characters. The Princess, as played by Audrey Hepburn, is privileged and sheltered. Her stress arises from hauling the weight of abundance. Every waking hour is planned in advance by her handlers. She walks through her days in a daze, motivated by other’s expectations.

On the first night of her visit to Rome, the Princess steps out onto the balcony of her embassy, drawn to the laughter and music of an open-air party just outside the gates. She is transported, initially by a desire for meaningful connection and later by a laundry truck as she sets off on her journey of discovery.

Trumbo then introduces us to Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), a reporter for the American News Service. Bradley is also eager to escape his daily reality. For him, though, it is the lack of abundance that proves confining. His one-room walk-up flat has no kitchen, no telephone. His life abroad has no traction. He can’t even win at poker when dealing the cards.

The desperate reporter’s discovery of the sleeping princess suddenly offers him the opportunity of a lifetime: a relative fortune of $5,000 U.S. dollars for an exclusive story about his new friend. The fact that the amount translates to over 3,000,000 Italian lira means little to our hero. Joe Bradley wants to abandon his modest situation in Europe and return to America.

The chance meeting of these two characters produces a brief spark that illuminates the space surrounding them. Rome is called the Eternal City for a reason. In fact, at the moment when Princess Ann, still concealing her identity from Bradley, agrees to a day of doing everything she’s always wanted, time actually reverses itself. The clock tower of Trinita dei Monti above the Spanish Steps reads 11:30 AM, a half hour before the chimes that actually begin their day.

Symbolically, this illusion wipes the drab slate of reality clean and propels the fated couple into a mystical adventure: their past, their future, forgotten for just a few stolen hours from one precious day in pursuit of the now.

So just how does one get to the now? In transitioning from a formerly comfortable life to sudden exile, Dalton Trumbo has some thoughts to share. The full embrace of the present is a fundamental goal of the searching soul. The couple’s day together in Rome plays out with a mix of the unanticipated and the intentional, a range of emotions from fear, to reverence, to delight. And as it all unfolds, Dalton Trumbo’s script places his personal values squarely in the couple’s magical experience.

Fundamentally, Trumbo is inviting us to explore and come to know the place where we find ourselves, beginning with the other people who share it. Trumbo considers this in both its global and local implications. Throughout Roman Holiday, the Italian language is neither anglicized nor sub-titled. It remains the visitor and the viewer’s responsibility to understand. The couple deepens their awareness of Rome’s history, its fables, and its legends, all the while reveling in the beauty and pleasure the city affords.

These discoveries are necessary in our lives, Trumbo believes, because we walk this way but once for a relatively short time. Indeed, Princess Ann realizes that she is living out a fairy tale and at midnight she will return to her previous reality – to be a princess once again.

On the other hand, for Joe Bradley, this return to reality proves stark and sacrificial. At journey’s end, he does not collect his prized interview with the wayward princess. He does not collect his $5,000. In fact, he emerges even deeper in debt to his employer and his photographer friend, Irving. Rome, temporarily a fantasy of escape, will become Joe’s everyday reality going forward. America is relegated once again to being his perpetual dream.

With Roman Holiday, Dalton Trumbo urges us to commit to life’s simple pleasures, whether an afternoon glass of champagne or dancing to a live band beneath the stars. An enduring populist truth emerges: that money and status alone cannot create meaning and happiness. Less can be more; in fact, less may be all there really is.

In 1953, this guide for daily living was still on display throughout Europe as the continent recovered from two devastating wars within a generation. Dalton Trumbo provides us just the briefest glimpse: noon to midnight on an average day in Rome, Italy. In the film’s final scene, Princess Ann continues on her path to a life of structured, subsidized luxury. Joe Bradley heads toward a life of material uncertainty. With their last glance, they both share knowing grins, no sign of despair as they turn away – maybe because from now on each of them truly has no idea what might happen next.


Tom Roznowski is a performer and writer living in Bloomington, Indiana. His new radio series PorchLight with Tom Roznowski airs at Saturdays at 8:00 PM on WFIU-FM







Fiction 2018

A few facts about the fiction in this issue

When we started publishing an annual issue showcasing fiction from Bloomington writers, I hadn’t realized I would have to come up with an introduction every single year. But what surprises me now, four years later, is how easy these are to write. Namely because the stories we select are always so good, so rich and diverse, but also because they inevitably have a unity about them that I couldn’t predict or plan but at the same time, can’t deny.

Take this year’s stories. These pieces are as diverse as they come: one deals with someone trying to survive the two hells of chicken-catching and love; another focuses on the life journey of a woman in love with the clouds; a third details the brief interaction a man has with a vagrant; and the final story takes the form of a retrospective of a narrator’s life, which eventually focuses on the life of another.

As different as these sound, they all resonate with concerns shared not just by one another, but by everyone, concerns both timely and timeless. The main theme running through all of these works centers on questions of home: how we find it, how we keep it, how we escape it, and how we return. Home can be a place of solace, a place of conflict, a place of outright oppression. I wondered, while reading these stories, what does it mean to find a home? What does it mean to lose it? And what are they searching for, those who run away? I don’t know that any story could ever answer these questions definitively, but the ones you’re about to read do a wonderful job of introducing us to the complexities behind these questions.

–Justin Chandler

fiction editor


Our contributors


Robert Arnove (“The Color of the Wheat Fields”) is IU Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus. His scholarship focuses on the role of education in individual, institutional, and national development. Bob’s latest book, Talent Abounds profiles life trajectories of peak performers in the arts and athletics. He has been active in the Bloomington arts scene, especially with the BPP


Adam Huening (“Not Even A Cloud in the Sky”) grew up in a small Indiana town where nothing of much consequence happens. Like many, he found refuge in Bloomington as a student and never really left. He works downtown now and writes constantly. Read his work in a variety of places. Google will help you with that.


Ali Maidi (illustrations) was born and raised in Bloomington where he received a BA from Indiana University with a focus in Jewelry and Metalsmithing. This is his fourth year in a row serving as the artist for the fiction issue. He currently divides his time between Bloomington and Potsdam, Germany.


Noah Sandweiss (The Tribe of Nephilim”) is a longtime resident of Bloomington and graduate student at Indiana University. They study history, and have a particular interest in Bloomington’s past and character.


Dennis Sipe (“Chicken Catchers”) has published nearly fifty poems in various literary magazines. His chapbook My Days Are Stray Dogs That Won’t Come When I Call was nominated for the Pushcart Prize; “Chicken Catchers” is his third published story. He is looking for an agent for his novel, Releasing Herschel. He also writes song lyrics.


The Color of the Wheat Fields

Robert F. Arnove


My life is written in a bundle of forgotten letters reopened: picture postcards from not so long forgotten friends in Istanbul, Madrid, Florence, Amiens.  They were a generation boarding boards but somehow never getting started, never reaching some mythical, long sought after Paris of the 1920s.  My friends were all very young, wandering. They were returning to Norway in the winter when they lived there but one summer; they were renting studios for me, any friend, in Paris in the hope we would materialize, magically, but never would; they were returning to boot camp in Oklahoma, to Allentown, Pennsylvania to teach second graders about American Indians; and to Alberta, Canada to go grocery shopping – why not?  They were returning to tell their stories on typewriters, blackboards, and the blue books of Midwestern universities.

What happened to all my brothers and sisters riding all over this country, the world by thumb and backpack? They were running all the time, running away from themselves hoping to find some deeper meaning to life.

Then, there is always Christmas time, and cards, and promises of reunions in New York – perhaps in another life.  Open a card and tinsel falls on your sleeves, on your hair. Thanks for the stardust, but especially for knowing you.

Sometimes I come to life in a New Year’s Eve party where a lonely girl slumps against a corner indulging her memory while blue lights flash shadows of pounding bodies, and shrill notes reverberate against a silver Christmas tree, and sweat-laden crepe paper dangles in puddles of champagne.  I think of Dee’s card to me.

Memories are four walls emptied as snow drops melting off my roof.  Now it is March with rain and snow. Winter is still in the ice on the muddy, bleeding earth, in the forgotten foot ruts of the sloping sidewalks. It is wet and cold, not as wet and cold as remembering last summer, or spring which might never come.

But, sometimes it is summer and colorful streamers thrown from shipside to the dock, to the hands holding the threads of paper life stretched as ships are tugged seaward, snapped and falling, down, down to float away on the face of the sea, off the face of the earth. White handkerchiefs s waving in the breeze in the distance.

Somewhere it is summer and perpetual longing for a pebbled, sandy beach, and your feet dug into it. Red-tiled roofs baking, and hours and hours of sun and quiet on the Mediterranean.

Somehow you are alone and so am I. I also have thought of that ship that summer, the loves and life that I looked forward to and lost in time. Lost when paths returned home and left me at a point midway between then and now, between two continents – sinking, hung over the railing of a ship, looking down into the mist and spray, and foamy moonlight.

You are left playing categorical number games and disciplining yourself by reading European histories. You are sick, writing me, urging me to write you.  You feel small and insignificant tonight.  You are alone in a dark room rocked back and forth like that night when the sea was turbulent. You promise God that if he should come back in the night to wish you a tender farewell, you should be, for that moment, happy, fulfilled – never in your fondest dreams believing the wish to come true. So now your four-walled chamber bulges with a memory, a brief sweet minor note. A star you touched.

I have lost my unique rose and I wonder if friends, loves, are really replaceable.  But it is tonight and I am bitter and sad.  I too am staggering back in time to a pasture and that night before you left. The two of us, the younger leading the older along a rough path.  The memory fades and returns stranger than a dream.

Not far from the university tennis courts, the path ends in a barbed-wire fence. Beyond it there is wasteland into which no life has been imposed. They step among and across the bars of black tree trunks gently thrown against the broken ground, rustling black leaves carried along with flowing white moonlight.  Wandering and stopping, he leans her against a tree.  Hands pull him in closer, struggling and pushing and kneeing harder, almost violently, whirling away into the night, into sublunary bodies, into flesh – and, suddenly she whispers stop!




Eyes are watching us?  Someone is there? They withdraw, and turn to look. No one is there.  Through the trees others can watch, but no one is near.  The students are back by the patio.  The distant and low building of the rectory is dark.  The pasture is empty.  It is empty and yet alive, burning with intensity. They begin again. He struggles to postpone climaxing, his stomach tightens, hardens . . . His pants are wet.  Released and ashamed, he falls to Dee – holds her. The thin child-like body tightens. Was this fulfillment of a long held wish or much less?

She asks, “Did you every cry? Yesterday at dusk, when we saw land for the first time in seven days, the rock coastline, the orange sunset, the fishing, boats then the ship docked in Kristiansand, I cried.”

“Please don’t.”

“When everyone went below to shower and dress for dinner, along on deck, I  . . . . Do you ever?”


She couldn’t.

Dee was leaving, She cried often. She would cry again. Tomorrow she would go to the airport with her two very good friends.  Pg had met her on campus in Spokane. Ruth became her life-long friend during the ten-day voyage.  Tomorrow she would join the student tour from which she was missing.  Dee would join the group and be pushed from country to country.

But, losing her airplane ticket to London, maybe she would stay, rent an apartment, and have parties every night.  How would her father understand?  What address could she give?  It didn’t matter. She would move along.  There was no choice.  What remained of her heart was torn apart every time she left, every time someone boarded a train, said good-bye. On the continent, moving in a group, maybe she would stop, check her luggage before emptiness enveloped her.  The dream was all over.

The Mediterranean faded into the past, although it was before her.  Probably there were several nice people on the tour. It wouldn’t be bad.

Dee half naked stood eyes upward, frowning. She was different.  Yet, she would probably be like any other girl who came to Europe and paid for drinks and slept with men. Dee would be any woman who could be picked up by a seventeen or eighteen year old lover. Gigolos of all ages abounded. There were plenty of them in Europe. Good-looking, good on the dance floor and in bed.

In London, where Dee was headed, they visited coffee shops and waited for secretaries.  They wore very tight trousers and colorful, carefully tailored jackets. They had long dark curly hair, and went to dances.

All kinds of young women came, those upwardly mobile living in modest flats as well as rich society girls from mansions with gates running around them. Dee would be all right. She would fit in.  She was like any number of young women coming to Europe.




On the ship when they drank every night, Dee was near him. Often she paid for his drinks. He said that he would take care of her the next night, but he never did.  In the dining room there were four at their table. She always watched him. At times he stopped and looked at her, but only briefly.

I can see her carrying packages of groceries and art supplies in sneakers, without socks, and denim pants rolled up.  Somehow she no longer was with a partner or even a date, going to an off-Broadway show, afterwards aimlessly walking down Village streets in the night time alive with denizens coming out of basements or sauntering down steps of brownstones, wandering among winding streets with international shops, art and antique shops, and day time window displays packed up for the night.

Dee looked nice dressed up, older, particularly in black.  Although twenty-three she usually looked no more than seventeen.   Knowing this, she was nic- named Dee Dee, and sometimes Dee Dee Doll.  By request she would render her baby-voiced version of “My Blue Room.”  Her voice was weak and she was small, but cute.

It is difficult to remember her eyes.  Perhaps they were green or khaki brown to match her Bermuda shorts, and greenish blue and black striped polo shirt.  Her face was small and her hair was clipped short in a thin bang running round her forehead.  She tugged her legs and moccasins under her.  Because of this, and because her neck stretched thin and high over the table in the lounge, she looked like a newly hatched chicken. And she was nice in silk pajamas under the heavy blankets in bed.

Anyway, Dee Dee was his friend from the very night when her group accepted him, listened to what he said, thought him very charming in a crowd. There was only the four of them, and then many clustered around them. Dee Dee was really something. She acted and she wrote.  Dee was only his friend, and yet he slept with her on that voyage.

It was this bond that made her tell him of the story of the Little Prince and the fox – a story of friendships and loves established, of separations and remembrances.  The fox would always remember the Little Prince because of the color of the wheat fields – golden – like his crown of hair.




Dee lived in Greenwich Village one summer. She talked about a kaleidoscope of parties, one after another in the nighttime, in the daytime, until there was no difference between the two, hopes and productivity, and promises that never materialized, vanished, or simply dissolved in sodden forgetfulness.

I can see her carrying packages of groceries and art supplies in sneakers, without socks, and denim pants rolled up.  Somehow she no longer was with a partner or even a date, going to an off-Broadway show, afterwards aimlessly walking down Village streets in the night time alive with denizens coming out of basements or sauntering down steps of brownstones, wandering among winding streets with international shops, art and antique shops, and day time window displays packed up for the night.

But, there were other shows, in which she was a player. Beat Generation jazz cafes or dives where everyone knew each other, or hung around on the steps outside, draped over the railing, leading down to where the party buzzed.

People wore sandals, large earrings, lots of stripes, and long, very long hair. For the gays who were beginning to come out with growing confidence, outrageous colors and long scarfs made a statement. Blacks and whites, gays and straights, international exiles and displaced Appalachian youths all mixed consciously and happily.

This is her story, her painting. Complete vegetation and good friends, who you could find by pulling aside a beaded curtain in your own hang out. Her friends acted, and wrote, and painted, and composed. They were very intelligent.  One of her best friends just had his poetry published in the Atlantic.




The Village is fading. It is a summer rainstorm.  Everyone leaves the playground, and those running for shelter kick up dust clouds as newspapers scamper down empty streets.

Suddenly, everyone is gone, and soaking, and still wanting to do something, but with nothing to do, you return to your room and perhaps read, or write, or do what you are supposed to, but don’t want to do.

Darkness comes very early on such a day, and then maybe you won’t be able to get out into the street with friends, or find a party, or find anyone.  Maybe you will have to go to sleep alone, and sober, and questioning, “What are you doing here alone in bed?”

It will soon be fall, and all over.  It will be autumn and college. There are many days like this when she returns home to Seattle.

Sometimes she wishes she were back on the campus. But Dee has graduated.   There is loneliness among many people, but not loneliness with yourself, afraid of yourself.   At the university, you were in a dormitory, and could open your door to light in the hall. People often walked in, and there was talking in hallway telephone booths. There were various kinds of faint noises, and the few friends you knew, but no longer know.




Then there were the dreams, both good and bad.  The promise of success and fame, only if.

At times, the puzzle of different life pieces became frightening, very much like the dreams about which she told her friends on the deck of the Norway-bound ship. There were several nightmares; but vividly she remembered being chased and held in darkness. One nightmare was of a room at the end of a long hall, very much like in the fun house with slanted floors and trick mirrors.  A clown growing larger and larger coming upon her, laughing with sweat streaming down his face.  He is on stilts and growing, she falls backwards, tumbling. The clown grabs her. Then, Dee realizes she knows the distorted face, the grey-haired man.  He is the theater director who often peeped in the dressing room. The image fades. He is gone. “Poor man, I really think he was very strange.”

Yes, Dee acted:  “In one play, I had only a bit part and yet the review singled me out!” She talked of her character parts. As she did, there were mirrors again, and a shadow-dark room with a ballet rail, and many figures in unself-conscious poses. There was great activity and preparation, an amateur acting group hoping to come to floodlit life in an old barn or more conventional summer stock theater. Dee could become famous, if she wanted to, but even that wasn’t sure.




As it turned out, there was no promised, breakthrough performance.

No immortality on the stage, but a memorable conventional married life with a wonderful husband and a son successful in the arts.

We corresponded at Christmas time over the years. As time passed, the gaps in correspondence increased. There was an occasional telephone call, the last one eight years ago. Her husband Mort answered, his speech hesitant, due to a stroke, but also to his having to share news with me that Dee had passed the previous year after heart surgery.

I was left with a bundle of our correspondence, and a wisp of her golden hair. There will always be the color of the wheat fields.


Not Even a Cloud in the Sky

by Adam Huening



Hannah thought the winds would never change.

Standing at the window jealous of the high clouds barreling across an indigo sky, Hannah turned away and held the simple sight squarely in her eyes. That everyday spoon askew on the wooden table. The mixing bowl and spatula, the flour and sugar and cocoa; everything all spread out across the surface, her mother dangling in her periphery. She discarded these common sights with a flicker of her eyes as she turned back to the window, away to the horizon and all the things she could not see beyond.

She contemplated history projected on the sky’s expanse. Her mother’s incessant necessity for the simple things; all the minor movements made in the manner of importance. Making her bed then washing her face, wiping away all the stardust and dreams that accumulated there overnight. Mixing the butter in the batter slowly so the pancakes fluffed up perfectly like clouds skimming across the skillet’s surface. The speechless solitude of knitting by the fire – the crackle and the pop and the clicking and the humming – these were the little moments that made a tidy, satisfactory life in her mother’s eyes.

Hannah was never allowed to run, to skip, to stray, to wander. Her mother kept her close, whether they were in the kitchen, or walking the thin path through the tall saw grass to the tiny town down the hill or sitting in the morning sun as she bound Hannah’s hair in a practical braid.

Even as a child, Hannah had no patience for simple things.

Held fast and tight in her mother’s hand, Hannah’s attention would turn upward, her blue eyes falling into a defiant and envious gaze fixed upon the clouds carelessly making their way to lands untold, pushed by the whims of the wind across an ever-changing sky. Sometimes she would wiggle and drift away from her mother. Sometimes she would make it so far across the meadow that when her mother called her name, her voice was nothing but a suggestion; an intonation lazily lilting upon an indifferent breeze.

She stood in the kitchen staring out at the horizon as a storm swelled somewhere – the clouds creeping up the edges of the evening sky – and ignored the common room behind her. Her mother was close, humming a hymn so near silence the song was more like gentle breathing. She smiled simply, mixing the batter of the cake that would hold all eighteen candles.

Hannah, however, had no desire for cake. She turned back to the room and spoke simple words.

“I wish to see the world,” she said firmly.

Her mother did not answer. She picked up an egg from the carton, and her humming ceased. She cracked it on the edge and let the yolk slip into the bowl, and her heart broke with it, all her hope and happiness folding into flour and sugar.

The cake baked in silence, the sweet fragrance lingering in the thick air between them as the storm grew closer. The sky grew dark, streaked in tumultuous blooms of ominous grey thunderheads.

The candles quivered on the cake as clouds wrapped the little house in darkness. Hannah sat at the table, embraced in the common gloom, her face alight from the flicker of the somber celebration. Her mother gently stroked her chin, turned her face upward and offered a strained, simple smile.

“Go then, make your wish.”

As lightning cracked and thunder rolled, Hannah conjured her wish, held it deep in her heart and allowed it to fill her body. She drew a breath, but before she could blow out the candles, the wind whipped through the window and snuffed the light, laughing with a deep, boisterous guffaw that echoed in the room.

A knock followed on the simple, wooden door. Hannah stood transfixed as the knock came again, then she slowly crossed the room. Though the storm rumbled around them and shook their little house, her mother held her breath and swallowed a word: “Don’t.”  Hannah’s hand was already reaching for the knob.

She turned it slow, expectant. The door burst open, and the wind came howling in, whipping around the room disturbing everything, making the contents of the tiny house rattle and shake, stumble and tumble, plummet and break.

Hannah’s mother pushed upward from the wooden table she used to balance herself and saw Hannah sitting in awe on the floor. Before them, in the open frame, a large dark cloud hovered confidently, a knotted mass of palpable vapor filling everything before them. A wisp unfurled like a long muscular arm and beckoned to Hannah. Then a deep voice boomed in a kindly, cordial tone.

“I believe you made a serious wish, and the winds seem to have changed, my dear. Come with me. Let me show you all that you’ve been missing.”

The arm of fog and vapor beckoned once, twice for Hannah to come forward.

And so she did.



Hannah felt as if she were breathing for the first time.

It was as if her lungs had never felt air; her face had never felt the breeze. That her heart had never taken a beat.

As the storm rolled in, she was swept up into the cloud. Embraced in vapor, she raced across the sky and disappeared into the dark night. She awoke in the gleaming sunrise; twirling, unfurling, churning as mist and fog. She was a cloud born on the wind, and she smiled and laughed and gazed down at the grandeur of the world; a ghost filled with rain and snow, ice and hail, puffy and soft on sunny days, dark and seething with electricity when the storms came.

Hannah held fast to her cloud, and he showed her the world entire as they traversed the endless sky. They became one, and the Earth was but a patchwork quilt of farms and towns and roads all simply stitched together to make up something so much more.

Each time he passed over the ocean, he grew with the water that evaporated into the air. He held the vapor within and grew and grew until he was swollen and massive as the mountains and plains, the deserts and cities that passed languidly beneath them. She would run a loving hand through his knotted wisps and be amazed by his prowess, the largest of all clouds, a Genghis Khan among his kind, a sentiment whispered in his misty ear that unfurled as a smile across his foggy expanse.

And the cloud would eye the land and laugh. Everything below was his to conquer, his invading shadow passing over the earth. When so inclined, he conjured thunderheads and lightning bolts, washing the ground in sheets of torrential rain. His winds whipped tornadoes to the sodden earth hundreds of miles away; they spiraled into hurricanes somewhere lost in the grandeur of the ocean.

Sometimes he would lower her to the Earth. Barefoot and beatific, she would walk slowly across the landscape wet from the storm, the flowers growing in her wake. The leaves and grass and plants deepened their green; the vines wound around and the trees stretched taller. She would glance up. He would swoop down and the garden would glisten beneath them as they moved across the brilliant sky.

They went where they wished, and no one could stop them.

Years passed, and Hannah hovered above the earth, a cloud within a cloud. Years passed, and Hannah never once thought the winds would change, even when her mind drifted down to the memory of the mother she left behind.

After a time, the current seemed to shift. She felt it in the way vapor twirled in him, something amiss. It was one gilded, starry evening hung high above the Himalayas when Hannah felt the winds change. The Genghis Khan cloud had a sudden wish to be something more. He did not speak, but she sensed it in the way he held her. Uneasy, she tossed and turned and tumbled into sleep.

The next morning, he was idly drifting higher upon the sky than he had ever been, Hannah slumbering within, when her wish casually floated through his thoughts. He recalled that day long ago, the strange unspoken words that came rushing through him, that wind that brought him to her simple door.

He looked down at the Pacific Ocean rolling lazily beneath him. The sun shimmered in shafts of diamonds, a brilliant display that spread wider and farther than anything. In the middle of nothing, he spied land.

He gently brought her to the top of a dormant volcano high above a tropical paradise on a tiny island in the lost Pacific. Placing her softly on the ground, he whipped the trees and stones into a tiny house, sturdy and strong, which nestled on the verdant green mountaintop looking out at the endless ocean. Grey and swollen spreading across the entire sky, he smiled down at her and spoke deep, simple words.

“I wish to be spread across the world entire, more than the sky and great as the sea,” he said.

Her heart sank, though she said nothing. She understood his desire. And she hated him for it.

Hannah’s eyes burned with a thunderous storm, but she would not let it come. She would not give him the satisfaction. Instead, she held her chin high and admired the simple house, stone and palm leaves and pastoral. It was there, in the sunshine, where she closed her eyes and made a new wish. When she turned to him, she had nothing left to say.

“I expect you’ve now shown me everything there is,” she spoke to break the silence.

He embraced her one last time. Defiantly, she kissed him. Lightning flashed and the wind passionately ripped through them one last time.

“I leave you now, but not alone. Every time you look down from this volcano, you will stare across the sea, and I will be there,” he said.

He coiled gently around her three times before shuffling swiftly out to sea.

She watched as the rain fell, and her cloud grew smaller until he had spent himself, transformed to waves to race across the wide, wild sea.

She wiped one tear – the only tear she would ever shed for him – and placed the hand on her stomach, already swollen and heavy as a rain cloud.



Daily was born at the edge of dawn just as the light cracked the horizon and spilled in shimmering shafts through the window. There wasn’t even a cloud in the sky.

Hannah drew one breath and pushed and a new life rushed into the world. She lifted the baby girl to her chest and felt her heartbeat. She was light as a feather with blue eyes like the sky that flashed with bolts of lightning when she cried.

As the morning sun trickled in shifting shafts through the room, Hannah saw everything pass through her daughter’s tiny face and felt a rush of memory convalesce in her chest.

She spoke a simple name to the infant. “Daily.”

Beyond the preferential considerations of a mother’s heart, Hannah knew Daily was unique. Though she was but a baby, she felt strangely weightless, like a wisp caught within the form of a human. When Hannah held her to her breast, she had to do so tightly for fear she would float away.

They passed the days together on the mountaintop. When she could walk, Hannah fashioned heavy shoes to keep Daily on the ground. The little girl, however, always found a way to gravitate upward. Hannah tied a tether made of thick rope to Daily’s waist and wrapped it around her wrist when they went out. Inevitably, a wind would blow, or Daily would discard her shoes to feel the grass beneath her toes, and she would float up into the sky, and Hannah would hold on with all her strength and pull her back to the earth.

Hannah’s wish for a simple life looking out at the sea with her daughter by her side dissipated with a heavy realization. Hannah knew in her heart Daily was not meant for the ground.

The child grew as children do, and Hannah made each second something saved for later. They would pass evenings sitting together on the cliff, staring across the vast expanse of ocean, Daily’s head resting lightly on her shoulder, their bodies tethered together with thick, wide rope. Hannah would tell the story of the girl’s father, and Daily’s eyes grew wide and wistful, drawing in every drop of the ocean along with it, and it kept her weighted, for a time.

When she was nearing adulthood, Daily began to wonder of certain things; of being somewhere else, of being someone else; what it would be like without the weight of her heavy shoes; what it would be like without the ropes and stones that kept her to the verdant green top of the dormant volcano.

Hannah knew the tethers could not hold her much longer.

They were picking fruit from the treetops the day the wind blew through. Daily dangled like a balloon bobbing above the jungle floor, pulling down mangoes when Hannah felt a strange breeze – stiff and cunning, perfumed with the alluring scent of the wild ocean, rippled with the mischievousness of somewhere far, far away. She felt the rope go taught in her hands as the mangoes rained down to the dirt.

“Do not speak to that wind, Daily,” she said firmly as she tugged back.

“But mother, the wind is whispering of Madagascar. I don’t even know what that is,” Daily replied, fingers fumbling absently with the knot of the rope.

The wind whipped into a fury, tossing palm leaves and branches through the air. Daily laughed and spun, the rope leaving burns on Hannah’s tightly wrung hands. She pulled and pulled, but Daily was caught in the wind, laughing and swirling around everything.

Hannah did not remember if she called out her daughter’s name as the rope left her and she watched the girl drift away. She  scaled the winding path to the top of the mountain as her daughter continued her ascent, floating carelessly. Daily danced in the air, spinning in pirouettes as strokes of white clouds streaked across the canvas of the azure sky. Daily laughed and drifted further and further away, onward and upward – the rope falling to the earth – and upward – her heavy shoes crashing into the sea – and upward, rotating softly, her chestnut tendrils outstretched and reaching – and the clouds parted gently – and she opened her eyes wide to the sun – and upward – her arms open and accepting – and upward – as she sunk into the embrace of the untethered sky.

Hannah watched her daughter fade into oblivion, into everything. She held the discarded rope limply in her burned hands, unmoving as she stood on top of the mountain, in front of the little house her Genghis Khan cloud had built so he could be everywhere all at once.

Hannah surveyed the sky until the sun sank into the sea, and the black blanket of night covered the world. She watched until the twinkling stars pin-pricked the quilted darkness, and all was silent.

Finally, she dropped the rope and went inside, alone.


Hannah walked up the hill along the path through the tall saw grass beneath the cloudless blue dome of a perfect summer sky. She did not know how long it had been, but each simple step drew her closer as a familiar wind swirled around the little home she had kept in her heart.

Her mother was in the kitchen. Hannah could see her framed by the plain, open window. Her hair had gone silver and her back slightly curved, but she wore the same apron and leaned over a mixing bowl, slowly stirring something. It was as if she had never left, but as she stood staring at all those things that she thought would only ever exist again in memory, she realized her eyes could not adjust to the contrast of light in the same manner.

She walked to the simple, wooden door and knocked. It creaked a quaint revelry, revealing the slightly shrunken frame of her mother. They did not speak, their smiles the only words their mouths needed. They reached out and fell into an embrace, as warm and assuring as a cozy fire on a windy wintry evening.

They fell back together easily, the tasks of the sheer necessities for the simple things fully occupying their time. They made the beds and swept the floors. They walked side by side down the path. At night they sat humming hymns quietly as they knitted and rocked to their own simple rhythms.

Hannah walked up the hill along the path through the tall saw grass beneath the cloudless blue dome of a perfect summer sky. She did not know how long it had been, but each simple step drew her closer as a familiar wind swirled around the little home she had kept in her heart.

Hannah did not know how many years had passed when the crisp, autumn wind blew a tornado of crackling orange leaves past their window and stole her mother. It came with the golden sunlight of evening, rapping on the window pane, and though Hannah wanted to speak, she said nothing. Her mother looked out the window – a simple stitch of a smile across her wrinkled face – and crumpled to the floor, her silvery ghost escaping through the pane of glass to join the dying leaves oscillating toward the edges of oblivion.

Hannah spent the next few days taking care of earthly affairs, simple tasks to pass the leaving. She tidied the world her mother left, then embarked on her journey home.

On the verdant mountaintop, all alone, she settled into the tiny house, speaking to her Genghis Khan all across the ocean and searching the sky above for a wisp she hoped would settle back to the ground someday.

As time passed, she could no longer wait and watch the sun sneak slowly with the shadows across the wooden floor. Hannah took to the horizon, staring into the thin line between here and everywhere else, rocking slowly in her chair.

It was one morning with no clouds and no breeze that Hannah rose and left her bed unmade. She passed by the basin and didn’t make breakfast.

She dressed, packed her things and said goodbye to the little house. She made sure the home was burning fiercely before making her way down the mountain path, across the verdant jungle floor to the warm, pale sand.

Hannah put her things in the sand and paused. She sat in the sun and studied the waves rolling in and out, blessing the shore before rolling away. The wind rushed in from the opposite direction, pushing and prodding her back to the jungle, but she did not listen. She had decided. She no longer cared to wait for the wind.

As the sun burned from overhead, Hannah stood and walked to the shore. She closed her eyes and made a wish. She held it in her heart and allowed it to fill her body.

When she opened her eyes, the horizon stared back, and she smiled.

Hannah took a deep breath, deeper than she could hold, deeper than the ancient caverns from whence it came. She exhaled fiercely, and the wind ripped across the sand and sliced through the ocean. As she blew out again – twice, thrice – the waves parted before her revealing the ocean floor leading all the way to the horizon, thousands of fish dangling, half-suspended between the open air and the glistening water.

Hannah stared down the horizon, then stepped into the open sea, making her way forward, not caring if the winds changed, only that her feet and breath would take her there.



Chicken Catchers

By Dennis Sipe



On Fridays after work us Chicken Catchers meet at Wiley’s for a few beers —- except for Trisha who has to get home by seven because of her little girl. Trisha drinks one ginger ale with lemon and tries to laugh at my jokes. There are four of us right now. We had a new guy a few weeks ago. He worked twenty minutes.

“Fuck this,” he screamed. “Jesus, help me out of here.”

We heard him run into the side of the metal catch building and knock himself out. We didn’t know he was down then, or one of us would have tried to find him sooner. You can’t see much when the storm is raging. That’s what we all call it, the storm.

You may not know what a chicken catcher does. I’ll tell you and maybe it will scare you into making more of yourself than you’ve been on the road to lately. Everyone starts off wearing gloves. But you can catch faster barehanded, so you take the cuts. After a while they don’t hurt as bad. Sometimes I don’t know who’s more numb, me or the chickens.

The one thing everyone does, is wear goggles. They steam up and sweat stings your eyes, but it beats wearing an eye patch over a dead hole. You mostly catch by feel anyway. When the air is full of feathers and dust you can’t see much. It’s like chickens in a tornado. They just open up around you from fear. You grab and grab. You feel a leg or a wing. You take a neck if that’s what you get, and you snap it if the chicken it belongs to gets its claws into your hand.

Thank god the de-beakers have melted the points off of their beaks. They will still work those pathetic, dull clackers against whatever they can of you, if they get the chance.

You break out in hives for the first two or three weeks. You cough from breathing in dust and feathers. Ammonia from their piss makes you want to puke until you get used to it. What’s that say about someone who would get used to that? I keep a bottle of mouthwash in my truck just so I can eat lunch.

An old chicken catcher has been at it six months. No one knows anyone who’s done it for over a year. It is the last thing you would ever do. And you will do it to keep your house or feed your kids. But you wouldn’t wish it on anyone you didn’t hate.  I’ve done it the longest of any of us here now, eleven months.  Tommy and Jack are high school buddies. They started together going on five months ago. Trish just finished her tenth week.

The catch building is a football field long and sixty feet wide. You make eight bucks for every thousand chickens. I can catch between twelve- and thirteen-hundred an hour. What works best is to take two hits of good weed about ten minutes before you start in the morning and then again after lunch. It focuses you and helps you get past the stinging sweat. You won’t have too much if you wear a sweatband. I have a red, white and blue one. You stand in the storm and grab. Trish doesn’t smoke. I’ve told her it will help, but she loves her baby girl.

“I won’t take the chance,” she says. “They might take her away.”

Trish is pretty too, even with her blonde hair caught up in a hairnet. She could get money another way. You know she knows it, but it’s the same as with weed. They might take her little girl away. Alice is Trish’s daughter’s name. She’s four years old. I met her when the three of us went fishing in Rough River.  Trish made bologna sandwiches and I brought good chips and some sweet tea. I helped Alice catch her first fish.

Alice has blonde hair, blue eyes, and high cheekbones. There is a faint line running down from her nose to her upper lip. The surgeon that fixed her harelip did an amazing job. I don’t think by the time she’s twenty you’ll ever know.

I wonder things that I shouldn’t. But I’m lonely. I wonder how Trish could have afforded such work. I wonder if Trish used her looks that one time or how ever many times it took to settle her bill. I’m bad to think such thoughts.I tell myself, you don’t know that it wasn’t a woman surgeon. Then I think about the other thing and how she could still have worked it out that way too. That wouldn’t bother me so much. But it hurts to think of Trish with another man. Even if I had anything to offer Trish, I’m shy around women. Trish says she doesn’t date, which makes me feel bad about the fishing trip. One night I gave her a ride home to her mother’s house and she told me a few things.

“Alice’s father — I shouldn’t even call him that. He’s never been around but once since Alice was born. An insurance salesman, a regional troubleshooter really, he called himself. His card said it, but you can put anything on a card. I knew better, that he had a family. You could see the pale circle on his tanned finger. I wanted to get away from home. My dad drank and he was a mean drunk.”

Trish stopped talking and looked down at her knees as she worked them together and apart in front of the dash. Trish looks good in jeans.

“Does your dad still drink,” I asked.

I wished I hadn’t.

“He died two years ago. Heart attack.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Mom is better off. Even she says it. She always went to church without dad. A good man from church takes her out every Friday night to eat fish. He’ll be here in a few minutes.  That’s why I have to get home by seven.”

I buy Trish her ginger ale every week at Wiley’s. She smiles when I do that and a lot of times when I say things. I think she likes me and yet there’s this line I can’t cross to tell her how I feel. It’s just as well, I think sometimes. I don’t want to be hurt. I know she should try to find someone with money or figure out how to get back into college and slog through it with her mom watching Trish while she goes to class and works a little. Trish has a year in at the junior college over in Delano.

Last Friday night Jack pissed me off. He knows I like Trish and he said something crude after she left the bar.

“You wouldn’t know how to eat something that fine, Jack,” I told him. “That would be a man’s job.”

“Like you would know what a man was and you living in your mom’s house at thirty-three.”

This is my Jesus year and I should be farther along in life, I know. Still, that remark hurt me and I didn’t smile. I went for my skinning knife, only remembered I don’t carry it anymore for that reason. My temper. I tried to play it off, like I was reaching in my front pocket for change for the jukebox.  Jack knew better. He hasn’t spoken to me since.

I could be a dad to Alice but I don’t know if I should be. I’m good on my medicine, but why let Trish into my screwed up world?

I asked Trish yesterday at lunch if she wanted to go fishing again Sunday.

“You, me, and Alice,” I said. “Like last time.”

“I don’t know,” was what she said. Then at the end of the day, I waited around outside the women’s shower room after I was cleaned up.

“Oh, hi,” Trish said, when she came out.

It wasn’t a good surprised, “Oh, hi,” but a nervous dread type.

“Just wondered about this Sunday.”

“Sure,” Trish said. “Sure. I’ll fry chicken legs and make potato salad.”

“I’ll bring the sweet tea and some cookies,” I said.

Trish had a cornered look in her eyes, like a young deer in the road, trying to figure which way to jump to get out of the way of a car.

“Pick you up at ten,” I said, then I turned and let her be.

The next day at lunch Trish put her hand up to stop me as I walked back from my truck.

“Anything good for lunch today?”

“Peanut butter and jelly. It’s underrated as a sandwich,” I said.

“Yes, it is. You know, I’ve been thinking that maybe we shouldn’t go fishing.”

“It’s me, isn’t it? You don’t like me.” I didn’t think. I just said it plain out.

“It’s Alice,” Trish said. “She gets scared around men.”

“She didn’t seem to mind it before.”

“Well, she is hard to read, unless you know her.”

“I’d like to know her.”

“I know you would and that’s sweet but it would mean something I’m not ready for.”

I said good night and went home and listened to Johnny Cash records and felt sorry for myself. The next morning as we were walking to the catch shed, Trish stepped around in front of me.

“Hey,” she said.


“I made a mistake. I want to go fishing and bring Alice.”


I felt pretty good by lunch. Still I didn’t talk to Trish. I went out to my truck like usual and ate my sandwich and listened to Johnny Cash. His voice calms me, always has. When he died, I didn’t know it for almost twelve hours. I was mowing grass all day. That was September twelfth two thousand three. I came home and found out that he passed in the hospital. I was happy for John because I figured he’d been reunited with June and they’d played for God all day while I was walking my ass off, making two high class apartment complexes look good. I was so happy for J.C. that it made me feel thankful for two good legs to wear out. I just cried myself to sleep, not because I was sad but because I was happy.

I took pride in cutting grass. I’d probably still be mowing if the owner hadn’t caught me taking a hit off a joint one morning with this blonde on her patio. He fired me on the spot. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I appreciated Mr. Cash when he was alive. Most people don’t appreciate what they have until they lose it. I learned that from my dad dying when I was twelve and my momma going last year. I listen to Johnny Cash and I chew that voice like a piece of leather and it gets me through.

I picked Trish and Alice up on Sunday. We found a good spot on the river, down under the bridge in the shade. Usually the old men are already under there, lined up and telling stories and spitting tobacco juice onto the bank.

“Look what I brought you, Alice.”

“What,” Alice asked?

“You shouldn’t have,” Trish said.

I slipped a grocery sack off each end of Alice’s package and handed it to her.  She ripped open the flowered wrapping paper.

“A Snoopy rod. Look Momma, a Snoopy rod.”

“Alice, what do you say?””

“Thank you. Can you help me get it out?”

“I sure can,” I said.

I slit the plastic with my truck key and undid all those little ties that hold everything made in China these days against its cardboard backing. I took a little plastic tackle box from my tackle box.

I took pride in cutting grass. I’d probably still be mowing if the owner hadn’t caught me taking a hit off a joint one morning with this blonde on her patio. He fired me on the spot.

“This is your box, Alice. You keep your bobbers, your hooks and your sinkers in it. Don’t put the sinkers in your mouth.  The lead is bad for you. When I was little I didn’t know that. We all used to crimp sinkers down on the line and open them too, with our teeth. There’s a pair of pliers in here for your mom to use ‘til you’re old enough.

“The rod was enough, really,” Trish said.

“I know, but she needs the things that go with it.”

“Thank you,” Trish said.

I smiled and tied on the rubber casting weight. Alice caught on to casting it pretty well. Then I rigged up her rod for bluegill with a size 10 hook and clipped a bobber on two feet above it.

“Pick out your worm,” I said.

Alice did. I could see out of the corner of my eye that Trish was surprised.

“That is a good worm,” Alice said.

“It’s the best one in the can,” I told her.

I curled it onto the hook.

“This is better than that cane pole tip you used last time isn’t it,” I asked.

“Yep, I like my Snoopy rod better.”

I found a forked stick and stuck it in the bank for Alice to prop her rod in, but she wanted to hold it in her lap. I cut a couple forks for Trish and me. Alice caught over a dozen little bluegills and one six-inch bass. That little bass swallowed the hook pretty deep. I cut the line and left the hook in it.

“The hook will rust,” I told Alice. “He’ll be okay.”

“It might be a girl.”

“Then she’ll be okay.”

“Good,” said Alice.

I lied. It hurts me to see a bass killed.

Trish and me didn’t catch anything. Fish stole our worms while we talked. It was just stories about things we did when we were kids. How close we came to dying different times and things like that. At noon we moved out into the sun and laid out the food. After we ate Alice was sleepy. She slept with her head in Trish’s lap.

I felt good there in the sun with Trish and Alice. Trish rubbed sun block on Alice in a way that made me tear up.

“I never was lucky at catching fish,” Trish said.

“I could always catch big crappie,” I told her. “I caught one once when I was seventeen that couldn’t turn around in a five gallon aquarium. It just hung in there. I let it loose the next day. I like bluegills better. They fight harder.”

“Thank you for today.”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

“I don’t know what can come of this,” she said.

“Can’t it just be what it is?”

“What is it,” Trish asked?

She didn’t wait for an answer.

“If it’s just that we’re friends,” she said, “that would be okay with me.”

“I’m not good enough for you, am I?”

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s true isn’t it?”

“Actually,” Trish said, “it’s probably the other way around. I’m not good enough for you. But . . .”

“But what?”

“Let’s just fish.”

“Tell me,” I said.

“I have to think of Alice — if I didn’t have Alice. I have to find a successful man or no man. I can’t have something in between. I don’t need a man, really.”

“You need to be held, Trish. That’s all I’m asking is to hold you. And I’d love Alice like she was mine.”

“I know you would. I can’t think about me. I did that and that’s how I got Alice. Now, it’s all about Alice. That’s all. Can we just be friends? If you could take us fishing now and then.”

“It’s just hard to be around you,” I said. Then I thought about it and smiled.

“Yeah,” Trish said with her sweet grin, “I’ve noticed.”

I was still red-faced and smiling when she told me:

“Friday was my last day.”


Monday I’m going to work for Mr. Jenkins from mom’s church.

“He’s the one who’s been taking your mom out to eat,” I said.

“Yes. I’ll be answering the phone in his office. He has a gravel and rock hauling business.

“I know what he has.”

“Eight dollars an hour.”

“Sitting in a dress answering phones, I’ll bet.”

“There’s nothing wrong with looking professional.”

“No, there isn’t. There isn’t. But did you ever think Jenkins is just using your momma to get to you? That you’re what he wants?”

I looked over at Trish. She didn’t answer. She didn’t have to. I could see in her eyes what I didn’t see before. You could have stuck a knife in me and it wouldn’t have hurt as bad.

“Good,” I said. “That’s good. You don’t deserve to be catching chickens.”

“You don’t either. Maybe I can see if Mr. Jenkins needs a driver. You’d have to have the right license for it. I’ve been learning about that.”

“How do you know I don’t already have the right license?” I asked in a mean way.

“I guess I don’t,” Trish said.

We’ll see,” was all I said.

It gets so quiet those times when the world slaps you in the face to remind you of your place in it. The slow, clear-green river moved past. Alice made a little sound like the start of a snore. Something crawled on my calf. It was a piss-ant. And when I caught it and threw it in the water, it struggled as it floated for about five feet. A bull bluegill with a golden ring around its dark eye rose up beneath it at an angle. I just watched it rise like an indifferent god.


The Tribe of Nephilim

By Noah Sandweiss

The factory chimneys stood dormant in the summer night, thick with bug calls and life. Henry stuck his tongue up into his flask, probing for the last drop of whiskey. I make a penny, the boss makes a dime, that’s why I drink on company time. Some nights he’d sit at the train depot and listen for radio from Louisville. Other nights he’d pull out one of his wife’s misplaced pulp novellas. Most of the time though, Henry would just walk the length of the freight yard and imagine he was the last person on Earth.

For Christ’s sake Henry, your kid’s growing up without a father. You’re asleep when he leaves for school and gone right after he gets back!

The fallen angels of the Lord begat with mortal women a race of giants, the Nephilim. Always hungry, they devour the birds and beasts, and fish of the sea, and the yield of the earth, and when they’ve eaten every living thing they turn on one another eating the flesh and drinking the blood.

Each day at noon, he’d hear his wife shuffling around and force himself out from under the sheets. On Saturdays Henry could wake up to an empty house. He liked those days the most and would set an early alarm, so he could appreciate the luxury of sleeping through it. His wife had been pretty once, not beautiful, back when they were kids and their world stretched from the railroad track down to the creek. This was before he was a renter, and a borrower, and a drinker, and before the birth of their son.

Henry here is our garbage man. He watches the freight yard and throws out the trash.

On a quiet night he felt like a ghost floating around the yard, pacing with his lantern swinging low until daybreak. He surveyed the length of the sleeping train. Slabs of white limestone disinterred from under the town waited to be shipped off somewhere with name recognition. On some he saw bits of antediluvian sea creatures frozen like the bodies at Pompei.

Making his way back to his chair and pulp romance, Henry heard a cough from inside one of the boxcars. Goddamnit. He lifted his lantern to the open boxcar and banged on the wall.

“Get out, I can hear you in there.”

No reply. Some folks just don’t know when they’re beat. Henry sighed and dragged himself up into the car. Casting his lantern around the space, he found a body hunched over in the corner. A scruffy bearded man sat curled up against the wall, gazing out over the limestone slabs.

Henry gestured with his left hand, “No free rides in life buddy. I can see that you don’t walk.”

“Huh?” The man straightened his back, blinking into the light.

“Money, dinero, you got it?”

The Vagrant stood up, “Oh, I don’t invest in money.”

“Christ almighty,” Henry sighed, “You’re on of those Wall Street types. Why don’t  I show you the window?”

“No one has to know I’m here,” the Vagrant whispered, “I’m just passing through till I make it to the coast. Once I get to the sea I’m done riding rails.”

“You gotta have something. You got a watch? A drink?”

“Nothing like that,” the Vagrant sniffled, “I got some advice for you though. You’d better get out of here and head for the coast.”

Nothing new, Henry had thought of leaving his whole life, but he’d never gone further than Kentucky, and didn’t have enough to last his family through the month. He made a move to grab the joker, who deftly clambered away over the limestone, positioning himself like a boxer.

“I ain’t getting off this train till I reach New York. Now you can come with me, or we can throw down right here, but there’s no way I’m getting off this train.”

The man wasn’t bigger than Henry but looked wiry and fast. And besides, no one hopped trains without some sort of protection. The vagrant’s right hand trembled like a loaded spring over his right pocket.

“Come one week’s time, maybe less, this whole town—the whole country’s gonna be gone. All this here is gonna be ocean.”

Only the droning of crickets, now thundering, broke the silence between them. Henry let down his lantern and the victorious stranger assumed his seat against the wall.

“You must feel it coming, you might not know it, but even a dog or a bug can feel it coming. ‘Wisdom found no place where she might dwell; then a dwelling-place was assigned her in the heavens. Wisdom went forth to make her dwelling among the children of men and found no dwelling-place. Wisdom returned to her place and took her seat among the angels. And unrighteousness went forth from her chambers. Whom she sought not she found, and dwelt with them, as rain in a desert.’”

Henry forced a laugh, “An unemployed Sunday school teacher, I’m sure you’re just a devil with the ladies.”

The Vagrant went on, “Never went to Sunday school. That there’s the book of Enoch. The fallen angels of the Lord begat with mortal women a race of giants, the Nephilim. Always hungry, they devour the birds and beasts, and fish of the sea, and the yield of the earth, and when they’ve eaten every living thing they turn on one another eating the flesh and drinking the blood. Semyaza the watcher, Azazel the black goat, Lucifer the star of morning, they taught the people to make war and things of beauty, and to measure and cut, and to build towers so that the angels might climb back into heaven. Seeing that all the children of the earth would parish under this course the Lord sent a flood so that those righteous enough to hear beyond the noise of thunder could save what remained from the great hunger of the Nephilim. And so that the lord may begin to heal the earth of the plague and that his children may not parish through those things learned from the watching angels.”

“Now here in America we’ve got land that won’t grow no more crops, and we’ve got towers so tall that you can’t see the bottom from the top or the top from the bottom. We had flocks of birds more numerous than the whole of mankind put together and buffalo that swarmed like schools of fish. Now everyone has a car, but you’d be hard pressed to meet anyone who’s seen a buffalo. There’s people in New York and Washington talking bold about freedom and plenty, and families in California trading bags of oranges for fried dough. And you know the surest sign that the storm’s coming?”

The Vagrant stared down Henry, who shrugged and averted his eyes.

“Its that we all want it to. The world keeps spinning faster and faster, and we just want it to stop and throw us off. But no, we’re just stuck here—each of us getting up in the morning checking to see if time has finally stopped. Now what kind of a world is that? Everyone hoping that their next sin will be the one that breaks the Earth so it simply can’t spin on anymore.” The Vagrant hesitated, “Well, I’m not having it no more.”

Henry turned his back to the Vagrant and took a seat in the boxcar’s doorway. The night buzzed with insects and frogs. Fireflies hovered over the meadow by the freight yard, fumbling their way through the dark. Gnats danced around his lantern, daring each other to touch the light. His wife and son were asleep in the shotgun shack, and he had hours to go before sunrise. Henry opened his flask and stuck in a finger. Sticky but mostly dry, he pocketed it again. Lingering for a moment longer, Henry took his lantern and jumped off the train. He shut the car door behind him and headed back to his novella and chair.










Fresh, Authentic and Liberating: Every Body at the Thomas Gallery

By Filiz Cicek

John F. Kennedy in a 1963 speech declared, “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” He was eulogizing American poet Robert Frost, who two years earlier, at Kennedy’s inauguration, wrote:  “And by the example of our Declaration / Make everybody want to be a nation / This is no aristocratic joke / At the expense of negligible folk.” His subject was America.

Kennedy’s invitation to Frost demonstrated his desire to include arts in government and to celebrate the role of the artist in society.  Kennedy stated that “the artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state….If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice.” And that

“we must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”  And the truth can often be inconvenient to those in power.
Kennedy, like Thomas Jefferson, was a lover of arts. The latter was a true renaissance man who produced the declaration of independence. Indeed the age of enlightenment gave rise to revolutions, separation of church of state, rejection of monarchy and the embrace of democracy. One thing the West did not embrace however, was the practice of homosexuality.

We celebrate Alexander the Great yet we overlook his bi-sexuality; his marriage to Roxana, a noble Sogdian for purposes of breeding and his passionate love affairs with Hephaestion, a general in his army and with a former Persian slave Bagaos. Ancient Greeks–Spartans in particular–believed that homosexual sex strengthened bonds between soldiers. And we overlook the fact that so rampant was the physical intimacy between Roman soldiers that Augustus found himself forcing thousands of them to marry at the Colosseum, not for moral reasons but rather for the strategic purposes: their progeny would ensure future generations of Roman soldiers and therefore the Roman Empire.  The West adapted Roman rule of law while completely ignoring widely accepted homosexual practices in Roman society.

In our selective adaptations of cultural values, we in the west also embraced Greek misogyny. Today we don’t widely celebrate Sappho’s poetry, nor do we generally support women in the political arena.  We are still happy to confine women to domestic roles. In the West this can be traced to the Ancient Greeks who blamed the long and devastating Trojan War on women, in particular Helen and Clytemnestra.  Aeschylus in his trilogy Oresteia defined murder of Agamemnon at the hand of his wife Clytemnestra, as an example of misuse of power and argued that women should never be allowed to govern again. Never mind that Clytemnestra, as a mother, was exacting revenge for the death of her daughter, Iphigenia. The first victim of the Trojan War, Clytemnestra was sacrificed by her father Agamemnon to Artemis for favorable winds for the fleet.

Such misogyny was exported to the Americas.  Native Americans not only acknowledged, but celebrated, two spirit people, who possessed both male and female attributes. Such fluid gender roles also exist elsewhere in the world, such as among the Bugis people in Indonesia who recognize five genders: makkunrai, oroané, bissu, calabai, and calalai. Makkunrai and oroané are comparable to cisgender women and men. Bissu are androgynous shamans and calalai and calabai are approximately equivalent to trans men and trans women. The bissu, the calabai, and the calalai may enter the dwelling places of both men and women. Bugis believe that all five genders must co-exist harmoniously. But the adoption of Islam in the 8th century, (which was more mystical at the time, and more compatible with native practices) and western colonialism led to the oppression of gender fluid individuals.
And today in America we are waging Cake Wars in which the choices of same sex couples have clashed with the religious identities of the cake makers. This, after the passing of the Defense of the Marriage Act in 2013, a long and hard won battle for the GLBTQ community. The concept of freedom of choice, of being yourself is a very radical act indeed, one that has been regulated throughout the centuries by tyrants, dictators, patriarchs and matriarchs alike.
Art too can be a radical act. It was so for the impressionists, the original eco-artists who rejected modernity and pollution by re-embracing nature. Since the 1970s feminist artists have infiltrated masculine dominated art galleries and museums. Indeed art is one of the most powerful tools we have to express ourselves and explore our surroundings. Art experienced at the time of its creation is often radical by its nature, since it challenges norms and operates outside of the collective, highlighting the individual’s vision.  Art is subversive at times, yet equally celebratory, affirming love and life.

Then again art can be a rebellious act any given moment in some corner of the world.  Putting on a hijab in the French Riviera and shedding it in downtown Tehran. Ordering a cake in Kentucky and serving at the military while queer. Life and art are irrevocably intertwined, often compelling artists to speak from the margins to the center, enabling visibility and audibility to the oppressed, shifting societal norms for the better.

Regardless of whether it’s a revolution or a rave (or both, simultaneously), my process of making art is my small attempt to get free. –Alex Hollet

“Every Body” features work by local, national and international GLBTQ artists that illustrate the presentation of self. It will be on display in August at the Thomas Gallery in conjunction with the Pride Film Festival. The participating artists look at the human body from many different viewpoints; they explore identity, sexuality, movement, form and the transcendence of form.
Jessica Hurt is a multimedia artist who creates 3D works utilizing mannequins and also performs at the Back Door. Performing drag, she says, has opened up a safer space for her as a queer person. Patrons speak to her openly about her gender and pronoun preference.

She went through gay conversion, she says, “after I came out as a lesbian [while enrolled] at Central Christian College of the Bible.” It consisted of Jessica living in isolation in a cell-like room and watching videos explaining and instructing how to please a man. It didn’t work. “I puked” she says, with a lingering nausea, “and chose to leave and give up my course credits.” She was accepted in a program to become a minister in the Church of Christ denomination but was told during her first semester that women could not be ministers. Today she still believes in Christ and practices whenever she can. “My family, who are devoted Episcopalians, are doing it right. They accept me as I am, with unconditional love.”

Alex Hollet is a doctoral candidate at the IU Gender Studies Department who creates and performs regularly. She sees and utilizes art as a form of resistance. “Art-as-activism sometimes means exposing pain and power for what they are,” she says, “and sometimes it means reveling in the beauty that exists outside of, underneath, and around the status quo.” Hollet acts very much as an individual within a collective: “Regardless of whether it’s a revolution or a rave (or both, simultaneously), my process of making art is my small attempt to get free, and my approach to art-as-activism seeks to emancipate not just my individual body but also that of the collective.

“Art is a way for marginalized people – and anyone who cares about justice, really – to not only challenge the harmful mythologies that are often (but not exclusively) rooted in nationalism and racism and sexism and heterosexism and classism, but also to create something fresh and authentic and liberating in their place. Consequently, the art I’m interested in making and interacting with is, in general terms, deeply political and justice-oriented. It is art that forces us to confront our complicity in harm and violence. It is art that celebrates divergence. It is art that offers personal and systemic interventions. It is art that organizes communities. It is art that rebukes theories of pleasure that are almost always predicated on the exploitation of another human being or the earth.”


Participating artists include, Robb Stone, Randy Rud-Cloud, Alexandria Hollett, Brick Daniel Kyle, Smoove G, Dimosthenis Prodromou  (Greece), Jessica Hurt, Filiz Cicek, Lucy Donnellan  (Australia), Javier Cardona Otero, Jenni Cure, Jasper Wirtshafter, Margaret Belton, Mia Be, Kelvin Burzon, Shadia Siliman.

To see and celebrate GLBTQ art and artists featured in Every Body head over to Thomas Gallery on the square on August 3rd. The opening is from 5.30pm-8pm. You can experience art and eat cake at the same time! The exhibition is open until August 31st with an additional poetry reading by Jasper Wirtshafter on August 10th.