Moving towards being creaturely: Amy Sass’ play Time Sensitive at Oakland (CA)’s Flight Deck Theater

Ragged Wing Ensemble’s Production of Amy Sass’ play Time Sensitive at Oakland’s Flight Deck Theater

Simone Bloch, right, as the Clockmaker with the Ice Monks. Photo by Serena Morelli for Ragged Wing Ensemble

In a recent article in Counterpunch, Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen argue for the return to a ‘creaturely’ worldview based around self-organizing renewability coming out of complex and vibrant ecosystems. They believe that it will better equip us to care for the planet and survive as a species than the industrial worldview, which is non-renewable, specialized, mechanical, and requires large amounts of concentrated energy to maintain.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/04/08/lets-get-creaturely-a-new-worldview-can-help-us-face-ecological-crises/

Amy Sass’ new play Time Sensitive, now showing at Oakland’s Flight Deck Theater, echoes some similar sentiments.

‘Ordovician. Silurian. Jurassic. Cretaceous,’ chants a swaying ensemble, dressed in silver monk-like robes, during at least one interval in Time Sensitive. This and other interludes connect the characters’ individual stories with the broader narrative of humanity’s search for its place within the natural world.

Suspended blocks of melting ice provide a constantly dripping backdrop, alluding to climate change while reminding us that the rest of the world operates according to different timescales than that of our modern city life.

Many of the characters’ stories incorporate time as a theme, while suggesting that we can only go so far in modern society to cover up the biological and emotional realities of being human. A bank employee goes to great lengths to create perfect events for her company, even speeding up her pregnancy in hopes that it won’t interfere with work. Yet, she still ends up demoted and her subordinates replaced with robots. The fact that she and her fellow employees compete for roles where they literally carry plates filled with trash highlights both the environmental themes of the play and the disposability of workers in her office environment.

Rachel Brown as Employee One. Photo by Serena Morelli for Ragged Wing Ensemble.

 

A childless elderly craftsman builds a robotic device to maintain his clocks, and the device, called a KID, ‘grows’ up to realize that the energy it’s absorbing from the city isn’t as pure and clean as it needs. The bank CEO and building owner stares out at the view from the top of his building, ordering an engineer to build higher and higher – then realizes he’s terrified of heights. Even the impoverished pair who survive by any means necessary in the shadow of the skyscraper experience internal struggles: are they going to strive for the money, power and control everyone else in the city wants, or could it be possible to envision a different world?

Time Sensitive brings a great deal of physicality to the stage, as characters carry each other, leap, dance, and move in groups to convey various moods and states of being. Telling these stories through movement that’s as prominent as the dialogue further highlights the theme of how our bodies and the natural world reassert themselves despite our efforts to impose the urban life that we consider ‘civilization.’ The dialogue also reflects this physicality, as characters speak directly, even scatologically, at times.

Birth and death are two major ways that nature imposes its timescale onto our lives, as we have limited ability to reschedule either of these events. And the characters here grapple with nativity and mortality, ultimately finding, through some cleverly juxtaposed stage pairings, that both can be better faced together.

This story left me with many points to ponder. Certainly the universe is much larger and more enduring than our short-term desires for career success, and we’re not going to be able to overwrite our own, or our planet’s biological makeup in a few centuries. And we do need to think about the impact of our decisions on future generations and on the Earth.

I was left wondering, though, if scrambling for resources and being in a constant hurry is really that unnatural, given the short lifespan of many animals and their constant quests for food. If we’re going to go back to a more natural way of living, if we’re going to embrace our own natures and the ecosystems around us rather than completely replacing them, let’s think about how to do that without just replacing one ‘rat race’ with another.

And, how far can we judge the impoverished character who sought to grab some of the wealth of the city? His character devolves into greed for much more wealth than he needs to live and he rejects his friend who doesn’t share his passion. But is there a middle ground between being so sweet/flighty that you give away your last pair of shoes to a pigeon and bring yourself harm, and mimicking the values of the most powerful people in mainstream society? How do you care for yourself and meet at least your basic needs while still living in harmony with the earth and without becoming obsessed with success and power?

Rachel Brown left as Penny and Alicia Piemme Nelson as Roach. Photo by Serena Morelli for Ragged Wing Ensemble

Some of the play’s most poignant and thoughtful moments came from the old man and the KID, who takes a Velveteen Rabbit-like journey towards becoming real. They, more so than the people at any socio-economic level within the city, had the time and space for thought and feeling, and could envision a better and more integrated and balanced life.

Their journey together, their ‘birth’ and death, most brings to mind Jackson and Jensen’s concept of being ‘creaturely’ – and it is they who ultimately show the way out into a broader world beyond the confining city.

From Ragged Wing, note on the production: 

Originally created in workshop five years ago, Ragged Wing’s new production features an updated script as well as a deep collaboration with climate artist Carter Brooks and his ice-art, and environmental scenic design by Oakland School for the Arts Chair of Production Jean-François Revon.

Time Sensitive runs at Oakland’s Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway.

Apr 6 – May 4th, 2019

FRI & SAT 8pm,  SUN 5pm

*SAT MATINEES 2pm:  April 27, May 4

 

Partnered Reading, March 29th, at Portland (OR)’s OpenHaus

 

Good Things Are Coming!

This month, in lieu of a normal issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine, we share some of the pieces that writers are presenting at the offsite event that Synchronized Chaos Magazine is co-hosting during the Association of Writing Programs’ annual conference.

Several Synchronized Chaos contributors are reading in this event, the Partnered Reading with the Broader Community, held at 6pm at the OpenHaus coworking space (5020 Martin Luther King Blvd) on Friday March 29th. These include Scott Thomas Outlar, J. Dorroh, Leticia Garcia Bradford, and Doug Hawley.

This is a partnered reading where publishing and book marketing professionals create work in response to, and inspired by, pieces from emerging authors. The readers have paired up and created together over the past couple months and each pair will read on stage at the OpenHaus. Idea is to connect more experienced authors with up and coming writers and promote creativity and mentorship.

This is a chance for professionals to read and consider, then engage with, work from the greater writing community. We welcomed and actively recruited all sorts of guest readers, including people from the POC, neurodiverse, LGBT, disabled, homeless and low-income and other marginalized communities to participate in this event.

Also, Bonnie Greene, Melissa Moon, Lisa Loving and others will come and read some pieces by, and about, writer and artist Tony LeTigre, who regularly wrote for Synchronized Chaos and edited a few issues in 2016, and sadly passed away in a traffic accident January 19th: https://www.marinij.com/2019/01/22/greenbrae-mans-circle-stunned-by-freeway-cycling-death/

Here’s the Facebook event page for the evening of readings, RSVP is appreciated but not required: https://www.facebook.com/events/344609806131726/

We aren’t able to share all of the work because some people have elected to pursue publication in outlets that don’t accept work previously published elsewhere. If that’s you, and your work is published here, please immediately comment or email us at synchchaos@gmail.com and we’ll remove your piece.

Claire Bateman and Sione Aeschliman explore spiders in various creepy crawly and elegant ways. Doug Hawley writes of an intergalactic space force and alien squids, and again of newts,to which Cati Porter responds through an erasure poem, where she takes his story and removes much of the language so that the remaining words form a new and different piece in themselves.

J. Dorroh, high school science teacher, dives into his true passion, swimming. Sybilla Nash speculates on what Tupac Shakur could have done had he not died young, while Scott Parker reflects upon the experience of reviewing his high school students’ poems inspired by Tupac after his death.

Sean Cearley contributes a concrete poem, words suggested by and superimposed onto images. Each phrase sounds as if it could be part of a larger piece. J. Dorroh writes a piece that explores the limits of human thought and endurance.

Rebecca Smolen and Leticia Garcia Bradford reflect on how the love, accomplishment, creativity and other delicious berries they seek are often just out of reach, while Robert Egan grapples with the limits of human and official capability to respond to floodwaters.

Vannessa McClelland dives into a troubled but creative mind. Gina Stella D’Assunta explores the challenge of navigating life as a vibrant bon vivant with unpredictable and painful chronic illness, and Cati Porter reinterprets Gina’s spoken word piece as a poem where punctuation and line breaks illustrate the physical limitations of a disabled body.

Edward Morris regales us with a glittering tour-de-force Old English prose piece., and Elyana Ren creates another tale inspired by Morris and Dickens. Dorothy Place lends her pen to the tale of determined, yet tragicomic, unemployed Solomon, hoping to win back his wife and his income with his modest imagination.

Scott Thomas Outlar crafts poetry and prose inspired by Heath Brougher’s unique form and style.

Huda Al-Marashi (First Comes Marriage) and Marivi Soliven (The Mango Bride) explore love, family, and the immigrant experience. Shahe Mankerian writes poetically, formally of love, echoing the sentiments of Huda’s book.

Jasmin Johnson contributes a meditative story on figuring out how to process death and grief, mourning and thus valuing the lives of loved ones marginalized by mainstream society.

In another poem she draws upon the experience of baptism, symbolically ending one’s self-directed life and being resurrected as a new person in a new life guided by God, as a kind of parallel to Mindy Ohringer’s piece about the writer’s journey. In Mindy’s short story, an aspiring writer learns to follow the leadings of their unique pieces rather than writing whatever seems literary to their audience. Mindy also contributes a thoughtful response to another of Jasmin’s poems.

We hope you enjoy the work that’s published here, and we look forward to continuing to host events in the future. Our regular editions of Synchronized Chaos Magazine return May 1st with a combined April/May issue.

 

Essay from Scott Parker

Tupacology 

On the first day of class I ask my students to write poems about what Tupac means to them. They had been four and five years old when he died and held no memories of him as human being they shared air with. Yet when I had asked them a month before what they wanted to study in summer school—voluntary summer school—they all said Tupac. I can’t say I was surprised. Over the year I had worked with these kids I’d come to know their musical tastes well: Pitbull and Eminem, they liked; Tupac, they revered. His legacy had survived his death. (And do you remember how for years we hoped he had too?) But why? Why Tupac? When I was these kids’ age—thirteen, fourteen—I had listened to Me Against the World like my life depended on it, and a decade later my cells still vibrated to its rhythms. All our lives we remain audience to the music we listened to when we were young, hearing like feeling tuned to what touched us first and loudest. All our lives. For my students I want to feel my way back to being sixteen, seventeen years old, driving aimlessly around Portland with my friends singing When I was young me and my mama had beef / Seventeen years old, kicked out on the streets. For these kids I want to recall what it was like to have somewhere to go but not know where that was except in a hungry baritone that told me the things a certain kind of teenager needs to hear: be yourself—all of it; don’t apologize; you can do it; there’s something special in you—and it’s up to you to express it; everyone, when you get to know them, is as complex as you are; others have gone through what you’re going through, and some of them are reaching back to offer you a hand, if you can only figure out how to accept it; you will encounter obstacles, many of them your own making, but there’s a better you waiting on the other side; you are alive only until you’re dead—how could there possibly be anything to lose? All our lives: What could there be to lose?

Listen up, students. I’m seventeen, stopped at a red light. Tupac has been dead two years. I’m alone in the car. I’m screaming fuck the world, and I’m full of hope as I conjure the person I thought I could be. All our lives. Alone, not alone. Tupac there with me, an apparition whispering from beyond the grave, no, shouting, imploring me to go. All our lives. The light turns green. When I collect the students’ poems they’re full of misspellings and questionable interpretations. They’re also full of truth and full of heart. There are no tests in this class, no grades. If they wanted to, they could be at home playing video games or hanging out in the parking lot. Instead, they are here. All of them turn in their homework. No one misses class. If Tupac lived? What do we mean if?

Poetry from Heath Brougher

Post-Post-Industrial Filth

 

I would harm a fly

but only by accident.

For there is already enough apathy

within these mired and trumped walls

to wipe out a nation of magnanimous spirits.

I step among the filthy, cracked

sidewalk as golden bricks

are shoveled into a white house.

 

The fly in the ointment keeps blaming

the other fly in the ointment.

 

I, the pacifist, finally decide

to lay down in the middle of this land

and die from the unrestricted greed

and noxious air which has enveloped

the entirety of this Human Experience.

Continue reading

Short story, ‘The Star Kings’ from Elyana Ren

The Star Kings by Elyana Ren

(Inspired by Edward Morris’s “The Star King” and Charles Dickens’s “The Cricket on the Hearth”)

 

“Someone’s phone is chirping,” EJ said, his voice tense.

“It’s mine, sorry!” I said, fumbling around my backpack for the phone. “I forgot I had an alarm set from over the weekend.”

“Here,” John said quietly, handing something to EJ.

It was his fidget, which he clicked rapidly until I found my phone and turned off the alarm. He let out a breath.

“I’m sorry,” I said again, knowing how much high pitched noises ramped up his anxiety.

“It’s fine,” he said, letting out another breath. “Just no more alarms, please.”

“It’s on silent now.” I set the phone on the table in front of me.

EJ scooted closer to John, still clicking the fidget.

“That’s a good pose,” Mae piped up beside me.

“Trying not to freak out?” EJ said, his voice a little lighter.

“She means us cuddling,” John said, his words muffled as he nuzzled into EJ.

“Should I avert mine eyes?” I said, raising my eyebrows.

“You might want to look away,” EJ said, kissing my brother gently.

John made a happy sound and I mimed puking. “I swear, it’s a good thing I’m romance-neutral or I wouldn’t be able to stand you two for more than five minutes.”

“B,” EJ said matter-of-factly, “if we weren’t so cuddly, we wouldn’t be voted Star Kings.”

“Technically, you’re not Star Kings yet,” Mae said, her pencil gliding smoothly across her notebook.

“Which is why we have you two,” John said brightly.

“Oh yeah, I can already see the headlines,” I said. “Local teen and boyfriend with autism crowned district’s first Star Kings thanks to the vision of sight challenged sister”

“Gag,” John said.

“Double gag,” replied EJ.

“Okay but seriously though,” John said, his voice excited, “I really think this could work. You know how the district is doing their Spread A Smile or whatever campaign?”

“Everyone can share a smile,” I parroted.

“People are being primed to be more sympathetic to marginalized people,” John continued. “Hello, look at us. Queer, autistic, Asian, aspiring blind film maker sister—”

“Token able cis-het friend who puts up with you,” Mae added.

“Exactly,” John said. “We’re like exhibit A on inclusivity and acceptance!”

“I’d rather be like exhibit Q in how people should just treat people with decency,” I said. “Like not troll their videos and say they are faking their blindness.”

John swore, “When did that happen?”

“The latest one was earlier this morning,” I sighed. “I blocked the comment, which wasn’t even a good one mind you, but it just sucked because it was someone from real life.”

“Who was it?” EJ asked, his voice full of concern.

“Who do we know that’s a real life troll?” Mae offered.

John swore again. “What did he say?”

I cleared my throat. “Username GTF0,” I recited. “‘B is not blind. She’s totally faking it. I go to school with her and she walks around classrooms without her stick.’”

“Are you okay?” EJ asked.

“I’m fine,” I said. “It just sucks that people don’t get it.”

“I know,” he said as he touched his fingers briefly to mine.

“This is why what we’re doing matters,” John said quietly. “When you make our video, people will see that we want the same things as them — love, respect, simple consideration. And you know, people will probably see it as inspiring, but I think they’ll also take away that we’re not so different. I mean, we are different from most of the people here, but.I guess the point is it’s okay.…”

“No, I get it,” I said, feeling my heartbeat pounding in my body. “I just…I don’t want to make a statement that people take the wrong way.”

“You can’t control what other people feel,” Mae said gently.

“I’m not trying to,” I said, forcing my voice past the tightness in my chest.

“I think,” she said after a beat, “the video should open on my hand sketching John and EJ in a candid pose and then that can dissolve into a live action sequence of the two of you doing random Star King-y things.”

“Such as?” John asked dubiously.

“I still have footage of you two organizing the toy drive,” I offered. “And I remember Mom took pictures of all of us at that interactive space instillation at the museum over the summer! We could use a couple of those.”

“New headline,” my brother said decisively. “EJ and John: from high school stargazers to first Star Kings.”

“Now that’s more like it,” I smiled.

 

***

 

“What inspired you to organize this drive?” My voice asked in my headphones.

“Too close to the mic, B,” I muttered aloud, hitting the keystroke that split the footage between my question and John’s response.

“Kids learn by playing, like that’s how they experience the world. But not every kid has toys and extra clothes that they can get dirty and go exploring in. So my boyfriend and our friends decided to make sure kids around here did.”

I hit the keystroke again and paused the clip, taking a screenshot of the editor on my laptop and texting it to myself. On my phone, I enabled the magnifying feature that let me pan around the screen and held the now-brightened rectangle right up to my eyes. Keeping my finger on the glass, I panned around in magnified detail to see where John’s face was in the frame; I could see the dark outline of his hair and the indistinct points on his face where his eyes, nose, and smiling mouth were. He was in the sweet spot in the frame I was told people’s eyes are drawn to.

“Hey B,” EJ said from out in the hall, “how’s everything looking so far?”

“Good I think,” I replied, dimming my phone screen again and pushing my palms against my eyes. “Sometimes I wish I were less of a perfectionist so I wouldn’t have to kill my eyes all the time,” I sighed, massaging my eyeballs with my fingertips.

EJ came to stand behind me. “Do you need to borrow mine?” He asked, resting a hand on my shoulder

.

I nodded. “I found a good clip of John but I have to make sure I have a good one of you.”

“If you hit play I can help.”

“It’s a little…well, a lot,” I said, indicating my headphones. “I can listen and find one and you can just visually check the frame if you want.”

“Works for me,” he said, releasing my shoulder with a gentle squeeze as I put my headphones back on.

I laughed aloud, moving one of the headphones away from my ear. “I literally just asked video you if you were in frame.”

“Did I say yes? Because you would hate the angle,” he replied.

“You said that I was still at John’s height and thank you for thinking you were taller, but, ‘come on, B, you should know me by now.’”

He laughed his open, EJ laugh. “Well, it did get you to fix it. And…there, now you got my good side.”

“Diva,” I muttered, listening to myself continuing the interview.

 

***

 

The rain was coming down hard and I lost myself in the intensity of it. I knew EJ was doing the same thing in my brother’s room. It was the spark that started our friendship On the first day of  kindergarten. We were held inside during recess because of a massive downpour and all the children were trying to entertain themselves in our classroom as loudly as possible. I wedged myself into a corner by one of the slightly-open windows and absorbed the sound of the rain. And then someone came over and stood a few feet away.

“Hello?” I said, but at that time, I didn’t know how loud to make my voice speak.

“I can hear the rain,” this someone said, his voice too loud.

“Me too,” I replied, patting the space next to me. “You can sit here.”

“I want the window,” he said, not moving.

“I was here first,” I said, which always worked with my big brother.

“Please I want the window,” the someone said. “Please I want the window…I want the…”

“Okay,” I said, hearing in his voice a feeling I knew. I slid over a bit and patted the space between me and the wall.

“Hello I’m Edward Joseph,” he said as he sat down beside me, his words spoken out the window.

“I’m B,” I said.

“Buzz,” he giggled.

“No, B, the letter,” I said. “My name is Bertha but I like B.”

“B,” he repeated. “Bringing home a baby Bertha Bee.”

“No,” I started to giggle too.

“I want letters,” he announced, clapping his hands excitedly.

“For your name?” I asked.

“Bertha Bee, I am EJ. Please I want EJ.”

“EJ,” I repeated.

He laughed and clapped, and I laughed and clapped, and a loud rumble of thunder made everyone but us scream. We just kept laughing and clapping.

Later that day, John found the two of us sitting together in the cafeteria. I was eating the school pizza and my new friend was singing a theme song I knew.

“Are you dancing?” John asked.

“I am EJ,” he mumbled.

“You’re rocking on your chair,” John said, taking a big bite of his pizza.

“Yes,” EJ said.

“He does that when things are too loud,” I explained, remembering what our teacher told us about EJ. Just like she told the class that I needed to go very close up to things to see them.

“Are you going to eat?” My brother asked. “Wheres your lunch?”

“I go to school and then I will eat my macaroni at home.”

“I like macaroni,” John said, moving his tray to the other side of the table next to EJ. “Can I sit here so I don’t have to talk so loud?”

“Yes.”

“B,” John said, the big brother back in his voice, “don’t forget you have to drink your milk.”

“I can’t open it,” I said. “Will you help me please?”

“Me!” EJ said loudly. “I want to help.”

“Here,” John said, sliding the carton across the table to him.

I didn’t know what had happened but my new friend was suddenly crying. John pushed his chair back and stood behind EJ the way he’d do for me whenever I was upset.

“Here,” John said again, softer that time. Their forms were so close I couldn’t tell them apart. “You hold the bottom and I’ll open the triangle part.”

“I can’t hear the rain,” EJ said with tears in his words.

“I can’t hear the rain inside either,” I said.

“Here, B,” EJ said, pushing the cool milk carton into my hand.

“Thank you,” I said to the shape of my brother and my new friend in front of me.

 

***

 

The room was charged with nervous energy. It hung in the air like lightning as I walked in, and I nearly walked out the way I came.

“Don’t you even think of bolting,” Mae said, suddenly on my left, her hand on my arm.

“That’s a lot of people,” I said, sinking into the rhythm of our steps as we walked along the side of the room.

“That’s a lot of votes for John and EJ,” she said. “Even the teachers look a little woo!”

“Good woo or bad woo?”

“I can’t tell.”

“Do you see GT senior?” I asked quietly.

After a moment she said, “Sadly yes. He’s across the room by the screen talking to the new middle school principal.”

“His spawn commented on the video,” I said, stopping to let a bunch of kids pass. “He made a new account because I blocked his old one.”

Mae made a disgusted sound. “Did you block this one?”

“Yeah. And reported it.”

“Good. Not good, he is here and looking at us.”

“Go go gadget guide human,” I said, the tightness in my body constricting more.

“B, you okay?” My brother’s voice said out of the crowd. And then his hand was on my arm where Mae’s had been.

“This is why I could never be a princess,” I said, trying to slow my heartbeat. “I can’t deal with trolls.”

“No trolls or snakes or toads or any manner of fowl beastie will ever get into our castle,” EJ said on my other side.

“All hail the Star Kings,” I replied.

Then it was suddenly time for the videos to play for the assembled crowd. And my heart forgot that it could beat normally, so I practically clung to a corner, Mae never leaving my side.

“Did they just dim the lights?” I asked.

“Yeah. The screen is basically at 2 o’clock from you. It’s Mia and Liam’s video first. Are you breathing?”

I nodded.

“B,” she said, now directly in front of me. “I’m here. We can leave if you need to. It’s okay.”

I shook my head, feeling the plaster on the wall supporting my skull.

Her hands took their spot on my shoulders and began pressing down and squeezing. She was talking to me in that gentle way of hers, but I couldn’t make sense of it and filter out the the noise of the video and the crowd and my breathing and my heart all at once. I felt the room flicker darker for a second, and then I was sitting on the carpet with Mae beside me, one of my hands in both of hers.

“Did I miss it?” I asked, my voice making its way up a long tunnel.

She squeezed, “Nope. You missed Mia and Liam and Sophie and Elijah. They’re taking a little break and then it’s EJ and John.”

I nodded, feeling along the wall for where I thought I propped my cane.

“It fell,” Mae said, placing it in my outstretched hand.

“Time to walk the red carpet,” I muttered, trying to keep my thoughts at bay. “Do you still see GT senior or junior?”

“They’re seated near the screen but not on the same side as our boys.”

“Right,” I said, extending my cane out in front of me, feeling the carpet gliding beneath the tip as I swept it from side to side.

“It gets narrow up ahead,” Mae said from slightly behind me. “Guide human?”

“Not yet,” I said. “Exhibit A in inclusivity and acceptance or something.”

“If you say so,” she replied, with a quick touch on the back of my arm to let me know she was there.

My cane found the opposite wall and I turned right, orienting myself to the knew direction of sound and lighting. “How much farther?” I asked over my shoulder.

“Hold up,” Mae said softly, her face coming close to mine. “Senior troll coming.”

I stopped.

“Hello, B,” said a voice that was just the right amount professional and condescending to make my blood run hot and cold at once.

I couldn’t speak, just dipped my head a fraction of an inch.

“I heard you made the video for the…kings,” he continued, his distaste so obvious it was almost laughable.

“She did,” Mae said. “We were inspired by your share a smile campaign.”

“Ah,” he said, as if he’d forgotten he’d been pressured into stepping into this century. “Well, people are very interested to see what you could have possibly achieved, B. And EJ, too. I’m surprised he’s here. It’s a bit..too much, I would think.”

“Not really,” EJ said from behind the troll. “I got to a point where I’m used to people looking at me and thinking what they will. This is at least making people see me and John and B and Mae on our terms.”

“Every goose thinks it’s a swan,” GT senior observed.

“Excuse me,” I burst out.

“Just quoting Dickens,” he said. “Now, I think your show is about to start. Good luck.”

 

***

 

The applause for the video took up all the space in my bones where the anger and the pain had lodged themselves. The video was unashamed and proud and my brother and his prince could not have shined brighter in my mind.

“You finally shook things up,” someone from another school congratulated us.

“It’s like you reminded people that stuff like this should bring joy, not contention,” someone else said.

“”B,” said a tentative voice I couldn’t place. “Thank you for making the video. And John and EJ,” the voice continued, growing stronger, “I’m voting for you. My brother would have been so happy to know that you’re running for the Star Crown. I wish…” The voice trailed off, and with a jolt, I knew whose voice it was.

“Addison,” I said, tears collecting behind my eyes. “Caleb is part of the reason I started doing videos. He told me that they could make people see that things can be better.”

“I wish he waited to see this,” Addison said, his head down.

“If we win,” John said, kneeling in front of him, “we will make sure people don’t forget Caleb. He shined so bright. He…he showed me it was okay to love who I love.”

“Thank you,” Addison said.

 

***

 

“The line is pretty much gone,” John said. “They all moved to the buffet.”

“Great,” I replied, taking the cardboard star from my pocket. “Save me a spot in the food line?”

“Yup,” he replied. “And the vote goes on the other side of the star, by the way.”

“I’m trailblazing,” I said, picking up the star.

“I don’t think it counts if they can’t read it over the design on the back,” EJ said, coming up to stand beside John.

“Technicalities,” I said, flipping the star over and uncapping the pen Mae gave me. “So, couple number three, correct?”

“Yup,” they said together.

I lined the tip of the pen up with where I thought the center of the star was. My brain was well exhausted from the excitement and emotions of the night, so I couldn’t rely on my brain translating what my eyes saw. I traced the curve of the number and felt it on my palm through the cardboard,.

“Done,” I said, capping the pen and holding it out for Mae.

“Perfect,” she said. “Also, I think your handwriting is neater than your brother’s.”

“I’ll take that,” I smiled. “Now, where does this star belong?”

“Turn slightly to your left,” she directed. “There. Straight ahead. You’re at the center isle between the tables.”

“More red carpet,” I said.

“It’s brown, actually. With geometric shapes on it.”

“I’m pretending it’s red,” I said as I walked through the isle.

I stopped when the tip of my cane found the table that held the giant papier-mache star. I traced my hand along its surface, it was covered with tiny glittery star cut-outs that clung to it like icicles. My brain shut out the noise from the room and the comments from the audience, good and bad, and focused on the cardboard star cradled on my upturned palm. It floated over the frozen landscape beneath my other hand and found its destination.

“Here’s to the first Star Kings,” I sent out to the universe.

And I let the star fall.

 

Elyana Ren is a proud Hufflepuff and unquenchable bookworm. She grew
up in the middle of the Pacific, but found herself after moving to the
Pacific Northwest. Her writing focuses on the authentic experience of
being disabled, neurodivergent, and queer. When she isn’t writing, she
uses the creative arts to empower others to trust and love their own
voice. Elyana can be found on Twitter @aprismuncovered and on
www.aprismuncovered.wordpress.com. If she isn’t there, she is probably
in the company of a few good books, her guide dog, and her collection
of plushies. Actually, always check there first.

Short piece from J. Dorroh

“Reaction to S. Cearley’s Creation”  by John Dorroh

 

I am swimming through water, no, blood that is thin like water, its salt diluted, unable to nurture the cells, the tissues, the organs.

It is unfair to have such a life tempered with anxious abandon, reeling forever loose

into a cacophony of pity.

 

Even water sheds tears, and so it was with our crew, that pitiful facsimile of a human being,

his twisted toes long overdue for amputation;

a captain in name only for his attempts at lending support for crew or passengers

failed miserably.

 

I ate rats once a day, long gray tails that hung out of my mouth like a tough, fleshy rope,

followed by precious water

water without salt, such a rare commodity and it was rumored that urine could be treated

and drunk with only mild effect.

 

The balance of power is such a non-existent commodity on a craft like this; its sails full

of holes, no attempts to sew,

to block wind that no longer blows hair – too matted from salt of sweat and dead skin,

no bathing chamber, no closet for heavy hearts.

 

I was beaten by a ragmuffin of a man, spat on, pissed on, kicked like a sack of rotten fruit.

I am sixteen, barely a man,

and wondering if this trip is worth what is happening to me. Mt dear aunt, I think, is being used

below deck for unsavory purposes.

 

How can a God be present? How can such a test be within his jurisdiction? It is the devil

here on this ship,

the devil for sure who plays his role like a stable genius, who demands to be revered and

adored and worshipped.

 

I cannot bow down to such an entity and live with myself. I am smitten with the essence

of a cockroach who keeps

me company and eats the dead skin on my exposed ankles. I pray that his offspring

find their way into the mouth of the captain.

 

I find sleep now, perhaps forever, my weak body purging itself up through the clouds

and with one last surge of energy

I push against the wooden siding and pray that I will pass through whatever gates or curtains

are available. I am spent.