Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

Morning Fog and Water
Morning Fog and Water
Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz

The Great Man of the North
Edward Ahern

Author’s Note: This is a retelling of a tale from Told Beneath the Northern Lights by Roy J. Snell (Little, Brown and Company 1925). The word Eskimo has been replaced with the native American tribal name for the same reason that I’d prefer to be called Irish-American rather than Mick or Bog Trotter.

Some while ago, in the Alaskan place where the mountains come down to the sea, and in spring the walrus swim close to shore, and a man could cross the narrow ocean in a skin boat, was the Yapik village of Kingegan. In the village lived Teragloona, an old-man teller of stories.

When the winter snow swept unhindered down the beach, and no hunters went in or out of the lodge, when the seal oil lamps burnt yellow and red, Teragloona would sit cross legged on the bed ledge and tell stories.

“Ubagok canok,” he would say. “Here is something I am telling you.”

Once in our village lived two boys, Obok and Ootinna, each named for the last person who had died in the village. Obok was a kind, obedient boy, but Ootinna was not. Ootinna fought with his friends, and always tried to do the opposite of what anyone told him.

One day Obok’s mother sent him on a walk far down the beach to find driftwood that had washed ashore during the summer. Obok walked out onto the beach, and walked on, and further on until he found three large fir logs lying close together. He stacked them neatly so that others would know that he had claimed the logs, and turned back toward the village to get help. But he had only taken a few steps when a roaring snow storm swept down from the north.

“Ho,” laughed Obok, “the great man of the north has turned onto his side. The snow has shaken off his back and he blows it with his great breath.”

Obok was not afraid for he had been in many storms before, but this was a wild, roaring storm that tore into his parka and cut his face with bits of ice. The wind scooped him up, turned him over and carried him a long way from shore.

The wind finally dropped him next to five round hills, one much bigger than the others. Obok took shelter behind the biggest hill, crossed his hands on his feet, let his chin drop, and fell asleep. When he woke up he noticed that these hills were very peculiar- large and round at the top and narrower at the base. Obok thought to climb the biggest hill and try and find the ocean. He found where snow had drifted against the biggest hill and climbed up. But all he could see was snow and ice, and a long ridge that extended from the hill he stood on to further than he could see. If I travel the ridges I can stay out of the deep snow, he thought.

He tightly cinched the thong at his waist so he wouldn’t feel so hungry and set off on the ridge. At the end of three day’s walk, when the ridge had broadened into a plateau, Obok came into a huge forest. Maybe, he thought, I can catch a caribou fawn or snowshoe rabbit. The night was bitterly cold. Nanacoo, by and by, Obok built a fire for warmth. The smoke rose straight up from the fire, freezing white as it went, until it reached the top of the trees and was blown apart.

“How strange,” he said to himself, for under the trees he could feel no wind. The next morning Obok knew he was starving. He foraged for food, but couldn’t even find any frozen salmon berries. He cinched his thong around his belly even tighter to try and reduce the hunger pangs. Then he walked on. As he walked he began to hear the rushing of great winds. He walked through another smaller forest to a great yawning hole from which the winds bellowed out every few seconds. Obok walked through the trees to the edge of the hole.

“Who? Who? Who is standing on my lip,” came a thundering voice.

Obok was too scared to say anything.

“Who? Who? Who lit a fire in my chest hairs last night?”

But Obok was still too afraid to speak. At last, after another great gust of wind, he said in a small voice, “I am the one, O great voice. I, Obok, am the one who made the fire for warmth and now stands on your lip. I am very hungry.”

“Ho,” came a great rumble from the hollow chasm. “So you are Obok. I have heard of You. You are a good boy. I will tell you who I am. I am the Great Man of the North.”

Obok trembled, for every Yapik knew and feared this terrible giant, who would turn on one side to bring the warm south winds of spring and then turn onto the other, shaking off mountains of snow, his breath freezing rivers and lakes and almost tearing the parkas off the Yapiks’ backs.

“You are shaking with fear,” roared the voice, “but do not fear me. You are standing on my lower lip, which is safe, but do not come too close to my mouth or my breath will carry you away like a goose feather.

“You slept the first night on my big toe, and have since traveled up my body, building your fire on the fourth day in my chest hair. You may build fires in my beard for warmth, but move each day so my beard is not too thin in one spot. And now I will get you food.

A huge fist shaped shadow passed over Obok and a darkness fell over the forest. Obok cringed as a heavy brown shape broke through the forest branches and fell at his feet. It was a dead caribou.

“Here is food for you,” rumbled the great voice. “There will be more when this is gone. One thing you must do. Make a basket of limber twigs, cut one ear tip off each caribou and put it in the basket. Now make your fire, for I wish to sleep.”

After Obok had lived in the giant’s beard for a long time and the limber twig basket was almost full of caribou ear tips, the giant said to him: “You must go away, for I will turn over. If I turn over now you will be crushed or buried under a mile of snow.”

Obok was an obedient boy, and he gathered the limber basket and some meat and left. After he had walked a day and a night and a day a huge snowstorm overtook him. Ah, he thought, the giant has turned over. He kept walking through the storm, and after several days he came to the ice pack on the ocean shore. He turned south along the shore and in another day reached Kingegan.

Everyone cried with happiness to see him, for they had thought Obok was gone to Peeleuptuk, the land of missing men. Ootinna pushed his way through the crowd surrounding Obok.”What is in the basket?” he demanded. When Obok was too busy saying hello to reply to him, Ootinna lifted the lid and peeked in. “Ah,” he said, and reached into the basket to pull out a caribou ear. But Ootinna had to keep pulling and pulling on the ear until an entire caribou skin came out, a soft, spotted summer skin that makes the best parkas.

Because Obok was generous as well as obedient he gave the skin to his mother so she could make a parka for his younger sister. Obok began pulling out the ear tips one by one, and each grew into a full skin. When he was finished he had enough skins to clothe most of the people in the village.

The whole time Ootinna stood next to him whispering in his ear,” Keep these skins for trading. Then you will become a rich man.” But Obok knew that the skins were needed by the village, for this had been a bad year for hunting. He could see that half of the villagers wore parkas of rabbit skin – poor protection against the cold and easily torn.

He gave away every one of the skins. Then he picked up his basket and walked to his mother’s igloo, where the grateful villagers gave him a feast of pickled seal heart and juicy hind flipper of white whale.

Ootinna demanded to know where Obok had gotten the basket of ear tips, but for a long time Obok wouldn’t tell him. Then his heart softened, and Obok told him how to find the home of the Great Man of the North. “But,” he said, “If you go there you must be very careful to do exactly as the giant says. Otherwise bad things will happen.”

So Ootinna set out to find the great man. But not in a storm, and with a good supply of food. He journeyed until he came to the giant’s feet and climbed up. Then he walked from feet to knee, and knee to thigh, and thigh to belly and belly to chest, and chest to chin, all done without the cold and hunger that Obok had suffered.

He trembled a little when he stood on the giant’s lip. But when the great man rumbled, “Who, who, who is standing on my lip?” Ootinna answered brashly, “It is I, Ootinna, a friend of Obok. I am tired and hungry,” he lied.

“Why, Why, why did you come?” roared the voice.

And Ootinna lied again. “I was lost in the forest.”

“Well,” ground the voice like broken rocks, “You are a friend of Obok. He is a good boy. You may live in the forest of my beard and I will give you caribou to eat. You must save an ear tip from each caribou and put it in a limber basket.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Ootinna said impatiently. “I will do that.”

“There are two things you must not do. You must not cut too much of the beard forest in one place, for that will make my face cold. And you must not come too close to the edge of my mouth.”

But Ootinna was so greedy to begin receiving caribou that he did not seem to hear the great man’s warnings. He kept his camp in one place rather than moving around, and, too lazy to forage for dead branches, he chopped down whole trees for his fire.

The giant felt his chin grow cold and rumbled a warning to Ootinna, but Ootinna ignored him. A few days later Ootinna decided to explore the giant’s face. He walked around the gaping chasm of the giants mouth and through the small forest of his mustache. He decided to look into the giant’s nostrils, and grabbed a tree growing sideways from the giant’s left nostril so he could swing up and look in.

But as he climbed up, the tree jiggled and tickled the giants nose. There was a great insucking of air that almost pulled Ootinna from the tree trunk, and then an explosion of wind that tore Ootinna from the tree and threw him so high into the air that he disappeared into the clouds.

No one knows if Ootinna fell back down onto the ice pack, or into the ocean, or into a mountain of snow, or went to Peeleuptuk, the land of missing men.

Obok grew into a man honest and trusted who traded with many villages. Without any greed at all he became the richest man in Kingegan, the village where the mountains come down to the sea and in springtime the walrus pass close to the shore.


Edward Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. Original wife, but after 45 years they are both out of warranty.

Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz writes stories, takes pictures and makes teddy bears by hand.

Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

Hush
Elizabeth Warren

It was said that before the elders came the mountains were a godless place. Too many people, too many bodies. The girl knew not of those times, for she had yet to be born when the first of them came to correct the evil that fed off the residents of the hollers carved into the side of the rough-rocked hill. No one spoke of these lawless people whose misbehavior cried out for correction, but she had heard that some ran wild, eating the flesh of others out of a hunger that did not abide in the belly. The hollers were better for the rules and as her mother said, the mountain as before was no place for safe living. Safe was quiet, safe was not telling. The elders were pleased with the silence, the open breath of air that allowed for the communication of birds but not of people. It was not right for people to be there, where deer tread carefully along the dirt paths, their pert noses twitching, testing for safety. The girl had been silent like the deer when they visited, fighting would have been useless and the attention forbidden, and her mother never questioned the swell of the girl’s belly nor did she explain the birthing, instead pressing her hands over the girl’s face to quiet the surprised screams. The girl had not been ashamed, for she had been silent and accepting and obedient, an empty vessel to their repudiation. The baby suckled at her skin with a mouth like a fish, and screeched in short bursts at strange hours. She had done nothing wrong, the girl reminded herself, walking carefully as the soreness between her legs spoke to her, squeezing an ache up through her belly and back. She swallowed against the rising vomit as she followed her mother’s measured steps to the gathering place, the infant wrapped sleeping against her. Many were already standing with their eyes focused on the solitary woman standing erect atop a flat rock at the front of the crowd. The woman’s voice rose but the girl could not understand the words, only the sounds, insistent. The baby began to wiggle against the sore belly, against the small hips that had miraculously held it up inside her for so many months. She pulled the baby tight against her to muffle its protest. The words from the elder’s lips had no form as the tiny legs beat against her hip, the head resisting the pressure that kept it close against her breast, her heart. The girls’ parched lips fell open when she saw the burst of fire from the speaker’s mouth, her attention full and fast on the elder’s face, her small body tight and unyielding as she cradled the dead child to her heart.

Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

Trust
Elizabeth Warren

“They don’t keep forever,” Aunt Doll warns. “You’d best learn to keep a proper icebox like a good wife should.”

“I’m not a proper wife, ma’am. Not no wife at all.”

Aunt Doll grunts and shakes the graying yellow Shirley Temple curls that cover her big fat head.

“Sure and there’s more than one reason for that, girl.”

Hell. That old bag always moaning over something. I got plans. No hurry to marry, leastwise to any of these half-wit boys what live within fifty miles of the ridge. Living with Uncle Toad is just a layover, like when one of them jet planes in the movies stops at an airport for a few hours then takes back to the air again. Free room, free food – and wine, too. Uncle T doesn’t have a lick of the Prohibitionist in him. And all I have to do is make sure he don’t fall or choke or forget his meds or anything else that might be killing him. God, he’s got to be near a hundred at least. Past time, anyhow. His living is good for me, though. As long as he’s breathing, I’ve got a home.

Aunt Doll comes to sit with him three times a week so as I can go into town for necessaries. I have to give her receipts so she can see I’m not buying anything she don’t approve of. Wine is alright, but I found out the hard way that Aunt Doll is no friend to Jack Daniels or Johnny Walker. Haven’t had a switch taken to my legs in years before that mistake. Had no idea that old woman had such a strong arm.

Uncle T is swallowed up in the old recliner what he spends most of his time in. He’s got a tube and a bag what lets all his pee come out without him having to get up and do his business. He don’t eat a lot so the other doesn’t take so much of his time neither. He has a walker with ratty tennis balls shoved up on the ends and when he’s got to go I help him get up and grab hold of it and follow him to the bathroom. I don’t go in, ain’t hardly room for one person in that closet never mind two.

“You get after that food, girl.” Aunt Doll fusses. “That icebox is full of the good Lord only knows what. Can’t all be good for eating.”

I blow my stringy uneven bangs out of my eyes.

“Yes, Aunt Doll.”

She mumbles as she turns away from me, shuffling ‘cause she’s no spring chicken herself. She stops suddenly after getting to the back door and nearly putting her hand on the knob.

“What’s that?”

Her bright orange fingernail, painted just this morning at Miss Candace’s parlor, juts toward the kitchen table. I glance at the junk cluttering the scratched wooden circle. She moves closer, her eyes slitted like a cat, and snatches a small dull frame with a black and white picture fading inside. She holds it up close to her face like she’s hard of seeing. Her eyes slide almost closed as her lips bunch together like she’s about to suck on a bottle of Fanta.

“Charlie,” she hisses in a voice I don’t rightly know.

There are two girls in the picture. I’ve looked at it long and hard to figure out the why of Uncle T’s obsession with it. He must’ve had it hid somewheres cause one day it was just there, right by the sticky fingerprinted sugar bowl and the open box of stale Cheerios. Sometimes he pats at it with the sagging skin of his fingertips, other times, just stares like the girls might do a trick for him.

“Charlie?” I ask.

Charlie is, was, my grandma. Charlotte and Darlene, Charlie and Dolly, sisters. My grandma died before I was born and no one dares talk about her. Something shameful, I suppose, and none of my business.

“Aunt Doll?”

I’m worried she’s about to have a stroke or something like.

“Dirty. Old. Man.”

She turns to stare back into the living room at Uncle T. His mouth is hanging open, his chipped false teeth near to falling out and onto his caved in chest. She yanks the door open and as fast as I’ve ever seen the old hag move, is out, slamming it behind her so as to make the tarnished old cowbell hanging from it rattle to wake the dead.

Uncle T doesn’t move. I want to look at the picture again, but Aunt Doll took it with her. I remember the girls looked near the same, so if one was my grandmother the other most likely was her sister Darlene. Aunt Doll.

I pull a dusty bottle of cheap red wine from the top of the icebox, twist off the cap and take a long pull what catches my breath. Well, since I’m here anyhow, I guess I might as well clean up the icebox some.

Dirty. Old. Man.

I set the wine bottle on the table and prop the door to the icebox open with one of the two chairs that fit under the table. Up front is some pink Jello layered with runny whipped cream in a thick glass dish half-covered with a paper towel. I push a pile of newspapers from the corner of the table and put the bowl in the space where the papers was. Just behind the dark red circle on the icebox shelf that marks where the Jello bowl was, the frame of a small chicken sags in a scuffed casserole dish. Guess that ought to go, too.

Dirty. Old. Man.

I notice a box of baking soda with the top torn off, tipped against a damp glass of what? Beer? Apple juice? Aunt Doll must’ve put the soda there to keep the icebox from stinking, but from what I can smell, it’s not doing a damn bit of good.

Dirty. Old. Man.

I pull the chair from the icebox door and sit down on it as the door shuts, shutting the mess inside. In the middle of the cramped kitchen, I look up at the window and through the star-shaped faded blue suncatcher one of the kids must’ve made for Aunt Doll. She won’t live here with Uncle T, who is really her uncle, her and my grandma’s, even though the sisters grew up here with him. Seems like he never found no one bothered to marry him or put him up, so he just lived with his sister and her family, his two nieces he now watched from a long time ago in a picture hardly big enough to make sense of.

Dirty. Old. Man.

“Girl,” he calls, and it sounds for sure like a croak. Between his crooked back and barky voice, he wasn’t called Toad for nothing.

I stand up and look out at him. One of his arms is twisted crooked against his chest.

“Get us something to eat, there’s a good girl.”

“Yessir,” I nod, and turn back to the icebox. Caught my finger in the latch once, when I was just little, like a big silver claw it was. Is. I rub my hand along the back of my neck, squeezing at something tight that’s working its way up into my head.

I know what I’m after even before I swing the icebox door wide open. A can of green beans, half-full, uncovered. Same ones just got me hollered at. I grab the can and turn around to the drainer at the sink to find a sauce-stained Tupperware bowl. After dumping the beans in it, I scoop a spoonful of warm butter from the dish on the stove with a plastic spoon that someone must’ve left on the counter.

The microwave’s big enough to fit a dog but still runs and hasn’t given none of us cancer yet. I set the bowl in the middle of the glass plate attached to the inside of it and push the big START button once the crusty door is latched closed. Uncle T is moaning. I think. I close my eyes and count to twenty before pulling the over door back open and taking the chilled bowl out. The cold from the beans has taken to the bowl, and the oven hasn’t done a thing to make them seem like something anyone ought to be eating. I shove the plastic spoon into the slimy green mush and carry it to the dirty old man.

He takes it in his two shaking claws, smiling up at me with watery eyes and absolute trust.

Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

Untitled #4
Untitled #4
Mary Moser

Snow and Fire
L.C. Ricardo

Your mother asked me to hold up the mirror so that she could see you crowning. Already you had black down like brushwood laid in winter snow—snow strewn in the wood and snow lacing thorns, ten months ago when she cut her finger on my rosebush in the crag.

“I am in your service,” I told her, “until I am set free by iron or until your bloodline fails.”

Her lips drew in a blade of air.

“Then I will tell you my first command. Give me a child as white as snow, as black as these woods, as red as this blood.

“As beautiful as you are.”

#

She took me into her household then, and I was with her those long months descending into autumn. The making of a new life took her own life out of her, so that with each day she drew nearer to bringing you into being, her fire fled her. But you caught a spark in its passing.

In those later days, she brooded. She feared that ghosts waited in branches to snatch you away. She divined your troubled future in each drained cup.

“Promise me you will look after her,” she said to me. “You must keep her innocent. Then you must teach her to be strong.”

#

When they drew you from her with her last breath—her tether to you, her tether to life, dissolved—with a shuddering exhale she scattered and spread.

But she could not bring herself to leave you. So I opened the mirror, and she fell in.

#

I kept your father’s eyes away from you. I became your mother’s shade in dress and manners. I plaited my hair and wrung my gown. I kept his bed full and his hands warm.

You flickered noiselessly.

#

The first thing I did as queen was to banish all mirrors, save one, from the castle.

#

I had your mother’s mirror hung in a room made into a shrine. Votives and offerings of calla lilies and coral beads. The servants whispered.

I came to her often. We spoke in the night, voices feinting and weaving.

In the cellars, the servants heard echoes of wind multiply in the rafters.

“Who is fairer, she or me?”

“You are fairest,” she said. “But I fear the day.”

#

I was cold to you. I could not spare you half a pulse in a bloodless world.

No one on earth loves a pretty girl.

But don’t think I was unkind. The more you sputtered, the harder I blew. When I tested you, you roared back to life.

#

The day came. It was winter, like on the day you were born, a shining black seed in your mother’s mind.

The spring before, I saw your sinews wake and startle. New green unrolled in the hills. In summer, you bit a strawberry, and every man within a mile turned his head.

Your father noticed you.

When autumn mounted the equinox, a voice of rusted silver veined stone walls. “She is fairest.”

I carefully selected the one to do my bidding. A benign man, bearish and sleepy. A huntsman.

“Take her into the woods. Kill her. Bring me her heart.”

I can augur what a man will do by the manner of his stride, the slur of his speech, the busy hands. I gave him a gilded box. I made him repeat the words, willing them to reach you. I had to know you would not return.

We watched, the mirror and I, and followed your footsteps deeper into the forest.

#

Knowingly, willingly, I ate the boar’s heart from the urn.

#

“It is not enough,” said the mirror. “Still, he may find her.”

“I will give her three tests,” I said. “My final gifts to you. Her education.”

So I let my skin shrivel into wrinkles, let my lacquer-hair go white and brittle.

Three times I came into your wooden thicket, a dream to sleep, rapped you into waking. Taught you the treachery of lovely things. You, who had never even seen your own reflection.

#

First, the stays of ribbon, like shreds of river.

The seven little men who took you in as housekeeper, cook, and dry-nurse had gone into the monster’s belly, to dig out hidden ore. They warned you, left behind in the cottage, not to let a soul inside.

I called out my wares, and when you came to the window, I hung them before you in red and verdant curtains.

“I am not supposed to go to the door,” you said.

“No?” said I. “But you are so very pretty. And in a saggy, shapeless dress! Where is the little waist?”

“Oh, I haven’t a care for that.”

I almost knew hope. But you looked at them, and I saw your eyes shimmer as though full of tears, and I saw desire sway in your throat. You reached for them.

“Here, child,” I said. “Let me help you.”

I snaked the stays around your slender trunk.

“That is quite tight.”

“Anything for beauty,” I said, and pulled them tighter.

I snuffed the breath from you, and you sank.

#

We watched them, angels’ stunted parodies of man. We heard them find you on the floor, shout, cut the stays with a dull blade. We sensed you rise like smoke from embers.

“She is still the fairest.”

“It is not enough,” said the mirror. “She must know.”

#

I returned once more, shucked, dry, and pure.

You said, “I daren’t let anyone in.”

“But look at these pretty combs.” I held one out, carved with an ivory handle. “And your locks are in tangles.”

You put palm to head, as though only just noticing there was hair on it.

“Well,” you said, “what harm can a comb do?” My hope fled.

I ripped the comb through. You winced.

The poison seeped with each stroke, drowsing you to sleep. You settled, dead as new snow.

#

“Who is now the fairest?” I asked the mirror.

“Watch.”

The little men pried the comb from your weedy hair. You drifted back to the surface.

“It is enough,” I said.

“No, no. She has never yet beheld her reflection.”

In the castle orchard, apples grew too numerous for the drooping limbs that bore them.

The one I plucked throbbed in hand.

I nursed it, brought it in. I made a solution of herbs and syrup. I dipped the apple on one side and let it sit, let the hint of poison fade.

I became like bones. I laid a bushel of the bright fruit in a woven basket. On top I placed the apple.

You had been thoroughly rebuked, washed from the inside out, scalded. You looked poised. You were alone, but you came to the window.

“Taste the ruby?”

“Not a mortal soul is to come in or out,” you said.

“Not a soul, but a ripe fruit, perhaps?”

I put the clean side to my lips and bit. Then held it out to you.

There, in its glossy skin, you saw your reflection.

You retrieved the apple. You turned away from me, but I could see the apple burn through your back. The battle between you and the red mirror.

You bent forward. Touched your lips to the ruddy skin in a kiss. Fell down dead.

I left, confident that you would, as always, spring miraculously back to life.

Only, you didn’t.

How the little men howled! With their cunning, they fashioned a gold-and-glass casket. They dressed and displayed you. Shadows lengthened; seasons spun away. Winter paid respects without sympathy.

The mirror and I sunk into silence.

Your father died. It is a pity you were sleeping then, when there was no danger of him.

In spring, a prince came by hunting. When he saw you, he said, “Give her up to me. She is a treasure, to be well looked after and adored. I will take her to my palace.”

His footmen lifted and shouldered your casket.

And, you spat out the apple.

Sat up and looked around. Let the man flatter you and coax you to his castle.

“She has learned nothing,” the mirror said. “Nothing.”

“Not nothing, no. Give it time, give it time.”

Nuptial announcements followed, scarlet heralds to all the countries, scrolls sealed with royal emblems.

I see a hall of mirrors in your husband’s house. The ladies-in-waiting dress you in embroidered finery and tell you of your loveliness.

In passing, you let slip that you know me. But your husband orders his men to seize me. The glowing iron slips easily onto my feet. Shoes that were made for me.

“Come,” says your husband. “Give me a child as white as your muslin veil, as black as the gem at your throat, as red as this fragrant, out-poured wine.

“As beautiful as you are.”

#

We will not leave you, and I think you know. The way you tilt your head and watch the branches, the way your mother did, wary of ghosts.

You sail, a ship on still water. Through chambers and halls. You’ve come home. Your steps resound in vaulted corridors. You catch the servants off their guard. They tip the plates and spill the water. They kneel and falter.

You enter the shrine you have never seen before. You take a lead candlestick, lift it high like an angry god, strike, and let fly splinters, so that glass shards petal the floor. The mirror’s eye goes out.

In a dark, warm place, another spark ignites.


L.C. Ricardo is a mother and aspiring writer living in Florida. She has published poems and articles in The Sandhill Review, Mirror Dance, Bolts of Silk, Enchanted Conversation, and Poppy Road Review and is forthcoming in Goblin Fruit. She has received an honorable mention for the 2013 Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction Short Stories category for her short story “The Debt,” which has been published in digital format here, with hard copy publication soon to follow.

Floral photography has always been a hobby for Mary Moser. She has been taking pictures for a while now for friends and family and wanted to expand to different venues.

Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

The Smile
L.C. Ricardo

Alice was translucent. Her mother planted the young Alice on the piano bench, commanding her to sit up straight; guided her pallid fingers to perch upon ivory keys. In the corner, snow-sheet curtains billowed.

At the age of sixteen, Alice left home.

She left the polished-wood music room, incensed with lemon Pledge. She moved into the city: a dirty, dazzling, confusing hub full of florescent signs, screeching tires, and greasy smells. They hired her at a piano bar to work night shifts under yellow-smoke lighting, where the blue collars stumbled in for beers and a reprieve. There, she touched the keys instinctively.

#

Alice wanted to go through the looking glass. She wanted to capture her reflection, maybe. Make it tell her its secrets.

#

One Saturday evening, Alice stepped out onto the sidewalk, stamping in the March air. She wore a retro-orange scarf that clashed with her pink complexion. Her milk-yellow hair, still cut straight-edged like when she was little, stopped abruptly below her shoulder blades.

A young woman leaned against the wall next to the door, smoking a slim cigarette. She wore a cropped leather jacket and several piercings: nose, ears, mouth, brow. She had clipped, spiked hair, her mouth the color of crushed blueberries.

Alice didn’t know she was staring, but when the young woman grinned at her—a wide, white grin—she thought it full of fine bone piano keys.

Alice jerked away into the grimy night.

She stalked home, leapt the stairs to her third storey apartment, all cracked lamps and yellowed walls. She leaned, panting, against the locked door for several minutes, before moving away to put on the tea.

Alice didn’t see her again for several days. But next Thursday, after switching shifts with the Indian exchange-student, she saw the grinning girl, glinting with cold, gunmetal jewelry. Alice tensed so that a drunk, pushing by, knocked her off balance. When Alice steadied and searched again, the woman had gone.

#

Alice asked her reflection to let her in. She wanted to know how that piece of her got trapped and how to get it out again.

#

Saturday, Alice finished a show tune; threw back a cool glass of water (no ice); waded through the hum of applause. She flexed her fingers over the piano keys. Her blue-cold gaze hovered over the room.

The grinning woman was there. This time Alice did not take her eyes from her.

Alice closed the piano lid. Stood and walked off the platform moping in the shadows.

The grinning woman beckoned. She trailed through jutting elbows and shelved shoulders. Walked out the door. Alice followed and found her, leaning on the smog-smudged building near the door as on the first night, lighting a cigarette.

The woman blew one long stream of smoke from between the keys of her smile.

“Who are you?”

“My name’s Kat.”

Alice watched her, glassy-eyed.

“And you?”

“I’m Alice.”

“You lost, Alice?”

“I don’t know. Yes. Maybe.”

Kat studied her cigarette. She passed it to Alice, who put her thumb and forefinger around it and held it level with her eyes. Handed it back.

“You should learn how to be invisible.”

“Teach me how to disappear,” Alice said.

Kat cackled. Pointed. “You think I blend well in a crowd?” Then shrugged and took a final drag. Dropped the butt onto cold-pricked pavement.

Applause ripped from inside. Mournful notes floated. A ballad.

Alice started and looked down at her fingers. Only to find that they did not graze over clicking keys.

Kat touched Alice’s pale, thin wrist. Her nails were short, clean, painted deep purple. “It’s not you. It doesn’t have to be you. It’s never been you. . . .”

Then she said, “I run into a lot of travelers here.”

“Point me in the right direction.”

“What do you like? I mean you, really, and nobody else?”

For a long time, Alice thought. “I like tea.”

Kat pushed off the wall and squared her shoulders. Alice thought she might find her way on a new-moon night by that smile.

“That’s a start.”


L.C. Ricardo is a mother and aspiring writer living in Florida. She has published poems and articles in The Sandhill Review, Mirror Dance, Bolts of Silk, Enchanted Conversation, and Poppy Road Review and is forthcoming in Goblin Fruit. She has received an honorable mention for the 2013 Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction Short Stories category for her short story “The Debt,” which has been published in digital format here, with hard copy publication soon to follow.

Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

Indian Moon Message
Glenn Johnson

If you ask the government, they’ll probably deny it. If you ask the Navajo, they’ll laugh and say it’s so.

The April morning air was brisk. A gentle breeze from the east nudged cloud wisps across the turquoise sky. Johnathan Etcitty kept as close an eye on his 10 year old grandson, Greg, as he did on his sheep. Full of a grandfather’s pride, Johnathan thanked the Creator for giving him a strong and respectful grandson. Greg’s first ever journey to summer sheep camp and Johnathan’s first time without his fourteen year old grandson, Peterson, Greg’s older brother. Just the two of them would make the long trek through the western part of the Dine reservation to the coolness and abundant buffalo grass of the mountain sheep camp.

Johnathan smiled as he remembered Greg’s recent ninth birthday. Greg had tugged at his shirt and looked him square in the eyes, so serious, so full of confidence and had said, “Grandfather, I’m ready.” Johnathan had been puzzled by the announcement. “What are you ready for my grandson?” he had asked. “I’m ready for sheep camp, grandfather. Remember, you told me you went to sheep camp when you were nine. I’m nine too.” Gratitude and happiness had filled Johnathan’s heart and soul. His grandson wanted to follow in his footsteps–an answered prayer. He had laughed, tousled Greg’s obsidian black hair, and said, “Yes, you are ready, and you will go to sheep camp.”

On their way to sheep camp and shifting from memory to sun shimmered sand, Johnathan looked for Greg and soon spotted him cradling a lamb as he walked slowly around the outer circle of grazing sheep. Another memory, this one painful, Peterson, Johnathan’s right-hand-man, and only other grandson, was not with them. He had to stay back at boarding school in Ganado. He recalled with disgust the day he and Grace, his wife, had gone to the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school to tell the teachers Peterson would go to sheep camp. Johnathan had been deeply offended. The teachers had shown him no respect as their elder. Had rudely said Peterson would not be going anywhere. He must and would stay with them at boarding school. Johnathan saw a huge sign by Peterson’s dormitory, large, red, Whiteman’s words. He had asked Peterson what it said. He remembered how Peterson had got real quiet, his head down, feet scraping the earth. He had to ask him twice to answer. Not the respectful of elders grandson Johnathan knew. In broken Dine, Peterson had said, “Grandfather, it says: “TRADITIONS ARE THE STUMBLING BLOCKS OF PROGRESS. SPEAK ENGLISH.”

The BIA made every Dine child go to boarding school to be educated in the Whiteman’s ways. Johnathan shook his head at the thought of Navajo children, not allowed to go home to their families; punished for speaking Navajo or praying in the Navajo way. The teachers cutting their beautiful long hair, took away the clothes made for them by their mothers and grandmothers, and made them wear Whiteman’s clothes. Christians, they forced them to be Christians, as if that was the only right way to believe. And now a whole generation of Dine grandchildren couldn’t even understand or talk to their grandparents. The Navajo language and traditional ways were being wiped out because the Whiteman thought he knew everything. What they didn’t know or care to know was that a Navajo family’s heart was broken every time their children were stolen from them.

Johnathan drifted back from his thoughts and looked for Greg. His heart began to pound as he looked in all directions but no Greg in sight. He strode towards the sheep milling in confusion at the top of the sand dune. He could see his grandson’s tracks disappear over the top of the next dune but no Greg. He ran to the spot where they disappeared. Just as he neared the crest of the sand ridge, Greg exploded over the top waving and babbling about men from the skies and stars. Greg was so disturbed he ran headlong into his grandfather and they both tumbled down the sand dune, feet and sand flying into the air until they flopped to a stop at the bottom.

Greg immediately jumped to his feet and tugged at his grandfather’s shirt pulling him towards the dune. Johnathan gently but firmly grabbed Greg by his elbow and pulled him in the opposite direction toward the shade of a nearby sandstone boulder. He had to get Greg out of the sun, into the shade, and cool him off or he could die. Johnathan was certain he was sun sick. To his grave consternation and amazement, Greg threw himself onto the sand and refused to go anywhere but back up the sand dune. “You’re sun sick. You must get into the shade.” Still, Greg refused to budge, begging his grandfather to go and see “the men from the sky.” Now Johnathan was scared. He had heard of sun sickness so bad that people saw things that were not there. They were so weakened of spirit and mind that evil spirits took control of them and made them go crazy.

This sun sickness had never happened before to anyone in his mothers’ clan, the Folded Arms People, his father’s Red Running into the Water Clan, his wife’s Bitter Water Clan, or her father’s Bad Lands People Clan. It must be that Cherokee blood of his non-Dine mother that made him susceptible. Johnathan knelt down beside Greg who was still raving about Star People. He pulled his canteen off his hip and poured water over Greg’s face and mouth. Greg sputtered and chocked, wiping the water from his eyes. “Grandfather, you’re drowning me,” Greg said, “I’m not sick, the star people are really here. Please! Go look grandfather.” Johnathan began to pray much harder. He needed all the spiritual help he could get, so he took out his pollen pouch, sprinkled the pollen over Greg and prayed for his ancestors to forgive his Cherokee weakness and make the Dine blood within him strong so he would overcome this sickness. With the first drops of pollen, Greg closed his eyes and became quiet and still. Johnathan was relieved. The medicine and prayers were working. After what seemed an eternity, Greg slowly opened his eyes and said, “Grandfather, I am not sun sick; there is something very strange on the other side of that dune. Please, go and see.” Reaching down, Johnathan took Greg’s hand and pulled him to his feet. Together they trudged up to the crest of the dune.

There, at the bottom of the dune, were two legged beings walking around in strange clothes of silver as shiny as a newly polished concho belt. Johnathan saw one of the strange beings driving an odd contraption like no pick-up truck or fancy tourist car he had ever seen. Greg looked up to his grandfather and whispered, “Do you see them?” All Johnathan could do was nod in astonishment. “What are they?” Greg asked. “Are they the Holy People? “Uhhff, don’t think so,” Johnathan replied. “I never heard of Holy People driving around like that.”

Johnathan stared straight ahead at the strange sight, searching for some explanation of what he was seeing. Johnathan felt a hard tug on the back of his shirt. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a young Whiteman in camouflage fatigues holding a large weapon. The soldier said something to him in English, a loud, rude tone, not respectful of Johnathan, his elder, so he ignored him and his rudeness. Two more soldiers quickly appeared. One with a rifle, stopped next to Greg. The third, with a holstered pistol on his hip, stood in front of the soldiers and stared hard at Johnathan, looking straight into his eyes in a very disrespectful manner and barked out words in English. Johnathan spotted the single silver bars on his shoulders and knew the pistol carrier was an officer, a Lieutenant. Johnathan continued to ignore him, “I’m not in your army,” Johnathan thought.

The officer then spoke to Greg in English and Greg began to answer him in the English his Cherokee mother had taught him. Greg spoke fearlessly. Johnathan felt proud of Greg’s self assurance. After a few minutes and a lot of words, Greg stepped towards Johnathan. He told him in Dine that the soldiers wanted Johnathan and Greg to go with them. Greg looked very seriously at his grandfather and said, “We have no choice, grandfather, they are angry with us and they have guns. We must go with them.” Johnathan and Greg walked with the soldiers down the side of the sand dune towards the strange silver men and then right past them and over the next sand dune.

Hidden behind the dune was a trailer. The officer led them up the steps of the trailer and then inside. More Whitemen were inside but they were not wearing uniforms. A man in a white shirt and a tie stepped forward and offered his hand to Johnathan. He was tall with glasses and greased hair where he wasn’t bald. His eyes were friendly. He said something in English to Johnathan but he only understood a few words, so he did not reply. Then glasses man turned to Greg and spoke to him. Then the glasses man talked with the officer, and chairs were pushed over to Johnathan and Greg, and the soldiers left. He offered them water and food. He seemed to know how to be respectful. Johnathan started to think that the man with glasses could be a good man. The glasses man spoke to Greg for a long time looking over at Johnathan and nodding and smiling.

“Grandfather, remember when we looked at the T.V. at the trading post. Remember when we watched the man in the big can flying high in sky above Earth. One of those men out there in the silver suit was the one we saw. They are practicing here because our land is like the moon and far from cities. They don’t want the Russians to find out about how they do things. He says if we promise to never tell anyone, he will let us go.”

Johnathan said to Greg, “Tell the man with glasses, he has my word. Tell the man I want to send a message to the moon from the Navajo.” Greg looked puzzled. “Do as I say,” Johnathan said with firmness.

Greg shrugged his shoulders and turned to the man and translated his grandfather’s request. The man looked very serious, leaned back in his chair, held his chin in his hand and seemed to be thinking real hard. Suddenly, the man broke out in a broad smile and started nodding his head and saying, “Yes! Yes!” And other words that Johnathan did not understand. The man spoke very excitedly to Greg, making many gestures in the air. Johnathan was very puzzled with so much being said about something so simple. Just put down in writing a message for the moon. Take it up their in a jar, and leave it. The man jumped up from his chair and went into another room. While he was gone, Greg explained to his grandfather the man liked his idea. Greg told his grandfather that they had a recorder machine that could remember his grandfather’s words and even speak his message in his own voice.

The man with glasses came back, sat down, and placed the tape recorder on his lap. He plugged in the microphone and tested it, recording his own voice and then listening to it. Satisfied, he turned to Greg and said something to him. Greg turned to his grandfather and said, “The man is ready to record your message. He wants you touch your chin when you are ready to speak and he will turn the machine on.” Johnathan immediately touched his chin. The man slowly touched the machine. Johnathan spoke clearly and firmly in Dine.

The man shrugged his shoulders, turned off the tape recorder, leaned back in his chair, and then said something to Greg. “Grandfather, he wants to know what you said. What should I tell him?” Without hesitation, Johnathan said, “Tell him it is a Dine greeting for the star people. Tell him no one will ever know what we saw and we need to go to our sheep and take them to the next water hole before the night comes.”

Siegfried made it his personal crusade to make sure the greeting from the Navajo people was included in the time capsule the Apollo mission took to the moon. He kept his own personal copy of the message. Over time, he regretted that he did not have a translation of the grandfather’s message. One day in June, four years after the Moon mission, NASA needed a project manager to attend a meeting at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Siegfried happily volunteered. He knew the Navajo reservation was only a short drive from Los Alamos. When the meetings at Los Alamos concluded, Siegfried drove the 65 miles to the reservation. At the first reservation service station he came to Siegfried excitedly grabbed his tape recorder and strode quickly to the gas station office. A group of Navajo were lounging in chairs laughing and conversing in that indecipherable Navajo language. They became silent as soon as he came inside. He asked the Dine clerk if he spoke English and Navajo. The clerk, a Dine man around 25 or 30 nodded, smiled broadly, and said, “I can sell you anything you need in English or Dine.” Everyone but Siegfried laughed. He had the feeling that he was very, very, out of place, as if he had entered a foreign land. Siegfried hesitantly replied, “I don’t want to buy anything, I just have this tape recording I need translated. It is very important. I hope you can help me.” The clerk nodded as he motioned Siegfried aside to wait on two Navajo women who had approached the counter. Siegfried had seen both women get out of their truck as he was getting his tape recorder out. Both Navajo women had been in the cabs of the trucks and Navajo men were in the pick-up beds. In between female customers, Siegfried asked the clerk why it appeared that only the women were driving. “Because they own everything,” the Clerk replied. “We are motherarchal like the Earth.” Siegfried frowned for a moment. “Oh, you mean matriarchal. Your people are matriarchal,” he said to the clerk. “Yeah, like I said, motherarchal. You aren’t from around here, are you mister.” Siegfried began to feel uncomfortable. He was accustomed to being in charge and sure of his ability to intellectually and authoritatively take command of all situations. But this was completely different. He was completely surrounded by Indians, not another white face in sight. He realized that for the first time in his life, he was the minority. “What is it you want again?” the clerk asked. Siegfried, smiling awkwardly, stepped up to the counter and set his tape player on the counter. He fiddled with the controls, adjusting the volume as he spoke to the clerk. “I have a tape recording of a Navajo man who gave me a message that was sent to the moon and left there. This message is very important to me,” he said as he pushed the play button and the voice of Johnathan Etcitty filled the room.

At the end of the message, he pushed the stop button and looked nervously at faces expressing what appeared to be astonishment. In a slow sputter of snorts and then uncontrolled laughter, the Navajo’s surrounding him laughed until tears were running from their eyes. “What’s so funny,” Siegfried asked in exasperation. Each and every one of them waved him off as they laughed their way out the door and back to their trucks. Turning to the clerk, he emphatically asked, “What’s so funny?” The clerk struggled to stop laughing long enough to say, “It’s a top secret Navajo message.” And he continued laughing as Siegfried picked up his tape player and walked out of the office feeling thoroughly baffled and embarrassed.

Feeling frustrated and angry, Siegfried decided he could only stomach one last attempt. He pulled into the parking lot of a building with a sign identifying it as a Bureau of Indian Affairs office. He walked into the reception area, tape player under his arm, and asked the young female Dine receptionist if there was someone on the staff who spoke Navajo. She disappeared into the hallway behind her desk, and returned with an Anglo man. Siegfried, introduced himself, and explained his need to have the taped message translated.

The man introduced himself as Herb Cook, a staff Anthropologist. They walked back to his office exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes until Herb, who seemed to be in a hurry, asked Siegfried to play the tape. With much hesitation and anxiety, Siegfried clumsily fussed with the tape player. After a few looks of impatience from Herb, Siegfried pushed the play button and stared intently at Herb’s face which immediately cracked a broad smile that exploded into the now all too familiar uncontrollable laughter. Siegfried now really and truly felt like the odd man out.

Tears streamed from Herb’s eyes as he gasped for breath and asked, “This was sent to the moon?” Siegfried impatiently replied, “Yes! It was sent to the moon. What does it say?” After much effort to catch his breath and control his laughter, Herb replied, “Literally, this is the message you sent to the moon. The old man said: “Don’t believe a word these Whitemen say. They are here to steal your land and steal your children.”


Glenn Johnson is a member of the Cherokee Nation. He is a father and a widow. He has lived in Tucson, Arizona for 56 years. He is a retired Marriage & Family Therapist.

News Item #11

Dear Writers and Readers,

The Spring 2013 issue of Rose Red Review is now live! Here there be selkies, mermaids, pirates, Indians, crows, evil faeries (and naive ones), ghosts, aliens, gardens of life and death, strange doorways, and beauty… always beauty.

Happy Reading!

Warm Regards,
Larissa Nash
Rose Red Review

Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

Fairy Tale
Marci Ameluxen

There once was a small house
in a forest. It was brown.

Each day the curtains were pulled back
and the mother appeared in the window.

She held a spoon of clear broth
no
she held an arrow
no
she held an empty spoon
yes.

Soon the curtains were shut,
no light shown behind them.

But once a year when the mother
appeared at the window

its panes were washed and clear.
The mother smiled.

She held a spoon of rich stew.
The child ate knowing

tomorrow’s spoon
would taste of dust.


Marci Ameluxen lives on an island in Washington State with her husband and two children. When not taming her garden or writing poetry she works as a pediatric occupational therapist.

The poems selected for Rose Red Review are excerpted from her chapbook “Lean House” from MoonPath Press, spring 2013. Marci’s poems have appeared in The Crab Creek Review, The Comstock Review, Waccamaw, Passager, The Compass Rose and Hospital Drive among others.

Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

Crow Husband
Marci Ameluxen

He can’t help it, he says shiny objects in the bottom
of yard sale bins

they spark and twick at him until (claw wrapped) in his hands
they turn and gleam

driving down the road he sees hand-scrawled
“4 Family Garage Sale”

feels his head cock to the side
eyes bright dark gaze (caw) beautiful

he thinks each new, blazing object could be
the final best of all

where does the crow display
besides its nest?

each week our garden gate totemed in new objects

two abalone belt buckles: inlaid sailboat and polar bear
small pink pig
logging chain with hook

feathers of other birds
toy plane
copper heart engraved with a bird

metallic blue Match Box van
red bead/plastic pearl bracelet with
another heart.

After Saturday classifieds
Crow Husband drives off in his car

omnivorous appetite radiant.


Marci Ameluxen lives on an island in Washington State with her husband and two children. When not taming her garden or writing poetry she works as a pediatric occupational therapist.

The poems selected for Rose Red Review are excerpted from her chapbook “Lean House” from MoonPath Press, spring 2013. Marci’s poems have appeared in The Crab Creek Review, The Comstock Review, Waccamaw, Passager, The Compass Rose and Hospital Drive among others.

Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

Loveless (I Am the Snow Queen)
Brittany Warman

Ice splits, sticks
the corner of my eye.
Loveless,
but not less without love,
I stop the search and wonder –
is this her curse then?
Does she need
the cold kisses of spellbound boys
to tell her who she is?

I open my mouth,
howl into the snow,
still mistress of my fate.
Ice covers my heart
and words freeze into being
across my chest, through my hair –
I am, I am

Inside, my terrified heart beats again
the cool poetry of winter,
the poetry of the loveless.
Without words, I choose the words.
I leave him with her,
go back down the mountain.
I choose to be what I am.
I am the Snow Queen.
Not silent, not less.


Brittany Warman is a PhD student in English and Folklore at The Ohio State University where her work focuses mainly on fairy tale retellings. She has had creative work published in Jabberwocky Magazine, Cabinet des Fées, inkscrawl, Eternal Haunted Summer, Mirror Dance, Scareship, and others. Her website is BrittanyWarman.com and she journals at Briarspell.livejournal.com.