Friday, March 23, 2018

The Good Old Man

Fiction by Rey David Morales of Cerro Coso Community College
3rd Place for College Fiction - 2017 Met Awards

Tom Dorsey plays over the radio. It is a hot July day. Carlos taps his fingers on the gun metal grey paint job of his car door as he rests in the driver’s seat. Five more minutes, he thinks to himself. He yawns and adjusts his old leather jacket in the passenger seat. Then he decides to toss it in the back, after all if that good old man was right the jacket would get covered in blood. Carlos had been suicidal for some time. When a blind old fortune teller he met on the street corner told him he would be dead by 3:48 this afternoon he couldn’t believe it. Carlos laughed. “I mean what was this guy on?” he thought to himself. But when the good old man told him, there was nothing he could do to stop it, he stopped laughing. Then he started thinking. Carlos had never had the will to end his own life, he just didn’t have it in him. So he listened as the old good old man foretold how it would happen and why. Carlos thought it was pretty silly that he was going to out for cutting someone off at the grocery store. Of course, he reasoned with himself, these things do happen.

He sighs and leans back in his chair. He feels the gray canvas upholstery on his neck and begins to rub it with his right hand. He looks at the radio, the glove box. He takes his left hand off the driver door as it grows numb and touches the ridges on the matching steering wheel.  It cost way too much money to restore this thing, he reflects. He smiles. Worth every penny. The Dorsey song ends and a Glen Miller tune starts up. Carlos’ smile becomes a frown. He was hoping the Dorsey number would last all through the whole “thing.” It will be very unceremonious to get blown away without being able to finish this current song. His frown quickly dissipates when he casually realized how trivial it all is. How trivial life is. However, as he glances at the driver’s side mirror and the color drains from his face. Although the sun’s glare made it impossible to see the man’s face, Carlos was able to clearly see the black Colt .45 he carried in his right hand. Panic suddenly swept over Carlos. That good old man was right, he was hoping he wouldn’t be but he was. He could run, staring at the door handle. He could drive, staring at the keys in the ignition. He could fight, clenching the keys on the steering wheel. Then he remembered it was no use. This could not be avoided. He would probably be shot coming out of the car or fighting back, or crash into an unseen car driving away. This had to happen. Instead Carlos reached in the back seat and checked the letter in his jacket. He tucked it back inside the inner breast pocket haphazardly. He looked at the clock. 3:48 in the afternoon. In the middle of a crowded parking lot near the end of July. Just like he said. Sitting back in the front seat, Carlos finally felt relaxed. He was finally doing it; he was finally doing right by himself. He put his arm back up on the door. He was going to look at the side mirror again, but the man was already at the driver’s side window. He now had a good look at the gun-wielder, he thought he would be older.

As the man raised the Colt, which gleamed in the bright sunlight, a funny thought pops into Carlos’ head that makes him smirk. Right before the triggered is pulled Carlos smiles and simply says to the man, “I am not ready.” Carlos made sure both the windows were down so that there would not be too much blood on the interior. The Good Old Man still sits on that corner, telling fortunes to any who will listen.

The Transformed

Poem by Anthony L McFarland of Cerro Coso Community College
3rd Place for College Poetry - 2017 Met Awards

Where the keepers of light guide the way, under which
The lean shadows of learned men walk on.
Where blackened skies are pin-pricked with light,
Beneath these, flint-hard minds are made malleable.
Where brick buildings hinder the sun and
Spaces reserved for the sorters of knowledge hold solace.
Where specific volumes are kept on the ear and in the head,
Adjoining head and heart in earnest.
Where scripture is written from the pulpit of enlightenment,
Bearing witness to the wisdom of the ages.
Where the potter at his wheel implores rapacious minds,
There I am.



The Stone Collector

Fiction by Bailey J. Crocoll of Cerro Coso Community College
3rd Place for College Fiction - 2017 Met Awards

Addison strolled along, lugging her backpack with one arm and shading her eyes with the other. Ahead stood Ruby's, a greasy little fish and chip joint perched along the splintering boardwalk. The sun beat down on her shoulders and colored her arms an angry shade of red. A network of ketchup-stained tables with faded yellow umbrellas stood out front, sheltering clusters of people. Red-faced kids chucked fries out to the gulls that cautiously bobbed between the tables, squawking and swallowing hunks of discarded food. The ocean swelled below the boardwalk, sweeping by in a rush of greenish froth.

Adhering to her favorite afterschool ritual, she ordered a side of popcorn shrimp and a large frozen lemonade to contest the heat. Shooing away a large spotted pelican, Addison moved away from the crowd to sit on a short wooden bench. From here, she could see out over the long stretch of beach disappearing in either direction. Blissfully, she scuffed her shoes along the boardwalk as she swung her feet and let the salty breeze float across her face. Her eyes drifted along the people on the crowded beach below, laughing and shouting as they sprinted in and out of the ocean spray.

Straw midway to her lips, she paused, her gaze catching on a motionless figure. Crumpled there  on the sand below, beside one of the thick legs of boardwalk was a small shapeless figure. Hurriedly shoving her drink aside, she rushed over to the railing to get a better look. It was then that she realized she knew the woman who laid motionless in the sand. The locals called her the Stone Collector.

On cool evenings you could often find the Stone Collector knee-deep in the ocean waves, colorful skirt drenched in the water, frizzy red hair sticking out from beneath a torn sunhat. She'd totter up and down the beach, head down, squinting with scrutiny at the water. Suddenly she'd lunge forward, plunging her hands beneath the current and pop back up with a fistful of smooth stones. Mud dripping down her arms, she'd sort through the rocks in her open palms, letting several splash back into the water. The select few that she kept were cradled in the fabric of her shirt. For the most part, people left her alone and she maintained the same level of distance.

Addison backed away from the railing, contemplating. She looked longingly at her untouched shrimp and then back over the railing where the Stone Collector laid below. Swinging her backpack over her shoulder, she tucked her food into the crook of her arm and began to hurry along the sweltering boardwalk. She pushed past sweaty bodies lathered in sunscreen and a group of chattering tourists that hogged most of the path. She clambered down the stairs two at a time until her feet sunk into the burning sand at the bottom. Weaving through the wooden pillars coated in clumps of dull grey barnacles, she found where the woman was, her face just hidden in the narrow beam of shade cast by one of the pillars.

She had a tie-dye jacket balled up beneath her head and a hot pink stroller with wheels jammed in the sand standing beside her. Several gulls were perched on her stroller, plunging their orange beaks into the various bags that were strung along the handlebars. In a frenzy, they ripped at a sleeve of crackers, trampling over the already-ravaged bags of miscellaneous items. Piles of smooth bluish stones spilled from one open bag. Addison waved her arms at them, stomping forward until they jerked back and flew away. She carefully began scooping the disheveled items out of the sand and placed them back atop the stroller. As she shoveled dozens of rocks back into a torn bag her gaze shifted upwards.

Two round black eyes blinked up at her from a sun weathered face. Addison straightened quickly, brushing the sand off her hands. She cleared her throat. "Hi. Sorry, I didn't mean to bother you. I was on the boardwalk, I saw you laying here and I wasn't sure if you were ok... " she let her words taper off into the salty breeze.

Silently, the Stone Collector propped herself up onto her elbows, sending sand cascading off the folds of her clothes. Her inky eyes stayed locked on Addison, concealing any evidence of an expression. Addison cleared her throat, her gaze flicking over to where the Stone Collector's possessions sprawled across the sand from the invasive gulls. "The birds picked at your things," she gestured towards the stroller. "I think they ate your crackers. I have some popcorn shrimp, I drank the lemonade – but I didn't touch the shrimp." She plucked the bag out from under her arm and placed it at her feet. "Umm, alright. Have a good day," she muttered, shuffling away.

"I'm not crazy you know," her voice suddenly rasped. Addison turned back towards her, silent. "I know that they call me things. Beach Bum. Psychotic Sandy. Rocky." She pursed her dry lips. "Thanks for the shrimp," her veined hands reached for the bag.

"I've never heard anyone call you that," Addison shifted from foot to foot.

"But you've heard something," she popped a shrimp into her mouth.

Addison shrugged, glancing away, "the Stone Collector mostly."

The wrinkles etched along her face jumped when she barked out a dry laugh. "The Stone Collector, eh? I actually like that one. Not bad. Not bad."

"Why do you do it? Collect the rocks, I mean," Addison asked suddenly, unable to help herself.

She hiked an eyebrow up, licking a grease-coated finger. "I imagine for the same reason most collect money."

She didn't quite understand, but she nodded anyway. Felling her cue to leave, Addison raised a hand in departure. The Stone Collector didn't say anything, but as she hiked up the beach, Addison turned back to see her wading into the waves, hands already fishing beneath the water.

Contributor's Note: I came up with the title of The Stone Collector before I thought up the story. I just worked around the idea of the name and this is the resulting story.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Flying Free

Creative Nonfiction by Bailey J. Crocoll of Cerro Coso Community College
3rd Place for College Creative Nonfiction - 2017 Met Awards

I remember my first time flying. Not in the elbow-to-elbow jam-packed rows. Not in the seats with the grimy fingerprinted windows. Not squished between two strangers, jostling about from the turbulence. No, my first time flying was beneath an April sun, soaring through the nippy mountain air. With the earth falling away into a blur of green and the wind rushing by with insistent pressure. I didn't need an airplane to fly, not on the back of a horse.

Harley was a stocky horse with light cream  fur and a wild mane of flaxen hair. He had huge brown eyes that were in always held in patient appraisal. A short neck and a deep sloping chest gave him a friendly little stature. His velvet pink nose was constantly prodding beneath my arms and wedging its way into my pockets, hopeful that a treat had somehow found its way into my possession. He was a Halflinger, a breed made for pack work and driving carts. Compared to Thoroughbreds, his long legged counterparts, with their slim frames and athletic build, he was a slowpoke. Harley would trudge along in circles to his heart's content, meandering along the pasture nibbling through weeds. He rarely had any motivation to move any faster than a walk and it took a miracle to bump him into a trot. So I was feeling particularly optimistic the day I decided to run him.

That morning I brushed him down while he lazily gnawed on a piece of alfalfa. I cradled each thick hoof in my hand, picking out the rocks stuck there and admiring the sleek silver shoes that hugged along his curving foot. My stiff leather saddle was lugged up onto his back and slid into position where it fit like a puzzle piece against his withers. I tightened his saddle – then tightened it again, the last thing I wanted was a slipping saddle. I let Harley steal one last mouthful of hay before he begrudgingly allowed himself to be pulled away.

Sitting up in the saddle was the easy part. He felt safe, comfortable and steady in his movements. He walked along, letting his head bob and his ears swivel happily as he stepped. We trotted along a fence line, warming up the brawny muscles hidden beneath his glossy coat. Dogs jutted out from yards, yapping and nipping at his legs. Harley didn't spare them any attention, he merely cocked an ear in their direction and idly stepped on by. A few cars slowed and waved, as Harley was a favorite of the neighborhood kids.

After a short trot across the street, we made it out to where the crops of lettuce and carrots sprouted from the ground in long tidy rows. Here, the air was heavy with the earthy scent of damp soil and the sprinklers sent water arching through the air. In one row, the earth was freshly plowed, the previous crop harvested and gone for the season. The ground was soft and stretched out far into the distance. I positioned Harley in the empty lane of soil, pointed towards the steep snowcapped mountains rising in the distance.

With a little flutter of excitement, I urged him forwards. He took a few casual steps and still, I pressed him onwards. In smooth rhythmical movements he picked up speed, moving from a trot into a rolling canter. I clicked my tongue at him, swinging my legs to encourage him. I let my reigns hang loose, giving him full leeway. I could almost feel the moment the realization washed over him; that he was allowed to plow ahead as fast as he could. It turns out that Harley could run after all. He let out one loud snort and then shot ahead, breaking into a charge.

And then we were flying. Tearing up the dirt, chunks of mud flinging into the sky behind us. The wind surged in my ears and tore tears from my eyes. Harley shook his head, that flaxen mane whipping around behind him. Thrill squeezed tight in my stomach and sent a rush of goose bumps up my arms. The fields blurred by in a confused cascade of colors. Tears streaked along my temples and gathered in my hairline as a laugh built in my chest. His hooves collided with the ground, a beautiful thundering sound that sent birds scattering. His body was thrumming beneath me, surging with life as he sucked in breaths. I stood slightly, leaning forward on my knees like a jockey and suddenly I could feel the air pulsating all around me, flapping my t-shirt and sending my hair back in a wild tangle.

There was a part of me that was terrified. A part of me that screamed and cautioned me to slow down. Warnings and red flags. A reminder that I was high up, going fast, and one wrong move away from slamming into the ground. And then there was the part of me that was electric, urging me to go faster. That part of me was surging with energy and a thirst for that feeling of freedom. Together, those parts made an equilibrium. A perfect balance of liberation, and I found myself flying free.

Contributor's Note: I was a little apprehensive about entering a piece of nonfiction, just because it's a bit out of my comfort zone. Although I've had many adventures, I had a hard time choosing a true story that I thought people would like to hear about. I haven't had any crazy trips to foreign countries or faraway places, but I decided that perhaps the beauty in an everyday event would inspire an audience.

For The Small Town

Poem by Jenna Daugherty of Cerro Coso Community College
2nd Place for College Poetry - 2017 Met Awards

For just a moment,
It blurs.

The lyrical drops of a leaky spout
The strained voices of the tired congregation

Just for a moment,
It stirs.

The nostalgia for rain whiffs
The memories of smells after changing locations

For a moment,
It brings.

The clumsy sensation of overcoming a chain link fence
The déjà vu thought of identical wanderings

These moments experienced
Cause a


Hesitation


A pause

A Remembrance of that small town and
the girl who grew up there.

Rain

Fiction by Cindi Aseltine of Cerro Coso Community College
3rd Place for College Fiction - 2017 Met Awards

The rain was coming down so hard on Ana’s windshield she could not see. It was like a thick dense mist was covering the glass both inside and outside of her car and nothing seemed to help. She had tried to focus on the dividing lines on the freeway even turning off the once blaring radio, but something happened. It wasn’t something she could see or hear, but something she had felt. Not a movement, but a gut instinct. Screaming and yelling to no one, all that managed to escape Ana’s lips was “what the hell” as the car began spinning around and around on the freeway out of control. Her mind was racing, it seemed, as fast as her car was spinning. “I know there were two big trucks in the slow lane I just passed and cars behind me,” her mind screamed as she gripped the steering wheel tighter and tighter, spinning faster and faster. And then suddenly, it was as though time suddenly stopped and her life flashed before her eyes.

Today had started no different for Ana than it had for the last two years: Stay up half the night tossing and turning in her bed until her alarm went off at 0430, her mind never turning off. After the third time of hitting the snooze, her husband, John, whose snoring was part of the reason Ana didn’t get much sleep, would grumble and then nudge her, “Ana, you need to get up”. Reluctantly, she would turn the alarm off and literally crawl out of bed, grasping in the blackness of the room for her fuzzy black robe. Ana had tried to figure out why she could never sleep at night, wondering if it was her relationship with her husband that was going downhill on a daily basis or her extremely demanding, never satisfied boss.

The house was dark and cold as she quietly made her way to the coffee pot for her morning ritual before getting into the shower. It didn’t matter how dark the house was, the aroma of the deep roasted coffee waiting for her was all she needed as light to find it. “I am just too old and exhausted for this anymore”, she mumbled to herself as she opened the front door, coffee in hand, to see if the morning paper was in the driveway.

“Great, just great”, she said under her breath as she surveyed the wet driveway in front of her and flooding flowerbeds. The sky was as black as coal, yet, the lightening streaking and crackling across the sky revealed the large grey clouds above, followed by an almost deafening, roaring thunder. Hoping the rain would let up for her drive she grabbed the newspaper, ran back into the house and turned on the shower.

Always in a rush, Ana grabbed her coat ready to leave, but once again realized her shoes were still in her darkened bedroom, with her sleeping husband. “Damn,” she grumbled knowing that once again she would have to feel around in the blackened room like a blind person to find her shoes, all the while trying not to wake John up.

“Ana, what the hell are you doing? I am trying to sleep!” John said gruffly with an irritated tone in his voice.

“Sorry, just trying to find my shoes, again!” Ana replied, in an equally irritated tone.
In a voice that inflected his irritation and ‘it’s all about me attitude’, John yelled, “Don’t you think you could have done this last night!”

“That’s it,” Ana thought to herself. Always the one to have the last word, Ana replied, “This is my house too. I am tired of tippy toeing around you just to make you happy! How about me!” as she purposely turned on every light in the bedroom so to blind John in the light and make her point.
She could see the anger in John’s blue-grey eyes as he turned to glare at her, but she did not care. The last two months, he had been putting her through hell. Often, while she lay awake in bed, listening to the roaring snore of John, she wondered if she still loved him. She wondered if he still loved her.
Was it that they had just been together so long it had just become a convenience rather love? Ana did not know. It seemed everyday was just a routine; she’d get up and leave for work in a pissed off mood in the darkness of night; John, would stay in bed until seven or eight in the morning, get ready for work and leave a giant mess in the house, that waited for her to come home and clean it up. She would hastily cook John dinner and clean the dishes afterwards. No words would be spoken during dinner or conversation about each-others day. They would just eat in a silence that was deafening and then head into different parts of the house to watch television.

In the last few days, while sitting in numbing silence of dinner, she had caught John looking at her. It almost as if he was gazing at her like when they were high school sweethearts. She had seen what she thought was tenderness and love in his eyes, but the silence always remained. “I just don’t have time to deal with this anymore. Do I even want to deal with it?” seemed to always be her last thought before the mundane routine ended and she would finally drift off asleep.

Spinning and spinning she thought about her life with John and what had happened in the last few days between them. Memories of the happy times, the laughter they shared over even the most stupid things, the tears they shed when they lost a pet or worse a loved one like John’s mom. Ana and Mary had always had a stressful relationship while she was alive. It wasn’t until that day John’s dad had called and said Mary had suffered a heart attack and died that Ana realized how very much she had loved Mary in all those turbulent years between the two. And the realization or rather finalization that Ana would never be able to tell her that now that she was gone.

It was in that moment as she saw her life flash before her, spinning and spinning around the freeway, she realized she loved John; truly, deeply and totally loved him. John was her sole-mate and she couldn’t, she wouldn’t lose him because of the unspoken words between them. As the tears began to fall from Ana’s eyes, she whispered in a hushed voice, “I didn’t kiss you good-bye this morning or tell you I love you. I’m sorry.”

Suddenly, Ana felt a tremendous jolt knocking her into the drivers’ side window. Not knowing if one of the big trucks had finally hit her or if the car was now rolling, Ana could do nothing but cry. The tears of fear and reality began to flow uncontrollably, burning her cheeks as she sobbed wanting this to be over. Realizing her car had hit something causing it to stop she rolled down the window to see what had happened. It was still raining so hard it was as though someone from heaven was dumping buckets of water on earth, but at least she could make out something beside her. There, wrapped around her still running car, was a chain link fence covered in thick green weeds that stood almost five feet tall, protecting Ana and her car. “I love you John,” was all that consumed her mind as she dialed his phone number.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Fluttering Heart

Creative Nonfiction by Sarah Horne of Cerro Coso Community College
2nd Place for College Creative Nonfiction - 2017 Met Awards

Spring was always the most beautiful time of year for me in little Ocala, Florida. My childhood home was a three bedroom, brick and wooden house that looked far less grand on the outside than the inside. Mustard trees framed the house at each corner with a shrubbery accenting the front lawn. There was a bay window that captured the sunset and sent rainbows across the sandy walls and cherry wood baby grand piano in the evenings. But it was the mornings that I loved the most.

When the sun finally rises over the neighboring rooftops, the rays pierce the windows illuminating the swirling dust motes over tile floors. The birds sing and flit from branch to grass, hunting insects and arachnids for breakfast.

One exceptionally beautiful spring morning, I heard a soft, pronounced thud on the west-facing bay windows. I padded over to the window in my pajamas after admiring the dusty swirls in the kitchen. Peering through the pane, I saw a little tea wren laying on its back. It’s little chest heaving. It must have hit the window. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. Birds often hit the windows and, after a moment, continued with their daily lives.

I wanted to take advantage of his temporary paralysis to observe him closely. Birds rarely sit still long enough for anyone to truly observe their beautiful features. I quickly and quietly exited the front door and sidled closer to the little bird. He was still laying on his back, breathing furiously. I crouched over him for a moment, absorbing all his beauty and the wonder of how such little wings could carry him so far.

But within a few seconds I began to realize his wounds were worse than I thought. He wasn’t recovering like other birds. I began to panic. I didn’t want this precious, tiny creature to die. I carefully reached out and whispered fruitless reassurances and picked him up. I held the little thing closer to try to find where the break was and prayed it was just a wing and not the spine. But alas, as I turned to bring him inside to a safe, warm bed until I figured out what to do, I saw his last breath shudder through his slightly open mouth. I could see his little tongue through his orange-yellow beak, and I could see the light in his beautiful eyes fade.

I was so taken by his death, I stood there, profoundly still. Now I wasn’t observing the beauty of life as I was just a few short minutes ago, now I was observing the beauty of death. He was just there and then he was gone.

After giving him a brief burial in my back yard, I went back inside and pondered what I had just witnessed. I considered how tragic it was to lose such a peaceful little creature.

It wasn’t until many years later that I held death in my hands again, but this time, he was far more precious.

I was in Pennsylvania on business, when I got the phone call. My mother called and she sounded a little stressed out. She had always been worrisome so I wasn’t alarmed. She told me my grandfather was sick and I needed to find a way to go to him immediately. I figured she was overreacting and when I arrived beside his hospital bed in the intensive care unit less than 24 hours later, I was certain the whole mess was a misunderstanding.

I greeted him and held his hand and gave him my warmest smile to let him know how much I loved him. My Aunt had arrived the day before and my grandmother explained the situation to us. He was short of breath a few days prior and the doctor discovered scar tissue growing in his lungs. They gave him steroids so his body could fight off the growth, but no matter how much they gave him, nothing was working. His lungs were turning into solid tissue and he could no longer breathe on his own.

I couldn’t believe it. He looked fine. His eyes and smile were as bright as ever. He was cognizant and was maintaining a healthy diet, but within two days of my arrival, he could no longer think straight due to lack of oxygen and he could no longer sustain food. They hooked up an IV to him which turned the urine in his catheter blood red. The nurse assured us this was normal but she also urged us to decide quickly what we wanted to do. My grandfather’s discomfort was increasing every day. His mouth and throat were becoming more and more dry as air was forced into his lungs by the cursed machine incessantly beeping next to him.

The time came when my grandmother could no longer bear seeing him in pain. After taking him off the air pump, he didn’t last long. My Aunt and grandmother held his hands as he started gasping for air. My grandmother started crying and since they had taken him off the air supply, they no longer monitored his heart rate. We all knew what was coming.

My grandmother asked me to track his heart rate for her so she would know exactly when his time had come. I grasped the back of his head, my thumb resting on the pulse at his neck. I didn’t cry, I didn’t shake. My Aunt and grandmother said their good-byes and told him how much they loved him. I was silent. I concentrated on his pulse. I stared at his face, tensed with pain as he gasped. I couldn’t feel his pulse. I thought I lost it. I scrambled to find it again. That’s when he gave one final attempt to breathe. His eyes flew open and he opened his mouth in a silent cry for his beloved wife of 50 years. He raised his arm, reaching out to her before collapsing back on his hospital bed. He was gone.

Just like the bird, he was right there in my hands as I watched the light leave his eyes. I felt his last breath. Death had taken one of the most precious creatures in this world away from me. He was gone. I would never see his warm, loving smile again. Just like the innocence of the little bird would never be witnessed on a peaceful, spring morning.

Like a Phoenix

Poem by Bailey J. Crocoll of Cerro Coso Community College
2nd Place for College Poetry - 2017 Met Awards

Misery is felt in the lament of a mother,
the weight of raw grief,
an emotion unlike any other.

Light slants through stained glass,
throwing soft hues of color along the floor.
Hulking oak beams vault along the ceiling,
strong and unyielding.
Rows of  burning candles flicker,
silent.

Loss can be heard through the words gone unspoken,
the stutter of wounded breaths,
the sound of hearts that are broken.

The cavernous room echoes with
the patter of rain and the shuffle of feet.
Stifled sobs and a whisper of sadness,
ripple along the somber pews.
Grief prowls along the rows,
predator.

Despair is seen in the guests that stare,
unblinking in shock,
nursing an ache like a tear.

Trembling fingers trail slowly,
over a bleak wooden box.
Clouds of incense float,
unbothered by the audience that stands.
Eyes that are burning,
stricken.

Hope can be found in the words of the priest,
a guarantee of safety,
a promise of peace.

Voices are uplifted sweet,
united in song.
Reflections are shared,
about the son that was lost.
Slowly, there are smiles,
rising.

Love can be sensed in hands held tight,
whispers of "I love you" and
"It'll be alright."

The fragrance of flowers,
settles gently in the room,
worn bravely on shoulders
of those who were torn.
Secure grips that hug around shoulders,
healing

Life can be found in memories that spark,
unseen in their eyes,
 free of the ashes, they rise from the dark.

Like a phoenix.

Contributor's Note: Last month a friend of mine from high school, Phoenix, was killed at the age of nineteen in a motorcycle accident. This poem was written for him and the fond memories that we'll always relive.

We Could Be Like the Actors on T.V.

Fiction by Jennifer Jones of Cerro Coso Community College
2nd Place for College Fiction - 2017 Met Awards 

It’s funny how much someone’s voice changes when they’re going on about their new favorite thing. Yours goes higher pitched, and the words start sliding into each other. It’s almost like when you’ve had just a bit too much to drink, but with less laughing.


I’m thinking of this because you’re pacing in my living room, waving your hands around and smiling. I’m still standing here, holding your cup of coffee I made a few minutes ago. You take the cup with a quick “Thanks,” before resuming your back and forth. Perhaps I should be listening if you’re this worked up. Couch it is.

“-and, she’s just amazing, you know? Well, not that you could know since you never met her.”

I should’ve been paying attention because you’re staring at me now, waiting for a response. I sip my boiling coffee, for caffeine and not at all as a stall tactic.

“Okay, you kinda have to slow down. I’m still half-awake. Who is this girl?”

“This girl in my philosophy class. Her name’s Suri. I still can’t believe that she’s from Jeonju, too.”

“What a coincidence.”

“Yeah, she just moved here. She’s a music major, piano I think, but she’s just taking this class for fun.”

“Philosophy for fun, huh? I’m more religious theory, myself. But to each their own, right?”

I earn a nervous chuckle, but nothing else. At least, I think you’re finished as I reach for the remote.

Nothing like some daytime television to break up the awkward tension of this moment. But you’re blocking the screen now.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I say while trying to look around you. Ah, not just daytime television. It’s one of those courtroom shows. The wife always wins on these things. And I manage another slow sip of coffee, because I’m trying not to burn my tongue, before you continue with,

“Do you think I should ask her out?”

My tongue feels like it’s on fire, but I can’t focus on that fact. Not right now anyway. I clear my throat before attempting to answer you.

“Out of all people, everyone you know, you’re asking me for dating advice.”

“Not advice really. Although I should take advantage of that, you being a girl and everything.”

“Congratulations. You finally noticed,” I smirk, “but still. I haven’t even met Suri. I can’t help.”

“Oh, okay. I-“

“Wait, wait. Okay, do you like her like her?” This earns a real laugh, but then you get this smile on your face. You’re looking down at your shoes, but I don’t think they’re the reason for the blushing.

“So, you like her. Do you even know if she likes you? Or if she even likes dudes?”

”She likes guys, I’m sure. At least I think so. And I think she likes me as more than a friend by now. It feels like we’ve known each other forever. Even the first day I talked to her.”

“Wait, how long have you actually known this girl?”

“I’ve known her for a while. I’ve just been too nervous to talk about how I- well, this. I’m just afraid that I might lose her to someone else, you know?”

“Okay, I’m still wondering how I never met her. But anyway! If you wanna ask her out, then do it. It doesn’t sound like anything is stopping you. Right?”

“I guess. It’s just that, I don’t really know one-hundred percent that she’ll say yes. She’s not exactly the romantic type. I don’t think she’s even had a boyfriend or whatever. At least not since I’ve known her.”

“Well, some people are like that. Maybe she’s like me and got sick of parents always going on about how important marriage is. Not everyone wants to be chained down.”




I grab my coffee, to give myself something to do. It is too early for this serious of a conversation, but you are looking at me right now with an expression I don’t recognize. I want to say something brilliant and insightful, but part of me just wants to walk away because I have never been good at discussing silly things like feelings. You’re back to staring at your shoes. I feel like a terrible friend right now, but I can resolve that. I walk the whole five feet from the couch to where you are standing and wait for your staring match with your sneakers to end. It does.

“Steven, I’m sure you’ll do just fine. Who wouldn’t like you? She’s probably just waiting for you to show up with some flowers and a cheesy love letter. You’ll see.”

“Oh, is that what would work for you?” You grin, back to your normal self. “If I just showed up with some red-no, pink tulips and a letter proclaiming my unrequited love of all these years? Handwritten, of course.”

“Yeah, and then we’d ride off into the perfect sunset. But to be honest, that would totally ruin my plan of having like, ten cats and living all alone in a cabin on top of a mountain. You can still visit me when that happens, by the way.”

You shake your head and smile, but it’s more of an attempt to smile. I don’t really know why you seem so down. You act like this girl is already set on rejecting you. I am really not good at this kind of stuff. Seriously. I walk back over to the couch, but stop before sitting down.

“Listen, if you really like this girl, you should just ask her out. The worst she can say is no, right? But if you do get her flowers, don’t go for tulips. Even though those are the prettiest. A lot of girls like roses for some reason. Got it?”

You have that look on your face again, and I still can’t read it. But it’s only for a second. You sit down next to me, a little too close as usual.
“Don’t worry. I’ll remember.”

Contributor's Note: This is a story that I wrote for an English class forever ago. It's always been a favorite of mine, so I thought it would be a good choice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Fluttering Heartbeat

Creative Nonfiction by Sarah Horne of Cerro Coso Community College
2nd Place for College Creative Nonfiction - 2017 Met Awards

Spring was always the most beautiful time of year for me in little Ocala, Florida. My childhood home was a three bedroom, brick and wooden house that looked far less grand on the outside than the inside. Mustard trees framed the house at each corner with a shrubbery accenting the front lawn. There was a bay window that captured the sunset and sent rainbows across the sandy walls and cherry wood baby grand piano in the evenings. But it was the mornings that I loved the most.

When the sun finally rises over the neighboring rooftops, the rays pierce the windows illuminating the swirling dust motes over tile floors. The birds sing and flit from branch to grass, hunting insects and arachnids for breakfast.

One exceptionally beautiful spring morning, I heard a soft, pronounced thud on the west-facing bay windows. I padded over to the window in my pajamas after admiring the dusty swirls in the kitchen. Peering through the pane, I saw a little tea wren laying on its back. It’s little chest heaving. It must have hit the window. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. Birds often hit the windows and, after a moment, continued with their daily lives.

I wanted to take advantage of his temporary paralysis to observe him closely. Birds rarely sit still long enough for anyone to truly observe their beautiful features. I quickly and quietly exited the front door and sidled closer to the little bird. He was still laying on his back, breathing furiously. I crouched over him for a moment, absorbing all his beauty and the wonder of how such little wings could carry him so far.

But within a few seconds I began to realize his wounds were worse than I thought. He wasn’t recovering like other birds. I began to panic. I didn’t want this precious, tiny creature to die. I carefully reached out and whispered fruitless reassurances and picked him up. I held the little thing closer to try to find where the break was and prayed it was just a wing and not the spine. But alas, as I turned to bring him inside to a safe, warm bed until I figured out what to do, I saw his last breath shudder through his slightly open mouth. I could see his little tongue through his orange-yellow beak, and I could see the light in his beautiful eyes fade.

I was so taken by his death, I stood there, profoundly still. Now I wasn’t observing the beauty of life as I was just a few short minutes ago, now I was observing the beauty of death. He was just there and then he was gone.

After giving him a brief burial in my back yard, I went back inside and pondered what I had just witnessed. I considered how tragic it was to lose such a peaceful little creature.

It wasn’t until many years later that I held death in my hands again, but this time, he was far more precious.

I was in Pennsylvania on business, when I got the phone call. My mother called and she sounded a little stressed out. She had always been worrisome so I wasn’t alarmed. She told me my grandfather was sick and I needed to find a way to go to him immediately. I figured she was overreacting and when I arrived beside his hospital bed in the intensive care unit less than 24 hours later, I was certain the whole mess was a misunderstanding.

I greeted him and held his hand and gave him my warmest smile to let him know how much I loved him. My Aunt had arrived the day before and my grandmother explained the situation to us. He was short of breath a few days prior and the doctor discovered scar tissue growing in his lungs. They gave him steroids so his body could fight off the growth, but no matter how much they gave him, nothing was working. His lungs were turning into solid tissue and he could no longer breathe on his own.

I couldn’t believe it. He looked fine. His eyes and smile were as bright as ever. He was cognizant and was maintaining a healthy diet, but within two days of my arrival, he could no longer think straight due to lack of oxygen and he could no longer sustain food. They hooked up an IV to him which turned the urine in his catheter blood red. The nurse assured us this was normal but she also urged us to decide quickly what we wanted to do. My grandfather’s discomfort was increasing every day. His mouth and throat were becoming more and more dry as air was forced into his lungs by the cursed machine incessantly beeping next to him.

The time came when my grandmother could no longer bear seeing him in pain. After taking him off the air pump, he didn’t last long. My Aunt and grandmother held his hands as he started gasping for air. My grandmother started crying and since they had taken him off the air supply, they no longer monitored his heart rate. We all knew what was coming.

My grandmother asked me to track his heart rate for her so she would know exactly when his time had come. I grasped the back of his head, my thumb resting on the pulse at his neck. I didn’t cry, I didn’t shake. My Aunt and grandmother said their good-byes and told him how much they loved him. I was silent. I concentrated on his pulse. I stared at his face, tensed with pain as he gasped. I couldn’t feel his pulse. I thought I lost it. I scrambled to find it again. That’s when he gave one final attempt to breathe. His eyes flew open and he opened his mouth in a silent cry for his beloved wife of 50 years. He raised his arm, reaching out to her before collapsing back on his hospital bed. He was gone.

Just like the bird, he was right there in my hands as I watched the light leave his eyes. I felt his last breath. Death had taken one of the most precious creatures in this world away from me. He was gone. I would never see his warm, loving smile again. Just like the innocence of the little bird would never be witnessed on a peaceful, spring morning.

Perversion of Dreams, Love, and Faith (Or Sonnet 1)

Poem by Brandon M. Biggs, 12th Grade, California City High School
1st Place for High School Poetry - 2017 Met Awards

Do not dreams hang suppressed upon the mind?
Sunken pressure upon sad men seeps out
Onto those around them. Pressing their binds
Like shackles, seeking to sink in the drought.

Does not love drown the senses of victims?
Each willing, sail'd their hearts across channels
To another. The pleasure leaked symptoms
Of lust, as they sunk their ships with scandals.

Does not faith strangle the eyes of its zealots?
A tsunami paranoia floods
After all who differ from them. Helots,
Bound by beliefs, like drink with acid suds.

Dreams, love, faith-all inspire men with purpose-
Become toxic poison when in surplus.

Contributor's Note: I enjoy writing poetry, and stories; drawing, painting, and sculpting when I can; creating small programs, and learning. My poetry is often depressing, covers heavy subjects, or is quite long, but this time I have tried to make it more profound than heavy and depressing. This is also my first try to do a sonnet-styled poem.

I Won't Leave

Fiction by Jessa R. Roberts, 10th Grade, Homeschool
1st Place for High School Fiction - 2017 Met Awards

Golden toes tip across the rumpled bed sheets. Warm fingers tickle my ears. I crack my eyes open and yawn at the invading sunlight. My old bones creak and complain when I stretch, trying to work a couple cricks out of my back. Days like these I want nothing more than to curl back up on my warm pillow and fall asleep. Beside me he thrashes suddenly, turning onto his back and throwing an arm over his face. And I remember.

My shoulders bend suddenly under the weight of my life. I turn and look at him. The sheets are tangled around his legs, and sweat plasters his t-shirt to his skin. His jaw works, and I can see his eyes flickering desperately under their lids. His expression breaks my heart. No one should look that sad and scared, especially not my gentle little boy. What happened to him?

I look away, unable to look at the labyrinth of lumpy white scars disfiguring his skin. After his mother got sick he started to lose that joyful light that had played in his eyes since he had first lifted me out of that box under the twinkling Christmas tree. He had cried himself to sleep for weeks after she died, and I had been curled up in his arms the whole time. His tears had soaked into my fur, and I caught a chill, but I never left his arms.

He had left, for so long that his scent had leached from his bed, and I couldn’t recall his face anymore. I think I lost that twinkle in my eyes then, too. When he finally came back, dressed extravagantly in brown camo, he seemed to have forgotten me. He didn’t smile at me, or coo over my kitten antics anymore.  He had scars, and his eyes were cold and grey.  They still are.

Beside me his breathing becomes more uneven. I sit up on my haunches and turn back to him. Waking him up is dangerous. The first morning he was back he had flung me across the room accidentally when I poked my nose into his ear, like I had so many times when we were little. But I can’t bear the look on his face. So I stretch out a paw and touch the tip of his nose gently. His eyes would have crinkled at the corners before opening, but they don’t do that anymore. Instead he jerks upright and scans the room frantically with wild eyes. When he finally looks at me they only calm a little bit, settling into the unsteady look of a caged animal. I look into those eyes, wondering if this really is my boy.

Had he ever really come home?

He rolls to his feet and groans. I jump off the bed and follow him into the kitchen. My joints are stiff with sleep, but I move with all the feline grace I can muster.

My food bag crinkles and the cupboard door slams shut. Kibbles rattle into my bowl. I jump onto the counter next to him and poke my nose into the bowl.

“Hey! Do you want me to get fat or something?” I yowl complainingly, “That’s way too much!”

He brushes me aside with one big hand, “Move, Paula,” he says tiredly and finishes filling my bowl.

I crinkle my nose and sniff. That doesn’t make me sad. I sniff again, not at all. When we were little he would have giggled and meowed back mockingly. I watch him pour cereal crisps into his own bowl, followed by milk. I would have knocked my bowl onto the floor and lapped up some of his cereal while he cleaned up the mess. But I don’t do that anymore. Instead I nibble at my food and watch him.

It’s the same every day.

We have a routine. After breakfast he will go sit in his chair, and I will go sit in mine. Most days we skip lunch; maybe he’ll flick on the tv, or pull out one of his many sketchbooks. Today he just sits, head in hands, staring blankly at his feet.  He doesn’t cry anymore. But right now, I think he is on the inside. I curl my tail around myself as a feeling of urgent unease begins to curl itself around my heart. I want to do something. I want to help him. And more than anything I want my little boy back.

My paws land heavily on the soft carpet, and I pad across the floor toward him. His eyes stay unfocused and distant when I look up into them.

“I love you,” I purr, trying to form the words he had whispered into my fur so many times before he had left. He seems to rouse a little. His grey eyes focus on me, and soften. For a moment I think I can see a warm echo of a smile tug at the corner of his mouth. I stare at him unbelievingly. Then I look down and rub my cheek against his big stinky toes.

Suddenly I know something.

I know that someday he’ll come back to me. My little boy isn’t missing, he’s just sleeping. He’ll wake up, when he’s ready.

I look back up at him. His eyes have dimmed a little bit, the small spark of hope I feel reflected in my own eyes is almost crushed by fear and pain. But it’s there.

“I won’t leave you,” I meow, reaching up toward his face with a paw and staring into his eyes, “I love you,” I try harder to form those words in my garbled voice.

This time a fragile smile passes over his face, crinkling the corners of his sad eyes, and he picks me up gently. He presses his face into my old patchy fur.

“I love you,” he whispers, and I feel a tiny wet spot soak into my fur.

    

Contributor's Note: I live in Big Pine, only a few minutes from Bishop. I have lived there most of my life, which I have been homeschooled the entirety of. Telling stories that people can think about days after reading them is my life's goal. I have always been fascinated by those who choose to serve our country. With this piece I wanted to touch people and honor those brave men and women. I didn't go into specifics, and chose to keep things subtle. But I wanted to tell the story of the unsung hero, and I hope I accomplished that.

A Body's Betrayal

Creative Nonfiction by Deidre Nehr of Cerro Coso Community College
1st Place for College Creative Nonfiction - 2017 Met Awards

I’d never felt passion for any one specific thing. Sure, as a child, there were many careers I wanted to pursue, but I never felt particularly set on any of them. I never even considered that my calling would be motherhood. And then I got pregnant. The two pink lines on that test changed everything; the only thing that mattered was the little life rooted to my own. Chris was ecstatic. Everything in me and around me felt so right I became terrified something bad would happen; I could lose this baby or the devotion I felt for the tiny life blooming inside of me would wane like every other passion I’d had. I vowed I wouldn’t let this happen; I would protect the being inside me with every breath. I ate well, stayed active, I did everything I could to give this child—my child—the best start possible. So, when I started spotting around 14 weeks, I panicked. We were shopping, and I insisted we go home, I changed into pajamas immediately and got into bed. Thinking surely the baby was scared, I hummed the German lullabies my mother sang to me. The spotting stopped by morning and all was well.

The first time I heard the heartbeat I was ten weeks at my first appointment on December 18th. I couldn’t help smiling. The first time I felt her move, I was four months along with an awful cold, only made worse by not being allowed to take any medication. I was sitting on the couch eating a burrito with extra jalapenos when she started doing somersaults. She moved so vigorously Chris could see it from across the room and asked if it hurt. Yes, I thought because I wanted so badly to hold the baby watching their chubby arms move. I remember the first time I saw her: pink and slippery, angry as all hell, perfect. The doctors marveled at her health. The first time I held her, I looked at her face wondering where the wisdom I saw came from; she was only minutes old after all.
I’d had the easiest pregnancy imaginable. I worked in a meat department, lifting 100 pound boxes daily, 48 hours a week until I was eight months pregnant with no complications. I was dilated four centimeters before I even went into labor. The only complication came when the doctor realized she was coming out face up. Every time I bore down, her heart rate dropped drastically. The doctor wanted to perform an episiotomy. I refused and pushed so hard the next contraction she slid completely out at once. I burst every blood vessel in my face and shoulders.

For the next two years as I watched her grow and learn, she convinced me I had actually found my purpose: motherhood. I didn’t want to have 20 children or anything. I told Chris I drew the line at four and even that was excessive. So naturally I was excited when I found out I was pregnant again. It would be another spectacular event. I tested positive on a home test on my one year wedding anniversary. Amalie had just turned two. Our families were as excited as we were. My sister-in-law told me she could tell by my face. For the next five weeks I didn’t have any morning sickness, or sore breasts, or anything. My only complaint was the heartburn. I started spotting at about ten weeks. Having been through this before, I wrote it off as implantation bleeding. When the spotting continued for four days, I decided to ask my doctor about it at the next appointment. Little did I know I’d be in an operating room that day.

The last Sunday of September, the weather was starting to get cooler, and I could smell autumn approaching. Amalie was taking a nap and I was tired enough to take one too, falling asleep as my head hit the pillow. A ringing phone woke me an hour later; Chris told me he was coming home for lunch. After I hung up, I went pee and noticed bright red spotting straightaway. I struggled between hope and logic. Never very good at hope, I logically called Chris back and told him we had to go to the ER. We waited in the ER four hours before Chris took Amalie to a sitter. In the exam room, I stripped from the waist down, only to see the spotting had turned into light bleeding. The technician did an internal ultrasound. He took forever measuring, peering at the screen with a look I still can’t put a name to. As he finished, he still didn’t speak. I broke the silence, “Is everything ok?” His answer tore at me. I cried uncontrollably, hoping the sound of my voice would deafen me so I’d never hear anybody say no again. The doctor discharged me with Vicodin and said to expect labor-like contractions. Every medical professional kept telling me they were sorry; I just wanted them to shut the fuck up. They couldn’t possibly know how sorry I was, how badly this hurt. I would never be whole again. On my way out, a man in the waiting room—a man in far worse physical pain than me—said “I hope you feel better.” He was the only one that got it right, not because he didn’t apologize. He had hope, something I was all out of.

I cried for the rest of the evening and even harder when Amalie hugged me asking what’s wrong. I was just sitting down to check my e-mail when the gush of blood and tissue the doctors told me to expect scared the hell out of me. I ran into the bathtub, Chris, at my heels, rattling off questions. I stood cowering in the tub and requested a plastic bag. When he returned, I pulled down my pants and red stained the entirety of my panties and pants. I was just about to step out of my pants when the mass of the pregnancy fell out of me and landed on my underwear. Stepping out of them and looking down, I’m sure I saw the twist of the umbilical cord. Chris quickly grabbed my underwear by the waist-band and threw it into the plastic bag. We made eye contact as we realized that was the baby we would never hold. The baby I would never nurse. The baby we would never name. I almost told him, WAIT!!! I need to hold it…if only for a moment. Instead I sank into the bathtub, knees drawn to my chin. I looked past Chris at Amalie standing in the doorway, close to tears, asking what’s wrong, wanting so badly to help somehow, my sweet, sweet girl. “Get her out.” I said, “She shouldn’t see this.” My body had betrayed me, everything I wanted. I was horrified, devastated by my loss and pain. Embarrassed by my body’s betrayal, I spent the next hour in pain like I’d never felt, bleeding in the bathtub, thinking that I was supposed to take care of that new life, nurture it, and protect it. And I had failed.

Contributor's Note: This was written in 2010, about 4 months after I miscarried. I was struggling to reconcile how my pregnancies could end so differently and how my mind could be at such odds with my body.



Heart in Hand

Poem by Jennifer Jones of Cerro Coso Community College
1st Place for College Poetry - 2017 Met Awards

all I wanted was a heart in hand. mine in yours
to be exact.
what was I thinking? (yes, yes. i wasn’t.)
a sonnet submerged in the lines I stuttered out through
my pathetic keyboard.
electric and love notes.
but you,
were never going to crack that code.
you had to have been looking for,
hoping for the chance,
in the first place.

Letting Go

Fiction by Bailey J. Crocoll of Cerro Coso Community College
1st Place for College Fiction - 2017 Met Awards 

"I think you just need to fall," she calls over to me, her hands wadded into balls on her hips.

"I need to what?" I choke, pulling back on the reigns so that the horse will drop back to a stop.

"To fall," she smiles up at me, seemingly amused.

I wiggle my boots out of the stirrups and drop down into the dirt. I pat the side of my mare's neck, she's snorting after our little sprint around the arena. I walk over to where my trainer, Anne, stands in a sliver of sunlight that floats in through a gap in the tangle of limbs above.

The warm weather has slowly been dropping away, replaced by a cool breeze that sends goose bumps racing up my arms. Red leaves litter the soil and the grass is beginning to brown and shrivel. The cold air seems to invigorate the horses and they all stomp their hooves and flick their tails restlessly from within their stalls.

"What were you saying?" I ask once I've walked to where she stands.

"Nikki, have you ever fallen off of your horse?"

"No, never," I reply, looking back to where my horse affectionately nibbles around the loose fabric on the sleeve of my sweatshirt.

"You're stiff when you ride. Your shoulders are tense and your calves are too tight. You're afraid of falling," She appraises me with crossed arms.  Before I can respond she continues, "and Echo can feel that. She responds to your tension. She doesn't relax, her ears perk, and she won't drop her neck."

"She's huge, that would be a long drop," I say a little defensively, reaching back and burying my fingers in Echo's mane. She towers over me, all taut muscle beneath an ebony coat.

"Next lesson we'll take you over to the dirt lot, the ground is soft. I'll fix you up with a helmet, we'll get Echo into a trot and then have you slip off the side. The only way to get over your fear of falling is to fall. All you have to do is let go."

A little nervous tingle climbs up my fingers. "I'm not sure about that..." my words trail off into the crisp autumn breeze.

"Trust me, it's safe. I'll show you how to catch yourself before there's a chance of injury. I've had kids do it." I remain silent, my mouth feels like it's full of cotton. " Just think about it," she claps a reassuring hand to my back and gives Echo a scratch on the muzzle.

I drive home alone that evening with the windows rolled down and the heater cranked up. The lights from the city sprawl out across the hills in a glowing maze. I think about what Anne told me, about falling off of the horse, and shudder. To push the brooding idea down I turn the radio on, but I'm still alone with my thoughts. It doesn't take long for my mind to change tracks and start flickering with memories of him. I'm suddenly remembering the way he used to sing along to every song on the radio, even when he didn't know the words. I think about the navy baseball cap that was practically glued to his head and the way the corners of his eyes would crinkle when he was upset. I relive the way he'd whistle when he was focused – I suck in a shuddering breath to shake away the memories that dance in my vision.

It was nearly two years ago when I got the phone call that sent icy disbelief rushing down my throat. They told me it was a car crash.

"You need to let him go," my mother told me quietly after a year had passed and I still called his phone in hopes that he'd pick up. His line is disconnected these days.

I pull to the side of the road when I begin to cry, hating the hot tears that trail down my chin. I lean my head against the steering wheel, wondering when it will all stop hurting. I try to focus on nothing but sound of the motor purring gently. Mopping the tears away with my sleeve, I force my eyes to stop watering. Slouched in the dim light, hiccupping slightly, a slow wave of resolution washes over me.

The next morning, Anne sits atop a tree stump calling out, "start her off slow!"

The sky is a metallic grey and storm clouds hang low on the horizon. I'm sitting atop Echo in the empty dirt lot, a bulky helmet strapped securely beneath my chin. I give her sides a gentle nudge and she starts to walk. A nervousness clenches in the pit of my stomach.

"Push her a bit, just into a slow trot." Anne calls.

I click my tongue, giving Echo the cue to speed up. Her hooves beat the ground, my body rocks with her movement. Without warning I'm thinking of him again and the way he used to tell me he'd buy me a horse one day or maybe a unicorn, and how I'd laugh till tears squeezed out from the corners of my eyes. I urge Echo to speed up, to help me run away from the memories. Her trot picks up faster and she slips into a run.

"Might want to slow it down a bit, Nikki!" Anne shouts.

The wind whips tears from my eyes and Echo grunts, shaking her mane out. We're flying, the dirt jumping up in clumps behind her hooves. I can feel Echo's heart beating, thrumming beneath me. I think of him as we fly, I think and think and then I know it's time to let him go. I slow Echo down just before it's time. I unclench my hands from their grip on her reigns, I slide my feet out from the stirrups, I lean to one side. And I let my body go. I let it all go.


Contributor's Note: I've been riding horses for a few years now, and I'm constantly astounded by the knack that horses have for connecting and teaching me through their actions. This piece was inspired by the healing that can be found through time spent in the saddle, or in this case, falling out of it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

2017 Met Winners Announced

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Congratulations to the following writers who have placed in this year’s Met Awards! Their

Thank you to all participants. Please watch for announcements as we approach the end-of-year award ceremony and reading.

The Editors

College Fiction

First Place: Bailey Crocoll for “Letting Go”
Second Place: Jennifer Jones for “We Could Be Like the Actors on TV”
Honorable Mention: Cindi Aseltine for “Rain”
Honorable Mention: Bailey Crocoll for “The Stone Collector”

High School Fiction

First Place: Jessa Roberts for “I Won’t Leave”

College Poetry

First Place: Jennifer Jones for “Heart in Hand”
Second Place: Jenna Daugherty for “For the Small Town”
Second Place: Bailey Crocoll for “Phoenix”
Honorable Mention: Anthony McFarland for “The Transformed”

High School Poetry

First Place: Brandon Biggs for “Perversion of Dreams, Love, and Faith”

College Creative Nonfiction

First Place: Deidre Nehr for “A Body’s Betrayal”
Second Place: Sarah Horne for “The Fluttering Heartbeat”
Honorable Mention: Bailey Crocoll for “Flying Free”

Monday, November 14, 2016

2016 Met Awards: Honorable Mention Fiction

Editor's note: In addition to this year's first and second place winning entries in college fiction, we received many other stories that we felt were worthy of publication.  What follows are two of the selections: 


Backfire
Fiction by Bailey Crocoll, 
Honorable Mention Fiction--2016 Met Awards


They told us that they would change the way the world saw war forever.

"A weapon in a league of its own," they proclaimed, virtuous smiles plastered across their faces. Many bought into the idea, willingly throwing their support towards the proposed advancement. Others were skeptical, calling the weapons "immoral," "evil," unethical." Yet their shouts were unheard, buried beneath the pedestal of golden promises. They weaved their way into any crack they could find, aiming to convince the population that their cause was just. They brought the weapons into the schools; showed them to crowds of eager children, spoke of the glory our country would experience with the use of these weapons. "Brainwash," some accused, jutting fingers at the scientists that created them. The suits and ties shook hands, spoke words smooth as silk, and flashed artificial smiles at the hoards of flashing cameras. Eventually they lulled the country into a false sense of security. Those that opposed never even stood a chance.

"Beneficial advancements," the head scientist at Bellum Genetics proclaimed, sidestepping to let the audience and cameraman get a clear shot of the weapon. Lithe limbs, a frame curved with bulging muscles, two piercing eyes brimming with intelligence. Applause rippled across the room, praise for the animal that stood attentively on display. A German Shepherd—or what used to be one—pants gently, appraising the crowd with a cocked head and perked ears. "German Shepherds are used and preferred by the police force for a reason. According to Stanley Coren, a neuropsychological researcher, German Shepherds rank as the third most intelligent dog breed. With only five repetitions, 95% of the Shepherds were able to obey a command. Coupled with their exceptional strength, they are bred for combat," the scientist pauses to let the audience absorb his words, he licks his lips.

"And with the help of today's science, we are presented with the extraordinary opportunity to strengthen their assets." A hand pops up in the audience. Slightly annoyed by the interruption, the scientist clears his throat and gestures toward the woman to speak.

"You're referring to the modification of the animal's genes, correct?" She asks, staring at him with an undiluted doubt weighing in her voice.

"Simply put, yes," he responds dryly. The woman hastily scribbles on her notepad. "We can alter the mammal's genes before their birth. Making them stronger, faster, and more intelligent. They can be used for wars, you see. They breed quickly, they train and learn at a rapid pace. With these animals working alongside our soldiers, we will save countless lives." Several snickers rise up from the audience, skeptical whispers are exchanged.

The scientist purses his lips, "You doubt these animals?" The audience falls under a hush. He forges on unfazed, "you can see that this subject here is larger and more muscular than the average dog," he gestures to the animal. "His cranium has actually been enlarged to enable a stronger jaw, raising the force of their bite from a pound-force of 238 to a pound-force of 975, comparable to a grizzly bear, enough to crush a bowling ball."

No one is laughing now. On a cue the lights in the room dim, leaving a spotlight centered over the animal and another over a mannequin. The crowd shifts from foot to foot nervously. A single word is uttered over a loud speaker and suddenly the animal is bounding across the room at an unimaginable pace towards the dummy. Within seconds the mannequin's ballistic gel head is sent tumbling down towards the rows of agape spectators.

We live in a world of fear now, filled with solitude and uncertainly. They bred hundreds of them. Thousands of those modified beasts. At first they worked flawlessly, eliminating thousands of wartime enemies and saving the lives of countless soldiers. So naturally, that wasn't enough for the scientists at Bellum Genetics. They were hungry for more. The animals were bred across the country, for wars, for the police force, to stand guard out front of schools and social events. Crime rates dropped dramatically. Blinded by the praise illuminating the subject, no one suspected that the animals would turn. No one guessed that the animals would stop obeying orders. No one had anticipated that the animals would breed to be increasingly intelligent. No one suspected that the most dominant alphas would want to lead their own packs rather than be lead by humans.

I'm jerked awake from a fitful sleep. I sit up, rubbing the haze from my eyes and strain to hear whatever it was that woke me. My younger sister is asleep on the couch beside me, buried beneath a pile of quilts. My mom, sister, and I fled the city at the first signs of chaos, heading towards the mountains. When Bellum Genetics' program started going south, their overly intelligent animals began escaping...overrunning neighborhoods, towns, and eventually entire cities. At first people waved dismissive hands while the bronze newscasters assured us that there was nothing to worry about. The death toll rose and the animal's population was increasing and still we were assured that, "humans are the dominate species, the top of the food chain, nothing to worry about, absolutely nothing at all, folks." The warning from the Emergency Broadcast System has been frozen on our television screen for almost three weeks now.

There's a scuffle from somewhere outside. I squint through the dim light of the room we all share. My heart stutters in my chest as I realize the mattress that my mom usually sleeps on is empty, blankets thrown back. Slowly, I rise and cross the room, my socked feet whispering across the scarred wooden floor. I try to peek through the boards that barricade our windows. I see only darkness. The rifle that is usually mounted above the door is gone, the front door unbolted. When did she leave? I never even heard the door unlock. Warnings thrum through my mind, my heartbeat pounding in my ears. I glance back at where my sister lays, peaceful in her oblivion. Biting my lip, I pat my side to where my pocketknife hangs on my waistband. My only weapon.

Steeling myself, I cautiously rotate the knob to meet the frigid breeze that comes sweeping in. Eyes watering against the cold, I let my socks sink into the dewy grass outside. The darkness is suffocating, swallowing any signs of my mother. I tentatively call out her name, letting my words hang in the air, mingle with the chirp of crickets and the babble of the brook. I venture forward, farther from the comfort of the room behind me, and into the looming shadows of the trees. The moment I step into the tree line I know that I've made a mistake. I can hear their labored breathing, the stench of their breath, the ice of their eyes staring at me. Blood running cold, I hear their growls reverberating through my shivering body.

They were right. They would change the way the world saw war forever. ­­­­­



A Cloud of Ash
Fiction by Joshua GleasonHonorable Mention Fiction--2016 Met Awards


She went and did it again. He guesses he shouldn’t be so surprised, it’s not the first time. There was that time on Halloween she had promised to take him trick-or-treating. She didn’t She showed up at grandma’s when he was finished. She stayed only for a few minutes then decided to leave, but helped herself to his best candy because she knew he wouldn’t say no. Typical. Then, there was that time he got an award at school. His grandma made him call her and tell her. She acted excited. She promised she would show up. Unfortunately, she did show up this time. His stomach fluttered with embarrassment as she fell over chairs and talked over everyone. He pretended like he didn’t even know her but she kept calling his name louder and louder waiting for a response. Today is different though. He needed her today. He waited hours for her in the rain before deciding to walk home. It was unforgiving and relentless, just like her. He walk in the door soaking wet thinking today is the day I tell her how I really feel, but I know it’s going to make me cry. He can see her on the other side of the living room and his heart starts to race. For some reason he hesitates. He wants to scream at her so badly and tell her that she is a horrible person for treating me the way she does. He walks up behind her chair slowly as he built up the courage to say something, knowing it will be hurtful. Its time however. You know, this is why I live with grandma, he says, it's days like today when I wish I didn’t have to deal with you. He waited for a response but heard none. He figured he must have hurt her. For some odd reason his body is tingling with triumph. He now has the confidence to keep going. You are never there for me, never have been, never will be, he says. I will grow up and you will never see me again. I will never talk to you once I leave this place unless you can show me that you love me or at least care. Once again he hears nothing but the sound coming from the infomercials on the television. He says, is that it? Really? You can’t even say that you love me? What a worthless piece of trash you are he says with a heaving chest. His breathing so rapid he starts to see white spots. His emotions were pouring out his mouth like a bad taste that he couldn’t scrape off his tongue. It wouldn’t go away and he wouldn’t stop. I know you’re on drugs, I don’t know why you even try to hide it, and you looked so stupid when you came to my awards ceremony, he says. This is why I live with grandma, because your pathetic. And still he hears no response. In an instant, he grabs the ashtray off the table and throws it across the living room, creating a cloud of ash and breaking the television. As he stands there, panting like a ravaged dog when he realizes that he is better than this anger. His grandma had always raised him to be a bigger person and to always look for the good in people. He couldn’t find the good in her anymore though. All he found was constant disappointment. As he stands there, letting his blood settle, he looks for a broom to clean up the mess. He finds one, walks across the room to clean his mess, sobbing. He can’t believe that after all that she has nothing to say. She just sat there looking at the shattered television with no word leaving her. Only a blank stare. He walks over to her and can see that needle sticking out of her arm. He thinks to himself, she is too high to understand what I’m even saying. He looks back and with one final glance, a sense of peace comes over him as he knows only good things can come from a future without this horrid, self-destructive person in his life. I’m sorry it had to be like this he says, I hope you have a wonderful life. He left, never to see his mother again. And she never left her chair.





Monday, November 07, 2016

Trust

Creative Non-Fiction by Kaitlin Pearson
Second Place for College Creative Non-Fiction-- 2016 Met Awards



Silently she sat, watching as the land rolled by beyond the windows of the bus. The headphones in her ears blasted an eclectic choice of music – one moment country artists, the next rap or heavy metal, always bouncing between genres, no two similar songs in a row. Her foot twitched and bounced, picking up speed and intensity as the bus got nearer to its destination. Long before she arrived, her leg was tired and sore. She could feel the tears welling in her eyes, threatening to spill over. As the bus finally pulled into the station, she gathered her belongings, stuffing her headphones into her purse as she readied herself to disembark. As she glanced out the window, she felt the breath leave her body.

He was sitting on the bench, calmly writing in his notebook, seemingly unaware of the arrival of the bus. She took a deep breath, forcing back the hot wetness that began to spill across her cheeks. She swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand as people pushed by her to get out of the hot, stale air inside the bus. She forced her breathing to even out as she stepped into the aisle, straightening her skirt as she prepared to step off. She vowed to herself that she would remain calm, cool, and collected, trying her best not to let him see exactly how deeply their time apart was affecting her. She took the first step with grace and composure… Not that it lasted. The moment the path between them cleared, a small squeal leapt from her throat and she launched herself headlong across the short distance.

She threw herself against him, tears in her eyes for the umpteenth time that day, emotion tightening her throat. She flung her arms around his neck, stifling a sob. Instead, she managed to choke out a single word – “Mine.” – as she buried her face against his neck. He gave a warm chuckle as he wrapped her in a hug, enveloping her in his warm embrace with a one-word, muttered response – “Hi.”

“Mine…” she murmured again, softer this time. Her purse slid from her shoulder, dropping to the bench beside him. He left one arm wrapped around her as he used the other to move the notebook from his lap to set beside her purse on the bench.

“I love you,” she choked.

“I love you, too.”

“I missed you so much…” This almost a whine.

“I know… I’m sorry. I missed you, too.”

She sighed contentedly, then buried her teeth in his shoulder. He inhaled sharply, but otherwise didn’t flinch. He knew better. Pulling away would only cause more pain and make it unpleasant. Besides, if he was being honest with himself, he had missed this expression of her love, too. He let her hold on for a moment longer before speaking again.

“Enough,” he said sternly. Then, softly, “Let go now, pet.”

She hesitated a moment, not quite ready to let go, but then obeyed the order with a quiet whimper. She straightened up, and he graced her with a smile. It was so genuine! It made her heart leap and race in her chest, once more causing her breath to lodge behind the emotion in her constricted throat. Had she been born with a tail, it would have wagged madly.

She took a step back to give him space to stand. He did, pulling her once more into a strong embrace. She nuzzled against his chest. She had never known what it was like to trust so fully, so completely in a partner; she reveled in it with every chance she could. She loved the way he always made her feel so safe, so warm, so cared for, but still knew how to play his role to perfection. She would want for nothing more in her life than his desire for her.

She gave a contented sigh. He smiled and kissed the top of her head – it was these little moments, when she did things she was entirely unaware of, that meant the most to him. For it was in these moments that she let her guard down and really became herself, allowing him to see who she really was – the sweet, loving woman behind all the trauma and fear, the one very few people were allowed to see. He knew she was far from perfect – she came to him with baggage dragging behind her. But to him, she was perfection, and he hoped to help alleviate some of the weight that her baggage dragged. For so long as he loved her, he would never let such things affect her again. He was determined to be her protector, her Master. He vowed to do whatever it took to earn that trust from her.

For now, they had all they needed in each other. They would worry about the future at a later time, when it became necessary. But for today, being together, just having each other, was enough.




Monday, October 31, 2016

Time After Time Toys Break

Poetry by Devanne Fredette of Cerro Coso Community College
Honorable Mention for College Poetry--2016 Met Awards



Click Clack

Pieces Pieces

They break 

Crash. Smack



Are they toys?

Red Red

As sweet as strawberries

Fills them, eyes and hair.



I don’t understand 

Nor do they,

This is what mother wanted

And I won’t have it any other way.



Are they dead?

Toys they are

No matter how much they scream, no matter how much they break

This is what mother wanted 



And I won’t have it any other way.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Like You Said You Would

Poetry by Izabella Carter of Burroughs High School 
2nd place for high school poetry--2016 Met Awards


The smoke rose and the fire danced into the chimney.

Hot chocolate burned my lips, while brandy burned yours.

I watched your sweet face, aglow from the firelight,

A smile played on your features when you caught me staring.

An arm pulled me close, nestling me into your side,

I closed my eyes, expecting you to hold me close.


                    Like you said you would.


Like the smoke from the fire, you dissipated into the winter air.

Instead of tasting brandy on your lips,

I tasted vodka on my own.

I swallowed the last of my glass, and the last of my loneliness.

Tears pricked my eyes when I stood,

Teetering on drunken feet.

A bed awaited me, and I swear I could still smell you in the sheets.

The late nights of love making and drunken promises had passed.

I closed my eyes,

Expecting you to hold me close,

                    Like you said you would.


Moonlight passed over your side of the bed and I felt the absence of your presence.

Remembering the nights spent tangled together causes my heart to ache.

My lungs strained with the effort it took to breath,

I felt the ghost of your fingertips on my skin.

Feeling the effects of the vodka finally stir in my veins,

“How could you leave me?”

You told me you would love me, you told me you would stay,

How convenient that when I needed you most,

You aren’t here.

Your love was gone and so were you.

You didn’t stay,


                    Like you said you would.



Contributor's note: I'm Izabella Carter, better known as Izzy.

I'm 15 years old and have lived in Ridgecrest all of my life;

although I'm young, I've experienced tragedy but also, extreme

happiness (the tragedy in relation to the creation of my works).

I enjoy hiking, photography, writing poetry, and striving to meet

my goals.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Yes

Poetry by Jennifer Jones of Cerro Coso Community College
2nd place for College Poetry-2016 Met Awards

You bring up Colombia and Korea,
“Maybe we can go there together someday,
in five years or so.”
You talk about meeting the only girl for you before leaving
this country.
And I think,
I’d just get in the way.
Your messages sound too much like goodbye letters.
I say I’m so happy.
So proud.
Really.
You say a knight in shining armor will come rescue me someday.
You say you might be leaving
this summer.
You say it twice as if I’ll forget.
I say a knight will just get in the way.
I should have said yes.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Rot

Fiction by Ray David Morales of Cerro Coso Community College
2nd Place for College Fiction-2016 Met Awards

The damp beige brick wall with red trim was slowly numbing his buttocks as he dialed his brother again.

PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE AT THE SOUND OF THE BEEP. He hangs up angrily.

He sighs as he struggles from the wall and drags himself up the driveway to try the door again. Locked. Walking back down the drive he turns and stares at the two-story house that shares the same paint job as the low brick wall surrounding its lawn, the lights from his brother’s room and the guest room glaring from the windows facing the street. He looks around the cul-de-sac. All had the same color, same brick wall, and the same solitary dying tree planted firmly in the front yard. The street, like all suburban neighborhoods in his experience, was eerily quiet. He missed the constant flow of night traffic. Shivering as the mist brought on by the evening rain penetrates his work clothes, he is about the dial his brother again when something brushes across his leg. It dives under his sedan. Startled he gingerly walks to the edge of the curb and kneels. The faint orange glow of the street lamp does little to help him see under the vehicle. “What he f-” Suddenly a Rottweiler bursts out from under the car. “Son of a-” He jumps back, trips over the knee-high wall, and falls to the wet grass landing square on his back. Lying winded, the Rottweiler is at his face within seconds.

The door has a trick to it, if you shut it too hard you’ll lock yourself out.

Then the Rottweiler begins to lick him. He spits at the dog. He stands up, the Rottweiler licking him through the motion. After dusting himself off, he takes a closer look at the dog. The Rottweiler has a collar, an owner. He looks up at the house staring blankly back at him with its yellow eyes. Maybe I’ll look around for this guy…or grateful girl. He could get to know the neighborhood, interact with the neighbors. He opened his car and took a shoelace from a work boot he found in one of the cardboard boxes. He ties it to the Rottweiler and is about to close the door when he decides to get what he had originally come outside for.

With full comprehension of his own stupidity, he took a stick of gum from the pack he pulled out and walked down the hushed sidewalk, Rottweiler in hand. Immediately it tries to pull him down the block, but he decided he would be systematic about the process. He walks up to the first door.
“Hello, ummm, I found this dog, is it yours?”

“Yeah this dog was walking down the street, I was wondering if it belonged to you…”

“This your Dog?”
The next door had an exaggerated bell that the residents seemed to like to let ring to its completion. A hopefully grateful girl answered the door.

“Oh hey, I found this Rottweiler a couple blocks away, so I decided to look for its master…” Nailed it he thought.

Awwww that’s sweet-”

Then a man walks up from behind, embraces her and gives her a hope-killing caress.

“What’s up Babe?”

He walks home tugging on the dog, as he had throughout his search. The Rottweiler whimpered with each pull. He stops in his tracks. Stupid.

He lets the dog lead him. The Rottweiler takes him past the two story houses with hazel colored lights blinking from living rooms and bedrooms. He leads him past the small park where teenagers do drugs during the long summers. He drives him through puddles, down a concrete path past all the lights of suburbia. His phone begins to ring. It’s his brother.

“Hello?”

The dog leads him to a drainage aqueduct shining and trickling with rainwater on the side of the trail. A worn Reebok sits overturned on its edge.

“What’s up?”

He looks down as the Rottweiler gets away from him and runs downs the sloped wall of the duct, barking wildly.

“Holy Shit”

At the bottom of the ravine lay an elderly man half submerged in the cold current, shaking violently, reaching out with a weathered hand.

“Call 911, I am at the ravine.”
“What?”

He drops the phone and sprints, splashing furiously through the murk. “I’m Here…I’m Here…”

The ambulance and police lights spin and flash seemingly simultaneously. Their cherry shine burning the dead weeds rolled over from their entrance. He was wearing a ridiculous, itchy blanket as we watched the old man be wheeled away on a gurney. They smiled trembling grins at each other as the doors closed. His brother is standing a couple feet away dressed in a two piece suit that either saw a long day at the office or a long night out. He has a steaming cup of coffee in his hand. He laughs.

“When you roll into town you really roll in dontcha?”

He slaps him on the back and walks off to get more complementary coffee.

The officer takes his place.

“You know if you hadn’t shown up, no one would have found this man till morning.” The officer beams. “Good job kid.”

“What are you gonna do with his dog?” he asks, gesturing to the Rottweiler entertaining himself with a plastic bag next to the ambulance.

“Granddaughter said she’ll take him in the meantime.” explains the officer.

Sure enough, a grateful girl walks up with the Rottweiler and a smile.

“Hey there, is this your shoelace?”

“Ummm, yeah it is sorry…”

“Don’t be, I’m Emma.”

“Hi I’m…New in town.”



Monday, October 03, 2016

Musical Musings of a Midnight Bosnian

Creative Non-Fiction by Alex Tellez of Cerro Coso Community College
1st Place for College Creative Non-Fiction - 2016 Met Awards

I’m going to write the greatest pop album that will be remembered and revered by music enthusiasts and historians. This grandiose statement is something I repeat to myself on a daily basis. Often, I’ll find myself listening to the Beach Boys’ seminal Pet Sounds album and I’ll always in awe by the way Brian Wilson was able to create a harmonious web of songs that have transcended and stretched the boundaries of the pop genre for fifty years. From the moment you put on “Wouldn’t it Be Nice,” you know you’ve settled on to something other-worldy for its time. Wilson took it upon himself, having listened to the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, to create an album that would surpass anything the Beatles – or anyone for that matter – could ever have anticipated. The result was an album that inspired generations of psychedelic-rock groups that would eventually pave way to the neo-psychedelic movements of the late-1990s. The fostering of those seeds in the musical fragment of history is something that inspires and fuels my desire to bend pop music to my will in ways that will be remembered.

When I write a song, I’ll often confront an emotion so abstract that the only way I can express it is through surreal imagery and nonsensical writing:

I’m walking to the moon
July’s on my mind as I talk to the never-ending June
My mind’s in a clutter of jamborees in the city
It tells me of a conscious life that I’m desperately needing
It tells me of a vision it saw
A nautical, blue silhouette.

I don’t write this stuff for the sake of joining words together. At the same time, though, I’m confronting these emotions in a way that lets the listener know that I’m in no mental capability of describing these emotions through concrete or upfront imagery. The emotion being expressed isn’t explicit, nor is it one that makes sense, but that’s what makes the writing speak out to me. Surreal lyricism requires the appropriate instrumentation to fit the tone; therefore, I will often apply diminished chords, unconventional chord progressions, sudden key changes, and jazz-fused rhythms, all tucked into ballads that depict things I feel that confuse and make me feel alive. I’ve been inspired to take this approach after extensive listens of Brian Wilson’s song "Surfs Up," a song that has kept many musical analysts in confusion upon attempting to decipher the meaning behind its lyrics.

Other sources of inspiration come from the Residents and Animal Collective. In a time when musical pop icons were becoming a staple of the music industry back in the 1960s, the Residents became the world’s first “anti-pop” stars that flared in anonymity and avant-guard musical approaches to music. Through their elaborate attempts to maintain their identities hidden, the Residents, under the veil of their iconic eye-ball masks, have founded a school of music that requires very little musical background in order to express subconscious ideas. Their approach to music often sounds nonsensical and cacophonous, but after repeated listens, the music has a hidden layer of genius to it.

Animal Collective, Baltimore’s neo-psych legends, inspired me in a time where I felt all the colors of world had left me. I’d been struggling with depression for a while and completely hated the idea of waking up to the same old routines of each day. The band had been under my radar for a while now, but every time I gave these guys a listen, I’d been underwhelmed by what I was listening to. However, in this moment of vulnerability, I experienced a plethora of colors and hues upon listening to Merriweather Post Pavilion, an album that many would consider to be a classic in the neo-psych genre. The opening track, “In the Flowers,” instantly gives you images of being envious of a dancer boy that gets to express themselves among the flowers without the troubles and pressures of society. The song starts out soft, adding layers of guitar and synths that are pinched with tremolos and other psychedelic effects. Two-and-a-half minutes later, lead singer Avey Tare sings the line:

If I could just leave my body for the night…

Unleashing a world of distorted images through a heavy usage of synthesizers and tribal drumming that has forever inspired me to continue forth with my musical endeavors. The album ventures through many emotions and often reflects back upon those moments in life where we leave behind our childhoods in order to adjust to society.

I approach my music knowing very well that people will get turned off by the unconventionality of the traditional pop-ballad. Then again, I don’t write for those people. I’m lucky enough to surround myself in an environment where my creative outlets aren’t constricted. I write for those that have that innate willingness to discard conventional trends in pop music and see my writing as a nod to those past musicians that have experimented with the form in ways that have defined a generation. I’d often walk around as a little boy coming up with melodies describing the world in front of me, even before I picked up my first instrument. I write because I know I’m good enough. I write because I’ve seen my writing evolve, and so have others. I’m going to write the greatest pop album ever written because I’ve always felt a call to make great things out of myself in music. One day I won’t have to say this because the work I leave behind in this life will speak for itself.