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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

I have Known Loss

Poem by E. K. Heflin of Burroughs High School
1st Place for High School Poetry - 2016 Met Awards

I have ached away
a thousand lonely hours

I have dismantled myself with hope

When I imagine this ruthless heart
quitting you
cold

Like an addict
with a lease on life
ten years overdue

I cannot bring myself
to ache properly
I cannot bring myself
to try.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Snapshots

Poem by Alex Tellez of Cerro Coso Community College
1st Place for College Poetry - 2016 Met Awards

alongside the springs, who foster the roots,
doves of hues & explorations are
always there,
always lingering,
always waiting to enrapture us all, if just for the night.
~
on the eve of the apex, 
i asked myself if i was special
(yet that tore my heart)
and if i would feel true warmth
(it hurts less to disguise our ideas with baseness)
and if this still would last forever
(one can never find that interior balance between right and) real.
~
To follow the love of the heart and the
          moon is the ultimate experience
                    (for the moon’s shied her way into
                              the heart many, many times).
                                        Perhaps they laugh at our breakups,
                                                            our compulsions,
                                                                                our regressive tendencies to idolize;
                                        they know the shtick all too well.
But often, after the peak of drunkenness, they envy us, giving us nothing but snapshots.

Contributor's Note: This poem followed a heavy binge of e. e. cummings poems. The piece is modeled as a triptych depicting the moon and the heart in three realms of nature: the outer (physical), the inner (emotional), and the universal (philosophical).

Monday, September 12, 2016

Late

Flash Fiction by Erin "Ren" B. of Opportunities for Learning
1st Place for High School Fiction - 2016 Met Awards

I watch the clock, as it's hands reach up to touch the numbers. I wish that I could reach up to touch any part of you, but I can't.

The little hand passes the 2 for the tenth time since I've started watching. I'm reminded of all the two's I miss about you. Like your two eyes that sparkle when the sun hits them, or twinkle with the moon. Your two hands that hold tightly onto me, as if I was your only hope. Your two arms that entrap me, like a blanket. Your two legs that walk to me, or if needed, that run to me, when I feel alone.

The big hand moves closer to the 10. You were supposed to be here by now. But, I know why you aren't. Your ten toes don't wiggle anymore. Your ten fingers cannot grasp onto me anymore.

The clock strikes 12. Midnight. It's been a whole day since I lost you. Ironically enough, the prince lost Cinderella at midnight. The only difference is that I'm not a princess. And you aren't a prince. So, unlike prince charming, I won't get you back. There is no magical glass slipper to cure your absence. 

It's 1 am. It's funny how we call it morning when the sun is too sleepy to rise. I met you at 1 am a year ago. I would ask if you remembered, but I know you don't. You can't. After a long night of travel, I met you at the only coffee shop open. Your hair was too long, your body too lanky, and you were too forward with your behavior for me, a grumpy and weary traveler. But I gave you a shot anyways. And now, I'm not sure that I'm glad I did.

It's 2 am and I'm thinking about your two eyes, two hands, two arms, and two legs. I'm also reminded of your two tumors you never told me about. Or the two seizures you had in the hospital the night you left. I know it's selfish to hate those gone. But, I do.

Because, with all these numbers, you had, you had a multitude of chances to tell me the truth. And now I'm here picking up all the pieces from a boy who didn't give me enough minutes.

Contributor's Note: I like writing (especially fiction), reading, and playing piano. I wrote this piece, somewhat from experience, somewhat from imagination. I wanted to feel moved by what I wrote. I wanted to fall in love with my character and hate him all at once. Losing someone is hard. Losing someone unexpectedly can be infuriating. I wanted to incorporate those emotions into my work.

Monday, September 05, 2016

No More

Flash Fiction by Jessica Surgett of Cerro Coso Community College
1st Place for College Fiction - 2016 Met Awards

Life is messy. I get that. I know that nobody is perfect, people make mistakes, and forgiveness is a virtue. But as I stare at my boyfriend’s bare ass laying passed out drunk on our bed once again, I begin to see the gray areas in these statements. People make mistakes, but how many times do we have to forgive the same mistake? My normal mantras are no longer working. The more I try to grasp at them, the more they slip through my fingers and float away. I want to float away with them. I peel my eyes from his prone figure, and they settle on the vomit covered clothing sitting in a pile on the floor. The ones I wrestled him out of before he collapsed into his blissful darkness. Life is messy, but I’m sick of being his maid.

Very carefully, I pick up the soiled clothes and make my way to the washing machine in the hallway. I pour in the detergent and watch as the water rises, slowly covering all evidence of his latest “setback.” He’ll wake in the morning and tell me how sorry he is; how he didn’t mean it. He’ll use sweet words and those big blue eyes to convince me not only that he is fine, but that part of this is my fault, too. He’ll tell me how I can help prevent this from happening again; how it was something I said that set him off. He’ll nurse my wounds so sweetly, covering every bruise with kisses and every insult with proclamations of love. He’ll lay out each word so carefully I won’t be able to see them twisting until the noose is already wrapped around my neck, choking out the last of my arguments.
Except, this time will be different. This time he’ll wake in the morning to nothing but an empty house and clean clothes. This time I’ll be gone before he has a chance to change my mind. I return to the bedroom and take one last look at his sleeping form. He’s completely naked, one leg hangs off the bed, and there’s a puddle of drool the size of his fist gathering on the navy bedspread. He looks so innocent in this moment; so helpless. I quickly turn and head for the living room before the guilt can set in. I’ve made my decision. No turning back.

As I grab the duffel bag I packed earlier from the couch, my sleeve moves up and my eyes catch on his fingerprints painted in purple on my wrist. I pause. The violet blooms are almost beautiful, much prettier than the ugly yellow-green color they’ll become. I pull down my sleeve and shake the thought from my head. It’s not beautiful. It’s a bruise. A physical reminder of his rage and my fear. I squeeze my eyes shut. This is not beautiful. Throwing the bag over my shoulder, I’m surprised by it’s weightlessness. This bag holds everything I own, do I really have so little to my name? It’s so light, yet it feels heavy with the weight of my decision as I carry it out the door. I imagine my guilt and confusion tucked inside next to my socks and underwear.

The steps are slick with ice, and I worry that my beat up hatchback won’t start as I carefully pick my way through the frosted patches of weeds. Saying a prayer, I climb into the car, close my eyes, and turn the ignition. It takes three cranks and a moment of panic, but the engine starts. I release the breath I was holding and realize I’m shaking. It’s cold, but that’s not the cause. My heart pounds in my chest, and though my breath swirls from my lips in little white puffs, I’m sweating. I feel terrified and exhilarated all at once. I’m really doing this— finally doing this. Taking deep, measured breaths, I wait for the car to heat up and focus on the trailer in front of me. In. Out. My head spins as my lungs struggle in my chest. When did breathing become so difficult? When did everything become so difficult?

This will be the last time I ever see this place. I’ve never been so sure of anything. My resolve clears some of the fog from my mind and gives me strength. I look at the fingerprints on my arm again, the dark stains cast in sharp relief against my pale skin. No more.

No. More.

I squeeze the steering wheel as I let the refrain seep deep into my bones, the marrow thrumming with determination. From the safety of the car, I stare harshly at my former prison. The screen door is more holes than screen, and the bug zapper on the porch casts a green hue through the multitude of insect carcasses. I relate so much to those damn dead bugs. Lured in by beauty and extinguished by the same light. They’re trapped in there, but I refuse to stay trapped. I feel my anger rise, and then suddenly it’s as if all the emotions I’ve been burying for the past eight months are screaming to be released. Tears fall freely from my eyes and my shaking becomes almost violent. I want to release the scream tearing up my throat, but he’s still too close for that. I’m not far enough away from my fear yet. So I bite my lip and sob as quietly as I can, letting out a sliver of the anger and sorrow I’ve been hoarding. It tastes like copper. All the while the thrumming never ceases. It continues to pulse through my bones and give me the courage I need. I hold tight to it as I put the car in gear and give one last glare to the trailer before backing out onto the gravel road. No more.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

2016 Met Winners Announced

folded
Fiction

Cerro Coso
First Place
Jessica Surgett for "No More"

Second Place
Ray David Morales for “Rot”

Honorable Mentions
Bailey J. Crocoll for "Backfire"
Joshua Gleason for "A Cloud of Ash"
John L. Hunger for "Bottled Betrayal"
Anthony McFarland for "The Longest Day"
Ragen Shallock for "A Night to End All Nights"
Alas Tarin for "The Human Garden"
High School 
First Place
Erin Brown for "Late"

Poetry

Cerro Coso
First Place
Alex Tellez for "Snapshots"

Second Place
Jennifer Jones for "Yes"

Honorable Mentions
Jenna Daugherty for "Between the Pages"
Devanne Fredette for "Time After Time, Toys Break"
Nolan Havig for "Banana Leaves"
John L. Hunger for "Tattoo Tears"
Alas Tarin for "The Gravity of Gold"
High School
First Place
E.K. Heflin for "I have known loss"

Second Place
Izabella R. Carter for "Like You Said You Would"

Creative Non-Fiction

Cerro Coso
First Place
Alex Tellez for "Musical Musings of a Midnight Bosnian"

Second Place
Kaitlin Pearson for "Trust"

Monday, November 16, 2015

January 17, 2438

Short Short by Korinza Elaine Shlanta of Cerro Coso Community College
2015 Met Awards - Honorable Mention for College Fiction

January 17, 2438

The last few nights have been so restless I have found no sleep. I dare not sleep. I made my official record three days ago, but it was neither appropriate nor relevant to the scientific journal I include what has struck my heart and mind with such profound observations. Though this journal is of no significance and will likely not be read, I feel I must divulge what happened January 14th, 2438.

It was not a routine sleep study. I was working alongside an esteemed colleague, Dr. Thanatos Somnus. When we began our, what I expected to be, month long sleep study I was excited to use such new and innovative technology. Dr. Somnus and I were hired by a private client who has been interested in revisiting Freud’s theories concerning the meaning of dreams. Instead of the average sleep study telling a patient they have some form of a slight abnormality in their sleeping pattern and recommending the usual supplements, Dr. Somnus and I would be conducting a sleep study using a monitor that creates images from the pattern of firing synapse.

The relative location and numbers of synapses firing would be relayed into the monitor to project images. A second system was in place to make a transcript of the patient’s thoughts, this was attached to the external soft tissue directly in front of hyoid bone, even if a person doesn’t talk in their sleep slight tension in the soft tissue surrounding the hyoid bone would be transmitted and then turned into a script following the small movements. No other joined myself and my colleague for this particular study. The subject was Dr. Thanatos Somnus himself. Aside from him being the subject of study he would be able to later give qualitative observations about the dreams he had and we would compare them to the images we would record on the monitor. This was any psychologist’s playground! The opportunity! The possibilities! The new discoveries. Yet, I am so haunted by those images and by what was supposed to be an amazing achievement, I cannot sleep. I must record what is the truth before it is marred by sleep deprivation.

For the first week of our experiment, everything went smoothly, and it was a joy to see Somnus’ dreams. He had a fantastic imagination, and it suited our purposes well, and perhaps that is the truth of what happened. It was just his imagination, for my heart is heavy with grief and guilt. This is as much my confession as it is my account of the matter. January 14th began as the other nights did; I waited for my colleague to slip into the first stage of sleep and began my recording of the images and the transcript. The first images came up, they were simply a blend of soft colors and as was expected it went through the progression of the spectrum as the doctor settled in his sleep. About three hours into our study came more distinct images and the first words on the transcript. The image was of a large arched stone gateway, and held an inscription of unrecognizable characters. The doctor seemed to translate them to English and I read them on the transcript, “Weary may be those that enter. Do not seek what you cannot find.” Somnus moved to push the gate, but it did not move. I began to analyze thinking his dream was a representation of a problem in his life that he could not move forward with nor find any absolute answer.

As I began recording this in the log, the stone door opened and voice came from within, “Enter.” I stopped breathing. All of his synapses had fired at once as the transcript printed, Enter. I dared not wake him for this was a breakthrough, our first nightmare. The doctor moved into blackness, and when the screen came back into focus, my heart found its way into my throat. I could only hear my own heartbeat, and I had to compose myself to notice the transcription machine was printing rapidly. The view screen showed not a room as I first thought, but a small clearing surrounded by trees. Somnus walked to the center as the transcription machine kept ticking away, “Do not seek what you cannot find.”

The words were being repeated at an unnatural speed. The doctor sank to his knees and the transcription simultaneously stopped. I rose from my chair a looked at the patient himself through the observation window. He looked so calm, no turning, just light breathing. The view screen held the same image of the clearing, but new figures were forming in the trees. Each of the figures looked almost human, but something was unnatural about them. I could not place what was odd about these beings, but I was so transfixed it seemed to not matter. There was a sense of both fear and tranquility that pervaded my body. Everything held so still my heartbeat was the only thing that seemed to be moving. Then in an instant those horrible beings changed, they started clawing, biting, howling, devouring, destroying Somnus. The transcription machine started printing again. The machine was printing the words, “Help. Help me. Stop them. Please. Stop them. Please. Please. Please.”

I looked back at the screen to find Somnus’ body being torn and devoured by what now looked like the common picture of demons. They were in a frenzy joyously feasting upon him. The transcription printed again “Help. Help me please. Please.” A pause, then my breath was taken from my body as I saw it printed. “Simon, wake me up. I’m begging. Stop. Please.” He addressed me. Surely, not me.

The image started to fade and I realized he was waking up. I entered the sleep room. I stood on the edge waiting for him to wake. I approached, and felt his pulse. There was none.

Dr. Thanotos Somnus died, in his sleep, January 14, 2438.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Mom

Poem by Michelle A. Lundberg of Cerro Coso Community College
2015 Met Awards - Honorable Mention for College Poetry

Nothing was ever wrong.
She would never let us know.
She was so strong.

Constant pain, all along.
Silence was her companion.
Nothing was ever wrong.

Cries she held in for so long,
A tear never left her eye.
She was so strong.

Head pounding, an endless throng.
A smile was always on her face.
Nothing was ever wrong.

The ride to the hospital, we sang a song.
I didn’t know it would be out last.
She was so strong.

Our misery, she tried to prolong.
Now all we feel is pain.
Nothing was ever wrong.
She was so strong.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Father Nicholas

Short Short by Shari Allison of Cerro Coso Community College
2015 Met Awards - Honorable Mention for College Fiction

“Bless me father, for I have sinned.”

After the realization that the voice was that of Isaac Portrosky’s, Father Nicholas relaxed against the thick padding of the confessional.

“It has been twenty-one hours since my last confession,” stated the contrite man in the adjoining booth.

Father Nicholas made sure his sigh was inaudible. Isaac was a consummate sinner and a devout confessioner.

“I could not help myself. Isabella is so sick and Maria is so ample. Father, I am an accursed man.” Isaac’s confession proceeded with little variation from the one given twenty-one hours earlier.

The priest heard the chime of the clock tower and realized it was lunch. He would make Isaac Portrosky his last confession and break for lunch. He still had his Sunday sermon to prepare and he promised to listen to choir practice that evening.

“Please Father, I beg of you to visit my beloved Isabella, to pray with her.” It was an unusual request from Portrosky, perhaps he was working toward change.

“Very well my son, I shall do as you have asked and visit God’s dear child Isabella.” He was mentally reassigning his activities for the afternoon while routinely dispensing Isaac’s penance.

Shortly after Father Nicholas prayed for the sinner and left the confessional. He saw Isaac several pews down, prostrate, and praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It wasn’t until the priest stepped forward that the light caught his eye. Something was shining. He stepped back from the brightness to locate the source within the church. It appeared to be coming from Isaac Portrosky!

Slowly, quietly, the priest made his way to Portrosky. There, next to the praying man laid a silver watch. How could this be? Mr. Portrosky was poor like most of his parishioners. Yet there it was, reflecting the light from the stained glass portrayal of the baby Jesus in the Virgins Mary’s arms, like a divine gift from god calling out to him. The watch lay free from any confinements. Perhaps it was not even Mr. Portrosky’s, he only happened to perform his penance beside it.

Father Nicholas carefully lifted the silver watch from the floor. The arduous sinner continued to pray. The silver object forced its way into the pocket of the priest’s robe, with no defense from the pocket’s wearer.

An obsession seemed to overtake the priest. He took the watch to different stained glass windows of the church to reflect the scenes onto the silver surface. It was so beautiful, the colors would mix and mingle. The baby Jesus’ face had never looked as magnificent as it did shining back from the silver exterior of the watch.

He skipped lunch and spent much of the afternoon avoiding everyone, including those involved in a ruckus that overtook the church. He sat next to a lit candle in his room and watched as he artfully turned the watch to display the painting of the Virgin Mary hanging on his wall manifest itself in silver.

It was well after five when Father Nicholas placed the watch in his robe and left the church on route to the Portrosky home.

Maria was the one to open the door after several drummed knocks. Her face was not one of surprise, nor was it of beauty. The woman had small eyes, which seemed to get smaller in comparison to her large nose and even larger lips. The one characteristic she did possess that could not be missed, even by a priest, was the obvious fact that Maria had an enormous bosom that was always partially exhibited.

“Oh good Father, you are here?” she said. Her acerbic tone did not match her words and neither did her lack of body movement to let the priest in. She was not a parishioner, so his manners were less engaged when he pushed past her. Their front door opened into the kitchen with a roaring fire blazing in the hearth to cut the cold from coming inside, and to prepare dinner.

“It’s your priest,” Maria yelled into the house from behind him.

“Father? Father are you here?” came a frail voice from the bedroom.

Father Nicholas made his way to the bedroom. In a large bed laid the small frame of Isabella Portrosky. She, unlike her sister Maria, had always been fragile and delicate of health. Easily lovelier than her sister in youth, she had married young and produced no children. The family could not secure a husband for Maria, according to Isaac, so when Isabella took ill, Maria was obligated to care for her.

“Father, you have come at last.” Isabella said in wispy gasps.

“Yes my child, I am here to comfort and pray with you.” Isabella was a devout worshipper, and one he liked to visit regularly.

“Thank you Father, and did you find the watch?” She asked as tears welled up in her eyes.

The priest could feel his feet go cold and a chill run up the length of his body.

“Watch?” he inquired with as much conviction as he could summon.

“Yes. My father’s silver watch. Isaac took it with him to church this afternoon. He likes to pray for me with something of importance to me. He said it brings me and god closer to him. You did find it Father, didn’t you?”

Isabella’s face resembled that of the Virgin Mary’s picture which hung in his room. Isabella’s teary eyes looked at him questioningly. Concern filled every aspect of her face.

The words left his mouth before he could stop them. “The silver watch Maria gave me?” He didn’t know all of the ramifications his lie would cause, but it was too late, the path was set. “I would happily give it back, I did not know it was yours.” It would be the ungodly Maria’s word against his, a priest. Father Nickolas knew one thing, he had solved Isaac’s problem. Maria would likely be sent home and someone else less buxom and willing, sent in her stead.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Greatest Story I've Ever Heard (or La Dignidad de los Infinitos)

Creative Non-Fiction by Alex Tellez of Cerro Coso Community College
2015 Met Awards - Second Place for College Creative Non-Fiction

Last December, I went on a trip to Mexico City to visit relatives. I’ve already gone there a couple of times in my life, but this trip was different. This was my first time leaving the country as an adult and I surely felt as if I was being treated like one. My grandpa decided to take me to the beautiful cathedral that was located in Zócalo.

On the way there, we had to get to our destination via the metro stations that encompass the gargantuan city. One of the trains was taking a while to get to the station. As I waited with my family to continue our day-long trip, my grandpa recounted an experience he had in 1968. Now, this is quite possibly the greatest story I have ever heard. It’s one of those stories you don’t forget. It’s one I plan to pass down to my children.

In 1968, the Mexican government was experiencing instances of civil unrest among the citizens, specifically university students at the time. The reason why this happened was because the Mexican government allotted $150 million dollars to fund the 1968 Olympic Games that were going on in Mexico City. Today, that amount would have equaled $7.5 billion dollars. In my mind, the revolts made total sense, since Mexico today is still considered a third-world country.

My grandpa was a university student at the time these revolts were going on and the government knew that he was an activist in the Dirty War, or the instances in which the government tried to suppress opposition to the government.

It was October 2nd, 1968, and the government decided to massacre hundreds of university students that had taken part in the revolts. That night, thousands of young Mexicans gathered in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas and chant ¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución! or, “We don’t want Olympics, we want revolution!”

That night, my grandpa was targeted by the federal government and he was on a hit list that included him and an estimated 300 more people. My grandpa could have been taken out by the government had he stayed in his home; however, my grandpa was not home for a good reason: he was out celebrating his 17th birthday.

By the time he finished telling me his story, the train had just arrived and I was left with a huge feeling of morbidity. At that moment, all I could think about on that train was how everything was fragile and that nothing is ever absolute. I think about this story every time I feel like I’m going nowhere in life. I start to think of the moments and steps that led up to this very second and how all of that could instantly have been lost in time. In these moments, I think of my life as a string oscillating through time that gets tangled in other people’s strings until that string gets cut.

I think about how all I’d be left with are the stories that made my string mean something.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Paper Skin

Poem by Emma K. Heflin, 10th Grade, Burroughs High School
2015 Met Awards - Second Place for High School Poetry

“For understanding, for truth,”
She spoke with a blush
“For appreciation and remembrance.”
This she spoke sincerely
To let the runners, the hiders, know.
This she spoke so others would share,
Share in the knowledge she herself found
When she wrote, yes, she wrote,
On her hands and her arms,
For understanding, for truth
For appreciation and remembrance.
From the Bible, from Shakespeare,
Both treated alike
With a reverence for words,
Everlasting and strong
With respect for the art
So few call upon
She wrote, yes, she wrote,
On her hands, on her arms,
For understanding, for truth,
For appreciation and remembrance,
She wrote, yes, she wrote.

Monday, October 12, 2015

My Humming Bird

Poem by Sophie R. Walker of Cerro Coso Community College
2015 Met Awards - Second Place for College Poetry

Take time to stretch your wings
My humming bird
Ever Roving,
Listen to your song
Graceful
Constant
Waking the air.
Prismatic myriad of welcoming petals.
Flittering
For your need of nectar.
Energetic performance of nature’s creation
Perfectly accepted inconspicuous noise maker.

Note: For my son Sulliven whose personality is amplified by ADHD

Monday, October 05, 2015

Ambition

Short Short by Sydney Marler, 9th Grade, Burroughs High School
2015 Met Awards - Second Place for High School Fiction

Ambition. I spelled it out.

A-M-B-I-T-I-T-I-O-N. Ambition.

No, that wasn’t right. I promptly scribbled a note of it in my overflowing book of words. Most of the kids at my school had something of a mixed opinion about me. Jealousy was what I perceived most keenly. The other part was when they clapped for me when I won awards; that was the part I liked best. I had very few friends, mostly due to my inability to even entertain the superfluous thought of becoming ‘one of them’. After all, I would become their boss someday. It was best to see it from the other side; to reason that they all wanted to become me so badly, that they had given up all attempts to befriend me. It was better to look at it this way. So much easier. I couldn’t exert any energy on friendships anyway; I had a spelling bee to win.

I was something of a prodigy from the beginning. I was always tearing through stacks of books and my parents could never keep up with the demand.

“Laura’s going places!” my Pap would say. He was so proud of me. My mother would always take me to play groups and show all the other mothers what a smart little girl I was, and the others would complain about how their children were having daily tantrums. My mother glanced at me powerfully with a shimmer in her eye and in that moment, I became proud too.

The day of the spelling bee came and I was flipping through my notebook for the final time. The other competitors were sitting nervously on their chairs, facing the entire school. I wondered what they were thinking. Did they even prepare? This should be an easy victory for me. I remembered then that Charles was studying hard too. My heart sunk as I realized I had no idea where I stood.

My feet were twisted around the chair. One foot, delicately clothed in a flat shoe, made a resounding tapping on the cafeteria stage. It echoed anxiously across the cafeteria, somehow mixing with the dull hum of middle school children sitting below me. Suddenly the bow on my flat became entangled in the portable metal chair. The chair collapsed and I knew I was falling before I started falling. I made a frantic grab for the notebook; but it was too late and I wasn’t fast enough to catch it. The notebook splattered hard all over the stage and I was on the ground; tears quickly running down my puffy face. I wasn’t injured, although I was hurt.

The cafeteria was completely silent. I desperately wanted them to do something, anything. Laugh! Someone just start laughing! I’m begging you! I wished in those moments; but no one did.

Finally, after several excruciating seconds, several boys began to pick up the papers that had fallen out of my loose notebook. Noise gradually escalated into the cafeteria again and I indignantly set up my chair. I took a seat on its hard metal surface as the troupe of boys began to hand me the missing pieces of my notebook. One of the boys was Charles. I didn’t say a word.

The elderly teacher began calling us up one by one. Verboten. Colloquial. Intractable. Formidable. I knew instantly when my competitors were wrong and I visibly cringed. One of my competitors recognized this pattern and began crying when I cringed. Poor kid.

It was finally my turn. I carefully untangled my nervous legs from the metal chair. I wasn’t one to make the same mistake twice. In what seemed like forever, I made my way to the podium and pulled down the microphone. I turned to look at the teacher expectantly.

“Ambition”, she delivered. It was a dagger, my kryptonite, my silver bullet. I nearly sunk to the floor.

“A-M-B-I-T-I-T…” There it was. I saw my parents in the background; their eyes widened. I looked at my competitors and to my surprise they looked… indifferent. This was it. This is what death feels like, I thought.

“-I-O-N” I finished, nervous, shaking, and yet anew.

With the sound of the buzzer, I walked off the stage.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Donald

Short Story by Rey David Morales of Cerro Coso Community College
2015 Met Awards - Second Place for College Fiction

Foamy water swirls and crashes in the stainless steel sink. It washes over white porcelain as plates are heaved, one by one, out of their sudsy depths. Set aside to dry after inspection, the dishwasher contemplates a time when dishes were in fact made of pearl. Pearl diver, that sounds much more impressive. The Crew Cuts play on the radio. The cook, a man in his twenties with a short stature but athletic build, sings along to the hopeful dreams of ancient pop stars as he prepares the next meal. The front door bell jingles loudly.

“Looks like he’s here,” the cook says with a smile. “After this order I am going out there to the front to cover for you-know-who. Be on your best behavior with Big Chief, okay?”

Big Chief is actually the owner of the restaurant and the boss, and genuinely an easy going guy. Cook makes his exit out the Westernesque red double doors to the main dining hall to take on his new role as a waiter. The boss makes his entrance. He is a short, slightly overweight man of fifty-ish, wearing a signature trucker cap with the name of the eatery embroidered on the front. They exchange pleasantries and continue working.

After a few orders business dies down. The boss, in his idleness, strikes up a conversation with the dishwasher.

“¿Como Estudo?” he asks. The boss speaks no English. Though he can read and write it and somewhat understood when someone is trying to get his point across, his tongue never mastered it.

“Bien, mas o menos,” the dishwasher responds in his Chicano tongue. They then discuss other areas of life such as one’s condition both in health and romance. The dishwasher always says he’s doing well in both (a harmless half-truth). Another subject that comes up is family, particularly how the dishwasher’s two sisters are fairing since leaving his employment the previous spring. They were peaceful departures. The dishwasher says they are both fine. One has gone into business with a friend and the other now works as a social worker in the city. The boss admits that he misses them. They were good people who would never pull the “crap” his senior waitress—the woman the cook is filling in for now—pulls.

The boss asks how his studies are going. The dishwasher states (like a Catholic prayer) that he graduated high school last year, and furthermore, it’s now the middle of summer. The boss nods in remembrance and asks what he’s planning on doing now. The dishwasher doesn’t know.

Soon a big table arrives and the dishwasher is thrown to the front so that the cook can help the boss with the order, as the Cook puts it, of “Ronald Calderon” proportions. The dishwasher hates working the front. For some strange reason he feels a strange wave of embarrassment whenever he sees a familiar face. It’s not so much the individual that gives him shame but the blank smiles they give him, eyes that say they are but common restaurant-goers with no concern for anyone outside their booths, a look that the dishwasher had not experienced a year earlier. Maybe he had given it, too.

No faces today. The dishwasher works the floor efficiently and at ease. Eventually the customers leave and the day turns to night. The boss leaves early, telling them they did a fine job and to keep his share of night’s tips. The cook gives him some anyway.

A lonely stranger stumbles in toward closing time.

“Hey, can you handle this?” the cook says, “I’m going to start getting ready for clean up.” He heads into the kitchen.

The stranger staggers to the cashier’s counter and stops himself from slamming into it. He asks if they sell chile verde but wrapped in a tortilla. The dishwasher asks if he means chile verde burritos and receives a fervent “Yes! To Go.” He pays with a debit card and attempts to get cash back. The dishwasher tells him that service isn’t offered here. The man apologizes and sits down.

When his order is finished he grabs it with shaky hands, states, “The Misses thanks you,” and stumbles out. The dishwasher goes to the back.

“Geez, did you see that guy? He was on something for sure.”

“Yeah, I know him,” the cook says. “Name’s Donald.”

“Donald?”

“Yeah, went to school with my dad, I guess he was some kind of genius. Got a perfect score on his SATs, every university wanted him.”

“What HAPPENED?”

“Don’t know exactly. Stayed for some girl, girl got hooked on meth, he did too. Last I heard his ‘Sweetheart’ left a few years back and he shacked up with someone else.”

“A genius … he could have gone anywhere he wanted.”

“Where else would he go, this town’s awesome.”

The dishwasher refuses a ride home only to discover he can’t be picked up. He begins his thirty-five minute walk home. There are few street lights in town. Save for a few passing cars, the trek is mostly dark. Along the way he passes streets where old friends once lived, illuminated by dull moonlight.

He still thinks about her sometimes. About words unsaid and flesh that never really touched. But the stars are beautiful here. He takes a short-cut through a dirt alleyway lined with wooden fences. Halfway through the path one of the town’s only streetlights illuminates a familiar figure, a crushed Styrofoam container lying next to it. Heart pounding, he walks up to it. It’s Donald, apparently mugged, face stomped, a torn wallet at his hand.

He fought desperately for that wallet, not for the currency in it but the words stitched into it: To my Einstein. –B. Between his fingers is clutched a picture—of a younger man and a pretty woman.

The dishwasher quits the following month. He is gone by summer’s end.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Psychological Evaluations of Byron, Shelley, and Keats


Creative Non-Fiction by Reagan Wolfe of Cerro Coso Community College
2015 Met Awards - First Place for College Creative Non-Fiction
__________

San Jose City College
Disabled Poets Program & Services
2100 Moorpark Ave.
Poet Services Building
San Jose, CA. 95128

Re: Byron, Shelley and Keats


PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATIONS



Names: Byron, Shelley and Keats
Sexes:  Male

File Name: Romantic Poets, Second Generation
Ages: All died before their time

Prepared for: San Jose Poets Clinic
Date of Report: 3.13.2014

Completed by: Reagan E. Wolfe, PhD, FACFE, DABPS



CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT:


The information contained herein in this document is intended only for the individual addressed and may contain information that is privileged and prohibited from disclosure to any other party under the applicable law.  This information is to be considered extremely confidential and is to be released only to duly authorized agencies or individuals.  This information is intended only for the use of the individuals named above. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that reading, disseminating, disclosing, distributing, copying, acting upon or otherwise using this information in this document is strictly prohibited.



Presenting Problem:


John Keats is a white male who is in his early twenties.  He is self-referred for an evaluation to assess for a learning disability stemming from his inability as he reports to write poetry.  He states, “When I write poetry, it just doesn’t come as easy to me as it does for my contemporaries, although I do write a lot of material.” In addition, he reports an ongoing difficulty with attention, he is high-strung, and has distraction factors which in turn trigger a sense of depression.  The overall results of the Millon College Counseling Inventory (MCCI) point toward elevated scores of a moderate Anxiety disorder.  Results also suggest that he has difficulty with sustaining energy and effort with his many other tasks which include apothecary duties, medical training and assisting surgeons. He acknowledges he is experiencing a Dysthymic mood, resulting in a feeling of dejection and feelings of inadequacy, perhaps stemming from the loss of his parents at a young age.  In addition this mood may have caused his inability to commit full-time to writing poetry, sooner.  Last, he has an elevated score on the Clinical Personality Patterns on the Compulsive scale (score of 94) known as Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. This score suggests he can be behaviorally rigid, meticulous, may be a perfectionist and an overachiever. 


Presenting Problem:


Lord Byron A.K.A. George Gordon Byron, is a white male who is in his mid-thirties.  He was referred by Samuel T. Coleridge who was previously treated for a significant form of hero worship (Shakespeare and Milton).  Lord Byron presents himself as a larger than life person who actually writes about heroes perhaps as a way to fulfill unsatisfied desires or as a form of seeking an identity (perhaps one like Zorro).  He also admits that he is a risk-taker who has amassed large debts and who also has a sex-addiction.  He has an elevated score on the Clinical Personality Patterns on the Compulsive scale (score of 150) known as Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. This score suggests he has a repetitive lifestyle with patterned behaviors.  Fear of social disapproval can lead him to suppress his strong resentment and anger toward those whose approval he seeks. Results on the Brown Attention Deficit Scale – Adults indicate that there may be a function of attention deficit operating with this individual. Such individuals tend to be slow in getting started and have difficulty in getting organized, because of being scattered or being inhibited by worry (Organizing and activating for poetry).



Presenting Problem:


Percy Bysshe Shelley is a white male who is in his late twenties. He has been referred by his wife Mary who is concerned with his sociopathic tendencies.  Shelley states that he suffers from various phobias which culminated from a difficult childhood in which he was the victim of excessive bullying.  As a result of his bullying, he participated in sadistic behaviors that he attempted to downplay as harmless pranks.  These ‘pranks’ as he called them included electrifying doors.  With regard to Clinical Syndromes, results indicate that Mr. Shelley is feeling extremely apprehensive, (Anxiety, 82) or specifically phobic, is typically tense, indecisive, and restless.  He may experience a notable sense that problems are imminent.  For example, he may worry that he needs to fully represent common man in notable causes because poets are people who enact laws. He may also exhibit a hyperalertness to his environment (natural elements such as the sky and weather).  He also exhibits a generalized sense of tension.