By Dylan Lenz
It’s like Carl wanted me to prove something. That there was something in me, a latent aspect of my self that I was yet to meet, something hidden that needed to get out. Sometimes I think that if I look down at the rug on my mothers kitchen floor long enough, the pattern will change and this will be a different house. It doesn’t change. My eyes get tired from looking. Still I can’t find that part of myself that Carl wanted me to find, that part that will forgive.
My mother, Barb, seems to think that Carl has changed. She tells me that he even quit smoking, he’s been taking classes, trying to find some sort of salvation for what he did. I don’t figure that she is lying, but Carl hasn’t changed. Maybe to her he has, but not to me. I know that other side, that darkness that sits just behind the smile he throws her, the way he used to when he would take me out to the garage.
Carl used to tell her he was making me into a man. That he was going to show me how to use tools and how to fix things. He never showed me any of that. He just pulled my pants down and then his, and then after told me to wait a few minutes before I went back in so he could look at me.
When Barb finally figured it out she didn’t take me away. Instead she asked Carl about it and let him dissuade her for the reality of what was happening in the garage. The next time he brought me out there he slapped my head as hard as he could before he dropped his pants and made me kneel in front of him. Then he pushed his cigarette into my shoulder three times until it went out.
- Chuck Palahniuk
By: Dylan Lenz
A Guide to Loving Your Neighbors
I will wake up early, before the alarm. I will go there in silence; my purposeful steps will not move the loose gravel and weeds across the drive. I will see her there, working away, her slight figure hunched over some complication in her hands. Again I will be quiet and quiet I will remain. I will have rubbed dirt on my arms so I will smell like the garage and the yard, then I will wait and watch without worry. I will stand behind her, hidden by the car.
She will turn at some point and see me. She will jump, but not scream. She knows me; she will smile politely and show me the true depth of those wrinkles. She will ask what I want, the smile never leaving, and I will move closer. Once in reach I will shove her head against the concrete floor, hard. When she fights I will over power her. She will lie on the cool ground, still breathing. I will start that ’79 Cutlass and return to my house.
She will not wake but I will watch. I will sip my tea and kiss my husband goodbye. He will walk to the train and drink the coffee from his thermos. I will call the children to wake as I cook breakfast. They will rise and dress in silence. Their voices will be horse as they greet me at the table. We will say a prayer and I will clean my plate, ravished from my earlier deeds. I will drive them to the bus stop and hug them tight. They will wish me a good day, and I will smile, knowing it will be.
I will watch the bus depart then return home. I will clear the plates from the table and wash their place-mats, covered with peanut butter smudges and toast crumbs. I will load the dishwasher and wipe the counter. I will look outside across the back alley and see her garage door ajar.
I will walk over to her house and knock at the back door for appearances only, and then go to the garage and rattle the knob. It will be locked to look as though she intended to leave. I will go to the big door that she would pull open each morning, and force the rusted pulleys to let me in. I will smell the exhaust and rush to the car to turn the key. I will touch her throat, then her wrist, then dial 911. I will wait twenty-seven minutes for the ambulance and another twelve for the police officer. He will seal the garage and take my statement. I will be the good neighbor. I will be comforted and have my arm rubbed by the crowd that will have gathered. I will keep a hand on my heart when they load her in the back.
When home, I will make another cup of tea and treat myself to the extra tablespoon of sugar. I will watch television. I will warm up leftovers, roast beef with turnips and asparagus. I will call my mother and tell her what happened. She will be shocked and amazed, then call all of my sisters to gossip.
The children will come home and do their homework, then go and play in the yard. My husband will come home and tell me about his day. I will mention mine, and he will hug me tight. We will sit at the table and my husband will say Grace, my children won’t peek. Later I will tuck them in and kiss their heads.
“Goodnight mom.” They will say from their beds.
“Sweet dreams.” I will reply from the door.
In bed I will make love with my husband. He will kiss me deeply and I him. I will go to sleep soon after and not wake once.
Then again I could go back to sleep and wait for the alarm, then wake and cross the alley. She will be in her garden and will greet me with the same genuine smile and show me the true depth of those wrinkles. I will apologize for my son stealing all of her roses. She will tell me not to worry and tell me some story of her own son, now in his sixties, doing the same years ago. She will be the good neighbor. She will comfort me and invite me in for tea. I will go home and send my husband and children off to their days. Later I will return and we will go out for lunch in that ’79 Cutlass. It will be her treat, and I will smile and again apologize.
She will drive us back, then rush to the house for something. I will look out at her garden absent of the flowers that are now in a vase in my dining room. She will return and load my arms with potatoes and jams. I will hesitate but she will insist. I will return home and make a cup of tea, treating myself to the extra tablespoon of sugar.
When we take out our trash we will wave. She will wish me a goodnight, and I will smile, knowing it will be.
By: Dylan Lenz
David stopped and looked back at the detachment. They stopped too, looking at him for an idea of what to do. David had none and only pondered why he would even have signed the papers. He was convinced it wasn’t him who signed his name. For David the idea that at times like these a mans potential is met and that his greatness comes about, is false. David was not great, he could not move.
James came from the back of the line while Briggs watched the entrance to the small shop they were pinned down in.
“Something wrong?” James asked. “You need water?”
“No,” said David.
He looked down at his brother. James was made for times like these, not the heat, not the war, but this. There was somehting about him, somehting that woke him up before the rest of the men. Something that made him completely devoted to his every action. Maybe it was his growing up with Colleen when she was still fucking Carl and didn’t give two shits about James. Perhaps it was just who he was. Then again, perhaps it was the fact that he wanted to be someone in something larger than himself. He gave David hope. He gave David a reassurance for why they were in the fucking desert looking for someone who wasn’t even there.
David pushed his back from the wall. “Let’s go. Hunter watch our six. Briggs how many claymores do you have left?”
“Bring it up,” said David.
By: Dylan Lenz
In her senior year Colleen got the lead in a community play. She was currently sleeping with Doug Stern. Doug owned a used car lot in town and had given Colleen a good price in exchange for her company. They would meet in his office on her days off.
The actors amazed Colleen. She convinced herself; along with the acclaim she received from Doug that she was a born actress and that she should become a movie star. Doug negotiated for her to have the lead in the play, telling his wife who was directing the, that it would do wonders for Colleen’s self confidence and that without that kind of opportunity she would probably attempt suicide again.
Colleen had never attempted suicide or been depressed. The only moment of true emotion she had since Dorothy died was the break down she had one afternoon a few months after Dorothy’s funeral.
Colleen was still allowing Frank to have sex with her, and he had convinced himself and tired to convince her that they would get married. Colleen was sure they would not, but still allowed Frank to enter her on a regular basis even though she did not really like him that much. It was mainly because he brought with him a sense of social security and popularity that she did not have. Frank was on the football team and his parents owned a cabin on the lake. He liked to fuck colleen in the ass.
“Let’s go inside,” said Frank. They were sitting on the dock of his parents cabin. It was early November and cold. The edges of the lake had already begun to freeze forming a delicate lace that held the water still. Colleen liked to sit out there. It was quiet in a way that Reardan wasn’t quite. The vacationers had left and no one knew that she and Frank still came out to the cabin for sleep together on the weekends.
“I want to stay out here a little longer,” said Colleen glancing back at him. He was wearing his letterman jacket and a scarf with new blue jeans. She was wrapped in a blanket and sitting at the edge of the dock looking down lip of ice that circled the posts that held the dock. The maple trees and willows had shed most of their leaves and left thousands of them scattered along the shoreline. A hand full of them had frozen into the ice that traced the edge of the lake.
“No I want to go in, I’m cold and I want to get back. Let’s just go do it so we can leave.”
Colleen paused a moment. She had gotten tired of Frank months ago. The first time she let him in her she hadn’t been sure about it, but the alcohol seemed to lubricate things, the way wine does.
“No. I’m staying here.”
Frank was taken aback a moments. Colleen had a tenancy to be agreeable. She had given every part of herself to Frank, usually as soon as he asked. Lately she had stopped which Frank attributed to her not having her period.
“We are going inside so I can fuck you and then we’re going back to town.”
“Just give me a few more minutes,” reasoned Colleen.
In a rage Frank grabbed her by the back of her hair and pulled her until she stood up.
“Get the fuck inside,” he said through gritted teeth.
Colleen did as he said and let him push her inside. When they go to the bedroom Colleen began to take off her clothes. She was mildly afraid. Frank had done this before but she had just ended up bruised ribs, she justified.
Frank shoved her head first onto the bed as she was pulling her shirt over her head and forced himself on her. He pulled down his pants at the front and positioned himself on her back so that he fuck her from behind. With his left hand on the back of her neck forcing her head down he placed his right under her pelvis and brought her closer to him. When he was finished he pulled his pants up and went to the bathroom. Colleen did not cry.
By: Dylan Lenz
The town was quaint and experienced typical growth for a farming community near the exit for Lake Roosevelt. By 1978 when Colleen began to stray farther and farther from her dying mother the town was perhaps five hundred people, but in the summer it experienced a surge in visitors making their way to the lake. Around this time Colleen met Frank Booth who was seventeen with a truck, he would take her to the parties that often occurred at vacationers cabins in the summer time. It was at these parties that Colleen would escape home and find her self, or at least get ideas on how she could.
As Dorothy died Arthur did not ask where Colleen strayed to. In a way he knew what she was doing, he found himself trying to stay longer hours at work, finding extra jobs and other excuses that kept him at the dam late. Many nights he would not know if Colleen was even home, he would simply come to bed and lay next to Dorothy as she slept on the bed they had brought into the living room.
When Dorothy finally did go it was Colleen who found her.
“Mom?” she asked from the hallway.
There was no answer. Colleen walked next to the bed and looked at her mother. She was not herself any longer. Once her hair had been soft brown and her thin face had been full with colored cheeks. They were hollow now. Her hair was pulled back and looked gray, thought it was still brown. Even before Colleen knew the state of her mother, there was a lifelessness about her.